Carrie was exhausted by the time the last of the family members left the room that evening. They had all been excited to see her, and she had done her best to smile and show an interest and enthusiasm in all they told her. Her uncle Max had stood quietly watching her while the family had been there, but it was actually Brad who had called a halt to the visit and ushered them all out.
Before he left, Max bent over his niece and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Do you have pain, my angel? You must tell us if you have any discomfort at all. No need to suffer in silence!”
Tears welled in Carrie’s eyes, and she wailed, “I just hate being so weak. I stay tired all the time! I can’t even feed myself! I even have to rely on Nanny to bath Sarah and put her to bed! ”
Max frowned as Brad took her into his arms. “Carrie, you’re a nurse! You know how weak your patients are after surgery! You know how much they need to rest and recuperate. Well, now you are the patient! You must let us help you!”
“It won’t be forever, my love,” Brad said quietly. “Just until you’re well again. You don’t mind me helping you, do you?”
She sniffed. “You shouldn’t have to. I - I’m just being a nuisance, and you should be writing - or - or - something!” And she burst into a fresh bout of tears.
Brad drew her closer. “Oh Carrie! You know that’s just silly. You will never be a nuisance to me! You’re my whole world!”
“It seems to me,” Max said, “that you are worrying more about being ill than getting the rest you need. Do you want me to have to ask June to sedate you?”
Carrie sobbed into Brad’s shoulder and mumbled, “No, I’m sorry! I don’t know what’s wrong with me!”
“Well, I do!” said Max. “You’re exhausted. Everything you’ve been through has been a strain! You need to rest, sleep and concentrate on your recovery.” He patted her arm comfortingly. “We thought you’d be less stressed if you were at home. Were we wrong?”
She swallowed back fresh tears. “N-no. I - I want to be at home. I just - hate this, having to be helped even to go to the toilet!”
“It’s all right, sweetheart,” Brad said gently, laying her back against the pillows. “I’m here to help you. Please don’t cry, my love. Of course, you’re going to be weak. It was only a few days ago that you had major surgery.”
“I’m just tired,” she choked as he mopped at her face. “I’m sorry.”
Max sighed. “My goodness. Stop apologising!” He looked at Brad. “I’m going downstairs. You haven’t got any pain, have you?”
Brad shook his head. “No, I’m okay.” He smiled. “Please say goodnight to our guests for me. Is Nanny sending up hot chocolate?”
“I believe so.” He bent to give his niece another quick kiss. “Sleep well, my angel. I’ll see you in the morning.“.
A few moments after he had gone a tap on the door brought Nanny with their hot beverages. She did not stay more than a few minutes, leaving Brad to help Carrie drink. Afterwards he carried her to the bathroom and helped her brush her teeth. Then he settled her back in bed and went to shower himself.
He thought she was asleep when he padded back and slipped carefully into bed beside her, but she turned her head towards him and muttered, “I want to lie close to you, Brad. Please help me lie on my side!”
He felt her relax in his arms, and he kissed her goodnight, saying a silent prayer of thanks that he had his beloved wife back in his bed.
Sarah’s screaming woke them both just after midnight, and he shot out of bed, trying to ignore the sudden sharp pain that he felt in the small of his back. He grabbed his dressing gown, struggling into it as the screaming went on. As he yanked open the door to Sarah’s room, he glanced back at Carrie’s fearful face as she tried to sit up.
“I’ll get her. Stay where you are!” he commanded.
Sarah was sitting bolt upright in her bed and shaking her head from side to side as she cried, “No! Mommy, mommy, mommy don’t go!”
Tears were pouring down her little face as the screaming and crying continued, and Brad could see immediately that she wasn’t even fully awake. He gathered her into his arms as the bedroom door opened and Nanny rushed into the room. It was only then that he realised that Sarah’s pyjamas, and her bed, were sopping wet!
She sobbed against him as she woke and her little hands clung to him as if she’d never let go. And she repeated the same word, over and over as he held her.
“Mommy, mommy,” she sobbed,
He held the distraught child tightly, whispering to Nanny, “She’s wet the bed. God, she’s shaking like a leaf. I think it must have been a nightmare!”
“Brad! Brad, bring her to me!” Carrie called. Her voice was weak, yet anxious.
Nanny went to the open door and looked at Carrie. “It’s all right, my dear. I need to clean her up first and then I’ll bring her. Just relax. She’s fine!”
Sarah cried the whole time while Nanny was bathing her, and when she was in her clean pyjamas she sobbed into Brad’s chest, “Don’t let Mommy go, Daddy! I don’t want her to go!”
“Hey, hey, my sweet angel. Mommy isn’t going anywhere.” He held her against him. “Why would Mommy want to leave us? It was just a bad dream.”
He carried her through and slipped her into the bed beside Carrie and she curled up against her, clinging onto Carrie’s nightie and sobbing, “Don’t go, Mommy. Don’t leave us. I sorry, Mommy.”
Carrie frowned in confusion, but she managed to hold the child and speak gently until the sobbing died down.
“I wee in my bed, Mommy,” Sarah muttered, still clinging to her mother, still shaking and tearful. “I sorry.”
“It was an accident, sweetie,” Brad said softly, patting Sarah’s back. “Nanny’s changing your bed. Don’t cry anymore.”
“Don’t let Mommy go with Jesus, Daddy!” she said again, though quietly now. “I stay here, with Mommy and Daddy?”
Carrie met Brad’s eyes, a puzzled expression on her face. Brad compressed his lips and frowned. After a moment, he said, “I told you, your Mommy isn’t going anywhere, Sarah. You just had a bad dream.”
The child’s fingers curled around her mother’s nightie, and she yawned, and muttered something unintelligible.
Carrie kept her arm around her, whispering, “I’m here, my baby. Don’t be frightened. I won’t leave you and Daddy.”
When Nanny came through to tell them that she’d changed Sarah’s bed, the trembling had ceased, and the child was fast asleep again. Brad disentangled the little fist from Carrie’s sleepwear and carried her through to her own room and settled her in bed. By the time he came back, Nanny had explained to Carrie what she knew of the conversation that Sarah had heard in the Ladies Room at the church.
“It’s probably the reason for her bad dream,” she was saying. “She was very upset, but when Mark told her that you were coming home, she bucked up immediately.”
Carrie was glowering. “My poor baby! What an awful thing for her to hear!”
There were tears in her eyes and Brad said quickly, “I don’t think they knew she was there. I’m sure they wouldn’t have purposely upset a little child.” He gave a little sigh, and added, “I was furious myself, but, as Jessie so rightly pointed out, we all thought the worst! Even June couldn’t tell me when you’d regain consciousness, if at all.”
Nanny gave a little smile. “Sarah will be fine. She’s a happy little girl and this is the first time she’s ever had a nightmare, - or wet her bed! She probably won’t even remember it when she wakes up again. Don’t let it worry you.”
When Nanny had gone back to bed, Brad threw off his gown and slipped back in beside Carrie, taking her gently into his arms. “Nanny’s right, sweetheart. Sarah will be fine. Are you ok?”
She relaxed against him. “I’m fine. It’s so nice to be in your arms again. I just wish I could have helped more with Sarah. I feel so - so useless!”
“Now, don’t start that again!” Brad said sharply. “You won’t always be ill! You are far from being useless! What would I do without having you to help me when I’m in pain, or to calm me down when I lose my temper for some stupid reason? And those irresistible kisses.”
That made her smile. “You don’t lose your temper very often anymore. And my uncle helps you with the pain! And it’s your kisses that are irresistible!” She gave a contented sigh. “Just hold me, Brad. I never want to spend another night without you by my side.”
They slept again. With Carrie wrapped in Brad’s arms as she always slept.