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Chapter Two: There Is No Way This Turns Out Well

The Story Continues

Chapter One was so well-received, and my muse so insistent, that Chapter Two was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Here it is! Will there be more after this? I don’t know. I follow my muse. She runs the show. I have left it unfinished, just in case.

Here is the link to Part One of “There Is No Way This Turns Out Well,” in case you missed it.

I hope you enjoy it!

The cabin

The cabin

The Still of the Night

Paula Stillwell was thirty-four when she died at my hands, from my error.

Statistically, thirty-four is young for a brain tumor, but death pays no attention to such things. As a favorite songwriter of mine once wrote, “death is there to keep us honest.”

She was unmarried. No children. Her place of employment had been the Hope Home for Battered Women, where she held the position of counselor. She had been in excellent health prior to the diagnosis, a marathon-runner, resting heartbeat of fifty-four, body honed to a fine edge by countless hours of training, a walking, talking, breathing picture of fitness, except for a mass of tissue, two centimeters in size, about the same weight as a grape, one small invasive fleck of tissue which had the power to negate all of that training.

And then she met me.

“Death is there to keep us honest.”

I looked at her sister before me. I looked at the manilla envelope she had thrust into my hands.

“Excuse me!”

I got up, walked to the front door on weakened legs, opened it, and looked out at falling snow. March snowstorms are the norm where I had fled, snowfalls measured in feet rather than inches, blanketing the countryside, embracing me like the coldness of Paula’s death. Six inches already covered the ground, more falling rapidly.

I turned back to the woman by my woodstove. There would be no flight for either of us that night.

“It’s snowing. There’s no way for you to leave tonight. You can use the spare bedroom. I’ll look at your medical records, give you my opinion, but that’s all I can give you. You have no idea what you are asking of me. It’s too much.”

She might have smiled. Her green eyes bore into me, through me, another tear found purchase, tracked down her cheek, dropped to the floor.

“Thank you!”

“Don’t thank me! I don’t deserve it. I’ll never deserve it. Listen, I always have ice cream before bed. Join me, tell me about you, fill in some gaps. Tell me about the woman who tracked me down in the foothills of the mountains.”

No escape!

Two scoops for each of us, Rocky Road, I handed her the ice cold treat on that ice cold night.

“What’s your name?”

Snowed in

Snowed in

The Background

“Heather! Heather Stillwell.”

“Keep talking, Heather. I need to know about you.” And I did need to know about her. It was irrational, but the woman before me had taken on an importance which was completely illogical and, I had thought, before her arrival, unwanted.

“I’m thirty-two years old. My parents are both dead, a car accident when I was ten. Paula and I were raised by our grandparents after the accident, maternal side of the family, in Seattle. I’m a teacher, middle school, also in Seattle. What else do you need to know?”

“Things that can’t be found in this envelope, in your medical records.”

I still could have ended it right there, but the window for escape was closing. The more I learned about Heather, the more I was emotionally involved. I knew that and yet could not stop, some masochistic urge bubbling below the surface.

She took a bite of the ice cream. Shivered. Hugged herself, even though the woodstove had the room in the high seventies.

“I love to travel. I’ve been to Europe several times, South America, even Russia. I’m not the fitness freak my sister was, but I do cross fit and manage to keep the pounds off. I’ve never been really sick. The flu a couple times, but never really sick. Until now. Now, it’s as though I’m being raped, and I’m completely unable to fight off my attacker. The headaches forced me to take a leave of absence from my teaching position. At times I can barely function. God how I miss my kids.”

Quiet tears as the grandfather clock struck ten.

I’ve had patients die on the operating table before, five total, but before Paula Stillwell, none had been my fault. I felt my own tears quietly flowing. Two sisters, both with brain tumors. What were the odds? How God must have laughed as he pulled those strings, the Master Marionette entertaining the audience.

“Tell me about you, Doctor Andres.”

“What possible difference can it make?”

“It’s important to me, Doctor. Please!”

No escape possible! Never let the job become personal, that’s what we were taught in med school. Stay detached, don’t let emotions enter the picture at all. You have successes, you have rare failures, stay above it all, do your job, heal the sick, move on.

I heeded none of that as Heather’s question hung in the air.

What will happen to the woman in the woods?

What will happen to the woman in the woods?

A Quick Bio

“I’m actually an orphan too. My biological parents, drug addicts both, gave me up for adoption at birth. I spent two years in foster care, eventually got adopted by some good people, drove myself hard, went to med school, excelled, won honors, top of my class, that sort of thing, worked my craft, and killed your sister. Now I’m, what is it the kids like to say, now I’m trying to find myself. Yes, that’s it, I’m finding myself, reinventing myself, and communing with nature.” My laugh was hollow.

Her smile was like a lance to my stomach.

“You are running away, Dr. Andres. I suspect you have been running ever since the foster home. You have a gift, you have the power to heal, and you are retreating. Don’t attempt, please, to make it anything other than what it is, and please don’t joke about a talent wasted. Have you been married?”

“Married to my profession, yes. Once to a woman, a good woman, she refused to be second-class and left me five years ago with our son. They live in New York now.”

Her lance opened me wide.

CONFIRMATION

I reached for the file she had brought with her. Opened it, began to read. To her credit, Heather remained quiet while I absorbed the information. The grandfather clock announced another hour. The silence, a physical presence, deepened.

I closed the file.

“There is an eighty percent chance you won’t survive the operation. Realistically, with me operating, inactive for nine months, the odds go up to eighty-five or ninety against.”

“There are statistics for such things, Doctor?”

I nodded.

“Based on the recorded history of similar cases, yes. Hospitals and insurance companies love those statistics. And your statistics scream DON’T DO THE OPERATION!”

The wind roared outside. The clock struck eleven.

“I will die without the operation.”

“Yes, Heather, you will most definitely die. You probably have six months to live without the operation.”

“That’s what they told me. But, with you, I at least have a chance of living beyond that.”

“A very slim chance, yes. We all die, Heather. Is it such a frightening thing to contemplate?”

“Frightening? No, doctor. What is frightening, to me, is to give up.”

The door rattled from the wind.

“Please, Doctor!” And her green eyes took me captive, refusing to relinquish their hold on me.

The Decision

We both fell asleep, in our chairs, by the woodstove. When the morning light touched our faces the caress was warm, sunlight replacing the cold finger of the snowstorm. I stood, stretched, walked to the kitchen and put a pot of coffee on. I cracked four eggs in the skillet, the daily routine oddly comforting, calming, slowing my heartbeat.

My guest awakened with the beep of the coffee machine, stood, stretched as I had, walked to the window, looked out, smiled, turned to me.

“Good morning, Doctor! What is that I smell?”

“Breakfast! Sit down, please,” and I placed a cup of coffee on the table for her, followed by a plate of eggs and toast. “The snow is already melting. Pretty typical for this time of year. The roads will be clear in an hour or so. We should be in Seattle by noon.”

She looked up from her breakfast. Her smile threatened my moorings.

“You’ll do it? You’ll operate on me?”

“I wouldn’t be so happy if I were you. I don’t think I’m doing you any favors. I don’t think I’m doing either of us any favors.”

No escape!

Thanks for Reading

I think that will do it for this story. I’ll let you decide how the operation played out. My muse is telling me it is time to move on to other stories. Thanks so much for reading the second part of my story.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

Comments

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 28, 2021:

We shall see, Nithya! One more chapter coming soon. Thanks for reading.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 28, 2021:

Thank you again Miebakagh!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 28, 2021:

Thank you Peg! I had no intention of writing another chapter, but my muse is revealing one more that needs to be written, so I'll get to that in another week or so.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 28, 2021:

I imagine that the operation will be successful and life will be good again for her and the doctor will get back to healing patients.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 27, 2021:

It is wdlcome indeed.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on June 27, 2021:

This chapter gives me hope that the good doctor will again start to use his talent to help those in need. I like the way you've woven his reluctance into the story along with the way he needs to know her reasons for insisting on this surgery. Hope that the story will continue and reveal the answers we want to see. Great job!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 26, 2021:

Bill, you're welcome.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2021:

Thank you again, Miebakagh!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2021:

I really appreciate that, Devika! Thank you for the very kind words.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2021:

Yes she was, Miebakagh! Death is a great motivation.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2021:

Thank you Brenda! I'm so glad you enjoyed the story. Who knows? Maybe my muse will finish it one day soon.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2021:

Thank you Vidya! We shall see. Maybe I can find the time to give this the ending it deserves.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 26, 2021:

Thank you Sha! I would probably opt for the happy ending too, since I kill so many people in my novels.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 26, 2021:

True indeed.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 26, 2021:

Bill you are a talented writer and nothing you write is ignored by me. I believe that you share accurate information and in a story share what you know readers will enjoy. I trust that you will continue your next chapter soon.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 26, 2021:

She was very determine...and brave the cold weather in the forest to see Dr Bill!

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on June 25, 2021:

Bill

This is a fantastic story.

They say there are reasons for everything that happens.

She was put there to stop him from running away & get back to living.

This is his chance for redemption.

It is her chance to keep living if the operation succeeds.

Either way...she served her purpose in life..to make a difference, just like she did teaching.

Great writing.

VIDYA D SAGAR on June 25, 2021:

Wonderful story Bill. I enjoyed reading it. Please give us another chapter of the story with a happy ending. That way both will be redeemed. Miracles do happen in the medical field. And the said doctor being a genius and all it will be believable. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 25, 2021:

Great story, Bill. I think I'll give the operation a happy ending. Doc's heart and compassion came through in the end. That will give him the courage to beat the odds.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 25, 2021:

I do know that, my friend. It's good to see you again. I hope you are well. Blessings always!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 25, 2021:

Thank you Linda! I'll try to deliver on your wish. Have a great weekend while we bake.

manatita44 from london on June 25, 2021:

Great! You are like me, quite versatile with writing. Let's see where this goes. By the way, what they tell us in med school do not and cannot last, as we are humans first and doctors afterwards. You know this Bro. Peace.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 24, 2021:

I’m glad I discovered this story. I hope you do write another chapter, Bill. I want to know what happens next!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2021:

Thanks, Zulma! My natural inclination is for real and have her die, but more importantly, I just want another chapter to feel authentic, no matter what happens. If I can't do that there's no point in writing it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2021:

Rodric, I'll see what I can do. Thanks for the encouragement. I just don't seem to have the time I once did to devote to writing short stories, but that's on me. If I wanted them to be a priority, they would be, you know?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2021:

I'm very happy you enjoyed it, EK. Who knows? Maybe I'll find time for Chapter 3 and we can all find out what happens.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2021:

I will try, Misbah. Thank you for the encouragement. I hope this finds you well, my young friend. Blessings to you always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2021:

It's already written in my head, Marlene. Now I have to make it a priority while working on the backyard landscaping and stacking wood. lol

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2021:

I think we all want that, Peggy! Thanks for reading.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 24, 2021:

Thank you Miebakagh! I think she is resigned to whatever happens, my friend. Death visits us all.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on June 24, 2021:

Hi, Bill.

Thanks for writing this instalment. As usual, your style of writing pulled me right in. You are really good at this.

If you decide to continue, I think most people would opt for a happy ending. Me, I want a real ending. It can be happy or sad but it needs to be consistent with the characters and the tone. I've seen too many short stories with incongruous endings shoehorned in.

I'm sure you'll do the right thing if you decide to continue.

Have a lovely day.

Rodric Anthony Johnson from Surprise, Arizona on June 23, 2021:

Part two is so emotional! This doctor reminds me of Greg House without all of the smartassery. I love to hate House and hate to love him.

This story reminds me of another story of yours that I read a few years ago, but I do not remember it. I love the elements of personal history that I assume you put in the story because it made the doctor come alive as someone I know.

The begging woman seemed like a determined ray of sunshine and breathe of fresh air he needs to come out of his self-imprisonment. She does not seem to care if she dies, she wants the operation. He does not want to be her possible executioner! When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object...

Ask your muse to let you have one more! Just one more, if she will. One more part of the story will help us!

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on June 23, 2021:

You did a great job, Bill. I didn't want it to end. I'm very interested in reading novels. Your story was fantastic and I would say that you should go for chapter 3. Thanks for sharing with us.

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on June 23, 2021:

Mr. Bill, Even if the ending isn't happy, please write part three. Every story does not have a happy ending. It would, in my opinion, be more realistic. Fairy tales are no longer popular. Sir, go for it. I hope everyone feels that you should write it. As you stated in your previous comments, you would lean toward her death, which would be extremely depressing. It's all right. Please allow us to read your words. It means you already have a climax in your mind. Reveal the whole story. Please!

Blessings always

Marlene Bertrand from USA on June 23, 2021:

Part Two is every bit as entertaining as Part One. I do hope your muse cooperates with my desires and entices you to write Part Three. :)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 23, 2021:

Since this is the end of the story, I choose to think that the operation was a success for both of them.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 23, 2021:

Bill, part two is also interesting. I enjoy it. It seems the lady don't care a thing if she dies. Thanks likewise for sharing.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2021:

Thank you Umesh! I didn't want the girl to die, so I will leave it up to you if you want her to. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2021:

I can live with offbeat, MG! Thank you sir!

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on June 23, 2021:

The first part was captivating. The second is equally engrossing. Though you kept the end still a secret but the way story moved, it seems logical.

Very good work, Bill. I enjoyed reading both the parts.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on June 23, 2021:

Nice story, a little of beat but engrossing all the same. It reminds of the dark as well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2021:

That would be the happy ending for sure, Pamela. But then, I do have my dark side. lol Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2021:

Thank you Rosina! I appreciate your support. Happy Wednesday to you as well.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2021:

John, I don't want to end it, because I'm afraid I would lean towards her death, and that would be very depressing. :) Thanks buddy!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2021:

Thank you Dora! I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2021:

Thank you Misbah! I love writing short stories. I really must make more time for it. Your encouragement helps greatly.

Blessings always

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2021:

You are very kind, Linda! Thank you!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 23, 2021:

This is a good second chapter, and I think this is a very interesting story. You have a way of keeping the reader hooked, and I think that is real talent, Bill.

Of course, we all figure the woman survived.

Rosina S Khan on June 23, 2021:

Lovely part-2 of the short story. I enjoyed reading it a lot. I am glad you left the ending up to the imagination of the reader. Like John said, we can imagine a successful operation and happy ending.

Thank you for the wonderful write-up. Happy Wednesday to you, Bill.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on June 23, 2021:

I am glad your muse decided to write a second part of this story Bill. It was excellent as always..and emotive. I am happy for it to finish here and I can imagine a successful operation and happy ending, but I am sure others will try to convince you to continue it. Either way I enjoyed it.

Dora Weithers on June 23, 2021:

It doesn't get any more interesting than this. A life and death scenario, and no clear path to figuring out the odds! What creativity!

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Poets on June 23, 2021:

Dear Mr. Bill, It was extremely enjoyable for me. "Death is there to keep us honest," I particularly like this phrase. Sir, please write more. Please keep us updated on what will happen next. If it were me, I'd choose a happy ending. A successful operation. Excellent work!!! I'm sure your muse will lead you to something wonderful. Stay safe and healthy. Please Keep writing with a smile on your face

Blessings always!!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on June 23, 2021:

Another Hallmark. My gosh, you're good at this.

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