"Time heals all wounds," Louisa smiled at Martin when he unexpectedly came down to the breakfast she was preparing on Friday, moving much more loosely, and welcoming her with two open eyes.
"That is not necessarily true. Depending on the wound, the tissue may be too damaged or scarred to fully recover. Peripheral limb wounds may even require amputation,"
Things were back to normal. Louisa and Aunt Joan began stopped coming to Martin's and returned to their own routines.
Martin began seeing patients after his week at rest and although his face was still colorful, his right eye was open, and his kidney was fine. He didn't have all his normal energy but that just meant his expresso machine was on double duty.
His rib pain lingered and it would be months, he had told her, before they didn't send shooting stabs of paralyzing agony through his side if he moved wrong, or turned abruptly, bent down, got out of bed, or simply if he grew too tired. He was off the Percoset so he could drive and thus be exasperated by vexing patients calling him out of town for what turned out to be five minute visits for a minor malady. Then again, sometimes a serious situation arose, which justified his travel. Louisa was glad he could do all he needed to as a physician, as that seemed most important to him.
Helen was thriving at the shelter. Louisa had been allowed to visit her there once. Helen received counseling two days a week, and lessons on how to deal with finances and other aspects of life her husband had controlled. She made some female friends. She was ecstatic her husband was going to jail for many years, and she kicked her sister-in-law out of her house, in preparation of selling it and starting over anew in some other place, which her husband would not know. Louisa realized Helen MacPherson was one of the strongest women she had ever known.
She came over to Martin's home on Saturday afternoon.
"Come in," he said, ushering her in with an open arm. "Are you hungry? I'm making soup, and a chicken sandwich. There's enough for two."
"Thanks, sounds lovely."
She saw an old clock sitting in the middle of the kitchen table. "Another one?"
"It's different from the last one. I thought you said, after you finished that one, you'd maybe start something new," she looked down. She felt awkward when metaphorically referring to their feelings, which they both were so uncomfortable discussing.
"Yes. But, this one was sent with an urgent request from a shop in Chelsea."
"Will you get more 'urgent requests?'"
She looked up and saw his concentrated vision focused upon her; for how long, she didn't know. He raised his hand and once more touched her face, and her cheek rested against his palm. "I'll call and tell them not to send anymore."
He lowered his hand, and her face felt…empty.
"I'll start the soup," Martin said. "Please, have a seat."
She sat and watched him prepare the meal for them. He could be happy working in quiet, but Louisa wanted them to communicate a bit more, in positive ways, proving to her they could. She told Martin about Helen's personal growth, and he answered, "Good."
Perhaps this was a turning point. His monosyllabic "Good" was a much better response than a grunt, she contemplated, and he hadn't made a nasty remark, either. Louisa was encouraged. Perhaps Martin had decided during his long days of bedridden recovery to spread his care about and cover his patients, their personal needs, and Louisa all underneath his broad wings. Her hope for them as a couple rose exponentially. Louisa smiled widely at Martin whenever he glanced at her.
The soup and sandwiches had just been served on the table when the front door bell rang.
Frowning, Martin excused himself and went to the door. On a whim, Louisa stayed out of sight down the hall from the opening, listening in as Martin opened it.
Wendy Alden, Bert, Al and a few others in tow stood closely together.
He looked down at the group and asked, impatiently. "What do you want?"
"Doctor Ellingham," Wendy began, deliberately using his full title and smiling broadly, "Given all the village has been through together in the last weeks, we wonder if you had reconsidered your decision to support the Summer Festival next weekend."
At that, Louisa started feeling like she was shrinking and would soon disappear.
"We're not talking financially, though, of course, it would be lovely if you choose to donate. We mean personal support."
He went to close the door but Wendy continued, "We've added a special award to the event, recognizing you as "Best Doctor Ever" in Port Wenn. We hoped you'd show up to accept the trophy, perhaps make a little speech."
Martin looked at Wendy as if she was a blue skinned alien being just materialized in front of him. "Absolutely not."
"But, we want to acknowledge you for what you did for Helen, for saving Peter Cronk's life, for your medical skills. We thought you'd be interested."
His being interested seemed incomprehensible to Martin and his eyebrows narrowed as he sincerely asked, "Why?"
Wendy fumbled, "Wouldn't you rather have a good relationship with the town? We're honoring you with an award!"
"I don't want it."
Martin closed his door. He saw Louisa standing in the hallway. "They ruined the soup. Split pea is distasteful cold."
Louisa stood there feeling crushed, and even insignificant. She felt terribly betrayed in a way she could not fully elucidate.
"You couldn't have accepted the award?" she asked, some heat in her words.
"After all you've been through, you simply couldn't just be nice to them?"
He stood silent for a few seconds. "After all I've been through, I'd rather try to just 'be nice' to you."
Those words paralyzed her as goose bumps tickled her skin. When she did not speak, he added, "I'll reheat the soup," and went into the kitchen.
Martin was Martin—he would always dissever himself from her beloved village. He might always have a personality of "absolute crap." But, she loved him so much and she so strongly wanted to believe that he loved her, too. But, she simply wasn't sure. And even if he did, was it enough? It was back to the tug of war ropes—but now, they caused her shoulders to actually ache from the strain. Which way was she to be pulled?
Louisa stayed motionless in the hallway, a part of her wanting to storm out and join the group of her mates, her villagers, the well meaning, good-hearted souls she had grown up and lived with her whole life. To her, some Port Wenn villagers exemplified the finest people on Earth.
Instead, irresistibly drawn by an invisible tractor beam that raised her umbrage, and made her heart shudder, Louisa Glasson followed Martin Ellingham back into his kitchen.