She dialled the number. Holding the phone to her ear, the hard plastic felt strange against her clammy skin. Three rings. Four… Maybe he wasn’t in on a Saturday. “Hello? Dr. Reed? This is Mrs Swan, Luke’s mother,” she said, so rapidly, that she couldn’t even understand herself. She paused to take a breath, and started again, “I need you to come round. Yes, I know you’re at home. Please, it’s Luke. You know how much he means to me and I’m really worried. Please doctor, it’s really quite urgent. You will? Half an hour is perfect.
Oh thank you, thank you so much” The receiver made a thud as it was replaced, as if it was made from lead. She exhaled and relaxed her tense shoulders. Still a little jittery, she smoothed a few strands of her brittle, grey hair behind her ears. Her fingers ached. 40 years looking after her boys and tending to their needs had taken its toll and, nowadays, she had to endure terrible arthritis in umpteen joints. Her boys were her world. They had been her life. Now, only Luke remained with her. She walked to the kitchen.
As she drew the chair away from the battered table, she grimaced; the pain of her fingers combined with the screech, which she despised, of the legs of the chair against the outdated, tiled floor made her frown. She sat down and thought about the outcome of the impending visit from the doctor. She contemplated whether it would actually help. She concluded that it would – anything to help Luke was good – and it would get everything taken care of. After a few minutes, she rose from the chair, having convinced herself that the doctor needed to come round and that everything would resolve to be fine.
Leaving the kitchen, she glanced down at her watch – 11:43 – 4 minutes since her phone call, but it felt like a lifetime. She tiptoed down the hall and up the stairs, to Luke’s room. She knocked on the mahogany door. No answer. She entered regardless. “Luke,” she whispered, the murmur only just getting past her lips. Her slippers barely made contact with the floor as she tiptoed to him, she didn’t want to frighten him. He didn’t turn round. “Luke, the doctor is coming. Everything is going to be ok. Mummy is going to fix it all,”
Tears flooded her eyes as she uttered the last sentence. She couldn’t hold them in; she wept and beads of water cascaded over her decrepit skin. He didn’t respond in any way. She didn’t understand. He was still sat in the same way – lonely rigid and uncomfortable, – as he had been the last 5 times she has checked on him. The covers hadn’t moved; still tucked just underneath his chin to try and make him snugger. His eyes were fixated on the tapestry on his wall, which he had had since he was a baby, a gift from the doctor, who was on his way to the house.
She walked over to the window and pulled the cobalt and carroty, circle print material, along the runners to let some light in. She stepped out of his room, and drew the door closed, trying, unsuccessfully, to stop it creaking. She wiped away her tears and peered at the cuckoo clock in the hall. Still 20 minutes of waiting. 19 minutes and 59, 58, 57 seconds… she couldn’t carry on just anticipating or she would become completely deranged. Returning to the living room, she settled in the armchair in the corner. She picked up her knitting and realised how old she was getting.
She was a stereotypical old lady. She had promised herself, when she was far younger, that she would never let herself get this way. But she had. And there wasn’t a lot she could do. She was old. She did enjoy knitting, and daytime television and looking after her seven cats, but these were the things that made all the young children in the area call her ‘Mad old bag’. She knew she wasn’t but who cared what she thought? She began to work on the jumper she had started the week before. It was worth the pain from the arthritis to make her boy happy.
She knew exactly what he’d say when she gave it to him, he would be so appreciative: “Oh, Ma, you didn’t have to do this. Thank you very much” And he would be beaming and his emerald eyes would look so happy and they would sparkle. Her mind could picture it exactly. She hadn’t seen him look like that in a long time; she yearned to see his face light up. The jumper was definitely worth the pain from her frail fingers. After all, she thought, what was a mother for, if she didn’t look after her sons? She dropped the yarn as the rusted knocker clunked against the thick wood door. A powerful knock.
The echo of the metal rattled around the room. It must be the doctor. She got up as quickly as possible. A more impatient knock came. She rushed to the door. She paused before turning the latch – she smoothed her hair and placed a large smile on her face – she tried to hide her nerves. “Dr Reed. Hello, I’m so glad you came so quickly,” The doctor gave a brief but genuine looking smile. He brushed past her and entered the house. “Is Luke in his room? ” the doctor said authoritatively. He gazed at the 70’s clad house. One side of the hall was completely wood panelled from floor to ceiling in ginger wood.
The wall opposite was covered in printed paper, the vivid compilation of colours leapt into his eyes and the geometric print made him feel a little dizzy for an instant. “Yes, but I was hoping we could have a coffee in the kitchen first. ” He sighed impatiently. He knew he didn’t want to spend more time here than he had to but he did pity her. It was probably the only conversation she would have all week. She ushered him into the kitchen and pulled out a chair for him to sit down. She flicked the slightly yellowed switch down and the kettle began to hiss like a feral cat.
She stretched up and took two china cups, which she was ‘saving for best’, out of the cupboard. “Coffee? Go on just a little one,” She poured the steaming liquid into one of the cups. “Yes, thank you” The doctor said, looking up. He didn’t look directly at her, just stared out of the window; he was distracted, his eyes opened wide as if with panic. Then he blinked and his mind was back in the room. She fussed over the coffees and then pushed one across the table to him. The liquid trembled and her wrists couldn’t steady the cups, a combination of nerves and old age.
She paused to watch him take the first sip and sensed an icy feeling through her woollen jumper and a shiver that had nothing to do with the temperature, raise an army of goose bumps that marched along her arms. Oblivious to her thoughts, the doctor said aloud, “Now, what about Luke? ” “Well, he’s not good. He’s just sat in his bed like a statue. He came home after seeing his boss last night and has been like it since. I left him last night; I thought he would sleep it off… But I don’t think he slept at all. He came out of it for just a few minutes earlier and told me what had happened but then has just sat there for hours”
She shook her head and tried desperately to stop the tears descending again. She glanced up. “You’re not drinking your coffee,” she exclaimed, which caught the doctor off guard, causing him to suddenly sit upright. “I am. I am. Carry on” he coaxed. “Well my Luke he is an important man. He’s very good at his job. Now, I don’t like what he does, but he’s good at it. And in his group – they call it ‘Our Thing’ – the bosses, well, they aren’t nice people. When they tell you to do something, you do it, and you do it well, right? ” “Well, I don’t really know,” He took a large glug of his coffee and started to get up.
Doctor! ” The tone of her voice made him sit down again. He sighed again and leaned back against the wicker chair. “But my Luke, he may act tough, but he’s so sensitive, he really is,” She smiled remembering all the times he had shown his sensitivity and how much she loved him. Dr. Reed grunted. He didn’t want to get to involved or he worried that he would be here all afternoon. “Well, you know I said that Luke went to see the bosses yesterday? ” She didn’t leave a pause for him to reply, “They asked him to do something. I think this is why he is like he is now. There is someone in this town that – how did he put it? was ‘trying to get into the drug trafficking’ and they don’t like that. And so they told Luke to kill him,” The doctor’s head jolted up his dark eyes widened and looked concerned, “they don’t like competition.
But my Luke he couldn’t do it” She searched the doctor’s face. He must have realised. Yes. His eyes caught hers and immediately she knew that he knew. His eyes longed and begged. “Well as you know this man is a respected man. A doctor in fact,” she spoke, with an undertone of cruelty and enjoyment that surprised her, “and as his mother I had to take care of things”.
She squinted down at her watch. The whole situation had made her feel youthful and lively, but she couldn’t hide the fact that her sight had severely diminished as she matured. “10 minutes since you finished the coffee… You’re the doctor you tell me how long you have… ” she smirked with sinister pleasure and secretive relish. She watched impassively as the doctors head dropped and he slid off the chair, landing with a thud. She took the cup from his hand and rinsed it immediately; she would deal with it properly later.
She was shaking but relief washed over her whole body. She walked to the base of the stairs. “Luke? Luke! I did it. Come down here and have a look. I’ve done it. ” She shouted up. She laughed as she realised that she was treating the whole situation very insignificantly, as if she had just finished the crossword or something. Luke was down in a flash. A changed man. He was back to normal. He walked over the body and placed two fingers on the doctor’s neck. “You did it Ma! You didn’t have to do this. Thank you” But that’s Ma for you. She takes care of her boys.