Rated PG -- Dragon Lady, angst.
Forget the comments, somebody get me a copy of flashback!
by AC Chapin
"I have to shut my eyes now caro, but you must not think I'm sleeping."
I didn't have a thing to say. Imagine, *me*, just sitting there with my mouth shut. Ray would've laughed.
Well, no, I guess he wouldn't. Ray was running out of things to say too these days. He had that look when he came to dinner, just waiting around for Benton to catch the next bullet. Just waiting around for the real hurting to finally start. We're like that, Vecchios, there's this kind of Italian inevitability; like some kind of operatic tragedy.
I guess Meg would laugh at that idea.
"Sorry, Ma. Uh, did I tell you what Thursday did?"
She let her eyes shut again peacefully. This was what I was supposed to do.
"I put some of the dishes on the table, you know, 'cos the counter was full." Running a catering business out of your own kitchen is never real bright, even with a kitchen as big as ours. "When I got started on washing some of them, Thurs came in and he looked at me scrubbing, and then he went and put his paws up on the table and he started licking out all the bowls."
Ma smiled just a little bit. Guess it wasn't all that funny.
Funny how hospital sheets somehow look sturdy.
"I guess he just wanted to help, you know."
Meg made that fussy little expression, her mouth shrinking down to a rosebud and that spot just between her eyebrows knotting into a rosette. I wanted to kiss them both.
The first time I kissed her I laughed and then she laughed too. A surprised laugh. Not surprised at the kiss but surprised like she'd never laughed before and she kind of liked it. In that hospital hallway, outside Ma's room, I couldn't even touch her.
Ray was in now and Ben was sitting on the awful plastic couch, waiting. That leg wouldn't let him stand for long periods anymore, but he was sitting so straight he looked like he was on duty.
Meg got impatient. "Frannie?"
I wasn't playing by the rules, see, I wasn't chattering away at her like she needed me to. Twice in one day. I went to kiss her fingers instead of her face, in apology, but I only kissed the air she cupped in her hand. "Let's go home."
"Are you sure?"
As we were walking out I saw her and Benton look at each other. I guess neither one of them knew what to do with a quiet Vecchio.
Thursday was sleeping on the couch when we got home, the Pluto doll we brought back from DisneyWorld between his paws. "Get down." Meg ordered him.
He looked up, his nose twitching. His ginger ear popped up, then the black one tried to follow, but drooped.
"Get *down*." Meg repeated.
He stretched in a doggy shrug and cuddled back down into the cushions. When I sat next to him, he lifted Pluto in his mouth and dropped it in my lap, and started licking at my hand.
Meg rolled her eyes and then settled in next to me. Her breast touched my arm. Her mother died when she was sixteen.
When at last, sometime past one in the morning, she starts to kiss me, I am soft and easy in her arms. My husband had huge hands, and hers feel like a little girl's where they touch my thighs. He, my ex-husband, came to the hospital once. He called my mother 'Mama Vecchio' and kissed her forehead in front of the family.
The first time Ray went into the hospital, Pop was still alive and we all went as a family and Pop said 'I told you so' a hundred thousand times and when I touched my brother's powder burned cheek, I felt, I don't know how to say it, but I felt death between our skins.
My ex-husband kissed my forehead too, and later I saw Ray pull him aside. Meg and Benton are foreigners to our family, they have no idea what my marriage was like. I tasted more than death the last time I kissed my husband.
I come under Meg's sharp tongue like I always do, and she nestles against my breasts. With my fingers I find that slight change in texture between the strands she colors the grey out of and the rest of her hair. Thursday, the dog who just wanted to help, turns around and around at our feet, he doesn't know why he's nervous.
"Francesca?" She needs me to speak. Look how she needs me.
When I fail to say anything, her little tongue goes to work again. Meg must always be working, solving, acting.
My mother's eyes open in the hospital. Her eyes are open, but she is sleeping.
"Just This" copyright 1996 by AC Chapin
my response to the frannie vs. meggie stories
AC Kit Chapin
indentured servant and sometime fanfic fool