See below for links to catch up and thank you for all who’ve stuck it out this far. I know it’s been a long strange trip but I hope you like the ending 🙂
The night shift nurse went in at 9 to check on Elouise. Tired and harried, she glanced at the chart at the end of the bed, wrote a few things down and looked up. She was horrified to see that the monitor was turned off. The bed had several lumps in it that looked like a body and she shifted and moved cautiously around the bed and lifted the blanket. Pillows remained where Elouise had been. She ran out of the room and down the hallway. Damn it, what the hell is going on and where is the patient in 111 she yelled at the two young girls behind the desk. The girls dropped their cell phones and looked at each other confused.
She was in there and hour ago when we checked on her, vitals were stable, improving a bit actually, we marked it in the chart. The night nurse glanced down at the paperwork and glared at the two. This was marked over two hours ago. Did you see her leave? The two just shook their heads and said no quietly. The nurse stalked off to the center station in the hospital, yelling back to make sure no one else left without checking out.
Gert took Elouise to her home and helped her into the house. Her color was already looking better and Gert was glad she still had ample strength from her dose of the ring over the last day. She tucked Elouise into her bed and went to the kitchen, poured her some water and grabbed her a small bowl of applesauce. Elouise just lay there staring at Gert but at least she no longer looked scared. Gert set the food on the bedside table and handed Elouise the water. Here, drink this. You need to make sure you stay hydrated. Can you speak? What happened to you yesterday that you were all set to tell me. I’m on the edge of my seat after all. You never do anything out of the blue and you sounded a bit happy I might add. Not that you’re not always happy but I could tell something had changed. You were almost peaceful, yes, the word peaceful fits.
Elouise cleared her throat and closed her eyes. She spoke quietly and very slowly. She told the story of her time with Albee and that she may have misjudged him, that she wanted to give them a chance to be friends. She opened her eyes and waited for Gert response. Gert’s eyes lit up and a smile filled her face. Oh El, I’m so happy for you. You know I have no use for a man but you, you were meant to be loved and doted on. After Ed died, you kind of closed up from the person you had been. He was a huge part of your life and I could see something died with you when he passed. But take your time, that’s all I ask. Albee’s not a bad guy but he needs a woman’s touch that’s for sure, and a maid for his laundry too. I’m happy for you, I truly am. Elouise blushed and smiled at Gert.
I was worried you’d think he’d take over. You and me been friends for forever and I didn’t know how you’d feel if I had someone new in my life. I’m happy that you’re happy for me. I’m happy for me too. I just hope I hang around this earth long enough to forge a friendship with him, perhaps more but that will come in time of course. Been so long and he is so very kind. Takes care of a lady real good, and good taste in pastries too.
Gert looked at her and touched her hand, feeling a slight charge from the ring but not in a bad way. You close your eyes and get some sleep. Let that ring work its magic too and we will talk tomorrow on how we want to proceed with it. Elouise nodded and smiled. Okay Gert. Deal. Tomorrow we’ll decide.
Gert slept out on the couch, hyper aware and listening for any issues with Elouise. Gonna be a long night she muttered as she fluffed up her pillow, pulled her sheet over herself and lay in the dark pondering tomorrow.
Gert finally fell asleep and awoke as the sun was just starting to rise. Elouise was sitting in the rocking chair across the room watching her. Good morning Gert, didn’t want to wake you up, you looked so peaceful sleeping there. Thank you, for letting me wear the ring. I woke very early this morning and when I looked into your mirror I couldn’t believe what I saw. I’m tickled pink but I know I’m not at peace with this whole thing with the ring.
Gert stared at Elouise. Her hair was a beautiful thick brunette color, not like the grey of yesterday. It fell softly in waves around her face. She never saw Elouise wear her hair down anymore and it was exciting yet still shocking to see. Her face was smoother too and she could pass for a forty-year old. Elouise smiled at her realizing that she was waking up and noticing the changes. Don’t worry Gert, you haven’t aged a day since yesterday. Still holding firm and beautiful.
Well that’s good news at least. How do you feel though? With the heart attack, I’m hoping it healed up the insides real nice too. Elouise stood up and walked towards the kitchen. Well, I’m not a doctor but I am breathing like a young thing again and feel like I could do a jog around the block if that’s any help. Gert laughed out loud. Well then, would you look at the two of us. Two young broads again and in the prime. Woo hoo. We gotta go out today and celebrate, buy us some clothes that fit the part. If I haven’t aged back, maybe I won’t.
Elouise walked back with some juice and handed Gert a glass. Maybe, time will tell though. Now, about the ring. I think it’s real nice that it helped but you heard Ruby. It’s not good magic and I don’t want to see anything bad happen. I’ve lived all these years in my body and I’ve gotten to like myself. I don’t want to live forever, I just want to be me, albeit a healthy me. I think I want to take my chances and go without it and I would like you too also. Gert looked sad but nodded.
I know, I thought long and hard about it and we’ve made it this far together, no chance tempting fate. If I stayed young and you aged and croaked without me, well, that’s no life for me without you. If we both stay young now and start aging again, I’m fine with that too. It’s gonna hurt to let it go but I do think it’s for the best. Now how do we go about getting rid of it. I don’t want to give it to a thrift store and let someone else go through this. You got any ideas?
Elouise thought for a moment and smiled. Albee’s got a boat, maybe he can take it out and get rid of it in the gulf. I’m sure he’d do it. He knows all about the changes and what Ruby said. He thinks its bad too. She reached over and grabbed the phone. Albee answered on the third ring and Elouise asked if he would do it. She talked to him for a few minutes and then hung up. He said he’d do it as soon as we get him the ring. We got only a half hour thought cause his friend is waiting on him as it is. He was going out fishing today anyway so he’ll just go out some miles and drop it on the way. Gert nodded.
Lemme get dressed and I’ll drive you over there. I got your car anyway so you’re gonna have to bring me back.
The ladies pulled into Albee’s driveway and he came out the front and walked to the car. Good morning El, he said blushing and smiling. Gert, nice to see you too he added. Elouise pulled the ring off of her finger, dropped it in a plastic bag and handed it to him. Good morning Albee, you know what to do with this. Make sure you take it as far out as you can. I hope it never sees the light of day again. Albee nodded, will do Miss El, anything for you. You ladies have a nice day, gotta get motoring cause I gotta go pick up Bubba and get to the marina ‘fore its too late. He turned and walked away, turning once to make eye contact with Elouise, smiling and waving once, then jumped into his pickup truck. Gert and Elouise backed the car out of the driveway.
Lets go to get something to eat, I’m famished Gert said with a sigh. Gonna miss that ring but its the right thing to do, time to move on and forget all about it. Let’s go over to the Bob Evans, I feel some buttery biscuits coming on and I know they make ‘em fresh. Maybe some sausage gravy too to go with, mmmm, now I’m hearing my tummy rumble. You good with that? Elouise smiled at her friend and nodded yes, gazing out the window at Albee as he drove off in the opposite direction.
After breakfast they went to Elouise’s house so that she could change into something clean. Do you want to go to the UTC Mall she asked Gert. They’ve got some nice clothes there. Or would you rather do to downtown Venice. Perhaps the Scarlet Macaw. They got really nice stuff there. Gert thought for a moment and decided on downtown. The clothes in the mall are for those young folks, the ones with the blue and pink colored hair, wild crazy stuff. I’d rather keep my money local if’n you don’t mind. I haven’t been in there in ages, be good to see how much the styles have changed since I shopped in a real store. If we shop long enough, we can do lunch too. We’ll celebrate. It’s a beautiful day, we’re beautiful ladies and we got the world on a string.
Elouise pulled into the parking lot and met Gert at the front of the car. You and me Gert, I’m feeling good, looking good and it’s gonna be an amazing and magical day I believe. She locked arms with Gert and they moved off towards the stores at a nice jaunty clip, no longer looking like elderly women but two young friends enjoying their time together.
Gert and Elouise emerged from the Scarlet Macaw two and a half hours later laughing like children. Several shopping bags hung at their sides and they headed down the street. Let’s go get a daiquiri at the deck. I feel like celebrating. I’ll make sure they go easy on the booze cause we got to get home in one piece. One won’t hurt though. They put their purchases in the car and crossed the street to the deck. A waitress seated them outside where they could watch the shoppers walking by. Several television sets hung on the walls playing various sporting events. It was a loud and lively place and there was a group of men sitting stoically at a tall table across from them in front of a tv playing a Buffalo Bills football game.
Elouise realized one of the guys was Albee’s boss and he looked up at her as he brought his beer to his lips. He set his beer down and said something to the guy beside him. He stood up and walked over to where she sat.
I’m sorry for buttin’ in ladies but you look familiar he said to Elouise, do I know you from somewhere? Elouise realized that she looked a bit different from the last time she saw him. You work with Albee at the garage, right? I just had my hair colored, that’s why I look a bit different, and when you saw me I was in a bit of a state. I’m Elouise, Albee’s friend. He held out his hand to her. I’m Brian Anderson, his boss. Albee told me so much about you over the last couple weeks. Elouise smiled, beaming like a light and held out her hand to him as she stood up. Yes, he’s a fine man and I’m sure you may be seeing more of me here and there in the future. The man visibly blanched and released her hand.
Um, I’m sorry Elouise, I don’t know if you heard or not. Maybe I shouldn’t be the one to say anything. Oh my. Elouise looked at him in confusion and he looked back to his friends. He began to tear up and took her hand. Elouise, I’m sorry I have to be the one to tell you but there was an accident this morning. Albee and Bubba went out on his boat to get some fishing in, snooks’ running and he was like a boy, he loves his snook. I don’t know what all happened and they’re still investigating it but two hours ago the coast guard was called out. Ten miles off shore a boat blew up, Albee had called in a distress signal right before that and I can’t confirm that it’s him but they’re out there searching now for survivors. They found pieces of the boat floating in the vicinity of where he was when he called in. He ain’t got much family round here anymore so I’m his contact in emergencies, My buddy Phil who’s with the Guard knows that and called me soon as they found the wreckage. I tried Albee’s cell but no answer.I tried to get him on the radio but nothing. Radio silence. I’m so very sorry Elouise, he was real fond of you. I’m not holding out hope that he made it though, not my way I guess. Lost too many buddies out at sea over the years and I like to be hopeful but for some reason I’ve got a nagging in my gut that I ain’t gonna see my friend no more. I’m sorry, truly am Elouise. You let me know if I can do anything. I can call you if I hear anything more if you’d like. Elouise just nodded and pulled a pen and paper out of her purse, wrote her number on it and handed it to Brian. He tucked it up and put it in his wallet. Nice to meet you, just sorry I had to be the bearer of this kind of news. I’ll let you know when I hear more. He turned and walked past his friends and slipped into the mens room.
Elouise turned to look at Gert and felt her friends arms come around her in a tight embrace. Tears fell from their eyes and they held each other tight. It’s gonna be okay Elouise, I don’t know how but it will, I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. Come, let’s go home.
Neither Albee nor Bubba were ever found.
A funeral was held at the Methodist Church in town a few days later and hundreds came to pay their respects. Elouise was ushered to the front pew of the church by Brian when he saw her come in. Gert sat beside her as the service played out. Afterwards she stood in line as people moved by her shaking her hand. She was treated as if she were someone very special and Brian introduced her as Albee’s very special friend. She was amazed at how many people he knew and was humbled at all of the love and kindness she was shown by strangers who had loved and known him. Tales of his expertise at car repairs, fishing, and the volunteer work that he had done filled the air in the foyer after the service. Laughter and tears were shared by all and she felt as if he were somehow there beside her in spirit, helping her through it all. A warmth surrounded her and she knew she’d be okay. You’re still taking care of me aren’t you my friend she whispered silently to the air and smiled as a tear slid down her face.
Epilogue-3 years later-Venice Beach
Jamie Francis was born with Downs Syndrome. She was 8 years old today. Her blonde curly hair blew in the sea breeze and she watched her Daddy as he walked back and forth on the beach beside her with the long metal pole. He moved it back and forth, stopping periodically and digging in the sand with his fingers. He stood up and started walking back the few feet to where she sat on her blanket. She held her shovel in her hand, scooping up sand and flinging it into the air. Her almond-shaped eyes stared at him and she smiled. A light line of drool ran down her mouth and she threw another shovel full of sand up. She giggled and held her hands up to him. I play, I play she said in her childlike voice as she reached for the metal detector in his hands. He squatted down beside her and wiped off the wet line of spittle that was falling. No baby girl, no play but you can help Daddy, here, hold on to me and we’ll go find some buried treasure. She stood up and he helped her balance herself, her hand on the metal shaft. Here honey, hold onto Daddy’s leg, okay? he said as the beeper started its shrill noise. He set the detector on the ground lightly. Let’s find the treasure okay? They sat in the sand beside each other, their hands pulling sand slowly away from the area until a shining piece of metal could be seen. Pretty, my pretty she yelled loudly as he wiped the sand off of the stones, rubbing it on his shorts, the blue and diamonds were crusted with sand and the ring bent almost in half but it still glinted in the sun and he smiled. Yes baby, pretty pretty treasure, it’s a bit bent up but its our treasure. He slipped it on her thumb and she smiled. Jamie’s pretty thing, Jamie’s pretty thing……She smiled at Daddy.