Now able to see much more clearly, Anne was sitting up straight in bed in her private room in the Clinic. What a beautiful room. I just wish I weren’t here to be fodder for the butchers. No, that’s not fair. They will make me a better hip. I will walk pain free before very long. But there’s so much to do. Anne’s nerves were starting to fray. Medical matters were not top of her list of interesting topics.
The following evening, she was muzzily counting her blessings. I have woken up. The pain is mercifully absent. They must have put some aspirin in the tube that’s attached to my arm. How weird it looks, like an extension of me. I wonder how long it will be before I can go home? I really hate that hotel – it’s so hot and so impersonal, except for my charming waiter. It’s a good job I don’t like it, as some people would say I should move into a hotel and live the life of Riley. Not me. I like my own things around me and I enjoy looking out on all the life of my little corner of Edgbaston. No fear. The hotel life is not for me.
‘Oh hello dear, how lovely to see you’ as Maggie tentatively came into the room.
‘My word you’re looking well Miss Bunting. The chaps in the office clubbed together and we got you these flowers. We had the tenants’ meeting last night, and it’s all systems go for the press campaign. They thought your idea of writing to all the historical societies and Government agencies responsible for looking after our heritage was terrific. Pat and Jenny from the PR agency and I are already getting busy on the letters, and the petition has 150 signatures on it already.’
‘Do you have it with you, so that I can sign it?’ Anne was starting to flag, but Maggie was a sensitive girl and swiftly brought the visit to a close.
As usual, Anne couldn’t resist making friends with those about her, and the tall red-haired Irish nurse was no exception. ‘You look tired dear. You have a very long shift. I’m sure I remember you were here this morning when they wheeled me off to surgery.’
‘That’s right Miss Bunting. I am doing a double shift today, as I’m trying to save enough to put down the deposit on a bedsit. It is so expensive to live round here. I’d no idea when I took the job. I found it from an advertisement in the Irish Times. It’s two months now, that I’ve been here and I can’t sleep on Nurse Thomas’s floor much longer.’
‘Oh, you poor thing. I tell you what, I’m not using my flat for the time being as my nephew insists I stay with him in the hotel until I’m properly on my feet again. Why don’t you stay there while you look round?’
‘You can’t be serious. You don’t even know me.’
‘I know that you’re a kind, caring girl and that’s good enough for me. If you’re here at the weekend when Lawrence will be back from Boston, I can introduce you and he’ll show you around. You needn’t pay me any rent, and then you can go on saving for your deposit.’
Tears pearled the pretty eyelashes of Nurse O’Riordan, and Anne patted her hand gently as it smoothed the crackling white sheet.
It was another couple of weeks before Anne was released into the tender care of her nephew. He had managed a flying visit home to keep his professional life on the go, but was back now and full of the progress that had been made on the empty ground floor suite. ‘I hope you don’t mind Anne, but I had to choose the kitchen and bathroom fittings without you, as they wouldn’t have been delivered in time for the plumbers and electricians to put them in so that the decorating could start.’
‘I hope you haven’t spent too much money Lawrence. You know that I like things to be simple. And it might all have to come down in a few months if our campaign doesn’t work.’
‘Oh don’t worry. I went to a place called IKEA, and it really was all surprisingly inexpensive. The doorman at the hotel told me about it as he’s just re-fitting his own kitchen. Such a pleasant chap. He has six children, would you believe, on a doorman’s salary. How he makes ends meet I can’t imagine.’
‘Lawrence, I do believe you’re starting to sound like me. We’ll have to see what we can do for him when I get out of here.’
‘And that’s right now, Anne. They’re lending me a wheelchair until you’re properly on your feet, and they’ve fixed up all sorts of therapy appointments, so that shouldn’t take too long.’
The release formalities were soon over and Anne insisted on being wheeled all over the hospital so that she could say goodbye and thank the many friends she had made, from cleaners to porters, nurses and secretaries. Each received a well-stuffed envelope from Anne, some of them tearfully, all of them gratefully. It might be a five star private hospital, but the wages were more like two star.
‘Your millions aren’t going to last long at this rate’ joked Lawrence.
‘Don’t be silly dear. Even I know that money breeds money. With the high interest-bearing account you’ve managed to get for me, everything I’ve spent or given since winning has more than been repaid. I may be an innocent abroad in the world of high finance, but I always was good at arithmetic. Just because I don’t know how to use a computer doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s happening in the world.’
‘Touché Aun….Anne.’ Lawrence smiled inwardly at this evidence of her common sense. He decided that her innate caution and prudence with money would prevent her from being taken for a ride too often. And she could well afford to give away the relatively small sums she had been giving up to now.
Once installed back at the hotel, Anne pestered Lawrence to tell her all about the new flat.
‘Patience is a virtue. All in good time. We’ve got to get you fit before you can live on your own again, and there’s no point in rushing things. The physiotherapist will be here in the morning and I’m sure she’ll soon have you doing things you thought were beyond you.’
‘But at least you can take me to see it, and I want to see that everything’s all right for Nurse O’Riordan too. Why don’t we go round to Francis Road after the therapist has been?’
‘Not today Anne. We’ll see how you are after a few exercise sessions. You may find it tiring at first. Meanwhile, let’s have dinner here in the suite and then I’ll get you to bed.’
‘Oh my goodness, we’re not going to have that argument all over again are we? I’m perfectly capable of getting myself to bed, and don’t you forget it.’
The behind-the-scenes activity of Maggie and her colleagues was starting to hot up, and she kept Anne informed of progress by email via Lawrence’s brand-new laptop, acquired especially, when he knew he would have to stick around for quite a while. He tapped away every evening e-mailing to Elaine and the children, and keeping up to date with affairs at his office. He even managed to show Anne how to send a reply to Maggie’s newsy messages.
‘Golly gosh! I never in my life thought I’d manage to use a real computer, but it’s easy peasy shelling peasy.’
‘Wherever did you get that expression from Anne, the ark?’
‘Don’t be cheeky young man. At school of course! The slang of your youth has a particular resonance when you find yourself getting old. And I’m way ahead of you when it comes to speed round the keyboard. All those years in the office at Rackhams had to be useful for something.’ Anne felt very chipper to have been able to steal a march on Lawrence for once. It won’t do to let these youngsters have things all their own way.