Staying at Daisy's(4)

By: Jill Mansell

But no, of course he hadn’t meant that. The reason for the hand-wringing abruptly became clear, zooming into focus like a Nikon.

‘Go on,’ Daisy prompted. It was like the end of a crime thriller, suddenly realising who the murderer was.

‘He ... um ... had a girl with him.’ Barry clearly wasn’t happy; in fact, he was the one who looked as if he could do with a stiff drink.

Daisy frowned. ‘You mean a girlfriend-type girl?’

‘Ah, well ... looks that way, yes.’

‘And is she unconscious too?’

‘No. No, love. She was lucky. Escaped with minor injuries.’

Is this really happening? To me?

Daisy discovered she’d been twirling a long strand of hair round her index finger so tightly the end of her finger had gone blue. Beyond the closed office door she heard a burst of laughter drifting through from the bar, and the sound of an accordion being revved up.

She really should tell Hector what was going on, but it was all so complicated. How could she explain something like this when she was still so confused herself?

‘They’re having a party.’ Daisy gestured – fairly unnecessarily – in the direction of the bar. ‘I don’t want to spoil it for everyone else. My car’s parked behind the hotel.’

‘You don’t want to drive, love.’ Barry’s chins wobbled as he shook his head. ‘I can take you to the hospital.’

‘No need. I’m OK.’ Daisy wondered if she should be crying. The walls of the office had stopped going in and out, which was something to be grateful for. Somewhat shakily, she stood up. ‘I’ll be fine.’

Chapter 2

Fifteen minutes down the motorway was all it took to reach Frenchay Hospital on the outskirts of Bristol. For the first time in years Daisy drove without music blasting from the stereo to sing along to. Nor, when she parked the car in the tree-lined avenue next to the wards, did she reach automatically into her bag to re-do her lipstick in the rear-view mirror.

It was three forty-five. The sky was darkening from ash-grey to charcoal and lights were flickering on in the various buildings that made up the hospital. Daisy followed a sign pointing the way to the intensive care unit. Staff and visitors were walking around as if nothing had happened. A small girl let out a shriek of outrage as she dropped her bag of Jellytots on the path outside the WRVS shop.

How could Steven have been seeing someone else?

The doctor was incredibly kind. He explained the functions of the various types of machinery that surrounded Steven’s bed. This was the ventilator, which was taking care of his breathing. This smaller one was the ECG machine, monitoring his heartbeat. That clip on his finger was a pulse oximeter, the intravenous line enabled them to administer the various medications he needed and the drip was supplying him with fluids.

The intensive care unit was ultra-bright. Everything was white apart from the staff uniforms, which were pale blue. Feelingludicrously out of place in her red velvet shirt, black leather skirt and black patent high heels, Daisy tried hard to concentrate on what the doctor was telling her. She felt it was vital to understand everything he said, as if this were an A level she absolutely mustn’t fail.

Except it appeared to be an A level in a language she’d never learned. She was able to hear the words but they were making no sense. Apart from the bit about Steven’s condition being critical.

The doctor’s beeper went off.

‘Here, why don’t you sit down.’ Pulling a moulded plastic chair up to the bed, the doctor steered her towards it. ‘Hold his hand. Talk to him. You can stay as long as you like. I’ll be back later, OK?’

He shot off to deal with the next crisis, leaving Daisy alone with Steven. Well, not really alone. Fifteen feet away, a couple of nurses were keeping a discreet eye on her.

She sat down on the unforgiving plastic chair and held Steven’s hand, as instructed.

He was looking ridiculously healthy. A narrow white sheet covered his groin, otherwise he was naked. Tanned and muscular and obviously a fit chap, proud of his physique and deservedly so. All those hours in the gym had paid off. This was the body of a man in peak condition. He didn’t look injured at all.

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