Jane: part two

Later, after a shower and a cold compress to the eyes, Jane wandered downstairs through her mother’s part of the house to the basement office where she saw clients every day.
“You’re not going to let people see you like that, are you?” her mother asked as she strode by.
Jane looked down at her jeans and black pullover sweater. “What’s wrong with this?”
Her mother sniffed. “It’s awfully casual, don’t you think?”
“I want my clients to feel comfortable with me, Ma. Not intimidated by a business suit or dress.”
“You could at least put on some lipstick,” she muttered as Jane walked away.
The irony of being of family counselor struck her every time she flipped on the lights and the soothing music in her subterranean work space. Jane checked the time. She had ten minutes before the Hedbergs were due. They were easy. All she had to do was sit and listen while they got their grievances off their chests. After each session, the Hedbergs left smiling and holding hands. Jane was nothing more than a tool to get them talking.
At lunchtime, she trudged up the two flights of stairs to eat and let the dog out. As she passed through the first floor, she heard the noon news broadcast coming from the TV in her mother’s sitting room. Jane sighed heavily. She would get a full report when she returned to the office this afternoon.
Lunch was a vodka martini with extra olives and a few slices of cheddar cheese. She sat on the sofa until it was almost time for her afternoon clients. When she descended the stairs she was surprised to find the living room empty and the sound of the TV still blaring from the sitting room. Jane went to investigate.
“Ma?” she called out.
No answer.
She peeked in the room. Her mother sat in the recliner with her eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling. Jane knew without checking that the old woman was dead. She picked up the remote and lowered the volume, then closed the door to the room and went down to greet her first clients of the afternoon.

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