Juliet was always prim and proper, and as she took her middle seat on her flight she was anxious not to bump shoulders on the left. But it was unavoidable. “Sorry” Juliet said. “I tried to be so careful”. “Do not worry” the other passenger said, “that’s why I always get the aisle seat, and by the way I’m Cassandra”. “Oh, I’m Juliet, so rude of me. Everyone nowadays is in such a rush to get their headphones on I was not expecting you to speak with me”. “Not a chance” replied Cassandra. “Eight hours of movies in this aluminum box will do my head in. What brings you to London Juliet?” “I’m going to visit my mother. I wish I was like her but perhaps I’ll tell you later” said Juliet.
Juliet was just the most captivating of ladies. Well read, looked at least a decade younger than a lady who had just had her eventful 40th birthday, and everything always in the right place. Not a harsh word to say about anyone. For her, there was always at least three sides to the story; the third, was what actually happened, which no one could recollect fully. In contrast, Cassandra was a little older and the product of a lifetime of experience. She took life as it came and her only source of change was what she almost learned from her bitter experiences. And, there were very many of those! For Cassandra, you either seized life by the scruff of the neck or it ran you over. Kindness was only a means to an end, and usually not the most comfortable outcome.
“Would you like my blanket Cassandra? There seems to be only one, and I never get cold on planes. Something to do with my nerves I guess. Looking forward to being in London this time of the year. It’s would be so wonderful if we are having an Indian summer. Fewer tourists, most people are back, and you can feel the city coming back to its real self again” noted Juliet. “Travel all the time, just so restless, cannot seem to find the right groove for long. Just need a bit of rest on this trip” said Casandra. “Anyone special?” Juliet asked. “No” responded Cassandra rather emphatically, like someone who somehow wished it was not true. “What was the story you were going to tell me again?”
“You wouldn’t believe it” said Juliet, “It’s a story of payback”. “Now payback I know a lot of!” said Cassandra with a loud bellow. She continued, in an excited tone, “you’ve got to hit hard…” but then Juliet interrupted: “It’s not that kind of payback. Nothing of the sort at all”.
“Let me tell you the story good and proper” Juliet said. She continued: “It’s about my mom, and a bit about me. My mom went to a great medical school. When she had to do her third-year clinical attachment, her father, knowing she had to drive to several hospitals bought her a shiny new sports car. An Alfa Romeo, I think. She had only had it a few days when her best friend in the same class, who lived much further away, her name was Catrina, told my mom that her old banger had finally died of the gearbox coming loose. Indeed, Catrina’s car was so old and rusty, you could see the road through the floor boards – a real death trap! My mom, knowing she only really had to walk a mile to the hospital and back, instead of Catrina’s 7 miles, handed over her keys to Catrina with a smile and said – just bring it back in one piece. It was a hard winter, and every day my mom trundled in the snow back and forth without complaint, until Catrina returned the car 3 weeks later. She was happy Catrina had returned her car and never told her that it had actually quite hard for her – falling once and being picked up off the road by a friendly cop who was passing by. Catrina and my mom stayed friends for years but lost touch after medical school”. “But you said it was a bit about you” interjected Cassandra – “what about you – I can only tell so far that your mom was some kind of saint” she continued half mockingly. Juliet, ever proper, smiled and continued: “Last year when I was in London, I took quite ill, bleeding down there. I was so very frightened. Worst still, I got taken to hospital on possibly the most frightening day in the hospital year, some say in Christendom, July 1, the day all the new junior doctors start their apprenticeship to be real doctors. I was so scared – I remembered my own first day. All that responsibility at the same time. I got to the hospital, just as the shift was changing to the night staff…this was not going too well. All the senior doctors were about to depart home for the night, gosh no – the entire weekend! Just then, a tall, commanding, older but rather handsome red-headed lady walked in with a group of “butterflies” – I mean trembling apprentice doctors. She looked down at my name tag, and a strange frown came across her face”. “Abiordun” – she said. “Yes”, I replied weekly. The only other person I ever met with that name was a friend of mine in medical school, Helena Abiordun. “She’s my mom” I cried. “Well, my name is Dr. Caterina Holding, and I am the chief of obstetrics at the hospital. Dr. Holding continued: “Your mother rendered me a great kindness many years ago, and today, we pay it back. Well, butterflies, no one is going home until Juliet is safe, not even me. It’s going to be a long night. First surgery and then we will wait it out in ICU, then at, post-op. We will do this the old-fashioned way – one life to save, and it’s all in our hands. We start this…we finish it…then we go home”. When, I came to in post-op, my right hand was being held by none other than Dr. Holding. She had a kind smile on her face, and all the wrinkles of many hard years, with many a late night melted away. “You’ll be just fine” she said, and off she went.
Juliet looked at Cassandra with a most serious look and said – “Later, I learned that without Dr. Holding I might have died. I had a rare clotting disorder, not easily diagnosed. Dr. Holding only knew this because of her friendship with my mom. I could have bled to death on the operating table”. Casandra sighed and exclaimed – “nothing like that would ever happen to me”. “It’s all about love and trusting” Juliet said. Cassandra reclined in her chair exhausted. Perhaps more overcome by all her missed opportunities. They both fell asleep.
As the big bird landed at London’s Heathrow airport, and both ladies got up, they knew much had changed. Juliet had finally told someone else one of her mom’s life stories…or was it hers? Cassandra had had a day – or should I say – a night like no other. “I bet your mom will be excited to see you now” Cassandra said. Juliet became sad and said quietly “Mom passed just a month ago and I’m here for the funeral. But somehow, her spirit lives on…Friends forever Cassandra?”. “You bet” Cassandra said, and the ladies hugged each other tightly, and then exited into the cold morning air.