Ged had felt much better since he involved himself with Viv's group, though his aimlessness and apathy would often return once he was home and alone.
Now he was out in public once more, he was often hit on by young women, and some of these were very pretty, but he steadfastly refused all advances politely, however much their lustful interest cheered him up and provoked a genital reaction.
His immunity to such approaches was of long standing and well known, and he suspected that some of the women wanted to see if they could entice the unenticable, and attain the unattainable.
It was after one of their practices in the week of the Friday gig that Viv approached Ged quietly away from the rest of the group to tell him that a friend of hers had seen Cassie with a very handsome man at the opera, and that they seemed very close. It arrested him. Until then he had not really believed she would find someone else, and certainly not so soon.
Then on Thursday, Cheryl rang him.
"Ged, there's something I think you need to know." she opened.
"Cassie's been seen with a man," Ged answered.
"Has she?" Cheryl said with some surprise. "I mean I knew she was seeing someone, that's why I'm ringing. So, someone's seen them together."
"So, if that's all?"
"No, Ged," she said decisively. "You should know that she's really taken with this man. We tried to slow her down, but you know from your own experience how quickly she falls for a man she likes - someone gentle, sensitive, caring - like you, you know?"
"So did you?"
"Did we what?"
"Slow her down."
"Don't know." Cheryl paused. "But we were pretty heavy with her, reminding her that being so quick hasn't exactly done her any favours, so perhaps she's thinking about it."
"I don't see what it has to do with me," Ged said doggedly.
"Well, she won't tell you, and if she settles for this Harry, you'll be free to find someone else yourself, but you need to know if that happens."
"Thanks Cheryl," he said as warmly as he could manage. "You're very good to me."
"That's what friends are for. You've had a raw deal from everyone, including me. The least I can do."
The news sharpened his feelings of loss and rejection, and as a result his performance on Friday evening was acutely moving for the audience and for the group.
After the set the group gathered round to congratulate him, and he began to feel better. He recognised his performances were cathartic for him and the group enthused over his performance, so he was cheerful and happy as he left the club, his guitar slung over his shoulder and carrying the keyboard case in the other hand.
It happened quickly. It happened too quickly for Ged to react, and by the time he could have reacted, he was in no condition to do so.
The club's entrance was in a side street, about a hundred metres from a main thoroughfare. As Ged reached the main road, his arms were pinioned behind him from behind, his instruments hit the ground, a face came into view, behind a mask of some actor or comedian he didn't know.
The face head-butted him hard, and he would have fallen back if he had not been supported by the man behind pushing his arms together behind his back, pushing him towards the face, who kicked him in his genitals. Again Ged would have crumpled forward but he was held as he was punched viciously in the stomach this time. He was winded, and the man behind let go so that he fell to the ground.
He hit his head on the pavement, and partially lost consciousness. He was foggily aware of pain, sharp jabs as the assailants kicked and stamped, and a severe ache all over. Suddenly the jabs of pain stopped, and in his dazed state he realised his hands hurt like hell. He felt people around him, and being lifted onto a stretcher, then everything went black.
Cassie burst through the doors of the Accident and Emergency entrance to the hospital and stopped short, searching all round until she saw the group, sitting together on the second row of seats in the waiting area, which was full of people waiting to be seen.
She expected a rebuff, but instead there was a look of relieved recognition on Viv's face.
"Thank God!" Viv said. "I couldn't reach you. I suppose Cheryl-"
"How is he?" Cassie broke in. "Is he going to be OK?"
"They won't tell us anything, but the receptionist was asking for you."
"For me?" Cassie said, puzzled. "Why me?"
"Go and ask her," said Viv, pointing to the reception office.
So she did.
"I think you were looking for me," she said to the middle aged woman behind the glass. "I've just arrived, I'm Cassie Copthorne."
"No dear," said the woman with a friendly smile. "We're looking for a Cassandra Fenton."
"That's my maiden name," Cassie clarified, "before I married."
The woman smiled at her response, "Oh, that's fine. You are Gerald Smith's next of kin?"
"Am I?" Cassie asked, perplexed. "I didn't know."
"Well, it's on the donor card in his wallet."
"We used to be engaged."
"Well, do you want to take responsibility for him as next of kin? He's being treated provisionally, but because he's unconscious, we need his next of kin to authorise more serious operations. Will you do that?"
"Unconscious?" she cried, "Is he-"
"I'll get someone to come and talk with you. Are you with that group of people over there?"
"Yes, they're friends. He's a musician; he plays with them."
"If you'll go over there and wait, I'll get someone to come and see you."
Cassie made her way back to the group.
"Viv," she urged, "What's happened? All I know is he's been attacked, and something about his hands."
Viv's face clouded. "We got called out of the club after the event, but Ted, one of the bouncers, told us he and Norman saw Ged get to the corner of Thomas Street and then three blokes jumped him. They were wearing those look-alike masks.
"Ted and Norm ran to break it up, but it's quite a way down the street and they'd beaten Ged up before Ted got there. They'd kicked at him, and get this, one of them had knelt down and pulled Ged's hands out while one of the others jumped and stamped on them. The third bloke was kicking at Ged's backside. I think he was trying to kick his balls. Anyway they ran off as Ted arrived and one of them lost his mask as they ran.
"When we got there, Ged was semi-conscious and Norm was putting him into the recovery position. He stirred and groaned and then said your name a number of times. I know you've finished with Ged, but I thought it might help him if you came.
"Anyway the police came and an ambulance, and I had to shout and yell at them before they'd let me come with him. He was delirious, saying your name, mumbling something about someone called Harry. We got here and they took him away. They won't tell us anything."
While Vicky was speaking a young doctor arrived, invited Cassie and the group to follow him and took them to a room off the main waiting area.
"Well Mrs Fenton," he said, after he had seated them all, "Mr Smith has gone for X-rays on his skull, his chest and his hands. We've checked him over and we don't think any of his ribs are fractured, but we want to make sure. Same with his head. But his hands are a different matter. There are a lot of breaks in the bones of his right hand, and probably his left as well, though not as many.
"His genital region is badly bruised and swollen, and we've had to catheterise him. There are other contusions but they are not so serious, though his face will be a mess for a while. He's in no immediate danger, but we are worried about possible brain injury, and we'll be keeping a keen eye on him for that. He'll be getting a MR scan later."
"So what will happen next?" It was Viv who asked; Cassie looked shocked and pale.
"That depends on the X-rays," the young doctor replied. "We've contacted our orthopaedic consultant and he will be here within the hour. He's very good and I suspect he'll want to operate on Mr Smith's hands at the very least, and quickly.
"Mrs Fenton, would you be prepared to consent to the operation? Mr Smith is heavily sedated at the moment and we feel it would not be in his interest to bring him out of that. There is a lot of damage to his hands, and the pain would be intense."
Cassie was still abstracted. She did not correct the doctor as to her marital name.
"Mrs Fenton?" asked the doctor.
"Cassie!" Vicky spoke sharply, and Cassie jumped.
"Will you sign for the operation?" she asked her.
"What? Oh yes, of course."
"Good!" said the doctor, showing his relief, "The surgical registrar will be in in a minute with the paperwork," and with that he left.
An orderly came in and asked if anyone wanted some tea. The group decided they would be on their way, but Vicky stayed with Cassie and they asked for tea. The registrar arrived and Cassie signed the forms authorising the operations.
The nurse who brought the tea invited them to stay in the room until the results of the x-rays were known, and behind her there stood a policeman.
"I wonder if I might have a word?" he asked, as if reluctant to intrude on their worries.
On their acceptance he took out his notebook and a large envelope. He took Vicky's statement and then turned to Cassie.
"I'm told that you are Mr Smith's next of kin," he said, taking some papers out of the envelope. She nodded.
"There were witnesses to the attack and some people took photos on their mobile phones. There is also CCTV coverage of part of the fight, er, I mean the assault. Would you look at these photo's and tell me if you recognise anyone?" He slid the photo's over to her side of the coffee table.
The first two were of the attack, but the masks on the faces of the assailants prevented her from recognising any of them. However, the third showed the three in full flight, and the mask had slipped from one face.
"No, I don't recognise him," she said after peering at the print, "but Viv might, she knew Ged before I met him."
Viv looked at the photo. Then she sat forward, "The man running, that's Lee Preston. He went to school with Ged. They didn't get on, but I cannot believe he would do that to Ged!"
"Do you know where he lives?" asked the officer, notebook at the ready.
"Well, he used to live with his mother," and she gave the address, "but I don't know whether he still does. I thought he was one of Ged's mates."
The officer, spoke into his phone, giving the name and address. "We need to get to him before he gets rid of his clothes, there'll be blood on them. Thank you Mz Percival," and he left.
"Cassie," said Vivienne, after a silence lasting about half an hour, "Ged was muttering about someone called Harry. Do you know who he meant? Perhaps we should try to contact him."
"No, I don't think so," Cassie said after wondering how much to tell her, "Actually, I don't know how he got Harry's name, Harry's the man I'm seeing at the moment."
"You mean seeing as in 'seeing'?" Viv asked.
"No, not that. At least not yet. We've been out a few times. He's very nice."
Silence. Vivienne was obviously disappointed.
Then, "But you and Ged-"
"Finished," Cassie asserted. "We agreed it was over, and time to move on."
"From what Ged said, this 'agreement', this 'moving on' is a bit one-sided? He hasn't, and if you've moved on, Cassie, what the hell are you doing here now?"
"I'm his next of kin."
"You didn't know that when you arrived. Stop telling lies. Why are you here if he means nothing to you any more? You could have phoned to see how he was. Why didn't you?" Vivienne's tone was aggressive, pushy.
It made Cassie think. When she heard he'd been attacked she had upped and left Harry, without a backward glance and had come hell for leather to the hospital. Why had she done that?
"I don't know," she confessed. "I didn't think. I just acted."
"Well you'd better think now," Vivienne muttered. "This is no time for games, or for messing with Ged's head. You're not doing this to mess with his head are you, some sort of revenge?"
"No!" Cassie exclaimed loudly, then "No," more quietly. "I... Well, I..." and she stuttered to a standstill.
"Look," Vivienne said patiently. "Don't say any more. Just think it out. It looks like we'll be here for some time. I know why you've come running, so sooner or later you will too, unless you're really incredibly thick, and I know you're not. So just shut up and use the time to work everything out."
So she did, and an hour later the young doctor came back.
"We did the x-rays," he said, sitting down opposite them. "His hands are a mess, many bones broken and even crushed in the right hand, few in the left but a lot of bruising. It looks as if the boots used were metal studded. No other breakages, and his skull is intact. So we did an MR scan on his head and we're satisfied there is no haemorrhaging to the brain. There is tissue damage all over his body and contusions to his genitals as we thought, but most of that will heal in time.
"Mr Watkinson is operating now on his hands. It's going to be a very long job: some hours."
"Will his hands heal?" asked Vivianne. "He's a musician; he plays keyboards and guitar."
A shadow crossed the young doctor's face.
"It really is too soon to say," he said, "but I don't think he'll ever get full use of the fingers of his right hand at least. The left may heal better, but as I said, some bones in the right are not only broken but partially crushed. The tendons and nerves are a mess as well, the tissue damage is serious."
"When can we see him?" asked Cassie, whose eyes were now brimming with tears.
"He'll be in surgery for at least another two hours if not longer. We will keep him sedated overnight and probably for much of tomorrow. There really is no point in staying here. Come back about four tomorrow afternoon, but I would phone first to check."
"Will they give me news?" asked Vivienne, "They wouldn't tell me anything when I asked earlier."
"If Mz Fenton asks them to keep you informed, they will. We are bound by the law, and can't give personal details to people who are not relatives without express permission."
So reluctantly, the two women left the hospital and went to their respective homes.
Cassie was restless once in bed. Everything was mixed up again. Vivienne's harsh words cut into her as she lay, tossing and turning in her bed.
She remembered what she had been doing with Harry when she heard the news. She was holding his prick and he was mauling her breasts, and she knew they were on the way to bed from then on, her delaying resolution notwithstanding. She had abandoned all resistance and was urgent in her need for Harry's body.
Then the news, and she had pulled her hand out of his trousers, dressed and phoned a taxi, then left without a backward glance. She had found a wonderful man, and was making love when she dropped him, almost literally, and ran to Ged. Why?
Eventually, a sense of resignation came over her sleepy thoughts. She knew exactly why, didn't she? She was not over Ged at all. As if it were a mist clearing, a number of things became crystal clear, and she got out of bed and made some tea. She sat in the kitchen and thought hard.
She had finished with Ged because her emotions were all wrung out and she could not face any more stress, but her relief then was touched with regret and a feeling of depression.
Why had she become so exhausted? Obviously because she loved him, and their fractured relationship was too hurtful to bear any longer. That explained the feeling of unease with Harry. It was Ged she really needed.
Then there was Harry. Why had she fallen for him so fast? Because in a way he was just like Ged, deeply sensitive and artistic. Even his build was the same as Ged's! She felt sorry for Harry. He did not deserve what she would have to do.
She now knew with clear definition that no matter what might happen, she needed Ged. He had said he would wait for her to come back to him. A surge of hope passed through her. Perhaps there was a chance...
She was brought up short. Ged was very ill, badly injured. All her worries returned and also her distress at his suffering and at the possibility that he would never play an instrument again.
With it came an idea. She sighed, and with much greater calmness, went to bed and slept the night and half of the following morning away.
Chapter Forty One
When Ged at last awoke fully he had a vague recollection of things being done to him, and of light and dark, and of wondering where he was. He had no recollection of the attack on him.
Now he realised he was in hospital, that his mouth was very dry, that he had a dreadful headache, that his hands were heavily bandaged and if anything hurt more than his head, that there was a drip attached to the crook of his elbow and that he had an uncomfortable feeling in his penis. He lay still and tried to remember what had happened to him.
He remembered the gig, he remembered leaving the club and walking down the street outside, and that was all. He looked around. He seemed to be in a room on his own. He idly thought that was odd, since hospitals normally housed patients in wards of about ten, if not more.
He became aware of feeling thirsty, and saw at his bedside a tumbler of water. He reached for it, and instantly realised that his right hand was in a cast and the left was heavily bandaged and strapped up so he would not be able to grasp it.
At that point the door opened and a pretty nurse poked her head round it.
"Oh," she smiled broadly. "You've finally joined the living again!"
She strode over to the bed and performed the usual routine nurses did. Blood pressure, temperature, the drip. Then she removed the catheter: as yet he had not spoken but there was an urgent intake of breath at the discomfort.
"I'm thirsty and I don't seem to be able to hold a glass." he croaked.
"Soon solved," the bright young thing chirped. She picked up the plastic tumbler, attached a lid and a straw, and put it to his lips.
"There," she said.
Ged sucked up the water until the tumbler was empty, whereupon the nurse filled it and repeated the exercise. He drank half of it and then felt better.
"How are you feeling now?" she asked.
"Headache, and my hands hurt like hell," he replied, "and someone's been kicking me up the backside."
"Do you remember what happened?"
"Was I hit by a car?" he asked. "I don't remember."
"They were saying you were attacked," she replied. "You're Ged Smith, the singer, aren't you?"
He nodded and regretted it instantly, wincing with the pain.
"I'll get you something for your headache after the doctor has seen you." she said, and left.
It was not long before the doctor arrived, another pretty woman somewhat older.
"'Hello, Mr Smith," she said with a smile, "Let me check you out. She looked at his eyes and shone a light into them, then scanned his chart. Finally she looked at his notes.
"What happened to me?" he asked her.
"From what I heard you were attacked by three men. They gave you a good kicking. Your hands were damaged in the attack and they kicked your genitals.
"You have bruising over your chest area, but no bones broken there. You've been head-butted, but no cranial damage, or brain damage. Your nose survived as well."
"My hands!" he said. "They're bandaged; are they OK?"
"Mr Watkinson operated on them last night, and he's very good. I'm afraid it's a matter of 'wait and see'. You're strapped up to prevent movement while the bones, tendons and nerves heal."
The doctor left after saying that Mr Watkinson might call in to check on Ged's progress. A nurse arrived.
"You've caused quite a stir. There's pressmen and even a TV crew asking about you. I'm afraid I'll have to ask you who we can admit. Those reporters have already been telling us they're personal friends of yours.
"I've already got Mrs Copthorne down and Vivienne Percival. I got the names of the rest of your music group as well. Anyone else?"
"Cassie?" Ged interjected.
"She's down on your records as your next of kin," the nurse replied. "Is there a problem?"
"My next of kin?" then Ged realised. "I put her down before I went on tour. We've split up since then, and I don't want her coming round here. I don't want her as next of kin either."
"You don't want her? She was here for hours last night, very worried. She was the one who gave permission for your operation."
"She's playing games. I don't want her anywhere near me. She's messed up my life enough."
"Well, if that's what you want. What about Mz Percival?"
"She's welcome, as are the rest of the group. Oh, perhaps Cheryl Foster and her husband Brian. And Gus Mettleson - he's my manager."
The nurse wrote the names down.
"If anyone else turns up, please ask me first," Ged was flustered, "and I need to piss."
"OK," she said and walked out of the room, returning with a bottle. She lifted the sheet off him and placed the bottle so his penis was inside the angled spout. She held it there while he urinated and then got a tissue and wiped him.
"I'll be back," she said, taking the bottle with her. She returned with some pain killers and another tumbler of water, which she duly administered.
"Anything else I can get you?" she asked. "I know it's mid-afternoon, but breakfast?"
Ged did not feel hungry, but thought he ought to eat. He nodded.
An orderly arrived and fed him cereal and toast, and of course tea.
After he had gone, Ged had time to take stock of his position. Physically he seemed to have mobility, but his genitals hurt and felt swollen.
He looked at his hands. The right hand was completely plastered, and though he tried, he could not move any part of it beyond the wrist. The left was tightly strapped up but the index finger beyond the first knuckle and the thumb were visible, and tentatively he moved them. There was immediate pain from the other fingers on that hand.
It was clear to him that he would need someone to help him with even the most elementary tasks. He cast about in his mind: who could or would be able to help him? How long for?
It had just begun to impinge upon his consciousness that the damage to his hands might be catastrophic for his musical life, when another doctor arrived.
He introduced himself as Mr James Tweedale, the surgical orthopaedic registrar assisting Mr Watkinson. He did the usual perusal of his chart and pronounced his recovery from the surgery a success.
"Any questions?" he asked.
"What's the damage to my hands, Doc? Will they heal? Will I be able to play again?"
"Oh," Mr Tweedale said. "You're a musician, aren't you?"
His face clouded. "I won't sugar the pill, Mr Smith. Someone wanted to destroy your hands. It was quite deliberately done. Your right hand suffered worse, there was a lot of bone and tendon damage, some bones were crushed. Mr Watkinson did a superb job piecing it all together again. Your left hand is less damaged, some fractures.
"I assisted in the operation; we were at it for five hours which is why I look like shit this afternoon, so I can tell you honestly that your left hand should recover.
"Your right is a different matter. There's no way of knowing how much use you'll get back. You will get some use back, but there's little chance of full use. Sorry. We did what we could."
Ged sank back onto the pillows, defeated. How could he go on without playing his music? He felt bleak.
"That's me finished then," he said disconsolately.
"Don't cross bridges Mr Smith - Ged," said the doctor. "As I said, we don't know how well you'll heal. With therapy who knows? Wait and see," with that he left.
If Ged had wanted to wallow in self-pity, he would have been disappointed, for through the door came Vivienne.
"Ged!" she said in greeting. "They told us to come back at four, but we rang and they said you were awake. How do you feel?"
"Rotten!" he muttered. "I've just been told I may never play again."
"Don't lose hope, Ged," she tried to reassure him. "We asked the doctor and he said it's impossible to tell. Don't give up just yet. Anyway what all this nonsense about you refusing to see Cassie? She's outside and very upset."
"Oh big deal!" Ged mocked. "She comes to mess with my head, and wonders why I don't want to see her."
"Come on Ged," she reprimanded him. "You're better than that."
"Look Viv, she's fucking some guy called Harry now. I don't want her near me. It breaks me up she's found someone so quickly, and I don't need her rubbing it in that she's with someone else. She doesn't care about me, or she'd have given us a chance. I begged her, Viv, and she turned me down. She wanted someone else, let her go with him and leave me alone."
He closed his eyes, feeling tired out with his outburst, but Viv was not finished with him.
"God, you're so stupid, Ged," she reproved him. "Listen to me, this is the truth. She has not had sex with Harry. Cheryl told me she discussed it with her, and decided to give it a long time before going that far.
"She was with Harry last night, they had had a meal at his place and they were watching the Ten O'clock News. Not very romantic eh? Your name alerted her and she heard something had happened to you. She left him flat and rushed here. She loves you, you idiot."
"She came because I stupidly didn't remove her as next of kin."
"No she didn't! She only found out she was next of kin when she got here. You do realise that if she hadn't authorised the operation on your hands they would have had to wait until your mother got here? How long would that take, eh? Any healing of your hands is down to her taking that decision. She waited and waited for news; she was distraught, Ged, understand? Distraught!
"Now she's outside and you won't see her. She's in pieces Ged, what sort of a man are you?"
He was silent.
She started again. "Tell me Ged, when she finished with you in that pub, what did you say? I'll tell you what you said, you moron, because everyone knows what you said - you told Marie.
"You said you would wait for her to come back to you. Well, she has come back, and you won't see her. Which is the lie, Ged, what you said in the pub or what you're doing now?"
"Lie?" It had not occurred to him.
"OK," he said, "Has she come back to me, or is she just worried about me?"
"I had a long talk with her and she thought things through last night. You will have to ask her, but you won't ask her will you? You're too pig headed."
"All right, all right!" he said petulantly with resignation. "Tell the nurses I will see her. She can come."
Viv grinned. "At last, some sense!" she said with relief. "I'll do that now."
She left, and Ged was left to wonder and to think. Why had she left this Harry and run to him? She was so adamant that it was over. She had said she loved him and that was why it had to finish. Did she love him? Really? She was so confusing. She had hurt him so much by finishing with him, but now she had come running. Why?
Well, he thought, perhaps I'll find out, though somehow I doubt it.
He was interrupted in his thoughts. Cassie came into the room.
Once again he was struck with her beautiful face, though her eyes were red, and her cheeks showed there had been many tears. Once again he had conflicting feelings about her. One part of him wanted her, and the other feeling was resentment that she had dumped him at the pub, but mainly because she did not smile when she saw him.
She saw his face cloud over, and he saw her jaw set in that way of hers. She came up to the bed and stood, though there was a chair. She looked at him and he thought her look was cold. She studied his hands then looked up at his face.
"It was mean and petty of you to stop me from coming to see you," she said, though without anger, more sadness really. "Making me stand outside the hospital with the reporters and the fans. Some of the reporters recognised me. It was embarrassing and humiliating, and it will make the press tomorrow. I hope you're satisfied with your little temper tantrum."
Ged wanted to apologise but the words that came out were different.
"You've moved on," he said showing irritation at her opening speech. "You're over me now, and it didn't take you long, did it? Shows your real feelings for me. I hope 'Harry' is up to your exacting standards."
She was angry at that. "You really are a self-pitying wimp, aren't you?" she snapped. She launched into a singsong parody of Ged, "Oh, poor little me, left in the lurch by that unfeeling bitch!
"Shows you up for a liar - you said you would wait for me to come back. Well, I'm here, I'm back, and you're just as antagonistic to me as you have been since you got back from that damned tour.
"Perhaps it was a mistake to come running when I heard you were injured. How much longer are you going to keep this up, Ged? You said you were over it in the pub, but it seems you aren't."
It was unexpected, this aggressive attitude on her part. What did she say? She'd come back?"
"I'm sorry, Cassie," he said, putting on an air of puzzlement, "Did you say what I thought you said?"
"I said in the pub that I was waiting for you, and now you've come back?"
Her face softened; he remembered she could never hold on to anger for long when they were together.
"You don't understand, do you?" she said. "When we met in the pub and I forced our break-up, I couldn't see any future for us. You had been so inconsistent and so hurtful to me. You were wrapped up in your own self-pity.
"I was living in a world of pain, anguish and guilt over what I'd done. I felt revulsion that I had allowed that toe-rag into my bed, grief that I had been so deceived. You know why. But even though you knew why I acted as I did, you still rejected me over and over again.
"You'd seem to soften and then we were back to your self-pitying judgement of me. I was suffering too, and you, the one who could always empathise with others, had no interest in my feelings.
"I couldn't take it any more, Ged. I was at the end of my rope. Then when I met you to finish it, you turned full circle yet again and were begging me to come back. Can't you see how hurtful that was? To push me away so far and then want to reverse everything at the last minute?
"All I could see was a repeat of the previous weeks, I would weaken and then we'd be back to you ignoring me, belittling me, rejecting me all over again. For my own sanity, I wanted you to move on without me, and leave me to try to make a life for myself without all that pain.
"It was so unfair of you to say you would never go with another woman. It was blackmail and I hated it. D'you know, that's what finally decided me I was doing the right thing? I felt you were playing with me. I began to live as a single woman again, and d'you know? It wasn't that bad. Not exactly good either, but not bad.
"Harry came along. We work together. Some of the men had been hitting on me because they'd seen it on the news that I was divorcing Zak. Harry didn't. I invited him. He was kind and gentle and thoughtful. He's handsome and loves music and literature. We were getting close rather too quickly and I longed for his affection and love.
"Cheryl told me I should take it very slowly. I was already thinking that Harry would be 'the one' for me after you. I had really been able to move on. I was over you.
"Well, I wasn't over you at all, was I?
"I was with Harry last night, and we were watching the news. When I saw and heard you were in trouble, I didn't look back, I didn't think, I ran, and it's as well that I did, for I didn't know you had named me as next of kin, and I was able to give permission for your operation.
"So there it is. I'm not as totally over you as I thought I was after all, though I'm not pining away for you either. I know now I can go on without you."
She stopped talking and sat down. Ged was stunned. The last thing he had expected was a diatribe of criticism and the display of her own resentment at his self-absorption and lack of appreciation of her own suffering.
He had realised before that his own hurt had clouded his concern for her. Now, was there a glimmer of hope? She said she had come back, though he wondered whether she still loved him as she had before. She seemed different, more distant. He knew he had to say something and quickly.
"I'm sorry," he said. "That's all I can say: I'm sorry. Really, it wasn't revenge or resentment that made me block you this morning. About the pub, when I'd finally come round to seeing how stupid I'd been and wanted to try again, it destroyed me when you finished with me. I wanted you so desperately by then.
"I've been half alive ever since. So this morning I was afraid of the pain of seeing you again and knowing you were now with someone else. I felt defeated. I'm in a bad way as you can see," he raised his hands off the bed briefly as illustration, "and I hadn't the strength to face you after your rejection of all my pleading last time. Please believe me on that. Forgive me?"
She did not respond directly, or say she forgave him. Her face did soften, but she seemed off on another tack.
"Ged," she said thoughtfully, "Let me put it this way, and let me make you an offer. To be realistic, I honestly don't know whether we can make it together any more, or whether there has been too much hurt on both sides - too much damage. I thought that in the pub and I still think it may be true now.
"I've started dating Harry and though we've not been to bed together, we're getting pretty close to it. He's very good for me and very caring.
"On the other hand, it's obvious to me that I'm not over you, and I'm not sure I'm happy about that. On the other hand, you keep telling me you're not over me either, but I don't think all your anger and resentment is over yet. That puts me in a dilemma."
His spirits sank at that. At that point she seemed to go off in yet another direction.
"Have you got anything sorted for when you go home?" she asked.
"No," he said. "It's all happened so quickly."
"I'm offering to come home with you and be your hands."
It came out of the blue, totally unexpected. He blinked as if struck.
"Cassie, I can't ask you to do that! Some of what you'd have to do isn't that pleasant, you know."
"I've thought of that. I went home last night and thought the whole thing through. I was awake half the night. If I come and do that for you, live in the house, help you day and night, we'll have a chance to see if we can make it together.
"It'll be at least six weeks before your hands will be free, and even then you will need time and a lot of hard physio to get the movement back. I know some of what I'd do would be very intimate, but that's what I think we need.
"Look, we have been intimate with each other in the past. I know your body and you know mine. Won't you feel more at ease with me than with anyone else? And I can help you with the music."
"The music? How?"
"You use a composing programme on your computer. I can type what you want typing. I can play the tunes on the piano or keyboard."
"How could you do that?"
"You forget, I got to grade eight piano. I still play. I used to play when you were out of the flat!"
"But I'd need you all day everyday. What about your job?"
"I'd have to negotiate that, but most of what I do at work can be done at home. I can fit some work round you during the day, or after you've gone to bed."
"What if your publishers won't play ball?"
"You'll resign? You'd do that for me?"
She misunderstood the tone of his voice for disbelief when he was simply amazed.
"Look Ged, you keep saying you want me back. You know I have reservations about it working, bit it doesn't mean I don't want it to work; I do, very badly. I'm willing to give up my job to try to make it work. It's that important to me."
Then as if to herself, "You're that important to me."
"Bloody Hell!" This was all so sudden, he was finding it difficult to cope.
"So, will you have me as your hands?" She was smiling now, and the smile lit up her face.
"Cassie, of course I will. It's what I've dreamt of. I'd love you to come home with me and live together-"
"Hold on, boy!" she interrupted with a broader smile. "Let's be clear. I help you out with all your physical needs, but it stops short of sex.
"I'll keep house, do the shopping, washing, washing up, feed you, wash you, put you on the potty, wipe your bum, dress you, all that, but beyond that, we need to work out if we have a future and be bloody sure of it before going down that road."
She had a really cocky look on her face, and he loved it. Then he had another thought.
"What about Harry?" he asked meaningfully.
"If I know Harry, he'll wait until I make up my mind. I might see him from time to time, but platonically."
The comment about seeing Harry was too much for Ged. He had naïvely thought Cassie would be his once again after they were together, but she was far from convinced of success. Was she doing this out of guilt? Was that all it was, not love but guilt?
He realised with a sinking feeling that they would never again be the same couple they had been. They really would have to build something completely new, and he was not sure any longer that she seriously wanted to do that. It gave him a new awareness of the damage that had been done to her, but at the same time he could not bear her going off to spend romantic time with someone else.
His expression gave him away.
"What's the matter Ged? You're not happy. What's up?"
"Yes it is," she insisted. "If you want any chance of this working out, you have to be honest with me."
"What you've just said sums it up. 'If I want any chance of it working out.' 'Harry will wait until I make up my mind.'
"I'm not running after you Cassie, you're not the only one who hasn't made up his mind you know. Neither of us is sure of where this will go.
"So what will you have to do to have any chance of this working out? It sounds very one sided to me. Yes I know you'll look after me, but a nurse would do that."
She looked puzzled, and she was. What was he getting at?
"OK, I'll say it," he clarified. "If you want any chance of this working out you can't go off seeing other men, even platonically. It makes me think you are not as committed to trying to make this work as I am. If you're not fully committed, I'll get an agency nurse in, I can afford it."
Cassie in her turn was disconcerted. She had not realised that she had been enjoying calling the shots, assuming that Ged would do anything to get her back, or at least testing to see how committed he was.
She really did want him, even desire him, even in her uncertainty about him, and she had seen that being his hands and being so intimate with him while holding herself off him sexually was a way of having him back while testing his desire for her. She had given the game away.
"Oh," she said. "You don't trust me with Harry."
"It's not a matter of trust. Of course I'd trust you. What it shows is a lack of commitment to me and our getting back together. You're hedging your bets. You have reservations. Fine, I get that.
"Look, we've had a hard time and we've hurt each other badly. It's not going to be easy, but that's why it's all the more necessary to be fully committed to making it work, and from what you're saying, I wonder whether you're committed enough, that's all."
"I am, you know," she said quietly. "I really am."
Then she seemed to stiffen. "OK, I'll finish with Harry. In any case, that relationship is in its very early stages."
Her own comment surprised her, even though she'd made it. She had a flash memory of her hand on Harry's cock, and his on her tits.
Ged sighed with relief. "Thank you!" he said.
She saw his relief, and now knew how much he wanted this to work. It gave her some hope, but there was also a fear that she would commit to him and be let down again. She knew she needed to be brave.
She stood and bending over him, kissed him on the lips. A gentle loving kiss. She wanted to show him how committed she was.
"When will you be able to leave?" she asked with a smile. For him it was quite a provocative smile. His hopes rose.
Chapter Forty Two
On Saturday morning Furtive Glance met for practice.
"Where's Lee?" asked Joshua.
"No idea," said Amos. " Zak? Do you know?"
"Not seen him," said Zak with obvious lack of interest.
None of the band had seen the news the night before. They never paid much attention to the news, and they had all been out getting very drunk - again.
On Sunday morning, the pretty nurse came in with a bowl of water a towel and a razor.
"You need tidying up for your girlfriend," she said breezily. "Time for a shave."
"Er..." Ged was not sure about being shaved.
"I have done this before," she said. "Come on, you'll feel better."
She lathered him up and then shaved him very efficiently. As she bent close to reach under his chin, he felt her hot breath and the swell of her breast against his side. It had the inevitable result, and a noticeable tent appeared in the bedclothes. He knew she saw it but was grateful when she affected to ignore it.
On Sunday afternoon his mother arrived, saw his bandaged hands and looked grim. However, she said nothing but asked him how he was coping with his new situation. She left after kissing him and patting his cheek as she used to do when he was a small child. The meaning of the gesture was not lost on him: he was still her little boy and any hurt to him hurt her as well.
She assured him she would come each day, against his protestations that it was a long way. She just gave him a look. She was his mother and he was her world.
On Sunday evening Cassie returned. Ged was out of bed and was looking a little more cheerful and a lot cleaner.
"The police were here this afternoon," he said before she could even say 'Hi!'. "They've arrested Lee Preston. Someone saw him running away from the scene."
"I know," she said. "Viv identified him from someone's mobile phone picture. His mask slipped."
"Well they've got a heap of his clothing for analysis," he went on. "What I don't understand is what Lee had against me. Yes, I had his girlfriend at school, but it's years ago. I remember he took up keyboard to get her interested in him again. We were young then Cassie, teenagers. Anyway, he's up before the Magistrates on Monday."
"Did he admit it?"
"They said not, but it's early days. Once the forensic evidence is in he may change his tune."
"Tune. A keyboard player you say?" said Cassie with a quizzical look and half a smile.
They both laughed at the connection which he had not noticed. It reminded each of them of their lives before the tour, always the playing on words.
"Anything on the other assailants?" she asked.
"Apparently he's not talking," Ged said with a resigned air. "He said he wouldn't grass up his mates."
Cassie had brought along a book of crosswords. Ged remembered how they used to puzzle out the cryptic clues together. It seemed so long ago. Cassie pulled up the bedside table and they spent a happy hour doing a crossword. It was a warm feeling for both of them, and they smiled often at each other. Again it was like old times.
"You need to call the nurse," Ged said. "I need to piss."
Cassie looked round and saw a bed bottle with a paper over it. "I can do that," she said, "After all..." she left the rest unsaid, but Ged took her meaning: she had met his penis many times before!
She brought the bed bottle over and undid his pyjamas, carefully fishing his penis out and putting the bottle to it.
"Off you go," she said, and he let fly.
She saw the bruising and let out a gasp of distress.
"Impressive hey?" Ged laughed. "My cock never used to impress you that much!"
"It's the bruising," she said. "They were vicious."
"Yep!" he replied, and she dabbed him and took the bottle back to the side table.
They smiled at each other.
"Thanks," he said.
"You're welcome, and if you must know, I was always impressed by your cock! It's nice to make his acquaintance again!" She giggled then and flushed a little.
Ged felt a sudden warmth towards her and smiled. This was how he remembered them.
On Monday Cassie went into work as usual, where she got an appointment with the Human Resources manager, and discussed what had transpired. She asked about working from home.
The manager told her that the only way the publishing house could accept her request was if she were to resign and become free-lance. The woman made a phone call as Cassie sat waiting, and after a brief discussion with the general manager, promised plenty of work as and when she could handle it, adding that they appreciated the quality of her work.
So she resigned with a promise in writing of work from the company.
Before leaving the building she invited Harry for lunch and told him the whole story explaining her decision to help Ged and hopefully reconcile with him. Harry, being the man he was, understood. As he said, it was no big deal; they had only been seeing each other for a few weeks. Neither of them believed what he said but neither said so. They kissed good bye as lovers do.
When she arrived at the hospital, Ged was smiling.
"Look!" he said proudly, waggling the thumb and index finger of his left hand. "They cut some of the strapping away."
He showed how he could, using the finger and thumb of his left hand and the immobile right to support it, pick up a mug and drink from it.
"I've been practising all day," he said gaily.
"That's brilliant!" she agreed, and her face shone. He felt that warmth again.
"And now I've got you to go home to, they reckon I might be able to leave here in a couple of days. They want to be sure about the concussion and check on the job they did on my hands."
"Oh, that's great!" she agreed. "Can you give me a key to the house and I'll get it ready for you."
"In my locker," he said. "I'm really looking forward to having you at home. The housekeeper should have kept the place running."
"I'd still like to get the lie of the land," she said, smiling.
"They remanded Lee on bail," he said, his face clouding. "The police called in to tell me. They reckon the DNA and photo evidence will put him at the scene. There's no news on the other two."
Each of them had the same idea as to who one of the other attackers might be, but neither said what was in their mind. Cassie thought Ged might think she was trying to shift blame away from herself, and Ged thought Cassie might think that he was persecuting the man who had ruined things for him. They were both thinking of Zak, and of course they were right.
Cassie broke the silence that had fallen.
"Zak hasn't replied to the court," she said. "He should have done it within the week. Now the court has to send a bailiff and serve him. Then another week. I thought he'd cut up rough and he has."
"If he doesn't reply, what then?" asked Ged.
"Graham says that the divorce goes ahead anyway. I'm not asking for anything financial from him, so he can't hold things up over money."
Ged thought she should get something, but said nothing. Cassie realised that Zak had no money anyway, and so asking for it would be pointless. If Graham's suit was successful, Zak wouldn't even have the house.
On Tuesday the band met for evening practice.
Once again Lee was missing, and by this time the group knew why. There had been some discussion between Joshua and Peter over the weekend but they had not extended this to Amos who they knew was Zak's mate. None of the band had contacted Lee.
Zak arrived with his usual morose expression.
"The bitch is trying to divorce me," he said without a greeting.
"What d'you expect?" Joshua said. "After what you did to Ged on the tour and tricked her into marrying you?"
"He stole Cassie from me," Zak said moodily. "She got back with me fast enough. She always fancied me."
Amos looked angry. Zak was persisting in his lie, but Amos said nothing. Peter noticed.
"Come on, Zak," Peter intervened. "She'd finished with you long before Ged came on the scene. You know that."
"But she came back to me," Zak said stubbornly. "I know she still wanted me when she was with him. She liked his stuck up ways. She thought he was upmarket. I was stupid about the wedding but she wanted me. We were happy."
"You heard about Ged? He's been beaten up!" Joshua said.
"Serves the bastard right; teach him to steal other blokes' wives," Zak growled. "They should have killed the fucker."
"Your mate Lee did it. Seen him?" Joshua prodded.
"Silly bugger lost his mask running away," Zak said. "Some cunt got a photo of him. He's out on bail. Won't be in tonight."
"Your dear little wife has been at the hospital every day," Peter said with a hint of mockery. "Ged getting beat up seems to have brought them back together. You know they separated? Now they're back together; bad move, getting him beaten up."
"He got what he deserved. He won't be fucking around with that keyboard any more."
"What?" exclaimed Joshua.
"Let's say his hands are demic now, someone's boots trod on them."
The band were silent at that. It was a step too far. As musicians they felt that this was an atrocity. Joshua recovered first. They had all deduced that Zak was behind Ged's attack.
"You are a real fucking bastard Zak," he snarled. "That bloke's well gifted, and it's done you no good, has it? She's still divorcing you, and I'll bet she's all over him now, full of compassion. You are such a fucking fool, you loser!"
Zak looked uncertain for a moment, then smiled evilly. "She won't be getting any divorce. I'm not answering them court letters. Some bloke from the court came and gave me the forms again. I won't answer that either. Stupid cow'll be stuck, the bitch."
"Zak, you're one stupid motherfucker," said Peter. "If you don't answer, it'll go ahead without you. Did nobody tell you that?"
"It can't," said Zak obstinately. "That lawyer of hers said same as you; he was bluffing. They have to hear both sides."
"Not if you don't answer," said Peter. "My Mum and Dad went through this in their divorce. If you want any say, you have to answer."
"Well I'll say I don't want the divorce."
"You need a lawyer for that, and it'll cost. And you'll lose. Then you pay her costs as well. Thousands, Zak. I know, I watched it happen at home. Mum contested it and nearly lost the house. Get it through your thick skull, you can't win. If she wants a divorce she'll get it. In the end you'll lose a wad of cash."
"Well I'll fight her about the money."
"What's she asking for?"
Zak was silent for a moment. "She's not asked for nowt, but she gets more than me. We haven't had that many gigs and I'm skint. I'll get half her cash."
Peter shook his head. "You want half, oh yeah, you'll get it OK. What've you got? A house Zak. She'll get half the value of the house, once the mortgage is paid off. You want to lose the house? Go ahead and ask that everything is split half and half. Quit while you're ahead, Zak, and let her go. She's going anyway."
That was the end of the discussion, and the band went through their numbers, but the spirit had gone out of it, and they knew it. They disbanded early and went their separate ways. If they got drunk that night, each did it alone.
Amos was seething with anger at Zak. He had grown away from Zak who had been less and less friendly as he became more angry and morose. Now Zak had in so many words admitted to something so heinous that Amos knew he had to do something.
Cassie was a good woman, he thought, and he was still feeling guilty about the part he had played in her unhappiness. Come to that, Ged was a good bloke. He had done nothing to Zak, and Zak had crippled him in the worst way. Amos was in no doubt it was Zak who had stamped on Ged's hands; that finished him as Zak's mate.
He got out his phone and keyed in a number.
"Is that the police? No, no names, I know who beat up that bloke Friday."
Chapter Forty Three
On Wednesday Cassie stood before the front door of Ged's house and felt excitement and a tingling of fear as if she were trespassing. It turned into puzzlement and distress when, as she opened the front door she heard a woman humming. Karin!
She had no time to react, for as she entered the hall, it was not Karin but a middle-aged woman who emerged from a room to the rear of the property.
The woman stopped in her tracks and stopped her humming, and regarded the intruder. She spoke.
"You're Cassie, isn't it?" she said, and it was not really a question at all. "You're the pretty young lass he's been moping and pining for all these months. Isn't it dreadful what those men did to Ged? Is he coming home soon? And how will he manage?"
All said with a smile, and a lilt of the Welsh, then a frown and a questioning look. "Oh, look you, you don't know me at all do you, Cariad? I'm Gwen; I'm his part-time housekeeper." Gwen laughed, "Fancy me not telling you who I was, I could have been anyone eh?"
It all came out in one long sentence, in a tuneful Welsh accent, and when she stopped she took a long breath and laughed again.
"That's me, that is," she said. "Can't stop talking can I?"
Cassie smiled, uncertain as to whether to answer all the questions or not. She decided to be selective.
"Hello," she said by way of a start, walking towards the woman and extended her hand. They shook.
"Yes, I'm Cassie," she said. "He's doing all right considering, but with his hands being bandaged, he'll need a helper. I've volunteered, so I'll be moving in to look after him. He might be allowed out this week. I came to get the lie of the land, so to speak."
"Very wise my lover," Gwen said. "Shall I show you round, and then you'll want to do your own exploring, especially the kitchen, eh?"
Ged watched the evening news on the room's lounge TV, and was surprised to see that Zak had been arrested in connection with the assault.
Behind the reporter who was standing outside Zak's house, one could see the forensic team in their coveralls bringing out clothing and shoes in bags. Someone must have shopped him and Ged wondered who it was.
Cassie came to see him that evening full of admiration for his house and for his housekeeper, whom she called 'a sweetie'. She brought clothes and underwear for him, and his eyes lit up; it made his departure seem all the nearer.
He told her about Zak's arrest and she looked thoughtful. They discussed whether Lee had confessed, or if someone else had told the police of Zak's involvement, but obviously came to no conclusion.
Then it was time for another crossword. Cassie felt happier having done something constructive, and Ged felt gratitude for her selfless devotion to him in coming home to look after him. They both noticed how peaceful they were together as they puzzled over the clues. Neither spoke of it.
After she had gone, he phoned his mother and told her he was going home the next day and that Cassie was going with him. She did not comment on Cassie but hoped he felt a lot better.
The great day arrived. Cassie got the call mid-morning to collect Ged who would be ready early afternoon. He was dressed and sitting in his chair when she arrived on the ward.
He had had the final visit from the specialist and his assistant, and had been dressed by the same pretty nurse who had been the first he had seen when he awoke from his sedation. He had again felt that frisson of excitement as she stripped him and then began to pull up his underpants.
"The swelling has gone down well," she observed of his testicles. "The bruising around them will take a little longer. Any pain?" she asked, lightly fondling his balls, the better to inspect them.
"Not really," he replied, trying to prevent his penis from rising in admiration of her and her attention to it, and partially failing. She made no comment, as she pulled his underpants the rest of the way, for which he was grateful.
The rest of his dressing went without mishap, an orderly had arrived to pack his bag, and he had settled to wait for Cassie. The charge nurse had brought his medication and ensured he knew what pills to take and when. She gave him his outpatients' appointment card, and told him there would be physiotherapy appointments when his hands were liberated from the strapping and plaster.
With all the paperwork finished, the nurse phoned Cassie to come for him. It was nearly midday.
When Cassie arrived he stood and she came to him, put her hands on his shoulders and kissed him softly. She looked into his eyes, and he thought he could see happiness there, and felt a surge of happiness in return.
"Ready?" she asked, unnecessarily.
"Can't wait to get home," he said.
Outside the hospital, the phalanx of reporters and TV crews had gone, Ged's attack being a one day wonder. There were two reporters and a photographer, who asked the usual inane questions.
Was he pleased to be going home? He was. Was Mrs Copthorne going with him? She was. Were they now an item? No, she was helping him. Was she pleased that her husband had been arrested for attacking Ged? No she wasn't. The photographer took a couple of pictures and they were allowed to escape to her car. There would be some small coverage in the next day's papers, and perhaps a mention in the local TV news.
She inserted him into her car, stowed his bags and then drove him home. Little was said on the journey but Cassie could see him looking about him, drinking in the details of his surroundings. Even though it had only been a few days that he had been in hospital, it seemed like a lifetime and everything felt new to him.
"I'm glad to be back," he said at length, "and so happy you're coming home with me."
Cassie smiled at that, her eyes on the road.
"I'm glad too," she said, and both knew she wanted to say more but dare not. Neither did Ged want to fill her silence. Both were in a sense shy, fearful of saying the wrong thing. They had both been through such unhappiness, this was a chance neither wished to jeopardise.
If Ged feared Cassie was going to mother him, it did not take long before such fears were laid to rest. She did not urge him to sit down while she got him a drink; she did not flutter about, or ask him if he was comfortable, did he need anything?
Instead she took his bags up to his room and let him roam the ground floor while she unpacked. When she came down with his dirty washing, he was standing in the living room gazing out at the garden.
She put the washing in the machine and started it, then came up behind him and gently hugged him to her, conscious of his bruising.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" she said peacefully. Her hand came up to stroke his face and he put his own bandaged hand over hers.
It seemed to be as much as she dared to do, for immediately she was all business.
"I need to do some shopping. Gwen's got some basics in, but we need meals for the weekend and next week. Is there anything you want while I'm out?"
Ged had checked with the charge nurse about the compatibility of his medication with alcohol. He was assured his painkillers were mild now.
"Beer, wine, whisky and whatever you're having." He said with a grin, expecting a rejoinder, but there was none. Then it struck him that she had no access to his current account or his credit cards.
"Take my debit card," he said. "The pin is 1409."
"My birthday," she said, smiling at him. He nodded but said no more.
"On second thoughts, I could come with you," he said. "It would be good to get out."
"OK," she said.
He could not decide whether to be relieved she was letting him please himself, or disappointed she was not more concerned with his health. She put him right.
"Only I expect you to keep up, and we go back to the car if you feel tired. I don't need heroics."
She grinned at him, enjoying her dominant attitude.
"Yes, Mum," he said, singsong, evincing a sigh of exasperation from her. Once again they smiled at each other. There had been a lot of smiling, and it warmed them both.
What is often a chore to be got through, for them that day shopping was an adventure. They chatted on the journey to the supermarket, they chatted as Cassie wheeled the large trolley up and down the isles, selecting staples, fresh meat, fish, vegetables and fruit.
Both remembered independently the times they would do the weekly supermarket shop when they lived in the flat, and felt good about doing it again.
Ged felt his handicap in the enterprise, reduced to gesturing (he couldn't even point properly) to stuff they needed which had escaped Cassie's written list. It came to his mind that apart from when he had entertained Karin, he had lived largely on ready meals, and takeaways delivered to the door.
He was reminded of how depressed he had been, for he loved to cook but had felt no inclination to do so while alone. He also remembered that Cassie was a really good cook, and began looking forward to the meals she would prepare. He felt a moment of frustration that he would not be able to cook for weeks to come.
Cassie was revelling in her role as provider and carer, and looked forward to giving Ged the meals he loved the best. For her too, the process of hunting for all the provisions they would need elated her.
She realised she had not been as happy as she was at that moment since she was duped into distrusting Ged and the disaster that followed. Even with Harry she had not felt so liberated as they trundled up and down the aisles, not that she had ever shopped with Harry.
The feelings of both were fleeting in the hectic business of filling the trolley to the brim. Cassie steered them eventually to the wines and spirits section and invited him to choose a whisky, and beer, after which she picked out some wines.
Ged wondered about stopping at a cafe for afternoon tea until Cassie pointed out they had frozen food to get into the freezer, so they were soon on their way back to the house. Ged was returning 'home', while Cassie, who had kept her flat, thought 'Ged's house'.
On the journey, she cast a brief glance at his face and noticed he looked tired and drawn. Perhaps the outing had been too much for him so soon after coming home. She said nothing at that point, but resolved to comment when they were back at the house.
As they entered the house, Ged turned to her.
"Cassie, I'm sorry, I need the loo."
"OK," she said with a smile. Come on!" and she preceded him to the ground floor toilet.
The room was large, and held a short bath and roomy shower, as well as the WC. She turned to face him.
"Stand or sit?" she asked with another smile.
"Stand," he said, feeling slightly embarrassed.
"OK," she said, and reaching forward, unzipped his chinos, delved inside, found the gap in his boxers, and pulled out his penis. He moved to the bowl and stood.
"You want me to hold him?" she asked. He nodded. She stood behind him, slightly to one side, so she could see where she was aiming, and held him. He took a while to overcome the strange sensation of someone else holding him in place, before the urine made its reluctant way to freedom.
Once started there was no stopping it and the stream was powerful and long lasting. Eventually it subsided, dribbled and on Ged contracting his muscles gave a last couple of spurts and was done. She pulled on it a couple of times to drain the last drops, then took a sheet of loo roll and dabbed him dry, putting him away and zipping him up.
"Thanks," he said meekly.
"Don't worry," she said. "You'll soon get used to it. I love your cock almost as much as you do, perhaps more. I'll look after him!"
He laughed and felt better - a buzz of elation. She was so good at making him feel at ease.
"I think," he said, "that as soon as people know I'm home, they'll be ringing. I'd like peace and quiet over the weekend. Could you unplug the phone and switch my mobile off?"
She nodded and did as he asked. After she had stowed the shopping, she noticed he was beginning to look a little haggard.
"You look tired," she said, no more. The decisions were to be his.
He appreciated that she did not urge him to go to bed, but he did feel weary.
"Yes," he said. "I think I'll go and lie down."
"Want to undress?"
"Yes. I hate sleeping in my clothes."
She preceded him up the stairs, allowing him to gaze on her perfectly rounded rear as it swayed before him. He felt a stirring, and was relieved there was no pain associated with the incipient erection.
Once in the bedroom, she undressed him, starting with his shoes and socks, pulling his tee shirt over his head, and dropping his chinos and boxers,. She noticed he was at half-mast and smiled to herself, which he noticed and felt unaccountably shy. She then pulled back the bedclothes, and stood by while he lay down, before pulling the duvet over him.
She pulled his mobile out of his trousers, turned it on and checked his speed dial for her number, and finding it absent, entered it under number nine, and left it by him on the bedside cupboard. Then she switched it off again.
"Use that free finger of yours to turn it on, then press nine," she said. "It will call my mobile and I'll come to you, OK?"
He smiled at her resourcefulness, and nodded.
"Clever idea," he said. "That doesn't surprise me though."
She smiled self-consciously, bent over him and kissed him gently on his lips.
"Sleep well," she said, stroking his forehead, and left the room, closing the door to after her.
His lips tingled, but not for long: he fell asleep immediately, and did not wake for three hours.
He awoke to the most wonderful aroma, knew that Cassie was cooking vegetable curry and also knew there'd be saffron brown rice to go with it, along with onions and mango chutney.
He got out of bed, and walked to the stairs where he called down to her.
"Are you in the middle of cooking?" he asked. "I'll wait."
"No it's safely in the oven. You want to get dressed?"
He nodded. She dressed him. They ate, she feeding both of them as and when he needed it, and asking him each time which part of the dish he wanted. Ged told her how wonderful it was to eat non-hospital food, and what a wonderful cook she was.
She cleared away while he sat in the living room, where he discovered he could work the TV remote with his index finger.
When she emerged from the kitchen, she made him leave the news on the TV and walk round the garden, pointing out the flowers and naming most of them, to his surprise. She took his arm and kept close all the time. He felt the swell of her breast and loved it.
They spent the evening watching a film on the TV, after which she assisted him in the bathroom as before. He found it easier to let fly that time.
At bed time she stripped him and gave him a flannel wash, standing him on a towel and rubbing him all over, before drying him. The exercise aroused him and by the time she had finished he was hard.
She seemed to ignore it, and led him to the bed, getting him a glass of milk for the night. Then she turned and faced him as he lay on the sheet, his penis pointing upward. He looked at her, and she looked at him, her eyes going deliberately from his face to his cock and back again in a way which kept him at full mast and frustrated him sorely.
"If you need me during the night-" she began.
"I can call you on the mobile," he said, but his whole self was crying out for sexual relief.
"I think it would be easier if I slept in your bed," she said, casting another glance at his rampant cock. "You can wake me much more easily here."
He nodded, of course!
She began to strip seductively, slowly pulling her tee shirt over her head and revealing her plain white lace trimmed bra, which pushed up and enhanced her cleavage. Then she slowly dropped her jeans, so she was standing in bra and matching lacy bikinis. She reached behind her to unhook, and he groaned.
She smiled, letting the bra fall forward off her solid breasts, their nipples erect and demanding to be touched. Then down went her drawers, and at last she was standing naked, and all the memories of their life together came flooding back to both of them.
She climbed onto the bed, and pulled the duvet over them. Then she leaned over him and kissed him long and sensuously.
"Night-night," she said, half suppressing a giggle, and lying back.
"Cassie!" he pleaded.
"Was there something?" she asked archly.
"Yes, my darling," he groaned. "You know there is."
"And what might I know?" she taunted him, though her eyes filled with tears when he called her darling.
"My cock," he said. "I'm in agony."
"You took your pain pills?" she said unable to resist dragging out his discomfort and frustration.
"Cassie, you know what I mean. I-"
"Yes, sweetheart, I know," she chuckled. "I'm sorry for teasing you. Your balls still look tender, but my friend down there looks healthy enough."
She pushed the duvet back: the night was not cold. She gently took his penis in her hand and began to stroke up and down, rotating her hand as she reached the glans.
He moaned his appreciation, and at the same time felt elation that she called him sweetheart. He moaned again as she made her way down the bed, kissing his chest, his stomach and reaching her ministering hand, took him in her mouth, licking around the head, and dropping down on him, taking him deeper and beginning a slow bobbing of her mouth up and down the shaft, applying a little suction as she rose.
It did not take long. It had been some days since he had ejaculated, or indeed had any stimulation to his penis.
"Cassie my love," he warned, "I'm close."
She slowed, intensifying his nearness to release and holding it off, and he remembered how skilled she was at this. His desperation increased.
"Please!" he pleaded. "Please my dearest!"
Her heart flipped as he called her his love and his dearest, and she bobbed faster and swirling her tongue.
He roared and grunted as he came, spurting into her waiting mouth, and she swallowed as his semen coated her tongue and felt as if it filled her. She had longed for him and for his gift. As his contractions diminished, she pulled off him, kissing his cock head.
She looked up at his satiated face with its hooded eyes and grateful smile, and he looked down to see adoration in her eyes.
She came up the bed to him, and they kissed voraciously, thrusting tongues and nipping lips. He could taste some bitterness and knew what it was, thinking it was not unpleasant, if not exactly pleasant either.
At length they parted and she laid her head on his shoulder, making sure it did not hurt him. Her fingers played with his wilting cock, and caressed his balls so lightly that he felt only pleasure and no pain.
"I'm so sorry!" she whispered. "So sorry."
He responded as quietly. "I'm sorry I've been so wrapped up in my own hurt not to see yours. Forgive me, my sweet."
"It's taken too long to get here again," she continued. "I'm not letting you go on any tours ever again, but if you do, I'll trust you, please believe me."
He laughed a little. "No more tours for me, but if I did, you'd be coming with me."
They both laughed, and it seemed that the hurt was fading away. They lay close and still for a while, save for her fingers tracing over his chest and down his sides.
Then he stiffened.
"What is it my love?" she asked, worried.
"You haven't come," he said.
"I didn't really expect to," she replied. "There'll be plenty of time for that. You're in no position to make love to me. You've called me your love, your sweetheart, your darling, your dearest. You've no idea how lovely it was for me to hear that. It's more than enough."
He said nothing but painstakingly and painfully at times, rose enough to push her onto her back then made his way down her body, kneeling on the floor at the end of the bed, and leaning on his forearms, kissing her stomach, he swirled his tongue round her belly button before going lower.
It took some rearrangement to position his mouth over her vulva, but he was able to use his tongue on it, working it between her labia then from vagina to clitoris, and back again.
"Ged, you don't need - aah!" His tongue stroking her nub ended her protest.
He did not need to use his tongue for long. The high emotion of his endearments and her own devotion to his cock, the remnants of his taste in her mouth, then the obvious painful effort he made to reach her sex was enough to have her on edge, and his clever tongue - the only part of him fully operational, she thought fleetingly - darting here and there, then licking front to back and back to front shot her over the edge and she came hard.
"Eaah! Oh! Urgh!" came the cries as her universe went briefly black and she saw stars. Her hips reared off the bed, fell back and reared again, her knees came up and caught his shoulders before falling back in their turn. Her spasms gradually diminished and she lay limp.
Ged laid his head on her stomach and rested, then slowly with her helping hands made his way back to her face, and they kissed gently and sleepily.
"I love you Cassie," he said. No more, it was enough for her. It made her day perfect.
"I love you so much," she answered. "So much!" and she sobbed out her happiness.
No more needed to be said. They were back.
May 11, 2018 in romance