|‘Well, Mrs Peters, it’s been a year,’ said Frank, rolling over lazily in bed and putting his arm around Phoebe, who had just stirred. She chuckled sleepily.|
‘Hasn’t it flown in?’
‘Rather. An indication of how much we’re enjoying married life, perhaps?’
‘Well, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. I was so excited when I woke up on our wedding day. I wasn’t even really nervous.’
‘I was,’ Frank said darkly, and she laughed. ‘Even the nerves I had for my finals at Guy’s were nothing compared to it. And speaking of Guy’s, I did tell you I have to briefly go up to the San this morning, didn’t I? I was hoping to have the whole day off to spend with you, but this patient is a referral from a chap I knew at Guy’s, and she’s coming down from Birmingham specially for this appointment. Well, she wants to have a look over the Chalet School, too, as she may end up sending her kid there if I can take her on as a patient, but her San appointment is the main reason for her coming.’
‘Yes, you told me,’ Phoebe said resignedly. ‘I know it can’t be avoided, and I don’t mind as long as that’s all you’re going in for. I know you, you’ll get there and end up doing a whole shift anyway!’
‘I won’t, I promise. I went to great lengths to get those play tickets, I’m not going to see them wasted! I’ll be back for lunch, honestly. We’ll have a nice cosy afternoon, then dinner in Armiford, then the play. Suit you?’
‘Yes, that sounds good. Could I come up to the San with you? I’ve made some more toys for the children’s ward and I’d like to hand them in.’
‘All right,’ said Frank agreeably. ‘I suppose if you’re there glowering at me from a distance I won’t become distracted and end up being shoehorned into doing an extra shift.’
‘I don’t “glower” at you!’ Phoebe said indignantly.
‘Don’t you believe it, my girl. For someone so small it’s remarkable how much you can resemble a fully-fledged lioness on occasion.’ Phoebe glared at him. ‘Yes, just like that! Go on! What a beauty! Hitler himself would run for the hills if he saw that look!’
Phoebe seized her pillow and whacked him with it. She was not strong enough to make much of an impact, but Frank was not averse to retaliating, and a fight ensued which only ended when Augustin, attracted by the laughter and thumping of pillows, came racing up from the kitchen, barged the bedroom door open, took a flying leap onto the bed and tried to lick Phoebe’s face, at which point she was forced to surrender.
Nine thirty saw them in the car and beginning the long toil up to the San through the mist which covered the Golden Valley that morning.
‘Should be quite a nice day if and when this lifts,’ remarked Frank, as they finally climbed high enough to leave the mist behind. ‘I hope it doesn’t ra – ’
‘Hush!’ Phoebe said sternly. ‘Or that jinx of yours will activate again and we’ll have to take a submarine to Armiford for dinner!’
Frank subsided with a chuckle.
When they reached the San, Frank escorted Phoebe up to the children’s ward, advised her to go along to the canteen when she had finished where he would meet her after his appointment, then strode off up to his office, nodding greetings to various people he passed.
Phoebe duly presented her basketful of toys to the nurse on duty in the children’s ward, and was delighted when those children that were able came crowding round to see and exclaim with joy at them.
‘Thank you,’ said a girl of about nine, whose legs were in irons. She had picked out a small toy dog from the pile and was hugging it to her chest with one arm while the other held her crutches.
‘You’re very welcome,’ said Phoebe with a smile. ‘Do you need help getting back to bed?’
The girl nodded and handed her the toy, then hobbled back to the chair beside her bed that she had been sitting in. Phoebe followed, helped her sit down, then handed her back the toy.
‘There you are!’ she said. ‘I hope you’ll be well soon.’
The little girl’s face clouded. ‘I had polio and it made my legs like this. The doctor said I’ll have irons on them for years, maybe forever!’
‘But you might not,’ Phoebe hastened to assure her. ‘When I was a little girl and became ill, I had to live in a wheelchair and was in awful pain, and they told me I’d never walk again. Now, as you see, I can walk, and with only a stick, not even crutches! They’re always making new discoveries and inventing new treatments for people who’re sick, and there’s no reason why it can’t happen for your illness too. You mustn’t give up hope.’
The small girl peered interestedly at Phoebe’s legs. ‘Did you have polio too?’
‘No, I have rheumatism,’ replied Phoebe. She spread her hands out. ‘See how my hands are swollen a little? They used to be much, much worse, and there were days where I couldn’t do anything at all, not even feed myself. My knees were like that too, which was why I couldn’t walk. But then last year I came here, and the doctors and nurses made me much better, and now I can do all sorts of things I hadn’t been able to for years.’
‘So you’re cured, but not really?’
‘Well, sort of,’ said Phoebe with a smile. ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever be fully cured, but I won’t stop hoping for it. Even if I’m not, though, even if this is as well as I’ll ever be, it’s still so much more than I or anyone else thought possible at one time. I’ll probably never run a marathon or climb a mountain, but so what? It doesn’t stop me enjoying my life as it is now. That’s the best way to stop any illness from taking over your whole life; by focusing on what you can do, not what you can’t.’
The little girl frowned. ‘I never really thought about that.’
‘Think it over,’ Phoebe said, getting up from the bed where she had sat down for a few moments – strictly against the rules, as she remembered too late. ‘I know it’s hard to try and be positive about things when you feel so miserable and envious of people who have never known what it is to be very ill, but the more you try, the easier you’ll find it, and the happier you’ll be. And the happier you are, the better your health is. It all comes full circle, really.’
The little girl looked puzzled at the last sentence, but said; ‘OK. Thank you.’
Phoebe smiled and nodded encouragingly, then left the ward and made her way to the canteen, where to her delight she found Nurse Wilkins having a well-earned tea break.
‘Oh, Nurse Wilkins!’ she exclaimed. ‘Are you back at last? Frank told me you’d broken your arm in that dreadful road accident in October, and I know he felt quite bereft not having you around.’
Nurse Wilkins raised her eyes in surprised pleasure. ‘Why, Mrs Peters, how nice to see you, and looking so bonny! Yes, I’m finally allowed back, though I’ve to go easy for a few weeks yet. No lifting patients or things like that. There’s nothing wrong with my arm now!’ she added in exasperation.
‘If it was one of your patients saying that, you’d tell them to stop moaning and do as the doctor says,’ Phoebe said, her eyes dancing wickedly, and Nurse Wilkins laughed.
‘Touché. What brings you here, anyway? Nothing wrong, I hope?’
‘Oh no, I just came up with Frank to give some toys in to the children’s ward. He’s supposed to be on leave today as it’s our first anniversary, but he’s got a patient – or a potential patient, I’m not really sure – coming down from Birmingham for an appointment, so he had to come in for that.’
Nurse Wilkins nodded. ‘She could be another one for the same treatment you had, depending on what he thinks. Has it really been a year already since you married? My, how quickly it’s gone!’
‘I know, we were saying that just this morning…’