him. Excuses that Oliver would never, ever have been allowed to get away with.
Why couldnât Isabel be fair about things?
Rachel swallowed back the threatening tears. âIâll ring you later, Fi.â
âAny time. Even if itâs three in the morning. You know Iâm here for you. Nihil te bastardes carborundorum , OK?â
Dog Latin: donât let the bastards grind you down. Rachel smiled. âI wonât. Take care, Fi.â
âYou, too, sis.â
When Rachel cut the connection, she picked up Oliverâs mobile phone and erased Carolineâs text message. Despicable maybe, but she wasnât going to make it easy for Caroline Prentiss to walk in and push her out of Oliverâs life. Besides, everyone knew that phone networks werenât a hundred per cent reliable and text messages didnât always arrive. So what if Caroline was waiting for an answer? She wasnât going to get it. âWeâre a family unit, and weâre not splitting. For anyone ,â she said softly.
* * *
âItâs my own fault. I tripped, going down the stairs. Iâll be all right when Iâve had a cup of tea,â Alf Varney insisted.
âYou banged your head, and Betty said you were out for nearly ten minutes. Thatâs why she called me,â Oliver said. âAnd she was right. Actually, I want you to go to hospital so they can check you over properly.â
Alf folded his arms. âI hate hospitals. At my age, once you go in, you donât come out again.â
Oliver smiled reassuringly. âThatâs an exaggeration, Alf. Itâs not that bad.â
Alf remained stubborn. âYou know what itâs like in there. Germs everywhere. Thereâs that one that nothing can kill, that MMR.â
âMRSA,â 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 âsuperbugâ, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus . âItâs very rare that it actually kills someone.â
âAll right. Thereâs that one that eats people. Necri... necri...â The old man searched for the right word.
âNecrotising fasciitis,â Oliver supplied.
Alf nodded. âThatâs the one.â
âItâs even rarer. Alf, you need to go in for a check-up. Apart from the fact that you blacked outââ
âYouâve already shone a torch in my eyes and said I was fine,â Alf cut in. âThatâs what they do on telly. Iâm all right.â
âIâd still rather you had a proper check-up, because you were unconscious. And youâve been having chest pains.â
Oliver spread his hands. âBetty told me.â
Alf scowled. âItâs none of her business.â
âSheâs your wife, and sheâs worried about you,â Oliver said gently.
Alf shrugged, still in denial. âThey donât bother me that much.â
âIf theyâre causing you to fall down the stairs then, yes, they do.â Oliver sighed. âThe thing is, Alf, if you let them go untreated, theyâll get worse. Youâll feel worse. And you might end up having a full-blown heart attackâthese chest pains are usually advance warning. If you have a heart attack, youâll 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 canât 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
âWhat sort of tests?â Alf asked suspiciously.
âTheyâll hook you up to a monitor so they can see how your heartâs beatingâsomething 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