Marnie found her way to the seemingly abandoned desk after fussing with her umbrella. Although it had been a short walk from her car it was raining hard enough to soak you in less than a minute. A sure sign of fall in Houston.
A yellow light that flickered ever so slightly lit a singular bell on the counter that looked thirty years old. Marnie looked both directions before tapping it twice.
She stepped back alarming herself, then shook her head. Hospitals had always given her the creeps.
“May I help you miss?” A seriously over worked looking nurse stepped out from the shadows. She wore bright red lipstick that contrasted with her orange hair in what Marnie thought to be a most unflattering way.
“Yes. My father is here, Jenkins. Marvin Jenkins.” Marnie said as she removed her dampened coat, tugging at the bottom of her shirt.
The nurse gave Marnie a once over and shrugged.
“No more than two people can be in the room at once, he is down the hall to the left. Room 54.” She spoke so quickly, Marnie almost missed the room number and just as quickly as she’d appeared, she was gone.
Marnie’s red bottomed heels clicked at lightning speed and echoed down the hallway of the otherwise quiet ICU unit. She could feel her cell phone vibrating over and over again in her purse. She hoped nobody would notice she had only silenced it, not shut it all the way off as several signs had suggested.
When she finally reached room 54, the door was cracked open. She stepped in slowly, almost holding her breath. She reached for the curtain that partitioned the hospital bed from the rest of the room and when she opened it, saw an old man hooked up to myriad of tubes and machines.
His TV was on, but he flipped it off the second he realized who had stepped in.
“Marnie? Is that really you, or am I hallucinating?” The old man looked shocked. What was left of his hair was gray, he was heavy set and his skin was dark, leathery and full of wrinkles. The only thing Marnie recognized were his eyes, as they were her own.
“Trust me,” Marnie said sighing, plopping her tiny frame into the chair next to his bed. “I thought it would be a cold day in hell before I ever saw you again.” She hadn’t broken eye contact from the moment she walked in. Her thin lips pressed together tightly in a straight line.
“Not that I’m not happy to see you, but what are you doing here?” He asked the question slowly. He was hooked up to oxygen, and getting his words out was obviously quite taxing.
Marnie chuckled a little, as if at a joke she had with herself. She tossed her waist length curly black hair behind her shoulders and shook her head back and forth.
“When I got the call saying I was the only contact you had provided, I felt bad for you.”
Her father smiled and began to reach his hand out to touch her, but she jerked her arm away abruptly.
“Then I started wishing you would just die already. Why did you get the long life you’ve had? Why did mom have to die because of you? Thirty years later, and I am still mad at you.” Marnie looked down at the pristine hospital floor.
Her father looked down too and was quiet for a long moment before he said thoughtfully, “You have every right to be mad at me. Even thirty years later.” His eyes got glossy and tears began to stream down his face. “I know you think these are crocodile tears, but there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think about that terrible day. Your mother was the love of my life, I never could have hurt her on purpose. You were my life. I, I just couldn’t seem to figure it out. Could I?” He shrugged his shoulders up and down pathetically and took more of the oxygen.
“I didn’t come here for you to tell me what I already know. I’m here for one thing. It is something I’ve wanted for a very long time.”
“Marnie, “ her father sighed deeply. “I told you this before, I don’t have –“
Marnie cut him off, “That’s BULLSHIT!” She boomed – spit flying off her tongue.
Her father was silent, he matched her expression.
“It isn’t for you to have.” He said finally.
“Mom would have wanted me to! She told me while I was growing up that ring was her great, great grandmothers. It has been passed down generation to generation.” Marnie had stood up and was pacing back and forth like a cat. Then she stopped in her tracks.
“Oh. My. God. You pawned it didn’t you? You sick bas-“
This time Marnie was the one that was cut off.
“I didn’t pawn it. Oh sure, I thought about it before she died. Booze is an expensive habit to have, but I’m sober now Marnie. 25 years. That was the last day I ever took a drink. It’s all I have left of her and I didn’t pawn it.” He was shaking his head.
“Then show it to me.” Marnie said through gritted teeth, practically growling.
“It isn’t here. I normally wear it around my neck, on a chain, but the paramedics took it off when they were resuscitating me in my home.”
Marnie huffed a sigh out and sat back down.
“Where do you live now?”
“In the heights area.”
“You stay in The Heights?” Marnie laughed sarcastically.
“I’ve been sober 25 years Marnie, I ended up with a great company that looked past my prison time. I bought a house, even remarried, but she passed two years ago. I tried to reconnect with you. I wanted that more than anything, but you never picked up the phone. Never responded to my letters. Pretended you weren’t home when I stopped by.”
Marnie turned her head out the window contemplatively.
“Did you ever have any more kids?” She asked.
“No, I couldn’t. I only wanted to know you. I wanted to know my grandkids. I know I messed up and I didn’t deserve your affections. But damn it I wanted them! And I’m so sorry!” Her father was sobbing now.
Marnie was fighting back tears herself. She hadn’t cried since her mom passed away, she always told people she had ran out of them.
She ran a manicured hand through her hair. “You want to know who I am?” She raised her arms in the air, but then she bit her bottom lip and shook her head.
“I was fifteen when you killed my mom and you, my dad, were thrown in jail. I had to do high school all alone. By the time they released you, I was already in college. I got through that on my own too, I had to take out a lot of loans. I became a prosecutor. I met my wife Alison through my work, she is a judge. We have three beautiful children, I carried them all myself.” She looked at her father, he was watching her intently.
“I am very successful, no thanks to you.”
“I can see that.” He said, smiling. “Not that it matters to you, but I am very proud. I hope I can meet them all before I die.”
“You came pretty close last night.” Marnie said frankly.
“What are their names? The children.”
“Owen and Otis.” She paused for a moment. “Our daughter is Ophelia, after mom.”
Her father nodded, “I like that very much.”
“She looks like her too, would you like to see a picture?”
Marnie walked the few steps to her father’s hospital bed and sat by his feet, She pulled out her cell phone and brought up her camera roll, full of pictures of her family and their various pets. She scrolled through them all. He asked her many questions and before she knew it, an hour had passed.
The nurse from before stuck her head in the room, “Miss, visiting hours are over in ten minutes.”
“Well, you best get home to your beautiful family Marnie. Thank you for visiting with me. I know you did not have to”
Marnie nodded slightly; it surely wasn’t what she’d intended to do. “Maybe we can come to visit you when you get back home.” She said, the words shocking her as they came out.
He only smiled and lifted a hand in response.
Marnie turned to leave and mindlessly sent a text to Alison that she would be bringing dinner home from a fast food restaurant on her way home.
“All good?” Alison wrote back.
Marnie only sent an emoji of a girl with her hands up in question.
Their night went about in its mundane way. Feeding three kids, helping with homework. Then later making sure toys were up, games were shut down. Everyone was bathed and teeth were brushed. Clothes laid out for school the next morning.
As Marnie was getting into bed, Alison handed her a ringing cell phone.
“It’s an unknown number, do you want to take it?” Alison arched a brow.
“It could be for court tomorrow or something.” Marnie said absently, clicking accept on the receiver.
“Marnie Watson speaking.”
“Yes, Ms. Watson. This is Ginger from St. John’s Memorial. I wanted to let you know that your father passed about an hour ago. We did everything we could to revive him, but he did not respond. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Oh.” It was all Marnie could think to say. The call that she always thought would bring her relief, had instead made her heart drop.
“Funny thing though, not five minutes after you left, he asked me to make sure you got the ring he wore around his neck if anything were to happen to him. He said it was imperative.”
“So, it was on his neck.” Marnie said, more to herself than to Ginger.
Ginger paused, confused by the peculiarity of her statement.
“Uh, yes. He was quite particular about that ring. I really must be going now, and I am again sorry for your loss.” The phone clicked before Marnie could say goodbye.
Alison set the book down she had been pretending to read during the course of the phone call.
‘What was that all about?” She asked.
“Closure.” Marnie said. “That was about closure.”
Laura is currently seeking a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Houston – Downtown. Studying, reading and creating occupy most of her time. However, you can find her on her bicycle or at the dog park with her two rescues when the weather permits.