Chapter Thirty-One: A Fresh Start
It was 8.20am on Thursday morning, and just as Christine promised she was at the hospital waiting to see baby Tobey.
She had just gulped down the last of her coffee when the Matron sauntered into the waiting area.
Christine shifted in her chair. She didn’t want to be seen by her. She wanted to remove any possible obstructions to her seeing baby Tobey today. The last time she and Lydia were around, the Matron was quite frosty towards them, and unreceptive of their presence in the ward.
Christine got up and casually walked over to the dustbin. She disposed of her cup.
The Matron was talking to the nurses on the reception. She had her back towards Christine.
As quickly as she could, she made a dash towards the entrance to the neonatal ward. She had just finished pressing the button, and was waiting for the latch to release, when the Matron called out. “Hello. Christine. Is that you?”
Christine slowly turned around to face her. “I-I...”
The Matron interrupted her, “Christine. I gather you’re here to see baby Tobey?”
“Yes...Yes I am.”
“His parents only arrived a few moments ago.” She said in her curt manner. “They’re with him now.”
Christine stood waiting, she perceived the Matron wanted to say something else. “Errmmm Christine. As I said before, I have no idea what you’re doing with the baby, but whatever it is…keep doing it.”
Had she heard correctly?
This was unexpected.
Susan continued. “As you know, we’ve been looking after baby Tobey for over a year now. Some of the nurses - myself included - have grown quite fond of him and his parents. As you can see for yourself, the Daleys are a loving couple and they have a tremendous amount of love for their baby.” The Matron sighed and looked away. She pushed her glasses further up her nose. “Before you arrived, Kelly and Robert were...well…you can imagine…All hope had gone. But since you’ve been around their baby, they’ve been able to come to terms with things a bit better now. Somehow you’ve given them peace.”
It looked like the Matron wasn’t used to baring her teeth but just then she managed a small smile for Christine.
What the Matron said next, didn’t quite adhere to hospital policy, nevertheless, she furtively conveyed what was on her mind. “And Christine,” she leaned in, looking long and hard at the woman who stood in front of her, “just to let you know - the other matter,” her voice dropped, “is seriously being looked into, okay?”
Christine understood fully. “Thank you Susan,” she smiled.
“I best not keep you. Have a good day now,” the Matron nodded.
Christine had to stop herself from rushing towards the unit. She couldn’t wait to see baby Tobey. She couldn’t wait to tell him some good news for a change.
They believed them! They believed him! Now hopefully something was going to be done about it.
Just before Christine sped off the Matron was about to add something else. She wanted to say, ‘And Christine…Please say hello to little Tobey from all of us…’ But the thought didn’t quite transpire into words. And just as quickly, she assessed, it probably would have been a little out of character for her to say as much. For just like the matter of faith, although Susan knew it to be true, she still wasn’t quite ready to believe…And so she just stood there for a few moments more, with an awkward looking smile on her face…
“Any more news about your friend?” Christine asked Tobey, when they were finally alone together. His parents were out on errands.
“I-I haven’t felt anything,” Tobey replied, “and maybe that’s a good thing. I presume a lot of babies have arrived at the hospital since yesterday?”
“And they’re still coming,” Christine said cheerfully. “I believe your friend might have very well made it through.” She hoped her optimism would quash any doubts he was having. “I think the hospital is really starting to question things, Tobey. I don’t think Dr. Lawson can continue to work here. Hopefully, they’ll begin to make plans for his dismissal. And if there is a God,” she breathed in harshly, “an arrest should swiftly follow.”
“I hope so too,” he answered then fell silent. “Christine,” he croaked. “It’s almost time for my suction.”
Christine looked up at the clock and saw that it was coming up to the hour. She turned to Tobey.
“I guess I won’t see you until tomorrow…then?” He said weakly.
“That’s right poppet.” She made a fuss of tucking him in. “I’ll pop over tomorrow, after work. You can tell me another riveting story about one of your great Ancestors.” She looked at the top of his neatly groomed head and kissed it.
Baby Tobey chuckled, “Well, actually. I’m rather looking forward to hearing all about this meeting Lydia’s set up with the administrator and the journalist,” he laughed. “I don’t think Mr. Healey knows what he’s up against. Thank you Christine. I think we’re really going to get him,” he said, referring to Dr. Lawson.
“I told you we would,” Christine whispered before pressing the panic button. “Oh. He’s going to get it alright. He is not going to get away with this!”
Despite it being press day at the office, the rest of the afternoon went relatively smoothly for Christine.
A few minutes before home time, Brian - her co-worker - leaned back in his chair. “Correct me if I’m wrong. But did I read somewhere that you have an ability that allows you to communicate with newborns?”
Christine laughed freely. A few months ago, a question like that would have drawn bouts of discomfort from her. But today, she was at ease with the question and answered accordingly.
“Yes Brian. You did hear correctly,” she gave her colleague a wide smile, “And whatever you’re thinking,” She added, “It’s even more bizarre than you could ever imagine!”
“Really!” Brian chuckled, “Okay, try me,” he said, wheeling his chair closer to where she was sitting. Christine began to close down her computer. She was about to go into more detail but her phone buzzed.
It was a text message from Lydia.
I’ve arrived at the hospital with Keith. Can’t talk now. Tell all l8r’
Christine immediately texted back: ’Thx Lyds – knock ‘em dead! ;-D’
Just then, Christine remembered her plan to drop by her mother’s after work.
“Oh Brian - I’m so sorry! I’ve gotta dash off now.”
“Noooooo,” he teased his voice boomed across the open plan office. “I want to hear more.”
She giggled. “And you will my dear, you will. But, it’ll have to be another time.” She grabbed her bag off her desk. “Have a good evening Bri…Also…I’d probably lay off those Sambuca shots if I were you. At least for a while.”
Brian groaned and rubbed his taut stomach. “Don’t I just know it?” he said grimacing. “That’s the last time I go out drinking with the guys on sales. I’d rather down a cup of cold sick before I agree to have a shot of Sambuca again - that’s for sure!”
“Yuck.” Christine stopped to pull a face in disgust. She said her goodbyes to the rest of the team before heading for the exit.
Canary Wharf was as busy as usual, with young professionals in muted suits scurrying towards their favourite drinking haunts. Although it was only Thursday the weekend buzz was already in full swing.
Christine had walked halfway across the piazza before she acknowledged her apprehension.
Was she being followed?
She looked over her shoulder. A man with dark eyes, wearing a bright blue water-proof jacket, was heading towards her, but he soon passed by and carried on walking ahead of her. “Excuse me,” said a woman in a flowing yellow shirt, and shaggy grey gilet. She quickly brushed past her and proceeded towards the escalators.
Everything was as normal.
Why did she feel on edge? What a weird sensation
Christine carefully stepped onto the escalator but opted to stand absolutely still. She remained on the mechanical stair which gently glided her to her next destination point.
Canary Wharf and Upper Clapton, were both districts of the East. But the route between the two of them were as polar opposites as Mali to Mexico. The newly designed DLR carriages gently rocked its way through every station on the tube map, or so it felt like to Christine. If it wasn’t for the sporadic announcements, she was sure she would have slept right through her stop, which she couldn’t afford to miss. She was due to change lines as soon as the train pulled into Bank Station. And much to Christine’s annoyance she arrived at that swarming concourse right, smack-bang, in the middle of rush hour.
Everywhere she looked the place was heaving with commuters. There were people jostling to the left, and to the right of her, and crisscrossing her path ahead. Like everybody else, she had no choice but to quicken her steps. She looked over her shoulder again. There didn’t appear to be anyone following her.
Nope. She was definitely on her own.
There was nobody there who had travelled with her from Canary Wharf. But she still couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling of being followed.
As she soared up, yet, another set of escalators, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirrors.
Her mother was right. She had lost an obscene amount of weight. Her pale thin neck seemed to sway high above her egg-shell coloured jacket. And her skin, was more anaemic-beige, than the caramel-tan that it used to be. However, today she had decided to do something different. She didn’t snap her hair back into her usual restrictive bun. Instead, she let her dark, glossy ringlets, run free. She couldn’t remember the last time she had worn her hair this way. She looked like a proud lioness - the complete opposite of how she was feeling inside. And as Christine stared at her curls it suddenly dawned on her that her hair held all the life which was dully absent in her being. Maybe, to some degree, this was why she had left it out.
She weakly smiled to herself. Today was a start. Things had to change. She was going to do this for Tobey…and because of Tobey...He had said everyone needs to find happiness in sadness, which, was a strange contradiction, Christine thought. But as Tobey gravely pointed out, the world was indeed a sad place, simply, for the mere fact, that everything in it was destined to die...
‘Why are you afraid when I talk like this?’ Tobey had said. His words were gentle, he needed her to understand something. ‘Don’t you see? Death is all around you. Look at me? - It’s staring you in the face! There is a flaw to this life, and that flaw is death. It is the huge white elephant in the room. It haunts and taunts all the peoples of this world, eating away at any shred of peace that could be theirs to have. And this fear drives them in the wrong direction, making them focus on all the wrong things. Don’t you see? Something perfected by love, can never die…I wouldn’t lose sleep over the imperfect, Christine...really, I wouldn’t…That’s what I’ve come to learn from my time here on earth. I came with the burning desire to impart all the wisdom and knowledge that flows in me, to give to the world. But I’ve come away having learnt a very valuable lesson…As you can see, I am dying. But why do I smile Christine? Why do I smile…?’
It is not the fact that we die that is of monumental importance, Tobey had later explained to her. But, it is how one lives…For life is power: our stories, our struggles, our deeds, are a glowing testament to that power. A power, Christine understood, which was harnessed some time before she had entered the world, and one which would follow her after she had left it.
‘It is not how one dies that is important Christine, but how one lives…It is how one lives...’
She took a long, hard, look at her reflection again. She understood what Tobey meant. If the world had nothing to offer but sadness, then happiness could only come from her. She had the power to do something about it, because her life is the power…Her life…What was she doing with her life? She smiled and slowly shook her head...Things had to change...She remembered receiving one of those annoying chain messages that appeared in her inbox one day. It read: Be decisive. Right or wrong make a decision. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.
Why she suddenly thought of this? She didn’t know. But she immediately spent a full minute and a half laughing at this random memory.
She was beginning to look forward to seeing her mother later. Maybe her mum would notice a difference in her, perhaps. And, as if on cue, Christine’s stomach began to make a low rumbling sound.
While there she’d probably have a snoop around her mother’s fridge. Her mum would, no doubt, be more than happy to see that side of her if anything.