The hospital was its usual bustle. A continual streams of people entering and exiting simultaneously came through the two main entrances. The front car park held a multitude of ambulances delivering or awaited patients.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. K. How are you?” JM asked, as he helped her into the car.
“I’m fine, but it’s good to be out of hospital,” she answered tentatively, through semi-closed lips.
“Sophia, would you like us to buy anything before we arrive home?” Barbara asked.
“No, thanks,” she mumbled.
Instead of the three occupants alighting they remained where they were; in the car, outside of their building. As they looked at their new challenge, no one mentioned their thoughts.
“Let’s go before we all freeze to death,” Sophia said, with a raspy voice.
“Are you alright to walk up the steps?” JM asked, after turning in his seat to face her.
“I’m not dead yet.”
The front steps were a laborious exercise for Sophia, even though she had the assistance of JM. The air’s bitter chill caused the warm air escaping their mouths to vaporize as they ascended. Similar to the trains of old emitting bursts of steam as they awaited occupants at a station. Sophia’s first independent action on entering was to ease open her apartment door.
“I had an alarm system installed, but I’m waiting for the locksmith to show us how to set and zone it.
You also have a new door key, and it’ll open any door.”
They followed her into her apartment, and after some unnecessary rummaging on Sophia’s behalf they all climbed the stairs to the redecorated apartment; although rather slowly.
“I can’t believe this is the same place,” Sophia said, in a low-toned tight-lipped voice.
“Let’s have a peek at your room.” Still holding Sophia’s arm, Barbara led her along the hall.
“I know you said you wanted to take care of me, but this is too much.” Sophia’s jaw was beginning to hurt, and it was causing her some concern. She looked up at them as she bounced slightly on the edge of the mattress, as if to test its quality. Even though she was again beginning to suffer, it was taking second place to how she was feeling. At that precise moment she felt loved, but simultaneously, humble. “I’ll stay.”
Barbara and JM quickly glanced at each other, then said harmoniously, “Agreed.” Their impromptu duet caused them to laugh, while Sophia allowed herself a grimacing smile.
Barbara jumped at the chance to hug her, before kissing her cheek. “We love you.”
“Thank you,” JM said, just as he kissed her forehead. He was hoping the two words did not need explaining.
She felt heartened by their words, but a sense of regret had reared its ugly head. I will always be responsible for what happened. From this day forward, I promise I will protect my family no matter the cost, or consequences. I will stake my life on it.
“While you two girls are getting things together, I have to return to the surgery. How about some Italian take away for dinner? There is nothing in the fridge. What do you say?”
“That’s fine by me. Sophia, what would you like?” Barbara asked.
“Then that’s settled. I’ll see you both later.”
Where’s my mother and father? Why aren’t they here? Katherine’s self-imposed silence had created a dilemma not foreseen. How did she communicate in times of need, or emergency? Although, she still considered it a haven for evading the probing questions that would surely have followed had she relented.
“Hi, Katherine, would you like something to drink? How about some juice?” an approaching nurse asked.
Georgina, was printed on the her nametag. “Are you excited about going home tomorrow?”
The unexpected and painful words temporarily stunned Katherine, but the realisation of the comment caused her to pounce onto the bed from the chair. Her head swayed violently, back and forth, side-to-side. It was as though she was trying to dislodge it from her neck. Both legs she had tucked up to her chest, encircled by her arms, accompanied with a wailing cry.
The unfolding spectacle caused Georgina to be in total disbelief. “I’m calling a doctor!”
Seeing her distress the doctor quickly covered her with a blanket, but trying to calm her was proving difficult.
“Katherine, please understand I’m only leaving you to ring your parents. The nurse will stay with you until I come back. Please … try to relax. I can assure you, everything will be alright.”
He looked at Georgina, and said firmly, “Under no circumstances are you to leave her unattended. I’ll be back shortly.”
For Sophia, Barbara’s voice had a tone of concern to it. “I’m coming! I will leave now. Tell her I’m on my way.”
There’s something wrong, Sophia thought, as she walked quickly from her bedroom, just as Barbara hurried from the living room.
“Could you ring JM? It’s urgent! He’s at the surgery. Tell him to get to the hospital. The doctor said Katherine’s distressed. I’ll explain when I know more.” She snatched her handbag from the kitchen sideboard, but rushing down the stairs, and trying to put on her coat simultaneously, proved difficult.
Sophia immediately rang JM, but the stress of relaying Barbara’s message and explaining her rapid departure had caused the pain to intensify in her jaw. She quickly shuffled to her bedroom to take two painkillers the hospital had prescribed.
Katherine, blanket-covered, lay fetal as a doctor spoke quietly, while sitting on the bed’s edge, and as a nurse stood near. Barbara was expecting a scene of utter confusion, not one of unusual calm.
Seeing her mother in the doorway, Katherine sprang upright and raised her arms, wanting her mother’s affection. To allow them their unification, the doctor, wisely, moved aside.
“I’m here now. You’re safe.” Barbara cuddled her daughter as she gave the assurance. Turning to the doctor, she raised her right eyebrow. An explanation was expected.
“It was a complete misunderstanding. The nurse was of the understanding Katherine knew she was going home. Apparently, that’s wasn’t the case. We have settled her down, but we apologise for making her distraught. It shouldn’t have happened.”
“I understand, but it wasn’t the nurse’s position to tell my daughter her future plans, whether going home, or remaining in hospital. However, the damage has been done, so I’ll stay with her until she’s discharged.”
“If there’s anything I can do, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m Doctor Rankin. Just ask one of the nursing staff to page me.”
“Thank you,” Barbara said politely, although not happily.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Harris, I was just trying to be friendly,” Georgina offered her explanation, before leaving the room.
Barbara sat next to Katherine and began to describe what her father had achieved with their apartment, and her new room.
The other patients could only watch on.
JM was not expecting to see his daughter calmly lying on the bed, listening to her mother. He envisaged a situation more serious.
“Hi,” he said, to Katherine as he kissed her forehead. He too, raised an eyebrow in a questioning manner to face his wife.
“Let’s talk outside,” she said, at seeing his expression.
With Katherine’s circumstances explained, she added, “I’ll stay here tonight. We can drive home tomorrow. Why don’t you go home and be with Sophia, she should not be alone. I’ll ring you later tonight, after Katherine’s asleep.”
“I’ll just say goodbye. Do you want me to get you something to eat or drink before I leave?”
“No. If I’m hungry, I’ll nibble some of Katherine’s dinner. Besides, there’s plenty of water.”
Some creamed chicken fettuccini and a dish of lasagne would be nice, and going to Antonio’s isn’t far. We can catch up on the latest gossip while the meals are cooked.
JM broached the subject of Katherine with Sophia over dinner “Do you think she feels as though she can’t return home? When I went to the hospital I expected to see mayhem, but she was just lying there listening to her mother.”
Sophia delayed answering. Her burden of guilt restricted the passing of an opinion, but she knew he required one.
“It’s probably a case of, wait and see.” What else can I say? “Thanks for dinner, but I’m not very hungry. Since being in hospital I’ve lost some weight, and I want to keep it off.”
“Whatever makes you happy? When your head completely heals, I will take you the surgery and replace your missing teeth with implants. It’s a lengthy process, but the results will amaze you.”
“Thanks, but you don’t have to do that.”
“Yes I do.” He wouldn’t hear of not repairing the damage.
As she rose from her chair, he said, “Have you given any thought to the old equipment in the basement? If you want it disposed of, I can organise it. I meant to ask about it when the original renovations were taking place, but it slipped my mind.”
“It’s excess machinery. Aleksander used to experiment with some processed meats when we had the deli and factory. He loved to potter around down there.”
“But he had everything at the deli if he wanted to make anything. Why do it at home?”
“He had other people at the shop manufacturing our products. He was always creating new types of sausages with different herbs and spices. It was like a hobby. He was a generous man. Whatever he made at home, he gave to his friends. Leave it there for the moment, I’ll think about it.”
“Okay, why don’t you watch some TV while I clean the dishes? I will be in as soon as I am finished. Unfortunately, I have some work that needs catching up on.”
She made her way to the living room, but in quick time, sleep had taken control of her brain, even though the television was on.
JM knew his absence would have some long-standing patients concerned, but Katherine’s return home remained unaccomplished.
By ringing JM, Barbara had kept her promise. “If Katherine needs some medical treatment with her injuries, it would be better if it came from me, or our doctor. I am hoping her discharged will be before lunch. I’ll ring when we are about to leave. How’s Sophia?”
“She’s asleep on the couch in front of the television, but I’m about to wake her. She should be in bed.”
“Okay. I’ll ring you tomorrow.”
A slight shake woke Sophia, She looked up to see JM, but she appeared disoriented.
“It’s time for bed. Are you okay?”
“Yes. Thanks. See you in the morning,” she said, as she raised herself slowly from the couch.
JM waited until she had entered her bedroom before returning to his over-worked laptop.