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Wednesday, 20 July 2011

CHAPTER 36


It was white.
Everything around seemed to be white or at least bright.  There was a brilliant light shining, broken only by blurred shadows and faint noises.  It was calm.  She was calm.  Except for occasional sudden movements around her.  It was peaceful.
“Stay with me, Maxine,” came a voice out of the air.  “Stay with me.  We’re taking good care of you.”
***
“Cass, Cass, can you come here?”  Matt’s voice was a little more high-pitched than usual.  Cass came to the front door.
“It’s the police,” he said.  “Something’s happened to Max.”  Cass gulped.
“Come in,” said Matt to the policeman.  “Would you like a cup of tea?”
“No, thank you.  I need to get a few things done.  We identified a young girl who was involved in a road traffic accident.  This address was on a letter in the pocket of her fleece.  Maxine Webb.  Does she live here?’
“She’s our flatmate,” said Matt.  Cass had her hand to her mouth.
“Is she…….?” Cass blurted out a half-question, but everyone knew what the other half was.
“She’s in hospital.  I can’t comment on her condition except to say that she was brought in alive.  So, just to be official for a minute, you confirm that this is Maxine Webb’s current address?” The policeman fiddled with his notebook and pen.
“Yes,” answered Matt.  Cass was sobbing.  Matt put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close.
“I just need a few more details – your full names, how long Maxine has lived here and if you have any information about her next of kin.”  While Matt was giving some of the information, Cass went to Maxine’s room and found the address and telephone number of her parents.  After the policeman had gone, Matt and Cass got ready to go to the hospital.
“We had a row, Matt,” said a subdued Cass.
“What about?”  Matt was tying a scarf around his neck.  Cass pointed to her wall.  Matt walked over to read it.  He smiled at the heart and grimaced at the writing on the other sheet.  He turned round to Cass with a look of horror.
“She saw that?” asked Matt.  Cass nodded and burst into tears.  Matt took her in his arms.
“I probably did her head in with all my stupid, selfish honesty and she must have been distracted when she crossed the road.  I’m responsible.”
“Cass,” said Matt sternly, “stop this nonsense.  You can’t blame yourself.  It sounds like an accident.  That’s all.  An accident.  Let’s go to the hospital.”
They said nothing on the bus.  In fact, the first words uttered on the journey were at the hospital reception.  They were directed to the Accident & Emergency department where they were told to wait in the public seating area.  As they were not relatives of Maxine’s, they were given very little information but they felt compelled to stay, just in case they were needed or if Maxine called their names or whatever happened.  They just felt they had to be there.
“Isn’t that Tom from downstairs?” Matt asked Cass, pointing discretely to a man in the corner of the waiting room.  His head was bowed but Cass nodded.  Matt walked over to him.
“It’s Tom, isn’t it?  I’m Matt, from up stairs in Maple Court.  Cass is over there.  We were at your party.”  Tom looked up.
“Oh, yeah, I remember.  What are you doing here?  Has something happened?”  Tom looked at Matt and then back at Cass.
“No, no, we’re fine but our flatmate Maxine has been in an accident and we rushed here in case we could do something or help in some way.”  Tom bowed his head again.
“She was knocked down near Maple Court, according to the police and it sounds as if she is in bad shape.  Are you okay?  Is there anything wrong?  Can I get you a coffee?”  Tom looked back at Tom, over to Cass and then stood up.  Tom could see that he had been crying.  His eyes were red.  He went to say something but stayed silent for a few moments.  Tom noticed that he looked very ill at ease, nervous about something.
“A coffee would be great, thanks.” Said Tom finally.  “I’ll give you the money.”
“Don’t worry about that.  I’ll get it.  Do you want to sit with us?”  Matt pointed to Cass.  Tom nodded, got up and moved to a chair next to Cass. 
“I’ll get the drinks,” said Matt as he rushed off to find a machine. After five minutes, he returned holding three cups between the fingers of both hands.
“Take them quick.  They’re burning my fingers.”  Cass took two cups and handed one to Tom.  Matt noticed a strange look on her face.
“What’s up?  Any news about Max?” he asked, taking a sip of coffee.
“Matt, sit down.” Cass outstretched her hand to him.  “We’ve something to tell you.”  Matt looked at Cass, then to Tom before he sat down. 
“Matt, Tom was the driver,” she said quietly.  It took Matt several seconds for the message to register.  “He was the driver that hit Maxine,” she clarified.  Tom squirmed in his seat, spilling his coffee a little on the floor as his hands began to shake.  Matt stood up suddenly and started walking back and forward in front of the two of them.
“What? How? Were you speeding?  Were your drinking? Do the police know?  What the hell is going on?”  Cass stood up and touched his shoulder.
“Calm down, “ she said, squeezing his arm.
“It was hit and run,” said Tom, out of the blue.  I knew I’d hit something but I didn’t know it was someone until later.  I just lost my nerve and just kept driving.  I stopped a few miles away, parked the car in a side street and got a taxi back to the accident.  I wasn’t sure who the girl was.  I knew it was a girl and I heard an ambulance guy say that they were taking her to this hospital.  So I got another taxi and came here to sit and wait.”  Cass and Matt looked at each other.
“So, the police don’t know it was you,” said Matt.  Tom nodded.
“You can tell them, if you want.  You won’t be grassing me up.  I just needed time to think, time to understand what I’d done.  Tell them.”
Matt headed for the hospital reception and reported what had happened.
***
“Stay with me, Maxine,” came a voice out of the air.  “Stay with me.  We’re losing her.  We’re losing her.”

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