Authors: Judy Campbell
She went into the man’s cubicle and took a step backwards when she saw that Mr Roper had pulled out his drip and the stand was lying across the floor. Mr Roper was a regular in A and E and it was clear that this was one of his bad days where alcohol was concerned and that he was in belligerent mood.
‘Mr Roper! I’ll have to put in another drip, you know, before you go home.’
‘Get out!’ he shouted. ‘I’m not having you meddling with me…it’s a disgrace!’ This was a fairly regular performance. Jandy said nothing, but reached into the cupboard and took down the equipment needed to reposition the drip—needles, alcohol wipes, a saline flush and a tourniquet.
‘Now, stay still, Mr Roper. I’ve got to put another cannula in your vein,’ she said, pulling on a pair of lanolin gloves.
The man looked at Jandy craftily for a few minutes as she tried to find a good vein in the knotted old arm he presented to her. Eventually she managed to get the drip put up, and as soon as she’d hooked it onto the stand he laughed and pulled his arm away. Jandy leapt to save the stand from falling over, tripped over the tubing and a spray of blood went over the whole room, including her clothes.
‘Mr Roper!’ she croaked, on her knees beside the bed. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’
‘I told you to stop mucking me about,’ growled Mr Roper.
‘Can I help?’
Jandy looked up from her awkward position on the floor to see Patrick looking down at her with an amused grin. The shock of pleasure at seeing him clashed with the acute embarrassment of Patrick seeing her at her most undignified. So much for her trying to glam herself up that morning! She scrambled up quickly and looked down wryly at her blood-spattered tunic.
‘Mr Roper doesn’t like having his drip in,’ she explained, then added succinctly, ‘Mr Roper comes in regularly for fluid replacement so we know him very well.’
‘Ah, I see,’ said Patrick. He turned to the glowering man and said mildly, ‘Mr Roper, if you don’t let us put this drip in you won’t be able to go home—you’ll probably have to sleep on a trolley all night as we don’t have enough beds for everyone.’
Mr Roper considered this for a few seconds, then he said sulkily, ‘Put the damn thing in, then—I’m fed up with the lot of you!’
Jandy went out to change her clothes. ‘Magic touch, Dr Sinclair,’ she murmured as she passed him.
‘Just the usual skill,’ he said modestly, winking at her.
Tim Vernon was talking to Karen as Jandy came by and raised his eyebrows. ‘You’ve been in the wars,’ he remarked.
‘Mr Roper wasn’t too keen on me putting in his cannula,’ she explained. ‘Dr Sinclair’s persuaded him to have it done, but I’ll have to clean up that cubicle.’
Tim sighed and said crustily, ‘If I remember the last time Mr Roper came in, the same thing happened. Let me know when he’s actually out of the building, will you?’ He turned to Karen and stroked the side of his face with a grimace. ‘Any aspirins in that drawer of yours, Sister? I’ve got a devil of a toothache…and I want to go through the admissions with you.’
‘Come with me, Doctor—I’ve got a magic formula to help with that,’ said Karen soothingly.
They disappeared into Sister’s office and Jandy grinned. Karen had a profusion of ‘magic cures’ to keep headaches, stomach upsets and other ailments at bay. Tim seemed to suffer more than most from his teeth and it didn’t do much for his temper.
Jandy went to change her tunic and then went to a box on the wall with cards of patients waiting to be seen. Just as she was about to take the top card, there was a sudden commotion and two youths, pushing and shoving each other, staggered into the corridor from the waiting room. They were laughing uproariously and taunting other patients in the cubicles. Close on their heels was Danny, face bright red and looking flustered.
‘How long have these two been making trouble?’ Jandy hissed to Danny as he passed her.
‘Too long,’ he said breathlessly. ‘I’ve rung Security, but apparently there’s trouble in the car park and resources are stretched. I’m still waiting for someone to come. Any minute now there’s going to be a bust-up.’
‘This is ridiculous,’ muttered Jandy, looking around desperately to see if anyone was about. Karen and Tim were in her office and she knew that Bob Thoms was doing a small procedure in one of the theatres.
She went behind the desk and hit the emergency button, which was meant to alert Security that a major incident was happening, then marched up to the young men, who were now making lewd suggestions to each other about a young woman sitting scared and rigid with fear outside a cubicle.
‘Could you keep it quiet please and go back to the waiting room?’ she shouted above their deafening voices. ‘Which of you is the patient?’
A youth in a leather jacket and trousers liberally festooned with chains and zips stared at her and then said aggressively, ‘About time too—we’ve been waiting hours here.’ He pointed to the other lad. ‘Les is first in the queue.’
‘He’s been seen by the triage nurse—there are other people who need more urgent attention.’
The youth swaggered up to her, pushing a finger at her chest aggressively, and the smell of strong beer wafted over her.
‘You see Les now…or else.’ He looked around at the nervous people in the corridor and snarled, ‘This place is a joke—the hospital ought to be reported, keeping us waiting. Les is in agony with his ankle.’
He was standing eyeball to eyeball with Jandy, his face thrust forward, blotchy with the effect of alcohol, his breath stale. Behind him Les raised a ragged jeer.
‘Yeah! That’s right, Phil—you tell ‘er!’
‘Les will be seen as soon as possible…you, please go!’
Jandy stood her ground resolutely, inwardly praying that someone from Security would come before the whole place erupted, and wondering what it was about this job that she enjoyed. A baby started wailing in Paediatrics and Phil kicked away a chair near his foot and grabbed Jandy’s arm.
‘You listen here, my dahlin’, unless someone sees us in a minute, I’m going to give you something you won’t like.’
‘Get your hands off me!’ shouted Jandy, beating at him ineffectually with her free hand and kicking his shin as hard as she could. ‘Your friend won’t be seen at all if—’
He twisted her arm viciously. Jandy lost her balance and landed with a thump on the floor, a chair he’d kicked to one side just missing her forehead. Then several things happened. A large figure interposed itself between Jandy and the youth and Patrick’s voice roared out, ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’
The youth was grabbed by the feet as he tried to run away and landed on his stomach with a loud yell. Two security guards appeared and handcuffed the squirming boy, now emitting colourful expletives, while Jandy still sat on the floor, slightly dazed and watching the evolving scene with amazement. Patrick towered above the boy, staring down at him, gimlet-eyed.
‘You got a complaint, son? Put it in writing, then. Meantime, these gentlemen have a few questions to ask you, I’m sure!’
The youth looked up at him sullenly. ‘It’s a disgrace. I’ve bust my nose…’ he started to say.
‘Is that all you’ve bust? A pity!’ Patrick’s face was grim and flinty-eyed. ‘Can’t you read?’ He pointed to a sign on the wall. ‘It says there that any aggression towards members of staff will lead to prosecution—and this little episode’s all on video too. It won’t make pretty viewing.’
Les snarled, although he took a step backwards from Patrick’s menacing figure.
Patrick folded his arms and glared at them. ‘Your friend may be seen if he remembers his manners. You—get moving! Oh, and Security will answer any questions you might have.’
Les turned round sulkily. ‘They’re a bunch of losers here,’ he shouted vaguely to the stunned onlookers, trying not to lose face by having the last word.
He shuffled out, leaving his mate sitting hunched on a chair, staring at the floor. An old man peered out of one of the cubicles and shouted in a quavery voice, ‘Well done, sir! That sort need birching, the lot of them!’
‘What’s going on?’ asked Tim, appearing out of Karen’s office. ‘There’s been a lot of a noise…’
‘Under control now, I think, Dr Vernon,’ said Patrick. ‘Staff Nurse has just taken the brunt of some unwanted visitors.’
‘You all right, Staff?’ Tim asked with concern. ‘We really need to up the security in this place if people are getting through here so easily from the waiting room. Go and take her for a coffee, Patrick—I’ll beep you if you’re needed.’
Patrick squatted down by Jandy. His voice had lost the steely tones he’d used on the youths and now he said drily, ‘This is the second time I’ve found you lying on the floor in about twenty minutes. You landed with an almighty thump—are you OK?’
‘Fortunately I landed on my bottom—it was just a bit of a shock,’ remarked Jandy. She grinned rather shakily up at him. ‘Just a normal day in Casualty. I should be used to it by now, but I was a bit slow off the mark and didn’t see it coming.’
‘Promise me one thing,’ Patrick said sternly. ‘Don’t try and take on those thugs again.’
He looked at her fiercely and she laughed. ‘I’m a big girl now, Patrick, big enough to look after myself!’
Without a word he stooped down and slipped his arms under hers, lifting her effortlessly to her feet. In the second that he pulled her up they were facing each other, her body brushing against his broad frame, her face inches away from his. She could see the dark flecks in his blue eyes, a red mark on his cheek where he’d cut himself shaving. A giggle threatened to burst out of her mouth—if they hadn’t been in the hospital she might have thrown caution to the wind and pulled him down towards her!
He placed her gently on a chair and then put a hand on each arm of the chair, preventing her from getting up, and looked down at her with amusement in those beguiling blue eyes. ‘Leave the strong-arm tactics to Security next time, all right?’
‘OK, OK. And, Patrick…thank you very much.’
She spoke lightly but a sudden chill of caution laid its fingers on her heart—she wasn’t a fool. She was being drawn inexorably to Patrick Sinclair. Every time she saw him she longed to touch him, lean against his athletic body. If she wasn’t careful she’d be imagining a happy-ever-after scenario. She knew without a doubt that the attraction she felt towards him was more than a just a mild and diverting flirtation—it was real and powerful. She shivered slightly. She’d allowed one man to rule her heart and dominate her and it had ended in bitter tears because she’d trusted him. She couldn’t allow herself to fall into that trap again.
She stood up resolutely. ‘Back to work,’ she said breathlessly. ‘I’m fine now.’
He shook his head. ‘Not before you’ve had a strong cup of coffee—Tim Vernon suggested it, and you need a breather.’ He shot a look at his watch. ‘Perhaps we’ve time to talk about that property I know about for rent and organise something for our daughters to do together.’
She opened her mouth to say she was quite OK and didn’t need a coffee, but she made the mistake of looking into those blue amused eyes of his. She needed somewhere to live, didn’t she? For Lydia and Abigail’s sake she’d have a coffee with him…
‘That would be lovely,’ she said meekly.
canteen had the familiar smell of chips mingled with roast meat, and was teeming with people shuffling along in the queue. The staff sat in a section behind a screen covered with plastic flowers and there were two huge tubs of dusty-looking plastic palms at the entrance.
‘Don’t say I don’t ask you to the most exotic places,’ said Patrick drily to Jandy. ‘Bag two seats in the corner, and I’ll get something wonderfully delicious from the machine to save us queuing up.’
Jandy watched him weaving his way back to her through the tables a couple of minutes later, concentrating on balancing two plastic cups and chocolate bars in his hands. He looked impressively tall and imposing in that sea of people and she could see Tilly pointing him out to the little group of student nurses she was sitting with. No doubt she was telling them that Patrick Sinclair was the greatest thing since sliced bread! Funny, thought Jandy, how she felt like she’d known him for ages, though in reality it had only beena week or so.
‘Right,’ he said, easing himself into his seat. ‘Have a reviver.’ He took a sip of his own coffee and grimaced. ‘Ah—nectar,’ he remarked dourly. ‘Although I’d put more emphasis on the “tar” myself…’
She giggled, feeling a sudden light-heartedness in his company, and he grinned back at her. ‘Now, tell me honestly if you feel OK after that oaf knocked you down,’ he said.
Jandy smiled ruefully. ‘Only slightly shaky. I promise you it was only my pride that was hurt. I’m just annoyed that I let him get to me. I ought to have learned by now.’
‘I take it there’s an assault book to record this sort of thing?’
Jandy nodded. ‘It’s usually full after two weeks. Anyway, I’m glad that you turned up when you did.’
‘So am I. It’s a familiar story, though, isn’t it? Aggression fuelled by drink and drugs.’ Then he shrugged. ‘There’s not much we can do about it apparently. Anyway, to change the subject…’ He reached into his jacket pocket and drew out a piece of paper, unfolding it in front of Jandy. ‘Perhaps you’d like to see the place I was telling you about that’s available for rent.’
She looked with interest at the photo of a small house, unusual in aspect with an octagonal shape and two dormer windows in the roof.
‘It looks really quaint—rather like a little gingerbread house!’ she exclaimed. ‘I’d love to look around it. Although,’ she added cautiously, ‘it all depends on the rent, to be truthful…’
‘It’s not been lived in for a while—it needs a clean and a bit of decoration, so the rent isn’t all that high. Frankly, you’d be doing the owner a favour if you decide to take it.’
It sounded almost too good to be true. So many things had been a battle for her in recent years, from finding childcare for Abigail to getting a job she loved, that suddenly being offered what looked like a lovely little house was almost unbelievable. She felt a sudden lump of gratitude in her throat and said in a muffled voice, ‘It would be such a load off my mind to get somewhere soon—I have to admit I’m really getting desperate. My priority, of course, is Abigail and I just can’t sleep thinking we won’t have a roof over our heads…’