'Seeing Jess' by Jenny Glazebrook

Seeing Jess is the brand new novel in the Bateman Family Series by Jenny Glazebrook.

Jess Cardelle likes to fix people. She’s used to being the helper, the dependable one. But losing her brother Toby in an accident was never part of the plan. Why didn’t God give her a chance to save him?

When Tim Bateman begins seeing Jess for physiotherapy after losing a limb in the same train crash that took Toby’s life, Jess finds it hard to deal with his angry, bitter tirades.

And when her bubbly, fifteen-year-old sister Milla begins losing her sight, Jess is pushed to the limit. How can she maintain her friendly, professional façade when her world is falling apart and she is helpless to fix it? Where is God in all of this?

* * * * * Chapter One * * * * *

JESSICA CARDELLE smoothed her skirt and stepped into her office. One more appointment to go. She ran her finger down the list of names on the clipboard and stopped at the last one. Tim Bateman. The man involved in the awful train disaster a year ago. She drew in a deep breath and sank into her leather office chair. She forced herself to skim his file again. Amputee. Twenty-four years old. Close to the age Toby would be if he’d survived the crash. She took another deep breath. She didn’t want to see this patient. The one who’d survived, when her brother hadn’t.

Lauren hadn’t given her much choice. ‘He’s going to end up seeing you when I leave the practice, anyway. Might as well start now.’

Jess’s chest felt tight. She’d become a physiotherapist to help people and then added O.T. to her training because Lauren needed support in her role. But life hadn’t turned out the way she imagined it would. She’d never been given a chance to help Toby. In an instant he was gone.

‘Jess, you here?’ The front door banged open and Jess smiled as Milla charged through. Her fifteen-year-old sister was like a cyclone the way she flew in and out, her curly brown hair looking like it had been swept up in a storm.

‘I’m in here.’

Milla spun around the corner, pony-tail bouncing, hazel eyes sparkling behind her glasses. She threw her school backpack onto the floor beside Jess’s desk. ‘I’ve decided what I’m going to be when I leave school.’

Again? Jess held her tongue. What would it be this time? She could always count on her little sister to come up with random, outrageous ideas.

‘I’m going to be a truck driver,’ Milla said. ‘I’m going to drive one of those big livestock transporters.’ Her hands went to her hips. ‘Riley reckons a woman can’t handle it. Not strong enough. Ha. I’ll show him.’

Jess chuckled. ‘You can’t decide on a life-long occupation just to prove someone wrong. It has to be something you want to do.’

And yet hadn’t she chosen to become a physio not because it was her dream, but because she believed her hometown of Barrawi needed allied health professionals? It had been the perfect solution. Work here during work hours and help out on the family farm in her spare time. It was the best of both worlds.

Milla settled onto Jess’s desk, pushing aside a file to make room. She crossed her legs and leaned over Jess’s patient list. ‘Are you done yet?’

Jess moved the list away from her prying eyes. ‘Confidentiality, remember? And no, I’ve got one more patient to go.’

Milla pulled a disappointed face then giggled. ‘Leave it. Wag the afternoon. We could sneak out together. Wouldn’t that be fun?’

‘If only I could.’ Jess meant it to come out lighthearted, but something in her tone alerted Milla because her face fell.

‘What’s wrong?’

Should she tell her? Milla should be allowed to be young and carefree. And yet, not telling her would imply she didn’t trust her to understand. She looked into Milla’s concerned eyes. ‘My next patient was in the train accident.’

Milla released a drawn out ‘oh’ sound. In it was a world of understanding. She bit her lip and tilted her head, curls sliding across her forehead. ‘But Jess, maybe this is your chance to make something good come of it? Remember, Toby wouldn’t want us to stop living because he has. You couldn’t help Toby, but you can help this person.’

Jess nodded. Milla was right. Her brother had lost his life in that train disaster and this man had lived for a reason. God was in control. Just because grief and loss had hit so close to home, didn’t mean she should stop believing God cared.

So, guide me, Lord. Give me strength.

And yet the prayer felt empty; ritualistic. So much spiritual talk and reasoning from so many people, including herself. She believed it all, but it didn’t take the empty, lost feeling deep inside.

The front door to the practice opened. Her client had arrived. Milla gave her arm a quick squeeze. ‘You’ll be fine. I’ve got fire cadet training now, but Mum said you can take me home?’

‘I can. I’ll pick you up after I see this patient.’

Milla grinned and jumped off the desk, grabbed her school bag and shrugged it onto her shoulder. ‘See you then.’ She hesitated, looked back and captured Jess’s eyes. ‘You’ve got this.’ Then she bounced out the back door of the practice.

The bell on the counter rang and Jess heard Kelly, the new receptionist, greet the patient. She’d need to have a quiet word with her. Kelly should know to acknowledge a patient the moment they entered the office, not wait for them to ring the bell.

‘Good afternoon.’ Thankfully, Kelly sounded cheery and professional. ‘You must be Tim Bateman.’

‘Yes, I’m here to see Lauren.’

The voice was deep. Almost a low, rumbling growl.

Kelly hesitated. ‘Ah, yes, actually, there’s been a change and you’re seeing Jess today.’

‘I don’t think so. I’ve been booked in with Lauren.’

‘Yes, well, Lauren had something urgent come up.’ Had gone home early more to the truth. ‘If you’d like to just take a seat…’

A deep, mirthless chuckle came from the man. ‘Really? I came with my own in case you haven’t noticed.’

Jess took a deep breath and stepped into the waiting room. Time to intervene and go into damage control. She needed to put Toby out of her mind and do her job. She turned to the patient and stopped. For the first time since the accident, her own pain was forgotten. There, facing Kelly in a wheelchair sat a young man with dark, attractive features. His hair was neatly cut with slight waves on top and his strong jaw was clean shaven. Even sitting down, she could see he was tall. But what struck her was the heaviness that enveloped his being. There was a solemn sorrow that overshadowed him.

Tall, dark and handsome, she thought, then put those thoughts aside. There was no place for romance in her life. She was an independent, successful young woman with a loving, supportive family. She was practical and she’d known from the time she was five years old that she was not the marrying kind. There was no excuse for appreciating, let alone dwelling on the good looks of a stranger who would never be more than a client.

The client turned to her and those inky black eyes were expressionless. In them was a complete absence of light or joy.

It’s like he has a heart of stone, she thought, recalling a verse she’d read in Ezekiel a couple of days ago. What did it say? Something about God promising to replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh.

Something stirred within. She couldn’t hold herself aloof or put protective walls around her heart. This man was in need and only God could help him.

She smiled. ‘Tim?’ He didn’t respond. She held out a hand for him to shake. ‘I’m Jessica Cardelle. I’m a therapist here.’

He stared back and the anger and resentment oozed from him, almost a physical force. She braced herself against the intensity of it and managed a smile. ‘I hear you need—’

‘I don’t need anything.’

She started at the crack of his harsh, expressionless voice. ‘That’s... that’s... I didn’t mean...’

‘No. Nobody means anything, do they?’

‘Um…’ Jess licked her suddenly dry lips, confidence racing out the door. ‘I was of the understanding you are my new patient.’

His eyes narrowed. ‘Were you? I was told I’d be seeing Lauren. And your name badge says you are a physiotherapist, not an O.T.’

Jess nodded. ‘It’s true I usually see the physio patients, but I am also a qualified O.T. You will probably need both, so we thought …’

Tim raised a hand and whipped it down like a lash. ‘You thought, did you? I was told it was all to be discussed and negotiated. I’m sick of people telling me what I need and what I have to do. I might not approve of you. Had you ever thought of that?’

She hadn’t, but she wouldn’t dare say so. Everybody in town knew Jessica Cardelle and they liked and appreciated her. She was the smart one, the caring one, the extraordinarily gifted, all-together Christian girl whose resume consisted of outstanding achievement after outstanding achievement. Tim didn’t know that, being a stranger to town, but his harsh words threw her.

His eyes drilled into her. ‘Just because I’ve lost my foot doesn’t mean I’ve lost my right to choose.’

‘Tim... I, well do you want my services?’

He chuckled, but there was a coldness to it that sent shivers down her spine. He looked her up and down as though considering his answer. Then he crossed his arms and she noted they were strong and muscular, unlike his legs. She quickly assessed the situation. The physio in her knew the trauma his body had been through; knew the struggle but also how to strengthen and rebuild those wasted leg muscles. The O.T. in her knew he needed purpose. Something to work toward.

His eyes narrowed as though he knew she was analysing him. ‘It doesn’t matter what I want. I can’t do much about it, can I? Unless you’re such a brilliant therapist you can grow me back a foot.’

‘I can help you find the right prosthetic foot. I can get you back on your feet and as fully able as you were before the accident. If you really want something, there is always a way to get it.’

‘Confident, aren’t you? What if I want something you’re not willing to give?’

What was he insinuating? She avoided his eyes. She knew she wasn’t attractive. Unruly, reddish-brown hair, freckles and plain features didn’t amount to being pretty. She knew it. Everyone knew it. All she had was her personality and her achievements, and Tim hadn’t had time to discover either.

He ran a hand through his dark, wavy hair. ‘You can’t make me into a whole man again, can you?’

She gritted her teeth. She had to remain professional and polite. Why was he baiting her? She must remain cool, calm and collected. ‘You are no less a man now, than you were before you lost your foot.’

His lips twisted in a sneer. ‘Lost it? It wasn’t lost. It was mangled beneath a pile of metal, torn to shreds like my strength, my identity, my purpose in life. It’s gone. If I had my way, I would have died in that accident, but this stupid heart keeps beating.’

He tapped his chest and she felt the blood drain from her face. Okay, so he was angry, resentful, possibly even suffering survivor’s guilt, but she didn’t need to put up with this. Wasn’t going to. He was being cold and heartless. And he was here, resenting the gift of life he’d been given while her brother who loved life had been given no choice. Without another word, she turned, marched back into her office and closed the door behind her.

He was a crude, angry young man and she didn’t have to tolerate his abuse. He might be in pain, but it wasn’t her job to be his punching bag. He was hurting, but so was she. Let Lauren deal with him.

She sat down at her desk. Her hands were clammy with sweat. What was wrong with her? She was usually the placid, calm one. She prided herself in her patience, but she’d lost it out there. Maybe she wasn’t patient at all. Maybe it was just that nobody had ever pushed her buttons to this extent. She hated that Tim Bateman had managed to rattle her so completely. She bit her lip. His dark eyes haunted her. He was in pain and she knew the only One who could ever help him.

‘What do I do, Lord?’ Tim Bateman made her want to run and hide, but God was her hiding place. Her refuge and rock. He would shelter her from the storm in Tim Bateman’s heart. And so, standing tall, taking a deep breath, she reached for her clipboard again. She would go back out there. God would be her refuge.

God, help me. Keep me calm. Help me love him as you love him.

She opened the door and stepped back out into the waiting room. He was still there, his expression stony. She studied him, waiting, gathering strength, clipboard clasped to her chest.

He raised his head and a tight smile, if it could be called that, pulled at his lips. ‘Can I help you?’ Sarcasm seeped through every syllable as he titled his head, mocking her own words from earlier.

‘I don’t think so.’

His expression changed ever so slightly at her renewed composure.

‘I don’t know what your problem is,’ she continued, lowering the clipboard. Confidence, Jess. She stepped towards him. ‘I can tell you’re bitter, but that doesn’t mean you have a right to take it out on me.’ She stood taller. ‘I hate it when I have to report a patient as non-compliant. I feel like we’ve both failed. But I really don’t think you’re the type to give up before you’ve even started. So, do you want to wait to see Lauren, or are we going to give each other a chance? Show each other some respect?’

When he didn’t answer, she gave him her fiercest glare. ‘I take it that’s a yes?’

He gave that hard, dry smile again. ‘If you say so.’

She didn’t ask if he’d like to be wheeled into the consult room. That would be asking for trouble. ‘This way.’

He wheeled himself in and she left the door open. Just in case. Part of her had hoped he wouldn’t follow, but he did, and she had a job to do.

He answered her questions like a sulky child and she wanted to tell him to grow up, but she persisted with her friendly, professional manner. She didn’t touch his leg or the stump where his foot was once attached. She didn’t want him to feel the way her hands were clammy and realise she was nervous. Just an assessment was more than enough for today.

She ran her finger down the final paperwork. ‘You’ve written down that you are a vet.’


So, he was a professional. ‘Currently working?’

‘I’ve just finished study but there’s a position waiting for me.’

‘What kind of position?’

‘Livestock work.’

Her head jerked up. He couldn’t manage livestock in a wheelchair. And possibly not even once she arranged for a prosthesis. Her father was a strong, steady man and yet a bull had knocked him completely off his feet.

Tim’s jaw jumped and he stiffened. ‘You think I can’t do it.’

‘I didn’t say that.’

‘I might be a cripple, but my eyes and mind still work. Your body language shouts skepticism. But you’re underestimating me.’

Jess stepped back from him, allowing herself to meet his piercing eyes. ‘And you’re underestimating me, too.’

His mouth curved up in a sardonic smile. ‘I doubt it. I mean, are you even old enough to have a degree?’

She held in a sigh. She didn’t need to explain to him that she’d finished school early and was the youngest person in her course to complete a masters, that she’d worked with Lauren while completing her studies so she could be qualified sooner.

How was she going to put up with him every day? It was clear he had no respect for her. All his harsh, cryptic comments showed he was not impressed by her position, profession or even her personality. Usually her friendly, open manner won over the grumpiest of patients. But Tim was beyond grumpy. He was so absorbed in his own pain and darkness that he shied away from the light.

‘God,’ she muttered, ‘Give me strength.’

Because God’s supernatural strength was the only thing that would get her through this.

* * * * *

Seeing Jess is the fourth book in the Bateman Family Series by Jenny Glazebrook.

Daring Clare, Saving Beth and Framing Fleur are also available.

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