‘LEFT A BIT...a bit more. No, that’s too far now.’
‘For heaven’s sake, Suzy, make up your mind. I’m starting to get vertigo from balancing on the top of this ladder!’
Molly Daniels rolled her eyes as she looked down at her friend, Suzy Walters. It was the start of her Friday night shift and from the amount of noise issuing from the waiting room things were already hotting up. With just three weeks to go until Christmas, the A&E unit at Dalverston General Hospital was coming under increasing pressure as people set about enjoying the festivities. She really needed to get down to some work so, tossing back her strawberry blonde curls, which as per usual had come loose from their clip, Molly held up the bunch of mistletoe once more.
‘How about here? Maybe it’s not the exact centre of the room but I doubt if anyone except you will notice that.’
‘I suppose it will have to do,’ Suzy conceded grudgingly. She grimaced as Molly pinned the rather wilted bunch of foliage to the ceiling above the coffee table. ‘Although, according to custom, you are supposed to be standing under the mistletoe before anyone can kiss you and you can’t do that with the table being there, can you?’
‘Well, that’s fine by me.’ Molly made sure the drawing pin was securely anchored then climbed down from the ladder. ‘I’ve had it with men calling the shots, so if anyone gets any idea about kissing me without my express permission they can forget it!’
‘Oh, come on, Molly. You don’t really mean that.’
Suzy followed Molly out of the staffroom, a frown furrowing her brow. They had met at university while they had been studying for their nursing degrees and had remained firm friends ever since. Molly knew that Suzy only wanted her to be happy; however, her friend’s idea of happiness—i.e. finding the right man to settle down and have a family with, as Suzy herself had done—was no longer hers.
She had tried that and she had the scars to prove it too! Her dream had always been to find her ideal mate so that she could enjoy the kind of loving and supportive relationship her parents had. She had set out her stall accordingly, opting to date men who had possessed the right credentials. They had to be reliable and trustworthy, caring and kind. The problem was that although they had appeared to tick all the right boxes, they had turned out to be far from perfect. One was too bossy, another too needy, a third too boring—and so it had gone on.
The one and only time she had veered off course and dated someone who hadn’t fitted her brief had been an even bigger disaster, though. She had had her heart well and truly crushed then and from now on she intended to take a very different approach when it came to relationships. There would be no more wondering if this or that man was Mr Right. And definitely no more sitting by the phone, waiting for him to call. The days of her being a lovelorn victim were well and truly over!
‘I do.’ Molly held up her hand when Suzy opened her mouth to protest. ‘Save your breath, Suzy. I’ve heard it all before: one day I’ll meet the man of my dreams and ride off into the sunset with him.’ Molly snorted in disgust, her emerald-green eyes filled with cynicism. ‘I may have believed in the fairy tale at one time, but I don’t believe it now. The man doesn’t exist who can make me change my mind about that, either!’
Molly spun round and headed to the nurses’ station. Fond as she was of Suzy, she didn’t intend to waste any more time debating the issue. She did the hand-over, listening closely while Joyce Summers, her opposite number on the day shift, updated her as to the status of the patients currently in the unit. As senior sister, Molly needed to know what stage they were up to in their treatment. She nodded when Joyce had finished.
‘Not too bad, from the sound of it.’
‘It’s early days yet,’ Joyce replied with all the weary wisdom gained from twenty-odd years spent working on the unit. She was due to retire after Christmas and was looking forward to it immensely.
‘It is,’ Molly agreed, laughing. ‘So how are your plans coming on? Have you booked that cruise you were telling me about?’
‘I have indeed. Three weeks in the Caribbean. I can’t wait!’ Joyce picked up her cardigan and started to leave then paused. ‘Oh, I forgot to tell you that we’ve got a locum covering over Christmas and the New Year. He’s starting tonight... Oh, talk of the devil—here he is! At least we know he’s up to the job, unlike some I could mention.’
Molly glanced round to see who had come in through the main doors and felt her heart grind to a halt. It couldn’t be him, she told herself sickly. Not now, after she had finally sorted out her life. It must be her imagination playing tricks, trying to test her newfound resolve after what she had told Suzy, but it wasn’t going to work. Closing her eyes, Molly counted to ten, convinced that when she opened them again the apparition would have disappeared...