Their Very Special Marriage

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Authors: Kate Hardy
him. Excuses that Oliver would never, ever have been allowed to get away with.
    Why couldn’t Isabel be fair about things?
    Rachel swallowed back the threatening tears. ‘I’ll ring you later, Fi.’
    â€˜Any time. Even if it’s three in the morning. You know I’m here for you. Nihil te bastardes carborundorum , OK?’
    Dog Latin: don’t let the bastards grind you down. Rachel smiled. ‘I won’t. Take care, Fi.’
    â€˜You, too, sis.’
    When Rachel cut the connection, she picked up Oliver’s mobile phone and erased Caroline’s text message. Despicable maybe, but she wasn’t going to make it easy for Caroline Prentiss to walk in and push her out of Oliver’s life. Besides, everyone knew that phone networks weren’t a hundred per cent reliable and text messages didn’t always arrive. So what if Caroline was waiting for an answer? She wasn’t going to get it. ‘We’re a family unit, and we’re not splitting. For anyone ,’ she said softly.
    * * *
    â€˜It’s my own fault. I tripped, going down the stairs. I’ll be all right when I’ve had a cup of tea,’ Alf Varney insisted.
    â€˜You banged your head, and Betty said you were out for nearly ten minutes. That’s why she called me,’ Oliver said. ‘And she was right. Actually, I want you to go to hospital so they can check you over properly.’
    Alf folded his arms. ‘I hate hospitals. At my age, once you go in, you don’t come out again.’
    Oliver smiled reassuringly. ‘That’s an exaggeration, Alf. It’s not that bad.’
    Alf remained stubborn. ‘You know what it’s like in there. Germs everywhere. There’s that one that nothing can kill, that MMR.’
    â€˜MRSA,’ Oliver said, trying to suppress a grin at the malapropism: the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was a mile away from the so-called hospital ‘superbug’, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus . ‘It’s very rare that it actually kills someone.’
    â€˜All right. There’s that one that eats people. Necri... necri...’ The old man searched for the right word.
    â€˜Necrotising fasciitis,’ Oliver supplied.
    Alf nodded. ‘That’s the one.’
    â€˜It’s even rarer. Alf, you need to go in for a check-up. Apart from the fact that you blacked out—’
    â€˜You’ve already shone a torch in my eyes and said I was fine,’ Alf cut in. ‘That’s what they do on telly. I’m all right.’
    â€˜I’d still rather you had a proper check-up, because you were unconscious. And you’ve been having chest pains.’
    â€˜Have not.’
    Oliver spread his hands. ‘Betty told me.’
    Alf scowled. ‘It’s none of her business.’
    â€˜She’s your wife, and she’s worried about you,’ Oliver said gently.
    Alf shrugged, still in denial. ‘They don’t bother me that much.’
    â€˜If they’re causing you to fall down the stairs then, yes, they do.’ Oliver sighed. ‘The thing is, Alf, if you let them go untreated, they’ll get worse. You’ll feel worse. And you might end up having a full-blown heart attack—these chest pains are usually advance warning. If you have a heart attack, you’ll have to stay in hospital for a while. Whereas if you go in now, let them check you over and do some tests which I can’t do in the surgery, they can confirm that you have angina. Then I can give you a prescription for some drugs to stop the pain and prevent you having a heart attack.’
    â€˜What sort of tests?’ Alf asked suspiciously.
    â€˜They’ll hook you up to a monitor so they can see how your heart’s beating—something called a twelve-lead ECG or electrocardiogram, and all that means is that there are twelve wires taped to your body which give a reading to a machine. They might ask

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