Chapter 2 : Chapter 2
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“I’m pleased to meet you, Miss Granger. Call me Éowyn.” Welsh. The accent left no doubt of that. She indicated a lounge area across the corridor, “If you’ll join us in here I’ll tell you about Robbie before he gets back from his treatment. He’ll probably be very tired for ten minutes or so.” Hermione followed the nurse and the doctor followed Hermione.
Settled around a low table, Éowyn began the conversation, “What do you know of Robbie’s injuries, Miss Granger?”
“Please call me Hermione, Éowyn. Just assume I know nothing of his injuries, tell me everything, please.”
“Right, well to put it bluntly, Hermione, he was shot in the head. Just about every function of his body shut down but it refused to die. Thinking he was dead the battlefield medics left him alone, which was just what he needed. He was transported home the next day. He was fortunate that the bullet struck him at an angle. It broke away a section of his skull in the rear right quadrant and several splinters actually pierced the brain itself. At this time he is paralysed with just a little movement in the fingers of his right hand. He has physiotherapy twice a day at 11 and 4.”
“And what is the prognosis? What is the best that he can hope for doctor?”
“That’s hard to say, Hermione, We are seeing small improvements which I think will keep happening as long as he wants them to. We keep trying to think of incentives for him to push for.
Éowyn interrupted, “Right now I can’t think of a bigger incentive than you, Hermione.”
Hermione blushed, “I don’t know about that Éowyn, don’t go expecting miracles, but can I ask whereabouts in Wales you come from? Your accent is very strong.” The doctor grinned.
“This should be good, make sure you give her the full version, Éowyn.”
“Thank you Dr Armstrong. I’m from Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. More commonly known as Llanfair PG. Now let’s go and see Robbie, shall we?”
Hermione found it hard to breathe as she followed Éowyn into the hospital room. She noticed nothing about the room itself, at that moment she concentrated solely on the figure in the bed. Éowyn placed a chair by the right side of the bed and then took Hermione lightly by the elbow, “I normally give him ten to fifteen minutes before I disturb him, just sit here until I get back. If he stirs at all try talking quietly to him. I won’t be long.”
In the silence of the room, Hermione studied the man in the bed. The man who had so nearly changed her life in a brief, two-date encounter six years before, and had never been very far from her thoughts and dreams since. The heaviness that had settled on her heart for the last few years dissipated in an instant.
He was thinner than she remembered, hardly surprising, given the circumstances. His eyes were closed, denying Hermione the things she most wanted to see. His steel grey eyes. Robbie’s hair was cropped, apart from the rear right quadrant, which was shaven and was criss-crossed with a multiplicity of pale white scars. ‘Shot in the head’ Éowyn had told her. Hermione took a tissue from her bag and stopped the tears forming in her eyes, realising as she did so that in that instant she had fallen in love. All the feelings that she had buried for the past five years had come rushing into her heart and mind. She picked up his hand, held it to her lips and kissed it, she whispered, “Oh, Robbie my darling, what did they do to you?” She was looking down at the bed holding his hand to her forehead when she felt a slight pressure through her fingers. She looked up, straight into the steel grey eyes that she remembered. Her heart felt like it would burst.
Robbie blinked a few times, not believing what he saw. His speech and movement may have been impaired but there was nothing wrong with his thought processes. She’s here! It really is her. I remember, I remember. I have to speak to her… no, there’s no point, she’ll never understand what I’m saying. She’s even more beautiful than I remember. He could feel his eyes begin to moisten at the memory of their first date, especially standing at the taxi rank saying goodnight. She had declined his offer of an escort home. He had leaned down and kissed her briefly and, after telling her to call him, kissed her again. This time the kiss had lingered. She’ll pull away soon, he remembered thinking, but she didn’t, her jaw moved slightly, twisting her lips against his. He has been about to put his arms around her, when the taxi driver had loudly cleared his throat, totally killing the moment.
Hermione had been remembering the same kiss. His face coming closer, grey eyes locked on hers until she closed them. Very quickly her whole existence had been contracted into the few centimetres of her lips that were in contact with his. She had only been kissed by two boys before, Viktor Krum and Ron, neither of which had felt remotely like this kiss. After a few seconds the taxi driver had coughed and it was over.
She came back to the present. Robbie’s eyes had captured hers as she knew they would. She struggled to speak but eventually managed, through a dry mouth, to utter, “Hello Robbie Mac. It’s been a long time.” Her inner self screamed at her, it’s been a long time, is that really the best you can do, it’s been a long time? What are you going to say now, ‘how are you?’ Come on; get a grip for heaven’s sake!
He was in a dusty desert environment, it was night-time and he was walking back to the mud brick room that was his home for the next five days. He stopped at the designated point and unloaded his weapon before going in. That had been his last sentry watch or ‘stag’ as it was known, for this night. He cleaned his equipment and his teeth then settled down to sleep. As always her smiling face appeared before him. She was beautiful when she smiled. Since their chance meeting back at home she had been constantly in his thoughts, apart from the six hour period of yesterday’s intense fire-fight, when he had concentrated on just staying alive. A week later he had become a casualty.
A voice snapped him out of his remembering. It also made Hermione jump; she had not heard Éowyn return. The normally soft Welsh accent was now harsh and abrupt. “Wake up, MacDonald you slacker, what’s my name?” Hermione watched and listened in amazement as Robbie formed an answer.
“That’s good Robbie.” The nurse pointed at Hermione, “Okay, show me how good you are, who is your visitor here?” Robbie looked back at Hermione and for the briefest moment nothing happened. Almost imperceptibly the right side of his mouth stretched slightly into what could have been the start of a smile. Hermione could see the concentration in his eyes.
“Er---i---oh---ee” The sound of her name on his lips, despite the way he said it, thrilled her beyond belief.
“Very good, Robbie. I’m just going to take Hermione away for a few minutes, she’ll be right back. ” Out in the corridor the nurse turned to Hermione, “I don’t know the history between you, but the mouth movement before he spoke is something new, he smiled and I’ve never seen him do that, it’s a first.”
“I’m a bit puzzled by your attitude, Éowyn; you seem to treat him a bit roughly. Can’t you be a bit gentler with him?”
“Hermione, the last thing that squaddies like Robbie need is pity. He doesn’t want it as you’ll soon find out. Treat him normally, demand things from him, and don’t praise him for doing something the same as he did last week.” She pumped her fist to emphasise her point. “Demand improvement. Did you recognise my name when I asked him?”
“Six months ago you wouldn’t have recognised it. You see the first thing I do when I go into his room is ask him my name. The more he says it the better he gets. You should do the same, when you go back in ask him your name, make him say it. I’ll speak to you more about this. I think you’re going to be good for him. Go back in now and ask him your name.”
Hermione entered the room again; she couldn’t bring herself to be as abrupt as Éowyn. The eyes met once more. “Robbie, what’s my name?” she could have sworn his eyes twinkled,
“Er---i---oh---nee” she was about to say well done when he spoke again. “Ay---ov---oo Er---i---oh---nee.” It seemed the most natural thing in the world to her as she lowered her face to his,
“I love you too, Robbie and I’m going to do my damnedest to help you get out of here.” Their lips met and once again they were standing at the taxi rank.
Brian MacDonald grinned broadly when Hermione told him of her visit, “I knew we were right to bring you along. Even we saw the difference in his eyes when we visited after you. For the first time there was life in his eyes. The question now is how often can you get here?”
“I wish I could come every day but I’m afraid I …”
“Of course Hermione,” he interrupted, “you have your own life to live. We can’t expect you to drop everything…”
“No, it’s not that Mr MacDonald, but I live too far away to make it every day.” My life needs changing anyway, she thought.
“Well, anytime you can make it you’re welcome to stay with us.” A plan formed in Hermione’s head and suddenly she knew what she would do. What she had to do.
Note. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is a real place on the island of Anglesey in Wales.
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