Lynn Masters stood with sore feet and the beginnings of a knot in her back, looking over the patient board and saw with more than a bit of satisfaction that it was just about clear. If the clinic managed to avoid an outbreak of the flu, the common cold, or even a minor trauma, it could mean an early night for her. Sighing at the thought, she debated whether she wanted a cup of the gunk they called coffee or if she could make it through to closing time without another shot of caffeine.
After this shift, she was off duty for three days and her thoughts were excited as the prospect of a break stretched in front of her: empty days with nothing to do, the first real break she’d had in weeks. As far as pediatric residents went, she was senior enough to be at the top of the food chain, in terms of schedule but still, someone else had always called in sick or they’d been short-handed and she’d kept saying yes to working overtime. So now she was well and truly due for some time off and she planned on enjoying every last minute of it.
Skipping the coffee, she made her way down the hallway toward the front desk to start updating her charts. The Queensbay Sailors’ Clinic, which had started life in the nineteenth century as a home for destitute sailors, had entered the twenty-first as a facility to provide cost-effective medical services, mostly to women and children. It tried hard, it really did, to be bright and cheerful, despite the dilapidated air about the place. Over the years, it had been housed in a small house, an old church, and other various spots around town, but now was in a building which someone had told her had once been a sail maker’s loft. It was a big and spacious, but it hadn’t been well-taken care of over the years.
The clinic took up the entire first floor. The second floor was mostly empty, except for a resident psychic who kept sporadic office hours. Her clients climbed up a set of rickety iron steps attached to the outside of the building to have their fortune told. Many of them headed straight down to the clinic, right after their psychic readings, where invariably Lynn would find something wrong with them.
Curious, Lynn had stopped by to see Madame Robireux once, to ask her how she knew there was something physical ailing her clients, but Madame, in true soothsayer’s fashion had only waved her heavily ringed hands over a crystal ball and given an enigmatic shrug and started talking about auras. The psychic had offered to read Lynn’s own aura, but she had declined, deciding that if was something wrong, she preferred to discover it the old-fashioned way.
In truth, the whole building had the air of an aging woman of the night, with great bones, the last vestiges of beauty not quite gone, but with a general sagginess, as if the whole thing was ready to slide in on itself.
The chairs in the waiting room were hard and uncomfortable and the tables in the exam room were old and the vinyl covers were cracking.
To counteract this, the staff and volunteers had made the inside of the clinic cheery enough, with murals painted on the walls, depicting scenes of oceans and jungles and even a more fanciful one, showing unicorns and fairies in a forest. The kids loved all of them, always stopping to search for their favorite fish or animal each time they came.
And Lynn loved it too. She had poured her heart and soul into her time here at the clinic, helping to raise money for it, donating her own time, and taking pride in watching her patients—kids—grow. She had even started a special program for some of her higher risk ones. Called Healthy Kids Now, she focused on getting her youngest patients exercising and eating better. Sure, everyone knew the basics—eat better, move more—but putting it into practice was harder, even if the parents were on board. Everyone was busy so Lynn had worked to make the program as simple and as easy to use as possible. The successful results were starting to roll in and she’d even received some attention from the medical community. She’d had half a dozen requests to write or speak about it to other clinics and doctors and was trying to field them all.
Lynn strolled the halls, well-being and contentment flowing through her. Sure she might have a bad case of sore feet, but there was nowhere else she would rather be. As she approached the front desk, she saw that the main receptionist, Lori, and her friend Sue, one of the nurses, were there, head bent down, deep in discussion.
“Can you believe it?” Lynn listened with only half an ear, finding the screen on the computer where she needed to sign in; she began inputting information. The two women had worked in the clinic together for years and were best friends. They were always gossiping about something or the other, whether it was what some celebrity had been wearing or who was beating whom on some reality show. Seldom was it of any true concern to Lynn. There had been a time when she might have been interested in all of that, but the last years of medical school and her residency had left little time to keep up on current events, of any kind. Besides she was more of a classic film kind of girl.
“We have a month,” Lori hissed to Sue.
“And where are we going to go?” Sue sounded angry. “I’ve been here for eight years, and just like that they’re going to…”
The two of them hushed when they noticed Lynn and in the silence she plainly read guilt.
“What? Is there something wrong with me?” Lynn did a quick scan. She was wearing scrubs and her white doctor’s coat. She’d only had one vomiter today, and she had managed to sidestep the projectile launch. Lunch had been turkey on rye, no mustard or mayonnaise, so she knew she hadn’t been messy there.
“Is it my hair?” she asked, touching the long ponytail she kept her wavy, dark locks in.
The two women just shook their heads. “You look fine, girlfriend. So fine you better go find a boyfriend.”
Lynn shook her head. The two women were always razzing her about her love life, or lack thereof. Being a med student didn’t leave a lot of time for dating. Of course, now that she was just about the real deal, a full doctor, the women had told she was a catch. They had even threatened to start setting her up on blind dates, just like her mother, if she didn’t start going out on her own. It was just that she knew herself. Her relationships had always ended badly and she was in a good place right now, so why mess with it?
“Nice try, ladies. Fess up. What were you really talking about?” Lynn leaned in and dropped her voice. She knew that Sue and Lori loved to gossip not just about showbiz but what was happening in real life. They were a true treasure trove of information and couldn’t keep anything to themselves if they had something really juicy to share.
“Well…” Sue matched Lynn’s low tone and threw a glance over her shoulder, “you didn’t hear it from us, but word on the street is that the clinic is closing at the end of the month.”
“Closing.” Lynn’s mouth dropped open and her it felt like the bottom of her stomach dropped out.
“Shhh!” Lori and Sue said at the same time, and Lynn muttered a sorry.
“Aren’t they always saying that?” Lynn kept her voice down. The Queensbay Sailors’ Clinic was a town institution, but it generally ran on a shoestring budget and for as long as Lynn had worked there, there were always threats in that it was one month away from closing its doors forever. Still, she had planned on it being around and had even accepted a permanent position once her residency was done. She had never thought she’d be out of a job so soon.
“But this time it’s for real. Mr. Petersen’s finally selling and the new landlord wants to turn this place into a day spa. We need to find new space within the month or it’s lights out.”
“A day spa!” Lynn was too incensed to keep her voice down and Sue gave her another angry look as she shushed her.
“You heard us, girl. This place is going bye-bye to make way for a day spa.”
“What do you mean bye-bye? Can’t we just move to another location?”
Lori shrugged. “Mr. Petersen hasn’t raised the rent on us in years. It would be difficult to find another location like this. And even so, that would take time. The lease is up at the end of the month. That doesn’t leave long for the Director to find us another place and get it up and running.”
“But that’s not right!” Lynn said, feeling her anger rising. The clinic served an important need here in town. It couldn’t just go away. And then there was the question of her paycheck. And the new apartment she had just signed a lease on. And her Healthy Kids Now program she was planning on expanding. She felt her head began to throb and her heart beat a little faster. This was so not good. It couldn’t be that everything she had worked for the past ten years was going to evaporate in a matter of weeks.
“You tell us! Oh, look. Now she’s getting angry; but I don’t know what’s that going to do,” Sue said, shaking her short, fluffy red hair.
Lori laughed bitterly. “Don’t go thinking this is like some patient of yours you can go and fix, Lynn. You’d be better off spending your time looking for another job.”
Lynn pulled herself out of her own sense of injustice and looked at the two of them. “What are you going to do?”
Lori shrugged and looked at them over her half-moon glasses. “I’ve got a standing job offer to run my cousin’s dental practice. Offered me a thirty percent raise.”
Sue nodded. “I’ve got a lead in on a job at the hospital. Night shift, at least at first, but still it pays better.”
“But…” Lynn looked at them. The two ladies didn’t appear too concerned, only resigned. “The clinic is an institution, right? It’s been here since the town was first founded. Are you going to let over hundred years of history go down the tubes without a protest?”
The two other women looked at her, then at each other, and Sue said, “When you put it that way…I guess so.”
Lynn fisted her hands and said, “I’m not going down without a fight.”
Sue and Lori exchanged looks as Lynn gathered her stuff and propelled herself out the door.
Lori pulled down her reading glasses and her eyes followed Lynn’s exit. It was her best look, the one she used when she was going to pronounce something she felt was important. “Lordy. Think that Mr. Petersen knows enough to get out of the way when she’s a coming?”
Sue shook her head as she watched Lynn’s retreating back, “No way, she’s tiny…”
“But mighty,” Lori finished for her.
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