ONE FOR ONE

 

By

 

Nikki Harrington

 

Tommy is worried and is trying to be in two places at the same time.

An established relationship story.

Written: May 2012. Word count: 1,297.

 

 

Pacing up and down the pale yellow corridor and glancing at his watch for what felt like the twentieth time in as many minutes, Tommy sighed and dragged a hand through his hair.

 

Surely something should have happened by now? Surely she shouldn't still be in labour? It had been going so well, they'd told him that, so what was going on? Had something happened and they were all too busy to tell him? Why had he listened to her when she'd insisted she didn't want him there? He'd listened because she was his wife; he loved her; he respected her and he didnít want to make her uncomfortable - plus, she could shout louder than he could.

 

He looked at his watch again and fought his urge to put his head around the dark yellow door and just see if she was okay. What if something had happened? It was all very well the doctors telling him that lots of women had babies after the age of forty these days, maybe they did, but they weren't his wife. His wife was inside a room, in labour and he was outside walking up and down, just waiting.

 

"Tommy," he turned around to see Simon, leaning heavily on his stick and resting against the wall staring at him. "She's asking for you," he said. Tommy glanced at the door behind which Barbara was and looked at Simon. "You go, I'll stay here."

 

Tommy glanced at the door again, before moving swiftly, he paused long enough to squeeze Simon's shoulder and help him, without making it obvious he was helping him, to sit down. Then he strode off along the corridor, around the corner and down another pale yellow corridor, where all the doors were dark yellow - what was it about yellow in this hospital? They seemed to be obsessed with it. He paused for a moment outside yet another dark yellow door, then knocked once and went in.

 

"Tommy?" the frail voice of his mother could be heard even over the sounds of hospital machinery and medical staff talking in low voices.

 

He hurried over to her, crouched down by the side of her bed and took her hand. "I'm here, Mother."

 

"Barbara? Has she," she paused and fought for breath. "Has she had it?"

 

Tommy shook his head. "No, not yet. Any time now, they say."

 

It pained him to hear the shallow, laboured breathing and to see the woman who had once been so full of life now so close to death. "Can't . . . Go . . . Have to . . ." Her eye fluttered closed and Tommy glanced swiftly at the monitor that was attached to her, but it showed she was still alive, barely, but she was still alive.

 

"She's sleeping again, Mr. Lynley," one of the nurses said. "She's as stable as she can be. If you want to get back to your wife, you can."

 

Tommy stood up, bent down and placed a soft kiss on his mother's forehead. He wasn't certain what to do; stay with the woman who had very little time left to live or go and pace outside a room where his wife would be bringing a new life into the world at some point? Whatever he chose to do, he felt he'd be letting one woman down even though one was sleeping and the other didn't want him with her.

 

"I promise you someone will come and tell you as soon as your mother wakes up again," the nurse said. Her tone was firm and Tommy got the impression they wanted him out of the room; maybe there was something they needed to do for his mother to make her more comfortable and didn't want to do it with him in the room.

 

He touched his mother's hair, brushing what was left of it back from her forehead and nodded. "Please do that thing," he said, turning and heading towards the door. He stopped when he reached it and looked back at the bed and the woman lying on it. What if he went and he couldn't get back in time? Barbara's room wasn't that far away, but death can be instantaneous, what if he didn't get to say goodbye to his mother?

 

But as he stared at the woman who'd given him life, he knew that was no longer his mother, no longer the strong woman who had borne, raised and loved two sons, who had survived the death of her husband and who had been prepared to run the family estate whilst her elder son was off 'playing' at being a detective rather than fulfilling his duties as the eighth Earl of Asherton. She was just a phantom, a shell of the woman she had been.

 

He opened the door and nearly ran into Simon whose face was wet with sweat and who was far from steady on his feet. "Simon?" he grabbed his friend, holding him firmly and helped him to a nearby chair. "What are you doing here?"

 

"It's a boy," Simon said, pulling out his handkerchief and wiping his face, Tommy noticed his hand was trembling badly. "It's a boy, Tommy, and he's perfect."

 

"Stay there," Tommy said, turning and racing back into his mother's room. "Mother," he called, ignoring the looks the medical staff gave him as he pushed his way through them to his mother's bed. "Mama," he whispered, dropping to his knees by her bed and taking her hand. "It's a boy," he whispered, blinking away the tears. "Barbara's had a boy and he's perfect." His mother's eyes flickered open for a second and a faint smile touched her lips. The next second the machines started to blare and nurses and doctors began to hurry around the room, one calling out orders.

 

Still holding his mother's lifeless hand, Tommy stood up. "No," he said firmly. "No more. She's gone. There's nothing anyone can do for her now." The nurses turned and looked at a doctor who stood for a moment in silence, before nodding and reaching to turn off the machine that was still blaring, before he quietly announced the time of death.

 

Tommy hesitated for another second before once again bending to kiss his mother's forehead; he then put her hand carefully back on the bed, turned and went out in the corridor where Simon, still breathing heavily and now looking ashen, sat in the chair.

 

He looked up as Tommy came out. "Oh, Tommy," he said, reaching for Tommy's hand. "I am sorry."

 

Tommy squeezed Simon's hand. "It was her time," he said simply. "She'd suffered for so long, Simon. It was right."

 

"Did she know?"

 

Tommy smiled, brushed a tear from his eye and said, "Yes, Simon, she knew."

 

"Good. Now stop standing here and go and see your wife and son."

 

"You'll be all right?"

 

"Yes. I'll sit here for a little longer than I'll come and see my Godson. Now, go, Tommy, go and say hello to -"

 

"Simon Thomas Harold Lynley," Tommy said and squeezed Simon's hand again, before turning away from the look of surprise and happiness that spread over Simon's face; he began to jog down the yellow corridors, eager to be with Barbara and their new born son.

 

As he pushed open the door and saw her sitting up in bed, her hair pulled back, her face glowing, a tiny bundle (wrapped in a yellow blanket) in her arms, he paused and swallowed hard. Someone, his grandmother he thought, had once told him that every birth has to be balanced by a death - he'd never really thought that was true. But here on that night in the very expensive hospital the words had come true.

 

 

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