Rugby England, Wednesday August 13th 2262
“What are you doing out of bed Norman?” Terry said quickly, trying to fold the letter one-handed against his thigh. “You should be resting; let me help you back to bed.”
“What’s that?” Norman repeated, futilely trying to rub away his fuzzy aching head with his left hand; still pointing at the letter with his right. He swayed in a slow steady circular motion.
“This,” Terry said nonchalantly, “is nothing.” He screwed the letter up between his hands. He frowned. “Look at you Normie; you can barely stand up; let me help you back into bed.”
Norman noticed the envelope on the floor. “That has my name on it… is that letter for me?”
Damn, Terry thought. “It’s nothing for you to worry about Normie.” Terry went over to his brother, put an arm round his waist and tried to usher him back to the bedroom. “Come on; let me help you back to bed, I’ll go and make us some breakfast then,” he said enthusiastically. “You must be starving!”
“Terry, I want to see that letter if it’s addressed to me,” Norman stated firmly, refusing to move.
Terry could see he was losing this battle. He closed his eyes briefly. “I don’t want to see you upset bro; I don’t think it’s a good idea. You are not in a good place right now; let me go through it with you in a few days, when you’re feeling a bit better.” He tried to usher Norman again towards the bedroom.
“Terry!” Norman snapped. “Give me that letter!”
Terry handed Norman the screwed up ball of paper, “It’s just a load of rubbish Normie.”
Norman ignored his brother and unscrewed the letter. He glanced down to the bottom of it and read ‘Love Hillary Jane.’
“It’s from Hillary Jane,” he said, a little taken aback. “Was that her banging on the door that woke me up? What did she say?”
“I didn’t see her,” Terry said quietly. He shifted position and leant against the hall wall opposite his brother. “I opened the door and this was in the doorway.”
Norman turned his attention back to the letter. Terry stood and watched as its content reflected in his little brother’s face. Norman’s eyes glistened with emotion as he worked his way through it; a single tear escaped his left eye and trickled down his blood smeared cheek.
“I’ve got to go and see her,” he declared in a panic when he had read it all. “She’s right… I didn’t give her a chance to explain… what… what if I have got it all wrong?”
“WHAT?” Terry bellowed in disbelief. He rushed over and stood in front of his brother. “You walked in on her screwing another man!” Terry grabbed Norman’s arms in his hands. “The same man that then beat you up and nearly killed you.”
Norman grimaced at Terry’s blunt words. He was confused at his conflicting emotions. His fuzzy head couldn’t compute the letter and his recollection of the events from the previous night. They were just too contradictory. There was nothing he could grasp in his mind that connected the two, nothing that could help him make sense of it all.
“I’ve got to hear her side of things Terry.”
“She told this man Simon, she knew his name if you remember, that you were dead. What is there to explain?”
Norman baulked at Terry’s words, he then recalled Hillary Jane’s exact words, yelled from their bed. SIMON DON’T! It’s Norman. SIMON DON’T! It’s Norman. SIMON DON’T It’s Norman Norman Norman Norman!
“Aghhhhhhhhh!” Norman cried. He held his throbbing head as her words reverberated over and over in it.
Terry held Norman as he swayed about severely. “See why I didn’t show you her damn letter? Please let me get you back to bed, you’re dead on your feet. The doctor said you need plenty of rest; not this stress and upset.”
“I can’t rest until I’ve sorted this out; I don’t know what to think,” Norman wailed.
“You know what you saw; you felt his fists pummelling you. She sat and watched; she let it all happen. End of story.” Terry insisted.
“What does she mean, we will lose everything? I just don’t understand.”
“It’s just emotional rubbish to try and con you into an emotional response; to go running to her.” Terry said bluntly. Like a little puppy dog running to his master, he thought, but kept to himself.
“What does the peace deal with Russia have to do with this?” Norman puzzled. “I don’t want to be responsible for an outbreak of hostility again; I couldn’t live with that.”
“Norman, you’re not thinking straight, this has nothing to do with the Russians.” It gradually dawned on him that when Hector Humphreys broke the story today, it could quite possibly affect things with Russia. Hillary Jane was, after all, leading the peace negotiations with them. Surely she was exaggerating though… wasn’t she?
“I’m going to go and see her; I’ve got to hear her side of things for my own sanity.”
“You are not fit to do anything Normie, you need bed rest.” Terry tried to take the letter from him. Norman pulled his hand away. “You weren’t even going to show me this were you?” Norman spat, waving the letter about.
“Of course I was!” Terry lied. “Just not while you are in this weak state; I didn’t want to jeopardise your recovery.”
Norman studied Terry’s face for a second or two. He believed him, and that Terry also only had his best interests at heart. He raised his arm and spoke into his strap. “Send the following message in text format to Hillary Jane… I’m on my way home.”
“What!”Terry exclaimed. “You can’t. You’re not well enough.”
“I am going to port home right now Terry. I have to see her.”
“You are in your boxer-briefs, look at the state of you. I have to help you clean up, I need to see to that head wound; I have regular medication to give you. I won’t let you.” Terry babbled quickly and frantically.
“I don’t have time for all that; I have less than an hour now according to the letter. I am going home Terry.”
“No! I won’t let you endanger your life. You’re not using my teleporter. Norman please.” Terry pleaded as he rushed over and stood with his back in front of the port room door.
“I will go to a neighbour then, or the communal teleporter; there must be a communal teleporter in the building.”
The two men stood watching each other for a few seconds.
Terry could see that he had been beat. Norman was going home with or without his help. “Let me lend you some clothes at least.” He said accepting his defeat.
“I can be home in seconds; I have plenty of my own there.”
“What about your medication from the doctor at the ENH?”
“If I am not back here within the hour then you can port it to me.”
“Norman, I’m not happy about this.”
“I know,” Norman said with a sigh. “I will never be able to thank you enough for everything that you have done for me.”
“You don’t need to; I’m your big brother remember.” Terry remarked with a forced smile, trying to diffuse the tense emotional atmosphere with humour. He fought back his own tears of anger and love.
The two brothers hugged. “I love you Terry,” Norman whispered in his brother’s ear.
“Soft lad,” Terry whispered back, biting his lip as he tried desperately not to cry.
Terry helped Norman with the teleporter and then watched as the process completed and Norman left him to return to the dragon’s lair.
Norman opened the port room door and stepped out into the hallway of his home. Things looked and felt very different in the cold light of day than they had the previous night. The last time he had walked up the hall he’d thought they had intruders.
He padded over the floorboards in his bare feet, wondering if Hillary Jane was actually at home. He stopped at the foot of the stairs as he noticed the debris in front of the main entrance door. He stared in disbelief at the broken pieces of his antique ceramic bud vase scattered all over the floor among the dried miniature sunflowers.
“Oh no,” he cried aloud as he rushed over, grimacing at the pain from his ribs. He sank to his knees and picked up several of the larger pieces in astonishment. What had happened?
“I’m sorry about the vase,” Hillary Jane said suddenly from behind him.
Norman twisted round quickly and regretted it instantly as the shooting pain from his ribs coursed its way through him. There she was looking as beautiful and smart as ever in her dark grey business suit. His heart fluttered.
Hillary Jane looked down at her near naked fiancé. Disturbed again to see his wounds, this time in the flesh, not on a photogram projected onto her kitchen wall. She was saddened at the noticeable pain on his face.
Norman stood up and steadied himself against the wall as his head swam and his vision blurred.
“Oh, my poor Norman; look at the state of you,” Hillary Jane said with genuine concern, indisputable emotion plain to see on her face.
Norman’s bottom lip trembled as he fought back the wave of grief that surged through him, fighting to break out.
Hillary Jane went to him, for a change, and threw her arms around him. Norman stood there frozen to the spot. Not sure what he should do.
“I love you,” she whispered in his ear.
With that everything he had fought to hold in broke out in an eruption of grief. He threw his arms around her as his knees buckled.
She held him tight to her as he sobbed uncontrollably once again. “Hush my darling; everything is going to be all right now.”
She kissed his neck tenderly and then rested her chin on his shoulder. She smiled; she had Norman back on her side.
“You told him I was dead,” Norman wept into her breast.
“I had to Norman, for your own safety. I couldn’t let him believe that he may be interrupted during his despicable act.”
Her words sank in, confusing Norman further still. “You knew his name,” he wailed.
“Norman, I need you to listen to me,” she said tenderly.
She didn’t wait for him to answer. “We both have statements to make to the press and then the GPA; we don’t have much time either… let me tell you how this is going to go.”