Vicki put the baby monitor down on the table when she joined them, helping herself to a large slice of chocolate cake, and sinking into an armchair opposite Carrie.
“When does Chris get back from Germany?” she asked Brad casually. “Luke said they’ll need him to tune the school piano, and start working on some sound effects for the drama group’s play. Rehearsals will be starting next week.”
“Monday.” The word was barely audible.
Carrie and Vicki exchanged looks, and Vicki tried again. “They’ve always relied on his help. He’s very much in demand. I’m so proud of my little brother!”
“Not so little anymore,” Nanny said, when it became obvious that Brad was not going to try to make conversation. She grinned. “I hope he’s had time to have some fun in Europe. He’s always had a horde of young ladies hanging onto him, so I daresay he’s having a ball!”
Vicki giggled. “My brothers are all good-looking guys, even if they’re all egotistical.”
“Brad isn’t egotistical,” Carrie said, quick to defend her husband, and giving him a smile.
He tried to return her smile. He really tried! But it was more like a grimace. His headache was becoming unbearable, and without thinking he lifted Carrie’s fingers and pressed them against his temple.
She blinked in surprise, but understood immediately. He closed his eyes as she massaged gently. But the knot in his stomach seemed to tighten, and he knew he would have to fight the nausea and at least swallow one of the savoury mini-quiches that Nanny had put on the plate.
“Eat something, darling,” Carrie whispered, close to his ear. “You’re going to flake out!”
Nanny and Vicki kept up a flurry of conversation, but he didn’t hear. Carrie went to the back of the wheelchair, pressing both of her hands to the sides of his head and massaging, from his temples, over the top of his skull, and right down to the back of his neck. He sat silently, loving her touch, trying his best to nibble on a quiche that he didn’t want. But the pain in his head persisted. He could feel the bile rising in his throat, and there was a burning taste like acid in his mouth. He tried to fight the nausea overtaking him, but the throbbing in his head, and the queasiness in his stomach, wouldn’t let up!
Suddenly, he let out a loud groan, grabbing the handrims on the wheelchair, and he turned it toward the door as quickly as he could. He clamped his hand over his mouth, swallowing back the vomit as he retched. Carrie reacted instantly. She swung the chair out of the lounge, and they reached the bathroom, where he was violently sick into the toilet, while Carrie held his throbbing head and spoke softly and soothingly.
She cleaned him up and he sobbed his frustrations into her shoulder. She held him and whispered, “It’s ok, love. Everything’s going to be ok. But you must eat! You know how bad it gets when your blood sugar drops like this!”
And he screamed back at her in utter defeat and exasperation. “Nothing will ever be ok again! I can’t do this anymore Carrie! I don’t want to live like this!”
Carrie froze. She realised that he had just uttered more sentences than she had heard out of his mouth in two months. He clung to her, shaking so much that she could feel the wheelchair vibrating on the bathroom floor.
“It’s all right, my love,” she consoled, holding him against her.
Leaning over him that way made her back ache, and his sobbing made her heart ache. But he wasn’t going to let go of her in a hurry. So, she sat on his lap and wound her arms around his neck, whispering comforting words into his ear.
She felt him stiffen when the soft tap came on the bathroom door and they heard Nanny’s voice. “Is everything all right, dear?”
He raised his head, gazed into her face in desperation, and gasped, “Please, - don’t tell them! I don’t want them to know that I cried like a baby. They already think....” The rest of his sentence was mumbled and incoherent.
“It’s fine Nanny!” Carrie called. “We’ll be out in a minute.”
She helped him wash his face, and patted it dry, while he took deep breaths to control his hyperventilating, and he rinsed his mouth. He was still trembling uncontrollably, and his headache was so bad now that he thought he would pass out.
He kept his head down as she pushed him out of the bathroom. Nanny was standing in the hall outside, holding a glass containing a peanut-butter and banana smoothie, which she pushed into his shaking hand.
“Here, Brad. Drink it now!” she commanded. She gave Carrie a meaningful look, and said softly, “Max is on his way from the clinic. He said we had to try to raise his blood sugar immediately, and get him up to bed!”
Brad’s hand was quivering so much as he lifted the glass to his lips, and Carrie leaned forward to help him. He managed to swallow a couple of sips of the smoothie, which he knew usually worked well to raise his glucose levels quickly. If he could keep it down!
His vision was blurring, and the voices seemed to be getting further and further away. A sure sign that his blood sugar was dangerously low. He passed a shaky hand over his eyes, blinking rapidly. He was going to throw up again! A deep groan escaped and he clasped one arm over his stomach, the other hand over his mouth, gagging and gulping to avoid puking all over the hall floor.
Back in the bathroom, the second round of vomiting left him hunched up and exhausted. He was aware that Max had arrived, though all he heard was a jumble of voices. The wheelchair seemed to be swaying from side to side as he was pushed along to where the lifts were situated, and he closed his eyes tightly. He was still conscious when the doctor and a male member of the household staff lifted him onto the bed in the main bedroom. He knew he was going to pass out, even when he was lying down. He was unable to focus on anything that was said to him, even if he’d been able to hear it over the buzzing in his ears. The last thing he knew was his darling wife gripping his hand, before the blackness engulfed him and he sank into a well of peaceful oblivion.