Chapters 1 – 11 After All Is Said And Done

After All Is Said And Done: A Novel of Infidelity, Healing, & Forgiveness

by Belinda G. Buchanan

 

Chapter One

Sarah Williams leaned against the wall, letting Gavin’s lips roam along her neck and throat.  The excitement in her started to build as he moved against her in long, even strides.  His hands, strong, sure, and familiar, slid down her backside, touching her in all the places she liked.  She suddenly stiffened and let out a low moan as her body began to throb.  This launched Gavin into action, and the harder he thrust, the more intense it became, making her breaths come out in gasps.

She laid her head upon his shoulder and shuddered until the last bit of pleasure inside of her was gone.

Gavin tenderly brushed his cheek against hers before turning away to get dressed.

Wishing to hold on to him just a little longer, she slipped her arms around his chest and hugged him tightly.

“You know,” he said, looking over his shoulder at her, “I’ve got surgery in twenty minutes.”

“I know,” she answered with a sigh.  “Will you be very late?”

“Shouldn’t be.  I’ll probably be home sometime around eight.”

After giving him a lingering kiss, Sarah left his office and blissfully made her way down the corridor towards the elevator.  With a hiss, its doors opened, inviting her in.

Taking the rare opportunity to be alone in a hospital elevator, she smiled and closed her eyes, wanting to remember every single second of what had just happened.  She breathed in deeply, catching the last lingering remnants of Gavin’s aftershave.  Things had not been this exciting for a long time between them, and she felt encouraged that this was a new beginning.

The elevator stopped and chimed, making Sarah reluctantly open her eyes.  Her mood, and her smile, quickly dissolved when she saw Jessica Harrington step on.

Neither acknowledged the other as the doors roughly slid closed and began its downward descent.

Sarah folded her arms, intent on ignoring her as she watched the light jump from floor to floor, but a sudden jolt caught her off-guard.  She gripped the rails behind her as the elevator jerked, and then screeched to a halt.

Jessica straightened up and pushed the button for seven.  Nothing happened.  “Great,” she muttered, reaching for the red phone next to the panel.  “Yes, this is Dr. Harrington.  We’re stuck in elevator B on the south side.”  She looked up at the number that remained lit above the door.  “We’re somewhere between ten and twelve.”  Her eyes flicked towards Sarah as she listened.  “They’ll get somebody on it right away.”

She groaned inwardly.  That meant they could be stuck in here for a few minutes, or a few hours.

Twenty minutes later, they were still waiting.

Sarah sullenly leaned against the back wall, disliking the thought of having to make polite conversation with her for the next hour or so.  She looked up at the light, trying to move the elevator with sheer will until she gave herself a headache.

“How’s Ashley?”

She turned slightly, surprised that Jessica had spoken first.  “Fine.”  Tension began to swirl inside the tiny box, making her realize that she was going to have to say something in return.  “So are you hoping for a boy or girl?” she asked, trying to sound genuine.

Jessica tenderly caressed the bump protruding from her stomach and shook her head.  “It really doesn’t matter to me, as long as it’s healthy.”  She paused a moment to smile.  “But I think Ethan’s secretly hoping for a boy.”

“I think all men wish that,” Sarah mused.  “Do you have any names picked out?”

“Olivia Grace if it’s a girl, and Ryan Michael if it’s a boy.”

The elevator shuddered and made a loud whining noise, but remained motionless.

Jessica suddenly doubled over and took in her breath.

“What’s wrong?”

Her lips pursed together as she held her side.  “That was a really strong kick.”

Sarah nodded, remembering how excruciating little feet could be.

Jessica’s breath seemed to catch in her throat as she turned towards her.  “I think my water just broke.”

Sarah felt her chest begin to tighten.  “It’s not water,” she whispered.

Jessica glanced down and saw the bright red blood seeping through her scrubs.  A guttural cry fell from her as she held her stomach and sank to her knees.

Sarah grabbed her cell phone from her pocket and knelt beside her.

“Fourth floor Labor and Delivery.”

“Listen carefully,” she spoke into the phone.  “This is Dr. Williams.  I am stuck in the south elevator somewhere between ten and twelve with Dr. Harrington.  She is hemorrhaging.  I want you to tell that maintenance crew to get us out of here right now!”  She stopped and took a deep breath, trying to regain control of her voice.  “Then I need for you to page Dr. Ethan Harrington and tell him what’s happened.  I’ll stay on the line.”  She pushed the speaker button and laid the phone on the floor next to her.

Jessica was sitting rigidly on her knees, clutching her abdomen.

Sarah helped her sit back.  “I need to see what’s going on, all right?”

She nodded, her face turning paler by the second.

A pool of blood spilled out as Sarah slipped Jessica’s pants down.  Thinking quickly, she took off her lab coat and pushed it between her legs, trying to stop as much of the bleeding as she could.

“Sarah?”

“I’m here, Ethan,” she said, loud enough for him to hear her.

“What’s happening?”

She hesitated, hating to tell him this over the phone.

“Hello?”

“She’s hemorrhaging, and I believe she’s having contractions.”

There was a long pause.

“Can I talk to her?” he asked in an unsteady voice.

She held the phone to Jessica’s ear.  “It’s Ethan,” she said, urging her to speak.

Jessica blinked, unleashing a swath of tears.    “Ethan?  I’m so scared.”

Sarah had never felt more helpless in her life.  The only thing she had with her was her stethoscope; a useless instrument in this situation.  The lab coat, along with her hand, were both drenched in blood.

Jessica tilted her head back, exposing the veins in her neck as she cried out.

Realizing that she had to do something, Sarah removed the coat, only to have her fear confirmed; the baby’s head was beginning to crown.  Panic quickly spread through her, knowing that the baby would die within minutes if it weren’t delivered soon.

“Jessica!”

Upon hearing Ethan shouting, she saw that Jessica’s eyes had closed.  She dropped the phone and tapped the side of her cheek.  “Jessica?  Jessica, stay with me.  I need you to try and push.  Do you hear me?”

The elevator suddenly dropped, knocking her off balance.  It then caught itself and slowly began moving downwards, eventually groaning to a halt.

Before the doors had fully opened, Ethan Harrington was stepping through them.  Without speaking, he scooped up his wife’s lifeless body and put her on a waiting gurney.

The nurses draped a blanket over her and whisked her down the corridor towards labor.

Gavin stood at the other end of the hall, his eyes fixated upon Jessica as they wheeled her past him.

Sarah picked up her phone and stumbled into the nearest bathroom.  She leaned heavily against the sink, watching the blood from her hands swirl down the drain.  She pressed the soap dispenser several times until she had a large glop of the white liquid in her palm.  As a doctor, she was used to seeing blood, but she had never gotten over its smell.

By the time she walked out, the crowd of onlookers had vanished.  The aroma of bleach hung thick in the doorway of the elevator she had just been in; an orderly stood inside, silently mopping up the blood.

“Sarah?”

She spun around to find Gavin.

“I was looking for you.”

“I needed to wash up.”

“What happened?”  His tone was accusing.

“I don’t know,” she replied, trying to stop the shaking in her voice.  “She just started hemorrhaging and then went into labor.”

A strange look crossed his face as he pressed the button for the other elevator.  “Why don’t we go grab some coffee?”

~

Sarah poured the small container of cream into her coffee and stirred until it turned a milky brown.  She could feel the heat from the liquid as she brought it near her lips.

Gavin sat across from her scrolling through the numbers on his cell phone.

“What happened to your surgery?”

“Postponed until tomorrow,” he answered, pressing the phone to his ear.  “This is Dr. Williams.  Is Jessica Harrington still in surgery? … What’s her condition?”

Sarah took another sip of her coffee trying to ignore the concern she heard in his voice.

He hung up and lay the phone on the table.

“What’d they say?”

“They don’t know anything.”  His eyes suddenly flooded with emotion, causing him to look away.

Sarah took a final sip from her cup and pushed her chair back.  “I’m going to make my rounds and then head on home.”

He nodded.  “I’ll be there in a little while.”

She stood by the table for a moment, hoping he might react to the curtness in her voice, but the only thing he did was look back down at his cell.

~

Sarah tilted her head back, letting the hot water spray down upon her face and mouth.  She breathed in deeply trying to put the day’s events behind her, but the lingering scent of Jessica’s blood made it impossible for her to do so.  She began to scrub vigorously as her mind replayed what had happened.  Several minutes and three raw fingers later, she realized that the incident itself wasn’t bothering her nearly as much as the way Gavin had behaved afterwards.

The feeling of warmth left behind by their rendezvous in his office this afternoon was quickly trampled by the memory of his affair with Jessica last year.   It was an affair that had left nothing but carnage in its wake, causing separations in both their marriages.

Forgiveness had not come easy for her, but she had swallowed her hurt and let him come home, making a promise to herself that she was going to be everything to him that she hadn’t been before.

The steam that was now circling the ceiling told her that she’d been in the shower long enough, yet it was with great reluctance that she shut off the water.

Gavin was sitting on the bed with his back to her when she came out of the bathroom.  “Please let me know if there are any changes,” he said, hanging up the phone.

“Any news?”

“The baby was delivered by cesarean.  He’s in NICU.”

“And Jessica?”

He didn’t say anything for a long time.  When he finally spoke, his voice was uneven.  “She’s in ICU…still unconscious.”

“What’s bothering you, Gavin?”

He bowed his head and ran his fingers through his hair.

His silence only confirmed her suspicions that he still had feelings for this woman.  “What is it?” she pushed, feeling compelled to hear him say it.

He stood up and turned around, his face wracked with guilt.  “If she dies…it’s all my fault.”

Sarah blinked, and then began to shake as the reality of what he had just said sank in.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured.  “I’m so sorr—”

She slapped him across the face.  “You son-of-a-bitch!”  Her anger immediately turned to tears, making her chin tremble as she fought to speak.  “Goddamn you,” she whispered.

“I never meant for this to happen,” he said miserably.

“Get out!”  She put her hands over her ears not wanting to hear anymore.

“Sarah, please.”

He reached out to hold her, but she shoved him away.  “Get out!” she screamed.

 

Chapter Two

  

Ethan Harrington sat quietly in the ICU trying to hold his emotions inside.  His wife’s small, still body lay in the bed.  The baby wasn’t due for five more weeks, and although her last checkup had showed her placenta was low, there was nothing to indicate that it was going to rupture.

Jessica’s blood pressure had been dropping steadily throughout the night, and he knew the consequences could lead to her suffering a stroke or seizure.  Her kidneys were already showing signs of stress.

He gently touched the side of her face, wishing that she would open her eyes.  He knew everything that could be done for her had already been done.  All there was left to do now—was wait.  Wait for the hours to pass by and hope for some improvement.

“Dr. Harrington?”

He turned to look at the nurse.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but Dr. Nichols needs to see you in NICU.”

Ethan stood up abruptly and brushed past her.  Deciding that it would be quicker to take the stairwell, he bypassed the elevator and hurriedly made his way up the steps to the fourth floor.

When he arrived, he went past the nursery and through a set of double doors.  This was where the babies requiring intensive care were treated.  There was no plate glass window for proud parents to gaze through here—just rows of incubators.

Dr. Nichols met him at the door.

“What’s going on?”

The woman put her hands in the pockets of her lab coat, her expression grim.  “Ethan, I want to arrange to have him taken to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Bar Harbor.  They are better equipped to take care of him.  They’ve handled this type of trauma dozens of times.”

He cleared his throat.  “What’s his blood count?”

“It’s still extremely low.”  Nichols voice was matter-of-fact.  “I understand this is hard for you, but I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t feel it was absolutely necessary.”

He folded his arms and looked at the floor for a moment.  “When do you want to do it?”

“First thing in the morning.”

He glanced at his watch.  That was about four hours from now.  The last thing he wanted was to be separated from the baby, but he knew he couldn’t leave Jessica.  “All right,” he heard himself say.

Dr. Nichols left to make the arrangements.

Ethan stepped through the doorway and walked over to the incubator.  The baby was tiny, frail, and very gray; a breathing tube covered most of his face.

He reached behind him for a latex glove and slipped it on before laying his hand on his son’s chest.  He wanted him to know that he was here.  He took a deep breath and held it, waiting for the ache in his throat to go away.  In a single moment, his whole world had been turned upside down.

  

Chapter Three

 

Sarah splashed some cold water on her face and took her time patting it dry before scrutinizing herself in the mirror.  The skin around her eyes and nose was red and blotchy from having cried for most of last night.

After applying her makeup, along with a liberal amount of concealer, she sat back to see.  A bit of the redness was still there, but she figured it would be gone by the time she got to the hospital.  Feeling somewhat satisfied, she let her eyes wander from her face to her fiery red hair; thick and wavy as it fell down her shoulders, it was easily the most striking thing about her.

Her reflection offered her the smallest of smiles amidst trembling lips.  Sarah tossed the tube of makeup into the sink as tears welled up inside her once more.  Despite all her assets, she knew she was no comparison to blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jessica.

Refusing to let them fall this time, she grabbed her purse from the vanity and made her way downstairs.  Her feet moved her along at a snail’s pace as she headed towards the garage.  The hospital was absolutely the last place she wanted to be, and if it weren’t for the fact that Ethan wouldn’t be there today, she would have called in sick.

~

Ethan checked his watch as he waited impatiently for the elevator.  It was nearly seven and he knew they would be transferring the baby soon.  He pushed the button again and felt a strong, familiar hand on his shoulder.  He turned and found his father standing behind him.

“Someone from my office told me this morning what had happened.  I wish you would had called me.”

Ethan found himself searching for the right words to say, but nothing came to mind.  “I didn’t want to worry you,” he finally said.

“How’s Jessica?”

“She hasn’t regained consciousness.”

“I’m sorry,” his father said softly.  “Is there anything I can do?”

He shook his head and checked his watch again.  “I’ve got to get to NICU.”

“Would you mind if I went with you?”

The two of them rode together in silence to the fourth floor.

Everett followed him down the corridor and through a set of double doors.  Inside the room, there was a glass incubator with an index card taped to its side.  The words, ‘Baby Harrington’, were printed neatly on it.

He stepped closer to get a look.  The baby lay unmoving on its back with tubes and wires covering most of its tiny body.  He shifted his eyes to Ethan; the pain was evident upon his face as he stood gazing at his son.  He began to hurt inside for him.  “He’s a good-looking boy,” he said, trying to ease the moment.

Ethan gave him a smile, but it was half-hearted, at best.

“Dr. Harrington?  The chopper’s about ten minutes away.”

He nodded at the nurse.  “Is Dr. Nichols here?”

“She’s on her way up.”

“What’s the chopper for?”  Everett asked.

“He’s being moved to St. Joseph’s in Bar Harbor.”

The nurse had a stack of papers for Ethan to sign and initial for the transfer.

Everett stepped back as a flurry of activity started around the incubator.  He listened as Dr. Nichols and Ethan discussed the baby’s condition, using medical terms that he did not understand.  Feeling that he was being more of a hindrance than help, he silently slipped out the doors.

~

Sarah sat in one of the padded chairs outside ICU waiting for Ethan to return.  She had called Gavin’s scrub nurse a little while ago and learned that he would be tied up in surgery for most of the morning.

She leaned against the back of the chair, but quickly sat forward, unable to squash the anxiousness that was swarming inside her.  Not having to worry about bumping into Gavin right now was a welcome relief, but it was only part of her apprehension.

“Sarah?”

She jerked her head to see Ethan coming towards her.  “Hi,” she said, feeling her heart start to pound.  “The nurse told me about the baby.  Is he on his way to St. Joseph’s now?”

He sat down wearily beside her and nodded.  “I was hoping that he would improve and it wouldn’t come to that,” he said softly.

“How’s Jessica?”

“There’s been no change.  We just have to wait—” He stopped and looked away.

“Ethan, I know things look pretty bleak right now,” she said, fighting to hold back her own tears as she watched him struggling to regain his composure, “but you just have to have faith.”

He nodded, but found no comfort in her words.

She suddenly leaned over and hugged him.  “Everything’s going to be all right,” she whispered.  “It’s going to be okay.”

Surprised by her unexpected display of emotion, he quickly pulled back as everything inside of him came dangerously close to rushing out.

She let go and wiped at the corner of her eye, the way women do when they’re trying not to smear their mascara.  He reached behind him and grabbed a tissue for her.

“Thank you.”

His eyes darted nervously back and forth, refusing to focus on her distraught face.  “Thank you for helping her yesterday.  I’m glad you were there.”

She shook her head.  “I wish I could have done more.”

Silence settled around them as he glanced towards the doors of ICU.

Realizing that he was anxious to go back inside, she stood to go.  “I’ll stop back by a little later.”

“Thank you,” he said, rising from the chair.

Her heart sank for him as she watched him walk across the floor and disappear into ICU.  Things were far worse than he could ever possibly imagine.

 

Chapter Four

 

Gavin closed the door to his office and collapsed onto the sofa, uncaring that his scrubs were drenched in sweat.  He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths, trying to ease the ache in his shoulders and neck.

What should have been a simple bypass, had turned into a six-hour ordeal due to unforeseen complications.  He lay there recounting every detail of the surgery, mentally making notes of the things that he needed to follow up on.

In the middle of his note taking, his thoughts turned to Sarah and he was immediately overcome with shame.  He had felt more with her yesterday afternoon than he had in months – and now she wouldn’t even speak to him.

He sat up angrily and swung his legs onto the floor.  He had not intended to sleep with Jessica again, but what had started out innocently enough, had quickly heated up.

He rubbed his eyes, trying to form a thought of clarity.  He hadn’t wanted to tell Sarah the truth the way he had last night, but everything had happened so fast.  Now, Jessica was in critical condition and might not recover.  And the baby, his baby, might die.

“Dr. Gavin Williams report to CCU.”

With a heavy sigh, he stood up.  Besides his own patients, he now had to take care of Jessica’s.

As he left his office, he found himself wishing that he could go and see her, but figured it would be best if he stayed away.  He knew that Ethan would not appreciate him being there.

~

Ethan sat in the waiting room outside ICU talking on the phone with Dr. Michaels from St. Joseph’s.  The news he was giving him wasn’t great.  The baby had shown no visible signs of improvement since his arrival, and his vitals had dropped.

He was listening closely when he saw a nurse hurry into Jessica’s room.  A moment later, her obstetrician, Dr. Cali, went in.  Panic struck him and he stood up, telling Dr. Michaels that he had to go.

Dr. Cali met him at the door.

“What’s wrong?”

She held up her hand to calm him.  “Nothing’s happened.  She’s beginning to come around.”

He brushed past her to go inside but she grabbed his arm.

“Ethan, wait.  I know this is going to be hard on you, but you have to be positive about the baby.  She has to believe that he’s okay.”

“I understand,” he said, swallowing hard.  He went through the door and to his wife’s side.  “Jess?”

Her eyes slowly fluttered open.  They were confused at first, but immediately changed to fear when she felt of her stomach.  “The baby!  Is the baby okay?”

“Shh…”  He reached out and touched her cheek to calm her.  “The baby’s fine.”

She looked at him, searching his face.  “Really?”

“Really.”

Hearing the confidence in his voice, she let herself relax.

He smiled down at her.  “You gave me a beautiful baby boy.”

“We had a boy?”  Her eyes began brimming with tears.  “And he’s okay?  I mean, really, there’s nothing wrong?”

“He’s got all his fingers and all his toes.  I counted.  Everything’s where it should be.”

“Can I see him?”

He was quick not to hesitate.  “When you’re stronger, I’ll have him brought to you.  I promise.”

  

Chapter Five 

 

Sarah arrived home that night to find Gavin waiting for her.  She noticed the table was set as the smell of chow mein permeated her kitchen.

“I brought home Chinese,” he said, sounding about as contrite as he could be.  “I thought we could have some dinner and then talk.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

He reached out and grabbed her by the arm as she brushed past him.  “Sarah, please…”

She took off her coat and begrudgingly sat down, refusing to look at him.  For the next ten minutes, the only sound heard was that of the ice clinking in their glasses.  Having no desire to eat, she stirred her food around, occasionally glimpsing at Gavin out of the corner of her eye.  The outline of his jaw was rigid as he picked at the contents in front of him.

He suddenly pushed his plate aside, making her cringe.  She had managed to avoid him at the hospital for the entire day, but now that they were both here, she knew with absolute certainty what was about to come.

“Sarah, I know I hurt you,” he began.  “But I need you to understand something.  I never meant to do so.”

She gave him a cold look.  “Then why did you sleep with her again?”

“Truthfully…I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”  She got to her feet, feeling her face flush with anger.  “Do you have any idea what you’ve done, Gavin?  What you’ve both done?”

He stood up, letting the napkin fall from his lap.  “Please don’t get upset,” he said, holding his hands up as if doing so would calm her.

“How could you do this to me, Gavin?  How?

“I didn’t do it on purpose, Sarah,” he said, in what sounded like a very condescending tone.  “It just happened.”

Knowing the tears that were streaming down her cheeks were misleading, she tapped a finger angrily against his chest.  “It was your fucking choice to sleep with her, Gavin!  It didn’t just happen!  You knew exactly what you were doing!”  No longer able to stand the sight of him, she hurried out of the kitchen and started up the stairs.

“Sarah, we’re not going to get anywhere if we can’t talk through this.”

She stopped and turned around.  “There’s nothing left to say.”  She gripped the edge of the banister in order to hold back her sobs.  “We can’t just pick up the pieces like last time and go on.”

~

 

Ethan came home and poured himself a tall drink before heading upstairs to take a much-needed shower.  On the way to his bedroom, he couldn’t help but stop and look in the nursery.  A sad smile formed upon his lips as he viewed the empty room.  They hadn’t wanted to know the sex of the baby, so he had painted the walls a soft green.  Stuffed animals and a slew of baby toys adorned the rest of the space, along with a dresser and changer table.  The crib however, still lay in pieces on the floor.

He reached into his pocket for his cell phone and checked his voice mail.  There was still no word from Dr. Michaels.  He leaned against the doorjamb, feeling a slight stinging in his eyes.  All these months of planning and waiting could all be for nothing.  He wouldn’t even allow himself to call the baby by the name they had chosen for him, as he was afraid of getting too attached.

Taking a sip of his scotch, he turned away and went across the hall.  Jessica’s blood pressure had steadily climbed throughout the afternoon, and Dr. Cali had upgraded her condition to stable.  He rubbed the grit from his eyes as he lay back against the bed.  In the morning, he knew he would have to tell her about the baby.

It was still surreal to him that he and Jessica were parents.  Ethan had never wanted anything more in his life than to be a doctor, and after achieving that goal, he threw himself into it body and soul, never giving much thought to having a wife or family.  But all that changed when he’d moved here, to Serenity Harbor.

The corners of his mouth turned upwards, remembering the first time he’d met Jessica.  It was his second day, and he’d stood nervously next to Sarah as she introduced him to the other doctors and members of the hospital board.  He shook all of their hands and exchanged pleasantries before they took their seats at the table.

He silently looked around the room trying to remember everyone’s name.  The man talking was Phillip Martin; he was the chief of staff here.  Sitting beside him was Grace somebody or other.  He couldn’t remember her last name, but knew was a psychiatrist.  Next to her, sat her husband, Paul; he was an attorney for the hospital.

Then there was Meredith Van Owen, a rich widow in her mid-fifties, who had drooled all over him before the meeting.  Ethan studied her for a moment, wondering how many face peels she had endured.  Her skin was so tight it looked as if it were going to crack.

Meredith saw him looking her way and gave him a wink.

He quickly flicked his eyes in the opposite direction pretending not to have noticed.  Seated to his immediate right was Sarah, and her husband, Gavin.  He was the head of cardiology.  There were still a couple of others on the other side of the table whose names he had already forgotten.

The meeting seemed to drone on forever, and he was becoming quite bored with statistics and logistics when the door suddenly opened.  A woman in blue scrubs hurried in and sat down in the empty chair on Ethan’s left, apologizing to everyone for being late.

Throughout the rest of the meeting, he couldn’t stop himself from looking at her.  She was the most beautiful thing he had ever laid his eyes on.  He wanted to reach out and touch her silky, blonde hair as it fell down her back.

She turned slightly, catching his eyes with hers.

Ethan felt his face turning red.

Seeming amused by his embarrassment, she gave him a broad smile.

After the meeting was over, Dr. Martin introduced them.  “Jessica, there’s someone here I’d like you to meet.  This is Dr. Ethan Harrington.  He’ll be working in the clinic with Dr. Williams.”

Her blue eyes sparkled as she took his hand.  “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Jessica is a cardiothoracic surgeon,” Phillip continued.

That was fitting for Ethan because he felt that he was going to need one.  He thought for sure she could see his heart beating through his shirt.

It took him nearly two weeks to gather up enough courage to ask her out on a date.  She accepted and they eventually wound up at her apartment talking until the wee hours of the morning.

After that, except for when they were working at the hospital, they were rarely apart.  Four months later, they had flown to Cancun and eloped.

Ethan sighed and took another sip of his drink.  That all seemed like a lifetime ago.

  

Chapter Six

 

Ethan could hear his wife yelling all the way down the corridor when he stepped off the elevator the next morning.

“Why won’t they let me see him?”

Grace, Jessica’s best friend and cousin, stood beside the bed trying to calm her down.  “I don’t know, sweetheart, but I’m sure everything’s fine.”

“There’s something wrong!  If there wasn’t they would let me see—” Her voice fell silent when she saw Ethan’s face.

Grace dropped her arms helplessly against her side and took a step back, allowing him to come closer.

Jessica’s eyes began to well up with tears as he took her hands in his.  “There were complications when he was delivered,” he said delicately.  “He was airlifted yesterday morning to St. Joseph’s in Bar Harbor.”

“No.”  She leaned forward and buried her face in his chest.  “No, Ethan,” she said, sobbing.  “No… no…no.”

~

Sarah stared at the incoming call on her cell phone.  It was Gavin.  Realizing that any conversation at this point would be nothing more than a repeat of what had been said last night, she declined the call.  She sat down uneasily in her chair, accepting the fact that there was nothing else that could be said or done to fix their marriage.

Feeling more miserable than ever, she glanced around at the cramped office she shared with Ethan.  It was only an area about twelve feet wide and fifteen feet long.  To the left of the door, two desks were pushed together, facing each other, in order to save valuable floor space.  A yellow sofa, that had seen better days, sat on the opposite side with a picture of the ocean hanging above it.  The painting wasn’t very colorful, or even pretty for that matter, but it did a good job of hiding a large crack in the drywall.  Next to the sofa, a door led to a narrow hallway that held two examination rooms.

She and Ethan were partners together in the clinic, which was open to low income families, and those without insurance.  The hours were long and sometimes unrewarding, but she and Ethan both agreed that there was a need for this type of service.

The problem was that the hospital board didn’t agree, and although both of them were on the board, they usually had a hard time getting the funding they needed.  The money was more likely to go to pediatrics or research before they saw a dime.

She stared at the stack of paperwork and medical charts that lay scattered about both desks.  She half-heartedly flipped through some of the papers.  The thought of working today didn’t excite her in the least, but there was no way of knowing when Ethan would be back.

Hoping that going on rounds would put her in a better frame of mind, she walked over to the coat rack and picked her stethoscope off one of its wooden pegs.  One of Ethan’s ties slid to the floor.  With a heavy sigh, she bent down to retrieve it.

She suddenly found herself wishing that she could go back to two days ago and recapture what she’d felt for Gavin the moment after they had made love.  Her desire to do so however, was immediately replaced by a surge of bitterness.  She shook her head, feeling the anger return.  How could she have been so stupid?

~

Ethan sat in the chair next to Jessica’s bedside, scrolling through his emails.  She had calmed down somewhat, and for the past few hours, hadn’t said much of anything.

“Ethan?”

“Hmm?”

“Did you take a picture of him?”

He looked up and shook his head slightly.  “No, I’m sorry.  I never thought to do it.”

“It’s all right,” she said, seeing the sudden agony in his eyes.

More silence passed by.

“I think you should go to Bar Harbor to be with him.”

He slipped his phone back into his pocket and leaned forward.  “I don’t want to leave you,” he said quietly.

She lay her palm on the side of his face and gave him a faint smile.  “I’ll be all right, but I would feel better if you were there with him.”

“Am I interrupting?”

Looking over his shoulder, he saw Grace standing in the doorway.

Jessica motioned for her to come in.  “Of course not.”

Ethan offered her his chair, and walked over to the corner of the room to check his voice mail.  Dr. Michaels was supposed to have called him over an hour ago, and despite his normal ability to remain calm, he felt himself growing more and more anxious with each passing moment.

“How are you feeling?” asked Grace, kissing her on the cheek.

“Better.  Dr. Cali is going to move me to a private room in the morning.”

“That’s good news…”

Ethan’s cell phone rang as the two of them talked.  Recognizing the number, he excused himself from the room.

Jessica picked up on his apprehension as he walked outside.

Grace saw it too and tried to distract her.  “Is there anything I can bring you from your house?”

She shook her head, her eyes fixed intently upon Ethan as he stood just outside the doorway.  She watched, refusing to blink, as she searched his mannerisms for any signs of distress.

“Thank you,” he said, before slipping the phone into his pocket.

Jessica’s breath grew ragged as he returned to her bedside.

His eyes were moist as he took Jessica’s hand in his.  “He’s breathing on his own.”

 

Chapter Seven 

 

Jessica lay in her bed on the maternity ward.  The room had been brightly decorated with flowers, cards, and blue helium balloons.  Several of the staff, along with her colleagues, had stopped by during the day to wish her and the baby well.  This had left her feeling weak and tired, and she sank farther into the pillow as she talked quietly with her father-in-law.

“Have you spoken with Ethan today?”

“Not yet,” she said, shaking her head.  “But he promised he’d call as soon as he talked to the doctor.”

Everett smiled down at her.  “You know I saw him after he was born.”

“You did?”

“I did.  He’s a handsome little chap.”

She grinned, finding his accent, and the use of that word, charming.  “I can’t wait to see him.  Ethan’s going to email me some pictures later today.”

“You know,” he said, taking her by the hand, “you had that son of mine scared to death.”  His voice was gruff in a teasing way.

“I know,” she whispered.  As the light filtered through the blinds, she couldn’t help noticing that Ethan bore no resemblance to Everett whatsoever, and gathered that he must take after his mother.  Her father-in-law was fairly tall, but a little overweight.  A thin mustache and goatee, with muted shades of gray, helped to soften the hard edges of his jaw.

“Thank you for giving me such a beautiful grandson.”

She nodded, finding herself unable to answer as the shame of what she’d done returned.

He leaned over and gave her a peck on the cheek.  “I’m going to let you get some rest.  You’re going to need all of your strength when that little rug rat comes home.”

~

Ethan solemnly followed Dr. Michaels down a long hallway at St. Joseph’s.  They had been walking for close to a minute now, and there seemed to be no end of it in sight.  Finally, they veered to the right and went down another hall, then turned left and went through a set of sliding glass doors.  Ten incubators, each one about two feet from the other, lined the middle of the room.

Dr. Michaels stopped abruptly at the fourth one and reached for a chart that hung off the end of it.

Ethan looked down and saw his last name taped to the glass.  The baby was asleep with his hands curled into tiny little fists beside his face.  His color had vastly improved since he had last seen him.

Dr. Michaels studied his chart for a moment.  “When he was born, his Apgar score was only three.  Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“I scored him an eight this morning,” he said, signing off on the chart.  “He seems to be responding well.”

“What’s his blood count?”

“Much better than before.  It’s still low, but within normal range.  In the morning we’re going to try feeding him with a bottle.”

“Dr. Michaels report to the third-floor lab,” an indifferent voice called over the P.A.

“Excuse me for a moment.”

As Dr. Michaels disappeared through the door, the baby suddenly stirred and began to cry.

Instinctively, Ethan reached in to pick him up but stopped, knowing he couldn’t.  He looked around until he got the attention of a nurse.

She came over to check on him.  “What’s the matter, sweetie?”  She undid his diaper and took a peek.  “Oh, he’s got a wet diaper.  Yes, he does,” she cooed.

Ethan watched as she reached under the incubator for a fresh diaper and some wipes.

“Would you like to change him, Dad?”

“Um, sure.”  He slipped on the pair of latex gloves she was holding out for him, and nervously undid the diaper before setting it aside.

“Here, you have to keep the old diaper over him until you’re ready to switch them.  Little boys have a fire hose,” the nurse explained sweetly.

The baby’s cries got a little louder, making him want to hurry.  His tiny legs seemed to be made out of rubber bands, for every time Ethan pulled them down to fasten the diaper, they would draw back up again.  Finally, the task was complete, and he stepped back to admire his handiwork.

“You know we’ve been calling him Baby Harrington all this time.  Have you got a name picked out for him?”

He smiled.  “It’s Ryan.”

The baby looked around the room as Ethan spoke.

The nurse gave him a nod.  “He knows your voice, Dad.”

Ethan felt himself well up with pride.

~

That evening, Gavin cautiously peered inside Jessica’s room, making sure she was alone before entering.

Upon seeing him, she smiled and held out her hand.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine.”

He squeezed her hand and swallowed hard, forcing the lump back down his throat.  “You had me so worried,” he whispered.  “I’m so sorry for all of this.  I never meant for this to happen the way it did.”  He was unable to stop the words as they came tumbling out.

“It’s not your fault, Gavin.”

Her answer was met with silence as he sat down in the chair beside the bed and sighed miserably.  “How’s the baby?” he asked quietly.

“He’s getting better.  Would you like to see?”  She reached for her cell phone on the tray.

His eyes grew moist as he stared at the screen.  “He’s beautiful,” he murmured.

As he continued looking at the pictures, she couldn’t help noticing that he was starting to get just a touch of gray on his sides, even though he was only thirty-six; two years older than Ethan.

After a moment, he laid the phone back down on the tray.  “I need to tell you something, and I don’t want you getting upset.”

She sat forward, feeling a slight sense of alarm.

He glanced at the door to make sure they were still alone.  “I told Sarah the truth.”

Why?”

“I had to, Jessica.  I couldn’t live with the guilt a second longer.  I was scared that you were going to die.”

She felt her stomach beginning to churn.  It was as if Pandora’s Box had been opened—it stood poised and ready to ravage all of them.  “I’m guessing by the look on your face, she didn’t take it very well.”

He leaned back in the chair and cast his eyes upon the floor.  “She’s asked me to move out.”

~

Sarah flipped her pillow over to the dry side, and wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her nightgown.  Earlier this evening, Gavin had taken a few items of clothing and told her that he would sleep in his office until he could find an apartment.

The moon shone through the slits of the blinds, illuminating the emptiness she felt inside.  She knew that it was pointless to lie here wallowing in self-pity, but it was the only thing she had left.

Her eyes wandered over to the picture frame sitting by itself on the nightstand.  It was a photo that Gavin had taken of her nearly two years ago.  Grinning and dressed in a billowy pink shirt, she stood sideways for the camera, proudly showing off the bump in her stomach.

Sarah picked up the frame and traced the outline of it with her finger.  Three weeks after this picture had been taken, she had miscarried; it was a loss that had sent her and Gavin reeling.  Things went quickly from bad to worse when complications from it forced her to have a hysterectomy.

Further adding to her misery, was the fact that her daughter had just left home.  Ashley had barely turned eighteen when she met and subsequently fell in love with Ted, unleashing a whole new set of problems.  The first one being that Ted had been accepted into a university, which happened to be on the other side of the world, in Sydney, Australia.  And the second problem—was that he had asked her to marry him.

She and Gavin were against it from the start, telling her that she was too young.  Ashley met their answer with hostility.

Tension in the household grew thick, and after weeks of arguing, Sarah began to realize that her daughter was going to do this even without their blessing.  Against Gavin’s wishes, she gave in.  Ashley and Ted were married the day before they left.

It wasn’t long before Sarah found herself miserable without her.  Having given birth to Ashley at the age of twenty, it had always been just the two of them until she’d married Gavin five years ago.  He quickly took to the role of stepfather, treating her as if she were his own.

But now, for the first time in their marriage, they were alone with only one another.  There was no teen angst to deal with, no curfews, and no school functions to attend.  She’d never realized up until that moment just how much of her life had revolved around her daughter.

Gavin started spending more and more time at the hospital, as did she.  Sometimes, days would go by before they saw each other at home.  When they were together, they usually fought, and their lovemaking became less and less frequent, until it stopped altogether.

It was about that same time that rumors began to circulate about him and Jessica.  Sarah tried ignoring them, but soon began to have her doubts that he was being faithful.  When she had expressed her concerns, he had angrily brushed her aside telling her that she was being paranoid.  Feeling that he was probably right, she let it go and tried to focus on healing the rift in their marriage.

Then one night she came home to find him talking on his cell phone.  He was laughing and speaking to the person on the other end in a very casual tone.  When he noticed her standing there, he changed his demeanor and hung up.

Having aroused her suspicions once again, she waited until he’d gone upstairs to take a shower before looking at his call log.  She pressed the last number dialed and waited.

“You hung up so fast I didn’t get a chance to tell you how much I enjoyed this afternoon.”  The voice was unmistakably that of Jessica’s.

Sarah turned over on her side and swallowed the new batch of tears that was forming.  Looking back, she really didn’t know why she had forgiven him.  At the time, she thought it was because she still loved him, but now she wondered if it was her fear of being alone that had driven the reconciliation.

Burying her face in the pillow, she began to sob.

  

Chapter Eight 

 

Jessica sat in her kitchen blissfully eating the comfort food that Grace had prepared for her.

“Was the food that bad at the hospital?”

She swallowed and shook her head.  “No.  You just don’t know how good of a cook you are.”

Grace smiled, seeming delighted by the compliment.

“I wish I could cook like this.”

The older woman raised her eyebrow.  “You could have learned if you’d just stayed in and helped out once in a while.”

“True,” she said, laughing.  “But I was having too much fun.”

The two women were cousins, and had grown up in the same house together.  When Jessica was just six, her mother had decided to marry some rich Texan and move to Houston, leaving her behind in her aunt’s care.

It was a bad time as Grace’s brother, William, a private in the army, had been killed just weeks before, but Jessica’s mother couldn’t see past her own selfishness to wait.

Bound by tragedy, she and Grace quickly became best friends.  Jessica idolized her older cousin, eventually choosing to follow in her footsteps to becoming a doctor.

The two of them had been through their share of good times and bad times, but Grace had always been there to pick up the pieces, including being there for her when her mother had died.  Sometimes, Jessica felt as if she clung to her like a child, but the older woman didn’t seem to mind.

She wiped her mouth with a napkin and sighed.  Where had the years gone?  Grace now had a grown son, and was a grandmother to twin girls.

“Are you excited about tomorrow?”

Jessica laughed again.  “As if you didn’t know.”  Ethan was coming home tomorrow with the baby.  “You know, Grace, I don’t even have diapers for him.”

“Well,” she said with a chuckle, “you make a list, and I’ll run to the store for you before I go home.”

“Thank you.”

Grace put the leftovers in the fridge and began cleaning up the dishes.  She knew how happy Jessica was right now, but couldn’t help wondering if she had forgotten about the elephant in the room.  She didn’t want to ruin this moment for her, but felt she had to say something.  “Jessica, I know you’re very happy right now, but I think you’re forgetting about the most important thing, aren’t you?”

Her smile immediately faded.  “I haven’t forgotten about it,” she answered in a clipped tone.

“Well then, I think you’re choosing to ignore it.”

Jessica looked away.  Grace could be extremely blunt sometimes.  “No, I’m choosing to not think about it right now.  I just want to hold my son and be with my husband.  I’m not thinking beyond that.”

“He needs to know the truth, Jessica—”

“I know,” she said cutting her off.  She sat there for a moment trying to hold back the tears.  “I know, but I’m scared to tell him.  I don’t want him to leave.”

Grace sat down in the chair across from her.  “You can’t let Ethan go on thinking this is his baby.”

“Why not?  What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”

She gave her an exasperated look.  “That’s not the point, is it?”

Her cell phone rang.  “It’s Ethan!” she said excitedly as she hurried into the other room to talk.

Grace felt an uneasiness settle in about her.  She knew Jessica’s reasons for not wanting to tell him were valid, but she also knew if Ethan ever found out the truth on his own, he would be devastated.

 

Chapter Nine

  

Jessica sat in the nursery, silently rocking her son.  It was hard to believe that he was almost six weeks old.  The last few days had been spent interviewing nannies, which had not been an easy task.  It seemed that whomever she wanted to hire, Ethan did not, and vice versa.  Going back to work was going to be hard enough, let alone leaving him with a total stranger.

They had finally agreed upon a woman by the name of Ellen Chambers.  She seemed nice enough and came with glowing recommendations.  She also didn’t seem to mind the fact that she would need to be available twenty-four hours a day.  With her and Ethan’s schedules, it was extremely difficult to guess when they would be home.

From where she was sitting, she could see out into the backyard.  A small guesthouse, covered in white siding, sat on the edge of the property.  She thought it would be best if Mrs. Chambers lived there, as this would allow her to be available at a moment’s notice, yet still give the three of them their privacy.

She put Ryan in his crib and tiptoed down the stairs, being careful to avoid the squeaky one near the top.  The home she shared with Ethan was a big, rambling Victorian situated on a quiet street in the older part of town.  It had been in a sad state of disrepair when they had bought it eighteen months ago, but looking around now, you would never know it.

Her sandals clopped quietly on the concrete that lined the inground pool, which at the moment, was still covered with a blue tarp.  She began making her way along the narrow stepping-stones that led up to the front door of the guesthouse.  As she drew near, she guessed that the use of that word was deceiving.  A guesthouse implied a house, whereas this was really no bigger than a studio apartment.  It consisted only of a bedroom, bathroom, living room and galley kitchen.  Jessica turned the knob and went inside, hoping that Mrs. Chambers liked small spaces.

Ethan was standing on a ladder, painting the far wall in the living room.  He had been working down here for the last couple of days, trying to get it in shape.

“Oh, that color’s going to look great.”

“I didn’t hear you come in,” he said, looking over his shoulder.  “Is the baby asleep?”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“You know, I thought I remembered saying that I was never going to pick up a paint brush again after we finished the house.”

She began to giggle.  “But you’re so good at it.”

He gave her a smile before turning his attention back to the task at hand.

Jessica watched him for a moment, noting that if anyone ever fit the bill of being tall, dark, and handsome—it was Ethan.  Lean, slightly muscular, and standing at six foot one, he had a pair of smoldering brown eyes, and thick black hair that he kept parted on the left.  His locks would often fall forward and hang loosely above his brow, making him look boyish at times.

Besides being chivalrous to a fault; a trait that she found charming, even if it did get on her nerves at times, he was also kind, considerate…and always just a little unsure of himself.

Jessica folded her arms against her and sighed, knowing that her affair with Gavin had only added to his low self-esteem.  She was deeply ashamed for what she’d done, but also couldn’t explain it.

A few months after they’d bought this house, Gavin had started flirting with her.  She’d found it amusing and flirted back.  At the time, she felt there was no real harm in it, and quite honestly, she liked the attention.  Ethan was usually attentive to her, but there were times he could be a little withdrawn.

Then one evening, Gavin said something to her in jest like he always did, and she said something back and laughed.  Then he kissed her.  But it wasn’t a peck on the lips.  It was long, and hard, and passionate.  Before she knew it, they were half-naked on the floor in her office.

This went on for months, even as the rumors about them escalated.  They snuck around, seizing any opportunity they could.  It was sexually driven.

It abruptly came to a halt when his wife found out about the two of them by accident.  Gavin and Sarah’s sudden separation only fueled Ethan’s suspicions, and he confronted her one night, demanding to know the truth.

A small shudder went through her as she remembered her admission of guilt.  The look in his eyes that night was something she would never forget.  Three days later, he moved out.

They remained separated for three months, and it was on very shaky ground that they’d reconciled.  But the damage had been done.  It seemed that Ethan had become a different person.  He became increasingly obsessive about her whereabouts, and was constantly berating Gavin.  It would take nothing to set his temper off, which seemed to increase greatly when he had been drinking.

They still had their moments of laughter, but their constant bickering overshadowed it.  When they made love, she could tell he was holding back.  The passion was gone, and any intimacy they had with each other grew smaller, until it stopped altogether.

On a particularly warm summer night last July, Ethan had flown to New York for a medical convention.  Jessica was in her office getting ready to leave for the evening when Gavin stopped by and asked her out for a drink.  She politely declined, not wanting to put herself in that position again, but he was persistent—and she was vulnerable.  She felt herself coming to life as he undressed her, his lips touching hers.

A few weeks later, she learned she was pregnant.

She became terrified of losing Ethan after that.  He had to think that the baby was his.  So one night soon after, she met him at the door with a bottle of wine, wearing nothing but a black negligee.  It didn’t take long for her to arouse his interests.

 

Chapter Ten

  

Sarah gazed out her office window wishing that she were home.  She longed to be in the solitude of her own company right now.

The door behind her opened and closed.

“Are there any more patients to see?” she asked wearily.

“No, the waiting room’s empty.”

She glanced over her shoulder at Ethan.  “Would you mind if I took off the rest of the day?”

“No, of course not.  Is there anything the matter?”

“No.”

Ethan watched as she began gathering up her things.  For weeks now, she had been distant with him.  She was his best friend, and he knew that he was hers; but lately, her actions didn’t reflect it.  “Sarah, have I done something to make you mad at me?”

She looked up.  “Why would you ask such a thing?”

“Well, for a while now, you just seem like you don’t want to be near me.  You’ve been very quiet.”

“I don’t mean to be.  I guess I’ve just got a lot on my mind.”

“Like what?”

“Nothing.”  She felt her voice beginning to falter.

He took her by the arm and led her over to the couch.  “What’s wrong?”

She pursed her lips together, trying to stop the lump in her throat from coming up.

“What is it?” he asked tenderly.

Her chin began to quiver as she drew a deep breath.  “I’ve asked Gavin for a divorce.”

He physically drew back, startled by her reply.

She turned away, embarrassed to be crying in front of him.

Sometimes there are no words in the human language that can take someone’s pain away.  Ethan could think of nothing to say to comfort his friend, so instead, he leaned over and hugged her.

She buried her face in his shoulder as the tears came rushing out.

~

That evening, Ethan was upstairs in the nursery giving Ryan his bottle.  He smiled as he rocked him back and forth, finding that holding him in his arms always took away his frustrations of the day.

“Hi,” Jessica said, walking into the room.

“How was your first day back at work?”

“Terrible!  I missed my baby.”  She bent down and kissed Ryan on the forehead.  “So, how are my two favorite men getting along?”

Before he could answer, the phone rang.  It was the hospital calling for him.

Jessica took Ryan from him as he went into the hallway to talk.  “Did you miss Mommy?” she asked, nuzzling the side of his face.  As she held him, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror; her figure had almost come back.

“I have to go check on a patient,” Ethan said, returning to the nursery.  “I’m sorry I can’t spend any time with you.”  He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and whispered goodbye to Ryan.

Jessica placed the baby in his crib and followed him into their bedroom where she promptly sat down beside him.  “How long will you be?” she asked, running the tip of her fingernail over the back of his neck.

“Don’t know,” he answered, leaning over to tie his shoes.

She placed her other hand on the inside of his thigh.  “I’ll wait up for you.”

He stood up quickly, slightly irritated with himself that her touch had such an effect on him.  “Don’t bother.  It will probably be very late when I get back.”

She felt the sting of tears as he left the room.

Ethan got halfway down the stairs and stopped.  Sarah’s news today had left him shaken, but he knew he was going to have to overcome this anger if he and Jessica were going to make their marriage work.  He returned to the bedroom and found her still sitting on the bed.

“Did you forget something?”

“Yes.”  He bent down and cradled her head in his hands.  His lips pressed tenderly against hers for a moment.  “I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

~

A week later, Sarah was in her office, going through some of the paperwork on her desk when she came across a bill that was due the fifth.  She looked at the calendar and frowned.  Today was the twenty-fifth.  She scrawled her signature on it and started to send it to accounting when she realized that she needed Ethan’s signature as well.  He had gone down to radiology over twenty minutes ago.

She left the office and headed for the third- floor X-ray, knowing that accounting would cut the check today if she got it in by three o’clock.

While waiting for the elevator, she could sense people staring at her.  News of her pending divorce had spread like wildfire throughout the hospital.  She grimaced as she stepped through the doors; it was hard enough getting through the day without having to deal with the whispering and pointing going on behind her back.

The elevator deposited her on the third floor, yet she saw no sign of Ethan by the time she got to radiology.  Pivoting around on her heel to go, she nearly bumped into Jessica.  Sarah immediately grew rigid.  She had not seen her since that fateful day on the elevator.

Jessica glanced around nervously.  “Can we talk for a minute?”

She took a step closer to her, and in a voice barely audible said, “I don’t have anything to discuss with you.”

Jessica reached out and grabbed her sleeve as she brushed past her.  “I’m sorry, Sarah.  I never meant to hurt you this way.”

“I find that hard to believe,” she said, pulling her arm back.

“It’s true.  I can’t even begin to tell you how sorry I am.  And I know that Gavin is, too.”

She shook her head and began walking away, not wanting to hear anymore.

“He still loves you, you know.”

She spun around.  “Don’t you dare stand there and tell me that!” she said, prepared to have it out with her.  It was then that she noticed the number of nurses and technicians that were now watching them.  Rumors, like diseases, thrived in this hospital.  Realizing that this was neither the time, nor place to do battle, she turned and walked away.

Deciding it would be best to take the stairs, her sensible shoes carried her up two flights of steps, but she was still seething when she returned to her office.

Ethan looked up as she slammed the door shut, but didn’t say anything.

She felt herself becoming mad at him.  Why couldn’t he have been here ten minutes ago?  “I need you to sign this,” she said, handing him the bill.

“Why am I signing a paper wad?” he asked, arching his brow.

She sighed.  “It’s an invoice.  I accidentally threw it away.”

He scribbled his name on it and handed it back.

She glanced at the clock on the wall.  It was after three now, and too late to give it to accounting.  Wondering how much more miserable this day could get, she plopped herself down in the chair and grabbed the next invoice on top of the pile.

She glumly began going over it as she hunted for her pen.  After several seconds of searching, she looked across the desk at Ethan.  “Did you take my pen?”

“No, this is mine,” he said innocently.

She narrowed her eyes at him.

He broke into a lopsided grin.

“You’re hopeless,” she said, feeling the corners of her mouth turn up.  “You know that, don’t you?”

“Yes, but you’re stuck with me.”

Sarah opened her middle drawer to retrieve another one, but found her smile fading when she saw the small package hidden near the back.  She hesitated a moment, then took it out.  “I almost forgot,” she said softly.  “This is for you.”

“What’s this?”

“It’s a present for Ryan.  I’m sorry it’s so late.  I’ve had it for weeks, I just forgot about it.”

“You didn’t have to do this.”

She waved her hand in the air.  “Oh, just open it.”

Ethan tore at the wrapping and opened the box.

She swallowed hard as he parted the tissue paper and held up the tiny bib.  The words, ‘I Love My Daddy!’ were embroidered on it in red stitching.

He seemed delighted.  “Thank you, Sarah.”

She smiled inwardly.  Ethan had been born and raised in England, but had lived in the U.S. for a number of years.  Most of the time, his accent was barely detectable, yet she found it amusing that it became more pronounced whenever he got excited.

~

That evening, Sarah was making her way out the south entrance, happy to be going home when she though she heard someone calling her name.

Looking over her shoulder, she saw Everett Harrington coming towards her.  “Hello, Everett.”

“Hello, my dear.  Are you heading home?”

“Yes, but Ethan’s still upstairs if you’re looking for him.”

He shook his head.  “No, actually I’m headed home as well.  I just stopped by to see Phillip.  Do you mind if I walk with you?”

“Of course not.”

Everett was the owner and president of Harrington Enterprises, a multi-million dollar business, whose sole purpose was buying and selling other companies.

As they walked, they made conversation about various things.  They talked about his grandson, the weather, and of course, business.

Everett was on the board of directors at the hospital, which usually placed her on opposite sides with him when it came to getting funding for the clinic.  When he had first joined the board, Sarah thought he would be a great help in getting money their way since Ethan was his son, but Everett Harrington was not interested in anything that didn’t turn a profit.  He made it known how much he disliked the clinic, and what a waste of time he thought it was.

“How does it feel to be a grandfather?” she asked, realizing the conversation between them had lulled.

“Oh, don’t get me started, my dear.”

Sarah smiled at him, finding it hard to hold a grudge.  Outside the boardroom, Everett was very likeable.

They said goodnight and parted ways.

As she unlocked her car, a sigh fell from her lips.  Another mundane evening to look forward to.

 

 Chapter Eleven

 

Jessica sat rigidly in Gavin’s office, knowing that she had made a terrible mistake.  For the past half hour, they had been discussing the consequences of telling Ethan the truth.

He had been pushing her for months now, and she suddenly found herself wishing that she’d never told him the baby was his in the first place.

The blood drained from Gavin’s face, leaving him pale.  “Are you sure?” 

Jessica nodded.

“And it’s –”

“It’s yours.”

He leaned back in his chair and put his hand over his mouth.  The look on his face was a semblance of anger and devastation. 

Her body trembled as she waited for his response.  She knew that telling him was not going to solve the problem.  If anything, it was probably going to make matters worse; however, this was a hard burden to bear alone, and she desperately needed to find comfort somewhere.  Her best friend, Grace, had offered her none.

“How many weeks?” 

“Four and a half.” 

He subtly glanced at the calendar on his desk. 

“It’s yours,” she repeated, feeling the anger rising in her.

“How can you be positive it’s mine?” 

She clasped her hands together.  “Ethan and I haven’t been together in two months.” 

This revelation was followed by several minutes of silence.

“What are you going to do?” 

“I don’t know.”

He clenched his jaw and looked away.

She knew that wasn’t the answer he was hoping for.

“Are you going to tell him?”

A surge of fear swept through her, more powerful than the one from last night. 

“Jessica?”

She fought to find her voice.  “I don’t know.” 

He began to shake his head as if in disbelief. 

“Are you going to tell Sarah?”

“Tell her what?” he said angrily.  “Tell her that you and I slept together again?  My marriage to her is just barely hanging on as it is.”  He pushed his chair back and stood up.  “You have put me in an impossible situation, Jessica.”

She felt her mouth drop open.  “I’ve put you in an impossible situation?”  She forgot just how goddamned arrogant he could be sometimes.  “It took two, Gavin!  Don’t you lay this at my feet!”

He held his hands out to his sides.  “What did you expect me to say?” 

She stood up.  “I don’t know, Gavin,” she said, feeling the sting of tears.  “I guess I thought you might be a little more sympathetic, that’s all.”

“Jessica, did you hear what I said?”

She returned her attention to him.  “What?”

He placed his hands on his hips.  “Do you want me to be there tomorrow night?”

She pushed the memory aside and shook her head, trying to gather her thoughts.  “I don’t know.  I don’t know if your being there will help, or just make matters worse,” she replied, wishing he would just drop the subject.

“You’re not going to back out on me are you?” he asked warily.

“I don’t think you understand just how hard this is going to be on him…and me.”

He crossed his arms.  “I know exactly how hard it’s going to be.  I’ve already been through it, remember?”

She tried taking a more direct approach.  “I just don’t think I’m ready.”

“Maybe I should tell him.”

“Yeah, that would go over well,” she said sarcastically.

Her words were followed by silence.

Looking up, she saw the muscle in his jaw twitch, and realized that he was serious.  An uneasiness began to gather around her, making her rise to her feet.  “Gavin—”

Ring! Ring!

He scowled as he turned to answer the phone.  “This is Dr. Williams.”

Realizing that this would be a good opportunity to slip away, she opened the door while his back was still turned and headed down the corridor.  As she walked towards her own office, she found herself wishing that she had kept the secret about Ryan’s paternity to herself.  Living with the consequences of what she’d done would be a lot easier if no one else knew about it.

“Dr. Jessica Harrington to ER stat.  Dr. Jessica Harrington, report to the ER stat.”

She pushed open the door to the stairwell and hurried down the steps.  Paramedics were wheeling a patient into trauma when she arrived.

Gavin was already there, doing an assessment.

“What do we have?” she asked, reaching for a pair of gloves.

He had a worried look about him.  “You’d better call Ethan.”

~

Trish Holloway’s thick, curly brown hair bounced up and down against her shoulders as she accompanied her favorite doctor on his morning rounds.  Every now and then, Dr. Harrington’s arm would brush against hers as they walked.  His touch made her feel giddy inside, like an adolescent schoolgirl.

As she listened to the instructions he was giving her regarding one of his patients, she pressed the clipboard tightly against her chest in hopes of drawing his attention to her cleavage.

A voice sounded over the P.A.  “Dr. Ethan Harrington, report to CCU stat.”

He handed her back the chart.  “I’ll finish up with you later, all right?”

She sighed to herself as she watched him heading down the corridor in that long, deliberate stride of his.  Like most of the nurses here, she had a huge crush on him, but sadly…he only had eyes for his wife.

~

Ethan walked up to the nurses’ station outside CCU.  “Did you page me?”

“Your wife did.  Just a moment and I’ll get her for you,” the nurse said, picking up the phone.

A moment later, Jessica appeared around the corner.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, noting the grim look she was wearing.  “Is it one of my patients?”

She took him aside.  “Ethan, there’s something I need to tell you,” she spoke slowly.  “Your father’s had a heart attack.”

He shook his head, as if he didn’t understand.  “What?”

“He came in by ambulance a little while ago.”

Ethan looked at her for a moment, his face unreadable, and then turned to go into CCU.

Through the glass window, he could see Gavin talking with one of the nurses.  When he saw him standing there, he came out to meet him.

“How bad is it?”  The words jerked from his throat.

Gavin exchanged glances with Jessica before answering.  “It’s bad…”

Ethan put his hands on his hips as he listened to him explain that his father had suffered a massive heart attack.

“…was cyanotic when he was brought in.  He’s sustained severe damage to his left ventricle.”

“Is he conscious?”

Gavin shook his head.  “Does your father have a history of heart disease, or any medical conditions?”

Guilt suddenly washed over him.  “I don’t know.”

~

It was late in the night as Jessica stood over her father-in-law, listening to his heart.  Looking at Everett now, she noticed for the first time just how old he really was.

Age had never been a factor for him before, as he was always shuttling back and forth from this meeting to that one.  His energy had seemed endless.  He had once told her that running his business kept him young.  She let the stethoscope rest around her neck and stifled a sigh.  The man who’d said those words was now just a shadow of the one lying in the bed.

She shifted her eyes from him to Ethan.  For the past three hours, he’d been sitting in a chair by the corner, staring at the floor.  Up until a year ago, she didn’t even know that his father was still alive.  He’d been vague when she questioned him about it, saying only that he and his father led very different lives.  His sister had been a little more forthcoming however, telling her that the two of them had a falling out about sixteen years ago over the fact that Ethan wanted to be a doctor instead of following in his footsteps.

“It’s late.”

The room had been so quiet, that she jumped at the sound of Ethan’s voice.

He slowly got to his feet and stretched.  “Why don’t you go on home?  There’s no point in your staying.”

She slipped her hands in the pockets of her lab coat, wishing that she could argue the point.  “Are you sure?”

He nodded.  “I’ll see you out.”

They walked in silence as he escorted her out of CCU and over to the elevator.

She stepped on and turned around, placing her hand upon his chest.  “Try and get some sleep, all right?”

He leaned in and put his arms out to keep the doors from closing.  “I’ll see you in the morning,” he said, kissing her softly on the lips.  “Give Ryan a kiss for me.”

“I will,” she said, giving him a meager smile.

As the doors slid shut, he began making his way down the dimly-lit corridor towards Intensive Care.  The halls of the hospital were strangely quiet; free from all the noise and bustle of the day.  It was a welcome change.

He stopped to speak with the nurse at the station about Mr. Samuels’ condition.  He had been injured by a hit and run driver, and had sustained internal injuries; the most serious of which, was a ruptured spleen.  His advanced age was complicating matters, and there had been no improvement since he was brought in.

“Dr. Harrington?”

He looked over his shoulder to find Mrs. Samuels.

“Has something happened?”

Ethan motioned for her to sit down.  “There’s nothing wrong,” he said, kneeling in front of her.

She smiled and put her hand over her heart.  “When I saw you, I thought…”  She closed her eyes, unable to finish.

Over the last few days, Ethan had learned that the two of them had been married for nearly fifty-seven years.

“Dr. Harrington, is he going to be all right?”

As a physician, he couldn’t count the number of times he had been asked that question, and yet he always found it difficult to answer.  Seeing the desperation in her face, he feigned a small smile.  “We’re doing everything we possibly can to see that he will be.”

A tear followed the lines in her face as it cut down her cheek.

He patted her hand reassuringly.  “Now listen.  He’s going to need all your strength and support when he goes home, and you can’t very well give him that if you’re sick yourself.  Now, I want you to promise me you’ll try and get some rest.”

She wiped her eyes and nodded.

He gave her a quick wink as he stood up to go.

The deserted elevator took him to the fifth floor in record time.  He unlocked his office and flipped on the lights before making his way over to his cluttered desk.  He rummaged around in the top drawer for a moment, before finding the piece of paper he was looking for.

He sat down wearily in his chair, and pulled out his cell phone.

After five rings, a sleepy voice with a Spanish accent answered.  “Westcott residence.”

“May I speak to Renee, please?”

“She’s out of town.  Not come back ‘til tomorrow.”

He hesitated a moment.

“Que?” the voice said, sounding impatient.

“This is very important.  Please tell her that her father has had a heart attack and she needs to come right away.”

There was a slight pause.  “I tell her when she get back.  Who is ‘dis, por favor?”

He sighed.  “This is her brother calling.”

As he hung up, he rifled through the junk in the drawer until his hands closed around a small bottle.  He emptied two of the ulcer pills into his palm and absently glanced over at the coffee machine.  It sat quietly on the other side of the room, having been turned off and cleaned by Sarah hours ago.

Spying his mug by the phone, he picked it up and peered inside.  A thin brown liquid stared back at him.  He popped the pills into his mouth and reluctantly took a long swallow of it, shivering at its bitterness.

The nurse on duty was in the process of changing his father’s I.V. bag when he returned to CCU.

He waited for her to leave before easing himself down into the chair.  He let his head fall back against the cushion and closed his eyes, trying to rid himself of the throbbing pain coursing through his stomach.

He must have fallen into a deep sleep, because the next time he opened his eyes it was after seven.

Jessica bent down and touched him softly upon his cheek.  “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“That’s all right,” he said, looking over at his father.  “How is he?”

She knelt in front of him and placed her hands on his knees.  “I’d like to run a catheter into his pulmonary artery to determine why his blood pressure isn’t coming up.”

Trepidation began circling him.  “What do you think it is?” he asked, knowing that she most likely had a suspicion.

“It could be a lot of things.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

She patted his knee like she would a child.  “Let’s wait and see what the test shows, all right?”

Ethan sat forward in the chair and rubbed the back of his neck in an effort to hide his emotions.  Anytime his wife refused to answer him was because she wanted to spare his feelings.

Jessica tenderly brushed his hair from his forehead, wishing that she could take his pain away.

“Ethan?”

Upon hearing Sarah’s voice, he raised his head.

Jessica got to her feet, angry that she had interrupted such a private, and intimate moment, between them.  Daggers flew from her eyes as Sarah walked across the floor.

“I just took a call from your sister.  She said to tell you that she’s coming in on the six o’clock flight from D.C.”

“Thank you.”  He cleared his throat before speaking again.  “How are things upstairs?”

“Don’t worry about the clinic,” she said reassuringly.  “Just concentrate on your father.”

Jessica felt her anger beginning to smolder.  How Ethan could allow himself to be friends with this woman was beyond her.  “Excuse me,” she said in a clipped tone.  She had more important things to do than stand around and listen to Sarah’s drivel.

Ethan rose from the chair, taking note of the awkward silence that had been left behind in her wake.

“Is there anything you need?”

“No, I’m fine,” he answered, returning his attention to Sarah, “but would you mind looking in on my patient in ICU?”

“I’d be happy to.”

As the conversation died out, there was nothing left to do, but stare at his father.

“Has he regained consciousness at all?”

“No,” he answered, shifting his feet.

Sarah looked past him, visibly struggling to find something else to say.

“So, how are things with you?” he asked, hoping to change the subject.

She suddenly cracked a smile and began shaking her head.

“What?”

“Do you realize that you have asked me that same question every day for the past few weeks?”

He scratched his head and gave a short laugh, feeling some of his tension leaving him.  “No, I guess I hadn’t.  But I only ask because I care about you.”

“I know you do,” she said softly.  “And thank you.  But I really am okay.  I’m getting on with my life.”

He smiled down at her.  “Okay.  I promise I’ll stop asking you that question.”

~

The morning slowly waned into the afternoon for Ethan as he sat in the chair, listening to his father’s monitor.  Over the past few hours, he had grown accustomed to the abnormal rhythm it was giving off.

His blood pressure had been dropping steadily, and a little while ago, Jessica had tearfully informed him that the catheter had showed that the blood was backing up into his lungs.  His father had developed Cardiogenic Shock, and given the damage his left ventricle had sustained, Ethan knew that it would only be a matter of time.

He leaned forward and held his head in his hands.  He had always thought that he would be more than ready for his father’s death, but things were stirring inside of him that he hadn’t been prepared for at all.

A sudden movement caught the corner of his eye.  Jerking his head up, he saw that his father’s hand was hanging off the side of the bed.

He went over and picked it up, figuring it was just his muscle contracting, but it immediately closed around his fingers.  Startled, he moved his gaze upwards; his father’s eyes were now wide open.  Unable to speak because of the intubation tube, he made a small sound in the back of his throat that sounded like a cry.

All those memories and feelings that Ethan had locked inside of him suddenly came rushing out—and they hurt.

His father looked at him for the longest time, eyes pleading, and then went limp.

“Dr. Harrington?”

Ethan squeezed his father’s hand and waited.  There was no reaction.

“Dr. Harrington?”

He set his jaw to mask his emotions before looking over his shoulder.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” the nurse said quietly.  “But you’re needed in ICU.  It’s Mr. Samuels.”

“Tell them I’m on my way.”

By the time he arrived, Mr. Samuels was in full cardiac arrest.  He, along with an intern and two other nurses worked to get his heart started again.

“Charging…” said the intern, handing the paddles to Ethan.

Just then, the switchboard operator came over the P.A.  “Code blue in CCU!  Code blue in CCU!”

Ethan showed the slightest hesitation before taking the paddles.

A second later, another page came over the speaker.  “Dr. Ethan Harrington report to CCU.”

Gavin and Jessica worked frantically trying to save Everett.

“Charging…charging…clear!”

Gavin placed the paddles on Everett.  His body rose and fell.

“Still no heartbeat,” the nurse said to Ethan.

“Again.”

“Clear!”  Ethan laid the paddles on Mr. Samuels.

“Nothing.”

Gavin nodded at Jessica.  “Set it to 400.  All right.  Let’s try again.”

She set the machine.

“Clear!”

Everett’s body convulsed and jerked as the electricity ran through it.

All eyes were on the monitor.

“We’ve got a heartbeat!” the nurse said excitedly.

Ethan looked at the monitor and saw the pulse moving across the screen.  He gave a barrage of orders before heading out the door.

Taking the stairs two at a time, his legs felt as if they were going to collapse beneath him before he made it to CCU.  He burst through the door and skidded to a halt.

Jessica hurried over.  “Ethan, I’m sorry,” she said, throwing her arms around him.  “I’m so sorry.”

He felt his breath catch in his throat.  Through the glass, he could see that the color of his father’s skin had already turned gray.

Jessica led him over to a chair against the wall and sat down beside him.

The nurse on shift came up to him.  “Dr. Harrington, I’m very sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you,” he said numbly.

“If you can tell me which funeral home you want, I’ll go on and call them for you.”

He ran his fingers through his hair, unable to form a coherent thought.  “I don’t know,” he said in a broken voice.  “Jess?”

“How about Chandler’s?”

He nodded in agreement.

The smallest of sobs fell from Jessica’s lips as the nurse stepped outside to make the call.

Ethan put his arm around her, drawing her to his side.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, sounding angry with herself.

“It’s all right,” he replied, although he couldn’t help wondering who her tears were for.

“They’re on their way,” the nurse said, returning to the room.


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