‘I needed to get away and moving up here seemed like the right thing to do. It’s a fresh start for me and, hopefully, it will be a fresh start for Tim as well.’
* * *
Bella could feel the animosity coming off Mac in huge waves and it hurt to know that he had judged her and obviously found her wanting. She knew that Tim would have told Mac his version of the story but she had hoped that Mac would wait until he had spoken to her before he started apportioning blame. However, it appeared that he had accepted what Tim had said without question. She was the one at fault, the bad guy who had called time on her marriage, while Tim was the innocent victim.
She swung round, refusing to stand there and try to justify herself. She had made up her mind that she wouldn’t retaliate after she had found out that Tim had been spreading all those lies about her. She had seen that happen with other couples, had watched as the situation had deteriorated into an unseemly sparring match, and she had sworn that she wouldn’t go down that route. People would believe what they wanted to believe anyway. If she tried to contest Tim’s claims that she had been unreasonable, that she had ruined his career, that she had ended their relationship rather than have a baby with him, few would believe her.
She had always been the reticent one in the relationship, the one who took longer to make friends, whereas Tim had always been very outgoing. Tim drew people to him and made instant friends of them, and if he tended to drop them just as quickly later, then nobody seemed to mind. No, if there were sides to be taken then most folk would take Tim’s. Including Mac, it seemed.
Pain stabbed her heart as she led the way to Reception. Even though she knew it was silly, she hated to think that she had sunk so low in Mac’s estimation. Dredging up a smile, she turned to Janet Davies, their receptionist, determined that she wasn’t going to let him know how she felt.
‘This is Dr MacIntyre, Janet. He’ll be covering the senior registrar’s post until Dr Timpson is fit to return to work following her accident.’
‘Oh, I know Mac. Who doesn’t?’ Janet got up and hurried around the desk to give Mac a hug. She grinned up at him. ‘So where was it this time? Africa? India? Outer Mongolia?’
Mac hugged Janet back, his face breaking into a smile that immediately warmed Bella’s heart. He had always had the most wonderful smile, she thought, then pulled herself up short. Maybe Mac had smiled at Janet with genuine warmth but he certainly hadn’t smiled at her that way.
‘Oh, grim.’ Janet grimaced. ‘Was it as bad as it looked on TV?’
Mac shook his head, his dark brown hair flopping untidily across his forehead. It needed trimming, Bella decided, even though it suited him, emphasising his craggy good looks and that air of toughness he projected. Mac looked exactly like the kind of man he was: tough, unflappable, someone you could depend on, someone who would never let you down. Her heart ached even harder at the thought. She could have done with Mac’s support this past difficult year.
‘The typhoon destroyed whole cities and left people with nothing except the clothes they stood up in. We had a devil of a job getting hold of even the most basic supplies in the beginning,’ he continued.
‘How awful!’ Janet shuddered as she went back to her seat. ‘Makes you grateful that you live here, doesn’t it.’
‘It does indeed.’ Mac grinned. ‘Even if it does rain a lot in this part of the world!’
Janet laughed as she reached for the telephone when it started ringing. Bella moved to the whiteboard and checked the list of names written on it, determined to start as she meant to go on. Maybe there were certain issues that she and Mac needed to address, but they were colleagues, first and foremost, and she intended to keep that at the forefront of her mind. There were just three children in cubicles and each of them had been seen and were currently awaiting the results of various tests. She pointed to the last name on the list when Mac joined her.
‘I’d like you to take a look at this one, if you wouldn’t mind. Chloe Adams, aged eight, admitted at four a.m. this morning complaining of a severe headache. She’d also been vomiting.’ She sighed. ‘Apparently, she’s been suffering from violent headaches for several weeks. Mum took her to their GP, who thought it was probably a sinus infection, but I’m not convinced.’
‘So what are you thinking?’ Mac queried. ‘That it’s something more sinister?’
‘Yes. I noticed a definite lack of coordination when I was examining her. It made me wonder if it’s a tumour. I asked Mum if she’d noticed anything—clumsy gait, frequent falls, that kind of thing—but she said she hadn’t.’ Bella shrugged. ‘Chloe is one of five children and I get the impression that her mother is finding it hard to cope since their father upped and left them at the beginning of the year.’