Fool’s Paradise

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Chapter 1

Fridays were busy. They always were and this Friday was no different for Mallory Branton. She didn’t primp up or slip into her favorite pumps, it was a sneaker and pencil skirt kind of day.

The waiting room of The Branton was full. Not a vacant seat in within its tan walls. Her assistant had to relinquish his chair to a preterm mother. A feat that he didn’t have to be persuaded into as he bustled around the room ensuring that everyone had what they needed with the routine questions he probably muttered in his sleep. Do you need water? Have you signed in? Care for an energy bite or granola bar, they’re freshly made?

Home-cooked goodies. It wasn’t his doing. It was Mallory’s. She took her patients’ health to heart and even more—her patients’ unborn children. It was the prime reason she left the busy hospital behind and opened up her own practice more than three years ago. Ignoring the naysayers that shook their heads at her for leaving a lucrative position behind and the ones that didn’t withhold their ‘I told you so’s’ during her sluggish first year with very few patients, she kept hustling and grinding. Now, she stood in examine room one with contentment pulsing through her veins. She loved busy days. Busy days kept the haters at bay.

“Everything’s right on schedule,” Mallory told the eager young couple as she rolled up the sleeves of the blindingly white lab coat. “Now, do you want to know the sex of your baby.

“Yes.” Julissa quickly told lying on the examination table with her hands framing her protruding stomach.

“No.” Greg harked as soon as his wife soothed out the ‘s’ of her word. A sweet, endearing look dripping of please let me have my way swayed the gummy bear built man. “Yes. We’d love to know.

A happy smile curved up Julissa’s face as Mallory reached the gel out the drawer. “I’m glad y’all are both on the same accord.” She squeezed the warm gel on Julissa’s copper belly. “That’ll come in handy when this little one gets here.”

“Communication is the key to making anything successful.” Greg regurgitated an iota of his spiel from his new book Life Keys to Unlock Any Door. Mallory hadn’t read it but she’d probably get to it once she remembered where it was. “But it’s also in how you speak to the person. You get more bees with—”

“Honey…” Julissa patted on the hand he had resting on her shoulder, “Dr. Branton doesn’t want to hear that.”

“This is knowledge for every—”

His words stalled on his tongue once Mallory angled the transducer in the right position. Strong heartbeats rang through the room.

“You hear that…” Mallory smirked at the loved this moment, the wonder and love painted on the parents-to-be faces followed by a dash of worry now coming to terms that there is a life depending on them. “A robust, healthy baby girl.”

Greg squinted at the monitor, “You sure it’s not a boy.”

“Oh, I’m sure.” She handed Julissa some paper towels after hooking the transducer back on the ultrasound machine. “It’s a girl.”

“All the things I need to buy,” Julissa muttered as if she was making a checklist in her head already.

Greg disturbed his temple with short strokes as his wife wiped the gel off her stomach, “She won’t need much. She’s a baby. Crib. Changing table. Stroller. Let’s keep it simple.”

The hardened look in Julissa’s eyes let Mallory know this wasn’t a conversation for her, “Do you have any more questions for me?”

“Yes,” Greg spoke up, his hand falling from his face. “I’m going out of town, do I need someone to stay with her.”

Julissa shook her head, rolling her shirt down.

“Mr. Johnston, she three months. Not nine.” Mallory slipped her hands in the pocket of her lab coat with a light smile. “She’ll be quite fine while you work.”

With that Mallory hustled out the room to her next patient not having time to unpack the tinges of bitterness that tainted her heart. Busy days were good for her. Busy days helped her forget.

What is Mallory trying to forget?

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