Church and State by Emma Winter

‘Do you think he will bring a gift this time?’ Marcia shrugged at her junior. Lindy’s cherry lipstick was overpowering, too much for surgery, she wanted to ask her to remove it. She hoped that there wouldn’t be a gift, it was uncomfortable. But she said nothing and moved her eyes across the chart in front of her.

Surgery had been his final option. Chiseling the bone, unthreading the nerves from the marrow. The previous gifts had varied in size and value. Lindy had taken them all home, greedily scooping them from Marcia’s desk when she said she didn’t want them. But why? It hung loaded and unsaid. Ever since he’d turned up in her hospital, with all his lackeys around him, asking for expert medical advice from the very best.

She knew he didn’t think she was the best, that he wanted a male surgeon. Tough shit she wanted to scream. I’m the fucking best and whilst we are at it, my wife didn’t like that you sent her brother to war. But you couldn’t argue with a scalpel, in the end, he knew that deep down.

On the table she could do anything and he wouldn’t know until it was too late. No one would know because they kept the gout secret. Of course there were whisperings, reporters trying to uncover it. GOD HAS GIVEN YOU ONE FACE was emblazoned on the bridge she rode under on her way to work. But today, she would chisel the bone spur and he would return good as new.

She had the pep talk from Luis. Do the very best Marcia, your career depends on it. Henry Tudor had gout. And it killed him. She smoothed her coat and Lindy popped her lips. That cherry slash across her face. The nurses flitted past them, in and out before he was wheeled in pre-op.

She thought of her wife’s face that morning. The news banners she read at 6am before getting in the car. She would do her job because she always did her job. She was good at her job. The best. Slice his knees and put him back together again. Dr Cross? She cracked her knuckles gently.

They heard his voice in the corridor. Unmistakable. The gift arrived: peaches wrapped in cellophane, a nurse buried underneath the yellow bow. She looked at Lindy who didn’t linger after the fruit.

‘Let’s go.’

Emma Winter studied American Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and San Francisco State University. She’s had short stories published in Banshee, The Nottingham Review and Every Day, A Century. She has been shortlisted for AdHoc Fiction and the TSS Spring Fiction Competition 2017. She’s currently working on more short stories. She tweets here.

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