When he arrived back from the Steel’s cottage, Max found Carrie in the library.
“Is Brad still asleep? I think I’d like to have a look at him, just to make sure he’s not coming down with something. He got pretty wet on Saturday, and he looked a bit flushed at lunch time. Didn’t eat much either.”
Carrie looked up from the magazine she had been reading. “He hasn’t complained of feeling ill, but I need to check on him in any case. I hope he managed to get some rest. He hates feeling frail and weak. And it’s upsetting him because he wasn’t able to manage in the gym.”
“It’ll soon be tea-time. Maybe he’ll let me examine him before you bring him down. I hope he’s going to eat something. It doesn’t do him any good when he allows his blood sugar to drop. He knows he has to eat regularly.”
“Let’s go up now, Uncle Max. If he’s still asleep, I’ll wake him.”
They were at the door of the main bedroom before they heard Brad shouting, begging, pleading, as if there was someone in the room with him. Carrie pushed open the door hurriedly, knowing immediately that he was in the throes of a nightmare. She rushed into the room.
Brad was thrashing about on the bed, kicking out with both legs, his head twisting from side to side, screaming, “Please, Barbara! I can’t…. no more, please!”
He seemed to be fighting with the blanket that Carrie had put over him, and it was now tangled around his arms and hands. His eyes were tightly closed, squeezed shut as if he was in pain, and his face was wet with both sweat and tears.
As Carrie reached out to try to take the blanket from his arms, he screamed again, “No, no, no!” and his eyes shot open as he came out of his dream, shaking in terror, gasping and completely disorientated. His heart was pounding and he brought his knees up, rolling onto his side, grasping at his testicles as he let out a loud groan. The shaking did not subside, even when Max laid a soothing hand on his shoulder.
He was still mumbling incoherently, but the one name they could make out as he shuddered was that of Barbara. It seemed as if his thoughts were jumbled and he wasn’t sure where he was, until he recognised Carrie at his side and breathed in relief, feeling her soft hand on his cheek and his forehead.′
“It’s alright, darling. You’re safe.” She stroked his hair back from his forehead. “It’s over, Brad. She can’t hurt you anymore. It was just a bad dream. Relax now.”
She glanced at her uncle, and whispered. “He has a fever, I think. But it could be the thrashing from the nightmare that’s brought his temperature up.”
Max raised his bushy eyebrows, and grinned, “Well, we know he can certainly move his legs!” He gently rolled Brad back so that he was lying flat again. “Must’ve been quite a dramatic dream.! I want to examine you.”
“I’m - I’m fine - now,” he muttered, reaching for Carrie’s hand, but he was still trembling. He was breathing heavily, and his face was flushed.
“Any pain?” Max asked, removing the instruments he would need from his medical bag.
Brad inhaled deeply, closing his eyes for a few seconds, as he tried to quiet his thumping heart. “A headache, that’s all. I’m ok, Max. I - I’m not ill.”
“Hmm, let me be the judge of that!” He popped the thermometer into Brad’s mouth to keep him
quiet, handed Carrie the blood pressure monitor, and pulled up his t-shirt as he bent over him with his stethoscope.
Brad’s eyes met Carrie’s as she took his blood pressure, and smiled at him, seeing the unease and bewilderment in his face.
Max straightened up, frowning as Carrie showed him the numbers on the monitor. 198 over 92, far too high, and his heart was racing. No wonder he had a headache! He glanced at the thermometer as he removed it from Brad’s mouth. At least he didn’t have much of a fever, although his temperature was slightly higher than it should have been.
“Have you had any medication for your headache, Brad?”
“No. I won’t take anything anymore unless you or Carrie give it to me.” He tentatively moved, first one leg, then the other, and breathed out in incredulity. “I - I can move my legs!”
“Of course, you can. It was only a matter of time.” Max gave a half-smile. “You’ll be back on your feet soon, too.”
Brad gripped Carrie’s hand. He shivered. “It’s c-cold. I need to use the bathroom.”
Carrie put her arm behind him to help him into a sitting position, and he swung his legs from the bed to the floor, as Max gripped his other arm. They drew him onto his feet, and held him steady as he moved slowly and weakly towards the bathroom. While holding him, Max grabbed the wheelchair and pulled it behind him.
“Sit, Brad. It’ll be easier. You’re still shaking like a leaf. What the hell were you dreaming about?”
Ignoring the question, Brad sank gratefully into the wheelchair, groaning, as he covered his face with trembling hands. “I’m so cold. And I feel sick, nauseous. My head’s pounding!”
“Because you’re not eating properly,” Max replied, grumpily. “No matter how many times you’re told, you still don’t take the slightest bit of notice.”
“I eat well enough, Max! Don’t nag! I’m not in the mood!”
Carrie squeezed his shoulder gently as she pushed him into the bathroom. “You’ll feel better after tea, my love. I’ll get you a jersey.”
While her uncle helped Brad in the bathroom, Carrie sorted out a light hoodie for him. His forehead still felt warm, in spite of him feeling cold, and his face was flushed. He had not vomited, but it was obvious from the way he kept on swallowing, that he still felt nauseous, and he was tired and weak. She helped him on with his top, and his shoes, and put a light blanket over his shoulders when the shivering continued.
They took him downstairs in the wheelchair. He kept his head lowered, and didn’t greet any of the staff as they went through the kitchen area. His shoulders were hunched, and he was gripping the arms of the wheelchair. Carrie pushed him into the lounge. There was no one else there, but Brad still didn’t raise his head.
Max eyed him for a moment, then shrugged and sighed. “I’ll go and ask Ellen when we’re having tea. You need to eat something, and I’ll give you your meds. Try to ease up, Brad. You’re too tense.” He gave Carrie an expressive look before he left.
She knelt in front of the wheelchair, her hands on Brad’s knees, and looked up into his face. He swallowed, reaching out to stroke her cheek.
“I’m sorry, my love.”
She blinked in surprise. “For what?”
“For being such a chump. You know what - what she - did to me, don’t you?”
Carrie smiled gently. “I can guess. Was that your dream? It will help if you tell me about it, you know.”
He swallowed again. “I will. But - but later! Not now. It - it’s embarrassing.”
“She’s dead, Brad. She can’t hurt you, ever again. And I never will, either!”
“I know. I just want to get all those memories of her out of my head! Why am I having these nightmares lately?”
“Stress. And depression too! Uncle Max is waiting for Jim to get strong anti-depressants for you.”
“I shouldn’t have to take drugs to help me cope!”
“It won’t be for long, Brad. You did walk a few steps earlier.”
“With help! I just feel so weak, and so tired. I hate this, Carrie. I’m letting everyone down.”
“Nonsense. We all realise how difficult it is for you. You need to relax and stop beating yourself up about things you have no control over.”
“Hell, I don’t even have control over my own body anymore,” he murmured. “And to top it all, I think I’m coming down with a cold or something. I feel pretty grim, - but don’t tell Max! I don’t need him to fuss.”
“Oh, Brad! He’s your doctor! He doesn’t fuss unnecessarily.” She frowned. “Do you still feel nauseous?”
“A bit. I think that’s because my head’s throbbing, and - and…. Well, I always felt sick after - after she……” He shuddered, closing his eyes momentarily, taking a deep breath. “It’ll pass. It wasn’t real, just a dream.”
He sounded as if he was trying to convince himself, and Carrie stroked his cheek, saying gently, “I’m sure Uncle Max will give you something for nausea too. Relax, my darling.”
She stood up as Ian and the twins came into the lounge, smiling at them. “Hi, how was your day?”
Ian grinned. “Mine was uneventful, but I believe the boys have some news to share.”
“It’s not a big deal,” Kyle muttered, but both boys were beaming. “Jamie and I, and another boy, have been chosen to represent the school in the inter-school academic quiz in London next month. And we’ll be getting certificates. If we win, our names will be on the trophy.“”
Brad raised his head quickly. “Wow, you two are doing so well, and I seem to be so out of touch with everything. Did I even read your last school reports?”
“You read them, but you were - a bit out of it,” Jamie said, grinning. “But Carrie was happy with them!” He flopped into a chair. “Mr. Holloway said there’ll be a meeting of the school governing body a few days before the quiz, if you feel up to attending. He knows you haven’t been well, but he says he’ll phone you before then, in any case.”
Brad pulled a face, and sighed. “We’ll see. I ought to get back into some kind of normality, I suppose.” He swallowed, running a shaky hand over his forehead. “Where the hell is Max with those pills? I feel as if I have a hundred hammers pounding in my head!”
“Uncle Max won’t give you your meds until you’ve eaten,” Carrie told him. “Let me massage your temples. You’re still too tense, Brad, still shaking.”
“I’m just cold,” he muttered. “And nauseous. I don’t think I can face food right now.”
Ian looked intensely at him. “You look tired. Maybe after tea, you should try to sleep?”
“I did sleep earlier - for a short while. I just stay tired.”
“Maybe you need a tonic.” He grinned. “That awful stuff Nanny used to give us when we were little!”
Brad gave a faint smile. “They have better-tasting stuff nowadays. And a tonic won’t stop me from having scary dreams.”
Ian raised his eyebrows. “Scary?”
“Just bad memories!”
“Oh, God! Not of - her?”
Carrie gave Ian a warning look, and the slight shake of her head told him not to say anything further while the twins were present. He frowned, but changed the subject.
“I don’t need to go in to the school tomorrow or Wednesday, unless I have to sub for one of the other teachers. This weather has put paid to any outdoor sport, and the gym isn’t available for a couple of days. I might take a drive into London to see a friend in Wimbledon. Anything you need while I’m there?”
Brad shot him a quick look. “You will be careful, won’t you? If anyone asks you any questions about the family….”
“I know the drill! I’ll go straight to the Village Stables in Wimbledon so I’m not likely to talk to anyone that I don’t know.”
At that moment, Nanny brought in the tea-trolley, followed closely by Max, and they could hear the excited little voice of Sarah, as Grace brought the children from the playroom. Jessica and Julie joined them for tea, but Luke and Vicki had stayed in their own suite with the triplets.
Nanny loaded Brad’s plate with delicate sandwiches as well as fudge brownies and Danish pastries, and he saw Max eyeing him, so he did try to eat a little. But not as much as his doctor would have liked. He listened to the conversations, but only spoke as a direct answer to any question addressed to him. When Max gave him the medication for his headache, he swallowed the pills gratefully, but it was obvious, even to little Sarah, that he was feeling ill.
She scrambled up onto his lap and put her arms around his neck. “You sick, Daddy?”
He held her close for a moment, muttering, “Just tired, Sweetie.”
“Nap time, Daddy! Grandpa fix you up!”
But as she climbed down again, she bounced, and her shoe caught him in a strategic place. He let out a strangled cry, gasping in pain as his face lost all colour. He slumped forward, pushing Sarah off him roughly, his eyes watering and screwing up, wheezing as he groaned.
Sarah burst into loud crying, and Ian lifted her quickly into his arms, while both Carrie and her uncle rushed forward to help Brad.