Tucked between 14 and 15…
“How’s this?” she asked as she brought the wheelchair to a halt in a weak swath of sunshine. When she received approval, she straightened the white blanket on his lap. “The sun will do you good.”
“Thank you very much,” he said. “It feels so good to get out of that room. You’re a real trooper for helping me.”
“Anytime, Mr. Morley,” she replied and took a seat on the faux leather sofa. She leaned to the end table and snatched a magazine from the stack. The random act produced one on photography.
She had just cracked it open when she shrieked, “Oops, I forgot to tell the nurse we were headed to the solarium. I told her I would.” She shot to her feet. “I’ll be right back. Don’t you try to go anywhere.”
Like a shot, she left the room and tore down the hall.
After a scan to make sure the coast was clear, she ducked into Mr. Morley’s room and seized the phone. A stab of the nine got her an outside line, and when she heard the correct tone, she dialed as swiftly as she could.
“It’s me,” she quietly announced. “I only have a minute.”
“Where in God’s name are you? Why haven’t you called? Is she going to help?”
“There’s been a change in plans.”
“What the hell does that mean? What kind of change? Where is he?”
“I had a car accident.”
“They found him?”
“No! Jesus, shut up and let me talk!” She drew an angry breath through her nose. “I hid him so I could talk to her first, but after I left him, I had a car accident.”
“Are you all right?”
“Burns and scratches, but when I woke up, she was there—right there in the goddamn room!”
“So you told her?”
“Jesus, Lenore, shut the hell up and let me explain!” She sighed very dramatically. “I decided to play it safe first, just in case something went wrong. So I pretended to have amnesia.” She laughed. “You’re not going to believe this. She thinks I’m Jaye.”
“It took her goddamn long enough, but seriously, she thinks I’m her long lost sister.” She laughed. “This is much better than the original plan. She’d never not help Jaye.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because they found him. It was all over the papers. They can’t identify him so I think it’s safer this way. No questions. And even if they figure it out, if she thinks I’m Jaye, she’ll look the other way. She’ll make them look the other way. I’d bet my life on it. It’s safer this way.”
“To have him be missing? How do I account for that?”
“Ride it out and then file for divorce on the grounds that he abandoned you. Easy as pie.”
“This is not what we agreed to, Lillie.”
“Shit! Nurse! I have to go! Just leave it this way, Lenore!” She covertly disconnected, and when she heard footsteps close behind her, she said, “I’ll tell Mr. Morley you called.” She returned the phone to its cradle and spun around. “Oh, hi. … Hey, I wasn’t sure I was supposed to answer that or not.”
“Where is he?”
“In the solarium. I came to get him an extra blanket.”
“It’s good of you to spend time with him. He gets lonely, and I can only hope that call was from his daughter.”
“Maybe it was! What’s her name?”
With a look of pity, she shook her head. “Maybe there’s an upside to having the memory go. Maybe it’s a blessing.”
“That’s a strange thing coming from you, J.”
“But most days he doesn’t even remember he has a daughter.” She grabbed a blanket off the bed. “And on those days, it doesn’t hurt him, does it?” She smiled, and two seconds later, she was out the door.