Chapter Eight: A New Perspective
Erin wanted to complain.
She wanted to scream her heart out, to punch the man who drove her four hours away from the main city without her permission. But she didn’t.
She had no time.
The very minute Derek parked the truck on the semi-built parking lot, she didn’t miss the long line of people coming from the small, two-story white building. On the top was a solid blue banner, announcing the Greenwood Hospital Medical Mission. She did remember him saying this was an ‘emergency’ medical mission this time. When she asked him, he told her that an outbreak of an unknown flu has spread throughout the village, so he ordered a regular two-week visit to the town instead of the usual one visit per month.
"Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Only those live here are vulnerable in getting it. You got your flu shot, right?" He asked her as he took out three large luggage from the back of his truck. Medical equipment, medicines, and record books.
She nodded. "But that’s not the case," she thought as she quietly followed him inside. As they entered, she noticed two other men in lab coats, a few nurses, and some wooden chairs where the elderly and the sick were placed temporarily.
"Ah, you’re here." A man in his forties greeted them, shaking Derek’s hand. "It’s good to see you again, Derek. But I thought Bruce was showing up today," he wondered.
"Something came up, so I’ll be in here in his place," he answered.
"I see," the men nodded. Afterwards he looked at Erin, and a grin slowly formed on his face. "And who might you be, milady?" He held out his hand, which Erin quickly took.
"This is Erin Grey, she’ll be joining us today. An extra hand, Frank." Derek spoke as he took out his stethoscope.
"It’s nice to meet you, sir." Erin smiled.
"The pleasure’s mine," Frank replied, and then he turned to look at the growing number of people coming in the small building. "As you can see, the people hadn’t been well for a while. We managed to gather two of our own doctors, but their knowledge is limited compared to a doctor from the main city. Well then," Frank paused, "shall we start?"
Derek pointed her to small table where she could sit and help keep track of the record while she take the time to observe her surroundings. She saw as Derek sat on the center, smiling at his first patient. It was an elderly couple. Seeming to be in their late eighties, she could hear the old woman coughing non-stop, her husband trying to hold her to somehow stop the attack.
"It could be asthma," she thought. For a second she was worried, but she saw something. Something - that she couldn’t miss. The elderly couple held each other’s hand the entire time. As if they were the very symbol of marriage itself, she could feel that although they were weak, old, and sick - they were together through it all.
Afterwards, Erin noticed their expressions changed from hopeless to utter relief when Derek took out a few boxes of medicine in which he properly boxed and given to the couple. The old man tried to take out a rugged wallet from out of his pocket, but Derek quickly placed his hand on the man’s shoulders, shaking his head.
"It’s free," she saw him mouth those very words, causing the old woman to hug Derek from deep gratitude.
"Ah, I can finally feel better."
Erin overheard a woman standing near her, sighing as she stared at the medicine she received.
"My son has had this flu for a while. He’ll be fine tomorrow if he takes this," the other woman beside her replied.
Without thinking, Erin joined in.
"If not from these missions, where else do you get medicine?"
The two women turned to Erin before they replied.
"We don’t have much medicine here. We usually get them from the next city an hour away, but we don’t really have a car," the first woman replied.
"And they are extremely expensive," the second woman answered. "Thank God we have these doctors who come in."
Erin wrote as they talked, careful not to miss any words. "When did this medical missions begin, if you don’t mind me asking?"
The two thought hard. Quickly, the second woman’s face brightened up, happy to remember the answer.
"About three years ago, they said someone named Doctor Matthews fought with the bigwigs in New York to get the program started."
"Ah," the first woman agreed. "What a great man he must be, to take pity on us."
"My daughter almost died from pneumonia. If the doctors didn’t come, she must have died too. Just like my George." The first woman rubbed her eyes as the other patted her for comfort.
Erin looked at them, and calmly, she asked one last time.
"By any chance, do you know the name of the doctor who came out from the main city with me?"
The two women looked to the center table, finding the men with the denim shirt and a stethoscope.
"Oh, him." The first women smiled.
"Well, if it’s him," the second women stared with awe, "he said to just call him ‘Derek.’"
They finished at midnight, with Derek putting the last flu shot for the night to the small five-year-old child who tried to put a brave face.
"Doesn’t hurt at all, right?" Derek rubbed his shoulder with a soft cotton ball.
"Nope!" The child replied. "Thank you!"
He walked away with his mother, making them the last patients for the first day of the mission. Erin had just finished with keeping track of the medicines handed out today, and she made sure there was enough for the people tomorrow, and the next.
"How was it?"
Erin turned to see Derek standing in front of her. He took out the stethoscope that had been in his neck for the past five hours.
"Incredible," she admitted. After adamant observations and interviews, she was itching to write the article.
"Cool your jets," Derek interrupted. "It’s just the first day. Or night," he replied. Afterwards he let out a yawn. He was completely exhausted.
"Ah, what a night." Frank came up beside them, leading them to his house for supper. They had fried fish, mashed potatoes, and a glass of orange juice. Frank’s wife, Judith, tried to apologize for the lack of variety, but the two shook their heads and ate the small feast in front of them.
"And what do you, darling?" Frank asked as they ate. "I haven’t seen you here before. Are you a doctor as well?"
"I write for the papers, sir." She answered politely. "Derek gave me the chance to see how medical missions work, so I can write an article about it." She thought it was better not to mention that she had no idea she was coming here until, well, she was actually here.
"That sounds like a great job," Frank replied, impressed. "And what a beautiful girl you are, you remind me of a younger Judith. But of course, my wife is the prettiest in the world." He laughed, and it made Erin smile.
"Oh, stop it Frank." Judith said, embarrassed. "But seeing you two - I’ve never seen a better pair."
Erin dropped her fork for a second, but she caught it before anyone else can notice. Derek must have felt it too, because afterwards he changed the topic. They talked a long while before Frank led them to a bedroom in the second floor.
And that’s when they realized what was going on.
"A young couple like you must still love being in the same room. Ah, me and Judith fight a lot too when were young - but youth. It is something to be treasured." Frank spoke as Erin’s eyes grew bigger when she noticed that the room only consisted of a couch - and a wooden-framed, queen-sized bed.
Frank thought they were married.
Derek, clearing his throat, tried to say something, but Erin stopped him.
"Thank you for your generosity. We will see you tomorrow," she smiled as Frank left. Afterwards she turned to Derek.
"You realize they think we’re together, right?" Derek looked at her.
"It’s the best room in the town," Erin said to Derek. A few hours ago, she overheard a few locals calling Frank’s house the best house to take their guests in. If she were to say that they weren’t married, then it would be troublesome looking for another room, where there were only two bedrooms in the humble abode.
Derek nodded, sitting in the bed. "Guess, we sleep in the bed tonight?" He said with a grin on his face, but Erin had already plopped herself on the couch. "What are you doing?" He asked.
"It’s a long day for the doctor tomorrow," she said to him. "Close the lights."
Derek didn’t reply. He simply stood up and carried Erin out of the couch, and into the bed. Taking the second blanket, Derek laid on the couch. "It’s going to be a long day for you too."
She didn’t react. Instead, she let out a small ‘thank you,’ and quickly closed the lights.
Even with the lights closed, she was still awake. But she didn’t feel scared. It had been five years now, and Derek looked completely different, but she couldn’t see him trying to come to her. She tried to peek, and surely he was there - unmoving. He must have slept already.
Erin couldn’t remember sleeping with Derek in the same room. He never tried to lead their relationship that way. He was innocent, back then. To think he would be innocent even now.
"Stop having weird fantasies and sleep," she suddenly heard him speak in the darkness, and she heard as he turned his weight around, so he could face her. "I would do it, believe me, but I’m too damn tired tonight."
"Shut up," she muttered. "Shut up and sleep."
She heard him chuckle, and he moved the blanked closer to him. Before he closed his eyes, however, she spoke.
"But, Derek…" she whispered.
"Just…" She paused. "Thank you. "
He smiled. "No problem. Goodnight."