Adjusting her vision to the bright ceiling light, Martha unsealed her eyes. At first, she could see nothing but blurry images. As the room obtained clarity she tried to raise tethered hands to her mouth. She couldn’t move them above the bed frame.
Her eyes slanted to the left, the glint of metal against the glare from the light blinded her. She lay her fingers down against the bed. A regalia of unfamiliar sounds assaulted her ears – the constant beeping from the machine beside her bed confirmed that she was still alive. She caught a glimpse of Laura, who was slumped in a high-backed, leather chair, and gripped the cotton bed sheets. Laura’s eyes were closed, but Martha was sure she wasn’t properly asleep. As a child, she had always held on to Tufty. It was no different now. Martha was amazed it still existed. There was a time when Thomas thought she was too old for such things, but Laura had hidden it well.
At the back of the room her attention was caught by raised voices. Theresa was quarrelling with a young policewoman. Martha strained to hear the conversation.
‘Why can’t you take the handcuffs off? You can see she is in no danger of running away.’
‘I have my orders,’ the policewoman said, not moving from her position.
‘Orders! She couldn’t get out of that bed if she tried,’ Theresa said.
Martha tried her best not to cough.
‘Mum!’ Laura bounced out of the chair.
Laura’s hair hadn’t been brushed and the bags under her eyes could have carried all of Martha’s troubles in one go.
‘I’m here Mum,’ Laura said, reaching for her hand. ‘Theresa, she’s awake!’
It was strange that the one person, who should have been in the room, was far away from view. The more she tried to picture Thomas’s face, the more he was transported to a distant dominion.
In a room full of people, whom Thomas wouldn’t tolerate, she felt totally alone.
Theresa was by her side in seconds and called for the doctor to come over. She then faced Martha and urged her to stay still. A gentle push was all that it took to make Martha sink into the mattress. She stared at the open doorway. Any minute now Thomas would turn up and they hadn’t moved.
Why hadn’t they moved?
‘Laura . . .’ Martha said. ‘You can’t be here . . .’ Her pulse sped up, so that she wasn’t aware of it beating any more.
Laura squeezed Martha’s hand. ‘Everything is going to be okay.’
‘You need to go Laura your dad can’t see you here.’ The monitor above the bed was flooding her ears with the Morse Code for SOS. ‘Theresa, can’t you see this is madness, I want you both to leave now!’
Laura blinked, and her hand re-enforced its grip. ‘I’m not leaving you Mum, I don’t care what you say, my place is with you.’
Martha started to squirm uncomfortably on the sheets. ‘Theresa, make Laura see sense. She must go. Thomas will be here any minute.’
Theresa and Laura exchanged glances.
‘Come on Laura,’ Theresa said.
‘Mum, please don’t make me go.’
Laura pushed towards the bed.
Martha screamed, but it came out like a whisper. ‘You have to leave now.’
‘I’m not leaving you Mum. Not now, not ever,’ Laura said.
‘Come on Laura, the doctor is here, let’s give your mum some space. We can talk to her later,’ Theresa said.
‘I don’t want to leave her.’
‘Come on love, you know it’s for the best.’
Theresa positioned her arm under Laura’s shoulder blades and steered her away from the bed.
‘You . . . have to . . .’ Martha tried to get the words out, but her mind was too befuddled.
Why wasn’t Thomas here? Martha tried to remember.
Vague memories slipped in and out of her mind. Thomas, his face contorted and angry, was confronting her with the evidence that would have killed her. There was a red mist covering her sight. She wanted so badly to recollect what happened next but couldn’t see anything but his belt buckle.
If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far head over to Amazon.