Outside the entrance of a busy A&E department, late evening. CARA, a young junior doctor exits talking to a NURSE and SAM, a uniformed police officer. As they step outside CARA’s phone rings in her pocket, she reaches in and kills the ring as they speak
CARA: Did Psych say how long they’d be?
NURSE: They’ve got another two assessments before her, they said. But you’re right, she’s been in before. Last time was just before Christmas. Overdose.
SAM: She’s obviously had a bit of practice mind, her arms are cut up like- [he notes CARA glaring at him with distaste and trails off]-we PNC’d her at the bridge, she’s been picked up a few times in distress but never tried to-she’s never actually jumped. From anywhere.
CARA continues to gaze at SAM in steady disgust. He wilts slightly under this. The NURSE appears oblivious, checking the pager at her hip. SAM shifts uncomfortably
NURSE: Well, the Ortho registrar is in with her now, they should be a while. Any idea where we’re trying for a bed?
CARA: Not til we get that arm scanned at least. She’ll be lucky if that doesn’t need pinning. Any next of kin?
SAM: She left notes for-
CARA: Notes? Where are they?
SAM hands her two envelopes, which she takes with evident displeasure and scans briefly before she puts them in her pocket
SAM: [defensive] Do you need an officer by the bed? Only there’s three of us covering the whole city centre so-
CARA: [addressing herself very deliberately to the NURSE] Make sure someone stays by the bed-she’s pulled lines out before. Tell them if she makes any noises about leaving to bleep Psych urgently and put her on a five-two in the Department. Don’t ring the next of kin til someone’s discussed it with her but find out who the NR is. (to SAM) Who rang it in?
SAM: Housemate. Best friend, apparently. Chris has gone to pick her up. I need to be-
CARA: Five minutes. (she looks at SAM intently again) OK? (to the NURSE) I’m gonna take twenty while the rest are all see and treat, but I’m only out here getting some air.
NURSE nods. CARA reaches into her pocket for a packet of cigarettes
NURSE: (lightly) And filling it with lead, great stuff. Do you want a coffee bringing out?
CARA: You’re a legend.
The women smile at each other and the NURSE heads back indoors. SAM is increasingly uncomfortable as CARA finds her lighter and takes out a cigarette.
SAM: I’m not trying to be a dick, Cara, it’s just I’m at work and-
CARA: Really? What’s that like?
SAM: Look, if you’re going to-
He holds his hands up in defiant surrender briefly, thinks better of it and, looking around, touches CARA on the shoulder. She looks at the floor, cigarette forgotten
SAM: [gently] There’s really only three of us. We had to get specials in to cover while we went and sorted this one out. What time are you-
CARA: The girl you brought in. Her name’s Ella. She’s nineteen. She’s really quite badly hurt and she’s probably going to be sectioned this evening but it’s nice that you’ve “sorted” it, eh?
SAM: Jesus, Cara. There’s no talking to you, is there?
CARA: Go home, then. [she smiles acidly] Talk to your wife.
SAM: Don’t you dare- [he looks around him again, lowering his voice before he continues] Look, you knew what you were doing, Cara. It’s not as if I’ve been playing you off. I told you everything. I’m sorry this has happened. I am. But there’s not much more I can-
CARA: Nice. Tasteful.
SAM: I need to go. Any indication how long you’re planning to milk this? I’ll set an alarm.
CARA: [astonished] MILK it? You absolute fucking-
SAM: [cutting her off] Pack it in, Cara. You don’t want a baby anyway! You said as much about five hundred times. If you had one you’d probably fucking leave it on a train.
SAM holds up a hand to CARA’s face as she prepares to lay into him and continues without leaving pause for her to speak
I get it, OK? I get that it’s not me that has to be pregnant and I get that you feel like shit but the rest of the world hasn’t stopped and literally nothing has changed, Cara. Nothing. Right? I probably am a bastard but you already knew that when you picked up someone else’s husband so turn it in with the innocent victim shit and behave yourself.
As he speaks the NURSE returns holding two takeaway coffees. CARA spots her first and gestures to her, indicating to SAM the conversation is over.
CARA: That’s five minutes.
SAM: [preparing to leave] Ring me after-just let me know you’re OK
CARA does not look at him again. He smiles affably at the NURSE as he exits and she hands CARA one of the coffees.
NURSE: Remarkably calm through there.
CARA juggles the coffee and her still unlit cigarette, taking a long drink from the cup before balancing it on a wall and lighting her cigarette</b>
CARA: Don’t use the ‘q’ word, for fucks sake. Don’t mind if I smoke, do you?
NURSE: Never understood why doctors still smoke. Like, you all must have seen actual dead hearts and lungs hundreds of times and you’re all out here chonging away. You wouldn’t if you’d nursed on a cancer ward. Wouldn’t drink, either.
CARA: Gonna die of something, mate. Might as well get five minutes outside every now and then. (BEAT during which she inhales deeply and blows out slowly) When I did GP training there was this poor guy used to come in about twice a week, major health anxiety, tests for everything, preventative advice. Got hit by a motorbike in the end.
NURSE: You’re terrible.
CARA: It’s true! (BEAT) How’s she doing?
NURSE: Ella? Ortho are still with her. Looks like you’re right about the arm, they’re after a surgical bed. Housemate’s turned up in floods. Apparently last time she found her. Barely made it then, either. I remember that. I was on Resus when she came in.
CARA: Shit, the poor kid. Well, both of them. How can your life be so awful at that age?
NURSE: I know. Worst drama we had at uni was over rank milk in the fridge.
CARA: Should’ve gone to med school, mate. High achievers failing for the first time everywhere you look. Absolute carnage. I went out with this lad who just wanted to be a teacher. Parents were both surgeons, absolutely wouldn’t have it. Failed the second year, emptied his room on the weekend, nobody knows where he went. (SHE INHALES AGAIN) God, I’ve been after that ciggie all day and it’s just making me feel sick. Do we know where her parents are?
NURSE: Brighton, apparently. Some lucky bastard’s going to have to make that phone call. I’d better check the housemate hasn’t already actually.
CARA: (nodding) I’ll be back in ten. Just gonna finish this coffee, haven’t had a second since this morning.
The NURSE nods and heads back into the hospital. CARA sighs and drinks from her coffee as she stubs her cigarette out and reaches for her phone in her pocket. She regards it at arm’s length
CARA: Seventeen missed calls, no less! Ooh, Officer Sam must be so busy out there fighting crime. (BEAT) Twat. (She drinks the coffee as she puts the phone back in her pocket) Everything still tastes of metal, for fuck’s sake. That’s the stuff they want to put in sex education leaflets, never mind the long term. Any of us could think long term, we wouldn’t need them in the first place. “You will spend at least eight weeks constantly needing a wee whilst perpetually chewing tin foil.” Put them right off.
BEAT. She rubs her hand across the back of her neck as if the muscles are tight.
I mean, I maybe should have told him. For whatever difference it makes. (She sighs) Milk it a bit longer, I guess.
An ambulance siren wails nearby. For a few seconds CARA watches the commotion taking place offstage as she takes out and lights a second cigarette, turning the packet over in her hands reflectively.
I do remember this really gross heart in the med school collection, actually. Like one of the ventricles had just been completely destroyed, absolutely fucked beyond repair. Anatomy professor said it was the kind of heart attack where you just drop, and that’s it. I mean, that’s about the best you can hope for death wise, I guess.
As she puts the cigarette packet back in her pocket she is approached by an angry looking man carrying an overnight bag-the same actor who played SAM. He squares up to her almost immediately. She responds, returning to professional mode
CARA: Can I help you?
MAN: You work in there? Who are you? What are you playing at?
CARA: Excuse me? I’m Dr Appleton, I work in the Emergency Department, yes. Is there a problem?
MAN: Who the bloody hell do you think you are?
CARA looks astonished.
CARA: Well, like I said, I’m Dr Appleton, the A&E registrar, and if you’d like to calm down and speak to me reasonably maybe I can-
MAN: You can do nothing for me, sweetheart, nothing.
CARA: Hang on-
MAN: I’ll be on the phone to your manager first thing tomorrow and I’ll want to know they’ve sacked you or I’ll go to the papers. You’re not supposed to be smoking here, there’s signs everywhere! There’s people bloody dying in there and you’re sat out here on your lazy arse smoking like something off Jeremy Kyle! That’s what I pay taxes for, is it?
CARA: (looks at the cigarette with brief guilt then straight back at her aggressor) OK, look, I don’t know who you are, or what you’re doing here, but this isn’t the place for-
MAN: My dad’s dying in there! He’s been stuck upstairs in that bloody festering shithole for six weeks being ignored by dozy little cows like you stinking of Embassy. He worked for forty years, and that’s where he ends up, and you just sit there while people are fucking dying! People work their arses off to pay your wages so they can die in a corner while you’re out having a bifter? You’re a disgrace.
CARA is momentarily lost for words. The MAN becomes visibly tearful as she composes herself.
CARA: Listen….if you need to speak to someone about the hospital, then there are people who are there to support families. I’m sorry about what’s happening for you, I really am, but you can’t just-are you OK?
The MAN is now weeping openly. CARA reaches out to support him into the hospital, he angrily jerks her off, shaking his head, and storms into the hospital, pushing her out of the way so that she almost drops her cigarette, which burns her hand, causing her to drop it
CARA: Ow! Fuck…..(BEAT. She raises her burnt finger to her mouth and blows on it) Fuck’s sake.
She is on the verge of tears herself. She glances around, checking that nobody has seen her, before stepping forward as she begins speaking absently, not quite addressing the audience
The first time I was pregnant, I spent ages looking it up in the library. Second year. Still doing anatomy. Trying not to spew my ring up on the heart collection. Didn’t keep it, obviously. It was the lad I was telling her about, who wanted to be a teacher. Offered to pay and everything. I told him don’t be ridiculous, NHS wait was only a week.
Her phone sounds a text message alert. She takes it out, glances at it and cradles it in her hand without reading the message.
He cried his eyes out. I didn’t. Wasn’t a bit bothered, really. I mean, I still think why should I be? You know, we did public health out the arse about unplanned births and everything, people had to jump under horses and all kinds of shit so nobody has to be forced to be pregnant. Women aren’t fucking organ banks, are they? Think I said that to my dad once when we were arguing at Christmas. Must’ve been doing The Handmaid’s Tale for GCSE. (BEAT) I wasn’t sorry. I’m not. Nothing to be sorry about. The thing is, though-
Another ambulance siren wails offstage. CARA wraps her arms around herself, as if to keep warm, stepping further away from the hospital.
The thing is…god, it’s fucking ridiculous. There’s a kid fucking dying in there. I just kept remembering…like that heart, with the ventricle destroyed, I kept thinking about that, because I found in this anatomy book about embryology-on a six week embryo, you can’t pick up a heartbeat on an ultrasound or a Doppler, because only one chamber of the heart is formed, right? And it goes so fast you can’t pick it up. And I mean I can’t fucking remember my rota for next week so how I’m coming up with embryology revision from ten years ago is anyone’s guess, and it didn’t even bother me then, but I keep thinking about that now. For all the good it does. Fucking Sam.
She looks down at her phone, still clutched in her hand.
The thing with Sam is, he likes compartments. He goes to work, he has a wife, he sees his mum every second weekend and they go to Frankie and Benny’s because apparently life isn’t depressing enough. And when he gets a spare minute he shags a doctor he picked up at a motorway crash, probably because he imagines it gives him hidden depths. (BEAT. The phone beeps again) He imagines he loves me, you see. He imagines he loves both of us. The problem there is he doesn’t actually have a great deal of imagination. I mean, neither do I, but I’m not pretending. I’m skint, and I’m about to get a complaint, and I’m knackered and I’m twenty nine and only able to form pretend relationships with other people’s husbands, and I think I’m kind of still in the middle of a miscarriage I should probably tell someone about (she chokes on a sob) but no, what you see is what you get here, mate.
She puts the phone back in her pocket, her hand finding the envelopes which she removes, turning them over in her hands
I mean, he’s not wrong, I’ve got nowhere to put a baby, and fuck knows I’ve got nothing to give one. Or anyone, really. I think I only ended up in this job because I liked watching Casualty at my nana’s and got my wires crossed somewhere. See, my cousins had those baby dolls that pissed themselves and had magic bottles and everything, and me and my sister were just throwing the Barbie camper van down the stairs and making a hospital for the crash victims. I should tell Sam that. He’d think it was an omen or something.
(She opens one of the envelopes as she speaks) Think that was when Dad stopped us sleeping at nana’s. Drew the line when we started rigging up ventilators with Capri Sun straws.
(Beat. As she unfolds the letter, she faces the audience directly and reads to them as if auditioning, barely holding back tears.)
“Hannah. I’m so sorry, babe. There’s nothing else I can say. It’s not that I don’t love you, or even that the world isn’t amazing, it’s just that I’m not meant to be in it. I’ve tried but there’s just this poison in me, and it leaks, and it stains everyone who comes near me, and I can’t let that happen any more. So I’m just going to hurt you this one last time, so I don’t ever have to do it again. Love you, babes.”
She stares forward, helpless, then looks down at the note in her hand.
He died, that boy from med school. My first boyfriend, he was. Lost our virginity to each other. He died of alcohol poisoning, two years after he left. (BEAT) I couldn’t make the funeral. I was on placement.
She looks as if she will say more when another ambulance siren, complete with blue lights, screams just offstage. CARA jolts back into herself, shoving the note in her pocket, and calls to the paramedics offstage as she moves to join them.
CARA: Need a hand there? What have we got?
She walks offstage into the light and noise of another emergency. Over a few seconds as the stage is empty the noise slowly fades. Blackout.