Four am. The witching hour.
And the longest single hour of an overnight shift. Anybody who does shift work would tell you that. At least the nurses. I couldn’t exactly speak to another profession. It was my third and final shift of the week. I’d been offered an overtime shift on Friday or Saturday night. And I’d seriously contemplated it. I didn’t necessarily need the money, but what girl didn’t like a little extra cash. Overtime with night shift and weekend shift differential? Even better. But I’d stupidly promised CJ I’d go to the Rebel Soul’s club with her. If I bailed, she’d kill me.
But I had no desire to go. Those bikers terrified me. The tattoos. The drinking. The women. The danger. Charlie said they didn’t hurt women. But how could she possibly know that was true?
And more than that, girls who looked like me weren’t welcome there.
Thicc girls were only okay if they had a small waist to go with their ass and thick thighs. I definitely had an ass and thighs, boobs too, but my waist was not small.
It wasn’t for lack of trying.
Letting my best friend of twenty years convince me to do reckless things was pretty much on par for our relationship. She was the bad influence. And I loved her for it. Because of her I’d lived in high school and college instead of just letting the time pass me by studying.
But this was by far the most foolish decision I’d ever let her talk me into.
Before my mind could wander too far and I could start my research on the latest diet trend, the alarm sounded, letting me know my ninety three year old Alzheimer’s patient was climbing out of bed. Again.
All three nights the day shift nurse told me she was the sweetest little lady. Well, she had a serious case of sun downing and turned into a little gremlin lady with the strength of the hulk as soon as my shift started.
Standing from the chair in front of the computer where I was charting I walked into her room. “Mrs. Sanders, do you need help?”
“No. I don’t need help from you,” she seethed. I took a deep steadying breath. “Go eat another cheeseburger,” she snapped.
The witching hour. Every damn night.
“Mrs. Sanders, it’s the middle of the night. Four in the morning.”
“Lies!” She shouted.
I had to calm her down because if I didn’t and she tried to stand, she’d fall, which could potentially break her hip. Which would most likely kill her. Not the fall itself. But men and women of her age with that type of fracture rarely lived another six months.
“No wonder you’re not married,” she sneered. “Men don’t like fat girls.” Taking another deep breath I pulled my ASCOM phone out of my scrubs and called the charge nurse.
“Suze, it’s Carrie. I’m in room twenty-two. Mrs. Sanders. Can you please bring me point five of Ativan?”
“Be right there,” she said.
Mrs. Sanders continued her verbal assault on me. I tuned her out, but stayed close enough that if she tried to stand, I could catch her when she fell. Ignoring her was easy as she rambled, but I still caught a few of her choice words. Fat. Pig. Gross. Ugly.
She was ninety-three and had dementia, but she was only repeating the words everyone else thought when they looked at me.
The words stung, but I wouldn’t fall apart at work.
“Here ya go,” Suze said. Taking the needle and syringe along with the vile. Pulling up the chart on the bedside computer, I scanned the label of the medication and then the patient bracelet on Mrs. Sanders’ wrist while Suze distracted her. Once the medication was scanned and confirmed to be right I let Suze distract her while I pushed the medication into the IV.
It wasn’t like tv where it worked immediately, but because of her age and size, it would work pretty quickly.
“Do you want to try and get some more sleep? I know you want to go to the store, but it doesn’t open for a few hours. Why don’t I come back and we can go together when it’s open?”
“You’re so sweet,” Mrs. Sanders said sweetly, slapping her hand against Suze’s cheek a few times lightly.
I watched as Suze helped her back into bed while I stood quietly near the door and tried not to draw any attention to myself.
“I’ll be back when it’s time to leave for the store,” Suze said, lying easily.
“Thanks,” I said when we were back in the hallway.
“No problem,” she replied. We stood there, rubbing foam hand disinfectant into our hands.
It wasn’t hard to figure out why Suze was more likable to Mrs. Sanders. She fit into society’s definition of beauty. She was tall and thin.
Health wasn’t important. It didn’t matter that she had high cholesterol and high blood pressure, making her technically unhealthier than I was. I didn’t have either of those things. But people only saw the outside. She was aesthetically pleasing so she was healthy. That’s all society saw.
“Do you need any more help?”
“No, I just need to finish my charting.”
“Okay. Holler if you need me.”
She walked back towards the front of the unit, where most of the other nurses were all sitting around while the patients slept. I wasn’t anti social, but it was hard sitting around listening to a bunch of average sized or smaller girls bitch about the size of their ass and thighs while I was standing right next to them. If they were talking like that about their bodies, what would they say about mine?
Of course they wouldn’t say anything to my face. And if they did it would be under the veil of being concerned for my health. Which was just a pretty way to try and fat shame me without them having to feel guilty about it.
It was the same with Mrs. Sanders; she’d probably always had those judgmental feelings, but because of her illness, she couldn’t filter them anymore.
I was so thankful it was my last night. Another night of being called horrible names would make me cry.
I was only human after all.
Putting my AirPods in, I turned on my most recent PCOS podcast and listened while I finished charting for the night. I had no medicine left to give and all of my assessments were done. One more round of vital signs at six in the morning and I’d be good to go. Hopefully all the morning labs came back within acceptable limits and I wouldn’t have to start a blood transfusion or hang magnesium or potassium. Or give calcium to chase it down. My man in twenty-four had done that to me last night.
One by one the labs on my four patients came back and they were all great. No extra work for me on my last night. My patient care technician also sweetly said she’d do all the morning vitals. I usually split the work with them. Not all the nurses did. But she had fifteen patients. I had four. I could easily take two off of her hands. I also knew the reason she did my four patients first was because I was the only one who ever offered to help her.
When m my ASCOM phone rang, I picked it up on the first ring. “Intermediate Cardiology, this is Carrie.”
“You see my name on your caller idea,” Suze chuckled. “We’re going to the cafeteria for breakfast. Do you want anything?”
“No, but thanks for the offer.”
“Okay,” she said hanging up.
Looking at the clock I ignored the rumbling of my stomach. I was doing intermittent fasting and wasn’t able to eat until twelve. Which would work out fine since that’s what time my alarm was set for. My post work nap would be short today. I had school work to do for my nutrition and hormone certification.
I blinked quickly, letting my eyes adjust when the unit secretary flipped on the light switch, indicating the first of day shift had come in.
By the time I was done giving report and handing over my patients, it was exactly seven thirty in the morning and time to go. Gathering my belongings I wished her a good shift before grabbing my stuff and heading towards the exit. I waved to the large group of day and night shift nurses still standing at the nurse’s station.
I didn’t subscribe to the unit gossip, which is what I was sure they were doing at this hour.
The drive home took only fifteen minutes. I was showered and in pajamas before eight fifteen and asleep within minutes.
The rest of the day passed the way most days do after I’ve come off a stretch of night shifts, in blur of exhaustion. I tried studying a little for my upcoming exam but it was no use, I’d have to repeat it tomorrow when I was better rested.
I had to keep busy and keep moving because if I didn’t if fall asleep and I’d screw up my sleeping pattern even more than it already was.
So I went to the bank, got a manicure and pedicure, went grocery shopping and cooked dinner for the next few nights.
When it was finally time to go to bed, I took an edible, making sure I’d stay asleep for at least nine hours and get back on track since next week I was back on day shifts. The back and forth was exhausting and not something they prepared me for in nursing school.
Wednesday I spent all day preparing for a project I had to do on the effects of prolonged elevated levels of cortisol on child baring age women with sub fertility disorders.
I could spit the information out in a presentation and answer questions accurately and throughly, but then why couldn’t I make my knowledge work to heal my own hormonal imbalances.
Thursday after I turned in my project I went shopping. If I was going to let Charlie drag me to this club, I at least needed to dress the part. Even if I didn’t feel like I belonged.
I absolutely loathed clothes shopping. Even the plus sized stores were frustrating. Because even though they were dedicated to women with more than average sized bodies, there were only ever small and regular sized women working there. I supposed not hiring them based on size would be just as discriminatory as not hiring someone because they were bigger. But it was just frustrating having to ask the opinions of skinnier women about how I looked. Their compliments always felt forced and fake, even though realistically I knew they probably weren’t. It was hard taking advice from someone who couldn’t relate to the struggles of being worried if something looked good on my apple shaped body.
It was no fault of the sales people themselves.
When I had a large selection of dresses in my hand I asked for the dressing room.
I tried them on one by one. The black one was nice. It had off the shoulder sleeves and a nice flowy style skirt, but if I knew Charlotte, she’d definitely be in black, and I didn’t want us to be matching. The green one didn’t have straps and even if I managed to squeeze myself into three strapless bras, it would never be able to support my boobs. The blue one just didn’t suit my skin color on a way that I liked. The last one I tried on was red. It had long lace sleeves which I wasn’t sure were still actually in style, but I liked the way they looked, especially since my arms made me self conscious. It was a little shorter than I would have liked but I’d deal with it.
Coming out of the dressing room, I looked at my reflection in front of the full length mirror.
“That looks great on you,” the teenage sales girl said.
“Thanks,” I said out of habit.
“We’ve for a large selection of control top lingerie.”
It was a well meaning comment which is the only thing hah prevented me from snapping at her. Not forcing myself into restrictive garments was the healthiest decision I’d ever made for myself. It was a battle that I’d lost for a long time, but the last body positivity book had finally made it stick. It was currently the only action in the win column, but it was better than the zeros across the board I’d been scoring in the battle with my mind and body.
“I’m all set, thanks.”
Going back into the dressing room, I changed back into my leggings and sweater before taking all four dresses out with me. I handed her the three I wasn’t buying before going to the register to pay for the red dress.
Walking through the mall, I put my head down avoiding having anybody I knew potentially see me. I was not in the mood for small talk. Not that I ever was.
I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw two huge bikers in Rebel Souls cuts walking down the mall hallway.
They were so intimidating.
Turning abruptly, I walked in the opposite direction of them. How was I going to survive going to their club when I couldn’t even walk past them in a public space. The mall was a lot safer than their clubhouse was. Wasn’t it?
I spent the rest of the night worrying how I was going to survive Friday night.
When Friday night was almost there and it was time for me to leave for CJ’s to go get ready with her, my phone beeped.
CJ: I don’t want my dad to know we’re going out so I told him I’m staying at your place.
CJ: I ordered an Uber. Be there in ten.
After reading her messages I unpacked the bag of stuff I’d packed to take over there, makeup, hair products, my dress and shoes.
Me: I’m getting in the shower. Use your key.
Turning the Bluetooth speaker in the bathroom on I pulled up Spotify and let some random playlist play. Under the warmth of the spray I shaved and washed my body. My hair was greasy, but dry shampoo would fix that. Dirty hair held on to style better anyways.
When I stepped out of the shower CJ was sitting on the vanity. “Crap!” I shrieked when I saw her. Unbothered by my nakedness, which she’d seen thousands of times she handed me a towel.
“You scared me.”
“You knew I was coming,” she said.
“I didn’t know I’d be giving you a peep show,” I countered.
“And what a show it was,” she licked her lips dramatically making me laugh at her. Walking past her I went to my bedroom and pulled a robe on before turning on my curling iron.
“Want me to do your hair?” She asked.
“Sure.” I could curl my own hair, but I absolutely hated it. I didn’t have the patience most times. CJ knew I was nervous, which is why she was helping me.
“What are you wearing?” She asked as she wrapped the first section of hair around the curling iron.
“I got a new dress from 16+. It’s red with lace sleeves. A little too short. You?”
“My black dress.”
I hummed at her answer. I’d been right. She talked a mile a minute about how exited she was and how much fun we were going to have. I nodded and smiled diligently at her in the mirror, but I was sure she knew I was faking.
After she finished my hair she started working on her own while I did my makeup.
“How are you really doing?” I asked.
I couldn’t help but think her wanting to go to the club had something to do with her mom leaving.
“Some days are okay. Some days aren’t,” she said truthfully. “I mean it hurts like hell that she left my dad. I always thought they were so in love, you know? But she didn’t just leave him. She left me too. She doesn’t return my calls or texts so I’ve just stopped.”
“I’m sure mama will adopt you,” I said.
“She better. We both know I’m her favorite child.”
I snorted out a laugh. That was true. My parents loved CJ like she was their own.
“Will you do my makeup she asked?” When I finished doing my own and she was done with her hair.
“Sure,” I smiled. I’d spent one too many a slow night shift looking at makeup tutorials on YouTube. It always caught up with me when I ended up having to do all my charting at the last minute because it inevitably got busy. It always did.
“You’re wearing black so I can do whatever you want,” I said.
“Full smokey eye,” she said quickly. It would definitely play up her blue eyes.
About fifteen minutes later I was done. “You still need to do your own mascara,” I said to her. “Otherwise we’ll have to start all over.”
No matter how much I tried I could not perfect putting mascara on another person.
While she finished her eyes I slipped into my new dress.
“You look gorgeous,” she said.
Part of me actually felt like that was true tonight.
I liked the feeling.
Hopefully it would last.
“Ready?” She asked when she’d put on some jewelry and her own dress.
“How do you even walk in those shoes?” I asked. Those heels had to be at least five inches. Mine were three. Maybe.
“Practice,” she shrugged. “Come on, the Uber is on the way.”
I still wasn’t comfortable with this. Nervous energy flooded me.
The ride to the Uber passed quickly with the driver not so subtly checking out CJ.
I nearly froze when we pulled up to the club, not daring to get out.
“Come on,” CJ called from the open back door of the car.
Sighing, I stepped out, but I couldn’t help but feel this was going to end badly.
Here goes nothing.