Marigold’s tummy swirls and her body temperature oscillates between cold and hot, like she’s about to spew. Her brow has perspiration beads collecting at her hairline.
She’s Googled her symptoms: she could have food poisoning to a bacterial infection to a smattering of more sinister options. She keeps her pain and her Dr Google sleuthing to herself. Scared of what it might be.
In her less fatalistic moments, she thinks that perhaps her symptoms aren’t that pronounced. In these moments Marigold is scared of what it might not be. Of making a fuss for nothing. But then, the twinge in her jaw and the heaviness on her chest returns, and she thinks of her dad, his legacy of poor health. Thoughts of her own death fill her mind.
She was only ten when he dropped dead at forty-five from a heart attack. She remembers the day clearly. Called to the office at school. Aunty Hilda sitting on a chair holding tightly to her handbag, waiting to take her away. No one spoke of what was wrong; the kind lady in the office simply smiled nervously, her glassy eyes a stark contrast to Aunty Hilda’s stern gaze. When Marigold arrived at her home and saw the cars in the street, in the driveway, on the lawn, she peeked another glance at her dad’s stoic sister.
‘What’s wrong, Aunty Hilda?’ she asked.
Aunty Hilda’s only response was a thinning of her lips and a hurrumph.
Marigold opened the car door. Walked in the house. Found her mother on her bed, in a medicated haze, clutching her dad’s pyjamas, and Marigold discovered in that moment, her life was never going to be the same.
Marigold begins to cry; she slumps over her computer. She doesn’t want this to be the end for her. But what if she goes to the emergency department for nothing. She despises those people, who arrive at the hospital with something a GP could diagnose.
In the end, her question is answered for her.
She wakes in a sterile, light-filled room on a narrow bed. The bright whiteness blinds her. She squints her eyes as a shape enters the room.
‘Where am I?’ Marigold asks.
‘The hospital. Your son called 000, after finding you unconscious on the kitchen floor in your home. You’re a very lucky woman.’
The nurse raises Marigold’s arm, to take her pulse. She then checks her temperature.
‘You’re going to be alright,’ she says to Marigold as she fills in the chart at the end of the bed.
Marigold can’t remember ever feeling so grateful, so lucky. ‘Where is my son? Harry?’
‘He’s outside in the waiting area. He called your husband, and he said he’d wait for him out there.’
‘Sounds so grown-up,’ Marigold mutters.
‘Like I said, you’re a lucky woman,’ the nurse says again, before leaving the room. At the door, she turns back and continues, ‘They’ll be able to come in and see you shortly.’
Marigold smiles her thanks. Closes her eyes to rest.