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“He only left a few,” my mother complained.

George and Linda had come by for a visit, bringing a box of chocolates. My mother had unwrapped them, and George had indulged.

“He’s so big.” She wrinkled her nose, as if George were a tumor that had grown at the expense of healthy tissue.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have offered him the chocolates.”

My mother’s eyes widened in disapproval. A gift of food was always opened for guests. That was taken for granted. But so was restraint. She frowned. “Linda looks fragile. That job is wearing her out.”

My sister, Linda, reminded mother of herself: feminine, delicate, heroic.

Pointedly, she repeated, “He’s enormous.”

I nodded, but said nothing.

Mother sighed. “He hasn’t worked for years. Says he’s an artist.” She took a small sip of tea. “He dresses well….” She paused, then murmured softly, “His shirt was silk.”

Stubbornly, I pretended to misunderstand. “I don’t like silk,” I said, “it’s rubbery…..though the colours are gorgeous.”

Mother patted her silver curls, barely managing to hide her irritation. “Those shirts must cost a fortune,” she said tightly.

“I suppose.” I swiveled my head. “I love your drapes.”

Distracted, my mother preened. She adored her apartment, and relished admiration. “Mmm,” she said. “That pale linen’s a wonderful backdrop for my plants.”

The room was full of foliage. My mother coddled her plants and sang to them. I gazed at the ficus. Its leaves glistened with health.

Mother noticed my look. “You should have plants,” she said.

“My apartment’s too dark,” I protested.

“No apartment’s too dark.”

“Maybe someday.” I was starting to feel worried. Her rage against George, thwarted, was shifting towards me. Hastily, I said, “Have you seen how George treats their puppy? Much too rough.”

My mother’s lips twitched with satisfaction. “A bully,” she declared triumphantly. She pushed the box of chocolates in my direction. “Only a few left, darling. I saved them for you.”

“Chocolates” was published in Ilanot Review.


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