Playing Cards, Ch.17 - Eavesdropping

He lay still against the hospital, barred bed with his tiny chest bobbing up and down steadily. He wasn’t crying anymore… just sleeping… peacefully. A tear escaped my eye and fell down my cheek. He was okay.

    “We feel it would be best for him to stay overnight, just so we can be sure he’s fully recovered.” Dr. Webber told us, taking the clipboard, which I still had in my possession, out of my hands. He scanned over the details that I’d filled in and nodded in satisfaction… everything seemed to be in order… everything that I’d written was true

    “Thank you,” Ben said, holding out his hand for him to shake, “you don’t realize how much this mean to us.”

    “It was my pleasure, Mr. Russo.” He replied, taking his outstretched hand and shaking it firmly. Ben’s face fell in confusion… I knew why. When Dr. Webber left the room, Ben turned to me,

    “How does he know my name?” he asked.

    ‘He saw that your name was under the title father!’ I wanted to tell him.

    “I had to write down who accompanied James to the hospital,” I lied, “he must have seen your name and put two and two together.” By the look on his face, he didn’t seem convinced, but played along with what I’d said. It was getting harder and harder to think of new lies to tell him. Our attentions soon turned to James, as he stirred in his sleep, yawning softly and stretching his arms above his head.

    His face had reduced its redness and was progressively returning to its original colour, and his lips, cheeks and throat was less swollen, but he looked so… vulnerable. It was a horrible feeling knowing that there was nothing I could do to help him, apart from wish and hope for the best. Yes, he was recovering, but there was still that inkling telling me in the back of my head that it wasn’t over yet. We weren’t at the end of the tunnel just yet… we could still turn back around and everything could go pear shaped… it could still be too late.

    A nurse came into the room and smiled warmly. She was middle-aged, with wispy mousey-blonde hair, with the odd grey peeping through at her roots. She reminded me of Teresa. I then thought… where were they? They should have arrived, surely?

    I fumbled in my jeans pocket and pulled out my mobile phone. I had one new message:


I’d received it nearly twenty minute before then, not hearing it go off; as it had been turned to silent mode. I knew that I couldn’t call her back using my mobile because of the interference with the hospital equipment. I turned to the nurse,

    “Excuse me,” I asked politely, returning my mobile to my pocket, “can you point me in the direction to the nearest payphone, please?”

    “Of course, love, there’s one just outside in the corridor, you can’t miss it.” She replied, pointing towards the door; she was checking James’ details on the clipboard.

    “Thank you.” I thanked her. I turned to Ben, “I’m just going to call mum to let her and the McFarlows know that he’s fine. The car’s broken down and they’re waiting for it to get fixed. Do you mind just staying with him?”

    “Not at all,” he answered, shoving his hands deep into this pockets and pulled out several coins, “here, use this for the phone.”

    “Thanks.” I took the money from his hand and leaned up to kiss him on the cheek, before leaving for the phone.

    The nurse was right; you couldn’t miss the bright blue box attached to the magnolia wall, right opposite the room James was situated in. I crossed the corridor and stood with my back to the door as I slotted the coins into the machine and dialed mum’s number. It rang a few times before she picked up.

    “Hello?” she shouted over the noise of cars on her end of the phone.

    “Hi mum, it’s me,” I replied, “I got your text.”

    “It’s about time too! I sent that text nearly half an hour ago… Teresa’s been sat here telling me to check my phone every two minutes for a reply, worrying her tartan socks off… poor, love.”

    “I turned my phone on silent earlier and hadn’t gotten round to running it back to normal, sorry.”

    “Never mind about that now, honey, how’s James?”

    “The doctor confirmed t hat he has a serious nut allergy and said that he was lucky we got him here in time. He’s doing fine now though and is responding well to the treatment he’s been given.”

    “Oh, that’s good. Let me just tell Teresa and Jerry,” I heard mum shout over to somewhere on her end repeating what I’d just told her. I could hear a faint rant from Teresa, saying that she knew it was a mistake giving James to cake in the first place, like she’d said. I rolled my eyes. Mum came back to the phone, “they’re pleased he’s okay.”

    “Yes, but Teresa seems to be adamant that it’s all our fault for giving him the cake in the first place, from what I can hear, we didn’t even know he was allergic to nuts… we would have found out eventually at some point in the future, it’s inevitable.” She was still ranting on in the background, proving that she had been right.

    “Yes, I know, darling, but just ignore her. Anyway, where are you? I don’t recognize this number that you’re using.”

    “I’m on a payphone at the hospital.”

    “Oh… right, well… who’s with James?”

    “Ben is.”

    “Was he able to get in to see him? I thought you had to be blood related.”

    “You do. We told the doctor that he was the father.” There was silence on mum’s end. All I could hear was cars whizzing past, and Teresa getting hysterical over nothing, “mum? Are you there?”

    “Yes, I’m still here,” she rushed, “you told then that Ben is James’ dad?” her voice was questioning… it scared me.

    “Yes, like you said, you have to be blood related.”

    “So you lied?” I fell silent this time. I hadn’t told mum who James’ dad was yet, and didn’t know if I wanted to, “Casey? Answer me.”

    “Not as such…” I replied, taking a deep breath and closing my eyes, “he only thinks he was lying.”

    “Sorry?” mum’s alarmed voice rang. Did I dare continue?

    “Ben told them he was the dad… because I said I was the mum… I said it was so I could go in to see him after, and so he did the same. But he’s not lying, not really.”

     “What are you trying to tell me, Case?”

     “What I’m trying to tell you is…” I began. My heart was racing. I couldn’t believe what I was telling her… revealing the secret that I’d kept from her… from everyone! The secret I’d kept since then very start. I ran my free hand through my hair and turned around to face down the other end of the corridor.

     However, out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure leaning against the doorframe to James’ room. I turned my head to face the figure, with the handset still pressed firmly against my ear, and I froze. Not a sound escaped my lips. All I could concentrate on was Ben standing before me with his arms folded across his chest, fists clenched, shoulders stiff, jaw locked and a frown upon his beautiful face.

    “Casey?” mum’s voice rang in my ear, “Casey? Answer me!” my eyes fluttered and I inhaled sharply.

    “I’m going to have to call you back.” I gushed, slamming the handset down and hanging up.

    Good god… I had some explaining to do…

The End

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