• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 03
Image by

THE BEST GIFTS ARE FREE

Sorcha woke to two broken legs, a fractured septum, and a collection of lacerations and abrasions. Her blurry vision focused upon what looked like a plastic bag splayed across the outside of her privacy curtain at about shoulder-height … if she’d been able to stand.
       Of course she was no more aware of the specifics of her injuries than she was of the significance of the incongruous tatter of plastic. All she knew was that she hurt all over and was connected up to all sorts of contraptions; scary enough by themselves.
       She remembered from somewhere that the thing hanging above the hospital bed, looking like a water-bomb, was a ‘drip’. Maybe the plastic remnant which intrigued her was a used one of those? Her head ached even with that much thinking. She drifted back into sleep.

       The second Sunday of Advent had passed. Sorcha stared at the walls of the bleak ICU, imagining heavy raindrops battering at the non-existent windows. The doctor with the really dark eyes and nice smile had told her she was in a tractor or something. In the haze of painkillers, this had seemed perfectly reasonable - so she had just grinned at him, giggling in agony for a bit, thinking they would never be able to get her wellies over the casts.

1

THE BEST GIFTS ARE FREE

       In the quiet times, when her family had reluctantly allowed themselves to be ushered out at the close of visiting hours by sad faces: when the nurses and doctor were off on their rounds elsewhere, she would become very sad and scared. It was on one such night that a new doctor had come into the ward and sat himself down beside her bed. He was very much on the plump side and looked very uncomfortable in the white coat; but he forced a smile.
       “Hi, I’m … er … Doctor Nick. What would you like for Christmas?”
       She opened and closed her mouth, but nothing came out.
       “Ah,” he said solemnly. “You weren’t watching the road. That was silly. You were very badly hurt.”
       Tears welled, each glisten an item on a Christmas list.
       “Is that all?” the man asked. “You did save your little brother’s life last year: steering him away from that boiling pot.”
       “He’s my brother,” she responded matter-of-factly.
       “So he is, sweetie, so he is.” He winked then, and the cold which had been creeping up around her in this new, quieter and scarier, ward immediately warmed. “I’ll just see to that then.”
       Sorcha reckoned she must have dozed a bit with the painkiller, because he seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye.
2

THE BEST GIFTS ARE FREE

       She awoke to her usual doctor and hubbub: nurses bustling around her. The orderly failed miserably in his attempt to keep her mother and father out of the fray.
       “What’s wrong,” they chorused.
       The doctor pawed at Sorcha and flicked through his clipboard documents. “Nothing … absolutely nothing.”
       Sorcha could feel he was right.
       Snow clung to the windows. Bells jingled.
3