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'They've cancelled the surgery.' Ava said nothing for a moment, just stood quietly as her colleague Evie Lockheart leant against the corridor wall, her eyes closed as she struggled to keep in the tears, utterly defeated by what had happened. Ava had seen her walking dazed along the hospital corridor. Even if she didn't know Evie particularly well, she liked herthey had shared the odd conversation and everyone in the hospital knew that Finn Kennedy was having his surgery today.
Complicated surgery that was extremely risky. Ava already knew his operation had been called offnews spread fast around SHH and she couldn't even hazard how Finn must be feeling to have been told an hour before such major surgery that it wasn't going to go ahead.
'It hasn't been cancelled,' Ava said, her voice practical. 'It's been postponed.'
'Well, it might just as well have been cancelled,' Evie said. 'He just told them not to bother booking it again, then he told me to get the hell out.' Evie shook her head. 'I shouldn't be troubling you with this.' She was clearly in distress and not used to sharing her private life, and Ava was more than used to situations like that.
'Come back to my office,' Ava suggested. She could see a couple of nurses turning their heads as they walked past Evie and Finn were hot topics indeed. Finn was the chief of surgery and a formidable man at best, well known for his filthy attitude and ability to upset the staff, but no one could question his brilliance. His voice could be as cutting as the scalpel he so skilfully wielded, except lately he hadn't been operating and it had done nothing to improve his mood, and today poor Evie was wearing it. 'We can get a coffee there. I'm sure you might like a bit of privacy now.'
She walked Evie back along the corridor and to the left and then up in the lifts they went without a word. She walked along the corridor, nodded good morning to Donald, one of the therapists, and then through to her own centre and shook her head when Ginny told her she had a message from the spinal unit.
'I'll call back later,' Ava said. 'I'm not to be disturbed.'
She and Evie entered her officewell, it was more a room. Yes, she had a desk, though it was terribly messy, but the room had a couple of couches and a coffee table, and a small kitchenette where Ava would make her clients a drink, or herself one, if they needed a moment to pause, and she gave Evie that moment now as she went over to make them a drink.
'Finn would never forgive me, you know ' Evie gave a pale smile as she sat down on one of the comfortable couches 'If he knew I was stepping into a sex therapist's office to talk about him.'
'I'd be patronising you if I laughed.' Ava turned around and smiled. 'I hear the same thing I don't know how many times a day. She put on a gruff male voice. '"Well, I never thought I'd find myself here. I really don't need to be here '" Ava rolled her eyes and poured coffee, taking a little longer than perhaps she needed to, to give Evie a chance to collect herself.
'Well.' Evie gave a wry laugh. 'At least we know that's one type of therapy that Finn doesn't need.'
Ava chose not to correct herFinn had been using women as sticky plasters for a very long while, there was certainly something going on in that brilliant head of his. Still, that wasn't what Evie needed to hear today. Finn's and her on-again, off-again relationship was clearly taking its toll on her.
'What a view ' Evie noticed her surroundings for the first time. 'Maybe I could ask them to consider moving Emergency up here.'
'The paramedics would never forgive you,' Ava said. 'Do you want me to leave you?' she offered, handing Evie a steaming mug of coffeeAva wasn't a nosy person at all and she certainly never gossiped. It was why, perhaps, she often found herself in situations such as this one. 'The cleaners have already been in.' She glanced at the desk, wished those blasted flowers were gone, but apart from a couple of wilting roses that the cleaner had removed, they were still there and still taunting her. 'I haven't got any patients for another hour, so you won't be disturbed.'
'No.' Evie shook her head. 'You don't have to go. It's actually nice to talk, just to be up here and away from the prying eyes.'
'It must be an extra pressure on Finn,' Ava mused. 'Having to have his operation where he's the chief of surgery. Still, there's no better place.' SHH was the best hospital for this sort of procedure, there was no question that it might be done elsewhere. It was experimental and even with the best surgery, the best equipment, there were no guarantees that Finn's ability to operate again could be saved. Indeed, there was a good chance that he would be left a quadriplegic.
Ava knew that, not because of the gossip that was flying around the hospital but because, unbeknown to Evie, Finn had actually been in for mandatory counselling prior to surgery. The team had discussed who should see him and Ava had immediately declined. She didn't know Finn particularly well, but they lived in the same apartment block, Kirribilli Viewshis penthouse apartment was directly above hersand though they barely greeted each other if they met on the stairs or in the lift, still, it could surely only make things more awkward for Finn.
He'd seen Donald instead.
And even though Donald was terribly experiencedhe did both family counselling and sexual dysfunction and his patients adored himAva wondered if his brusque approach would mesh with Finn in such a delicate matter.
Ava dealt with spinal patients a lot. Her work gave her much pleasure, seeing relationships saved, helping people to learn that there could be life, a satisfying sex life even, after such catastrophic events. Her work was, in fact, moving more towards trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder patients, it was how she and Evie had first started talking. Evie worked in Accident and Emergency and had dropped by for a chat about a 'patient'. Ava was sure, quite sure, that the person they had been discussing was Finn. Finn's brother had been a soldier like Finn. His brother had died in Finn's arms and shrapnel from the bomb that had killed his brother was still lodged in Finn's neck, and it was that that was causing his health issues.
Sometimes Ava wondered if Finn had ever heard the rows between her and James, not that there had been many, really, before he'd gone away to Brisbane. They had been so deep into injury time by then that she and James hadn't talked much at all, but Finn had never intruded, there had been no chatting on the stairs or anything, just a very occasional 'Good morning'. And not once had Finn questioned her about her red, swollen eyes, neither had he done the neighbourly thing and popped around to see if she was okay when she'd lost the last baby. Ava cringed at the memoryFinn had been in the lift that daythe cramping had started on her way home and she had just wanted to get into her apartment, to call her doctor, to lie down, but there had been this awful sudden gush and then a crippling, bend-over pain and, terribly practical, Finn had helped her to her door, had taken her inside and had then called James. They'd never discussed it furtherinstead it had been a brief nod in passing and Ava had been grateful for that. Grateful now that Finn never stopped to ask when James was returning, or how she was getting on.
No, they just shared the same brief nod and greeting.
Grief recognising grief perhaps.
'I can't believe we're going to have to go through all this again.' Evie broke into her thoughts. 'I really don't think he'll consent to surgery a second time.'
'Why did they cancel the operation?' Ava asked. 'I thought they had everyone on board, it's been planned for weeks.'
'This piece of equipment they need,' Evie explained, 'they're having trouble calibrating it. There's a technician coming over from America so it looks like it will be another week before the surgery can go ahead. They just can't risk even a single mistake.'
'What did he say when they told him?'
'Not mucha few choice words and then he took out his drip, put on his suit, told me where to go, and not very nicely either, and now he's back at workhe's doing a ward round as we speak, no doubt chewing out everybody in his path. Ava ' Evie's eyes were anguished ' the thing is, with Finn and I, I know it's very on-and-off, I know how appalling he can be, but in the last few days we've been close. Last night we ' She let out a startled half-laugh. 'I can't believe I'm discussing this.'
'You won't make me blush,' Ava said.
'We had a really nice night.' Evie was awkward. 'I mean, it was really intimate, amazing. It wasn't just sex, it was so tender, we were so close.' Ava said nothing, reminded herself she was thinking as a friend, not a therapist, and she let Evie continue. 'And now, just like that, he's told me to get out, that he doesn't want me around.'
'Give him some time,' Ava said. 'He would have been building himself up for this surgery, and to have it cancelled at the last minute'
'But cancellations happen all the time and you don't see couples breaking up over it,' Evie interrupted. 'He said that now he knows a bit how the patients feel when we cancel them at the last minute.'
'Ooh, are we going to get a new, compassionate Finn?' Ava was pleased to see Evie smile. A cheerful person, Ava found that a little dose of humour helped in most situations.
Most, not all.
'Finn compassionate?' Evie rolled her eyes, and then sat quietly as she finished her drink. Ava sat in silence too, a comfortable silence that was perhaps needed by Evie before she headed back out there, but after a moment or two in their own worlds it was time to resume appearances, to play their parts. Evie drained her drink and stood. 'Thanks so much, Ava.'
'Any time,' Ava said.
'Oh.' Evie suddenly remembered. 'That gorgeous husband of yours comes back today, doesn't he?'
'This morning.' Ava nodded. 'He's heading straight in to work. That's James.'
'Well, you can see him tonight,' Evie said. 'He's the luckiest guy in the world, isn't he? Married to a sex therapist '
Ava grinned. 'Again, I'd be patronising you if I laughed, if you had any idea of the amount of times I hear that each day '
She was sick of hearing it.
So too must James be.
The assumption that they must have most amazing sex life and wonderful relationship was a pressure in itself. As if people thought her job followed her home, as if the smiling, cheerful, practical Ava, who was open to discuss everything, who managed to deal with the most sensitive subjects with barely a blink, translated to the Ava at home.
Finn would never say such a thing, Ava thought as she saw Evie out.
Or maybe he would, she musednervous, embarrassed, new to a wheelchair, maybe Finn would crack the same old jokes if she offered her help.
She stood alone in her office and looked out the window at the glittering view and wondered if she could stand to leave it, not so much the view but her work here. She didn't want to start over at another hospital or open a private practice. Because SHH was so cutting-edge she got the patients in her office that she was most interested in helping. It was no doubt the same reason James would remain here, but how hard would it be to work in the same hospital, to see your ex-husband most days?
There, she'd said it and she didn't like how it sounded.
More than that, she didn't want to be James's ex-wife.