by Karen Gilleland © 2014
You may wish to read #18, “Cornwall, Part 1,” prior to reading this story.
“Martin,” she breathed, but he turned and walked away.
Saturday and Sunday nights had passed since Martin left. Louisa heard the lock turn in the front door, and she ran downstairs. Her shoulders sagged when she saw only Morwenna.
“Morning, Louisa,” said the girl, plopping her bag on the desk.
“Morwenna, would you please cancel Martin’s appointments today?” At Morwenna’s raised eyebrows, Louisa added, “Something unexpected’s come up.”
“Sure. Do you know when he’ll be back?”
“No,” she said and went upstairs.
Louisa looked in the mirror and grimaced at her red-rimmed eyes. She splashed cold water on her face and dressed James. The baby squirmed in her arms, and she caressed him. “I know, James. We both miss Daddy, but we’ll have to suck it up and get on with the day.”
After applying makeup, she slipped on her turquoise skirt and sweater, brushed her hair, went downstairs and fixed breakfast for James.
She was putting James into the playpen when Cormoran Crocker arrived in reception. Louisa heard his voice and called, “Hello, Cormoran, cup of coffee?”
“I have good news, Louisa,” he said, coming into the kitchen. “Colan Rundle, who owns the Three Fishes pub south of St. Ives, said he’d be proud to teach Cornish at the school.”
“Good,” she said, handing Cormoran a cup of coffee.
“Colan will come to school today to talk with you.”
She didn’t smile, but said, “Thanks.”
“Something wrong, Louisa?”
“No, I look forward to meeting Mr. Rundle.” She felt grateful that Cormoran let it go, finished his coffee, and left.
Louisa dropped James at Mrs. Kent’s for babysitting and walked to school. Her mood lightened as she greeted the children, but darkened as the day plodded on.
At three o’clock, a short, stocky man, with close-cropped, white hair and a neat mustache rapped on her door and stepped jauntily into the office.
“Myttin Da, Head Mistress. Colan Rundle reporting for duty,” he said with a grin and a salute. “When can I start?”
Cheered by the man’s good humor, Louisa smiled and said, “Thank you, Mr. Rundle. There are forms and legal requirements, but I think you can start right after term break. It’s good of you to help.”
“Can’t complain about kids not learning Cornish if nobody’s willing to teach them,” he said. “I guess your husband’s too busy with surgery to teach.”
“Martin? Why do you say that?”
“Right handy with Cornish is the ‘Doc.’”
Louisa felt short of breath, but asked, “When did you see Martin?”
“Last night. He comes into my pub looking a bit shifty. The mates at the bar pass the word, ‘Londoner alert,’ so’s we all switched to Cornish. Don’t like discussing home-rule with strangers about.” Mr. Rundle started coughing.
“Sorry,” he said and continued, “The pub was buzzing with Cornish, and Jim Boden walks in, all white and shaky. We’re staring at Jim, when up steps your husband. ‘Methack o ve,’ he says – that means ‘I’m a doctor.’”
She nodded but couldn’t speak.
“‘What’s the matter?’ he shouts, all in Cornish, mind. Well, we takes a hard look at this fellow, unshaven, wrinkled suit, red eyes, and we shakes our heads, thinking he must be three sheets to the wind.”
Colan’s eyes twinkled at the memory. “Jim just stared at him. Suddenly, it was like the blitzkrieg. The stranger pushes the mates aside, walks straight to Jim and shakes his shoulders hard. ‘Tell me what’s wrong,’ he orders. Well, Jim gathers his wits, grabs the fellow by the elbow and takes him to his place.”
“What happened?” Louisa managed.
“Mary’s baby was coming out wrong, feet first. Mary wasn’t going to make it. The ‘Doc’ called for an ambulance and said he would try to turn the baby. He sets to work, and Mary delivers a feisty little girl, all thanks to the ‘Doc.’”
She smiled at Mr. Rundle, but her eyes were blurry.
“He never said his name, but Jim heard him tell the paramedics he was the GP in Portwenn. We used to laugh at tales about your doctor here,” said Colan, and his voice grew serious. “We don’t laugh any more.”
“Thank you, Mr. Rundle,” Louisa sighed, and the man left the office.
She picked up James at the sitter’s and pushed the stroller up the hill, feeling as though she were slogging through molasses. She took the baby into the kitchen and fixed him creamed corn and rice. After dinner, she read Margaret Wise Brown’s gentle story, Goodnight Moon, and put James to bed.
At four in the morning, Louisa, still dressed in her work clothes, was sitting at the kitchen table, in the dark, hands around a cold cup of tea, when the door opened quietly.
“Martin,” she whispered.
He closed the door and said, “Louisa?”
Frosty silence filled the room. She said, “I’m so terribly sorry, Martin.”
She heard him sigh, but he didn’t speak.
“You’re not able to forgive me, are you?” Louisa hugged herself to keep from shaking.
Martin walked to the table, pulled a chair beside her and said, “I can forgive you, but I can’t get rid of the image. I haven’t slept because every time I close my eyes, I see your arms around that twit.”
“I’ve not slept either. I’m haunted by the image of your pale face in the moonlight.” Louisa shuddered. “I can’t offer any excuse,” she said and paused, “but I will try to explain.”
She took a moment to gather her thoughts. “After you left, Charles and I drank wine and reminisced about our college days and the fun we’d had. When we were saying good-bye and he kissed me, I felt twenty years old again, and back in the moment. It was a human response, but I didn’t feel anything for Charles as a person. Not what I feel for you.”
She added softly, “It’s been a long time since I’d been kissed that passionately.”
Martin sucked in a breath. “I see.”
“Can we get past this, do you think?”
He reached out, put his hands over hers. Then he pressed her hands against his lips. His voice cracked slightly as he said, “I can’t imagine living without you.”
Louisa began sobbing, and her whole body trembled. He stood up and gathered her into his arms.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” he said until she stopped shaking and sank back down onto the chair. He sat beside her.
Letting out a deep breath, Louisa said, “I was worried you’d do something foolish, so I called Charles. A woman answered. His wife. I explained why I was calling.” Louisa paused. “I think when Charles arrived, he found out the meaning of ‘Hell hath no fury.’”
“I’m feeling better already,” he said, wrapping an arm around her shoulder.
Louisa let herself smile. Then she asked, “Where did you go? When you didn’t come back for surgery this morning, I feared the worst.”
He twisted in the chair. “I just drove. No idea where I was going. I found myself in Scotland this morning.”
She closed her eyes, and they sat in silence for a long moment.
Finally she said, “I heard about your exploits at the pub.”
Martin tilted his head and shrugged.
“How is it that you speak Cornish?”
He stretched and leaned back in the chair. “I taught myself Cornish when I came to Portwenn. I didn’t have much else to do in the evenings. I studied what I could find in writing and listened to tapes. I like to think I didn’t need Cornish to figure out that a man in shock required medical help.”
“You continually amaze me, Martin,” she said, her eyes bright with tears. She turned toward the window and was startled to see the sky had turned a pale blue.
Looking over at Martin, she saw his face clearly for the first time. She rubbed the back of her hand against the stubble on his chin. “You look hungry. I’ll fix something to eat.”
Louisa clicked on the coffeemaker, cracked eggs into a skillet and toasted half-a-dozen slices of bread. She and Martin sat down and devoured their first real meal in days. When finished, she set the dishes on the sink board.
She felt her heart quicken when Martin touched her shoulders, turned her around to face him and kissed her passionately. Louisa caught her breath, took his face in both hands and kissed his lips, letting go of the sadness bottled up inside her the past two nights.
As they stood in a close embrace, the kitchen door opened, and Bert Large’s voice shattered the moment. “Sorry to interrupt you two love birds—“
“Go away, Bert,” said Martin and motioned the man with his hand.
“Can’t, ‘Doc.’ I cut my hand, and it’s bleeding pretty bad.”
Martin let out a sigh and said, “Go into the surgery.”
James’ voice gurgled over the monitor, and he called to Bert, “I’ll be with you in a minute. I have something to do first.”
“Take your time,” the man replied, “Don’t mind me. I’m only bleeding to death.”
Martin ran upstairs, Louisa following. He picked up James. The baby’s arms flailed frantically. Then he patted Martin’s scratchy face, laughing.
Holding the baby close, he said, “Not to worry, James. I’ll be shaving soon.” He set James back into the crib and said, “I have to take care of Bert.”
Louisa caught her husband’s arm. “Wait,” she said and brought his face close to hers. “Thank you for giving me new images to see when I close my eyes.”
Martin kissed her forehead and went downstairs. She picked up the baby and followed.
Morwenna was switching on the computer. “Morning, ‘Doc,” she said. “I’ve canceled your morning appointments, but you have a full schedule this afternoon.”
He grunted, and Morwenna said, “Thumbs up on the new look, ‘Doc.’ You’ve got the Brad Pitt thing going on.”
“Bert Large is here with a cut hand. Stop gawking and bring in his file,” Martin said sharply.
Glancing at Louisa, Morwenna muttered, “And he’s back.”
– THE END –
“Doc Martin” is owned by Buffalo Pictures.
To read all articles and FanFiction, go to the front page of karengilleland.wordpress.com