Mid-afternoon when a nurse wheeled a sagging Mary into view — and into my target zone, as Charles would say.
About sodding time.
I’d forgone lunch — no noodle trolley here — and my mood hadn’t improved by my enforced fast. I could act like a right cow, but I really didn’t want to antagonise Mary in case she cut me off from seeing Junior.
So I took a deep breath and counted to five. Then greeted her without a trace of affectation. ‘How are you? What have they done to you? I was so worried.’
Instead of giving me a sharp look, which a switched-on super-bitch would do, Mary lolled in her wheelchair like a druggie. Her eyes glazed over, and her speech slurred. ‘I’m worn out,’ she said. ‘Been a long day.’
Fit for flying? Don’t think so.
Not a lot I could do. Helped to put her back in bed, and she settled down and closed her eyes. I looked at the nurse. She smiled at me, but when I asked about Mary her English was limited to medicine, maybe two days.
Well that wasn’t going to stop me leaving for Jakarta, but without Mary in tow I needed one of the boys to accompany me. I left the nurse sitting by Mary’s bed and went back to the bench outside her room. There I called Richard, but again no answer.
Damn. Where are you when I need you?
I tried Charles without much hope, but my mood brightened when he answered. Not that I’d show it.
‘Hello, old girl, he said. ‘Got a bit hung up yesterday.’
‘Don’t you old girl me,’ I said, ‘where the hell are you? And where’s friggin’ Richard?’
He chuckled. ‘Cussing won’t endear me to you,’ he said. ‘Time of the month, is it?’
Sodding shithead. ‘Charles, any more cracks like that, and I’ll cut you off.’
He chuckled again. ‘But you called me, remember.’
Ahhh. Damn man, but I bit my lip and quietened down. ‘Look. Are you going to tell me what’s happening, or what?’
His voice changed into a more serious tone. ‘No I’m not,’ he said. ‘Suffice to say we’ll both be back home tomorrow, God willing, and we’ll have Richard’s boy with us. As you demanded, okay?’
I tried all of my feminine wiles to try and prise him open, to no avail. Annoying sod. I jabbed the end call button, and put my Jakarta trip on hold.
What’s one day?
For starters, it was one more yucky night on my own at the Manor without a house servant and no freshly prepared meal. And no-one to share it with, anyway. Not now. I counted off how many I had lost or who had forsaken me:-
Angelique & Celia.
Richard & Charles.
Seven souls, and maybe eight if Junior was spirited away. And all because of the tsunami. It had destroyed my marriage, killed my daughter, and left me abandoned with two heartless men. Both cads…
…My phone warbled. I looked at the display. Hamish. What’s he want? I pressed the button. He sounded anxious.
‘Delcie, are you at the hospital? I just heard about Mary.’
I looked across at her bedroom. Stood up. She was lying asleep, the nurse sitting by her bedside. No alarm bells ringing. ‘Yes, I’m outside her room. What’s up?’
‘Nothing serious. An adverse reaction, but it could be a few days before she is well enough to travel.’
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘I was planning…’
‘That’s why I’m phoning. Plane delay.’ He paused. ‘If you want to see Junior, there’s time.’
Hmm. Hardly? ‘You mean you need someone to take care of him until Mary arrives.’
‘I…uhmm…wouldn’t put it quite like that, but it’s a good idea. Have you got your passport handy? I’ll reserve you a place with us in executive class. My treat.’
With us? Beatriz? No guesses needed. I would be the one left holding the baby while they partied the night away. Damn it. They could do what they liked.
‘How long have I got?’
‘How soon can you get here?’
‘What’s this? Twenty sodding questions?’
He chortled. ‘That’s funny. If you beat the evening rush hour, you’ll be fine. No later than half-five, though.’
I hesitated. Now approaching four o’clock.
Decision time. Do I? Don’t I..?
My stomach rumbled. Clinched it. ‘Book me in. And order two main meals, I’m famished.’ I ended the call without listening to his reply, which would probably have been more patronising bullshit, took one last look at Mary (all quiet), and hurried out of the hospital to the waiting taxi rank.
Back at the Manor with my taxi waiting, and as Charles would say, I got my act together without resorting to dilly-dallying about what to wear or what to pack.
I even forsook a tipple of Dutch courage after brushing my teeth and applying a new layer of lip gloss. Image counted. With a little tweaking, my mirror confirmed Executive class attire.
I arrived at the airport on time. Unloaded my suitcase trolleys and hand baggage. Hamish met me at the entrance, seemingly ruffled. He brushed a hand through his hair. ‘For Christ’s sake, Delcie. What kept you? It’s nearly six-twenty.’ He eyed my luggage. ‘Is that all yours? Enough for a round-the-world-trip.’
Not his bedside manner, for sure. I touched his arm. ‘Be a good boy, stop complaining, and get me a drink. Settle my stomach.’
‘We’ve no time,’ he said, handling the trolleys. ‘We’re ready to go. Now.’
Unlike him? Oh well.
I shrugged, and followed. I’d catch up on the flight. A couple of large vodkas, and then wine with my dinner. A fractious delay while my baggage was weighed and the excess paid for, and we walked across the tarmac and climbed aboard.
Our seats were curtained off, and guarded by that woman. She stepped aside to let me pass, and I feasted my eyes on the little bundle resting in a cot affixed to the cabin wall. He was awake. I stepped closer and bent my neck towards him. I reached out a finger.
‘Junior,’ I said, ‘it’s Auntie Delcie.’
The baby giggled at me and gurgled. Then bawled.
Immediately, Beatriz told me to sit down while she attended to him. A bottle materialised and Junior suckled the rubber teat.
I told Hamish maybe I should stick to one vodka. He concurred, and ordered soft drinks for him and Beatriz. With us all seated in an uneasy truce, my empty glass mocking me, the reason for Hamish’s anxiety became evident.
‘We have a tricky situation,’ he said, averting his gaze.
It’s about me, isn’t it?