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Chapter Seven
Crossville, Tennessee

The bright light pierced like a bolt of lightning through Max’s head. He tried to blink, to shut it out, only to find his eyelid was clamped open by someone with a very strong thumb. He shook his head to break free, sending rivets of pain to every corner of his head before traveling down his neck to his shoulders.

“Whoa!” the possessor of the thumb cried, stepping backward. “Looks like you are coming around, Mr.” he checked a pad in his hand, “Mr. Carnes. You got a nasty goose egg on your forehead. How do you feel?”

How did he feel? Like his head was in a vise grip, like he had been run over by a truck. There were so many aches and pains, he couldn’t count them all, but definitely the pain in his head took top honors.

“My head hurts.” He stated the obvious. Better not to elaborate, Max thought, nothing like listing numerous physical complaints to confirm his age. Not that he was trying to hide anything, but he needed to find out what had happened before they went off on how he shouldn’t have been driving at his age.

“We are going to get a CT Scan of your head and neck, Mr. Carnes, just to make sure there is no serious damage. But it looks like you are going to be ok except for that bump on your head, which is going to cause you some headaches. I think you should be able to get out of here by tomorrow. Of course, we’ll need to see the x-rays first.”

Max squinted at the doctor or he supposed he was a doctor. He was writing something on a clipboard. He appeared to be about Bobby Lee’s age well, maybe a little older; he was blurry. Where in tarnation were his glasses? He reached to his shirt pocket only to find he wasn’t wearing his shirt. They had him in one of those ridiculous backless hospital gowns.

“My glasses? Do you have my glasses?”

This time he heard a female voice and realized another unfamiliar person was standing next to “Dr. Thumb”.

“Mr. Carnes, I believe your granddaughter has your glasses. She’s out here in the emergency waiting area with your wife. Do you want me to bring them in? It will be a few minutes before they get here to take you for your scan. You’ll go to room 318 after that. They could come in now or we could have them meet you in 318.”

It took a second to sink in.

“My granddaughter?”

“Yes, Greta, I believe. Is that right? She has been so helpful to Mrs. Carnes and she told everyone how your quick response was the only thing that saved your lives when that log came off the flat bed truck. Those curves out on that piece of Highway 70 can be real problems when things aren’t tied down tight. You are all very fortunate.”

“Please, send them in.”

This should be good. In the precious short time he’d been out of commission, Amanda, waif from who knew where had become Greta, his sister-in-law, now his “granddaughter”. One thing for sure, the lying had to stop. But with the relentless pounding in his head, he couldn’t handle straightening it out right now. It took a few minutes to dawn on Max that the doctor had said he would need to stay overnight. He couldn’t do that. Lily needed him. He would have to get released. They could stay locally, wherever locally was. Good Grief! He realized he had no idea where he was.

“Hey, how are you?” Amanda edged toward the narrow emergency room bed with Lily clinging to her arm for dear life. Lily looked bewildered and wary..

“Greta, where are we?” Lily asked. “I don’t like this place. It smells.” Her eyes darted all around and she shrunk behind Amanda out of Max’s vision.

“My head hurts.” Max answered Amanda. “Do you have my glasses?”

“Yeah, they’re right here. They fell off when you hit the steering wheel, but they didn’t break.”

“That’s one good thing,” He said, taking them from her and putting them on his head. The pressure on the bridge of his nose and over his ears sent little electrical charges through his skull. He must have grimaced.

“Hey, are you sure you are ok? They said they are going to do some more x-rays.”

“I’ll be ok. How is Lily?” Lily hung behind Amanda, peeking around occasionally like a shy child.

“Pretty scared, but she calmed down a little in the back of the patrol car that brought us in to the hospital. We went to the cafeteria and had ice cream. She liked that.”

“How?” he started.

“How did you get here? By ambulance. You passed right out. Scared the wits out of me.”

Max knew he was circling around the big issues, but for some reason circumventing appealed to him. Maybe it was the pain in his head, but he was avoiding getting to the crux of the matter more directly.

“What about the Buick?”

“Car’s fine but they towed it in since I don’t drive and neither does Lily.”

“Amanda, where are we?”

“Crossville, I think.”

“What happened? The nurse was going on about logs, quick reactions and so forth. What I recall is you screaming, grabbing the wheel and stomping on my foot on your way to the brake.”

“That’s ok. You’re welcome.”

“I’m what? Welcome for what?”

“I know that was your crabby old way of saying ‘thank you, Amanda’ for saving our lives, not to mention my driver’s license.”

“What!”

“Look, Max, Mr. Carnes, did you or did you not see that log fly off the back of that flatbed?”

Max closed his eyes. He could not remember. They had been talking about Greta, then Amanda was screaming, they were swerving, the trooper was at his door and now he was here. They had almost been killed. What in him resisted admitting this child had reacted quickly and appropriately averting almost certain death? It was his old nemesis, pride. Would he never be rid of that devil?

“No.” He admitted softly. “I never saw the truck or the log. Thank you, Amanda.”

“Like I said, you’re welcome.”

“Mr. Carnes?” A voice interrupted and two attendants entered, one briskly checking his hospital bracelet. “We are going to take you for a little ride. Your wife and granddaughter can meet you in room 318. That’s where you’ll wind up after this.”

He didn’t have time to protest as they efficiently rolled him from the room. Amanda waved good-bye with Lily peaking out from behind her.

“We’ll meet you up there. Come on Lily; let’s go get us something to eat while he’s gone.”

“You know all about hospitals, don’t you, Greta.”

“Huh? Oh yeah, that’s right I’m a nurse.”

“And a good one. You went to save the children, but you’ve been gone so long. I thought he’d stolen you away. Momma hated him, Papa, too. But you are back and I am so happy.” Lily smiled and Amanda smiled back.

Amanda didn’t know what to say, but she would let Lily talk as much as she would. It helped ease her sense of apprehension. She had thought about moving on, especially when the cop was asking her questions at the scene and then here in the hospital. He had assumed she was the granddaughter, but suspicious. She could see it in his eyes when she had to dig through Max’s wallet to come up with an address. Lily had calmed in her presence and called her Greta, so maybe that made him decide to stop questioning her, but she couldn’t be sure he wasn’t checking her out.

Not that there would be anything to find. Nobody had wanted her since before she was born. If it hadn’t been for some do-gooder on a sidewalk she’d have been toast before she even popped out. Nobody would be looking for her. Of that she was certain.

As they approached the cafeteria, Amanda became aware of a faint rendition of the William Tell Overture in her pocket.

“Uh, Oh,” she thought, one of Max and Lily’s kids.
*
The phone call had been from Dr. Ryan Carnes. La-de-da, Amanda thought. He’d certainly wasted no time letting her know that information, as if she cared. When she had asked him what kind of doctor he was, he let her know in crisp tones that he was a full professor of International Studies and Economics at Princeton University. Amanda listened as politely as she could.

She’d been introduced to Home Economics in the eighth grade. Her teacher, Mrs. McDermott, had been the home economics teacher at William Howard Taft Middle School for forty years. Amanda’s Granny Nan had been in Home Economics the very first year she’d taught and then she taught her mother before winding up with Amanda, who had neither skill nor inclination toward sewing or cooking. Mrs. McDermott stressed the basic skills, but frankly, who cares if you can do a flat felt seam or a bound buttonhole.

Needless to say, Dr. Ryan Carnes, professor of Economics and world history or whatever he said, did not impress her in the least. Foremost on her mind was how she was going to get him off the phone without raising any suspicions and keep him from checking with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. As she listened to him list his credentials, she pulled Lily toward her into a window alcove near the hospital cafeteria.

Dramatically, she crossed her fingers in front of her. Amanda marveled as Lily’s face uplifted with a conspiritory smile and she mimicked Amanda’s gesture crossing her fingers in unity with her. Drat it! Amanda thought Lily looked so cute, so cute in fact, that Amanda smiled also and winked at her. Don’t get distracted, she thought.

“So, young lady, now that we have established who I am. Just who are you?”

Oops! She hadn’t anticipated his asking her that. She flinched slightly trying to remember if she’d said Smith or Jones. Neither rolled off her tongue very easily so she said simply, “I’m Amanda.”

“Amanda, who?”

In an instant the name came. “Smith”, she responded with what she hoped sounded authentic. If it didn’t he was too busy a man to be chasing that rabbit. He came to the point.

“Amanda,” Ryan Carnes said emphasizing her name. Why had he done that? Was he on to her? He completed his request, which allowed her time to exhale the breath she’d been holding. “Please put my father on.”

This was the request she had expected. To make this work she needed to tell the truth without really giving all the details.

“He’s lying down at the moment.” That was undoubtedly true, at least he had been the last time she’d seen him. “Could I have him call later?”

“Lying down? It’s one o’clock in the afternoon, maybe noon there. Wherever there is?” The last of his response trailed away from the first, and then he asked with what sounded like genuine concern for the first time in the conversation, “Is he sick?”

His response instantly solved one issue for her. No wonder she was hungry. Lily must be too. They’d eaten breakfast at 6:30 in the lobby of the Inn in Cookeville. She smiled at Lily who stood straight as a soldier with her goofy look and crossed fingers.

“Amanda, are you still there? Is my Dad sick?”

“No, no, nothing like that.” Banged up, confused as all get out, cranky, sporting a knot on his head the size of a golf ball, but not sick, at least not exactly sick. She continued as quickly as she could, anxious to get the conversation to a mutual disconnect. “We had a little car trouble on Highway 70 so they brought the car here to Crossville. We are going to rest here overnight and get going again tomorrow. I’ll have him call you, I promise. His daughter programmed in all your numbers.”

“Good for Peggy,” Ryan commented, “at least one of my siblings did something sensible before letting them set out for the Atlantic Ocean.”

Amanda really didn’t like his tone. They were doing just fine! So what if a log almost smashed them. Almost being the key word; it didn’t. Max was ok, she assured herself, hoping more than knowing.

“I will have him call you!” She reiterated emphatically. “Now I have got to go. Your mother and I are hungry.” As she was shutting the tiny phone, she heard Dr. Ryan Carnes plead distantly, “Wait!” She did not.

Dropping the phone into her pocket, she took Lily by her crossed fingers hand and started toward the cafeteria. “Let’s go get some lunch, Lily. You hungry? I am.”

She glanced at Lily and found her searching her face, slightly confused.

“What is it, Lily?” She asked gently, worried that she might be getting ready to freak out again.

“Greta, who’s Amanda? Do I know Amanda?”

Amanda squeezed her upper arm slightly, “Yes, you know Amanda. She’s your friend.”

“Okay, Greta. I have trouble remembering sometimes.”

“That’s ok. I’ll help you.”

“Yes, you always have. You are the best big sister in the whole world.”

Amanda looked away and blinked. As long as she was Greta, not Amanda, at least one person in the world loved her, even if it was a senile old woman. Keep focused on the ocean, she warned herself, even as she turned to Lily and smiled.

*

The cafeteria was crammed with people. Evidently noon or one o’clock, whichever, was a universally popular time to convene for eating. Earlier when they had come in for ice cream, negotiating the various food islands had been no problem for Amanda with Lily in tow. Besides the focus had been the soft serve ice cream machine but now called for more substantial nourishment. Amanda had not been hungry many times in her short life, but she had not forgotten that two days before, she’d experienced real deprivation. In spite of the ocean of people, they were going to eat, but obviously a strategy was needed.

The swarms of people around them were bent on getting their trays filled and finding a place to settle and eat, so Amanda and Lily found they were being bumped from all sides. Mumbled “excuse me’s” and “sorry’s” sufficed as acknowledgement of intruding on another’s space as they became pressed by the crowd. Amanda felt Lily tighten and begin to shake slightly beside her. Something like a low moan rose from Lily’s throat. Amanda scoured the cafeteria for a place to settle Lily so she could get them both some food.

Momentarily, her eyes came to rest on a circular booth in a far corner from the food service, which was amazingly empty, far from any visible escape routes and in direct line of sight of the food islands. It would be perfect. Amanda, pulling an increasingly nervous Lily along, headed for it. As she drew closer she read the sign above it and her heart plunged. “Reserved for three or more guests.”

As she turned with Lily wondering “what now,” she bumped the tray of another cafeteria patron. Now it was her turn to say “excuse me and sorry.” Her eyes began their careful search of the even fuller appearing room, when a rich soft voice broke her concentration. She looked up into the face of the woman she had bumped. Her defenses gathered as she expected a reprimand for her clumsiness. The voice inside was already snapping out a crisp, ‘I said excuse me!’ which fortunately did not make it to the level of audition.

The substantial woman before her was smiling, not just with her mouth but her eyes. Her face was the color of dark honey and her voice had that quality, too. When she spoke, Amanda thought she must be an angel.

“Were you looking for a place to sit? I was wondering if you would like to share the booth with me.” She indicated with her elbow the very booth Amanda had been heading to before the forbidden sign became readable. Amanda sighed with relief and realized that Lily wasn’t the only one trembling. She too felt her lip quiver as she nodded and knew she was on the verge of tears. The day with all its unexpected events, coupled with her hunger, was imploding all her inner resources, which were not any more extensive than any ordinary fourteen year old. With the potential of tears as close as the deepening pools in her eyes, she could only manage a nod.

She introduced herself as “Sophia Winchester” and proceeded to scrunch her amply endowed body into the booth. Amanda could see as she helped Lily into the booth that Lily had calmed and was staring at Sophia. Sophia didn’t seem to mind. She didn’t even flinch or look upset when Lily began questioning her.
“You’re Bertha Mae’s sister, aren’t you?”

“No, m’am. I have two sisters, Clarisse and Jeanine, but no Bertha Mae.”

“Well you look just like her!” Lily stated matter of factly. Amanda started to try to shush Lily and apologize to Sophia, when Sophia smiled up at her and waved her off. “You go on. Get you two some food. Ms., uh?” she stopped and looked at Amanda who supplied Lily’s name, “Ms. Lily and I will be just fine till you get back.”

“But she’s kind of confused. She gets really nervous, too.”

“Like I said, you go get something for you to eat and I will watch after Ms. Lily till you get back.”

Amanda didn’t need any more prodding. Sophia might not be an actual angel but she was certainly one to Amanda at that moment. She selected food she liked for both of them and hoped Lily would like something on the tray. At the cashier she could see Lily and Sophia in the booth chatting. No telling what Lily was saying. She pulled Max’s wallet from her pocket and paid for their lunch. Putting it back in, she felt the fifty dollar bill she’d picked from it the day before and with it a ripple of guilt.

Amanda watched Sophia and Lily as she ate her lunch. Sophia seemed to have a knack with Lily, who ate ravenously, better than Amanda had seen her eat in the two whole days she’d known her.

Amanda’s attention, however, rested primarily on Sophia. Sophia wore a hospital identification badge and her half sized glasses around her neck. They both rested atop her generous bosom which seemed purposefully designed as a shelf for both objects. The badge was attached with a clip, therefore fairly stable. Amanda could see the hospital name, but could not even with her perfect vision make out anything else on the badge without staring really hard, and that seemed embarrassing, given where the badge resided. The glasses on the other hand were free floating on Sophia’s natural shelf, bobbing and shifting as Sophia talked and threatening to slide over the edge when she laughed, which she did more than once during lunch.

Who was this woman? Amanda thought. She was wearing a very tasteful dress, not a uniform or scrubs, plus she possessed an air of authority. She reminded Amanda of the guidance counselor at her former school, Mrs. Dorthea Watkins. Sophia had the same quality of being a subdued, but wise listener, that Mrs. Watkins had. Amanda shared an abbreviated description of the accident and Max’s need to stay overnight without ever really identifying herself, a neglect that was not missed by Sophia.

“And you are…?” Sophia asked with eye contact that seemed to penetrate every lie Amanda had told since she had left home a week ago. The look was not unkind, but probing and uncomfortable nevertheless, especially to someone who was beginning to have to keep her lies in proper order to remember them all.

“Greta” Lily announced, “She’s my wonderful older sister. Are you sure you don’t know Bertha Mae?”

Sophia smiled at Lily then looked back at Amanda, who breathed and shrugged. Rising, she helped Lily from the booth, paying careful attention to chatting with her as she piled their plates, napkins and utensils on the tray. Sophia remained seated and mute, evidently not bent on pursuing the answer to her question, but watching. Finally, she rose and took the tray from Amanda, scooting her own underneath and piling her dishes on top.

“I’ll take these, Greta,” she said with emphasis and elongation of “Greta”, “I know you and your sister want to get back to check on the patient.” Her tone was not easily readable, but conveyed a tinge of disappointment. Rats! Amanda thought, there went that tingle of guilt again. She started away, but her feet felt like she was wearing iron boots. With a sigh she looked back at Sophia, who continued to watch them.

“Amanda.” She said quietly. Sophia nodded and smiled.

*

The trip for the CT Scan had left Max exhausted, but anxious, too. Just as he was being inserted into a tube head first, he remembered he had been supposed to take some pictures and send them to Millie to be scanned. His memory was none too sharp anymore either. When Amanda and Lily got back, he’d have Amanda get Millie on the cell phone so he could tell her—Whew! What could he tell her?

Max couldn’t say he had never told a lie, but telling the truth had always been a priority. He’d stressed it with his children, finding they paid attention to truth and plain old listened to him more, if he lived the principle. His Daddy quoted “practice what you preach” so often while Max was growing up that he supposed it had taken root. So, he didn’t have many choices. The outcome would depend, not on how skillfully he could spin the story, but on how Millie reacted to the bare bones facts. Max knew he was going to need a sizable portion of Divine intervention, but he didn’t expect it in the form of his next visitor.

“Good Afternoon, Mr. Carnes, I am Sophia Winchester. I’m with the hospital’s pastoral care.”

Max batted at the night table in search of his glasses, so he could get a clear view of this apparition. Sophia crossed the room and gently slid them from the top of his head onto his nose. “Ouch,” he said quietly. Now he remembered why he had them up there. He stared up at her round pleasant face.

“I’m sorry. Are the glasses painful on your nose?” She apologized. ‘Would it be better if you had them off?”

“They’re fine,” he replied, even though the pressure was relentless, “my whole face is painful right at the moment. Did you say you were a preacher?”

He cocked his head slightly sideways and studied her. She didn’t speak immediately, but instead, found one of the chairs in the room and pulled it up bedside, then sat.

“No, I am with the pastoral care staff. I’m a volunteer chaplain. I usually only preach to my kids.” Her voice remained pleasant and level. She looked down at the sheet on her clipboard. “When you arrived at the hospital, your paperwork was incomplete. Evidently, your granddaughter was answering questions and didn’t have a lot of information. She didn’t list a religious preference, so as a part of my service I came to fill in the blank, see if you have a preference and to offer any spiritual assistance, whether you do or don’t.”

“Oh, we attend a Christian Church back home.” Max relaxed against the pillow as best he could. His head was still pounding. Without thinking he slid his glasses back to the top of his head.

“Is it Independent?”

“A few, mostly Democrats; at least that’s the way they register. There’s a smattering of Republicans. I doubt you’ll find many Libertarians.”

She looked up at him ready to restate and explain her question. As she met his eyes she recognized the sparkle of genuine amusement. Sophia raised her eyebrows and shook her pencil at him. She changed the subject.

“They tell me, Mr. Carnes, that you were traveling east on Highway 70 N, when you had your little mishap. Where were you headed?”

“North Carolina coast, down just a little north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.”

“Seems to me I-40 would be a little more direct.”
“No,” he said turning his head to look at her, “too dangerous.”

The absurdity of his response registered as Sophia’s eyes swept up and down the hospital bed before resting directly on Max’s face. She managed a very serious, “Doesn’t appear to have worked too well.” It probably wasn’t all that funny, but they burst into spontaneous laughter.

Sophia laughed heartily. Max could tell she was a woman who laughed often. He liked that in people. Max laughed less heartily because the action sent waves of pain throughout his head.

As Max often noticed, people who love to laugh frequently get caught in a self-perpetuating cycle. Sophia’s laughter continued unabated for several minutes and when she tried to stop, it bubbled up again. Even clamping her mouth to shut off the giggles proved fruitless. Her face resembled an inflating balloon as she tried to regain her composure; pressure built until another eruption occurred, signaled first by sputtering spit-filled air escaping through her lips followed by another round of uncontrollable laughter.

She finally managed to shut it down in gradual increments, only to find that she had the hiccups. Max smiled at her as she poured a cup of water from his bedside pitcher. He’d experienced uncontrollable laughter, but Lily really had been the one with the unpredictable funny bone and a dysfunctional laughter valve.

“Careful, they charge me for that water.”

“I’ll leave a quarter on the table.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh?”

“It’s a dollar.”

“For a man who escaped a battering ram through his windshield, you seem a mite too relaxed. They have you on heavy drugs?”

Several minutes passed; the conversation expanded to include several topics. Max, in spite of his headache, relaxed in this woman’s presence. He felt a pressure lift from his spirit. When she finally seemed rid of the hiccups, Sophia continued down yet another path, but one that seemed utterly suitable for a hospital chaplain talking to an eighty-seven year old man who had come within inches of meeting his Maker.

“Are you a Christian, Mr. Carnes?” Sophia asked pointedly, her pencil back in the slot at the top of the clipboard and her arms folded across her chest.

“Guess that depends on what you mean by a Christian.”

“How so?”

“Well, Mrs. Winchester . . .”​

“Sophia”

“Well Sophia, if you have in mind some old stuffed shirt, self righteous, all fired sure only his “church” is really the only one right with God sort of Christian, then by golly, I am not. My dearly beloved wife of sixty five years was a high church Episcopalian when I married her and still is as far as I know. She’s gone to church with me all these years, taught Sunday school and Bible School, cooked for shut-ins—you name it–without ever joining the church. She thought about it early on until one preacher’s wife got right in her face about her infant baptism and implied she was in danger of the fires of hell unless she chose to be fully immersed.

Lily wasn’t against immersion, you understand; every one of our children were immersed. Lily stood firm in her faith that the God who had saved her wasn’t measuring her by the number of drops of water or when they were applied, but by her relationship with Jesus. By golly until she got sick, Lily’s faith kept me on an even keel and probably is what still does. So I’d say I am a vanilla Christian–one who knows, by the Grace of God, the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.”

“Halleluiah!” Sophia proclaimed softly. “Now, tell me, Mr. Carnes . . .”

“Max,” he corrected her.

“Max, just between two old ordinary—how did you put it—vanilla Christians, your wife, Lily, would she now be in the company of your granddaughter, Amanda, or is it Greta?”

Sophia leaned forward in her chair so that their eyes could engage without the painful pressure of his glasses. Their gazes locked. Max made a decision, though later he decided they’d over medicated him. In the next several minutes he unloaded the past two and a half days lock, stock and barrel on Sophia.

Sophia, who practiced listening, sat back without comment, while Max told her of the photograph, his family’s concerns turned to cautious support and how Amanda joined the little journey. He slowed down a bit as he described the wild child they had somehow become tied up with when they first met in Springfield. He shared with Sophia what Millie had suggested. He also told Sophia that it had been Amanda’s flash reactions earlier in the day that had saved all their lives. When he finished, he felt tired from the telling but relieved that someone knew the truth or at least as much of it as he knew.

Sophia opened her mouth to speak when a knock sounded on the door, followed by Amanda’s head peeking around, “Hey, Max, can we come in.”

*

Amanda entered with Lily close behind. She stiffened slightly when she saw Sophia sitting in a chair beside Max’s hospital bed. What was going on? What was Sophia doing in Max’s room? Getting Lily in and out of the bathroom after lunch had taken a lot longer than she had anticipated. Now she wished she’d hurried her a little more, not that hurrying Lily was possible.

“Hi.” She said uncertain how to proceed.

“Hello, Greta-Amanda,” Sophia’s response to Amanda’s greeting had a hint of teasing in it, but did nothing to calm Amanda’s anxiousness. Since the Trooper questioned her that morning, she’d felt the urge to bolt and run more than once. She would, too, if Lily would turn loose of her arm for five seconds. She had Max’s wallet. She’d take the money, most of it and leave the rest behind. It was a plan that could work, which did not explain her next words at all.

“I still have your wallet, Max. Do you want to keep it here?”

Max wrinkled his forehead as if uncertain of what she had said. Boy, he looked awful. The knot and the skin across his forehead were bruised and the color had deepened to a dark purple since their last visit. The sound of deepening fatigue could be heard in his voice.

“Wallet? You have my wallet? I don’t know. . .” He tried to squint to see her better. He sounded slightly confused and his voice was fading.

Sophia broke in, “The hospital can put his wallet and any other valuables in the safe. I’ll go get the nurse and we’ll get that taken care of. Then we are going to need to get you two ladies settled someplace so Mr. Carnes. . .”

“Max,” he corrected her in a drowsy breath. She patted his hand.

“Max is going to need to rest and so are the two of you.”

What right did she have running the show? Amanda’s first urge was to tell this bossy woman to back off, but frankly she was tired and had no clue where Lily and she were going to stay until Max got out of the hospital. She’d learned the inside of the hospital pretty well, at least the areas she was allowed in, but she certainly didn’t know anything at all about Crossville. So let the power hungry dame charge ahead. When Amanda looked up at Sophia, eye contact confirmed that she guessed the content of Amanda’s thoughts. Sophia gave her a ‘don’t even go there, girl’ look.

Amanda looked at Max and saw he had fallen asleep, then at Lily who was clawing at her sleeve.

“Where are we? Won’t you let me sleep? I’m so tired? Where are we?” Lily’s plaintive tone indicated they’d better light somewhere soon.

Amanda lifted her eyes to Sophia once more and said, “Thank you, Lily and I are both pretty tired.” Sophia smiled and left to go to the nurses’ station.

*

The afternoon passed with Max in and out of sleep. The pain medication and muscle relaxants kicked in, allowing his body to relax into several respites of slumber. The doctor showed up about four o’clock to pronounce him a mighty healthy, not to mention lucky, eighty-seven-year-old man. The bump on the head had caused a minor concussion but with no other problems. Max would be a free man after his overnight stay, barring any unforeseen events. He would need to take his medications for several days and Doctor “Thumb,” who was actually Dr. Thomson, directed his next words with the authority given to him by virtue of the white coat he wore: “No driving until you are off your medications.”

Max smiled benignly at the physician, who, he noticed, did resemble in shape and motion, a large thumb. No wet behind the ears pup of a doctor was blocking his departure post haste from Crossville, TN. A plan was hatching, even as the doctor continued listing restrictions, while writing prescriptions to be filled. It might have worked, if Sophia had not chosen that precise moment to pay Max a visit to update him on Lily and Amanda. Oh, but that woman could be bossy.

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