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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6. No Through Way

Though she’d expected him to fight against their persistence, it was a failing surprise to Valerie that Terry hadn’t returned to Prince John’s. It filled her with disappointment. She had longed for his masculine over-protectiveness and his threats that materialised like coconuts; hard on the outside, soft on the inside. Her hands trembled with his absence and her throat dried like the hose pipes from last year’s drought.

Valerie was frequented even less and she was unsure if anyone even knew that she was here. It was only the twice daily food deliveries that let her know she was still listed on the in-patient list. She had begun to come accustomed to the loneliness as she bobbed in a lake of emptiness and vulnerability. Just because Valerie had been sleeping alone over the past week and had struggled to see more than one person per day, she had not become at ease with the fact that there may actually be no one who would want to be badgered by her experience here, at Price John’s, when she left.   

On her ninth day, Valerie sat alone in her bed. She had not been seen by anyone today, least of all a nurse. Her stomach quaked with hunger and rumbled as Valerie could feel it slowly self – ingest. It was 3:30pm. At home by now, she would have had at least four cups of black coffee, buttered toast and jam, 3 country creams, a pickled egg and tomato sandwich and a packet of Burley’s caramelised onion and crème fraiche flavoured potato chips. The thought of the damp pulp filling her like a silo set her digestive system a-roar. Her lip curled over as Valerie rested her palms onto her stomach to hush the gurgling almost as though she was embarrassed to be hungry. Her eyes flicked reassuringly to the clock on the wall at the end of her bed. It sung sweet lullaby’s of the dragging day and sang to Valerie that the afternoon would soon be out and it would be time to welcome the evening hush.

It won’t be long until I’m served dinner, Valerie thought to ease her agitation.

She shuffled under the thin white sheet, as she did most afternoons, and looked ahead. She wiggled her toes under the bed and watched them dance and frolic. The stupidity of it made her half smile. She had often felt a child slung into an adult’s corpse.

After a long moment she sighed. She shouldn’t be forced to wait. The service that was delivered was less than standard anyhow and so settling for even less seemed absurd. Gingerly, Valerie rose to her feet and slung back the bed sheet. The tiled belly of the ward felt glacial under her bare feet. She hadn’t any shoes. Since she’d been moved the first time, Valerie had lost track of almost half her belongings, save for the diary that she stowed in her “Tum Tucker’s” briefs, her Jimmy Archvald pen that was attached to it and pair of authentic Mary pearl earrings that she managed to conceal behind her hair.

Her legs pricked with the cold and her veins guzzled for warmth. Tenaciously she allowed her stomach to drive her forward, overlooking her need for footwear and an extra layer to shroud her dignity. She walked forward and motioned an outstretched hand for the door knob. Her palm stuck fast to it and her finger enveloped around it, consuming the brass. Her other hand she placed on the back of the door frame. Valerie’s breathing was shallow and it misted the wood of the door.

Valerie swallowed.

“One…,” she sighed.

“One, two…three.”

Valerie slid her fingers to the left and listened as the latch on the inside of the door retracted. She shuffled her feet backwards so she could swing the door open in one clean sweep.

Valerie hadn’t planned to bother anyone with her wants, patient or staff alike, but it was only when she was walking down the corridor toward the canteen that she turned back on her heels and headed the opposite direction.

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