A Christmas Star Blitz

As Althea reached up
to touch Betty’s arm, her long

sleeved shirt
revealed a bruise on her forearm.
“Yes.”

“What happened to
your arm?” Noelle asked as calmly as she co
uld while suspicion rolled through her in a wave of
unease.
Althea glanced at
Betty.
“She’s fine, just a
little clumsy, that’s all,” said Betty, waving away Noelle’s concern.

“You hit Nana
there,” said Silas, moving closer to Noelle. “I saw you.”
“Why, you little …
You know that didn’t happen. That’s where I helped her up from another fall.”
Silas clasped
Noelle’s hand and shook his head. “Adults aren’t supposed to lie.”
Noelle knelt down in
front of Althea’s wheelchair and spoke softly. “Althea, you can trust me. I’m a registered nurse
who helps the elderly where I live in New
England. Are you being hurt?”
Althea looked at
Betty, turned back to Noelle, and nodded. Then she lift
ed her shirt. Bruises were
everywhere.
Noelle scrambled to
her feet and faced Betty, her hands fisted.
The burning desire to attack the awful woman was
almost overwhelming. Through gritted teeth, Noelle said, “I would suggest you pack up your
things and leave now, Betty, or I’m calling the authorities.”
“You wouldn’t
dare!” snarled Betty.
“I would, I can, and I
will,” said Noelle, flexing her fists. The abuse of the elderly wasn’t new, but each time she saw
an example, it made her sick to her stomach.

Noelle turned to
Silas. “You stay here with your great

grandmother. I’m going inside to make sure Mrs.
Wickstrom leaves.”


Mrs. Wickstrom
placed her hands on her hips and glared at Noelle. “You can’t make me leave. You didn’t hire
me.”
“If you don’t leave,
I’m calling the police. I mean it. I’ve handled cases like this before,” Noelle said, well aware this
really wasn’t her business. But she wouldn’t, she couldn’t let the abuse continue. The sight of
those bruises felt like a punch to her gut.
“Okay then, I’m not
leaving until I get paid,” said Betty.
“Writ
e down what
you’re owed, and I’ll see that you get the money. That’s the best I can do under the
circumstances,” said Noelle. “It’s the nicest offer you’re going to get because if it were left up to
me, you wouldn’t get a dime. You’d get a jail sentence.”
“You have no proof
that I did anything wrong,” countered Betty.
Noelle’s smile was
cold. “Oh, but I do. I have two very credible witnesses and, if necessary, I’ll take photographs to
show the authorities.
Now, get your things, and I’ll escort you to your car.”
Noelle followed
Betty inside and to a bedroom
off the kitchen in the back of the house. She watched carefully as
Betty hastily threw her things into a small suitcase. When she’d zipped her suitcase closed, she
turned to Noelle.

“What are you going
to do about it now?”
Noelle drew a deep
breath. “I’m taking your keys to the house and escorting you to your car.”
“And then what?”
sneered Betty. “Althea isn’t an easy woman to deal with. Too stubborn, too demanding for her
own good.”
“We’ll see about
that. Come on, let’s go.”

Noelle escorted
Betty outside, wrote down the license number, and stood by as Betty threw her suitcase into the
back of a small, blue sedan and climbed behind the wheel. After starting the engine, Betty gave
her a middle

finger wave and took off with a roa
r.
Alone, Noelle stood
in the driveway, breathing in and out in a calming pattern to slow her heartbea
t. What in the hell
had she done? She didn’t know Althea Bellingham. And now she was in charge of her until her
family could find other help for her.
She went inside the
house and out to the seaside porch. Silas was sitting next to the wheelchair, holding his great

grandmother’s hand. Althea was asleep in the chair. At the sweet sight of them, tears sprang
to
Noelle’s eyes.
“Hello,” she said
softly to Silas. “Mrs. Wicked is gone. Come with me. I need your
help.”
Silas followed her
into the kitchen.
“Who do I need to
call? Where are your parents?” Noelle asked.
Silas gave her a look
that was so sad, Noelle’s heart clenched. “My dad is in New York. He’ll be back at the end of the
week.”

“Do you have a
phone number for him?”
Silas smiled and
pointed to a printed list by the kitchen phone. “It’s the one on the top. His name is
Jake.”
Noelle studied the
mounted paper. Jake Bellingham’s phone number was listed at the top. She picked up the phone
and dialed the number.

“The Bellingham
Hotel New York. How may I help you today?” came a practiced, professional

sounding
voice.