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Purgatory Waits

Updated on September 17, 2011

Mallin Head

Mallinmore Beach Head Co Donegal
Mallinmore Beach Head Co Donegal | Source

Purgatory Waits - A Hard Decision

This short story was written for a anthology project, but it was considered unsuitable because of the nature of it's contents. Please fell free to comment and let me know how you feel. Thank you.

Purgatory Waits.

“No wait, wait.......please, please give me time, I can’t understand what you are saying, wait......please, slow down”. Rachel’s voice trembled as she tried to understand the caller.

“Please wait.....wait, wait, where, what time?” Replacing the receiver slowly back down, Rachel leaned against the wall, grateful for the support that it afforded her. She heard the familiar shuffle that she associated with her father’s slippers, as he steadily came into sight.

“What’s wrong lass?” his voice rich with concern. “Who was that on the phone at this time in the morning?”

Rachel looked across the living room at her father, never more grateful for his love and support than she was now.

“Its Brian dad, he has had an accident. He has been airlifted to the Mater Hospital in Dublin.”

“What, is he ok, did they say what is wrong?” Rachel’s father sat heavily down on the footstool alongside the sofa. Rachel dropped to her knees in front of him, sobbing uncontrollably. Instinctively, Rachel’s father took her into his arms and started to rock, side by side the comforting motion continued, just like he had done when she was a little girl, his little girl. The sound of Rachel sobbing went on for hours, well, minutes in fact that felt like hours. Wiping the tears away from Rachel’s face, her father asked in his usual manner,

Cup of tea lass, let’s have a cup of tea whilst we discuss this?” His Lancashire drawl very apparent in his speech.

Rachel smiled at her father, so grateful for his wisdom. Nothing saved the day better than a cup of tea she thought.

Rachel listened to the clinking of china against china, and the familiar whistle from the kettle announcing that the water had boiled. She dried her eye’s with the hankie that her father had offered, her composer returning as she gave thought to the phone call that she had just received.

“I have to go dad,.... I have to go to Dublin, will you cope?” she asked glancing at her father over the rim of her cup, taking comfort from the warm sweetness of the tea inside.

“Aye lass, you have to go. Don’t fret about the little uns, I will get them ready for school in the morning and I am sure Beverly will take them to school in her car”. Rachel marvelled at her father’s natural composer. He was always the steady one in a crisis. Even when her mother died her father stood solid, the rock of the family. She knew she could always depend on him, and could not imagine life without him.

The red sky was appearing on the horizon now, and Rachel was pleased to see the sun breaking through the clouds. She was delighted by this, never really enjoying driving. Dublin was such a long way to go, a journey of over two hundred miles; a journey that she had never taken before without Brian. She sighed to herself as she put her overnight bag into the boot of the old red fiesta, closing it quietly least she would waken the children.

“Go, go on and telephone me when you arrive,” Rachel’s father standing in his blue and grey pin stripe pyjamas, waved to her from the door way.

“Love you dad,” she shouted through the car window as she turned left out of the drive to commence her journey. She knew that once she had driven through Donegal to the motorway she could relax a little, and have time to gather her thoughts.

The motorway was quiet accept for the steady flow of articulated lorry’s heading for the docks.

“I wonder what precious goods are being ferried today?” Rachel spoke aloud, not realising for a brief moment that she was alone.

“Another one bound for England,” she announced, glancing towards the notice board stating English Ferry Route.

“Oh, how I wish I was going to England. The whole family are long overdue a treat. A holiday would be lovely just now”

Abruptly, her thoughts returned to Brian, and her deepest wish that everything would be fine. Brian was a forestry worker, well qualified and respected in the trade. Her mind raced as she tried to make sense how someone so well versed with their occupation could have been badly hurt. Rachel felt sure it was only a minor injury. But, then she questioned why he had been air lifted to the Mater Hospital and not the local infirmary for less serious injuries?Try as she may, Rachel could not make any sense of the phone call she had received.

The countryside sped past, the rolling hills of Donegal descending into the changing flat plains of County Mayo, and eventually arriving in the built up areas of outer Dublin. The amount of traffic had increased on the road now, and Rachel concerned herself with her driving. It had been a challenge driving alone to Dublin and she was not in familiar territory. The motorway slowly blended with the city. There were huge tower blocks and red brick houses along the roadside now, instead of the beautiful green scenery caused by the undulating contrast of the countryside. Rachel began to feel anxious. The road sign stated Mater Hospital, turn right. Rachel followed the instruction and the first thing that she noticed was the red brick towers, coughing huge pillows of black smoke into the lovely fresh crisp air. Buildings all looked the same, nothing to distinguish between them. The palms of Rachel’s hands began to sweat, and she felt panic at being in such an unfamiliar place. Hurriedly Rachel parked the car, and continued her search for the emergency department on foot; anxiously looking at every signpost, and every building hoping to see the emergency department entrance.

Rachel gave a sigh of relief as she recognised the flashing lights of an ambulance parked outside a well lit building directly ahead, and briskly walked forward into the light of the reception area. The receptionist wearing a pale blue uniform scanned the computer for any information regarding Brian.

Smiling warmly at Rachel she announced, “Ah yes, your husband arrived a couple of hours ago, he is in intensive care, ward 3 on the tenth floor. The lift to the upper floors is just past the ladies cloakroom around the corner.”

Numbly, almost as if in a state of auto pilot, Rachel proceeded to follow the directions to the intensive care unit. There she was met by a dark haired male nurse coming out of one of the single rooms. Rachel was taken to the day room and asked to wait until the doctor could see her,

“But, I want to see my husband,” she cried whilst trying to push her way past the male nurse into the corridor beyond.

“Can I call anyone for you?” the voice asked gently. Rachel noticed the dark blue eyes, and frowned.

“No, no one,” she replied.

Just at that moment a tall female doctor walked towards her, hand outstretched in a warm manner. The hand took Rachel by the arm and gently led her to a small ward with only two beds in it. Rachel instantly noticed the elderly couple sitting at the bedside of their family member. Neither of them talking, just looking straight past the lifeless body in the bed and out of the window beyond. In the second bed in which she was approaching, laid a body wired in to so many machines that all she could recognise was a pair of boots. Forestry boots, the same pair of black forestry boots that Brian owned. Stumbling backwards in alarm, Rachel just wanted to turn and run.

As she approached the body which Rachel now recognised to be that of Brian, she burst into uncontrollable tears and was relieved to be directed to the small white stool at the head of the bed. The doctor continued to talk, but Rachel couldn’t make a lot of sense about what she was being told.

“Accident......hit by a tree...... lucky to be alive.......paralysed.”

“What do you mean you need my signature?” Rachel was in a daze now. All around her the bustle continued as doctors and nurses were fighting over every little tiny space free around Brian’s body. Machines bleeped and flashed, monitors showed green and red lines, and drips came out of both of Brian’s arms.

“WAIT .......” Rachel shouted. Her head feeling like it was about to burst. “What operation”, she demanded. “Why do you need my signature?”

The doctor looked softly, at Rachel.

“Mrs Frost,” the doctor continued slowly “Unless your husband receives surgery to stabilise his spine he will never be able to walk again. He needs to have a Hartshill triangle fitted between L4 and L5 if he is to ever sit up again. You will have to sign the operation consent form as his next of kin.”

Rachel was shocked into silence as she slowly sat down again. So much was going through her mind, this could not be happening. Brian had left the house in the usual manner this morning, strong and well and eager to work.Rachel had so many questions.

“If he has this operation can you guarantee me that he will walk again.” She demanded.

The doctor took a seat besides her, gently taking both of Rachel’s hand in her own.

“There are no guarantees, and the operation carries risks. There is a small possibility that if the spinal column is damaged during surgery, your husband will be paralysed from the neck down, but if he has the operation and it is successful, he will be able to sit up; and worst case scenario, he will spend his life in a wheel chair. Without the operation at all he will never walk again.” The Doctor quietly pressed a pen into the palm of Rachel’s hand. Giving her a reassuring hug, the doctor offered Rachel the consent form to sign.

Rachel starred at the motionless body of her husband, and then she looked at the doctor.

“No matter what the result, I am signing away Brian’s life. I will be responsible for how his life continues from this day forward, and I know that whatever happens he will never feel the same way about me again.”

Rachel’s tears fell onto the form of consent, smudging the ink as she reluctantly wrote her signature.

“My husband, as I know him died today.” She sobbed “The man who will return to me will never be my husband again, and I will never be his wife, just his carer”. Rachel signed the form and bent her head in grief.

Rachel knew that from this day forward and for as long as it would take, she would stay by her husband, but would he ever appreciate the humongous life changing decision that she has had to make? In her own mind she knew that purgatory awaited them all.


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    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      Rachel is very like-able character. Purgatory, I loved this symbol.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      7 years ago from Jeffersonville PA


      Would you please look in your mirror, smile and repeat after me: "I am a passionate writer who has an amazing gift and my readers love me!" You have gotten some beautiful feedback and constructive suggestions to gild the lily!

      Voted UP & AB-- love it, mar.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      7 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I liked the story, but i'm left with wanting to know more, what happened, was the surgery successful? I would like to see more installments. Thank you. You are a talented writer......

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 

      7 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      Yes a hard decision to make for anyone, especially one that needs to be made immediately without luxury time to think clearly.

      I enjoyed the story, it is well written, I do agree with taking out the visit to England though.

      It does leave an opening for a sequel.

      I hope you have better luck resubmitting this story. Good luck

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      Annette, many might not know that you have a friend who has gone through something similar so you really have a basis for this story. Well written.

      There is one spelling error which you might want to change before resubmitting.....9th paragraph, the word composer(act of composing) should be composure(a state of feeling calm or of being in control).... see below:-

      "Rachel listened to..........her composer returning as she gave thought to the phone call that she had just received."

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      7 years ago from Southern Nevada

      I do remember reading this story, which you have written so well.

    • thebluestar profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Good afternoon Bill, I think it is still morning with your thou? Thank you for stopping by, a "well done" from you is such a great honour. I am hoping to expand on the story for an entry into an English writing competition, a prequel to becoming a writer for a publishing house. So it is going to be a huge challenge for me. I am probably completely out of my depth, but if I don't try I will never improve. lol

    • WillStarr profile image


      7 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Well done! Will there be a sequel?

    • thebluestar profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Martie, hi my dear friend. I want to show this story to be how love can surprise us all. I want it to be full of factual imagination, generosity and hope. I want to make people laugh and cry, and experience a whole new loyalty. The competition that I have in mind is the one that I sent you the info for. Please when you have the time, check out their website and submission guidelines. I know I can do this with your help. I have a lot of knowledge about the subject from my ex being paraplegic. Bring it on hunnie. x

    • thebluestar profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Hello my dear friend Richard. Thank you once again for your lovely and most appreciated comment. It is always lovely to hear from you. How is Blue's lovely baby Naylin? Blue is a lucky boy with a brand new stable built for winter. He is like the cat that has got the cream, couldn't get him out from it this morning lol Take care hunnie, and a huge hug for Naylin. x

    • thebluestar profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Saddle, Thank you so much for stopping by. Life can be very hard for us all at times, but true strength of character is what keeps us moving along. And I have to say, the ability to really appreciate everyone as an individual. My ex husband is paraplegic, from result of an accident. I am afraid I did not have the strength of character at the time to support him and my family, and it is was one of the hardest decisions I had to make in my life to move away and choose my son and father who at the time was 82.

      As hateful as the past can be, on this occasion I made the right decision for all of us. My son grew up to be a well versed and gentle young man, and my ex re-married a lovely girl, an occupational therapist from the local hospital. He is very happy and content with his life now, and thankfully he finally realised how sacrifices have to be made.

      Please may I call you by your first name, as a horse owner/rider, the name saddle is conjuring up all sorts of silly images for me.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      Annette, considering the ‘unsuitable’ content – it always depend on the market you have in mind. A story like this may be rejected by a publisher who are targeting the group who will only buy and read ‘escape-from-reality’ literature, while another publisher might have a ‘confront-reader-with-reality’ in mind. All depends on the market and the goal of the publisher. This is why professional writers seldom write what they want to write, but what readers want to buy and read.

    • Richard Proctor profile image

      Richard Proctor 

      7 years ago

      wonderful story. i love it I am looking for some more soon. Thank you form Richard and Naylin.xx

    • saddlerider1 profile image


      7 years ago

      Such a hard decision to make, we want our love ones to stay with us no matter what, yet the price to pay is so great. Especially if that loved one's life is changed so dramatically and the dignity and quality of life is threatened.

      Living paralyzed is is not an option I would want to live with. My choice if I had one, would be to have my mate pull the plug. If I can't live my life with my mind and body in tact then I would rather takes me chances in Heaven or Purgatory or in my case probably sent directly to hell:0)

      I loved this short story, so well written and it kept my interest from the first paragraph till the end, wanting more. This could easily be expanded, good luck and best wishes from the Saddle.

    • thebluestar profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Martie, howdy my lovely cyber sister. Thank you for the benefit of your wisdom, bring it on hunnie, this has to be a special manuscript, as I have shared so many ideas with you.

      I am ready and willing to do the homework. xx

    • thebluestar profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Hello darling Sunnie, thank you for the encouragement, my heart smiles when I see your avatar on my comments, because I know that you mean everything from that sweet heart of yours. x

    • thebluestar profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Welcome back my dear friend Mo. So nice to hear from you again, and as usual such a supporting comment. I thank you so much for always being there to support my weary soul and in your usual way, send me love and happiness to think of.

    • thebluestar profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      RNMSM Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving me a heart warming comment. It is writing about the more taboo subjects that I like to put my knowledge too. Sometimes I am known to be fairly controversial. But it is written with my soul.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      Annette, I'm giving this critic because of your intention to submit this for a contest. If a contest was not your goal, I would have said 'bravo'. I really found this story captivating. You've smartly managed to create suspense. I could clearly sense Rachel's panic. Her intellectual foresight of the future, however, needs to be grounded in either professional knowledge or personal experience, perhaps of a friend or relative who were/are in a similar circumstances, or you can simply stress in the beginning that she is a nurse or somebody who knows the psychological consequences of the accidents like these. in the middle somewhere, I've read two paragraphs you may consider to delete - about England and the relatives - as it is a bit of a subtraction. You might even replace it with a few sentences that increase the tension.

      Annette, if you want me to, I can send my recommendations to you in the format I use for my students. But only for your consideration. Critic should not be seen as rules to obey, it merely tells the author whether he/she has successfully managed to transfer the intended message.

      I see a lot of talent in you, and please, don't get disheartened OR angry when you receive silly sting from sadistic critics who has the tendency to be sarcastic, and never-ever argue with them, because then you allow them to give you another sting. They can't help themselves, they are like scorpions - born like them, or changed into them by Life. Avoid them.

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 

      7 years ago

      Wow This was an awesome story..I really enjoyed it..Heart wrenching decision no one wants to make for sure..Great Job my sweet friend.


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      You made me feel everything Rachel felt, Annette! Very well done...and wide open for a sequel. Possibly even the beginning of a novel?

      Beautiful, my friend.

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 

      7 years ago from Tucson, Az

      very good story!

    • profile image

      Website Examiner 

      7 years ago

      Well, OK, I do not recall reading the actual piece but the critique of the story. That probably explains things. Good luck with the competition then, maybe the English will be reasonable.

    • thebluestar profile imageAUTHOR

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Hi WE, thank you for reading this piece again. It has not been revised, but re-formatted and given a new title. I am actually considering expanding on it to enter a competition in England. This will be a challenge, but I am ready to give it a try.

      If memory serves me correctly, the sad news of not being considered came via way of the editors. Still the past is the past and maybe I can make a better job of it for the future. Fingers crossed.

    • profile image

      Website Examiner 

      7 years ago

      Unless I am mistaken, this piece has been revised quite a bit to make the woman more likable. You have put a lot of work into the piece, obviously. Good luck with it!


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