The music was playing again. Her favourite! Pachelbel’s Canon in D. It was louder now, a piano version, but Carrie knew that it wasn’t Brad who was playing. He was still too far away. Or maybe she was too far away. She didn’t really know. She didn’t even know what was happening. Why couldn’t she wake up from this dream? Why couldn’t she move at all and where was she? There was so much fog and yet she was not cold. Neither was she frightened, merely confused. How could she be frightened when Brad was around? He would always protect her!
She could hear him speaking now above the sound of the music, that velvet voice she loved so much. He sounded sad, and was asking her to come to him. He was closer now but still she could not see him. The thick fog was keeping him from her.
Questions suddenly filled her head. What was this place? Why couldn’t she move or answer him? Where was she? Time seemed to have no meaning here and she didn’t know if she was awake or asleep. Were her eyes even open? She could definitely see the thick fog! Was she dreaming? Someone else was talking now, a voice she couldn’t recognise, a woman. She couldn’t hear what the woman said but Brad’s voice was distinct.
“Is she responding? Please tell me she’s responding!” He sounded anxious, and she longed to reach out to him, but her body would not obey her. What was happening to her?
Then there was another voice she knew well, her beloved Uncle Max. “There is some brain activity. Talk to her again, Brad.”
Brad’s voice was soft and gentle, but oh, so sad. And pleading too.
“Carrie? Sweetheart, come back to me. Please, my love. I need you. We all need you. Please, love. Open your eyes. Please darling, please!”
Why was he pleading? She hadn’t left him! It was just the fog! What brain activity was her uncle talking about? Her brain? Had something happened to her brain? But what? Was that why she couldn’t move, couldn’t feel anything? But she could hear! She could hear Brad’s voice. And the music! But it was not the version that Brad played for her so often on the piano.
And now she could hear her own heart! She could hear it beating! Thudding suddenly! Where was she?
The fog was clearing, but she still couldn’t see. Brad was speaking, the gentle words of love he used everyday, but she could not see him. And then she realised that she was lying flat on her back and her eyes were half-closed, and she forced them open, blinking in bright light. She heard herself whimper as Brad’s face came into focus, and she suddenly became aware of pain down her left side, at the same time as a loud beeping came from a machine somewhere.
Her Uncle Max was at her side in seconds. Brad pulled his hand away from hers and stepped back as the female doctor took his place beside the hospital bed. But Carrie didn’t take her eyes off her husband as the doctor bent over her with a stethoscope. Her pain was forgotten as she gazed at the man she loved with her whole heart. What had happened? He looked positively ill! He had tears in his eyes and looked as if he hadn’t washed or shaved for a week!
She tried to say something, but her voice would not work. Uncle Max was turning her head towards him and lifting her eyelids.
“So, my angel, you’re back with us? Dr. Langley here is going to do some tests and we’ll see if we can make you more comfortable. You just lie perfectly still, okay?”
She looked back at him blankly and blinked in confusion She could do nothing else but lie still! Why was she unable to move, or speak? Her eyes drifted back to Brad. What had happened to him? Why was he ill? And why was she so tired? She couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer. As they closed, she heard Brad gasp, and cry, “No, darling! Stay with us. Please!”
And that was the last she heard as she fell into sleep once again!
“She’s not slipping back, Brad,” Max told him, watching the monitor screen at his side. “Leave her. It’s natural sleep.”
Brad groaned, running shaking fingers through his hair. “I c-can’t lose her, Max. You know how much she means to me – to everyone. You c-can’t let her d-die. If I lose her…..”
The woman doctor straightened up. “No one is going to lose her, Brad. Go home, and let me do my job!”
“I’m not leaving her!”
“Brad, be sensible,” Max said gently. “You’ve been here for three nights! You’re not doing Carrie any good by hanging around here. And what about Sarah?”
“Sarah is with Edmund and Irene,” Brad said stubbornly. “She knows her Mommy is ill.”
Max looked at Brad with narrowed eyes, and growled, “Have you seen what you look like? Go home, shave and shower – and get some food. And some sleep. We’ll call you if there’s a change.”
“I’m not leaving her!” he repeated stubbornly, just as his brother Mark pushed open the door and entered the private ward.
“Oh, yes, you are!” Mark said firmly. “I’m banning you from the clinic until you’ve cleaned yourself up, – eaten a decent meal and slept for at least four hours!”
“You can’t do that!”
“Oh, yes I can! This place is now in my name – remember? I’m the boss here!” He smiled a little, adding gently, “Come on, Brad. She’s in good hands! Dr. Langley is one of the best neuro-surgeons in the country. And you are just in the way here! Carrie is not going to recover any quicker if you stay here. And, quite frankly, you could use a bath, and some deodorant, and toothpaste!”
For a moment Brad was silent, taking in the truth of what Mark had said. He sighed heavily, and shrugged. “I know. Vicki brought over a bag for me but – I – I didn’t even look inside it. I must look a wreck and smell like a sewer. Sorry.”
He looked at his wife, lying so still in the clinic’s bed, her head swathed in bandages. “I can’t lose her,” he muttered. But he forced himself to turn his eyes away, and groaned as if he was in pain.
“You okay?” Max asked.
He shrugged again, but nodded. “Is she in pain?”
Dr. Langley frowned. “Not at the moment. She’s asleep. We’ll keep our eyes on her, Brad, and I promise we’ll call you if there’s any change. Go home!”
His steps were very slow as he trundled back along the paved pathway to the mansion, and he was lost in anxious thoughts. He almost missed his footing at one point and jarred his back, bringing him painfully back to reality as he swore out loud. Standing still for a moment with his eyes closed until the spasm passed, he didn’t see Ian until the young man put his hand on his arm.
“Brad? You okay? Can I give you a hand? You look dreadful.”
Brad stared at his younger brother as if he didn’t know him, blinked as he pulled himself out of his reverie.
“Apparently I need a bath!” he growled. “Mark’s laying down the law and said I have to come home!”
Ian grinned. “I know. He just phoned and told me to make sure you got back okay! Gosh, you smell really bad! Didn’t you wash while you were at the clinic? They do have bathrooms, y’know!”
Brad glared at him. “I didn’t want to leave Carrie. I wanted to be with her if she woke up.”
He lapsed into silence as they walked on towards the mansion. At the steps leading to the double doors of the entrance hall he turned to Ian and the scowl on his face was replaced with a look of trepidation.
“Maybe you’d better tell everyone to keep away from me! I need a shower desperately. I must look like a tramp! I certainly feel like one!” He sighed, adding, “In any case, I don’t think I can face anybody right now. I’d rather be alone.”
Ian frowned. “Mark said you had to eat! It’s only an hour to lunch and Nanny won’t let you miss it! You can shower and shave first, but we don’t need you getting ill too! That won’t help Carrie at all!” He patted Brad’s arm encouragingly. “They know what they’re doing, Brad. She’s in the best place possible.”
Brad swallowed, and bit his lip. But he didn’t argue. Inside the entrance hall he kept his head low as he headed up the stairs, ignoring the worried faces of the fourteen-year-old twins who came through from the music room. Neither of them spoke. They merely gazed after this man who had raised them since babyhood, their eldest brother who had always been their hero.
Ian shook his head and shrugged. “He’ll be okay!” he told them. “Mark said he needs to eat and sleep. If he doesn’t come down for lunch, I’ll go up and get him.”
“No one can make Brad do anything he doesn’t want to do,” Jamie said quietly. “Is he ok? He looks terrible!”
His twin, Kyle, added, “Vicki sent clean clothes to him at the clinic on Thursday, but he hasn’t even changed. That’s not like Brad!”
“We need to just give him space at present,” Ian told them. “His love for Carrie outweighs everything else!”
“Is she going to die?” Kyle asked.
Ian sighed, shaking his head. “I don’t know! Hopefully not! Mark said she’d opened her eyes, but they’re not sure whether she recognised them. Brad’s insisted they keep her favourite music playing, but she didn’t respond at all until a short while ago. But Dr. Max says her brain is active. They’re monitoring her constantly.”
He glanced around. “This place is like a morgue. You two need to get out after lunch. Go riding or something! Brad doesn’t like you hanging about inside when the weather is so good!”
“He’s not interested in us right now,” Jamie said with a little frown. “I don’t think he even cares about Sarah!”
Their brother scowled. “You know that’s not true! Sarah is safe with her grandfather and Irene. Brad just has Carrie on his mind, and must be going through hell at the moment! But that doesn’t mean he’s not interested. You’d better not let him hear you say that!”
The boy swallowed and hung his head, but he muttered, “He must be in pain too! Sorry. I didn’t mean to say that he doesn’t care. Of course, he does!”
“You both need to get outside. There’s a fete at the park. Go and see if some of your friends are there, or go to the stables – or the lake.”
“Jessie’s gone to the fete with Chris,” Kyle replied. “They’re getting lunch there. We said we’d join them afterwards. The quad bike races start at two-thirty.”
“That’s good. Try to have some fun. Being miserable is not going to help either Carrie or Brad.”
Nanny came through from the direction of the kitchens, looking questioningly at Ian. “Is he back?”
Ian gave a quick nod. “Yes. Looks shocking! No wonder Mark asked me to check on him. He’s gone up to shower, and use some hygiene soap and deodorant hopefully. He stinks!”
She raised eyes heavenward and shook her head. “No need to be so blunt! Max phoned. He’s coming home for lunch, to check on him, I think. And to see that he eats and sleeps.” She smiled at the twins. “You boys can go and get yourselves washed up for lunch, if you like. Should be about another forty minutes.”
She waited until the boys had gone, then she said, “Max said Carrie keeps slipping in and out of consciousness. They’re running more tests. Only when they have the results, will Brad be allowed back at the clinic. Max wants to sedate him again, if he can. That’s going to be almost impossible!”
“Does Dr. Max think Carrie’s going to recover?” The question was asked with apprehension and Ian took a deep breath as he waited for Nanny to answer.
It was a long time before she did, and she seemed to be choosing her words with care. “He isn’t her physician, you know that! Obviously, he’s hopeful, as we all are. Dr. Langley did her best, but the damage was extensive and they won’t know anything until she’s fully awake. But she’s alive, that’s what counts!”
Ian bit his lip. “I suppose so. Let’s hope she stays that way! If Carrie dies, I think Brad will go crazy! She’s his life!”
“She’s certainly been a big part of it for the last few years! He’s never been so happy, even with his pain! I think he’d give his own life for her if he could!”
“He proved that when he took bullets for her,” Ian replied with a little shrug. “Seems so long ago now! God, I hope she makes it! She’s such a lovely person. We all love her to bits!” He sighed. “Anyway, Nanny, I left my mobile phone in the stables when Mark called, so I’m going back there now to fetch it. I’ll be back in time for lunch. If Brad doesn’t come down, I’ll go and get him!”