Sergeant Michael Anders peers through the glass panel of the hospital door. Inside the hospital room he can see Amber Harp sitting on the bed. Sitting on the bed next to her, he can see Amber’s ten-year-old son, Drake. In the chair next to the bed, Amber’s husband, Steven Harp, sits. Smiles all round. They look like a happy, loving family, Michael thinks to himself.
“How’s she doing, Doc?” Michael asks the new local doctor, Joel Prasad.
“She’s still been having the seizures,” Joel tells him. “The medication she’s on seems to be helping and her memory seems to be slowly returning.”
“Positive news, then,” Michael says, continuing to gaze into the room. He watches on as Amber laughs and gives Drake a big hug.
“You miss her, don’t you?” Joel asks.
Michael closes his eyes and drops his head. “It’s silly,” he says.
“Not silly at all,” Joel says. “You loved her a lot.”
“I should be happy for her,” Michael says. “I should be happy for all of them, but I feel so lost without her.”
“It must have been a big surprise.” Joel puts his hand on Michael’s shoulder.
“I wish she had of told me,” Michael sighs. “I’ve never felt this heartbroken.”
“You need something to take your mind off things,” Joel suggests to his new friend. “Why don’t you join me as a judge at tomorrow night’s beauty pageant?”
Michael laughs out loud.
“I’m serious,” Joel adds. “It’ll be fun!”
“Aunty Val,” Joanne Evans whispers as she enters her aunty’s hospital room. “It’s me; Joanne.”
Valerie Pickering stirs from her sleep. She stirs from her heavily medicated sleep. Valerie had been in hospital ever since she had had her life-saving operation to replace her failing kidneys. Michael Anders had been kind enough to spare one of his own to save Valerie. The surgery came at a cost, though. Valerie had been through complication after complication post-surgery. She seemed to be on the mend now, however pain medication was still her best friend.
“My baby Jo,” Valerie slurs groggily, “so nice to see you.”
Joanne assists Valerie to a seated position, takes baby Ricky out of the stroller and places him in her aunty’s lap.
“He’s getting so big,” Valerie says, a tear coming to her eye. “I’m missing him grow up.”
“You’ll be a big part of his life always,” Joanne says, wiping her son’s face. “You’ll love Aunty Val as much as I do, won’t you Ricky?”
Without warning, Valerie’s face tightens and she pushes the baby on her lap towards Joanne. “Please don’t trust me with him!”
“What do you mean, Aunty Val?” Joanne asks, picking Ricky up and holding him in her arms.
“I can’t be trusted,” Valerie cries, almost sounding as if she is in pain. “Only bad things will come if you entrust your baby with me.”
Joanne holds her baby even closer to her body. She laughs nervously. “I’m not sure what you’re trying to tell me, Aunty Val.”
In front of her, Joanne looks on as her aunty throws her body back onto the bed from her seated position. Joanne watches as she sees Valerie’s eyelids twitch and her eyeballs underneath roll back and forth.
“Aunty Val?” Joanne turns to get help but is stopped. She looks down to see Aunty Val’s hand grabbing hold of her arm.
“I can see it, Joanne.” Valerie’s eyes continue to roll. “There will only be tragedy if you leave your baby with me.”
Joanne, unnerved, sets Ricky down in the stroller and reaches out to comfort her aunty. Valerie begins to cough, lightly at first, then becoming uncontrollable.
“I’m going to get you some help!” Joanne says over the loud noise of the coughing. She can see her aunty struggling for breath between each cough.
“It’s so smoky in here,” Valerie says, holding a hand to her throat. “It’s so hard to breathe.”
“There’s no smoke in here, Aunty Val.”
“There will be smoke soon,” Valerie coughs. “Not everyone will survive.”
Joanne is feeling very unsettled after her encounter with her aunty. When she walks out of the hospital room, she spots Doctor Joel Prasad talking with Sergeant Michael Anders.
“Doctor Prasad,” Joanne calls out to the doctor as she pushes the stroller over to the men.
“Hi Joanne,” Joel says. “How’s your aunty?”
“I think she needs some help,” Joanne explains. “She seems to be hallucinating.”
Joel nods reassuringly to Joanne. “A common side effect of the pain medication. A lot of patients think they are seeing things that aren’t actually there.”
“She’s scaring me,” Joanne sniffs. “She’s talking about smoke and people not surviving, and not being trusted with Ricky…”
Joel puts his hand on Joanne’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Joanne,” he says to her. “I could only imagine how you would be feeling. Watching your loved one like that must be hard. Let me go in and check on her. I’ll go and make sure she’s comfortable.”
“I’d appreciate that,” Joanne says as she watches the doctor head into her aunty’s room.
“You need something to keep your mind off things,” Sergeant Anders suddenly says.
“Like what?” Joanne asks, curious.
“Like a beauty pageant.”
Joanne laughs out loud.
“I’m serious,” Sergeant Anders says. “I’m judging, so you’ve got a good chance of winning.”
Michael Anders gives Joanne a big toothy smile. She looks at him sheepishly before returning the smile. “I’m going to have to buy a new dress,” she laughs.
Sergeant Michael Anders watches on helplessly as his lover is escorted down the corridor towards the hospital’s entrance. Amber Harp’s luggage is carried by her husband, Steven Harp. Her young son, Drake, walks next to her, hand in hand.
As she walks past him, Amber’s eyes meet Michael’s for a split second. Michael’s heart beats faster. He wants to grab her. He wants to embrace her. He wants to tell her how much he loves her. But instead he just watches as she exits the hospital, flanked by her family.
Michael follows the Harp family outside, keeping his distance. He watches as Steven Harp loads the car boot with Amber’s bags. Her son races around to the other side of the car and jumps in the back seat. Steven enters into the driver’s seat and starts the engine.
“Time to return home to Holgate,” Michael can hear Steven Harp say to his wife.
Amber puts her hand on the door handle. Before she opens the door, she turns and her eyes meet Michael’s for the second time. She turns back towards the car and opens the door.
“Amber!” Michael suddenly calls out to her.
Amber turns. Michael runs towards her. He puts his arms out and they embrace.
“I’ll always love you,” Michael says, tears welling in his eyes.
Amber looks at him without saying anything. They stare at each other silently for a second before the sound of the car’s horn disrupts them. “Time to go Amber!” Steven Harp shouts impatiently.
Amber pulls away quickly. Michael notices a tear fall down her cheek.
Silently, Amber enters the car and closes the door behind her.
As the car takes off, Michael can see Amber meet his gaze. She mouths the words I love you to him.
Michael brings a hand to his face and wipes the tears from his cheeks. He reaches into his pocket for a tissue. It’s then that he realises that something is in it. A piece of paper. Amber must have slipped it into his pocket while they were hugging each other.
Michael unfolds the piece of paper and reads his lover’s handwriting: It’s all a lie. I’m in grave danger. Please come find me.
Sergeant Michael Anders looks up suddenly from the piece of paper. He looks on as the car holding Amber Harp captive rounds the distant corner and exits the town of Peppercorn Patch.
Obnoxious Weeds will return soon for the remainder of Season Five!
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