Liz looked at Hugh’s thoughtful frown and wondered if there was a way she could lighten up the mood in the room. Hugh was trying to help her out, when he was meant to rest and she was supposed to focus on him. Instead, they’d played around with half-baked ideas and she was feeling pushed towards a step she wasn’t fully prepared for.
She shook her head. The last thing she wanted was for Hugh to pity her and think of her as a sad-sack. So, she asked him, “Switching to funner topics, is that a comic book I see you reading?”
Hugh grinned, “I think the term you’re looking for is graphic novel! Yeah, it’s all about this hot, mini-dress clad superheroine who’s a nerd in her real life with a crush on the boy next door. Of course, said boy-next-door is himself a secret, underwear-over-tights-wearing superhero!”
Liz gave a surprised giggled, “Wonders truly never cease! I would’ve never taken you for a comic-book — excuse me — graphic novel reader!”
Hugh chuckled, “Oh yeah, I’m a total nerd. And Kelly will tell you my tastes never really evolved. Give me a pulpy comic and I’d rather read that to de-stress than read Tolstoy.”
“Nobody reads Tolstoy to de-stress,” Liz giggled. “Are you mostly done with the novel, or is there a nice, long read left?”
Hugh replied, “Ha! I’ve read this book about twenty times already. So, yeah, all done. But, it’s like a comfort book for me, so Kelly had Tim bring it here. I’m surprised she could find it. I haven’t touched it in years. But I’m glad he brought it.”
Liz said, “My comfort book is also a children’s book, incidentally! It’s Heidi. I can read it as a grown woman and still get lost in the Alps with Heidi and Clara!”
“Oh, Kelly used to love that book too! Here, do you want to try this one? The chapter I’m reading is especially funny.”
Liz nodded and pulled her chair closer to Hugh. They read it together for a while, exchanging amused glances at the funnier bits. Just as they were chuckling together, there was a knock on the door and Dr. Whitman walked in.
Liz, who had unconsciously leaned close enough to Hugh while reading so that her head almost rested on his shoulder, jumped back in her chair with a start. Hugh glanced at her just in time to see her face go red, with Liz smoothening her hair self-consciously. He looked over at Dr. Whitman, who cleared his throat.
Dr. Whitman said a little coldly, “I’m sorry if this is a bad time—”
Liz had shot up from her chair, “Umm, no, I was just leaving. Hugh here was showing me a funny passage from the book he was reading.”
If it had been any other person, thought Hugh, he’d have found the situation funny. But Liz seemed genuinely embarrassed, like she’d rather let the earth eat her up than have Whitman walking in on their shared laugh. He felt a pang of sympathy for her, and slightly responsible for the situation too.
He said calmly, “Please have a seat, Dr. Whitman. Liz, please sit too. I meant to ask the two of you what the next course of action was.”
Liz gulped and stuttered, “The next course of action?”
“Yeah. Regarding my stay in the hospital. I’m done with the tests, so I think I’ll get out of your hair soon?”
Liz looked at Dr. Whitman for a micro-second then at the floor.
Dr. Whitman spoke up, still a little stiff, “I came here to tell you, Mr. Regan. The report from today’s test should be ready by tomorrow morning. So, if the results are okay, you can leave early morning.”
Hugh smiled genially at the man, “Thank you! That sounds perfect!”
Dr. Whitman nodded at him, then at Liz, and walked out of the room.
Hugh addressed a slumped Liz, “Relax. It’s not like we were doing anything wrong. I have to say though, your Dr. Whitman seems like he has a stick up his backside.”
Liz shook her head, “He doesn’t, Hugh. Really. He’s always relaxed and jovial. But yeah, today he seemed off.”
Hugh shrugged, “Looks like a good sign to me. He’s a little rattled. That can only be good for your romantic life.”
Liz sighed, “Can we leave my romantic life aside for now? I feel like I’ve pulled you into some sordid carnival, instead of you know, being your doctor.”
She expected Hugh to make another flippant remark. But instead, he grew serious, “Thing is Liz, I’d rather think about your romantic life than mine, you know?”
Liz’s eyes widened and she sat down on the chair again, “It’ll be alright, Hugh. Honestly, you’ve been taking it very well. There will be someone else for you. Mark my words. You have so many things going for you!”
“Like what?” Hugh murmured.
Liz almost whispered, “There’s the fact that you don’t have a stick up your backside, you can be silly, and charming, and you can think on your feet. You’re a good listener and good company. You’re not so bad-looking, either.”
“Not bad-looking, huh?” Hugh leaned forward, taking Liz’s hands in his. He kissed the back of one hand, “Well, I think you’re very pretty, very good at being a doctor, dedicated to your job, terrifyingly smart, and very sweet and trusting.” He let go of her hand as Liz blushed and finished, “You don’t have the best taste in men, though.”
Liz smiled and rolled her eyes, “Oh, you’ll come around about Dr. Whitman. I don’t think many can withstand his charm.”
Hugh snorted, “At least tell me you’ve noticed how his teeth are too perfect? It’s like someone grabbed and snuck a string of pearls in his pie hole.”
Liz laughed, “You’re being silly! His shiny, toothy smile is half the reason our women patients queue up to meet him!”
Hugh groaned, “What’s with women falling for the shiniest object in the vicinity? Doesn’t character count for something? You know, actual mettle?”
“Who said being a shiny object and having a good character are mutually exclusive?” shot back Liz. Then she grew serious, “Listen, Hugh, as much as Dr. Whitman might be charming and shiny and soothing to the eye, you have a lot of things going for you too, if not more. Someday very soon, some amazing woman is going to notice that. I don’t think you’ll be on the market for long.”
Hugh’s shoulders had slumped though, Liz noticed in dismay. But he said, “Thank you, Liz. That’s very kind of you.”
‘The CEO’s Favorite Doctor: A Wholesome Romantic Comedy’ by Bhakti Mathew