Her body betrays her eventually, and while she’s always known that it was only a matter of time, Eliza can’t help but feel a little disappointed that she didn’t manage to reach the finish line with all her sensibilities intact.
“You’re just old, mother.” Angelica reprimands her, in a voice so similar to that of her late aunt that Eliza is quite glad she decided that the two of them should share a name. It’s hard to separate people out, she’s known so many of them after all. Just the other morning she called James ‘Alex’ and expected him to morph into her husband.
They’ve started to say that she’s senile. All her children and her grandchildren and all the space in between. But what do they know? Watch them live to their nineties and have all their faculties in one piece. Harder than they think, she’s sure of it.
Reaching for her mail, Eliza’s hand trembles and shakes in the air, unable to fully bend to her will. She frowns, concentrates all the harder, and eventually finds a shift of paper falling open in her lap. Her eyes blur, failing to draw anything into context, but she swears she knows the words.
I write with most tender effusions…
Would that I had seen you face the morning of…
Eliza stirs awake, the fire burnt down to embers next to her. She looks down and finds herself covered in paper. She had been reading Alex’s most recent letter, she was going to burn it. The relationship of the one thought to the other is not immediately apparent.
“Honestly, mother. Who let you sit up by yourself?” Angelica marches over, her hair wild like it never was, and Eliza has to think long and hard before she stops looking entirely unlike her sister.
Her sister? This is her sister?
“Yes, mother. It’s me.”
What a strange prank. She must find Alex, she must feed the baby. Eliza moves to stand and immediately feels like a tent in a storm, ready to be blown into the ocean at a moment’s notice.
Angelica frowns, looking so old and so young all at once. “Mother, are you ok?”
She is shaking, she is falling down. There is paper at Eliza’s feet. “Where am I?”
Angelica’s face softens. Not her sister, her sister was never soft on purpose. “You’re at home, mother. In New York. It’s late, we should put you to bed.”
“Where did the time go?” Eliza mutters. But she lets her daughter thread an arm under hers and lead her oh so slowly through the house on unsteady feet. She’s not cut out for this, she ought to have gone in a rush.