‘I see. It must be difficult for her when she’s been abandoned like that,’ Mac said blandly, so blandly in fact that Bella knew he was thinking about her situation.
Colour touched her cheeks as she led the way to the cubicles. She hadn’t abandoned Tim! She had left because Tim had made it impossible for her to stay. She had tried to help him, tried everything she could think of, but nothing had worked. He had been too dependent on the painkillers by then to give them up. Oh, he had promised that he would, swore that he had umpteen times, but he had lied. The drugs had changed him from the man she had married, turned him into someone who lied and deceived at the drop of a hat. It had reached the point where she simply couldn’t take any more and she had left and, amazingly, it had been the best thing she could have done for him.
Tim had sought help after that. He had admitted himself to rehab and finally kicked his habit. Maybe she should have gone back to him then—she had thought about it. But then she had found out about his affair and there hadn’t seemed any point. She would only have gone back out of a sense of duty and that hadn’t seemed right or fair to either of them.
It made her wonder all of a sudden if she had ever really loved him—loved him with the depth and intensity that people were supposed to feel when they married—if she hadn’t been prepared to fight for him. The problem was that she had never been truly in touch with her feelings. As the only child of career-minded parents, she had learned at an early age to keep her emotions in check. Even after she had grown up, she had always held back, had always been wary about letting herself feel. Tim had seemed like a safe bet—the type of man she was used to, someone from her own social circle, someone she felt comfortable with. Unlike Mac. Mac had been very different. Even though they’d only been friends, his self-assurance and experience of life had unsettled her. Everything about him had seemed alien. Dangerous. A threat to her peace of mind. He still was.
Bella’s breath caught. If Mac had seemed dangerous all those years ago, he was even more of a threat now that she was so vulnerable.
* * *
‘Mrs Adams? I’m Dr MacIntyre. Dr English has asked me to take a look at your daughter.’
Mac smiled at the harassed-looking woman sitting beside the bed. He knew that Bella was standing right behind him and forced himself to focus on the other woman. He had sworn that he would behave with the utmost propriety and wouldn’t take Bella to task about what she had done. Maybe he did believe that she had behaved deplorably by ending her marriage, but it wasn’t his place to say so.
‘She’s feeling a lot better now, aren’t you, Chloe?’ Donna Adams turned to the little girl, urging her to agree, and Mac sighed. No matter how long this took or how inconvenient it was for the mother, they needed to get to the bottom of Chloe’s problem.
‘That’s good to hear but I still think it would be best if we carried out a couple more tests.’ He smiled at the little girl. ‘We don’t want you having any more of those horrible headaches if we can avoid it, do we, Chloe?’
‘No.’ She smiled shyly back at him, clutching tight hold of a battered old teddy bear.
Mac grinned at her as he sat down on the edge of the bed. ‘What’s your teddy’s name? I have a bear just like him and he’s called Bruno.’
‘William.’ Chloe gave the bear a hug. ‘He’s my best friend and I take him everywhere.’
‘I expect he enjoys it.’ Mac took hold of the bear’s paw and solemnly shook it. ‘It’s nice to meet you, William. My name’s Dr Mac.’
Chloe giggled at this piece of nonsense, but Mac knew that it was important to gain her trust. He smiled at her again. ‘So, now the introductions are over, I need to ask you some questions, Chloe. There are no right or wrong answers, mind you. And if you want William to help you then that’s also fine. OK?’
‘OK,’ Chloe agreed happily.
‘So, Chloe, have you noticed that sometimes you don’t seem quite as steady on your feet as normal and fall over?’
‘Sometimes,’ Chloe murmured. She glanced at her mother then hurried on. ‘It happened in school the other day. I got up to fetch a piece of paper to do some painting and fell over. Teacher thought I was messing about and told me off.’
‘I see.’ Mac glanced at Bella and saw her nod. Poor balance could point towards a disturbance to the function of the cerebellum and was often an indication of a tumour. Although he hoped with all his heart it wasn’t that, it was looking increasingly likely.
‘And have you found it difficult to walk sometimes, as though your feet don’t want to do what you tell them to?’ he continued gently.