"You don't reach Serendib by plotting a course for it. You have to set out in good faith for elsewhere and lose your bearings … serendipitously."
- John Barth, The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor
After a year of residency, I was still terrified of working at the emergency room. I mean, it always went fine once I started the shift, but I still inadvertently felt a tight knot in my stomach for days leading up to it.
The thing about working in the ER is that you never know what comes up. There is no telling what the next patient is going to present with and that prospect is terrifying for a young, inexperienced doctor.
This day was no different. My shift had started two hours ago but I still hadn't really settled in. It was one of those crazy days, and since General had shut down their ER for a water leak, all their cases were being diverted to us.
Figures. The one day I have to be here, the other big hospital decides to load us with all their weight.
I sighed as I sent Mrs. Roberts packing home with her not-so-emergency bump on the foot and walked over to the nurses' station to get a new patient. I made a quick scan of the room while I was walking, trying to estimate just how crowded we were tonight.
My eyes caught sight of a commotion across the room.
A man was standing with his back to me. He was wearing a gray suit and gesturing wildly with his hands at the nurse standing in front of him. She held a chart in her hands and stared at him with a very annoyed look. She opened her mouth and said something, which only increased the man's frantic hand movements and he started yelling.
I took a deep breath and walked over to where they were standing.
The closer I came, the more I could hear of the argument.
'Sir, I understand your friend is not feeling well. But you have to understand that there are other patients here who are equally…' Nurse Morgan was trying to calm him with a soothing tone.
'Don't you dare tell me how my friend is feeling and damn as hell don't compare him to anyone else here. You people haven't even looked at him yet!' I flinched at how loud his voice was now. The volume was increasing by the minute.
'Sir, once again, you need to calm down. As soon as a doctor is free they will look at your friend. We have done a primary evaluation of him and we have to prioritize the patients with more urgent matters first.'
'HE IS LYING IN HIS BED AND WRITHING IN PAIN!' The man was screaming now. 'Are you people really that incompetent that you don't see the urgency in that? People put their lives in your hands, for God's sake!' He was shouting at the top of his voice now and the whole emergency room was looking in their direction.
The nurse tried to keep her voice calm. 'He has been given pain medication and will feel better as soon as it starts to take effect. Sir, you have to trust us.'
Silence. I focused at the back of the man's head to try to guess at his reaction. Suddenly, he broke into a manic feat of laughter. I was so startled at how loud it was that I took a step back. I looked around the room to see people give him pitiful looks at his apparent breakdown.
I walked and stood between the man and the nurse. 'Joan, I can take this patient now.' I held out my hand towards the chart that the nurse was holding, as I decided to tackle the problem at its root.
He grabbed the chart from Nurse Morgan's outstretched hands before I got to it.
'I don't need another nurse to fuss over him. Get me a fucking doctor right now or I am suing this hospital's ass to…'
I turned around to face him now. I tried to block out his ranting curses when I looked at his face. I squinted my eyes a little and studied his features. His wavy hair was a very rare shade of copper-bronze. His piercing green eyes had an odd squint in the corners; one of them was a little swollen and a hint of purple starting to form underneath the swelling. His straight nose had a hint of an upturn at the end.
I heard him continue to curse at the hospital and the stuff and demand to see a doctor before he lit the place on fire.
'I'm a doctor.' My voice came out almost as a whisper.
His eyes snapped to mine and his brows furrowed.
'You're too young to be a doctor.'
'I'm a first year intern.' I tried to make my voice stronger.
He huffed and looked at Nurse Morgan. 'I want a real doctor.'
I rolled my eyes and snatched the chart out of his hand. I guessed that it was the element of surprise that left him gaping. I took a quick look at it and after I had found out some basic information, I walked over to the patient who was lying on a bed next to the crazy man and Nurse Morgan. The blond man was lying with his eyes squeezed closed and breathing carefully.
'Hello Mr Hale. I am Dr. Swan. How are you feeling?'
'It's getting better.' He carefully ran his hand over his abdomen.
'Can you tell me what happened?'
The patient's friend started to bellow before he had a chance to answer my question. 'How many times do I have to repeat the same thing! If you had been competent enough to write it down the first time then Miss Pretend Doctor here wouldn't have to be grilling him with questions again.' He pointed an accusing finger at Nurse Morgan then turned to me. 'We got into a fight with a bunch of assholes and they smashed us up!'
'I would like to hear the answer to my question from my patient, if you don't mind.'
'Edward, back off,' the patient, Jasper Hale's voice rang out from the bed. My head snapped in his direction and then to his friend. Edward. Jasper Hale's voice was weak but I could still hear clear irritation in it.
'Fuck you Jasper. If you had just listened to me and gotten on the jet instead of coming here, we would be in LA by now and you wouldn't have to lie here while these sorry ass motherfuckers just watch you die.'
'I'm not dying you idiot. And if you had listened to me and not gotten into a fight, I wouldn't have to step in and get my ass kicked to save yours. Now stop being such a pain and let these people do what they have to do. I'm sorry doctor…'
'I apologise for my friend Dr. Swan. He gets a little…um…uncomfortable at hospitals. ' I heard his friend, Edward, snort from where he was standing.
'So you were in a fight?...Or rather, trying to break up a fight?' I threw a disapproving look at his friend while I continued taking the patient's history.
I lifted his gown to examine his torso for signs of trauma.
'Can you show me where you got hit?'
'Mostly in the stomach.'
'Did they hit you with any hard object or was it just punches?'
'Ok, I will draw some blood for tests and then send you up to radiology for a CT, Mr. Hale. When you come back, a resident will take over your case. I would prefer if a more experienced doctor took a look at you since I'm relatively new to this and your injuries could be more extensive than they appear to be. I heard earlier that you were in a lot of pain? Are you still?'
'No, Edward exaggerated a little. I had some pain before but not any more.'
'That's because of the pain medicine Mr. Hale. Please stay as still as possible until your CT. A nurse will take you up to radiology shortly.'
'We don't need a nurse. I can take him.' His friend interrupted.
'I'm sure you can but it's hospital policy.'
'I don't give a damn about your policies. I wasn't asking for permission. From what I have witnessed of how competent you people are, they're probably going to drop him on his ass if they try to move him.'
'Sir, as long as your friend is my patient, I am afraid you do need my permission to move him anywhere. ' And secondly, even if they would drop him on his ass they wouldn't cause nearly as much damage as you have caused smartass, I added as an afterthought to myself.
'I don't need some pesky little girl telling me what to do. Go get me your supervisor.'
I almost rolled my eyes.
'If you mean my resident, then as I have already told you, he will be taking over the case as soon as your friend comes back from radiology.'
'Edward Cullen, I swear to God I will throw your ass out of this hospital if you don't stop being such a pain.' Before Jasper could end his threat, my head had snapped towards his friend. His frustration and anger fell away from my sight as I noticed the pain in his face that was hidden behind it all. The purple around his eye was getting darker.
'Would you like me to look at that for you?' I pointed to his eye.
He glared at Jasper then me. 'I'll be dead before I let one of you ever touch me.' Then he stormed out of the room.
I took my dinner break and sat by the window at the cafeteria. I ordered a cup of tea and drank it while I saw the rain cascade down the glass on the window. That day, while sipping my cup of tea, I thought for the thousandth time about the reason I became a doctor. I thought back to my teenage years, all those days so many years ago when I had slowly and gradually fallen in love with medicine without realizing it. When I had discovered how beautiful medicine could be and how beautiful it could make the people involved in it. How it had transformed my life. How it had transformed the shy teenager who could see herself a few years down the line at the bank or supermarket in her town into a strong headed and determined fighter who had decided to make more of her life. How my parents' eyes had lit up with excitement when I had told them what I wanted to be. How they had made it their mission in life to give me the opportunities required to achieve this life that they could never even dream of. I thought about Charlie and Renee sitting up close to the stage in the large auditorium with eyes brimming with tears on the day I got my MD. I was on my way to that life. Of making a life for myself that was the dream of the teenager all those years ago.
I worked night and day to try to be good at my job. I poured my heart into every patient I met. I went to every conference I could manage, applied for every research grant I knew of. I dreamed of securing a good residency position and one day being successful and accomplished.
As the rain continued to pour I closed my eyes and smiled as I whispered the only thing I could say to the memories of my teen years when I had found so much meaning in life: 'Thank you.'
I smiled at the beautiful yellow daisies. By some divine stroke of inspiration I had decided to check on Jasper Hale one more time before leaving for the night that day after I had met him in the ER. The resident had thought that he was stable enough to wait for surgery for another day but some of his blood tests were still a little too unstable for my comfort. So I had done a quick exam one more time before leaving that night and discovered that his condition had deteriorated considerably. He had internal bleedings that the CT earlier hadn't caught and was taken into surgery right away. Everything had gone well and he was discharged earlier today, which is what the flowers were for.
There was a card.
'Dr. Swan, you saved my life. Please call me so that I can thank you properly.'
I felt quite touched by the gesture. I was merely doing my job and the flowers were more than what was necessary. But I decided to return the kindness with the phone call Jasper Hale had requested.
'Hi, this is Dr. Swan.'
'Oh hi Dr. Swan! Thank you so much for calling. I really appreciate you taking the time.'
'It's not a problem Mr. Hale. Thank you for the flowers. They were beautiful but highly unnecessary.'
'Dr. Swan, if you hadn't come back that night to check on me…'
'Someone else would have.' I cut him off before he could give me all the credit. Seriously, jeez, all I did was check on a patient.
'No, they wouldn't Dr. Swan and you know that. I was supposed to be resting and they would only have checked on me in the morning. I know very well that you went out of your way to do that. You didn't need to.'
'Mr. Hale, it's no big deal. Really. My patients are my responsibility and if I have doubts about the treatment I will always go out of my way to make sure they are ok.'
'Your kindness meant my life that night Dr. Swan.'
I sighed deeply. 'It really is not that big of a deal Mr. Hale. I'm glad you're doing ok. Now please stay out of trouble so I don't have to see you in the ER again.'
'I will. I can't promise for my idiot friend though. And if he gets into trouble I will have no choice but to intervene.'
Ok, so his friend had a knack for getting into trouble. No, I hadn't guessed that at all.
'Must be tough having a friend who insists on putting you in harms way through no fault of your own.'
´You have no idea. By the way, I'm sorry Dr. Swan. He was quite harsh to you that day. But I would just like you to know that it wasn't meant personally…he just has a thing against doctors.'
'Really? I didn't get that from him at all.' I rolled my eyes at his statement of the obvious.
He chuckled lightly and then there was radio silence for a few moments.
'Um…Dr. Swan, would you please let me take you to dinner or something? To make it up to you for unleashing my untamed beast of a best friend on you? And to say thank you?'
Oh, here we go again.
'Mr. Hale, really, you have nothing to…' He cut me off.
'Please. My wife will have my head if I don't. She was on her way here to do it herself, but I figured you are a petite woman and would possibly need to be hospitalized after one of her boulder-crushing hugs. If you think about it, you are really doing yourself a favor if you let me do this.'
'Please Dr. Swan.'
'Ok, ok, jeez. Stop pleading, it's not like you are asking me for my kidney or something. I would love to go to dinner. But on the condition that it will only be for the purpose of making up for unleashing the beast. Get over the thank you business.'
He chuckled again. 'Deal.'
'Secondly, promise me that I really am safe from this boulder-crushing hug business, because quite honestly, that's kind of scary.'
Now he laughed. 'Oh you have no idea Dr. Swan. That woman is a force of nature.'
I laughed at his words and the love that dripped out of his voice at the mention of his wife.
'Thirdly, for God's sake, if we are going to dinner the least you can do is stop being so formal. Please call me Isabella.'
'Does that mean you will call me Jasper?'
'Unless you prefer Jazz?'
'Please God no. That's what Alice calls me when she's trying to butter me up into doing something that I really really don't want to be doing.'
'Alrighty then, Jazzy it is.'
He laughed loud.
'How does tomorrow at 7 work for you?'
'Great. Meet me outside the hospital entrance?'
And that is how I found myself walking towards the main entrance to meet Jasper Hale for dinner the next day. Added to my natural talent for not being able to say no to people, Jasper Hale's insistence had made it very difficult for me to turn him down. In the past 24 hours I had gone back and forth a thousand times in my mind about doing this but finally, my curiosity had won the better of me.
Jasper Hale brought me to an upscale Italian restaurant where the waiters pulled out our chairs and I was afraid to move too much in case I broke something. It was strange, but we had chattered away on the way here like old friends. Jasper and I had somehow clicked very easily and his easy going and kind demeanor made me feel very comfortable in his presence. He told me about his wife Alice and his work at the Cullen family business back in LA, where they were from. I told him about working at the hospital, my parents back in Jacksonville, the usual.
We both ordered pasta and sipped wine while we continued our chattering.
'Really?' My eyes were wide as saucers at Jasper's recent revelation. He laughed heartily.
'You met in high school?'
He nodded. 'Is that so strange?'
'No, not strange, just not very common…these days.'
He smiled. 'I know. Very few high school romances make it through college, let alone marriage. But Alice and I…well, to be honest she really didn't have a choice. I would have jumped off a cliff if she refused to marry me.'
'My parents met in high school too.'
'Yeah, but their reasons for getting married were different.' I pointed at myself as I said this.
Jasper looked confused.
'Charlie knocked up Renee.'
'I see. But they're still together?'
'Yeah. And freakishly happy in spite of being forced into getting married due to the existence of evil spawn.'
'Good for them. Not letting the evil spawn form a crack in their love.' He winked.
'You know Jasper, for a guy, you seem very optimistic about the notion love. Alice must be one hell of a woman.'
'Oh, she really is. I hope you two can meet someday.'
'I'd love to-' his phone went off before I could finish my answer. He excused himself and answered the phone.
'Hey…I'm at Tortellini. How'd it go?...Mmhmm…Calm down, Edward. It's fine. We can have another meeting with them before we fly back…Yeah yeah, you're hungry, but yelling at the Japanese clients isn't going to help that situation. Just order room service as soon as you get back to the hotel…Um …' Jasper looked at me with cautious eyes. 'I don't know if that's a very good idea. I can eat with you again when I get back…No you dumbass, of course not…Edward, for the love of God…Hold on a minute…' He sighed and covered the phone with one hand before continuing. 'Is it alright if Edward joins us for dinner? He has a thing against eating alone.'
'Um…ok.' Jasper seemed to have missed the fact that his friend might have a bigger thing against eating with me. But what else would I say, seriously. No, I don't want your jerk of a friend to join us for dinner even though you have been so kind to me all evening.
Edward Cullen arrived at the restaurant fifteen minutes later wearing a black suit this time. His face, which was impatient when he first walked in the door, had turned into a glare when he saw me sit across from Jasper. I watched as he gathered up energy to mask his face behind an emotionless expression as he walked to our table.
'You didn't tell me you were with…' He said to Jasper and flicked his eyes towards me to show what he meant. No 'hi', nothing.
'Edward, I told you yesterday that I was meeting Isabella for dinner.' Jasper glared at him.
'No you didn't.' He spat.
'Yes I did.'
'I would have remembered that Jasper.'
'Well, one of these days if you start paying attention to me when I talk maybe you will pick up on things like that.'
'Whatever.' He grabbed a chair and slumped down on it. Then he gestured to a waiter and scared the poor guy to death while he ordered a steak with very specific requirements. I stared in amazement at how one man could scare another so effectively while asking him to bring him food.
Once he was done ordering he pulled out a packet of cigarettes and started to light one when I noticed the look of utter fright on the waiter's face at what he had to say next.
The waiter almost whispered. 'Sir, this is a non-smoking restaurant.'
Edward Cullen looked up at the waiter with a cigarette between his lips and one of his hands holding the lighter flame close to the cigarette while the other one was cupped around the flame. He gave the waiter a long hard look. 'You're fucking kidding me right?' He mumbled with the unlit cigarette still between his lips.
'No Sir. My apologies if this causes you any inconvenience.' The waiter rushed out his words.
Edward Cullen now turned the force of his glare towards Jasper. 'Why did you pick a fucking non-smoking place?'
Jasper huffed in irritation. 'Because that wasn't a problem until you decided to invite yourself to my and Isabella's dinner.' I noticed that he emphasized my name, as a way of trying to get his friend to acknowledge my presence somehow.
'Well, sorry for crashing your fucking party.' He took out the cigarette from his mouth and threw it on the table.
Jasper slapped his hands on the table. 'Alright, that's it. Edward, Isabella is my guest today and you can either behave and show my friend some respect or you can leave and you and I can have a talk when I get back to the hotel.'
Edward Cullen gave me a disgusted look and murmured, 'Fine.'
'Fine Jasper.' He gave Jasper a look that said 'don't push it'.
'Perhaps you can start by saying hello to her. God, Edward. The girl's going to think we were brought up in a barn or something.'
Edward glared at Jasper while the next word came out of his mouth. 'Hi.'
I wasn't sure if he was being sarcastic or something, so I didn't know if I was supposed to respond. I opted to remain quiet. Which was a bad decision because now his glare turned towards me and he waited expectantly.
'Hi, Mr. Cullen. Nice to see you again.' My voice sounded totally unaffected by what had been happening until now as it came out all calm and collected.
Edward Cullen looked once at Jasper then turned his head to look out the window.
Jasper asked me about how it was living in Seattle, I assumed to deflect the conversation from our not so pleasant exchange, and I focused on answering him. Edward Cullen didn't speak again for the next hour or so as we dined. He kept his eyes focused on his plate or out the window the whole time while Jasper and I resumed our early chattering. He grimaced once or twice at something one of us would say but otherwise seemed to be blocking us out for most of the time.
Our conversation ultimately turned to the events of the night when Jasper had come in to the hospital and he told me about how his pain had escalated after he was moved to a ward but he had thought it was normal so hadn't complained about it. I asked him how he had been feeling since he was discharged and he told me he had been feeling fine. I was telling him how glad I was to hear that when I felt an intense pair of eyes on me.
Edward Cullen was looking right at me with very intense eyes. It seemed like there was an internal battle going inside him and finally he closed his eyes for a moment as he apparently made up his mind about something. He took a deep breath.
'You saved Jasper's life. Thank you.' Jasper stopped his fork halfway on its course to his mouth and stared at his friend for a few seconds.
'It's not a big deal.' I shrugged and gave Jasper a smile.
'It is to us.' He spat.
'Of course. That's not what I meant. I meant that you don't need to thank me. It's my job.'
'Yeah, I know it's your job and that's why you did it. But for the rest of us, Jasper's life actually means something. So take the fucking thank you and be happy.'
'Um, what Edward means,' Jasper gave his friend a warning look before turning to me and continuing, ' …is that since you help so many people every day, it probably doesn't feel like such a big thing to you Isabella, but it was a big deal. And you actually went out of your way to take care of me even though some of us caused havoc at that place that night.' He gave his friend an accusing look at the end.
'Yeah, tell me about it. I'm surprised there were any windows left in that hospital.' I regretted the words even as I spoke them. I really couldn't tell you where they came from. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was all the jerkiness that Edward Cullen had been throwing at me all this time. My inner snarkiness, that I had been suppressing until now had peeked out from nowhere.
'Excuse me?' His voice was eerily calm. I looked up at him to see that he looked like an angry tiger that someone had just challenged to a duel. Yup, I was that someone.
I looked at Jasper who shook his head minutely to warn me. I figured I'd already challenged the freaking tiger then I might as well go down as a man. So to speak.
'You heard me Mr. Cullen. Wouldn't you agree that it was highly unnecessary to smash your fists through the window at Radiology because they made you wait a few minutes?'
He leaned back on his chair and smirked.
'I think your board of directors would disagree with you regarding the necessity of my actions considering the new wing I have donated to that godawful shithole as a compensation.'
'You think you can compensate for your aggression towards hospital property with money? You don't see the lack of morals there?' I could hear the condescension in my tone but didn't really care at that point.
'That's big talk coming from someone who chose a profession that builds on making money off of people's misery and sickness.'
My ears burnt with fury at his words.
'If that's your opinion of the medical profession then I am sorry for you. You are a lost case Edward Cullen.' I spat the words at him and decided that I had to leave before I caused more damage. He had demeaned the one thing that was of the most value to me in life.
'Jasper, thank you for the meal. It was a pleasure spending time with you. I'll call you before you fly off ok?'
With that I left the restaurant. I had tried, but Edward Cullen was too much of an asshole to deserve any of my sympathy at that moment.
A/N: What the hell is Edward's problem? And why is Bella trying to reign in her natural inclination to snap? Good? Bad? Ugly? Shall I go on?