As Paul drove, he could sense the worry from Terese. He reached out his hand to hold hers.
“Don’t worry darling, we don’t know the full story yet. You know how kids can be, full of exaggeration”
She shifted her hand away from his.
“You know what Paul why don’t you just concentrate on the job in hand. What’s the point of having a sport car if you’re not going to use the extras it gives you?”
“Darling I’m already going way over the speed limit. Can’t you just relax, we’ll be there in a bit.”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. How can you just tell me to relax, do you even care or are you more bothered that their call interrupted your perfect drive?”
“That not fair Terese. I care just as much, you know that”
The car fell silent as they rushed back along the same route they just travelled. Terese looked at Paul. He didn’t look at all worried, but was this another one of his fronts? All morning he had been in a mood, a mood because of something he had been hiding from her for weeks. He was fine when it was just the two of them, the car seemed to have been a place he was desperate to escape to today. But all of a sudden, their day was once again about someone else, something else and he should be anything but this calm. But here he was telling her to calm down and relax. Maybe he was right. Maybe she was panicking for no reason, maybe it was all going to be fine. But was he this calm because his day was now getting better as everyone else’s got worse? His fear today was seeing the man that hurt him, that made his life hell. Terese knew how much of a sacrifice today was going to be and she knew he had only agreed because of her. The fact that he loved her so much to sacrifice his beliefs and happiness was everything to her. But now that this wasn’t their destination, that must be a relief for him, despite anything else that was going on.
“I’m sorry. It’s just you didn’t hear her voice on the phone. She was scared”
“No, it wasn’t Roxy on the phone, it was Harlow.”
“What, but you said…”
“No, she used Roxy’s phone, and now I can’t get through to them.”
“Well did you try Ned?”
“Yes no one is answering.”
“Seriously, the one time we want them on their phones and they don’t bother looking at them.”
“I doubt it’s that simple Paul.”
“It shouldn’t be that hard, if you call someone with a message like they did keeping your phones on should be the number one priority.”
Terese rolled her eyes as she once again checked her phone.
Paul suddenly hit the brakes. Ahead of them there were five cars already stopped. In the distance flashing blue lights were to be seen. Paul and Terese looked at each other. Paul turned the ignition off and opened his door. He stepped out and looked over in the direction of the lights. This side of the road was filled with passengers of the cars. The other side of the cordoned road were people rushing around. He leaned over into the car. He looked towards Terese and nodded. She opened her door, stepped out and walk around to his side. As they walked closer to the crowded area Terese reached for Pauls hand. They didn’t know if this was their emergency or someone else’s but whenever she was unsure of something, the touch of his hand in hers made her calmer, more secure. He looked down as she wrapped her hand around his, she squeezed it tight. He looked at her and gave her a reassuring smile. As they approached the cordon the Police started sending people back into their cars. The call of “please respect the casualties” was heard on both sides of the road. A sea of people started to come towards them as they fought through the crowds to see what was going on. Reaching the barrier felt like a journey but when they did, they realised that their fight was only beginning. Terese let go of Paul hand and placed her hands on her mouth in shock, her mind was racing by the image she saw in front of her. All the questions she wanted answers to were flying around in her head. She looked around frantically for some answers, someone. A voice shouted from behind the police officer.
“Harlow” Terese replied lifting the cordon up and running towards her. Both greeted each other with a hug that could’ve lasted for days. Terese held her face in her hands and looked at her.
“Are you ok?”
“I’m fine, just a few bruises”
“Ned and Roxy”
“A bit more serious.” Harlow said with a worried look on her face. Terese gave her another hug, afraid of letting her stray too far from her. Harlow embraced Terese, but looked over her shoulder towards Paul. He was still standing by the cordon. He looked frozen, almost as if he was waiting for someone to give him an invite to approach. His eyes caught hers and he soon came rushing over.
“Oh, darling are you ok?”
“I’m fine” Harlow said letting go of Terese and giving her grandad a hug that he seemed to want more than her. The sigh he let out was one of relief. But something was still not right, Harlow could feel the tension in him.
“Roxy and Ned, how are they?” he asked as she let go of him.
“They are still in the car. They needed more time.”
As Paul and Terese walked towards the car both could only think of the worst. Harlow tried to reassure them but nothing was getting through. Both started running towards the car. Ned was out by now and sitting in the back of the Ambulance talking to the paramedic who was standing beside him. He gave Terese a wave as she approached him. As she and Harlow headed towards the ambulance Paul headed towards the car. He stopped and looked. The driver side of their car had been completely pushed in, the plastic covering and glass from the light panels and the car door were scattered across the road and the wing mirror was lying underneath the boot. He looked down at his feet, there were skid marks leading towards the car and a couple leading away, and then nothing. He lifted his head again to the sound of a paramedics reassuring voice.
“Not long now, we are just waiting for the fire brigade.”
Paul continued his walked towards the car. Still sitting in the driver’s seat was Roxy. She seemed ok but the chat she gave was her nervous one rather than her usual trivial nonsense. She often talked when she was nervous, a bit like Terese in that sense. Not wanting to show her weakness she would usually talk her way through any situation. Paul smiled to himself before reaching the car.
“Hey Paul, you missed the party”
“Looks like it.” He looked at the paramedic “What’s the delay, why is she still here”
“Janice this is Paul, and he likes to be in charge” Roxy butted in
Janice gave a little giggle before turning to Paul
“We need to clear the driver door before we can move Roxy, we can’t risk moving her too much.”
“Because of this.” Roxy said pointing to her side. Paul looked through the broken window and horror engulfed his face. His breathing started to become slightly more laboured as his mind started to run away from him.
“Well have you called the brigade?”
“Yes, and they are on their way. They were on another call, and Roxy wasn’t a priority so…”
“Not a priority. Not a.... She’s got glass sticking out of her side, how is that not a priority” Paul said raising his voice
“For now, she’s stable and alert. The fire service has informed me that they are on the way. How about I call them to put your mind at ease?”
As she got hold of her radio and asked for an ETA, Roxy looked at Paul. She smiled at him, but he could see in her eyes that she was scared.
“Right that’s it. You’re coming out right now.”
As Janice and Roxy watched, Paul tried the handle on the outside. There was no give. He tried to force the door open from the side but it was too damaged. As he reached inside to grab the handle, he caught his arm on a shard of glass that was hanging on the door. He didn’t feel the pain, still fighting, trying every which way to open it. As he took his hand away from the inside Roxy grabbed it. He looked at her as she held his hand and shook her head.
“There is a hot man in uniform on his way to save me, I have waited this long for him, the least you can do is respect my choice to still wait for him. Besides I think you might need Janice’s help”
Paul looked confused at her.
“Look at your arm”
Paul looked down; all he could see was blood.
“You need to hold that arm up slow the bleed down”
“Its fine, can you just concentrate on Roxy”
“You should get Auntie T here she’ll sort him out” Roxy told Janice with a smile on her face.
“I’ll be back in a bit” Janice left and headed toward her ambulance. She saw Terese and Harlow chatting, giving everyone else that space they needed to work, unlike Paul.
“Hi, which one of you is Terese”
Terese turned around, looked in Pauls direction and looked straight back at Janice.
“Is Roxy ok?”
“Yes. Your husband on the other hand.”
“What’s he done now?”
“He’s being a bit stubborn. Is that normal?”
“Anyway, he’s injured himself but won’t listen to either of us.”
Terese came walking towards the car, having already been filled in on Roxy’s situation by Ned. As Paul saw her walking towards him, he stood up and smiled.
“Finally, now can you please tell this woman we need to move”
“Darling what happened to your arm?”
“I caught it on the window. But its fine. Can you tell them they need to get her out?”
“I’m sure that Janice knows what she’s doing”
“That’s up for debate” Paul said looking in her direction
“Oi” Terese turned his head towards hers. “Listen, they need to do their job and I need you go look after Harlow and Ned.”
“But...” he said looking towards the car
“I can’t look after you and the others. I need you fighting fit. I need you to go with Harlow and Ned and get that arm checked out”
He looked at her. His eyes were anywhere but here. He looked lost, as if he was fighting with someone, with something. He looked at his arm and sighed. Looking back at her, there was a reluctant there to leave, but he gave her a nod. She leaned in and gave him a kiss on his cheek.
“We’ll be right behind you don’t worry”
As he walked towards the Ambulance, he turned to look at the car. His hand was by his mouth, his face full of worry. He turned around, head down and carried on walking. It was all going to be fine he thought, we’ve been through worse. We’ve been through much worse.
Paul looked at the four walls that surrounded them as he stood by the door of the hospital waiting room. Too often in the past couple of years he had been here, too often he had called this room his bed for the night. Too often it had been his fault. Terese, David, Harlow, Ned and now Roxy. There wasn’t much he could’ve done to stop any of it happening it just seemed, looking back, that behind every story here the previous chapter revolved around him. He could see that the others thought the same, no one would say anything but it was there, a sneaky look here or a throw away comment there. Just enough to let him know he should’ve done something different. He started pacing, chewing his nails in an attempt to distract himself from his thoughts.
“Darling can you sit down”
He glanced towards Terese who was sitting down, watching him with a worried look on her face.
He sighed as he thought about what to do next, he walked towards the seats and sat next to her.
“Where’s Harlow” he asked as soon as sat down.
“She went to call Hendrix, she wanted him to know what was going on.”
“Oh, ok?” Paul said nodding his head. His reaction far from what she expected. His behaviour had been colourful today to say the least. From one extreme to the other she had seen every side to him in a single morning and that worried her.
“Hey, what going on with you today”
“You, what’s going on with you”
“I’m just worried about Roxy.”
“Nice try but you can’t use her as an excuse this time.”
“Excuse” he laughed in disbelief before looking straight ahead towards the wall “You wouldn’t understand”
“Understand what? Paul, let me in please.” She reached out and held his hand. He looked at her. “Explain it to me, make me understand”
“Oh Terese, I’m so sorry...”
They were interrupted. Both turned around, standing in the door was a nurse.
Terese sighed and gave him a smile.
“Do you want me to come with you?”
“Nah, I won’t be long”
Paul gave a smile before he got up and followed the nurse out the door. Terese watched him leave. Why did he apologize? What was he about to tell her that she wouldn’t understand? They were supposed to be a team, know everything about each other, the good and the bad. He never failed to surprise her though but this didn’t feel like a surprise she needed today, not on top of everything else. As she kept looking at the door Ned came in, his arm in a sling.
“Ooh, how bad is it”
“Dislocation, same place as before.”
“Are you ok”
“Could’ve done without the reminder but I guess it could’ve been worse”
“Yeah” Terese agreed tapping his leg
"He’s just been called in, they needed to stich his arm.”
“Was it serious?”
“Nah, his arm will be fine”
“His arm, why what’s wrong with the rest of him?”
“I don’t know”
Ned saw the worry on her face.
“Hey, todays been a big day, he’s bound to be a bit off.”
“His behaviour is very erratic Ned, it like he doesn’t know who he’s meant to be today.”
“This morning was tough for him and he was looking forward to spending that car ride with you, he really needed that alone time. I guess he got that and then it all fell apart”
“Yeah, but the way he’s been with Roxy, it’s not him. He didn’t even realise he was injured, all he wanted to do was get her out.”
“Listen, things haven’t always been great between me and Paul but he was by my side through the whole aftermath of hurricane Scarlett also Dipi told me how hard he fought to find me. Roxy is in the same boat now so naturally he becomes protective. It’s just his nature. Give it a couple of days, you’ll be wishing for this version of him and her.” Ned said with a smile but he knew that what he said didn’t make a difference. After a short silence Terese turned to him.
“What possibly could he be sorry about?”
Ned got up and went to sit on the other side of Terese.
“Come here” he said as he put his arm around her and pulled her closer just so her head rested on his shoulder. “That’s a question only he can answer, but today has been rough, on all of us. Certainly, wasn’t the day we planned. But you’ll see, he’ll be back to talking Lassiters and Vegemite before we know it!”
“Yeah.” She pulled away and looked at him “Now I best go see if he’s ok. You know how he likes to overreact the smallest injury for sympathy.”
“Oh yes, especially when you’re around” Ned agreed with a cheeky grin as Terese headed out.
The night was setting in as the family of four sat in the waiting room. Harlow had fallen asleep on Ned shoulder as he tried to text Yashvi without disturbing her. Paul and Terese sat opposite them, their hands interlocked together as he moved his thumb up and down in a calming motion. His head rested on her shoulder as her head rested on his. She closed her eyes, it had been a long day, being with Paul was exactly what she needed tonight. Ned lifted his head and smiled. They looked peaceful, if the world pressed pause right now, he thought, Terese would have nothing to worry about. His vision was distracted as a doctor knocked and opened the door.
“Is this a good time?”
As soon as she stepped in Paul and Terese’s peaceful bubble disappeared. They turned around to greet the doctor as she walked towards them.
“Hi, we’ve moved Roxy from Recovery to the side room now, she is still asleep but there is nothing to worry about.”
“Any complications “Terese asked
“No one came to talk to you”
“They came to say it was all ok but no details. “
“Right, well all went smoothly. The glass wasn’t as deep as first thought, it was all fairly routine. She has a broken arm, bruised ribs and some minor cuts but all in all we are hoping she will be home in the next couple of days.”
“Good. Good” Paul said with relief in his voice.
“Right, well I’ll leave you guys to get some rest, if you need anything just pop by the nurse’s station.”
“Thank You” Terese said as the doctor headed out the door. “Well I guess that was the best news we could’ve asked for tonight.” She said looking at Ned
“What about Harlow? Reckon we should wake her to let her know?”
“Nah, let her sleep. The news will be the same when she wakes up”
Terese looked at Paul. He was looking into the distance, drifting.
“You ok darling?”
He turned to look at her.
“Yeah, yeah. It’s just been a long day.” He reached out and held her hand “Right now I think Harlow’s got the best idea, don’t you? He smiled as he rested his head back on Terese shoulder and closed his eyes.
Terese woke to the sound of Ned and Harlow snoring. The sweet wrappers and drink bottles around their feet was proof that this hadn’t been the picture all night. She smiled as she looked at them sleeping. Ned’s head was resting on Harlow as hers rested on the wall behind them. Terese lifted herself up in her chair and looked at her watch. It was three in the morning. She looked to her side and saw nothing but an empty chair. She looked around, already knowing he wasn’t there but felt the need to go through the motion. She got up, walked into the corridor and looked towards the nurse’s station. She kept on walking until she came to a glass window. She stood there and looked in. Roxy looked so peaceful sleeping. Terese smiled to herself as a warmth came over her. Sitting next to the bed, fast asleep in the chair was Paul. His hand holding his head up on one side and the other hanging over the arm of the chair. This is where he’d disappeared to. She thought about joining them but for some reason it felt like she was intruding, with a smile on her face she headed back to be with Harlow and Ned.
Just as she walked past the nurse’s station, a woman walked towards the room. She stood in the window and looked in, she had a worried look on her face as she watched Paul and Roxy sleep.
“Maybe tomorrow” she muttered to herself before walking away.