Copyright© 2012 by Denham Forrest
Regaining my composure I walked back to Ottilie's room.
"See Ottilie he's here, Taylor only went to the loo." Sylvia was saying to the comatose Ottilie as I entered the room. "Ottilie, Ottilie," she repeated, "Taylor's here now. Ottilie...
"It's no good, she's gone again by the look of it." Sylvia said with tears running down her face.
The nurses and doctors fussed around Ottilie for a few minutes but very soon most of them left except a staff nurse who took Ottilie's pulse and temperature and then made copious notes on her file. Eventually she said, "I'm sorry. But it is a good sign." and then she left the five of us alone.
Apparently the three girls were chatting after I'd gone off to the toilet and Ottilie suddenly asked them where I'd gone. For an instant all three had been so shocked that they hadn't even replied to her. Then Joan had realised that something significant had just happened and thought she had to do something, so she'd pushed the big red button that had a sign saying "Do not touch!" fixed above it.
Regretfully "Where has Taylor gone?" Were the only four words Ottilie said that day.
But the following evening I definitely heard her say "Hello Sylvia." Ottilie's voice was weak, hardly more than a whisper and somewhat croaky as one might expect if you haven't used you larynx for a while. Actually she'd sounded very similar to how she sounded when she talked or mumbled in her sleep, but a lot ... I don't know ... more distinct I suppose you might call it. There was no mistaking that she had to be awake.
And the day after that, Ottilie asked where I was again. But of course I wasn't there to witness it.
That night Tara positively refused to go home to her grandfather's house and insisted that she stay at the hospital with me. I still wasn't experienced enough as a father to argue the point without the possibility of that confrontation deteriorating into a shouting match. We were in the wrong place and the time was wrong for me to risk that happening. Besides she didn't have to go to school the next day because of the holidays.
I was sat in the armchair -- supposedly supplied for the patients use only, but experience had proved it to be the best one for dozing in. For a long time Tara had sat by her mother's bed in the darkened room; leaning forward. her arms resting on the bed as she chatted away to the unconscious form before her. I'm afraid that I didn't listen to what she was actually saying to her mother.
Probably I did doze or fall asleep for a while, it had been an eventful few days. So at what time Tara plonked herself on my lap I'm not sure, but she was soon fast asleep her arms draped around my neck, her head resting on my shoulder.
I assume that I fell asleep shortly after Tara had.
"Are you awake, Taylor?" Ottilie's croaky voice roused me from my slumber.
Opening my eyes I could only just make out that Ottilie's head was no longer pointing straight up as if looking at the ceiling. It had to be turned towards me, for I could just make out her eyes gazing back into mine.
"Yes Ottilie I'm awake." I replied quietly, for some inexplicable reason not wanting to disturb Tara.
"Thank you for coming Taylor. Our daughter's beautiful, isn't she?"
"Like her mother!"
"You always were so sweet. I'm sorry Taylor, I made such a mess of things, didn't I?"
"Now don't be hard on yourself Ottie. If anyone's' to blame its..."
I stopped speaking as I realised that Ottilie was no longer looking back at me. I could clearly make out the outline of her profile; her head was looking up towards the ceiling again. Suddenly I wasn't at all sure her head had moved at all.
"Did I just dream that?" I was forced to ask myself.
The next thing I was aware of was Tara fidgeting on my lap as she awoke. It was light by then and patently obvious that the nurses had been tippy-toeing around us while they administered Ottilie her morning ablutions and breakfast.
Actually Ottilie was fed a milky looking substance by a machine connected directly into her stomach; through her abdomen somewhere, I think. Breakfast, lunch a dinner, it was always the same milky white substance. Ottilie's bodily waste products drained into regularly emptied receptacle tucked away under her bed. I only tell you this in case you were wondering why she didn't have all kinds of tubes and things coming out of her nose and mouth, like folks tend to have in films and on TV.
At first glance, all anyone would ever notice were a few wires connected to a machine that kept an eye on Ottilie's heart rate and breathing. It had a little oscilloscope screen, on which you could watch her heartbeats and it could go beep, beep, beep! But for the majority of the time, the sound – in her room -- was switched off. Only making a noise -- automatically -- should her heart rate vary beyond the norm (for Ottilie's condition that is). I was told that the sound coming back on, set off an alarm at the nurses' station as well. But I never witnessed the equipment work in anger, although some of the others did.
Anyway we'd no sooner awoke, than the Staff Nurse looked at me and tapped her watch. This was my reminder that Frank Thorn was due to arrive (or he had arrived and was in-hiding somewhere). I have no idea how much the nurses knew of the situation; probably all of it, if they'd overheard all of Ottilie's visitors talking to her. Yeah, nothing was taboo we'd been told by Ottilie's specialists.
I think some of the doctors didn't know the full story, because more than one of them referred to him as my father-in-law when they mentioned Frank Thorn to me. But even they were aware that Frank and I ... avoided each other like the plague. Probably complicating life for the hospital staff some. Well they were (at his request) forever having to repeat things to me, that they'd already told Frank Thorn.
Not being sure that my short conversation with Ottilie hadn't been a dream, I didn't mention it to Tara as we went to a nearby café to find some breakfast ourselves.
My daughter was due to be taken Christmas shopping by Sylvia and Joan (and their children) that morning, so I then drove her to Frank's place where she washed and changed; I waited in my car, before dropping her at Sylvia's house.
Sylvia and her husband, had become my mentors where Tara was concerned. It was Sylvia who advised me on Christmas presents for my daughter, and Ottilie. Frank I'd try to ignore but Sylvia's husband had purchased a bottle of Scotch for the old sod, without my knowledge. Or financial input I might add.
Christmas Eve was a complete mad-house at the hospital, well in Ottilie's room at least. It appeared that everyone on her visitor rota had bought her presents. Now ask yourself what do you buy a comatose woman who you haven't spoken to when she had been unconscious for getting on for sixteen years? Well it seems that between them they'd worked that one out ... clothes! They were all convinced that very soon Ottilie was going to be needing a new wardrobe. Anyway I kind-a figured that Tara was going to have a busy Christmas morning opening all of her mother's presents or at least ... Oh shit I can't recall now what I thought was going to happen that day; I wasn't intending to be there anyway!
We had this very diplomatically worked out plan in place. While some of the rota girls sat with Ottilie Christmas Eve, I was eating that night with Joan and her family. Tara went to out to dinner with Frank, who then took her back at the hospital to sit by her mother until 10 PM, when I was due to takeover. Tara would see me when she came down in the lift...
Oh yeah well, Frank and I worked to an unwritten rule, lift up, stairs down! Tara or one of the other girls riding down in the lift would indicate that the other one of us could go up in it, because the other had started down the stairs; simple, if difficult to explain! I'm not quite sure who worked the system out, but it worked.
Anyway that night it was planned that Tara would ride back up with me so she could say hello, then she would take the same lift back down again and go home with Frank. I was to be alone with Ottilie all night; but things didn't work out that way.
Any hospital on Christmas Eve is a strange place. All the patients who could be, were allowed home to be with their families, even for just a day or so, are. So a good half of the beds are empty. Most of the nurses, doctors and ancillary staff on duty are volunteers. Although the Accident and Emergency had to be kept fully functioning; just about every other department runs on a skeleton staff.
Consequently any loose bodies around, can find themselves roped in if things get a little hectic. I'd had plenty of time to kill -- while Frank had been in Ottilie's room – over the previous few months so in a way, I'd become a sort of occasional volunteer porter. Providing that those Portering tasks did not require me to enter Ottilie's ward.
I'll add that my reputation from my younger days, had led to me being asked to assist hospital security on occasions. And members of the local constabulary when circumstance had required their presence; usually evicting drunks from the A and E department. My job had basically been to (unofficially) persuade the buggers not to return; but no-one ever (officially) knew who I was. Security and the police are required to handle brainless idiots with kid-gloves, if you get my drift?
Okay, so I'd took a couple of hits over the months, but nothing serious!
Where was I? Oh yeah!
Anyway I hadn't been beside Ottilie's bed for long when my presence was requested down in A and E. The lone security guard had an inebriated patient's two even more inebriated friends to cope with. They weren't being violent; they were just trying to spread a little Christmas cheer. However they couldn't understand that they were in the wrong place to give a very loud -- and out of tune -- rendition of "God rest you merry gentlemen!"
The police were somewhat busy that evening, so their arrival on the scene was delayed some. Eventually our entertainers were bundled into a police van and transported to, I don't know where. Either their home or a police cell for the night; I suppose that depended on how full of the Christmas spirit those two officers felt.
It was gone midnight when the security guy and I sat down for a well-earned mug of tea made by one of the A and E nurses. However mine didn't get drunk because another nurse dashed in and told me I should get back to Ottilie's room, a bit lively.
As I dashed up the stairs – quicker than waiting for the lift – The Staff Nurse – obviously waiting for me at the top -- told me "Not to run!"
"You'll be no good to anyone with a broken ankle Taylor!" She scolded.
"What's happened?" I panted back at her.
"She woke up and asked for you about an hour ago. She scared the life out Nurse Watson, she went in Ottilie's room to change her waste container and Ottilie suddenly asked her where you had gone. Nurse Watson hadn't even noticed that Ottilie's eyes were open."
"Are they open now; is she properly awake?"
"I'm sorry, but she drifted back into coma again before I got there. But she did wake and ask for you again about fifteen minutes ago; but then she went again. But Taylor, the doctor's here and he's been looking at the records of her brain activity this evening. He believes that she's coming out of it! He thinks that she is in the process of waking up properly."
At first sight I could see no sign that anything had had changed in Ottilie's room. Of course there was doctor and nurse Watson in there, The doctor was examining Ottilie, -- repeatedly shining a little torch into her eyes and then moving it away again -- when I entered the room.
"Hmm" and "That's good." He kept mumbling as he did so.
Then after gazing at a long strip of paper – I believe a printout form that monitoring machine -- he turned and addressed me.
"Well I can't be sure Mr er..."
"Carson!" the nurse prompted him
"Mr Carson; it's not really my field. But I do believe that Ottilie is in the process of joining us again. I've spoken to her consultant and he'll be here first thing in the morning. He'll be able to assess the situation far better than I can. I'm sorry but I have to go now, I'm needed elsewhere according to my little friend here." He said, waving what looked like a pager at me.
"Thank you, doctor." I found myself saying as he swiftly left the room.
"Taylor's here now Ottilie, are you going to say hello to him?" Nurse Watson said confidently.
Actually as if she was expecting Ottilie to reply.
"Okay, he's a patient one. I'm sure he'll be here sitting by your bed when you want him. But just in case he has to leave for a minute or two, I'll give you this."
Nurse Watson took the patient call button of its hook on the wall and pressed it into Ottilie's right hand.
"Now all you need to do Ottilie, is press this button and I'll be here and so will Taylor! Just press it, like this!" She repeated pushing Ottilie's thumb onto the call button."
"Can she hear you?" I asked.
"I have no idea Taylor, but we have to hope that she can. There's no mistake about it though Ottilie has woken and spoken to me twice this evening; she even moved her head."
"She did the other night as well, but I thought I'd dreamed it." I informed her and that got me chastised for not reporting the incident.
Nurse Watson left us then and I took one of the uncom ... less comfortable chairs and placed it as close to Ottilie's bed as I could. Sitting on the chair, I lent forward and took hold of her left hand, then I talked my heart out for god knows how long. Telling her that I was there and ... Oh bugger. I really can't recall what gibberish I told her.
Eventually though, the excitement of the evenings events having worn off I must have fallen asleep.
For I was suddenly aware that the ward lights were up and that I could hear Nurse Watson explaining to her relief about Ottilie speaking to her during the night.
I kind a gathered that they figured ... well, nurses are usually pretty quiet as they go about their duties, but lets say they had developed a method of informing me that it was time to get out of the way and let them get with Ottilie's morning ablutions.
I said "Good morning!" to the angels of mercy and wished them "Happy Christmas!"
Then nurse Watson suggest that I should take an extra half hour over my morning coffee because the physiotherapy girls were coming early to pull and push Ottilie around. They usually spent some time everyday keeping her limbs exercised and massaging Ottilie's face muscles. All visitors were encouraged to leave the room while they did so; although Tara was in the habit of helping them. I suppose that – had I actually been Ottilie's husband, I'd have been roped in as well.
Whatever at that moment a third nurse wished us all happy Christmas and apologised for being late as she entered the room. That was obviously nurse Watson's signal that she could finally consider herself off-duty. A quick glance from her invited me to join her for a little breakfast down in the hospital staff cafeteria.
Yeah well, I'd had breakfasted in there with some of the nurses numerous times before. Well I told you, I was sort-of considered an unofficial member of the volunteer staff by then.
As was my routine, I lent down to kiss Ottilie on the forehead and say goodbye. But one of the nurses said.
"On her mouth, Taylor; it is Christmas, after all!"
Since I'd started visiting Ottilie, only once that I could recall, had I kissed her on the lips. I'd been tempted to many a time, but had to keep reminding myself that I was – in effect – kissing a sixteen year old memory. Who Ottilie was going to be when ... if she did awake, was anyone's guess, so I'd stuck to respectful kisses on her forehead ... and sometimes her cheek.
But as Nurse Clarke had said it was Christmas so I took the liberty of staring at Ottilie's closed eyes was I gently placed my lips upon hers.
I suppose you've guessed it, but the instant my lips touched Ottilie's her eyes flicked wide open and stared back at me.
I have no recollection of how I reacted to Ottilie's eyes suddenly opening as they did, besides probably jumping a couple of feet into the air. But in the next instant all three nurses were around the bed all gabbling at Ottilie at the same time. While I stood there in shock, Ottilie was moving her head and ... well talking to the girls; admittedly in that croaky voice of hers. And then the staff nurse, followed by the duty Ward Sister came into the room. Eventually the doctor (from the evening before) all seemingly magically appeared. I have to assume that one of the nurses had to have pushed Ottilie's call button.
Organised chaos appeared to reign for a while, but I soon realised that everyone knew exactly what they were about. In fact I was ushered out of the room while the doctor gave Ottilie a full examination. Although I was allowed to say goodbye to her and tell Ottilie that I'd be back shortly.
I was a little confused by Ottilie's reaction when I did so though. She kind-a gave a half smile. More succinctly a rather embarrassed looking smile, as if she had no idea she how she was supposed to react. One has to remember that I'd been warned in advance that all of Ottilie's muscles (including her facial ones) would have atrophied a little, despite the valiant efforts of the physios'. So I really had little idea what to make of Ottilie's smile. Less so the, "Thanks Taylor." She managed to mumble out.
Nurse Watson and I went down to the Staff cafeteria and she had breakfast. I couldn't bring myself to even contemplate eating, and sat there drinking coffee.
As she ate Nurse Watson spelt out what was going to happen with Ottilie during the next few days and possibly weeks. Operations to remove Ottilie's feeding tube and reconnect her ... colon. Then lots of physiotherapy and psychological assessments. The doctors still had little idea if Ottilie's brain function had been impaired by her ordeal. It turned out that Nurse Watson had been involved with long term Coma patents previously and knew the ropes well, if you get my drift.
Then our conversation sort of drifted back to Nurse Watson's love life – a regular topic of ours – for while. Before Tara came bouncing into the cafeteria complaining that they wouldn't let her it to see her mother yet because Ottilie's consultant was with her.
Nurse Watson assured Tara that he wouldn't stay long (on Christmas day) and that she'd be able to be with her mother for the rest of the day.
He had to be in the hospital somewhere because he'd driven Tara there and I suppose Frank must have been up to the ward, seen Ottilie and her Consultant (before he'd left); but there was no sign of him when Tara and I arrived back at Ottilie's room.
My daughter rushed across the room and virtually launched herself at her mother's bed. How she didn't do Ottilie some kind of bodily injury I really don't know. But after smothering her mother with kisses and excited chatter for god knows how long a she eventually ran out of steam and allowed Ottilie to ... well, whisper a few words back to her.
I didn't hear what Ottilie said, but it caused Tara to slip off the bed, sit in one of the chairs beside it and then turn to glance at me, before looking back at her mother.
I'd kind-a progressed very slowly across the room, most likely I'd stopped to watch the tableau of mother and daughter together. I'm not really sure that I knew what I was doing; I fear that I'd lost my nerve and found that I was doubting myself ... or maybe I was doubting Ottilie. Whatever I was totally confused about what I should do.
However Tara's glance in my direction had prompted her mother to look at me as well ... and confused about how to handle things or not, that was my cue to approach Ottilie's bed.
I cannot explain the reason why I did what I did next, it was all spur of the moment thing governed I think by the – what I can only describe as -- apprehensive expression in Ottilie's eyes.
I crossed the room took gentle hold of Ottilie's left hand – that definitely flinched at my touch – and kissed the back of it. Then, pulling a chair close to the bed, said "Hello Ottilie!" as I sat on it.
Then I sat there staring at her expectantly.
"Hi Taylor! I wasn't expecting to see you here." Ottilie replied.
"Oh you know me, kiddo; I'm like a bad penny you never know when I'm going to put in an appearance." I found myself replying. "How are you feeling anyway?"
"Tired and confused. They tell me I've been in a coma for a long time." Ottilie replied with more than a shade of difficulty.
"Well over a year mum!" Tara interjected and then she rolled straight on to quoting exact dates. And from there ... Well, whether intentionally or not, it all poured out of my daughter. About how Bill Morris had shown up at their house and after arguing with Ottilie, he had beaten her senseless. And I might add done something I had been unaware of up until that time, attacked and knocked Tara out cold as well, when she'd tried to go to her mother's defence.
A lot of mutual (mother and daughter) crying and commiseration went on, that I wasn't really a party to. I might have felt close to my daughter, but Ottilie was still an enigma to me. Well the one who'd woken from a Coma that morning was. The night before she could still be that young woman I recalled from our teenage ... romance.
As Tara kept talking, I began to get the suspicion that my daughter might have bearing a cross that I had been totally unaware of. When I reflected on it later, it seemed obvious to me that Tara had been misguidedly been blaming herself for Ottilie's injuries; possibly because Tara had not called the police the instant she had become aware that Bill Morris was in the house.
I figured that I'd better mention that to someone, I had no idea what to do about it myself; except maybe talk to Tara. But I still wasn't comfortable in my new position as Tara's father, and had no idea how I should approach that kind of a problem. I vowed to address the problem with my muses Sylvia and her husband.
Whether for good or worse, I was effectively – if unintentionally -- sidelined by my daughter who monopolised Ottilie for the next hour or so. In a way I'd sort-of expected that would happen, if not welcomed it. I had known for some time that when she woke up there was going to have to be a frank exchange of views between Ottilie and myself on numerous subjects and I had it figured, that that would best happen in private. What that ultimate result of that exchange bring, I had no idea ... I hadn't been thinking that far ahead for some months by then.
But as I sat there that morning -- half – listening to what the two women were saying to each other, I began to feel more than a little apprehensive about the outcome of that exchange when it did come.
I had grown to like the idea of having a doting daughter, and I had become more and more convinced that I really would like to try to make a go of it with Ottilie. Although I understood that there were going to be a lot of hurdles to leap in that one. Firstly I had no idea how Ottilie felt about me ... or if she still felt anything for me. After all, the long lost boyfriend Ottilie had described to Tara, had – in fact -- been a self-centred hormonal teenager; a half forgotten memory probably seen through rose tinted spectacles in Ottilie's mind as well.
I haven't ever claimed to be perfect ... and, as they say, a bloody lot of water had flowed under the proverbial bridge since Ottilie and I had last been together; whilst she had been conscious of the fact that is.
As they chatted ... or rather Tara gabbled away at Ottilie, who managed to fit in an acknowledgment or nod of understanding here and there. Ottilie would cast the odd brief glance in my direction. When she did so I could definitely recognise the flicker of a nervous expression on it ... or maybe a concerned expression in Ottilie's eyes.
So when the Staff nurse -- apparently checking the readout on Ottilie's monitoring machine – subtly tapped her watch to tell me that Frank Thorn was around and wished to see his daughter. I announced that I really should be heading to Sylvia's house; where I was supposed to be sharing their Christmas dinner.
Tara and Ottilie both made a show of not wishing me to leave. I was sure I could trust Tara's reaction, but I was unsure whether Ottilie wanted me to stay, just because our daughter did. However there was no way I was sharing the same air, as Frank Thorn and Tara understood that when I explained that he was on the ward.
However there was no mistaking the completely mystified expression that Ottilie had on her face when I left the room. Or the mystified expression that came over Tara's face as she watched me kiss her mother's hand again.
Frank Thorn was waiting by the nurses' station and he tried wish me a happy Christmas as I passed him ... Well, I assume it was me he was addressing! However I blanked him and carried on walking as fast as my legs could carry me.
"God Taylor, Ottilie still doesn't know!" Sylvia said, as I explained the morning's events to her.
Oh, I had called Sylvia early on in the day and informed her that Ottilie had regained consciousness. Sylvia was the first link in the chain that was set to very quickly inform all of our old friends.
"She doesn't know what?"
"Anything! Why you really went ... or even when you left the country. Ottilie probably still thinks you ran off the moment you heard that she was pregnant. She's been unconscious remember; Ottie probably wont even remember that we've all been trying to apologise for blanking her."
"But she's been semi-conscious or whatever that quack called it, sometimes while we've been there and everyone's apologised and explained enough, haven't they?"
"That doctor said that Ottilie would probably be in a dream world, Taylor. If she heard and remembers any of it, she'll probably think that she dreamed it all anyway."
"Oh god, I didn't think! I was to busy trying to read her facial expressions this morning."
"No, obviously you didn't. Ottilie was probably trying to figure-out where you'd suddenly popped-up from. To Ottilie, the last god knows how many months just haven't existed."
I did not get back to the hospital until quite late. Surprisingly Tara and her grandfather had already left. Things had done an about face; the medical staff were trying to ensure that Ottilie got enough rest.
"If she's asleep, you can stay as long as you like." Nurse Watson informed me. "But If Ottilie's wakes-up, then I might have to ask you to leave; she's got a lot of recovering to do. And boy your daughter has worn Ottilie out today. Once she gets started that kid of yours doesn't stop for breath."
Besides the decorations Tara and I had been allowed to put up. Ottilie's room was dotted with an amount of detritus one would expect to see lying around on Christmas day; all somewhat unusual for a hospital room. Including what looked like a large stack of unopened presents, but I had to assume that Ottilie had been too tired to witness opening of them all; I was pretty sure that our daughter would have undertaken the physical task on her mother's behalf.
As Nurse Watson had implied Ottilie was asleep, looking almost as serene as she had for the preceding few months. Although, the monitoring machine was conspicuous by its absence, Ottilie's feeding machine was still there as was that container under her bed.
I found myself looking through a few of her Christmas cards and realised that they were nearly all new – welcome back to us – cards, that I'd never seen before. For an instant I felt annoyed with myself because there wasn't one from me amongst them.
Then feeling uncommonly tired, myself, I settled in a chair and gently took hold of Ottilie's left hand again. How long I sat there before I drifted off to sleep myself I do not know.
As I struggled out of my sleep, I first became aware that I had the mother of all headaches, and secondly that I could hear someone talking.
"I would have expected him to have shown some sign of consciousness by now. We'll do another blood test and see what the sedative concentration's like; perhaps he isn't clearing sedative out of his system." A male voice was saying.
"Oh he's showing signs all right, Doctor. He's been fidgeting and mumbling away to himself all night!" A female voice replied. "There, he just moved his head again!"
Because, I had just moved my head slightly – although still not opened my eyes -- I'd instinctively feared the effect the obviously bright lights in the room were going to have -- so that I could hear what the nurse was saying more clearly; a quick bit of mental fumbling assured me that the two voices had to be talking about me.
That caused me to do a quick bit of general reassessment and I realised that I could be no longer sitting beside Ottilie's bed. I was lying flat out on my back on a bed, myself.
Okay, that called for a little more ... mental gymnastics. In my time ... well, I did tell you that I had been in a few more scrapes than the average youngster, and – although I hate to admit it – I had been knocked clean out, on more than one occasion. Consequently I was more than a little prepared for the mental confusion that usually follows such an incident. That "What the hell happened?" and "Where the hell am I?" moment! The two questions your brain tries to work-on at the same instant, and that adds to its general confusion
Maybe I recognised the distinctive pounding in my head as well; that doesn't quite equate with the after-effects of the excessive consumption of falling down water. A night on the binge!
And I was also well aware, that generally, one tends to forget exactly what has happened in the preceding few hours' ... days sometimes.
After daring to risk opening my eyes just a tiny fraction – to kind-a test the waters – I screwed them tightly shut again. Jesus that room was brightly lit.
"Did anyone get the number of that ruddy bus?" I found myself asking.
"Ah, good morning you've decided to join us at last!" The doctor said. "You've been keeping us waiting you know. How are you feeling?"
"Like crap! The lights a little bright in here!"
"Sorry, close the blinds for a while nurse, that should make Mr Carson a little more comfortable."
A few seconds later the light forcing it's way through my eyelids dimmed so I opened my eyes to test the waters again.
Above me stood a doctor, dressed in the ubiquitous white coat, a stethoscope hanging from his neck. And a moment later an enchanting nurse appeared at the other side of the bed. At that time I wasn't risking movement, or my built in radar might have spotted her first.
"Hospital?" I asked.
"Royal Cornwall, Trelisk." The doctor replied.
"And the bus?"
"A car actually. Some old biddy made a bit of a pigs-ear of parking on the quay. The story goes, that she hit the accelerator instead of the brake pedal or something. Anyway she ended up parking in the harbour. The car hit you and your boat on the way in."
"How's Quiet Times?" I found myself asking.
The doctor couldn't answer that one; possibly he had no idea what I was talking about.
Okay, so I knew I was in hospital and why I was there; but the information had confused me more than I'd been when I awoke. Simple questions were racing around in my head that I somehow doubted the doctor or nurse could answer. Like, "What the hell was I doing back in Cornwall?" and "What had happened with Ottilie when she woke up from her... ?"
"Doctor how long have I been out?"
"Three, nearly four weeks. You took one hefty knock on the head my lad; we had to keep you sedated until your brain healed itself. You know, you've got one tough skull there my friend, you only suffered a hairline fracture."
I forced a glance at the closed blinds. "The date today?"
"August the Twenty-fifth!" The doctor replied.
"Are you that confused? 2010 anyway. You've only been out for a little under four weeks."
"Bugger!" I found myself saying, unintentionally. I'm not exactly dumb, the doctor's revelations could only mean on thing. I'd dreamed everything about Tara, Ottilie and the others while I'd been in a drug induced Coma myself. Quite a let down, I can tell you!
"Sorry, Mr Carson?"
"Doc what would you say if I told you that I was celebrating Christmas 2010 last evening."
"I'd say that the sedatives we've had to keep you on, have caused you to hallucinate in your dreams."
"I thought dreams were hallucinations anyway."
"Yes well, I suppose they are; sleep disorders aren't really my field. Whatever, Christmas is still some months away yet my friend! Good party, was it?"
"No party doc, just ... well things are a little vague, you know how it is."
Disappointed I might have been, but I didn't want the doctor to start to think I'd gone off my trolley; so I decided to play down the subject.
"Yes, I find dreams confusing myself, as well. Never mind, I should imagine that you'll have forgotten them by tomorrow."
Then the doctor proceeded to put me through a thorough examination. Standard stuff, basically making sure that everything that should be working, was!
Then he smiled and told me that they would probably discharge me after a day or so's observation and left. The charming nurse proceeded to make me comfortable, both physically and mentally, as only pretty young nurses can do.
"So have any of the boys been in?" I asked her.
"Oh several times from what I hear. But I'd have thought you'd be more interested in your female visitors." She replied with a cheeky grin that told me that she noticed that I'd been subtly checking her ... No. Let's leave that shall we.
"Female visitors?" I queried.
"Yes. Mrs Clegg and four other ladies."
Mrs Clegg, well I suppose I could understand her going in to visit me; she was just about the closest thing I had to family in the county. But four other ladies the nurse had said and I had no idea who they could be.
"Four other ladies; I wonder who they could possibly be?" I found myself expressing my thought's out-loud.
"Well two women and two teenagers. I'm sorry, the only visitor I've seen by your bed whom I know by sight is Maud Clegg; I looked after her husband for some time before he passed on. I can't tell you much about the others I'm afraid; except that they aren't local. We're a little short staffed here nowadays, Staff might know something, as she's spoken to them I'm sure."
"How often have they been coming in?"
"I really can't tell you Mr Carson. I'm on the agency, a spare-broom, I fill in where I'm needed. I'm rarely on the same ward two days in a row. I'll see what I can find out for if you like?"
"Thank you nurse. I'm really a little confused about all this."
"You're not the first by a long chalk Mr Carson. A lot of people have those dreams while in a coma you know. From what I understand some of them can be really convincing. And of course there's always the chance you'll have a little amnesia as well. That can be very confusing."
Then the nurse ... bounced out of the ward, throwing me an ... er, interesting glance as she went.
I looked around the other five beds in the little ward. At first glance it looked like only mine was occupied. But the nurses must have been tidying things away as. on closer inspection, two others looked like they could be in use. I was still wondering where their occupants could be when that smiling nurse's face reappeared.
"If I'm not mistaken," I thought to myself, "That pretty young nurse was tipping her hat in my direction. You'd better make sure you get her name and telephone number before she goes off duty."
"Sorry Mr Carson." The nurse said. "Staff can't tell you very much either. Mrs Clegg is listed as your next of kin and besides passing the time of day with the other ladies, Staff hasn't spoken to them. But Staff believes that one of them might be called, Sylvia and thinks that they refer to one of the younger ones, as Tara."
"I don't know I'm afraid. Maybe George and Tony will know."
I must have looked even more confused.
"Your roommates. They're either watching the TV in the dayroom or having coffee downstairs, or more likely perhaps they're outside having a crafty puff. Probably both of the latter two, at the same excuse." She winked and was gone again.
I lay there half-listening to the noises of people moving around in the greater ward and half trying to get something to make a little sense of everything. You have to remember that in July when the doctor inferred that I'd been struck on the head, I'd didn't even know that Tara had ever existed. Consequently, I could not understand how the Tara the nurse had just mentioned, could be my Tara. In which case, who in heavens name was she?
And then who could the woman called Sylvia be. I'd er ... been acquainted with a few Sylvia's over the years and ... well, I had been more than a little acquainted with a few of them, if you get my drift. But there hadn't been a Sylvia around for ... well, lets just say that they wouldn't have come rushing to my bedside, anyway.
Sylvia and Tara! No, confusing as it was, the only two that I could come up with was the two from my dream. But surely that was impossible!
Eventually just as lunch was in the process of being served. Two reprobates wondered into my enclave, one of which I recalled, was a regular client of one of the local pubs I sometimes frequented.
Besides a brief exchange of smiles and nods when they first entered the ward, we didn't speak while we consumed our meal. Well, not to each other anyway, a few racy comments were exchanged with the nurses and auxiliaries who served us; until Staff paid us a brief visit, then decorum returned. Possibly the other two guys had got a little loud.
"Carson you ol' bugger, you back with us for good?" Tony said walking over to my bedside as the remains of my meal were being cleared away.
"I hope so, Tony."
"Jesus mate, you took a real bash on the noggin. If it hadn't been for that bleeding lifejacket you habitually wear, you'd 'ave been a gonna!"
"Do you know what happened? The doc told me some silly bugger drove off the quay."