Chapter 28

On her way back to the clinic, Michaela simply couldn't forget that painful look on Sully's face, and she was angry with herself that she hadn't concluded sooner what she was sure of by now. The symptoms had been there all the time. She had witnessed his mood swings first-hand when they were out in the woods. His low self-esteem was showing in the fact that he thought he wasn't able to raise his daughter. In addition he was still blaming himself for the death of his wife, and there were definitely thoughts of not wanting to live. Some patients simply said it, others sought challenges that might easily kill them. Sully belonged to the latter, and of course he denied that he had any problems at all. There was only one explanation: he was stuck in the fifth stage of grief where one suffered from depression.

She should have recognized it the moment she learned about his history. After all, she was in the same place; only her depression had manifested itself in anxiety attacks. Fortunately Sam had shown her how to handle them.

It was a relief to know that Cloud Dancing would return to town at the weekend; he was not only a psychologist but also, next to Daniel, Sully's best friend. Michaela was sure that if Sully talked about his troubles at all, then it would be with the Cheyenne. To her, it was alarming that Sully hadn't recovered yet; two years were a very long time.

Only at her practice was she eventually distracted from her worries by a slow but steady stream of patients. Somehow word had spread that she treated for free if necessary which attracted especially older people. However, her last patient for the day was a young woman who, like her, had only recently moved to Colorado Springs. She told Michaela that she was still exploring the town, and on today's walk through the streets she saw her sign outside of the clinic.

"I'm running out of my pills," the blond-haired said, rummaging through her carryall. When she found the small bottle, she shortly rose from her chair and handed it over to the doctor.

Reading the name of the medicine Michaela frowned, "That's not just some pills against a headache. I will need to examine you; actually I should send you to a specialist… Oh!" A smile spread over her face when she read the name of the physician who'd put the patient on this medication.

"So you are from New York," Michaela stated rather than asked while she was dialing a number on her IPhone. Before the young woman could respond the person on the other end of the line had already picked up the receiver.

"Uncle Pete!" Michaela exclaimed, her voice radiating pure joy as she momentarily forgot she wasn't alone. "It's so good to hear you!"

Peter Adler was one of her father's friends who regularly visited the Quinn family in Boston and also used to spend a few days with them at their holiday home on the beach each summer.

Clearing her throat Michaela caught herself. She couldn't have a private conversation when a patient was with her in the room, and thus she went back to her professional attitude, "Unfortunately I can't talk right now; I'm calling you as a colleague from my practice in Colorado Springs. One of your patients recently moved here, a Ms. Wild…"

She didn't finish the name; Dr. Adler cut her off. First, because he was surprised that she didn't live in Boston anymore and scolding her for not informing him, and second because he knew the young woman.

"Could you please describe her for me?" Michaela requested.

Klonopin, the pills she was still holding in her hand, didn't only have benefits. One of the dangerous side effects was that it could cause abnormal drug-seeking behavior, and she had seen it more than once in the emergency room that an addict had taken an overdose of a stolen medicine.

Of course Dr. Adler knew what she was implying and without hesitating he gave Michaela all the personal data she needed. After promising to call him back soon she ended the conversation and reassuringly smiled at her vis-à-vis. "I will give you a prescription that should be enough until you found a neurologist in the area where you live."

She was already writing and didn't notice the change in her patient. Now that the young woman knew she would get her pills she relaxed visibly and got up from her chair. "I don't know yet where I will live," she told the doctor. "I'm looking for the man I love since I was a girl. We were separated when he was eighteen but he promised we would marry if he didn't have a wife after he turned thirty and I was a single, too." She reached for the prescription, and on her way out she added, "I know he lives here in town. All I have to do is find him."

For some reason, those last words caused Michaela a sudden sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Attempting to shake it off, she tried to convince herself that she was just tired. Who still made promises like that nowadays anyway? They didn't live in the 19th century anymore, let alone in a Jane Austen novel where such promises were made – and kept. And besides, it wasn't her business when Ms. Wild was chasing a dream.

She had other things to do, and the first one was to put her plan into action. She didn't have Sully's phone number, actually she didn't even know if he owned a cell, so she called Daniel instead. He picked up on the second ring.

"Are you still at Amber Drive?" Michaela asked without further ado.

"Nope." It was Sully who replied. "On our way back to town."

Surprised at hearing him she was silent for a second and Sully's tone grew concerned. "Why? Somethin' happened?"

"No," she assured, regaining her composure. "I just wanted to invite you for dinner tonight. I mean you, Daniel and Hannah," she quickly clarified.

There was silence on the other end and Michaela could tell that he was thinking about an excuse. "There is something I'd like to discuss with you." She wished she could see his face in order to judge his reaction. "And it's a thank you for all your work with my things and the flowers, too." She thought it better to just keep talking so he couldn't refuse her invitation. "It's my treat."

Hearing a sharp intake of breath she knew she'd made a mistake. "I'd like for Hannah to choose the place," she hurried to add so he wouldn't think she had something fancy in mind. She was well aware that they could end up at an ice cream café when it was the little girl's choice but she was ready to have dinner even there. She wanted for the child to enjoy herself because when Hannah was at ease Sully would be fine, too.

He apparently covered the phone when he discussed her suggestion with Daniel and his daughter because their voices were muffled and she couldn't discern what was said. She didn't have to wait long though. She heard a smacker when Sully gave the phone free again and knew she would have company for dinner tonight.

"Where and when?" she asked, unaware that the corners of her mouth had turned up.

xxx

It was a beautiful evening. If you'd just arrived in town you would never have guessed that it was only twenty-four hours since a storm raged through these streets that looked so peaceful now. It was only a light breeze that rustled the leaves of the trees on the sidewalk. Michaela sat on the patio of Grace's Café, taking small sips from a glass of water. Actually, she longed for coffee but knew she wouldn't sleep if she had some at this hour.

Most of the tables were occupied and since she sat close to the house she didn't see her guests arrive right away. Daniel was in the lead with Sully on his heels, and as Michaela had seen so often, he was carrying his daughter.

Hannah beamed as soon as she spotted her but her face fell when she saw the highchair Grace had put at the table for her. The little girl had hoped to sit on the doctor's lap again. However, she forgot about that when Michaela admired her braid. "I bet your dad did it. Am I right?" Michaela asked and the child nodded proudly, pulling it over her shoulder so its end lay on her small chest.

Michaela had seen such a neatly done braid before and blushed when she remembered. She could tell Sully did too because when she glanced at him she realized that he was looking at her. Daniel had excused himself for a moment, and so it was just the three of them.

"Thank you for coming," Michaela said, attempting to get her emotions under control.

Sully shrugged and winked at his daughter as he replied, "We all love Miss Grace's food."

Hannah giggled when she settled in her chair and then expectantly looked at Michaela who was seated next to her. Knowing what was required from her Michaela suggested, "A nice glass of juice first? Cherry juice?"

"Yep," Hannah was clearly satisfied and Michaela thought that now was a good time to reveal her plan. She knew Sully would listen carefully and hoped he would pick up her intention and not interfere.

Before she could begin though Grace came to take their orders, but when they were alone again she didn't waste more time.

Shifting so she could look at the little girl's face she said, "Hannah, I will need your help with something."

Astonished, Hannah looked at her.

"In Boston where I worked at a big hospital before I moved here we had a big pool." The child cocked her head to one side, fully focused on her new friend now. "I liked swimming there," Michaela continued, "and I would like to swim here in your town, too. But it's not much fun when you are all alone so I was wondering if you would accompany me."

While she was speaking, Hannah's eyes grew wide and wider. She loved to play in the water. Her grandpa had put up a small rubber pool in the yard where she was allowed to play with her little bucket and her green gum hippo when the sun was hot enough. But grandma never allowed her to stay in there as long as she wanted. Somehow she knew that Dr. Mike thought differently about that. She didn't have to hear more, her head was already eagerly moving up and down, signaling that she would definitely help.

"Thank you," Michaela said and smiled. She had hoped for this reaction - but not for the frown she saw on Sully's brow when she looked at him. He stayed silent but got up from his chair, lifting his daughter out of hers.

"I forgot to tell Miss Grace to bring me some bread. Would ya do that for me?" he requested and Hannah scampered off. She needed to be back as quick as possible for she wanted to hear more about going to swim.

After the shock in the morning when he'd thought Hannah was lost Sully wasn't ready for any risks, neither old nor new ones. On the other hand he knew that Michaela must have a good reason when she came up with such a suggestion. Still, he would have preferred if she had talked to him first but it was too late for this now.

"What's that all about?" he asked. His tone was even; he was too tired for getting worked up.

Michaela considered him, and again she silently approached herself. How could she have missed the resignation in his eyes? Not wanting to put him deeper into his depression she avoided any accusations when she explained, "As I told you after the echocardiogram, the hole in Hannah's heart is closing. She doesn't need any medication but what she does need are carefully dosed physical exercises in order to train her body. Taking her to a lake in summer and an indoor pool in winter is one way to help with that."

When Sully kept looking at her without responding she wrecked her brain for another way to make him agree with her proposal. Her pulse sped up when she admitted, "And I'd really appreciate the company."

They both knew he would come, too.