Back home in the local Recovery Center he had his first visitors. After the predictable questions about his condition, she had to ask about his relational failure......and what it meant.
Having moved beyond Rascal Reggie, and his grand plans for them, she had returned to Tanner, ready to update her friend on the sad state of her world.
It was Sunday afternoon....David’s second day at Carrie Stacy’s one-bed recovery home. Though the facility was a bit primitive by Rigdon Recovery Center standards, it was proving to be thoroughly competent.
Carrie, though not a close friend, was certainly no stranger. They had known each other for decades. Best of all, David was home, in the heart of Indian Falls, in the company of a qualified caregiver who just happened to be an almost-friend.
Though he was still aching and sore, with limited energy, the doctor had assured him that his recovery was on schedule, stressing as he had from the beginning that the ‘old’ David Larmer was still months away. To expect anything more was to set himself up for disappointment.
With his bed raised to a near-sitting position David was dozing when Jason and girlfriend Connie stepped in from the hallway. With questioning glances they were asking each other if they should wake him. Seconds later the sound of Jason bumping into a bedside chair was enough to rouse the patient.
“My God, did someone leave the door open?” David grumbled as he rubbed his eyes. With a nod in Connie’s direction he added, “At least you brought a little class with you. Nothing like a good-looking lady to perk a fellow up.”
“How is Carrie treating you?” Connie asked as she stepped closer to the bed. “She and I used to work together at the clinic here in town, before it closed. I kept books and sent out collection letters. She was our nurse. Fortunately for our patients she was better at her job than I was at mine.”
Oh, she’s good alright,” David agreed. “Everything is fine....except maybe the meals. I’m ready for some steak and potatos. She’s big on soup, toast, and cooked veggies.”
“Exactly what the doctor ordered.” The sound of Carrie Stacy’s voice had the three of them turning to see her standing in the doorway. “That’s part of the deal,” she continued. “When the doctor prescribes a certain diet, or a course of treatment, that’s what I do.”
“As well you should,” Jason chimed in. “And if he gets too vocal about it, just cut him down to half rations for a day or two.”
“Whose side are you on?” David protested. “I’m wasting away as it is.”
Carrie stepped to the foot of the bed, ready to look after her still-weak patient. “I also need to see that he gets the rest he needs. So for the next week or two we need to limit his social life. It takes a lot out of him. I’m hoping you can get by with a ten or fifteen minute visit.” With that she retreated to the other end of the house.
David’s eyes were closed, leaving his friends to wonder if he was past being sociable. There was only one way to find out. “I was thinking,” Jason began. “What if I spread the word at church that you’re accepting visitors....especially those nice widow ladies who already have their eyes on you. They’d have to keep it short, of course....ten or fifteen minutes.”
“You do that and I’ll lock the front door.” David did not bother to open his eyes. “I don’t need a lot of company. Especially not that kind.”
“David. I can see you’re not up to that right now.” Connie was prepared to offer her own bit of wisdom. “But I’d hate to see you become a hermit. That’s not your goal, is it?”
Eyes open and leaning forward a bit, David was prepared to put an end to that kind of talk. “Number one,” he said. “I don’t feel up to worrying about that right now. Number two....I traveled all the way to Oregon just to walk that gang plank. Remember? And I ended up in the water. Number three....after that escapade I don’t expect to go looking again. So you can tell your friends to stay home.”
“So you’re through looking, eh?” Jason asked. “And you’ve given up on Marian because she has more money than you can deal with.”
“I didn’t ‘give up’ on anything. I just accepted the fact that it could never work. We’re too damn different. So let’s forget about that, okay?” David’s chin slumped to his chest and he looked ready for sleep. “I’ll bet if you check your watch you’ll see that it’s been more than ten minutes. I’ll see you two later.”
Without pausing for lunch Marian had finished her unpacking, started a washer load of laundry, and returned her jewelry and accessories to their proper places. She was back home in Tanner Heights, and though it was still early in the afternoon it had already been a long Sunday.
She was not a good flyer. A sound and restful sleep had been hard to come by on the overnight flight from Honolulu. Arriving in Portland she had decided against the cramped and crowded shuttle-bus ride back to Tanner. Instead she splurged, hiring a taxi for the peaceful, and very expensive, hour-long drive home.
Twice that morning she had paused to wonder if she should call Angie. At some point she ought to let her friend know that she was home. Beyond that, there were things for them to talk about.
For nearly three weeks, since their last extended telephone conversation, Marian had been alone with her thoughts. It was time to share her frustrated musings with someone who cared. It was nearly five o’clock that afternoon when she finally dialed Angie’s number. There was no answer so she settled for a brief message suggesting they get together sometime in the next week.
Angie sipped at her ice water as she glanced toward the restaurant foyer, watching for her friend’s arrival. Their brief phone conversation, and especially Marian’s timid, hesitant tone, had been enough to set her on edge. Now Marian was ten minutes late for their luncheon date and Angie was squirming. Hopefully she was not waiting in vain.
At last, eyeing her cell phone again, checking for messages, Angie looked up to see Marian approaching their table. With a quick once over, she asked, “My, is that a Hawaiian tan I’m seeing?”
“Hey, if a gal can’t get a tan in Maui she’s in real trouble.” Marian dropped her purse on the window-side chair and sat down. “How have you been?”
“I’m fine,” Angie nodded. “Though I’ll admit I’ve been a bit curious about you and what you’ve been up to. Has a few weeks in paradise helped you straighten things out. You told me about Reggie, but I haven’t heard anything since then.”
They paused to order their meals. A minute later Marian was fidgeting with her silverware, wondering how to explain. “I haven’t been in a very social mood the last couple weeks. I was doing my best to sort things out. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough time to make sense of it.”
“Not enough time? Come on. You were there for weeks. If that wasn’t long enough, how much longer would you need?”
“I don’t know.” Marian leaned back as the waitress set a cup of coffee before her. When the girl left she was ready to elaborate. “It seems like most days I’d rather not think about how messed up things are.”
Cradling her coffee in both hands, Angie paused a moment. “Do you remember how is was?” she asked through a mischievous grin. “A month ago you actually believed things were looking up.... that there was hope for you, something more than a gloomy widowhood. It was that Iowa farm boy who had you thinking like that.
"Now you’re right back where you started. sounding like there’s no hope at all. What’s so different now...what’s changed?”
Marian was looking over the edge of her cup, hoping to read Angie’s intent. “Are you trying to be funny?” she asked. “What’s changed is everything. That’s what is different.”
A few bites later Angie was shaking her head, apparently unwilling to accept her friend’s conclusions. “That's not true. It's not ‘everything’ that has changed. The only thing that has is David ....he’s gone and you wish he wasn’t. That’s a fact, and you can’t deny it.”
“It doesn’t matter if I deny it or not. Does it? Mr. Larmer is history, and that is a fact. It took no more than a couple hours of my company to have him looking for a way out. If I am going to have a future I want it to be something that lasts longer than that.”
With her elbows on the table Angie leaned closer. Her grin had faded as she returned to her original point. “I’m not talking about what David thinks about. it. I’m saying that Marian still likes him. In fact, I think she wishes they could have another chance. You tell me....am I wrong about that?”
“It doesn’t matter, does it?” Marian looked away, unwilling to meet Angie’s insistent stare. “Do you expect me to get hung up on a future that depends on something that can’t possibly happen? I don’t think so. It’s not a matter of what I want. It’s about what can actually happen.”
“So you’ve come back home to hide out in your big house, instead of hiding out in Maui. Is that it?”
For an instant it appeared that Marian might give in to the tears she was struggling to hold back. With a minimum of conviction she offered her hushed question. “What else can I do?”