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.
Emotion: “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. (I want you back.)”
“When do you think you might be coming back?”
This question was from Rick Madison, Allie’s managing editor at the Wheeling Tribune. He was pacing in front of the window of her rehab hospital room, stopping now and then to look down at the newspaper’s riverside office as if something might actually catch fire in his absence. Lean and lined in the face by years of deadline urgency and an over indulgence in both caffeine and nicotine, he practically vibrated with energy as he walked.
“As long as you’re OK with me not being able to drive, I figure I can be back in the office pretty much as soon as I’m cleared to go home,” Allie said. “That’s supposed to happen as soon as I have both arms free. Maybe another week or two?”
“That long?” Rick sighed.
“So, you guys have actually missed me?” Allie teased. Rick was like another dad. A twitchy, irritable dad. But, he cared and he didn’t mind who knew it.
“Dave said if he has to write another story about an exhibition at the Stifel Center or a festival at Heritage Port he’s going to personally sneak over here and push your wheelchair all the way to the office.”
Allie laughed. Dave Rogers normally covered city and county government. Skeptical to the point he would check it out if his mother told him she loved him, he was also taken to wearing a rotation of rumpled suit jackets that he accented with a single tie. The same tie he occasionally used to wipe coffee spills from his desk. It was difficult to imagine him pinch hitting on the features that made up at least half of Allie’s story count, especially since summer interns who’d loved to have a crack at Allie’s job were in supply.
“Why is he the one doing it anyway?” she asked.
Rick stopped pacing long enough to fire a puzzled look at Allie. “Because this is our fault.”
He gestured to her bed and wheelchair and tapped her wrist brace with one finger. “If that stupid picture hadn’t gotten on the website, none of this would have happened.”
Allie was surprised and deeply touched by Rick’s willingness to take the blame for so much. But, she couldn’t leave it there. “I don’t think this is anyone’s fault,” she said. “I can’t say I understand everything that’s happened in the last few weeks, but it is what it is. There’s things I’m not happy about, but there’s been a whole lot of good that’s come out of it, too.”
Rick smiled. “You like your pretty boy, I take it.”
She didn’t even bother to be embarrassed. Allie just smiled. “Yes, I do, thank you.”
And, with that, Rick was done. Deadlines were approaching. Deadlines were always approaching.
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“But, it’s still our fault,” he said as he headed to the door. “Zach will be driving you on assignments as soon as you can get in and out of the news van on your own. He can haul your wheelchair in and out of the back himself, too.”
Allie tried not to grin. Her not-so-favorite photographer given the whole Bridge BAE’z mayhem his work had sparked must be thrilled with that news.
“And, Allie, the paper is going to be covering whatever out-of-pocket medical stuff you guys have. I already talked to your husband about it this morning,” Rick continued. “He told me about your insurance situation. You don’t have to worry about that. Whatever isn’t covered, the company is paying.”
Astonishingly, Rick still wasn’t done.
“You’re also getting paid your full salary for the whole time you’re off. You’ll have the check in a few days for the weeks you’ve already been off.”
She couldn’t speak. Newspapers, even privately owned ones like the Wheeling Tribune, were notoriously cheap. This was a miracle of parting-the-Red-Sea proportions. Gabe hadn’t said much lately, but she knew he’d been very concerned about what they might owe when this was all over. They didn’t need mongo medical debt on top of a new house, his locked-in investment in Catwalk Tours and ordinary living expenses. This new round of unexpected help — or blessings, as she viewed them all — was a huge relief.
“Thank you,” she finally managed to croak.
Rick bent to kiss her on the forehead, probably the same way he did when his own daughters were kids, Allie guessed. He grimaced as he rose up. “You’re not going to sue me for that, are you?”
“Not a chance,” Allie grinned. Rick was on his third marriage. She wouldn’t be surprised if he was headed for a fourth given a few tidbits she’d picked up around the office about a certain ad rep known for “interesting” hemlines. But, she knew this kiss was purely paternal.
“Good. Just get back to the office before I have to shoot Dave with a tranquilizer dart,” Rick said, slinging a tatty old briefcase over one shoulder by its long leather strap.
He wasn’t kidding.
“Right,” Allie agreed.
INSIDE THE STORY:
• The Oglebay Institute Stifel Fine Arts Center, a cultural arts venue that was once the mansion of a calico magnate, is a major part of Wheeling life. It houses a small museum; changing exhibits; art, dance and music classes; and event space. Readers who have also enjoyed my book “Dune Girl” might recognize it. The home of secondary characters “David” and “Jo-Jo” is the Stifel’s doppelganger.
• Heritage Port, a sprawling riverfront park, is another favorite with locals and visitors alike. In includes a paved trail, a concert venue, a playground and multiple places to picnic or just enjoy the beauty of the Ohio River. The Wheeling Suspension Bridge that plays a big part in this story is included in the view from this popular festival site.
• 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.