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Authors: Ann B Harrison

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BOOK: Coming Home
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"No, my darling
boy, you are and don't let this hold you back. Your father will come
around."

***

Russ was grateful for
what his father had done. It meant Paula couldn't touch any of the family
money. A small blessing but there none the less, and now he could see the
wisdom in his father's thinking.

He picked up the phone
and spoke to the outpatients’ receptionist. "Send in the next patient
please, Carol."

"I’m sorry,
Doctor, but there is a man here to see you. He doesn't appear to be a patient
and won't leave. He said he has something you would want to see," she
said.

"Fine, send him
in." Russ stood and rubbed the back of his neck as he walked to open the
door.

A man in a dark grey
suit walked towards him. "Dr. Williams?"

"Yes, what can I
do for you?"

The man handed over a
large yellow vellum envelope. "Have a nice day sir." Turning, he
walked away.

Russ shut the door and
sat on the corner of his desk. He knew these were the final divorce papers from
Paula's solicitor. Forcing down the bile that threatened to rise in his throat,
he slid his finger under the flap and tore the envelope open.

He scanned the
paperwork before calling his receptionist again. "Carol, I need a few
minutes to myself. I'll let you know when I'm ready for the next patient."
He put down the phone and sat in his chair. A wave of sadness washed over him.
So,
she has made her mind up and now there’s no going back, no matter how much I
might want to.

Holding the papers in
his hand was hard. He took time to read them before picking up a pen. Laying
the papers on his desk, he signed where marked and put them in the return
envelope before he could stall. He had to accept she wouldn’t change. Not that
he wanted her back. It was too late for reconciliation. Russ couldn't love
someone who refused to see past the financial gains. Paula could never
understand why he continued to work in the public hospital system and why it
meant so much more to him than having his own practice.

He was happy working
within the public system, able to go wherever he was needed. The money was good
enough and he wasn't stuck in one place for too long. Lately though, he’d felt
a need to get away from the chaos and rush of the city. Sydney was great for
study and work but with his marriage breakdown, it was all too overpowering and
hurried.

With a rush of
nostalgia came the sudden urge to go home but he doubted his father would
welcome him with open arms. Memories of his childhood raced through his mind
and he leaned back in his chair. The large fig trees in the front yard where
his brother and sister sat high in the branches, pelting him with the small
hard figs that littered the crushed granite driveway.

His thoughts drifted
back to the last time he’d stood on that drive with his father.
Bitterness
had crept into the old man's voice when Russ returned for his mother's funeral.

"If you’d hung
around, you would at least have noticed she was ill and done something about
it. She would have listened to you." His father scowled and poked his
finger into Russ's chest before turning from him. Giving up, Russ climbed into
his car and slammed his hand on the steering wheel in frustration. He turned
the key, starting the engine as his father turned back to him once more.

"You can tell your
sister she's gone too. I'm not going to waste my time on that one."

"I don't know
where she is."

"Don't go making
it my fault, sonny. Laying naked in the barn with that useless boy from down
the road. I'm sure if it was your daughter, you would have done the same. Just
lucky he got away from me when he did, all I can say."

His father walked away,
leaving him alone in front of the high pillars and wide veranda, the historical
home devoid of life and the happy family that should be living there. The sun
was setting and cast shadows over the red brick walls. He felt a shiver over
his skin as he drove away without looking back.

Russ swallowed the bitterness
before he opened his door and strode angrily out to reception, handing over the
sealed envelope before he could take it back. "Could you make sure this
goes in today's mail please, Carole?"

"Sure, Doctor
Williams. Are you ready now for your next patient?"

"Certainly. Who is
it?"

"Mr Watson. He's
in the waiting room."

The rest of the day
passed in a blur of patients and paperwork. As he walked out of the hospital,
the fatigue settled in. Weariness seeped into his bones and numbed his mind as
he made his way home to his flat. Russ parked his car and locked it before
walking to the letterbox. He leaned his head against the wall as he collected
the envelopes protruding from the slot with his flat number on it.

His lower back muscles
screamed in pain as he looked at the flight of stairs. He grabbed the rail and
looked at the climb in front of him. All twenty two of them taunted his sore,
tired body. Russ pulled himself up, only stopping when he reached the top.

Fidgeting to find the
right key, he opened the door. Life was getting too damned hard. He walked up
the tiny hallway into the kitchen and dropped the mail on the counter. Maybe he
should look at moving to a slower pace of life. A country hospital or practice
would suit him more than the bustle of city life. He let the thought take root
in his mind as he grabbed a beer from the fridge and walked through to the
lounge room. His mother had encouraged him to reach his potential and grow,
something he wasn't doing in his present position. With a sigh, he fell into
his favourite chair—the only piece of furniture Paula left him—resting his head
back, and
let his mind wander while he sipped his beer.

He chewed over the idea
while sipping the cold brew before he got up and threw the empty can in the
trash. Logging on, he went to the site for medical vacancies and trolled
through the job opportunities.
A few years in a country practice is starting
to sound just like what I need to get myself back on track
.

He thought briefly of
going overseas and spending some time in the French countryside where he’d
back-packed as student with a group of friends. Quickly, he discarded that idea
in favour of staying in Australia where his roots were.

Doctor needed. In
charge position. Small country hospital. Immediate start, housing provided.

Russ gazed at the
words, his heart pounding as he thought about. Small towns didn't have the rush
of humanity found in the big cities. The pace was more relaxed and certainly
friendlier. You actually got to know who your neighbour was. Here Russ had no
idea who lived next door. The thought of coming home in the evenings and waving
to people he knew was appealing. His wounded pride could do with the change of
pace and he looked at the closing date for applications.

Shit, today. Doesn't give
me much time. I can always say no if I get it and don't like the terms and
conditions.

Foregoing dinner, Russ
filled in the application form. When he'd completed the process, he hit the
send button. Shrugging his shoulders, he stretched his hands over his head
until he loosened up, and rose from the chair.

He walked into the cold
state-of-the-art, stainless steel kitchen and made himself a sandwich, too
tired to worry about a decent dinner. After cleaning up, he fell into bed
exhausted, dreaming of a more peaceful life.

The following day he
was in the tea room having lunch when the Director of Medicine walked in.

"I hear you’re
thinking of moving to the country." He poured a coffee and waited,
standing near the door.

"I applied for
something last night. I haven't heard anything though."

"Well, I just got
off the phone to the employment agency and they seem pretty keen on you. I gave
them a glowing recommendation from us. Good luck with it." With a wink, he
was gone.

Russ smiled to himself.
The thought of moving on was beginning to take hold and grow. With any luck, he
would hear something soon. Then he could start packing his meagre possessions
and leave his messy, gut wrenching divorce behind him. Starting fresh, where he
was the new guy in town. It became more appealing the longer he thought about
it.

He was driving home
when his phone rang. Touching the blue-tooth button on the steering wheel, Russ
answered the call. "Hello, Dr. Williams speaking."

"Dr. Williams.
This is Neeta Prior from the employment agency. I wonder if we could schedule
an appointment for you to come in and discuss the position of In Charge Doctor
you applied for yesterday?"

"I'm sure that
would be fine. When were you thinking of?" He turned left and headed down
through the main street, careful to avoid the cyclists darting between the cars
on the busy city street.

"Tomorrow perhaps?
I've been asked to procure a doctor immediately and since all your referees highly
recommend you and your paperwork is in order, there is just the face-to-face
interview." Russ heard the shuffle of papers over the line.

"When would I have
to go to the hospital? Surely the board will want to check out my
credentials?" He turned onto the freeway and left the tall buildings
behind him as he drove home to the suburbs. Russ cringed at the sameness of the
huge houses lining the streets. Was it too much to wish he was passing the
quaint cottages in his home town instead of the stark concrete structured
apartments and mega mansions
.

"Actually, no,
they’ve left it in my hands. I do all the recruitment for the hospital and the
board trust my judgement. Doctor Williams, the position is desperately in need
of filling as soon as possible. Your current employer has said you can leave
when you are ready."

"My term here is
almost up. I have been a locum for the last six months, as you are probably
aware. I have no problems packing and moving as soon as possible Actually, I
would prefer it. What time tomorrow, Ms Prior?"

"I have a nine
a.m. available if that suits you?"

"Fine, give me the
address and I'll see you then." Russ listened as she gave the address and
thanked him for his time. The soft lilt of her voice made him smile and he
repeated her instructions before he hung up. Then he cursed himself for not
asking for the name of the town where the hospital was.

By the time he pulled
into his garage, the excitement was building. He picked up the mail on his way
up the stairs and threw it on the kitchen counter before he grabbed a cold
juice from the fridge. Russ stood in the kitchen and sorted through the
envelopes. A redirected letter from his family's solicitor caught his eye and
he put the orange juice down, a feeling of dread curling around his heart.

 

Dear Dr Williams
,

It is with a great deal
of sadness I inform you of the passing of your father. I have tried to contact
you via the phone number listed but was informed you no longer live at that address
and the person I spoke to refused to give me a phone number for you. If you
would be kind enough to make contact with me as soon as possible, we have
rather urgent matters to discuss regarding the will and the family property.

Sincerely,

Tory Daniels.

Russ's legs went weak
and he held onto the counter for support before making his way to the nearest
chair.

Shit, I never saw that
coming. The old bastard was bulletproof, indestructible. Cade, I wonder if he
knows? I’d better call him. How the heck am I supposed to get in touch with
Rooney when she has made it quite clear she wants nothing to do with the
family?

It was too late to call
Tory about the details now. Even though they had been best mates at school,
Russ had no idea where he was living since finishing law school. He had no idea
his father had become one of Tory's clients. It would have to wait until
morning when Russ could call him at the office listed on the letter.

By the time he got it
together enough to call his brother, it was dark. When the call went to
voicemail, he left a message. "Cade, it's Russ. We need to talk. Give me a
call as soon as you get this message regardless of the time. Ta."

Russ walked into the
bathroom, stripped off his shirt and threw it on the floor. He looked in the
mirror at the man standing there. His mother's colouring but his father’s
looks. She was as fair as his father was dark. Unruly blond hair curled around
Russ's ears. He’d given up worrying about it long ago, content to let it go
where it wanted to. His eyes were his best feature according to his ex-wife.

Tiredness mapped his
eyes with red, the vivid blue dulled to grey and the usual piercing intensity
replaced with sadness. He wished he had made up with his father before now.
Unlike his mother who’d supported her children, the old man hadn't. He was too
stubborn to admit they deserved to choose their own career path. Where she gave
them free rein, his father had expected them all to follow in his footsteps as
a cattle baron.

BOOK: Coming Home
12.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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