She closed her eyes to the pain. It radiated through her temple then stretched down and settled in a tight knot in her lower back. If she breathed deeply enough it released her momentarily, allowing her to remember times before she was ill and lived a life free of the pain. But it was not a life she felt proud of. She firmly believed that the cancer was retribution for the atrocities she had performed throughout her fifty-three years. It was pay-back for all the relationships she had destroyed, friends betrayed and strangers dismissed. As such, she was alone in her final days and expected no one else to care for her.
She heard the door creak, interrupting her thoguhts. The doctor marched into her room, file tucked beneath his arm, white coat immaculately starched and ironed. It irked her that those in the medical profession did not knock or announce their intention to approach to permit her some privacy, after all she was paying for the privilege of a private room. She voiced her irritation bluntly:
“Don’t you people ever think of knocking?”
Even in her fragile state her tone was taut with a disparaging edge, and despite being prone on the bed she managed to look down her nose at him.
The doctor gazed at her levelly with a raised eyebrow and replied calmly, “Given the mortality rate here, if we waited for the occupant to admit us we might spend our lives in the corridor.”
She laughed heartily, until the chuckle caught in her throat and set off a rasping cough. Still, her eyes shined with mischief. She liked this doctor; he wasn’t as condescending or as rude as the others had been. He knew she was dying, but accepted that this fact did not render her inept and thus respected her opinions as though they were still being instructed from a human being. Immediately she decided that she would request only his professional care from now on.
“It’s not looking good Mrs Felkin,” he said plainly. “Perhaps two or three more days at the most.”
She shuffled upright in the bed. The doctor made no move to assist her; this, she also appreciated.
“Good. It’s about time.”
“Anything you need?”
“A doorbell perhaps?”
The doctor smiled, but only thinly, just enough to be polite, and then nodded once.
“I’ll be back on my next round then.”
She watched him go, pleased that he hadn’t asked the obvious question, the one that all the others constantly pestered her with: ‘Is there anyone we can call; a family member, a friend, a neighbour?’
No, no, no. She had protested on numerous occasions. There was nobody. It was just her. It was as it should be. To be alone now, at the ultimate juncture in her life, was justice. Her life amounted to nothing. She was not worthy enough to have company to commiserate with her.