The Hero (Page 8)

Author: Robyn Carr

Then she heard Sarah’s voice asking the doctor when he would be open for business. “Monday. I’m planning on being open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday—but I’ll come in if someone needs me. I’m keeping some E.R. hours in Bandon,” he said, then laughed. “I’m working in Bandon to afford this practice. I still have some equipment on the way—most of it is small and portable for now. I doubt I’ll ever have an X-ray but I have a small lab and can do simple tests here. It’s a very compact little setup. And I’m planning to run some specials.”

“Oh?” Sarah asked him.

“Cut-rate school and sports physicals and, in the fall, ten-dollar flu shots.” Devon smiled as she noticed his chest puff up a little.

It was sweet, she thought. Handsome young doctor, brand-new practice, good ideas for bringing in new patients.

“Who’s helping you?” Sarah asked.

“I’m doing everything myself, so far. I need an R.N. or, even better, a physician’s assistant, but no one really wants to work for a part-time practice, and I’m afraid it’ll be a while before I can give up the Bandon E.R. to keep this place open six days a week. I can cover for a good nurse, but the paperwork is going to kill me. What I really need is a top-notch office manager, one who can triage patient needs and keep the forms moving whether I’m here or not.”

“Well, I’m going to be out of work by the end of the summer, but I have no idea what a person does in a doctor’s office,” Sarah responded.

But I do, Devon thought. It had been a long time, but she’d been a clerical worker in a small neighborhood doctor’s office. She knew how to keep charts organized and up-to-date, file insurance claims, schedule appointments, all that sort of thing. She wondered if she’d find the courage to put herself out there. And just as she was considering this, she was snagged by a woman.

“So, you’re the new girl. From Seattle, I hear.”

Devon looked around a little nervously and the woman laughed.

“Believe me, there’s only one new girl that I know of,” she said. “How do you like the town?”

“I’ve hardly seen it,” Devon said.

“I’m Lou McCain. That’s my nephew, the big guy who won’t leave Gina alone. Come with me, I want to know all about you.”

The woman turned, clearly expecting to be followed, and Devon did so. She wasn’t about to argue.

Lou sat down on one of the chairs in the small waiting room and patted the chair beside her. Devon took the chair obediently, hoping this woman didn’t ask difficult questions because she would be impossible to refuse.

“Your name?”

“Oh,” she said, and laughed self-consciously. “Devon. How do you do.”

“Splendid, thank you. Now, tell me all about yourself. Where are you from? What brought you to Thunder Point? How long will you stay? What do you do?” Then she laughed. “I’m sorry—I’m used to dealing with middle-school kids and my nephew’s kids, who I help raise. I’m an eighth grade English teacher. It’s made me very direct. Kids that age live by the ‘literal minimal’ law—if you give them a question they can answer with one word, they will.”

So will I, Devon thought.

“I grew up in Seattle. I’ve been kind of a...well, I was in a relationship, but I wasn’t married. I know.”

“I know,” she said. “I’m still single at just a titch over sixty. Never married. However, I’ve had a relationship or two along the way. Just maybe more than two. Never lived with a man, however. I’m thinking about it now, though. My nephew just got married and Gina has moved in with us. It’s very fun, but we are bursting at the seams. And I do have this wonderful... Oh, you don’t want to know about that....”

“Sure I do,” Devon said.

“But where are you staying, darling?” Lou asked.

“My very distant cousin, Mr. Rawley Goode,” she said. “Just when I didn’t know where to go or what to do, he offered me a place. And it gives me time to think about what to do next.” Then she smiled. “I’m also a teacher, though it’s been years.”

“Really? What age?”

“I have a degree in early childhood development. I’d just gotten started on my master’s when I was...sidetracked, I guess you could say. I became a mother.”

Lou smiled. “It sounds like you made good use of your time. We could use a preschool here. Desperately so. But the town can’t afford it and paying tuition would be something most people here could not afford. A couple of people have run the numbers but the bottom line wasn’t good.”

“But is there a day care?” Devon asked.

Right at that moment a young woman entered the office holding the hands of two preschoolers. She was welcomed warmly and Dr. Grant came from the back to greet them. He seemed very happy to see them; he picked up the little girl and ruffled the little boy’s hair.

“The doctor’s children,” Lou explained. “Very cute. They’re three and four. And yours is...?”

“My daughter is three,” she said. “Right now she’s fishing off the dock with Rawley.”

“Day care, you asked,” Lou reminded her. “There are a couple of women in town who babysit in their homes for working parents, but no official day care center. People tend to rely on friends, neighbors and family for that sort of thing. Will you be looking for a sitter?”

“If I manage to find a job, I will,” she said. “How long have you lived here?” Devon asked Lou.

“Here? A little over four years, but I grew up not far from here in Coquille and lived there all my life until Mac took this assignment. As I’m sure you’ve been told, he’s the law in this little town—Sheriff’s deputy with a few other deputies that work for him. It’s a little office, right next door. I’ll be honest—I didn’t want to move, but I’m glad I did. I love the school where I teach and I’ve made good friends.”

“I don’t suppose they’re looking for a kindergarten teacher?”

Lou put a hand on hers. “Not that I know of, sweetheart. But there are a lot of schools in other towns not too far away.”

“I’ll have to call around. I’ve been at Rawley’s house for almost two weeks. I’d better either find a job or move on.”

“Where would you go?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know.”

“Not back to Seattle?”

“No. I don’t have any family there anymore. I think it’s time for a fresh start. Somewhere.”

“A fresh start as a single mom,” Lou said with a warm smile. “How exciting!”

Devon felt her stomach clench. “Exciting?”

“Yes, exciting!”

Devon just shook her head. “I don’t know. My future looks pretty uncertain right now. And before my daughter came along, I had some pretty lean times....”

“In my life, there seemed to have been cycles—for five to ten years things were up, then followed a long struggle, then things would swing up again. Up and down. I don’t think life is very consistent. But the secret is knowing there’s no limit to the number of times you can reinvent yourself!”

* * *

As the little doctor’s office got busier and more crowded, Devon excused herself and told Sarah she wanted to walk around the town a bit and would be back.

It wasn’t a new or highly polished town, but it was pretty. Devon walked down the sidewalk in one direction then crossed the street and went the other way. She passed lots of small shops, taking note of a store that sold secondhand clothes. There were pots of geraniums hanging from lampposts, window boxes holding roses, and while some of these stores had peeling paint, others looked freshly scrubbed and painted. She peeked inside the diner, an old-fashioned establishment with booths and counter stools. All that seemed missing was a jukebox. She headed down the street toward the marina.

All she had seen from Cooper’s was a marina with some boats, but it was so far across the beach she wasn’t sure what kind of boats there were or how many there were. She was surprised to see big fishing boats, trawlers, sailboats, crabbers. She walked down the street that led to the boat launch and dock. There was a big restaurant at the west end of the marina.

She felt the beach pulling her. It was like seeing a movie from her former life. There was a woman jogging down the beach, reminding Devon she used to love running. She ran track in high school. She saw a volleyball net set up down the beach and a few people batting the ball around. Out on the water were a couple of people on paddleboards and one kayaker heading out toward the mouth of the bay where the frothing Pacific waited. The surrounding hills were steep and rocky and beyond this protected bay, mountains rose in the distance.

It felt like a pocket of safety. And people were living. Having fun. Being part of the real world where everything was not limited or controlled. Devon made up stories about them in her head. The woman was jogging on her day off; the paddleboarders were on a date; the volleyball players were high school or college students; the kayaker was... Wow, she realized it was Landon! He was working his arms and shoulders like a demon.

As she traversed the beach and neared the volleyball game, a runaway ball came close to her. She dashed for the ball. She flipped it into the air and served it back to the players with all her strength, sending it sailing a great distance.

“Whoa!” one of the boys shouted. “Lady, you’re on my team!”

Devon laughed gaily and gave them a wave.

In her former life, she’d worked while attending school and she’d lived with Aunt Mary. She had belonged to a gym. She liked to run, play summer softball with friends, go to ball games and clubs. She hadn’t had much of a savings account and she’d had to supplement her scholarships with loans, but that was the life of a student. It was fun and fulfilling and tense and pressured and exciting. It was normal.

In Jacob’s world Tuesday would look like Monday had—the only variable was the weather. They worked. They were not without their own kind of fun, but it was very odd and lopsided. No one pulled on their spandex and went outside the fence and jogged down the road. They didn’t load up in a car and head for the movies or the library or the coffee shop. They were all in good shape because their work was hard and physical but it was rare that they took a break from work to throw a ball around. Sometimes they’d get a little game of hide-and-seek going and let it go out of control. Most of their diversion was just a private thing between the women—popcorn, stories, a food fight in the kitchen while making cookies late at night.

But not only was there very little change, there was very little possible. Jacob’s plan was simple: everyone would be safe and well cared for inside his walls and under his domination. Big Daddy. The world would end, but they would be safe together. They did not need to think as individuals or to have personal goals; they would not experience the heartbreak or the triumph of success in the mean real world.

There’s no limit to the number of times you can reinvent yourself!

The volleyball came back at her and she served it back at the players again, better than before, and they cheered! She danced around a little for them, arms in the air. And for the first time since leaving the family she thought, Maybe it’s not a choice between either yielding my free will and identity to The Fellowship, or experiencing complete devastation and danger on my own. Maybe there is a place in the middle. Maybe she could have her own life again! Why not? Not everyone in the world lived in a commune run by a controlling, bible-beating, drug-dealing man!

She looked at Cooper’s place and saw him. He was on the deck, leaning on the rail, watching her.