Dr. Marco Bottari only wanted to get through his day's case load and spend an evening relaxing, looking forward to the weekend. But the last patient of the day, Patricia Fanning, would change all that when she finds a dead body in her trunk.
In this scene, she's there for her exam, but he finds his heartstrings tugged.
“I’ll write you a prescription, but you have to take all of it,” Marco said, keeping one eye on Loretta’s flushed face. “No refills.”
No refills because if she didn’t go right out and sell every one of these pills, he’d be surprised.
“Yes, Doc. I appreciate your seeing me.”
I’ll bet. That she saw his doubts written clearly on his face didn’t bother him at all. She needed to know he was on to her game and not about to give into it anymore. Neither could he ignore her persistent infection. Persistent because she didn’t take the pills.
He punched two keys on the computer keyboard at the small desk in the corner and stood to his feet. Opening the door, he waved her out into the hall. “The receptionist will give you the prescription up front.”
He widened his route, giving Loretta plenty of space to wander down the hall, and suppressed a shiver skating up his spine. Jennifer eyed him from her stance outside.
Her expression said what his did. He nodded sharp. Whatever beauty Loretta had on the outside was greatly diminished by the ugliness on the inside, and she knew how to hide the ugliness to pick up a man. She’d tried as much on him when she’d first come here.
She wasn’t the first. Word had spread quickly about the young doc. He’d ignored much of it. He didn’t approach any of his patients as potential dates. That was inherently wrong.
Though his mother was always after him to get serious about someone. He smiled at that thought. That’d never been his priority. Surviving medical school was, followed by establishing his practice, and now paying his bills. Sure, he was lonely sometimes, but never so much he was desperate. The way he figured it, God would send him the right woman, and he’d know when she arrived.
God was a very important part of his life. He opened and closed his days with prayer, attended services regularly, and read his Bible. But most of all, he lived by its principles, trying his best to love the unlovely; and he saw plenty of those every day.
Yet women like Loretta tried his patience. She’d never find what she was looking for in a bottle of pills or a new relationship. No one could tell her that though. She wouldn’t listen. It wasn’t his job anyhow.
“Your four thirty’s here,” Jennifer said. “Exam two.”
He nodded and snagged the clipboard from the plastic wall slot outside the door. One to go and he was home free. He flipped the top paper over, scanning the woman’s basic info and Jennifer’s notes on vitals, then opened the door.
The woman’s appearance struck him in the chest. Golden blonde hair cascaded over sloped shoulders and framed an oval face set with two crystalline blue eyes. He’d seen beautiful women before, but wow, this one took the cake. Plus, she appeared to be toned and in very good shape, slim-fitting jeans sitting low on her hips to accommodate the slight paunch barely visible beneath a free-flowing blouse.
Her lashes were moist. She’d been crying. The fact she was alone and the last appointment told him part of the reason why. He fastened a smile on his face. “Dr. Bottari,” he said. He consulted the clipboard. “Patricia Fanning?”
She nodded. Her eyes had taken on a curious gaze, perceptive, despite her obvious tears. She moistened two very nice pink lips. “They warned me,” she said.
This brought his eyebrows into an arch. “Warned you?”
“But I wasn’t prepared.”
He seated himself, calling up the computer screen to input some of the patient information, but he glanced at her as he did it. “What weren’t you prepared for?”
“Well, maybe I shouldn’t say since you are the doctor and that is what I’m here for.”
His fingers moving across the keys, he looked away for a minute. He turned his stool around after. “Why don’t you take a seat on the table?” he asked.
She paused. “I said it didn’t matter.”
Confused, he ran his thumb over his forehead. “What didn’t matter?” He stood to his feet and moved to the table. She obeyed then, seating herself on the end, the paper crinkling beneath her bottom.
“That you’re so cute.”
He crooked a smile. “I guess we can eliminate the need for a pregnancy test,” he said.
She gazed down at herself. “They pay you for this?”
He laughed once. “I’m going to palpate your belly, let me know if any of it bothers you.” He raised the tail of her shirt and pressed his palms to her skin, working them gently around and downward. “Feels good.”
Her face turned strange, emotions flickering across it. Then it cleared. “I’ve decided it does matter. You should be old and ugly.”
He paused and exchanged a look with her. “Even the old, ugly ones were young once. Maybe I’ll be old and ugly one day.”
The first sign of a smile trembled on her lips and faded. “I doubt that.”
He opened a drawer and withdrew a gown from the top of the stack. “Here’s the fun part. You put this on and I’ll be back.”
She stared at the gown for a moment before taking it in her hands, then wadded it into a ball. He took hold of the door knob and cracked it open, but her next words pulled him short.
“You promise?” she asked.
Dr. Bottari was an eyeful of dark, handsomeness, and a woman in her condition should not notice that. That he’d smiled slightly at her remarks indicated he’d taken her comments with some humor. That he’d not responded indicated his professionalism. That was good on his part because she wasn’t flirting. A pregnant woman did not flirt, single or not.
Patricia put on the gown, more aware of her new shape than ever before and sucked in a breath to steady her nerves. The doctor returned, the nurse who’d shown her to the room at his heels.
“This is Jennifer,” he said. “She’s here so you don’t feel uncomfortable.”
Humor. Professional. And considerate. The good doctor was ratcheting himself up there on the scale of gentlemanliness.
“Need to do a Pap smear, which will be mildly uncomfortable. Lay back and look at her.”
Smart, too. Why hadn’t she found a guy like him instead of Ray? That question pushed a sob onto her tongue. She swallowed it.
Jennifer, the nurse, had a nice face. She smiled, her full lips pulling back smooth, dark skin, and took her hand and squeezed.
Dr. Bottari made no remark during the exam. Patricia suspected to prevent her from thinking of what he was doing. Again, his being thoughtful. He covered her legs with a paper sheet afterward and snapped his gloves off, tossing them in a medical disposal can.
“You can sit up,” he said.
The nurse tightened her grip, helping her rise, and patted her hand. She left the room, and the doctor turned his back. He seated himself, typing into the computer before rising again and standing before her.
“I’ll have your results in a week or so, and we’ll call you.”
“We? But not you,” she said. Why did she pressure him?
He smiled again. “Would you prefer I called you?”
“Why do I think you don’t do the calling and so I have no choice in the matter?”
He crossed his arms over his chest, his lab coat sleeves riding up his arms. “I trust you have an obstetrician,” he said.
She glanced down at her belly. “No. I haven’t done anything past berating myself mentally and wondering why me.”
“I can have the receptionist give you a list.”
Patricia curved her fingers over the edge of the exam table, her back chilled by the air vent breathing on her the entire time. A list. More doctors. More poking and prodding. And this one not giving her any direct responses.
“I can’t use you?” she asked, though she knew the answer. He was only the first step in the process.
“You need someone to track your pregnancy, the rate of growth of the fetus …”
“Do you ever get tired of calling things by medical terms?” she asked, cutting into his speech. “Or can you not talk to me like a human being, a girl scared half to death?”
His expression softened, and he gazed back at her, as if contemplating his next actions. He lowered his arms to his sides and moved to the stool. “Patricia?” he asked.
“Permission to speak frank,” he said.
“Granted.” She waved him on.
“We’re told to always keep a pleasant demeanor, to never become familiar with our patients, and in my field, never to give any impression other than a businesslike one. But I’ve found that sometimes that’s hard to do. Women come in here in all walks of life with all sorts of problems, and often they simply need someone who’ll listen.”
“So I’m not the first unwed, pregnant woman you’ve talked to.” She was being facetious. Obviously, she wasn’t.
He didn’t comment. She took another tact. “Let me try it this way,” she said. “Since you’ve found women need to be listened to, this one needs some advice. What does a single girl who didn’t ask to be pregnant do when she has no family to lean on and the father of the baby is a loser?”
She sounded spiteful, and the pain on the doctor’s face said he’d heard it as such. Why she poured all this out right now was a mystery, except this was the longest she’d looked her future in the eye so far.
“Forget it,” she said. “You can’t tell me, so I’m sorry for putting you in a difficult spot.” She looked away. Now’s when he left, told her to have a nice day, and went back to his great life.
His hand on her chin made her jump. He tilted it upward, holding it briefly before releasing it. “As a doctor, yes, I’ve seen women like you before, in dire straits, needing answers. As a doctor, no I can’t comment, shouldn’t comment. But as a man with eyes in my head and a heart in my chest it’s an entirely different matter.”
Her heart took up an uneven pitter-patter, knocking almost reckless at the steadiness of his gaze. She dug her nails into the crinkled paper beneath her bottom, and her voice emerged a whisper. “Why couldn’t he have been you?”
Dr. Bottari’s forehead wrinkled, then smoothed. He tilted his head slightly left. “I don’t know, but I would never have walked away.”
-------------------------------Suzanne D. Williams
Suzanne Williams Photography
Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.