The sensation and whisper of moth wings fluttering against Reverend Mother’s left ear slowly roused her from dark and dreamless slumber. Sudden, sharp pain in her abdomen jolted her fully awake. She opened her eyes and flinched involuntarily, finding herself eye-to-eye with Nicole. Reverend Mother experienced a surreal moment, unsure if she was actually awake or still asleep. She decided that she must dreaming, because it was inconceivable that Nicole would visit her in the hospital. Why would my loan officer visit me?
“Oh, I’m sorry Mrs. Davison. Did I wake you? I heard that you were asking around about me, so I decided to come pay you a little visit.”
Reverend Mother was on alert. Keeping her face neutral, she eased herself up in bed. She sensed a confrontation was in the offing and didn’t want to be in a position of vulnerability. Her movements caused the little stab of pain to return. Funny, how it started out as a little spot and now pain was beginning to radiate from that spot.
Reverend Mother looked down and saw a small dot of blood staining her gown. That was odd. She looked up and saw Nicole watching her intently with a strange look on her face. A chill ran down Reverend Mother’s spine. Did this woman just inject me with something? Get a grip on yourself Hester. Don’t let your imagination carry away your common sense. No one would be that bold. It’s probably just a loose staple. Don’t allow this woman to see any fear in your eyes. You’re already in a weak position.
Reverend Mother smiled, “Aren’t you a sweet young lady. But what do you mean I was asking around about you?”
“You tell me Mrs. Davison. It was brought to my attention that you’ve been making…inquiries about me.”
Reverend Mother’s face belied her racing thoughts. What the hell did Thomas do? I told him to be discreet! Did he tell her what I asked him to find out or did he try questioning one of her friends? I hope he didn’t lean on someone and scare them into calling her. Say something Hester. She’s waiting for a response. You need to throw this woman off the scent and get her out of here, so you can call Thomas and find out what he did. Reverend Mother opened her eyes wide and gave Nicole a perplexed look.
“You must be mistaken dear. I have been in the hospital for several days. Nothing personal, but you weren’t even on my littlest mind. I’ve been focused on getting through my procedure.”
“Are you sure? If you have questions about me, I would rather you ask me to my face rather than skulking around trying to root around in my past. I don’t want my friends and family harassed.”
The warmth of Nicole’s smile did not reach her eyes. Reverend Mother gazed into those cold, empty eyes and felt a spasm of fear. She had made a grave error in sending Thomas after this woman. I should never have sent Thomas to her. She won’t be intimidated by the likes of me or anyone else. How could I have misjudged her? This woman is a stone-cold killer and now, I have made myself a threat to her. Well, I didn’t make myself a threat that idiot Thomas did.
Oh Lord, my stomach hurts! Why does my stomach hurt so badly all of a sudden? How long was she leaning over me? I don’t even care about the loan anymore. I’ll figure something else out. All I want right now is to get this woman out of my room. I don’t like the way she’s looking at me. What if she has she done something to Thomas?
Oh Lord, please don’t let her have done something to that boy. I’ll never forgive myself if he’s been harmed. I’ve got to get her out of here so that I can check on him and warn him to leave her alone. Reverend Mother could feel her innocent expression wavering under Nicole’s intense stare. She tried not to think about the pain in her stomach.
“I can assure you that I’m not the least bit interested in your past.”
“Well, since I’m here maybe you have some questions about your loan application.”
“I’ve been meaning to call you. I want to withdraw my application from consideration for the loan. One of my deacons came up with ideas for some wonderful fundraisers.”
“Are you sure about that? Tell you what Mrs. Davison, given your current health condition I’m going to hold off on withdrawing your application. I want to make sure you’ve had time to think about what you really want to do. I’ll come back and see you again before you get discharged and we can have another chat.”
“I probably won’t be here. I’m supposed to be going home tomorrow.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that Ms. Davison. That incision doesn’t look good and that’s my professional opinion. As you know, I used to be a nurse.”
Nicole bestowed another chilling smile upon Reverend Mother before taking her leave. Reverend Mother waited until Nicole was out of sight before heaving a shaky sigh of relief. She had felt another unpleasant spasm of fear when Nicole said she would come and see her again. I need to get out of here first thing in the morning. I don’t like the fact that anyone can just walk into my room while I’m sleeping. I’m a sitting duck here.
The pain in her stomach intensified and began to pulsate in time with her heartbeat. Reverend Mother groaned and activated her call light. It took twenty minutes for the overworked nurse to respond. She bustled in to find Reverend Mother curled up into the fetal position.
Reverend Mother described the pain in between agonized gasps. The nurse dismissed Reverend Mother’s concerns, assuring her that some pain at the incision site was normal after a surgical procedure. She administered pain medication and Reverend Mother gradually unfolded, laying back against her pillows with a sigh of relief as her agony died down to a dull throb.
Maybe I overreacted. It was a bit unsettling to wake up and find that odious woman leaning over me like that. I guess it could be a coincidence that the pain started when she showed up. It did hurt a little bit right after the procedure. I still need to talk to Thomas though.
Reverend Mother grabbed the receiver and punched in his phone number. When he didn’t answer, fear returned to needle her. She lay back and waited. An hour later, she had fallen into restless doze when the ringing phone startled her awake. Reverend Mother sat bolt upright and grabbed the receiver.
“Thomas? Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick about you!”
“Why? What’s wrong ma?”
“Nicole came to see me today. She knows I asked you to check into her background. What did you tell her?”
“Nothing she didn’t already know. She confronted me and I admitted to it.”
“Why did you admit to anything fool? And why did you have to put my name in it?”
“I’m telling you ma, she already knew everything. So, I figured the best thing for me to do was just be honest. She always knows when I’m lying anyway. She was a little upset but she calmed down after I explained things. It’s all good.”
“It’s all good? It’s all good? Boy do you have rocks in your head? Things are anything but good. Why do you think she came to see me at the hospital? I was sleeping when I felt this sharp pain in my stomach and I open my eyes to see that…that…maniac leaning over me. I could swear she had something in her hand but I couldn’t see her left hand because she had this huge purse dangling from her left shoulder. That pain got so bad, I thought I was gonna pass out. She’s threatening to come and see me again.”
Thomas chuckled, “Ma, I think you’re overreacting. Nicole and I had a long talk after she confronted me and we were able to clear the air. I really think it turned out to be a good thing that she found out about this. She still wants to see me and work on our relationship. Does that sound like someone whose holding a grudge?”
“Have you ever heard the saying, keep your friends close and your enemies closer?”
“Don’t be so dramatic ma. Maybe she wants to get to know you better. I told her how you’re like a mother to me. If we got married you’d be like her mother-in-law.”
“Oh my Lord! Thomas please tell me you are not still considering marrying that woman. You can’t do that son. I know you think you’re in love with her, but I’m telling you she’s dangerous. That woman is a murderer! She is not to be trusted. Stay away from her. I mean it Thomas.”
“I thought you wanted me to help you get that loan.”
“I changed my mind Thomas. Your safety is more important to me than any stupid loan. I’ll get the money some other way.”
“Wow, that’s so sweet ma. I love you too. Now get some rest. I’m guessing they’ve got you on some pretty powerful painkillers. You’re probably not thinking clearly right now. We’ll talk about this some other time.”
“I’m not confused. Promise me you’ll stay away from that woman Thomas. Thomas? Promise me!”
“Goodnight ma, I’ll visit you tomorrow. That way, you can see I’m still all in one piece. Stop worrying about me. I’m a big boy. I can take care of myself.”
Categories: Valley of Shadows (Novel)