A Tale of Marriage, Medicine and Murder

Chapter Seventeen

This is a preview to the chapter Chapter Seventeen from the book PERSONAL BAGGAGE by Margaret McMillion.
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Penny shifted onto her back, stretched, and struggled to focus her eyes on the illuminated numbers on her Bose. It was ten minutes before the alarm would sound on a Dixiana work Sunday. She blundered to the bathroom regretting her crying jag the night before. Her lips stuck together, her eyes throbbed, and she dropped everything she picked up. Struck by her own clumsiness, she perched on a bedroom chair to pull on her jeans and turtleneck, then returned to the bathroom mirror for lipstick. Leering back at her with bloodshot eyes was an old woman dressed in sports clothes. Penny attempted an improvised smile.

When she left the house after breakfast, chill from the concrete driveway permeated the soles of her Reebocks and refrigerated her feet. Cold saturated the air, settled around her in the car, and seeped into her bones.

Entering the hospital and walking through the halls toward CCU, every nurse who passed appeared happier than she felt. She experienced a twinge in her right ankle and imagined falling down hard from a bad sprain.

But the Unit was warm and comfortable, like settling into a favorite chair. The night nurse looked up from a magazine as Penny unbuttoned her coat.

“When did Mr. Stephens die?” Penny pointed to the amputee’s stripped bed.

The sleepy nurse yawned. “When I turned him to his left side at four, he quit breathing—today should be a picnic for you. There’s only one on telemetry, and Mr. Head’s waiting for Gabriel. You might have trouble with his sister, though: she looks like she might go hysterical at the end. They’re both older than stone—she’s so old her blood type’s probably discontinued!

Later, Penny decided to omit Mr. Head’s morning bath since he was already cleaner than he’d ever been before. As she completed his assessment, there was knock on the Unit door and the dietitian said, “Do you need any breakfast trays? I didn’t find an order for CCU.”

“Yes, please send Mr. Head a regular diet.” Since he couldn’t eat, Penny would make sure Jane had breakfast. She propped the door open and peered across the hall to the waiting room.

Jane pushed herself up from the couch and tottered toward Penny, then swayed and stumbled and Penny dived into the hallway, reaching her in time to ease her to the floor.

Jane’s face was withered and pale as she whispered, “My head’s a roarin’.”

“Maybe she just stood up too fast,” said Rebecca Daniels, a South Station nurse, who rushed to help.
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