First published in Ascent Aspirations Magazine (2008)
Marlene covered her face with a six-month-old copy of Golf Digest, like a rumpled detective in a B-movie, when Angel Franklin entered the waiting area. The last time she was in this room with Angel, the woman threatened to kick the receptionist’s skinny butt to Buffalo if she had to wait much longer to see Dr. Schmidt. Today, Angel smiled as she limped across the room toward the anxious receptionist with two sprigs of Lily of the Valley in her hand.
“I brought you this from my garden, Claire. I hope you ain’t allergic.” Angel held out a single stem filled with a dozen tiny, white, bell-shaped flowers. “The other one’s for Janet. I’ll give it to her when she takes me back to the exam room.”
Marlene could see Claire was as perplexed as she was by Angel’s kindness.
“Thank you, Angel. It’s beautiful.” Claire said, taking the offering.
Marlene pinched her arm to see if she was dreaming. This couldn’t be the Angel Franklin she’d known since high school. Overweight and boisterous, Angel wasn’t popular in school. By ninth grade, she’d become mean and angry and remained that way for the past thirty years. The only person who got along with her was Freddie Merkle. The old saying, opposites attract, fit them perfectly. No one was surprised when they got married.
She peaked over the magazine and watched Angel take a seat across the room. Curious to find out more, Marlene spoke without lowering her hands.
“Hey there, Mar. How’re they hangin’?”
Marlene’s face heated up at the question. “Except for this migraine, I’m well.” She closed the magazine and put it on the table. “That was nice of you to give Claire a flower.”
“It’s the new me.” Angel moved over two chairs to sit opposite Marlene.
“I’m glad to see you’re happy. I was concerned about you after Freddie passed.” Marlene looked away worried what Angel’s response might be.
“It was a rough time, Freddie getting hit by a car right after I got the leg replacement.” A hollow sound resonated through the room when Angel reached down and tapped her right leg like someone knocking on a door. “Then three months later I learn I’m dying.”
“What?” Marlene said.
“Yep, ain’t that the luck. Diabetes. Took my leg, and now my kidneys are failing.”
“I’m so sorry,” Marlene said. “How long…?” She looked at her hands. “Can’t something be done?”
“Turns out I ain’t a good candidate for a transplant, and even if I was, I got no insurance.” Angel swallowed and looked as if she might cry. Instead she smiled and handed the remaining lily to Marlene.
“Oh, I can’t. That’s for Janet.”
“I got more in my garden. I can bring her one next time.”
“I was real sad about everything for a while.” Angel paused. “Then I heard on the TV about this study that showed people who receive gifts and people who give them both feel happier. Funny thing was people who watched gifts being given also felt better. It was then I decided I wanted to make up for being such a bitch all them years by doing nice things.”
“You weren’t —”
“Yes, I was.” Angel took a breath and adjusted the hem of her flowered dress before continuing. “I don’t have much money, but I can give folks flowers and say nice things to them.”
“I...I think that’s wonderful, Angel. I’m just sorry about...you know.”
Angel shrugged and toyed with the handle of her purse.
Marlene walked over to Angel and held her hand. It was cold. “Well, I’m glad we chatted. In fact, you cured my headache. Maybe there is something to that study.”
Marlene patted Angel’s hand then gathered her purse and sweater and headed toward the reception desk to let Claire know she didn’t need to see the doctor today. On her way to the door, she heard a soft voice say, “Maybe we could get together for lunch sometime.”
“I’d like that, Angel,” Marlene replied. “How about tomorrow?”