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Death of a Ballerina – Part 11 –

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

The employee lounge behind the nurses’ desk had been painted a dusky rose over a decade ago. The faded floral wallpaper that had been added beneath the chair rail did little to give the room any cheer. Everything else in the room seemed to be gray. Clary sank into a stiff plastic chair near the coffee pot. Above her a newscaster was wrapping up the evening program. He seemed to be summarizing the two major stories from the day.

A freak hail storm had ruined several Labor Day parades in the county earlier in the morning. Images of demolished floats flashed across the screen. Clary vaguely remembered hail stones bouncing off of her umbrella when she arrived to work. It seemed like it had happened a month ago.

The newscaster leaned forward with urgency as he moved to his final topic for the broadcast. Clary recognized the sequence of the images on the screen. The same scenes had been flashing overhead while Mrs. Armitage lay convulsing in her hospital bed only an hour earlier.  She sighed and rubbed her eyes.

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Rose set the phone down and beamed at her daughter. “How does pizza sound for dinner?”

Megan was shoveling cookies into various containers with a metal spatula. She raised her eyebrows and smirked at her mom. “I don’t know. Is your boyfriend going to deliver it?”

Rose moved to the sink and started scrubbing some of the plates stacked to the side. It bothered her that Megan referred to Ben as her boyfriend. She knew that her daughter got pleasure from annoying her with the term so she let it go. She lifted a dripping plate towards the dishwasher and said, “Yes. He picked up a movie and some pizza and he’ll be here in twenty minutes.”

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Tanjia stood in the doorway watching Clary. The young doctor exuded exhaustion. Her hair looked frazzled and her face had paled throughout the day’s events. Out of habit, Tanjia took a pull of hand sanitizing foam from the canister on the wall. The scent of rubbing alcohol followed her as she moved to sit at the tiny gray table next to Clary.

“So, how’d it go after I left this morning?” Tanjia only needed to look at Clary to see that the day had been difficult. She’d heard bits and pieces of the daily gossip from other nurses as they left for the day.  Still, she sat back in the chair and waited expectantly for the full report.

Clary lifted her eyes to meet Tanjia’s. “Well, how much do you want to know?” She lifted her feet into a nearby chair and groaned in happiness.

Tanjia lifted one corner of her mouth in a half grin. “Tell me everything. Starting with that handsome detective you were talking to when I left. How did I get stuck with the greasy old bald guy?”

“Well for starters, he’s my brother. We haven’t really talked much since he eloped in March. I haven’t even met his wife.” She paused and Tanjia raised her eyebrows. Her mouth puckered but she said nothing. “He stuck around investigating the scene until around lunch time. That’s when the police officer showed up to take the Armitage’s missing person report. Their daughter had disappeared in the night after attending a dance recital.” Clary stopped to watch as the nurse made the connection. “Mrs. Armitage had been admitted for pre-eclampsia and all the stress caused her blood pressure to soar. We induced her, but she didn’t respond very quickly. Around five, Donna came charging down the hall. We didn’t know it at the time, but apparently Honey and Ronnie had been watching the five o’clock news. They saw the reporters that were camped out in front of the hospital because,” Clary made quotation marks in the air, “’a local teenager’ had been found murdered here. I guess Ronnie jumped up and ran downstairs to find them. Honey stared at the screen for a minute or two, I guess, before she started seizing. When Donna found her she was completely unresponsive. “ Clary stared above at the dry erase board hanging on the wall. Her eyes moved to the clock. Her shift had ended two hours earlier, but the Armitage case had kept her too busy to leave. “Dr. Johnson arrived in record time. We performed the c-section and it was messy. Everyone was tense. Ronnie came back upstairs and panicked when he found his wife’s room empty. The nurses on the floor almost had to page another doctor to sedate him. It was a nightmare.” Clary wiped her forehead.

Tanjia said, “I heard that the little boy’s Apgar scores were high and that he’s breathing on his own. How are the parents doing now?”

Clary shrugged her shoulders. “Honey is in the recovery room. I think Dr. Johnson intends to keep her sedated through the night. She’s been through a lot. Ronnie calmed down and seems to be handling things better now.”

Tanjia nodded thoughtfully. “I suppose he will stay up tonight with the baby.”

Clary stood and rubbed the back of her neck. “Probably. He followed the nurse down to the NICU but I don’t think that the baby will stay there for longer than one night.” She took a step towards the door. “I better finish my notes. Feels like I’ve been here forever.”


Death of a Ballerina – Part 10-

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

The silent TV cast an eerie glow over the room, and sent strange shadows up the walls. Honey Armitage lay convulsing on the bed. The muscles in her back constricted suddenly causing her large belly to raise four inches. Both arms jerked on either side of her body. Her hands clenched and unclenched involuntarily. Suddenly, her abdomen fell back to the bed and jerked to the side.

Clary’s mind barely had time to process her observations before she moved to act on them.  She started barking orders to Dora. “I need four grams of magnesium sulfate. Bring it fast. Then go back for Valium just in case.” Dora disappeared and another part of Clary’s brain took over for the time being. She moved to the bedside with her penlight. The small fluorescent light cast a blue light on Honey’s face as Clary pulled one eye open. The eyes had rolled back, which did not surprise Dr. Anderson. She shoved the penlight back in her pocket and pulled a tongue depressor out of her pocket. She ripped the paper sheath off and pried Honey’s mouth open. Blood oozed from the tip of her tongue, and Clary forced the piece of wood in place to protect her from further damage.

Dora materialized with the loading dose of magnesium in a syringe. She glanced up at Clary, received a quick nod, and inserted the needle into the patient’s IV port with ease. The clock above the bed ticked in agony for ten seconds, and Honey continued to convulse. Without a word, Dora moved grimly towards the door to head back to the medicine room. She reached the doorway before she realized that she didn’t know what dosage the doctor wanted. She turned back and observed that the Valium would not be necessary. Honey’s body was smoothing out on top of the bed. Her hands unclenched and remained still. The nurse exhaled. Clary lifted a hand to pull the sweaty tendrils back from the patient’s forehead. Sensing Dora behind her, Clary quietly said, “We’ll need to prep the OR immediately. I’ll call Dr. Johnson and page the anesthesiologist. She’s going to need a c-section.”

Without a word, Dora slipped out of the room, breathing a prayer of thanks on behalf of her patient. She feared that worst was not over yet, but she methodically carried out the doctor’s order. She rounded up a few other nurses to prep the OR for surgery.

Clary stayed in the room a moment longer, remembering her earlier conversation with Honey. She wondered if the patient would wake up before the surgery, or if she would need to get Ronnie’s consent instead. Her eyes widened as she looked up in surprise. Where was Ronnie? She glanced around the room looking for any sign of him. Her surprise turned to anxiety.  A cold knot of worry settled in her stomach. She moved hastily to call security first, and then Dr. Johnson.

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Regina glanced at the clock over the stove and pulled the stir-fry to the back burner.  She picked her glass of water up from the counter before moving to the kitchen table. She had spent the afternoon grading papers and her kitchen table was covered in neat stacks of paper. She grabbed the nearest pile and sorted through her folder of answer keys. Then after glancing at the clock one more time, she continued her tedious chore.

Greg walked in the door thirty minutes later.  “Sorry I’m late. Right after I called you, Maine found a clip of the victim on the security tape. This case is going to have me working night and day for who knows how long. This murderer must be really smart …” He paused to study Regina’s face while he removed his jacket. She was rigid with worry.

“Aww, I’m fine. Don’t give me that look.” He opened the first two buttons on his dress shirt to reveal the thick black material underneath. “I’m still wearing my bullet proof vest. Just like I promised.  So what’s for dinner?”

Regina smirked at her husband. “Your favorite. Soggy stir fry with cold rice.”

Greg grimaced. “Maybe we should just order take-out instead.”

Death of a Ballerina -Part 9-

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Megan was pulling fresh cookies out of the oven by the time Rose came back to the kitchen. She set the hot trays down on the stove top to cool and pulled the red polka-dotted oven mitts off of her hands. Bending gracefully over the open dishwasher door, she turned the volume down on the radio. Rose smiled at her daughter and picked up a warm cookie off of the plate from the previous batches.

“So what’s the special occasion, sweetie?” The cookie melted deliciously in her mouth giving her a ripple of pleasure.

“Nothing too special,” Megan replied as she moved to turn off the oven. “The girls at my lunch table are having a potluck on Monday. Everyone’s bringing a contribution and Kelly’s mom is picking up barbeque from the Hut.”

The Hut was a tiny cylinder brick building that at first glance, appeared to be a hole in the wall. Any newcomer to town would assume that the building had been abandoned, unless they happened to drive by during lunch or dinner. However, Rose had long ago determined that the quality of barbeque seemed to be directly proportional to the ugliness of the building. The Hut served mouthwatering hash rice, vinegar barbeque, and hush puppies.

Rose felt slightly envious of her daughter for a moment as she imagined the girls laughing and eating together. It had been many years since she’d shared a potluck meal with friends. She remembered with sudden clarity the warm sunset and the clusters of couples talking beneath pecan trees. She’d been pregnant with Megan, although she couldn’t remember which trimester. Her husband had looked so handsome as the sun set behind his dark hair. A wave of self-pity threatened to overtake her, but she shook it off and turned back to the comments her daughter had made earlier.

“So what were you saying about Alleson?” Rose eyed the plate of cookies longingly, before reaching to grab a second one.

“Well, something weird happened last night. Alleson was supposed to be sleeping over with us. She was going to be late because of her dance recital. We’d all decided to go watch her performance, but she didn’t know it. Oh man. She was gorgeous Mom.” Megan grinned from ear to ear as she envisioned her friend. “She wore this sparkling white top with a long white tutu. And she twirled around on her toes like this.” Megan lifted up her right foot and touched it to her knee as she spun around on her left foot. The apron swirled out around her. “We cheered and cheered until we went hoarse. Someone, I think it was Lilly, had decided that we should get her flowers, but we all forgot to stop on the way. So after the show, we all ran up and hugged her in the lobby.”

Megan’s voice slowed and she wrinkled her forehead. She grabbed the dirty mixing bowl and moved towards the sink with it. “We caught her off guard. I could see in her eyes that she hadn’t even considered the possibility that we might come.” Megan ran water over the mixing bowl, and Rose waited for her to speak again. A moment later, the words came tumbling out. “She told us that she couldn’t spend the night after all. Muttered something about a baby and the hospital. We all kind of stepped back like she’d thrown ice water at us. I don’t know what she meant. No one that we know of at school is pregnant, and she certainly couldn’t have meant herself. We stayed up half the night trying to decide if she was crazy or if she was lying. Honestly, I didn’t think too much of it until her mother called. Apparently, they haven’t seen her since the recital.” Megan stuck the dripping bowl into the dishwasher.  She turned to face her mother with an anxious expression. “I’m scared for her Mom. I think something’s wrong.”

In one movement, Rose was out of her chair and hugging her daughter. She held her daughter close and shared her fear. Megan felt a single tear spill down her cheek as the phone rang.

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Death of a Ballerina – Part 8 –

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Clary stayed behind as the officers left the room. She checked the Ptocin drip and the baby’s heart rate. “Mrs. Armitage, why are you so opposed to a C-section?” The question slipped out of Clary’s mouth without any censoring. She felt a sudden panic. Normally her questions were carefully worded to be as tactful as possible.

Honey looked at Clary thoughtfully. “Well, it’s not that I’m opposed … exactly. If I have to be cut open in order for Peanut to survive, that doesn’t bother me a bit. But Dr. Johnson said that there were risks either way. And the way that I see it … If they’re both risky, then I’ll try to wait for Alleson as long as I can.”

Clary had suspected this line of thinking when her patient had reacted violently to Dr. Johnson’s suggestion of surgery. Ronnie had nearly passed out as Honey’s face turned red. Her normally happy demeanor had been overpowered by this morning’s anxiety over Alleson. Her shouting had only stopped while she held her breath through a painful contraction. Her emphatic answer had been to forget the C-section. Dr. Johnson had hastily ordered a Ptocin drip instead.

Clary now felt a touch of relief knowing that in an emergency, she would be able to get the patient’s consent for a C-section. However, the weight of her secret prevented her from relaxing. She knew with absolute certainty that Alleson would not be present for the birth of her half brother.
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The garage door methodically opened allowing Rose to slowly ease her Tahoe into place. Through the window on the kitchen door, she could see her youngest daughter singing into a spatula that seemed to be dotted with chocolate chips.  She was dressed in blue jeans, a black t-shirt and the vintage apron that Rose had ordered for her as a birthday present. Her long blonde hair swished back and forth as she belted out a song with the kitchen radio. Rose smiled at the sight.

She moved around to the passenger’s side of the car to help her weary mother out. The three-hour trip had exhausted the frail woman. Rose grabbed the bags from the back seat and held her mother’s arm as they walked up the three brick steps that led to the kitchen. The garage’s odor made the older woman wrinkle her nose, but the grimace disappeared as soon as the kitchen door opened. The warm scent of homemade cookies filled the room.

Megan spun around in surprise and ran to turn the music down. “Hi Mom. Hi Granma. I saw your note. Did you have a good time shopping?”

“We did.” Rose moved to set her purchases on the entrance table. “How was the slumber party, sweetie?” She tossed her keys into her teacup, which was decorated with pink roses.  The table held two teacups and four coffee mugs. Her husband had invented the system for organizing the family’s keys when their oldest son had started driving.  Each member of the family had chosen a cup to hold their personal key ring, so that cars could be moved easily when needed. Megan’s keys sat next to Rose’s, inside a brown coffee mug that read, “Give me chocolate or give me death.”

“It was fun. I can’t believe we’re all graduating in a few months. Gabby was the first one to turn eighteen. All of us will be eighteen this year, Mom! Well, except Alleson.” Rose watched as Megan frowned and studied the cookies in the oven. She glanced across the room to where Megan’s grandmother had fallen asleep at the kitchen table. Her arms were folded to make a pillow for her head. Megan set the timer on the microwave. “I wonder whatever happened with Alleson. It was the weirdest thing Mom.”

“Hold on a minute Meg. Let me put Granma down for a nap. I’ll be back in a second.” She gently pulled her mother to her feet and held her waist as they shuffled out of the kitchen. Megan turned the radio back up.
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Several hours later, a heavyset nurse charged down the hall from the Armitage’s room.

“Never seen Dora move so quickly.” Linda was standing behind Clary’s chair. She was one of the three nurses that Clary knew by name and she was speaking out of the side of her mouth, while peering at another patient’s chart. “Must be serious.”

Clary glanced up from her work. “Dr. Anderson!” The nurse called breathlessly as she jogged towards the nurses’ station. “Dr. Anderson you have to come quick!” Dora’s raspy voice now filled the hall, and she turned to jog back to the Armitage room. “The patient is seizing!”

Clary felt the eyes of the nursing staff turn to her and she flushed. Despite her training, she felt ill at ease whenever emergencies placed her in charge.

“Should we call Dr. Johnson?” Clary didn’t see the speaker.  She merely nodded as she grabbed the chart in front of her and chased Dora down the hall.

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Death of a Ballerina -Part 7-

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Clary glared at the officer and at her brother. Then turning, she stalked into the room. There was a silent agreement between the three, that the discovered body should not be mentioned. Mrs. Armitage looked ragged from crying for so long, but she glanced at Clary sympathetically.

“Dr. Anderson, thank you so much for looking out for my health. But I think I’ll feel a whole lot better if I know that someone is out there looking for Alleson. Dr. Johnson already told me that we need to induce the baby right away.” Mrs. Armitage repositioned her ponytail full of black hair, and looked over at the officer in uniform.

He handed her a form attached to a clipboard, along with the pen from his shirt pocket. Nobody spoke for several minutes. Mrs. Armitage balanced the clipboard on top of her belly and studied the boxes. Ronnie glanced nervously at Greg’s black suit and then at the uniformed police officer. The tension in the room grew as the pen scratched over the paper. An IV pump whirred and the fetal heart monitor beeped. Mrs. Armitage groaned during her contractions before politely asking for explanations about various phrases on the form.

As she wrote, Greg weighed out his next course of action. The team from the coroner’s office had just arrived to remove the body.  The option of escorting Ronnie down to identify the body seemed viable. He shook his head at the thought. That would be cruel. The poor guy was expecting all the pain and joy of receiving a new life, but he would forever associate this ordeal with the death of this teenaged girl. Greg decided to wait for the forensics photos to come back. That would give the Armitages some time to bond with their new baby boy, before facing the burden of identifying their dead daughter.

Mrs. Armitage placed the pen on top of the clipboard and raised it in the air for the officer to take. “I hope I spelled everything right. You know, I didn’t even realize that I’d misspelled Alleson’s name on her birth certificate until a few weeks after she’d been born. Her aunt sent an embroidered towel as a baby gift. Spelled it with an ‘i’ instead of an ‘e.’ Not going to make that mistake this time.” She pulled an index card off of the nightstand. “I’ve copied little peanut’s name right out of the baby book.”

Greg glanced at the card and smiled. “Mrs. Armitage, I’d like to speak to anyone who saw your daughter last night. Where should I begin?”

“Before I tell you that, I want to know something.” Honey Armitage squared her shoulders and pushed her belly forward. “You mentioned that you might have a lead on my daughter when you were talking in the hall. What did you find?”

Greg glanced nervously at his sister who had paled. A dispatcher’s voice crackled over the officer’s radio.

“Well, Mrs. Armitage,” he shifted uncomfortably, “her car was towed because it was illegally parked. The guy who owns the towing company is a friend of mine. He called me this morning and I ran her license plates.”
Clary flushed. She was sure that her face would betray the lie, so she turned and pretended to check the fetal monitor readings.

“Well, what does that mean then?” Honey’s face was puckered in confusion. “Has she been kidnapped?” Her forehead wrinkled. “Or maybe … her car was towed and that’s why she never showed up last night?” Tears formed in her eyes. She ducked her head. “She should have called me by now. Why hasn’t she called me? Why hasn’t somebody called me? My … baby … oh … mah babeeee…”

The woman bent over, sobbing and gripping the bed rails in pain. Clary glared at her brother and Officer Davidson. “You’ve taken the report. Now you need to leave. This is not healthy for my patient.” The coldness of the words conveyed the strength of her anger. Greg felt as though he’d been kicked in the stomach.

“Wait. He asked where to look for her.” Honey gulped for breath. “Start with Ms. Broder. She’s Alleson’s dance instructor. The number is in my cell phone.” Mrs. Armitage grimaced in pain as she leaned across the nightstand to reach her purse. Ronnie jumped up to retrieve the oversized handbag for her. His face echoed her worry.

Mrs. Armitage pressed several buttons on her phone and read the number off to Greg. He hastily scribbled the number on the back of the missing person form. A few minutes later, Greg left the room with five more phone numbers. He planned to call Alleson’s friends and her dance teacher before the media storm hit that evening. Before leaving, he discreetly unplugged the TV.

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Death of a Ballerina – Part 6 –

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Greg looked at the ceiling and scratched the back of his head. “So you’re saying that this woman is missing a daughter, who sounds just like our victim, but we can’t interview her until she chunks out the baby?”

The tall doctor shifted in his golf shoes and nodded. “Yes. Her condition seems to be deteriorating rapidly due to the stress. We need to deliver the baby immediately.”

“And how long will that take exactly?” Greg looked down at his watch. It was 2:03pm. Officer Maine had gone in search of hospital surveillance footage. Since Greg had almost completed his investigations training, he was on his own to wrap up the loose ends at the scene.

The doctor peeked at the women’s locker room door to his left. “We already gave her a bag of Ptocin, which will speed things along, but there’s really no way to know. It could be hours. It could be thirty minutes. If she doesn’t make enough progress then we’ll need to do an emergency c-section. But she’s not in favor of that idea so we will wait until it’s absolutely necessary.”

Greg thought for a second before his eyes lit up. “Wait a second. Didn’t you say that she requested a police report a little while ago?”

“Yes.” Dr. Johnson squinted, as if trying to read the hidden meaning behind the question.

“Has anyone come to take her report?” Greg leaned forward in anticipation of the answer.

“Actually, I think that he just arrived.” Dr. Johnson motioned down the hall to an officer standing in front of the Armitage’s room. Clary was guarding the door, and shaking her head.

Greg thanked the doctor for his help, and trotted down the hall. As he walked up, the officer interrupted Clary. “Look, Doctor whatever-your-name-is. I have my orders, and they trump yours.” He slowed his words down as if speaking to a child. “My job is to take a report, and unless you have a justifiable reason why the patient should not make the report, then I have to go get it.”

Greg put a hand on Clary’s rigid shoulder, and she turned in surprise. He recognized the defiant look on her face, and grinned as a childhood memory popped in his mind. A seven-year-old Clary, standing in the doorway of his bedroom was screaming at him for mutilating her Barbie dolls. He had torn several appendages off of the dolls and painted red nail polish in the appropriate places to make the girls wounded from battle. He stopped smiling as he realized that she might actually start screaming again.

“I just spoke with Dr. Johnson, and he explained everything to me.” Greg looked Clary squarely in the eyes, his loud voice bouncing off the pastel green walls. Then turning to the officer, he said, “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Detective Anderson. Just moved up to investigations.”

The officer looked at the badge and gun hanging from Greg’s black suit pants. He tilted his head thoughtfully, pushed a button on his two-way radio and muttered, “D-26.” Then he extended his hand to Greg and said, “Name’s Davidson. Transferred here from Franklin last year.”

“Is that so? We just lost a guy on C shift to Franklin.” Greg loosened his necktie. “So anyway, this lady in here is missing a daughter. We might have a lead on the case.” He pointed down the hall to the crime scene tape. A look of understanding lit up the officer’s face. Then he frowned.

“So what’s the problem? The lady needs to know, right?” He shrugged and shifted his weight.

“The problem is that the stress of having a daughter who’s missing, “ Clary spat the words out and waved silently towards the end of the hall, knowing full well that the patient and her husband were most likely listening to every word, “has caused her condition to worsen. We are very concerned for the health of the mother and the child.”

The angry words hung in the air for a split second before the door opened and Ronnie stuck his head out in the hall. “S’cuse me folks. My wife was wondering if you’d mind finishing this discussion inside our room. She’s straining to hear everything you say.” He grinned and pulled the door all the way open.

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The plaza in front of the mall held a beautiful fountain. Rose and her mother stopped to sit on a bench in the warm afternoon sunshine.  Ladies bustled behind them pushing strollers and herding children into the sliding glass doors of various stores. Puffy white clouds dotted the sky and the air held delicious scents from nearby restaurants.  Her mother seemed content to watch the water spilling over the terraces of the fountain, but Rose felt restless. She sorted her shopping bags, and tucked two smaller ones inside the largest.

“Mrs. Clayton?” A timid woman’s voice startled Rose out of her organizational reverie.  She turned to her left to see a woman staring over her head at her mother who continued to stare at the fountains. “Professor Clayton,” the woman ignored Rose and stepped closer with her hand outstretched, “you taught my English class in college. Do you remember me? Mrs. Clayton?”

Rose moved quickly to stand. “Hi. I’m afraid that you’re mistaken about my mother.” Rose shifted as the woman looked at her. “She’s never taught English. In fact, she never went to college either.”

The woman frowned and stepped back. Her pink cardigan set perfectly matched her pink high heels. “She looks just like … Well, my goodness, that’s embarrassing. I’m so sorry.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ears and stared at Rose’s mother.

Rose smiled. “No problem. I love your earrings. They really catch the light out here.”

“Oh! Thanks. I found them on sale over there last week.” The woman pointed at a small jewelry store as she turned to walk away. “They’re probably even cheaper now.” She pulled her purse in close to her body and ducked through the stream of customers. Rose watched her melt into the crowd and disappear into a large department store.

Sighing, Rose settled down beside her mother again. The lady was mumbling to herself. Rose leaned in to listen to the tumbling words. “An epic of human frailty and dignity … summation of civilization as a whole … influential despite the …” Her eyes were vacant but the rhetoric flowed from a deep recess within her brain. Rose smiled and reached to pat her hand. “I’m glad to know you’re still in there Professor Clayton. I’ve missed you.” She leaned back against the bench and smiled up at the sunny sky.

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Death of a Ballerina -Part 5-

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

“You killed him.” The crazed woman searched the floor as if looking for evidence. She nodded her head, as she crouched in the closet. “That’s why you’re keeping me here. I must be a witness.” She smacked her forehead with the palm of her right hand and lost her balance in the process. She landed on the closet floor and crouched in terror.

Rose sat on the bed after she finished straightening it. The salty tears welled up, stinging her eyes. Despite hundreds of conversations with her mother’s doctors, every fresh taste of insanity felt like a personal blow. She envied her friends who had lost their parents to easy deaths like cancer and heart attacks.

“Why are you keeping me here?” The woman had shifted back into her crouching position. The quick movements did not surprise her daughter. They stared at each other.

“You’re not a prisoner Mama.” Rose hesitated on the word Mama. Sometimes it upset her mother when she realized that she was old enough to have a middle-aged daughter. The woman seemed unruffled this time. Rose pressed on. “Where do you want to go? I’ll take you there myself.”

The woman chewed her bottom lip and rubbed her hands on the carpeted floor. “You’re my daughter then.” She glanced up for a second.

Rose nodded and waited for her mother’s next question. After a few minutes, she looked up again. “You look awful.” Genuine concern showed through the wrinkles of the elderly woman’s face.

Rose gasped and then giggled.  Her merriment seemed out of place against the starkness of the room. She tried to reign in the laughter, which only made her want to burst with it. The air burned in her lungs. Her mother relaxed from her crouch to sit with a bemused expression on her face. For a minute she seemed herself again.

An antique memory washed over Rose. She remembered her mother sitting in a similar position on the living room floor of her childhood home. Her mother’s happiness wafted through the house like a sweet perfume. Wrapping paper had been strewn all over the place. Her dad had smiled behind the 8 mm camcorder and her then teen-aged brother had rolled his eyes. Her mother had always saved the best gifts for last on Christmas morning. She remembered how her hands shook as she unwrapped the present. How many letters had been sent to Santa asking for a talking doll? Underneath the beautiful wrapping paper, she found the doll of her dreams. She ran to her mother squealing with delight.

“You’re right, Mama. I do look awful, and we should go out. Why don’t we fix ourselves up? We can go out to eat. How does that sound?” Rose stood slowly from the bed. The floor creaked as she took a hesitant step towards her mother.

“Sounds like it will take you a lot longer than it will take me.” The gruff voice did not hide the sparkle in her eyes. She reached towards her daughter’s outstretched hand and stood up from the floor. Rose moved to find clothes and underwear for her mother, before excusing herself from the room. She sighed with happiness as she turned on the shower water. Maybe today will be a good day after all.

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The mall parking lot was packed with cars. Rose maneuvered her large Tahoe into a space at least a hundred yards from the entrance. “Sorry Mama. I forgot about Labor Day sales. Looks like there are lots of people here today.”

Her mother didn’t reply. She had a serene look on her face and she was staring at someone in the parking lot. Rose followed her gaze and saw a young girl struggling to open a stroller while keeping a tight grip on her baby.  The girl’s face had flushed to a deep crimson from the heat of the pavement and embarrassment. Rose examined her mother again and felt confidant that the antipsychotic medicine had kicked in. The doctor had been reluctant to prescribe it, because of the increased risk of stroke, but Rose had been persistent with her requests.  She could see the benefits already, only two weeks later. The medicines allowed her to take her mother out in public without fear of embarrassment.

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