By: Hugo Reed
Part I: Katherine Miller
Katherine groaned as her cell phone blared an angry alarm for the third time that morning. What she would've given to escape once more into the delightful realm of sleep…
She hadn't gotten to sleep until the early hours of the morning. Not that this was all that unusual. Her friends had often been subjected to a barrage of texts at midnight or one in the morning. Katherine had a textbook example of restless leg syndrome. The pain had gotten so bad she'd actually be prescribed vicodin a few years ago, but she hated taking it, so most of the time she just dealt with the pain as best as she was able to.
Sadly, this meant that she rarely got to sleep until the A.M. and didn't get more than a few hours before the day got started. Her legs were screaming, but the fatigue was still heavy enough that she knew she would pass out if she nestled back into the comforting pillow.
However, the world wasn't going to wait for her and she knew it all too well. Besides, today was going to be a happy day. Today she finally would start her internship at St. Luke's Medical Hospital. She was excited, although inside her stomach was doing vicious flip-flops. After all, surgery wasn't an easy path to take, and she was already behind most of her colleges.
She'd wasted two years straight out of high school, and still regretted it deeply. Back then she was still growing, and her head was constantly a whirlwind of hormones and emotions. The world had come to her and hit her hard in the face with one simple realization.
Despite being a legal adult, she had no damn clue what she wanted to do with her life. At first, the thought had depressed her, leaving her feeling lost in the world. Out of desperation to control something in her life, Katherine had gone on a party bender. She'd stopped going to her classes and started drinking and sleeping with anyone willing to help her unwind.
Granted, she hadn't been completely careless. She'd at least made sure she wouldn't end up pregnant or with an STD. Still, there'd been consequences. Her high school on again, off again boyfriend had left her and it had been for good. Even nine years later he still hadn't talked to her, and every now and then she was brought to wonder how much harm she'd done him.
She couldn't say for sure what it was that had caused her to want to end it with him. If she had to guess, he'd been too fast. Granted, he wasn't half as wild as she ended up being, but he was ready to get married and start a family, and in the end that wasn't what she wanted from him. He had every right to be furious with her. Sadly, she hadn't had the heart to just leave him, and so she'd cheated, a lot.
It wasn't until her lowest moment that she'd finally started to wake up a little. A dealer had given her some ecstasy. Of course, she'd done her homework, and had been careful enough to make sure she didn't have work the following day, but the experience had terrified her. The very air seemed to have a taste to it and everything seemed to be in an amazingly sharp focus.
It was the following morning, as she lay trying to recover that the thought finally hit her.
What are you trying to do with your life?
Not that her father hadn't asked her that very question a million times, but it was in that moment that it all really crashed down on her. Within a month, she'd cleaned herself up… a little. She'd stopped using recreational drugs and quit going to random meet-ups for sex. After she'd finally gotten to slow down a little, she'd taken a serious look at her life and career.
It had taken several years and more than a little emotional help from friends and family, but she'd finally started to get her life back on the right path. She was getting into a field where she'd actually be able to help people and ease their pain and she had a great boyfriend, Tom. He must've gotten out bed a while ago, because it was cool next to her.
Sighing, she pulled herself out of the comfortable cocoon that was their bed and started the shower. The hot water flooded over her and sent a pleasurable shiver through every pore of her body. She stood still for a long minute, letting the euphoria flood wash over her, before picking up the body wash and rag. While she began to scrub and soap her body, she heard Tom call to her from the kitchen.
"Hey hun, you want some eggs?"
"Yes please," she called over the roar of the water. "Scrabbled!"
"Got it," he said back. "I'm going to take an alone day if that's cool."
"Course, take care babe."
She smiled to herself slightly. Tom was an introvert, and she knew that even though he liked spending time with her, he needed time on his own to recharge and be alone. She'd dubbed these "introvert days" and had started to respect his need for them.
Early in their relationship she'd put him through the ringer a bit, although not on purpose. She was a go-getter, and when she put her mind to something she went after it like a trained bloodhound. After their first fight he'd tried to go and spend some time alone. She'd been too angry and too hasty to try and understand that, and had chased after him immediately.
That was ok, though, because eventually they'd come together and agreed upon certain things that needed to happen in their relationship. He understood that she had days she needed to vent, to let everything out. Likewise, she understood that he needed to have his space sometimes. By far one of the best things they'd done was have "safewords" for arguments.
It was pretty simple actually. When they started arguing, if either started to get to a true breaking point, they could use their safeword and they would stop fighting and explain what they were feeling calmly without interrupting each other. He, being a musician, had picked the term bass and she'd settled on piano.
Maybe it seemed a bit juvenile to some, but knowing where each other's limits were was a great thing for their relationship. It had helped them realize where the areas were that shouldn't be crossed, even as a joke.
For her, it was her choices as a younger woman. He'd once joked about her having a single guy friend she hadn't slept with and she'd exploded on him. Of course, it went both ways. She'd once joked about his music, calling it a "mess" and truly set him off.
But she came to realize that mistakes were an integral part of relationships. A real relationship wasn't born out of a couple that didn't make mistakes, it was born out of a couple that was willing to work through those mistakes. If Tom didn't love her, he wouldn't have stayed with her through all the crap they'd seen, and if she didn't love him, she would've kicked him out ages ago.
Smiling to herself, Katherine toweled herself off and began to get dressed in her scrubs. She felt a slight amount of irritation from the clothing. Men somehow could pull scrubs off, but almost no woman looked good in scrubs. She sighed and put her hair back in a simple ponytail before heading out and finding her eggs and a piece of toast in the microwave for her.
Tom had already left, and she shrugged slightly. It bothered her a little that he hadn't kissed her goodbye but it was stupid to be upset over something so trivial as that, and she tried to put it at the back of her mind. After all, today was going to be a much bigger day than most and she had far more important things to concern herself with.
After her breakfast, Katherine tried to calm herself down. She spent an hour at her tablet, trying to get some drawing done. Sadly, she made no progress and ended up only frustrating herself even more. Still she managed to practice her deep breathing before she left for the hospital, careful to leave some extra time.
Katherine reached the hospital and shut off her car at 9:15. Perfect, she had 15 minutes to figure out where she was supposed to be and not totally embarrass herself.
She took a few breaths to steady herself and pulled nervously at the strings of her hoodie. This was what she wanted right? After all, she'd been through orientation, although they'd hadn't really told her who she'd be working with or anything. Surely, they wouldn't just cut a bunch of fresh interns loose in a place that saved lives, right?
It suddenly dawned on her that she was now an intern. As a medical student, your mistakes really didn't matter much, at least not in the long run. It wasn't possible to kill someone because you wrote down a wrong number, because a veteran doctor was always checking your orders. Now, would they still check everything she wrote, or would it go down as law?
Cautiously, Katherine made her way through the confusing hallways and turns expecting to be told off at every turn. However, the rest of the staff looked at her understandingly, and when she opened the door she saw a doctor with bags under his eyes glance over at her.
"First day?" he asked and she nervously nodded. "First years are downstairs. Right past the ED. Can't miss it."
"Thank you, sorry," she said, flustered as she turned off the lights and closed the door.
It took another ten minutes but she did find the right on-call room. As she opened the door, she saw a few of the interns she recognized from orientation and a team of a couple dozen doctors. It was this sight that horrified her. They all seemed practically like zombies.
They all had haggard looks on their face and several seemed a second or two from dropping dead.
Will I look like them in 12 months? she was forced to ask herself.
As it turned out, these were all doctors working the last of their 24-hour on-call rotations and they smiled, handing off their beepers to the newcomers. They're lives as interns were ending just as hers began.
Katherine felt like she'd been thrown right to the sharks. Her first rotation was on internal medicine, which was slightly annoying, considering she was going into surgery, but it could've been worse. At least she'd get to get her feet under her before she had to impress someone.
Soon, she found the other intern on her rotation, named Josh. She figured that if they stuck together, maybe they'd pull through his hell-hole. Josh was fidgety and soon Katherine found out why.
"They say our resident is a class-A bitch," he said, fear showing in his eyes.
They soon found out that the reputation was a well-earned out. Katherine hit the pager.
"This is doctors Miller and Thrasher, we're…"
The resident cut her off cold.
"I'm on the fourth floor, meet me up here."
Great, Katherine thought. I'm here for one hour and get the bitchy boss.
They went up and somehow managed to find the woman who completely controlled their futures, buried under a mile-high pile of clipboards.
"Doctors," she said curtly. "I'm Doctor Hilton. Don't do anything stupid and do what I say and we'll get along just fine. Check the patients in rooms 201, 204 and 207 and take notes. Then, we'll meet up and see what you think is the proper treatment."
Yes… Yes Ma'am. Yes Doctor. Despite herself, Katherine smiled. She knew as sure as she knew anything in her life, that one day she too would be standing there while a nervous young intern looked up at her and said "Yes, doctor."
For now all she could do was work hard and learn everything she could.