It had been a long and stressful day, and by the time Edward reached his flat he
was feeling all in. Sometimes the bus journey home was a god-send, allowing him to
do nothing for an nearly an hour, while being carried along a long dark tunnel.
It was raining again and the forecast was that, as befits a January night, it might
turn to snow.
‘What a day’ the thought uppermost in his mind. He had been unable to clear
from his memory the anger in Jonathon Marshall’s face, when he had turned on him.
“Why didn’t you save my dad?” he had been shouting, and “Don’t you care?”
This was the down side of his work, but paradoxically, he knew it was where
he could be at his best. Yet somehow he had not been able to ease the way for young
Jonathon. It had however been the catalyst for Mrs Marshall, who until then had been
holding on, trying to control her emotion. Unwittingly Jonathon had given his mother
the release of tension that she needed, and she was completely composed when she
left the hospital.
There were days when Edward felt that what he was doing was important, and today
was one of them. He had played his part in seeing two middle-aged men who had been
brought in with heart attacks, safely through A & E, and now comfortably recovering
on the wards. A succession of accidents of all kinds, not to mention many road accident
victims. All had been dealt with properly, most sent homes, and some who needed further
treatment, were also settled into one of the wards. It was the randomness, the unpredictability
of events, and the many skills that he was called upon to display that gave him such
a sense of satisfaction. That very sense of being needed made for other thought,
until now pushed to the back of his mind. Now, once again it had forced its way to
“How can Tony expect me give it up?”
Edward felt a spasm of anger as he remembered Tony’s announcement that ‘We will
be moving’. Despite his attempts, the memory of Tony’s thoughtlessness had filtered
in and out of his consciousness all day, and his anger then had only been suppressed
by other more pressing emotions.
He was scared at the prospect of losing Tony, who had, it is true, made a stronger
man of him during the last few years, but he realized that he was at a crossroads:
a point in his life where he had to make a choice. He wished that he did not have
to make such a big decision, but it seemed that there was no other way. He knew that
he was going to have to choose between Tony and Oatley General Hospital.
A picture of Jonathon Marshall came into his mind again. All of his anger being
directed at him, but he was certain that in being there, he had been the means by
which Jonathon had released his tension. Yes, it was unfair, and of course it was
untrue to say he
didn’t care, but here was a young boy caught in a situation which he did not understand,
could not control, and he was lashing out. He felt he could live with that; for surely
that was what his life was about.
He was just about reached his journey’s end, and wearily made his way to the
bus exit. Ten minutes later he was unlocking the door to his flat, knowing it would
be empty, and for the first time, he was glad that it would be. It would be another
hour before Tony arrived home, and he needed that hour to clear his thoughts, and
to hold on to his new feeling of destiny. He busied himself with the preparation
of the evening meal, and some tidying up. Soon however he was starting to get edgy,
moving things that didn’t need moving, then moving them back again. Worst of all
he was starting to doubt his resolve, perhaps even looking for a way out, so that
he would not to have to make that decision.
He heard the key in the door, and in a moment Tony came into the flat. Perhaps
he too had been worried about their future, and Edward hoped he might be conciliatory.
In this he was disappointed, for Tony was sure of himself, and knew that he had made
the right decision, and didn’t seem to understand why Edward was making it so difficult.
Their greeting was cool, and Edward soon realized that if he had hoped for some
change or softening in Tony’s attitude, he would be thwarted. He had their meal ready
which he now placed on the table. They ate in silence, and after washing the dishes
in silence, both sat
down in their little lounge. It was clear to them both that they had reached a crisis
point in their relationship, and quite suddenly, love and affection had been replaced
by cold independence, almost indifference.
Tony was the first to speak “Are you coming with me then? I have to know; or
are you sticking to your little job in that little hospital?”
Edwards heart sank. Even at this late stage he was hoping for some unexpected
solution to emerge which would save them from what he knew would be a painful parting.
Tony clearly had no such expectations, and was not leaving any room for compromise.
“Come with me or I go without you.” That seemed to be the bottom line. Edwards heart
was pounding, but he couldn’t hide from the fact that the time had come to make that
decision. It was perhaps the most important decision he would ever make, and there
would be no way back. He took a deep breath and stood up, his legs trembling, his
“I’m not going with you.” he said quietly
A few minutes passed and neither of the spoke another word. Edward was aware
of a great sense of relief, and even a feeling of self-respect, for standing firm.
Tony left the room and went into the bedroom. Edward could hear sounds but stayed
where he was. About twenty minutes later Tony reappeared carrying a small case. He
held out his hand and smiled.
“Goodbye Edward.” he said.
Edward was transfixed. ‘Goodbye Edward’. The words rang in his ears, his thoughts
racing. ‘Is that all it comes down to, Just, ‘Goodbye Edward’?
Somehow he heard Tony’s voice over the pounding in his head. “I'm sorry that
this part of our lives has come to and end,” he was speaking calmly without emotion,
“but things change, and sometimes you’ve got to move on.”
All his warmth and charm had returned, and he seemed to be perfectly happy at
the way things had turned out. “I hope you find what you want in your little hospital;
This time he had said ‘little hospital’ with a smile, and without malice. “I'll
be in touch soon to sort out the flat and a few more things.”
When he got to the door he paused, turned and said with a big smile, “Don’t
forget; be happy.”
Then he was gone. Edward couldn’t believe it. Tony had gone, his head had stopped
spinning, and he realized that despite his anxiety's it had been an easy parting.
Not the traumatic event he had feared. Tony had gone, and though he knew that he
would miss him, he felt strong. Perhaps Tony is right, and that we do sometimes have
to move on. He was feeling a little drunk, and was surprised that he wasn’t crying.
He knew that he had lost something important, but what, he thought, had he gained
in return. His job?. Yes that was vital; and his independence?. He had never wanted
independence before, but now, perhaps for the first time in his life, he felt that
not only could he handle it, he wanted it. But he knew, almost instinctively that
there was something else. It took some time before he realized that the biggest gain
was that he had found himself.
Margaret had spent quite a while at the hospital, seeing various people and sorting
out what had to be done. Bill’s death had been so sudden and unexpected, that she
was completely unprepared, and just now she was trying to get a mental picture of
it all. Emma was quiet now, but her sobbing had left her drained. She, more than
anyone seemed had been affected by the sudden loss, but perhaps her tearful outburst
would allow her to accept and recover more quickly than her brother. When they finally
got home Margaret started to get something ready for their tea, even though tea time
had long since passed.
She was thinking of Jonathon. Not of Bill, not of herself, but of her son. She
had been amazed at his reaction, and was at a loss to explain his fury. She wondered
why he had been so angry, and at whom. She was sure the doctors in the emergency
theatre had done all they could, and one of them had explained the extent of her
husband’s injuries. When she was asked to identify the body, she could see, despite
the work that had been done to make him look less damaged, that it had been a terrible
smash. A police lady had been to see her, and said that someone would call again
soon with more information, but until then she didn’t know exactly what had caused
the accident. No other vehicle had been involved, so there was no obvious cause.
Not only that, but Margaret had been surprised to find that the accident had happened
here in town, for he told her that he was going to London for a meeting?
In fact she had been expecting a call from him to say he would be staying over
for the night, which he did quite often. She had thought, and still did, that he
was seeing someone else, when his overnight stays became more frequent, and even
wondered if he might leave her. But he hadn’t done so, and their lives had continued
as before, together but distant.
She and Emma had been home for some time now, and looking first at the clock
on the wall, and then at her wrist watch, seeing that in each case it was well-turned
nine O’clock. She called to Emma, who was squatting in her usual place in front of
the TV, which she had been watching for a while.
“Have you any idea where Jonathon might be?” she asked.
“He might be with his girl friend.” Emma replied after a pause.
“What girl friend; I don’t know about any girlfriend?” Margaret asked, surprised.
“Are you sure?”
Emma got up from her position on the floor in front of the television. “I don’t
know much about her,” she said as she came into the kitchen. and sat down at the
table. “She’s in his year at school; he was telling me about her yesterday, but I
don’t know where she lives or her name.”
“Well I hope he isn’t going to stay out all night like a tom cat,” Margaret
said, a little surprised at herself for the remark. After all, Jonathon was growing
up and was quite big for his age, and she could see that he would be attractive to
the girls, “we’ve got enough to think about at the moment, thank you very much.”
she said, to complete the sentence. All the same she smiled. It was her first smile
of the day.
Jonathon wasn’t with Claire. In fact he hadn’t seen her since they entered the school
in the morning. He had left the hospital in a daze, going nowhere in particular,
ignoring calls from Mr Wilson, who he had spotted just outside that little room.
He ran to the shopping centre and then just walked, it seemed like for hours, until
he realized that he didn’t know where he was. He was still angry, but didn’t know
why. Somehow he knew that he should be sad, or upset, or sorry, or distressed, or
grieving, but he felt none of those feelings.
He was angry at his dad. 'What a stupid sod for getting himself killed', he
had said to himself, over and over again.
He turned round and started to retrieve his steps, hoping that he would find
his way, for he had become aware of some basic instincts. He was cold and hungry.
He knew that it was his own fault, eating hardly any breakfast, and then because
of what had happened he had missed lunch. Then of course he had left left home without
a coat. One way and another it had been a long day. He had gone to school early in
the morning, wanting to be off before his dad got up; not really wanting to see him,
fed up at being picked on lately, and fed up that he was never any fun any more.
Jonathon could hardly remember the last time they had shared time together. He
recalled that they used to go to the park and they would kick a ball too and fro,
but that stopped a long time ago, and he never found out why.
Sometimes he would think about his mum and dad together, and he wondered if
the still loved each other. He heard people talking about love sometimes, but he
didn’t really know what it meant. He didn’t know much about making love, apart from
what he picked up in the class room, or in the playground. What was it about sex
he wondered that seemed to make everyone snigger and laugh. Also, he pondered, you
could never tell if people knew, or if they were making it up. One thing he did know;
there was never any sign of any love in his house. 'If they do love each other' he
was thinking, ‘it doesn’t show’; and 'do they love me?' After that another question
popped into his thoughts, this time even harder to answer; 'do I love them?'
Jonathon wasn’t getting anywhere with this; he didn’t know what to think and
he was very frustrated.
“I’m not even sure if I know what it means.” He heard the words and realized
that he was shouting. Shouting into the wind. ‘Mums OK’ he said, more quietly, calming
down again. ‘She looks after me, and gets my meals’. He paused, trying to work it
out, knowing that there must be more to it than that, but unable to say what. ‘But
Dad?’ another long pause, ‘I don’t even like him’. He felt an unexpected and unaccountable
sharp stab at that thought. For a moment he had forgotten that he was gone. Thoughts
of that kind; that he had gone for good, or even that he might even miss him, had
not yet started to form.
He thought of Claire; and wondered if he loved her. ‘I like being with her’
once more nearly spoke the words out loud, ‘and she says she likes me, but I’ve only
known her a few weeks so how can you tell?’ Then a thought occurred, as if for the
first very time. ‘I haven’t even kissed her yet; he paused - for even in his thoughts
he found the words hard to form - ‘never mind touching her and feeling her’.
‘But I do like being with her’ he repeated the thought ‘so maybe I do love her’.
By this time he had regained familiar territory and he decided to see if he
could find her. He had walked a little quicker and was not aware of the cold anymore,
but he was still hungry. Those two slices of toast at breakfast seemed a long time
back, and as it was now nearly ten o’clock, he hoped that the ‘chippy’ would be open.
It was, and before long he was eating fish and chips from the newspaper, doused with
salt and vinegar. Soon he was feeling better.
He continued to search the streets hoping to find Claire or any of his pals,
but he was unlucky and found no one he knew. On a cold January night there were few
people around, and anyway, he was starting to feel bored with wandering about.
The prospect of going home to face his mother however was not something he relished,
but he couldn’t think of anything else to do. Somewhat reluctantly, he turned toward
Not quite fifteen, maturity and manhood tantalizingly just out of reach, he
could not comprehend that although he didn’t need his mother right now, his mother