The Real Mrs. Docherty, a short story by richardmack. Date added: 2008-02-02. Times viewed: 809.
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- Intro: Mrs. Docherty sits by her dying husband's side, but when he utters his final words they are not for her...
- The machine beeped away regularly, monotonously; Marie immune to its noises now as she clasped her husband's hand. He lay on the bed face up, motionless, wires taped all over his face and body. Marie stared at her husband, her vacant face giving away nothing of the inner turmoil she was suffering.
Marie knew that the marriage had been on the rocks for a while now and she was convinced Terry knew it too. Something had changed in her husband and she couldn't fathom it out; his attention to her had become disjointed, sporadic; he'd become more moody and ever more distant. If she didn't know any better she'd say it was the behaviour of a man having an affair, but she was unable to face up to this possibility; kept telling herself she had no proof - which actually she didn't - but as he lay there now...she knew that she'd been hiding from this possibility - not wanting to find out what he was up to for fear of what it would mean for her.
To Marie it wasn't just this that was wrong. She didn't think she had felt the same way about Terry for some time now, and perhaps the 'affair' (could she call it that without any concrete proof?) could turn out to be a blessing in disguise in a strange sort of way.
She looked at Terry again, bitterly now. You bastard, she thought; why did this have to happen? Why did you...why did you have to put me through this aswell? she wiped a tear away hurriedly, the first tear of the day. She had told herself earlier that she would cry for him no more having wept most of yesterday as if he were already dead.
Marie's grip on her husband's hand tightened for a few moments then loosened again; she looked out of the window, seeing a clear day, a white sky, the tips of a large old tree. She sighed then looked back to Terry, studying him now, noticing every grey hair on the sides of his head that had emerged these last few years, seeing the hairs protruding from his large pointed nose, the tight veins of his neck.
Fifty-four years old last month, Marie thought to herself; what would lie in store for me if Terry leaves me now? And...divorce? I mean, what am I thinking? How could I think that when he's lying here, maybe never to wake up? What is wrong with me? All these thoughts flew around in her mind as she looked towards her husband; more of a blurred look now, seeing more of the white pillows and the wall behind his head than Terry himself.
She had barely thought of the children, not that they were really children anymore. Sean was probably snowboarding in Canada or wherever he was, Lindsey teaching English over in Japan. She wondered how much they thought of her and what had made them both want to live a life abroad.
A young nurse came in to the room and Marie twisted round from the waist to look briefly, the nurse giving her a sympathetic smile. The nurse made a few checks, wrote something on her clipboard then walked by Marie and placed her hand on the seatback for a moment.
'Can I get you anything Mrs. Docherty?'
'Can I get you anything...tea, coffee...'
'No, no...it's okay.'
Marie didn't look at the nurse at all, away in another world.
'Do you want to take a walk for a while Mrs. Docherty? You can always come back, and we'll tell you immediately if there's any change.'
Marie looked up to the nurse then, wide-eyed as if aware of her for the first time.
'Yes...yes...okay,' she looked back to her husband on the bed, her hand still clasped in his - loosely now - but she couldn't let go somehow, as if letting go of his hand was to let go of everything they had.
'In a moment nurse...I'll just stay here...' she finished speaking in mid-sentence, then the nurse rubbed the top of her back gently.
'Okay' the nurse said softly, 'but take a break soon, it will do you good.'
The nurse left the room and Marie suddenly felt more alone than she'd ever felt in her whole life. She struggled to get a tissue from her bag, as she broke out into sudden, full sobs of pain and misery.
Five minutes later she looked back towards the door, not knowing why, then she felt something on her hand. It didn't register straight away, she thought it must be a trick her mind was playing on her, but then she swung round urgently and it was her husband! He was gripping her hand very lightly, rubbing it slowly with his thumb. Marie leaned forward hurriedly, right up beside her husband's neck, looking on him as his eyes flickered gently. She held his hand tighter in one hand, rubbing it busily with the other, tears of a different kind wanting to fall but staying put for now.
Marie leaned forward, seeing Terry's eyes flickering slightly open, noticing he was trying to talk; she stroked his hair, looking on him fondly now, her earlier bitterness instantly forgotten.
'Don't struggle darling, you must rest,' she gasped; Terry pressed his wife's hand lightly again. He was talking now, barely in a whisper as Marie leaned in as close as she could get.
'Where...' he was struggling for breath.
'Ssssshhhh...don't try to speak...you need to rest,' Marie caressed his hand smoothly. Terry seemed to visibly slump even though he was already sunk down in the bed. He leaned up a few centimetres again, a pained look of near despair on his face, his eyes just barely open.
'Where is...?' Marie stopped dead not getting as far as "who."
She breathed in deeply and quickly then sat back putting her hand to her forehead, squeezing there, a slight headache coming to her from the stress and tiredness of the last thirty-six hours. She sat staring now, a gaunt look on her face, the nurse came and went and tried to speak to her but she was completely unaware of it. Two doctors and a nurse were soon at the bedside and the Doctors were consulting and busy around Terry, who had fallen unconscious again. Marie at that moment didn't know where she was.
A nurse escorted her out of the room; Marie hunched over now, arms folded as she ambled away, her eyes red and wet. Inside the room the two Doctors were talking resignedly shaking their heads and half an hour later one of them stepped out.
'Where is Mrs. Docherty?' he asked the nurse. The nurse looked around and walked halfway up the corridor. She couldn't see the woman anywhere. She walked back towards the Doctor, vaguely aware of a slightly younger blonde lady sitting down twenty metres from the door. Funny, she hadn't been there before, thought the nurse. She was sat staring down at the floor, totally expressionless. The lady looked up, immediately meeting the gaze of the Doctor, a quiet and terrible shared knowledge passing between them.
Not far away, Marie was outside, walking; she took a long, long walk.
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