Searching for Gita, the Little Pearl: Part 6
From Part 5
Mrs. Hargrove snuck into Anna Wronski's hospital room and was escorted out by security. Later that day Mr. Neville drops by with flowers from the school staff and get well letters and drawings from students. After Mr. Neville leaves, Anna is thrown into emotional upheaval by a letter from a student.
I know you look for your daughter Gita at the school but your little pearl is no longer a little girl, but I hope you find the grown-up Gita one day soon if she's real. I would love to be your little girl because you are so kind.
Love, Margaret Andrews
Mr. Neville sat with folded hands on his desk, Raymond Hargrove sitting before him. Raymond finished reading the letter from Margaret Andrews and laid it on Mr. Neville's desk.
"This is an unfortunate letter," Raymond said. "I'm sorry it upset Mrs. Wronski. But I'm not sure why you had me come in and read it."
"Well, Officer Hargrove," Mr. Neville said, "I spoke with Margaret at length. She's a fifth grader with an impressive academic record but who is an only child in a troubled home. She has some behavioral issues that get her into trouble now and then, and yet she's crying out for love and acceptance from adults."
Raymond felt empathy for the girl. He certainly knew being an only child. "Go on," he said.
"Mrs. Wronski has taken a shine to Margaret as you can see. But the things Margaret said in the letter came from," he cleared his throat, "well, they came from your mother."
Raymond felt sick to his stomach. He put his head in his hands. "Oh, no. I'm afraid to ask, but go on."
"It seems Margaret stopped by the store. She told your mother she was worried about Mrs. Wronski because the students had been informed about her hospitalization and asked to write a get well letter with a drawing to cheer her up. She hadn't finished her letter yet because she was overwhelmed and confided in your mother about how Mrs. Wronski once gave her a piece of hard candy and said her red hair reminded her of her daughter Gita. There was a connection between them, an attachment, for Margaret anyway. Your mother went on to tell her about Mrs. Wronski's delusions about her daughter and gave Margaret instructions on what to write in the letter."
Raymond's gut sank with a thud. "Oh, Ma, Ma. What is the matter with you?" He was near tears.
"I'm sorry I had to tell you this, Officer Hargrove. It's not your fault, but frankly, I thought it wiser for you to speak with your mother on this. Margaret is very upset and I sent her home, and, well, we need to protect our students from this type of thing. We just can't have it." He felt sorry for Raymond as he looked at his bereft countenance. "Officer Hargrove, you are a fine man. An upright man, and I want you to know I find this conversation difficult. I'm sorry, son."
Raymond stood. "No sir, no need for an apology. I will talk to my mother. I am so very sorry. My mother has become a bitter old busybody and quite frankly, I worry that maybe something is going on in her mind. She was not like this when I was growing up. When Dad left her after thirty-five years of marriage she began to change slowly. But lately, there are other things going on with her too." He paused. "I don't need to be telling you that. It's my problem. Thank you, Mr. Neville, I know this wasn't easy for you." He put out his hand to shake. Mr. Neville took it firmly, but there was tenderness to it.
"Raymond, you can call me Raymond."
"Okay, Raymond, you can drop the sir and Mr. Neville and call me Elvin. Raymond, sometimes a person has to have someone to talk to. My door is always open."
"Thank you, Elvin."
Raymond sat on the couch facing his mother. "Ma," he said, "I love you very much. You know that, right?"
"Oh, I smell a rat. What is it you think I've done now? I'm used to your policeman voice, not this mushy stuff. Come out with it now or forever hold your peace."
Raymond rubbed his face and tried to think how to approach her in a way she would listen and take responsibility for her actions. He looked at her, sitting with her arms folded daring him with her eyes. His eyes stung from tears that threatened to spill thinking about poor, sweet Margaret and how his mother had caused her and Mrs. Wronski both a lot of pain.
"I'm waiting," she said, then laid her teeth on the end table.
"I had a meeting today with Mr. Neville about little Margaret Andrews and what you told her to do. And don't look clueless at me like that. You know darn well who Margaret is."
"Little redhead brat, if memory serves. She comes into the store a lot for ribbons and Hershey bars. Her dad buys Pall Malls and says 'Good day,' all hoity-toity like. And her mother, nothing but a snooty gossip with her hair all dolled up."
Raymond looked at his mother long and hard. He loved her, honestly, but she made him ashamed of her. And yet he was worried about her deteriorating behavior. "Ma," he said, voice quivering, "when did you become so bitter and mean? When I was growing up you were so kind and sweet. You built people up not tear them down. I don't get it. Where is my loving mama that made me feel loved and safe; the one who was kind and friendly to people?"
"I'm not bitter, Raymie," she said defensively. "But when your father left us for that woman after thirty-five years, I determined never to trust people again. That doesn't mean I'm nasty and bitter. I was just trying to help the girl. I'm sorry if it caused problems. Don't know what I can do to make it better. I meant no harm, Raymie."
Raymond took a deep breath. Maybe what he wanted to say should be left for another time. Yet she seemed softer than he expected. Maybe this would be the best time.
"Ma, I'm concerned about your...health. It's been a few years since you've had a checkup."
It was her turn to look long and hard at him. He could see her wheels turning. "You think I'm going senile, don't you? Let me tell you something Raymond Hargrove, I'm as sound as a tuned tuba. There's no way I'm going to a doctor. It is you who are losing your mind." Raymond opened his mouth to say something but she put her hand out. "No Raymond. I don't want to hear anything more."
"Fine," he said. "You are the stubbornest old woman I've ever met."
"Go home, Raymond." Her molten stare finalized their meeting.
He got up to leave but turned back to her in disgust. "Put your teeth in Ma." He wanted to hurt her and succeeded. He slammed the door, went to his car and kicked the back tire and cursed. He felt so helpless.
The next morning Anna woke up feeling much better. Her fever had not returned and she was hungry. Dr. Reynolds stopped by on his morning rounds and was quite pleased. "Mrs. Wronski, I'm so glad you're feeling better. I'm going to order some tests today to check your heart. I'm also going to have a doctor, a psychiatrist come and speak with you."
Anna's face was a question mark?
Dr. Reynolds explained in a way that would not alarm her. "Not to worry Mrs. Wronski. Dr. Ptak is just going to come by and chat with you about what's going on in your life. He's trustworthy and a very compassionate man."
"Dr. Ptak? Ptak is Polish."
"I do believe he is of Polish descent. I"m sure you two will get along splendidly. I'll be back tonight or early tomorrow at the latest with your test results. He patted her leg. "Don't you give Nurse Paisley too much trouble now,"
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