The porters from the clinic brought Carrie home on a gurney just after tea-time, accompanied by the surgeon and a nurse. Neither Brad, nor Sarah were allowed into the bedroom, until she was safely settled in bed, much to Brad’s chagrin. He complained bitterly to Max about not being allowed into his own bedroom, with his own wife, in his own home, but Max merely smiled and said, “Be patient, Brad. June needs to check that Carrie is comfortable, and the nurse doesn’t need you leaning over her shoulder while she’s busy doing her job.”
When June Langley came out of the bedroom Sarah was sitting on the floor in the passage, a small baby doll on her lap with a plastic feeding bottle jammed in its mouth. Brad was leaning against the wall watching her.
“Brad, could I have a word with you please?” June asked quietly, adding to Sarah, “Nurse Biggs will take you to your mommy now, sweetie. But she’s very sore, so be careful, ok?”
She waited until Sarah had entered the room and the nurse had closed the door, before saying, “I’m sure that Carrie will be less stressed here than in the clinic. She is extremely weak as you know, but has refused a catheter, insisting that you will help her to the bathroom.”
He nodded. “Of course, I will. Whatever she needs.”
“Please do not let her try to walk, or even stand, on her own. Any knock to her head could be very serious at the moment. The nurses will assist . They will come in twice daily, and I will come as soon as my rounds at the clinic are finished.” She smiled. “The test results were very promising, and there should be no permanent damage at all. She’s been very lucky.”
“Does she have a lot of pain?” Brad asked softly.
“Apparently not from the bruising. She complains about headaches, but we think that is the stress. She does cry a lot and the nurses tell me she calls for you in her sleep. I’m hoping her being at home is going to relieve the stress and help her get the rest she needs.”
Brad bit his lip. “Is there anything you want me to do to help her? Anything at all?”
June gave a short laugh. “Help her to eat! Soft food. But I hear that your kisses make her extremely happy, so maybe you could try some of those!”
That made Brad smile. “That won’t be hard! I suppose it was my brother or Max that told you that I kiss my wife very often? I can’t help myself as far as she’s concerned. I’ve been warned that I’m too obsessive!”
“Max said you love her more than your own life. I could see that myself when you refused to leave her side until Mark ordered you out! It’s not a worrying obsession. Every woman needs a love like that! But unfortunately, often after marriage the love wanes. Yours hasn’t. Be proud of that!”
“My love for her will never wane I can assure you. It just grows stronger. I’d give her the world if it was mine to give.”
The surgeon smiled. “Carrie believes she already has the world, because you love her so much. I had a long chat with her this afternoon to determine her stress levels. You mean the world to her, too!”
“It’s all part of God’s design,” Brad said emphatically, watching her reaction closely.
He wasn’t disappointed. She nodded, her smile becoming broader. “I’m glad that you believe that! God works in mysterious ways, but His plans always work out the way He determines they should.”
“You’re a believer?”
“I am. I always pray before I operate on anyone, whatever their belief or religion. I know many surgeons who do the same. Is that strange to you? ”
He grinned. “Not at all. It makes me very grateful to know that God chose you to operate on my wife. Have I thanked you for everything you’ve done for her?”
June gave another short laugh as she opened the bedroom door. “Her recovery will be all the thanks I need. Come Brad. Carrie is waiting to see you!”
Sarah turned her head as they entered the room, her eyes shining. “Daddy,” she squealed. “Come kiss Mommy!”
Brad laughed, shrugging his shoulders at the surgeon. “See? Even Sarah knows!”
He walked to the bed, smiling down at Carrie as he lifted Sarah down onto the floor. “Hello, my darling.” He bent over his wife, and as he kissed her gently, her hands crept up around his neck.
“Hold me, Brad,” she whispered.
“Careful Daddy!” Sarah said softly. “Mommy sore.“′
The surgeon took Sarah’s hand. “Daddy won’t hurt your Mommy, darling. Why don’t you come and show us your dolls? Mommy told me you have lots.”
The child nodded eagerly. “From other lands. Aunty Jessie give them to me!” She smiled at the nurse. “I got nurse dolly too!”
She went out willingly with Dr. Langley and the nurse, as Brad sat down on the side of the bed and took his wife in his arms.
“I’m here, my sweetheart. You must tell me if I hurt you.”
She rested her head on his shoulder. “You will never hurt me. It’s so good to be back in our bed. With your arms holding me! And the flowers are so pretty!”
For a while she was silent, and Brad thought she’d fallen asleep, but when he tried to lie her back on the pillow she groaned, “Don’t leave me!”
He straightened the pillow and lay her down. “I’ll never leave you. Is there anything I can get you? Anything I can do for you?”
“Everything seems so strange! Sarah hardly spoke. She just wanted me to hold her, but even that’s hard! I’m just so weak, Brad.” Tears filled her eyes. “I don’t like being like this!”
“I know, sweetheart. I know,” he said soothingly. “But I’m here to help you. Whatever you need, I’ll be here. Everyone understands, even little Sarah.”
Another moment of silence, then she said, “I think I’d like to sleep. Is that ok? I don’t know why I’m so tired!”
He smiled down at her. “So, close your eyes, darling. I’ll just sit quietly here with you and hold your hand. Close your eyes, and rest.”
“I’ve only just come home! The family……”
“Will visit you when you feel a bit stronger,” he interjected, adding, “They all want you to get well, Carrie. If you need to sleep, then so be it.”
“I don’t expect you to stay with me all the time, Brad. Your writing….”
“Can be done just as well here! Don’t worry Carrie! Whatever you want, whatever you need, just ask. Don’t worry about anything.”
Her grip on his hand tightened slightly, and she closed her eyes, muttering, “I’m so blessed to have you. I love you, Brad.”
Brad wasn’t sure how long he sat just gazing at his sleeping wife. She was so frail and ill, yet to him she was still the most beautiful woman in the world. He remembered the many times she had nursed him back to health, not only when his pathetic body had let him down with his back pain and allergies, but also when he had stupidly caused injuries to himself that could have been prevented. She had been there for him, helping him to cope. He hoped that he was now able to be there for Carrie, to help her through this traumatic time.
The tap on the door brought the surgeon back, and Max with her.
“I’ve sent Nurse Biggs back to the clinic as she’ll be going off duty soon,” June said quietly, glancing at the sleeping patient. “Sarah is with Max’s wife. and I’ve been assured that Carrie will have all the help she needs until the morning. So, I’ll be off now too.”
“You’re not staying for dinner?” Brad asked.
“Thank you, but no! My husband is waiting for me at the hotel in Greenwood.”
Brad frowned. “Greenwood? Surely it would have been closer to the clinic if you’d stayed here?”
June smiled. “You don’t have any hotels on your estate. I only took the post at the clinic until the conference in New Zealand is finally becoming a reality.”
“I meant here, in this house. There are rooms available here, I’m sure!”
“Plenty!” Max put in with a grin. “And the conference has been postponed until next month. Are you staying in the hotel until then?”
“Probably. My husband has an online business so he decided to accompany me to New Zealand. When Mark offered me the position in the clinic we booked into the hotel as it was the closest one to your estate.”
“This house is even closer,” Brad said. “Mark should have offered you accommodation too! You and your husband are very welcome to stay here until you’re ready to leave for New Zealand.”
June’s eyes widened. “Oh, thank you so much, but we can’t possibly impose like that!”
Brad smiled but gave an exasperated shake of his head. “Why is it that everyone seems to think that staying here is an imposition? There are so many people here that another few won’t make a difference! Really, it would be a pleasure to have you both here!”
“Thank you. I’ll discuss it with Neil I’m sure he’d be much happier if I didn’t have to leave so early everyday to catch my bus.”
“Good gracious!” Brad exclaimed. “You take a bus from Greenwood?”
“I do usually. Today I took a taxi as there aren’t early buses on Sundays. Which is why I need to leave now, as my bus back leaves at six o’clock.”
“Did Mark know that you take a bus in?” Brad seemed suddenly angry, and looked at Max. “Did you know?”
Max frowned. “No. I had no idea! And I’m sure Mark just presumed you came by car.”
“Is - is there a problem?” she stammered. “We left our car with our daughter in Wiltshire. She’s taking care of the house until we get back from New Zealand.”
Brad sighed, pulling his mobile phone from the pocket of his jeans. “There’s no need for you to take a bus! My chauffeur will take you back to the hotel, and wait until you’ve checked out. You should be back in time for dinner, but if not, you can always eat later.” He grinned at her confused expression. “I insist. I’m sure that if Mark had known he would have given the invitation when you first arrived. And I’ve been a bit - preoccupied - otherwise I would have asked him about your accommodation.”
“You really don’t have to be concerned, Brad, …” she began, but Brad had already pressed the speed dial on his phone, and gone out onto the balcony to call Roy Clark, his chauffeur and friend.
Max laughed. “There’s no arguing with Brad when he makes up his mind about something, so just relax. I can assure you that this place is as good as any hotel, and the clinic is in walking distance as you know. You will be very comfortable here.”
“I’m sure we will,” she said, smiling. “I think I better phone Neil to warn him! If I show up in a fancy limousine, he’s likely to wonder what’s happened. He usually waits at the bus-stop for me.”
Arrangements were made and Nanny took the surgeon to see the available double rooms before she left with Roy.
Brad set up one of his laptops at the table in the bedroom, so he could work on his manuscript and still be there for Carrie. But he couldn’t write. He was suddenly lost in thought again. Why was he even resisting placing his fingers on the keyboard?
He sat staring at the last words he had written before that fateful call from Mark about Carrie’s accident! He hadn’t even finished the sentence when the call came in. There was no urge to finish the sentence now either!
He sat very still as he felt the familiar ache in his lower back, and he closed his eyes, willing his body to relax. Stress made the pain worse, he knew that! Breathe, he told himself! Relax and breathe!
But when he heard Carrie call his name, he flew to her side immediately.