This was not the woman he remembered.
He touched her on her shoulder to try and comfort her, causing her to open her eyes. He was kneeling beside her, positioning himself between her and the sun with his hands resting beside her shoulders.
It had to be close to 100 degrees, or hotter, in the sun, even close to the water, and there was no wind worth speaking of.
His heart went out to her. No one should be in pain like this, not even this bi…! He held back from using that expression. He wanted to lean in and comfort her, to reassure her somehow, as his mother had done for him when he’d been ill and hurting, but he knew that would be absolutely the wrong thing to do.
He might just unleash that sleeping demon he knew about. He had to remain coldly aloof; professional.
He spoke as kindly as he could. “I know it hurts like hell, and it’s bad enough, but it’s not as bad as it looks or feels, and they... those hooks… are almost all, superficial and will be easily dealt with. Most of those hooks are just shallowly dug in.”
Easy for him to say. They would still be tricky to get out.
He had to be supportive. She probably would have difficulty believing him. It would be easy for him to say that; he, wasn’t the one that was hurting.
They’d both remember this day for a very long time, but for different reasons.
Her concerns were not only about her present discomfort, but also about something else.
“But… this… me….” He was surprised to recognize that she was concerned about her nakedness in front of him, which was understandable with any woman of any age. She was both shy, and embarrassed? That, seemed totally out of character.
That pill must be starting to work, taking her mind off the pain.
He smiled at her, looking into her eyes and nowhere else, to try and comfort her. She was actually blushing; concerned over what he thought of her like this?
“I understand how you feel. I know the situation is acutely embarrassing (maybe she really was embarrassed), but I can’t do anything about that until I get most of those hooks out. Look at it this way; I have my doctor’s hat on.”
As if that made any difference!
“My only purpose in life is to help you at this moment, whatever it will take” —and no matter how much she disturbed his hormones.
He began to feel brave. “Besides, I won’t be embarrassed for long. I’ll also soon get over it, so you shouldn’t be concerned about me.” He was treading on dangerous ground.
She looked at him sharply, not yet ready to laugh at his peculiar sense of humor, but not swearing at him either.
“You’ll have to forgive my risqué humor. It seems to afflict doctors more than anyone else. Foot in mouth disease?”
He explained further. “I always have to find a funny side to almost everything, especially the more serious issues. It helps to alleviate the tension, even if it is Gallows humor. I know how you feel, being at the mercy of an insensitive doctor at such a time as this, but I can assure you, I am not insensitive, or unsympathetic to your plight. I am very cognizant of it.
“If I didn’t try and make light of it, or find something to smile about at these times, it would become far too serious for both of us, and I don’t want that. I need you to relax, and to trust me. Please.”
At least she was listening.
“You can tell me off, later, and point out where I was deficient in my mannerisms, or my approach, and I will grovel and apologize.”
He would also distract her in other ways too—he was good at that—but he’d better be careful what medical jokes he chose to tell her. Some of those were a bit too close to the knuckle. Comments about her stunning body, were also off limits.
She wasn’t going to argue with him or swear at him just yet.
“I’ll be slow, and gentle, and I’ll talk to you about everything I am doing, before I do it. You can stop me at any time. Just stay, ‘stop’, and then explain what you are feeling, or ask me anything. I’ll ask you questions too. This can’t be rushed… one step… one hook, at a time, but once that pill takes a deeper hold, it won’t seem so bad. Keep drinking that water.”
She watched him strip off his shirt, open it up and lay it gently over her, covering her shoulders, and even covering her down to her knees. He also put his canvas hat on her head to cover her forehead, after he’d turned back the brim. There were a couple of hooks in the hair there too, so he did it carefully.
“I’m protecting you from a sunburn (as well as protecting her modesty for a while), and avoiding it becoming any more of a problem than it is. I won’t be able to do very much until I can get you into the house. I can’t do anything on this jetty, and I wouldn’t anyway, or we’d both have a sunburn problem. Besides, it’s too narrow here, and I need you elevated.”
She found her voice again. “You said I should tell you if…. I can’t lie down easily, on my back. It feels like there’s one in my shoulder under me.”
He lifted her shoulder slowly, seeing her breasts also move.
“Yes, there is one there. Can you hold still for a moment like this?”
“Yes, but my muscles are killing me.” Her abs were tensed with her trying to hold herself off her back and turned a little to the side.
He retrieved the flotation noodle out of his kayak, and laid it along, and under her, seeing that hook in there… another deep one, as he lifted her and rolled it in there, to support her off that place.
“You can relax back now, put your weight on that, it will support you off the deck.”
She let out a pent-up breath and let herself down slowly with his help.
“Thank you. That pill didn’t do anything…yet… shouldn’t it have begun to work?” She was scared and still hurting, and this would only be the start of it.
“It should soon work, but I can give you another one.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a fast-acting analgesic, a few micrograms of Fentanyl to deaden the pain. Drink. They really won’t take long; a few minutes at most, to take effect, but everyone’s metabolic rate is different.”
He didn’t want her struggling, or fighting with him, or getting more anxious than she was, once he began this. It would be better if she was a bit ‘dopey’, and able to relax.
She looked up at him and accepted the bottle of water to hold for herself. It was still cool. She thanked him with her eyes, and drank, washing the pill down.
“You’re dehydrated from being in the sun, so keep drinking. By the time I get back, those pills should be having an effect.”
She hoped so. She was feeling sick with the pain.
Now, she was concerned. “Get back from where? You’re leaving me? Where are you going?” She seemed ready to panic.
“I’ll be no more than five minutes. I’m taking my things to the house. I need to see to you up there”--he pointed-- “not here, or we’ll both be burned to a crisp in that sun.”
He made sense, so she laid back, hoping to feel those pills take effect.
He picked up his bag and other bottles of water, pulled his kayak higher out of the water and walked up to the house.
He had a lot to think about. He’d never been so wrong about anyone in his entire life and he didn’t understand it. He was also in trouble in another way. She’d got through to him as no patient ever should, and he didn’t understand that, either.
He never, became emotionally attached to any patient, even though the encouragement had been there with a few of the younger, as well as the more mature women (married ones too). They’d been warned about that in medical school, and had had the dangers drilled into them.
Yet, despite that, he felt something he’d never felt before, with this one, and it hadn’t just been because she was interestingly naked, or that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
No, when she had looked at him just then, and had expressed concern that he was ‘leaving’ her, there had been something there, on her side of the equation too.
She hadn’t wanted him to leave her for even a second. He’d felt the same way, not understanding it, but he had a job to do, and he so much wanted to get on with it.
Loss of his afternoon recreational outing was suddenly unimportant. It had already been forgotten.