The bed jerks, and my eyes fly open. Fifty is standing in the dark. I recognize the outline of her un-kept hair bushing out around her head. She’d gone directly to bed after a bath again. I cringe at the vision.
“I’m outta here,” she says with an edge.
“Oh, right,” I mumble to her, “I forgot the date”. I don’t know what else to say, but she just stands there staring at me for a long time. I wiggle uncomfortably but remain silent.
“So, I’m tired. It was a long year. I’m out.” Her shoulders sag down.
I have to say something. After all, she’d been with me for a year. “You got my uterus?” I ask.
She nodded and patted the bag hanging over her shoulder.
“My ovaries? How about a giant slice of my pride? Please don’t take all of my energy. Did you gather up that damn flu bug?” I sit up and realize that my head isn’t hurting anymore. “Hey,” I’m getting riled up now, “You want to take my crappy memory? How about this extra chin? Don’t forget my hot flashes…” She turns away from me to struggle down the hall with a soft sob.
“Are you O.K.?” I call at her back.
“I think I have it all,” she says. Her voice sounds small and flat.
Wow, she’s really leaving. I follow her down the hall to the door, reaching for her shoulder. She turns, and straight into my face she stares expectantly.
My stomach turns when I examine her sloppy appearance, shallow eyes and her tired stature. Lord, everyone is tired of that look, especially me. Now she feels like a lover that’s been hanging on too long. I look beyond her into the yard as light is breaking on the roses and then back to her face. Without flinching, I kiss her, hard on the mouth and throw my arms around her. We’d been through a lot.
“Get out,” I whisper in her ear.
She smiles wickedly and whispers back into my hair, “Look, here she comes now.”
Fifty-One approaches up my street as though we were old friends about to be reunited. I release Fifty from my arms and focus on what’s coming toward me. Her pace is brisk, and she looks thinner than I thought she would. She wears yoga pants and a matching jacket. Fifty-One picks up her pace and waves as she runs toward me. I can hear her begin to squeal like a high-school girl. She gets closer, fanatically smiling and jumping, finally pulling me into an embrace. She squeezes me so tight I have to catch my breath.
Over the shoulder of Fifty-One, I watch my Fifty, limping her way back to wherever used-up years return. Suddenly I’m filled with gratitude I couldn’t muster a few moments before. “Hey,” I call after her, “I love that my girls are closer to me.” She doesn’t acknowledge me. “Thanks getting the book published. That really took some doing!” I yell to no response. Oh shit, I had a lot to thank her for! I start after her, but she’s nothing now but a shadow at the end of my road. “Thanks for the little dog,” I whisper tearfully. “I really love him.” She fades, and then she’s gone.
It’s 5:30. I fumble for coffee and grab the Bundt cake, my birthday breakfast, but Fifty-One hands me a teacup, nodding her perky head and looking at me as though this is going to be fun. I look her dead in the face, “Tea, really?
“Yes, really,” she says with authority.
“I’m worried about her.” I say looking back down the empty road, remembering how weary she was when she left.
“Don’t worry,” Fifty-One puts her lips to my forehead, just like my mom does. “She’s going to be just fine.”