Chasing My Shadow
Writers Club Press
San Jose New York Lincoln Shanghai
Chasing My Shadow
All Rights Reserved
by Eleanor Trevithick
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage retrieval system, without the permission in writing from the publisher.
Writers Club Press
an imprint of iUniverse.com, Inc.
For information address:
620 North 48th Street, Suite 201
Lincoln, NE 68504-3467
ISBN: 978-1-469-78403-8 (eBook)
Printed in the United States of America
This book is dedicated to my husband, Kenneth, for the wonderful years we shared together.
The patient opened one blue eye and then the other, blinked once, surveyed the hospital room, then sat up. The room abruptly tilted, and he dropped back onto the pillow feeling sick. His mind was racing. What’s wrong with me? Why am I so dizzy? I’m supposed to be Best Man at Jerry’s wedding. How did I get here? What hospital am I in? Will I be able to get back to Colburgh in time for the wedding?
The pretty blonde nurse entered the room with a cheerful “Good Morning.” She was as beautiful as her voice. He remembered that voice and of hearing someone call her Derling or Miss Derling. Now as he looked at her bright smile he thought her name should be “darling.” She glanced at him and exclaimed happily as she hurried to his side, “You’re awake! How do you feel?”
“Dizzy and my head aches. What’s wrong with me? Where is this?”
“You are in the Shoreside Community Hospital in Ulmerton, New York. You have a slight concussion, but you’re doing just fine. You’re a very lucky man.”
“Oh? And why should I feel lucky about a headache and dizziness?”
“Because it could have been much worse,” she replied. Some of the other passengers weren’t as lucky.”
“Passengers of what?” he asked, frowning.
“The Grayline Flight 19 from California.”
“They are still investigating and aren’t sure what caused the crash, but you’re going to be fine.”
He noticed the nurse was scrutinizing him intently as though she were counting every freckle, then she asked, “Can you tell me your name?”
“It’s Stone Langston,”…then, excitedly, “What do you mean? Don’t you know? My business cards, credit cards, driver’s license—everything is in my wallet. Where is it?” He quickly sat up, then the pretty nurse and the whole room did a complete somersault and he fell back before he became violently ill.
“Lie very still,” the nurse said gently. “Just a mix-up of some kind. We’ll straighten it out, and the dizziness will pass. We’ll get you up gradually, not like
were doing—playing jack-in-the-box.” She hurried to put a cool cloth on his head and said, “Lie as still as you can and don’t try to turn your head. It will take a little time so just be patient, and I’ll ask Dr. Trainer about your wallet as soon as I can reach him. He probably knows where it is. What did you say your name was?” she asked him again.
“And your age?”
She shot him a quick glance, then asked, “Your Address?”
“8730 West Baintler St., Colburgh, New York.”
“And your family?”
“None. My wife died….No children….No one!” he said wearily, knowing he was stuck here at least until the walls stayed perpendicular.
The nurse continued to write, then satisfied, she said, “I’m going to try and locate Dr. Trainer and ask him to come in and explain everything to you—so just relax,” and she smiled again showing lovely even teeth.
“Will you come back?” he asked in instant concern. He knew he had to see her again.
“Of course I will,” and she smiled down at him as she adjusted the pillow ever so gently for this handsome, dark-haired patient before leaving the room. Stone was so caught up in that smile and the dimples above it as well as the perfect figure below it that for the moment he forgot about Jerry’s wedding, his concussion, his wallet, everything but the nurse—and he wondered if she was married. He listened to her beautiful voice as she attended the other patients in the room. She asked the old gentleman beyond the curtain if he had eaten anything yet, and told him if anything sounded good to him to ring his bell and she’d try her best to provide it.
About an hour later Dr. Trainer entered the room and woke Stone gently, apologetically explaining that he was sorry he couldn’t have come earlier but he had been dealing with an emergency. “It should have been on record that your money was in our safe—the $1000 found in your shoes—but there was nothing in your pockets. Your billfold no doubt fell out of your pocket during the accident and was destroyed along with so much else. I’m afraid there’s not much chance of it ever being found. I’m sorry.”
“Well, I’m just thankful that your people were honest and put my money away,” said Stone, relieved that he had some money, but thoroughly bewildered. Why was he carrying it in his shoes? He didn’t tell the doctor—but he had no idea where the money had come from either. His mind had been whirling as he spoke. Why was he carrying that much money with him, especially cash? He didn’t even have that kind of money. His buying was always done on credit, and he barely made ends meet at the end of each month. He hoped he could hold out long enough to keep up with the rent and get the store making a profit. Even a little gain would be encouraging.
“Do you remember why you put it in your shoes?”
Stone hesitated, then said, “I…I guess safer.”
“And obviously you were right,” said the doctor, “and lucky you were wearing laced shoes that stayed on. I’m happy to see you awake. It was a bungling oversight that we hadn’t yet got your picture in the paper to see if someone could identify you. No excuse except that there were so many emergencies all at once. Who would you like us to notify?”
“No one. There’s no one, really. I have no family and have only had the business about a year. I’ve been so busy getting that started that I haven’t had time to make local friends either. Most of my business is with collectors who come long distances in reply to my ads. How long have I been here?”
“A little over two weeks.”
“Then it’s OK” he said, in relief. “The man I have tending the store until I get back wouldn’t be expecting me back yet anyway, and I’ll get in touch with him soon. I’m to be Best Man at his wedding at the end of the month.”
“I’m sure you’ll make it.” He looked at his patient thoughtfully, then reassured him by saying, “If things go as well as I expect, you shouldn’t have to stay with us much longer. How do you feel now?”
“Groggy, light-headed, and dizzy and sickish when I try to sit up.”
“That will pass. I believe Miss Derling explained to you that it might take a while, but some improve faster than others. You seem to be in pretty good condition and should be one of the fast healers. We’ll do our best.”
After the doctor left, Stone tried not to move his head, and hoped the dizziness would go away soon. The beautiful nurse had put another pillow under his head, and he felt fairly comfortable as long as he didn’t move.
A week later things were better, but he still could not bear to read anything, or watch television in the community room. He had looked in one Saturday morning when a cartoon was on, and felt so dizzy just glancing at it that he barely made it back to his room. He was glad no one in the ward he was in had asked for television. He couldn’t look down or up for any length of time either. He just concentrated on eating what he could to gain his strength back and trying to walk without swaying. He was gradually improving and he was just waiting for the day he could walk out of here.
One afternoon two other patients across the room had their curtains pulled, and he could hear one of them talking with a woman. “How does Tommy like his teacher?” he heard the man ask.
“He says she’s okay but she smells funny—like a magazine, and he doesn’t like it.”
“What does a magazine smell like?”
“He couldn’t describe it. Just said it makes him feel sick.”
“I’m glad I’m going home in the morning. I want to go in and meet that teacher. I’m curious.” They were both laughing, when a voice from the other curtained spot said, “I couldn’t help overhearing what you were saying, and I’ll bet your Tommy doesn’t like the perfume they stick in some magazines. Some of them reek with it. I have a niece who’s allergic to perfumes and my sister can’t take one of those magazines into her house.”
“I never thought of that,” said the woman. “Thank you. I’ll bet that’s it.”
Tommy’s father asked the man beyond the curtain, “Any suggestions about how to approach the teacher and tell her our son doesn’t like the way she smells?”
The man from the other bed laughed and replied. “No, I’m afraid you’re on your own there.”
Stone suddenly realized there were strange odors in this hospital that had been bothering him, and maybe that was what was making him so dizzy and nauseated. He had to get out of here. He lay there trying to think of a way to get out of the hospital, then finally went to sleep as the people continued to talk about their children.
When Stone woke up much later the visitors were gone, and he was quietly pondering what Dr. Trainer had said about thinking he would be a fast healer. He hoped he could go home soon. Just as soon as he could walk straight and felt he could make it he would tell Dr. Trainer that he felt fine. He was glad he had that thousand dollars, but he was completely bewildered about where it came from. Suddenly he remembered something else—that the doctor had mentioned laced shoes, and he knew he hadn’t been wearing his laced shoes on this buying trip. He was sure he had worn his slip-ons. He distinctly remembered that he had not polished the others and hadn’t had time to do it. Did the shoes, as well as the money, belong to someone else? Now he was really worried. With his wallet missing he would have no money at all—as well as no identification. He agonized over it for a long time, then finally decided he would use the money as a loan and get out of here as soon as possible. When he got home he would try to find out who it belonged to.
By the end of the week Stone was up walking around in the strange paper slippers provided for him, and the dizziness was much less. The lump on his head, although still there, no longer hurt as much and, after assuring the doctor that he felt fine, his release was signed. His head was only sore when he combed his hair or touched the lump. He didn’t want to read or watch T.V. as using his eyes to that extent still made things move a little. When Darling (in his mind this was her name) came in the next time, he asked her if she could get him some paper and a pen. When she handed them to him, he started to make a list of the items he was looking for on this buying trip, but discovered that tipping his head and using his eyes for this brought back the dizziness.
Miss Derling offered to make out his list for him and he handed back the paper and pen. She sat on the bed beside him and the nearness of her made him forget what he had been going to write so, instead, he asked, “You must have another name besides Darling….I…I mean Derling,” he added in embarrassment.
She laughed delightedly and said, “It’s Tara Lee.”
“Really? That’s perfect. Do you use both names?”
“Usually. Some people do call me just Tara.”
“May I call you Tara Lee?”
“If you like. Now what did you want me to write?”
He noticed with relief that she wore no wedding ring. Finally he remembered that he needed more antique jewelry as well as music boxes, but couldn’t seem to think of another thing. “I wish I had my briefcase,” he said, “but Dr. Trainer told me all luggage was lost. I’ve got to report my credit cards missing, get a new driver’s license, and get to the bank.”
“I’ll help you in any way I can,” said Tara Lee, “I know it makes you dizzy to read or write still.”
“Will you, really?”
“Of course, but right now I’m on duty so if you can’t think of anything else for your list I’ve got to….”
“Right now, yes, but what about tonight? When do you get off duty? I’m being released this morning you know and”he rushed on,“I’m staying at the Horizon Hotel until I can get a few things, make some phone calls, and get a ticket for home. May I see you tonight?” He was excited now and his head was beginning to ache again.