R O S A L Y N O S B O R N E
Textured froth bubbled from behind Mrs. Lilith Osborne’s pale lips and flowed down her chin. Her attempts at a verbal protests were stifled by the thickness, each exhalation sending the fluid billowing outward. A thin framed woman was leaned over the head of the bed and her shouting, along with the way she was frantically tapping at Osborne’s shoulders, revealed her panic at the situation.
“Ma’am, are you okay?! Ma’am!” Unceremoniously, a gob of the substance was projected outward, landing with a sort of sickening thwap
against the cheek of the concerned woman. A stunned moment of silence passed between the two as the nurse raised a tentative hand to the matter strewn across her face.“You gave her sweetened. She won’t eat it. You’ve only got a chance in hell with unsweetened.”
Rosalyn was settled in the doorway with her shoulder propped against the frame, having previously been watching the eventful encounter in silence. In one hand she held a jar of applesauce, dipping her opposite pinky into it and bringing the finger to her tongue. Smugness dripped from the girl’s own lips, their corners turned upward as she made no effort to disguise her amusement.
Lisa had arrived in the home only last week and this was not the first time she’d been spit on by the home’s matriarch. It certainly would not be the last. Nurses typically only lasted a month or two. Housekeepers often held out for longer, their biggest complaint usually being emptying Mr. Osborne’s bedroom trash can.
“He could at least put a liner in if he’s going to make me do this!”
”‘Enough latex here for a damn Macy’s parade.”
“He’s killing the ocean single-handedly.”
“I- I didn-” The nurse began, though her words lodged themselves in her throat as the girl started towards them. “You don’t need to be such a wretched witch about it, though, Mother. The dramatics are just unattractive.”
Rosalyn haphazardly dropped the jar down onto the surface of the nightstand situated next to the woman’s hospital bed. That bed was the only thing in the room that Mr. Osborne allowed to reveal there was sickness present in the house. Besides the body wasting away in the center of it all, of course. Syringes and vials were tucked in drawers, the machines pumping necessary fluids were silenced, windows were yanked open anytime an unnatural smell emerged from behind the closed door. Anyone around long enough would begin to wonder what the inside of Lilith’s head was like, how tightly that prison door was shut, and Rosalyn was certainly no exception.
The young woman lowered herself beside her mother, a vast expanse of vacant space left in the bed, and carefully wiped away the remnants of the applesauce from her chin with a bare thumb. Eyes identical to her own were fixated on the ceiling just above her head, rhythmic blinking the only sign that there may be a soul tucked deep behind them. “Daddy says the harvest is looking to be one of the better we’ve seen if they sprayed late enough this year… Should mean he’s less of a prick, but who can ever be sure.”
Rosalyn had moved to sweeping stray pieces of auburn hair from Lilith’s forehead with her clean hand, tucking them neatly behind her ear. The two had once shared their eccentric hair color, but age had muted and darkened the eldest’s.“Maybe we hire the O’Hare boys to work again this season. I’ll turn your bed to face the window and make sure their shirts stay off. Give you a better show than those shitty rom-coms someone’s always blaring in here.”
Sharp eyes flickered aside to land on Lisa, who had sheepishly tucked herself in a far corner near the door. The way the nurse’s eyes had widened and her hands wrung relentlessly left Rosalyn wondering if she would begin bashing her head into the walls, similar to the way rabbits do when they’re trapped in tight spaces. The blatant weakness that practically dripped from the woman's pores was enough to pull Rosalyn to her feet. Blood in the water. “Why don’t you go ahead and clean her up for me, will you?”
She inquired, the staunch clicking of her heeled boots warning of her approach. “And after, take a minute to read her care plan, you helpless goon. She spit out half of her morning meds. If you’d done so before, you would know what she does and does not like.”
Rosalyn had pressed her soiled thumb against the woman’s chest with force, swiping it back and forth to smear the applesauce off onto her scrub top. Slowly, she hinged forward, leaning in until their noses nearly brushed against one another and Lisa could smell the artificial sweetness of her lip gloss.
Rosalyn’s voice naturally fell at a high octave, but as she began to speak again, her pitch lifted further. Her words flowed almost as a song, though they were saturated with a certain malice. “Screw up again and I might just be forced to tell Daddy how I watched you shove a spoon into the back of her throat while you held her there,”
Rosalyn’s voice hitched and cracked as if this was a craft she had mastered. “The way she gurgled and cried… The look in her eyes as she clawed at the sheets.”
Within those few sentences, tears began welling up from the corners of her eyes, spilling over only when she cringed away at her own words, as if in pain herself. “How could someone be so awful to someone so helpless?”
With a sigh, Rosalyn took a step away, pulling her hands through her hair and ruffling the roots. Diligently, she dabbed beneath her eyes with the sides of her fingers, careful not to disrupt her mascara as she lifted away any residual dampness. As if to pull the curtains on her short monologue, a broad smile heightened the rosey apples of her cheeks. “Well! Ahem, I’m off to school! Busy day. Can’t imagine I’ll be home for supper.”
. . .
Rosalyn drummed her thumbs against her steering wheel to the beat of whatever song escaped her speakers loud enough to null her own thoughts. She was late, of course, but drove the speed limit anyway. Rushing to get to Mather Memorial just meant more time standing at her locker listening to one of the girls tell her, in detail, how having sex in a summer camp bunk bed was the most exilerating experience of her life. She’d pass on that. Daddy would call Fitzgerald to have her excused anyway.
Unmistakable, a red Jeep pulled into its designated spot at the front of the full parking lot, won by the Osborne’s in an auction to support the school’s athletic department. Despite the time, Rosalyn unbuckled and settled back into her seat, staring outward at the school’s entrance. It was a whole lot less intimidating from the outside. Just a lot of ugly brick and an old tree. “Should’ve just left it a jail. Practically the same thing,”
the young woman muttered, eyes still fixated in front of her.
Finally, in a burst of sudden movement as if realizing just how late she now was, she leaned over and tugged open the glove box. Amongst various lip sticks and a pair of black flat shoes left there in case of an emergency, sat a small orange bottle with a white screw top. Seemingly frustrated at the action itself, Rosalyn aggressively squeezed at the child-locked cap and emptied a single pill into her palm. She tossed it back into her mouth before pulling a drink from the coffee mug tucked between her thighs. The bottle was situated back where it came from, Rosalyn checked her lipstick once more in the rearview mirror, and the driver's side door was finally pushed open."Let's get it."