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'Are you free to give me a hand in the suture room?' Cort Mason, the senior emergency registrar, asked, and Ruby swung around. 'It might take a while, though.'
Ruby jumped down from the footstool she was perched on while restocking the cupboard and turned to the voice that was aimed in her direction. She decided that she'd be delighted to give him a hand.
It had nothing to do with the fact he was gorgeous.
Really, it had completely nothing to do with it.
She just wanted an empty Resus before it filled again, which it inevitably would. Sheila, the NUM, had told her to stay in there today, that this was her area, but with a senior registrar asking for her to assist with a patient, well, surely she had no choice in the matter?
'I'd be happy to.' Ruby beamed, except her smile wasn't returned. In fact, he wasn't even waiting for her response. Already Cort had walked off and was heading into the suture room, rightly perhaps assuming that a student nurse wasn't likely to say no to his request for assistance.
'Mr Mason has asked if I can give him a hand.' Ruby let Connor, the RN in charge of Resus, know where she was going. 'Is that okay?'
'Sure,' Connor said. 'It's not as if we're doing anything.' He frowned at her. 'Ruby, why have you got a crepe bandage in your hair?'
'Sheila!' Ruby rolled her eyes, because the NUM was surely out to get her. Not only had she insisted that Ruby be allocated the most grisly part of Emergency, she also had a thing about Ruby's long auburn hair, which was so thick it often defied the hair ties and clips she attempted to hold it back with. This afternoon Sheila had handed her a bandage and told her to sort it once and for all.
'She's really got it in for you.'
'I remind her of her daughter apparentlyI've no idea why. Anyway, Mr Mason will be wondering where I've got to. He said it might take a while.'
'You might as well go to coffee afterwards, then,' Connor said. 'And we're on first-name terms hereit's Cort.'
She'd stick with 'Mr Mason'her dad was Chief of Surgery at another hospital and had drilled it into her over the years just how important titles were so Ruby had decided it was better to play safe than offend anyone.
She had a quick look around for Sheila and seeing she was busy up the other end darted off, more relieved than Connor could know. Sheila had been very specific in her allocation, ensuring that Ruby was working in Resus, but apart from a febrile convulsion and couple of patients who had been brought over briefly while awaiting blood results it had been delightfully quiet.
'Put some gloves on,' Cort said as she entered the suture room. 'I just need someone to hold Ted's arm while I suture it. He keeps forgetting to stay still, don't you, Ted?'
The elderly man grunted and Ruby could smell the brandy fumes that filled the small room.
'How are you, Ted?' Ruby asked, pulling on some gloves and looking at the wound, happy, though not for the patient, to see it was a huge cut that would hopefully take ages, and then it would be time for her coffee break and with her assessment and everything, well, she might just not have to go back out there.
She loathed Accident and Emergency, not that anyone could tell. She was always light, breezy and happy and had chosen not to tell even her closest friends just how hard this final unit of her training had been, knowing there was nothing they could do to fix it and choosing just to soldier on.
She had never expected to like it, but the loathing was so acute Ruby was seriously wondering if she would even make it through these last weeks of her training. There was no tangible reason for hating it, nothing Ruby could point to as the reason she hated it so, but walking to her shift, every ambulance that passed, every glimpse of Eastern Beaches Hospital made her want to turn tail and run for home.
Looking back, there had been a few wobbles that might have given warning that Emergency might be unsettling for hera young man suddenly collapsing after a routine appendectomy and the crash team being called while she was on the surgical ward had stunned Ruby and made her question her decision to study nursing but she had, for the most part, liked her training. Only liked, thoughher real aim was to work as a mental health nurse, but general training was a prerequisite if she wanted to get anywhere in her future career.
'Okay?' Cort said. 'We might be here a while, so I'd make yourself comfortable.'
He took off his jacket and tied on a plastic gown, then washed his hands, dragged a stool over with his foot and settled in for the long haul.
'He's asleep,' Ruby said, stating the obvious, because Ted was snoring loudly now, and even Ruby could see that she might be better utilised elsewhere.
'I don't want to wrestle with him if he wakes up.' He gave a tight smile. 'Sorry if it's boring.'
'Oh, I'm not bored. I'm delighted to be here,' Ruby said, hearing a noise from outside, a relative arguing with a security guard close to the suture-room door. She gave Cort a wide smile, a smile so bright that he hesitated for a moment before returning it with a slightly bemused one, then he turned his attention back to his patient. He cleaned the wound and injected anaesthetic as Ruby watched and only then did he offer a response, not looking at her, just concentrating on the wound as he spoke.
'It's not often you hear that in this place.'
'What?' Ruby asked, her mind elsewhere.
'People saying that they're delighted to be here.'
'I'm a happy apple,' Ruby said, and watched as his hands stopped, the first knot of the stitch neatly tied. He seemed to be waiting for her to do something.
'Are you going to cut?'
'Oh!' She picked up the scissors with her free hand. 'I feel like a real nurse. Where do I cut?' She held the scissors over the thread.
'A bit shorter.'
There was something lovely and soothing about sitting here and actually doing something, rather than just holding the patient's hand. And contrary to what she'd heard, Cort Mason was far from grumpy. One on one with him, he was really rather nice.
She'd heard his name mentioned a lot of times. He'd been on annual leave for the first four weeks of her time here and had only been back a week, but he was nothing like the man she'd imagined, the staid man her colleagues had led her to believe he was.
From the way she'd heard people speaking about him Ruby had expected a dour serious man in his fifties.
Instead he'd be in his thirties, with brown hair and hazel eyes, a long straight nose and, not so much dour, or sharp, just . She couldn't really sum him up in word, and she tried for a moment.
Outside the suture room, she'd never been privy to small talk with him, had never really seen him smile. He was formal with the patients, distant with the staff, and any hint of ineptness or bureaucracy seemed to irritate him.
Crabby was the best she could come up with.
Except he wasn't being crabby now.
Ruby looked at his white thick cotton shirt and lilac tie, which was an odd sort of match for his brown suit, yet it went really well and she wondered, just for a second, how it was really possible to find someone who wore a brown suit attractiveexcept he was.
Up close he really, really was.
There was a lovely fresh scent to him and she thought it came from his hair, which was very close to her face as he bent over to work. She looked at it, and it was lovely and glossy and very straight and neat but there was a jagged edge to the cut that she liked too.
'Cut,' Cort reminded her when her eyes wandered, and she snipped the neat stitch he'd tied. 'I need some more 4/0.'
'You're really making me earn my keep!' Ruby jumped off the stool and tried to locate what he wanted amongst box upon box of different sutures.
'Left,' Cort said, to her hand that hovered. 'Up one,' he said.
'Got it.' She opened the material and tipped it on his tray then washed her hands and again pulled on some gloves before rejoining him. Cort was having another good look at the wound so there was nothing much for her to do and her eyes roamed the room again, landing on his jacket hanging on the door.
'It's not really brown,' she said out loud, and then she blushed, because she did this far too often. Ruby had zero attention span and her mind was constantly chatting and occasionally words just slipped out.
He glanced up and saw her cheeks were bright pink.
'Your jacket,' Ruby croaked. 'It's not really brown.'
He said nothing, just carried on checking the wound, but his lips twitched for a moment, because he'd had a similar discussion with the shop assistant.
Sick to the back teeth of dour greys and navy suits, he'd bought a couple of new ones, and some shirts and ties. He wasn't a great shopper, hated it, in fact, and had decided to put his faith in the judgement of the eager shop assistant. But when she'd held up the suit he'd baulked and said there was no way he was wearing brown.
Brown was the sort of thing his father wore, Cort had said to her.
'It's not brown,' the shop assistant had said. 'It's taupe.'
'It's taupe.' After a few minutes' silence, he glanced up to the rather surprised eyes of Ruby. 'Apparently.' 'Well, it's very nice.'
And he didn't quite smile, but there was just a hint as he got back to his stitches and he saw her hands were just a little bit shaky when she snipped, though he was sure they had been steady before.
He didn't look up, but he could see her in his mind's eye for a moment. She was quite a stunning little thingtiny, with very dark brown eyes and a thick curtain of hair that he'd heard Sheila pull her up about a few times. It was held back today with a ridiculous bandage, but defiantly kept escaping. It was lovely hair, red but not .
'It's not really ginger .' Cort said, and still didn't look up.
'Absolutely not,' was Ruby's response.
'Close,' came her voice. 'But I prefer titian.'
And he gave a very brief nod and then worked on quietly. It was actually a lovely silence, just nice to sit and watch him work, especially as she could hear things starting to pick up outside. She could hear Connor calling out for assistance and feet running and though it was par for the course here, she screwed her eyes closed for just a second, but he must have looked up and noticed.
'You don't need to cut if it's making you feel sick just hold his hand.'
'Really, I'm fine,' Ruby said, because a nasty cut and tendons and muscle and all of that didn't bother her a jot.
It was out there that did.
It wasn't a fear of seeing people sick, Ruby thought as she snipped Cort's stitches, and it wasn't a fear of death because she'd actually enjoyed some agency shifts on the palliative care ward.
It was this, Ruby thought as a buzzer sounded and Cort looked up.
This moment, which arrived at any given time, the intense drama that was constantly played out here, and it actually made her feel physically ill.
'Do you need me?' She heard Cort shout in the direction of Resus, ready to drop everything at a moment's notice, and Ruby sat, staring at the hand she was holding, sweat beading on her forehead. She would hold this hand all night if only it meant that she didn't have to go out there.
'Jamelia's here,' came Sheila's voice, and because apparently Cort liked to be kept up to date with everything, her voice came closer to the open suture-room door.4/0
'We've got a head and facial injuries. He arrested at the approach to the hospital and they're having trouble intubating.'