The next few days moved with frightening speed. Jake had booked her in for an electrocardiogram, blood tests and a chest X-ray, and pronounced the results as being perfect. There was the dinner that she knew they'd have to go to—so her sisters-in-law could also assess Jake and give him their approval. Though she wasn't surprised that they took to him, because she knew they had a lot in common. It turned out that Jake's school had been just round the corner from Sophie's, and he and Alyssa had both been brought up as only children by a single parent—in Jake's case, his grandmother.
And then it was the day before the operation.
Jake had booked her in for a catheter angiography. 'It's not risk-free,' he reminded her before she signed the consent form. 'You might feel a bit hot and bothered for a moment when the dye goes in, but then you'll be fine.'
She rolled her eyes. 'You don't need to talk me through it. I've booked in patients for these myself. I know how it works and I know the risks of the procedure.'
'That doesn't mean you can sign the consent form without thinking it through,' Jake said. 'I don't want any corner-cutting.'
She sighed. 'Look, you and I both know that using contrast dye in an X-ray is the best way to get a decent picture of my arteries, so we can plan the surgery properly.'
'We?' he queried.
'You don't think I'm going to just sit back and not ask a single question about the X-rays, do you?'
He leaned over to kiss her. 'No. And of course I was going to give you the chance to review the X-rays yourself. But I'm doing the op my way,' he warned.
'As I'll be unconscious throughout it, I don't have much choice,' she grumbled.
But she was glad he came down to the X-ray department with her. She didn't flinch when the local anaesthetic was put in, or when the catheter was threaded into her groin, because Jake was holding her hand all the way through it. A contrast dye was injected through the catheter and the radiographer took several X-rays.
And then they were back in Jake's office, with the films pinned up against the light board to review them.
'Good news,' Jake said lightly. 'There's only one. And it's a saccular aneurysm.' Saccular aneurysms were also known as berry aneurysms because they looked like berries growing on a branch. And it was the easiest form to deal with.
'Which sort of incision are you going to do?' she asked.
'Pterional incision—it's shorter, there's less trauma to the temporalis muscle, and the bone flap is smaller,' Jake said.
'OK.' She took a pair of scissors from Jake's desk.
'What are you doing?'
'What does it look like?' She cut off a hank of hair.
'Wouldn't you be better off going to a hairdresser?' Jake asked, looking horrified.
'Nope. My problem, my hair, my way.' No way was she going to let anyone else do this. A change like this...it had to come from her. She continued cutting until her hair lay on his desk in a pile. 'How do I look?'
She regretted the impulse now. 'I look terrible, don't I?'
'You look beautiful, but with a truly bad haircut. I don't—' He stopped abruptly.
She knew what he'd been going to say. That he didn't think hairdressing was an alternative career for her. After tomorrow, who knew what she'd be? A neurologist...or an ex-neurologist. Jake's fiancée...or the woman she wanted him to leave behind.
She willed back the tears. Not now. She wasn't going to cry until she knew the worst. And even then, she could deal with it. She was a Radley. Tough. Strong. And she could stand on her own two feet. She'd had to do that for years and years and years.
'Can you get the hair clippers?' she asked.
He nodded. 'Want me to do it for you?'
'I...' She sagged back against his chair. 'May as well. You can see what you're doing better than I can.'
He wasn't gone long. Though it was long enough for her to start brooding.
It must have shown in her face, because he gave her a hug. 'Hey. Bald women are beautiful. There's Sinead O' Connor—she shaved all her hair off and she looked gorgeous.' His lips twitched. 'Though if you start singing like her, I might have some issues.'
'I don't know whether to laugh or cry,' she admitted.
'Smile,' he advised. 'There was this song my mum used to sing. It's on one of her tapes. Nan had a version by Nat King Cole—I remember her telling me it was written by Charlie Chaplin.' He began to croon 'Smile Though Your Heart is Breaking' to her.
She had a feeling he'd played that track a lot after Beth had died. He was word-perfect on it. And when he'd finished singing, he stood back. 'OK. You're even, now.'
She dared not look in a mirror. 'Thank you.'
'You look dignified,' he said softly.
Hideous, more like. And she knew how he loved her hair. Whenever she wore it up, he couldn't resist unpinning it and running his fingers through it or burying his face in it.
Would he ever do that again?