Knight & Deigh started life as a retelling of The Orphans, from the point of view of the second lead character, Hannice Knight. It begins in Tanzania as I remember it from the early 1980s, but some of the technologies used are much more recent. To that extent, it is anachronistic. Don’t forget, though; it is fictional, made up, lies. All of it.
Hannice Knight had run the African operation of his father’s global business for many years, when a freak accident at home left him unable to walk. Together with physiotherapist Sophie Deigh, he tries to bring into his life the excitement and adventure he missed in his formative years, due to the need to be tied to the business.
A number of adventures and activities follow including scuba-diving, sky-diving, power-boating and camping, and a half-brother he never knew about; but even these can’t lift Hannice’s spirits.
What, or who can? Will the developing closeness between Hannice and Sophie come to anything, and what of the rumoured advances in medical technology?
Beginning on 12 February 2017, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes so far published is here
Knight & Deigh. Chapter fifteen, scene five: Home at last.
The day before Christmas Eve, Mrs Fan told me that I could go home for Christmas.
“No point,” I said, “if I have to come back after. I might as well stay here until it’s time for me to go properly.”
“I not be here Christmas,” she replied, “so no exercise that day; unless your friend come to give it to you.”
By that time, Sophie had become fully acquainted with the physio régime that Mrs Fan had started with me. It was quite involved, and Mrs Fan went into a lot of detail about her plan for my therapy, the nature and extent of my ‘homework’ and how to spot if I hadn’t done it.
“I tell you what. If you have at your house, equipment like you use here, and your friend work with you, I will be happy to see you once each week to see your progress. You go home tomorrow.”
Dr Harry was present for most of this conversation, and he injected his ideas from time to time. He agreed with Mrs Fan’s proposal and signed the discharge papers.
The hospital gave me details of the frame I was using there, and I had one installed in the KGT clinic in the grounds of Knight Towers.
On my return, Sophie and I agreed that we would continue the same routine, with the same timings, keeping as close as we could to the conditions I had been working under in the hospital. These were obviously working for me, so why change anything?
We allowed ourselves a day off on Christmas Day; the day after my discharge; and enjoyed as near a traditional celebration as we could under the circumstances. It was Sophie’s first Christmas without Dave, and my first in England for more than twenty years – and that without working legs.
After our first session in the new studio, on Boxing Day, Sophie and I sat down for a coffee and a chat.
“Where is this going, Hannice?” Sophie asked.
“Where is what going?”
“Not sure I get your drift, old thing.”
“You told me you have feelings for me, Hannice, and you know that I have feelings for you. What do we do about that? We can’t just ignore it.”
“There’s something I want to ask you, Sophie, but I don’t think now is the time.”
“Because the mood is wrong. Let’s just deal with this physio for a while, can we?”
That was obviously the wrong thing to say. Sophie muttered something about the sales and stormed out. I wheeled myself back to the house and called Max.
“What am I doing wrong, Max?” I asked.
“With what?” she responded.
I took her through the past couple of conversations and told her how I thought I’d upset Sophie.
“If you have a question to ask her,” Max advised, “ask her now. Don’t delay it for the right mood, the right moment, because that will proabbly never come. The time is now. Just do it.”
I knew she was right, but to ask that question was going to take courage that I wasn’t sure I had. I was also terrified that I might get the wrong answer, or even scare her off.
When Sophie came back from her trip to the early sales, I asked her to come into my study, where I was seated at the time. She came in, obviously still in a bad mood with me.
“What do you want?” she asked.
“Sophie, will you marry me?” I asked.
“Will I… will I what?” she replied.
“Will you marry me? Please?” I asked again.
“This is more than I expected, Hannice; more than I hoped for. It would be an enormous change for both of us. Are you sure you want to abandon your bachelor lifestyle for me?”
“I am, Sophie.”
“You’re sure this isn’t a patient/nurse thing?” she asked, suspiciously.
“Positive. I want this, Sophie, if you’ll have me.”
“The question is, do I want to change from Deigh to Knight?”
“I see what you mean,” I said with a feeble attempt at a chuckle. “Do you need time to think about it?”
“May I? It doesn’t mean I don’t want to marry you, but I’m not happy about rushing such a major decision.”
“Don’t keep me hanging too long.”
“Why? Might you change your mind?” she asked.
“Change it? Certainly not. I might lose it with worry, though.”
“Just a couple of days, Hannice.”
What have you done, Hannice? I thought to myself after Sophie left, You’ve really blown it this time; scared her off completely. She’ll either become very cold and distant or even leave Knight Towers and then what? You’ll be on your own again. Well done, Hannice! Why couldn’t you just leave things alone?
I was greatly relieved when she came in later and announced that it was time for my afternoon session. We both approached the session in a businesslike fashion, neither of us referring to what was clearly the pachyderm in the studio.
Things carried on like this for a couple of days. Sophie didn’t mention the subject, and I was afraid to.
At her request, I had given Mrs Cooper a few days off to visit her family in Cornwall for the New Year celebrations. When Sophie and I finished our second session one afternoon, I said to her, “Do you fancy cooking something for us this evening, or shall we go out?”
“I was thinking of just having something simple in my flat,” she replied, “then have a quiet evening to myself. It’s New Year’s Eve, and I am really, really missing Dave right now.”
“Oh,” I said.
“However,” she continued, “if you are asking me out for dinner, it would be churlish of me to say no, wouldn’t it?”
“Is that a yes, then?”
“Okay; glad rags on, and I’ll book a table. Nice restaurant this time, promise.”
“Not a greasy spoon café like before, then?”
“Nope. The real deal.”
And it was. I booked us into the best restaurant in town, and made sure the Maître d’ knew that we wanted some very special treatment. Shallow, I know, but I was desperately trying to get back into Sophie’s good books, and I didn’t care what I had to do to achieve that; I was prepared to do anything, however humiliating.
Bly took us to the restaurant, and the owner, a famous chef with more Michelin stars than it’s decent for one woman to have, met us at the door and offered us our choice of four tables. She then seated us at our chosen table and talked us through the menu before leaving us to make our selection.
“This is rather special, Hannice,” Sophie said.
“Only the best for you,” I replied.
We ordered our starter, a massive shared platter of assorted seafoods with a sauce of the owner’s own devising. For her main course, Sophie stayed with the seafood theme, choosing the chef’s take on Lobster Thermidor, while I settled for a plate of wild boar en croute.
When we had finished our main course, Sophie signalled to the waiter, and when he came to us, she said, “Bring us a bottle of champagne, will you, please? The good stuff.”
The sommelier came to us with a bottle of the best vintage champagne the restaurant could offer.
“Madame?” he said, proffering the bottle.
Sophie nodded once. The sommelier opened the bottle with a healthy POP and poured a small amount for Sophie to sample. She sipped it and nodded again.
“Merci, Madame,” he said, and carefully poured us a glass each.
Sophie raised her glass. “To us.”
“What’s the occasion,” I asked, “apart from, for me, the honour of dining with my favourite person?”
“My dear, dear Hannice,” she replied. “Over the past few days, I have thought long and hard about the question you asked me.”
“Let me say what I have to say, Hannice. As I said, I have thought long and hard about it, and I have an answer for you.”
“I do have an answer for you.”
“Don’t keep me in suspense, Sophie, what is it?”
“My answer to you, Hannice,” she said, as the clock struck midnight, “is yes, but not yet.”
“Yes? Really yes?”
“But not yet, Hannice.”
“That doesn’t matter. You said yes. We can talk about dates and details later,” I said excitedly.
“I think you should listen carefully to my answer, Hannice. The ‘not yet’ is very important, and I hope you will one day understand why. That’s all I’m going to say for now. Let’s order our sweet course and see the New Year in properly.”
It wasn’t until I was in my bed that night that I realised the importance of what Sophie had said. She had said yes, but she had also said ‘not yet’. At that time, I had no idea what that meant. Sure, I knew it meant not straight away, but she hadn’t said, ‘not for a few weeks’ or ‘not for six months’, she had simply said, ‘not yet’. What did that mean? When would ‘not yet’ become ‘yes, now’? I hardly slept a wink that night.
For a full three weeks, things carried on as before; twice daily physio and homework every evening. Sometimes Sophie had her evening meal with me, sometimes alone in her flat. At no time would she be drawn on what she meant by ‘not yet’.
One afternoon, when I had managed two steps with almost my full weight on my legs before they gave way, Sophie asked me to sit with her at the end of the frame.
“There’s something I want to say to you, Hannice,” she said.
“Go on then, say it,” I replied, exhausted after my exertion.
“I told you that I would marry you, but not yet,” she said. “I’m ready to expand on that.”
“Oh please, please do, Sophie,” I begged. “When will you marry me?”
“I will marry you, Hannice, when you can walk down the aisle with me, unaided.”
TO BE CONTINUED IN “A BUMP IN THE KNIGHT“…