Helen woke up to yelling in the hall outside. At first, she had trouble placing just where she was: she was in her own nightdress, but not in her own bed. As soon as the shouting faded away, a nurse came in, a woman in her forties, dark hair, dressed in scrubs.
“That’s just Colonel Wayne — he can be a little belligerent, first thing. Doesn’t mean anything by it. I didn’t want you to be alarmed, being new and all,” the nurse said, fussing with the sheets at the top of the bed. “I’m Rosie. You can get up when you want, there’s breakfast in the lounge if you like, your gown’s in the closet. Or you can get dressed. Your choice. We try to keep it easy here.”
“Where’s ‘here’?” Helen asked carefully.
“You’re on the third floor of the east wing. Room 312.”
“All right,” Helen said slowly. “And have I been here long?”
“Just since last night. You’re a new arrival.” The nurse walked to the side table next to the head of the bed, opened a drawer.
“You daughter Sarah said we should give you this when you woke up. Sorry that Mr. Johnson was such a rowdy wake-up call.”
She handed Helen a coil-bound scribbler, its cover bright blue.
“Read Me,” it said on the front cover in heavy ink.
Helen put the book on the covers, but kept it closed for a minute or two. Instead, she stared out the window: it was a bright day, the wind carrying light snow across the lake and throwing it up in tumbled clouds that rose and then flattened out again, running from west to east as they rose and fell.
Helen opened the scribbler.
“Dear Mom,” the first page started. “There are some things you may remember about being here, and some things you may not. Think of this as a Cole’s Notes for the parts you might be missing: a cheat sheet, I guess.
“You’re in long-term care right now, and if that comes as a surprise, we’re sorry. We did talk about it when you arrived. You came to St. John’s after you fell at home — you need a kind of care we can’t give you at home right now.
“If this is all new, keep reading. If it’s familiar, keep the book with you in case you need to look anything up later on. We’ve put pretty much everything we can think of in here, but if you have questions, we can put more in later. Donna and Dennis and I will be there often after work.”
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