At 80 years old, Mrs. Carr was still a lively, pretty elderly lady. She lived independently in a small house on the outskirts of a working settlement. She had flowers in her yard and laced curtains on the windows.
Everywhere there was beauty and order. Some young people never keep their surroundings as clean and tidy as Mrs. Carr does. In the morning, neighbors often woke up to find Mrs. Carr already watering the garden beds. At night, they would hear the sound of Mrs. Carr sweeping the already perfect pathway with a broom.
She was a kind and good-natured old lady. All the children in the settlement loved her very much. They would sometimes play nearby, and Mrs. Carr would come out to sit on the bench on the street and watch the kids having fun. Another person might have yelled at the children for disturbing the peace, but Mrs. Carr just smiled. She would call the kids over, give them candy, or bring out hot pies from home. The children were happy, and the elderly lady was happy too. That’s how everyone was happy. Adults also respected Mrs. Carr for her good nature and her past, as she knew practically half of the locals.
Mrs. Carr worked all her life as a nanny at a kindergarten. There had never been a more caring and kind nanny than her. The kids would run to the kindergarten just to meet Mrs. Carr. She would hug them, play with them, and even wipe their noses if needed. However, Mrs. Carr’s life had not been easy. She grew up as an orphan and did not receive a decent education, so she became a nanny at a kindergarten.
She met her husband when she turned 20. Ben carried her in his arms, and they loved each other very much. But then Ben died. He was electrocuted at an electrical plant where they were installing new equipment, and the specialists didn’t pay attention to something. Mrs. Carr was six months pregnant at that time. Oh, how she cried for Ben. And then her daughter was born. She devoted all her love to her only daughter, Mary. She never got married again, although there were crowds of admirers who came to her. Mrs. Carr rejected all of them, and then all the admirers somehow disappeared.
Her daughter grew up, became a teacher, got a job in the capital, and got married there. Mrs. Carr was left alone. A decade passed, then another and another, but the old lady didn’t despair. She enjoyed every day and appreciated this life because she knew from experience how fragile it could be.
Her daughter and her family came to visit her every year, and recently, they always invited her to live with them. “Mom, Mary would persuade the old lady, why do you sit here? The house is old, and it’s lonely here for you. And what if something happens? God forbid you have an attack. You won’t get an ambulance. You can’t live two lives.” Anyway, Mrs. Carr would wave her hand and say, “I won’t leave my Ben, your dad. Put me next to him.”
“Oh, Mom, why do you speak about death?” Mary would get angry and say, “Live to be a hundred or even more. Your grandson got married, and before you know it, your great-grandson will be born. And you’re talking about death. Stop it, please.” Sometimes, areas always were left with nothing. And then something bad happened. People were struck by a new virus. They got sick and died.
It was scary. So Mrs. Carr caught this illness somewhere. They took the old lady to a hospital located in the neighboring district. There, Mrs. Carr fully experienced how vulnerable people can be. It was heartbreaking to see how medics fought for the lives of young and old people and how often they lost. What could they do? The doctors themselves still didn’t know how to treat it. Nevertheless, Mrs. Carr managed to recover, but there was little joy in it. It was there in the hospital that she had a stroke, whether from the illness or from her age.
They treated the elderly woman briefly and sent her to another hospital. Lying down there, she received the required care, but she did not fully recover and spoke with difficulty. So where could she be sent? Her relatives would have taken her, but they lived far away. The hospital had its rules. If you’ve been in the hospital for the prescribed period of treatment, please vacate the bed. The treating doctor was also concerned. “What if the elderly lady, Mrs. Carr, got bedsores? The staff would be penalized.”
Her daughter knew about her mother’s condition, but she couldn’t help. She herself had barely recovered from that virus and could barely walk to the toilet along the wall, so to speak. Her husband didn’t survive the disease. He passed away. The grandson was eager to go to his grandmother, but he was the only helper at his home. Mary needed help, and his wife, Elizabeth, was eight months pregnant. Where could he leave her? In general, the situation was terrible.
He started begging for help to deliver his grandmother home and to provide a nurse. He would pay for everything, and as soon as his mom gets better and his wife gives birth, he will come and pick her up. Social Services promised to help, but all caregivers were busy all day, so they didn’t have free hands. And then chance helped. A new employee came to work, who used to work as a caregiver in the regional center. So they offered this woman, whose name was Anna Maria, to take care of Mrs. Carr. Especially, the relatives would not skimp on payment. Anna Maria agreed. They transported Mrs. Carr to her native home and put her in bed. The doctor handed the caregiver a list of medicines that the elderly woman needed and promised to check in soon. So Mrs. Carr stayed with Anna Maria.
Anna Maria was already 50 years old, a large and strong woman for whom taking care of bedridden patients was easy. And what was there to bother with Mrs. Carr? In short, the caregiver had to bathe and dress the elderly woman, give her medication, and prepare broths and other suitable food for her. At first, the neighbors often peered in and saw that the house was in order and Mrs. Carr was well groomed. Everyone calmed down. The care for the elderly woman was superb.
The neighbors called Seth and reassured him. It was a pity, of course, that Mrs. Carr had been so severely sick, but what can you do? It’s a miracle that she survived after that awful virus and stroke. Past Seth called regularly, inquiring about his grandmother. Anna Maria reported in detail what Mrs. Carr ate, what medicines she took, and what exercises she did. Seth was delighted. His grandmother had an excellent caregiver. “Can you take care of her until spring?” Seth asked. “You understand, my wife just gave birth.
The baby was born weak, and I need to help Elizabeth. And my mother is not recovering from her illness yet. She’s too weak. To my horror, now she has been sent to a sanatorium. I hope she gets better.” “Don’t worry,” Anna Maria reassured him. “I will take care of Mrs. Carr for as long as necessary.” “Thank you,” the grandson sincerely thanked her and said goodbye. And everymonth, he transferred a predetermined sum of money to the caregiver.
Another month passed, and the neighbors began visiting less often, asking Anna Maria more about how Mrs. Carr was doing. Anna Maria said that there were no changes, but the neighbors saw it for themselves. The poor elderly woman was always asleep when they came. “Has the doctor been here?” the neighbors asked worriedly. “He is keeping track of her condition over the phone,” Anna Maria replied, “but he doesn’t come home, explaining that now they have a big workload because of this virus, and it’s understandable. What can you do? To help Mrs. Carr, it’s better to help those who can still be helped.”
“Yes,” the neighbors sighed, “that’s life.” And it seemed like they pulled her out of that world, but what’s the use? She lies like a doll. Everyone has their own fate.” Anna Maria agreed. The neighbors liked Mrs. Carr’s caregiver more and more. She was so efficient. In the fall, she cleaned everything in the yard and in the house. She constantly cleaned, as if doing it for herself.
She wasn’t talkative, only saying what was necessary, and she didn’t spread any gossip. She didn’t tell anyone the details of taking care of Mrs. Carr. “Why did people need to know how she washed and fed her? It was all very personal.” Mrs. Carr was lucky to have a caregiver. However, Anna Maria did not talk much about herself either. People only knew that she came to the village from the city, rented an apartment there, and got a job at a store at first, and then she moved in with Mrs. Carr. She had children and a husband, but no one knew anything about them. Anna Maria tried to avoid discussing certain topics. Over time, people understood that it was unpleasant and may be painful for her, so they stopped asking questions.
However, the terrible truth was eventually revealed. There was a new therapist in the settlement. Dr. Tobin had recently graduated from medical school and was eager to save people. She had trouble finding work in the city, so she went to the countryside under the rural doctor program.
Dr. Tobin enjoyed the village. She had a comfortable apartment and a good salary. However, the complete chaos in the clinic with patients’ documents confused her. Some patients’ cards had not been opened for years. Something was constantly lost, and sometimes the test results were unbelievable. Dr. Tobin realized that it would not be easy for her. She was also outraged by the superficial attitude towards patients who needed constant observation. Her nurse was surprised. “Why bother to see such patients every week? They would die anyway.” Of course, not everyone had such an attitude, but those who could not defend themselves were treated that way.
Among such patients, Dr. Tobin found Mrs. Carr’s medical history. That evening, after work, she went to visit her patient. Perhaps Anna Maria simply forgot to close the front door. On that winter evening, Dr. Tobin timidly entered the porch, approached the inner door, and was about to knock when suddenly she heard Anna Maria’s quiet but threatening voice. “You’re so annoying to me, you old fool.” The doctor raised her eyebrows in surprise and cautiously opened the door, walked into the hallway, stopped at the bedroom door, and heard the further conversation.
“Daughter,” a weak elderly voice was barely audible, “give me a little piece of bread. I’m so hungry.”
“You’ll be fine without it,” the mocking female voice answered her. “I don’t want to change your diaper again. Did you eat your oatmeal this morning? Yes, you did. That’s enough for you. There were only two spoons there. How much did you want? You’re not entitled to more.”
“Do you think I’m going to clean up the mess from under—”
“Anna Maria, why are you like this? Let me call my daughter or grandson.”
“Look at you. Did you think of calling them? Have you lost your mind? So I’ll get back on track quickly. Now you’ll drink a sleeping pill, and you’ll be like silk. Come on, open your mouth.”
“Anna Maria, my dear, don’t. I won’t call. I won’t complain. Just don’t take these pills. They make me feel worse.”
“And it will only get worse if you don’t sign the paper. I told you, everything depends on you. You’ll give me a house, and you’ll have food and a bath every day if you’d like. I’ll even read poems and sing songs for you. After that, the woman laughed mockingly. And then there was some commotion.”
Dr. Tobin could not stay on the sidelines anymore. She stepped decisively into the room and asked sternly, “What’s going on here?” At the bedside of the elderly woman stood a plump woman, apparently the caregiver Anna Maria, about whom Dr. Tobin had been told by Social Services when she was inquiring about Mrs. Carr. At that moment, she was trying to give the unfortunate patient some murky liquid to drink, and the elderly woman was clenching her lips with the last of her strength.
Hearing a stranger’s voice, Anna Maria groaned and then slowly straightening up, turned to the doctor. “And who are you?” she asked roughly. “Why did you come in without knocking?” “I’m the local therapist. Your door was open,” Dr. Tobin answered calmly. “Please explain what you were doing just now.” “We’re taking medicine,” Anna Maria replied without blinking. “I don’t know what your colleagues prescribed, so I give what they prescribed. I dissolved it in water to make it easier for her to swallow.” Anna Maria handed over several blister packs with tablets. Dr. Tobin read the names, but there was nothing suspicious there. Then she looked at the elderly woman. She was looking at her without turning away. There was pain, a plea, and horror in her eyes. The unfortunate woman had no strength left to say anything.
“I heard a strange conversation,” the doctor said, turning her gaze from the elderly woman to the caregiver. “Please explain what conversation?” The caregiver widened her eyes. “You imagined it. Oh, that’s enough. Have you seen the patient? She’s alive. She’s receiving treatment. Make a note that you visited us, and that’s it. We have no complaints about you.” “I haven’t even begun examining the patient,” Dr. Tobin replied firmly and stepped towards the bed. As she made her way, the nurse loomed over her like a mountain. “I take good care of Mrs. Carr,” she said threateningly.
“I treat her and measure her blood pressure. Why do you need to watch her, doctor? Go home. You must be tired after a day’s work.” “In that case, I’ll call the police,” Dr. Tobin replied fearlessly, meeting Anna Maria’s gaze. The nurse’s face changed. She groaned and then darted out of the room like a bullet. A minute later, Dr. Tobin heard the front door slam. “Well, never mind. We’ll figure it out,” she said primarily to herself, approaching the bed. “Let’s see how you are.” The doctor threw off the covers and froze in horror. A real skeleton lay on the bed,
covered in skin. It was clear that the elderly woman was not getting enough food, and the care was, to put it mildly, subpar. Stale bedding, rashes on her skin, and bedsores in some places.
Dr. Tobin immediately called an ambulance and the police. It was evident that the elderly woman was in critical condition. So Mrs. Carr was once again admitted to the therapeutic department. But now she was given special care. The doctors, including the chief physician, felt guilty for losing the patient, and now they tried to make up for it. In addition, a ministerial inspection funded through the hospital was conducted. A week after all the events, the chief physician immediately lost his position, and his deputies were also removed from their posts. Now the hospital was in perfect order. Local patients were only surprised at how attentive and responsive their doctors had become. Dr. Tobin, the young doctor, was glad too. Now she worked in an excellent hospital.
On the first evening, the police rushed to search for the fugitive nurse. They caught her trying to escape on a train. Anna Maria was a professional swindler. She had already made a name for herself in several cities. She usually took care of the elderly and lonely people and then made them sign over their property to her when they died. She sold the apartments. If the old people resisted, she set up a real concentration camp for them. She acted very slyly, and people around her didn’t even suspect what this beast in a woman’s guise was doing. She had killed three old men in different cities, and there were 10 elderly people under her care at different times.
The money from the sale of their apartments was in Anna Maria’s account. She came to this village to take a break and lie low for a while. In one of the cities, unexpectedly, there was a hitch. The son came to his father from the north and saw that he was almost dead. Anna Maria barely got away. Then what saved her was that the old man and his son didn’t see her documents. But the desire for profit was stronger than Anna Maria, and so she quickly found herself a victim in the village. Everything went according to the usual script on the outside, a caring nurse, but in reality, a ruthless criminal who barely fed, washed, and drugged the old woman with sleeping pills to keep her quiet.
Why did she act so brazenly? Wasn’t she afraid of being exposed? After all, doctors and social workers would come. From her experience, Anna Maria knew that no one needed such old people. When employees came to check, it was enough to look from afar and talk to neighbors. They even warned about their visits in advance. But this time, things didn’t go according to Anna Maria’s plan. She was judged and given several years in prison. What about Mrs. Carr? The elderly woman had been recovering in the hospital for many months, but finally, she began to get better.
Social Services tried to clear their name and find a place for Mrs. Carr in a good nursing home that specialized in stroke patient rehabilitation. She spent almost three months there, and by spring, she was able to walk out of the nursing home on her own two feet. Her daughter and grandson were waiting for her at the entrance. Mary had recovered too. Seth’s little boy had grown stronger, and he could leave his wife and child for a while. So the two of them came to their mother and grandmother. They were shocked when they found out about the conditions Mrs. Carr lived in. They thought they had entrusted their loved one to a professional, kind-hearted woman who, by the way, received a generous reward from them. Instead, they almost killed Mrs. Carr at the hands of this monster.
“Now, Mom, without discussion, you’re coming with us,” Mary said firmly. “We won’t leave you alone in these parts for a second anymore.” “Yes, Grandma, we need you,” Seth agreed. “Your great-grandson will start walking soon. How can he do without you?” “Yes, child care is needed,” Mrs. Carr smiled and said. “But who will take care of me now? I need someone to take care of me too.” “And you’ll take care of each other,” Mary laughed. “And we’ll take care of you too. What about Ben? Here, alone?” “We should lie together, Mom,” Mary frowned. “When the time comes, we’ll put you next to Dad. But for now, live as long as God gives you and make us happy. It’s not easy for me after my husband’s death either, but we have you, Seth, Tommy, and Elizabeth. They are our family.” “Yes, family is the most important thing,” Mrs. Carr agreed.
Before leaving for the city, they visited the settlement, tidied up everything in the house, locked the door, and gave the keys to the neighbors. They volunteered to take care of the sale. If it works out, great. And if not, well, so be it. The neighbors were ashamed of what had happened to Mrs. Carr too. They didn’t take care of her; they relied on a stranger. And now they were trying to help as much as they could.
Mrs. Carr left for the city with her daughter and grandson. Sometimes she calls her former neighbors and tells them that she lives on the 10th floor, like in a birdhouse. She jokes sadly. Yes, she misses the village, but where is she now without her great-grandson? He is her most precious child, or the fairy tale songs and affection of Mrs. Carr only for him since then.
The house on the outskirts of the settlement has been abandoned. No more laced curtains in the windows. No more kind old woman sitting on the bench, spoiling the local kids. But the neighbors carefully watch over the estate. They remove the weeds and make sure no one misbehaves in the house. And no one would even think of doing that because even the most inveterate hooligans in the settlement remember that the
great-grandson of Mrs. Carr lives in the city, and they know that the old woman will come to the village for the holidays. After all, you can’t miss this.
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