Of Nannies and Nurses (part 9 of 13)
Of Nannies and Nurses (part 9 of 13) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2
ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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Into the hostel.

Of Nannies and Nurses (part 9 of 13)

The last thing Magrat had expected to hear coming from the other side of the door was laughter. But there it was, children's laughter mainly but with at least one adult voice joining in.

Maisie opened the door and inside was a room full of noise and bright colours.

Half of the kitchen area and all the way down the passage by the stairs was given over to tiny tables and tinier chairs.

The smell of poster paint and cooking cocooned everything in a sense of warm hominess and safety.

All the walls and cupboard doors were covered in finger-painted pictures of stick people and flowers and...

and though some of them were of scenes of overt violence, they were in the minority and displayed just as proudly as the others.

The obvious source of the laughter climbed awkwardly to her feet and removed her spaghetti wig,

dropping the wobbly strands into the eagerly waiting hands of the toddlers and pre-schoolers clustered around her.

With a silent instruction for the teenage helper to take over, the now wigless woman grabbed her crutch and made her way through the throng to where Maisie and Magrat stood in the doorway.

"I see you've got the creche up and running nicely," Maisie said by way of greeting.

The woman came to a halt, leaning heavily on her crutch and showing some discomfort. She spared Magrat a quick look of cold appraisal before turning back to Maisie.

"Yes. Hyle was very forthcoming with whatever we needed."

Maisie noted the familiarity with the mayor's name.

But then, Stella McFarlen was the de facto leader of the current ensemble of refugees, both women and men, although that fact wasn't totally accepted across the road.

Stella was noticeably, not moving out of the way to let them in. Maisie kept the smile in her voice.

"I've come to check on the patients. You guys are first on my list today. Lucky old you, eh?"

Stella's attention flicked to Magrat, standing just behind Maisie's left shoulder, then back again.

"I see you've brought a friend."

Although lost on the gaggle of infants happily now playing with the piles of coloured spaghetti, jelly and dough under the loose supervision of Stella's helper,

the rising tension was not at all lost on Maisie and Magrat.

Maisie held Stella's stare.

"Magrat. This is Stella. She's basically everyone's Mom around here."

Magrat lifted her free hand and waggled her fingers.

"Hi."

Stella didn't acknowledge the greeting. Maisie continued, careful to keep the same friendly tone.

"Stella. This is Magrat. She's training to be a medic."

Only now did Stella again look at the distinctly nervous Magrat.

"I know who she is. And I know what she is."

Those words in this woman's mouth put an injection of iron in Magrat's spine. She lifted her chin and returned Stella's stare.

Stella's eyes betrayed a hint of surprise before turning back to the head nurse.

"Bringing her here could be a big mistake."

"We're just here to treat those who need help, Stella, that's all. You've been in Hope long enough to know how it works."

Stella moved to one side, allowing the two nurses access to the stairs. She grimaced as the movement sparked fresh pain.

"I do. But there are some who maybe see things another way." She side nodded towards the stairs. "Up you go then.

Queenie had a good night for a change, and little Amy is itching to get out of that bed."

As Maisie led Magrat up the steep stairs to the dormitory, Stella went back to the children.

"Come on, kids." She caught Maisie's eye just before the nurse disappeared out of sight. "How about we all go into the parlour for storytime?"

If Magrat had been expecting a dark and dingy sick ward packed with groaning and sighing people close to death,

then she was pleasantly surprised by what greeted her as she and the head nurse stepped away from the top of the stairs.

A great many of the buildings, not only in Hope but all over the province, were in a state of poor repair. Even the clinic had peeling paint and missing floor tiles.

Paint, proper oil-based paint, was expensive and new floor tiles were incredibly rare. But in the women's hostel, an extra effort seems to have been made.

Repairs had been carried out, walls and ceilings repainted and up here in the dormitory, new and brightly painted bunks with clean linen made the place welcoming.

Neither were there any broken or boarded-up windows. Instead, bright sunshine poured through clean glass panes in windows that slid up and down to allow the fresh, meadow scented air inside.

The four bedridden patients lay on crisp white sheets, their single beds deliberately placed next to the windows so that, even though they couldn't leave their beds,

they could see the comings and goings outside and not feel apart from the world.

One of the four patients Magrat and Maisie had come to see, however, seemed much less bedridden than the others.

Maisie stopped at the head of the stairs and stood with hands-on-hips and a disapproving look on her face.

"Amy Pond! You will please stop jumping up and down and get back under the covers."

Eleven-year-old Amy Pond scrambled back under the blanket. She tried her best to look suitably contrite, but her eyes sparkled.

"Is the doctor coming today? Can I get up? She said I could get up today."

An amused Magrat followed Maisie down the row of bunks towards the far corner away from the little girl's bed. The head nurse answered Amy with a foreboding glower.

"No, she isn't coming, and she actually said you might be able to get up today. Whether you do or not will be up to me, so behave yourself and stop disturbing everyone else."

Amy mimed zipping her lips closed but climbed to her knees to watch. As they passed the little girl's bed, Magrat winked at her, and Amy hid a giggle behind her hand.

"Hello, Queenie," Maisie said softly, pulling up a chair. "Stella tells me you had a good night last night."

The woman in the bed never responded but continued to lay still and stare up at the ceiling. Magrat stood behind where Maisie was opening her bag.

Queenie Watts was, according to her notes, about twenty-four years old. But to Magrat, the frail woman on the bed could have passed for someone in her forties, maybe even older.

Queenie, her physical injuries long since healed and leaving just the scars, was on palliative care. Some of her scars, Magrat could see, were surgical, but many were not.

Queenie's other injuries, the ones nobody could see, were longer lasting and may never heal. All the people around her could do was feed her, keep her clean and try and stimulate her mind.

Stella and her small band of volunteers took on the brunt of the task, and daily visits by Maisie or Doctor Troy kept an eye out for problems associated with long term bed rest.

After checking and noting down Queenie's vitals, Maisie showed Magrat how to check for bed sores and manipulate the joints and stretch unused muscles.

All the while, Magrat, encouraged by Maisie, kept up the cheerful conversation, talking about everything from the weather to local gossip.

They left Queenie's bedside, however, with Magrat feeling very sad, and showing it on her face. Maisie pulled her away out of earshot and leaned in close.

"Stop that." She said, shaking Magrat's arm. "You stop that right now." Magrat looked confused, but Maisie hadn't finished. "You can look happy. You can look cross.

You can even look exhausted but don't you ever... Ever, let a patient seeing you look like you look now. All that does is increase their anxiety at best and make them give up on life at worst.

So, you wipe that look off your face right now girly-girl."

Magrat pulled herself together and forced a smile into her eyes and onto her lips. Maisie watched.

"Okay. Better." The stern, disapproval melted from her face. "There are going to be times when your heart is absolutely breaking, but you just have to save it for when you are alone.

Understand?"

Magrat nodded, and Maisie straightened up.

"Good. Come on, this will cheer you up."

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