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“You want me to do what?” She stared at him, her mouth hanging open. He couldn’t be serious. He was always joking with her. It seemed to ease the tension between them. The other nurse had just left. Julia came prepared for a long night. She brought a new novel to read during the periods he slept, which were few and far between. “You’re joking, right?”

 She said, smiling.

“No.” he said. “I’m not. “The smile died on her face. She had other patients that hinted at her assisting with their deaths. She always refused.

“I will give you one million dollars tax free.” He said.

“I would be the richest person on death row.” She said, by way of refusal. “No, Mr. Goodman. As much as I would love to relieve your suffering, I could not do such an act.”
“Why?” His face twisted in pain and anger. “You’re a nurse. Aren’t you sworn to reduce the suffering of those under your care?”
“Reduce yes, kill no.” she said firmly. “I will not help you commit suicide.”

“Go get out of my sight. Go go, go.” He made a shooing motion with his hands.” On the verge of tears, she left the room. Heart broken she crept into the kitchen. She had never seen him so angry. Even in his deepest pain.

Making a cup of tea, she opened the novel and tried to concentrate. A few minutes later, she threw the book down.

She paced the kitchen. With each step, her temper rose. Who was he to demand she jeopardize her career? At 35, she spent the last 13 caring for the dying. Rich or poor, it was all the same. She helped them in their last minutes of life. Some of them, like Gay Goodman, had no one else to turn to. She cared nothing for the money, only that she could help others. A million? He could offer a billion and her answer would be the same. What she was going to do would get her fired. Ok, if that was the way it was, so be it.  

She stomped into his bedroom, ready for war. She thought of picking up her coat and hanging it over her arm. Of course, she couldn’t leave without a replacement.

As she entered the room, he smiled at her. “There you are. Would you please bring me a small glass of apple juice? Please?”
It was like throwing a bucket of water on a campfire. Her anger dissipated. She could only imagine the pain he experienced.

 “Right away Mr. Freeman.” She turned back in the kitchen's direction.

“Oh, and Julia?”

Stiffly, she turned to face him, ready for another tirade.

 “Yes, sir.” She said unsmilingly.

“It Gary not Mr. Freeman.” He smiled at her as she returned his smile.

A few nights later, Gary Freeman died. The cancer took him naturally.

Two months later, Julia White entered her small cottage. Exhausted, she set her alarm for noon. Normally she slept until three. With six hours of sleep, she could still function. On the way to work last night, she brought a gallon of paint. Today she would paint the railing on the back porch. Tomorrow the fence.

The doorbell startled her. The paperboy had come to collect. Why so early? He knew she slept late. Taking her purse, she opened the door.

A man in a charcoal suit stood on the porch. He smiled at her. “Ms. White, I presume. I’m Alan Warner.”
“Yes Mr. Warner. I’m Julia White. What can I do for you?”

“It’s such a pleasant day. May we set down?” He indicated the table and chairs on Julia’s front porch.

“Mr. Warner, I don’t mean to be rude, but I just worked a full night shift. My patient died in my arms. I am exhausted.” She didn’t add she intended to paint the railing today.

“Julia, May I call you Julia? I’m an attorney representing the estate of one Gary Goodman. May we set down?”

“Mr. Goodman was a sweet man.” Julia said with a sad smile.

Seated, Allan handed her a shaft of typed forms. “What you hold in your hands, Julia, is the last will and testament of one Gary Goodman. As you can see, Mr. Goodman left his entire estate to you.”
Her eyes swimming with tears, she said. “I thought he was going to fire me.”
Warner laughed. “And he thought you were going to hit him.”
“You knew?” She said, looking at him.
“Gary was not just my client, but a good friend. When he offered you the million dollars to end his suffering, he had his cellphone by his side. I heard the entire conversation.”
“He was testing me?” Julia said.

“Yes, and you passed with flying colors.”


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