# 45 – Class 9

Standard

The garden was in full bloom.  Bold flowers popped out of bushes.  The ivy was fuller, thanks to months of new growth.  The summer was almost over and campus was coming alive for the fall term.  Some of the day students who lived off campus were coming back.  Facilities trucks were all over, cleaning and making repairs.  Liza sat motionless on the marble bench.  Casey’s health was declining.  She was barely eating, and could sleep only when the doctors loaded her up with pain medicine.  She never mentioned her mom, but Liza tried to track her down.  None of her old friends from the neighborhood had heard from her; neither had anyone in their extended family.

It rained almost nonstop for the past week.  Liza came home from the hospital last night to find that lakes of filthy water had formed on the living room and dining room floors, warping the wood.  The first floor of the house was now a minefield of pots.  Liza only slept for two hours last night, so her body had insisted on taking a nap when she was in the ladies room at work this afternoon.  Shauna, the miserable woman in the cube across from Liza, had ratted her out and gotten her written up.

Liza set the alarm on her cell phone and zoned out.  She floated in and out of a dazed sleep.  Jim smiled by on his way to class.  Bruce never showed.  To hell with everything.

Advertisements

# 43 – Dear Liza

Standard

Dear Liza, Dear Liza (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

The hospital is releasing me today.  I didn’t want you to worry if you came to visit tonight and I wasn’t here.  I’m going to take some time off from work, and I probably won’t be in class tomorrow night.  Thank you for everything you’ve done for me this past week.  We need to talk, I know.  Janice can get in touch with me if you need anything while I’m gone.  

Love,

Bruce

Liza read the note twice.  She turned it over, read it again.  What the hell?  She was glad that he thought to let her know that he was being released.  He was right, she would have worried if he was just gone when she came by tonight.  But what about the rest?  Thank you for sleeping with me and saving my life.  Call my assistant if you need me?!  Liza’s hands were shaking.  She swallowed again and again as she ambled to the stairs.

# 42 – This Time Last Year

Standard

Casey was spending more time sleeping than usual.  Tonight she as out before dusk.  Liza was exhausted.  It drained her to work through lunch, and she’d driven herself nuts all day worrying about Bruce and Casey.  She’d shuffled up to the third floor before she remembered that Bruce had been discharged.  His room was empty.  It made Liza sad even though she was glad that he was better.  She didn’t know when she would see him again, nor did she know how to get in touch with him short of physically hunting him down at work.  It would be easy enough to look up his university email address, but she felt funny.

They’d spent every evening together for the past week.  Now she missed this guy that she didn’t even know this time last year.  Liza frowned.  She kind of wanted to hunt him down now.  She also kind of wanted to stop going to class and move to the other side of the country.  Liza dug around in her purse for her keys.  Her fingers brushed against a piece of paper.  She pulled it out and unfolded it.  Bruce’s heavy handwriting stared up at her.

 

# 41 – Casey Kearn and Pete

Standard

Liza heard giggling and the low murmur of a man’s voice as she approached Casey’s room.

“My Aunt Liza has a friend named Bruce.”  Casey said.  Liza entered the room to find Bruce standing behind a guest chair.  Casey was chattering away from behind Pete, her teddy bear.  “She met him at her school.  It’s not a school for kids.  It’s a school for old people…there she is!”  Bruce turned and stared at Liza.  His expression was blank.

“Hey there.  What are you doing in Casey’s room?” asked Liza.

Bruce looked between Liza and Casey a few times, working his tongue around the inside of his cheek.  “Hey, they, uh, released me a couple of hours ago.  I was going to leave you a note.”  He waved a folded piece of paper that was dangling from his fingers.  He stared at Liza for what seemed like forever.  “So…I met your niece.”

“I see that.  I’m surprised you found her,” said Liza.

A smile flickered across Bruce’s face.  “So am I.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Not bad,” said Bruce.  She didn’t believe him.  His skin was grey and pit stains seeped out from under his arms.  He was wearing an expression that Liza couldn’t begin to figure out.

“That’s good.”  Liza walked over and gave him a quick kiss on the check.  A giggle came from behind Pete’s head.  Liza smiled and walked over to Casey’s bed.  She sat down very carefully, always fearful of tearing out a tube or wire.

“So what do you think of Dean Wells?” asked Liza.  She leaned over to kiss Casey on the forehead.

“Who?”

“Oh, I introduced myself as Bruce.  I hope that’s ok?”

“Yeah, that’s fine.  It’s up to you,” said Liza.

“Hmm…I think we can be on a first-name basis after she caught me bent over in the hall, and I caught her talking to herself.”  Bruce winked at Casey.

“Hey!  I was talking to Pete!” said Casey.

“Uh huh, he must be pret-ty special if he can talk with his mouth sewn shut.” said Bruce.  Casey giggled and shot Bruce a pretend dirty look.  She understood sarcasm well from growing up with her mom.  Bruce smiled and Liza thought again how handsome he looked.  She loved seeing him smile; all the more because he did it so rarely.  But the smile melted off of Bruce’s face a second later, and he was looking up at the clock.

“I’ll leave you two to your visit,” said Bruce.  We walked over and extended his hand to Casey.  “Casey, Pete, it was nice to meet you both.”

Casey stared at the hand, grinning to herself.  When she finally shook it, she looked over at Liza as if to confirm that she was doing it right.  Liza nodded.  “Nice to meet you,” said Casey.

Before Liza could sort through the questions that were flying around in her head, Bruce had kissed her on the cheek and was out the door.

# 40 – The Karma Fairy

Standard

Liza skipped lunch and left work an hour early.  She grabbed a cup of coffee from a lunch truck outside of St. Francis.  This morning’s rain chased the humidity and cooled everything off, leaving a perfect summer afternoon.  She decided to enjoy it for a few minutes.  A short stone wall ran around the outside of the building.  It had probably been built to contain a small garden.  Now it was basically a giant trashcan.  Liza hopped up and lit her cigarette.  What an awesome aunt, she thought wryly.  All she needed now was to swap out the coffee cup for a bottle in a brown paper bag.  She tried to push the bad thoughts out of her head for a few minutes.  The sun felt amazing.  Liza dropped her sunglasses in place and turned her face up.

Casey was a sweet kid.  Quiet.  Thoughtful.  She never gave anyone a hard time.  What was hard was the leukemia.  While most children grew up, Casey deteriorated.  It was hard to watch.  Liza wasn’t sure if she couldn’t handle it, or didn’t want to.  Then there was the other thing.  She loved Casey, but had never been interested in kids, she felt uncomfortable around them, and had managed to avoid them up to this point in her life.  Liza and Casey usually ran out of things to talk about quickly.  Their conversations were awkward and forced.  Yet, Casey loved Liza.  She acted as if she were a “cool aunt”.  All the while, Liza half hoped that Laura would come back and free her.

Liza wished again that their parents were still alive.  She took a long drag before flicking the cigarette into the street.  It didn’t seem right for a kid to have such a short, miserable life.  This is why Liza always thought that karma was a bunch of bull.  It was just something weak people invoked to make themselves feel better when bad things happened.  Casey didn’t do anything to deserve this.  Laura sure did, but Laura was one of those people who always seemed to land on their feet.  Maybe the karma fairy had made a mistake.  Liza sighed.  She slid off the wall and headed into the hospital.

# 39 – Like an Injured Pedophile

Standard

Bruce’s shirt was soaked.  This was ridiculous.  He needed to break down and get a cell phone.  The hospital was finally releasing him today.  He thought about just leaving.   Liza wanted an explanation for the other day.  He didn’t blame her, but he still didn’t know what he was going to tell her.  It occurred to him that if he left, she would worry when she came tonight and he was gone, and she would have no way to get in touch with him.  He’d decided to leave a note for her in her niece’s room.  That was turning out to be way more difficult than it had seemed.  Apparently, you needed to be on a list to visit children.  Bruce managed to sneak in, but he’d been roaming around the halls for almost twenty minutes and hadn’t been able to find eight-year-old Casey.  He realized that didn’t know her last name or what she looked like.  Bruce wondered if maybe Casey was a boy, but he was pretty sure that Liza had refereed to her as her niece.

His ribs were killing him and his head was spinning.  This was nice.  He was all sweaty.  He’d snuck into a children’s’ ward, and now he was creeping around like an injured pedophile.  Bruce doubled over, resting his hand against the wall for support.  He leaned there like that with his eyes closed.  After a few minutes, he felt better.  He opened his eyes and looked around, trying to decide what to do.  A blonde-haired boy was looking out at Bruce from a room across the hall.  The toddler looked a little scared.  Bruce smiled at him and straightened up.  The boy smiled and laid his head back down.  Bruce turned and his eyes fell on a medical chart that was hanging next to the door to his right.  The last name jumped off the chart and punched him in the stomach.  Kearn.  He knew that he should walk away, but he couldn’t move.  From inside the room came a tiny voice, “Hi.  Who are you?”