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Prescriptions and promis.., p.4

Prescriptions and Promises, page 4

 

Prescriptions and Promises
 


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  CHAPTER THREE

  TANYA faced Noah. ‘See there? Everything adds up. Just like we said.’

  He let out a disgusted sigh. ‘Oh, for the love of—’

  Della held up her hands. ‘Now, now, Dr Doubting Thomas. I think you should check things out for yourself.’

  ‘I did,’ he said crossly, still smarting from his failed attempt to talk sense into her. ‘If Jennifer Ruscoe is moving into Earl’s house, it’s strictly on a temporary basis. She isn’t interested in Springwater or its residents. Now, can we, please, get to work?’

  Tanya and Karen fell silent. Their faces collectively turned pink at his scolding, their hopeful and happy moods crushed by his harsh comment.

  Even Harriet’s smile faltered while Tanya clamped her lips into a hard line and began entering Harriet’s name into the computer. Karen slipped out of the cubicle like a wraith and he pushed away his remorse for destroying their fantasy. Facts, however unpleasant, had to be accepted.

  Della, however, was the only one who didn’t act intimidated by his harsh words. She rose from her perch on Tanya’s desk and glared at him. ‘It’s entirely possible for Jenny to change her mind, you know.’

  ‘Yeah,’ he admitted, watching Karen usher Harriet into the treatment room across the hall. ‘But she doesn’t want to sink any of her inheritance into her family’s business, so I doubt if she has.’

  Considering the subject closed, he met Karen outside the door. ‘She’s ready for you,’ the nurse said, before she disappeared around the corner. Her averted gaze and whipped-puppy manner made him feel like an ogre.

  He stepped inside, reading the notes Karen had recorded. ‘You’re getting around much better than the last time I saw you, Harriet.’

  Harriet stuck out her right leg. Her knee, which had been red, swollen and tender to touch, now appeared symptom-free. ‘Oh, I am. I can get around so much better now. I’m able to work in my store, too, instead of lying in bed with an ice pack. Which reminds me, Gina saved you a copy of Tom Clancy’s latest, so you can pick it up any time.’

  ‘I’ll drop by in the next day or two.’ He reviewed the page of her most recent lab results. ‘The synovial fluid I removed from your knee the other day was positive for uric acid crystals, which translates into what we call gout. This wasn’t your first episode, if I remember right.’

  ‘No. I’ve had this off and on for the last five years. Although my last attack hit me shortly before I became your patient.’

  ‘According to your blood work, your uric acid level is too high. To bring it down, I’m going to prescribe a drug called allopurinol, which should slow your body’s production of uric acid. Are you having any side effects to the colchicine you started taking last week?’

  ‘Some,’ she said. ‘A little nausea and diarrhea.’

  ‘I’ll lower your dosage until we stabilize the blood levels with the allopurinol. After a few months, if you don’t have any attacks and the uric acid stays in the normal range, we’ll discontinue the colchicine. Also, keep taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, like ibuprofen or naproxen. Drink plenty of fluids, too.’

  ‘OK.’

  ‘Any other problems?’

  Harriet shook her head. ‘No, but I started going for regular massages to work the kinks out of this old body. I don’t need to stop, do I?’

  ‘Not at all.’

  ‘Good,’ she said. ‘There’s nothing more relaxing than a good massage. Have you had one?’

  He flipped the chart closed. ‘No, I haven’t.’

  ‘Then, by all means, you should try it. You don’t know what you’re missing.’

  He grinned at her solemn expression. ‘I’ll keep it in mind.’

  ‘I’m serious,’ she insisted. ‘I imagine it’s stressful to have people asking you about Earl’s business all the time. Why, I could tell a few minutes ago how frustrated you are over the whole situation. I understand why you don’t want to hear any more talk on the subject.’

  Something in her tone warned him. ‘But you’re going to comment anyway,’ he guessed.

  She smiled. ‘I always knew you were a smart man. Actually, I want to plant a few things for you to think about. You see, being a teacher for thirty-some years, I’ve learned to read people. You’ve heard the cliché about how the eyes are the window to the soul.’

  ‘Yes. So?’

  ‘Have you ever looked in Jenny’s eyes, Noah?’

  As a matter of fact, he had stared into them on several occasions. Over the past month, he’d seen a lot of emotion in those blue-gray depths—emotion ranging from the anguish he’d seen at Earl’s passing to a fiery anger that matched the vibrant hues of her hair.

  He didn’t like his attraction to Jennifer’s outer package. ‘What’s your point?’

  ‘Jenny may come across as being tough and unsympathetic, but she isn’t. I think she cares too much about people and their situations and so she purposely distances herself.’

  He inwardly disagreed. He’d tried to appeal to her compassion and it hadn’t made any impression. Either she was as hard-hearted as he’d imagined, or she’d buried her compassionate side far deeper than he cared to dig. He suspected it was the former.

  ‘It’s also been said that actions speak louder than words,’ he reminded her.

  ‘Sometimes a person has to do something she doesn’t want to do.’

  He stared at her in disbelief. ‘If you’re trying to convince me that Jennifer doesn’t want to abandon the business, you’re going to fail.’

  ‘What did she say when you talked to her last week?’

  ‘Let’s see.’ He counted off on his fingers. ‘The building needs repairs, her inventory isn’t up to standard, she lost her help. I know those things take money, but she refuses to invest Earl’s own nest egg to keep his dream alive.’

  Harriet paused, clearly considering his comment. ‘I know a lot of people are placing blame on Jenny,’ she began, ‘but how well do you know Eunice Ruscoe?’

  ‘Not at all,’ he admitted, thinking back to the first time he’d seen the woman which had been at Earl’s funeral. Tall, like Earl, she bore a remarkable resemblance both in appearance and personality to a crow. She’d worn a perpetual frown on her face and had found fault with everything from the flowers to the church service itself.

  ‘She’s always begrudged every minute and every dime that Earl spent on his business. It was the one thing in his life that he controlled totally and it bothered her like a festering sore. Now, after inheriting half of his estate, she finally has her chance to make up for all those years. Believe me, as hateful as she is, she isn’t about to turn loose any funds for improvements.’

  Although her explanation seemed plausible, he wasn’t ready to let Jennifer off the hook so easily. ‘You’re guessing.’

  She shrugged. ‘Maybe. But I’ve known her for years. I know what she’s like.’

  ‘If you’re right about the two of them, then how do you explain Jennifer’s change of heart?’

  ‘To those of us who have faith in Jenny, her reasons don’t matter. But if you need a reason, turn on your charm to find it. Show her you aren’t her enemy. Eventually, she’ll tell you whatever you want to know.’

  Jennifer was a beautiful woman and under other circumstances he wouldn’t have found ‘turning on the charm’ a hardship at all. Now, however, the idea seemed hypocritical when her personality embodied everything he despised—greed, selfishness, and lack of compassion. Obviously Harriet colored her view of Jennifer from her childhood and not recent events.

  ‘Before you throw me out of the room for meddling,’ she said with a faint smile, ‘can you do me a favor? Please, keep an open mind. If Jenny has found a way to appease her aunt—and you—then give her a chance.’

  ‘I suppose you won’t be happy unless I agree.’

  Harriet smiled. ‘No.’

  He hesitated as he weighed her suggestion. ‘I’ll try.’ It was the most he could promise.

  ‘That
s all anyone can ask.’ She tried to push herself out of the chair and Noah came to her rescue. ‘Since we’ve settled that, when do I need to come back and hear you tell me how well I’m doing?’

  Noah laughed at her impertinence. Harriet was the only person in town—other than Della—who could get away with lecturing him. ‘Two weeks. We’ll do another blood test to check your uric acid and adjust the dosage of your medication accordingly.’

  ‘I’ll be here,’ she declared, placing the hat on her head as Noah walked beside her. She stopped at the door. ‘You won’t forget what I told you?’

  As if he could. ‘No.’

  ‘Good.’ She sounded satisfied. ‘Jenny really is a pretty young woman.’

  He couldn’t disagree, even though he wanted to. In fact, he’d made the same observation the first time Earl had shown off her picture like a proud parent.

  ‘Your age, too, if I’m not mistaken.’

  ‘She’s still a baby.’ He didn’t consider a six years’ age difference as being significant, but he wanted to discourage Harriet’s matchmaking attempts.

  Harriet’s eyes twinkled. ‘She’s the most mature infant I’ve ever seen.’

  He nearly groaned aloud as he remembered her soft curves pressed against his chest. Her smooth skin had seemed like silk and the scent of berries clinging to her hair had given him a respite from the harsh odor of disinfectant and death.

  ‘And speaking of babies, Jenny’s going to have beautiful ones someday. Mark my words, they’ll look just like her. In fact, you might get to deliver them.’ She reached out and patted his arm. ‘Now, don’t forget to pick up your book.’

  ‘I won’t.’ He watched her leave, shaking his head at her obvious attempt to pique his interest in Jennifer. It would take a lot more to change his mind than an old neighbor vouching for her and talking of beautiful copper-haired, blue-eyed babies. Everyone else might believe her excuses, but he wouldn’t. He’d been fed a steady diet of those during various times of his life and he refused to swallow them so easily.

  Karen passed him in the corridor. ‘When you’re through wool-gathering, I have several patients waiting.’

  Her cool tone suggested that she still hadn’t forgiven him for the episode in Tanya’s office. He’d have to eat a slice of humble pie if he wanted to crawl back into his staff’s good graces.

  A break in his routine came when seven-year-old Blair Bright walked in beside his mother, sobbing as he clutched his right forearm. ‘What do we have here?’ he asked the skinny child whose large plastic-rimmed glasses lent him a scholarly rather than a sportsman-like air.

  Mrs Bright wrung her hands. ‘I feel terrible. Blair is shy and I finally talked him into rollerblading with the boy next door. Ten minutes later, he falls and hurts his arm. I think it’s broken.’

  ‘Could be,’ Noah said. ‘Those things happen, but let’s take a look.’

  Blair sniffled as Noah examined his forearm and wrist. ‘I was wearing all my pads, and I still got hurt,’ he said, sounding aggrieved by the apparent failure of his safety equipment.

  ‘That was a smart thing to do,’ Noah told him. ‘Just think how much worse you could feel if you hadn’t worn your gear.’

  Blair’s mouth formed an ‘O’ as he pondered this new slant to the situation. ‘You’re right,’ he said, his tears instantly drying. ‘I could have skinned my knees and my elbows, too, but I didn’t.’

  Noah smiled as he ruffled the boy’s light brown hair. ‘I’m going to take a few X-rays and then we’ll decide what to do. OK?’

  Blair nodded. In no time at all, Noah had pictures to prove that all bones were intact. Diagnosing a bad sprain, he immobilized the boy’s arm and sent the tired youngster home with his less anxious mother.

  Shortly before five o’clock, Karen ushered in his last patient of the day. ‘I see my favorite person has come to visit me,’ he told Daisy Weir. The little girl giggled before she buried her face in her mother’s chest.

  Violet smiled. ‘As you can see, she’s much better.’

  Noah scooted the small stool close to the exam table. ‘May I peek in your ears, Daisy?’

  The youngster stuck her thumb in her mouth and nodded. Without hesitation, she turned her head while Noah quickly checked her ear canal with his otoscope.

  ‘Looks almost normal,’ he said. ‘But we really need to organize a long-term solution for her. Living on antibiotics isn’t good for her immune system.’

  ‘Randy got a job this weekend, working on a harvest crew,’ Violet said. ‘We can probably afford her surgery soon.’

  ‘Then I’ll make an appointment with Dr Colyer, the ENT specialist. In the meantime, make sure she finishes the antibiotic we started last week.’

  ‘I will,’ she promised. ‘You know, I was really impressed by the lady pharmacist we have. She was so nice to us.’

  Nice? He paused in his note-taking to listen while Violet continued.

  ‘We didn’t get there until she was closing, but she let us in anyway and filled Daisy’s prescription.’

  ‘Sounds like you were lucky to catch her.’

  ‘Oh, we were. What was even nicer was how she treated us after I caught her overcharging me.’

  His mental antennae quivered. He wondered how many other people had paid too much for their medications because they hadn’t questioned the fee. ‘She overcharged you?’

  ‘Uh-huh. After I said that twenty-seven dollars couldn’t be right because I only paid seven for the same prescription before, she looked it up in her book and corrected it without a fuss. Said she misread the bottle.’

  Noah’s outrage turned to puzzlement. The antibiotic he’d prescribed was one of the third generation of penicillins, which made it fairly expensive. The price Jennifer had quoted sounded about right. By accepting the lower payment, she had literally given away the medication.

  The gesture seemed out of character, yet it confirmed Harriet’s opinion of her soft heart. If she was right about that, was it possible for Harriet to be right about other things, too? That Jenny was moving into and not out of Earl’s house? If so, then Jennifer might be keeping her promise to her uncle after all.

  He shouldn’t care what had happened behind the scenes in the past week as long as she stayed in business, but he did. His need to protect Earl’s interests and those of his patients overshadowed his desire to discover the real Jennifer Ruscoe. Or so he told himself.

  Deciding on the spur of the moment to track her down that very day, he sent the Weirs home, shucked his white coat and left on his mission.

  Jenny juggled two ungainly boxes and her shoulder-bag in order to unlock the back door of the drug store. ‘Come on in, Carrie,’ she told the bright-eyed, dark-haired eleven-year-old as she dropped her bulky load to flick on the light switches. ‘I want to show you around.’

  Carrie stepped over the threshold, craning her neck to dubiously ogle her surroundings. ‘I didn’t realize this place was so old. I thought it would be more like the pharmacy we go to at home.’

  Thinking of the store recently built a few blocks from the apartment complex where she and the Fentons lived, Jenny knew her uncle’s—no, her—operation was as different from the national chain’s as night and day.

  ‘After we finish our fix-it projects, the place will look a lot better. Go on. Make yourself at home.’

  Carrie didn’t need another invitation. She immediately poked her nose into every drawer and shelf, like a man hunting for buried treasure. It must have been ages since Earl had sifted through his stock, so Carrie would easily occupy her time and attention for the next few weeks.

  Given her love of organizing things, bringing Carrie here for the summer was perfect for all concerned. After they finished with the main floor, the entire basement begged for the same treatment. It, however, wasn’t a priority, but Jenny knew Carrie would be delighted to tackle the job. Creepy-crawlies didn’t bother her a bit—a trait which would come in handy as they worked downstairs.

  J
enny turned down the thermostat, pleased to hear the air-conditioning kick into action. No matter what happened between now and September, at least she’d work in comfort.

  Provided she could pay the electricity bill.

  Pushing aside the concern, she followed Carrie as the youngster walked through the area where they stored their prescription drugs and into the main store. ‘As you can see, we have our work cut out for us.’

  Carrie picked up a dust-laden teddy bear and wrinkled her nose just before she sneezed. ‘I’ll say! How old is this stuff?’

  Jenny smiled. ‘Older than you are, I’m sure. That’s why we’re going to give everything a face-lift. No one will recognize us as being the same store by the time we’re done.’ Surely a buyer would look more favorably on them if he saw a more modernized facility.

  Carrie sat the bear next to its companion and eyed her surroundings. ‘You’ve already told me what you want to do, but I’m only here for six weeks. It’s gonna take longer than that.’

  ‘It looks like a big project right now,’ Jenny admitted, ‘but once we get started it won’t be so bad. With two pairs of hands, we’ll accomplish twice as much in half the time.’ She refused to let negative thoughts infect her high hopes, especially since she had so much riding on the outcome.

  Once again, Carrie didn’t appear convinced. ‘If you say so.’ She glanced around. ‘Are you wanting to start on this tonight?’

  Jenny heard the dread in Carrie’s voice. They’d worked hard to unload and unpack their things at her uncle’s—her—house and they were both tired.

  ‘Just look around for now,’ she said. ‘We’ll start fresh in the morning. I’ll make a new sign for the window and then we’ll grab something to eat before we call it a day.’

  Carrie might enjoy a relaxing evening, but Jenny still had one important appointment to keep—a meeting that required her personal attention—before she could slide between the sheets.

 
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