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Authors: Janet Lane-Walters

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BOOK: A Marriage Takes Two
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She grabbed the banister. What if he hated the idea of working with her? She’d resigned from Children’s and WPH. She might be a woman without a hospital.

Her reluctance to tell him spoke of deeper problems, her fear of rejection and her belief in his love for his ex-wife. She and Tony lived a parallel existence, rather like a pair of toddlers who played side by side with no interaction.

“What are you doing all dressed up for work?” Hazel asked. “Can’t just be getting in. Your car was here when I came.”

“I start at the clinic today and I’m going to be late.” She reached for her jacket.

“You aren’t leaving without breakfast. Clinic’s ‘bout five minutes away. He know you gonna be there?”


Hazel laughed. “Sure wish I could be there to see his face. He’s not much for surprises, unless he’s the one making them.” She plucked the jacket from Carrie’s hands. “To the table. Why the clinic?”

Carrie thought of the responses she couldn’t voice. To be near Tony and make him think of her the way she thought of him. “They needed a nurse and commuting would be a drag.”

“Makes sense. Be good for the two of you to see more of each other. Sure ain’t sparking here.” She put a plate of French toast on the table.

Carrie ate several bites and drank a glass of orange juice. “I’m too nervous to eat. See you tonight.”

“I’ll be here when Chad comes from school. Once I clean up, I’m going home. Ben’s feeling poorly.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“Just one of his spells. Weather’s changing. Always gives him problems.”

Carrie rose. “Call the clinic if you need us.”

“Sure will.”

Five minutes later, Carrie pulled into the clinic parking lot. She grabbed her purse and stethoscope and headed for Ruth’s office. “Sorry I’m late.”

The nurse manager rose. “Five minutes isn’t bad. Welcome. Did you come with Tony?”

“He left early. Something about a slew of calls.”

“Beth must have asked him to go on house calls with her.” She pointed to the closet. “Leave your jacket and purse here. I’ll assign you a locker later, but you’ll need to get a lock. We’ll head upstairs and pitch in while I show you around. Will Tony mind you working one weekend a month?”

“No reason for him to mind.” Carrie hung up her jacket. “Sounds like heaven to me. Except for vacations, it’s been ages since I had a full weekend off.” She pointed to the calendar. “I need next Wednesday off. Tony and I have an appointment with a lawyer.”

Ruth arched an eyebrow. “A lawyer?”

“Nothing drastic. It’s a long story.”

“And someday you’ll tell me.” Ruth wrote a note on the calendar. “You’ve got the day, and you’ll be on for the weekend.” Once they were in the hall, Ruth locked the door. “So how did you and Tony meet?”

“I gave him a black eye.”

“What did he do?”

“Stepped in between his brother and me.”

“His brother attacked you?”

Carrie laughed. “You could say that. Jerry and I were six. He didn’t like sharing his mom with me. She watched me after school.”

“Then you’ve known him for ages. He’s one of the good guys.”

“Always has been.”

Carrie looked at Ruth’s softly rounded abdomen and held back a sigh of envy. Years ago, she’d imagined holding a baby with Tony’s dark hair and blue eyes. Then he’d told her he was marrying someone else, and she’d put the dream in storage. Dare she take it out again? Not unless she could persuade him to make a commitment, and not before he said he loved her.

On the twenty bed in-patient unit, Ruth gave Carrie a thorough tour with several stops to help the nurse and the aides with beds. Carrie welcomed the change of pace. When she and Ruth headed to the clinic, she felt a moment of uneasiness.

Jane stood in the record room, pulling charts from the files. “Carrie, good to see you again.”

“And you. Slow morning?”

“Mondays are catch up times. There are usually a lot of house calls to make.”

“Did you have calls?” she asked.

“Not this morning. Beth and Tony are today’s team. He insists two staff members make all house calls. Some of our patients live in isolated areas, and some of the living conditions are less than wonderful. We don’t argue with him.”

Carrie grinned. “Good thinking. He’s always had definite ideas about a lot of things.”

Jane nodded. “Amen. Don’t envy your dual role. Is he cool with the idea of you working here?”

“He doesn’t know.”

“Can’t wait to see his face,” Jane said. “Sure gonna be a fun...” She cut off the sentence when Ruth scowled.

“Right.” The nurse manager turned to Carrie. “You’re a bundle of surprises. Why the secrecy?”

“Since I wasn’t sure about the job until Friday, I didn’t say anything. Then we had a hectic weekend.”

Jane sighed. “Sounds wonderful. The man’s so easy on the eyes. I may be happily married, but he’s starred in a few of my fantasies.”

“You bet,” Ruth said. She stepped into the hall. “We’d better move along. Examining rooms are on that side of the hall. Tony’s office and the staff lounge on this side. Lounge doubles as a lunch room.”

“Lunch,” Carrie said. “I forgot to bring mine.”

“Don’t worry. Today’s lunch is on us. It’s our welcome.” She opened the door of one of the examining rooms. “The set-up is the same in all the rooms. Makes for less confusion. Supplies are in the cabinets above the sink and counter. Gowns, sheets, in the lower ones. Teaching material is in the long cabinet.” As she spoke, she opened doors and allowed Carrie to browse.

Carrie closed the long cabinet. “So where do I start?”

“In my office with the policy and procedure manual.”

“Do I have to?”

Ruth nodded. “Yeah, you do. I’ll pick you up for lunch. This afternoon, you’ll assist in the clinic.”


* * *


Tony juggled the boxes of pizza he and Beth picked up for the staff lunch. “What’s the occasion?”

“You should know.”

They wouldn’t. He groaned. They’d threatened to have a shower for him, but he thought they’d forgotten. “You take the pizza in. There’s something I have to do at home.”

She shrugged. “Makes more for us. Don’t you want to welcome the new nurse?”

“When did Ruth hire someone?”

“Friday, I think.”

“Why didn’t she tell me?  Am I out of the loop?”

Beth laughed. “You’re joking, right?”

Joking? What was she talking about?  Had Ruth told him about the new hire when he was tripping in some fantasy?

Beth pushed the lounge door open. “Lunch is here.”

“Surprise.” The shouts, the balloons and the streamers confirmed his earlier suspicions. He should have heeded the inner voice, but it was too late to retreat. He put the pizza boxes beside the cake he recognized as one of Hazel’s killer chocolate ones. At least there’d be a compensation for this foolishness. Men didn’t have bridal showers. Seems he hadn’t convinced his colleagues.

He glanced at the cake’s inscription. “Welcome. Congratulations.” Great. He had a fellow victim.

The lounge door opened. Ruth ushered Carrie into the room. Tony rolled his eyes. How had they talked her into this? The stack of presents was proof of his co-workers’ intentions. Then he noticed his wife was in uniform.

He crossed the room. “What are you doing here?”

“I tried to tell you last evening when we had dinner at the mall. Then this morning, I tried again, but you left before I could.” She chewed on her lower lip. “Do you have a problem with my working here?”

“No.” He looked away. A problem was easily solved. Her presence at the clinic was more like a catastrophe.

“I’m glad. At least it’ll give us something to talk about other than Chad and the house.”

He took her hand. “Welcome aboard. Sorry about the surprise party.”

“I think it’s great.”

“You don’t know this gang.” He handed her a paper plate. “Grab a slice or two before they’re gone.”

When the pizza boxes were empty and the cake demolished, Ruth clapped her hands. “First, let’s welcome Carrie Flynn, our new staff nurse. She’s also Tony’s wife. Don’t you just love togetherness?”

“And being here gets her off the night shift,” Beth said.

Jane laughed. “There are nights and nights. Now we come to the second reason for this party. Not long ago, Tony and I spent an early morning delivering babies. When I asked what he planned for the day, he said he was getting married and we weren’t invited. I was hurt until I learned it was a quiet home ceremony because Carrie’s mother is ill. But I couldn’t let him escape without one of our wonderful wedding showers. Tony, this is yours.”

“And we haven’t forgotten the bride,” Ruth said.

Tony groaned. He was sure they hadn’t.

“That’s nice,” Carrie whispered.

“You’d better wait before you say that.”

The first few presents were things for the house, but Tony knew his friends had something planned. A set of kitchen gadgets made him laugh. “She doesn’t cook.”

“Hazel will enjoy them,” Carrie said. “Until she teaches me how to use them.”

Beth reached for the last two packages. “Saved the best for last. Tony.”

He opened the package and nearly dropped the red silk boxers. “Nice, guys.”

“Gonna model them?”  Jane asked.

“At home, and in private,” Carrie said. “You’ll have to use your imaginations.” She opened hers.

Tony sucked in a breath. His imagination went into overdrive when she held up a set of red silk underwear. He grinned. “I’ll model if you will.”

“At home.”

“Where else?”

Ruth laughed. “Going to heat things up a bit.”

Heat wasn’t the right word, Tony thought. His thoughts bordered on conflagration and his body felt incendiary. When his thoughts formed images of Carrie in the red outfit, he knew they were approaching a line he would soon cross.

“No speech?”  Jane asked.

“Thanks,” Tony said. “Let’s get back to work.”

“Kiss the bride,” Beth said.

Tony pulled Carrie into his arms and brushed his lips over hers. “For show,” he said.

“Why not?”

He ended the kiss an instant later. Though his body cried for more, not here and not now, and especially not until he and Carrie set new ground rules for their marriage.


Chapter 7


Carrie finished passing meds to the dozen patients in the semi-private rooms on the second floor of the clinic, and pitched in to help the aide make beds. When the last sheet had been tucked, she headed to the door. “Mindy, if you need me, I’ll be in the lounge. I need a caffeine break.”

“Don’t surprise me none.” The large-boned woman nodded. “For a bitty thing, you sure work hard.”

“Thanks.” Carrie opened the stairwell door. She wasn’t that small, except to a woman who was nearly six feet tall.

Today, she was the sole RN on in-patient duty, so she wouldn’t be working in the clinic with Tony. Not spending the afternoon with his super-professional attitude was a blessing. Since she was the only recipient of his formal treatment, his attitude nettled. He laughed with Beth, teased with Jane, and talked to Ruth.

With me, it’s, “Mrs. Flynn I would like to order a complete blood count on this patient.” He even spoke in a slow, even tempo like she was too dumb to understand. Much more of his special treatment and she’d scream.

She poured a cup of coffee and slumped in the green couch. The first sip brought a sigh. It was just what she needed to help her devise a plan of attack designed to grab Tony’s interest. She wanted to help him realize his feelings for Marilyn were nothing but a bad habit that could be broken. It was a shame she didn’t know her coworkers well enough to involve them. Jane, Beth, and Ruth, were friendly and fun, but they were still on the getting to know you level. Plus, they were Tony’s friends, and she was sure he hadn’t given them a hint of the reason for the marriage.

The lounge door opened. Hazel paused on the threshold. Her eyes were red-rimmed. Her hair was uncombed and her blouse mis-buttoned.

Carrie put her cup down and crossed the room. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s Ben. Dr. Flynn’s sending him to the medical center. His breathing’s real bad. I have to go with him.”

“Of course you do.”

“What about Chad? He can’t come home to an empty house.” Tears pooled in the older woman’s eyes. “My fault. I should have called the doctor yesterday. I should have made that stubborn old man come to the clinic. Should have called the boys. They would of made him listen.”

Carrie put her arm around Hazel’s shoulders. “Should haves are hindsight and don’t mean a thing. I’m sure you tried. Don’t worry about us. Tony and I will handle Chad’s schedule. Ben needs you to be there for him.”

“Are you sure?  I hate hospitals.”

“I know the feeling. Go and don’t worry about a thing.”

“Who’ll cook?”

“There’s the microwave, and we can eat out. We won’t starve.” She hugged Hazel. “Go. Give Ben my best.”

“Bless you.”

“Drive carefully.”

“I will.”

As soon as Hazel left, Carrie carried her coffee to Ruth’s office. She tapped on the door.

Ruth looked up. “Carrie, what’s happening?”

“Am I interrupting?”

“Just the dreaded monthly schedule. Got a problem?”

“I need a favor.” Carrie explained the situation. “Tony’s on house calls, and I hate to ask when I’m new, but could I leave early?”

“No problem. Tomorrow, take Jo’s seven to three. I’ll call her. She won’t mind coming in at nine for a change. You’d better call the school. The driver can drop Chad off here.”

“I’ll do that. Thanks for the schedule change. How can I repay you?”

“Want to do the schedule?”

“Just show me how and I’ll give it a try. Never had the experience of doing one.”

“Not this time, but I plan to show you how to do a lot of things around here.”

Why, Carrie wondered, but she didn’t ask. She turned to leave. “I’d better call the school. Again, thanks.”

“No problem. Helping each other is one of the good things about working here.”

“See you later.” Carrie continued to the second floor.
I really like it here
, she thought.

As she prepared for afternoon med rounds, Tony entered the small room and closed the door. “We have a problem.”

“Already solved. Hazel told me about Ben. Ruth arranged a schedule switch for the duration.”

“Efficiency. I like that. I had visions of Chad trying to cook and burning the house down, or having the gang over. What if he beats you home?”

“Won’t happen. The bus will drop him off here. He can wait in the lounge for me.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “What if he goes exploring?”

“Trust me. This will be better than him being alone at the house for fifteen minutes. How’s Ben?”

“Pneumonia. Not good with his already compromised respiratory system.”

“Will he be all right?”

“Hope so. We caught the infection early.” He leaned against the door. “What about dinner?”


Tony groaned.

“Then soup and sandwiches. Microwave dinners. Chad and I can run to the store.”

“That’s almost an hour round trip and we planned to start his room.”

“We’ll do what we have to do.” With the door closed, the room seemed too small and Tony too near. The scent of him was doing strange things to her body, not to mention her thoughts. “Let me get these meds out so I can finish charting and be ready for him.’

He opened the door. “Don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Those words raised her hopes and she tried to squash them. He meant his words mainly because he was worried about his son. “Glad I’m here.”

“See you around five thirty. I wish…”  He waved and left.

What had he been about to say?  The question remained in her thoughts while she gave the medicines, wrote her notes and hurried to the lounge to meet Chad. She opened the door. He sat on the couch.

“How come I had to come here?” he asked.

“Ben’s in the hospital and Hazel’s with him.”

“Do I have to stay here until you and Dad get off work?”  He pointed to the machines. “Can I have a snack?  I’m starved.”

“Aren’t you always?”  She fished in her purse for some change. “We’ll take it home. I’m off...How was school?”

He fed coins into the machine and pressed buttons. “Got a ninety in math and a hundred in spelling. Can I go see Ben?”

“He’s at the medical center.” She opened the lounge door and headed toward the parking lot. The sky was pewter gray.
Rain or snow?
“We can call when we get home.”

“I guess...No.”

She put her hand on his shoulder. “I thought Ben was your friend.”

“Maybe.” His lower lip quivered.

“What’s wrong?”


“Doesn’t look like nothing to me.” She leaned in the car and checked his seatbelt.

“He left me. Dad left me. Mom left me. Everybody does.”

“You’re with your dad now, and I’m here.”

“You won’t stay.”

Carrie’s breath caught in her throat. She wanted to stay, but he was right. She couldn’t unless Tony asked her. “Your dad and I are married.” She pulled into the street.


She didn’t know how to respond. She and Tony had to stop mincing around. “I wish I could explain. I’m not leaving. I just took a job at the clinic...and...I want to be here.”

When they reached the house, she remained in the car. How could she explain anything to Chad when she didn’t know what would happen?

“Can we start in my room?”

“After you do your homework. We need to go to the store and buy stuff for dinner.”

“You can’t cook.” He shot out of the car and ran to the house. “Don’t want to go to the store.”

“Then we’ll find something here. There are some packages of soup in the pantry and I make a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”

“Dad can cook burgers.”

“He could, but let’s surprise him.”

“And go to the mall. They’ve got burgers and pizza there.”

Carrie nodded. “Maybe your dad will be tired. Maybe I can find a cookbook. Finish your homework while I look.”

The phone rang and she welcomed the interruption. Had she argued like that when she was a kid?  “Mary...Is Mom all right?”

The aide reassured her. Carrie sat at the table. “Thanksgiving?  No, we don’t have plans. That would be nice...I won’t have mastered cooking by then.” Mary’s hearty laughter made Carrie smile. “She’s coming around. That’s good...Chad? She wants him...I’ll let you know.” She hung up. “We’ve been invited for Thanksgiving dinner at my mom’s.”

Chad put his pencil down. “I can’t go.”

“Why not?”

“My mom won’t let me. Dad said she gets to have me on holidays the way he used to.”

“Wouldn’t you rather be with us?  My mom asked for you especially.”

“That won’t matter. I have to go to my mother’s. You know, last Christmas, she was mad at Dad and wouldn’t let me come here. I had to go to Brian’s.”

“Was it fun?”

He scowled. “No.”

“Maybe she’ll change her mind. I would like you to come with us.”

“She won’t. She’ll make me leave here, ‘specially since you’re here. You just asked me to please Dad. He likes Mom better than you.”

Since she feared that was the truth, she didn’t respond. She returned to the pantry and took two boxes of soup from the shelf. “Which do you want? Beef or chicken? And you said Hazel showed you how to make grilled cheese sandwiches.”

“That’s lunch stuff.”

“Sometimes I have breakfast things for dinner.” He almost smiled. “When your dad comes home, we’ll ask him about Thanksgiving. I’m sure he wants you to be with us.” She bent to take out a pan.

“He never listens to anyone but her.”

The sound of shattering glass made her jump. “Chad!”

“Don’t have to listen to you either. She don’t want me to live here. Don’t want your old soup. My mom would get me good food.”

“Chad, please.”

“I hate you.” He ran from the room.

Carrie slumped in a chair and buried her face in her hands. Tony had to tell Chad the entire story. Delay would only make matters worse. She shuddered to think how he would react when he learned his mother didn’t want him. A frown wrinkled her forehead. Maybe he didn’t want to go and that was what made him act out?

She walked into the hall and listened to the noises from upstairs. Though she’d planned to start in his room, she wouldn’t go there now.

The front door opened and Tony walked in. Just then, a door slammed. “What’s wrong?”

“He’s upset.”

“What set him off?”

“An invitation from my mother for Thanksgiving dinner. She practically asked for him.” She planted her hands on her hips. “Why haven’t you told him?”

“I will.”

She sighed. “That’s what you always say and you don’t. I know you’ve always had trouble telling people things that will hurt them, but you were never a coward.”

Tony started upstairs. “I wish I could find a way to tell him that won’t destroy him.”

“Have you ever thought he might want to stay with you?  Maybe he doesn’t want to live with his mother and is acting out of fear.”

“How can you say that? She’s his mother. Would you have wanted to leave yours? I know even if my dad had come for me, I wouldn’t have gone.”

Carrie turned away. His mother and hers were the kind of women Tony believed Marilyn was. How wrong she believed he was. “He’s your child. Do what you must. I’ll start dinner.”

Tony watched her walk away. Why couldn’t she see Chad belonged with his mother?  All children did.

He paused on the landing. He hadn’t told Carrie about Hazel’s suggestion that Chad spend the weekend in the city with her to help fill the time between visits to Ben. With Chad’s behavior, that was out. There went a chance for him and Carrie to be alone and sort out where they were going. He had a feeling if they could, the problem of Chad might be easier solved.

His stomach churned. Resentment of his ex-wife’s self-centered attitude grew. He paused outside his son’s room. The sound of Chad’s sobbing hurt.

“Chad.” He opened the door. A suitcase lay on the bed. Chad was jamming clothes inside. “What are you doing?”



“What did she tell you? She hates me.”

“Who?”  Had Chad talked to his mother?

“Carrie. I broke a plate on purpose. I yelled at her. She don’t want me here.”

“Did she say that? I don’t think she hates you.” He put his arm around his son.

“How can she like me when I’m so mean?”

Tony stroked Chad’s hair. “She said you were worried about Ben, and upset about Thanksgiving.”

“Is Ben going to die?”

“His pneumonia is getting better. Last I heard, he’s breathing easier.”

“But he won’t live forever.”

“No, he won’t, but no one lives forever.”

“Everybody leaves me. Is it because I’m bad?”

BOOK: A Marriage Takes Two
13.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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