Cherry Ames 02 Senior Nurse (6 page)

“How’d you do it?” she demanded, not bothering with preliminaries.

“I told you I would,” he replied with a grin.

“But you’re not a specialist in——”

“I became one. I spent every night last week until four A.M. reading every book I could find in this city on the subject.” His golden brown eyes twinkled. “I read it so I could qualify to work with Dr. Fortune so he’d invite me to his lab so I could see you. It’s simple.” Cherry had never before thought of sitting up all night reading books on quinine substitutes as a romantic gesture. But that was what it was. There was something
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irresistibly funny about such a direct and studious approach, and something touching too. Cherry’s expression was a very puzzled one.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Lex said as he shoved open the door into the yard for her. “But, believe it or not, I have a lighter side. For instance, I’m a wonderful dancer. I could prove it if you’d have dinner with me tonight.” He strode along, smiling at her, his sand-colored hair ruffled by the tangy October wind. “Well? Well? Are you still intimidated by a few rules?”

Cherry turned a laughing face to him. “Lex, honestly you do deserve something in return for all that studying, and for all the extra work you’ll do with Dr. Joe.”

“That’s all right,” he interrupted. “The more I read, the more interested I got. I’m keen on doing that research for its own sake now.”

“So I don’t count any more!” Cherry teased.

“Certainly you count and don’t say such idiotic things,” he commanded. “If you’re going to twist my remarks——”

“If you can’t take a little teasing——” They both broke off short, and faced each other in a flare-up of anger. Suddenly Cherry started to laugh.

“We certainly are two of a kind!” She took out her white handkerchief and waved it. “Truce! Truce!”
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“Truce declared.” He took her arm, smiling again.

“Now about some dancing——

“Quiet, you rebel! You know I can’t afford to break the rules.”

He jammed his hands into his pockets. “No, I suppose you can’t. Well, there’s a dance here at the hospital way off next week. That’s legal.”

“Is that an invitation?” Cherry teased, though she knew she should not provoke his lightning temper.

He bowed from the waist. “I will have it engraved, Madame.” He straightened up and looked her full in the eyes. “You adopted me and that includes the dance.” Cherry retreated into Crowley. She remembered a line from an old popular song, “You may have been a headache, but you never were a bore. . . .”

“Anyway, I’ll have free time for the dance,” Cherry consoled herself, as she got out her books to study. She would like to see Ann and Gwen other than just at mealtime but they were both now on relief duty, from three P.M. to eleven P.M., when she was off. All the seniors were rushing like plagued creatures. “A dance will be a nice break for us poor seniors. I’ll count off the days against that.” And Cherry determinedly opened her book, to study for Delivery Room work which was almost upon her.

It was still six days before the dance, when Cherry had a meeting with her other adoptee, Mildred Burnham.

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With Mildred on her conscience, Cherry had left three notes in the girl’s room trying to make an appointment.

The first two had gone unanswered. But here the two girls were, finally, on a Sunday afternoon in the deserted lounge.

Outside, the wind rustled the red and gold leaves, and the sky was very blue. Cherry longed to be outdoors, but Mildred did not want to go for a walk. She sat slouched in a chair, her lumpy face wearing its habitual sullen expression. Cherry settled herself resignedly in her own chair and sighed. She felt as if she were pulling, all alone, on a heavy weight. After some preliminary small talk, she made a start.

“It’s only a little over a month until probationers are capped, Mildred——”

“—or expelled,” the girl interrupted. “You don’t have to worry about me.”

“I’m not worried, because I’m sure you’re doing very nice work.” Cherry tried to smooth the girl’s prickly feelings. “But every one of us has her weak points and I wondered if you might want some special coaching.”

“No, thanks.”

Cherry felt as if she were pushing against a wall.

Wasn’t there a door anywhere in this closed wall? She talked for a while about what the probationers’ written and oral and practical examinations would be like.

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Mildred listened but made no response. Recalling her own probie experience, Cherry warned Mildred what an ordeal capping could be and suggested how she might best face it. There was no response to this, either.

At last Cherry said:

“I wish we could be friends, Mildred. I’d like to be.

Wouldn’t you?”

Mildred Burnham gave her a sharp look. “You don’t feel friendly toward me.”

Cherry felt caught up short. It was true she did not like Mildred. So the girl sensed it! “You’re rather difficult to be friends with,” Cherry reminded her gently.

“Then why don’t you let it go?” Mildred said, getting to her feet. And Cherry was too discouraged, after this awful half-hour, to push the interview further. She wondered how in the world she was going to deal with Mildred Burnham for a whole year.

A few days later, a talk she had with Bertha Larsen did not help matters. Cherry had learned that Mildred was on the same ward with Bertha, and she asked the good-humored farm girl how Mildred’s ward work was going.

“Well,” said Bertha and stopped, troubled. “Mildred’s work is all right, but she does not understand that we all must work together. She is a little selfish—” Bertha stopped again. “Maybe she just tries too hard,” she said apologetically.

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“You mean she grabs the best of everything for her own patients and leaves the rest of you to get along as you can?” Cherry asked sharply.

“Sometimes,” Bertha admitted. “She hurries and takes hers, as if she did not trust the rest of us. Oh, it’s nothing!

She’s just a foolish little probie, she will get over it.” Cherry made a point of seeing Mildred Burnham that same afternoon. She came straight to the subject of the way Mildred was behaving on the ward. Cherry was angry that Bertha Larsen, who was so kind-hearted and generous, should be imposed upon. She felt it was hopeless to try to be friendly or kind or understanding with Mildred. So she spoke sharply to her probationer, to drive her point home.

Mildred looked unhappy. It was the first time Cherry had seen any expression except sullenness on the girl’s face.

“I’m sorry to scold you,” Cherry said, picking up her cape to leave. “But it’s better to hear this from your adopting senior than from your head nurse—or from Training School Office.”

“You don’t like me,” said Mildred Burnham accusingly.

There it was again! Cherry flung her nurse’s cape about her shoulders and hurried out into the rotunda, feeling almost guilty. She was troubled for several days, and even more troubled when Miss Reamer routinely called her to her office.

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“How are you and Miss Burnham getting on?” the Superintendent of Nurses asked.

Cherry looked at the floor. “We’re not. Perhaps it’s my fault.”

“You are a little impatient, you know, Miss Ames. I want a more cheerful report next time—if you are to go on being a guiding senior.” Miss Reamer smiled and the talk turned to Cherry’s studies. But the worry about Mildred Burnham stuck in Cherry’s mind.

The day of the dance, when it finally came, was one long disappointment for Cherry. She worked an extremely hard eight hours on the mothers’ ward, until her head felt like a balloon and her feet seemed to weigh ten pounds each. After that Dr. Joe, in all innocence, asked her to run errands. Cherry barely made second supper and choked down her food. Then she headed frantically for lecture class. On the way, a phone call came from Obstetrical. The relief nurse was sick this evening: the hospital was short of nurses since so many had gone off to the battlefronts: would Miss Ames take over the ward in this emergency until eleven P.M.? She would, of course. Cherry went back to the ward and resumed her duties. Her whole body ached with fatigue. But hearing music drift faint and tantalizing across the yard was the worst of it. The dance had started. And Cherry had missed it—after all that waiting.

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“I don’t care,” Cherry pretended as she walked softly around the sleeping ward with her flashlight. “Who cares about a dance, anyhow, even if it
is
the first senior dance?”

Her disappointment grew sharper when at eleven o’clock the night nurse came to relieve her. Cherry went downstairs and stood alone in the deserted clinic. She was tired and dirty and the distant music sounded very sweet.

“Cherry!” someone hissed.

Cherry whirled around. It was Lex. He walked toward her smiling, offered her an arm, swung her into dancing position, and they were smoothly fox trotting past the examination booths.

“Lex, you idiot—what——”

“The music’s good tonight, isn’t it?” he smiled down at her. He executed a double step, off-beat, and guided her skilfully past an interviewer’s deserted desk. “Are you enjoying the dance, Miss Ames?” Cherry began to smile. “Yes, Dr. Upham, the music
is
good tonight.”

The distant music stopped for a moment. Lex and Cherry both gravely applauded. Then a waltz started far away, and they waltzed up and down between the long rows of empty clinic benches.

“May I have the next dance?” Lex inquired as the music stopped again.

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“But what about my other partners?” Cherry giggled back.

“I won’t permit any cutting-in,” Lex said. A faint fox trot started, and they danced to it, their shoes sounding loud in the deserted clinic.

“You’re really a good dancer,” Cherry said.

“Thanks.” He whirled her past an instrument case.

They smiled at each other as they turned and dipped.

“In fact,” Cherry said contentedly, “this is a pretty nice dance!”

c h a p t e r v

Midge Makes Mischief

a typewritten notice was tacked on the bulletin board, on the cold morning of November first: Ames, C. . . . . . . . . . Delivery Room Jones, G. . . . . . . . . . Delivery Room That plunged Cherry into a thoroughly alien world.

But having Gwen with her was cheering. Ann was going, temporarily, to the next-door Children’s Clinic where they were shorthanded.

“Welcome to our next hurdle,” Cherry greeted the redhead on their first morning together. They were walking down the short, silent, empty corridors of Obstetrical Ward. “This ward is a humdinger. This is where they make or break seniors.”
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“It looks innocent enough,” Gwen objected. “There’s not a sight or sound within miles. I’ve never been any place so peaceful—on the surface. Look, what’s this?” Both girls stopped to peek in at a small room. It was the first of a series of rooms, a little like Operating Rooms with everything kept sterile but less completely equipped. Cherry’s eye fell on a baby’s scale. “Couldn’t you guess?”

“Delivery Room, where the newest generation arrives, and I win the wooden umbrella,” Gwen said triumphantly.

“You nut!” Cherry giggled. “But it’ll be nice having you and your monkey business around again.” Gwen poked her red head inquisitively into one of the empty private rooms. “It’s going to be nice, too, to have regular hours again, after all that relief duty,” she replied.

They were both wrong. They were to see very little of one another here, and hours turned out to be wildly irregular. For the expected babies paid no attention to hospital schedules.

When the girls reported to the head nurse in charge, they understood why this ward was the seniors’ Big Worry. Miss Sprague was an ageless woman with an iron face and old, pioneer attitudes. She had nursed for years, often under conditions that would have intimidated even Daniel Boone. Miss Sprague thought that any nurse with less than twenty years’ experience was unreliable (“though how are we to
get
experience in the
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first place?” Cherry asked Gwen) and she referred quite openly to her student nurses as “those young snips.” Miss Sprague, with her tall spare figure, ramrod posture and tightly knotted hair, was permanently disgusted with youth. She was famous for sending in severe reports on her student nurses. Several seniors had been flunked out on the basis of Miss Sprague’s reports on them.

“As a matter of fact,” Cherry confided to Gwen, after they had introduced themselves to the head nurse and had been morally trampled into their places, “she
might
be right. Assisting at childbirth is delicate work and I for one am a little nervous about it.”

“There’s nothing to be nervous about,” Gwen said sturdily. “After all, it’s traditionally women’s work. Way back, before we had hospitals or even many doctors in this country, midwives delivered
all
babies. My father says that even now midwives supervise about fifteen per cent of the births here—and heaven knows how much bigger per cent in other countries. So there.”

“But it’s a far cry from a midwife to a trained obstetrician, and a trained obstetrical nurse,” Cherry replied.

“You just can’t compare them. The difference shows in how many mothers and babies live or die in the process of getting babies born.”

“Absolutely,” Gwen agreed. Her eyes suddenly opened wide. “Gosh, it’s pretty important stuff, isn’t it?

Hmm. I don’t feel so nonchalant now myself.”
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