In Between Shadows

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Chapter 23

He was fighting for breath, clutching at himself, his eyes tightly shut, and shaking like a leaf. The adults all knew what had happened, even the twins, who were both grimacing in sympathy with their brother. Grace gathered Erin into her arms, and took Lucien by the hand, ushering them out of the lounge. Ian followed, with the now sobbing Sarah clutching tightly to him, her arms around his neck, while he patted her back, muttering consoling words to her.

At a silent direction from Nanny, Kyle and Jamie also left the lounge, as did Julie and Jessica.

Max gripped Brad’s shoulder. “Hell, that must have hurt! Deep, slow breaths. Are you okay?”

As the pain gradually receded, leaving a dull throbbing, Brad straightened up, shuddering. “I’m okay. Is Sarah okay? Did I hurt her?” He was still white-faced, breathing hard.

Carrie stroked his hair back from his forehead. “She just got a fright, I think. Ian’s got her. It was an accident, Brad. Your reaction was normal.”

“I pushed her away! It was a reflex response I think.” He groaned. ” Hell, I feel sick! Just like when Barbara….” He shuddered again, gulping as the nausea hit him once more.

Nanny seemed confused. “What’s Barbara got to do with this? Are you alright, Brad?”

He gave a quick nod, but he was still trembling, and he looked pleadingly at Carrie. “I - I think I need to lie down. Perhaps on one of the couches? C- could I have some water, please?”

His hand was shaking so badly as Nanny handed him the glass, that she had to hold it for him, while he gulped the liquid down.

Max helped him to the couch and Carrie sat beside him, stroking his face. She understood how painful it must have been, and was suddenly furiously angry. Though not with Sarah. She was angry that Barbara had ever dared to put Brad through something as cruel as that! Didn’t she know that a man’s testicles always needed to be treated gently?

Her silence made her anger quite evident, and Brad did his best to smile at her. “I’ll be fine, love. It was just an accident. She just caught me unaware when she jumped on me. I think her foot slipped.” He took a deep breath. “It’s not half as bad anymore.”

“Don’t lie to me, Brad. You’re still shaking.”

“I just need to relax. If you could just….” He knew he didn’t need to finish his sentence. Carrie would know how to help him.

She put the blanket over him, as her uncle gave a wry smile, steering a concerned Nanny toward the door.

“Come Ellen, Carrie knows exactly what to do for him. We don’t need to be here.”

Carrie smiled as she watched them leave the lounge, leaving them alone. She slipped her hand down the front of her husband’s track suit pants, cupping his testicles, oh so softly, and drawing them up very gently, watching his face, as he breathed in relief and relaxed notably. She held them there tenderly for a few moments.

“Better?”

He nodded, drawing her down to him as he kissed her on her lips. “Much,” he said against her mouth. “Thank you. Of all the times for this to happen! After those dreams…”

“Still nauseas?”

“A little. But that used to last for ages… before.” He closed his eyes. “God, I’m so tired.”

“Then sleep. It’ll do you good. Want me stay here with you? How’s the head?”

“I think my headache is easing now.” He looked at her and smiled. “I’m sure the pain in my balls was much worse than my head ever was. Just keep your hand there a few moments more, please love, until the ache goes.” He gave a mirthless laugh. “No wonder Barbara didn’t ever get pregnant. I’m pretty sure she killed all the sperm I had!”

“Did you want her to be pregnant?”

He scowled. “To be honest, I didn’t even want to have sex with her at times. She was the demanding one in our relationship. I was…. a rather abnormal male! Then, when I couldn’t - perform - that’s when she….” He swallowed. “She made me feel less of a man all the time. Even Roy told me to get out of that relationship as fast as I could.”

“Roy knew what she was doing to you?”

“Not exactly. It’s not something I wanted to broadcast to the world. There would have been the inevitable questions. Why did I allow it? Why didn’t I retaliate? Why didn’t I end the relationship? Questions I couldn’t, or didn’t want, to answer!” He swallowed. “Please, Carrie. I don’t want to talk about that anymore.”

“Okay, just relax, my love. Try to sleep for an hour or so. I’ll go and check on Sarah.”

He caught her hand as she gently removed it from his clothing, and kissed it. “She’ll probably hate me! I pushed her off my lap, made her cry!“.

Carrie smiled. “Oh, Brad. Now you’re being melodramatic! Of course, she won’t hate you! She’ knows she’s daddy’s little girl! Go to sleep. You’ll feel better when you wake up.”

He was asleep before she left him, and she went through to the playroom. Sarah and Lucien were sitting at a small table, very quietly drawing, but as soon as Sarah saw her mommy, she jumped up and ran to her.

“Mommy!”

Carrie picked her up, smiling at Grace, who was watching little Erin pushing a blue plastic car along the floor.

“Any trouble from this little madam?” she asked softly.

Grace straightened up, returning the smile. “None at all. Ian settled her very quickly. Is your husband, okay?”

“He’s sleeping. It’s been a bad couple of months for him, but I’m sure he’ll soon be back to normal, as soon as we can persuade him to eat properly again.”

“I think the operation he had hit him hard. Nanny told me that his faith took quite a dive when he couldn’t walk.”

“It did. He’s still stressed, but things are looking brighter now.”

“My daddy poorly,” Sarah announced, unwinding her arms from Carrie’s neck. “Jesus and Grandpa Max fix him up? Uncle Ian say Daddy being naughty.”

Carrie suppressed a laugh, winking at Grace. She set the child down on the floor again. “Daddy will soon be better. Show me your picture, my baby.”

She stayed in the playroom for almost half an hour, even after Julie came through to get Erin, helping Grace pack away the toys and items the children had used in their busy day. While they did that, Lucien, still always the quiet little gentleman, helped Sarah fasten her shoes before putting his own back on.

Carrie stood at the door holding onto Sarah’s hand, and, when Doug Peterson arrived in the Conway truck to fetch his wife and son, they waved goodbye to Grace and Lucien. The sky was dark and it was already drizzling with rain again. The wind was also picking up, and Carrie could already see the trees close to the gateway blowing precariously. Her eyes automatically went to the pathway where she’d witnessed Brad being flung from the wheelchair on Saturday. Those trees had been cut back, or removed completely, with new plants replacing them.

She took Sarah upstairs, to get her bathed and into her pyjamas, although it was still early. But there was no telling when Roy would arrive, bringing Christopher from Heathrow, and there might be no time after that, before dinner was served. Sarah sang and chatted all the time in the bath, and did not appear to be disturbed that her daddy had pushed her roughly off his lap earlier. Ian had obviously settled her well, and she was especially fond of her uncle. He was good with all the children, and was popular with a number of ladies, though there was only one to whom he was particularly attracted. It was Glenda that he was going to see at Wimbledon Village Stables the next day, one of the instructors there. She had stayed over in the mansion many times, and it was assumed that they would eventually marry.

Brad was still fast asleep when they went into the lounge, half an hour later. Max was sitting in an armchair opposite the couch, reading a newspaper. He took off his glasses and smiled at them.

“I was just wondering if I’d been abandoned. Where is everyone? Your husband is still dead to the world, and even Ellen is too busy with preparations for dinner. Are we having a banquet to welcome Chris home? Or maybe to celebrate the return of Brad’s miracle?”

“He won’t admit to any return of his miracle, until he walks unaided,” Carrie replied quietly. “Nanny was going to make her special apple crumble. You know how Chris likes that!”

“Mmm, me too! I know Julie took Erin with her over to the clinic to see what time Mark will be finishing, but where are the others?”

“I have no idea where Ian and the twins are, but I can guess they’re in the stables. Jess is helping Vicki with the triplets and I think Luke is marking papers, in their suite.”

She glanced down at Sarah, who was standing beside the couch where Brad was lying, one finger in her mouth, solemnly looking at him.

“Don’t wake Daddy yet, my sweetheart. He was very tired.”

The child gave a little frown. “He sick! You fix him, Grandpa?”

Max laughed. “Your daddy isn’t sick, poppet. He just needs to eat more.”

The child climbed up onto the doctor’s lap, her little fingers touching the stubble on his chin. “Daddy not walk. He not play with me now.” Then she grinned. “You got whiskers, Grandpa!”

Max chuckled, meeting Carrie’s eyes, and he hugged Sarah, rubbing his face gently against hers. “I know, sweetie. I need to shave again, or Nanny won’t give me kisses like your daddy gives your mommy.”

“Daddy give Mommy lots and lots of kisses. Daddy get whiskers too!” She giggled. “I give you kisses, Grandpa!” She proceeded to drop butterfly kisses all over his face, making him laugh again.

Carrie looked on, smiling sadly. Sarah knew that everyone in the Conway household loved her, and had accepted that Brad no longer played boisterous games, chasing her around the house, or even lying out on the floor with her, helping her to build puzzles or dress her Barbie dolls. He did still read to her from one of her story books, as she sat on his lap, but even that was done half-heartedly these days, and he never attempted to entertain her with one of his own made-up tales.

“Go and bring your stethoscope, poppet,” Max told Sarah. “We can listen to your daddy’s heart, when he wakes up.”

Sarah was beaming as she skipped out of the lounge. She loved pretending she was a nurse, like her mommy, though she was adamant that she was going to be a doctor! Max had given her one of his old stethoscopes a few months ago, and was thrilled when she caught on so quickly as he taught her how to use it.

“You look sad, angel. Brad will soon be back to normal, you know. He’s just weak from not using his muscles, and not eating well enough.”

Carrie gave her uncle a little smile, and tucked the blanket closer around her husband. “It’s been a bad time for him. He hates that wheelchair with a passion. And he’s having a lot of nightmares - concerning Barbara. That’s another worry for him.”

“He’ll start to relax again as soon as we can get him up and walking. These past couple of days have already seen his depression filtering. I suggest you take him out again, even just around the grounds. But a drive somewhere might be nice, and get your fear of driving again behind you too!”

She frowned. “It isn’t exactly fear, Uncle Max! Just nerves, I suppose! I already suggested taking him to the park, but Brad doesn’t want to be seen in the wheelchair. I - I think he’d enjoy a drive to the lake, but the weather is not too great.”

“Hmm. Yes, I think we’re probably in for another storm tonight. But the rain won’t last more than a couple of days, and you can make sure you’re both wrapped up well. It’ll do you good too!” He grinned. “You two haven’t had a ‘date-night’ for months!”

That statement made Carrie smile. “Every night with Brad is a date-night, whether we go out or not! No woman has ever felt as loved as I do, I’m sure.”

“He is certainly just as much in love with you as ever. And he isn’t afraid to show it either!” He hesitated, then added, “Bringing you here to nurse him, was the best thing I could ever have done - for you both! And to see you so happy makes up for the guilt I felt that I wasn’t there to protect you that day when Frank Grantham got hold of you. I could have lost you then! It was a miracle in itself that you lived through that!”

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