A bubble of laughter escaped before he could damp it down. ‘Thanks, but, no, thanks. You go right ahead.’ His new colleague really was like no other woman he’d met before. She was open, honest and sometimes he wondered if she filtered her thoughts before speaking them out loud. Still, it was a refreshing quality to be around. It was as though she was more than comfortable with who she was and she didn’t care who knew it. Abigail had always been so conscious of adhering to the dictates of society that sometimes he’d been worried at her lack of confidence in exerting her own opinions and thoughts. Where his wife had never wanted to rock the boat, it appeared CJ was more than happy to jump overboard and splash around in the water.
Ethan rubbed his chin and sighed. It was wrong of him to compare the two women as they’d clearly had very different upbringings. Why he was comparing them at all, he had no clue. What he was conscious of, however, was the salty and sweet scents of what CJ was eating and within the next moment his stomach growled, betraying him.
CJ chuckled. ‘Grab some food. Shut that growling stomach up.’
‘It’s OK. I don’t like to eat between meals.’
‘Between meals? Ethan, it’s…what…?’ CJ glanced at the clock on the wall. ‘It’s three o’clock in the morning and clearly you were wide awake, as I’m pretty sure I wasn’t that noisy. Perhaps you couldn’t sleep because you were hungry.’ She waved another chocolate-smeared pickle in his direction. ‘If this doesn’t tempt you, grab an apple or whatever takes your fancy. Go on. Live on the edge. Eat something between scheduled mealtimes.’
Ethan listened to her, his smile increasing as she chatted away, teasing him with light-hearted banter. ‘Does everyone in this town talk the way you do?’
Her answer was to shrug as she chewed her mouthful, then swallowed. ‘You’ll have to figure that out for yourself. As far as I’m concerned, we only live our lives by the restrictions we force upon ourselves.’
‘And do you have any restrictions?’ His stomach growled again and he was rewarded with another light tinkling chuckle from the woman opposite.
‘I guess you’ll have to figure that out, too.’
He had to admit she had a nice laugh. It was a lovely sound and as it washed over him, he breathed in deeply and relaxed a little. ‘Perhaps I will have a piece of fruit.’ With that, he stood and went to the fridge. ‘You keep bananas in the fridge?’ he asked a second later and again she chuckled.
‘Why not? It stops them from ripening as fast.’
‘Is that true?’
CJ swallowed her mouthful. ‘I have no idea but it sounds as though it could be true. And speaking of bananas…’ She reached for the one in front of her and began to peel it, pleased she’d managed to break through his defences. After he’d stalked out of her consulting room, she’d sat there confused. She wasn’t sure where he’d gone, but as she’d had to go over to the hospital after finishing her measly clinic, she’d found him there, in a deep discussion with the Clinical Nurse Consultant. Together the three of them had done a round of the ward, with Bonnie, the CNC, introducing Ethan to the rest of the staff.
She watched as he polished the apple on his robe before taking a bite, walking back to the chair he’d recently vacated. ‘You have a nice smile,’ she stated, and he paused, apple poised for another bite, and glared at her. ‘Sorry. I didn’t mean to blurt that out but it’s true. I hope I didn’t make you uncomfortable.’
CJ shook her head as she watched him take another bite of his apple. ‘My dad used to say that I had no filter, that what I thought was what I said. Sometimes he said it was very refreshing and other times quite annoying.’ She chuckled and took another bite of her banana. Life was what you made it and as far as CJ was concerned, she didn’t have time for double talk and silly games.
‘So…how do you handle it when someone just blurts out the truth, perhaps saying something you don’t want to hear?’
‘Huh.’ She laughed without humour. ‘My husband used to say a lot of things I didn’t want to hear.’
Ethan nodded. ‘I think that happens in most relationships.’ At least, it had for him. There were things he’d regretted saying to Abigail and things he regretted not saying to Abigail. She, however, had preferred to keep quiet, had preferred not to tell him what was really going on in her life…even though he had kept asking her if something was wrong. She’d been so secretive. And too late he’d understood why. He slammed the door shut on his thoughts yet again.