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Home Is Where the Heart Is - Part Two

Without deception or disguise 
Bodies tingling without a touch 
They danced together as lovers dance, 
To the rhythm of music only they could hear 
Bodies not touching, yet souls intertwined 
Passions flaring like a white-hot flame 
As they bared their souls, a pact was made 
They were but prisoners to their own desires 
Bound within the unyielding chains of love 


I held her wriggling form close, breathing in her fresh baby scent. She cooed, her tiny fingers curling around mine as I rocked her to sleep with her favourite lullaby, which happened to be the only lullaby I knew. I had never spent much time with my brother’s babies; the twins were raised exclusively by an array of high-priced nannies, so there had hardly ever been an opportunity to bond with them. The day my friend Claire found out that she was going to have a baby was a bittersweet moment for me, the joy she was feeling filled me with excitement, yet I knew that her joy would also end all hope of me ever being with the man I loved. Against my better judgement, I ended up being maid of honour at their wedding; we travelled the road of her difficult pregnancy together, I slept in their guest bedroom whenever she was feeling poorly and I helped deliver their bouncing baby girl, Rebecca Anne.

It was not unusual for Claire to invite me over for a chat, so when she sent me a text that morning asking me to come over, I did not find it the least bit odd. She greeted me warmly, then left me with the baby so she could fetch something for us to drink. I got a bit worried when Claire had not yet returned with the drinks after ten minutes, so I laid the sleeping baby down in her playpen and made my way toward the kitchen. I found her standing at the kitchen counter, staring blankly at the tray of drinks.

“Claire? You daydreaming again?”

She looked up at me, her expression pained. “Are you sleeping with him, Nicky? And be honest.”

“I… Who? I don’t know wha-“

“Are you fucking my husband? How hard is it to answer such a simple fucking question? Here’s a hint, it’s a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ kinda question.”

There had been remarkably few times in my life where I had been rendered speechless, that instant would without a doubt top that short list. At that moment, how she had found out did not matter, what mattered was that she knew. It would have been futile to deny it, yet I found it even harder to own up to my shameful act of treachery, so I just stood there unable to meet her eyes.

“Get out. I don’t ever want to see you again.” She said the words with such quiet calm, that there was no mistaking the disgust she felt toward me, one more thing we had in common.

I left without a word and drove around aimlessly for hours after with the sounds of Bon Jovi and the incessant ringing of my phone to keep me company. I have no recollection of consciously driving there, but I ended up at the beach. Eventually my phone stopped ringing, killed by the persistence of the one caller I did not need to speak to, so I was left with Bon Jovi begging me for something for his pain and the sound of waves crashing onto the shore while I sobbed quietly.


My appointment was for 10am, but I arrived at the clinic nearly half hour early. After checking in with the receptionist and filling out the relevant paperwork, I settled into one of the plush seats in the waiting room and leafed through a magazine. The bold African prints on the walls and animal print throws made the waiting room look like the reception area of a game lodge, but the unconventional décor did nothing to alleviate my anxiety.

A nurse emerged from behind a door painted a deep orange and called the next patient. She greeted the tall nervous looking young man with a big smile, “Mr. Cupido, doctor will see you now. Please follow me.”

I noticed for the first time that patients were being called through the orange door, but I had not seen any emerge. Everything at the clinic had been designed to put the patients at ease, to make them forget why they were there. Noble as the intention may have been, it was unlikely that they had reached their intended purpose.

“Ms. Landry, doctor will see you now. Please follow me.” I looked up at the nurse with the frozen smile, and nodded politely as I returned the magazine to its rack and grabbed my bag.

The room she ushered me into was decorated in a similar manner to the outer office, except for the fact that the wall decked out with medical instruments hopelessly betrayed the room’s purpose.

“You may disrobe behind that curtain. There is a gown in there for you to put on. Just ring the bell over there once you are ready.” My eyes followed her manicured finger as she pointed toward a service bell. I would never be ready for this. No one was ever ready for this.

I tapped the silver bell lightly before sitting down on the chaise lounger in the centre of the room, duly impressed with the modesty afforded by the stylish dark blue gown they had offered. The last thing I needed to be worrying about was keeping my butt covered.

“Well would you look at what the hyenas dragged home.” I smiled and shook my head in disbelief as I immediately recognized the voice before turning to look at the tall man leaning casually in the doorway.

“Did you just call me carrion?” I grinned as he pushed away from the door and sauntered closer.

“Well you did resemble… oh wait… on closer inspection… sorry, you’re just not wearing make-up.” He winked.

I stood and stepped into his outstretched arms. His hug was warm and sincere, lifting me off the ground for the briefest of seconds before setting me down gently. For the first time since I’d stepped onto home soil, I felt like I was home.

“You need a haircut.” I ruffled his unruly blonde curls.

“So do you.”

“I’m a girl; I’m allowed to look like Goldilocks.” Despite my teasing, I’d always loved the way his hair curled and framed his face, it was one of the things that made it hard for the ladies to resist his quirky charm.

He smiled, but his eyes were clouded with concern. “Oh of course, Jellybean. Why do I keep forgetting that?”

I laughed as I mock punched his arm. “So… this is a surprise. What are you doing here?”

“Let me explain this to you. I will speak slowly, so you can follow. I am the doctor here. I get to ask all the annoyingly awkward questions. Now will you please sit down, Ms. Landry; you are making me nervous.”

I sat back down on the lounger, feeling even more nervous than before. Jason was the first friend I made when I started college. We hung out together, crammed together, gossiped together and cried together. He was the kind of friend who would hold your hair back after a long night of partying, while threatening to shove your head in the toilet if you got his shoes soiled. He was also the kind of friend who would knock a guy out for breaking your heart.

He sat down on the chair across from me and opened my folder. I watched the emotions play across his face, watched him frown and nod and chew on the inside of his lip, his expression unnerving me. “These were sent here by your doctor in Somalia?”

“Yes… Dr. Lang. He is a good doctor, but we don’t have the facilities for the proper tests to be run over there. He felt more comfortable with me having them done here. The ones we did in Somalia were inconclusive.”

He continued to stare down at the folder. I was not sure if he had seen something of interest in there or if what he read there made him not want to meet my gaze.

“You know that you can be completely open with me. Right? I can handle it, Jay.”

“Hmm… yes, of course. You know that I will be, Nicky. As soon as I have something to be open about. I am sure you already know what’s in this folder, so I will not insult you by trying to explain it to you.” He smiled. “Usually I would do a preliminary exam and give the patient a date to come back for the biopsy, but…”

His silence stretched on for half a minute. “But what?”

“What?” He looked up at me, concern still written all over his face.

“You were saying? What about the biopsy?”

“Oh of course. Yes, usually there’s a two week wait for a biopsy, but this isn’t just any patient. It’s you.” He flashed a weak smile at me. “Your doctor seems to have been thorough, and I am assuming that you’ve gone through all of this yourself. If you trust his conclusions, we can schedule the biopsy at your earliest convenience.”

“How does right now sound?”

He laughed. “Right now sounds exactly like you, Jellybean. Still not a shred of patience?”

“Well you did say my earliest convenience.” I raised a quizzical brow at him.

“Oh of course, yes. I did. Have you had breakfast?”

“No. I know how this works, Jason. I haven’t eaten in over twelve hours. I was hoping that the procedure would be done right away. I didn’t think that it would be, but I was hoping. I’m not on any medication. My blood pressure should be normal, although it might be a bit elevated due to the stress of the situation. Feel free to test it if you like.”

If I like? Thank you, doctor. How accommodating of you. Of course, I have to test your damn BP. You are still every bit as annoying as you were when you were twelve.”

“You didn’t even know me when I was twelve.” I laughed.

“Oh of course not, but it stands to reason that you were annoying back then as well. These types of personality disorders don’t just develop overnight, you know.”

I laughed again. “I do not have a personality disorder.”

“Denial is a classic symptom. Didn’t you study during psych 101?”

I smiled. I appreciated his attempts to take my mind off the procedure; he knew that our light-hearted banter always put me at ease.

“So… will you be doing the procedure, or…”

“Yes. There are two other oncologists on staff, but I think I should do this one myself. I have two more patients to see. My assistant will prep you. Let me show you the way to the procedure room.” He put the folder down and walked toward the door on the other side of the room, the one I assumed they used for patients exiting the exam room.

I rose, got my clothes from behind the screen and followed him out. The door led into a circular room with six brightly coloured doors. There was an exit sign above the yellow one, we moved along hurriedly, so it was hard for me to read the signs on all of the doors, but the one he led me through said “Procedure Room One”. We entered a room that was once again tastefully decorated; no sterile looking hospital beds, instead there was a stilted futon lounger in the centre of the room.

As we entered, the nurse looked up from preparing a biopsy tray. “This is Jemma. She will take good care of you.” He squeezed my arm reassuringly. “I shouldn’t be long.”

“Hi. You must be Ms. Landry.” She smiled.

“Nicole.” I smiled back.

“Can you please hop up here, Nicole? I will be taking your blood pressure reading, as well as drawing a small amount of blood so I can test your insulin levels, among other things. I will use these to monitor your heart and respiratory rate.” She pointed to the cardio-respiratory monitor. “I will attach the sensors to your arm and chest. These are all standard procedures, nothing for you to be nervous about.” She smiled again.

It wasn’t the tests that were making me nervous, it was the possibility of the results not being in my favour.

I slid onto the bed and pushed the sleeve of the gown up. I watched as she prepared the cuff to take my blood pressure and turned on the BP monitor. “Do you think you should be doing that first?”

She looked up at me with a puzzled expression.

“I mean no disrespect. It’s just that I wouldn’t take a blood pressure reading before drawing blood. I assume that you will need at least five vials of blood. That might lower my blood pressure somewhat, but I guess you know what you’re doing.” I smiled apologetically as I watched her flush with embarrassment.

I wasn’t even sure why I had interrupted her, since the variance in BP would have been minute and would have had no bearing on the results of the biopsy. In my defence, I had always been the doctor before, not the patient and the view was indeed very different from the passenger seat.

She popped a thermometer into my mouth and continued the rest of the tests in silence. She then proceeded to prompt me onto my side, swabbed a small area on my hip and placed sterile towels in what felt like a triangle over the area. The wait for Jason to get there seemed endless, especially with the young nurse giving me the silent treatment.

The biopsy went well. I was given a lidocaine shot, the burning sensation was a lot milder than I expected it to be. Jason spoke to me quietly, talking to me about our days as residents at one of the local hospitals as we waited for the anaesthetic to take effect. The biopsy itself was painless; all I felt was slight pressure when he inserted the needle. He was clearly a professional at what he does.

“I will let you rest for a while. How are you feeling?”

“I feel fine. I can’t feel my hip, but I feel fine.”

“Don’t try to get up. Okay? It will take a while to wear off. Just relax. I will be back and Jemma will stay with you.” He leaned down to kiss my forehead.

I nodded and closed my eyes. The tension of the procedure was nothing compared to the anxiety of the long wait for the results.

I was discharged two hours later with some pain meds and fresh bandages in case the wound caused any discomfort. I left my contact details and the name of my hotel with Jason and after a warm comforting hug left the clinic by the side exit.

A grumbling tummy reminded me that I’d not eaten in over 15 hours, so I decided on a late lunch at a Thai restaurant down the road from the clinic. It was a small place abuzz with corporate looking customers. A petite Thai waitress took my order and brought me a steaming bowl of Tom Yum soup as a complimentary starter. It smelled delicious.

I felt hunger for the first time in days. I tucked into my soup with gusto, savouring the textures and flavours. It was a delightful change from the simple meals we had in Somalia. I felt a brief tinge of guilt as I thought of my friends back home.

I took in the colourful wall hangings and gold statues placed tastefully around the room. That was when I spotted him. He was with a woman; an elegantly dressed, beautiful woman who had her hand on his arm as she spoke to him in a manner that could only be interpreted as intimate. I felt an all too familiar ache in my chest.

I left enough money on the table to cover my order and left the restaurant in a hurry, certain that he had not seen me. I sat in my car leaning back with eyes shut as images of him flashed through my mind like a slow moving reel of film playing out the best and worst times we’d had together; images of him laughing, raising a quizzical eyebrow, getting angry, smiling mischievously, and of his face as he made slow love to me.

As I drove back to my hotel, I wondered what stage they had reached in their relationship. My mother had not mentioned that he was seeing someone new; in fact, she had not mentioned him to me in over four years, which had led me to believe that he had moved out of the suburb.

I wondered if they had reached that level of intimacy where you finish each other’s sentences or where no words were needed to know what the other was thinking. I wondered if they had discovered every quirky trait about each other, told each other intimate secrets, or if they still clung onto the embarrassing ones for fear of being judged by another. And if they told each other every nauseatingly boring detail of their day, just for the sheer pleasure of sharing yourself with the one you love. I wondered about a lot of things that I eventually shoved into the furthest recesses of my mind, to that place all unwelcome thoughts were banished to until they faded away into oblivion.

Back at the hotel, I stopped by the gift shop to buy a book before heading upstairs. There wasn’t a big selection so it didn’t take me long to find one I would enjoy; it was a collection of short stories and poetry by an author I’d never read before, but whose name sounded strangely familiar.

After a quick shower, I settled down with the book. The story I decided to read first was one of love and unbeatable odds. And hope. It was not the kind of tale you could read without shedding a tear, aptly named “Sexual Healing”. It was exactly the kind of distraction I needed.


Later that evening Jason showed up at my hotel room with an obscene amount of junk food, we sat around talking, laughing and chomping on snacks I had not had in six years. It was wonderful having him there; he had always been the perfect antidote to a bad day.

My phone rang.

“Gummi Bears?” Jason laughed, his warm laughter infectious.

“What? You have something against cute bouncy bears?” I reached for my phone; the call was from a number I did not recognize.

“No, not at all, Jellybean. I think you’re cute and bouncy, so…” he winked.

“Hello,” I said chirpily into the phone.

“Nic?” The husky male voice on the other side said tentatively. My smile faded and I disconnected the call.

“Wrong number.” I said as I threw the phone back onto the bed.

The phone rang again.

“You going to get that or you just enjoying torturing me with that tune?” Jason asked.

“No. My voicemail will get it.”

“Hmm… oh of course. And you probably have one of the Gummi Bears taking your mail?” He made a comical face that made me smile. “I’m sorry… Jellybean can’t take your call right now… she is leading an army to Dunwyn Castle to overthrow the malevolent Duke Igthorn. So please leave a message after the… oooh Gummiberries… I gotta go…” he said in his best Tummi impersonating voice.

I laughed despite the heaviness that suddenly weighed on my mood. The phone stopped ringing and Jason leaned back against the pillows, eyeing me suspiciously.

“What now?”

“And if it rings again? You want me to get it? Tell him to stop bugging you.”

“Who? I told you, it was a wrong number.”

“Oh, of course it was.” His expression sobered. “So if I were to put my hand to your chest right now, I would not think that your heart was trying to beat its way out of there?”

“Shut up! You don’t know what you’re talking-”

“Don’t I, Nicky?” He sighed deeply. “He is the reason you left here. He stole my best friend from me. Don’t you think I want to smash his face in every time I see him?”

“You… you see him?”

“It’s a small town. He works close to the clinic.” He sat up and took my hand in his large ones. “Not the point here, Nicky. He hurt you. Guess what… you hurt him too. Your leaving town hurt a lot of people. I don’t think you ever gave that any thought.”

I tried to pull my hand from his grasp, his hold tightened. I looked at him, robbed of an apt reply. I felt hurt. I felt betrayed. How could he defend Luke after what he had done to me? “It’s getting late, Jay.”

He rose from the bed, looked down at me as if he had something more to add, then released my hand and turned for the door. “Yes, it is late. You get some rest; you’ve had a long day.” He leaned down to touch his lips to my forehead, then turned to leave.

“Jay, so aside from giving him my number, what else did you tell him?” My words arrested him with his hand on the doorknob.

He turned back to face me, and instantly I regretted my words. “You even need to ask me that? Seriously? I would never betray you in that way. You should know that.” Then he left.

I lay back on my bed. I had just hurt the one person in my life aside from my mother who had always supported me in every decision I made. I felt disgusted with myself. I felt an indescribable rage toward the one man responsible for all of my problems… maybe not all of them, but the ones that were weighing heaviest on my heart.


I stepped out of the shower to the sound of knocking on my room door. I was not expecting anyone, so I considered ignoring it, but the person on the other side was persistent. I swung the door open; ready to give voice to my displeasure at the intrusion, but my thoughts faltered for the briefest of seconds when I looked up into sapphire blue eyes. With lightning reflexes, he stopped the closing door with his foot.

“Nic, stop doing this. Please.” The pleading in his voice came close to softening my heart, but in an instant all of the hurt and anger came flooding back.

“Stop doing what, Luke?” My eyes were brimming with tears, but I no longer cared. “Stop hating you? Or stop loving you? Because I can’t do either.”

“You have every right to hate me.” His piercing gaze bored right into my soul, just like it always had in the past. “I just need a minute. Just to talk.”

I stood back to let him inside, head riddled with doubts, but he was right. Too much had been left unresolved between us for far too long.

“You have one minute. Don’t make yourself too comfortable.”

“You’re looking good.”

His softly spoken, yet taunting words, as well as his eyes travelling the length of my body, made me aware that I was still wrapped in a bath sheet.

“Yes, most half naked women would to you. Give me a minute to change into something more demure. Wouldn’t want you thinking that I was trying to entice you.” I saw his almost imperceptible flinch at my words.

“Sure. I’m in no hurry.”

The design of the room did not afford me much privacy for changing, so I grabbed my robe and headed for the bathroom. The face staring back at me as I pulled my wet hair back into a loose ponytail bordered on gaunt. I was not sure if it was only because I knew that I was sick that I was imagining the unhealthy pallor, or maybe others had noticed, but merely put it down to six years of living in an impoverished country. Why did I care about what he thought? Why was I trying to look my best for a man who stomped my heart into the dirt?

He was standing with his back to me as I came back into the room, examining the Jankowski book I was reading. People always say that time heals all wounds, but I was convinced beyond any doubt that those people had never truly loved or lost. All of the past hurts still felt as fresh as the day I first felt them, and all of the raw passion I had ever felt for Luke were resurfacing.

“So what was is it you needed to talk about?”

He put the book down and turned to face me, his eyes searching mine, but I found myself reluctant to meet his gaze. Losing myself to this man was the last thing in the world I needed, yet I knew that I no longer had the desire to fight with him. There had to be a middle ground we could meet.

“I guess you might as well sit down.”

He ignored my gesture toward the sofa, closing the space between us in two strides of his long legs.

“Look at me, Nic.” I felt that familiar tingle as his fingers touched my skin, tilting my face up so I was looking directly into his pleading eyes. “I need you to look at me when I say what I need to say.”

I was like a puppet on a string, my head and heart in a ferocious battle about the wisdom of being that close to the only man who had ever owned my heart, the only man who had ever been in a position to shatter it. My head protested as my heart thumped anxiously in my chest, urging me closer to the edge of disaster. In the end, my head accepted defeat, as to my own irritation, all I could do was nod dumbly and mumble something indiscernible, the best impression of a love-struck teen that I could muster.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I hurt you, God knows, that was the last thing I wanted to do. Things were just so… so…” His words faltered and he took a deep breath.

“Fucked up.” His gaze averted as I finished his sentence for him, nodding slowly as he stared down at his feet. “I know. Don’t you think I know that, Luke? I was hurting too. I was hurting too.”

I was not sure what he wanted from me. My forgiveness? My friendship back? All I knew in that moment was that I could not bear to witness the pain in his eyes again. Nor could I stick around long enough to see the accusation ebb back into them either. I needed to get away from him; it had been a mistake to think that anything would have changed. He looked back into my eyes, and I felt myself drowning again, flailing as I tried to reach a safe shore, waves of deep blue dragging me down into its depths.

I was helpless to resist as his lips touched mine, tender, yet firm. My body pressed in closer, melting into his embrace as his strong arms wrapped me up. In that moment I realized that nothing between us had changed, our passion for each other still flared out of control at the slightest touch. I knew that we were making a mistake, but life was too unpredictable for me to care. My life was too unpredictable. I made no move to stop him as he untied my robe and slipped it off my shoulders. Neither did I protest as he lowered me onto the bed. I surrendered myself to the sweet music only we could hear, our bodies moving together in a sensual dance choreographed by our deep desire for one another. It felt good to be in his arms again, fleeting as I knew our bliss to be, I savoured the moment.

We remained wrapped up in each other for a long time after, me enjoying the feel of another body against mine, something I had not felt in over six years, he for whatever reason he had procured to justify being in my bed again.

“I can’t stay the night; I would, if I could. It’s just that-“

“I know. And I haven’t asked you to. You don’t have to explain.”

The thought of him rushing home to be with her sobered me to the foolishness of our actions. What was I thinking? I did not even know who the woman was, for all I knew he could be married again. I clutched the sheet to my chest as I rolled out of bed and headed toward the bathroom. I could feel his eyes on me, but I could not turn to face him, could not allow him to see the tears threatening to spill.

“This was a mistake, Luke. Please let yourself out, you’ve said all you came here to say.”

He was gone when I got back to the room, and he had left something propped up on my pillow. He was not playing fair, far from it; that was the dirtiest card he could have played in our game of chance. I picked it up gingerly, my thumb stroking over the face smiling up at me. Even through my teary haze I could see the resemblance, she was the splitting image of her mother. Scribbled on the back of the photograph in his bold hand were four words. ‘So you never forget

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