How comfortable the bed was and much larger than her own. She slipped in between the sheets, shivering. It was not so warm and she felt grateful for the pair of bed socks that she had brought. She pulled them on, wrapping her shawl around her shoulders and settled down to sleep. It was a fitful sleep, one which transported her into a vivid dream. Who was that? A woman with fiery red her and pale skin, herself. No wait, the red hair was tamed, tucked under a white hat. She was dressed in uniform, walking along the palace corridor. She glanced down upon her apron. Redness, blood. She jumped, casting the bloody apron off. Theodore? He stood there shakily, his nightshirt soaked in blood, he coughed and blood continued to flow from his nose and mouth. The coughing fit continued as he fell to his knees, collapsing at her feet.
Bonnie gasped, shaking, fighting for breath. “Oh God!” She sobbed “God! Help him!”
She paused, and listened, her ears sensitive to the sound like a hare, scrambling from her bed. Theodore was coughing. She rushed into his bedroom, he was gasping, fighting for breath. She glanced at his arms and legs, they looked strange, jerky as if they were moving involuntarily.
“Your Grace!” She shook him, he opened his eyes, closing them again. “No, please! You must stay awake, I am so confused, I do not know what is going on. What has happened to your arms and legs, why are they twitching in such a way?”
“Yes my dear, it’s me.”
“I had a bad dream.”
“So did I.”
“Oh. Miss McGrath, I dreamt that I had a terrible coughing fit and I am afraid that I ruined your apron.”
“Yes, you were wearing a very strange uniform. Odd.”
“And then? I dreamt the same thing, but- but it ended horribly.”
“Yes, I collapsed at your feet.”
“My God! We had exactly the same dream!”
“Clearly. What does it mean, is it an omen?”
“I don’t know your Grace, but I’d like to hope not. You are feverish, here now I will fetch water.”
“I am fine. Do not dwell on it too much Bonita.”
“You look pained.”
“I feel it, but the pain seems to have spread, my wrists and ankles ache terribly.”
“Might I have a look?”
Bonnie pulled back the coverlet, holding her hand in his. She felt around the area with her thumb and forefinger. “They are swollen. It may sound silly, but when Mother was carrying my brother Andrew, she suffered terribly with swollen ankles and found that soaking them in water with apple cider vinegar helped a great deal. I suppose that wrapping you with bandages with this mixture may also help because it may be difficult to find enough bowls.”
“Try bandages. Ask Mr Howard.” Theodore muttered.
“Yes of course. Where might I find him?”
“Do not worry about it, he will be sleeping.”
“If you are in pain, then something should be done.” She stroked his hand and proceeded to massage his wrist. She hesitated after a moment or two.
“What is wrong?”
“Perhaps I should not do that.”
“Perhaps not, but it felt like it was relieving a little of the tension.”
“I have a different idea, there are plenty of towels in the bathroom. I shall warm them in front of your fire. That will do to help ease the aching until Mr Howard can be found, for it is only the early hours of the morning.”
“So full of great ideas.”
“Not really, heat always relieves pain. I shall be back in one moment.”
Bonnie fetched the towels, draping them over the metal fire guard to heat.
“I shall give them a minute or two, I don’t want to burn you. Hmm, they are getting there slowly. Now then, sometimes it helps to raise your limbs, here is a spare cushion, I shall place it under your ankles. The socks probably aren’t helping at this moment in time.”
“If you think it best Nurse McGrath, I put my trust in you.”
Nurse, that dream. Bonnie swallowed, removing his socks.
“I-I’ll fetch the towels.”
She did so, wrapping one around his lower legs and feet and a smaller one around each wrist.
“How soothing that is, I shall be warm and pain free in no time at all.” He stated bravely as she stroked his hair.
“Is the pain anywhere else?”
“I shall be quite alright now, thank you. The warmth soothes me a great deal, who would have thought it? You are a marvel.”
“You flatter me your Grace.” She glanced at his twitching hand. “Your hand twitches.”
“I can feel it. I can assure you that it is involuntary, but happens sometimes, usually at night.”
“Yes, it happens more increasingly of late, like everything else.”
“You cope so well.”
“I don’t think so, but perhaps I have learned to deal with things in a better way since…”
“Since I met you. You have changed me for the better I think and I thank you. I was living a miserable existence, but it was no-one’s fault but my own. I am a fool.”
“No, you are young like myself and you were in love.”
“Oh, I was enraptured and so naïve. Little did I know.” Bonnie placed a hand to his cheek, kissing his forehead.
“Do not dwell on things that have passed and look to the future.”
“What is left of it. Oh, there I go again. I am sorry.”
“How is your pain?”
“Half of what it was, thanks to you.”
“I feel we should be doing something about..”
“My illness? Bonnie, you heard your Doctor, nothing can be done. I had untreated Scarlet Fever and not only did it take my sight, it has damaged my heart. Oh my dear, do not cry. We both know that I shall die, Mother and Father will have to realise for themselves.You must go back to bed, you must be tired, what time is it?”
“4.30am. I would rather stay here with you.”
“I am warm and comfortable. Please get some rest.”
“I don’t have enough energy to argue.”
Bonnie patted his hand. “Sleep then and I shall go back to bed when you are sleeping, do not be afraid my dear. You are still in pain and I do not want to leave you.I’ll read to you, it may help you to drift off to sleep.”
“Why did you audition?”
“What made you decide to come to the reading audition that day?”
“It was Mother’s doing and we needed the money.”
“You did it because you had to.”
“In a way yes. Mother persuaded me and I followed her wishes.”
“Hmmm. I can imagine that I made the most awful first impression.”
“You have already apologised. Here, I am going to place some more balm onto your lips.You are so pale faced. I know that you are being brave, but I can tell that you suffer a great deal.”
“Shhhh.” Theodore felt for Bonnie’s hand, taking it his, wincing a little as he did so.
“I am here my dear.” She placed a hand upon his shoulder, pausing. She placed a hand on his arms.
“It- it as if you have a heartbeat in your arms.”
“Like a spasm? Yes.”
“Does that cause most of your pain?”
“Yes, indeed it does. Well no, the pain in my chest is the worst.”
“But that is more infrequent.”
“Indeed. Do not fret any more.” He yawned, closing his eyes. Bonnie stroked the chestnut waves which had grown longer since they met, but still remained soft and pulled the coverlet up to his shoulder. Bonnie sat with him for a further 20 minutes, ensuring that he was sleeping and returned to her own bedroom.
©Sophie Bowns 2011-2014