"The bloody bastard," Rae angrily muttered as she maneuvered her car into the parking space alloted her. UMC doled out premium parking spaces on a merit basis. Since her separation from Sean, Rae had discovered that two incomes were much better than one when it came to providing the lifestyle to which she was accustomed.

Rae wasn't sure which bloody bastard she meant: Sean or Robert Winningham. Three days ago, Robert, the husband of Dean Witter and the man who had date-raped Rae, had phoned Rae's lawyer and informed Ellen Etzel that he was filing some legal papers. But Robert wouldn't say anything further. Ellen Etzel had phoned Rae to inform her of Robert's phone call, warning Rae to tell UMC support staff not to accept any packages or phone calls from Robert Winningham.

Then yesterday just before six pm, a tall, young redhead had knocked on the door to Rae's home. When a paint-spattered Rae had answered, the redhead said cheerily, "Doctor Rae Brennan?" When Rae nodded, the redhead continued, "Process server. Congratulations. You've been sued!" and handed Rae an envelope. Open-mouthed, Rae had accepted the envelope and watched the redhead drive off in a rather flashy car.

"Flashy car for a process server," Rae had told herself. "Probably bought on daddy's money." The phone had rung and Rae had dropped the envelope on the couch. While she and Nick were chatting on the phone, she had opened the envelope to discover that Sean had served her with legal papers requesting one-half of the value of their marital home.

From her divorce attorney, Rae knew that under California community property law, all assets acquired during the course of marriage were considered jointly owned, and upon dissolution of that marriage, those assets had to be divided equally. Additionally, and in the absence of a pesky little document known as the prenuptial agreement, Rae discovered to her shock that the increase in value of pre-marital property also had to be divided equally.

This meant, as Rae had discovered, either she had to buy out Sean's half of the marital assets, or the court would require those assets to be sold. Further, she would have to have her pre-marital assets reassessed and one-half the increase given to Sean. California's marital laws also meant that Rae's family wasn't going to be happy about potentially having to sell her share in the family's interest in Kentucky racehorses. The Brennan family's interest in the racehorses had increased significantly during the ten year marriage.

And Rae's share of the Brennan equestrian venture was twelve point six percent. Adding everything up, last night's documents starkly informed Rae she would have come up with nearly four hundred thousand dollars in cash, a prospect which had boggled her mind, both last night and this morning.

A car horn beeped, bringing Rae back to the present. Rae looked around, but didn't see the car in question. "I don't know who to be angrier at, California or Sean," Rae told herself as she shut off the car's engine.

"Or maybe myself. I should have gotten a pre-marital or post-nuptial agreement." California marital law apparently meant to bankrupt her or at least drive down the cash value of her assets. Without looking, Rae opened the car door.

"Oh damn!" she cried, as the car door slammed against the car next to it. She pulled the door closed then opened the window to view the damage. A large scratch was on the car's passenger side door. The car would have to be a BMW and the repair would likely to run several hundred dollars. Unless the beamer's owner was in the mood for a paint job.

"Crap!" Sighing, Rae fumbled in her purse for one of her business cards and a pen. She scribbled a note on the back of the card then crawled across the seat to open the passenger side door. Getting out of the car, she looked down to see if she had parked in error.

She had. Her car was parked at least a foot away from the solid line demarcating her parking space. Rae screwed up her face and decided to get on with her day. It couldn't get any worse than it had already started out.

Going around to the beamer's front windshield, Rae placed her business card under the wiper so her message would be noticed by the beamer's owner. Angry, Rae stomped across the parking garage and flung open the door leading to the elevator bay.

"Doctor Rae Brennan, Please report to OR. Doctor RAE Brennan, please report to OR stat."

"What now?" Rae asked aloud to the empty elevator bay. She didn't have any patients needing surgery and her patient load had been leveling off these last few weeks. As the elevator doors opened, she entered and pressed the button for the OR suite.

As if UMC personnel knew she needed to get to OR stat, the elevator didn't stop until it reached the desired floor. The doors opened and as Rae exited, she nearly ran into Nick. He was dressed in clean surgical scrubs. Ever watchful of spreading germs, after a surgery, Nick immediately showered and changed into fresh scrubs.

"Nick!" Nick had a surprising way of appearing at odd moments, usually startling Rae. She was beginning to grow used his surprise appearances and often found herself looking forward to those moments. He'd usually hug her and smile at her with those pearly whites that nearly blinded her.

"That was fast. I'm glad you're here," Nick told her by way of greeting, taking her arm and leading her to one of the wash up sinks.

Rae smiled. "Glad I'm here as well," she told him. "What's up?"

"New case," he told her, taking her purse. Rae stepped on the foot pedal that worked the sink. In this new age of SARS, UMC wasn't going to cut disinfectant costs.

"What about the lab?" she inquired as she finished washing her hands.

"You're the lab," Nick told her bluntly, without explaining further. "Come." He took her arm and lead her down the hall to an observation lounge for one of the ORs. 

"What is going on?" Rae wanted to know but Nick was silent. The two doctors entered the lounge and went to the closed circuit tv screen. Pressing a button Nick said, "Doctor Carlton, Doctor Brennan is here."

Doctor Carlton nodded and one of the surgical nurses held up a large tray containing a tumor. Rae gasped in shock.

"Uh, yeah," she nodded. Nick motioned her over to the speakerphone. "Uh, good morning, Doctor Carlton. I'm Doctor Brennan. I can give you a 90 percent guarantee that tumor is malignant." And even from this distance, Rae could see that the tumor, trailing blood vessels, was not of the benign kind.

Rae had seen too many malignant tumors not to notice the subtle differences. The tumor the nurse was having difficulty holding up was shaped unevenly, a feature usually indicative of malignancy. The nurse placed the tray down on a table and through the speaker system, Rae could hear the nurse grunt.

Nick held his hand over Rae's, effectively lifting her finger off the speaker button. She looked at him quizzically.

"En francais, sil vous plait," Nick told her. "He's on exchange from the University of Monteal."

Rae blushed a bit. "I, uh, forgot my French," she admitted, giving Nick a huge smile.

Nick smiled in return. "It's oui, oui, c'est un malignancy," he supplied for her.

Rae pressed the speaker button again. "Doctor Carlton," she said and he looked up. "Oui, oui. C'est un malignancy." He nodded, frowned, then turned back to his surgery. Rae lifted her finger from the speaker button. "You know I'll have to check with pathology, Nick." 

He nodded and Rae continued. "When did this come in?" she inquired of Nick, indicating the surgery down below.

"Last night, around eightish," he replied. Rae took a step back and looked at Nick.

"The surgery's been going on since eight last night?" she asked, incredulous. Even at eight am, a cancer surgery with a tumor that size shouldn't have taken more than six hours at most. Nick motioned her to sit down. Rae sat, followed by Nick.

"Doctor Howland admitted her with extreme abdominal distension, on-going gas pains, and a chronic bleeding from the vagina, despite the fact the patient had undergone a hysterectomy twenty years ago."

Rae whistled. "Ovarian cancer. Probably a mucinous tumor," Rae said, referring to one the three most common malignant ovarian tumors: mucinous, dermoid, and serous cysts. "Mucinous tumors tend to grow the largest. You've sent a sample to the lab?"

"Yeah," Nick said. "It took Doctor Carlton two hours just to get the tumor out, having to separate the tumors blood vessels from the patient's blood vessels. They were that twisted together. A sample was sent to the lab a few minutes ago. I thought," Nick told her, taking her hand. "That you'd like to look at this firsthand instead of in some lab report."

Rae sneered. Lab reports! How she hated lab reports. But lab reports were the heart and soul oncology. Nick softly chuckled.

"I know you hate lab reports," Nick told her. "Know how much it weighs?"

Rae shook her head.

"Twenty eight pounds."

Rae's jaw dropped. "You're kidding!"

Nick shook his head. "Nope. Wish I were kidding."

"Guess I should get to the lab and get to work," Rae told him.

"You don't want to watch?" Nick inquired, taking her hand. Rae shook her head. "Doctor Carlton's excellent," Nick told her.

A question that had been in the back of Rae's mind popped to her mouth. "How come you're not operating?" she asked him.

Nick smiled and opened his hands. "I defer to someone more skilled than I," he told her.

"But you're the best!" Rae exclaimed. Nick smiled.

"Not in cancer surgery this extensive," he informed her. "Doctor Carlton has vastly more experience in gynecological oncological surgery than I myself do. Although," he added, "I have performed my share of this type of surgery."

"Would you like to sit in on some future cases?" Rae inquired, looking at Nick.

"I'd love to. A general surgeon can't have too much experience in all types of surgeries," he replied, smiling at her. Rae looked at Nick then down at the on-going surgery.

"You're wondering why I'm not down there," Nick told her. Rae nodded. "I was there for the first part, up until Doctor Carlton removed the tumor. Then I was called to assess another emergency OR case."

Rae nodded, understanding. "Now that the tumor's out, the rest of the surgery's pretty routine," she commented. "Unless the cancer had invaded the bladder, or the intestines, then there's more."

"Doctor Carlton thinks the cancer hasn't spread. Bladder looks very healthy, although we've got a sample into the lab. Intestines also look pretty healthy," Nick told her.

"And your other case?" Rae asked. Nick looked sad.

"Deceased." Nick shook his head. "Nothing I could do." He looked at her. "Hey, you feeling all right, I mean, after last night?"

Rae looked down. "Yeah. It was a shock, that was all," she told him.

Nick smiled wanly. "Just a shock?" he inquired. "The lady screams into my ear and she says it's just a shock?" he asked, holding his hands up. "I'd say the lady nearly had a heart attack," Nick said.

Rae nodded. "Divorce, American style," she told him. "Not a pretty thing in California."

"Pesky marital laws?" Nick inquired.


"You're not going to be happy about another thing," Nick told her. Rae looked at Nick, growing alarm showing on her face. "We, uh, the staff thought it would be better if you heard this from me."

"Heard what from you?" Rae asked, her soft tone belied her growing alarm. Nick glanced away a moment, down at the on-going surgery. Below, Doctor Carlton was doing a thumbs-up with the surgical staff. Nick looked back at Rae.

"Heard that Robert Winningham is suing you for custody over your unborn child," Nick softly replied.

"Bastard," Rae breathed. "The bloody bastard," she said, glancing away. "Bastard," she repeated.

"Wish I didn't have to tell you," Nick said, wondering what he could do to soften the blow for Rae.

"What does this mean?" she asked. Nick looked confused. "I meant," Rae said, "what does Robert's filing for custody mean to my case against him?"

Nick shook his head. "You'll need to ask your lawyer."

From the observation room, Rae looked down at Doctor Carlton's surgical staff. "How did everyone know this?" she inquired without looking at Nick.

"It was in the paper," he replied.

"Oh. How considerate of the journalists. I must send them my thanks," Rae said ironically.

"Can he do that?" Nick asked now, taking Rae's hand. She looked at him. "I mean, sue you for custody?"

"I don't know."

"You might want to check with your lawyer first thing," Nick told Rae.

"I think..," Rae slowly said, "that that's the best idea I've heard yet."

"I agree. Rae, I'd like to stay, but I need to run an errand. Meet you in your office with a cup of coffee?"

Rae nodded. Nick leaned down and kissed her cheek. "See ya," Rae told him. "Thanks for telling me."

Nick smiled sadly at Rae before leaving the observation room. Rae remained a few moments longer, then followed Nick out into the hallway.

She looked down the hallway, but didn't see Nick. Turning her head to look the other way, she discovered that Nick had seemingly disappeared. "How does he do that?" Rae wondered out loud as she made her way towards the elevators.

Matt agitatedly paced up and down the hallway. He ran his hand through his now ongish hair, leaving some strands standing on end. He knew he needed a trim, but he hadn't had the time in the past several weeks. With his practice healthy and growing, dealing with a patient's shocking murder, and his growing relationship with Harmony. Add some spice to his daily duties via his article writing and submission to various magazines, including Vital Signs for Discover Magazine, Matt Slingerland, M.D., had his day planner full.

As he paced the hall, passersby smiled at him; some chuckled, thinking, perhaps, that Matt Slingerland was an anxious father awaiting the birth of his baby. He glanced at his Phillipe Patek watch and continued pacing. He needed a distraction.

"Ninety nine bottles of whiskey on the wall. Ninety nine bottles of whiskey..." he muttered aloud.

While Matt was at the far end of his round, the door opened. Matt heard the door open. Turning, he saw the doctor's white coat and faintly heard her mumbling something to the patient.

Matt hurried towards the doctor as the door to the room shut with a soft snick.

"Well?" he asked.

"A bit impatient, aren't you?" the good doctor Jackie Collette replied, then chuckled. "She'll be fine.

Matt frowned. His disappointment must have shown on her face.

"I think I can arrange something," Jackie brightly told Matt. "I've heard recently of medical teaming."

"Ah, yes. Medical teaming," Matt's disposition improved immediately. "I think that would work quite admirably." He gave a smile as Jackie shook her head then moved on to her next patient. Matt was left standing outside the room. He smiled and patted the door in a knowing way.

Now, I've that meeting with David now."

"Hey, Jackie, thanks!" Matt called down the hallway. Without looking back, Jackie raised her hand and waved it in response.

“Nick!” sounded the voice behind him. Nick turned and gazed down the crowded hallway. He tried to discern who was calling him—a female, he knew that much by the high pitched voice—but he couldn’t place who it was. He waited a moment longer then turned again and began walking down the crowded hallway.

Perhaps he wasn’t the only Nick working at Presidio but since he’d never had reason to check with personnel about the matter, he didn’t know for sure one way or the other.

Nick smiled at colleagues as he passed. He was blending in well with both Presidio and UMC’s internal staff. In the beginning, there were some problems, especially with Rae, but all in all, things were working out just fine.

His parents, of course, missed their son a lot—at least their postcards said they missed him. They had begun an around the world freighter cruise, but were the type of people to say, “Hey, let’s interrupt our cruise and hire a charter to cruise the Hawaiian Islands.” Which is just what they did. And then some. The last he’d heard, his parents were on a charter sailing trip through the central Pacific and they’d planned to visit American Samoa.

Then, he’d received, of all things, a postcard from Christmas Island. Having had virtually no experience with South Pacific islands, Nick had had no idea where Christmas Island was. Knowing where he could find a high quality map of the world, Nick had gone over to the Duncan Building—housing the Geography Department—and had stood in the large lobby looking at the small dot of brown which represented Christmas Island.

To his surprise, he discovered that there were two Christmas Islands, one in the Indian Ocean and one atoll in the Pacific that was formerly referred to as Christmas Island but had changed its name to Kiritimati.

Nick then found out that Washington Island and Fanning Island also underwent name changes to Teraina and Tabuaeran respectively, which cleared up a lot of confusion for Nick. While in Hawaii awaiting their charter ship departure, his parents had phoned, gushing with news about their Pacific charter sail. They were going to visit several islands in the Pacific, including Teraina and Tabuaeran.

Nick hadn’t been able to find a reference to these islands in his atlas so he’d resigned himself to complete confusion until one of his surgical students suggested that Nick take a look at the handmade map in the Duncan building. Turns out his parents had visited Kiritimati.

Now Nick made a sharp left turn at the juncture. He was headed towards the newly built Atrium, a gathering place with several small food shops and coffee places. The Atrium was a nice place to grab a snack, sit a bit and relax. And, it was just a door down from the offices of Presidio, making it quite a convenient spot for Presidio's staff to gather. From the surgical suite, Nick had found the shortest route to the Atrium, a route that he'd timed. At his fastest walking pace, Nick could reach the Atrium in just under two minutes.

Usually, Nick would meet his surgical staff for a quick cup of coffee after a difficult surgery. Today, however, Nick had other business in the Atrium.

Jackie pressed her hands between her knees as she waited outside David's office. She knew what the meeting was about--the underage Marnie Brown's breast implants--and Jackie Collette realized today was her day of reckoning.

Marnie Brown. Sixteen, aspiring actress and bullheaded to a fault, Marnie Brown had told Jackie that she, Marnie, was eighteen years old. Jackie was not required to check identification before agreeing to perform a breast implant. And Jackie, never having dealt with a sophisticated teenager before, was not prepared when Marnie turned out to be sixteen years old.

Marnie's mother, despite her nonchalant attitude, had filed one mother of a lawsuit. David had sighed, then had placed Jackie under OR supervision, meaning when she performed an OR procedure, she had to have a second surgeon in the OR room with her at all times.

The Brown lawsuit was not her fault. David had emphasized that fact over and over again. So did Matt, Nick, and Jules. Harriet, Norman, Tom and Letty all had told her she could not be faulted for Marnie's deception. "Teens these days are quite sophisticated," Jules had told Jackie. "Some teens think they deserve all the privileges of adults--credit cards, cars and lots of spending money--all out of Mom and Dad's wallet," Jules had continued. 

To her utter shock, Jackie had found herself muttering in reply, "Those kids must think they're too stupid to earn their own spending money."

Letty had overheard that comment, and had shaken her head. With her back towards Jackie and with Jules running the kitchen tap, Jules hadn't heard what Jackie had said. Jackie had looked around the room, blushing with shame. 

"With all the problems teens had these days," Jackie had wondered aloud, "it's a wonder that they even get to adulthood."

But Letty had commented that teens don't face more stress than adults, teens face a different kind of stress. And, Letty had added, high school ends and then the real problems begin: how to find housing if one doesn't go on to college, finding a decent paying job with only a high school diploma.

"Getting health insurance," Jackie had found herself saying.

"You got that right," Letty had replied.

Now, in David's reception area, Jackie pressed her lips together. Today was the day that David would reveal her fate: whether or not she would be placed on administrative leave prior to the court date seven months from now. UMC Legal had decided to fight the lawsuit, but Legal had also decided to take certain actions prior to the court date of the trial.

And one of those actions was the possibility that Doctor Collette would be out of work for seven months. All of Presidio's staff were rooting for Jackie, and Nick in particular sympathized with Jackie's predicament.

Nick had been suspended for two weeks after he had operated on a patient of Doctor Howland's. That patient had a dangerous condition, an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The condition was life threatening if not operated on immediately. Doctor Howland did not agree with Nick's diagnosis, but he'd taken his Hippocratic Oath quite seriously and he went ahead with the operation.

When Doctor Howland discovered what Nick had done, she'd tried to get his medical license suspended. Letty had managed to drive the information through Doctor Howland's skull that had Nick not operated on the patient, the patient would be six feet under. So, Doctor Howland had settled for a two week suspension. Of course, Doctor Howland didn't mention that she had failed to exclude a life threatening condition from her diagnosis, a fact that had angered Nick. 

Jackie wasn't facing a two week suspension. She was facing a seven month suspension. That length of time was not conducive to either to her practice or her pocketbook.

The door opened.

"Ready?" David asked Jackie. She nodded and stood up. Smoothing her skirt, Jackie went into David's office to discover her fate. 

On her last day at work, Doctor Terry Howland sat in the Atrium, sipped her coffee and looked around the very new, glassed-in atrium. Despite the slowdown in the economy, there were still people wealthy enough to contribute to UMC's coffers. Especially grateful were several UMC alumni whose joint funds had been enough to do some much needed construction work around campus.

Naturally, the talk around campus lately had been of the newly constructed glass atrium. This was the big project of the several dozen alumni. Names for the Atrium were still being bantered about and UMC was sponsoring a contest to the lucky staffer or student who could come up with a name for the Atrium. Donated prizes included: a $50 AMC movie card, various gift certificates and excluding weekends and holidays, one forty six ounce cup of java daily for two semesters. Now that prize Terry could use.

Terry was a bit adverse to sitting in a glass atrium, her reasoning being that the City was prone to earthquakes and she did not wish to be decapitated by falling glass.

Still, she had to admit the new atrium was striking. Done up in modern steel and glass, with brightly painted walls in between, the Atrium as it was currently called, was a welcome refuge to the work-weary. Large green plants, some of which hid cozy tables, were generously placed around the enclosure. Terry's corner table was nearly obscured by one of the large plants.

And privacy was what Doctor Terry Howland desperately needed. She needed time to lick her wounds, time to come face to face that not only had her personal life come unravelled, but that her professional life was hanging in tatters.

She had only herself to blame. Well, herself and the bottle. She knew alcoholism is a disease, and that it can creep up on you softly: an occasional drink before dinner becomes a drink before every dinner. Somewhere down the line you find yourself ordering wine to accompany your lunch, then an after-work drink to calm frazzled nerves, a drink with dinner and finally, a nightcap to get you settled for bed.

It was this slow progression of alcoholism that had landed Doctor Terry Howland in trouble with the medical board. She had tried to sweep her marital problems under the rug to no avail. But she didn't count on the loss of identity that went hand in hand with marriage.

Couples married for several reasons, Terry knew. Social, financial, love, baby on the way, even an arranged marriage were all reasons to take that trip down the aisle. Terry had been married for a long time, and the identity she'd developed as an adult going into her forties was that of a happily married professional woman capable of handling a crushing workload as an Attending ER Physician and juggling her and her husband's social life.

As it turned out, she was more adept at juggling her professional workload than in juggling her husband. Terry had discovered her husband was cheating on her with a much younger woman. That burned Terry's heart to know she was so...replaceable with a newer model.

It wasn't that Terry was unattractive. Quite the contrary, in the ER over the years, she'd had to pleasantly decline offer after offer of dates (and a few impromptu marriage proposals), both from incoming patients and physicians. Terry was highly intelligent, sociable, she had an ever growing list of hobbies. Okay, okay, so she could be a thorn in someone's side when she wanted to be a thorn in their side.

Her abrasiveness only caused her opponents to reexamine their own diagnoses. And that was her downfall. Terry knew she'd made a grievous mistake in not excluding a life-threatening illness in one of her patients, a patient originally attended to in the field by a UMC colleague.

To make matters worse, the life-threatening illness was an abdominal aortic aneurysm, commonly known as a Triple A and totally diagnosable using a simple procedure. Yet, Doctor Terry Howland, esteemed recipient of several presitigious scholarships during her college and medical school years, yes, that Doctor Terry Howland had failed to diagnose a Triple A.

It had taken an upstart (though brilliant) young surgeon, the same surgeon who had accidentally happened upon the patient near the Golden Gate Bridge, to make the diagnosis. This same surgeon was a recent addition to the UMC medical team. Though Terry knew the surgeon's skills were top-notch else UMC would not have hired him, Terry was still miffed that Doctor Nicholas Kokoris had managed to make the diagnosis instead of her.

She supposed that since Doctor Kokoris had chanced across the patient, he must have been feeling his Hippocratic Oath quite strongly. She further supposed that feeling was what made him such a damn fine surgeon: like Matt Slingerland, Doctor Kokoris was willing to overturn every leaf in his search for a diagnosis. Sometimes, Terry now mused, when in surgery one must be prepared for the unusual and the unexpected. So Doctor Kokoris' actions were, at some level, perfectly understandable.

Doctor Kokoris' strong feelings obviously came into play when he managed to convince the patient to sign a consent form to operate for suspected appendicitis (diagnosed on rather blurry terms) but the patient also signed a consent form authorizing the ever-vague, "other procedures as necessary" clause. That particular clause gave Doctor Kokoris a chance to do a laparascopic procedure to first check the appendix, then he used the "other procedures as necessary" clause to perform corrective surgery for the Triple A.

And it was on the fact Doctor Kokoris stretched his diagnosis and convinced the patient he had appendicitis and Doctor Kokoris' subsequent Triple A surgical procedure that Terry Howland, M.D., had reported Doctor Kokoris to the discipline board.

Reflecting back on her actions, Terry knew she had overreacted when reporting Doctor Kokoris and asking that he be suspended for a period of time while she herself had neglected to mention her own failure to exclude a life-threatening illness from one of her own patients.

As she sipped her coffee and stared into the distance, Terry Howland failed to notice another patron of the Atrium watching her with dark eyes.

In frustration, Jules ran her hand through her newly-shorn hair and glanced at Matt. She hoped that she'd be able to resolve this family matter by lunchtime so she and Jackie could go out to the Wharf. Jules planned to do one of two things there: either celebrate the fact that Jackie was not going to be put on suspension, or Jules would give emotional support in the event Jackie was suspended. Jules glanced at the clock: nearly noon already. 

Although a bit out of her area, Jules had agreed to meet with the father and stepmother of one of her teen patients and the family's therapist. Today, Mr and Mrs Marguiles were having a bittersweet six month wedding anniversary. The last six months had been quite an adjustment period for both the new Mrs Marguiles and the stepdaughter, Sara. As in any relationship, there is an adjustment period, and in the case of a stepparent, the setting down of new rules. Some of those rules might not be to the stepchild's liking. 

In Sara's case, the teenager was behaving belligerently towards her new stepmother, going so far as to badmouth her father's new wife, and the girl dumped all sorts of problems like sneaking into her stepmother's jewlery box and stealing jewlery. In the fourth month of the marriage, Mrs Marguiles had asked for family therapy. So far, it had been nothing but two months worth of stalemate in family therapy. 

Jules was frazzled by this time and for this meeting, she had asked Matt Slingerland to sit in. Perhaps another physician could help. After all, Jules thought, this new medical teaming concept might work well. Especially since teens graduated from adolescent pediatrians to interns upon attaining their majority. 

Jules now sighed. "If Sara has the ability to make and keep friends, especially boyfriends, then she has the ability to accept your new wife."

Martin grimaced and glanced at his wife, Miriam. "I've been trying to tell that to this therapist," he said, jerking a thumb over at Molly Harper, MSW. Molly Harper sat in the chair, hands on the table.

"Mister Marguiles," Molly said patiently, "teens are under so much pressure these days..."

Jules cut in. "Yeah, I agree, but adults are under no less pressure."

Molly gave Jules a sharp look. "Teens need our understanding."

"Teens need," Miriam cut in, "to learn cooperation. And any relationship, whether that realtionship is a friendship, or Sara's relationship with her boyfriend, needs cooperation in order to survive," she said, holding up a hand to cut off Molly's obvious reply.

"Sara puts in an enormous number of hours maintaining her relationship with her friends. Endless hours chatting on the cellphone about all sorts of things, from the trivial "what to wear to Friday's dance," to Sara's sorting through her friends' emotional problems. Some of Sara's friends have emotional problems better suited to a pyschiatric unit rather than having Sara comment upon those problems," Miriam told everyone.

"Further, Miss Molly Harper, since Sara demonstrates the ability to spend hours every week developing and maintaining her personal relationships, why can she not spend a similar amount of hours developing and maintaining a personal relationship with her own family?" Miriam wanted to know. "I know I'm not her mother but Sara has no problem developing a warm relationship with her boyfriend's cantankerous mother."

For once, Molly Harper was speechless.

Matt stroked his chin. "I would have to say, Miss Harper, that Miriam is correct. A family requires maintenance and it appears that Sara is expecting that she can just blend into her stepmother's life without any effort on Sara's part."

"Sara thinks that she can just bend her stepmother's life into the kind of stepmother Sara wants," Miriam added. 

Matt raised his eyebrows but remained silent. 

"She may," Martin cut in, "believe that I replaced her mother."

"That is what I have been saying all along," Molly now said. "She fears abandonment."

Jules snorted. "Likely story." Matt gave Jules a sharp glance and Jules regained her composure.

"I will," Jules commented, "remind everyone that Sara is going off to college in a few years. Doesn't that count as abandonment?"

"That is a different story," Molly replied.

"How is it different?" Jules inquired, an angry tone slipping into her voice.

"That is in the future, not the here and now," Molly stated.

"Sara has managed to get everyone talking about her while she's not here. Everyone is focusing on poor little Sara," Jules said, raising her hands and looking around. "But where is Sara now? Hmm? Where is she?"

Miriam and Martin glanced at each other. "Sara," Martin said slowly, "is at her boyfriend's house, enjoying his birthday party."

"So she's off having fun, while the adults do all the work," Matt commented.

Molly pursed her lips.

"Miss Harper," Matt turned to Molly and addressed her courteously. "After listening to the bickering for the last hour, it seems that Sara has an idea that she can 'cage' her father and stepmother. She apparently believes that her father and stepmother are to sit at home while Sara herself goes out and enjoys herself. Her father is not supposed to develop any relationships with any other woman except Sara's mother, especially women of whom Sara doesn't approve. But Sara believes she has the right to date anyone she wants, even if that person doesn't meet with the approval of her parents. What is Sara doing?"

"Controlling her father and stepmother," Jules commented. "See, Molly, Sara has an idea of who she wants as a stepmother. And you, Miriam," Jules looked at Miriam, "don't match up with Sara's idea of a stepmother."

"I noticed that," Miriam commented drily.

Back in David's office. David looked at Jackie. She was nervous, and he could see dark shadows under her eyes. David bet himself a nice lunch at the Wharf that Jackie had not slept at all last night. Taking a deep breath, he said as pleasantly as he could: "Well, Doctor Collette. Seems Legal has decided to pull a lawerly thing on us."

"Huh?" Jackie was confused."Lawerly? What does that mean?"

David chuckled. "It means that you are to undergo a peer review." He folded his hands on his desk and smiled at Jackie.

She was still confused. "I don't understand," she told David.

"There will be no suspension. Only a peer review," David replied. 

A grin suffused Jackie's face. David held up a warning hand.

"It will be quite brutal, this peer review."

"How brutal?" Jackie asked, some of the excitement leaving her expression.

"The physicians you normally associate with will be giving reports about adherance to procedure, as will the nurses. Patients will be asked to fill out a questionnaire."

"Oh." Jackie was stunned at David's statement. "I can understand the docs and nurses, but why the patients?"

"You know how lawyers are."

Jackie snorted. "Yeah, they want to cover all the bases." She sneered, then said, "Make sure there's no way the prosecution can get their claws into our defense and shred it."

"That's about it. Sorry it has to be this way," David replied sympathetically. "I know Marnie Brown is quite the sophisticated teenager who tricked you into giving her a breast implant. But the peer review and patient feedback are what Legal wants, not me."

"Damn lawyers," Jackie muttered, then sat up straight. "If it were up to you, David, how would you have handled this situation?"

David looked down at his desk a minute. His college ring, with a real ruby instead of a glass stone, entwined his right ring finger. For his fifteen year college class reunion, David had exchanged the glass stone in his class ring to a real ruby.

He looked back up at Jackie. "I would have had an inquiry done, not a peer review and I wouldn't have had you wringing your hands about the possibility of a seven month suspension."

Jackie smiled--briefly. "So, when does it start?" She tried to hide a sigh, but wasn't successful.

"Seven months. I thought you knew that."

Jackie furrowed her eyebrows. "No. The peer review. When does that start?"

"It already has."

"Great," Jackie replied. A tone of dejection was in her voice. "Am I supposed to do anything?"

David shook his head. "No, but..."

"But what?"

David took a deep breath. "But you'll have to continue on with another surgeon in the OR when you perform lipo, breast implants and removals, debriding burns and such."

Jackie grimaced. "Nothing that hasn't been done already."

"Legal is just covering us. Try to understand."

"I'll try," Jackie promised. "Is there anything else?"

David shook his head. "Nope. You're free to go."

"Gee, thanks," Jackie replied and left David's office as quickly as she could.

As she exited and turned down the hallways towards her offices, she noticed a tight knot of people standing at the far end of the hallway. She paused a moment, then stepped forward to let her friends know her fate. 

"I...heard the big news," Ellen Etzel, Esquire, told Rae. "In fact, the news is so big that I managed to read all about it through the newsrack's front while I was standing on the corner waiting to cross the street." The speakerphone crackled and Rae knew she'd have to get another one soon. It appeared that Rae was going to become close friends with her speakerphone.

"Does this mean he's admitting to the rape?" Rae inquired, hot anger rising up in her throat.

"Apparently he's taking the consensual route," Ellen informed Rae.

"Apparently?" Rae shouted, glancing out her open office door. Several staff members passing by her open door had been startled by her shout and Rae knew she needed to tone down her voice. "Apparently?" she asked in a softer voice.

"Look, Rae. I know Robert thew a spanner into the works but we've got to deal with this logically," Ellen told her.

"Tell me, Ellen," Rae said angrily. "Tell me how am I supposed to deal with this?"

"Well, we'll have to take it one step at a time."

"I kind of gathered that. What's our first step?"

"To file a delay in the custody suit, saying there's not enough evidence to establish paternity," Ellen replied.

"But we know the results of the fetal dna tests," Rae said.

"True. But officially, Robert is not supposed to know about the results of the fetal dna tests."

"He probably sees what's coming down the line," Rae said drily.

"You're probably right. His obtaining the results of the fetal dna test is going to go very badly in front of a jury. Even knowing about the DNA results will look bad. The jury will wonder why Robert had to know the DNA results so desperately and so quickly."

"And so clandestinely," Ellen added.

"The old cliche, if you didn't do it, you have nothing to worry about."

"Exactly," Ellen replied. "And by obtaining the fetal dna test results, Robert indicated that he had a lot to worry about."

"What then?"

"It's like this. By filing this custody suit, Robert is tacitly saying he had sex with you."

"I gathered that," Rae snapped. "How is this going to affect the trial?"

"That's the problem. With this tacit admission, it can go either way for Robert."


"Meaning that Robert is taking a chance in filing this custody suit, hoping that his filing the suit will make him look like the good guy."

"Or a guy who desperately wants a baby," Rae put in. Angry, she gripped a pencil in her hand. Her knuckles turned white.

"Not necessarily, Rae," Ellen cautioned. "Don't judge someone until you know their entire past."

Rae's mouth dropped open. "What," she said, gripping the pencil so tightly that it snapped. The long end rolled across the desk and dropped out of sight onto the floor. Rae didn't go after the broken piece. "What does that mean?"

"It means," Ellen replied. "that Robert already has kids from prior relationships."

"Oh. How many?" she inquired mockingly.


"Five? Dean Whittier never said anything about Robert's having five kids," Rae said.

"You and Dean Whittier are not on the best of terms," Ellen reminded Rae. "What I discovered it that Robert has five kids. Three are adults and were the result of his first marriage just out college. You might have heard of one of his kids, Chloe Winningham."

"The singer? The one currently on Broadway? I thought she was related to Mare Winningham, the actress," a surprised Rae commented. Chloe Winningham was currently co-starring in "The Pirates of Penzance." In a recent weekly entertainment rmag, Rae recalled reading that Chloe Winningham was one of the hottest rising stars to watch on the Great White Way.

"The very same," Ellen informed Rae.

"Doesn't that beat all," Rae said. "I never knew that. And there are two more kids he's supporting?"

"Yeah. From the second, short lived marriage. Girl and boy. Their mother lives in Idaho, accepts a hefty child support check but hasn't let Robert see his kids in several years. He pays for activities that his adult children say their half siblings don't do. Half the time Chloe is fielding phone calls from her half siblings begging her if she'll take them to see their father."

Rae breathed deeply. "A sad story. And one the jury might weep over."

"You got that right."

"But," Rae said, tapping her left forefinger on the desk top. "we could use that to our advantage, right?"

"It's possible. Here's a spin: a man who wants kids so much that he date rapes one of his wife's colleagues."

"Ugh. That doesn't go over well with me," Rae frankly told Ellen. "Can't you come up with something better?"

"I'm working on it, Rae. I'm working on it. I'll have something more later on. See you for dinner to discuss it?"

"Yeah," Rae told her. Ellen clicked off her end of the phone and Rae did the same. She sat there, tapping her forefinger on the desktop.

"Well?" Harriet asked when Jackie had neared the small group. Jackie smiled at her. 

"I'm not on suspension. I'm on peer review." Jackie grinned hugely and felt as if a great weight had lifted from her shoulders. 

"Ouch," commented Letty. "I've heard of those things and I've also heard they're not pleasant."

"David said there will be several doctors and nurses giving this peer review," Jackie told her two friends. 

Letty held her hand up. "Jackie," she said in a warning tone, "Don't go asking us to go soft on you."

Jackie gaped. "I wouldn't do that! But, since you brought it up, are you and Harriet going to be giving me a peer review?" Jackie looked from one woman to another. Harriet tried to give a small smile.

"Jackie," Harriet began. "If David approaches us about giving a peer review for you, we wouldn't be able to tell you until we completed the peer review."

"She's right," Letty put in. "And if David does ask us for a peer review, we have to be honest."

Jackie bit her lip. She knew her friends were correct. A peer review had to be brutally honest, and friendship couldn't get in the way. She hoped that David would not choose any of her friends to give her a peer review. 

"I'm hoping that David restricts the peer review to the OR nurses I work with and to my fellow plastic surgeons," Jackie said hopefully. 

Harriet patted Jackie's arm. "I'm sure he'll do everything he can to make this easy for you, Jackie. Marnie Brown is one intelliegent teenager."

"Tell me," Jackie replied. "See you for lunch?" she asked of her friends. 

"Yep," Letty said. "Jules had lined me up to come along in case the news was bad."

"Harriet?" Jackie looked at Harriet. 

"Daytime delivery. Sorry," Harriet replied. "But I'll stop by Rae's house this evening for drinks, if you'd like to be there as well."

Jackie brightened. "That's right! I forgot tonight is girl's night! See ya at 7 then!" Jackie said, then added "I might, just might, play matchmaker today."

"With who?" Letty wanted to know.

"Oh, with somebody," Jackie said. "I've got to go, see ya tonight!" Jackie replied as she moved quickly down the hallway before Letty or Harriet could get another word in edgewise. Behind her, Letty and Harriet glanced at each other. 

"Now who do you think she is going to match up?" Letty asked. 

Harriet shook her head. "Beats me. She seemed to be sweet on Matt but he likes Jules."

For the moment, Terry chose to ignore the person who had rudely intruded into her personal reverie. She wanted time to gather herself--this was her last day but as of yet only she and UMC's disciplinary board knew that fact.

She continued to sip her coffee, all too aware of her unwelcome guest's identity. "Doctor Brennan and I should form the UMC Divorce Club," Terry thought bitterly to herself as she sipped her coffee. "But the thing is, she left Sean for a younger man; I was discarded in favor of a younger woman." Maybe there were other women going through the same thing Terry herself was going through; she couldn't be the first woman to be dumped for a younger model. After all, there was that movie, The First Wives Club.

To take her attention away from the intruder, Terry gazed at the mural on the wall behind the intruder. Eventually, she knew, she'd have to acknowledge her visitor. Still, she kept quiet in the hopes the visitor would wander off and leave Terry to herself.

"Before you leave, I'd like to know why you didn't turn yourself in to the disciplinary board regarding the treatment of our patient," Terry's visitor softly commented.

Looking at her visitor, Terry remained silent, hoping that perhaps her visitor would feel the need to continue speaking so she wouldn't have to say anything. It worked.

"So, I was your sacrificial lamb?" Nick asked Terry. His dark eyes pressed into Terry's own eyes, leaving her a bit disconcerted.

"It was an...error in judgment," Terry admitted. Hurriedly, she sipped her coffee, hoping that Nick would go away and fast. She knew the gossipy ER nurses had probably managed to slip around the fact that Terry Howland, M.D., would be taking a nice long leave of absence due to alcoholism and being a potential danger to patients.

And that was probably the reason why Nicholas Kokoris stopped by the Atrium. "He must want to rub salt into my wounds," Terry thought to herself, hoping that Nicholas would leave and leave quickly.

"Well?" Nick inquired. Terry remained silent and stoic. She was not going to give herself away. Doctor Kokoris would discover soon enough that Terry Howland was no longer an Attending ER Physician. At least Terry had made a last diagnosis that was bang-on: the 47 year old woman with a huge ovarian tumor. Twenty eight pounds of malignant ovarian tumor, according to the medical rumors going around. The Montreal exchange surgeon, Doctor Carlton, had operated on the patient very early this morning.

Nick drummed his fingers on the small round table and waited for her response. These types of tables were designed for the consumption of food and drink and conversation. The small round shape was not designed for studying, although out of his eye, Nick could see several people using laptops with wireless modems attached.

"I," Terry finally said, deigning to notice Nick. "don't need to explain myself to you."

Nick raised an eyebrow although he doubted that Terry noticed it. "And why not?" he inquired rather sharply. His vocal tone caused Terry to look at him.

"I merely pointed out your unorthodox behavior and the disicpline board suggested that a two week suspension was in order," she mildly told him, taking another sip of her coffee and adroitly managing to avoid Nick's shocked look.

"How convenient," Nick responded, "that I was the one who took all the heat while you yourself got off scot-free."

Terry made a point to look away and Nick knew she really didn't want to discuss the subject further. "Too bad for her," Nick thought.

"I already know about the real reason you're leaving," he told her. His tone was soft.

"I'm sure our dear Leticia spouted the news left and right," Terry responded coldly.

Nick shook his head. "Nope. She's not like that."

"Oh, yes. I'm thinking of the new plastic surgeon. Doctor Collette," Terry replied tartly. "Quite the girl detective," Terry finished, a note of sarcasm creeping into her voice. She hoped Nick noticed the slight sarcasm on the word 'girl'.

Nick stretched his jaw a moment. "There was someone else, and no, it was not one of the ER nurses who told me the reason. It was a board decision," Nick told her. His comment was of sufficient force to cause Terry to set down the coffee cup.

"The board?" she inquired as blandly as she could. But internally, Terry's heart was pounding a mile a minute and there was a growing fear that she and Doctor Jordan would be reacquainted quite shortly in the ER.

Seeing that he had Terry's full attention, Nick nodded and pulled an envelope from his suit pocket. He withdrew a folded piece of paper, laid it down on the table and pushed it towards Terry. "Go on, read it."

Terry moved her tongue into one cheek then another as she made her decision. Finally, curiousity won her over and she took up the letter in one hand while putting her reading glasses on with the other hand. She was silent as she read the short letter. When she was finished reading, she set the letter down on the table and folded her hands together.

"So," she said after a few moments, "it was unanimously decided to inform you that in addition to the disciplinary action already imposed for my alcoholism, the board is further disciplining me for my failure to exclude a life-threatening illness in one of my patients and for the additional failure of neglecting to review my own actions. And such discipline was double your suspension, effective immediately."

Nick looked down at the table. "Yeah. As I mentioned, the board made the decision to inform me about the alcoholism. Terry," Nick now inquired, looking at her. "is it really so bad to make a mistake?"

In response, Terry merely looked away again.

"Terry, look at me," Nick gently pleaded. Terry ignored him. Undaunted, Nick continued.

"When I took the Hippocratic Oath, I fully meant it. I'm Greek, I have to mean it." At this statement of Nick's, Terry gave a faint smile, encouraging Nick to continue.

"All right, maybe I deserved some discipline for breaking the rules. But my patient, your patient," Nick paused a moment. "Our patient was in danger of bleeding out. Since bypassing the rules saved his life, then the suspension was worth it. I know the rules are there for a reason but in every doctor's working life, there comes a time when you find yourself at odds with the rules. Then you have to break those rules in order to save the patient's life. It is in the Hippocratic Oath."

"I know the oath," Terry replied, her tone a bit tarty. Nick chose to ignore Terry's tone, but he had sought Terry out to inform her--gently--that someone at UMC made a privacy leak where they shouldn't have made a leak.

"Since you know me and my history with Doctors Without Borders, then you must also know, Terry," Nick said quietly, "that in the field, such as where I was, the rules tend to get broken when there's a life at stake."

"Champing in your pen?" Terry inquired, inserting a false note of cheeriness into her voice. She picked up her coffee cup.

Nick nodded. "Something like that." He folded his hands together and stared at them a moment before looking at Terry again. "I saw something that needed to be fixed in a human being. I wasn't being allowed to fix it by the conventional rules. Failure was not an option, so I went ahead and fixed things myself," he told her, watching as she sipped her coffee.

"And," Nick continued, "had you diagnosed the Triple A, he would have become my surgical patient. If my fudging the rules to save his life makes me less than human, then so be it."

"I know that," Terry responded. Her posture told Nick that he clearly wasn't welcome and after reading the board's unexpected letter, Nick was sure that Terry needed time to lick her wounds.

"One more thing," Nick said, "the patient you admitted last night for the ovarian tumor does indeed have a malignancy. Twenty eight pounds, just like the rumors have been saying. Despite the size, Rae thinks it's an early stage mucinous tumor."

"Those tumor types can grow quite large, and," Terry said quietly, "they can transform into malignancies quite rapidly."

Nick nodded then got up to leave. "See you when you return, Terry," he told her. She didn't acknowledge him and he turned away. Hoping she'd change her mind, Nick glanced over his shoulder. Terry was pointedly ignoring him so Nick walked away.

After he got about twenty feet away from Terry's hidden table, she said, "Nick?"

Nick paused, then turned around. "Yes?"

"Thank you."

"You're welcome," Nick replied. Noticing that Terry had looked away again, he was just about to turn when her voice stopped him.

"How many people know the real reason I'm on leave?"

"So far, me."

Terry looked at Nick, raising an eyebrow in imitation of him. Nick decided to supply her with the information. He came back and sat down at her table. He spoke softly.

"In one aspect, Letty does know about your alcoholism, along with the heart problems," Nick.

"But?" Terry prodded.

"But she thinks you're on leave to combat those heart problems."


"There are some other conclusions she could draw, I'm sure," Nick told Terry. "But you did put in a leave of absence to deal with your heart problems. That's the reason she's accepting."

"So you and Letty are the ones who know."

"And I found out quite by accident," Nick assured Terry. "I will keep it discreet. And," he added thoughtfully, "there seems to be enough of a reason to complain to the board about the quantity of information they told me."

"That is a most excellent idea," Terry told him. For the second time, her demeanor suggested she wanted to be alone on this, her last day at work. "Please send the board my...congratulations on their privacy leak."

"I can mention it," Nick allowed and again stood up. 

"Thanks," was Terry's whispered comment. She hid her face in the coffee mug and Nick made a quick getaway.

"Sara," Jules now said. Frustration hovered just under the boiling point. "seems to believe that Miriam is supposed to do what Sara wants, when Sara wants. That includes allowing Sara to wear Miriam's jewelry, sail on Miriam's boat whenever Sara wants."

"And take her friends to Miriam's ski lodge in Provo whenever Sara wants," added Martin. 

"And without permission," Miriam added. She looked around the room then pinned Molly with a sharp glare. "And Sara likes to tell what she calls "little white lies" concerning her whereabouts. One time, not too many weeks ago," she said, leaning her elbows on the table and looking straight at Molly. 

"Sara said she was going to spend the weekend with her friend Kathy Showers. We phoned Kathy's mother and verified Sara's story. What we didn't know was that Sara then told Kathy's mother that plans had changed and that the two girls were going to spend the night at Aisha's house. What Martin and I didn't know was that Sara had sneaked the keys to my Provo ski lodge. She, and fourteen friends made the drive to Provo, entered my ski lodge, and proceeded to have round the clock parties."

"We," Martin said," found out about it when a neighbor noticed there was a large number of teenagers hanging around the ski lodge. She phoned the police. This is the incident which precipitated us seeking your services, Miss Harper."

"I remember that," Molly replied. "But Sara is just a teenager, discovering who she is, trying out different personalities."

"Aren't those just excuses for her to behave badly?" offered Matt. He steepled his fingers and leaned back into his chair. 

"Excuses?" Molly inquired. She looked confused. "She's a teenager for crying out loud!"

"A teenager who needs to learn cooperation," Miriam added. "And I have to agree with Doctor Slingerland. Teens hear all the time that 'they're going through a rough time', that 'their hormones are running rampant' and 'it's a teen thing'. Don't you think, Molly, that Doctor Slingerland might be correct when he said that Sara's hiding her bad behavior behind stock excuses? She may think that if she hands an adult a commonly acceptable excuse, Sara won't have to take responsibility for her bad behavior."

Molly worked her tongue around her mouth. Truthfully, she'd never quite thought things the way Miriam had put it. She decided to try and salvage something of her reputation. "Are you saying that Sara thinks she can sneak into your Provo ski lodge, then blame her behavior on being a teenager?"

Miriam nodded. "That's just what I'm saying. Sara's mother explains away Sara's stealing my jewelry with comments like "Oh, Miriam! Sara's going through a phase," or "She's under a lot of stress," or "She's just a teenager. Lighten up on the punishment, will ya?"

Martin grunted. "Stealing is not acceptable in my house."

"Does Sara," Molly said carefully, not wanting Martin and Miriam to realize that Sara had been deleting an enormous amount of information from Sara's side of the story. "take responsibility when she's not around Miriam?"

"Yes," Martin replied. "She has a mentoring job at the Y helping young kids explore their inner artist."

At this comment, Miriam smiled. "I helped Sara get into that program while Martin and I were dating. I thought it would be a fun thing for Sara, seeing as how her junior high school had cut out funding for an art instructor."

Jules glanced at Matt. He smiled at her and raised a finger to his lips, indicating that Jules should shut her mouth. An open discourse was required amongst Martin, Miriam and Molly and sometimes it was better to let people talk it out. 

Molly smiled but inwardly, she was telling herself, "Sara didn't mention that Miriam had found the job at the Y for Sara. Sara only said that she had found the mentoring job. I wonder what else Sara conveniently forgot to mentiont to me?"

Out loud, Molly inquired, "How often does Sara mentor at the Y?"

Martin and Miriam glanced at each other. "About twice a week," Martin replied. "Sara really enjoys it and she's had the kids going around to various offices and asking for the shredded documents. From this shredded paper, she's taught the kids to make their own colored paper using vegetable dyes and food coloring."

"And, she's also had the kids creating their own line of greeting cards from their homemade paper," Miriam added. 

"That was something Sara didn't tell me," Molly said. Seeing Martin and Miriam's confusion, she explained. "Sara said that it was she who found the art mentoring job at the Y."

Jules and Matt glanced at each other. Sara definitely has a problem with truthfulness, Jules thought, maintaining her silence. Matt did the same. 

"Ah," Miriam said drily. "Another one of Sara's little 'deletions.' She likes to delete my input, she likes to delete me from her life."

"Fortunately," Martin told his wife, "I know what you did for my Sara. I know that she's not the golden haired two year old angel that I used to know. I know that the teenage Sara is not going to like everything that I do, and I know that the teenage Sara is not going to like everyone I have as friends. But negotiation is a part of life and Sara, as an aspiring actress, will have to work daily with people she may not like."

Inwardly, Jules groaned. "Another aspiring actress. Like Marnie Brown. Just all I need today," Jules thought to herself. "I wonder how Jackie is doing in her meeting witih David?" 

"In any event," Matt said, apparently deciding that it was time to make a comment. "Sara needs to learn that in any job, she's going to have to work with people she doesn't like."

"And she doesn't get to choose her father's wife," Miriam said, a hint of tartiness coming into her tone.

"Now, now," Matt said gently. "Sara is the one who needs to be in this group therapy. Molly, is there any way you could get Sara to agree to group therapy with Martin and Miriam?"

Molly shook her head. "I've tried. She won't go."

Matt raised his eyebrows. "Well, that puts a different light on the matter."

"You're tellling me," Jules said, "that Sara won't meet in group therapy with her father and stepmother?"

"That's right," Molly replied. She looked at Martin and Miriam. "Sara seems to think that the problem lies with Miriam."

"In other words," Miriam said, "Sara wants me to have a major personality transplant."

Matt tried to hide a snicker. "She may, Mrs Marguiles, be trying to force you to transform yourself into the kind of stepmother Sara wants you to be."

"And when Sara changes her mind about who she wants me to be, she'd want me to transform myself again," Miriam finished. She fixed Molly with a hard glare. "What is Sara doing, Miss Harper?"

"She's using passive aggressive techniques," Molly replied. 

"And quite well," Jules added. 

"Unless Sara wants to change, she won't," Martin put in. "I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I wish to adjourn for lunch. Miss Harper, would it be possible to make a double appointment?"

"Double appointment?" Molly asked.

"Yes. Make an appointment with Sara but don't tell her you've made an appointment at the same time with us."

"Going to sneak in some family therapy?" Matt inquired, looking at Martin. Martin nodded. 

"It's the only way," he said. 

"You know," Molly said, "I think you're right."

Terry Howland, just Terry Howland, no M.D. after her name, sat at the small corner table nearly hidden by the oversize plant. Until she returned to her medical duties, she had promised herself that she wasn't going to use the M.D. designation after her name. But Nick's revelation gave Terry pause for consideration.

She had been thinking about myriads of things since purchasing the way oversized cup of organic coffee that she had refilled once. At first, Doctor Kokoris' surprise farewell visit had been bitter and unwelcome. He was the last person Terry had wanted to see on her last day of work at UMC. But as she sat thinking about the direction her life would be taking these next six months, she discovered to her surprise that she would miss even those people with whom she battled. And that included Doctor Kokoris.

Trying to hide a tear--she knew that feeling sorry for herself was not an option--Terry decided that it was past time she took care of the little business to which Kokoris had alerted her. Draining the last of her coffee, Terry plunked her cup into the handy trash can next to her table, shouldered her purse and stood up. She needed to stop by the ladies room on the way out of the Atrium. It would not behoove herself to look as if she'd been crying.

In her opinion, until Terry walked off the UMC campus today, Terry was still Terry Howland, M.D., and she was going to raise some hell about the breach of privacy. Now that thought cheered Terry up quite a bit.

 to be continued...