At the far end of the north hall, near the exit door, the room boasted a full view of the large, lush courtyard. A thick green carpet of lawn stretched between the north and east sections of the building, then outward in a quarter circle to the wooded perimeter. Full flower beds nestled along the building, exploding with color. A hummingbird feeder hung from a pole just outside the window. In the middle of the courtyard, a pergola rose from the ground, taking a thick cover of climbing ivy with it. A decorative stone patio lounged in its shade, along with wooden benches between the pillars.
The clear June sky encapsulated the splendor, making the rich hues seem deeper, more alive.
The earth is full of your unfailing love, Lord . . . even in Kansas.
Clara turned to her companions. "Yes, this will do nicely."
"Wonderful," Margaret replied, relief discernable in her voice. "I'll update your file."
"Would you like help unpacking, Mrs. Kip?" Jimmy asked, still holding the suitcases.
"That's quite all right, love. Just set them on the bed for now."
Jimmy did as instructed. "Anything else I can help you with?"
"Not right now. Thank you, though."
He glanced furtively at Margaret, then nodded goodbye to Clara in a way that wished her good luck.
As it turned out, though, Margaret was comparatively amenable for the remainder of her time with Clara. She showed her how to work the portable call button, which she clipped to Clara's shirt, as well as how to operate the television, though Clara had zero intention of putting the latter instructions to use. Technology had never warmed to her.
Clara pretended to listen and secretly studied the young woman before her. What was her story? What did she need? And what about Jimmy? Sweet boy. He looked like he should be in college. Why wasn't he?
"Does all that make sense?" Margaret asked.
The question pulled Clara from her reverie. "Yes, certainly does," she replied, not sure what exactly had been explained.
Margaret placed the television remote on the nightstand. "Any questions for me before I head out?"
"I am having some boxes brought over from home."
"They will be here before lunch, I'm told. One of the aides will bring them to your room when they arrive."
"The nurse will be by in a little while as well to go over a few things." Margaret took a step toward the door, a hint if ever Clara saw one.
"Thank you for your time. I appreciate all you did for me."
The gal attempted another smile. "We're glad you're here."
The statement lacked empathy of any variety, but Clara did not hold it against her. She gave a friendly wave, and Margaret stepped into the hallway, leaving the door partially ajar.
Alone, Clara sighed and swept her gaze across the room. "So," she said softly, "this is where I wither."
She examined her new— and final— digs with intention. She studied the details, the curves of the loveseat and the corners of the dresser, the hue of the bookshelves and the tones of the faux- wood floor. All of it strove for coziness but fell perpetually short. The crisp lines of the sun cut across the room, drawing the eye along their perfect edges. They stretched over the loveseat, along the floor, up and over the tray table, and onto The Bed.
She refused to let her eyes linger on that thing. Not yet.
Instead, she turned her attention to the armchair tucked in the corner by the loveseat. It looked modern and highly unpromising in the comfort department. Her legs had been crying for mercy ever since the trek began to room 310, and they begged her to give the chair a go.
She scooted herself back up against the edge of the seat and began to lower onto the cushion. Despite her best effort, she landed with an unladylike plop. Most of her sits had been plops for some time, so that was no surprise. What was a surprise: the modernly uncomfortable armchair actually had substance. The right amount of support in all the right places. Almost certainly she could stand up again.
The embrace of the chair, the sun rays warming the room, and the beautiful view out her window all collaborated to draw a contented sigh from deep within her. She lifted her eyes to the blue sky and smiled. "It's no São Paulo, but I'll gladly take it."