Maggie opened her eyes. She was staring at the paperwork in a notebook. She looked closer, it was a patient’s chart. “What?”
“You need to get off the night shift, you’re just not cut out for it,” a bubbly voice said.
Maggie looked up and saw Debbie, or someone who looked like Debbie, standing next to her in a hospital nurses’ station. A rolling rack of blue charts with patient’s names was before her, a desk with papers, a phone, and an intercom system was on top of the desk. She noticed a watch with a white band on her wrist. When she looked down, she saw she had a nursing dress on, complete with white nylons and white nursing shoes. When she looked at Debbie, she looked a little younger but just as spunky. “Debbie, what’s going on?”
“Debbie?” She sat down at the desk in the chair beside Maggie. “Are you blitzed? Since when do you call me Debbie?”
Maggie was confused. Was she dreaming? A dream with Debbie in it? It is a nightmare about this place and the crazy psych nurses that Ethel was telling her about. But it seemed so real, like she was really a nurse in a hospital. Because of the reality of the moment, Maggie decided to play along. She looked at Debbie’s name badge; it said, Deborah F., Registered Nurse. “Deborah, I’m sorry.”
A ringing sound blared from the hallway. “I’ll get that call light, you finish charting.” Deborah stood and was off down the hallway in seconds.
“Hi, Margaret.” A male voice said from behind her.
Maggie turned and saw Bruce. But was it really Bruce? He stood there in a white lab coat with the name Bruce Hancock, M.D. monogrammed on the left chest, and he was looking rather handsome. His dark hair was slicked back and he was smiling at her, just as he was smiling at her in his apartment the other day.
“Cat got your tongue?” He sat down in the chair Deborah had just left. He reached over and took Maggie’s hand into his. “Do you want to do it now? I have time.”
Was he talking about what Maggie thought he was talking about? His hand felt warm and soothing.
Bruce moved in closer until they touched knees. With one leg between hers, he leaned in and whispered. “Come on, baby. I’ve been waiting for this. The room is empty.”
Margaret was startled away from the thrill of the moment when a clipboard smacked against the counter. Debbie was on the other side. “What’s going on, here?”
Bruce stood and leaned toward Deborah. He whispered softly. “The room’s ready, babe. Are you ready?”
Deborah’s mood mellowed as she moved her face close to his. “I have a couple things to do first, and then I’ll meet you there in ten minutes.”
“Make it quick.” Bruce walked out of the nurses’ station and toward the exit stairway.
“Not too quick,” Deborah said, licking her upper lip. Then she turned and went back down the hall.
Maggie stood up and ran her hands down the front of the prim uniform. It felt real enough. She walked out of the nurses’ station and into the hallway. It looked almost like the second floor of Sandpiper Bluff. Then she gasped when she saw a plaque on the wall that read LAKE SHORE SANATORIUM AND PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL.
Deborah came up beside Maggie. “I’ll be off the floor for a while so I’ll need you to watch my patients. Here’s the charge nurse’s ward passkey.”
Maggie lost her breath when Deborah handed her a skeleton key. It looked just like her apartment key.
“I know you haven’t worked here long, but I need you to be the charge nurse for a little while. That key opens all the doors on this floor, but you probably won’t need to use it.”
Maggie tried to hand the key back, but Debbie would not take it. “I can’t do this.”
“Yes, you can, Margaret.” Debbie sounded angry. “You can and you will.” She poked her index finger into Maggie’s chest. “And stay away from Bruce, he’s mine. Got it?”
Maggie got it, but she did not know exactly what she had.