Far From The Island – 25

“I’m sorry I’m late.” Fiona was still tying the strings of her apron when she emerged from the tiny room which the female staff of the Govan free clinic used as a changing-room, and bumped into the muscular frame of Dr Matthew Usher.

“Did the dragon Mrs Cunningham try to lock you in?” he said with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“No, the cable on the subway carriage snapped. I still don’t trust this new-fangled system. Goodness knows what the folk on Heronsay would think of me hurtling round underneath the streets of Glasgow in a wee wooden carriage!”

As usual, Fiona’s heart gave a little flutter as she looked up at Matthew’s handsome face. She told herself that he smiled in just that way at everyone, but she didn’t really want to believe it. With patients and staff, Matthew was kind, gentle and firm. He had a way of talking to people that was friendly without being condescending, so that young mothers, old grandmothers and taciturn ship-workers alike confided in him.

He was a good man and an excellent doctor and there was no denying it, Fiona thought to herself as she walked with him along the short corridor to the waiting-room, she liked him. She liked him quite a lot. And she was pretty certain he liked her, too, not just because of that particular smile, but because he was always seeking her out, always seemed pleased to see her even when they were up to their eyes with patients, and he was, too, always careful never to cross the line in front of the other nurses. A gentleman, Matthew was, of the very old-fashioned kind.

But as Fiona pushed open the door to the waiting-room and the cacophony of sound hit her, all thoughts of personal feelings evaporated. As ever, the room was full to bursting, and as ever, despite the obvious suffering of some, the atmosphere was relaxed and happy, in stark contrast, so Matthew said, to the strictly regimented regime maintained by the parish doctor. This was just one of the reasons that the clinic flourished. The patients didn’t mind the long wait, passing the time swapping stories and sharing news, the women exchanging recipes and remedies as they knitted, one eye on their needles, the other on their bairns.

“Could you help Nurse McKinley with the ante-natal cases today, Fiona? I’ve my hands full and will need Nurse McEwan to help me out. A dreadful case; a riveter from one of the yards had his arm crushed and I’m afraid that it’s become gangrenous. Then I have my consumption trial cases to attend to.”

Fiona knew that Matthew was funding these trials himself, administering the same revolutionary treatment as Francis was being given. The research fascinated her, and she would have relished the chance to be at Matthew’s side to help with the poor shipyard worker, too, but she had no real training, and Nurse McEwan had years of experience, so she must make herself useful wherever she could. And within five minutes, Nurse Evaline McKinley was allowing her to be so useful that Fiona forgot everything else in the pleasure of doing so.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.