In the afternoon, I went to the rehab unit, keeping an eye out to avoid Alex. I wrote a note in his chart, then added a line to the end of the note: “Signing off. Re-consult only if further neurology recommendations needed.”
And that was that. I had signed off. I was no longer Alex’s physician. I was no longer in any sort of position to do something awful to him. It was a relief. I wished I had signed off earlier. Maybe I could have saved myself some grief.
I paid Grace a visit in her office before I left the hospital for the day. She was there and she seemed very surprised to see me. Usually I call her before I come by, in order to make sure she’s around. “Rachel,” she said. “What are you doing here?”
I sighed. “Alex…”
Grace raised her eyebrows. “Did you do it? Did his girlfriend dump him?”
“Yeah, she did,” I said.
Grace grinned and clapped her hands together in a round of applause. “Nice job, Miller. I didn’t think you had it in you.”
“Alex is pretty angry at me though,” I said. “Apparently, he doesn’t think what he did to me warranted that kind of response.”
Grace’s lips formed an O and her second chin deepened. “You told him?”
“What the hell did you do that for?” she cried. “Of course he’s going to think you’re out of your mind! Hell, even I think you’re out of your mind.”
“Well, why didn’t you warn me not to tell him?”
“Well, shit. I didn’t think you’d actually do it.” She sighed. “I mean, you’re an adult. Do I have to spell out every little thing for you?”
I felt like crying. Even Grace, who was the one who encouraged me to get revenge on Alex, thought I was in big trouble. “Look, calm down,” she said. “What exactly did he say when you told him?”
“He said he was going to report me and make sure I got fired,” I said.
Grace winced. “Ouch. Okay, that’s kind of bad.”
I groaned. “Grace, what am I going to do?”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I think if there’s one thing we’ve established, it’s that Connors is all talk. I don’t think he’s going to get you fired so quickly.”
“I’m not so sure,” I said. “He was really angry.” I paused. “Maybe I should call his fiancée. Try to talk her into taking him back.”
Grace stared at me. “Are you serious, Rachel?”
“Well, why not?”
“Because it’s a stupid idea.”
“No, it’s not.”
She sighed. “Fine. If you want to go through some elaborate scheme to get Alex’s fiancée to fall back in love with him again, by all means, knock yourself out. Personally, I think maybe they’re not giving you enough work to do on the stroke unit.”
I knew Grace was mocking me, but I didn’t care. She didn’t see how angry Alex looked. I couldn’t just hope this situation resolved itself—I had to do something to fix it.
“So tell me,” Grace said, grinning at me, “how’d it feel when you told him? Did it feel amazing?”
“Actually,” I said. “It was… weird.”
“Yeah, really weird,” I said. “When he realized who I was, he was… I mean, he didn’t seem embarrassed or sorry or anything. He actually seemed happy to see me again. He didn’t get why I was so angry at him.”
“Men are idiots,” Grace said, echoing Alex’s own sentiment from last week.
I got one lucky break, which was that the rehab unit had Eva’s cell phone number on file. The charge nurse read it out to me and I scribbled it down on a post-it note. I didn’t want to call Eva. I didn’t even know how to begin to broach this topic with her, and the last thing I wanted to do was try to repair Alex’s broken relationship. I mean, what was I supposed to say? Remember how I told you yesterday to break up with your boyfriend? Well, scratch that—go ahead and marry him.
I dialed Eva’s number and for a moment, I hoped she might not pick up. I figured if she didn’t answer, I could say I tried my best and give up. But then I heard her strained voice on the other end, “Hello?”
“Hi, Eva,” I said, suddenly realizing I didn’t know her last name. “This is Dr. Miller.”
“Oh. Hi, Dr. Miller.” She didn’t sound enthusiastic, but she didn’t sound angry at me either. “I guess you heard the news. I told him.”
“Yes,” I said. “He’s pretty upset.”
“I guess so,” Eva said. “But like you told me, I wasn’t doing him any favors by lying to him.”
“Right.” I coughed. “That’s the thing. I was just wondering if… if you really felt strongly that you did the right thing.”
There was a long pause on the other line. Finally, Eva said: “What?”
“I mean, it’s one thing to postpone the wedding,” I said, talking too fast, in a voice that barely sounded like mine. “But breaking up completely seems kind of drastic, doesn’t it?”
Another long pause. “Did Alex put you up to this?”
You have no idea. “No. I mean, not really. But he really wants you back.”
“It’s over, Dr. Miller,” Eva said. Her voice was firm, leaving no room for argument. “I should have done this years ago. I’m certainly not taking it back.”
For a moment, I felt a wave of resentment. Not just because Eva didn’t want to do what I said, but also because she just seemed so selfish. Alex was a nice enough guy, he was attractive, and most importantly, he loved her. But all that mattered to her was that some mythical spark was missing. I would have killed for a relationship like hers.
“Is there any chance you’ll reconsider?” I asked her.
“Absolutely not,” Eva said. “Tell Alex I’m sorry, but I just… can’t.”
I was screwed.
I returned home that night to more fantastic news: my bridesmaid dress had arrived. My doorman handed me the package with a sympathetic look, as if he had somehow seen the horror that was inside. I got an inkling of what it would be like when I was having the fitting, but nothing prepared me for the dress itself.
The dress was “lavender” and incredibly shiny. I was worried the guests would need to wear sunglasses if they looked directly at me. It was sleeveless, of course, which I feel strongly is a look that is only flattering to women who are 25 years old and skinny as a rail—I failed on both accounts. I could tell the bodice was tight enough that I could look forward to several hours without breathing. Best of all, the skirt was a two-tiered ruffled monstrosity.
I reluctantly tried the dress on, just to get used to it enough that my face wouldn’t be frozen in horror at the time of the wedding. It looked even worse on me than it did in the box. I couldn’t believe I was going to have to leave my apartment looking like this.
Then again, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. This wedding was going to be an extravagant affair that was setting my parents back about a hundred thousand dollars. This dress was almost symbolic of the ridiculousness of the whole thing.
Maybe there’ll be a hurricane on Sunday. Or a giant flood and we’ll be too busy building an ark for Shauna to get married.
As I stared at myself, I renewed my resolve that if I ever got married, I’d do it in city hall. Or in Vegas. Although it was beginning to look more and more like I wasn’t going to have to worry about that too much.
I sighed loudly at my reflection. I was used to my love life being awful, but I wasn’t used to my career being in the crapper too. That was the one aspect of my life that I loved, that always went exactly to plan. If I got fired, I’d have nothing. I couldn’t let that happen.
I woke up the next morning to the sound of my pager going off. My pager has ten ring tones to choose from and I’ve gone through every single one of them in the seven years that I’ve been a physician. It’s gotten to the point where they all make me mildly ill. Getting paged is never a happy occurrence. Nobody pages you to tell you that you got a raise. It’s hard for me to imagine a physician having a good relationship with their pager.
The number on the pager was a cell phone number. I was a little surprised, since only physicians were able to obtain my pager number from the hospital operator, so clearly it was a doctor who was calling me. I punched the number into my own cell phone and my stomach dropped when I heard the voice of my department chairman, Neil Stillman.
“Hi, Rachel,” he said. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“No,” I said, swallowing hard. It’s never too early in the morning to get fired.
“I’m on my way to work,” Neil said. “I was wondering if I could have a meeting with you first thing this morning.”
“That’s right.” Neil gave no hint as to what he wanted to talk to me about. But I had a few good guesses. “Can you make it?”
“Um,” I said.
“It’s pretty important,” Neil said.
Oh god. My heart was slamming in my chest. I felt like I might pass out. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll be there.”
I was shaking so badly by the time I got to the hospital that I was leaving little trails of spilled coffee everywhere, like a path to help me find my way back home. I kept playing out what Neil might say in my mind, then what my response would be.
I didn’t do anything wrong. She was going to leave him anyway.
I didn’t even tell her anything. I was just there to listen.
Connors told you we went to school together? That’s weird, I don’t remember him.
All my excuses sounded completely ridiculous in my head. All I knew was that Alex was right—I had done something really wrong and I deserved to be punished. Alex was in a compromised position and I had taken advantage in the worst way.