A Time for Us - By Amy Knupp Page 0,1
was dealing with, living in a home that was so familiar and yet lacking such a key part of her family, went far beyond the awkwardness of staying at his parents’ home as an adult. In fact, if he were honest, it was probably pretty damn similar to the soul-deep melancholy that had come over him the one time since Noelle’s death that he’d dared to set foot in the condo he’d bought to share with her.
There was an uncomfortable lull between them. He wanted to say something, to reach out to her, to prolong the moment, but no words came. It wasn’t the time or place for a conversation of any substance, anyway. They were connected by tragedy and not much else, but he suddenly had the urge to talk about Noelle like he hadn’t since her death. With someone who’d known her as well as he had. Better, even.
Their silence dragged on, and the surrounding din of busy people became noticeable. Now that he was close to her, he could see the shadows under her eyes. Like Noelle, she was barely over five feet tall—she didn’t seem big enough to handle this position she’d taken on as an E.R. doctor. Until he noticed the determined set of her jaw. At that moment, he was reminded of Noelle’s belief in this woman, and he knew she’d do just fine with her new career. More than just fine.
“Will I see you at the meeting tomorrow night?” he asked, searching for some kind of common ground.
“Planning meeting for the benefit. Maybe your mom hasn’t had time to tell you what she’s doing yet.”
“Ah,” Rachel said, fidgeting with her pen. “The asthma benefit. I...I can’t give that kind of time commitment right now, what with the new job and everything....”
The flash of sadness in her eyes was so fleeting that Cale nearly missed it, and then she attempted to cover it up with another forced, wide grin.
He nodded as if he understood, though he didn’t. Sure, finally becoming a full-fledged doctor after all her years of schooling and residencies and who knew what else was a big deal. Huge. But to use that as an excuse to skip out on organizing the fundraiser that would memorialize her twin sister? He wondered if there was more to that than just being busy and adjusting to her career. Noelle had told him repeatedly that Rachel thrived on stress and being over-scheduled, jokingly referring to her as her Wonder Twin.
Rafe’s voice carried from the exam room, pulling Cale back to his task. “Guess I better fill out these forms.”
She nodded briskly. “I need to check on patients myself.”
“It’s good to see you, Rachel,” he said without even considering her title this time.
“You, too.” She again flashed a smile that didn’t quite ring true and then hurried off down the hallway...away from the exam rooms where her patients were likely waiting for her. On her way, she passed several of her colleagues and other hospital workers, and it struck him: not one of them acknowledged Rachel with a smile or a hello. She may have grown up on the island, but it appeared that she’d been away long enough to be the new girl. Between that and her sister’s death, she seemed to be truly forging her way alone. Something in him stirred, most likely that part that couldn’t keep from intervening when someone was having a hard time.
* * *
RACHEL BARELY GOT the restroom door closed before she puked her guts out into the toilet.
Cale would be married by now. Happily married to my sister. Maybe even with a kid on the way.
And yet she had the nerve to think how good-looking he was. Only for a split second, involuntarily, but still.
Sweat dotted her forehead, and she sank to the cold, sterile floor in front of the toilet. Her head fell back against the tiled wall as her eyes flickered shut.
Coming back to San Amaro Island was turning out to be torture, in multiple ways.
The grant requiring her to work at Southeast Texas General Hospital, the mainland hospital just across the bridge from San Amaro, for three years after finishing her education had seemed like such a good idea at the time. Though her mom, a cardiologist, made good money and had paid for undergrad, she’d insisted that both Rachel and her older brother, Sawyer, pay their own way through med school. Knowing it would take years to pay off her debt even with the