I didn’t fall in love with my husband at first sight.
In fact, it took two months, three days, eleven hours and thirteen minutes before I knew it was love.
Funny thing was, I didn’t realise it until I was about to marry another man.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was a gloomy Tuesday afternoon in October and the Emergency Department of Raigmore Hospital had been quiet, save for the occasional hacking cough and the low-level chatter of patients and staff. Coming off my break, where I had woofed down a chicken sandwich between gulps of lukewarm coffee, I rounded the desk to reception to see that Geillis Duncan was in her usual commanding spot, suspiciously eyeing a small vase of long-stemmed yellow roses.
“These arrived for ye while ye were on yer break, hen” she said as I drew near, nodding her head at the vase where I could see a card attached.
Love, Frank. Was all that was written. What was he sending me flowers for?
“Guess the wee bouquet will be from Frank, then?”
Geillis’ thinly veiled insult was refrained but expected; she and Frank had clashed almost from the off, for several different reasons. She found him to be a “condescending ass” while Frank often referred to her as “the Scottish Shrew”. Best friends they were never going to be, but they tried to keep it respectful for my sake.
Frank and I had moved to Inverness from Oxford six months before. He had had the intention of spending a year researching the Highlands so that he could fulfil his lifelong dream of writing a book about the culture and the ’45. Unwilling to be parted from him for so long, I had sought a transfer to Raigmore, hoping to begin my speciality training in surgery. And for the first eight weeks after the move, everything had been perfect.
Until Frank accepted a year-long teaching position in Boston.
Probably best not explore that quagmire of feelings, Beauchamp.
I gently touched the petals and nodded.
“Ye ken,” Geillis casually began after a minute. “In all the time since ye started working here, I still dinna know how the two of ye got engaged.”
“No? It’s not much of a story really.”
“Come on, hen!” She pleaded, refusing to give in to my vagueness. “Was it romantic? Did ye sweep each other off yer feet? How did he propose? Did he get down on one knee? How come ye never wear the ring? Have ye chosen a date yet?”
I laughed. “Today too slow for you, Duncan?” I teased.
She rolled her eyes. “A little,” she conceded. “But I’d like tae ken what motivated him into proposing and then abandon ye for a year to live in Boston.”
“He hardly abandoned me!” I scoffed, loading the next patients file and giving it a precursory once over; 24-year-old male. Dislocated shoulder. Reduction only. “And as to his motives – you’ll have to ask him that for yourself, Sherlock.”
“Like he would tell me anything,” she grumbled, eyeing the flowers thoughtfully. “Besides, I’d be asleep before he finished saying ‘hello’.”
I shot her a look. “Your continuing hostility with each other certainly is commendable.”
She merely grinned at me. “Tis the only thing we have in common, hen.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The young man sitting on the bed barely acknowledged my presence. His head was bent low, his left hand clutching the right shoulder as he gently rocked back and forth in pain. I knew he had been given painkillers once he had returned from X-ray, but as I could see the swelling that rose up beneath the skin of his shoulder, I appreciated that they might not have quite taken effect.
“Good afternoon.” I smiled, closing the curtain and coming to stand beside him. I could feel the heat from his skin, but I doubted that it had to with any rising fever. “My name is Doctor Beauchamp and I’m going to take a quick look at your shoulder if I may?”
“Can you tell me how it happened?” I asked, leaning over to retrieve a pair of blue gloves from one of the drawers beside the bed. The young man looked up and though drawn with pain and stubbled with red beard, he had a strong, good-humoured face topped with a head of cinnamon curls, darkened by sweat.
“Fell over wi’ my hand out. I landed and crunch! There it went.”
“What were you doing?” I began probing the shoulder, making him grimace in pain. He squeezed his eyes shut and set his teeth to his lower lip.
He hissed. “Playing Shinty.”
I nodded in understanding; I had treated many broken bones and bleeding noses caused by that game since moving to the Highlands. “Did you at least win?”
“Oh. Aye!” His mouth twitched into a grin.
“That’s alright then.” I said, giving him my most reassuring smile as I finished my assessment. “Your X-ray came back and you will be pleased to know that you haven’t broken any bones. It means that I can carry out a pretty easy procedure right here called a reduction. It will pop the joint back into the socket. Are you happy for me to go ahead with this?”
“Aye.” He nodded his head, white-faced.
I knew he had declined the sedative when it was offered, so I kept one eye on him as I began to rotate his arm around the shoulder joint. “This is the worst part,” I warned after several minutes, cupping the elbow gently.
“It canna hurt much worse than it does.”
A few more rotations went by until suddenly the shoulder gave a soft crunching pop! And the joint was back in place. We both tensed and then simultaneously breathed out. I took a step back to give him some space and watched as he stared at his shoulder in amazement, pressing his long fingers to it as a delighted spread across his face.
He looks younger when he does that.
“It doesna hurt anymore!”
“It will,” I began to explain, turning my attention back to the drawers in search of a triangular bandage. “The muscle will be sore for the next few days so you must keep your arm in a sling until the pain settles.”
“Will I need tae stay here overnight?”
I shook my head. “No. But I will need to send you back up to X-ray to check that the joint is in the correct position. Once that’s done and I’ve seen it, you should be able to go home later today.”
“Shame…” he murmured as I tied off the sling and adjusted it to fit more comfortably.
“If you like the hospital that much, Mr Fraser, then you are in for a treat.” I laughed, peeling off the gloves and clicking my pen to make a quick note on his casualty card. “You’ll have to come back in a few days for a follow-up appointment and you may be referred to physiotherapy to help strengthen your shoulder. You are not quite out of the woods yet.”
The young man slid off the bed and slowly stood. Jesus H Roosevelt Christ! He is a giant!
“Thank ye for yer kind touch, Doctor Beauchamp.”
“Think nothing of it, Mr Fraser.” I smiled up at him, motioning for him to follow me back to Reception.
“Why, wee fox,” Geillis exclaimed as we appeared before her. “Ye were in the best hands with Doctor Beauchamp here.”
The tips of his ears turned pink.
“Geillis,” I interjected, hoping to distract her from saying anything more. “I need to refer Mr Fraser back up to X-ray before I am happy to discharge him.”
“Oh. Certainly, Doctor Beauchamp. Leave it with me.” She nodded as I handed her my notes. I was about to turn back to James Fraser to wish him all the best when I heard the distinct ring of the Emergency Red Phone.
Then, a missing heartbeat later. “Adult trauma call. Seven minutes.”
Taking a deep, calming breath, I smiled faintly at him and made my way towards the trauma unit.
So much for a quiet afternoon.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What I really needed after today was sleep.
A solid twelve-hours should do the trick.
The incoming call had been for an RTA; two cars and a motorbike had been involved. And while the drivers had sustained only minor injuries, the motorcyclist had been a different matter. I doubted that the scrubs I had been wearing would ever be clean of the blood.
I shuffled about the kitchen of my flat, throwing a teabag into a mug, and opened the fridge in search of the milk. But, upon seeing only a margarine tub and an opened packet of wilting salad leaves, I finally remembered that I needed to go food shopping.
Excepting defeat, I retreated to the bathroom. Once showered and snuggled into the last of the clean pyjama-bottoms (I apparently need to do the washing too) and an old t-shirt of Frank’s, I crawled into bed and closed my eyes, willing the blissful ignorance of sleep to take me down into its depths.
Until an irritating persistent buzz pulled me back out.
I scrambled to sit-up; the feat not made easy by my legs being tangled up in the duvet. My phone was gently vibrating upon its makeshift shelf of half-finished books piled by the bedside. In the befuddled haze of being unceremoniously dragged into consciousness, I swiped my thumb to accept the call.
“Claire?” Frank! “Sorry darling. Did I wake you?”
Just like that, I went from displeasure to happiness. “S’ok. How is Boston?”
“Very beautiful and busy, as usual.” He sounded excited. “I was just phoning to wish you a happy birthday.”
I blinked. Then frowned. Was it the 20th already? I glanced at my watch. Oh!
“Thank you, darling. And thank you for the flowers; they are beautiful.” I smiled, suddenly realising why he had sent them. I wanted to say more; to ask him about everything that had happened since we last spoke, to hear his thoughts and to share in his news. I wanted to share my own, to fill him in on all the little things that we had missed, that I had missed by him not being here. “What time do I need to pick you up from the airport on Friday?”
There was a pause.
“Now, Claire, darling. Don’t be mad.”
“Why should I not be mad, Frank?” I replied, narrowing my eyes in the darkness.
I heard him sigh.
Ah! I know that sigh. I am about to be very disappointed.
“There is a function being held for the faculty this Saturday and I’ve been invited. It is very important fundraiser for the university, darling.” He paused again “So, I’m afraid I won’t be back this weekend after all.”
I stilled. “What did you just say?”
“Oh! I heard, Frank.” The phone was beginning to shake in my hand. “Forgive me, but I thought we had all this arranged months ago.”
“I appreciate that, darling. But this was all very last minute. I had hoped that you would understand how important this will be for me, Claire. For us.”
Understand? Understand? Oh, I bloody understood alright.
“Will you at least be coming back before Christmas or should I cancel all of those plans too?” I asked through gritted teeth. After all, one o’clock in the morning seemed a perfectly reasonable time to be drawn into an argument with someone three-thousand miles away.
“There is no need for that tone, Claire.”
“There is no tone, Frank.” I seethed, far too tired to reign myself in. “Just disappointment.”
“I miss you too.” He tried to sound soothing but he had clearly completely missed my inflection. “Look, I must be quick as I have a lecture in about two-minutes. Would you mind posting a few things over for me? Teabags and the like?”
“What?” I spluttered in disbelief, my mind whipping back and forth with the breath-taking shift in conversation. Was he now asking me to send him a bloody care package?!
“I’ll try to call later, I promise.” He added, his voice growing distant as he moved the phone away from his ear. “Have a lovely day, darling. Happy birthday!”
And then he was gone.
I had to take several deep breaths to stop from screaming in frustration. Bloody typical Frank! I put the phone down as gently as I could.
Well, at least he remembered your birthday, Beauchamp.
Infuriated beyond words, there was absolutely no way I would be able to go back to sleep until I somewhat calmed down. And the only way I was going to do that was to exhaust the anger out.
I pushed back the duvet, threw on my running gear, shoved in my earphones and loaded the loudest, angriest playlist I had. I then went and spent two hours pounding the pavements along the river that meandered through the city, lost to my thoughts.