"You look prettier every time I see you," Shirley said touching Marti’s face lightly. "You must be happy."
"I am, auntie. Thanks for noticing." Marti picked up the menu scanning the breakfast items. "So what’s good here?"
"My favorite is the oatmeal with fresh blueberries. But, this place is good. Order anything you’d like. It’s my treat. I'm so glad you're here."
"No," Marti argued, "This is my treat. You’ve been like a second mother to me so Happy Mother’s Day." Taking Shirley's hand, Marti squeezed it looking over at her.
Shirley smiled, "It has been fun spoiling you. I’m sorry that I never had children. I would love playing with grandkids now."
"Don’t worry; I’ll call you when I need a babysitter someday."
Placing their orders, the ladies sat quietly sipping coffee and taking in the steady traffic coming and going. It gave Marti a chance to look closely at Shirley’s profile. She had always been a lovely woman and was just beginning to show her age in her hands and face. Looking closely at her hands, Marti thought she saw a small tremor as Shirley brought her coffee cup to her lips.
"Do you have the time to come see my place after breakfast, Marti?"
"Sure, I threw a sarong in the car. I thought that would make your neighbors happy in case we walk outside."
"Well, we don’t expect you to jump in feet first. People usually slide into nudism a little bit at a time. You know skinny dipping here; hot tubbing there and before you know it, it’s natural." I tried it my first time in Japan sitting in one of those communal tubs."
Breakfast arrived then and the ladies dug into their food.
Leaving the restaurant, Shirley suggested, "You can follow me back or leave your car here and I’ll bring you back."
"I can follow you. Mom sent you some tomatoes from her garden. They are in the car."
"She always did have a green thumb. That gene skipped right over me."
"You have your own talents, Aunt Shirley. I still remember some of your bedtime stories. They were the best. Do you recall the flying purple people-eater?"
Shirley chuckled, "I think that was a one-hit wonder song that I made into a story."
"Well, it sure stuck with me." Patting her aunt's back, Marti teased, "Lead the way, Ms. Adventurer. I’ll follow behind you."
Marti watched Shirley get into her car. She noticed that she moved a little slowly sitting down before shifting her legs around and grabbing the wheel. She and Mom are both getting older Marti realized. Sliding into her small compact, she followed Shirley down the street watching her turn into a gated drive.
Well, at least there’s a wall to keep lookie loos out, thought Marti entering the complex and looking around. Clean grounds and lots of trees. She liked that. As the road wound through the property she could see the palmettos lined up in front of the clubhouse.
Following Shirley around a curve, she saw her blinker turn on and she pulled into a short driveway beside a park model. Marti pulled in beside her. So far so good- not a single nude person, yet. Marti reached into the back seat pulled out her travel bag and the bag of tomatoes.
Walking into the small house with Shirley, Marti was immediately taken by the skylight and picture windows in the floor plan. "Wow," she said turning around to take in the interior. "Look what you’ve done with this space. It looked small on the outside but it’s perfect for you and a guest."
"Yes, I wanted something intimate that’s easy for me to clean and maneuver. My neighbor helped me add some custom features like a walk in shower with a long bench, and we made everything reachable for me in the kitchen."
"I love the water fountain outside the window and there’s the bird feeder you mentioned." Opening the sliding glass door, Marti stepped out onto a wooden deck lined with flowers.
"Chuck built this for me, too, so I can have privacy in my little backyard. He’s quite the handyman."
"You mentioned you had good neighbors. Who lives on the other side?" Marti asked pointing to the yellow casita with its bright white trim.
"Oh, that’s my dear friend, Paula. She’s a retired ICU nurse who’s been here for over five years. She persuaded me to give this a try. So, I have my handyman and my healthcare advisor right next door. My new boyfriend, Tom, lives across the park. He may drop by this morning to meet you."
"Should I go put on my sarong?" Marti asked. "I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable."
"Sure, honey. I’ll put on one, too. Maybe we can sit in the backyard and listen to the birds."
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