I wish I hadn’t phoned Richard. He was his usual belligerent self with no concern for my plight which, according to my test results, was dire.
High blood pressure, low blood sugar — or was it the other way round? By now, I’d been visited by several different lady doctors, all smelling like they’d bathed in antiseptic. This one was a buxom lady armed with a stethoscope and an assortment of coloured pen-tops clipped to her breast pocket. She reeled off a list of possible ailments in sing-song English that also had me reeling; apparently hypochondria was the only illness I hadn’t suffered.
She grinned at her joke. I didn’t. Informality has its limits.
But if she had been Hamish...
‘So, I’m as healthy as the next person. I take it I can go.’
She selected a red pen from her pocket. ‘Once I’ve written a prescription.’
‘For your panic attacks.’ She scribbled something on my notes. ‘Try Valium for a few weeks. See how you go.’
‘That’s it? What about—?’
‘Nothing to worry about. Hot flushes and borderline diabetes are normal for a woman your age.’
My age? I stared at her unlined face with my mouth half-open, but like many velvety-skinned locals it was tricky to gauge her age — but the protruding veins on the back of her hands told me she was older than she looked.
‘I’m forty-up,’ she said, as if anticipating my uncertainty. ‘I have similar symptoms.’
My intuition was spot-on. Now it was my turn to smirk. I delved into my handbag and pulled out the herbal remedy that Jane gave me. ‘I’ve begun to take these,’ I said, handing it over. ‘No more hot flushes.’
She glanced at the label, and handed it back. ‘Not for me,’ she said, getting up and depositing my notes on my bedside table. ‘As a last resort, maybe.’
Last resort? She was annoying me; after that confrontation it was just as well she flounced out before I took umbrage.
I was hoping Richard would be more understanding, but his reaction to my plight, and his lack of sensitivity irritated me further, so I cut him off. All he looked-for was a slave to his needs — mainly food and someone to clear up after him. But I did wonder what he was doing at the House on his own.
Hadn’t he found his toy-boy?
And where was Charles?
Now that Hamish agreed to keep me updated on Jane’s progress — the quicker I returned home to find out, the better. I slipped on my rumpled clothes — now needing a clean — while a nurse stripped the bed sheets and fussed around with a bottle of antiseptic; clearly a message for me to vacate.
She pointed the way to the pharmacy, and I joined a throng of people queuing at the counter — mainly mothers with timorous children clinging to their sarongs, but also a few lethargic men with vacant expressions. My presence was greeted with a mixture of stares from the children and toothy smiles from their mothers — a sight that was common at the harbour market — and I smiled back and ruffled the hair of the closest toddler.
Jane’s baby is safe. Maybe I should go and take a peep? Maybe I’ll bump into Hamish? Maybe he’ll stare into my eyes…
A lot of maybes, but the actuality appeared to be more ‘might have beens’ when Dr. Last Resort waylaid me at the neonatal reception desk.
‘Where are you going?’ she said. ‘The pharmacy is down the corridor.’
I showed her my carton of pills.
‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘Parents only in ICU.’
I steeled myself. ‘I’m Jane Parrington’s aunt,’ I said. ‘I’m taking care of her baby.’
She folded her arms. ‘I can’t let you in here without permission.’
‘I’m sure Mr. Donaldson would oblige. He agreed to keep me updated. Clear it with him.’
She made a good job of rolling her eyes and shaking her head as if she had a starring role in a Hollywood production. ‘For your information, Ham…I mean Mr. Donaldson, has more important things to do.’
Ham? So that was it. I added another ‘maybe’ to my list. Her eyes met mine, but a cough behind me interrupted our face-off.
‘Too busy for what?’
Dr. Last Resort spluttered; her cheeks darkened, and I turned to see George...Hamish smiling at us.
He addressed her. ‘I can vouch for this lady. I’m sure you have patients to attend to, Beatriz.’
Classic put down. I put a hand over my mouth to stifle a smile while the pantomime unfolded.
As on cue the Ugly Sister exited stage left sniffing into a tissue, and he caught hold of Cinderella’s arm. ‘Come on,’ my prince said to me. ‘Let’s take a peep at your—’ he chuckled —‘nephew.’
And Jane’s baby inside his incubator was also a prince, albeit the poor mite had an array of pads attached to his body and a breathing tube fastened to his mouth.
Hamish explained. ‘His little lungs need help. We don’t want him to catch bronchitis — but he’s a fighter. Takes after his mum. He’ll pull through.’
‘And Jane,’ I said. ‘Will she also pull through?’
A frown crossed his face. ‘The next forty-eight hours are critical.’
‘It’s that bad?’ I said.
He didn’t answer right away. When he did, it came as no surprise. His tired expression said it all. ‘Aceh’s facilities are limited. I’m limited. I want her out of here as soon as she’s stable enough to travel to Jakarta.’
‘What can I do?’ I said.
‘Go home and rest,’ he said. ‘I’ll call you later if there’s any change in Jane’s condition.’
I blew a kiss at Jane’s sleeping baby, and Hamish accompanied me to the front entrance, where there was confusion.
A doctor approached, his hands flapping, and addressed Hamish. ‘A foreigner collapsed at the entrance. He’s in ER with a high fever. Could you take a look?’
Hamish turned to me. ‘Sorry. Seems like I’m on call for everything from bird flu to brain damage. I’ll ask reception to order a taxi for you.’
I waved the offer aside. ‘There’s plenty outside.’
The doctor was showing a passport to Hamish. I saw the picture, and gulped. My legs trembled; I leaned against Hamish for support. The man in Emergency was my husband.
What happened to Richard?