To say the car ride over was awkward would have been an understatement. Both parties found themselves silenced by embarrassment and anxiety. Right before they began their journey to the café, they had caught scent of each other and were surprised by its impact. Nurse Mannion smelled of lavender mixed with fresh morning dew. Whereas Dr. Turner had a faint smell of anti-septic wash mixed with a hint of old-fashioned brylcreem hair product. Neither one could shake off the chill it sent through their bodies and remedied it with silence. However, it was Dr. Turner that finally broke the air of quietness.
“Well, I would fancy a bit of noise, would you like the radio? There must be something on, though I daresay if it will be any good.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t listened to much over the years, just a few records, nothing too recent.”
“Right, why would you? I sometimes forget how Nonnatus is still behind with the times. I’m still surprised Sister Monica Joan got her wish for the TV set to be installed in the living area. Besides the land-lined telephones and access to the internet via my clinic, it’s a dinosaur. Even the foundation is a possible hazard.”
His statement unnerved her a bit. ‘How could he forgot how long I’ve been at Nonnatus and hazard…it’s been standing for over fifty years?’ With a tight smile she nodded her head, but choose to remain silent. He glanced over then and saw her expression. ‘Dumb’ he thought. ‘How could I say that, of course I know how long she’s been there and the foundation? I just offended her home, really?’
Five minutes lapsed in more uncompanionable silence when the car bumped harshly on the road and stopped abruptly.
“Bloody hell! Of all days for my MG to act up on me. A classic on a good day, I promise you and I just had it checked last Sunday.”
“I don’t know much about cars, but should the hood be smoking like that?”
“You’re right. I’ll need to check on it, hold on a moment Nurse.” Exiting the now stationed car, he reached toward the hood that was radiating a large amount of heat.
“Darn, this might take a while!” he yelled towards her, his view was obstructed from the hood and failed to see her exasperated sigh. This day was unraveling from the seams in Shelagh’s opinion and couldn’t get any better from inside the car.
“What’s needed to be done Doctor?”
“Well, I think the problem lies in the water hose, you see the leakage right there. The serviceman said I should be careful not to over-heat the old gal, but I haven’t been. Just in case though, I purchased an extra hose that’s in the boot of my car.”
“Well, perhaps you have been overusing your car from being on-call most of the week and late nights. We’ve troubled you quite a lot I’m afraid.”
“Don’t be silly, I’m the closest GP around here and I know the nuns are always in need of reinforcements. You’ve worked a lot too. Whenever I’m on-call or at the surgery, your name is always listed, isn’t it?” A small glint in his eye went unnoticed by Shelagh as she felt her cheeks start to heat in the crisp air.
“I’m sure it isn’t all the time, but I do try to dedicate my time when needed. Like you said, reinforcements are needed.”
“I did, didn’t I?”
Beaming down at her, he realized the effect the cold air was having on her. Rosy cheeks started to peek through, along with a few wisps of her hair that escaped from the winter cap that was probably encased in an elaborate plaited bun. He wondered what her hair would feel like; her hair was always shielded by her nurse or surgery cap, if not that then by a winter hat or tight bun. He imagined his fingers running through it and her lips…he shook his head from his reverie, he was entering dangerous territory and needed to stop.
“Yes, well I suppose I should collect that extra water hose in the back then.”
“Right.” He watched her retreating form and silently reprimanded himself. ‘Where were those thoughts even coming from?’ But he knew already from before and after the Carter pregnancy, he kept seeing her in a new light. But were his feelings mutual or was it wishful thinking on his part?
“Here you go Doctor, I’m assumed it was this. There was nothing else in the trunk to indicate it wasn’t.”
“No you were right, but hold it for a moment.”
Confused she held onto the hose as she watched his quizzically. He removed his overcoat, which he handed to her and started at one end of his sleeve, then the other. He began to roll them up, a task that mesmerized Shelagh as the skin of his forearms were exposed.
She didn’t know why, but she started to wonder how soft and firm his skin would feel underneath her touch. Fingertips grazing over the hairs of his arms, traveling up to any destination she wanted. Her thoughts were stopped when she dropped the hose and his coat to the ground.
“I’m, I’m so sorry Doctor Turner. I’m never this clumsy, I hope I haven’t damaged your coat nor the hose. What wrong with me today?”
“Please, it’s quite alright Nurse. If anything I need to apologize, I interrupted your solitude earlier and now I’ve stranded us on the road during this terrible weather. I can’t seem to do much right these days.”
“I wouldn’t say that and I quite like this weather actually.” Recovering from her reverie, Shelagh tried to steer the conversation elsewhere.
“Your intentions were never hostile, you’re terribly hard on yourself. We all know what a terrific GP you are, as well as a father. Timothy never stops talking about his future aspirations to be a doctor just like you.”
“I wouldn’t go that far. Ever since…since Marianne’s passing I felt at lost with Tim. He’s just a boy who shouldn’t have to live with the loss of his mother. It’s been a year, but I still don’t know how to go about compensating for his loss. How did- no I mean, sorry. Never mind.” He turned back to the task at hand, allowing for the leak to subside and prepared for the new hose to be installed.
“Doctor, it’s quite alright, really. You were going to ask about my own loss weren’t you?”
“I’m sorry, but yes. I swear I don’t mean to pry.”
“No. I brought it up earlier in one of our conversations…I was older than Timothy, but the loss was the same. The difference laid in my father, who couldn’t deal with the loss of my mother and it just became too much. He was stoic, or rather mentally absent, which affected his work and our relationship. It was too much for him to bare and the only way for him to cope was…was for me to leave.”
“I’m sorry, but you had to leave?” He picked his head up from the radiator and tried to read her expression, but her face was turned. He could only see her side profile, but could tell her thoughts were elsewhere.
“Yes.” The conversation was treading on very personal waters. “I suppose, when I was younger, I was quite a handful. My father couldn’t cope and he…let’s just say he needed to close that chapter of his life behind him.”
“I see, I never knew. I’m so sorry you had to live through that.”
“But I did and that’s what truly matters. The Lord paved that path of my life to endure and please don’t worry about it Doctor. My past is my past and I have grown from it, all for better I might add. I’ve been luckier than most and so has Timothy.”
He had already given up on the radiator and was beside her now. Perched on the car, they stood there lost in their own separate thoughts.
“I don’t know if I can compare his experiences to yours nor my own abilities as a father. I’ve tried to be there for him, but I don’t know at times. I threw myself into work, which was selfish on my part and I haven’t been there for him like I should.”
“But you cannot feel guilty, for you have acknowledged the need for change. It won’t happen all at once and Timothy knows you struggle as well. You’re a good father and he’s a good son, trust me.” Her smile was not forced in anyway and felt loads lighter, genuine in the time unexpectedly shared with Doctor Turner.
“Please Nurse, you’re too kind. Here you are helping me in my self-doubts while I promised you a warm cup. Especially on your day off, after I fix this we can get on to the café and salvage the rest of the day.”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about. The day hasn’t been completely ruined and I’ll have plenty of days off in the future. Here, what else can I do to help fix your old MG?” She said with a tiny hint of mischief in her eyes.
“Old? I daresay there might be some truth in that statement, but certainly not. Perhaps fickle? I’d comprise on that.” He returned the genuine banter and resumed his work.
“I’ll compromise on that as well then Doctor.”
“Wise choice Nurse. Though I daresay my MG is quite- Ouch!”
“Your hand, let me see.”
“Damn, I guess I didn’t evade the heat of the radiator well enough. It’s not serious to warrant-ouch.”
“Please, let me see.” Doctor Turner finally conceded and extended his hand over to her.
“Right, it’s a good burn, but seems superficial. It’ll need burn ointment and perhaps a bandage to avoid any infection before it blisters over.” Her tiny hands barely covered the surface of his, which she noted were firm from the years of his diligent services. His hands were warm though, large and comforting in her mind.
“Yes, I wouldn’t want to ignore your orders.”
Their eyes met then and the air between them suddenly changed. From clumsy awkwardness, to serious overtones, to banter, and now a different type. The atmosphere felt right at that moment and exactly what they unknowingly needed from each other. His thoughts were blank, everything seemed insignificant in comparison when her hands were on his.
“Yes, I would hope not.”
But the moment was over as soon as it began…
I am a complete mess this past week, this took me so long to write and upload! I don’t know why, but hopefully chapter 4 progresses a lot better. Any who, I hope this isn’t a total mess and you all enjoyed it thus far!