Gaurav woke up with a start. Was that a scream? He thought he heard something then was it the bus horn…he heard some faint giggles and chaotic murmuring amidst the noisy rain. Oh those partying live wires must be leaving… Ria must have left too. He hoped she would reach home safely. Slightly disoriented and shaking his head to remove the nagging kink, he squinted at his watch looked at his watch. He had barely dozed for a few minutes.
Seeing Ria in the party had disoriented him more than the whiskey he had been consuming since evening when he had been brooding here. He never should have gone downstairs but standing in the darkness of the staircase, he couldn’t help it. He only wanted to take a small peek but he had blatantly started… She looked so unrestrained unlike back in the hospital where she was generally uptight especially when she encountered him. But here she looked devoid of worries and her face shone in the sheen of sweat as she gyrated to the peppy numbers especially in that Godforsaken gown which was taking his blood down south with a vengeance. The same blood had boiled to see that guy…Tusshar something from the Physiotherapy department make a move towards her. He caught a few others too ogling at her dearie. He had tightened his fists on his sides. Wait…was he jealous? A grown up 37 year old man…freaking jealous of silly young guys who were closer to Ria’s age than he…
Right then Ria had probably sensed him and had looked around… Before he did something that he would regret later, he had come back upstairs, drowned his whiskey and slumped in his easy chair.
Now wide awake he thought he heard a thud. He heard the loud honking of the bus and looked out of the window. The bus was submerged up to half its tyres and was now moving away. Good for them, and even better for him he thought. He would finally have his peace here. It probably would soon flood more if the rains continued lashing at this rate. He rubbed a hand over his face wondering what the earlier sound was. It had come from the direction of the washroom. But he wasn’t sure. The whiskey definitely must be working his head. He only had two complete glasses… usually that didn’t get him drunk. Was he hallucinating? Or… Was there a robber? They never had break-ins even during the prime working days of this hospital. Why would anyone come to this ghostly empty place now… in such a heavy downpour? He shook his head and moving away from the window, went towards the washroom. He would as well check for himself.
As he moved towards the washroom, the lights suddenly went off. Oh, hell… the power must have been switched off in the area due to floods….. He took out his cell phone and switched on the torch. The battery read 20% and he had to use it frugally. He thought he would check the washroom area and get back, then switch it off. He continued moving towards the washroom trying to shuffle his way in the faint torch light.
Wait. What was that…?
…Was it a hand? Yes, it was. He was startled to see a hand lying partly outside the entrance. He rushed to check and his heart skipped a beat. Oh God…Ria… . What the hell…?
He bent down and quickly checked for a pulse. Thank goodness, it was there. He shone the mobile light torch over her and saw the long deep cut. Her beautiful gown was ruined. It was torn and the area around her cut was soaked with blood. He held the phone between his teeth and gradually held her leg and checked it. The gash looked quite deep and blood trickled on his palm. Luckily whatever cut her didn’t go too deep…else the damage would have been more. He looked around even as the damp odours made him want to puke, and found her scarf. He picked it and tied it around the wound. That would have to do for now and he had to stop the bleeding. For that he had to take her away from the dirty area.
He heard Ria moan, probably, due to the pain. It was then that he saw, there was a lump on her forehead and probably under her eye…something like a bruise, which had turned an ugly shade of purple. He had to hurry now. His professional instincts were never wrong when he worked as a doctor years ago. He started to lift her but being drunk he was getting disoriented. He probably had had more than two glasses… he had to wake her. He went backwards towards a basin. Luckily there was some water trickling down and he took some in his palm and sprinkled it on her face. He repeated it two more times and Ria jerked and tried to open her eyes. Quickly moving close to her he took her hand in his. “Ria…are you alright? Let me help you OK? Just try to get up. I will take you to the cabin where you can rest….” He paused. He saw Ria was looking at him confused and in a daze. “…. Er you are hurt. I have to …er… get the treatment started with whatever I have here. But first we have to move. Uh… can you get up please? Here… let me help.”
Ria seemed to follow, though her expression was blank. It was then he saw her gown was torn at the wrong angles. He was careful with the remaining of the flimsy material as he helped her stand, he held her right hand and took it around his shoulder to support her. She groaned as she tried to put the weight on the left leg. Slowly she limped with his support towards his cabin.
Gaurav could see that Ria was in immense pain. He was miserable too seeing her in that condition. But he was a doctor first. A doctor? Where did that come from? He had given up everything years ago. He had never felt motivated to get back to it again…until now. Seeing Ria grimacing in pain, he knew he had to get to the task at hand. He was a surgeon and a very good one at that. Once they reached his cabin, he made her comfortable on his recliner chair. The examination table had been moved earlier today and packed off, so the chair had to make do. He raised her leg on the nearby stool. He immediately checked her eyes for the pupil dilation fearing a bad concussion. So far, it seemed ok. He used his fore finger and gently lifter her chin. “Ria…” he called out softly. “…. Do you remember when did you have your last tetanus shot? I need to know… please think ok?”
Ria grimaced as she tried to think. “um… aahhh” she cried in pain. It was as if even uttering a syllable was taxing her. She breathed heavily and held his hand tightly as if her life depended on it. Gaurav covered her hand with his trying to calm her down. Looking straight into her eyes he said, “Ria don’t you worry. I am here with you. I will take care of you ok? Just… calm down. You are absolutely fine. Just remember your last shot… it will help me help you.”
Ria tried to speak, “la…last year. I h…h…. hurt myself. Got te..tet…nus j..ection”. Gaurav heaved a sigh of relief but it was short-lived when he saw the scarf tied to her leg. Though he had raised it, it was bleeding. He had to get the wound stitched and dressed as soon as possible.
He held her face in his hand and said softly, “Ria, look at me. I need to get the treatment going. But we don’t have the applicable resources I would have preferred. Instead I have to make do with whatever I can find. I will be back in a moment. Just… don’t panic and… Don’t go to sleep ok?” Ria just blinked looking at him and he took it as her response. He quickly rushed towards his cupboard and brought out his box and first aid kit. He needed ice as well. He sprinted to the first floor on wobbly legs. There was a huge fridge where the cold drinks were stored for today’s party. He had to reach there before the flood water came in. As he rushed downstairs he saw that the water had started to seep in. He quickly stuffed some rags and cartons lying around into the crevices below the closed entry door…. The basement that they had considered as ground floor during the hey days here, must be waterlogged by now. The windows were shut. Thank God for little blessings. He saw the fridge and quickly scrapped as much ice as he could in a cup lying nearby. He then rushed to the second floor where the OT room…. His OT room lay. It was open. His memories clenched his chest. He had avoided this room like plague for last five years but now it was like he was sliding down the memory lane…. But no he realised with a jolt. His father used to say… ‘A doctor has to have his emotions in check and let the brain take over…’
Ria needed him and that realisation brought down the panic raising within. He looked around for something that would help him. Last week they had a camp here. Would there be anything left? He was hopeful. He quickly found a medical tape and a small ball of cotton. His cabin upstairs had the rest. He had in fact stayed back tonight to relive his career here and looked like he had way more than that up his sleeve. He reached the sink in the corner of the OT room. He found an antiseptic liquid bottle. It had a little quantity but beggars couldn’t be choosers.
He was wavering.. .his head was pounding but he made it to the third floor without dropping his booty. Ria was trying her best to stay awake. He went towards her and quickly held some ice against her forehead. She winced. “Can you hold this for a while Ria? It will get the lump down…” he wondered if she followed. Slowly she lifted her trembling hand and held the little ice. It shook badly. He took out his handkerchief, kept some ice in it and made a tiny bundle. He gave it to her and said, “Here… take this. It’s easier to hold.” Ria mechanically did as told. He then started to work on her leg. He further tore the frills away exposing her leg even as she gasped…but now he had a better access to the wound. Ria whimpered as he tried to untie the scarf which was soaked. As he looked up he saw she was shivering. He took his coat that was hanging on the back of his office chair and quickly covered her with it. He told her to keep holding the ice bundle though the handkerchief was now soaked with cold water. He would think about it later, he thought.
He released the scarf. It was difficult to see in the dark. He clicked on his mobile again to use the screen light, and checked, the bleeding had reduced but not stopped. He used the remaining ice and some cotton to clean the area as he heard her wince. He didn’t dare to look up at her face. He had to be the strong one. The light from his mobile phone dimmed further. Oh no… battery indicated 1%. Suddenly there was total darkness. Ria groaned again and he couldn’t make out if it was due to pain or fear of the dark. The only light was from the lightening. He now had to gather his wits. He said to her, “Ria I am icing and covering the wound tentatively so that it stops bleeding and not get infected. I have to make arrangements for…stitches. Just…just bear with me swee…. er ok?” He was about to call her sweetheart, like he had in his fantasies. He had to be careful.
He washed hand scrubbed his hands at the attached basin. The water was trickling but he had to make do. He had to get his tools in place quickly…in the dark. He sat down and cleaned her wound further. He quickly opened his tool box and picked out the fine dissoluble thread. He had procured it from the UK when he had attended a seminar there. It was the best brand available and he had only used that once afterwards. He checked his needles and picked the one he felt was sufficient. He always kept his tool box sterilised. Even though he wasn’t practising, he used to revamp and take care of his tools every month. So he didn’t worry now about the sterilising the needle. He only had a tiny amount of the numbing gel. He wasn’t sure of the expiry date but it wouldn’t be very long as he always checked… thank God for his obsession, it helped today. He took his place on the floor. He had to tilt his head as he applied the gel on her wound. She whimpered… After a minute, he took in a deep breath as he started the procedure. If it pained her she didn’t show it and he was grateful for that. Somehow when it came to her all logic flew out of the window.
Slowly he finished the dressing too in the best possible manner. It looked sleek and well finished. Not that he had many options. He took out his tool box and shaped the dressing so that it would cover the wound but not hinder her movement. It was only after he finished he realised, he had done the procedures in total darkness and his hands hadn’t trembled…he didn’t even think of his fear. That was something… he blinked back tears.
He now looked up at her face. Though his eyes were adjusted to the darkness he couldn’t make out her facial expression. He needed to check that lump too. Just then, there was a bout of lightening which shown through the window. He now saw her face for a moment. She was looking at him with tears rolling down her cheeks. Her hands lay on her stomach. He took the little bundle of ice from her hand, which was now a wet cloth. He rinsed it and held it against her forehead. She held his hand with shaking hands and asked, “B… Bus?”
Gaurav didn’t want to upset her further but he couldn’t hide the truth anymore. “The bus left long ago. You had fallen in the washroom here upstairs. I will take them to task for leaving you here like this….” Indeed, it was highly irresponsible on their part. How could they not miss her? No one even called her… called?? He abruptly looked at her. “Ria… where is your phone?” Ria whispered, “bag… dropped”. Gaurav carefully made his way to the washroom. He wondered how he would find the phone in the darkness. He moved his foot around the area where he had found Ria trying to avoid the blood. Something touched his foot and he bent to pick it up. It was her phone. Though it showed no signal, the battery indicated 40%. That was something!
He returned back to the cabin. Ria was shivering and he touched her forehead. As expected she was running a mild temperature. He didn’t have medication for fever. Using her phone screen light, he checked his cupboard which he used to stock with bedding for whenever he visited or stayed here. He dragged it out. He also took out all the three bed sheets and the thick rug which the housekeeper had thankfully cleaned for him.
He took her shivering hand in his. With his other hand he drew her hair back on the forehead. He said softly, “Ria we have to sleep in the bedding here. It’s started to get cold and you are running a temperature. I have to stay close to keep watching for… you know since you are hurt on the head….” he didn’t know what else to say to her. Ria looked the other way and tried to pull her hand away. He held it tight and tugged at it as he continued, “Ria please… look at me. I know I haven’t given you any reason to trust me. But now I am your doctor. Please…please listen to this once. It’s going to be very cold shortly and you will be further sick.” She looked back at him. He could see tears in her eyes. He knew what she may have been thinking. Realizing that he didn’t have much time considering his state as well, he released her hand. Going towards the other side of the room, he laid flat the few empty cartons on the floor. He had got them from the storeroom earlier in the evening to fill his things. He then put the bedding and helped her into it. She winced with every movement but he had to appreciate her composure. He didn’t get in with her. He placed a thick towel beneath her foot outside the bedding to provide elevation. He then lay next to her on top of the bedding. It was raining heavily. Because it had started getting very cold, he had closed the window. Now he dragged both thick blankets over to cover them both. Ria soon drifted off to sleep. He too slept off with a last thought, to wake her up every hour or so.
He was shaking…? he was suddenly awake and immediately checked on Ria. She was shivering. Her temperature had spiked. He stood and thought for a moment. There had to be something in the OT room. They had stored medicines in the cabinets there for the camp. He took her phone and rushed down. Since the phone was locked he had to depend on the dim screen light. He looked inside each cabinet. Finally, he saw a small carton. He dragged it and opened the seal. There were few Paracetamol strips. There were also sachets of ORS and Glucon D. He took a few and went back. He gently woke her and helped her up as she laid her head on his chest. He caught his breath as he gave her a tablet for the fever. He also found a mild antibiotic which wasn’t enough for her, but now that had to suffice. Luckily, he hadn’t finished his water. He held her as she drank and took her medicines. As he lay her down again, she quickly turned further into him and snuggled into his chest. His arms automatically covered her. Finally, they lay facing each other with his one hand under her head and the other hugging her. He was instantly hard…. he hated himself to even think of such a fantasy while she lay ill. Sleep was now a distant possibility.
Very often Ria would whine in pain or shiver. He held her close and whispered into her ears. He didn’t seem to get enough of the shampoo fragrance in her hair. He breathed in and kissed her head. His breath caught when she snuggled further. He just hoped she would get well soon.
In the wee hours of morning, he checked her forehead. Her temperature had come down. She was sleeping peacefully. He was now relieved. He kept staring into her face just a beautiful silhouette in the dark, till he fell asleep.
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