Tell a Friend
Request Book Review
Request Author Interview
Buy a Link
Buy an Ad
Free Reads Suggestions
©Copyright 2006 by
Cover Art by Estêvão A. de Freitas
No part of this book
may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information and
storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright
Two lives were about to intersect on the Oregon Coast. A sea gull saw it from above as the bird banked out toward the water. One man waited in a parking lot as a car pulled in. Then a woman glanced out the car window and paused.
All three hesitated as the moment hung in time—the bird from above, the man on foot, and the woman in the car.
A wave broke on the beach and echoed with the opening of the car door. The bird dropped for the surf. Julie Fox turned in her seat. And the stranger approached. He wore a sport coat and carried a notebook.
“Dr. Fox?” His voice was deep.
“And you?” She lifted some folders from the other seat and climbed out.
“I’m Kyle Summer, from Atlanta.”
“Nice to meet you, Kyle.”
“Why didn’t you return my calls?”
She looked down and adjusted the folders in her arms. Then she dropped the car keys in her purse. “You’re the writer?”
“Maybe there was a mistake.” Her voice cracked. She swallowed in an effort to continue. “You’re listed as a new patient today and also…”
“In need of an interview.”
She looked up at him again. His eyes were blue and deep, his hair blond. She hesitated. “But…both?”
He started to smile and stopped himself. “Chronic Fatigue.”
“Why the appointment then?” She pulled her black hair back and kept her voice clinical, her eyes fixed.
“I’m like all the others with this condition.”
“But I‘m a doctor, not an information source.” She turned for the building.
“You’re an expert.” He followed.
“An investigation of several months and a trip across the country.” He started to grab her arm and stopped in mid-movement.
Don’t tell me I came twenty-eight hundred miles for a closed door, he thought. Focus, Kyle. Notice the non-verbals.
She paused. “We’re primarily a research clinic. Besides, you know the results if you followed the studies.”
“What about the treatment you suggested with supplements?”
She took a deep breath. He looked in her eyes.
Dark brown, he thought. Olive skin, smooth complexion. Oriental features and yet untamed. Looks muscled and yet relaxed, in control but concerned. I’m getting mixed messages.
“All right,” she whispered. “Come in the clinic. I’ll take a look.”
He followed her. There was a lemon scent from her hair. The waves broke in the distance with a sky that seemed to reach down in an embrace.
So this is Oregon, he thought. And this is Dr. Fox.
They walked into the back entrance and into a hall. Kyle looked down at the new carpet and inhaled the fresh smell of paint. She pointed at a room off to the side. It was tan colored like the desert. He stepped in and sat down.
She came to his screening room after several minutes. He held a notebook and set it down as she walked in.
“What’s that for?” She turned for the sink and began to wash her hands.
“I thought you wanted medical help.”
“I don’t do interviews. That’s why I never called back.” She turned to face him and dried her hands on a paper towel.
Why is he looking at me like that? she wondered then pushed it out of her mind. Julie, keep it clinical. The patient appears confused and lethargic…no, he’s a man in pain. A man with blue eyes and blond hair and the build of an athlete. I’m not ready for a relationship again. But then, why even consider that? This is doctor-patient only.
Dr. Fox leaned close to look in his eyes. An assistant walked in and closed the door.
Kyle tensed in reflex. “Why are you looking in my eyes?”
“Why are you questioning me?“
“I’m a writer. The story is about Chronic Fatigue.”
Her expression hardened. “I just told you. I don’t talk to journalists.”
“Can you at least help me?”
She took a deep breath. “What have we got here?”
Kyle held up a hand. “You’re right. It’s been rough. I’ve been to doctors all over the country and nothing helped yet.”
Dr. Fox turned to her assistant. “Get the vitals. Normal screening. Include an echo-cardiogram.”
Dr. Fox touched his leg and smiled. “Just like journalism. You start with the facts.”
She then left. Kyle took a deep breath as the assistant put a blood pressure cuff on his arm. There were pictures on the wall from the Oregon Coast. But each featured a lighthouse.
“What’s up with the pictures?” Kyle asked.
The assistant was a small woman with hair pulled back in a ponytail. She smiled.
“Metaphors,” she said. “We’re into hope.”
Dr. Fox sat at her desk and looked through a window that ran from ceiling to floor. White caps pulled at the horizon, and sea gulls pushed back in frustration.
What’s wrong with this picture? Julie wondered. A knock interrupted her thoughts.
Kyle walked in. She turned and lifted the folder from her desk.
“Nice office,” he said.
Kyle scanned the room. Santa Fe art hung on the wall. A bookcase held volumes on disease factors. But her desktop was clean with no paper, family pictures, or even pens.
“This is odd,” he added. “You’re a clean freak.”
“Whose evaluation is this?”
“Mine.” He tried to smile. “It’s automatic. I size up people for a living.”
She put the folder down. “So what do you see, Mr. News?”
“Someone who’s hiding.”
He held his hands up. “No one puts a research center on the Oregon Coast.”
“No access to large populations.”
“Let me go over your results.”
“I can do it for you.”
She sat up in the chair. “So what‘s the diagnosis?”
“Chronic fatigue, which is a generic term.” He looked down at the folder. “You don’t see anything wrong. And yet my heart is weak. I used to play college football. Now I get winded on stairs.”
“Then why did you come here?”
He shook his head. “You get desperate with this.”
“We can prescribe some medication to help with exercise.”
Kyle slumped in the chair that faced her and then leaned forward. “You don’t know what it’s like to lose everything that was important.”
“Mr. Summer, I hate to interrupt, but I’ve got a clinic to run.”
Kyle sat frozen. “There are millions of people out there like me. Their lives are falling apart.”
“I don’t do miracles.”
“I don’t need that.”
“Then what do you need?” She studied his eyes again and felt a weakness inside her. It was frightening.
“Can I talk to you—outside of this place?”
“I don’t even know you.”
“Bring an escort. I’m not asking for a date.”
“How long will you be in town?”
“How long does it take?”
“It depends,” she said. “By the way, everything looks good on the tests.”
Kyle got up. “I crossed the continent for this?”
He walked out.
Dr. Fox thought about those eyes as the day passed and the evening turned cold. Night came to Oregon in cloudbanks above the Pacific. She needed time to think. Time to adjust and understand. So she went back to the place that always helped— Devil’s Elbow, the state park at the foot of Heceta Head Lighthouse.
It was a cove with several hills that framed the opening. Sections of gold color circled above with each pass from the light. The beach was small and usually empty.
She parked her car and smelled the ocean in a mist as she got out. Waves broke past the surf line. The tension from the day eased out from her as she walked toward the water. But there was a man on a bench near the tide line. It was Kyle.
“Pretty night,” he said.
“How did you know?” she asked.
He smiled. “You’ve got lighthouses all over your office.”
She nodded and sat down. “I come here a lot.”
Kyle looked out at the water. “Must have a special meaning.”
“Do you ever stop the questions?”
He crossed his arms and took a deep breath. “Only when there’s no way out.”
“I wish I had some answers for you, Mr. Summers.”
“Call me Kyle.”
“Why?” She tried to smile.
Here it comes, she thought. That feeling of loss. That whatever just beyond memory. Why the pain so close to the surface? Why the tears that are ready with one word or look?
“You and I are different people,” she whispered.
“And that’s the odd thing about Chronic Fatigue. It brings so many together in a way that no one wanted.”
“We’re still working on the cause factors.”
He leaned closer. “Easy for those without the problem.”
She got up. “This conversation is getting strange.”
“Look.” He got up also. “I’m sorry. It’s frustration. The illness affects your mind also.”
“Believe me, I know.”
“I played safety in college,” he told her. “I was the last person between the opposition and the goal line. Even in journalism, I took on issues that others saw as hopeless.”
She looked at the hills in the cove. There was a dip between rocks where the tide exploded. Kyle saw the direction of her eyes and looked also.
“Something happened there. You’re remembering it.”
Her eyes softened. She put her hands in the coat pockets and looked again at the water’s edge. “My fiancé died there.”
“We came here to open a practice.”
“Must be hard to talk about.”
Here goes, she thought. Back at the hurt. “Eight months ago.”
She pointed in the darkness. “Water level drops at low tide. You can cross over to the hill. But the tide comes back.”
“And it traps you.” He nodded.
“Didn’t trap us. But someone was trying to jump from the hill back over to the beach and got swept out. Barry, my fiancé, tried to help. Both drowned.”
"You miss him.”
“That explains a lot.”
She swallowed. “Well, I guess you’ll put that in your story.”
“Not at all.”
“Cause I need your help…and there‘s no where else to go.”