Chapter 10 – Ten ways to kill a man
“Shoot,” she exhaled, “Stab, poison, electrocute.”
“That’s four,” he grinned at her, “You can do better than that.”
“Decapitate,” she sneered as she ground her teeth and pushed her foot forward, “Incinerate, drown, obliterate.”
“That’s seven,” he lifted an eyebrow, “And I’m not counting obliterate. I don’t think you could obliterate me.”
“If I set my phaser on disintegrate,” she growled as she pushed the other leg forward.
“Then you would disintegrate me, not obliterate,” he smiled broadly, “And Star Trek? I didn’t pick you for a Trekkie?”
“I don’t know why I said that?” she shook her head but managed to stay on her feet.
“You have another meter to go, and you are on seven,” he was standing at wheelchair waiting with her physio, who was smiling.
“I knew your plans were sinister,” she grounded her teeth.
“Ten ways you want to kill me?” the two men were smiling like this was the best game ever as they watched her trying to stubble her way towards them.
“I hate you,” she shuffled forward.
“Yes, but that’s not going to kill me,” he sounded smug, “You need to be more imaginative.”
“Throw under bus,” she closed her eyes as she took a deep breath before continuing to push herself forward, “Hang from a tree, feed to piranhas.”
“There, you did it,” his voice was happy.
Even though she felt like carrying out her threats, she relaxed as she felt his hands supporting her. He lowered he into the wheelchair. She looked up in time to see Andrew, the physio holding out his hand, palm up.
“Pay up,” he smirked.
“Beast, you said beast,” Tom lifted an eyebrow, “Are you cheating? I would hardly consider a small fish a beast.”
“You were betting on this?”
“Tom used to do this with me,” Andrew laughed, “I picked that you would want to feed him to a wild beast.”
“During his recovery we played this game. We’d pick a theme, it usually involved my demise, I’d pick a method I thought he’d use, and then he’d have ten guesses as he performed the exercise. It took his mind off the pain as he imagined the hurt he’d be putting on me.”
“But, why? What recovery?”
Andrew looked at Tom who shrugged as if to say, you tell her.
“It was a couple of years ago,” Andrew said, “Motorcycle accident. The leg was broken in three places. I helped him with his recovery. He holds the honour of being my most motivated patient and my good friend.”
“Honour? Misfortune, more like it!”
“He plays it up but he’s not a bad guy,” Andrew nodded sincerely at Jill, “Don’t listen to him, he’s really a big softy, once you get past the ego – which isn’t an inconsequential feat. He just needs a good woman to knock him into shape.”
“That’s enough from you,” Tom stopped him, “Since you got married you’ve been insufferable.”
“Being happy isn’t being insufferable,” Andrew scoffed at Tom before he turned to Jill, “Good work. That’s a big improvement. You remember your exercises, right? Get Tom to help you with them, he knows them all. I’m expecting to see great things from you in the next session.”
She nodded but wasn’t convinced that she was going to be able to let him help her with the exercises. When she agreed to this she hadn’t thought about how ‘hands-on’ these exercises were. Many involved him touching her, for support or to provide resistance during the exercise. She’d been thinking he would give her verbal support. She doubted that she’d be able to explain the blushing on her cheeks being from exertion forever.
Tom pushed her to the elevator with Chuck following. She sat there wondering what she’d agreed to. It was going to be a long week.
“You probably should be going,” she said as they waited for the lift, “Didn’t you just finish a shift?”
“Yes,” he watched the numbers as the elevator descended. “I’ve got time.”
“But you need to sleep,” she tried. She knew there was no point in telling him to leave her alone and she had already agreed to give him a week, so she couldn’t go back on that promise. “When is your next shift?”
“Holidays,” he said suddenly, “I’m taking time off. I’m taking a week off.”
“Really?” she swivelled her body to look at him, “But, you can’t do that?”
“I’m owed enough,” he shrugged as the elevator arrived, “It won’t be a problem.”
She turned and looked at her feet as he pushed her into the empty lift. She was trying to think of a good argument why that wasn’t a good idea, one that might work.
“What about your other patients, don’t you owe them?” she asked carefully.
“I’m sure they will manage without me for a week,” he lifted an eyebrow as he watched her fiddling with her own fingers.
“But,” she started to say.
“Give up, you agreed to the week,” he interrupted her, and then smiled at her expression when she turned again to look at him, “You’re not going to get rid of me that easily.”
“A girl has to try,” she mumbled turning back to her feet.
He smiled and didn’t answer that. He wheeled her in silence back to her room. She was right about one thing, he was tired. The shift he’d just finished had been ten hours and he hadn’t been sleeping well. It felt like all those long sleepless nights were catching up on him.
The nurse was waiting to help her wash, so he excused himself and headed down to the cafeteria area. He had an idea. He purchased what he’d come for and was about to leave when he saw something that he couldn’t go past. Then he headed back to her.
“What the hell is that?” she blinked as he stood at the end of the bed with his purchases.
“This is food,” he put the various packages down on the tray table, “I hope you are hungry. I brought a selection of all sorts to see what you like. There’s an Indian hot curry, pizza, a Thai coconut curry, and some sushi. I thought that we could start with these.”
“And what’s that?” she pointed at the thing that was in his other hand, “Are we eating that too?”
“This is for you,” he offered the tissue wrapped long stemmed flower to her.
“What is it?” she looked at the large single flower. It had sword-shaped baby-pink feathery but rigid outer petals circling the centre, which looked like it contained stringy cotton-candy. It looked alien. Fascinated she took it and touched the large silky outer petals, “It’s beautiful.”
“It’s a Protea flower,” he smiled, “You said that the roses weren’t your style, so I was hoping this might be more interesting. They say the Protea flower represents hope and change.”
She didn’t know what to say. She’d insulted his previous choice of flower and instead of being angry or spiteful by her dismissal, he’d listened to her and brought her this. She was touched. She looked up to see the knowing smile on his face.
“It’s OK, I suppose,” she looked away, “Just because you brought me a flower, that doesn’t mean anything. Don’t look at me like that. My brain isn’t going to turn into goop. I still don’t like you.”
“That’s a relief,” he laughed softly.
She glanced back at him. Was he happy that she still didn’t like him?
“As a neurosurgeon, I’d be concerned if your brain turned to goop, it would mean I misdiagnosed you,” he smirked at her furious look, “And, goop for brains tends to restrict dialog, I’d miss your sparkling conversation.”
“I hate you,” she sneered.
“That, I can work on,” he laughed again as he took his phone out of his back pocket and sat down in the chair. He made himself comfortable, lifting one leg so that the ankle rested on the knee of the other leg, and folding his arms.
“What are you doing?” she glared at him.
“Eat,” he smiled, “I’m waiting to see what you like.”
She looked at the packages on the tray table. They smelt amazing and, although her first instinct was to throw them at him, she was hungry, and she really wanted to try the food. She ignored him, as he sat silently watching her, and pulled the table closer and opened them and spread all five dishes out on the small table. She didn’t know where to start but her fingers seemed to be drawn to the pizza. She picked it up and took a bite while she looked at the other dishes. Tentatively she put the pizza down and picked up a fork of Indian. The colour was a vibrant red and it contained lumps of meat and vegetables all coated in the thick sauce. She took a bite and chewed it slowly. Her eyes watered as the chilli turned her mouth into a volcano. She picked up a napkin and quickly coughed the contents of her mouth out.
“Here,” he laughed as he put a bottle of something into her hands.
She didn’t have time to ask him what it was. She chugged the liquid down as if her mouth was on fire. The bottle was empty and her mouth still stung but it was bearable now. She looked down at the tray table, that dish needed to be thrown out before it contaminated anything else. The plastic rectangular dish was gone. She turned to find him happily sitting back in the chair eating the curry.
“Milk,” he indicated with the fork to the empty bottle in her hand as he finished a mouthful, “It helps. I knew a Vindaloo was a risk, but you might have liked it. Can I suggest the sushi next, but don’t add the wasabi. Trust me, if you don’t like chilli, then wasabi isn’t for you.”
She might have yelled at him, but her mouth was still stinging, and she was slightly in awe that the man was half way through the dish that had almost killed her. She didn’t know if that made her a wimp or if it made him lacking taste-buds.
The sushi was cold and soothing. She ate it as she eyed up the coconut curry.
“The Thai curry is very mild,” he said without looking at her, “It’s a Massaman. Don’t be scared, try it.”
“I’m not scared,” she snapped back as she picked up a fork and took a bite. It was rich and the taste was unusual, so many different spices and flavours, there was a hint of heat but it wasn’t overbearing. “I’ve never eaten anything like this before. It’s really good.”
“Good,” he smiled, “So we’ve learnt something.”
“Yeah, you’ve learnt a new way to torture me,” she watched him finishing the curry, “Just watching you eat that makes me feel ill.”
“Then I’ll bring you a Korma next,” he smiled, “Korma is mild, from that we could work up the spice level and, before you know it, you’ll be eating Vindaloo with me.”
“I’m not going to be in hospital for the rest of my life,” she scoffed, “You might as well give up on that plan!”
“So,” he questioned, “Are you saying that once you leave hospital you won’t see me again?”
“Of course,” she said, “Isn’t that the deal? A week?”
“I asked you for a week to prove myself to you,” his voice had become serious, “That was the minimum time-period I need, not the limit of what I want.”
“Yes, but in a week’s time I’ll have my memory back and you’ll have moved on to your next conquest. Once you realise that I’m not going to sleep with you then you’ll get bored of me.”
“Do you think so little of me,” he looked at her.
“I don’t know you to think anything of you,” she shrugged, “According to the nursing staff, this is your pattern.”
She didn’t want to look at him as he sat there silently staring at her. The nurse who had helped her with her bath had seen them together and had warned her against getting involved. Helen, the nurse, had given her a detailed breakdown of what to expect from Doctor Lay-em, from the start when he made you feel like you were the only woman in the world all the way to the end when he brushed you off without a second glance. She was merely experiencing the first step of his seduction process.
“You are wrong,” he whispered.
“You don’t need to bother,” she ignored his words, “I’m not going to sleep with you. There’s no need for you to waste your time here.”
She expected him to get angry or to walk out but when he said nothing she glanced at him and found him watching her with serious eyes. She dropped her eyes back to her hands.
“Look,” she frowned, “I appreciate that you are helping me, being nice to me because I have no one else, but you’re going to leave eventually.”
“Jill,” he interrupted, “Stop this.”
“Why?” she couldn’t stop herself from looking at him again, “How do you see this ending?”
“Jill,” his voice was serious, “What happened? Why are you doing this?”
“Why am I doing this?” her laugh was sad, “Why are you doing this?”
“You know why,” he breathed out, “I told you why. I have a reputation, you know that, but that doesn’t make me a slave to my past. Don’t dismiss me because of rumours or the words of a bitter exlover. I am trying to change and I am trying to be a better man. Get to know me before you make your mind up about my character.”
“But,” she started to say but his words made her feel small.
He was right. She had believed that nurse, who she didn’t know, over everything he’d done for her. He hadn’t denied his past or claimed that any of what was said was lies. She hadn’t known him for very long at all, but even in that short period of time, it felt wrong to accuse him. Everything she said might be true, but it still felt wrong.
“I’m sorry,” she couldn’t look at him.
“I won’t lie to you Jill,” he said the words in a soft serious voice, “There are many who are angry with me and who will happily discredit me. I know that, and I don’t blame them. But I am asking that you give me the opportunity to prove them wrong. You promised me a week. Give me that week before you form an opinion about me, that’s all I’m asking. And if you still believe that I haven’t changed then I will disappear from your life. Can you do that?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“Thank you,” he released a long breath and closed his eyes, his heart was thumping in his chest and his palms were damp. He swallowed the fear that was stuck in his throat as he tried to look confident and in control. He couldn’t let her see how much her words had affected him, or she would have guessed that he wanted more than friendship. If she knew how much she meant to him then she would know that there was truth in her accusation. He did want more.