A/N: After finding out she's the Chosen One, Edna's first order of business is to check herself out of the nursing home. Head nurse Jeanine is not pleased.
In which Edna gains a second companion, who is rather less useful than the first.
The receptionist swiveled away from her computer and opened a drawer in her filing cabinet. Then she swiveled back and spread several forms out in front of Edna.
“Sign here, here, here, and here,” she said, and she turned back to her computer.
Jeanine gaped like a fish and then leapt into action.
“Do not sign there, there, there, and there!” she cried. “Mrs. Fisher, please. Surely we can work something out. You haven’t really been so unhappy here, have you? I’m sure if you just participated in more of our activities—”
“My word, Jeanine, that’s enough about activities,” Edna said, signing the papers the receptionist and given her. “I don’t like your activities, for heaven’s sakes, I thought that was perfectly clear. Now if you’d started a knitting society or ran poker games instead of bingo—”
Jeanine rounded on Benjamin.
“Do something!” she demanded.
“Um,” Benjamin said, “well, actually, I’m going with her.”
Jeanine blinked at him, momentarily stunned, but it didn’t last long. “You are not. For how long? The higher-ups will never approve a vacation lasting more than—”
“I’m not going on vacation,” Benjamin said, not looking at her. “I’m quitting.”
“Quitting!” Jeanine clutched her heart rather more theatrically than Edna thought the situation called for. “You’re going to a new nursing home, aren’t you?”
“I hope not,” Benjamin said. “I’m nearly through working on my PhD in astrophysics and theoretical space magic.”
“What would I have to do to get you to stay?” Jeanine asked. She looked almost tearful, but Edna suspected it was an act. Jeanine wasn’t a crier and would definitely do anything to keep the number of residents up.
“Here you go,” Edna said to the receptionist, and turned to face Jeanine, leaning on her cane. “Now, look. Nothing you can say will make me stay, or Benjamin either, I suspect. We’re not leaving to be mean, and we’re certainly not leaving for another nursing home. I hope I can come up with something better than that! No, we’re leaving to find the Sword of Destiny. You see, there’s an evil sorcerer afoot, and—” She tried not to look too proud of herself—“I’m the Chosen One.”
Jeanine frowned at Benjamin as if to say, She’s clearly nuts. You can’t let her leave in this condition.
“It’s true,” he said, getting up to put an arm around Edna’s shoulder. “That’s what the wizard was here about.”
Jeanine sank onto their vacated bench and adjusted her glasses. “I see.”
She seemed at a loss for what to do, but finally a smile slid onto her face. Edna didn’t like the look of that smile at all.
“You know, I’ve heard epic journeys can be incredibly exhausting,” Jeanine said in reasonable tones. “And that’s when it’s teenagers. At your age…”
“I’m going,” Edna said.
“I wouldn’t dream of stopping you! But why sign yourself out, Mrs. Fisher? Wouldn’t it be nice to know you have somewhere to come home to and rest after a long journey and a grand battle and defeating your enemies?”
“I suppose…” Edna said.
“I’ll even let you take one of the home vans,” Jeanine said. “Nice and spacious, and you might be the first Chosen One in the history of the world not to walk all the way to whatever far-off land you’re going to. Assuming you can get to wherever you’re going by car?” she added, with a raised eyebrow.
Edna didn’t care to admit they were only going to Michigan. “Yes, I’m sure we could.”
“What do you get out of it?” Benjamin asked, folding his arms.
Jeanine smiled the way a shark or a businessman might smile. “Residency applications for the home would go through the roof if people knew the Chosen One was one of our residents, don’t you think?”
Benjamin and Edna exchanged a glance. Edna knew they were thinking the same thing, but Jeanine kept talking.
“If you’d just put your journey on hold for a few weeks, we could spring the news on the owners, and I’m sure they’d set up all sorts of media things—photoshoots, a press conference, a spot on Regis & Kelly! And you could talk about what an honor it is to be the Chosen One, and how much you like the nursing home—”
“But I don’t like the nursing home.”
“—and what a nice wholesome place it is for old people to live out their days. And we’d be positively flooded with applications! And of course there would be absolutely no problem getting a van for you.” Jeanine’s face was ablaze with her imaginings. “The owners would probably even throw a party to send you off.”
“You’re very generous, dear,” Edna said, trying hard not to sound like that was just precisely the opposite of what she meant, “but we can’t tell anyone else I’m the Chosen One.”
“Why not? It would be great publicity—”
“For the nursing home, I’m sure, but not for me. Didn’t you pay any attention in history class? There’s always trouble for the Chosen One once the villain knows who she is.”
“Thank you, but no,” Edna said. “And if it gets out, I’ll know exactly who did it.”
Jeanine threw up her hands. “Oh, fine! Go, then, see if I care.”
With that, she stood up and strode off down the hall. She hadn’t gotten far when her footsteps slowed. She looked over her shoulder and said, “I guess you can still take a van. If you want.”
“Thank you,” Edna said in surprise. Jeanine nodded and continued down the hall, slamming a distant door.
“She’ll get over it,” Benjamin said. “You know she hates to lose a resident.”
“She ought to be used to it by now,” Edna replied, still recovering from the surprise of Jeanine’s last offer. “We’re old. She’s bound to use some of us.”
“Sure, but it’s different when someone decides to leave.” Benjamin leaned on the front desk, earning a glare from the receptionist. “Edna, did I just quit?”
Edna grinned at him. “You certainly did! Not going to change your mind, now, are you?”
“Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh. Oh.” He put his head in his hands. “Edna, I quit my job.”
“Yes, well, I’m pretty sure you didn’t like it very much.”
He didn’t respond. Edna prodded him with her cane.
“Go on, now. Go get the van before Jeanine changes her mind.”
Benjamin lifted his head off the table and trudged toward the door. Edna sat back on the bench. Her bones were beginning to ache. The sooner they got going, the better, but at this point the thought of it tired herself. Maybe it would be nice to have a place to come home to at the end of everything…
Don’t start thinking that way, she told herself. You’ve never been happy here. Don’t let a little exhaustion scare you back.
But then a different thought nearly scared her back.
“Oh!” she cried, and Benjamin whirled around in alarm.
“What? What is it?”
“What about Marguerite?” Edna asked.
Benjamin looked nonplussed. “What about her?”
“I can’t just leave her here! She’ll miss me. Who will take care of her?”
“Edna, she has a whole staff here to care for her. I’m more worried about you right now, okay? She’ll be fine.”
But Edna thought of the way her roommate would ask for her if she was out of the room too long, the way so many of the staff members lost patience with poor Marguerite’s memory or avoided spending too long with her because they got uncomfortable when she mistook them for dead friends or relatives. Marguerite was so lonely and frail and she’d never make it in here alone.
“We have to take her with us,” Edna said.
“We can’t. She can’t sign herself out.”
“Then I can’t go,” Edna said. Sorry, world, but friendship was more important.
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