He stumbled into the kitchen, vaguely aware that he needed to eat something before he crashed out. Would it be a late – a very late – supper, or an early breakfast? Could you technically have breakfast just before going to bed? Such philosophical questions were beyond Fin, especially at that hour. Groping for whatever he could find in the refrigerator, he heated a pan and concocted something involving eggs, mushrooms, ham and chives that couldn’t make up its mind if it was an omelette or an elaborate version of scrambled eggs.
Fin had promised to read over a colleague’s draft research paper on the benefits of a new management protocol for head injury, and sitting at the breakfast bar in his kitchen he turned the pages of the document with his left hand while forking food into his mouth with his right. When he realised he’d just read the same paragraph three times, he tossed the paper aside with a sigh, finished his meal and put the plate in the dishwasher, an appliance that took half a week to fill up with crockery and cutlery. He cast an eye about the kitchen, a gleaming, futuristic landscape of chrome and glass that would be a professional chef’s dream and which he barely used.
Before heading for bed he wandered into the open-plan living-cum-dining room and sat for a few moments on one of the high-backed chairs at the table, knowing it would be fatal to sink into an armchair as he’d fall asleep instantly and wake with aches and cramps he didn’t need. Impeccably tasteful, friends and former ladies in his life had called his flat, and he wasn’t ashamed to agree: furniture carefully sourced from Harrods and from Sotheby’s auctions; the rugs and wall hangings he’d selected himself during conferences in Morocco and Tokyo; the original Chagall and Pollock paintings he’d paid a small fortune for.
Perfect taste... and yet Fin was rarely ever at home to appreciate the luxuries he’d chosen over the years, the beauty he’d cultivated for a living space. He left the flat by seven each morning, at the latest, and returned no earlier than midnight, spending the evenings playing squash when he wasn’t at work. On his rare days away from the hospital he gave lectures, attended conferences, frequented the library of the university to which St Matthew’s was affiliated in order to track down that obscure reference, that overlooked research finding, which would add to his own studies.
He hadn’t had a holiday since... well, since his honeymoon, seven years earlier. He’d been a young, up-and-coming registrar and even then had felt guilty about taking any time off at all, but had to agree with Catherine that two weeks away from work immediately after one’s wedding wasn’t exactly unreasonable. A fortnight in the Maldives, basking in the luminous Indian Ocean sun, and towards the end of the first week Fin had actually started to unwind, to stop thinking about work, and started to enjoy the experience of simply being .
There’d been no more holidays after that. Catherine, not a doctor herself, understood at first, or said she did. And since she’d left him, he hadn’t felt the slightest inclination to go away on his own.
Fin knew there was no point in brooding; knew also that by doing so he was deliberately avoiding the subject that had been occupying his mind ever since the early afternoon, more than twelve hours ago. To distract himself further he got ready for bed, hoping sleep would overwhelm him immediately.
It didn’t, and after fifteen minutes of trying to force oblivion upon himself he gave up and allowed the forbidden topic to claim his attention.
It had been unmistakable, the look in Melissa’s eyes that afternoon after he’d performed the thoracotomy on the young footballer. Not just admiration, even awe, though both had been present in large quantities. Her inability to keep her eyes off him in the aftermath had been blatant, and almost embarrassing, though he didn’t think