The knife cut smoothly. The flash of red oozing from the torso surprised Sira enough that she jumped and almost dropped the sharp implement. The crowd around her had a good laugh at her expense.
"You guys! Come on..." But she laughed too through her complaints. "Who did this?"
A man in green scrubs in the crowd raised his hand. "All me! Isn't it great? It's strawberry flavored."
Sira looked back down at the cake. It was the Operation man on the outside and apparently vanilla cake and strawberry ooze filling inside. She shook her head and laughed again as she finished carving out the first slice to plop onto a plate. The crowd cheered and someone took over to slice up the rest to divvy out. Soon everyone had plates and forks.
"So how does it feel, Dr. Moyer, knowing that in twelve short hours, you will officially be done with the indentured servitude that is residency?"
Dr. Masters was holding up his fork towards her face like it was a microphone. The aging surgeon was dressed and ready for a tour in the OR and armed with the warm smile she'd come to rely on over the past four years. He had been a patient mentor.
"Well, Richard," it was still odd calling him by his first name, "I am looking forward to finally having a decent paying job so maybe I can pay off this soul-crushing debt before I die." They had a good laugh at that.
"Excellent, I understand they offered you a very nice package to stay on in the ER." He tipped his head a little looking puzzled. "I thought Liam was doing well working for his father, though. The news makes it sound like they're robbing the country blind with that last contract they landed." He watched her keenly as he took another bite of cake.
"It's more than I had hoped for, really," she confessed with an embarrassed smile. "Especially since they knew I'd have taken pennies to stay in the city. Liam is..." She faltered, brows knitted together. "The money is all tied up right now. I'm probably going to dip into my inheritance for a little longer until he sorts things out." With her eyes fixed on her plate where she was moving around crumbs with the tines of her fork she missed the older man's concerned look.
"And have things gotten any better since...?" No matter how gently he asked, the rift that had formed between her husband and her since the miscarriage still ached. It burned inside Sira every time she thought about it.
"He's been away a lot more. It's for the best. Being busy helps." She tried to smile.
Luckily just then someone stuck their head into the break room. "Sorry to break up the party, but multiple buses on route, shooting in Edgewood park. Multiple GSRs." And that was enough to cause a flurry of action as people jumped to fill their duties.
Sira was pulling on her coat when Richard took her by the arm. "Listen, Sira. This summer there will be an opening in my fellowship. It's yours if you want it."
Her smile was surprised and pleased. "Really? You want to drag me out of the trenches?" She laughed, light and easy. "I'll think about it, thank you."
Unfortunately she never got the opportunity to give it any thought.
7 am. It had been a terribly long night. Ambulance after ambulance had flooded into the bays and they were slammed for the entire shift. Sira loved each and every moment of it because it kept her heavy mind too busy to worry. Liam was finally going to be home after a two-week business trip she didn't even know about until she caught him leaving with his bags.
She'd cried. They'd fought. Do you even love me anymore? He'd left without a goodbye kiss and they hadn't spoken since.
His plane was supposed to land early evening. With luck he'd be home in time for dinner and Sira wanted to have a beautiful meal on the table. She'd bought a new dress, she'd do her makeup, she'd light candles. Maybe, just maybe things would be alright. She stepped through the hospital's rear entrance so preoccupied with thought she barely noticed the unfamiliar faces in the parking lot. The hospital was big enough that she couldn't possibly know everyone, but no one had access to that lot if they weren't an employee.
"Dr. Moyer?" The voice came at her from the side, a little behind her. Positioned so she had to turn her whole body to look at the man in what looked like a security outfit of some kind. He had the look of a military guy, clean shaven, high and tight cut, rigid posture. And cold, cold eyes.
She had her mouth open to say something that never got a chance to come out. Faster than she could think black fabric was descending over her head and pulling tight into her throat, strangling and silencing her all in one go. More hands were on her twisting at her arms and then she was moving. Then she was being heaved and she found herself dropped on the hard metal floor of a van. She heard shouts before the door slammed shut and the van lurched forward with squealing tires.
She wasn't going to be home for dinner.