Friday, November 13, 2015

NaNoWriMo 1K-A-Day: Day 13

The Remnant Resonance (Ruth)
 
Ruby was working to stock the last of the week's stock on the shelves, when she heard Betty's voice.
"Have you seen Ruby?" She asked somebody.
Ruby came out from behind the shelf. "I'm right here," she said. "What do you need?"
Betty rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. "Phone's for you," she said. "Better hurry; we could get disconnected if it takes too long."
Ruby acknowledged the potential of this and quickly ran to the little booth at the back of the store. She lifted the receiver to her ear.
"Hello?"
"Ruby Burke?" A man's voice squawked from the speaker.
"Yes, who is this?"
"This is Jared Devin, the manager over at Whiteacres."
Whiteacres was the hospice center where Nora worked. "Is something wrong?"
"I was just wondering if you knew where Nora was; she's your mother, right?"
Ruby felt the panic climbing in her chest. "Did you try calling the apartment?"
"I did, but nobody answered. Did your line get disconnected?"
“Not that I know of…” Why wasn't Nora answering the phone? Did something happen to her? “I will go home and check on her, Mr. Devin. Thank you for calling.”
“Sure thing, Mrs. Burke.”
Ruby hung up the phone, her head spinning. She immediately sought out her supervisor, Mack McClinton.

“Sir,” she ducked her head, “I need to run home very quickly to check on my mother. I will be right back as soon as I can.”
“Can't it wait?” Mack had never taken kindly to her. He had not quite been able to reconcile with her past as a “showgirl,” even though her role at Club Mo had been one of significantly more talent than looks. To him, she was a trashy tramp who couldn't be trusted.
Ruby shook her head. “I’m sorry, sir; it's just that she might be in trouble, and every minute I stay is another minute I could have helped her.”
Mack leaned back in his chair, still reluctant to acquiesce. “Look, do you want to keep your job or not?”
Ruby was trying not to appear as frantic as she felt. “If it comes to that,” she answered, “my family is more important, sir. Please? I will do everything within my power to be back before my shift ends!” She was begging now; but who knew how long it would take to find her mother-in-law?
Mack finally nodded. “I will admit, you’re a good worker, I’d hate to lose you.” His eye wandered out over the sales floor beyond his office. “Times are hard on a lot of people.”
Ruby nodded, unable to think of anything more to say to convey her plight.
Finally, Mack sighed. “All right, I will let you go this once… But if you’re a minute late, don't expect to come back tomorrow!”
Ruby felt the tension melt off of her, leaving her so light she felt like flying. “I will do my best, sir! Thank you!”
She was out the door, coat and purse in hand, by the time Mack responded with a snort. “Yeah, right!”

Her patent-leather mary-janes pounded the pavement as Ruby ran the six blocks back to the apartment. She dodged past panhandlers, around mounds of furniture piled on the curb with signs joking, “OUT-OF-HOME SALE” or “FREE TO A GOOD HOME.” The sidewalks were full of marginally-well-dressed former workforce members who scanned doorways and scoured passersby for anything, whether a handout or rumors of employment. Though Ruby had initially intended to go right back to the apartment, the thought occurred to her: what if Nora was among these aimless masses? She scanned the faces she passed, but Nora Burke’s small, wrinkled visage was not among them.
She fumbled in the depths of her purse for the apartment key as she thundered up the steps. No welcome slip of metal met her fingers. She must have left it on the bedside table by mistake. She would have to use the spare key hidden by the door. Six flights later, she arrived in the hallway of the Burke apartment.
“Nora!” she called as the doors flew by. 6A, 6B… 6F, 6G. She tried the handle first. Sure enough, it was locked. She pounded on the door.
“Nora! Are you there?” Knock, knock, knock. “Nora! It’s me, Ruby! Please let me in!”
She rested her ear against the door, but she couldn’t hear any movement. Ruby prayed silently, God, if you can hear me… Please help Nora!
She still held her ear over the door; as she held her breath, the slightest of whimpers threaded its way through the wood. Heartened, Ruby snatched the key from its hiding place within a crack in the plaster of the wall and lunged inside.
“Nora!” she cried.

Nora Burke lay huddled on the floor. Her knees curled up against her chest, and her arms wrapped around her head. When Ruby reached in to pull one hand away, she felt warmth on the skin; evidently Nora had been in that position for a while.
“Nora?” Ruby brushed back the moist, matted wisps of hair from the woman’s face. Nora’s cheeks, eyes, and nose were all red and swollen from crying, but no more tears seeped from her eyes. She blinked at Ruby.
“Wh--what are you doing here?” asked Nora in a hollow, distant voice.
Ruby pulled out her own handkerchief to wipe Nora’s face. “I came to find you,” she said. “What is wrong? Why didn’t you go into work? Everybody’s worried about you.”
Nora didn’t react for a long time, but after a moment her face scrunched into a grimace and she shook her head. “No they aren’t,” she croaked hoarsely. “Everybody I loved is dead!” She flung a hand out, and Ruby watched a crumpled piece of paper fly from her grasp and bounce across the floor.
Ruby went to retrieve the paper as Nora buried her face again.

“Dear Ellenora Lucretia Mullberry,” she read. “We regret to inform you that your father, George Elbert Mullberry, has passed away suddenly…”