Chapter 9 – Trust Issues
He watched her leave. As much as her new attitude turned him on, he didn’t want her to hate him. She’d left in a hurry and although he’d intended to catch her, Mrs Grant had latched onto him at the last moment and told him to wait. She had smiled at Tom and in a very soft voice had suggested that Jill needed some time on her own. He didn’t want to listen to her but there was something about the tone she used that had his feet stay where they were.
Therefore, instead of doing what he wanted to do, he took a seat and watched Mrs Grant knit. She didn’t say anything further as he watched her. She wasn’t his patient and he wasn’t familiar with her case, but he set a mental reminder to have a look at her notes at his next opportunity. This woman was close to Jill and she had peaked his interest.
“Well,” Mrs Grant looked up from her knitting, he’d sat there for a full ten minutes in silence and in his own thoughts before she’d spoke, “What are you doing sitting around here for? Didn’t she say she was going to physio?”
“Yes, but,” he started to remind her that she’d warned him not to follow.
“Seriously, all men are hopeless,” she tutted, “Do you need a roadmap? Go get her Tiger.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he pushed himself out of the chair and headed for the door. He had no idea what that was all about but decided that it didn’t matter.
He caught the elevator and concentrated on his next move. He wasn’t beaten yet. By the time he walked up to the nurse’s desk in Rehabilitation, he was smiling. When a woman gave you lemons, you made lemon scented bath bombs for her and a whisky-sour for yourself. It was all just part of the game.
“Tom,” Andrew’s smiling voice had him turning to him, “What brings an upper echelon neurosurgeon down here? Are you slumming it?”
“Andrew,” he shook Andrew’s hand as he laughed, “I’m sorry, I’m not here to see you ‘not-even-doctors’ in your ‘pseudo-medical’ department.”
“Good,” Andrew grinned broadly, “Just don’t touch anything, we don’t want the patients to get any S.T.D.’s.”
“Jealousy will get you nowhere,” Tom laughed, “How have you been? How’s the ball-and-chain?”
“If by ‘Ball-and-chain’ you are referring to Rose, then she’s great, fabulous actually,” he smirked at Tom, “And I will tell her you called her that. Expect retribution.”
“Please don’t,” Tom groaned, “That girl punches like a drunk sailor, don’t tell her!”
“That depends,” Andrew shrugged, “What can I do for you?”
“I’m looking for Jill? I mean, patient Jane Doe 14562,” Tom looked around the room, “She should be here for her appointment.”
“Jill,” Andrew pulled out his device, “Yes, she’s my patient. I believe she’s going by the name Jill Doe until she remembers her last name. But, according to my schedule, she’s not due here for another hour.”
“Ah, my mistake,” he frowned as he wondered where she was, “How is she doing?”
“Progress is fine, she could do better, but it’s acceptable,” Andrew shrugged just one shoulder.
“Acceptable? She’s not trying?”
“She isn’t doing her exercises outside of her physio times and she could work harder when she is here,” he smiled and laughed, “But not all of us are supermen, like you.”
“That’s true, especially not you,” Tom laughed with Andrew.
“Is she a friend of yours?” Andrew looked at him quizzically, “Or is this professional concern? Isn’t she one of your patients?”
“No, she’s now with Doctor Peters,” Tom noticed his friends eyebrows shot up but kept talking, “I’m here as her friend. Although she’s no so keen on me yet.”
“Is the famous Doctor Lay-em having problems with the ladies?” Andrew smirked, “Or is it just this lady in particular?”
“How about you keep your amateur matchmaking attempts for your other friends,” Tom rolled his eyes at the man who was clearly assessing him, “She was my patient and now I’m trying to be her friend, end of story.”
“End of chapter one, more like it,” Andrew smirked, “If that’s the case then why not come along to her next session, if you’re not working? You know what she’s going through, and she might benefit from hearing from one of my success stories.”
“Your success stories,” Tom scoffed as he rubbed his leg, “I got better despite of you!”
“You keep telling yourself that,” Andrew laughed. “I’ve got to go but, if Jill’s willing then I don’t mind you tagging along.”
Tom nodded and walked back to the lifts, if she wasn’t in physio then, where was she? He headed for the cafeteria. It was difficult to look for someone in a wheel chair, with all the people standing and moving around, so he looked for Chuck instead, knowing that he wouldn’t be far from her. They weren’t there. He walked back into the foyer and looked around. She could be in the patients lounge, the gift shop, the library, in one of the commercial shops, or she could be in the garden.
He headed out of the double glass doors and into the manicured gardens that were in the space between the buildings. The garden was mapped out with winding paths, through the bright and glossy plantings, with bench seats dotted along and a long stream of fast-moving water intertwining. It was pretty, and women liked this sort of stuff, so it was a good place to go next.
He walked the paths, forcing himself not to run. She would be fine, he said to himself. She had Chuck with her, so she would be safe. Even so, he couldn’t help but worry. He wasn’t so concerned about any dangers she faced but was more worried about the emotional strain on her at the moment. Recovering memories wasn’t easy and it wasn’t kind. The fact that she had lied about her physio appointment time, was a red-flag to him. It highlighted that she wasn’t coping and needed support. He looked around and pushed himself to walk faster. The twists and large plantings made for many hiding spots.
He stopped suddenly. He’d been about to give up and head for the shops, thinking that she’d opted for retail therapy instead of the peace and quiet of the garden, when a short sharp cough pulled him short. He turned to see Chuck with his hand raised to his mouth and his eyes fixed on Tom. The police officer purposefully moved his head towards the left.
Tom felt a degree of stress leave him. He had been going in the wrong direction to see Chuck and would have missed him entirely if he hadn’t have alerted him. The Police Officer stood at attention, his back to a large leafed glossy green plant near the intersection with the path that Tom had been traveling. The short path ended at the stream.
Her wheelchair was almost obscured by the foliage. He calmed himself, straightened his shirt, took a deep breath and coolly walked towards her like he hadn’t been searching like a mad-man seconds ago. Chuck merely nodded and stepped out of the way, but the man’s eyes gave away the relief he felt at seeing Tom.
“If you lean over anymore,” he looked down on her, “You’re going to fall in.”
She was leaning out, almost doubled over, as she looked into the still water. At this point, the water cascaded into a shallow pool with small goldfish, before bubbling over rocks as it resumed its journey.
“Would that be so bad?” she said in a voice so soft that he almost missed the words.
“Of course, it would,” he dropped onto the bench seat that was just off to the left of her.
“I’m not so sure,” she mumbled.
He frowned, he was expecting the sorrow, but it still pulled at him. She wasn’t looking at him and her arms were wrapped around her legs as she held her chest to her thighs and looked at the fish. As he watched her shoulders shook slightly, and then she sniffed softly.
“Do you want to talk?” he offered.
She didn’t answer him, and she didn’t change her posture.
“Recovering memories can feel like you are reliving them,” he said softly, “Remembering your father’s death could cause you to feel all that grief, all over again.”
“Why can’t you take the hint and leave me alone,” her voice was broken as she spat the words.
“Because,” he said in with a gentle tone, “That’s not what friends do. Talking helps.”
“Go away,” she sniffed again, “I don’t even know you.”
“That’s true, but at the moment you don’t know anyone,” he pulled out a wad of paper napkins from his back pocket. He’d guessed that she would be upset, so he’d grabbed these as he went through the cafeteria. “You might as well trust me.”
“You’re the last person I should trust,” she wiped her nose.
“I don’t want to argue with you,” he whispered, “What was your father like?”
“He was a fool,” Jill’s growl shot out before she could stop herself. “He lied to us, he lied about everything.”
Tom handed another wad of napkins to her but said nothing.
“How could he do that?” she asked as she snatched them out of his hand, “How can you love someone who’s so selfish?”
“What did he do?” Tom asked when she went quiet.
“He died,” she glared at him like that was a stupid question, “He ran his car into a power pole without his seat belt on. What a fool. Imagine expecting the insurance company to pay out, he didn’t even put his seat belt on. He left us. He took out that huge life policy and the fool didn’t read the fine print.”
Tom waited. He could tell she wasn’t finished yet.
“I went from an ignorant but happy girl with two loving parents, to having nothing but a whooping debt hanging over me, all because he lied,” she sobbed, “We all trusted him, and he lied.”
“A debt?” he prompted knowing that although this was hurting her she was remembering more details.
“Gambling,” she spat, “He had racked up bills everywhere and was covering it all, we had no idea until after he was gone. Then it all came out. My mother loved him, she didn’t cope with his death, then they sold the house, the car, and all our belongs from under us and we still owed thousands. She couldn’t comprehend it, or maybe she didn’t want to believe it, so she retreated into herself. I couldn’t afford to get her help. I couldn’t save her.”
“I’m sorry,” he reached out and put his hand on her back.
“No, you’re not,” she sat up knocking his hand away, her face all blotchy and red, “I lost everything because of one selfish man who couldn’t control his addiction. Why should I accept that from you? How are you any different to him? You are as much a fool as he was.”
He took a deep breath and resisted the urge to respond immediately to that. It would only end up in harsh words. He swallowed the rebuke. He waited, expecting to need time to control his temper, but it wasn’t long before he realised that he wasn’t angry with her or her words.
“There is somewhere I want to take you,” he stood up and wrapped his hands around the wheelchair handles.
“Please don’t,” she whined. “Just leave me alone.”
“No, you need a friend,” he turned her away from the stream, “And I’m the best candidate available to you.”
“You?” she huffed, “You are kidnapping me. Chuck save me.”
“I’m pretty sure that Chuck isn’t here to save you from me,” Tom laughed with a gentle grin, “That would be a waste of police resources. I’m not kidnapping you, I’m merely misappropriating you.”
“That’s equally as sinister,” she looked away. “Why are you doing this?”
“Sinister is not an adjective commonly associated with me,” he said softly choosing not to answer the second question, “But I can work with it.”
“And what if I start screaming?” she muttered.
“I know you don’t trust me,” he sighed as he pushed her along the path, “But the only way I can change that is to prove to you that I’m not a fool. I’m many things, but I’m not a fool.”
“That’s not what the nurses say,” she grumbled.
“They have called me many names – jerk, sleaze, asshole, just as an example,” he snorted, “But never that one, not to my face anyway.”
“Actually, I think egotistical, prick, man-whore, and ass-wipe, are more frequently used when they talk about you.”
“Great,” he rolled his eyes, “But they don’t call me a fool, right?”
“Maybe,” she shrugged.
“Answer this, don’t think, just answer,” he was pushing her towards the glass doors, “Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla, Caramel, or a fruit flavour?”
“Chocolate, definitely chocolate,” she turned to look at him. “Why?”
“I picked you for tropical fruit, Mango or Passionfruit,” he frowned as they went through the door and into the retail section of the hospital, “But Chocolate it is.”
“Where are we going?”
“I think you deserve ice-cream,” he smiled as he steered her towards the ice-cream parlour.
“And what happens if I don’t like ice-cream?” she glared at him.
“Then you will know something else about yourself that you didn’t know ten minutes ago,” he smirked, “See how beneficial it is having me as your friend.”
“You kidnapped me so that you could feed me ice-cream?”
“I know,” he grinned, “Sinister, right?”
She watched him buy the tub of scoop ice-cream. She could have taken back control of the wheelchair and escaped but instead she waited. She accepted the small container with the plastic spoon from him, carefully avoiding touching his hand. Then as she tasted it she closed her eyes and tried not to show her expression.
He was right, she liked ice-cream. Damn. This wasn’t good. She didn’t want him to be right.
She let the sweat taste permeate her. There was still a deep hole in her chest, as she acknowledged that both her parents were dead, and they weren’t looking for her, but the sugar in her blood and perhaps the presence of the man still next to her, seemed to soften the pain. It didn’t take it away but having him patiently sitting next to her helped more than she expected.
“Jill,” he interrupted her thoughts as she finished her ice cream, “I want to help you with your rehabilitation. Let me help with your physio sessions and exercises.”
“What?” She looked at him surprised, “You are kidding, right?”
“No,” he said with a calm confidence.
“Absolutely not,” she shook her head, “No way in hell.”
“I can understand your reluctance,” he said, “But having a supporting person in your programme has been proven to help.”
“No, absolutely not,” she couldn’t listen to him.
“I know you don’t trust me,” he frowned, “You don’t trust my motives and you don’t understand why I’m here. I will earn that trust, but you need to give me the opportunity to do so.”
“No, I don’t,” she wanted to get herself out of that wheelchair and run away but she couldn’t.
“The rumours about me are true,” he said suddenly, as if making a confession, “Most of them, at least. I’m not a good man. I’m not asking for forgiveness. I am asking for you to give me a chance to be your friend. This is something different for me, new territory. I’m not trying to get you into bed, I’m trying to support you.”
“Why?” she spluttered.
“Why aren’t I trying to get you into bed?” he smiled.
“No,” she blurted before he could answer his own question, “The other bit.”
“To tell you the truth,” he frowned, “I’m not entirely sure. I feel a need to do this. I’m tired. I don’t want to keep doing what I’m doing. For the first time in my life I want to do something that isn’t just about me. I want to give instead of taking.”
“Why me?” she couldn’t understand exactly what he was saying, and she couldn’t understand why he was telling her this.
“Because you were the catalyst,” he looked out the window at the traffic outside, “It might mean nothing but when you woke, it felt like something woke within me. I don’t understand it myself. I don’t know if I want to understand it. But I can’t seem to switch it off. I don’t know why you, but I know that you have become important to me.”
“Me? But,” she stuttered again, “But I’m no-one.”
“Look Jill,” he released a deep breath, “I would like to be your friend. That’s all I’m asking for. I’m not asking for anything else but the opportunity to try to be a friend to you. I don’t know how to explain it other than I think I need this just as much as you need this.”
“I still don’t understand,” she blinked as he turned to look at her.
“Then don’t try to understand it,” his voice was gentle, “Just accept it.”
“But,” she dropped her eyes and couldn’t look at him.
“Jill,” he whispered, “Don’t panic, I’m not going to do anything that would hurt you.”
“How do you know?” she spoke before thinking then bit her lip when she realised what she’d said.
“I know you don’t trust me,” he breathed out, “And that’s understandable. I haven’t a good track record of being kind. I promise you that this is different. I promise you that I will do everything in my power not to cause you pain. I want to be a friend to you and that’s what I understand a friend does.”
“But,” she wanted to question how that was possible. How could he promise that?
“Don’t overthink it,” he smiled, “Just allow me to be at your side and leave it at that. Give me the benefit of the doubt and if, in a week, you still hate me then I’ll go. Give me a week.”
“A week,” she whispered, remembering that Doctor Peters had asked her to for the same period of time to see if he would help her recovery.
A week wasn’t a long time. It was unlikely that he could convince her, or make her trust him, in that short period of time. But would she be able to keep her own emotions under control for a week? Surely, she wouldn’t succumb to his charm in a week?
She looked up and found him waiting patiently, “Alright,” she whispered.