Sitting next to each other in A&E, Kate and Dave looked a sorry sight. She was holding a damp cloth to her still-bleeding scalp. He had his head between his knees. Every time he tried to sit up he turned pale and began to slump again.
Kate had shooed off the KOD staff who had dropped them off at Solihull Hospital, more out of embarrassment than the fact she felt fine. The last thing she wanted was sympathy, and she hated to be seen looking this bad. It would be a long wait, and being forced to make polite conversation wouldn’t make it any easier. Three hours of looking at pictures from anyone’s holiday on Facebook would give her more of a headache than the one caused by the slight concussion she’d suffered.
Dave wasn’t helping. She couldn’t believe he could be so wet. Fancy keeling over at the sight of blood. She thought she’d heard him mutter something about it never happening before.
. When he’d come round in the office, he didn’t seem too surprised – just very embarrassed as he brushed everyone off. They had insisted he go to hospital.
“Come on, Dave. Pull yourself together,” she hissed under her breath.
“I’m OK; nothing to worry about.” Dave attempted to sit up again. Still a little green around the gills, he finally managed to look around the A&E of the small hospital.
“Where are we again?”
“Solihull Hospital. Luckily, it’s just round the corner from the office. Trouble is, with all these NHS cuts, we’ll be here until midnight before we’re treated.” Kate glared as another small child queue-jumped them to a cubicle. “They’ve said I need some butterfly stitches in my head and they just want to check you over again. I told them you said this hasn’t happened before.”
“Um, well that’s not strictly true. I just didn’t want to tell the team.”
“Oh…” Kate turned to look at Dave, a little surprised.
“Well, I used to be OK. Remember when I pulled you up the crag after that fall when we were at university?”
Kate remembered it well. One false move back then and she wouldn’t have been around to have this conversation.
She and Dave had been close in those days and, if it hadn’t been for her long-term boyfriend Felix, they might have been even closer. Hill-walking in the Lake District during their last term, she’d slipped and fallen over the edge on a craggy rock face. Dave had pulled her back up by force alone and then managed to help her hobble down the hill. A nasty cut on her leg had bleed quite badly and he’d bandaged it up. She still had the scar on her knee.
“Yes, I bled like someone had turned a tap on and you sorted me out.”
And then you disappeared from my life before I could tell you how I felt, she thought wistfully. The experience had helped Kate decide that she was with the wrong man. But before she could tell Dave, he had landed a job in America and was gone.
“Well, I was Mr First-Aid-trained, lifeguard… all that. That is, until my son was born. I won’t go in to the details but Alicia had a terrible time; she lost a lot of blood, had to have transfusions and everything, and I was in the room the whole time. I can’t stand the sight of it now. Too many bad memories. Luckily Dave Junior came out fine.” Dave looked across the room, a distant look in his eye.
Kate could see that she’d hit a sore point. Unsure where to go next she asked, “How is he these days?”
“Fine. He’s back in the US with his mom at the moment.” Dave clammed up.
“Ah, OK.” Dying to know more but knowing she couldn’t ask, Kate kept her mouth shut.
Last time she’d seen Dave there were signs that his marriage was over. He’d managed to reignite feelings in her that she thought didn’t exist anymore and, after they’d kissed at the Christmas party, she thought that there might be something there still.
Then he’d blown her out of the water by responding very sketchily to her texts and emails. She’d flipped her romance switch back to ‘off’ – it didn’t seem to be worth all the hassle.
“Kate Smith!” A voice hollered across the waiting room.
Kate got up, shoes in hand, and wandered across to the waiting nurse.
“Well, look at the state of you. Was it those silly shoes?”
Kate looked down at the vertiginous shoes, one of which now had a broken heel. “I can walk in them fine, don’t you know. Someone got in my way,” she snapped.
The nurse looked like she had been slapped, tutted, and turned on her own rather more sensibly shod heel to go into the cubicle.
Left on his own, Dave pulled out his phone and pressed the screen. Up came a picture of a smiling boy. Off to the side of the picture he could just see a woman’s hand. He tapped the Facebook app and looked at his photo albums, flicking through happy holiday photos and finally landing on the photo that he’d picked for his home screen.
The uncropped picture showed the blonde-haired boy next to his smiling mother. Looking at the photo, Dave pondered the woman in it. They’d been so happy when they’d first got together. Funnily enough, it wasn’t the move to the UK that had killed their marriage – it was already floundering by then – but the appearance of Dave Junior.
Dave hadn’t been joking when he’d described the birth as traumatic. What puzzled him was something the hospital had said about a hereditary disease. The doctors said it explained why the birth had been so difficult, and asked why they hadn’t been told about it. Afterwards, Dave had asked his parents; they had professed to know nothing about it and Alicia’s family said the same. He thought the hospital might have made a mistake, but it had placed a question in his head. He didn’t know why: he knew Alicia hadn’t had an affair. But when they had started to row it was the kind of thing that came to the surface and made their arguments more heated. Accusations made in the heat of the moment were hard to take back.
“Dave Thomas!” Another voice belted out across the room.
Dave put his phone in his pocket and got up slowly. “Over here.”
“Having a few problems with the sight of blood are we?” The sarcastically efficient nurse looked him up and down. “Right, we’ll check your blood pressure and see what’s up.”
Dave followed her into the cubicle, lay down on the bed and closed his eyes.
You’ve read the first three chapters and are now desperate to know more. Well, we are going to tease you a little more. First, we needed to commission a cover. And we’ll bring that to you tomorrow. It’s very good indeed…