*warning, adult themes
SO CALLED RECOVERY
Sarah was chilled to the bone when she got home. It had taken twenty minutes to find a taxi. Thankfully, the driver had been a real gem and not commented on the state of her face, asking her only where she wanted to go. She thought, for far too long, before eventually asking him to drive her back home to Mannock Road.
The police, hospital or even Alexa’s all seemed too far to travel. Desperate for a deep, hot, sanitizing bath and a long soak, she started running the bath before going into the kitchen to make a cup of strong tea. Looking at her battered eye in the hall mirror Sarah wondered how it was going to look in the morning. The tea stood untouched. Instead, she opened the cupboard under the sink and found the Taylors. She sat sipping the rich dark alcohol on the closed toilet, watching the bath fill.
Two hours later, scrubbed red raw, she had a plan and called the agency. Stammering and spluttering, it took ten minutes to explain to Alexa what had happened. Crying and stumbling over the details, she told her everything. Alexa listened and in her broken accent responded,
“This is rape. You should go police. I can call them for you if you want?”
Alexa and Sarah spoke, and Alexa pressed her gently to make a police report. Sarah learnt his name could be placed on a list for use between the escort agencies. A kind of ‘black book’ so he wouldn’t be able to make another booking without this being known.
It was bittersweet knowledge. He’d be forced into using girls that couldn’t work by agency, the street girls, using pimps or sex trafficked women. But then, if he did the same again and the girl was unable to work he would pay more dearly.
If Sarah wanted justice, he could be arrested for sexual assault. Only she’d have to go to court and recount the events. In England, public courts could lead to The Press knowing more about her life. Because of stigma; she could lose her reputation in healthcare, her job and probably her career in medicine.
She didn’t want to see Kevin. The thought of being questioned by him in court was horrifying. Alexa told her about her phone needing to be given to the police. Which although unfair, was UK procedure if charges were brought in sexual assault cases. Sarah couldn’t afford to be without her phone. She just wanted life to move forward.
Their conversation continued until Alexa understood that because of stigma she couldn’t afford to report it. She stated, clearly, she wasn’t going to take things further and was going to take a break from escorting.
Alexa tried to organize for her to speak to a victim support officer, but it wasn’t wanted. For Sarah, the fewer people who knew, the better. If there were other victims, as Alexa pointed out, well Sarah didn’t see that as her problem. She had her real work to think about and if she sought help, there would be paper trail.
Adamant that she wanted to concentrate on nursing, she told Alexa that maybe she’d get a smaller flat out of London and cut her costs. Alexa told her to take care and Sarah responded the same. Putting the phone down, she wondered who would call who first.
Tired and aching for bed; paranoid that Kevin would think she was a threat and somehow find her and kill her, she couldn’t relax. Every noise seemed extra loud.
Why not be scared? If she did go to the police, he’d be ruined, surely? Was she safe? He didn’t know where she lived, so of course she was safe, but she no longer felt safe.
The pain in her ribs, face and rectum wasn’t enough to attend Accident and Emergency. The initial bleeding had stopped. There was nothing to be done for her ribs, they would heal. Sarah’s nursing experience had given her the opportunity of being around whilst doctors gave advice on injuries. Ribs and rectums were usually managed conservatively. Rest and recovery would be advised.
Unless a patient could no longer defecate and there was a continued loss of blood most doctors wouldn’t interfer with the body’s own healing process. They might examine the injury and prescribe pain killers. The more immature may snigger as to why the patient got the injury but would do nothing more. With rectums, theres little to be done for soft tissue damage unless it’s bad enough to need surgery, and hopefully it wasn’t.
Hot baths helped bring out the bruising and ease the pain. She inspected herself in the bathroom mirror. Her shoulders and face had dark, red patches. She was sure they would come up as bruises over the next couple of days.
She took two aspirin and two antibiotics, her only protection as he’d cum in her without a condom, and put herself in bed, pulling up the sheets. She lay there, listening to the sounds coming from the street.
The sun was up when she rose for work and took another bath. She forced her head under. Letting the hot water seep over her face for as long as she could hold her breath. The water soaked into her skin, bones, ears and hair but could not wash away history or how stupid she felt.
After getting out of the bath she took time with her makeup, masterfully disguising the wounded skin on her face. Her mind darting around to different thoughts and plans as excuses. Spending an hour on hiding the bruising, her face now looked ‘mask like’. She’d used three layers of foundation but she had to get to work.
Depressed, she walked down the hall and picked up the briefcase. Taking a deep breath she reached in, pulling out shoes, the broken necklace and the used condom. Her hand went to her throat where the pendant usually sat. Her fingers searched, wanting to feel its familiarity and be comforted.
For seconds she sat with the condom in one hand and necklace in the other, just staring at the wall. Unsure herself as to why she’d taken it. She walked to throw them in the bin but instead changed direction, put the broken necklace on the table and tying a knot in the condom, opened the freezer door. She pulled down the ice tray and pushing the condom to the back, covered it with a bag of peas and closed the door on it firmly.
It was already gone 7am. Today she was going to be late. Making her lunch from her dinner yesterday, and leaving the house she made her journey into work. Her excuse would be she had fallen down the stairs, hoping that this would help explain any bruising over the coming weeks.
“Good morning Nurse Cacroft. How was the journey in?” Asked the porter, transporting a patient between wards.
“Arduous.” Her one worded response to him, as she walked briskly passed, caught the young Georgian off guard. Sarah usually had time for Petrov. Noticing the makeup, he shouted after her, “You look nice.” She didn’t turn round to acknowledge the compliment.
By mid-morning she was flagging. Tiredness, both emotional and physical was sapping her energy. After she dropped a full bedpan, splashing beds and disrupting the recovery of the patients, the ward manager sent her for an early lunch break. Sarah didn’t argue and left the ward with promises she’d return in a better mood.
As she approached the staff room, shouting could be heard. Short of office space within the hospital, the staff room was often used for meetings. Suddenly, its door flew open, and Dr Brown was shouting as he walked by her in the doorway.
“I don’t see why I should take on so many patients! It’s bloody unfair.”
“Excuse me, Nurse Cacroft I didn’t see you there.” He added, quieter, visibly upset as his face red, and eyes watery. He was clutching a large pile of patient notes.
“It’s okay Dr Brown. Is there anything I can help with?” Sarah replied. The question was too much, he became overwhelmed and unable to speak.
“We’ll catch up later?” She added, aware staff were listening.
“I doubt I’ll have time.” He stated, nodding directly towards the others sat around the table in the staff room and walking, purposefully off down the hall.
Sarah went in. Several male consultants were sat around the table discussing patients. Recognizing two of them as Nasser’s nephew, Parish and Dr Jaiden she said,
“Dr Brown was very upset. Are there any changes that I need to know about?”
All three doctors laughed. One of them slapped the table.
“No, no.” Dr Parish Patel replied. “Nothing for you to worry about. We are just doing the referrals. I see you’ve gone to a lot of effort. I’m not sure that amount of makeup is completely necessary for a hospital setting.”
Ignoring him, Sarah looked at the notes on the table, they each had three files in front of them. She’d seen Dr Brown leave with ten, perhaps more. As a nurse she was not allowed to comment on who treated who in the hospital, but work distribution was not an equal affair. Unfortunately, Ted Brown was a very capable doctor. One of the consultants whispered childishly to the other. Seeing the exchange made Sarah roll her eyes.
Whatever was said made them laugh and responding so she could hear them, the consultant said,
“I’ve no idea. I’m not brave enough to ask her.”
Sarah swung around and guessing at the coming question, said.
“Yes, I’ve a boyfriend;” She lied, “And, he’s in the army.”
Dr Jaiden was about to say something when Parish interrupted with,
“As if we’d be interested in you.”
Sarah smiled, and turned away to make her tea.
“Of course.” she said, over her shoulder. “I heard that you weren’t into girls.”
The other two men broke into laughter, jibing Parish he’d been burned, who sat, sour-faced, scowling at the overmade up nurse making her brew.
Pursing her lips, she took the kettle over to the sink and filled it for one person. The room was silent as she reached into the cupboard to get the tea bags and sugar. As she walked across to get the milk, her shoes sounded loudly on the vinyl floor.
“Attention grabbing.” Parish declared.
The other doctors looked down at their phones. She went to her locker, smiling broadly as she took out her packed lunch. Today she had tuna sandwiches with plenty of vinegar and salt. Taking her tea she sat down on the table next to Parish, instantly making him feel awkward. Parish was Nasser’s nephew and nothing like his uncle. Rumour in the hospital was that there was also another doctor in the family too.
She opened her lunch box, allowing the pungent smell of fish to permeate the air and held the box up, centimeters from his face,
“Do you want some?” She asked, smiling.
“EERR NO, and I’d thank you to keep that away from me! I’m a vegan.”
“Ah” said Sarah, “I thought as much.”
“Then why did you…? Or never mind, I’ve got to get going. Is everything good then?” He said, turning towards the others.
“Mmm, can’t think of anything…” They responded without looking up.
Parish picked up his patient files and left flashing a filthy look at Sarah as he did. The two other doctors remained, playing games on their phones, while she ate her lunch. When she got back on the ward, she mentioned how awkward her break had been to the ward sister.
The ward sister was annoyed. They shouldn’t really be doing that. Data protection laws were one reason to be careful with records, but did they really need to look through and pick their patients? What did it matter if they all had the same capabilities? And, this was the main gripe, why use the staff room? She would bring it up at the next union meeting.
The Accident and Emergency ward had become busy. A protest had met the police in heavy opposition at Watford. Spillover patients had been sent over to Northwick. Most were minor injuries but two were stabbings. As Sarah checked the bays, a familiar face peered back. One of her Dad’s friends, Mick, a retired soldier, was sitting in bay six holding a bloodied bandage to his head. They’d served together with the REME in the armed forces while stationed in West Germany in the 1980s. Her father had loved talking about it.
“Blimey. Fancy seeing you here. What happened to you?”
“I was out running and got caught up in the protest. I tried to avoid it love.”
“How did you get this injury? Sarah asked lifting the bandage.
“Some numb nuts hit me with his baton.” Mick laughed. “It’s good to see you.”
“The police did this? You should say something Mick. I hope you’re okay with needles as this is going to need stitching. I’ll let the doc know and clean you up.”
“I miss them every day you know.” They stopped and looked intently at each other before she gathered herself, choking back tears and replied, “Me too. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
“Can’t you do the stitches?” He begged.
“No, I’m not qualified. It won’t be long, let me get something to clean this.”
She worked solidly throughout the afternoon, moving from one bay to another, answering alarm calls and moving soiled, used materials. Around 4pm the stream of patients had slowed with most of the emergencys finding beds within the hospital or transferred for surgery to another.
Sarah checked her makeup and felt her stomach ache for food. After asking Nasser for some time to get something to eat she made her way down to the food court. It was busy. Being subsidized by the hospital it was popular with the staff.
The food wasn’t great for patients on the wards who couldn’t get out of bed, but for those that could mobilize the rewards were. She was soon sat eating sweet potato and chickpea curry, contemplating the whirlwind of last twenty-four hours.
Sarah realised that she hadn’t visited her locker before coming to the dining room when a group of five well groomed, good looking junior doctors entered the food court. Smiling with their swinging lanyards and without a mark on their white lab coats they jostled each other.
Looking down at her own pale blue uniform Sarah was reminded of which patients she’d attended that morning. Shamefully she folded her arms, hoping to hide the stains before realizing there was little point. She sipped her coffee and watched the doctors selecting their food and teasing the checkout staff with the money and laughing.
The shortest of the doctor babble, looked around the room for a spare table. She recognized Parish Patel and he saw her sat at large table for six on her own. Leading the group across the seating area they headed for her table. Mentally Sarah prepared herself for what she thought would be another onslaught of hospital banter.
“Do you mind?” He asked, holding the back of a spare chair.
“Of course not. Please do.” She nodded, her smile fading as he picked up the chair and placed it around a smaller table. Sarah sat blinking, a little stunned and shut her open mouth quickly.
Why hadn’t they sat with her? Why would they rather squash themselves around a small table than sit with her? Sarah felt incensed. She’d assumed he was asking if they could join her. Fuming and unable eat her desert she watched as they sat down to eat. She listened to their chatter. She stared at the back of their heads. How fucking dare they? Just who did they think they fucking were? Unaware of her fury they continue, animated, talking of their plans for a training trip abroad.
For years she had been cleaning up after doctors and attempting to fathom out what some of them did. She felt an overwhelming desire to throw her yoghurt over the arrogant group and flounce out of the restaurant. Instead, she gathered herself together, cleared her food and went to her locker. Still fuming, she accidently bumped against the door frame and winced in pain.
She checked herself in the locker mirror. Her face still looked immaculate, but shadows were starting to appear around her eye. Re-applying concealer and powder she rolled her eyes and pouted at herself. Breathing deeply hurt her ribs and she was feeling fatigued at dealing with the pain. She couldn’t afford to be getting upset with doctors for being doctors.
Her face and her back was hurting and Kevin’s face was haunting her thoughts when she went back into A&E.
She’d taken her quota of paracetamol for the day and the urge to scream her head off, rocking forwards and backwards in the corner of the room, was strong. She wanted to wrap her arms around herself. She needed something else, a coping mechanism of some sort.
At drug round time, a solution presented itself as she helped distribute the patient medication. The answer was just there. Just in front of her. When her colleague turned to hand the pills to the patient, the drug cabinet on the trolley was left open. Sarah hadn’t known she could steal anything until that moment.
Reaching into the trolley she took a blister of twelve Tramadol, leaving just one blister sitting in the packet. It had been too easy. One minute she was thinking about it and the next she was looking at her colleague, asking her to repeat herself with the Tramadol in her pocket. Other than the raising of her own temperature nothing else had happened.
No great hand descended from the sky to side-swipe her. No dark shadow had crawled out of the ground to envelope her. The lid, on the drug trolley, didn’t snap shut on her. No patient, nurse or doctor accused her. Her fall from grace went unnoticed.
Stealing from sick people was a new low. Sarah felt herself redden from the guilt, but she had on so much makeup, no one noticed. One of her duties included logging in the drugs patients arrived with. It would be easy to miss some Tramadol on the paperwork, it would be put down to patient error and ordered for them from the hospital pharmacy. An hour before home time she was walking a little easier.
She looked deep into the mirrors in the ladies toilets, scowling at dark eyes and the tired, over made-up nurse in the reflection. She already missed her necklace. She’d worn it since she was a teenager. Bruising was starting to show under her nurses’ collar. It was too much. Sarah fought back tears as she tried to pull her up sweater which was now all brown with foundation.
It wasn’t working. Her reflection resembled a zombie clown. She felt better with the Tramadol but looked awful. She looked at her watch. Half an hour left to go before home time. She could do this.
The next few days were spent in a medicated blur. At work she took the opportunity to steal more Tramadol, some Oxycodone and super strength Ibuprofen before her bruising got so visible, she was forced to call into work sick.
The department head almost sounded happy that Sarah had succumbed to something. Telling her she’d fallen down the stairs, the other woman couldn’t stop herself from laughing. Explaining she’d cracked a rib before her boss apologized and asked,
“The stairs coming down to the carpark, the concrete ones.” Sarah lied.
“Oh, that’s not good, is it?” Her boss said. “I hadn’t realised it happened at work. Well, you rest up. You’ve not had time off since last year, so take this week and see how you feel next week.” And hung up the phone.
Monday morning without work found Sarah pacing around the flat. Breakfast TV was on and the noise from the yard outside was distracting her viewing. Signing into Ground Rush she picked up resources and set the squads for the upcoming battle. Playing for an hour before getting up and painfully stretching to reach for pain relief.
Her step was heavy as she made herself an instant coffee and checked the post she’d been ignoring, groaning, as she bent down to pick up the mail that had fallen on the floor. Usually, she didn’t have time for the marketing and takeaway leaflets. Today she sat on the sofa, sipping her coffee reading through them.
A colourful leaflet advertising boxing classes at Manor Farm gym caught her attention. It’s claim boxing was good exercise and advertising the first week free appealed to her.
The soundtrack Eye of The Tiger came to mind and she looked up from her laptop. She threw out punches fast in front of her, into the air, as the music played, running fast on the spot and singing along until she was out of breath. Sweating and breathing heavily, she called the number and arranged to attend that afternoon.
Ivor Mac showed her around the facilities at Manor Farm gym and introduced her to the staff who were professional and polite. She was shown how to protect her hands, use a skipping rope, and work the ceiling and body bags.
Finding it hard at first, her hands being soft and unused to impact, with staff encouragement she found hitting the body bag satisfied something in her. She paid for ten sessions. Sometimes taking the train but often walking down Green Lanes, she attended every day, staying longer if the gym was quiet. The coach and staff watched Sarah from the office, looks exchanging between them. Ivor Mac had worked there for over thirty years, he said little, but he liked Sarah. He ensured that she had a clean area to work in and moved on anyone who started bothering her.
At the end of the week, Ivor Mac watched Sarah working out, sweat running down her face. Her hair tied back seriously off her face. No trace of the heavy makeup she’d first worn in. She channeled her internal anger into energy and then forced that energy into her hands.
Time emptied away, for Sarah, the minutes replaced by reddened knuckles and fluid. She found enjoyment in the mirror shadow work and attended the classes but was hesitant to socialize with the other students. Attempting to involve her, an overzealous staff member suggested Sarah spa with a fellow female member. The guys at the gym exchanged money on fights. She raised her middle finger in response, giving the only socially acceptable answer. Sarah only had time for the coach, Mac, his size and calmness drew respect from the staff and students alike.
On return to work ten days later nurse Sarah Cacroft had a whole new perspective. Her work colleagues commented and gossiped if a man was responsible. At the end of the month when she handed her notice in, it came more as a curiosity than a shock.
Sarah was their friend and since her fall down the steps she’d been different. They’d all seen that it had knocked her confidence, she was certainly more anxious. Her explanation that she needed a new location, with less costs and different outlook came as some surprise.
The ward staff from the hospital threw their colleague a leaving party. Already distancing herself, Sarah only managed to attend for a few hours and didn’t take contact details for the future other than for her professional references.
The staff clubbed together to get her a leaving present. A leisure center spa membership. It was hers for a year. Planting a firm kiss on everyone’s cheek she wished them all goodbye with firm handshakes and sincere gratitude.
She was saddened by the last journey home from Northwick Park. She would no longer pass the little gardens, the newsagents, chat with the boy behind the counter or pop into the curry house on her way home. Nurse Sarah Cacroft got home and closed the door behind her as if to shut out the world.
The first free weekend was spent playing on her laptop. A Ground Rush tournament swallowed up the hours and her thoughts well into Sunday night. When Monday morning came around, she spent time writing her CV and looking into colleges, but her head wasn’t in it. Staring out of the window, watching the diggers, and having been in all weekend, she readied herself to go out and do something.
She’d been planning to go boxing but deciding to use her new membership instead, she called the leisure center and booked herself in for an induction followed by a swim. In the mirror she did her makeup, the bruising just visible – now a chestnut brown, almost yellow colour. Planning to use the steam and spa she packed up her kit, towels and a fresh change of clothes.
The leisure center was lovely. Corridors of pine panels lined the main hall and the rooms smelled of jasmine. The staff wore matching uniforms. David, a young man with dark hair and blue eyes, showed her how to use the gym equipment. Together they planned her week with routines which would complement what she was already doing with the boxing including thirty laps of the Olympic size swimming pool.
The pool was quiet. It was luxurious to be swimming when she would normally be at work. Sarah loved the water. She swam lengths, surface diving and turning at the wall with broad strokes until she broke back through the surface before diving deep again.
She enjoyed the silence under water, the calmness delighted her senses. She pushed herself along, overwhelmed at the generosity of Northwick Park staff. A year’s membership: it was just what she needed. She would miss them all but there was every chance of seeing them again. Sarah had all day. She swam in peace, nothing on her mind other than the sound of water.
Please like and follow for next week’s chapter.
This is Chapter 3 of Revenge is Best Served Cold by myself, Sam J Harris.
Revenge is Best Served Cold is book one of trilogy Snap.
2022 copyright sam J harris – all characters and interactions are fictional