The hospital welcomed him as it always did: with antiseptic indifference. The building had seen so many people come and go, many arrived dying and left dead, that his life-filled corpus held little interest to it. The corridor, white, quiet, clean, wanted nothing from him.
Norma was asleep as he entered the room. He sat on the chair next to the bed. He placed the bag of oranges on the metal cabinet. Her head lay on the pillow slightly tilted, unnaturally he thought. It wrenched his heart to see her like this - defenceless and institutionalised. He wished he could pick her up and take her home. He knew this wasn't possible, at least not now.
He tidied her blankets and pushed her hair out of her eyes. And, as he had done everyday for the last month, he took out his book, opened it and tried to focus on the words on the page. They swam.
He looked at Norma. She was breathing steadily. The skin on the left of her face hung loose and her mouth drooped. His mind leapt around thinking about nothing very much. He wished the doctors could be more conclusive in their diagnosis. They really weren't sure, he guessed, and that worried him.
Norma opened her eyes and looked at him.
Her hand reached for his and gripped it.
'Oh Desmond,' she slurred.
'How are you feeling?'
'Better. I'm feeling better.'
'Oh that's wonderful. The nurse said you were eating again.'
'Yes. I ate some dinner last night. Desmond when can I come home? I miss home. I don't want to stay here.'
'The doctors don't know. It's just great news that you are feeling better. I'm sure the doctors will be glad to hear that.'
Norma looked at him with such love and need and tenderness that it almost broke his heart.
'Oh dear Desmond. Thank you for being here for me. I am so grateful.'
'Oh Norma darling. What did you expect me to do?'
'Desmond I have something I need to tell you.'
'A few months ago I met with my lawyer Mr Smedley in his office on Sunset. There I changed the details of my will. I have decided to leave my entire estate to you and Mr Takahashi. You will get the house and some money and other investments. Mr Takahashi will get money.'
She closed her eyes. Desmond wondered if she had finished.
'Desmond you are a good boy. Oh dear. A good man. But you have some flaws, as we all do. I don't know if what I have done will help or hinder you. It could be a last silly decision of a silly old woman.'
'You are not old, darling.'
Norma smiled then continued.
'I am not doing this to buy your love or to change the direction of your life. But of course it will change everything. Desmond I don't want you whoring and gambling anymore. You are too good for that, Desmond Furey. I am giving you a chance and I hope it doesn't become a poison chalice.'
Life spins on a dime. One moment he was a pot-smoking bum living in the pool house. Now? Had fortune smiled on him again or was this, like his looks, a double edged sword?
'Why are you doing this Norma?'
'Yes. Why me?'
'Because - oh dear boy. Don't you know?'
Desmond looked at her.
'I love you Desmond. I loved you from the moment I saw you standing in the doorway. You have made me so happy. You have brought so much life and energy back into my life. Into my house. I love having you around.'
'Oh darling. I love you too. You have given me so much.'
They sat there holding hands and looking into each others eyes. He wasn't sure what to make of this turn of events. He was surprised at how quickly he had adjusted to the new reality and his changed view of Hollywood.
He was having trouble focussing. Cleaning the pool did not seem like an appropriate response to the news he had heard the day before. He pushed the net across the pools blue surface which rippled out, sparkling. It was gratifying work. The pool, which minutes earlier had been covered in leaves and twigs from the storm the night before, was now almost clear. He enjoyed the simplicity of the task. The sun warmed his back. The sky was a sheet of even blue. He placed the net on the wall where it alway stayed and dived into the pool's cold water. It was clearer and cooler from the rains and reminded him of the pool at the club in Wau, in New Guinea, during the gold rush. Strange stories. Did you know during that time Wau was the busiest airport in the world? There you go.
He swept his arms through the water and kicked in steady rhythm. He had always enjoyed swimming and could have been a State champion if he had really wanted it. But he hadn't, of course. His body was grateful for the exertions. After he had finished his laps he held onto the tile guttering at the side of the pool. The pool was surrounded on all sides by Mr Takahashi's handiwork. It seemed to Desmond that the greens had never looked greener, nor the blossums so bright. He closed his eyes and felt the cool water of the pool swirl around him. All he could think about was the blue of the sky and blue of the pool and the blue of Norma's eyes.
Clinton De Vere