Read PART ONE here
Read PART TWO here
Read PART THREE here
Read PART FOUR here
I believe I was having a dream of sorts. A lovely dream where everything was white and fluffy. I had a feeling of peace, certainly. I was in a hotel, but everything in it was white. My room was on the top floor and to get there I had to ascend this really grand staircase that seemed to rise into the clouds.
It was all very calming, all very relaxing. Actually felt like I was floating. Floating up the stairs and feeling serene. Yes, that’s the word I’m looking for – serene. To get an idea of how I felt, just imagine I’m using that soft, calming, elongated tone they use when you’re having a massage (‘and hooowe is that pressuuurreee?’) You may be thinking I’m one of those ‘entitled’ types that has massages all the time. Am not. Have to have them. For my work. Hotel massage therapists need inspecting, too.
I was floating up the stairs and suddenly the doctor’s face appeared before me. Kind of floating. Looking all serious, so not everything was off.
I said hello, being very pleased to see him. After all, he is very handsome in a large, public school boy kind of way.
Thing is, Ewan was quite angry. Neck stretched out in rage. Could see the tendons rippling on either side of his throat. What on earth could make him so angry?
Then remembered – I’d left the hospital, hadn’t I? Which had clearly upset Ewan. He was yelling and everything. Yelling, but making no sound. Odd. I mean, his mouth was open and his eyes were bulging, so yelling, yes. But there was silence.
Thought it was a bit odd that I couldn’t hear him. Although… Wasn’t I dreaming?
Wasn’t I? If I was dreaming, how come I couldn’t wake up? Don’t you wake up the moment you realise you were dreaming? And I’d definitely realised I was dreaming.
There was something else, too. A horrible, constricting pain in my chest.
Obviously, I was awake now, being able to feel pain. Why was it so cold? I opened my eyes, became aware of all of my sense. I was cold because I was on the bathroom floor. Naked.
Why was I on the cold, tiled floor naked?
And why was my chest being thumped again and again and…
I coughed, and a cascade of water escaped my throat.
‘Gee. Molly,’ came a low, grateful and slightly out of breath voice. The chest-beating stopped.
I looked up to see Ewan kneeling over me.
‘Why are you…’ I began, but then realised my nakedness. ‘Why are you here and why am I naked?’
Ewan nodded, disappeared for a moment and then returned, draping a towel lengthways over me.
‘Molly, if I weren’t here you would be dead,’ Ewan said calmly.
‘What?’ I tried to sit up. I kept the towel pressed to my chest and Ewan placed large hands on my back to propel me into an upright position.
We were eye to eye. ‘I found you here, in the bath, completely immersed.’
‘Immersed? Makes me sound like a chicken you’re dunking in gravy or something.’ Humour. Trying to digest what was happening and masking the thought processes with humour. Classic.
Ewan didn’t even smile. ‘Why on earth did you think it was a good idea to have a bath when you were concussed?‘ He demanded.
I replied with a blank look.
‘More importantly, why the hell did you leave the hospital?’
‘Can you just give me a minute?’ I asked. I hate being bombarded, which is exactly what this felt like. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t work at McDonald’s growing up, when pretty much everyone else at my school did. I couldn’t deal with all the shouting of orders, the constant refrain of ‘more fries please!’ shouted in the tone that meant the ‘please’ was a facetious addition. I couldn’t deal with the pressure of McDonald’s, of having to deliver a meal to someone (probably drunk) waiting right in front of me, double-barreling me with their eyes. I don’t do well under pressure.
People will probably think this is a massive personality fault – the inability to handle pressure. It’s often said in the same breath as ‘lazy.’ But they are not the same. You can be busy and hardworking but not handle pressure well. It doesn’t make you (me) a sub-standard human being, just one that cannot process things simultaneously. I need to have a moment for me, in my own head, to process.
I asked, as kindly as I could through gritted teeth, for Ewan to hand me another towel. I wrapped it around my torso and obligingly allowed the good doctor to pull me into a standing position. There is no way I would be able to do it on my own and keep my dignity. Not that my dignity mattered. He’d already seen everything.
Ewan held me for a moment or two in the standing position. ‘You okay?’ he asked.
I nodded. Ewan let go of me but held his hands a few inches from my body, in case I fell.
‘Can I just… Can you stay in here while I go and get dressed?’
I received a frown in return.
‘I’m not going to run off,’ I told him with a roll of the eye.
I dressed in my pyjamas as they were the only comfort clothing I had, but I included the addition of a bra, given I was in company. While I downed two miniature bottles of whisky I glanced at myself in the mirror hanging over the bed. I looked horrid. My hair, as always when wet, looked brown rather than auburn, and the part of my face that wasn’t swollen was far paler than normal; almost translucent in colour. My left eye was practically closed, shiny and red, while my right cheek reminded me of the time I’d had my wisdom teeth out and got an infection. Basically, I was hideous.
‘Molly?’ I heard Ewan call from the bathroom.
‘Yeah, I’m dressed,’ I told him. I threw the empty bottles in the bin.
Ewan opened the bathroom door and looked from me to the bedside table, where one lone bottle of gin now sat. ‘Where are the rest?’
‘The rest of what?’ I asked, annoyed, before laying down on the bed, remote in hand.
‘There were three bottles on there when I entered the room.’
‘How exactly did you enter the room?’ I wondered, switching on the TV. The hotel’s promotional channel came to life, telling me of their many franchises around the world.
‘I explained to the manager that you had just discharged yourself from hospital after suffering a bad concussion.’
‘What, and they just let you in and walked away?’
‘Well I saw that you were in the bath, and thought you were fine. So yes, he left. But when you didn’t answer me I took a closer look and realised you were under water.’ Ewan shuddered visibly at the memory. ‘And there were three bottles there when I came in.’
I suppose it’s his military training that makes him so perceptive. Like being able to recall everything about the goings-on at breakfast. Sighing, I said, ‘I drank them just now.’
‘You have a concussion and you drank two bottles?’
‘Three,’ I told him. ‘I had a vodka before the bath.’
I, meanwhile, had just thought of something. I leapt of the bed and headed to the minibar, taking hold of the menu. ‘Why would they have only one bottle of vodka but two bottles of whiskey?’ I wondered. ‘Shouldn’t there be too of each? It’s a bit odd, don’t you think? Are they just assuming folks prefer whiskey to vodka?’
‘What I think is odd is you having three bottles of liquor while you are concussed! Now get dressed, we’re going back to the hospital.’
‘Yeah, that’s not going to happen,’ I said, returning to the bed. I had to change the channel. The hotel’s promotional channel was beginning to grate at me.
‘Fine,’ Ewan said, holding up his hands. ‘If you won’t go back to the hospital than I’m staying here.’
‘You what?’ I turned from the television where one of those morning shows were on. From what I could gather, some welfare mother was being interviewed, talking about how difficult her life was living on benefits.
Ewan sat on the bed next to me in what I can only describe as an act of defiance. ‘You heard me. You need to be monitored in case you fall unconscious again. So I’ll monitor you.’
I tried to convince him that I could get the hotel to monitor me. Give me a wake up call every hour, on the hour, but Ewan wouldn’t buy it. What’s more, he explained that he would be staying until the following day.
I was bereft with fear. That would mean I would be spending an entire day in the presence of another person. A man. Something which I hadn’t done in almost ten years.