A tale of weddings, betrayal, murder, and revenge. He never really liked the comparison of knots with marriage. It always made him picture someone tying a noose and hanging themselves. Marriage is ...
"Scarlett!" Linda sobbed as she stood up, dropping the necklace to the floor.
"What happened?" Scarlett asked, holding up Frank's mother who wouldn't have made it any further without her support.
"I don't know. I left the room for a couple of minutes, and he was just unconscious when I came back in," Linda said through rapid breaths. She rested her head on Scarlett's shoulder.
Scarlett didn't know what to say. She knew her words would never ease the pain of a mother. All she could do was make sure Linda didn't end up unconscious before the doctor came out of the ER.
"Keep praying," Scarlett whispered as she helped Linda back to her seat and handed back her rosary.
Linda nodded and resumed her rushed murmurs of prayer. Praying so fast as if the faster she said her words, the better chances her son would have of living. Her brow wrinkled in deep concentration and her mouth twisted in pure agony. It was then that Scarlett realized how old she really was. Like Frank, she had a youthful face but once Death cast his shadow near her she became older than her actual age.
"My baby," she whispered. "Lord, save my baby."
They sat in the waiting room for three hours before the doctor announced the news that they've managed to stabilize Frank on the brink of death. Linda ran into his room to sit by his side while he slept. Scarlett stayed to hear the cause of his nearly-fatal incident. Frank was the victim of alcohol poisoning, and he was lucky enough to have his mother in his home at the time. He wouldn't have lived if she weren't there. Linda saw that he was drunk and went into the kitchen to get him some water to replace the beer, but he fainted by the time she entered the room. After the doctor finished his explanation, he allowed Scarlett to see Frank. Ray stayed behind and waited for her in the waiting room.
Frank's frail body was laid out on the bed in a way that made him seem even smaller than his already short frame. He looked drained of every drop of energy and life that he once had so much of. It was like watching a flower shrivel up after a week of inadequate nourishment. He had tubes coming out of his mouth and he was three shades paler. Linda sat in a chair to his left, holding his hand and placing delicate kisses on it. She offered a weak smile when Scarlett stepped in.
"Another gift from God," she whispered. "He saved him, again."
Scarlett knew what Linda meant. Frank had spent so much time in hospitals as a child that Linda was accustomed to the environment.
"He did save him," Scarlett agreed. "They almost lost him."
"Thank God," Linda said softly with a sincere smile.
There were a few minutes of silence before Frank finally opened his eyes back to consciousness. His eyes fluttered open and they wandered around for a second before shutting again. As if he wasn't sure whether he was still alive, and hoping that he was in a better place. Maybe he was expecting to see Annie.
"Baby," Linda called, pushing his hair out of his face. "Wake up, Frankie. Momma's here."
If it were a different situation, Scarlett might've thought the scene was funny. She always tormented Frank about his height and his baby face. But she knew that Linda had seen him in hospital beds for too long. It was simply what she always said whenever he woke up.
"Hey Frank," Scarlett said, approaching his side. "How are you feeling?"
Frank slowly moved his gaze toward her, his frown unmoving and his breathing a steady beat. He said nothing, but she could see in his eyes how miserable he felt. His hazel eyes were darker than usual. They were almost always a pale green color with a hint of golden brown. Like fresh green apples, so ripe with that touch of brown on the top. They seemed more like rotten apples now. The green was overpowered by a strong tint of brown.
"We're just so glad you woke up," Scarlett added, taking a seat next to Linda.
"What if," Frank breathed, his voice low and unclear. "I didn't want to wake up?"
Scarlett wasn't sure if she heard him correctly. She was just thankful that Linda didn't catch what he just said since she got up to open the window. Frank was dying from desperation. She almost wanted to let him die. When she was younger, she came across a fly who had torn its wings. It was lying on its side, legs twitching around helplessly. She turned it around with her finger, but it only scampered a short distance before falling on its side again. The fly was desperate for freedom. It had lost all sense of balance and would suffer for hours before it would die on its side. She knew that it wanted nothing more than to leave life as painlessly as possible. She reached over and held the flyswatter firmly in her hand while never taking her eyes off of the poor fly. In one quick motion, she ended its pain. The fly's body laid motionless; it had died instantly. It was finally free. Maybe that was what Frank was hoping for.
Frank was released from the hospital two days later. Scarlett knew that Linda would never leave his side after that incident. She would probably even be afraid to let him go to the bathroom. But Scarlett couldn't blame her and neither could Frank. She's a mother.
Scarlett called Linda everyday to check on Frank. Linda would answer with the happiest tone she could muster and assure Scarlett that Frank was doing fine, that he was getting stronger, and that he was feeling better. But Scarlett knew that he was far from feeling better. Even Ray, who hadn't started out on the right foot with Frank, was worried about him. After the hospital visit, he was reluctant to leave but she insisted that they would be alright. She couldn't let him miss his days of work. He would call every couple of days to check up on things as well.
A week had past since Frank was taken to the hospital and Linda had invited Scarlett over for dinner. Scarlett was more than happy to accept since she's been wanting to see how Frank was recovering. She wasn't expecting much. Just as long as he's alive, she thought to herself.
She didn't take long to get ready for the visit. She just tossed on a sweater and jeans, and tied her hair in a ponytail as neatly and as quickly as she could. Soon enough, she made it to Frank's house and was knocking on his door. Linda answered with a warm smile as she welcomed her inside.
"Where is he?" Scarlett asked, looking around for a sign of Frank.
"Oh he's just upstairs taking a shower," Linda said, her smile becoming awkward. Scarlett could tell she was already worried.
"I'm glad things are going well," Scarlett said, quickly changing the subject. "I've never seen this house so clean."
"Well, he's lucky he's got his mother here to help him out," Linda forced a laugh. "This place was in need of a woman's touch."
Scarlett grinned. She always teased that Frank was more of a girl than she was. Frank kept his house pretty clean, but with his mother around everything was completely spotless.
"Come on," Linda motioned Scarlett toward the diningroom. "Let's have a seat."
Scarlett found herself a seat at the large mahogany table. Linda took a seat next to her and began telling stories of their old home. She was fortunate enough to have a son like Frank to support herself and his sisters. He's the oldest of her children and the first to have a good paying job. They never were the richest family. Linda said that there were times when she couldn't even afford to buy milk, and with Frank's hospital bills piling up it wasn't easy for a divorced mother to handle. Frank must've known that he owed it to his mother to support her just like she had supported him as a child. So she would never have to struggle with her finances again.
"What is taking him so long?" Linda asked, checking the grandfather clock. "It's almost been an hour."
"I'll check on him," Scarlett offered as Linda sat back down.
It wasn't like Frank to take long showers. He took no longer than 20 minutes, or half an hour at the most. But it wouldn't be unusual for him to perform tasks much slower in his state of mind. He was grieving, and taking longer showers was nothing to worry about.
But as Scarlett made her way up the stairs, she couldn't even hear the shower running. She should've been able to hear it before she even reached the top. Still, she went straight to the bathroom to check. There was no light escaping from the door cracks as if no one were even inside. She pushed the door open and found nothing but a dark, empty bathroom. The mirror and shower door were covered in steam, confirming his shower, but there was no Frank.
As she exited the bathroom she saw his bedroom across the hallway, the door was slightly open. She stood still for a moment, listening for any sign of movement. But there was nothing but an eerie silence. Still, she kept her cool. He might've just fallen asleep after the shower. Scarlett decided to check on him, anyway. Even though she was sure she would find his sleeping figure, face flat on his bed.
She slowly pushed the bedroom door open, making sure it didn't make so much as a creaking noise before it made a complete entrance. She looked up at the bed and instantly felt a pang of worry. The bed was empty, with not a single wrinkle in the sheets. She almost didn't believe it and had to reopen her eyes hoping it were all a joke.
Where the fuck are you, Frank?! She called out for him in her mind, but not a single word left her lips as she scanned around the room frantically. Then she saw it. The closet door was slightly open. It looked like Frank had gone inside and closed it halfway. She couldn't imagine what he would be doing in there, but she just needed to find him safe and sound before her chest could stop contracting in apprehension.
She pulled the closet door open and found nothing but a dark closet full of clothes. Scarlett cursed herself for being stupid enough to look for him in a closet. She almost laughed out loud at the thought of Frank hiding inside his own closet. But as she took another glance, she froze. Her eyes were stuck on the sight above her. Suddenly, all the blood drained from her face, leaving her cold and pale. As if she was a corpse herself. A couple of her fingers began to twitch and she was stuck in that daze for what seemed like an eternity before an ear piercing scream, coming from beyond her scratchy throat, emerged from her mouth. Her tears felt like icicles and her whole body shivered as if Death himself had embraced her from behind. There, floating from the clothes rack, was Frank. For once in her life, Frank's body was towering over her.