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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3. Legitimation

It wasn't too bad, she had to admit. Though there wasn't much to be thankful for. In the short time she had spent in ICU, she had sort of longed for a space with a little more private intimacy and a slither of unobtrusive silence. Though ICU should have been quieter than her current room, Valerie could help notice how she would no longer hear the lengthy shrill of crying babies, chatting yobs and flu-ridden pensioners traversing through the near on crumbling walls.

Though her new room was still basted in an organic whiteness, spare the bed frame and the red and green bulbs of the machines accompanying Valerie, it seemed much different to the other. In fact, nothing seemed as it had. The fact was that this room was a little less daunting than ICU. There she was the 'special case' and had been cooed at by countless nurses and doctors each intent on the need to frisk their fingers about her, press cool hands to her forehead, precariously, and almost alarmingly, take a good, long glare at the dried bloody gash on her forehead and insert, yet another, needle-sharp pre-packaged dose of morphine. It seemed, had a police officer been present at Prince John's, that she was nothing short of a drug addict, admitted to hospital for a new course on the methadrone programme. However, had this been 1959, that would most probably suffice her entry. It wasn't, at first glance, that Valerie was exceptionally michievious, it was just that staying the right side of the law lacked a certain appeal and, seeing as 'Marcus' House' foster unit held little care for the whereabouts of their imprisonned, she had little incentive to do so. Valerie wasn't part of the unit because her parents didn't love her because they did. They had - well at least her mother had owned an inkling of maternal affection for her - it was precisely that the state didn't seem to apporve of her and it was her father and precisely his martial status that had landed her here in the first place. She was illegitimate, she had been told by Head of House, Pamela, when she had queried about her parents at just six years old. At first, thanks to Pamela's heavy soprano Essex accent, Valerie had believed that Pamela had called her a mate and since then had always believed there to be a special companionship between Pamela and herself. Though came to realise that had been part of the word. Nevertheless, she still had no idea what the word meant.

 

"Ricker," Valerie had said in a naive voice.

"What?" he had grunted like a pig snuffing the peat for truffles. At 16, Ricker was the oldest inmate at 'Marcus' House' and had served time longest too, but Valerie wasn't suprised that he hadn't been fostered, although somebody surely could have done with a security guard at their property, what with his heavy muscualture. His hair was thick, black and raucous and slicked into knife blade styled spikes and his face was pasted with a thousand pimples. Hardly what every parent had dreamt their son to look like - although, no doubt it had crossed their mind.

"Umm...Pamela said I was illa...illemitigate. What does that mean?" she asked fumbling slightly over her words, though keeping her cool whilst perching on the edge of the room so that she could be both heard and avoid being choked to death by the infragrance of puberty, BO and urine. At just six, Valerie knew it was senseless to attempt any sort of light conversation with Ricker. It was the ONLY way to get what you wanted, unless it involved Ricker sharing.

"You mean you don't know what that means? And you mean illegetimate, you dumb skunk!" He repiled, in a menacing voice. Valerie closed her eyes and recited it just incase she may need to refer to her answer from someone else. ILLEGTITIMATE. ILLEGETIMATE.  

"It means that you don't exist under the law," he continued. "It means you can do whatever you want and no one will care!"

Valerie thought for a moment and then began to smile.

"Are you illegitimate too, Ricker?" she asked quickly, before realising that this could be classed as 'small talk'. Regardless he answered.

"Oh yeah. Yeeeaaaaah. I'm illegitimate. I'm so illegitimate."

Behind the door she smiled and, though she hadn't seen Ricker's face for a few months now, she could tell he was smiling too.  

That week Valerie spent days on end in time out.

She later found out that, in fact Ricker had got it wrong. It just meant that her parents had decided to 'play horsey' naked without being married.

 

Valerie had come to notice that she was frequented much less in this room despite always hearing passing footsteps and muffled whispers. Even the occassional devilsh snicker. The only time people came for her was, apart from at meal times, at 9am to check she was still breathing and at 9pm to check that she would be able to breathe throughout the night. It was a wonder that they didn't forget about her since she was placed in the last  room occupied in the Harvay corridor and with that affirmation she had become to feel slightly uncomfortable. She'd had only one visitor. It had been Terry. But drugged, drowsy and delirious she'd not payed him much attention. Though Valerie had difficulty remembering what the conversation had been about, the ending was distinctive. Terry had raised himself from her bedside and she had seen the glint of tears on the cusp of his eyelids. His whisper licked her ear;

"I'll be waiting for you when you get home, darling. Do me proud, Val. I love you and...I...I guess, I mean I don't know, but I guess I always have."

Then he'd bent over as she helplessly gazed into his eyes, as though she were re-enacting the final scene of E.T., and tenderly half - kissed her cheek. He stood back a while before he choked on his tears, placed a ragged hankerchief to his mouth and rubbed her hand.

"Look at me, Val! I'm a state but I know it should have been me," he finished, offering a solemn smile. Then he made headway for the door, stifling his tears with a manly cough. 

It was only then that Valerie allowed herself to cry. Warm, rippling tears coarsed down her face. Nurse Donna had been the first to see.

"Ms. Thomas? Is there anything I can do?"

Unable to speak, Valerie, laiden in white, let her unexplained grief encapsulate her. Nurse Donna Henley, sensing her distress, made an attempt to soothe Valerie in the most understanding way she could probably think of. It was a shot. A shot of Morphine.

 

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