Part 1:
BEFORE

"Life is race, we all compete, through choice or forcibly, but we do, we all compete" - Rhys

"Some of us are better than others; natural selection and all"- Tash

"Others struggle, but what sets us apart is how we play the game" - Rhys

"Life isn't fair, things happen, plans change, people change them for you" - Tash

"But that's not important, it's what you do about it that is"- Rhys

"Will you sit, defeated and mope?" - Tash

"Or will you Stand, unbroken and fight?" - Rhys

"And say this is not who I am" - Tash

"Not who I was supposed to be" - Rhys

"I'm better, the best" - Tash

"And if you don't like it" - Rhys

"Tough"- Tash

"Don't hate the player" - Rhys

"Hate the game" - Tash

Rhys

He did a lot of things he wasn't proud of. Too many to count. But none of them, not even one, detracted from his reality. Yeah most of them were shocking- screwing people over, lying, cheating, manipulating, scheming- all the tip of the iceberg. He knew it. He wasn't proud. But at the same time he knew that life didn't come all wrapped all neatly in a bow. After all he had lived it. He knew. It didn't matter whether you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth or if you worked hard. At the end of the day life was all but a game, with many players. Each had their own part to play, many minor insignificant roles, but the ones to look out for, the ones that really mattered, the ones who were actual game changers, were the ones who broke the mould. The ones who learnt the ropes from a young age, the ones who knew that this- whatever that this may have been-wasn't all they were supposed to be. Bigger things were destined for them. Greater things were destined for them. And if not, then, well then, they just didn't want them enough.

Well at least that is what he had been telling himself this past year. He had not wanted anyone to get hurt. He hadn't deliberately set out to ruin anyone's life. He was...ambitious, that's it, he was driven, motivated, and passionate-to the point of ruthless perhaps, but that was it. If it hadn't have been Erin, then it may have been someone else. At the end of the day if Erin was supposed to be a surgical intern, she should never have let herself get caught up in the mess. She would have remained focus, driven, determined, passionate, and resourceful- along with all the other synonyms she must have used in her application. If anything all he had done was expose her reality. She clearly had not wanted it enough.

Yes he felt bad, he did the moment he saw her picture in the newsletter, the first time he had succeeded in bringing her down and again when he saw her as she fled from the hospital. But in all honesty, in hindsight, if he had to do it all again...he would. He would. Why? Because a surgeon is what he was supposed to be. He knew it, everyone knew it. That didn't mean he was proud, no, he wasn't proud of that, but he was well aware that if he now started acting like the prey- where Erin was today, he would be tomorrow. As simple as that. If anything, he had helped her, wasn't she happy in Thailand, with her new boyfriend (whatshisface) if surgery was her dream she could apply again next year. But for now all he knew was that he was in the right place. How he got there didn't matter as such.

Was this fair? If life had depended on fairness then he would never have turned up to his interview late, drunk and in no state to impress. If life was fair he would have been awarded his placement from the moment go. But life wasn't fair. Plans changed, people changed them for you, and at the end of the day what had mattered most was what he would do about it. And sitting back and regretting was not his style. That placement was his. Whether Jessica or Martin or even Erin knew at this point was irrelevant, but it was his. Life was a game in which if you knew how to play well, the world was as they say your oyster. This he came to know very soon.

Med students, the most complicated of creatures you could say, but they all fit snugly into four categories: The rich kids, the poverty struck, those whose parents lived through them and the flounders-who had made it but remained aloof as to how, holding on just by the thread. Each there to prove a point, a point proven from the moment they step through the hospital doors and collect their ID card. Job done. None them were ambitious enough to get ahead in life. None of them. Yes theoretically they did but exams were long gone, now at the crux none of them could make the decisions he would, they could not face the choices-or lack thereof- that he could.

Was he arrogant? Why yes he was. But was that so wrong? Was it wrong, when he thought back to that Tuesday evening, when at fourteen he had stood for an hour still feeling the prevalent echo of the door slamming, where from, the very last time his father had walked out, with nothing, not even so much as a good-bye. No it wasn't. It wasn't wrong. Because if it was, then that fourteen year old Rhys who stood by the door then was wrong too. That was the last time he promised himself that he would allow anyone to make him feel unwanted, the last time he would feel worthless and the last time he would be made to feel insignificant. That was the last time he was ever going to be out of control. The last time.

Tash

The reason why she had always loved maths was simple. There was always a right answer. Always a logical step(s) that led her to the solution: no drama, no interpretation, no opinions, no arguments, but one simple right answer. Was it too much that she applied the same logic in life? No, not in her eyes. She called it as she saw it, some saw that as rude others as admirable, but many as selfish, but at the end of the day, she didn't care either which way. Because caring meant vulnerability, and if one thing she had learnt- the only thing she had learnt from life was the vulnerability was the worst kind of state to be in.

Growing up without a mother wasn't as harsh as people always made it out to be, whenever anyone came to know of her 'situation'- as they liked to call it- they immediately softened around her, giving her sympathy, patting her on the shoulder as far as even hugging her. All in vain. It was all in vain. If anything she despised that hypocritical behaviour. If she never cried herself to sleep at night over being a motherless child then why did a complete stranger take it upon themself to hug the very last breath out of her to show how sorry they were for her loss? To feel loss you need to have had something in the first place. And since Helena had died when she was barely talking properly, she couldn't bring herself to cry or sit around and feel sorry for herself. It's not like she didn't miss her. Of course she did, and the more she got to know of her and about her the more she missed the fact that they never actually got to know each other. That was it. She wasn't being deliberately hostile, but if anything, then realistic. She couldn't fake her feelings, and if that meant somewhere someone got hurt, then so be it. She always believed that there was already far too much uncertainty in life to sit back and play with your own feelings too.

Now that Mike wasn't here, she did miss him. Whether she would admit it or not. She couldn't lie to herself. She did. But then she would be reminded that he was her father it was his job to protect her and more so to be honest with her. Why he couldn't have been honest from the start, all he had to do was tell her the truth. The simple reality-no matter how messed it was- just the truth. Then may be things wouldn't have turned out the way they did. Perhaps they would still be together and hold the same respect and love for one another that they had done as little as two years ago. It actually saddened her more than anything that her own father lied and cheated his way through her life. He just had to take something simple and complicate it, no wonder she could find no right answer. No wonder she was left feeling all alone.

Was it so wrong then for her to be selfish? Was it? When the one time she had let her guard down her world came crumbling around her. She vowed that she no matter how selfish it appeared she was going to do the right thing by herself. You can lie to the world, to your friends, your family and perhaps even to yourself...for a while at least, but at the end of the day reality will strike and you need to be prepared. She knew that all too well, when she thought back to the day she stood, silent, on the bare floor, in the dark living room that had once reflected her life, standing knowing that she no longer belonged, clutching the picture of summer 97 by the beach in her hand ever so tightly. She knew then that this was the last time she was going to be left vulnerable. This was the last time someone was going to do that to her. The last time.