Under Another Sky 17

Chapter 17

Juli felt suddenly panic stricken. The darkness seemed impenetrable, the gusts of wind enough to fling her to the ground, and the man, was he or was he not Peter? Clinging to the post she fumbled for her torch. Appalled, she felt a hand grip her arm. Her throat closed, fear flooded her whole being, convinced that she was at the mercy, not only of the storm but also of the unknown invisible man who was holding her arm.

“Juli, it’s me Peter.”

The shock of relief was almost as great as the fear she had just experienced. Unable to speak, she let go of the post and grabbed Peters arm. Gasping for breath she croaked, “Peter, it was you. I was so scared.”

Finding her torch, she flashed it onto his face.

“We’d better go, this is a monster,” he said. “Which way?”

“This way, along the earth road on the right.”

With the aid of the tiny circle of light from the torch they ran hand in hand to the entrance of the road leading to the cottage and turned into it, finding it difficult to keep their balance as they battled with the fierce gusts of wind which seemed to almost lift them off their feet. Leaves and branches broken from the trees about them flew through the air. All was noise and confusion.

War. The word hammered in Juli’s heart: war, War, WAR … As they reached the corner half a block from the house Juli tripped and dropped her torch, it rolled back the way they had come. Peter stopped and turned to rescue it just as a large, thick branch hissing through the air from behind, caught him on the side of the head with a crushing blow. He fell, sprawled face down on the ground, and did not move.

“Peter,” Juli screamed. Rushing to his side she grabbed up her torch which was still lit and flashed it over him. Blood was welling out of the wound caused by the branch and he did not react to Juli’s efforts to bring him to.

“He’s dead,” she gasped with horror. “He’s dead. Oh, my God, I can’t bear it.”

Leaping to her feet she ran desperately down the road towards the house which was all in darkness due to the light cut. The fury of the wind almost flattened her against the door as she hammered on it, remembering she had no key. Dereck opened it at once. Seeing her he caught her by the arm and dragged her into the hall shaking her like a rat and yelling, “What the hell do you mean by sneaking out like that you underhand little twerp?”

Lena, Tishy in her arms and Marina, weeping, clinging to her skirt, screamed at her furiously, “Out of the window … like a servant girl!”

Julie looked from one to the other, their livid contorted faces in the flickering light of a couple of candles imaging the raging storm outside.

“How dare you?” Lena shrieked. “We trusted you!”

Taking a deep breath Juli shouted, pointing, “Peter … I was with Peter Carlie. He’s been hit on the head by a huge branch. He’s outside lying on the road. I don’t know how badly hurt he is. He’s bleeding!”

“I’ve a very good mind to kick you out right now …” Dereck was roaring when Juli’s words reached him.

“Peter, Peter Carlie is hurt. He’s unconscious. I’ve been with him. We must go and get him. He’s terribly badly hurt. Come please, quickly!”

Dereck turned to Lena and said, “Get out the first-aid kit and put a kettle on to boil. Stop crying Marina, Juli’s O.K. Come on Juli, where is he?”

Outside it had begun to rain. Sheets of water flung by the fierce gusts of wind drenched them as they ran along the road towards Peter’s prone, motionless body. Between them they lifted him and carried him back to the house as quickly as they dared.

Dripping wet, trickles of Peter’s blood on his soaking shirt, Dereck laid him face down on the dining-room table as Lena brought the first-aid box and a towel. Juli went to get the boiling water, pouring it from one bowl to another to cool as Lena took Peter’s pulse. “He’s alright, he’s just unconscious,” she said.

Dereck dried himself sketchily, added antiseptic to the boiled water and then began to clean Peter’s wound. Peter groaned and moved his right hand, as Dereck pressed his skull with gentle fingers and found it firm.

“It seems to be just concussion,” he said. “But one can’t know what effects the blow has had inside.”

“He’s dyed his hair,” Lena said. “What’s he doing in Uruguay? I thought he was in Brazil?”

“We met for just a moment at the ice cream parlour this morning,” Juli said. “He pretended not to know me. I told him I´d meet him at the bus stop at eleven. I couldn’t mention it. I had to talk to him first.”

They watched Dereck silently for a few moments and then Lena took a deep breath and said, “You’d better go and change Juli, you’re soaking wet.”

Suddenly aware of her wet blouse clinging to her skin and her jeans dripping little pools of rain water about her feet Juli gave an embarrassed exclamation and left the room. Lena fetched a pair of Dereck’s pyjamas and between them they took off Peter’s wet clothes and put him into the pyjamas.

“Where shall we put him?” Lena asked anxiously. “The sofa is a bit too short.”

“Put him on my bed,” Juli said as she returned to the living room.

Between the three of them they carried Peter into the bedroom and laid him on Juli’s bed, covering him carefully and adding a blanket.

“Don’t you think he should have come round by now?” Lena fussed, she looked at her watch. “He’s been out for over an hour.”

Dereck took Peter’s pulse for the third time and said, “His pulse is pretty weak but it’s steady enough. It’s nearly two a.m. now. If he’s not better by six we’ll get hold of a doctor.”

“We could take him into Punta to a clinic,” Juli said.

“I’m not going anywhere in this storm,” Dereck said flatly. “His pulse is steady, his breathing is normal. A couple of hours won’t make any difference.”

Juli glared at him, shocked. Peter was Dereck’s nephew. How was it possible that he should not be more concerned? In a couple of hours the whole situation may have changed. If there was a haemorrhage Peter might die!

Peter moved slightly and groaned “Knut,” he said loudly and lapsed into silence again

“You see,” Dereck said. “He’s coming to.”

Juli fetched a chair from the living room and said firmly, “I’ll keep a check on him, pulse, breathing and all that. If I notice any change I’ll call you.”

“That’s a very good idea,” Lena said quickly, relieved. She didn’t want anything to happen to Peter, but neither did she want anything to happen to Dereck either. “Come on Dereck, come and get changed.”

Juli sat beside Peter while Lena pulled the covers up over Tishy and Marina. They had fallen asleep in the living room once the shock of Juli and Peter’s appearance had passed, and she had carried them to bed. Once Dereck and Lena had left the room, Juli got out a note book and pencil. After checking Peter’s pulse and breathing she noted down her findings with care. Once she had done that she settled back a little less anxiously to watch and to wait.

The rain beat down onto the roof of the little cottage while the wind blasted through the surrounding pine trees in great howling gusts. Every now and again a sharp crack signified that yet another branch had snapped off and was being hurtled through the air, a prisoner of the gale and its forces. A little while later, however, the wind dropped and the rain began to fall in a gentle grey veil. Julio opened the shutters and watched the day dawn gradually, once the long pre-dawn hour was over.

At six she fell asleep, worn out. Dereck, entering in stockinged feet a little after six found the four young people fast asleep. Juli curled up beside Tishy and Peter in the same position in which they had laid him. Seeing Juli’s note book, Dereck checked what she had written down, then he took Peter’s pulse once more before going to the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. Lena appeared sleepily.

“How is he?” she asked in a whisper.

“Hasn’t moved. Pulse the same. I think I had better take him to a clinic.”

“We don’t even know what he calls himself. Hadn’t we better phone Arthur, now?”

“Of course. But in the meantime Lena … I feel he should have moved or something by now. He may be in a coma. There may be some liquid pressing on his brain. We really can’t afford to wait any more. I’m feeling very worried.”

A slight scuffle at the door made them turn. Peter stood, swaying, surveying them with clouded eyes. “Where am I,” he asked in English .

“Peter,” Dereck exclaimed, his voice vibrating with relief. “How are you feeling?” Quickly he moved to Peter’s side and put an arm around his shoulders. Peter made a slight movement as if to disengage himself from his uncle’s embrace.

“Who are you?” he asked, and without waiting for a reply he added, “My head hurts.”

“Would you like a cup of tea?” Lena asked.

“All right,” Peter replied.

Dereck guided him to a chair and he sank down wearily. “My head hurts,” he repeated.

“You got a hell of a bang in the storm last night. A branch hit you on the head.”

“Did it?” Peter said.

Silence fell between them. Peter stared at his hands frowning and said nothing. Dereck and Lena, not knowing what to say, also remained silent. Lena made the tea and filled three mugs.

“Milk? Sugar?” she asked.

“All right,” Peter said and Lena and Dereck exchanged worried glances. They drank their tea in silence.

“If he vomits,” Dereck thought. “We’re in trouble.”

But Peter didn’t show any signs of vomiting. He added more sugar to his tea and stirred it slowly.

“I can’t remember my name,” he said suddenly.

“Peter Carlie.”/ “We don’t know.” Dereck and Lena replied together.

“Peter Carlie,” Dereck repeated firmly.

“Mmmm.” Peter said after a pause.

Juli came into the kitchen looking tousled and sleepy. “Here you are!” she exclaimed. “How are you feeling?”

“My head hurts,” Peter said, glancing at her vaguely and then concentrating on stirring his tea once more. Taken aback Juli looked questioningly at Dereck and Lena. Lena rose and made a sign for her to follow. In the living room she whispered, “He seems to have lost his memory.”

“Oh, NO!” Juli looked at her aghast. “What shall we do?”

Dereck joined them. “Any idea what name he goes by, or where he lives?” he asked.

“Not a clue,” Juli replied. “We were running here straight from the bus stop when the branch hit him. Where are his clothes? He may have a document of some sort.”

“I thought he didn’t have any documents,” Lena said. “His clothes are in the bathroom.”

Juli went to the bathroom and went through the pockets of Peter’s wet clothes. She found the document and returned to the kitchen, studying it. “Alfredo Castro,” she said and handed it to Dereck.

“Where’d he get this?” Dereck asked, looking at it. “What an extraordinary likeness! Look Lena.”

“Incredible,” Lena agreed peering over his shoulder.

Peter appeared at the kitchen door and they all stepped apart a little guiltily.

“I think I’m going to lie down,” he mumbled. Juli hurried to his side and accompanied him to the bedroom.

“Should we give him an aspirin d’you think?” Lena suggested but Dereck shook his head.

“No, no. Better not until he’s been seen by a doctor. I’m going to call Arthur now, Peter can go back to B.A. with this document. If he’s ill the police won’t do anything. That’s the best course of action I think.”

“But he should be seen by a doctor.”

“I’ll try and find out how to get hold of one.”

Juli returned and said, “He’s lying down. Do you think we should call him Alf or Alfredo, so as not to muddle him even more I mean?”

They all looked at each other helplessly and then Dereck shrugged. “Play it by ear,” he said.

Juli went back to the bedroom and sat down on the chair by the bed. Peter was lying face down, when he saw her he asked with a slight groan, “What’s your name?”

“Juli, Juli Lane.”

“Oh,” and after a pause. “I’m … my head hurts.”

“Just relax. Dereck is going to call a doctor.”

“I don’t know where I am,” Peter exclaimed suddenly, anxiously.

“You’re with friends, family. When you’ve rested you’ll feel better.”

“What’s your name?”

“Juli.”

“Nice name … Juli.” Peter closed his eyes and remained silent and inert.
A few minutes later Marina and Tishy woke up. Juli dressed them quickly and sent them off to be with Lena and Toffy waving them away with a finger to her lips and a stern expression. She shut the door to keep their excited little voices from disturbing Peter, and leaned over him carefully to look at his wound, rather precariously bandaged by Dereck. There was nothing to be seen and her heart hammered anxiously as she tried to think how best she could help him.

“I could pray,” she thought, but somehow the words didn’t come. With a sigh she rose and went to the kitchen to give the little girls their breakfast and to have something herself. Dereck was in the living room with the telephone to his ear, waiting for a connection with Buenos Aires. It had stopped raining and the clouds were breaking up and drifting away on the fresh southerly breeze: every now and again the early morning sunshine broke through them and flooded the somewhat battered landscape with sunlight. Birdsong filled the woods.

At last Dereck was able to speak to Arthur and when he hung up he said, “ Arthur’s going to get the first flight over that he can and then we’ll decide what to do. If there are no return flights they might go to Montevideo or even Colonia. Depends on Peter. How is he?”

“He seems to be asleep, but I’m not sure,” Juli replied.

“Perhaps a normal sleep will help to get his memory back. Did he recognize you?”

“No, he asked me my name.”

“God, what a mess,” Dereck sighed. “One just doesn’t know what to do! At least I was able to tell Arthur the name and number on the document.”

“Don’t you think we should get a doctor?”

“I’d really prefer to wait until Arthur comes. If Peter remains quite quiet it should be all right.”

Fernando and Dora appeared at ten. Juli had forgotten all about their arrangements the evening before. “I can’t go today,” she informed them. “Er .. Lena needs me here.”

“What a storm!” Dora said. “The wind was almost gale-force they say.”

“There was a lot of damage caused by falling trees and tiles were blown off the roofs of the houses in some parts. Lots of telephone lines are down,” Fernando added.

“By the way, do you know of a good doctor here?” Juli asked.

“Why? Who’s ill?”

“Er .. a friend of Dereck’s was hurt in the storm last night . Which would be the best clinic here? Just in case, like.”

Dora said she would ask her mother, and made a note of the telephone number of the cottage to let them know. They departed and Juli waved them goodbye as Marina and Tishy ran out to join her. Later she washed Peter’s clothes and set to work cleaning the kitchen in order to occupy her restless hands. Marina ‘helped’ while Tishy painted a picture for the ‘poor sick man’, sitting at the living room table working laboriously with her wax colours. The time crawled by. When, for at least the fifth time, Juli poked her head round the door of the bedroom to see how Peter was, she found him sitting on the bed holding his head in his hands. He looked up at her with troubled eyes.

“How do I fit in here? Where am I?” he asked

“We’re in Punta del Este in Uruguay.”

“Uruguay, huh?”

“Yes. And Dereck is your Uncle. Lena is his wife and Marina and Tishy are their children. I look after them.”

“Was I living here?”

“No.”

“Are you … are we …?”

“No. We’re just friends.” Juli smiled.

“Tell me about myself if you know me so well.” Peter said after a pause.

Juli proceeded to give him a carefully edited summery of his life since she had last seen him.

“I don’t remember anything,” he said heavily.

“Last night at one moment you said something like ‘noot’.

“Knut Bergsen.”

They stared at one another.

“Do you remember?” Juli whispered.

Peter tensed, covering his face with his hands, struggling to grasp the floating threads which wafted loosely in his empty mind.

“No I don’t remember anything,” he said at last. “It’s all blank. Empty. One doesn’t know anything, one just knows one knows. God how my head hurts, I feel so damn dizzy I can’t really take in properly all you’ve told me.”

Juli gave him some water to drink and the he lay down once more, his face white and drawn. She covered him with a rug and he closed his eyes and gave a half sigh half groan. Restraining herself from smoothing back his hair she noticed he was wet with perspiration and a new anxiety filled her. Had an infection sprung up in his wound? If only Arthur would arrive soon. But perhaps it was only from the effort of having to try and understand all her explanations. Worried she went to look for Lena.

“Lena’s gone for a walk with the children,” Dereck told her when she found him in the garden. “How is Peter?”

“”He woke up for a bit but now he’s dozing. He’s perspiring a lot. You don’t think his wound has got infected, do you? He said his head was hurting a lot.”

Dereck looked at his watch. “Perhaps I should take him to the clinic,” he said uncertainly. “The logical thing would be to do that and if he were my son that’s what I’d have done at once, but having a false document, and amnesia, I just feel like waiting until Arthur arrives. He should be here soon anyway.”

Juli nodded and went to lay the table. She laid a place for Peter as well as Arthur.
Lena returned with the three children, Marina and Tishy very subdued and a little frightened by the presence in their bedroom of a strange man, as well as the constant admonishments they received to be quiet and not to make a noise.

“When is the sick man going away?” Marina asked a little peevishly.

“Soon, perhaps even this afternoon,” Lena said, and turning to Juli. “Is Peter asleep?”

“Yes, I think so, dozing anyway. I told him a little about us all, he wanted to know, he can’t remember anything, but he seemed to remember a name,” Juli said, recalling their conversation. “Someone called Knut Bergsen.”

“Bergsen? Now where have I just seen that name?” Lena exclaimed. She stood frowning while Juli looked at her expectantly, until at last she said, “I know. I think it’s in the note-book I was left with all the instructions should anything need fixing in the house.”

She hurried away to find the note-book returning with it in a few minutes, leafing through the pages slowly. “Here it is!” she said triumphantly. “Knut Bergsen, all electrical problems, and here’s a telephone number.”

“Arthur’s arrived,” Dereck called, before striding over to the gate to welcome his brother-in-law who had just arrived in a taxi. He drew Arthur to one side and told him exactly how Peter had appeared in their midst and how he was. They walked into the living room and on seeing Juli Arthur hastened over to her and laid his hand on her shoulder.

“Juli dear,” he exclaimed. “How are you? Dereck tells me you recognized Peter in an ice-cream parlour yesterday … you must tell me all about it. How is he just now?”

“I think he’s seeping,” Juli replied, an enormous sense of relief suffusing her at the sight of Arthur’s rotund yet immaculate presence. She longed to fling her arms around his neck and be a little girl again, his little girl in fact.

“Perhaps I could have a peep for a moment, just to see him again.”

“Of course, he’s dyed his hair by the way, it’s dark brown now.”

Arthur followed her into the bedroom and gazed down at his son with deep concern. After a couple of minutes he nodded and returned to the sitting room.

“You did say his name was Alfredo Castro, didn’t you?” he asked Dereck.

The latter handed him Peter’s document and Arthur checked the name and number with the return airline tickets he had bought. They ate a sandwich and ice-cream lunch while they discussed what would be the wisest way to proceed. Juli and Lena told Arthur about Knut Bergson, so he was telephoned and advised of the accident

“Alfredo hurt?” he exclaimed, his voice sharp with concern. “Seriously?”

“He has amnesia at the moment. I am his father. I’m taking him back to Buenos Aires today.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that, Señor Castro. Please send him my … well … warmest thoughts even though he doesn’t remember me. He has been working for me for the last three months. He’s a great fellow, Alfredo. What about his things?”

It was agreed that they would go and fetch them after seeing the doctor.

“Dora’s mother phoned and gave me the address of a good doctor by the way,” Juli remembered. She gave Arthur the address and telephone number she had noted down. Arthur ‘phoned the doctor right away and after a long and difficult conversation he agreed to see Peter.

“His clothes are still wet,” Lena said.

“We’ll take him in his pyjamas and I’ll get him some things after we’ve seen the doctor,” Arthur decided. “No problem.”

“I’ll go and wake him,” Juli said.

Peter was awake when she went into the bedroom. “What time is it? “ he asked. “ I have a filthy taste in my mouth and a terrible headache.”

“Your father has arrived,” Juli said, her heart thudding. “He’s arranged to take you to see a doctor.”

Peter stared at her with frightened eyes. “Are you coming too?” he asked.

“Well I …” Juli also wanted to accompany him.

Arthur knocked on the door and entered calmly, followed by Dereck. “Hello Peter,” he said gently.

“Hello,” Peter replied sombrely, looking at his father curiously. He had no recollection of ever having met this man, but something about his voice and manner seemed familiar.

“Do you remember me at all?” Arthur asked.

Peter shook his head and made a small grimace of pain. “Only your voice seems familiar. Er, could Juli come with us? I’m a bit confused you see.”

“Of course Peter. That will be alright won’t it, Dereck?”

“But only as far as the airport,” Dereck warned.

Peter shrugged slightly.

“Well let’s get going then,” Arthur said. “I’m taking you to see a doctor. Your clothes are wet so I’ll get you some new ones after we’ve seen him. O.K.?”

Again Peter shrugged faintly. He felt like some pet animal being carted off to the vet and given a new collar and leash. It seemed so absurd not to be able to remember his own father. With Juli he felt reassured, for she was someone of his own age who had come to serve as a bridge between himself and the past he could not remember.

“Good bye Peter,” Lena said at the door as they were leaving. “I’m sure you’ll get your memory back in no time at all.”

“It’s a bit like looking in the mirror and seeing no reflection,” he said and added, “Thank you very much for looking after me. I’m sorry I’ve been so much trouble.”

“Nonsense,” Lena smiled. “Thank heavens we were here.”

They decided to take Marina as well so they all piled into the car with Peter sitting by Dereck in the front. Lena and Tishy waved them off. While Peter was being attended to by the doctor Juli, Dereck and Marina went shopping and bought him a complete set of clothes.

“We’d better get him a jersey,” Dereck said, and bought him a handsome handmade pullover at “Manos Uruguayos” as a personal present. “ ‘Uruguayan Hands’,” Dereck observed. “Doesn’t sound so good in English but the quality of their things is excellent.”

The doctor was not too pleased with the idea of Peter travelling that evening but at last he gave his consent, providing Peter was taken directly to the British Hospital on arrival. He gave Peter an antibiotic to take and a pain killer and suggested they hire a wheel chair in case of need. Peter got into his new clothes with obvious pleasure and also wore his new pullover for he felt feverish and weak.

From there they drove to Knut Bergsen’s electrical prepare shop. A young man came to attend Arthur and Juli as they entered, his ash-blond hair and brilliant blue eyes betraying his Norwegian blood.

“Señor Castro,” he exclaimed. “How is Alfredo. This is a real shock.”

Arthur related the details of the accident as Juli had described them to him, adding that he was taking ‘Alfredo’ back to a hospital in Buenos Aires.

“May I see him,” Knut Bergsen asked.

“By all means.”

Bergsen hurried outside and leaned against the car looking at Peter gravely. Peter, his face white and drawn gazed back at him blankly.

“Hi Alfredo, this is an incredible thing to have happened! We’ve been working together for three months. Do you not remember me at all?”

Peter smiled faintly and raised his shoulders. “I seem to have remembered your name, but I don’t remember your face,” he said.

Bergsen tapped him on the shoulder gently and said, “You concentrate on getting well. Good luck mate.”

“Thanks,” Peter said. “Sorry about the work.”

“Season’s ending soon, don’t worry about it.” Bergsen turned to Arthur and added. “Alfredo lived in the back of the shop. His things are there and he has money in the safe.”

Fifteen minutes later Peter’s few possessions had been packed into a canvas holdall and Arthur had signed a receipt for the money Peter had put away in the shop’s safe. Dereck stowed the holdall in the boot of the car, they said good bye to Bergsen and drove away heading for the airport. Peter grew steadily paler with the movement of the car, and could hardly stand once they reached their destination.

“Lucky the doctor suggested the wheelchair!” Dereck said as he unloaded it and opened it up. Peter sank into it thankfully, but there was nothing to support his head and it was all he could do to look more or less well in order to make it to the ‘plane.

“Once we’re in the air it’s only a matter of half an hour,” Arthur comforted him, as he produced the necessary documents and the doctor’s permission for Peter to travel, for the Uruguayan authorities. “And I have ordered an ambulance to be waiting at the airport in Buenos Aires for you.”

Juli, Dereck and Marina stayed with them until the flight was called and Peter and Arthur were allowed on board straight away.

Watching the ‘plane rise and swing away to the west Juli felt profoundly concerned. She hoped that Peter would recover his memory soon and that the long delay before receiving medical attention would have no ill effects. Dereck put the wheel chair back into the boot of the car and drove quietly back to Punta del Este with a sober expression. They returned the chair and made their way back to the cottage. Marina had demanded a story of Juli no sooner were they in the car, so Juli repeated the story she had made up the day before, it seemed weeks ago, and added new adventures spinning it out until they got home.

“Did they get off alright?” Lena asked anxiously, listening attentively as Dereck described their afternoon’s activities. “We must phone again tomorrow, Dereck,” she said. “We must find out what the doctors at the Hospital say.”

Juli found she was so tired she could hardly put one foot in front of the other. She gave the children their supper while she ate an apple, washed them perfunctorily, and put them to bed.

“I’m going to bed now too,” she informed Lena and Dereck. “Good night.”

“Good night dear,” Lena said.

“G’night there Juli,” Dereck nodded, yawning. “I can tell you it won’t be long before I hit the hay myself. What a day!”

Juli felt herself to be near to tears, futile tears of exhaustion and anxiety. Her bed was still rumpled from when Peter had used it. She straightened the sheets, lay down and slept.
……………………………………………………..

2 thoughts on “Under Another Sky 17

  1. Wow, well that was an unexpected change of events! I wonder if Peter will regain his memory, let alone survive the incident. Keep them coming!

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