Paid For(10)

By: Alexa Riley

The cream-colored dress comes all the way to my neck and has short sleeves. The top is form-fitting, and the waist is cinched by a thick navy belt. Then it starts to flare out until it hits mid-thigh. I picked this one to wear because it came with navy flats to match the belt and I knew my feet would love me for it.

Once I’m at the right stop, I hop off and walk up to the nursing home. I give Larry, the security guard, a small wave and stop to ask how his new baby is doing. Once inside, I nod at the front desk nurse, who is going over a stack of files. She pushes a button to grant access. I sign in, asking her how everything is going before heading straight for my grandpa’s room.

I stop when I see him sitting up in bed watching TV. He’s in the same dark green flannel pajamas he’s been wearing for as long as I can remember. He must have two dozen pairs. His thick gray hair is combed to the side, and I follow his line of sight and see him watching an old western. We used to watch them together all the time. It was actually our favorite thing to do after dinner. We’d have ice cream and I’d end up passing out on the sofa. I lean up against the door frame and wait for him to notice me. It easier this way. To just let him notice me first. When he finally turns his head, my stomach tightens into a ball as I wonder what will come.

“Pumpkin. I was wondering when you’d be by.” My eyes water, but a smile spreads across my face. Tonight is going to be a good night. He smiles at me, and I push myself from the door and make my way to him. I drop my backpack next to his bed and move closer.

“I got caught up. Sorry, Grandpa.”

“That’s all right. You look mighty pretty tonight,” he tells me, scooting over in his bed and patting the empty space next to him.

I waste no time hopping up into the bed. One of his arms wraps around me, and he pulls me in for a little hug and kisses the top of my head. The worry I’ve been feeling washes away. Though the nurse told me he’s had a good day, it makes me feel better to see it for myself.

“I started a new job,” I admit.

“At a jeweler?” I can hear the trace of hope in his voice.

He knows making jewelry is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve drawn up pages and pages of jewelry designs over the years. I don’t know why I’m so in love with jewelry, but I am. Have been my whole life. I’m always looking at what people wear, and I'm fascinated by how different people’s taste can be. The jewelry someone wears says a lot about that person.

“No, I’m just an administrative assistant, but I’m still working on that in my free time. I don’t know if I’d like working in a jewelry store much. I just like making the designs.” I lean into him, resting my head against him and staring at the TV.

“You’re doing all right, pumpkin? You don’t need anything?” I can hear the concern in his voice.

Grandpa doesn’t know how bad it had gotten. Together we had agreed to sell the house because he knew he was getting worse, too. He knew he was having episodes when he couldn’t remember who I was or even where he was. Sometimes he became distraught and would try to leave our home and I didn’t have the physical strength to stop him.

Though he thought we’d made out better than we had in the sale and that there is a good chunk of money left in the bank. He also thought this place cost a third of what it really does.

I couldn’t let him go into a place he thought we could afford. They don’t have everything this one has. This place has better doctors, programs, food, and nurses. Name it and this place has it. Not only that, it isn’t big. The place feels like a real home, not a nursing home.

I don't want him to think about any of that. To worry about what is going on. I am going to handle it. He doesn’t need the stress. Who knows what that could do to him?

“I’m perfect. You should see my new place. It’s as fancy as this dress I have on.” I put a little excitement into my words, hoping it settles him.

“As long as you’re happy, pumpkin, I’m happy.” He leans back in the bed, pulling me a little closer.

“I don’t think you’ve seen this one,” he tells me, and I nod my head in agreement. I don’t recognize the old black-and-white movie playing on the screen.

“You’ll love it. Got a sweet romance story in it.”

I blush at his words, but he’s right. I did always favor the ones where the hero comes to save the day and falls hopelessly in love with the heroine, even though he’s a rough and gruff cowboy who never had any real feelings until she came along.

I lie with my grandpa watching the movie and start to feel my eyes grow heavy. I know I should get up, but I can’t bring myself to move. Eventually I fall into a deep sleep, savoring the moment, knowing those same moments will soon be a rarity.

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