The Secret Thief

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Chapter 29

Violet

Margaret can speak French. A stream of it came out while she was waking up. I had no idea. I mean she was pretty quick decoding the labels on hair care products, but full on French?

Hearing her babble worried me. It sounded like gibberish. At first I thought she’d suffered brain damage. Marco, on the other hand, thought it was hilarious.

“It’s French.” He laughed.

“Margaret doesn’t know French.”

“Apparently she does.”

“Wait, how do you know it’s French?” I asked and he smiled. “You know French. Seriously? Since when?”

“High school,” he said flatly. “The same place everyone learns a foreign language.” I rolled my eyes.

“Most people don’t even learn English in high school.” Marco was going to reply but Margaret started speaking in tongues again.

“Why wouldn’t she tell me she could speak French?” I said, hurt.

“Maybe it ever came up.”

Margaret was on a roll. I looked at Marco and gestured towards my mother.

“Well it’s coming up now.” I watched her smooth ramble in awe. “At least this isn’t as weird and the stuff she way saying an hour ago.”

“That wasn’t so weird.” Marco said. “It was probably just another language.”

“One you don’t speak, I take it.”

“One I don’t speak.” Margaret shouted something I didn’t understand. Marco grinned. “She obviously has a knack for foreign words.”

“Seriously? In what language could ‘Avax’ possibly be a word?” I asked. “Or ‘Sat Co’? They sound like code words.” Marco shrugged.

“Didn’t her doctor recommend you not get too involved in what she said while she was waking up?”

“Yes, but I assumed some of what she said would be stuff I recognized. I mean who the hell is Carlos? She’s mentioned him more times than she’s mentioned me. I tell you what, doped up Margaret sounds more like a secret agent than my mother.” Marco laughed hard at that. “What’s so funny?”

“You!” He hooted. I scowled.

“Who’s side are you on?”

“All that worry isn’t helping Margaret,” Marco changed his tune, gazing at me with a face full of caring and sympathy. “It’s only hurting you.” He slipped in behind me and pulled me close. With his head resting on my shoulder he whispered in my ear, “So your mother has an active dream world. There are worse things.”

“You really believe it’s all fantasy?”

“I do. Don’t let your own imagination make it into something else.”

“Hmmm.”

“When she wakes up completely you’ll see she’s still the same old woman who washes your socks.” He said. “Trust me. Everything will be normal in the morning.”

Things weren’t exactly normal in the morning, but they were getting there. Marco and I stayed at the hospital taking turns being awake in case Margaret needed anything. Mostly she just slept though. By dawn I was exhausted but Margaret was back. She was done talking like a crazy person too and she was ready to get out of there.

“What are you doing?” I woke up to Margaret sitting up and dangling her legs over the edge of the bed. It was Marco’s turn to watch her but he wasn’t in the room. Meanwhile Margaret was tapping out SOS on the call button. I pulled it out of her hand. “Stop that.”

“Help me get dressed.” She said. “For the love of Pete, it’s dawn. We have to get home.”

“Why?” She shot me a glance that suggested I was crazy. “What?” Margaret shook her head as though it would rattle out the last of the drugs that had flooded her system.

“The kitchen,” she held a hand to her forehead. “Dishes…”

“Margaret…”

“Good morning ladies!” Marco was at the door. Incredibly he was wide awake. He rolled a wheelchair into the room and parked it in front of the bed. “Your chariot awaits.”

When Margaret saw the chair her lip curled up in a snarl. She gave Marco the look of death.

“You have got to be kidding me.” She said. “I’m not using that.”

“It’s hospital policy.”

“I don’t care if it’s federal law. I said I’m not using it.”

This went on for ten minutes.

The road to family harmony was going to be a rough one.

Margaret was weak but she was stubborn to a greater degree. The hospital wanted us to take a wheelchair home. Margaret would have none of it. She let us roll her out the door in it but that was it. She leaned on Marco and I all the way to the car. There were a couple moment when I suspected we were carrying her. Still it didn’t matter. My mother was OK and we were going home.

“You’re tired.” Marco told me after I had put Margaret to bed. “Why don’t you take a nap?” I don’t know how he did it but Marco looked like he could run a marathon. I was a ghost on two feet. I was going to fall into a coma the second I sat down.

“Yeah. Think I’ll do that.” I said. “What about you?”

“Can I stay?” He asked, very nearly begging.

“While we sleep?”

“I want to be here for you, for both of you. Just in case? At least until Margaret is up again.”

I smiled, thinking how lucky I was to have a guy so bent on taking care of me. I couldn’t see us needing him, but the look on his face told me saying no would break his heart.

It was the steamy aroma of fresh brewed coffee that woke me up. Without it, I don’t know that I would have ever gotten out of bed. Once the tantalizing bouquet had lured me awake, however, I remembered Marco, downstairs, alone and probably ready to go home and go to sleep. Not wanting to disturb Margaret, I slipped quietly out of my room and down the hall.

“What are you doing up?”

Marco startled me. Partly because I was only half way down the stairs and he shouldn’t have seen me but also because of the tone of his voice.

“You’re supposed to be resting.” Marco sounded irritated.

“Pish.”

Before I could comment, Margaret did. So it wasn’t me Marco was sending back to her room.

“I’m perfectly fine.” She told him

“I’ll be the judge of that.” He told her back.

I cringed. That was a poor way to reply. Nobody was in charge of Margaret. I stayed in place to spy a little. Dinner had been completely ruined before my mother and my boyfriend had a chance to figure each other out. Then came the infamous wheelchair episode, an event I doubted Margaret would ever get over. How would they handle each other now?

“Staying in bed isn’t going to do me any more good.” Margaret replied. “You know that.” It warmed me inside to hear her sounding like her old self even though I couldn’t understand why she would think Marco knew anything about recovering from a tranquilizer dart attack. Maybe the doctor had spoken to him while I slept. “Besides, I want to be back on duty.”

“Careful,” Marco cautioned her in a low voice. He sounded uncomfortable. Had Margaret stumbled? Did he think she was still under the influence of the tranquilizer?

“Relax.” Margaret instructed. “She’s asleep.”

My ears perked up. The only person who could be still asleep in our house was me. Why did thinking that put my mother at ease?

“Don’t…” Marco wasn’t sounding any more comfy. Maybe I should go rescue him.

“Marco, I’m starving and my back is killing me.” Margaret was annoyed. “Carlos will understand.”

Carlos? The imaginary guy from her evening as a druggie?

“You aren’t acting like yourself.” Marco warned and I couldn’t agree more. Margaret on the other hand was adamant.

“What are you talking about?” She said. “I’ve been doing this for a lot longer…”

“There is no Carlos.” Marco cut her off.

“Wha…?” There was silence for a moment then Margaret began again. “Yes. You are right.”

Oh my poor mother, all messed up in the head. It must be awful for her. I was a second away from running in to tell her everything would be OK when I heard Marco.

“You remember now. Don’t you?”

Remember what? She was hallucinating.

“Yes.” Margaret answered and my jaw dropped. What was she agreeing with? “You are right. I should rest.”

If my jaw could drop further, it would have. Margaret was letting Marco tell her what to do? Then, in a hushed tone my mother asked, “Simon?”

I stiffened. The doctor was wrong, there was permanent damage. How far gone was she?

“Don’t worry,” Marco told her. “Simon doesn’t need to know.”

What?

Feet shuffled across the floor towards me. I ran to the top of the stairs but Marco and Margaret made it out of the kitchen before I was out of sight. I spun around and pretended that I was coming down for the first time. Margaret was white as a sheet.

“What’s going on?” I rushed down and took her by the arm. She looked terrified. To Marco I demanded, “What did you do to her?”

“Nothing, she’s alright.” He assured me. “She just got out of bed before the rest of the tranquilizer got out of her.” I glared at him and he held up his hands “Honest Violet.”

“I’m fine sweetheart.” Margaret concurred but in her eyes was sadness. She looked so small. “I need more rest. Marco’s been very helpful.” I looked back at Marco. He smiled.

“Well I’m here now.” I told her, guiding her up the stairs. On the landing she gave me a little nudge..

“That’s enough.” She said. “I’m not an old lady. I can make it the rest of the way.”

I let her go and watched her walk to her room alone. Marco had climbed the stair silently behind me. When Margaret’s door closed he took my hand.

“Everything is alright. The doctor said this might happen.” He said. I stared at him wondering if I should say how much I’d heard.

“She relapsed?”

“A little.”

“What did you say to her?” I asked, knowing the words came out accusatory. Marco studied my face for a long while. Then he shrugged.

“I rolled with it.” He said. “Was agreeable, pretended she wasn’t crazy. I didn’t want to upset her.”

“Oh.”

“You should eat.” He tugged on my arm. “How about I order pizza?”

I shrugged, not thinking about pizza so much as wondering whether or not to believe him.

“Can I be honest with you?” He said wrapping an arm around my waist. I nodded. “I’m sorry about Margaret but I am so relieved it ended there. I don’t know what I would’ve done if it had been you lying on the floor.”

“Well it wasn’t.” I said. Marco cupped my cheek in one hand and tilted my head back until we locked eyes.

“And for that I will be forever thankful.” He said.

Marco’s mesmerizing eyes burrowed into me. This time though, instead of driving me into a flurry of warm emotion, they scared me.

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