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'You're far too available.' Bridgette didn't really know how to respond when her friend Jasmine's sympathy finally ran out. After all, she knew that Jasmine was right. 'It's me and Vince's leaving do and you won't come out in case your sister needs a babysitter.'
'You know it's not as simple as that,' Bridgette said.
'But it is as simple as that.' Jasmine was determined to stand firm this time. Her boyfriend, Vince, was a paediatric intern at the large Melbourne hospital where Bridgette had, until recently, worked, and he was heading off for a year to do relief work overseas. At what felt like the last minute the rather dizzy Jasmine had decided to join him for three months, and after a lot of paperwork and frantic applications, finally tonight there was a gathering to see them both off. 'You've put everything on hold for Courtney, you've given up a job you love so you can do agency and be more flexibleyou've done everything you can to support her and look at where it's got you.'
Jasmine knew that she was being harsh, but she wanted Bridgette to cry, damn it, wanted her friend to admit the truththat living like this was agony, that something had to give. But Bridgette refused to cry, insisting instead that she was copingthat she didn't mind doing agency work, that she loved looking after Courtney's son, Harry. 'Come out, then,' Jasmine challenged. 'If everything's as fine as you say, you deserve a night outyou haven't had one in ages. I want you therewe all want to see you. Everyone will be there '
'What if ?' Bridgette stopped herself from saying it. She was exhausted from going over the what-ifs.
'Stop hiding behind Harry,' Jasmine said.
'Yes, you are. I know you've been hurt, but you need to put it behind you.'
And it stung, but, then, the truth often did and, yes, Bridgette conceded, maybe she was using Harry as a bit of an excuse so as not to get out there. 'Okay!' Bridgette took a deep breath and nodded. 'You're on.'
'You're coming?' Jasmine grinned.
'Looks like it.'
So instead of sitting at home, Bridgette sat in the hairdresser's and had some dark foils added to her mousey-brown hair. They made her skin look paler and her sludgy-grey eyes just a bit darker, it seemed, and with Jasmine's endless encouragement she had a wax and her nails done too and, for good measure, crammed in a little shopping.
Bridgette's bedroom was in chaos, not that Jasmine cared a bit, as they fought over mirror space and added another layer of mascara. It was a hot, humid night and already Bridgette was sweating. Her face would be shining by the time she got there at this rate, so she climbed over two laundry baskets to open her bedroom window and then attempted to find her shoes. 'I must tidy up in here.' Bridgette searched for her high-heeled sandals. Her bedroom had once been tidybut when Harry had been born Courtney had moved in and Bridgette's two-bedroom flat had never quite recovered from housing threeactually, four at times if you counted Paul. Her love life hadn't recovered either!
Bridgette found her sandals and leant against the wall as she put them on. She surveyed the large boxes of shelves she had bought online that would hopefully help her organise things. 'I want to get these shelves put up. Dad said he'd come around and find the studs in the wall, whatever they are.'
Jasmine bit her tongueMaurice had been saying that for months. The last thing Bridgette needed tonight was to have her parents criticised but, honestly, two more unhelpful, inflexible people you could not meet. Maurice and Betty Joyce just closed their eyes to the chaos their youngest daughter created and left it all for Bridgette to sort out.
'How do you feel?' Jasmine asked as, dressed in a guilty purchase, make-up done and high heels on, Bridgette surveyed herself in the mirror.
'Twenty-six.' Bridgette grinned at her own reflection, liking, for once, what she saw. Gone was the exhausted woman from earlierinstead she literally glowed and not with sweat either. No, it was the sheer silver dress she had bought that did the most amazing things to her rather curvy figure, and the heavenly new blusher that had wiped away the last remnants of fatigue in just a few glittery, peachy strokes.
'And single,' Jasmine nudged.
'Staying single,' Bridgette said. 'The last thing I want is a relationship.'
'Doesn't have to be a relationship,' Jasmine replied, but gave in with a small laugh. 'It does with you, though.' She looked at her friend. 'Paul was a complete bastard, you know.'
'I know.' She did not want to talk about it. 'Better to find out now than later.' 'I know that,' Bridgette snapped. She so did not want to talk about itshe didn't even want to think about it tonightbut thankfully Jasmine had other things on her mind.
'Ooh, I wonder if Dominic will be there. He's sex on legs, that guy ' Even though she was blissfully happy with Vince, Jasmine still raved about the paediatric locum registrar, Dominic Mansfield.
'You're just about to fly off to Africa with your boyfriend.' Bridgette grinned. 'Should you be noticing such things?'
'I can still look.' Jasmine sighed. 'Honestly, you can't help looking when Dominic's aroundhe's gorgeous. He just doesn't belong in our hospital. He should be on some glamorous soap or something Anyway, I was thinking of him more for you.'
'Liar. From what you've told me about Dominic, he's not the relationship kind.'
'Well, he must have been at some pointhe was engaged before he came to Melbourne. Mind you, he wouldn't do for you at all. He hardly speaks. He's quite arrogant really,' Jasmine mused. 'Anyway, enough about all that. Look at you.' She smiled at her friend in the mirror. 'Gorgeous, single, no commitments. You're allowed to have fun, you know.'
Except Bridgette did have commitments, even if no one could really understand them. It was those commitments that had her double-check that she had her phone in her bag. She didn't feel completely singlemore she felt like a single mum with her child away on an access visit. Courtney and Harry had lived with her for a year and it had ended badly, and though she spoke little to Courtney now, she was an extremely regular babysitter.
She missed him tonight.
But, she reminded herself, he wasn't hers to miss.
Still, it was nice to be out and to catch up with everyone. They all put in some money for drinks, but unfortunately it was Jasmine who chose the wine and it was certainly a case of quantity over quality. Bridgette took a sipshe was far from a wine snob, but it really was awful and she sat on one drink all night.
'When are you coming back to us?' was the cry from her ex-colleagues.
'I'm not sure,' Bridgette responded. 'Soon, I hope.'
Yes, it was a good night; it just wasn't the same as it once had been.
She wasn't one of them any more.
She had no idea who they were talking about when they moaned about someone called Ritahow she took over in a birth, how much her voice grated. There had been a big drama last week apparently, which they were now discussing, of which Bridgette knew nothing. Slipping her phone out of her bag, she checked it, relieved to see that there were no calls, but even though she wasn't needed, even though she had nowhere else to be right now, the night was over for her.
She wasn't a midwife any more, or at best she was an occasional oneshe went wherever the agency sent her. Bridgette was about to say goodbye to Jasmine, to make a discreet exit, when she was thwarted by some late arrivals, whom Jasmine marched her over to, insisting that she say hello.
'This is Rita, the new unit manager.' Jasmine introduced the two women. 'And, Rita, this is Bridgette Joyce. She used to work with us. We're trying to persuade her to come back. And this is.' He really needed no introduction, because Bridgette looked over and fell into very black eyes. The man stood apart from the rest and looked a bit out of place in the rather tacky bar, and, yes, he was as completely stunning as Jasmine had described. His black hair was worn just a little bit long and swept backwards to reveal a face that was exquisite. He was tall, slim and wearing black trousers and a fitted white shirt. He was, quite simply, divine. 'This is Dominic,' Jasmine introduced, 'our locum paediatrician.'
He didn't look like a paediatricianoh, she knew she shouldn't label people so, but as he nodded and said hello he didn't look in the least like a man who was used to dealing with children. Jasmine was righthe should be on a soap, playing the part of a pretend doctor, or She imagined him more a surgeon, a cosmetic surgeon perhaps, at some exclusive private practice.
'Can I get anyone a drink?' He was very smooth and polite, and there was no hint of an accent, but with such dark looks she wondered if his forebears were Italian perhaps, maybe Greek. He must have caught her staring, and when he saw that she didn't have a glass, he spoke directly to her. 'Bridgette, can I get you anything?'
'Not for me, thanks, I'm' She was just about to say that she was leaving when Jasmine interrupted her.
'You don't need to buy a drink, Dominic. We've got loads.' Jasmine toddled over to their loud table and poured him a glass of vinegary wine and one for Bridgette too, and then handed them over. 'Come on.' Jasmine pushed, determined her friend would unwind. 'Drink up, Bridgette.'
He was terribly polite because he accepted it graciously and took a sip of the drink and managed not to wince. But as Bridgette took a tiny sip, she did catch his eye, and there was a hint of a shared smile, if it could even be called that.
'It's good that you could make it, Dominic.' Vince came over. He had just today finished his paediatric rotation, and Bridgette had worked with him on Maternity for a while before she'd left. 'I know that it hasn't been a great day.'
She watched as Dominic gave a brief nod, gave practically nothing back to that line of conversationinstead, he changed the subject. 'So,' he asked, 'when do you fly?'
'Monday night,' Vince said, and spoke a little about the project he was joining.
'Well,' said Dominic, 'all the best with it.'
He really didn't waste words, did he? Bridgette thought as Jasmine polished her cupid's bow and happily took Vince's hand and wandered off, leaving Bridgette alone with him and trying not to show just how awkward she felt.
'Careful,' she said as his glass moved to his lips. 'Remember how bad it tastes.'
She was rewarded with the glimpse of a smile.
'Do you want me to get you something else?'
Yikes, she hadn't been fishing for drinks. 'No, no ' Bridgette shook her head. 'Jasmine would be offended. I'm fine. I was just ' Joking, she didn't add, trying to make conversation. Gorgeous he might be to look at but he really didn't say very much. 'You're at the hospital, then?' Bridgette asked.
'Just as a fill-in,' Dominic said. 'I've got a consultant's position starting in a couple of weeks in Sydney.' He named a rather impressive hospital and that just about summed him up, Bridgette decidedrather impressive and very, very temporary.
'Your family is there?'
'That's right,' he said, but didn't elaborate. 'You work on Maternity?' Dominic frowned, because he couldn't place her.
'I used to,' Bridgette explained. 'I left six months ago. I've been doing agency '
It was a very direct question, one she wasn't quite expecting, one she wasn't really sure how to answer.
'The hours are more flexible,' she said, 'the money's better ' And it was the truth, but only a shred of it, because she missed her old job very badly. She'd just been accepted as a clinical nurse specialist when she'd left. She adored everything about midwifery, and now she went wherever the agency sent her. As she was qualified as a general nurse, she could find herself in nursing homes, on spinal units, sometimes in psych. She just worked and got on with it, but she missed doing what she loved the most.