By Kennedy Northcutt ©2012
See Part 1 for all the important stuff.
Brandan nervously squirmed in the leather chair across the desk from her mentor. She felt like she was back in school, sitting in principal’s office, in trouble for doing something wrong. But Samuel Johnson wasn’t the principal. He had kind features and a slightly-balding gray head. Laugh lines played at the corners of his eyes as he smiled at her from across his walnut desk.
“What’s on your mind, Brandan?” He sat back in his own leather chair. “You look…um…perplexed?”
“I have a concern with one of my new patients, Sam,” Brandan decided to keep the conversation casual. “Her name is Caitlyn Bradley and she was in a car accident a few weeks ago. Her right hand was severely injured in the accident and will require some extensive surgery and rehab. She’s also a musician—plays the cello in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. They were on tour and performed in Minneapolis just recently.”
“Yes, I heard about that,” he nodded. “I also heard that you were in the ER that night. Lucky for her.”
“I did my best to set the hand and bandage it up really well, but I’m afraid it just wasn’t enough,” Brandan explained. “I have her scheduled for surgery first thing tomorrow.”
“So, what’s the problem? What’s your concern? I know you’re more than capable of doing that kind of surgery.”
“I am,” Brandan agreed. “It’s just…It’s just…” She sighed and watched a gray brow rise in question. “She’s…”
“Being difficult? Refusing the surgery? What?”
“I…” Brandan swallowed hard as she tried to find the right words to express what she was feeling, without blurting it right out and possibly getting herself into trouble. “I have…feelings…for her.”
Her last words were said so softly that he had to lean forward to hear them.
“Wait. Come again? I didn’t catch that last bit.”
“I said I have feelings for her,” Brandan blurted as her eyes dropped to her folded hands in her lap and her cheeks flamed.
“Oh, I see,” Sam said, as he studied her for a moment. “What kind of feelings are we talking about, here, Brandan? The kind that could eventually lead to a relationship with her? Because you know that’s just not possible. She’s your patient.”
“I know,” Brandan said. “Believe me, I know. I just…” She looked everywhere but at him. “I met her before she was my patient—on the night that she performed with the Philharmonic and earlier that same afternoon.”
“She’s your patient now,” Sam emphasized. “It doesn’t matter if you met beforehand. The rules regarding doctor and patient relations are very clear for a reason, Brandan.”
“I know,” Brandan repeated. “That’s why I came to you. I want you to take her on as your patient and do the surgery tomorrow, instead of me.”
“What? You can’t be serious, Brandan,” he exclaimed in shock. “You’ve worked too hard to get where you are today to just throw it all away on some woman you just met. Are you telling me you’re actually considering pursuing a relationship with this woman?”
“She wasn’t my patient when I fe—when I realized I had feelings for her,” she said. “Please, Sam, I’m begging you. Take her on as your patient. Do the surgery tomorrow. I don’t want to leave this to just anyone. You’ve been my mentor, my teacher, for years. You taught me everything I know. I’m certain you’ll do just as good a job as I ever could.”
He squinted over his reading glasses and studied her. “You’re trying to butter me up, Brandan.”
She gave him a small smile. “Is it working, Sam?”
“You know you’ve far exceeded my skills in the OR,” he pointed out. “If the damage is as bad as you say it is, this should be your surgery, not mine. Not that I don’t have the skills or the capabilities to do a decent job. I just know that you are far better than I am when it comes to that really fine, really intricate work.”
“But if I do the surgery on Caitlyn, then she’s my patient and there’s no way I can follow my heart. Believe me, Sam, this is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.”
“What does your heart really say, Brandan?”
She was silent for a long moment, then she looked up and met his steady gaze. “She’s the one, Sam. The one I’ve been waiting for all my life. I can’t really explain how I know or why. I just know that deep-down in every fiber of my being she’s the other half of my soul and I don’t want to give up on the chance for us to be together before we even have a chance.”
“And what if she is never able to play the cello again,” he stated flatly. “How will you feel if she doesn’t regain the full use of her hand?”
Brandan swallowed noticeably. “I’m willing to take the chance, Sam. If it means we can be together, I’m more than willing.”
“Does she know?”
“No,” Brandan said. “I’ll tell her after the surgery. Besides,” she gave him a confidant smile, “I know you’ll do your utmost not to disappoint either of us.”
“No pressure, eh?” He chuckled.
“Not a bit, Sam.”
He nodded sagely without further comment.
Nervous didn’t even come close to describing what she was feeling. Terrified maybe. She hadn’t had anything to eat in over twelve hours and yet her stomach was clenching and unclenching as if she’d eaten a four-course meal that wasn’t agreeing with her.
“Hey,” a hand on her thigh made her jump. “Relax, sis. It’s going to be okay.”
Caitlyn looked up and met Tammy’s gaze. “I know.”
“Then why do you look like you’re about to bolt for those woods we passed on our way here?” Tammy gave her a small smile, before climbing out of the car.
Caitlyn waited as patiently as she could for her sister to get the wheelchair out of the trunk and bring it around to the passenger side of the car. Her stomach clenched again and she tried to ignore the discomfort by telling herself that everything would be fine. It wasn’t working.
The door opened and Tammy helped Caitlyn into the chair. Settling herself as comfortably as possible, Caitlyn let Tammy wheel her toward the entrance to the surgery center. Well, she really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Wheeling herself wasn’t really an option. And she was really frustrated with her snail-pace recovery.
“Thank you, Tam,” Caitlyn said as they entered the reception area.
“No thanks necessary, Cat,” Tam said. “I’m just glad to have my sister back.”
“Yeah,” Caitlyn couldn’t quite keep the melancholy out of her tone. “I guess.”
“Hey,” Tammy moved around in front of the wheelchair and crouched down to Caitlyn’s level, “What’s up? Why are you being such a gloomy Gus? You’re about to have surgery and get your hand back. Aren’t you happy about that?”
Lacey gave her sister a small smile. “Yeah, I am. It’s just…” She looked down with a shake of her head.
“What?” Tammy prodded. “Talk to me, Caitlyn.”
Caitlyn took a deep breath and blew it out, then met Tammy’s gaze. “Nothing. Just nerves, I guess.”
Tammy smiled and placed a hand to her sister’s cheek. “Don’t worry, little cat, everything is going to be fine. You’ll have your hand back, good as new, and then you can go back to New York and be the virtuoso cellist of one the world’s most renowned orchestras.”
Caitlyn waited for her sister to resume wheeling her toward the reception desk before she dropped the pretense of bravery. Her thoughts whirled in a jumble. On the one hand she wanted nothing more than to have her hand back. But, on the other hand, Dr. Stone’s behavior the previous day was still weighing on her.
Contemplating the possibility of not having the surgery versus being able to play her cello again, Caitlyn knew she had no choice but to go ahead with the surgery. The problem was that she really liked Brandan Stone. The woman was everything she had ever wanted in a partner. Unfortunately, she was also her doctor.
“Hello,” Tammy stopped the chair in front of the reception desk. “Caitlyn Bradley is here for surgery.”
The woman behind the desk greeted both women with a warm smile. “And who is your doctor, Ms. Bradley?”
“Stone,” Caitlyn replied. “Brandan Stone.”
“Ah, yes,” the woman frowned slightly as she typed something into her computer. Her long fingernails clacked away at the keyboard until she looked back up in confusion. “It says here your doctor is Samuel Johnson, not Brandan Stone.”
Now it was Caitlyn’s turn to be confused. “Is that because Dr. Stone works for the Johnson-Steig Clinic?”
“Well, that could very well be,” the woman said. “I can check on that. First, let’s get you banded, so we can keep track of you.” She typed away at the keyboard again. “Do you have any medication allergies that we should be aware of?”
“Any other medical conditions we should know about?”
“Are you currently taking any medications?”
“Good,” the woman nodded as she clacked away, then hit a final key. She reached back to a printer and pulled a patient wristband off it. She then moved around the desk and attached the band to Caitlyn’s good wrist. “Okay, Ms. Bradley, you’re all checked in. Please wait for a nurse to come get you.”
“Is there any coffee around here?” Tammy looked hopeful.
“There are complimentary drinks in the lounge area of the waiting room, just through that door,” the woman replied. “Feel free to help yourself.” Then she looked pointedly at Caitlyn. “I’m afraid you won’t be able to have anything until after surgery, Ms. Bradley.”
“I know,” Caitlyn sighed. “But a cup of coffee sure sounds good right about now.”
Tammy wheeled Caitlyn to a spot next to a wingback chair. She then left to get a cup of coffee. Caitlyn just sat there and stared out the window beyond. Tiny snowflakes were dancing outside the window. Some stuck to the glass but melted the instant they came into contact with it. Caitlyn didn’t see any of it. She was too busy trying to figure out why Brandan Stone wasn’t listed as her doctor.
“You doing okay?”
It was as if her very thoughts had conjured the woman right out of thin air. Caitlyn turned to find Brandan Stone standing next to her. The woman was dressed in a pair of navy-blue slacks and a white blouse. Certainly not the clothing of someone who was preparing for surgery.
“Wha—” Caitlyn shook her head, as Brandan took the seat next to her. “Dr. Stone, what are you doing here?”
“Well,” Brandan smiled. “Today is kind of a big day for you, so I thought I’d drop by and make sure you’re doing okay.”
“I…” Caitlyn looked down to find Brandan’s hand on her own. “I’m a little confused, actually.”
“I just checked in for surgery.”
“And the receptionist said my doctor is Samuel Johnson,” Caitlyn met Brandan’s gaze and watched it closely. “Why aren’t you listed as my doctor? What’s going on?”
“I talked to Sam and he agreed to do the surgery,” Brandan said, as she unconsciously stroked the soft skin beneath her hand with her thumb. It was such a natural thing to do that she had no idea she was even doing it. “I thought it best to step away from this one and let the man who taught me everything I know step in.”
Caitlyn felt her stomach drop. “What? Why? Did…Did I do something wrong? Did we…”
“No, nothing like that, Caitlyn,” Brandan could see the panic in Caitlyn’s gray-green eyes and felt the need to reassure her. “You didn’t do anything wrong at all. I just…” She sighed and then looked down at her hand on Caitlyn’s. Pulling her hand away, she tried for a reassuring smile, instead. “I really like you and...” She shook her head as she searched for words that wouldn’t sound stupid. “I’d like the chance to get to know you better.”
Caitlyn’s brows drew together in confusion. “So, you decided to put me in the hands of someone else? I’m afraid I really don’t understand at all. You said you would take care of my hand. You said you were the best. Why didn’t you talk to me about this before you pawned me off on another doctor.”
“I am the best, Caitlyn and I’ll be right there during your surgery. I promise,” Brandan said. “Sam is one of the best, too. Between the two of us…”
“No.” Tears sprang to Caitlyn’s eyes as she looked down at her bandaged hand. “I don’t want just anyone doing the surgery. Can’t you understand that? My hands are my life. I can’t play music without them. You said…”
“I know,” Brandan cut her off. “But if you’re my patient then we have no chance whatsoever at a relationship. Doctor-patient relationships are strictly forbidden. I can’t step over that line. I won’t. I hope you can understand, Caitlyn. This wasn’t an easy decision for me. For the first time in my life, though, I want to follow my heart instead of my head. My heart is telling me that we can make a go of this if we just give ourselves a chance. But if you want me to do your surgery, I will.”
Caitlyn met Brandan’s steady gaze. Tears were still swimming in her gray-green eyes, but she refused to let them fall. Her mind was in turmoil over this latest revelation and she didn’t know quite what to do. She briefly thought about backing out of the surgery and just returning to her sister’s house to brood. But she also knew she needed the surgery. Her hands really were her life. Her cello wasn’t her only instrument. She needed her hands, as well. There was no playing music without them.
“Just answer one question for me. Are you the best?” Caitlyn asked in a steady voice.
It was Brandan’s turn for her stomach to drop. “Yes, I am.”
Caitlyn nodded in resignation. “Then I want you to do the surgery. I don’t want anyone else. I don’t trust anyone else.”
Brandan felt her world crumble into a million tiny pieces as her heart shattered into a million more. Caitlyn’s decision was made. She could see it in the woman’s eyes. There was no going back. Any chance they could ever have at a relationship was over. So, Brandan let her expression harden into her customary stoicism, as her professional bearing kicked in.
“Okay, then,” Brandan nodded. “I will see you in the operating room, Ms. Bradley.”
She stood up and walked toward the reception desk without a backward glance, leaving Caitlyn seated there alone. A moment later, Tammy breezed back into the reception area with a cup of coffee in one hand and a vending machine Danish in the other.
“Hey,” Tammy sat in the vacant chair next to Caitlyn. “What’s wrong?” She caught the tears swimming in her sister’s eyes. “Kit Cat? What is it? Why are you crying?”
Caitlyn impatiently swiped at a tear that managed to escape and slide down her cheek. “I’m fine,” she sniffed.
“You’re not fine,” Tammy countered. “Are you having second thoughts about the surgery? It’s okay to be scared. I sure would be if I were in your shoes.”
“I said I’m fine, Tam,” Caitlyn’s tone wasn’t very convincing as she sniffed again and more tears slipped down her cheeks.
She wasn’t fine and she knew it. Her decision to have Dr. Stone go ahead with her surgery, despite the fact she was losing out on a relationship with the woman, suddenly hit her. Her own heart broke and she was overwhelmed by a wave of sadness that suddenly washed over her. She wanted to rail at the fates for the situation she was in, but, instead, she just sat there with tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Oh, Kit Cat,” Tammy handed her a wad of tissues and tucked Caitlyn’s hair behind an ear. “It’s going to be okay. I promise. Your hand will be good as new in a few weeks, and then you’ll be back on the road with the Philharmonic. You’ll see. This is going to all work out for the best.”
Caitlyn had her doubts, but decided against arguing. There was no point in it, anyway. She had made her decision. Life was certainly unfair, but there wasn’t a thing she could do about it except move forward and forget about Brandan Stone. Forget about ever finding that special someone who could make her feel passionate and alive.
Blowing her nose and wiping the tears from her cheeks, Caitlyn finally got her emotions under control in time for a young blonde nurse to call her name.
“I’m Caitlyn Bradley,” Caitlyn called back.
The nurse came over with a bright smile and a spring in her step. “My name is Brittany and I’ll be taking you back to get prepped for surgery.” She then looked at Tammy. “Are you going to be staying? Or is there a cell phone number that you can leave with reception for when she’s all done?”
“I’ll stay,” Tammy replied, as she put a reassuring hand on Caitlyn’s arm. “I’ll be here the whole time, so don’t you worry, Cat.”
“Thanks, Tam,” Caitlyn gave her a reassuring smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Appreciate it.”
“Okay, then,” Brittany got behind the wheelchair. “Let’s get you taken care of and ready for your surgery. This is going to be a great day!”
Caitlyn almost groaned at chipper attitude, but thought better of it. Better to have a bubbly sprite for a nurse than some grumpy old hag who didn’t care and was just biding her time until retirement. Then again, Dr. Stone could have wheeled her back to pre-op and witnessed the whole crying episode. No, it was much better just to let the bubble-headed Brittany do her job without comment.
Brandan removed her surgical attire and stuffed it into a bin as she left the operating room and re-entered the scrub room. She glanced up through the window as she washed her hands and arms. The team was just finishing up with their patient and wheeling her out of the OR and into Post-Op.
“Excellent work, Dr. Stone,” Samuel Johnson joined her at the scrub sink. “Best work I’ve seen out of you in all the time we’ve worked together.”
Brandan gave him a wan smile. “Thank you, Sam.”
“So, want to tell me why you changed your mind about doing the surgery yourself?” He dried his hands with a handful of towels as he studied her.
“She’s the one who changed her mind,” Brandan said in a tone devoid of emotion. “I just honored her wishes.”
“Ah, I see.” He really didn’t. “Can’t say that I blame her. You truly are a skilled surgeon, especially when it comes to that really intricate work. The way you repaired those nerves, reattached the tendons and removed the bone fragments with such attention to detail was truly awe-inspiring. I’m glad we got it all on video. It will be great to show it at my next symposium. We are making such strides…”
Brandan tuned him out as he continued to go on and on about the advances in arthroscopic surgery. Her mind was on Caitlyn Bradley. The surgery had been a success, at least in her eyes. She had done her utmost to make sure that every “T” was crossed and every “I” dotted, so to speak. Brandan just hoped it was enough. Only time would tell if the surgery was truly a success. Caitlyn faced weeks of physical therapy and a strict regimen that should get her hand working again. But there was no guarantee that she would be able to play the cello again.
“Are you listening, Dr. Stone?”
No she wasn’t.
“Um, yes, Dr. Johnson,” Brandan instantly snapped out of her reverie. “I think you have some fine points to make during your next presentation.”
“Then you agree that you should be there to help me with the presentation?” He looked at her expectantly.
“Um, can I get back to you on that?” She replied and watched his expression fall. “You know you’re better than I am when it comes to that sort of thing, Sam. You just have that public speaking persona that I don’t have. I get all tongue-tied and tend to lose my train of thought when I’m up there in front of a crowd.”
He smiled again. “Yes, yes, you’re right, Brandan. I know better than to put you on the spot like that. But I’m just so truly excited to share these new techniques of yours with our colleagues.”
“I’ll give you my notes,” she said. “That way you can study up and be completely prepared. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’m at your disposal, Sam.”
He chuckled. “Well, not completely, but that’s okay. I’ll try to muddle through on my own, Brandan. You just take care of those patients of yours. They are the real success stories.”
“Yes, I agree.”
They walked out together and parted ways in the hallway. Brandan made her way toward Recovery, while Sam continued on toward the doctor’s lounge for a cup of coffee. While Brandan approached the nurse’s station, she slowed her steps in order to gather her thoughts.
“Heya, Dr. Stone,” a portly nurse in pale blue scrubs greeted her with a tired smile. “I hear you did an excellent job in there today. All the girls are raving about it.”
“Thanks, Mary,” Brandan replied with a slight blush. “I just did the best I could.”
Mary leaned in conspiratorially. “Which means you did far better than any other surgeon around,” she then winked and sat back again. “Felicia says your patient is doing well. She should be coming around in another hour or so.”
“Sounds good,” Brandan rubbed the back of her neck. “Can you page me when she’s awake? I want to be sure to check on her before my next surgery. I’ll be in the cafeteria if you need me before that.”
“No problem, Dr. Stone,” Mary nodded. “I hear the egg strata is pretty good today. And if that doesn’t strike your fancy, there’s always the oatmeal.” She chuckled. “But first you need to give an update to her sister. She’s waiting for you in the consult room next to Reception.”
“Thanks, Mary,” Brandan said as she headed toward a door.
She entered the room to find the same brunette who had visited Caitlyn in the hospital.
“Hello, Mrs. Paige,” she greeted the woman with an outstretched hand.
Tammy took Brandan’s hand and shook it. “Hello, Dr. Stone. How’s my sister doing?”
“Well, Caitlyn made it through the surgery with flying colors,” Brandan smiled reassuringly. “And everything went just fine. She should be in Recovery soon. The nurses are taking very good care of her.”
Tammy breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Dr. Stone. I was a little worried because it took so long.”
“The damage was fairly extensive,” Brandan explained. “I had to do quite a bit of intricate work and cleanup. I also had to put her hand into a traction device to keep it completely immobilized for the time being.”
“But did you fix it so she can play the cello again?”
“Honestly, it’s too soon to tell,” Brandan replied.
“When will you know?”
Brandan sighed, let her arms rest on her knees and leaned forward. “Mrs. Paige…”
“Okay, Tammy,” a small smile lifted one corner of her lips. Brandan liked the woman. Unfortunately… “I wish I knew how long this will take. I can’t even say if your sister will have complete use of her hand again. There’s just no way to tell at this stage. Each patient is different and your sister’s injuries were quite extensive.”
“So, you’re saying, what exactly?”
“We need to wait and see how things go,” Brandan said. “Only time and physical therapy will tell what we’re facing in the weeks and months ahead.”
Tammy nodded. “Okay.”
“Do you have any other questions for me before I go?”
“Just one,” Tammy’s expression softened. “Do you love her?”
Taken completely by surprise, Brandan just stared in wide-eyed shock at the woman.
“She’s mentioned you a few times over the last few weeks that she’s been living with us,” Tammy continued. “She always calls you Brandan. Never Dr. Stone. And she gets this sparkle in her eyes when she does. It’s like her entire face glows at the mere mention of your name. Then last night…”
“What happened last night?” Brandan prodded when Caitlyn’s sister didn’t immediately continue.
“She was too quiet, moody actually, so I asked her how her appointment went with you yesterday and she completely closed down,” Tammy met the doctor’s gaze. “She wouldn’t talk about it at all. She did the same thing again right before she went into surgery.”
Brandan absently rubbed the back of her neck. “We talked for a little bit, earlier.”
“I kinda figured as much.”
“I tried to fix things, but it didn’t work out the way I’d hoped it would,” Brandan continued. “My colleague, Sam Johnson, was going to do the surgery while I assisted. Caitlyn was to be his patient, but…”
“She wanted the best,” Tammy nodded with a sad smile. “She said she trusted you implicitly. She also said she didn’t want anyone else touching her hand. Caitlyn spent days researching everything she could about you and your surgical skills. You really are the best, Dr. Stone. Caitlyn knew that going into this. She wouldn’t want anyone else doing the surgery, I’m afraid.”
“Yeah,” Brandan smiled sadly. “I just wish…” She shook her head and sighed heavily. “I guess it was never meant to be.”
It was Tammy’s turn to lean forward. “Don’t give up so easily, Brandan. When the time is right, things will fall into place. Just wait and see. Be patient. Caitlyn has been through a lot, lately.”
“It’s not Caitlyn’s fault,” Brandan corrected. “She’s not the one who ended the relationship before it could ever begin. It was me. I’m the one whose hands are tied because of the whole ‘doctor-patient’ code I have to live by.” Her head dropped into her hands. “This is just so…stupid!”
Tammy moved closer and put a hand on Brandan’s knee. “You really do love her, then.”
Brandan looked up and met Tammy’s gaze. There were tears swimming in her blue eyes as she watched Tammy smile slightly. Brandan felt like her heart was going to burst into a million pieces again.
Tammy chuckled. “Love usually does…except when it doesn’t.”
Brandan just frowned.
“Hey, sugar! How’s one of my favorite girls doing?”
Terrance shoved aside the curtain and walked right up to the bed with a large bouquet of assorted flowers in one hand. He could see that Caitlyn was groggy from the anesthetic and was still pretty out of it. He smiled as he presented the bouquet with a flourish. The flowers matched the rainbow knit hat he wore over his dreads.
“T’ank you,” Caitlyn slurred. “They’re nice.”
“They should be,” he grinned. “Got ‘em from the gift shop and they cost more than my last haircut.”
He shook his head and the hat wiggled dramatically. Caitlyn chuckled.
“So, how’re you feelin’, sugar?” He sobered as he glanced at the metal contraption that held her hand in place. “That thing looks like something out of a horror movie. I hope they don’t plan to keep you in it for long. Damn, girl. That thing could scare Frankenstein.”
Caitlyn glanced at her hand. “Can’t feel a thing.Doesn’t hurt at all.”
“Well, that’s good,” he smiled. “Make sure those girls out there keep giving you those really strong pain meds. Pretty soon they’ll have you higher than a damned kite.”
She chuckled again. “I will.”
“So, are they letting you go home today? Or will they keep you here for a day or two?”
“Not sure,” she replied. “Haven’t seen the doctor, yet.”
“Ooooohhh,” his eyes twinkled with mischief. “So, when’s our illustrious doctor coming by to have a look-see at her favorite patient?”
Caitlyn’s expression fell. “I-I really don’t know, Terry.”
Terrance noticed her sadness. “What’s wrong, sugar? Come on. Talk to old Terrance. Tell me what’s bothering you.”
Tears sprang to Caitlyn’s eyes and she tried not to let them fall. Unfortunately, her emotions were all screwed up from the anesthesia and the pain medication.
“I don’t…I don’t know what…” She shook her head as more tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Oh, sugar,” he quickly grabbed a wad of tissues and held them out to her. “What’s all this about? Did Brandan say something to you before surgery? If so, you tell me what she said and I’ll go kick her sorry ass for you.”
She chuckled miserably, as he continued to wipe her face. He then grabbed another wad of tissues and shoved it into her good hand.
“It’s my own fault,” she finally said, once she had the tears under control again. “I should have known better.”
“Known what? Come on, sugar, you gotta give me more to work with, here,” he sat down in the chair next to her bed and scooted closer.
Caitlyn blew her nose one last time and swiped away the remaining tears from her cheeks. She then looked up at the ceiling, sighed heavily before she returned her attention to him.
“She said we can’t be together,” she said flatly.
“Pfft! What?” He looked at her in surprise. “That’s just rid—Ooooohhhhh.” It finally dawned on him what she was saying. “You mean that whole doctor-patient code thing. Yeah, that’s a real bummer.”
“Yes,” she nodded as she tried to keep her emotions in check. “She asked another doctor to take over the surgery, but I didn’t want another doctor. So…” She finished with a one-shouldered shrug. “I’m her patient. End of discussion. End of relationship.”
He sat back in the chair and just studied her for a moment.
“Brandan is nothing if not a stickler for following the rules, sugar,” he nodded sagely. “The woman has a code of ethics that would put an honest politician to shame. Yessiree.Mm-mm.”
Caitlyn couldn’t help the fresh tears that sprang to her eyes, as lay there staring up at the ceiling. She couldn’t see a way out of the situation with Brandan Stone and her heart was breaking all over again at the prospect of never finding out just how good they could be together.
“I guess it was just never meant to be,” she said quietly.
Terrance heard the hopelessness in her tone and wanted nothing more than to comfort her. But what could he say?
“Give it time, sugar,” he finally said. “Maybe things will work themselves out. For now, you need to concentrate on that hand of yours. Do everything the doctor says and don’t skip a single physical therapy appointment, even when you hurt so bad that you don’t think you can stand it anymore. You hear me?” She nodded. “And take your pain meds religiously. Don’t try to skimp or hold back just ‘cause you think you’ll get hooked. Just be careful and you’ll be fine.”
“I will,” Caitlyn said with a watery smile. “Thanks, Terry.”
“Oh, don’t be thanking me yet, sugar,” he said seriously. “I’m gonna have me a talk with Dr. Killjoy and give her a piece of my mind. She should know better than to put a damper on your recovery by talkin’ shit before you have surgery. That woman has another thing comin’ if she thinks…”
“Is this a private conversation? Or can anyone join in?”
Both of them turned to find the subject of their discussion standing just inside the curtained Recovery area. Brandan’s expression spoke volumes. Neither of them had to ask her if she had overheard their conversation. Her expression said it all.
“Hmph!” Terrance got up and walked toward her, then brushed past her with an angry glare. “Don’t think we won’t be having words later, Stone,” he said over his shoulder as he left the Recovery area.
Brandan’s expression softened, as she caught Caitlyn watching her.
“So, how’re we doing?” Brandan asked, as she stepped up next to the bed.
“Fine,” Caitlyn looked away and wouldn’t meet Brandan’s gaze.
“Are you in any pain?” Brandan took note of the readouts on the machine next to the head of the bed. “Looks like everything is normal. Your vitals are all good and the surgery went well.”
“I can’t feel anything,” Caitlyn replied. “My whole arm is numb.”
“That will change, eventually,” Brandan kept her bearing professional. “I did a neural block that should wear off in a few hours. Then you need to take your pain medication every 4-6 hours. Your sister has the prescription.”
“Thank you,” Caitlyn continued to avoid looking at the woman.
“You’re welcome, Caitlyn,” Brandan’s tone softened even more. “I’m here if you need me. Don’t be afraid to call my office if anything comes up. Especially if you’re in pain that can’t be controlled by the meds or if you see any swelling, feel any heat near the wound sites or there’s any discomfort at all that isn’t being controlled by the meds. I explained all the warning signs of infection to your sister and gave her a handout with what to look for and what to do.”
A light touch on her shoulder made Caitlyn look up. When she saw Brandan’s face, she nearly choked on a sob. But then she also saw the red-rimmed blue eyes gazing back at her and realized Brandan had been crying. Tears sprang to her own eyes again and she wanted nothing more than for Brandan to go away.
“I appreciate everything you did,” Caitlyn said, as she swiped the tears away with the wad of tissues Terrance had left behind. “Thank you.”
“Well,” Brandan shrugged, “you said it yourself. I’m the best. And you needed the very best for what had to be done with that hand of yours. You’re in for a long recovery, but I think you’ll be happy with the results, Caitlyn. You should be playing your cello in not time.”
“You really think so?” Caitlyn glanced at her hand.
It was bandaged all the way to the tips of her fingers and there was a metal cage-like immobilizer around it. Metal pins secured the cage in place. The thing really did look like something out of a horror movie.
“Time will tell, but I’m confident that everything will be fine once you’ve had time to heal and get through the physical therapy,” Brandan said. “I’ll get that schedule set up before you leave today.”
“So you’re sending me home?” Caitlyn looked up expectantly.
“I don’t see any reason why you should stay in the hospital. Do you?”
“No,” she replied with a shake of her head.
“Good,” Brandan started for the curtain. “I’ll let the nurses know to send your sister back here. I’m sure she’s anxious to see how you’re doing.”
Caitlyn didn’t have time to reply as Brandan walked away. She was left staring at the nurse’s station beyond the curtain, as people purposely walked back and forth. Her thoughts were in turmoil as she tried to piece together all that Brandan had said and didn’t say. She then stared down at her hand without really seeing it. There was so much to think about, especially where Brandan Stone was concerned.
The woman was an enigma. And Caitlyn could sense that she was holding something back. Her attitude was so different from when they had talked earlier. Brandan was distant and cold, like she was trying very hard to keep a professional bearing while they spoke there in the Recovery area. It was a far cry from the night they had spent together in the hospital room at Fairfield. The change in Brandan made Caitlyn realize just why the doctor had earned the nickname Cold Stone.
Brandan dragged herself into her house, through the foyer and into the kitchen with as much energy as she could muster, which wasn’t much. Three surgeries later, she was finally able to leave the surgery center and head for home. It was well past midnight and all she really wanted to do was head upstairs to bed and sleep like the dead.
But she also knew sleep would elude her if she went straight to bed. So, she opened the freezer, took out her favorite pint of Haagen Daas Belgian Dark Chocolate, grabbed a spoon and headed to the living room. She left the TV off and turned the stereo on low, then flicked a switch to bring a cozy fire to life in the gas fireplace. Once seated on the couch, she dug into the ice cream and relaxed for the first time all day.
It would have been perfect, except that she hadn’t changed the CD in the player and the soft strains of a cello solo wafted from the speakers. The music reminded her of Caitlyn and then her thoughts turned straight to the woman. The surgery had gone well—better than even she had expected, even. But there was something about the whole thing that just seemed wrong.
“Not wrong, but not quite right,” Brandan muttered as she set the container of ice cream on the coffee table. “Dammit!” She sat back hard and stared up at the ceiling above.
“Watch your language, young lady,” Mildred’s voice across the room nearly sent Brandan off the couch and into the ceiling above.
“What the—!!!” She exclaimed. “Aunt Millie! What the hell? You scared the shit out of me!”
“Watch your language, Brandan Alexandra!”
“It’s my damned house!” Brandan shot back as she crossed her arms over her chest and glared defiantly at the woman in the shadows. “I’ll curse up a storm if I want to. So, what the hell are you doing sitting over there in the damned shadows, scaring the shit out of people?”
“Waiting for you to come home,” Mildred replied. “What else? I’ve been here for hours and must have fallen asleep. The music woke me up. Not to mention you were mumbling to yourself over there.”
Mildred got up and walked over to a chair near the couch. She sat down and waited for Brandan to explain herself.
“It was a long day,” Brandan said. “I had four surgeries and the last one took longer than I thought it would. I thought you would be in bed by the time I got home. Obviously I was mistaken.”
“I would have been if you’d bothered to call and tell me you were going to be late,” Mildred’s tone was only slightly scolding.
“I’m not a kid, Aunt Millie,” Brandan pouted. “I don’t have to answer to anyone, especially in my own house.”
Mildred sighed. “Okay, you’re right.”
“I am?” Brandan didn’t bother to hide her surprise.
“Yes, you are,” Mildred said. “That’s why I’ve decided it’s time for me to move into my own place.”
“Wait, what?” Brandan sat forward on the edge of the couch. “What do you mean? You know you’re always welcome here. This place is huge. It has more rooms than an English manor house. I can’t live here all by myself, especially with the hours I keep. If you leave, then I might as well sell this place and buy a two-bedroom condo somewhere. I hear Edina is a decent place to live.”
“Maybe you should,” Mildred agreed. “I have a place all picked out and the rent is reasonable, so I’ll be moving out at the end of the month. Just in time for spring.”
“Bwah…” Brandan sat back again and stared at her aunt in confusion. “First, Aaron, and now you?”
“I promised your parents I would look after the two of you,” Mildred said. “You’re certainly old enough to look after yourself, now, Brandy. You don’t need me and neither does your brother. He found a place and has a job now. It’s time for me to live my own life.”
Tears sprang to Brandan’s eyes for the…How many times had that happened that day? She stared up at the ceiling and tried not to cry. Unfortunately, her emotions were getting the best of her.
“Damn!” She swiped at her eyes.
“It’ll be fine, Brandy. You’ll be just fine. And the place where I’ll be staying has bingo on Tuesdays, movie night on Wednesdays, and a potluck once a month. I’ll be with folks my own age and we can exchange gossip, like a bunch of old farts who have nothing better to do with their time.”
“You’re gonna hate it. You know that, right?” Brandan gave her a watery smile. “You don’t like old people, remember? They gossip too much. Your words. Not mine.”
Mildred shrugged. “Maybe I’ll have something in common with one or two of them. Who knows? The point is you need your space and I need to stop mothering you. It’s a win-win situation for both of us.”
Brandan chuckled mirthlessly. “What’s one more bright spot in an already shitty day?” Her tone dripped sarcasm.
“Want to talk about it?”
“Not really,” Brandan shook her head. “I think I’ll just throw my ice cream back in the freezer and head up to bed. Pretend this day never happened.”
“I’m here until the end of the month, if you need someone to talk to, Brandy,” Mildred offered, as her niece dragged herself toward the kitchen with slumped shoulders and a noticeable lack of spring to her step.
“Thanks, Aunt Millie,” Brandan said quietly as she continued on toward the kitchen.
Three weeks later, Caitlyn sat in the physical therapy room and tried not to burst into tears—again. Despite the fact she had taken her pain meds just before arriving for her appointment, she still felt every move the therapist made her do. The pain was tolerable, but it was still there and still bothered her.
The metal immobilizer had been removed and she now wore a Velcroed immobilizer on her wrist and hand. Except when she was doing her physical therapy. Her therapist, Jerrod, wanted her to do the therapy without the immobilizer on. That way he could monitor her progress. Besides, she couldn’t really move anything with the thing on.
Caitlyn stared at her hand and tried not to wince at how atrophied the muscles looked. She could see her bones right through the loose skin. And the bright-pink scars were still prominent where Dr. Stone had opened her up. At least the swelling was gone, for the most part. And there was no bruising anymore.
“It still looks like someone else’s hand,” she commented, as she tried to move it the way Jerrod demonstrated.
“Okay, now squeeze,” he said, ignoring her comment. “That’s it. You’re doing well, Caitlyn.”
“It hurts,” she said.
He looked up at her. “Did you take your pain meds an hour before you came, like I told you to?”
“Yes, Jerrod,” she rolled her eyes at him and earned a smile. “You should do that more often.”
“What?” The smile vanished.
“Smile,” she said. “You look years younger and a little less scary.”
He chuckled. “I’m scary for a reason. How else can I get you people to do what I want you to?”
“Ask nicely?” She winced when he turned her hand a little too far. “Ouch, that hurt.”
“And yet it moved a few degrees farther than it did on your last visit,” he smiled again. “That’s a really good sign. It means you’re regaining mobility and function.”
He handed her the immobilizer and waited for her to put it on.
“So, what’s the prognosis, doc?” She teased. “You cutting me loose?”
“Not by a long shot,” he smirked. “You and I still have a few more dates left before I can make you an honest woman, Cat. You don’t get off that easy.”
She groaned. “Damn. I was hoping for a nice reprieve.”
“No reprieves for you, my dear Caitlyn,” he added with a half-smile. “Not if you want to get back to playing that cello of yours. We still don’t have you at the point where you can even hold a ball. That’s coming, though.”
She looked at her hand dubiously. “This thing doesn’t look like it could hold a feather, much less a ball or a cello.”
“Not this week, at least,” he added. “But keep doing those exercises I gave you and we’ll eventually get there. You’ll see.”
“If you say so, Jerrod.” She didn’t sound convinced.
“Hey, they don’t call me the Miracle Worker for nothing.”
Her brow rose. “Does anyone actually call you that?”
“No, we don’t.”
One of the female physical therapists walked by at that moment and winked at Caitlyn.
“Watch it, Sam,” Jerrod teased. “I might just tell Mr. Davis that you think he has nice abs.”
She didn’t take the bait and just continued walking to the other side of the room.
Caitlyn chuckled. “Does he?”
“Who? Mr. Davis?” He shrugged with a small smile. “The man is in his sixties and wears long-sleeve flannel shirts every time he comes in for an appointment. His wife brings him. I have no idea what his arms or his chest look like.”
“Ah,” Caitlyn let Jerrod help her into her sling. “Thanks.”
“And your next appointment is?”
“Next Tuesday,” Caitlyn replied. “They set me up with appointments for the rest of the month.”
“Good,” he nodded. “Then I’ll see you next week.”
“Thanks, Jerrod,” she walked back to the reception area, where Tammy waited. “Hey, sis.”
“How’d it go today?” Tammy picked up her purse and slung it onto a shoulder. “Are we making progress?”
“Yes,” Caitlyn replied. “He thinks I’ll be ready to try to hold a ball in a week or so. The cello might take another month.”
Tammy’s face brightened. “Really? That’s awesome!”
“It is,” Caitlyn nodded. “I just wish…” She shook off the thought.
Tammy turned to see the sadness creep into Caitlyn’s eyes again. She wrapped an arm around Caitlyn’s shoulders and gently squeezed. “I know, Kit Cat. I know.”
They left the hospital and headed to Tammy’s minivan in silence. Caitlyn was certainly doing much better than she had in months. She had even had a few conversations, by phone, with Rosemarie. Those conversations always seemed to lift her spirits, at least for a time. The Hispanic woman still felt bad about what had happened the night of their first concert in Minneapolis, despite Caitlyn’s words of assurance to the contrary.
Caitlyn had a goal to reach and was determined to continue moving forward toward that goal. The Philharmonic was on the tail-end of its tour across the Continental U.S. They spent a month in California and were returning to the Midwest in a few weeks. Caitlyn was determined to join them. Maestro Abraham said he saved her first-chair spot and was looking forward to her return. The other musicians were also anxious to see her again. All that remained was for Caitlyn to regain the full use of her hand.
Not wanting to disappoint anyone, Caitlyn was working hard and doing her exercises religiously. Her only disappointment was that she would have to face Brandan Stone one last time in order to be cleared to play again. Her previous appointments with the doctor had gone well, at least in regards to her hand. Her heart, on the other hand, still hadn’t quite recovered. She still harbored feelings for the doctor and had to suppress them every time they were in the same room together.
Brandan, on the other hand, didn’t seem affected in the least. She was cold and distant at every appointment. Her demeanor was always pleasant, but there was a stoic professionalism to her bearing that was completely different from the woman who had visited her in the hospital late that night so long ago. Caitlyn’s heart ached every time she was around the woman and she was beginning to wonder if she hadn’t imagined the whole thing to begin with.
So, Caitlyn concentrated all her efforts into getting back into the Philharmonic and put all thoughts of a relationship with anyone completely out of her mind. She just couldn’t think of any other way to deal with the disappointment and the painful loss.
Brandan sat across the desk from her mentor and absently played with the desk pen she’d taken from the holder attached to his brass name plate. She refused to meet his steady gaze as he silently studied her from across the desk. Actually, she hadn’t looked up once for more than five minutes.
“Talk to me, Brandan,” he finally said. “Tell me why you’ve been so…You’re just not yourself. Everyone around here is walking on eggshells around you and it’s a real concern, for all of us.”
“I’m fine,” she didn’t look up. “Can’t help it if everyone else is overreacting over nothing.”
“This isn’t nothing, Brandan,” Sam prodded. “You’ve been like this ever since the day you performed surgery on that woman. What was her name?”
“Caitlyn Bradley,” she supplied flatly.
“Yes, Caitlyn Bradley,” he nodded. “She’s the one you wanted me to do the surgery on, isn’t she?”
“But she wanted you to do it, instead.”
“She’s still your patient.”
He leaned forward and clasped his hands together in front of him on his desk. “You still have feelings for her, then.”
“Y—” Her head snapped up and she met his gaze. “I…”
He held up a staying hand. “Don’t. I think I understand.” He sighed loudly. “And how have you been handling things. With Ms. Bradley, I mean. Because we all know how you’re handling this behind the scenes.”
She looked away. “I’ve been absolutely professional around her. The model of a detached surgeon. I hope you’re not insinuating…”
“I’m not insinuating anything, Brandan,” he interrupted. “I’m just asking you to talk to me. That’s all.”
She nodded. “Okay.”
“But I can plainly see that you still have feelings for her,” Sam continued.
“She’s my patient. End of story.”
“And you’re a human being, Brandan. Human beings can’t help the way they feel sometimes. And we can’t help who we fall in love with.”
“I won’t act on my feelings, if that’s what you’re getting at,” she met his gaze again. “You have my word, Sam.”
“I don’t doubt that for a minute,” he added. “But I’m worried about you, Brandan. You’re a great surgeon—one of the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t want your work to suffer because of this. It would be a terrible tragedy.”
“So, what are you saying?” She raised a brow at him. “Are you letting me go?”
“No,” he hurriedly replied. “Hell no, Brandan. I’m just not sure what we can do to help you get through this, short of sending you to a counselor. Why don’t you take a few days off? Clear your head in that cabin of yours up north. Then you can come back with a better attitude. If not, then we’ll consider sending you to a counselor.”
Brandan shot to her feet. “Discussion closed. I’m not going to a shrink over a little heartbreak, Sam. And you can’t make me.” She leaned set her hands on the desk and glared at him in open challenge. “Fire me if that’s what you want. I’ve done my job and I’ve done it better than most of the surgeons around. I’m damned good at what I do and I don’t let my personal life interfere in my professional work. Period. End of discussion.”
She didn’t wait for a reply. She merely turned on a heel and left his office without a backward glance. Sam just sat there at his desk and shook his head. How could things get so out of hand so quickly, he asked himself. He ran a hand over the gray stubble on his head and continued to ponder how he could have handled the conversation differently. Then he sat back in his chair and tilted his head back so he was staring up at the ceiling.
Trying to figure out what was in Brandan Stone’s head was like trying to lasso the moon—impossible. He sighed heavily as he realized there was no way to fix the situation. All he could do was smooth any feathers she ruffled and wait for the tide to turn.
Brandan marched out to the parking lot and climbed behind the wheel of her Escalade. She slammed a fist against the steering wheel in frustration, gripped the wheel in hold hands and then rested her forehead against her white knuckles.
She knew she hadn’t handled the conversation with her boss very well. But she didn’t know what else to do. Everything was just so screwed up. Her aunt was back at the house with the movers, clearing out her things. Aaron was living on his own in an apartment across town. And Caitlyn…
“Son of a bitch!” She hissed as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Every time she thought about the woman, her heart broke all over again. They couldn’t be together, yet everything seemed to be pointing her in Caitlyn’s direction. Brandan thought back to her conversation with Terrance a few days prior. He was fishing and she knew it. Asking all kinds of questions about Caitlyn and dropping hints about getting together with her, just the three of them. He suggested they go to one of the new gay bars in town and have a few drinks. Brandan declined the invitation flatly.
It was exasperating. Frustrating even. She wanted to rail at God for his hand in all of it. But Brandan knew God had nothing to do with the way she felt and with all that was happening to her. She had made her choices. She was responsible for what was happening.
Prayer hadn’t helped matters much, either. Nothing seemed to help. It was all just so hopeless.
Brandan sat up and looked out the front windshield. It was a gray day that matched her mood perfectly. She was due at Terrance’s clinic within the hour, but just couldn’t bring herself to go. She didn’t want to go. What she really wanted to do was take Sam’s suggestion to heart and drive up to her cabin. Just escape for a while and not think about anything.
She sat there for a moment longer, then reached into her pocket for her cell phone. Hitting a speed dial number, she waited a moment.
“Hey, Ter,” she said into the phone. “I won’t be coming in today.” She listened. “No, I’ve decided to leave town for a few days, so I won’t be available to take any calls. You know the reception sucks up there.” Another pause. “Yeah, I need a break. Headed up to the cabin. If anyone needs me, they can call my service and leave a message. I’ll let my service know they can contact Butch at the lodge if any emergencies come up. Otherwise, I’m off the grid until I get back. Understand?” She nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Take care, my friend. I’ll call you when I get back. Bye.”
She ended the call and tucked the phone back into her pocket. With her mind made up, she pulled out of the parking lot and headed north. Brandan was actually looking forward to an escape from life and responsibility as she pulled onto the highway and didn’t look back. There was even a small smile on her lips as she settled in for the long drive.
Caitlyn sat on the porch and let the sunlight warm her face. It was a beautiful day. Sunshine.A few puffy clouds.A warm breeze.Clear-blue sky above. Spring couldn’t be nicer. The air still carried just a hint of the crispness left over from winter, but it was quickly fading on the warm breeze. She flexed her hand, doing her exercises absently with her eyes closed.
“Hey, Auntie Cat,” a small voice intruded on her silent reverie.
“Hey, kiddo,” Caitlyn opened her eyes to find Brittany Paige, her niece, standing there in all her princess glory. “How’s my favorite princess today?”
“Good,” the little girl who most resembled her in looks replied with a bright, gap-toothed grin. “School was fun. We got to paint on easels and write about our favorite pets.”
“Cool,” Caitlyn smiled. “Don’t you have gymnastics this afternoon?”
The blonde head nodded, while the blue eyes brightened. “Gonna show my coach that I can do a backbend now. I’ve been practicing really hard.”
“Can you do one for me?”
“Uh-huh.” Brittany then took off down the front steps onto the grass.
She leaned way back with her arms extended until her hands were on the ground and she was bent into an arch. Then she kicked up and flipped over back onto her feet with her hands held up and her fingers out gracefully. She arched her back, lifted her chin and smiled.
“Awesome!!!” Caitlyn stood up and slapped her good hand against her thigh. “That was amazing, Britty!”
The girl skipped back up onto the porch with a triumphant grin. “I told you. I been practicing every day so I can be really good at it. Coach says I could be an Olympian some day.”
“That’s great!” Caitlyn took the girl’s outstretched hands in hers and they circled around together.
“Doesn’t that hurt your hand, Auntie Cat?” Brittany suddenly stopped and looked up at her with concern.
“No, actually,” Caitlyn’s smile widened. “I’ve been working really hard at getting it back to where it was before my accident. I guess I really didn’t think about how it felt until just now.”
They both studied Caitlyn’s hand. It was almost completely healed, except for the tell-tale scars. The muscle tone was much better than it had been a few weeks prior and it looked relatively normal. She compared it to her other hand, turning it over and over.
“Looks really good to me,” Brittany said. “Almost like a normal hand again.”
“Yes, it does,” Caitlyn made a fist and was a little surprised that it didn’t hurt when she squeezed her fingers together.
“Hard work really pays off, don’t it?” Brittany said. “That’s what Coach Julie says, anyway.”
“And Coach Julie is absolutely right,” she playfully ran the tip of her finger down the girls nose and Brittany giggled.
“What are you two girls up to out here?”
They both turned at the same time to find Tammy standing just outside the house with the screen door open.
“Nothing, Mom!” Brittany skipped over to her. “I just showed Auntie Cat my backbend and she showed me that her hand is almost all better.”
Tammy looked up at her sister with a quirked brow. “Oh?”
Caitlyn grinned. “Looks like I was inspired to show off a little.” She held out her hand and made a tight fist. “Didn’t know I could do that, just yet.”
Tammy stepped all the way out and let the screen close behind her. “Well, well, well,” she stood with her hands on her hips. “Does this mean what I think it means?”
Caitlyn held her hand close and absently rubbed it. “I guess it does.”
Tammy hugged her and they were joined in their hug by Brittany.
“Can we celebrate?” Brittany looked up at them expectantly.
“Hm,” Tammy stroked her daughter’s blonde head. “I guess that depends on what your aunt wants to do.” She then looked at Caitlyn. “Well?”
“Ice cream,” Caitlyn jumped when Brittany suddenly sprang up with a loud whoop. “Okay, okay, kiddo. You better run inside and tell your brother and sister the good news.”
The two women watched Brittany race into the house with an exuberant cheer. Tammy was the first to turn back to face her sister.
“I take it you’ll be headed back to New York, then,” she said with a touch of disappointment. “The kids will really miss having you around, sis.”
“And I’ll miss being here,” Caitlyn said. “But, yes, my life is in New York. This whole thing with my hand took so long that I missed the Philharmonic when they came back through. I need to at least go back and find out if I still have a job. I’m sure they found a new first-chair to replace me. Maybe I can aim lower and just get a seat in the orchestra. Or maybe one of the Broadway musical orchestras needs a decent cello player.”
“You’re better than that and you know it,” Tammy chided. “Don’t sell yourself short.” She smirked. “Your height takes care of that for you.”
“Ha ha,” Caitlyn smiled sarcastically. “You are sooooo funny, sister of mine.”
“Hey,” Tammy shrugged, “you get what you pay for, Kit Cat. And comedy ain’t my schtick.”
Tammy hugged her and she returned the hug. The moment lasted for barely a minute before they heard the enthusiastic yells from the house that were quickly followed by three happy kids bursting through the front door. The kids circled them while continuing to jump up and down and cheering at the top of their lungs.
“Okay! Settle down, you three!” Tammy ordered. The kids immediately stopped. “Get in the van and I don’t want to hear another peep out of anyone until we get to the ice cream shop. Got it?”
“Yes’m!” Trevor toddled after his two older sisters.
“Come on, Kit Cat,” Tammy wrapped an arm around her head and hugged her close. “Let’s go feed the kiddies some primo sugar, so they’re even more rambunctious than usual. And remember. You promised to babysit tonight while Jimmy and I go out to dinner and a movie.”
“What?” Caitlyn pulled her head free of her sister’s choke hold. “I did no such thing.”
“Yes, you did.”
“When you suggested we go get ice cream to celebrate your successful recovery.”
Caitlyn rolled her eyes. “You are such a brat, Tam.” She climbed into the passenger side of the minivan and put her seatbelt on. “And don’t think I’m going to forgive you for this.”
Tammy was on her cell phone as she climbed behind the wheel. “Hey, Jimmy. Guess what! Caitlyn agreed to babysit the kids tonight so we can go out.” She smirked at her sister, who glared back at her. Three cheers came from the back of the van. “Yes, I agree. Dinner and a late movie sounds really good. We’re on our way to get ice cream right now.” She chuckled. “Yes, they should be all wound up by the time we’re finished.” She gave her sister an air kiss and grinned. “Oh, I’m sure Caitlyn can handle them just fine.” She listened. “Yep. I’ll see you soon, hon. Drive safe. Love you. Bye.”
Caitlyn just continued to glare at her sister. “You’re still a brat.”
“Paybacks are hell, sister dear,” Tammy whispered loudly enough for her sister to hear, as she put the van in reverse and backed out of the driveway. “Besides, you have all that quiet time in New York to look forward to.”
Caitlyn didn’t deign to offer a response as they headed downtown to the kids’ favorite ice cream parlor. She really was going to miss them when she went back to New York. But she was also looking forward to a little peace and quiet. Other than the noise of traffic, the crowds and the lights, New York really was a kind of sanctuary for her. She just hoped she still had a job when she got there. Otherwise…She didn’t want to contemplate the alternative. It was just too unthinkable.
Continued in Part 6
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