Cherry Ames 02 Senior Nurse (8 page)

The color of Midge’s eyes was a standing joke, for they were always changing. Sometimes they appeared hazel, in summer they were almost green, at night velvety brown. Today they seemed gray, because she was wearing gray. They were very clear, candid eyes.

“Now that we have that problem settled,” Midge said,

“how are you? I want to know dozens of things! Can you come out with me?”

“Have you abandoned your wild ways, now that you’ve reached the ripe old age of fifteen? Is it safe for me to go out with you?” Cherry countered. Then she laughed. “I’m reporting off this very minute! Wait in the hall for me.” Out in the hall, they raced toward the stairs. Midge had already started down, when someone imperiously called Cherry. It was Lex.

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Dr. Upham was in a great hurry and in a bad temper,

“I’ve been trying for days to see you alone,” he said

“Look here, Cherry, would you——” Just then Midge turned back and joined their two-some. Lex looked annoyed.

“This is Midge Fortune,” Cherry said out of the awkward pause.

“Midge, huh? She looks like a midge,” Lex said.

“Why, you meanie!” Cherry said warmly, “Midge is practically my little sister. It’s high time you met her.”

“Couldn’t we meet some other day?” Lex said curtly.

“Right now I want to talk to you alone about——”

“Lex, you’re very rude!” Cherry’s black eyes snapped.

She could see that the younger girl felt snubbed and upset.

“I didn’t want especially to meet you today, either,” Midge said coolly.

Lex glared at the fifteen-year-old. Then he glared at Cherry. Ignoring Midge, he said to Cherry, “I’ll see you some other time when you’re unencumbered, and when you’re feeling a little more reasonable!” He turned on his heel and strode away.

Midge looked after him with her face quite red. “So that’s your sweetheart! If he thinks he can talk that way to me——!”

“I never told you he was my sweetheart! He’s not, he’s just a friend,” Cherry said hastily. “And he didn’t mean
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to be rude. He’s just rather abrupt.” Yet she felt sorry that Midge had been hurt.

“Well, I don’t like being snubbed!” Midge tossed her head. “I’ll teach him! I know. I’ll send him something funny that’ll make him mad!”

“Midge, he’s a staff doctor, you mustn’t——” Midge’s young face was crinkling with laughter. “Let’s go downtown and buy a box of lollipops to sweeten him up!”

Cherry felt herself weakening. She sympathized with Midge about Lex’s snub—and she never could resist playing a joke. “A box of lollipops to match his childish behavior,” she agreed dryly.

“And we’ll put a funny note in it!” Midge went on. “I’ll write it while you’re dressing.” They raced back to Crowley and Cherry’s room.

While Cherry slipped into street clothes, Midge took paper, envelope, and a pen from Cherry’s desk.

“What’ll we say?” Midge poised the pen above the paper. She remembered that she was furious. “Something that will fix him!”

Just then a nurse rapped on Cherry’s door. The ward was telephoning her on some routine question. Cherry sped out of the room, leaving Midge alone.

When she returned, Midge was just sealing the envelope.

“What did you write?” Cherry asked, grinning.

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“Oh, just a joke,” Midge assured her airily and pounded down the flap.

Something in her face made Cherry suspicious. “You didn’t write anything you shouldn’t have? You aren’t trying to meddle or be smart, are you?”

“Certainly not!” Midge was properly indignant. “How could I? You’ve never told me anything much about Lex.

I heard about him only from Dad.”

“And I won’t tell you anything, because there isn’t anything to tell. And it’s not for little pitchers with big ears, anyway.”

“Yes, Grandma,” Midge said. “Now hurry up, or the stores will be closed!”

They bought the box of lollipops and carefully sent it not to Lex’s residence, but to Dr. Joe’s office—“so Dad can get a laugh out of it, too,” Midge said. She and Cherry had tucked Midge’s note firmly in with the candy.

If Cherry could have seen what was inside the sealed envelope, she would never have sent it. For Midge had written:

Dear Dr. Upham:

As Cherry’s oldest friend, I happen to know quite a few things about you. I know she did not like your impolite behavior to me in the hall. It is too bad I cannot divulge her confidences, and tell you a
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number of other things she does not like about you, besides. If you and Cherry are really sweethearts, I’d advise you to mend your ways. Perhaps these lollipops, which we bought specially for you, will help sweeten your disposition. I do hope so—for Cherry’s sake.

Yours sincerely,

Margaret Fortune

P. S. I am writing this because I want to see Cherry happy.

Dr. Joe was so annoyed over a seemingly innocent box of lollipops that he sent Midge home at once. Lex avoided Cherry and when she came to Dr. Joe’s laboratory, he stormed out. She could not guess that Lex thought she had talked to Midge out of turn. Cherry was puzzled, then angry. Worst of all, Dr. Joe was so cold and aloof that Cherry stayed away from the lab for a couple of weeks. She was so distracted that she earned herself additional scoldings from Miss Sprague. The rest of the month on Delivery Room was very gloomy indeed.

On the final day, Cherry and Gwen steeled themselves. They waited until no one was in the corridor, then crept up to the bulletin board. They read, then looked at each other disbelievingly.

“Has a miracle happened?” Cherry breathed. “Look—

we’re being sent on to another ward. That must mean we’ve passed Delivery Room!”

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Gwen wrung her hands together thankfully. “We’re actually out of Sprague’s clutches at last!” The typewritten notice tacked on the bulletin board was dated December first and read: Ames, C. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nursery Jones, G. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nursery
c h a p t e r v i

An Orchid or Gardenias

cherry heard it from someone else. she was glad and relieved, yet at the same time she felt curiously left out.

Mildred Burnham had won her nurse’s cap. Cherry’s adoptee had successfully completed her probationary period and was now a full-fledged student nurse. Bertha Larsen told Cherry on the day of capping, and then some of her other classmates congratulated Cherry. But Mildred herself never said a word to Cherry about it, never even came near her.

“Maybe she doesn’t want my congratulations,” Cherry reminded herself, recalling the girl’s defensive attitude,

“but I’m going to tell her, anyway, that I think she deserves a lot of credit!”

As soon as she could get off her own ward, Cherry raced over to Mildred’s ward. But Mildred had gone off
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duty half an hour before, the head nurse said. Cherry went on over to the first-year and junior students’

residence hall. Mildred was not in her room. Cherry left a note.

“Good for you!” she scribbled. “I know you did it all by yourself.” She frowned at that: would Mildred think that she was angry because her help had been refused?

Cherry took another piece of paper. “I know from my own experience that winning one’s cap isn’t easy.” Cherry’s pencil hesitated above the paper. She wanted to write, quite sincerely, “I’m proud for you. I know you’ll win your graduate’s ribbon too.” But would Mildred imagine some patronizing overtone? Rather self-consciously, Cherry curbed her enthusiasm and finished the note. She folded it and pushed it all the way under Mildred’s door. She hoped Mildred would reply.

Mildred did not reply that day, nor the day after capping. All the other seniors and their ex-probies were celebrating. Cherry put down her own adoptee’s snub to Mildred’s mixed-up, immature emotions, and went over to Mildred’s room again.

Mildred came to the door, with her new cap framing her heavy, expressionless face. She did not ask Cherry to come in. Cherry stood in the corridor feeling unwelcome and awkward. Perhaps, she thought, this ill-at-ease girl felt even more awkward than she did.

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“It’s grand, Mildred,” Cherry said with an effort. “The cap certainly looks natural on you. Now you’re really on your way to nursing!’’

Mildred studied her with suspicious eyes. “I’ll bet you’re surprised I got it.” Her voice implied, “You’re sorry I got it.”

Cherry was stunned. Then she tossed back her black curls and managed to laugh. “Don’t say that! I’m glad, really glad for you. And I’m proud to have ‘my’ probie a success. Come on out and celebrate,” Cherry invited.

“No.”

Cherry’s crimson cheeks burned as if Mildred had slapped her. The younger girl stood there—inert, hostile, almost boorish. Yet Cherry sensed that if she had not come to congratulate Mildred, Mildred would have felt neglected. Mildred seemed to need and want affection, yet was unable to accept it. How was she to get through the year with this strange and difficult girl?

Why, what was she to say next?

But Mildred spoke next. “I have to go back to my studies,” she said, with a curious expression. “Good-by.” Mildred’s door closed in her face.

A flash of resentment went through Cherry. She warned herself again not to be intolerant, but she felt unpleasantly shaken. She stared at the closed door.

“Well, that is most certainly that,” she thought. And from that moment, and for a long time afterwards,
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Cherry disgustedly and deliberately turned her attention away from Mildred Burnham.

But Mildred Burnham remained a troubling, insistent problem in the back of Cherry’s mind. The problem was deferred, not solved. Miss Reamer supervised Cherry in her role of Adopting Senior.

Cherry talked to her twice about her troubles with Mildred. Miss Reamer made it clear that Cherry was lacking in understanding and patience. “Try to really like your adoptee,” she counseled. Cherry wanted to, but she could not.

The first day it snowed, Cherry met young Dr. Lex Upham in the yard. It was a real snowstorm, with the white flakes coming so thick and fast that Cherry, bundled up in a big coat and her head bent, collided with his big solid figure. She would have slipped except for his instant strong grip on her arm.

“We always meet violently, don’t we?” he laughed and peered at her through the whirling flakes. Cherry’s black hair was dotted with white, her cheeks were brilliant, her eyes shone.

“Don’t you love this weather?” she gasped. “Where’s your hat?” His sandy hair was covered with snow.

“In Dr. Fortune’s laboratory,” he said, tucking her arm firmly under his. “After all my trouble to get myself in there, why don’t you——”

“I’m in disgrace,” she replied. “I thought you——”
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“No, I’m not mad at you,” Lex guessed before she could finish her remark. Neither of them referred to the lollipop incident; they were too glad to see each other.

A gust of wind and snow blew in their faces. “How about some hot tea?” he shouted over the wind. With his lordly stride, he led her along toward Spencer Hall. “There’s that sissy tearoom——”

“The rules say no! You’ll get me into trouble yet!” Lex flung open the door to Spencer rotunda and they were suddenly out of the wind and cold. It was warm and quiet here.

“Well, good-by, Miss Ames. It was nice seeing you.” His golden brown eyes, under their sharp black brows, twinkled. He strode off, then abruptly turned. “By the way, I’m taking you to the doctors’Christmas Eve dance.”

“You might ask me if—” she started, but he called back:

“Make up your mind whether you want an orchid or gardenias.” Then he vigorously marched around the corner.

Cherry shrugged. Who could stay angry with a boy like that? She brushed the snow off her shoulders and sauntered into the lounge. She did not see Ann and Gwen walking slowly behind her, shaking their heads and smiling.

That evening, in lecture class, Gwen slid a note across the wide arm of her chair. Cherry opened it, and
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jumped. “An orchid or gardenias?” it inquired. Under that, Gwen had written, “Brave girl!” Cherry forgot the lecture and wrote back indignantly,

“He’s
nice.

Gwen nodded her head in total disbelief. Ann, who had been reading this correspondence over their shoulders, gave Cherry a quick nudge which Cherry hastily passed on to Gwen; the lecturer was frowning at them.

Presently Ann, too, shoved over a note: “Is he as brilliant as they say? Is he human?” Cherry nodded twice in reply and then decided she had better pay attention to the lecture.

Senior subjects were difficult. Cherry thought back to her junior year, last year, and laughed at herself. She had worked, then, on Eye and Ear; on Skin (which she had missed in her first year because of an early vacation); on Private Pavilion and in several clinics.

And she had thought
that
was hard!

When the lecture was over, not only Ann and Gwen but another half dozen girls pounced on Cherry with questions about Lex. “Of course we heard! How could we help hearing in the lounge?”—“I’ve been dying to ask you for weeks, you know perfectly well he’s a sort of celebrity!”—“ . . . and he proved to the senior surgeon that the instrument could really be improved and would you believe it, the senior surgeon retracted his statement!”—“He’s terrifying! But he’s not conceited.

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You have to say that for him!”—“Well, if you think a cyclone is anything to play with. . . .”

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