‘Faith, Hope and Love’ Part 26

After almost three weeks, and despite occasional setbacks, I knew that Arthur would soon be leaving hospital and I was excited at the prospect. Set against the receding danger of any relapse, the benefits of being in his personal space, where he could rest, eat good food and take gentle exercise, looked increasingly attractive. I had visited almost every day, and despite the familiarity of our routines, it was tiring to sit with polite, stilted formality, careful of every word. I wanted to kick back and relax, sing, smile and see Arthur laughing again.

That afternoon, I arrived at the ward earlier than usual, to find Arthur fully dressed and waiting expectantly by his bed, his hair combed neatly and his jacket flung over the neatly folded sheets.

“Hoping to leave today, then?” I asked, smiling broadly.

“Yes, I think so,” he mumbled.

“Has the doctor been in to see you?”

“Not yet. Been waiting a while.”

“I’ll just go and check.” I scurried back along the corridor. “Excuse me, is Mr. Thompson leaving today?”

“Yes, That’s right. But Dr Semple is running a little late.”

“How long has he been waiting?”

“A couple of hours, maybe?”

I glanced at my watch, which showed 2.15. “I have to be away by four. Is there any chance of that?”

“I should think so,” she considered, “It shouldn’t be long.” .

I fetched us tea which Arthur sipped placidly but without enjoyment. We went for a short walk, he glanced at an old crossword, gazed out of the window. He was jumpy, perhaps dreading to hear, “I’m sorry, it’s too late to go home today, it’ll have to be tomorrow.” Eventually, a thin, tired-looking young man hove in view, almost running along the corridor. He introduced himself with the minimum of formalities.

“Mr. Thompson? Sorry to keep you waiting. There are just a few papers for you to sign…” Dry Semple pulled sheets out of a manila folder and laid them out over the bed. Arthur penned his signatures with a brave flourish, though his hands wobbled and his fingers slipped around the unfamiliar, slick barrel of the pen. Released at last, he offered a formal handshake, murmuring a few words of thanks.

I was waiting with his coat slung over my arm. We walked slowly down the ward, past the desk and to the lifts, then along the gloomy main corridor and out into bright sunlight. He wobbled a couple of times, dizzy after spending so long lying in bed, but we took our time. I knew he was happy to be outside at last. I hugged him gently as two single tears rolled over his cheeks. Carefully, we drove home.

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