Monica sat on her hands. “I’m sorry. I’m not ready for a committed relationship. I don’t even have a pet.”
“Is there someone else?”
“No. Of course not. I don’t want to lead you on. Make you think I want something deeper when I don’t.” He had to understand that… right?
“I really thought we had something special.” Through the veil of anger was a lining of hurt behind his eyes. For that she was very sorry.
“I’m sorry.” She couldn’t look at him.
“Commitment is part of growing up.”
Instead of saying anything, she skirted her gaze across the room.
“You have to grow up sometime.” His words were harsh. Considering the shitty day she had… very harsh. She was trying to spare his feelings. Trying to let him down easy.
The noise from the bar hushed and someone turned up the volume on the news.
“Don’t make this harder than it has to be, John. We were friends before. I’d like us to stay that way now.” She did. Though she wasn’t stupid enough to believe being only friends would work.
“That’s it? I don’t have a say?”
“You can say what you want. It isn’t going to change my feelings.” She met his eyes.
John stretched his neck and pushed away from the table. “Maybe in a few days I can say something nice. But right now I want a drink… alone.”
“I’m sorry,” she said to his back as he walked out the door.
That went well.
She pushed a long-suffering breath through her lips and pushed out of her chair. One dirty martini wouldn’t hurt.
Monica made her way to the bar and flagged down the bartender. She ordered her drink and looked over her shoulder.
John wasn’t coming back.
Monica pulled a ten dollar bill from her wallet and set it on the counter. When the bartender placed her drink in front of her he asked if she needed change.
“We’re good,” she told him as she lifted her drink.
“Can you believe this?” he said as he slid the ten in his palm and motioned toward the television.
“The earthquake in Jamaica.”
Breaking news had interrupted the local broadcast to show amateur footage of devastation.
Waves broke on the shore… only it wasn’t a shore. It was the inside of a small town. People were screaming, cars and entire houses were floating out to sea.
Monica’s insides chilled. She set her drink down before one sip.
“Can you turn that up?”
The bartender picked up a remote and upped the volume.
“… three hundred years past due, this earthquake has been predicted for decades. Preliminary reports placed the quake at 7.5 on the magnitude scale. Much larger than the 1692 quake that killed over five thousand people in Port Royal.”
Monica’s back teeth ground together. A man stood on a porch of what looked like a beach town boardwalk holding on to a child. He grasped onto a wooden beam as a wave of water retreated from the camera, taking everything with it.
“Makes me damn happy I don’t live on the beach.”
Inside her purse, her cell phone buzzed.
She fished it out, staring at the broadcast.
“Yeah?” she asked without looking at the name on her phone.
“You watching the news?”
It was Walt.
“I put in a call to BD. You in?” BD stood for Borderless Doctors. Monica helped with Borderless Nurses. The relief organization put in time and skill from trained professionals to help with aid after nature shook, flooded, or blew up an area. With Borderless Nurses, she’d go straight into the devastation, live out of a backpack for a couple of weeks… help.
Getting away from John and the ER for a while wouldn’t suck, even though she knew she’d be walking into the soggy depths of hell.
“You ready for this, Mo? I know you think you’re tough… but you lost it when you learned that Santa wasn’t real.” Jessie was talking to her on the cell phone before the team was about to pile into the second airplane of the day.
Monica laughed. “I survived. I’m ready. Besides… why did I become a nurse if not to help people?
“You can do that at home.”
“But these people really need me. If no one went where would they be?”
There was a long pause. “Be safe, Mo. Watch out for you.” Right about then someone was giving Monica a vaccine of some sort. She didn’t even bother asking what it was for. She didn’t want to know the risk. She was going… she had to.
“I love you, Jessie. Kiss Danny for me. I’ll try and call.”
“Once every couple of days.”
“I’ll try.” She’d do more than try. Unless the lines were completely down, she’d call.
The flight from Florida to Jamaica was on a cargo plane. Less than twenty-four hours had passed since the tsunami hit the northern coast of the island, and the death toll was estimated in the thousands. There hadn’t been a tsunami of this nature on the shores of the island in recorded history. Even earthquakes were rare. There had been an earthquake in the ocean hours before the shaker hit the island, causing the tsunami to hit close behind the quake. It really didn’t matter how or why the devastation happened, it needed to be cleaned up and the suffering people needed help.
According to their team briefing, bodies were washing up on shore and those who survived filled the hospitals and clinics all over the island.
Earlier, Monica had attempted to sleep on the flight from LA to Miami but only managed about an hour. Even with the ear protection, the noise in the cargo plane was too difficult to think past to allow her brain to turn off and rest.
The conversation with John hummed in the back of her mind… but the conversation with her boss, Pat, was what really weighed on her mind.
“You’re due in on Saturday.” Pat never had liked Monica. Her voice and words echoed the sentiment Monica knew was there.
“It’s a humanitarian effort. The hospital can release a press statement about allowing your nurses and doctors leave.” This was a practiced line Walt had said to use. On top of that, Walt had spoken with the head of the doctors’ group expressing his need to be there. “The hospital can always use good PR.”
There had been a long pause. “Get your shifts covered, Monica. And use the part-time staff to do it. I’m not authorizing any overtime.”
Monica’s vacation time would keep a paycheck in her absence. Five to eight days was usually the limit to these efforts. What kind of vacation it would be… that was left to be seen.
Instead of giving Pat the snarky reply that sat on Monica’s tongue, she smiled. “I’ll get it covered.”
Monica’s ears popped as the plane began its descent. Unlike a commercial flight where a smiling attendant reminded you to stay seated and keep your seat belts on, this one was met with the head of their team attempting to yell over the noise of the plane. “Stay seated,” he said before gesturing with his hands to keep the seat belts on. Not that Monica had taken hers off.
Other than the training she’d been a part of a year and a half before in Florida, this was Monica’s first real test. A foreign country with multiple issues that would bring untold patients. Flood victims, earthquake survivors, patients cut off from their families. When she’d stepped on the plane, she locked away the part of her that bled for those who truly suffered.
Early in her ER career one of her mentors had told her something that stuck with her from that day forward. “You’re here to help. Either get in there and get your ass to work, or step away. You won’t do anyone any good crying. You can cry later.”
Best advice ever. It made her a better nurse. Monica knew that. Patients didn’t always understand, but her colleagues… they got it.
As much as Monica braced her spine for what was coming, there was no way to brace for the reality of the scale of this mass casualty incident.
The airplane met the tarmac with a jolt, the landing anything but smooth. American Airlines has nothing to fear.
The nurses and doctors were shuffled off the plane while search and rescue workers were helping unload the cargo. They brought with them everything they thought they’d need. Boxes of first aid supplies along with emergency medicine, antibiotics, and their own food supplies were crated out.
Dawn was just starting to spread on the horizon. The humid heat of the Caribbean felt mildly uncomfortable on Monica’s back. Other than Walt, she didn’t know any of the other nurses or doctors on their team. They’d met in LA before taking off. Most had their heads in their iPods or on movies on the first flight. Tina, the only newbie aside from Monica, stood beside her outside the plane as they met the Jamaican officials by the cargo doors.