Emie Carthar plopped her head down on her desk, alone in the stuffy room now since Lamartha had been forced to let all the other social workers go. Emie closed her eyes to the paper under her forehead and silently wished Lamartha hadn’t chosen to keep her. Because Lamartha thought she was so good at her job, she was saddled with all the nearly impossible tasks.
The month had started out horrifically with the murder of sweet Abby. Emie missed the nurse’s companionship and laughter that seemed even more plentiful when things got miserable. The woman had always been able to lift the spirits of anyone near her even when everything possible went wrong.
Emie sighed loudly and straightened in her seat. More phone calls had only led to more rejections. But now it was time for the start of the weekly assessments to check the residents’ mental coherency and well being. She gathered her notepad and sheet with the things Doc McDarvey wanted her to ask the resident. He and an RN from another facility planned to work remotely for the next few weeks. It was the only feasible option considering she hadn’t been able to find places to house the remaining four residents yet.
She let herself out of her windowless office and into the main common room. Shyly Parly was the resident who concerned everyone the most. Not only had she somehow been the one who found Abby’s murdered body in the hallway used by staff, she was also the resident who struggled most with depression. Suicidal ideations were a very real and high risk for Shyly at normal times.
Abby had worked with McDarvey and, over the last few weeks of September, things had been improving for Shyly again, though it hadn’t been real clear what Abby had changed. Everything with the medications listed in Shyly’s chart remained the same. Of the remaining four residents, Abby had felt the most concern and affection for Shyly. The woman hadn’t yet reached her thirtieth birthday, yet she’d had a lifetime of challenges and hurts in her life. Emie agreed with Abby and wished, of all of them, to find Shyly the perfect place to continue her healing.
She walked between the remaining two game tables in the large and now very cold and empty-feeling main common room.
Kevin, Alexa, and Burt sat at the small table closest to their rooms and on the couch in the center of the room facing the television high on the opposing wall. Some morning show sounded softly through the space. Burt had gone so far as to rearrange some of the furniture, pulling it all as far from the laundry hallway as he could. Emie looked over the three, the men at the table, Alexa slouched back on the couch with her arm up and rested on her head, and then about the room. Not finding Shyly, she walked to the room the two women used as a bedroom now. The rooms previously had only been used for the most high-risk residents so the staff could keep a continuous watch on them. Now the four were doubled in the rooms since the second floor was shut down.
Only the two beds and two dressers filled the room. Emie spun back to the main room, wondering if Shyly hadn’t yet finished her meal.
Craig, dusting the far shelves, glanced up and met her eyes. “Shyly?” he asked.
Emie gave him a slight nod.
“Conservatory with Miana,” Craig said. His tone seemed heavy, as it always sounded when things were amiss.
“It’s been a hard morning,” Alexa called out. “Lots of tears from that one.”
Emie nodded her thanks to Craig, but Alexa took the gesture as being directed to her.
“You need to fix her again. I can’t sleep with all the sobbing, sobbing sobbing,” the woman rambled.
Emie quickly continued on toward the clear conservatory door. Of all the rooms, it was the one residents could go to of their own accord. Sitting among the plants was a good thing for them and even the staff enjoyed being surrounded by all the green. It was also the one remaining room with some original features of the house when it was a home.
As Emie neared the wall of windows, looking more closely, she saw the strawberry blond head near the center where the benches were set. She hurried to the door and pushed through, finding the CNA sitting beside Shyly. They both looked up at Emie as if startled, Shyly then quickly glanced away, her hands wringing the hem of her plain blue shirt.
Miana stood, her hand on Shyly’s shoulder in a supportive tap. “I’ll see you later, Shyly. All will be okay, you’ll see.”
Miana gave Emie a sad smile as she moved to the door and back into the main room.
Emie slowly lowered to the bench facing Shyly, taking stock of the red and swollen eyes, the fidgeting fingers, now going to something at her neck, and her nose, redder than usual. Emie carefully greeted the woman, trying to make small talk and focus on the the beautiful day beyond the windows. Shyly nodded a few times, but said little.
“Shyly, Dr. McDarvey needs me to ask you a few questions, okay?”
Shyly blinked rapidly and rubbed her hands over her face. “Is he here?”
“No, not today, but I talked to him this morning. He wants to make sure everything is okay for you.”
Shyly’s shoulders sank again. Her hand shifted to something she pulled from her shirt collar. A flash of silver glimmered between her fingers as she absently rubbed it.
Shyly answered the questions. Emie wrote down the responses, feeling her heart sink. Where Shyly had been improving weekly in September, she now seemed to be sinking back into her depression. Emie made notes as Shyly talked.
“Why don’t you all just ask me? How’d I get into the hallway that morning, what was I doing there?”
Emie looked up from her notepad. She hadn’t planned to push Shyly anywhere near the memory of that day.
Shyly dropped the charm she’d fiddled with and clasped her hands in her lap. Emie stared at the charm. She’d seen it before, but not on Shyly. In fact, Shyly wasn’t really allowed anything around her neck, though maybe it was okay. The thin silver chain didn’t appear thick enough to cause any risk.
“The laundry door was open,” Shyly said. “It’s never left open. I’ve never seen it. So I had to go see, you know, had to look. I shouldn’t have, I shouldn’t.” She buried her face in her hands again and sobbed. “Maybe if I wouldn’t have looked Abby would still be here.”
Emie shook her head and moved to sit beside Shyly. “No, no, you did nothing wrong. You tried to help her.”
Shyly’s shoulders shuddered. She nodded and dropped her hands to her lap again. A flash of light glinted from the silver charm that fell to the outside of her scoop-neck collar. It was a tiny, silver charm of a cat on its back, balancing a silver ball of yarn on its four paws. Emie had seen it before, every day at meeting. Abby always did have a thing for cats.