Elsie’s thin hand pressed the afghan into a tight space between her leg and the wheelchair arm. Her sister had crocheted it, this green and orange thing, her lifeline to the outside.
“Ready to go back?” A staccato voice.
“Eat your dessert this time?”
“Good girl. Want me to push you?”
Her soft blue eyes shifted. “I can do it.”
“Good girl, Elsie. It’s important to take care of yourself some.
Elsie released the brake, carefully, one wheel and the other, slowly, not to betray herself. Back from the table, aim at the door.
“Elsie!” The staccato nurse.
Elsie froze.
“That blanket’s filthy, I’ll get it washed.”
Elsie pressed the tight space again. “No!” Then softer, “It’s fine.”
She searched for a good line, “I’m cold.”
“It’s seventy degrees in here.”
“I’m cold. Please.”
“Well, whatever. You want that nasty thing, I offered.”
Elsie waited. Must not appear rushed, hurried. Slowly to the door.
“Elsie, you taking anything from the dining hall this time?” Another bossy nurse.
Elsie couldn’t speak. She shook her head.
“Show me your hands.”
Slowly Elsie held her palms up, like a small child. Empty.
“Good girl.”
When the nurse had gone and the path seemed clear Elsie rolled into her room. She loosened the afghan and pulled a small napkin-clad square from the tight place, and smiled a little; mischievous, younger and alive.
Savoring the moment, Elsie pulled back the napkin, knowing the brownie would taste like freedom.