The months have past and Desmond and Norma have become closer. Desmond still sleeps some nights in the pool house and the rest of the time with Norma in the main house.
There was a tap on his door. He reached over and grabbed his alarm clock. 5.35am. The sun was just coming up. He lifted himself from the bed and lifted the curtain on the window. Mr Takahashi was standing looking straight ahead. Desmond reached for his dressing gown, put it on then opened the door.
Mr Takahashi looked directly at him. His eyes had a panicked expression that Desmond had not seen before.
'Come quickly Desmond. Mrs Norma has fallen. She desn't recognise me.'
'Jeez. Give me sec.'
Desmond closed the door. He pulled on his trousers and shirt. He slipped his feet into his old brown loafers. He grabbed his keys. Stepping out of the pool house into the cool morning he pulled the door behind him.
Mr Takahashi led the way around the pool, now a shadowy mass, up the garden steps, across the patio and into the house through the french doors. Desmond followed Mr Takahashi up the main staircase and along the corridor to Norma's bedroom. Desmond saw her lying on the floor, her nighty willy nilly but thankfully covering her.
'I came up here when she didn't answer me when I called. Normally she comes down and we discuss the work to be done on the garden. I didn't want to move her.'
'You did fine, Mr Takahashi.'
Desmond was kneeling in front of her now. Her eyes were closed. He felt her pulse. Irregular.
'Norma. Norma.' He gently shook her and patted her face. 'Norma.'
She opened her eyes.
'Desmond. Oh Desmond. Where am I?'
'You're at home. I'm going to call an ambulance. Mr Takahashi is here.'
Norma looked across at Mr Takahashi.
Desmond grabbed a cushion from the armchair and put it under her head. He rearranged her nightie.
Then he stood and walked to the telephone table at the top of the stairs. He lifted the receiver and spoke to the operator. Soon they were in the ambulance zooming through the morning streets.
Norma opened her eyes again.
'I feel funny.'
'In my head.'
'Don't worry. We#ll at the hospital soon.'
The sirens wailed. Desmond looked out of the ambulance window and saw a car pulled over to the side of the road to allow the ambulance to pass.
And then in the next moment the trolley is being pushed at great speed down the quiet hospital corridor and Desmond needs to stride to keep up. It is rolled into an examining room and seemingly without missing a beat a nurse pulls the curtain closed. A few seconds later a doctor walks past Desmnod and into the enclosed space. After a time a doctor stepped out from behind the curtain.
'She's had a stroke. She'll have to stay in here for a few days so we can keep an eye on her.'
'Is it serious?'
'Hard to say. She is disoriented and is not responding very well to anything.'
Norma was in her own private room. The sun streamed in through the venetian blinds but for Desmond it could be the light from a sun of another galaxy. He felt as though he had entered another world, one with its own rules. Norma was asleep or unconscious in front of him. He looked down at his shoes. He had watched the light change outside. Soon visiting hours would be over and he would have to leave. He had been coming and going for three days and Norma had lapsed in and out of consciousness during this time.
He drove Norma's Duesenberg through the early evening streets of Beverly Hills. Through house windows he could see families preparing for dinner. He parked the car in the driveway and walked up the footpath to the front entrance of the house. Once inside he went to the drinks cabinet and poured himself a scotch. He sat on the couch.
He sat in the darkening livingroom. After a time he stood and turned on the side lamps then went into the small cinema off the main livingroom. In the projection room he found one of Norma's greatest films and really the one that made her a super star: 'Street Angel'. He put the spool on the projector, dimmed the house lights, stepped out into the cinema and collapsed onto the couch. There film shone on the screen. There she was, radiantly beautiful, graceful, funny, lovely. He watched her shadow image of her flickering there and tried to imagine what it must have been like at the moment she made this piece of art. When she was young and the future was a time waiting in the wings.
Clinton De Vere