Mr. Nelson (excitedly babbling): “…your niece and I were passing Nevermore when we saw him…”
Opening the front door, I heard Mr. Nelson’s enthusiastically recounting his sighting of The Grey Man to my Uncle. When he referenced my part in the story, Aunt Pearl stuck her head around the corner. She took one look at me, stepped into the hall, and picked up the phone.
Aunt Pearl (calling into the living room): “Dear, can you take Phoebe into the kitchen? She looks like a mouse the cat played with too long.”
Me (hoping to stop her dialing): “I’m fine…”
Aunt Pearl (into the phone, completely ignoring me): “Can you come over right away? Phoebe looks like she fell down a well….”
The grim set of my Uncle’s mouth when he crossed the threshold distracted me from the unflattering comparisons my Aunt continued to reel off into the phone. Without a word, he tipped his head towards the kitchen. The weight of his gaze was palatable as I shuffled past.
Uncle (calling over his shoulder): “Help yourself to a bottle in the living room Jordie, I’ll be right back.”
Mr. Nelson, sensing he no longer commanded anyone’s attention, attempted to follow us into the kitchen.
Uncle (rebuffing him at the door): “We’ll talk after I speak with Phoebe.”
Well, there goes all hope that they’ll let this go.
Uncle (swinging the door shut – I think on Mr. Nelson’s nose – he turned towards me): “Do I need to call Earl?”
I know the bandages on my hands made me look like the walking wounded, but why would he think I needed to talk to Earl? (Earl being a family friend and a detective for the Rye police department.) Please don’t let him be who Aunt Pearl jumped on the phone too…
Me (wearily): “What’s the fuss? I fell down and skinned my hands, like a little old lady, but other than that, I’m fine.”
Uncle (leaning against the kitchen counter and crossing his arms): “That’s the story you’re sticking with?”
Squirming like a twelve-year-old caught stealing apples from the neighbor’s tree (not that I know what that feels like), I nodded.
Uncle: “Go, look at yourself in the mirror.”
Walking over to the pantry door, I opened and stared out my reflection (the day Aunt Pearl went shopping, while wearing her blouse inside-out, saw the installation of mirrors near every exit). How on earth I was going to explain what happened without Uncle calling Earl himself?
The entire left side of my neck, above my collar, was a nasty dark purple color, and I had a feeling I knew exactly how far the bruise extended. To round out my rather colorful look, I had a goose egg on right my temple (where my face smacked into the door?) and the beginnings of quite a shiner just below it. With the white gauze currently obscuring the ends of my arms – I was quite a sight.
Uncle (colorlessly): “Did someone do this to you?”
Me: “I fell. I know it sounds lame, but I promise I’m fine.”
Uncle considered my words. If he didn’t believe me, I knew Aunt Pearl and Earl would feature prominently in my near future. Of course, my Aunt may have jumped the gun if the commotion coming from the front door was any indication. When Wood burst into the room, Gladstone bag in hand, relief, and trepidation (in equal parts) sang thru me.
Uncle (pushing off the counter): “Convince him, I’ll go take care of your Aunt.”
He walked out of the room and left me alone with a very angry Wood.
Wood (quickly surveying the situation): “Take off your shirt.”
Me (flabbergasted): “Excuse me?”
Wood (tightly): “You heard me. Take. Off. Your. Shirt.”
Me (incredulous): “You are not my doctor.”
That earned me a withering look.
Wood: “It’s either the hospital or me. Your Aunt will be thrilled to drive you there.”
Me (sulking): “I’m not taking off my bra.”
Knowing that he’d won the battle, he ignored me and started taking medical stuff out of the bag he’d placed on the kitchen table. Stepping slightly behind him, pretending I had some dignity, I grappled with my black vest and button-up. When he turned around, his doctor face was on, but I knew he was absolutely livid. Looking down at my own chest, I understood why. The vivid purple bruise on my neck morphed to an ugly blackish color. It covered almost my entire left side – from shoulder to just below my ribs and halfway across my chest. The delicate pink lacy bra I was wearing (everyone deserves to feel pretty) made the color look even more malignant.
There wouldn’t be any Guaranteed Fun tonight.