THE shadows were lengthening when Jenny looked up from her notes. A slanted ray of sunlight picked out the dented old steriliser making it glow like a silver serving dish. She would miss this shabby place.
Placing her glasses on the desk she crossed over to close the office window and draw the blind. Knock-off time! She gripped the peeling sill, her knuckles turning white. Walking toward the carpark, among he last stragglers Jack, with his mate Tommy. Jack, with his broad chest, gentle hands and deep voice like treacle. She must pull herself together. They both knew they must end it. Shed changed shifts when the affair got too heavy.
She had Rob and Emma to think of.
There was a soft knock. Framed by the door stood the chaplain. Do you have a minute Nurse Carter?
She found herself flushing, caught mooning over a man not her husband. Her Catholic conscience again. Always for you Ted. Take a pew. Ted lowered his considerable bulk into her cracked leather armchair. She often held her breath when he visited her. The chair groaned as he settled. One day he wont be able to get out of it. It took a great effort to not offer to assist. She was no longer a religious woman but she had great respect for this man who mentored the men and women here.
Whats on your mind Ted?
Just been visiting the sheds. Its young Dylan. The boy from carpentry. He cut his hand and it doesnt look right to me. Its inflamed and swollen already. I told him to come to the nursing station but I think hes a bit afraid of his boss old Dougie. You know what hes like. Loves to put the fear of God into the apprentices. Dylans a good kid. He told me he was careless. I think it needs stitches. Could you call in before you leave? I know Gillians on her way but she scares the young ones with her abrupt manner.
Jenny had known Dougie since she began here at BHP. He must be nearing retirement. The whiskered Scotsman, small and wiry with a booming voice that belied his size. Meeting him at night one of her most terrifying experiences as a young nurse when he appeared from the shadows like the troll in the fairy-tale. She felt tears welling. She would miss them all.
She felt Ted watching her intently. He reminded her of a benevolent Buddha with that belly straining at the buttons. He removed his smudgy glasses and wiped them on his shirt. This was usually his cue to ask questions. She steeled herself willing the tears to stay put. Turning quickly to retrieve her notes. But not quick enough.
Is there something worrying you Jen? peering at her from behind the wire-rimmed glasses now perched on his nose. Anything I can do to help?
The tears came as she reached for the tissues always on her desk. She lowered herself shakily onto her wobbly swivel chair, maybe for the last time. Shed thought she had everything under control. She reminded herself Ted was Anglican not Father Confessor.
Is it the impending closing of the plant? Thats whats worrying the men. Those with families and mortgages are panicking a bit. Ive had meetings with them every week. Some like Dougie have taken the packages offered. A clever girl like you should easily find a job. Anything wrong at home?
She took a deep breath, smoothing down her navy skirt and twisting her wedding band. Could she trust him? They say confessions good for the soul.
Ted, youve met my husband Rob. Weve known each other since primary school. We were sweethearts since year 12 and married when I was 21 after I finished my nursing degree. I had such trouble falling pregnant and we were overjoyed when Emma arrived. Shes in her final year at school. She grabbed another tissue, dabbing at her eyes. Her mascara has probably run now. Well, dammit! How much should she reveal?
We seem to be drifting apart. Rob spends too much time with his mates and theres the drinking.
Teds bushy grey eyebrows rose alarmingly. He doesnt hit you lass, does he?
Jenny tugged at her cuffs. She always wore long sleeves winter and summer. Rob was always careful not to hit her where the bruises might show. He had his reputation as a principal to protect.
Jenny lowered her lashes. Thats not the problem. Ive fallen in love. She bit her lip lifting her head and looking into his soft brown eyes.
Jack came to me one-night shift with an eye injury. Removing a tiny piece of metal from someones eye is rather intimate. You have to get really close. Before long he was coming here regularly on his break. He was warm and kind. Something I desperately needed. I guess he was lonely too. His wife died two years ago. They were childless.
Teds face remained impassive.
In this place you know its not hard to find dark corners. She looked at him meaningfully. He nodded. We have been together for over 18 months. I tried to end it by changing my shifts. Jack is heartbroken. He wants me to divorce Rob and marry him. He made the mistake of calling me at home. Rob answered. This is the result. She undid her cuffs revealing the bruises.
Have you contacted the police Jen? You could take out an AVO.
Ive decided to run. Weve both secured jobs in Queensland. Jack is not too happy with this he wants to have it out with Rob. Im worried about Emma but shes daddys little girl. People will judge me Ted. Ive always valued your friendship, she sobbed.
Do what is right for you, lass. Emma will understand.
The leather squealed as he levered himself up and pulled her into his bear-like embrace.