The breeze rustled the vines twining around the posts of the verandah where Rose dozed in the rocking chair. Her hands were folded in her lap, and her head was tilted to the side. Occasionally, she gave a gentle sigh.
Kate waved away a mosquito that was hovering near Rose’s brow and returned to reading her novel, but she’d already lost the continuity. She slipped a finger into the book and watched her mother breathe for a moment or two, then closed her own eyes.
Did she sleep? It didn’t seem like more than a moment or two, yet the shadows were violet coloured and still. Rose’s chair was empty.
“Mom?” Kate darted into the house, the screen door slamming behind her. Rose wasn’t in the living or dining room, or the kitchen. Kate tapped on the bedroom door. No response. “Mom?” Kate ran through to the backyard. Rose wasn’t there.
Kate raced along the strip of lawn next to the house and looked up and down the street. Was that a pink cardigan? Kate ran, slowing as she approached Rose, who was leaning over a rose bush, gently turning a bloom so she could breathe in the scent.
“Oh, hullo, Kate. I found some flowers. Can we pick them?”
“No, Mom. They belong to Mr. Dale.”
“Shall we go home, Mom? We’ll make potatoes for supper.”
“Okay.” The two women walked arm in arm, Rose’s fuzzy slippers making a scuffling sound on the concrete sidewalk.
“What would you like with your potatoes, Mom? Green beans?”
“Pink ice cream. Can I have pink ice cream? I like pink. Do you know that?”
“I know that.”
Back at the house, Kate peeled potatoes, dropping them into a pot on the counter. Rose sat at the table and folded napkins.
“I remember eating potatoes during the Depression. Potatoes and sour cream. Day after day. I didn’t think I’d like potatoes again after the Depression. Do we have any sour cream, Kate?”
“I don’t think so, Mom.”
“That’s too bad,” Rose set the napkins on the table and got the cutlery.
While the potatoes bubbled in the pot, Kate got the rest of the meal ready. Rose wandered around the kitchen. following Kate until finally Kate sat her down and gave her a simple jigsaw puzzle.
“Work on that while supper finishes.”
“But I’m hungry. I want potatoes.”
“In a minute, Mom.”
Kate could hear Don in the garage, then he came in and inhaled appreciatively.
“How’re my favourite girls?” He leaned over and kissed Kate, then patted Rose on the shoulder. Rose flinched.
“Supper’s ready as soon as you wash up.” Kate piled mashed potatoes into a serving bowl and put it with the rest of the food. Rose scooped up her puzzle pieces. She motioned for Kate to come closer.
“Who is that man?” she whispered as she eyed Don warily.
“It’s Don, my husband.”
Deep creases marred Rose’s forehead as she stared at Don.
“Have some salad, Mom.”
Rose helped herself, then took some potatoes.
“During the Depression, we ate potatoes every day with sour cream. I never wanted to eat potatoes again. Do we have any sour cream, Kate?”
They ate in silence for a moment.
“Did you have a good day, Don?” asked Kate.
“Yeah, busy. Had an interesting time with the new client. How ‘bout you?”
“Mom went for a little walk. Just went down the street.” Kate didn’t say any more, but Don and Kate looked at each other. Rose continued to eat her supper, oblivious to the undercurrent of concern. She laid down her knife and fork.
“May I have pink ice cream now? You promised.”
“Sure, Mom.” Kate got the carton and spooned out a serving for Rose.
Rose looked at her spoon bewilderedly, then at her ice cream, and finally dipped in the spoon and ate.
“That was lovely. Thank you. I like pink. Did you know?”
“Yes, Mom, I know.”
“Would you like to go to bed now?”
On the landing, Rose stopped to stare at a picture. It was a nightly ritual. “Who is that man?”
“It’s your husband Peter.”
“He’s very handsome.”
Kate prepared Rose for bed, and as she was tucking in the blankets, Rose reached for Kate’s hand.
“Kate, you should have smelled the flower. Divine.”
Sleep was already stealing across Rose’s face. And Kate thought, Yes, I should have...
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