Many visitors came that day to Martin's hospital room. He hadn't minded Aunt Ruth, or Chris Parsons, at all, or Roger and Maureen, or even Joy and Peter Cronk. But the stream had been endless, even a couple of prying reporters, Louisa too nice to curtail all the good wishes. She collected the cards into a pile, and ran out of space for the flowers. She stood turning about searching for another empty area to place the new vase.
"Try the rubbish bin," Martin suggested.
She gave Martin one of those looks, but there was a playful air about it. Ah, yes, everything was back to normal. There was something absolutely fine about that.
Martin walked slowly to Garvey's room later that day and they chatted quietly for a little bit, Garvey wiping his mouth every now and then. Garvey also had some cards and flowers strewn about the room. He was learning to swallow again and would soon begin physical therapy. No one knew how much recovery he might obtain. The MRI had proven Martin's belief he'd had a lacunar stroke. At least he was left with his speech and alertness.
"I'm getting hooked up with the Cornwall Stroke Service. I suppose they'll coordinate through you, my GP."
"I want to thank you, Martin," he said, switching for the first time from Doctor Ellingham to Martin's first name. "You saved my life."
"No, I didn't."
Garvey nodded. "Listen, I know you're a rude old bugger, grumpy and asocial, but do me a favor. Drop by now and then while I'm in rehab, and say hello." He held out his right hand.
Martin easily shook it. "Yes. I'll visit."
Martin came home from hospital the next day, wearing the suit Louisa had brought from home. Louisa drove his Lexus through the pouring rain; it really was a nasty autumn. Martin's head ached, even without having a skull fracture. The swollen egg on his forehead stretched his skin and was painful to touch. His back sometimes sent lightning jolts through his flank, he was incredibly stiff and sore, and he felt depleted, empty, as if he had run a million miles.
"Nice being home," she said as they passed through the front door.
The rest of the afternoon went quickly with Louisa chasing away visitors and then volunteering to make supper. Martin spent the hours on the living room couch, having little energy to do anything else but watch some news and perused the paper, ignoring the little article about a Port Wenn GP and patient lost at sea. He napped a little and when he awoke, he held James Henry, rubbing his baby's head, and then began reading a medical journal to him.
Louisa held out a little children's book. "Try this instead."
Martin took the book and looked at the title, as Louisa returned to the kitchen. "Fire engines cannot speak," he said.
"So, reading to him about cervical cancer occurrence in obese women is better?" Louisa answered, over her shoulder, as she began preparing supper.
"He doesn't know what a cervix is."
"Martin! Really! Just read the fire engine story."
Martin opened the book while Louisa added, "He likes the siren to go OOH-EE! OOH-EE! OOH-EE! Nice and booming."
Somehow Martin made it through that section, his siren about as cacophonous as a coma patient.
"Louder," she called out from the kitchen sink.
Martin glanced her way and upped the vocals half a decibel. He paused in the middle to report to Louisa, "The fire engine is jealous of his cousin the racing car? The mechanical genetics of this story are capricious and imprecise."
Louisa finished opening up the can of tomato soup and smiled. "Wait until you meet his mother, the golf buggy."
"Rubbish," he said, putting the book down. He picked up another medical journal and scanned the titles, a bit more carefully than before. As Louisa was setting the table, she heard Martin begin, "Hypothyroidism is one of the commonest disorders in Western populations. In the United Kingdom, the annual incidence of primary hypothyroidism in women is 3.5 per 1000 and in men 0.6 per 1000..."
Louisa sighed. At least it wasn't cervical cancer. At least he was reading to their child. At least he was home. She no longer needed Isobel's angel on her shoulder to appreciate that.
Martin watched Louisa put the fish into the oven. His voice trailed off and Louisa turned at the unexpected quiet, and their eyes locked.
"You're beautiful, Louisa," he said. "Absolutely beautiful."
"Oh," she said, pulling down her top and checking her hair, rather abashed by his sudden compliment. "Thank you, Martin."
"You're welcome. And, I love you."
He then continued on, James Henry fluttering arms and toothless smile showing Martin his utter enthrallment. "Furthermore, a small but significant proportion of patients continue to feel unwell despite taking Levothyroxine…."
Yes, she no longer needed Isobel.