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Roses Aren't Everything: Chapter 11: An Untimely Prick

"Thank you." Casting another look at Warren, she saw that he'd fallen asleep. Beside her, the psychiatrist waited quietly. His manner was so different from that of Dr Connelly that it took Ingrid several moments to realise that she had the liberty to ask questions. Eventually, she inquired hesitantly, "is this a setback, Dr Rawlings? Is Warren's condition deteriorating?"

Leanne Hunt continues her novel, set in a fast-changing South Africa, concerning a woman who is coming to terms with seeing herself in a different light.

Ingrid felt a shiver run down her spine. She knew that Caroline and Debbie must be equally shocked at the sight of their father.

"Warren?" she said. "It's me. We've come to visit you."

Warren raised his hand mechanically. His mouth formed a greeting, but his eyes remained glassy. Ingrid glanced round at Caroline. "Do you think he's awake, love? He kind of looks asleep, doesn't he?"

Caroline came forward. "He's drugged, Mom, like the nurse said. That's why he can't move properly. I think he knows it's us, but he's too tired to do anything."

Realising that she was right, Ingrid approached Warren and laid her hand on his shoulder. "Honey, you can be so proud of our beautiful daughters," she said, gazing stoically into his blank face. "They both got such good reports. Caroline's teacher called her a model pupil, and Debbie was congratulated on her excellent performance in gymnastics. Tell Daddy about your gym prize, Debbie," she urged, smiling.

However, Debbie wouldn't look at him. She jerked her mother's arm. "No, Mom. Let's go! I want to go back to Granny!"

Ingrid said gently, "it's all right, love. You can talk to him. It's just the medication which is making it hard for him to respond, like Caroline says." She glanced appealingly at her elder daughter. "Do you want to tell Daddy about Fiona's sleepover, love?"

At this, and without warning, Warren's hand flew up. He flung the reel of cotton at Ingrid, missing her temple by a hair's breadth. Debbie yelped and made a hasty retreat towards the corridor.

"Hey!" cried Ingrid, covering her cheek. "What was that for?" She grabbed Caroline, intending to pull her back, but was astonished to realise that her daughter wasn't in the least bit alarmed.

Caroline said solemnly, "Daddy, that wasn't nice. You gave Mom a fright."

Just then, there was a scuffing sound in the doorway. "What's going on here?" said a cheerful voice.

Ingrid swung around to see a man in a clinical coat, his hand resting on Debbie's shoulder. "Good morning, Doctor," she stammered, feeling somehow guilty for being caught shouting at a patient. "I'm Ingrid Steele, Warren's wife. The nurse said we could visit him, but " She indicated her husband's rigid posture.

"He's being difficult, is he?" the doctor smiled and held out his hand. "I'm Peter Rawlings, Warren's psychiatrist. You'll remember that Dr Connelly is away on leave. I'm sorry I missed meeting you last week."

Ingrid shook his hand. His grip was cool and firm. That's all right, Dr Rawlings. I'm just a bit worried. Warren threw something at me!"

"Of course you are." Behind his rimless glasses, the psychiatrist's pale blue eyes twinkled with
amusement. "Warren and I have had an interesting week, haven't we, chum?" Sitting on the end of the bed, he patted Warren's arm. "Yesterday, you told me about your wife and children. Well, here they are! What are you going to say to them?"

For a moment, Ingrid thought she saw an expression of confusion cross Warren's face, then it was gone. He didn't move.

"Warren," repeated Dr Rawlings, "I know you can speak. You're pretending not to be able to. Now, remember what we were chatting about yesterday?"

Still Warren said nothing. Behind them, Debbie was growing restless. Ingrid waved at her to keep still, eager to see whether this calm man could coax her husband out of his stubborn silence.

"Come on, chum," said Dr Rawlings. "The reservoir, remember?"

Suddenly,Warren lurched forward. His foot stamped the floor as he spluttered, "Not her!" The words were enough for Ingrid to know immediately what was going on. The reservoir would have been the ideal place for a rendezvous with Nadine Solomon, whoever she was. Before she could recover herself enough to intervene, Warren repeated, "Not her!"

This time, Ingrid reacted instantly. "Girls! Out the door! Let the doctor deal with this, please."

From the corner of her eye, she saw Dr Rawlings clench his fist in an unmistakable gesture of self-reproach. He looked as if he was about to say something, then decided against it. Getting up from the bed, he joined Ingrid at the door. Caroline and Debbie were already halfway down the corridor, heading directly for the nurses' station and the pleasant young woman on the computer.

"I'm sorry," he said in a low voice. "That was a stupid error on my part." He waited for Ingrid to say something before clearing his throat. "I'll understand if you want me off the case."

Ingrid shook her head miserably. he was a kind man who seemed to be genuinely interested in helping Warren. "No, no. It's just that Well, I don't want this to draw any more attention. There was another girl and a baby, you see, but it's been kept a secret up till now. I'd like to keep it that way, if possible."

"I see. Of course," he agreed.

"Thank you." Casting another look at Warren, she saw that he'd fallen asleep. Beside her, the psychiatrist waited quietly. His manner was so different from that of Dr Connelly that it took Ingrid several moments to realise that she had the liberty to ask questions. Eventually, she inquired hesitantly, "is this a setback, Dr Rawlings? Is Warren's condition deteriorating?"

"I prefer to think of it as progress, Mrs Steele," he replied gently. "The therapy he's undergoing is helping to dislodge things that have been buried for a long time. Every day brings new bits and pieces to the surface. It gives him the chance to deal with them and integrate them into his life - providing he is willing to do so."

His gaze held hers until she looked away. That meant it was going to be a long road to recovery. Warren wasn't the kind of man who acknowledged his motives or wrestled with his conscience. He could be here for ages - and where did that leave her and the children?**

To read earlier chapters of this story please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/roses_arent_everything/

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