Chapter Eight: Are you Stupid or What?

There is something magical about sunlight, the way it changes how you see the world, draining the fear and replacing it with hope. As the day creeps into my room the next morning, the sinister shadows are replaced with tables, wires and machines, the frantic voices masked with sounds of routine and hustle. 

I have a new nurse who shows me a picture of the corgi puppy she is picking up in a few days time.

“We’re going to call her Clover”, she says, her smile meeting the creases of her eyes as she lingers on the picture.  

She looks back up at me. “Now, how would you like a bed bath?”

“Sure,” I say, nervous of the potential pain but mostly excited by the thought of something to do.

“I haven’t had one for ages,” I tell her, trying to recall the experience. Have I ever had one? My mind is an empty room.

The nurse rushes out as Mum and Mat breeze in, covered in smiles.

“Morning Luce!” they take it in turns to lean in and kiss me on the forehead.

“Mum, have I ever had a bed bath?”

“Of course you have”, she says. “You had them all the time in Highland”.

It’s amazing how much of the last two weeks is entirely missing from my memory. As we discuss this, Mat informs me that I also signed over Power of Attorney to him soon after the accident. Mum still hasn’t twigged that he is marked as my next of kin.

The nurse re-enters with a warm basin of soapy water and two sponges.

“Hello there”, she says, “you must be mum and husband”.

They both nod. Mum gives Mat the side-eye.

“It’s easier if I just call her my wife,” Mat whispers.

Mum breezes past us and hushes her voice. “I’m not sure you should be doig that Mat, it’s naughty”. She calls back over her shoulder, “I’m getting a cup of tea. Do you want anything?”

“No thanks,” Mat says, turning to the nurse as the door closes.

“We secretly got married six months ago in Las Vegas you see”, he confides in her, “but we’re keeping it a secret from everyone until our big wedding next year”.

She points at her nose and winks, enjoying the conspiracy, “Mum’s the word”.

Every nurse and doctor we have told about this so far has enjoyed being part of our little secret. Poor mum. We really should tell her soon, but not here, not like this.

The nurse is joined by a colleague and the two of them begin removing my gown, gossiping about two co-workers who have just announced their engagement. I close my eyes and listen to them deliberate the match, wincing as they carefully manoeuvre my body and wash over every part of it with a warm sponge. At least I think it’s warm. I try to focus my attention away from the numbness and onto the cool, fresh feeling as the water evaporates from my skin. 

The nurses drape me in a fresh gown, produce a giant staple remover and begin to tug the small strips of metal from my tummy. My neck brace won’t allow for a view of anything but the ceiling, so I close my eyes and imagine what the staple removal must look like, translating the sharp milliseconds of pain into a tapestry of metal and flesh that leave an angry red line from my sternum to the top of my pelvis.

The nurses leave, still chatting, as I press the button on my bed to move my upper body into a slight incline.

“Woah!” Mat shouts, leaping up from behind his laptop in the corner of the room.

“What? I’m fine,” I say, continuing the manoeuvre.

“ARE YOU STUPID OR WHAT?!” he scalds, running towards me.

I stop what I am doing and stare at him, dumbfounded by this jarring outburst that’s so wildly out of character. The weight of it hangs in the air for a moment, freezing us both to the spot.

“Your catheter is stuck under the arm!” he says, unfreezing as he walks over to rescue it.  “I thought it was going to rip out of you”. He looks at me, sheepishly, “I got scared”.

I start to shake, it hurts but I don’t care, the laughter consumes me. The absurdity of it all. Mat’s frown breaks into a smile of relief and he collapses into the chair next to me.

“Are you stupid or what?!” I yell back at him.

“Oh God”, he says, laughing into his hands.

What an ordeal I am putting him through.


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