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Sleepyhead Shares a Secret

Sleepyhead Shares a Secret

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Sleepyhead Shares a Secret

Lunghezza:
560 pagine
10 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jun 7, 2011
ISBN:
9781458110879
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Comedy and romance is what happens to Sabrina as she's trying to get her head around becoming a young widow. Her great-aunt dies and Sabrina discovers a long lost relative, who is a bit of a challenge to say the least.
Sabrina also suffers from a severe sleep disorder as she deals with her family, friends, ex-boyfriends and neighbors. Then throw in the street party from hell, just as something scary is found in a nearby shed.
Sabrina starts off dating a doctor but swiftly falls for her mother's new husband. So she tries to hide this fact but when a couple of male escorts make her acquaintance, some secrets will tend to come out in the end.
Only a decent night's sleep stands between her and a descent into a very deep hole. All in all, she'll be a lucky lady indeed to come out of it alive.

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jun 7, 2011
ISBN:
9781458110879
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Maureen Reil writes comic commercial fiction and has had over 35 books published, so far, but she's always working on a new manuscript so she wishes to add to that tally with lots of new titles before she's done and dusted. She was born in the city of Liverpool and resides in semi-rural Lancashire UK, but longs to live by the sea. It was always a dream of hers to become a novelist and thanks to her readers, she has fulfilled that ambition, so she couldn't be more grateful if she tried. And Maureen hopes you enjoying reading her books as much as she enjoys writing them.

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Sleepyhead Shares a Secret - Maureen Reil

Sleepyhead Shares a Secret

By Maureen Reil

Copyright 2011 Maureen Reil

This book is entirely a work of fiction.

The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

Maureen Reil asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

Also by the author Maureen Reil

Chick-Lit By Any Other Name (Chick-Lit Collection)

Chick-Lit By Any Other Name 2 (Chick-Lit Collection)

Lily Loves To Love

I Hate Me, Who Do You Hate?

I Did Write What I Know

Chick-Lit Saved My Life (Chick-Lit Trilogy book 1)

Chick-Lit Stole My Life (Chick-Lit Trilogy book 2)

Chick-Lit Staged My Life (Chick-Lit Trilogy book 3)

Chick-Lit Collection

Chick-Lit Trilogy

Mistletoe And Wine (Christmas Comedy Trilogy)

Mistletoe And Wine 2 (Christmas Comedy Trilogy)

Mistletoe And Wine 3 (Christmas Comedy Trilogy)

Christmas Comedy Trilogy

Let’s Get Married (Let’s Get Funny Fiction)

Let’s Get Together (Let’s Get Funny Fiction)

Let’s Get It Started (Let’s Get Funny Fiction)

Let’s Get Serious (Let’s Get Funny Fiction)

Let’s Get Ready To Rumble (Let’s Get Funny Fiction)

Let’s Get Physical (Let’s Get Funny Fiction)

The Finch Family Short Break (Comical Vacations Book 0)

The Finch Family Holiday 1 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Holiday 2 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Holiday 3 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Holiday 4 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Holiday 5 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Easter Holiday 6 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Bank Holiday 7 (Comical Vacations)

The Finch Family Christmas Holiday 8 (Comical Vacations)

A Granny Is For Life, Not Just Christmas

Let’s Get Funny Fiction 1 (Three-Book Bundle)

Let’s Get Funny Fiction 2 (Three-Book Bundle)

Let’s Get Funny Fiction (Six-Book Box Set)

Comical Vacations 1 (Three-Book Bundle)

Comical Vacations 2 (Three-Book Bundle)

Comical Vacations 3 (Three-Book Bundle)

Wed To The Wrong Wayne

Christmas Crackers

The Desperate Dater’s Intervention

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Things Can Only Get Better

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Dedicated to Auntie Chris &

Uncle Stan Hitchman

Chapter One

What shall I do with these gold rings? I hadn’t even thought about it until now as I clasped them in the palm of my left hand, should I sell them and give the money to his favourite charity? What would be his choice? I don’t really know to be honest, it was not something that we’d ever discussed and I don’t believe anyone goes into serious detail when they talk about their futures together (the sad thing is, the wedding bands were together longer than we were in the end). And I guess it’s too late now for him to take them with him. Unless of course I did a spot of ‘grave digging’ in the dead of night, only knowing my luck I’d get to the wrong casket and then get arrested for disturbing the priest when he discovers me in the middle of a mound of earth and squinting like a giant, sleepy mole in my fluffy pyjamas and matching slippers. I smile to myself at the vision that this evokes in my head, because I’m certain that George would find the whole thing hilarious if I did try and bury them with him.

Mind you, saying that, surely I can think of better ways to dispose of the said items if I really put my weary mind to it. I bet the royal family don’t have such a problem – for they have a wedding coming up and maybe – I should take heed and follow their example of using ‘hand-me-down’ rings. God, I’m making them sound like paupers not princes now but unfortunately, I don’t have any relatives that are getting married so bang goes that idea. Perhaps, I should hold on to them and wait for my niece to tie the knot. Come to think about it, I can’t envisage her wanting something that isn’t positively the height of fashion. Therein, I live in hope that they will find their way onto another loving finger one of these days.

The phone in the hallway suddenly rang out into the silence of the house where I live. It made me jump for at the time, I was totally lost in a world of memories that were hidden so deep within me that I fought with myself in order to come back to reality. But I must, nevertheless, I tried to ignore the phone as best as I could while smelling his jacket and wrapping the arms around me for comfort before I shoved a couple of massive, cotton wool balls into my ears in a bid to deafen the annoying noise that wanted to disturb my inner peace. Only some sounds stick in your brain and I swear that I could still hear it even when the caller clearly gave up, before trying again a couple of minutes later. To which, I’d cleverly had the foresight to switch off my mobile one, but obviously not the mains. And whoever it was, must have known that I was at home – because they wouldn’t give-up altogether and leave me the hell alone to do the one job that I’ve been putting off since that terrible day when tragedy struck my very being to the core and thankfully – it was only for the second time in my life that I’d had to deal with it.

The first being the death of my beloved father and at the time – I didn’t think anything could top that but it did – seeing as all this becoming a widow stuff hurt even more than I’d ever thought possible. The thing that really got to me today and unexpectedly produced a load of pent-up tears which poured out of me like some kind of sprinkler system was the very item that frankly I loathed and had begged him not to buy, let alone wear. But George really loved that tacky, Hawaiian shirt; in fact I should have buried him in it and sensing that surely this was my first mistaken decision that I’d made about his funeral, never mind all this fussing over our ‘wedding rings’ business.

It was my day off work and I was finally geared up to tackle the task that I’ve been meaning to get around to for quite a while now. I’d actually started to clear out his side of the walk-in closet. It had been built-in to the deep recess of our L-shaped, master bedroom. And I was going to take the unwanted clothing to that charity shop on the high street. Then, get myself in to more debt by shopping for some new stuff (purely as retail therapy you understand). I finally succumbed to the ringing in my ears and removed one of the cotton wool balls as I answered the phone call which changed all that. Therefore, I had to abandon my plans and promptly head off to my mother’s house instead.

The news was far worse than we’d first thought as I hurried over to pick my mother up and drive her to the local hospital. Her car was in the garage or she would have insisted on collecting me instead. Jemima was my great-aunt on my father’s side and she had been taken in with a bowl infection last Friday. And now doctors have given up all hope of saving her, after the strong antibiotics failed to stop the infection from spreading. She was sadly dying, only because of her old age and frailty; this meant that Jemima was not eligible for an operation seeing as they’d said, she probably wouldn’t make it through surgery.

I drove straight on to the driveway of the Edwardian, semi-detached house and opened the front door with my old key, which I still have since I did used to call this place ‘home’ and somehow, it stills feels the same every time I enter it. Thereby, I shout out ‘mother, I’m here and waiting.’

‘Yes, yes darling. I’ll be right there,’ she replies from one of the upstairs rooms. My mother’s name is Rose which is short for Rosemary and she’s such a merry widow – that she has more dates in one year than a calendar – I could never work that one out. In the large hallway which has an ornate fireplace in it, I stand rather than sit on the bench and wait patiently for my mother to double-check all the window locks in the house. She has had a thing about security; ever since we were burgled when I was about thirteen, give or take a year.

It was when I’d come home from school after staying behind for netball practice with Miss Jenkins (who was built like ‘Le Brick Shithouse’, excuse my French but she was). Anyway, as I went to put my key in the door, I’d noticed that the lock was smashed in. Probably with what looked like a sledge hammer to me but I’m no expert on the matter, so I won’t bang on about it. Poor old Skip the dog must have been terrified as I know I was walking into the mess. And not knowing if the guy was still there or not but I’d wanted to be big, brave and all grownup about it. Luckily, the house seemed to be devoid of the assailant and I didn’t have to tackle him, head-on.

But I had picked up my father’s dusty tennis racket that lay undisturbed in the hall though, just in case. Maybe if he’d used it more often, he wouldn’t have died of a heart attack quite so young. The family, large (Bull Mastiff) pet was shut off in the downstairs cloakroom. He wasn’t much of a guard dog, seeing as he was way too soft and friendly. He’d probably have just licked the burglar to death, rather than actually bite him. I recall that Skip was busy barking his head off but then again, he always did that whenever he wanted to go outside and chase the neighbour’s cat out of our garden. So I’d let him out and off he’d raced towards the kitchen, it wasn’t for the purpose of protecting me though as he ran to his bowl of half eaten dog food and happily began munching away.

I also recall that the chest of drawers was tipped out on the couch and pot plants had been knocked over, while I’d noticed a few missing items instantly. All the paintings and mirrors were hanging slightly wonky so I’d concluded that they’d probably been checked out, whilst looking behind them for a safe. As I hadn’t brought my jewellery into school that day because I had sports and didn’t feel that they would be secure in the locker. I remember galloping up the stairs and bursting in to my bedroom – I’d swung open my wardrobe door and there it was – my little, tin metal safe. It had been smashed open and emptied out of the contents before being thrown back inside. I’d sprawled across my bed and cried as all my best jewellery and one special, ‘handed down’ ring was gone and I was resigned to the fact that it meant, forever.

So I rang my older sister, who lived close by and then the police. My mother and father had let my younger sister, Nadine stay off school because it was her birthday. And the three of them had gone on a day trip to Blackpool as a celebratory treat. They would be none the wiser until they’d gotten home. It was the days before everyman and his dog had acquired a mobile phone. I’d looked around our home and instantly knew that my mother would have been horrified to see the place in such a mess, especially, when we were to have visitors. It didn’t matter that they in turn, were only the cops coming around to investigate a crime scene.

Out of shock or I don’t know what, I’d eagerly started to tidy the rooms by picking up stuff and putting them back where they go. Thereafter, it had suddenly hit me that I was probably moving evidence about. So I’d hastily messed it back up and left it for the officers to inspect. I clearly remember being quite calm when my sister Adele arrived, along with her first baby in one of those big, old-fashioned prams. The ones that would not only comfortably house a child, but could most certainly transport a fridge, given the need to.

And thinking about it, maybe, her little girl was named Polly after the pet parrot which left Adele heartbroken when it had flown away through an open window and never came back. Adele was the one to patiently teach it to say swear words just to annoy our mother. I’d often wondered if she’d have named a little boy ‘Bouncer’, after the dog that replaced the bird and came before Skip. No, she didn’t in the end for her son is called Jake after his father. Unfortunately, Bouncer didn’t last too long in our household, for he was accidently run over by Adele when she was learning to drive. I’m sure she still feels guilty to this day. But I’m happy to report that Skip lived to a ripe old age, only I don’t think any of us lot miss the incontinence that he’d suffered in later years. Have you ever tried to put a nappy on a dog? It’s worse than any troublesome toddler I can tell you from experience on both counts.

I also remembered that reality had then set in – as I’d broken down and sobbed – knowing that I would never be able to replace the precious ring that my great-aunt Jemima had given me. I’d promised her faithfully that I’d look after it and cherish it always. And I felt like I’d let her down or something when it’d been stolen. The ring had a large opal that whichever way you’d looked at it; you could see many different colours on display. I always thought that it had magical powers as a child and if you’d catch it in the right light, it would grant your wish. But then again, I’ve always had a bit of an overactive imagination. Maybe, I should have done something creative with my life, only I think you need the talent to back it up, therefore, I followed the path of ordinariness to the letter.

Adele had made me a cup of whisky tea back on that fateful day with what tasted like it had at least ten spoonfuls of sugar in, being that it was really sickly sweet and strong. But she’d informed me that I needed it to give me a boost after the shock and all, which to me at the time seemed like she was trying to poison me with kindness. Then, the police had turned up and dutifully studied the scene before taking my fingerprints while they questioned me. I’d felt guilty all of a sudden like I had committed the crime. Perhaps, they’d known that I’d tried to tidy up but I said nothing for fear of being in trouble with the law. They’d soon told me that the fingerprints were to distinguish mine from any others. We never heard from them again as far as I know.

So I guess they were right in saying that judging by the mindless mess, it was probably teenagers. They’d also added to that the slim chance of them being caught and us getting our stuff back. And we never did, nor did I set eyes on the beautiful, opal ring with initials engraved on the inside. It was then that I suddenly snap out of my thoughts as my mother speaks ‘Sabrina, do you need to go the toilet before we set off?’ By the way, she still had a habit of treating me sometimes like someone who’s not in control of their own bowel movements.

‘No I’m fine, Mother. . . I went before I came,’ I answer while studying her trendy, new haircut.

‘What’s that lump on the side of your head?’ asked Rose while coming closer for inspection.

‘Oh, I forgot about that. Its cotton wool,’ I reply and hastily lift my hair in order to remove the large ball from my left ear.

‘Well, I need to go to the loo again. I won’t be a minute,’ she said, disappearing off down the hallway in a flash of gold jewellery.

I’m sure she wears it all at once nowadays, just so it won’t be stolen when she leaves the house. My glamorous mother usually dresses way too young for her age and today is no exception, as I observe the fancy bra straps on the otherwise bare shoulders of her low-cut fitted top and tight, pencil skirt that skims her slender figure (ala the look of sexy secretary meets skanky streetwalker). I, on the other hand don’t have on a scrap of make-up and I didn’t even bother to brush my hair. Therefore, I stare at my reflection in the hall mirror and wonder if I need to visit the hairdressers. After all, I’ve had the same boring, long, dark hair for as long as I can remember. Talk about letting yourself go, well I must have ‘left’ without even realising it.

I move closer to the mirror and study my face for the perceived start of the onslaught of wrinkles that’s supposed to suddenly hit women at a certain stage in life, particularly those who like the sun and enjoy a good time along with it. Then, I step back before deciding that I don’t look half bad for the age of twenty-one (in my head) plus what you get when you add eleven more to the number. All right, I’m thirty-two but I’m not happy that I have to own up to it. And being of a relatively sound mind with a keen sense of humour, I simply can’t understand why I’m single once again. Good job, it’s not a full-length mirror though since I am carrying a bit of excess weight in the pudding department. And talk about a muffin top – mine would be more like a cake shelf – given that I have been known to rest them there between bites. But that’s not the reason my bastard of a dead husband went and left me for an old girlfriend that he was reunited with, via his sideline job as a photographer.

Not only is she slimmer than me but smarter too, while having degrees in literature and languages and graduating from Manchester University. I only found out by accident, whilst reading more than several of his emails. I just about finished college and never got the chance to go to university, all thanks to an unwanted pregnancy. That led to a miscarriage after the marriage that ended in death instead of divorce. No, I didn’t murder George and bury him under the patio – but believe me – I would have liked to at the time.

He was killed shortly after he’d walked out on me, while travelling to see his bit of stuff when he had a head-on car crash. And now, here I stand alone without a shoulder to cry on in times of heartache and sorrow. Only I’m used to having someone around to share the brunt of life’s little hiccups with, whereas, I really don’t know if I can be bothered to do the whole dating scene again. But I do know that I don’t want to remain on my own for very much longer. So I guess I’ll just have to jump right back in the queue and wait for my turn to be noticed by the opposite sex. Then again, my lack of patience which is probably due to a genuine lack of sleep is world famous, around here.

We could’ve ended up in hospital literally as patients rather than visitors. For my mother had grabbed the windscreen mirror (because the one in front of her is cracked) in order to check her tongue for a mouth ulcer and I hate to think where it has been or rather who she has been with. Only for us to nearly collide with a supermarket delivery truck that came hurdling around the corner. ‘Do you know that bloke? He’s beeping us and I think he’s waving at us too,’ stressed Rose and giving him one back along with a friendly smile before adding ‘is he good looking? I can’t see as I haven’t got my glasses on.’

‘He’s not waving. In fact, he’s giving us a hand gesture that means he definitely doesn’t want to know us,’ I retort, speeding off as I notice he’s going the same way and just won’t let up on the continuing abuse. And it would be just typical of my bad luck to end up having to cope with him all the way there.

Chapter Two

My mother fuses over the fact that I drive too fast and swear too much ‘honestly, Sabrina, if you use that F word once more then I will get out of this car and hail a cab,’ Rose warns and checks in her purse that she has the right amount of change with her.

‘Everybody says it, it’s no big deal and hardly constitutes as a swearword anymore . . . f, f, fudge!’ I blurt out in stress, having remembered the replacement word that I used to say whilst living at home. The others on the list consisted of things like: barstools, cheese and rice, effin hell, sunny beach, bull spit, ice hole, freak you, bollards and sugar etc.

But I was quite determined to lose that delivery van and I did in the end (since I knew that my crazy driving skills would come in handy one day). Only my penance for taking such a risk with the railway crossing after waiting at the traffic lights is that I have to endure the lured details of her hot date last night with some bloke that she met off the internet. Not that I’m envious of her having the time of her life with various men or anything. But I ask myself, do I really have to listen to her giving me advice on getting myself a boyfriend. The answer is, probably yes seeing as I’d been with George so long; I simply can’t envisage me with anybody else. Sadly, I’m not very experienced when it comes to being with the male species of this world. And surely as an attractive woman (for those who fancy the complete opposite of size zero) I could secure my own string of men, if that’s what I wanted. But having just one man at this moment in time would certainly suffice.

We eventually arrive at the hospital car park and guess what, it’s full. So we drive around and around in circles for absolutely ages. In fact, I run the risk of being clamped even if I just slow the car down anywhere in the nearby vicinity. Until someone suddenly pulls out and leaving behind a vacant lot; I scramble to get there first but am beaten back by a big, black 4x4 that came out of nowhere. Some bloody drivers think they own the highways and byways just because they have a tank of a vehicle, well not today. So I rapidly jump out of my car, whilst grabbing my crook lock and head for the blackened driver’s window, where I stand there ranting and raving about this being my space.

‘I have waited here patiently for one measly speck to open up and when it did; you and your monster truck came along and stole it from me. Well just for once in my life, I’m not going to stand for it . . . do you hear me? If you don’t sod off right now, I’ll take your vehicle apart bit by bit just so I can remove it myself,’ I shout loudly, but I get no response.

All the while, I waving this crook lock about in an increasingly threatening manner. This is before I suddenly breakdown – crying about my husband leaving me for another woman and then – George being killed in a car crash. And I also mention the fact that my favourite aunt is dying in there and I’m out here arguing with a window which now abruptly decides to drop down and reveal the driver to be a little, old woman, who can barely see over the dashboard. The grey one speaks ‘I’ll tell you what, you can have this space my dear; I’m not in any hurry. I’m only here visiting my grandson, he’s a doctor in this hospital.’

Apparently, they’re to have lunch together but she’s way too early and can afford to wait for another car to vacate a different parking slot. I am truly thankful that she kindly takes pity on me and backs out. This leaves me to hastily park my second-hand, pink, Volkswagen Beetle car in its place. And I know what you’re thinking, but I saw the movie as a kid and wanted my very own ‘love bug’ vehicle to ride around in. It had been a present from George when I’d learnt to drive, since he recalled me telling him this. And I can’t see me driving anything else to be honest even if I won the lottery – I’d probably still use this old thing – being the sentimental fool that I am.

Thereby, I order my mother to hurry up in her heels while we make our way through the maze of cars towards the relevant ward. And this seems to be on the other side of the district, for we walk through mile after mile of hospital corridors. This building looked smaller from the outside as my mother stops to take a breather before removing her silk scarf, since it certainly feels hotter in here then my shower did this morning. That boiler must be on the blink again and here am I without a man about the house to fix it.

Rose stops to buy a cold drink from the vending machine. But it doesn’t want to play ball, so it swallows her money and does not respond to the buttons being pressed. I don’t know what came over me but I repeatedly slammed my clenched fists at the damn thing, until it spat out the cup before duly filling it. I was by now elevated to master of machines, in my mind anyhow. I turned swiftly around, only to find that my actions had not gone unnoticed by the tall, blond-haired doctor who too had wanted to get a drink. I watched him receive his coffee with no further problems before he wandered off and then, my mother offered me a swig of her juice ‘want some?’ I ended up spilling it down my front. Some days, I’m just so damn tired that I forget where my mouth is.

It was at this point that I removed my new, open toed mules since they’d been digging in something wicked. So I tried to stretch the leather a bit, in a bid to make them more comfortable. Because I have been cursed with wide feet and high arch’s which can make it something of a pain when selecting suitable footwear I can tell you. We both briefly stare out of the window at the hospital’s attempt of making a boring square of gravel look interesting. For the powers that be, had simply plonked a giant rock in the centre and surrounded it with various, dwarf conifers. I don’t think it would win any prizes for artistic merit.

We finally get there and are shown into a side, waiting room by the mature, stern looking nurse on duty. That’s where we’re greeted by my older sister Adele and her husband Fergus. His hugs always last longer than are deemed agreeable in my book and he always kisses me on the mouth, even though I try to turn away and offer a cheek instead. But he is my brother-in-law, so what can one do about it without making a fuss over nothing. Adele obviously takes after Rose with her tall, slender figure and shoulder length, chocolate coloured hair. I on the other hand, have always sported my late father’s dumpier frame. Fergus is looking as authoritative as usual in his policeman’s uniform. He has a chiselled chin and taut muscular stance with perfectly groomed hair and a wide mouth which resembles one of those cartoon super hero characters so I guess the job somehow suits his description. I ask after my one and only brother ‘where’s, Max?’

‘He’s on his way, coming straight from work,’ I’m reliably informed by Adele as she stands there holding her husband’s hand. Fergus is a copper by nature and has that self-righteous air about him; I can tell that he would rather be doing his job and in familiar territory than here.

‘Did anyone contact, Uncle Miles? He’ll be devastated by this news, they’re very close you know,’ I say with a lonely sigh as I look to my mother for a hug, but do not receive open arms in response.

‘I rang him earlier, but he’s still away on holiday. So I left a message on his answer phone,’ stated Rose while filing her recently manicured nails, as Adele and Fergus sit-down where she rests her head on his shoulder. If ever they’re in a room together, they simply have to be touching which truly grates on me at times. Not that I’m jealous or anything – oh all right I am a little but certainly not over Fergus – since he frankly gives me the creeps the way he stares at people like they’ve done something to upset him and he’s about to smother them, only I don’t mean with kisses.

My brother Max is older than me by three years and runs his own successful internet company called, ‘Gadget Generation’. He’s gay and lives with his actor boyfriend, who’s appearing in a new play called ‘Mavericks Meltdown’. In it, Piers plays a young man struggling to land and keep his dream job as a political analyst, while he deals with his growing addiction to alcohol. Then, it follows his descent into a severe depression and psychotic meltdown, following the accident that might have indirectly been his fault. It has had mainly good reviews up to now, especially, for the lead actor and we’re all so proud of this.

I like having a gay brother; at least I know none of his goofy friends will be hitting on me. Also, I can always rely on him to give me his most honest opinion on everything I do, wear or say. And speak of the devil; Max pops his head around the door and smiles with a sad expression. He is closely followed by Piers Prince-Patton, who gives everyone air kisses. Max, unfortunately shares my bigger figure foibles and as long as the super toned and floppy haired Piers is happy with his lover’s efforts to exercise – even just a little to stay relatively on the healthy side of life – then he is too.

Max looks me up and down before expressing ‘Miami Vice has just been in contact and they want their shirt back. And if those grey shadows under your eyes get any worse, people will actually start to accuse you of being a living zombie.’

‘I know, what the hell was I thinking? I can’t believe that I’ve come out with, George’s shirt on. And you don’t have to remind me that I look exhausted because I’m the one feeling it right now,’ I reply and stand there in my jeans and the favoured, Hawaiian shirt of my late husband.

The one George got on our last holiday together. I’d thought that we were blissfully happy and thoroughly enjoying it but as I recalled after the event, he was repeatedly getting annoying text messages. He told me that it was work related, but I later found out that they were from her. Only, I don’t want to dwell on that at the moment. So I allow myself a stretch of the arms that rise straight up in the air, before I give out an equally relaxed, massive yawn. All this sitting around here and waiting does little to alert my senses into action. These days, I have to keep busy just to stop myself from falling asleep and most of the time, I just don’t seem to have much energy at all for anything.

My health seemed to have taken a turn for the worst when at the grand old age of twenty-eight, I got chickenpox. I’d never had any childhood illnesses before and foolishly assumed that I was immune to everything. I remember being sent over to play at anyone’s house that my mother found to be ill with such diseases, just so I’d get it over with whilst young. As I was told that it’s much, much worse to get it when you’re older. I found out the hard way when I’d caught it off my nephew Jake. I actually thought I was going to die; it floored me with the ‘super’ flu symptoms. And you couldn’t see an inch of skin over my entire body that wasn’t covered in puss ridden spots including my scalp. My husband George had to bathe me in camomile lotion as I stood naked in the empty bath. On one occasion – he poured the entire contents of a couple of bottles – all over my head just to stop me from scratching my hair out at the roots and practically becoming bald overnight as I’d skunked off back to bed caked in the stuff.

Thereafter, the severe ear and throat troubles soon kicked in that led to the nasty chest infection. I particularly recall George coming in one morning and ringing a bell; he’d borrowed it off a neighbour (Mr Simpkins I believe) before shouting something about ‘bringing out the dead’. It took me six weeks to get over it, because I’d refused antibiotics as I’d heard that they become less effective the more often you use them in your life. Anyway, after that I was regularly getting ear or throat infections that eventually spread to the chest, but this time I reluctantly went and got some tablets just so it wouldn’t go on to what seemed like forever at the time.

And then the snoring started – it was so loud and persistent that it would wake me up constantly – not to mention my husband. Along with repeated trips to the loo in the wee small hours for a pee because of all the water I was drinking in a bid to lubricate my dry throat. Tiredness soon got the better of us and our sex life diminished pretty quickly. That’s when George starting sleeping in the spare room, on the foldout bed that we have in there. He’d informed me that there was no need for both of us to be deprived of a good night’s sleep. The room also houses the computer and as I later found out. He was in there constantly making cyber love to his mistress. The snoring got worse after that as it was becoming more of a series of strange noises. And the sleepiness during the day was also becoming a problem. I found that whenever I’d stop and rest, I’d fall asleep.

So with a lot of persuasion from George, I finally agreed to seek medical help. My local GP booked me in to the sleep clinic and they gave me an allergy test by dotting various droplets up my arm. That was after I’d washed off the perfume I was wearing first. The bloke sat next to me was going bright red and scratching like mad as his arm instantly ballooned up. He seemed to be allergic to everything but as for me, well nothing happened. Then, I went in to see the Asian doctor and she asked me some questions, before poking a long, thin metal object up my nostrils, while stating that the left one seemed slightly blocked. I’d sat there with tears in my eyes as it slightly hurt my tender senses. The doctor promptly asked me ‘have you ever broken your nose?’

And I’d replied ‘I haven’t to my knowledge.’

But thinking about it later on, I wondered about that time I’d taken a full on elbow smack in the face during a netball game in school. Maybe, it had been more than a bruise and two black eyes. But my snout looked perfectly fine after the swelling had gone down; it wasn’t out of shape or anything, so I thought it was all right. And I remember being so proud of it – when my college friend took various photos of my nose – so that she could have her plastic surgeon copy it. It was strange to see her later on though, having gone from Roman nose to button nose in what seemed like no more than a lunch hour, for she was soon back in the library studying. It’s funny how your nose is really important to your identity, seeing as I hardly recognised her afterwards. She had gone from being an interesting beauty to the usual run of the mill pretty.

Back to the story about my clinic appointment, well, I had been given an overnight sleep test to be carried out in my own home in order to try and find out what was wrong with me. My husband George thought it was truly hilarious to see me trussed up like a Sunday joint. He had to help me place all the thick, black Velcro straps around my semi naked body, for I kept my knickers on. But the one that was meant to go around my breasts was swashing them to bits, whereas, we got there in the end with a little adjustment. It was after this that he connected all the wires and monitors up. I had them everywhere from my ankle to my head, fingertip to bellybutton you name it. I couldn’t move let alone sleep I’d thought to myself as I lay motionless on the king-size bed.

Meanwhile, George had disappeared before he came back with a cherry tomato, which he immediately placed between my lips for a laugh and took a picture with his digital camera. So I spat the fruit at him and at this point – he’d decided that I was suddenly sexy like this – for he gave me that stare of desire. Nevertheless, I reminded him that I was wired for sound as he looked at the tiny microphone held in place with the surgical tape. Therefore, he’d bid me a goodnight and retreated to the other room as I tried to get some sleep. It was a difficult night for I’m not used to being bound and gagged, well that’s what it felt like to me seeing as I’d rather pay a heavy ransom than go through all that rigmarole again.

The following morning, I couldn’t wait to whip all the equipment off me and ring in sick to work. For I was feeling more tired than I’d ever been before and maybe, a little stressed out at the intrusion of the chosen testing method used by doctors for diagnosing this aliment. They’d told me that it could be something called ‘Sleep Apnoea’ (in the UK and also known as Sleep Apnea elsewhere) which I’d never heard of. And then, they transferred me to another specialist at this very hospital where I am now. Also, I remembered going back home slightly stunned that I had anything seriously wrong with me and I’d solemnly read through the leaflet the NHS had given me. Thereby, George went a stage further and logged on to the good old internet to find out everything he could about it.

And basically it means that when I go to sleep, I stop breathing and then wake myself up before I die from lack of breath. Isn’t that what gets us all in the end, the not breathing bit I mean but luckily I will not drop-dead from this – only it does put a lot of stress on my heart – which can lead to a heart attack or stroke and by the way, there’s no cure. As thin people seem to get it just as much as the fatties amongst us, in that, even children suffer from this too so the weight issue cannot solely be the cause but it might not help either as I’m advised to lose some of the excess baggage. Well, this news sort of freaked George out a bit, therefore, he told me that he couldn’t handle it. And then he left me to deal with it on my own so whatever happened to the vow we took, as in sickness and in health I ask you. It was probably only a matter of time before he’d left anyway, seeing as I later found out about her.

Back to the here and now, I suddenly give out another big yawn as I glance around the room with a telly plonked in one corner. It seems to be filled with seventies furniture and seventies magazines, judging by the one about caravans that lies there on top of the pile. My brother’s tenderly touching his boyfriend’s knee for support which I find totally endearing, whereas, my sister’s whisperings in her husband’s ear has the opposite effect on me. I really hate it when they do that since I find it very rude, specifically, because they don’t include me in their thoughts. Yes, I really am that nosey if you must know.

And my mother is addictively writing text messages to someone, so I inform her ‘I’d assumed that mobile phones should be switched off in hospitals. Only I’m not sure why exactly, but I think it could kill someone.’

‘Yes, yes of course darling,’ replies Rose as she doesn’t want that on her conscience so she switches it off straight away. Rose hasn’t exactly taken the term early retirement as a means to put her feet up, for she has joined a mature dance troop that tours elderly resident’s homes in order to entertain them and runs her own book club for past patients that she has known. I didn’t want to join it because I couldn’t see myself reading a novel about a serial killer and potentially sitting comfortably alongside one in her little group. Having been a brilliant psychiatrist nurse beforehand and the way I’m heading – I’ll probably need her services sooner rather than later – if I don’t get some decent kip that is. In fact, I might just go stark raving, loony tunes as a result of this sleep deprivation that is the bane of my current existence.

Sitting here quietly in this room, we seem to be not speaking to one another; maybe, it’s because we’re all feeling a little guilty at not visiting before now. It takes Great-Aunt Jemima dying to bring us around for a visit these days. Seeing as we’re all so busy getting on with our own lives and quite forgetting that we have a relative who needs us to be there for them, never mind loves us to bits. It was at this moment that the nurse comes into the room and loudly clears her throat in order to gain our attention. And we’re all bracing ourselves for the worse kind of news, as in, that she is dead already and we didn’t even get to say goodbye.

Chapter Three

We’re finally allowed into the room next-door but one. On the way in, my mother asked the young nurse if she could arrange for a priest to come and administer the last rites. It’s a shock to see my great-aunt Jemima lying there looking so ill and frail. When I’d last seen her – she was trying on my black hat – the one with the big, ostrich feather sticking out. She’d absolutely loved it and wanted to buy it off me, offering way over the price that I’d paid for it in the first place. But I refused seeing as it was my one and only favourite funeral hat. Is it morally incorrect to own up to having a much loved headgear just for wearing to mark someone’s passing and are you tempting fate with such a possession?

Jemima had laughed out loud when Uncle Miles had accidently gotten the feather in his ear and freaked out, whilst thinking that it was a wasp or something of that nature. You see, he’s allergic to stings and is quite paranoid about anything that could harm him. We were at the funeral of another one of my father’s sisters and I had never really seen her before the open casket; we’re not that close of a family. Usually, it’s only formal occasions that bring us all together and in one room for any lengthy period of time. I also recall that George and I had left the wake early – because we were only there long enough to show our faces – since we were both feeling really, really tired and certainly not in the mood for the company of family. In fact it practically borders on sleepwalking for me most of the time, in that, at one point my exhaustion got so bad that I thought I might have to bunk-up with the dead aunt in the coffin, just so as to lie-down and rest my weary head.

On the way home, we’d stopped off at a well-known fast-food chain seeing as we were both famished, for we didn’t really eat much back at the house. But the drive-thru was closed due to a burst pipe being dug up, so we had to go in dressed in our funeral gear. Some people gave us right funny looks at our attire for it was like some worn-out, old Goth has-beens had just entered the premises. You see my mascara had run all over the show because I keep wiping my sore eyes and everyone thought that I was emotionally upset by the death of the aunt, even though I had barely heard of her before that day. And I was definitely too tired to bother removing my big hat; whilst I’d woofed down my food in a bid to try and gain some much needed energy back.

The huge feather had soon caused a minor mishap, however, when it accidentally tickled a passing sleeping baby carried in its father’s arms. And this event had woken the child with a startled fright which resulted in a constant, shrieking cry being omitted from the little bundle of joy. The father, who’d probably spent the best part of the day trying to get the baby to sleep, well, he was not very pleased to say the least. As it happens – the man was so upset that he loudly swore at us – right in front of all the families present. But it was not us that the manager asked to leave, as I ate my doughnut and drank my coffee in peace.

Sadly that same hat had been in use once again, with the funeral of my beloved husband. My great-aunt Jemima couldn’t attend it, since she was too ill that day. I’d sent her some flowers and a get-well card. But I’m sure she would have preferred a visit from me in person instead. I’d never cried so much in my whole life as I did that day. I knew very well that we had grown apart but I’d foolishly hoped we would bounce back, just like the last time that he had a liaison with ‘the other woman’. But in the end, George had left me for her and was probably never coming home this time. And then again, there was no chance of reconciliation because death is pretty much a permanent state of affairs in anyone’s life.

I reminisced that we’d even put off having a baby until we were in our thirties, inasmuch as we wanted to have fun and not be tied down with all the responsibility. Thereby, we hung back once more because of my health issues – most days I’m too tired to even look after myself – let alone an infant. And that might have kept us together or maybe not, who knows now but at least I’d have his offspring to love instead of a big, fat nothing. I’d not only lost my husband but my best friend as well and now, my miserable existence seems so empty without him.

I’d thrown a single, red rose down on top of George’s coffin and looked at the sad faces surrounding me. This was all before my legs had started to tremble just as my brother and his gay lover held me upright, for I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. ‘The other woman’ had turned up and was spotted standing behind a tree, trying to hide. But I’d seen her all right and calmly walked over and then, I glared at her before knocking her block off. Well when I say that, I meant her expensive, black hat of course, after all, it was much bigger than mine. Then, I’d childishly jumped up and down while relentlessly trampling it into the earth. I did feel a little bit better after that; needless to say, she never shone her shiny face at the wake as I think she’d got the message that she wasn’t welcome.

George and I had had a lot of good times over the years and very little by way of arguments. Mind you, he was just a big softie at heart and never took anything seriously. In fact, he probably became my surrogate child in one way or another. And now – standing at the foot of Great-Aunt Jemima’s bed – it looks like I’ll have to dust down that funeral hat once again and all in such a short period of time. It doesn’t seem right, somehow, that I’ll have to suffer the loss of two people I love, in what’s only been the worst year of my life so far.

We all say hello to Jemima, but obviously get no response as we settle down to sit around her for she’s seems asleep. Regardless, I bend over and kiss her forehead since she has a breathing mask tightly secured to her face. It is then that I take her clammy hand in mind and rub my fingers up and down her bare arm. She seems cold to me but dozing peacefully, whilst my mother helps herself to a glass of water from the plastic pitcher. I notice that none of the others seem to want to touch the old woman. Are they scared of catching the nasty bug that Jemima caught on her last stay in hospital? She came in for a minor operation and came out with that lousy infection.

Great-Aunt Jemima had always been the life and soul of the party, but to see her now so subdued in her final hours was very sad. A group of three male doctors came into

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