Duffy walked across the ward to where Charlie and Kuba stood. She felt almost like she should run up and give him a hug, but she restrained herself and instead just smiled. She took a hold of the end of the trolley and helped the two A&E representatives to bay seven. Together they moved Mr Crawford across onto the bed, and then Kuba dutifully took the trolley back down to Casualty.
As Charlie watched the young nurse walk around the side of the bed towards him, he suddenly noticed the tell tale coffee splashes on her dress and realised all at once where it was that he'd seen her before. He knew that his job was done and that he ought to return downstairs but couldn't resist letting his attacker know just who he was first.
"Now I see why you were in such a rush earlier!"
Duffy looked at him, confused, "Huh?"
He yanked at his coat and the top two poppers unpopped to reveal a murky brown patch on an otherwise pale blue shirt. He indicated the similar marks on her uniform.
In the excitement of the situation she had all but forgotten the collision she'd had on her way to work. Now it dawned on her what he was talking about; her jaw dropped and her eyes widened in sheer horror.
"Oh God! I'm so sorry!" She exclaimed, feeling the blood rush to her cheeks. Of all the people she could have collided with, she had to go and choose the man who would turn out to be her knight in shining armour.
Charlie hadn't expected her to appear quite so devastated, the mortified look that was frozen on her face made him feel guilty for even mentioning it, he held his hands up as a surrender, "Hey, it's all right, I won't hold it against you".
"No, it isn't. I'm not usually so, well, so clumsy I..."
"Whoa, I said it's all right didn't I?" He smiled encouragingly at her and she seemed to relax a little, "I've had worse down my front believe me, coffee is nothing in comparison. You know, I don't think we've been properly introduced; Charlie Fairhead, Charge Nurse, A&E".
He fastened up his coat and held out his hand for her to shake.
"Mr Fairhead," She acknowledged, taking his hand and letting him pump it up and down energetically, "Lisa Duffin; really sorry, and dead embarrassed!"
"Charlie will do, Lisa. I only get called Mr Fairhead by people either telling me off, or demanding money. Or worst still, both". Charlie grinned mischievously, and Duffy, already in awe of his professional skill, warmed to him as a person.
"Actually most people call me Duffy," She admitted, "it's a nickname that kinda stuck".
"You prefer that?" He asked. She shrugged, it was what she was used to her friends calling her and she quietly hoped that soon she'd be able to count Charlie as a friend also.
"Well then, who am I to fly in the face of convention? Duffy it is! By the way, is she always like that?" He cocked his head in Sister MacIntosh's general direction. He found it hard to believe that anyone could keep such a miserable temperament up for very long. Surely that outburst had to be a one off? The look on Duffy's face proved immediately that he was wrong, her newly arrived cheerful smile was swiftly replaced by a scowl.
"Mostly..." The scowl lifted slightly as she looked Charlie though, "I ain't never seen no-one stand up to her like you did just now" she finished softly.
"Gave her a taste of her own medicine - so to speak".
Duffy groaned at his pun.
"Hey, it wasn't that bad!"
"If you say so..." She teased. They fell into a comfortable silence and took a few paces closer to the doorway. After a second Charlie stopped walking and turned to Duffy again.
"Why do you let her treat you like that?"
Duffy sighed, "What choice do I have? She is my boss..."
"Even so," he replied with a frown, "You could get a transfer to a different ward".
"Maybe, but it's not like I'll get much of a reference off of her is it".
She looked terribly disheartened at that thought, like she'd already resigned herself to a lifetime of misery under the constant watchful gaze of the Old Battleaxe. It seemed a shame, Duffy appeared to be a nice girl once she relaxed a bit, and Charlie couldn't imagine someone like Sister MacIntosh continuing to employ her if she wasn't basically competent. He almost wished he could give her a job downstairs. The A&E environment might be just what she needed to flourish.
"Are you a good nurse?"
"What?" She wondered where a question like that came from, whether people were talking about her behind her back.
"I asked if you were a good nurse..?"
"I s'pose..." She replied warily. She'd always got good marks on her course, and the patients never complained, but lately her confidence had been all but drained away.
"What kind of answer's that? Now, are you a good nurse?"
"Yeah" She still didn't sound positive.
"Yeah?" Charlie raised an eyebrow.
"Yes I am," She said nodding her head at the certainty, before modestly adding, "or at least I try to be".
"Well then," he smiled, "you'll be all right. Ignore Whatsherface, she'll get bored soon enough".
"Hope so". Charlie took another step toward the door.
"Right, I had better get back downstairs. See you around". She hoped so about that as well.
"A-ha...Oh and Mr Fairhead... Charlie... Thank you". She called after him, though her voice got quieter as she went on.
He didn't reply, just took a bow as he backed away from her, and bumped squarely into the doorframe. Duffy could barely stop herself from laughing as he straightened up and darted swiftly out of the ward in embarrassment, and from there out of sight.
As Charlie strolled back into the Casualty department Megan immediately accosted him. She looked flustered and for a second he thought she was about to shout at him for leaving them all in the lurch for so long, but she appeared to have second thoughts about it at the last moment.
“Charlie, glad you're back, Mrs Rafferty in 2 wants to speak to 'someone important' and Ewart's nowhere to be found as usual”.
”OK, I’ll get on to it straight away, sorry I took so long”. He knew that as her boss it wasn’t really necessary to apologise to her, but he liked to think of himself as more democratic than that. He worked as part of a team and as such a little consideration went a long way.
“Well, we coped without you!”
“Nice to feel wanted!” He replied as he continued on his way towards the cubicles. He’d only gone a couple of steps before Martin bounded up beside him.
“You took your time up there didn't you, Kuba was back ages ago”. He announced.
“I got talking to that nurse from earlier”. Charlie confessed.
“What? The coffee girl?”
“Her name's Duffy actually”.
A look of deep concentration clouded across Martin’s face. He prided himself of knowing at least the name, if not the phone number, of every woman in the hospital. It didn’t take long to locate an unusual name like ‘Duffy’ in his mental Little Black Book.
“Yeah, I know her, not bad. Not bad at all! You could do worse”.
“Hey, now hang on,” Charlie protested, “all I said was that I got talking to her, not that I'm going to marry her!”
“And who's talking about marriage!?” He made what Charlie considered to be an offensive and rather unnecessary gesture with his arms. Charlie shook his head disapprovingly.
“Haven't you got work to do…”
“What?!” He exclaimed, unable to understand Charlie’s obvious dismay, “You wanna lighten up Charlie, let your hair down a bit. Hey, a few mates of mine are going down that new nightclub tonight, why don't you tag along?”
“I thought you were broke?”
He tapped the side of his nose, “Like you said Boss, I manage. Well?”
“I don't think so, doesn't sound like my kind of thing...”
Charlie got the impression that Martin might not have let the matter drop, but their conversation was interrupted by a shrill voice emanating from behind cubicle 2’s curtain.
“When is somebody going to speak to me? I’ve been waiting here for ten whole minutes!”
Charlie turned away from Martin and drew back the relevant curtain, slipping effortlessly into business mode as he did so. Once inside he redrew the curtain behind him.
Martin listened outside the cubicle for Charlie to start with his diplomacy, and when he could hear his boss was in the thick of a heated discussion on hospital procedure he slipped off towards the drugs cabinet.
Go to Part Four