“Hello sweetheart…” Lisa’s voice sang at one end of the line.
“Hi babe…how’s your first night without me?” Ethan asked.
“Very lonely and boring of course. How’s yours going?”
“Well, I can’t say I don’t enjoy the silence around here,” he said teasingly.
“Oh yeah?” Ethan laughed. “You know I’m joking. I do miss you. How did your day go?”
“It went fine…Sue and I got to meet one of them. It’s still a working progress, though.”
“Everything will be fine.”
“How’s our baby doing?”
“Who, me? I’m good.”
“Ha-ha…. I was talking of Jeremy, honey.”
“Oh yeah? I miss the times you used to call me baby.”
“Oh…you’ll always be my baby, Ethan.”
“So will you be. Jer’s fine. He succeeded in throwing a few tantrums here and there. I’m sure he figured his mum was not around but he’s sleeping now.”
“Oh ok…please give him a kiss for me, will you?”
“Of course; anything for you.”
“Awww…. I miss last night.”
“Yeah, I know…..you’ll miss me more in the morning,” Ethan teased.
“Oh stop it, you’re not helping! You’re a great husband, Ethan. Just wanted to tell you that.”
“Awww…I’m touched. I got to go; I have an early surgery tomorrow morning.”
“Sure; I’ve a busy day tomorrow myself. Take care of yourself for me, okay?”
“You too; goodnight love. Dream about me.”
“I’ve already started. Goodnight,” Lisa hung up.
On the third of Lisa being away, she called Ethan.
“Hey…are you coming back?” Ethan asked.
“No…I need a favor, Ethan. It’s urgent.”
“Okay, what’s wrong?”
“It’s my mum. Her caretaker just called me. It seems my mum has fallen into a crisis. I need you to please go check up on her. I’ve been told she has been admitted into your hospital,” Lisa pleaded.
“Sure, I’ll check up on her and let you know how she’s faring,” Ethan offered.
“Thanks, sweetie; you’re an angel. Got to go; talk to you later, bye!”
Ethan entered his office to find Mike seated there.
“How’s mother-in-law doing?” Mike asked. Ethan sat down and sighed.
“Not good; I guess. She needs intensive care.”
“So what did the doctor propose?”
“Admission on a relatively permanent basis.”
“You mean, getting her committed? I don’t think Lisa would like that idea.”
“I know but she’s not here yet and I don’t have the luxury of time to be babysitting her around.”
“At least inform her of the situation first,” Mike advised.
“Yeah sure.” He took his phone and called Lisa.
“How’s she doing, Ethan?” Lisa asked with concern.
“Her situation is under control now but…she’d have to stay admitted in the hospital for some time.”
“Sure, I understand.”
“You’re coming tomorrow, right?” Ethan inquired.
“Unfortunately not, dear; I’ve to stay for two more days at most. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay; I’ll talk to you later.” He hung up.
“You didn’t tell her.”
“She’s not coming tomorrow, Mike. And I’ve surgeries to perform and Jeremy to check up on. I can’t take on Annie too.”
“So you’re going to get her committed without her daughter’s permission.”
“Lisa can get her out when she returns. After all, she’s her mother, not mine,” Ethan said flatly. Mike shook his head.
Two days later…
“What do you mean, she’s living there now?” Lisa asked on the phone.
She stared at Sue in horror. “What?!”
“Come in,” Ethan said when he heard a knock on his door. Nurse Betty entered.
“Hi Betty; anything I can help you with?” Ethan asked politely.
“Yeah, maybe…you can help me,” she said flirtingly as she walked towards him and turned his swivel seat around to face her. She touched his face.
“Doctor Richards…I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately…”
“Betty, what are you doing?”
“I overheard that your wife is not around and I figured you must be lonely. And I know loneliness is such a frustration for guys so I want to help you out…”
“I’m sorry but I think there’s some kind of misunderstanding here. I’m not lonely and I’m not frustrated. So please respect yourself and get your hands off me,” Ethan said, attempting to take her hands off his neck but she refused.
“Come on doctor; no one will know about this. It will be our little secret.”
“Betty, stop it!” She leaned forward. The door flew open. They both turned. Lisa froze at the door with her mouth half-opened. Ethan pushed Betty away from him and got up, walking towards his wife.
“It’s not what you think, Lisa; trust me.”
“Uh huh…. I leave you for just five days and you’re already itching to get into someone else’s pants, huh?”
“Of course not; it’s a total misunderstanding.”
“Yeah right; I’ll meet you at home…with the divorce papers,” she said and turned to walk away.
“What, wait!” He said, stopping her by taking hold of her arm.
“Please don’t overthink this. I’ve no business with this woman.” Lisa glared at Betty. Ethan turned to look at her who was clearly embarrassed.
“Get out of my office,” he ordered. She quickly rushed out.
“Please believe me…I’d never break my vow to you. I am yours, all of me.”
Lisa stared at him for some moments.
“Why did you get my mum committed without talking to me first?” Lisa asked.
“Yeah about that, I had a tight schedule and besides the doctors recommended it for her so I thought I’d let it be till you returned.”
“Yeah, a tight schedule that includes intermittent periods of quickies with your nurses. How belittling of you, Ethan Richards,” Lisa sneered and turned.
“Wait; you know me better than this. I’m a one-woman guy. I’d never see anyone behind your back.”
“But you found it a burden to see to the welfare of my mother just for three days, Ethan. Is she such a bother to you?”
“Of course not, honey. I don’t even much time for myself these days. Keeping up with Jeremy has been an added stress-donor. Please understand me.”
“Whatever; I’m going home. I’m exhausted and I’m furious. Maybe we can talk when we’ve both calmed down,” she said and left the office.
“Wow….Betty came on to you? I’ve been dreaming of that chick for days and she decided to come to you? Damn,” Mike said.
“You’re not paying attention, Mike. Lisa saw us, okay? And that is very serious. She actually mentioned the D papers,” Ethan said.
“What, she threatened to divorce you?”
“Which won’t be hard for her to do. She’s a lawyer, remember?”
“Oh I don’t think Lisa would take it that far. She was shocked and obviously tired. She said it at the spur of the moment.”
“But that doesn’t mean I should ignore that threat. The last thing I want on my plate is to have a custody battle over Jer. She’s my world.”
“So prove it to her,” Mike said.
“Report Betty to the Head and get her out.”
“What? You want me to get her fired?”
“Well, do you want to secure your marriage or the job of a flirty nurse who doesn’t respect married doctors?”
“I’m sure it was a moment of weakness for her…”
“Don’t underestimate such a woman, Ethan. If she’s tried once and failed, she’ll do it again and next time it would be in a very compromising situation that you might find yourself trapped in it. Trust me,” Mike warned. Ethan buried his head in his palms.
“Or, you can ask her to be transferred to another hospital,” Mike suggested. Ethan lifted his head and his faced lighted up.
“Yes, that’s a brilliant idea, Mike!”
“You’re welcome, buddy,” Mike said with a smile. They shook hands.
Ethan arrived home to find the place quiet. He went upstairs to the bedroom. Lisa was in her nightie in front of the mirror.
“Hi,” he greeted as he walked behind her and held her. He kissed her neck.
Lisa turned to look at him. There were tears in her eyes.
“How long has it been going on, Ethan?” Lisa asked.
“What? Nothing has been going on, Liz. What happened today was just a nasty coincidence; I give you my word, honey,” Ethan assured her. He lifted her chin so he could look into her eyes.
“You’re my one and only, Lisa.” She smiled. He kissed her.
“So to put you at ease, I’ve reported her to the necessary authorities.”
“Is she going to lose her job?” Lisa asked.
“Well, not necessarily. I just requested for her to be transferred to another hospital.”
Lisa beamed. “You did that?”
“I’ll do anything to make sure you don’t lose the trust you have in me.” Lisa hugged him.
“Oh Ethan; you’ve no idea what’s been going through my mind since then. I began to think that perhaps it’s my fault; that I haven’t been a very good wife to you and then I neglected you for almost a week and…”
“Hey….don’t ever think that again, Lisa. You’re the best woman I can ever have as a wife. You may not be perfect but you’re the best for me and I love you, Lisa Richards.” They kissed. She withdrew herself.
“And about my mother…”
“Not now; we can talk about that in the morning,” Ethan said and kissed her.
Lisa entered her office hastily. Sue took her phone off her ear and cancelled the call.
“Where have you been, Liz? I’ve left you a million messages!”
“I’m sorry; I went to see my mother. My phone was off. What’s up?”
“What’s up? We are doomed to lose this case, that’s what’s up.”
“What do you mean?” Lisa looked at her, alarmed.
“Lisa, I understand that your mother is very important to you and that she deserves your undivided attention but so is this case. You gave your word to your client that you’d fight with all you have to get her justice and so far, you’ve failed; having to deal with little Jer and your mum at the same time,” Sue said.
“I know but I’m going to try to make things right.”
“You’re too distracted, Liz. I think you should drop it.”
“What? You know this means a lot to me. I’ve to see it through to the end.”
“But you can’t; we can find someone as competent as you are to see this case through.”
“Listen Sue, I know you’re concerned and I appreciate it but I assure you, we can do this, okay? Do you have everything ready?”
“Yeah I do,” Sue said with a sigh.
“Then let’s go.”
Lisa and Sue met up with their client for tea.
“I assure you things will round up in our favor; these things take time,” Lisa said persuasively.
“I know what you can do Mrs. Richards but I’ve also observed that you’ve been stressed out for some time now. Are you having issues at home?” the client asked. Lisa and Sue stole a nervous glance at each other.
“Ah…not really; there were a few things here and there but things are okay now…”
“I’m asking this because I’ve not invested so much in this case just to lose it all in the end so if you admit that you’re too distracted to win this case for me, just let me know and I won’t hold it against you. I’ll get someone else to take it up for me.”
“Oh no, Mrs. Sanders; don’t talk like that. I promise from now on all hands are on deck,” Lisa said. Mrs. Sanders glanced at Sue.
“I believe your assistant here agrees with me.” Lisa looked at Sue.
“Lisa…trust me, I’m doing this for you.”
“What? How could you do this to me?”
“I don’t want to see all that you’ve toiled so hard to achieve crumble down because you have some marital hitches. It is better to walk away now than to mar your career.”
“And what makes you think it’s your place to do this, huh? Mrs. Sanders please, give me a second chance to make this right.” Mrs. Sanders took her bag from the table.
“Goodbye, Lisa. We’ll talk soon; I’ll wire what I owe you to your account,” she said and got up. She walked away. Tears filled Lisa’s eyes.
“Don’t touch me! And consider yourself fired,” Lisa said, getting up.
“Lisa please…” Lisa stormed off.
“Hey Mike, what are you doing here? I’m just prepping to perform a surgery.”
“Yeah, something came up so I wanted to give you a heads-up. Betty isn’t leaving.”
“Why, I thought she would be transferred by now.”
“Well, the board didn’t think your reasons were strong enough to send her away and besides, she’s one of the best we have in this hospital. The hospital isn’t ready to give her up…not yet,” Mike said. Ethan sighed.
“Okay; I’ve to talk to Lisa about that.”
“And she’s scrubbing in on your pending surgery.”
“What? Hell no! I seriously don’t need her around.”
“Well, you know it’s a delicate surgery and you need the best around you and she happens to be the first on the list so buckle up, buddy,” Mike said as he patted his back and left the room. Betty entered and smiled when their eyes met.
“Hi Dr. Richards, I hear we’d be in the operating room together…. I can’t wait,” she said with a wink and entered the operating room.
“Ugh no…this is not good,” Ethan muttered to himself.
“Bring the lights down a little so I can see better,” Ethan said.
“Yes doctor,” Betty said smoothly as she did. Ethan glanced at her for a split second and went back to work. Betty leaned toward him and said into his ear, “I think you should…” Her voice in his ear sent chills down his spine.
“Back off, Betty! It’s a life on this table not some cadaver.”
“You should be.” A few moments later, he muttered something.
“What is it?”
“I think I’ve cut something. I need everyone on board!”
Lisa was seated at the living room sipping wine when Ethan entered. He collapsed on the couch next to her.
“Rough day, huh?” Lisa asked; her eyes fixed on the TV.
“You have no idea. I think I messed up someone’s brain today.”
“What do you mean?”
“During surgery, I kind of poked a delicate area.”
“How serious is it?”
“Will find out tomorrow. If it goes bad, I could be suspended.”
“That bad?” Lisa asked. He nodded.
“How was your day?” Ethan asked.
“I kind of lost my job today.”
“Sue went behind my back to tell my client to fire me…out of concern. If only snapping someone’s neck wasn’t called murder….”
“Yeah about that….. I think you shouldn’t be so hard on her.” Lisa cast a sharp glance at him.
“What did I hear you just say? Were you listening to me? I was dropped, Ethan! That is bad for me!”
“I don’t think so; I believe you going ahead was a surety that you would lose the case and it would be better if you were dropped now than to have your name and face associated with the loss,” Ethan said.
“Okay….Sue spoke to you about that, didn’t she?”
“The truth is I asked her to talk to your client.” Lisa put her glass down.
“We were just looking out for you, Liz. You were too overwhelmed to take on a big case like this. You were losing it, honey and I wanted you to take a break.”
“By taking away one thing that actually kept me from being drowned by my motherly and marital duties? How helpful!”
“What do you want me to understand, Ethan? That your job is more important than mine? That you can travel anytime any day when duty demands it but I’ve to put you and Jer first? What gives you the right to go behind my back to steal my job from me? What the hell were you thinking?!”
“Okay…I realize it’s a bad idea…”
“You just did? Oh gosh, what kind of a doctor did I get married to?” Lisa said and stormed off.
“Lisa, wait!” Lisa went upstairs.
Later, he joined her in bed. He could hear Lisa sobbing quietly. He wanted to comfort her but he didn’t want to make her more upset. He turned his head away from her and forced himself to sleep.