The Ties That Bind – Episode 19

Characters from the serial, Evelyn, Phil and Dan in a kitchen.

“Dad? Dad, are you OK?”

Even as he said it, Dan realised how inadequate his words sounded.

Of course he wasn’t OK. Otherwise Dad would have opened the door.

They’d both be inside now, ordering takeaway and laughing about his day at work. He wouldn’t be standing outside on the landing.

On the other hand, something told him he should keep talking. He was sure Mum had told him that some time.

She should know; she had to deal with situations like this every day.

“It’s important to keep the patient awake – get them talking if you can,” he remembered her saying.

Or was that when they were in shock after an accident or something?

Either way, it probably wouldn’t do any harm.

Taking a deep breath, he tried again.

“Dad, you’re not hurt are you? Has something happened? Do you need a doctor, or anything?”

His heart was in his mouth as he asked this. Maybe he should phone an ambulance.

Was Dad even conscious?

He’d heard sounds of movement when he first knocked, but since then there had been nothing but a worrying silence.

Dan looked through the letter-box.

There was no sign of his dad, but what he saw increased his worry – a coat discarded in the hallway beside an empty carrier bag, a single shoe and a couple of books scattered across the floor.

This didn’t tie in – Dad was obsessively tidy!

All of a sudden, he knew who to phone.

Not an ambulance, or a doctor, or the police – he’d phone Mum! She’d know what to do.

He was out of his depth here.

He pulled his phone from his pocket, praying that Mum had hers switched on.

He felt weak with relief when she answered.


She cottoned on right away that something was wrong.

“What is it, Dan? What’s happened?”

As he’d expected, Mum had no hesitation in agreeing to come round, once he’d explained the situation to her.

“Stay where you are, Dan. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Thanks,” he mumbled, but she’d already hung up.

He felt easier in his mind now that he knew Mum was on the case.

He put his phone into his pocket and knocked on the door again.

Now all he had to do was keep Dad focused.

“Did you look out a movie, Dad? Remember we were going to watch one of your oldies ? Next time you’ll have to sit through one that I choose.”

He forced a laugh.

“That’s fair, isn’t it?”

Was he doing the right thing? Saying the right words?

“I came straight from work. You’ll never believe what happened today.

“I –” He paused, hearing sounds of movement from within.

“Actually, it’s getting a bit chilly out here, Dad. If you let me in, I’ll tell you all about it. Sound good?”

His heart rate quickened when he heard the sound of a key turning in the lock.

“Yeah, I’ve been looking forward to that takeaway all day, haven’t you?” he said, doing his best to speak normally.

He stood close to the door, planning to stick his foot in to wedge it open.

He needn’t have worried. The door handle moved and a moment later the door opened fully.

What a relief!

“Dad! Are you –?”

He didn’t finish because he found himself ensconced in a tight hug from his father.

“Dan,” he heard him murmuring.

“Hi, Dad. It’s OK,” Dan replied shakily, wondering which of them he was trying to reassure more.

Still held in the bear hug, he realised he was patting his dad’s back as if he were soothing a frightened child.

“Um . . . shall we go in?”

“Sure,” Dad croaked and Dan followed him in.

“It’s good to see you, Dad,” he said, trying to keep his voice upbeat. “I haven’t been round for a while.”

As Dan spoke, his eyes darted around the room.

The place was a shambles! What was going on?

He clung to the thought that Mum was on her way. All he had to do was keep Dad company and keep him occupied till she got here.

Just act as if everything’s normal, he decided.

“Yeah, I was going to tell you what happened at work today,” he said, clearing a space on the sofa so that he could sit.

Dad didn’t reply, but Dan persevered, feeling as if he was talking to himself.

“It was really busy and I found a crowd of the younger ones hanging about –”

“Do you enjoy your job?”

The sudden question took Dan by surprise.

“What? No, not really,” he admitted. “But it’s better than nothing.”

“Ever feel like not going in?”

“Yeah, quite often, if I’m honest.” Dan laughed.

“I mean, do you feel like never going back?”

“Well . . .”

“Do you ever feel like just . . . disappearing?”

Though relieved that Dad was talking at last, Dan didn’t like the way the conversation was going.

He thought quickly.

“I think everyone gets fed up with work now and then,” he said carefully. “But I’ve been trying to keep positive while I looked for a new job.

“In fact . . .”

He took a deep breath.

Almost bursting with excitement, he told his dad about the job he’d applied for in Bristol.

“It’s right up my street, Dad,” he said eagerly. “Applications Engineer – processing samples, analysing results.

“I’m just waiting to hear if I’ve got an interview.”

There was no reply and Dan’s heart sank in disappointment.

This was his most exciting news for years. He’d have expected some sort of reaction.

He had to remind himself that Dad wasn’t himself just now.

“Tell you what, Dad, I’ll put the kettle on,” he said.

To be continued…

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