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.

"Hello Chris."

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. 



(JULY 2017)

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