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Mum looked stressed, more so than I'd seen her in a long time. "Are you all right?" I asked, and suddenly perceived what it was that was wrong. Panicking, I added, "Is Dad all right? Have you had news?" The last thing I wanted was for news of his downturn to puncture the buoyancy that my lesson with Anna had left me with. That sounded selfish when I expressed it but it was how I felt. Of course I cared about him. Of course I was worried. But the music had dimmed everything in the real world, taken over.

"There is bleeding in his brain," Mum admitted. That was the thing we'd been worrying about, ever since the doctors told us that he had burst a blood vessel as he hit the ground. I didn't want to think of him as a blibbering vegetable but it was surely what he would become if brain damage took hold.

After a long, long pause, I asked, "And what's going to happen? Is he all right?"

Her sigh confirmed everything I'd feared - they didn't know. "It's early days yet. We're hoping that everything's going to be fine, and they say there's a pretty good chance, but there's not much to go on at the moment. It'll be another couple of weeks at least before he's home, I'm afraid."

Already I was racing on ahead in my thoughts.. "It's a private ward, isn't it? And he's awake. He's not that badly hurt that he couldn't hear me ..."

Mum guessed what I was going to say. "No, you can't take your violin. I know you're improving rapidly - that was quite a glowing commendation from Anna when I came to pick you up - but it's not what he needs right now. Why don't you go and sit with him for a while, just so he knows that you're there?"

I had heard enough audiobooks to know what people in my situation normally did. "I guess I can't read a book to him while I sit by his bedside," I told her. "Unless I took one of my Braille ones, but they're pretty difficult to carry on account of their size. What do you think?"

"He might like that," she allowed. "But only if he feels up to it. You mustn't put any pressure on him ... they told me that stress could be fatal, and he's not to be told of anything troubling." Then her voice relaxed and she seemed to take pity on me. "I'm so sorry, Mark, I know it's hard. What with you being an only child, too, there's no one you can talk to. So much suffering in one family! Why does God let this happen?"

Mum went to church every Sunday but I was never sure how much she believed. When I was a kid I used to go with her, but I stopped about three years ago. It seemed pointless. They went on and on about reading your Bible, when Braille Bibles are about as big as our living room - no exaggeration, I've heard all about them. And I couldn't see the words to the songs, so it got pretty boring after a while. Besides, there were too many old people who tried to talk to me all at once.

"I don't know," I told her. "But you can keep on hoping - and praying, if you reckon it would help - and it's bound to sort itself out. At least, I hope it would."

We sat together for a while, the violin case sitting in the corner of the room like a lost puppy. I looked across, feeling the swell of anticipation that filled me every time I thought of Elenora's smooth wood beneath my fingers.

"If you don't mind, Mum, I'm just going to go and practice for a while..."

She said nothing. I went. 

The End

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