Another chapter from Nine Lives for your critical eyes, and I am very pleased with everyone’s response so far! Be aware that you are helping a very grateful author with some of the finer points! And I love you all for this…
Kate awoke on Saturday morning and found herself in the hospital, practically chained to the bed by a mass of wires. She had the feeling she had come closer than ever to dying and was unimpressed to find herself still breathing.
She hadn’t slept well, despite all the morphine. Hospitals were noisy places and on top of everything else, she could swear she saw her brother Danny’s face last night or was it her imagination?
Kate needed to go to the bathroom and the machine bleeping alarmingly every time she moved made her feel like a prisoner. At least the uncomfortably tight clamp-like contraption was gone from her wrist. She didn’t feel any different at all and she wondered why she thought she might, after all, she had been here before. Waking up when she shouldn’t have, continuing to breathe against the odds. Defeating nature seemed to be one of the things she did best, or was this just some melodramatic notion planted in her head by the annoying voice, or was it from all those spooky films she loved to watch?
She was beginning to think it was some kind of conspiracy but it wasn’t funny anymore.
In her youth, the idea she might be somehow invincible was a little exciting, a kind of payback for all the misery.
All her life, something had tried to kill all her hopes of happiness, replacing them with the awful knowledge that nothing would ever change – except to get worse. Little by little, it left her an empty shell and now she was getting older, she knew she would welcome death with open arms. Something this voice didn’t seem to grasp.
She never connected the voice to any of this until recently, when she began to realise that whatever was talking to her seemed to know an awful lot about her, almost as if it was part of it.
Just how long had it been tormenting her? How many more times would she almost die before it left her alone because what kept happening to her was not of her doing, at least she didn’t think it was.
The hospital room had its own private bathroom, something Kate appreciated as she was in no hurry to socialise with anyone. She would have loved a shower, but that would have to wait and made do with finger combing her hair and splashing her face with water. She was forced to dress in yesterday’s dirty clothes, so one way or another couldn’t wait to get home.
Studying her wet face in the mirror, she didn’t look any different; last night’s ordeal left no trace. She looked tired, but that was how she always looked these days.
Kate had been called attractive in the past, but there hadn’t been many suitors beating a path to her door. She had never loved anyone but came close once. The image of a young man materialised in her mind and she smiled, unable to help herself.
His name was Michael and he was special. She often wondered how he was now, and if he was happy. Kate was seventeen and on her own when they met. Her mother had died the year before and she was working as a part-time usherette in the local cinema to make ends meet. Michael was the trainee projectionist.
He had come down to the foyer to speak to the manager about a problem in the projectionist’s booth. Kate couldn’t hear what the problem was, and he smiled at her over the manager’s shoulder and in that moment she was smitten.
He looked like a Greek God and he had smiled at her!
His problem reported, Michael followed Kate into the storeroom where she was filling the tray with ice-cream tubs and lollies, ready for the intermission. He leaned against the doorframe, watching her. ‘What’s your name then?’ he asked, a smile lifting the corners of his mouth.
‘Kate.’ The word came out of nowhere as she realised she could speak after all.
He offered to walk her home after work and their relationship was born. He was the perfect gentleman, kind and considerate and once carried her in his arms over the mud when they were out walking. He was everything Kate ever wanted.
It was the classic love story. He was gorgeous to look at, tall with dark curly hair and incredibly blue eyes. For the first time in her life, Kate was so happy, but within a few short weeks, she was pregnant.
Kate couldn’t believe it, how could it have happened? They were so careful.
She seemed to know instinctively that the baby would ruin everything and tried to avoid telling him. He could tell something was wrong and put two and two together.
‘Is the baby mine?’ he said, suddenly interested in something outside the window. And in that moment Kate’s world collapsed completely.
She found out later his father had been sowing the seeds of suspicion right from the start. That she was ‘unsuitable’, working in a cinema. How many men had she already slept with… and where were her parents? What sort of person was she?
She didn’t understand his attitude towards her at all. She knew that father and son didn’t get on and despite Michael’s warnings about his father being a stubborn old goat, he seemed a pleasant enough middle-aged man with greying hair and faded blue eyes. He appeared to like her when they met and liked her doing things for him. Why had it all gone so horribly wrong?
When Michael walked out of her life, Kate was devastated. What was she supposed to do? Despite her upbringing, or because of it, Kate knew nothing about the world she lived in, apart from the sure and certain knowledge it wasn’t a pleasant place to live in. She had no idea what a young, penniless and pregnant girl should do, and there wasn’t anyone she could ask.
She tried to remember how her mother coped, but all she could recall was that food seemed to appear as if by magic. She knew her mother never paid the rent, simply looked for another room every time they were evicted.
Some man or other always seemed to be involved with her mother’s activities, was that how Kate was supposed to manage?
She needed time to get over the brutal pain of Michaels’s rejection; time to figure out what to do and where she could go. And time was not an option. A life was growing inside her, a life that would need her full attention in no time at all.
The young doctor who battled to save her life knocked on the open door; pushing all the old memories back into their box and bringing Kate back into the present. He seemed pleased to see her. Did that mean he hadn’t expected to?
He shook her hand and said if she took the medication regularly and stopped smoking she would probably live considerably longer.
Longer than what, she thought, suddenly amazed she wasn’t desperate for a cigarette yet. She hadn’t given them a thought, what was that all about?
She vaguely remembered promising to stop when in her morphine delirium last night. After all the work they put in on her behalf, it seemed fair. She thanked him and collected her medication from the Ward Sister. Kate found herself walking towards her brother who was waiting for her just outside the ward doors. So he was here last night. How did he know?
She hadn’t seen him in ages and didn’t want to see him now. He seemed a lot older than she remembered, his face beginning to look creased and grey hair was appearing at his temples. He also looked as if he spent the night in a chair. Again, she wondered what he was doing there as he didn’t usually care whether she lived or died, and she had enough proof of that.
As they walked down the corridor leading to the main doors of the hospital, two nurses pushing a trolley rushed past them. Kate tried not to look at the person lying under the sheet, but it was too late. She saw the grey face of an old man who seemed already dead, reminding her of just where she was. A shiver ran down her spine and she started to walk faster, desperate to get out of there.
Her brother took her arm as they walked down the entrance steps. ‘You look great, Kate; a bit of a false alarm was it?’
She looked at him and shrugged, unwilling to share what happened to her, wondering how quickly she could get rid of him. ‘Why are you here Danny?’
He had the gall to look offended. ‘Your neighbour called me, the nosy one who always stinks of mothballs…’
She didn’t believe it for a second, and it was good to be out in the fresh air after the stuffy sterile atmosphere of the hospital. The day looked promising, weak sunshine was struggling to make itself known, but it was better than no sunshine at all.
As she followed Danny to his car, an ambulance sped past, its siren blaring a warning that some other poor soul needed to get to the hospital in a hurry. She wondered if they used the siren for her last night, but she couldn’t remember.
The old green Vauxhall was parked haphazardly and looked exactly how she expected it would. Bashed about, rusty and badly dented. A bit like herself, she thought, trying not to smile.
She didn’t want to get inside, for she could see he’d been using it as a dustbin amongst other things. He was probably sleeping in it too if his circumstances had not improved in the years since she saw him last. He certainly smelled as though a change of clothes and a shower would be a good idea. His dark hair was filthy and he needed a shave, not too far removed from looking like a tramp.
She glanced around the car park, hoping to see a departing taxi. She didn’t care about hurting his feelings for he never considered hers. What was it about men?
Was it in their DNA, or didn’t they care?
No taxi was forthcoming, so it looked as though she would have to accept a lift home, but right then she would prefer to stick pins in her eyes.
‘Come on sis, get in,’ he said, opening the door, letting an obnoxiously stale odour drift past her nostrils.
‘My God Danny, do I have to? It stinks in there!’
‘Suit yourself, but it’s a long walk.’
He looked at her, hoping the little boy lost look would work on her once again.
Kate was not impressed and avoided looking into his eyes. He wasn’t her baby brother anymore; did he think his charm would work on her after all this time?
It was a long time since he’d been anywhere near charming. Now he was just a middle-aged old man with disgusting habits. The thought of being anywhere near him was making her feel slightly sick and a small sliver of shame crept in uninvited. Should you feel this way about your own brother?
She needed him to go away, and at that precise moment she realised for the first time since her promise to quit, she desperately wanted a cigarette. Oh to hell with him, she thought. And on the spur of the moment, she decided she would walk to the high street and find a taxi, despite the fact she could hardly put one foot in front of the other. She must be weaker than she realised and felt drained, all her old energy missing. But she would find a cab if it killed her.
Kate started to walk away, trying not to laugh at the expression on his face.
‘Don’t be like that Kate; you must let me take you home.’
He looked upset by her rejection, and she didn’t care. She would do things her way or no way and that was that.
She was also going to find out exactly how he found her, for she knew for sure her neighbour had not told him.