Breaking the Ice
“Maria, there’s a Cecil Brown on the phone, he says you’re expecting his call, shall I put him through?”
Dr Haq was momentarily taken off guard. After all these years she still had trouble remembering she was the Maria people were speaking to. That was not her real name but she’d changed her first name while in University to make it more understandable to those she’d be treating as patients in future. She’d shortened her surname at that time too.
Beth the receptionist interpreted her silence as busyness. “I’ll tell him you’re busy and can’t take his call!”
“No, it’s OK, I’ll take the call.”
Dr Maria Haq had forgotten all about the patient presenting to Dr Smith several weeks back and her mind raced to pick up the pieces.
Cecil’s voice on the other end of the line sounded uncertain. It had taken a lot to talk himself into making this call. Apart from professional contacts who he handled confidently, person to person contacts outside work hours were another story. He was a loner! Childhood rejections were a powerful force that drove his life internally. The calm and collected Cecil was a mask that he needed time by himself to reinforce for each new day. Asking a woman out on a date was far out of character, he’d only felt safe with one woman and that was his elementary school teacher Miss Vadstone, but she was no longer there for him.
After exchanging pleasantries Cecil finally drew on his bravado mask and continued, “About my thank-you dinner?”
Dr Haq professionally examined his voice inflection and detected nervousness. She smiled the smile of one who was in control of the situation. She’d little interest in this man apart from the professional curiosity of a doctor examining the results of their skill, and of course the added advantage of a night out with a protector in places she’d never have gone to by herself. Those taboos were still alive and well in Maria Haq. Why not!
“That’s very good of you Cecil, where would you like to go for this thank-you dinner?” She laughted pleasantly.
Beth the receptionist listening in to the conversation couldn’t believe her ears. Dr Maria Haq going out on a date? This would be juicy gossip to share around the table that evening. Beth chuckled to herself silently replacing the phone.
Cecil had suggested an expensive restaurant down town and couldn’t believe he was spending money on someone other than himself. What was happening to him? Maria wanted to visit a Lebanese restaurant in the suburbs. It was the food of her childhood and she craved it but her family connections were widespread in this community and she felt she needed a protector. The thought of going Lebanese made her mouth water.
It all sounded exotic to Cecil whose tastes in food were traditional, but he longed for some reason to break out of his self-centred life and be like other people. He took note of Dr Haq’s address, date and time of their appointment and the address of the restaurant, then mustered his man of the world voice and said goodbye. He’d not been invited to address her as Maria and put the phone down wondering how he’d address her when they met.
Beth the receptionist put the phone down carefully. She’d picked it up again out of curiosity, but Dr Maria Haq heard the click and felt the blood rise in her face. She pressed the internal line and Beth picked up the phone expecting a call for the next patient. Instead she was summonsed into the interview room.
“Do you have something to apologize for Beth?” there was ice in the voice of Dr Maria Haq.
Beth shook as she realized her cover was blown and pleaded to be excused. Her husband was a medical student doctor training in his second year and Beth’s job was vital for their survival.
Dr Maria Haq noted Beth’s distress and her anger began to subside. She relaxed.
“So what do you suggest I wear to this date Beth, this will be the first time for me to go out with a man not my relative and I’m not sure what to wear? Of course this is only a business meeting. The man is a CPA and I want some advice on my investments so I need to look presentable.”
Beth was relieved to get off so easily after being caught out snooping into the doctor’s private life that she gushed suggestions.
Maria was shocked. It sounded more like a makeover than an appropriate dress to wear. All of a sudden she felt apprehensive. This was taking her too far out of her comfort zone and she began to regret agreeing to a date with this accountant.
Beth continued to gush about hairdressers and dresses until Maria Haq shut her down. “Later Beth, we have patients waiting!”
That evening Maria allowed Beth to take control as they finished appointments for the day. They visited Beth’s hairdresser who sculptured Maria’s hair to perfection and then an excited Beth rushed her to a series of shops where Maria emerged with the latest in fashion clothing Beth could only dream of buying with their limited family budget.
Maria’s head was spinning with excitement. It was the best evening she could ever remember and Beth was animated too.
“Your husband will not be happy if you don’t get home soon. It’s getting late.” Maria didn’t want the excitement to end but wondered how Beth could spend time with her this late in the evening.
“Oh he’s on duty this week so I won’t see him as he’ll be following a doctor around observing and hopefully will find time to study in between calls as he has heavy lectures during the day. Sometimes we barely have time for each other.”
Maria nodded in sympathy. She remembered the daily grind during her lecture and observation years.
“I know what you mean,” she said softly. “But it would be hard on a marriage and I admire you for hanging in there.
To be continued.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2016 All rights reserved”