Chapter 3 Chapter 3
Ellen had just signed out for the day when while walking to the elevator to leave the hospital she was stopped by her brother.

"Ellen we need to talk," Winston said placing his hand on her shoulder.

"I was just on my way out," Ellen responded moving around him, in no mood to go a round with him.

"A couple of minutes, that’s all I need," he insisted.

Turning back and taking a seat in the waiting area of the sixth floor, "Is this about Mother?" she asked.

"Of course it’s about Mother," joining her on the couch.

"I checked on her before I signed out. She was resting at the time but her chart showed she had eaten some breakfast and most of her lunch, and her vitals are stronger. She’s doing much better Winston and she is on her way to a complete recovery. Now if that’s all," Ellen said preparing to stand.

"No that is not all. I didn’t want to talk you about her condition Ellen. I want to know why you are being so hard on her."

"Why I’m what?" Ellen shot not believing she heard him correctly. "Winston you shouldn’t comment on things you know absolutely nothing about."

"I know Mother has been beating herself up since you left her room this morning. What did you say to her?"

"I told her about Sam because she asked. If she’s beating herself up I have nothing to do with that. Mother made these rules not me. I’m just following the guidelines she set."

"She’s our mother Ellen how can you be so cold?"

"I’ll tell you how," she answered her anger now on cruise control. "Because she decided she’d rather disown me than see me happy with someone she didn’t approve of. Because when my husband died suddenly and I called her after not speaking to her for years she didn’t even bother to ask why I was calling, or if anything was wrong, she just hung up. Because I spent the hardest Thanksgiving and Christmas of my life alone because Sam died and Mother considered me dead. She made it this way so don’t you dare sit here and try to guilt trip me. Mother’s beating herself up because she knows she was wrong and she has been wrong from the very beginning and she finally sees that. You say I’m being cold, I say I’m being careful and cautious. My heart is not going to be hit by that battering ram called love anymore; not by her or anyone else." Rising from her seated position, "Now if you’ll excuse me."

Standing up with her, "Ellen you’ve got to fix this. Mother almost died, and this worrying she’s doing about the two of you is not good for her. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, you gotta make this right."

"Why do I have to make it right? Why didn’t you tell this to Mother all those years ago instead of believing her and just assuming I chose to leave the family? I didn’t make this situation."

"But you can fix it."

"As far as I’m concerned it is fixed. I’ve been living with this for years now; it’s not new for me. I’ve felt the full ramifications of this a long time ago. Mother’s feeling it now and just like I’m living with it she’ll learn to do the same thing. I don’t want to put unnecessary stress on her. I’m glad she’s doing better and I do care about her but I will not bend over backward just to appease her and her feelings of regret because no matter what she’s feeling right now it’s not more important than what I felt and am feeling. I now subscribe to the principle ‘to thine own self be true’. I have to care about me because when all is said and done ‘me’ is all I have and this is a lesson I learned from Mother." Now done talking Ellen left Winston determined not to have the resurgence of her family effect her anymore than it already has.

Getting into the elevator her head was spinning. She didn’t need these problems and then there was the situation with Dr. Harmon to contend with. Why were thoughts of this man always drifting into her head? More than professional thoughts she had to admit. And why the hell did all of these things have to be happening now.

Alice woke from her less than sound slumber to find Matt in her room. "Dr. Harmon."

"Hi Alice how are you feeling?" He asked coming closer to her bed.

"Do you want the extended or condensed version?"

"Whichever one is right," he answered with a smile.

"That might take a while. Do you live at this hospital? You’re always here."

Chuckling lightly, "No I don’t live here. I’m actually done for the day but I wanted to check in on my favorite patient before I left."

"That’s sweet, but I don’t want to keep you from anything."

"I do have plans for this evening but I have a few minutes for you. So you want to tell me the answer to that question of how you’re doing?"

"Well I know you and Dr. Quartermaine fixed my heart but right now it’s aching more than it has in a long time."

"The pain killers aren’t working?" He asked picking up her chart to take another look at her med levels.

"I’m afraid pain killers will do nothing to dull this particular ache. It’s about me and my daughter."

"Oh I see," placing the chart back.

"You work closely with Ellen are you two friends?"

"I like to think that we are," he answered thinking ahead to his plans for the evening.

"I’ve made mistakes with Ellen, God knows I have. I would like nothing more than to try and make up for all the pain I’ve caused her, but she’s very angry right now and she’s in no particular hurry to hear anything I have to say."

"A lot has happened."

"So she’s talked to you about the situation?"

"Not a lot. Dr. Burgess doesn’t fancy herself an open book, but with my being on your case she has told me a few things."

"Then you must know I’m the reason why we’ve been estranged for all these years"

"I know you found the need to uh make some tough choices."

"Don’t try and dress it up Dr. Harmon. My problems with Ellen lie directly at my feet. I want to fix it but I’m beginning to wonder if that will ever happen."

"I’m sorry. I wish there was something I could do."

"Me too, but Ellen is the only one who can change this and from my point of view she has no desire to change anything. She’s hardened herself, especially where I’m concerned and I don’t see that changing. I only have myself to blame for all of this."

"I understand this is weighing heavily on your mind, but you can’t compromise your health. Getting better has to be your top priority. It might take some time but I sincerely hope that things between you and Dr. Burgess will improve."

"That makes two of us."

Looking at his watch, "There's some things I need to take care of so I have to get going and you my dear lady have to get some rest." Giving her a compassionate pat on the hand, "Try not to worry it does absolutely no good okay. I’ll see you in the morning."

"Thank you doctor. Enjoy your evening."

His lips forming a big smile, "I have every intention of doing just that. Goodnight."

It was 6:30 on the dot when Ellen knocked on Matt’s door carrying her dinner of Chinese takeout. She had been sitting in her car for at least fifteen minutes trying to come up with any excuse to cancel but she couldn’t think of a single one. She was feeling extremely nervous and she didn’t like that. She wasn’t in control and she hated not being in control. More than that she hated that the person that was making her feel this way was a man, a man she supervised at work. This wasn’t a date; she kept telling herself, she was just eating dinner with Matt that’s all. It had occurred to her to change clothes when she got home, but she decided against it. She didn’t want to make more of this evening than what it was which was just dinner right? Who was she kidding? Her rationale was not working. No matter what she told herself it was a big deal, and God help her it was also a date.

Matt had worked overtime to make his apartment just so. He didn’t want Ellen to think he was a slob. He wasn’t but being a single guy sometimes the dirty shirts and towels did tend to pile up so a little tidying up couldn't hurt. When the apartment was in order he turned his attention to the table. They were having dinner so the table had to be just right. He made a stop at the florist to pick up a centerpiece. He chose a clear glass bowl that held an arrangement of freshly cut lilies, violets, carnations, daisies, and red and yellow roses. He thought it was perfect. It was beautiful and eye catching but not too tall or wide that it would block their line of vision. He completed the table setting with a white linen tablecloth and two crystal candleholders that held two white candles. The table was done. He had ordered in some Chinese and had a bottle of Merlot chilling in the fridge in case she wanted some wine during or maybe after her dinner that is if she didn’t make a mad dash for the door once she was finished eating. This was turning into a date, like he didn’t know that’s what it was when he asked her. So what he had to use some creative maneuvering, the fact was it was happening. Ellen was going to be alone with him away from the hospital and he was extremely excited about it if not just the slightest bit nervous too. Why was he setting himself up like this? What could really come of it? And how smart was agreeing to do that interview? He forced those questions to the back of his mind. Right now what was important to him was this incredibly beautiful woman was having dinner with him and she made him feel in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time. After checking his appearance in the full-length mirror of the bathroom door he dubbed himself ready. This happened not a minute too soon because in the next moment there was a knock on the door. That was Ellen he thought, she was punctual if nothing else. Once he’d taken a deep breath Matt made his way to the door and opened it with a welcoming smile.

Fighting a losing battle with the butterflies in her stomach Ellen felt her only recourse was to be the direct "All work Ellen" that kept her on top of her game at the hospital. Seeing that dazzling smile when he opened the door was not helping.

"Hi Ellen," he greeted her warmly.

Quietly demanding she keep her concentration she responded in her all business Ellen mode, "Let’s not get too comfortable Dr. Harmon."

"Yes of course, I’m sorry," he apologized for his slip in the use of familiarity as he welcomed her in. Silently praying this authoritarian tone she had going would disappear throughout the evening.

"Not a problem let’s just not make it a habit," she said entering his apartment as she felt herself get tenser by the moment. Not sure if she could handle being alone with him in his home for a prolonged period she was anxious to get this "meeting" into gear. What was she thinking when she suggested having dinner at his place? At least in a restaurant they wouldn't be alone; but then again that was the point in not choosing a public place to begin with. Staring at an invisible spot on the sofa, "Look I’m here, you’re here, let’s eat and get this over with," she said in one breath the pounding in her heart beginning to deafen her as her nerves became more frazzled.

"Whatever you say Dr. Burgess," Matt answered feeling his hopes for the evening as daring as they were slowly being dashed.