The crease in Serena’s brow grew deeper as she pulled the door closed behind her. It was an unlikely guess but the supply cupboard was the last place left to look. She was about to retreat back to the office and wait for Bernie to reappear when she saw Fletch heading her way.
“Everything alright, boss? You look like you’ve lost your favourite bottle of Shiraz.”
Serena brushed aside his cheek with a look of mock annoyance. “Have you seen Ms Wolfe? I have a meeting with the board after lunch and she promised to hold the fort.”
Fletch shook his head. “Not since morning rounds. Maybe she’s gone to get lunch?”
“No, I’ve just been to Pulses as well as everywhere on and off the ward I can think of. And yes, I’ve tried her mobile but she left it in the office.”
“Have you tried…?” Fletch signalled skyward with his index finger.
Serena nodded. “The roof was the first place I tried.”
Fletch shrugged. “Probably nipped out for some fresh air. I’m sure she’ll turn up in time.”
Bernie slowed her pace a fraction as she turned the corner, her breath forming small clouds of condensation in the cold air. Her legs ached from the exertion as she propelled herself forward along the pavement. It was a cold day for a run but she didn’t mind. The temperature suited her just fine for cooling her down.
A week had passed since her sleepover at Serena’s and although her friend was none the wiser, it had opened up a whole new perspective to their relationship. Suddenly, she saw Serena not as a friend but someone she’d like to see more of.
Preferably in a lot less. Glorious, naked…
Bernie shook her head, berating herself and batted that salacious thought out of her mind. That was just the kind of thinking that’d led to taking up running at lunch time again. Anything was preferable to spending it pretending to enjoy her sandwich while trying not to stare at her co-lead on the other side of the desk.
She checked her watch and saw that it was nearly time to head back to the hospital. With any luck, it’d be a busy afternoon.
“That was a colossal waste of time.” Serena plonked herself into her chair with a loud sigh. “I see it’s been busy while I was gone.”
Bernie stuffed the last of her sandwich back into the bag and swallowed her last mouthful before answering. “Three car pile-up on the M5. Two of the patients are on sedation and obs but the one with a ruptured spleen needs surgery. They’re preparing theatre 1 just now.”
Serena’s eyes perked up immediately. “I’ll give you a hand if you like. Nothing like getting the hands dirty to resuscitate my brain cells.”
Bernie nodded, trying not to think of Serena’s hands doing other dirty things. She took a gulp of water, her throat suddenly dry, while Serena was already halfway to the door.
* * *
“That went rather well,” Serena commented as the patient was wheeled out into recovery. “We make a good team.”
Bernie tore the disposable cap and mask off her face and stuck them into the bin. “Always have. Girl power, eh?”
Their eyes met but it was impossible for Bernie to hold her gaze for more than a few seconds without worrying that she’d turn pink. Serena watched curiously as Bernie looked away and started busying herself undoing the ties to her surgical scrubs.
“Bernie,” Serena said, “is everything alright?'
The blonde head whipped round quickly, the mild panicked look almost answering Serena’s question. “Why do you ask?”
“I haven’t seen much of you at lunch times,” Serena searched her words carefully, “and you seem to be a little distracted lately. I was just wondering why.”
Bernie shrugged as nonchalantly as she could. “I’ve been taking up running again. Thought it might be good for the heart and all that. Racked up thirty miles just this week.”
“Impressive,” Serena said, relieved. She hadn’t wanted to say it but she was almost certain Bernie had been avoiding her lately. It was just a fitness kick she was on after all. “You’ll be ready for the London Marathon in no time,” she teased.
Bernie’s face relaxed into a grin. “Still some ways to go before I can attempt anything as ambitious as that. My back isn’t what it used to be.”
Serena tilted her head and looked Bernie up and down. “Don’t sell yourself short. You look pretty fit to me. And you’d be surprised what sleeping in the right bed can do for you.”
She stared at Serena, no longer trusting her imagination not to troll her. “Yes, quite,” she mumbled.
Serena was halfway pulling of the scrap of leopard print fabric off her head when a thought came to her. “Although, this means you’ve not been eating lunch. And, no, a soggy sandwich at four o’clock doesn’t count,” she continued, preempting Bernie’s protest.
“It’s fine,” Bernie replied. “I’ll make it up at dinner.” Her answer lacked conviction as an image of her near empty fridge appeared in her head. “Although I might need to go shopping first.”
“I have a better plan,” Serena dismissed her idea with a wave of her hand. “I know a nice Italian bistro with an extensive wine list. Lovely food and very cosy.”
Bernie’s head shouted at her that it was a bad idea. She should be putting as much distance between them as possible until her body stopped reacting like a hormonal teenager around her best friend. Her heart however, got there first and she found herself saying yes.
Serena’s eyes gleamed victoriously. “Let’s get changed and leave before something else comes up.” She walked past Bernie on the way out the door, brushing against her shoulder. “You’re in for such a treat,” she murmured, leaving Bernie frozen and staring as she sashayed out the theatre.
She’d be needing some new running shoes soon.