Thank you for being patient - I've been quite busy(all will be revealed at the weekend)But here is my piece for this week , hope you like it.
Mary was singing to herself as she got the washing ready to put in the machine. It was a lovely sunny day with a good drying wind . The twins Julie and Jane where safely in playgroup till 12 and she had the morning to herself once the washing was in.
She’d bought a magazine that morning - a bit expensive , but her weekly treat. She wanted to read the problem page so she could laugh at all these silly women who just didn't have a happy home life like hers.
John had got back yesterday from the job in Russia - He was a heart (thoracic) surgeon and had been away for a fortnight learning a new heart bypass technique.
He looked so tired poor love but had still gone in to do a clinic .
Emptying his case and suit back , she couldn't help thinking back to when they had first met when she was a student nurse and he was a Houseman , now he was a senior consultant and he’d insisted she gave up nursing when the twins where born.
Truth be told , she missed the nursing a bit , the friendship and the helping people but he was right , the twins where a handful . Maybe when they’re older she’ll be able to go back part time - we’ll see .
For now the washing needs doing and it’s not going to do itself !!
Once the shirts and underwear were in the machine , she turned her attention to the suit holder. Shaking out the jacket and trousers she checked whether they needed to go to the cleaners . She noticed that the jacket breast pocket appeared to have something in it. John was always writing little notes on things then losing them , he really was forgetful at times !
She put her hand into the pocket and took out a pack of matches.
Strange - John doesn’t smoke ,why would he have a packet of matches in his pocket ?
She turned them over and written in lavender coloured ink was :
Mary’s stomach turned and her heart skipped a beat.
What could it mean ? Who was Katya and why had her husband kept a pack of matches with her name on ? Should she ask him ? Did she really want to know ?
The rest of the day passed with Mary in a daze. She hardly noticed when the twins showed her the pictures they’d painted and she gave them their tea and bathed them , putting them to bed without even the usual story.
At 7pm she was sitting staring into space with a glass of wine (her third) in her hand as John’s key turned in the lock . ‘Hi my lovely - can you pour me a whiskey please, it’s been a hellish day and I’m just going to have a bath before tea’.
Mary didn’t move , she just sat trying to get her head straight and decide what to do , the pack of matches on the table in front of her. She was still sitting in the same position when the shower stopped and John came downstairs drying his hair . ‘What’s for tea , I’m starving’
Pulling herself out of her trance , Mary said’ I haven’t thought about it yet, I need to ask you something’
‘That sounds serious , can I get my drink first and we can probably order in a Chinese if you want . Have you got the menu anywhere ?’
‘Bugger the Chinese !!! Who’s Katya and why have you got her phone number’
John laughed painfully ‘ Oh dear , you cleared out my suit didn’t you ? Well I’ll tell you , but your not going to like it’
Mary was filled with dread as John poured a drink and sat down .
With his head lowered , looking into his glass as if it held all the answers, John began.
‘On the second day of the trip , we where staying at the Hotel Forum and the rooms were a bit basic so I went down to the bar to get a drink. I was the only one there and I was missing you and the twins . The others had gone to bed early as we where going to Chernobyl the next day to visit a hospital and an orphanage. The girl serving at the bar looked very thin and tired and her eyes where sad . I hoped she spoke enough English for a conversation and indeed she did. She said she was known as Masha (a Russian equivalent of Mary) and I immediately thought of you. We talked about the weather and the places to visit and I told her we where visiting Chernobyl the next day. She looked at me with hauntingly sad eyes and asked me why and I told her we where doctors and nurses and we where interested in seeing how the people had coped since the disaster. She bit her lip and you could see that she was trying to decide whether to tell me or not but then she obviously decided I was ‘safe’.
‘I am from Chernobyl’ but I am - at the moment- one of the lucky ones’ she said’ I don’t appear to have been affected , but my little sister has’ her eyes darkened as she carried on ‘ Her name is Katya and she’s 15 years old . Her heart is very weak and she has not been able to run and play . I’m trying to earn the money to pay for her treatment but the pay is not good here and I fear I will need to work somewhere else . Some men will pay a little extra for a women to be a ‘friend ‘ for the night and I fear I must take this route if I am to save my beautiful Katya.If you go to the hospital tomorrow , will you look at her and tell me how much I will need to find to get her help ? Here is her hospital number this will help you see her, please ?’
‘Finishing my drink I went up to my room to think about Masha and Katya and how different their life was from ours.
The next day we did indeed go to the hospital and I asked to see Katya I was led into a room the size of our bathroom in which where crammed 10 beds . The one up against the wall held what looked to be a little girl no more than 10 years old.’ ‘This is Katya said the nurse in charge’ I thought she must be mistaken but no the date of birth worked out to 15 years . The girl looked at me with tired eyes, her lips where tinged blue and she was unable to lift her head from the pillow .’Can I examine her I said expecting at least a screen to be drawn across ‘ ‘ Yes of course’ said the nurse , undoing the thin night dress before she’d finished speaking . Wishing to save a little of Katya’s dignity I asked for a sheet. The nurse shrugged and went off to get one . I smiled at Katya and tried to reassure her , unsure whether she understood or not . As I examined her her poor little thin body almost moved with the strain her gently fluttering heart caused’ I asked the nurse if her notes could be translated , the nurse nodded with resignation as if to say ‘if you must’
I held Katya’s hand and still not knowing if she understood , I said ‘I will help you’
We left then and went on to see many more sad scenes . My heart was aching by the time I ‘d finished ‘
You can’t save everyone you know said Peter (the medical consultant who’d been my friend for many years)
No but I can damn well try ‘, I thought..
When I got back to my room , I made a few phone calls and it turned out that in order to bring someone over here for an operation , we had to prove they had a sponsor and somewhere to stay before and after the treatment in case of problems.
Mary , I knew I could help Katya but I also knew that I would need your help . I know you’re busy with the twins but you where a brilliant nurse , would you be able to help with Katya and could we do it.
Mary hesitated only to finish her wine in one gulp.
‘Masha and Katya can have the spare room. Mum can always help with the twins or even Masha if she’s up for it while I carry out the nursing. Of course we can do it - why did you ever doubt it ?’
Mary’s eyes regained their softness as she suddenly realised that she loved her sweet husband more than anything else in the world and realised all that could have been lost because of a box of matches.