Dr. Ralph Roget knocked on the door, shave-and-a-haircut style. It was the way he always knocked when he was a kid, coming with Mom to see the grandparents. It was also the only way for the now-retired Director Gillespie to recognize who was at the door, and come answer it.
She did answer it, a moment after his thought finished. A small old woman, a bit withered in her body, but she still had the kind face that he could remember smiling down as her arms lifted him up. Shirley Gillespie's face lit up as she saw her grandson on her doorstep.
"Oh, my goodness! It's so lovely to see you… please, please, come in… you've gotten so tall!" She tittered joyfully, lightly pulling on Ralph's arm to escort him into the room. The main apartment was small and plain, with a single antennae-box television set, an overstuffed armchair, and a little table beside it. In the corner, there was a small fake Christmas tree. Ralph's eyes lingered on the tree.
"Your grandfather and I picked it up yesterday morning. It's lovely, isn't it? Bob says he's going to decorate it soon."
Ralph sighed. The home had put the tree up in her room, like every other room. It was a cheap plastic tree, without any decoration, and it looked like the leaves were actually AstroTurf. He smiled at his grandmother, and nodded. "It's very nice. Did you pick it out?"
"Yes, yes…" She looked into his face for a moment, smiling. "You're getting so tall, dear. You'll have to stand by Bob when he gets back home."
"I will, Director." He smiled at her. She used to become so annoyed when he called her 'Director'. She'd always go on about how she'd retired to get away from stuffy formality, and she wanted to just be grandma from then on. Now? She just smiled and nodded, with a cheery disconnect from his words.
"How's work been going? Are you still friends with David?" She picked an ancient tray of cookies, and placed them on the ground in between them.
"No. He doesn't work at Site-77 any longer, and I haven't heard from him in awhile." Ralph didn't know who David was. He'd never known a David. In all likeliness, if he ever knew a David, Director Gillespie would likely never know about it.
"That's a shame. He was a polite boy." Director Gillespie looked towards where her last room had a window. "Did you see the tree?"
"Yes, I did."
Director Gillespie looked back to Ralph. "Why, you've gotten so tall! I'll have to compare you to Bob when he gets home."
"Grandpa's not coming home, Director." Ralph kept his eyes locked on where the window was. He left his grandmothers face out of his sight.
"Oh… well, at least he's doing well," said Director Gillespie, talking to nobody in particular.
"… I should be going. It's been nice seeing you."
Director Gillespie smiled at him. "Well, it's been lovely having you down! Bob and I both loved seeing you, and I'll tell him you left when he comes home."
"You'll tell him how much I've grown, right?" Ralph smiled at her.
"Grown?" She looked at him, her smile stopped in space.
Dr. Roget stood up, and turned away from her. "I'll see you soon, grandma."
His grandmother smiled at him, the recognition in her eyes fading. "Goodbye…"
Dr. Roget stepped out of the apartment, walked out of the building, out of the complex, and got into his car. Sitting in the seat, he sighed.
He pulled out of the snowy driveway of the Soft Community Plantations retirement home, and back into the night.