Toby's eyes filled with wonder. "Who are you and what have you done with my sister? Mara, you're the last person to tell me that. You're so OCD about leaving on time, it's almost a fetish."
"Some things are more important than time, Toby."
"Like what, sis?"
"Watching the sun come up over the ocean. Learning how to scuba dive. Eating roasted clams with your fingers...." Her eyes teared up.
Toby pulled her into a bear hug. "When this is over and Mom is better, I'll send you back myself. Watch if I don't."
"Oh, Toby. I miss him so much."
Olivia came back out of the bathroom, straightening her dress. "So, we ready?" She saw Mara in tears. "Aw, honey! It's gonna be okay!"
"I'm having my pity party. I'll be all right. Let's go! We don't want to hit traffic!" She wiped her eyes with her fingers, forcing herself to smile.
They piled into the car and took off for the hospital. Luckily, they missed the worst of the traffic. It was just starting to get heavy when they pulled in to park. Across the parking lot from them, they saw their sister and brothers pulling into another spot.
When Cissy saw them, she ran to Mara, throwing her arms around her neck. "Mara! Oh, thank God! We were so worried about you and Mom! How could you scare us like that, young lady?" Cissy was second to the youngest and only a thirteen months older.
"Cissy," Mara rabbit punched her sister. "Choking here!"
"Sorry, honey. I've been sick with worry, I could hardly eat!"
"It's a closed subject, sis," Toby told her. "Let's concentrate on Mom now."
Her other brothers, Jeff and Paul, came up and hugged her. More like their father, they were subdued and mild mannered.
"Good to have you home," Jeff said quietly.
"Let's go see Mom," Paul said. "Happy faces! Oh, Mara, Mom thinks you couldn't get a flight until today. We say nothing else around her, is that clear?"
"Yes, Daddy," Mara took his arm, putting her head on his shoulder. "This is the last time I'm saying it. I'm sorry I put you through so much. It won't happen again. This is about Mom, not me."
Silent agreement circulated in the group as they boarded the elevator. Holding hands, they all walked toward their mother's room. Mara forced herself to smile. She knew her mother was very ill, but she wasn't expecting her to look so pale and drawn. She was nearly the color of her sheets. Rosaline held out one hand to her youngest daughter. It shook slightly as Mara took it.
"Hi, Mama. How are you feeling?"
"About as bad as I look, I expect." Her voice held the same breathlessness as usual, but now she just sounded worn out. "How was your flight?"
"Liar. You've been crying. I'm sick, Mara, not dying. I'll be fine. Stuart will have me patched up in no time."
It was only then that Mara and her siblings noticed that their mother's doctor, Stuart Chambers, was in the room. They all greeted him politely.
"So, what's the verdict?" Toby asked what they all wanted to know.
"Three blockages, one major, two minor ones. We'll operate to take care of the bad one and treat the other two with medication and diet."
"And the pacemaker?" Mara was determined not to make Toby take all the responsibility.
"At this time I'm not as worried about that. Down the line that's possible, but right now, no."
"Oh, thank God!" Cissy, the drama queen, sat heavily in a chair.
Stuart glanced at her, a slight grin on his face. He had known all the children their entire lives, and was familiar with Cissy's tendency toward the dramatic.
Mara glanced around the room and saw two beautiful tropical plants on a small table by her mother's bed. "Oh, who are those from, Mom?"
"One's from the hotel. Gunther Pickering is such a dear. The other I'm not sure. That just arrived. Why don't you bring the card to me, Mara?"
Mara took the card to her mother and perched on the side of the bed. A slow smile spread across her mother's face as she read. Grinning happily, she handed the card to Mara.
"To the best Mom in the world, much love from your future son-in-law, Cole."
"I didn't know it was that serious." Her mother winked at her. "He's a wonderful boy."
"Thanks, I think so too. Oh, Denny sends his love, and said to get better so you can come back down for more scuba lessons."
Her mother laughed weakly. "I'll have to be in good working order before I can do that. The condition it's in now, I'm not sure my heart could take seeing him in wet trunks."
She and Mara giggled happily for a moment, leaving the others looking at them in wonder.
"Who's Denny?" Toby looked affronted at their behavior.
"He's a scuba instructor among other things," their mother replied evasively. "He happens to look very nice in wet swimming trunks." A little flush of color lit her cheeks.
"Auria sends her love," Mara interjected before any other questions were asked about Denny. She had her own questions about him, but left them unasked. Another time would present itself.
©2021 Dellani Oakes
To Buy Dellani's Books https://www.amazon.com/Dellani-Oakes/e/B007ZQCW3A/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1