The brass knocker landed like a battering ram on Jen’s oak door.
“Charles,” she said, getting up on her toes to plant a kiss on my cheek.
Jen was prepped for the post-Leo portion of life. She had one of those yoga-Pilates-Zumba figures. Botox and silicone likely played a part in her not-entirely-plausible appearance. Her expression — amused! — got across the notion that we were both in on a little joke; that this creation was Jen Litely and not really Jen Litely at all. No problem. For a woman of her age, she was an eyeful.
“Come in,” she said. “Sit!”
She had a bottle of champagne resting in ice on the coffee table. Sparkling flutes. Cheese. Grapes. Sunlight pouring through a wall of windows. Money: sure it’s the root of evil, it pierces us with many sorrows, etcetera, but the consolation is you’re not drinking beer out of jelly jars.
I felt like a million bucks again, sitting in Jen’s leather Chesterfield.
“Napping. The dear needs his rest after lunch. It wears him out, eating.”
“How old is Leo?”
“It’s not the number. More a question of abilities. Leo is old. You don’t want to be that old.”
“How does Leo feel about that?”
“Leo’s glass is not half full. It’s full to the brim. He can’t get enough of being alive. He wakes up, claps his hands. ‘Another day,’ he says. Which has to come as a surprise.”
“Will he be able to join us?” I wanted to be prepared.
“No, no, he’ll sleep until dinner, then wake up to eat.”
“To a fault, you could say.”
Jen pulled the bottle out of the ice and filled both glasses. “Make a toast,” she said. “Something cheerful.”
“To a full life,” I said.
We touched our glasses together and they rang like a pair of bells.
“No less and no more,” Jen added.
Another merry ting of pricey crystal.
“I’ll most surely drink to that,” she said.
Then she gave me a pat on the leg that was not strictly collegial.
Tomorrow: ’Til death do we part. But really…