What I forgot to mention last time:
1) Disclaimer: Doc Martin is the property of Buffalo Pictures.
2) The Australian holiday in chapter 1 was a reference to my proof reader, who helped me a lot with her inside knowledge!
I hear the announcement that we are on the approach for landing at LaGuardia in New York. I must have managed to doze off after all. I feel completely stiff and my neck hurts. Sleeping in a plane is never a good idea, but can hardly be avoided on an eight-hour-flight.
My throat is dry. Not a good thing on a flight. I should have taken care to drink enough fluids, but how can you do it when you doze off.
I try to wave at the steward to order something to drink, but it's too late. The landing has already begun. I glance at my watch. The flight is on schedule and I will have two hours at the airport, before the next plane brings me to Ithaca Regional airport and from there to Cornell University.
My watch still reads Greenwich Mean Time. In London it's past one o'clock in the afternoon and Louisa will be at school. Here it is just past eight a.m. and a whole day lies ahead of me.
Louisa asked me to send her a message when I had landed safely, but I will wait until I reach Ithaca. It doesn't make sense to disturb her because I've finished one leg of my journey, especially as her mobile should be switched to mute as she is in front of her class.
James will be at the nursery. Does he understand why his Daddy won't be there for his bedtime routine? We tried to explain to him why I have to be away for a few days but that I will definitely be back soon, but a few days are a long time when you're not even three.
I miss London and my family even before the plane lands safely. My luggage will be transferred to the next plane, so all I have to do is kill time.
I am hoping that some other attendees of the conference will be stranded waiting for the connection too, and that I might have some expert talk to make it easier to wait.
I stride along LaGuardia towards the gate where I have to check in. There's the usual mingle-mangle of fast-food chains, news agents, book shops and chemist shops as in any other airport in any town in the world. If it comes to airports, you can't really tell if you are in London, New York or Timbuktu. I don't even bother to have a look as I know I will just see rubbish.
I prefer to get to my gate quickly and then either find some other surgeon to talk to or read some article.
I've almost reached my gate when I hear someone yell "ELLINGHAM?"
I hope with all my heart that I am mistaken, but I think I recognise this voice. I try to ignore it and speed towards the check-in. I hear some clatter of high-heels and I'm afraid I won't make it. Just as I thought I'd have a chance, an Indian family – well, clan is more like it – rushes out of one shop blocking my way. I try to edge my way through them, but the high-heels are getting closer.
"Ellingham? What are you doing here?"
I was not mistaken and the smirking face, topped by short red hair, confronts me.
"Edith?" I spat out.
"I never thought you were one for holidays."
"Conference." I clarify as shortly as I can. Our last encounter hadn't been exactly pleasant and I can't imagine why she had felt the need to address me. I mean, I couldn't have been any clearer about not wanting to have anything to do with her.
"I didn't know there's a small town GP convention in New York."
"Very funny." I snarl.
"Are you still hiding in that biscuit tin village – what was the name? Portwat?"
"Portwenn." I correct.
"I knew it sounded like something with a big question mark. I have to say I was quite disappointed when you didn't show up in London as planned, covering your ridiculous phobia with some family matters. Fortunately I got a great opportunity to work here in the USA immediately after my return to London. So you weren't missed too badly."
Obviously Edith fails to keep herself informed, otherwise she would have spotted the one or other article of mine in one of the usual journals.
"I have to go." I simply state.
"Wait Ellingham. You're not by any chance attending the conference in California? Because that's where I'm going. We could travel together."
I am eternally grateful that Edith is not on her way to the same conference as I am. I have seen the announcement of the venue she's referring to and it sounded like a load of claptrap to me, mainly a platform for ambitious doctors trying to sell themselves to industry.
"Vascular Surgery Conferences, Cornell." I inform her.
"Ellingham? I'm impressed. Since when does Portwenn have a hospital of that calibre?"
"Imperial, London." I correct her again. I don't want to talk to her more than absolutely necessary, but I also don't want her to have those funny ideas in her head.
"So you got sick and tired of these backwaters after all. Good for you! I suppose playing family was a nice game for a short time, but not really fulfilling. I know how it is, I tried marriage and was pretty sick of it soon enough. Must have been a blow for little Miss Spikey. What was her name? Louella?"
I feel my anger rising. If I'd have ever forgotten why I didn't stay with Edith, she certainly proves it to me now. She is disgusting in her patronising manner. I did have respect for her professionally once, but then I realised that she isn't interested in her job. She's interested in her career.
Louisa often thinks that I'm not interested enough in my patients because I do not care about their names, families and private lives. At least I do care about their well-being, because that is my duty. Edith is just interested in what strings she has to pull to get a better job.
"Louisa is fine." I simply say.
"So you're still in contact? Still friends?"
Friends. Lovers. Companions. Parents. Confidants.
"Really? Weekends and holidays? Must be idyllic."
"Louisa did have my child, remember."
"Stop being so chivalrous. Nowadays things like that are settled with a hefty cheque."
"I was afraid it would be, but gladly Louisa and I could sort it out."
Edith looks genuinely puzzled. "You mean, you're in London? Both of you."
"Three. Louisa, our son and I."
"I underestimated her. She is smarter than I thought. She got herself settled nicely."
"I beg your pardon!"
Edith stares at me, visibly upset. "Really, Ellingham. I always thought you were…"
"You have no idea who I am, what I want. You have no idea of anything. So stop thinking. Especially about me. I've got to check in."
I don't wait for an answer and turn on my heels. I storm towards the gate as I will be safe from Edith's claws as soon as I pass through.
To be continued…