The time of Hugh’s discharge arrived. As Hugh was expecting, Dr. Whitman came in to see him one final time before Hugh left the hospital.
“Dr. Davis assures me all is well, Mr. Regan,” said Dr. Whitman, “But I’d like to keep an eye on your health just the same. How about I ask someone from the reception to get in touch with your assistant to book an appointment for some time next month?”
“Sounds great, thank you, Dr. Whitman,” said Hugh with fake geniality. In truth, he couldn’t wait to get away from the slick doctor who’d taken a marked dislike to him, but not just yet. He’d made a plan with Liz and he intended to stick by it. So, he added, “Uh, Doc, this is a little awkward,” said Hugh with deliberate hesitation, “But umm, I was wondering if there was some way I could get Dr. Parker’s number. I mean, umm, I was thinking of asking her out, but I haven’t been able to actually speak with her while I was here. And now I’m worried that it might be a little too late.”
Hugh waited with baited breath. He and Liz had decided that Dr. Whitman’s reaction to this proclamation was a good way to judge if anything had gone down between him and Lisa Parker. Hugh had been fully expecting Adam Whitman to fumble or look upset. But instead, Dr. Whitman nodded immediately.
“Oh, I think we can arrange for you to get her work number, at least. How about I get someone to call your assistant and hand it to him soon?”
Hugh made himself nod enthusiastically, “Thanks, Doc! Man to man, this hospital seems to be full of pretty lady doctors, amirite? There’s Dr. Parker. Then, our very own Dr. Davis is easy on the eyes too. You’re a lucky guy, ha-ha.”
Hugh was proud of himself for being able to match Dr. Whitman’s oiliness, on demand, although he groaned inwardly at his own, creepy-sounding words. But he’d suddenly felt the need to get a reaction out of the doctor. Hugh told himself his interest in this was purely altruistic. He was simply trying to help Liz. There really was nothing more to it than that. It wasn’t as if he was trying to pin Adam Whitman into making an indiscreet remark so he could get Liz to lose interest in him.
But, as Hugh was finding out, Dr. Whitman wasn’t about to break cover so easily. He said blandly, “I am lucky indeed to be working alongside such talented colleagues, ha-ha. I’ll see what I can do about the number, Mr. Regan. And I hope to see you in a month’s time!”
Dr. Whitman left, and Hugh was left feeling that maybe he had misjudged the good doctor after all. His responses had all been neutral and respectful. He sighed. Maybe Liz was right about him, he thought. He had no idea why the thought made him a little twitchy.
Just as Hugh was about to leave his suite, Liz walked in. Hugh made a face and answered, “I couldn’t find out much, I’m afraid, Liz. He said he’d try to get me Lisa Parker’s number.”
Liz brightened, “What should we make of that? Surely that means he’s not really interested in her, doesn’t it? I mean, if he were, he could have said he wouldn’t know what her number was. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to say too. It’s not like we all have the numbers of all our colleagues here.”
Hugh looked thoughtful as he said, “It does look like he’s in the clear, isn’t it? But I can’t quite shake off a feeling that Dr. Whitman isn’t as perfect as he seems.”
Liz frowned, “You’re overthinking this, Hugh. Dr. Whitman is a good person. That’s all. Just a regular guy.”
Hugh nodded. He didn’t see any point in digging his heels in. Liz would just become upset over nothing. But Hugh was now more determined than ever to find out the truth about Adam Whitman. And this time, he really was doing it for Liz alone. If his instincts were true, Liz could potentially be really hurt in the near future. He simply couldn’t allow that.
So, he said, “I think you might be right, Liz. But give me some more time to confirm that, would you? Maybe it’s just my own circumstances that’re making me overcautious on your behalf, but I feel like I should try and find out more, you know?”
She was smiling as she said, “I’m going to miss you, Hugh. Alright, do what you have to. I have plenty of time in the world. It’s not like Dr. Whitman is just waiting to ask me out anyway, you know?”
Hugh said aloud, “I’ll miss you too, Liz. It’s been so good for me, having you to talk to, you know? I’d kept it all bundled up inside. But telling you about Savannah and Damon felt good. I feel like I’ll be able to face them now without going to pieces. It still hurts, but I’m so much better now, mentally, than I was when I first walked in here. Thank you for making me stay, Liz. It might have actually saved my life in more ways than one.” Hugh had gotten up and walked over to Liz. He’d taken her hands in his as he spoke, and had unconsciously moved closer.
They stood frozen for a few moments. Hugh was thinking how good it felt to be standing so close to Liz. Even a couple of days before, the fact that she was a very attractive woman, just like Savannah, would have filled him with panic. And a burning desire to get her out of his sight.
But thanks to the fact that his peaceful stay in the hospital had afforded him with loads of time to contemplate without being bulldozed with work, and because of the wonderfully droll, down-to-earth quality of the gorgeous woman beside him, he no longer felt like he had to constantly protect his heart from women. That alone would have been a positive outcome of his stay at the hospital. He really had so much to thank Liz for, he mused. For one mad moment, he felt an intense desire to kiss her.
But in the next moment, it came crashing back to him that the best way to help Liz would be to help her get together with Adam Whitman. The thought shook him. But Hugh prided himself on being a fair person who always returned a favor many times over. And so, he took a step back.
When Hugh had taken Liz’s hand and inched close to her, Liz was shocked to find that all thought of Adam Whitman had left her mind. For a moment, she’d wondered if he would kiss her, and was surprised to find that a part of her wouldn’t mind if he tried. It was natural, she told herself firmly, to form a bond with someone you’d spent so much time with. Besides, she and Hugh were both single and unattached. Would it be such a bad thing if they kissed?
The next instant, she thought about what Dr. Whitman would feel if he walked in on them when they were like this. At that thought, all color left her face and she was about to disengage her hand from his and step back. Instead, it was Hugh who had beaten her to the punch. He let go of her hand and inched back. Liz was conscious of feeling a little disappointed, and was filled with confusion as to why that might be.
Hugh cleared his throat, “Thank you for everything, Liz. I’m going to do what I can to find out more about our good Dr. Whitman. You can count on it. I always replay my debts. And I do feel like I owe you a big one here.”
Liz was feeling a little dazed. She made an effort to shake herself off her stupor and said, “You don’t owe me anything, Hugh. Not at all. Please don’t think of it that way. I’m your doctor and I have to think of your wellbeing. But I hope we can part as friends. I haven’t been able to talk this freely with anybody in a long time, not about that at least. So, thank you for listening without judgment!”
Hugh gave her a small smile, “You’ve done your fair bit of listening too, and I’m the better off for it, Liz. Let’s stay in touch, shall we? Here, how about we make a friend-date for the coming weekend? Lunch, someplace nice? I hope to have gathered enough intel on Dr. You-know-who by then, and you can tell me what the hospital grapevine insists is happening between him and Lisa Parker.”
Liz returned his smile, “Sounds good!
‘The CEO’s Favorite Doctor: A Wholesome Romantic Comedy’ by Bhakti Mathew