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Susan Stone Susan Stone
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Pain - Part 3

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Pain. Part one

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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

There was a pregnant woman at the drop in at the city farm who had four boys and wanted a girl desperately.  When Ella attended a couple of weeks later the woman had given birth to another boy.  She was kneeling on the floor changing his nappy with a look of resentment on her face which was almost a snarl.  

The women talked about divorce.  Three of them were on the brink of it and most of the others were one parent families.  Ella could not identify with them she was so sure that her marriage was secure.  How could she have deluded herself to that extent?  And why hadn’t she confided in them?

One of them, Jenny, invited her to her house for lunch.  She lived in Brislington and Ella walked there across the cemetery on a hot, sunny day which lifted her spirits.  She had often walked around the cemetery with Tom before she’d had Megan because it was old and picturesque with beautiful trees and ancient carved angels but, although she hadn’t been in pain she had not been happy then either.  She never wanted to walk.  

They often walked around the fields of Barrow Gurney where the rolling hills were beautiful.  But why did she have such a lack of energy?  Why did she want to stay at home and just think all the time about the past—the disastrous past?  Ancient conversations going round and round in her head like a forever turning disc, pictures of people she’d talked to ten years ago more important than real life people in the here and now.  Imaginary friends who she could manipulate into saying what she wanted them to say—invented conversations.  Was there a pill for that?  Was there a cure?

Jenny had a nice terraced house in Brislington.  She cooked a very tasty pasta dish and then showed her the back yard where there was a row of empty wine bottles standing against the shed.  She drunk a bottle a night.  Her little boy Jack went over and peed on them as if he resented her drinking.  He had a large green open shell, half of which was a sand pit and the other half a paddling pool.  Jenny said it could be a mess because cats came a defecated in the sand.  Why did life have to be so insufferable?  

Ella stayed for an hour before saying goodbye and walking home across the cemetery in time to pick Megan up from the nursery.  Tom had got her place there and was paying for it to give Ella a break for a couple of hours but it only meant that she had to trudge up the hill three days a week to pick her up.  The owner of the nursery had a husband with Alzheimer’s and, a big man, he spent his time wandering round the nursery like a ghost, pale and lost. The owner seemed to take it in her stride.

The next day she had an appointment with her psychiatrist who she told about her pain, and about the voices in her head.  She offered her a place in Barrow Gurney hospital which was out in the countryside but Ella refused.   Tom had been suspended from his library job for insulting members of the public.  He’d always been obstreperous but it meant that he could stay at home and take care of Megan when Ella did go into hospital some time later.

It was a rainy day when he drove her out to Barrow Gurney hospital and she was surprised to discover that it was almost picturesque—an archetypal mad house in the country made up of a series of Victorian buildings each with its own name and its own eccentric clientele. These red brick buildings were surrounded by woods, gardens and out houses where people embroidered and made pottery.

She was relieved to be taken immediately to her ward where she kicked off her shoes and climbed into bed.  She couldn’t stay there for long, however, because she wanted to get her bearings and find out when dinner was.

The lounge was spacious and empty because most people seemed to be crammed into a small smoking room, immersed in a smokey haze.

Dinner was at five-thirty and the best part of it was the starchy sponge pudding and custard which very satisfying.  Then a tall, sturdy looking schizophrenic girl came in and pushed an old lady off her chair.  The lady was trembling.  She had had a number of bouts of ECT and was fragile to start off with.  The nurses were discussing what to do about it but decided it was a one off incident.  The girl wasn’t usually dangerous.  The old lady was frightened, though, and didn’t like the language the young people came out with.  These people really needed to be segregated from one another.  

After dinner Ella went upstairs and climbed into bed again but wasn’t any more comfortable there than she was sitting in the empty lounge.  The place seemed too big for the number of people there.

The next day she was given a timetable of activities discovering to her dismay that she would have to spend the morning gardening despite the pain in her nerves and the debilitating weakness it caused.

The gardener was a young blonde woman who came to pick her up and show her where to go.  It was winter and an odd time to be gardening but Ella followed her around watching everything she did.  It would soon be Christmas and she had collected lots of holly and showed Ella how to make Christmas wreaths out of it, twisting the holly around a wire frame.  Ella wondered what the purpose of it was.  Would they give the wreaths away?  What exactly would they do with them?  She was relieved when the gardening session was over.  Why did everyone think that gardening was a useful activity for the mentally ill?  It wasn’t very therapeutic for someone whose body ached from head to foot.  Why did no one understand that?  She was alone, trapped in a useless body and no one could help her escape this nightmare.  When she got back to her ward she climbed into bed again and curled up into a ball of pain.  She mustn’t be an alcoholic because she didn’t want a drink.  She just wanted to be left alone.  

There was an old lady on the ward sobbing and, like Ella, not wanting to leave her bed.  Ella asked her what was wrong.

“I took too much strong paracetamol and it damaged me,” she replied.  “I’ll never get better. “

“Paracetamol can’t do that to you,” Ella replied.  “I’ll never get better either.”

“Yes you will.  I can tell you’ll get better but I never will.  I’m a Jehovah’s Witness you know.  They’re the only people who visit me,” she sighed turning over and going quiet.

Tom and Megan visited her a few days later.  Megan kept scratching her head and an old lady told them that she probably had lice.  

“We’ll have to get rid of the lice,” Ella sighed. “What are we going to do?”

“I’ll see to it,” Tom promised.  

“Do you want to go for a walk in the wood?” She asked wanting to please him.  “Megan might see some squirrels there.”

“Okay,” Tom agreed.  

She showed him the pottery department pointing out the pots through the window.  She would have to do pottery the next day.  It was on her time-table.  She’d looked in the windows of all the outbuildings.

The woods were soggy, grey and damp—altogether depressing and her heart ached when she looked at Megan.  She needed her mother.  She was a useless mother, couldn’t even keep her daughter free of lice and she missed her like crazy when they were apart.  

How could love be such a torment?  She’d never felt a love like this before, a love which filled her with a devastating fear of not being able to protect the recipient from the harsher realities of life.  Why did she want to cry when she looked at her daughter?  The world was a desolate place.

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