In Between Shadows

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Chapter 8

Edmond and Irene Richardson arrived just before it started raining. Carrie had fallen asleep on Brad’s lap with her head resting on his shoulder, immediately after tea-time, and, as she had not slept in the bed with him during the night, he was loathe to wake her, enjoying her closeness. He had dozed a little himself, even though Nanny had brought him a book from the library.

He put down the book that he hadn’t really been reading, and shook Edmund’s proffered hand, muttering a polite, “Good morning.”

Irene seemed rather nervous, obviously not sure of their reception, but surprised by Brad’s affable demeanour.

“Hello Brad. How are you?”

He shrugged. “I’m ok, thanks. Nice to see you again, Irene. Please excuse Carrie. She - she didn’t sleep well.”

They were both obviously astounded that Brad had spoken more than two words. Edmund smiled. “You’re looking a little bit more cheerful than the last few times we’ve seen you,” he said bluntly.

Brad swallowed. “I - I believe so. Have I - have I been rude?”

“No, no! Of course not! Just despondent. It’s been hard going trying to talk to you lately! One or two words is all we could get out of you.”

“I hear so!” He bit his lips. “I’m sorry! I’ll try to do better. Carrie and Max gave me a good talking-to. Nanny too! I know I’ve been a pain to everyone. I really will try!”

Irene smiled at him. “We all understand, Brad.” She changed the subject. “Nanny says that Sarah’s gone with Ian to get a pony for that little friend of hers. So, they won’t be here for lunch?”

“No. Apparently everyone will be out, doing their own thing! Avoiding me like the plague, it seems. You’ll join us for dinner, too? They should all be home by then!”

“Thank you, but we’re going to a show in London, so we need to leave by about five-thirty,” Edmund told him, adding, “I hope I’ll see my granddaughter sometime before then. But I’m sure we’ll see her in church tomorrow if they don’t get back before we leave.” He frowned a little as Carrie stirred. “Oops, I hope we’re not waking her!”

Brad’s arm tightened around his wife as she woke and she blinked as she sat upright.

“Goodness. Why did you let me sleep so long? Hello Irene, Edmund!” She stood, rather shakily, but she gave the guests a hug, before she bent and gave Brad a soft kiss on his lips.

Irene smiled at Carrie, saying genuinely, “Your hair looks lovely. It’s grown so quickly.”

Carrie’s cheeks became pinker, but she said, “Thanks Irene. I think I prefer it longer than this, but at least I don’t need the wig so much anymore. I - I’m still a bit self-conscious to go out in public like this though.”

“You don’t need to be!” Edmund put in. “You’re a very pretty young woman and your hair suits you, however you wear it!”

“You’re not just pretty!” Brad said, giving her his first genuine smile since the surgery. “You’re gorgeous!”

Carrie’s blush became deeper. She excused herself to go to the bathroom. When she returned, Nanny and Max were in the lounge, chatting to the guests, and Brad had lapsed into silence, but appeared to be trying his best to be attentive to what was said.

Nanny looked at Carrie as she sat down on the couch next to the wheelchair. “Lunch won’t be long, my dear. Did you have a good rest?”

“I did, yes, thanks Nanny.” She put her hand into Brad’s, and he smiled at her again.

“I really ought to go and clean up a bit,” he whispered when Nanny had moved back to their guests and her husband. “I didn’t even shave this morning. You weren’t there to help me!”

She grinned. “You look very handsome, as usual. And I only help you to dress. You seem to have done very well without me!”

He pulled a face. “It was hard going! I need you! Please don’t leave me to fend for myself again! I was so confused. I didn’t even know what day it is!”

“I did come in to help you, but you were already gone! I was sure you were still very angry, and you were showing me that you didn’t want my help!”

“I will always want your help.” He swallowed. “I’m so sorry, darling. I - I wasn’t angry with you. Please understand…”

“I know, love. It’s ok.” She kissed his lips so he couldn’t say more, and he breathed in the familiar scent of jasmine, and rested his forehead on her cheek for a moment.

“I love you, Carrie. Don’t ever forget that. I’ll be able to handle - this…” he gestured his legs, “…so long as I still have you with me.”

“You’ve said that hundreds of times, and I always tell you the same thing. I will always be here, as long as I’m still alive.” She smiled. “In any case, we’re going to work together to have you back on your feet again as soon as possible. Don’t give up, love. You can do this!”

He froze for a second, then he gave a quick nod. His confidence in his own ability to overcome this obstacle was really non-existent, but he still felt a trace of hope that she was right. He blinked as the words, ‘faith like a mustard seed’ seemed to flash in front of his eyes, and for a second he closed them as he was transported back to that hospital bed, so many years ago. The first time he had ever audibly heard that still, small voice of God!

A small groan escaped. This mountain was too high to climb, too wide to go around, and too solid to go through. It would have to be removed! But he didn’t think his faith was even as big as a mustard seed now.

Max came over to him. “You ok? Is your headache back?”

“No. I’m ok.” He lowered his eyes as he felt the shadows of depression creeping back in, and he reached for Carrie’s hand, shuddering suddenly.

She squeezed it, and he swallowed. Carrie had not been in his life when he had fought the first battle to walk again, but he had not been alone. God had been there! Brad had always felt His presence, watching, helping, comforting. And yes, even applauding, on that day when he had taken those first few painful steps. A miracle! Though his Heavenly Father had never taken away the excruciating pain that wracked his body, He had eventually given him Carrie to teach him how to handle it. The miracle had gone now, along with the pain. And God too, it seemed! At least, it felt that way!

During lunch, Edmund mentioned that he and Irene had an important conference to attend in Houston, the following week, but would only be away for two days.

“I’d like to arrange with Tom Arnold to do some maintenance work in the cottage while we’re away, if that’s ok with you?” he asked Brad.

“Of course. Whatever you need,” he replied, trying to show an interest. He pushed his starter aside and reached for the glass of water, catching Nanny’s disapproving look.

Carrie put her hand on his thigh and squeezed it gently, and he gave a little gasp, almost letting the glass slip from his fingers. “I - I think I felt that!”

Everyone looked at him, and Max raised his eyebrows.

“Of course, you did! Why wouldn’t you?”

Brad frowned at him. “I told you I had no feeling from the waist down. You just didn’t believe me!”

“And I told you that the results of the MRI showed differently! Stop fighting me on this, Brad! I know what I’m talking about when I tell you that this is all in your head, - not your legs!”

“You’re saying my brain is broken?” He scowled.

“I’m saying that you are deeply depressed.”

“And you think I don’t know that? For God’s sake, Max, I’m not an idiot! I know that everyone thinks I can just snap out of this and accept my fate!”

“Well, if that’s what you think, you’re completely wrong! It’s you who is accepting this as fate, no one else! You’re fighting with God, Brad, not us!”

“Please!” Nanny’s voice was raised. “Do we have to argue at the lunch table? Eat your lunch, Brad!”

After a moment’s silence, Carrie smiled, giving Brad’s thigh another reassuring squeeze. “Well! At least the fighting - with us or with God - is better than your gloomy silence and internal conflict. Believe it or not, you’re already getting better!”

Brad swallowed, gave Carrie a slight smile, then picked up his knife and fork. “Sorry Max, - and everyone. It seems as if I’m going to have to do a lot of apologising over the next few weeks - or - or as long as it takes… Please, - just be patient if I fly off the handle for no reason!”

He glanced at Carrie, to see the proud smile on her face, and it helped him relax so much, that he ate almost all the delicious Tandoori Chicken dish on his plate, as well as the fruit salad and ice cream that was the dessert. As he put his spoon to rest in his bowl, he looked across the table at Max and Nanny. They were both beaming at him.

“Well done!” Max said. “Nice to see you have your appetite back. Things are definitely looking up!”

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