Ivy is determined to be the best neurosurgeon in the state. Friendships, hobbies and romance come second… or not at all. Chloe is smart, witty, and she makes friends with everyone she meets – she’s Ivy’s complete opposite. Then one unexpected kiss in the hospital locker room changes everything.
My latest novel, A CUT ABOVE, is available now on Amazon. Read the first chapter below.
“I have sudden-onset abdominal pain,” Ivy Chan said as she took a sip of her soy caramel latte and looked across the small café table at Chloe. She was tapping the tip of her pen against her plump lower lip, thinking.
“Can you tell me where in the abdomen you feel pain, Miss Chan?” she asked.
“Great bedside manner as always, Dr. Barnes,” Ivy said, watching as the corners of Chloe’s mouth curled into a slight smile. Then she added, “Center mass, near the breastbone.”
“Hmm,” Chloe said, her eyes tracing over Ivy’s face and upper body as if doing so would actually give her insight into this case study. “Are you experiencing any other symptoms, Miss Chan?”
“Vomiting,” Ivy said. “And back pain.”
“Are you jaundiced?” Chloe asked, connecting the dots much faster than Ivy expected with the vague symptoms she’d given. Ivy smiled approvingly and nodded, so Chloe said, “We’ll need to run some tests to be sure, but I believe you have gallstones, Miss Chan. Don’t worry, the treatment is a minimally-invasive surgery and you’ll be feeling better in no time.”
She sipped on a smoothie that had mostly melted over the course of their study session, and when Ivy didn’t confirm the diagnosis fast enough, Chloe asked, “Is that it? Was I right?”
“Yes,” Ivy said. “Very good. Now give me one.”
They’d already run through at least a dozen case studies and Ivy could go all night. She was lucky to have Chloe as a study partner – a lot of their fellow medical students wouldn’t have been up for spending their break week running through practice scenarios for the medical licensing exam, especially since their breaks had become few and far between now that they were entering their fourth year of medical school.
Even Chloe had her limit, though. By the time they finished the next case (she was a teenage male presenting with poor balance and confusion, which Ivy correctly diagnosed as a concussion resulting from a sports-related injury), Chloe was tapped out. She finished off the last of her smoothie and sat back, putting her arms up in an exaggerated stretch. “What do you say? Have I fallen mysteriously ill enough times for you tonight?”
“Sure,” Ivy said. She reached for the notecards she had spread across the small table, beginning to sort them into neat stacks according to body system. “Thanks for your help.”
“Any time,” Chloe answered. She smiled at Ivy, her blue eyes catching the overhead lights in just the right way to make them sparkle, then she gathered her own notes and tucked them into her backpack. As she got up from the table, she said, “You’re going to go back to your apartment and keep studying, aren’t you?”
“Maybe,” Ivy said and Chloe laughed.
“We still have four months before the exam, you know,” she said. They were both scheduled to take the medical licensing exam at the end of December, along with almost everyone else in their medical school class. That didn’t stop Ivy from studying for it as if it were tomorrow – she wanted to be as prepared as possible for one of the most important exams of her career, and that meant studying in every moment of free time that she got. Chloe added with a chuckle, “I’m already sure you’re going to pass it.”
“Don’t say that,” Ivy said, rapping her knuckles once on the wood tabletop.
She wasn’t a superstitious person, but when it came to her education she didn’t take chances of any kind. She got up and slung her heavy backpack over her shoulder, then followed Chloe out of the café, watching her blonde ponytail bounce with every step. They’d been studying together ever since their first year of medical school and Ivy was beginning to think of Chloe as her lucky totem.
“Same time next week?” she asked when they got to the door.
“Probably – hopefully the fact that we’re both going to be working in the Emergency Room means we’ll be on the same schedule for once,” Chloe said.
It had been a challenge to coordinate study times ever since they started their hospital rotations last year, but they’d managed to get together to review notes and run through cases about once a week through it all.
Chloe put her hand on Ivy’s shoulder and the contact surprised her. She told Ivy, “Try to get a little bit of rest this weekend.”
Ivy nodded, her tongue suddenly feeling fat and useless. Then Chloe took her hand away, her fingers brushing Ivy’s arm, and started walking up the sidewalk toward the apartment that she shared with Ivy’s academic nemesis, Megan. They’d chosen this café as their study headquarters because it was an equal distance for them both to walk – about six blocks – but it always felt like a longer walk on the way home.
Maybe it had something to do with the weight of Ivy’s backpack, or maybe it was something else.
She lingered on the sidewalk, watching Chloe go and filling her lungs with the last crisp night air of the summer. Then she turned in the opposite direction to go back to her uninspiring on-campus housing. It was just past eight-thirty when she reached her dormitory – a building full of tiny, one-bedroom apartments for graduate students – and because the caffeine from her latte was still going strong, she
sat down at her desk and pulled out her notes.