Cindy had a doctor’s appointment, so she left Jake and Jan alone in the afternoon anatomy lab. When Cindy was out from lab, things were very quiet. Jake knew Jan didn’t like him, so the two of them generally worked in silence. He would concentrate on his own dissection while she’d try to work on something as far away as possible while still on the same cadaver.
Sometimes Jan wondered if she was giving Jake a bad rap. He certainly seemed to be making Cindy happy. But his arrogance still irked her. This was a guy who believed that he could and should have everything he wanted. He was dating Cindy because she was one of the prettiest girls in the class, but Jan was sure that when he found someone better, poor Cindy would be given the boot.
Jan had once mentioned her negative feelings about Jake to Andy. I know what you mean, Andy had said. He told her that over the years, he’d had a lot of students like Jake, and some of them went on to really great things. Others destroyed the lives of their patients because they believed they were God. It was still a toss up which way Jake would go.
Jan had just finished cleaning out the tarsal tunnel when she heard Andy’s voice: “How is the dissection going, Dr. Wright?”
She took a step back to show off her work. “I think I’ve got the tendons separated,” she said.
“So tell me,” Andy said, his blue eyes twinkling, “what structures run through the tarsal tunnel?”
When Jan hesitated, Jake spoke up: “The tendon of the tibialis posterior—”
Andy held up his hand and said in a cold voice, “I didn’t ask you, did I, Jake? I asked Jan.”
Jan could see Jake’s face turn bright red. He was a huge suck up and she knew he desperately wanted the professors to like him. He didn’t take getting snapped at by his anatomy professor lightly.
She took a deep breath, “The tibialis posterior tendon, the flexor digitorum longus tendon, the flexor hallucis longus tendon, and the tibial artery and nerve.”
“Excellent, Dr. Wright!” Andy beamed.
Jan grinned. She felt especially proud of herself because this wasn’t something that the two of them had gone over together. She wanted him to know that she was capable of learning things on her own, that he didn’t need to hold her hand to get her through anatomy.
Andy wheeled away from their table and Jan could see that Jake was still fuming. She smiled to herself. She had very few opportunities to show him up in lab, so she was really savoring it. “So you knew the answer,” Jake mumbled. “Big deal.”
“Oh, calm down,” Jan said. “It’s not like Andy hates you or something.”
Jake looked up sharply and for a moment, she didn’t know why. Then her stomach sunk as she realized what she had just said. She wished she could crawl under the table and disappear.
“Andy doesn’t hate me, huh?” Jake repeated, an amused look on his face. “Interesting. Very interesting.”
Jan didn’t know what to say. Her mouth felt very dry.
“I didn’t realize you were on a first name basis with Dr. Callahan,” Jake went on. “It’s clear that he doesn’t hate you.”
Jake put down the scalpel and smiled at her. At that moment, she hated him more than she’d thought possible. “You’re sleeping with him, aren’t you?” he hissed.
“No,” she whispered.
Jake laughed, “Oh, come on. I can see it written all over your face. You’re white as a sheet, Jan.”
“It’s okay,” Jake said with a shrug. “Hey, you were failing and now you’re not. Nice job.”
“It’s not like that,” she said softly.
“I get it, you’re sleeping with him because you’re in love with him,” Jake laughed again. It was a horrible sound. “Look, I’m not judging you. You boosted your grade and Dr. Callahan gets a little action. I’m sure he wasn’t getting any before. It’s win-win, right?”
Jan didn’t say anything. There was nothing she could say to convince Jake that she wasn’t trying to sleep with Andy for the grade. Even she had to admit, it seemed a little unbelievable. Andy was not exactly a heartthrob, sitting paralyzed in a wheelchair—he seemed like a pretty easy target. If she had heard another girl in the class were sleeping with him, she would have assumed the student was preying on him for the grade.
“Don’t worry,” Jake said, “I won’t tell anyone. Your secret is safe with me.” Jan had never trusted Jake. It made her very uncomfortable that he knew a secret that could destroy both her career and the career of the man she was growing to love.
It was nearly an hour drive out to see Dr. Richard Preston, an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in the shoulder. Andy had researched all the ortho docs in the area and none of them were as skilled and had as much experience with shoulders as Dr. Preston. He was told that if his shoulders were important to him, which they really were, he’d go to see Dr. Preston. So Andy cleared his afternoon schedule and made the drive out to see Dr. Preston.
Dr. Preston must have been a great surgeon because the lot in front of his clinic was packed. If Andy didn’t have his handicapped parking placard, he would have been in big trouble. As it was, there was only one handicapped spot for him to take. As he transferred into his chair from the car, he felt that familiar sharp jab of pain in his left shoulder and decided he was glad he had made the trip out here.
Andy wheeled up the ramp to the front entrance, which was a heavy door that did not open automatically. He had to lock his wheels in order to get a good grip on the door and pull it open. He couldn’t believe that an orthopedic surgeon would have an office set up like that. By the time he got to the front desk, his shoulders were aching.
The front desk was high enough that Andy could barely see over it. He looked around the waiting area and saw that while there were several people with crutches, he was the only one in a wheelchair. “Yes?” the receptionist said.
“I have an appointment with Dr. Preston,” Andy said. “My name is Andrew Callahan.”
The receptionist typed a few things into the computer. “Mr. Callahan,” she said, “I’m afraid that Dr. Preston is stuck in surgery right now.”
“For how long?”
“Could be a while…”
“You’re kidding me,” Andy tried to keep his anger under control, but he was pissed. “I drove an hour to get here. Now my appointment is canceled?”
“I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do,” she said. “We have a surgeon who came in to cover some of Dr. Preston’s patients. Do you want to see her? Otherwise, we can reschedule.”
Andy hesitated. He had come here to see Dr. Preston, the expert, not some doctor who was covering. But then again, he had driven so far to get here. He didn’t want to turn back and go home. “Yeah, I’ll see the other doctor,” he agreed.
Even after agreeing to see the other doctor, Andy waited for an hour in the waiting room. He nervously flipped through magazines and did weight shifts in his chair. He noticed that even the weight shifts were starting to hurt his shoulders. About five years ago, he started to take a couple of Vicodin a week for his shoulder pain. Then it increased to one pill a day. Now more often than not, he found himself needing two Vicodin to get through the day. He didn’t like the fact that he needed a narcotic just to be able to function. He had been hard on his shoulders as a paraplegic, but it wasn’t like he was some kind of Olympic racer. He didn’t know why this was happening to him. He guessed it was part bad genes and part bad luck.
Finally, Andy was called into the examining room. The nurse took his blood pressure, which was on the high side for him, but still normal for most people. As she recorded the numbers, she said to him, “Dr. McCoy will be with you in a moment.”
It took a second for the statement to hit him and by the time it registered and he called out for her to wait, the nurse was already gone. Dr. McCoy. Aw shit, what were the chances? It couldn’t be…
He might have attempted to inquire, but less than a minute later, he was face to face with Jessica McCoy. He hadn’t seen her in a very long time, but it made him sick to look at her. Especially since she looked great. She was his age, but boy, she looked ten years younger. She still looked a lot like the girl he had fallen in love with over the cadaver in their first semester anatomy lab, who had eventually made the first move herself after he had repeatedly found excuses to study with her. He asked her to marry him only two years later, just after their last exam of second year. He got down on one knee with a diamond ring that he had paid for by eating nothing but ramen noodles for two months.
“Hi, Andy,” Jessie said quietly. As she stepped into the room, her ID badge swung around and he caught a glimpse of two adorable kids pictured on the back. Those should have been mine.
He was so angry, he had to force out the words: “I didn’t know you worked here.”
“I don’t,” Jessie explained. “I’m just covering as a favor to Dr. Preston. I… uh, I saw your name on the schedule, but I thought you’d make a new appointment.”
“Believe me, if I had known I was going to see you, I would have.”
Jessie inhaled sharply. She deserved that and she knew it. “Do you want to reschedule?”
He thought about it. As much as he hated seeing Jessie, he knew she was really smart and undoubtedly a good physician. It didn’t hurt to hear her opinion, especially after having already invested two hours of time to get here. “No, let’s hear what you have to say.”
Jessie nodded and put his films up in the viewer. She gestured to the X-ray of his shoulder joint. “So this is your right shoulder,” she began.
“I know how to read an X-ray,” he said sharply.
“Fine,” she said. “Then you already know you’ve got severe arthritis in both shoulders. You’re basically bone on bone.”
Andy nodded. “So what are my options?”
Jessie folded her arms across her chest, “How much pain are you having?”
All of a sudden, he wished he’d rescheduled. He didn’t want to talk to her about his pain. But he had gone this far, he may as well get his answer. “Pretty significant,” he told her.
She shook her head. “Arthroscopic surgery can’t repair this kind of damage. You’re looking at bilateral shoulder replacement.”
Those were the words Andy had been dreading. “You’re kidding.”
“You’re welcome to another opinion,” Jessie said with a shrug, “but I’d say that’s your only option at this point.”
Shoulder replacement at age 35 seemed ridiculous to him. “How long is the recovery period?”
“I’d keep the restrictions for six to eight weeks for each shoulder,” Jessie replied.
“What the fuck am I supposed to do without my shoulders?” Andy muttered. He shook his head. “I can’t. I can’t…”
“Well, the surgery is elective,” Jessie said. “It all depends on how bad your pain is. Are you on pain medications?”
“How many tablets per day?”
Andy’s face burned. He didn’t want to admit to Jessie how much pain medication he needed to get through the day. “That’s none of your business.”
Jessie wore a concerned expression on her face and it just made him hate her more. He didn’t want her to feel sorry for him. He wanted to prove to her that he was doing great, even though she had left him. But it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. “Andy, I’m trying to help you,” she said.
“You’re trying to help me,” he murmured. “How kind of you. You’re just the picture of compassion, aren’t you?”
“Andy, stop it,” she said. “Come on, it’s been over ten years.”
“What you did to me was really shitty, Jessie,” he said. “I don’t care if it was ten years ago or yesterday.”
“I know,” she said in a small voice. “I’m sorry. I was young and… and selfish, I guess.”
“One week,” he said. “One week after I got shot, you dumped me. I was lying in bed, just found out I’d never walk again, my career was over, and you fucking dumped me. Couldn’t you at least have waited until I was in rehab or something?”
“I’m sorry,” Jessie whispered.
Andy didn’t get angry easily. Many of his family members and friends told him that they had never seen him angry before. He didn’t like himself this way, but he felt over ten years of anger overpowering him. “You’re sorry? That’s all you have to say, huh?”
“Look, I told you I’d still be your friend…”
Andy’s hands balled up into fists. “I already had friends. I needed you to be my fucking girlfriend.”
There was a long silence in the room. Jessie was looking down at her hands and he could see the tears welling up in her eyes. But he felt nothing for her but anger. “Jessie, what you did to me was unforgivable,” he said.
“I know,” she said. “I… I hate myself for it. I think about you… about us… and how much I cared about you and… I know you never would have done something like that to me. I was just… so focused on myself. I had this idea about a perfect little life and I just couldn’t deal with your injury.”
In a way, he understood. Jessie was always very focused on her career—it was one of the things that attracted him to her. And she was rightfully scared of giving it all up to play nursemaid to him. But he still hadn’t seen it coming. He was lying in his hospital bed, 23 years old and facing life in a wheelchair, a catheter shoved up his dick to catch his urine, and Jessie had marched into his room and said, I think it’s better if we call off the engagement.
He had been devastated. The woman he loved had just dumped him because of his injury and he felt like no woman would ever want him again. It was one of the worst days of his life.
Ultimately, he guessed Jessie had made the right decision for herself. She was probably happier with the guy she ended up with than she would have been with him. He didn’t blame her for choosing her own happiness over his, but he wished she had done it more tactfully.
“I’m sorry,” Jessie said again.
“Yeah, so am I,” Andy said.
Jan knew that Andy cut out of work early to go to some sort of doctor’s appointment. They hadn’t made plans for the night, but she picked up a pizza and drove over to his house to surprise him. She balanced the pizza box on one hand as she rang his doorbell. It took him a while, but he finally answered the door.
“Surprise!” Jan said. “I brought dinner! And me.”
Andy managed a small smile, but he didn’t look good. “Oh hey, thanks,” he said. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“I wanted to.” She brushed past him and laid the pizza down on his kitchen table. “We should eat it before it gets cold.”
“I’m not really hungry,” Andy said.
Jan frowned. “Andy, what’s wrong?”
He sighed. “Nothing. Really, don’t worry about me.”
Jan walked over to him and sat down on his lap, wrapping her arm around his neck. “Tell me,” she said.
“Really, I don’t want you to have to think about this stuff,” he said. “You’re young, you shouldn’t be worrying about my problems.”
“Tell me,” she insisted.
He looked at her a long time before he finally sighed again. “It’s my damn shoulders,” he said. “They’ve been killing me lately. Before it was just sometimes during transfers, but now it hurts even when I just wheel.”
“Can’t you use a power wheelchair?” Jan suggested.
“Oh god,” Andy muttered. “As if I’m not a big enough spectacle in this chair. If I use a powerchair, people are going to stare at me like I’m Stephen Hawkings.”
“Oh, come on,” Jan laughed. She had never thought of Andy as being self-conscious at all. It surprised her to hear him talking like that. She traced a line down his chest to his belt buckle. “I’d still like you if you were in a power wheelchair.”
“Yeah?” Andy grinned at her and pulled her closer to his warm body.
“Very much so,” she said as she lowered her lips onto his. “Here, let me help you forget about your shoulders,” she breathed.
Andy stared into her eyes, an odd expression on his face. She remembered again his attempt to tell her that he loved her. He hadn’t tried again since, but she was the one who couldn’t stop thinking about it. She was finding more and more that she was crazy about Andy, even though he was totally wrong for her in so many ways.
“What?” she finally asked.
“You’re incredible, Jan,” he said. “I’m really lucky.”
Funny, because she was the one who felt lucky.
Jan decided not to spend the night at Andy’s place because he was going to bed too early for her as usual. She teased him a little about his ridiculously early bedtime and he graciously refused her offer to tuck him in.
When Jan got home, she heard the usual giggling coming from within her bedroom. Despite her warnings to Cindy, Jake was often seen in their shared bedroom. Cindy swore they weren’t having sex in there, only “hanging out”, but it still bothered Jan a lot. Especially since Jake had figured out her little secret. Every time she saw him, she felt ill.
Jan plopped herself down on the couch and turned on the television to Nick at Nite. She tried to focus on the episode of Get Smart, but all she could think about was Andy. She wished she had decided to spend the night at his apartment, instead of coming back to this hellhole. She had only left him less than thirty minutes ago and already she missed him.
She looked up sharply at the sound of Jake’s voice behind her. He was dressed in a white undershirt and a pair of boxer shorts, and his hair was mussed. “Will you please get dressed?” she said.
Jake just smiled and sat down next to her on the couch. Too close. She scooted over, so as to be as far from him as possible. “Nice to see you too,” he commented. “How’s Andy?”
Jan’s face flushed and she looked away from him.
“You know, I was thinking,” Jake said, “I mean, I’m doing you a pretty big favor keeping this secret for you. There are a lot of people I could tell, but I haven’t told anyone. Not even Cindy.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Jan muttered.
“I was thinking maybe you could do me a favor.”
Jan turned and stared at Jake. She was afraid to hear where this was going. “What do you want?”
“I want a copy of the final exam.”
Jan shook her head. “Impossible.”
“Impossible?” Jake repeated, raising his eyebrows. “I find that really hard to believe, Jan. When you’re sleeping with the professor, anything is possible.”
“You can believe what you want, but I’m not cheating,” Jan said. “I earned my grade on the last exam.”
Jake smirked. “So what, you’re in love with Dr. Callahan? You’re in love with our forty year old crippled professor. Yeah, I believe that.”
Jan heaved a deep breath. “Look, Dr. Callahan will never give me a copy of the final exam. If I tell him you’re blackmailing me, he’d rather turn all three of us in than give you that exam.”
“So I guess you’ll have to be a little resourceful then,” Jake said with a shrug.
“Why do you even need to get the test?” Jan asked. “You’re already getting the top grades in the class.”
“I got a B in the last exam,” Jake said, a dark look in his eyes. “I need an A in anatomy. If I’m going to do plastics, I need to have the highest grades in the class.”
“Jake, I can’t do this,” Jan said. She felt tears welling up in her eyes. “Please don’t ask me to do this for you…”
“It’s not really a request,” Jake said. “Either I get that test or I go to the dean. And that will the end of your career and Dr. Callahan’s career.”
Jan didn’t even feel that horrified at the idea of being kicked out of med school. She was beginning to realize more and more that she didn’t like it here and perhaps she had picked medicine for the wrong reasons. But she couldn’t let Andy’s reputation be tarnished.
“I’m not worried,” Jake said, patting her on the shoulder in a gesture so condescending, it was all Jan could do to keep from planting her fist on his chin. “I know you’ll find a way to get me that exam.”
To be continued...