“You do realise,” Maggie grabbed my elbow, “that he’s basically given you an engagement ring.” We continued to walk down the street, now with our arms linked. “I think you’re right,” I tried to turn my head to face her, winced, went back to centre. “He's so clever, with the Velcro, it fits perfectly.” I reached up and tugged at the neckbrace to loosen it a little.
Rewind to Monday: my life was hanging in the balance, I was just waiting to have the prognosis confirmed by Dr McFrenchie. “Well, the good news is that the CAT scan came back clear, nothing wrong with the brain,” he informed me without smiling. “And my spine?” I frowned. “Oh nothing serious.” I tried not to look crestfallen. “You’ve had a bang,” he continued briskly, “there’s a small fracture and a lot of bruising. You’re head too. I’m going to give you a,” he put his hands around his throat. “A neckbrace?” I asked, my eyes lighting up. “Oui. You wear it for six days.”
“You work?” he asked, whilst simultaneously scribbling on his clipboard. I grabbed the newspaper I’d been reading, “Yes, yes. On this,” I shoved it at him, “I’m the editor.” Contrary to the impression I was probably giving him, I was in fact also a serious, professional. Look, I was saying, we’d actually make a great couple. “Er, right,” he looked up vaguely, “it’s just I sign you off if you have to go to work.” “Oh no, I’m on holiday until the New Year.” “OK, good. So now you rest, you watch TV, you do what the British do, drink beer right?” “No,” I mocked horror, “no beer from now on.” I widened my eyes like a young doe. He didn’t look convinced. “After five days, if you have pain still, then you are allowed to come to see me again.” I thought the choice of the word allowed interesting. “What about the neckbrace, don’t I need to return it?” He finally cracked a smile, “No, you can keep that, a Christmas present.”
As he helped me down from the trolley I pressed the newspaper in his hand, “Here, you can have this. To practice your English,” I added quickly. “It’s bad, isn’t it?” he nodded gravely at me. “Oh no, not at all, perfect. I just meant, um well, just to read something in English, if you wanted.” Obviously, I couldn’t tell him that I hoped he’d use the contact details on page 2 to track me down, after he’d realised that I was the girl he wanted to marry. That would have probably scared him.
At our flat the next day, Maggie and I were sitting around the kitchen table. At intervals she rotated her head and pressed her hand to her ear. “I have an ear ache. Do you think it’s an aneurism?” “I’d say that’s likely,” I couldn’t nod so I blinked affirmatively. “Hey, why don’t I take you to A&E? It’s almost lunchtime, I’ll take my doctor a sandwich at the same time, he’d like that.” “Your fiancée,” Maggie corrected.
We typed aneurism into Google. “You can,” I read from the screen, “either have a true aneurism or a pseudoaneurism. I’d say, of the two, you’re better off with the pseudo one. You’ll still have to go to hospital. It’s a win-win situation.” Would this, I wondered, count as Munchausen by proxy? I was aware that it was a slippery slope.
“Perhaps we should open a worst-case scenario clinic,” Maggie mused. “Someone comes in with a bruise, we diagnose gangrene and prescribe immediate amputation. That kind of thing.” “I think I get it," I interrupted. "Someone comes in with a funny looking mole, we tell them it’s stage four melanoma, you’ve got 24 hours if you’re lucky." It sounded like a winner to me. "Just think of all the people who’d get a second chance at life. I know that my own recent brush with death has made me see the world with fresh eyes. I feel more alive than ever. It’s why I have such a connection with my doctor…” “Fiancée.” “…my fiancée. We’ve been through the very worst of times and the best.” Suddenly Maggie rubbed her temples. I could see pseudoanuerism was getting worse.