Danny turned the front door key to the house that he had only just stopped calling his home, quietly praying that he was going to find his mum waiting for him inside. She’d know what to do, she always knew what to do; she was his mother. He pushed at the door rather more forcefully than was really necessary and it swung open, violently crashing into the hall wall. Danny sprung forward into the house, poking his head around the living room door as he did so. He was about to turn and bound up the stairs to find her when he realised that he could smell the acrid stench of burning coming from the kitchen, he darted towards it to investigate, the reason for his impromptu visit temporarily forgotten.
Upstairs in the dim twilight Kath broke away from her passionate kiss with Mike. She was out of breath and her face was flushed, a giddy feeling swam in her head.
"Did you hear something?" she whispered to him, straining to hear anything above the sound of her own pounding heartbeat.
"It sounded like someone came in…" Mike ventured, also listening intently.
"Simon’s not back until tomorrow." Kath stated, already wondering if she was wrong and how she’d be able to explain Mike’s presence in her bedroom if she were.
Panic began to flow through her body, culminating in a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. If Simon found her with Mike he’d go crazy. She knew that he could have a temper on him at the best of times but if he found out what she’d been doing there was no telling what he would do. She sent up a little prayer that it wasn’t him at the door and, that no matter what, her husband would never find out that she had been unfaithful. Then she cursed herself for asking God to keep her sordid little secret; it was God’s law that she had broken after all.
Mike looked down at Kath and saw all too clearly the anguish that was etched on her face, knowing that a large part of it was his fault. He reached out to touch her, instinctively wanting to comfort her, but as he did so she pulled away.
"Mike!" She exclaimed under her breath, shooting him a look that asked what he thought he was doing. He retracted his hand.
"Sorry…" he whispered. He was going to say something more, explain to her what was going through his mind, the need to protect her from whatever was about to happen, the desire to pull her close and kiss away her fears, but it was no good. The moment was ruined and the look on her face suggested that they’d never get it back.
"You stay here and I’ll go downstairs… no, we’ll both go and I’ll say I was just showing you around the house… do you think he’ll believe that?"
"It’s what happened Kath…"
"That’s not all that happened though is it? I don’t know if I can lie to him Mike. Not to his face, not about this…" She trailed off, lost in her own thoughts; thoughts that were rudely interrupted by a call from downstairs.
"That sounds like…" Mike started.
"Danny." For a second relief washed through her. She could relax a little, it wasn’t her husband: it was her son. Her son? That was no better, surely it was worse. What went on inside a marriage was one thing but to drag her children into it as well… The panic surged back and for a second she felt as if she might faint.
"He’ll come upstairs to find you in a minute Kath, we’d better get down there first." Mike took a step toward the door but Kath was paralysed to the spot. He went back to her and placed his arm across her shoulders, he could feel her tense up at his touch but she didn’t try to pull away, and gently he led her out onto the landing and down the stairs.
Fighting against the smoke that was pouring out of the open oven, Danny reached in and retrieved the charcoal topped…whatever it was, lifting it swiftly and placing it on the draining board. This was most unlike his mother. She was always very careful when cooking and she was a great cook, she just wasn’t the sort to put something in the oven and then forget about it. He stretched up to open the window and let out some of the choking smoke. As he did so he heard footsteps approaching. He swung round to see his mother and just behind her was Mike Barratt. A quizzical expression passed across his face at seeing the surgeon in his parent’s house but he had too much on his mind to contemplate the matter further. Kath rushed forward to examine her ruined food, coughing gently as she did so.
"I found it like this, honest" Danny said jokingly, Kath barely heard him.
"What are you doing here Danny?" She replied rather more harshly than either party had expected.
"I…" As he started the memory of just why he’d raced to find her flooded back and sent a shiver down his spine.
When he resumed speaking his voice was unnaturally solemn, "There was a phone call to the hospital, they said they’d tried here but got no answer. It was probably when you were still driving home, it was just after you left the ward, you see. Anyway… Mum, I think it might be better if you sat down…"
He pulled out a chair and Kath sunk into it. All thoughts of Mike were pushed to the back of her mind as she realised that it was only ever bad news that you were asked to sit down for.
"What’s happened Danny?" Her voice was barely audible but her eyes screamed out for answers.
"It’s Dad, he was in an accident, a car accident. Mum it’s bad, really bad, they wouldn’t say much over the phone but…" He lost the power of speech as he thought about what had happened. It was Jasmine who had taken the message and when she relayed it she didn’t sound at all hopeful.
Mike watched Kath take the news with a heavy heart. She looked devastated and again he longed to wrap her up in his arms, but there were so many reasons why he couldn’t, and even though he knew it was selfish considering the pain she was going through, it still hurt him.
Steadying her self on the kitchen table Kath rose to her feet.
"Where is he? Which hospital?" She asked, her voice trembling as she spoke.
"The Manchester Royal Infirmary." Danny answered.
"Right." She left the kitchen without even acknowledging Mike, picked up her coat and bag and stepped into the street. The two men rushed out after her.
"Mum, what are you doing?"
"I have to go to him!" She said. She didn’t look up; instead she fumbled in her handbag for her car keys.
"Kath I’m not sure you’re in any fit state to drive…"
"I’m perfectly capable of…where are those keys!" Mike moved toward her gently taking the bag off her and fishing out the car keys. He handed them to her and she took them without a ‘thank you’ then immediately dropped them into the gutter. As she bent to pick them up she bashed her head into the car door.
"Damn!" As she straightened she brought her hand up to cradle her bruised forehead.
"I’m fine." She said, although the quaking of her voice belied her true feelings. Mike watched Kath’s resolve crumble before his eyes. Her hand still covered her face but from beneath her fingers tiny tears were spilling down her cheeks. Her hunched shoulders shook quietly as she cried and she appeared so much smaller and so much more vulnerable than he’d ever seen her before. He had to hold her; his conscious mind had no choice in the matter. He scooped her into his arms, at first she resisted but she had little power left to fight with and let her self sob softly into his warm chest.
"Er... I think I should drive" Danny offered as he watched his mother in the arms of another man. Again the questions regarding Mike’s presence flitted through his mind, but now wasn’t the time to bring them up. His mother was right, they did need to go to his dad. And if the situation was as bad as Jasmine had suggested they needed to get there quickly. He opened the car door, slid in and started the engine.
The noise of it’s gentle purring reminded Kath of where she was and what was happening, she stiffened slightly and that was enough for Mike to realise it was time for him to let go, and reluctantly he did so.
"I have to go." She said through her tears. Mike nodded.
"Call me as soon as you get some news. It doesn’t matter when, even if it is late, I’d rather know what’s going on Kath."
"OK I will." She walked around to the passenger seat of the car and let her self in. Mike saw her do up her seatbelt as Danny put the car in gear and drove off.
Alone on the pavement, Mike couldn’t help but wonder just what had happened there that evening. Friendship had turned into something more, but now… now what? He still felt the same for Kath as he had done ten minutes earlier but her feelings for him were a mystery. Cheating on Simon was going to be something that he knew she’d have trouble living with. He expected no less from her, but cheating on him whilst he was dying, or was at least seriously injured, how would she deal with that? She had already started to push Mike away and in a lot of respects he couldn’t blame her for doing so. He blamed himself too, for letting the situation get so far out of control. He walked slowly to where his own car was parked and sat down behind the wheel, unwilling to return to his empty house.
The drive up the motorway to the MRI was a long one, but even so it was made nearly total silence. Neither Danny nor Kath felt much like making small talk and hypothesising about Simon’s condition was unlikely to cheer either of them up. It was midnight before they rounded the final corner into the hospital’s visitor’s car park and both were exhausted.
Kath ran as fast as her tired legs could carry her through the large automatic doors and into the accident and emergency department. A harassed looking man in his forties sat behind the glass at the reception desk.
"Simon Shaughnessy. He was brought in here several hours ago after a car crash." Kath said breathlessly, leaning on the desk for some much needed support. The receptionist glanced at his computer screen briefly, when he turned back to Kath Danny had joined her.
"Are you relatives?"
"I’m his wife and this is our son." She said absently indicating Danny.
"Mr Shaughnessy has been taken up to ITU. If you take a seat I’ll get the doctor who was treating him down here to come and speak to you." Danny guided his mother to one of the green plastic chairs that littered the reception area.
"ITU! That means it’s serious!" She worried aloud.
"It also means that he’s alive and is getting the best possible care" Danny told her. He had been practising his soothing bedside manner as part of his training, although he had never expected that he’d have to use it on his own family. Kath turned to face him, looking him in the eyes for the first time since he’d delivered his shattering news.
"I know, I know," she said wearily, hugging him to her, " and if I ever had any doubts about how grown up you’re getting they’ve faded now darling. You’re going to be a fantastic nurse." Danny beamed.
"Well, look who I’ve got for a mum!" The comment was enough to raise the tiniest of smiles on Kath’s lips and she gave her son a little squeeze, resting her head on his shoulder.
A minute later a shadow was cast across them. Kath and Danny looked up and saw a middle aged man standing over them. He smiled awkwardly.
"Mrs Shaughnessy?" Kath nodded, "I’m Mr Wilkinson, I’m the consultant here and I dealt with your husband when he came in."
"How is he? What happened?" She implored.
"I think it would be best if we went somewhere a little more private. I believe the family room is free, if you’d just follow me?" The Shaughnessy’s stood up and followed the doctor into a little room in the corner of the department. As soon as the door was shut the noise of the bustling A&E died away. Mr Wilkinson took a deep breath.
"I’m afraid, Mrs Shaughnessy, the news is not good…"
Go to Part Five