Chapter Forty Six
"Well? Aren't you going to ask me in?" Ged's mother asked him with a grin. How he loved that grin!
"Er, yes, Mum, come in," Ged's brain was trying to keep up and failing.
They hugged. Whenever he hugged his mother he felt at peace, secure, at home.
"Will you bring my case in from the car, please?" she said as she separated and passed him, making for the kitchen and the kettle for tea.
He stood looking after her, his mouth open.
"Close your mouth dear," she said, looking over her shoulder as she went, "You'll catch flies."
He smiled in spite of himself: it was one of her sayings. He felt he should stay with her and he watched as she navigated her way round the kitchen as if it were her own. Then he noticed, as if for the first time, the pile of unwashed pots in the sink and felt guilty, as if he'd let her down.
She did not advert to it, but made the tea and brought him a mug, gesturing for him to sit at the kitchen table.
"Are you staying?" he asked after they had taken their first sip of the hot brew.
"For a while," she said. "If you get my case. Gwen's husband is ill and Cassie is having a well earned rest. You've really put her through it, you know? I knew there was trouble when you didn't ring me, but Cassie did."
Now he felt really guilty as it came home to him with clarity what he'd been doing to Cassie, and how heroically she'd borne it. Then he realised that Cassie must have been phoning her often, no doubt for moral support. He did not feel upset at that, or annoyed: it was what she needed.
He said nothing but smiled with embarrassment at his mother, who could always read him.
She nodded. "Show me," she said, and he knew what she wanted. He laid both hands on the table, palms down.
Her face became stony, and he knew how deeply the sight hurt her. This was her son, and it was flesh of her own flesh that was mangled. She took his hands and kissed them both. He knew it was her sign that she would give anything to take his disability on herself. How did she manage to convey so much and so deeply? He felt overcome by her love.
"We'll have a little chat later," she said, and he remembered her 'little chats' from his childhood. They were mainly her monologues interspersed with Ged saying 'Yes Mum' at appropriate intervals. "Before that, I think we ought to sort this kitchen out, don't you?"
There was only one answer required, namely, 'Yes Mum', and Ged duly gave it.
"Right," she said. "Do you want to wash or dry?"
"Mum, my hands..."
"What about them? Have you tried to wash up?"
"Well, no, but--"
"Come on Son," she said. "Try. See what you can do."
"I don't think I can hold a plate and dry it, so I'd better try washing."
He did, and found a way of holding a plate with his right hand fingers and thumb, standing it on edge in the washing up bowl, and cleaning it with his left. He discovered that he had more trouble using his left hand to wash the plates than he had holding the plates with his disabled right, because he was so very right-handed.
He found he could support mugs against the bowl while he washed them. He began to feel excited. Then he remembered.
"Mother?" he said with reproof in his voice.
"Yes, dear?" So innocent!
"There is a dishwasher."
"Yes -- you!" A little laugh.
"No, I mean--"
"I'm perfectly aware there is such an appliance, my darling, but this is about you using those hands."
"You mean you knew about it?"
"Of course," she said patiently. "I have been here before, or don't you remember?"
Of course he remembered, but he was not often in the kitchen, being busy with his music, or being unable to use his hands.
Then he was distracted by trying to find a way to wash the cutlery. Again he managed to hold each knife, fork or spoon, stuffing the handle between his palm and clenched ring and little fingers and holding the article in his index finger and thumb, but using the left hand was the difficult thing.
Afterwards, she casually asked him to put the kettle to boil, which he managed without difficulty: he'd been making tea for three days. His mother made the tea, while after a second request from her, he went and got her case from her car.
Once again he needed to think through how to do it and grabbed the case with his left hand, while shutting the car door with the flat (such as it was) of his right. He carried it up to the en suite "best' guest bedroom, which Cassie had been using, and was thankful the bed was already made up. Cassie must have done it, ready for his mother.
"It'll need airing," she said from behind him. "Pull the bedclothes to the foot of the bed, the radiators will do the rest."
Again he did as she asked and pulled the duvet back to expose the bottom sheet, using his left hand. Then he went down to the living room. She followed after some minutes.
"Gerald!" she said, and he knew he was in trouble. "When was the last time you changed your bedding?"
She had been in his room.
He was tempted to say he couldn't remember, since either Gwen or Cassie did that job for him, but thought better of it.
"I don't know, Mum," he said. "Cassie or Gwen does it usually."
"We'll have a cup of tea and then we'll change your bed," and she went off to pour it.
She asked after his friends by name, and he was forced to give non-committal answers, because he didn't know.
She nodded, and he knew she was really learning about his state of mind. Somehow, again he didn't mind, and wondered why that was.
She asked about his song writing and he was forced to tell her he was not writing any more. She did not ask why, and he knew she knew why.
After the tea, she took him upstairs and extracted a bedding set from the chest of drawers in his room.
"You strip the bed while I visit the loo," she told him. "Won't be long."
He found he could unbutton the duvet but couldn't work out how to remove the cover easily. He went to the bottom fitted sheet and easily stripped that. Then he turned to the pillows, taking the pillow cases in his teeth and pulling the pillow clear. He felt a surge of success and, encouraged, went back to the duvet. He pinched the corner of the cover with his right index finger and thumb, while pulling on the duvet with his left. It took a long time, going from side to side, but eventually he cleared the cover.
His mother returned and smiled. "Oh, you've done it all!" she exclaimed and gathered the washing together. "We'll let everything air and get these things in the wash." then she left the room and went downstairs.
Ged sat on the stripped bed, all his own work! It felt good. He stood and went downstairs.
His mother was now making coffee! He could hear the washing machine in the utility room.
"Sit down, Ged," she said. "It'll be ready in a minute."
He sat, she served him his mug and some biscuits she'd brought with her. He noticed a sheet of A4 paper and a pen on the table and wondered what she was going to write.
She pushed the biscuits towards him.
"Go on," she said with what in other circumstances would be a seductive smile. "Half-covered chocolate digestives, your favourite."
He took a couple and bit into one, and sighed with pleasure. He was still trying to keep up with the pace of life since his mother had arrived, but found he was enjoying the wild ride.
She let him finish the biscuit and take a drink of the coffee. Why did her coffee taste so much better than his? Then she began to speak, reaching for his hands and taking them in hers.
"My dear darling son, it's time for a little chat. You've been very depressed, Cassie's at the end of her tether worried about you, and worn out running round after you, that's why she's gone -- to save her own mental health, and that's why I've arrived.
"Now, you've suffered a loss. It's very serious, I know that." She stopped, stroking his right hand and waiting for him to reply.
"I've lost everything, Mum." He raised his right hand. "I mean, look at it. There's nothing--"
"You're not the only one who's lost everything, you know," she cut in; she was gentle in her reproof.
He was about to interrupt that it didn't help that other people were suffering as well, when he saw the suffering on her face. It was as if a mask had fallen from it, and it upset him deeply. He knew then what she meant.
"You mean you miss Dad, don't you?"
"Charlie died too young," she said, monotone. "Fifty-five is no age. He was my life Gerald, my whole life. Thirty years of total bliss, and then it was all gone in a few weeks, and I've got another possible thirty or more years to live through without him.
"I never realised how much he did for me. Things I took for granted -- oh, I knew he did them, and I thought I appreciated them, but now it's really hit me how much of the strain of life he took off me; how much he loved me practically."
She stopped, her eyes brimming with tears, and he did not know what to say. She looked him in the eye.
"But you..." he blurted out and then stopped, uncertain as to what to say.
"But I?" she asked with a twinkle in her brimming eye and a smile. "But it doesn't seem to have affected me? I cry alone, Son. I cry often, but I have to handle it. So do you. You're an unfair weight on that poor girl, so let's start.
"You're grieving. There's nothing wrong with that, but you don't seem to be aware of the suffering you're causing. You still need to consider others even when you hurt, and especially Cassie. What have you been doing to help her, to show her your love? She's shown you enough; she's certainly done enough."
He had nothing to say. He felt wretched. He would not have taken that rebuke from anyone else but her. Then he let it out.
"My music is my life, Mum, and it's all gone. I can't play keyboard, or guitar. I'm stuck with this useless hand. I can't do anything. I'm useless."
"Not true, my darling," she said with a grin, the one he loved, the one that said she'd pulled a fast one. She pushed on before he could protest. "You have carried my bag to my room, done the washing up and stripped your bed. Or did the fairies come in and do it for you?"
Another of her lovely sayings. 'I suppose you're waiting for the fairies to do it for you.'
"And I'll bet you felt good about it," she added, looking triumphant. "I moved too fast for you to think, and you did it all before you could tell yourself you couldn't do it."
He loved her smugness and smiled in spite of himself. "But it was hard, Mum."
"I didn't say it was easy, son. It took all my will-power not to come and help you with that bed."
"You mean you were watching me all the time?"
"Of course I was. Now, I think it's time to try and get your head on straight."
There she went again. 'Get your head on straight.' She'd say it when he'd done something stupid or was confused about something. 'Come on darling, let's get your head on straight.'
He began to feel comfortable and secure in his mother's love, and did not dread what she was going to make him do next: she would never ask the impossible. Then she asked it, and he thought it was impossible.
"I want you to divide this paper into two columns. In the left column write all the good things in your life. You've been so wrapped up in the bad that's happened it'll take some time. In the other column you can write the bad things."
He became exasperated: she'd forgotten his right hand was useless. "Mother, I can't hold a pen firmly enough in my right hand. It won't work, the fingers are too weak. I can't write."
"Yes you can dear: you can write with your left."
"I can't write left-handed! It'll just be a scrawl."
"Ged, sweetheart, you'll have to learn; practise. You can do it. It'll take time and effort. Let me tell you about grandma Pierce. She was left handed. You know what they did to her in school? They tied her left hand to her chair behind her so she couldn't use it, and made her use her right."
"But I remember, she wrote with her right, and her writing was beautiful."
"It cost her a lot of pain in school. The teachers would rap her left hand with a ruler if she tried to use it. After that she was always ambidextrous. You can't use your right any more for writing, so learn to use your left. It'll be hard and painstaking, but you can do it.
"When you were doing your piano grades, didn't you have to do extra exercises for your left hand?"
"Yes, it was murder to get the speed, and an even rhythm."
"Why? Because your left hand is not as strong as your right: because you hardly use it. This is the same. Exercise.
"Look, today I set you tasks and you learned to do them with what you have, not with what you haven't. You've got to start thinking how you'll get round your problems rather than bewailing the fact you can't do things as you did. You've got to get that 'can do' mental attitude. See?"
"Like you are trying to live without Dad?"
"Exactly! And let me tell you, it's not easy but I won't let it beat me. I know I'll never get over losing him, but I've got to get on and live with it. Every morning it's an effort to get out of bed, and face another day without him. I have to find reasons to get up. At the moment, you're going to be the reason. You too: you'll always miss your right hand."
Her words and her attitude to life buoyed him up and he began to feel hopeful. It came to him that he hadn't felt so positive since long before the attack. He wondered if it would last.
She left the table and began to clean the kitchen, leaving him to his writing. She was right, it was painful and exasperating, but her resolve had rubbed off on him and he persevered. An hour later there was a scrawled, barely legible list in the left column, and he threw down the pen and sat back.
She came over and looked over the 'good' list. At the top he'd written 'Mum'.
"Aw!" she said and hugged him. The rest of the list was predictable: Cassie, friends, folk group, music, Cassie's piano, poetry, Frobishers, Marie, Cassie's parents, Catherine Styles, Karin, books, garden.
"What about your eyesight, your hearing, your voice, your ability to walk, to think; what about your health, fitness and strength -- apart from your hands?" she asked.
He had not thought of that. "Yes," he said. "I've been concentrating too much on my hands."
"One on the negative side," she said. "You only put 'ZAK' in capitals."
"Everything bad that's happened is down to him," Ged said grimly. "Unless you include that other bastard -- the one who got Cassie pregnant."
"What?" his mother gasped. "When? While you were abroad?"
"No," he said, and told her the story.
She said nothing in response, her face grim, but then, instead of a comment she said "Time to make dinner."
"You have a choice," she said. "You can help me get dinner ready, or you can go to the music room which you haven't visited for a while, I believe," she said shooting him an accusing look, "and play either with the computer or the instruments. See what you can do, rather than what you can't."
She stopped and looked at him. "Well?" she asked. "Which?"
"Music room," he said.
"Thought you might!" he heard her knowing laugh as he went.
He looked at the room from the doorway. It threatened him. Then she was behind him again.
"It's all in your mind," she whispered in his ear. "Go and sample. I'd try the computer first, you can use that with one hand, and your right index finger. Go and look at your finances; get them up to date."
He laughed. He was beginning to enjoy his mother's directions; they relieved him of making choices of his own will, and she seemed to be making it a game, finding things with which to surprise him. She had only been in the house a few hours and he was still trying to keep up with her.
She put her arms round him from behind and squeezed him, laying her head on his back. He felt warm and loved, which indeed he knew he was.
He was still lost in the computer when she called him for dinner. He had long since left the accounts behind, and was reading some of Cassie's poetry. It took him back to Catherine Style's place when he spent the whole night setting some of her work to music.
After dinner they sat and watched the news and then a comedy programme, when his eyelids began to droop. He was exhausted.
"Go to bed, sweetheart," she told him. "You've been busy today."
He kissed her, and she said "Good night, God bless you," as she always had. He felt snug and secure having her near, and when he got to the bedroom he found the bed remade and a fresh pair of boxers on the duvet. He smiled; he'd done a lot of smiling all day. He took his pill and fell asleep immediately.
The next few days were busy, busy, busy. She 'suggested' he make a routine of learning to write for an hour each morning. She watched him at work and advised him to turn the page clockwise 45 degrees and keep his hand below the line he was writing, so that it did not smudge or cover the word he had just written.
"You'd be OK with Hebrew," she laughed. "They write from right to left!"
He was given the job of vacuuming all the rooms in the house, as well as the hallway, stairs and landing, followed by dusting the surfaces, and then he was 'invited' to go shopping with her, as well as washing up again and even trying to dry some things. She banished him to the music room each afternoon, but did not suggest what he should do there.
"You haven't made your bed," she said in passing on the first morning. She did not have to make that comment a second time.
The next challenge came next morning, when she returned from somewhere.
"Ged, that beard does not suit you."
"Mother, it's one thing to learn to write with my left, but if I try to shave with it I'll cut my throat. Messy and fatal!"
"You know that's nonsense unless you use a cut-throat razor, but it's good to hear you cracking jokes," she said. "Here! I've bought you a top of the range electric shaver."
He was about to say that electric shavers didn't shave as close.
"I know they don't," she said, reading his mind, "but they shave closer than not shaving at all." This time she laughed, and pushed him to go up the stairs.
So he lost the beard. And the moustache. And found the shaver managed to shave 'quite' close.
After two more afternoons he began to sample the keyboard, and before long was recording the bass line of one of his songs, then the other accompaniment and finally adding the melody, all using his left hand. It took some mental gymnastics, but after two hours he could run the accompaniment and add the melody live. He called his mother, and showed her.
He was taken aback when he saw her tears.
"What is it?" he asked all concern.
"Nothing," she said, sniffing. "You said you'd never play again. Now look at you!"
He hugged her tightly to him. "It's all you," he said, with a full heart, "all you, Mum!"
On the fifth day she asked, "Does no one ever phone you?"
"Oh, bugger!" he swore.
"Gerald! Language!" but she was smiling.
"I disconnected them, and then you happened," he said, going to make the connections again.
As he switched his mobile on there was a knock at the door. He went to answer it and found Cheryl on the step. She looked scared.
"Cheryl!" he said with a wide smile. "Come in, come in!"
She looked puzzled but entered as requested, only to meet his mother emerging from the kitchen.
"Mrs Smith!" she exclaimed. "How lovely!"
"Cheryl!" retorted his mother, bustling to her and giving her a hug. "Come through."
Cheryl looked confused, but followed Ged's mother into the living room. Ged took up the rear.
"Ged darling," said his mother, "Make some tea for us would you?"
Cheryl looked more confused as Ged cheerfully said, "OK!" and left for the kitchen.
"Cassie's Marie rang," Cheryl began. "She's worried stiff 'cos she can't get through on either phone."
"Ah," said Eleanor. "He turned them off after Cassie left, and he's not had a spare minute to switch them on again. In fact he's just connected the land line this minute.
"I don't follow," puzzled Cheryl. "He wasn't doing anything before--"
"Before I arrived!" Eleanor laughed. "I've got him going. I think Cassie will be pleased."
"I'm damn sure she will be!" agreed Cheryl. "You've been keeping house for him?"
"No, he's been keeping house with me!" Eleanor giggled.
"How? I mean--"
"Mother knows," Eleanor said, tapping the side of her nose. "I do know him very well, you know, from way back -- before he was born!"
"Tea!" said Ged, carrying a tray with a teapot, milk, sugar, three cups and saucers, side plates and biscuits. He had experimented at length and supported the tray on his right hand with a thumb hooked over one side and grasping it firmly on the other side with his left. He placed it on the coffee table and Eleanor unpacked it.
"That was clever," said Cheryl with admiration. "It's wonderful how you're coping."
"All mother's work," said Ged, laying an affectionate (right) hand on his mother's shoulder. "She's a real slave driver."
"Cassie's Marie is very worried," Cheryl said. "She tried to phone you."
"My fault," said Ged. "I've reconnected everything again now. "I'll phone her back."
"No Ged, sit down and entertain your guest, I'll phone and tell her you're fine. I don't want you to phone just yet -- I've not finished with your training!"
"But I want to tell her how--"
"You can tell her when I've finished with you." Her voice took on a pleading tone. "Please, Ged, trust me on this."
He slumped. "OK," he said. "You're clearly in charge. How long will this training take?"
"Another week or so," she said. "Please, Ged?"
Cheryl promised not to spoil the surprise, and he showed her what he'd done on the keyboard. She left with hope that the worst was over.
The following week, his mother pushed him further.
"I think it would do you good if you went jogging in the mornings before breakfast," she told him. "You need to get your stamina up, and your gym equipment will only do so much with only one hand. How about it?"
So began a new regime, and it brought it home to him how unfit he was. By the end of the week, he was able to run further and for longer.
As if that were not enough, she now engaged him in cookery. She had bought an array of kitchen tools for people with disabled hands, and together they worked out how he could master them. He remembered how he used to do his fair share of meal preparation, and began to enjoy his return to it.
His days were now so full he had no time to ponder over his progress, and with the intensity of his activity came optimism and hope.
At the end of the third week, she called him to the living room. He wondered what new torture she had devised. She saw his face and laughed.
"I think you've got the hang of things now," she said. "So I'll be leaving early next week. I think you're ready to see Cassie again, don't you? You'll have a lot to tell her."
"I'll phone her," he suggested. "It's been a long time. I thought she'd be back home by now."
"Can I make a suggestion?" his mother asked.
"Of course, you're the one who's pulled me out of that hole I was living in."
"Go down there to her parents' place. They haven't seen you for a long time and even then it was not pleasant. Surprise her."
"I can't just drop in on them without warning, Mum."
"Let me sort it out. How about you go by train? You're still not really fit enough to drive all that way. I can phone Cassie's mother."
The idea appealed to Ged. He'd 'written' two songs to and about Cassie, expressing his love and gratitude for all she did, using the computer. He thought he could put them together using the keyboard to provide the backing, the recording suite and an MP3 player to store the whole thing.
"OK," he said. "I'll leave it to you."
He worked on the songs the whole weekend, and his mother smiled to herself as she heard him singing away in the music room.
"Mairead? He's gone for it. I suggested Tuesday as you asked and he seems fine with that."
"Ellie, you're a miracle worker, so you are. If you get the train time, Joe will pick him up at the station. Dollar is gong to get her out of the house."
Ged booked his first class train tickets that day, and his mother passed on the message. She relieved him of all his duties so he could finish his songs, and she was given a preview which reduced her to tears, so moving were the words and so wistful the music.
On Monday, she hugged and kissed him, and went back home, his thanks ringing in her ears, and a satisfied, nay, smug smile on her face.
Chapter Forty Seven
It was on the train that he began to have mixed feelings about the trip. He remembered his last meeting with Cassie at the house, and for the life of him he could not remember exactly what she had said to him when she left three weeks before. He thought she said she needed a break; he hoped so. Then he remembered her previous response to his effective proposal of making their relationship permanent, and her reluctance to commit.
Then he realised that it was his mother and Cassie's that had arranged this between them and he kicked himself for not taking charge and phoning Cassie. Now he felt he had to go along with their plan, and trust them. After all, he thought, his mother had turned him round. Eventually he mentally shrugged: it was too late to change anything now.
He emerged from the station, rucksack on his back and pulling his suitcase behind him. It had been a rite of passage dealing with his baggage on the train with one effective hand. He now made for the taxi rank, with its row of waiting cabs.
The shout came from the car park, and turning he saw Joe, Cassie's father, waving at him with a wide smile on his face. He duly turned and made for Joe's car.
Joe held out his hand for a handshake, and Ged was non-plussed. This was the first person who had held out a hand for a handshake. After the momentary hesitation he offered his left, and shook backhand. Joe's face creased with compassion and a touch of anger.
"Sorry Ged," he said. "It really comes home when you see what those bastards did."
"Thanks, Joe. There's little pain now, and I'm learning to live with it."
They were driving to the house when Joe brought the matter that had festered in his mind for months.
"I don't know how to thank you for what you did for us, You saved our lives, and I don't know how we can ever repay you."
Ged had been ready for this: he knew Joe's pride.
"Joe, there are two things you should know about that. One, you have already given me more than I'll ever have in the bank: you've brought Cassie into the world. Two, when we get to the house I'll show you something on my laptop."
"Don't know about that, she's led you a merry dance, the silly girl. Here we are. Cassie isn't here, we thought we'd settle you in first and then get Dollar to bring her over."
He pulled the car onto the drive and took Ged's bags ahead into the house. There were Mairead and Marie waiting for Ged on the step.
Mairead hugged him first. "At last, Ged! Welcome. We've waited to see you too long."
Marie followed, hugging him close, making sure he felt every nuance of her newly eighteen year old body. "Hi, Ged, again! I'm so excited! It's going to be ever so romantic!"
He said nothing, but smiled. Then the two females wanted to see his hands and exclaimed at the damage, and hugged him again.
"Hey," he said, feeling quite overcome. "If I get this treatment I'll get them back to do in the other hand!"
Then disengaging, he turned to Joe, "Joe, can you go into my rucksack and get my laptop out?"
The older man did as requested, and they set it up on the wi-fi.
"Now, Joe, these are my accounts. This is the instant access cash savings."
The two women craned over Joe's shoulder, and there was a collective gasp when they saw the balance.
"And this is the account all my royalties go into."
Another gasp. "There are other accounts and stocks and shares investments of some more millions. I'm showing you so you can see that paying off your accounts barely made a dent in my resources. Look, I bought an eight bedroom house for myself with ready cash!
"Please let go of any worries about paying me back. You can see I don't need any more money, but it keeps flowing in. Every time somewhere in the world someone sings one of my songs, the cash register chings. That's every day. In any case you have always been family to me.
"I would also like to sub Marie at university -- pay off her tuition and give her an allowance. She's the real heroine here: it took a lot to come to me for help."
There was silence. He saw their awe-struck faces and laughed. "I'll take that as a 'yes', then."
"Now to business," he said, hurriedly changing the subject. "Has your music player got a USB port?"
It had. He took the pen drive from his pocket and fitted it and switched on the appliance.
"This is for Cassie when she gets here. You seem to be in charge, Mairead, how are you going to organise this?"
"We'll bring her in here and then leave you two alone, will that do?"
"You have the remote for the music?" Marie asked. He had.
"I'll phone Dollar," Mairead said.
"You're a lot better?" asked Marie.
"Yes, thanks to my mother. I was pretty low when Cassie left."
"I'm not surprised," said Mairead. "I don't know how you coped."
"To tell the truth I didn't. My mother got me out of the pit I was in. She just gave me so much to do I hadn't time to be sad, and she showed me that there was plenty I could do. She burst in suddenly one day, and I was so amazed I just did what she told me. That reminds me, I have a letter for Cassie." He reached into his jacket and brought it out.
"But you're here?" said Marie puzzled.
"It's hand written, Marie," he said gently, and he waited.
Then she saw the point. "You wrote it with your left hand! So romantic!" and she looked at him dreamy eyed. He laughed loudly, and so did everyone else. She grinned. Then he sobered up.
"I don't think I laughed at all while Cassie was looking after me. She had a hard time, a very hard time. I really put her through it."
"Well, you're here now, and I'm sure she'll forget all about that," Mairead said, patting his shoulder. "Oh, there's the car arriving. Everybody out! Disappear!"
Ged was left alone. It was not excitement he felt, it was fear. So many times they had parted only to get their reunification wrong and end it in a shouting match.
He heard the front door opening and Mairead's voice.
"Hello Dollar. Oh Cassie, there's a visitor for you."
Then her voice. The sound of it hit like a hammer and his breathing quickened.
"In there. Dollar, let's go and make some tea for them."
The door opened and there she stood, so beautiful he ached. She looked at him and she gaped.
"Ged? What are you doing here?"
He said nothing but stood and handed her the letter. She gave him a puzzled look and opened the envelope, dropped it on the coffee table and unfolded the letter.
The writing was not pretty: it resembled the writing of a very young child. She glanced at him and raised an eyebrow. He nodded, and she began to read.
My Dearest Cassie
I shudder with disgust when I think of how I abused you over those last weeks. All you did for me with never a thank-you from me, and never a cross word from you.
I am so sorry for being selfish and wrapped up in my own pain while ignoring yours. I understand now why you would not commit to me when I asked you before. You must have sensed how bad it would get -- how thoughtless I would be, and how eventually it would be too much for you.
I am coming to see you to tell you how much I love you, how undeserving of you I am. I'm humbly begging you to come home. I promise things have changed.
When I get to see you I have something to show you.
I love you Cassie, please come home, this time for good.
PS I wrote this with my left hand and it took me two hours. I'm getting better at it; I practise my writing for an hour a day. Listen.
She looked up as he pressed the remote and his song of love and appreciation filled the room. Her look of surprise turned into one of amazement, as she took in first the fact that the accompaniment was so full, and that he was singing, then listened to the words. He had lost none of his poetic ability nor his skill in setting the words to music.
She knew now that something had changed radically since she left him. Then the second song was one of regret and loneliness and sounded as if he was accompanying it on the guitar until she realised it was the guitar setting on his keyboard.
When it finished, all he said was, "So sorry," and stood penitently before her.
Her eyes filled with tears and she moved to him, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him vigorously all over his face, then open mouthed on his lips pushing her tongue into his mouth. He felt her tears.
She laid her head on his chest.
"No," she said. "It's me who's sorry. It's me who couldn't get you better, and it's me who ran away and wouldn't phone you even after I knew you had reconnected them."
"You worked so hard, my love." he said. "You waited on me, you put up with my constant silence and sullenness. You couldn't have done more."
"It wasn't enough."
"It was. Not your fault -- mine. You did all you could do."
"So was it me leaving?"
"No. A few days after you left, my mother arrived. I think you had something to do with that!" He gazed at her and she blushed.
"Ged, I didn't know what else to do. I couldn't leave you all alone, with Gwen being away, but I wanted you to be alone for a little while. I hoped that would wake you up."
"Darling, it was the best thing you could have done. As a new arrival she could use a different approach. She rushed me off my feet. She asked me to bring in her bag, then to do the washing up while she dried, then strip my bed. She kept out of the way until I'd finished. After that she had one of her 'little chats'.
"She told me how bad it had been when Dad died, and how even now she had to strive to do ordinary things. Somehow once she'd got me going, she just got me to do more and more."
"But your right ha--"
"I've had to learn that it has only a supporting rôle to help my left. Once I accepted that, I found ways of doing things. My left is still weak, but I'm working on that!"
She looked up into his eyes, reading him. "You are happier now than you were."
"That wouldn't be difficult," he said with a wry laugh.
"I love it that you're laughing again," and she resumed her kissing.
"The songs?" she asked when she came up for air.
"Multi-tracking. Accompaniment first then the melody, finally my voice."
"I never thought you'd go near music again. I'm so happy, dear lovely Ged." She nuzzled his neck with her nose. "I wish now I'd come back home earlier."
"Why? We're together now."
"If we were back home, I would be dragging you to bed right now. As it is..."
"That's twice you've said it, you know." His gaze was intense.
"What?" She was casting about, wondering where he was going with this.
" 'Home'. You said 'home'. Does this mean...?" He stopped, hoping to lead her on.
She smiled. "You remember what you asked of me when you got your left hand back?"
"Yes," he said, knowing now she was on the right track. "You turned me down."
"Not exactly, but I said there was something stopping me. I don't feel that any more."
"No, I won't." She took a breath. "You have to ask me the right question. Go on, but get it right." Her eyes were shining and challenging, and her smile was wide.
Ged thought for a moment, was she asking what he thought she was asking? He decided she was getting away with it too easily. He needed to correct things a little.
"The question I want to ask..." he paused.
"Yes?" she asked eagerly.
"That question -- the one I asked before the tour..." another pause.
"Yes, yes?" she was jigging up and down.
"You said 'yes' then as well," he said.
Her grin got wider still. "So?"
"I never took that question back," he said. He looked at her seriously and she got the message.
She stopped grinning and looked guilty. Nothing said.
"I said I never took it back, my love; I never have," he repeated. He stopped again, trying to repress a smile.
She understood. "It was me. I went and married someone else."
He nodded. And waited.
Cassie stood before him, tables turned, undecided what to do. Then she realised.
She knelt before him, both knees.
NO! She did not unzip his pants. Get a grip! Talking of getting a grip, she took his hands in hers.
"Gerald Smith, you are my only true love, and I let you down. I betrayed your love and failed you. I don't deserve anything from you but I need you. Please, will you not just live with me. Will you marry me?"
He pulled her to her feet. "You've done enough for me and vastly more than I deserve. Yes, let's get married as we always should have done. Let's have lots of children."
"Yes, oh yes," she said eagerly looking into his eyes. "We probably will, since I'm off the pill now and have been for a while!"
"One thing though," he growled.
"What is it?" she asked, briefly worried.
"We are not calling our kids stupid names, like some of those other 'entertainers' do!"
"You mean we can't call them after the place where they were conceived?"
"Aw! Or what the weather was like?"
"Definitely not -- anyway they'd all be called 'variable cloud', or 'rain', or 'drizzle'. You wouldn't call your child 'drizzle' would you?"
"Well perhaps not," she giggled and gazed up into his eyes. "I love you so much."
"I know. No one else would have stayed with me as long as you did over those long weeks. No one else would have come running to the hospital to save me."
"Kiss me," she said, reaching up.
It was a long and intensive kiss, and he felt her tears, and pulled away, worried.
"All those weeks," she said plaintively, "I was longing for your lovely kisses, and they'd gone. You were there, but in a way you'd left me. It hurt so much, Ged."
"I'm sorry," he said, "but you stuck by me when there was nothing in it for you at all."
"You know what kept me going?" she asked. looking up into his eyes. "I made that first promise and broke it and it caused us to part. Now we were together again, and I was damned if I was going to cause another break. I would stick with it this time. But then..."
"I left you and ran home."
"Cassie, you were exhausted, and getting no relief. Don't start beating yourself up about that as well. In fact stop beating yourself up about any of it. We... Are... Together... Now, and always will be."
"Yes, my love, if you say so."
They called in the family and announced their engagement, and the family were delighted, nay ecstatic. They phoned Ged's mother and she rejoiced with them and, it seemed, was already on her way to join them for Christmas.
They did get out the Cava and celebrate with bubbly. The only complaint came from Marie who asserted that she'd rather hoped she'd have taken Cassie's place. Everyone laughed including Marie, though Ged, Cassie and she knew it had an element of truth about it.
Keeping the positive atmosphere after so much angst, the pair went to bed together that night rather the worse for drink. With some falling about and giggling they undressed each other, made it obvious they admired each other au naturel, fell untidily into bed together and began to make love. It was while they were caressing each other in preparation, that they both fell asleep.
However the next morning they finished what they had started and intertwined and interpenetrated, bounced around and reached release and resolution, looking deep into each other's eyes, keeping as quiet as they could and failing dismally. It so happened that Joseph Charles Smith was conceived on that morning from their loving and energetic union.
(Later, Ged thought the 'accident' of the conception reflected their trials and their resolution: Cassie had come off the pill when Ged lost interest in her, weeks before, so little Joe might not have arrived if the nadir of their troubles had not been reached).
Christmas was wonderful, with Eleanor Smith in attendance. It was rushed, but Cassie and Ged shopped frantically in the few days available and managed to find presents for everyone.
For New Year, Ged and Cassie entertained everyone at their home, and Karin arrived with her new boyfriend to help prepare the place for the party, as she had once before.
Ged became a little stupid and engaged a firework company to provide a lengthy and exhilarating display when the hour struck. The neighbours were also delighted, having been warned and invited, in advance.
In January, Zak was tried on a number of counts, the most serious being 'Wounding or Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm with intent'. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to twelve years in prison, of which they knew he would serve eight or even less if he behaved himself. No one needed to give evidence. Lee and a man called Kyle (whom neither Cassie nor Ged knew but was apparently Lee's mate), were sentenced to five years each.
Cassie required nothing from Zak in the divorce. She simply wanted to repudiate him. Ged also gave up the action against Zak, thinking that eight years' prison made the point, and having him homeless when he emerged would not serve any useful purpose. Money and possessions were irrelevant when one had a bank account the size of Ged's.
Their wedding was simple and at the same church in which she'd 'married' Zak. The marriage of Zak and Cassie had been annulled by the Church after the civil divorce was absolute. Ged paid for the whole celebration.
Cassie wore white. As she said, this was her first marriage, the other with Zak had been a sham. The Church had made that official: there had been no marriage to Zak because of his deception.
Cassie and Ged join and perform with the folk group and sometimes visit Gerard Frobisher. Furtive Glance had long since disbanded, though Ged sometimes uses Peter or Joshua from the band when recording his work. Amos left the country for parts unknown.
There are now two children in the Smith house, Maria Cassandra following her brother two years later. Cassie and Ged are very busy coping with two small children, and are looking forward to more children in due course, feeling at last settled and content.
About time they got a break! Many of their friends and family agreed and made a wish: May they make sweet music for years to come!
Jan 30, 2018 in romance