Lori has been writing fiction since she first caught the writing bug at age nine.
From Chapter 9
In chapter 9 Anna Wronski is examined by Psychiatrist Rafal Ptak. He is concerned about Anna's memory issues and her shutting down. He'd like to admit her to a psychiatric unit but he decides to have a conference with Mr. Neville, Ann'a friend, the principal of Roosevelt school where she searches for Gita.
Dr. Ptak and Mr. Neville sat across from each other in the doctor's office. Mr. Neville was more than happy, in fact eager, to help Anna in anyway he could.
"Thank you for coming to meet with me, Mr. Neville. As a good friend of Mrs. Wronski's, I thought it would be helpful to interview you and see if you can fill in some blanks in her story and your various observations of her."
"It's my pleasure. Anna is a dear woman and we at Roosevelt care very much about her."
"I've been told," said Dr. Ptak, "that you've been particularly close to her. When did you first meet her and what role have you played in her life?"
"I met Anna many years ago," said Mr. Neville. "Probably around ten or twelve years ago when I first began working at the school. She came around the school, looking in at the children through the windows of their classrooms. We were very concerned at first about the children. She was a distraction, for one thing, and even though she looked pretty harmless, we didn't know what her intentions were. I approached her one day and invited her in for a cup of coffee in my office. She seemed a bit worried but we just sat down and had a nice chat."
"What did you chat about?"
"Oh, I asked her about her life, where she came from, if she had any family. She said she was from Poland. At first she wasn't specific when I asked where in Poland. But on another occasion she mentioned a village near Warsaw. I asked how it came about that she came to America, but she clammed up. On this first meeting I told her I saw that she loved children, and asked if she'd ever had any of her own. She said she had. I figured she had an adult child due to her age, but when I asked her if her daughter lived nearby, she said she was searching for her daughter, that she never came home from school. I asked her daughter's age, and she said six years old. I asked for her description she said she had red hair and freckles. That was a surprise and I wasn't sure what to make of it, whether she was delusional, had a mental illness, senile, or what."
"What was her demeanor when you asked about her daughter not coming home from school?"
"She kind of lit up at first, as if her daughter was playing a game. But then she became very sad. She said she missed her daughter terribly and she was worried someone had taken her. I asked who she thought might have taken her. She kind of went blank."
"Those things are very similar to what she's told me. Has Mrs. Wronski ever bothered the children?"
"No. She rarely interacts with them, but there have been times where she spoke kindly to a little girl. She would offer a piece of candy or a flower. She seemed drawn to red haired girls. We've watched her closely and I've invited her in many times to get warm, or just to chat and see how she's doing. The staff love her, and we reach out at holiday time. She seems so lonely of course. I've had her over to my home. My wife adores her."
"Have you been to her home, Mr. Neville?"
"Yes, we check on her every now and then and bring her things, maybe a basket of fruit, a pot of soup. The staff bring her gifts at Christmas."
"Mr. Neville, I understand it was you and Mrs. Hargrove the grocer who found her in a bad way and got her to the hospital."
"Yes, Mrs. Hargrove has wreaked havoc in Anna's life. She's a nosy busy-body, always prying. She thinks it's her duty to set Anna straight about her daughter. This has caused a great deal of emotional pain and turmoil for her. I don't mind telling you I think Mrs. Hargrove has and will continue to do great harm to Anna. Anna is very frightened of her. In my opinion, Mrs. Hargrove's harassment is what pushed Anna into this crisis."
"I was filled in on that. I promised Mrs. Wronski that we will protect her from Mrs. Hargrove. Her son is a fine man and is trying to work with us. He's worried about his mother's mental state, but he's very concerned about Mrs. Wronski, and has been trying his darndest to keep his mother away."
"Raymond is very much a fine man," agreed Mr. Neville. "He's a police officer, an upstanding citizen, and a very compassionate man. His mother is more of a challenge than the criminals he deals with. How is Anna's health at this point?
"Physically there's been great improvement and we were planning to discharge her, but then Mrs. Hargrove snuck in. She was told visiting hours were not in effect yet, so she set off a fire alarm and entered Mrs. Wronski's room and upset her. It set her back quite a bit. Security took Mrs. Hargrove away and her son was called. We're not ready to send Mrs. Wronski home yet. She's very fragile. For her safety, we've set a guard by her door."
Mr. Neville scowled. "I know all about Mrs. Hargrove. She was very harsh and rough with Anna when we went to her home to check on her. When Mrs. Hargrove tried to awaken her, she shook her very hard and was brutal trying to get Anna's boots off. Fortunately, her son Raymond was there by then and stopped her. I had a conversation with Mrs. Hargrove the morning that Anna became ill. She was most disrespectful in her comments. I've approached Raymond about getting a restraining order. Of course he felt bad but he understood."
"I think that wise. Thank you for coming in, Mr. Neville. If you can think of anything else to add, please contact me." He handed Mr. Nevill his card.
"Can I visit Anna, Dr. Ptak?"
"I think that's a wonderful idea."
Mr. Nevile went to the gift shop and bought a simple bouquet of flowers and went straight to see Anna after his conference with Dr. Ptak. His heart broke to find her curled up again. He sat in the chair next to her bed and touched her hand very softly.
"Hello, Anna. It's Mr. Neville. I've come to visit and see how you're doing. We sure miss you around the school and we're praying you will get better quickly."
Anna stirred, then opened her eyes to peek up at Mr. Neville.
"Hello, Anna," he said again, tenderly. "I've come to visit."
A trace of a smile appeared on her face. Mr. Neville gently stroked the top of her hand. The warmth of Mr. Neville's hand and voice made Anna feel safer. She rolled over slowly and smiled up into his face. She patted his hand back.
"Mr. Neville, my friend," she said.
"I am your friend, Anna, and you are my dear friend. How are you feeling?"
"Not so good. Weak. Mrs. Hargrove came...she bother me. I was frightened. She won't leave me alone." Her lip quivered and her face scrunched up.
"Now Anna," said Mr. Neville, "We are taking care of Mrs. Hargrove and she won't be bothering you again, I promise. There is a guard at your door and only people on the list can enter."
"Thank you." She paused, then said, "Gita? Where is my Gita? Has anyone found her?"
Mr. Neville had to think a minute on how to answer. "I'm afraid not, Anna, but we're all keeping an eye out for her." He distracted her by telling her a funny story about a dog who came on the school grounds.
She sat fully upright. He had her chuckling a bit. Then her eyes met his and they were deeply sad, worried, afraid, but she didn't speak. Mr. Neville tried to think of something to say. He sat on the side of her bed, his hand still holding hers, and with deep tenderness, said, "Anna, we're going to take good care of you. You're having a difficult time, but I am here for you one hundred percent. My wife is too. We will visit you every day for as long as you're here. And when you return home, we'lll visit you every day then, too. The school staff are ready to help you in any way they can. We love you, Anna. Me, the staff, and the children."
She squeezed his hand in gratitude. "Thank you," she said, eyes filling with tears. My friend, Mr. Neville."
Warning for Ma
Mrs. Hargrove had sustained two falls with injuries to her head. There was a high probability that she would have complications. But she surprised the doctors by bouncing back. New symptoms could surface days, weeks, even months down the line, so Raymond was advised to keep an eye on her. Raymond was still concerned about her mental state and begged the doctor to look into what her problem might be, if anything. The results of their testing were inconclusive, much to Raymond's chagrin.
"I don't understand," said Raymond to her family doctor, Dr. Ian Wells. She wasn't always like this. I mean she was always feisty, always a little on the nosy side, and often a little outspoken, but she's changed now to obsession and deliberate, outrageous behavior toward people that have done something against her, or someone innocent, for no apparent reason. I don't understand why her behavior toward Mrs. Wronski has been so horrible. She's mean and has a total lack of understanding that her behavior is out of control and grossly inappropriate."
"I understand your concerns, Raymond. Let's keep an eye on her and let me know if her behavior returns or gets worse."
Raymond talked it over with Coop. He threw his hands up in disgust. "Why can't doctors do their job and find out what's wrong," he said.
"I don't know Ray. I wish I had an answer."
Raymond discussed the vandalism with his mother once they got home, and about the two boys who did it. Naturally, she was livid. "Those Cretans. They're devils, I tell you. I have a good mind to get them out of jail and thrash them within and inch of their lives. They've set me back a bit of money and health problems."
I understand, Ma. I'm as furious as you are. Believe me, they're not enjoying the good life in Juvy."
"I should hope not. Maybe I'll go down there."
"NO, Ma! The authorities are handling it well. Let them do their job."
"Hmph. What about Mrs. Wronski, how is she doing?"
"None of your beeswax, Ma. You have been banned from being near her. If you keep harassing her, or pull another stunt in the hospital like setting off fire alarms, there's a chance you could end up in jail if you take it too far."
"Oh pish posh, Raymond. You make me out as some sort of sociopathic criminal. I never did anything but try to help the woman. You know."
Now it was time for Raymond to be incensed. "Ma, are you kidding? You've stalked her, broken rules and laws to see her and hospital security had to haul you out because of the disruption you caused. Mrs. Wronski was very traumatized and is needing special care. You've been unkind. Ma, you are a menace. It pains me to say it. If you're not careful, you go too far, and you'll end up in jail. Is that what you want?"
"Oh pshaw. They don't lock up old ladies like me."
"Ma, you are not above the law. I'm warning you, stay away or you'll end up a jailbird, and God help those people in jail when you arrive."
"You have clout Raymond. You won't let them arrest me, right honey?"
"Don't honey me, Ma. I have to go to work. You stay here and tend the store, it's been closed and you've lost income. Focus on work. Be kind to your customers, too. Behave yourself!" His eyes bore into hers like hot flames. She saw that he meant business, but the minute he was out the door she started plotting.
She called the hospital.
"University Hospital," said the information desk clerk.
"Good afternoon," said Mrs. Hargrove. "My, you have a lovely voice. Very professional but sweet."
"How may I help you," the clerk asked.
"Aren't you sweet. I'm looking for Mrs. Anna Wronski. I'm her sister and I'd like to come and visit."
"Your name, please?"
"Uh, my name is...is Lois, Lois Wronski."
"I see. Well, Miss Wronski, I'll have to give your name to the doctor before you can come."
"Oh my, she's that bad off? Well, listen, I'm sure I can bring her spirits up. Can you tell me visiting hours and her room number?"
"I'm sorry, Miss Wronski. You have to be cleared before you can visit. There's a guard outside her door."
"Guard? What on earth is going on?"
"Ma'am, you'll have to talk to her doctors."
Mrs. Hargrove slammed the receiver down in fury. "Doctors, guards, ridiculous. She paced the aisle of the store frenetically, trying to come up with a plan. She took her teeth out and set them on the counter so she could think better. "Ah," she said, "I've got it. University Hospital be on your guard."
© 2017 Lori Colbo