Sadie was aware of a kerfuffle in the department, with a voice getting louder and more panicky. 'But I need to see Ben!' It sounded as if whoever was on triage could do with support.
'Please excuse me a second,' she said to the woman who'd come in with a suspected Colles fracture, and headed out into the department.
'Can I help?' she asked.
'I need to see Ben. Please!' The middle-aged woman standing in the department twisted her hands together.
She looked a lot like Ben, and Sadie realised this must be Jilly, Ben's mother. Ben had mentioned her bipolar disorder; clearly Jilly was having an episode.
'Mrs Peterson, my name's Sadie and I trained with Ben back in London,' Sadie said. 'Ben's helping a patient, but you can come and sit with me and wait for him, if you like.'
'I…' Jilly bit her lip. 'I need to see Ben.'
'You can see him soon,' Sadie promised. She smiled at the young nurse who was on triage. 'Donna, could you get someone to take over from me until Ben's free, and tell Ben that Mrs Peterson will be in the office with me?'
'Sure,' Donna said, looking grateful.
'Let's get a drink on the way to the office,' Sadie said. Once she'd sorted out tea and biscuits from the vending machine for them, she took Jilly into the office.
'I know Ben's busy,' Jilly said. 'He'll be so angry with me.'
'He'll understand,' Sadie reassured her. 'Now, I'm new to Cornwall. Tell me all about Pethkelly.'
She kept Jilly talking until Ben came into the office, looking frazzled. 'Mum.' He greeted Jilly with a hug. 'Are you all right?'
'I had a bad morning,' Jilly admitted. 'But Sadie's been so kind to me.'
'Let's get you home,' Ben said. He mouthed, 'Thank you,' to Sadie. 'But I'll have to come back to the hospital again, Mum.'
'I'm sorry.' A tear rolled down Jilly's cheek. 'I didn't know what else to do.'
'Let's go home, Mum,' Ben said. 'We can look at your board on the kitchen wall and see what you need to do when you're worrying.' He shepherded her out of the office, and Sadie went back to her patients. Though there was one bit of information Jilly had told her that she thought Ben needed to know, so she texted it to him.
Later that evening, Sadie's doorbell buzzed. She wasn't expecting anyone, but went over to the intercom. 'Hello?'
'Sadie, it's me.' She recognised Ben's voice instantly. 'Mum's asleep and our neighbour's keeping an eye on her for me. Can I come up?'
'Sure. I'll buzz you in.'
She met him at her front door, and he handed her a huge bunch of flowers. 'Thanks for what you did this morning. I really appreciate it.'
'You really didn't need to bring me flowers,' she said. 'Of course I'd help. But thank you. They're lovely.' And he still looked worried, she thought. 'How's your mum?'
'A lot calmer.' He sighed. 'She hasn't had an episode like that in a while. And thank you for your text. How did you find out that Mum had stopped taking her tablets?'
'I asked her—gently—and she told me. I've seen it a few times in London,' she said. 'When people feel well and they think they don't need their meds any more.'
'When ironically it's the meds that are making them well.' He raked a hand through his hair. 'I don't understand how. I was there when she took them.'
'She kept them under her tongue,' Sadie said.
'I ought to have known better, both as a doctor and as her son,' Ben said wryly.
'What happens now?' Sadie asked.
'I talked to her care team. They're going to give her talking treatment and have her attend therapy classes until she's settled again.' He shrugged. 'Now you see why I left London.'
'I would've done the same,' she said. He must've been worried sick. 'Ben, I know you need to get back to your mum, but do you have maybe ten minutes to sit on the balcony with a cold drink?'
'That'd be really lovely,' he said.
'Go and sit down.'
When she joined him with two glasses of iced water, he smiled at her. 'Thanks. And thanks for understanding.'
'Of course I do.' Though he'd told her that his ex hadn't been able to cope with the situation and they'd split up. She looked at him. 'Right now I think you could do with a hug.'
'I could,' he admitted.
The second she wrapped her arms round him, she knew it was a mistake. This was supposed to be a gesture of friendship. Of solidarity. Kindness, maybe.
And all she could think of was how he felt in her arms. The kiss they'd shared on the beach in the moonlight.
When she pulled back slightly, she was pretty sure that he was thinking about the same thing—because he drew her back into his arms and kissed the corner of her mouth. Once, twice…
Then he laid his palm against her cheek. 'What are we going to do about this, Sadie? Intellectually, I know it's not fair of me to get involved with you. My life's complicated and you're here temporarily. But…' He shook his head. 'Seeing you again takes me back to our student days. I was going to ask you out at that New Year's Eve ball—but Brad beat me to it.'
Just what she'd always wondered, and now she knew.
How different life might've been if she'd dated Ben instead of Brad.
Yes, Ben's life was complicated. Yes, she was here temporarily. But… 'When you kissed me on the beach, I liked it,' she admitted. 'And I liked you kissing me just now. Maybe we're overthinking this, putting up barriers that don't actually need to be there.'
His eyes widened. 'Are you suggesting…?'
'Forgetting all the complications and seeing where this takes us? Yes.' She snuggled in closer. 'That New Year's Eve, I thought you were going to ask me out. But then Brad came over and asked if you'd if he could cut in, and you backed off. I thought you'd changed your mind about me.'
'I hadn't—and I regretted letting him sweep you off your feet,' he admitted. 'But how could a nerdy student like me compete with someone like Brad?'
'I liked you then,' she said. 'And I like the man you've become.'
'I like the woman you've become, too,' he said, and stole a kiss. 'So, yes. If you're sure. I'd love to see where this takes us.'
'Good. Let's synchronise our off-duty.'
'Sounds like a plan.' He smiled. 'And I can show you my favourite bits of Cornwall.'
'I'd really like that.' She stroked the hair back from his eyes. 'Maybe your mum can come out with us sometimes, so she doesn't worry and you don't feel guilty about seeing me when you feel you ought to be supporting her.'
'Not many women would be that understanding,' Ben said. 'Thank you.'
She smiled. 'Let's grab our diaries. And, when you said about showing me your favourite bits of Cornwall, I do hope that includes a proper cream tea.'
'I have lots of plans,' he said. 'Swimming in deserted coves, walking in rose gardens, picnics on the beach—and cream teas.'
She grinned. 'It'll be the perfect summer.'
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