For a three-year-old, Sarah was acutely observant and knew immediately that her father wasn’t able to respond to her intended hug, so she came to an abrupt halt in front of his chair.
“Daddy got ouchie?“. She looked from Brad’s pure white face to the doctor. “Daddy sore, Grandpa?”
Max smiled at her. “Not for much longer, sweetheart. Did you have a good nap?” He winked at Nanny as she took Sarah’s arm, drawing the child away until Brad could force himself to breathe normally.
Carrie was trying to sit up, and Max helped her, placing the cushion behind her to keep her upright. She gave Sarah a hug and kissed her, but it was obvious that she was worried about Brad, even though she was confused about his sudden pain.
“You scared, Mommy?” Sarah asked innocently. “You cry?”
Carrie tried to smile at her. “No, darling. I was - sleeping.” But she could feel her heart hammering and the hazy recollection of her dream made her hold the child against her as she met Brad’s eyes.
He was still very pale, and there was a strange look in his eyes as he gazed at her, but he no longer seemed in excruciating pain.
Nanny looked from Brad to Carrie, noting Brad’s pale face, then she said cheerfully, “I’m going to make some cookies and wonder if Sarah would like to help me?”
The child squealed. “Ooh, yes Nanny! Can I, Mommy? Daddy?”
“You may,” Brad replied, smiling as brightly as he could manage. “But come and give me a hug first.”
As she complied, he gave Nanny a grateful smile and mouthed, “Thank you,” over the child’s head.
Sarah went off happily with Nanny, and Max helped Brad to his feet and watched him walk, before he said, “Okay. I’m going to fetch my bag and give you an injection before the others get home. Are you ok, Carrie?”
She swallowed. "I think so. I - I was - dreaming.”
“We know. Must have been pretty horrific. You even pushed your husband away. Who the hell did you think he was?”
Carrie bit her lip, her expression changing from confusion to dismay as she looked at Brad. “That was you that I pushed? Oh, Brad! I’m so sorry!”
He sat down next to her on the couch, and put his arm around her. “I know, love. It’s all right! Just relax. Want to tell me about your dream?”
She shuddered. “I can’t recall all of it. A man - I didn’t even see his face - he - he was - hurting me!”
Brad raised his eyebrows. “So - it could have been me! If you didn’t see his face - it could have been me!”
“It wasn’t you!” Her voice was adamant. “You never hurt me. And I know it wasn’t you!”
“But you know who it was, don’t you?” Max said quietly. “Carrie, the only time you’ve ever had nightmares like that, it was always your rapist! You’ve never forgotten what Frank Grantham did to you, and you probably never will.”
She lowered her eyes, swallowing back tears. “Just like I’ll probably never remember this accident. What’s happening to me, Uncle Max? I - think my brain is - damaged!”
Brad gave a gurgle of laughter. “Oh, my darling wife! When I said that a couple of years ago you told me I was just being silly! There is nothing wrong with your brain either!!”
“Your brain is not damaged, my angel girl,” Max said. “Dreams are just dreams. I can get June to prescribe something to help you relax, if you need it.”
“I’m fine, Uncle Max, thank you,” she muttered, leaning against Brad as he tightened his arm around her. “I know I’m always safe in my handsome husband’s arms.”
Max went off to fetch his medical bag, and he had just finished giving Brad the injection between the vertebrae in his spine when they heard the commotion in the entrance hall, announcing the arrival home of some of the family.
Ian was the first to enter the music room, and it was obvious by the dark expression that the usually jovial young man was disgruntled, even angry. But he greeted Brad and the doctor politely and asked Carrie how she was feeling.
“I’m fine, thanks,” she replied casually, adding, “But you look as if you’ve had a bad day?”
He grunted. “Huh! You could say that! I’ll probably be suspended for assaulting one of the parents!”
Brad gasped. “What? What the hell did you do? And why?”
Max sat on the arm of the couch while Ian sprawled in an armchair, sighing heavily. The young man passed a hand through his hair.
“I didn’t think! I just acted,” he groaned.
“So, what happened?” Max asked. “Must’ve been something awful if it was enough to get you riled up!”
“The kids were helping me tidy up the hall just after the bell rang..." Ian said miserably, "....rolling up the gym mats and stacking the benches. It was voluntary.” He sighed again. “I guess we were taking too long! One of the father’s came through to fetch his son, and his language was - rather vulgar! These kids are eleven years old and don’t need to hear that type of profanity! I asked him not to swear like that, and he told me to go to hell. I - made a crack about him getting out of bed on the wrong side - and he must have taken it up the wrong way because he took a swing at me. I didn’t think! I put him on the floor in a second!”
“You punched him?” Brad’s eyes were wide with alarm.
“No!” Ian replied. “You know I have a black belt in karate. It was a natural reaction. I - I think I embarrassed him in front of the kids. Some of them laughed! Anyway, he grabbed his son and left the hall, - but not before telling me he was going to lay a charge of assault!”
Brad frowned. “But he attempted to hit you! You were defending yourself!”
Ian shrugged. “True. But he’s a parent! I should have handled it differently! Mr. Phillips will probably hit the roof when he hears about it!”
"Hmph," Max said, adding, “If he was a good parent he should know not to swear in front of the kids. And it sounds like he embarrassed himself! I wouldn’t let it worry you.”
“I’m not worried! Just a bit fed up! The school has a good reputation. I don’t want to bring it into disrepute.”
“Technically, it’s my school!” Brad said, surprisingly. They looked at him quickly, and he grinned. “Well, the building is mine, it’s on my property! And I’m the head of the governing body! No one would dare accuse my brother of assault!”
“I’m a grown-up, you know,” Ian said with a quick grin. “You taught us to fight our own battles!”
“I also taught you to set an example to everyone! In my opinion, you did that! When Grant Phillips hears what happened, he’ll be proud of you. He hates bad language as much as I do!”
“Technically,” Ian countered, “I did assault the guy! The rules say, No Fighting.” Another grin. “Ok, it wasn’t much of a fight. My reaction was just impulsive, but he was pretty furious with me for showing him up.”
“Well, I can assure you, you will not be suspended.” Brad said firmly. “In any case, I think there’d be a riot if the kids lost their favourite teacher.”
Ian laughed. “I’m far from their favourite! I think Luke took over that title. He’s certainly a favourite with Mr. Phillips too! Besides, I’m only there for sport and a temporary substitute when other teachers aren’t available.”
“You’re an all-rounder and can teach any subject!” Brad said. “They won’t want to lose you. And you know the kids love you, so don’t disparage your talent.”
“I don’t! Learning has to be fun! So I make it fun!” He laughed again, and all sign of tension and anger was gone. “Now, when they saw how easily I put that guy down, a couple of the kids, even girls, are interested in martial arts, - well, - self-defence. I wonder what Mr. Phillips would say if I incorporated that into the gym classes! Although, he’s given me full reign in the gym, and I’m the only male sports teacher they have now.”
“Then you definitely won’t be suspended,” Max chuckled. “They need you!”
It was after tea-time that the nurses from the clinic came in. Brad went with them to the bedroom and they were still busy removing the dressings on Carrie’s head when June arrived. She examined the wounds meticulously and smiled her satisfaction.
“You heal quickly. No sign of infection. And I even think your hair is growing. I’m amazed at how fast you’re recovering!”
Carrie smiled faintly. “My hair does grow quickly. But it looks awful! I’ll need a wig when the bandages come off permanently! And I’m still so weak! But I was strong enough to push my husband away when I had a bad dream. I hurt him!”
Brad immediately repudiated that statement. “You didn’t! I hurt myself when I twisted! I should know better!”
That made her smile again. “Oh, Brad! Does it hurt your ego to think that I could have pushed you? You wouldn’t have jarred your back if I hadn’t!”
He grinned. “Male pride! I should know better than that too!” He quickly changed the subject, addressing June. “So, you’re happy with Carrie’s progress?”
“Very,” she replied. “In a few more days those bandages can be removed permanently.”
“Will I be able to go out?” Carrie asked. “I - I want to see my car! Maybe that will jog my memory!”
Brad drew in his breath sharply, but it was June who replied. “I don’t think seeing the car will help you remember, Carrie. And quite honestly, it may just upset you. If you feel up to going out, I suggest you stick to the grounds, or maybe around the estate until you’re fully recovered.”
“I’ll take you to the lake,“” Brad said. “Or we can take Sarah to the park. We can take the wheelchair, and I’ll even take you shopping.” He pulled a face. “If you really want to subject me to that!”
She gave a short laugh, knowing how much he hated shopping. “I don’t think I want to be pushed around the shops in a wheelchair!” A pause, then, “Maybe a drive to the lake, or around the estate.”
“Yes,” June agreed. “Short drives might even be good for you. So long as you get enough rest too!” She nodded to the nurses indicating that they could start the re-dressing.
Brad watched, saying nothing until the nurses had finished and left the room, then he smiled at Carrie. “Do you want to rest before dinner?”
“I don’t want to stay up here.” Carrie replied petulantly. “Sarah will think I’m ill! I need to play with her.”
“Sarah has gone to the stables with the twins,” Brad said, then added quickly. “One of the groom’s cat had kittens I believe.”
It wasn’t really a lie. The kittens were already two weeks old, but it was better for Carrie to think that Sarah had gone to see them than for her to know that Ian was teaching the child to ride. The only time Carrie went near the stables was when Brad was with her, and she had never been persuaded to mount
But Carrie’s lips twitched as she tried not to smile. “Ian already told me that he gave Sarah a pony, and that he takes her to practise riding everyday!”
Brad’s eyes widened, and he inhaled deeply. “Big mouth Ian! And you don’t mind?”
She shrugged. “I trust Ian. And - and Sarah is apparently learning well! I don’t want to pass on my fear of horses to her! Her mother rode.”
"You are her mother!” Brad said emphatically.
“You’re afraid of horses, Carrie?” June asked, surprised.
“Let’s just say I’m not comfortable around them,” Carrie replied with a faint smile. “They’re big!”
“So are cars,” Brad put in quietly.
She turned her head towards him and countered, “You’ve never fallen out of your car, but you’ve fallen off horses many times! ”
June’s eyes widened in shock. “You ride?” she asked Brad. “With your spine in that condition?”
Brad chuckled. “If I let my spine stop me from living my life I may as well have just stayed in the wheelchair!