Authors: Netta Newbound
An Impossible Dilemma
Copyright © 2014 by Netta Newbound.
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An Impossible Dilemma/ Netta Newbound. -- 1st ed
To Paul—my rock.
For all your patience, support and encouragement.
You taught me anything is possible.
I love you.
"She looks terrible, Jon. We should have taken her straight to the hospital."
The shrill peal of the surgery phone made my stomach twirl. I spun around as Stacey, the pretty, young blonde receptionist lifted the receiver, her voice all sickly sweetness.
I glanced around the room. Apart from an elderly gentleman dozing in the corner, we were the only people waiting to see the doctor. The clinic had had a makeover since my last visit—the pale cream walls, glossy magazines, and plush maroon covers on the chairs presented the image of an upmarket clinic instead of the laid-back, sleepy practice we knew it to be.
"Stop being a fusspot, Victoria. We're here now." Jonathan stroked Emily's forehead. She lay half on his knee with her legs sprawled out on the bench seat beside him. He pinched her chin and smiled down at her. "Mummy’s being a fusspot, isn’t she, Miss Em?"
Emily nodded, her large grey eyes rolling as he stroked her golden brown curls.
“You know he’s going to say she has a virus or some other rubbish. The hospital would at least do tests,” I said, stopping mid-pace in front of them.
Jon reached for my hand and pulled me down beside him. “I get that you’re worried, Vic. We both are. And if things are no clearer after we’ve seen the doc, we’ll go straight to the hospital.”
I bent to kiss the top of my daughter’s head. Her eyelids fluttered and closed again.
As I sat up, I noticed Stacey gazing at us with interest. The village nosy parker was probably looking for a story to keep her friends entertained. Our eyes met, and she quickly turned away.
I chewed at the inside of my cheek, a habit I’d formed when in stressful situations as a child. It would be sore later.
At the sound of a buzzer, we both turned towards Stacey, who got to her feet and nodded at the old man. "You can go through now, Mr Delaney.”
All of a sudden, I thought I was going to vomit. I needed to get out. “I’m going for some fresh air. Give me a shout when it’s our turn,” I said, kissing Emily once more before heading for the double doors.
Outside, the chilly afternoon wind took my breath. I sat on the cold, stone surgery steps, pulled my orange woollen jumper over my knees, and hugged my legs. Daffodils filled the two garden squares on either side of the steps.
I sighed as the familiar hollow ache resurfaced between my ribs. Memories of my mother’s daffodil-laden casket brought tears to my eyes. I missed her so much. My fingers closed around her gold locket that I wore on a chain around my neck.
My legs began to bounce with irritation; the long wait had my nerves at screaming point. One of the problems with living in the country was the slow pace of village life. We'd been here almost six years, and I was still trying to acclimatise.
I was used to large surgeries with umpteen doctors to choose from. Here you got who were given, like it or lump it.
We’d sold our veterinary clinic in Manchester after Frank, Jon’s father, had suffered a stroke. Jon was an only child, and the responsibilities of the farm fell solely at his size nines.
Jonathan had been born on the farm, and Doctor Taylor, our family doctor, had even delivered him—as he had most of the children in the area. But Doctor Taylor had gone to New Zealand for a year, leaving a locum in his place.
A hammering on the window behind me jolted me from my daydream. Jonathan was standing behind the glass, waving at me to hurry.
Doctor Davies seemed too young to be fully qualified. He had a large moon-shaped face with a helmet of floppy, fine blond hair atop a head that looked too big for his weedy body.
"Hello—this must be Emily," the doctor said with an overused, insincere smile.
"Hello," Emily whispered.
"Are you feeling poorly, sweetheart?"
I inhaled noisily and raised my eyes to the wooden panelled ceiling before refocusing on Jon.
Jonathan’s eyes flashed at me as he gave his head a tight shake.
I shrugged and turned away, fiddling with the locket at my throat.
Emily nodded and closed her eyes, leaning against Jon's shoulder again.
"She's not been right for a while, doctor. She’s lethargic and clumsy. I don’t know—just off, somehow," Jonathan said.
The doctor nodded, raised his eyebrows and began typing on a keyboard in front of him.
"I’ve been doing some research and I’m positive she has some kind of neurological disorder," I said.
Doctor Davies stopped typing and took off his frameless glasses. His beady brown eyes locked on mine. "Are you a doctor, Mrs—," he glanced at the computer screen, "—Lyons?"
"A vet. I'm a vet—we're vets,” I wiggled a finger between Jon and myself. “And although I'm not a doctor—doctor, I know my stuff,
I know my daughter."
The doctor cleared his throat and sighed. His hands were in a praying position in front of his face, the index fingers touching the tip of his nose, contemplating me.
"I'm sure you do, Mrs Lyons, but let's go through this from the beginning for my benefit, shall we? Then I will try to make my own diagnosis, and we can compare notes later. Is that okay with you?" he said.
His patronizing attitude was starting to get my back up. I bit my lip and stifled a sigh, trying to eyeball Jonathan, who did his best to avoid my stare. Of course the doctor needed to make his own diagnosis, but I didn’t want him poo-pooing Em’s symptoms and just throwing a course of antibiotics at her.
“It started a few months ago,” I said.
“Months?” the doctor’s eyebrows furrowed.
“Yeah, but nothing bad. Just subtle changes at first. Jonathan blamed the clumsiness on her age.”
“Typical five-year-old, doc,” Jon said. “Too impatient to get where she wants to go. She climbs over anything in her path. I thought her falls were nothing more than that.”
The doctor nodded. “So what changed?”
“This weekend, her coordination deteriorated. She struggled to feed herself and she was so clumsy she could fall over her own feet from standing still.” I bent forward and stroked Emily’s face.
“That’s why we made an appointment first thing this morning.” Jon said.
I nodded. “She slept most of the day, but by this afternoon, when I tried to wake her up, her speech had become slurred. She sounded drunk. Obviously I panicked and rang Jonathan, insisting he come home immediately. I wanted to take her straight to the hospital, but he said we should keep the appointment.”
“Do you want to pop Emily onto the table and let me have a quick look at her?” He indicated the examination table in a curtained-off area at the side of the room.
Jonathan carried Emily to the table and tried to lie her down, but she held her body stiff and refused to cooperate.
“Filly, I want Filly,” she cried.
“Shit,” I said, looking around. “Where’s Filly, Jon?”
“At home?” He shrugged.
“No, she had her in the truck.”
“She must still be in the truck, then.”
“I’ll check,” I said. “Emily, let the nice doctor have a look at you and I’ll go and get Filly for you. Okay?”
She nodded, her eyes closing again as Jonathan managed to lie her down.
I suddenly noticed Jon’s face had lost all colour and his normally vibrant grey eyes were dark with black smudges beneath them.
As I stepped through the double doors, a loud crash rang out from the back of the surgery, immediately followed by a car alarm.
I raced down the steps and along the side of the old brick building.
The door to Jonathan's truck stood open, and a man was leaning inside.
I stopped mid-stride. My insides dropped as my hand flew to my mouth. The outrage of this person stealing our belongings propelled me forward.
I grabbed the collar of his red and black checked lumberjack shirt and yanked him backwards.
"Hey!" he yelled, as he found himself flat on his back on the concrete.
I recognized him immediately.
"Well, well. Why am I not surprised? Shane Logan," I said.
He and his family were well known in the area. None of them had had any education, and probably had never done an honest day's work in their lives.
"Fuck off, bitch," he said. His lip lifted in a sneer, and hatred filled his eyes.
"You cheeky little—" Adrenalin coursed through me, exacerbated by all the pent-up anxiety of the past few weeks. A guttural roar escaped me as I smacked him around the head with the flat of my hand.
"Victoria. Stop!" Jonathan yelled as he appeared around the corner. Emily was wrapped around his neck, her pathetic little arms holding on for dear life as Jon ran across the car park towards us.
"Yes, Victoria. Stop," the scumbag mimicked like a child. He was still on the ground, one arm raised above his head as he cowered beneath it, trying to scuttle away from me.
Emily began to cry.
"Call the police, Jon. This piece of shit smashed your window and dismantled your stereo," I said, trying to control the urge to punch the cocky waste of space on his scruffy, ginger goatee. I dug my nails into my palms.
Emily sobbed. “Filly, I want Filly.”
I reached into the back seat and plucked out the scruffy rag doll Emily carried everywhere. I threw it to Jonathan, and Emily snatched it from him and held it to her chest. Jonathan continued to bounce her on his hip and stroke her hair, trying to calm her down.
I turned back to the nasty creature at my feet. "Stand up!"
"Fuck off," he said with a sneer—or maybe it was his pathetic attempt at a smile.
"Watch your mouth, boy," Jonathan said, pulling Emily’s head into his chest and covering her exposed ear.
"You fuck off too, dick'ead." Shane stood up and spun away from us.
"Come back here, Shane," I said.
"Up yours, MILF. You know—Mum I'd like to …" He thrust his disgusting pelvis in my direction, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth and his eyes rolling in mock ecstasy.
"Enough!” Jonathan stepped towards him. “Shift yourself now, Shane, before I kick your arse myself."
"OOO-ooh." Shane’s eyebrows rose as he sneered at Jonathan. He sniffed noisily, then hoicked a large glob of spit on the ground at Jonathan's feet before sauntering off.
My stomach churned. "You dirty little … Jonathan, call the police!" I said, approaching Shane.
Shane rounded the end of the truck then ran, pausing briefly to flip us the finger.
"Why would you just let him go?" I turned on my husband, fuming.
Jonathan had opened the boot of the car and threw a towel at me.
"Clear the glass from the seat while I fasten Emily in,” he said, as though nothing had occurred.
His serious no-nonsense tone worried me. I stared at him, completely lost for words.
"I’ll tell you when we get home."
"What did the doc … ?"
He tipped his head towards our daughter, his eyebrows raised. "When we get home."
Once Emily was snuggled up on the sofa with her favourite fleecy pink blanket, watching a DVD, Jonathan nodded his head towards the kitchen.
I got up and followed him.
"Now can you tell me why you did that?" I was stalling, not yet ready for him to tell me what the doctor said that got him so worked up.
"Did what?" A puzzled expression crossed his face.
"Did what? Are you serious? He smashed your window, for Christ's sake. He'd have had your stereo and anything else he could get his thieving little mitts on if I hadn't stopped him." I couldn't believe he didn’t seem to care. I shook my head, bewildered.
“Oh, that.” He rubbed a hand over his chiselled, bristly jaw.
“Yes, that!” I said, exasperated.
"To be honest, Shane Logan is the least of our worries right now, Vic," he said, his eyes filled with concern.
"Why? What did the doctor say?" I braced myself for bad news. Spine-tingling dread began spreading through my entire body.
The kitchen door opened and Frank, Jonathan's father, shuffled in. He froze as he realised we were deep in conversation.
"Sorry, am I interrupting?" Frank said, and turned to leave.
"No, Dad, come in. You need to hear this too.”
"Hear what?" I shivered as each tiny hair on the back of my neck stood to attention.
Frank closed the door and, leaning heavily on his stick, limped over to stand beside his only son.
Jon cleared his throat.
"Doctor Davies agrees with you, Vic. He's going to refer Emily to a specialist for tests." His eyebrows furrowed, and a pained expression filled his eyes.
"Oh my God. Oh my God," I cried, grabbing Jon’s arm to steady myself.
I'd been saying she was sick for weeks, and Jon insisted I was overprotective, but I knew. Call it mother's intuition— call it what the hell you like—but I knew.