DISCLAIMERS: Please see part 1.
I'd like to thank my dear friend, Vi, for her support and her keen eye for typO's.
Sandra awoke in the exact same position where she'd fallen asleep. Josie snored
softly, her golden head resting against soft breasts. She lay under her lover
for a moment enjoying the vague sense of arousal enveloping her. She stroked
her arms and kissed the tempting neck. Realizing she was stoking a fire that
her lover was too ill to quench, she stopped her ministrations and gently extricated
herself from behind her sleeping patient.
"AWE, GOOD GRAVY, THAT HURTS!" Sandra grabbed at the pain in her low back as
she tried to stretch out stiffened muscles.
Josie gradually awoke from the fog that had held her at the sound of the familiar
epithet. Looking at her lover's pained expression, she tried to reach over to
touch her, offering her comfort. She was shocked at how weak she felt. 'When
is the last time I ate? It must be 36 hours by now. I need sustenance, but I'll
be damned if I can swallow and my throat can't handle having an NGtube pushed
through it. That leaves IV nutrition. I need to tell Sandy. I need something
to write on.'
Josie motioned to her friend for a pen and paper. "Good morning, Sandy. I love
you. I'm sorry your back hurts. I need to eat, but my throat and chest are too
messed up. I'm getting too weak. I need to be fed IV. Can't swallow and lymphs
in neck hurt. Need EBV panel."
Sandra had some difficulty reading the scrawl that Josie wrote, but made it
out with her friend's help. "Ok. I can get the parenteral nutrition and EBV
panel ordered. Dr. Akras does rounds early before going into his office. I'll
catch him before I leave for school. Beth will be here in a little while to
keep you company. Ok?"
Josie wrote, "That's great. Thanks. Whew, I need a bath and my hair washed.
Can you ask the nurse if someone can help me?"
"I'll help you, boss."
"No! Your back is sore. You'll just aggravate it." Josie scowled.
Sandra looked down, sheepishly, at her boss. "Yes ma'm, I'll go catch the nurse."
The nurse's aide came in with all the equipment necessary to bathe her patient and wash her hair. Josie smiled broadly and motioned to Sandy to read the note she wrote.
"Would you go home to feed and walk the pups while I'm getting de-funked?"
Sandra gave her lover a warm smile. "Sure. I'll be back within the hour."
With that, Sandra leaned down to kiss her friend's forehead.
When Josie next awoke, she felt clean and a bit more human. Once the fog lifted
enough to focus, she noticed, with relief, the IV nutrition running into the
central line in her neck. 'No wonder I feel stronger.'
"Hey, boo, how you feeling?" Beth walked up so her friend could see her face.
"Thanks, Beth. Would you find the number of Rachel Jarvis for me? She's an attorney here in town. I don't know her number off hand. It's important. I want to make out a will. Please, don't get hysterical on me. I just want to protect the people I love." She handed the note pad to her friend.
"Oh, Jo. You're getting better aren't you? The doctor has your temperature
and blood sugar under control. I know you're still in a lot of pain and your
lungs sound pretty wet...."
Josie raised her hand to stop her friend from continuing.
"I can feel the CFS taking over. My joints and my lymphs hurt, my mind's foggy. I'm sure I can make it through this one with the help of you and Sandy. I'll just rest easier knowing I've done what I need to. I'll write what I want Rachel to put in the Will. You can read it to her over the phone. Tell her I need the documents here today for my signature. Please, Beth!"
"Ok. You write. I'll call her office and tell them to set up a phone conference with your lawyer." Beth kissed her best friend on the cheek and helped her to sit up in bed so she could write more comfortably. She was shocked at how thin and weak her best bud was. She had to struggle to keep the tears from sliding down her face. Beth walked into the bathroom to collect herself before making the call.
"Josie Bossetta Ladner, born June 13th, 1955. I leave my house and the 23 acres it resides upon to Mrs. Sandra Camille Broussard Abbott, born October 11, 1966. As for the income from mutual bonds, interest bearing accounts and rental properties, all of which are in my file at your office, I wish them to be divided as follows: One half to go to Mrs. Abbott for 24 months following my death, one half to Mrs. Elizabeth Bergeron, born April 7, 1957. I wish to make Mrs. Bergeron the executor of my estate and, as such, she will distribute the proceeds monthly to Mrs. Abbott. After the first twenty four month period, Mrs. Abbott will no longer receive proceeds from my estate. All proceeds will then transfer to Mrs. Bergeron to do with as she sees fit. I also wish to bestow upon Mrs. Bergeron my Power of Attorney if I am found to be not of sound mind for an extended period of time. No part of this will is to be contested."
Josie handed the document to Beth, thanked her and promptly fell asleep.
She slept as Beth spoke with Rachel Jarvis, Esq. Rachel promised to have the document for Josie's signature by 1400. After She'd hung up the phone, Beth sat watching Josie sleep fitfully. Though her breathing had improved, it was ragged and wet. Her little body seemed to be tiring of the effort. 'I can't lose her after all these years. She's the closest thing I have to a sister. I can't imagine my life without her.' Unwilling to fight it anymore, Beth locked herself in the bathroom, turned on the faucet and sobbed.
Josie was still asleep when Rachel arrived and Beth gently awakened her. It
took a few minutes for her to clear her mind enough to read the document. Satisfied
of its accuracy, she signed.
The attorney notarized Josie's signature and the nurse's aide witnessed for her. She had a copy for Josie, Sandra and one for Beth to keep. An original would stay in the office file.
"Are you feeling any better?" Rachel asked as she held her client's, and she
hoped her friend's, hand
Josie nodded and, in truth, she did feel a tiny bit stronger. But, her chest and throat still hurt and she was glad to see the nurse enter with her throat spray and IVPB antibiotics.
"If you ladies will excuse us for just a minute, we have a little work to do." The nurse motioned toward the door and Rachel and Beth stepped into the hall.
"Hi, Mrs. Ladner, my name is Debbie and I'm going to be your nurse this afternoon." Josie nodded and smiled at the young nurse as she watched her set up the overbed table with a glass of ice water and a straw and the anesthetizing throat spray. Debbie adjusted the head of the bed so her patient was sitting straight up.
"Now, Mrs. Ladner, I'm going to spray your throat to deaden it and then I want you to try drinking a few sips of water for me. Ok?"
The nurse didn't register the look of fear in her patient's sea green eyes. Josie looked toward the door hoping Beth or Sandra would walk in and intervene on her behalf.
"Here we go. Open real wide for me." The nurse sprayed Josie's throat thoroughly, then held the glass of ice water for her as she pressed the straw to her dry lips.
Josie held the delicious water in her mouth, savoring it like fine wine.
"Go ahead, tilt your head down and swallow for me." The nurse instructed and Josie obeyed.
The spasms that followed wracked her frail body, sending scorching pain down her throat and throughout her chest and back.
"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN HERE!?! Sandra pushed passed the nurse and pulled her lover into her arms "I've gotcha, I've gotcha, boss. Slow deep breaths. Take slow, deep breaths." Sandra rubbed her patient's back trying to calm and soothe her. Sandra looked daggers at the non-plussed young nurse. "Please, call respiratory and get her pain shot." The nurse nodded and ran from the room.
Josie's tears of pain and frustration soaked into Sandra's shirt. "Slow deep breaths, baby. That's my girl." She continued to rub her lover's back as the little blond lay limply against her, totally exhausted.
Sandra laid her lover down gently with the head of the bed elevated to facilitate ease of breathing and began to check for damage at her IV sites, making certain that she hadn't jerked loose any of her tubing during her coughing spell. She was stricken by what she saw. There was a small amount of pink frothy sputum on her hospital gown and her chin. Her eyes met Josie's swollen red orbs as Josie wiped at her chin and looked at what had frightened her lover. Sandra reached for the phone and called Dr. Akras' office.
The nurse returned with the respiratory therapist in tow and a pain shot for her patient.
Sandra stood out of the way, asking the nurse what happened.
"On what?" She demanded with a sneer.
"On the water I had her drink."
"You had her drink water? Why do you think she's on tube feeding? SHE CAN'T FUCKING SWALLOW!?! What is the matter with you people? Can't you read charts? JESUS! She's supposed to be safe here."
The young nurse ran from the room in tears.
Beth, who'd been watching events unfold from the far corner of the room, terrified for her friend, wrapped her arms around the distraught beauty's shoulders. "Calm down Sandy. You'll only upset Josie more to see you lose your temper. Come on let's go for a walk while she gets her breathing treatment."
Sandra knew she had to calm down so she let herself be led from the room.
"I'm sorry, Sandy. When she asked us to leave the room, I thought she was going to spray her throat and do something requiring privacy. You know, like change her gown. I had no idea she was going to try to make her drink. I should have demanded to stay in the room..... God, I'm so sorry." Beth wrung her hands and looked at the taller woman for some sign of her forgiveness.
Sandra heard the need for reassurance in her friend's tone and tried to not direct her anger at her.
"Next week is Spring Break. I'll move in here with Josie until she can eat and I can take her home."
Beth nodded. "Look, I'll go take care of the dogs so you can stay here with Jo."
"Thanks..... Beth..... Ummm..... I just want you to know that I don't blame you for what happened. I don't want you to think I'm angry with you. I'm just so frustrated with it all. You know?" Sandra looked down into moist eyes.
"Yeah, I know." Beth rubbed her friend's arm to offer comfort.
"Who's us?" Sandy inquired.
"What?" Beth gave her a quizzical look.
"You said the nurse asked "us" to leave the room. Who's us?"
"Oh! Rachel Jarvis was visiting Josie." Beth hoped she wouldn't have to explain further.
"Who's Rachel Jarvis?"
"She's Jo's attorney." The older woman looked at her feet as she continued to walk.
"Her attorney? What did her attorney want?" Sandra looked at Beth as they walked.
"Actually, Josie asked her to come. She had me call her." Beth sighed realizing there was no way for her to avoid the inevitable.
"Josie wrote out a will and had me call it into Rachel, who brought it by for her signature. There are copies for you, me, Jo and the Attorney."
Sandra had stopped dead in her tracks at this revelation, staring at her friend as if she'd grown an extra head. Her heart galloped in her chest and her stomach twisted into knots.
Beth took the taller woman's hand and led her to a nearby bench. "Are you with me?"
Sandra swallowed the bile that was rising in her throat. She nodded. Beth continued. "Basically, it says that, in the case of her death, you get the house and the acreage. You'll also receive one half of the proceeds from her investments. At the end of twenty four months, all proceeds from her investments revert to me. She made me executor of her estate and, in the unlikely case where she would lose her mental faculties, gave me her Power of Attorney. That's all of it."
Sandra stared, unseeing at her hands that lay between her knees as she rested her weight upon her forearms. She watched the tears drop onto the dried earth below, replenishing it with moisture, turning it a rich deep color. 'This isn't happening. Josie shouldn't be here. She should be home having coffee with the pups waiting for me to come home to cuddle. Why is this happening? Why can't God just leave us alone!?!'
Beth was concerned by her friend's silent tears and rubbed her back gently. "It's just a precaution, Sandy. She's been meaning to do it. This just gave her a nudge. She's going to get better. I know she is."
Sandra heard the speeding car drive up and saw Dr. Akras trot toward's her.
"Thanks for coming so quickly." Sandra said, wiping her tears on her sleeve.
"How is she?" The doctor asked as all three quickly walked back to Josie's room.
"She's getting a breathing treatment. She coughed up some frothy pink sputum. She's very weak and in terrible pain." Sandra spoke as the doctor grabbed his patient's chart.
The respiratory therapist was just finishing up and recited the patient's vital signs for the chart. "Blood pressure is 200/52, Pulse is 134 bpm, respiration 40, Temperature is 101.3 and there are wheezes, crackles and rales auscultated in all lung fields."
"Thank you." Doctor Akras marked the chart with the vital signs and turned to the results of the blood tests and x-rays. He listened to his patient's lung sounds, then examined her throat and eyes. He checked the pulses in her feet, examined her fingers and palpated her abdomen. After completing his examination, he wrote in the Doctor's Orders and Progress Notes, while Sandra and Beth sat, anxiously, in silence.
The doctor looked up into worried faces then began. "Ok, this is what we have. Josie has streptococcal pneumoniae in both lungs, complicated by infectious mononucleosis. There are fulminating pustules on her throat accompanied by severe swelling, making swallowing nearly impossible. What happened today will not happen again. Now, this is the tricky part but I think we can handle it. Josie is in congestive heart failure. She's just not strong enough to get rid of the fluid in her body, so we are going to help her. I'm increasing her aminophylline and putting her on IV lasix until we can dry her up a bit. We'll continue with the throat spray and add nystatin to help with those sores on her throat. I'm going to give her celestone injections to help with some of the inflammation there, also. She's on the correct antibiotics for the strep. I'll give her B12, 1000mcg Im, every day to help build her up and one gamma globulin injection. Those should help fight the EBV, which has caused the mononucleosis. Keep her head elevated and be sure to turn her every two hours. I'll notify the nurse's station that she is to receive nothing by mouth, strictly NPO status. I want her blood sugar monitored every four hours and her vital signs on the hour until stabilized, then q 4. Do you have any questions?"
"What if the CHF doesn't respond appropriately? What do we do then?" Sandra asked.
"I believe your employer will respond to this treatment plan. But, in the unlikely event that she doesn't, we can try a dobutrex drip. If the swelling persists in her throat, or becomes more constrictive, I can transfer her to Forrest General in Hattiesburg for a tracheotomy. But I truly do not foresee her condition deteriorating further with this plan of treatment."
"You really think she can make it through this?" Sandra looked deeply into his gentle brown eyes.
"Yes, I really believe this plan will work. We should see a marked improvement by morning." Dr. Akras placed his hand on Sandy's shoulder to emphasize his sincerity.
Sandra covered his hand with her own. "Thank you."
The two friends sat in silence, trying to digest all the information they'd
been given. Beth was the first to break the stillness.
"Sandy, I think it's time we called Josie's mother. She has a right to know how sick she is."
Sandy heard the words, but was having difficulty processing them. She looked
up, just staring into her friend's red rimmed eyes.
Beth picked up the phone and began dialing. "It's alright. I know the number by heart after all these years. Hello? Mrs. Bossetta? It's Beth, Josie's friend. I'm fine thank you. Mrs. Bossetta the reason I'm calling is that Josie's in the hospital. She has pneumonia and Mono, again. No, ma'm. This time is much worse. She's in congestive heart failure. I'm sorry, but she can't speak. Her throat is too sore. Ummm..... Mrs. Bossetta, she's not doing very well. You might want to come see her..... Soon..... I see. Yes ma'm. I'll call you if there's any change. But, I know she'd love to see you. It would mean a lot to her..... Yes ma'm, I will. You too. Goodbye." Beth hung up the phone and took several deep breaths. "That SON OF A BITCH! How can she treat her own child like that. She's too busy to come so far to see her own daughter who might be dying. Too busy to give her own child the comfort of her love. That SON OF A BITCH!!!!! She's never been there for Jo..... How she turned out to be so beautiful is beyond me." Beth cried her grief and frustration into the wall as Sandra sat staring at her trying to assimilate all this new input. She'd no idea what her lover's relationship was like with her mother. She'd just assumed it was loving since Josie was such a loving person.
"I..... Uh..... Didn't know that Josie's relationship with her mom was strained."
"Don't worry about her. Josie came to terms with that woman a long time ago. I, on the other hand, obviously, have not." Beth wiped her tears away. "I'll go take care of the dogs. I can't do any more good here. Call me if there is any change. And, you get some sleep. You won't be able to help her if you get sick too." Beth patted her friend on the back and walked out the door.
Sandra walked to the phone as if in a trance. She dialed the number without thought and melted into the bedside chair.
"Mom. It's me. I called to tell you that Josie's in the County Hospital....." Sandra filled her mother in on Josie's condition as calmly as she could. Her mother, sensing the struggle her daughter was having to keep her wits about her, asked if she could come spend a few days at the house while Sandra stayed at the hospital with Josie. She offered to take care of their little canine family and to sit with their patient while Sandra took a break. Sandra, gratefully, agreed.
Feeling better knowing that her mother would be there in the morning to offer her support, the exhausted woman turned her chair so she could lay her head upon her lover's hip and watch her sleep.
Sandra awoke to the feel of someone playing with her hair. She opened her eyes to gaze into sea-green eyes filled with love and sympathy. "Hi, boss. I love you." Sandra took the small hand in hers and kissed it gently then held the palm to her cheek. "You scared me today. Feeling better?"
Josie smiled and nodded, then motioned for her notepad and pen.
"I love you, Sandy. I'm feeling better. You must have been exhausted. The nurse passed meds twice while you snored away. So cute! How is your back feeling?"
Sandra just shook her head and buried her face in her lover's hip. Josie stroked silky hair, knowing this all had to be torture for her.
The dark head rose at the sound of writing. "I'm so sorry, sweetheart. I know this is hard for you. Why don't you call your mom and talk with her."
"I did, actually. She's coming to visit for a few days." Sandra smiled.
"That's great news. I can't wait to see her. I'm pretty fond of her you know. Hope you're that good looking at her age." The little blond grinned lasciviously.
"Oh, you must be feeling better." Sandra took her lover's hand and kissed the palm.
"When is your Mom coming to visit?"
"This morning. I gave her directions. I need to meet her at the house at about 10:00."
"THIS MORNING! Get that nurse's aide for me. I need to be bathed and get this hair washed." Josie wrote in alarm.
"Whoa, tiger. I'll see to it you get all clean and smelling pretty for momma." Sandra stood over Josie and kissed her forehead then, ever so gently, her dry lips. "And me. There's plenty of time. The sun isn't even up yet. Why don't you try to get some more sleep?"
"Can you get behind me and hold me like you did before? I know it's too hard to get around all these tubes and wires from the front. But, I really need you to hold me. I've missed you so much." Josie scrawled and looked up into moist blue eyes.
"Yeah." Was all her lover would trust herself to say as she gently lowered the head of the bed and lifted her lover to slide behind her, resting the golden head once again against her breasts and sighed.
Josie felt strong arms wrap around her and a gentle kiss upon her neck. The breath tickled her ear and sent shivers down her spine. "God, I've missed this. I love you so much Josie. You've got to get well and come home to me, to our life together." Sandra fought to hold back her tears as she nuzzled her lover's neck.
"You feel so good. When I get home I'm going to make love to you for so long you'll be walking bowlegged!" Josie wrote.
Sandra burst into, much needed, laughter as she read it. "Is that a threat!?!" Josie lifted a long hand to her lips and licked the palm, sending shivers down her lover's spine right to her sex. "Ohhhh, Josie."
The little blond released her lover's hand just long enough to write. "That's a promise!" and twist her head to kiss a tempting neck.
Sandra held her lover, rubbing her arms, kissing and nuzzling her neck and shoulder till the frail woman fell into a deep restorative sleep.
Andre' Broussard went to early Mass at St. Anthony of Padua. She prayed to the Blessed Mother to help her child through this newest trial. "Saint Vierage, please, please don't take this woman away from her. She has brought such joy into her barren life and made her want to live again. Mother, please, I beg of you. My child has suffered enough. She is a good soul. She has been on the right path for years now, denying herself so much that this life has to offer. Don't make her suffer anymore. You will kill her! Please don't destroy my child. Help her! Don't hurt her anymore." Andre' rested her head upon her folded hands and let her tears flow as she proceeded to say the Rosary to the Blessed Mother, concentrating on the mysteries of Christ's life, crucifixion and resurrection. After completing the Rosary, Andre' felt better, lighter, and knew her prayers had been heard.
It was 10:00 on the dot when Andy pulled up the drive to Josie and Sandy's home. Her daughter was curled up in an oversized chair on the front porch, dressed in jeans and her favorite T-shirt that said "CAJUNS LIKE IT HOT". It had red and green chili peppers dancing over a pot of boiling crawfish. She'd felt better this morning because Josie did, but now that she saw her mother she felt her facade began to crumble. She longed for the warmth and safety of her mother's arms. She didn't want to be the adult anymore.
Her mother pulled up and Sandra walked over to greet her. Andre' opened her door and stepped out of the car. Her daughter seemed to be frozen in place, which struck fear in the older woman's heart. She opened her arms and Sandra allowed herself to be hugged. As the last of her emotional control left, her face crumpled and she sobbed into her mother's shoulder. "Oh, mon Dieu! Josie, elle n'est pas....." Andre' couldn't say the words.
Sandra shook her head and croaked out, "No....., no....., She's alive."
"Ohh, merci, merci, mon Dieu." Andre' heaved a sigh of relief as she stroked her distraught child's back and let her cry until she'd cried out all the pain, fear and frustration she'd experienced since she woke up beside her stricken lover. "Je suis ici, mon petite fille. Je suis ici." The older woman cooed into her daughter's ear and kissed her cheek. She held her daughter until she calmed down and stepped back from her embrace.
"Help me with my bags, then you can fill me in on all that has happened to your Josie." Andre' handed her a handkerchief, which she took to wipe her face.
"Yes mam." Sandra helped her mother get situated in the guest room/exercise room, then they both curled up on the sofa with café au lait.
After Sandra filled her mother in on all the details of the previous week's horror, they washed out their coffee cups and left for the hospital.
"Bonjour, bonjour, comment ca va, mon petite? Ooops, don't answer that. You must not try to speak yet. Vous faible chose! I will miss hearing your sweet voice." Andre's presence was like a balm to Josie, who'd never had a doting mother and absorbed her warmth and concern like a sponge.
Josie wrote, "Thank you for coming. It's great to see you and I am feeling better with this new regimen I'm on." Josie gave Andre' her best smile. "You clean up good, boss." Sandra teased.
Josie swatted at her with the notebook.
"May I examine your throat, Josie? I'd feel better if I knew just what is happening there." Andre' asked, trusting her nursing skills and judgement above anyone else's.
The patient nodded and opened wide as Andre', using her daughter's pen light, thoroughly examined her throat. Andre' stepped aside, allowing her daughter to also look for improvement. There had been noticeable lessening in swelling and the lesions were beginning to heal.
"That looks very painful." Andre' said.
"Actually, it's much improved from yesterday." Sandra exclaimed with a smile.
Josie nodded and whistled her delight, causing everyone to laugh at her antics.
Sandra was adamant.
"She will be perfectly safe with me, ma petite. Now, take the car and GO HOME!"
Andre' stood tall with hands on hips.
Sandra looked from her mother to her lover, who was smiling in victory.
"Good gravy, I just can't win with you two. Ok, Ok, I'll go home and take a nap." Sandra leaned over her lover and kissed the tip of her nose. "I'll call you when I get up. I love you, boss."
Josie quickly wrote, "I love you, too, kiddo. Don't forget to eat something. I don't want to get poked by a bony hip when I get home." Sandra laughed and promised to eat something sinfully fattening for lunch.
"Now go. I don't want to see your ugly puss for the next four hours. Allez maison!" Andre' stomped her foot and pointed toward the door.
"I'm going, I'm going." Sandra chuckled as she ran out of the room.
Josie looked at her treat, then at her lover with so much glee she looked like a little girl at Christmas. Josie grabbed her throat spray off the bedside table and proceeded to thoroughly douse her throat with the concoction and swallowed. She took a tentative breath and held tightly to her lover's hand, afraid of the pain that was still vivid in her memory. She closed her eyes and concentrated on forming the words she knew her lover needed to hear and she needed to say. In breathy tones she stated "I..... Love..... You..... Sandy." Josie smiled broadly as Sandy reached in for a kiss. "Now give me my treat."Sandra laughed and handed it over. "Take your time, baby. Don't choke." She watched her patient slowly suck on the straw, her eyes rolling back in her head in near orgasmic pleasure.
To be continued in Part 9 of The Apartment
Tell me what you think, Lena.
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