Lori has been writing fiction since she first caught the writing bug at age nine.
Mrs. Hargrove called a cab early the next morning and went to the hospital to try to see Anna Wronski. She inquired about the room number at the information desk.
"Mrs. Wronski is in three D, but visiting hours aren't until eleven. You'll have to come back then," said the woman.
"I see," said Mrs. Hargrove. "My, but that shade of pink in your sweater so becomes you with your beautiful complexion." Mrs. Hargrove waited for her to melt with the compliment. The woman smiled and said thank you, but she kept her professional demeanor. "You see," Mrs. Hargrove continued, "I am family. I'm Mrs. Wronski's sister. I have to leave to go back home to Oregon by train around eleven fifteen. Surely you can make an exception."
"I'm very sorry, Ma'am, but we don't make exceptions."
"Well, but you must. I'll just run up and give her a quick hello and be on my way."
"I'm sorry. That's not possible. Perhaps you can take a later train."
"Yes, I think that's what I'll do. You've been very helpful. Thank you."
Mrs. Hargrove remembered seeing a fire alarm on the wall by the ladies room. She nonchalantly went to it and set it off when no one was looking, then stepped into the ladies room to wait a bit. Soon there was much commotion. She easily slipped out and made her way to the stairs and hefted her girth up two flights of stairs. Chest heaving and legs feeling like lead she peeked down the third story hallway to see if anyone was around. She could hear a commotion at the nurse's station.
"False alarm everyone," someone said. There were expressions of gratitude.
This was Mrs. Hargrove's chance. She took it.
A Rude Awakening
Gita's echoey voice cried, "Mama, where are you?"
Anna saw her far away in the meadow in her red dress and scarf. Anna began to run toward her precious daughter, but her legs felt heavy and she ran in slow motion, barely making any progress. "Gita, Gita, Mama is coming. Hold on daughter."
"Mama, where are you?"
Anna continued to sludge her way to the meadow. They called back and forth. Finally, Anna stood before little Gita who sat in the tall grass with a basket of flowers and her cloth doll, Amelia. Gita looked sad and lost. "Gita, my little pearl, Mama is here. Why do you look so sad?"
"I am sad because you left me. Why did you leave me, Mama?"
"Oh, darling girl, Mama is here. I have been looking for you for ever so long. No sadness, little pearl, no sadness." Anna reached for Gita, to hold her in her arms, but Gita faded away and disappeared.
Anna whimpered and her fevered body began to shiver, her muscles ached all over. She could hear a loud whooshing sound in her ears. Then she felt something cool and wet on her forehead and she awakened in her hospital bed. In the dimness of the room, she saw a figure standing over her. The person was blotting her head with the wet cloth. Then her eyes focused and she was horrified to recognize Mrs. Hargrove. Her heart raced and thumped violently in her chest.
"Go away," she yelled. "Please, go away. Where is Gita?"
"Oh, dear Anna, you're delirious with fever," said Mrs. Hargrove. "Gita is not here. I'm here to help you get well. Come now, quiet down and let me give you some water." Mrs. Hargrove put a glass of water up to Anna's lips. Anna took a sip and the refreshment was startling. "Thank you, Mrs. Hargrove. Now please, get the nurse."
"Nurse? Oh, honey, the nurses are very busy with other patients. Calm yourself, and tell me why you were sleeping in your bed at home with your coat and boots on? That's not a normal thing to do. Something is very wrong with you to do that. Tell me, dear."
"Nurse! Gita!" Anna cried. "Help me." She found the call bell and pressed it before Mrs. Hargrove could snatch it out of her hand.
"Anna, dear, what are you thinking? I am here..."
A slender young nurse entered the room. "What can I do for you, Mrs. Wronski?" She saw Mrs. Hargrove standing by the bed. "Who are you? Visiting hours aren't until eleven o' clock. You must leave and come back then."
"Well, you see, I am family, Miss..." she looked at the nurse's badge, "Paisley. I'm Anna's sister. I came a long way on the train from Medford, Oregon. Arrived at three a.m. I have to catch the return train around eleven fifteen. My time is limited, you see. Surely you'll make an exception for family."
There was something suspect about Mrs. Hargrove's story and demeanor to Nurse Paisley. She and Anna met eyes and Anna shook her head no. "Mrs. Wronski, is this your sister?" said the nurse.
Anna glanced at Mrs. Hargrove who glared at her with a dare. Suddenly she was overcome with fatigue, anxiety, thirst, and chills. She shook her head no to the nurse, then asked for water.
"I'll get it," said Mrs. Hargrove.
"No, ma'am, you must leave." She reached for the water but Mrs. Hargrove was quicker. In her earnestness, she spilled the water all over Anna who cried out in shock. "That's it," Miss Paisley said, "you must leave at once or I will call security. She grabbed a towel and blotted the spill on Anna's torso. Then she grabbed the receiver and called security. "We have an intruder in three D."
Mrs. Hargrove kicked up quite a fuss with security. She threatened them with her police officer son. They called Raymond Hargrove and he was there fifteen minutes later with fire in his eyes. He entered the security office to see his mother sitting in a chair spouting off to the security officers.
"Now listen here, Mrs. Hargrove. You say one more word and we'll call the police to take you home," Officer Jones said.
"Ma, what do you think you're doing?" scolded Raymond as he entered the room. Not waiting for an answer he spoke with the security officers and apologized for his mother's rude, disruptive behavior. "She won't be back again."
"You bet she won't," said Officer Crumby. He turned to Mrs. Hargrove. "Mrs. Hargrove, you are darn lucky I don't have you arrested for setting off the fire alarm on false pretenses. You are hereby banned from this hospital as a visitor. If we see you here again we won't give you a second chance."
She opened her mouth to protest when Raymond grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet. "Ma, you want to go to jail? Fine with me. You have a choice - zip it or go to jail. I won't be bailing you out." As he escorted her out she scolded him for being an insolent son.
"Takes one to know one, Ma. Now hush or I'll take you in. I'm not kidding." His tone shut her down and the ride home was quiet. When they arrived at the store, Raymond took his mother in, turned the sign on the door to open. "Now get back to work, Ma. If you try any more stunts I'll take you to jail, do you hear me?" He slammed the door on his way out, startling her nearly off her chair. She huffed, took her teeth out and laid them on the counter, crossed her arms, and fumed. The puzzle of Anna and Gita consumed her still and she made two mistakes at the till. She used it as an excuse to close early and plot her next move.
Nurse Paisley changed Anna's gown and bedding. She gave her bereft patient more aspirin for her fever and called Dr. Reynolds, who had admitted her and was overseeing her case. He came by half an hour later. He listened to Anna's heart for a long time and frowned. He pulled the stethoscope out of his ears and took the nurse aside. "Her heart doesn't sound good. I want to run some tests when her fever is down. In the meantime, keep IV fluids going and call me if there are any changes." He patted Anna on her shoulder and looked closely into her face. "Mrs. Wronski, I'm a little concerned about your heart, but you have a high fever so we'll try to get that down then run some tests. And I don't want you to worry about Mrs. Hargrove, she's been banned from the hospital. We're going to take good care of you, I promise. Now get some rest."
Letters From School
Later that day, during visiting hours, Mr. Neville dropped in on Anna with a large bouquet of flowers from the teachers.
"Hello Anna, I come bearing gifts." He set the vase of flowers on her bedside stand. It did indeed brighten up the room, but it was Anna's smile that shone the brightest. "The staff at school wanted to cheer you up."
"Thank you," she said, caressing a rose petal. "Did you see my Gita at school? Is she coming?"
"I'm afraid not, but I have something else for you," he said, sitting at the foot of her bed. He pulled out a stack of papers from his briefcase and handed them to Anna. She took them and looked askance of him. "These are get well letters and pictures by the students."
Anna gasped and bit her trembling lip. "Oh," was all she could say. She opened one and read,
Dear Mrs. Wronski,
I hope you are getting better. We miss your kind face in the window, your waves, and the kisses you blow to us. I send a kiss to you. Love, Nancy
Underneath Nancy's signature was a big lipstick kiss. Anna's tears began to gush. She read another.
Dear Mrs. Wronski,
My name is Timothy. I am in fourth grade. I am sorry you are sick. I hope you feel better soon. I miss you looking in the window. Here is a drawing of you looking at me through the window. Love Timothy.
Anna examined the drawing closely and showed it to Mr. Neville. Together they chuckled at the details, such as her cupping her hands against the window. "Timothy is a budding artist. You should see some of his work," said Mr. Neville.
They enjoyed another letter and drawing but Mr. Neville didn't want to wear Anna out so he said his goodbye and promised to return the next day. Anna returned to reading her letters. One from Annie, Susan, Richard, and Harold. She showed the drawings to Nurse Paisley when she came in.
"I think we ought to tape up all the drawings on the wall here so you can see them all together at once." She left and came back with tape and began to post the drawings.
Meanwhile Anna picked up another letter. Her heart nearly stopped.
I am sorry you are sick. I hope you get well soon. I miss seeing you around the school. 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
Margret had drawn a picture of Anna and her holding hands. Margaret had red hair.
Anna dropped the letter and let out a deep guttural wail. She rocked back and forth, hands covering her face. Nurse Paisley picked up the letter and drawing. It was an odd letter. Anna could not be consoled. She cried for her daughter so loud it could be heard way down the hall. Nurse Paisley went to the nurse's station and called Dr. Reynolds, then she called Mr. Neville and read the letter to him.
"I don't know what's going on Nurse Paisley, but I intend to find out. Thank you for calling. I'll get to the bottom of this. Tell Mrs. Wronski I'll be there tomorrow."
© 2017 Lori Colbo