Bernadette lives in a flat house in West Texas. She often forgets being old until she walks past a mirror or a window and sees the skinny, slightly hunched, somewhat wrinkled body she knows is now hers. She ignores it by keeping busy, tending to the flowers and trees in her yard which seems to get a little bigger each year.

“Hello, kitties,” she coos as she comes outside to sit under her patio awning, shielded from the relentless sun. She listens to them mew as they slink around her, making overlapping curvy trails that crisscross her legs and each other as if they are weaving a tale.

“Here’s your dinner, my sweets,” she says, wishing she was serving watermelon to grandchildren and not stray cats looking for Meow Mix. The cats stop crying and eat without fighting when she puts all the aluminum pie plates down.

I’m still here at ninety-one, she tells herself. My legs work and brain work and I have a roof over my head, owned free and clear. I have my telenovelas and Lester Holt every evening. I have leftover barbecue chicken and a fresh peach from my neighbor. I am fine.

The warm breeze dries the sweat on her face and arms, cooling her. She leans back in the lawn chair and closes her eyes for a few minutes to rest. Bernadette sees someone walking in her yard, coming toward her from the road so far away. It’s a woman who is very small at first but keeps getting bigger as she comes closer. She appears gray and nearly transparent but gradually becomes bright and solid, and the old lady gasps, seeing the woman wearing a multi-colored dress.

Bernadette remembers that dress from long ago, recalls buying the fabric and carefully cutting it out, using a special pattern begged from her older sister. Bernadette pinned the parts together and sewed the seams one by one, fit each of the sleeves into the arm holes, which was always tricky and took patience, something Bernadette had little of then. It took hours to set in the zipper and make it smooth and even. Finally, she ironed each seam flat like her mother had taught by her.

This dress was for a dance. A nice young man had invited her, and her mother had said okay. It was her first dance and her first date. The dress had to be perfect. She could still feel the fabric resting on her arms, soft and clingy. The skirt cascaded from her tiny waist, hugged her hips, and fluttered against her knees.

Bernadette was sixteen. She had long black hair and eyes so dark people swore she had no pupils. Everything was brilliant and new and special that night. She danced for hours, and her feet didn’t feel the floor. He held her gently like she would break if he let her go.

Suzanne C Martinez

Suzanne C Martinez’s fiction has appeared in Vestal Review, The Citron Review, Gone Lawn, and The Broadkill Review, among others, and was nominated for Pushcart Prizes (2019, 2020), The Best of the Net (2020), and Best Short Fictions (2022). She was a finalist in the 2023 Tartts First Fiction Award for her linked story collection. She lives in Brooklyn. Website: X: @SuzanneCMartin3 • IN: s.martinez1441 • FB: scm1441

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