I blurted out my thoughts. ‘It’s about me, isn’t it?’
Hamish nodded. ‘I’m sure we can handle it when we arrive.’ He glanced at Beatriz and she beamed.
‘Oh, I’m sure you can, if anyone can, Ham.’
The “fasten your seatbelts” sign flashed and, instead of hurling a flight attendant’s tray at her, I buckled up and tried not to fidget. Let whatever it was take its course.
The trip to Jakarta took nearly three hours. Richard would have recorded one hundred and sixty-seven minutes in his notebook, and I suffered through them all. I alternated between peering out of the window, smiling at a sleepy Junior cuddling a teddy, and sipping shitty Coke Zero. For god’s sake, a soft snifter in Executive class when they had an abundance of hard-core liquor. Like a groovy Grey Goose — or even sodding Smirnoff.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, my classy dinner was probably concocted from Tourist class leftovers. Chewy chicken curry and seafood pasta — I chomped through both selections — were bland and tasteless. A bit like I felt right then.
Hamish spent his time writing up some notes, while Beatriz read a paperback novel called “Heavenly Sin 2”. The front cover had a raunchy picture of a dark-haired man clutching a lithesome young woman as she swooned against his muscular torso.
To my everlasting relief an ambulance was waiting for us at the airport, and we were whisked through the formalities — without any luggage delay — and policed out into the traffic. I sat on a small bench at the back with Hamish (up front, Beatriz settled Junior) and peered out the tinted side window. Even late at night, the road was full of buses, cars, motorbikes, rickshaws — and dozens of hawkers, vendors and footpath shoppers.
I stabbed a fingernail into his arm. ‘Where are we going?’
‘Brawijaya hospital,’ he said, wincing and rubbing his arm. ‘It’s a brand new woman and child facility. Most suitable for Junior.’ He hesitated, then added. ‘Delcie, I can’t guarantee whether you’ll be able to stay with him, because you’re not family.’
Ah. The tricky situation. I bristled. ‘So, why drag me all the way here?’
‘Because you’re with me. As an authorised carer. I’m hoping they’ll allow that.’
He smiled. ‘Fingers crossed, eh?’
I let it go. Even if my time with Junior was restricted, at least I could cuddle him which was a darn sight better than nothing. But I resented being used while he and that woman played footsie with my feelings. I didn’t let that go.
‘As an authorised carer,’ I said, ‘I’m expecting a big fat payment, and full board at your expense.’
He stared at me. ‘You are?’
‘Too bloody right.’ I glanced at Beatriz, who wasn’t listening, and shifted my gaze back to him. ‘I’m not your cheap fling Mr. Donaldson, or should I call you Ham?’
‘Eh?’ he said, a frown creasing his forehead. ‘I’m not with you.’
The gall of the arrogant sod. ‘Quite right, you are not with me.’ I pointed at that woman. ‘And don’t deny it, she’s all over you like…like a whore creaming a ham hoagie.’
He smiled, then chuckled. ‘Where did that come from?’ Scottish burr, distinct. ‘Back streets of Caltoun, more like.’
I didn’t respond, perhaps shaken by my outburst and his good-humoured response. He pointed a finger at Junior and lowered his voice. More serious, now.
‘A child born there, in one of the poorest parts of Glasgow, is three times as likely to suffer heart disease, four times as likely to be hospitalised, and ten times as likely to grow up in a workless household than a child in the city's prosperous western suburbs. Caltoun has the lowest male life expectancy in Scotland.’ He reached out a hand and touched my arm. ‘Delcie, we are giving Junior a better chance in life and I need you to be with him for a couple of days. Maybe longer.’
Goosebumps where he’d stroked me. Certainly knew what buttons to press. I’d been an Executive-class bitch, moaning about my fate. All me, me, me, bitching about Beatriz and him instead of focusing on Junior.
I blinked away a teardrop. ‘Let’s hope I get that chance,’ I said. For the rest of the journey, I kept quiet, looking outside and marvelling at the hectic city life.
Did Jakarta ever sleep?
The hospital mirrored the city’s hustle and bustle, but we were fortunate. Administration staff worked shifts, and those who could question my credentials were not on duty — or were reluctant to challenge such an eminent British surgeon and his entourage. Hamish had reserved a private room with a cot, twin beds, and ensuite facilities. Not that he or Beatriz would be staying there — the medical staff were appraised of my role in their absence — but it suited me fine.
Once Junior settled in with a saline drip — keeping him hydrated — his supplementary milk bottles and pampers made ready, and I knew how to summon a night nurse, they left me to manage.
Not only what they were up to — as if I didn’t guess — but it had been decades since I cared for a baby, although it came as a relief not to worry about safety-pinning nappies or washing the damn things. The Velcro-fastening disposable pampers would make my job simple.
Three times that night I had to call the nurse because the little hydrated blighter had leaked out of the fool-proof pampers onto the bed-clothes, and soaked them. The looks I received — “incompetence” rated highly — didn’t bode well for my future carer role.
Not my fault.
Could happen to the best.
By dawn I had blamed the government, ghosts, and god knows what for my predicament.
I still had no inkling what would become of Junior when she returned to England. Even though ongoing care was being provided for him, I needed more from Mary than a vague “I’ll decide on his future later”.
Ongoing care? Of course. With costs being borne by NEMO, it wouldn’t be improbable — once he was out of immediate danger — for me to take him back to the Manor along with a part-time nurse. An ugly one. Most definitely, an ugly one.
Richard would agree. Minimal cost.
And Charles wouldn’t be tempted. Not that I envisaged getting back with him — but you never knew.
Never say never.