It was a little after 2pm when Mabel Harris pushed open the door to the side room where Dacre Lawrence lay in bed. Mabel never liked hospitals, and she particularly didn’t like this one. It reminded her too much of the pain and anguish of a difficult childhood, her father having spent two years in and out of this same building, before expiring peacefully one night, in a ward not too far from where she was standing now. She wouldn’t normally have volunteered to visit Dr Lawrence, but she knew he had no family and, as the manager of the practice, she felt a certain duty fall on her shoulders when the other partners had met with her to discuss his current indisposition.
It had been a far from normal morning in the practice, with rumour and gossip circulating among staff quicker than an e-mail crosses the globe: by the time the meeting was called,
She saw he was on his back as she entered the room, propped up by a couple of pillows and staring straight at her without the smallest flicker of warmth in his eyes. A small crust of what looked like it might be custard had dried at the edge of his mouth, and he needed a shave. A small part of her, that part which all women seem to have, felt a shard of pity for her helpless employer, lying vulnerably in the bed in front of her. She smiled.
“Now then, Dr Lawrence – how are you?” she asked. If her question sounded officious to the paralysed man, then that was how Mabel had intended it, repayment in kind for all the times he’d barked commands at her, the times he’d seemed to treat her as some sort of lower species. The boot, she thought, was well and truly on the other foot now!
She didn’t imagine who might visit the poor man. No family, and few friends. ‘Well, you’ve got your just deserts, now, Dacre Lawrence,’ she thought.
Mabel sat on a chair beside the bed, and pulled a magazine out from her handbag. “I’ve brought something to read,” she said, in a slightly-exaggerated tone, not even bothering to look at him as she flipped it open. And for half an hour, Mabel Harris enjoyed the quiet contentment of being free from work, knowing that Dr Lawrence could do nothing about it, and knowing she’d be seen as a saint when she returned to the health centre. With a fair wind, she might even get away with a few more hours away from work in the weeks and months ahead…