(I have skipped a few pages)
In the east, beyond the tall evergreens, a faint light filled the sky. From the willow tree, a cardinal trilled his distinctive song. Out on the bay, a cormorant screeched as it dove for its breakfast. Dawn was here at last. In a few hours, a homecare worker from the agency would arrive and Anna could leave.
Anna changed into her jeans and rumpled linen blouse. As she brushed her hair, she squinted at her image in the dresser mirror. Gray among the blond curls. More flesh under the chin, eyes puffier, lines from nose to mouth deeper. Yet hints of the young woman she once had been remained. Despite the gray, her eyebrows were still thick and blond, her lips still full with a trace of pink, her eyes, with their somewhat almond shape, still a timid blue, the teeth, repeatedly filled and slightly tea-stained, still made for an attractive smile.
Even now during menopause, theoretically the time when women added weight, she had a hard time eating enough food to flesh out her bones. Beanpole they'd called her in junior high, and beanpole she remained. Just hormones and metabolism, not anything she did or didn't do.
She brushed her hair a few more strokes, then tucked the brush into her red and yellow satchel along with her nightgown and kimono. She changed the bed-- clean sheets and a light summer blanket for the next night person. As she passed through the living room, the bundle of sheets in her arms, she heard Mrs. Mornay snore. The old woman's hands were folded on her chest; her body lay straight and stiff as if arranged for a funeral. Beyond her, through the window, the clouds were pink with the rising sun. A soft, baby blanket pink against the blue sky. Ephemeral as the clouds, a memory emerged—the plain hospital issued blanket that had swaddled Anna's own child years ago--that lost child. Ariel.
"Come sit beside me," Mrs. Mornay said later after her breakfast of a cup of instant soup. All she could keep in her stomach, Mrs. Mornay had told Anna the first time Anna had stayed overnight, when she offered to poach an egg for breakfast, cook oatmeal, sugar a grapefruit. "I have a dumping stomach," Mrs. Mornay said. "I have to eat lying down. Otherwise... indigestion."
"Let's talk." She patted the mattress and scooted over to make room for Anna. She frowned. "What's going on with Molly?"
Molly. Anna sighed with relief. She'd feared Mrs. Mornay was going to lecture her, as she'd done in the past, about Anna's own life. Molly lived two doors down from Anna in a ranch house facing Shore Road. She was thirteen and Mrs. Mornay knew her from the days when she was a 4-H leader.
"I haven't seen her for a few weeks. Is something...?"
"She stopped by the other day, restless as a dragonfly. Sitting on the desk chair, moving to the lounge chair, talking a mile a minute, but not saying anything much.
'How about a cup of juice,' I asked her and when she opened the fridge to fetch it she saw the bologna.
'I love bologna,' she said and I took up the cue, told her to fix herself a sandwich. She scoffed it down quick as a cat with a can of tuna.
"When I asked her what was new, she shrugged, fiddled with her T-shirt which hung down to her knees, for goodness sake. I don't know what the problem is, she won't tell me, but I'm worried."
"I'll see what I can find out," Anna said. "Next time she visits. Sometimes she talks to me, sometimes she doesn't. I keep things light." Besides, what did Anna know about children. The books she'd written were inspired by her own childhood memories, not from any experience she'd had dealing with children.
"Keep an eye on her, Anna. I know you're good to her, she tells me of your visits, but I feel helpless. Who will watch over her when I'm gone?"
A car door slammed. Both women turned and looked out the window, watching Carrie Howard make her way to the back door.
Anna kissed Mrs. Mornay's cheek. "I'll be off now. And I'll keep an eye out for Molly. Call if you need anything."
"Thank you," Mrs. Mornay said, squeezing Anna's hand tightly as if to wring from it life, health. "More than I can say."