Kit’s ride to work on Monday was more enjoyable that it had been in a while. Having left the house early, she even stopped and chatted with Mr. Abernathy, who spent several minutes telling her the life histories and activities of the family of squirrels that lived in his back yard.
She made it to the hospital in time to grab a coffee and still made it to the ER before shift change. She saw Robert standing by the chart rack and smiled as she approached him, but was surprised to not see him return the smile.
He handed her a chart without so much as a hello, then grabbed one himself. “We’re slammed this morning,” he muttered before walking away.
She paused and took a moment to reassess. Had she imagined their interaction Saturday night? No, he’d definitely kissed her; she’d felt the pressure of his lips on hers for the rest of the night and into the next day. Had the kiss meant more to her than it had to him? It was possible, perhaps he had more experience with casual flings than she did.
She tried to shake it off and forget about it for the rest of the day. True, she’d been hoping that after their date on Saturday that he’d come to work a little nicer, maybe even a little kinder to the nursing staff and more understanding about the way they operate. A few minutes into the day, though, it didn’t look like that would be happening.
She saw him snap at one of the residents about a poorly written order before he stalked off down the hall to deal with a mistake in the lab.
“Hey Kit,” the triage nurse tapped her on the shoulder. “I thought you’d want to see this one yourself.” She handed her a chart and when Kit saw the name at the top, she thanked the other nurse.
“Mr. Colby, how are you doing today?”
The man said rigid on the exam table, his knuckles white from pressure as he held onto the bed rail. He was in his early 50’s and looked every day of it. Chronic lower back pain and spasms stemming from a car accident the year before had stolen his health and aged him severely.
“I’m here for my refills,” he said through gritted teeth. He hadn’t had the best luck with establishing care with a primary care physician, though Kit had spent hours on the phone in previous visits trying to find someone in the community to see him. Although she wished he could get the constant care that came from having a PCP, she also knew he needed refills of his pain medications to get him through the day and many clinics no longer wanted to be associated with chronic pain management.
“I’m sorry we haven’t been able to find you a doctor in the community, Mr. Colby.” Kit laid her hand on his arm and squeezed gently. “Let me just get your vitals really quick so I can go talk to one of the doctors and get you your medications.”
“Thank you, sweetie,” he said as he rearranged his face in an attempt at a smile. Kit was always impressed with how kind the man was, even though he was clearly in a significant amount of pain. She vowed to call the internal medicine clinics in town again, try to get them to reconsider seeing him.
When she came out of the room, she looked around for anyone else to give report to, hell even a first year resident. But the only doctor she saw on the floor was Robert Whiting. She steeled herself and walked over to him.
“I have a patient for you, Dr. Whiting.”
He looked annoyed, pulling the chart from her hands and reading it while she talked.
“Mr. Colby is a frequent flier here. We haven’t been able to find a doctor here in town to take over his narcotic prescriptions so he comes here for refills.”
“Give me the medical details, Kit. Not his life story.”
Kit bit her tongue so hard she tasted blood, but she was determined to keep things professional.
“He’s 53 years old, status post MVA 11 months ago. He has unrelenting lumbago and sciatica and takes Percocet and Tylenol 4 for pain relief.”
“See, that wasn’t so hard. Stay here, I don’t want you in there with me.” He walked to the patient’s room and left Kit standing there trying to decide the best place to hide a doctor’s body in a hospital.
“I love my job,” she whispered to herself. “I love my job and don’t want to get fired. I love my job…”
A few minutes later, Robert returned looking triumphant.
“He’s certainly in pain,” he commented as he laid the chart on the desk.
“That’s generally the reason we prescribe pain medicines, yes.”
“Oh no, he won’t be getting anything stronger than Advil from this hospital ever again, and I’m going to call all the other hospitals in the state to let him know the same.”
“What?” She said, perplexed. “You can’t do that, he needs those medications.”
“What he needs to do is stop selling the medications he’s been prescribed. Maybe then he would be able to properly manage his pain. I put in an order for a rapid urine drug screen, and I guarantee his levels won’t be therapeutic.”
Kit ground her teeth but agreed to run the urine test. After all, when it came back she’d be able to tell him that he didn’t know everything and shouldn’t second guess her so often.
Several hours later, she was heading down to the lab to get a print out of the results when Robert cornered her in the hallway and pulled her into an empty exam room.
“What the hell?” She said as shut the door.
“Sorry, didn’t figure you’d want me kissing you in the hallway.” He dipped his head down and planted his lips on hers. For a moment she was lost in the feeling of his body against hers, his arms around her.
She broke contact first, breathless for a moment. “I…Robert…I don’t…” It was hard to talk when he was nuzzling the sensitive skin along the nape of her neck.
He chuckled. “I’ve been a certifiable asshole today. I’d say I have a good reason but mostly I just want to say I’m sorry.”
“Asshole with a capital A.”
“Would saying sorry again help?”
“Not really.” She pressed her hands against his chest and pushed him a little bit away from him. A little distance, maybe a little sanity.
“How about if I tell you that you were partially right and I was partially wrong about the pain patient from earlier?” He held up the results that she’d been going down to get. Indeed, he was taking his Tylenol 4 as prescribed but had no Percocet in his system.
“Damnit.” She muttered.
“I love that you are passionate about your patients. I love that you care about their life stories and what brings them here. I just want to find a middle ground with you where you don’t believe every word that comes out of their mouths.”
“Then tell me that, don’t bite my head off in the middle of the ER.”
“I can do that.” He amended. “I can try to do that.”
He closed the distance between them and pressed his lips to hers again. She felt the world fall away until all that was left was his hands on the small of her back, his teeth nibbling her bottom lip.
“Come to my softball game on Saturday. I need somebody there to cheer me on because otherwise I might suck.”
Kit laughed. “I’ll come, but only because I was going to go anyway. And I don’t cheer on assholes, so stop being one.”