A Time to Mend – Chapter 20

Link to Chapter 19

Wendy and Colin picked us up at our house the following Friday evening just after five-thirty. Wendy insisted that both Emma and I brought our guitars; her car had lots of room, she said, and she was looking forward to hearing us play together at some point over the weekend. We had planned to pack a thermos of coffee, but she told us not to bother; “We always stop for coffee and a sandwich at one of the service areas on the M25”, she said.

She took the most direct route from the Oxford area to Chelmsford: east on the M40 motorway toward London, and then around the northern side of the city on the M25 until she got to the Brentwood Junction. The weather was clear and cold, with a frost promised overnight in low-lying areas. Colin and Emma sat in the back of the car together, and I could hear them talking steadily in low tones, although I could not make out the words. It was the first time they had seen each other since they had found out that I was Lisa’s father, and I guessed they had a lot to talk about. In the front, Wendy and I talked quietly about school and university, and I brought her up to date on Rick and Sarah, and my father. She told me that Lisa had been talking about coming along with us to Chelmsford, but at the last minute had decided to stay behind and spend time with her boyfriend instead.

She had warned me that the traffic would be heavy on a Friday night, and so it was; it took us about an hour and three-quarters to get to the South Mimms service area. The restaurant was almost full, and we were lucky to be able to find a table where we could sit for half an hour. Colin seemed to be wide awake, but I could see that Emma was fading fast, and I noticed the tiredness in Wendy’s face as well. “Would you like me to drive for a while?” I asked her.

“Would you? Do you mind driving on the motorway?”

“I’ll be fine. When we get to Chelmsford I’ll wake you up and ask for directions”.

“I probably won’t sleep, but I won’t mind not being behind the wheel. Are you sure you’re not too tired?”

“I don’t feel too bad right now”.
When we left the restaurant Wendy and I both picked up more coffee in paper cups to take along with us. I steered the car back out onto the motorway, and she found a radio station that played a rather mellow blend of folk music and light rock. Before too long we noticed that the conversation in the back of the car had died away; Wendy glanced over her shoulder, smiled and said, “They’re dead to the world back there”.

“Emma’s exhausted; I’m really glad she agreed to come on this trip”.

“Me too, but I’m sorry Lisa decided to stay behind”.

“We’ve got to let her take this at her own pace, Wendy”.

“Did Emma say anything about their visit on Wednesday night?”.

“She said it was hard work at first, but it got better”.

“I wonder what she meant by ‘hard work’”?”

“Perhaps hard work isn’t the right way to put it. What was that phrase you used at the Merton dinner – ‘turning on the charm’? Apparently there was quite a lot of that at the beginning”.

Wendy nodded; “Of course; there would be”.

“Actually, Emma had quite an interesting way of describing it. She was comparing it to the carol service at Merton and she said, ‘Lisa was like Miss Perfect Oxford that night, with her evening dress and her flawless skin, and when she first let me into her room it was like she was playing the same role again, but at some point she just let it go, and we were able to have a real talk’”.

“Emma seems to be taking it all in her stride”.

“Yeah; I was a little worried that first night that she might be a little possessive, but I should have known better. Since she got over the initial shock, she’s just been curious. It’s not in her nature to be resentful for long. Sad, but not resentful”.

“Sad about losing her mother, for instance?”

“Yes, but – well, as she said to me last week, ‘It was a clean break – lots and lots of sadness, but no regrets’”.

“How old did you say this girl is again, Tom?”

I laughed softly; “I know what you mean; in some ways she’s very childlike, but in other ways she’s much wiser than me. Every now and again she’ll come out with something so deep that I’ll be chewing on it for the next few months. On the flight over from Canada last summer we were talking about how hard it was for us to leave the folks in Meadowvale; I said I’d understand if she was mad about it, and she said that the problem was she couldn’t figure out who to be mad at. I’ll never forget what she said next: ‘I guess I could be mad at God, but he sort of holds all the cards, doesn’t he? Anyway, I’ve had enough experience at being mad at him to know that it’s not really very satisfying, because he refuses to get mad back!’”

She was quiet for a moment, and then she said, “That’s remarkable; it sounds like something a mystic would say, like Julian of Norwich or St. John of the Cross”.

“I know; I sometimes think she is a mystic, except that she’s so down to earth. But maybe mystics are too, for all I know”.

“Where did she get that from? Did she learn it from you and Kelly?”

“Not from me; she’s miles ahead of me when it comes to that sort of thing”.

“But you and Kelly must have been trying to pass your faith on to Emma?”

“Yes, but we didn’t have any sort of technique about it. Kelly was a fundamentally honest human being; she didn’t have a hint of hypocrisy about her, and she had her priorities right from very early on in our marriage. She’d gone through a rebellious phase in her teens, but when she came back to faith, it seemed to come very naturally to her – much more so than with me, actually. I struggle along, but she’d figured out pretty early that the best way to understand it was to live it out. And Emma being an only daughter, she and her Mom were very close, and I don’t think Em found anything in Kelly she wanted to rebel against”. I laughed suddenly; “I’m making Kelly sound like she had wings and a halo, I know, and of course, she didn’t; she had her weaknesses and failings like anyone else. But in a weird sort of way, that was part of her strength, too; she didn’t seem to feel the need to pretend she was further ahead than she really was. And kids respond to that, or at least Emma did; she’s got a keen nose to sniff out hypocrisy, and I’m sure if she’d found even a hint of it in her mom, it would have turned her off. So I think it’s mainly Kelly’s doing, the fact that Emma’s still a Christian today”.

“I’m sure you don’t give yourself enough credit”.

“Well, I learned my faith from Kelly and her family, so she’d have seen the same sort of values in me, in a dim sort of way. But  something very strange and powerful happened to Emma in the months after Kelly died. It wasn’t about being insulated from pain; far from it. It was  – well, you used the word ‘mysticism’, and I think that fits pretty well; it was a sort of instinctive mysticism, where she could just live her feelings in God’s presence without any need to verbalize them. I know she found a lot of comfort in that. Mind you, we’ve only talked about it once or twice, and it didn’t take her too long to run out of words to describe what she was experiencing. I have absolutely no idea where she got that from; she certainly didn’t learn it from me”.

We lapsed into silence again for a few minutes. I was getting a slight headache from the glare of the headlights on the motorway; the M25 was busy with people travelling for the weekend, and despite my earlier assurances to Wendy, it was not the kind of driving I was familiar with.

When she spoke again, her voice was so quiet I could barely hear it. “Lisa said she’d asked you about us – about you and me”.

“Yes, she did”.

“She said you’d told her you needed to talk to me again before you could answer her”.

“That’s right”.

“What did you mean?”

“I think she was asking me if that night at my flat was just a one-night stand, or if there was more to it than that”.

“Oh, I see”.

“I didn’t want to answer her, because you and I have never discussed it”.

“No”. She hesitated, then said, “I think at the time I was afraid to talk about it”.

“Me too”. I gave her a quick sideways glance and said, “Do you want to talk about it now?”

I saw her looking quickly over her shoulder, and I knew she was checking that Colin and Emma were still sleeping. “Okay”, she said; “You go first”.

I thought for a moment, and then said, “If you’d asked me at the time, I don’t know how I would have responded; maybe I was too close to the events to be able to put them in any sort of perspective. But I’ve been giving it a lot of thought lately, and I find that I’m seeing things in a slightly different light. I’ve used the ‘one night stand’ language in my own mind for over twenty years, but I’m not using it any more, because I don’t think it’s accurate. We had a serious difference of opinion about friendship and love. There were lots of things I liked about you from the beginning, Wendy, and when you started to come to my room and we got to know each other even better, I found a lot more to like and admire. I realize now that in those last few months I was starting to fall in love with you. But of course I never talked to you about it, because I was going to Canada, and because you felt so strongly that friendship and love were incompatible”.

Again she spoke very quietly; “So when we made love that night, it wasn’t just about sex for you?”

“I was as interested in sex as the next twenty-three year old male, but no, I don’t think that was the whole story”.

She didn’t reply, and I was too nervous to even glance in her direction. I fixed my eyes on the road ahead and the red glare of the taillights in front of me; in the background the radio was playing a Mark Knopfler number. When the song ended the DJ made some quiet comments and then passed on to the next tune, and still Wendy had not spoken. I glanced at her quickly and saw that her face was turned away from me; she was staring out of the window into the lights of the oncoming traffic.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

She gave a heavy sigh, shook her head and said, “Yes and no”. She turned to face me, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the sudden smile on her face. “I’m sorry, Tom; you’ve just paid me an enormous compliment, and I’ve left you hanging there”.

“I wasn’t fishing for a response”.

“I understand that, and I want you to know that I’ve given this a lot of thought over the years too”. She took another sip of her coffee and looked away again. “There were lots of times during the years I was married to Mickey when I was consumed by regrets”, she said. “He’d fall asleep at night and I’d lie awake, wishing there was some way I could undo some of the things I’d done. And one of those things was my decision to go to him instead of contacting you. It became very clear to me that all the reasons for that decision were utterly stupid. I remember lots of times asking myself why I’d made such a foolish mistake, and a big part of the answer was that when you went to Canada I wasn’t certain about your feelings for me. I suspected that perhaps you saw me as more than just a friend, but I wasn’t sure.

“So – you can understand why I just said, ‘Yes and no’. On the one hand, of course I’m happy when you tell me that you were falling in love with me back then – no girl in her right mind would be sorry to be loved by you, Tom. But on the other hand, I now know for certain that the last twenty-one years didn’t need to turn out as they did. I can’t help feeling a bit of regret about that”. I heard her voice falter; “Quite a lot of regret, in fact”, she said.

I glanced at her again, and to my surprise I saw that she was crying. After a moment I reached out hesitantly, found her hand, and covered it with my own. I felt her fingers tighten in mine, and for a long time we sat in silence, holding hands as we had sometimes done in my room all those years ago.

Eventually she released my hand; I heard her blow her nose, and then she said, “I’m sorry. I know there’s not a lot of point in regret; I’d be enormously selfish to begrudge you the happiness you found with Kelly and Emma over the years. And of course I’ve got Lisa and Colin, and I’m not unhappy in my career and my friends. We can’t turn the clock back”.

“No, we can’t”, I replied. “There is one thing we can do, though. From now on, we’ll stop using the phrase ‘one-night stand’, shall we?”

She laughed softly; “I would really like that”, she replied.

We arrived at Wendy’s brother’s vicarage at around nine-thirty. I pulled the car into the forecourt of the house and stopped in front of the garage; we woke the sleeping teenagers in the back, and Wendy was just opening the tailgate to unload the luggage when her brother emerged from the side door of the house, dressed casually in jeans and an old sweater. He and Wendy greeted each other with a hug and a kiss, and then he turned to me and held out his hand. “I’m Rees Howard, Tom”, he said in a quiet voice; “welcome to our home”.

I grasped his hand firmly; “Thanks”, I replied. “You really look like your sister!”

“So I’ve been told!” He smiled at Wendy, and I saw immediately the affection he felt for her. I introduced him to Emma; he greeted her with a smile and a handshake, and then put his arm around Colin’s shoulders and said, “Come on in, all of you. How are you doing, Colin?”

“Okay, thanks. Is Rod home?”

“Yes, he’s upstairs; go on up if you like, but take your bag with you”.

Colin was the first through the door, his backpack slung over his shoulder. “Colin and my son Rod are the same age”, Rees said to me, “But I expect Wendy’s told you that”.

“Actually, I haven’t really told Tom anything about your family”, Wendy replied as we went into the house.

“Oh, well, then the Irish woman will come as a surprise to him”.

“Irish woman?” Emma asked.

“Yes; she’s the one in charge around here”.

He led us into a spacious kitchen at the back of the house; it was fitted with modern-looking appliances and ample counter-space, with a dining table and chairs on one side of the room. A cheerful-looking woman with thick dark hair was placing a large teapot on the table as we entered the room. Wendy greeted her with a hug and a kiss and introduced her to me as Rees’ wife Megan; she was indeed Irish, and as soon as I heard her speak I was captivated by the musical lilt of her voice. When she heard that Wendy had let me drive the last half of the trip, she gave her sister-in-law a playful slap on the wrist and said, “What would you be doing a thing like that for? Making the poor man drive on the M25 on a Friday night! First thing you know he’ll be running back to Canada with his tail between his legs!”

We all laughed, and then Megan took us upstairs and showed us our rooms. Wendy had not been exaggerating; the vicarage was very large, with five bedrooms upstairs. Colin would be sharing a room with his cousin Rod, the only one of Rees and Megan’s three children still living at home; that left a bedroom each for Wendy, Emma and me. We dropped our bags in our respective rooms and then headed back downstairs for tea and scones.

Rees was pouring the tea into large mugs when Emma and I entered the kitchen. “Come on in and have a seat”, he said; “Wendy’s just gone to ring Mum and Dad to let them know she’s here safely. Sit down and help yourselves to something to eat”.

“Are your parents well?” I asked.

“They’re mostly all right this week”. He sat down at the table with Emma and me, handed us our tea, and then helped himself to a scone. “Dad’s going to be eighty on his next birthday, and Mum’s seventy-five; he’s got bad arthritis, and she’s almost completely deaf. They live in a seniors’ home about ten minutes drive from here; I see them three or four times a week. Dad used to walk over here from time to time, but it’s a bit too much for him now”.

After a few minutes Wendy came back into the kitchen and sat down with us. I heard Megan out in the hallway, calling up the stairs for Rod and Colin to come and have some tea, and then she slipped into the kitchen with a smile. “They’ll be talking half the night, of course”, she said; “It’s a mystery to me how two boys who talk to each other so frequently on Instant Messenger can have so much left to say to each other when they get together!”

A moment later Colin came into the kitchen with a boy of his own age. Rod had his mother’s thick dark hair and pale skin, and he gave us the same cheerful smile when he was introduced to us; he and Colin were talking to each other non-stop, and for a few minutes the kitchen was a lively place. The hour’s sleep Colin had enjoyed in the car seemed to have given him all the refreshment he needed, but I could see that the effect on Emma had been the opposite; she was having difficulty staying awake as she drank her tea. Megan asked her a few polite questions, but eventually she smiled mischievously at me and demanded, “What have you been doing to this poor child? She’s utterly worn out! The last thing she wants to do is sit here and be sociable with complete strangers like us!” She put her hand on Emma’s arm and said, “Take your tea upstairs and find your bed, love; there’ll be lots of time for talking in the morning”.

“I think I will if you don’t mind”, Emma replied with a grateful smile. She got to her feet wearily, kissed me on the top of my head and said goodnight to everyone else, and then slipped out of the kitchen, her tea mug in her hand. She was followed not long afterwards by Rod and Colin, who apparently preferred to do their talking in the privacy of Rod’s bedroom, although they managed to take a few scones with them to help keep the conversation going.

After a moment of quiet, Rees smiled at his sister and asked, “So – how are the kids taking it?”

“Colin hasn’t said much, but he and Emma were having a long talk in the back of the car tonight before they fell asleep. I think Lisa’s doing okay; she’s actually talked to Tom more than me”.

“She came over for a couple of hours last week” I said, “and we got to know each other a little. Emma was there later on, and she and Lisa had another visit this week”.

Rees eyed his sister; “Did you tell Mum and Dad yet?”

“No – I’m going to tell them tomorrow”. She glanced at me and said, “I expect they’ll want to meet you at some point”.

“That’ll be fine”.

We spent a little while talking about our plans for the weekend. Rees and Wendy were going to see their parents in the morning; if they were feeling up to it, Wendy said, they would bring them back to the vicarage for the day. If they were feeling at all unwell or tired, Rees and Wendy would visit with them for the morning and then Rees would go back and get them later in the afternoon. Meanwhile, Wendy said, Emma and I could use her car to go wherever we wanted. Rees told us about some of the walking paths within easy driving distance, and after a few minutes he went for a road map to show me the various locations. At some point in the conversation Megan refilled our tea mugs; by that time both Wendy and Rees were pointing out routes on the map and describing the various places for me.

Eventually Rees looked at his sister and said, “Have the kids heard from Mickey?”

“They both had emails a few days after he rang Tom and me”.

“Describing the situation in full?”

“Yes, he seemed to enjoy rubbing it in for them. Lisa sent him a reply, but she didn’t tell me what was in it”.

“Probably burnt out the fibre-optic cables!”

We laughed; “I wouldn’t be surprised!” said Wendy.

“He’s gone back now, by the way”.

“Did he talk to you?”

“He rang me last night to say that he was going to Iraq today; he expects to be back in England in a month or so. It was the first time I’d heard from him this time around, so I warned him about not contacting you by phone. He swore and ranted a bit, but I’ve got all the cards, of course, so in the end he had to agree”.

Wendy smiled gratefully at her brother; “Thanks”.

“Well, you don’t need to be bothered by him; if I reported him to the police, he’d be charged with breach of the court order. And I told him that if it happens again, that’s what I’ll do”.

“Rees, I didn’t realize you were this actively involved in the legal end of things”, I said.

“The court order says that if Mickey needs to get hold of Wendy or the children in an emergency, he’s got to do it through me. He’s prohibited from any direct contact with her, and he can only have direct contact with Lisa and Colin by post or email. He’d like to think that they want more contact with him, but they don’t. Lisa hates him, and Colin’s afraid of him”.

“Well, this is a cheerful conversation, isn’t it!” Megan exclaimed. “Here’s us meeting Tom for the first time, and you want to talk about Mickey Kingsley! Your imagination leaves a little to be desired, Rees Howard!”

We all laughed, and Rees put his hand on his wife’s arm affectionately. “Sorry”, he said with a sheepish grin; “Let’s change the subject. Wendy tells me that you and Emma are Mennonites, Tom; tell us about that”.

Emma and I left the house around nine-thirty the next morning; the weather was cold and clear, with a thick frost on the ground, and we had dressed warmly as we expected to spend the entire day out of doors. I packed a backpack with sandwiches, a thermos of coffee and some granola bars, and we each took water bottles with us as well. We drove out east of Chelmsford to the estuary of the Blackwater River; at the village of Bradwell Waterside we left the car in a parking lot and began walking along the sea wall. The estuary was on our left as we walked in a roughly eastward direction toward the North Sea coast. The coastline was flat, with marshlands stretching out from the sea wall toward the water’s edge. Ahead and to our right when we first began the walk was the huge boxlike concrete structure of Bradwell Power Station, an old nuclear power plant which, Rees had told me, had been decommissioned for some years. The farmland behind the sea wall was flat and open, with the occasional line of trees breaking the uniformity of the landscape.

About two hours into the walk we came to the old chapel of St. Peter’s on the Wall. Rees had told me about this place the night before; apparently it had been built in the seventh century by a Celtic missionary who traveled down from Lindisfarne in Northumbria to work among the East Saxon tribes. It stood tall and square against the backdrop of the sea, with a stand of trees just to the north, and fields and marshland all around.

Rees had told me that the chapel was usually unlocked; a nearby religious community used it regularly and kept an eye on things. Emma and I pushed open the solid wooden door and slipped inside; the darkened church was lit by small windows set high in the walls, but we could easily make out the stark modern altar and the simple bench-style pews. The walls were bare unadorned stone, but the floor had obviously been refinished at some time in the recent past. We sat down on one of the benches, poured ourselves coffee from the thermos, and chewed on our granola bars.

“This place is amazing”, Emma whispered.

“You like it, do you?”

“I do. It’s not like so many of the churches over here; it’s simple”.

“Kind of stark, in fact”, I said.

“It’s cool to think of it being so old, though; people were praying here nine hundred years before Menno Simons”.

“We Mennonites are a fairly recent arrival in the Christian world, aren’t we?”

She smiled at me: “Ah, but we take after the earliest Christians, Dad!”

I laughed; “Let’s hope so, anyway!”

“Rees seems like a nice man; do you know anything about his church?”

“I think it’s the same sort of thing as St. Clement’s”.

“That won’t be too bad, then – at least it should be lively”.

“Wendy seemed to think so. She likes a more traditional style herself”.

We were quiet for a few minutes; I was enjoying the peace of the chapel, and the company of Emma on a day when neither of us had to rush to get anywhere. She finished her coffee, put the empty cup down on the pew beside her, and looked away toward the altar. “I was awake for part of the time in the back of the car last night, when you and Wendy were talking”, she said quietly.

“So you heard what we said?”

“Some of it. It wasn’t easy to hear above the music and the car noise, and I was trying not to be nosy, but I did hear a few things”.

“Do you mind me asking what you heard?”

“I heard you talking about me a bit, and about Mom, and I heard you telling Wendy that you thought you’d started to fall in love with her when you knew her before. I knew that already, of course – you’d already told me that”.

We lapsed into silence again; in the old chapel the silence was a palpable thing, almost like a still lake in which you could choose to immerse yourself. I had sometimes heard Catholic friends talking about the special experience of praying in places like this, where worship had been going on for hundreds of years; that was not part of my own spirituality, but sitting in the little chapel, I thought I could get a sense of what they were talking about.

Emma said, “I like Wendy, Dad”.

I nodded; “You’ve said that before”.

“I know”. She smiled and put her hand on my arm; “Are you two going to sing tonight?”

“Actually, I think she wants to hear you and me play guitar together”.

“We can do that, but I hope you two sing as well. I really like listening to you”.

“Thanks”. I got to my feet and said, “Ready to walk some more?”

“More than ready. I love this; the marshes, the fields, the sea wall – everything”.

“I thought you would”.

We got back to Rees and Megan’s home around five in the afternoon. My muscles had begun to stiffen on the drive home, of course, and I found that I was limping a little on the way into the vicarage. We had walked about fifteen miles, and we were both drunk on the beauty of the countryside and the touch of fresh cold air on our faces.

Megan met us in the kitchen with a cheery smile. “Didn’t get lost and fall into a bog somewhere, then?”

“No, we coped quite well, thank you”, I replied. “I think we’d like to hit the showers, though, if that’s all right?”

“Help yourself. Rees’ parents are in the living room with Rees and Wendy”.

“Ah – how are they doing?”

“Dad’s arthritis has been giving him a lot of trouble, and Mum’s getting over a bad cold. Wendy and Rees spent the morning with them. They’d been thinking of taking them out to Halstead for a couple of hours; Mum and Dad still have a few friends there and they always like visiting the place. But today neither of them was feeling up to it, so they just spent the morning with them at the home. They’ve been here for about half an hour. We’re going to eat around six; is that all right?”

“That’ll be fine”, I replied. “Em, do you want to hit the shower first?”

“After we say hello to Wendy’s Mom and Dad”.

“Okay”. We went through to the living room, a large room on the south-west corner of the house with big windows, and patio doors at one end. Wendy’s parents were sitting by the fire at the other end of the room; Rees was on a chesterfield across from them, and Wendy was sitting at her mother’s side. Her father was tall and thin, with a wisp of white hair on his head, dressed in a  sweater and a checked shirt, and he got to his feet slowly as we entered the room. “No need to get up, Mr. Howard”, I said quickly, holding out my hand. “I’m Tom Masefield”.

“Martyn Howard”, he replied in a gentle Welsh accent, taking my hand with the loose grip of an arthritis sufferer. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Mr. Masefield. May I introduce my wife Carrie?”

Carrie Howard was surprisingly short, with her white hair tied in a tight bun at the back of her head. She took my hand with a warm smile and said, “You’ll have to speak a little louder to me, I’m afraid; the hearing aid does the best it can, but I’m a bit of a hopeless case”.

“I’ll try to remember that”, I replied; “This is my daughter Emma”.

Emma shook hands with them both, greeting them politely as I knew she would. “So you’ve been tramping on the marshes today, I hear?” said Wendy’s father.

“Yeah, it was great!” Emma replied. “Dad and I are used to doing a lot of hiking, but we haven’t had much chance since we moved to Oxford”.

“I expect Canada’s a wonderful place to do that sort of thing, isn’t it?”

“Oh yeah – hiking, camping, canoeing, climbing”.

“You sound like a very active person, Emma”, said Wendy’s mother.

“At the moment I’d describe myself as a ‘formerly active person’!” Emma replied with a grin. “Hoping to become active again as soon as possible! Well, folks, I can smell myself coming, so I’m going to head for the shower. See you all in a few minutes. Dad, sit in the corner where they can’t smell you!”

We all laughed again as Emma slipped out of the room. “What a delightful girl!” Wendy’s father said as he sat down again beside the fire. “Do sit down, Mr. Masefield, and don’t sit over in the corner either or my wife won’t be able to hear a word you say!”

“Thanks”, I replied, “and please, call me Tom”.

There were nine of us crowded around the supper table that night: Rees, Megan and Rod, Wendy’s parents, Colin and Wendy, and Emma and me. It was a long and leisurely meal, with lots of time for conversation. At some point during the day Wendy had obviously told her parents the full story of our relationship, and I could see that they were curious about me. Emma was sitting beside them and she talked with them both for a long time, asking them questions and telling them about our life in Canada.

After the dishes had been cleared and we were sitting in the living room with our coffee cups,  Wendy asked Emma and me to play some music, so we got our guitars and played for about half an hour. I let Emma take the lead, and she chose some of her favourites, along with a couple of Bruce Cockburn pieces that Kelly had particularly liked.

Eventually Emma put her guitar down and asked Wendy and I to take over. Wendy seemed a little nervous at first, but after a couple of songs she seemed to relax, and her voice was as beautiful as ever. We sang some of our old favourites from our ‘Lincoln Green’ days, including ‘The Snow it Melts the Soonest’, ‘The Recruited Collier’, and ‘Reynardine’. Wendy’s parents listened quietly to our songs; her father seemed to know all of them, and he made appreciative comments about Wendy’s singing and the way I played the songs. After a while he surprised me by asking Wendy if she remembered ‘The Dark-Eyed Sailor’; it was a song she had known since she was a girl and had taught to Owen and me in our ‘Lincoln Green’ days. I had barely played it at all since moving to Canada, but was able to remember enough of it to accompany Wendy as she sang.

Rees drove his parents back to the nursing home at about nine o’clock. Wendy, Megan and I stood outside and waved as the car pulled out onto the road; the night was clear and cool, and I guessed that out in the country the sky would be full of stars.

“Right”, said Megan, “Time for me to find my slaves and get the washing up done”.

“I’ll do that, Megan”, Wendy replied.

“Nonsense! Don’t even think about it!”

We went back into the house, to discover that Emma was already running water in the kitchen sink and organizing the dishes on the side. “Won’t you look at this?” Megan exclaimed; “A foreign invasion in my kitchen!”

Emma grinned at us over her shoulder. “Come on, Dad!” she said; “This won’t take long”.

So we sent Megan to the living room to put her feet up while I found a towel and dried the dishes, and Wendy stayed with us to put everything away in its proper place. “Aren’t you two tired?” she asked as Emma lifted the first dish from the sink and put it on the drying tray.

“It’s a good kind of tired,” Emma replied; “My body hasn’t had a good workout for months!”

“And the scenery was lovely”, I added.

“Especially the chapel”, said Emma; “I really liked that”.

“I’m really sorry I didn’t get a chance to walk with you”, said Wendy, “but it was really good to be able to spend some time with Mum and Dad”.

“So you obviously talked to them about us”, I said.

“Yes, that was one of the first things we talked about this morning”.

“How did it go?”

She shrugged; “Much as you’d expect, I suppose – they were surprised, and then curious”.

“They seemed to be okay with me tonight”.

“Yes, well, you two have a way of winning people over”.

Emma gave her a smile over her shoulder and said, “Your Dad and Mom are really neat; your Dad knows quite a lot about folk music, doesn’t he?”

“He does; in fact, when I was a little girl, he was the one who got me interested in music in the first place”.

Emma glanced at me with a grin; “Well, we have that in common, then”. She frowned suddenly at Wendy and asked, “What do you want me to call you? ‘Doctor Howard’? ‘Miss Howard?’”

“Please, no! ‘Doctor’ sounds so pretentious, and ‘Miss’ sounds so formal and prim! Please call me ‘Wendy’, Emma; I really hope we can be friends”.

Emma gave her another smile, lifting another plate from the rinse water and placing it on the dish tray. “So do I, and I’m looking forward to picking your brains about George Eliot, too”.

“So you’re still reading her, are you? Which one’s your favourite so far?”

“Well, I really liked Middlemarch, but I have to say that I was even more taken with Daniel Deronda”.

“Yes, that’s actually my favourite”.

“I was really surprised to find out that George Eliot had abandoned Christianity”, Emma continued; “She handles her religious characters so sympathetically”.

“Except for Bulstrode, perhaps”.

“Right – I forgot about him!”

They talked for a few minutes about Eliot’s books; I chimed in with the occasional comment, but mainly I listened as the two of them shared their enthusiasm with each other. Eventually the conversation drifted back to Wendy’s parents; Emma said, “It’s hard for people who have hearing aids when they’re in groups, isn’t it?”

“I’m afraid it is”, Wendy replied. “My Mum finds it difficult to screen out the background noise. But I suppose you’d know a lot about that, wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, lots of the old folks at Marston Court have hearing aids”.

“What exactly is it that you do there, Emma?”

“I’m a care assistant, so I’m there to provide general help for the residents under the direction of the manager and the nursing staff. I’m a jack of all trades, really, but I like it because I’m with the old folks all the time. I can tell you, we’ve got some real characters there!”

She told Wendy about some of the residents at Marston Court, and it was obvious by the way she spoke that she had become very fond of them. After a moment Wendy said, “It must be really hard when you get to know people like that, and then – well, you must lose people from time to time, don’t you?”

Emma nodded; “We’ve already had some deaths since I’ve worked there”.

“How do you deal with that?”

For a moment Emma didn’t answer; she frowned slightly as she lifted a mug out of the sink and inspected it thoughtfully. Placing it on the drying tray, she said, “Mom and I used to talk about that when she worked at the Lodge in Meadowvale. Sometimes when someone died she’d come home and cry for a while, and when I realized that I wanted to be a nurse and work with old people too, I asked her how she handled that. She used to say that nurses and caregivers who work with old people tend to make one of two choices; they either build an emotional wall to protect themselves from it, or they decide that it’s better to love, and feel pain, than not to love, and feel nothing. She’d chosen to love and feel pain, she said, and it was hard sometimes but it was the only way she knew how to do her job. I guess I sort of decided to follow her example”.

Wendy smiled at me; “Somehow I’m not surprised”, she said quietly.

“It’s not really such a big deal, Wendy”, Emma said; “thousands of nurses and caregivers make that choice every day”.

We heard the back door opening, and a moment later Rees came into the kitchen. “What’s this?” he said with a grin; “Have you got Megan tied up somewhere?”

“Emma can be pretty persuasive”, Wendy replied; “She’s got a way of charming people into letting her do what she wants”.

We all laughed, and then Wendy said, “Rees, have you got any hot chocolate in the house? I happen to know that it’s a Masefield family custom to have it at this time of night”.

“Don’t trouble yourself about it”, I protested.

“It’s no trouble”, he replied; “I’m sure there’s some in the pantry”. He grinned at his sister and said, “Nice work tonight, Wendy. You too, Tom; Wendy’s told me about your musical partnership, of course, but it was really nice to actually hear you both tonight”.

Wendy smiled shyly at her brother; “I was nervous when we first started!” she said.

“You did fine. And Tom and Emma – just so you know, Mum and Dad were impressed. Especially with you, Emma, and the way you were so polite and thoughtful when you were talking to them at the supper table. Thank you for that”.

Emma shook her head; “I had a good time”, she replied. “I really liked them”.

“Well, the feeling was mutual”.

The next morning we all went to church together; as Wendy predicted, the service was lively, with contemporary music, spirited preaching from Rees, and a warm sense of fellowship in the congregation. Afterwards we all went back to the vicarage for lunch, and then Colin and Wendy, Emma and I put our bags in Wendy’s car, said goodbye to Wendy’s family, and began our journey home. Just before leaving Chelmsford we called Lisa to invite her to join the rest of us for a pizza supper at our house in Marston. We reached her on her mobile phone; apparently she was out with her boyfriend, but she seemed quite pleased with the idea of supper; Mark was going to be leaving her about that time anyway, she said, and if someone could pick her up at Christ Church, that would be good.

We stopped for a coffee break at the South Mimms service centre at about four fifteen. The rain began just west of London, and by the time we reached Oxford at about five forty-five it was coming down in sheets. Emma and I grabbed our bags and guitar cases from the back of Wendy’s car and we all made a mad dash for the front door. We were all laughing as we burst into the living room; Emma kicked off her shoes and said, “Right, I’ll make some tea”.

“I’ll go and get Lisa”, said Wendy.

“Why don’t I go?” I asked. “You guys can put your feet up and enjoy a cup of tea in peace”.

“You just don’t want to cook, Dad!” Emma teased me.

“You’re such a great pizza cook!” I replied.

“That’s true; I can’t deny it!”

We all laughed, and Wendy said, “I’ll stay and watch Emma; I’m not a great pizza cook, so maybe I’ll pick up a few tips from the expert”.

We had arranged with Lisa that one of us would pick her up at Tom Tower around six-fifteen. However, when I pulled up in front of the gate there was no sign of her. I waited in the car for ten minutes, then tried her on her mobile phone, but there was no reply. Eventually I found a parking spot, left my car and walked briskly through the gate into the quad. I knew Lisa’s room number; I asked for directions from an umbrella-toting student, and a few minutes later I found myself in front of her door. To my surprise, it was slightly open.

I knocked gently at the door, but there was no reply. I knocked again, this time a little louder, and I heard a muffled sound from inside. “Lisa?” I called; “It’s Tom”.

Again I heard the muffled sound; I knew it was a voice, but I could not make out the words. Frowning, I pushed the door open hesitantly and stepped into the room. It was a bed-sitter, a little larger than the one I had lived in at Lincoln in my own college days, with a desk and chair under the window, a couch and an armchair and some bookshelves, and a bed in one corner of the room. Lisa was lying on the bed in fetal position, with her back to me and her face to the wall, and it was immediately obvious to me that she was in distress of some kind. The muffled sound I had heard was the sound of her low moaning.

“Lisa?” I said again as I crossed the floor to the bed. “Are you in pain?”

Her hands came up to cover her face, but she was not fast enough; I had already seen the cuts and bruises. I sat down on the bed and touched her shoulder gently; “Lisa”, I whispered, “What’s happened to you?”

“I fell”, she replied, still hiding her face with her hands.

“Let me see”.

She shook her head slowly; “I’ll be alright, but I don’t think I’ll be coming for supper”.

“You need a doctor; let me drive you to the hospital”.

“No, really, I’ll be alright”.

I sat beside her in silence for a few minutes, wondering what I should do. My natural inclination was to respect her wishes and leave her alone, but there was another factor at play now; I had a strong suspicion that the cuts and bruises I had seen on her face in that brief moment had not been caused by a fall.

Making up my mind, I got up, went over to the other side of the room and took out my mobile phone. I heard Lisa turning on the bed, but I quickly punched in Becca’s number, and to my relief the phone was answered immediately; “Becca Masefield”.

“Becs, are you busy?”

“Tommy? Where are you?”

“Just answer my question; are you busy?”

“Mike’s here; we’re about to go out for dinner”.

“I’m sorry. I’ve got an emergency”.

Behind me I heard Lisa sitting up on the bed; “What are you doing?” she cried out in anger.

“What’s going on?” Becca asked.

“I’m at Lisa’s room at Christ Church”. I gave the room number and then continued, “Lisa’s been injured and it looks to me as if she’s been beaten up…”

“No!” I heard Lisa cry out behind me; “No, how dare you…!”

“Becs, she doesn’t want to go to hospital or anything, but she’s in bad shape and she really needs a doctor”.

“Hang on; we’ll be there in fifteen minutes”.

“Thanks”. I closed the mobile phone, put it in my pocket and turned to face Lisa; she was sitting up on the bed, and now I could see the full extent of the punishment that had been inflicted on her face. The bruising under her eyes was beginning to swell, her nose was bleeding, there were several open cuts on her cheek and chin, and I could see by the way she was sitting that she was favouring one arm. “Who do you think you are?” she cried angrily; “I told you, I don’t want to go to the hospital or anything like that!”

I didn’t respond; instead, I went over to her sink, ran some water, and said, “Can you move? Did he break any bones?”

“Did who break any bones? I told you – I fell!”

I turned to her and shook my head. “I was married to a nurse for sixteen years, Lisa; I know what injuries look like”. I took the chair from her desk, set it down beside the sink and said, “Come and sit over here; I’ll clean up your face for you”.

She hesitated, and then got to her feet slowly. I could tell immediately by the way she moved that her injuries were not limited to her face; she was bending over a little, and she was supporting her left arm with her right hand. As she sat down on the chair, she gave an involuntary cry, and in that moment I knew I had done the right thing in calling Becca.

I found a facecloth on the drying rack beside the sink, dipped it into the water, crouched down in front of her, and began to wipe the blood gently from her face. “Can you tell me about what happened?” I asked.

“I fell”.

“No; we both know you didn’t fall. You’ve been punched in the face a few times, you’ve been slapped backhand by someone wearing a ring, and it looks to me like you’ve either got a dislocated shoulder or a broken collar bone. Somebody lost his temper and took it out on you, and by the way you’re trying to deny it, I’d guess it was Mark”.

She avoided my eyes, wincing a little as I applied the facecloth to her cuts. After a moment I said, “You don’t have to protect him; that was your Mum’s mistake, remember?”

“What do you mean?”

“Isn’t that why you’ve been angry at your Mum for so long – because she didn’t leave Mickey when he started to abuse her? Don’t make the same mistake she did, Lisa”.

She looked at me, and I saw the misery in her face. “You must think I’m so stupid”, she whispered.

“Not at all. This is not your fault; you didn’t choose this”.

“No, but I chose not to break off with him after the first time he hit me”.

“Has he hit you often?”

“Only once before today”.

“Did you tell anyone about it?”

“No – I didn’t want to believe…” She broke off abruptly, gave a little cry and doubled over, her face suddenly screwing up in pain. I put my hand on her arm, but she shook her head vigorously; “No, please – don’t touch me!” she exclaimed.

“Okay; can you tell me where the pain is?”

“Tom, just shut the fuck up, okay!” she cried in a voice full of exasperation.

“Okay – sorry”.

For about half a minute neither of us said anything, and then she straightened up a little, and her eyes met mine. “Sorry”, she whispered; “I shouldn’t have sworn at you like that”.

“Where’s the pain?”

“I don’t want to talk about it”.

“Is it okay for me to clean up your face some more?”

“Yes”. She paused, and then added in a small voice, “Thank you”.

I began applying the facecloth to her cuts again. “How long ago was it that Mark first hit you?” I asked.

“A couple of months, I think”.

“How did it happen?”

“We had an argument, and it got out of hand”.

“Did you know he had a problem with his temper?”

She nodded reluctantly; “Yes, but I never thought I’d be on the receiving end of it. And after it was over he was so apologetic about it; he promised me it would never happen again”.

“And naturally you wanted to believe him”.

“Of course I did”. She shook her head; “I’m so pathetic, aren’t I? I must sound like every stupid woman who’s ever made excuses for staying in an abusive relationship”.

“It’s not always easy to do the thing you know you should do”, I observed, looking her steadily in the eye.

She shook her head; “No, it’s not”. She pursed her lips, and the next thing I knew there were tears in her eyes. I leaned forward and put my arms around her, holding her gently to avoid causing any pain to her injured shoulder. “Becca will be here in a few minutes”, I said softly.

“Becca? Your sister? Is that who you were talking to?”

“Yes; she’s a doctor, and her boyfriend’s an EMT”.

I felt her body suddenly tense in my arms; she pulled away from me, crying out and doubling up again. “Jesus, that hurts!” she said in a voice fraught with pain.

I was beginning to guess what was going on. “Hold my hand and squeeze as tight as you need to”, I said quietly.

She grabbed my hand with a grip like a vice, her face screwed up tight; I could see that she was gasping for breath. “Just hang on for a couple more minutes”, I said softly.

After a moment I saw the tension in her body ease; when she looked up at me I saw the sweat shining on her forehead. I dipped the facecloth in her sink again and resumed my cleaning of the cuts on her face. “Mark must have a ring with a boss or a jewel of some kind”, I observed.

“It’s a class ring”.

“Backhand slaps; very nasty”.

“He was really angry”.

“What set him off?”

She hesitated, looking away for a moment. “I – I’d rather not say, if you don’t mind”. She looked back at me apologetically; “Sorry”.

“Not at all; it’s not my business anyway”.

A moment later I heard the sound of the door behind me, and Becca and Mike came into the room. Becca crouched down beside me; “Hello, Lisa”, she said gently; “I’m Becca, and it seems I’m your aunt. Can I have a look?” She reached out, touched the side of Lisa’s face, frowned and said, “Are you having any problems with your vision?”


“No strange colours, no border of any kind around your field of vision, nothing like that?”


Becca held up a finger in front of Lisa’s face; “Keep your head still, and follow my finger with your eyes”, she said. She moved her finger from side to side, and I watched as Lisa’s eyes followed her movements.

“Good”, said Becca. “Are you able to walk?”


Becca got to her feet; “Tommy, I’m going to ask you to step outside for a few minutes”, she said. “Lisa, could you please go and sit down on your bed? I’ll help you take that top off, so that I can have a good look at you”.

Lisa suddenly cried out in pain and doubled up again. Becca put her arm around her; “Tommy, get out of here”, she said; “I’ll call you back in a few minutes”.

I slipped out into the corridor, leaned against the wall and took out my mobile phone; I thought for a moment, then called our home number; after a moment it was answered and I heard Emma’s voice: “Masefields”.

“Hey, it’s me”.

“Dad; is everything okay?”

“Listen carefully, Em; I’m at Christchurch, and Lisa’s been beaten up by her boyfriend. Becca and Mike are here; Becca’s examining her, and I suspect that she’s going to call an ambulance. I need to tell Wendy what’s going on, but I wanted you to know before I talked to her. I need you to stay calm, okay?”

“Okay, Daddy”, she replied quietly.

“I’m going to suggest to Wendy that you guys stay right where you are until I know for sure whether Becca’s going to have her admitted to hospital; there’s no point in you all coming down here only to find that the ambulance has already left”.

“I understand. Do you want to talk to Wendy now?”


I heard her calling Wendy, and a moment later I heard Wendy’s voice; “Tom? What’s going on?”

“There’s been trouble here, Wendy. Lisa’s been beaten up by Mark; Becca’s here and she’s examining her right now, but I suspect she’s going to call an ambulance”.

“Oh my God, Tom! Is she all right?”

“She’s been slapped around the face, and it looks to me as if she’s got either a broken collar bone or a dislocated shoulder. There might be more, but I don’t know for sure”.

“I’m coming down right now”.

“No, wait; there’s no point in you driving down here right away; by the time you got here, an ambulance might already have arrived and picked her up. Wait a few minutes until Becca’s finished, and then I’ll call you again and let you know which hospital we’re going to; I expect it’ll be the JR, but I don’t know for sure”.

I heard her hesitate, and then she said, “Right, okay, that makes sense. Tom, do you know what happened? Is Mark still there?”

“He was gone before I got here. I found her in her room lying on the bed. She tried to pretend at first that she’d just had a fall, but I knew as soon as I saw her that she’d been attacked, so I called Becca right away, and she came right down”.

“Is she in a lot of pain?”

“She’s in pain, but she’s in good hands, Wendy. I’ll let you know as soon as I know more; it should be very soon”.

“Alright. Thank you, Tom; please give her my love and tell her I’ll be down just as soon as I know where she’s going”.

“I will; I’ll talk to you in a few minutes”.

It was not long afterwards that Mike came out into the corridor to join me. “How is she?” I asked.

“We’re going to have to call the police, Tom”, he said. “This is an assault, and a very nasty one too”.

“What’s the damage?”

“Well, there’s the obvious facial stuff, and it looks like there’s a broken collar bone and at least one broken rib. There’s some bad bruising around her chest and abdominal area. Also, she’s starting to have a miscarriage”.

“I thought that was what was going on”.

“Of course, Becca’s only given her a brief preliminary examination. She’s calling an ambulance right now”.

“So you persuaded her to go to the hospital?”

“Becca can be pretty persuasive, in a subtle sort of way”.

I grinned; “I guess you’re right. Sorry I interrupted your date, Mike”.

“Don’t be silly; you did the right thing”.


Two hours later, Wendy, Emma, Colin and I were back in the familiar visitors’ lounge at the JR. Becca had been allowed to go through into the operating room with Lisa; she was not a trauma surgeon, she said, but she would do her best to help and would come out to us afterwards and let us know what happened. Emma had found coffee for us all, and we were sitting in a loose circle of chairs, talking quietly from time to time, and then lapsing into silence again.

“How long do you think it’ll be before we hear anything?” Wendy asked me.

“If Becca’s right about her injuries, she could be in the O.R. for a while”.

She glanced across at Colin; “Do you want to get something to eat?” she asked.

He nodded, and Emma said, “I know where everything is around here; why don’t Colin and I go down and get something, and then you two can go down a little later if you feel like it?”

“That sounds like a good idea”, I replied.

After they left I looked across at Wendy; she was sitting on a small chesterfield, staring sightlessly into empty space, her face pale. “Are you okay?” I asked.

She shook her head. “Strange, isn’t it, how absolutely everything can change in an instant?”

“Yeah”. I moved over, sat down beside her on the chesterfield, and took her hand. I felt her fingers close around mine; “God, Tom, I feel so absolutely stupid!” she said. “How many times have I said that something was worrying me about Lisa and Mark? After all I went through with Mickey, how could I not have connected the dots?”

“Don’t blame yourself; you weren’t the only one to miss the signs”.

We were quiet again for a few minutes; the visitor’s lounge was busy, with people coming and going all the time, but Wendy seemed oblivious to it all. Eventually she said, “I wonder how long she would have waited to tell me she was pregnant”.

“Are you surprised?”

“That she and Mark were sleeping together? No, but I am surprised that she would let herself get pregnant. She’s very smart and sophisticated; I would have expected her to be taking precautions”.

“Well, she is the daughter of two smart and sophisticated parents who once forgot to take precautions”.

She laughed softly; “Yes, that’s right, isn’t it?”

We were still sitting like that about half an hour later when Becca came into the visitor’s lounge, wearing hospital scrubs. She saw us immediately and made her way across to where we were sitting. “How are you two doing?” she asked; “You both look pretty tired”.

“We’re all right”, Wendy replied. “How’s my girl?”

“She’s still in surgery”. Becca took her seat across from us. “Her injuries are pretty much as I suspected; a broken collarbone, two broken ribs, a lot of bruising around the chest and abdominal area, as well as all the facial stuff you can see. There’s also some bruising at the base of the spine; it looks like he kicked her in the back at some point, but fortunately there doesn’t seem to be any spinal damage. Right now they’re cleaning up after the miscarriage; it’s going to take a while yet”.

“How far along was her pregnancy?” Wendy asked.

“About six weeks. Where are Colin and Emma?”

“Down at the cafeteria getting a bite to eat”.

“Have you two eaten?”

Wendy and I exchanged glances; “Not yet”, I replied; “We were about to have supper when I went down to Christ Church to get Lisa”.

“They’re going to be at least another hour with her in there; why don’t you go down and get a sandwich or something?”

“You’ll come and get us if there are any troubles?” Wendy asked.

“Of course, but don’t worry, Wendy; her life’s not in danger”.

Much later that night Wendy and I sat on either side of Lisa’s bed on the emergency ward. Her face had been cleaned up a little, but the bruises under her eyes were spectacular; her shoulder was bandaged and her arm was in a sling, and there were a couple of IV lines leading to her other arm. Wendy was holding her hand, and Lisa was making no move to resist the contact. She was awake, if a little groggy, but her voice was so faint as to be barely audible against the sounds of the various monitors and the background noise of the ward.

“Tom, I’m so sorry I got so angry with you”, she whispered; “I know you were only trying to help me”.

“Don’t give it a second thought”.

“Your sister was really good”.

We were silent for a few minutes; Wendy continued to hold Lisa’s hand, and with her other hand she was gently stroking her face, trying to avoid the cuts and bruises. I thought Lisa had fallen asleep, but after a while she opened her eyes and focused on her mother. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I was pregnant”, she whispered.

“You knew, then?”

“I’ve known for a couple of weeks”. She paused, and then added in an even smaller voice, “Are you mad at me?”

“How could I be mad? I’ve been in your shoes”. Wendy hesitated, and then said, “Was that perhaps what the quarrel with Mark was about?”

Lisa nodded. “I told him today. He lost his temper, and I got angry back at him, and then it just got out of control”.

I heard the door move a little; I glanced over my shoulder and saw Becca moving over to the bed. “What are you doing back here this late?” I asked.

“Just thought I’d come in and check on my patient”, she replied. She smiled at Lisa; “How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Pretty sore”.

I watched as my sister put her hand on Lisa’s wrist to check her pulse. “Do you need something stronger for the pain?” she asked.

“Maybe a little stronger. Thanks for all you did”.

“I didn’t do a lot; I’m just a GP. Once I got you here, I handed you over to the real surgeons”.

I saw Lisa trying to force her battered face into a smile. “So you’re my aunt, are you?”

“Apparently so”.

“What shall I call you?”

“Well, Emma just calls me Becca”.

Lisa glanced over at me; “Where is Emma?”

“Becca drove her home. You aren’t officially supposed to have more than two visitors here at a time; I’m not quite sure how Dr. Masefield is getting away with it. I suspect she’s stressing the ‘Doctor’ part and downplaying the ‘Masefield’ part”.

Becca smiled; “You’ve probably already discovered that Tommy can be very annoying at times”.

“ ‘Tommy’?” Lisa glanced at me with amusement in her eyes; “You’re called ‘Tommy’?”

“Only by her, and no one else”, I retorted. “She started calling me that when she was a little squirt, and she hasn’t grown out of it yet”.

We all laughed, and Becca moved a little closer to the bed and put her hand on Lisa’s forehead. “I’ll ask the nurse if she can give you a stronger pain killer to help you sleep”, she said.


Becca glanced back at Wendy and me. “She needs to sleep”, she said quietly; “Just a few more minutes, and then I think we should leave her for the night”.

“I think you probably need some sleep, too”, I said.

“Don’t worry; as soon as I talk to the nurse about this pain killer, I’m heading home to my bed”.

Link to Chapter 21


4 thoughts on “A Time to Mend – Chapter 20

  1. Pingback: A Time to Mend – Chapter 19 | Faith, Folk and Charity

  2. Pingback: A Time to Mend – Chapter 21 | Faith, Folk and Charity

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