The lobby was decorated in chintz and flower prints, with a large vase of paper flowers on a table in the center of the room. An ornate, Victorian ceiling fan turned slowly overhead. The lobby was presided over by
Barb, a matronly attendant
with a gauzy mass of hair that settled around her head like the inhospitable
atmosphere of a small, lifeless planet. Barb, who appeared to be only a few years removed
from taking up residence at Lullwater herself, surveyed the lobby like a field
had to give credit to the designers of the facility, who had succeeded in
creating an environment that was both homey and authoritarian.
“Oh, sweetie, it’s good to see you.” She never called him by name anymore, which made it difficult for him to tell if she really remembered who he was.
“Hi, Mom. How’re you doin’?” He leaned down to plant a kiss on her pallid forehead. In the bright sunlight, her skin appeared almost translucent, revealing tiny purple veins in her temples and hands.
“Oh, I’m fine, I guess. Sort of a mess.”
“Well, I think you look nice. Looks like you had your nails done.”
“They only have one color,” she said, holding out her hand and examining the reddish-brown nail polish. “I’m not sure I like it.”
“I think it looks good on you.”
“I’m cold. Does it seem cold in here to you?”
“Well, maybe a little.” He was actually quite warm in the sunlit corner. “Would you like another sweater?”
“No, I guess not. How are you, sweetheart?”
“I’m fine, but I need to know if you’ve had any visitors lately.”
“Visitors? No, I don’t think so.”
wasn’t confident that she would remember even if Yuri
had paid her a visit.
“A man with a Russian accent?”
“Oh, I get so many visitors it’s hard to keep track of them all.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful, sweetie. Did you know that my father was a lawyer?”
“No, I didn’t know that.”
“You always used to tell me that I should become a lawyer, and if I worked real hard, that I’d be a partner in a big firm some day.”
“I said that?”
“All the time.”
“Are you glad you did it?” Her voice had lost the lilt of small talk, and her eyes were focused on him. Will felt as if the mists had parted for a moment to reveal the old
Anne peering out at him, never one to leave anything
“Yeah, Mom. I’m glad I did it.”
“Good.” Then, with an added note of finality, “Good.” And with that, the old
Anne seemed to vanish
again, if she had ever been there at all.