Editor’s note: Suspended Aggravation is an original, Wheeling-centric novel by Nora Edinger and is published exclusively through Weelunk. While some of the places mentioned in Suspended Aggravation are real (or nearly real), the storyline and most characters (with the exception of a few cameo appearances by actual city residents) exist only in the author’s imagination. For the backstory, read our Q&A with the author.

Chapter 32

Location: Kensington Rehabilitation Hospital, 40.080045, -80.694052

Emotion: “’Cause this is thriller, thriller night.”

“Thank you so much for dinner,” Allie said, deliciously happy but more than a little sleepy after their “late” night out. It was only 8:30 p.m., but she had learned to both nap and turn in ridiculously early since coming to Kensington Rehab. Having an 80-something roommate probably had something to do with it. Mildred was already snoring, quite loudly as it was, from the other side of the curtain. And, really, what else was there to do these long, strange days?

“Hey, we’re not done yet,” Gabe whispered conspiratorially. He’d patiently waited out Allie’s evening “freshening up” to tuck her into bed himself. “It’s Friday and we are having a date night. I thought we could watch Super 8 on my lap top.”

“Are we allowed to do that?”

“You’re in rehab, Mrs. Morelli, not the West Virginia Penitentiary. Scoot over.”

Allie giggled. “Is that why they put me so far over to the one side of the bed? I thought that was odd. How many workers did you have to bribe to pull this off? Visiting hours normally end at 9 p.m., even on weekends.”

Gabe ignored her question, already busy putting the laptop on a rolling table and positioning it so it would stand a foot or so above Allie’s body. He kicked off his sandals and somehow managed to fit himself onto the narrow strip of bed between her and the safety railing.

“Have you ever seen this movie?” he asked. “They were filming it just north of here back while we were in high school.”

“No,” Allie admitted. 

This was technically true. She didn’t mention that the monster flick was what happened to be playing on her one, ill-fated date with Brian Marsden. She had only seen maybe the first five minutes then. The bad company had squashed any future interest in the film in spite of all the hype given its Wheeling-centric production. Gabe didn’t need to know all that.

“Good,” Gabe said. “It should be terrifying enough to make for some excellent snuggling.”

“Do you always have an ulterior motive?” she giggled, glancing doubtfully at the curtain. Mildred snorted as if on cue.

“Yep.”

Allie raised one eyebrow. “What’s going on?”

“OK. I admit it,” Gabe laughed. “I gave the nurses chocolate. Lots of chocolate. So much chocolate, in fact, that Mr. B is going to have to find his own woman — for tonight at least. I’m sleeping here unless they change their minds and come to kick me out.”

You are?” Allie turned her face toward him. This was about the most movement she could manage without help once she was on her back. I am a turtle. She smiled happily enough to make it clear his plan had been a good one and tried to scoot a little closer. 

“Watch yourself, Mrs. Morelli,” Gabe laughed. “We have about a mile of highly tangleable Velcro on our braces — not to mention our two chaperones.”

“Two?”

“Miss Millie and Mr. B, of course,” Gabe said as the film studio’s opening frames started to run.

Allie smiled, reaching for the bunny and placing him on top of her husband’s chest, so that Mr. B’s nose was touching the edge of Gabe’s chin.

Gabe grinned, then shoved the bunny between their arm braces for some cushioning. He somehow managed to also do a backward entwining of their fingers. They whispered happily more than they actually watched the movie until they both fell asleep.

INSIDE THE STORY:

• It was rather exciting when nearby Weirton, W.Va. and other Wheeling surrounds were the scene of the action during the filming of Super 8. Released in 2011, sci-fi pic was a collaboration between J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg. It tells the story of teenagers filming a “super 8” movie when a train accident unleashes a monstrous force.

• The Wheeling area is no stranger to film crews. The dramatic Gothic architecture of the West Virginia Penitentiary that is mentioned by Gabe in this chapter can be seen in multiple films and television shows, including the Hulu/Stephen King series Castle Rock. The prison, located in nearby Moundsville, has been out of use for decades. It remains open for training exercises and tourism.

Moundsville Penitentiary

The West Virginia Penitentiary, located in Moundsville.

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• A long-time journalist, Nora Edinger also blogs at noraedinger.com and Facebook and writes books. Her Christian chick lit and faith-related non-fiction are available on Amazon. She lives in Wheeling, where she is part of a three-generation, two-species household.

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