Home > Surprise Delivery(11)

Surprise Delivery(11)
Author: R.R. Banks

Sabrina takes another drink of her coffee and falls silent for a long minute. She leans against the counter and just studies me. It goes on so long, I start to feel a little uncomfortable beneath her scrutiny.

“What?” I finally ask with a nervous laugh.

“That's part of your problem, you know,” she says.

“What is?”

“That you overthink things sometimes,” she replies. “You sit back – process things – and then find a thousand reasons why something won't work, instead of just letting it play out organically.”

I open my mouth to rebut her point, but then close it again. Deep down, I know she's right. I've long known I overthink things. But I'd rather think something through thoroughly and make a decision based on rational and logical facts, than just rush headlong into something.

I've never been somebody who runs strictly on emotion. I rely on my brain more than my heart – which is mostly why I'm so confounded by my reaction to Duncan in the first place. He somehow managed to override my brain and appealed directly to my heart instead. Everything I did with him last night, from the first to the last words we spoke – not to mention everything in between – came from a place of pure emotion. And I'm feeling incredibly uncertain in the aftermath of it.

“Lex, sometimes, you just need to let yourself feel,” she says. “You need to listen to your heart, rather than that big brain of yours.”

I let out a breath. “Yeah, maybe,” I sigh. “But, like I said, it doesn't even bear thinking about anymore since Duncan is leaving.”

“He'll be back,” she assures me. “And judging by the way he was looking at you last night, I have no doubts he'll be touching base with you when he does.”

“Yeah well, we'll jump off that bridge when we come to it.”

Bri laughs. “You know who his family is, don't you?”

“He told me a bit about them last night,” I reply. “We mostly talked about his relationship with them.”

Sabrina smiles like she's got the juiciest bit of gossip ever and can't wait to share it. “The Clyburne family is one of the wealthiest in all of New York. We're talking billions,” she gushes. “And Doctor Duncan Clyburne is on the list of Manhattan's most eligible bachelors every single year. Hot and rich? Yeah, you could have picked worse.”

“I didn't pick anybody,” I laugh. “It was an accident and we just started talking after that. Besides, you know I'm not about the money. I'm not like that.”

“I know,” she says. “All I'm saying is that if you were going to fall for somebody, you could have fallen for a lot worse than him.”

“Oh, so now I'm falling for him?” I say and laugh. “Kind of jumping the gun a bit, aren't you?”

“Maybe,” she admits. “But, I'm just so damn excited. This is the first time in like, forever, that you've actually shown interest in a guy.”

“Yeah, well, there's a good reason for that.”

“Duncan is nothing like the pigs you work with,” she tells me. “Believe me. I don't know him well, but I know him well enough to know that he's a genuinely good guy.”

If I'm being honest with myself, I can already agree. After spending time with him last night, I can see that he can sometimes come off as a little gruff. I saw him cycle through a lot of different personas last night as we sat and talked. At the core of him, I really got the sense that he's a good guy. I imagine some of those other personas, and aloof cynicism, are maybe just a function of having grown up in the fishbowl I imagine wealthy families like his had to.

I imagine that growing up in one of the richest, most powerful families in the entire state of New York forced him to adopt a persona of cool detachment. I guess it would be a survival instinct he would’ve had to develop as he grew up and found that people aren't always who or what they appear to be.

People are always looking to use you, get over on you, and then discard you when they're through with you. I've experienced it more than a few times in my own life – and I don’t have much of value to really offer people. Having the kind of money Duncan has must make it ten times worse. A hundred times. Admittedly, it's not always money people are after. But having it probably makes even more people come at you.

“All I'm saying,” Bri continues, “is to not close yourself off to the possibility. Life comes at you fast and everything can change in a heartbeat. And sometimes, you let your brain get in the way and make things more complicated than they have to be.”

I shrug. “And sometimes, my brain keeps me from getting hurt.”

Bri puts her coffee mug down and takes my hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. She gives me a soft, gentle smile.

“Getting hurt is just a part of life,” she says. “You'll never experience the great and amazing things life has to offer if you play it safe all the time. You'll miss out on so much if you spend more time trying to avoid getting hurt than you do letting yourself actually feel. And you'll definitely cheat yourself out of experiencing what real love feels like if you guard your heart as closely as you tend to.”

I understand what she's saying, but I've spent a good portion of my life learning to close myself off to people. Learning to guard and protect myself and my heart. In a way, I grew up learning some of the same lessons Duncan did – just for different reasons. And that's not something I can unlearn after spending one evening with somebody. More than that, I don't know that it's something I should unlearn.

“I just want to see you happy,” Bri says. “I want to see you let yourself be cared for and loved.”

“I know, and I appreciate that. And, when the time is right, it'll happen.”

“I hope so,” she says, squeezing my hand a little harder. “You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be loved and treated like a queen.”

I pull her to me and wrap my arms around her, giving Sabrina a tight hug. I know she wants the best for me, and I love her for that. Just as I want the best in life for her. Maybe one day, I'll be able to get out of my own way long enough to find somebody special – somebody, who will treat me like the queen Bri thinks I deserve to be treated like. Until then, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.

And what I'm doing is trying to find a way to better my life. To better myself. Not for anybody else – I need to do this for me.



The impact of the bomb, or missile, or whatever the hell they're firing out there, cracks like thunder and shakes the very floor beneath my feet. The overhead light sways wildly from the force of the impact and the chatter of automatic gunfire echoes loudly.

“Sounds like the fighting's getting closer,” Sandra – my assisting nurse – says, a nervous tremor in her voice.

I look up at her and grin – not that she can see it from behind my surgical mask. “You're not getting scared, are you?”

“You'd be a fool not to be scared,” she says, chuckling nervously.

I guess I'm a fool, then. I've been in Syria for a few weeks now, and the fighting has been constant. The chaotic sounds of explosions and gunfire lull me to sleep every night and provide me with a wake-up call every morning. And of course, the stream of people needing emergency surgery because of the fighting is endless. Some can be helped, others can't. Though I dare say I've saved more lives than I've lost. Stick a feather in my cap.

It’s terrifying, in a way, but the rush I get from being in the middle of all this – it can't be described. Call it sick or perverse, but I came here wanting to feel alive again and this place has given me that in spades. The hospital we work at – which is supposedly a safe, neutral site that's not supposed to be targeted by either side – has been inadvertently hit by gunfire and some of those rockets have gotten damn close. Every single day, I've had the specter of death hanging over my head every hour of every day and it fills me with a thrill I've never known in my life.

The conditions are pretty terrible and the equipment we have to work with is outdated and rudimentary. It makes me think of that old show M*A*S*H – I used to watch reruns of it when I was younger. Working in a hospital like this – well, calling it a hospital might be a generous description – is what it reminds me of.

Personally, I believe it's made me a better surgeon. Rather than relying on machines and robotics to assist me with procedures, I've had to go back to basics and actually apply all of the knowledge I’ve accumulated throughout my career. I've had to be creative and bold. Daring, even. I've had to take risks I'd never dream of taking at my hospital back in New York.

To be honest, being able to save somebody's life working in conditions this adverse is far more gratifying than anything I've experienced back home. And this is exactly why I got into medicine in the first place – to save lives and help people.

“How are his vitals?” I ask.

“Holding steady,” she reports.

I nod and continue working on the patient’s leg. The damage from the shrapnel thrown by the IED was extensive. When they rolled him in, I really didn't think we were going to be able to save the leg. He's just a kid – no more than fourteen or fifteen – and got caught up in the middle of something, not of his making. He'd been walking through one of the city's open-air markets when a bomb went off. The death toll is staggering. The sheer number of patients coming in bloody and broken is surreal.

But seeing this innocent kid laying there in a pool of his own blood, barely clinging to life, bothered me in ways most of my trauma patients don't. In ways, I've never experienced before. New York is a tough town, sure, but my education and training there didn't prepare me for anything like this.

Not that this is the first kid I've seen rolled into my operating theater in bad shape. He's just the latest.

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