Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(22) by Susan Mallery
“Flexibility will help with your stability. When your hip heals, you’ll still be worried about falling. That will make you cautious. Knowing you’re flexible and can bend in all sorts of directions will help with your confidence.”
Gloria grunted and cooperated with the stretching for a few more seconds, then pushed Lori away.
“That’s enough,” she snapped. “I’m not paying you to torture me.”
Lori hadn’t slept well the night before. She had no one to blame but herself, which she hated. In truth she’d lain in bed, seething about Sandy’s casual confession.
Lori had been offended on so many levels, but somewhere around four in the morning, she’d finally admitted, if only to herself, that her real pain came from the fact that Reid had never wanted her that way and he never would.
None of which was Gloria’s fault, but it did mean her level of patience was lower than usual.
“You’re paying me to help get you better,” Lori said. “That’s what I’m doing.”
Gloria frowned at her. “The key is that I’m paying you. I expect professional behavior, not sadistic enjoyment of my pain.”
Lori gasped at the unfairness of the accusation. “Excuse me? What sadistic enjoyment? I go out of my way every single day to make your life more comfortable. Who got you to order the movies you’re enjoying? Who ran out in the rain to get you Cookies and Cream ice cream two days ago when you had a craving? Who keeps your room bright, changes the flowers, gets you books and magazines and gives a damn about you getting back on your feet?”
“I have told you not to swear around me. I won’t tolerate it. If you’re going to persist in that kind of behavior, I’ll fire you.”
“That threat is getting old.”
“So is your incompetence.”
Maybe it was the lack of sleep. Maybe it was the fact that Reid wanted every woman on the planet but her. Maybe it was that she’d reached her threshold. Whatever the reason, she finally snapped.
“I’ve had it,” she told Gloria, her voice low. “I have busted my ass for you. Yes, I said ass. Live with it. When I took this job, everyone told me you were a total bitch and impossible to deal with. But I didn’t believe them. The staff at the rehab facility warned me about you, said you were awful and ungrateful, but I didn’t listen. I defended you over and over again. Imagine how I feel now that I find out they were telling the truth. You’re all the things they said. It’s no wonder your grandchildren avoid you. I sure wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t getting paid a whole lot of money. So here’s the question. What on earth is wrong with you? Why do you act like this?”
Lori had never spoken that way to a patient before, although if anyone deserved it, Gloria did. Still, she braced herself for the scathing tirade that would end her time in this house.
But Gloria didn’t say anything. Instead the old woman stared at her for several seconds, then stunned Lori by bursting into tears.
Lori stared at her for a couple of seconds, not sure if she should move closer or run for cover. But there was something broken and sad about Gloria’s tears. Something that made her move next to the bed, and then gently, carefully, sit on the mattress.
She reached for the older woman and slowly put her arms around her. Gloria clung to her, still crying, her body shaking.
“I d-didn’t mean for this to happen,” Gloria said between sobs. “I don’t know what h-happened. I was always difficult and demanding, but now I’m horrible. I hear the things I say and I can’t believe that’s me talking. I never meant to become so awful. Something happened. This isn’t me and it’s not my fault. Nobody loves me. No one has ever loved me. I’m alone and I’m going to die alone.”
Lori sucked in a breath. She felt like slime for having attacked Gloria, yet she sensed this might be an important moment in the old woman’s life. She suspected that Gloria didn’t allow herself much emotional vulnerability or weakness, so how best to handle the opportunity?
She considered several possibilities, then decided to go for the truth. She waited until the tears subsided, sat up, handed Gloria a box of tissues, then cleared her throat.
“You’re right,” she said clearly, refusing to be sucked in by the still flowing tears. “You are going to die alone.”
Gloria’s eyes widened. “It’s not true,” she whispered.
“It is true,” Lori told her. “Look at how you act. Who would want to care about you? You’re dismissive of people’s feelings. You don’t seem to ever do anything nice. You’re mean and self-centered.” She lowered her voice and touched the other woman’s arm. “But you can change.”
Gloria shook her head. “I can’t. I don’t know how.”
“You can and you do know how. You don’t want to—there’s a difference. You’re many things, but you’re not stupid. You remember what it’s like to be human.”
Her patient stared at her. “No, I don’t. Besides, what’s the point? You’re saying I should be nice to people. To care about them. But then they just take advantage of me. Besides, there are so many idiots in the world.”
“There’s an attitude designed to make you friends.”
“I don’t want friends.”
“Really? Then what was the water works about? Come on, no one wants to be totally isolated. Everyone wants a sense of belonging. You’re old—you’ll be dead soon. Don’t you want to be missed?”
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