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Rix woke early the next morning. After the meeting, which had been filled with impassioned debates as usual, he had gone to a party in someone’s flat with Gina and the others. They had drunk a large quantity of cheap wine and talked and argued into the early hours. Rix had only had two glasses, and now he was glad. He needed a clear head for his discussions with Jack.

At ten, he took a taxi to the hotel and was amazed to see how shabby it was. He had to double-check it was the correct address. The receptionist phoned Jack’s room for him and Rix waited by the large and grubby window in the small sitting room for him to come down.

It took ten minutes and Jack looked as if he had dressed in a hurry.

“Rix.” he said in greeting, sounding surprised. “I’m pleased to see you – thank you for coming.”

Rix nodded. He could smell the whisky on his uncle from the night before and hoped they wouldn’t argue again.

“Sit down, sit down.” Jack urged. “I’ll get us some coffee, I’ll ask the receptionist. How are you?”

“I’m fine, and you?” Rix had known it was going to be awkward, but this was awful. Jack looked dreadful - tired, grey and old. It wasn’t just a hangover, Rix realised that Jack looked like someone who’d been living under a great strain for a long time.

“I wanted to apologise for striking you, that time. I should have kept my temper. And I had no right to say those things to you, or to your parents, especially as they weren’t true.”

Rix looked at him, amazed, “Well, we can draw a line under it, can’t we? I’m sorry too.”

“I’m glad about that, glad you feel that way. I had dinner with David last night. He explained that I was offering you too little money – but we don’t need to discuss that now.” Jack said, hurriedly, noticing Rix starting to frown. “How are things going at work? I saw your hospital yesterday.”

“It’s fine. Thank you. Dad’s fine.” Rix added, trying his hardest not to sound too critical. “How is Aunt Jo?”

“Very well, finishing her latest novel, otherwise she’d be here with me.” Jack fibbed, sitting down next to his nephew. “Well, we’d be in the little hotel she prefers in Kensington, probably, but this is handier for my – my meetings.” He had said medical conference to Joey, but Rix would know that as an untruth. “That’s good news about Dick. I’m very pleased. Do you think I could - I’d like to write to him, to apologise. And Jo will write to your mother.”

“Mother’s in Canada, visiting Peg and my new little niece.” Rix replied, relaxing a little. Jack did seem anxious to make amends.

“So I heard from Len. Her baby’s due any day now – due last week, actually, but first babies are often late. Isn’t that three children young Peggy has now? Bride’s expecting too, isn’t she?” Jack asked.

“Yes, due in October. I think Dad would be pleased if you wrote to him. And Mother would too, I expect.”

“Good. And Rix, I am sorry. For everything I said. I’d be grateful for the chance to be friends again.”

Rix nodded, wishing he knew what to say. He had expected further argument after Rayner’s report but he was glad of the chance to heal the rift. He knew how pleased his parents would be. And if things did get better, the Maynards could come to the wedding, which would make Maeve happy.

Jack was similarly pleased it was going so well. Rix seemed quiet, but no more so than usual. He still wanted his nephew to work in the San, but had decided to change tack. He started to discuss David’s plans for the San, as the receptionist brought them some coffee.

Rix was annoyed at the thought of David poaching NHS staff, but kept his feelings to himself. The truce was so fragile that a cross word could break it down again.

Jack offered to take Rix out for lunch, but Rix said he had to go into work. He took the bus and walked to the hospital, where he found Rayner in their office, in an unexpectedly good mood.

“We’ve had a significant donation to build the new wing,” he said, offering Rix a cigarette. “Come on, I’ll take you out to lunch to celebrate. What’s that?”

Rix screwed up Mary-Lou’s note and tossed it into the wastepaper basket. “Nothing.” he said, tersely. “Who gave us the cash?”

“Gerard Ellingham. He telephoned me first thing this morning. He’s giving us a great deal of money.” Rayner named an astronomical sum.

“Why is he giving that much money?” Rix asked, doubtfully.

“Why so suspicious? It’s small change to him and he does give to charitable causes sometimes.”

“Well, it’s very decent of him.” Rix said, pulling his coat on. “I won’t say no to lunch. Thank you.”

Over lunch, after they had discussed the donation and the workload for the forthcoming week, Rayner told Rix that Gerard Ellingham had requested a meeting with him.

“Just with me? Why?” Rix asked.

“I think just to introduce himself. He’ll be involved with the financial aspects of the new wing so working fairly closely with us. Robert and I know him already, but you don’t, do you? Do you mind? He’s given me a couple of dates for next week and he said you could choose which restaurant you want for a lunch. He was quite persistent, actually. I expect he wants to get to know the whole team.”

“No, it’s fine.” Rix said – he couldn’t say anything else, really – but he did think it strange that Ellingham would want to introduce himself to a junior surgeon so badly. He had never acknowledged Rix’s presence at previous meetings, except for once when he had snarled at Rix to get out of his way.


David was waiting outside the hospital as Rix left.

“Do you fancy coming for a drink? I need your advice,” he asked, mysteriously.

“Sure. Where do you want to go?” Rix replied, easily. David asked him for advice, favours and loans often, but this time David did look rather bothered.

“Oh, anywhere. This’ll do.” David waited until Rix had ordered their pints at the bar before he continued. “The thing is, I’m in a bit of a fix.”

“Money?” Rix asked briefly, sitting down at a table.

“No – I. No. I don’t really know how to say this,” David prevaricated, “But…”

“I think I’m in love,” he finished, dramatically.

Rix burst into laughter. “I’m sorry. From the way you were carrying on I thought it was something serious!”

“It is serious,” David said, affronted. “I think this might be it, you know, that she’s the one for me.”

“Sorry,” Rix said again, but he was amused. David had a different girlfriend every week and was a favourite of the nurses at the hospital with his good looks and easy-going charm.

“I was out last night with another girl, and while we were dancing I realised that she was the girl I wanted to marry. Not the girl, I was with, of course, but – “

“How romantic. Well, who is the lucky girl then?” Rix teased.

“It’s Mary-Lou Trelawney. I took her out for lunch yesterday.” David replied.

Rix put his glass back down on the table, slowly. It felt like the sun had gone behind a cloud. Any hope that had remained to him had gone at David’s words.

“Does she feel the same way?” he asked, trying not to let his true feelings show. He knew at that moment that whatever his budding feelings for Mary-Lou were, they were not reciprocated. Her behaviour outside the hospital had proved that, now he had to accept it.

“I don’t know. She asked if we could just be friends, but I do want more than that.” David said, sounding petulant.

“How do you think I can give you advice, Dave?” Rix asked.

“I wondered if you could talk to her at Maeve’s wedding? See if she would be interested in marrying me?” David asked. “No, hear me out. Don’t get all edgy like you usually do. You could speak to Maeve and ask her to find out how Mary-Lou feels about me.”

“I don’t get like that.” Rix said, frowning.

“You do so! All impatient and prickly like you are now. You’ve always done it. Anyway, will you?”

“I’ll speak to Maeve,” Rix said, abruptly, not liking David’s frank assessment of his personality.

“Thanks – I appreciate it. And anytime I can repay you, just let me know.” David replied.

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