Chris has tewnty days to stalk the love of his life before he leaves for good.
Dr. Eric Marshall is trying to get through the last twenty days of his internetship without colliding with the head surgeon.
Chris's small but anonymous gesture to help get Dr. Marshall through his last twenty days at the clinic might just be what the doctor ordered.
Jazz music played softly in the waiting room of the Memorial Day Surgery and several clients sat in the blue padded seats, surround by the smell of fresh cut flowers in the large vase on the reception desk. Behind the long desk the two receptionists sat side-by-side going about their work.
Martha, a long serving employee of the clinic, was a short, domineering woman with bright red hair with matching lips and nails. Commonly known as the matriarch, no one dared defy her. She was the boss so to speak. Even Dr Max, the head surgeon - whom everyone feared more than Martha - was afraid of Martha.
Chris, three years employed full-time with the clinic, was a tall, flamboyant young man with bright blue eyes and baby face features. The go between among the staff and Martha, put Chris in a favourable position, especially with Dr Max. Chris became the only person Dr Max tolerated due to his fear for Martha. If Dr Max needed something done he always asked Chris, and that made Chris the one person whom everyone came too when they needed something from either Dr Max or Martha.
It had not always been this way for Chris. When he first began, Chris worked in the records room part-time filing, retrieving, and any job Martha gave him. The job supplemented his other part-time job and help Chris get by. This job Chris enjoyed from the start and when Martha barked, Chris obeyed.
The previous woman working with Martha quit one morning quoting, either that woman goes or I do. The staff might fear Martha but they weren’t prepared to be without her. Martha had stormed into the records room, pointed at Chris and asked, “Ever answered telephones before?”
Chris nodded to stunned to reply given the manner in which Martha approached him.
“That will do.” She had replied. “Come with me.”
Martha stormed out the room and Chris had followed, finding himself at the front reception desk, wondering what he was doing there. Martha pulled out the chair beside hers, handed Chris the wireless earpiece and demanded, “Answer the phones. If no one is here but you - attended to the patients at the counter first before answering the phone. Never do either of those two things at the same time. It’s rude and I won’t tolerate it.”
Chris took the earpiece, and that was that. He had been working with Martha on the reception desk from that day on - much to the appreciation of all who worked there.
Every year the surgery took on interns. These surgical interns where provided with experience before they left for full time positions elsewhere. Under the guidance of Dr Max, the interns came and went yearly and the permanent staff always enjoyed the banter between the cocky interns and the experience nursing staff.
There were three surgical interns currently at the clinic - two women and a man. Chris never gave past interns too much time - he did not have reason to communicate with them, although he would sometimes greet them and make general conversation if required. This time the male surgeon, Dr Eric Marshall, left all the staff at the clinic with much to talk about. He was to die for and even Chris found himself drawn to the fine specimen of a man. When Chris took his breaks with any of the other women, their conversations were always drawn back to Dr Marshall.
Taller than Chris, Dr Marshall had amazingly long lashes, gorgeous olive skin, dark hair, and deep brown eyes. Chris could go on and on about Dr Marshall. It was on Dr Marshall’s arrival that most of the nurses discovered Chris was gay. Although most had their suspicions over the years - it took Dr Marshall’s arrival to be confirmed.
How could he not - Dr Marshall might turn any man? Chris loved all the gossip and was shameless at how he got it. Often the nurses would go out of their way to give Chris little tidbits of news and he would blush and go coy over them. They loved making Chris behave that way and Chris had to admit he didn’t might at all. For months, Chris fantasised about Dr Marshall but never did he ever do anything about those fantasies? And so the nurses teased and Chris took it all - knowing it was never going to eventuate to anything because Dr Marshall was an intern and would be gone at the end of his internship.
The clinic staff room, located down the corridor to the left of the reception area, they barely used. Given the clinics location, across the road from a busy shopping centre, meant most staff ventured out for lunch. The only time the room bustled with staff were mornings and afternoons, and when the lockers located in the room, where used.
One afternoon, as Chris returned from his break, he opened the staff room door to return his jacket to his locker when he walked in on Dr Marshall. His back to Chris, he sat on the table with his feet on the chair, talking on his mobile telephone.
“Twenty more days of this and I’m out of here.”
Chris attempted to ignore the conversation as he removed his coat and quietly opened his locker.
“I don’t know how I’m going to do it.”
It was when Chris close his locker the noise drew Dr Marshall’s attention.
“I have to go, I’ll see you tonight.” Dr Marshall hung up and pocketed his phone.
Chris’s heart flutter as Dr Marshall said his name, it always did.
“Hello Dr Marshall. How are you today?”
Would you like me to take your mind off your problems? Chris always had a silent remark to add to everything he said to Dr Marshall. Chris really did fancy him, but he was never going to admit it.
“Yes. Fine. I guess.” He gave a shrug, running a hand through his already tossed hair. Parts of his fringe sat upright and Chris had the urge to lean over and brush it down. The room seemed suddenly small and Chris was sure the heavy beating of his heart could be heard over the sound of the clock ticking above the door.
“Don’t let Dr Max get to you. You’re not the first intern he’s bullied and you won’t be the last.” Chris knew Dr Max had been on the rampage for most of the morning.
Dr Marshall sighed before smiling and Chris’s palms grew clammy.
“Thank you Chris. No one would manage without you being here.”
Chris sensed the blush rise in his cheeks and dropped his eyes momentarily to avert his embarrassment, before replying, “I know Dr Max is tough but you’ll be thankful for the opportunity to have worked with him later in life.”
Dr Marshall stood, flexed his arms forward, and stretched his back. The palpitations within Chris grew as the combination of Dr Marshall’s smell, his defined physique, and his arm brushing Chris’s arm made Chris draw a deep slow breathe.
“Thank you, Chris.” Dr Marshall squeeze Chris’ shoulder. “You’re presence certainly helps us get through days like this.”
As he removed his hand, Dr Marshall walked past Chris and left the room.
Chris placed a hand over his heart; concerned he might faint at the interaction. Only after Chris had his emotions under control did he leave the staff room and return to the reception area.
Back at the reception desk Martha waited until there was a quiet moment before saying, “Ok, out with it. You’ve had that silly grin on your face since coming back from your break. What happened? Dr Marshall?”
Chris beamed. “We talked in the staff room,” and then Chris mouthed to Martha, “that man is so gorgeous.”
Martha laughed, “Sweetheart, I don’t know why you don’t ask him out?”
“Martha.” Chris growled. “Please, he is so not into men.”
“You should never judge a book by its cover. Don’t I always say that?”
“Yes, you do.”
“Then don’t miss the opportunity or you’ll regret it.”
Chris shook his head but as the day progressed something in Martha’s words began to annoy him. What made it worse was every time Chris saw Dr Marshall throughout the afternoon, the conversation he overheard replayed over in his mind.
It was no secret Dr Max had been the harshest on Dr Marshall than any of the previous interns. Whatever the reasons were, they were unknown by everyone - including Chris.
Given the aggressive nature of Dr Max’s character, what impressed Chris the most was Dr Marshall’s ability to tolerate Dr Max. The other two interns refused to work with Dr Max, preferring to work with any of the other three surgeons in the clinic. For the most part, Dr Max preferred not to work with the interns, however at some point recently Dr Max had insisted Dr Marshall shadow him and that was when frustration set in for Dr Marshall.
This day Chris observed Dr Marshall coming to the end of his tether.
The desire to make Dr Marshall’s day better, Chris considered ways he might be able to help, that weren’t sexual. Yet, the day did not allow time for such thoughts and as it came to an end, Chris had still not come up with any ideas to make Dr Marshall’s remaining time at the clinic any better.
“Maybe write him a letter.” Martha suggested as she shut down her computer, removing her cardigan from the back of her chair.
“And what would I say?” Chris asked.
“How about all the things you like about him?” Martha glared at Chris before passing him.
Chris stared at the pen jar, almost considering the idea but thought better of it. About to leave, a sudden idea struck Chris and returning to his desk, grabbed the pen and post-it note. Across the top he wrote - Let the countdown begin.
He paused, stared at the note before continuing.
Mindless - useless - pieces of information for the number twenty.
20 days until you finish working here.
20/20 indicates normal vision at 20 feet.
Twenty questions is a popular party game
“T” is the 20th letter in the alphabet.
The atomic number of calcium.
Chris paused again, pondering any other useful information for the number twenty, but nothing came to mind.
At the end of his note he wrote - Hang in there.
Chris almost signed his name but at the last moment chose not too. It was no secret Dr Marshall and the other interns were finishing in twenty days. If Chris left the note anonymously, he could leave one every day until Dr Marshall left. The very thought pleased Chris and making his way to the staff room, he would slip the note into Dr Marshall’s locker and hope he found it before leaving that day.
Not long after Chris began working full-time, the role of opening in the mornings soon became his role. Martha trusted Chris that much to take over her morning ritual. This proved to be a blessing to Chris, especially as he entered the dark corridor and flicked the lights on. With no one around, Chris was free to slip his second note into Dr Marshall’s locker without being seen.
The previous evening, Chris had researched numbers online and on his table, at home, were the notes made to help with the post-it notes over the remainder of the days. Prior to slipping the note into the narrow gap at the bottom of the locker, Chris read the post-it note one last time.
Yay! Day 19.
You made it. CONGRATULATIONS.
Here’s some useless information about the number nineteen to help you through your day. (Followed by my ramblings to put a smile on your face)
19 is the command in Age of Empires for the laughing emote. This, ever before “LOL” existed. (LOL)
Renault 19, (manufactured in 1988. The last of the numeric names cars. Interesting? Likely not.)
In golf the “19th hole” is the clubhouse bar. (Can I buy you a drink sometime? 19... LOL haha. I crack myself up. Get it... 19... laughing emote. Forget it)
Anyway, don’t let Dr Max get to you.
The personal messages Chris left after the information were written in much the same way he always added silent opinions when speaking out loud. Once again, Chris did not sign the note, but couldn’t be sure if Dr Marshall would suspect it was him. With fifteen women working in the clinic, Dr Marshall was bound to think it was one of them–right!
That’s what Chris hoped, anyway.
As the day progressed, every time Chris saw Dr Marshall he noticed his demeanour grew darker. Chris heard from one of the nurses Dr Max had been particularly hard on all the interns that day. Chris only hoped Dr Marshall had found his note a little helpful.
And he did.
Late in the afternoon, Chris found a post-it note written by Dr Marshall attached to a file that read - Dr Marx would like a copy of this please. 19.
Only Chris would have known who wrote the message because the writer had use the number nineteen to denote LOL. Chris chuckled to himself. Dr Marshall had been making a joke but anyone else reading the message would not have understood. Well, Dr Marx was an inside joke but the number nineteen would have confused them.
Chris pulled the post-it note from the file and slipped it into his pocket, then photocopied the pages. There was no hiding the smile from his face for the rest of the day. Even Martha questioned Chris several times as to what he was up too but Chris kept his secret.
This isn’t as easy as I first thought it would be.
In many countries, 18 is the age of majority. (I’m well past eighteen, and twenty-one and twenty... 19)
In the Chinese mythos, Hell has 18 levels. (18 levels. I wonder if you enter at level one and work your way up or enter at level 18 and work your way down. Or you go in at one level depending on how bad you were while alive. Not sure about this one but knowing there are 18 levels of hell and not one, is scaring me)
Chris decided, as he slipped the note into Dr Marshall’s locker, being a twenty day stalker might not have been a good idea. The time it took finding information about numbers had been consuming but proved fascinating. Yet trying to decide which facts to use took up much of Chris’s evenings, the littered post-its over his kitchen table evidence the number of times he’d re-written the notes.
The day was much like any other. Martha and Chris worked on the reception desk. After lunch Chris spent time in the records room and when he returned to the front desk he overheard Dr Marshall say to Martha, “I hear there are eighteen levels of hell. I’ve experience all of them today.”
Chris held his breath, returned to the records room and burst out laughing. He didn’t mean too, he was sorry Dr Marshall was having a bad day, but he found it a little exciting to know Dr Marshall had been enjoying his notes enough to share the information.
Isn’t this fun?
17 is the number of Sickles in one Galleon in the British wizards’ currency. (I read Harry Potter on the advice of a friend I would like it. They were right - I loved it. I heart Alan Rickman)
Seventeen Seconds is the second studio album by The Cure, released in April 1980 by Fiction Records. (I LOVE listening to The Cure)
The number of syllables in a haiku. (This is crazy right. To be stalked for twenty days. But I see you smile.)
I like to see you smile.
Today was a bad day for everyone. A backlog of surgery occurred due to Dr Max performing emergency surgery that would have been avoidable had the patient followed the correct treatment plan. This put Dr Max in a foul mood even Chris could not hide from. He’d been yelled at twice - both times when Martha had not been around. It was not a good day for any of them. Chris only hoped his little note had made Dr Marshall’s day a little better.
What the hell was up with yesterday? I don’t think anyone smiled at all. I hope today is better.
The previous Roman Catholic Pope was Pope Benedict XVI (I always thought of eggs when I heard the pope’s name. Is that a bad thing?)
Sixteen is the minimum age for getting a job in some countries. (My first job was serving fries. I hated it. Didn’t get much better after that but at least I was earning money. Not like some of the lazy friends I went to school with, always trying to borrow money from me, calling themselves friends. Blah!)
The day was a little better than the previous one. With only one more day until the weekend Chris looked forward to Friday. But that left him a little anxious given there were only two more weeks before Dr Marshall finished. Chris didn’t want to admit to himself how much he was enjoying the note writing. It was on his mind almost all the time and during the day, he couldn’t help smile when thinking about it.
Martha caught him sometimes and would give him a puzzled gaze but Chris ignored her. He would share his little secret after Dr Marshall left. For the most part Chris continued to keep an eye out for Dr Marshall hoping he might catch a smile from him at least once during the day.
“Martha here is Monday’s in patients. Dr Max would like you to contact them tomorrow, blah blah. You know the drill.”
Chris heard Dr Marshall behind him, as he faxed through documentation, and couldn’t help smile. It was the same every afternoon but this time Dr Marshall chose not to concerned himself with formality.
Martha’s reply was what Chris had expected. “Well Dr Marshall aren’t we a little hung up at the moment. Could it be that this place has finally got to you?”
“It got to me after the first month Martha but if not for your beautiful gentle nature I would never have made it this far.”
“You liar.” Chris smiled. Martha was always straightforward.
“Actually, it was Chris all along.”
Chris felt his cheeks burn, but he didn’t turn around; he focused on the machine in front of him and pretended he had not been listening. But it was no good as Martha replied, “Did you hear that Chris. We need to add Dr Marshall to you list of adoring fans.”
Martha really knew how to put people in it.
Chris didn’t dare turn around, but replied, “Ok, I’ll add him to the bottom.”
“I’d prefer to be on top.” As Dr Marshall spoke, several things happened. Chris turned sharply to glare at him and knocked the papers on the desk to the floor. Martha burst out laughing at the look on Chris’s face and Dr Marshall grinned at him as Chris stared at him mouth open wide.
In between breaths, Martha said, “You should see you face Chris, it’s priceless.”
Chris shut his mouth and dropping to his knees picked up the papers.
He didn’t know how to answer that question because when Dr Marshall said he’d rather been on top Chris never considered his name on a list. But as Martha continued to laugh Chris relented and laughed too.
“Ok, you can both laugh. There doesn’t seem to be enough of it at the moment. If you want to be on top, then fine, you can be on top.”
Dr Marshall gave Chris a wide grin before giving him a nod and leaving.
“Do you think he got your meaning?” Martha asked after she had calmed down.
“I don’t want to think about it.”
“That’s too bad, it would have been fun seeing you both flirting.”
“Martha.” Chris exclaimed. “I wonder about you sometimes.”
“Come on love, I only want to see you in a nice stable relationship with a nice young man who will treat you well. A shame Dr Marshall isn’t that way inclined. You would both make a great couple.”
Chris gave Martha a big squeeze. She said the nicest things.