The Warden

Valerie Thomas, a 55 year old woman, has been admitted to hospital having suffered a stroke in her home town. She is taken to the Prince John hospital where she is treated by a team of ward sisters who, Valerie believes, will nurse her back to health. But, just a few rooms down in the same corridor, the hospital's secret screams through the walls. A case that will test the boundaries of human nature and the true meaning of what can only be described as a crime against humanity - bullying.

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2. A Glimpse of Summer

Something stirred in the woodlands rustling the birds from their early morning stupor and out into the grey of the day. The clouds above cast sulked in shadows in the sky and the mixes of grey intertwined with that of lighter shades of black like a painter's greyscale palette. Pushed by the blighting wind, they basked under the warm rays of the obscured and undoubtedly more perky sun dutifully.

The plain was dappled in splashes of green, one that might be found on the skin of a broad bean, as though the colour green may just fix the sombre mood that loomed.

Though it was May, Troutmead had suffered a severe bout of rain and overcast days since well before the start of the spring. It was one that had, not only dampened musty anoraks that should have been tucked up in the loft for next year many weeks ago, but practically everything. The spring carnival provoked merely a twinge on the lips of the locals, and even that was rained off. That had been the most fun the town had seen since New Year's. Valerie hadn't seen a smile upon anyone's face in recent weeks. Oh no, there was John Garter. He smiled. But then again, when hadn't he? Valerie imagined him bundled up in his back garden in a dank anderson shelter that his father had constructed, just sitting there smiling whilst his younger brother, Gray, wailed. And singing. Singing - John loved to sing. All the time. All the time! At Julia and Kennneth's wedding, Miryam's christening, Kenneth's second wedding and even Mark and Helen's Christmas do - though the latter was, with out a doubt fueled heavily on Fosters and a few rum and cokes.

 

"Morning Ms. Thomas. Is there anything I can get you?" chimed a cheery voice.

 

Valerie welcomed the merriment with a deep grunt but she didn't turn to face the voice.

"I'll say. A ticket out of here might be nice," she felt she needed to snap. But her voice was hoarse and all she could muster was an impatient wave of her hand.

Valerie tipped her head cautiously to the left. A girl, no older than 23, stood in the doorway, straight backed and golf ball breasts moulded pert upon her chest. Her brunette hair was coiled tightly an inch or two above the nape of her thin blanched neck secured with a royal blue, bowed ribbon.

 

"I'm Sister Summer," the girl began.

Are you now? Well thank heavens, it's been a little dull around here lately.

"I'm new to Prince John's...and I'm just here to change you over," Summer continued and she adjusted the IV drip at Valerie's side and clicked her pen against her side to note the amount left.

"Mrs.Vaughn - your nurse -"

I know who my nurse is you stupid girl. 

"She's got... she's got a matter to take care of this morning so I said that I'll get you up and moving. There's nothing better than-" Summer continued.

 

Valerie turned her head slightly and let out a sigh. She allowed Summer's voice to turn into a monotoned drone.

What's more important then? What's so important that it's neccessary for this destitute, this hospital - if I can even call it that - to place me in the very uncapable hands of a minor. A junior. Huh, please. My health insurance has earned me more than this surely? 

 

"...because sometimes I think that it's better that way..."

 

The girl was still going on. And on and on. Talking into oblivion. Rambling. If there was anything Valerie despised more than the bin men emptying the rubbish at 5am on a Saturday morning, it was ramblers.

Valerie fixed her gaze out of the window once more and watched the silhouette of grey engulf the town. In hindsight, Valerie should have taken the poor weather conditions as an indicator of the ill-fortuned omen that was to come. A game in the hand of devil that would land her here - with no family, no decent food and, most definately, no dignity.  It was hard to believe that, just 10 minutes from her home, Valerie's life may be so vastly different. It had only been yesterday that she had been at ease, surrounded by all that she loved - peace. And yet to think, that on that same day she may be ridiculed infront of all she knew and carted off as passenger in a bright yellow box with wheels complemented with blue flashing lights and a trumpeting siren, was beyond comprehension.

 

But it happened. She had been in her kitchen stirring tea for Terry. As with the rest, the day hadn't been overly warm and the sun couldn't be seen for the thickness of the cloud before even mentioning the misty morning fog that had begun to brew around seven thirty. In just two hours the stiff air had escalated and hovered just centimeters off the ground. Nevertheless, it was Wednesday and Terry always came on a Wednesday - the weather was the least of his worries. He, unlike Valerie, would never been seen indoors. But then again he was a bloke. A big bloke and the same couldn't be said for Valerie. She had suffered from thining of the blood for over fifteen years now and, what with her aging frame, she was no stranger to nights hugged by a wollen blanket in the armchair with a mug of warm cocoa and Jack's old electric heater grilling her totsies.  

Terry had been out in the garden. He was planting the potted azealias she'd bought the other day from 'Ern's Bulbs'. Although she couldn't wait for the summer to arrive, so she could get back out in the fresh air, when she'd bought the flowers she'd had no intention of planting them herself. She had no need. Terry came over every Wednesday to work on the garden. He wasn't a gardener, he worked at 'Pipes' - a plumbing warehouse in the town centre - but Wednesdays were his day off and he made it his duty to her to mow the lawn, cut the grass and do each and every of the menial garden jobs. He said that she deserved it. She'd been a tutor to his children; Lucas and Olivia, and had spent her spare time giving them extra lessons outside of the alloted time. Terry believed this to be the reason Olivia was able to get work at the embassy in France and how Lucas got his job in accounting in the US and he would not let himself be swayed by her persisting.

 

"Your most welcome, Val. You deserve it" he'd say at the end of the day placing his rough hands coarsed with dirt and grime to his hips.

"Oh, Terry! You do know how to make an old gal blush," Valerie would blurt and sway gently mocking seduction.

"But I only gave them history lessons for goodness sake!" She would retort.

"By jove! Love, you gave them more than that. The most important thing - an education. And thats more than I can ask anyone to give."

"But Terry, Lucas was thirteen and Olivia was fifteen!"

"Yeah, so they were. Better to start 'em off early, I say. I know what you did gave them as good a start as any. So I'm off. See you next Wednesday" but He would have already turned to walk out the gate before Valerie could get another word out. 

 

Routinely on Wednesday 8th May, as with every, Valerie was dowsing Terry's tea with three teaspoons of sugar - by request - and then stirred the sugar into a milky vortex abyss before setting down the spoon and wrapping arthritic fingers around the baby blue china handle. Valerie turned and headed out of the kitchen towards the front door, where Terry was shoveling soil just the other side, but stopped a few paces short. The corridor seemed to tilt to the left and Valerie found herself titling with it. With her free hand she sought to fetch the wall that seemed to lurch backwards as she reached closer. She swallowed and felt herself descending until she hit the golden carpeted floor in a scalding puddle of a muddy colour liquid that seeped into her floral dress and knocked her skull upon the gage used to bleed the radiators. She lay slumped against the wall with a gash oozing a burgundy juice down the side of her face and pooling in the creases of her cheek. Looking left to the kitchen and then right towards the door Valerie saw Terry's wide-eyed face in hers. She felt him squeeze her hand and watched his mouth muffle incomprehension.

Speak up. She attempted to say but only heard a dull, low-toned voice escape her lips. Terry replied by jumping up and dashing for the phone in the living room. In his absence, Valerie's legs began to burn from the puddle and her head began to ache. She shifted uncomfortably in her dress but as she did Terry returned and pressed a grimy hand to her shoulder to ground her as he held the phone shakily to his ear, his hazel eyes occassionally flitting back to hers reassuringly. Valerie felt her head roll to the left and was caught by Terry's hand. She blinked and saw black. There was more people now, surrounding her. Suffocating her. Drowning her. She blinked again. She saw nothing.  

 

She opened her eyes. The brightness of their jackets burned. There was a man with black gelled hair. And a girl. Her hair was blonde and cropped short and sticky by her ears. They were both stocky but their touch was gentle. Valerie blinked.

 

She was swamped in body straps and a green, transparent mask impinged on her nose and mouth. She ached. Her face, her arms, her legs, her ears. The noise was deafening. As Valerie tilted her head right slightly, she saw the canary yellow jackets again. Her eyes burned too. She blinked.

 

The next vision she saw was empty. It was her, in a room awash with white, in a bed awash with white, in a gown awash with white. She blinked.

 

"Would you like that, Ms. Thomas? Ms. Thomas?" a patronising voice called to her.

Valerie jolted and saw Summer peering over her shining the blinding light of a torch into her eyes.

"Oh sorry," Summer apologised, taken aback after seeing her patient's expression.

"I'm sorry Ms. Thomas. I thought you'd...because you'd..." she began.

"You'd fallen asleep," she corrected. "I must learn to control my jabber. I apologise. Would you like that?"

 

Valerie's face expressed no comprehension. She creased her forehead and suddenly became aware of the pebble sized scab that now inhabited a little piece of her.

 

"We're moving you to another ward now. You don't need to be in ICU anymore. Would you like that?"

 

Valerie looked around. She had been released from some of the many machines that fought to keep her alive.

She fixed her lips and opened her mouth to answer. No need. Rhetoric was wasted on her. She was moving.

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