Suspended Aggravation


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 37

Location: Kensington Rehabilitation Hospital, 40.080045, -80.694052

Emotion: “Your first name is Free, last name is Dom.”

The next morning brought the sudden and unexplained removal of her sling and the arm brace just after breakfast. Allie sat in her wheelchair and inspected her wrists. Her skin was even paler than normal and on the dry side, but she could move both arms pretty freely. There was a bit of stiffness, not any real pain. 

All of this should have lightened Allie’s mood. It did not. It made things just a little bit worse, in fact. The realization was immediate. Free arms meant she, too, was at least somewhat free. She would soon be going home.

Going home. 

But, to whose home? 

Her lovely little apartment was gone — and it was entirely possible Gabe no longer wanted her in his house. She’d handed him an annulment on a platter last night. If he took her up on it — would he? — she’d be not only utterly miserable and alone, she’d be homeless. And, it was her own fault. Gabe had said little last night, but she knew her dramatics had wounded him deeply. She didn’t fully trust him and he knew it. Was there any going back from something like that? 

Allie wrapped her arms around herself in a kind of self hug. Oh God oh God oh God…

Michelle chose that moment to arrive for her daily visit. She took in the missing sling and brace and Allie’s sorrowful face in one quick glance and put the romance novel she’d been reading out loud for their mutual entertainment back in her handbag.

“Are you hurting, baby?” Michelle asked.


“Your arms are looking strong.” Michelle walked to Allie’s chair and gently squeezed her daughter-in-law’s bare hand for the first time.

“I’m pretty much good to go,” Allie said with a small smile that soon twisted into a wrinkled pout. She dissolved into tears. This is ridiculous. But, she couldn’t stop herself.

This time, Michelle was able to hand her daughter-in-law a box of tissues and simply pat Allie’s shoulder as she cried it out — again. In spite of her misery, Allie took a small amount of pleasure in being able to handle such a mundane task as wiping away tears all by herself.

 “Is this a hormone thing?” Michelle asked. “Been there, done that, baby.”

“No,” Allie sniffled. “Well, maybe a little.”

“Did Gabe do something wrong or say something wrong?”

“Noooooooo,” Allie wailed. “It was meeeeee.”

Michelle took Allie’s cell phone off the bedside table and put it in her daughter-in-law’s hand. “Just tell him that.”

“Oh, Michelle, it was really bad.”

“‘I’m sorry’ covers a lot of ground, baby, especially with newlyweds. Just tell him.”

Allie was already dialing Gabe’s office before Michelle left the room. He wasn’t there. She dialed his cell. He didn’t answer that, either. Leaving a text felt so cold, but it seemed like the only option. She held her phone in her left hand for the first time in weeks and typed in just four words. I am so sorry.


Location: the newlywed’s Woodsdale home; 40°04’33.9″N, 80°41’04.1″W 

Emotion: “Little pink houses for you and me.”

“Watch your hand!” 

This was from Mike, who, against his repeatedly-voiced better judgment, was the only Morelli helping Gabe move his and Allie’s bed down the stairs from their bedroom into the dining room. That was where the pair would be sleeping for who knows how long given the whole leg brace/wheelchair thing. “If you break anything else, Allie will probably kill us both. And, my wife will be right behind her in case we’re still kicking.”

“Just don’t get so far ahead of me,” Gabe snapped back, feeling a jolt of pain shoot up his arm all the way to his elbow. Perhaps he should have removed his arm brace after moving the bed. He grimaced. The brace was sitting in his truck, the same place his phone was still charging for some reason. He suddenly wished he had both of them, but there was too much to do and too little time. His bones and everything else were just going to have to hold it together.

“Temper, temper.”

Gabe opted to ignore his cousin as they wrangled the impossibly unwieldy mattress into place on its sleigh-style frame. After that, relocating the rest of their bedroom furniture couldn’t be that big of a deal. It could probably even be done in relative silence, Gabe thought. 

Thankfully, it was.

“When is she coming home, anyway?” Mike asked several minutes later, as they settled the empty skeleton of the dresser they’d just hauled down against one wall of the dining room. Ironically, it had been the only room in the house that remained nearly empty. Neither one of them had much of anything to put in it. Was that a good sign? A bad one?

“Friday,” Gabe answered, remembering the heated conversation he’d had with their orthopedist, Dr. Walla, only a couple of hours ago. He hadn’t stayed home from work today to deliver anything less than a flat-out blast of, “I want my wife home now!” Clearly, Dr. Walla hadn’t been in the medical business for three decades without figuring out that emotional health is as important a part of healing as anything else. He’d simply agreed.

“She’s out of the sling and the arm brace as of this morning,” Gabe continued. “The doctor said she will need a motorized wheelchair — at least when she’s out of the house — until she’s truly steady on her feet in the leg brace given my arm situation. I ordered one of those at the medical supply store this morning. It’s supposed to be delivered to the rehab center on Friday. We had to wait until then because Panhandle isn’t quite done painting the back of the house. They have scaffolding over the ramp.”

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They went back upstairs to get the last couple of dresser drawers. Mike happened to pick up the one that was full of lacey bits and offered a knowing smile to his cousin. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said smugly.

Gabe rolled his eyes as Mike’s laugh trailed back to him from the stairs. He didn’t have time to waste on a comeback. He was already busy hauling a duffel bag out from the back of the closet. He looked at his watch. Time was going to be tight. Really tight.


Location: Kensington Rehabilitation Hospital, 40.080045, -80.694052

Emotion: “You’ll never find another like me.”

“Don’t worry, baby. He’s probably just real busy. He’ll call.”

Allie turned to look at Michelle, who was back in her room and taking a break from the reading aloud she’d been doing. The book thing wasn’t necessary now that Allie’s arms were free to hold a novel or a Kindle, but both women enjoyed the shared reading so much they had decided to continue it. At least for today. It was a bit of a distraction if nothing else.

The book du jour was a Debbie Macomber title, “Hannah’s List.” The story was excellent. But, the mostly light-hearted tale of a woman who loved her husband so much she had compiled a list of candidates for her replacement as she lay dying was not what Allie needed to hear. Not today. Just imagining Gabe moving on into a life with another woman nearly put an end to her. Her lower lip was quivering again. 

“I think I’ve cried more since our wedding than I did in all the years before it combined,” Allie moaned. “That can’t possibly be right.” 

Michelle closed the book in silent empathy. How could Allie possibly know that after 34 years together, her mother-in-law was thinking that she and her own husband, Tony, weren’t that different? Some days, Michelle would swim the mighty Ohio River for the man. Other days, she didn’t know if she even wanted to feed him dinner.

How could Allie know that Michelle was wondering just how she could responsibly tell a new bride that unavoidable truth of marriage? Especially when the words that actually came out of Michelle’s mouth were, at least on the surface, completely unrelated?

“Would you care if Tony and I came to church with you when you get out?” she asked.

Well. That certainly diverted Allie’s attention from her own troubles. She’d picked up enough from Gabe to know his parents hadn’t attended church with any regularity since their own childhoods.

“That would be great,” Allie said, trying not to sound too enthusiastic lest she scare the woman off. “Has Gabe told you anything about my church, our church?”

“Not really,” Michelle said. “I met your pastor here at the center the other day, though. We had a long talk in the hallway. He seems like a really nice guy. But, that’s not why we want to go.”

OK. She’d bite. “Why, then?” Allie asked.

Michelle hesitated, sighed, then spoke again. “Well, because of how you two love each other. We knew Gabe had changed after he started going to church a couple of years ago. That alone surprised us, but we really didn’t know how much he’d changed until we saw him with you. We’ve been watching him — and you. He’s like a different man.”

And, I just slapped that different man right in the face with the man that he used to be. Nice job, church chick!

But, Michelle didn’t give Allie any more time to berate herself.

“I don’t know exactly what it is that you guys have, but we want it, too.”

Allie gave her feisty mother-in-law the best smile she was capable of and sighed mightily on the inside. Patheticness. That’s what I have. I am the most pathetic wife and Christian in the entire world. Just lightning zap me now, Lord.


Later that evening

“You know, I think I am going to come to church with you two when we’re both outta this joint.” This shocker was from Mildred. Mildred as in Mildred Taylor. Allie couldn’t have been more surprised if her roommate had told her she’d decided to become a devotee at New Vrindaban, the local Hare Krishna community.

“You want to come to church? With me?” she blurted out.

“Don’t act so shocked, Blondie. Your husband invited me. Last night. After he tucked you into bed with your little bunny friend.”

Allie ignored the sarcasm laced through the last few words and dropped her head back onto her pillow in utter defeat.  I don’t like this woman. I tried to publicly skewer her just a day ago. I wounded my husband — who is apparently no longer speaking to me. I’ve been a lousy Christian all around. And, three people suddenly want to go to church with me? Now?

Allie turned to look at Mildred, who was so recovered from her hip replacement that she, too, would be going home any day. “What brought this on?” she asked suspiciously. 

“We all gotta die, Blondie. I figure I might as well be ready.”

Allie had a terrifying thought. What if the good people of the Church of the Risen Redeemer didn’t appreciate a slew of white folks in their pews? What if Michelle and Tony and even Mildred actually liked attending the Church of the Risen Redeemer? They might bring friends or family with them. Mildred might even bring Kenzie and Brian. A sudden image of the Marsdens and many, many Morellis sitting side by side, their various offspring intermingling, flashed to mind. 

We could wind up being in-laws.

Mildred was right. We all gotta die. Forget the lightning bolt. God had surely found another way to zap her. Who knew the Almighty had an unusually British sense of humor?


• The character “Mildred” is a compilation of women I met while volunteering at a nursing home in my early 20s. I did a current events program for higher-functioning residents and hymn sings with anyone who was interested — and a few who weren’t interested as it sometimes turned out. Words stronger than Mildred’s favorite expression were occasionally used — just not by me.



• A long-time journalist, Nora Edinger also blogs at 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.