Mother appeared to be sleeping soundly so I left and went directly to my room. I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was take a long soak in the tub and go to bed.
I woke up early the next morning, and after getting dressed, I took the back stairs to the kitchen to make some coffee and get something to eat. The house seemed pretty quiet, so I assumed I was the only one up. I was wrong.
Shortly after I got to the kitchen, Stella came bustling into the room carrying a maraca in each hand. This lady who was my mother’s nurse/caretaker seemed a little strange to me.
“Good morning, Miss Kat! You did say to call you Kat. You look more like a Kathleen, but I’ll call you Kat if that’s what you prefer. Can I get you some breakfast?”
“Thank you Stella. I am rather hungry. I realized this morning that breakfast was the only meal I had, yesterday. Have you checked on Mother this morning? I went to talk with her when I got back from my walk, but she was sleeping.”
Stella looked a little uncomfortable and put down her maracas. “I was doing my morning exercises with my weighted maracas. I hope the noise didn’t wake you, but it’s much more fun to move to mariachi music, you know, like The rhythm is going to get you.”
“No, you didn’t wake me. I was asking about my mother.”
“Oh, yes. She was still sleeping when I looked in on her about an hour ago. I’ll fix her some tea and take it to her shortly. I’ll need to wake her. It’s almost time for her medication.”
“What exactly is the state of her health, Stella? She seems rather ill and extremely frail. Should she really be having all of those friends of hers here tomorrow for Thanksgiving?”
“I’ve been with your mother for ten years, Miss Kat. She has a serious heart condition. And let’s face it…old age takes it’s toll. As for her “guests,” it’s very important to her that you meet them and they you. Your mother will be happy to know you’re concerned about her well being.”
“What my mother did to me and her own mother and father was unforgivable, “I said rather abruptly. “But even I can’t be ugly to a sick and defenseless old woman.” Stella dished up scrambled eggs, bacon, and a fresh croissant for me. After she brought my coffee and juice, she prepared a tray to take to my mother.
“I’m sure Miss Claire will want to see you, Miss Kat. Are you planning to stay close to home today?”
“So far, I have no plans. I assume dinner tomorrow will be a casual affair.”
Stella turned and gave me a look I didn’t quite understand. “Oh, quite the contrary,” she said. “Miss Claire has arranged for a service to prepare and serve an elegant dinner. Have you seen the formal dining room?”
Stella took the tray and left the kitchen singing, “The rhythm is going to get you, 1-2-3 Kick!”
I was pouring a second cup of coffee and pondering the thought of going shopping for tomorrow’s elegant dinner, when Stella came rushing back into the kitchen. She looked terrified. “She’s gone, Miss Kat! Miss Claire is gone!”
“That’s nonsense,” I said. “Mother isn’t capable of going anywhere. Is her wheelchair still beside the bed?”
At Stella’s bewildered look, I ran passed her and up the stairs. When I got to Mother’s room, the wheelchair was sitting beside the bed, but my mother was nowhere to be found. I was about to tell Stella to call the police when my eyes fell on an envelope on the night stand. It was addressed to me. I quickly tore off the end and removed a single sheet of paper. It was a letter from my mother.
My Dear Kathleen,
I desperately need you to trust me. You must follow the instructions I’m about to give you to the letter.
I was stunned by what I read. Stella was standing in the doorway wringing her hands. She was waiting for me to say something. All I could hear was my heart beating in my ears and the waves.