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In the midst of a malpractice lawsuit and a breakup, neurosurgeon Maggie is unsure of what to do next. She heads to her estranged father’s home and they begin to rebuild a relationship, but the turmoil continues …
Once Sully had gone to bed Maggie got on her own computer. She might not be a trained investigator but she was damn sure an experienced researcher. She started by collecting the possible variants on the name Cal. Calhoun, Calvin, Carlisle, Carlton, Carver, Caleb, Callahan. Then she tried just plain Cal Jones. She found several obituaries but not a single reference, so if he was a serial killer he was still an unknown one. She spent two hours on that.
And she heard her phone chime with a text. It was from Andrew. I heard about Sully. Is he doing well? Are you?
We’re fine, she texted back.
No comment returned and she went back to tinkering on her laptop. It was about ten minutes when her phone rang and she saw the call was from Andrew. She sent it to voice mail. There was a ping – message received.
There were so many times over the past three weeks she had wished to hear Andrew’s confident and reassuring voice. To feel his arms closing around her. She had a few close women friends. There was Jaycee and a few of the women she worked with, but Andrew had been the only man in her life for a long time. Since Sergei. And Sergei had been a total mistake. An artist of Ukrainian descent who wanted to marry an American doctor or someone of equal income potential. He’d had the mistaken impression she came from money because of the show Phoebe and Walter could put on. Walter could affect an image of aristocracy.
“I am so lousy at men,” she muttered to herself.
But Andrew shouldn’t have been a mistake. Her eyes had been wide open – they were both professionals with young practices and bruised hearts. She’d been thirty-four, he almost forty. His marriage had been longer but far more expensive and his ex had been so mean. Sergei hadn’t been mean, not at all. In fact he’d been charming. Sweet. And after nine months of marriage expected a house, a car and fifty percent of her income for the next twenty years.
It turned out she’d had good instincts about lawyers. Thank God.
She didn’t listen to Andrew’s message, but she saved it. There would probably be a time soon when she’d crave that soothing voice. She wondered if he even realized that after all the storms she’d weathered lately one of her darkest hours had been the sight of Sully gripping his chest, panting, washing pale. She knew true terror in that moment.
It was amusing to Maggie that her mother thought Sully was such a loser, a simple, laid back general store owner, a country boy, an underachiever. Maggie didn’t see him that way at all. Sully was her rock. In fact, he was a lot of people’s rock. He had a strong moral compass, for one thing. He worked hard but he wasn’t a slave to his work, he saw the merits to a balanced life. He was possessed of a country wisdom attained through many years of watching people and learning about human nature. And he was true. He was the most loyal individual on earth. Sully thought Maggie was smart to strive to be as successful as Walter. But Maggie wished she could be more like Sully.
She settled back on the couch and played Andrew’s message.
“Maggie, listen, babe, I’m sorry about your crisis with Sully. Is he there with you in Denver? When I get a day I can come up and check on you both…”
“I don’t want to be checked on,” she said to the phone.
“It’s been pretty crazy here or I might’ve heard sooner. I just heard about the bypass a couple of days ago but I was told he was doing great and you were with him so I didn’t jump on the phone.”
“Yeah, why would you do that?”
“And what’s this I hear that you took a vacation? Of indefinite duration? I hope that doesn’t have anything to do with our disagreement.I know you’re probably upset with me, I know that. Honey, I just want what’s best for you and I could tell I wasn’t helping anything. Maybe I made the wrong call but I thought it was probably best if you looked further than me to get support right now. I don’t know anyone who could cope with all you’ve been through any better than you have, but I just felt so helpless, and that wasn’t good for you…”
“I sucked the life out of you, remember?”
“Call me, please. Or email me or something. Let me know what I can do, when we can talk. You know how much I care about you and Sully.”
“Actually, I’m a little murky on that…”
“Maggie?” Sully said from the hall. “Who the devil are you talking to?”
She jumped in surprise. He was wearing his pajamas, his white hair mussed and spiking. “Um… the television?”
“The TV isn’t on,” he said.
“Okay, I was talking back to a message from Andrew. You don’t dump someone and then leave a kind and caring message. Too little, too late.”
“Hm,” he said, thinking on that for a moment.
“I think I need a fresh start,” she informed him. “I’d like to go back to eighth grade and rethink everything.”
“I think this heart business has taken a toll on you,” he said. “I’m sorry about that.”
“It wasn’t exactly your fault,” she said. “Aside from your genetics, you’ve been in good health. Your father and grandfather had health issues they didn’t even know about. At least yours is resolved.”
“I understand all that but there’s one thing you’re going to have to make peace with one way or another. I’m seventy. I’m going to die before you do.”
“That takes a toll,” she informed him. “Remember you said you weren’t quite ready? You remember saying that? In the ambulance?”
“If God takes me home in March it’s only because he means to punish everyone I hold dear, from the folks who help run this little place to all the folks who pass through. I wasn’t done with the clean-up. That’s all I meant by that. Now will you take one of them anxiety pills the doctor gave you and get some sleep? Unless you want to bitch at Andrew’s message some more, of course.”
“I thought coming back here would help me get perspective,” she said.
“We been in Denver, Maggie. We haven’t been back two full days. Even God needed seven to get it together. Jesus.” He ran a hand over his head and wandered back to his bedroom.
“I’ve always had kind of high expectations of myself,” she yelled at his back.
“No shit,” he returned.
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