By Christine Kendall
Lourdes sat, thirsty, in her son’s old Mercedes sandwiched between delivery vans on East Seventy-Ninth Street. She studied the license plates of passing cars; all local—New York.
“I’ll only be a minute, Mama.” That’s what he’d said before taking his tools and disappearing into one of the limestone apartment buildings.
Lourdes smoothed her blouse at the neck and watched a young man deliver a bouquet of blood-red roses to the doorman stationed closest to where she sat. “Everybody down here’s so la-di-da.” She felt her lips move but she wasn’t quite sure she’d actually said anything.
Lourdes didn’t use to mutter. It was a habit acquired since her son moved her to the big city. She rolled the window all the way down straining to catch a whiff of the roses, but it was no use. Their perfume was not meant for her.
Lourdes sank back into her seat and closed her eyes. She looked up in time to see a woman in kitten heels and big silver jewelry frown and, twice, push her hair out of her face before squaring her shoulders and approaching the doorman who smiled and held the bouquet out to her.
“My husband’s not allowed back,” the woman said. “I don’t want anything from him.”
Lourdes shifted her body on the hot leather as if a different posture would make the overheard admission less painful. Her eyes widened as she watched the woman take hold of the bouquet, twirl around, and, settling on her, stride over to the aging sedan.
“These are for you.” The woman handed the flowers to Lourdes through the open window and stood silent.
There was no mistaking the two women were the same age. Expensive highlights and heavily shadowed eyelids couldn’t hide that. There was something else, too. Lourdes recognized the slight twitch of the woman’s upper lip. After everything was lost she’d gone through a nervous phase herself.
“Miss, are you all right?” Lourdes asked, holding the long-stemmed roses in their moist sleeve. Their fragrance brought back memories of cool mornings in her country garden. The way mornings used to smell before the farm was lost and her son was forced to work for other people. “Do you need to sit?” She reached behind her seat to unlock the passenger-side door.
“Oh…” the woman said. She adjusted her oversized shoulder bag but remained rooted in place on the sidewalk.
It wasn’t Lourdes’ custom to press herself on strangers but, well, now they were acquainted. “Is there a place where I can get water?” she asked.
The woman brightened. “I have water in here, somewhere.” She rummaged through her bag and pulled out a sparkling bottle. “I hope you like bubbles,” she said.
Christine Kendall’s short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals and her debut novel, Riding Chance, (Scholastic, 2016) was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Her second novel, The True Definition of Neva Beane, is forthcoming from Scholastic in September 2020. Christine serves as a juror for the New York City Book Awards. She currently lives in Philadelphia where she co-curates and hosts the award-winning reading series, Creative at the Cannery.
© Christine Kendall
Photo Credit: © Alena / Adobe Stock