Everything She Forgot

Everything She Forgot by Lisa Ballantyne Read Free Book Online

Book: Everything She Forgot by Lisa Ballantyne Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lisa Ballantyne
plaster to the elbow.
    As soon as she was alone, Margaret went to the man’s side.
    â€œHello,” she whispered, under her breath.
    The ventilator exhaled and inhaled. The tentacled face of the man did not move; his shiny, lashless lids were closed.
    â€œThank you,” said Margaret, again feeling the chasm within herself. Her eyes were dry, her heart was steady, yet she felt the breach.
    She looked over her shoulder and saw that the nurse was gone. She was alone with Maxwell. There was no sound except the beep-beep of the monitor.
    She felt an urge to touch him, and so she gently put a hand on his arm. There was a strange relief in touch. His skin was warm against her cold hands, but he didn’t react. Margaret took a deep breath, tasting tears in her throat.
    â€œThank you,” she said again.
    The man’s chest was exposed to the lower rib cage and there were pads and electrodes stuck to it. Even his torso had been burned and the skin was white, shiny, inhuman.
    Margaret took a step forward and placed her palm where she thought his heart might be. She could feel the heat from his skin.
    I ’m sorry but it’s getting late now,” said the nurse. Margaret withdrew her hand and turned. Harvey was standing at the door. She flushed and her heart began to pound, as if she had been caught doing something wrong.
    â€œOf course,” Margaret said, “I should get going.” Harvey smiled and held the door for her.
    â€œWould I be allowed to visit him again?” she asked, turning, swallowing.
    â€œFor now, of course. We’ll keep looking for his next of kin. I have your details, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
    â€œWill you let me know if anything changes?”
    Harvey nodded. “Sure thing.”
    M argaret took a deep breath as she stepped into the lift. She was alone, and she checked her watch and ran a hand over her face. The hospital lift was like a drawer in themorgue. She felt the lurch in her stomach as she descended. Seeing the man had shaken her. Maxwell Brown, she repeated silently inside her head, making fists of her hands in her pockets.
    She had wanted to know his name, and now she did, but it was not enough. Seeing him had been a relief, but there was a gnawing hunger in her veins to know more. The day had shaken her, and she was exhausted and sore. She felt like a child again—unprotected. The lift jarred in the shaft and then the doors opened. She walked out into the winter air, needing home and needing to be alone in equal measure.

Big George
Tuesday, October 1–Wednesday, October 2, 1985
    B IG G EORGE WAS IN T HURSO. H E FELT TALLER HERE THAN he did in Glasgow. He felt as if people were watching him in their peripheral vision. Being in Thurso cramped him. He was too tall and his clothes felt wrong. Everyone spoke funny up here, and he had to keep asking them to repeat themselves, after which they would say, “You up from Glasgow, then?”
    It was like being at school again, knowing that the nuns had his card marked.
    I T HAD TAKEN him six hours and he had driven nearly three hundred miles. As he had neared his destination, he had veered off the A9 and driven up to John o’ Groats. Thurso was only half an hour’s drive from “the start of Britain” and Scotland’s northeastern tip, and he wanted to see it for himself. He pulled over as soon as he saw the sea, and smoked a cigarette, looking along the coast toward Orkney. He reached into his pocket and took out a small black velvet box. He bit down on the cigarette and then opened the lid: inside was a sparkling solitaire diamond ring.
    It was the same ring that he had used to propose to Kathleenin Glasgow Green, the second time he had asked her to marry him. The first time, he had not had a chance to buy a ring and had offered only himself.
    His mother had said he could take her own engagement ring.
    â€œWe don’t know where your father is, but I

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