Gloria and Elizabeth

“Good morning, Lizzy! Don’t you just love this dewy early morning time?  The sky at sunrise, the blaze of color. .”  
            I watched as Gloria paused in the kitchen doorway and waved a vague hand at the window – the south-facing window.  Yawning luxuriously she headed for the coffee maker, baby-blue silk mules clicking on the wooden floor. Like our mother before her, Gloria has never been one to leap out of bed and dress for the day – she prefers to spend the morning lounging about in some charming negligee before dressing to go out to lunch. Just now she had on a knee-length robe covered with clouds of embroidered pastel hydrangeas, each small petal tinged with delectable melting shades of palest greens and pinks, faintest blues and lavenders. It was heart-breakingly beautiful and set off her fair skin and blonde hair to perfection.  .
                           A picture of the shabby terry cloth bathrobe hanging on my closet door popped into my head and I gave the lump of dough I was kneading a final savage thump before I scooped it from the countertop and plopped it into the greased bowl awaiting it.
                        I glanced at the clock. “It’s 10:53, Gloria. The sun came up about five hours ago – in the east, as it usually does around here. And don’t call me Lizzy.”
                        My sister had been at the farm for less than twenty-four hours and already she was getting on my one last nerve.
                        On Wednesday morning, there had been a second frantic call from Gloria: this time to say that Jerry had just left the house and a friend was coming to take her to the airport.
                        “I hate leaving my Beemer but it would be too easy for Jerry to trace me – he has contacts everywhere. I’m literally throwing a few things in a bag and walking out. . . No, I don’t have a ticket yet.  I’ll get one at the airport and I’ll call you when I know what time I get in.”
                        This, of course, had resulted in a day of frantic housecleaning and reorganization – the guestroom having become the repository for Phillip’s belongings. Now that he worked full time for Marshall County’s High Sheriff Mackenzie Blaine, Phillip had finally given up his rented house in Weaverville and moved in with me – and though he had very few possessions, there were some that we hadn’t yet found the right place for and they were piled on the guestroom bed.  Actually, we’d been talking about turning this quiet room at the back of the house into a study for him – but now that would have to wait.
                        So I had spent the day chasing cobwebs, airing pillows, moving the boxes of Phillip’s belongings to the basement, scouring the bathroom – all with an ear out for the phone call that would tell me when I would have to make the hour-plus drive to the airport and pick up Gloria.
                        A phone call which, I might add, didn’t come till late that night. Gloria was in Atlanta, having decided to do a little shopping before continuing her trip.
                        “And the good news is you won’t have to meet me after all! I was in the taxi heading for the hotel and I suddenly had a brilliant idea. I just had the driver take me right to the BMW dealership and I got myself the perfect little car for the mountains! I know you’re going to love it, Lizzy.”
                        “Oh yuck, this coffee’s cold – I’ll just make a fresh pot.”
                        Before I could stop her, Gloria was pouring the coffee down the drain – coffee that normally I’d have drunk iced at lunch time -- and the grinder was chewing up a fresh batch of beans.
                        “Where’s that good-looking cop of yours?” she asked, leaving the coffee maker to fold herself into an elegant leggy pose on the cushioned bench at the end of the kitchen. “I was hoping to talk to him about my situation. We hardly said more than hello last night before he disappeared off to bed.”
                        I wiped off the countertop and hung the dishtowel on the rack, “Phillip had to be at work early this morning – besides, I expect he thought you and I had some catching up to do and he’d just be in the way of our girlish confidences. Look – do you want some breakfast? There’s eggs, bread for toast, juice, yogurt . . .”
                        “Is it Greek yogurt?  That’s really the only kind worth eating. I usually have it with fresh figs and-”
                        “It’s probably made by Greeks in New Jersey,” I said through gritted teeth, as I opened the refrigerator door. “And the fruit of the day is dried cranberries.”
                        Her nose wrinkled in disgust. “Do you know how much sugar dried cranberries have? Never mind, then; I’ll just have coffee. Is there some skim milk?”
                        I put the yogurt back, noting that it was, in fact, appellation New Hampshire – though still not Greek, and reached for the milk
                         “That’s 2% milk!” Gloria waved away the carton in something very close to horror.”Don’t you have skim?”
                        I felt my teeth beginning to grind again. “No, and in my opinion, putting skim milk in coffee is about like adding dishwater. This is what I’ve got . . . or some dishwater.”
                        “Oh, but I always add a splash of half and half with the skim milk – never mind, Lizzy, black will be fine – I don’t want to be any trouble. If you’ll drive me down to my car later, I’ll run out to the grocery and do a little shopping. You know if you’d just have a little work done on that road, I could get my car all the way up here and wouldn’t have to bother you.”