Nancy had completed Big Ben by the time dusk descended. She would leave the sky for him. The sky was nothing but blue – an expanse of blue. She took his crutch for a walk across the meeting room for its reunion with the other. The wind had dropped by the time she had reached the back door and she made out a lurching shadow beyond the box hedge. She hoped he could see her silhouette against the backlight. She would stand here until her knees tired. The shape seemed to stop and then she realised he was shifting his crutch to the other side. The shape did several motions at once without really moving – a sort of hobble, a sort of hop, a shuffle. Nancy did not think the shape would ever make it past the garages. The CCTV above the lintel would be sending the feed to the monitor right now; a shape morphing from the shadows, moving yet not moving.
Nancy crossed her arms. The security light flicked on. His ghastly form bleached her eyes. Sweat left a sickly patina on his face; grass stains tarnished his sweatshirt. Canted hips skewed his legs. How many times had that crutch served his left side, and then his right? How many times had he crawled? No one inhabited his face for the death of muscle tone. His eyes had all but closed; his lower lip detached from the upper, a murmur skulked within each wheeze. His crutch skittered against the patio slabs. He stopped, he lurched, he staggered onboard. He grasped his crutch with both hands as though to push it into the ground, and proceeded to lower himself down. A wall of defiance surged inside her. ‘Don’t you dare!’
His pleas timed-in with each exhalation. ‘You took my crutch…’
‘Yes, Mr. Jonas.’
His crutch fell with a clatter. Vince’s hands sought out the patio floor. His elbows trembled. ‘My legs…’
‘Don’t give me that!’ Her tone could not be sharp enough. ‘I’ve heard all the excuses in the world.’ The space between patio and sweatshirt continued to lessen. Fury shot up from within. She stepped towards him. ‘Get up.’ Vince was finally prostrate on the floor, his limbs spread-eagled across the slabs.
Nancy wasn’t moved. He had brought this on himself. ‘I said, get up!’
His profile came to rest upon the slabs, his eye now closed, his mouth open. She had seen that face before, atopped a slumped form in various positions and locations: on the stairs, on the living room carpet, at doorways. You know I love ya, Nancy. She grit her teeth as the image of him kissing his palm flooded her brain. ‘You loser!’ Her hands shook. ‘You stinking lousy loser! I knew you’d sell-out in the end! I knew you’d give in! I hope it rains on you!’
She brought the tip of her Oxfords to the tip of his nose. She arrowed her palm at his head. ‘Hand them over.’ The insensate, she had learned, complied little more than the sober, using their state to be awkward. She decided she hadn’t the time and her fingers slid with practiced ease into the back pocket of his slacks. As her fingers encountered the container, she revisited the betrayal in the drawing room along with a chain of betrayals converging into the distance. Nancy’s life had taught her lies can be dressed up in creative way, like shit in a multi-coloured coat. Sheila had a rack of excuses for her only daughter and right now, Nancy would rather not hear Vince’s version of events. She clutched the pill bottle; she clutched the hipflask. She unscrewed the top of the former. She upended it, just as Vince had done so by the oak tree and white pills spilled into her palm.
‘What are these, Mr. Jonas?’ she seethed and flung them into the night. A hiss returned as the pills rebounded against the slabs like dried peas. Vince’s leg twitched. ‘And wasn’t it a little early in the day for this?’ She uncapped the hipflask which bore a Jack Daniels logo. She took a sniff and detected none of the nectar to remind her of home. She sneered and took a nip. The dregs coated her tongue with orange juice. The floor tumbled. A ten-ton arm brought the pill bottle to reading distance and she recognized the label immediately; one that had caused her to preserve its contents from her dispatch down the toilet along with his scotch: paracetamol. And by the amount she had hurled into the night, he had not taken much.
Vince emitted a groan. The security light picked her out. The CCTV picked her out. The monitor screen exhibited her on the lower right holding an empty paracetamol bottle and an empty hipflask that had once contained fruit juice. Vince’s prostrate form and a single crutch lay at her feet. This wasn’t very nurse of her. She had lost the Nora. She should have known. She had permitted the shabbiness of Glebe Hollow to sneak in. What had she become?