Anything you can do, p.1
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       Anything You Can Do, p.1

           R.S. Grey
 
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Anything You Can Do


  Anything You Can Do

  Copyright © 2017 R.S. Grey

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, including electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

  This book is a piece of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.

  This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it to the seller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

  Published: R.S. Grey 2017

  [email protected]

  Editing: Editing by C. Marie

  Proofreading: Jennifer at JaVa Editing

  Cover Design: R.S. Grey

  ISBN: 0990490491

  ISBN-13: 9780990490494

  For Lance

  CHAPTER ONE

  I can’t believe I’m here, back after so many years away. In all that time, I liked to imagine what this day would feel like, the day I returned victoriously to Hamilton, Texas, with a metaphorical gold medal around my neck. I always dreamed there would be a parade. Confetti, sparklers, cheap candy clipping the soft heads of children. At the very least, I assumed there would be a podium for me to stand on. I’m hopeful. Maybe in the time it has taken me to get ready, my mom has dragged one out of the hall closet.

  I hear them all downstairs waiting for me. I am the guest of honor, the subject of the WELCOME HOME, DR. BELL sign taped over the fireplace. The party started an hour ago, and my mom has come up to check on me twice since then. Concerned. The first time I was spread out on my bed, prone, in a bathrobe I hadn’t worn since high school.

  “Better cinch that belt before you come down, Daisy. Your privates are trying to go public.”

  The second time, I was dressed, standing at my window and staring triumphantly at the two-story house next door. His house.

  “If you’re looking for Madeleine, she’s already downstairs.”

  “Her brother isn’t here, is he?”

  I know he’s not. He’s in California. Still, I need to hear her say it.

  “No. Of course not.”

  I turn and narrow my eyes at her until I am sure she is telling the truth. That’s what he does to me—makes me lose trust in my own mother. It’s a side effect of being back in Hamilton, our old battlefield. Every square inch of this town is covered in our blood (red rover), sweat (cross country), and tears (see list). One time, just beneath the oak tree next door, I gave him a black eye when he told me no one was going to ask me to eighth grade formal. In the end, I went to the dance on the arm of the Matt Del Rey while he stayed home with a mushy bag of peas on his face.

  I hadn’t gotten off completely scot-free. After my mom heard about the punch, she marched me over to his front door to apologize. Unsatisfied by my sarcastic soooorry, our moms agreed that we needed to “hug it out”. I remember pulling him into a sweet embrace and positioning my cheek softly against his so I could whisper a parting threat just out of parental earshot.

  “If you ever tattle on me again, I’ll make it two black eyes,” I hissed.

  He used his deceptive pubescent strength to squeeze my ribs like a boa constrictor, which our moms interpreted as geniality.

  “I hope you get hit by the school bus,” he whispered back.

  “Daisy?” my mom says from the doorway, pulling my mind back to the present. “Are you ready to come down? Everyone is so anxious to see you.”

  I turn away from the window and stretch out my fist. That incident took place fifteen years ago and my knuckle still aches sometimes. I wonder if his eye does too.

  Downstairs, my mother has rounded up quite the motley crew of guests to welcome me back home: geriatric neighbors, out-of-touch friends, the little boy who delivers her newspaper. I know maybe half of the guests, but then again, I haven’t called Hamilton “home” since before I left for college 11 years ago.

  Everyone whoops and hollers when I make my appearance, my mom guiding them like an overzealous conductor from her spot at the base of the stairs.

  “Welcome home, Doc!”

  “Way to go, Daisy!”

  There are claps on my back and drinks plopped in my hands. I don’t usually love parties but tonight, I have something to celebrate. I’m finally realizing my dream: to take over my own private practice. It’s the reason I’m back in Hamilton, the reason I put in so many years of hard work during medical school and residency.

  I make my way to the kitchen to avoid doing shots with my middle school PE teacher, and there I find Madeleine on punch duty. As my oldest friend, I’m not surprised my mom has put her to work.

  “I was wondering when you were going to come down. Wait, is that dress from high school?”

  I shrug. “I haven’t unpacked my suitcases yet, and I saw this hanging in the closet. It felt like a challenge.”

  She grins and flips some of her brown hair over her shoulder. “Well it looks way better on you now than it did back then.”

  On a bell curve of the female body type, I am somewhere left of center—thin, medium height, bony wrists. I developed boobs after high school, after everyone already had them and the novelty had worn off. Still, when I slipped into my dress upstairs and stood in front of my old full-length mirror, I was pleased to see I’d become my own teenage dream. Thank you, Katy Perry.

  “You should have come upstairs.”

  She points to the half-empty punch bowl. “Your mom grabbed me as soon as I walked in.”

  “Leave the punch and let’s take a bottle of wine out back. I bet we could down the whole thing before anyone finds us.”

  “You know we’re adults now, right? We don’t have to sneak alcohol anymore.”

  I shrug and reach around her for an unopened cabernet. “Yeah, but it’s more fun to pretend that we do. Plus, I spotted Dr. McCormick on my way down and you know if he corners me, we’re done for. He’ll want to talk shop all night.”

  Madeleine’s brown eyes go wide as saucers. “Oh god, you’re right. Go. I’ll grab glasses.”

  “Daaaaiiisssyyyyyy!”

  My mom’s singsong voice stops me dead in my tracks. My instincts tell me to drop the bottle and feign innocence, but then I remember I’m 28. Legal. Board-certified.

  “Look what just arrived!”

  I turn and nearly drop the bottle of cab. She is walking through the doorway of the kitchen holding a bomb.

  “What. Are. Those?” I croak.

  “They’re flowers for you!” She beams. “Looks like a couple dozen.”

  Nearly three dozen to be exact. Fat, happy daisies. White.

  “Get them out!”

  “What? Don’t be ridiculous! They were just delivered.”

  She is already bent over the kitchen sink, filling the massive vase with water. I wrench them out of her hand and water spills down the front of my thin dress. Now I’m everyone’s teenage dream.

  “Daisy!”

  “No. No. No.”

  It is three steps to the backdoor, four to get down the stairs, and then I pitch the flowers into the trashcan out back. There, inside the bin, a small envelope taunts me from atop the discarded stems.

  He is never one to overlook details; the envelope is a shade of pale pink that enrages me.

  “Are you going to read it?” Madeleine asks. She’s leaning over my shoulder, staring down at the envelope.

  “No.”
<
br />   “Maybe it says something nice?”

  I ignore her. As his sister, she can’t help but want to defend him. She always has.

  “How did he write it?” I ask.

  “What?”

  I keep my tone even. “If he is in California, how did he write the note? That,” I point down, “is his handwriting.”

  “Oh. Well…”

  “Madeleine.”

  “I thought you knew…”

  My mouth is the Sahara. My words rasp out like a dry wind.

  “You thought I knew what?”

  “He’s back. He moved back last week. I really thought you knew.”

  Just like that, my parade is over, and confetti is stuck to my shoes.

  I don’t hate flowers; I hate daisies. They give me hives. They’re the flower everyone wants me to be. The world sees me with my pale blonde hair and my big, shining blue eyes and they want to pat my head and plant me in their gardens. I’m not a daisy. I’m a doctor. I never want to be reduced to a daisy, and Lucas knows this better than anyone.

  I drag Madeleine up to my room after I stuff the lid back on the trashcan. If Lucas has moved back to Hamilton, I need to know why. Like a chipmunk collecting nuts, I need to gather intel in my cheeks until they pop.

  “Madeleine. Why is he back?”

  “Well he’s finished with residency, like you, so he came back for a job.”

  She isn’t meeting my eyes.

  “What job?”

  She wrings out her hands, nervous.

  “At Dr. McCorm—”

  “NO!” I erupt. “GOD NO!”

  She finally turns to me, her face twisted in sympathy. “I’m sorry, Daisy! I thought you knew! Why wouldn’t Dr. M tell y’all you’d be working together?”

  I hold my hand to my throat and feel my pulse—racing. I drop it and start to pace. There has to be an explanation. The facts are simple: Dr. McCormick owns the only family practice in town and he’s hinted about retiring. His office is a one-man operation and he offered me a job during my last year of residency. Obviously, I took it, hence the celebratory parade.

  So how the hell does Lucas factor into the equation? I clutch to a rapidly shrinking shred of optimism. Maybe Dr. McCormick needs an office manager, or better yet, a janitor.

  Madeleine crosses in front of my path, momentarily stalling my paces. “Don’t you think it’s time you two put this weird animosity behind you? It’s been 11 years. You’re both on the cusp of becoming successful doctors. Surely you don’t still hate each other!”

  I laugh. It sounds hysterical.

  “Madeleine, Madeleine, Madeleine.”

  “Stop saying my name.”

  “Do you remember when Mrs. Beckwith, the school counselor, pulled Lucas and me into her office during our senior year? After the parking lot incident?”

  “No—”

  “It took one hour for us to break her. She gave up counseling. Quit that same day, moved to upstate New York and started farming root vegetables. She said Lucas and I had—and I quote from her resignation letter—‘robbed her of all faith in the future of humanity’.”

  “That sounds made up.”

  “I know your brother—probably much better than you do. We will never get along. 11 years apart is nothing. It has changed nothing. If anything, it’s given our animosity time to mature like a fine wine—or better yet, a stinky cheese.”

  “Weren’t you supposed to be studying medicine all this time?”

  “Oh, believe me, I was. For every horrific skin disease, cyst, and pustule we learned about, I imagined them on Lucas. For every slow, painful terminal illness, I pictured him suffering through them instead of just some nameless study participant. I was actually able to commit quite a lot to memory that way.”

  “You’re hopeless.” She throws up her hands and heads for the door. “I’m going down to hang out with your guests. You need to do some serious soul-searching, Daisy. Whether you like it or not, Lucas will be working with you at Dr. McCormick’s, and I suggest you go in with a good attitude. Look at what he did today.” She points to the pink envelope sitting on my bed. She’d dug it out of the trash before I could slam the lid down on her arm. I now regret not drawing blood. “Those flowers are clearly a peace offering—”

  What a naïve girl, unhardened by a lifetime of continuous hostility.

  “Oh please. They’re a warning shot.”

  She rolls her eyes and walks out, leaving me alone in my Situation Room. The flowers are a secret message, his little reminder that nothing has changed between us. To everyone else, they look like a kind gesture. They can’t see the subtext, the torture, and that is precisely his point.

  I look down at the pink envelope then back at the open door. I am tempted to read it, so I close the door. I can hear my mom shouting at everyone to use coasters. No one will know.

  Without hesitation, I tear into the envelope. His sharp script gives me tunnel vision.

  Roses are red,

  Daisy is you,

  I heard you came back,

  and I did too.

  Chapter Two

  Lucas Thatcher and I have been in competition with each other since day one. Yes, the actual day one, the day on which we were born, all of 58 minutes apart.

  I crawled first. He spoke first. I walked first and he potty-trained first.

  And so it went.

  Our parents dressed us up in matching outfits and planned joint birthday parties. I’ve seen the photo albums, filled with two little infants: one a quiet angel, the other, a brash hellion. My favorite photo, one I liked to use as evidence, depicted us sitting side by side at a Halloween festival when we were almost a year old. They’d plopped us down on haystacks hoping for a sweet photo, but Lucas had turned on me, tearing off my small yellow bow with his uncoordinated infant fingers and throwing it on the ground. They’d snapped the photo just as I’d retaliated with the few teeth I wielded at the time.

  Obviously infants aren’t born with innate hatred pumping out of their tiny hearts, but I use our births as a starting point because nobody can pinpoint an exact date when our competition began. My mom swears we turned on one another when Lucas was chosen to be the preschool line leader. I tend to disagree—after all, you can’t place all the blame on Mrs. Hallow, even if choosing Lucas over me was the biggest mistake of her entire career.

  In light of the sheer longevity of our rivalry, people always want to know what terrible event had transpired to precipitate it all. The truth is, we’ve always been this way. I am the Annie Oakley to his Frank Butler and I firmly believe that anything he can do, I can do better.

  A rivalry like ours sustains itself by constantly evolving. In elementary and middle school, the tactics were juvenile: vandalized finger paintings in art class, stolen soccer balls on the playground, sabotaged shoelaces in the school play.

  These crude encounters inevitably produced a certain amount of collateral damage. Letters were sent home about school property and behavioral correction. I endured my first and only detention because of Lucas. We even lost friends—the ones who weren’t willing to become lieutenants in our little war—but most importantly, we started to forfeit the respect of our teachers. As we grew older, we recognized the significance of these authority figures and the grades they doled out. The report cards sent home on thick white cardstock suddenly became our objective means of comparison, our apples to apples. Every six weeks those marks told us who was better, who was winning.

  Now there are no more teachers, but there is Dr. McCormick, and I catch a lucky break when I run into him at Hamilton Brew the morning after the party.

  I was planning on dropping by his house later, but this is better, casual. He sits in the corner near a window with the Sunday paper and a large coffee. I make note of the two empty sugar packets beside his cup.

  He had seemed old to me in high school, but I now realize he’s only got a year or two over my mother. His brown hair is salty and he’s taken to growing out a whit
e mustache. In all, I’d say he’s a suave version of ol’ Saint Nick.

  “Dr. McCormick,” I say with a winning smile. “Fancy seeing you here.”

  “Daisy!”

  He’s genuinely happy to see me, which I’m glad for. We shoot the breeze for a few minutes as only people from small towns can. There’s rambling talk of a new housing development and a Wal-Mart.

  “Next thing you’ll know, we’ll have a Whole Foods,” he says with a shake of his head.

  Without asking for permission, I sit down across from him and get down to business.

  “I heard Lucas is back in town. Weird, right? I mean, what are the odds?”

  My gaze is on the latte, but my attention is on him. He shifts awkwardly in his chair and reaches for his coffee. It’s still steaming—too hot to drink—which means he’s stalling.

  “I thought I’d have another day of peace before you two found out.”

  My heart drops.

  “So it’s true? He’s working with us?”

  “Starting tomorrow, just like you.”

  I inwardly crumble, remember he’s watching me, and force a smile.

  “Can I ask why? Surely only one of us can take over the practice when you retire, right?”

  He rubs his chin thoughtfully and I can’t help but feel like I’ve overstepped my bounds. Still, he doesn’t sidestep my question.

  “To be honest, it wasn’t something I planned, it just happened. I let it slip to a few people at church one Sunday that I was considering retirement, and wouldn’t you know it, I had two emails and two voicemails waiting for me Monday morning.”

  “Me and Lucas?”

  “Bingo. I guess that’s what I get for opening my mouth.”

  I want to ask him who emailed him first, but I bite my tongue as he continues.

  “I was proud that you two had both gone into family medicine, but shocked that you both wanted to return to little ol’ Hamilton after all these years.”

  Lucas and I both had high enough scores for the more difficult specialties. Plastic surgery, dermatology—the few with flexible hours and big bucks. Family medicine spots aren’t typically in high demand, or anyone’s first choice.

 
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