"Hello Alice how are you doing this crisp wintry morning?" Nurse Grace Sullivan said in her always-perky tone.
"I’m doing pretty good, but I can see you’re doing better than that. So you and that handsome Dr. Harmon had a wonderful time last night?" Alice inquired with a knowing smile.
"Me and Matt?" Grace repeated somewhat confused. "I wasn’t with Matt last night. What would make you think I was?"
"Well he came in last night and mentioned some plans he had for the evening. He seemed really excited I just assumed that since…" Alice’s words were cut short when Matt entered the room.
"How are you feeling this morning Alice?" Matt said warmly as he made his way over to her bedside picking up her chart.
"I’m doing well, thank you," Alice replied always happy to see the young doctor.
"Grace," he said in greeting in the nurse’s direction.
"Good morning Dr. Harmon," her disposition sunny but the wheels in her head spinning rapidly. "Who was he with last night," she mused as she suddenly got a thought. "Oh it couldn’t be."
"Did you experience any discomfort last night?" Matt asked Alice.
"No, no problems whatsoever?" Alice replied. "Speaking of last night, how did your evening go?"
This question got Grace’s attention, as she stood a little more erect and focused all of her attention on Matt.
Matt clears his throat, completely caught off guard by Alice’s question and feeling Grace’s eyes burning holes into his back, "It was okay," he answered not giving any more than that.
"I assume being the nice looking doctor you are those plans were shared with a young lady. Was it anybody I know?"
As if on cue Ellen entered and the little room was suddenly wrought with tension.
Alice sat up more in her bed as she greeted her daughter cheerfully, "Good morning Ellen."
"Good morning," Ellen returned politely. "Dr. Harmon, Grace."
"Dr. Burgess," Matt and Grace returned.
The tension didn’t go unnoticed by Grace as she picked up on the eye contact, or lack thereof between Matt and Ellen.
"How is the patient this morning?" she asked Matt in her all business tone looking at him for what amounted to a millisecond before directing her attention to Alice.
Doing his best not to demand some answers for her abrupt departure from his apartment on the previous evening Matt returned her brief glance and retaining his professional demeanor answered her question.
"She had an uneventful night," unlike the one we had his head screamed. "All of her vitals are strong and everything appears to be going quite well."
"Good, that’s good," Ellen responded in a very clinical tone. "If you continue progressing as you are I’m certain you’ll be able to go home in a couple of days," she informed Alice. Looking at her watch, "Now I have to finish my rounds." Ellen makes her way to the door.
"Ellen could I have a few minutes please," Alice requested stopping Ellen before she grabbed the handle of the door.
Ellen’s reaction to that suggestion was evident even with her back turned as her shoulders slouched and a burden-laden breath was released.
"Only a few minutes Ellen, I promise," Alice assured her.
"I have some lab results I need to check on," Matt said excusing himself. "I’ll see you later Alice."
"I look forward to it doctor," Alice replied with a smile.
Grace also made her exit alluding to some charts that needed her attention. Once she and Matt were outside she immediately approached him to get the skinny on his evening.
"Matt, may I have a word with you?" she asked.
Matt thought Grace was a nice person but she was clingy and the more time he spent around her the more that annoying trait showed. This was his own fault he thought. Ellen’s constant turndowns prompted him to ask Grace out and that was his first mistake. Spending time with Grace did nothing to curtail his thoughts of Ellen but it did seem to get under Ellen’s skin because on occasion she actually appeared jealous. If he was honest with himself he had to admit he liked that, it gave him hope. He and Grace had gone out a few times but it was becoming obvious that his platonic dating of her was turning into a romantic relationship from her perspective and that was the farthest thing from his mind, at least where she was concerned. He’s even heard some of the other interns refer to Grace as his girlfriend, and that couldn’t continue. He had been trying to distance himself from her but apparently she was not taking the hint. "Grace I wish I could, but I really need to check on those labs," he explained trying his best to be tactful.
"Well then we can talk at lunch."
"I don’t think I’ll have time for lunch today, there’s a lot going on," brushing off that idea altogether.
"You’re right about that. Look Matt I’m worried about you. I don’t want to see you get into something that won’t be good for you."
"What are you talking about?"
"I think you know, and if you don’t we’ll talk about it at lunch. The Recovery Room at 1." She didn’t even wait for a reply as she headed down the corridor.
There was no getting around this it seemed. "Oh well," he sighed. He’d take this time to be more direct with Grace. He would tell her he was not interested in her the way she was interested in him and that their platonic dating would have to stop because he didn’t want to continue giving her false hope. Before leaving he couldn’t help but glance inside the partially ajar door. Ellen and Alice weren’t speaking yet, but the emotion was quite evident. There was a lot of hurt inside that room and a lot more inside Ellen. He’d caught but a glimpse of it last night. Moving away from the door and down the hall as he continued to think of the past evening’s events. ‘Pointless and painful’ were the words she had used as an excuse not to entertain the prospect of a relationship with him. Maybe it was but he couldn’t leave it at that and before the day was over they were going to settle the issues between them someway or the other.
"I really don’t have all day Alice," Ellen said impatiently to her mother, sticking her always nearby cat top pencil in the pocket of her long white doctor’s coat.
"Yes I know; you’re a very important doctor. I’m really proud of you Ellen," she said genuinely.
"Your pride and a quarter will get me a pack of gun," Ellen stated unfazed. "You said you had something to say why don’t you just say it."
Her daughter’s words stung but Alice didn’t let that deter her, "Ellen what do I have to do? Say ‘I’m sorry’? I’ll say it I’m sorry."
"What are you sorry about?" Ellen inquired sticking her hands into the pocket of her black slacks as she walked a few paces around the room. "The fact that Sam is dead or the fact that he died before he could prove himself to be the scum of the earth you always thought he was? Or maybe, maybe you’re apologizing for the way you treated me but then again why would you do that? To apologize would mean you’re wrong and you’re never wrong right?"
"I’m not perfect Ellen."
"I’m glad you know that."
"I never proclaimed to be. I’m just a mother. A mother who did what she thought was best. Call it tough love."
"Tough love?" Ellen repeated disbelieving. "You’re kidding me? That’s your reasoning for excising me from the family? Tough love? I love Sam, tough, you don’t, so I’m out."
"He was going to bring you down Ellen, I couldn’t roll over and play dead. This was your future I couldn’t just let you throw it away."
"So you just threw me away. You just thought of me as dead because I fell in love with a man that didn’t meet your seal of approval. That makes perfect sense. You were so quick to say that Sam was going to bring me down. It is beyond me how you didn’t see how much he lifted me up and how totally happy he made me and how my best was all he ever wanted for me and how his best was all he ever gave me."
"Ellen you’re angry with me, but can’t you find a way to accept my words then and now in the manner they’re intended."
"You tossed me aside Mother what other way can I interpret those earlier words? And now you say you’re sorry but those words are empty to me. Actions speak louder than words and I don’t feel the sincerity yet, but then again I’m really not looking for it."
"When you came in here after my operation you were kind Ellen. You gave me the deer charm, the one from the petting zoo all those years ago. I thought maybe that would be a turning point for us but then you mentioned Samuel and you left so upset and from that moment you’ve been distant…well more distant."
"The day you had your operation I relived a lot of old memories. I was feeling nostalgic for ‘Mommy’, the mother you were to me when I was eight. When I came into your room some of those residual feelings were still with me, I felt like ‘Ellie’ and you were Mommy for the briefest of moments. But after a while when you inquired about Sam and that tone of yours, that ‘so tell me I was right about the louse leaving you’ tone came into your voice, I then remembered who I was talking to. I don’t need your sympathy Mother, not now. I married Sam alone and I buried him alone. When I needed you…when I needed you you weren’t there," tears clouding her eyes as her voice became a little shaky. "It was then that I had to condition myself to living my life without you in it; a life with no one in it but me and I’m fine."
Starting to get some clue as to all the pain and anguish she caused her daughter, Alice wiped away her tears of regret as they continued to flow freely. "You’re not fine Ellen. I would say you’re coping because you felt like you had to, but no one is fine without love in his or her life, without someone they can care about and someone who cares about them. You’ve hardened yourself and it’s because of hurt. I’ve hurt you; I’ve hurt you a lot and yes I see where I need to work on me, but I want to work on us too. I’ve missed you Sweet Pea," Alice said extending her hand to Ellen.
"Sweet Pea?" Ellen repeated wiping the tears from her eyes as she stared at her mother’s outstretched hand.
"You’re going way back aren’t you? Endearments won’t do it either."
Alice lowers her hand to the bed.
"I have had a lot of hurt in my life Mother, and you’re responsible for a lot of it, but I’ve dealt with it." Continuing to wipe away her streaming tears. "I don’t think I want to deal with it anymore, you know I’ve been there and done that."
"Ellen just please think about it," Alice pleaded. "Don’t say no. Take some time, I’m not asking for any promises," she urged desperate for some shred of hope.
"Good because I can’t give you any. I have other patients to see," Ellen said turning to leave.
"Take care of yourself," Alice called out to her as tears careened down her cheeks.
Ellen turned to face her mother, "Don’t worry about me, I’ve been taking care of myself for a lot of years and I will continue to do so." With that Ellen exited the room closing the door behind her.
It was ten minutes after one when Matt arrived at the Recovery Room. Grace’s eyes had been glued to the door and when Matt came in she quickly stood to get his attention and direct him to the table.
"Hi Grace, I’m sorry I’m a little late I was in the middle of something," the something being the interview and Chris Ramsey’s extreme interest in it and him, but he didn’t want to go into that with her. "So what’s this you’re worried about me getting into?" Matt asked wanting to get straight to the point.
"You don’t believe in wasting time so I’ll get right to it. Alice mentioned some plans you had last night. She thought they were with me but that wasn’t the case and I can only think of one person you would be excited about spending the evening with."
"What are you getting at?"
"Matt for a man who doesn’t believe in wasting his time why are you wasting yours on Ellen Burgess? She hardly knows you’re alive except to yell instructions to you and the other interns. She walks into a room and you light up like a Christmas tree and she can’t appreciate what that means, not like I could," Grace imparts attempting to take his hand.
Matt moves his hand before it can get ensnarled in her clutches, "I appreciate the concern but I don’t need it. If that’s all I…."
"Matt you’re dating me. How do you think I feel hearing the guy who’s practically my boyfriend had big plans with some other woman? Plans he didn’t see fit to share with me."
"Grace I am not your boyfriend practically or otherwise. We’re friends and if I’ve given you the impression that we’re anything more than that I apologize. I see now that our dating cannot continue because it’s not going to lead to anything. I’ll see you around the hospital but that’s all it’s going to be."
"You’re going to throw away a sure thing for a maybe? Ellen is as cold as they come, why are you wasting your time with her?"
"Do you talk about all your friends like that? I don’t have to explain anything to you Grace. I’m choosing not to date you, read that however you want, but I don’t see how that decision has anything to do with you slamming Ellen or your assumption that I was with her last night."
"Matt I would have to be blind and stupid not to see the affect she has on you. From the beginning you told me you thought there was something happening between the two of you, but after she constantly shot you down you decided to move on, with me. Whenever we’re out together and she comes into the room it’s like I’m invisible or even if her name got mentioned in conversation you changed. What is it about her? Does chasing after the unattainable turn you on? I can play the hard to get game if that’s what you want."
"Grace there’s nothing you can do. I’m not interested in you in a romantic way it’s that simple. I can’t help how I feel. Dating you and giving you hope for something that will never happen is wrong and I’m not going to do it anymore."
Matt’s back was turned to the door so he didn’t see when Ellen walked in but Grace did and she was going to see how much weight her theory about Ellen held. "Well if we’re going to say goodbye I think we should do it properly." In the blink of an eye Grace had sashayed over to Matt, took a seat on his lap and wrapping her arms around his neck placed the biggest, nastiest, wettest, most public kiss she could on his lips.
Matt’s attempt to pull her arms from around his neck could be misconstrued as response to her lip assault and unfortunately from Ellen’s point of view it was seen as just that much to Grace’s delight. Keeping her eyes squarely on Ellen the whole time Grace finally ended the kiss. Matt was fit to be tied. He was about to let her have more than just a piece of his mind when in true skank fashion Grace made mention of Ellen’s presence from the comfort of Matt’s lap. "Oh Ellen, I’m so embarrassed how long have you been standing there?" she inquired in her oh so phony manner as a kittenish grin covered her face.
"Ellen?!" Matt responded in shock, literally pushing Grace from his lap and catching only a glimpse of Ellen’s back as she fled the restaurant.
Glaring at Grace as she pulled together that light blue cardigan she loved so much while brushing off invisible dust from her pristine white nurse’s uniform, "Why the hell did you do that?!"
"To prove a point, and I seem to have done just that."
"Damn you!" Matt spat before rushing out to explain the complete misunderstanding to Ellen.
Ellen raced back to GH and to the safety of her office tears of hurt, anger and jealousy stinging her eyes.
"Why am I upset? He means nothing to me, nothing," she says repeating the words while she paced the floor. "He’s been dating Grace. So what he looks at me like I’m the only woman in the world, and he tells me I’m beautiful, he’s been dating Grace he’s probably told her the same thing. I’ve seen them together, several times, so why does it feel like an elephant just kicked me in the stomach when I see him kiss her?
Damn! How did I let this man get to me like this? Why do I care?" brushing her tears away with the back of her hand.
"You know why Ellen, and now we’re going to put it all out on the table," Matt said entering the office and closing the door behind him.