Contemporary Friendship Sad

My sole focus for the last hour had been updating charts, reviewing charts, making sure supplies were stocked, making sure there were enough nurses to cover the afternoon, and on, and on, and on. I checked my watch, for the hundredth time in the last hour, and rotated my eyes to the monitor on my desk. The one that monitored all of the patients on my floor, including my own. I would need to do another round soon, before I left for the night. 

As tired as I was, there was no such thing as stepping away to a staff lounge for a cup of coffee. The nurses’ station on our floor was the closest we came to one. That and the on-call room. But it was mainly for the doctors who were on call and needed a nap. Not for the nurses who worked twelve hour shifts every day of the week. I doubted I would use it anyway. I preferred to be right here in case anything happened. It only took a second for all hell to break loose. Or for one of my precious charges to need me. Like hell was I not going to be there when that time unavoidably came. 

Maybe if I had that coffee I would have heard the heavy footsteps coming up behind me. Instead, I didn’t know he was there until I turned around and ran into him, face to chest. He of course laughed his freakishly high butt off. 

“Really, Manny? You couldn’t have said something? How long have you been standing there?” I huffed.

He chuckled and made a show out of checking me out in my very unflattering unicorn scrubs. “Long enough to get a good show.”

I rolled my eyes. “Keep that up and I will tell Alan you are picking on me again.”

He gasped dramatically, placed a hand to his chest, and stumbled back as though I had physically wounded him. I stuck my tongue out at him. The two men always cracked me up. Alan was my size, while Manny was… not. Obviously. And yet, we all knew who wore the pants in that relationship. Outside of my own circle of friends, they were my favorite people.

Manny recovered from his faux injury and roughly, wrapped his arms around me, hugging me tight. A little too tight.

“Manny.” I choked out, tapping his arm, that was currently trapping my head to his chest. “Can’t… breathe.” 

“Unhand that fair maiden, good sir! Or I will have to run you through with my sword!” A voice demanded from behind him.

Manny quickly released me, and dropped to his knees in a begging posture. “Oh, please, your Lordship. Don’t hurt me. I meant no harm. Honest.”

The small figure, holding an aluminum sword, stepped closer. “I will let you go this one time, but if I see you hurting the maiden again, I will not be so lenient.”

Manny put his hands to the floor, bowing for all he was worth. “Thank you, you Lordship. You are so just and kind. I will behave. I promise.”

I covered my mouth to hide the giggle. The small eyes moved to me next and a tiny hand lifted.

“May I escort my Princess to the ball?”

I took the hand and stepped around Manny. “I would be honored.”  

As soon as we got back to his room, I lifted him up and placed him back on his bed. Soon after followed by his oxygen mask. Just that much had knocked the wind out of his small body.

“How are you feeling, Lord Aiden?” I put my hand to his forehead, it was warming up again. 

“I’m okay, Miss Sheila. Just tired now.”

I hummed softly. “Yes, going on adventures and rescuing damsels in distress can do that to a man.”

He sighed contentedly and closed his eyes. “It was worth it.”

I laughed as I hooked him back up to the monitors. We generally only had him hooked up when he slept, for the sleep apnea. Soon, however, he would be needing it more often. I looked over to the corner of the room when I heard a yawn.

“Did Lord Aiden escape again?”

I nodded and turned to the very tired and sad woman. “Yes, he saved me from a giant.”

Her soft laugh lacked a good deal of amusement. “He loves messing with Manny.”

I pushed a small lock of black hair out of the boy’s face. “He does, at that.” 

I didn’t need a staff lounge, or fresh coffee. I only needed to see these innocent faces. Their strength and perseverance never failed to motivate me. To make me want to work more. 

With a sigh, I turned back to his mom. “I’m leaving soon and will be gone for a few days.”

Mariana stood and stretched. The chairs may turn into beds in the pediatric ward at New York University hospital, but that didn’t make them all that much more comfortable. 

“I’m surprised. I can’t remember a day that you haven’t been here when we are.”

I snorted and turned back to the small frame. Smaller than what it should be for a 9 year old. I couldn’t argue with her. While I did take my days off, I still had a habit of coming in for paperwork. As a charge nurse, I had more responsibility. But that wasn’t the only reason I came in so often. It was always so hard to be gone from them. You never knew who would be gone before you came back. 

“I know. But my boyfriend convinced me to go away for a few days.”

“Ooo, any special reason?”

I moved away from the bed, and kept my voice low, not wanting to wake up my hero. I shrugged and sat down in a chair as she sat back down with me. Sometimes the parents needed a little adult time too. A little attention. A little distraction.

“I don’t think so. We’ve only been together for a few months. It’s still pretty new. He’s been telling me I needed to take a break, unwind, reset, whatever.”

Mariana took my hand. “You take such good care of my boy, all of us really. You need to take care of yourself too. I’m glad he is looking out for you. Sounds like a good guy.”

“He has been pretty good to me. One of the reasons why I let him hang around longer than most others.”

“What does he do?”

“He’s a CPA.” I cringed. “It’s not the most fascinating job, but he loves what he does. He’s been working with this one client that can be very picky about things. He’s always complaining about how hard she is to satisfy. I kind of wonder who needs the vacation more, me or him?”

We both laughed. After talking for a few more minutes, her husband walked in. He typically came on his lunch break, before work, and after work. On his days off, they trade who stays with Aiden. The other takes care of their two younger girls. 

Aiden would have been such a terror to any boys his sisters brought home in the future.

Sometimes I wondered if that was why I had a hard time planning for future events, because I saw how much those plans didn’t actually matter. The future didn’t care about what you planned. What’s going to happen was going to happen.

I left the room, giving them a few minutes to themselves. I made my rounds to the other rooms. I visited a Princess, a fairy, a mermaid, a clown (who never failed to make me laugh), a scholar (my little Hermoine), and even Oscar The Grouch (his chosen nickname, even though I didn’t find him all that grouchy). Once I finished, I went back to Manny at the nurses’ station. He was going to cover the rest of my shift for me, before his own that night. We had a short staff meeting, where I passed everything over.

Break room, office, counseling center, and conference room. Nurses’ stations were multifunctional.

Half an hour later, Alan showed up. He escorted me off the premises. He didn’t even work at the hospital, but they all knew I wouldn’t leave unless forced. 

After Alan pushed me into my car, literally, I forced my mind to focus on what I needed to do next. If I thought any further into the weekend, I’d likely find myself back in that hospital with all of my babies.

I blew out a breath as I pulled onto the road. “Okay, girl. Focus. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of them.” I nodded succinctly, because that would totally make it sink in. 

The grin on my face just wouldn’t go away. It was even still there when I arrived at the nurses’ station again Monday. It stayed there, all the way up until I started looking through my charts. 

There was a name missing. I frantically turned on the computer and typed it in. I sniffled when the information came up and a tissue appeared in front of me. When I looked up, Manny had a sad look on his face. 


“Late Sunday night.” 

“Why didn’t anyone call me?”

He pulled me out of my chair and into his arms. “Because I didn’t want to tell you over the phone. If it helps, he went in his sleep. No pain.”

It did, but it didn’t. Aiden wasn’t the first that I lost, and I knew he wouldn’t be the last. That didn’t mean it ever got easier. 

After a few minutes, I pulled myself together and focused on reviewing charts. I pasted a smile on my face as I entered each room. I held a mom as she fell to pieces, right after her daughter was wheeled out for another scan. I made faces at a little boy that was scared when the IV went into his arm. I cleaned up another little boy after he threw his lunch up. I finger painter mermaids with a little girl who had not had hair on her head in months. 

What felt like hours later, I found Manny sitting behind the desk waiting for me. Alan stood next to him, holding a large cup of coffee and a Chocolate Croissant for me. They both knew I would not be taking one step away from my babies anytime soon. This was the closest I would get to a break, and only because they forced me. 

I told them about my weekend away, just without the enthusiasm I once held for my mini-vacay. You could bet it would be the last one for a long while. 

A couple days later, I hung a new ornament behind our station. After Lord Aiden’s funeral, Mariana told me that he wanted me to have his aluminum sword. He worried that I wouldn’t be protected with him gone. Now it would forever hang with the pictures and other memorabilia from those who had come and gone. And those we had lost. 

I pitied those who felt the need to hide from their jobs during their breaks. I had all I needed right there, at the station I shared with my nurses. Where I could keep an eye on my babies and their families. Where I could sit for a few minutes to breathe, and not stress what could happen the second I turned my back on them. 

April 24, 2023 02:48

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.