As the call ended, Dominic sat back and exhaled deeply, lowering against the headrest so he was facing the ceiling. Losing a patient was always hard; he would never get accustomed to the emotional pain of it. For a while, he and Gabriel had expected the inevitable. It was only a span till death struck, and when it finally did, even the expectation of it didn’t lessen the hurt.
He let his mind trail to the first time Gabriel had walked unto his office seven years back and had been administered his first anti-retroviral drug. After eight long years, the man had finally lost to fully blown AIDS. Worse, he’d only just realized on speaking with Gabriel’s sister, that the dead man had kept his status secret from his family, leaving him the bearer of bad news. He could still hear the deep sorrow in the woman’s voice when he’d relayed the news. She and the rest of the family would be boarding the next flight back to the country from Canada where they were based. It wasn’t a meet he was anticipating.
The loss took as much toll on Dominic as did other deaths. He should have listened to his mind when he’d crossed from health practitioner to confident. But seven years with a patient, it was impossible not to.
He badly needed to snap out of it, he’d do anything to get his mind off his dead buddy. So when the opportunity had presented itself, he readily volunteered for Eucheria’s shift. She was attending a play at her son’s school, she could never miss it; she’d missed just too many.
In the next few hours, Dominic plunged into rounds on Eucheria’s patients. The many critical situations took his mind off Gabriel and he did what he knew best, ending with Pelumi. She was the last on the list. On his way to her room, he summoned the matron. What better escort than a woman Pelumi seemed to be at ease with. If he were a patient, he too would feel the same way. For the matron had a motherly appeal that reminded him too much of his mother.
As they neared her room, he felt a rise in his spirit for the first time in his sourly day. He shoved the anticipatory tinge, convincing himself it was mere anxiety borne from her outburst a couple of days back. Whatever it was, was well justified, for, with Pelumi, one would never know what to expect.
On sighting her, Dominic felt as though the air was knocked out of him. She was a beauty in a simple yellow dress that complimented her skin. Mechanically, she drifted to them as they walked in; those huge eyes flitting first from him then to the matron, and back to him. There was so much hurt in those eyes, Dominic noted.
He also couldn’t ignore the fierce focus on him. He should have known coming was a bad idea.
“Where is Dr. Eucheria?” her tone stopped him.
“She is not around, I’m filling for her.” he tried to sound as normal and as blasé as he could. “Or would you prefer Chioma instead?” Chioma was an equally superb colleague.
She frowned a moment. “No, you are fine.” Her nonchalance caused an ache in Dominic.
Without stalling, Dominic launched straight into work with the matron acting as his hands. He would not touch her yet. She needed to get accustomed to his presence first, he thought. She needed to get into him. Into him? He flipped the words but shoved the nasty visuals as quick as it came.
Since the stir in his heart the past week, he’d done well to avoid her. But seeing her again had reopened all he was desperately trying to conceal.
Matron Claire’s motherly smile worked its effect on Pelumi. She seemed more at ease and even returned a smile when the woman strapped the blood pressure gauge around her arm.
“So how do you feel?”
Physically, she did look better, but the same could not be said of her mentally.
Through the test, she was cooperative, shifting and turning when she was asked to, and responding to inquiries.
When their gazes locked, Dominic sensed her underlying misery. Pelumi was back to her old self. This time even, she seemed more distressed. His heart broke. Pity, he corrected, and that was all to it, he assured himself as he scribbled his report.
Again, their gazes collided, he felt that rouse. Whatever his feeling for the hazel-eyed patient was, it needed to be addressed.
Through the remainder of the test, Dominic avoided gazes with her, until his absolute necessity to get close. He started towards her making small indicatory movements with his stethoscope to show his intention. Gently, he put it on her chest. She flinched as it touched her. He ignored it and forced himself to concentrate on her unusually rapid heartbeat. He frowned, and when he looked at her, her eyes were round as saucers.
He withdrew with an equally doubled heart rate and asked the matron’s assistance while Pelumi watched mildly surprised. The result this time was different. One could bet it was her phobia again. Pelumi was far messed up by her past than she or anyone knew. However, he hoped it was not permanent. His case was different; his was a result of heightened libido, badly needing to be put in check.
“How is Kamsi?”
He jolted out of thought. “She’s fine.” he managed a taut smile.
“She is your daughter right?”
“Yes.” he nodded, looking down at the report. But from the corner of his eyes, he could almost swear he saw a flicker of despair in those eyes.
“Regards to her.”
He nodded and turned to the matron, instructing some new medication to her dosage. With a few more words to the matron and none to the amnesiac woman, Dominic left, leaving both women glaring at his retreat.