A Visit From Doctor Phil

"Clare," said Sophie.  "Sit down, girl.  You'll wear yourself out."

    I couldn't stop pacing.  My heart was racing as I waited for the doctor to arrive.  I perched on the edge of the settee.  I rubbed my forehead - yesterday's headache was threatening to return with a vengeance.  Not surprising, with all this stress, I thought, forcing myself to lower my shoulders and relax. 

     "Tell, you what.  Lets have some tea and toast.  He might be ages yet, and we probably need our blood sugar boosted," Sophie said.  I wasn't very convinced by the cheeriness in her tone.  She must be worried, too.  She stood, and went towards the kitchen door.

    "Yeah," I said.  "He'll probably turn up as soon as you put the kettle on."  

     Sophie laughed, and disappeared into the kitchen.  I stood up again, unable to sit still.  I walked over to the bookcase in the corner, thinking maybe I could find something light to read, to take my mind off things.  On the top shelf was a collection of framed photographs.  I'd noticed them vaguely, from a distance,  yesterday, but I had been far too distracted and preoccupied to go and inspect them closely.  There were several small ones - pictures of Sophie's parents, and Ben's - I assumed.  I didn't recognise anyone except Sophie's mother in these.  One of the two large ones was a studio portrait of Sophie - a lovely head and shoulders shot.  The other was a wedding photograph.  In it, Ben and Sophie were standing in front of a grey stone building, looking out at the camera.  The photographer, or maybe one of the onlooking guests,  had obviously said something which made them laugh, and it was almost a candid shot, rather than a posed one.  I could see why they'd chosen to put this one on display. 

     I wished I could remember something about this happy wedding, of which I had apparently been a part, just a couple of very short years ago.  I looked at the picture, concentrating on the details of Sophie's stunning wedding gown, and then closed my eyes, keeping the image in my head.  I tried to imagine the actual scene, as if in real life.  Surely this should jog my memory - an occasion such as this.  It was no use, and my headache was worsening, so I opened my eyes, and looked again at the photo.  There was something about the background, a sort of flicker in my brain.  I did not remember the dress, the bridal bouquet of pink roses and white gardenias; the snappy blue-grey suit Ben was wearing, or his buttonhole which echoed the gardenias in Sophie's bouquet, but there was something about the stonework in that building which I was sure I had seen before. 

    Right at the edge of the picture, part-hidden by the frame, was a white wooden sign.  I could just see the letters Haw--- painted in black, but the rest of the sign was hidden.  I assumed it was some kind of hotel or country club?  Hawthorn?  Hawksbill?  Who knew?   I would have to ask Sophie if I could look at her wedding album.  More pictures of this place might shift what was lurking at the back of my mind to the front.

    I jumped when the doorbell rang, and almost dropped the photograph.  I replaced it with shaky hands, then went to stand near the door of the living room, unsure whether I should answer it.  Thankfully, Sophie emerged from the kitchen.  She put her hand on my shoulder. 

     "You were right, Clare," she said, smiling, "about putting the kettle on.  I'll go and let him in - you sit down."

       I was standing by the settee when a tall bear of a man walked in, with Sophie in his wake.  Big-built; a rugby player, by the look of him.  His hair was black and curly, greying a little at the temples.  I was surprised to see that he was wearing a polo shirt and jeans, though he was carrying a black case.  Well, I supposed he was entitled to dress down on his day off.  He walked over to me, and gave a wide smile, showing white, even teeth. 

     "Mrs Day? I'm Phil Jones " he said, taking my hand in a firm, warm grip.  Big hands.  Comforting.  He must have spotted that I winced at the name, because he continued,   "Or would you prefer Clare?"    

    "Yes please," My voice was barely above a whisper, even to my own ears.  I cleared my throat, and tried again, louder this time.  "I'm not used to being called... that other name, yet." 

   He was studying my face, and he looked down at my hand as he loosened his grasp.   It was still shaking, visibly.

    "Let's sit down, Clare, and we can have a chat."  He looked over at Sophie.  "Would you like Sophie to leave?" he asked me.

     "I... I don't mind, really.  She knows everything, anyway."  I couldn't suppress a quick nervous laugh.  "Come to that, she knows more than I do."

    But Sophie shook her head.  "I'll leave you to speak to Phil alone, Clare,"  she said.  "You might find it easier to talk."

    I nodded, and she left.  I sat on the edge of the settee again,and Dr Jones sank into the armchair opposite me.  His smile was warm, and his expression gentle.  Sophie was right.  He seemed a lovely guy. 

    "Sophie's told me a little, but maybe you could tell me yourself, about this... problem."  He was looking at my hands again.

    "Take your time, Clare.  And try to relax." 

     I shuffled back a little on the settee, though I was still sitting bolt upright.

    "Sorry," I said.  "I'm so worried."

     "Well, I'm not surprised," he said.  "So would I be.  Worried is probably an understatement, isn't it?"

    I nodded.  Then I started to tell him everything, starting with yesterday morning, and waking up with Henry.  He listened, nodding from time to time, and smiling encouragement.  When I finished speaking, his face was thoughtful, pensive.

     "What do you think it is?  Am I going to die?  I'm thinking all sorts of things; brain tumour, meningitis, even Alzheimers disease."

    His expression didn't change.   He stroked his chin.

      "Well, don't jump to all the worst-case conclusions, Clare.  The first is a possibility.  It would irresponsible to tell you otherwise.  I doubt it's meningitis, or any other infection, come to that, if you haven't had any fever, though it has been known for people to develop the viral strain, without any obvious symptoms.   But it's rare.  Mind you, I know a nurse who had viral meningitis during her first pregnancy.  No fever, no headache.  Only blindness."

     I gasped.  "Blindness?" That made memory loss sound almost bearable.  "Was she okay?  I mean, did her sight come back?"

   "Yes, she was absolutely fine after a few days.  Thing is, the silly girl didn't tell a soul she'd gone blind.  Tried to bluff it out, till her husband noticed she was acting a little oddly."  He sat forward.  "She was being a bit of an ostrich.  She thought it was some awful tumour, and was scared to get it checked out."  He shook his head.  "Nurses, you see.  Too much medical knowledge is a bad thing.  Doctors are even worse."  He pulled a packet of Polo mints out of his jeans pocket, and offered me one.  I shook my head, and he popped a mint into his mouth.

     "As for Alzheimer's, I doubt it very much.  It 's almost unheard of in a woman your age, and certainly not with a sudden onset, like this."  He paused, looking more serious.  "I have to ask this, Clare.  Are you a drinker?"

    Was I?  Actually, I had no idea.  I certainly didn't think I was, but what if that had changed.  Somehow, I doubted it.  Seeing Steve knock back the booze at the rate he did, put me off it.  "No." I said.  "Not really.  "I maybe have a glass or two of wine at the weekends.  Why, could alcohol cause this?"

    "Well, binge-drinking can be a cause of short-term memory loss, especially in someone your age.  I see your hands have stopped shaking now." he said, looking down.  "It did cross my mind.  But even then. to lose your memory of the last three years wouldn't fit that diagnosis.  Any other symptoms, Clare.  Headache?  Visual problems?"

    Without realising, I had relaxed against the back of the settee, but now I sat up again.

    "Yes!  I had a headache all yesterday, and I've got a bit of one now."  My hand strayed to my forehead, and I rubbed it.  "And I did notice a bit of blurred vision yesterday, too, when I was trying to read something."

    "Well," he said.  "I think we need to refer you,  Get the neurologists to have a look, see what's going on with you.  He reached down and opened his case, and pulled out a pad of headed paper, and a pen.  "At least you'll be seen straight away.  Won't have to wait around in the Emergency department for too long."  He scribbled a few words on the pad, then pulled out a mobile phone from the back pocket of his jeans,  "I'll give them a call, to tell  them I'm sending you in.  You don't need an ambulance, do you?"

     I shook my head.  I had known, of course, that I would probably need to go to hospital, but now it was more than just a possibility, I was frightened, all over again, and I clasped my hands together to stop them shaking.

     As Dr Phil spoke on his mobile, I sat on Sophie's settee, frozen.  Half of me was wishing I could just stay here with Sophie, and wait for my memory would come back, all on its own.  But I knew that was just silly.  The other half of me wanted to run away; away from this problem; away from my fear; away from Sophie, and most of all, away from Henry

     Then, a word came into my head.  I was not expecting it.  I only vaguely recognised it.



The End

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