The Waiting Room

Submitted into Contest #49 in response to: Write a story that takes place in a waiting room.... view prompt



The waiting room was too bright, the fluorescent tubes glowed so brightly they made her eyes hurt. The seats were cold and far too hard, and the air conditioner felt a few degrees too cold. The smell of disinfectants and bleach lingered in the air and reminded her of why she hated hospitals.

“You’re pacing again Trish,” Andrew said firmly. His glare was telling her she was embarrassing him again and to sit back down with him. To pretend there was no rift between them, a solid front against the world. She couldn’t pretend.

She knew he blamed her, it was always her fault. Whatever went wrong, she should have handled it differently. She was used to it, but tonight it burned inside her. That fire she doused as much as she could for the sake of the marriage, the fire that engulfed her heart and mind since the phone call. She would not sit down with him in that uncomfortable environment, to shiver with the cold and the fears that were tugging at her consciousness.

The fire was anger long buried, long told to sit down. It was a creature fighting to be free. To shout to the skies that it wasn’t her fault at all, and that she was sick of being blamed and that the nitpicking was driving her mad. She swallowed the fire down as usual but it burned all the way down to her stomach, spinning into nausea as it landed. 

It wasn’t her fault at all, it was his. Definitely his this time. His anger and condemnation had made her son race off in his souped-up sports car into the dark stormy night. Their son had barely held a full license for two years, and as her youngest, he would always be her baby. Even if he was 27.

There was an older couple in the corner, nervous but hopeful, waiting for the outcome of an emergency birth. They’d been waiting a while and her heart distracted her by worrying a little for their fears. No one had talked to them, they had all been wrapped up in their own problems.

They had responded immediately to the phone call in the early morning. Andrew had rolled over and said something about not being able to miss work, and dozed off. She had packed an overnight bag just in case and drove as fast as was safe to the hospital. After several hours of waiting, Andrew reluctantly joined her.

The doctors and nurses had glanced momentarily at them and continued hurrying to their next emergency. It was a busy night with the storms and the accidents that had added up during the hours.

No one had really looked towards them with an attitude of compassion. A nurse or two had glanced nervously at them once or twice, but they were very busy.

At last, a nurse came into the waiting room to announce to the older couple the safe arrival of boy-girl twins and the good health of the mother. Trish sighed with relief for them and wondered afresh at her own emergency.

“Excuse me,” Andrew began, with the voice he used when people disappointed him. It made Trish wince with embarrassment. “We waited a long time, nurse. Our son was brought into emergency several hours ago and we deserve some information.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Sir. Who is the patient? I can consult the doctor in charge and I am sure they will relay the information you need,” the nurse said tiredly.

“Our son’s name is Jack, Jack Stevens,” Trish said softly, as her husband muttered under his breath about the incompetence of health care attendants in general and that particular nurse in particular.

The nurse paled a little and paused. She regained her composure in a moment and nodded. 

“I will certainly ask the doctor to talk to you when she has a moment.”

Trish grabbed at the nurse’s hand and held on to her for a moment. “Is he alright?” She whispered, her heart in her mouth. Her unasked question hung between them for a moment, the question that hadn’t made it through her lips. “Is he dead?” The nurse was used to the unasked questions and her eyes were dull with overwork.

“The doctor will speak to you about everything,” the nurse said softly, and squeezed her hand encouragingly, before letting go and dashing off once again.

“What an incompetent organization this is! This is unacceptable - to be left to ourselves in suspense. You’d think other people’s jobs didn’t matter these days. I have better things to do than to wait for hours to hear absolutely nothing.”

Trish closed her eyes to try to focus on the other sounds around her. The whirl and hum of the large air conditioners, the ticking of the wall clock, the soft excited chatter of the new grandparents nearby. She had to block out the aggressive words, or she’d respond with a retort that would really embarrass them both.

The doctor came soon after, and the look she cast at Trish told her all she needed to know. She sank to her knees with grief, and the other woman in the waiting room went to her in an effort to comfort her. 

“I’m so sorry, dear. What a terrible terrible thing to happen,” the lady said softly, embracing her gently. “You’ll get through the pain somehow.” She held her against her chest like a grandma would to a hurt child. Trish melted into the comforting hold gratefully, letting out a broken sob, catching her voice and holding it in unable to suppress the sobs swallowed inside. They racked her body, as she fought them in vain.

Crying was weak and foolish. A woman’s weakness, a sign that emotions made them impossible to deal with - or so Andrew had told her. Over and over and over again. She gasped and sobbed again, as the other woman rubbed her back.

Andrew glanced from Trish and the doctor, and back again. His face dropped, but then his angry glare returned. The doctor told him softly her news, and Andrew turned his angry gaze on Trish before turning away. 

“I will sue this hospital for incompetence. This is unacceptable. Someone will pay for this. You will lose your job, Doctor. Women mess everything up. Malpractice is rife here. This place won’t know what hit it. ”

He raced off, down the hall, without a thought for his wife, sobbing in the arms of a kindly grandmother of twins.

The anger had erupted into floods of tears, and her heart and mind were blank. A spark of rage still remained in her soul, helping her focus on what came next, and she knew that her overnight bag would come in handy after all. She’d drive to the closest hotel and spend the rest of the day or even the week there. 

She was never going back to her house, and her lawyer would be filing papers within the next couple of days.

July 07, 2020 11:37

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Jesna Anna S.
01:58 Jul 16, 2020

The reactions of losing a loved one has been well described. Even the settings of the hospital, different reactions of a father and a mother. How a phone call cost made things different. Very well presented. Keep writing!


R L Brewer
02:40 Jul 16, 2020

Thank you so much.


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