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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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In Absentia Dementia

"Andrea, I'm so sorry to bother you," Suzanne said, rubbing her face and eyes tiredly. "I'm really at my wit's end."

Andrea put an arm around her daughter-in-law's thin shoulders. "It's all right, hon. Let's go get something to eat, shall we? Things always look better with food."

Suzanne left Andrea chatting with the office receptionist and retreated to her cube. She leaned over her keyboard and finished the email she'd been composing when Andrea had arrived. The email went off with a swish and she pulled her purse out of the lower drawer. "Sheila, I'm heading out," she called over the cube wall.

"You go on, kid," Sheila said, leaning back to look at her. "You look like hell. You going home?"

"Nah," Suzanne said, checking the time on her cell phone. "Andrea and I are having dinner."

"You have fun," Sheila said, waving and returning to her computer.

Andrea took Suzanne's arm as they walked down the front steps. "Where shall we go then?"

Suzanne squinted into the late afternoon sunlight. "Oh, why don't we try the Great Scot? We had lunch there the other day, and the sandwiches are good."

The other plus of the Great Scot, Suzanne thought as they stood in line, was the eye-candy. She hadn't paid much attention to the looks of other men for years now, but there was something about the smile of that pretty college boy that caught her interest. He slung coffee like it was the greatest job in the world, and smiled at her like she was beautiful. "Here y'go, miss," he said, handing her coffee over the counter. "I hope you have a great evening!"

"At least this place seems to know what customer service is," Andrea said as they settled at a corner table, away from the singletons working on their laptops.

"It does, doesn't it?" Suzanne said.

"So what's going on, Suzanne?" Andrea said, taking a bite of potato salad.

Suzanne stared at her sandwich for a moment, then took a swig of coffee. It was too hot, of course, and burned all the way down her esophagus. Eyes watering, she said, "It's Ira."

"I figured that out," Andrea said, blue eyes narrowing. "Give me some credit, after all."

"I'm sorry," Suzanne said. She folded her hands and looked up at Andrea. "I think he's finally gone completely over the edge."

Andrea pursed her lips and set her fork down. "What's he done now?"

Suzanne picked up her fork and moved her french fries around on her plate. "I got a call from the Gold Stars. He apparently went to them to tell them that Josh had woken up to warn him about... about some impending invasion." She sighed. "They were very nice about it."

Andrea's penciled eyebrows rose precipitously. "He said that Josh woke up? When was this?"

"Oh, a couple of days ago," Suzanne said. "He called me at work to tell me. But of course, Josh had just gone back to sleep or whatever right then, so he couldn't talk to me. Now he keeps a tape recorder next to the bed. He knows I don't believe him."

Andrea grunted. "Worse than the last time. At least then he was willing to admit that it was just a random noise Josh made."

They ate their sandwiches in silence for a few minutes. Suzanne was distracted by the excellent garlic aoli on her roasted tomato and fresh mozzarella sandwich.

"You know," Andrea said, "it's been a long time coming. He hasn't been right since the Great Gulf, you know."

"When he forgot you," Suzanne said.

"Yes," Andrea said, looking up into the trendily exposed rafters. "You have no idea how much the fact that he forgot Violet too made up for forgetting me."

Suzanne giggled.

"And he replaced us with some woman named Lizzie." Andrea took another bite of her sandwich, chewed thoughtfully, swallowed, and said, "In all the years he ran around on me, I don't think he ever took up with a Lizzie."

"So you think she was a fantasy, or a hallucination, or something?"

Andrea shrugged. "Or something." She frowned. "Did Josh ever actually say anything to you about Tin Lizzie?"

Suzanne shook her head. "Ira always said that Josh remembered her too, but Josh was always really... vague about it all. And he seemed to remember you just fine."

Andrea shrugged again. "Well, one never knows what happened in the thick of things. I remember how crazy those fights could get. Still, this new thing with Josh is..." She rolled her eyes and waved a manicured hand.

"I know," Suzanne said.

And they ate again in silence for a time. Suzanne glanced around, catching the caffeinar's eye by accident. He smiled, and she smiled back, dropping her gaze immediately.

"You're going to have to arrange for a regular visiting nurse," Andrea said.

"I know." Suzanne took the penultimate bite of her sandwich a little savagely. "I can barely afford the monthly visits and the PT. The idea of having someone in daily... oh, god, Andrea, what am I going to do?"

Andrea pursed her lips. "Not you. I'm sorry, Suzanne, I should have done this sooner. I'm going to go to the Golden Guardian. The pittance the Guardians have been paying out for Josh is ridiculous. The man saved the world. I have a few favors still hanging around from the old days."

"Oh, Andrea, it's such a bother," Suzanne said.

"No, it's not," Andrea said, dabbing at her lips with her napkin. "It's his due. And yours."

Suzanne nodded. Her gaze slid sideways to the young man pulling his apron off over his head and strolling out from behind the counter. A little short, but he had very nice shoulders. She'd always been partial to good shoulders.

Andrea finished her coffee. She glanced at Suzanne, then looked away through the window. "You've been tied to a dead man for 10 years. The least I can do is to try to make it a little easier."

Suzanne decided that there was nothing she could say to that, so she drank her coffee.

As they walked out the door a few minutes later, they passed the caffeinar. He was getting on a red mountain bike, a small backpack slung over both shoulders. He caught Suzanne's eye and smiled. "Have a good night, ladies. Come back and see us sometime!"

"Of course," Suzanne said.

Date: 2012-02-26 07:07 am (UTC)
sepdet: Samhain worshipping the veggies. Oooommm. (Okay, yes, catnip was involved.) (Default)
From: [personal profile] sepdet
I keep wanting to shake Suzanne for being ungracious to her father-in-law, but she's a very realistic character in a miserable situation, chained to a vegetable she wanted to divorce. I have to keep remembering that when she's being less than sympathetic (i.e. her later mistake with S.)

Typo, perhaps

Date: 2016-07-14 02:26 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Doors opened obligingly for him, buiding him inside and into the parlor. Is the word here supposed to be "guiding"?

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