Dr. Ellen Burgess was standing outside the hospital room of her estranged mother Alice Morgan who on the previous day had undergone bypass surgery. Moments before Ellen had left her mother’s room after an intense confrontation where Ellen admitted that her husband Sam, the husband Alice couldn’t stand was dead. With free flowing tears cascading down her dimpled cheeks and her body jerking from the intensity of her sobs she was slightly startled when she heard a smooth deep voice full of concern call her name.


"Dr. Burgess," Dr. Matt Harmon spoke.


Ellen tries to collect herself. "Doctor is there a problem?" she asked, wiping the tears from her eyes her voice a little shaky.


"Yes, what’s wrong?"


"Noth…"


"And please don’t tell me nothing because I know better. Talk to me. Let’s go to your office."


Ellen didn’t know what it was about this man, but she felt a connection to him. Something she hadn’t felt for any man since she lost Sam and she found talking to him was calming for her so she agreed. "Okay, let’s go to my office."


Once inside the office Matt handed Ellen a tissue and a cup of water as she took a seat on the cot that was against the wall of her small office. "Now I want you to dry your eyes, take a sip, take a breath and then tell me what’s troubling you."


She followed his instruction as he watched her with eyes full of care and concern. After taking another swallow of the water she began to explain. "I…I told Mother about Sam being dead. Before I told her she asked me if Sam had kept his promise to help me through med school after he got his law degree. I answered that he didn’t. She assumed in all of her misguided arrogance that he didn’t help because he ditched me after I ‘threw’ my life away helping him through school. She always thought the worst of him, and Sam was such a good man, and he loved me unconditionally, something Mother had forgotten how to do." Taking a deep breath and releasing it, "I informed her that Sam didn’t help me through school because he died before he could finish. It was at that moment that I knew the bypass worked because I actually saw emotion from her when I said it. I figured maybe she did have a heart after all."


"What was her reaction?"


"Surprise and shock, I didn’t get to go into it with her because a nurse came in and reliving those memories of losing Sam were so…overwhelming," tears renewing themselves in her eyes. "I had to get out of there."

His heart was bleeding for her as he clothed his large hand over hers, "Oh El…, Dr. Burgess, I hate seeing you so upset. Is there anything at all I can do for you?"


"Think you can erase the last couple of weeks from my memory? I’d like that," using the crumbled tissue to dab away her tears.


"I wish I could," he said, handing her a new tissue. "I know this is painful for you, but your mother is in your life again and she knows about Sam now. Maybe you two can rebuild your relationship."


"Rebuild it on what? My mother made me choose between my family and the man I loved how could she do that? And when Sam died and I phoned to tell her she hung up on me. Before a few weeks ago my last memory of my mother was a slammed phoned in my ear and a dial tone. I called because I needed my mother, because half of who I was was gone and she didn’t care. She didn’t even want to know why after all this time I’d called. It’s now all of a sudden all right for her to be in my life because Sam is dead? She was my mother. Your parents are supposed to be there for you when you need them and love you and protect you all the time not just when you do what they want you to."


"I’m afraid it doesn’t always work that way," Matt offered knowing this truth first hand.


The hurtful feelings Ellen harbored for the incredible choice her mother forced her to make had turned into anger, and every passing year only added more fuel to that fire she thought she had managed to keep smoldered deep within herself, but that was no longer the case. It was now a raging inferno she couldn’t contain. "Well I don’t need her now," Ellen asserted defiantly, "I’ve managed to do just fine without Mother. Why would I want her back in my life now?"


"Because she is your mother and as angry and hurt as you are right now I know you love her."


"What’s love got to do with it? I loved her all those years I didn’t see her, I can keep doing that with absolutely no problem."


"If that was so you wouldn’t be so upset right now."


"Why do you care?"


"Do you really need to ask?" His brown eyes saying everything his lips didn’t have to as several quiet moments passed.


She didn’t want to get into that now, so she disregarded the flip-flop that was happening in her stomach and turned the conversation onto him. "I’ve never heard you mention your family without someone initiating the question and you always respond with a brush off or a silly retort. What’s your relationship like with them? You mentioned before how parents aren’t always there for their children. Is that how it was for you?"


Removing his hand from hers and absently running it through his short-cropped salt and pepper hair as he sat back in his chair, "This isn’t about me and my family."


"It is now. Why is it that you never talk about your family or your past at all?"


"There’s nothing to talk about. Do you want some more water?" he asked reaching for the cup still enclosed in her right hand.


"No I don’t want anymore water. You can sidestep this all you want but I know there’s something. Something you’re trying desperately to keep buried within yourself."


"Like you with your relationship with your mother and your life with Sam?"


"Touché, but at least I’ve told you something about them. I can talk to you for some inexplicable reason and I would like to think you felt comfortable enough with me to talk to me too."


"I feel extremely comfortable with you Ellen...Dr. Burgess, that has been the case since I first met you," he said feeling himself getting lost in her sad brown eyes. Making an attempt to curtail her interest in his family once again, "There’s nothing to talk about with my family, which is why I don’t talk about them. Please let’s leave it at that."


Sensing his discomfort she didn’t push, "Whatever you want."


"I wish," Matt thought. "Are you feeling better?"


"Yes I am, thank you."


"You’re very welcome Dr. Burgess. Whatever you need whenever you need it I’m here to give it to you, if you let me," he replied taking her hand in his and gently caressing it.


That sensation was wreaking havoc with her senses and caused her to pull her hand away from his dangerous touch, "Don’t you have patients doctor?" she stammered.


"Yes I do. Can I give you a piece of advice?"


"When have I ever been able to stop you?" she retorted.


"Talk to your mother. She might have a strange way of showing it, but there’s no doubt that she loves you. Just think about it."


"I will think about it, but I still want to know about your family. Deny it all you want Matt but there’s something there and it’s obviously painful for you. I want to help if I can."


"You can’t, trust me. With that I think I’ll leave you alone."


Matt started to exit the office and upon reaching the door turned and gave Ellen one final glance. Their eyes locked for the briefest of moments.


If there was anyone in the world he wanted to tell everything to it would be her, but how logical would that be? Matt thought to himself.


All the while Ellen’s mind was spinning, "He helps me so much, why won’t he let me help him?"


There was one thing they were in agreement about, and that was the other had somehow found a way to become an incredibly big part of the other’s respective life. As wonderful as that realization made them feel there was still an underlying element of fear; fear of losing someone significant again for Ellen and for Matt the fear of her life being put in danger by knowing his secret. However no matter what fears or apprehensions they may have the thought of the other not being in their life was something neither could nor wanted to fathom.