In Between Shadows

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Chapter 12

Brad slept through the night with no nightmares, holding her tightly in his arms. They were both late down for breakfast because, firstly, Brad couldn’t decide whether to wear a button-through shirt for church, or just a polo neck under his jacket. Then he had to kiss Carrie at least three times while she was trying to fasten his shoes. He seemed to be in an exceptionally good mood. Such a drastic change from the silent, miserable wretch they had had to tolerate for the last two months.

Since her own accident, Carrie had been too nervous to drive Brad’s Mercedes, so Roy always took them to church in the limousine, along with his own wife, Margaret, and their two girls. When he parked in the private area reserved for the Conway family vehicles, two young men ran over to help with transferring Brad into the wheelchair. They were clearly surprised when he actually gave them a faint smile and thanked them.

Ian parked his maroon Lexus next to the limousine and pushed Brad inside the little church while Carrie took Sarah into the Sunday school. When she joined them, Ian and Pastor Davies were having a whispered conversation, but Brad was making no effort to either listen, or take part. He appeared to be lost in thought, and the shadowed look had returned to his face.

“Everything ok, love?” she asked quietly, as she slipped into her seat next to the wheelchair and took his hand in hers.

He gave a sheepish smile. “Everyone is too scared to talk to me! They just give me a quick ‘hi’ and hurry away to their seats. I must have been pretty rude to them all.”

“You are never rude! You’ve just been a bit - out of sorts. They’re not sure whether you’re still in the doldrums and want to be left alone!”

“I - I actually would prefer to be left alone,” he muttered. “I don’t want to have to explain why I can’t walk. They all know the miracle’s over.”

She compressed her lips. “Your miracle is NOT over! It’s - postponed!”

She smiled at Pastor Davies as he approached.

“Good morning,” he greeted them, giving Carrie a hug and rather hesitantly holding his hand out to Brad. “I - um - I hope you’re both well?”

“We are, thank you,” Brad said quietly, shaking the outstretched hand. “And you? I - I need to apologise for my behaviour over the past few weeks.”

The pastor smiled, although he seemed to be rather distracted, and kept looking around him as if waiting for someone. “You have nothing to apologise for, Brad. We quite understand. I’ve been praying for you, - and you certainly seem a bit more like your old self.”

“I still have a long way to go, but my wife is helping me. Is -is something wrong Phil? You seem flustered.”

“Sorry. I - I had a call from Mike Williams. His wife went into intensive care in the general hospital in London after a bad fall last night. They had to do emergency surgery. He’s on his way back and said he’ll drop in to let us all know how she is.”

“Goodness!” Carrie exclaimed. “Is there anything we can do? Who’s looking after their children?”

“I’m not sure. I’ll arrange with the fellowship about meals for them while Sheila is in hospital.”

Brad spoke up immediately. “That won’t be necessary. Mike and the children can come to us for meals, and when Sheila comes home, we can make arrangements to suit them.”

The pastor seemed surprised. “Are you sure, Brad? I know it’s - a bad time for you right now.”

“You mean my - misery over my - situation?” He gave a short laugh. “I promise, I’m much better already. I have my moments, but I’m trying not to upset anybody.” He squeezed Carrie’s hand and she smiled.

“You’re doing very well. You might even hear the pastor’s sermon today!”

He shrugged and winked at Phil. “Maybe!”

Behind the lectern on the raised platform, Pastor Davies explained to the small congregation about their pianist, Sheila Williams, and before the service started, he said a prayer for her and her husband and family. It was usual on the rare occasions when Sheila was not available, that Brad would play the piano for the praise and worship, but there was no ramp up to the platform, and he had been so silent and dejected for the past few weeks that no one had dared ask him. So, they plodded their way through the first verse of the opening chorus, without music. Admittedly, it sounded pretty dismal for a small but vibrant Pentecostal church, and the people seemed rather uncomfortable.

Carrie kept her eyes on the chorus sheet in front of her, until a movement from the wheelchair at her side made her look at Brad. He met her eyes and pulled a face, then he raised his arm to catch the pastor’s attention.

“If a couple of strong guys will help me get this contraption up there, I’ll play - if - if having music will make everyone feel a bit more in the mood for doing what we all came here for, to offer praise to God!”

There was a shocked silence for a whole two seconds, before two burly gents rushed towards the wheelchair. The pastor was beaming, as were most of the parishioners. Brad gave a reticent smile as he was pushed to the front, and the men lifted the wheelchair, with Brad in it, carefully up onto the stage. Max, a couple of seats away from Carrie, winked knowingly at her, and she grinned and nodded.

When the praise and worship was over, Brad was lifted back down and he joined his wife to listen to the sermon. Ian came to his side and patted him on his shoulder.

“Well done, brother! That shocked the living daylights out of everybody, I bet,” he whispered, grinning. “No one knows whether you’re going to bite their heads off if they so much as talk to you.”

Brad shrugged. “I’m trying,” he whispered back. “It was just that everybody seemed too scared to sing without the music. I - I was as nervous as hell up there!”

“Why? Sounded great! The singing wasn’t too bad either!”

“I feel like a fake at the moment. My relationship with God is - off!”

“No, it’s not! That’s all in your head! You need to learn to relax.” He patted Brad’s shoulder again, and moved back to his seat as Pastor Davies started to read the scripture from the bible.

The sermon was short, and afterwards the pastor made the usual call for anyone who wanted prayer to go forward.

“You want prayer, Brad?” Max asked, ready to push him to the front.

Brad shook his head, frowning. “No! I - I’d rather not go up for prayer, if you don’t mind. I’m not - I’m not ready for that yet.”

“Ok. That’s fine. Baby steps!”

“Hmm. Not a good choice of words,” Brad mumbled, “under the circumstances.”

Max merely grinned.

Most of the congregation gathered in the hall next door to have coffee and fellowship. Mike Williams had arrived just before, and he told everyone that Sheila had come through the surgery with flying colours and would probably be home by the end of the following week. He spoke to the pastor and then approached Brad, who was trying hard to include himself in conversations with Roy and several other church members, without being too obvious that he just wanted to go home.

“Hi Brad. Pleased to see you looking so well.”

Brad grinned. “Pleasant, you mean! I know I’ve been pretty churlish of late!” He shook Mike’s hand. “So sorry about Sheila’s accident.”

“Thanks. Phil told me about your offer to have me and the kids over for meals. That’s very kind of you Brad, but I’ve just picked Sheila’s mom up from Tooting and she’s going to be staying over with us to look after the kids until their mom is back on her feet again. She arranging lunch right now, but I do appreciate your offer.”

“Fair enough,” Brad replied. “But if there’s anything we can do to help - in any way - you know where we are.”

“I do indeed! I’m hoping Sheila can be transferred to the clinic soon. It’s a helluva drive into London for visiting.”

“Maybe Mark or Max can speed things up. But you can get Roy to take you through if you can’t face the drive. He won’t mind.”

On hearing his name, Roy turned his head. Brad grinned.

“I’m offering your chauffeur services again! I’ll give you a raise!”

Roy laughed out loud. “Sure, if you want your accountant to have a cadenza!” He saw Mike’s eyes widen, and said quickly, “Don’t worry. He promises me bonuses all the time! Driving people here, there and everywhere is my job - and I love it! Just tell me where, when and the time you need to be there.”

“I can’t ask you to take me all the way into London and back every day,” Mike exclaimed. ” I do have a car, but driving is such a schlep! I’m not sure when Sheila will be well enough to be transferred to the clinic, but I hope it’s soon!”

“You didn’t ask,” Brad said. “I promise, Roy likes driving, and he gets paid to drive me around. I don’t use him as often as I should!” He winked at Roy, and laughed. “He needs to earn his salary!”

Roy grinned. “I do actually. Visiting is at seven in the evening, isn’t it? We’ll need to leave by six. I’ll pick you up at your house.”

They had finished discussing arrangements before Carrie came back from fetching Sarah from the baby class at the Sunday school. Sarah scrambled onto Brad’s lap to show him the picture she had drawn.

“That’s you, Daddy,” she told him. “Talking to Jesus.”

Brad gazed at the picture of two stick figures, both standing side by side. One of them, the one she told him was Jesus, was holding a long rod in a hand of giant stick fingers.

“Jesus make you walk, Daddy!” she said, and he swallowed, meeting Carrie’s eyes. He wished he had the faith of a small child. But he forced a smile to his face and tried to simulate some enthusiasm as he hugged his daughter.

Shortly afterwards, Margaret and the girls came, and Roy drove them all back to the mansion. Brad invited them to stay for lunch, but they were going to visit Roy’s uncle and aunt in Greenwood so politely declined.

Edmund and Irene had not been at church, and when they arrived at the mansion for lunch, they seemed extremely unsettled, but were obviously not going to say much with the whole family present. During the meal, they chatted about the storm, and the show they had seen the previous evening, without going into too much detail. But when Ian had taken the twins and Sarah to the stables, and everyone else had gone, they were left in the lounge with Brad, Carrie and the doctor.

“You seem really upset about something, Edmund,” Brad said softly. “Tell me to mind my own business if you like, but - if there’s anything I can do…”

Edmund and Irene looked at one another, then Edmund sighed. “It actually is your business. But you have enough to contend with at the moment, so we weren’t going to mention it. I have people looking into it. It’s - it’s about Sarah!”

“Sarah?”

Irene put her hand on her husband’s arm, offering comfort, and he gave her a grateful look. He wet his lips.

“At the show last night, we - we met up with a guy who tried to join my company in New York, about - about four - maybe five, - years ago. I - I didn’t hire him, - for reasons I’d rather not go into right now. He was dating Barbara apparently - although I didn’t communicate with my daughter anymore so I couldn’t really have cared less which poor guy she was seeing. If he thought that by telling me that I would be more favourably inclined towards him, he was a bigger idiot than I’d imagined.” He paused, running a hand over his eyes.

Max frowned, getting to his feet. “Would you prefer it if I left, Edmund? I have no wish to intrude on a private matter.”

“No, no stay, Max. It isn’t really private, - just awkward. Probably a load of codswallop too.” He met Brad’s narrowed eyes, obviously trying to decide how this was affecting him. But he went on. “This guy is a con artist! I wouldn’t believe a word he says!”

“What exactly did he say? About Sarah?”

Edmund was silent for a moment, and they all waited. Irene squeezed his arm supportively, and he clasped her fingers in his own large hand as if he was drawing courage.

He took a deep breath. “He said that she’s - his daughter! He said he’s already had a blood test to prove it, and his lawyer will confirm it.”

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