What sounds like a quiet humming noise starts to creep into my semi consciousness which starts to irritate me. My head feels heavy and it is swimming in a confused blur. I do not know where I am or what has happened ... I feel very strange!!
Have I gone and got myself hammered or been taking drugs?! Whatever this feeling is, I really do not like it!!
The humming noise starts getting louder and it does not take me long to realize what the noise is. People talking, but I am not really paying a lot of attention to what they are saying, I just lie there listening to the quiet hum, not really taking anything in.
Somebody laughs quite loudly which startles me. I try to concentrate on the voices then, that almost sound like they are talking in whispers. I can not really work out if the voices are familiar or not because they are too quiet.
I do not have the slightest idea about where I am or who these people might be, that I can hear talking quietly around me.
I feel someone kiss my cheek a few times.
"I love you Granny."
Someone whispers quietly, close to my ear, before kissing my cheek again. There is only one person who used to call me Granny This sends my head into total turmoil!! The voice I know, I have not heard it for a very long time, but it is a voice I can never forget!! My Dad's voice. I can feel myself starting to panic inside, I think I must have faded because how else would I hear his voice. Maybe there is something on the other side after all!!
I try to open my eyes.
"I think he might be starting to wake up!" My Dad's voice again
"We need to get out of here right now!!" I hear Slate say. My head really can not make any sense of this situation now. Hearing my Dad's voice along side Slate's voice, is just nonsense.
The noise in the room cuts to a sudden silence for a second, for a moment you would have been able to hear a pin drop, before what sounds like a mad scramble starts around me. I hear all sorts of strange noises like a shuffling sound, scraping chairs, shoes on a tiled or concrete floor and a quiet giggle. A door opens and closes then it all goes deadly silent again.
My head is swimming in a confused blur while I fight to try and wake myself up. I feel a soft warm hand gently touching my face and hear the door bang open again, which makes me jump.
"You paged me Dr Rock?"
I think I can now hear Mango. Is he talking to me? I have not paged anybody!! I do not respond because I think I must be dreaming or hearing things. None of this is really making any sense, I can only imagine that I am having some kind of wacky dream!!
"He is waking up." I hear Forrest say quietly.
I lie there in the fog clogging up my head. Very confused.
I feel soft lips gently touching mine and kissing me as I am drifting slowly out of the fog. I instantly know it is not Mace.
"Mace?" I try to mumble
"Baby it's me." Forrest mumbles before his lips return to mine.
My confused mind automatically connects this to the last thing that I can remember, and suddenly it all comes flooding back to me.
I am lying on the living room floor in Gravel's house after he has just shot me. He actually pulled the trigger, the berry hole, my own brother!! Well I hope he chokes at my funeral and carries me around heavily in his conscience for the rest of his miserable life!! I could never have done that to my own brother, no matter how much I hate him sometimes!!
Forrest is kissing me after he has just told me not to leave him. I do not intend to leave him, but I do not think I have got a lot of choice in the matter, thanks to my so called brother, who has just sent me a bullet that has just rearranged my insides!!
"I am trying not to!" I mumble quietly when his lips leave mine.
"Baby what are you trying not to do?" Forrest asks me in a quiet confused voice.
"Leave you. You just told me not to leave you." I mumble and wander why my throat feels so dry and sore.
Forrest is quiet for a moment then suddenly starts laughing.
"Oh Berry!! I said that to you weeks ago, you Joker!! Just after you got shot." he carries on laughing then he kisses me again and mumbles quietly against my lips "You wally!" I hear somebody else in the room start laughing with Forrest. "Baby you need to wake up and open your eyes, you have been in the hospital for weeks."
This confuses me for a moment. I open my eyes slowly and Forrest's face blurs in and out of focus. He is hovering over me, our faces are inches apart and he is grinning down at me.
That is when I realize that I am not done for after all!!
I now know I am waking up in the hospital. I can hardly feel any pain, there is pain, but it is more of a niggle and nothing like the pain I felt just after the bullet tore into me. I am almost too scared to ask what damage the bullet actually did to my insides, but at this precise moment I don't really care!! Forrest is here and I never actually expected to wake up from this!!
Forrest kisses me again, a quick peck on the lips and goes to move away, but I stop him. I do not want him to vanish out of my sight in case I am dreaming this and he does not return. I hold onto him tightly so he can not go anywhere. I suddenly remember my Dad's voice.
"I honestly thought I had faded. I kept hearing my Dad's voice. I thought I was waking up in hell with him." I frown at the expression that flashes across Forrest's face for a second. "But I guess I must have been dreaming!!"
He smiles at me as he starts to laugh quietly along with whoever else is also in the room. He calls me a wally and tells me that I would never end up in hell, that is where only Gravel is headed. I have still got my hand on his neck and pull him back towards me because I want him to kiss me properly. Which he does but only for a short time and carefully. As he pulls away he tells me there is plenty of time for that later and he winks at me.
"Does that mean I can come home?" he starts laughing at me and says he would be mad with me if I do not come home.
He does not seem to be angry with me at all, as he hovers over me grinning down at me, but I guess there is time for him to have his say, especially about Mace. He removes my hand from around his neck and this time he moves away from me and out of my field of vision.
I am just about to call Forrest back thinking I might be dreaming or hallucinating because my head is still swimming in a blur. Suddenly a flash of orange fills my vision and I see Mango's face leaning over me which makes me jump a little.
"You Rock boys seem to be making a habit of sleeping on the job!" he smiles at me "Welcome back Granite you gave us quite a scare!!"
Out comes his flash light and he is straight at my eyes, which makes me laugh. It is like an obsession of his, they say that the eyes are the window to your soul, sometimes I think Mango can see something that the rest of us can not see. Mango starts to check me over which feels very awkward as I have known him since he was a child. It feels kind of personal and like an invasion of my privacy. Now I think I understand how Slate has been feeling. It is horrible as a doctor to suddenly become the patient, especially when it is somebody that you know well. I would much rather Forrest be doing this!! He pulls my gown back to check my stomach and I stare down at the tapestry of incisions and stitches that now make my stomach look like a patchwork quilt.
It amuses me that Mango is the one here as my doctor, I am guessing that Slate is not the only one getting the special treatment. I ask him if he is the one who did my surgery and he tells me that he did, all of it, Forrest wouldn't let anyone else touch me! I guessed, that Mango might have played a part in it somehow, because I doubt I would have been here otherwise! He is pretty well known for some of the miracles he has pulled off in theatre against the odds. I know that bullet entered my body in a really bad place, and the chances of me still being here must have been pretty slim!! I never expected to still be here, I thought that was it for me!
Once he has finished checking me over and asking me a string of questions, Forrest and Mango both sit down and talk me through the damage that the bullet had done. He explains all the surgical procedures that I have been through, and there have been quite a few. It was pretty much what I expected but the end result surprises me a little and I think they both felt a little embarrassed and awkward concerning my kidney.
The close range bullet went in at a funny angle, trust Gravel to be awkward!! However, thankfully for me, he did not shoot straight, because that is what probably helped to save me. The bullet instead of hitting my stomach and blowing it into thousands of unrepairable pieces, which would have finished me off within minutes. Instead, it actually skimmed my stomach causing only slight damage, hitting my gall bladder and up into my liver, narrowly missing my kidney. An inch to the left and I would have had no kidney to give Slate. My gall bladder was removed and my liver which was badly damaged, they tried to save it, they had to remove three quarters of my liver and hoped it would repair itself. However, it was not regenerating itself like livers generally do, it was too badly damaged. So it had to be completely removed and I have undergone a liver transplant. So I have lost a kidney, my gall bladder and my liver.
At quite a few points they thought they were going to lose me, because initially, there was a lot going on with my insides. Forrest gave them the go a head to perform the kidney transplant and to remove my kidney, as they were working in that area of my body, even though it could have increased the complications for me with everything else that was going on. He gave the go a head, for Slate's sake, in case I did not make it, which they were really not expecting me to do. So the day I was shot Slate got his new kidney. If I had faded my kidney would have been no good to him and I did try to slip off quite a few times and they had to keep bringing me back. They both sit there a little awkwardly, holding their breath, waiting for my reaction.
"Do you think I would not have done exactly the same thing!!" I start laughing at the both of them who I think are both sat there expecting me to start shouting at them. "It is fine, he was getting my kidney anyway, you did the right thing, so stop stressing!!" I carry on laughing at them then stop suddenly because I realize that they haven't actually said if the transplant was a success or not. "It did work out didn't it?! Slate is okay isn't he!"
"Yes Slate is fine, your kidney has settled in quite comfortably with no complications, he is off dialysis already!" Mango smiles at me "We will be discharging him soon all being well. However, his mental state is still a worry tho, he has had way too much thrown at him lately, on top of the overdose."
I know that Mango is not convinced that Slate did not intentionally take the overdose. Mango stays for a while then says he has other patients to see too so he will be back later to check on me. He goes leaving me and Forrest alone in the room.
Finally I get him alone and wander if I am going to hear what he is thinking and what he has to say about my twenty year disappearing act and especially Mace!! In a way I feel like I should be worried, but he stands there grinning at me so I relax a little. If I still know Forrest, he will bide his time and pounce when I am least expecting it, he will probably wait until I am well enough to take one of his bollockings!!
I do not give him a chance to say anything, I grab his hand and pull him onto the bed, he laughs as he starts to kiss me and I run my hand up under his top and across his bare chest then down onto his stomach. He pulls away quickly, which irritates me, that is twice that he has done that now, almost like he does not want me to touch or kiss him.
"Have you gone off me?" I ask and he frowns at me "You keep pulling away, acting like you don't want me to touch or kiss you!"
"Don't be stupid!!" he laughs at me "Give yourself chance to wake up properly!! You are always like a bull in a china shop and I know damn well where your wandering hands are heading!!" I smirk at him "I bet your vision is still blurred, you are still talking like you are half asleep and you are trying to wind yourself, and me up already with your wandering hands!!" he starts laughing "Besides, I'm twenty years out of practice and this is seriously not the time or place!! You need shooting or putting down already!!"
I start to really laugh at him, he pulls a face when he realizes what he has just said about me needing shooting. I smirk as I run my hand across the waist band of his trousers. He slaps my hand and jumps up off the bed. Spoil sport!!
"I can not believe you still have this!" he smiles at me as he pulls my chain out of his trouser pocket and hangs it in the air above me. I know he is only trying to change the subject. I stare at the chain and notice that my wedding ring is now on the chain along with the key and engagement ring, and strangely Mace's ring is also on the chain, the one I bought him for his 3oth birthday, but I dare not ask why Forrest now has that ring.
"I know, I can not believe it still turns the lock in the front door!! How have you never had the locks changed in twenty years?" I laugh at him pretending that I haven't noticed Mace's ring.
"Not the key you wally!! Your engagement ring!"
As he takes my wedding and engagement ring off the chain and puts them back on my finger, he tells me that he has worried over that ring because it was originally Mammy's ring. A ring that has been passed down, through quite a few generations of his family, and even though it is probably not worth much in a monetary sense, it is the sentimental value that is worth much more to him, something that I already know. He has not known over the years if I have been clean and has always imagined that I would have sold it for a fix. I smile and tell him those days are long gone and that I have not touched a drop of alcohol or taken a single drug other than prescription ones since the day I walked out of prison. However, if I had, I would never have sold that ring because I knew how important it is to him. I did not sell it for a fix when I was using so how could he doubt that I ever would!
Forrest just stands there and smiles at me for a moment, his eyes seem to glaze over and I can not help but wander what he is thinking as I watch his fingers playing with Mace's ring. He is almost in a trance, which means his brain is ticking, I think he wants to say something about that ring, he must know I gave it to Mace, but he doesn't know whether to say what is on his mind or not. The suspense is killing me!!
I am just about to tell him to spit out what he has on his mind when Forrest suddenly snaps out of his trance and starts laughing at me. He stuffs the chain, containing the key and Mace's ring, back into his pocket.
He tells me that he could tell that I had been in our house. Doors left open including the wardrobe, water marks splashed all up the mirror, towel on the floor, screwed up note on the bed, the albums and letter box left in a mess. I just laugh at him when he calls me an untidy oaf. I explained to him that I only went into the house to get some photographs of Amber for Slate.
He tells me that he had already made up an album full of photographs of Amber that he hoped Slate would get to look at one day, which he now has. I laugh at him because I should have known. Amber's album was in the draw along with Slates apparently, I just never noticed it. He also tells me that Gravel hid all of the photographs that he had in his house, he packed them into a binbag and they have been sat in our attic for the past twenty years. He hid them so Slate wouldn't find out the lies about his eye colour or about my existence or our connection.
"Bitch you closed my book!" he says suddenly and starts pouting "It took me ages to find where I had read too!!"
"Yes I did titty Baby!! I wanted to see what soppy rubbish you was reading." I grin at him and we both start laughing "I bet you have broken every book spine in the house by now!!" he mumbles probably "I am going to get you a kindle!"
"Keep your snobby rubbish!! I prefer proper books! I can not believe that posh house you live in!! Especially not that you have a cleaning lady, window cleaner and a gardener!!" he starts really laughing, I guess he is remembering the fuss I kicked up over paying a window cleaner we had once "I hope you haven't turned into a snob while you've been away!" he smiles at me.
"No Mace is the snob ...."
As soon as Mace's name leaves my mouth I start to feel guilty. Forrest just stares down at me for a moment searching my eyes.
"How is he?"
I am almost too scared to ask him, firstly because I am scared he won't have made it through surgery and that might be why he has Mace's ring, and secondly I do not want to upset Forrest already by keep mentioning Mace, but I have to ask because I am not going to rest until I know he is alright.
"Mace and Atlas are both fine!" he smiles at me, as he continues to search my eyes, I dread to think what he might be looking for. "They came through the surgery, but that is all I am going to tell you right now. You need to come round properly, and think about your own problems before I start throwing things at you to think about!"
Forrest starts to kiss me, properly this time like he wants to and he means it. I get the feeling he is testing me or is he playing my game, cut off the conversation so he can avoid talking anymore?! I close my eyes and get drawn into the kiss. I can not believe just how totally different it feels kissing Forrest compared to kissing Mace.
I had almost forgotten what kissing Forrest felt like. I start to remember how he used to make me feel and how quickly he turns me on. I am a little scared when those feelings are not happen, I just feel numb now while he is kissing me. I start to wander if I imagined those feelings and they were never there in the first place, I just think they were there, because they are definately not happening now. All I can think about is Mace. My hands start to wander, I'm trying to bring the feelings back that I think I can remember, but they are not coming. Alarm bells start to ring in my head and I am starting to panic inside, he is not even turning me on ... how can I not feel anything when Forrest is kissing me. He grabs both of my hands and pins them to the bed to stop me from messing and winding him up.
We hear the door open and Forrest breaks the kiss straight away to look in the direction of the door. I see Turmeric walking in, his smile turns into a laugh, probably because he has seen us kissing and he is only used to seeing me kiss Mace. He tells Forrest that he came to see if I had actually been waking up or not because Slate wasn't too sure.
I frown at him, him even being here really confuses me. I thought that he would have been locked up because of his involvement with Gravel. I stare at him as he stands at the bottom of the bed smiling at me. It has been over two years since I saw him last, he looks different somehow but at first I can not work out why.
"Hey bro!!" Turmeric grins at me.
I can not help but laugh at him. Does he forget that we have not spoken for over two years because we had a major falling out? He is standing there like it is all forgotten, saying Hey bro to me like he always has, like the last two years never happened and we are suddenly best mates again.
"T!!" Forrest snaps at him "Granite has only just woken up. I think you really need to wait a while!" Forrest says to Turmeric "We have not really told him anything yet!"
Forrest looks a little agitated. Turmeric just smiles at him and says it is okay he will wait until I am ready. I wander what can wait? It amuses me that Forrest also calls him T.
Suddenly the door bursts open and a little girl comes running into the room and goes straight up to Turmeric. She starts holding onto his leg. and glances over at the door, like she is being chased and scared of something.
"I do not want to stay with that man!!" she says as she clings onto Turmeric "Uncle T, please I want to stay with you?"
"Sweetie, it is only for a short time." the little girl starts squealing like she is about to have a tantrum, as she clings onto Turmerics leg "Okay! Okay!" Turmeric shouts at her "You can stay with me, but only if you behave and be quiet, you know that the man in the bed is very poorly!!"
At first who the little girl might be does not register in my head as I stare at her actually wandering who she is. She stands there, half hiding behind Turmeric while she is staring at me as I stare back. Those eyes, hair colouring and that face ... she is a mini Mace. Then the penny drops, she must be Jasmine, she is so obviously Mace's daughter, she is almost a little mini female version of him. But what is she doing here and with Turmeric, and why did she just call him Uncle T?
Turmeric sits down with Jasmine and she climbs onto his lap and starts to suck her thumb. She looks like a little scared timid thing.
The door opens again.
"I am sorry T, Jasmine just ran off and I couldn't keep up with her. She is still not used to me yet, Mace is asleep and Shale has gone to the gents." Atlas limps into the room on a walking stick laughing and Turmeric laughs with him. Who the hell is Shale? "Man she is a little drama queen and we all know where she get's that from!!" they both start laughing again quite loudly. I get the joke, Mace can be quite a drama queen when he wants to be. This makes me laugh with them, which get's Atlas looking in my direction. "Oh!! Gran, so you are awake!" he smiles at me and I smile back.
I am pretty confused by this whole situation. Firstly Forrest looks very annoyed over something and Atlas is also calling him T. What is going on? Since when did Atlas and Turmeric become so pally? They hardly had anything to do with each other in Cherry and because Turmeric and Mace were always fighting, Atlas always used to take Mace's side and they used to gang up against Turmeric. Atlas and Turmeric always gave me the impression they hated each other.
Turmeric and Mace also hated each other, they were always fighting and arguing, especially when my back was turned, I lost count of the times I have walked in on them half way through a slanging match, that instantly stopped the moment I stepped into the room. Most of the time I don't even know what they were arguing about because they would never tell me. Mace was always trying to talk me into getting rid of Turmeric, and Turmeric was always trying to get me to dump Mace, and of course there was the strangling incident, which completely finished mine and Turmeric's relationship with one almighty argument.
So how the hell does Turmeric become so close to Atlas and Mace's daughter all of a sudden? I feel like I have missed something!
I am pretty happy to see that Atlas is still in one piece. Forrest has already told me that Atlas is okay. Now he is having to explain to me why he is limping and walking on a stick. Atlas was shot in the leg. They think that the police officer who shot him, while Gravel was using him as a human shield, was trying to take Gravel's legs out, but he hit Atlas instead. He had to have surgery to remove the bullet but once the wound has completely healed, he will have no lasting damage other than a scar. He is only limping at the moment because it is still very painful. While Forrest is filling me in I watch Atlas hobble over and sit down next to Turmeric and they are talking quietly and laughing with each other which really does not sit right with my memories.
"So what have I missed T? Since when did you and Atlas become best buddies?" I frown at Turmeric, his appearance is also still bugging me. I can see he has had his long hair cut short and he is now wearing a stupid hat which I have never seen him do before, but something is just not right about him. "What have you done to yourself T, you look different? What the hell are you even doing here anyway, shouldn't you be locked up with Gravel? and why have you got Mace's daughter?"
Forrest sits on the bed and tells me there is quite a lot of stuff that they need to tell me but it can wait until later because he doesn't think I am up to it yet. I start to get irritated because I feel like they are treating me like a child.
The door opens again. I am starting to get a little annoyed with it! A brown man walks in that I don't know. He looks at Turmeric and smiles as he makes his way towards him. I see Forrest put his head in his hands and shake his head.
"Oh there you are, you little monkey!!" he smiles at them and looks at Jasmine in particular. "We have just gone into a mad panic mode, wandering where Madam had got too. Mace said she just ran out and he is getting so stressed out, he is having kittens in there!!" he starts laughing
"Shale!!" Forrest snaps at him. He turns his head to look in Forrest's direction, and because Forrest is sat on the bed right by me, the man spots me staring at him.
"Oh Berry!! I am sorry I did not realize Granite had actually woken up!! I didn't think worrying about Jasmine's whereabouts." he says to Forrest and starts to look awkwardly embarrassed.
He glances at me and starts smiling at me again. Who is this guy? Man am I spooked!! I stare at him, so many things about him ring bells in my head. His name, hair, eyes, colouring, nose, face, it all looks way too familiar!!
Turmeric jumps up like he is in a flap, lifting Jasmine up off his lap almost like she is weightless and takes her by the hand and leads her towards Shale. He tells him to take her back to Mace before he does actually have those kittens.
"T who is this guy?" I frown at Turmeric
"He is ... Jasmine's Uncle." he says as he bundles the guy and Jasmine out of the room quickly. That does not make a lot of sense to me. Mace only has a sister, who is tied up with Gravel. I can only think that this Shale guy must be Mace's wife's brother or something.
Forrest looks angry and agitated, Atlas can not even look at me, and Turmeric is just facing the door chuckling to himself. They are making a right hash of trying to hide something from me!!
Suddenly this is all starting to really annoy me. I can already see a lot of odd things happening. I start demanding that they tell me what is going on, they are acting like idiots, they couldn't get that guy out of the room quick enough and I can tell they are trying to hide something from me and not doing a very good job of it. I try to get up off the bed in search of some answers and Forrest pushes me back.
"You stay where you are!" he snaps at me and I see that look on his face. That is something I have not missed. He has always worn the trousers in our relationship, he says jump and I jump. I can tell by that look I am in trouble already!! We stare at each other for a moment and his face soon starts to softens and the tone in his voice completely changes back to normal. "Baby trust me! Just give yourself a few hours to wake up properly! You need to deal with what has happened to you and your own medical and emotional problems before you go filling your head with any other rubbish!!"
"I am awake!! So what if my brother tired to fade me because he hates me enough to actually pull the trigger, fuck him, I'm not spending another second even thinking about that Berry Hole!!" I snap at him "I am a doctor remember!! I am not worried about my medical problems either, I know exactly what hell I have got ahead of me! Juggling life with one kidney and someone else's liver, taking anti rejection med's and all the other crap I am going to have to throw down my neck every day for the rest of my life, which in turn are going to cause me other health issues later on in life! And having to take probably the next three to six months off work is not exactly going to traumatize me is it!! Especially when I know I should be six foot under instead!!" I almost yell at him. "There it is dealt with!!"
Forrest just stares at me with his 'I told you so' look all written across his face. Who am I trying to fool? Only myself, when I can feel the tears streaming down my face, because really I have tried to block it all out and avoid thinking about any of it.
I have not properly dealt with what has happened with Gravel and the shooting and how emotionally that is going to affect me, or thought my future through yet and how this liver transplant and loss of a kidney is going to affect me. Saying things out loud suddenly makes it hit home hard. I am now basically in the same boat as Slate, if not worse, and life, for me, is never going to be the same for me again.
"and I want to see Slate!!" I snap quietly
I know Forrest is right, I am not emotionally or mentally stable right now. I do seriously need to think about and deal with my own problems. Forrest tells everyone to go and sit in the corridor outside while he tries to calm me down. He lies on the bed with me and holds me until I have finished crying myself out. We are lay there for ages because I just can't stop the flood.
I get the feeling that something horrible is coming, that they have got something not nice to tell me, I doubt this is far from over yet!! I do not know how Mace is other than 'okay', I do not know how Slate has taken everything, and Gravel ....
I do not even know what has happened to Gravel, but at this precise moment, I don't really care anymore. I am seriously not going to spend another second worrying about that guy!! As much as I hate him sometimes, he is my brother and I could never have pulled the trigger like he did. That really hurts!! He has stabbed me in the back more times than I care to remember, he has almost stolen my sanity over the last twenty years, but that bullet, put an end to us, he killed any history we had, even our gene connection, it is over and done!! As far as I am concerned he is no longer my brother!!
My main worry at the moment is Slate. I ask Forrest if Slate has been told the truth about me? He tells me that Slate has been told and now knows everything. I suddenly start to panic thinking, it might be Slate, he might not want anything to do with me.
"Slate is fine!! He struggled at first but mainly because of Gravel and everything that he has done and especially that his whole life up to now has been a lie."
I am angry about being taken out of the picture for a few weeks, because I really wanted to be there when he was told the truth about me especially. I can not even imagine what he might be thinking about me at the moment, I wanted to be there so that I could explain myself.
"He does not hate you if that is what you are worried about!! We have had a long talk and you are not a problem for him at all. He isn't angry with you and doesn't blame you for anything. He knows you are as innocent and just as much a victim in all of this as he is!!" he smiles at me "I think he is actually quite liking the fact that you are his biological Father rather than Gravel!! He now keeps calling me Mommy, he is such a wind up merchant!!" he laughs for a moment "It is both me and Gravel that he is as angry as hell with!!"
I frown at him and he reminds me that he has had a lot of explaining to do to Slate himself. He has sat here for the last twenty years and helped Gravel to keep the secret when he should have told him the truth. Slate was also upset with him for walking out on him when he was younger and distancing himself out of Slates life, something that Gravel forced him to do. However, he thinks Slate is calming down with him a little now, and is starting to understand why Forrest had to do what he has done. I ask him when and how he found out about Slate being my child.
So he starts to explain about how Gravel cracked up and told him. He told me about how Gravel couldn't even look at Slate when he was a baby, blaming him for Amber fading, and in turn blaming me because he is my child. What ate Gravel up so much was the fact that he blames me for taking away his chances of ever having children, with the cricket ball, and there was I producing a child like it was nothing. A child that he had in front of him that he couldn't cope with. Gravel blames me for taking a lot of things away from him, especially Amber.
Forrest starts to tell me about how he was the one who basically brought Slate up for the first five years of his life, it took Gravel that long to bond with the child. At one point Gravel would have gladly told me about Slate and handed the boy over to me. Telling me about Slate was the point of the letters and the one trip they made out to Berry Shores that I turned away. I will forever kick myself for not reading one of those letters or seeing them that day they came to Berry Shores. If I had not been so stubborn, the last twenty years would have turned out so very differently!!
Forrest moved the conversation onto telling me all about Slate, his likes and dislikes, his traits and character, the mischief he used to get up to and what he was like while he was little and growing up. It amused me when he told me he used to take Slate out to Sandy Shores every time he went, up until Gravel made him cut ties with the boy.
He talked and I listened until he sends me off to sleep, running his fingers gently across my face and neck while he is talking, which always sends me off to sleep.
When I wake up Forrest is no longer with me, before I even open my eyes I can tell that I am now alone in my hospital bed. When I do open my eyes, the first thing that I see is Slate sitting in the chair next to my bed quietly reading a book.
I watch him closely, amused by all the facial expressions he is pulling as he reads down the page of his book. I am still struggle to believe that he is actually my son. I lie there wandering how do you even be a Father to a child, especially when you have never known that child until he has become a grown man?! Because I do not have the slightest clue about where to even start with being his Dad!!
I realize he is sitting there machine free, now with my kidney inside him, he looks a lot healthier than the lost time that I saw him. I just lie there quietly staring at him until he notices that I am awake. When he does he closes his book and sits smiling at me. This is awkward, now what do I even say to him.
"Got any cheese toasties stashed in your room?" is just the first stupid thing that comes out of my mouth. "I'm starving!!" He laughs at me for a moment.
"No!! You banned Bay from making me any remember!" he pouts "See now you have shot yourself in the foot haven't you! You are NOT going to enjoy hospital food trust me!!" he laughs "They should be serving out the dinner slop soon!" he says as he glances over at the clock on the wall. "I am a terrible cook, but even what I dish out is more edible!"
I laugh at him and ask him if he has had any bad headaches since. He rolls his eyes and says he hasn't had any, but he isn't really sleeping any better. I guess that will come with time, he must have a lot going on in that head of his after everything that has happened and everything he has had to be told. A lot more than I have been told no doubt. I ask him where Forrest is and he tells me he has gone to check on Mace and to have a word with Turmeric. I don't get a chance to ask him any questions because he has one of his own for me.
"How long have you known?" he just comes straight out with it. "When and how did you find out you are my Dad and not HIM!" he snaps with a frown on his face.
I explain to him that I didn't even know he existed until Mango tracked me down and phoned me about my kidney and I didn't find out the truth about him being my son until literally about a week before he woke up. I explain how me and Mango worked it out from the kidney compatible test results, when we spotted Gravel and Amber had incompatible blood groups to the one he has got, which is exactly the same as mine. That is when I remembered and realized that the April Fools stunt that Gravel had pulled might not have been a joke after all, and we ran a paternity test to confirm it.
Slate then asks me why I walked into his room and introduce myself to him as his Uncle when I already knew I was his biological Father. I frown at his questions because I would have thought that Mango or even Cinnamon would have explained all this to him when they told him the truth.
"I couldn't tell you the truth, even though I wanted to!! That secret is what has caused this whole situation and I think you can see the lengths he has gone to keep his secret hidden." I smile at him "His last words to me before he pulled the trigger were 'Slate is mine and you are not taking him away from me'. He would have faded anyone who knew his secret, we couldn't put anyone else at risk. Other than Forrest, only me, Mango and Cinnamon knew that you were my son and not Gravels. He was prepared to murder both me and Forrest to keep the secret and me away from you." he pulls a face at me "We were always going to tell you the truth the minute that Gravel was safely behind bars where he couldn't hurt anyone!!"
Slate sits there peering at me through squinted eyes for a moment almost like he does not believe or trust me.
Suddenly I think I realize what his problem is. Here am I, worried that he won't accept me being his Dad, when he is probably sat there thinking exactly the same thing. He is probably worried that I might not be happy about it or won't accept him as my son. He already has a hang up about everyone walking out on him, he feels unloved and unwanted, he probably thinks that I am just going to be another one. He probably thinks I didn't tell him because I was going to just sneak away after the kidney transplant without telling him the truth. I laugh at him for a moment.
"Don't think you are ever getting rid of me now either!! You are stuck with me for the rest of your life, so you better start getting used to the idea that I am your Dad now!! AND if I ever hear you calling HIM Dad again, I'm going to punch you!!" I smirk at him "Avoiding the kidney area of course!" he starts really laughing at me.
"I hope you have got a good sense of humor, because you are going to need one having me as your Dad. I don't even have a clue how to be your Dad for a start and I am not exactly roll model material, berry help those babies of yours!"
"I know Forrest and Mace have already warned me about what you are like. Forrest says I am a lot like you, so I guess we will be okay!" he smiles at me.
I am a little amused that he has been talking to Mace about me, which is a good sign that Mace is mentally okay.
He leans towards the bed and puts his hand under my pillow. I frown at him wandering what he is doing especially as I see him pulling out a phone. He hands it too me and tells me that Forrest left it there for me, he forgot to give it to me earlier. I stare at it and it looks like a brand new phone. He tells me that my sim card has been put into the phone, that didn't get damaged when my phone was smashed up. I smile at him.
"Forrest has put his number in your phone, he says to just text him if you want him." he smiles at me "My new number is in your phone too." he looks a little sheepish "Forrest got me a new phone and a new number, he is playing Mommy already!" we both start laughing "Forrest said I had to have a new number so HE could not get in touch with me when he is in prison, and I needed a new phone anyway because I smashed my phone up the wall before I ... tried to cure a headache when I was hammered."
I laugh at him, I know he is talking about the overdose, he still swears that he did it accidentally and that all he was trying to do was get hammered. The painkillers was just drunken stupidity, which I can actually believe, because I have done some really stupid things myself when I have been hammered!!
We start to talk about alcohol and especially my problem, thinking that I might have to explain to him that I will need him to be tea total around me. He surprises me by telling me that he already knows, Mace and Forrest have both already spoken to him about it. He says he doesn't normally drink at all, so it is no big problem to him, not drinking around me, because he doesn't plan to touch another drop anyway!!
I ask him where Bay is because I am surprised he has not put in an appearance yet and that he is not with Slate. Slate says something that confuses me. He tells me that he is not too good right now and that he is at home with his family. His parents especially are not coping very well. I ask what they are not coping with.
I really frown at him and he frowns back. I ask him what about Cinnamon and he puts his head in his hands. I ask him again, what about Cinnamon, he just sits staring at me for ages before he speaks again.
"Oops!! They have not told you yet have they! Shit I should have realize!" he looks at me awkwardly "Forrest is going to tan my ass for opening my big mouth!"
"What about Cinnamon Slate?" he shakes his head, I'm starting to get irritated. "You may as well tell me now you have started!!"
"Gravel shot him twice." he rolls his eyes at me.
My eyes widen in shock, I do not know why but I just presumed I was the last of Gravel's shootings, I have not even asked or been told what happened after he shot me. Then I remember I heard quite a lot of gunshots after I had fallen, and I thought at one point that I did actually hear Cinnamon's voice in all the commotion. I have not even thought to ask and especially not about Gravel. Slate gets up and sits on the bed with me.
"I am sorry, Cinnamon did not make it. His funeral was yesterday." he says miserably and I start choking with the shock.
"No!!! Why? How?"
"You two were together for a while down in ICU on life support. We did not think either of you were going to make it at first. They struggled to stabilize the pair of you and you were both in and out of theatre like a pair of yo-yo's, although your problems were pretty straight forward in comparison to Cinnamon's."
Slate starts running through a list of the damage done to Cinnamon, around his chest and stomach area, where he was shot. Slate starts going into the details of all the problems and complications that he had in medical terminology. I forget he is a doctor himself. He also tells me about my own problems, something that Mango and Forrest only skimmed over. Really, I am very lucky to even be here!!
"Slate pass me my patient file." he laughs at me as I point at them on the desk over on the other side of the room. We both know that Forrest has moved them out of my reach so I can not look at them.
"I have been told I can not give them to you!" I frown at him and demand to see them, I want to know what they are hiding now!! I am seriously getting sick of this!! "Okay, I will tell you even though Forrest is going to so fade me!! ... your liver transplant, that is what they are trying to hide ... it was Cinnamon's liver they used."
I stare at him wide eyed as I feel the blood drain from my face.
"We actually found we have a few compatible donors amongst us, for partial donation, obviously mine was the best and I said you could have part of mine, but Mango and Forrest would not let me!! We are an almost perfect match and they might have gone for it if I had not just had the kidney transplant, they would not take the risk without your say so!!"
"I would have gone ballistic at them if they had!! You have enough problems without trying to add to them!!" I frown at him "How did I end up with Cinnamon's liver if there were other partial donors? I presume they went with deceased because it was a full donation. Now I know why they avoided talking about the donation earlier when I asked!!"
"At this hospital, because of anti rejection drugs, we don't tend to match livers, like we do for kidneys and other organs, but Forrest was insistent we got you a good match. Cinnamon's liver was not perfect, but more than acceptable enough a match to use. You know full donation is better than part donation so they went with that." he looks at me awkwardly for a moment. "It was only the machines keeping Cinnamon going in the end. There were a lot of complications in surgery, he came out brain stem dead. So you did actually have a live donation, they didn't turn the machines off until after they had harvested his liver."
I just stare at him, my face is rigid and I can not react, I do not know how to react because I am not sure that what he is saying is sinking in properly and it is rather a shocking thing for me to have to hear. Mango and Forrest avoided telling me this, obviously they were waiting to tell me later when they thought that I could take the news a little better. I ask him how Cinnamon's family are taking it. I almost feel like I have robbed his body parts so that I can live. I hope they don't hate me for it!!
"No of course they don't hate you!! He had a donar card and they were quite happy with it, it was actually them who suggested we test him for compatibility, after they were told the machines would have to be switched off. While Mango and Forrest were searching for a compatible deceased donor, the extended family were all being tested, for a partial donation, when they were told his machines had to be switched off. You having Cinnamon's liver has kind of made it a little easier for Bay and his family to take. Scarlet, his girlfriend, is in total pieces at the moment, she has just found out she is pregnant, with his baby."
I lie there numb with shock, my eyes start welling up. I can not believe that Cinnamon has gone!! He was far too young to fade and he had his whole life a head of him. That poor child is never going to get to know it's Dad. Another life that Gravel has destroyed, and the poor thing hasn't even been born into this world yet!! Suddenly I feel like this is all my fault!!
It is not like I even knew the guy too well, but I am already an emotional wreck and now I feel guilty because I lived and he did not. I made the phone call to Cinnamon that kick started this all off, if I had spoken to somebody else instead of him, he might still be here now!! He had to fade and I now contain a part of him which has helped me to live.
I hear Slate making a phone call as I start to cry.
"I've just put my big foot in it with your hubby!!" Slate says into his phone "I slipped up and told him about Cinnamon, I think you need to get in here!!"
Forrest appears instantly almost like he was outside the door when Slate phoned him. The door bangs open loudly as Forrest storms through it, I don't need to be told in temper, he's always so gentle with everything. Forrest instantly comes to the bed and puts his arms around me, while he cuts his eyes at Slate. He amuses me a little because of what he says to Slate, even though I really am not in the mood to laugh.
"Don't think that cheeky monkey grin of yours is going to work on me Slate Rock!! Like Father like Son, neither of you engage your brains before you let your mouth run away with itself!! You would trip over your own tongue if it was long enough." Forrest frowns at Slate "I hope Cinnamon fading is all you have told him!!"
"No, I had already told him about Cinnamon fading, he started demanding to see his patient notes, so I told him everything about the liver transplant. He needed to know anyway, before Bay or one of his lot slips up and says something!!"
Forrest pulls Slate to one side and out of my ear shot, I can see he is giving him a bollocking. I shout for Forrest to lay off Slate and snap that I am glad that at least someone around here is being straight with me. He ignores me and carries on taring strips off Slate and there is nothing I can do about it, too weak to get out of bed.
That is when I notice that Turmeric has come into the room with him, he stands quietly amused watching Forrest and Slate. I also watch them, Forrest quietens down and they now have their heads together talking, and I start to think that there is a lot of bad stuff coming that they are trying to keep from me as long as they can. Why else would Forrest be acting like this.
"Where is Jasmine?" I ask Turmeric just for something to say.
"Next door with ... Atlas." he stumbles on his words and pauses before he says Atlas, almost like he was just about to say somebody else's name but stopped himself. This confuses me, but more for the fact that I am wandering who else is in Intensive Care. Atlas being next door could only be because of Mace. Mace shouldn't be in ICU, he should be in Neurology.
"Next door? Who is next door T? Who else is in ICU?"
"OH GREAT!!" Forrest snaps "Thanks a lot!! Now you are at it T!!" he laughs sarcastically "Loose tongue must run in the genes, Hell! If you can't beat them, I may as well join in!!"
Turmeric and Slate start sniggering, while I frown at the three of them wandering what Forrest is even on about!! Forrest comes and sits on the bed. I tell him he had better spit it out and tell me exactly what is going on, I want to know who is next door, who else is in ICU? If he doesn't tell me, I am getting up to go and look for myself.
"Don't pull that face at me Leafy!! I know you are hiding things from me, I WANT TO KNOW NOW!! WHAT is going on??!!"
Forrest pulls the chair up close to the bed and sits on it, he leans his head on his hand while he is stroking my face with his other hand. I already know I am not going to like what is coming because this is what he always used to do, stroke my face while he told me something that he knew would upset me.
"You are not in ICU. You are up in Neurology, we moved you when you came off life support, Slate has also been moved up here." I frown at him. "Mace is the one next door so you don't need to panic, he is on the mend."
"Why are we all up in Neurology?" I frown at him
"Because ... Gravel is down in ICU. Elderberry had to shoot him because he had his gun to my head threatening to blow my brains out." my eyes widen "Gravel has just come off life support and they have had to shut down part of ICU, until he is okay to be moved to the prison hospital, which can't come soon enough for me!! Unfortunately the Berry Hole is going to be okay medically, you might guess he's going to come out of this with just a scar after he has messed up everyone else!!" he pulls a face at me and sounds very angry as he says it. "You know how it goes when there is a hard criminal in the place, it's like a circus down there, armed police everywhere, NOBODY can even go into see him, not that we want to!! Only Mango is getting to do that as he has been assigned as his doctor.
"I don't get it, why didn't they just keep us in separate rooms?" I frown "If he's handcuffed to the bed, it's not like he can get at us is it!?"
"The police made us move all of you out of ICU to get you away from Gravel." he rolls his eyes "We have got armed police outside Neurology too, and next door because of Mace. They are now protecting Mace more than treating him as a criminal." I notice him give Turmeric a strange look "We are all having to stick together and we have police escorts. This is about more than just Gravel's secret, and we are not sure this is all quite over just yet. We could all still be in danger. Our house is more like a hotel and safe house at the moment!!" he laughs quietly. "We have all been rounded up into one place."
"What?! Who is we? Forrest I think you need to tell me everything and NOW!!"
"I will, but, it can wait a while, we'll talk about it later!" I frown
"NO FORREST!! Stop babying me!! You can tell me now or I'll go and find someone who will tell me!!" I snap at him "You can start by telling me exactly how Mace is and I do not want your bull about him being fine! I want the facts!!"
He rolls his eyes before he starts to tell me that we were right with our diagnosis, he did have a intracerebral hemorrhage, caused by a depressed skull fracture. The bleed was only actually slight and the surgery pretty straight forward and he will have no lasting or permanent problems because of it. Atlas says that he is 100% himself mentally and verbally and the partial paralysis to his upper body has now gone. He looks at Turmeric nervously for a moment.
"His spine?" I ask and Forrest shakes his head miserably "Please No!!"
"Yes, I'm sorry!!" he pulls a face "The damage to his spinal cord was complete." I just stare at him wide eyed as they start welling up, while what he has just said sinks in. Mace is paralyzed, I am struggling to believe it!! "He actually seems more bothered about them shaving all his hair off and the scars on his head at the moment. He cried when he realized his hair had all gone!" I laugh half heartedly for a second because Mace would, he is very vain especially when it comes to his hair. "Man he doesn't half cry some!!" Forrest chuckles "Not even telling him his hair would grow back in a few months stopped the flood!!"
"He is over emotional, and he does cries at the silliest of things, but you will find his hair was just a cover for why he was really crying!! He would never cope without his legs!!" I mumble quietly, thinking about his love for jogging, working out, sex, oh berry!! This is going to destroy him!! "T7, T9,T10 wasn't it?" I frown at Forrest
"Yes, he is paralyzed from the waist down and I think you know, it is going to be permanent." Forrest says quietly.
I already knew it was going to be permanent with no hope of rehabilitation, because of him saying that the damage to his spinal cord was complete. Hearing him saying it out loud cracks me up.
Mace is never going to walk again and he is going to have to spend the rest of his life in a wheel chair. Gravel has done that, not satisfied with what he has already done to him, he has now totally ruined his life completely!! I can not hold it in even though I really do not want to do this in front of Forrest.
I completely crack up and start crying like a baby. I have all sorts of visions flashing through my head, especially ones of Mace in a wheelchair, in prison. How is he ever going to cope now?! Like it already was not bad enough!! More to the point, how do I turn my back on him now? Who is going to look after him? What sort of monster would it make me to dump him and walk away from him now?!
Look at what Gravel has already done, all the people he has murdered, Me and Slate have both had to have transplants because of him, Cinnamon has faded, Mace is permanently paralyzed.
I wander what else is coming? Surely there can not be anything else!! Can there?!
Forrest just holds me while I lie there sobbing uncontrollably. He does not seem too bothered that I am lay here crying over Mace, and if he is, he isn't letting it show.