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Chapter 17

“Why aren’t they answering the phones?”

When her home phone and Sophia’s went answered, Barbara’s maternal instincts went into panic mode. She immediately suspected something amiss at home.

Should I call the police? If they go to the apartment and find everything as it should be it would be embarrassing.

She might be bored, JM thought, as he watched his wife weave her way among the tables and exit the almost full auditorium. That is the second time she has walked out. I hope she is feeling okay.

Barbara stood in the hotel foyer and rang home on her cell phone. No answer, again, from either her home phone or Sophia’s.

It has not stopped snowing since we have arrived . . . if it is the same at home then the lines could be down. Should I tell JM? She decided to ring Sahra’s home phone. With no answer, her frustration increased.

“I’ll ring her cell phone,” she mumbled, as she frantically pressed buttons on her phone.

As with home phone, there was no answer from her cell.

“I’ll have to ring the police!” she said, aloud. Her frustration was evident. Not sure if her voice had attracted attention, she glanced in different directions.

Suddenly, Lucy came to mind. I should have thought of her before. Her fumbling fingers were of no help.

She was inadvertently pressing incorrect phone numbers. Lucy’s number rang.

“Hi, Lucy, it’s Barbara. I have been trying to ring Katherine and Sophia. They are not answering. I thought the lines may have been down, but your phone is working, so that’s not the problem. I have a terrible feeling something is not right at home. I apologise for asking, but could you or Eugene go to my apartment and see if they’re alright?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t. Eugene’s on base and I have the children. I couldn’t take them out in this weather. It’s snowing heavily. Have you rung the police?”

“No. I’m trying all avenues before I do.”

“I wouldn’t hesitate if I were you. What does JM say?”

“I haven’t told him.”

“Take my advice and tell him. He needs to know.”

“I’ve been holding off, but I will. Thanks. I’ll see you on Monday.” She decided to ring Harrison Avenue police in Boston. Procrastinating had left her guilt ridden.

“I’ll dispatch a patrol car, and ring when we have more information. Can I have your cell number?” the officer said, having listened to her concerns.

Barbara gave her details, address, including the hotel phone number.

“Are you related to Doctor Harris? The address you’ve given sounds familiar.”

“I’m his wife.”

“Leave it to me. I’ll ring as soon as I have any information.”

She might be nervous because I am giving a speech. As a sign of assurance, JM reached out and placed his hand on hers.

“Are you alright?” he asked, in a near whisper.

I am going to be sick. Afraid to open her mouth she responded by nodding an affirmation. To counter her feeling she forcefully gripped the tops of her thighs, to try to transfer her thoughts to something other than the sensation of sickness.

Unfortunately, it was to no avail. She sprang from her chair and scurried to the women’s restroom, all the while with a hand-covered mouth. Barbara used all her willpower to prevent the fluid from bursting free, but the vacant cubicle and dropping to the floor was the signal for the vomit to explode into the bowl. The sound of the cubicle’s door hitting the dividing wall echoed loudly throughout the restroom, just as the putrid acidic fluid poured from her mouth. As her stomach’s fluid hit the toilet water some splashed back to speckle her face and, with crying being an addition to her dilemma, having vomit residue on her face only added to her stress.

While her head was in the bowl, she had the nous to hold her blonde hair away from her face, but she was fully aware of the need to compose herself. That meant bringing the vomiting and crying under control.

Another female guest had entered, and observed Barbara kneeling in the open cubicle, while retching. Wanting to assist the obviously sick Barbara, she decided to wait for the vomiting to cease. Only when she thought Barbara was in control, did she sympathetically say, “I’ll help you to wash your face and hands.”

With an extended hand, she aided Barbara to her feet. “Are you pregnant? I was like that before my son was born. Are you staying in this hotel?”

“I’m not pregnant. I’m staying here,” Barbara said quietly, but embarrassingly as she stood at the washbasin.

“I’ll help you to your room and I’ll call a doctor. Is there anyone I can have paged?”

“My husband’s here, but I can’t disturb him. I would rather he did not see me in this state. I will be okay. Thanks for your help. I’m fine now. I’ll go to my room and change.”

Once inside her room she rewashed her face, changed her dress and applied new make-up, then returned to the auditorium, just as the toastmaster was reading a list of JM’s credentials.

Her drawn look distracted JM from hearing his name called by the toastmaster. “Come on JM, don’t be shy. I know it’s hard to leave your beautiful wife, but we need to borrow you for a moment.”

The audience, appreciating the humor and impromptu remark, laughed.

Although reluctant to leave his wife, JM proceeded to the podium. He commenced his speech by telling humorous and embarrassing anecdotes that he, as a dentist, had suffered when looking into a patient’s mouth. To acknowledge being in similar situations the audience burst into loud laughter and applause. From there he went on to describe what he thought would be the next innovation in dentistry.

Intermittently, he would cast his eyes in his wife’s direction, to check her demeanor. Why is her face so pale? Why is she slumped? That is definitely not something she does.

After receiving a standing ovation, he returned to his table, but immediate thought of his wife. Something is definitely troubling her. As he stood, he said, “Come on. We’re going to our room.”

“No. You need to talk to some of the guests. I’m sure they will want to congratulate you.”

“You don’t look well.”

“I’m fine.”

She had considered ringing the Boston police again, but the timing was inappropriate.

“Darling, please, tell me what’s troubling you? Are you feeling okay?” JM asked, as they entered their room.

“I’m alright. I just need to lie down and rest, then I’ll be fine.”

“What if I call a doctor?”

“No. Just let me rest. Hopefully, everything will be okay.” I have to tell him, but I can’t. This is his night.

As they were about to descend in the lift for the official dinner, she said, “I’ve left my handbag in the room. You go down and I’ll catch up.”

“I’ll hold the lift until you get your bag.”

“It’s okay, you go down. I won’t be long.” She didn’t wait for a reply.

The news from the police was not what she wanted to hear.

“Two officers went to your building, but couldn’t get anyone to answer the front door. They’re going back later. Does anyone else have a key?” the desk sergeant asked.

“Yes, a friend of mine. But she can’t leave her apartment because she has children to care for.”

“Do you have a name and address, or a phone number? We’ll arrange to pick up the key.”

Barbara proceeded to give him Sahra’s details.

A three-piece ensemble played soft background music to entertain the guests in the auditorium, converted to an extremely large dining room. A loud chatter came from their table, with topics centring on the usual; the cold, snowy weather, travels, warm weather, white sandy beaches in the Caribbean, if one wanted to escape the cold, and naturally, dentistry.

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