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Authors: Peggy Gaddis

Nurse Hilary

BOOK: Nurse Hilary
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NURSE HILARY

Peggy Gaddis

Nurse Hillary had to answer two major questions in her life: how long could she be useful as a nursing assistant in a plush senior citizens' club, where one of the irascible guests made her life miserable? And what was she to do about her love for the attractive doctor who was too busy with his elderly patients to know that his young

and lovely

assistant had heart problems too?

 

To

My good friend,

SELMA YON
,

To whom I am deeply indebted

 

Chapter One

Dr.
Ellen Westbrook
unlocked her apartment door, sighing wearily as she put down her hat, gloves and indispensable black bag. It was after seven, and the wintry twilight was closing in. It had been a gruelling day, and she was painfully conscious that she was fifty-five instead of twenty-five, but she reminded herself ruefully that there really wasn

t much she could do about that now!

As she approached the small living-room of her apartment, lights sprang into being. Startled, she saw Hilary standing before her, wearing a fresh cotton housedress beneath a gaily coquettish white apron, her brown eyes alight with warmth and affection.


Well, it

s about time you got home,

she told her mother with pretended sternness, and caught the older woman in her arms, resting her cheek against her mother

s tousled hair.

You look completely whipped, darling! Rough day?

Dr. Westbrook kissed her daughter warmly and held her a little off and studied her tenderly.


Up to now, no more so than usual, but this is the treat that would put anybody back on her feet! Darling, it

s so good to see you! How are you?

She beamed happily.


Oh, I

m fit as a fiddle, to coin a
cliché
.

Hilary laughed.

The patient recovered—praises be! And I was dismissed, with fond phrases and the warm assurance that the next time a maternity case occurred in the family, I could have it. And knowing the family—well after all
...


That

s wonderful, dear. Oh, I

m so glad to see you!

Hilary embraced her, kissed her cheek and said briskly,

And I

m so glad to see you. Dinner

s almost ready. Scoot along and get ready for it. Put on something comfortable—


I may be called out
...

Dr. Westbrook hesitated.


We

ll take the phone off the hook,

said Hilary firmly.

Or better still, we

ll let the answering service take care of it and relay all calls to the hospital. Zounds, woman, don

t argue with me! After all, you aren

t the only doctor in town

you

re just the best! So give some other medic a break. I haven

t seen you in eight weeks; we

ve got catching up to do. Now hurry, or the steaks will be ruined.


It

s good to be bossed around for a change, instead of having to do the bossing,

admitted Dr. Westbrook, a twinkle in her eyes as she went to the bedroom to get ready for dinner.

When the dinner had been given their well-deserved attention, and they were lingering over coffee and cigarettes, having brought each other up to date on what had happened since last they had been together, Dr. Westbrook remembered something.


Oh, by the way, I had lunch with Sara Middleton today,

she announced.


Well, hooray for you—that you had lunch, period! You often don

t, as I well know,

answered Hilary.

But I

m afraid I don

t know Sara Middleton; I hope she was fun to lunch with.


Oh, but surely you remember Sara,

protested Dr. Westbrook.

She was a senior student nurse when I was doing my first year as interne. We often retired to the linen room together to weep.


Now that I can

t believe!

Hilary insisted.

You weep?


Don

t make me sound so unfeeling!

Dr. Westbrook said instantly.

I admit I don

t weep easily—and never in public

but Sara and I were scared to death of the staff, and she was terrified of the superintendent of nurses who was a tyrant of the first water. It was years later before we could both realize that the staff and the superintendent were just trying to do a good job so we could learn to do a good job.

Hilary smiled at her fondly.


Look, honey, just two years and one month ago, I was a senior student nurse. Believe me, I could have wept with your Sara at the drop of a scalpel!

Dr. Westbrook smiled.


Well, anyway, Sara has a most interesting job now,

she reported.

She is head nurse at that very plush Senior Citizens Retirement Club you have read about in the newspapers for the past year.

Hilary

s brows went up in surprise.


Oh, did they finally get the place finished? Sure, I read about it. It was supposed to cost umpteen-thousand dollars, and only the

feelthy rich

could afford it. I seem to remember that rates began at five hundred a month for what they laughingly called non-nursing patients,

she said.

As if anybody old enough to be a senior citizen didn

t need supervisory nursing care, anyway.

Dr. Westbrook nodded.


Well, of course they do, and that

s why Sara is trying to find an assistant,

she answered.

They need three R.N.s., five practical nurses, ward maids and all the rest, but Sara is very choosy about her assistant. She has one R.N., so newly fledged that Sara says it

s going to be almost like taking on a raw probationer. But she

s strong and willing and dedicated; also, she

s very pretty, and it seems the Senior Citizens like to have somebody around who is pleasing to the eye.

Hilary smiled wryly.


Until they need an injection, and the needle isn

t properly sterilized or sharp enough,

she pointed out.


Well, of course,

agreed Dr. Westbrook.

Sara asked if I thought there was any chance of getting you as her assistant, and I said you were on a case and I didn

t know how soon you

d be available.


Tell me more,

Hilary suggested, smiling.

How large is the place? And where it is? I

ve never been quite sure in my mind about it. Frankly, I never believed they

d get the money to build it.


Sara says there are forty private rooms, each with bath, not too large, of course; and two wards, with ten beds each,

Dr. Westbrook explained.

Twenty elderly women, twenty elderly men in the private rooms; and the wards will accommodate ten each. There

s a waiting list, she said, because the place is full to capacity, and the administrator, Drew Ramsey, is trying to get the Foundation to enlarge the place. He is quite sure more space can be filled as soon as the paint gets dry.


He sounds like an optimist,

said Hilary dryly, and added quickly,

Oh, not but what there are plenty of elderly people in need of that kind of care; but how many of them can afford it?


Sara says they have to charge enormous fees, because the people they cater to wouldn

t have anything to do with the place if it didn

t cost an awful lot,

Dr. Westbrook answered, and waited.


It does sound interesting,

Hilary mused aloud.

You

ve aroused my curi
osity, Dr. Westbrook, and since I

m between jobs at the moment
...”


You really should have a vacation before you start another job,

Dr. Westbrook looked a trifle guilty.

You

re barely off a case and now I

m trying to get you out on another. And we never seem to have any time together any more.

Hilary reached across the table and covered her mother

s hand with her own. She felt the blunt, colorless nails, the faintly enlarged knuckles, the scrubbed, roughened palms, and tears sprang to her eyes.


You

re very sweet,

she told her mother, her eyes warm, her voice gentle.

And I love you very much.


Why, thank you, darling,

Dr. Westbrook was quite pink.

And I rather like you, too.


Thank you,

said Hilary politely, and a twinkle danced in her eyes.

I

ll go see your friend, Miss Middleton—


Mrs. Middleton, dear.

Hilary

s eyebrows went up.


Oh?

Dr. Westbrook nodded.


She married one of her patients in her first year as an R.N.,

said Mrs. Westbrook.

He lived less than a year. His family had opposed the marriage. They were, from their viewpoint, socially superior to a

mere nurse

so when he died, she refused to accept anything from them and went back to nursing.


Well, hooray for her! I like her already,

said Hilary firmly.


You will like her even better when you really get to know her,

said Dr. Westbrook.

But I do wish you had at least a week off so we could see more of each other.

Hilary said lightly,

Oh, well, I haven

t got the job yet. And if I do get it,
I’ll
ask for a week off before I report for duty; and then you and I can run down to Florida for a few days, soak up some sunshine
...”

Dr. Westbrook looked appalled.


Oh, but Hilary, I couldn

t go away. Why, the Evans baby is due any minute, and—

She broke off, abashed, as Hilary laughed at her.


Be honest with me,

Hilary order
e
d.

Do you have one single day in the next—oh, month—that you and I could be together, just the two of us?

Dr. Westbrook obviously was running over in her mind her various patients. When she looked up and met Hilary

s eyes, she saw that they were brimming with loving amusement.


See?

Hilary chuckled.

A precious lot of time you and I would be able to spend together, whether I had a job or not. I

ll go see Mrs. Middleton, and if I like the looks of things and
she wants me, I

ll report for duty on Monday. And at least you and I can have bits and pieces of the weekend together.

She stood up and began clearing the table. Suddenly she tipped back her brown-gold head and laughed.


And you know something?
I’ll
bet you anything you care to name—within reason, of course—that the Evans child will manage to get born sometime between midnight and three a.m. Saturday or Sunday just to ruin our weekend! It seems illegal for children to be born at any other time of the day or night, especially if there

s a howling blizzard, a hurricane or a tornado somewhere close at hand for the poor, hardworking doc to fight en route.

Dr. Westbrook put down the dishes she had lifted and eyed Hilary anxiously.


Honey, you
do
like being a nurse, don

t you?

she asked hesitantly.

BOOK: Nurse Hilary
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ads

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