Our story starts at dusk on a cool day in July. Denise Agatha Miller knew her time was up; something about the way the breeze whipped through the crisp air, the way the anxious chirps of birds cut through the icy window behind her quaint bed told her this day would be her last. She didn’t mind though. Mrs Miller had enjoyed a fair life. She had lived well and loved well. As a nurse, she had helped many people and enjoyed a successful career until her retirement some fifteen years ago. In fact, if it weren’t for that one grave and secret mistake, it could be said that Denise had something of a golden career.
Denise lay back on her cool, white pillow as she pondered her decision. ‘It’s best left alone, it’s best left alone’, chanted the whispers in her head.
“No”, she said aloud, firmly. “The past must be fixed”.
Later that night, well-renowned lawyer Adam Brown made his way towards the grand Miller Estate. It stood proudly at the end of a cobbled street in Pleasantview.
“Thankyou for coming!”, gushed Monica, Denise’s young maid, as she flung open the heavy wooden door carelessly. “The doctor say Mrs Miller ain’t got long left and she reckons she ‘as a real important thing to tell you”, whispered the young girl.
“Take me to her, if you please”, came Adam’s exasperated but polite reply.
“Ah, yes Sir, right away”, stuttered the young woman.
Denise Miller was seated upright in a cosy, tartan easy chair when Adam entered the sitting room. She waved her hand to the empty chair beside her, wordlessly inviting him to be seated. He acquiesced.
“I haven’t got much time”, mumbled the old lady softly. “I made a mistake in my youth, and you must fix it on my behalf.”
“Go on”, coaxed the lawyer.
Denise sunk back into her chair. She averted Adam’s eyes. The old woman seemed to shrivel up before him as she prepared to speak.
“It was my first nursing job. I was a midwife back then, I used to help with the babies. One night we were crowded. More babies than cribs, more mothers than beds.” A single hot tear rolled down her crinkled cheek. “You have to understand, I was young, I was stressed, the head nurse yelled at me to move faster. We had to discharge the babies fast.”
“There was one mother who came in, bleeding and in great pain. We thought she would lose her babies. We thought she would die. My supervisor, she told me to discharge the Farmer twins, Arthur and Martha, to make room for the new patients. She was angry, I thought I was in trouble. I picked up the babies without checking their papers, and I discharged them”.
Adam was listening intently. Denise’s voice cracked and a fresh wave of tears filled her eyes.
“I went back to check on the other babies and I saw the papers. I knew I discharged the wrong baby girl to the Farmer family.”
Adam interrupted her gently. “You didn’t try to fix the swap?”
“You don’t understand”, sobbed the frail woman, “I would’ve lost my job, I would have brought shame on the hospital! I couldn’t tell anyone!” she exclaimed.
“The doctor says I’m dying. I can feel it, Adam, I’ll be gone soon. I left provisions in my will to cover your fees. You need to reach both families and apologise on my behalf.”
Denise was beginning to shake as she spoke. Adam took a deep breath as he contemplated what he had just been told.
“Mrs Miller, it’s going to be okay”, he soothed. “You did the right thing by telling me. I will fix this, everything will be fine”. He called upon the maid to help Denise into bed.
As her pulse began to slow, her breathing became lighter and, satisfied that her secret would not follow her to the grave, her heart finally gave in and Denise Miller was no more.