He saved my life. A cliché? No. A fact. Scott Warren, cardiothoracic surgeon, literally fixed my broken heart. He put me back together. He saved me. And that probably is a cliché, but I can’t help it if our story started out as something straight from an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Oh, he didn’t cross any lines, if that’s what you’re thinking. It wasn’t like that. I was his patient, he was my doctor. And that’s exactly how it stayed, until that night, three years later – the first time we’d seen each other since he’d given me a clean bill of health; when I’d closed the door of his consulting room behind me, grateful for everything he’d done, but never expecting to see him again, even though we lived in the same town. But a man like that, he was never going to mix in my circles, was he? We moved in very different worlds, even though we lived within the same postcode. Until that night. The night that brought us back together.
It was a charity event down on the harbour, here in Beachcastle Bay, where we once again came face-to-face, but this time under completely different circumstances. That was the night when the heart he’d fixed started to make all the decisions for me. It was almost as if, the day he’d opened me up; the day he’d made my heart start to beat again, it was like he’d left a little piece of himself inside of me, so he could find me, when the time was right.
We married just four months later, after everything I’d been through I didn’t want to waste any time. Neither did he. There was no need. We fell in love, and we both fell hard, waiting wasn’t an option. He was my dream come true, my knight in shining armour, and I know, there I go with the clichés again, I’m just trying to make you understand how special and beautiful Scott Warren was. Was. I’m emphasising that word because it matters. I’m using the past tense because my knight in shining armour turned out to be nothing more than a gameplayer. A man too used to being adored; looked up to. Worshipped. And in his professional life maybe that was warranted. I can’t deny he’s a brilliant surgeon, no matter what happened between us, personally, the man saved my life. Remember? But outside of those hospital walls his ego inflated to levels he had no right reaching. He fed off adoration. He craved attention. And for me, it became too exhausting, after a while, his need to be worshipped on an almost constant basis. I spent so much time wondering why I’d never noticed that before, but, the truth was, I’d been blinded by a man who’d used the fact he’d, quite literally, saved me as an emotional weapon. That’s what it felt like, anyway. In the end he made me feel like I was beholding to him, for keeping me alive. Like I owed him something.
I owed him nothing.
I got out before he could do any real damage. But he fought me. He tried to make me stay, because for someone like him to have his wife walk out on him, what did that look like? People didn’t walk away from Scott Warren. Except, I did. Why on earth would I want to stay with a man who only wanted me there to fulfil a role; be his faithful, adoring doormat? Fuck that! I didn’t need that shit. I didn’t need the big house, didn’t want his money, or the status that, apparently, came with being married to such an influential man. Is that what he was? To me he was nothing more than an egotistical control freak with a god complex, but the side of him that I saw very rarely made an appearance outside of our – his – rather too large but undeniably beautiful home.
Two days after I’d walked out he’d moved one of his mistresses in. A medical secretary from the hospital – Lucie, I think her name was – a woman young enough to be his daughter. Yeah. Another cliché. They just keep on coming, don’t they? And, yes, you heard right, I said one of his mistresses. Come on! I knew about the cheating. In the end, anyway. Once the rose-tinted glasses had come off and the fog had lifted. She’s welcome to him. They all are. I got what I was owed, from the divorce, which wasn’t a bad deal considering we hadn’t been married all that long. To be honest, once we’d reached that point he’d given up fighting, but he didn’t agree to the rather large settlement I was finally given because he thought I deserved it. He gave me what I think I was most definitely owed because he thought that would satisfy me. Silence me. He had a carefully cultivated reputation to uphold, and I could’ve destroyed that. Or, at least, sowed some seeds of doubt in the minds of people who truly believed he was this wonderful, kind, brilliant man. Those people are still wearing the rose-tinted glasses. They still see him through a fog that masks the truth about the man he really is. Let them believe what they like. I was never going to do anything to damage him, or his reputation. I’m not the vindictive type. I’m just glad to be free of him. He’s someone else’s problem now.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer somewhere bigger?” Josh – my son – stands in the middle of my light, bright hallway, his hands on his hips as he looks around him. “I always thought you’d taken this place as a stop-gap. But you’re still here.”
“Because I like it here. Why would I want to be rattling around in a place too big for just one person? This is perfect. It’s close to the harbour, the views are gorgeous, the neighbours are quiet, and the commute to work is a fifteen minute walk.”
Josh leans back against the wall and slides his hands into his pockets. “I know, it’s just, you deserve so much more.”
I raise an eyebrow as I carry the bags of groceries through into the kitchen, dumping them gently down onto the counter. “A bigger house, you mean?”
“No. That’s not what I… Okay. Maybe it is.” He comes over and places his hands palm-down on the counter-top. “Why don’t you look for a place closer to ours? I worry about you, Mum.”
“Josh, I’m fine. I don’t need looking after.”
He throws back his head and sighs. “I’d just feel better if you lived closer, that’s all.”
“You really don’t need to worry about me, sweetheart. I’m fit, healthy, and checked over regularly. I never forget to take my medication, I exercise, eat all the right stuff, everything’s okay. I’m okay.”
“I’m always going to worry about you.”
I smile and reach out to touch his cheek. “Welcome to my world. Anyway, would you really want your mum living around the corner?”
“Yes, I would. I’d like that.”
I raise a slightly sceptical eyebrow as I start to unpack the groceries. “Are you staying for something to eat?”
“No. I promised Natalie I’d be home for dinner. First time this week.”
“A lot of late shifts, huh?”
My son. The police officer. Detective, actually, to be more accurate, and his ambitions don’t stop there. He’s only twenty-six but he’s aiming high, and I’m so proud of him, because he didn’t have the easiest of starts. I fell pregnant at seventeen, a stupid, one-night-stand that meant nothing, and then everything, when Josh was born. He became my entire world, and even though we struggled for a long time I had the best friends and a support network I am eternally grateful for; people I can never repay enough. And, yes, I’ve had one or two relationships over the years, but nothing that ever came to anything. Not until I met Scott, anyway, but by that time Josh was all grown up with a life of his own. Before that, I hadn’t wanted to bring someone into Josh’s life – our life – if I couldn’t be sure they’d stick around. Josh came first. Josh always came first. But, you know, there’s got to come a time when I start to put me first, right? That time’s coming.
“Late shifts are all part of the job. It comes with the territory, Natalie understands that. She doesn’t exactly work nine-to-five herself.”
Natalie. Josh’s beautiful, incredibly talented girlfriend. She’s a medical student, just about to begin her foundation programme at the local hospital so, yes, Josh is right. She understands all too well the crazy hours both their chosen careers entail.
I smile at him. “You should take a holiday. You and Natalie could do with some quality time together, alone, you haven’t had a proper break in ages. Would she be able to take some time out, before her programme begins?”
“I don’t know.” He looks at me, and frowns. “Are you trying to get rid of me?”
“Honest answer? Yes.”
He laughs and picks up a jar of peanut butter from the counter. “Crunchy? Since when have you liked crunchy peanut butter?”
I take the jar from him and put it in the cupboard. “Since forever. It was you who would only eat smooth, remember? You think I didn’t have a jar of this stuff stashed away in the back of the cupboard just for me?”
“So much I still don’t know about you,” Josh tuts, shaking his head and sliding his hands back into his pockets, his mouth slowly turning up into a smile.
“Go home, Josh. Spend some time with Natalie, and quit worrying about me.”
“Make sure you do.”
He holds up his hands in surrender. “Okay. I get the message.”
I smile at him, to let him know that I understand, and I love that he feels the need to protect me, I do, but I don’t need protecting. I never did.
“I’m just worried that – “
“Go home, Josh.”
He plucks an apple from the bowl on the counter and tosses it into the air before catching it, and biting into it. “Alright. I’m out of here. I’ll call you later.”
“Please, don’t… Hey, I’m serious! No phone calls!”
But he’s walking away now, keeping his back to me as he raises an arm and waves it around in a kind of ‘whatever’ manner. And I know he’s only doing what he’s doing because he loves me. Because he worries about me, after everything I’ve been through. Because he thinks my marriage to Scott damaged me, in some way, but he’s wrong. I didn’t let it. I got out in time, remember? I’m much happier on my own, if truth be told. I feel free for the first time in years. No controlling husband, no dependent son; my business – a café on the harbour-front – it’s doing really well, I’m fine. On so many levels. I’m fine…
I’ve spent too much time trying to pretend shit didn’t happen; trying to block out reality, but you can’t do that forever. I know that now. Sometimes, that reality, it comes back to hit you so hard; comes at you so fiercely you have no time to prepare, and once the dust has settled you’re left with a million and one things to think about that had never even been on your radar before. I should know. Reality… Yeah. What a bitch!
Closing the door of my rented beach house behind me I go over to the window and pull back the curtains. The view’s great. Right on the beach. It’s exactly what I was looking for, because I could be here for a while. I’ve certainly got no plans to go home just yet.
Heading into the kitchen I open the fridge. The rental company were as good as their word, there’s water, beer, some cold cuts, salad and eggs in there. And as I check the cupboards I also find a loaf of bread, some canned soup, coffee, enough basic supplies to make sure I don’t have to hit the supermarket tonight, anyway.
Grabbing a beer and flicking off the top, I down a long draft and head back into the living room; back over to the large rectangular window that lets in heaps of light, it brightens the entire room. And for a moment or two I just stand there, and I breathe. I just breathe, because, for a long time now, I’m not sure I’ve been able to do that properly. I’ve been so consumed with guilt and anger; frustration that couldn’t be helped but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. But now I’m here, I feel like I can let go. I can breathe. It’s okay. I’m here now. I’m here. That guilt. That anger. I can finally start to deal with it…
It’s good to be home. Edinburgh had been a necessary detour, but it was never intended to be permanent. I’d just needed a little more time away, one final stop-gap after two years working in Europe. A little more time to get my head together. Reboot, if you like. There’s been a lot to think about. A lot to process. The past few years have been a whirlwind… No. That’s too nice a way of describing everything. They’ve been a fucking shit-show. And I want to blame Megan, I really do. For a while I did, blame Megan, because I needed to blame someone, and my ex-wife seemed like the perfect target. But, despite everything I might still feel towards her, and none of that is simple, believe me, where Megan and I are concerned there’s no black and white, just a ton of grey. And I couldn’t blame her, for anything. It was all on me.
Megan Flowers, as she’s known now. She made the decision to revert back to her own name before she’d closed the door of the taxi the day she walked out on me. Left me. She broke my fucking heart that day, was that some kind of payback? I fixed hers, only for her to strike back and shatter mine? Why? Because she thought I was controlling? Bullshit! I’m a fucking surgeon, I’m assertive, not controlling. Some days I, literally, hold people’s lives in my hands, I don’t have time to be weak.
She had it all, too. The kind of life a lot of women would kill to live, and I fucking adored her! And she couldn’t see that? She couldn’t get that? I mean, what the fuck else was I supposed to do? I had nothing more to give, and she accuses me of being controlling? She was the one with the problem. The one who couldn’t see what was right in front of her. And yet, to some extent, maybe that was something I was guilty of, too. I just couldn’t see it at the time. Moving Lucie in before I’d even had time to change the sheets, that was just me displaying a knee-jerk reaction to something that had pissed me off, big time. I’d wanted to send a message to Megan that what she’d just done… She wasn’t hurting me. She wasn’t getting to me, I didn’t need her. Whatever point she’d been trying to prove, it meant fuck all to me. Except, I know it meant everything. Now. She hurt me. She got to me. But I can’t blame her for anything that’s happened over the past couple of years. I can’t do that. Like I said, it’s all on me. All of it. But I’m dealing with it. I’m moving on. And I needed to come full-circle to do that. I needed to come back home, to Beachcastle Bay, make a brand new start in a brand new home, with a new job at, granted, my old hospital, but it’s all part of a brand new me. A new man. That’s what I need to become, because the old one – he messed up, in so many ways. It’s time to start a new chapter, make new plans, and I have big ones.
My new home, it’s a stone’s throw away from the old house. The one Megan and I shared for just over eighteen months, that’s how long our marriage lasted. Eighteen months. Was that really all it took for everything to come crashing down? And this new house, it’s also a little smaller than the last one, but I don’t need the space now, do I? There’s just me. All alone, after Lucie left. Yeah. She left me, too, something some – probably Megan – may say I deserved. And maybe I did, I don’t know. But Lucie’s reasons for leaving me, they were very different to Megan’s. Lucie was grateful for the money. She loved the lifestyle. She recognised that being with someone like me brought her many benefits, and for a while she was the perfect woman for me – loyal, adoring, she worshipped the man I was instead of bitching about it constantly. I thought we were going somewhere, until I woke up in the middle of the night, just a few weeks after we’d moved to Denmark, to find her side of the bed empty and a note on the kitchen table informing me that she was sorry, but she wanted more excitement than I could give her. Was she for fucking real? That was the thought that went through my head as I read her ‘Dear John’ letter. She’s touring Europe and Asia now with a rock band nobody’s heard of but she’s convinced they’re going to be the next Foo Fighters. Poor cow. In hindsight she’d probably been a little too young for me, but to be honest, I think, subconsciously, I’d been pushing her away from day one. Because I’d never really stopped loving Megan. No matter what my ex-wife thinks about me, I really did love her. And that’s another reason I’m back home; why I didn’t stay in Edinburgh after returning from Denmark, because I had plenty of job offers there. Even after what happened, so many people still wanted me, both professionally and personally. But I came home. To Beachcastle Bay. Because there’s only one thing I want; one woman I want, and I’m ready to resume the fight now. The time’s right, and I know she hasn’t found anyone else. I know she hasn’t even tried to replace me, she’s thrown herself into her work instead, built up a successful little business in my absence. And the more I think about it, the more I can understand why she felt the need to push me away. Why she couldn’t cope with being married to me, maybe it was all just too overwhelming, in the end, being involved with the man who saved her life, I completely get that. But it’s okay. I understand, now, what might have driven her to make that rash decision to leave, and it’s fine. It’s all good. I think we both just needed some time, everything happened so quickly between us. From that second meeting, three years after she stopped being my patient, to getting married, to her walking out, that all took place in the space of just two years. Two fucking years! It was too quick. We should’ve taken more time, got to know each other first because I don’t think we really did that. Not outside of a doctor/patient relationship, and that was the problem. The more I thought about it, over time, the more I know that was the reason why it just didn’t work, back then. She couldn’t see past me as her doctor, but things are different now. And I’ll make her see that. I will, it’s all going to be fine. I believe in second chances. I believe we all deserve them. All of us. No matter what we’ve done…
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