What You Ask For
By Penelope Downs, AKA Doc
Disclaimer: The characters are mine and I own the copyright. Use without my permission is prohibited. Any resemblance to a person, dead or alive, is unintentional. If you under 18 years of age, are offended by same sex romances, or it's illegal to read about it where you live, stop now and read no further.
I knew it was a mistake to return to the town that I had grown up in for the wedding. I felt a sense of apprehension as soon as the captain announced that we would be landing and it only got stronger as I walked down the steps of the small turbo prop. 'My God, what have I gotten into?' I thought to myself.
I hadn't really been close to any of my peers in high school. I had always been more comfortable with people older than me. I suspect that I felt that way because I was raised by older, and in this youth-obsessed culture some might even say elderly, parents. (My mother was forty and my father was almost fifty when I was born.) I hadn't been back to the town in more than seven years, since my parents died. I would never have come back, but curiosity had gotten the better of me. I had to know what she looked like, my first, secret love--Connie Moore. She had been the head cheerleader and homecoming queen. I had admired her from afar throughout my miserable teenage years. I secretly hoped that she had gotten married, had three kids and lost her looks.
I was roused from my thoughts and misgivings by the sound of a cheerful, familiar voice. I turned to see the petite redhead who was just about my height--Suzie McCully. I cracked a genuine smile when I saw her. She had been one of the few normal people in my class who hadn't been preoccupied with wearing just the right clothes; hanging out with only the most popular people; boozing it up or doing "chic" drugs. We had gravitated toward each other due to our mutual interest, studying, and our reserved natures. Neither of us ever managed to get into trouble. We had booth been aware that we were called geeks, wallflowers and worse by the in-crowd. Neither of us had discussed it at the time, but it had bothered me because I had known that Connie shared that opinion. Although I had accepted it as a matter of fact that my love for her would be unrequited, it still had hurt to think that she thought so ill of me. Looking at Suzie, I saw my smile reflected on her face. The first thing that struck me was that we weren't wallflowers anymore; we both looked pretty darn good. Suzie was dressed in a svelte Yves St. Laurent power suit befitting her status as a county judge while I sported a Channel slack suit more appropriate for travel.
"Hello, Doctor Morton." Suzie said, sounding far too formal.
"Hello, yourself. I hope you don't plan on me addressing you as 'Your Honor' and you can drop the doctor bit and just call me by my old nickname." I replied as I walked into a hug.
"Alright, Agie. How's life in Bean Town?" She said in a gentle voice as she embraced me.
"Hectic, but good. How's life on the bench?" I asked in response.
"Interesting, but sometimes bizarre. As a judge, I have to hear everything about a case before me. You know, there are things I'd just as soon not know about. I've had my image of several people that I had looked up to shattered by the revelation of intimate details that I had never wanted to know." She pulled back and smiled again.
"Well I wouldn't want your job. I wouldn't want to have to sit in judgement of others." I replied.
"Ditto here. I don't know how you cope with the daily dramas that you must see as an internist. Plus, how do you find time to teach?"
"I love my work and I especially enjoy teaching. It's nice to know that I'm passing along life-saving skills to others. By the way, where's that handsome husband of yours?" I turned my head in both directions as I asked the question.
"Oh, Bob's at the clinic, as usual. You doctors, you're all alike." My friend cracked as she swatted playfully at my arm.
I laughed at that. I had played matchmaker, introducing Suzi to Bob. He and I had interned together at Boston General. I had drug him along to dinner on a rare Friday night off to meet my amazing friend from high school who was a young and upcoming attorney back in our hometown in Maine. He had groused the whole way to the restaurant, complaining because he hadn't been allowed to get a good night's sleep. Secretly, I had to admit to myself that he was right; we were both sleep-deprived, like all interns. It would have made more sense to get the rest; however, Suzie was only in town for one day. She had flow in for a deposition. I can still remember the look on Bob's face when he saw her. I swear, it was love at first sight. I could tell that Suzi liked him, but she didn't fall head over heels at that first meeting. Fortunately for Bob, he had a romantic streak and during the rare instances when he had downtime, he would write letters full of beautiful prose and heartfelt utterances. His endurance finally wore Suzi down and they began a long-distance courtship in earnest, which wasn't easy given their schedules. Six months after our internships ended, Bob and Suzi were married. Bob had decided to locate his practice in Maine so Suzi wouldn't have to move and restart an associateship at another law firm. She had already invested three-years at the small firm she worked for and was close to making partner.
My friend gently grabbed my shoulder to lead me toward the small terminal so I could retrieve my luggage. It didn't take long for all the bags to be brought into the building since the turbo prop only seated eight passengers. In a matter of a few minutes, we were headed toward Suzi's car. After putting my bags in the trunk, we seated ourselves in the plush leather seats of the Mercedes. It was a beautiful early fall day and Suzi opened the sunroof as we began our drive to her large colonial house.
"Well, tell me who I'll see at the wedding." I demanded as the car began to move.
"According to Amy, most of our old classmates will be there." Suzi answered as she pulled out onto the two-lane road. Then before I could ask, she added. "However, the one person you would like to see won't be attending."
Surprised that she thought that I was interested in seeing anyone in particular I decided to play my bluff. "That's news to me. Who is this person whom I'm supposed to be so interested in?"
She quietly replied. "The woman you've loved since high school, Connie."
'God, am I that easy to read?' I silently reflected. I had thought that I had hidden my secret passion for her. Although Suzi and Bob knew I was gay, I didn't think Suzi had guessed that I had had a crush on Connie while we were in high school. More importantly, I wondered why she thought I still had a "thing" for her.
Suzi's next remarks stunned me more. "I can tell from your silence that you're surprised that I know. Well, it didn't take much to put two and two together while we were in high school. I never discussed it with you because I knew it would embarrass you. And if you're wondering why I think that you're still in love with her, I'll tell you. Every woman you've ever dated has resembled her in one way or another. They've been tall, had dark hair or beautiful blue eyes"
I didn't respond immediately but took time to think about Suzi's comments. I came to realize that she was right. I hadn't consciously selected lovers because they somehow resembled Connie. However, when I thought about I had to admit that they all had borne some resemblance to her. I finally spoke up after several minutes. "Well, I'm not sure you're absolutely right about whether I still have any feelings for her. If I do, I believe they're unconscious. Tell me. Why won't she be attending the wedding? She and Amy were pretty close."
I knew there was a problem when Suzi sucked in a deep breath and let it out. She then pulled the car off to the side of the road, turned off the engine and turned in her seat so she could face me. In a shaky, low-toned voice she answered me.
"I'm not sure where to begin. You know that Connie married Chuck Roberts after he graduated from undergraduate school and that they settled down here so Chuck could begin working in his father's business. Things went well for several years. However, after they had failed to produce a child after four years of marriage, Chuck's parents began putting pressure on him, which created real problems in the marriage. Connie was miserable and began to drink, which drove Chuck even further away. As their marriage deteriorated, he began seeing other women. About eight months ago, Chuck told Connie that he wanted a divorce that he loved another woman. She was so devastated that she drove to one of the local dives to get totally blasted. Unfortunately, she did and had a serious car accident. She almost died. She wasn't wearing her seatbelt and was thrown through the windshield because the car didn't have airbags--it was a restored MG that Chuck had in his collection. When she regained consciousness in the hospital and realized that her face had been cut up and would bear permanent scars, she withdrew into herself. She didn't fight the divorce and just became a recluse. She doesn't see anyone."
I guess I was in shock. I felt numb. Even though I hadn't seen Connie for years, I truly felt miserable. My heart ached. I felt a sense of loss that I couldn't articulate. I wanted to believe that I had fallen asleep in the car and had had a bad dream; that I would wake up and tell Suzi about it and that we'd laugh at it. That she would reassure me that Connie would be attending Amy's wedding and that I'd see her the next day. Then Suzi's words stuck me. I wanted to cry. I felt so mean and petty since I had hoped only minutes earlier that Connie had lost her looks. I was ashamed of myself. I finally regained my composure enough to speak.
"Has Bob seen her since the accident? If so, does he feel that plastic surgery might help?"
Suzi just shook her head no. She then shifted in her seat, restarted the engine and got us moving again. We both remained silent for the remainder of the short drive. I was relieved to see Bob and the kids standing on the front porch of the house when we arrived. I needed something to cheer me up and I knew that the six-year-old twins would be able get me out of the dark mood that had descended upon me. As I got out of the car the two little red heads who so resembled their mother ran to greet me shouting "Aunt Agie" as loudly as they could. When they reached me they got on each side of me and hugged my waist. I, in turn, bent down and kissed the tops of their heads.
"Hello Amanda and Melinda. How are my two favorite girls?" I said.
Both replied almost simultaneously. "Fine."
"Well, I'm glad to hear that. Help me get my bags out of the car. I believe there's something in them for each of you." I said, knowing that both girls would get excited at the prospect of opening gifts. I saw Suzi quirk an eyebrow and shake her head. When I looked at her she said. "You spoil them, you know. They expect everyone who visits us to bring them presents because you do. What am I going to do with you?"
I laughed and replied. "Just be glad that I don't visit more often or live here."
Both girls scrambled to get to the trunk of the car just as their father was opening it to get the bags out. They enthusiastically tried to help him lift them and he had to shoo them away, but they insisted in tagging along behind him as he carried them into the house. I was soon installed in one of the guestrooms. With great ceremony, I opened the bags to retrieve the gifts I had brought. Both girls eagerly tore open the packages and squealed with glee when they saw that I had bought them several computer programs that they had talked about in e-mails that they had sent me. As soon as they had said thank you, they headed to their rooms and their computers while the adults retreated to the family room and a round of drinks.
After consuming an excellent dinner, I begged to retire early, even though Suzi would have preferred to stay up late to catch up on events in my life. She hesitantly agreed and I went to my room intending to read a book until I fell asleep. However, I found that I couldn't concentrate. All I could think about was how lonely and miserable Connie must be. After two hours, I gave up any thought of reading or sleeping and went downstairs to the family room to watch television, hoping that it would distract me. I found Bob still up, reading medical journals. I decided to see if he had heard any information about the seriousness of Connie's scarring. He wasn't surprised by my questions and tried to answer them as best he could, but he had not seen her so he could only relay information that he had gotten second hand. I guess he was able to tell that I was frustrated. He got up from his chair, reached into his pocket, retrieved his car keys and handed them to me, saying. "Why don't you go to her place and see if she'll meet with you. I know you weren't close, but she might be willing to let you see her. She knows you're a doctor. I think she actually looks up to you since you chose to pursue a profession and not just settle down and get married."
I couldn't think of anything to say other than, "Thanks, I will." I slowly rose from the couch and went to the hall closet to retrieve my jacket. I then went out to Bob's Volvo and started it. As I pulled out of the driveway to head to the house where Connie lived, I wondered what I would say to her. I tired to think of an appropriate introductory line, but couldn't. All too soon I found myself at her house. I still didn't know what I would say to her. I took a deep breath and got out of the car, heading to the front door. A light was still on in the living room so I pushed the doorbell. It seemed like forever, but it was only a few minutes, before the door opened slightly. A tall figure who was half-hidden by the door cautiously said. "Yes, what do you want?"
"Connie, it's me, Agie Morton." I replied.
"You still haven't answered me, what do you want?" She responded defensively.
"I just want to see you and talk to you for a few minutes." I tried to sound sincere.
"Did Amy or your friend Suzi put you up to this." She still sounded upset.
"No. It was my idea to drive here to see you. Do you mind if I come in? It's a bit chilly out here."
I watched her as she stood impassively. For a few seconds I thought she was going to turn me away then, without warning, she opened the door and waved me in. It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the light once I had stepped inside the house. The lights that were on were dimmed, making it hard to get a clear view of Connie. I followed her as she led me into the living room and motioned for me to take a seat on the couch while she sat down in a plush chair that was placed cattycorner to it. The first thing that I noticed was that she wore her hair in the style that Veronica Lake had. One side hung down and covered half of her face--the side that I suspected bore the scars from her accident. The other thing that struck me was her quietness. Connie had always been the life of any party since she was so outgoing. If I hadn't known better, I would have sworn that this wasn't the same person. She was almost mute. I was drawn from my thoughts when she cleared her throat and asked again. "What do you want? We weren't good friends so I know this isn't a social visit. Did you come to gawk at me?"
I was taken back by her sharp words. I hadn't expected her to say what she felt. I guess I couldn't blame her for questioning my motivation for the late-night visit since I had never gotten to know her. We were merely acquaintances. Since she was so distrustful, I decided to be frank with her. The worst that she could do would be to demand that I leave her house immediately. I thought if I was honest with her, she might open up to me and let me look at her face so I could determine if any of the plastic surgeons that I knew might be able to help her. I took a deep breath and then exhaled before I began.
"Okay. I'll level with you. Although we weren't friends, I secretly admired you--well it was more than admiration. In truth, I had a crush on you. I may not have had any contact with you since I left, but I've thought about you off and on and have wondered how you were doing. I didn't hear about the car accident until today. It disturbed me to think that you have cut yourself off from everyone. I wanted to come to talk to you. Although I'm not a plastic surgeon, I know several doctors who are excellent board certified plastic surgeons. If you'll let me look at your face, I may be able to tell if they could help you."
She didn't speak immediately. "Why do you want to help me? Do you still have a crush on me? Do you want to get me into bed? I heard that you're a lesbian. Is that what you want?"
I was offended by her remarks but tried not to show my anger. "My only motivation for coming here was to see if I could help you, if plastic surgery could hide the scars. Yes, I'm a lesbian. However, I have no intentions of trying to get you into my bed. I'm sorry that I've wasted you time. I'll leave."
As I stood up, she said. "No. Stay. No one has had the courage to be honest with me. I find it ironic that someone whom I barely knew as a teenager, to whom I was rude, would show more concern and compassion than many of my oldest, so-called friends. Do you really think that some of your friends might be able to help me?"
"Well, I'm not an expert, but if you'll let me look at your face, I might have some idea of what they could do for you. Of course, you'll need to come to Boston to see one of them in person." I replied.
Connie got up from her chair and approached me. She kneeled down in front of me and, using one hand, pulled back the hair that covered the side of her face that had been so badly cut in the accident. I tried not to react when I saw the deep scars that ran down the length of the right side of her face. I suspected that my colleagues would be able to minimize their appearance, but I wasn't certain that they could hide them completely. Not wanting to discourage her, I maintained my composure while I held my hand up to gently touch the scar tissue. I finally spoke. "Like I said, I'm not a plastic surgeon so I can't speak definitively, but I would expect that they can help reduce the scaring some so that it won't be as noticeable. I'd like you to come back with me to Boston. I'll make arrangements for you to see some of the finest plastic surgeons in the city. You shouldn't spend your life as a recluse. You're too young for that. Please let me help you."
Connie remained kneeling in front of me even after she let her hair drop back into place. She pinned the glare of her left eye on me and stared at me in silence. Finally she spoke. "Do you honestly think that they could help me.?"
"Yes, I do. I'm not saying that you'll look exactly like you did before the accident but I think the scars won't be as prominent. At least come to Boston and let one of them examine you."
I saw tears well up in the eye that was visible to me. Without thinking, I leaned toward her and embraced her. When I realized what I had done, I half-expected her to pull away, however, she didn't. I guess my small display of kindness was all it took to release the floodgates. She leaned into me and began sobbing uncontrollably. I just patter her back and whispered, "That's it, let it out." After five minutes, she was able to speak again.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to break down. It's just . . . I haven't had anyone to talk to. My family quit coming to see me. I think the scars disgusted my parents. I'm no longer their pretty daughter. My friends withdrew when I tried to talk to them. They didn't want to hear anything depressing. You're the first person who has reached out to me."
"Will you come back to Boston with me? I'm returning in two days." I looked her in the eye while I spoke.
"Yes. Where should I stay?"
"Let me handle everything. I'll make all the arrangements. You can stay with me, if you don't mind. I have a nice guestroom that you can stay in. All you need to do is pack."
I was relieved to catch a glimpse of her still-dazzling smile as she threw her arms around my neck and hugged me. "Thank you." She said.
I caught a glimpse of my watch and decided that I had better return to Suzi's so I could get some sleep. The wedding was in the morning so I wouldn't be able to sleep in. I cleared my throat and said. "I'll make all the arrangements tomorrow afternoon. Would you let me pick you up tomorrow evening and join me for dinner at Suzi's? Please."
She hesitated and then nodded her head yes. I smiled and said, "Great. I'll pick you up at six."
We both got up and walked toward the front door. As I was about to open it, Connie hugged me again and whispered, "Good night. I'll see you tomorrow."
I was happy on that drive back to Bob's and Suzi's house. When I arrived and returned to my room, I fell asleep almost immediately. The next morning I couldn't help but smile. Bob took me aside and questioned me about my visit with Connie. I told him that I thought some of the plastic surgeons that we know might be able to help her and that she had agreed to come back to Boston so they could examine her. He gave me a congratulatory slap on the back and said. "Good work. I'm glad you were able to talk her into seeking help. I'm not too impressed with her family. It's a shame they haven't tried to help her through this. I'm glad you went to see her."
The morning flew by with all the festivities. By mid afternoon, I was able to return to the house to begin making arrangements for Connie's trip. I phoned several of the doctors that I knew to arrange appointments. I then called the airlines to reserve tickets. At a quarter of six, I had everything set and went out to Bob's car to go pick up Connie and bring her back for dinner. When I arrived at her house I wasn't able to get any response when I knocked on her front door. Wondering whether she had decided to back out of dinner, I walked around the house glancing in various windows to see if I could spot her. As I reached the back of the house, I looked through sliding glass doors in the room that was obviously the master bedroom. I saw Connie lying on the bed, motionless, then I panicked when I saw an empty prescription bottle beside her. Fearing the worst, I tried to open the door. It was locked. I looked around for some object big enough to throw through it when I spotted an axe leaning against a woodpile on the far side of the yard. I ran as fast as I could to retrieve the object and then went back to the glass doors. Using the flat end of the axe, I swung at the glass and was able to shatter it. I then reached through, taking care not to cut myself, and unlocked the door so I could open it. Once I had done that, I rushed to Connie to check her vital signs. Her breath was shallow and her pulse was extremely weak. I looked at the prescription bottle and cursed to myself when I realized she had taken an apparent overdose of a painkiller. I picked up the phone on the bedside table and dialed the emergency number to request an ambulance. I then phoned Bob and Suzi to let them know that I wouldn't be back in time for dinner.
Connie continued to breathe on her own so I didn't need to begin CPR. When the paramedics arrived, they refused to let me assist them. Although I was licensed to practice medicine in Massachusetts, that wasn't good enough for them. I had to stand by and watch helplessly as they stabilized Connie to transport her to the closest. hospital. Then one paramedic roused me from my stupor when he suggested that I could make myself useful by contacting her family. Not sure what their phone number was, I pulled out my cellular phone and dialed Suzi's house. Bob answered the phone and I immediately asked him if he knew Connie's parents' phone number. He told me to hold for a few seconds while he looked it up. When he came back on the line, he slowly read the number to me. I wrote it down on the back of a cleaning tag that I had found in my pants pocket. Once I hung up from talking with Bob, I slowly punched the number into the phone, but I hesitated for several seconds before I hit the send button. A woman answered the phone and I said cautiously, "Mrs. Moore?"
The voice on the other end replied. "Yes, who is this."
"You probably don't remember me, Mrs. Moore. My name is Agie Morton. I used to go to school with Connie. I'm afraid I have some bad news. I came to pick Connie up for dinner this evening and found her unconscious. It appears that she has taken an overdose of one of her prescription painkillers. The paramedics are here and are preparing to transport her to the closest hospital. I thought you would want to know so you can meet us there."
When she did respond, I presumed that Connie's mother was in shock. I spoke to her again to see if she would respond. "Mrs. Moore. Are you still there? I know this is quite a shock is someone with you? If so, I'd like to speak to them."
I wasn't prepared for her response. "Ms. Morton, I don't plan on going to the hospital. If that girl was silly enough to take too many of her pills, that's her problem. Frankly, Ms. Morton, I wish you hadn't encouraged her to believe that anything could be done to restore her looks. I told her when she phoned this afternoon that she'd never be pretty again and that I didn't want her to embarrass us by parading around town showing off her scars. That she was stupid if she went to Boston with you. Just leave my daughter alone Ms. Morton."
She then hung up on me. By this time the paramedics were ready to transport Connie. I followed them to the hospital, speeding to keep up with them. I was ready to yell at any cop that tried to stop me. Amazingly, none were on the roads that we took. Connie was already in ER by the time I parked Bob's car and got to the emergency room. I tried to speak to one of the nurses at the main desk. At first she wasn't going to speak to me until I told her that I was family. When she looked at me suspiciously again, I lied again and said that I was Connie's spouse. Why I said that, I'll never fully understand. I guess a part of me still wanted that fantasy to come true. The nurse looked at me strangely, I suspected that she had never seen a self-confessed lesbian before. She then told me she didn't have any news yet. Forty minutes later, Bob and Suzi arrived. They took seats on either side of me and asked if I had heard anything yet. I sighed and told them no. We waited another fifteen minutes before a doctor came out. I could tell from the look on his face and his demeanor that he had bad news. I prayed that he was only going to tell us that she was in a coma. My prayers weren't answered. He told us that Connie had died. I had dealt with death personally and professionally. I never found it easy to cope with, however, my response to the news of Connie's death was far stronger. I began crying and couldn't stop. Suzi pulled me into an embrace and held me until my tears subsided. When I could focus again, I noticed that Bob had gone off to discuss whom the hospital should contact to make arrangements for Connie's body to be picked up. At least she had given power of attorney to her attorney, not her parents. I suspected that her attorney had more compassion for her than her parents did.
I was miserable during the ride back to the house. Although I didn't really know Connie, I had been excited at the prospect of helping her. I never harbored intentions of trying to be anything other than a friend to her, but I looked forward to that. Now, I would be denied even that. I extended my stay so I could attend her funeral. I drifted through those days in a fog. It was a relief to head back to Boston. I energetically threw myself back into my work to keep from thinking about Connie. I took each day one-at-a-time. Soon, months had passed. I found that I didn't think about Connie everyday. I had resumed all of my normal activities. As winter ended and spring approached, I began running outside again. One morning, as I was concentrating on keeping up my pace, I was startled to hear someone speak as they approached from behind. I didn't panic too much, realizing it was a feminine voice. However, I almost tripped when she came up next to me and I turned to look at her. 'Good God.' I thought to myself. 'She looks like Connie.' She did; she was tall, dark and had beautiful blue eyes. It was then that I realized that I would always look for her in other women. I turned and smiled at the brunette before I spoke, hoping to feel out whether I could pursue this one.
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