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“The 86-Year-Old Orphan” by Catherine Bellizzi – an Excerpt

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“The 86-Year-Old Orphan” by Catherine Bellizzi – an Excerpt

AFL contributor and author Catherine Bellizi

“So, my lovely, are we getting married or are we going to live in sin?” Bill asked Tessie as they left the dining room.

Well, I’m sure as heck not living in sin!” Tessie exclaimed.

“Well, then, should we set a date?” Bill followed up.

“Maybe we should set a date to set a date first,” Tessie laughed, meaning the old-fashioned kind of date where the man comes to your door to take you out.

“Ok, then, the dance this Friday. I’ll pick you up at 6,” Bill replied, knowing right away what Tessie meant. “Be there or be square.”

Friday night came and Tessie spent more time than usual getting ready, partly because she naively told Angela that tonight she could do it herself and partly because of her nerves. It had been many years since she wanted to look nice for a man. And who would have thought it would happen at Desert Twilights?

She wondered what her children would think of her going on a date with someone other than their father. Somehow she didn’t think they would approve, that they could never picture her with anyone besides Fred. She imagined they would think she had completely lost interest in male companionship by now, her being so old and all. They were young and had no idea the flickers of romance that still flare up in the hearts of senior citizens, no matter how old they are.

Bill had told her he would pick her up at her door, like a proper gentleman, around 6 and here it was 5:45pm and she still wasn’t completely happy with what she saw as she stood in her bathroom and bent over the sink to peer closely at her reflection, trying to make out the details of her face. Years ago she had resigned herself to the fact that she would never again like what she saw in the mirror, unless, of course, her 25-year-old self was staring back at her. But tonight, for the first time in a long time, she actually felt pretty, looking at the lifetime of happiness, worry, sadness, joy and surprise etched on her face. Was it because now there was Bill telling her she was pretty? Or was she finally accepting who she was right here, right now, not reaching for some long ago, impossible standard of beauty, but instead appreciating the story of her life her face now told?

The phone rang. Was it Bill saying he was running late? Or finally one of her kids?

Tessie hobbled to the other room, over to the pink princess phone on her TV tray by the recliner. “Hello?” she answered, full of hope as always, that it was one of her children.

“Sorry, wrong number.” was all she heard on the other end.

Tessie hobbled over to her closet and tried to decide on what to wear. Black pants should work, she thought, with her purple top, the one with the gold thread woven through it. That should set a festive effect. She loved that top and wished she had had the foresight to buy a few in different colors when she bought this one. How could she have known it would end up being one of her favorite tops ever, mainly because the gold thread so perfectly matched her gold thread and scissors pendant. As she dabbed some lipstick on her upper lip, she heard a knock.

“You look beautiful,” Bill declared as she opened the door, hanging on to the door frame.

“And you look very handsome,” she replied, as she checked out Bill’s striped shirt and sports jacket.

“Shall we?” he asked, stepping inside and pulling Tessie’s wheelchair up behind her.
Tessie sat in the chair and off they went, he with one hand on his folded-up walker and one hand on her wheelchair, steering her up to the dance.

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