Chapter 24 – Blindness

The ambulance finally pulled away with Timmy, after we contacted his father who met them before they drove to hospital for tests. Martin thought it prudent to pull out the stops. I head him muttering about ruling out meningitis.

David our janitor was spreading a liberal coating of a product he called 'Urps-up" on the hallway so he could dispose of the disgusting mess there. He was whistling cheerily away, and I asked him how he could stand the mass spill.

He grinned and stuck out his tongue. "This stuff, miss? Naw, this isn't so bad at all! Now when I was in the Royal Navy and we was a bucketing along through the South Atlantic at flank speed on the way to the Falklands, now that was a mess."

He laughed and went on. "Why miss, we had white water coming over the bow and hittin' the bridge windows ninety feet above the sea. And the ship was rollin' and shakin' in a viscous cross swell. That was a mess! There was a whole company of Royal Marines a swimmin' in this sort of stuff in the 'tween deck berthing space. Now that was a MESS!" And plying a shovel and broom, went back to work.

I left David and walked outside. PC Joe Penhale and Martin were having a confab.

Joe gave Martin a conspiratorial wink. "Now, doctor," he said, "I trust you won't be telling anyone, I was uh…"

"No," interrupted Martin.

"...indisposed. Would you?"

"No, I won't."

"Well, you know I wouldn't want it said that I was unable to stand the sight of a little…"

"Shut up, Joe! Now clear out!" yelled Martin.

"Ok, doctor." Joe gave me a bit of sheepish smile. "I'll be leavin', you two… to uh…"

I glared at him. "To what, Joe?"

Joe looked from me to Martin and back to me. "Right!" Then he walked away. "Doctor!" he called over his shoulder, "you and me - the dynamic duo once again!"

"Sodding oaf," said Martin through clenched teeth.

"Oh, Martin let him go. Joe is just…"

"Irritating?" replied the doctor.

I looked at him. "Now how can you see that in other people, and not…"

"What?"

"Nothing," I said and patted him on the arm. The patrol rover started up and drove away with Joe happily waving to us. Joe might be irritating, but he is friendly. I just wished he hadn't surprised us quite the way he had on Friday night, and just when things were getting interesting. Very!

The children inside had been tended to by the teaching staff, who thought it best to send them home, if possible. Maureen and Trudy managed to reach all their parents, and of course Emma's mother was right here. In fact the poor woman was still perched on the wall by the fence. She looked rather overcome.

Alicia was sitting by her, patting her hand. I went to them as Martin started to pack up his medical case.

"Mrs. Neale, are you alright?" I asked her gently.

Alicia looked up and mouthed the word 'no,'

Stacy Neale looked at me and there were tears running down her face.

"Oh, Mrs. Neale – Stacy – what is the matter?"

She twisted a tissue into a knot and dabbed at her face, where her eye makeup was starting to run. "Oh…" she started, "Frank and I have been trying for years… and we'd given up. Of course," she blew her nose, "we have Emma, but she's ten now. Always wanted a little sister or brother for her."

Alicia hugged Stacy. "And now you will. It'll be ok."

"Sure dear." I added. "What say we…"

Martin butted in. "Before you three females get all gooey, Mrs. Neale, I'd like you to come to surgery and we can perform a pregnancy test. Although I'm certain it will confirm my…"

I blew up. "Martin for God's sake, can you give us a little privacy! Back off!"

He did and went to the wall and looked out over the harbor. From the rigidity of his body he was clearly most disturbed.

"Honestly," started Alicia, "he can be so odd at times."

"Only odd?" laughed Stacy. "I'd add weird, peculiar, strange, mean, rude…"

"Now wait just a minute, you two," I began, "I'll have you know…"

"What's that Louisa? You are defending Martin?" Stacy smiled through her tears.

Alicia helped her. "And you know just last week he was so loud at a home visit to my neighbor, I could hear every word he said, right through the wall! Practically screaming, he was."

I felt my hands clench into fists. "Alicia, I know for a fact that the cottage on one side of you is empty, and on the other side lives old Mr. Carnes, and he's as deaf as post! Martin, erh, Doctor Martin, was only speaking up so the poor man could hear!"

Stacy and Alicia gave one another a look. The type of look that people give each other when they are thinking the same thought.

"What?" I asked.

Their communal moment continued.

"Come on – out with it!"

"Oh, nothing," began Alicia.

Stacy finished for her. "Just wondering!"

"Well the two of you can just go on wondering all you like! Martin Ellingham is a brilliant doctor, and if he wasn't we'd have had to ship the whole lot of you off to hospital!"

"Don't get so angry, Louisa! Just…" added Stacy.

"Listen, Stacy hadn't you trot over to surgery so you can wee in a bottle of something?"

"Louisa! No need to be rude, dear. The time will come, when you might be right where I am now." She patted her belly. "And I don't mean sitting on a stone wall, either."

"Oh, yes… so sorry, Stacy. But it's been a very stressful morning."

"Yes, it has." Stacy stood. "Oh, I'd better get my coat; I left it inside. And I'll say goodbye to Emma then off to wee in a bottle!" She walked into the building with a confident stride.

Alicia was giving me the other half of that funny look.

"You too?" I asked.

"No, just…" she turned to go. "I think you should go tell Doc Martin how much you appreciate his…" she grinned a little then went on, "amazing powers of investigation." She wrapped it up with a huge grin.

As my fellow teacher went to the building, I turned and went to Martin. He'd turned as well and was watching me. I went close to him, and he opened his mouth.

"Louisa, where did Mrs. Neale go?"

"Said she left her coat and to say goodbye to her daughter."

"Well…"

"Certainly been an interesting morning hasn't it?"

"Yes." He looked down at me. "I, erh, was wondering…"

"Yes, Martin?" I batted my eyes at him. I don't think he noticed.

"Do you think… that we should, well, I mean we might…" He stopped then and the silence grew.

I could see a bead of sweat grow on his forehead – his large forehead. The one that I kissed so well and long the other night. "Yes, Martin I think we should."

"Should what?"

"You know, go on."

"Well, I was thinking…" he cleared his throat. "You should probably…"

"Yes, Martin?"

"Have your janitor completely disinfect the hallways of the entire school, and the classrooms, as well as the grounds out of doors. No telling what may or may not have been tracked in or out."

I could only sigh. "Oh! Of course, if you think so…" Damn it! I thought he was asking about dinner. Ah, Louisa, you'll have to invite him. Well you did mention dinner at your cottage. But back to the present… dinner must wait. "I'll have David get on that."

"Well, then I'll be off." He picked up his bag.

"Thanks, Martin. If you hadn't been here… it would have been a real disaster."

"You don't call six students and two adults vomiting at once a disaster?"

I could only laugh.

"What's so funny?"

What an obtuse man. "Oh Martin!" I stretched my neck to kiss his cheek. Then the smell hit me. "Martin, dear, you smell like," I grimaced, "vomit."

"Sorry. I'd better, uhm…" he started, but then he kissed my hair – lucky hair.

Then off he went and I could only stand there watching him go with my heart pounding. Dear awkward and intelligent Martin marching away. Some of the sunshine went with him

-x-

That was a strange moment – one that I keep having with Louisa. But Friday night's embraces came to me as I strode across the schoolyard, medical case banging against my leg. I simply must figure out a way to manage to kiss that woman more often. I do love her, but I'm not sure that she loves me.

Then something occurred to me. Something so obvious, I had totally missed it.

I turned round and Louisa was standing there watching me go. She waved.

"Louisa?" I asked. "Did you just call me dear?"

-x-

I'd filled the bin with the worst of the kid's vomit. I don't care what Doc Martin said. Seems to me it was all some plot to make more work for me. Hysteria my arse! The floor was almost clean now; well not clean enough to eat off of, but the worst of the mess was gone.

Almost as bad as those Royal Marines on the HMS Reliable. The best of all was old Seargent-Major Tompkins lying in a great pool of the stuff as the ship pitched and rolled. Him always so proper - uniform just so. He wasn't that spit and polish right then – more spit than anything! Hah!

I shoveled more of the goo into the wheelie bin and sighed. It's always 'David do this' and 'David do that' in this school. Hard to get a bit of respect from these young teachers. By they sure do rely on me to keep the old school in some sort of shape!

I spied Doc Martin and Louisa standin' so close like. Almost like they was – well look at that! Miss Louisa did kiss him, almost, although she doesn't look happy about it!

And Martin, that rude tosser, now he kisses her on the top of the head!

Well. I never! Seems like there's somethin' going on between those two.

He'd an odd duck – surgeon afraid of the red stuff – and with those wide ears and short hair – not much to look at! Always decked out in a suit too, almost like a bloody uniform. But he is a wonder at doctorin'.

Now Louisa, she's nice on the eyes like, but by God she has her opinions, and she's not afraid to voice her mind either! She can run the men off! And there hasn't been anybody flockin' about her recently either, except for that architect from London, but he's been gone since last year.

I peer into the wheelie bin. God this stuff does stink!

Through the open door, I can see Martin and Louisa staring at each other in the schoolyard. Poor buggers both of them. Blind fools.

Well they say that love is blind and lovers cannot see. Beauty's in the eye of the beholder, and all that.

- The End -

Dear Doc Martin fans, this story is set in season three, after the profession of love by Martin to Louisa.

A big thanks to the creative powers behind Doc Martin, writers, staff, producers, directors, tech people, and the cast for making the TV universe of Port Wenn and the characters of Martin and Louisa and the rest so compelling, interesting, and even addictive.

Also, thanks to all of you, the readers of fan fiction, for enthusiastic feedback, all the encouragement and tips, as well as the sheer fun that this story has been for me to write.

Cheers,

Rob