Authors: Lucy Clark
Concern flooded through Sean as he watched her move. Her long hair swished down her back as she moved over to the white board and began breaking down Tessa’s symptoms. The fact that Jane had also managed to prise a confession out of Tessa only served to corroborate the signs and symptoms.
‘So what do we do?’ Anthea asked. ‘How can we help poor little Tessa?’
‘Excellent question,’ Jane replied, and for the first time since they’d entered the meeting she smiled. The action lit up her features and Sean was once more struck by her inner beauty. Did she have any idea just how beautiful she was?
For the rest of the meeting they formulated a plan of action to help Tessa, as well as getting some help for the older sibling. Had the parents noticed anything? Were they also afraid of their oldest daughter, unable to impose any parental control on her? It did happen. Jane had seen it with her own parents. Oftentimes they’d found it much easier to placate Daina than stand their ground. She hoped that with this early intervention for Tessa the situation would be defined and coping strategies put in place for all concerned.
After the meeting Jane couldn’t believe how drained she felt and so she slipped away quietly, not bothering to say goodbye to anyone. Back in the residential wing, she put her phone and hospital lanyard onto the table beside the bed and kicked off her shoes. She lay down on the bed and allowed the cool air-conditioning to soothe her.
No sooner had she closed her eyes than her phone rang. ‘Not happening,’ she moaned, as she reached out to pick up her cell and answer it. ‘Dr Diamond,’ she said, trying to hide the tiredness in her voice.
‘Jane? Where are you?’
‘Sean? I’m in my room. In the res wing.’
‘Of course I’m OK. Why wouldn’t I be?’
‘Well, you just disappeared.’ There was a hint of annoyance as well as relief in his tone. ‘I would have walked you over to the res wing. Although it’s in hospital grounds, that doesn’t mean it’s one hundred per cent safe. I was worried.’
‘You were worried?’ Her eyebrows hit her hairline.
‘Of course I was.’
‘About me?’ she asked, disbelief lacing her words.
‘Look, Jane. I know you haven’t had a normal upbringing so this may come as a shock to you, but families look after each other, care for each other. I may have driven my twin sisters crazy with my over-protective big-brother routine while we were growing up but they also knew it was only because I cared.’
‘You...care?’ Her words were hesitant.
‘About you? Yes. You’re Spencer’s aunty. So are my sisters and, as such, you deserve the same consideration as them.’
Jane tried to process his words, still unsure what this ‘consideration’ might entail. Did that mean Sean saw her in the role of a surrogate sister? Had she misinterpreted those long, lingering looks they’d shared?
‘Oh. Well, I apologise for not saying goodbye. I was tired and I’m not really used to having people...care about me in that way. You know, concerned for my safety and all that.’
‘Well, you’d better start getting used to it. Family is family and I’m very protective of mine.’
‘As you should be.’
‘That now includes you, Jane.’
‘Yes!’ The word was filled with exasperation and Jane couldn’t help but smile. Sean cared about her? He considered her as part of his family, even though she hadn’t even met Spencer yet? The sensation of being so accepted overwhelmed her and she pursed her lips together in an effort to stop the tears of happiness she could feel welling up inside her. Sean cared.
‘I’ve never had anyone, protective or otherwise, really care, so you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t follow protocol.’
‘That’s all right,’ he said, his tone more calm. Sean leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk. ‘I’ll guide you through any rocky waters.’ He smiled as he spoke. Jane had such a soothing voice, sweet, calm and controlled. He’d seen those gorgeous green eyes of hers flashing with anger or glowing with complete happiness, but how would she look, how would she sound when she was filled with desire?
He closed his eyes on the thought and immediately pushed it away. He shouldn’t be thinking about her in such a way and yet he didn’t seem able to stop himself. All those years ago when he’d met Daina, things had moved incredibly fast and he’d been married before he’d known which way was up. He knew now that that had just been Daina’s style, but with Jane he had the sense that a slowly-slowly approach would no doubt benefit both of them.
He’d only started to really get to know her a few days ago but what he was seeing, the inner character she was revealing, was...breathtaking. He was beginning to realise just how much she’d missed out on, not only during her childhood but also as an adult. She’d been so incredibly lonely that she’d risked moving to Adelaide. She’d put her heart on the line, almost begging him to allow her access to Spencer. How could any man not be affected by her genuine heart? How could he not want to wrap his arms about her and protect her from any future hurts?
‘Any big dinner plans for tonight?’ he found himself asking, imagining arriving at her door with take-out, the two of them eating and chatting amicably together in her small, intimate room.
‘Toast and jam.’ Her answer was accompanied by a big yawn and the image in Sean’s head evaporated. She was tired, exhausted.
‘Do you have trouble sleeping?’
‘Sometimes. It’s another reason why I’m more than happy to stay here, close to the hospital. If I can’t sleep, at least I can catch up on some work or check on my patients.’
‘Or sing to them.’
‘Or that.’ She chuckled.
‘You have a lovely voice. Soothing. Relaxing.’
‘Well, any time you’re stressed, give me a call and I’ll sing you a lullaby.’
‘I’m stressed right now.’ The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. Why had he said that? To hear Jane’s pretty singing voice coming down the line would only serve to intensify the emotions he was attempting to keep under control. Before he could say anything else, Jane immediately began to sing.
Her lilting voice surrounded him and he leaned back further in his chair, letting the lyrics and melody blend together. He could feel the tensions of his day begin to disappear, his breathing deepening as he completely filled his lungs with oxygen before inhaling slowly.
At the end of the first verse and chorus, Jane stopped to yawn and he couldn’t help but laugh. ‘You’re de-stressing yourself as well.’
‘I think you might be right.’ She yawned again. ‘I think I’d best say goodnight before I fall asleep with the phone glued to my ear.’
‘Wise move.’ He chuckled. ‘Goodnight, Jane. Sleep sweet,’ he murmured, before disconnecting the call,
before he gave in to the urge to rush to the res wing and haul her into his arms. How could one short song make him feel as though he’d just found the most perfect place to call home? He didn’t need any new complications in his life, especially as he’d worked hard since Spencer’s birth to maintain a certain level of detachment from romantic relationships. He’d tried dating once or twice but with the distrust Daina’s antics had instilled deep within him he had become naturally suspicious of the most innocent actions.
So why didn’t he feel that way with Jane? How could he be absolutely certain she was as genuine as she appeared? He frowned, not wanting to listen to the doubting voice. ‘Meeting Spencer will be the true test,’ he said, as he took his feet off the desk and stood. Spencer had a good intuitive sense about him, most children did because they weren’t as fooled by deception as adults could be.
As he collected the papers he needed to work on and locked up his office, Sean found himself wishing it was Friday afternoon already. Seeing Jane face to face with his son would help give him the reassurance he was looking for.
* * *
After clinic on Friday afternoon, Jane couldn’t believe how jittery she felt.
‘I’m as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs,’ she told Sean, as she finished writing up the last set of casenotes.
‘You’ll do fine.’ He checked his watch. ‘We have a good half an hour before we need to pick Spencer up.’
‘Really?’ She checked the time on her cellphone. ‘We finished clinic on time? How miraculous.’ Sean chuckled at her words and she felt a wash of tingles spread down her spine at the sound. She’d made him laugh and the thought filled her with a bit more confidence about the important meeting awaiting her.
‘Do you think I have time to change?’ She stood. ‘If you bring your car around to the res wing car park, I could meet you there.’
‘Sure, but for the record you look lovely just as you are.’
Jane stared down at her long, ankle-length skirt, flat shoes and baggy shirt, her hair pulled out of the way in a loopy sort of ponytail. ‘I do?’
‘Yes.’ His smile was genuine as he realised she truly had no idea just how lovely she was. He wanted to ask her if she wore the baggy clothes because she was self-conscious about her body. He wanted to know if she’d had an eating disorder as a child. She didn’t seem to be suffering from it now but what would he know? Apart from having lunch with her the other day, he hadn’t seen her eat much. He brushed the thoughts aside for now. ‘OK, you head over to the res wing and I’ll meet you there.’
It didn’t take him long to move his car from one car park to the next and he headed inside the residential wing’s lobby, sitting down in the cool air-conditioning and taking the opportunity to read the latest hospital news circular. No sooner had he started reading the lead article than he realised Jane was standing in front of him. He put the circular down and slowly stood up, his gaze travelling over the woman before him.
Dressed in jeans, flat shoes and a long-sleeved T-shirt that was still a little big for her, there was no doubting that she had a beautiful feminine shape. Add to that the fact that she’d plaited her long luscious locks into pigtails, making her look more like the seventeen-year-old he remembered, and Sean’s previous warnings to himself to take things slowly seemed to disappear.
When she shoved her glasses onto her nose, a move he was coming to realise indicated she was nervous, he belatedly realised he’d been staring at her.
‘Er...sorry.’ Sean cleared his throat and thrust his hands into his pockets.
‘Is this OK? Not too casual? I wasn’t sure how formal or informal I should be.’
Sean smiled. ‘Just be yourself and, if I might say so, you look lovely.’
She lowered her head again but not before he’d seen the disbelief reflected in her eyes. ‘How can you not know how beautiful you are?’ he asked softly, stepping a little closer to her so others in the lobby didn’t overhear what he was saying. ‘Your hair is...glorious. When it’s loose, I want to touch it, to watch as the silky strands slide through my fingers. And your eyes...’ He exhaled slowly as he looked deeply into her eyes. ‘So sad and intense. A man could lose himself in your eyes.’
‘Uh...’ Jane stumbled, breaking her gaze from his and looking down at the floor, feeling completely out of her depth. No one had ever spoken to her like this before, not even Eamon. Why was he saying these things to her?
‘You’re caring, intelligent and have the voice of an angel.’ Sean reached out, placing his fingers gently beneath her chin, lifting her head so their eyes could meet once more. ‘You’re a person of worth, Jane Diamond. Far too many people have told you otherwise and it’s time for that to change. You are a person of worth,’ he repeated. ‘And I for one am proud to call you my friend.’
‘Friend,’ she whispered, as though she were just learning to speak a new language. ‘You’re right, Sean.’ She swallowed over the dryness in her throat. ‘No one’s ever told me that. Thank you.’
As she stared up at him, he knew what he’d said was completely true as her green eyes seemed to be inviting him to stare into them for ever. Such an odd sensation and one he was all too tempted by. However, the last thing either of them needed right now was any sort of romantic attachment. Logically, he accepted that. Emotionally, he didn’t seem able to stop thinking about her.
Tonight he should be focused on keeping her calm, helping her through the apprehension he could already see was buzzing through her. He dropped his hand and took a step back, before forcing a smile. He held his hand out towards the door. ‘We don’t want to keep Spencer waiting. Shall we?’
Jane nodded, as though she were no longer capable of speech. Thankfully, his car wasn’t too far from the entrance to the res wing so they were effectively going from one cooled place to another. Neither of them spoke for a while as Sean navigated the evening traffic, but once they were away from the hospital he glanced over at her.
She was tense. Both hands clenched tightly together in her lap. Her gaze was directly ahead, watching the traffic. Was she tense because she was in a car or was she nervous about the upcoming meeting? Sean decided it didn’t really matter which one it was but tried his best to relax her a little.
‘I read the last paper you published with Professor Robe.’
‘Really?’ She seemed surprised.
‘Yes. It was very interesting as well as thorough but there are a few things I’m still not one hundred per cent sure about. You mentioned in the article the initial methodology required further investigation before you were able to employ the present model.’
‘That’s right.’ There was a stronger note in her words, as though her mind was definitely shifting to more comfortable ground.
‘What was the initial methodology you used?’
‘Well...’ And throughout the rest of the drive to the place where Spencer had his drum lesson, Sean kept asking questions and Jane kept answering them, her smooth voice combined with her intelligent words definitely assisted in focusing his train of thought, although once or twice when he stopped at red lights, he wasn’t able to resist watching her mouth as she spoke. Such a perfectly shaped mouth as well.
‘And here we are,’ he said, as she just finished explaining the negative side effects of the medication doctors had previously used to treat urinary tract and bladder infections, which were common ailments associated with eating disorders.