Ellen comes to check on Alice after noting on her chart that she hadn’t been eating.
Alice having been asleep when Ellen first came in was surprised to see her, "Ellen."
"I understand you haven’t been eating," Ellen said flipping through the papers of the chart.
"This is hospital food. Even if I didn’t just have heart surgery I wouldn’t want to eat that. A bad sign would be me wanting to eat it. I am glad to see you Ellen."
"You’re what?" Ellen asked flabbergasted looking at Alice as she adjusted herself on the bed.
"I wanted to finish the conversation we were having yesterday. The one about Samuel."
"I really don’t see the point of getting into that," Ellen said her eyes now focusing on the chart in her hands.
"I’m just here to inquire as to why you’re not eating."
"So you’re just here as a doctor?"
"What else is there for me to be here as?" looking up from the chart and back at Alice. "You made it clear years ago that you didn’t have a daughter anymore. What is it that you want?"
"I want to know what happened to Samuel."
"He died. What else is there to know?"
"Why didn’t you tell me?"
"Why didn’t I tell you? I tried. I was at the hospital alone and devastated. My husband had dropped dead before my eyes so I called my mother, I needed my mother," her voice breaking as tears pooled her eyes.
"But instead of consolation and comfort I got a curt statement, ‘I want you to listen very carefully’ you said, and then you proceeded to hang up on me. I can’t tell you how many nights I cried myself to sleep in Sam’s arms missing you, trying to comprehend how my own mother could turn her back on me. Even after you slammed him at every turn he never once said a bad word about you. ‘Ellen she thinks she’s doing what’s best, maybe one day she’ll see I’m not so bad. Don’t cry it will be okay.’ Hearing him say that over and over I began to believe it and then Sam was gone too. It was after that ‘talk’ with you that I realized I was now truly alone in the world. I left that hospital and went to the apartment I shared with Sam. It wasn’t home anymore; it was just four walls and a roof. I walked into the apartment and the first thing I saw was a note on the table from Sam. He was saying how he was sorry he didn’t get to the breakfast dishes because he’d gotten caught up in a law book and lost track of time so he had to rush off to work. He promised he would cook dinner and wash both the breakfast and dinner dishes when he got home," tears streaming down her face. "When he got home. How could he know he’d never come home again, and for that matter neither would I. I cried so much that night. When Sam died a part of me died with him, my heart was broken. My husband, the man I loved was gone and I didn’t have any family or anyone else to turn to. When the tears subsided I got re-enrolled in medical school and my life became my work. That was all I had left in the world and that was all I would ever need."
Seeing all her daughter’s pain and feeling loads of guilt and regret Alice extends her hand to Ellen, "I’m so sorry. Had I known about Samuel…"
Disregarding her mother’s extended hand, "You would have what? Welcomed me back into the family with open arms. Sam’s dead now so everything is good again?!"
Placing her hand to her side, "Ellen I’m sure it won’t happen overnight but…"
"But nothing. It’s never going to happen." Feeling her anger get the best of her Ellen puts a halt to the conversation, "I didn’t come here to argue. You should eat something, you need to keep up your strength."
"Then you do care?"
"I’m a doctor, it’s my job to take care of people, all people, not just the ones that do what I want them to."
The intent of her last statement not lost on Alice as she turns her head in shame.
As Ellen is leaving the room her brother Winston comes in.
Taking note of Ellen’s tears, "Have you upset Mother?" he asked in an accusatory tone.
I really don’t need this Ellen thought before answering his question. "Everything’s fine. She’s improving steadily but you need to see that she eats something. I’ll be back to check on her later."
Once Ellen is gone Winston makes his way over to Alice. "Mother are you okay?"
"Oh Winston what have I done?" Alice sadly questioned as tears of despair slid from the corners of her eyes.
Later that afternoon Ellen was approached by Audrey Hardy at the 6th floor nurse’s station.
"Ellen may I have a word with you?" she asked.
"Certainly," Ellen replied walking toward the waiting area. "Is there a problem Audrey?"
"I wouldn’t say a problem. A reporter would like to do an interview of Dr. Harmon on physically challenged doctors. It would be a wonderful opportunity to share his experience and get the word out that physical disability is not a hindrance to career success in medicine. He could explain how he performs surgery with his Levo chair and this could also be a professional boost for him."
"You’re absolutely right. So what’s the problem?"
"Dr. Harmon doesn’t want to do the interview. He mentioned that he didn’t like talking about his personal life. I was hoping since you are the chief resident you could talk to him."
Becoming a bit hesitant, "I don’t know Audrey I’ve always told the interns they should keep their personal and professional lives separate. I really don’t think I should intervene."
"Ellen this is such a wonderful opportunity for him as well as GH. I assured him he didn’t have to delve into his personal life, but maybe if it came from you he’d be a little more receptive."
"It is a great opportunity for him. I’ll talk to him, but I can’t make any promises."
"Whatever you can do will be fine, thank you," giving Ellen’s hand an appreciative pat before heading toward the elevator.
"Don’t thank me yet," Ellen whispered as she walked into the direction of the OCR.
When she entered she found Matt in there alone working on patient files.
"Dr. Harmon do you have a minute," Ellen said in boss mode as she joined him at the table.
"Whatever it is I assure you I didn’t do it," Matt replied looking away from his files.
"Which is why I am talking to you."
"Come again?" he asked, a bit confused.
"Audrey Hardy just told me a reporter wants to interview you and you turned her down."
"And you’re here to change my mind? I don’t like talking about myself. I’m shy that way."
"You don’t have to talk about yourself, not exactly, just your life here at GH. It would be very informative for the public and the exposure could boost your career."
"I don’t want a career boost. I’ve learned to accept the gradual approach. You can appreciate things more that way." This was a loaded statement if ever there was one and the smile on his face said as much.
"Anyway," shrugging off that charming smile of his, "I’m not going to push you I’m just going to use some words that you used on me, ‘just think about it’ okay." Ellen stands and begins to leave.
"Yes," she answered turning around to face him.
"Did you heed my advice?"
"I saw Mother this morning," she informed him.
"And I think that’s all I need to say on the matter."
"That good huh?" he quipped.
Ellen chuckled sarcastically, "Yeah that good," she replied before turning to leave once again.
"Dr. Burgess?" Matt said stopping her again.
"What is it Dr. Harmon," she inquired with a hint of impatience.
"You really want me to do this interview?"
"It would be good for you as well as the hospital so I would have to say yes."
"Okay, then I’ll be willing to consider it, on one condition. You have dinner with me tonight."
Ellen was taken aback, "That’s blackmail. And I’ve said before I don’t…"
"Yeah I know you don’t date interns. It’s not a date…exactly; it’s just dinner. We both have to eat right? If we just happen to be in the same place at the same time it’s a coincidence. If you don’t want me to do the interview I mean forget about it and…" he was twisting her arm.
"I want you to do the interview," Ellen admitted.
"So then I’ll meet you at…?"
"This is highly irregular doctor but there’s no point in publicizing dinner so your place. I’ll bring my own dinner and you’ll have your tofu and sprouts. We’ll eat and I’ll leave."
"I’m not picky," Matt smiled. "How’s 6:30?"
"It’s fine. I’ll be there at 6:30," she again heads for the door before turning to face him. "And doctor I wouldn’t try this again. I make out your schedule, remember that," she said lightheartedly in her trademark ‘I’m the boss tone’.
"Aye, aye chief," he said giving her a salute.
She gives him a halfhearted scowl before leaving.
Now on opposite sides of the door the two are feeling both excitement and trepidation. They both were actually looking forward to sharing a meal even with all the issues that were surrounding them and their fear of getting 'involved'. But by the same token the personal aspects of their lives was thorny and dodging questions both were certain would arise this evening would be sticky to get around. Thinking of everything that could happen this evening they found themselves asking the question, "What am I getting myself into?"