Bronte gasped, ‘You must be joking.’
‘I never joke about broken bones. Michelle has three separate fractures to her lower left leg, a hair-line fracture of the third metatarsal and a badly sprained right wrist,’ Doctor Bryant said sternly, looking over his clipboard.
Bronte stared at Michelle. Her best friend’s face was pale and teary as she lay in the sterile hospital bed, defeated. A crumpled sheet was carelessly thrown over her injured limbs. Thunderous raindrops pelted down outside, matching the sombre mood in the emergency room.
Michelle’s steady stream of tears and the desperation imbedded firmly in her eyes yanked at Bronte’s heart strings. She hated seeing her best friend in pain, even if it was self-inflicted.
The town gossips will have a field day with this, just like they did with my disastrous love life.
Bronte knew she’d been the hot topic of conversation. It was hard to keep anything under wraps in a small coastal town like Eagle Point. Anyone would think her break up with Scott was world news, like Kate and Will’s Royal Wedding. People stared, judged and even criticised her. Their watchful eyes made Bronte’s skin crawl. Why Scott dumped her was nobody’s business. And now the rumours would start flying about Michelle.
Bronte straightened the sheet over Michelle’s leg. Doctor Brant glared firmly at Michelle. ‘We’ll need to keep you in overnight for observation and you’ll also need a cast on your leg. That means you’ll be out of action for a while, I’m afraid.’
Michelle shrieked in protest. Small beads of sweat collected on her forehead. ‘No, no, no that is not possible. I have the most important job this weekend and there’s no way I can miss it. My life depends on it.’ Bronte rolled her eyes at Michelle’s typical drama queen performance.
‘Well then, maybe you should have thought of that before you scaled the brick fence to free the cow stuck in the mud on the Hughes’ property. I thought you would have learnt your lesson by now, Michelle. The amount of broken bones I’ve set for you as a result of your adventurous antics is fast becoming the highlight of my medical career.’ Doctor Brant smirked as he tuned to leave the examination cubicle.
Bronte brushed the hair away from Michelle’s colourless face. Her friend’s eyes were dull, lacking her characteristic spark. ‘Sweetie, it’s going to be alright, you’ll see. Look on the bright side … at least the cow survived.’
Michelle’s high-pitched wail blasted the emergency room.
Maybe that wasn’t the best thing to say at a time like this, Bronte thought.
‘I’m sorry, Michelle. That was insensitive of me, but you know I can’t stand it when you cry.’ Bronte’s attention faulted. The overpowering pungent stench wafting through the emergency room caught her off guard. ‘I did try to warn you of the dangers of climbing the wall, but as usual, you didn’t listen.’
Michelle’s gasp of horror rang out like a child who’d just been told they couldn’t have ice-cream for supper. ‘Bronte, you of all people know I can’t leave an animal in distress any more than you can ignore a crying child. Anyway,’ she huffed, cradling her injured arm across her chest. ‘It wasn’t climbing the wall that was the problem. It was the falling off the other side into the slippery mud. How was I to know we’d have a freak rainstorm in the middle of summer?’ Michelle clutched her forehead and threw her head back on the pillow and sobbed. ‘I’m screwed. I’ll never work in this town again.’
‘What do you mean, you’re screwed?’ Bronte sighed. ‘Do you always have to be so melodramatic?’
‘It’s alright for you, Miss Perfect. Your career’s not in tatters.’
‘I’m not perfect.’ Bronte stood, hands on her hips. ‘My career may not be in tatters, but the rest of my life is far from perfect as you well know. Anyway, what are you talking about?’
‘What am I talking about?’ Michelle struggled to drag her body into a sitting position. ‘Jesus, Bronte don’t you remember anything I tell you? The wedding shoot this weekend, duh. Jasper Fleming has been contracted for the shoot and I’m supposed to be his personal assistant. My boss – Corrine – promised Kate at Serendipity Bridal Boutique that she would showcase Kate’s bridal gowns in some of Australia’s top wedding magazines. This is, or was, my chance to prove myself to Corrine.’
‘Of course, now I remember.’ Bronte rolled her eyes. ‘Or should I say, how could I forget? You haven’t stopped drooling over that man for the last two days.’ She affected a snooty voice, as if she were introducing the man. ‘Jasper Fleming, Melbourne’s world renowned photographer. Women want to bed him and men want to be him.’
World renowned, my arse.
As far as Bronte was concerned, the only thing Jasper was world renowned for was his playboy lifestyle. Fame and money. Bronte knew his kind. She’d had first-hand experience and been left with painful memories she’d sooner forget.
‘How the hell am I supposed to do it from a hospital bed? He arrives tomorrow morning for God’s sake?’
Bronte blinked and looked over to see Michelle staring at her.
Michelle continued, the sadness in her voice ringing out across the cubicle. ‘I’m going to lose my job for sure.’
Bronte’s heart broke for her best friend. The least she could do was try and keep her calm. ‘Listen, Michelle I’m sure Corrine will understand. Accidents happen. Anyway, there’s not much you can do about it now. Do you want me to call her and explain? It’s only Thursday – I’m sure she’ll have plenty of time to find a replacement.’
‘No, no, please, you can’t,’ Michelle pleaded through the tears. ‘I’ll think of something.’
Bronte watched her childhood friend’s dream disintegrate before her eyes. Michelle had a hard time coming back to Eagle Point after her dog grooming business failed, but she did it with her head held high. Starting again wasn’t easy. She admired Michelle. If it wasn’t for her, she would have skipped town long ago.
‘I’ve got it,’ Michelle’s voice splintered Bronte’s thoughts. Her heart skipped a beat with fright. She eyeballed Bronte and pointed. ‘You.’
Bronte’s brow creased in confusion. ‘Me? What?’
‘You can take my place.’
Bronte choked on the hysterical laugh that escaped her lips. ‘Ah, I don’t think so. I’m a Middle School teacher, not a personal assistant. I deal with snotty-nosed adolescents whose daily drama is “she or he said this or that about me on Facebook”. I’ve had my fair share of belligerent self-obsessed arrogant men for one lifetime. Besides I won’t be here remember?’ I’ll be on the other side of the world, far away from Eagle Point, the newlyweds Scott and Eva, and the constant reminder of my failures.
Michelle’s anxious eyes pleaded, ‘Oh, come on, Bronte. Please. Are you really going to put your holiday over the welfare of your best friend? I’m sure he’s not that bad.’ Michelle said, her hands pressed together in a prayer position. ‘It’s only for two days. Please? All the details are in my planner, everything’s done. All you have to do is follow my notes and nothing can go wrong. It’s kind of the same thing as teaching. Lots of organising, keeping everyone in line and making sure they get to where they’re supposed to be on time. See, the same as teaching. You know I’d do it for you. Please?’
Bronte’s chest tightened as panic screeched through her veins. Anyone but Jasper Fleming. How the hell would she survive his egotistical, self-obsessed attitude? It would be like reliving her failed relationship with Scott all over again.
She shook her head. ‘I’m sorry, Michelle, I can’t.’ The disappointment in her friend’s eyes was like a punch to her gut with a sledgehammer. How could she possibly live with herself if she let down the most important person in her life?
Her escape would have to wait a few days. ‘Fine, I’ll do it.’ Bronte said sinking into the chair. ‘But don’t expect me to be happy about it.’
Publisher: Serenity Press
Date: 30th April 2018
Single title novelette
ISBN: 978-0-6483037-3-2 (EBook)
ISBN: 978-0-64830037-4-9 (Print)
Bronte Jackson is determined to secretly escape the small town of Eagle Point leaving behind her ex-fiancé and his new bride. After watching her best friends dream disintegrate, Bronte has no other option but to cover for her.
If she leaves town she will destroy her friends dream forever, but if she stays she will be stuck spending the weekend with the gorgeous, self-centred photographer, Jasper Fleming.
Despising each other on sight, sparks fly when they are thrown together on a wedding shoot, neither wanting to be reminded of the love they’ve lost. Will she dare show Jasper the real Bronte or will his manipulating ways destroy her belief in men forever?