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 four: Sophie returns.
One week before the end of my four-week spell of intense physio, Sophie returned from her visit with Max.
She came into my room while Mrs Fan was torturing me. Sophie stood quietly in the corner until Mrs Fan had finished her session and had left. As I was sitting in bed, hurting from the strenuous activity, Sophie approached me.
“That looks like tremendously hard work, Hannice. Is it always like that?”
“And worse. One hour every morning, one hour every afternoon and homework.”
“Homework?” she asked.
“Yes, homework. There are additional exercises I have to do in the evening.”
“What if you don’t do them?”
“I tried one evening. She knew the next morning. No idea how, but she knew.”
“But is it helping?”
“I’ll say!” I replied, “Tomorrow, I try the training frame.”
“I suppose you could describe it as something like a static treadmill. It’s a cushioned walkway with handrails along each side, adjusted to my height and needs. I can take all my weight on my hands, or some of it, and try to walk a few metres along it.”
“Walking? That’s fantastic.” Sophie was clearly as excited by the prospect as I was.
During the next morning session, Mrs Fan took me to the exercise studio, instead of doing the work in my own room. She wheeled me to the end of the frame and told me to hoist myself up, so I was taking my weight on my hands, with my feet touching the walkway. I gingerly lowered a small part of my weight onto my feet and was almost overcome with excitement when I felt my weight starting to settle on my own feet.
“Not too much at first, Mr Knight,” Mrs Fan said, “I want you to start slowly, with most of your weight on your hands. Let your feet get used to moving before you put too much pressure on them.”
I did as I was told, and eventually covered the whole length of the thing, finally lowering myself into the chair at the far end.
“That was very good, Mr Knight. Take rest for five minutes, and then come back. This time maybe more weight on your feet.”
On my return journey, I had to stop halfway, as my legs started to buckle under me.
“Good, but less weight,” Mrs Fan shouted. I obliged and finished the course.
“That will do for the morning,” she said, “we try again in the afternoon.”
I was not sorry to be going back at that point. My arms were killing me; the strain of supporting most of my weight on them was beginning to tell. However, that had been my first attempt to put any real weight on my feet, and the effort involved in doing that had been extreme, too.
On the way back to my room, Mrs Fan asked, “Your girlfriend come today?”
“I am expecting Sophie to come today, yes, but she isn’t my girlfriend,” I said.
“Maybe you not think she your girlfriend, but she think she your girlfriend. Fan Yung can see that very clearly,” she said with a laugh as she left. She was still laughing heartily as she closed the door behind her.
When Sophie came in a little later, I wasn’t quite sure how to broach the subject with her, if indeed it was appropriate to raise the matter at all.
“You’re looking tired, Hannice,” Sophie said when she came in.
“I am,” I replied, “Mrs Fan had me walking the frame with some weight on my feet. The return journey was too much, and my legs buckled under me.”
“So can you rest now?”
“Until this afternoon, when I have to do it all again, only more so,” I complained.
“Poor you,” she said.
“Mrs Fan said something that took me by surprise earlier,” I said to her.
“What was that?” she asked.
“She referred to you as my girlfriend.”
“And that surprised you?”
“Well, yes. I hadn’t consciously thought of you as my girlfriend before. I suppose she’s right, though.”
“You suppose she’s right? Only suppose?”
“Hadn’t really thought about it in those terms.”
“What terms did you think about it in, Hannice?”
“Sophie. You know that I am inordinately fond of you…”
“Fond of me? Is that what this is? Fond of me?”
“Look; I’m no good at this emotion stuff; never had to do it before. Never had, you know, feelings for anyone before. Rex and Prince, of course, but they’re dogs, not people, so they don’t count, do they? But I’ve never been really fond of another human being before, certainly not the way I am of you.”
“Is there something you want to tell me, Hannice?”
“Well, yes, I suppose there is. Oh dear, this is awkward. How do people talk about their feelings? Never had to do it. Never had any to talk about. Didn’t have emotions in the family when I was young, and couldn’t have any at boarding school; all boys, see? Would have been a bit rum to have emotions there, eh? Well, that’s by the by I suppose. Thing is, Sophie, I’ve thought about it, and at first, I thought I had some kind of dependency thing going on, you know, the way patients often fancy they have feelings for their doctor or nurses. Not that I’m entertaining any feelings for Dr Harry, heaven forbid. But not sure the way I feel about you is that. Thing is, I have absolutely no idea what love feels like, never having had it before, but I’ve never felt about anyone the way I feel when you walk in the room. If love makes a chap tongue-tied and a babbling wreck, while at the same time making him feel like he’s king of the world, then I fear I might have it.”
“That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. I’m welling up,” she said.
“So do you think that’s what it is, then?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t be surprised, Hannice. It sounds a lot like it to me.”
“So what happens now?” I asked.
Just then, the door to my room opened, and Mrs Fan announced, “What happens now, Mr Knight, is I take you back to the exercise studio for another go on the frame. Am I right in thinking that your… friend will be continuing with your physiotherapy after you leave here?”
“That’s the plan,” I replied.
“Then she should come with us, so she can find out what we do to get you moving again.”
The afternoon session was harder than the morning’s but seemed somehow easier to bear with Sophie in the room. Simply knowing that she was in my corner helped. As I was pushing myself to walk the most difficult leg, back to the start point, I wasn’t looking at Mrs Fan, I hardly even noticed she was there. I was walking toward Sophie. And I was beginning to feel that we would eventually crack this walking thing.