Turning Ten Twice
by Nigel Gordon
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyrighted by Nigel Gordon, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
My thanks to Alien Son for his editorial skills.
Danny sat there, holding his burger in his chubby little hands, knowing something was wrong but not certain what it was. The noise of the burger bar that Mrs Williamson had brought him to for a birthday treat surrounded him, enveloping him in a cocoon of sound that he found frightening and overwhelming. What was not there was the gentle sound of Mrs Williamson's voice encouraging him and giving him confidence. He knew she was next to him but all he could hear was a wheezing sound.
Danny was scared. He put down his burger and felt to his left to find Mrs Williamson's hand. "Mrs Williamson," he whispered, not wanting to upset her if she was doing anything special. There was no response. "Mrs Williamson," this time a bit louder and still there was no response. A feeling of apprehension started to build up inside Danny. Suddenly he felt alone; he did not want to be alone. "Mrs Williamson!" This time he screamed the name.
A hand on his shoulder made Danny jump. He had not heard anybody approach.
"All right sonny what's wrong?" a man's voice asked.
He turned in the direction of the voice. "Mrs Williamson, she's not answering me."
"It's OK, I'm a doctor; I'll have a look and see what's wrong."
Danny became aware of a lot of movement around him and that other people had come to the table where they were sat. There seemed to be a lot of confusion and a people seemed to be pushing past him.
"Ambulance please. Hello this is Doctor Steven Ross, could I have a cardiac unit and an ambulance to Murry's Burger Bar, the corner of High Street and Princes Street, Hoxenham, please. I have an unconscious middle-aged woman displaying symptoms of cardiac infarction."
A hand lightly touched Danny's shoulder. "OK, what's your name?" the voice Danny now knew belonged to Dr Ross asked.
"How old are you Danny?"
"I'm ten. Well I will be ten tomorrow. Mrs Williamson brought me out for a birthday treat."
"Well Danny, Mrs Williamson is not very well. She needs to go to hospital; I've called for help and an ambulance and it should be here soon. Can you just sit here for a bit whilst I look after Mrs Williamson, and finish off your burger and cola?" Danny nodded.
"I'll get one of the staff to sit with him," said a female voice to the side.
Danny took a bite out of his burger but it didn't taste as good as it had.
The female voice was back. "Danny, this is Mike; he'll sit with you for a bit."
Danny nodded and felt somebody sit at the end of the bench seat next to him.
"Hello Danny, I'm Mike," a youngish voice stated.
Danny just nodded, and then felt around for his cola. They did not get cola in the home so he did not want to lose it now. He felt Mike move then the cola was in his hand.
"That's OK, must all be a bit confusing."
"It is. What's happening?"
"Well, the doctor's listening to the old lady's heart with one of those things they listen with."
"Yes, that's it."
The sound of a siren became audible, getting louder, and accompanied by the roar of a powerful motorbike. Flashes of blue light lit the interior of the burger bar. The two noises stopped, and were replaced by the sound of running footsteps. Then a heavy box was put down.
"There's a weak, but stable and constant beat; oxygen please at twenty eight percent." Dr Ross said.
"You are?" a new voice asked.
"Dr Steven Ross."
"Thank you. How long for the ambulance?"
"About fifteen minutes I'm afraid, nearest one was at Middleham. It's on its way but at this time of day, who knows. How serious is it?"
"Hopefully not too bad. The fact that the heart has resumed a constant beat, albeit weak, is a good sign."
"Will she be all right?" Danny asked from the other side of the table.
"Probably, but she will need to go to hospital and have a good rest," Dr Ross replied. "Is there anybody we can contact to come and take care of you?"
"You'll have to call the home." Danny fumbled inside his pocket and pulled out a card which he held out.
Dr Ross took it, read the details, and entered the number in his mobile phone before putting the card back into Danny's hand. He then moved away and pressed dial on his phone.
"Good afternoon is that Matterson House? ...This is Doctor Steven Ross, could I speak to Ms Jenny Small please? ... I need to speak to somebody about a boy called Danny Coles ... I understand, only the case worker or the manager can speak to me... Could I speak to the manager then? ... Do you have a contact number for Ms Small? ... Good could you let me have it? ... No? Well, could you phone it and ask her to phone me? ... I see; you seem to have a policy for everything ... Could you ask her to ring me, please? This is very urgent ... Yes, that is my number ... Thank you."
Dr Ross moved round the table and knelt down beside Danny. "Ms Small is out at the moment, but should be back within twenty minutes. They will get her to call me as soon as she is back.
"Danny, were you given any instructions as to what to do in case of an emergency?"
"What was it?
"I had to stay with Mrs Williamson."
"In that case, Danny, I think you better stay as close as you can to Mrs Williamson. You can't go in the ambulance, but you can come with me in my car. I'll be following the ambulance in."
Just then Mrs Williamson, started to stir.
Dr Ross moved over to her. He checked her pulse and listened to her heart.
She opened her eyes and tried to say something. The paramedic lifted the mask off her face so they could hear what she was trying to say, but it was very slurred. All Dr Ross could make out was the word Danny.
"It's all right Mrs Williamson. I'm Dr Ross; Danny is here, and he'll be coming to the hospital with you. He can't ride in the ambulance, but I'll be following in my car and he will be with me."
She gave a small smile at this news, then closed her eyes.
Dr Ross checked her heart with his stethoscope and gave the paramedic a thumbs up sign. "Keep the oxygen on; I think she is going to be all right but the sooner we get her to hospital the better."
As he was speaking they could hear an approaching siren, and see blue flashing lights. The ambulance pulled up outside the burger bar, partially blocking the road; a paramedic jumped out of the cab carrying a bag and ran into the burger bar.
"Dr Ross!" he declared as he entered, "so you're the medic on the scene."
"Guilty as charged. Just grabbing a quick snack before I drove over to pick Peter up."
"How is she?"
"Better than she was fifteen minutes ago. The heart rhythm has stabilised, though there is a slight asymmetry; indications are a minor cardiac infarction. The main problem is some pulmonary congestion, and her blood pressure is very low. The quicker you can get her in the better."
"OK, we'll get her stretchered up."
"Which unit will you take her to?"
"I'll phone through and advise them what's coming in."
Dr Ross walked off and stood just outside the burger bar and spoke on his mobile for a minute or two, then asked to be transferred to another extension.
"Peter, something's turned up. Could you meet me down in A&E? Should be there in about ten minutes ... No Peter, I'm fine, but there is a cardiac case coming in and a complication I think needs your skills ... I know you are not a cardiologist; just meet me and everything will be clear."
Once he had finished his call he returned to the young boy.
"Danny, they're just about to put Mrs Williamson in the ambulance; we have to go to my car and we will follow them. Let's put your coat on."
The boy seemed to be lost in a bit of a daze but did not resist as Dr Ross helped with his coat.
"Now, Danny, give me your hand and I'll guide you to my car."
Danny held up his hand. As Dr Ross took it, he turned to the paramedics. "My car's just round the corner; I'll follow you in with the boy."
The lead paramedic nodded as they started to wheel the stretcher out to the waiting ambulance.
Dr Ross led Danny out of the burger bar and around the corner to his car. He told Danny to stand by the passenger door whilst he opened the back and removed a booster seat. He thanked the gods that he had one with him. It was fortunate that he often took his nephew to school, and needed the seat for him. Once he had placed the booster in position in the passenger seat he helped Danny get in and fastened the seat belt, making sure the boy and the booster seat were secure.
By time Dr Ross got into the driver's seat the ambulance had begun to pull away. The doctor pulled a green light from the glove box and plugged it in. He lowered the window and reached out to attach the light to the roof; there was a clunk as the magnets took hold. He dropped his mobile phone into the hands free holder, and switched on his TomTom. Then he started the car and pulled out, turning into the main street to follow the ambulance.
"Are you all right Danny?"
"Yes doctor. Is Mrs Williamson going to be OK?"
"I think so. We'll be at the hospital in about ten minutes; she should be fine once we're there."
"This car is very low."
"Yes, it's a Porsche 944. It's an old car, but I like it."
The car caught up with the ambulance at the last set of traffic lights before the dual carriageway. Once on the major road the ambulance sped up, and with siren blaring and lights flashing, led the way to the Royal Hospital.
It took just over eleven minutes to make the trip to A&E. Dr Ross took a little longer as he had to find a parking space, never an easy task in the busy hospital carpark. Fortunately, his car sported a staff sticker, so he was able to make use of the staff section. A couple of minutes later he walked into A&E holding Danny's hand.
"Steven," a familiar voice called. The doctor looked in the direction of the sound, then guided Danny over to a large, slightly rotund man with a thick beard, who was standing by a vending machine.
"Danny Coles, I would like you to meet Dr Peter Clark. He's going to be looking after you for a few minutes whilst I go and see how Mrs Williamson is. Will that be OK?"
"Yes, Dr Ross."
Dr Clark lowered his bulk down till he was level with Danny, then took the boy's hand and put it to his face. Danny felt the face and the beard.
"Peter, I'm sorry about this. Mrs Williamson had taken Danny to the burger bar for a tenth birthday treat; she's had a mild cardiac infarction, but there's underlying pulmonary congestion. The ambulance just brought her in. Danny's in care; his social worker phoned me whilst we were driving in and she'll be here in about half an hour. Till then he is really my responsibility."
"Look Steven, I'll take Danny through to main reception; we'll be in the café. You find out about this Mrs Williamson, then come and find us. Then you can explain to me why you come to be holding another man's hand."
Dr Ross laughed and headed into the emergency admissions area.
Dr Clark stood up. "Danny, how about I carry you? It would be easier than guiding you as there are a lot of doors and steps. Is that OK?"
With that, Peter Clark picked Danny up and set off down the corridor leading to the main reception. Danny leaned his head into Dr Clark's shoulder and started to sob softly.
Dr Clark patted his back. "What's wrong, little man?"
"No doubt you are, but really, there is nothing to be scared of here, because I'm here to make sure that you're OK. I'm a paediatrician; do you know what that means?"
"Isn't it a doctor who looks after children?"
"That's right! Clever of you to know that."
"I've been in hospital a lot."
"Guess you probably have." Looking at the boy's head he could make out the faint scars under the close-cropped hair.
"Who is Mrs Williamson?"
"She was our next-door neighbour when I lived with mother. She wanted to foster me when mother died, but they said her home was not suitable. She has just moved into a new house, and I was going to stay with her for a trial placement. I won't be able to go there now will I? Don't know where I will go. Don't want to go back to Matterson House."
They reached the main reception area and Dr Clark strode across it. As he entered the café he called one of the porters over. "Charlie, do me a favour, here's a couple of quid, could you go to the counter and get something for this one? I don't want to leave him on his own."
"Of course, doctor; healthy or sticky?"
"Sticky; I wouldn't wish healthy hospital food on anyone, especially not somebody celebrating their tenth birthday."
Charlie looked at the boy's face, and a question started to form in his mind.
Anticipating the question, Dr Clark just nodded.
Some forty minutes later Dr Ross was standing by the A&E reception when a small, somewhat flustered woman dashed in and ran up to the desk and asked for him.
"Hi, I'm Dr Ross. You, I presume, are Jane Small."
"Yes doctor; where's Danny?"
"Danny is with my partner. They're in the café by main reception. I thought it was best to get him away from the chaos here. I'll show you the way."
Jane Small looked relieved. "Yes, you're probably right. He does not do well in new environments, especially noisy ones."
Dr Ross had never thought of A&E as being noisy, but when he thought about it, it was. There was the pinging and bleeping of machines, trolleys constantly being moved about, and the constant background noise of chatter... plus the odd scream or abusive shouting. Not the place for a boy like Danny.
"How's Mrs Williamson?"
"She'll be fine, given a week or so. She had a mild cardiac infarction. To be honest, I'm not sure the cardiologists would even class it as that; they probably have some special name for it. The thing is she also had underlying pulmonary congestion, and the combination of the two caused her to pass out. Unless something else comes up I have no doubt that she will be right as rain after a few days' rest. She's recovered consciousness and is asking for Danny; I told her we'd take Danny up to see her as soon as she is on a ward."
"Will she be in for long?"
"Can't say, though I expect she will be in for a few days at least. You'll need to speak to one of the hospital staff."
"You're not on the hospital staff?"
"No, I'm a medical writer. I do some work for the out-of-hours GP service that is based here, so I'm well known in the hospital, but I'm not on the staff here. My partner is, though.
"What's going to happen to Danny?"
"Bit difficult to say. He was supposed to be on a trial placement with Mrs Williamson; she's been wanting to foster him for ages but we have only just got the accommodation issues sorted out. He'll have to go back into one of the homes till I can make other fostering arrangements... but he is not an easy child to place.
"Unfortunately, I don't have any spaces in the local homes so it looks as if I will have to ship him out of the county. That is why I was out when you phoned-have just had an emergency care situation arise and had to split a family of five between Matterson House and another home, which took up all the spare places we had."
They came to the main reception area and Jane Small looked across to the café to see Danny playing with a large bearded man. She smiled and walked across to them. "Peter, you seem to have got your hands full again."
"Hello Jane! So, this is one of your clients?"
"Yes, Danny is one of mine. Hello Danny, how are you?"
"I'm fine, Ms Small, but what is going to happen to me now?"
"Well, Danny, I need to sort that out and it is going to take me a bit. You can't stay with Mrs Williamson for the moment."
"I know, but I don't want to go back to Matterson House."
"OK, we'll talk about it in a bit, why don't you get back to your game?"
She turned to Dr Ross. "I thought you said your partner was looking after Danny."
"He is. Dr Clark is my partner."
Jane Small blushed with embarrassment as she realised she had made a presumption.
"I'm sorry, I just did not think."
"That's OK; most people don't, and we do not make a big song and dance of being a relationship, although we don't hide it. Clearly, you know Peter."
"Yes, I've worked with him a few times on child protection cases."
"That's makes sense. Look why don't we grab a coffee and then we can sit and discuss the situation."
They went to the counter and each ordered a coffee. Steven got a cup of tea for Peter, plus a carton of orange juice for Danny.
Whilst at the counter Ms Small asked Steven how long they had been together.
"We met at medical school and have been together since, so that's nearly twenty years. We were one of the first couples to have a civil partnership."
Jane Small nodded at the news.
Once back with Peter and Danny the two of them sat at the table.
"Danny, it's Dr Ross; I've brought you an orange juice. Hope you like it." He guided the boy's hand to the carton, in which he had already placed the straw.
"Peter, could I have a quick word with you, if Ms Small will excuse us for a moment?"
She nodded and the two men stood and walked out of the café. Standing in a corner by main reception, Steven explained the situation regarding the young boy.
They had just got back to the table when Danny informed them that he needed the toilet. Peter volunteered to take him and the two went off.
Steven turned to Ms Small. "Look, you need a place for Danny to stay for a few days until you know the situation with Mrs Williamson."
"Peter and I are registered foster carers; we usually take in emergency placements of teenagers who have been thrown out of their homes because of their sexuality. At the moment we don't have anybody. Danny already knows us and it seems has formed a bond with Peter, so why not place him with us for a few days? I know we are in the next county but it is only ten miles away and I am sure you can get the paperwork sorted out."
Jane smiled and gave a small sigh of relief. "It would make things easier; who's your fostering supervisor?"
Steven gave her the information and she got up and went out into the reception area to make a call. Within a few minutes she was back. "Well, they've confirmed your status, and as this is an emergency placement I can go ahead without having to get the paperwork done first - though I'll have to get it sorted out on Monday. Are you OK with having him?"
"Of course, we are."
Just then Peter and Danny returned to the café, so Steven gave Peter a thumbs-up sign.
Peter lifted Danny onto his seat at the table and then knelt down next to him.
"Danny, I know you are worried about what is going to happen to you. How would you like to stay with me and Dr Ross for a bit until we see how Mrs Williamson is?"
"I'd like that; it would be better than Matterson House." He reached out, found Peter's shoulder, then put his arms around the big man.
"Right then, that's settled! I think we'd better take you up to see Mrs Williamson before I take you home."
The following day both Peter and Steven found themselves being run ragged by a ten-year-old intending to enjoy his birthday and all the presents he had, courtesy of a late night visit paid to a couple of local supermarkets by Steven. That afternoon they had a small birthday tea for Danny, complete with cake with ten candles. They also introduced Danny to Marmaduke, the four-year-old Shetland Pony that lived in the paddock next to the house. The boy spent a good half hour running his hands over the pony, getting to know its shape and form.
In the evening they went back to the hospital to visit Mrs Williamson, who was now much better and talking about going home on Monday, once she had seen the consultant.
"Calm down, Peter, everything is ready," Steven said, in as reassuring a voice as he could manage. Really he wanted to shout at his partner to sit down and relax, but he knew that would just make Peter more tense.
"Is it? Oh, I forgot the napkins!"
"No you didn't; they're here. I don't know why you are in such a fuss, Dan always comes home on his birthday."
"I know Steven but this is the first time he has brought a girlfriend."
"Maybe she won't like us."
"In that case Dan will have made a mistake... and I seriously doubt that our Dan is capable of making mistakes."
Through the open window of the conservatory they heard a car pull up outside, then doors opening and closing, followed by the tap, tap of a stick finding the first step that led up to the house.
"They're here, that's their taxi," Peter stated, moving rapidly, insomuch as his bulk would allow, towards the front door.
Steven followed at a somewhat more sedate pace.
Peter managed to get to the door and throw it open just as Dan and a striking looking blonde girl got to the top. He stepped forward and pulled Dan into an embrace.
There was a cough behind them; Peter released Dan.
"Judith, can I introduce you to my Dads? The big hairy one is Peter; the sensible one behind him is Steven.
"Peter, Steven, this is Judith Rousse, my girlfriend."
Steven extended his hand to Judith, then moved over to give Dan a hug whilst Peter shook hands with Judith.
"You better come in, dump your luggage and come through to the conservatory. There is tea or coffee, whichever you prefer."
An hour later Judith and Steven sat on the terrace by the conservatory, drinking another cup of tea whilst Peter and Dan made their way across to the paddock and a now rather aged Marmaduke.
"So," asked Steven, "how did you two get together?"
"We met in a history lecture. I'm doing Politics and Economics and it has a number of modules in common with Law and Politics. I didn't realise that the seat by the entrance was reserved, and it was a bit of an embarrassment when Dan tried to sit there."
"No doubt it was."
"Yes. Well, we got talking and I must say it was nice to have a boy interested in me for something other than my looks. After that we started going out together, so here I am.
"How did you come to adopt Dan?"
"He came to us for a few days' emergency foster care and just stuck around. To be honest, by time he was here a week we really couldn't imagine our lives without him around."
"It could not have been an easy decision, though, to adopt a blind boy."
"I don't think we ever thought of him as being blind. He was just being Dan - or Danny as he was then."
Just then the doorbell rang and Steven excused himself to answer it. He returned with a elderly lady on his arm. "Judith can I introduced Mrs Williamson?"
"Ah, so you're the young lady I've heard so much about!"
"Oh," Judith responded in surprise.
"Yes, ever since he was ten, Danny has phoned me each day to make sure I'm all right. For the last seven months, whenever he has phoned he has spoken about you, Judith."
Dan and Peter returned to the terrace as Mrs Williamson was speaking.
Dan moved in the direction of her voice and the old lady stepped forward to embrace him.
"Right, now everybody is here I have an announcement." Dan stated. "On the train down I asked Judith to marry me. Despite her university education she was silly enough to say yes. Now, can we go in and have my cake? We can use that to celebrate."
The party moved into the house. Steven found some glasses and a bottle of Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuveé. Peter lit the candles on the cake, then guided Dan's hand to it.
The young man held his hand over the cake so he could feel the heat coming off the candles, then moved it around so he could count them. "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten." Once he had them positioned in his mind he took a deep breath and blew them out.
"To Judith and Dan, may they have a happy life together," Peter proposed.
"To Judith and Dan," Steven and Mrs Williamson replied.
"Why are there only ten candles on the cake? Dan's twenty." Judith asked.
"They're not celebrating my birthday darling; that's tomorrow. This is the anniversary of the day I met my dads."