'Our father died of a heart attack,' Charlie said. 'But I'm not aware of any aneurysms in the family. Do you think we should go for screening?'
'Up to you,' Jake said. 'It isn't necessarily a familial condition—but siblings over the age of thirty do have the highest risk. Are either of you prone to headaches?'
Seb shook his head. 'Not me.'
'Nor me,' Charlie said.
'Then it's your choice. I'd suggest an MRI angiogram or helical CT scan every five years, starting now. And you should let your GP know about Vicky, for your records,' Jake added. 'And if either of you get an unusual headache, pain of any sort in your head or eye, or visual disturbances of any kind—floaters, spots, any holes in your visual field—I want you in my department immediately.'
'Were you this bossy with Vic?' Seb asked, sounding interested.
'Yes,' Vicky answered with a grimace.
Seb grinned. 'Good. About time you had some of your own medicine. All puns intended.'
'I'm going to be fine,' Vicky said. 'Just...bald.' She took a deep breath. 'I've had long hair ever since I can remember.'
'Except when you were five and you hacked your fringe with the nail scissors from the bathroom cabinet,' Charlie reminded her. 'You were going to hack the rest of it off if Mara sent you back to ballet lessons.'
'It was my choice,' Vicky said. She lifted her chin. 'And I'm going to cut my hair myself this time. Before it gets shaved off.'
'You don't have to. You know there's a hair-sparing technique—we can take just a quarter of an inch along the incision,' Jake reminded her.
'But it's messy. And my hair's really long.'
He knew. He'd spread it over her pillow often enough.
'And if there's a complication... No.' She shook her head. 'It's coming off. All of it.'
Jake groaned. 'Not until you've told the ward. Please.'
'I mean it.'
Her eyes were shining just a little bit too much. He closed his hand around hers. 'Fine. After you've told the ward. And if it bothers you, having your head shaved—you can do mine, too.'
'You'd shave off your hair for me?'
He nodded. 'If it would make you feel better.'
'Supposing, when my hair grows back, it's different?'
Was that what was worrying her? That she'd look different and he'd feel differently about her? His grip on her hand tightened. 'It won't matter.' He loved her hair, yes—but he loved her more. 'It could be bright green and spiky, and it wouldn't matter.'
'Don't give her ideas,' Seb teased. He got to his feet. 'I've already been an hour longer than I told Alyssa I'd be. And it's my turn to get up if Madam wakes in the night, so I'd better get home. But I'm happier knowing you're in good hands.' He kissed his sister. 'Just do what the man tells you, OK?'
'I second that,' Charlie said, giving her a hug. 'And you can expect a visit from Alyssa and Sophie tomorrow. They'll probably ring you tonight, actually. The second after we've told them.'
Vicky sighed. 'I knew you'd fuss.'
'We're not going to fuss. But we're your big brothers. We reserve the right to worry,' Seb said. 'We'll see ourselves out. Make sure you get some rest.'
'I hate sitting still, and you know it,' she muttered.
'Tough. Do what your doctor tells you. Jake—good to meet you.' Seb shook Jake's hand. 'Take care of my little sister.'
'I'll take the "or else" as read,' Jake said dryly.
'I don't think we need it,' Charlie said quietly as he, too, shook Jake's hand. 'I can see how you feel about her. It's the way you look at her—the same way I look at Sophie. The same way Seb looks at Alyssa.' He paused. 'You'll keep us informed?'
Jake nodded. 'As soon as I get the op scheduled, I'll let you know. It's up to you if you want to be there.'
'They are not observing!' Vicky said, sounding horrified.
'What, not even to check that you do have a brain, squirt?' Seb teased.
'You're welcome in my theatre,' Jake said quietly, 'provided that the patient consents.'
'We'll get Alyssa and Sophie to work on her and make her say yes,' Charlie said.
'And if you still refuse, Vic,' Seb added, 'we'll be waiting outside.'
'It's a four-hour op,' Vicky said. 'Half an hour for anaesthesia, fifteen minutes to position the patient, then inserting the lumbar drain, prepping, three-quarters of an hour to expose the brain, anything up to an hour and a half to target the artery and clip it, an hour's closure, then extubation...' She shook her head. 'You'll go crazy with the wait. Go to work and do something useful.'
Charlie sighed. 'I'm glad I'm not in your shoes, Jake. She's going to be hell as a convalescent.'
If she made it.
The words were unspoken, but Jake knew they were all thinking it.
But Vicky was going to make it. She had to make it. Or the sun would stop shining for the rest of his life.
Vicky told her colleagues, one by one, the next morning, and she was near to tears at the end of it. She hadn't thought that people liked her very much. Respected her, yes—she was good at her job. But she wasn't part of the crowd—she never had been, from school onwards. So she really hadn't expected her desk to be covered with cards and little gifts—flowers, chocolates, a paperweight and a magnet with a joky message about working too hard.