Furniture Friend, Bella now lived near, cleaned premises for a living.
A tale came my way: Bella had been seen cleaning offices at a quarter to nine in the morning. Her reward? A bottle of wine.
‘What are you playing at?’ I demanded to know. A career woman, cleaning other’s dirt, for alcohol.
She denied the casual labour, said tale teller was mistaken. Years later she confessed it was true.
Now officially on the sick, not capable of nursing. Weeks became months, and still she had not returned to work.
There was to be a meeting with her employer. Bella attended with Furniture Friend, a discussion concerning Bella’s long-term absence from nursing.
It was decided she take a sabbatical, a year off without pay. She was given time to think about it.
I attended the next meeting with her employer, so did a union representative. It seemed that Bella had no choice, take the leave or be sacked. I sat in that room, Bella by my side opposite a man, and two women I had not met before. It was agreed, Bella would take a year out
I could not contain my composure, a tear tumbled onto my cheek, like the toddler my daughter was once. My tears began to flow. I could see the sorrow on the faces of people I did not know.
We left the room, Bella went to her ward to collect her pay slip. Opened the envelope straight way, her eyes scanned the paper whilst her mind raced to the off-licence.
She turned and looked at me. ‘What are you crying for?’ Was all she had to say.