Chapter 48 - Hospital
I’d been here before.
I tried to move, kind of assuming the restraints would stop me.
They didn’t. Instead there was this… like… total screaming pain thing down in my leg.
At least, with my movement, the lights blinked back on.
I was lying in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the cellar stairs and something was terribly wrong down in my right leg. Every time I thought about moving, the wild explosions of pain basically drove the idea straight out of my head.
So I was basically in exactly the same place as last time, sort of waiting for my master to return.
Except, this time, I was… like… fading in and out of consciousness…
And I was really, really looking forward to him… like… turning up.
At last he was there, telling me that I was a silly babygirl and scooping me up in his arms. I let out this shriek and passed out.
Next thing I properly remember I was looking at this reddish blob through a hazy head full of cotton wool. Pretty much everything else was sort of white and fuzzy.
And then I vaguely remembered what had happened… stairs… wet feet… I was going to be in so much trouble with Mr M.
And, as the cotton wool started to evaporate, the pain started to show up. I mean… It didn’t quite hurt yet… everything like that was still really fuzzy… but I guess it was kind of letting me know that the whole hurt thing was on its way
Then gradually the blob kind of turned into Mr Orange… and I sort of managed to work out that he was my master’s way of telling me that, even though he couldn’t be here, he was thinking of me.
At some point a nurse turned up and she was all nice and friendly and efficient and she told me that I’d managed to smash up my leg - I’d basically managed to work that one out - and I tried to be… well… a patient patient as she generally fiddled and faffed around with me - though I was still vaguely fading in and out of things a bit.
I was a fair bit less fuzzy when a doctor appeared. “Good morning,” he said. “We think that you must be Rose Symonds. Is that right?”
I nodded. There didn’t seem to be all that much point in trying to deny it.
“May I call you Rose?”
Polite… and he knows his grammar stuff! Mr M would approve. “You may.”
He told me that I was in hospital - I’d sort of managed to work that one out too. He even told me the name and I recognised it as being the posh private place, not all that far from where my mum lived. That probably explained why it was so much less… well… shabby than any of the public hospitals I’d ever been in before.
“How are you feeling?” he asked
“I’m a bit… like… well… fuzzy,” I tried to explain.
He sort of laughed at that. “That’s the drugs we’ve got you on…” he explained… “but we’re going to cut them back now so that the pain will remind you to keep your leg still.”
“That sounds like all kinds of fun!”
He laughed at that too.
At least I was brightening up somebody’s day.
“Let us know if it gets too much for you.”
“Now,” he went on, “I have a question for you. “Some time between four and six this morning, this charming gentleman…”
“Mr Orange,” I told him helpfully.
“Mr Orange and this jacket…” he showed me my jacket which was hanging on a hanger in the cupboard, “magically appeared in your room. Now we have no problem with people leaving presents for our guests… but we would like to think we could keep tabs on who was coming and going in our hospital… particularly at night! I don’t suppose you’d care to shed any light on this?”
I had to have a little think about that. I mean… Ro would have just given a snarky, ‘No,’ but this man was being nice to me and I guess he sort of deserved the truth. “I think I can probably guess who’s behind it,” I explained. “But I’m pretty sure that they don’t want you to know who they are so I don’t think I should tell you.”
“I rather suspected that might be the case,” he replied. At least he didn’t seem to be getting all grumpy about it. The whole telling the truth thing seemed to be working.
“Incidentally, there is a copy of “Anne of Green Gables” in one pocket - and there was a significant amount of cash in the other… which is now in our safe and will be restored to you when you’re ready to leave.”
“Thank you,” I said. I was quiet for a bit then, because he was being so nice to me, I added, “When I see them again, I’ll ask the person responsible to let you know how they did it.”
“Thank you! That would be appreciated. One more thing then I’ll let you rest.” I guess he could see I was getting all kind of fuzzy again. “There are various representatives of social services who are quite excited by your reappearance and would like to find out where you’ve been for the last six months…”
That vaguely surprised me… in a fuzzy sort of a way… I mean, they hadn’t really been all that bothered when I’d been living with my mother… and they must have known that she was not any kind of fit guardian…
So what did they want with me now?
And he must have noticed my reaction because he gave me a smile. “I’ll be able to keep them at bay for another day or so,” he promised. He said something else about a nurse but by then I was pretty much out of it.
He did manage to keep the social workers ‘at bay’ for a couple of days but then he warned me that he was going to have to let them ‘get their hands on me’.
So I wasn’t… like… totally surprised when this young woman put in an appearance. “Good morning,” she said. “You’re Rose Symonds?”
I gave her a bit of a nod. The poor thing looked totally stressed so there was no point in being nasty to her.
“How are you feeling?”
“Much better, thank you. The nurse has even promised that, if I’m a very good girl, I might even be allowed out of bed to use the toilet soon!”
She gave a… like… bit of a wince at that. “I’m Julie,” she said. “Can I call you Rose?”
I gave her a nod.
“I’ve been assigned your case,” she explained.
“I wasn’t aware that I was a case… or even that I needed one,” I replied… but I did give her a little smile to let her know I wasn’t being nasty. “Would you like to sit down?”
She gave me a bit of a smile back and got this sort of clipboard thing out.
“You disappeared for six months and that got people quite worried,” she explained.
“I didn’t think anyone would really care. In fact I didn’t really think anyone would notice.”
“The college reported your absence and your mother…” she paused for a bit as she tried to work out how to say it delicately… “your mother couldn’t properly explain it.”
“Let me guess. She was pissed out of her skull on a weekday morning?” I suggested.
“I wouldn’t quite put it like that.”
“Even though it’s true?”
She didn’t say anything but her eyes sort of agreed. There was this awkward little silence bit.
“So please would you tell me where you’ve been for the last six months?”
I‘d already sort of guessed that that question was coming so I had an answer ready. “I can’t tell you anything about it because it will just be put on records and files and things and could be used against people I care about.”
She thought about this then wrote something down on her pad.
“But you can’t just disappear like that, Rose. You’ve missed out on six months of education.”
And, even though I was basically trying to stay nice and friendly, I sort of had to explode with laughter at that. “I’ve enjoyed more education in the last six months than I did in the previous six years,” I told her, sort of deliberately doing the whole talking posh bit. “I now speak French and German competently… and my English is much improved, as you have doubtless observed! My maths is probably at second year university level and I am able to program in C++ under Unix… Oh, and I’ve learnt how to cook and bake!”
She gave me a look which told me that she was trying really hard to believe me.
And the rest of the interview basically proceeded along the same lines with her asking me pretty much the same question about four million times and me giving her pretty much the same answer.
At last we both got totally bored. “I can see that we’re not going to make any more progress today,” she said at last. “I’ll come in tomorrow to see if we can do any better.”
“We’re not going to… but I’m happy to have the company. It’s pretty boring in here.”
“I understand… I’ve been talking to the doctors but we can’t allow them to send you home for a while because of your… ‘domestic situation’.”
“My mother’s a borderline alcoholic and there’s nobody else to look after me,” I agreed.
She didn’t say the words but her eyes basically said yes.
“In the meantime, can I bring you anything?”
“A Spanish textbook would be nice.”
She had almost made it across to the door by the time she worked it out. “Hang on… I thought you said you were learning French and German.”
“I’m pretty much learnt out on those two - at least as far as I can get without proper teachers to help me with my pronunciation and so on. So I’m working on my Spanish now. I’m hoping to go to the Canary Islands at Christmas.”
She did return the next day… and for a couple of days after that. I mean… the interviews were a bit repetitive but she was friendly and it made a change from reading and re-reading ‘Anne of Green Gables’.
She even brought a Spanish textbook in with her - apparently Social Services have a thing going with a local school. It was much too easy for me but, after I’d shown her that I had worked my way through the entire thing in a single day, she brought me a better one the next time.
Did I tell you, I was… like… bored out of my skull?
But, by the end of about the fourth interview, I could tell she was starting to get… like… totally frustrated. “What’s the matter?” I asked, kind of sympathetically.
“Oh… I’m coming under a lot of pressure to get answers from you,” she told me.
“But why? I’m going to be eighteen in a couple of weeks time and, anyway, I’m sure you can tell that my ‘domestic arrangements’ for the last six months were much more ‘appropriate’ than those for the seventeen and a half years before that. And I’ve already made it completely clear that I’m not going to tell you anything and…”
I left one of my master’s pauses…
“And I find it difficult to believe that you haven’t got more important things to do than wasting your time with me.”
“Of course I have,” she snapped. “And because I have to deal with you, I’m having to push back on my other cases and, frankly, they need my attention much more than you do! But for some reason, this has gone all political and it’s become a priority for the department.”
I had to have a bit of a think about that. I mean… it didn’t seem to make any sense… but that probably meant I was… like… missing something. How could I possibly be this important?
But then I noticed just how guilty she was looking.
“Would you like me to pretend that I didn’t hear that last comment?” I asked.
She gave a tiny bit of a nod.
“And would it help if I refused to say another word to you?”
She gave this terribly guilty type look over her shoulder and then gave another of her tiny nods.
So I pretended to do up a zipper thing across my lips.
“In that case, Miss Symonds,” she said, “I will report the fact that you are refusing to cooperate and see how my head of department wants to proceed.” But she did give me this little smile as she left.