Mr. Penwarren was in his office when he returned. Frank opened the door to a gimlet stare. Taking a step back, Frank eyed the door, his glance moving to Mr. Penwarren, who was sitting in his chair behind his desk. The chubby, older man glared at him, his fingers steepled in front of his lips.
“Some reason you’re in my chair?” He stood next to the desk, staring down at Ralph Penwarren.
Penwarren rose slowly, moving ponderously out of Frank’s way.
“You caused some trouble for one of my housekeepers last night,” Frank stated without preamble. “She’s not the maid and my people aren’t at your disposal for you to order around on a whim.”
“The room was filthy.”
“The room was fine. You resented having to pay for a guest room, so you took it out on her.”
“You told me we’d go see my mother this morning.”
“I did. Though I didn’t specify a time. I have things to do, Mr. Penwarren. I’m not at your disposal either.”
“I thought the sooner we could get this settled—”
“Yes. I agree.”
“Only you weren’t in your office. Where have you been for the last hour?”
“None of your business. As it happens, I can give you fifteen minutes. That should be long enough to talk to your mother and get this straightened out. You can visit with her for a little while.”
Frank set a rapid pace, heading toward the nursing and rehabilitation facility which was easily accessible from the main building. Penwarren had trouble keeping up. He was red faced, panting and sweating when they arrived. Frank took no pity on him. He found a nurse and they went to Mabel Penwarren’s room together. He wanted a witness so whatever the old lady said, he had backup.
“Mom,” Ralph said from the doorway. His tone held genuine concern.
Somewhat taken aback, Frank followed him into the room. Mabel held out her arms to her son. He hugged her gently, kissing her cheek.
“You okay, Mom? You look tired.”
“I’m fine, Sonny. You’d look tired too if you were all full of pins and needles. They got me all put back together again, just like Humpty Dumpty. When did you get in?”
“Not until late. The damn flights were delayed in Atlanta by weather.”
“You’re here now. That’s all that’s important.”
“I wanted to stay in your place last night.”
“Company policy, Mabel. I couldn’t let him without your permission.”
“Oh, of course you couldn’t. Are you sure you’ll be comfortable there? You’re always telling me my place is too crowded.”
“I thought I could go through some things for you.”
“I’m not dead yet! I’ll thank you to leave my things alone! I prefer for him to have a guest room for now,” she said to Frank.
“Sure, Mabel. He’s set up. The room’s nice and close to you here. If you need anything, call me.”
She held out her hand to him. Frank leaned over, planting a soft kiss on the withered cheek.
“You need to eat more, Mabel. The kitchen tells me you’re turning away your food.”
“It’s inedible, Frankie. I used to be a chef. I wrote cookbooks! This slop they serve. It’s not fit for rats.”
“I know. Maybe Sonny can sneak you in a meal from time to time.”
“I can do that, Mom. Tell me what you want, I’ll get it.”
Ralph was the most subdued and cooperative Frank had ever seen him.
“I need to run, Mabel. It’s Monday, and. . . .”
“Everybody works on Monday,” she chimed in with him.
“Exactly. You know how to reach me.” He murmured to the nurse as he walked out. “You call if she needs anything. And if he gives you any trouble. . . .”
“Got it, boss.”
Frank headed back to his office. For the next hour, he made calls and caught up on his e-mail. By noon, he finally had a handle on the massive influx of items needing his immediate attention.
There was a light tap on his doorframe. Marka was there, his jacket in her hands, a warm cardigan around her shoulders. She’d changed into camel colored slacks that clung invitingly to her hips.
“I brought back your jacket, but you weren’t here. Then I got busy with my first session.”
“Had to take Penwarren to see his mom. How did your first session go?”
“It was great! I went to assisted living and met all of them. Wonderful people. We had a good time talking about what I hope to accomplish. I got their input on what sort of activities would interest them. Tomorrow should be even better.”
“Great! I’m bored out of my mind by drivel that a monkey could do.” He escorted her to his car and drove slowly off campus. “I thought we’d go to Salem for lunch. That’s if you like Chinese?”
“They have a fantastic buffet. I almost always eat out. I can’t cook worth dick,” he admitted with a laugh.
Marka smirked, eyes twinkling. “That right? Not worth dick, huh?”
“Not worth Richard,” he amended with a laugh, smoothing his tie.
© Dellani Oakes