Dr. Sullivan didn’t even wait for a response, a welcome. The door closed smartly behind her starched coat and the curtain rings made no more sound than was necessary. Wil even saw the swirling waves of heat from the wall registers keep to their proper paths. Dr. Sullivan strode past them all and stood near the foot of Cynthia’s bed.
Pulling out a tablet and barely glancing at its activated screen, she said, “And how are we feeling today, Mrs. Winters?”
Cynthia sat up a bit against her pillows. Rob’s hand and her IV followed along. “I..” she looked at Rob, Jakob, and lingered on Wil. “I had a little trouble breathing.”
“She had two coughing spells.” Rob said. “Couldn’t seem to stop.” He lifted his chin to meet Dr. Sullivan’s gaze, avoiding his wife’s.
Wil studied the doctor as well. She saw Jakob’s head move upward, from the corner of her eye. The respiratory physician smiled slightly, checked her records a second time, and addressed Cynthia. “Is that true about the coughing, Mrs. Winters?”
The angelic blonde hair on the bleach-white pillow shifted as Cynthia repositioned again. “Yes,” she whispered.
“Would you say these spells are increasing in intensity and/or frequency?”
Cynthia’s blue eyes met Wil’s dark ones, then each looked down at her hands. “Yes.”
Dr. Sullivan cleared her throat. “I’d like to discuss a few more issues with you, Mrs. Winters, Mr. Winters. But, perhaps you’d rather do so more …privately?”
False-down coat rustling told Wil that Jakob moved when she did, though she was the only one to stand. From a dark tunnel of recovering betrayal, a small part inside her found an anchoring emotion: indignation. “No!” she almost shouted.
Even Dr. Sullivan looked at Wil in surprise, though the stern-faced woman kept her peace. Instead, Cynthia spoke. “We just determined to not keep any more secrets,” she explained to the doctor.
If she wondered at how many secrets they could possibly have entertained recently, Dr. Sullivan chose to move past that revelation. “I see,” she said. “Are you certain? Many patients feel the information to be…” she searched the suspended ceiling tiles for the right word.
Deadly, thought Wil.
“-emotionally stressful for family members,” Dr. Sullivan finished.
Rob’s hand found a stronger hold on Cynthia’s fingers. “We’re sure.”
Wil’s focus shifted to her father. She thought back to the letter she’d just read, from a woman who claimed to have birthed her. Dependable, Guinevere Greene had called Rob, after crossing out boring. His deep-voiced response to the impersonal doctor echoed in Wil’s mind and his strong, determined profile sat before her. “You’re wrong,” she whispered to the phantom letter-writer, “He’s even more than ‘dependable.'”
Rob gave his daughter a confused expression, then turned back to Dr. Sullivan.
“In that case,” Dr. Sullivan said, “I’d better take a seat.” Her eyes roved the room till they caught sight of another plastic and metal chair resting by the cream-patterned curtain. She pulled the chair over and perched on its edge. “We will need a few minutes, and I want everyone to be clear about what I discuss with you.”