“Alright guys, well I think that’s it. Don’t forget to leave your forms in the box once you’ve filled them out.” Gabriella tugged her starchy striped shirt down over her stout waist for the tenth time and shuffled papers back into their folders on the desk in front of her. Everyone began filing slowly out of the room and I stood to go, catching my cardigan on the sharp broken arm of the chair. It’d been scraping at my elbow the whole of the meeting. As I hooked it off, Gabriella suddenly appeared next to me making me jump.
“I was wondering if I could have a little word with you for a minute, Jenny.” My heart leapt in anxiety but I replied brightly, ‘Yeah, sure!’
The hubbub died down as the last person threw a paper cup in the bin and left. She took a deep breath as she launched into what sounded like a well-rehearsed speech.
“So I’ve noticed you’ve been spending quite a lot of time giving care to this ‘mystery man’ in ward B this last week. I’ve heard rumours that you’ve got some kind of a thing for him and the others have been changing shifts to let you have more time with him? Is this true?” She chuckled but I didn’t really think it was that funny. I knew she tended to laugh even when she clearly wasn’t amused. It was her way of letting you know she was annoyed, hoping to make you feel bad, whilst at the same time appearing understanding. I didn’t answer so she continued.
“Well, I know you’re doing a good job Jenny, but just, you know, wise up a little bit. We’ve all got a job to do and you know the rule about getting too attached to patients. Not that we’ve had many cases before but ones that we have had, haven’t ended well. So just, you know, be more professional and make sure you’re not neglecting the other patients in the process. You work so hard, it would be shame to let something like this throw you off course. I assume you know employee reports are being written this month?” I nodded. I wanted to explode with irritation. “Well then, let’s not be tampering with shifts then, shall we? They’re in place for a reason. And I’d like you to incorporate Mrs Sanders into your morning routine from Monday please. Brenda isn’t able to make it in next week so we’re having to sort of spread the load around a bit. Sam’s got the paperwork on her so if you just pick that up Monday morning. Alright?”
I smiled weakly, giving a short nod and made to leave the room.
“Oh, and one more thing. We’ve been having trouble identifying that particular patient of yours, in fact. The police are coming round next week to assess the situation so, just try not to get too involved. This is best left to them. I just want you to make sure you’re keeping a full report on his progress, that’s all.”
Those stupid tears were creeping up on me again. I hastily swiped my eye, forgetting it would smudge the makeup. Who was she to tell me how I could feel? Well, she was head nurse, but still. How patronising! It’s not like I asked them to change the shifts! A heavy heat hung around my cheeks as I scrubbed my hands in the washroom, flicked off the excess water and began tugging paper towels from the dispenser.
I wanted to believe she was just trying to help and that she was just doing her job. Part of me was even slightly grateful to her for bringing me back down to reality. But God, I hated it when she did that laugh thing. Why would you laugh when it’s clearly not funny!?
But the fact still remained: I couldn’t help feeling the way I did. Fair enough, I knew nothing about him, yet there was something there; not a mystic intense feeling of destiny and fate which only seems to line the plot of books and films, but a simple urge and desire to, well, help him. And that was what I was there for. Even if I had to spend less time caring for him, I was still his original assigned nurse and I would do my duties. And like she said, I had to keep a full report on his progress. She just didn't specify how full. I'd give her full alright.
The driving rain sweeping off the windscreen at every whip-whip of the wipers added to the glum that pressed on my muscles and my head. The traffic was its worst, being a Friday, and I knew there was nothing in the fridge to cook for dinner. At least it was the weekend. Could I afford takeaway? It was just along this road. But the rent was due this week; one more thing to think about. I sighed. Oh, the hell with it, I hadn’t had one in ages.
I brightened slightly at the thought of chicken green Thai curry with prawn crackers, and braked rather suddenly to pull into the parking space alongside a row of shut-up shops. At the far end, the blocked text of ‘The Thai Lily’ spilled its glare out onto the shining wet asphalt which lay pot-holed with growing puddles. Slamming the door and shivering as I locked up the car, I made a dash up the pavement towards the welcoming lights, almost soaking my shoe in one of the streams that had formed. I stepped aside at the entrance, looking away and pretending not to notice the anorak shrouded man with a beard who attempted to check me out unnoticed as he clumsily exited. I hopped inside and hastily gave my usual order to the man smiling behind the counter. I couldn’t wait to eat.