Nothing had changed.
It was like I had stepped back in time. Suddenly I felt like a girl again, trapped by the small town I had just driven into. The dread was all I could really feel. I wanted my father to be okay but there was something I feared more, seeing Adrian.
My father was strong, he always had been and that's why he would get through this. I however wasn't strong like my father. Five years ago, I had run from this town, run from him. I had left the man who had broken my heart and I promised myself I would never see him again.
Driving down the rickety road, past the shops that had been here for as long as time itself I knew it was already common knowledge I was home. This town was one of those places that you couldn’t sneeze without someone knowing about it.
I continued down my path straight to the hospital, I didn’t care about going home just now. I needed to see my Dad.
The hospital was just as I remembered, tiny and old. It looked like one of those hospitals you saw in a horror movie and as you walked in it didn’t feel much better. For a year I had volunteered here, every Saturday of my last year of high school. I swear it was haunted.
“Sydney.” I smiled at Doctor White; he was such a nice old man.
“How is he?” I asked.
He scratched his old grey hair smiling sympathetically at me and in that moment my heart dropped. That was the smile of bad news, that was the smile I had seen him wear so many times.
“Oh God.” I could feel the tears coming. “How bad is it?”
My Dad was like a rock, nothing could touch him. He was the person that would survive an apocalypse purely because he was too stubborn to die.
“The heart attack was a bad one; he is stable and looking okay just now but he really needs to rest Sydney. He isn’t that young man he used to be. He puts far too much stress on himself.”
“He’s going to be okay though.” I begged.
“With a healthy diet, a resting recovery period, some exercise and the right medication he should be fine but if he keeps working the way he does, his life isn’t going to last much longer.”
My Dad was getting on, in his late fifties he still worked from dawn to dusk. He opened his own garage at 18 and had practically lived there ever since.
“I’ll make sure he takes it easy.” I nodded knowing that my Dad wasn’t going to take the news he had to reduce his work well.
“Good, he’ll be glad you’re back. All he does is talk about you. You better go to his room, it’s 14, you remember where it is?”
“Of course, I do.” I smiled.
“Your Mum is with him; she has been besides herself. A hug from her daughter will do the trick.” With that Doctor White was off into another patient.
The room was at the bottom of the long, narrow corridor. It was the best room in the place but that didn’t make the journey there any less creepy. I quickened my pace ready to see my family. I hadn’t seen them in person in five years and all the phone calls and skypes in the world didn’t beat a personal visit. Suddenly my belly vaulted at the door, God I missed them.
My mum gripped me in a hug as soon as I entered and as she pulled back I smiled down at the warm smile she gave me.
“Don’t you cry, you’ll start me.” She quipped wiping the tears from my cheeks.
Of their own accord my eyes drifted past her, to the fragile figure on the bed. My hand slapped over my mouth as I chocked back the tears.
“Mum.” I whispered.
He looked so pale, so skinny. My dad always had a bit of meat on his bones, but now he looked like half of the person he was.
“He looks so ill Mum.” I sobbed walking over to him.
My Mum took my hand as I sat on the bed beside him. He hadn’t video chatted with me in months and I just thought it was because he was busy at work but now I knew why. He knew I would have had him at the Doctor if I knew just how much his work was taking a toll on him.
Even sleeping peacefully, he looked in pain. I had always thought him to be indestructible but sitting here I hit the bitter realisation of just how fragile he was.
“He is going to be okay.” My Mum promised leaning over and kissing my forehead. “He just wouldn’t listen to me. I tried to get him to cut back his hours, but he wouldn’t.”
“Well, I don’t care what he says, he will now. Why didn’t you tell me Mum?”
She looked bitterly guilty. “He didn’t want you to know honey, he just wanted you to live your life. You know what he is like, he just goes on pretending he is fine.”
“I’m not going anywhere until he is better.” I vowed.
I was a Daddy’s girl. I always had been. My Dad was my hero. Looking at him I could feel my heart tear at the seams. When I left he was so healthy, he wanted me to go and live my life and make memories that would last forever. I went because I felt like I could, because at that time I had to get out of this small town.
Now, he looked like a shell of the man I knew and if I had known back then this is what he would do to himself I would never have left.
“Sorry Carol, I didn’t mean to take so long, the coffee machine was playing up.”
My shoulders hunched upwards at the voice, my anger somehow overtaking every ounce of my body. I stared at my Dad hoping that the voice I had just heard was a figment of my imagination.
“Hello Sydney.” His voice was even, a deep, masculine song that seemed to enthral me for a second.
With that voice I was transported back to five years ago. To the girl who was so in love with the man behind her that she would have moved heaven and earth for him. That second ended quickly with the rage and betrayal that soon seeped into my veins.
I turned to my Mum not daring to look back at him. I didn’t have the courage to.
“What the f**k is he doing here?” I blasted.