Through her sobs and tears Audrey looked around the kitchen for sympathy and was mildly surprised to hear both Godparents tut tut tutting. “We never go down to the summerhouse that way” said Deirdre’s mother shaking her head reproachfully and raising her sparse little eyebrows at her naughty Godchild. “No” agreed her husband. “Not since the stairs collapsed in 1979. It’s just not safe”. The swelling in Audrey’s ankle was by now pushing hard against the confines of her expensive, once immaculate leather boot and no amount of biscuits, chocolate or otherwise, consoled her. Anger exhausted, Audrey was past the point of caring and tears crept unnoticed and cold along her jaw to drip from her chin, tracing a narrow channel through the thin layer of dried mud covering most of Audrey’s face. She watched them sagely nod at one another as the tea went cold. Deirdre looked suitably sad and sneaked the dog biscuits under the table to Alistair. With his scabby head in Audrey’s lap, the Lab dribbled warm drool onto Audrey’s muddy camel hair car coat and cold wet trousers. Audrey dabbed ineffectually at her dirty face and Stephen and Margaret dozed off over their tea. Deirdre looked on, an expression of gentle kindness in her eyes as she picked at her cardigan. Gentle sniffing and choral snoring from the aged parents and the dogs’, masked the first hints of the ambulance’s arrival onto the crunchy gravel.
The sudden thumping on the front door rallied all of them with a jolt. “Come in, come in” called Deidre, excited and impressed with the miltary panache of the paramedics’ green and yellow outfits. She stared big eyed as they took Audrey’s blood pressure and temperature, as they checked her eyes and asked her lots of questions about what happened and what day it was and who is the prime minister. Deirdre was very impressed with Audrey’s knowledge. After a brisk and thorough assessment they told Audrey she would spend the night in hospital. “Handbag” the lady paramedic called to Audrey and Deirdre promptly handed over her bag. She was pleased to have been helpful to the nice lady with the thick lensed glasses and the dark hair pulled back so tight it might be giving her a headache. Deidre watched as the nice lady and her man-friend eased Audrey onto the special bed. They wheeled her out into the rainy darkness and the waiting ambulance, its blue lights slowly turning and making sapphires of the raindrops as they fell. Fascinated Deidre watched. The special bed suddenly lost its legs and slid rapidly inside the vehicle. Her hands flew to her mouth as she gasped and then she remembered to wave and shout “goodbye, goodbye lovely ambulance lady, goodbye lovely ambulance man” of Audrey, she had no memory.
Soon after the ambulance had left, Deidre, Stephen and Margaret settled down to some more tea but with toast and cheese this time, plus cakes and jam tarts from the village shop. Then they shuffled their way together to their cosy sitting room to watch television. Sprawled in a lazy row along a collapsed sofa and swaddled in woolly blankets they soon forgot the afternoon’s excitement. No one noticed that Audrey’s car was no longer parked in the drive, until Stephen was shutting his bedroom window. He lay in bed wondering about it for a few short minutes before concluding that Audrey’s ankle must have been alright after all, and that she had picked up the car without disturbing them. “Such a kind and considerate woman,” he mumbled and wheezed, his breaths in time for a moment with the click and snizzle of the Labrador’s rhythmic snores.
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