Eleanor’s seventh floor view featured the broad expanse of Halifax harbour but the wintry scene held little charm. “I’ll just let this Christmas pass quietly without fuss or bother,” she reminded herself as thoughts of home and family intruded on her dour musing. “That’s how convicts endure their prison time. It makes perfect sense now that I’m here in medical captivity.”
In the other bed, Eleanor’s roommate shifted uneasily and uttered a soft moan in her drugged sleep. In spite of her medical woes, she felt blessed when compared with Carmen Rose. That young woman was recovering from a major concussion and multiple bone fractures after a bizarre jogging accident in Dartmouth involving a fifty foot plunge from the edge of the unfinished MacKay Bridge onto the frozen ground. The moon’s reflection on the water had created the impression of pavement and, in the absence of danger signage, Carmen had jogged confidently into the deadly lunar mirage. Gravity did its worst and now her injuries required extended spinal traction and a long stretch of painful therapy.
The two women had recently sealed a pact regarding the approaching holiday. They had agreed to ignore Christmas and simply live day-by-day in their sterile hospital world of bland food, blood tests and bandages. While Carmen’s boyfriend had largely complied with her wishes, Eleanor’s family was mystified by her decision and found it difficult to accept. Perhaps they were unaware of the depth of her despair and the lingering nature of her illness. Osteomyelitis was a painful bone infection requiring hospitalization and a long regime of intravenous antibiotics that cause a steady drip of fluid from the open incision. Eleanor’s ankle was a leaky mess requiring constant observation and frequent cleaning. As she had previously said to anyone who would listen, hers was not exactly a mistletoe situation.
The jangling telephone jarred her from her dark reverie and Eleanor spent the next half hour speaking with her husband Sylvanus, who had phoned from a public booth at the Canso Causeway. After returning the bulky instrument to its cradle, she wiped away a salty tear and turned again to the window. Since Morgan, Eric and Marie had left for her father’s home in the tiny coastal hamlet of Point Aconi, she had spoken only to Sylvanus. “You’ll manage alright but I don’t want the kids to see me like this. Better if I just talk to them on the phone next time, although even that rips my heart out,” she had told her husband. Eleanor recalled that her oldest child had taken the news of her illness rather badly when his Uncle Lloyd came to collect him from school on that bright day in early November.