It was early morning on Sunday the twenty second of June as Christian wept over her bleeding, lifeless body. Tears flowed shamelessly down his cheeks as he gazed at what was once such a beautiful face, now hidden beneath last night’s smudged make-up. She was covered with fresh blood and bruises. Some bruises were old and healing with a yellow ring around them. Other bruises were new, they had that fresh-kicked red appearance to them and would soon come up in a deep purple stain. Once the initial shock of seeing her beat-up state subsided, Christian, using great care, placed his left arm underneath her waist and used his right arm to pull her towards himself. He lifted her up and held her close to his chest, still sobbing but focused on the task at hand, which was to get her to the nearest hospital.
‘Oh God!’ he called out in a whisper. ‘Please don’t let her die, there’s still hope for her.’
He walked and prayed while holding her unconscious body with as much care as possible. After five minutes of carrying her and worrying about her, he spotted a wooden road side bench ahead and set that as his target for a short rest. Christian was in good physical shape, but carrying her was tiring. When he reached the wooden bench he sat down and gasped for air until he caught his breath.
I don’t know if I can do this, he thought to himself as he began to move her into a more comfortable position.
His touch was loving and tender.
He tried to get her arms to wrap around his neck in the hope that this would make carrying her easier, but they would not stay, so he left them to flop down and dangle by his side. Time still concerned Christian and he wondered if it would have been quicker to call an ambulance. The target response time for a London ambulance is eight minutes but Christian knew that this seldom happened. A realistic response time was twenty to thirty minutes and that was only if an ambulance was available right away. It was too risky. Deciding against it, he placed her back into a cradled position in his arms and stood up to continue his journey to the hospital. He decided to speed up his walk even though he was beginning to find breathing difficult and his lungs were beginning to burn. Desperately pleading with God for her life, Christian walked until he could walk no more and was forced to take another short break. As he sat down gasping for a breath he considered how strange it was that not one passerby or driver had even noticed that he was carrying a wounded woman. Even when he crossed the street at the traffic lights he seemed invisible to all.
It’s sad to see how cold people have become these days, he thought to himself, or perhaps they choose to be blind.
One final stretch of road remained and Christian decided to push himself to walk as fast as possible until he reached the hospital. His muscles began to ache as they reached their limits. It was only a fifteen minute walk from where he had found her to the hospital but it seemed like hours had passed.
Christian knew that Arabella had been working three nights a week at Sins Gentlemen’s Club in Brixton and tried as often as possible to be in the area when she left work so that he could watch her get home safe and sound. She was oblivious to this but he felt much better knowing that she got home all right, even though it meant that he had to wake up early to be there when she left work after the club closed at 5am. Sadly, on this cold and frosty London morning, he arrived too late. For some reason she had left work earlier than usual and Christian left Sin’s rather concerned. As he walked down Coldharbour Lane wondering why she had left early, he noticed a heap of someone lying on the grass verge opposite EM’s Fish and Chips shop. At first he thought it was just another drunk passed out after a night of clubbing. When he realised that it was a woman and that there was something very familiar about her, he crossed over the road to take a closer look. Gasping, he realised that it was her. He ran to where she lay. It was then that he discovered her lying under a tree in a state of near death.
Christian snapped out of his desperate pleading with God as soon as the bright yellow ambulances and large red AMBULANCE ENTRANCE sign came into view. Relieved that the walk was over at last, he headed towards the Accident and Emergency entrance of the hospital. As he approached the double doors, he turned around and walked in with his back to the door, so that he didn’t hurt her whilst trying to open them. Right away he got busy with plotting a course, the shortest route to help. It was a busy morning in the A&E foyer which is typical as it is one of the busiest Accident and Emergency departments in the country. As Christian walked into the bustling room he noticed many bright blue curtains that divided the beds, most of which were occupied. He caught a whiff of the distinctive hospital odour along with what smelled like a mixture of alcohol, urine and vomit. A gurney was being wheeled in from an ambulance and another passed by in haste then disappeared behind a curtained off area.
Ambulance drivers, in their high visibility yellow jackets, were rushing in and out of the emergency room along with paramedics in their bright orange overalls. Nurses in blue uniforms with green, plastic aprons and doctors in their white coats were either busy with paperwork or with patients. No one seemed to even notice he had arrived.
"Help, somebody help me!" he yelled, but no one seemed to take a blind bit of notice.
People bumped into him, doctors walked right past him and almost knocked him off his feet. Amidst all this chaos Christian tried to locate a registration desk. In the corner he noticed several chairs with injured people waiting and others sitting with their heads tilted either forwards, backwards or sideways as they slept.
Relieved, he spotted what looked like the registration desk and raced over to approach the clerk. She was facing away from the window, laughing out loud in a conversation with one of her colleagues, while filing her fingernails. She noticed Christian approaching out of the corner of her eye and swung around in her chair in an attempt to look more professional. As she turned to see Christian her smile dropped into a look of horror.
‘Get a gurney,’ she yelled at the colleague she had been joking around with earlier.
Within seconds a gurney appeared. Christian rolled her from his body onto the gurney. Once again he noticed her very disfigured face and the sight of her upset him.
‘What happened?’ asked the registration clerk, whose name was Sally according to the pin on her uniform.
‘I don’t know,’ said Christian as he regained his breath, ‘I found her like this on a grass verge on Coldharbour Lane.
‘Are you family or a friend?’ Sally asked.
‘No’ he replied with a lump in his throat.
Christian noticed that Sally assumed he was only a passerby and knew nothing about her. She walked over to her computer and began a great deal of clicking her long nails on the keyboard. She booked her in as Jane Doe while the triage nurse rushed over to determine the severity of her condition. Within seconds she whisked her off behind a blue curtain to be scanned and have her injuries assessed. It was obvious that Sally was left wondering why a total stranger, one clearly of breeding and class, would go to the trouble of bringing this sort of woman in.
Christian was still in shock by what he had seen and mentioned to Sally that he was going to find a chair and sit down.
‘Can you let me know what happens?’ He asked as his eyes scanned the room for an empty chair.
He found a reasonably padded, grey chair and lay his head back while he contemplated the situation. His heart was grieving at what had become of her. As he rested his head on the hospital chair he began to reminisce about the time they first met, many years ago, when he was only seventeen...
It was love at first sight. He caught a glimpse of her long, dark brown hair glistening in the sunshine as she stood in her white, opaque trousers that revealed her slender figure. She wore a pretty pale pink t-shirt and was holding a cardboard box that was without a doubt too heavy for her to carry. A dirty, grey, moving van pulled up in front of Christian and interrupted his line of sight but only for a few seconds. The moving van continued a little further up the road and allowed him to see her once again. He stood mesmerised by her. She took his breath away. He realised he was staring when she turned around and gave him a rather quizzical look.
‘Hello’ she said
‘Hi’ he replied with a bashful look on his face, ‘welcome to the neighbourhood.’
Christian was at a loss for words and thought it best to continue walking, as he risked standing in front of her and making a fool of himself.
‘Thank you’ she shouted after him as he walked off into the beautiful, hot summer’s evening.
Christian lifted his hand to acknowledge her shout but continued to face forward to hide his blushing cheeks. He had never felt that way before, ever, in all the years of his short life. He knew she was something quite special and without a doubt planned to walk that way home again. Christian passed that way, down Bedford Gardens in Bayswater, most days, on his way to the Campden Hill Lawn Tennis Club where he took tennis lessons. It was either down that street or he also quite liked to walk down Sheffield Terrace, but since laying his eye upon her he was quite certain that there would never be a reason to walk down Sheffield Terrace again! He was quite taken with her and was certain that he had to find a way to see her again, even if it was just for a moment or simply in passing.
I will definitely be more prepared next time, Christian thought to himself. I will plan a few things to say ahead of time so that I am not at a loss for words and I will not run off like that again. What was I thinking?
Christian thought as he scolded himself for being such a coward and determined to be more prepared for their next encounter. Tennis no longer seemed like such a chore, now it was his one and only reason to take a slow, daily stroll down Bedford Gardens. He was sure she would not think anything suspicious as he had his tennis clothes on and carried his racquet which made it obvious that he was heading for the tennis courts that were nearby.
After arriving home and after a quick shower he got stuck into his homework. Usually he was very focused on his school work but this evening was different. It was her, he couldn’t get her out of his mind. Concentrating was proving to be extremely difficult. After several failed attempts at solving an algebra problem he gave up and moved onto his science homework. His attempt to distract himself failed so he gave up and walked downstairs to the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator and rummaged around for some food. Nothing seemed to appeal to him so he pushed down the intercom button that connected to his mother’s study and asked at the top of his voice, “Mum, what’s for dinner?”
“Miss Lotty made you a fish pie, it is in the oven. Your father and I will not be joining you for dinner son as we have that charity ball tonight.”
“Oh yes I forgot about that. I hope it goes well. See you tomorrow then.”
Christian poured himself some cold apple juice and walked outside. It was still a bright sunny evening so he sat down on the lawn and continued to think about her. He sat outside for quite some time and then returned to the kitchen. Christian ate his dinner, alone and halfhearted, and then went to his bedroom to read a book. His eyes became droopy within the first chapter so he put the book down onto his night stand and closed his eyes to sleep. As he closed his eyes he thought of her again.
She is so beautiful, he thought to himself as he drifted off to sleep.
Weeks turned into months and the autumn leaves began to mark the end of summer. Life carried on for Christian but he thought of her often. He made a point of walking down her street whenever he could. On the days that he saw her sitting in her bedroom bay window he felt that his day was complete. On the days that he didn’t manage to see her at all he felt empty inside. It was as if the purpose of every one of Christian’s days was to see her. This purpose was what he lived for. He loved to look at her. He imagined what she was thinking when she sat in the bay window. He noticed that pink and white were her favourite colour clothes to wear and that she loved to catch the afternoon sun from her bedroom window. He also noticed that she had a grey kitten and that she enjoyed reading and writing in her little book with a pink pen that had a fluffy ball dangling from it. He also noticed something else about her. She seldom smiled. Sadness seemed to be her constant companion. Christian wondered why.
As always, he decided to take a stroll past her home on his way to the tennis club. This day was different however. It was on this day that he got to see her sitting in her window once again.
They made eye contact.
Christian’s heart thumped inside his chest. He was convinced that it was pounding loud enough for her to hear it! They gazed at each other for a full six seconds. But for Christian it felt like an eternity. With great reluctance, he broke their gaze and continued his walk home. Not because he wanted to but because he didn’t know what else to do. Christian felt like he was walking on clouds. Time after time in the past he had gazed into her bedroom window but this was the first time ever, that she had noticed him. Magic was in the air. He was elated with feelings that he never knew existed. Without realizing it, he had walked down several streets that he didn’t usually walk down. His daydreaming led him on an unfamiliar path. He was in seventh heaven and paid no attention to where his legs were taking him. He snapped out of his unconscious state and back into reality when he realised that he had walked into the park and completely forgotten about his tennis lesson.
It was then that he saw her sitting on the swing smiling. She must have left her home and headed to the park right after he saw her sitting in her bedroom. Her hair was glistening in the sun. Was this the moment he had been waiting for all these months? Should he go and talk to her or should he turn around and walk away. Was he the cause of her smile, he wondered. If not, he didn’t want to intrude on whatever was making her so happy. He knew that if he walked away he might never get this opportunity again. Before he managed to make a thorough logical decision he found himself walking up to her.
“Hi,” he said, “my name is Christian.”
“I’m Arabella,” she said shyly.