Chapter Fifty Nine

"I came here today thinking that this might be the last time I saw you; that quite possibly you wouldn't forgive me. I thought you would say that we were finished. No more second chances," Martin said, finding it impossible to look directly up at her, not wanting her to have visible evidence of his anguish. Unpeeling his emotional layers was excruciating, even when necessary such as times like these.

Louisa leaned her body against his shoulder, bending slightly to stroke his hair and kiss his furrowed forehead. "Shh. Come on. Come with me," she murmured.

She took his hand firmly in hers, led him over to the sofa and motioned for him to sit down. Silently she knelt beside him, giving her the extra height needed to achieve an almost level plain with his face. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she gathered him in close to her body, her chest pressed against his, her cheek nuzzling his.

She murmured, "I thought the same thing. That you were coming here today to break up with me, that you didn't need or want me in your life anymore now that you have exited Port Wenn and on your way to becoming an accomplished surgeon once again."

"But that is simply not true!" He moved backwards on the sofa, gently pushing her away so that he could see her face clearly. He placed a hand on either side of her upper arms and stared fully into her eyes, mustering the courage, on account of her distress, to speak the thoughts that he had kept private from her since July.

Louisa exhaled deeply. "This summer we promised to talk more, so that we would better understand what the other was thinking. We both forgot that pledge, it seems, amidst the stresses of this Autumn." She kissed his cheek and traced the soft skin of his earlobe with the single, elegant movement of one slender finger.

He shook his head emphatically and spoke more to himself than to her. "It's been futile; all of my work since May to try to make you happy, to be worthy of you. For you to believe, as late as today, that I didn't want you – it means I've failed. I thought that in my sessions with Dr. Travers – that I was making progress."

She was genuinely perplexed. Instinctively she sat backwards, still kneeling, so to better scan his face. She brushed back a loose strand of hair on her forehead and raised an eyebrow. She said quizzically, "Your work with Dr. Travers? What does your haemophobia have to do with our relationship? Or me?"

"Not the haemophobia."

His brain started buzzing, thoughts crisscrossing back and forth. It was time to tell her; to make her understand what he had tried to do and had undergone. "After you left Port Wenn I was rather … distressed … and angry … with myself because I hadn't known how to talk to you. I was frustrated because I didn't know how to make you happy. Human interactions and relations are a puzzle to me. You have reason to know that. Dr. Travers felt that I should discuss it with him; that it would make me feel better. I was somewhat … reluctant … in the beginning. Not really a compliant patient."

Louisa gave him an affectionate, sympathetic laugh, picturing a frustrated Dr. Travers, whatever he looked like, trying to cope with a noncompliant Martin. "I'll bet. Stubbornness must be a dominant gene in both our gene pools."

Martin caught the joke and the smallest of smiles appeared on his lips before he returned to being in earnest again. He locked his arms around her waist. She gladly welcomed them and the security they signified.

He continued, needing to make clear to her what had been his catalyst. "It wasn't until I received your note telling me that you were coming back to Port Wenn for the summer that I finally agreed to talk about you with Dr. Travers. He said it would help. I was …. mildly … depressed … you see … not sleeping well or eating properly,"

Louisa kissed him tenderly on the lips, brushed the side of his head with the soothing touch of one palm, willing away his memories of that painful episode. He closed his eyes momentarily, soaking in the comforts she conveyed. "Oh, Martin. I'm just so sorry. We were both so miserable and neither of us did anything much about it, at least in the beginning."

He opened his eyes, anxious to dispel that dismal notion. "But we did – eventually, didn't we? You came back prepared to give us another chance and I … well … Travers guided me concerning ways I might talk to you, not shut you out or push you away."

Louisa slapped her thigh lightly, the spontaneous gesture almost causing her to fall, prevented only from toppling over by Martin's arms which still clasped her tightly. She exclaimed, "I thought you had changed! Even that first Saturday evening when we had dinner at the Bosmans' house, I felt it. You were more approachable. Softer. It gave me a glimmer of hope. But Martin, it must have been a difficult experience for you, exposing your private thoughts like that. You are so self-sufficient, so self-reliant."

"Let's just say that Travers had rather a trying time of it at the beginning. He's a persistent old bugger, fortunately. I doubt though that he would have been able to crack me if you had not written back in May."

"You mean my thank you note for your birthday card?" She was confounded. Its contents had been no more than a few sentences. What possible motivation could that terse missive have sparked?

"Yes. When you wrote that you were coming to Port Wenn for the summer, it gave me incentive and hope for a new start between us. That's when I became determined to crack on or rather, to let Travers try to crack me." His hold on her waist tightened slightly. His voice took on a more intense tone." You have been a major source of discussion between us ever since. Nothing in my life ever prepared me for you. Some days you are all I talk about in my sessions - about getting it right with you."

Louisa bit her lip. That he would do this for her. Her arms went around his neck once more. "Oh, Martin. I had no idea. Thank you. For you to do something so generous …" She buried her head in his shoulder, wanting to feel the certainty and comfort of his body against hers.

"Not really so generous, Louisa," the sound of his voice muffled in her hair, "I told you, at almost exactly this time last year, when we became engaged, that I couldn't bear to be without you. I meant every word of it."

She moved to look at him again, taking his face into her hands. She felt ashamed, twisting her face into one of regret. "Thank you. I should have had more faith in you last weekend instead of thinking that you didn't want me anymore. Another rush to judgment, I'm afraid."

"I'm not very good at saying what I feel. I don't talk …."

"You are doing brilliantly tonight."

"Whenever you think that way, whenever I push you away - and it will likely happen again, I prefer to retreat and withdraw. You know that only too well. Try to remember the words I wrote to you in that poem."

"Yes." Her thoughts pivoted to the dog eared card so carefully packed away in one of the cardboard boxes sitting on the floor near their feet. She had purchased an antique silver photograph frame, intending to safely encase it therein. Thus it would be ready to sit in a place of honour on a chest of drawers in the bedroom of her new flat. In her mind she now reviewed the words found on that much thumbed page, admonishing herself for not having deliberated on them last weekend, in that darkened cinema, when she had sorely doubted both Martin and herself.

The words described her as his refuge from what he perceived to be a harsh and brutal world; one where he was unwanted, taunted and solitary. She bore him to a place of serenity, tranquility and bliss; a wholly fresh and unique experience for him. She was his precious guide towards the possibility that if he allowed himself, and with her as co-pilot, life could be less endured and more enjoyed. Where she would lead he would follow; albeit sometimes stumbling, backsliding, not surefooted but he resolved to get there in the end.

They fell silent again, holding onto each other, words unable to provide further compensation or expression of what they wanted the other to understand. More than friends, not yet full partners, they sought to convey the growing depth of emotion for one another in the best way they knew how, in the tangible, tactile language of lovers.

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Later, they wrapped around each other in a naked intimacy both physical and emotional; hands clasped, legs intertwined, bodies pressed snug, they fell soundly asleep as if drugged. Exhaustion filled them, borne not solely of spent desire but of something more important: knowledge disclosed, secrets revealed, confessions made, promises extracted.

There was contentment too and a kind of self-satisfaction in understanding that they had encountered a major obstacle and had striven together to engineer a way through it. Neither was so naïve as to believe that all of their problems had been miraculously solved or dissipated because of one night's thorough airing. A good sailor is always watching the horizon for indications of approaching storms. In this case the barometer read that foul weather was brewing.

Martin felt ready to finally overcome the oppressiveness of his phobia, the joy of returning to the repair of veins and arteries, the stimulation of heading up a surgical team, the intellectual challenge of medical research and writing, the anonymity and privacy of life in a bustling city with Louisa.

Louisa felt the tug of home, the desire for things familiar and friendly, the wish to assist in the welfare of her community, the ticking down of her procreating clock, the urge to settle down as a family and make a proper home with Martin.

An experienced sailor would take his bearings, make the necessary calculations and come to the wise conclusion that no boat, not even Martin and Louisa's fair craft, could sail in two divergent directions at the same time.

END OF PART FOUR OF RESOLUTIONS

Author's Note: Thank you to all readers and reviewers for providing me with the encouragement and motivation to keep on writing this tale of our two favourite DM characters. It is time for another pause in this story. Wishing you all well until we meet again later this Autumn.