Hugh woke up with a start. He looked around in confusion for a few seconds, and then it all came flooding back. Savannah was married. To Damon. Hugh felt lighted-headed for a second — the two people he had loved the most in the world, barring his parents and sister, were now gone out of his life forever, and in the worst possible way.
His phone buzzed. Hugh looked around for it. He couldn’t find it, and realized he didn’t care. The phone would stop buzzing soon enough, he told himself. He lay down again on the couch, willing himself to fall back asleep for just a little longer. So he’d be able to forget the pain and the crushing sense of betrayal for a little longer.
His phone buzzed again. He ignored it. When it buzzed for the third time, he swore and looked around. He found it fallen on the rug near the couch. He picked it up.
It was Damon. Hugh slapped the phone down on the rug. But on and on the phone buzzed, until Hugh could ignore it no longer.
He answered, “Why are you calling now?”
Damon replied, “I had to talk to you, Hugh. I know you must be going to pieces right now. I guess I was hoping you might have calmed down since last night. That you might have gotten past the shouting and screaming and now we could talk calmly.”
Hugh pinched his brow, “You’re over-estimating your and Savannah’s importance in my life, Damon. Sorry to disappoint you, but there was no shouting and no screaming. I do feel betrayed, but I’ll live. I mean, in a way, you and Savannah deserve one another. Just make sure you don’t betray each other the way you betrayed me.”
At the other end, Damon’s brow creased. He replied, “That’s just the thing, Hugh. We didn’t betray anybody. You and Savannah had been over for a long time. She fell out of love, if she ever had been in love, with you. What she and I have is special. You’ll see it when you see us together. We’re soulmates. We’re meant to be together, Hugh. I hope you can respect that. Whatever sense of betrayal you’re saying you feel, you’ll get it when you see us together, that it’s better this way. For everyone.”
Hugh shook his head to himself. Had Damon always been this insensitive, he wondered. Had he always been this self-satisfied, smug prick? How had Hugh ever thought of Damon as a brother? No, he thought, Damon was a snake. And as much as it hurt, it was better to get it over with once and for all.
Aloud he said, “Good bye, Damon. I have no wish to see either one of you ever again. Take your practice elsewhere. Consider this to be a formal notification that neither I nor my family will ever be needing your services again.”
Damon’s voice rose, “Wait a minute, Hugh. We have a contract. You can’t get out of the deal we’ve had for decades.”
Hugh felt his temper growing, “You should have thought of that before hitting on my fiancée, Damon. But don’t worry, I’ll make sure Regan & Associates pays the appropriate amount of penalty charges for canceling the agreement. I pay my dues. Even when they’re clearly not deserved. I hope you and Savannah find some shred of happiness. But you should know that basing your love life on an act of betrayal never ends well.”
Hugh was surprised to hear the venom in Damon’s voice as he said, “Ex. Ex-fiancée, Hugh. She’s my wife now, and I hope you have the strength of character to respect that and our relationship. Since you think I stole her from you, I think I need to make a few things clearer. I never hit on her. She’s been out of your life for months now. She never loved you. She was always unhappy when she was with you. And then, she and I found each other. In the beginning, she only met me to tell me how neglected she felt, because you were constantly busy and constantly traveling. Leaving her behind. I was sympathetic, and nothing more. But as we began spending more time with one another, I realized she’d never ever get the time and attention from you that she deserved. The more time she and I spent together, the more we realized how much we loved each other. So, in reality, it’s been just us, just her and I, for years, long before you proposed to her. She would have broken it off with you much sooner, but then you proposed.”
Hugh was listening to Damon’s words with growing pain and confusion. He forced himself to stay calm as he asked, “Are you telling me, Damon, that you and Savannah have been together all these years, and she was only pretending to be with me, both before and after I proposed to her?”
Hugh hated the gloating tone in Damon’s voice as he said, “Yeah, it’s true. I hate admitting it, Hugh. But you brought this on yourself. Savannah and I have been in love for a really long time now. And yeah, since before her so-called engagement with you, which, by-the-way, she only agreed to since you proposed to her in such a public way. She says she felt far too much pity for you to turn you down in front of everyone. She knew that she could always break it off later, which she did. She and I felt it’d be kinder on you.”
Hugh felt a stab of pain at the words. His voice rose unsteadily, despite the fact that he was desperately trying to stay calm, “You’re scum, Damon. I thought of you as family. And this is how you repay everything I’ve done for you. I hope you regret your choices one day! And I know that betrayal only begets betrayal. So, watch your back with Savannah. Oh, I’ll tell her the same. She better watch out. Because the Damon I know loves women, all women, far too much to be able to stay faithful to one.”
Damon shouted back, “You’re the scum, Hugh. You’re the one who couldn’t keep his woman happy, nor his best friend by his side. If Savannah and I both walked away from you, it’s because you’re a smug know-it-all who thinks he’s way above others. Guess what, neither Savannah nor I agree. And I don’t need to repay you for anything, Hugh. You and your family have made me run around enough for your every silly whim. I’ve earned every penny I made as your family doctor. Which, by the way, is a contract you cannot walk away from. You couldn’t satisfy your fiancée, Hugh, but at least have the decency to do what’s right by her. She’ll need the house transferred to my name alongside hers. And I’ll need you to respect the contract we have. You do that much, Hugh, and Savannah and I will make sure we don’t embarrass you and make you the object of everyone’s pity by running to the press about our wedding. No, she and I are ready to keep it quiet for now, until you’ve had a chance to recover from all of this. Be a man and do the right thing.”
Hugh glanced around the room in fury. His eyes caught sight of the picture on his desk. Savannah was holding his hand and smiling at the camera in the photograph. Hugh suddenly remembered it was Damon who had taken the picture. With a stab of dismay, he realized Savannah had been smiling up at Damon. Not Hugh. Never Hugh, apparently. The picture had been taken in Damon’s apartment. When Savannah had framed the photograph and kept it at his desk, he’d been happy, thinking she’d wanted him to have a fond memory of the two of them together, when he was at work.
Looking at the picture now, Hugh thought he was going to be sick. He grabbed the frame and hurled it across the room. It hit the glass cabinet and the glass promptly broke and fell to the floor in a million pieces, bouncing off the morning light into a million, brilliant rays.
There was a sound at the door. Hugh turned to see Tim walking towards him with round, worried eyes. On the phone, Damon was saying in a maddeningly calm and collected tone, “What was that sound? Did you smash something, Hugh? You need to calm down, bud.”
Unbelievable, thought Hugh. He yelled into the phone, “Shut up, you piece of garbage. Consider yourself fired. And tell Savannah I’d have gladly signed over the house or anything else to her. But now, she’s not getting a penny. My lawyers will be in touch with the both of you. Take my word, Damon, you and she will never be happy together. Cheaters and liars never do.”
Hugh ended the call and threw his phone on his couch in disgust.
Tim began, “Hugh-”
But that was as far as he got when Hugh turned on him instead.
“What? What is it? Can’t you do one thing without expecting me to hold your hand every step of the way, Tim?” he yelled. Tim’s face fell. Hugh suddenly felt horribly contrite. As he watched his most-trusted employee’s face change from a look of concern to a look of hurt, Hugh felt like a heel. Tim had always been great, Hugh told himself. He should be the last person to have to bear the brunt of Hugh’s heartbreak, he thought.
He began making his way to Tim, feeling a little dizzy and unsteady on his feet. He said haltingly, “I’m so sorry, Tim. I didn’t mean to yell at you. You’ve never done me any harm. It’s just-”
Hugh collapsed to the floor before finishing the sentence. Tim rushed to him, shocked and worried, “Hugh, what’s happening? Hugh?”
But Hugh wasn’t quite responding. Tim realized with a start that he’d fainted. Then the door flew open and in rushed Kelly.
“Hugh! What’s happening? Call the doctor, Tim. Now!”
Tim hurried to his phone. Ordinarily, he’d have called for both the ambulance and for Damon. But not anymore. His hands shook as he dialed the number to the hospital. Please let Hugh be alright, he prayed fervently as the call went through.
‘The CEO’s Favorite Doctor: A Wholesome Romantic Comedy’ by Bhakti Mathew