Ellen was seated at the desk in her office staring into the cup of coffee that had been before her for the last couple of hours. She had gone home after her encounter with Matt but as she had expected sleep eluded her. She arrived at GH shortly before 6:30 and had been trying to come to terms with the words Dr. Harmon had laid on her. He was right, he did have a place in her heart. The feelings he evoked in her scared her to death but they also warmed her and made her feel an amazing sense of freedom. How did this happen? She wondered. What about Sam? Ellen pulled open the center drawer of her desk and after reaching way in back pulled out an unframed photo of her deceased husband. Matt’s words once again echoed in her mind, ‘You have to forgive yourself for daring to move on with your life without Sam, I truly believe he’d want you to be happy.’ Looking down at the smiling face on the picture, "I never thought I’d be truly happy again Sam, not after I lost you, but I…" Ellen’s words were interrupted by a knock on her door. Placing the picture back in her drawer and closing it Ellen welcomed her visitor. "Come in," she said turning to the door.
"Hi," Kevin Collins smiled as he entered the office.
"Hi yourself," she returned as they greeted each other with a hug.
"I had to come to the hospital because there was a problem with Victor. Seeing your car outside I thought I’d drop by and say hello. I know I’ve been a little out of touch lately."
"A lot has been going on in your life. I hope the problem with Victor wasn’t serious," motioning for him to take a seat on her bunk as she sat in her desk chair.
"No he was just making a little fuss about taking his medication," Kevin explained sitting on the bed.
"Lucy is Lucy. Now that all of that Rex Stanton craziness is over things have settled considerably. I still can’t believe that maniac almost killed her. Her coming back from the brink of death makes me cherish even more every moment we spend together. But enough about me, what’s going on with you? I heard your mother was hospitalized. I’m sorry I didn’t get by to see you, how is she doing?" Kevin inquired.
"She’s doing better every day. A full recovery is expected," Ellen answered in her clinical doctor manner.
"Okay," Kevin returned picking up on her indifferent response. "I get from your enthusiasm that the status of the relationship with your mother is still the same."
"Your assumption would be correct," Ellen said walking to her coffeepot and pouring a cup for Kevin and another for herself.
"You want to talk about it?" Kevin asked.
"There’s nothing to talk about," Ellen replied handing him one of the steaming mugs.
Taking the offered cup, "Thanks. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s not completely accurate. It’s me Ellen; I can tell something is on your mind. If it’s not your mother it’s something else. I’m here, if you want to talk I’m willing to listen. I’ve certainly bent your ear enough over the years."
"Well actually there is something on my mind," Ellen shared taking her seat at the desk.
"What is it?" Kevin prompted.
"More like who is it, and in two words it’s Matt Harmon," taking a sip of her coffee.
"Dr. Harmon? I don’t know him that well but from what I do know he seems like a pretty nice guy. I can tell from the times I’ve been around him he’s one of your biggest fans. So what’s the problem?" Kevin inquired his curiosity piqued.
"You just said it. Kevin I can’t have feelings for him."
A smile tugged at Kevin’s lips as the crux of the matter dawned on him. "I didn’t say you had feelings for Matt, I said he was one of your biggest fans. However since you brought it up, why can’t you have feelings for him?"
"Because he’s an intern and I’m the chief resident," Ellen explained.
"Is that all?" Kevin questioned fully aware there was more to it than that.
"That’s enough," she stated emphatically.
Reading his ‘I’m not buying it’ expression.
"Okay, the most important reason is because the way he makes me feel frightens me. It scares me to no end," raking her fingers through her mid length locks as she began to pace the floor.
"Why does it scare you?" Kevin asked taking a swallow of his coffee as his eyes remained on his unsettled friend.
"Because I’m not supposed to feel this way about anyone else. My heart has been shattered Kevin and I don’t want that to happen again."
"So this fear is a combination of guilt and uncertainty? Ellen it’s not wrong for you to move on from Sam. He’s been gone for years and in all that time you’ve closed yourself completely to the idea of a romantic relationship. You’re a beautiful, strong, vibrant woman and you’re still young. Having feelings for someone is natural so you have absolutely no reason to feel guilty. As for the uncertainty, love is a gamble but Ellen the payoff could be so big."
"But the fallout could be even bigger. Matt has an excellent chance of winning the Quartermaine Residency award and that could shoot his career into the stratosphere. I wouldn’t want to take this opportunity away from him."
"It’s admirable you’d want to set aside your feelings for the advancement of his career but I don’t think Matt would want you to do any favors for him. I gather from your initial comments about Dr. Harmon being on your mind that he has broached the subject of starting a relationship to you."
"Like you wouldn’t know," she shared, suddenly feeling warm as she thought of the close encounters she and Matt had shared. "He even mentioned months ago that he wasn’t interested in the award because our ‘dating’," making quotes with the index and middle fingers of both hand, "would make my having to judge him for the Quartermaine a conflict of interest. Can you believe it? He said that months ago. Kevin this man is so persistent. He refuses to give up and the word no is not one he’s familiar with."
"Sounds like the perfect match to me. He refuses to give up and you refuse to give in. Or is this where the conflict comes in? Are you now ready to give in?"
"I don’t know," reaching into the pocket of her white coat and rapping her always nearby pencil against the open palm of her hand. "My heart feels like it’s being pulled in all of these different directions. Sam was my world for so many years, then along comes Matt Harmon and things changed. Sometimes I think I want to give in."
"Then why don’t you?"
"Sam. I don’t want to forget Sam," tears fill her eyes as her voice became uneven. "My mother being back in my life and insisting she wants to make amends is doing nothing but bringing up those painful memories of how she turned her back on me because I loved him. Sam is gone, Mother is here, and Matt Harmon is turning my world upside down and inside out. I find myself asking the question, what about Sam? How can I be happy when he’s gone?" Ellen’s voice broke as tears streamed down her dimpled cheeks.
Kevin offers Ellen a comforting embrace as sobs gently wrack her body.
After a few minutes the tears have ceased in their flowing and once regaining her composure Ellen apologizes. "I’m sorry, I’ve been doing a lot of crying lately," walking to her desk and retrieving a tissue to dab away the remnants of her tears.
"Ellen you don’t have to apologize to me." Giving her a thoughtful look, "May I ask you a question?"
"Sure," Ellen said turning to face her friend.
"Does Matt make you happy?"
"Yes, yes Kevin he does," she answered walking over to the bunk and sitting down.
"Then why are you so sad?" Kevin wondered as he sat next to her.
Ellen remained quiet as absently crumbled the tissue she held in her hands.
Covering her hands with his, "Ellen you’re never going to forget Sam. He’s always going to be a part of your life and nothing can change that, not finding a way to make amends with your mother if that’s what you want or even managing to find happiness with another man. If you keep punishing yourself for moving on you’ll always be right here in what is literally no man’s land. A place where you can continue to mourn your late husband and long for a man that can make your beautiful smile a permanent fixture on your face. Sam wouldn’t want to begrudge you your happiness; I really believe that."
"You sound like Matt," Ellen smiled. "He keeps telling me that too."
"So not only does he have excellent taste in women he’s brilliant too," Kevin smirked. "I knew there was a reason why I liked him," he chuckled. "Look I can’t tell you what you should do, but there’s a certain doctor around here you might want to pull aside for a minute or two, don’t you think?"
Matt was on the outside of Ellen’s office door. Last night when he left he was feeling so positive about having a future with her. Now less than twenty-four hours later that certainty had slipped away like sands through an hourglass. The phone call he received not quite half an hour before had made him realize just how unstable his life was, and that wanting a life with Ellen was something he never had a right to even think about. He had to talk to her and he prayed she wouldn’t ask too many questions. Questions he couldn’t answer for her. After taking a breath and slowly releasing it Matt rapped gently on the door before entering the office. "Dr. Burgess I…" his words stop upon spotting Kevin with Ellen. "I’m sorry I didn’t know you had a visitor. I’ll just…"
"No that’s fine Dr. Harmon I was just on my way out. She’s all yours," Kevin said standing and giving Ellen a quick wink.
"Thank you for everything Kevin," she said giving his hand a squeeze as she stood beside him.
"Anytime. I’ll call you," he smiled. "Take care Dr. Harmon," Kevin directed to Matt before leaving them in the office alone.
Matt’s fervent gaze swept over Ellen’s body. Her beauty almost brought tears to his eyes. It seemed that with every passing moment she grew even more beautiful. The increasing realization that she would never be his was like a hot dagger slicing through his heart. How he ached for her. Her body was a temple and he wanted nothing more than to worship at that temple, to love her in the way he now knew he never could, not if he really loved her. Now was not the time to lick his wounds, he’d have lots of time for that later. Swallowing the knot that had developed in his throat he readied himself for what he had to do. "I hope I didn’t rush Dr. Collins off?" Matt said taking great pains in averting his attention from her and focusing on something…anything else but her.
"No it’s fine. I wasn’t expecting to see you so soon, but I am glad you’re here. I’ve been thinking about everything you said last night and there’s something I need to…" Her train of thought was lost as she picked up on his subdued yet anxious behavior which was totally out of character for him, especially when around her. "You seem upset, is there something wrong?" Ellen inquired.
What was she about to say? Matt wondered to himself. What the hell, at this point it really didn’t matter. "Yes actually an unexpected family emergency has come up and I have to leave town," his eyes continuing to shift aimlessly about the room.
"I’m sorry to hear that," her voice softening from his obvious distress. "Is there anything I can do?"
"Get me some time off," he answered hurriedly.
"Sure I can give you a couple a days that shouldn’t be a problem," Ellen said retrieving the clipboard from her desk that housed the work schedule. "It will go in effect tomorrow."
"No I…I need a week," raking his right hand nervously through his short cropped salt and pepper hair. "I need a week off and I need it effective immediately."
"A week?" she questioned turning her focus from the schedule. "Matt I can’t give you a week off. Three days tops but a week is impossible, and there’s no way you could leave today."
"I need a week right now. You know if it wasn’t absolutely necessary I wouldn’t ask."
He couldn’t look at her, this made her very curious and it also worried her. "Why are you so on edge? What’s going on? Can you tell me what this is about?"
He wanted to, desperately, but he couldn’t. "No I’m sorry I can’t and I’m not on edge. It’s just crucial I get this time off."
There was something he wasn’t telling her. This story didn’t seem right but nonetheless she couldn’t give him the time off he needed and his strange behavior made her wary of wanting him to leave town at all. Something was very wrong here and either he didn’t want to or couldn’t tell her the truth. "Matt I wish I could but I can’t give you a week. My hands are tied. I’m sorry."
"Me too, but I have to have a week, I just have to," Matt said quickly leaving the office. He didn’t dare look back, he just hoped she find a way to understand why he did what he was about to do.
"Matt, Matt?!" Ellen’s said following behind him. But her shouting was in vain; he was gone. "What the hell was that about?" she whispered to herself and why did it seem that those walls she felt crumbling around her were now being erected around him.