“Brad,” she called again, but her eyes were still closed. He wasn’t sure that she was awake, but he took her hand in his.
“I’m here, love,” he whispered. “I haven’t left you.”
Her eyes flickered open and she smiled weakly. “You’re here! I - I think I was dreaming! But I need to get up. Will you help me, please?”
He scanned her face, uncertainly. “You want to sit?”
“I need to use the bathroom,” she said delicately. “I can’t get there on my own.”
Brad grinned. “Oh, I see. I’ll carry you.”
“No!” she gasped as he pulled back the bedclothes. “You’ll hurt yourself! I can walk, if you help me.”
But he drew her into his arms, being very careful of her bruised hip and side, and carried her across into the bathroom before he set her on her feet, keeping hold of her in case she collapsed.
She insisted that she walk back, but her steps were short and she leant wearily on him for support. It was an obvious relief for her when she was back in bed. He propped her up with the pillows, and she smiled at him.
“Thank you. I feel as if I’m getting a bit stronger.”
“That’s good, but you mustn’t try to walk alone yet. I’ll have the wheelchair sent up.” He straightened the pillow and added. “It’s almost dinner time. Chef has something amazing for you, I’m sure.”
“Oh Brad, I don’t think…”
“I will help you. You need to eat to keep your strength up.” He smiled. “That’s what you always told me when you were nursing me back to health.”
“I don’t suffer from low blood sugar like you,” she said quietly. “I’ve been too weak to eat by myself, and the nurses are already busy so I hated having to rely on them to help me.”
Brad stroked her cheek gently and replied, “I love helping you, - with anything! You want to get well again, don’t you?”
“So, let me help you to eat. Even if it’s just a little! I’ve already requested that my own dinner be sent up. I’m not leaving you” He bent forward and kissed her lips. “By the way, Dr. Langley and her husband will be coming to stay until they leave for overseas. I had no idea that she had to travel from Greenwood everyday.”
“They’re going overseas?”
“She was supposed to be at a conference in New Zealand. Max said it was no coincidence that the conference was postponed, as you needed her more.” He gave a knowing smile, and added, “God is great at arranging what’s best for his children!”
Carrie also smiled, albeit rather weakly. “I’m grateful for that!” A pause, then, “Dr. Langley spoke to me for a long time today. She said I might never remember what happened, but I mustn’t stress about it.”
“You don’t need to stress about anything, my darling.” Brad said gently. “Whatever you want or need, you’ll have! Sarah is fine. I’m fine. And everybody else in this family is fine too!”
“She’s in perfect health. And so are her babies apparently!”
For a moment Carrie was silent, musing. Then she looked directly at Brad and muttered, “I wish I could give you a child of your own!” And tears filled her eyes.
Brad stared, and a frown furrowed his brow. “If you could, my love, the child would probably be plagued with the same allergies I have. I wouldn’t wish that on any child. And we have Sarah.”
“But I feel so - so - inadequate!”
He smiled, putting his fingers under her chin and gazing into her eyes. “You will never be inadequate, Carrie. We’ve been through all this before! When you’re well again we’ll look into adopting a brother or sister for Sarah. Maybe both! Our names are already on the books of the organisation. I’m surprised they haven’t contacted us yet.”
“It isn’t easy to adopt. We were so lucky with Sarah. Barbara really wanted…”
“No! I don’t want that woman’s name mentioned in this house!” His voice was suddenly harsh.
Carrie swallowed. “She’s Sarah’s mother, Brad!”
“No, she isn’t, - you are! Barbara is dead! Sarah is our child!”
Carrie lapsed into silence, and turned her eyes away from his. Brad immediately regretted his harshness and said softly, “Please don’t start worrying about that again, my love. I don’t want you upset about things we can’t change. We were always intending to adopt, or even foster. And we will!”
When she didn’t reply, he bent forward and kissed her gently. “You know that I don’t use my wealth to influence authorities. But I can! When you’re well enough we’ll approach the welfare organisation again, and I can guarantee you’ll have a baby in your arms in no time at all!”
Her eyes widened in horror! "Buy one, you mean?”
He was rather stunned and drew in his breath sharply. “No, of course not! Babies are not commodities! I meant that the welfare people will be only too happy to place a baby in our care because, much as I hate the idea, money is power!”
"Your power is your fame, not your wealth!” Carrie muttered. “And your fame comes from your books and your musical talent, not your money!” She gave a little smile. “And the fact that everyone loves you!”
He shrugged, but he also smiled. “My fame comes from my miraculous healing that no one understands! The medical guys want answers, and the religious guys want to know about my understanding with God. That makes me a mystery. I enjoy being an enigma.” A grin spread over his face. “Being wealthy as well just makes this family more well-known! They’ll give us a baby, - I promise you that!”
She swallowed again. “I want them to give us a baby because we’re good parents, not because we’re rich!”
“We are good parents, Carrie! You’re seeing problems that are not there! All you need to concentrate on at the moment is getting your strength back, getting well again.”
Another moment of silence, then, “What - what happened to my car, Brad?”
He bit his lip, took a deep breath and squeezed her hand, feeling a moment of panic! Carrie had loved the little Golf that he had bought her when she first came to the mansion to nurse him through his second spinal operation. He had taught her to drive in it! Numerous times since their marriage, he had tried to persuade her that it was time she had a new car, but she had been adamant that her Golf was in perfect running order and she had no need of another.
“It’s gone, isn’t it?” she breathed.
He hesitated before he gave a quick nod, and he said gently, “It’s in the scrap yard in Silverton. I haven’t seen it but I believe it’s - wrecked.“′
More silence, while he studied her face. She lowered her eyes and muttered, “I don’t need a car, anyway.” But tears trickled down her cheeks and he drew her into his arms.
He held her close, but she didn’t cry for long. He sat her back against the pillows and mopped at her face with his clean handkerchief. She tried to smile at him, and said quietly, “I can use your car, or - or Roy will take me if I need to go anywhere.”
There was a soft tap on the door before Brad could reply to that, and he called, “Come in.”
Sarah was clutching a small gift bag when she stepped into the room with Nanny. She bounced toward the bed and cried, “Mommy! I make you present!”
Brad lifted the child up onto the bed, saying, “Careful sweetie. No bouncing, remember?”
Sarah’s eyes were shining as she kissed Carrie and handed her the little bag. “Uncle Kyle help me. You like it, mommy?”
Carrie drew out the colourful bead bracelet and gave as bright a smile as she could manage. “My darling, it’s beautiful! Thank you. You’re such a clever girl!”
While the child helped Carrie slip the bracelet onto her arm, chattering excitedly, Nanny asked Brad, “Is it ok if Sarah stays here to have her dinner? She’s been nagging me to bring her up to her mommy. She understands that Carrie is ill, but she wants to spend time with her.“.
Brad nodded. “Of course. She may make a bit of a mess though, so the staff will have extra cleaning!”
Nanny gave a short laugh. “You pay them well enough! And my staff will do anything for you for just one smile, you know that!”
He grinned. “I know. I’ve often wondered whether it’s because I pay them so well or whether they do actually like me!”
Nanny clicked her tongue at him. “Brad Conway, you know that they all love you. Everybody does! You have a winning personality and looks to go with it! My female staff think you’re dishy!”
They heard Carrie laugh out loud, and turned to look at her as she spoke to them. “Those gorgeous looks make me the envy of every woman around! They all wish they were me!” She put her arm around Sarah. “You think your daddy is handsome, don’t you, sweetheart?”
The child was beaming, and she nodded, but said, “You pretty, Mommy! Daddy say you beautiful!”
“She is beautiful,” Brad said, moving back to the bed. “And other guys must keep their eyes off her! She’s mine!”
He bent to kiss Carrie’s lips, smiling into her eyes, and Sarah giggled, and almost bounced excitedly until she remembered her mother was sore. Brad lifted her down off the bed, saying, “Go and wash your hands ready for dinner, Sarah.”
“I’ll help you,” Nanny told the child, chuckling in tolerance as Brad gently pulled his wife into his arms. She took Sarah into the bathroom, and Brad kissed Carrie again, a long passionate kiss.
“How are you feeling, sweetheart?” he asked softly. “Not too sore, or tired?”
“Loved,” she answered, resting against him. “Just a headache, but it isn’t too bad. I seem to stay tired, but I managed to hug Sarah. I - I’d like to see the rest of the family. Maybe after dinner?”
“They all went in to see you in the clinic at different times while you were unconscious,” Brad told her. “Mark said I should only let the family visit you here for short periods, in case they tire you out.”
“They can’t make me any more tired than I am already!” she said with a little smile. “I just need them to know that my brain isn’t so muddled that I’ve forgotten them!”
“They know you’ll never forget them,” he said sharply. “And there is absolutely nothing wrong with your brain! I told you that!”
“You did,” she said. “And I believe you. But I’d still like to see the family, if that’s okay?”
“Whatever you want, my darling! Anything at all! Just tell me what you want and I’ll move heaven and earth to get it for you.”
She sat back and gazed lovingly into his eyes. “I know. I really am the most blessed woman in the world, aren’t I?”
He smiled and kissed her again, whispering against her mouth, “You deserve so much more than I can ever give you! I can’t help being obsessive. I love you so much!”
When Sarah came out of the bathroom she was grinning and held up her hands to Brad. “Smell Daddy. I use Mommy’s soap!”
He laughed, making a show of sniffing her hands. “Hmm, lovely! But dinner isn’t here yet! So, you better just sit quietly on daddy’s chair and look at the pictures we put on the computer last week.”
He settled her in front of his laptop and opened the file with the pictures, putting the mouse into her hand. “Remember how to do it?”
She nodded eagerly, and he warned, “Ok. Don’t touch anything else!”
Nanny chatted for a couple of minutes to Carrie, then went down to check that the staff were ready to serve dinner. A few moments later there was another tap on the door and Dr. Langley entered with a ginger-haired man in his fifties whom she introduced as her husband, Neil.
He shook Brad’s hand, and greeted Carrie with a pleasant smile, while June took her pulse and quietly asked a few questions.
“You will excuse me if I don’t join you for dinner, won’t you?” Brad asked. “I need to help Carrie, but I’m sure Max and Mark will be good hosts.”
“This really is extremely nice of you,” Neil said. “The hotel isn’t too far away but the bus service from Greenwood can be rather erratic. I like to accompany June to the bus stop in the mornings, but it’s really early.”
Brad grinned. “I’m sure you’ll be able to have a few extra minutes together here! Mark and Max usually leave for the clinic just after breakfast, about seven-forty-five.”
“Goodness,” June said. “We have to be at the bus-stop by six o’clock in the morning in Greenwood! I usually have breakfast with the patients at seven!”
“Well we normally have breakfast here at seven during the week, so it won’t be such a rush for you anymore.” Brad replied. “I’m sure you’ll be comfortable here. If there’s anything you need, or want, just ask Nanny, and one of the staff will get it for you. And if you need to go anywhere Roy is always available. No need for buses or taxis.”
“He told us you’ve been friends since your schooldays!” Neil said, smiling. “He says it’s a cushy job and you pay him too much for what he does! Not that he’s complaining!”
Brad laughed. “He’s worth a lot more to me. He’s available whenever I call him, sometimes at the oddest hours. And not only to drive me around. He plays a good game of chess! Even lets me beat him sometimes!”
They went down with Nanny when she brought up the trolley with the dinner. Brad pushed the laptop away from Sarah and set her meal in front of her.
“Let’s say thank you to Jesus for our food, and then you can stay here and eat before you bath.”
He watched her bow her head and he said a very short prayer of thanks. Then she turned on her chair and grinned at him.
He watched her pick up her fork and spoon, then he turned back to the bed and pulled the trolley closer. Carrie looked down at the food as he removed the cover and she gave a little frown.
“Brad, I can’t eat! I - I’m just not hungry!”
“Just a little, darling,” he said. “I’ll help you. Even a couple of mouthfuls will do, but you must try. You want to get better, don’t you?”
She swallowed, lowering her head. “Of course! But - I - I don’t know if I can eat anything. But - but I’ll - I’ll try.”
She allowed him to feed her. The food was delicious as always, but he could see that it was an effort for her to swallow much. And he didn’t press her to eat more than she wanted. He ate his own food, and joked with Sarah, then gave Carrie the liquid food supplement that Nanny had included on the tray. She drank it all, but she was obviously tired, and he offered to help her lie down again.
“I - I need the bathroom again,” she muttered. “And - and then maybe I could see some of the family, just for a few minutes?”
“I’m sure they want to come up and see you,” he said. “Come, I’ll carry you to the bathroom and help you, before Nanny comes for Sarah.”
“I can walk,” she muttered.
Sarah sat quietly, watching as her mother very slowly struggled to the bathroom, leaning heavily on Brad, his arm around her waist. While they were in the bathroom, the child wriggled off her chair and stood by the bed waiting. She watched silently as they came back into the bedroom and Brad scooped Carrie into his arms when she almost collapsed.
When she was back in bed, Carrie was in tears, and Sarah clutched hold of her mother’s hand as Brad held his wife against him. The tears did not last long, and Carrie feebly squeezed Sarah’s little hand, and tried to smile at her.
“It’s all right, my precious girl,” she said softly. “Mommy is just tired.”
Sarah said nothing but her forehead puckered in a little frown.
Brad lifted her up onto the bed. “Give Mommy a hug, sweetheart. Then I’ll run your bath water for you. Nanny will be here in a few minutes.“.
The child looked steadily into Carrie’s face. “You sore, Mommy? Grandpa Max fix you up?”
Carrie tried another weak smile. “No, love. I’m just tired. But your smiles make me feel better.”
Sarah duly smiled, then grinned. “And Daddy’s kisses?”
That made Carrie give a short laugh and she met Brad’s eyes over the top of Sarah’s head. “Oh, yes! Daddy’s kisses are the best medicine in the world!”
“Mommy need medicine, Daddy,” Sarah said. “Kiss Mommy.” She beamed as Brad complied and clapped her hands. Sarah loved to see her parents’ kiss!