Annette Gardner was alone now. She had declared to her husband that their marriage could not be salvaged. All the lies, all the deception, and all the emotional baggage was too much. It was true, she was carrying their child, and she would allow it to be their child, but she would not allow for Redmond Gardner to be the baby’s primary influence. She would bring it up in a household that valued, well, values. She would start such a process by attending to Redmond’s poor sister, Elaine.
Walking into a small, white room, Annette saw her soon to be ex-sister-in-law sitting on her neatly made bed, staring out the dirty barred window.
“Hello Elaine,” said Annette with hesitation.
“Oh, hello Annette. I’m so glad you’ve come to see me. I wanted to talk to you about something,” said Elaine. Her words were lacking any of the snap and pep they once carried. They were hollow now. “What do you think of this dress? Do you think Teddy will like it?” Elaine rose and turned about in her nightgown.
“You look…you look beautiful sweetie…” said Annette. What else could she tell a woman in her condition? After talking with Elaine about some trivial things to keep her spirits up, Annette could stand no more. Her kindness was not a substitute for strength.
She walked out of the room with her shoulders slouched, frowning and looking at the ground.
“Excuse me! Oh, I’m so sorry, pardon me,” said Annette, bumping into the shoulder of a tall young man. “I’m so sorry Dr. Matthews”
Dr. Matthews smiled and laughed. For him, laughter was the best thing for any of his patients, and their families, for that matter.
Louise Falcone, laying comfortably in her bed, suddenly became uneasy. Though her eyes were closed, she felt as if someone were watching her as she rested. Opening one eye, her gaze met that of her toad-like mother-in-law, staring at her as her knitting needles moved furiously in her lap. She was scowling, as per usual.
“Oh, um, hello Josephine…” said Louise uneasily
“Hello Louise.” Her voice was flat and emotionless. “I hope you’ve been sleeping well. You know, the doctors said you needed plenty of rest…and you know, it is well deserved.“
The last word floated in the room without a definite meaning. Customarily two-faced, Louise knew Josephine was talking about anything but her health and well-being.
“Yes, I’ve been resting nicely… Josephine, may I ask why you’re in here? I don’t mean to be unkind…but I’m sure you have more important things to do around here than watch me sleep.”
“You’d be wrong about that. I lead a boring life here. I thought I might as well watch over my daughter-in-law and…take care of her…”
Louise thought to herself, “Yeah, I bet you wanna ‘take care’ of me.”
“Josephine, I’m fine, really. Please, don’t put your day on hold on account of me.”
“Nonsense dear,” said the old woman. She never called Louise dear. “I thought I’d bring you your medication, anyways, and something to eat.”
Louise fumed. “Listen Josephine, I know you did it. I know you’re the cause of all this. And if you think I’m letting you even lay one of your boney old fingers on me, you’ve got another thing coming! Now get out.”
“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re referring to,” said Josephine, “Now I’ve brought you some stew and your medication. I want you to eat it and stop babbling on incessantly like a lunatic.” Her voice was harsh now.
“You taste it first,” said Louise proudly.
Josephine scowled and dumped the whole meal on the floor. “I tripped. Sorry.” She walked to the doorway, turned to Louise and said, “Starve.”