An hour to go. She wondered if it would be worth her while making another cup of tea. A quick calculation of caffeine content, the affect of a full bladder, and the desire to have that last chocolate biscuit before the day-shift arrived added up to, tea winning. It had been a dull night. None of her twelve clients had stirred. The reports were written. The morning meds prepared and the handover, ready. She moved quietly over the blue-grey carpet tiles, deciding on one last sweep before settling down with a hot mug.

She would be the focus of some envy come handover. No one got a free-ride on the Millennium ward. A nickname they had all disapproved of, when first coined by that smart-arse young doctor. It had taken him only a few seconds to scan and laughingly declaim in his smart-arse young doctor way, that the combined ages of the twelve patients came to over one thousand years. He had used it disrespectfully, but it became a badge of honour for those who lived and worked on this wing. A thousand years of life. In this one corridor. She never felt anything less than awe, at so much lived life, concentrated in so small a spot.

A sweep was little more than looking through the glass window of their doors. They were a sprightly lot. Yes, there were health issues, there were absences and there were often night-time accidents and there could be querulous confusions. Time consuming all, but rarely seriously medical. She passed Number 12, hardly pausing to look. Her mind already in chocolate. She paused. Turned and returned and looked again.

She opened the door, hand pressing her pocket alarm. He was struggling to breathe. Switching on the light, she reached for the oxygen mask. He pushed her away. Flailing with his wasted arms and crooked fingers. Mumbling and distressed. She grunted in annoyance, then realisation hit. His teeth, were still jarred. The vain fool. She gave them to him, though the anguished rasping of his chest spoke of more pressing concerns. Teeth in, he consented to her administrations. Shock, he kept his lecherous hands to himself.

Looking into his eyes, she saw the terror. She nodded to him. A tear left his eye. They understood each other. Sitting on his bed, she took his hands in hers. They waited. Help arrived. They worked around her. The motions had to be gone through. Chart checked. Chart filled. Only a matter of time now. His hands shook in hers. She held them tighter, smiled brighter.

The day-shift arrived. Matron came to say good-bye. “Will he be wanting a priest at all?”

“No need Matron, he’s not a believer.”

“Will you be staying?”

“I will surely.”

“For him?”

She grinned at the older lady. “Aye, for him.”

The Matron threw her eyes to heaven. All, even the Matron, had been pinched, insulted and generally abused. “I’ll fetch you a cuppa.”

Matron gone, she looked back at him. His hands now still. His breathing shallowing. She leaned in closer, “You’re a notorious prick Sean, but you will not go alone. You will not be alone.”

He heard.


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