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[F&R] The Waiting Game

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posted on Nov, 19 2011 @ 11:00 PM
The Waiting Game

Chloe sat still in her chair, wondering what to do with herself. Slowly she dragged herself up and wandered aimlessly around the small apartment she shared with her father. She tried to find something to do to take her mind off where he was and what he was doing. Resignedly she headed for the kitchen with every intention of cleaning the fridge – a chore that was always 'forgotten' but now gave her some relief from the worry that was threatening to overwhelm her.

Her father had been complaining of pains in his right side for several weeks and finally, today, he had felt bad enough to take himself off to the hospital to have it checked out.

He had been suffering ill-health for years, most of it brought about by his lifestyle, and Chloe had been there for the last decade to try and keep him on the straight and narrow and minimise any further damage he might do to himself.

She often found herself waiting for news of her Dad. He was in the habit of leaving the house and giving her no idea when he would be due back. She never knew when to start worrying but, generally speaking, she would start to get tense and nervous after about three hours.

Her mind wandered back to the day he'd come home with four front teeth missing. He'd told her that he'd slipped in a public lavatory and hit his head on a wash basin. She'd accepted the story outwardly, but suspected that he'd been fighting. Sadly she'd got used to him walking around with no front teeth, which made him look even more roguish than he did already.

Sighing, she dunked the refrigerator shelves into some warm soapy water. How worried she must be to find comfort in having this task to take her mind off things.

She tried to think of happier times with her Dad. Her mother had left him while she, Chloe, was still a little girl and he'd disappeared for a long time before asking to see her again. His visits after that had been infrequent but he'd always been loving and attentive when he did show up.

She'd had photographs to look at, of him and his friends, and spent hours poring over them. There they were, young men with long hair flowing over their shoulders, all of them peering into worlds far beyond the lens of the camera. She'd heard about their days in the squat and wasn't surprised that her mother had decided that Dad wasn't really the right material to help her bring up their child.

Chloe had suffered from her mother re-marrying. She found herself with several new siblings to look after and she knew her Dad had been concerned that she'd had no real childhood, but she liked looking after kids and, not being very academic, had decided to train to work with children when she grew up.

She hadn't expected to end up looking after her Dad, but he'd needed her. They'd met up, quite by chance, as she was about to leave home and set up her own little place. She'd been happy to meet him again and gladly went to visit him. What she found was a large, shabby, barely furnished apartment that some of his friends were using as a doss house.

When he asked her to move in with him she'd agreed, if only because her presence might deter these unsavoury 'friends' from visiting quite so often.

Life together hadn't started out too badly but it wasn't long before she realised that her Dad was an habitual liar who had few scruples about stealing her money. Money that she'd worked hard to earn and didn't want to see spent on the sort of things that pleased her Dad.

As she washed the outside of the fridge she thought back to how frustrated she'd been when he swore he had given up drinking even after he'd taken her money and spent it in the off-license. And stayed out for hours, causing her to sit and fret over what sort of state he'd be in when he eventually came home.

It always amazed her how, as a drunk, he thought he was being sneaky enough to hide what he was doing. As if she wouldn't suspect anything when he'd come home and go straight into the bathroom to brush his teeth before coming in to speak to her.

She thought bitterly of the time he had been sitting beside her on the sofa and, as he got to his feet, fell into a drunken stupor and pitched forward, straight like a tree, and would have fallen flat on his face if the coffee table hadn't been in the way. She'd just had time to jump up and save him.

That would have been around the time she'd noticed how quiet he was in the kitchen one evening. Curious to know what he was up to, she'd walked in there and found him standing up, dish in one hand, drying cloth in the other, absolutely blacked out. A frightening thing for someone who wasn't used to being around people like her Dad.

She sighed, she'd had to get used to him. She'd had to get used to not celebrating Christmas because he never had any money for presents for her and was so embarrassed about it he'd get morose and uncommunicative during the festive season, showing no enthusiasm for her efforts to decorate the apartment and plan the Christmas menu. She'd finally given up making the effort the year that she discovered he'd mis-spent all his rent money and was due to be evicted. She'd used her Christmas bonus from work to bail him out.

They never discussed it. To him, it was just so much water under the bridge. Not something to be dwelt on. Her Dad liked 'drawing a line under things' – it was his way of never having to deal with her emotions or face up to the unhappiness he'd caused her.

Thoughts of his various illnesses started to creep into her mind as she scrubbed away at the back of the fridge. He was in poor shape and had at least two conditions that could drop him without any warning. She thought about the state of his legs. He had varicose veins and his feet were always a pale shade of blue.

One night he'd caught his ankle on a small nail that was sticking out of the coffee table. The nail went straight into a vein and the blood had just fountained out, creating a large puddle on the living room floor. It was spectacular. Even knowing how dangerous it could be, Chloe had watched in utter fascination, barely being able to tear herself away to call the ambulance.

Oh, ambulances. How many times had they been called out? What about the time her drunken Dad had been cooking dinner and poured a whole saucepan of boiling water over his hand? And sat in agony for the entire evening before giving in and asking her to call for help just after midnight. He'd nearly needed a skin graft.

But sometimes he managed to get himself, unaided, to the hospital and she, as usual, would wait at home fretting in case she didn't ever see him again, or at least not see him for a few days or even weeks.

He'd been to the dentist once, when he was taking blood-thinning tablets which were supposed to help rid him of the blood clot that might, one day, kill him. He'd come home with bleeding gums which continued to bleed all night. He'd gone to bed with a large dish and just poured blood into it.

The next day he'd caught the bus to the hospital where he was advised that the best thing he could have done was stand up to help stop the blood flow. And there he'd been, all night, laying and bleeding when all he'd have had to do was stand up to help it stop.


posted on Nov, 19 2011 @ 11:01 PM

Chloe started to put the shelves back into the fridge and tried not to think about the time she'd tried 'tough love' on her Dad. He'd been in rehab and come out clean. He'd been going to a day care centre every day for several months and everyone was so pleased with him. Not even the professionals had noticed that he'd slipped back into his old ways. All of his old ways, not just the drinking.

Eventually, he'd had to confess all because he'd run out of money and needed help. Sadly, he hadn't confessed enough and failed to tell the doctor the extent of his problem. The doctor gave him a prescription for something or other that was supposed to clear his system, but Chloe's Dad had a murkier system than the doctor realised.

Chloe started to cry as she remembered that morning when she, half asleep, had heard her Dad demanding that she phone for an ambulance. She didn't want to do it. She was furious with him and was nervous about making a nuisance of herself to the long-suffering ambulance service. She'd sworn at her Dad and told him that he'd caused his own problem so now he could damn well sort it out for himself.

But he couldn't use his hands properly and his fingers couldn't find the small keys on his mobile phone. 'Help me' he'd said 'I'm dying'. Something about the urgency in his voice had caught her attention and she'd made the call and watched her Dad get carted off in ambulance yet again. And then she'd gone to work, as if nothing had happened, not knowing when or if she would see him again.

And still bitter because it had been at lunch-time a few days earlier when her Dad had told her what he'd been getting up to. She'd had to go to work for that afternoon,too, and carry on as if everything was still normal.

Chloe choked back a few sobs as she thought of all this. She couldn't stop herself projecting back to that time. Her Dad had been sorted out and thrown out by an unsympathetic hospital staff. The architect of his own problems, he'd been of little interest to them. They hadn't thought how much he might mean to anyone else. They also hadn't sorted him out as well as they might have thought they did because Chloe had found him at home, when she'd gone back there for lunch, feeling very poorly and in need of yet another ambulance.

What a dark day that had been. But worse was to come. A few days later she had seen her Dad coming out of the bathroom minus his shirt. She'd noticed two bare patches on his chest where the hair was missing. She'd asked him what had happened. And he'd told her that in the ambulance the other morning - the morning, she remembered, when she'd gone to work resenting him for all the trouble he'd caused – he'd had to be revived with electric paddles because his heart had stopped.

Chloe forgot about the fridge and went into her room. She hugged herself and paced slowly round the bed. She didn't dare fall onto it and weep. She knew that if she did that, she'd never stop.

She felt cold and small. She tried to remember the happy times they'd had together over the last couple of years. Her Dad had straightened himself out and they enjoyed each other's company more. Every day they lived with the knowledge that he was a sick man. Every day, she worried that it would be his last.

But she knew what conditions she had expected to kill him. And now, out of the blue, was another problem. Something unexpected and, being her Dad, it had to be potentially dangerous. He never did things by halves.

Chloe felt her knees start to buckle, and she felt that odd little pain in her chest. She sat down and screwed herself into a little ball in the big old armchair in the corner of her bedroom. Her Dad had an hereditary heart disease. Key word: hereditary. She had it, too.

She knew when her Dad was in pain because she'd feel the squeezing in her own chest. The first time it had happened was before she'd even moved in with him. She'd felt a hand clutch her heart and squeeze and squeeze. In some ways, having the same condition created a bond between them and it had made her more determined to care for him.

Chloe tried to dry her eyes. It was pretty certain that her Dad would be the first to go, leaving her alone with his legacy. For the umpteenth time since they'd been re-united she tried to close the door on the thought.

She didn't know how she'd cope on her own. The years that she could have spent finding a partner and settling down to start a family had been spent with her Dad. She looked across the room and saw her reflection in the mirror. How faded she looked, worn out after years of worry. Years of empty promises.

All those times her Dad had promised to clean up his act. She used to believe him at first, she thought he really intended to do something about his problems. She'd smile and be encouraging. Then, nothing would be done. There was always an excuse so she'd stopped believing him. But she never let on, she always behaved as if she expected him to do as he'd promised. She thought about the ups and downs, the hope and disappointment.

And that terrible time when he'd let everyone down and nearly died doing it.

And now, now when he really was back on track, he'd become ill. With a condition that neither of them had foreseen. She'd always suspected that he'd had a death wish, even all those years ago in the squat. Somehow, she wasn't a good enough excuse for him to keep on living.

She tried to pull herself up, tell herself it was probably nothing serious. Even if it was something that needed treatment there was no need to assume that it was deadly. Except, this was her Dad. Whatever it was had to be serious. That was the nature of the beast.

Now here she was, cold and huddled in a chair, waiting for him to come home. Like all those other times she had waited for him. Never knowing when he would be coming through the front door. Dreading to hear whatever news he had to tell her. She tried to comfort herself with the thought that at least she didn't have to worry about him coming in drunk, he'd stopped doing that. But she could never be completely sure.

Even now, she'd watch him carefully when he came home after a short trip out by himself. She'd listen to his tone of voice and watch his movements. She'd remember the one clue all that time ago when he was pretending to be free from 'the influence'. He'd come home and had that shaky, tell-tale tone to his voice and she'd dismissed it. She'd trusted him and had not believed the evidence of her own ears. She wondered what would have happened if she'd confronted him.

Sadly, she knew it would have made no difference. He would have lied, been cross with her, maybe he would have sulked for a few days. She knew she would have been sorry for bringing it up.

She'd read articles about 'enablers' and had tried so hard not to be one. She thought of the fine line she trod, keeping her Dad from living and dying in the gutter but unable to save him from all the excess and self-indulgence.

By the time she'd found him it was too late, so much damage had already been done. All she could do was to try and slow him down. She couldn't stop him from harming himself any further, even his diet was cholesterol-ridden, it just seemed to be her job to slow down the process of self-destruction.

She was still still sitting shivering when her Dad came home. She listened as he turned his key in the lock. No fumbling, no dropping anything. He must be ok.

She dragged herself out of the chair and went to ask her Dad for his news with the same mixture of hope and trepidation that she always had when he'd been out doing something out of the ordinary.

Her Dad was cheerful, the hospital doctor seemed to think there might be a small blockage, maybe a little tear in his intestine. Not too much to worry about, but he'd see his own doctor in a few days and get some tests.

Chloe went to make the tea. Everything was alright for now. For now. She'd have to hang on until her Dad saw the doctor. Just a few days, though. She could manage that.

And so, in a few days, her Dad went to the doctor and had a sample analysed. But there were some small abnormalities. Chloe went on the internet and researched as much as she could with the little information her Dad had given her.

It didn't look too bad at first, maybe just the gall stones that the doctor now suspected. But Chloe was never one to accept the easy answers and she'd delved a little deeper. Following links until she'd found that last devastating piece of information – the condition could possibly be due to heart failure. She read about the chambers in the heart and the valves, what they were supposed to do and what could happen if they didn't do their job properly. She kept reading until she wept.

Her Dad had another appointment with the doctor, but it wouldn't be for another three weeks. There would be more tests and she didn't know how long it would be after those tests before they got an answer as to what his condition actually was.

So she'd have to wait. As she'd had to wait so often over the last decade, for some ghastly news about her Dad. And she had to live with the knowledge, too, that he was in pain and trying not to show it.

Of course, she'd forgive him again. She always forgave him. She'd still love him. She always loved him. She'd find a way for them to live a 'normal' life, as if he wasn't sick. She always did that, too.

Even though he'd wrecked his body and found it uncomfortable to live in. Even though, if he was uncomfortable, she was uncomfortable – she forgave him. Sometimes she'd wondered if he thought she was getting complacent and gave her these scares just to see if she still cared about him. She'd forgive him for that, too.

She'd spent her childhood without him. To her, he'd been that slightly glamorous young man in the old photographs, looking lost even in his group of friends. He'd looked so desperately as if he needed someone to find him and save him. Neither of them would ever have expected her to be the one to try.

Now, here they were, he old and grizzled and she a shadow of what she might have been. But Chloe knew there was only one thing she would never forgive her Dad for – if he should leave her forever. She comforted herself with the thought that he wouldn't get far without her. She knew how much her own life had been shortened simply by coping with her Dad, he'd only have to look behind him and she'd be just a few steps away. She wouldn't keep him waiting.

edit on 19-11-2011 by berenike because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 19 2011 @ 11:43 PM
Good story

posted on Nov, 20 2011 @ 11:13 AM
Your story is very thought provoking. You've imbued Chloe with a sense of loyalty to her father, a heart of gold, and forgiveness that springs up from a never ending well. I enjoyed reading it immensely. SnF. Thanks for sharing.

posted on Nov, 20 2011 @ 12:01 PM
reply to post by berenike

You have become my favorite ATS writer. There's so much going on in that head. I wish you'd write more often. You don't have to wait for a contest ya know.
edit on 11/20/2011 by ladyinwaiting because: (no reason given)

posted on Nov, 22 2011 @ 06:16 PM
Thanks everybody - I really do appreciate the feedback, especially for a story like this where there's no humour. It's nice to think people made it to the end

Ladyinwaiting - thank you. I'm a bit of a lazy writer, but to be very honest about it I don't always have any ideas for a story. I like the competitions because someone else has done the hard work of thinking up the subject.
There's a link to my website on my profile page. It's just something I created so my stories were stored somewhere safe and easily accessible. Sadly, I've forgotten how to add any more to it

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