It smells medicinal. That unlikeable smell of visiting the hospital. Nobody likes it. How can they? It’s a reminder of a bad time. A time of sickness. Olivia runs to the front desk and is met by a middle-aged woman with curly brown hair and pointy glasses that she wears on beads. She reminds Olivia of the villain in a cartoon she used to watch when she was younger about students at play time. The villain was often misunderstood and was actually quite the sweetheart. These random memories are flitting up in Olivia’s mind and she’s not all that certain why. The lady takes off her glasses and looks up at Olivia expectantly. Olivia realises that she doesn’t immediately know why she is here. Even though Olivia’s whole world has come to an alarming halt she has to remind herself that the whole world doesn’t know that. “My erm, my mother was brought in.”
“What’s her name?”
“Olivia Monroe – err – no, that’s my name. Sorry.” She takes deep a steadying breath. “Claudia Monroe, her name is Claudia Monroe.” The lady types something into the computer and looks up at her.
“You’re her daughter yes?”
“Yes, Olivia Monroe, that’s my name.” The lady smiles warmly.
“Olivia Monroe, I caught that before. Lovely name. Give me one second, okay?” She turns around and starts consulting with a colleague behind a glass screen. She really is lovely, like the character from that show. After a moment of mumbles and side glances from her colleagues, something that made Olivia feel very uneasy, the lady returns to the desk. “If you just take a seat to the side, someone will be right with you to show you through.” Olivia thanks her and sits down. Nick and Emily sit beside her. Neither really knows what to say. The anxiety that Olivia was feeling is now at an all-time high. She has no control over what happens next. Once again, images flit in and out of her mind. Her mother covered in blood, a gravestone, a doctor telling her she’ll never walk again, a surgeon explaining the process of removing foreign objects and how they’re going to stop internal bleeding. She shudders and Emily reaches out and holds her hand. The grasp is firm and comforting. She smiles gratefully to her friend, grateful for her presence. A young man steps out of a door behind them. He is dressed in scrubs and carries a clipboard. “Olivia Monroe?” He asks them. They jump at the sudden noise, turn and look up at him. A phone rings in the distance and a few patients in the waiting room look around for the person who’s been called, irritated that it’s not them. Olivia feels the urge to point out that she’s not actually a patient and that they all need to chill. The nurse has a young face, with dark green eyes and sandy blonde hair. He smiles at them. “Hey, do you want me to take you to see your Mum?” He asks. A sense of reassurance comes over her. She can’t imagine he would be so cheerful if her mother was in some dire situation. It suddenly hits Olivia that they are in the hospital her mother works at. These people all know her. The side glances suddenly make sense. Nick puts his arm on her shoulder and the trio stand up, ready to go. Olivia holds his hand, gaining a curious look from the nurse. He extends an arm to show them where to walk, then he sets off, the group in tow.
They pass through a few corridors, by some lifts, through a hall of beds with curtains around them. They speed by many people, some nurses, some doctors, porters and a few visitors. Patients are wheeled around in chairs and hop along on crutches. One gentleman lies in his bed with a patch over his eye. The nurse turns back to chat to them. “I’m Lee, by the way. Your mother has told me lots about you. She’s a proud lady.” Olivia’s heart flutters. “She’s a good one, your mum.”
“How is she?” She asks, not recognizing the sound of her own voice. He looks back.
“Has no one told you?” Olivia feels sick.
“Has no one told me what?” She asks. He stops them in the corridor.
“Well that really is a joke. They were supposed to tell you the whole story so that you’d know what to expect.” Nick holds out a hand to stop him.
“She’s going to throw up on your shoes if you don’t tell her how her mother is. We know there was a break in, we know she’s been hurt, we just don’t know how badly.” The nurse looks a little taken aback. Nick had maybe snapped a little, but it’s only to be expected when you consider the situation. Lee composes himself. “Oh, but she’s fine. She’s a little bruised is all. The only reason we’re keeping her in is to make sure she’s not in shock and because we know her. She’s dear to us all.” Olivia laughs. Lee looks at her like she’s crazy, but the truth is, she’s never felt relief like it. “Oh my God, I love you.” She giggles. “Please, take me to my Mum. I really just need to see her.” She almost cries. He laughs, realising that he’s lifted a dread off her shoulders, and they start walking again. They round a few more corners and finally hit a crossroads. A desk sits in the middle of an open area and various rooms are dotted along the four corridors. There are a few police officers around. Lee talks to the receptionist at this desk, for a moment and then is pointed to the first door on her left. He points her to where her mother is. Olivia practically runs and as she does, passes a police officer talking to a tall, muscular man with beautiful dark skin. He turns to watch her as she heads to Claudia’s room. Olivia sees that he has a freshly stitched wound on his cheek and cuts along his knuckles. The tell-tale sign of a fight. Olivia opens the door and is faced with her dear Mother.
Claudia sits up on the bed in a hospital robe and slippers. Her face lights up when her daughter enters the room. “Olivia, baby! Come here!” Olivia jumps on the bed, straddling her mother and pulls her into the tightest hug she has ever given anyone in her life. She clings to her head and smothers her face into her shoulder. Her mother returns the embrace, laughing. “Oh my god, I love you so much.” She gasps. Claudia is still laughing at her.
“I can’t breathe.” She says, her voice smothered by Olivia’s clothes. She leans back and falls to the side, so she is lay next to Claudia. “Mum.” Is all she can manage. Tears are streaming down her face. She tries to take in the injuries her mother has sustained. There is one bruise on her face, just under her eye. Claudia is, at the same time, taking in Olivia’s injuries. The bruises and cuts are knitted up nicely, but Claudia didn’t see them before and so she frowns at them. “Honey, what did you do to your face?” She reaches out and brushes the bruise gently. Olivia doesn’t want to lie anymore. She blurts out everything about Jack and Caroline and the attack. She tells her about the money and what Ian had done for her. About how they had gone to the lake house to allow her wounds chance to heal so that she wouldn’t worry about her and how Olivia is worried about money and how hard her mother has been working to support her. How she didn’t feel like she had a future and that the money was going to help with that. The problem is, once she’s started, she doesn’t stop. The whole truth comes out. About everything. How lost she has been feeling and how scared. How she always feels like she needs to have everything together and how now she knows she wants to pursue acting, but let’s face it, she’s just picked a career she knows may never happen. She then goes on to talk about the events at the lake. About how her and Nick had grown close and how she’d nearly drowned, how she had kissed Nick and how Emily had seen. She explained the fall out and about Lily and Thierry and the near miss with him kissing her. The story about how her and Emily had come to make up and of Loui. She explained who Isabelle was and divulged the secret of the book to film adaptation that she’s going to self-tape for. Then remembers that the sheets are in the printer back in Coniston. She finishes with the police coming to the door in the middle of the night and of the awful journey they had back with no information on her mother’s well-being.
When she is done, Olivia feels like she could do with a nap and Claudia looks like she could do with a shot of bourbon. “Wow.” Claudia says. “Wow.” She repeats. “Wow!” Olivia is concerned her mother may have a concussion. She sits up further in bed. “I don’t know what to say…it’s a lot to take in.” She considers her words. “Are you okay? Are you healthy? You’ve been through a lot.”
“Yeah, I’m fine, Mum. I promise I’m fine, now.” Claudia nods at this. Then she shakes her head. She looks like she might cry. “Olivia. I’m your mother. I’m supposed to take care of you. I don’t want you to feel like you have to keep things from me because you’re worried, I can’t handle it. It makes me sick that my baby girl was beaten up like that and then felt like she had to run away and hide her face from me…I can’t believe you felt that way. What am I doing wrong to make you think that you needed to do that?” She cries. Olivia holds her again.
“Mum don’t cry. It’s not you. You’ve done nothing wrong. It’s me, I’m all messed up. I make bad decisions. Please don’t get upset, I promise I’m fine.” She pulls away and wipes her mums’ tears. It’s only when Claudia reaches out and wipes Olivia’s face that she realises she is crying too. Claudia looks her in the eyes and Olivia knows an important request is going to be made. “I want you to promise me, Olivia. No more secrets. No more. Promise me.” Olivia nods. “I promise.” She cries again. It’s like someone has just flicked a switch in her brain and the only way to deal with all these pent-up emotions is to bleed them from her tear ducts like expelling poison from a wound. “Doll, look at me.” Olivia looks up. “This feeling that you have, that you don’t know what you’re doing and this constant worry that you’ll get stuck in a job that you hate and – and that you’re floating? All those feelings, honey. Everyone feels them. You’re not alone. The truth is, nobody knows what they’re doing. We’re all just trying to figure it out. It’s scary, I know. There’s no manual, there’s no right or wrong. There’s just trial and error. Keep trying and you’ll figure it out eventually. If you don’t, you know, that’s okay too. You get a job that’s not totally awful and you save your money, then you travel the world. That can be your life. Who knows?” Olivia nods her head. “And you know? If you want to be an actress…then that’s who you’ll be. Work hard at it. Nag people, bang on doors, make short films and take classes. Don’t take no for an answer. It’s not an easy industry to break into, but lord knows if anyone can do it, you can.” Olivia leans into her mother’s shoulder.
“Thanks mum.” She whispers. Claudia pokes her chest.
“Now tell me more about this Nick…how old is he again?” She asks pointedly. Olivia bites her lip.
“Twenty-nine.” She mumbles. Claudia tuts.
“God, you’re just like me. I was after the older guy, too, when I was your age. You know there was a thirteen-year age gap between your father and I?”
“Eww, Mum, that’s gross.”
“What?!” She laughs. “I was twenty when I met him. It’s not like I was thirteen and he was twenty-six. It’s all legal.” Olivia squirms.
“I wish I’d known him.” Claudia lifts her daughters chin to look up at her.
“You do know him. He’s half you.” She smiles. Olivia had never seen it that way before. The door opens and the tall muscled man from outside comes in. “Can we help you?” Olivia asks, standing up off the bed. The man looks nervously at Claudia and Claudia laughs. “Clive, this is my daughter Olivia.” He looks at Olivia. “Olivia this is Clive. He’s my…well, he’s my boyfriend.”
“He’s your what?” She squeaks. “Of how long?”
“Two months.” Clive says in a terrifyingly deep voice. Olivia nearly hits her mother for not telling her. She can understand that Claudia may not have wanted to upset her but then she shouldn’t have given the truth speech. Hypocrite. “Interesting.” She says, raising her eyebrow at her sheepish mother. “Wait.” Olivia says. “Were you there when she was attacked?” Olivia asks. Clive nods. Claudia chimes in. “So, what happened is, Clive was sleeping, and I heard a noise downstairs. I went down and someone had broken the window by the door. The whole plane of glass was shattered. I turned around and someone punched me in the face, I screamed loud enough for Clive to hear me and he came running down the stairs. It was pitch black; the intruder had smashed the lights. Clive just jumped out and brawled with her, took a few hits to the face and eventually he lamped her one and she hit the deck. We called the police and they brought an ambulance and then we were all brought here…honey, she had a knife. Clive saved my life.” Olivia steps back. She didn’t realise how bad it had been, she’d been so focused on telling her mum the truth that she hadn’t stopped to ask what had happened, once she’d seen her mother was safe. She looks at Clive. “You…saved my mums life?” She asks. The bruises make sense now, and the cuts to his fist. He nods. “I guess.” He answers. Olivia runs at him and throws her arms around his enormous shoulders. “Thank you.” She breathes. His arms stick by his side and then he slowly hugs her back. She can imagine him looking, anxiously at Claudia and then imagines Claudia nodding for him to accept the hug. When she lets him go, Claudia is smiling from ear to ear. Olivia guesses that this wasn’t the meeting she thought would happen. “Wait.” Olivia holds up a hand. “She? The intruder was a she? Who is she?” Relief is overcome with stress. She needs to know the person who did this to her mother. Claudia shrugs her shoulders. “We don’t know yet. The police either don’t know or aren’t allowed to tell us right now.”
“All we know, is that she has some kind of mental illness. The police don’t think it was a targeted robbery. She was probably having a violent episode.” Clive explains.
“Do you remember what she looked like?” Olivia asks. Her heart in her throat. Claudia shakes her head. “It was all a blur to be honest. I haven’t seen her since the ambulance picked her up. I just remember how she smelt. Strong perfume. Some women just wear too much of it.” Olivia thinks she might pass out. Clive adds to the crisis.
“Bleached blonde hair. She was definitely blonde. I ragged her around by her ponytail, I remember that.” He says, a little proudly. Olivia likes him and wants every gory detail of how he saved her mother’s life, but right now all Olivia sees is red. “Is she here?” She asks, shaking.
“Olivia, it’s okay, she can’t get to me. The police will handle it.”
“Is she here?” She repeats.
“Yes, she’s in the room where the police are stood.” Olivia storms past Clive and into the hall. Her eyes dart around in search of the prey. She doesn’t even see Nick and Emily who are walking over to see how her mother is. She doesn’t see the receptionist standing and beckon over a police officer when she takes in Olivia’s wild and aggressive stance. She just sees a single police office standing in front of a hospital room door. She storms over. The police office holds out his arm to stop her and she starts pushing and screaming trying to get to the bitch she knows sits behind that door. Her thought process is for the umpteenth time today, in disarray. It varies from wanting to kill the person she knows is behind the attack on her mother and an overwhelming sense of guilt that it may be her fault. She can’t understand how she knew where Olivia lived. Had she stalked her? Had she had her followed. Rich people do things like that. At this moment in time, whatever Clive had done to her, it isn’t enough. Olivia is ready to claw this woman apart with the strength that is being forced through her veins by adrenaline and pure unadulterated rage. She’s never felt anger like it. The people she loves are trying to hold her back. Nick grabs her arms and Emily stands, terrified to the right, calling out her name. She doesn’t hear it. A group of people start coming over to help, Clive and Claudia have come out into the hallway now to see what’s going on. Olivia can vaguely hear her mother calling her name. She blocks it out and bucks against the people holding her. She reaches out with her foot and kicks out past the police guard on to the handle. The door behind him swings open and there she is. Sat in the hospital bed with a look of pure, calculated callous on her face, along with a thick black eye, a chunky lip and a gash in her cheek. The bitch from her nightmares and the woman she has come to hate from their one, unpleasant and violent encounter…Caroline.