I See You

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14

picture of home 1/3

(past)

"I'm scared," Avery whispered to me as Hazel and I prepped him for his surgery. "Is Serena coming?"

I shook my head before realizing he couldn't see me very well. "I tried calling her again, and I left her a message. I'm just not sure. Avery, it's not too late to contact your brother."

"Don't bother," he stubbornly refused. Still keeping his voice quiet, he told me, "I know you think I need his support but you've been here for me more than he ever has, trust me."

"My husband always says family is everything."

He smiled a beautiful smile. "With conditions."

I laughed softly at that before Hazel called my name. "Dr. Larsen? I think he's good to go."

"Okay. Tell the nurses outside."

She nodded and when she walked out, I smiled reassuringly at Avery.

"It's going to be fine. The nurses will take you to the OR while Hazel and I go get scrubbed in. I'll see you there, okay? Any questions?"

He slowly sighed. "I know I've been joking about it but... please don't let me die."

I smirked. "You won't. Besides, I can't wait for you to see your haircut."

At that moment, as he quietly laughed, the nurses came in to take over. I gave Avery's hand a soothing squeeze and promised I'd see him again. Most would say it was a bad idea to make such a promise, but I was confident. Dr. Naiman knew what he was doing.

And so did I.

**

The atmosphere inside the operating room was calm and relaxed. The beeping of the heart monitor was oddly comforting, and there wasn't a thing to worry about.

"Hazel," I acknowledged my intern, "Dr. Naiman is folding back the dura to expose the brain. You could use retractors to very gently create sort of a corridor between the skull and organ, okay?" I taught. She nodded, suppressing her enthusiasm. I smiled at her. "It's alright, you know."

"What is?" she asked with bright eyes.

"To be excited," I responded.

"Dr. Larsen is right," the attending agreed. He focused on the delicate nerves and vessels through his surgical loupes. As he spoke, he didn't dare lose concentration for even a millisecond, since that was how long it took for a fatal mistake to be made. "It is often said that surgery is more art than science."

"I think it's equally art and science," I countered. "Much like an artist, our hands are incredibly still. We're careful, precise. We're patient. But you can't put an artist in our place."

"To be fair, I suck at painting," Hazel admitted. "We rehearse and perform surgery, so maybe it's more theater than science?"

We chuckled. I was happy to have any form of small talk as we worked for hours.

But somewhere along the line, I felt a knot in the pit of my stomach. I held my breath, looking at Dr. Naiman as he paused. "Doctor," I called, hiding my anxiety. "We've got the tumor. All of it, yes?"

His hands stayed unimaginably still. "We've got all we are able to. His cancer is more aggressive then we expected; it's reached his brainstem. Just as we feared."

I closed my eyes as my heart fell. Of course. Just when I thought there'd be no surprises today. Damn it.

"It's practically microscopic, we'd be foolish to remove it surgically," he continued.

I swallowed my sadness and turned to Hazel. "If we tried to remove it, we could compromise normal function. The brainstem as you know is... one of them most essential parts. It controls the body's basic operations. Breathing, swallowing, heart rate, consciousness... In other words, we could kill him in an instant."

"Right," she understood with a serious nod.

"A good surgeon knows when to operate," Dr. Naiman told her. "But a better one knows when not to. We'll monitor him extensively. It's possible his cancer will metastasize to other parts of his body." He looked at me. "Would you like to close?"

I truly didn't. I much rather get out of these gloves, the gown, the mask and find a corner to cry in.

"Yes, of course. I'll teach Hazel."

"Very good." He stayed to oversee the process, though I was numb through it all.

After surgery was complete, Avery was transferred to the recovery room where his vital signs were monitored. It'd likely be a little while until he woke up from the anesthesia, then he'd be taken to NSICU, the neuroscience intensive care unit, for further recovery. In the meantime, my shift was over and I was able to go home.

But for the first time, I kinda didn't want to. I wanted to be there when Avery woke up since he didn't have anyone else.

After assisting Dr. Naiman in writing up post-op summary and instructions for the nurses, I went to change out of my work clothes.

My friend Lyanna caught up with me on my way out, bumping her shoulder gently into mine. "Hey, hey! You were in surgery this morning, right?"

"Yes. It went... ok."

Her lips fell into a pout. "I heard about your patient Lysa. I'm sorry."

"She passed yesterday." I shrugged. "It's the job, right?" I remembered what Lorenzo told me when he broke the news to me. He warned me not to get attached, and I didn't listen. Now all I could think about was how complicated things were going to be for Avery, and I couldn't even focus on the bright side—the fact that his occipital tumor was gone.

What did that amount to in the long run?

"You're not okay," she observed. "Are you sure you can drive right now? Maybe your husband can pick you up or... catch a ride home?"

I furrowed my eyebrows then shook my head. "No, I'm good. It's not the first time."

"No, but you're fragile, my dear friend." She side-hugged me. "I just want you to be alright."

"I am. Could you check on one of my patients for me; the one whose surgery I just did? His name's Avery Weppler."

"O-okay. Yeah, of course. I'll message you updates."

"Perfect, thanks. I'll see you tomorrow." I gave her hand a grateful squeeze.

"Look forward to Monday!"

"We all know the chief resident will go to you."

"Hm, guess we'll see! Bye, Cas."

I waved at her and walked out to the parking lot.

(David POV)

I'd just soothed Royce to sleep when my husband returned home from work. I quietly stepped out of our baby boy's room to see him reach the staircase landing.

"Welcome back," I greeted, smiling warmly at him. I missed him so much that it was torture. He paused, gazing at me steadily. I watched an abundance of emotions cross his beautiful face, and -having experienced this many times- I knew instantly what that meant. Something happened, and he was about to cry in about 5 seconds.

I wrapped him in a comforting embrace as he rested his head against my shoulder. "It's gonna be okay," I reassured just as I heard a tiny whimper escape his lips.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't be so sad. I'm happy to see you." He hugged me tighter and I kissed his head.

"You're perfectly free to feel sad. Your job is so tough," I understood, stroking his hair. "Come, let's go to our room."

Casper followed me, refusing to let me go, Obviously, I didn't mind in the slightest.

We sat down on the sofa and he laid down with his head on my lap. I cradled his cheek and gave him a sweet kiss, wiping away his tears.

"How are Royce and Dawn?"

"I just put them down for their naps," I answered. "They'll be happy to see you when they wake up. And I cooked your favorite meal."

He cracked a smile, thankfully. "I don't deserve you." We intertwined our fingers as I lost myself in his blue eyes. Somehow, with tears in them, they looked even more entrancing.

Jesus, what a magnificent creation he was.

"I need to know what's got you so sad."

He sighed. "One of my patients died. My friend thinks I'm fragile, another basically told me 'it is what it is.'"

"That's insensitive."

"Exactly! I do get a little attached, but that's because these individuals are good people who deserve great things. Sometimes I feel guilty for being healthy. I'm no better than them; why should they suffer and not me?"

"I understand. It feels like illness and injury picks and chooses who to affect."

"Honestly, I don't think I can dwell on it right now. Please tell me your day went much better than mine."

"All I remember is missing you, and I don't know, I'm extremely exhausted. I was feeling a little faint earlier but I drank a lot of water. I'm better now." I shrugged as he frowned.

"Are you okay? Did you take your vitamins?"

I smiled. "Yes, doctor, I did."

Casper shot up from my lap and stood from the sofa. "I need to take your blood pressure. Where's the BP cuff?"

"Wait, what-"

"Oh, good. It's right here." He walked toward the nightstand to grab it before approaching me. "If it's low, it might explain your fatigue. Are you lightheaded? Nauseous?" He touched my forehead and neck while I grinned, enjoying the attention.

Eventually, I took his hand in mine. "Cas, angel. I'm fine. I just didn't get enough sleep is all."

"We can't be too careful. I... I finally know what I'm doing, David. I know how to analyze and diagnose symptoms, I know how to treat them. I've performed solo surgeries. So if something happens to you and I miss it..." He shook his head, not wanting to think of the consequence. "You being tired could mean a thousand things. I can't just brush it off."

"Love, I know it's scary—"

"It's terrifying. We have children now. God forbid something happens to you and then I-I... what would I say to them?"

I promptly nodded then offered my arm. Casper sighed gratefully, proceeding to check my blood pressure.

"I love you," I said after a minute of silence, staring at my husband wistfully.

Casper looked at me, his face inches away. I felt myself blushing, and I could tell he noticed this when his eyes glistened with pride. He knew he was the only person that could make me blush, which was usually accompanied by me being shy. And I was never shy.

With the utmost sincerity and sadness, he replied, "forever isn't enough time to love you back."

The cuff loosened as my numbers appeared, and we both relaxed. "There, see? Perfectly normal."

"It's 109 over 70. For your age, that's borderline low bp." He took off the cuff. "But... yeah, I guess you're in the clear. You were probably just a little dehydrated. I'm checking again in two hours though."

"Whatever you need. Please don't stress. Would you like to take a nap with me? I think we both need one."

"I'm cranky aren't I?"

I stood up. "You have every right to be."

"Okay. Sorry I'm so on edge. A nap with you sounds like heaven but right after I shower."

I leaned in for a kiss, tickling him slightly just to get a laugh out of him. "Love you," he whispered.

••••••••••••••

Author note:

I thought writing the surgery scene would be so hard for obvious reasons but it wasn't that bad. How did I do?

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