Authors: Robert Bryndza
Tags: #Love, #Book Club, #British, #iPhone, #Women's Fiction, #Comedy, #Diary Format, #Chicklit
Friday 20th February 20:00
Foolishly, I came out on a date. Why aren’t you answering your phone? I need you to save me from Rhydian. He is a total nut job. His wife left him last Friday. He joined Facebook to find a new partner. What’s more, his daughter Lizzie is here too (and equally nuts.) He thought meeting her would be a good way to integrate me into the family. He said he never should have dumped me when we were six. I am just hiding in the toilets.
What am I doing?
Friday 20th February 21:44
Where are you? It’s packed in here. We just had food, which is difficult when people are dragging their oversized handbags over your head as they pass. Lizzie told the story of her Mother’s betrayal. Last week she came home from school early to find her sitting on the Gardener’s face. The only reply I could think of was,
“You’re so lucky to have a big garden.” Come and get me, please!
Friday 20th February 22:00
No. I am in All Bar One, not The Slug and Lettuce. The windows are all steamed up so I can’t see out. We are at the back. I can barely stand. I have had too much wine. Lizzie just cornered me when Rhydian was in the loo saying,
“I knew he’d find me a new mother on Facebook. You were the best out of all the others we looked at.”
What if she didn’t run off with the Gardener? What if they killed her?
Saturday 21st February 11:19
I thought I told you it was the All Bar One
in Covent Garden, sorry hun. On the upside, at least you now know where all the other All Bar One’s are in Central London? ;-) I finally got away at midnight, lying that I had forgotten to take the anti-rejection drugs, for my
“You must get them! “ said Lizzie, “and come back for us!” Rhydian walked me outside to the pavement. We stopped by the window awkwardly. Then I heard a squeaking sound. Lizzie was at the window and was looking through a smiley face she had drawn in the condensation. She gave her Dad the thumbs up and he leant in for a kiss. My stomach contracted in a panic. I pushed him away and threw up spectacularly over the bonnet of a parked Mercedes. Their faces fell in disgust. Rhydian produced a tissue saying,
“Well, this has been, um, lovely.” Lizzie’s face, still at the window was now boiling with tears. I just ran for it and didn’t stop until I reached Leicester Square. Maybe my vomit saved me. I haven’t heard from him.
Monday 24th February 16:18
Hi love, tried to ring but you’re not answering. You must be in mime class. I know they are very strict about you not speaking. Your Nan has been taken to Casualty after a nasty fall. I don’t know much else. I am just on my way to the Hospital. The key is under the wheelie bin. If you’re hungry, I’m afraid all we’ve got is Wagon Wheels…
Monday 24th February 21.33
Answer your phone! I have left you three messages. Your Mum has had to have an emergency hip replacement at The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. The Surgeon says it went well. I was with her when she came round from the anaesthetic. She had a fight with Mrs. Burbridge at the Nursing Home over who was going to call the Bingo balls. It got physical and Ethel fell/was pushed off the stage. I asked her if she reported it to the Manager, but she is still going on about not being a grass.
Tuesday 25th February 15:04
I took your Mum some nicotine patches this morning; she said she would prefer them to grapes. When I got there, she was very pale and in a lot more pain than yesterday. The Nurses don’t seem bothered. They were all huddled round a computer playing
The NHS Sims
, looking after virtual patients. I phoned Mrs. Braun at the Rainbow Nursing home, she says Ethel will no longer be welcome as a resident when she is discharged from Hospital. I asked why. Mrs. Braun says when she tried to break up the fight Ethel called her, a ‘potato-faced Kraut.’ I said she has called me far worse, but Mrs. Braun said that they have a zero-tolerance racism policy.
I then phoned Meryl. She had to bellow above the noise of her food mixer that she’s knee deep in Royal icing making a four-tier wedding cake, and can’t visit before the weekend. Tony can’t either. He has a backlog of coffins due to a local outbreak of Legionnaires disease.
I told her that your Mother will be homeless when she gets out of Hospital, but she said she had to go, and put the phone down. We need to sort this out.
Wednesday 26th February 15:01
Chris came with me to the Rainbow Nursing home. Ethel’s room had been emptied. Three drab suitcases and a Hatbox sat waiting in reception. There was no note, or message. The teenager on the desk informed us that Mrs. Braun had gone to visit her Sister in Berlin. Mrs. Burbridge hasn’t been evicted. We saw her through the window of the Resident’s Lounge surrounded by pensioners. There was laughter and music playing loudly and the sun was glinting off her smooth bald head.
Thursday 27th February 21:34
Rosencrantz came along to Whitechapel for evening visiting. I was shocked how Ethel’s condition had deteriorated. They have moved her into a stinking ward full of old women moaning in the gloom. The lone Nurse on duty was engrossed in a book about alternative medicine. When we reached Ethel’s bed, she was waxy and delirious. We tried to give her some water but her body tensed up and she began to shake. I shouted for the Nurse, and seeing Ethel, she pressed an alarm. Within seconds, a team of Doctors sped in and swished the curtains around her bed. We were asked to wait outside in the corridor. After a long hour, a Consultant came and told us Ethel had had a cardiac arrest. They managed to revive her but she is unconscious and on a ventilator. I had to play twenty questions but he finally admitted that it might be the MRSA superbug, brought on by her wound not healing.
“So nothing to do with that filthy ward?” I said. The Consultant said Ethel was being moved to intensive care and then had to go.
Meryl and Tony are coming down early tomorrow morning and Daniel is on standby for a flight home.
Friday 28th February 03:30
I can hear music coming from your room, can’t you sleep either? You fancy a hot chocolate?
Friday 28th February 10:06
I phoned the hospital at 7am. Ethel is still unconscious, but stable. At 8.30am, Meryl and Tony were on the doorstep in cycling gear with windswept hair. They had biked down in the freezing rain.
They were acting with forced gaiety. Meryl was barely through the door when the bicycle clips came off, the rubber gloves went on, and she was cleaning my oven. Tony pulled a brick out of his bum bag saying he’d brought it to drop into my cistern to save water. As he disappeared up the stairs, I lit a cigarette and watched Meryl.
“You okay?” I said.
“Yes, thank you,” she said, scrubbing furiously. “Just a little saddle sore but apart from that…” She burst into tears. I went over and gave her a hug.
“What will I do if…?” she sobbed. Tony came downstairs. I signalled him to come and hug her but he went very red saying,
“Ah, I’ll just um…” before scuttling into the garden. I poured us each a large Brandy, and for the first time ever, she’s not cooking or cleaning. We’re sat watching an episode of Sex And The City. I think it’s cheered her up a bit, although she’s had to keep asking me what a lot of things mean.
Daniel lands at nine tonight.
Sunday 1st March 09:45
Daniel knocked on the door at 10pm. He was surprised I hadn’t picked him up from Heathrow. He had a tan, a small ponytail and was sporting some woven cloth bracelets around his wrist. Everything about him screamed mid-life crisis, including the faux American accent. I managed to be civil for about fifteen minutes, until he thanked me for saving him some cold Fish Fingers under ‘ah-loo-min-um’ foil.
“You’re a Londoner, Daniel, from Catford.”
“But in America I can be whaddever I want,” he said.
“Can you stop being a dickhead then?” I snapped. He slept downstairs on the Sofa. Meryl tried to instigate a big jolly cooked breakfast with Daniel this morning. I stayed upstairs with a couple of Pop-Tarts and Rosencrantz stomped off to college with a cold hello and a Fruit Corner. M + T have gone on ahead to Whitechapel on the Tandem. Daniel and me are waiting for a taxi. I feel like I am trapped in an Ingmar Bergman film. I’m looking out into the grey drizzle whilst Daniel plays mournfully on the piano downstairs.
Monday 2nd March 16:30
Nothing has changed. They have put even more machines around your Nan’s bed so now only two of us can be in her room at a time. I’m sharing shifts with Tony; your Dad is going in with Meryl. It doesn’t look promising.
Tuesday 3rd March 19:00
I held Daniel’s hand on the way home in the taxi tonight. The latest news from the Consultant is bad. He doubts Ethel will ever wake up, she was starved of oxygen for twelve minutes.
They have placed Electrodes on her temples but there was little sign of brain activity, not even when we put on her favourite,
The Jerry Springer Show
. The Hospital has started talking about the ‘option’ to switch off her ventilator.
Rosencrantz has just come home from classes and lit up one of my cigarettes. I didn’t say anything. Ethel would be proud, her saying has always been, ‘cigarettes maketh the man.’
Meryl is mopping the kitchen floor. Again. Tony is outside in the gloom oiling the Tandem and Daniel is playing some dark dramatic Rachmaninoff on the piano.
Wednesday 4th March 23:56
Thank you for the Lilies that you both sent. Ethel would have loved them, but flowers aren’t allowed in Intensive care. When we got back from the Hospital tonight we opened some wine and all sat in living room looking at old photos of Ethel. She was scowling in most of them, even the ones from her own wedding. The only picture we found of her looking happy was taken in 1949, when she won a ballroom dancing competition at the Catford Working Men’s Club. She looked like a different person, young, beaming in a slim elegant gown next to Daniel’s Dad. I asked them why she never smiled.
Meryl told us Ethel had had all her teeth out after the war and that the false ones she was given were too big.
“Why didn’t she get smaller ones?” asked Rosencrantz.
“Couldn’t afford to,” said Daniel. “Then when Dad died and left her with two small kids and no money, life was hard. I suppose she got used to not smiling.”
The Hospital had been pushing us all day to make a decision about turning off Ethel’s life support. After more tests, it is almost certain that she will never wake up. We opened more wine and it felt like a horrible version of Jury duty, discussing the pros and cons of keeping Ethel alive. In the end it came down to the fact that she told us on many occasions,
‘If I’m a vegetable, switch me orf, don’t faff, and don’t waste the lectric bill dithering.’ A cloud descended over the room as we realised we had made the decision.
Meryl, Tony, and Rosencrantz drifted off up to bed; Daniel and I were left alone. One lamp was glowing and the fire was beginning to die down. The rain rattled on the roof. He leant over and topped up my wine glass.
“Could I get some warder?” He said.
“Oh Daniel, drop the accent,” I said. “You sound like a bad Cliff Richard impersonator.” I went into the kitchen, and when I came back with a glass of water, he was crying. He took a long drink and wiped his eyes.
“I thought Mum would live to see her four score and ten.” I put my arm around him.
“You want to know why I did it? Why I cheated on you?”
“We don’t need to do this now,” I said.
“I don’t want to end up like my Mother. Bitter, miserable and never achieving anything,” he said. I asked him how shagging a twenty year old would help him achieve something.
“She needed me.”
“I didn’t need you?” I said, hurt.
“Yeah, I’ve gone and you’re fine”
“I am not!”
“Mum said you’ve been living the life of Riley, out on the tiles with Chris, Marika enjoying this house, which I could never have bought you, no matter how hard I toiled.” I went to protest, but I realised Ethel wouldn’t be able to defend herself ever again. Damn, I thought. Even on her deathbed she’s getting one up on me.
“I’m just, nothing,” Daniel said, and began to sob. I sat beside him.
“Do you know how proud I am of you?” I said. I stroked his hair and held him close. “I need you so much.”
He pulled away, looked into my eyes, and kissed me. It was like a switch being flipped in my stomach, flooding me with heat. Before I knew it, we were racing up the stairs, tugging off our clothes and having the most passionate sex in years. Afterwards I lay in his arms on the bare mattress of our old bed. He traced his finger slowly down my stomach.
“Coco,” he said, staring into my eyes.
“Yes,” I said breathlessly, his finger tracing lower.
“I want you to do something for me.”
“Yes?” I whispered, closing my eyes.
“Would you switch off my Mother’s life support machine?” I pushed his hand away, got up, and scrambled for my clothes.
“What?” he said. “Meryl says she can’t, she won’t let Tony and I couldn’t… Please.”
I struggled into my jeans. “Why did you have to ask me now?”
“Well,” he said tapping his watch as if we were late for the theatre. I pulled on an old t-shirt. He lit a cigarette and passed it to me.
“Please,” he said. “I would do it for you. Please.” I couldn’t say no to his pleading face. I said I had to go and came back to the spare room. I cannot sleep. What have I done?