Maggie Sullivan sought refuge in the stairwell between the sixth and seventh floors at the far west end of the hospital, the steps least traveled by interns and residents racing from floor to floor, from emergency to emergency. She sat on the landing between two flights, feet on the stairs, arms crossed on her knees, her face buried in her arms. She didn’t understand how her heart could feel as if it was breaking every day. She thought of herself as much stronger.
“Well, now, some things never change,” a familiar voice said.
She looked up at her closest friend, Jaycee Kent. They had gone to med school together, though residency had separated them. Jaycee was an OB and Maggie, a neurosurgeon. And...they had hidden in stairwells to cry all those years ago when med-school life was kicking their asses. Most of their fellow students and instructors were men. They refused to let the men see them cry.
Maggie gave a wet, burbly huff of laughter. “How’d you find me?” Maggie asked.
“How do you know you’re not in my spot?”
“Because you’re happily married and have a beautiful daughter?”
“And my hours suck, I’m sleep-deprived, have as many bad days as good and...” Jaycee sat down beside Maggie. “And at least my hormones are cooperating at the moment. Maggie, you’re just taking call for someone, right? Just to stay ahead of the bills?”
“Since the practice shut down,” Maggie said. “And since the lawsuit was filed.”
“You need a break. You’re recovering from a miscarriage and your hormones are wonky. You need to get away, especially away from the emergency room. Take some time off. Lick your wounds. Heal.”
“He dumped me,” Maggie said.
Jaycee was clearly shocked. “What?”
“He broke up with me. He said he couldn’t take it anymore. My emotional behavior, my many troubles. He suggested professional help.”
Jaycee was quiet. “I’m speechless,” she finally said. “What a huge ass.”
“Well, I was crying all the time,” she said, sniffing some more. “If I wasn’t with him, I cried when I talked to him on the phone. I thought I was okay with the idea of no children. I’m almost thirty-seven, I work long hours, I was with a good man who was just off a bad marriage and already had a child...”
“I’ll give you everything but the good man,” Jaycee said. “He’s a doctor, for God’s sake. Doesn’t he know that all you’ve been through can take a toll? Remove all the stress and you still had the miscarriage! People tend to treat a miscarriage like a heavy period but it’s a death. You lost your baby. You have to take time to grieve.”
“Gospel,” Maggie said, rummaging for a tissue and giving her nose a hearty blow. “I really felt it on that level. When I found out I was pregnant, it took me about fifteen minutes to start seeing the baby, loving her. Or him.”
“Not to beat a dead horse, but you have some hormone issues playing havoc on your emotions. Listen, shoot out some emails tonight. Tell the ones on the need-to-know list you’re taking a week or two off.”
“No one knows about the pregnancy but you and Andrew.”
“You don’t have to explain—everyone knows about your practice, your ex-partners, the lawsuit. Frankly, your colleagues are amazed you’re still standing. Get out of town or something. Get some rest.”
“You might be right,” Maggie said. “These cement stairwells are killing me.”
Jaycee put an arm around her. “Just like old times, huh?”
* * *
The last seven or eight miles to Sullivan’s Crossing was nothing but mud and Maggie’s cream-colored Toyota SUV was coated up to the windows. This was not exactly a surprise. It had rained all week in Denver, now that she thought about it. March was typically the most unpredictable and sloppiest month of the year, especially in the mountains. If it wasn’t rain it could be snow. But Maggie had had such a lousy year the weather barely crossed her mind.
Last year had produced so many medical, legal and personal complications that her practice had shut down a few months ago. She’d been picking up work from other practices, covering for doctors on call here and there and working ER Level 1 Trauma while she tried to figure out how to untangle the mess her life had become. This, on her best friend and doctor’s advice, was a much needed break. After sending a few emails and making a few phone calls she was driving to her dad’s house.
She knew she was probably suffering from depression. Exhaustion and general misery. It would stand to reason. Her schedule could be horrific and the tension had been terrible lately. It was about a year ago that two doctors in her practice had been accused of fraud and malpractice and suspended from seeing patients pending an investigation that would very likely lead to a trial. Even though she had no knowledge of the incidents, there was a scandal and it stank on her. There’d been wild media attention and she was left alone trying to hold a wilting practice together. Then the parents of a boy who died from injuries sustained in a terrible car accident while on her watch filed a wrongful death suit. Against her.
It seemed impossible fate could find one more thing to stack on her already teetering pile of troubles. Hah. Never challenge fate. She found out she was pregnant.
It was an accident, of course. She’d been seeing Andrew for a couple of years. She lived in Denver and he in Aurora, since they both had demanding careers, and they saw each other when they could—a night here, a night there. When they could manage a long weekend, it was heaven. She wanted more but Andrew was an ER doctor and also the divorced father of an eight-year-old daughter. But they had constant phone contact. Multiple texts and emails every day. She counted on him; he was her main support.
Maggie wasn’t sure she’d ever marry and have a family but she was happy with her surprise. It was the one good thing in a bad year. Andrew, however, was not happy. He was still in divorce recovery, though it had been three years. He and his ex still fought about support and custody and visits. Maggie didn’t understand why. Andrew didn’t seem to know what to do with his daughter when he had her. He immediately suggested terminating the pregnancy. He said they could revisit the issue in a couple of years if it turned out to be that important to her and if their relationship was thriving.
She couldn’t imagine terminating. Just because Andrew was hesitant? She was thirty-six! How much time did she have to revisit the issue?