~ Chapter Ten ~
The phones buzzed noisily at the front desk screaming for the receptionist's attention. "I'm sorry sir, just a minute," apologised a large blonde haired woman who sat behind the counter. After several "yes's" and "uh-huh's" and a final "goodbye", she redirected her focus to the elderly man in front of her. "Hello again! You're looking well. How are you?"
The man nodded his silvery head, "Hello. I am doing well. Has she shown any change?"
"I'm sorry, she hasn't." The woman looked sincerely remorseful. "You would have been the first person we would have called if she had." Again the man nodded, his eyes fixed to the floor, not quite being able to meet her eyes. The phone began to ring again. She sighed. "Go see her; I think she's in her room."
"Thank you," the man replied tipping his hat to her before walking off down the long ivory white corridor. It lacked design or any particular decoration; most of the building had white walls and wooden floors just so it was easier and cheaper to clean. Yet they still charged a fortune for their paying guests.
"Dad! Wait up, Dad!" yelled a young man as he jogged to catch up. "Sorry I took so long, I couldn't find a parking spot. Did the nurse say whether she's made any change? She was on the phone and just waved me through."
The older man shook his head. "No, son, she hasn't made any improvement, but we can try to change that."
"There you are!" exclaimed a dark male nurse with a large white smile. "I was wondering where you were! You're always here; bang on ten o'clock, every day." He held the wooden doors open for the two men to pass by.
The two men walked single-filed through the doorway. "I made her a promise. I promised that I would look after her." The older man paused as he walked past the nurse, his blue eyes that were full of ill-forgotten memories and wisdom locked onto the oblivious dark eyes of the nurse. "And I never break a promise."
"Right you are, sir!" the nurse shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot whilst under the man's ferocious stare.
"Come on, Dad." His son said as he tugged on his arm. "Sorry. He's just upset about his wife. You know?" The nurse nodded sympathetically. "Come on, Dad, let's go find Mum." He said softly as he half dragged-half directed his father away whose eyes never left the nurse. The nurse, who couldn't wait to be freed from the situation, quickly scurried through the doors and into another room to help a patient. "Dad, you have to stop interrogating the workers. They're doing their best."
"Charles, your mother is not well."
"I know Dad. She's been like this for a while, but it's not my fault, or yours, and neither is it the fault of the people who work here." Charles rested a hand gently on the door handle to the room 302. "Have you thought about maybe taking her home and looking after her rather than letting the retirement staff here look after her?"
Henry shook his head. "I wouldn't be able to look after her like these people can. Most of the time she hardly knows who I am. She may feel threatened by me when she forgets and do something dangerous… She's safer here. Even if I do miss her."
Charles understood. "Are you ready?"
The older man gave a small nod and Charles opened the door.
The room was small, in the same style as the rest of the building; white walls, wooden floors. Minimalist. There was a small wooden bedside table and a white lamp balanced on it. An elderly woman was lying in the hospital style bed. Her head turned to the sound of the door opening and gave her visitors a warm smile. "Hello."
"Hey." Charles said in a quiet voice as they entered. He gently shut the door behind them. "How are you?"
"I'm doing good thank you." She said politely.
"Hello Rosie." The older man whispered as he sat down gently in the aged wooden chair beside her bed and took her hand in his. "Horrible weather outside, isn't it?"
Rosie stared at her wrinkled hand in his, unsure about the contact. "Is it? I hadn't noticed. So, what do I owe you two fine gentlemen the pleasure of today?"
"We just wanted to see how you were doing, Mum." Charles had pulled up another wooden chair and was sat on the other side of the bed from Henry.
Rosie laughed. "Mum? Oh honey, I'm not your Mother." Charles shot a saddened look towards Henry. "You must have me mistaken for someone else." Rosie patted Charles's hand sympathetically. Charles stood up and walked over to the window where he stared out to the streets below, not wanting his parents to know that he was crying.
"Rosie, he's your son. I'm you're husband, Henry." Rosie frowned and pulled her hand away from his. "Rosie, please. Please, remember."
"I- I don't believe you. I've never seen you before."
"Rosie, I visit you every day." Henry pointed to a small vase of flowers on the windowsill. "I brought you those flowers the other day. Don't you remember me visiting you?"
Rosie didn't move. She looked at the deep red roses in the blue vase but shook her head. "I don't remember. Sorry."
Henry rummaged in his jacket pocket, patting himself down and cursing under his breath until he found what he was looking for. He pulled out a delicate aged envelope. "Read it? Please? You might remember…" She looked sceptically at the parchment. "Please?"
Rosie took the envelope slowly, tracing his name in her handwriting with her finger. She flipped it over and removed a single sheet of paper and a picture.
What do I write on a piece of paper to portray the words of encouragement and love that you deserve? I hope that whenever you read this, you feel closer to me in these tough times when we are apart.
I'll take good care of our child. I still think we're going to have a girl, regardless of what you say. I know we didn't have really much time to discuss names, but I wanted to let you know his or her name whilst you are out on the frontline so that you can think of the both of us, waiting for you to come home.
If we have a little girl, I want to name her Emily, after your wife. I know that she'll be strong and courageous and you'll love her like you loved your wife and like you love me now. She'll have dance lessons like I had when I was younger and she'll learn to sing. She'll be daddies little girl; most likely with piercing blue eyes and pretty curly blonde hair.
If we have a little boy, I want to name him Charles, after my father. I have a feeling he'll be a little terror, but I will love him regardless. And he will be, of course, Daddy's little warrior.
We both knew that you had to go to this war, despite the fact that I never wanted to let you, but I know that you'll return to me. I know it. I'll pray for you every day; maybe even twice a day for luck. And you just stay out of trouble and come quickly home to me. I'll be waiting- of course I will be. I have a feeling that you will try to convince me not to wait before you go, but I won't listen. You know I won't. I have my Mother's blood, remember?
I love you, Henry, with all my heart. And always will. Don't you ever forget that.
I found a photograph of us two on our wedding day. I thought you'd appreciate it. Keep me in your shirt pocket so I can be next to your heart wherever you go. When times get hard, look at it and remember me. We can do anything together. So keep me close and together we can win this war.
I'll see you at home soon before you know it.
With all my love,
Rosie picked up the faded photograph and stared at the happy couple posing together on their wedding day. She dropped the picture, her hand covering her mouth in horror. Rosie recognised herself but didn't remember it being taken. She didn't remember marrying him.
She quickly tucked the letter and the image back inside the envelope and held it out toward Henry. "I'm sorry, I don't remember. I think you should leave."
"Rosie, please. I'm Henry; I'm your husband! This is Charles, your own son- named after your father. Don't you remember us?" Henry pleaded, taking the envelope carefully.
Rosie closed her eyes with a pained expression. "Please get me the nurse on your way out."
"No, I am not leaving!" Henry stood up. "I have been visiting you every day for years. You used to remember me and then those days became less and less frequent. I miss the days when you would smile and look at me and remember how happy we were together. You think it makes me happy seeing you like this? Your memory is fading because of your Alzheimer's and I haven't seen you smile like you used to in months. You haven't remembered me in months, Rosie. I don't even know if you'll remember me ever again."
Charles grabbed onto Henry's shoulders. "Dad, come on, you're scaring Mum. Let's go home. I'm sorry, Mu- Rosie. I'm sorry. We'll get you a nurse." Charles tried to lead Henry out of the room, but Henry shrugged off his son's grip and shot through the door.
Once again, Charles jogged behind his father to keep up; briefly instructing the dark male nurse, who they had seen earlier, that Rosie requires his assistance. "Dad? Dad? Where are you going? What are you doing? Slow down a minute, will you?"
Henry's stride did not falter. "I'm going home. I'm going to get my wife back."