Chapter 9

Written by: Linda Alley

Nelson turned away from Fran and leaned his forehead against the mantelpiece. He stared down into the ashes of the fireplace. The kitchen’s energy-efficient bulb cast a pale, silverly trail out the door and halfway up the stairs to where Marjory crouched in the shadows, watching them. Her hot water bottle sweated in her hands, a faint smell of burning rubber pervading the landing. She tucked it into the folds of her dressing gown, where her heart thumped against it.

What have you done, Marjory? How could you have ever thought this was a good idea?

The man had abandoned Fran when she needed him the most. As if a ring could change that. Marjory, of all people, should know. She’d met Ewan at the local hospital where he was a paramedic and she was finishing her nursing training. Their marriage had lasted a grand total of ten months.

But it hadn’t been the end of her career. No way. She’d handed in her notice at the hospital and, a month later, she was working in Kenya. Her next placement had taken her to Haiti. She’d been in Nepal, drinking coffee with Rick, the attractive new Canadian nurse when she got the phone call.

“It’s my sister. There’s been an accident.”

She’d watched his eyes change, arrange themselves into the right sort of gaze as she ceased to become Marjory Anderson and became Marjory the Victim’s Sister.

Two weeks after Fran had arrived home, Marjory had taken her into town for a change of... what... scene? Marjory winced at her own thoughts. Those two old ladies had thought she couldn’t hear them behind their mountain of buttered scones.

“Who better to look after her? Especially with in-home nursing so dear.”

“Best thing for both of them really. The sister’s been drifting since her divorce and while I wouldn’t wish that poor lass’ accident on anyone, it’s clearly given her sister a sense of purpose.”

“I love this song!” Marjory had called enthusiastically to the waitress as an Annie Lennox track came on the radio. “Would you mind turning it up?”

But from the way Fran’s Earl Grey slopped over the side of her cup into the saucer, Marjory had known she was too late.

You wanted him to come for Fran, didn’t you, Marjory? You wanted so badly for this to be a happily ever after.

Downstairs, Nelson moved to the door. A fiery flush shot through Marjory’s cheeks. She gripped the banister. She’d made a mistake about Nelson, but there was no way she was going to let him walk out without showing Fran that ring. Let him for once feel the full force of rejection.

“Nelson!” Her voice vibrated through the house.

His whole body went rigid, head tucked inside his shoulders like a rabbit’s.

Marjory stomped down the stairs until they were standing so close that she could see the tiny globes of sweat gathering on his forehead.

“Well.” She folded her arms. “Haven’t you forgotten something?”