Here is Chapter 3 of “The One That Got Away”:
Vermillion haze taking the shape of a female face. Lines of time etched in the features becoming more distinct and solidifying into someone familiar. A smaller shape behind…Anna, glowing as if under a brilliant spotlight. Anna, my angel.
“Look! Anna! See? Your mama’s waking up!”
My gaze turned back to the old woman directly above me. The reddish tinge was fading. It was Gladys, my next door neighbor.
“Wendy? Are you alright? Wendy!”
My focus was returning, but my head throbbed. How odd to have a dream about the same people. Wait. I hadn’t been dreaming. I was on the floor. Beside my bed. I had fainted.
“Uh…” I muttered and instinctively placed my hand upon my head as if to contain the pain.
“Ooh! Mama!” Anna breathed and threw her small frame into my lap and hugged me tightly.
“Anna,” Gladys chided kindly, “Get off your mama. She needs air, darlin’.”
Anna obeyed, but reluctantly. Her eyes were wide with uncertainty and she chewed on a fingernail nervously. Gladys returned her attention to me.
“Wendy, how do you feel? I was just about to call 911. Leigh should be here soon.”
“You called my sister?” I murmured. “How long…have I been out?”
“About fifteen minutes, I think,” Gladys answered. “Anna came to get me right away. Brave little thing. She didn’t even cry. She just told me plainly that you had fallen and that she needed me to come.” She paused. “Has this happened before, Wendy?” The crinkles around her crisp blue eyes deepened as she studied me keenly looking for the truth.
“Um, no.” I replied, gingerly elevating myself to my elbows. The dizziness was gone, but oh, how my head ached! “Can you get me some aspirin? It’s in the….”
“No, Wendy.” Gladys’ posture straightened visibly and her tone became stern. “You need to be checked by a doctor before you start taking just anything. This could be serious….” She stopped herself and glanced at Anna, “or not, but you need a professional opinion. I am sure Leigh would agree.”
Leigh. My younger sister that acted like an older sister. I loved her dearly, but wasn’t partial to following the sensible advice that she was always dishing out. Of course she would insist I see a doctor. And I would demur. Well, I would probably tell her that I would go and then not bother to do it. I’ve been around too many doctors in my life. And then there’s the lack of insurance thing at the moment. The sooner that I convinced Gladys that I was functional, the sooner I could get at the aspirin. And call Leigh off. And get ready for work. I forced myself into a full sitting position. I carefully masked the resulting explosion in my head. I beckoned for Anna, who immediately folded herself within my lap. She clutched me tightly and buried her face in my chest.
“Gladys, thank you so much. I am very grateful.” I smiled as pleasantly as I could manage. “I am alright now.”
Gladys eyed me suspiciously. “You sure about that?” She slowly worked herself into a standing position using the bed for leverage. “Maybe I should still call 911. I was ‘bout to. I told your sister I was going to.”
“No, really, I’m fine.” I insisted. “I must have gotten up too fast. Didn’t I ever tell you that I have a problem with my inner ear?” I lied.
“Hmmph.” Gladys snorted. “Well, I expect to hear what the doctor says ‘bout all this. And you’d better not be working today. Heaven knows what you could do to yourself fainting in the middle of carrying six peoples’ steak dinners on one of them big trays.” She brushed at her striped house dress briskly and leaned over to pat Anna’s back affectionately. “Darlin’ you take care of your mamma. You just let me know anytime you need me or Pop Pop Joe. We’ll be right there.”
Anna smiled sweetly at Gladys and waved three fingers before burying her head back into my chest.
“Alrighty, then. Wendy, you be careful. That little girl depends on you,” Gladys warned.
I smiled at the stocky, elderly woman. “Thanks again, Gladys.”
Gladys cocked her head in acknowledgement and shuffled through the bedroom door. I pressed my lips into Anna’s silky hair as I watched Gladys make her way down the hall. I heard the front door open and then close again.
“Baby, get Mama’s phone. I need to call Aunt Leigh and tell her I’m okay now.”
“Okay, Mama!” Anna jumped up and happily raced to the kitchen to find my phone.
I leaned my back on the night stand. It was a good thing that I didn’t hit my head on that. Or did I? I hastily patted around my head searching for bumps or tender spots. Nothing. Just an overall, violent ache. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, trying to will the pain away. I needed to get it together enough to get over to the bathroom for aspirin. I pondered Roese and Ralf for a moment. Weird that after seventeen years my mind would conjure up the same characters in a different setting.
Anna returned breathlessly with my cell phone. “I called her for you, Mama,” she reported proudly as she placed the phone in my hand. I could hear my sister’s tinny voice through the minute speaker calling Anna’s name.
I sighed inwardly and held the phone to my ear.
“Wendy! Wendy, what happened? Are you alright? Has the ambulance come? I should be there in ten minutes. Wendy, how did this happen?”
“The ambulance is not coming. I think I just got up too fast. I’m okay,” I offered.
“I don’t think so, Wendy,” Leigh returned doubtfully. “I don’t think getting up too fast would put you out that long. You need to go to the doctor. You make an appointment and you know I will keep Anna while you go. Just let me know when it is. Actually, I really think you should reconsider moving in with us. I already talked to Jeff about it and you know the girls would be thrilled…..”
“No,” I interrupted. “I already told you that I’m fine. I will be looking for a smaller place soon.”
“Wendy!” Leigh exclaimed, “What would have happened if Gladys wasn’t your neighbor? Who knows what kind of neighbors you could end up with?” Think of Anna, Wendy.”
“I do,” I retorted coldly. “She’s everything to me.” I must admit that my mind traveled to you at that moment. The staggering heartache flushed in briefly before I tucked it securely back in its’ box. “I have to work in an hour. Can you still keep Anna for me? When you get here you will see that I am fine and then you can take her back with you. I should be getting off around midnight. I’m working a double.”
“Wendy, are you sure you should be working today?”
“Yes, Leigh,” I said firmly. “I need to. You told me that you could watch Anna today.”
Leigh was silent for a moment. “Okay,” she relented, “but you’d better make a doctor’s appointment for tomorrow. I don’t want to get any more of these kind of scary phone calls about you. You need to take better care of yourself. You can start by quitting smoking.”
“Thanks, Leigh. Gotta go. Bye.” I hung up the phone. Aspirin, coffee and cigarettes were calling my name.
“The One That Got Away” (0n amazon) http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_8?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=kellianne+sweeney&sprefix=kelliann%2Cstripbooks%2C153