Ralph Penwarren is alive, just barely. He’s been taken to the hospital. Now, someone has to tell Mabel. Frank doesn’t want to, but knows that the job falls to him. He takes Marka with him, to cushion the blow a little.
“Thanks. I’ll be up in a few minutes to get it. Then I have to talk to Mabel.”
“Can I help?”
“Come with me to Mabel’s? She may need you.”
“I’ll be ready when you get here.”
“Glad I can help.” She hung up.
Marka met him in the hallway before he even got to her room. Handing him his phone, her fingers lingered on his.
Frank leaned over, kissing her lightly on the lips. Wanting to do more, he got a grip on himself and escorted her to the elevator. Her hand twined with his as the doors closed.
“Tell me about Mabel.”
He smiled. Mabel Penwarren was one of his favorite residents.
“She’s a feisty thing. Very smart. She was a college professor and taught religion and mathematics. She was also a trained chef.”
“Mabel’s an interesting girl.”
He gave her a brief rundown on Mabel’s relationship with Ralph as they walked, hand in hand, to the nursing home. The head nurse met them at the door.
“Some of the girls saw an ambulance. Is everyone okay?”
“Ralph Penwarren had a bad fall.”
Emotions warred in her. “I hope he wasn’t badly hurt,” she said in her most professional tone.
“It was bad, Elise. I really need to talk to Mabel. It can’t wait.”
“Oh, my God.” Her hand fluttered to her mouth. “Is he dead?”
“No. But I need her to make me medical designee.”
“Let me get my stamp.” She scurried to the nursing station.
“She’s a notary. We have one on every shift.”
“Excellent idea. I brought mine too just in case.” She patted her jacket pocket.
“I’m surrounded by beautiful, well prepared women,” he bragged.
Elise was back. She was short, petite, raven haired and rosy cheeked. Marka felt a moment of envy, but it passed when she saw the wedding band on the other woman’s hand.
“She’s awake. Just called for the bedpan. Wait out here. I’ll take care of that and prepare her.”
“Thanks,” Frank said quietly.
Ten minutes later, Elise was back. She ushered them into Mabel’s room. Mabel sat up in her bed, a white crocheted shawl around her shoulders.
“Elise said you needed to speak to me? Is there another problem with Ralphie?”
Frank glanced at Marka. She nodded for him to continue. He walked forward, taking Mabel’s hand.
“Ralph had a bad fall, Mabel. He’s at the hospital.”
“Is he going to be all right?”
“We don’t know yet. I told them to call me. I need your permission to make decisions for you—for his care.”
“Of course. You know I trust you, Francis.”
After Mabel signed the paper, Elise notarized it. She made copies and faxed it to the hospital. She handed Frank the original and one of the copies. The other, she put in Mabel’s chart.
“The hospital will contact you with any information,” Elise said.
“Thanks, kiddo. Tell Anthony I said hello.”
“Tell him yourself,” she teased, punching him. “You never call your own family. You’re like a ghost.”
“Now I need to make like a ghost and disappear. See you later—I hope?” He said to Marka.
“I’ll be here with Mabel for a bit. She wants to talk.”
“‘K. You know where I’ll be.” He gave her a kiss. “And where I’d rather be,” he added very softly.
Marka licked her lips. They held hands a moment, foreheads touching.”Me too,” she murmured.
Elise and the rest of the staff looked on in awe. This was not the Frank they knew. Their Frank was all business. Their Frank never showed his feelings. Now, here he was, kissing an almost total stranger in front of them!
Frank forced himself to leave. The women watched them part, heads going back and forth like a tennis match. Was there a new bounce in Frank’s step?Did Marka’s eyes follow him down the hall?
Romance! Gossip! They all pulled out phones and called friends who worked in other wards. Every conversation started the same way: “You’ll never guess what Frank Atherton just did!”
Frank found his search team on break. Irritated, he approached them.
“Didn’t we have a job to do?”
“Yeah,” Charlie replied. “You said find Vince. We found him.”