As Althea reached up
to touch Betty’s arm, her long
revealed a bruise on her forearm.
“What happened to
your arm?” Noelle asked as calmly as she co
uld while suspicion rolled through her in a wave of
Althea glanced at
“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.”
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
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.”
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.
placed her hands on her hips and glared at Noelle. “You can’t make me leave. You didn’t hire
“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.
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.”
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
“We’ll see about
that. Come on, let’s go.”
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
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
“Hello,” she said
softly to Silas. “Mrs. Wicked is gone. Come with me. I need your
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
“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
Noelle studied the
mounted paper. Jake Bellingham’s phone number was listed at the top. She picked up the phone
and dialed the number.
Hotel New York. How may I help you today?” came a practiced, professional
pounded with dismay. Bellingham Hotel? The family
owned hotels? “May I please speak to Jake
“I’ll buzz his office
After a minute, a
feminine voice came on the line. “Mr. Bellingham’s office. How may I help you?”
“Please, I need to
speak to him. I’m a visiting neighbor calling from his grandmother’s house in Florida.” Noelle’s
pulse sprinted at the idea of telling him what she’d done.
“Please hold, and I’ll
see if he can take the call,” his secretary said.
A moment later,
Noelle heard a deep voice say, “Jake Bellingham.”
hard. “Mr. Bellingham, you don’t know me, but I’m a new friend of Silas’s. My name is Noelle
North, I’m a registered nurse visiting from Massachusetts, but not licensed
in Florida, and I’m
calling to tell you that I just escorted your grandmother’s caretaker out of the house for abusing
her. I specialize in care for the elderly and recognize abuse when I see it. I did not call the police.
I need to know what you want me t
o do next.”
“Let me get this
straight. You don’t know me, my grandmother, or the woman who was taking
care of her. Yet
you had the balls to throw her out after, what, five or ten minutes in the house? Is that
“Yes,” said Noelle
with a confidence she didn’t feel. “That’s about it. As I said, I am a registered nurse, so I’ve seen
too many cases of abuse like this before. She has bruises on her arms and torso that ar
“Abuse? Really? Put
Silas on the phone,” growled his father.
Noelle handed Silas
the phone. “Your father wants to speak to you.”
Silas’s eyes grew
round. He took the phone and listened, then he spoke in a series of staccato sentences. “Yes! I
told you Mrs. Wicked was mean! Yes, I like her
! Her name is Noelle and she’s here on vacation.
Nana showed Noelle her bruises. That’s why.”
said, “Love you too, Daddy,” and handed the phone back to Noelle.
“I had no idea this
happening to my grandmother,” said Jake. “I have you to thank for uncovering the situation.
I’ve been mostly away for the last several weeks, and Althea never mentioned any problems with
Mrs. Wickstrom. Nor did I notice anything like that. I’m sorry, but
I can’t make it home for
another few days due to some international legal problems. Can you stay with my grandmother
and Silas until I can send someone else to take over for you? In the meantime, who can I call for
references on you?”
“You can speak to
anyone at the New Life Assisted
Care Community outside of Boston. I handle the health
program there. I’m
in Florida for a vacation, and as I mentioned earlier, I’m not licensed to
practice in Florida, and won’t be able to stay with your family for any length of time, and then
only as a caretaker, not a nurse.”
“Until just this
weekend, I promise,” said Silas’ father. “And if I can find a better service than the one I used for
Mrs. Wickstrom, it could be
for only a few hours. Don’t worry, I’ll pay you well.”
Noelle bristled. “You
may be used to paying peo
ple to do your bidding, but it’s not necessary for me. I’ve done this
because I care about others. Not to get your money.”
“Whoa! I didn’t
mean … Forget it! I’ll be in touch.”
Noelle hung up the
ill steaming from the notion that she and her work were for sale when she was just
voluntarily helping to resolve a very tough situation.
“You’re going to
stay with me now?” Silas asked, giving her a wide smile. “Maybe for a long
“Just until your
father can find a replacement,” Noelle said, not wanting to get Silas’s hopes up for something
that wasn’t going to happen. She already knew she didn’t like Jake Bellingham.
Judith Keim was
born and raised in Elmira, New York, and now makes her home in Idaho with her husband and
their two dachshu
nds, Winston and Wally, and other members of her family.
Growing up, books
were always present being r
ead, ready to go back to the library, or about to be discovered.
Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving all of us in the family a
wealth of knowledge and a lot of imagination. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the idea of
iting stories early on. I particularly love to write novels about women who face unexpected
challenges and meet them with strength.
A hybrid author who
both has a publisher and who self
publishes, Ms. Keim writes heart
warming stories of strong
women who face challenges and find love and happiness along the way. Her books are based, in
part, on many of the
places she’s lived or visited and on the interesting people, she’s met, creating
believable characters and realistic settings her many, loyal readers love.