A Visit from Strangers

An older woman, with graying hair at her temples, hands me a cup of coffee. “Let it cool. It’s still too hot,” the woman says.

I don’t know who she is, but I’m not going to listen to the likes of her. I take a sip and burn my tongue. Maybe the strange woman was right.

“Why’d you give me such hot coffee?” I ask, now perturbed at having to wait.

She and the others, a sprinkling of men and women all smiling, tell me I do this often—not listen and do what I want. I snort and slump in my cushioned seat. “I’ve got two minds but only one is working today,” I say.

None of them say a thing, just smile. The man across the table, who wears glasses and has a silvery tinted mustache, starts to tell a story, still looking at me while he speaks, and everyone laughs. Then they’re all looking at me with their darn sappy smiles. There’s something wanting and sad in their eyes and…something else.

“Damn your sympathy,” I spit at them. “I want my family to visit.”

“Your family is already here,” says the woman who handed me the too-hot-coffee. “We are your family.”

“No,” I say and wave an annoyed hand at them. That can’t be, I think.

I decide to tell these strangers stories of my own, ones of my family, my real family. The way my husband holds my hand when we walk. How Lizzy loves to dance and sing, and Jenny is more interested in bugs than boys. Oh, and George is a great actor in a bunch of the school plays, and let’s not forget Sam, who loves to climb trees with no shoes.

I rest my head against the back of my padded rocking chair and close my eyes. The stranger’s voices swim around me, each of them talking about my children and my husband as if they know them. Odd, to say the least. How can they know any of those stories?

And then I see her. My sweet Lizzy. I kiss her cheeks. I love you, sweet Lizzy, I say.

I love you too, Mama, she says. Look at my pretty dress, Mama. Look how it twirls.

Oh, how it twirls, I say and clap my hands and laugh. Then I join her. We spin and spin until I get dizzy.

“Sweet Lizzy, don’t nudge Mama like that,” I say and rub the meat of my arm. I open my eyes and look around, but Lizzy is gone and only the strangers are there.

The young man sitting next to me grins. “Sorry about your arm, Nana,” he says and moves his chair over. His eyes are like my husband’s, brown and bold.

“Henry?”

“No, Nana. I’m Todd, Lizzy’s boy,” he says, again another one of those damn smiles, but he’s so kind and young, and looks so familiar.

“That’s not right,” I say. “How can you be Lizzy’s boy? She’s only seven.” The older woman, who offered me coffee, puts her hand over mine and squeezes. Tears cling to her eyelashes, and I wonder why she’s about to cry. What’s there to cry about?

“Do you like your coffee?” Todd asks.

“Yes, I do,” I say and look down to see I’ve drank what was given. “Can I have some more?”

 

 

 

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Short Stories

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