Amber is my fill in secretary from the temp place. My regular secretary, Elly, just got out of the hospital yesterday after being sick as a dog with pneumonia. She says she plans to come back to work on Monday. I told her to just call me on Friday and tell me how she is doing, no hurry.
But, good lord...I feel such a need for her to get her ass back here. Her healthy ass, that is. Actually, everyone except Piper and myself is sick at work. Elly fell first, with what she thought was a simple cold that quickly turned into something much worse. She was hospitalized last week after she went to her doctor's office and nearly fainted in his waiting room. And then...everyone fell like dominoes. Marisol has been coming to work, but you sort of wish she wouldn't. She looks gray faced and is quietly miserable. Francisco became sick next, followed in short order by Sue and Julie. They are all coming in, although they are nearly as sick as Marisol. The sounds of wretched coughing and violent sneezing fits explode in fits and starts all through the day.
Piper passed me in the hall the other day and whispered, "You just don't want to touch anything, do you?"
So, Amber has been filling in for Elly. She is a twenty something woman with a chipper blonde ponytail and the kind of voice that surprises you. It sounds like a teenage girl, a Miley Cyrus sort of voice that doesn't fit her face.
Amber is pregnant. She is due in late July, so that would make her about three months along. But, she wears maternity tops already, making her look much more pregnant than she really is. She is thrilled about becoming a mother and it is her main topic of conversation.
She is also a truly bad secretary.
At first, I just figured that it would take a while for her to figure out how to do things. I mean, we use a lot of government forms here and I know that can be confusing. But, she either is refusing to learn or simply cannot. I am guessing that it is a choice rather than a problem as she seems pretty intelligent to me. So, why does she insist on handing me files that look as though she simply threw forms in them, willy nilly? Why can't she remember to collect co-payments? Why does she forget to photocopy insurance and medicaid cards? When I asked her to cancel all my afternoon appointments because I broke a tooth and had to go to the dentist, she forgot and then left shortly after I did, since she figured that "Maria doesn't need me to stick around if she isn't here, so I guess I will just take off early!"
And then, of course, all the children and their parents showed up for their appointments because she had neglected to call and cancel them.
Poor sick Marisol handled them, rescheduled them and told me the next day that Amber was "useless, truly useless." Marisol never says a bad word about anyone, so yeah, she was pissed off.
Today was a hard day. I woke up cranky. My tooth was fixed two days ago, but it still aches now and then. I had several nightmares last night in quick succession. Most of them involved losing Liv in some way. It is usually what I have nightmares about. I dreamed that I was at some sort of summer festival and Liv was roller skating. She got far ahead of me and some man dragged her into a car. I kept trying to get to her, was screaming at someone, anyone to please help me. No one helped. Many got in my way. I woke up in a cold sweat, my face wet with tears, gasping and so relieved to have only been dreaming.
And then...fell back asleep and dreamed that there was a man with a knife in the house. It was my childhood home, no idea what I was doing there...but I was alone and he was there and after me. I somehow got out of the house and realized that I had left Liv inside with him. She was still an infant and napping.
Talk about night terrors.
So, yeah...I woke up cranky with my tooth pulsating with pain and a headache and just plain crabby in general.
I tried to talk to Bing and she was in a hurry, in no mood to put up with my sad sackness.
"Honey...you just had a bad night. Tomorrow will be better."
That was when I got really whiny. I told her that I had fucking ENOUGH on my damn plate and I didn't want to deal with a painful tooth...plus...the thought of going to an office full of sick people was not much to look forward to...
Bing stopped packing her back pack and looked at me, frowning.
"You know what, Maria? It could be so much worse. We are so lucky in so many ways. We have our jobs, we have each other. Cars that run..."
Well, that did it. I told her to please shut the fuck up and let me be frackin' gloomy once in a while. That I wasn't Mary Fucking Poppins, that I had a RIGHT to be cranky now and then.
I think I may have stomped my foot. I was in ten year old mode and that was it.
She rolled her eyes and tried to kiss me goodbye and then sneezed as she leaned in towards me.
"DON'T YOU DARE BE GETTING SICK!" Those would be my parting words to her.
Yeah, I am America's sweetheart, no contest.
She left without her kiss. I didn't care.
I had to nag Liv into getting up. She was dragging her feet, upset over her homework. She is having trouble with participles these days.
I sat on her bed, trying for the 100th time to explain things as she got dressed.
"It is easy, Liv. Verbs have two participles, one is called present or imperfect. The other is called past. Now, if I have talked then, what participle is it? It is PAST. If I am talking then it is what? PRESENT. And now, what is a dangling participle? Do you know?"
Liv wearily pulled on her socks, shook her head.
No time. Never enough time. I told her to pack up her back pack and ask Hal and Nora, her morning babysitters to help her. We left the house and were halfway to Hal and Nora's house when Liv suddenly remembered that she forgot her lunch.
I dramatically sighed and headed back home, scolding her for her forgetfulness. I sent her in to get her lunch and she came out running a few moments later.
"I forgot the code to turn off the house alarm, Mama!"
Cursing, I got out of the car, jerked open the door and shut off the alarm and then went striding to the dining room to retrieve Liv's lunch when we both realized that Socks had run outside. It took ten minutes to lure him back into the house and I am sorry to say that I yelled at him when I finally caught him and then slammed the door hard in his face.
When we arrived at Hal and Nora's, I hurried her up to the door and barely kissed her goodbye before sprinting back to the car, worried about being late for work.
I forgot that she had that test on participles today. She could have used an extra hug instead of me snapping at her to not forgot your lunch in the car or you will just have to go without...I MEAN IT, OLIVIA!
When I got to work, the parking place that I usually nab was taken by a big pimp mobile. I found one nearly a block away. As I got out of the car, one of the homeless men that I see every day came up to me and asked for some "coffee change" as he always does.
I frowned and waved him away. Too bad. So sad.
When I got in the office, everyone was still sick. Except for me and Piper....
And Amber. Who was in a huge maternity dress. I wanted to snicker at her and tell her that she looked ridiculous in maternity clothes when she wasn't even showing yet. Instead, I ignored her and went to get coffee and realized that Amber must have made it because it was fucking WEAK. I hate slipshod coffee. I grabbed the coffee pot and made a big show out of dumping it all down the drain.
"I don't know who made this coffee...but it is WEAK," I said in my haughty voice.
I got through the morning. I realized then that Liv wasn't the only one who forgot her lunch at home....so, I sent Amber to pick me up a hamburger at the diner down the street. I specifically asked her to get extra catsup. She forgot.
After lunch, my bad behavior finally caught up with me. I was in the bathroom and suddenly it hit me that I had been a perfect bitch to everyone (with the exception of our patients) all day long.
Why did I have to be so snotty to Bing?
And GOD...Liv was so worried this morning and participles are HARD. I hadn't been there for her and then to make things worse, I was brusque and snapped at her. I remembered my nightmares last night and suddenly I thought...
What if something happens to her today, what if I lose her, something terrible happens, and the last thing she remembers is me shoving her into Hal and Nora's house and not even kissing her goodbye?
I don't try to be a bad mother. I really don't.
And that poor homeless guy. God, all he ever asks of me is some damn change for a cup of coffee. Okay. Maybe it is really for a Colt 45, but who am I to judge? Why was I so hateful to that poor man?
Amber is sort of a dimwit, but I didn't have to make her feel so badly about making coffee. I knew it was she that made it. Everybody did. And I deliberately made her feel badly about it.
So, everyone is sick at work. At least it isn't me. And it isn't their fault.
I hung my head. I thought again of Liv and looked at my watch. It was 2:30. Her test would be over by now. She was here. In my city. With me. My little girl.
I felt my eyes fill with tears. If anything happened to her...
I heard a sound behind me and started. Looked up quickly.
It was Amber. Our eyes met and she said, "Oh! I'm sorry...I'll just...come back in later..." and she backed out.
How embarrassing to be caught crying in a bathroom.
Oh, well. It happens.
I washed my face and re-applied lipstick. Blush. Mascara.
And went back to my desk.
There in the middle of it was a small white cupcake with white frosting. A note beside it said
I'm sorry you are having a bad day. Hope it gets better soon. I remember that you said once that you liked those vanilla bean cupcakes at the bakery down the street, so I got you one. I like being your secretary. I also like the way you dress usually. Your friend, Amber.
It helped, that cupcake. And I made sure to cut it in half and make her share it with me. I told her that vanilla bean is good for mothers to be.
Tomorrow will be better. I will be more patient with Liv. I will be kinder to my spouse. I will give the homeless man my change. And I will drink the coffee as is.
But, hey. That cupcake made a difference. And maybe my dreams will be sweet tonight.