3rd Doctor Knows Best

Doctor Knows Best

What a fake she is. Her fluttering eyelashes are fake, the tanned skin revealed by her stylish outfit is fake, her bust is definitely fake, and her perfect coiffure is probably a wig. She looks at me with fake concern and raises her tinted eyebrows.

I nod. The ceremony, as such, may commence.

I’m the sole occupant of the front rows—only to be expected. Earlier I’d turned at the sound of whispers and had seen two of my neighbours seated further back, large handkerchiefs at the ready. All I could offer them was a watery grimace.

There was some shuffling behind me, too, but I didn’t expect many mourners.

Music swelled. Something anodyne that served its purpose… Then she started her monologue, rounding her vowels, the celebrant, aiming to express her brand of sympathy and impress her audience.

I felt like running over to her, looking so composed behind her stand, and ripping out her throat. I felt like screaming like a bear caught in a trap. I felt like collapsing into myself and becoming as small as a pea. Or a pill…

On that thought, I let my head drop forward till the nape of my neck protested.

I would bear this—to the end.

At the command of that false voice in front, I walked, a marionette, towards the coffin on its polished stand. Faltering but once, I positioned the single pink rose I’d almost forgotten was in my hand. Others followed me. They took petals from a basket and sprinkled them near my daughter’s photo. I made eye contact with no-one.

More music—the brief service was over. This time Bach, I think.

I saw blood-red satin curtains curve their inevitable trail to meeting mid-way. The coffin left my sight. I knew its fate… Sadly. Wretchedly. Despairingly.

Then the celebrant closed in on me to shake my hand, oozing fake feelings. She failed to remove her glove, I noticed. Empty words I moved outside to escape…

Emotions tumbled. Past thoughts jostled for my attention.

*

‘Ms Collins, I apologise you couldn’t arrange an appointment sooner–reception just couldn’t fit you in last week.’ He cleared his throat. ‘The scans reveal why Callie’s been suffering so much.’ Fidgeting with a folder, he moved to an illuminated screen.

‘What’s wrong with her, Doctor?’ I looked across at Callie. She was becoming distraught. I took her arm. We went to stand near him, wanting, yet not wanting, to know the prognosis.

Why was he taking so long?

‘It’s kidney stones. See? Here and here. Clearly visible. No wonder you’ve been in agony you poor dear girl.’ He looked to Callie.

She made a strange sound. I hugged her and held her, as sobs wracked her slight frame.

‘Doctor, those pain killers you recommended just don’t work. You tell him, Callie. Screaming out, day and night…’ I threw up my hands. ‘Can they operate to remove the stones?’

Turning off the switch, and straightening the folder, the doctor returned to his chair and gestured for us to sit down. He seemed in no particular hurry, unlike the two of us who were hungry for facts–which he clearly outlined…

There would be no surgery. Medication would dissolve the kidney stones, in time. Meanwhile, for pain relief, Linda had a prescription placed into her hand.

The man who’d first met Linda in the labour ward seventeen years ago was destined to be her nemesis, the one who urged her, counselled her and advised her to take Oxycodone. It was a miracle drug. To be taken as directed. She would experience no more pain. It was non-addictive. Assuredly. Definitely. So earnest was he. We trusted him, that monster in a white jacket…

*

I feel a bump at my shoulder–the cruel present intrudes. Reluctantly, I turn. One, and then the other, of the well-meaning neighbours, hugs me gracelessly and murmurs condolence messages in my face… I succumb, then step away.

Another face peers from the small group beyond. This face I abhor with heart and soul. A woman is with him. Wife? Lover? Tears roll unheeded down her face, as she makes futile attempts to restrain him.

‘Dearest, let it rest. Stay away. It won’t do any good. Please.’

He approaches me. I have scant time to set up my defenses.

Ignoring my scowl and scorn, he stands before me.

I raise my eyes to his.

He clutches my hand and holds tight. A shudder and a stifled sob… ‘Anna, I made a terrible mistake three years ago. Please forgive me.’

Venom flows effortlessly. ‘Not a chance, you murderer. Take your guilt, and your disgusting pink pills, to your own grave.’

I wrench myself away.

Perhaps I’ll catch up with my kind neighbours. We can go to the café.

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