Never Underestimate a Caffarelli

By: Melanie Milburne


‘BUT I NEVER work with male clients,’ Lily said to her boss at the south London physical therapies rehabilitation clinic. ‘You know that.’

‘I know but this is such an amazing opportunity,’ Valerie said. ‘Raoul Caffarelli is from serious money. This four-week live-in post in Normandy will be worth a year’s work to you. I can’t send anyone else. Anyway, his brother absolutely insisted on you.’

Lily frowned. ‘His brother?’

Valerie gave her eyes a little roll. ‘Yes, well, apparently Raoul isn’t too keen on working with anyone just now. He’s become a bit reclusive since coming out of hospital. His older brother Rafe read about your work with Sheikh Kaseem Al-Balawi’s daughter. He wants you to help his brother. He’s willing to pay you very handsomely. I got the impression from him when he called that you could just about name your price.’

Lily chewed at her lower lip. The money was certainly attractive, especially given her mother’s desperate circumstances right now, after yet another failed relationship had drained her bank account dry. But a live-in post with a man—even one currently confined to a wheelchair—was the stuff of her nightmares.

She hadn’t been anywhere near a man in five years.

‘I’m not doing it,’ Lily said, turning to put another patient’s file away. ‘It’s out of the question. You’ll have to find someone else.’

‘I don’t think saying no is a going to be an option,’ Valerie said. ‘The Caffarelli brothers are known for their ruthless determination. Rafe wants Raoul to be his best man at his wedding in September. He believes you’re the best person to get his brother back on his feet.’

Lily closed the drawer, turned and looked at her boss. ‘What does he think I am, a miracle worker? His brother might never get back on his feet, let alone in a matter of weeks.’

‘I know, but the least you could do is agree to work with him to see if it’s possible,’ Valerie said. ‘It’s a dream job—all expenses paid while you get to stay in a centuries-old château in rural Normandy. Do it, Lily. You’ll be doing me a huge favour. It will really lift the profile of the clinic. This is exactly what we need right now to build on the work you did with the Sheikh’s daughter. We’ll be known as the holistic clinic for the rich and famous. Everyone will want to come here.’

Lily swallowed a tight knot of panic in her throat. Her heart was thumping such a rapid and jerky tattoo it felt as if she had just run up a skyscraper’s flight of stairs. Her skin was clammy and her head felt as tight as if a vice were pressing against her temples. She tried to think of an escape route but each time she thought of one it was immediately roadblocked by her need to help her mother and her loyalty to her employer.

Could she do it?

‘I’ll need to see Mr Caffarelli’s scans and reports from his doctors. I might not be able to do much at all for him. It would be wrong to give him or his brother false hope.’

Valerie clicked the mouse at her computer. ‘I have the scans and reports here. Rafe emailed them to me. I’ll forward them to you.’

Lily looked at the reports a short time later in her office. Raoul Caffarelli had a spinal injury from a water-skiing accident. He had also sustained a badly broken right arm, although that was apparently healing. He had some feeling in his legs, but he was unable to stand upright without aid, and at this point in time he could not walk. The neurosurgical opinion was that he would be unlikely to regain full use of his legs, although they expected some minor improvement in his current mobility. But Lily had read similar reports before and tried not to let them influence her when dealing with a client.

Some spinal injuries could be devastatingly permanent, others relatively minor, and then there was everything in between. So much depended on the type of injury as well as a client’s attitude and general state of health.

Lily liked to use a mix of therapies—the traditional things such as structured exercise, strength-training and massage, and some which were considered a little more on the alternative side, such as aromatherapy, dietary supplements and visualisation techniques.

The Sheikh’s daughter, Halimah Al-Balawi, was one of her star clients. The young woman had been told by three neurosurgeons that she would never walk again. Lily had worked with her for three months; the improvement had been painstakingly slow at first, but finally Halimah had taken her first steps with the aid of parallel bars and she had continued to improve until she was able to walk unaided.