Without the phone the empty space was even emptier, so calmly Audrey started to fill it with what would happen once she has the means to make it happen. It is pleasing to her, this curious void, this sense that everything about Audrey Saxton was someone else’s problem, from pain relief and extra pillows, through to getting to the loo and having a shower. This had been a matter of priority soon after breakfast and before a new drug dispensing drip was attached. She had sat on a stool, her foot on the seat of a wheelchair under the careful gaze of another nurse on the other side of the shower curtain. Under falling water and rising steam, it had taken quite a while to rinse out all the dried mud and woodland matter from her tangled hair, but Audrey had a sense of renewal that was improving with the painkillers. Her dirty sheets had been changed and her bed remade by the time she was wheeled feeling clean and fragrant back to the bed by the window. A new Salbutamol inhaler was on the bedside cupboard. More renewal.
The next day Audrey was told that her operation would happen later that afternoon and that subject to how it went she should expect to be discharged in a couple of days time. Dr Abdulaziz Al Mahmoud told her this surrounded by an entourage of eager looking young people in white, stethoscopes slung around their necks, clipboards in hand. Dr Al Mahmoud did not look at them as he rattled off his script at Audrey, dark eyebrows meeting and separating to punctuate his sentences, his voice stopping and starting like heavy traffic, at once impatient and slow. She had found the earnest young people in white oddly fascinating and so managed only to grasp the gist of the conversation. It was the part about how long it would be before she could go home. “And here is your phone” Dr Al Mahmoud said as he stood aside to let Nurse Lucy join the little huddle. They exchanged polite smiles, before Dr Al Mahmoud barked at his students: “any questions, what have we observed?” And they slid away like ectoplasm mumbling questions and what they had observed. Nurse Lucy smiled kindly at Audrey and turned to trail the ectoplasm.
Audrey decided her first task would be to tell her daughter what had happened and then to tell Stephen and Margaret that the car would have to stay in their driveway for a while. It was just a decision, no need to hurry or rush into any action. Then she went back to the nothing, waiting for someone tend to her or feed her or for the rain outside to stop falling. She has no need to panic, she can just stay in this peaceful powerless and beautifully vacant void until they wheel her away for the operation.
Lying there it occured to Audrey that she could get used to this pampered indolence, this unexpected escape from a reality looming on her horizon with increased menace. She knew it was there, but had no real idea of how large it was (extremely large) or how far away it was (not far enough). Lying there hearing only narcotic gurgles and seeing only breeze blown ripples she can push away all thought of money, house, car, Angus’s peculiar instructions and his breathless final words. She pushes it away and off to the edge of the flat roof. When she pushes it completely over the edge, she enjoys the thought of endless descent to somewhere elsewhere, wallowing in her delicious pause. She wants more time. More time.
When it was all over and after lunch the next day, after a little snory nap and after the drugs were wearing thin, Audrey decided it was time to put her plan into place. He foot was swathed in layers of bandages and plaster and velcroed support and impossible to lift and the raindancing on the roof was disappearing into dusk. She was about to ring her daughter when she saw instead a message telling her not to bother trying to reach Fiona this week as she was on her way to a shoot in Arizona. First problem solved. She rang Stephen and Margaret, but only reached the answering machine. Even better because she could just leave an apologetic message that if they didn’t mind her car would be there for a few days. By the time they heard the message Stephen and Margaret thought that the few days were over and that Audrey had arranged for her car’s collection.
The third call Audrey made was to a luxury rehabilitation retreat that accepted American Express and that was not too far away. She checked the calendar on her phone and was glad to see that the advance payment she would make to Longbourne House wouldn’t appear on her next bill, due in a few days. Audrey figures she has four to five weeks to find the £4,500 for her stay. The thought encouraged her, even though there was no chance at all that the money could be paid.
She texted her daughter to tell her where she would be, telling her to collect the car and drive it home, as soon as she got back from the shoot. It seemed a lot to ask, but Audrey was in an asking frame of mind, a frame of mind that was getting used to everything being done for her. Having given instructions to her daughter, her Godparents and Longbourne House’s delightful Dr Sandra. Audrey drifted off, with no trace of guilt that the bill at Longbourne House would very likely but eventually go unpaid. Dr Sandra probably wasn’t really a doctor, just as she Audrey probably wasn’t a real patient, at least of the monied species. How she would cope with the rest of her four week recuperation didn’t occur to Audrey. Today her ankle was fixed. In two days time an expensive ambulance from Longbourne House would collect her and then in a further few days, if she was lucky, the same expensive ambulance would take her home. By then perhaps Fiona will be back and able to stay to help her. By the time all this was done Audrey was too tired to text her clients with an update, and by the time she again remembered to do it she was at Longbourne House where there was only a fragile signal and no one kind enough to lend her a charger. Bliss.
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