The doctor said, “I was wondering where you had got to…your brother is going to be okay.”
I looked up with tears in my eyes and said, “What?”
“Jack is going to be okay. He had a relapse, no doubt from his panic attack, but we were able to get his condition under control and he should be back in his room in a couple of hours. Now if you excuse me, I still have work to do.”
As he got up to leave, I said, “Hang on. I heard one of you doctors confirm the time of Jack’s death upstairs in the ICU. How can he be now alive?”
The doctor gave me a funny look and then I guess he realised what I had heard.
“Sorry, Mr Allen. What you heard had nothing to do with your brother. While we were treating him, another patient died inside the ICU. He had only recently been admitted after being in a road accident, a drunk driver I believe. Now, as I said, you must excuse me, I have work to do.”
I just sat there trying to take in everything the doctor had just said to me. It was only then that I realised that I never even thanked the doctor. I just turned around and faced the cross at the end of the room, said a little prayer and broke down again, this time out of sheer emotional exhaustion.
I must have sat there for at least a half an hour, trying to compose myself. I decided to go and get myself a cup of tea before phoning Emily to explain why I did not take her call.
Needless to say, Emily was shocked when I told her what had happened and insisted that she was coming to Rome to be with Jack and me. At this point, I could not argue with her, but I did request that she bring along with her some spare clothing for both Jack and me and some of my toiletries.
“What about the kids, Em'?”
“James, I have had already spoken to Sophia, Gina’s mamma, and she said that she would happily look after John and Catrina. However, I would have to bring Angelo with me otherwise he will, without doubt, throw a tantrum if he knew I was coming to see you and Jack, without him.”
I said, “Okay, Em'. You do what you think best, kiss the kids for me and I will see you when you get here.”
Before I hung up, I gave Emily directions as to how to find Jack’s room and I hoped that Jack would be back in the room before Emily and Angelo arrived.
About an hour or so later, I received a call from Isabella asking how Jack was. She wept when I told her what had happened, not only about Jack’s relapse but also about the condition we had found both the boys in and what Leo had done to them. Apparently, Francesco had been, according to Isabella, so busy at work that she had not seen or spoken to him.
I could hear Maria wailing in the background. Presumably, Isabella had placed the call on loudspeaker so that her mum could hear the news as I was relaying it.
Before she ended the call, Isabella promised that both of them would come to the hospital in a few days to see us all.
Emily and Angelo arrived before Jack was returned to the room. As soon as they entered, Angelo ran and threw himself into my arms and hugged me.
“I missed you so much, papà. When are you coming home?”
I said, “As soon as Jack can come home, then I will be coming home as well.”
Angelo then said, “Papà, you smell, and you need a shave.”
I looked at him and said, “And I love you too. But you are right. Once Jack comes back in here, I will go and shave, just for you.”
I managed to get up off my chair, still holding the leech, and kissed Emily.
She said, “Angelo is right you know…you do smell.”
Just then the door opened, and two porters wheeled Jack’s bed back into the room. Angelo wanted to cuddle Jack, but I had to hold on to him from doing so until the nurses had finished what they had to do, and had left the room.
Jack still had an oxygen mask on him as we approached his bed. I must admit he looked a lot worse now than he did earlier.
Although Jack was still not fully awake, I could tell he was able to smile when he saw Emily and Angelo standing there. Emily leant over and kissed Jack and Angelo climbed up onto his bed, and after kissing Jack, he laid down on his bed and cuddled him.
Within about fifteen minutes, both Jack and Angelo had fallen asleep. Without being asked, Emily took out her phone and took a couple of photographs of the two of them sleeping.
Emily then said, “By the way, James. I brought both yours and Jack’s laptops in case you need to contact anyone. I know Jill has been trying to get in touch, but I did not know what to say to her, so I did not reply.”
“That’s fine, Em'. How long can you stay?”
“Not long, James. I really did not like leaving John and Catrina with Sophia, so I think I will need to go back home tomorrow if that is alright with you. I just really wanted to see for myself that Jack is okay.”
I said, “There is a hotel around the corner from the hospital. I will try and get you a twin room so you and Angelo can have a good night’s sleep before you go home tomorrow.”
“Thank you, James. However, I had better warn you that you might have a fight on your hands to get Angelo to come back with me tomorrow. I think that he will want to stay with his papà until you come home with Jack.”
“Em', I don’t know how long it will be before Jack can come home. Besides, Angelo has school. He needs to go home with you tomorrow.
Just then a sleepy Angelo opened his eyes slightly and said,
“Mamma has already cleared it with the school. I am staying here with you and Jack and that’s final.”
Angelo then yawned and fell back into a deep sleep.
I looked at Emily and she just shrugged her shoulders.
She said, “Just before we came here I phoned the school and spoke to the headteacher. I explained our situation and he said that it would be okay for Angelo to miss some of his schooling so that he could be with the both of you at the hospital. He also said that he would email homework assignments to you, James, so that Angelo would not fall behind with his school work.”
Before I could say anything, a sleepy Angelo simply then said,
“See, told you. I am staying!”
Once again, Angelo closed his eyes and fell back to sleep with one arm around Jack.
Knowing I had been outmanoeuvred, it was my turn to shrug my shoulders and admit defeat. I took out my phone and went outside to get the number of the hotel nearby. Once I had done this, I managed to reserve a twin room for tonight for Emily and Angelo.
Later, I wasn’t at all surprised when Angelo kicked up a bit of fuss when I said that he had to go with Emily to the hotel to sleep. Clearly, he wanted to stay with Jack and me, but despite the tears welling up in his eyes, I stood firm with my decision. I told him he had a choice, either he goes with Emily to the hotel tonight, or he goes home with Emily tomorrow. Once that piece of information had sunk in, he agreed to go with Emily for the night, at the hotel.
When it came to hug Angelo goodbye, he simply said, “You are mean…and you still smell!”
When he got to the door, Angelo turned and ran back to me for another hug and said,
“You may be mean and smelly, but I still love you.”
Once they had gone, I took the opportunity to go and have a shower and a shave in Jack’s ensuite.
I must admit that it was nice to not only clean myself up a bit but also to put on some of my own clothes.
Later, while Jack slept, I emailed Jill to tell her that Jack was in hospital and that he would not be able to talk to her for a few days. A few minutes later, I received a reply from Jill, wanting to know exactly what had happened. I told her about the kidnap and Jack being injected with heroin but left out about the rape and who Leo was. I didn’t want to freak her out, but more importantly, if she told her parents, I didn’t want them to cut off all contact. If Jill was going to tell them, then it would simply be the case of a kidnap for ransom, that went wrong.
Needless to say, Jill wanted more information, but I told her that it was late and that when Jack was able, he would contact her as soon as he could.
Luckily, she simply replied to thank me and to give Jack her love.
I did find it amusing, that like me, Jill had not put the connection together that apart from Jack being her brother…so was I.
After another uncomfortable night in the chair, one of the hospital orderlies came into the room with Jack’s breakfast. Although he was happy with what was on the plate, I did find it thoughtful of Jack when he offered to share his meal with me. Even though I was a little hungry, I declined Jack’s offer and told him to eat up because he needed his strength.
No sooner had Jack finished his breakfast than the two nurses that tried to give him a bed bath turned up to give him another. I had to laugh when Jack pulled his sheet up to his chin and refused point-blank to allow them to wash him.
Once again, I told the nurses that I would make sure his little maggot got washed, much to the amusement of the nurses and the annoyance of Jack.
Once Jack had been washed a doctor came in to examine Jack. While he was doing so, Emily and Angelo came into the room.
The doctor seemed pleased with Jack’s progress.
He said, “Today, I will order another set of blood tests and I will organise a physio to call on you, Jack, to get you up and walking about. If things go to plan, I think you could go home either tomorrow or the day after. I understand you do not like the idea of the pretty nurses washing you, why is that?”
Jack simply said, “It’s personal, doctor.”
I said laughingly, “I think Jack did not want to have the nurses wash his little maggot.”
“James! I told you, it’s not a maggot, it’s an anaconda!”
Everyone in the room, except for Angelo had a good laugh at Jack’s comment, so I had to quickly explain to him what the ongoing joke was. Once he understood, Angelo boastfully said,
“I apologise for my brother lying to you, doctor. Jack has not got an anaconda, he has a worm…I am the one in the family with an anaconda!”
With that, the whole room erupted with laughter, even the now red-faced Jack.
Once the doctor had left, we were able to have some quality time with Jack. I was pleased that his normal colour was beginning to return to his face and that, according to his doctor, Jack’s pupils were back to normal size.
Jack was able now to sit up in bed and we spent some time all playing cards until a nurse came in to take some of Jack’s blood.
Jack had always been a little squeamish when it came to needles and he winced as the needle went into his arm. While Jack looked the other way, Angelo looked on closely at what the nurse was doing and found the whole process of taking blood from Jack’s arm fascinating.
No sooner than the nurse had left, Isabella and Maria entered the room. Of course, everyone was pleased to meet up again. Although Isabella apologised mainly to Jack profusely about what her son had done to him, Maria, in typical, Italian grandmotherly fashion wept most of the time when she saw Jack laying in the bed with an oxygen mask over his mouth.
Although I could not recall Jack having an oxygen mask over his mouth when we were playing cards, I had the feeling Jack intentionally put it on when Maria came into the room in the vain attempt to stop her trying to kiss him.
Of course, Isabella wanted to know more details as to what had happened because as yet, she had still not spoken to Francesco.
No sooner had I got to the part about finding the two boys, with Gabe still having a half-empty syringe in his arm, Angelo became very quiet, even to the point of leaving the room as us adults were talking.
It was Emily who noticed that Angelo was no longer in the room.
She said, “James, where has Angelo got to?”
I looked around and just shrugged my head.
It was Jack who, once he had removed his oxygen mask said, almost in code,
“Gabe – syringe – Angelo’s mamma!”
Emily immediately placed her hand over her mouth and looked at me. It was only then did I fully understand what Jack was trying to tell me and I ran out of the room to try and find my son.
It took a while, but I eventually found Angelo in a stairwell, sitting on one of the steps, quietly sobbing. I sat down next to him and when I put my arm around him, his head melting into my chest.
“Angelo, I am so sorry. I didn’t realise that listening to what Leo had done to Jack and Gabe would have brought back flashbacks of your own, about when you found your mamma dead with a syringe still in her arm…please forgive me, Angelo, I never meant to hurt you.”
Between the sobs, Angelo said, “It is okay papà. It was only when you explained what Leo had done to Jack and Gabe, that I not only thought back to my mamma but also realised that had you not found Jack when you did…Jack…might be dead now as well.”
I picked Angelo up and sat him back down on my lap. Nothing more was said between us. Once again, we were just sharing a moment.
When we finally got back to the room, Emily took control of Angelo and took him into the bathroom to freshen him up. While she was doing this, I quietly told Isabella and Maria, what had caused Angelo’s outburst.
“It was Angelo who found his mamma dead, with a syringe still hanging from her arm. Me saying what had happened to the boys not only brought back memories of that incident, but it also made him aware that had we not found Jack and Gabe when we did, then both of them would now be dead as well.”
I looked over to Jack, who on hearing this latest revelation, now had tears running down his face as well.
In typical Italian fashion, Maria was all over Angelo when he came out of the bathroom with Emily, smothering him with hugs and kisses, much to the amusement of Jack, who decided to keep on the oxygen mask, just in case Maria attacked him!
Thankfully, it calmed down a lot when Isabella and Maria left to go home. I could tell that Jack was glad as well.
He said, once he had removed his mask, “It’s nice to have visitors, but not all at once.”
I had to agree.
Before Emily left, I gave Angelo one last chance to go home with her. I tried to explain that staying in the hospital would get boring for him. Jack just laughed when Angelo just gave me one of those looks that said it all.
“Now I know he belongs to us,” said Jack.
Jack opened up his laptop and told us that he had several messages from his friends at school. With a big smile on his face, he told us that Gabe had sent him several emails and had received two from Jill.
To give Jack some privacy in order for him to answer some of his emails, no doubt mainly to Gabe, I walked Emily down to the car and made sure Angelo came with us so that he could retrieve his bag.
Emily said, “James, do you want me to leave the car here so that you can drive home with Jack and Gabe when he is allowed home? I can always get the train home.”
“Em', I would rather you take the car because you might need it when you get home. Besides, I think Jack would like to travel back to Naples by train, you know how he likes trains.”
As she got into the car, it suddenly dawned on me that we would need a bigger vehicle. Having two small children that would need child seats, our car would be impractical if we ever wanted to all go out as a family. Why I never thought about that before, I do not know.
After a sad farewell and a request that she drive carefully, Emily left the hospital and began her drive home.
Before going back to Jack’s room, I took Angelo for some refreshments and I happily watched him devour a rather large ice cream, or as they call it over here, a gelato.
I picked up a newspaper, some comics, and a colouring book, with some coloured pencils for Angelo. Angelo also insisted that we bring Jack some ice cream as well.
When we got back to Jack, he was busy talking with Gabe on his laptop, apologising for what had happened to him.
I whispered, “Jack, do you want us to come back in a while?”
Jack just nodded and invited both Angelo and me into a now four-way conversation with Gabe.
That evening, after the evening shift had done their rounds, it was clear that Angelo was getting tired. It never ceased to amaze me that no matter just how much you love the person you are visiting in hospital, one thing is certain, hospital visiting can be very tiring for all concerned.
Rather having Angelo sleep all night in my arms, I laid him down on the bed that Gabe had used. I managed to find a spare blanket in one of the cupboards and Jack gave up one of his pillows.
At some point, in the early hours of the morning, I got up off my chair and decided to go and have a shave and a shower. I was just relaxing under the hot water when the door of the shower cubicle opened and in walked a naked Angelo.
“Angelo, what are you doing? You can have a shower after I have finished.”
Angelo simply said, “Papà, when we were in London, you said that I could not sleep with you naked, like you sometimes did with Jack, because it might go against you adopting me. Well, you have adopted me, so that rule no longer has any meaning…unless of course, you love Jack more than me.”
With that, he looked up at me with his puppy dog eyes and I suddenly realised that either he was testing me, or, this was a setup! Either way, I couldn’t fault his logic.
“Okay then, just this once.”
Angelo smiled and hugged me. He then asked me to wash his hair, which I did, and he insisted on returning the favour, which was not easy for me to bend down in such a confined space.
Once we had dried off and put some clothes on, we both exited the bathroom and I could tell by the look on Jack’s face that this was, after all, a setup!
After breakfast, a physio came in and managed to get Jack up out of his bed and with the help of him, Jack managed to walk a couple of times around the room, much to the amusement of Angelo. When the physio sat him down in a chair instead of back in his bed, he left the room promising to return in the afternoon.
A hurtful Jack then said, “What was so funny, Angelo? It’s not my fault, I cannot walk very well at the moment.”
Realising that his laughter had hurt Jack, Angelo apologised,
“Sorry, Jack. But it was not you walking funny that was making me laugh, it was this.”
Angelo then showed both Jack and me a photo he had taken with his phone of the back view of Jack. As Jack was wearing one of those open back hospital gowns, Angelo had captured Jack’s white backside for all to see.
Once Jack realised what had made Angelo laugh, he began to relax, and he too broke into a smile.
After a few minutes, a nurse came in and gave some medicine for Jack to take. She explained that one of the side effects of an overdose of heroin was, unfortunately, constipation, which can, in Jack’s case, cause complications.
Within half an hour, Jack said that he needed to go to the toilet. Jack was determined not to use the dreaded bedpan and wanted to use a proper toilet. So, between Angelo and me, we helped Jack walk into the bathroom and sat him on the toilet.
Angelo then said, “Jack, you must know by now that I love you.”
“And?” said Jack.
“Well, just to let you know that I may love you, but I am not going to wipe your smelly bum for you!”
Jack simply said, “It’s okay, Angelo, I have toilet paper for that!”
This caused two things to happen. First, Angelo started laughing, and secondly, I had a flashback to a similar comment Jack made to dad when he had asked Jack what hand he used to wipe his bum with when he wasn’t sure if Jack knew how to clean himself after going to the toilet.
As Angelo and I left the bathroom and closed the door, I could distinctly hear Jack emptying his bowels, which I was pleased about. I was even more pleased that sometime later, Jack had managed to not only open the bathroom door but also able to clean himself without my help. However, to lighten the mood, Jack laughed when he saw both Angelo and me with towels wrapped around our heads as makeshift gas masks, something dad did to me after I went to the toilet for the first time, when I was in hospital as a child.
Much to the annoyance of Jack, he had to keep wearing a hospital gown because when he was brought into the hospital, he was not wearing any clothes. I was later told that his clothes, that were bagged up at the warehouse, had not made it here. Somehow, Gabe’s clothes had arrived in the ambulance, but Jack’s had not.
Seeing his disappointment, I decided to go into town and get something more comfortable for him to wear. Surprisingly, Angelo wanted to stay with his brother rather come with me, which in a way I was pleased about. Weirdly, I think Jack’s misfortune had resulted in a better bond between him and Angelo.
I managed to only be away for about two hours, but Jack was more than pleased when I returned with a couple of pairs of decent shorts and T-shirts for him to wear, as well as some slippers for him to put on whenever he got out of bed. Not to leave Angelo out, I also bought him a couple of T-shirts as well.
Later, both the physio and a doctor came in and after looking at Jack’s chart and movement, he said that he could go home in the morning, which brought a big smile onto Jack’s face.
Jack seemed to be getting stronger by the hour. Just before bedtime, Jack said that he wanted a shower.
I said, “I’m not sure, Jack. I don’t want you to slip and hurt yourself in the shower.”
“Okay then, fusspot! Why don’t you help me then?”
“Jack, as I found out earlier, thanks to you no doubt, the shower is not that big inside.”
“Well, I am going to have a shower either with or without you.”
Jack walked slowly into the bathroom and closed the door behind him. I gave him 5 minutes and then whispered into Angelo’s ear, which caused him to smile and nod in agreement.
Once Angelo was undressed, and I was sure that Jack was in the shower, Angelo and I walked into the bathroom. I opened the cubicle door and gently pushed Angelo in. Jack looked at me and I just smiled and mouthed the words, “Set up returned!”
I then left the bathroom, sat down in a chair, smiled, and carried on reading my paper.
About 20 minutes later a smiling Angelo was helping Jack walk back to his bed. I could tell that although Jack was a little embarrassed to have Angelo help him in the shower. For Angelo, as far as he was concerned, he was now one of us. Simply put, as he told me later, to share a shower with both of us meant that as far as he was concerned, he was now truly accepted because he was able to bond with us in that way.
The next morning, after getting final approval from the doctor, Jack was allowed to go home. No sooner than he had said that, Emily walked into the room to take us home. Of course, I was more than happy to see her because although Jack was feeling a lot better, his movements, in my opinion, were not good enough to travel home by train.
As we were about to leave the hospital, that cringing hospital administrator arrived to make sure everything was in order and that we had enjoyed our stay. Personally, I just think he wanted to gauge my reaction as to whether or not I was going to sue the hospital for negligence.
He said while wringing his hands like the character in David Copperfield’s, Uriah Heep,
“I hope the little misunderstanding we had can now be forgotten, Mr Allen, and that there will be no need for you to take further action?”
I decided to leave him ‘hanging’ and simply said,
With that, we left the hospital, got into the car and began our journey home again.
After about an hour, we decided to make a little stop, mainly so that Jack could stretch his legs for a bit. It was nice to be able to sit down with Emily for a chat and to watch both Jack and Gabe get along so well.
After relieving our bladders, we got back into the car and resumed our journey. Sometime later, I was about to make another stop, but when I looked into the rearview mirror, I noticed that both Jack and Angelo were fast asleep.
It was nice to arrive home again, even more so to be able to kiss and cuddle my two youngest. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that Gabe and his parents were there to welcome us home, as well as Sophia, Gina and Antonio.
No sooner than we had received our welcome home than Sophia insisted that we all sit down at the dining room table for a good home-cooked meal.
Of course, Jack was more than happy to do that, because he had finally got his taste buds back. When his plate was put in front of him he smiled as he sniffed his food. After taking his first mouthful of food, he looked up to me and said,
“This is so good. If I didn’t know better, only one person cooks as well as this.”
Just then, Jack heard a familiar voice from behind his chair.
“Welcome home, Jack.”
“Maria!” Jack screamed as he tried to stand up to hug her.