Diminished Faith #Conway Saga 4

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Chapter 21

Carrie was still held tightly in his arms when he woke the next morning. He did not want to move in case she woke and he would find that it had been a dream and she was still as angry with him as ever. But he needed the bathroom.

She was lying with her head on his chest and one of her arms was almost around his neck. He lifted it as gently as he could, and she stirred, moving her head back to the pillow, but he didn’t think she’d woken. As he rolled away from her, she muttered something in her sleep that he couldn’t make out, and he lay quite still for a few seconds. But she didn't wake. He slipped smoothly out of bed, grabbing his dressing gown as he padded through to the bathroom.

As he washed and shaved, he left the bathroom door open, listening in case she woke, but when he was finished, she was still in the same position that he had left her. He dressed quickly, aware of a fast-approaching headache which was usually a sign of low blood sugar, and he tried to remember when he had eaten last.

There was an unopened packet of chocolate digestive biscuits in the drawer, put there a few days ago at Max’s insistence, and he took one out now and sat down on the bed, nibbling it slowly. He cursed his stupidity for not eating dinner the previous evening! Another thing for his wife to be angry about! Yet, she hadn’t berated him for it this time. She hadn’t even rebuked him for driving off in his humiliation. It was so like Carrie to forgive his petulant moods so quickly!

He had eaten a second biscuit, and swallowed two headache pills before Carrie stretched and opened her eyes. She blinked up at him, muttered a ‘good morning’, and pulled herself up into a sitting position before he had time to help her.

“You’re dressed already! Did I oversleep?” she asked.

Brad leaned forward to kiss her. “Good morning, sweetheart. No, it’s not even quarter-past six yet.” He searched her face. “We - are ok, aren’t we? I mean - you forgive me for being so stupid yesterday?”

Her eyes widened, and her lips twitched. “I don’t know. Do you think I should?”

He smiled. “I’ll grovel, if you like?”

“You already did!” she said. “Groveling doesn’t suit you! Aren’t you supposed to be the boss around here?” Her hand went to his cheek and she stroked it gently. “Is it Wednesday? I seem to have lost track of the days.”

“It’s Wednesday,” he confirmed. A pause, then, “I can’t believe you’re sitting up looking so adorably healthy when it was only a week ago that I thought I’d lost you.”

Carrie laughed softly. “Yet you have no problem believing that you can walk, run, even ride your horse, with a smashed-up spine? Really Brad!”

He leaned in, and kissed her again, and held her against him for a moment, giving a contented sigh. “I’ll make it up to you, Carrie. I promise! I’ll try not to be so pig-headed in future. I know I’ve said that before, but... I’m so sorry, my darling.”

She raised her chin and kissed his cheek briefly. “I know. And I’m sorry for all those horrible names I called you. I over-reacted. Now let’s just forget it, and help me out of bed, please. I need to use the toilet!“′

After her bath, Carrie asked Brad to help her into track suit pants and a T-shirt instead of her pyjamas. “I want to get dressed, Brad!” she said quietly. “I’ll stay in the wheelchair, and I’ll rely on you to help me, but I’m not ill! I need to feel - normal again."

There was a slight faltering as he helped her into the track suit pants, then he uttered with a grin, “I suppose it’s just as easy to dress you, as it is to undress you.”

She dimpled, but said softly, “Well, you’re getting in plenty of practise right now. Quite the expert with women’s clothing!”

He grinned again, allowing her to fasten her lacy bra herself. He cupped her breasts gently for a second before he very carefully pulled the T-shirt over the bandages on her head. He sighed wistfully. “You’re so beautiful. You don’t know how much I wish I could make love to you, my darling!”

The smile she gave him was flirtatious, and she teased, “Why can’t you?”

He blinked in surprise, but said, “Your side is still badly bruised. I am not going to risk hurting you for the sake of my own selfish desire!”

“It’s not only your desire, Brad! And you wouldn't hurt me.”

He took a deep breath as he bent to kiss her lips, and at the same time they both heard the tap on the adjoining door, and Sarah’s excited little voice.

“Daddy! I come in?”

Carrie laughed, and Brad gave a resigned shrug, sighed and called, “Yes, Sarah, come in.”

The child fumbled with the door handle, then bounced into the room, still in her pyjamas.

“Mommy!” she squealed running to the wheelchair. “I play Lucien today.”

“Good morning to you too,” Brad said pointedly, and she grinned.

“Sorry. Good morning!” Then she jumped up and down excitedly. “Lucien come play!”

“After breakfast, baby.” Carrie told her, leaning forward to kiss her.

Brad reached for her, hugging her tightly until she giggled, and he teased, “Looks like my baby girl has a boyfriend already!”

She shrieked with laughter. “Uncle Ian my boyfriend, Daddy!”

Carrie suppressed a chuckle, meeting Brad’s eyes. “I wonder if he knows!” she whispered.

Nanny appeared in the doorway. “Good morning! We have a very excited little lady today! She’s been chattering about Lucien since she woke up.” She smiled at Carrie. “Feeling better, my dear? You certainly have some colour in your cheeks today.”

“Good morning, Nanny. I’m feeling much better, thank you. I don’t think I’ll need this wheelchair much longer. Still a bit weak when I stand, but Brad won’t let me walk alone, even to the toilet!”

“Not a chance,” Brad said with a smile. “Max will kill me if I let you fall! Or maybe June will! I’m not taking any chances until you’re completely recovered. I enjoy life too much to let it end that way!”

Nanny gave a mock scowl and said, “Hmm. So, you’re really more worried about yourself than your wife? I think not!”

“My daddy love my mommy!” Sarah piped up quickly, looking at each of them in turn.

They laughed. “Of course, I do,” Brad said, meeting Carrie’s eyes. “And she knows it too!”

Brad was aware of the uneasiness of his family when he pushed Carrie into the dining room at breakfast time that morning. He offered a polite ‘good morning’ and took his place at the head of the table.

“Sorry for my mood yesterday,” he muttered when he was seated.

Ian glared at him, and his voice was raised and scathing. “That’s it? Sorry! You storm off to God knows where, and don’t even consider that your wife - or any of us - would agonise over the possibility that you might injure yourself while you’re out sulking. Your wife had to apologise for your rudeness, apart from the fact that she’s not recovered from a serious accident, and still needs your help. And all you can say is sorry? It was downright discourteous, not to mention….”

“Ian!” Mark cut in sharply. “That’s enough! You’re also being rude now!”

The glare went from Brad to Mark, but Ian bit back a retort. Brad said nothing, but his face reddened, and he swallowed several times.

There was an uneasy silence, then Jessica, the peacemaker, gave a little sigh. “Well, now that’s over with, I think we should give thanks so that we can eat! Some of us have to go to school or work today!” She looked pointedly at Ian, and he scowled at her for a moment, then he gave a short laugh.

“Yes, Jess. Sorry everyone.” He looked at Brad. “I’m sorry. You don’t owe any of us an explanation - except maybe Carrie!”

Carrie spoke up quickly, smiling. “I’ve had my explanation! And I told you he wasn’t sulking! It was my fault!”

Brad took her hand, keeping his eyes on Ian, but he said fittingly, “I was probably sulking!” He smiled, adding, “But for your impertinence, you can say grace this morning!”

Ian sniggered, waited for them all to bow their heads, and said a very short prayer. When they raised their heads he winked at Sarah, and she looked across the table at him.

“You not shout at my daddy!” she scolded, pointing her finger at him.

Everyone laughed, and Ian made a sad face, and muttered, “I won’t do it again, I promise!”

“You tell him, Sarah!” Brad chuckled. “Only Mommy is allowed to shout at me.”

“I do not shout!” Carrie retorted, then she laughed. “Well, not normally. I believe I did raise my voice a trifle yesterday!”

Max guffawed. “A trifle? I haven’t seen you that angry for a long time! But I think you thoroughly chastised your doting husband. I didn’t know you knew so many lurid expressions!”

Carrie blushed. “Oh, Uncle Max! It wasn’t that bad.” She peeped at Brad, and whispered, “Was it?”

He squeezed her hand, and his eyes twinkled. “Well, I did think I was about to make an appearance in the divorce courts!” he joked.

There was another round of laughter, and Nanny said, “On the day that you two get a divorce, pigs really will fly!”

Breakfast was a more cheerful affair than Brad had expected, and afterwards he went to play the piano until the clinic nurses had finished with Carrie’s dressings. Nanny took Sarah to the kitchen area to wait for Grace to arrive with Lucien.

When Max arrived in the music room carrying his medical bag, Brad turned on the piano stool and scowled at him.

“I don’t have much pain at the moment,” he said. “And yes, Carrie told me I have to have a scan! So long as it doesn’t mean more surgery, I suppose I have to consent to it!”

“You don’t have an option!” Max stated firmly. “Unless you want a taste of my niece’s wrath again!” He smiled. “Jim just wants to check on these spasms you keep having. He seems to think they’re stress related - as I do. You said yourself that the spasms start when you’re tense or worried!”

“Or just plain tired!”

“You are sleeping ok, aren’t you? Anything bothering you right now?”

Brad was silent for a moment, then he flushed, lowering his eyes, and said quietly, “Only that Carrie seems to think we can - be intimate again!”

Max grinned. “I see. Lucky man! And you have a problem with that?“.

“I can’t Max!” Brad burst out in anguish.

There was a significant pause, before Max gave an amused chuckle, “I doubt that you mean what that sounded like! But there’s a little blue pill available if you really need help.”

Brad gasped. “No, you blethering idiot! I don’t mean ….” He suddenly saw the funny side, and laughed. “I don’t mean that I can’t! Carrie can arouse my passions at any time! It’s her bruises that worry me! Her whole side is still black and blue! I’d never forgive myself if I hurt her!”

“The bruises don’t seem to be causing her much discomfort! She’s just weak.”

“So, you don’t think I’d cause her any pain if I…”

“I think you’d cause her more pain if you let those bruises stop you from having sex with her!”

Brad scowled in distaste. ”Sex is what I had with Barbara many years ago. What I do with my wife is make love! There’s a huge difference!”

The doctor laughed. “I stand corrected. And I’m glad to hear it. So, go ahead. I’m sure Carrie will let you know if she has any discomfort.”

“Sorry Max. I realise I shouldn’t discuss this type of thing. But you did ask if anything’s bothering me.”

“I am a doctor, Brad. You’d be surprised at the intimate things my patients ask in my consulting room! It doesn’t phase me in the slightest! Now, is there anything else worrying you?”

“Nothing I can’t handle. Except for Carrie’s injuries, everyone’s fine. Even my daughter!”

“Sarah seems happy enough today, excited to have a playmate!” Max said. “And Carrie is getting stronger quicker than we expected. You’re not worrying about anything to do with your writing, are you?”

Brad hesitated. “Not really. I seem to have a mental block about that at the moment, but my agent agrees that I need to concentrate on my wife and family for a while. It’s just about finished anyway, just need to tie up loose ends. I - I do seem to be struggling with headaches a lot lately. I thought the one I had this morning was because I didn’t eat dinner last night. I ate breakfast and it’s eased a bit, but hasn’t gone.”

“Hmm. Any other symptoms? Sore throat, fever?” He pulled on a pair of surgical gloves.

“No, just the headache. It eases with the pills, and sometimes goes away, but only after a while. I’ve put it down to tension. This has been a rough week.” He swallowed. “And - and Carrie said I have to tell you that I sometimes feel a sort of throbbing, - here…” he indicated the place on the small of his back. “...a short while before the spasms start. Does that mean anything?”

Max frowned. “I’m not sure. Jim can only come through on Friday. He suggested we try twice daily injections. He may need to change the meds, but will need lab tests done first. The scan will show how him how to proceed.” He smiled suddenly. “So, this will be the first time I’m injecting you before you have much pain. Hope it keeps it away.”

“It hurts, you know,” Brad said quietly, watching Max fill the syringe. “Burns like hell for a couple of seconds. But usually I’m in such agony anyway that I can ignore that fire! Wonder how it’ll feel if I don’t have much pain first!

“Well, you’re about to find out. Hold still.”

The burning brought tears to Brad’s eyes, but he didn’t flinch or cry out, and when it was over, he took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

“You ok?” the doctor asked him, and he nodded.

“Yeah. Not as bad as I expected. Thanks Max.”

Max removed the gloves. “I presume you’ll let me know if you get any unusual pain? I’m actually very impressed that you told me that the injections hurt, and about the headaches! Carrie’s outburst seems to have done some good! You don’t always have to pretend to be invincible, you know.”

After a moment, Brad sighed. “I can’t be the miracle man, who has this understanding with Almighty God, one minute, and a weakling who’s doubled up in pain the next! People expect more from me than that! Carrie says it’s a pride thing, - and I think she’s right!”

“She is right! As a matter of fact, I was surprised that you allowed Ian to speak to you as he did at breakfast! Your family consider you to be the absolute ruler here and none of them dare criticize you, unless it’s in jest. But Ian was deadly serious!”

“And he was right! I should have had more concern for Carrie! And I was rude to our guests - well, to everyone!” He sighed again, but added lightly, “Sometimes I get really tired of this job of being the ruler here!”

Max laughed. “But you’d never give it up, would you? You’ve done a great job, Brad, and will continue to do so, - when you learn how to relax and take better care of yourself.”

That made Brad smile. “I have you to take care of me! And my wife won’t let me go crazy! Ian has always said I’m arrogant, but he still respects me, - I think. He and I actually get on very well together, and he’s very good with Sarah, considering that he detested Barbara! But he will never step too far out of line!”

June pushed Carrie through a short while later, smiling as Brad closed the lid of the piano. “You are such a talented man, - but I suppose you must be used to people telling you that!“′

He grinned and joked, “Not nearly enough!”

“Your wife was telling me that you were a child prodigy. Yet you took up writing as a career instead?”

Brad gave a short laugh. “At times like this I wonder what possessed me! Piano is easy! Writing is hard work!”

“Oh Brad,” Carrie said gently, smiling at him. “You know you love it! It’s just been a bad week and you’ve had to spend all your time with me. Your writing has had to take a back seat!”

“My writing will always take a back seat for you, my darling! As will everything else! You know you mean more to me than anything on this earth.”

Carrie’s eyes were shining as she gazed at him. “I know. I’m truly blessed!”

June smiled at her. “It’s certainly astounding the way you’re recovering! I can only think that this amazing love between you both is producing another miracle. God is clearly at work here.”

She left them together and went to the clinic, and Brad pushed Carrie out onto the patio so they could watch Sarah and Lucien playing on the garden swings. Sarah waved, and after a moment she came to the patio steps. Lucien held back, eyeing Brad apprehensively.

“He’s scared of me,” Brad whispered to Carrie.

“Because he doesn’t know you, that’s all,” she answered. She smiled at Sarah. “Are you having fun darling?”

“Nanny say we bake biscuits!” Sarah said, holding tightly to the rail as she came up the steps. She gave both Brad and Carrie a big hug, then turned to smile at Lucien. “Come!”

The boy hesitated, but he walked slowly up the steps, giving Brad a wide berth.

Brad gave him a smile and held out his hand. “Good morning Lucien,” he said softly.

The child swallowed nervously, but he very tentatively put his little hand into Brad’s, and he muttered something that could have been a greeting.

“So, you’re going to bake biscuits today?” Brad winked. “I hope you make some nice chocolatey ones for me too!”

“Nanny make cake, Daddy,” Sarah said. “I put chocolate on for you.” She grinned. “You like it, Daddy?”

“I’ll love it, my sweetheart. And I know your biscuits are going to be lovely!”

When the children had run off to the kitchens, Carrie said wistfully, “Seems like our baby is growing up without me. I would never be able to teach her to cook or bake! I can barely boil an egg!”

Brad’s eyes twinkled. “Good job you’re married to me, then. Nanny taught all of us how to boil eggs!” He laughed. “We don’t need to cook as we have an amazing chef, but we wouldn’t starve. Nanny knows everything about food, and taught us all how to cook a meal! How blessed are we?”

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