She left her apartment and started power walking along the outdoor block-long corridor. Once she reached the stairs, she’d still have to walk several minutes across the complex to Melvin’s office at the clubhouse. “My new friends are zany but are straight shooters and caring.
I love them,” Celia had explained to her daughter, Allison, during one of their many awkward calls.
“Zany? Does that mean loony tunes?” Allison didn’t call again fortwo weeks.
At that first cha-cha lesson, Deb, the oldest of the three at seventy-
one, wore an ill-fitting dress with an uneven hemline and splashed
with magenta flowers over her skeletal body. Her rheumatoid arthritis had started in her forties and progressed over the years. Now it affected every joint and muscle in her body, except for her acerbic tongue. Her personality vacillated from cheeky to a bit hostile, and she seemed to have no filters, spouting just what was on her mind. In restaurants she absconded with sugar packets, ketchup bottles, and bread. Her attempts at knitting with gnarled fingers turned out lumpy, mish-mashed, lopsided scarves in colors that Marcy called vomit green and oily yellow. Still, the three of them always wore the scarves on cool nights. At those times, a smiling Deb never uttered a nasty word.
Celia’s heart kicked up a notch faster as the panic in Marcy’s voice
echoed in her mind. She pressed Deb’s number on her cell once again. “Hulloo,” Deb said in a sleepy voice.
“It’s me. Marcy needs help. We can’t call 911. Meet me at Melvin’s
“Oh shit. She’s at it again?”
“She sounds awful.”
“On my way.”
Tall, curvaceous Marcy—flamboyant and unapologetic—decked
herself out in blinding, neon-colored skimpy skirts and low-cut chartreuse or orange blouses. At sixty-five, the same age as Celia, and in vibrant health, she sought out unattached men—on the premises or electronically—with a vengeance. Both Marcy and Deb, despite their different personalities, often joined Celia on jaunts to art galleries, theaters, or the orchestra.
As Celia crossed over the bridge that connected her building to
the walkway leading to the clubhouse, she listened for the dreaded
sirens that often fragmented the night air. Ambulances zipped in and
out of retirement complexes as frequently as ice cream trucks drove
around playgrounds. But only palm fronds rustled overhead, lit by
a full moon silvering the surface of the reflecting pool, spouting a
fountain of water at the center.
Celia recalled Marcy’s last predicament. A few months ago,
she had been caught, stark naked, with the gardener after a tryst
in an isolated area near a brook along the golf course.
An alligator had crawled out of the water, sending a naked Marcy and gardener into the clubhouse. Before that she got caught on the roof with the roofer. One more violation and the board of directors promised to evict her. Celia often wondered if Marcy got into trouble as a way to thumb her nose at the few mean spirited-people who tortured her with snippy remarks.
Celia entered the clubhouse that housed the community’s offices
and where they served the community meals, brought in entertainment, and hosted card clubs, movies, and speakers on health issues.
The kitchen and nurses’ station were empty.
When she reached Melvin’s office, she saw Deb hobbling along the corridor, wearing a frayed sweater over her nightgown, her backless slippers flopping and her face grimacing with effort. Celia pushed against the door, but it wouldn’t budge. “Marcy!” she called.