“Do you ever wonder why some people become doctors?” Samantha asks the question with a serious look.
“Money,” Daniel replies without hesitation.
My eyes flicker to the steam rising from my cup of coffee. Ernestine leans forward, glasses almost reaching the tip of her nose, as she presses her elbows into the table.
“Love for humanity,” she whispers with determination.
Samantha smiles at her a little sadly. I can feel Benjamin shift behind me, out of my line of sight. His silence motivates me to speech. Keeping my eyes on the coffee, I murmur,
Samantha nods; I can feel Ben’s eyes trained on my back. Rene, however, plucks the cigarette from her lips and fixes me with a disregarding stare.
“Nobody’s forcing you to be here,” she says nastily.
Rene and I have never gotten along; I disapprove of her suicidal bent and she takes umbrage with my warped morality. So I barely even react to her outburst.
“Nobody asked you, Ren,” Ben growls. Like a protective papa bear. He’s like that these days, and sometimes I’m curious enough to see where it will lead. But not today. I offer him a slight smile and, ignoring Ren, and turn to face Samantha. She looks like she regrets opening the discussion.
“People don’t always get to do what they want,” I tell her gently. “Being an adult is about doing what you have to do.”
From behind her cloud of smoke, Ren sneers but offers no other comment. Samantha sighs. She’d like to believe we all get along in this circle of half-friendship but the truth is that our personalities generate an uncomfortable friction. A static electricity that puts everyone on edge.
“Which all boils down to money,” Daniel reminds us triumphantly and launches into a tirade on the dire straits of world economy.
I let his words wash over me as I sink back into my seat. Daniel is content to listen to his own voice for hours, and I . . . well, I would rather not think about anything much for a very long time.