Doctor Gisele Vasquez is consumed by bitterness after the messy break up with her ex-husband, and it’s not until one smart-mouthed chaplain puts her in her place that she realizes she needs to change. With determination, she sets out to become the doctor and woman she wants, and her first step is to make a friend of the enemy.
Chaplain June Melville loves her job and making a difference in her patients’ lives. While she looks put together at work, her home life is about to all fall apart. When she discovers her girlfriend is cheating, June finds herself homeless, alone, and desperate. With nowhere to turn except one angry doctor turned friend, June takes a step in the direction of her own healing.
NineStar Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/about-time/
Adrian J. Smith © 2021
All Rights Reserved
June’s second phone vibrating alerted her to the emergency. Sighing and wordlessly issuing an apology to Lydia, who sat across the table, she reached to her waistband and unclipped the cell. She skimmed the words and closed her eyes briefly.
“I’m so sorry to cut this short.” June grabbed her iced tea and took a big sip. “I got a call, have to go in.”
Lydia rolled her eyes and let out a huff before flicking her perfectly curled blonde hair behind her shoulder. “You always leave like this.”
“I’m on call, Lydia. You know what that means. I get a call. I have to go in.”
Lydia scrunched her nose and pouted out her lower lip before whining, “Just stay through dinner. I promise I’ll make it worth your while…”
She slid her warm hand up June’s thigh. As much as June wanted to stay, she knew Lydia was unlikely to keep her promise after already being put out with the thought of her leaving. Not to mention work was work, and she loved her job.
“It’s my job. You know that.”
The pout reappeared, and June bit her tongue, avoiding the retort she wanted to make. Instead, she grabbed her coat and her scarf.
“I’m leaving. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Again. The pout.
Wrinkling her nose, June pushed out of her seat, threw her coat over her shoulders, and wrapped the scarf around her neck. She leaned over the table, kissed Lydia on her still-pouting lips, and headed out of the door. Her stomach twisted at the thought of Lydia’s tantrum that was no doubt about to blow up her phone.
Once she reached her car, she untwisted her scarf and slipped out her dickie from the glove compartment. She shoved the front of the dickie down the front of her shirt, wrapped it around her neck, and snapped it into place before reaching back into the glove compartment. The box was decently small, black and smooth to touch, but it was one of the most important boxes she’d ever been given. She brushed her fingers over it, opened it, and pulled out the white clerical collar she’d worn too many times to count. Fitting the white collar over her black dickie, June made sure everything was in place before starting her car and taking off toward the hospital.
June pulled up to the large and ofttimes-looming building and parked in the designated chaplain spot. Rubbing her thumb over her lower lip, she let out a short breath and a prayer. “Lord, be with me tonight. Let me speak your words. Let me do your work.”
She pushed open the door to her old rickety car and slammed it shut to make sure it locked. She really needed to get that fixed. Making a mental note, she pocketed her keys, straightened her jacket, and headed inside and out of the cold.
The hospital was a-bustle as it typically was on a Friday night. June ducked off into a hallway, flashed her badge against a door, and went into a back hallway permitted only for those who worked at the hospital. June left the restricted area, turning down two more hallways and keying through a couple more doors, and found herself in front of the chaplain’s offices.
She unlocked the door, took off her jacket, and tossed it over her chair before heading back out and toward the Emergency Room. She checked in at the nurses’ station, but she easily heard which room she’d be going to. Jerica was the charge nurse that evening, and June smiled at her before nodding, indicating she wanted an update as soon as possible.
Jerica shook her head. “Not good. Family is in room three. They came in about an hour ago. Two-year-old son sneaked out the doggie door at the grandparents’ house and climbed into the hot tub. It’s not looking good.”
“Who’s in there?”
“Mom and Dad just got here. Grandparents have been here the whole time, along with the five-year-old brother. He’s the one who found the two-year-old.”
“Goodness.” June’s heart thumped.
“You’re telling me.” Jerica looked at her patient tablet. “They’ll be moving him to PICU as soon as they can get transport, but he’s stable for now.”
“Got it.” Straightening her shoulders, June turned on her heel and headed in the direction of the wailing and yelling. It was going to be a long night.
Inside the private room, she found the family. Father shouting at grandma, mother sobbing, grandfather in shock and in the corner with wide eyes, and big brother holding grandpa’s hand with fear written all over his face. June had her work cut out.
“Sorry to interrupt. I’m Chaplain Melville.”
The room became pregnant with silence. In the center of it all, a small boy lay prone on a giant hospital bed. Tubes and wires connected him to machines. His lifeline protruded from his mouth, forcing air into his lungs as his chest rose and fell in an unnatural rhythm.
“I’m so sorry to meet you under these circumstances.” June stood upright and transformed her features into a look of compassion. “What’s his name?”
“Travis.” His mother choked on the word.
“What a beautiful name for a beautiful child.” June stepped closer to the bed, directing her next question at big brother. “And what’s your name?”
“Austin,” he squeaked out. “Is my brother going to be okay?”
Tears threatened June’s eyes, but she had to push them back. Her job was to remain strong for them when they couldn’t be. She squatted down to Austin’s level. “I don’t know, Austin. But I do know we’re going to do our very best to take care of him. Okay?”
June stood up again. “I’m here to support you all through this crisis. I’m here to be a sounding board, to pray with you, to be a second or a third ear. What you need to do right now is focus on this little boy here and making sure he has all the support and love he needs.”
Everyone in the room nodded. Immediately, the energy level went from critical anger to calm. June had already done the majority of her work, and it was far easier than it could have been. Moving into the second phase of her job, she moved closer to Travis.
“Tell me a bit about your son. Let me get to know him like you know him. We probably have a few minutes before the doctors interrupt us again.”
No sooner had she spoken the words than Doctor Giselle Vasquez pushed open the door with her face buried in her patient computer. Two nurses followed closely behind her, and she barely looked up from her screen. June pressed her lips together, wishing it had been any other doctor that evening. Vasquez was known for being harsh, cold-hearted, and quick to dismiss family.
The air in the room tightened. The mother’s lips parted as she looked desperately at Vasquez, no doubt wanting answers right then and there. June straightened herself as well, ready for a battle she didn’t even know she was going to have to fight.
“I’m Doctor Vasquez.” She set the computer on the table next to the bed and shifted onto one foot, digging her toe into the worn linoleum. “Travis is going to be moved to our PICU unit so they can more closely watch him. These nurses are going to get him ready for the transfer.”
“Is he going to be okay?” The words tumbled from the father’s mouth in a rush.
The question was on the floor. All Vasquez had to do was answer kindly, but June feared her temper she was known for would get the best of her. Ready to step in between if necessary, she waited for Vasquez to respond.
“I can’t answer that.” She shook her head.
June narrowed her eyes, daring to believe she saw a flash of compassion. Perhaps not all hope was lost.
“Well, what can you tell us?” The father’s shoulders stiffened, and for a brief moment, June feared she might have to step in between again but for an entirely different reason. Her job was to be a go-between and a support for whomever needed it, staff and patient alike. The father was antagonistic. She’d learned that in the twenty-seconds she’d known him, and fear tickled in the back of her throat that if pushed even in the slightest, he would blow in the wrong direction.
“Your son almost drowned.” Vasquez leaned against the bed, softening her tone. June had never seen her do something like this before. “We were able to revive him, but we won’t know the extent of the damage until we’re able to run more tests, which we can’t do until it’s been a sufficient amount of time for his body to recover. We don’t know if he’ll walk again or talk again or even be able to breathe on his own again. What we do know is he’s alive, and we’re going to keep as close an eye on him as possible. They can do that in the PICU, the pediatric intensive care unit. Until then, I don’t and won’t have answers for you.”
The father’s lips parted, and he jerked forward, but the mother put her hand up to stop him. Tension rose in June’s chest, waiting for the father to break.
“You’re going to have to wait,” June said, wanting to keep everything as civil as possible.
Tears swarmed in the mother’s eyes as she silently pleaded with her partner.
“Yelling is not going to solve anything. We need to rally together for Travis and for one another. Austin has also been through a great trauma tonight.” At the mention of his name, the father grabbed his son’s hand and tugged him closer to his side. It was a sign June was happy to see. “You need to all be here together for your children. Nothing else.”
They all reluctantly nodded. Vasquez stood up again. “Doctor Hineman will meet with you shortly once he has time to go through your son’s file.” She nodded to the nurses, who started to move the machines and get Travis’s small body ready for transport. “Until then, if you have any questions, feel free to ask, but you can expect him to be moved soon.”
Vasquez left the room shortly after, but June stayed with the family. The tension seemed to dissipate. The energy was gone. It didn’t take too much longer for the grandparents to take Austin out of the room to care for him, leaving Travis and his parents alone. June waited until the medical aides came to take Travis to transfer him. By that point, she felt the situation was under control and she could step out and leave them on their own for a bit. She made a mental note to check on them in the morning when she returned for her rounds.
June headed to the break room and grinned at the full pot of freshly brewed coffee. The scent wafted over to her and made her heart quiver with anticipation. She poured herself a full cup, sipped at the steaming liquid, and rolled her shoulders to ease the tension.
Lydia popped into her mind. She closed her eyes. Their relationship was ending. They both knew it, but neither wanted to admit it. Lydia was jealous of her work, and June just didn’t have the energy to deal with jealousy or clingy behavior. Taking a breath, she pulled out her phone. Sure enough, notifications littered the screen. She flicked through them, not paying close attention to what was said.
She’d read it all before. She’d had the conversation time and time again. But she wasn’t willing to leave her job, her career, her calling, the one thing she had spent a decade working on just because her partner didn’t like her hours. Sighing, June shook her head; they both knew it was more than that. Lydia was adamant God did not exist. She was even perhaps borderline paranoid about the Christian faith itself and its influences.
They’d survived the last year solely by not talking about it. That had been a bad idea from the beginning. Turning toward the door with the cup at her lips, she jumped and about spilled it all down her front when the door slammed open.
“Idiots!” The word left Vasquez’s lips as she came storming in.
June clenched her teeth. A fresh pot of coffee was a strong call for all in the vicinity, especially when it was obvious Jerica had brewed it.
Vasquez stopped short of June and rolled her eyes before walking around her to the coffee pot. “I swear no one listens to me.”
A chant went off in June’s mind, begging her not to take the bait, but she couldn’t resist. It was in her very nature to offer help when and where she could. The word left her lips before she could stop herself. “Oh?”
“Nothing you’d understand.” The sneer and pomp rang through her voice. Vasquez turned up her own cup and downed half of the contents.
June froze. She’d suffered this kind of abuse from Vasquez before, and she’d watched the nurses receive the same. Before she could even form a response, Vasquez was already going on again.
“They never listen. I told the idiotic nurses—”
“I’m going to stop you right there.” June put her hand up. Vasquez’s lips actually halted, much to June’s surprise. “I don’t need to hear the complaint. You don’t need to say it. You treat everyone around you like they’re your personal servant. I’ve had enough of it, and I’m not going to put up with it anymore. They won’t say anything because they’re all scared to set you off. You’re a brilliant doctor, but you’re also a bit of a bitch.”
Vasquez’s jaw dropped.
“Yup. I said it. You’re a bitch. I have watched you work in this hospital for years, and you went from being a good doctor with compassion to being the one who walks through the halls and everyone scatters in the other direction. No one likes you here anymore. But they used to. So, what changed?”
Silence. It permeated June’s heart to the point she could hear her own breathing, her own heartbeat, the one sip of coffee swirling in her stomach.
Vasquez dropped her half-full cup in the trash by the coffee pot before storming over to June. June wouldn’t be surprised if she was sucker punched. Surely, she deserved it after what she’d just let loose. But she’d had enough. If she’d been in her right mind, she would have used far more tact to broach that topic, but it was already out there, and there was nothing she could do to take it back.
Instead of a punch, Vasquez gave her a hard look as she walked by and shoved her way through the door and out of the room, leaving pulsing anger in her wake.
June let out an audible breath as her fingers tightened around her paper cup still filled with hot coffee. “That was close,” she muttered to herself. “Too close.”
She didn’t wait long before leaving the break room herself and heading toward her office to start paperwork. She’d wait another thirty minutes before checking on Travis’s family once more and potentially heading home until she was called in again. It was her one weekend a month, and while she loved her job, it was occasionally taxing. She’d spent a good amount of time avoiding Vasquez in the past few years, and it seemed as though she’d have to up her game for a bit while Vasquez cooled down.
Meet the Author
Adrian J. Smith has been writing nearly her entire life but publishing since 2013. With a focus on women loving women fiction, AJ jumps genres from action-packed police procedurals to the seedier life of vampires and witches to sweet romances with a May-December twist. She loves writing and reading about women in the midst of the ordinariness of life.
AJ currently lives in Cheyenne, WY, although she moves often and has lived all over the United States. She loves to travel to different countries and places. She currently plays the roles of author, wife, mother to two rambunctious kids, and occasional handywoman. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or her blog.