The next day, Hugh was in bed, watching a game on TV when there was a knock on the door. Hugh looked up to find Liz in front of him. He gave her a look of surprise and she explained, her tone droll, “Dr. Whitman seems to be tied up with old Mrs. Taylor. He asked me to check with you if it would be okay for me to accompany you for your test? Or, if you’d rather wait until Dr. Whitman is done with his patient?”
Hugh felt something akin to relief that he’d be around Liz rather than Dr. Whitman. He replied, “I’ll go with you, if that’s okay? Look, I meant to apologize, Dr. Davis. I was hasty. If it’s not too much, I’d rather you take my case than Dr. Whitman. But if you’re busy and you can’t, then that’s okay too. It’s my fault, after all. I sorta jumped the gun.”
Liz looked at him steadily, “You don’t need to apologize, Mr. Regan. The hospital has a lot to thank you and your family for. And the way Dr. Gupta explained it, I do understand that you must be feeling vulnerable right now, and would rather have a male doctor. For what it’s worth, though, you have my sympathies. It’s hard when love isn’t reciprocated. Makes you feel you weren’t good enough.”
Hugh wondered if he’d imagined for a minute that Liz’s face fell as she said the last. Was she referring to Dr. Whitman, he asked himself in wonder. Was this pretty, accomplished woman in front of him actually wondering if she was good enough for someone like the too-smooth Dr. Whitman? Surely not! The way Hugh saw it, Whitman would need to grovel to get a woman like Liz. He shook his head. Wonders never ceased. What was it with women always choosing the fancier-looking, too-shiny option?
He spoke up, “Please call me Hugh. And the hospital doesn’t need to thank me for anything. It’s my parents who have been offering their support. But thank you for understanding, Dr. Davis. That means a lot. Again, I’d really like to apologize for the way I behaved. It was inexcusable. But thank you for being upfront about the need for me to stay back. Had it been up to Dr. Whitman, he’d have chosen the easier option of letting me have my way and sending me home. But you stood up for what you believed, and I always respect that.”
Liz looked up at him in surprise. She found it hard to deny what he’d said about Adam Whitman, when she herself had been wondering about it. She shrugged. The man surely had his own reasons for wanting to allow Hugh’s discharge.
She replied, “I’m sure Dr. Whitman had his reasons, umm, Hugh. Please call me Liz. Now, are you done with your breakfast? If you are, I’ll ask the nurse to prep you for the test. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Hugh nodded and Liz called the nurse in. Giving Hugh a reassuring smile, she left, saying she’d be back soon.
The nurse helped Hugh get ready and then called an orderly to help Hugh out of bed and into the waiting wheelchair. Hugh protested and asked the orderly to stand back as he got out of bed himself. He stood up and walked briskly to the wheelchair, resigned to being treated like an invalid for a bit longer.
As Liz pushed Hugh’s wheelchair towards the technician’s office, Hugh spoke up, “So, you and Dr. Whitman, huh? He isn’t someone I’d have seen you with. But the heart wants what it wants, I guess.”
Liz blushed and was thankful Hugh couldn’t see it. Had she been so transparent with her feelings for Dr. Whitman, she wondered. Both Hugh and Kelly had seen it. Thankfully, Dr. Whitman himself seemed completely oblivious. She replied in a clipped voice, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Dr. Whitman and I are merely colleagues. We’re not even friends really, so what you’re suggesting is a really far-fetched scenario.”
Hugh chuckled. Why was it so fun to watch the usually unflappable Dr. Davis get all hot under the collar when confronted about her little crush on Adam Whitman? Hugh pressed on, “Oh c’mon, Dr. Davis. I was there, remember? You went all gooey-eyed around the good Dr. Whitman.”
Liz sighed. This was getting more and more juvenile, in her opinion. What were they, high school students? This kind of teasing was so out-of-place in a situation like this. She replied, “Dr. Whitman is a good-looking man. Ask your sister Kelly. I am sure she’ll agree. We’d have to be blind to not notice it. But that’s about it. And even if there were more to it, Dr. Whitman gets far too much attention to notice someone like me.”
Hugh was so shocked at her self-effacing words that he swiveled back in his chair to get a good look at her face to see if she was joking. He took note of her downcast eyes and despondent face and placed a hand on hers to make her stop pushing the wheelchair. Liz looked up in surprise and stopped.
Hugh said softly, “You couldn’t be more wrong, Liz. Tell me how a beautiful woman like you can underestimate herself so much? What is it? Do you secretly have a third arm? Or, are you actually an alien in human disguise? Barring all of that, I don’t see how someone like you wouldn’t easily be a thousand times better than shallow, glib Adam Whitman.”
Liz looked at him a little angrily. What did this rude man know about her or about sweet-tempered, mild-mannered Dr. Whitman? That’s right, nothing. She tried to speak calmly but couldn’t help sounding a little snippy when she answered, “Shallow? Dr. Whitman? You don’t know him, Mr. Regan. And frankly, you don’t know anything about me either. You’re wrong about Dr. Whitman. He’s a fine man. As fine as they come.” She finished a little pointedly, “A thorough gentleman who never has a mean word against anybody.”
Hugh looked contrite as he stared back at Liz. He did make a ton of assumptions, he reminded himself. Her words had stung, but there was truth in what she’d said. So, he replied, “You’re right, Dr. Davis. I apologize. I’m sure Dr. Whitman is a great guy. Someday, you and he will make a great couple. Please don’t get offended. I guess I’m bored out of my mind in this place. But thankfully, I’ll be out of your hair soon. I just have this to add and then I’ll shut up forever on this topic. You’re a pretty woman. You’re also level-headed and smart. Dr. Whitman could do worse. So, my advice? Don’t wait for the perfect day to make your feelings known. Take my word on this, life passes by. We regret the things we didn’t do.”
Hugh turned in his seat to look ahead again. He couldn’t let Liz see his face. He knew his heartbreak would be showing very clearly in that moment. Why hadn’t he paid more attention to Savannah? Damon had said she’d felt neglected. And Hugh knew that was true at least. He’d newly taken over his family business when Savannah had walked into his life. He’d always been busy.
Hugh sighed. He needed to take some of the advice he was doling out to Liz, he told himself. Once he was out of the hospital, he intended to change his life for the better. Make time for the important things like spending time with his family, noticing the little and big things around him.
Liz watched Hugh’s slumped shoulders and realized he would have been remembering events from his recent past again. She tapped lightly on his shoulder and replied, “I’m sorry if I was a little short, Hugh. The truth is that I’ve watched Dr. Whitman from a distance for some time now. So, take my word for it when I say he’s a great guy. But leaving that aside, I just wanted you to know that everyone that knows you here, including Tiffany, know that your ex made a terrible mistake. You should know that your sister speaks very highly of you too. What you’re feeling now will pass, terrible as it is. But giving up on life only means that you’ve let them win.”
Hugh nodded slowly without saying anything. He stayed slumped, however, and Liz thought it might be best to give him time and space to recover. She wheeled him around the corner. The lab was just a few more meters way.
‘The CEO’s Favorite Doctor: A Wholesome Romantic Comedy’ by Bhakti Mathew