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.

Jane: part one

Jane awoke every morning with a knot in the pit of her stomach. Every day was the same. Her husband sighed and rolled over, silencing the alarm. She pretended to be asleep so that he would try to be quiet as he got himself ready for the work day. Then just before he left, he softly kissed her cheek and told her he loved her. She murmured a response and waited until the door closed behind him.
She ran her fingers through her short hair and stepped over the dog as she climbed out of bed. Then after using the toilet, she washed her hands, put in her contact lenses so that she could see and shuffled to the kitchen for coffee. Her husband didn’t drink coffee. Or whiskey, her other favorite beverage. This morning, she felt like she might need both to get herself going.
While the Breville heated, she fumbled in the liquor cabinet for just the right bottle. Bourbon? Yes. A shot of Knob Creek to kick start the motor. Perfect. With a healthy dose added to her mug, she ground the beans, packed the filter with the grind and set the mug beneath it to fill with the extracted coffee.
It was raining. She wouldn’t get outside today. Maybe a double shot was in order. She sat on the sofa and tucked her feet beneath her. How had things gotten so out of control? She used to be happy. When had that changed? She shook her head. Was it already ten years ago that she’d been manipulated into moving her elderly parents into her home?
Her mother hollered up from the first floor apartment she occupied. “Janie? Are you up yet?”
She muttered a curse under her breath. “Yeah, Ma. I’m up.”
“So what’s on the agenda today?” her mother asked.
“None of your damned business,” she whispered. If only she had the guts to say that out loud. “Nothing. Why? You have big plans?” she asked, sarcastically.
“Well, I have to go to the store and the drug store and…” her mother droned on and on, missing the sarcasm.
“Fine,” Jane replied. “I’m not going anywhere.” She sighed. “As usual.”
“Did you hear the news?”
Jane rolled her eyes. Her mother seemed to think she was uninformed just because she didn’t watch the nightly news as religiously as her mother did. “What news?”
“A water main burst in Center City. It flooded an entire neighborhood!”
And this impacted our lives, how? “Oh yeah? That’s too bad.”
“You should see the pictures. It was terrible.”
“I’m sure it was, Ma.”
Her mother toddled off to get her breakfast, leaving Jane to her thoughts. She missed her father. He had been the only reason she’d agreed to this badly thought out plan. She’d had three extra years with him and that was a blessing wasn’t it? Jane sighed and drained the last of her spiked coffee and wept.