I tried to tie my shoe laces but my trembling fingers made it difficult for me to do so. Taking a deep breath, I tried to steady my heartbeat and my fingers, but the thoughts swirling in my mind made it nearly impossible for me to calm down. Gideon was going to be here any minute, and if he saw that I wasn’t ready he would not like it; he had already cancelled his meetings for the day for me and if I wasted any more time I should just jump off a cliff.
“You ready to go, little dove?” Gideon entered the bedroom, slipping his hands in his pockets.
“Yes, I’m ready, let’s go,” I replied, praying with all my might that Gideon does not see the loose laces of my shoes.
But when Gideon lowered his gaze to my feet, I cursed my luck. “You haven’t tied your shoe laces.” He observed.
“Yes, but it doesn’t matter, we’re going to be late...I’ll tie them in the car.” I added the last part when I saw that Gideon did not look convinced of my explanation.
“Okay, let’s go.” Turning around, Gideon strode out of our bedroom, I sighed and followed after him, my heart still drumming against my chest in anxiety. I was trying so hard to calm down and not to make it sound like a big deal, but it was a big deal, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
Gideon and I were going to visit the two cardiologists today, in which I’d pick one to perform on my brother. And I was so nervous about it, that I barely had any breakfast. I just couldn’t believe that something I had been yearning for all my life was finally in my reach, and that was something that both excited and yet scared me. I was excited that my brother was going to be all right now, and would go to school and play with kids his own age, but I was scared that I might lose him, or the surgery might not go right.
As soon as Gideon and I reached the car, I frowned when I saw an older looking driver, with silver hair and pale skin. Where was Bernard? He was our usual driver. The driver opened the door allowing Gideon and I to settle inside. Once the door closed, I allowed myself to ask Gideon about Bernard.
“Where is Bernard?” I questioned.
“I have assigned him to other duties, he will now take me to work and bring me home,” Gideon replied, his eyes suddenly turning hard.
“Why? Why did you do that?” I enquired.
“I don’t want Bernard around you, once was more than enough.” He gritted out.
“Why? What’s wrong with Bernard being around me?” I queried.
Gideon just glared at me in return. “I don’t trust you around him, you are...unpredictable,” he muttered.
Confusion reigned for almost five seconds before I realized what Gideon was talking about. Guilt and shame overtook my mind; I blushed and looked away. Gideon was still mad about the whole Bernard thing, even though I promised him I would never do anything like that ever again.
“I’m sorry, I promise you I won’t do anything like that ever again, you don’t have to change Bernard’s post because of me,” I told him.
“Doesn’t matter, it’s already done, and stop worrying about Bernard, it’s not like he is getting paid any less than what I was already paying him,” Gideon responded dryly.
I bit my lip to stop myself from arguing with him. Instead, my fingers found their way to my necklace as I contemplated how the meeting with the doctors would go. I just wanted Nico’s surgery to be successful and less invasive. After searching online about VSD treatments and other surgeries, I now prayed that my brother’s surgery would not be invasive, as invasive surgeries made the body prone to all sorts of infections.
“You’re nervous,” Gideon commented, making me jump.
“No, I—I’m fine,” I lied, my heart hammering against my chest the closer we got the hospital.
“You are fiddling with your necklace, and your shoe laces are still loose.” Gideon observed.
“I play with my necklace all the time,” I said, trying to cover my lie.
Gideon shook his head. “No, you only touch your necklace when you’re nervous. By the way, you shouldn’t twist the chain so much, the necklace is old, the chain might break,” Gideon told me.
“It’s a strong chain...just like my brother.” I smiled sadly, but didn’t stop twisting the chain around my finger.
It took me by surprise when Gideon took my hand in his. Calm spread through me when I felt how warm Gideon’s hand was. I liked warm hands, they gave me comfort like no other. I wished that once this year was over and I would look for a husband, he would have warm hands too.
“Tell me what’s bothering you,” Gideon prompted.
Shaking my head I smiled. “Nothing Gideon, nothing is bothering me, I’m fine,” I fibbed again.
“If there was nothing bothering you, then you wouldn’t be sitting like this,” Gideon argued.
“Sitting like what?” I queried.
“Stiff...taut...like a bow ready to shoot the arrow; so come on, tell me what’s on your mind, little peach,” Gideon stated, rubbing my hand.
“It’s nothing, don’t worry about it. By the way, thank you,” I said to him.
“Thanks for what?” Gideon questioned.
“For everything, getting the doctors’ appointments, cancelling your meetings and all...it means a lot to me that you would go through so much trouble for a stranger, so thank you,” I told him.
“This stranger is not a stranger.” Gideon flicked my nose. “This stranger is my wife...and my friend,” he stated.
My heart bloomed with happiness upon hearing Gideon calling me his wife and friend. It was the first time he hadn’t used the word temporary before the word wife, and him calling me a friend had me doing a happy dance in my mind. However, I prevented my heart from feeling blissful. Even though Gideon’s words made my heart flutter, which resulted in me falling just a little bit for my temporary husband, I tried my best not to let his words faze me. I had to be careful around Gideon, he knew exactly what to do and say to make me happy, and I couldn’t afford to fall for him; it would only end in disaster.
“I’m fine, really,” I repeated. I was not going to tell him what was worrying me, I was just not comfortable. Gideon had already gone through so much trouble for me, I was not going to burden him with my problems. I was not used to it, and did not plan to get used to sharing my problems with anyone anytime soon.
All of a sudden, Gideon left my hand and turned his head away to look out the window. The loss of contact had me feeling cold, which was strange because it never happened that I would miss the warmth someone’s hands brought me.
“Gideon, what’s wrong?” I asked, worriedly.
“Nothing is wrong, why would anything be wrong,” he snapped.
I tried to make him look at me, but he only shrugged me off, his face still turned away from me. Removing my seatbelt, I crawled on Gideon’s lap, which took him by surprise. Wrapping my arms around his waist, I laid my head on his chest.
“Tell me what’s wrong, did I do something wrong?” I inhaled Gideon’s rich scent, which brought my heart from hammering to throbbing against my ribcage.
“I was right when I said you’ll make a horrible friend,” Gideon stated.
Frowning, I looked up at him. “What do you mean?” I was now worried; I wanted to be a good friend to Gideon, so him saying that I was a bad friend made me feel horrible.
“You said friends talk about stuff because talking helps; I talked to you about my stuff and what was bothering me and now you are not doing the same...you are a hypocrite,” he complained.
I sighed before laying my head on Gideon’s chest. “I’m just not used to talking about my problems with anyone,” I told him.
“And you think I am. I had never confided in anyone in my life, except for my mum; you were the second person who I had talked to about my problems and you are the only one who knows how I feel when visiting my mother’s grave alone, and you are not showing me the same courtesy, that’s not fair, Alice,” he shot back.
Guilt stabbed my heart. “I’m sorry...I’ll try to tell you about my problems, but it won’t be easy for me, and I don’t want to burden you with my problems. You have given me so much, you offering your companionship is just too much, you shouldn’t be so nice to me,” I said.
“You said you are my friend for life, well that means I am your friend too, so tell me what’s going on,” Gideon prodded.
“It’s silly, no need to get yourself tangled in my mess.” I sighed.
“I will tell you one more time to tell me what’s going on, if you don’t then you can forget that we are friends,” Gideon stated.
“Okay fine, I’m just nervous about what the doctors would say regarding Nico’s surgery. All my life I had prayed to God for this day—the day my brother would have his surgery and be perfectly fine, and now that it’s here, I am terrified...what if something goes wrong. I can’t live without Nico, he is my only family; I’d die if something happened to him,” I said, tears pricking my eyes. But once the words were out, I felt relaxed; the tightening in my chest was no more.
“Little fairy, believe me when I tell you that I will make sure that your brother gets his surgery and lives his life like a normal ten year old. Nothing is going to happen to Nico, I promise you,” Gideon stated.
“You said that the doctors we are meeting are the best, right?”
“But then, they would ask for a lot of money in order to perform surgery on my brother, I only have fifty thousand pounds...would that be enough?” I asked.
“We’ll know when we’ll meet the doctors,” Gideon answered.
The car finally stopped letting us know that we had arrived at our destination. The driver opened the door and Gideon got out while I was right behind him. I had tied my shoe laces, which was a good thing because then I would be tripping and stumbling over my own feet. Taking my hand, Gideon led me inside the hospital.
As soon as I entered, the sterile white walls reminded of the numerous times I had been here. These walls supported me when my father fell ill and left the world. These walls were my constant when my mother fought against her disease and lost. And these walls were what greeted me every time I had brought my brother in the hospital. No matter where I was, which ever country I was in, the white walls of the hospitals would always be there—familiar. It was sick to think that I had started to consider hospitals as some sort of a friend...even though I had lost half of my family here, maybe hospitals were my frenemy.
This hospital was luxurious. The floors were sparkly clean, and maybe it was just me and my crazy imagination, but the smell of disinfectant in the air seemed rich to me, like it was expensive. The chairs in the waiting area were clean and smooth, the nurses bustling around were neatly dressed. I bet this hospital served amazing food.
Gideon led us to the reception desk, and after asking the forty something years lady about Dr. Hallaway, he led me to the second floor. Knocking on the door, which had a plaque nailed to the door with the name Dr. Paul Hallaway M.D, he entered the room.
Dr. Hallway’s room was big and neat. There was a desk which looked to be made of oak against one wall, with Dr. Hallaway sitting behind it in a swivel chair. His desk had a few files and papers on it, and a few stationary items. The rest of the room consisted of a couch, a coffee table and a plasma screen against one wall.
The doctor himself looked to be in his early forties, with slightly graying hair, warm blue eyes, pale skin, and full lips which were curved in the warm, welcoming smile. He was about 6 feet, a couple of inches shorter than Gideon. He was dressed in the usual doctor’s attire, with a pristine white coat with black slacks and a light blue shirt.
“Mr. Maslow, it’s a pleasure to meet you, please sit down,” Dr. Hallaway greeted Gideon. He had a deep voice, but it was warm which made me comfortable around him.
“Thank you Dr. Hallaway, this is my wife, Alice; Nico is her brother,” Gideon said to the doctor.
“Right, nice to meet you, Mrs. Maslow, how are you?” Dr. Hallaway asked me.
“I’m good, thank you for your time, Dr. Hallaway,” I responded politely.
“Alright, let’s talk about your brother, shall we?” I was glad that Dr. Hallaway did not waste time in small talk but went right down to business.
“Yes please.” My hand once again flew to my necklace.
Dr. Hallaway removed a file from the pile on his desk and opened it. My heart resumed its usual pounding when I saw Nico’s name on the file. This was Nico’s case file; everything from the first time he was diagnosed with VSD to the last time he visited the hospital was in that file. It had everything in it, from our family history to the numerous medications prescribed to Nico.
“So, I have gone through your brother’s file—Mr. Maslow had brought me his file two weeks ago, and I can assure you that the surgery is not risky. There are three ways I can close the hole in your brother’s heart, whichever way you feel comfortable with, I’ll use that way,” Dr. Hallaway said. When he said that the surgery wouldn’t be risky, half of my worries flew away.
“Could you please tell me the three ways,” I requested. Grabbing Gideon’s hand, I gave it a squeeze, nerves taking over me once again.
Dr. Hallaways nodded with a smile. “Certainly. The first procedure is known as surgical repair. This procedure usually involves open-heart surgery under general anesthesia. We are going to use a heart-lung machine; I’ll make an incision in the chest, and will use a patch to block the hole or just stitch the hole close,” he informed me.
“What is the second procedure?” The first one involved an open-heart surgery, which was invasive, if the second and third option did not involve an open-heart surgery, I would opt for that.
“The second is known as the catheter procedure. For this I would not need to open the chest, but I will insert a thin tube inside the groin and guide that tube to the heart and close the hole by using a mesh,” he told me.
“And what is the third one?” I liked the second option, it didn’t involve an open-heart surgery.
“The third procedure is called the hybrid procedure. This procedure involves both the surgical and catheter procedures. I’ll get access to the heart by making a small incision and we would not need to stop the heart or anything. I’ll insert the closing device through the catheter by placing the catheter in the incision,” Dr. Hallaway answered.
“Which procedure is better?” I enquired.
“All three procedures have good odds, but the hybrid procedure has a quicker recovery. And of course, I will be doing a follow up from time to time to make sure the VSD stays closed,” Dr. Hallaway responded.
I nodded and let his words sink in. The doctor had fully explained to me how the surgery would take place, and there was no worry or anything like that on his face, which eased my worries about the surgery. However, I would not make any decision until I had met the other doctor.
“Can we go meet the other doctor, then I’ll make my decision,” I said to Gideon, who nodded and stood up.
“Thank you so much for your time, Dr. Hallaway, we’ll think it over and let you know what procedure we’ll decide to go with,” Gideon said. After shaking the doctor’s hand, Gideon took my hand and led me out of Dr. Hallaway’s room.
I thought we’ll go to a different hospital, but Gideon took me up to another floor and into another room, that looked like a lounge. There were a couple of couches and plants in every corner of the room. In the middle of the couches sat a beautiful glass table. Sitting on one of the couches was a man who was dressed similar to Dr. Hallaway, but where Dr. Hallaway had slightly graying hair, this man had silver hair like our new driver. He was wearing wire rimmed glasses which showed his brown eyes clearly. He had a small beard and his face held a few wrinkles.
“Dr. Loft, good to see you,” Gideon greeted.
Dr. Loft stood up and shook Gideon’s hand. Unlike Dr. Hallaway, Dr. Loft gave us a tight smile, his posture was not relaxed or welcoming, it was professional and detached. I did not feel comfortable in Dr. Loft’s presence likd I had in Dr. Hallaway’s.
Without a word, Dr. Loft sat down on the couch while Gideon and I sat across from him. Dr. Loft opened Nico’s file and began telling us all the procedures and the survival rate of each procedure. The problem with this doctor was that he was using way too many medical jargons which I couldn’t wrap my head around, and instead of easing my worries about the surgery, he first told me all the problems that could occur during the surgery and then told me the how safe the surgery was. I had a feeling not many people were comfortable with this doctor, he was not nice.
But this doctor made my decision easier. After talking to Dr. Loft for twenty minutes, my mind was made up. I was going to have Dr. Hallaway perform on my brother. Sure this doctor was professional, but how could I pick the doctor that constantly had me worried with the information he was giving me, then the doctor who gave me facts but also eased my worries. Dr. Hallaway was my choice, and I’ll let Gideon know as soon we went home.
Thankfully, the meeting with Dr. Loft ended quickly. I was only too happy to get away from him. I breathed a sigh of relief when Gideon and I were settled back in our car, and the driver drove out of the parking lot.
“Dr. Hallaway,” I said.
“I want Dr. Hallaway to do the surgery, I did not like Dr. Loft, too professional and cold. Dr. Hallaway had more successful surgeries than Dr. Loft, right?” I questioned.
“Dr. Hallaway and Dr. Loft are both excellent doctors, but okay, I’ll let Dr. Hallaway know that we have decided to go for the surgery and ask about other details,” Gideon replied.
I smiled knowing that a good doctor would be dealing with my brother. “Gideon, why were both the doctors in the same hospital?”
“Dr. Hallaway works in the hospital and I requested Dr. Loft to come to the same hospital so we didn’t have to waste time in making the trip,” Gideon answered.
I nodded and fell silent, thoughts of Nico and his upcoming surgery invading my mind. I felt peace after such a long time, knowing that my brother was actually going to have a future.