Suzanne made chilli with pork. It was Ginny’s favourite and it would improve if it was left in the slow cooker all day. Then they would have it with a crusty French stick and some red wine.

Hospitals. There was no way to guess how long they would be hanging around. The appointment was at half past two. That meant next to nothing. She would get there for quarter past. It could be that Ginny would be having X-rays or whatever and then there would be the long slog of a wait to see the doctor. If she was lucky, it would be a registrar, if not then a houseman. Probably not a consultant, the chances of that were remote but no matter, it would be ages and ages. So, she laid the table before she left and tidied the living room. Her guest room was always made up and who knew, after the few days that they’d had maybe the ‘girls’ would stay over and then they could have a good drink and a laugh, and everything would be back to normal.

The hospital car park was busy but not as full as she could remember it being in the past. Things had improved now that everyone was vaccinated and there were new and more effective treatments against the virus but there were still notices asking patients and visitors to wear masks and use hand sanitiser.

She hadn’t worked in Broad Green hospital, but had been there enough times to know her way around and the signage was good. The Rheumatology clinic was buzzing and there were sticks, crutches and walkers everywhere but Suzanne was able to find a seat near the entrance.

It was just a quarter past two so Ginny would be arriving any time. Lucy wasn’t anywhere around as far as she could see. Suzanne didn’t know what to do if she didn’t come. Neither of them had responded to the text messages, and it was going on for three full days now since she had heard anything. She wondered if she’d done something to annoy Lucy. Nothing came to mind but when Ginny had finished with her appointment, they could go to the coffee bar and talk it through. That was of course if Lucy ever arrived.

It was three -o’clock. The crowd had thinned out a little bit. She had to hand it to them, whoever was running the clinic was doing a decent job. There were a few empty chairs now. There was no sign of either Lucy or Ginny.

A nurse walked into the waiting room. She called Ginny’s name. She called it twice. She waited and looked around to see if any of the lame or infirm were trying to make their way towards her. Suzanne stood up and waved at her.

“Ms Salt, Virginia Salt?” the nurse asked.

“No. That’s not me. It’s my friend.”

“Oh right. Gone to the toilet, has she?”

“No.No She’s not here. I was waiting for her, but she hasn’t come.”

“Oh right. I see. She remembered her appointment then. We sent a reminder.”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her for a while. Not since last week.”

“Oh, but you came here to wait for her?”

“Yes. I was sure she’d be here.”

“But she’s not?” The nurse raised her eyebrows.

“No, it doesn’t look like it. I’m quite worried actually.”

“Well, I can put her notes to the bottom of the pile. But it’s not on, you know. We have an appointment system for a reason.”

“Yes, I know. I used to nurse. Ginny did as well. That’s why I was sure she would turn up. We know what it’s like when people don’t come on time.”

“Nothing I can do about it now. I’ll put her notes on the bottom and if she turns up, we’ll try and fit her in, but I can’t promise. It’s very inconsiderate.”

“I know. But I don’t even know where she is. It looks as though she’s gone away.”

“Well in that case she should have cancelled. She knows that if she used to work in hospitals.”

With that, the young woman turned and stomped away. She had a point and there was no argument.

Suzanne left the department and went back to the car park. She slid into the driving seat, rested her head against the steering wheel and began to cry. There was something terribly wrong. She had struggled against the feeling but now there was no getting around it. There was something wrong involving her two dearest friends in the world, and she had no idea what to do next.

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