I was out of it for a couple of days — so I was told. My senses floated between light and dark with some grey in between. Shapes and shadows danced close; disparate voices inside my head implored me to help. I was drifting in a spiritual no-man’s land.
Papa, be strong. It’s not going to be easy. You will have to learn.
I have to go now. Jane needs me.
When I came to, my body ached from head to toe. I gradually familiarised myself with my surroundings — in bed wearing a smock, in a curtained-off room, and someone with me.
I croaked out a cough. ‘Where am I?’
‘Oh, you’re awake now. How do you feel?’
The voice, laced with false sympathy, sounded familiar, and my eyes focused on Delcie who was ensconced in a cushioned armchair, knitting a scarf from a large, blue woollen ball.
I cleared my throat. ‘How do you think I bloody well feel?’ ‘To be sure, I’m not going to jump up and do an Irish jig.’
‘You’re in hospital, Richard, not the House, and you’re not going to go anywhere with an intra-something-or-other-drip in your arm.’
My eyes shifted across to the half-empty bottle. ‘What is it?’
‘Well, it’s not morphine, if that’s what you’re worried about. Some electronic fluid to rehydrate you.’
‘That’s what Hamish said.’
‘Mr. Donaldson is a neurosurgeon from England. You’re lucky.’
‘Lucky? Lucky! You mean my head is going to be drilled opened and my brain extracted, or even something worse?’
‘Don’t be so melodramatic, Richard.’
I tried to shift into a more comfortable position, but there wasn’t one. I resigned myself to dying, laid my aching head back on the pillow, and closed my eyes...
When I opened them again and turned my headache, Delcie was still there. The scarf transformed into a baby’s cardigan. She saw me move; put down her knitting, got up, moved across to my bed, and pressed a button on the wall next to my pillow.
‘Don’t you want to know what happened to you?’ she said, but didn’t wait for me to respond. She riffled though my notes and read them to me.
I heard that the silly buggers passed it off as food poisoning until the blood tests came back. Then I was transferred to ICU with an acute possibility of intra-cerebral haemorrhage resulting from dengue fever.
Dengue fever? Those bloody mosquito bites on Sabang.
While I was digesting this development with an increasing sense of panic and an urgent desire to visit the bathroom, a doctor — her white coat looked two sizes too small — pulled back the curtain and pointed her stethoscope at me.
‘What’s wrong?’ she said.
Was she on this planet? My mouth opened, but Delcie answered before I could make an appropriate and very sarcastic comment. But she did it more subtlety.
‘Mr. Donaldson asked me to inform him when your patient awoke.’
The doctor scowled — although it appeared to be half hidden behind a grimace that was almost a smile. She turned on her heel. ‘Wait here,’ she said.
As if we were going anywhere.
‘Can’t stand that woman,’ Delcie said to her retreating footsteps.
‘Eh? What’s she done?’
Delcie was fiddling about in her handbag. ‘It’s a woman thing. You wouldn’t understand. Anyway, I wasn’t talking to you.’
I blinked. ‘Then why…? Oh, never mind.’
I sank back on the bed; turned my eyes away from my tormenter, who was gazing into a hand mirror, and focused on my drip bottle. A bead of sweat formed on my frown, and my bladder twinged.
‘My bottle’s empty,’ I said.
Delcie glanced up from her make-up ritual but didn’t reply.
‘I said my bottle’s empty.’
She pointed lip-gloss at me. ‘I heard you the first time. You’ll have to wait.’
‘And I need to take a leak.’
‘Cross your legs.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous.’
A sound of footsteps and the curtain was pulled aside. Two pairs of eyes peered at me — one male and one female.
‘Ah, good,’ said the tall man dressed in a Lacrosse polo shirt and slacks. He moved across to my bed and picked up my notes. The frown on his face belied the sparkle in his eyes. ‘You had us worried.’
No white coat, no stethoscope — he didn’t even look jaded. Rather, he looked like he’d stepped out of a film set.
‘And you are…Mr. Donaldson, I presume.’
‘Ah yes. Call me Hamish,’ he said, glancing at Delcie and smiling. ‘We’re pretty relaxed here.’ He nudged that woman. ‘Isn’t that right, Beatriz?’
Beatriz barely nodded, while Delcie beamed.
Must be the hormones. But I had other more pressing matters.
‘I need the bathroom.’
Hamish raised an eyebrow when Delcie stifled a giggle. ‘That’s a good sign,’ he said, tapping the drip feed. ‘And you need a top-up. Hop out of bed, and Beatriz will assist you.’
Easier said than done, but after a few unsteady steps hanging on to the drip feed, we were on our way. Hamish had gone by the time we returned, but Delcie — now standing with her handbag over her shoulder — pointed to my notes.
‘Mr. Donaldson left instructions — regular observation, plenty of fluids, and rest. I’m sure Beatriz can take care of you now.’ She glared at that woman who unhooked my empty bottle and left to replenish it — I hoped.
Delcie fiddled with her handbag, glanced at her Cartier watch, anxious to be on her way.
‘I have to go back to the House. Do you need anything?’
I’d managed to splash my face in the bathroom sink, but I still felt grubby and I needed a shave. ‘My travelling bag is in the dining room. Err… and my Tolstoy book, it’s in the sunroom.’
She nodded, but her brow furrowed. Was she going to ask about Eko?
Not even close.
‘A lot of things have happened since you left, Richard. Jane nearly lost her life — she’s very ill in a coma, and Hamish…well, I’ll tell you later.’
Jane? Hamish? What was that all about?
The curtain parted and in came Beatriz with a new bottle.
‘How do you feel,’ she said.