by Belinda Roddie
She felt a cold hand on her shoulder. A large one. Weathered, each wrinkle holding its own ribbon of frost. Brown. Each fingernail short from a long-term biting habit. Torn up cuticles. Scarred knuckles.
She knew her grandfather's hand when she felt it. He did not like to be alone anymore, and the fact that his bedroom was downstairs while her office was upstairs was most likely discomforting. Addison straightened her back against her chair before looking up into her grandfather's dark, creased face.
"It's late," she said. She reached for the old man's outstretched fingers and gave them a squeeze. "You should be in bed."
"What about you?"
"The writing demons got me again. Will you be okay?"
Addison's grandfather did not respond to that. Instead, he removed his hand from the young woman's grip and maneuvered to an old, red cushioned chair in the corner. It was a piece of furniture that was designated just for him, in case he had restless nights like this one. Addison was perfectly fine with his presence in the room, as long as he didn't distract her too much from her work. He told incredible tales, but she had her own stories to type out.
Addison had lived with her grandfather, whose name was Joseph, for fourteen years, after cancer had taken her grandmother and drugs had made her parents turn into ghosts. While she had friends and occasional lovers, she could not say the same for Joseph. He was a solitary figure - not necessarily a loner, but not exactly an individual who attempted to reach out and socialize with the rest of society. That wasn't a bad thing. Addison, too, was introverted, and more often than not, she would choose to drink tea and watch television with Joseph rather than go to the bar for a couple of drinks with her work colleagues. The difference, obviously, was that Addison was young - not quite thirty - and she felt as if opportunities still approached her with metaphorical hands extended for an even more metaphorical handshake. It was not that easy for her grandfather.
She let her fingers bounce against the dilapidated plastic keyboard for another twenty or so minutes, while Joseph inhaled and exhaled from his chair. He didn't say anything. He didn't wheeze or rasp. He simply sat, breathed, and maybe daydreamed. Addison knew his eyes were wandering across her office, at all the monoliths of books and the framed art pieces done by her more visually gifted friends. She also wasn't surprised that he wasn't talking much. Tonight was not a night for stories.
Eventually, she shut off her computer and walked over to a shelf for a new book to read. Now her grandfather seemed intrigued. He rose from the dusty chair, his white hair lying flat on his head, free of static but a prisoner to the humidity. He sidled next to Addison as the index finger of her right hand skidded across the fragile spines of books she had read before.
"Why not a new story?" he asked.
"There aren't many good new ones."
"I heard there's a bestseller worth reading that you can get at Shelby's."
"Shelby's isn't open now, though."
"Tomorrow, then." Joseph smiled. "We'll each pick a book."
Addison chuckled. "Tired of hearing your own stories over and over again?"
A warm breeze shuffled its way through the window, and she was reminded of the summer evening outside. Then her grandfather's hand returned to her shoulder, and her world became colder again.
This week's prompt was provided by Arden Roddie.