Rosana pulled her BMW into the garage pausing to raise the convertible roof before turning it off.
The sudden quiet was a relief. The engine ticked slowly, cooling. In a moment, the motion sensitive lights clicked off, returning the garage to the semi-darkness. Rosana sat still, letting the darkness wrap her like a blanket.
She closed her eyes. A long day. Morning run, breakfast at Crabby’s in Georgetown, paint until noon. Ballet. The groping instructor with his long fingers always straying. Rosana cursed quietly, the sound tearing through the quiet like a searchlight in the dark. Then her Mother’s not-so-subtle demands about the concert. Rosana shifted in the smooth leather seat.
“What are you doing?” Her mother’s sharp voice had crackled out of the cell phone.
“I was about to shower.” Rosana’s tone betrayed her annoyance.
“Oh, good. You’re getting ready.”
“I’m not getting ready. I’m showering after ballet.”
“And then you’ll get ready. My client is meeting me for dinner on K Street, and then I’m driving him to Wolf Trap. Meet us at Will Call.”
“I’m going to take a nap.”
“You don’t have time. Wear your red halter with the mini I got you in New York.”
“I’ve got a broom skirt and peasant blouse right he -”
“Rosana,” her mother snapped, “this is not a back-woods hill-billy I’m bringing. If this deal is going to work, Gregorio needs – ”
” – to be wined, dined, and experience a lovely evening.” Rosana finished for her. “That’s right, Mom. Sell your daughter for your real-estate deals.” Rosana set down the cell phone on her bathroom counter and mouthed the words in unison with her mother, shouting through the phone.
“- enjoying your comfortable, artsy lifestyle, a condo in Georgetown, a car, you better be willing to work for it! I didn’t get to where I am by living off of my mother!” Rosana turned on the shower to heat up while her mother worked herself into a rage.
” – with no one to support me and a dying child?”
“Actually,” Rosana interjected in a voice loud enough to carry from the linen closet, where she was searching for a razor, to the cell phone, getting foggy on the counter, “it was two children, right? You had two children to support. Jamesey and me, right?”
“Oh, poor Rosana! Isn’t she getting enough attention? Does she have to become the focal point of every conversation? ‘Me and Jamesey,'” her mother imitated in sing-song. “Maybe if Rosana would stop feeling sorry for herself, she might have time in her schedule to show up at Wolf Trap tonight and sit with her mother and a client. Is that too much to ask of poor little Rosana?”
“Tell me, mother,” Rosana picked up the phone and switched off the speaker, “what does ‘sit with mother and a client’ mean tonight? Will he just be ogling this evening, or am I required to perform some favors? Is this strictly ‘listen to the concert’ next to an octogenarian, or is this one a little more involved? And how much money do you get for me?”
“This is how you treat me? After all I’ve done for you? After all the work, the sweat to pay for your ballet instructors and your art tutors, to give you a good home, to – ”
“And so I owe it to you to be used as an object by some old man because you want a real estate deal? Why don’t you do it! Or are you just too old and fat?”
Rosana imagined her mother’s face turning scarlet.
“I had two children,” her mother screamed. “I had two children and one died. One died in my arms, but the other – ” she took a heaving breath, ” – the other should have died! See? You drive me to hate you! I wish Jamesey had lived and you had died!”
“Isn’t that funny? My memory is very different. I seem to recall you screaming at Jamesey for being alive. Alive and sick. For ruining your life. I seem to remember you keeping him in the back room by himself while you entertained clients downstairs. Who was looking after him? Who was changing his diapers? Who changed his IV bag? Who got him back and forth to school? Who organized the visiting nurses? Who went with him to the hospital? It wasn’t you, Mother.”
“Rosana, the Saint! Rosana, the Hero! Mother only earns the living. Mother just makes ends meet, but Rosana, the heroic nurse, is caring for her little brother. Holding his hand as he comes out of surgery and dies. But where is our little heroine when her surviving mother needs help? She’s not quite as willing to help the people who are left behind. And what has she done in the three years since? NOTHING! Just sucked her mother’s lifeblood, unwilling to help in the smallest way. A concert, Rosana! I’ve asked you to be present at a concert. And so help me, if you’re not there – ”
This phone was a much smaller model than the other two had been. It flushed without even threatening to clog.
In the garage, Rosana kicked open the driver’s door and let her leg dangle as the motion-sensitive lights flashed on.
The old man had been as slimy as she had expected, running his hand down her leg whenever the lights dimmed. Her mother had pretended to be interested in the program.
What a contrast from the cute little Army guy. He had wanted to touch her, too.
“But at least he controlled himself,” she stormed. She grabbed her purse, heaved her lithe form out of the seat and slammed the car door. She did three deep knee bends, listening to the joints in her aching knees and hips pop – a side effect of years of ballet. Inside the house, her answering machine blinked three messages. She pressed the caller-ID. All of them from her mother.
“I have so got to get out of here,” Rosana muttered, leaning on the granite counter and tapping her fingernails in rhythmic thought. But to where? And to do what?
She shoved herself upright, blowing out her breath loudly.
“I need a shower.” Her third of the day. Some kinds of slime just didn’t wash off, no matter how much soap you used.
As she undressed, a scrap of paper fluttered from her halter top. A receipt, with a phone number scribbled on it