I pushed that thought away, only to be replaced by another. Neither had returned with their young tarts, though. Unless they were waiting at the House.
I pushed that thought away, only to picture Mary on life support. Tubes were piercing her body, her eyes bulging. A giant squid. She held out a tentacle, imploring me to come closer. I closed my eyes, willed away the image.
Richard was right. She had overturned our delicate relationship, and extended it to involve Charles as well. But I couldn’t desert her.
Could I? No? Yes?
And that was that. From reception, I walked along the corridor to ICU. Outside the entrance, hands on hips and her eyes hurling daggers at my approaching figure, stood Beatriz.
I walked up to her, intent on brushing past.
‘You’re not allowed in here,’ she said, her mouth pouting like a spoiled brat. ‘Mr Donaldson’s orders.’ She pointed at a dilapidated wooden bench lurking in the corridor under a wall picture of the President. ‘You can wait there.’
I shook my head. ‘No thanks. When can I talk to him?’
She shrugged. Tossed her head aside, preferring to look at the President than me.
I stood my ground, clenched my fists, and started to count. At ten, the frustration passed — perhaps I should have followed the “boys” after all. I made up my mind to do exactly that; it was evening, and if Charles had brought Hannah with him, I wanted to lay down my new Manor rules before they retired for the night.
But as I began to retrace my steps, I heard a call behind me. A Scottish burr.
‘Is that you, Delcie?’
Hamish. I stopped and turned. Beatriz had folded her arms, staring at the ceiling.
He though, was gesturing to me. ‘Come here. Mary’s been asking for you.’
Mary? Asking for me? Good grief. I rushed towards him. ‘I thought she was…was…had a heart attack.’
He massaged his brow. Dark smudges around his eyes. ‘Ah, yes. Maybe. We’re still conducting tests, but signs are good.’
I followed him into the ward, and up to a curtained off area. He pulled back the curtain. Mary lay on a bed, a thin blanket drawn up to her waist, dressed in a smock. Her face, pale, eyes drawn, and one electronic monitor attached by a cuff to her left arm.
What’s that for?
She saw me, raised her head a little. ‘Only the good die young,’ she said. Her breaths coming in gasps. ‘Isn’t that right, Hamish?’
He glanced at me. A gamut of emotions passed between us, none of which seemed fitting. Lips half-smiling, he moved across to look at the monitor. ‘My new toy,’ he said. ‘Pulse, blood pressure, at the press of a button.
So much for the eight-armed, boggled-eyed squid. ‘I thought there’d be…’ I paused, and he guessed my question.
‘Scanning equipment, a flat-line monitor set-up…we’re uhmm…working around it.’
I raised an eyebrow. He nodded. ‘We have administered appropriate medication. Mary is comfortable.’
‘I heard that,’ she said. ‘This mattress is lumpy.’
I smiled. With her right hand she was patting down the creases in the blanket as if it would resolve the problem. A couple of chairs were by her bed. I sat in one and took hold of her hand. Squeezed. Tears started to glisten in her eyes.
A frown creased her forehead, words wheezed out of her mouth. ‘What’s going to happen to me?’
Exactly. I could only guess. ‘First, you’re going to get better.’ A compromise. ‘I’ll call Rod and let him know. Maybe he can help.’
‘I don’t…not sure…’ Her eyes closed and Hamish touched me on the shoulder. I turned and he gestured for me to leave.
‘She needs all the rest she can get right now,’ he said.
He walked with me to reception. I glanced through the entrance. ‘It’s dark outside. Can you rustle up a taxi for me?’
He smiled as if hoping for something more. ‘Only that? No dinner, no nightcap?’
I smiled back. ‘No,’ I said.
He nodded, and despite my misgivings, I felt sorry for him.
‘When can I visit again?’
He rubbed a hand across his forehead. Looked out for the count. ‘No restrictions for you,’ he said. ‘Anytime that’s convenient.’
We walked out of the hospital and he called over a waiting taxi, told the driver my address. I climbed in, but before he shut the door he said, ‘I’m meeting Rod later, I’ll let him know about Mary.’
‘Thanks,’ I said.
The taxi pulled away.
I didn’t look back.
When I opened the front door to the Manor, and walked into the lighted lounge both boys were in their dressing gowns. Charles sat at the table, picking at a deck of cards strewn across it, and Richard lazed in the sofa reading a book. Both seemed comfortable in each other’s presence.
Strange. I coughed. Richard blinked. Charles glanced up at me. He spoke.
‘Did you get to see her?’
‘After a battle with that woman—Richard knows who.’
‘It’s a woman thing, Charles,’ Richard said in a dead-pan voice, as he flicked a page over. ‘Can’t say I liked the bossy bitch, either.’
‘Yes, well, I made it past Beatriz thanks to Hamish. Mary seems to be recovering—even complaining about a lumpy mattress.’
Richard grimaced. ‘Humph,’ he said.
Charles began to gather up the cards. ‘No doubt,’ he said, ‘next will be the paternity issue.’
Another humph from Richard, and I changed the subject.
‘I need a drink. Either of you want a night-cap?’
‘My round,’ said Charles, standing up. ‘Leave it to me.’
What? I stared at him. ‘You feel ill or something?’
He grinned. ‘As Hannah didn’t come back with me, it’s the least I can do. A sort of peace offering.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘I see,’ although I didn’t, and I wasn’t going to ask why.
Or would I?