Chapter Nine - The Calm Before The Storm
Buzzing. Voices. Laughter.
Erin could hear all sort of things. As she tried to wake up, the bright ray of sunlight coming out from the window ahead prevented her from opening her eyes. Sighing, she did so anyway. As Erin looked around, she found herself on top of the queen-sized bed, and under carefully-tucked blankets. Shyly she even... thought that may be Derek would be beside her, but she found no traces of him in the room.
She slapped herself. "What the hell is wrong with you?" She asked. Slapping her face once more, she was interrupted by a sudden sound coming from the hall outside.
"Erin, sweetheart. Are you awake?" It was a woman's voice. The woman knocked softly on the other side, and Erin quickly stood up.
"I'm awake, ma'am." Erin answered as she opened the door. Judith smiled at her.
"Your husband woke up very early this morning to finish with the other patients. He said he really wanted the afternoon to be open. He told me not to wake you up, but it's already ten in the morning and I'm afraid you'd miss out breakfast." Judith led her to the dining table, and Erin saw another feast laid up for its guest. A plateful of eggs, bacon, sausages, freshly-made bread made straight from the old-styled oven, warm chicken soup and a pitcher of orange juice beside fresh strawberry jam - it was feast both to the eyes and the stomach.
"Ma'am, this sure is a lot!" Erin exclaimed, her eyes twinkling from the sight.
"Oh, Frank told me the same thing too but I can't help it! It's not every day we get any visitors around here. And a beautiful couple you are. Now eat up," the old woman handed her a plate. Erin quietly took it, repeating the word "couple" in her head. As she ate, Judith asked her questions about the main city - the number of people there, the places to go for leisure, the prices of food, and the sort of things 'city people' do. Erin tried to answer it all, and Judith's eyes get bigger with excitement whenever she spoke. As she finished eating, Erin turned to Judith.
"Ma'am, do you know where my... um... husband, is?" She blushed as she asked, and this got Judith to smile a bit more.
"He would be working outside today, in the courtyard. He likes to see patients outside instead of staying inside that moldy white building when the weather is very good." Judith paused. "But child, where are your clothes?"
"...I seem to have left it in the city," she answered, frigid. Since Derek took her unexpectedly, the only clothes she had was the ones on her back. She was starting to feel stinky too. "Damn it, Derek." She thought quietly.
"That's not a problem at all!" Judith stood up, "I have just the right thing for you. Go ahead and take a shower, then I'll have it prepared in your room."
Derek flipped through the files, determined to finish before mid-afternoon. As early as five in the morning, he checked each and every person lined up outside - from those with simple symptoms of cough and cold, to those who may be suffering a more severe, contagious diseases. Fortunately, the majority only needed basic medicine.
"You're done for the day."
Derek looked up to see who answered him, and found a woman wearing a simple, knee-length white dress. Her brown hair fell past her shoulders, and her blue eyes shone like the Atlantic ocean - silent, calm, and quite possibly the death of him.
"Good Morning," Derek said as he smiled. "You look nice."
"It's already afternoon," Erin corrected. She looked around, noticing the long line of people have dispersed. Those that remained were already being taken care of by the other doctors. It was a good sign, as it meant that none of them were suffering anything so bad that only a doctor from the city can take care of it. "I hear you were in a rush to get things done today. You got other plans?"
Derek stood up, stretching. After removing the stethoscope from his neck, he walked beside Erin. Wearing a black long-sleeves and dark-washed jeans, no one could really think of him as someone related to medicine. He practically looked like a man out of a magazine - posing for a shot. Grabbing her arm, Derek looked at her straight in the eyes.
He pulled her inside his truck, much to her unending protests.
"Are we leaving already?" She said, surprised. "But they're still expecting you here tomorrow!"
"We aren't leaving," he said to her, his eyes straight to the road. "There's a place here I want to visit before we leave tomorrow."
"Where's that?" Erin asked him.
Erin stopped asking questions, and they drove in silence. It was weird, she thought, that Derek hadn't been pushy since they came to St. Lucinta. He wasn't warm either. He was just Derek Matthews - the doctor. He showed some concern, but none too drastic that she would think differently. And now he decided to take her somewhere else.
Then she stopped thinking.
"What is with you?" She asked herself angrily. "This is Derek we're talking about! The one that made your life a living hell! The fact that you're sitting in the same car as him, in silence, is a miracle itself! And now you want more? You hate him, don't you?" Her thoughts came to a sudden halt.
Of course I hate him.
I hate him.
Erin was confused now. Ever since she came to New York, she wanted to start a new life. To think that she would bump into Derek Matthews of all people, to suddenly work with him, live alongside him, and to actually be with him at this precise moment, it was nothing more than a world of clichés.
One that is actually happening to her.
She was so preoccupied with her thoughts that she didn't realize Derek had already stopped the car.
When she looked out, her eyes widened in disbelief. There they were, parked in the sand, overlooking the clearest waters she had ever seen.
"It's a secret place here in St. Lucinta," Derek explained as he got out of the car. "I hang out here when I have time."
Erin wasn't listening to him. She practically forced herself out of the truck, and ran straight to the beach.
"Cold," she thought as she ran her fingers through the waters. Erin hadn't been to a beach in a very long time. She never had the time to go anywhere. In Canada, she only studied.
"I knew you'd like it here," Derek said from behind. He sat beside her.
"Don't flatter yourself," she quickly responded. "You shouldn't-"
"-Your fiance," Derek interrupted, "Does he know you're here?"
His voice remained calm, but his face hardened as he asked her. Finally, she chuckled.
"What's so funny?" Derek looked at her, surprised.
"He's not." She said as her fingers played in the sand.
"He's not?" He asked.
She looked at him. "He's not my fiance."
She noticed as his hardened expression relaxed. "But... that night, and on the ship..."
"Gary Dean is a colleague from College. He had already proposed to me twice. Once in Canada, and the next - here, that night, when you saw him." She looked at the sand as she spoke. "He proposed, but I said no."
Gary loved her, she knew he did. For the past five years, Gary took care of her, he protected her, and he was always there for her. Erin wanted to love him too. She truly did. They went out a few times, they even kissed, but she realized that she was only forcing herself to fill the gap in her heart that Derek took away five years ago.
"And why is that?" Derek asked her, but she merely laughed at him.
Had she accepted his proposal, he would soon realize that he was merely a substitute for the cruel master of her heart. And now that fate decided to let them meet again, she has finally decided to give up. Because no matter how much she denied it, she knew.
She still loved Derek Matthews.
"Life is cruel, you know." She answered as she stood up. "I wanted to hate you, and for years I hated you..." Tears were starting to run down her face, but she ignored it. "You cheated on me, and I hated you for that. I hated you, because you were the comfort I needed when my mother died. I ran away, because I couldn't face reality - that the man who betrayed me was the same boy whom I loved since I was a kid."
She was shaking now, yet all Derek could do was stare at her, his pair of eyes widened. "I... I wanted to move on, you know. I wanted to love someone else, but I can't even do that. And why, you dare ask?" Erin formed her hands into a fist. "Because I still love you, damn it!"
Derek had enough. Before Erin could run away, he grabbed her down and held her tightly in his arms. He kissed her, and for the first time she welcomed him. She touched his face, and her fingers traced the outline of his jaw, his nose, his forehead, and even those soft lips that could make other woman jealous.
"It's not a dream, is it?" He whispered as he cupped her face.
She smiled as she shook her head. "It's not a dream."
Again their lips met, hungry for each other. For a whole five minutes they continued, eagerly touching each other as if the other would disappear if left untouched.
Breathless, they both pulled away.
"I'm Derek. Derek Matthews." He smiled at her. "Nice to meet you."
"My name is Erin Grey," she chuckled, "It's nice to meet you too."
The couple finally reunited - two hearts who strayed far from each other had finally intertwined. However, amidst the happy reunion, a pair of eyes watched them from afar - watching the two, thirsty for the blood of one.