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Hiding Patty
A Tale From Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
©2012, ©2014

Chapter 10

Although it was somewhat after his office hours, there were still patients waiting in Dr. Metarie’s office. The waiting room in the rather worn old modular building wasn’t as big as it could be, and on first sight Tricia could see what he’d meant about being able to use the space.

She introduced herself to the receptionist, who replied, “Good to meet you, Dr. York. Doctor was expecting you. I’ll take you back to his office until he gets a minute.”

“That’ll be fine,” Tricia said.

From what Tricia could see of Dr. Metarie’s office, it was a private one, not where one expected to see patients. It was a bit cluttered, mostly with medical journals, drug advertisements, and other such things. There was also something about it that seemed to indicate he didn’t spend a lot of time there, either.

It was only a few minutes before Dr. Metarie showed up. “Hi, Tricia,” he said when he saw her. “How’s it going today?”

“Not too bad, Dr. Metarie.”

“Tricia,” he smiled, “I know you’re just out of residency, but this is Spearfish Lake, and we’re colleagues now. You don’t have to call me ‘Shovelhead,’ but please call me Gene.”

“It’s going to be hard,” she shook her head. “I guess it’s what I’ve gotten used to. What did you want to see me about?”

“Well, several things, and let’s try to make this quick since I have people waiting. First, Ryan managed to work it out with Dr. Luce that you’d take over the practice a week from tonight.”

“Dr. Luce told me that,” she said, “and as far as I’m concerned it’s not a moment too soon. Gene, it’s probably unethical to go into the details, but he isn’t missing just a little. He’s missing a lot. The first patient I had today was a wildly uncontrolled diabetic, and the records don’t even show a hint of it. Everything else today wasn’t quite as bad. I mean, quite.”

“Then it’s damn good you’re here, and not a moment too soon.”

“Gene, I know your idea about the old hospital is still just an idea, but if it comes off, do you think there’s a chance we could get a simple lab in there? I mean, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but something where we could have things done like some standard blood tests and urinalysis, PSAs, ketones, things like that, maybe a basic metabolic profile, though a comprehensive would be better, and Chem-7?”

“Not impossible,” he smiled. “I’ve thought about it, too. It’s a real pain in the ass to have to ship everything down to Camden General for a very simple test. There are issues, of course, but we might be able to work it out. You and I need to explore it sometime, but not right now.”

“I can understand,” she smiled. “Did you have anything else for me?”

“Yes, I did. We were talking last night about an office nurse for you. I talked to Heather today, she seems to be willing to give it a try as a favor to me. I thought you’d like to talk to her.”

“I could get along for a little while without one, and today I pretty much had to be my own office nurse. I won’t be able to do that much longer if the practice picks up.”

“I have little doubt it will. Let me go get Heather for you, and I’ll get back to seeing patients.”

“Good. I don’t want to hold you up.”

Tricia was only alone in the office for a couple minutes when a scrub-clad young nurse poked her head in the door. She was in her late twenties at a guess, a little taller than Tricia, with long red hair pulled back into a mild ponytail tied with a black bow. “Hi,” she said. “Are you Doctor York? Doctor said you wanted to see me. I’m Heather Compton.”

“Pleased to meet you, Heather,” Tricia smiled. “I assume Dr. Metarie explained what this was all about.”

“He said you were going to be taking over Dr. Luce’s practice, and that you needed an experienced office nurse. He also said it would be a big help all the way around if I’d think about taking the job.”

“I’m going to need an office nurse badly just as soon as I formally take over the practice, which is a week from Monday,” Tricia explained. “I could have stood having one today, but I can make do that long.”

“I don’t have anything like a résumé, since I wasn’t expecting this,” Heather replied apologetically.

“Not a problem,” Tricia smiled. “I probably ought to have one on file when we get that far, but I’m not going to worry about it right now. But could you fill me in on your background?”

“I graduated from Spearfish Lake High School. I got my LPN certificate at Riverside Community College down in Camden. I worked in a nursing home and as a home health care nurse for several years while I was getting my RN. That was also at Riverside, on an extension arrangement they have with Northern Michigan. I came to work for Doctor here not long afterward, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Not exactly stellar schooling, Tricia thought, but perfectly adequate. She asked several more questions, getting at Heather’s experience a little, but what she was really feeling for was the person wearing those scrubs. Being able to get along with her and work smoothly with her counted for a lot more than simple lines on a résumé.

At first glance, though, she liked this young woman. Still, she decided to push Heather a little, just to see how she reacted. “You know,” she smiled. “I was talking with Dr. Metarie about you last night, and I might as well tell you he gave me his highest recommendation. But Heather, you know I’m new to the community. I’ve only been in town since Tuesday. About half the time when I ask someone about something, they tell me, ‘That’s a long story, but you’ll probably hear about it eventually.’ Dr. Metarie said you had a story, but that I should ask you about it.”

“I know what you mean,” Heather nodded. “I don’t mind talking about it, and I especially don’t mind talking about it to you. I had a baby when I was fourteen, and, well, things were tough there for a while. The guy was older than me, and when he found out I was pregnant, he blew town and I never saw him again. Actually, in a way I don’t blame him since he’d probably have gone to jail.”

“It happens,” Tricia replied impassively. “And I know I’ve seen it too much. I suppose it was hard for you.”

“It was,” she said. “I was still in high school, and people talked behind my back about it a lot, even after I had Lee. But I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to let all the small talk and the small minds keep me from being the best person I could be. It was really a struggle to go to college and become an LPN. It took me three years instead of two to make it through the program, what with having to work to pay for it, study, go to class, and take care of Lee, but I made it. The best part about it is that while I was going to college I met a nice guy, not a jerk like the guy who left me, and he didn’t care that I already had a kid. We’ve had two more since we got married. They’re still pretty little. I worked as a home health care nurse while I was working on my RN certification. I really hated to have to quit home health care because I met a lot of interesting people who were often very grateful that I’d come to help them, but with three kids it was nice to be a little more available at home.”

Impressive, Tricia thought. Gene said this girl was dedicated, and no shit! She had every reason in the world to be! In fact, once she’d worked through the initial shyness, Tricia thought she detected a kindred spirit there – Heather was a hard worker who didn’t lose sight of her goals, despite taking a lot of shit in the process. The situations with Heather and Peppermint Patty were very different, of course, but like Peppermint Patty, Heather had gone through a lot of shit to get to where she wanted to be.

“You must have learned a few things the hard way along the way,” Tricia said sympathetically.

“Much harder than I would have liked,” Heather said. “But there was a good side to it, too. I mean, more than just Lee. Dr. York, you’re not from this state, are you?”

“Afraid not.”

“Then you don’t know how sad sex education is in this state. The right-wing Christian meatheads got hold of the legislature and mandated abstinence-only sex education in the schools. Those idiots are as much to blame as anyone else for my getting pregnant in the first place. I didn’t know the simplest thing about protection, and Lee is the result. I’m living proof that abstinence-only not only doesn’t work, it’s a joke. Dr. York, even before I had Lee, I made up my mind that I would talk to any girl, anywhere, anytime about the things the state doesn’t want them to know about sex. Individually or in groups doesn’t matter. I’ve done it a lot. I’ll do what I can to keep some other kid from having to go through what I did. And if some kid does get pregnant, I’ll do what I can to help her get through it.”

Wow, and spirit, too! “If you ever think you need a woman doctor to get through to a kid,” Tricia smiled, “give me a call. I don’t mean just think about it, I mean do it. I’ll make the time if I need to. I don’t care if you’re working for home health care, or Dr. Metarie, or what, but I’d sure like to have you working for me.”

*   *   *

It was late when Tricia got back to her room in the Spearfish Lake Inn – much later than she’d intended, but she’d accepted her new employee’s invitation to dinner, just so the two of them could get to know each other better. It might have been a little too early to tell, but Tricia thought she detected the makings of more than an employee in Heather – she could be a teammate and a friend as well. It was going to take a little practice to learn how to work with each other, but it seemed pretty clear that the two of them together were going to add up to a lot more than just a pair of individuals.

Heather and her husband Russ didn’t have a big home – he was a worker at Clark Construction – but it was clean and well kept. Lee was a teenager, about to go into high school, which meant that Heather was a little older than Tricia had thought, but not much older, right about Tricia’s age. He seemed to be a pretty good kid, and the two little ones were pretty good, too. It was clear that Heather had built a good life for herself after what had to have been a real rough start.

But sitting around and talking about one thing and another meant that it was much too late to start for Milwaukee that evening, like Tricia had planned. If she did, she’d be pulling in during the wee small hours, wouldn’t get much sleep, and would be groggy as hell all day tomorrow. She knew what that felt like since she’d done it enough during her internship and residency, and she imagined she’d have days like it again. She might as well avoid it if she could.

The sun wasn’t up yet the next morning before she’d packed up her few things and hauled them over to the duplex on Oak Street. The furniture was there, all right, and from what she could see it was going to be a nice looking and comfortable arrangement. She could live here, all right.

One thing caught her eye – a painting hanging on the living room wall, three wolves on the rocky shore of a foggy lake. She went over and looked at it a little, and could tell immediately it wasn’t a print; she could see the texture of the brush strokes. Wow, she thought. Someone put some work into this.

Curious, she went upstairs to what would be her bedroom, carrying an armload while she was doing it. There on the wall was another painting, the same style as far as she could tell, but this one of a flying eagle grabbing a fish out of the water. Danny, she thought, I sure as hell hope you got a deal on that. The furniture looked reasonable, if somehow not quite new; well, Danny had told her it was going to be used. But the bed was already made, and she turned back the covers a little to discover sheets and blankets. It wasn’t just a bedspread! That was great; what she had in Milwaukee was for a three-quarter bed and wasn’t in good shape anyway. Danny had obviously been thinking on that one, too.

She went back downstairs, and into the little room that had been designated as her home office. There was a nice computer desk, an office chair, and a comfortable easy chair, and yet another painting, this one of a hawk feeding fledglings on a nest! Holy crap, Danny, she thought. I do not want to see the bill on this! She was just thinking about giving him a call when she noticed a note on the otherwise barren computer desk. She picked it up and read it:

Tricia, the paintings are on loan from the Metarie Gallery. Not my idea, but Lex’s. She says if you don’t like any of them, drop by the gallery sometime and she’ll find something else for you. – Danny

Holy Crap! Tricia had only met Gene’s wife Lex once, at the chamber meet and greet, but in talking with people here and there, especially at Binky’s, she knew a Lex Metarie painting didn’t go cheap. There could have been five thousand dollars worth of paintings around the duplex, easily! What a nice thing to do!

Just a little dazed, she got the Neon out on the highway, heading for Milwaukee. She hadn’t had breakfast yet, but remembered a McDonald’s down near Camden – a drive-through breakfast would taste good and wouldn’t take much road time. It was going to be a four-hour haul getting down there if she hurried, but she still should be able to come close to cleaning out the apartment and loading the car this afternoon. She figured she could spend the night there, hit the road back in the morning, and unload on Sunday afternoon. Heather had even offered to come over and help out, but she wasn’t sure that was going to be necessary.

What a week! She’d been going like a house afire since getting the notice of the board certification on Monday. Finding Danny here Tuesday evening had been a shocker and had almost ruined things in her own mind, but after she’d talked to him Wednesday morning there had been a lot of recovery. Spearfish Lake seemed like a nice place, although there were probably some down sides she hadn’t seen yet. The discovery of what Dr. Luce’s practice was like hadn’t helped matters a bit, but discovering that the foundation people were aware of the problem and had already initiated steps to correct it put things in a completely different light. Though it was clear that there was still a lot to do, the steps were in place to getting it done, and there was no reason it shouldn’t ultimately be a success.

In a way, it still seemed like a dream. She’d wanted to be a doctor since she was a little girl, and she had worked very hard to get there. The path to do it had ultimately led through the doors of the Redlite Ranch, and there was no way she could have actually become a doctor without putting in her time there. And for the most part it had been fun, there was no denying that, even though it had been a bit tedious from time to time. Among other things, she’d met Danny there, and while meeting him again last Tuesday night had been a hell of a shock, that had even turned out for the good.

In a way it was a shame that she couldn’t admit to having been Peppermint Patty, except to Danny of course, and then only because he already knew. At least she’d been able to do it in what, for all practical purposes, had been in private and under an assumed if obviously fake name. In a way, Heather shamed her about that a little – she’d had to go through her ordeal in the open, among kids who were often cruel as hell, in a place where she was known. But she’d survived it, and from what Tricia could see had done a hell of a job in the process, while assuming a heart-felt mission along the way. Tricia doubted she could have done what she’d accomplished if she’d had to admit to being Peppermint Patty to everyone she knew.

Tricia found herself thinking about Jennlynn, and more than a little. Jennlynn had never let her hobby – and that was what it was – stand in her way. Even when she was nationally and publicly outed after the hijacking incident, she’d at least occasionally used herself as a model to demonstrate that a woman could be more than a prostitute, even if she had been one. If Tricia needed a role model, then Jennlynn was a good one to have.

But the fact of the matter was that Peppermint Patty was going to have to stay her own secret – well, hers and Danny’s, but Danny seemed willing to help her keep her past life hidden. She might have been able to get away with it being out in a big city, but in a town like Spearfish Lake it was something that couldn’t be revealed. Well, so be it; it wasn’t like it was news to her, after all. She was a doctor now, and while she had little practical experience outside a training setting, she knew she was a good one and would be a better one once she’d gotten used to the different pace and setting of a private practice. It might take a while to adapt, but she had the start of a pretty good team and a bit of a handle on other problems. There might be more problems, but in the long run things could only get better.

The other night she’d told Ryan Clark that she couldn’t see into the future any more than he could, but if things went well, in five years she might well be willing to spend the rest of her career in Spearfish Lake. Realistically, only one thing was lacking to allow her to do that, and she still had some time to work on that one.

As she’d gone through med school and internship and residency, she’d noticed many of her classmates getting married or engaged, a couple of times to each other, more often to someone outside the school. She’d always shied away from that, and for any number of good reasons. It was hell to try to maintain a relationship through med school; though she’d seen people do it and succeed, it always seemed to frazzle them. She had decided she was busy enough in trying to learn all she could while she was there, and some kind of a relationship, boyfriend, fiancé, husband, it didn’t matter – they were distractions from what she was there to accomplish. She was not the only med student who felt that way, of either sex; for many, it was like it had been for her – first things first.

But she had another reason, one she never talked about with her fellow students, and for good and obvious reasons: sex. She knew damn well that people of that age had strong sex drives and the urge to pair off was undeniable – it was part of the human psyche, after all. But over the close to two years total she’d spent as Peppermint Patty, she’d had more than enough sex to hold her, probably more than all of her medical school classmates combined, and she suspected, better sex too. That took off a lot of the edge. She’d gone through the six years of med school, internship, and residency never having had sex during that period, or even thinking about it much.

As Tricia thought about it, she came to the realization that sex could take a back seat in her life. In fact, it already pretty much had. It would be nice to have the companionship of a man, a lover, even a husband; in fact, having seen some of the married couples she’d seen around Spearfish Lake, it made her a little envious. That kind of companionship and teamwork would be nice to have. And, let’s face it, she grinned, if she ever did find a guy she wanted to have that kind of companionship with, when she took him to bed he was going to get a surprise! She knew damn well from pure experience she could give a guy more mind-blowing sex than most men could handle.

But could she tell a lover, a fiancé, or a husband about Peppermint Patty? Would it be fair to not tell him? Damned good question! It would have to depend on knowing he could keep a secret, of course, but there were deeper implications, ones that needed to be thought about, and ones she probably couldn’t answer unless – and until – the time came, and even then depending on the situation.

At the moment, of course, it was all theoretical. She didn’t even know a guy she might consider for a relationship. Realistically, the pickings were going to be pretty slim around Spearfish Lake. It was extremely doubtful that she was going to be able to find another doctor, or someone with a similar educational level. At least she felt like she should have a guy who had some education, was intelligent, and could put up with having a wife who surpassed him in that area. That seemed pretty unlikely. There just weren’t a lot of single guys around the town to begin with from what she heard and, not yet knowing much, there didn’t seem to be any prospects there.

Well, it wasn’t something that had to be done next week, or next month, or even next year. In the next few years, maybe, at least if she wanted to have children. That was something she really hadn’t considered very much, although watching Heather with her three kids the night before admittedly pulled at her heart strings a little. Something else to consider, but not exactly on the front burner either.

Such thoughts kept rolling around in her head all the way to Milwaukee. It was after noon when she got there, and she had work to do, packing stuff up, throwing quite a bit away, and making a few mental notes about things she would need to get, like dishes, and pots and pans. She had only a small handful and had rarely used them, but that wouldn’t do in her new life.

She spent most of the afternoon working at it. She didn’t have a lot of clothes, and mostly not very good ones, but they would do to lie around the house in on off days or something. A few nicer things would still be useful, but as she’d observed before, some clothes shopping lay in the near future.

She was pawing through her closet, still throwing away more than she kept, when she came to the two dresses she still had from her last stint at the Redlite a long time before. One of them was so hot she wouldn’t have worn it outside the building, and she couldn’t imagine why she hadn’t left it with some girl there. The other was a little more conservative, if still pretty hot. She remembered thinking she might be able to wear it for a Halloween party, or conceivably for a lover.

But no. In her mind, it still smelled too much of the Redlite Ranch and a life she wanted to put behind her. She didn’t want it around to remind her of those days. She picked up the two dresses, headed out the door, and went right straight to the dumpster with them, not even bothering to take some of the other things that had to be thrown away. With no ceremony, she opened the lid and tossed them inside. She may have once been Peppermint Patty, but Peppermint Patty was no more.

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To be continued . . .

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