The ones he knew she adored. 'Yup. And yellow tiger prawns.'
She looked rueful. 'I've got the ingredients for omelette and salad. Doesn't quite compare, does it?'
He stroked her face. Nothing compared to her. 'Stay here. I'll make it.'
'No, we'll do it together. You do the omelette, I'll do the salad.'
But Jake could barely concentrate in the kitchen. He burned the first omelette he made, and Vicky took over. 'Before you set my smoke alarm off and panic the whole building,' she said with a grin. 'And to think I'm supposed to be the one with the field-of-vision defect.'
'Not funny.' He stood behind her as she deftly whisked the eggs, with his arms wrapped round her waist and his face buried in her hair. This couldn't be happening. Shouldn't be happening. And he was supposed to be strong for her right now, even though he wanted to crawl into a corner and weep.
The omelette—even though it was light and fluffy and filled with melted Brie—tasted like ashes. And although Vicky didn't mention the issue between them, it was still there. Getting bigger and bigger. Damned if he did, damned if he didn't...
'Sleep on it,' she said softly.
'You don't want to talk about it. So sleep on it.'
He nodded. 'I'd better go home and let you get some rest.'
'I don't think I want to be on my own.' She rested her head on his shoulder. 'Stay with me tonight?'
'Of course.' Though he didn't sleep. He just lay there and listened to Vicky's quiet, even breathing. Wishing he knew what was the right thing to do.
Jake was on early shift again the next morning. Vicky, under protest, agreed to spend the day with her feet up and not to study. Somehow he made it through the day. But instead of going straight to Vicky's flat after his shift, he took the tube to Walthamstow, bought flowers from the market and a bottle of water and went to the cemetery.
There, among the Victorian white stone angels, he had a place to think.
Mechanically, he walked to his grandmother's grave. Lily Lewis. Rest in Peace. A peace Jake was very far from feeling right now.
'I don't know what to do, Nan,' he said as he took the previous week's flowers from the vase on her grave and wrapped them in the paper from the fresh flowers. He rinsed out the vase, filled it with water again, and started threading red carnations into it.
'If I do it and I make a mess of it, she could die—or be left needing a lot of care. She won't be able to be a neurologist any more. And she'll never forgive me for taking her career away—I'll lose her.' He added more carnations. 'But if I don't do it, she'll never forgive me for backing away when she needs me most. And I'll lose her.' He swore softly. 'Sorry, Nan. You'd wash my mouth out with soap for that. It's just I don't want to lose her, but I can't see any way out of this. Whatever I do, it's going to end up in a mess.'
He knew his grandmother couldn't answer him—and how he missed Lily's common sense—but it made him feel better just saying the words aloud. 'I've done the operation before. I'm a good surgeon, Nan. If she was anybody else, I'd say yes without any hesitation. I'd do it, and I'd do it well. But she matters, Nan. She really matters. I'd walk to the end of the earth for her. Over hot coals, broken glass, anything.' He swallowed hard. 'But I'm so scared I won't be able to do this. She wants me to operate on her. How can I, when I'm involved with her? I have to be detached, see her as just another patient. And she's not. She's the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. I can't do it.'
Vicky had given him her spare key so he didn't have to bother with the intercom. When he walked into the flat, he could hear music from the living room. She was watching another old film—this time High Society. The irony was like a fist in his gut. The rich society girl and the boy from the wrong side of town. True love. Just like them.
But it wasn't going to work out for them like it did in the movies.
He pushed the thought aside and pinned a smile to his face. For Vicky's sake, he was going to be strong. Someone she could lean on.
'Hey.' She smiled up at him. 'How was your day?'
'Bored to tears. Because someone made me promise I'd do nothing all day—and I keep my promises.' She rolled her eyes. 'Next time you hear me moaning on the ward that we're rushed off our feet and I could do with sitting down for a minute, remind me of today.'
'Sure.' He sat next to her and kissed her lightly. 'Sorry I'm a bit late. I put some flowers on Nan's grave.'
Vicky knew what that meant. Jake had been thinking. He'd admitted to her a while back that he always went to his Nan's grave whenever he wasn't sure about something; she'd been pretty sure he'd go there today. So had he reached a decision about the operation?
She was careful not to push him. She just took his hand and squeezed it. 'You miss her a lot, don't you?'