“Late.” Miss Glo mumbled as she was pushed from the common room back to her bedroom.
“Calm down, Gloria.” Miss Inez Morning carefully rolled the woman across the floor. “The traffic in this town can be murder. I’m sure they’ll be here soon.”
“Forgot.” Miss Glo spat as best she could.
Inez stopped the wheelchair, almost tossing the stroke victim out of it. She stepped in front on the woman, one hand on her hip and one shaking the extended finger on the other one. “Shame on you, Gloria! You know that man would not forget you, especially not on a day like today. You are going home, for good. Now just suck it up, or I will personally beat the crap out of you.”
Gloria laughed out of the one side of her face that worked. “Like you.”
The black woman shook her head and chuckled, strolling back to her pushing post. “God knows why any one of us even wanna be around you, Old Girl. You are such a bitch.”
“You…too.” Gloria smiled and lovingly gave the woman pushing behind her a favorite hand signal. Inez smacked at it playfully.
“Hey!” Shot a voice from inside the doorway they were passing. “Hey, you!”
Inez stopped the rolling and leaned forward to peer in the room.
“Come in here!” The voice insisted.
Inez tried to speed up the pushing, but her recent hip replacement hadn’t restored her to the energy of her youth. Gloria peered in as Inez did her best to get her past.
“Get your butts in here!”
Gloria pointed toward the doorway.
“Glo, honey. I know that woman. Let’s just get to your room and wait for…”
“Shuddup and get in here!”
Gloria nodded her head and motioned Inez to push her in. Inez just shook her head, “Glo, that woman is crazy!”
Gloria pointed firmly. Inez mumbled, “This ain’t gonna be good.”
Propped up in the bed was a train wreck of a woman, about their age with oxygen pumping through the tubes up her nose. She smiled through her garishly applied lipstick.
“Join me, ladies?” She asked as she held a Bic up to her Marlboro Red.
“Aren’t you afraid you’re gonna blow the whole place up, Lulu?” Inez stared down the now smoking woman on the oxygen tank.
“Hell, no.” Lulu puffed. “Besides, it would just put most of us out of our misery.” She tossed the Bic on the stand beside her bed then looked at Gloria. “So, honey. I’ve heard you’re busting this joint tonight.”
Miss Glo smiled as best she could proudly. “Home.”
“Home?” Lulu cackled. “Who are you, E.T.?”
“Miss Glo, is going home, Lulu. Someplace where she’ll be loved and cared for.” Inez smiled. “Can you say the same?”
Lulu puffed out a blast of smoke. “Loved and cared for…done it…it’s over rated.”
“Well, nice to see you, again.” Inez began to roll Miss Glo’s chair backwards out of the room.
“Not so fast, Inez, me an’ Miss Glo here haven’t had a chance to chat.”
“Oh, her family will be here any minute. They’ll be waiting for her and worrying that she’s not in her room.”
“Yeah…sure.” Inez took a long drag of her cigarette and dared Inez to keep retreating with her eyes. “So Glo, is that right? That what they call you?”
Miss Glo nodded her head. “You?”
“They call me Lulu.” The woman thought a minute. “I think that’s probably right. I’ve had so many names and lived so many lives. At this point, I’m lucky to still be sittin’ up.” She cackled at her own joke.
“Fam…lee?” Gloria struggled to say.
“Nah…just me, but that’s the way I like it.” Lulu took another drag off her smoke and flicked the ash at an ashtray she was sure was around somewhere. “Seen you around, old girl. So you’re finally bustin’ out, huh?”
Miss Glo nodded her head.
“Good for you.”
Inez smiled. “Gloria’s going to go live with her Daughter and her sort of Son-in-law.” She stumbled over that last part, not knowing how to define it exactly.
“Sort of?” Lulu grinned. “One of those…been there myself.”
“Actually,” Inez finally realized how to word it properly. “She’s going to be living with family, that’s what’s important.” She patted Gloria on the shoulder. “Right, Glo?”
“Yeah, well, good luck with that.” Lulu snarked. “Let’s just hope your daughter doesn’t blow it and get you both tossed out on your keysters. Better yet, let’s hope she does blow and blows well, just to keep a roof over your heads.” Lulu howled and slapped the bed.
“No need to be crude.”
“No need to be crude.” Lulu mocked her and took another drag off her smoke. “Look, hon, I hope everything works out well for ya. Nobody wants to be in this dump, if they’ve got a choice.” She thought for a moment and looked away. “Been my experience, no matter what you do, it never quite works out the way you think.”
“You?” Gloria leaned forward and asked.
“Me?” Lulu snorted. “Obviously nothing turned out the way I planned. That’s why I’m living the high life here.”
“No.” Gloria frowned. “Choice…your…choice.” She struggled a bit, but was proud she got it out.
“I chose to come here.” Lulu grinned and then frowned a little. “Didn’t have anywhere else to go.” She sighed and then put the grin back on. “But it was the best of the dumps I could find.”
There was a little buzz in Inez’ pocket. Inez slipped her hand in and patted Gloria on the shoulder. “It’s Ian, probably to tell us he’s on his way.”
“You slip out in the hall and take it, Inez. Me and Gloria will have a little chat.”
“Oh, I’ll just…”
“Take the damn call, hon. We’ll be fine.”
Gloria turned as best she could a nodded her head. Inez frowned but flipped open the little phone and stepped to the door. “Is everything alright…” she said as she disappeared.
“She’s a corker that one.” Lulu told Gloria then looked deeply in her eyes and confided. “I have the feeling you and me are a lot alike.” She gave a devilish little grin and held a pack of cigarettes toward Gloria. “You want one?”
Miss Glo firmly shook her head.
“Suit yourself. Hope you’re not goin’ home just to be a lump in Depends?”
Miss Glo smiled.
“Thought so.” Lulu leaned back on her pillows. “Yeah, when you get our age, in our situation, it’s pretty much the only way to entertain yourself. If I can’t make at least one nurse quit every day, I’m slippin’.”
“You have fun, old girl.” Lulu nodded at her. “I’m sure you can find lots of interesting ways to torture your Daughter and sort of Son In Law. I miss those days.”
“Several.” Lulu smiled in remembrance. “And not a whole lot of regrets either. Always thought regrets were mistakes you didn’t learn from.”
Miss Glo smiled. “Like…that.”
“You can use it, won’t even ask for credit.” Lulu sighed. “I used to be somebody, you know. Now I’m just an old bitch…” she held up her quickly dwindling Marlboro. “But I’m still a smokin’ bitch!” Once again, she cackled at her own joke.
“Oh yeah, hell half of old Hollywood used to grovel at my feet.” She smashed out her smoke on the side of a sterofoam cup until the melted hole was big enough to shove the butt in. “Course, now no one knows I’m alive.” The cherry of the smoke hit the water at the bottom of the cup and sizzled.
“Gloria!” Inez came rushing back in a grabbed the wheelchair. “We got to go.”
“Ian?” She said hopefully.
“No, hon, Ripley’s coming. We’ve got to get to the hospital!”
Inez Morning saw the panic spread across Miss Glo’s face. “Don’t worry, you’re about to be a Grandmother!”
The panic turned to pleasure as she breathed, “Now?”
“Yes, now. Everyone’s there already. Ripley’s on his way to pick us up.”
“Hey! Wait a minute!” Lulu barked as they inched toward the door. “Ian? Who you talkin’ about?”
“Ian Justyn.” Inez looked up at the old monster in the bed. “Who else?”
“Ian Justyn is your sort of Son-in-law?”
Gloria couldn’t help but beam with pride. “Good…man.”
“Yeah, maybe.” The old woman in the bed reached for another smoke. “Have to admit he’s done good stuff for ol’ HRT. God knows, it was gasping for its last breath.”
“Aw Ian’s wonderful.” Inez said as she carefully began backing Gloria’s chair out of the room. “You’d like him.”
“I doubt it.” Lulu sniped. “He reminds me too much of someone I hate.”
Gloria and Inez were already out of the room and couldn’t hear her. Lulu took a long drag and mumbled. “…Darla Hutton.”
She blew out the smoke and cackled.
“Thank God!” He said as he swiped an armload of stuff off his desk top and stood. “I was beginning to think I was going to have to leave before you got here!”
Sparky Jarvis smiled. “I got here as soon as I could.”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to snap.” He took a deep breath and smiled.
“What’s up? I’ve never seen you like this.”
“Family emergency, which I don’t do well,” He smiled and uncharacteristically began double checking his arms to make sure he had everything.
“I understand that.” Sparky tried to assure him as she slipped into the chair behind his desk. “You run off and take care of things, as only you can do, and I’ll sit here quietly and try to keep everything in order and be second best at being you.”
“Great.” Blake let out a puff a frazzled air. “It’s been quiet, just answer the phone, take notes and I’ll take care of it in the morning.” He sat a pile from his arms back on the desk, pulled out a notepad, consulted it and turned back to Sparky. “Okay, Doll, Jeff Torkelson may call, just check Ian’s calendar and pencil in a convenient time. If anyone insists on speaking directly to Ian you know what to do.”
Sparky nodded her head. “Tell ‘em to suck it up and you’ll get back with them as soon as Ian can.”
Blake grinned and picked up his pile again. “Good girl, if it’s a real emergency, text me.”
“You got it, er, I’ve got it…now run.”
He kissed her on the cheek and scampered away. Sparky sighed in contentment. She actually was enjoying her tenure at HRT adoring the fact that she was the only one Blake trusted to fill in for him when he had other places to be.
She kicked back in Blake’s Erganomic chair, putting her hands behind her hand. “I’m Second in Command of the World” she said to an absolutely empty office.
Of course, it meant she’d be bored out of her skull for the next three hours. That’s the way it usually was when Blake left the office. It meant that HRT and most of Hollywood had disappeared until the next day.
She took a deep breath and looked around the room. She drummed her fingers on the desk top and willed the phone to ring. She cocked her head and looked closely at the desk top.
She cocked her head again for another close inspection. “Surely not.”
She pulled the object closer to her and looked yet again. “My, my Blake you were in a hurry. I’ve never seen you without this at your side.”
Yet there it was, Blake’s little black book. Sparky pulled out her phone and hit a button to text him.
“Naaah…” she thought. He’ll realize he forgot it and be right back up to get it before he gets out of the parking lot.
Sparky smiled. “Which means, I haven’t got much time.”
She picked up the book, whirled the little Ergonomic chair around and began to make copies of it page by page.
“Sorry, Blake but why should you be the only person in the world with a magic wand?”
“They’re so…” Ian touched the warm forehead of the child he held in his arms and searched for the correct word that wasn’t cliché. He couldn’t find it. “…beautiful.”
Tippy smiled up at him from the second child she cradled in hers. “Perfect.”
“This still doesn’t seem real.” He sighed looking intently at the newborn. “None of it does.”
“It’ll hit you eventually.” She smiled, remembering, in many ways, Ian was a first time father. “Sometime between the 4 A.M. feedings and the sleep deprivation.”
Ian touched his son’s tiny little chin. “I look forward to that.”
“Good.” Tippy turned back to the baby in her arms. “God knows, Clare will be absolutely no help in that department.”
“My turn.” Colton said, greedily holding out his arms.
“You’ve already had a turn with this one.” Tippy pulled the baby close to her and nodded her head toward Ian. “You pry that one out of your son’s arms.”
“Sorry.” Colton shook his head in amazement. “You can’t tell them apart.”
“Easy.” Ian almost whispered. “This one has green eyes and that one blue.”
“Okay, I’ll make a mental note to pry their eyes open when I need to tell them apart.” Colton chuckled.
“Have you thought of names, yet?” Tippy asked. “We can’t refer to them as this one and that one for too long. They’ll develop a complex.”
“Unfortunately, Tippy, they’re my children. I think they are destined for complexes.” Ian gently handed his armful to Colton, who instantly became enamored, again.
“Now, Baby Doll, why would you say something like that?”
Ian looked over at the bundle in her arms, but avoided her eyes. “My life, Tippy, my life is a mess.”
“Why would you say that?” Colton looked up at him.
“Well, first of all this isn’t the way you bring a child into this world or at least shouldn’t.”
“Maybe it wasn’t the most perfect of scenarios” Tippy agreed, “But these boys were born into so much more than many have at the beginning.”
“It’s certainly much different than when Ronnie was born.”
“And he turned out just fine.” Colton rocked the child who began to squirm a bit.
“I can’t take credit for that, Colton. He’s ten and I didn’t raise him. I’ve still got plenty of time to screw him up. These two will have my claw marks all over them from the get go.”
“That’s a horrible thing to say.” Tippy scowled. “You’re a wonderful father. You act like you’re some horror show freak locking away Rapunzels in a tower somewhere.”
“Well, maybe I’m not but we all have to admit that anyone who even circles close to my life has had to deal with a lot.”
“Like?” Colton looked at him.
“Oh, like gunshots, explosions, bodies falling from the sky…”
“Not to make light of it, but that was your body falling from the sky and your still here.” Tippy reminded him.
Ian nodded his head, ever so slightly, then reached for the baby in her arms. “I just want to keep all the bad stuff, all the bad stuff that seems to keep happening from coming anywhere near this little guy.” He looked toward the son in Colton’s arms. “Or that one or the one waiting with baited breath down the hall to meet his little brothers.”
Colton handed the child to his wife, and put his now free hands on his son’s shoulders. “You know you weren’t the only one who wasn’t around when a of their blood child was growing up.”
“At least you didn’t know about me, Colton. I don’t have that excuse.” Ian refused to look away from the baby in his arms. “I gave Ronnie away. I did the selfish thing and gave my baby boy away.”
“No Ian.” Colton quickly and sternly corrected him. “You did the unselfish thing and did what you thought was best to ensure that your son had a good life, one you didn’t think you’d be able to give him.”
“But was I right?”
Tippy looked Ian directly in the eyes. “Can you say that you were wrong?”
She cut him off. “Can you honestly say that you and especially Ronnie would be having a better life right now, if you had kept him and raised him yourself instead of giving him to Kyle and Janie?”
“You’d never have finished school, maybe even never have started. You’d probably still be living in a shack in Virginia.” Colton added.
Tippy smiled broadly. “And you’d never have discovered that you have a big ol’ family, as crazy as we might drive you.”
Ian nodded his head. He sighed. “At least Ronnie knows he was conceived in love and raised in love.” He looked at Tippy and Colton. “What about these two?”
“What do you mean?”
“What do I tell them when they ask if I loved their mother?”
“Ian, you thought so at one time.” Colton defended.
“But no child should be brought into this world as an attempt to force a relationship to stay together.” Ian gently lay the sleeping child in the little hospital basinet. “And that’s about the best I can say for why they ended up being.”
Tippy followed suit and put the second infant beside his brother and then rubbed the small of Ian’s back as he looked lovingly forlorn at the babies. “Baby Doll, everyone wants to think that the reason they were given life is because their parents were so deeply in love that planets aligned and that energy created their divine existence.”
Ian snorted and Tippy smiled with him. “And we all know the real truth. Most children in this world are born simply because two idiots couldn’t control themselves.” She lay her head on his shoulders and looked at the twins. “But that doesn’t make their lives any more or any less divine.”
“Speaking of divine,” Colton interrupted. “I think maybe it’s time you go down the hall and get the big brother.”
“I just don’t want to leave them.” Ian sighed.
“That’s always the hardest part, Baby Doll.” She took his hand and gently pulled him away from the basinets. “Let’s go get Ronnie.”
“Yeah.” Ian smiled. “Yeah. I can’t wait to see the silly grin on his face. He’s going to be such a great big brother.”
Tippy led Ian toward the door of the ward, through the door to the entrance. As they began to remove the paper gowns they had been donning, Colton turned to the man sitting in the corner. “He’s going to go get my grandson and bring him in to meet the boys.”
“Oh, that will be nice.” The old man grinned.
“Then we’ll try and talk them into going home and getting some rest. It’s been a long night for everyone.”
“Yes.” The man nodded from his chair. “Get some peace and quiet while you can. They’re quiet now, but that won’t last.”
Colton grinned. “But it always worth it.”
“Yes.” As Colton turned to go the old man added. “Good night, sir, best of luck to you.”
“You won’t be here when we get back?”
“No. No, my shift is almost over. I just volunteer. They let me sit here and make sure no one steals or switches the babies while the night shift nurse takes her dinner break. She’s due back any moment.”
“Well…” Colton smiled at the old guy. “Good night to you then.”
“Same.” The man nodded and watched intently as Colton stepped through to the other room and removed his paper trappings. When the door shut behind him the old man got up from his chair as quickly as he could and went to the basinet holding the Justyn twins.
He smiled as he looked down. “Hey there, young men. My, my but you are handsome things.”
One of the babies opened his vivid blue eyes, making the old man smile and lean in closer. “Don’t let the face scare ya, boy. I used to be as good lookin’ as you once. Still am on the inside.”
He rubbed the child’s little belly. “Glad we got a chance to talk. We haven’t got much time, so we gotta make this quick.”
The old man looked into the other basinet, and back. “Looks like your brother’s still asleep, so you’ll have to give him a message for me. Okay?”
He pulled the chair from the corner where it had been and right up to the crib, sitting himself back down but leaning in so his scarred face was just inches from the baby’s. “I just want you to know that things have been out of control for a long, long time. That’s was kind of my fault. Not all of it mind you, I had a lot of help messing things up, but we’re fixing things.”
“We can’t erase everything that happened, but hopefully every little loose end is almost tied up. It took a while, but things should be good now. Now your Daddy is not to blame for any of this, you hear me. He had nothing to do with any of it. He just got born, that’s all. Just like you and your brother.”
A tear formed in the old man’s eye. “I couldn’t protect him, like I can protect you and I promise you from now on nothing bad will happen to any of you. Family is important. That’s the one thing I learned in all of this, family is important, and you’re my family.”
He smiled when the boy seemed to smile at him. “That's right, I’m family, too, but that’s our secret. I’m your uncle with a couple of greats thrown in there. Now, you probably won’t see me again, but just know that I’m out there watching from the distance. I promise you nothing bad will ever happen to you and your Daddy as long as I can help it. Okay?”
The old man kissed the boy on the forehead and pushed the chair back as he stood up. He moved the chair back to its original spot and went to the second basinet, kissing the other sleeping child as well.
Before he turned to leave he took one last look at the blue eyed boy fascinated by the color and movement that was the old man. “Just so you know, I always keep my promises.”
He was getting ready to head out the door when a nurse stopped him. “Excuse me? What are you doing in here?”
“Oh, Maxine had an emergency and they said it was okay if I sat here until you started your shift.”
“Volunteers as not allowed to…”
The old man put up his hands to calm her down. “I know, I know.” He smiled warmly and handed her some papers stuffed in his pockets. “Everything is all approved and legal like.”
He pointed to a signature. “See, Dr. Warner signed off on it and everything. Can’t be too careful when it comes to the innocent, especially when they are connected to the connected.”
The nurse read fervently, the old man watching her move her lips. “Can I go now? Way past my bedtime.”
She nodded. “Of course…”
“You have a good night, now.” The old man patted her on the shoulder as he walked past her.
“Oh thank you…” she said as he shut the door, “…Mr. Redfield.”