Nothing works round here – except the paint doing a good job of flaking from the bathroom walls. I’ve had a short tepid shower … little more than a dribble … and that will have to do.

Putting my dirty uniform in a laundry bag, I wrap a towel around me and head along the corridor to my room.

This is a nurses’ home as they are in 1983: thirty women to every man. Outnumbered.

Sorry, ladies, nothing is going to happen. I’m not ready. A bit scared. I don’t know the rules. I’m a bit naïve and not ready, right?

Anyway, no one with any sense gets tangled up with relationships in the same building. That’s an insane invitation to disaster. What if it goes wrong? They have in the past and there are horror stories.

Someone else enters the corridor. Nikki! Nikki coming from her room. She’s dressed only in a towel, just like me.

Nikki. We’ve worked together a lot during our training and consolidation years. She’s great, totally reliable when it’s needed, an angel with the patients, but has a tendency to go wild at parties and start riots.

It started to get weird with her a few months ago when I pulled some shoulder muscles and she offered to massage them while a bunch of us watched TV in the common room. Lots of winks and suggestive comments were made but I knew I didn’t need to take them seriously.

Nikki came off work this morning after nine nights in a row plus two extra due to staff shortages. She hobbled into the nurses’ home and complained of sore feet. It was only fair that I offered to massage them. I was listening to music and time just drifted away.

Nikki fell asleep. Who can blame her? Everyone’s exhausted after a twelve-hour shift but Nikki was in no rush to go to bed – she’s off for five days now. I carried her to her room – more looks from people passing in the corridor.

She appears more lively this evening and is headed for the showers. We meet beside my door. She’s all smiles, wiggles and tilted head. Nikki, stop this.

She drops her laundry bag and says, “That foot massage this morning… Were you trying to turn me on?” I get a wink. “It went from massage to stroking. It was very nice.”

No…” I lean back against the wall and stare at the ceiling. “Well … it didn’t start off like that, honest.”

Tea? Your room?” Huge pupils.

Nikki … you … know what could happen.”

Yes. But it’s never going to happen if we wait for you to make the first move.”

But what if you … you get pregnant?”

She shrugs. “We’ve both done the midwifery module. I think that gives us a rough idea.”

There’s something in her eyes. A whirlpool. I want to drown. I think she knows. That makes me me want to drown more.

I say, “Nikki … uh … there are problems.” She’s looking at me and trying not to giggle.

Someone isn’t in control here and I think it’s me. I go on, “Look, I like you … so much … but, really, what if you get pregnant? Children need a mum and a dad. That means we need to… That’s a whole wheeling of pushchairs and showing toddlers how to feed the ducks at the pond. Then there is the getting the children to school and university and helping them through all the crap relationships … and then they have their own babies! It’s total commitment for ever. It has to be. We’re both trained nurses: we know about children.” This is so weird. I always assumed the fall in love moment was supposed to be all dizzy with long silences and lingering eye-contact. Instead we’re as high as kites and trying not to laugh.

Nikki winks at me and presses her cheek against mine, her hot, happy tears on my skin. She says, “At last! I knew I’d catch you with your guard down eventually.” She reaches for the door handle. Feeling brave? Tea or whatever. One way or the other, this is where it could all start.”



©Gary Bonn, 2016

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