“Oh, Charles – may I call you Charles?” said Betty Morgan. “I’ve admired your work for years! It’s wonderful to know you’re here at Melody Acres.”

Betty Morgan – they were all wearing name tags – was a handsome woman.  Surely on the short side of sixty, blond bobbed hair, age not yet withering a high-cheekboned face. A figure she had not let go. Reminded him of Henrietta in her prime. Maybe he’d be glad he chose this place. Already glad he’d worn the flowing shirt, open down to chest hair, that he’d had tailored after his costume as Henry V.  A little touch of Harry in the night.

“My husband Oswald – he’s over at that other table – has never been a Shakespeare fan, but even he admired your Othello. Magnificent! I dragged him to see you again when they brought it to Hartford.  We must have you do a reading here.”

So, not single. But Oswald looked at least a decade older than his wife; he had a cane tucked under his seat. There were perhaps a dozen tables for this “mixer dinner,” in a spacious, well-appointed room, residents served attentively by young waiters and waitresses, probably college students. Not a bad meal; up to the standards of a good restaurant.

Melody Acres was touted as the best of the region’s retirement communities, both in amenities and in a warm, welcoming ethos among its residents. Charles had decided to move here when his high-rise condo became unbearably lonely after Henrietta’s death, to say nothing of its being too big. He’d been looking forward to the touted programs, like this dinner social, to help newcomers meet people in “the community.”

The other two at his table looked eightyish, and apparently weren’t theater devotees.  “You were an actor?” one asked. Melissa Taylor, by her name tag.

“Not just an actor,” Betty Morgan answered before he could. “A Broadway luminary. Charles Livingston. A legend! Shakespeare, Ibsen, Tennessee Williams, Inge. . .”

“You are too kind,” he interrupted. “Yes, Mrs. Taylor, I was an actor. I’ll bet you and your husband had interesting careers, too.”

Hardly so, it turned out.  Mr. Taylor had been a mid-level insurance executive, she a mother and club member. Golfers, bridge players. Nonetheless he prompted for details, and listened politely.

Betty Morgan couldn’t wait to get back into the conversation.  “When our kids were old enough, I went to work for the United Way, chaired committees, did community stuff, never had time for bridge.” She leaned closer. “Poor Oswald spent his life wondering where I was. Now that we’re retired, he’ll hardly let me out of his sight. Look at him now.”

Indeed her husband, ignoring the conversation at that table, was staring. Charles gave him his best stage smile, and turned back to her. “We must find occasions to stay in touch.”

To be published by Oracle Magazine in April 2017 — when I’ll post a link to the whole story



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