The Eulogy

By Debra Yergen All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Romance

Chapter 11

Isabelle was at her desk when the call she hoped and even prayed for came in. It was Harriet’s nurse calling to say that doctors were discharging Harriet. She had not made a full recovery but she had come far enough to meet Medicare’s requirements to go home with home health care checking in. Isabelle was hesitant to believe the news at first, and even asked if Harriet should go to an outpatient rehab center to get stronger. But the doctors felt she was ready to go home and the discharge orders were being processed.

What a rollercoaster the last several weeks have been. This is what Isabelle wanted – for Harriet to recover and be able to go home. She just didn’t think it would be so soon – the night of the science fair. She thought about how she could be in two places at once. Like Harriet! She half laughed to herself. Isabelle wanted to feel giddy but without talking to the doctors or seeing Harriet in person it just seemed too good to be true.

Isabelle powered through her projects. It would mean leaving early yet again, and she wasn’t sure just how much flexibility her boss would continue to give her. Salvador had been extremely understanding, as someone who lost his own mom a year before. Isabelle didn’t want to press her luck. She knew every piece of elastic only had so far to extend. But she was in the home stretch now, she concluded; Harriet would be home soon and she could return to her familiar life and schedule. Just another week and everything would be back to normal.

When Isabelle entered Harriet’s hospital room, she was surprised to see her aunt dressed and waiting for her in a wheelchair. “Wow, they’re not going to let any grass grow under you,” Isabelle said.

“It’s been a busy morning,” Harriet said slowly and with intention for each word. Isabelle could sense there would be a long recovery following the stroke, but she was happy Harriet had recovered enough to go home. “Is Zach coming?” Harriet asked.

“Oh no. He’s taking off early to go to Grace’s science fair tonight. I’m so sorry that I can’t be home with you tonight but I can’t miss the science fair,” Isabelle said with sincere regret. “Of course I would have been at home with you on your first night. It just happened suddenly and tonight of all nights.” Isabelle cringed a little inside imaging how this must sound. She didn’t mean her aunt was a burden, but she also couldn’t let her daughter down.

“I want to go,” Harriet said.

“We will. We need to wait for the discharge from the doctor and then I’ll take you home,” Isabelle said.

“To the science fair,” Harriet said slowly.

“You want to go to the science fair?” Isabelle asked. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

“Ask doctor,” Harriet persisted. Isabelle had to chuckle a little. Despite how far Harriet and she had come the last few weeks in their own world together, Harriet was still the stubborn and determined lady she always knew.

“Okay. We’ll see what he says,” Isabelle conceded. There was no point arguing without more information.

As it turned out, the hospitalist cleared Harriet to attend the science fair when he discharged her, and only asked that she use the wheelchair or walker until her balance and strength returned. She would have no problem walking on her own again following physical therapy, which Isabelle was relieved to hear. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about selling the house and moving Harriet to senior living. Isabelle had a habit of getting ahead of herself and thinking six steps beyond whatever was currently going on.

“I’m glad you’re coming home,” Isabelle told Harriet during the car ride. “We’ll get you settled and give you a chance to rest before we head out to the science fair this afternoon,” Isabelle said. The look on Harriet’s face showed her approval.

Talking to the apparition of Harriet had become so easy. Now with her aunt physically sitting in the car beside her, Isabelle was rendered speechless. There should be so much to say, where do I begin? Do I ask her now about her phantom visits? Do I ever mention the eulogy? What do I do with it?

The car ride back to Harriet’s was mostly silent. It took a medical crisis to silence her aunt. Isabelle almost missed the chatty version who cycled through ten topics in twelve minutes. Maybe someday she will be somewhere in the middle.

“Are you tired?” Isabelle asked.

“No. I am happy to see the world through more than a dingy, streaked window.” This sentence took Harriet nearly two minutes to get out because she had long pauses between each word. When Isabelle started to speak to help finish her sentence, Harriet moved her left hand to swat at Isabelle. “I can speak,” she started, again with long pauses between each word. “Don’t speak for me.”

In any other situation, Isabelle would have laughed. This is so Harriet. Still in control. But part of becoming more accepting of others meant that Isabelle also started imagining herself in the mind of the other person. This must be so frustrating for her. At a red light, Isabelle took Harriet’s hand, the hand that had just swatted at her, and turned to face her. “I love you. I’m glad you’re getting better.”

Harriet smiled and started to tear just a little. “Me too.”

Walking into the school gym where the science fair was held was like walking into a party. The PTA has really outdone themselves. It was the perfect celebratory homecoming for Harriet. Isabelle had once considered joining the parent teacher association. It was a group she supported, but work and priorities had not afforded her the time to make such a commitment. Perhaps she would get herself and Harriet more involved in this as Harriet got stronger. Harriet will need something to occupy her time.

Brightly colored streamers and garden lights were strung from one side of the gym to the other. Various parts of the gym were sectioned off, dividing the areas into color blocks devoted to second graders, third graders, fourth graders and fifth graders. Each area was distinguished by a different theme and different colored streamers. Grace was in third grade and her color was red. Red was Isabelle’s favorite color. Each area also had its own judge who patrolled the area to ensure no cheating.

Third grade competitors were divided into pairs and given a time limit. They had one shot to prove themselves. Zach and Amone were already there when Isabelle wheeled in Harriet. When Grace saw Harriet she left her post and ran across the area yelling “Yia Yia, Yia Yia, you’re better!” which put an enormous smile on the older lady’s face.

The judge stepped over to the family and informed Grace that if she didn’t return to her project post she would be disqualified. “I just picked her up from the hospital today. Grace is just happy to see her,” Isabelle told the judge.

The judge wrinkled her nose in the form of a scowl before saying, “We can’t give one child an advantage over any other team. It wouldn’t be fair.”

“Harriet had a stroke. She can barely talk. We won’t violate the rules. I promise,” Isabelle said.

The judge clearly was proud of herself for not relenting, nodding appropriately. “You wouldn’t want another child receiving an unfair advantage, and I have to be fair,” the judge said.

When the science fair judge walked away, Zach leaned into Amone and Isabelle and sarcastically added, “Good thing she doesn’t take herself too seriously.”

“Hey, where is Arnie?” Isabelle asked.

“I don’t know. He was here earlier,” Zach said, glancing around the room for him. Isabelle left Harriet, in a wheelchair, with Zach to wander around looking at the displays.

“I’d offer to buy you a glass of wine but they’re only serving tea, lemonade and water, I’m afraid,” Amone said, walking up behind Isabelle.

“Too bad. I’d take the wine,” Isabelle said laughing, reaching out to accept a clear plastic cup of iced tea and lemonade.

“So,” Amone said, and then paused, “How are things going with Arnie?”

“I don’t know,” Isabelle said.

Amone looked at her and then her face changed. “Oh, you really don’t know. What did he do now?” Amone asked.

“Nothing. I mean, he’s fine,” Isabelle said and then stopped for a few seconds. “He’s a great dad, and a decent man. And if I bit my lip enough and changed enough things about me and my preferences, I could probably make it work. But how long do I want to be someone I’m not to attract someone I don’t enjoy being with anymore, and furthermore, don’t completely trust?”

“Well that’s something only you can know,” Amone said.

“People change. He’s changed. I’ve changed,” Isabelle started. “I thought maybe we changed separately in ways that made sense together; but even though we’re both making more effort than either of us has in a really long time, we’re still very different.”

“He feels this way too?” Amone asked.

“I don’t know what he feels,” Isabelle said. “I’ve spent our entire marriage thinking about what he wants. He likes camping. I go along. He likes car shows. I go along. Whenever he’s home the television is on. Why can’t he just read a book or do something quiet sometimes? Why can’t he sit and talk to me in the kitchen while I make dinner for the family? It’s like I’m his maid. And he doesn’t even say thank you or show appreciation. He critiques everything I prepare like I’m opening a new restaurant and he’s a newspaper critic. ‘Gee Izz, did you forget to salt this?’ Would it hurt him to dice up the onions or peel and core the apples? Would it really hurt him to help me?” Isabelle didn’t realize she had so much built up inside.

Isabelle expected Amone to say something, anything, but she didn’t. “When we were together, I kept thinking that if I just put him first long enough, he’d want to do the same for me. But it never happened. He lives in his Peter Pan world of dreams and hobbies. He’s still the guy who thinks sex will save a relationship – or save whatever it is he thinks we have,” she said.

“Have you talked to him about this?” Amone asked.

“I’ve tried,” Isabelle said, and then paused before continuing. “Either I’m doing what he wants and he’s fun and I don’t want to spoil it. Or I push back and he gets quiet and leaves the room.”

“It sounds like there’s very little scope for mutual satisfaction,” Amone said.

“You have no idea how much I wish I could make it work. I love him. He drives me bat-poop crazy, but he’s a good man, a great father, and I will probably always love him.”

“Sometimes love is not enough. Sometimes compromise is not enough, especially when one person feels like they are doing the lion’s share of giving and stretching,” Amone said. “Have you had this conversation with him?”

“I don’t know that it would do any good. I need someone I can depend on. He’s a great dad to Grace but after the way he tricked me into meeting him for pizza and making me sign for divorce papers – I just don’t know if I can bring my guard down enough to trust him. And did I tell you he’s dating one of my co-workers?” Isabelle asked, not expecting an answer but getting one. “That was such a special surprise.”

“No way. He’s dating someone else? Someone you know?” Amone asked, upset in a way someone might be if they were working secretly to help two people get together only to realize one of those people wasn’t giving them the whole or true story.

“She texted him a picture of me dancing with some random guy at a pub and then added a snide remark about him not needing to worry about me, that I was fine and had moved on, which was complete bullshit,” Isabelle informed. “Oh, and this is after she came to my office and asked if I had a brother named Arnie and told me he kissed her.”

I never used to swear. Arnie has driven me to drink and swear.

“No way.”

It’s not Arnie. I chose this.

“Look, I was blind-sided and devastated by the divorce papers. I was. And I appreciate your ‘unconventional’ tips on seducing him back. They actually made me feel attractive again, even to him, that he wanted more,” Isabelle said sincerely. “But beyond the challenge of getting him back, I have to ask myself if I really want him back in my life romantically. And I haven’t come to a decision.” Isabelle sounded sad because she was sad – for Arnie. She felt betrayed by the one person she never dreamed would betray her. Oddly enough, that didn’t make her angry at him. But it gave her the strength to begin asking herself what she wanted and what she was willing to sacrifice – or not.

“Well, the night is young,” Amone said, just as Arnie came up behind the women.

“The night is young? Are you feisty creatures thinking about sneaking out for a nightcap?” Arnie asked, in jest.

“Hey Arnie. I’m going to find Zach,” Amone said before leaning in to peck Isabelle on the cheek. “Good luck.”

“Good luck?” Arnie asked. “Did I interrupt girl talk?”

“Good luck on Grace winning her division,” Isabelle bluffed. Arnie nodded but had disappointment written on his face. Isabelle could tell he wanted “good luck” to be about him.

“Hey, I have something for you,” Arnie teased, pulling a flask out of his pocket.

“The last time you said that you handed me divorce papers,” Isabelle said in an uncharacteristically passive-aggressive way. Arnie got uncomfortably silent.

“Uh, vodka. I was going to say I had had a little fire water to turn your Arnold Palmer into a John Daly,” Arnie said.

“Well, that I’ll take,” Isabelle smiled and said playfully back. “As long as it doesn’t require a pen,” she added, trying to be funny. He wasn’t laughing and things were going south so she quickly followed up with, “I hope you don’t think this sampler size vodka gets you out of bringing wine to celebrate if Grace wins the blue ribbon tonight.”

Finally, she made him smile. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to celebrate with him later or not, but if there was anything she had learned from Amone, it was to keep her options open.

Like her brother, Arnie could be moody sometimes and there was no easy way to bring him back if he slipped too far in that direction. I guess we’re not all that different. Isabelle half chuckled to herself but didn’t share what she was laughing about with Arnie.

“It’s nice to hear you’re thinking about celebrating,” Arnie said.

“Well, I’d like to think our hours of hard work designing and creating an egg parachute will pay off.” Isabelle winked.

Arnie didn’t know what to make of this familiar-looking woman to whom he was technically still married. Isabelle didn’t play games like this normally. He didn’t recognize this person who was back and forth, one minute inviting and the next shutting him out. If there wasn’t so much at stake he would have enjoyed the chase. But he sensed that for the first time, maybe she wasn’t all in. He sensed that maybe he didn’t have this in the bag after all. He sensed that the smallest misstep could blow the whole thing apart, and he couldn’t risk that. He was, after all, determined to win back her heart.

The master of ceremonies took the stage. “It is now time for the judging to begin,” he announced in a serious and formal tone. Isabelle and Arnie joined Harriet, Zach and Amone. They started with the second graders.

The science fair was lasting longer than Isabelle planned, and she was unsettled about Harriet being out so late and not having dinner or her medications. Fortunately, the school offered a chili cook-off hosted by the PTA. So instead of being served an actual bowl of chili, each person was served a plate filled with eight paper nut cups, each filled with a tablespoon of a different parent’s chili. With her food allergies, this did not seem like a good idea. But to support the PTA, she bought a round for the whole family and handed her portion over to Arnie and Zach.

Isabelle frequently thought about inappropriate things that amused her. Most of these she kept to herself. If only she had shared this silly side of herself with Arnie, they could have appreciated the charm of her weirdness together. He would have loved this. But she never let him into this part of herself.

So after passing out the chili to her family, she walked to the side of the gym so she could amuse herself with her own jokes about a gym filled with gassy guests. Isabelle sang a familiar tune in her head. Bean, beans the magical fruit. The more you eat the more you toot. The more you toot the better you feel. So eat your beans with every meal. Awe, what I don’t do for my daughter.

Noticing her off by herself, Arnie came over to stand beside her. He placed his palm in the small of her back. “What do you say we rip up the papers for now?” he leaned in and whispered.

“What?” she asked.

“Look, things may not work out for us long-term,” he said. “But what if we just rip them up for now or decide to not file them to give us some time to figure out if that’s what we really want?”

Isabelle never imagined Arnie would make this offer, and certainly not tonight. But it was a fair consideration. They had been together more than a decade. Is it necessary to dissolve our marriage so quickly? “What about Tina? Won’t she be upset that you’re not divorcing your wife in 90 days?” Isabelle put him on the spot.

“Izz, we had one drink,” Arnie seemed perplexed. “It was coffee. And we talked about you.”

“You talked about me with a skank who clearly set out to ruin our marriage?”

“She said you were friends,” Arnie said.

“Wait. Time out. You thought she was my friend and you asked her out?”

“No. We were working out on side-by-side cardio machines at the gym. We were just talking and I realized you worked together. She said you were friends. I probably shouldn’t have, but I thought maybe she could help me understand what was going on with you so I asked her if she wanted to grab coffee afterward. To talk about you,” Arnie said. It was clear he wasn’t making this up.

“So you didn’t kiss her? You didn’t sleep with her?” Isabelle asked.

“Kiss her. Like on the cheek? Like you just did with Amone? I didn’t kiss her romantically and I sure the hell didn’t sleep with her,” Arnie answered honestly.

Tina had given Isabelle a very different impression.

“But when I asked you at Abby’s if you were dating someone, you said we were separated. You led me to believe you had moved on. You forced me to sign divorce papers,” Isabelle said.

“I didn’t know what you were talking about, and I didn’t want to get off track. Look, I don’t want to upset you but we had been fighting so much. We were so miserable. I was miserable. I imagined you had to be too. But you’ve been different lately. It’s like you’re trying. And it makes me want to try again too,” Arnie said.

This was not what Isabelle had in mind. She did not expect to be put on the spot this night of all nights about the entire future of their relationship. She bit her lower lip, out of habit, but which also let him know she was considering his proposal. “You devastated me when you served me divorce papers. And you had it all planned out,” she said in such a disappointed tone. “You never plan, but you planned every detail of that.”

“No, actually, it seemed that way but I didn’t plan any of it. Grace really was supposed to be there. I was going to give you the papers,” Arnie said.

Isabelle interrupted, “In front of Grace?”

“No, I was going to send the envelope with you. Just to consider. I don’t know. It was a bad idea. It was the only way to let you know how unhappy I had become. I didn’t think it out, no matter how it looked. Then, Grace went with a friend and I was meeting you, and it just seemed like a good time,” Arnie said.

“A good time?” Isabelle questioned.

“An open window. I don’t have the right words. I’m not a writer. I’m not going to always say things the best way. But I’m worried that if we separate now, we may always wonder if we could have made it if we both would have just tried a tiny bit harder. I know I haven’t given you my best. I’m sorry. But I want to,” Arnie said. He was terrified that she would say it was too late.

In the middle of this crazy cacophony of overhead speakers and music, bright colors and penetrating smells from the chili cook-off, Isabelle and Arnie stood to the side of the room, almost in a bubble, separated from the rampant activity swirling around them. This was the make or break moment, and in their own ways, they were each holding their breath unsure of what the other would say next.

Isabelle wanted to say it was too late, but she didn’t. It seemed clear that their base goals were completely different. It seemed so appropriate that Isabelle should feel deprived of support and resentful of Arnie. She just needed to tell him the truth. I’m sorry, babe. It’s just too late.

Isabelle looked at the colorful basketball lines on the gym floor and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. She was thinking. What if it’s not too late?

“Okay,” Isabelle said. “I’m not going to make any promises other than I will try with you if you will try with me.” A voice inside suggested that while he would always be important to her, they might not grow old together. She pushed that voice aside.

Arnie was so happy he started coughing and breathing funny in an excited way as if he expected her to walk away but all the while prayed determinedly she gave them one more chance. He wanted to pinch himself and her to make sure this was really happening. He couldn’t stop himself from starting to cry, even though that was the last thing he wanted to do. But aside from a flash moment of hesitation over the unexpected tears, he let out a huge sigh of relief and didn’t care who looked over and saw him. He wrapped his arms around Isabelle and pulled her into him. Although she felt more pensive, more reluctant about their future together, she too was happy. She felt like he was fighting hard for her and for them. And while she didn’t want to have to pretend to be someone she wasn’t, she was willing to make a big effort for their daughter and for the marriage she was sure could not be saved, up until this exact moment. She still wasn’t sure, but at least now she was open to it and open to him.

Fifty feet away Amone and Zach were stealing glances, covertly pointing and smiling. Amone winked at Isabelle before she turned and gave Zach a look that indicated I told you so, to which Zach returned a surrendering nod. He had to hand it to Amone for her impressive grasp of relationship complexities. There wasn’t a day that passed that she didn’t take his breath away in one way or another.

Arnie and Isabelle looked up just in time to wave to Grace and let her know they were watching her competition. They quickly returned to their seats with the others where they could have a better view of Grace. She was such a little performer. Ten teams started round one and seven were eliminated due to egg breakage. In round two, another competitor fell short.

In the final round, Grace’s partner slipped and her foot crossed a line after the experiment was set up, which gave an automatic win to the other team. It seemed unfair. Arnie and Isabelle both knew their daughter deserved first. Zach yelled out, “Do over,” but the judge remained firm. Grace and her partner were awarded red ribbons for second place.

“She ought to take that egg and throw it at the judge,” Zach said.

“What a great idea,” Isabelle told her brother, joking. Silly boys.

“No, don’t do that,” Harriet said. Isabelle wondered how they would get used to Harriet’s cognitive changes following the stroke. She was still Harriet, but some of her was missing. Would she ever be able to joke around again? Isabelle would give anything for Harriet to take on the personality of her younger self that Isabelle had become so close the last month. She smiled at her. It was enough for Isabelle to know that her Harriet was inside her aunt somewhere.

Grace ran to her parents. “I only got a red one,” she said with a sad tone in her voice.

“Red is my favorite color. May I keep your ribbon?” Isabelle asked her daughter.

“I don’t really want it. It wasn’t fair,” Grace said.

“Sometimes life is completely unfair, kiddo,” Isabelle said, drawing her daughter in close. “What do you say we get out of here?”

Zach and Amone offered to take Harriet home and make sure she had her medication and was put to bed comfortably. Grace rode with Isabelle, and Arnie followed them to their house in his car.

At home, Isabelle made Grace’s favorite chicken lettuce wraps. She modified a recipe she found online that was supposedly from a well-known chain restaurant. Arnie stopped himself from repeating the cliché, “Get someone hungry enough and anything will taste good.”

In that moment, he realized how many jokes he made at Isabelle’s expense. He thought they were funny at the time, but each little dig wormed under Isabelle’s skin and fostered a wall between them. It hit him that for years these innocent jokes, that he never intended to hurt her feelings, had in fact made her angry. And she retaliated in ways that drove him away.

Their insults – veiled in humor – had damaged their relationship from both sides. Arnie saw that funny lines in a television sitcom weren’t that funny in real life when used against someone he loved. And so, instead of cracking a joke, he simply said, “Smells great,” as he reached for the cork screw and opened a bottle of late harvest Riesling.

Grace talked nonstop through dinner. She was animated again, like the child they once knew. She may have been given a second place ribbon at school, but what she wanted more than anything was sitting before her right here at home.

At quarter to ten, Isabelle practically gasped when she looked at the clock. “Is it really that late? We’re gonna have a tired little girl tomorrow, Arnie.”

“I don’t want to go to bed, mom. I want to stay up all night,” Grace said.

“Hmmm. What do you think your teacher will say when you fall asleep during spelling tomorrow?” Isabelle asked.

“I can sleep at recess?” the little girl negotiated.

“I think your mom knows best on this one, Babe,” Arnie backed Isabelle up to Grace. Despite much pleading and begging from Grace, the negotiations finally came to an end and she succumbed to going to bed. Before climbing into the covers, she wrapped her willowy arms around her dad and squeezed him. She held on longer than usual. It was clear she wanted her family back together. She asked for this in as many ways as a child her age could.

“It’s only for the night, Honey,” Arnie said.

I’m glad we’re giving this one more shot. Arnie and Isabelle tucked her in together before both saying goodnight at her bedroom door.

Arnie and Isabelle didn’t get down the hall and back to the kitchen before Arnie grabbed her, took her in his arms and kissed her like she longed to be kissed. For all her hesitations over the past twenty-four hours, it felt right to be here with him now.

She expected him to lead her to the bedroom but he didn’t. He just kissed her, ran his hands up her toned torso, and showered her with love. He stopped kissing her periodically to gaze longingly and lovingly into her eyes. He told her over and over, “I love you, Izz. This can work. We can be happy again.” The more he repeated it, the more possible it seemed.

Even at the school, while she was open to reuniting, she never expected to have such deep feelings rekindled. If she had thought about it, she probably would have pulled away to talk things out or outline a plan on a napkin. But for once, she didn’t over-think it. She went with the moment and asked Arnie to make love to her. “I thought you’d never ask.” He laughed.

They made love in a way they hadn’t for years. They made love the way they once did back when they were young and carefree in San Francisco. And when they were finished, he held her and kissed the side of her face and her hair. She buried her nose in his chest, inhaling the scent of him. She could almost feel them breathe as one.

“Do you want to spend the night?” she asked him playfully, almost exactly the way she once did when they were dating, before they shared a cramped apartment overlooking Portsmouth Square.

“I do, but I need to run home and get some clothes. I have an early meeting and need to scoot out of here by six o’clock. If I leave to get some things, can I come back tonight?” he asked, almost like a lovesick teenager.

She didn’t correct his grammar. “Sure,” she simply said.

“Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be back,” he said, mimicking Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator. Arnie jumped out of bed and threw on his clothes. He looked back only to flash her a very large smile, which caused her to smile in return.

Twenty-five minutes later, Isabelle was wondering what was keeping him when her cell phone rang. It was him. “Where are you, Silly?” she asked before he could get a word in first.

It wasn’t Arnie. It was his phone. A paramedic was on the other line. She almost dropped the phone.

Everything went into slow motion. It was as if the person on the other end of the phone was talking to her from one end of a very long tunnel and she was on the other end. “Is this Mrs. Salton?” the voice asked.

“Yes, who are you?” she demanded to know who had Arnie’s phone.

“There’s been an accident. I’m Vince, a paramedic with AMR ambulance service, and your husband is in route to Providence Portland Medical Center. You need to come quickly,” the voice said.

“How’d you get his phone?” she asked.

“It was on him. You need to come soon, ma’am. I’m very sorry,” he said and hung up.

“Hello. Hello. Are you there? What the hell. Did you hang up on me?” Isabelle was spinning in too many directions. She called Zach.

When he answered, she just talked. She didn’t let him get a word in. “Zach, I need you to come watch Grace now. Arnie’s been in an accident. I need you to come now,” Isabelle was screaming.

“Go. Go to the hospital. Leave your phone on. Turn your ringer on right now. I’m on my way,” Zach directed her.

“Okay,” Isabelle hung up without telling Zach which hospital. Knowing his sister so well, Zach anticipated this and that was why he specifically told her to leave her phone on. He would call her when she had a chance to get to the hospital, see Arnie and know he was okay. Before Zach could say a word, Amone was out of bed also, coat on and purse in hand ready to go with him to care for Grace.

If only he had clothes at her house. If only he didn’t have an early meeting. If only he had gone home before they made love, so he was back and missed the accident altogether. If only they hadn’t made love that night. So many if only scenarios ran through Isabelle’s head as she raced downtown. “I don’t pray often, and I don’t know if you can hear me, God. But if you can, please let Arnie be okay,” she prayed as she sped to the hospital.

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