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Candlelight

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Whilst Norman weaved a basket in bed, Figgis and Glover were having a discussion by the door. Suddenly without warning, the room plunged into darkness. There followed a crashing sound as Figgis and Glover collided as they made their way back to the safety of their beds.

“Bloody hospital,” Figgis said, trying to find his way around Glover without touching him in an awkward position.

“Must be a power cut,” Norman said with his gentle innocent voice.

Glover sighed. “You have a habit for stating the obvious, Norman. Where’s the back-up power? This hospital must have a generator. We’re not living in the stone age.”

“Probably isn’t any back-up. A death trap if you ask me. What if I was in surgery right now? Bleedin’ government cuts, that’s what’s behind this,” Figgis said.

At the sound of his rant, there was a cough and suddenly the serious face of Thorpe emerged into his eyeline. He was red-faced and carrying a candle in a holder.

“Stop moaning, Figgis. Of course there’s back-up power.”

“Oh, so where is it?”

“Everywhere else. You’re not in need of it. We re-routed the power to the important wards.”

“Like the poor devils on life support?” Glover said.

“Yes, so stop whining. It’s already evening, how about an early night?”

Figgis folded his arms in protest. “Well I think it’s bloody dangerous. Three poorly men forced to get up in the dark, anything could happen.”

“With you it’s a certainty, Figgis. Look, I have some more candles here. Sit at the table and light the rest of them. Where’s your wartime spirit?”

He lit two candles and placed them on holders on the table.

“Back in the war where we’re supposed to leave it. I mean, candles in hospitals, what is this, back to the days of the power cuts and three-day weeks?!”

“Figgis to you, every week is a three-day week,” Thorpe sniped.

With a huff, Thorpe turned on his heels and muttered under his breath before leaving the ward to deal with the bigger problem.

Norman climbed cautiously out of his bed, placed on his dressing gown and slippers and made his way to the table. “Come on, Roy, it might be fun. It could be like one of those sleepovers.”

Glover and Figgis laughed as they reluctantly joined him.

“A sleepover?” Glover enquired.

Norman frowned, sensing they were mocking him. “I never had one when I was a boy. I always wanted one. I got invited once but mother wouldn’t let me go in case I caught something.”

“Bloody hell, what did she think you were gonna catch?” Figgis asked.

“Well some of the boys were a bit…rough.”

“I’m sorry to sound unsympathetic, Norman, but I’m not having a sleepover with you now,” Glover added.

“What you on about?” Figgis said, “We have a sleepover with each other every night of the week. Our beds are side by side. I’m surprised your mother approves of this situation, Norman.”

Glover stroked his moustache. “Yes, you never really know what you’re going to catch from Figgis.”

“She just gets worried that’s all,” Norman said, “she thinks rough-housing will lead to tears and with the nosebleeds…well she doesn’t want to take the risk.”

Figgis tapped Norman on the arm. “Alright, in your best interest, for the passage from boyhood to manhood we’ll have the sleepover you never had. We’ll have some fags, talk about the girls. What else do they do at sleepovers?”

A tongue peaking out of his mouth, an excited Norman embraced his friend. “They sometimes have pillow fights.”

“That’s girls, Norman!” Glover said. “Boys who are to become men have real fights, not ones involving fluffy pillows.”

“Why not?”

There was a chuckle from Figgis. “Because Archie here didn’t have pillow fights, he had fencing duels. Probably because no one wanted to spend the night with him.”

“True, Roy. Men never took to me. But I’ll admit having many a handsome woman staying over.”

“And what did you do when they did?” Norman asked.

Glover and Figgis exchanged glances.

“Played scrabble, Norman,” Glover said, coughing.

“Come on then, Norman, come on Archie, help me light the rest of the candles.”

Within moments there were a dozen candles lit up around the table.

“It’s hardly an elegant candlelight supper,” Glover sighed.

“It’s not meant to be elegant. First things first, let’s have a fag.” Figgis reached into his dressing gown pocket and pulled out a packet of cigarettes, handing one each to the other two men. With cigarettes dangling from their lips, they all leaned forward, lighting the cigarettes on the candles before them before sitting back with satisfaction.

“Well, what should we talk about?” Norman asked.

“It’s your sleepover,” Glover said.

There was a brief pause before Figgis leaned forward in his seat. “As it’s dark and shrouded in mystery, we could reveal our deepest and most shameful secrets.”

“I don’t have any of those,” Glover said, head held high in the air.

“Come of it,” Figgis said, “all your class are up to something. You’re the class with no class at all.”

“I don’t think that’s fair, Roy,” Norman said. “Archie doesn’t seem the type to have done anything like that. He’s a gentleman.”

“Blimey, Norman, they’re the worst. At least when my lot does something bad, we tell everyone about it. They do the same things but behind closed doors.”

“Well don’t include me in that, Figgis. I’ve never done a thing to be ashamed of.”

“Oh yeah?”

Figgis leaned over to his friend and stared intently, his eyes boring into him. After a few moments there was a whimper and Glover relented.

“Fine, you’ve broken me. I have been a naughty boy.”

“What did you do Archie?” Norman asked with wide-eyed wonder.

With a sob, Glover stared down at the table. “I… seduced… a… married… woman.”

“Just one?” Figgis said.

“Of course just one!”

“One at a time more like.”

“Look I’ve revealed my transgression, I will not be judged for it nor will I go into details. Well, Roy, if you’re so virtuous, do you even have a deepest shame?”

“Well I killed a man once,” Figgis said simply.

Norman’s eyes widened and he moved his chair back one pace. “You what?”

“I don’t believe you,” Glover said, folding his arms. “You just want to appear tough.”

“Cross my heart. Killed him stone dead.”

“And you’re not sorry at all?” Norman said. “Well I’m very disappointed in you, Fig. I look up to you.”

“Calm down, it wasn’t like that. I know we’re in Jack the Ripper ward but I’m not some sort of serial killer, nah it was my sense of humour what done it.”

“Your…sense of humour?” Glover’s voice rose high in pitch.

“Yeah, told my supervisor a joke and he dropped dead. Just like that. The joke had him a heart attack.”

Norman and Glover exchanged glances.

“That’s not killing someone!” Norman said, sniggering. “You didn’t mean to do it. It’s not shameful.”

“Don’t know, it wasn’t even one of my best jokes.”

Glover stood up. “I’m not wasting anymore time with this charade. I told you a secret from my past and then you say something just to mock proceedings.”

“Oh, sit down, Archie. I haven’t had a go yet,” Norman said with pleading eyes.

Rolling his eyes, Glover slumped back into his seat. “Fine. Go ahead. What shameful secret do you have, Norman?”

Norman leaned forward and then looked around the ward to make sure no-one was listening. In the candle-light he couldn’t see as far as the door so decided to whisper.

“I was a thief in the night.”

Figgis smirked. “You a thief? Don’t believe it. What did you steal?”

“A tin of pea and ham soup.”

“Pea and ham soup!” Glover exclaimed. “That’s all?”

“Well it was from the church hamper, for the harvest festival.”

“Well I suppose thieving from the church goods takes a bit of nerve,” Figgis admitted.

“Of course, it came from my cupboard anyway so it was like I never donated it.”

Figgis and Glover shook their heads.

“Oh yeah, terrible crime,” Figgis said. “You stole your own tin of pea and ham soup! Better turn you in right now. I knew I’d seen your face on wanted posters.”

“Well I’ve never done anything else bad. Never liked to, what with him watching.”

“Who watching?” Glover said, looking around the room.

Norman pointed upwards. “God. Mother says if I commit a sin, he’ll know because he watches everything.”

“I certainly hope he doesn’t watch everything I do,” Glover said.

Figgis was about to reply when a noise startled him and he jumped when he saw the face of Gupte beside him at the table.

“Blimey, Gupte, I didn’t even see you in the dark.”

“What’s that supposed to mean, Figgis?” Gupte said, his voice high with accusation.

“What are you on about? It’s dark and you snuck up on me, that’s what I meant.”

Gupte relaxed his shoulders. “Oh, I apologise. I’m just so stressed. Dr. Thorpe has me running this way and that all over the hospital. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. I expect to meet myself somewhere in surgery. And then there’s these blasted power cuts.”

“Why don’t you join our sleepover, Gupt-ie,” Norman said, motioning for him to take a seat.

“I’m far too busy to sleep with you all, Norman.”

Before they had the time to answer, Gupte had scurried from the room, also muttering under his breath the way Thorpe had done earlier.

“He needs the love of a good woman,” Figgis said.

“I know what I need,” Glover said. “A good stiff drink and for these lights to come back on.”

As if by his command, the lights suddenly flickered back on until the room was ablaze with light.

“Not so romantic now,” Norman said, a bit disappointed that the evening was back to normal and his sleepover finished.

“Well, better blow out these candles then,” Figgis said, “and get back to bed.”

As they all blew out the remaining candles and climbed under their covers, Norman shuffled over to be nearer to Figgis. “Fig, you never really told us what your real secret shame was? Your deepest darkest secret.”

“Save it for the next power cut and knowing this hospital it shouldn’t be too long!”