The lift pinged again. More movement. Urgent whispers crossing back and forth across her that Isla couldn’t quite make out. Dilation. Blood pressure. Monitors. C-sections. She tried to cry out that no, she wanted to do this naturally. In truth? She’d do anything to make sure her babies came out healthy. It wasn’t as if there’d be anyone to hide the scar from.
She chanced opening her eyes for a teensy glimpse of Zach.
He was a picture of pure concentration. More perfect than she’d remembered. Every part of her that wasn’t glad to be lying down itched to crawl into his arms and have him rock the pain away. He’d lost some of the solid bulk he’d carried when she’d met him last. As if he’d been sick. Gone through some sort of bereavement. Or maybe he’d just reinvented himself. Started over with someone new, their brief affair but a distant, faded memory.
This was meant to have been perfect. The moment she’d dreamt of as a girl. Having a child of her own. Children of her own. A family. To care for and protect and love with all of her heart to make up for all of the loneliness and pain she’d known through those dark, isolated years in the box room at her couldn’t-care-less grandparents’.
‘Isla, love? We’re about to enter the theatre, all right? You need to make a decision about who you’d like with you.’
Part of her wanted to call for her mother. The mother she’d never known. The other part wanted to reach out and feel her small hands be enveloped by the one man in the world who had made her feel safe. Loved.
More footsteps. More jostling for pole position round the gurney. She squeezed her eyes even tighter.
‘Woo! It’s all hands on deck here, isn’t it? Need another set of hands?’
An Australian voice. The new trainee neurosurgeon…what was her name…c’mon, c’mon…think!
Isla heard Alistair’s smooth-as-silk voice introducing Claire—Claire!—to the group. A trainee in from down under. He asked her to find some stirrups but didn’t sound too friendly about it.
Weird. He always sounded great with the patients whenever they’d worked together. Whatever. She had babies to deliver. Sorting out the hospital’s ever-changing social dynamics would have to wait.
The next shot of pain to hit her was like being gripped in a vice and then having her insides magnetically pulled towards her toes. The sensations radiated from the centre of her back, out and around the arc of her belly, which tightened hard as a rock. Everything shifted southward.
Isla finally managed to open her eyes, take in the sea of expectant faces. Some of them new. All of them hopeful. One of them too heartbreaking to tear her eyes away from. And then it hit her. She knew why he was staying:
He wanted to take her babies away.
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