Monday, November 10, 2008

Chapter Nine

I really can’t believe how fate works sometimes.

First, I see Emmanuelle Sutton in the grocery store, have a flash of our imagined future together, and then a second later, she’s gone.

Not a day later, she’s in my emergency room, and now, I’m standing in her kitchen, watching her pour mugs of tea with a practiced hand, and bustling around getting dinner ready for both of us.

And to think, we’ve lived mere blocks away for ages, only to meet under unusual circumstances.

Suddenly, I think I’m a much bigger believer in fate than I was only a few days ago.

“Come on through,” Emme says, leading me into her family room and settling herself on the sofa. I sit beside her, our plates and mugs within easy reach on the coffee table. “I’m afraid I’m pretty informal around here – I don’t even have a dining room table. Not like the no doubt twelve person table you have fitted with the finest china for your copious dinner parties.”

I grin at her teasing, and then nod regally. “Finest china, AND the good silver. Naturally.”

“Impressive,” she says, grinning over the rim of her mug. “All I’ve got for dinner parties are my coffee table and whoever is on the BBC to serve as my guests.”

“You don’t entertain much?” I ask, genuinely curious. For someone who seems to have such vitality and wit, surely she has a wide group of friends, but she shakes her head slowly.

“I’m kind of a loner, and besides, I’m not here a lot of the time.”

“Why is that?”

She tucks her feet under her then takes a bit of her sandwich, chewing slowly. “I work away a lot. A lot of traveling.”

“What do you do, anyway?” I ask, realizing I know nothing about this girl, no matter how attracted I am to her.

“I buy art for galleries,” she says easily.

“I’m surprised you don’t live in London, then. Seems like the market for a career like that would be much bigger there,” I say, taking a bite of my own sandwich.

She shrugs. “True, but I grew up near here – in Alfriston. And I wanted to come back to the area when I finished school.”

“Where did you go to school?”

She casts her eyes down, as though embarrassed. “The Sorbonne.”

I whistle through my teeth. “You must be a pretty smart cookie, then.”

She smiles with a touch of wicked in her eyes. “I can hold my own. Or, at least I could before I got all that brain damage.”

“And so after the Sorbonne, the wilds of Eastbourne are really that interesting?”

She shrugs, seemingly embarrassed again. “I like it here. And it’s not that far to Gatwick, so most of my travel is easy. And with the internet, I can really work anywhere. Art has a pretty big presence online.”

“Must be interesting work,” I venture and she smiles.

“Well, it’s not life or death like your particular line of work, but yes, I enjoy it. I like seeing people’s faces when you have found that piece of art that really *speaks* to them, you know? It’s like when people hear Beethoven for the first time, or taste their first bite of caviar or whatever floats their boat. It’s just a momentary look of bliss – I love that.” She stops, and I smile at her candor.

“It’s not often you find someone passionate about what they do. Sounds like it’s a good fit for you.”

“Lately it seems like I’ve been traveling a lot, and not having a lot of that reward. Still, it pays the bills, I suppose,” she says, and I nod. “I imagine you do all right in the bill paying department, Mr. Important Doctor Man.”

I laugh out loud at her teasing tone. “I’m still paying off scads of student loans, so I haven’t quite picked out the colour of my Porsche yet, if that’s what you’re implying.”

“You love what you do?” she asks, and seems to genuinely care about the answer.

I nod. “I do. Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to be a doctor. It’s like that ‘moment of bliss’ for you – I like healing someone and watching them pick up their life and keep going. Sure, there are heartbreaks, but…” I shrug. “It’s truly the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

“Eastbourne must present some, um, unique cases,” she says delicately, and I laugh again.

“True, the demographic of those I treat tend to fall into the elderly category, but they are just as important, and actually, Eastbourne is a surprisingly healthy place to live. I know I could get a lot more challenging cases somewhere like London or Manchester, but I like the smaller atmosphere here – and the feeling that people are truly grateful for your care. I like helping the older folks, rather than just treating gunshot wounds or car crash victims. I guess that may change in time, but I doubt it.”

I surprise even myself with this declaration. I’ve never really articulated my feelings on the medical profession before, nor my feelings on working in Eastbourne, instead of somewhere more challenging.

But you know, I kind of like it here. I don’t plan to leave anytime soon. My roots are here, and so I shall stay.

Particularly if Emme is just around the corner.

But, I chide myself mentally, let’s not go putting the cart ten miles before the horse. You’ve only just met the girl.

“You grew up here?” Emme asks curiously.

I nod my assent. “I did. I grew up in Lewes, but went to school in London. My father works in London, and so does my brother, but we’re…” I shrug. “We’re not close. So, my patients become my family. What about you? Family?”

She shakes her head. “Orphan. No family to speak of. Maybe that’s why I stay here – to hang on to something from my past.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your parents…”

“It was a long time ago. I’ve adjusted. Didn’t even need that much therapy.”

I look down at my plate, thinking we’ve stumbled into serious territory, rather than lighthearted frivolity. I think it’s time for a change of gears. “So tell me something interesting about Emme Sutton I would never know by looking at her,” I say, giving her an encouraging smile. “Entertain me with your daring.”


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