Thursday, August 12, 2010

The First Day in a New Place is Always Hard

This week's [fiction] friday prompt:  The conversation took off when Louise mentioned Bruce Willis.

The first day in a new place is always hard, Cecile told herself.  

Despite her reluctance she knew she’d have to leave the room eventually.  She looked at her new outfit in the full length mirror attached to the closet door.  It was a going-away present from Trina, or rather a peace offering, a lame attempt to atone for her guilt.  Either way it was a nice outfit, the latest fashion.

Cecile shuffled through the paperwork on the sterile desk.  She crossed the small room and fluffed the pillows on her twin bed. She ran a hand across the calico bedspread, smoothing the nonexistent wrinkles.

“Enough, CeCe.  Stop stalling,” she said aloud.

Cecile checked her hair in the mirror hanging next to the door, placed her hand on the stainless steel handle, and slowly turned.  She had to squint her eyes against the harsh fluorescent lighting in the hallway.  She stepped out and was a little surprised to find the hall devoid of other residents. 

As she walked toward the lobby she noticed the myriad of decorations adorning the doors that lined the cinder block walls:  miniature white boards with colored markers attached, silly posters of cats bearing a variety of clichés, the odd handmade charm or beaded hanging, to name a few. 

When Cecile entered the lobby she finally began to hear the noises that let her know that there was some sort of life going on in this place.  Stationed at the front desk was a squat woman, glasses perched on the tip of her nose and head titled to hold the phone receiver.  As she crossed the plush carpeting, a bone-thin older lady came rushing up to meet her.  The zealous lady was holding a small wicker basket, but Cecile couldn’t quite make out what was inside.

“Hello, hello” the woman said. 

Cecile took a step back, but the woman just kept coming closer.

“Here, have one.  I made them myself this morning,” the woman said.  She reached into the basket and pulled out something white.  She shoved it in Cecile’s direction and Cecile was obliged to receive the gift.

“Thank you,” Cecile said.  She looked into her open hand and saw a wadded up Kleenex.  Instinctively, she let the used wad fall to the floor.  By this time the fluttering old lady had moved on to her next victim.

Cecile hurried out of the lobby and into the commons.  Here the round tables were filled with residents, some staring blankly at the food before them, others greedily clearing their plates.  She looked out across the crowded room and noticed a gray-haired woman waving extravagantly in her direction.  Cecile looked around her, but there was no one near that the woman could be waving down.  Despite her misgivings, she made her way through the tables to the waving woman.

“Oh, you’re the new girl.  I’m Hattie and this here old bag is Louise.”
“I’m Cecile, but you can call me CeCe.”
“My Lord, she has a nickname.  Isn’t that exciting, Louise.”

Louise looked up from her scrambled eggs just long enough to see there was someone blocking her view of the TV and then motioned for Cecile to move.  Cecile took the hint and sat in the empty chair next to Hattie.

“What are you in for?” Louise said.
“Oh you knock that off, you crazy old coot.  Louise doesn’t mean any harm.  She’s just cantankerous.”
“I see,” Cecile said.

The hum of a motorized wheelchair caught Cecile’s attention. 

“Oh Lord, we’re in for it now.  Here comes Mrs. Westin.  Just don’t respond and everything will be okay,” Hattie warned.

Mrs. Westin’s wheelchair stopped right next to Cecile’s chair.  She started to scoot her chair sideways to get a little breathing room, but Mrs. Westin put her arm out and grabbed hold of her wrist.  She was quite a bit stronger than she looked Cecile thought. The woman had already begun talking so Cecile thought it best to just remain still.

“Did I ever tell you about my great grandson?  When he finally came out, he had the biggest head I ever seen.  I said to them kids ‘that ain’t normal,’ but they weren’t gonna listen to me.  Well his head just kept gettin’ bigger and bigger.  One day that big ole head just exploded.  I tell you what. Arms and legs went everywhere.”

Cecile wrenched her wrist from the crazy lady’s hand and pulled back so hard she almost toppled out of her chair.  Hattie started laughing, which started Louise to laughing.  Mrs. Westin put her nose up in the air, turned her chair around, and motored away. 

“I told you we were in for it, didn’t I?” Hattie laughed.
“You did warn me. That you did.” Cecile answered.

Cecile wasn’t sure what to make of her new home, but she was pleasantly surprised by Hattie and her outgoing demeanor.  She secretly hoped that they might become fast friends.  After her breakfast was delivered to the table and Louise’s program finished, the three began to get to know each other.  The conversation took off when Louise mentioned Bruce Willis.