I look up from the monitor, in the midst of typing up the saga of the new admission onto the system; the old guy with the head injury.
"I'll go, Tom," says Melanie. "You carry on. Want a top-up, in a minute?"
I pick up the cup, which is still almost full, but the coffee stone cold, with a film on top. "Yeah. Good plan. Thanks, Mel." I go back to my typing, working back and forth to fill in the blanks of the new patient's history from the thin sheaf of paper that came up from him from the ER.
"He's conscious, but drowsy, and there is some confusion there." the ER nurse had said when she handed over. "Keeps asking for someone called Morag, but when we asked who his next of kin is, he told us it was his mother."
Morag. Hadn't Isla mentioned that name the other day? Something about one of the library regulars calling her that?
The new guy's name was William Charles, taken from a raggedy-edged and stained Veteran's Association membership card they found in his pocket. Melanie and I had listed his property, such as it was. A handful of change; a tattered notebook with a stub of pencil stuck into the spiral binding, and the card. When I had addressed him as William, he had laughed and said he had not been called that in years.
"You go by Bill?" I had asked, the last time I took his vitals, which were now being recorded hourly.
"You can call whatever you like, sonny. Just don't call me late for breakfast." A sense of humour, then, but the deep lines etched in the old boy's face gave clues that there had not, perhaps, been a lot to laugh about in his life. He had given his date of birth as 1948. The same as my own father. But he looks older than my grandfather. Not surprising, really, I think as I look at the alarming values on one of the blood tests from his notes. His liver seems to have taken a bigger bashing than his head. His clothes were clean, though. Melanie had remarked on the smell of soap when we were packing them away into his bedside locker.
Mel comes back to the nurses' station carrying two fresh cups of coffee and puts one down next to me.
"Thanks. Almost done."
"I checked on Mr. Charles just now. He called me Bonnie."
"Well, you are. Nothing wrong with his eyesight, is there?"
"Oh, get away with you, you old charmer!" she says, punching me on the arm. Melanie is in her forties, with a brood of grand-kids already, but looks young for her age, thanks to her round, babyish face. She wears her highlighted blonde hair in a shaggy cut which would look wrong on most women her age, but she gets away with it. Mel and I enjoy being rostered on together. We have a blast.
I look at my watch. Only two hours and Mel and I can get out of here. Then I can go off and meet Isla.
"How's that lovely new girlfriend of yours?" asks Mel, as if reading my mind. She must have caught the smile which always lifts the corners of my mouth when I think of her.
"Fine, fine," I say. "It's our six month-iversary tonight."
Six months, and I still know next to nothing about her. She knows all about me, even the names of all her predecessors. She just clams up when I fish for information about her past relationships. She seems to prefer it when we talk about me. A couple of times lately, I have seen a struggle in her face when I ask her about the guys she's been with, as if she wants to tell me, but something is holding her back.
There must have been past relatioinships, for someone as stunning as Isla. Tall, model-slim, with glorious long, auburn, wavy hair, which always smells faintly of the strawberry shampoo she uses, and green eyes. A low, sultry, slightly husky voice, which still gives me the shivers when she says my name.
We met at a reading group a year ago, and the two of us, being the two youngest there, kind of palled up, and got into the routine of going for a drink together after each session. The reading group disbanded after six months, but we didn't.
I still can't believe my luck. And, before Isla, I'd never really been keen on redheads