Enquiring about her father’s whereabouts, walking to the ward, it all passed in a blur. Eventually she rounded a corner to see her mother sat in a corridor, her head in her hands. Her mother had always been protected by her strong father; she was almost the antithesis of the feminine movement, happy to be a homemaker, devoted to her family. And Alexis couldn’t imagine how she was feeling facing the fact that Oliver would not be around forever.
“Mama?” she offered quietly.
Rosa stood when she saw Alexis approach and fell into her arms, hysterical."Oh Thank the Lord you’re here! How can I live without him Alexis? Who’ll look after me? Oh my God!" she dissolved into wails.
Alexis held her weeping mother, and looked around, medicine was her field, she’d sort this out. Realising her mother really did know nothing about what was going on, she deposited her back in her seat, then wandered off to find a member of staff, she’d worked in this hospital before, and she recognised some faces, two nurses were rather evasive, but eventually she found a doctor, no one she knew, but with a few moments, he realized she knew what he was talking about and dropped into technical talk.
He explained her father had had a huge heart attack, which left him with critically unstable angina. They’d had to operate immediately, and he’d had surgery earlier, four bypass grafts. Pretty much as serious as it got, but he was alive, sedated and still ventilated, but alive. In his opinion people recovered well from the procedure when it was done on a planned basis, but the emergency version was a little less predictable, every minute was critical.
“You’ll phone me if there’s any change, no matter how subtle?”
He nodded, “I’ll make sure you’re informed of everything that happens.”
She thanked him profusely, then returned to find her mother.
Rosa was teetering a fine line between grief and hysteria, and Alexis knew there were few people who could manage her in this state. Walking across the waiting room, she slid into the seat next to her.
“Mama, come on!” You have to hold this together, Dad needs you to be strong!”
“But he’s always been the strong one cara; I don’t even know how to change a light bulb. What if...”
Alexis silenced her, “let’s not have that talk. My father is as strong as an ox. He will get through this, and he will not want to hear that you lost the plot. Now come on, let me tell you what the doctor told me.”
She calmed her mother, explaining that is wasn’t as bleak as it could be. But she was inconsolable. She’d been like it since he’d collapsed according to Daniel. And whilst Alexis wasn’t surprised, she hated that once again she had the weight of the family on her shoulders. But that was how it was, her mother and her sister were both emotionally flaky, and any decision making over the next week would be down to her.
An hour later, the doctor came and found her, explained her father was back from recovery and was settled they could see him, he wasn’t awake, but at least they could see him. She wasn’t sure it was the right thing for her mother, but she couldn’t stop her, and her mother was desperate to see him, regardless of how that made her feel. A nurse led them down the corridor, into an ITU, obviously during her medical training Alexis had worked on several units like this, but nothing prepared her for seeing her father there.
He was white, not pale, almost ghostly, but peaceful, didn’t look in pain. She’d seen ill people look traumatised even whilst unconscious like him, but he was calm, serene almost. Her mother rapidly became that same shade of white, clutching at her father’s lifeless hand. Lex spoke to the nurse, who filled her in on his condition, which was as good as could be expected. She had to prise her mother from her father, but when they finally left after half an hour Lex was a lot happier than when she’d arrived.
Back at the house her mother wanted to bake. It was what she did in a crisis, but she looked exhausted, Alexis managed to convince her to try and sleep, and it was then that Rosa revealed
that she had been given sleeping medication, so Alexis sat with her waiting until she was in bed, and softly snoring, before getting a taxi to Henrietta’s.
Henrietta opened the door, and they fell into each other’s arms, like the long lost relatives they’d become. Lex was surprised at her sister, she also looked so pale, so dishevelled, she was starting to realise that maybe her family needed her more than she had ever imagined. Stroking Henrietta’s back she waited until the quiet sobs and dissipated before she pulled back to look at her sister again.
"I’ve missed you so much Lex, you’ve always been the strong one, always sorted these things out." Henrietta mumbled into her neck.
Alexis kissed the top of her head affectionately, "well I’m here now, and I’ll sort it. Everything’s going to be ok?"
Dan appeared in the background and sighed, relief evident on his face too, he was obviously finding an emotional and inconsolable version of his wife difficult. “Coffee? Tea? Wine? You must be starving Lex!”
Henrietta’s head suddenly snapped up, “Oh you must! Let me make you dinner!” Suddenly her sister had found her niche, and dashed to the kitchen in haste. It was only at that point that Lex registered that it was in fact hours since she’d had breakfast on the plane...hardly the most filling of meals! She could probably eat the proverbial horse.
With a smile she followed the couple into the kitchen.
Lex sat at the kitchen table as Henrietta pottered from cupboard to fridge to stove, Dan was in and out but every time he passed he refilled her glass of icy chardonnay, and she nodded appreciatively. Her sister wasn’t a simple person and she provided breadsticks and hummus, both home made, and both helping to soak up the wine that was falling into her empty stomach.
As she cooked, Alexis filled her sister in on what the doctor had told her, and Henrietta visibly calmed. "So he’ll be ok?"
Lex nodded, “He’s got a really good chance. I mean it’s serious, but he’s as good as they can expect. Better maybe." She reached for her sister’s hand, "now more importantly. Where is this charming little man of yours? I have been desperate to see him! Can I have a peek before dinner?"
Smiling proudly, Henrietta led her up to the nursery, a blaze of pale blue gingham and soft toys, and they both peered over the end of his cot and sighed.
He had Henrietta’s snub nose, Daniel’s dark colouring, and their father’s determined chin. Henrietta burst into laughter at the last comment, and they had to dash out of the room before they woke little Oscar. Daniel was in the hallway looking up at the noise.
"Alexis, I am SO glad you are home, she has barely smiled since you went away. Now she’s laughing in spite of everything...you are the best tonic I could ask for!"
She laughed, "She’s only laughing because I said poor little Oscar has my Dad’s stubborn chin!"
His eyes widened for a moment then he smiled, "shit! That’s a very valid point! And maybe it’s his poor parents you should feel for. Your father hasn’t done anything he hasn’t wanted to in his whole life!” Groaning he headed back to the lounge, leaving the girls still chuckling.
Alexis called the hospital to be told her father was doing ok “as could be expected” to be precise. Then Henrietta opened another bottle of wine, and they sat at the kitchen table as Alexis wolfed a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, like a hoover.
"I know you told Peter where I was." Alexis eventually broached the topic that she was desperate to hear about. The comment was accompanied by a look of guilt; her sister would be a terrible spy.
"I wasn’t going to! But he was in a real state. I thought it may help you both work things out." she looked a little coy; “I know it was interfering, but he seemed genuine. And it was left all so unfinished between you both.”
Alexis shrugged, "I suppose so, and he was desperate to tell me he was sorry and that he wanted me to drop everything and believe that he was wrong, that there’s something to work on. But I explained things weren’t that easy."
Henrietta’s eyebrows worried into a frown, “But you love him, like forever!"
Alexis sipped her wine, “Do I? Did I? I think it was lust, and the kind of forbidden love lost thing, and sleeping with him sorted that desire out!"
The answer was delivered with more calmness than was natural, and Henrietta shook her head. "I don’t believe that!"
"I’m happy with Luiz Hen; at least I was until Peter turned up and made things awkward!”
"You sound like you’re still trying to convince yourself of that Lex!"
Alexis laughed, “if me and Luiz split up a large portion of that is Peter’s fault, but I like Luiz, and I want this to work.”
Henrietta wasn’t convinced, but tonight, with her father ill was not the time to debate things, so she let the topic slide, until at well after midnight Lex took a cab home, she needed to be there for her mother, Henrietta had Daniel.
A phone call at six am revealed her father was much better after a peaceful night. She travelled to her sisters, to share her first cuddles, and breakfast with her darling nephew - a delightful experience, then the two sisters made straight for the hospital. Oliver had his eyes open, and despite looking shattered, there were odd little glimpses of the strong patriarch that he was.
They sat either side of his bed for a moment, and Alexis could only imagine how awful this must be for such a proud man, to lie broken and shattered in front of his two daughters, girls he’d always been indestructible to.
"We’re going to take him off the ventilator in a few minutes," the same doctor Lex had spoken to the previous night approached and told them with a smile. They both kissed their father and made to leave, but her father’s hand flew out and wrapped around her wrist.
"Do you want me to stay?" She looked down into his eyes and saw how scared he was.
When he nodded, she smiled, fighting the tears that threatened to fall, after her ignoring him for months, he wanted her there more than anything. He knew that she was the only one who could be strong for him. He was weak, but the small smile from him as she held his hand, meant more than a lot of things ever had.
Much later she joined Henrietta back at her house and slept. Her mother was with her father so she could relax.
When she woke, she found her sister with Oscar in the garden, playing in the shade. Grabbing a coffee she joined them.
"So what are your plans?" Henrietta looked up when she lowered herself to the nearby garden bench.
Alexis shrugged, "what are you doing about the christening?"
"We've postponed it again! Dad will need a few weeks if not months to get better, so we’ll delay it until then. Are you heading back to Rio?"
"Yes. I’m committed for another two months, and I do fancy doing a bit of travelling after that. See more of the country."
"Don’t Hen; I don’t want to fall out with you, so please just leave it there! I don’t need this now!"
Her sister nodded knowingly, but let the subject rest.