Kyra was thrilled when she discovered that the resident scrubbing in with her was Peter Westin. Peter was a second year resident and Kyra knew he was terrified of her. She liked residents who were already well-trained to fear her. The last time they had been in the OR, he had looked like he was right on the brink of snapping. She had heard him mumble a few things under his breath that she was determined to make him pay for.
Kyra watched Peter scrubbing in and smiled to herself. She waited until he was done rinsing off all the soap before she spoke up. “Is that how you scrub in?” she said. “That’s totally unacceptable.”
Peter raised his brown eyes to meet hers, “That’s how we were taught to do it.”
“Well, you were taught wrong,” Kyra said. “Scrub again and we’ll arrange for you to take a remedial scrubbing class.”
Even under his mask, Kyra could see the flush filling Peter’s cheeks as he grabbed another sponge and restarted the scrubbing process.
Kyra had already made the first incision by the time Peter came into the room. She flashed him an irritated look, “From now on, you arrive on time to all surgeries.”
“I was on time,” Peter said. “You made me scrub twice.”
“Excuse me?” Kyra lowered the scalpel and stared at him. “When I tell you you’re late, you don’t argue with me. You say “yes, Dr. Manning” and you get to work. Got it?”
“Yes, Dr. Manning,” Peter mumbled.
Kyra continued to work as Peter gowned up. She didn’t really need an assist for this surgery, especially not a resident. She was a talented enough surgeon that she could do most of the bread and butter stuff without a second pair of hands.
Peter approached the patient’s side. “Why don’t you hold the retractor?” Kyra suggested. “And you can dab the blood.”
“The retractor is already clamped into place,” Peter pointed out.
Kyra reached out and loosened the clamp. She held out the end of the retractor to Peter. “Now you can hold it,” she said.
Peter stared at her for a good second before he reached out and pulled off his mask, breaking sterile. “You know what, you don’t need me… I’m leaving.”
The scrub nurse was so surprised, she dropped the suture she had been holding. It was the first time a resident had ever stood up to Kyra.
“Fine,” Kyra said. “I’ll see that you get put on probation for this.”
She could see Peter debating if he should apologize or not. But he had already gone too far. He stormed out of the room, leaving Kyra to finish the surgery by herself.
After the surgery was over, Kyra marched over to the chief of surgery’s office. The chief was Dr. Timothy Potter, the same doctor who had been there the night Joel was injured. He had hired Kyra, but their relationship had never been the same since that night.
Dr. Potter had the largest office in the hospital. He had a giant mahogany desk and three bookcases filled with surgery texts. On his walls were at least two dozen certificates and diplomas. Potter was one of the most respected figures in surgery.
Potter didn’t look surprised when Kyra appeared in his office. His brow was wrinkled and his bushy eyebrows wove together. “I’ll like to make you aware,” Kyra said, “that Peter Westin walked out of a surgery we were doing together.”
“Yes, Peter informed me of this,” Potter said as he stroked his beard. “Believe me, he will be disciplined and he knows that. But he also told me that you were treating him very disrespectfully.”
“I wasn’t treating him any differently than my own attendings treated me when I was an attending here,” Kyra replied. It was partially true… she had attendings like herself, but she knew she was on the harsher end of the spectrum.
“Kyra,” Potter began, “every single resident in the program has come to me with complaints about your behavior.”
“They’re soft,” she said.
“I don’t think so,” Potter said. “The other surgery attendings have had nothing but praise for these residents. I’ve also talked to some of the scrub nurses and confirmed a lot of the things that the residents have been telling me.”
Kyra’s face burned. “Are you having me investigated?”
“You’re not letting the residents have any meaningful role in the surgeries,” Potter said. “You’re acting excessively cruel to them…”
As Potter ticked off the list, Kyra felt her stomach sinking. This didn’t sound good at all. Apparently, those little bastard residents were plotting to get her kicked out of the hospital. The nerve of them! Residents had no respect these days.
“…and you’ve had more lawsuits this year than any other surgeon in the hospital,” Potter finished.
“Those lawsuits are completely unfounded,” Kyra said.
She thrust her jaw forward, “So… what? Are you firing me?”
“I think you’re a good surgeon, Kyra,” Potter said. “I’ve known you since you were an intern and I know this isn’t like you at all. Maybe you’re under more stress because of the divorce…”
“Get to the point,” Kyra said through her teeth.
“I’d like you to clean up your act,” Potter said. “And if you don’t, then… we’ll have to have another talk.”
“So my resident walks out during a surgery and I’m the one who gets put on probation?” Kyra snorted.
“It’s not probation…”
“I’m trying to help you, Kyra,” Potter said. She hated him right then. Her eyes fell on his desk, at the family photo of him with his wife and two kids. Tim Potter had it all: he was a brilliant, well respect surgeon and he had a family that loved him.
It’s your fault Joel’s paralyzed, Kyra thought. If Potter had forced Joel to go home when he was supposed to, he might not have been exhausted enough to fall asleep at the wheel. It’s your fault Joel and I aren’t together right now.
“Thanks a bunch,” Kyra said. She made a mental note to start looking around for other jobs. If she wasn’t wanted at this hospital, there were plenty of other places looking for a dedicated, hard-working surgeon.
On her way back to her office, Kyra saw a couple of residents in the hallway. She suppressed the urge to yell at them. All the residents despised her, apparently. She had known it was true, but didn’t think they’d go so far as to try to get her fired.
Kyra collapsed into the chair in front of her desk. She felt very tired all of a sudden. She looked down at her hands and saw that her fingers were nearly shaking with anger. She couldn’t lose her job. She loved her job. It was all she had.
She wanted to call someone to complain about this, but she didn’t know who. At this point in her life, she had no friends and no close family members. Most of the time, she was too busy to care. But now she wished there were someone she could talk to.
Ironically, the one person wanted to talk to most was Joel. Only hours before, they had agreed to stay out of each other’s lives, but now she found herself longing for his company…. and his touch.
Kyra had tracked down his home phone number and address the other day, when she had been contemplating calling him. She had written down the information on a memo pad on her desk and she now looked down at it, wondering how he’d feel about seeing her. He had seemed resistant on the phone, but she sensed that if she saw him in person and he saw how upset she was, he’d react differently.
Kyra glanced at her watch. She was done with her surgeries for the day and there wasn’t anything to do except for some paperwork, which she wasn’t in the mood to start on. She stood up from her desk and grabbed her coat from off the wall. She could be at Joel’s apartment in fifteen minutes.
Kyra arrived at Joel’s apartment fourteen minutes later. It was a nice building—Kyra was impressed. She remembered the dive he had lived in back when they were residents and this was quite a contrast. “I’d like Joel Dergan’s apartment, please,” she told the doorman.
“Just a moment,” he told her. She fidgeted as he rang upstairs. Part of her was slightly worried that Joel might not let her come upstairs, so she was relieved when the doorman gave her the go-ahead.
As Kyra rode up in the elevator, she debated what she was going to say to Joel. She wanted to tell him that she still had feelings for him, that she was sorry for not staying by his side six years ago. She wanted to beg him to give her another chance. She knew that she could make him happy.
When Kyra rang the doorbell, it took a while for the door to open. Finally, just as she was getting ready to ring again, the door opened. But instead of Joel in his wheelchair, she saw that pixie-like dark-haired medical student they had run into the other day at the restaurant. The girl’s hair was mussed and her shirt was partially unbuttoned. Kyra’s mouth fell open.
The girl looked equally surprised. “Uh… you’re not Chinese food…”
“I’m certainly not,” Kyra snapped. She wanted to wrap her fingers around the girl’s pretty little neck. Suddenly his discomfort yesterday made perfect sense. Everything made perfect sense.
“Ann, my wallet is on the counter!” Joel called from the other room.
The girl, Ann, was as red as a beet. She just stood there, looking terrified, casting glances toward the back of the apartment. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
After what seemed like an eternity, Joel wheeled into the foyer. He was wearing pants, at least, but his shoes and socks were gone and his shirt was also partially unbuttoned, revealing hints of hair on his chest. His light brown eyes widened when he saw Kyra standing there. “Kyra… what…” he blinked. “What are you doing here?”
“Is that all you have to say?” she retorted. “After you lied to me last night?”
“Lied to you?” Joel shook his head. “What did I lie to you about?”
“About her,” Kyra pointed at the girl.
Joel didn’t look surprised or sorry anymore. He looked, in fact, sort of irritated. “It was none of your business,” he replied simply. “I’m not obligated to tell you about my personal relationships.”
Kyra knew that she had started this argument by going on the offensive first, but now that she was angry, she couldn’t make herself calm down. “I mean, a medical student, Joel?” she said. “She’s not even your type. I really expected a little better from you. Are you giving her an A?”
The girl appeared to be on the brink of tears. Joel wheeled over to her and touched her arm so tenderly, Kyra felt a flash of jealousy. “Ann, would you mind waiting in the other room?” he said gently.
She nodded gratefully and ran out of the room, leaving Joel and Kyra all alone. Joel shifted in his wheelchair, never taking his eyes off Kyra. “So what’s this about?” he said in a cold voice.
“I just think it’s ironic,” Kyra said. “You accused me of malpractice, but you’re the one fucking a medical student on your team. Last time I checked, that wasn’t allowed.”
“We didn’t mean for it to happen,” Joel said. “It just happened.”
“I’m sure…” Kyra smiled. “And I’m sure she really loves you. I’m sure none of this is about the grade.”
Joel narrowed his eyes. “What? You think no woman would have sex with me if it wasn’t for a grade?”
Kyra got the distinct feeling that she was crossing a line here, but she couldn’t help herself. She was very hurt by the idea of Joel messing around with that girl and she could see in his eyes that he was unsure of himself. She knew she had the ability to hurt him back and she wasn’t sure if she was big enough to resist.
“Am I wrong?” Kyra said. “Are there girls lining up to have sex with an incontinent quadriplegic in a wheelchair? That’s what you are, isn’t it?”
Joel stared at her. She saw a flash of anger on his face, but then it passed and his shoulders sagged. “Yeah, that’s exactly what I am,” he said quietly. “Get out, Kyra. I never want to see you again.”
“Not so fast,” Kyra said. She took a step towards him. Even without her heels, she would have towered over him in his chair. He used to be taller than she was. “You’re not getting off so easy. What I saw here tonight is enough to get you fired and get your pretty little med student kicked out of school.”
“What do you want?” he said through his teeth.
“You’re going to talk Mrs. Brewster out of the malpractice suit,” Kyra said. “Convince her not to sue me. Or else I’ll blow the whistle on you and Thumbelina in there.”
Joel shook his head. “I won’t do that, Kyra.”
“That’s a shame,” Kyra sighed. “I’d hate for you to lose your job.”
“I’m not going to let you blackmail me into screwing over a patient,” Joel said.
“It’s your decision,” Kyra said. She knew from one look at Joel that he’d never agree to her terms. No matter how much he hated medicine, he always loved his patients and wanted the best for them. In his book, patients came first, even above his own career. It was why he wouldn’t have even attempted to operate if there was even a slight chance he wouldn’t be able to do it right. “But it’s not just you who will be in trouble. She will be too.”
“I’ll take all the blame,” Joel said firmly. “I won’t let her get kicked out for this.”
“How big of you,” Kyra murmured.
“Get out,” Joel said again.
The hatred in his eyes yesterday was nothing compared to what she saw right now. I really blew it with him, Kyra thought. If only that girl hadn’t been here…
Kyra obeyed Joel’s request and left his apartment, slamming the door behind her.
As the door closed on Kyra’s slim figure, Joel felt like a knife was going through his chest. He stared at the door for a full minute, before burying his face in his palms. He couldn’t believe the things she had said to him. He knew she had said it to hurt him, but there was a lot of truth in what she said.
She was right: he was an incontinent quadriplegic. Sometimes he couldn’t just step back and look at the way he seemed to other people. To himself, he was the same person he’d always been. But to everyone else… he wasn’t someone who could ever be an object of sexual desire. That was why he hadn’t had a date in six years.
When he thought of what had gone on between him and Ann, he felt sick. He had been trying to please her, while she had undoubtedly been pushing away her own disgust. And he could only imagine how sickened she must have been by the sight of his naked body the last time they were together.
He didn’t know why she was doing this. Maybe it wasn’t for a grade, but it was at least out of some sort of obligation she felt for his help.
I’m done with women, he decided. He didn’t want to ever be the object of obligation or pity.
Ann emerged from the bedroom, her shirt now fully buttoned. He felt a sudden rush of anger towards her. He felt like she had toyed with him. She was so pretty… how could he ever have been dumb enough to think she was really attracted to him? And that virgin bullshit—obviously a lie. How could a girl like that be a virgin?
“Who was she?” Ann asked in a small voice.
“We used to go out a long time ago,” Joel said.
“Ann, I think you should leave.”
She hung her head, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked…”
He studied her face. Didn’t she realize that he had figured it out? “This isn’t going to happen again between you and me,” he said. “I mean it.”
Ann nodded. He watched as she turned around and left his apartment much more quietly than Kyra had earlier. As the door closed, Joel felt a brief twinge of regret, but he realized that he wasn’t feeling regretful over what happened with Ann. Kyra was the one he was sorry to see walk out the door.
I never want to see you again, he had said. Even when he had spoken the words, he felt awful about it. He had no doubt in his mind that she wouldn’t make good on her threat to expose him. No matter what sort of person she had become, he knew she wouldn’t try to destroy him. If there was anything left of the old Kyra, she wouldn’t do it.
I wonder if I’ll ever see her again…
To be continued...