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Chapter 1
Jeannie
The unique smell of sickness, old age, and death reached up and poked inside my nose. It was a mix of antiseptic and old age resulting in chemicals and decay mixed together. The smell was not pleasant nor was it something to gag at. The smell was repulsive to a degree and permeated the clothing one wore. It had been a few decades since that smell had last greeted me when my grandmother lay in such a place. Not a smell one longs to inhale. Not a smell one wants to encounter often.I had just stepped into the nursing home's hospice wing. It was late, approaching nine o'clock at night so most residents were welcoming a visit from the Sandman. A few nurses moved about and gave us a smile and a nod, keeping quiet so as not to disturb those who were not quite asleep.The tranquil waterfall that reached from ceiling to floor in the middle of the round center of the building caught my eye. It hid the noise of the staff talking softly as they moved about and prepared for a hopefully uneventful night. I made a note to look closer at the fountain as I followed my sister around it and down a hallway jutting off as a spoke in the depressing wheel. Something about it seemed to draw me in. I loved the sound of a relaxing waterfall.The sound of our feet made a dull echo. It was soft as though the floors willed us to be quiet in our approach. It also helped that we all had on soft soled shoes; mine were comfortable tennis shoes. A head lifted from the bed as we passed; its eagerness for a visitor visible on the wrinkled face. A piece of my heart bowed in sorrow at the look. Would I one day be yearning for a visitor only to see those pass by to see someone else?Our destination was the next room past the eager patient. My sister slowed down as she pushed the door open. A sense of quiet settled on us which was unlike the atmosphere in the car from the airport. From the moment I had met Leslie and her husband in the terminal, she had talked a mile a minute."How was the flight? I bet you are glad to be in warmer weather. You've put on a little weight I see." Her hug was short and abrupt.I hadn't missed how many times she had smoothed her hand over her stomach that was much flatter than mine. That was a common action by her when she was around me. She liked to see herself as the prettiest, the skinniest, and the best of us all. I was always glad she tried to make us laugh.Her husband gave me a hug which I pulled out of as quickly as politeness allowed. I was eager to get to the nursing home. The truth was that I really wanted to just disappear.Even in the car, Leslie had kept up a basically one-sided conversation that appeared to be on the offensive. She grilled me like I had been arrested for a heinous crime and had the one, bright lightbulb aimed at me. Leslie had whirled around in the front seat and met my eyes where I sat in the back. "So, are you Republican or Democrat?"Confrontation seemed to be the theme of the evening. Nothing new from any other time I was around her. She always wanted to put me on the spot. It had worked when I was younger. "Neither. I don't believe in parties."The rest of the trip from airport to nursing home was filled with lectures on how evil Republicans are and all Democrats are saints. The idea that having them pick me up might have been a bad idea tapped me on the side of my head. I felt like I was in an interrogation room with the light focused on me. Oh, well. I was trapped in the car as they sped down the two lane country roads to reach the small town we all had been born in. I was being punished for something I had done in my past.Now we were at the nursing home, and only then did Leslie get quiet. She didn't say a word as she pushed on the door with the name plate reading 'Sara Hemingway'. The door opened to reveal a good sized room where only the foot of the bed stuck out to be seen from the door. From the door, I could see a dresser, a straight back chair, and a couch on the far wall under a picture window.

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Writer for ten years, lover of education, and degrees in business, history, and English. Striving to become a Renassiance woman. www.writerrebeccagraf.com

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