Wife by Design(6)

By: Tara Taylor Quinn

And twenty minutes later, when Lynn turned over her newest patient to Sara Havens, who would see Regina through the admissions process and get her set up with clean clothes, toiletries and a safe place to sleep, she was fairly certain she’d managed to minimize the damage Regina’s husband’s brutality had inflicted.

At least on the surface.

* * *

“LYNN?” THIRTY-FIVE-YEAR-OLD Maddie Estes, one of only a few permanent residents at The Lemonade Stand, looked upset as she hurried toward Lynn just after Sara escorted Regina out of the three-room health clinic located in the main house.

“What’s up, Maddie?” Lynn smiled at the pretty woman who was three years older than her by birth, but fifteen years younger in mental acuity. Maddie’s developmental challenges, present since a premature birth, caused the sweet, gentle woman to worry over small things.

But with regular weekly physical therapy sessions, Maddie’s motor skills, while slow, were finally within the normal range.

The woman’s hands were flailing as she moved.

“There’s a man here. He’s been waiting to see you for a long time. He looks like he might be getting mad. You know, walking back and forth and back and forth in the hallway and slapping his baseball cap against his hand.”

Maddie emulated the motion with jerky movements, her gaze meeting Lynn’s only for a brief stop as it traveled around the space they occupied—the empty waiting room at the clinic. Lynn held regular, well-check office hours. They’d long since passed on that particular Tuesday in February.

“A man?” Lynn frowned, more concerned by Maddie’s agitation than any visitor she might have. “Did he say who he was?”

After suffering for fourteen years at the hands of a man who’d once adored her but had grown to hate the sight of her, Maddie was extrasensitive to any sign of male aggression. And Lynn was particularly protective of Maddie.

“Grant…I can’t remember what. I’m sorry, Lynn. I know I should remember, but he’s just so upset, and your treatment light was on and I didn’t know what to do so I took him to the bench in the main hall and waited back here for you.”

“Grant Bishop!” Lynn said, remembering. She’d had an appointment with the man almost an hour ago. And had completely forgotten.

He’d called that morning, said he couldn’t get there until four-thirty. And if he had a woman in jeopardy, she’d just made them wait even longer.

“You know him, then? I’m sorry, Lynn, I probably made him mad, but—”

With one hand stilling Maddie’s twisting hands, Lynn looked the woman straight in the eye and said, “It’s okay, Maddie. You did the right thing.” Maddie’s fidgeting stilled instantly.

“And now, can you do a favor for me?”

“Of course!” Maddie smiled. She agitated easily, but she settled easily, too.

“Kara’s in the playroom,” Lynn said, picturing her curly-haired three-year-old with a crayon in her hand and her tongue sticking out of her mouth. “I was supposed to pick her up at six and it’s almost that now. Can you collect her and take her home for me? There’s some leftover macaroni and cheese in the fridge. I’ll be there as soon as I can be.”

“Of course!” Maddie said again, hurrying away down the hall, but turning back before she got far. “Can I give her her bath, too?” Maddie asked.

Lynn liked to reserve bath time—and bedtime story reading—for herself. To keep some semblance of normal family and routine for the preschooler who was growing up so untraditionally in the arms of so many people who loved her.

“How about if we give her her bath together?” Lynn suggested, now conscious of the man waiting for her. Bath time was at eight, as delineated by the detailed schedule Lynn kept on her refrigerator. A schedule that Maddie followed religiously. “I’ll be home in plenty of time,” she assured the short but slender blonde woman.

“Okay, Lynn.” Maddie’s expression was serious. “And we’ll save some macaroni for you, too. You’ll get hungry if you don’t have dinner.”

Bless Maddie. She might struggle to understand the monetary value of coins and dollars, to connect the heating and lighting in her room with a bill that had to be paid, or to ascertain the nuances of human interaction, but she knew how to pay attention. To nurture.

Also By Tara Taylor Quinn

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