He woke up and it was all a dream. The sodden screech
of tyres and the jolt of the impact were still fresh in his mind, however,
as he drove carefully to the Hospital. He swore as yet more rain battered
down on the windscreen and although the heater was on full, he felt
the cold shiver through him. It was a strange sensation, though not
unpleasant. As a child he had often enjoyed standing out in the rain
with his parka jacket zipped up tight, forming a mask around his face.
The dream still lurked at the back of his mind, as though trying to
tease him into distraction. He would not allow it - he simply couldn't.
Not with his wife, heavy with their unborn child, groaning beside him:
"I can feel her. She's coming this time, Ed!"
"Just relax honey. We're nearly there - just a few more minutes."
lied. They were at least ten miles from the Hospital and the route
which he had so painstakingly worked out over the preceding months
was well and truly buggered. Floods! Would you believe it - bloody
floods in May, of all things! Perhaps climate change was here to
stay after all. Still, he couldn't let that pompous Greeny git in
sales prove him wrong. He flicked the de-mister onto full and peered
into the murk outside, praying that there were no more hold-ups.
She woke up and
it was all a dream. Her hands still ached and beneath the wrinkles,
her veins ran like thin blue ribbons. A hurried glance in the mirror
confirmed her worst suspicions. The face which looked back had little
beauty and laughter lines which now caused only pain.
Marjorie found her slippers and padded through to the kitchen, calling
for the cat, which meowed his protests when she turned on the light.
The clock on the wall read 10.30pm. What was she doing? Oh blast it;
she needed to do something and he would eat what was put out for him
sooner or later.
An involuntary burst of laughter escaped her lips when Panda slunk drowsily
over to the scent of food and collapsed in a heap next to his dish.
Her empty bed was full of nothing but memories now, so she curled up
like the cat and fell asleep on the couch.
I really should be getting back you know... Oh go on then - you
twisted my arm!
After all, it wasn't every day that you had a new baby daughter to celebrate
and certainly not one this beautiful! He had been struck dumb when,
after all the fuss had died down and the medical staff had left them
in peace, Kate had been placed in his arms. She was perfect. Little
legs kicking and chubby arms flailing - she even had a full head of
hair! Perfect in every way and he hadn't tired of telling anyone who
was within shouting distance exactly that. His friends all smiled and
fuelled him up with more alcohol, in the hope that he might shut up
long enough to get interested in the game on the Pub's big screen.
It was after he had fished his car keys from the floor for the third
time that Eddie decided it was time to go home, for some rest.
Marjorie awoke with a start. It was just the cat flap banging in the
wind, but that meant that Panda must be outside in the storm. She could
hear him meowing incessantly and hurried to see if he had been hurt
by a falling branch or a piece of debris.
The wind whipped around her when she opened the kitchen door, dragging
her outside onto the veranda. The cat was nowhere to be seen, so she
stepped down into the garden with her arm up as protection against the
driving rain. Stupid! Her jacket was back by the kitchen door but just
as she turned to fetch it, she was stopped dead by another sound. Not
the cat, but something else - a voice?
He was calling her. She was sure it was him - she would know that voice
anywhere. There it was again, faint but unmistakably his voice, swirling
in the gale. In her mind she was stumbling toward where he called, desperate
not to lose him again, now that she had found him. So much had been
left unsaid. She had grown so used to his constant presence that over
the years it had become second nature, taken for granted. He had to
know that that was not so.
It was cold and her skin felt damp, but her husband was near so what
did it matter?
The car lurched forward as Eddie crunched into top gear. Why had he
stayed so long in the Pub when there was so much to organise? The nursery
was still to be finished and there were countless other things to do.
He cursed himself for getting so carried away and concentrated on staying
on the road, as the car bucked and heaved under the assault from the
Marjorie was nearing the end of the garden and her husband felt so close
she could almost touch him. He called for her again, louder and firmer
than before. She cried back:
"Ralph! Ralph! I'm coming - wait for me!"
The light was bright enough to blind her, but she was determined and
stepped forward to meet him.
© Stuart Macdonald 2001