Light - a continuation of Rain
Emma walked out into the bright sunlight of the hospital courtyard, and looked around for her Grandad. For the last couple of weeks he'd been sat out here in his wheelchair when she visited each Sunday. It was nice for him to get a bit of sun, a little fresh air, after being cooped up inside through the wet spring.
He wasn't coming home again, she knew that. The poor old sod had a list of things wrong with him, all of them serious, too serious for him to be stuck in some nursing home, and she was grateful for that in a way. The nurses here were good, and they took great care of him. It was just hard to watch him slipping away, a little more each week. Sometimes it was hard to remember the man he was, and it was hard to think of losing him, he was all she had.
She spotted him in his chair and went over to him, happy to see him.
"Morning Grandad.!" She crouched down in front of him. He didn't have his hearing aid in, this was good, she was going to have to shout. "Where's your hearing aid?"
He smiled at her, nodding, and reached up a bony hand towards his ear. "Can' t hear you Emma, need my thing in."
She noticed one of the nurses she knew, Nurse Pearson, wheeling out another patient, and she beckoned her over.
She wheeled the patient over with her to the dappled shade and put on the brake. "We'll sit you here beside Mr Bradley shall we Colin, so you can get a bit or air?"
The man in the wheel chair didn't react, he just stared straight ahead. The nurse gave her a smile "G'day Emma, something wrong love?"
"Grandad doesn't have his hearing aid in, he's as deaf as a post without it and I don't fancy bellowing my conversation around the courtyard."
She laughed. "See your point. We're a bit short handed today, that'll be why it was missed. I'll go get it for him, back in a tick. Oh, this is Colin. I' ll just leave him here with you if that's okay?"
The nurse left her alone with the two men, so Emma grabbed one of the many garden chairs and came to sit opposite them both. She'd seen this Colin before, difficult not to notice him really, he stood out amongst so many old folk, and he wasn't exactly hard on the eye either.
"That's Colin," her Grandad told her. "He don't talk, don't know if he's the full quid."
She nodded in reply, and took a closer look at the younger man. He was sat quite stiffly, didn't look comfortable at all, she'd maybe mention that to the nurse when she came back.
Nurse Pearson wasn't long. She'd found Grandad's hearing aid, and she put it in for him.
"Is err, Colin okay?" she asked her. "He looks a bit uncomfortable, stiff maybe."
"It's because he's wearing pressure bandages. He's been badly burnt down his back, and his legs were broken. The right one's still giving him trouble, poor love."
"Grandad says he can't speak."
"Well that's almost right. He doesn't speak, hasn't said a word since he came here. The only time he makes a sound is if he's in a lot of pain, and he only reacts to sound if he's startled. There's nothing physically wrong, but from what I've been told, some bad stuff happened to him, and now he's in a world of his own, more or less." She shook her head sadly. "I'd better stop gossiping before I get in trouble. I've got dinners to sort out too for everyone."
"I'll help Grandad as usual. What about Colin, does he need some help, if you're busy?"
"He needs feeding."
"I'll do it, if you like," she offered.
"You sure? He's real slow."
Emma laughed. "Grandad's not exactly fast, is he?"
"No, that's true," she agreed. "It'd be a great help, thanks."
Grandad's tray attached to his wheelchair, and he could pretty much still feed himself. He was just really messy, but there was a large bib thing to keep him relatively food free, and he liked the independence of feeding himself.
"Colin eats what you give him. When you put it in his mouth he gets through it. It's a lot like feeding a kiddie really, but he's a slow eater." The nurse grimaced at the tray. "I don't think he's a big jelly fan either."
"I brought some chocolate pudding for Grandad, it's his favourite. There's easily enough for two, can I give Colin some?"
"Anything you can get him to eat and not dribble out would be great Emma, and thanks, for helping."
She watched the nurse leave and turned to the old man. "I'm going to help out the nurses Grandad, and feed Colin his dinner. Will you be okay with that?"
"Yes love." He was already tucking in. "You help him, poor lad."
She shook her head, amused that he should see the need for helping this man and not himself, then again, that was Grandad all over.
She turned her attention to the still and silent Colin, and gently fastened the bib around his neck, talking to him quietly.
"I don't know if you can hear me or not Colin, but my name's Emma, and I'm going to help you with your dinner today, cos the nurses are busy. I help my Grandad sometimes too, so don't worry about it, or anything else. We'll just take our time. Do you want to turn this way a little bit?" She stroked his cheek a couple of times with the back of her finger, before gently turning his chin towards her. He didn't resist. "Okay, let's see what we've got for dinner. Whoa, lumpy brown stuff and vegetables, smells nice though."
Colin drifted a lot, and he didn't mind that much. He didn't want to be here now, so he let himself slip away into his memories. They weren't always good though, not all of them. Pain brought him back usually, the pain was bad sometimes, and he couldn't get away from it. Most of the time it was just there, in the background, a reminder of the place where he didn't want to be.
A smell brought him back today. A soft perfume that surrounded him, hands that brushed his neck, and then a soft voice, a new one. Fingers brushed against his cheek, cupped his chin, and coaxed movement from him as his head was turned towards the voice.
Colin liked the voice. It was soft, and surprisingly deep, and it spoke to him all the time as he was fed. There was nothing patronising in the tone, no impatience or irritation. Very slowly he let his gaze rest on the owner of the voice, as she spooned something sweet and good into his mouth.
He saw eyes that smiled when they met his, blue eyes.
"The chocolate pudding gets me a look does it?" Emma smiled at him. "That's nice. What about a nice drink now to wash that down." The cup was a baby style cup with a lid on and a small spout. "Smells like blackcurrant to me. Not sure if that'll go with chocolate pudding, but we'll give it a try eh?"
It was easier for her to stand beside him to hold the cup whilst he drank, and she stroked the back of his hair lightly to reassure him.
When she sat back down in the garden chair his eyes rested on her once more. She took the time to study his face. It was a good face, broad and open, quite boyish really. His eyes, almost aqua in colour, seemed a little sad, and they were fanned by the longest lashes she had ever seen on a man. He had a beautiful mouth too she decided, as she used the corner of the bib to gently wipe around it, taking away any dregs of his dinner. She kept the cheerful smile for him, but inside she felt sad. It was bad enough to see her Grandad. slowly degenerating, but at least it was expected, and he had had a good innings. To see someone who looked about her own age reduced to this was a tragic waste, and she wondered what might have happened to him to make him this way.
She gave him a little more to drink then took the bib off, reassuring him quietly all the time, hoping that the presence of a stranger wasn't too disturbing for him.
"There ya go Colin, all done and dusted," she told him, patting his hand. She felt a scar beneath her fingers, and took a look. He had a round scar, right in the middle of his large hand. She frowned, and then slowly and gently turned his hand, so that she could see the palm. The scar was there too. Something had gone right through his hand. With more than a little reluctance, she glanced at the other hand as it lay in his lap. There was a similar scar on that one too. Something had clearly been driven through each of his hands. The idea almost made her physically sick.
"Alright Emma love?" Her grandad's voice cut into her thoughts and she gave him a smile.
"Yes Grandad. Just thinking."
He nodded slowly towards Colin. "Bloody shame eh?"
"It is." She lay his hand back in his lap, stroking it softly as she did so. Then she cleaned up her Grandad.
She chatted to the old man for a while, but as always he dropped off after his dinner. Usually she brought a book with her and read until he woke up, but she found Colin's gaze still on her.
"Well, we can't have much of a chat, can we Colin? Tell you what, why don't I read this out loud, then you can listen too, how's that?" She looked at her book and then back at Colin. "Maybe I should explain that I'm a student, at horticultural college, and that sort of colours my reading matter. Then again, maybe you won't mind, huh?" She shook her head sadly. "Okay, here we go, 'Garden Pests and Predators by Elfrida Savigear, chapter one, the characteristics of soil organisms,............"
She read to him quietly and he continued to look, if not at her, then through her, all the time. It was a little weird at first, but she kept hoping that maybe it was nice for him to hear a friendly voice. Couldn't hurt, could it?
She was interrupted by a quiet cough from behind her, and she turned to see a grinning Nurse Pearson.
"Oh hi!" She blushed a little. "I was err, reading to Colin."
"About beneficial garden fungi, I heard."
"I know it's silly, but I couldn't just sit and read and ignore him while he was looking at me. I thought maybe the sound of my voice might, I don't know, be comforting or something." She shut up, suddenly embarrassed. "I'm being a total idiot, aren't I?"
But Nurse Pearson wasn't listening, she was studying Colin. "He really is looking at you," she said quietly. "He doesn't usually do that."
"Quite the opposite. I'll have to mention it to the doctor. Listen, I have to take Colin inside now for a while. Thanks for helping out, feeding him."
She smiled. "That's no problem. I kind of liked doing it, it made a change." She nodded over at her Grandfather. "At least it gave me something to do."
"See what you mean. I'll bring him back out later, hopefully."
Colin had listened to the gentle voice, and he'd liked it. Usually he pushed voices out of his mind, he wanted to get away from them. Not this one though, he liked this voice, and he liked the light perfume and the gentle touch that went with it. He thought about the blue eyes too, and the smile in them.
Being taken away from those things was a sudden and painful shock, and he had to fight the urge not to reach out, cry out. Good things were taken away. It had been a fact of his life ever since Colin was a kid and his Mum had taken him away from his home, his Dad. His business, that had been taken away, then his Dad, then Midori.
Colin went away too, away from the things that were around him, to a place filled with memories that he had become reluctant to leave. He tried to forget the voice, the touch, and the blue eyes, that had for a short while, pulled him back into the light.