Chapter 1 - Beth
The bile tasted bitter in my mouth. I did not need to call upon my six years of medical training to realise that the symptoms of amenorrhea combined with morning sickness and aching breasts were sufficient to tell me that I was probably pregnant. I lifted my head up from the toilet bowl and was glad that Liam was working nights this week. I would not want him to see me like this. Our paths would be crossing later that morning, but by then I knew I would be ravenous again and he would not suspect a thing. As I cleaned my teeth I decided to ask Mona, my new A&E colleague, to take some blood for an HCG; I wanted to be certain.
The alarm would not go off for another two hours. I climbed back into bed, but could not settle down. The thought of a new little life growing inside me was enough to banish all sleep from my brain, and I ached to tell Liam the news.I twisted the engagement ring around on my finger, willing the hours to pass until I saw him again around 09:30.Eventually I gave up, got out of bed and took a shower.By the time I had dried my hair I was feeling much better.
He crashed through the door of our accommodation unit, dog tired.Nights did not agree with him; I think it had some strange effect on his alimentary canal.He always felt nauseated until he managed to eat some breakfast.
“Hi! Busy night?”
I put my arms around him; he smelt of sweat, antiseptic and weariness.I knew I would be giving out the same odour by 10pm when my shift ended.He sighed and yawned simultaneously.
“Nicky was off sick again.There was just Isaac, me and three nurses.Thank God it wasn’t a Friday night, eh?”
He kissed me and I enjoyed the all-too-brief feeling of his arms around me.Standing there together in our little room I wanted time to stand still.Unsure as to whether my sudden fear at losing him was due to my possible delicate condition or just a vague worry that he might find somebody else one day, I held him tighter than usual.
“Are you okay, Beth?”
He cupped my chin with his hand and I lifted my face to look up at him.
“I just missed waking up with you, that’s all.”I smiled.
“Same here.”He yawned again. “What’s to eat?”
“Beans on toast, or boiled eggs.”I could not stomach frying rashers of bacon at that precise moment.
“Just some toast for now.I can’t eat much. I’m going to have a shower and then hit the sack.”
He wriggled out of my embrace and headed for the bathroom, divesting himself of his clothing along the way.The urge to pick them up and put them in the laundry basket was overwhelming, but I was not going to start doing the same thing as my mother had done for over 30 years of married life.I left them where they lay; a soiled trail, a testament to my hard-working but rather laid-back fiancée.
I smiled at Liam, as wrapped in my towelling robe and still damp from his shower, he came and stood behind me as I fed slices of bread into the toaster. I turned and buried my face in his chest, inhaling a pleasant aroma of shower gel.
“Mmmm……you smell lovely.I wish I didn’t have to go to work later.We could stay in bed all day”
“Working nights sucks big time.”He smoothed my long hair with his hands and kissed the top of my head.
“At least you’ll get next week off.” I wrapped my arms around his waist. “I love you.”
“And I love you. Come and eat some toast in bed with me.”
How could I resist?The toast was thick and buttery, and our unmade bed suddenly looked rather inviting now that Liam had divested himself of my robe and was climbing naked under the sheet.Giggling like two naughty teenagers caught having sex by an irate parent, I set the alarm for 1pm, piled a plate high with toast, and mindful of crumbs, we ate close together over a tray and sipped hot, sweet tea.Hunger pangs catered for, we then made slow delicious love, savouring each other’s bodies as though it was the last day on earth.Sated, we fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Goodness knows how Liam could have slept through the radio alarm blasting out ‘Layla’, but he did.I rose up like a startled fawn and re-set it for Liam, momentarily angry that our peace had been shattered.Showering again and dressing quickly, I grabbed a sandwich and a cup of coffee, checked that my bleep and badge were in my bag, and scribbled a heart on a post-it with our names inside, leaving it on my pillow for Liam to find.
It was a five minute walk to the Accident & Emergency department.The warm May afternoon held a promise of summer days to come, and I sauntered happily along the hospital paths enjoying the fresh air.As always I wondered what would be waiting for me in A&E when I got there.Unlike Liam I enjoyed the drama. Liam favoured paediatrics, but I liked the challenge of making an on-the-spot diagnosis.I really could not see myself working in any other speciality.
What with the ruptured appendix, the gallstones, the WPW Syndrome, numerous fractured limbs, and trying to communicate with dazed geriatrics, my intention to ask for an HCG test eventually remained unrequested.It was only at 22:15 when I left the hospital to walk home that I remembered I had not had a chance to speak to Mona.I made a mental note to rectify this the following day.
The hospital grounds were quiet, apart from the sound of a car’s engine. I walked along, happily thinking about what our baby might look like.I recognised the face as he drove up beside me and opened the passenger window.The drug addict was asking for directions to A&E again.I had found him overtly licentious when I had treated him previously for pain, haematuria and withdrawal.If I had not stepped back from the trolley he was lying on at the time he would have reached up and touched my hair, so enamoured was he of my long blonde ponytail.
I tried to think of his name, but it escaped me.There was a strong smell of aftershave.I had to lean in to make eye contact, but remember nothing more after that.