The Very Charitable Mrs. Wertheimer – 31 through 35

Rx: To be read after 1 through 5, 6 through 10, 11 through 15, 16 through 20, 21 through 25, and 26 through 30.
31
Despite Bettina’s lack of a proper manicure, Mrs. Wertheimer grew to love Bettina as if she were a member of her family. She even defended that sentiment when, during an alcohol-drenched lunch, it stumbled from her lips onto the starched white tablecloth, where it was met with smirks and raised eyebrows (these were the days before Botox) by the three other ladies. What did Kiki Owen know, anyway? That woman went through housekeepers like they were cabana boys.
She loved Bettina more, though, when Bettina made good use of the salon gift certificate Mrs. Wertheimer presented to her at Christmas.
32
Mrs. Wertheimer’s lips form themselves into the closest approximation of a smile possible, given that, what with her hand grasping this filthy pole, the last thing she wants to do is smile. She directs this fabricated smile toward the bearer of the stumpy hand, on whose overly made-up face is an expression that would make a catatonic’s look positively jubilant.
Mrs. Wertheimer wants the person attached to the hand to acknowledge her apparent lack of aversion to this unwanted but necessary sharing of the pole. She wants the woman to reward her with a smile of appreciation for her charitability.
33
A smile from the other woman is not forthcoming, either immediately or for the next minute or so that Mrs. Wertheimer allots for it, so Mrs. Wertheimer removes the smile from her own face and replaces it with what she thinks is an approximation of everyone else’s expression. She finds it’s easy to affect this blend of boredom and weariness. And then recognizes it as the same expression she wears at home every morning when Charles drones on at the breakfast table.
Mrs. Wertheimer’s hand remains touching the other woman’s hand, even though there is now room to move it.
34
The subway comes to a stop at Times Square. As the bulk of the crowd extrudes its way out and onto the platform, a wad of new flesh replaces it. Despite a fair amount of unnecessary (and quite rude) jostling, Mrs. Wertheimer does not surrender her position at the pole. Her right hand retains its grip above the other woman’s right hand.
“Move it,” a surly thug says to the other woman as he crams his way behind her in his rush toward an empty seat. The woman ignores him, and is shoved forward, into Mrs. Wertheimer, as he passes.
35
The force of the woman’s body causes Mrs. Wertheimer to stumble backward a step.
“‘Scuse me,” she mumbles to Mrs. Wertheimer.
Mrs. Werthimer almost loses her grip on the pole, but is kept from falling backward by another body just behind hers. This body is as solid as a wall and does not suffer from the impact.
“Oh! So sorry,” she says over her right shoulder. “Excuse me.”
“No problem,” the body says. Its voice is deep and smooth and inexplicably reminds Mrs. Wertheimer of devil’s food cake with thick, rich frosting.
She turns back to face the other woman.