The sun beat down hard across her face, but rather than burning her, as was apt to happen to someone with such fair skin, it merely left her feeling warm and cosy. The beach she lay on was perfect in every conceivable way. It had the whitest sand, the bluest water and best of all, she thought as she lay peacefully on a hammock tied between two palm trees, it had a dishy waiter bringing her exotic cocktails.
It was fantastic; it was wonderful, which meant of course only one thing, it was a dream. The waiter opened his mouth to offer her another drink, or perhaps even declare his undying love, but the words that came out surprised her.
“If you don’t get up soon you’re gonna lose your job!”
Duffy slowly, reluctantly, opened one eye. The fairytale holiday on the beach drifted away and she was faced with the depressing reality of another day’s work ahead of her. She grumbled to herself and slid further under her worn blankets.
“Duffy, are you listening to me?!” Her flat mate Robyn shouted, whipping the bedclothes off her and shaking her bodily, “It’s half seven already, you’re going to be late!”
The urgency in her voice, more than the words themselves forced Duffy to sit up and rub her eyes, forcing her hand through her tangled hair.
“What?” She said sleepily. It was only then that she realised that Robyn was fully dressed in her uniform, her black raincoat on, handbag on shoulder.
“It’s seven thirty, you should have been up ages ago. Sister MacIntosh is going to kill you!” She said again in a manner far more cheerful than was appropriate under the circumstances.
Now Duffy was wide-awake, she leapt out of bed and began scrabbling around the room desperately trying to get ready.
“Why didn’t you wake me…” she whined.
“What d’you think I just did? Besides I’m not your personal alarm clock. You’re the one who keeps going on about wanting to live on her own, what are you going to do then, eh?”
Duffy shot her the dirtiest look she could muster at such an unreasonable hour, “You know what MacIntosh is like on punctuality, it’s not my fault that I’m not good with mornings”
Robyn laughed. ‘Not good with mornings’ was something of an understatement where Duffy was concerned. She hadn’t known Duffy to leave their flat without the flustered expression of someone who was decidedly behind schedule since they started rooming together. Mind you, Robyn thought, she was much better on the night shift. Then she could happily start work in the evening and still be wide-awake and reasonably cheerful by sunrise.
Most people preferred day work to night’s, Duffy was the other way around. Robyn laughed quietly to herself again; trust Duffy to be different.
She looked down at her watch again, “Gotta go Duffs, see you later.” Duffy muttered goodbye and waved vaguely in her friend’s direction as she tried to iron her uniform whilst simultaneously brushing her long hair into some semblance of order.
Being late was all she needed, she was sure that MacIntosh had it in for her, everyday it was the same. No matter what Duffy did, she always seemed to get things wrong. Never life threateningly wrong, after all she worked on orthopedics, but wrong nevertheless. And whereas she knew some of the other junior nurses made similar mistakes it was always her who got caught out, always her who got the public humiliation.
For that was what it always was. A very public humiliation. Sister MacIntosh seemed to derive great pleasure from pulling up her staff in front of the entire ward. A floorshow for the patients, it was. Perhaps it was designed to make the perpetrator of whatever crime it was feel so embarrassed that they wouldn’t dare re-offend, unfortunately there were some things that were, to all intents, completely out of Duffy’s control and so she seemed to regularly star in these shaming events.
She pulled on the light blue dress that appeared flattened rather than ironed, and frowned at herself in the mirror. She looked a mess, and as a self-respecting young woman she didn’t like that at all. Still, at least if she was there on time it wouldn’t be so bad. She could nip off to the toilets and straighten herself out a bit later on.
Duffy practically flew down the seven flights of stairs and out of the nurses home, one hand clutching her white starched cap to her head, the other tightly gripped onto her bag, all the while she ran with the terrible feeling that her tights were going to fall down.
Knowing that time was of the essence she decided to risk taking the short cut through the hospital rather than running around the outside of the many buildings to the main entrance. She flew though the doors into the casualty department, hoping to reach the other side and the waiting lifts before anyone noticed her.
It just wasn’t her morning. She had barely made it through reception a when she collided head on with a young man carrying a cup of steaming coffee. The watery brown liquid scattered everywhere and both parties were caught in the downpour.
“S**t!” the young man exclaimed.
“Oh no!” she groaned, trying to brush the spots of coffee off her uniform.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing!?”
She didn’t dare answer, didn’t dare look up either, instead she turned and ran even faster, calling out “Sorry, I’m really sorry” as she continued on her way.
The man watched after her as she disappeared deeper into the hospital. He pulled a crumpled tissue from one of his jacket pockets and tried to wipe himself down a bit. He heard footsteps approach behind him and turned around to see a familiar smiling face staring back at him.
“Coffee?” The face enquired, in her soft Irish lilt, after spying the crumpled plastic cup he was still clutching.
“Aha, some lunatic nurse dashing through the department as though her knickers were on fire!”
“It’s going to be one of those days, isn’t it?” She said sympathetically, offering him another tissue.
“Apparently Megan, apparently...” He sighed.
“Never mind Charlie, could be worse…”
“Oh, and how’s that then?” He asked, surveying the mess that had been made of his nice new jacket.
She smiled wickedly, “Could’ve been me who got showered!”
Go to Part Two