She heaved a big sigh as she slumped heavily on the black leather couch inside the Oncology On-call room, one hand reaching out for a soft throw pillow to hug to her chest while the other ran through her dark brown hair to brush it away from her heart-shaped face as she sighed, pleading for reprieve from the disconcerting mixed-emotions that overwhelmed her this morning when she ran into Chin at the elevator.
She hugged the small pillow tighter, longing for comfort and peace while she absent-mindedly stirred her coffee cup on the glass center table in front of her. She tried to sort out her feelings in seeing Chin again after sometime since their break-up. Their unexpected meeting startled her. It opened wounds that she thought have healed, but at the same time it made her giddy, mesmerized…as though she was floating on thin air the entire day…vulnerable but free. The blush that crept on her cheek after their awkward embrace and their friendly exchange remained evident on her long after Chin and Kono have left.
She felt embarrassed doing her rounds in the hospital, checking and visiting her patients all day but not able to give her full attention. She was not herself and they know it. Some gave her a gentle pat on the back or a gentle squeeze on her hand in silent understanding.
Indeed she was hurt when he ended their relationship without giving her any choice in the matter, but seeing him reinforced the fact that despite of the terrible pain he caused her, she still loved him. But the big question was does he still love her?
He said he wanted to protect her. Was that true or was it an excuse for his wavering feelings? She didn't need his protection. What she needed was for him to let her take his hand so they can together face all the obstacles, and pain he was going through.
Would she ever see him again? Or was this morning just a pleasant interlude, never again to occur in a million years?
"Hey, either you're stirring a witch's brew or you want to dig a hole right through your coffee mug. You've been staring into space and stirring that coffee for the last 10 minutes."
Malia looked up at the smiling face of her fellow oncologist Stacy Michaels watching her in amusement. Malia took a sip of her coffee and cringed. She realized not only was it cold but she dropped in one too many sugar cubes. Her blond, blue-eyed friend burst into laughter before settling beside her on thr black leather couch.
"Come on, tell me, what ails you? You look flustered. I've never seen you like this," she asked, tossing the Elle Magazine she was browsing on the glass table.
Malia rolled her eyes and heaved a long sigh. She looked into the solemn eyes of her best friend at the hospital.
Stacy had been a new resident doctor at the Honolulu Medical Hospital seven months ago when she and her husband moved in Oahu from Maui where she was a pediatric oncologist in Maui Memorial Medical Center. Since the two young doctors were of similar age and share the same dedication to their work, and love for little children, not to mention their flair for fashion, they hit it off right away and became best friends.
"I ran into my ex-fiancee this morning…" she uttered in a low voice.
Stacy's blue eyes widen like saucers, "What! Where? How did it happen?"
"I was on my way to the neonatal unit when I ran into him at the elevator…oh god… it was all disconcerting…" Malia gave a little laugh before shyly looking into her friends eyes.
Stacy listened patiently as Malia continued.
"He…uhm… he's working as a cop again…at the Five-0 task force. He was investigating a murder of a john doe and needed help from the admin to access records from our oncology unit to identify their victim but it turns out I managed to identify the photo and he didn't need to dig into the files."
"Oh my god. One of our patients had been murdered! Who?" exclaimed Stacy.
"It was Henry Duncan. I can't believe such a nice man could die that way. He was diligent in his therapy. He wanted to extend his life," said Malia.
"That's terrible. I hope they have contacted his wife by now. She must be devastated," said Stacy.
"I'm pretty sure Chin already did." Malia spoke with such fondness and pride.
Stacy rolled her eyes. "You know, even if he is a part of that very elite police squad Five-0 which means he must be quite a police officer, I think, you should forget him."
Malia was quiet for a moment before looking solemnly into Stacy's rather displeased expression.
"I…I just can't, Stace," she managed before rushing out of the On-call room, trying to compose herself.
Stacy immediately followed in her trail, trying to catch up and reason out with her friend.
"You shouldn't let this affect you, sister. You helped him. He got what he came for and that's that! Nothing more!"
Stacy finally caught up with her and held her shoulders to make Malia face her.
"Malia, it's time to move on. It's been almost a year since you broke up. He was the one who walked away. He never called… never came by to see you… Please stop holding a torch for him."
Malia remained silent, unsure of how to respond to her friend. She fiddled with the ring she wore in a chain around her neck. It somehow comforted her. Whenever she missed Chin she would always touch it and it would seem to radiate the warmth of the love they once shared.
A little commotion at the nurses' station caught Stacy's eye. From where she and Malia stood in the hallway, she could see three orange buttons blinking at the counter. Three patients needed attention but the nurses at the station seemed oblivious to the emergency buttons as they openly flirt with a tall, broad-shouldered man. His back faced her view so she couldn't see what he looked like but from his denims and casual grey shirt, she could tell he had an excellent physique that the ladies at the nurses' station must be going gaga for.
"What the… I don't believe this. Some women are just so remiss on their duties just because an attractive man starts talking to them," Stacy complained before storming over to the nurses' station.
Her friend's temper snapped Malia out of her daze and she chased after her to calm her down.
"Wait… Calm down, Stacy," she called out as she raced after her.
Stacy fell beside the man but focused her eyes on the nurses as she folded her arms to reprimand them.
"Ahem… aren't those buttons from 505, 530 and 535 gravely blinking to catch your attention?"
The 3 nurses at the station lost their smiles as they uttered an apology and scrambled towards the patients' rooms.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to keep them off-track. I was just asking for directions to the On-call room of the Oncology Unit," came a deep baritone voice apologetically.
"I don't think it should take 3 people to give you…"
Stacy's voice trailed off as she looked up to face him. He looked as ruggedly handsome as his voice that for a moment she too was distracted until she heard Malia's soft voice beside her.
"Chin! What are you doing here?" she exclaimed in genuine surprise.
Chin's self assurance wavered as he unexpectedly caught sight of his beautiful fiancée the second time in one day. Damn! He thought he could still prepare himself as he walked to the On-Call room before finally talking to her.
"Hi Malia!" he greeted, feigning confidence.
"You're not here to make me identify more photographs of dead people, are you?" she asked incredulously.
"No! I uhm… well, not yet. I… I just want to ask for your cell phone number… in case I might need some help again in the future," he said awkwardly, giving her a shy smile.
What a stupid thing to say, he scolded himself. He couldn't remember the last time he was so awkward that he said something stupid.
"Oh," uttered Malia in disappointment.
Had he tried calling, he would have known she still kept the same number she had as when they were together. There wasn't a day when she didn't hope for his name to flash on the caller id screen.
Malia tried to meet his eyes but found herself shifting her gaze from the floor to Chin's chest. It was awkward trying to act natural now that there was no business matter to talk about and the conversation was gently steering back to the past.
"I still have the same number…but I guess you must have lost it by now," she answered softly.
Malia had no idea Chin never called her since then because he knew that if he did, he'll come running back to her. And seeing her this morning just made him forget all about protecting her and felt only the overwhelming urge of having her in his life again.
She groped inside the pocket of her doctor's coat. She took out a business card from her calling card case and handed it to Chin.
"You may call me anytime you need anything," she smiled warmly into Chin's dark eyes. She could see the raging emotions stirring in the depths of his raven black eyes. Could he be feeling the same way she does?
"Thanks," he smiled.
He didn't appreciate her friend watching them during such a private moment. He didn't like to be observed under a microscope just when he was starting to sort out his feelings for Malia. He wanted to tell her so many things…explain so many things and but the presence of Goldilocks was making it even harder than it already is.
"I'll go ahead. Nice seeing you again, Malia," said Chin before waving good bye.
Malia exhaled. She didn't know she had been holding her breath the entire time she was talking to Chin. Her face lit up in excitement as a surge of hope came to light. Maybe there was hope between them after all.
Stacy caught the exultation in her face and advised, "I know you're feeling optimistic…but please don't hold your breath for him. I don't want to see you get hurt the second time."
Chin strolled irritably to the black SUV of the Five 0 squad. He kicked the front tire in frustration. He wanted to kick himself for not having enough courage to ask her out for dinner. That was the reason he took SUV so he could drive her to some nice fancy dinner tonight but his uncertainties got the better of him.
What if she says no? It would really crush his spirit… but hadn't he done the same thing to her when he broke up with her? She had every right to turn him down and hurt him but Chin didn't know how to face it if Malia should permanently close her door on him.
If she only knew how hard it was to stay away from her, just so he could protect her from the stigma of corruption that people mercilessly attached to his name.
But she was wearing his ring, he reminded himself. That must count for something. Perhaps they do have a chance…