‘If necessary, we’ll have to ventilate him.’
‘Is he going to die?’ The baby’s mother covered her mouth with her hand, her eyes bright with tears. ‘What are you doing to him?’
One of the other nurses drew her gently to one side but Nikos frowned slightly and indicated with his head that she was to bring the baby’s mother closer.
‘This is frightening for you, I know,’ he said gently, ‘but I am asking you to trust me. Tom has a narrowing of one of the blood vessels leading from his heart—that is why he is so poorly. He is not getting the oxygen he needs, but we have put in place a temporary solution. Come closer. You can hold his hand—that’s good. Is there anyone you want to phone? Your partner?’
The woman’s eyes filled and she shook her head. ‘I’m on my own,’ she muttered. ‘This is just—well, you don’t think it’s going to happen to you, do you? When you have a baby you just assume that everything is going to be fine.’
Ella watched the woman close her fingers over the baby’s tiny hand and wondered why it was that Nikos always knew instinctively what would help the relatives.
This mother needed to touch her baby.
‘This problem with his heart.’ The woman’s eyes were fixed on her baby. ‘Can you fix it?’
‘My colleague will run some tests, take some pictures of the heart, using sound waves, possibly a few other things and then he will make a decision about how best to deal with it.’ Nikos leaned across to adjust the flow of oxygen just as the paediatric team walked into the room.
They took over the care of the baby, but once Nikos had handed over the case he drew the mother to one side, taking the time to explain exactly what was happening and why. He answered her questions with infinite patience, sometimes sketching a quick diagram to make his explanation clearer, occasionally referring to one of his colleagues.
When the baby was finally transferred, the mother was effusive in her thanks and obviously quite shocked by what had happened.
‘That must be incredibly hard,’ Ella said. ‘Having a newborn baby and suddenly everything goes wrong.’
‘And she had no support—that made it worse.’ His eyes were on hers, cold and angry. ‘Is that what you want? You want to do this on your own? Because you should know by now that that option isn’t on my agenda.’
‘It’s time to go home. Get changed. I’ll meet you by the car.’
Her heart felt as though it was being squeezed. ‘I can’t stay with you tonight, Nikos. I’m going to pick up my things and go and stay with Helen.’
‘We’ll talk about this at the house.’ Without giving her a chance to argue, he strode from the room, leaving her staring after him in despair.
They arrived home at dusk and the moment Ella walked through the doors her mood changed. It was like putting on a heavy, dusty cloak, the weight of the past dragging her down.
The staff had already unpacked her bags so she had to pack them again.
‘My mother called to ask your opinion on flowers.’ Nikos reached for his wineglass. ‘I said you were tired and that you’d already gone to bed.’
‘I’ll call her tomorrow.’ Ella stood in the opulent hallway, feeling sicker and sicker. ‘I’ll go and pack my things.’
But walking around the house simply made things worse. Every room she walked into mocked her until her head was ringing and she felt as though she was going mad.
She locked herself in the bathroom and splashed her face, trying desperately to pull herself together.
It was just a house, for goodness’ sake. Walls, rooms, windows. Somehow over the years she’d managed to give it a personality.
It was ridiculous to allow it to get to her like this.
Cross with herself, she walked into the bedroom they were sharing.
It was a beautiful room, with a small balcony overlooking the beach and the deck. As she threw her belongings into her suitcase, she stooped to pick up a discarded shoe from the floor and noticed something sticking out of the bottom of one of the drawers. Assuming it was something she’d dropped, she picked it up.
It was a photograph, and Ella stared at it for a long, agonising moment before everything went black and she slid to the floor.
‘She will be all right now.’ The doctor closed his case. ‘It isn’t uncommon for pregnant women to faint. The baby’s heartbeat is strong.’