He glanced at the mirror in the hallway for just a moment as he walked past it. Not enough for anyone to notice, but enough to assure himself again. His jaw was firm, his crow’s feet gone, his nose perfect, his hairline normal, his hair without streaks of grey, and his eyelids didn’t droop anymore. He looked near fifty, maybe even younger. And the pain was almost gone.
The important thing was for him to still look like himself, just a younger version. A version that had disappeared over the last twenty-five years but that had now been resurrected by that wonderful little doctor in Guadalajara. He knew it wouldn’t last for very long, but it would last long enough for his purposes. He took another quick look in the mirror as the matron came out to meet them.
“Good morning, Ms. Walcott. Your mother is in the sunroom. She’s had her breakfast and knows you will be visiting,” the matron said to them, shaking Mildred Walcott’s hand while stealing a quick look at him. He could tell she liked what she saw. “And I see you’ve brought a visitor along with you today,” the matron added.
Beaming, Mildred gripped his right arm in her arms and holding him tightly, introduced him to the matron. “Oh, yes, this is John, my fiancée, Matron. I wanted to introduce him to Mother today. Is she up to it?” Mildred asked.
John could tell the matron was surprised that Mildred had arrived with a man on her arm. Mildred Walcott, the classic homely spinster, was now sporting quite a catch, the matron must be thinking. Good looking, tall, probably a little old for Mildred, but well-mannered in any case. Matron was happy for Mildred but not quite sure what it all meant. “I think your Mother will be fine, but don’t take too long, dear. She tires easily since her last stroke. But she definitely understands what’s being said,” Matron explained. “She can't speak, of course, so watch her eyes. They will tell you everything.”
John knew exactly what Matron was thinking as the three of them moved towards the sunroom and Mother Walcott. He knew she was confused as to why a man like him would attach himself to a woman like Mildred. That’s what everyone thought . . . homely little Mildred, who wasn’t rich, had suddenly hit the relationship Jackpot? It didn’t make much sense to anybody.
Matron chatted to Mildred about her Mother’s condition as they found their way through the large building and up the stairs to the sunroom. From time to time, Matron’s gaze would stray towards John and her medically trained eyes would catch that John moved like a much older man than his face suggested. She wondered if he’d been in an accident or was ill. He moved much more like some of her patients in their eighties than a man just past fifty.
As they arrived at the right floor, John squeezed Mildred’s arm and reminded her how excited he was to meet her Mother for the first time. She squeezed right back and he could tell she was more excited than at any time since they’d met a few months before. She was a disappointment to her Mother, being unmarried and childless, and she knew it. It was her most fervent wish that before her Mother died, she could present her with what Mother wished for most. A husband and, maybe, even grandchildren. She wouldn’t tell her Mother she was pregnant just yet. Not until after the wedding.
John was excited, too, but for a decidedly different reason. He knew Mildred’s Mother only too well. Years ago, they’d been lovers, had planned on a life together, and then, Poof, it was over. She left him for another without an explanation, an apology, or an argument. What would Mother think when John showed up looking decades younger on the arm of her only daughter!
He knew precisely what Mother Walcott would think. She’d be confused, at first, then angry and would want to warn Mildred! Tell her it was all a ruse! A cynical, evil plot to get even!
But, of course, Mother could do none of these things. Trapped in a wheelchair, voiceless, with only her eyes to betray her inner emotions. Yes, John was excited alright as he and Mildred entered the sunroom and approached the wheelchair facing the garden window.
“Mother Walcott, you have some visitors this morning,” Matron whispered into the old lady’s ear as she grasped the handles on her wheelchair and turned it around.
As Matron and Mildred smiled and said pleasantries to Mother, only John could really interpret the fierce confusion and anger that was showing in Mother Walcott’s eyes.
My God, he thought to himself, this is better than he could have ever imagined.
"Mother Walcott," he said lovingly, patting her crippled arm that gripped her wheelchair so tightly, "How lovely to meet you after all this time."