Fiona Meets Sharon

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Asian

I was hard at work making final revisions to my latest book when I got a call from my

publisher. Would I be willing to travel to Manchester, to meet a young fan?

“Maybe. Any particular reason?”

“She’s severely disabled, and very depressed. Her mother emailed us to ask about the possibility.”

“OK. How is she disabled?”

“She’s 19 years old. Three years ago, she had a stroke, and now she’s paralysed on her right side and can’t walk or speak, and is partially-sighted.”

“Poor girl. OK.”

On a bright, cold day in early April, at about one o’clock, we arrived outside a terraced house in Wythenshaw. I moved my chair onto the van’s wheelchair lift, and Al lowered me to ground level, then we walked and rolled up to the front door, which conveniently had a ramp in front of the step, for the use of my young fan, who was called Sharon Smith. A plump woman in her mid-40s answered Al’s ring.

“Oh, Miss Blake! It’s so kind of you to come! It was a cheek of me to ask, but she’s such a fan of your books, and it will mean so much to her!”

she gushed.

“That’s ok”, I said. “Er – the publisher did say that a reporter and photographer will be coming?”

“Yes. Come and meet Sharon.”

She led us into her small front room, where a very fat young woman with straight, dark, collar-length hair was sitting in a manual wheelchair, her right shoulder leaning against a padded support to stop her falling to that side. Her right arm was in her lap, her hand in a tight fist, her left arm on the arm of her chair. Her mouth drooped to the right, the lower lip partly everted on that side. I was shocked by her appearance. I noticed large-print editions of three of my books on a small table to her left. I’d dikimevi escort been told in advance that she couldn’t speak or write, but could understand speech if it was kept simple and repeated a lot, and could read large print with difficulty, although her mother didn’t think she really took much in: she would read the same two pages repeatedly, until her mother turned the page for her. She had been destined for college to study catering, until two months after her 16th birthday, when she had had a devastating stroke. Her mother said she cried alot – she could still do that. She had enough understanding to know what she had lost. She would need 24-hour care for the rest of her life, which would probably not be long.

Her mother stood in front of her with her face close to her daughter’s, and said slowly

“Midnight Blake is here to see you” (“She forgets things”, she said to me.) “Midnight Blake? Remember?”

The left side of Sharon’s face smiled, and she put her left hand on the pile of my books, and gave a thumb-up.

“She’s here to see you.”

Blank look from Sharon. Her mother stood aside, and I rolled in front of her.

“Hello Sharon, I’m Midnight”.

She stared at me uncomprehendingly for about ten seconds.

“I’m Midnight Blake”

I repeated. Understanding suddenly broke through the poor girl’s mind-fog, her left eye widened in amazement, and she said

“Oh! Ah! Oh!.”

She held out her left hand to me, so Al took my left hand and put it in hers. She pulled it towards her face, pulling me forward slightly, so I moved my chair closer. She kissed my hand, and burst into loud tears. I cried a bit, as well.

After a while, she let go of my hand, dikmen escort which fell between my thigh and the side of my chair. Al picked it up and put it on my lap. Sharon continued saying “Ah! Oh!” as her

mother wiped away her tears, and some dribble from the right side of her mouth. Al wiped my tears away. It had been an emotional meeting. Sharon repeatedly slapped the pile of books, then put her hand on her chest, just below her large breasts.

“Good”

I said.

“I’m glad you like them. I’ve got a present for you.”

Al got out from the bag behind my chair a large-print copy of my latest book.

“I’ve signed it for you.”

Al had written on the title page, in large letters with a thick pen, because of Sharon’s poor sight,

“For Sharon – love from”

and I had laboriously written underneath, with a pen in my mouth,

“Midnight Blake”.

It looked like a five-year-old’s writing, but it was just about legible. The left side of Sharon’s face smiled uncomprehendingly. Her mother took over.

“Miss Blake has signed a book for you. Isn’t that kind?”

Sharon peered closely at my signature with her left eye, and started crying again, giving me a thumb-up.

“That means ‘thank you'”

her mother said. She again wiped Sharon’s tears, and a bit more dribble.

Then the reporter and photographer arrived. We were photographed together, with Sharon holding up the signed book, once we had got her to understand that we wanted her to, and the reporter asked me a few conventional questions, then asked Sharon how she felt about my visit. She started ohing and ahing again, and once more slapped the books and her ample bosom.

“I’ll say that she was elmadağ escort delighted and grateful”

she said.

We stayed for tea – sandwiches and mugs of tea. Al fed me, while her mother helped Sharon. Afterwards, she held out her hand to me, and Al once again put my hand in hers, this time holding my wrist, in case she dropped it again, which she did. I told her she was a lovely young woman – which she was, albeit a rather obese one.

I said goodbye to Sharon, who ohed and ahed in reply, with a sweet smile on the half of her face that worked. I told Al to take my hand and put it in hers one last time. He did so, and she squeezed it.

We left her holding the signed title-page of my book close to her left eye, ohinh and ahing happily to herself. She was obviously nearly blind. She was also dribbling again – her mother wiped her mouth.

In the hallway, her mother thanked us effusively for coming, and started to pour out her heart to us. We listened patiently as the poor woman told us that Sharon lived in a nursing home, where she spent her time vegetating in front of a T.V., or reading, or increasingly listening to audio versions of, my books. She spent a few hours with her mother every few days. As well as her obvious disabilites, she was doubly incontinent and epileptic, and her sight, memory and understanding were slowly fading. I thought that some of what she told us was a bit intimate for the ears of strangers, but she had probably chosen us to pour out her heart to precisely because we were strangers, and I could forgive her for slipping into too-much-information mode.

After we’d left, and I’d moved my chair onto the lift at the back of the van, Al noticed that I was crying again.

“Poor girl”

I said, as he wiped away my tears.

“Poor, poor girl!”

He lifted up my right hand and kissed the back of it in that gallant, courtly way of his that he knows I love, then said briskly “Right, I think we both need a restorative. I wonder where the nearest real ale pub is?”

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