In Between Shadows

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Chapter 5

Getting dressed was such a struggle! Carrie used to help him, and he knew she would again, if he had the courage to ask her. But he was too ashamed, and too proud. Max had torn strips off him, in front of the surgeon and Nurse Brink, and he knew he deserved the humiliation. He still was not quite sure why he had taken out his anger on his wife! He wasn’t sure of anything these days! But he did know that the mix-up in the pills he had swallowed had not been because he wanted to end his life. His allergic reaction to drugs was far worse than any other crisis life could throw at him, - except, perhaps, the loss of Carrie!

Max had not wanted to remove the catheter, and an argument ensued, until Brad had lost his temper and threatened, “For God’s sake, Max! If you don’t, I’ll pull the blasted thing out myself!”

The doctor had laughed, warning him that if he tried that, it was going to be more painful than he could ever imagine, whether or not he thought he had no feeling down there! But, after a few more threats, pleas and cajoling, Max relented and told Nurse Brink to remove it. Which wasn’t what Brad wanted at all! If Max wouldn’t do it himself, he could have at least called Carrie! But he didn’t, so Brad had to endure the discomfiture of another woman touching his penis, even if she was a nurse! He had stayed silent throughout the ordeal and had not even thanked her afterwards.

“You can use the wheelchair in the bathroom,” Max told him., “but you do not come downstairs today! Do you hear me? And if you don’t eat any solid food, I will replace the catheter, and put you back on the drip.”

At tea-time he had pretended to be asleep when Nanny brought the tea trolley, because he couldn’t face anything to eat. But Max had his dinner sent up early, and sat in the room with him, making sure he ate something, even if only a little.

Carrie had not come to bed last night! For the first time since their marriage, she had slept in a different room in their home. She had not been there when he had awoken in the early hours of the morning after a terrifying nightmare, screaming, sweating and reaching for her. She had not been there to calm his fears and hold his shaking body until he could fall asleep again, and he had cried himself back to a fitful sleep, loathing himself even more!

The transference from the bed to the wheelchair had appeared to be a lot more difficult than usual this morning, and he was gasping by the time he had struggled to dress himself. He hadn’t bothered to shave, or even wash properly, and while he half-heartedly brushed his teeth, he wondered why even little Sarah had not knocked to gain entrance into her parent’s bedroom this morning. Maybe she was also avoiding the grumpy old cripple!

He guided the wheelchair along the corridor to the lifts. The house seemed so quiet, but he had seen that the lights were on downstairs, and had caught a glimpse of movement in the hall. He sat staring at the elevator doors for some minutes before he pressed the button to summon it, deciding whether he really wanted to suffer the accusing looks of his family around the breakfast table. They must all think that he had suicidal tendencies, and would be watching him closely to see that he ate enough to keep his damn blood sugar stable. But no one had brought food up to the master bedroom so they obviously expected that he would go down to join them in the dining room. And if he didn’t, he supposed he’d have Max yelling at him again!

The staff were surprised when the lift doors opened in the kitchen area and he wheeled himself out. Maybe they hadn’t expected to see him downstairs after all! He nodded at the chorus of ‘good mornings’, and mumbled a greeting in return.

“Can I get you some coffee, or - or anything?” one of them asked nervously.

He gazed at her blankly. Why would she offer him coffee at breakfast time?

He shook his head, but was saved having to reply when Nanny came through from another part of the kitchens.

“Good gracious, Brad! Why are you up so early today?”

Early? He blinked in bewilderment, and glanced up at the kitchen clock. It was already five minutes past seven! They always had breakfast at seven o’clock during the week! He had thought he was late! Oh, God! What day was it?

The perplexed expression on Brad’s face made Nanny look closely at him. “Brad? Are you ok?” To the staff member she said, “Please bring a couple of those wafer biscuits that chef made for the kiddies!”

Brad ran his fingers through his uncombed hair and frowned. “I’m ok,” he muttered. “Where - where’s everyone?”

Nanny was silent a moment, then she said, “They’ll only be down later. You need to eat something! You look a bit pasty!”

“I’m - fine.”

“Well, you look pretty miserable, too.”

He looked up at her, as she tossed the box of wafer biscuits that the staff member had brought, into his lap. He bit his lip to stop it from trembling. “I - I don’t even know what day it is. I’m so scared Nanny! I’m - I’m just losing control - and - and Carrie…” Tears stung his eyes. “Carrie didn’t even come to bed. I’m driving her away, Nanny. And I don’t know how to make things right anymore!”

He felt really foolish, crying there in the kitchens with the staff to see him, but there was nothing he could do to stop the tears now. Nanny held him, the way she had when he’d been a child, and he sobbed and sobbed as if his heart was breaking. He was losing his precious wife, the woman he loved more than life itself, and he felt as if he was also losing his mind!

Nanny pushed him out of the kitchen area into the music room, closing the double doors which were usually left open. She sat down on one of the couches, and took his shaking hands in hers. When he was slightly calmer, she gave him a little smile.

“You’ll never drive Carrie away, Brad,” she said gently. “However bad it gets. Things are dark for you right now, but you’ll get through this. You’ve always been strong. God knows, you’ve had to be!”

“I can’t anymore, Nanny. I can’t be a cripple!′ The tears came again and he brushed them away impatiently. “God’s left me, and Carrie will too!”

“Hey!” Her voice became sharper, and he was transported back to the past, when he was a child. She had chastised him when he lost his temper, or made his parents angry. His darling Nanny. The woman who had loved him, scolded him, taught him, and been there for him throughout the darkest time after his parents were killed.

“God will never leave you, Brad! It’s you who has left Him, not the other way round! He’s there, waiting to take you in His arms again.”

“I want my miracle back!” His voice was small, like a petulant little boy, and he was crying again. “I can’t stand. I can’t walk. And I can’t …” He stopped, closing his eyes as tears poured down his face.

“Have you tried to stand?” she asked bluntly. “Brad, when you were in the hospital after they told you that you’d never walk again, you never gave up! You tried, even when the doctors said it was impossible! It was hard work, but you insisted that you would walk! Where’s that faith you had then?”

“It’s gone!”

“No, it isn’t. I believe you’re just using that as an excuse for self-pity! A faith like yours doesn’t die overnight!” Her tone was harsh, and he stared at her through his tears as she went on. “You are too proud to let anyone help you, even Carrie! Why is that? Do you believe that it makes you look weak to admit that you need help? Max says you took the wrong pills by mistake. That’s dangerous Brad! At least talk to Carrie, if no one else!”

“She - she doesn’t w-want to t-talk to me,” he cried.

“Rubbish!”

“She d-didn’t even want to s-sleep in our bed!”

Nanny frowned. “Where did she sleep?”

He gulped back more tears. “I d-don’t know. But it wasn’t next to me! I told you! I’m driving her away!”

“Brad Conway, stop that!” she scolded. “Carrie was upset at tea time yesterday, but she was perfectly happy enough to take Sarah shopping in the village after Lucien left.”

“They went with Roy?”

“No, they walked there! She phoned Roy to bring them back just before dinnertime as they had a lot of parcels and it was dark. Carrie came up to put Sarah to bed after dinner, and I just presumed she came in to give you your medication.”

He hung his head. “She’s angry with me. She thinks I tried to commit suicide! And I - I was nasty. Max gave me hell!”

Nanny almost smiled. She lifted his chin with her finger as she used to do when he was a child. “Yes, I believe so. You deserved it!” She wiped the tears from his face with her apron. “I wonder if Carrie just bunked in with Sarah.”

She gave him a motherly hug and he rested his forehead against her, drawing some comfort. But he wanted his wife!

“Eat a couple of those wafers, Brad,” she told him. “You’ll feel better when you’ve got something in your stomach. I need to go and see that everything’s ready for breakfast.”

She watched him pick up one of the biscuits and saw the grimace as he put it to his mouth. He felt like a naughty child under her watchful eye, but he took a tiny bite, feeling the saliva coat his tongue as the sweetness hit him, and he swallowed quickly. The second bite was easier, and Nanny smiled.

“Good boy. You need to eat your breakfast too!”

He wheeled himself over to the window when she’d gone, and stared out at the grounds. It was still quite dark but he could see the shadows as the light from the mansion’s windows hit the gardens. He nibbled on the wafer biscuits without even realising it, lost in troubled thoughts. Nanny had said that he could never drive Carrie away, and he really wanted that to be true, but he was too afraid to hope that she would forgive him this time.

Tears ran down his cheeks again but he didn’t care anymore. He’d already lost command of his household so what did it matter if the staff, or anyone, saw him cry? They all knew he was a weakling anyway! What had Barbara once called him - spineless? Oh hell! Why was he even thinking about Barbara? He shuddered, gagging as the biscuit went down the wrong way.

The sudden paroxysm of coughing brought even more tears, plus a dull ache in his head, and he turned the wheelchair towards the piano where a tray with a water jug and glasses were. His hand was shaking as he poured the water, and he cursed as he lifted it to his mouth, spilling some down his t-shirt. He gulped the water, and returned the glass to the tray, not even bothering to find his handkerchief to mop the spill.

He could hear voices as his family congregated in the dining room for breakfast, and he took a deep breath, preparing himself for what he expected would be an ordeal! They would silently judge him for his supposed suicide attempt! None of them would dare voice their condemnation aloud, of course! Especially in front of Sarah!

Placing the box with the rest of the wafer biscuits on the tray with the water jug, he turned the wheelchair to the door. And there she was, his darling wife, leaning against the door-jamb, silently watching him
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