It was extremely quiet. The lights in the hall way of the hospital were dimmed a bit. Ruth Ann Newell sat and, for the thousandth time, regarded her uncle, small now and a bit shrunken on the bed. There were no tears now. The tears had been shed in abundance, once she realized that the stroke that he'd had was irreversible. She knew that the tears would come again but now it was time to keep the vigil, this vigil for Uncle Mike.
She realized that she'd not taken any opportunity to eat anything but wasn't sure if she was hungry at all either. She simply vowed to think about it.
"This is going to be difficult without his advice," she said to herself.
Her Uncle Mike had taken her in, when her parents were killed, had raised her, educated her, and brought her into his business. Gradually through the years, she'd taken over the business herself, and ran it more and more completely. The business was doing well; Uncle Mike wasn't, and that was the long and short of her situation.
At times she spoke to herself about turning 40 with no prospects of a man. But the business kept her so occupied that she didn't worry very much about her supposed 'love life'. Brief flings in college, a few dates, when she was a younger woman, and the occasional married man looking for a 'piece on the side', a thing that she vowed she'd never be, an invitation that she'd never give in to.
She was, she thought, fairly content with her lot, and managed it by simply not giving it much thought. It was on her mind now only because she had time now to do nothing but think and keep this long, lonely vigil with Uncle Mike.
But she knew, knew down deep that if it were her in the bed, incapacitated and, in reality, dying, Uncle Mike would never stir from her side. So, the vigil was hers to keep, and keep it she did.
She was at that moment a bit upset because she'd spilled some tea on her skirt and was trying to wash it out with a cloth from the sink in the bathroom. The skirt was red and matched the suit jacket. She had the skirt pulled up to her waist. She was not looking to flash the world; she was distracting herself.
She didn't even hear him come in, and, when she looked up, gave a kind of a startled squeak and didn't even think to push her skirt down right away. It was as though she willfully was sitting there displaying to the doctor in the doorway her legs and her pretty rose colored panties.
"Uh, Ms. Newell," he said, bringing her out of her reverie, "Your skirt."
"Ohhhhh," she said surprised and now embarrassed, "I'm sorry doctor; I was idly thinking, as I tried to get a stain out of my skirt."
"Well," he said, eyes twinkling as he spoke, "I could always say that I'm a doctor and have seen it all before but I'd be lying to you if I didn't admit that it was a pretty enough sight. I'm sorry to have snuck up on you like that, Mrs, Miss oh I guess Ms. Newell," he said.
"It's Miss Newell," she said, "Actually, doctor, it's Ruth Ann."
Then she went on:
"Dr. Grace, it's I who should have been looking out for what I was doing and not showing the world my underwear," she smiled a truly abashed smile, when she said it.
"Pretty though," he remarked. She blushed and he dropped the issue. Then he went on:
"You look so tired; Miss Newell, should you go and get some rest?"
"Please, it's Ruth Ann," she said.
He answered: "Cyrus, Cyrus Grace."
He noticed that she made a slight face and said:
"Yes, I know, my parents were enamored of the ancients. So, I'm named for Cyrus the Persian but it could have been worse, maybe Ashurbanipal or Shupi Lulliuma or one of those guys."
"Shupi who?" she asked, laughing He laughed too and went on:
"But really, uh, Ruth Ann, can't you go and get some rest? I'm on for the night; I'll keep a good eye on him."
"My Uncle Mike," she said simply.
"On your Uncle Mike," he said.
"I don't think that I can leave him," was her simple statement, and she began to cry.
His instinct prompted him to go to her, and she met him with her own instinctive reaction; she leaned forward, still sitting and leaned against him, with her arms around him. He, with one hand, stroked her hair.
"I'm so sorry, Dr. Grace," she said.
"Not a bit of it!' he said quickly back to her.
He stepped back, neither of them was ashamed of the encounter, both of them noticed it, and simply turned from thoughts about it.
"When my Mom and Dad died, Uncle Mike took me in, and I was always his girl. He saw me through it all; I mean adolescence, my education; he brought me into the business and made sure that I learned it all. Now here he is with this ... this stroke and I can't abandon him; no, won't abandon him."
"Of course not," Dr. Grace said. "Well, I'll look back in a little bit. If you need, I'm on this floor tonight."
Just as he got to the doorway, she said to him a very soft:
"Thank you, Dr. Grace!"
He grinned: "It's Cyrus, but you might not want to use that."
She flashed him a smile and said: "I don't know, I kind of like Cyrus."
"Hmm," he answered, "Fan club of one!"
"One's a beginning," she said.
"Later," was his answer, and still smiling, he left the room.
"He's a nice one, Uncle Mike," Ruth Ann said, as soon as the doctor was out the door.
Cyrus Grace did look in a bit later and found Ruth Ann still working on the spot on her skirt.
"Coming out?" he asked this time.
She looked up in surprise again.
"I promise that I'll stop doing that," he said.
"Dr. Grace, it is a hospital and you're the doctor; you shouldn't have to worry about entering a room, if I'd just mind my manners and keep my skirt down."
He received a smile from her with the communication.
His smile in return was warm and he said:
"At least not as high this time."
She grinned and said: "Thank goodness."
"I was more thinking 'darn it!" was his reply.
She hid her mouth with her hand and giggled behind her hand.
"You're terrible!" she said.
"On the contrary," was his falsely stilted reply, "I'm very observant."
"I guess so," was her reply.
He went to the bed then to check Uncle Mike's vitals.
"Anything?" she asked.
"No, I'm afraid not," he answered. "About the same."
He excused himself and went away then but came back fairly quickly with a cup of coffee for Ruth Ann.
"Oh, thank you," she said, and looked at him and the mischievous look on his face.
"Say it!" she said with an overly loud 'resigned' smile.
"Shall I?" he asked, the look never leaving his face.
"I guess you should or I guess you'll burst instead," was her reply.
They both laughed and he asked:
"Do you need to undress to drink that?"
She covered her mouth with her hand again and said, behind the hand, "Terrible!"
He got a serious look then and said:
"Miss Newell, uh, Ruth Ann, I don't mean to be speaking out of line here. I'm just having fun with you."
"Don't you dare mention it, Dr. Grace; it's the only cheer that I've had since Uncle Mike had the stroke. You make a girl feel fairly light headed."
Cyrus Grace grinned at that and said:
"Well, good for me!"
He checked Uncle Mike again and said:
"I'm off to give everyone a good look over."
"Now who's doing it!?" he said severely to her but she still giggled some more.
"Women!" he said in a mock disgusted tone and said:
"Ruth Ann, I will be back."
"Thank you, Cyrus," was her reply.
He did come back later and found her sleeping. It was late. She had her arms wrapped around herself and had her head leaning against the back of the chair.
He moved forward, after retrieving a blanket from the room's storage closet and pulled the foot rest of the chair up for her. He wrapped the blanket around her.
She, still mostly asleep, kissed his hand and said: "Thank you, honey!"
Then she woke and said:
"Oh, I apologize! Uncle Mike would often do that kind of thing for me; I'm sorry."
"I'm not!" Cyrus said. "I kind of liked it."
She smiled, as she was about to close her eyes again, and, just as he tucked the blanket in around her, kissed his hand again. This time accompanied by a soft smile.
"Thank you," she said.
"Rest now, Ruth Ann," were his words.
It was a fairly restless night for her. She woke after a while and he seemed to know it, and brought for her some fruit and yogurt, with some bread.
"Hospital food!" he said grimly.
"A lovely gesture," she replied and began to eat what he'd brought her.
They talked companionably, while she ate what he'd brought for her. When she was finished, she stretched and he said to her:
"Why don't you at least take a few turns around the halls; get a little exercise. I'll sit with him, while you're gone."
"Will you?" she asked gratefully.
"Of course," was his reply.
Ruth Ann, reached up and kissed Cyrus' cheek and went for a walk around the halls of the hospital but she came back fairly quickly, not wanting to tie up his time.
"Say," he said, before leaving, "We have some stain remover at the desk with the supplies. I'll get you a packet of it."
"Are you going to demand to watch me use it?" she asked, her eyes twinkling.
"You are a hard boiled one," was his reply and he slipped away to get the stain remover.
When he came back he said to her: "We encounter all sorts of stains and have to be ready to deal with them."
"Thank you, Cyrus," she replied, "But no show this time!"
.... There is more of this story ...