My thanks to LadyCibelle and my friend SH for sorting my foul-ups and editing this short tale for me
Clarification: Blues and Twos = an emergency vehicle or police car travelling with it's blue lights and siren on. Casualty = UK name for a hospital Emergency Room. The/a village bike = the village slut, only too pleased to take on all cumers!
Why is it that some folk suddenly get religion when they are about go to meet their maker? Ain't it bad enough for those being left behind to be losing someone they love, but the love of their life - on their death bed - has to suddenly decide that they have to make peace with the world, and ask forgiveness for their sins before they leave it. Let me tell you my story and you might understand what I'm getting at.
It was a normal Monday, just like every other had been in the almost six years before. When I'd kissed Marnie good-bye that morning, she'd asked me what I fancied for dinner that night. "You!" I'd replied with a dumb grin on my face.
"Oh come on, lover. You have me every night and this evening will be no different. Marnie smiled back at me. "But you have to eat to keep your strength up for later; after all I'll be missing you and my little friend all day."
"Hey, not so much of the little! You can do a guy's ego a lot of damage talking like that, you know." I replied, with a playful hurt expression on my face.
"Oh go on with you, you know he's plenty big enough for me." She said grinning, and gave me a gentle kiss on the end of my nose. "Now get off to work, I've got to get ready for the office or I'm going to be late."
As I've said the drive to work was like any other, except that that morning it was raining, not that you could call that unusual after the weather we'd been having that year. In my office, I settled behind my desk with a cup of coffee and began to pour through the usual pile of Monday morning post.
Nothing out of the ordinary happened until just before lunch, when there was a loud knock on my office door and my secretary burst into the room. That knock on my door - unusual because Stephanie normally called me on the intercom before entering my office — was to lead to my cosy, and all I'd known before, world falling apart. From that moment on, it appeared that just about everything I had known and believed in for the previous ten years had been a lie.
Stephanie was followed into my office by two uniformed police officers, one male one female; both had serious expressions on their faces.
"Mr Gregory Tomlinson?" The male officer asked, his facial expression changing to one of concern.
"Yes that's me, officer; what can I do for you?"
I'm afraid, Mr Tomlinson; I have some distressing news for you. Your wife has been injured in a freak accident. We're here to take you to St. Martin's Hospital as quickly as possible.
"Seriously injured?" I think I asked.
"I'm afraid that we have no direct knowledge, sir. We were instructed to locate you urgently, and get you to the hospital ASAP. Blues and twos have been authorised; I'm sorry, but that usually isn't a good sign."
Weaving through the traffic in town at high speed, in the back of a police car with siren wailing and blue lights flashing, was a new experience for me. I can recall little of that journey, except for the pretty, young policewoman with a concerned expression on her face, trying to get some information about Marnie's condition from her controller.
All they would or could tell her was that Marnie was in the operating theatre and that her injuries had happened when some scaffolding collapsed as she was passing.
I was aware that the building next to the one Marnie worked in, had been shrouded in scaffolding for about a year whilst it was being renovated. Amid much fanfare from the local press, the announcement that the work was due to be completed in a week or so's time had been made the previous week.
After parking the police car in the emergency vehicle area, the female officer led me through the apparent chaos of casualty — it was plainly apparent that Marnie hadn't been the only person injured - into a sort of waiting area. The male police officer, obviously going off to locate a doctor or someone who could tell us what the situation was regarding Marnie.
Shortly, he returned with a doctor who had a grim expression on his face.
I'm sorry, sir: but I'm afraid your wife has sustained some catastrophic crush injuries, there's really very little we can do. She has so many injuries we almost don't know where to start. I'm really sorry, but I have to tell you it's just a matter of time."
"Can I see her? How long has she got?" I heard someone asking, not really realising that it was me.
"I don't want you to think we've given up Mr Tomlinson; she's in theatre now, we are doing our best to stabilise her. If she makes it through the next five hours then there's a chance, but I would be lying to you if I said that she would definitely do that."
"I'll have a nurse take you up to ICU; they'll take your wife there direct from the theatre. I'm very sorry; we are doing all that we can."
Ruptured spleen, liver, kidney and intestinal injuries, added to both lungs being punctured - because her rib cage had been crushed - plus massive internal and external bleeding, it said on Marnie's chart when I took a look at it after they wheeled her unconscious body in from the theatre. I didn't even try to read through the list of broken bones, I had no idea there was that many in the human body.
Much to my surprise, Marnie's face looked almost completely uninjured except for a small graze on her cheek. But the rest of her head and all of her body -that I could see - was swathed in bandages.
For the next hour or so, I sat there in a daze, staring at her lovely face, listening to the beep, beep, beep of the heart monitor and the slow rhythmical hissing sound from the oxygen cylinder attached to the mask that was over Marnie's mouth. At short intervals nurses and doctors would appear, inspect the readouts and screens surrounding the bed; sometimes fiddling with the many drips and things attached to Marnie's body. Usually, looking at me with a sympathetic expression on their face. The doctors - I think - with more of an embarrassed one, because they could do no more for her.
Around five in the afternoon Marnie tentatively opened her eyes. I lent over and asked her if she could see me. The little half smile I got in return told me she was cognisant, after a fashion at least.
As previously instructed, I pressed the nurse call button beside the bed and within seconds the doctors and nurses were back in the room; I was ushered away out of the room and into the waiting area, where I was surprised to find the two police officers that had collected me from my office and a couple of Firemen. All off-duty by then, they had come to the hospital to find out how she was getting on; the firemen had been the guys that had rescued Marnie from under all that steel.
What could I tell them? The machines were working and Marnie had regained consciousness after her visit to the operating theatre, but she looked terrible.
The firemen told me that Marnie had been conscious all through her rescue and that they had been impressed by her bravery and her forbearance; considering the pain she must have been in. They also said that she talked about me all the time. I very much appreciated their being there at the hospital and their concern about Marnie.
It wasn't very long before the doctor I'd seen when I first arrived came out of Marnie's ICU room. He really didn't have to say anything; the expression on his face told me what I didn't want to hear in actual words.
"How long?" I asked him.
"I'm sorry, not very. Although she's awake her body is shutting down and there's nothing we can do about it. She just has too many different injuries for her body to cope with. You can go in and be with her though."
I thanked him for what he'd done and was just going back into the ICU room when a nurse came out.
"She wants to speak to a priest, what denomination are you and Marnie?" The nurse asked.
Damn that was a question; Marnie and I didn't attend church. I'd always been an agnostic and Marnie? Well I had to think; then I remembered her christening certificate I'd seen at one time long ago.
"Church of England!" I replied with hopeful confidence.
I noticed the policeman give the nurse a thumbs-up sign, before he dashed from the room. I took it, that he was off to track down a vicar.
Back in the ICU room that I now shared with a nurse, as well as Marnie; I went over to the bed. The oxygen mask was gone from her face, replaced by a tube with two little pipes that appeared to go up Marnie's nose, I can remember thinking that they must be uncomfortable. Stupid thought; with all the injuries she'd sustained, Marnie probably didn't even notice those two little tubes.
"We talked as best we could, me telling Marnie how much I loved her and that she was going to be fine. Why do we lie to the dying?
Marnie whispering back to me — I had to put my face really close to hear what she said — that she loved me and that she was sorry.
Sorry! What the hell was she sorry for? I thought. What had happened had been an accident as far as Marnie was concerned. Whoever was in charge of that scaffolding, now he was going to be bleeding sorry when I finished with the bugger.
I really can't recall what we said to each other after that. Marnie was obviously exhausted and every word she uttered was a struggle for her. I asked her to rest and tried to do as much of the talking as possible.
Marnie was resting — if anyone in her battered condition can rest — when the Vicar finally arrived. I'd never seen the guy before, but he acted as if he knew both of us intimately, not bothering with introductions and instantly calling both Marnie and myself by our Christian names.
I stepped back as he leaned close to Marnie so that she could speak to him with a little privacy. He listened to what she had to say for some time, before he stood again with a grave expression on his face.
Tell me what is it with people. I was always under the impression that you told someone who is very ill and possibly about to die what they needed to hear. Bugger the truth, if you can raise their spirits then there's more chance they will survive. Not this old bleeder though, I was gobsmacked to hear him say.
"I'm sorry, Marnie, but I'm not empowered to absolve you of your past sins on this earth. The only person who can do that is the Lord when you stand before him or..." here he took a breath and lingered for a few seconds before adding. "The person you have sinned against. If they forgive you, then I'm sure the Good Lord will take that into account."
My real problem was that as the bugger spoke those words, Marnie's eye moved to look at me; there was something in the expression of those eyes that made a little voice in the back of my head tell me that I didn't want to hear what Marnie was about to say to me.
Of course I ignored it, Marnie's pleading eyes pulled me down to listen to what she had to say.
No I'm not going to repeat what she actually said. But, be assured that what she did say cut me to my heart and made a mockery of our life together.
"Please forgive me," were her last words!
I stood up and looked down at her, utterly devastated by what she had said. I have no idea what kind of expression I had on my face, but I could see the tears running down the side of Marnie's.
"Please?" she mouthed once again.
"To err is human my son; to forgive is divine.
"I forgive you, Marnie!" I heard myself saying without thinking about it. Then I lent down and kissed her on the forehead.
As I went to do so, she smiled again and then closed her eyes as I kissed her. Almost at the same instant, the beeping of the heart machine changed to a continuous constant tone.
When I looked up at him, the vicar had his little prayer book open and he was very quietly reading aloud from it. I turned away and walked from the room, my world shattered.