Jeff caught his reflection in the library door as he headed into the morning Study Group session. He paused, tweaked his hair slightly, grinned in satisfaction at the result and resumed his swagger in the direction of Study Room F.
“Good mor-” he started. This time however his cheery greeting was cut short by the sight of the empty chair two places to the left of his usual seat.
“Where’s Annie?” he said instead, a small furrow of concern ridging his brow. “ Doesn’t she know she’s got to prep us for the Biology midterm?” She’d better not be off somewhere studying –
“She’s in the hospital.” Abed said.
“What?!?” Jeff froze in the act of pulling his chair out and stared at his friend.
“There’s something wrong with her boobie.” Troy added.
“Whaaa-!!?” Jeff was now leaning so far over the table he was at risk of overbalancing.
“Her Bubbe,” Britta interjected. “If you’d been on time Jeff you would have heard with the rest of us that her grandmother was taken into hospital over the weekend-”
Almost as if he’d sensed an opportunity to get out of studying in a way nobody could criticise him for, Jeff decisively slid his chair back under the table and stood upright, pivoted on a heel and started striding towards the door.
“Where are you going Jeff? We need to study!” Britta called out.
Jeff stopped dead. “ Study, Britta?” He snarked. “Annie needs us and you want to study ? Shame on you!” Britta’s mouth fell open in shock.
“I’m going to the hospital - who’s coming with me?” Jeff finished dramatically.
“Annie said she didn’t want anybody to…” Troy’s sentence was left hanging as he saw the others stand and start to pack up.
“What’s happening buddy?” he said, turning to Abed.
“We’re going to have a hospital episode,” Abed said as he finished packing his bag.
Annie was sitting outside an operating theatre in Greendale General Hospital, attempting to concentrate on her biology text book to avoid worrying too much. Of course it was impossible - her grandmother was in surgery after her caregiver had discovered her unconscious and called an ambulance and Annie was going mad with worry for the one member of her family who had never cut her off.
As she had done a hundred times already, she looked up at the door of the theatre as though she could summon someone out by sheer force of will. As before nothing happened, but this time she was distracted by the clicking sound of approaching heels. Annie looked up for long enough to see a dark haired, slim and stylishly dressed woman in her mid-fifties approach before hurriedly snapping her gaze back down to her book and furiously forcing herself to concentrate on the definition of mitochondria.
The other woman hesitated slightly in her approach before resuming walking and lowering herself into a seat two spaces to the right of Annie. She smoothed an invisible crease out of her skirt and straightened her posture, looking squarely to her front.
“Anne,” she said.
“Mother,” Annie replied, equally formally.
“You made it then,” Annie said after a moment’s silence. She’s your mother - if I could be here two hours ago, why couldn’t you?
The older woman stiffened slightly at the implied rebuke. “I had to make arrangements for Anthony,” she finally said.
“Because everybody knows how much you care for your children!” Annie snapped bitterly.
“Anne-” but Annie wouldn’t let her finish.
“Annie.” She snapped.
“I’m sorry?” The other woman looked at her with a slightly confused expression on her face.
“I go by Annie these days, as anybody who cared would know.” Annie was barely containing the hurt and rage surging up inside her.
“Annie, ” the other woman sighed. “Can we please not do this? Today?” She nodded at the door to the operating theatre. “There are more important things going on than your drama.”
“There’s always something more important going on with -”
It was Annie’s turn to be interrupted as her mother abruptly stood up. “I think I’ll see if I can find some coffee,” she said as she started to walk away.
You always run away when things get difficult, Annie thought at her retreating back. Giving up on any attempt to even pretend to study, Annie put away her book and concentrated on practising the defiant glare she’d greet her mother with on her return.
It wasn’t needed however - only a few minutes later a hubbub of bickering voices announced the arrival of the Study Group.
“What are you guys doing here?” Annie finally managed to ask as the initial rush of greetings and hugs subsided. “I told Troy and Abed you didn’t need to come!” Her attempt to maintain a stern expression was a total failure in the face of the bright smile that kept wanting to break out.
“Jeff saw a chance to get out of studying and went for it,” Britta said, a smile of her own on her face. “And to make sure he actually came here instead of going clothes shopping again, the rest of us followed him.”
Annie turned to face Jeff, rolling her eyes at the completely unabashed smirk on his face.
Anything anybody else was going to say was doomed to be unsaid however as another voice cut in.
“Annie - who are these people?” Her mother had returned, snuffing out the happiness and relief she’d felt on seeing her friends like a candle flame.
“Mother,” she sighed. “These are-”
But she never got to finish.
“ Zoya??” Annie’s head whipped around to see Pierce was staring at her mother, an expression equal parts shock and glee on his face.
“ Hawthorne??” Annie’s head whipped back to see her mother, just as shocked but no trace of glee on her face.
“You two know each other?” Annie squeaked.
“We have to talk,” Annie’s mother hissed at Pierce.
“ What on Earth is going on?? ” Annie cried, her eyes locked on the sight of Pierce and her mother who were engaged in a running argument as they retreated down the corridor from where she and the rest of the study group were standing in dumb shock.
“It seems they know each other,” Shirley grumbled, stating the obvious.
Jeff looked at Shirley as though what she’d said had made him think of something.
“Does anybody know the names of all of Pierce’s wives?” he said suddenly.
Annie’s attention suddenly snapped round to focus on Jeff, she started gasping as though hyperventilating.
“N- N- N- no !” She finally gasped out. “She can’t - he can’t…”
“Are you okay, Annie dear?” Shirley shot a look of concern at Annie while somehow simultaneously managing to to shoot one of outrage at Jeff.
Annie however was saved from having to answer by the appearance of the nurse who’d been keeping her up to date on her grandmother’s progress and who - after looking with some dismay at the chaos in the corridor - announced that Annie’s grandmother was out of surgery and somewhat sharply called for her and her mother to be briefed by the surgeon.
Pierce scrambled back to the rest of the group, his body practically vibrating with eagerness and a carnivorous grin on his face. “Oh boy, do I have a story to tell you guys…” he started.