A Tale of Marriage, Medicine and Murder

Chapter Fourteen

This is a preview to the chapter Chapter Fourteen from the book PERSONAL BAGGAGE by Margaret McMillion.
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After three night shifts that made moving her parents out of Westview seem like a walk in the park, Penny’s trip from the hospital to the Jacksonville airport through rush-hour traffic was a nonevent. Leaving her car in the long-term parking lot, she pulled her suitcase toward the terminal, wondering when exhaustion would overtake her. Sometimes, after working three night shifts, she could hardly drive home in the morning, but at other times she remained alert until late afternoon. She had no patience with people who complained about jet lag after a vacation trip abroad. Penny was a jet-lag veteran.

Seated by a window, she leaned back and rested her eyes. Vibrations from the plane’s tires rushing over the rough runway excited her, tingled her groin and spread warmth into her lower abdomen leaving it charged and making her wish to extend the pavement.

She heard the powerful engines roar with acceleration toward lift off, then experienced increased gravity as the metallic bird left concrete and forced its load upward. Opening her eyes, she watched the earth, at a crazy angle beneath the wing, slowly straighten out, and a living map passed beneath her: a strange collage of pencil-line roads, matchbox buildings, and snaking waterways.

Her fingers tapped on an imaginary keyboard the song her mind played, and her toes flexed in time to the beat. She pulled a Sky Magazine from the pouch in front of her and flipped the pages, seeking diversion.

Before her parents were relocated to Roanoke, at times when she couldn’t sleep, Penny had relaxed by visualizing herself driving into Charleston. She would envision the bridges and marshes until she could almost smell the paper mill and swamp air, then she would picture herself crossing the last bridge onto the island, driving beneath overhanging live-oak branches, and arriving at Westview where her parents waited in the doorway.

Now the meditation itself created insomnia, like peeling back a scab to expose a bleeding wound. Except for strained phone calls, she was isolated from her parents—but not from their values and admonitions. She was confident that her mother and father would be irreversibly shocked if they really knew her. Just the thought of disappointing her parents brought on the same flutter of fear she had felt as a child.

Sometime later, waiting for her suitcase to come around on the carousel in Roanoke, Penny couldn’t remember when she fell asleep; she barely remembered changing planes in Atlanta, and a feeling close to panic hit her. She had been crazy to think she could find her way around in the big city! David had made it sound easy, but if she tried to drive Alice’s car to Imperial Palace, she would be lost and there would be no one to come and find her.

Locating a taxi outside the terminal was no problem, and when the driver stopped at her brother’s home, Penny asked him to wait. She located the house key under its special rock, deposited her suitcase, and had the cabbie drive her on to the retirement center. She asked him to draw a map of the route and, uncertain of the appropriate amount, tipped him ten dollars.

There was no answer to her knock on the door of her father’s apartment, but she found him in the nursing home pushing a wheelchair containing her mother, whose white hair was in tight curls from a recent permanent.

Rev. Nichols leaned over his wife, “This is your daughter Penny,” he told her. Penny, feeling excited and sad and tired at the same time, kissed her mother and hugged her father.

“Let’s go to Mother’s room where we can visit,” her father said, directing the wheelchair through a maze of hallways.
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"In her new novel PERSONAL BAGGAGE author Margaret McMillion gives us fine details of Southern family life and, she herself an..."

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