Home > Just One Look (Escape to New Zealand, #14)(8)

Just One Look (Escape to New Zealand, #14)(8)
Author: Rosalind James

See? Fine.

Oh, why was she in New Zealand, when it had been the one place she hadn’t wanted to go? She still couldn’t quite believe it had happened, though she’d tried to explain when she’d met with her chief of surgery back in late January.

“It’s a little early for a midlife crisis, wouldn’t you say?” Darrell Godwin had said in his usual austere-but-benign, lord-of-the-manor way. “We want to keep you here. I want to keep you here. Tell me what’s wrong, and I’ll rip this letter up and see what I can do to fix it.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” she said, acutely aware of how crazy and out of control this sounded. Of how crazy and out of control it felt. She colored inside the lines! If she’d ever colored much at all, which she hadn’t. Coloring was good for fine-muscle control, so she had done it some when she was little, but that was it.

She’d had a book with numbers marked for the different colors, which had been useful for helping her recognize numbers and color words, and had also made for a more pleasing result. As long as you colored inside the lines.

The book had all been birds. In a flash of memory, she remembered coloring in the shiny green wings, taking extra care with the blue patch on the bird’s breast, while saying the words aloud to herself. “Ruby-throated hummingbird,” because humming sounded pretty, and the bird was pretty. She’d given the picture to her dad when she was done. She’d thought he might put it on the refrigerator, the way other kindergarten kids’ parents did, but he hadn’t. Still, it had been nice, the bird looking tiny and fragile, hovering beside a pink flower. She’d colored the flower really well.

She didn’t have any plants at her place, but she did have a hummingbird feeder, because she’d been so excited the first time she’d seen one of the tiny things and had heard the zip-zip-zip as it darted around, and she still liked to watch them. Didn’t hummingbird feeders count as proof of having a life? It felt like they should count.

She also couldn’t remember coloring since that book, but so what? Why was she even thinking about this, about hummingbirds and coloring? She didn’t have crises. Or memories, either, because what was the point? She looked forward. She focused. She was a surgeon.

Beautiful but severe. Like a statue.

Hard to love.

“If nothing’s wrong,” Darrell said, reasonably patiently, “why are you leaving the country for a year? That’s pretty extreme. I understand that New Zealand’s beautiful, but do you really think you’ll have time to enjoy that, if you’re doing this …”

“Locum,” she said. “Temporary fill-in. One year, that’s all. And I’m not going because it’s beautiful, or because I want to go to New Zealand, for that matter. I’ll be working, not … touring around, doing wine-tasting or lying on the … the beach, or whatever people do.”

“When they’re on vacation, you mean,” he said.

“Yes. That. I’m not doing that. I’m going because there are a limited number of countries that take doctors with U.S. credentials without any further testing required, and there are fewer that happened to have an opening for a short-term neurosurgeon within my time frame. It was this or the Northern Territory. Australia, that is. If I wanted to go now, and I did want to. It has to be now.”

“The Australia one sounds like more of an adventure, at least,” Darrell said.

“If by ‘adventure,’” she said, “you mean that the heat index tends to be well over a hundred degrees for most of the year, and that the place is full of killer crocodiles, deadly jellyfish, venomous snakes, great white sharks, and spiders the size of cats, then, yes. It’s extremely adventurous. Unfortunately, I’m not.”

“Then why?” Darrell asked. “Look, I know you’re the only female neurosurgeon on staff, and I imagine that’s difficult, but …”

“It’s not difficult,” she said. “I was the only female neurosurgical resident at Hopkins, too, and I did just fine. I still made chief resident, didn’t I? Also, if you imagine that any of my colleagues treats me as anything but a fellow surgeon, you haven’t been paying attention to my reputation. Know what my nickname is?”

Darrell cleared his throat. “No.”

“Oh come on,” she said. “You know you do. The Robot.”

A quizzical expression passed over his face, and she said, “That’s not why I’m going. I just need a … reboot. A temporary change of scene.”

To start over, she didn’t say, and maybe not be quite such a robot. Maybe even make mistakes. Not surgical mistakes, obviously. Personal mistakes. Where my father won’t hear about it, and neither will anybody else I know. Where I won’t have to shrivel in shame forever remembering those mistakes, because I’ll be gone.

And if the very thought paralyzed her and filled her with dread? That was the reason for the reboot.

“You realize we can’t hold the job for you,” Darrell said. “Much as I’d like to. Chances are, we won’t have a spot, not after a year.”

A shiver of fear right down her back. This was roller-skating downhill on cracked concrete. This was so out of control. “I realize it,” she said, keeping her voice level, fighting back the fear. “I’m an excellent surgeon, though. I’ll find a job. If it’s not here, that’s another adventure, that’s all.”

“Yes,” he said. “You’ll find a job.” And sighed. “I just wish you’d stick with the job you’ve got. You know—you almost never find what you’re looking for by going someplace else. That’s why Dorothy tapped her heels together and said, ‘There’s no place like home,’ right? Because everything she’d been looking for was within her all along, or something like that.”

“Sorry,” she said. “Dorothy?”

“The Wizard of Oz.”

“Oh. A movie. I never saw that.”

Now, he was staring at her with the astonishment with which people so often did stare at her. “You never saw The Wizard of Oz? Everybody’s seen The Wizard of Oz. Surgeons from overseas have seen The Wizard of Oz.”

“My father didn’t believe in children watching unrealistic movies. It was more nature and history programs, if anything. Documentaries. That’s how I know about, uh … Australian animals.” Her skin was hot and prickly with embarrassment. This was why she didn’t go in for casual socializing. The “well-rounded” thing again. She was like one of those wolf children people found in the forest, sitting naked on her haunches and cramming food into her mouth while talking in grunts.

“Well,” Darrell said, “he probably has a point there. Baxter’s a fine surgeon. He raised a fine surgeon, too, so he did something right.” He clicked his pen and sighed once more. “You sure about this?”

“Yes. I already told them yes. I start March seventh.”

His gaze sharpened. “Your last day here is March fourth. That’s what’s on the letter, anyway.”

“That’s right. It takes two days to get to New Zealand, is why. International dateline.”

“No,” he said, “I mean—don’t you need some time to sell your house? Rent it? Settle in?”

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