‘Okay. Well, you’ll need me to get off the phone to keep your line clear,’ she said, ‘but before I go, I’ll be getting up at daft o’clock tomorrow to drive back to Queenstown, return the van and get to the airport for the first flight back to Auckland. I’ll phone you from the airport. Give Tony my love.’
‘Okay,’ he said, ‘Drive safely. I’ll speak to you soon.’
True to her word, she returned to the campervan site shortly afterwards. She’d managed to capture the image she wanted. Her work in New Zealand was done.
RETURN TO REALITY
December – Return
Saturday morning in New Zealand
She didn’t fall asleep as quickly, or get as much sleep, as she’d hoped for because she kept waking, worrying about both Lucy and Jamie. When her phone alarm woke her, she struggled to keep her eyes open until she was washed and dressed.
Her journey back to Queenstown at that time in the morning was uneventful and, after the hire people had declared themselves satisfied that there was no damage that they could charge her for, their courtesy taxi returned her and her luggage to the airport.
She was relieved that she’d started her day so early. She was able to board the flight to Auckland just after eleven o’clock. It was scheduled to arrive around one in the afternoon. She was able to check-in at the international airport when she landed at Auckland and to have something to eat before her flight to Singapore was due to take-off at three-fifteen.
When she tried to phone Jamie, his phone was engaged, so she messaged him to explain her return schedule. She promised that she’d try again to phone him from Changi airport. Her flight was expected to land there about nine in the evening Singapore time – one o’clock in the afternoon at home.
Mel’s flight had landed ten minutes early. She had read of all the things that she could do in the airport while she waited, but she was too anxious to be interested. Everywhere, people were walking, babies crying, loudspeakers making announcements in various languages and airline staff in their uniforms walking as if in formation with their luggage.
Mel had five hours or so to wait before she could board her flight for the final leg home. Once she had worked her way through to where she needed to be, she found somewhere to sit and phoned home. This time her call got through.
‘How’s your mum and how are you and Tony?’ she asked.
‘Mum’s still in a coma and we’re at the hospital,’ he said, ‘I’ve come out of the ward to take your call. Where are you now?’
She told him and explained that her flight was due to land in Manchester shortly after eight-thirty the following morning local time in England. He asked how she would be getting home from the airport. She said that her mum and dad would be meeting her.
‘Can I come to visit your mum at the hospital?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ he said, ‘It would be great to see you, but there’ll be a bit of a queue. The whole family will be there, so we’ll be taking turns. Text me when you’re outside the ward if you can’t see me and I’ll come out to you.’
‘Which hospital is she in?’
Jamie named the hospital, which was in the city, and told her which floor to find. His mum was in a side ward.
‘Are you sure that I won’t be in the way?’ Mel asked.
‘No, we’ll squeeze you in,’ he said, ‘at least, I’ll want to squeeze you. I can’t wait to see you and, if Mum comes out of her coma, I know that she’d love to see you.’
She paused while a noisy luggage train went past.
‘What do you mean “if” she comes out of her coma? Do they say that she might not?’
‘Sorry!’ he said, ‘I think that they said “when”. My mind’s a mess right now.’
‘I’m sorry, Jamie. I shouldn’t be interrogating you. I’m longing to be back with you,’ she said, ‘I do hope that she’ll be okay. What do the doctors say?’
‘It’s complicated and I can’t remember everything they said. Dad can probably explain things better than I can when he sees you. For the moment, they say that she’s had some type of stroke and they need to do more tests to discover what they’re dealing with.’
‘Okay! As you say, I’ll find out more when I see you tomorrow. How is your dad anyway?’
‘He’s in shock,’ he said, ‘The doctors are a bit worried about him too. A nurse has taken his blood pressure and temperature. They told me that his blood pressure is low, his breathing is shallow and, apparently the fact that he keeps yawning and sighing are some of the symptoms of shock. They’re keeping an eye on him.’
‘You must be frantic,’ she said, ‘I’m worried about you. I do love you, you know.’
‘I love you too,’ he said, ‘Don’t you go worrying.’
‘What about Tracy?’ she asked, ‘Is she there?’ How is she?’
‘She’s here too. This is the hospital where she works if you remember – though she works on a different ward. As you’d imagine, she’s really upset. It was Tracy who realised what was happening. Because she’s a nurse, she summoned help immediately, then she phoned dad. Tracy went with mum in the ambulance – sirens and flashing blue lights apparently. We’re all just outside the ward now, while the doctors are doing some checks.’
‘What about little Elaine? Is she there too?’
‘No,’ he said, ‘Jake’s got her at home at present.’
‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I have to go now. The doctors are just coming out from the ward. I’ll speak to you later. Bye, love.’
Jamie didn’t phone back before her flight left and she didn’t want to bother him when there would be so many things that he’d need to be doing right now.
She still had hours to wait before her flight was called, so she phoned home to let everyone know where she was and to bring them up to date about Lucy. Mel guessed that Stacy would probably be on duty, so she’d have to phone her later.
Mel’s flight arrived fifteen minutes early, but those minutes were soon eaten up by a lengthy wait at baggage reclaim and then another at passport control. Eventually she passed through into the Arrivals Hall. She took a moment as she scanned the waiting crowd behind the barrier, but then noticed her mum and dad waving to her.
She made her way to them, and her dad took charge of her trolley as she hugged her mum. Her dad led them back out to his car in the car park and, in no time, they were on their way home exchanging news.
Mel’s mum was worried by her appearance. She said that she thought that her daughter had lost weight and looked thin.
She wanted Mel to go to bed as soon as they arrived – fearing jet lag – but Mel wanted to find out where Jamie was and to go and see him. When she phoned, he was at the shop, catching up with some of the online business that had been coming in while he’d been at the hospital. The nurses had told the family that, for the moment, their being at the hospital would be counter-productive; that they should go home and sleep. The nurses promised that someone would phone them when more was known.
She had some breakfast with her parents, and they continued talking about Mel’s vacation, about Lucy’s stroke, and they brought Mel up to date on what had been happening at home.
As soon as she could, after her meal, Mel drove to the shop through pouring rain. The shop was closed, but with just over a week until Christmas to go, Marcus and Alec had been busy the previous day serving customers who’d been choosing photography-related presents. Jamie was upstairs dealing with a rush of online orders. She hung up her coat and went up to see him.
Jamie was working with his computer using a split screen, monitoring and recording incoming orders on one and placing orders for new or replacement stock on the other.
He looked up to see her, rose and went to hug her.
‘God, Mel,’ he said, ‘Am I glad to see you!’
‘Hmm!’ she said, ‘Is that “glad to see you” because the shop’s been busy or so that you can hold my hand at the hospital to comfort you?’
He pulled away to look at her, wondering how to interpret her words and her indignant expression.
‘See you still can’t take banter,’ she said. ‘I’m pulling your leg. I know that it’s because you didn’t know what to buy me for Christmas and now you can ask me.’
‘It’s not…’ he began to protest, but she pulled him back in her arms.
She kissed him again – happy to feel his arms around her.
‘Dope!’ she said, ‘I love you, and I love how easy it is to wind you up.’
He relaxed and held her close, their heads side-by-side, their arms wrapped around each other.
‘Are we okay?’ she asked, ‘and are you okay?’
‘I’m better for you being back here,’ he said, ‘I’ve missed you so much.’
They kissed again, longer, hungrier this time.
She broke away and patted his backside.
Just then, Tony arrived and went upstairs to catch up with the paperwork from the Saturday. Before he started on it, he’d heard Jamie talking to Mel and called in to see them. He and Mel hugged each other. He was tearful as he described to Mel what had happened and how quickly Lucy had passed into unconsciousness. Mel took his hand and led him to a chair.
‘You look awful, Tony,’ she said, ‘Have you had anything to eat?’
He said that he didn’t feel hungry.
She told him that he wasn’t helping Lucy by neglecting his own health.
She asked him whether he’d like her to get anything from the supermarket for him and Jamie. He told her that Tracy was looking after that side of things, and that she’d arranged overnight with the senior nurse on the ward where she worked for her to take compassionate leave. Jake, and his mum would look after baby Elaine as and when they were needed.
Tony thanked her for coming in to the shop and said that he was sorry that her return was under such circumstances.
In turn, she apologised for being away at such a critical time. They embraced again, and then he left her and Jamie to talk.
She looked at her phone to check the time. It was turned noon.
She put her arm around Jamie.
‘Come on, back to the keyboard,’ she said, ‘Connie computer will blow a fuse if she finds out you’re two-timing her with me. I’d better go home and try to get some sleep before visiting time tonight. She blew him a kiss.
‘Let me know if we’ll be able to visit tonight, won’t you?’
He promised that he would.
She left – he stood for a moment watching her leave.
Mid-afternoon, the hospital phoned – more exactly, Tracy phoned from the hospital where she’d gone in to check on her mum’s progress. She said that it would be all right for them to return. The doctors would have a word with them about what they’d found so far, but Lucy was still in a coma.
Today, I continue my series of photos taken in and around the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, where I spent a Saturday earlier in June.
The next set of shots will show scenes from around the town that I saw that Saturday. This is a shot of some proud scooter owners and their machines.
For all these shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/160 secs @ f/8, focal length 16 mm, and ISO 400.