Caught by the Tide Ch. 10byevanslily©
"I hope you're still kidding." But something about his lack of reply made me rather suspect he wasn't.
We sat in silence for a while, Luke steadily working his way through the stitches, the tension gradually leaving my shoulders as I settled back against his chest. But then I remembered finding myself at peace the last time we'd sat like this, that evening up on the rocks while we'd waited for the tide to go back out. And revelling in the feel of his arms around me, Luke's breath warm against my ear, I allowed my eyes to drift closed.
So the familiar beeping sound of someone tapping a number into a mobile phone came as a rather unwelcome surprise. Jerking back to full wakefulness, I twisted around to see Luke grinning. "Ssh," he mouthed, using the forceps to point towards the curtain. "Someone's out there. Don't say--"
"Hi, it's me. I just got your message. What's up?"
At the sound of the rather irritated male voice, a cold wash of shock flooded through me. Daniel...
"You do realise I shouldn't even be speaking to you? You know what they're like about mobile phones in hospitals."
Oblivious to my dismay, Luke rolled his eyes then nudged my shoulder so that I was facing forward again and began using the forceps to grasp the knot of the next stitch .
"What?" If Daniel had sounded irritated before, now I knew he was pissed. "Please tell me you're joking? She actually came round? When?"
The high-pitched voice emitting from the receiver was only just audible but although I couldn't distinguish the words, the caller's distress was obvious. A split second later, so was the identity of the caller.
"Fucking hell, Janine!"
Luke tensed behind me. "Janine?" he whispered, his mouth so close to my earlobe his lips tickled. "Isn't that--?"
I nodded once, equally tense, my shock at hearing Daniel's voice abruptly giving way to blind rage. But when I tried to pull away, Luke's arms tightened around me, holding me in place.
"Well what the fuck did you say?" Daniel raged on. "Does she know who you are? Did she see...? Shit."
Livid now and suddenly desperate to confront my ex-fiancé, I fought against Luke's restraining arms in vain. "You're staying put," he murmured, motioning down at the three remaining sutures in my arm. "I'm not done." And to my utter astonishment, he coolly began working on the next one.
"Okay... Okay. Calm down." All at once, Daniel's tone became much more conciliatory. "Well, there's not much we can do about it now, I suppose... No, I know..." There was a longer pause and then he sighed heavily. "No, they wouldn't let me in to see her. Something about taking out the breathing tube... Yeah."
I couldn't believe Luke wouldn't let me go. Daniel was talking about my mother as though he still had a right to see her, a right to care--when in truth he had no right at all. He'd lied to me, he'd lied to us all, for goodness knew how many years...
"So no, it's not looking promising. It looks like she's out of danger for now. Yeah." Much to my bewilderment I could hear deep regret in his tone. "I know. It could've worked out just fine. Would've solved a lot of problems."
What could've worked out just fine? Mystified, I tried to look at Luke, only for him to firmly turn me around again, finally working at the one remaining stitch.
"Well..." Daniel sounded resigned now. "It may still work out, who knows? Her heart's working okay for now but how long will that last? My mate's Dad had a bypass operation a couple of years back and he only made it another six months. Chances are, Gillie won't last that long either."
Six months? Panic-stricken, I twisted around to gaze at Luke again and found he was shaking his head. "Bollocks," he mouthed, looking exasperated now. "Grafts can last ten to fifteen years."
"Maybe I'll still be able to blag my way out of this one," Daniel carried on. "Gillie's always liked me, after all. Though I s'pose once Becca tells her about you and Issie..." He heaved a sigh, as though the consequences of his actions had only just occurred to him. "Oh well," he said, just as Luke pulled the last thread from my forearm. "Pity this didn't happen yesterday, eh?" Then he gave a rather bitter laugh. "I could've pulled out the plug of her life support machine."
"That's enough!" I gasped, leaping off the bed at the precise moment Luke obligingly opened his arms, charging across to the curtain and wrenching it back. "You bastard! You utter bastard!" And before Daniel had a chance to react, I flew at him, barrelling into his chest with a strength I didn't even know I possessed, the mobile phone slipping from his hand as I slammed him against the wall. "I want you out!" I spat into his face. "Do you hear me? I want you--and that tart--and your kid--out of my flat!"
"Becca!" he gulped. "It's not what you think--it's not what it looks like--"
"Not what it looks like?" I gave a choke of incredulous laughter. "Fuck, Daniel, it's exactly what it looks like. Just what kind of fool do you think I am? Yes, I've been a fool--my God, I've been a fool--but even I'm not that stupid. I want you out--by this evening."
"You don't understand." Daniel gazed at me, looking increasingly desperate. "They don't have anywhere else to go. She couldn't pay the rent, they were evicted from their place--"
"And that's my problem?" I couldn't believe I was hearing this. "I don't care! I want you out--all of you!"
"Becca, please. We don't have any money. Have a heart--"
"'Have a heart'?" I echoed in disbelief. "You were just talking about turning Mum's life support machine off and you're telling me to 'have a heart' because you're--" Then I stopped, grasping in a blinding flash of comprehension what this was all about. "You're broke," I breathed, hardly able to believe I hadn't guessed before. "That's it, isn't it? My God, that's why you're here." And seemingly of its own volition my right hand was swinging upwards, balling into a fist before colliding with his cheek. "You bastard!" I screamed, wild with fury. "You actually wanted her to die, didn't you? Shit--you're in her w-huh!"
Before I could finish, Daniel grabbed me by the throat and suddenly it was me that was up against the wall, the back of my head smashing into the plasterboard with a dizzying thwack. "You don't get it," he said, still with that odd note of despair, leaning in until his face was scant inches from mine. "You can't throw us out, do you hear? It was a one-night stand, you have to believe me. I never thought she'd get pregnant."
I heard my sister's shocked voice but couldn't see where she was, Daniel's hand pressing so tightly against my windpipe, everything was going black. "And I loved you, not her--not Janine. I just didn't know what to do. I didn't have the money to support them by myself, Becca--"
"So you thought you'd use her money instead?" Wrenching Daniel's hand from my neck Luke shoved him hard in the ribs, sending him sprawling to the floor. The next thing I knew, Daniel was on his back, Luke's foot planted over his chest. "You gutless fucker, did you never think of telling her the truth? Of course not--you couldn't be a man."
Gasping for breath I slid down the wall, watching as Daniel peered up at Luke. "Foster?" he exclaimed. "You again? You hit me--I'll have you done for assault!"
"Be my guest," Luke said, sounding calm. "But I think you should know someone else witnessed what you just did." And as he gestured towards the doorway I saw Sarah at last, her mouth gaping open in horror. "So go ahead, get the police involved. I'm sure they'd be interested to hear from you. Because if you don't do the honours, I think I just might. In fact," he gave a shrug and removed his foot, "maybe it's time I pressed charges against you myself."
Daniel cast a frantic glance at my sister as he struggled upright, suddenly looking rather pale. "Sarah," he faltered as he reached for his phone. "Believe me--this isn't what it looks like--"
"Get out," she said coldly, her voice shaking with anger. "Just go--and never come back." And ignoring him as he staggered out of the room, she hurried forward, her huge belly swaying as she ran. "Becky! Oh God, are you all right?"
But Luke was already crouching in front of me, gazing straight into my eyes. "Nice right hook, babe," he murmured under his breath, cupping my cheek with his hand. "Remind me to never piss you off."
And letting out a sob, I buried my face into his shoulder.
"Is she hurt?" Sarah exclaimed as his arms folded around me. "She hit her head pretty hard."
"I'm all right," I mumbled, sinking into the solid warmth of his embrace, drawing strength from him as though he was a battery. But when I felt his fingers at the back of my head gently parting my hair, I gave a wail of frustration. "No, don't! Stop fussing--I'm fine--ow-ow-ow!"
Having found the sore place, Luke rocked back on his heels and shot me an appraising look. "How many fingers?" he asked with a sigh, holding three up in front of me.
"Five," I retorted, being deliberately obtuse. "Stop it, you tosser, I'm fine."
"Becky!" Sarah sounded outraged. "Mr Foster, I'm sorry, I can't believe she just said that. Becky, that was so rude!"
For a moment I stared up at her in total confusion then caught Luke's hastily repressed grin. "That's quite all right," he replied, deadpan. "I'll take that as a good sign." Solemnly, he reached down for my right hand, shaking his head when I gasped. "And I'll take it that hurts," he said, examining my already-reddened knuckles. "I think we'd better find you some ice."
"Thank goodness you were here," Sarah breathed, still using that over-polite, rather formal tone, the same tone Mum used when she was on the telephone. "I don't know what would've happened if you hadn't been here to stop him."
"I didn't quite stop him in time," Luke said regretfully, sliding his hands beneath my arms and gently lifting me to my feet, grimacing when I swayed against him.
"Well, I hurt him first." I lifted my hand to look at it more closely, wincing as I flexed my fingers. Having never thumped anyone before, I'd had no idea how painful it would be. It felt rather as though I'd rammed my fist into a wall.
Sarah gave a snort of derision. "Oh believe me, he deserved so much worse than that. But let me get this straight," she added, frowning as she rubbed at her lower spine. "Daniel's going to be a father?"
"No, he's already a father," I corrected, saying the words without emotion. The truth still hadn't quite sunk in. "He has a little girl and she's eighteen months old. Her name's Issie and she's living in my flat with her mother."
I bit my lip. "Where's Graham?"
"He had to pop into work--he dropped me off downstairs. He'll be in later. Becky..." Sarah looked aghast. "They're actually living in your--?"
"Have you seen Mum?" I interrupted. "She's off the ventilator. Caitlin was just taking out the tube." But when I glanced at Luke I discovered he was gazing at me so tenderly I found myself on the brink of tears. "Sh-she'll be done by now, won't she?" I added hurriedly, blinking hard. "Can we go back and see her?"
He nodded then slid an arm around my shoulders, brushing his lips against my temple. Sarah stared, her face a picture of bewilderment. Realising she was struggling to decide whether what she'd just seen was borderline acceptable or entirely inappropriate, I suddenly wanted to laugh instead.
"I'd completely forgotten about the will," she said, still shooting curious glances at the two of us as we headed back down the corridor towards the intensive care unit. "If Mum had died..."
"Daniel's in your mother's will?" Luke gave me a startled look
I nodded. "She had a new one drawn up not long after we got engaged. She insisted on naming each of us individually. Sarah and I get forty percent each and Graham and Daniel get ten percent each"
"And ten percent is a lot," Sarah said, grimacing as she rubbed at her back again. "Dad left Mum quite a bit of money when he died."
"No wonder Daniel was sticking around." Luke shook his head slightly. "He must be pretty mad at me."
"Wait a minute." Sarah slowed to a halt, turning to face me. "When did you and Daniel get engaged?"
"What?" I pulled a face. "You know when. December, remember? Not last year, the year before. He made some crack about not having to get me a Christmas present then--and he didn't either, did he? Why?" I asked, feeling my frown deepen as Sarah and Luke exchanged glances.
My sister blew out a sigh. "Eighteen months ago."
"Yes, I suppose--" And then I understood. "Oh God." He'd asked me to marry him around the time his daughter had been born...
"Bastard. I don't know how he can live with himself," Sarah muttered furiously. "And this girl--"
"Janine," I supplied automatically.
"Janine. You saw her? Did she see you too? She knew who you were?"
I gave a rather weary nod.
"So she knew Daniel was going to marry you? What kind of woman would go along with that?"
"A desperate one?" Luke suggested, earning himself a glare from Sarah. "Well, maybe you should give her the benefit of the doubt for now. She may not have known all along. Daniel lied to Becks. It's not so difficult to believe he lied to Janine as well."
"Sorry?" Her eyes narrowed. "Becks?"
Luke grinned, giving my shoulders one last squeeze as we arrived outside Mum's room. "You go in. I'll go and get that ice."
As he walked away, Sarah gave me an incredulous look. "What the hell--?"
I hastily pushed at the door before she could finish, Caitlin greeting us with another of her characteristic welcoming beams. "There you are," she said cheerfully. "We were just wondering whether we should send out a search party."
"Yes, well, you can blame Daniel for that," my sister said, already moving past me and heading straight towards our mother. "Thank God you're awake, Mum. You're never going to believe what he's done now."
"Sarah!" I stared at her and then at Mum, a part of me noting with relief that the tube was gone, her smile visible through the clear plastic of the oxygen mask now covering her face. "Not now!"
"She needs to know." Sarah bent to kiss her, her expression softening as she smiled back at her. "My God, Mum, you had us worried."
I saw my mother mouth the word 'Sorry' before turning her head to look directly at me, frowning slightly.
Sarah followed her gaze, looking rather grim. "Becky and Daniel aren't getting back together again, Mum. She only told you that because she thought you were dying."
"Don't!" Aghast now, I looked to Caitlin in desperation. "Tell her this isn't the right time."
"There's never going to be a right time," Sarah said before the nurse could reply. "You're always going to be thinking 'I can't say that' or 'I can't tell her this' because you think she's going to have a relapse or another heart attack or something. But let's face it, if that's going to happen, then it's better that it happens here, right? While she's still in hospital surrounded by people who'd know what to do?"
"It's okay." I felt Caitlin's hand on my arm. "This is what you were talking about last night, isn't it? You can tell her, she really isn't as fragile as she looks. And your sister's right, this is as good a time as any."
"Oh God, Mum--I'm so sorry," I said, the words coming out in a rush as I moved to her side. "I didn't know what to do. I didn't mean to lie to you. But it's true, it's over with Daniel.
But to my surprise, my mother didn't look at all shocked. Instead she stretched out a hand to me, smiling rather apologetically as I took it. "I know," she said, her voice sounding rather croaky.
"You know?" I shook my head puzzled. "But--how? Who told you?"
She smiled again, gently squeezing my fingers then said a word I didn't quite catch. It sounded rather like 'wool'.
"Sorry?" I frowned, racking my brains for what she might've meant. "What was that? I didn't hear you."
She rolled her eyes slightly then mouthed the word again. Mystified, I turned to Sarah who was staring at Mum in consternation. "Cornwall?" she said, shaking her head slightly. "What about Cornwall?"
I regarded Mum with astonishment. "You heard me last night?" I ventured disbelievingly. "You heard what I told you?"
Sarah shot me a withering glance. "Don't be silly. She couldn't have possibly have heard anything anyone said last night. She was fast asleep. Mum--" She turned back to our mother, giving her a mollifying smile. "Becky came back from Cornwall over a week ago, remember? The day after you had your heart attack?"
Mum gave Sarah an equally withering glance. "I know," she whispered before smiling at me again. "You met someone?"
It was Sarah's turn to look astonished. "You know that Becky met someone in Cornwall?"
"What's that about Cornwall?" I almost jumped out of my skin at the sound of Luke's amused voice right behind me then shrieked as he clapped something cold against the back of my head before reaching around me for my right hand. "Ice," he said with a chuckle, even as I felt him press another bag of the chilly cubes against my knuckles.
"Mr Foster's just come back from Cornwall," Caitlin put in cheerfully. "Isn't that right? Stag do, wasn't it?"
"That's right," he agreed, moving nearer until I was effectively standing in the circle of his embrace. "Turned out to be quite a weekend."
And suddenly I saw that Sarah was staring at my forearm, a startled expression crossing her face as she looked up at me then Luke then back at me. "Your stitches are out."
It was difficult to repress a smile. "Yes."
"Mr Foster took them out," Caitlin interjected. "I offered to, but he insisted on doing the job himself."
Sarah was staring at Luke now. "That's why you were there just now? You were taking Becky's stitches out?"
I felt him nodding, his hair brushing against my cheek. But just as I saw the look of pure astonishment crossing her face and was certain she'd guessed, there was a curious spattering noise, Sarah's gaze dropping abruptly to the floor. "Oh no," she breathed, sounding horrified. "Oh God!"
"Whoa." Thrusting both bags of ice into my hand, Luke started moving around the bed, holding out his arm. "Come over here and sit down."
"What?" I stared at them in alarm. "What's wrong?"
Luke sent me a grin, already guiding her towards one of the chairs just inside the door. "Your sister's waters just broke."
"But they can't have done," Sarah protested, looking in dismay at the puddle she'd left in her wake. "The baby's not due for another two weeks. Maybe that was just--" And then she stopped again, her eyes widening in shock as she clutched at her belly, her face contorting with pain.
"Sarah!" I gasped, rather frightened now. "Oh God, Luke--she's--"
"In labour," he finished gently, holding both her hands as he waited for the contraction to pass before helping her sit down. "You know, I don't think this baby wants to wait," he told her with a smile.
But having recovered, Sarah was now staring at him, an even odder expression on her face. "Luke?" she said, her eyes narrowing. "Becky just called you Luke?"
"Cornwall," my mother said unexpectedly, her hoarse voice audible in the sudden silence. "It's him," she added, smiling at me as I turned in astonishment. "Right?"
When I nodded, Sarah gave a delighted gasp. "He's the one?" She gazed at Luke as he straightened up. "You're the one who rescued her from the beach? You're that surgeon? You're the one who put those stitches in her arm?" And then her gaze narrowed again, a truly mischievous look in her eyes. "Oh my God. You're the one who--?"