Saturday, July 2, 2011

1st Chapter Saturday - A Double Opposition

A Double Opposition by Janet Lane Walters. This story takes the reader to the world of the other Opposition stories. Enjoyed writing about the pair of twins who complicate their mother's life and her romance.

Chapter 1
"Mom, how much longer?"

"Hours. It's been hours."

As the twin whines rasped her eardrums, Liz Jordan's hands tightened on the steering wheel. "Forty-five minutes isn't hours. We'll be there soon."

"Don't know why we have to move to some hick town."

"Yeah, we'll be bored."

Their voices inched toward supersonic wails. She glanced in the rearview mirror and saw twin scowls. Justin and Brandon had inherited their father's handsome features and his hazel eyes, but their hair was dark brown like hers. "Guys, why not give Eastlake a chance? You lived here for two years."

"We were babies," Brandon said. "How we gonna remember anything?"

"Yeah, babies know nothing," Justin added his comment.

They had celebrated their fifth birthdays in Eastlake. Now they were nine going on two or forty-two depending on their mood. Maybe they didn't understand why she'd made the decision to return to here, but her reasons were valid. In the city, they'd been prey to pressure from a gang of boys headed for juvenile hall. This move was right for them. And her?

As the car rounded a bend, she saw a shopping mall that hadn't been here four years ago. What other changes would she find? She knew the hospital had expanded. The unit where she'd be in charge had been opened just three years ago.

When this fact popped into her thoughts, once more she wondered if making a lateral move had been the right choice. Being nurse manager of the ortho/neuro unit at Eastlake Community Hospital had to be less stressful than the same position at a city hospital. Here she wouldn't have to cope with nursing students from three different programs or with interns and residents. What about prima dona surgeons? She chuckled. That breed came with the territory.

At Eastlake, she'd be with the friends she'd made during the two years at Grantley College. She'd been the oldest of their clinical group and the one they'd come to for advice. Three of them lived and worked here. How great it would be to be with Jenessa, Laurel, and Megan again.

What about the unit's neurosurgeon, Dr. Jeff Carter? She remembered golden hair and summer blue eyes, broad shoulders and a lean body. She recalled memories of a dark night and the scent of wild roses. Don't go there. As the memories surged, her cheeks heated. That evening she'd made a foolish mistake, one she'd never make again.

"Mom, why do we have to live here?" Justin asked.

"Because I have a new job, and it's here."

"If it ain't that far from our home, why can't you drive every day?" Brandon asked.

"Yeah. Then we coulda stayed with our friends." Resentment filled Justin's voice.

And I would have gone gray from worry. "Enough. You'll live in Eastlake and like it."

"Or lump it," the boys said in unison.

"Is Pop still behind us?" Justin asked.

"If he gets lost, we'll lose all our stuff 'cept our collection." Brandon thumbed the box on the seat between Justin and him.

"Your grandfather's there," Liz said. "Justin, sit down and fasten your seatbelt." Would he ever learn to think before jumping into action?

"Just had to check."

"He's always doing dumb things."

"Am not."

She heard a grunt. "Guys, enough. Do I have to pull over?" She had to stop them before they came to real blows, something that had never happened. Though they were identical in looks, their personalities were opposite. Like his dead father, Justin plunged into action without thinking, while Brandon plodded and planned.

The noise from the back seat ceased. Liz spotted the sign announcing their arrival in Eastlake and released a sigh of relief. "We're almost there."

She saw her sons turn in their seats to look out the windows. The sight of houses with lawns instead of blocks of tall apartment buildings made her smile.

"Is our house like them?" Brandon asked.

"Maybe a little bigger." She turned the car into Main Street. Many of the shops she remembered were still there. "There's the Hot Doggery. We'll go there for dinner some evening. Best chili dogs I've ever had."

"Tonight?" the boys asked.

"No. Some of my friends are coming by after work to help us get settled."

"That's not fair," Justin said. "We had to leave our friends."

"Do they have kids?" Brandon asked.

"Laurel and Alex have a son. I think he's six."

"A baby," Justin said. "Who wants to play with a baby? Now me."

"Your choice," Liz said. "You don't have to play, but you will be nice to him."

"All right."

"Where's the hospital?" Brandon asked.

"When we come to the next corner, look up the hill. The brick building at the top is the hospital."

"Wow," Justin said. "Think of coming down that hill on a bike."

"Think, but don't do," Liz said.

"You're no fun."

"Not supposed to be. I'm your mother."

Three blocks beyond the street to the hospital, Liz made a left turn and pulled into the driveway of the house her friend had bought just weeks before her wedding. Lucky for me, Liz thought. Laurel had agreed to rent with the option to buy.
Since her husband's death, Liz and her boys had been apartment dwellers. Sometimes, she resented the loss of the house she and Derek had bought, but the sale had allowed her to attend Grantley for a BS in Nursing. Once again her old resentment flared. Volunteer firemen who were determined to be heroes seldom left their families large legacies.

As soon as the car stopped, the boys jumped out. When the rental truck pulled behind her car, Justin nearly plowed into the fender. She stifled a scream. He turned and grinned. She closed her eyes. He was all right. Thank heavens they weren't marking their arrival with a trip to the Emergency Room. She left the car and grabbed him.

"Slow down."

Her father-in-law leaned against the side of the truck. He wiped his ruddy face with a bandanna. "I thought . . . . Don't ever scare me like that again."

Justin toed the grass. "Sorry, Pop."

The elderly man ruffled the boy's dark hair. "So like your father."

"What about me?" Brandon asked.

"You, too."

The hot humid air made Liz feel sticky. She wiped her hands on her navy shorts, then walked toward the house. The red bricks had faded to a rose color. She climbed the steps to the wide front porch. Bamboo shades on the side openings shielded the white wicker furniture from the afternoon sun. She unlocked the door and stepped inside. The highly polished oak of the foyer floor gleamed. Cool air kissed her skin.

Justin pushed past her. "Where's my room?"

"Look at the big TV," Brandon cried. "Is it ours?"

Liz nodded. "If I decide to buy the furniture from Laurel."

"Let's keep the TV." Brandon put the box he'd lugged from the car on the stairs to the second floor. "Where does this go?"

Liz laughed. "As if you didn't know." The box contained the boys' baseball card collection and other treasures. "Come with me, and I'll show you the room you and Justin will share."

"Do we have to?"

"There are three bedrooms, mine, your grandfather's, and yours, plural. Be thankful. I have my own bathroom. No more make-up and sissy smelly stuff."

"Great news."

When they reached the second floor, she opened the door of the room where the twins would sleep. Brandon dropped the box on the lower bunk. He ran his hand over the smooth wood of one of the two chests of drawers. "Neat. This why we didn't bring our old stuff?"

She nodded. Their beds had been the ones they'd slept in since they'd outgrown their cribs, and they'd shared a second-hand dresser she'd refinished. "Thought you might like these."

He looked up. "They gonna cost a lot?"

She hugged him. "Don't worry about the money. You know I sold most of our old furniture."

Justin charged into the room. "I get the top."

"Just don't wet the bed again," Brandon said.

Justin scowled. "Didn't."

Liz put a hand on his shoulder. "He had an accident months ago. Stop picking on each other."

"Okay," Brandon said.

Justin grabbed his brother's hand. "Come outside and meet our neighbor. He's cool. Doesn't believe I have a twin."

"Can we go?" Brandon asked.

Liz nodded. "You're free until my friends arrive. Then it's to work."

"You can come and meet his mom," Justin said. "She's a nurse, too."

As Liz followed the boys downstairs, she wondered if the woman worked at the hospital or in one of the local doctors' offices. If the neighbor worked at Eastlake, she might know things Liz's friends would neglect to tell her, especially about hospital politics. Liz glanced into the living room. Pop had stretched out in the charcoal gray recliner. "You okay?" she asked.

"Just tired. Heat's a bit much, but here with the air conditioning it's fine. Need me to do anything?"

"Later. The boys are taking me to meet a neighbor.

Then I'll bring in the groceries and the suitcases."

"I can do that."

"I know, but take it easy. The work crew should be here by four thirty. Your job will be to direct traffic." She walked to the door. Was her father-in-law ill? These days, he seemed to tire easily. As she stepped onto the porch, the twins waved. They were across the street where a blonde woman and a boy stood beside a sporty sedan.

"Mom, hurry up," Justin yelled. "They're going away."

Liz crossed the street. "This is our mom," Brandon said.

The woman smiled. "I understand you're a nurse."

Liz nodded. "Liz Jordan. Pleased to meet you." She saw something she couldn't define in the blonde's light brown eyes.

"I'm Delores. I heard Mrs. Carter rented the house. You know, she bought it just a couple of weeks ago. Why she wanted a house and even moved in when she was shacked up in Alex Carter's house doesn't compute." She laughed. "Guess she knew what she was doing since she snagged him."

Liz drew in a deep breath. Sour grapes flavored her neighbor's voice. "I'm glad she decided to rent. Saved me from a frantic search for a house and a commute from the city until I found one."

"There is that." Delores bent to pick up a small suitcase. Her tight red shorts slid up to reveal a bit of her buttocks.

Liz looked away. "Especially since I needed three bedrooms."

"Guess your boys have their own rooms."

"They have to share. "My father-in-law lives with us."

"Thought he was your husband." The eyes that had been friendly hardened. "Guess your husband works in the city and decided to commute."

"No husband. He's . . . ."

"Another deadbeat like my ex. Guess we'll have a heart to heart one of these days and discuss straying men." She opened the car door. "Chet, let's go. Was nice meeting you."

Liz returned to the house. Her neighbor's assumptions bothered her. She wasn't sure she liked Delores, and she hadn't learned if the other woman worked at the hospital. Too late now.

"Hey, Mom," Brandon called. "Chet says he'll show us around town."

"He knows all the neat places." Justin raced up the steps.

"His friends are wheels." Brandon tugged on Liz's hand.

She frowned. The boy seemed older than the twins.

"How old is he?"

"Twelve. He's gonna be thirteen in November."

Liz wasn't sure she wanted the boys to hang around with someone three and a half years older. Their ideas of neat and cool differed from hers. There'd been enough problems in the city with their choice of friends. Would this be another mistake?

"I plan to sign you up for some programs at the Y where you can meet boys your own age."

Justin jumped down the steps from the porch. "Dorks."

"Don't make judgments before you meet them."

"But Chet said . . . ."

She sucked in a breath. If she forbade this friendship without a good reason, Justin would rebel and Brandon would argue. "I'll give you a week or two to settle.

As long as you don't give Pop a hard time, I'll let you hang out here."

"We won't," they said.

"Let's unload the trunk. I want to make lemonade and iced tea for this evening."

* * * *

Jeff Carter MD stood at the desk in the nurses' station of the ortho/neuro unit and stared at the order sheet. He couldn't make out the medication order, yet the pharmacy had sent penicillin. The patient had received part of a dose of a medicine he was allergic to. The reaction had been quickly countered by the nurse. For that he was thankful, but the whole situation bothered him. He hadn't ordered penicillin, but the order had been scrawled in the same shade of ink as the other orders.

He glared at the young nurse seated at the desk beneath the counter. "What happened?"

"I hung what the pharmacy sent."

He looked at her name pin. "Penny, didn't you see this?" He tapped the red allergy sticker on the front of the chart. Granted his handwriting wasn't the best and he'd been in a hurry, but someone should have called his office for clarification. "When I spoke to the pharmacist, he said he'd cleared the order with a nurse on this unit."

"Wasn't me." Tears welled in the young woman's eyes. "I didn't even see the orders."

"Where's the nurse manager?" Though Delores Forbes was the last person he wanted to see, this matter had to be resolved.

"She left early to take some comp time."

"Then who's in charge?"

The young nurse pushed strands of fair hair from her face. "I think . . . maybe Edna."

"Did Mrs. Forbes tell you she'd spoken to someone in the pharmacy?"

She stared at the desk. "She said not to bother her. She was in a rush to leave."

Jeff frowned. Had Delores known what had happened? If so, had she changed the order? "Could I see the incident report? Surely you filled one out."

"I slipped it under her office door, and it's locked."

Take ten deep breaths. He put the chart on the desk.

Though the allergic reaction had been halted immediately, there could have been a tragedy. He drummed his fingers against the Formica top of the counter. For the past two months, there'd been too many incidents involving his patients. He hoped the new nurse manager would find a way to turn this place around. Otherwise, he was going to recommend the Board close the unit.

After doing a complete examination of the patient, he returned to the nurses' station. The young woman looked up. "Is he all right?"

"Yes, and thanks for your quick action." He opened the chart. "Can I borrow your pen?"

Another nurse laughed. "Dr. Carter, surely you can afford to buy your own."

"I do, but they walk." He scrawled a note. "One more thing. If you ever have a problem reading my orders, call my office or my home."

"Mrs. Forbes doesn't allow anyone except her to make outside calls."

He handed her the chart. "Making calls to doctors when there's a question about an order or a patient's condition is standard procedure."

The girl nodded. "Yes, sir."

"By Monday you won't have to worry about Mrs. Forbes' rules. The new nurse manager will be here."

"If she stays. Mrs. Forbes says no one else wants the job."

Jeff frowned. Was Delores planning to blindside her replacement? Even if she succeeded, he'd see she wasn't given the position. He wheeled and left the unit. In the hall, he collided with his daughter.

"More gray hairs, Dad. You look ready to go on a rampage."

"Don't ask. Megan, why didn't you take the position as nurse manager on my unit?"

When she laughed her golden curls bounced. "Bad enough my big brother can order me around, but my father . . . . Please. So what happened?"

"Another incident, and this time it could have been serious."

"Your handwriting, I bet."

He shook his head. "No matter what it looks like, I didn't write the order."

"Why don't you print?"

"Don't be a smart mouth. Never learned how."

She put her hand on his arm. "Computers would solve the problem. Why don't you make the suggestion at the next Board meeting?"

"I don't have time to learn how to work one."

"That's right, you're ancient. Fifty-one in December." Her blue eyes sparkled with laughter. "They're simple. Just think, you could type your orders, and no one would complain. You wouldn't have to dictate reports or scrawl progress notes only you can read."

He shook his head. "Not sure handwriting's totally at fault. Why would a nurse manager forbid her staff to make outside calls?"

"To keep them from making personal calls on hospital time."

"Even to a doctor? One would have prevented the latest incident."

She frowned. "What are you saying?"

He shrugged. "Not sure yet. See you at dinner."

"Won't be there. The gang's helping Liz move in."

"Who's Liz?"

"The woman who's going to solve all your problems."

The gleam in her eyes alarmed him. "Megan."

"Dad, she's the new nurse manager. We're helping her move into Laurel's house."

"Why Laurel bought that house still puzzles me."

"To prove a point to my thick-headed brother." She turned. "Don't you remember Liz? She's one of the Grantley gang. You talked to her at Laurel's housewarming."

Jeff frowned. He'd brought ice cream. There'd been a tall woman with long dark hair. They'd spoken for a few minutes. She'd seemed shy. "Was she at the wedding?"

Megan shook her head. "She had to work. Trust Laurel not to give her friends much lead time."

Suspicions leaped into his thoughts. "Is this woman married?"

"She's a single mother with nine-year-old twin sons. She was the oldest member of our group."

"I'll pass on the festivities." He met her gaze. Spare me from a matchmaking daughter. He refused to be her next victim. He'd spent eleven years running from women with marriage on their minds. He didn't need another wife. The one he'd had had been perfect.

"Your choice." Megan backed away.

"I'll give her time to settle in."

Megan laughed. "So you won't confront her 'til Monday afternoon." She turned to leave. "You're not the most patient of men. Just make sure you don't put your foot in your mouth."

He stared after her. What did she mean by that?

* * * *

"Mom, help," Brandon yelled.

Liz grabbed one of the paper bags he held and reached for the other. "Where's your brother?"

He shrugged. "Around."

"Justin. Come help unload the trunk." She carried the bags toward the house.

Brandon followed with his backpack and her overnight case. "Take them upstairs."

As she passed the living room to enter the hall beside the stairs, her father-in-law sat up. "I can help you with those."

"You could track Justin down."

"Impossible. He's so like Derek was. Never could find that boy when there was work to be done."

She wished he would stop comparing Justin to his father. That seemed to give Justin license to behave erratically. The constant comparison also hurt Brandon. Still, she was fortunate to have Pop's help with the boys. Working would have been nearly impossible if he hadn't moved in and taken over the child care.

Liz put the bags on the counter and unpacked the tea kettle and a canister of sugar. After putting water to heat, she checked the refrigerator. Milk, butter, and eggs stood on the shelves. In the freezer, the ice bin was full, and two bags of ice lay on the lower shelf. Thanks, Laurel, she thought.

She looked around the room and admired the efficient use of space and the features she hadn't found in an apartment kitchen. The counters were marble with streaks of green that were echoed in the painted walls and the curtains. The stove had double ovens and a rotisserie. A microwave hung beneath one of the green cabinets. The large window above the sink overlooked the backyard.

Justin emerged from the basement. "Mom, there's a big freezer down there with food and ice cream. Can I have some?"

She handed him an orange. "Here . . . . It's good for you."

"Ice cream tastes better. One for Bran." She tossed him a second, and he ran off.

By the time she had two pitchers of lemonade and two of iced tea cooling in the refrigerator, the first of her guests arrived. Laurel strode into the kitchen. Her long brown braid slapped against her back. "Left Johnny with your boys. Did you find the stuff in the freezer?"

"Justin did." Liz hugged her friend. "You're looking good. Marriage must agree."

"Sure does." Laurel stepped back. "Like the curls. Reminds me of Megan's."

"Unlike hers, mine are induced. Decided a new job deserved a new style." She reached for two glasses. "About the food. You didn't have to. I plan to shop tomorrow."

"Welcoming present."

"Sorry I missed the wedding."

"So am I, but I didn't want to give Alex a chance to change his mind. Was a small simple ceremony. Sue Lee came. She won Johnny's heart."

Liz raised an eyebrow. "She the next recruit?"

Laurel laughed. "Why not? Eastlake needs a good nurse manager for Peds."

"Will she come? Isn't she working toward becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner?"

"Shouldn't keep her from being nurse manager. I've enrolled for my Master's, and Jen's nearly done."

"The Grantley gang rules."

"Where else can you find the best nurses? Our clinical group took top honors."

"Liz, where are you?" Megan called.

"In the kitchen."

Moments later, Megan rushed in and nearly knocked Liz down. "It's good to see you again."

Liz laughed. "Hasn't been that long." Her friend's blonde curls always made her think of dandelions.

"Saw the boys. They've grown. Eric and Alex are organizing the unloading."

"Where's Jenessa?" Liz asked.

"Where else but outside trying to take charge?" Megan said.

Liz groaned. "Let's go before she accuses us of slacking off." She headed down the hall, and the others followed.

"Glad to see you've decided to work." Jenessa stood with her hands on her hips.

"Welcome. Eric and Alex are in the truck."

"Then let's begin," Liz said.

With laughter and teasing, the truck was soon unloaded, and the boxes and few pieces of furniture were delivered to the rooms where they belonged. "Let's have a competition," Jenessa said. "Laurel and Alex can have the kitchen. Eric and I will take the living and dining rooms. Megan, you and Liz can work in the study. The first group to empty their boxes gets a prize."

Justin bolted up the stairs. "Bran, Johnny, let's do our room and the bathroom stuff. What's the prize?"

"I'll think of something. Eric, help."

He laughed. "Was your idea."

Megan joined Liz in the study. She looked at the boxes. "These all books? I suppose you want them in alphabetical order."

"Why? On the shelves is fine. This is a competition, remember."

Megan ripped open a box. "Mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, romance. When do you find the time?"

"Little or no social life. The job and the boys take most of my time. These represent my escape."

"What about yourself? Love . . . romance?"

"No time."

Megan grinned. "Invited my dad to come and help. He turned me down."

A chill rolled along Liz's spine. Did Megan suspect the infatuation? Did her friend have matchmaking in mind? An impossible mission. Liz recalled the day of her interview and Laurel's housewarming. Jeff Carter had been completely uninterested.

"A wise choice on his part." She emptied a box of nursing texts and opened a second.

"Probably a good thing for us. He was in a foul mood."

Liz frowned. "Why?"

"A med error on one of his patients." Megan shoved books on a shelf. "Your new unit is a mess. Four nurse managers in three years. Hope you're not going to throw up your hands."

"Does it look like I plan to leave in a hurry?" She placed two thick medical texts on the oak desk that had been her father's. She was glad Dr. Carter had opted out. Monday would be soon enough to face him.

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