One night at Brawijaya hospital was enough to convince me I couldn’t hack it as a full-time surrogate mother. I’m sure the night nurses laughed at the old crone who couldn’t change pampers properly. Butterfingers, or more probably an early sign of arthritis?
A young Delcie could (and did) cope with the demands of bringing up a squalling infant who wet the bed constantly. Loving chores. Particularly as that infant was my Angelique. My little angel. Sadly, those days were long gone.
As a part-time Auntie, okay, but even that would need a re-alignment. I said as much to Hamish, when he arrived the following morning, a bleary-eyed, but smirking Beatriz in tow.
He gave me the once over, and frowned. I must had been a mess. Crumpled clothes, unkempt hair, and smudged make-up. And two unopened suitcases of unused belongings.
‘Ah,’ he said. ‘You want to give it one more day?’
‘I’m sorry,’ I said, blinking back tears, which enveloped all my emotions — Junior, my clumsy inability, “that woman” and Hamish. ‘Right now all I want is to catch up on my sleep. Then I’m going back to talk it over with Mary.’
‘Let me check on her, first,’ he said. ‘Maybe she’s recovered and on her way.’
I nodded, and crawled back under the covers.
Up to you. Do what you like.
At lunchtime he returned. Alone. By that time, I had given my mirror a good talking to and freshened up. More presentable. And Junior had a nurse taking care of him.
‘Bad news,’ he said. ‘Mary is still not fit enough to fly. If you haven’t changed your mind, I’ll arrange your transport back to Aceh.’
I hadn’t, although it would be a wrench to say goodbye to Junior. Maybe, I could…I stopped thinking. ‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘How much..?’
‘No cost. My tab. I’ll send someone to fetch you later.’ He turned away.
More tears welled. I called after him. ‘Hamish.’
He stopped, glanced back.
‘Nothing,’ I said, brushing a hand across my eyes. ‘It’s nothing.’
He held my gaze for a moment, then lowered his eyes. Nodded.
Turned away, and exited my life.
If only he had been my knight in shining armour, but he wasn’t…
I slumped in a chair beside the bed, fiddled with my phone, noticed a missed call, and ignored it. Junior’s daytime nurse — she was a lovely girl — poured me a coffee, and went out to bring back a tuna sandwich. I gulped both down. Later, when Junior awoke, and I could hug him, she took pictures of us together. The tears smudging my make-up were tears of joy. Enough laughter and chuckles to keep up my spirits. My phone’s camera wasn’t up to much, but I’d always treasure those memories.
Mid-afternoon, a hospital guide handed me my flight ticket, and drove me back to the airport, luggage in tow. In the real world, nothing had changed, Jakarta buzzed with energy, excitement, and enthusiasm.
All of which I lacked.
Don’t let it get to you. Make a plan. Make it happen.
At the airport, and waiting for my flight — Cattle-class, the tight-fisted sod — I fished out my phone again. The missed call was from Charles.
What’s up? I called him.
‘Delcie, old girl,’ he said. ‘Good news. I’m back at the House, and…oh, shit, I forgot to charge my batt…’
I tried Richard, instead. He answered. ‘What do you want?’
‘And hello to you, too. Where are you? Can you meet me at the airport?’
‘No,’ he said. I’m still on Sabang waiting for the bloody world to end.’
He’s bonkers. ‘Why?’
‘You don’t want to hear it. Now, please get off the line, I’m waiting for Charles to call.’
‘His battery’s flat. I just called him.’
‘Bloody hell. I’ve been rushing around like a blue-arsed fly getting mine recharged, and he, well…I’m sick of it.’
‘Richard, you don’t make sense. Richard?’ I stared at the display. Sod him. Bastard cut me off.
Make a plan. Make it happen.
The flight, on time, and uneventful. Apart from costly excess baggage, which delayed me. All to the good, because I formed a scheme while waiting. I’d dump my cases back at the Manor, and enlist Charles to go and see Mary. I had a card to play. I knew why she dropped the paternity tests, and I’d tell Charles if she ignored Junior’s future.
Really stir it.
When the taxi pulled up outside the Manor, I couldn’t believe it. Charles was patting down the lawn with a cricket bat — it could do with a mow and tidy-up — with a local lad. He saw me and called me over.
‘Delcie, old girl. Remember Eko—Richard’s…er…um…houseboy?’
Good grief. He’s bonkers, too.
The lad rushed over to me. Said, ‘hello, Madam’, and picked up one of my suitcases. I stared at him. Then at Charles.
‘Tell me I’m seeing things,’ I said.
He smiled. ‘What you’re seeing is our new handyman.’ He bowed at me, as Eko carried it towards the House. ‘As you ordered, madam.’
‘Handyman at what? Can he cook? I’m famished.’
He beamed. ‘He says if we buy him a scooter—second-hand would do—he’ll organise everything.’
He wasn’t finished. ‘I’m sure we can teach him the basics. It isn’t too hard to fry an egg and rustle up tea and toast.’
‘Charles,’ I said, ‘I need food, now. An evening meal, not breakfast.’
‘Yes, well, maybe a take-away?’
I sighed. Men. No idea how to run a home. ‘And where’s Richard. Last I heard, he was on Sabang waiting for the next holocaust.’
He chuckled. ‘Not now. He’s on the late-afternoon ferry, and I assure you when he claps eyes on Eko, he won’t be all doom and gloom.’
‘Good. In that case, you can both accompany me to see Mary, and take me for a decent dinner after.’
‘That old witch? No way.’
I smiled. ‘I assure you, it will be worth your while. Mary’s decided to drop the paternity tests.’
He opened his mouth, closed it. Opened it again. ‘I don’t believe it.’
‘It’s true, I said. ‘You can hear it with your own ears.’
‘Why?’ he said.
Should I tell him?
I moved close and linked my arm in his. ‘That’s what we need to discuss. I think Junior’s future will rest on it. Now come inside, make me a drink. A stiff one.’
He gave me one of those men-only looks. Licked his lips. ‘Did you say a stiff one?’
He felt warm. I smacked his hand. ‘Not now, major. We’ve got company.’
He squeezed my arm. Put on his puppy-dog expression. ‘Later perhaps?’
Plan in place. Now make it happen.
‘Depends if you’re a good boy,’ I said.