Sunday serialisation – Knight & Deigh, 10.2

Knight & Deigh started life as a retelling of The Orphans, from the point of view of the second lead character, Hannice Knight. It begins in Tanzania as I remember it from the early 1980s, but some of the technologies used are much more recent. To that extent, it is anachronistic. Don’t forget, though; it is fictional, made up, lies. All of it.

Hannice Knight had run the African operation of his father’s global business for many years, when a freak accident at home left him unable to walk. Together with physiotherapist Sophie Deigh, he tries to bring into his life the excitement and adventure he missed in his formative years, due to the need to be tied to the business.

A number of adventures and activities follow including scuba-diving, sky-diving, power-boating and camping, and a half-brother he never knew about; but even these can’t lift Hannice’s spirits.

What, or who can? Will the developing closeness between Hannice and Sophie come to anything, and what of the rumoured advances in medical technology?

Beginning on 12 February 2017, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.

The full list of scenes so far published is here

Knight & Deigh. Chapter ten, scene two: Trials and tribulations.

The following morning, we presented ourselves at the office of Dr Harry Khan-Smith.

“There’s been an exciting development of late,” Dr Harry said, “one that could be a big help to you.”

“I read something recently,” I replied, “something to do with self-repairing cells from the olfactory system.”

“Exactly,” he said. “I want to do some tests to see if you are a suitable candidate for the next phase of trials.”

“What’re the odds?” I asked.

“Of what, getting on the trial, or it helping you?”

“Both.”

“The odds of getting on the trial are probably no better than one in four; the number of places is very limited, and the selection criteria are very strict. If you get on the trial, I would say the chances of it helping you are better than fifty-fifty.”

“Let’s do it then,” I said.

Dr Harry examined me, saw the scar on my stomach and instantly relieved me of five thousand pounds. I offered double or quits for him to find my other injuries, but he chickened out, saying that five grand would come in very handy, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

“I have three children,” he said, “five thousand pounds will buy them and my wife some really nice presents.”

“Ten thousand would buy more,” I suggested.

“Five thousand in the hand is worth ten thousand in the bush,” he replied with a wink.

His examination was very thorough and included him taking more samples of blood samples and spinal fluid than I would care to count. As he was taking the spinal fluid, to take my mind off the discomfort, he spoke at length about his family. Sophie was holding my hand and comforting me; not that I needed it, of course, but I knew it made her feel better; and I found myself looking at her and thinking about the fact that, when my time comes, I would have no heir to pass my estate on to. Where that came from, I didn’t know, but the fact that I was thinking like that was quite alarming.

“You and Dave never had children?” I asked Sophie quietly as Dr Harry left the room, taking the amples with him.

“I wanted to, but Dave wasn’t keen. I eventually managed to talk him round, but by the time I did, we found out about his HIV status, so it was too late.”

“Too bad,” I said, “I think you’d have been a splendid mother.”

The subject was uncomfortable for both of us, albeit for different reasons. We turned our attention to other matters.

“What’s next to come off the bucket list, then?” she asked.

“Depends.”

“On what?”

“On whether I get on the trial, and on whether the trial works.”

“And if not?”

“We go off and have another adventure.”

“Ooh. What’ll we do next? Nothing as dangerous as Hawaii, I hope.”

“I hope not; that certainly wasn’t planned. Mind you, whatever befalls us in life, we’ll always have Hawaii.”

“Just as I suspected. Under that harsh, businesslike exterior, beats a heart of pure mush.”

“You malign me, Madam.”

“I know, but you love me for it, don’t you?”

“Don’t know what you mean, m’dear,” I said.

Just then, Dr Harry came back in.

“Bad news I’m afraid, old chap,” he said, “didn’t make the profile. Maybe next round.”

“Good job I wasn’t depending on it, then,” I responded, “C’mon, Sophie, let’s go home.”

I wasn’t about to let Dr Harry see how devastated I was by this news, how much hope I had unwisely invested in this trial. As soon as I saw the reports, I thought this was my best chance, and I was, in my mind, preparing myself to undergo the treatment and be on the way to being back on my feet. Not going to happen now, though.

We drove home in silence; I think Sophie had a sense of how disappointed I was and was giving me space to explore my feelings at my own pace. That I would talk to her about it, and talk to her in detail, was not in question, but now wasn’t the time.

“I want to do something,” I said, finally.

“Anything in particular?” she asked.

“No, just something,” I responded. “Something to take my mind of the business of these bloody trials.”

“You really wanted that, didn’t you?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” I said.

“Too late for the zoo,” she said, “cinema or restaurant?”

“No; I want to look nature in the eye, and tell it what I think of it. I want to go somewhere I can shout and rail at life, without being judged. You can drop me off at a high point in the country and come back for me half an hour later.”

“I’ll do nothing of the sort, Hannice Knight,” she countered. “If you are going to rail at life, I want to be at your side, screaming with you, to add my ire to yours. I want to express my displeasure at what life is doing to my friend.”

“God, Sophie, I love…”

“Yes, Hannice?”

“I love…”

“Yes?”

“I love your attitude, your support, the way you seem to want to share my pain.”

“And I love that you love that,” she said with, for some reason, a note of regret.

We stopped at the top of a hill, looking out over woodland and farmland with villages scattered across the plain, white clouds scuttling across the sky, dappling the landscape with a mix of light and shade. Bly took the limo off a discreet distance and parked, out of our sight and, hopefully, out of earshot. Sophie sat on a rock beside me, as we shouted at life, screamed at nature, we swore and cursed at the whole business of fate, chance, or whatever you want to call it. And when the shouting, screaming, swearing and cursing were over, we wept. By the time Bly brought the limo back, we had re-composed ourselves, and we were pretty well at peace with life.

The anger had been worked through. The disappointment and sadness, however, remained close to the surface.

 

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