“Good morning my dear, would you like a cup of tea?”
“I could kill for a cuppa, thank you.”
A croaky voice answered through bandages. The flowery quilt covered most of the escapee from a pyramid. I sniggered at the thought.
I busied myself in our new kitchen, hunting for my favourite mug and its matching pink sister. Two bags of Lipton tossed accurately into the cups, proudly grinning at the unseen skill, then added the hot water. All I needed was the milk jug.
“Where is it? Obviously, it is in the fridge.”
Not only was the kitchen new, but I was also new to it. It would take a while to get used to its layout. Not that I was a regular user of the old one.
“Must have a look at the cooker later,” reminding myself.
Plodding upstairs to the bedroom, then leaning on the doorknob and pushing the door wide, “It’s a lovely day, sit up and enjoy a brave new start.”
The pain was clear, elbows used to lever a bruised back against the crushed velvet headboard. I positioned the bed tray, tested it, and placed the pink mug centrally.
“Are you hungry yet?”
“No, tea is fine thanks.”
“I’ll see you later, I’ve some shopping to do this morning.”
“Don’t forget to get what I asked for?”
“Top of my list.”
Marching to the high street, across the road I spotted my old mates, preferring not to start a conversation, ducking my head pretending to study a hairdresser's shop window.
“Don’t know why you’re looking in there!” one of them shouted.
A coarse laugh accompanied the back-slapping mirth from the opposite footpath. Pretending not to hear the two old friends who stood hands on hips.
“Oh, hi, guys.” I relented.
Dreading their next comments, I scurried into the newsagents as a bus rumbled between us.
The newsagent loved to talk; He enjoyed a good gossip, offering more tittle-tattle than The Sun’s front page, he was the last person I needed in my life right now. But any port in a storm, as they say. Maybe he doesn’t know yet?
“Morning. Oh, it’s you?” Accompanied his lecherous grin.
“I popped in to get my usual rag.”
“I guess you’ll be cancelling the lady mags?” He was trying not to laugh.
Slamming coins onto a pile of papers, snatched The Telegraph and accidentally bowled into an elderly neighbour collecting her lottery tickets.
“Sorry,” I stammered.
Both she and the shopkeeper were chuckling as I returned to the high street.
“Oh God, this is harder than I feared.”
Next, bills to pay.
“Your wife usually deals with this,” she giggled.
Last on the list, and grateful that no snide comments followed me from the ‘men’s products’ shelf in Boots chemists to the cashier’s desk. A young Indian girl politely bagged my purchases and offered my change.
“Next time take the car, save the walking to places where I won't be noticed,” I said to myself.
“Home. Do you want any breakfast yet?” I shouted up the stairs. No answer so I raced to the bedroom.
Gentle snoring, all was well. Peaking from between the bandages were a pair of black eyes reminding me of an animal, not a panda, a racoon, slimmer and more angular. Luckily the tea tray was still standing on its legs, the half-empty cup still centralised in place.
“Ha,” I said to myself, “That would have been ‘half-full’ a few days ago.”
Lifting the tray, there was a grunt and sluggish movement.
“Are you awake?”
“Yes, I’m starving.”
I bounded down the stairs to toast some bread.
“Honey or jam?” I called.
“You don’t like Marmite.”
“I do now.”
“Things will change, some small and some large, be prepared,” the doctor's lecture echoed between my ears.
Both of us eating Marmite in the house wasn’t too bad.
Repositioning the bed-tray, with its brown sticky toast, a glass of water and a handful of painkillers, plus other medication, still wrapped in silver foil.
An hour later we were on our way to the hospital. We didn’t have to queue up, straight to the consultant’s office.
“Please sit outside sir,” they directed me to a seat outside the surgery. I could hear no sound through the door. Images of bandages unwound, stitches being clipped open, who knows what else?
The door opened, “You can come in now.”
What was I scared about? No-one had operated on me.
“And how are you?”
“Really? How about your mental health?”
“My mental health? Why ask that?”
“Let’s say people in your situation, rare as it is, need some guidance.”
“Not me, I’m fine.”
A pair of nurses finished re-wrapping, we were ready to return home.
Back in the car and trying to make light conversation, the chit-chat fell on closed ears. Racoon eyes studied the folk outside without comment.
Deciding to try again, “How about I pull up outside the travel agents, I’ll dash in and grab some brochures we can pick out a holiday. Then, as soon as you get your stitches out, off we go, sun, sea and…?”
“And, where are you thinking of?”
“Anywhere you like. You always fancied Venice, how about that?”
“Ha ha! Hilarious.”
“I need a new passport. Idiot.”
My brow creased, but I said no more until we arrived at home.
There were people outside our front gate.
“Sir, sir, can we have a word?”
“Who the hell are you lot?”
“We are reporters, local and national.”
“Bugger off. We’ve got nothing to say.”
Opening our gates cameras clicked and flashed. I turned and closed the wrought iron as quickly as I could, shepherding my white-clad passenger to the front door.
Arms spread wide, the patient turned and faced the press, soaking up the fame, “Come back in two weeks, bandages off, stitches out, a new me.”
Shocked, I stammered, “Get inside, and up to our bed, you must be tired out.”
“Do not order me. I am not tired. I will rest when I feel like it. Now, I want to watch a replay of last night’s game.”
“But, you don’t like football.”
“I do now.”
The warnings were clear, things would not be the same.
“And I could do with a coffee if you’re near the kitchen.”
That’s what I used to say?
"My wife is now a man. I still love… him.”