It was the first time that Mac had considered the idea that his friend might not have been totally honest and it troubled him. He had accepted what Tim had said without question but had he been right to do so? What if Tim had tried to cast himself in a more favourable light by laying the blame on Bella? What if it hadn’t been all her fault that the marriage had failed? What if Tim had been more than partly to blame?
After all, it couldn’t have been easy for her to cope with Tim’s dependence on those painkillers. Mac had worked in a rehab unit and he knew from experience how unreasonable people could be when they were in the throes of an addiction. Bella must have been through the mill—struggling to help Tim conquer his addiction, struggling to support him even when his behaviour probably hadn’t been as good as it should have been. As he made his way to the cubicles, Mac realised that he needed to get to the bottom of what had gone on. Although Tim was his oldest friend, he owed it to Bella to ascertain the true facts. The thought that he might have misjudged her didn’t sit easily with him, quite frankly.
Mac didn’t get a chance to speak to Bella until it was almost time for him to go off duty. He was on his way to the office when he saw her coming along the corridor. She gave him a cool smile as she went to walk past, but there was no way that he was prepared to leave matters the way they were. It was too important that they got this sorted out, even though he wasn’t sure why it seemed so urgent.
‘Have you got a second?’ he asked, putting out his hand. His fingers brushed against her arm and he felt a flash of something akin to an electric current shoot through him. It was all he could do to maintain an outward show of composure when it felt as though his pulse was fizzing from the charge. ‘There’s something I need to ask you.’
‘I’m just on my way to phone the lab about some results I need,’ she said quietly. However, he heard the tremor in her voice and realised that she had felt it too, felt that surge of electricity that had passed between them.
‘Oh, right. Well, I won’t hold you up. Maybe we can meet later? You’re due a break soon, aren’t you? How about coffee in the canteen?’ he suggested, struggling to get a grip. What on earth was going on? This was Bella, Tim’s wife—OK, technically, she was Tim’s ex-wife—but it still didn’t seem right that he should be acting this way, yet he couldn’t seem to stop it.
‘Why? I don’t mean to be rude, Mac, but why do you want us to have coffee?’
She stared back at him, her green eyes searching his face in a way that made him feel more than a little uncomfortable. If he came straight out and admitted that he wanted to check if she was solely to blame for the demise of her marriage then it would hardly endear him to her, would it? He came to a swift decision.
‘Because we need to clear the air.’ He shrugged, opting for a half-truth rather than the full monty. ‘I get the impression that working with me is a strain for you, Bella, and it’s not what I want. It’s not what you want either, I expect.’
‘You’re imagining it. I don’t have a problem about working with you.’ She gave him a chilly smile. ‘Now, if you’ll excuse me...’
She walked away, leaving him wishing that he hadn’t said anything. After all, he hadn’t achieved anything, probably made things even more awkward, in fact.
Mac sighed as he made his way to the office. That would teach him to poke his nose into matters that didn’t concern him. What had gone on between Tim and Bella was their business and he would be well advised to leave alone.
* * *
Bella worked straight through without even stopping for a break. Although they were busy, she could have taken a few minutes off if she’d wanted to, but she didn’t. Mac’s request to talk to her had unsettled her and she preferred to keep her mind on her patients rather than worry about it. She dealt with her final patient, a ten-year-old boy who had fallen off his bike and broken his arm. Once the X-rays had confirmed her diagnosis, she sent him to the plaster room and cleared up. Helen Robertson, one of the new F1s on the unit, grinned when Bella made her way to the nurses’ station to sign out.
‘Off home to put your feet up, are you? Or are you planning a wild night out?’
‘No chance. It’s straight home, supper and bed for me,’ Bella replied with a laugh. ‘My days of tripping the light fantastic are well and truly over!’
‘Oh, listen to her. You’d think she was in her dotage, wouldn’t you?’ Helen looked past Bella and raised her brows. ‘Maybe you can convince her that she can forgo the carpet slippers for a while longer!’