Harper did her best trying to reschedule everyone for next week, but it still feels like I have a million patients to see today. By the time the last of them leaves the examining room, it’s nearly seven.
I feel guilty about it, but Harper insists on staying to help me. But after I send the last patient out, I come out to tell her to go home immediately. For all I know, she’s got a big exam to study for this weekend. I don’t want my drama to be the reason she doesn’t get into medical school.
When I reach Harper’s desk, she’s packing up her stuff. She smiles up at me when she sees me. “I was going to head out, unless you needed something else?”
“God, no. Please go home.” “Thanks.”
I watch Harper for a moment, realizing not for the first time how pretty she is. That long dark hair. And when she looks up at me, her eyes are so blue.
Just like Shelby Gillis and Amber Swanson. And Mandy Johansson.
I swallow and look at my watch. “It’s pretty dark out. Do you want me to call security to escort you to your car?”
“No, that’s fine.”
“Really, you shouldn’t go out alone. It’s not safe.”
Harper bites on her thumbnail. “Actually, I’m not going alone.” “You’re not?”
“Philip waited for me.”
My stomach sinks. She called him Philip. Great.
As if on cue, Philip emerges from the back. He’s changed out of his scrubs into a nice dress shirt and slacks, and he looks devastatingly handsome. Harper glances over at him, and I can see her swoon a bit.
“Harper and I are just going out for a quick drink.” Philip grins at me. “You’re welcome to join us, Nora, if you’re over your stomach bug.”
I don’t appreciate the sarcastic edge in his voice when he says “stomach bug.”
I’m tempted to join them, just to make sure there isn’t any hanky-panky. But I have way too much work to catch up on, and I’m meeting the home security guy in only an hour. So I shake my head.
“Have a good time,” I mutter. Philip winks at me. “We will.”
As much as it burns me up that Philip is going out with Harper, even though I repeatedly warned him against it, at least I know she’s safe. Philip could be a jerk sometimes, but he won’t let anything happen to her. She won’t be wandering the streets at night all alone if she’s with him. He’ll make sure to deposit her directly at her door.
I return to my office to do the part of my job I like least: paperwork. There are mounds of it waiting for me. I bet fifty years ago, surgeons didn’t have to go through this crap. You just cut into people, fixed the problem, scribbled a quick note saying something along the lines of, “took out appendix,” and then that was it. Now we are expected to document everything. It’s a job in itself.
As I work my way through my documentation, I find my mind wandering. Mostly, I keep thinking about the empty home I’ll be going back to. Even with the security system in place, it scares me. For once in my life, I don’t want to be alone.
And maybe not just entirely because I’m scared.
I take out my phone and bring up Brady’s number. I never called him, because if I did, he would have my number. And that would open up a whole can of worms. But then again, he’s been treading more carefully since I dropped my revelation on him. Maybe I could send him a quick text message. Not that he’s likely to even respond. But you never know.
I bring up the text box. And I write: Hi.
I hesitate for a split second, then I press send.
Why am I doing this? Why am I bothering him on a Friday night, when he has basically told me he wants nothing to do with me? How come every time I feel terrible, my first instinct is to go to him?
And he’s not responding, which shouldn’t be a surprise. So that’s that. But then a text pops up on my screen: Nora?
Oh right, he didn’t know who I was because he didn’t have my number. But he figured it out pretty easily.
Yes, it’s me.
I half expect him not to respond again, but after three dots are on the screen for what feels like an interminable amount of time, he writes back: Is everything OK?
Yes. Of course, that’s not the truth. Everything is definitely not okay. But I feel like I need to explain myself. I just want you to know, I’m not like my father. I hope you don’t think that. He’s a monster.
When I looked into my father’s eyes yesterday, the same color as my own, I felt the difference between us. He’s a cold-blooded murderer. Even after all these years in prison, he hasn’t changed. I’m not like that. Despite what he said to me.
There’s a long wait while Brady is typing. I hold my breath, wondering what he’s going to say. Finally, his reply appears on the screen:
I look at my watch. I’ve got to get home to meet the security guy. I shouldn’t have been chatting with Brady. I should have been finishing up my work here, but it’s too late for that now. I’ve got to get home. I’ll have to finish my documentation later tonight, likely in my kitchen with a TV dinner.
I arrive back at my house a few minutes after eight. I expect to see the security guy’s van waiting for me there, but instead, the street outside my house is empty.
I stay in my car. I don’t even want to go into my house until I’ve got the security system in place. God only knows what I’ll find in there today.
Except another fifteen minutes goes by and there’s no sign of the man who was supposed to install my security system. I received a confirmation email earlier today, so I open up my email to see if I got the time wrong. Except when I open my email, there’s another message from the security company:
Sorry you had to reschedule your appointment! This is a confirmation that we have rescheduled you for Monday morning at 8 AM.
I stare at the email, my head spinning. Is this some kind of joke? I didn’t reschedule the appointment! Why would I do that after I was so
desperate to get the guy to come tonight?
I try calling the number for the company, but of course, it’s after hours so nobody picks up. Wonderful.
I look over at my house. At the black windows. I don’t want to go in there alone.
So instead, I go to my text messages. And I write one to Brady: Any chance I could come over now?
His reply comes almost instantly: