Now that Lilah's mother no longer recognized her, Lilah quite enjoyed visits to the clinic.
"Margaret," she said, sitting down in the chair that had been provided for her at her mother's bedside. She had brought snapdragons; the nurse was putting them in water, for the nightstand. Propped up by pillows, her mother looked like a lily in unwilling bloom. Green was definitely not her color.
"Mrs. Morgan," said Lilah's mother. She looked at Lilah with cataract-softened eyes, and struggled among her cushions, digging around, it seemed, for her spine. "They didn't tell me you were coming."
They never did.
"You probably forgot," she said, kindly, patting her mother's long fingers. "You know how you get."
"I am sure they didn't tell me you were coming," said her mother, turning her hand sideways under Lilah's. "If I had known I would have prepared things for you nicely. I would have fixed up a little room."
Lilah touched her cheek. "Of course you would," she said. She was thinking about her new office and about Lindwood's head rolling down the table in the meeting room. She had definitely earned a day off, she thought.
Her mother's hair fell long, like striations of sunlight through cloth.
"How have you been keeping busy?" Lilah asked her.
"We had a singalong last week," said her mother, lip curling. "Wouldn't you know, my neighbor's a former choirboy. You haven't heard anything until you hear an old man, he must be eighty, ninety years old, a man like that warbling from the bottom of his false hips and the whole hall joining in. It was--" and she seemed to remember who she wasn't talking to, then, pausing and glancing at Lilah to see a dead woman's reaction to her bile. "A sight for sore ears," she finished, eventually, and folded her arms.
"I'm sure," said Lilah, censoriously. "Did you join in? I can just see you in one of those feathery hats, humming, ooh-- Roxie." She tried not to laugh.
"Of course not!" said her mother, aghast. "Of course not. I was, I was playing bingo with Mr. Phelps--"
"Mr. Phelps?" said Lilah. "And here I thought you were after my son, Margaret. Did I come all this way to see Mr. Phelps' bingo Betty?"
"It was only a game," said her mother. "Charles would understand."
"Sure," said Lilah. "Charles always understood. What he saw in you, I can't imagine."
"They all saw it," said her mother. "Whatever it was."
The nurse came back with the snapdragons in a glass and set it on the stand. Against the wall they curled red as morning. "You may be right," said Lilah, "you may be right." She reached out and covered her mother's face with her hair. "Sleep now, Margaret," and her mother obeyed, tipping back her head and letting her mouth fall slack. Lilah felt her breathing through the filaments of her hair. She had brought a briefcase of unfinished work with her, so that she could sit in her mother's enormous room and plan the end of everything under the auspice of her mother's sunken breast, but she did not reach for its clasp yet. She looked at how the snapdragons cast a red shadow on the wall.