Secret Valentine (Corey shares a revelation)

Chapter 34

Standing next to me on the front step as I unlock the door to my house, Corey asks, “How was your shift?”

I stop for a moment in the open doorway thinking about my answer.

“Well, it’s a stressful shift when I use cuss words as punctuation; silently of course, I’m a peds nurse.”

He laughs while putting his arm around my shoulders. “Understood. Let me help you relax.”

After making love, Corey rubs my feet, and then paints my toenails. I hold the camera, and photograph him while he works, using the macro function. I capture the images one after another: His hands, my feet. A bottle of red nail polish. My secret valentine.

Corey is in silent concentration, laying down each stroke of polish perfectly. Occasionally, his touch tickles me. “Don’t move,” he murmurs, “Don’t move.”

I’d stay like this forever, if it were possible.

After he’s finished, Corey sits next to me in the bed, resting on a couple pillows propped against the headboard.

“Let me see the camera, Niki.”

He points the lens towards me, and after making a few quick adjustments, he takes a photograph.

“Il mio bellissima amore,” he says.

“Did you learn that in Italian for me?” I’m a little impressed.

“Si, il mio amore.”

“Grazie.”

He hands the camera back, and carefully I set it on the bedside table.

“Niki, I love you. I don’t want to sneak around anymore. I’m going to leave Sheila.”

Unsure of my response, I try to remain neutral.

“I’m not sure what to say Corey. What does the future look like to you?”

“I’m spending it with you, Niki.”

I can’t help it. I’m happy. I lean in and kiss him. “And what are we doing in our future?”

“I’m thinking of going back to school. I’ve applied to a few NP programs; a couple are out of state. I’d like to stay local though, near my kids. I’d get an apartment. We could give our kids time to get to know ‘us’. After they’re used to the idea, we could move in together. I love you Niki. I think we should give it a real try.”

“I love you too, Corey. Of course I’ve thought about it, but I never really expected you to leave Sheila. This is really big.”

“I know. It is big. Sheila and I have been unhappy for years, but I always thought I’d stay until the kids finished school. But every shift in the ER I see patients who thought they had more time, more years, one more day. Then they smash into a semi-truck, or are shot behind the counter of a convenience store. Or cancer invades their bodies, or their heart stops suddenly, just like that. Life is fragile Niki, and no one’s promising us anything. Life is too short to waste time being unhappy. I want to be happy, Niki. And I want you to be happy too. I want to be with you.”

“Corey…” Before I can finish the sentence, we’re kissing, and making love again, smearing red nail polish all over the white sheets of my bed.

Call Lights Magazine: Looking for Real Nurses (Niki & her friends apply for modeling)

Chapter 30

Walking into the staff lounge, I find Kris, Liz, and Kathy laughing and talking excitedly.

“Here she is,” says Liz. “I bet Niki will come with us.”

I head towards the phone to clock in and ask, “Go where?”

Kris holds up a magazine. “Call Lights Magazine is looking for real nurse models for an article on different types of scrubs. It’s an open call on Tuesday. The three of us are going. Wanna carpool with us?”

“What’s Call Lights Magazine?”

“It’s a new lifestyle magazine for nurses,” explains Liz. They print stuff like healthy recipes for packed lunches, tips on keeping your make up fresh during a twelve-hour shift, and articles about relationships. It’s pretty cool.”

“I read it, but I’m not sure why nurses need a magazine like this. There’s not much clinical information in it.” This from Kathy.

“There are over three million nurses in the United States, Kathy,” interjects Kris. Magazines like Call Lights give advertisers access to an otherwise untapped market. It’s pretty smart.” Kris is worldly wise, no doubt.

“Oh yeah, I’ve read that magazine. They’re looking for real nurse models? That sounds like fun. Yeah, I’ll go,” I say.

“Awesome! We’ll meet in the hospital parking lot on Tuesday at seven. We’ll stop for coffee. Liz will drive.

“This will be a blast, even if I’m not chosen as a model,” I muse.

“You never know. You can’t win unless you play,” adds Kris.

***

On Tuesday, Kris, Liz, Kathy and I pile into Liz’s car, and head over to a coffee shop close by the hospital. As the four of us enter the shop, we stop just short of bumping into a police officer making his way out.

“Excuse me,” says the officer, and then, “Hey, Nurse Niki!”

It’s Officer Mike, the cop who accompanied the child abuse patient a while ago.

“Officer Mike, hi! Finishing a coffee break?”

“Yeah, and now it’s back to work. Good to see you again, Nurse Niki.”

“And you, Officer Mike. Bye.”

“Didn’t we meet him in the PICU, Niki? asks Liz.

“Yeah, he brought in that kid with the lacerated liver, remember? He gave me his business card.”

“So did you go out with him? Kris asks.

“No, I’m not ready to start dating. It’s too soon after my divorce.”

Liz gives me a funny look, but doesn’t say anything.

With lattes in tow, we get back into the car and arrive at the address where screening the potential nurse models will take place. In reality, it’s a tiny, vacant storefront, with sheets in the window concealing a heavyset woman wearing hipster glasses, and designer jewelry. She’s seated at a folding table next to a fortyish looking man, also wearing hipster glasses. We don’t know this right away, however, because when we arrive we take our place in line on the sidewalk behind approximately 100 other nurses also wanting to be models.

The line moves slowly. Latecomers collect behind us. My feet are starting to hurt. Why is it I can run continually for a twelve-hour shift without my legs bothering me, but standing still in line is killer?

After a couple of hours, Kris, Liz, Kathy, and I are at the head of the line, where we’re handed clipboards bearing several forms to fill out.

“Wow, you have quite a turnout,” I remark to the woman in hipster glasses.

“Yes, we certainly do,” she agrees. “We used to do our nurse model calls by email, you know, asking for a jpeg photo, and information about the applicant, but we were getting applications from would-be actors, and models pretending to be nurses for the exposure. So now you have to present your nursing license or employee badge in person, and sign this declaration stating you are in fact a nurse before we accept your application. After that, we’ll take a photo of you, and attach it to your application. You’ll be contacted in a few weeks after we’ve made our decision.”

“How many nurses will you choose? asks Kris.

“Six for this particular shoot,” says the woman, “but we’ll keep everyone’s information; you may be contacted for future issues.”

After completing the forms we hand them to the guy wearing hipster glasses. He leads us further back into the storefront, where a camera is set up and a floor light next to it. He directs us to sit, one at a time, on a stool in front of the camera, and takes a full-face picture. Then he has each of us stand, and takes a full body shot too.

“Okay, ladies, that’s it for today,” he announces. Thank you very much for participating in a Call Lights Magazine event. You’ll be hearing from us soon.”

Several weeks later, we did in fact, and I was chosen as a Call Lights Magazine real nurse model!

Sins of Omission (Niki keeps a secret & learns another)

Chapter 28

In the parking lot, Corey is standing by my car.

“You and Corey are seeing a lot of each other this week,” observes Liz, whose car is parked near mine.

I smile without comment.

Immediately, Father Michael’s catechism lecture when I was eight years old pops into my head: “Children, there are two kinds of lies.”  The priest, dressed in black with a stiff white collar clinging tightly to his pink neck, rocked back and forth on his heels with his hands resting on a round belly the way a pregnant woman might. “Children, there are two kinds of lies, aye, those of commission, and those of omission. Either are the work of the devil, and bring tears to your Father in heaven.”

Oh Lord. I shake this memory from my mind.

“Hi Corey. See you later Niki. Thanks for sharing your food tonight.” Liz gets into her car, and drives off.

“How was your shift?”

“Crazy busy. And then Dr. Kearney ate Liz’s potato chips. Kathy and I shared our food with her. Thanks for the cupcake, it was a nice treat. We split it three ways. How was ER?”

“You’re welcome. The usual, ‘I’ve had this terrible pain for two weeks, and randomly decided to come to the ER tonight to find out what it is’ patient, the perennial, ‘I stuck something where I shouldn’t have, and now I can’t get it out’ patient, your garden variety chest pains, and a kid needing a breathing treatment for asthma. It wasn’t too bad.”

We stood next to my car for a few moments in silence.

Giving Corey a hopeful look, I venture, “I still owe you breakfast.”

“Yes, you do.”

“Follow me home?”

“Naw, I’ll meet you there. I know my way.”

***

After making love, I scramble eggs while Corey fixes toast. I found a forgotten bottle of sparkling wine in the fridge, and combine generous pours with orange juice in a couple champagne flutes.

“Corey, I’m taking Maddie to visit my sister Raquel for the weekend. We’re leaving in the morning. We’ll be back Sunday afternoon.”

“That sounds like fun. Are you going to tell her about us?”

My heart catches in my throat at the thought of this. “You mean Maddie?”

“No, I mean your sister.”

I relax. “If I do, what should I tell her?”

“That there’s an ER nurse who’s crazy about you, and that’s who’s texting you all weekend.”

“Are you crazy about me?”

“Oh yeah, babe.”

I lean over and kiss him, nearly knocking one of the mimosas off the table.

***

That the afternoon I pick up Maddie from school. In the car I ask her,

“Are you excited about going to see Aunt Raquel and Uncle Grant? Your cousins are looking forward to our visit. Get your things packed tonight so we can leave first thing in the morning, okay? Do you need laundry done?”

“Yeah, I need my skinny jeans washed. I guess I’m excited. Dad and Amber are taking Wade to the Natural History Museum this weekend. I’ve been there a million times, so it’s okay if I miss it.”

Amber? Who’s Amber? This is the first time I hear her mentioned.

“Who’s Amber and Wade?” I hope I sound nonchalant, not nosy.

“Oh. Miss Greeley. She’s our principal. She used to be Mrs. Greeley, but she’s divorced like you and Dad are. Her name is Amber.”

“And she’s friends with your dad?”

“Yeah. They’re dating.”

“Your Dad’s dating your principal? His boss? Uh, that’s nice. Is Wade her son? How old is Wade?”

“Yeah. He’s four. He’s really cute. I always wanted a little brother.”

This is starting to feel weird. I say, “Well, that’s very special, Maddie.”

We drive the rest of the way home in silence.

 

A Mid-Tone Grey

Chapter 26

With his body wrapped around mine, Corey falls asleep before I do. Outside, the bright morning sun filters through the heavy window drapery, illuminating the bedroom to a mid-tone grey. I watched him sleep, wondering what will happen next.

As if he feels my gaze touching him, Corey wakes with a start, realizes where he is, and then nuzzles my ear and neck with his lips. “Hello, Beautiful. What time is it?”

“Ten, and I haven’t made breakfast yet,” I breathed back. “Is there time?”

“Not now. I work again tonight. You too, right?”

“Yeah,” I sighed.

“I better get going. Do you mind if I take a quick shower first?”

“No that’s fine. Any chance that Sheila’s going to be there when you get home?”

“It’s not likely. She has coffee with her friends after yoga class, but you never know.”

“What will you tell her if she is?”

“I haven’t gotten there yet. I don’t really have anything figured out past this moment, Niki.” He rubs my shoulders, and I want him again.

We make love sweetly. Languorous, I lie in bed listening to the running water while Corey showers. He’s humming.

I watch him put his scrubs back on before getting out of bed and slipping on my old flannel robe. Together we walk to the front door. Corey puts his hands on both sides of my face, and kisses me long and deep.

“You better go.”

“See you tonight Niki.”

Closing the door quickly, I watch him walk up the street to his car from behind the living room curtain.

“Oh lordy, what am I doing?” I’m smiling.

In the kitchen, I throw out the eggs, placing the bowl and whisk in the sink to wash later. I refill my tote bag with its scattered contents collected from the floor and place it back on the table.

Before sliding back into bed, I make sure the alarm is set, and the phone ringer off. There’s a text message from Corey on my cell, “Sweet dreams, Lovely.”

I text him back with an emoticon of a smiley face blowing a kiss.

I sleep better than I have in months. I wake up looking forward to going to work.

He’s Not Here For Omelets (Eggs are broken)

Chapter 25

Corey’s car is in my rear view mirror the entire drive home. For a moment I ask myself, “What are you doing?” but the thought is overcome by that floaty, out-of-body feeling I get sometimes. From here on out, I’m both audience and actor in a disconnected state.

I park in the driveway, but Corey does not pull in next to me. Instead, he parks down the block. It occurs to me that we can no longer be seen alone together outside of the hospital. Sex most certainly does change friendship between men and women.

Instead of entering through the garage as usual, I let Corey and myself in through the front door, conscious that the neighbors may be watching. Then I remember, “I’m divorced.”

Corey breaks the silence. “Nice house.”

“Thank you. It’s rented,” I don’t know why I think it’s important to announce this. “Come on back to the kitchen. I’ll fix breakfast.” I have no idea how to do this.

I put a pan on the stovetop. Then I place a bowl on the counter, and crack a few eggs into it. “What are you doing?” I chide myself. “He’s not here for omelets!”  Despairing, I viciously beat the eggs with a whisk.

Corey rises from the stool and stands behind me. His arms encircle my waist. He places small, warm kisses on the back of my neck. I continue to beat the eggs fiercely, but he presses the length of his body against my back, taking the whisk from my hand, and pushing away the bowl. His hands go up my scrub top, and lightly run across my breasts before unhooking my bra. I turn into Corey, and our mouths connect.

With our bodies locked, we stumble towards the kitchen table. Corey knocks my tote bag off of it. Then I’m lying on my back, with Corey kissing me and our hands are everywhere.

“Where’s your bedroom, Niki?” he murmurs into my ear.

Half naked, I lead him by the hand to the bedroom, where again, I’m struck with doubt. I haven’t been with a man except Simon for years.

Corey slips what’s left of my clothing to the floor, then pauses to take me in. My doubt melts away for the appreciation on his face. He pulls me close. “You’re beautiful Niki,” he whispers in my ear.

I lay on the unmade bed while Corey undresses. He’s perfect: broad shoulders, and a six-pack. I didn’t know they make nurses like him.

Corey slides into bed next to me.

Corey is above me. He kisses the small scar of my c-section. My hands are on his shoulders. Out of nowhere, I think of a dumb thing I read about nurses being the best lovers because we are so knowledgeable of the human body.

“Oh yeah,” I moan agreement towards the ceiling.

 

Follow Me Home (Niki changes her mind)

Chapter 24

Liz and I stop talking about my patient once we enter the elevator.  We leave the hospital, walking to the staff parking lot together.

“Who’s that standing by your car, Niki?”

“I’m not sure. It looks like Corey.”

It is Corey. He sees us.

“Hey Corey,” Liz says. “How was your shift?”

“The usual madness and mayhem of the ER.” He’s acting nonchalant, but I can tell he’s nervous.

“Well, it’s good to see you. Don’t be a stranger. And Niki, I’ll see you again tonight for another shift.” Liz heads off to her car, leaving Corey and I in awkward silence.

“So what’s that goofy expression on your face about, Corey?”

“Good to see you too, Niki. You’re not going to make this easy for me are you?”

“Sorry, Corey. My filters don’t work so good after a twelve-hour night shift. The truth is I’m really hurt that you’ve avoided me the past couple months, and now here you are! What do you want?”

“I’m sorry. I wanted to talk to you sooner. I miss you. Then Gerald told me you and Simon were divorcing, and then I felt like you’d think I was swooping in, and that’s not what I’m doing. I just miss you. I care about you Niki. I really do. That’s all. I’m sorry.”

The sincerity of his expression reveals the  eight-year-old boy in a man’s body. My God, he’s adorable. My rehearsed reserve melts just a little.

“Why does sex always ruin friendship between men and women?”  Groping for something to say, I resorted to cliché.

“We didn’t have sex, remember?” Corey pokes back. “You didn’t want me. That’s what hurt our friendship.”

I think about this for a minute.

“Corey, do you want to have breakfast?”

“Sure. Meet at the diner?”

“No. Follow me home. I’ll cook you breakfast.”

It Makes Me Shudder (When the line between victim & perpetrator blurs)

 Chapter 23

 The police officer stands silently in the doorway of my patient’s room, watching as I listen to her chest with my stethoscope. Her breath sounds are clear and equal on both sides. Next, I check the tube threaded through her nose into her stomach. It’s draining dark green fluid into a suction canister fastened to the wall. I measure the amount of fluid in the canister and record that number in the electronic chart. I feel her pulses. They’re strong, and easy to find, coinciding with the numeric value for her heart rate on the monitor overhead.

When I’ve finished the assessment, the officer speaks. “I don’t know how you nurses do it. I couldn’t work with hurt kids. It would break my heart everyday.”

“I don’t know, I guess I think of it more as helping,” I offer. “I couldn’t be first on the scene like you police officers. I mean, putting yourself in lethal danger in order to protect the nameless public takes more heroism than I could muster.”

“I guess we just sort of pick the kind of work we’re able to do, then. By the way, my name is Mike.”

“Hi Mike, I’m Niki. I’d shake your hand, but I need to wash it first, after I take off the glove.  I don’t want to be rude, but I’m pretty cautious about spreading germs.”

“Understood. Thanks for the information.” Mike has a cute smile, and gentle eyes. “Well, I gotta go and see if the detective has any new information for me. If she’s cleared for now, is it okay if I send the mother in to see her kid?”

“Sure.”

“Well, Nurse Niki, if you have any questions about the case, or information for that matter, feel free to give me a call. Here’s my business card.”

I watch Officer Mike leave the PICU, holding his card in my hand. He seems like a nice guy. Maybe in a few weeks I will call him. Maybe it’s time I stop wearing my wedding ring on my right hand and take it off altogether. I put his card in the pocket of my jacket.

Half an hour later, my patient’s mother enters the PICU. She’s young, early twenties. She’s wearing grey sweats that hang from her slim hips over a pair of black plastic flip-flops. A blue and black hoodie drapes over her ribbed white tank top, revealing an equally skinny torso.  She looks like she doesn’t get enough to eat, but her acrylic nails sport elaborate nail art. She’s wearing huge gold hoops in her ears too. ‘Go large or go home,’ comes to mind.

Mariella, our social worker, accompanies her, and introduces me to the mother, who looks me up and down suspiciously before noticing her unconscious daughter on the hospital bed with all the tubes connected to her. She starts to cry. This is the cue I depend upon in order to form some sort of therapeutic bond with parents of abused children until who hurt the child? is established.

I drag a lounger from the other corner of the room to the child’s bedside, and Mariella settles the mom into it, and then fetches a cup of coffee, and a blanket from the PICU’s warmer. She wraps the blanket around the mom’s shoulders, before handing her her card, and leaves the unit.

An awkward silence fills the room.

“So. Do you have any questions?” I begin.

“How long is she going to be in the hospital?”

“We don’t know that yet. Hopefully, she’ll come off the breathing machine sometime tomorrow. She’ll probably stay another night here, then be transferred to the regular pediatric unit, and spend some days there too. She’ll go home when there’s no bleeding and the surgeon lets her up out of bed.” I avoided adding, “Unless social services removes her to their custody.”

“Why would she bleed? I thought the surgeon fixed her?” She eyes me suspiciously again.

“She repaired your daughter’s liver, that’s right, but a lot of the body’s blood travels through the liver. There’s always a chance that the wounds will still bleed. She could lose a lot of blood again if that happens. We’re watching her closely to prevent that. That’s what all of these machines are helping us do.”

“Oh.”

In my experience, parents involved in their child’s abuse take one of two stances with nurses: They are either angry and argumentative, or they campaign to win our sympathy. This mom chose the latter.

“He didn’t kick her, you know. He works hard, and when he comes home he expects things to be in order. Sasha isn’t a good girl. She doesn’t do what she’s told. I have to get on her all the time. She lies too. I don’t know why they think he kicked her. Maybe she’s got cancer and it’s making her bleed.”

“Sasha doesn’t have cancer. The doctors can see that with all the tests, and during the surgery too. He’s not Sasha’s father, right?”

“Naw. He left before Sasha born. He was no good.”

I fall silent taking in this information.

“Has he hurt you or Sasha before?” I know I’m going to have to chart her answer.

“He’s only mad when we deserve it. He don’t hit when we do what we should.”

“Have you ever thought that you and your daughter deserve to be safe in your home? That a man shouldn’t hit a woman or child, ever?”

“You got a man, Nurse? You know how hard to raise a child alone is?”

A sudden realization slapped me in the face: This woman and I are both single mothers, wanting to have relationships with men who are not the father of our children. I could be her. The thought chilled me.

We didn’t talk much the rest of the shift. In the morning, Mariella returned with a female police officer. They escorted the mother out of the PICU. Soon afterwards, Mariella returned.

“They’re taking her down to the station. The boyfriend is saying she kicked the girl. He says he tried to stop her.  We’re hoping she’ll file a report against him with the details of the assault, so he can be charged.”

“You might want to know,” she added, “The mom is known to us. We have an open file on her. Sasha was the result of rape by her mother’s boyfriend. And our boyfriend, we’ve seen him before too, when his father was arrested for breaking his arm.”

I can’t believe Mariella earned a Master’s degree to do this kind of work. I think her job is more difficult than mine.

Later, I talk to Liz about it. “I hate when the lines between victim and abuser are blurred like this. I don’t understand how a mother wouldn’t choose a better life for herself, and especially for her child.”

“You’re new at being a single mother Niki,” she said. “You’d be surprised how lonely it can be out there.”

Something about the way Liz says it makes me shudder.

I know I won’t be giving Officer Mike a call anytime soon, either.

After The Flood (Nothing angers a PICU team like child abuse)

Chapter 22

At Raquel’s house, I sat on the sofa listening to The Cowboy Junkies with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Raquel brought me another mug of cardamom-spiced tea. Upstairs, Maddie played with her cousins.

Raquel sat on the sofa next to me, and put her head on my shoulder like she used to do when we were kids and something bad had happened.

“It feels like the flu, doesn’t it? The grief, I mean,” she said. “It’s weird how grief actually has physical symptoms: nausea, muscle aches, and shortness of breath.”

“How can you tell the difference between grief and an anxiety attack?” I asked.

“When it’s anxiety you can’t breathe at all,” was her answer.

“At least then I’d be unconscious. I might actually feel better,” I grumbled.

“I think it’s time we switched you to something stronger than tea. I’ll go open a bottle of wine. We’ll order pizza delivery for the kids’ dinner tonight. Grant can fend for himself.”

Maddie and I stayed the weekend with Raquel and Grant while Simon moved his things from our rented house into a near-by two-bedroom apartment. Because parenting Maddie was the only thing of value we shared, we were able to come to a divorce agreement through mediation. Our meager assets were split down the middle.

As for Maddie, we didn’t need King Solomon to decide what was best for her. Since she was at school during weekdays, Simon and I agreed that she would stay with him the nights I worked, and with me on my days off. We alternated weekends, and would take each holiday as they came.

“But Niki, that means you’re either at work, or have Maddie at home on your time off,” Raquel pointed out. “How are you going to have any sort of social life?”

“I’ll figure it out if it happens,” the words sounded doubtful, even to me.

 ***

I told Liz and Gerald about the divorce during a quiet moment at the nurses’ desk.

“Wow, Niki, I’m sorry to hear about you and Simon. I knew you were having troubles, but I always thought you’d work things out. I’m really sorry.”

“Thanks, Liz. The hardest part was making the actual decision. Once I knew that Simon was miserable too, the emotion sort of went out of it. I just hope Maddie will eventually understand.”

“How’s she doing?” asked Gerald.

“She seems okay. She uses it a little for sympathy. Like she complains about how hard it is to pack for her father’s during the week, so she wants new clothes to keep at Simon’s apartment. She also fibbed, ‘I forgot my homework at my Mom’s house,’ as an excuse to her teacher last week instead of owning up to not doing it. I guess it’s to be expected. Fortunately, the only thing Simon and I tend to agree on is how to raise her, so the rules are the same in both homes. Maddie’s the only thing we have in common anymore.”

“Have you told Corey yet?”

“No, I haven’t seen him lately.”

Liz said, “Oh,” but Gerald gave me this funny look before his pager went off, calling him to another unit.

***

 Around midnight, we admitted a seven-year old girl from the OR where a surgeon repaired her ruptured liver. A police officer trailed alongside her bed as it was pushed into the PICU room. He waited outside the door while Gerald connected her breathing tube to the ventilator, and I transferred the leads from a portable unit to the overhead monitor. A unit of red blood cells infused into her central line. Her vitals were stable.

The recovery room nurse read off report: a ruptured liver caused by blunt force trauma to her abdomen. This kind of injury often occurs during a bad car accident, but this little girl had been kicked in her stomach. Hard. By her mother’s boyfriend.

Horrified, I asked, “Why would a grown man kick a child?” then realized how naive I sounded.

The police officer answered, “The mother reports he kicked her after she brought home a kitten he’d told her earlier she couldn’t keep. He left the premises afterwards. We got the bastard. He made a call on his cell phone from a friend’s house. We picked him up a couple of hours ago.”

“Where’s her mother now? Was she with him?” I thought I might kill the guy if I’d been her.

“She’s the one who called the ambulance. The EMTs called us,” the officer continued. “She told them it was an accident, ‘he didn’t mean to get so angry, the girl doesn’t listen to what she’s told all the time.’ We have a detective interviewing her down the hall. She may be booked too, if there’s enough evidence.”

Nothing angers a pediatric intensive care team more than child abuse. We spend our careers saving the lives of children with defective hearts, lethal infections, or damaged in car accidents. Treating a perfectly healthy child whose parent battered them angers us more than pretty much anything. When the loving parents of our other patients see the police in the unit, they figure out the situation pretty quickly, and then the PICU becomes tense, more so than usual, fed by their anger too.

The Adventures of Nurse Niki is on holiday hiatus, resuming with the next chapter on January 2, 2014. Happy Holidays to all her readers!