In the darkness of the large corner house, Sabina was seated on one of the leather swivel chairs in the dining room which would squeak and creak at two stacks of dishes towering out of the kitchen sink like antique skyscrapers. Mother stopped in to throw open the drapes, unlatch the windows, provide some money, and lecture Sabina just how she should move on and get this life together.
“You know Julian has a good head screwed on his shoulders, and he’s sensible enough to grow up and get out there. Like anyone his age and everything he’s looking forward to, nothing in his decision indicates he’s giving up on you. I know you’re stressed and you’ve suffered a divorce, the house is empty… God knows it’s dismal in here but look at me. Quitting smoking, it’s the best thing you’ve done for yourself in a while.”
“Mother, it’s all I can think about. If I have one more cigarette, I’ll be alright, it’ll be the thing I need to get over this hump. Then I can quit…”
“Sabina, please. You should hear yourself. That’s the addiction gabbing at you. Now, I want you to tell me—what has this doctor conjured up about this pain you’re experiencing?”
“It’s an abnormality,” said Sabina, holding both hands in a down-turned cup over her left side. “Something he’s not encountered, to do with my lungs, and he’s for sure to call me, probably today.”
Mother’s eyes squinted, her hands twisted together into a ball, into a ball of prayers to be dragged off into the woods. “Oh, Sabina. Can’t you see this man is a charlatan?”
A rusted bell rattled and clapped deep inside the kitchen phone. Sabina gave Mother a look, stood up, and stepped in. It was Dr. Aikenson. Sabina leaned against the wall, twirling her right index finger around and in through the long, yellow-stained cord. Aikenson proceeded with his prognosis: “I’m afraid that…” Sabina was all nods and only able to mutter “Oh. Oh-kay.” She returned the receiver to its base. “Please excuse me, mother.” Short of breath, Sabina climbed up to the second-floor bathroom, having brought the phone with her, yanking the cord to slide beneath the door to where she could sit at her vanity and speak privately—to Julian, but no answer.
“Julian. This is Mom. I have some news, finally. Aikenson says I have a rare form of lung disease. It’s gonna kill me in twenty-four hours. Only he mentioned something about an antidote, but your grandmother says he’s a quack. Call me!”
Over the commode, three styrofoam heads wore wigs for Sabina to choose from on a good day. Julian had once named them, respectively—Mary, Magdalene, and Madison. Sabina reached out to Madison. With a slight upward tug of the scalp, a pack of cigarettes appeared.