In Knight & Deigh, confirmed bachelor and businessman Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.
On his father’s death, Hannice inherited a global business and great wealth. Then, together with Sophie, he embarked on a series of activities designed to give him some of the excitement and the freedoms that he felt he had missed out on, by being tied to his father’s business for two decades.
As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and found himself drifting into a relationship with her that neither had anticipated or intended, and for which neither was fully prepared.
This book follows Hannice’s new adventures as he tries to juggle business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.
But all doesn’t go quite as he had planned…
Beginning on 14 January 2018, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one part each Sunday.
A Bump in the Knight. Chapter one, part one
She said yes. Sophie had said that she would marry me. Why, then, was I feeling so deflated? I’ll tell you why. It’s because of the ‘but’. But not until I could walk down the aisle with her, unaided. Mrs Fan, the hospital rehabilitation physiotherapist, had told me that I was doing well. By her timetable, though, it would be ages before I’d be able to walk unaided. For goodness’ sake, I was still at least a month short of walking with a frame. I could barely manage a few metres, supporting myself in the training machine. Unaided? It would have to be six months or more.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I should have been counting my blessings; that I should have looked back at where I was only a few months before, facing the rest of my life in a wheelchair. Yes, Sophie and I had some good times, scuba diving, sky-diving, speedboating and so on, but through it all, I was the cripple, and Sophie was my carer. We both deserved better than that.
I had vowed I’d never forgive her if she left me, but who could blame her if she did? She was young, fit, attractive, capable, strong… everything I wasn’t. I depended on her physically, mentally and emotionally, and all I had to offer in return was money and what it could buy. It could never buy happiness. It couldn’t buy contentment. It couldn’t buy love. It couldn’t buy any of the things that human beings are wont to give freely. Sophie had said yes, but was that enough? And what did the future hold for us?
No. I shouldn’t have been thinking like that. Six months is hardly a lifetime; it doesn’t begin to compare with the twenty-two years I had been stuck in Dar – surrounded by people by day but alone at night. No, Sophie had given me a goal, a target to aim for, and a reason to push myself even harder. That was easy to say, laying here in my bed, waiting for my carer to come and get me out of bed, dress me, and ready me for the day. She wasn’t due for another hour, at least.
“Damn it!” I shouted, though I knew no-one would hear me, “I can, and I bloody-well will. Or I’ll die trying.”
I pushed myself into a sitting position and, turning my body to the right, lifted my right leg out until it was dangling over the side of the bed. With a supreme effort of will; okay, dogged determination, bloody-minded stubbornness, call it what you like; I somehow caused my left leg to haul itself around to follow its mate. Totally undignified, it resembled a sack of potatoes dragging itself, but it got there. Stretching to the bedside table, I grabbed my shirt and sweater, which I put on with ease, having first removed my pyjama top. I took off my pyjama bottoms; not without some difficulty but certainly without any trace of grace or dignity, and set about donning my boxer shorts. Again, a very clumsy operation, but by dint of various upper- and lower-body manoeuvres, I had them on. Having been occupied with this exercise for more than twenty minutes, I felt I deserved a rest. However, I knew that if I did, nothing more would happen before Sophie arrived, and I so wanted her to be proud of me.
Another fifteen minutes and I had my trousers on, then five minutes of massive effort for each sock. I wanted to do this myself, so ignored the purpose-built frame attached to the bed for the sole purpose of lifting me between bed and chair. I had a walking stick by my bedside, and I used it to hook one of the wheels of my chair and haul it across. The next problem was getting down into the chair. I gave it some thought and decided that, if I did it right, I could drop right into the chair. It would be a heavy landing, I knew that, but I’d be in there and could recover from the physical shock over the rest of the morning. I hauled myself to the very edge of the bed and prepared to grab the armrest on my chair. My plan was to lean forward as far as I could, throwing my legs out to balance me. Yup, that’s right. The legs didn’t feel like moving forward through thin air, and I plunged, face first, toward the super-plush (thank goodness) carpet. I used my hands to break my fall and avoided serious damage to anything other than my ego, my pride and my confidence. Sophie must have been close by, as she burst through the door almost immediately after my fall. Perhaps it was the noise of the impact that alerted her, or maybe the multi-decibel stream of expletives coming from my mouth was what grabbed her attention. Either way, she was through the door and into the room like a tornado across the plains of the American mid-west.
“Hannice, what happened?” she asked.
“Not much, old gal,” I said, “just trying to get up.”
“I can see that. You’ve done great getting dressed; much better than I expected. But why didn’t you use the frame to get you down?”
“Should have,” I admitted, “wanted to do it on my own, though.”
“Do you want a hand up now, or do you want to try that yourself, too?”
I held one hand up toward her. “Could you?”
“Of course,” she said, and helped me off the floor and into my chair.
That wasn’t the best start, but it was a start. From that day on, I no longer needed Sophie to get me up and dressed. Within a week, I was using a combination of my own efforts and the hoist on my bed to relieve her of the need to help me either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. I started to feel slightly better about myself.
I hadn’t, however, reckoned on yin and yang. The more independence I gained, the less needed Sophie felt, and I had to invest a lot of time convincing her that I still needed her in so many ways, and apart from that, I wanted her around. My physical dependence on Sophie, though still massive, was reducing, but my emotional dependence on her wasn’t.
Our daily physio continued, with twice-weekly visits from Mrs Fan and a journey to London each week to see Dr Harry. Mrs Fan remained happy with my progress and suggested modifications each visit, changes that were designed to stimulate my muscles to an ever-increasing level. I was diligent with my ‘homework’, too, with the result that I was becoming stronger and more confident every day. Less than a month after the incident in my bedroom, when Sophie called me into the physio room, I saw a wheeled walking-frame at the end of the walkway.
“I’ve been talking to Mrs Fan,” she said, “and she believes you should start trying the frame now. Just a little at first, but she thinks you’re ready for it.”
“So soon?” I asked, “I thought it’d be at least another couple of weeks.”
“Just try it, Hannice, will you? Trust that Mrs Fan knows her job.”
I wheeled myself to a position right in front of the frame, grabbed it with my hands, and used my arms to pull me to my feet. I’d been using the walkway for some time by then, so I knew that my legs could take most of my weight for a short time.
“Can you walk the length of the walkway?” Sophie asked.
“I can try,” I replied.
“I’m not interested in whether you can try. I want to know if you can do it.”
“I’m going to say yes.”
“Go on, then.”
I did it. It was really no different from walking with the handrails on the walkway.
“I think I can throw the wheelchair away, Sophie,” I said.
“Not so fast, Buster,” she said, laughing. “There’s a difference between a few minutes and all day. Let’s not rush too much, eh?”
We talked it through and agreed that I would gradually increase the time spent on the frame. Three weeks later was the last day I used the wheelchair in the house. I continued to use it outside, sometimes, especially when visiting Dr Harry in London. It’s one thing navigating the streets of London in a wheelchair; hobbling with a walking frame is another thing altogether.
On one visit to Dr Harry, he asked me to walk along his walkway without my frame. I grabbed the two rails and started walking, comfortably and confidently. As I did, he slowly lowered the rails until they were so low that I couldn’t touch them without bending my knees. I stopped.
“Walk!” he yelled.
“There’s nothing to hold on to,” I complained.
I walked. Hesitantly, at first, but with growing confidence. When I reached the end, he raised the handrails.
“Now turn around and walk back, Hannice,” he instructed.
I did as he said and started walking. The handrails dropped again, leaving me like a child who’s just had the training wheels removed from his bicycle. You know that moment when you think your Dad is still holding your bicycle seat, then find that he isn’t? That.
I got to the end and collapsed into my wheelchair again.
“You know what you have to do now, don’t you?” he said to me then, turning to Sophie, “Liaise with Mrs Fan, Sophie. I’ll talk to her while you’re on your way home.”
Three weeks after that day, during our physio session, Sophie stopped me and told me to sit down while she made tea for us both. Returning with the drinks, she asked me how far it was from the lobby to the front of the Great Hall of Knight Towers.
“I don’t know,” I said, “about forty, forty-five metres?”
“In your chair,” she said, “let’s go and look.”
Dutifully, I got into the chair; I wasn’t too disappointed as I was considerably tired by the day’s exercises, and wheeled myself to the hall. At the entry to the hall, Sophie ordered me to my feet. “Now walk to the front of the hall.”
I looked at her, frowning, but did as she had told me. She followed me with my chair, and when I reached the table at the end of the hall, she said, “Okay. Back in your chair,” and pushed me back to the physio room.
“What was that all about?” I asked.
“Gave the tea a chance to cool,” she said.
“Are you sure that’s all?”
“No. I found out that you are capable of walking me down the aisle.”
“Is it the same distance as the Great Hall, then?”
“You are slow sometimes, Hannice. Knight Towers is, as of three weeks ago, authorised for the solemnisation of marriages. I would like us to be married here, and I think the time is right to do it now.”
“Does that mean you’re ready to set a date?”
“Saturday the day after tomorrow,” she said. “Everything is arranged.”
“Don’t I get a say in this?”
“That’s hardly fair.”
“Do you want to pull out? Have you changed your mind?”
“No, Sophie. It just came as a bit of a shock to me, that’s all.”
“At least you’ll never take me for granted if you never know what I’m going to do from one day to the next.”
“What makes you think I would ever take you for granted, Mrs Deigh?”
“Hmm,” she said, “I don’t think I’ll be that for much longer, will I?”
“Is this serious, Sophie? Is this really happening?”
“You’d better believe it, mister. And you’ll be on your own for your physio for a couple of days – I have a lot to do before Saturday. And I need you fit and strong.”
“What can I do?”
“Turn up at three o’clock on Saturday afternoon, ready for a forty-metre walk. Everything else is my show.”
“What about guest invitations?”
“Done, and replies received.”
“You’ll see on Saturday.”
“And I suppose the catering is taken care of, as well as decorating the room and so on?”
“How long have you been planning this?”
“That’s something you’ll never know, Hannice. You’ve spent your life organising things, arranging things and running things. Just this once, I want you to sit back and enjoy the ride. Okay?”
“Okay,” I mumbled.