The cat Blarney has a big part in the story
JOHANNA SAT AT THE kitchen table and cradled a mug of coffee. Most summer Sunday mornings, she would be at work in the yard. A yawn stretched the corners of her mouth. The night had been a restless one and she wasn’t sure why she’d taken
upstairs. Except, his mournful cries had made her feel guilty. Then his
explorations had roused her several times. She’d rescued him from the closet,
the bathtub and from beneath the bed.
The black-and-brown kitten skittered across the brick-patterned linoleum and ended at her feet. He stretched to bat the dish towel draped over the edge of the table and landed on his back.
She scooped him from the floor and held him so they were eye to eye. “Do you realize what an expensive house guest you are?” She thought of the size of the check she’d written to the vet and shook her head. Worse than a visit to the doctor since the kitten wasn’t covered by her health insurance.
Why me? she wondered. There’d been no logical reason for the rescue beyond some foolish desire to recapture a fleeting moment of happiness from her past. Did she really want to retain custody? Was there a choice? Probably not.
leaped into her life and lifted her spirits.
The kitten’s purr lulled her. For a short time, she’d been able to forget the hospital and its problems. Dylan Connelly’s charming smile and laughing eyes flashed in her thoughts. She’d felt at ease with him. He’d promised to call, but she couldn’t understand why a stranger would want to foster a chance encounter. What would she say if she heard his voice?
Small feet kneaded her robe. The kitten wiggled in an attempt to escape. She felt a warm, wet spot on her lap. “No.” She carried the kitten to the litter box. “If you expect to stay, you’ll make your messes here. The least you can do is cooperate.” She paused to take a breath. “There’s always the animal shelter.”
The kitten stared at her with eyes too large for his small face. Johanna grinned. “I’m joking. For better or worse, the two of us must learn to live together.”
He blinked and scratched the litter. Small pellets scattered across the floor of the hall near the basement door.
With a shake of her head, Johanna walked upstairs for a quick shower. She added her robe and pajamas to the heap of towels she’d used to wipe up his accidents during the night. If he was to spend his nights upstairs with her, she’d need a second litter box—or more towels.
Johanna's best friend and wife of the hospital CEO
Abbey’s hands rested on her fleshy hips. “This is the third time his office has been redecorated. He’s so concerned about appearances...his. Abbey’s bitterness hovered in the air.
Johanna looked away. “He wonders why the nurses complain. Just what does he want?”
Abbey shrugged. “Who knows? I certainly know nothing of his agenda. He doesn’t tell me anything. He’s even accused me of favoring the nurses. Richard always takes care of himself. What will you do?”
“Cut non-essential expenses. It’s sure going to be hard for the staff to understand. How can anyone believe there are deficits when the board leases luxury cars for every department head and spends money in other non-productive ways? “
“And today, Richard tried to bribe the lab with a new centrifuge. Jim refused.” Johanna shook her head.
Abbey frowned. “Why would he do that?”
“I imagine he’s looking for support for some plan he’s devised.”
“Sounds like him,” Abbey said.
Johanna shook her head. “I don’t mean to carp.”
“You do and you should.” Abbey rose. “My husband’s out for anything he can grab. Lord knows, I’ve protested often enough.”
The anger in her friend’s voice chilled Johanna. For years, she’d wondered what kept the Jamisons together. Since Richard had come to Hudson Community, her questions had multiplied.
“Are you all right?” Abbey asked.
“I will be.”
“Ready for lunch?”
“I’m eating here. With Ellen gone, there are things I need to handle.”
“Anything I can do?”
“No...Wait...Look over these incident reports. What are we going to do about the increase?”
Abbey reached for the stack. “Cut down on overtime. Order Carla Grant to earn her salary by giving some staff education programs addressing the problems. A month ago, I handed her a list of suggested topics, but she’s too busy attending conferences and looking important.”
Johanna's Old boyfriend - Blaine
She stepped into the elevator and shoved her dislike of the staff ed coordinator in a corner. Several minutes later, she tapped on the door of a private room.
Was the tenor voice the one she remembered? She paused inside the door. The dark-haired man seated in a chair near the window put his book down.
“Johanna Gordon, how are you?” He rose and walked to her side. “You’ve hardly changed.”
“So am I and, maybe, wiser,”
His ebony hair showed no trace of gray. She studied his eyes and wondered why he appeared weary. “I saw your name on the list and wondered...”
“So you came to see.” He clasped her hands. “I gather you’re a supervisor.”
“Director of Nursing.”
“Congratulations. At least one of us has fulfilled the dream of doing something useful for society.”
“Some days I wonder.” When he released her hands, she jammed them in her pockets. “What are you doing here?”
“Selling my father’s hardware stores and regrouping.”
“Is your wife with you?”
He shook his head. “Divorced. And you?”
His smile faded. “Do you have time to visit?”
She could almost touch the raw currents of loneliness she heard in his voice. “I’ve time.” She looked at the barely touched lunch tray. “I hope the food isn’t that bad.”
“No appetite.” His gaze met hers. “I’m sure you know why I’m here.”
“I don’t. Since I’m not directly involved in your care, I’ve no right to read your chart.”
His smile was sheepish. “I’d forgotten how much you value privacy.”
She shook her head. “It’s not privacy. There’s such a thing as patient confidentiality. The hospital recently escaped a law suit when one of the nurses spoke out of turn in the elevator.”
He nodded. “I’m in for tests. Something about an abnormal blood count coupled with tiredness and weight loss.”
She closed her eyes. Was he seriously ill? “What has your doctor told you?”
“You know how it is. The doctor talks, but you don’t hear.”
“I was in town...My old family doctor sent me to Radeno and...going back to the city didn’t seem...I don’t know...I just decided to stay here and figure what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
Johanna sat on the arm of a chair. “Is there anything I can do?”
“Seeing you is a real boost. Do you remember the grand dreams we had?” His eyes seemed to be focused on an other time.
“Hardly possible when one enters the real world. How are your parents?”