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So, I brush past her desk and knock on his office door, cross my arms, and wait for him to let me in.
I press my ear to the door and listen for a phone conversation. There isn’t one.
“Dr. Russell, could I have a word please?”
I ensure my tone is even and calm, but still, I hear an annoyed groan followed by the creaking of a chair, footsteps, and then the door is yanked open.
He stares down at me with cool, calculating eyes. His scrubs have been replaced with a sharp gray suit. His hair is perfectly tousled. I ignore these details and focus on the important part: how much I despise him.
“What do you need?” he asks.
Right. What a lovely tone to take with your hardworking new employee.
I resist the urge to cower, and instead, I lift my chin and meet his gaze head-on. My hands are on my hips in what I hope is a power pose.
“I’d like to speak with you about my job performance.”
His brows furrow. “Job performance?”
“Yes. Is there something more you’d like from me? An even earlier start time? An even faster response time? A larger bladder?”
He doesn’t find my sarcasm amusing.
“Your work is fine.” He steps back and starts to close his door, but I block it with my foot.
“If my work is fine, why are you being so rude to me? Have you not forgiven me for being late on the first day? Because I think my work since then has shown how seriously I’m taking this opportunity.”
He looks down at my foot and then back up at me, patronizing expression firmly in place.
“Bailey, do you enjoy filing paperwork with HR? Because if you don’t move, they’re going to have a lot of questions for the both of us—namely, why I felt compelled to close your foot in my office door.”
“Oh good,” I say, throwing my hands up in defeat. “Now you’re threatening bodily harm.”
I swear there’s almost amusement shining in his gaze before he toes my foot out of the path of his door with his fancy oxford then shuts it in my face.
“What a show of professionalism, Dr. Russell,” I shout to the closed door.
As I walk away, as furious as ever, Patricia shakes her head. “I warned you.”
Things only escalate on Friday.
Dr. Russell seems more short-tempered than usual. His blue eyes are icy and hard, glaring at me from across the operating table. I have no idea what his problem is, but I’m determined to push through, to brush off his antagonizing energy and do the job he’s paying me to do—but it’s not that easy.
“Bailey, if you’re determined to take forever with the curette, I’ll hire someone else to hand it to me.”
I bite my tongue and resist the urge to sling the instrument at his face.
“I wanted to make sure it was the right size,” I say, handing it off carefully and returning my attention to my cauterization forceps.
“Well your effort was in vain. This isn’t the right one.”
YES IT IS, YOU EGOMANIACAL JERK.
“Would you like a different one?” I ask, my voice so gentle it nearly verges on being passive-aggressive.
“Yes, Bailey,” he drawls out slowly, like he’s worried I can’t comprehend simple words. “I’d like the correct one.”
The operating room is absolutely still. Sure, everyone makes a show of pretending to work, but in reality, their ears are trained on us, waiting to see just how much of his bullshit I’m willing to take.
No doubt they’re anticipating an imminent blowup, but I harness what can only be described as the patience of a saint, take a deep, yoga-worthy breath, and reply sweetly, “Of course. Let me get that for you right away.”
I think I have it. I’ve beat him at his own game by keeping my cool, right up until I turn and my elbow collides with the sterile instrument tray that was resting precariously beside me. In a flash, it crashes to the ground and metal pings in every direction. Implants scatter. Pedical screws disappear beneath the operating table.
My mouth hangs agape behind my mask.
One of the nurses gasps.
The anesthesiologist peeks out from behind his curtain and his eyes widen in shock.
Dr. Russell turns quickly to the device rep. “Do we have another sterile set?”
I swear the man’s chin quivers as he shakes his head. “Not a complete one.”
My eyes pinch closed and I brace myself for the impact. Biting words from Dr. Russell are about to rain down on me like an enemy siege. I will not make it out alive.
“Pick everything up and get it in the autoclave. Now.”
His voice is cool and precise, like the blade of a knife sinking into my gut. I yank off my gloves, fall to my knees, and start crawling around the operating room floor as quickly as possible.
Dr. Russell barks at Kendra to help him cover the patient.
This is bad. This is cry-and-plead-for-forgiveness bad.
Accidents like this happened once or twice during one of Dr. Lopez’s surgeries, but I was never the cause, and we always had a backup instrument set prepared just in case.
I really want to give in to the urge to cry, but it would only make things worse.
There is no way I will survive this. He’ll give me the axe as soon as this surgery is finished. This has to be a new record. Kirt—the sobbing giant—lasted at least a couple months. I’ve lasted a paltry few weeks.
I’m shaking as I hurry to collect all the equipment on the ground. Dr. Russell growls at the techs to help. There are half a dozen of us crawling around the operating room, and I swear if a single tear falls from my eyes I will never forgive myself. Everyone is waiting for me to crumble, but I refuse to let it happen.
I keep it together through a feat of superhuman strength. I compartmentalize my feelings and stay focused. I count the instruments and confirm with the device rep that we’ve collected everything. The autoclave only takes 45 minutes. We’re hardly delayed. The surgery finishes with flawless results, and I’m still completely numb as Dr. Russell tells me to close, pulls off his gloves and gown, and leaves the room.
I watch him go, heaving a sigh as soon as the swinging door shuts behind him.
I can’t believe how unlucky I’ve been. I’ve tried my hardest and worked my butt off, but in the end, the universe and Dr. Russell seem to be in cahoots against me.
“Bailey?” Kendra asks gently. “Are you okay to close?”
I nod. Of course.
It might be the last thing I ever do at New England Medical Center.
I dip my hands under the faucet, letting the warm water rinse away the suds from my skin as the door to the OR swings open. Kendra peeks her head around it and grimaces.
“Do you have a minute, Dr. Russell?”
There’s a mountain of work standing between me and my weekend. I’ve got a lot to do and not enough time to do it. I’m usually in the office as much on Saturday and Sunday as I am Monday through Friday, but I’m less efficient. Patricia’s gone. There’s no resident rushing in with Starbucks, and I usually have to contend with the cleaning staff. They skitter past when they see me walking down the hall, and they don’t even bother knocking on my door anymore. I don’t want anyone in my office rearranging things. There’s a method to my madness and I’m perfectly capable of taking out my own trash.
This weekend is different, though. Tomorrow is Molly’s wedding, and I actually have to make it out of the office at a decent hour if I want to grab my suit from the tailor before he closes his shop.
I wouldn’t have to rush if my surgery hadn’t run over time thanks to Bailey’s mistake.
“What do you need?”
I turn and grab a towel.
She steps out and lets the door swing closed behind her. “It really could have happened to anyone.” She’s talking about Bailey’s accident. “And I don’t think you should punish her for it. You might not have noticed, but she’s good. These last few weeks have been paradise compared to when you were working with Kirt.”