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Authors: Kimberla Lawson Roby

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BOOK: The Perfect Marriage
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enise sifted through several documents, searching for a file containing résumés from potential new hires, hoping she’d be
able to fill a few RN openings as soon as possible. They were noticeably understaffed, thanks to another suburban nursing
home offering RNs much higher signing bonuses and hourly pay, and Denise needed to find qualified candidates. The new pay
scale and signing amounts at the other facility had come out of nowhere, and four of her best nurses had quickly given their
notices. They’d jumped ship, and while Denise hadn’t blamed them, she didn’t like the strain it had left on the remaining
staff members, and, of course, her. Things were busy as ever, and sometimes whole workdays vanished so frantically she never
even knew where they went. This was the reason, too, that she’d discussed higher salaries and new employment incentives with
her boss, Mr. Hunter, because they could never experience this kind of situation again.

Denise read through the first two résumés in the pile but looked up when someone knocked at her door.

“Come in.”

Pamela, her second-floor nursing supervisor, entered. She stroked her blond hair away from her face, and Denise could tell
she was frustrated.

“I’m sorry to bother you, Denise, but Agatha Bowman is demanding to see ‘the person who runs this place.’”

“Lord, the woman has only been here two days, yet she’s had more complaints than every resident combined. So now what?”

“Who knows? I tried asking her, but all she did was purse her lips and look out the window.”

“Okayyy,” Denise sang. “Let’s go see what Miss Agatha wants.”

Denise and Pamela left the office and walked a few steps toward the elevator. When the door opened, they stepped on and rode
one floor up. Agatha’s room was only a few doors down the hallway, so it didn’t take long to get there. When they walked in,
Agatha, a refined and very wealthy eighty-one-year-old, frowned. She sat in her bed propped against three pillows.

“Are you the person in charge?”

“For the most part. I’m the director of nursing. We met last week, remember?”

“I remember perfectly, but since I specifically asked to see the person who runs this place, I figured maybe you’d been promoted.
Maybe you were the new head honcho.” Her tone was sarcastic, and Denise knew this conversation wasn’t going to be pretty.

“Mr. Hunter wasn’t available, so I asked Denise to come,” Pamela added.

Agatha looked away from them. “Well, I’ll just wait until he

Denise wondered why the woman was being so difficult when all she and Pamela were trying to do was help her.

“Maybe if you can tell me what the problem is I can relay it to Mr. Hunter. Then he can come see you when he’s free.”

Agatha folded her arms but still wouldn’t look at them. “Like I said…I’ll just wait.”

“Are you sure there’s nothing I can do for you in the meantime?”


Denise and Pamela looked at each other and started to leave.

“Oh and just so you know,” Agatha told them. “If I don’t see Mr. Hunter before the day is out, I’m contacting the proper authorities.”

Denise didn’t bother commenting, but a complaint of any kind to the state of Illinois, legitimate or otherwise, was never
good and it was the last thing they needed. Not to mention, Agatha Bowman was extremely well off and would certainly do exactly
what she promised. There was no question about it, so Denise walked straight over to the nurses’ station and dialed Mr. Hunter.
His assistant answered immediately.

“Hi, Carla, it’s Denise.”

“How are you?”

“I’ve been better. But hey, is Mr. Hunter still unavailable?”

“Actually, he was on a conference call but he just hung up. I’ll transfer you.”

“Thanks.” Denise waited a few seconds until her boss picked up.

“Hi, Denise.”

“I’m really sorry to bother you, but we have a situation. Agatha Bowman isn’t happy, and she refuses to talk to anyone except

“No problem. I’ll be right there.”

“I really appreciate it.”

In the meantime, Denise conversed with a couple of certified nursing assistants about their upcoming weekend off and soon
Mr. Hunter approached the desk. Denise apologized again, and the two of them headed down the hallway and into Agatha’s room.

Mr. Hunter moved closer to her bed. “Well, good morning, Agatha.”

“It would be if people did their jobs.”

“What seems to be the problem?”

Agatha pointed toward the floor on the other side of her bed.

Mr. Hunter strolled over to the window, bent down, and picked up a large bath towel. “This?”


If Denise hadn’t seen this charade with her own eyes, she never would have believed it. All this commotion and the need to
see the head honcho because of a towel?

“My apologies to you,” Mr. Hunter said. “Our staff members really should be more careful, and I’ll make sure this doesn’t
happen again.”

“I hope you do because at five thousand dollars a month, I won’t tolerate this kind of incompetence. Nor will my son if I
tell him about it.”

“You have my word. And is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No, that’ll be all.”

“Also,” Mr. Hunter added, “Denise here is the best director I’ve had. So if you have any more concerns, please let us know.
Either one of us will be happy to help you.”

Agatha slipped on a pair of reading glasses and peered over the top of them. “It’s always been my experience that the only
way to guarantee speedy results is by going straight to the top.”

Denise could tell Agatha was trying Mr. Hunter’s patience but all he said was, “We’re very sorry for the dirty towel being
on your floor.”

“Apology accepted, now if you don’t mind, I’d like to do some reading.”

This woman was a piece of work, and as soon as they stepped outside of her room, Mr. Hunter dropped the towel in a bin and
walked over to the instant sanitizer dispenser. He squirted a portion into his hands and vigorously rubbed them together.
As they walked toward the elevator, though, he finally said, “Why is it always the wealthy ones who give us such a hard time?
I mean, it’s not all wealthy patients who act this way, but usually when we get someone complaining about nothing, they’re
usually people who have the kind of money Agatha does.”

“I don’t know, but you’re definitely right. Hopefully, she’ll settle down as time goes on.”

“We’ll see.”

They waited for the elevator, but before the doors could open, one of the new LPNs walked up to them. Tammy was twenty-two,
petite, and as cute as could be.

“Denise, Pamela wanted me to try to catch you before you went back to your office. Lula Mitchell’s vitals aren’t very good,
and her breathing seems a bit irregular.”

“Is Pamela with her now?”


Denise looked at Mr. Hunter. “Duty calls.”

“As always. See ya.”

Denise and Tammy strolled around the corner and into Lula’s room. Pamela was checking her blood pressure again.

“How is it?” Denise asked.

“Ninety over fifty.”

Denise walked over to the bed and took Lula’s hand. Lula was such a sweetheart, and she was one of Denise’s favorite people.
“So how are you feeling, Lula?”

Lula tried smiling as best she could, but her voice was weak. “I’m okay.”

“Are you having trouble breathing?”

“A little.”

“I think we should have her transported over to the hospital. Just to check her out.”

“I’ll call for an ambulance and then call her doctor,” Pamela said. “And Tammy, why don’t you ask one of the CNAs to come
help get Lula dressed.”

“Will do.”

Denise patted Lula’s hand. “You’re going to be fine, okay? You’ll be back here in no time.”

“Thank you, Denise. You all take such good care of me, and I really appreciate that.”

“You’re quite welcome.” Denise smiled but wanted to sigh when she heard her pager buzzing. She quickly left the room, went
back down to the nurses’ station and called the switchboard. “This is Denise.”

“Hi. You have a call waiting from Agatha Bowman’s son. He asked for Mr. Hunter, but when I told him Mr. Hunter was on another
call, he asked for the next person in charge.”

“Good grief,” Denise said before realizing it. “Okay, just give me about five minutes to get back up to my office, and you
can put him through.”

“No problem.”

Denise could only imagine what Agatha had told her son, and she hoped he wasn’t preparing to ream her. It had only been a
towel for God’s sake.

When the phone rang, she sat behind her desk and answered it. “This is Denise Shaw. How can I help you?”

“Hi, this is Mark Bowman, and thank you for taking my call. Also, is it Miss or Mrs.?”

“Mrs., but please call me Denise.”

“That’ll be fine, and you can call me Mark. The reason I’m contacting you is because I just received a call from my mother.
She was complaining about the staff and says the place isn’t very well kept.”

“I’m really sorry about your mother’s experience, but—”

Mark interrupted her. “Please. There’s really no need to apologize.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Well, to put it plainly, when my mother makes any kind of threat, you should simply ignore her. She’s been threatening people
for years for one reason or another, but I’m very happy with your facility, and I know you’re doing a great job.”

Denise blew a quiet sigh of relief. “I’m glad you feel that way.”

“My mother really is a nice woman, but right now she’s upset about having to leave her home. She doesn’t want to be there,
so she’s looking for anything she can to complain about.”

“I understand.”

“If I didn’t run a corporation and have to travel for business as much as I do, I would move her in with my family. But you
can see how that’s just not possible. Not when she needs so much professional care.”

Denise desperately wanted to tell him the truth: that his mother could still get around with a walker, she was still able
to shower and dress herself, and with the exception of her forgetting a few things every now and then, there wasn’t a lot
wrong with her. She did need someone to cook for her, and while it wasn’t a good idea for her to live alone, she definitely
didn’t need to be in a nursing facility. But Denise saw this all the time and knew it was best she keep her mouth shut.

“I understand, and your mother truly is in good hands.”

“I believe that, and if you have any more trouble with her, please don’t hesitate to call me.”

“I will.”

“Have a good day.”

“You, too, Mark, and thanks for calling.”

Denise hung up the phone and wondered if she’d now be able to get back to the résumés she’d been reviewing before having to
stop and handle so many unexpected problems. But as soon as she’d finished her latest thought, her phone rang again.

“This is Denise speaking.”

“Denise, it’s Martha, up on five. I hate having to call you, but Hector’s at it again.”

Martha was the supervising nurse on the Alzheimer’s floor, and Hector was known to remove his clothing on a moment’s notice.

“Has he taken everything off?”

“Yes, and he’s refusing to put anything back on. We even tried covering him up with a blanket, but every time we ease close
to him, he swings at us violently.”

“I’ll be up there shortly.”

“I hate bothering you, but since he always seems to calm down when you talk to him, I didn’t know what else to do.”

“It’s fine, Martha. Really.”


Denise hung up the phone, leaned back in her chair, and placed both hands on top of her head. She sighed loudly and thought,
“This job is going to be the death of me.” If it weren’t for the fact that she loved helping the elderly and she was so thankful
to have a management position that paid her just over a hundred thousand dollars a year, she would submit her letter of resignation
immediately. If she, Derrek, and Mackenzie hadn’t gotten comfortably used to living a certain lifestyle and she and Derrek
hadn’t wanted to send Mackenzie to a top university, she would leave management altogether and go back to being a bedside
nurse. Her love for taking care of older patients was the reason she’d left Covington Park Memorial five years ago and had
signed on with the nursing home in the first place. She’d been so happy when she’d begun working there, but soon after, she’d
been promoted to nursing supervisor and then two years ago to her current position. It was all a lot to be proud of and she
was very grateful to have such an amazing career, but working sometimes ten- to fourteen-hour days, five days straight and
then receiving calls from her staff members throughout most weekends was a heavy burden. Now, instead of being thrilled about
having a successful career, she was always much happier when she was relaxing at home with her husband and daughter. Of course,
there was also her father to consider because he would never be okay with her demoting herself. No, as far as Mr. Charles
Theodore King was concerned, his daughter had to excel in every area of her life and strive for total perfection. She had
to appear flawless, even though her father had hurtful secrets of his own.

Gosh, what she wouldn’t give to have a little cocaine right now. Just one tiny line would do the trick, anything to help her
through her day. Even better, she wished she could take some Vicodin—not one, the way she normally did, but two because last
night she’d noticed that taking one hadn’t done much for her at all. She knew it wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do—not
during working hours and on facility premises, but she was so on edge and needed something to calm her down as quickly as
possible. She didn’t want to do this but without thinking much more about it, she closed her door, pulled her purse from her
left desk drawer, poured two pills into her hand, tossed them in her mouth, and drank some of the water sitting on her desk.
Then, she waited a few minutes, exhaled, and headed up to the fifth floor to see about Hector.

BOOK: The Perfect Marriage
4.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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