- Text Font:
- Text Size:
- Line Height:
- Line Break Height:
She doesn’t lack boldness. I’ll give her that.
The next morning, I find Patricia at her desk perusing a knitting magazine, and I ask her for Bailey’s employee file. She pauses, mid-page-flip, and then she stares up at me over the brim of her reading glasses.
“What do you want it for?” she asks with barely concealed trepidation. “I like that girl. Don’t go making her quit.”
I roll my eyes. “Just give it to me.”
It’s rare that Patricia likes someone. If she feels the need to defend Bailey, it speaks volumes about her character.
She grumbles a bit more and then reluctantly stands to retrieve the file from HR. When she brings it to my office a few minutes later, I have to tug hard to pry it from her hand.
I thank her then lay the file open flat across my desk. I don’t know what I’m hoping to find—a dossier outlining her life? Details about her likes and dislikes? There are just a few pages. I learn her full name: Bailey Anne Jennings, and her age: 26. From what little I remember, she seemed younger last night.
I scan over her address and suddenly feel like I’m stalking her, but in reality, any employer would do this. I want to know more about the person I’m considering hiring. Under education, it says she finished a few years of college before quitting and opting to complete a surgical assistant program. I flip to the last page and at the bottom, I notice there’s no one listed as her emergency contact. There are just a few letters scratched out like she began writing someone down before thinking better of it.
That blank line is a shot to my cold, unfeeling heart.
I flip the file closed and shove it aside. Sip my coffee, browse emails. Open it again, reread her address, and type it into Google Maps. She doesn’t live in a great area of town, but it’s not exactly the slums either. I delete my browsing history and snap at Patricia over the intercom to get me another cup of coffee. She tells me if I ever talk to her like that again, I’ll be getting a healthy dose of rat poison in my next cup of joe.
I can’t meet her eyes when she brings it to me. I can’t explain this unnerving feeling. It’s like someone’s pressing their full weight down on my chest and making it hard to breathe.
My resident arrives soon after and I shove Bailey’s file in the top drawer of my desk like I’m hiding a dirty secret. He brought me coffee, but I can’t drink it. I’ve already had one cup too many this morning and I feel jittery. I’ll have to take a piss midway through my surgery if I’m not careful.
“Did you have a good night, Dr. Russell?” he asks with a cheerful pep in his step.
“You’re not here to be my friend,” I say. “Did you review the case for today?”
He’s visibly shaken at my outburst. I can see in his eyes that he wants to call me a prick, but he won’t. He doesn’t have the courage. Unlike Bailey.
By the time I’m finished with my surgery, it’s lunchtime. My stomach is growling, but there’s something I need to take care of before I eat.
I have a hard time finding the staff lounge. I assumed it was on the same floor as the doctors’ lounge, but it’s up on seven. I feel like an idiot for having wandered aimlessly for fifteen minutes.
I can hear the noise and chatter from down the hall. The door is wide open, but I don’t step inside. I hover on the precipice and scan the room for her. Part of me wonders if I’ll even be able to pick her out from amongst the masses, and then I freeze.
She’s sitting at the center table, surrounded by people. The popular girl. She’s smiling and dipping a baby carrot into peanut butter, which seems utterly disgusting to me. Someone nudges her in the side to get her attention and she glances up at me at the exact moment my face betrays my disapproval of her culinary choice. Baby carrots should be dipped in ranch and hummus, nothing else.
Her eyes narrow. She thinks I’m looking disapprovingly at her, and well…I am.
I nod my head toward the hallway, giving her an unspoken command: Come here.
She doesn’t budge.
I could go in, but there are rules against it. No doctors are allowed in the staff lounge, and no auxiliary staff are allowed in the doctors’ lounge. Rules are rules. If I step inside, I’m liable to get a soup can thrown at my head.
A hush has fallen over the lounge as everyone’s gazes ping back and forth between us.
Her eyes flicker to the side wall and I follow. Ah, yes: the devil picture. I smirk. I’d assumed Dr. Goddard was lying about it, but there I am, up on the bulletin board with devil horns and a tail. On top of my head someone’s written: Hotshot.
It’s actually pretty funny.
I look back over at her and speak loud and clear, ensuring everyone in the lounge hears me. “Bailey, I need to speak with you for a moment.”
Someone has the gall to gasp.
Finally, she sighs and stands up, leaving her lunch right where it is. She doesn’t think this is going to take long. I bet she thinks she’s going to call the shots like she tried to do last night. Adorable.
She’s a tortoise as she makes her way toward me.
“Sometime today would be nice.”
Her pale brown eyes sear into me as she passes by, walks out into the hallway, and keeps right on going. She doesn’t stop until she’s a few yards away, and though I appreciate the fact that she’s putting distance between us and the prying ears in the lounge, I’m annoyed that it’s now me following her.
Once she feels like she’s gone far enough, she turns back to me, crosses her arms, and tilts her chin up. “Whatever you want to say, do it quickly. I only have fifteen minutes left of my lunch break.”
There she goes again with her demands. How did she manage to stay on Dr. Lopez’s team for years? She won’t last a week on mine.
I step closer and stare down at her, quickly taking in the details I failed to notice last night. Young is the first word that comes to mind. She’s almost childlike, fresh-faced and freckled just across the bridge of her nose and the top of her defined cheekbones. She has a button nose and pink lips tugged into an angry line. Her light blonde hair is pulled up in a high ponytail. Soft unruly wisps frame her face. Menacing frown aside, she looks like she should be playing the lead in a children’s movie instead of standing in this hospital wearing scrubs.
“Where do you even find scrubs that small?”
She rears back, confused. I’ve never seen a shade of brown eyes quite like hers. They’re such a vivid color as she glares up at me like she’d like to sink a dagger into my heart. Ah right…the color of rage.
I laugh as I rub my hand back and forth across my forehead. Am I sick? Dreaming? Having a psychotic break?
“Did you interrupt my lunch just to ask me that?”
I get it together and ask, “How long have you been with Dr. Lopez?”
She crosses her arms and shifts her gaze over my shoulders, taking a second to collect herself. When she answers, her tone is sharp but cool. “Nearly four years.”
“He speaks highly of you.”
She shrugs. “We had a good thing going.”
“Would you like to continue working in spine?”
“Have you ever assisted on a pediatric scoliosis case?”
“No. Dr. Lopez only operates on adults, fusions mainly.”
That’s exactly my concern.
“Those take two or three hours max. My surgeries can last three times that long.”
She forces herself to meet my eyes, and I’m shocked. A moment ago, she seemed ready to burst, but now she looks bored, almost as if she’s about to dismiss me. It’s a ruse. I wish I could press two fingers to the porcelain skin just below her neck and feel for her pulse. I bet it’s racing. There’s no way she’s as calm as she’s pretending to be.
“I’m confused,” she says, her tone betraying nothing but curiosity. “Are you offering me a job or trying to warn me away?”
That’s the question of the morning it seems. Half of me is convinced working with her would be a complete disaster. My job is stressful enough. Unfortunately, I’m also in need of a decent surgical assistant, someone up to the task.