Surgeon in a Tux(10)

By: Carol Marinelli


‘Darling Leo!’

His favourite patient stood when she saw him. Tiny, petite, she was trailing scarves and expensive scent as they walked to his office and past Lizzie, who, with a brief nod at them, was heading into hers.

‘Francesca …’ Leo helped her off with her luxurious coat. She had once been his father’s patient and more recently Leo had done a lot of work on her. Last year Francesca had had a full facelift and they both were thrilled with the result. She often popped in for a smudge of cosmetic filler or to have her lips plumped up a fraction. Francesca only ever saw Leo, even for the tiniest procedures. ‘It’s lovely to see you,’ Leo said.

‘And you, darling. It’s terribly cold.’ She shivered without her coat and Leo suppressed a smile. The routine never changed.

‘I can have the heating turned up.’

‘No, no …’ Francesca waved her hands. ‘I don’t want to cause trouble. I am always cold, you know that.’

‘Perhaps a small brandy might warm you?’ Leo suggested.

‘Just a small one maybe,’ Francesca said, and Leo duly headed to the decanter.

‘It really is freezing out there,’ he added, as he handed Francesca a drink.

‘How are you, Leo?’ Francesca asked once she’d taken a sip. ‘How’s the love life?’

‘You know I don’t have a love life, Francesca.’ Leo grinned. ‘The social life’s amazing, though.’

Francesca laughed and then got to the real reason she was there. ‘I have a wedding to go to in the summer,’ Francesca started, and Leo sighed inwardly as he realised that she wasn’t just there for a little top-up. Francesca knew enough about procedures to know she would need a few months for the swelling and bruising to go down fully and the effect to show properly, except Leo didn’t want to do any more surgery on her. Francesca looked amazing as she was.

‘Just here …’ Francesca ran her fingers along nonexistent jowls. ‘And I think if I had more volume in my cheeks—’

‘Francesca,’ Leo interrupted, ‘you never had much volume in your cheeks even when you were younger.’ Leo came over and examined Francesca’s face carefully.

Objectively.

He tried to ignore the fact that he had done her previous surgery and to look at Francesca as if she were a new patient who was coming to see him for the first time. He asked himself what he would advise if that were the case.

Nothing.

Leo had taken care of everything in last year’s surgery. He was incredibly proud of his work. Francesca, from a distance, could pass as a woman in her late forties or early fifties, thanks to the amazing care she took of herself. Even examining Francesca close up, even scrutinising her features carefully, the work she’d had done, combined with her already breath-taking features, meant that she looked two decades younger then she was.

‘Francesca.’ Leo went and sat back behind his desk—he knew this was going to be difficult, knew just how volatile Francesca could be. ‘You don’t need any work.’

‘I want it, though.’

‘You don’t need surgery.’ Leo would not budge. Ethan might consider most of Leo’s work unnecessary but what his brother did not understand was that Leo would never put a patient through an unnecessary procedure. Yes, he catered for vanity but not insanity and in this case absolutely nothing needed to be done. ‘We can maybe do a small touch-up with fillers before the wedding and naturally I will see you a month before so that your cosmetic filler is at its optimum, but—’

‘Leo!’ Francesca interrupted impatiently. ‘I want this surgery. This wedding is very important to me. Tony is going to be there. I haven’t seen him in years. I want to take his breath away.’

‘You’ll more than take his breath away if you look like Cat Woman.’ Leo could be very direct when needed, though he did try to soften it with a touch of humour. ‘He’ll choke on his hors d’oeuvre.’

‘Leo, you are not listening to me.’

‘You are the one who is not listening to me, Francesca. Do you remember when I took over your care from my father? You made me promise that no one would ever be able to guess that you’d had some work done. I’ve kept that promise. You look stunning. Even knowing the work you have had done, I still can’t really see it and I’m the surgeon. What you’re asking me to do will have everybody knowing that you’ve been under the knife and that you’ve got a face pumped up with fillers, and I’m just not prepared to put my name to it.’

‘Leo, please!’

‘Francesca, we can arrange for some skin treatments in the lead-up to the wedding and as I said I will make sure that your—’

‘I want to have the surgery.’

‘And I’m not prepared to operate,’ Leo said. ‘There are risks with any surgery, Francesca, and at seventy-two years of age …’ Don’t mention the war, Leo thought as he watched her furious eyes widen, but Leo simply would not be swayed and he continued on with the truth. ‘It would be foolish at best to operate for absolutely no reason.’

‘So you are saying that I’m too old for surgery?’

‘For completely unnecessary surgery, yes,’ Leo said. ‘Francesca, why don’t we—?’

But Francesca wasn’t listening. First making sure to drain the last of her brandy, angrily she stood. ‘You can’t say no to me.’

‘I can,’ Leo answered. ‘I just have. But I will—’ He didn’t get to finish. Francesca didn’t want to hear about fillers or skin treatments, she wanted surgery and she wanted it booked now! She stormed out in rage, hurling out her anger as she left.

‘I have been good to you, Leo! This is how you repay my loyalty, this is how you treat me …’

Lizzie heard the fracas and chose not to ignore it. ‘Is everything okay?’ Lizzie checked, popping her head in.

Leo rolled his eyes.

‘No jewellery to pick up?’ Lizzie checked.

‘Not this time.’ Leo gave a tight smile.

‘Not another lovers’ tiff, I hope!’

‘God, no.’ Leo actually laughed. ‘I do have some morals. Not many …’ Then his face went serious. ‘I refused to do the surgery she wanted.’

‘Oh.’

‘I did a full facelift on her last year. Francesca is seventy-two!’

‘Oh, my …’ Lizzie blinked. She could not believe that the woman she had seen was in her seventies. ‘I knew you were a good surgeon but …’ She shook her head. ‘She looks amazing.’

‘I’d love to take all the credit but, the fact is Francesca has the most amazing bone structure I’ve ever seen and still exercises daily and keeps herself in shape. She was a prima ballerina,’ Leo explained. ‘When I took over her care we both agreed to keep it minimal. Part of the reason she looks so good is that she doesn’t look as if she has had surgery—her face moves, she’s got lines …’ He let out a sigh. ‘Not for long, though.’

‘Meaning.’

‘The trouble with saying no to someone like Francesca is that she’ll find someone who is only too happy to say yes. The double trouble is …’ he shrugged ‘… she’s my favourite patient and I can’t stand to think of anyone else treating her. I know I’m the best and I want the best for her. I really do think a lot of her.’

‘Really?’ Lizzie smiled.

‘She’s so eccentric.’ He rolled his eyes. ‘She tells me all about Tony, the love of her life. How he wanted her to give up dancing yet she refused to. He wanted lots of bambinos and she wanted the stage so she ended it. There have been numerous young lovers and husbands since then but Tony is the love of her life. It turns out Tony is going to be at a wedding and she wants to look like she did the day she left him.’

He headed over to a huge bookshelf and pulled down a ballet programme. ‘Signed.’ Leo smiled. ‘I asked her to bring in old photos to work from …’ He laughed at the memory. ‘I’d still be looking through them now if I hadn’t narrowed it down to this. She’s as neurotic and vain as most dancers are, and twice as temperamental. God, I hope she doesn’t go anywhere else.’

He really did care about her, Lizzie thought, looking through the programme. Francesca was seriously beautiful now and in her day had been breath-taking. ‘A major part of her appeal is her gamine features,’ Leo explained, still flicking through the photos. ‘Look at that symmetry.’

‘Look at those eyes …’ Lizzie said.

‘They weren’t looking so doleful a few moments ago,’ Leo said. ‘She’s furious with me.’

‘But surely Francesca knows that you’ve got her best interests covered?’ Lizzie said, but Leo shook his head.

‘She determined that this is what she needs and, believe me, when Francesca sets her mind on something …’ He replaced the programme then chewed around the base of his thumbnail, pondering what to do. ‘Will you give Francesca a follow-up call?’ Leo asked. ‘See if she will come in and speak with me again—she’ll just hang up on me if I try to call.’