Can she? How does she know what happened? A short story – Colin Devonshire
I Can See Him
‘It’s in my mind, there can’t you see?’
‘No, honey, I can’t see something you are imagining,’ Brent said. He squirmed on his chair, holding his wife’s hand. A nurse popped her head in, ‘Everything alright with Julie?’
‘No change in her, I’m afraid. I must go, do you think she’ll notice?’
‘We do not know what she is thinking. But, at least she is usually smiling.’
Brent collected his briefcase packed with his university’s papers.
‘Sorry, I have to read all this tonight. See you tomorrow?’
‘Yes, I’ll be here,’ said the nurse. ‘Let’s hope you will see an improvement. Bye.’
Brent pecked his wife’s cheek. She continued peering out of the window.
Jumping in his car, he pressed a well-worn number.
‘Hi, babe, ready for a night out?’
‘Yeah, but I must finish that dissertation you gave us.’
‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll do it together in the pub?’
‘Hi Julie, I’ve brought you dinner. I hope you like it?’ said the canteen lady.
Julie looked at the meal, served with plastic cutlery and smiled. She shoved the mashed potato to one side and shaped it; it was used as a moat to hold the thick gravy. The slithers of pork were made into bridges, and then she reached her goal. The peas. Her quest was to make tiny pyramids around the edge of her plate.
‘Beautiful,’ she said. She looked around, her room was empty of visitors or hospital staff.
‘It is craftsmanship at its best.’ Not only did she hear the words she saw the speaker.
‘Can I eat it now?’
‘Of course, it’s your dinner. What do you think Brent is eating?’
‘I don’t know, I didn’t cook for him, did I?’
‘No, you didn’t. I think he’s found something tasty?’
‘We had better go to a place well away from the Uni, I will get a bad name.’ Brent laughed.
Aimee giggled, ‘It’s a bit late for that.’
They drove for twenty minutes out of the city to a river-side pub.
Nodding at two locals who were hugging the bar from tall stools. ‘Hello, again mate, more homework?’ He winked, and both started laughing.
‘A pint of bitter and a Bacardi and Coke please,’ he said, ignoring the regulars.
‘Take no notice of them,’ said the barmaid.
Brent carried the glasses back to his table, looking to see if Aimee had heard.
Julie ate the bridges first, she mopped the gravy with mashed potato. Then she started on the peas, one at a time. All the tops then the supporting cast. She licked her knife and fork, then her lips.
‘Did you enjoy that?’
‘Oh, yes, wonderful cooks here you know?’
‘No, I don’t know. I prefer, what should I say? More satisfying belly fillers.’
An overweight canteen worker bowled in.
‘Finished, love? Can I take your plate?’
‘Thank you,’ Julie answered and turned to face the corner. ‘She comes every day. Lovely lady.’
‘So, I see.’
The lady looked behind her as she pushed her trolley to the corridor, muttering to herself.
‘I’m going to see how Brent is.’
‘Can I come?’ asked Julie.
‘Not this time. I’ll let you know what happens.’
Brent twitched, he looked behind him. His elbow knocked the Coke glass into his student’s lap.
‘What the hell?’
‘Sorry. Let me get you another.’
The men sniggered, as Brent signalled for another.
He wandered back, tripped and shot the drink into her face. The men at the bar roared.
‘That’s the way to treat ‘em,’ one chortled.
Aimee tried to mop her face and then her skirt. ‘Get me a taxi, please.’ She called to the barmaid. ‘I’ll wait outside.’
She stormed out. Brent found himself rooted to the seat. He failed to open his mouth, his hands were glued to his knees.
‘Cat got your tongue?’ asked a drinker.
The pub’s pet leapt onto the table.
She scratched Brent’s cheek. He yelled in pain. The cat bit deep into Brent’s tongue. The men roared. The landlady rushed to shoo off her cat.
‘I’m so sorry, she has never done that before. Not to anyone. Are you okay?’
Brent, in shock, shook his head, his tongue flapped side to side, dripping blood. His hands were still clamped to his knees. Brent was speechless.
He regained his senses, ‘water,’ he stammered.
Brent gulped a few mouthfuls and rushed to the toilets and cleaned the blood. Then raced outside as the taxi disappeared around a corner.
‘How is my darling husband?’
‘Fine, but had a run-in with a catty student.’
‘Oh, is he still at the university? At this time? He works too hard.’
Brent slammed the car door and fumed his way into his house. He threw his briefcase onto the sofa. Aimee’s article was scrubbed, red Xs scribbled over the text. Brent felt better, so he decided on a shower.
The steam clouded around him as he slid back the curtain. His right leg skidded across the tiled floor. His toenails split as they smashed into the wall. His head cracked against the low step as he fell, and blood started washing away.
‘Hello again, where have you been?’
‘I went to your house.’
‘Did you see Brent?’
‘Yes, he was not happy, someone had been pulling his leg.’
‘He does not like practical jokes, you know?’
‘He seems a touch under the weather.’
Sunlight burst through the gap in the ward’s curtains.
‘What the hell am I doing in here?’ screamed Julie.
Nurses rushed to her bedside.
‘Calm yourself, Julie.’
‘Why am I here?’
‘You had a breakdown. Your husband had you admitted.’
‘My husband? Where is he?’
A nurse ran off to find a doctor before ringing her home.
‘There was no answer at your home and your husband didn’t pick up his mobile. Is he teaching?’
‘When can I go?’ asked Julie.
Later that day she was released with a handbag stuffed full of pills and the promise to come back in two days.
Julie noticed his briefcase’s contents scattered on the living room carpet. Aimee’s article on English idioms was winking at her. She left it untouched, knowing exactly where to find Brent.