Peter waited until he was sure Karen was fast asleep before he moved. Finally he stood up and gathered up the remnants of her breakfast, taking the tray back downstairs into the kitchen. He carefully washed up the mug and plate and set them on the draining board to dry.
Smiling to himself, he slipped on his light summer jacket and checked in the pockets for his door keys. He ran up the stairs, looking into the bedroom once more. Karen was still asleep as he closed the door gently behind him. He hesitated, wondering if he should have put a bolt on the outside of the door, then shrugged to himself.
‘She won’t be going far,’ he thought. ‘That’s a job for later on.’
Still, he left the house as quietly as he could, making sure that the front door didn’t slam behind him, holding the key in the lock as he closed it. He soon reached the phone box and dialled the number for the hospital ward that Karen had left on the pad in the kitchen.
‘It’s Peter Edwards here,’ he said as soon as he was put through to the ward. ‘I’m ringing to let you know how Karen is.’
‘Oh, thanks for ringing,’ said the male nurse who answered. ‘This is Mike, the Charge Nurse, speaking. I was going to drop by and see how she was.’
‘That won’t be necessary,’ Peter bristled.
‘When will she be coming back to work? Any idea how long?’
‘She won’t be back for another week, at least,’ said Peter. ‘The doctor has said she shouldn’t be working in that sort of place until she’s well.’
‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ said Mike. ‘What’s the matter with her?’
‘I’m afraid she’s having a bit of a breakdown. I think working there has made her ill, actually.’
‘Really?’ Mike remarked. ‘I’m surprised at that. Karen seems such a steady kind of a person.’
‘Well, you don’t know her then, do you?’ Peter was feeling slightly annoyed at this man who thought he knew Karen.
‘Maybe not,’ Mike said. ‘I only know that she’s a good nurse. She’s reliable and has a good head on her shoulders.’
‘And I’m telling you that she’s ill, OK?’
‘Yeah, alright mate,’ said Mike. ‘Tell her we’re all thinking of her, won’t you?’
‘Of course. Goodbye then.’
‘Get her to ring in when she’s better,’ Mike said.
Peter hung up without replying. ‘You’ve got to be joking,’ he said to himself as he dialled the number for the doctor’s surgery.
‘It’s Peter Edwards here. I need to see Dr. Wright,’ he said firmly. ‘He said I could come in if things got worse with my wife.’
The receptionist asked him to hold the line. He waited.
‘Hello Mr. Edwards.’ The receptionist’s voice was soon back. ‘That’s fine. Dr. Wright will see you in half an hour at the end of surgery if you’d like to come in then.’
Peter put the phone down and stepped outside the booth. He lit a cigarette and walked in the sunshine towards the surgery.
‘What a lovely day,’ he thought, pleased that all was going well.
Soon he was sitting in front of Dr. Wright.
‘She’s getting worse Doctor.’ He frowned. ‘She accused me of trying to poison her, and came at me with a kitchen knife yesterday. I really don’t think she’s stable enough to have this baby.’ He paused. ‘I was thinking either a termination or maybe it would be best to take the baby away for adoption once it’s born.’
‘Are you absolutely sure? That seems rather, er, extreme.’ Dr. Wright sounded shocked. ‘Have you talked to your wife about this?’
‘Of course I have,’ said Peter. ‘She’s in full agreement with me that she’s not well enough to look after a baby at the moment.’ He looked around the room for inspiration. ‘The thing is,’ he went on, ‘she’s so weird at the moment, I don’t think she can remember what she’s said from one minute to the next. To be honest, Doctor, I believe she’s a danger to herself. She’s certainly a danger to me, and she would definitely not be able to care for a child.’ He paused. ‘I know having a baby is what we’ve always wanted - and it’s heart-breaking - but... I love my wife and her well-being must come first. I’m very worried about her.’
‘Well, she didn’t seem as bad as that when I saw her.’ Dr. Wright hesitated.
‘Take it from me, Doctor,’ Peter asserted. ‘She is bad, very bad. You know, I think that being pregnant may be making her worse. Tipping her over the edge, I mean.’
‘Perhaps I should call and see her again. It may be best to take her into hospital for a while.’
‘No!’ Peter’s voice was sharp. ‘I wouldn’t want her to go into a place like that. I can look after her at home.’ He stood up. ‘I should go. Don’t worry about it Doctor - I can manage.’
‘But it sounds like she needs more than you can offer,’ Dr. Wright said. ‘I will come and visit her again and see for myself what she’s like, if you don’t mind. Say tomorrow morning after surgery. Do you think you could manage until then?’
‘I really don’t think you need to come and visit at all,’ Peter blustered. He wondered whether he’d made the wrong move involving the doctor again so soon. The last thing he wanted was for Karen to be taken out of his care. He just wanted to make sure that the baby was dealt with as soon as possible. All he wanted was his old wife back and for things to carry on as before. That wasn’t too much to wish for, was it?
‘Look. I know it must be very difficult for you,’ Dr. Wright’s voice interrupted his thoughts. ‘No-one likes to admit that their loved-one may be mentally ill but the treatments these days are very good. Patients are often only in for a few weeks then with regular appointments with the psychiatrist many live full, normal lives again before long. Taking away your baby is a very drastic thing to do and probably totally unnecessary.’
‘You don’t understand.’
‘I understand that you’re very distressed and maybe not thinking very clearly.’
‘It’s alright, really,’ said Peter. ‘I shouldn’t have come.’
‘Well - I shall visit tomorrow morning. Your wife is my patient and my responsibility.’ He smiled. ‘After eleven then. Tell her to expect me.’
Peter shook his hand and left the room.
His head was reeling. ‘Now what?’ he thought.