"Chapter 11"

"Pelican Point"

© R. L. Brown 2005

Chapter 11

Everything seems calm, Claire reassured herself as walked from the parking lot up to the main building early the next morning, surely everything wouldn’t look so normal if Tyrone had done anything . . .

She had spent a sleepless night praying and thinking about Tyrone, and hadn’t been able to shake the dread of coming to work and finding that he’d decided to act on his intentions overnight.

Despite waiting anxiously all afternoon for a chance to speak to Cameron, he’d still been in conference with the Mental Health people when she’d finally had to leave at ten past five. She’d stayed back too late as it was - and had only just reached their front door when David was dropped home by the day-care centre bus.

All evening she fought the urge to ring Cameron, but having no idea how much longer he might be involved with the visitors she didn’t want to take the risk of ringing while they were still with him and put him into the position of having to explain why his receptionist was calling him out of hours.

Oh, Cameron! she thought as the sliding doors opened onto the deserted reception area, I wonder if you know how very much I want to be with you . . .

The suspense of having to wait until David had been picked up from home before she could leave for work that morning had stretched her nerves to the limit - but even now that she had arrived half an hour earlier than usual she realised she was still no closer to seeing Cameron.

Sitting down behind her desk she noticed the time on the clock and shook her head ruefully - she’d completely forgotten that at this time of the morning Cameron was usually in the gym with some of the other staff and patients.

Perhaps I could go and see Tyrone anyway . . . finding out he doesn’t want to talk to me anymore can’t make me feel any worse than I do now. . . I wonder if I should pop down to his cabin now, and then catch Cameron as soon as he’s free?

The sound of the doors sliding open interrupted her thoughts, and Claire’s heart leapt - thinking that Cameron must have skipped the gym session this morning - but as she looked up she saw Chris’s massive frame filling the doorway.

“Hi, Chris . . .” she began, but stopped, her heart sinking like stone at the frightening expression on his face.

“I’ve just heard about Tyrone!” he thundered, crossing the reception area to her desk in a couple of strides, “And I’ve never been more shocked about anything I’ve come across in my whole career!”

Claire felt as though all the blood drained from her body in that instant, leaving her emptied and deathly cold. Even her heart seemed to have stopped as she stared at him, mute with fear. It felt like an eternity before he spoke again, his voice seeming to echo from a great distance away.

“How could you, Claire? How could you do that to Tyrone?” Chris’s eyes were murderous as he glared over the counter at her, “What you’ve said has disturbed him so deeply that he can’t even eat or sleep! What did you think you were doing?”

Claire’s mind was reeling in confusion.

“Oh ... so ... so Tyrone’s okay?” she stammered, feeling quite faint with relief as the blood began to flow through her body again, “I thought you were saying ... he . . .that he . ..”

He swore viciously. “No, he is not okay! I’ve just spoken to the nurse who went in to him this morning - he’s an absolute mess! The poor kid’s been too terrified to fall asleep all night in case he died because you’ve been filling his head with fire and brimstone rubbish!”

“So he took me seriously after all . . .” she said more to herself than Chris as she sagged back against her chair, her head swimming with relief and hope, “And I didn’t think it’d had any affect on him at all . . .”

“I can’t believe you sitting there, actually looking pleased with yourself!” Chris slammed his huge fist down hard on the counter with another explosion of expletives, and Claire was jolted into a sudden realisation of the extent of his anger towards her.

“How dare you tell that boy he’s going to hell! As if he wasn’t suffering enough already without you dumping a whole truckload of religious guilt onto him! Did you want to push him right over the edge?”

His face was scarlet with rage, and Claire felt her knees begin to shake under her desk as he towered over her. Despite the comfortable friendship she’d always enjoyed with Chris, he was like a stranger now and she had no idea of what he was capable in this state of mind. Fighting the urge to run, she pressed her trembling hands firmly against her thighs and lifted her eyes to meet his.

“What I told Tyrone is the truth,” she said with forced calmness, not willing to be intimidated into backing down from what she knew was right, “he feels like his life is not worth living, but there is always hope with God. I care too much about him to let him - ”

“You care about nothing but yourself! How would you feel if you came in one of these mornings and found him dead because you’ve crushed the last shred of life out of him?”

“My conscience would be clear that I’d done every thing I could. Tyrone told me he had already decided to end his life,” Claire answered, fighting to hide her growing fear of Chris’s rage, “I honestly didn’t know if he’d still be here this morning - at least what I’ve said has made him stop and think - ”

“No! What you’ve said has messed him up so much he can’t think straight! I will not let you destroy him or anyone else with your self-righteous condemnation!” Chris threatened loudly, moving closer towards her.

Now he was blocking the passage between Claire’s desk and the wall, barring her only way of escape as he continued, his massive hands clenched into fists, “It’s religious fanatics like you that cause - ”

“That’s enough!”

Cameron’s words rent the highly charged atmosphere like a bolt of lightning, and Chris broke off mid-sentence and whirled around to face Cameron who had entered unheard behind them.

“I never expected to see any of my staff behaving so disgracefully,” Cameron continued, his voice harsh in the sudden silence which had descended on the foyer like the eye of a storm, “Both of you - upstairs to my office now.”

Claire had never been more glad to see anyone and rose unsteadily, her legs feeling as though they were made of wet cardboard. Everything will be okay now, she breathed with relief, inwardly thanking God that Cameron had come in just then. She started to move out from behind her desk, but Chris remained motionless, breathing hard and glaring at Cameron.

“Do you know what she’s done?” he demanded, “I’ve just - ”

“Upstairs now.” Cameron did not raise his voice, but the unmistakable authority in his tone silenced him, and Chris strode past him towards the elevator. Without a backward glance Cameron followed, and Claire trailed after them, her senses still numbed.

Cameron waited until she had entered the lift beside Chris, and then came straight in, facing them both. She met his eyes briefly, but there was no answering warmth in his expression as his eyes flashed between her and Chris.

But Cameron has no idea what is going on, she told herself, I wish I could have spoken to him alone first - but it can’t be helped - and he’ll certainly understand anyway.

The steel doors of the lift had barely closed when Chris exploded again, “She’s been - ”

“Leave it - ” Cameron cut him off, his voice edged with restrained anger, “until we are behind closed doors in my office. I am just thankful it was only me who wandered in on that unprofessional scene downstairs.”

“Unprofessional! If you think that was unpro - ”


Even Claire jumped at the warning in Cameron’s tone, and Chris slumped resentfully against the back wall. When the doors opened moments later, he charged straight past them out of the lift, and wrenched open the door to Cameron’s office.

When Claire entered just ahead of Cameron, Chris was already on the far side of the conference table, pacing up and down like a caged animal. She sank into a chair on the side nearest the door, and heard the door click quietly closed behind Cameron.

“Sit down, Chris,” he commanded calmly as he took his place behind his desk, “and start explaining.”

Chris took a few more agitated turns behind his chair, before dumping himself down onto it and relating his account to Cameron. His voice was still thick with anger, but his language was more restrained and Cameron’s control of the situation was obvious.

Claire listened intently to Chris’s version of her conversation with Tyrone, and while her warnings about God’s judgement had been taken out of context and exaggerated, she was amazed at how much of what she had said Tyrone had taken to heart and then recounted.

Despite Chris’s violent reaction, Claire was thrilled that God had opened Tyrone’s heart to stop and think about eternity, and through his repeating it - even if only to complain - at least two other people had been confronted with the same truths.

She looked over at Cameron, wondering if he was thinking along the same lines as her, but his expression was inscrutable as he gave Chris his full attention. He didn’t even glance in Claire’s direction once as he listened to Chris, interrupting him only with questions of clarification.

Claire gazed in admiration at the strong, masculine lines of his profile. She had been aware of Cameron’s powerful presence from the very first moment she had met him, but had never seen it so clearly demonstrated as in his cool and confident handling of Chris. Despite Chris’s towering frame and obvious physical advantage, Cameron’s authority was in no doubt.

Just being near him made Claire feel the safety of his protection, and Chris’s venomous condemnation no longer frightened her. She was confident that once Cameron had put her comments into the proper perspective in the light of Tyrone’s plans for suicide, even Chris would have to admit the legitimacy of her actions.

When Chris finally finished, Cameron sat in thoughtful silence for a few moments before he spoke.

“Chris, what you’ve just told me is the first I’ve heard of this matter. While I knew that Claire had spoken with Tyrone and had found out that he was seriously contemplating suicide, with the way things turned out yesterday I haven’t had any chance to speak to her about their conversation. And you didn’t speak to Tyrone yourself, did you Chris?”

“No, but - ”

“Since you didn’t speak to Tyrone yourself, what you’ve told me is second-hand at best. Before you go too far in your preparations to throw Claire to the lions we should find out from her what really happened.”

He gave Claire a friendly smile, then looked back to Chris, “It’s fairly obvious that Claire’s been misrepresented - I don’t believe for a moment that she really told Tyrone he was going to “rot in hell for all eternity” like you’ve heard.”

Burn in hell!” Chris corrected.

Cameron shrugged, “Okay, “burn in hell” then. Claire?”

He turned to Claire expectantly. Claire looked back at him helplessly, totally at a loss for words. She’d never expected this kind of approach from Cameron as well - how could she possibly answer when he put it like that?

“You didn’t, did you?”

She tried to swallow, but her mouth was dry, “Well . . .that was certainly part of it . . .but it’s been taken out of context . . . it wasn’t exactly like that . . .”

Cameron was rigid, staring at her in disbelief.

“You didn’t believe me, did you!” Chris yelled across the table, “I told you she’s a raving fanatic!”

“Come on, Chris! We’ve heard you out - have the decency to let Claire explain.” he snapped, then turned back to Claire, “Just how accurate was Chris’s report?”

The fear she’d felt when Chris had abused her at the reception desk was nothing compared to the wretchedness she felt under the intense disapproval in Cameron’s eyes.

What have I done? she thought, feeling suddenly guilty and terrified, but managing to catch herself before she gave in to the panic which was rising within her. No, I shouldn’t be apologising - my conscience is clear that what I said was right. Dear God, please help me get through this!

“I certainly did speak to Tyrone about the things Chris mentioned,” she answered slowly, hating herself for the betraying tremor in her voice, “but I didn’t say that he was going to hell, but that he’d want to think carefully before he took his life because the Bible says that if we die without being right with God we will go to hell - ”

“It’s exactly the same thing!” Chris interjected, “What more do you need to hear, Cam?!”

Cameron ignored his comment and waited for her to continue. She took a deep breath, praying desperately that God would give her the words to say, and still not able to believe that she was having to defend her actions to Cameron as well Chris.

“Tyrone told me that he had decided to take his life, that there was no point in living any longer and that he would be better off dead. That is why I challenged him - ”

“By telling him he’d burn in hell!” Chris cut her off again.

“I also told him that God is a loving and merciful God, who freely gives eternal life to anyone who comes to him in Christ -”

“Yeah - and what kind of loving God would throw a poor kid like Tyrone into hell?” he goaded, finally overthrowing her composure.

“I am not making this up, Chris! Whether you like it or not - it is the truth! The Bible says God will punish sin, but he also promises salvation to all who ask! I was not prepared to let Tyrone blindly take his life without facing up to that!”

“You have no right to ram your religion down other peoples throats!” Chris leapt to his feet, glaring dangerously at her over the table. Claire returned his fiery look and met his challenge vigorously.

“And if you have such a problem with it Chris, you might want to stop and think seriously about where you stand before God before being so insistent about keeping someone like Tyrone from finding out the truth for himself!”

“No, Claire! Not another word!” Cameron’s tone froze her blood, “This is not the time or the place!”

She sat back, entirely defeated. Not only had Cameron made no attempt to come to her defence against Chris’s continual attacks, he had delivered the final blow himself. Her face was burning with the sting of his betrayal, and she sat staring straight ahead under the glare of both Cameron and Chris, feeling utterly desolate.

Chris began to argue against her again, but Cameron silenced him as well, and then sat back regarding them both wearily for several long moments.

“Okay. I see the problem,” he said finally, shaking his head in patent disappointment, “but it never should have resulted in the cataclysm I witnessed downstairs. . . or just now. I know you’re both coming from opposite extremes of the spectrum, but that’s no excuse to wage war on each other like this. Between the two of you there seems to be a total absence of conflict resolution skills.”

He turned to Claire, “While I’m completely sympathetic to your religious beliefs Claire, I never expected you to act on them in such an inappropriate manner. I have obviously erred greatly by assuming that you understood the difference between your personal values and your professional responsibilities. And Chris,” he looked across to his right, where Chris had remained standing, his arms folded across his chest.

“Although you certainly have a valid complaint - and I can understand why you are so upset - I am disappointed that you couldn’t deal with the situation more rationally. Whatever the provocation, there is no excuse for venting your anger like that at any member of my staff. That is not the way to resolve anything, and I won’t tolerate it. The next time either of you has a problem with the other - don’t even raise the issue between yourselves - I want you to come straight to me in the first instance.”

“That’s it, is it?” Chris demanded, with a scornful laugh.

“No, Chris - that isn’t it.” he replied, “But it is as far as you are concerned right now - I know you’ve got patients waiting for you in the physio room. This is the perfect opportunity for me to speak to Claire on her own about what has happened, and ensure that she understands exactly what is appropriate behaviour so something like this doesn’t happen again in the future. When I saw Tyrone last night he didn’t mention anything about this at all, so it may not be as big an issue as you think, but I’ll go and speak to him about it specifically and take it from there. And Chris, I think you and I should have a little chat later on about your reaction to this,” Cameron looked up at him pointedly.

“I appreciate you bringing this to my attention - but this is the end of your involvement - and I certainly don’t want you bringing it up with Claire again. Is that clear?”

Chris met his eyes levelly and held them for a minute or two, before grunting his answer and stalking out of the room, the door slamming shut behind him. Claire listened to his footsteps thudding quickly down the passageway, echoing the pounding of her own heart.

She could feel Cameron’s eyes on her, but she couldn’t bring herself to raise own her eyes to meet his, and stared at the surface of the table in front of her. She felt shocked and hurt, her mind was clogged with confusion.

I should feel glad that Tyrone has taken seriously what I told him . . . maybe he won’t want to end his life now . . .but Cameron is so angry with me . . . he thinks I’ve done the wrong thing. . .

“I’m sorry I had to set you straight in front of Chris - but in the circumstances it couldn’t be avoided,” Cameron’s voice broke into her thoughts and made her jump, but when she glanced warily at him she was surprised to see that his eyes were searching her face in concern, his expression softer than it had been all morning.

“Surely it isn’t as bad as it seems, Ginger. Why don’t you start at the beginning and tell me exactly what happened when you saw Tyrone yesterday?”

She nodded, now that Chris was gone Cameron no longer seemed so much like the intimidating boss, and she felt hopeful that once she’d explained everything in context he’d agree with what she’d said and everything would be okay between them again.

As carefully and accurately as she could, Claire related the details of their conversation, leaving out only the part where she mentioned David and their own situation. It had no relevance to Chris’s complaints, and if Tyrone chose to reveal that to anyone later, she’d deal with it then.

Cameron listened attentively to her account, his intense blue eyes never leaving hers as she spoke, but when she had finished he leant back in his chair with a long sigh.

“Well, I was wrong again,” he regarded her with a bemused smile, “It couldn’t really be much worse, could it?”

Claire stared at Cameron in dismay as he reached across his desk for his water bottle, and took a few sips. Despite his friendly manner it was clear that her explanation had not altered his opinion at all.

“It looks like you and I’ve got quite a lot to work through here,” he said, turning back around towards her, “do you want to go and make yourself a cup of coffee first?”

Claire shook her head, feeling so wretched with disappointment that she couldn’t contemplate the thought of swallowing anything. It was hard enough to reconcile that Cameron could think so differently to her about these things, but the knowledge that he had such a low opinion of her actions was almost unbearable, and she wondered how she was going to hold herself together through the rest of this ordeal.

Oh help me, Lord! she pleaded silently, did I really do the wrong thing?

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Claire,” he said, reaching out and taking her hand in his, the reassuring gesture confirming that she looked just as upset as she felt, “I know it looks bad at the moment, but we all make mistakes, and it’s just a matter of working through them to the other side.”

She stared down at the strong hand possessing hers, her heart racing from the unexpected intimacy as the heat of his skin suffused warmth into her icy fingers. He still cares for me, she breathed out slowly, tremendously relieved that his feelings toward her were obviously unchanged despite what had happened that morning, Cameron will sort this all out . . . everything is going to be okay.

“I know you meant well, Claire, and I’m not going to make a big thing of this, but we do need to take the time to clarify what is and isn’t appropriate in your position.”

Despite Cameron’s gentle manner, his words reminded her with a start of the great chasm of misunderstanding which lay unresolved between them.

“Cameron, I just can’t . . .” she cleared her throat, trying to ignore the warmth that was flooding through her as his thumb began tracing slow circles on the back of her hand, “I just can’t understand why you think I have done the wrong thing by telling Tyrone what the Bible says happens after death. What I told him is only the truth.”

“Yes - what you said was certainly true enough - but it is the situation in which you said it that is the problem. Can’t you see that imposing your beliefs onto a patient like that is entirely unacceptable?”

“But I explained to you how it was . . .surely you would have done exactly the same thing yourself Cameron, if you were in the same situation.”

“I was in the same situation. I, too spent time talking with Tyrone yesterday - and no - I certainly didn’t think the circumstances justified breaching every ethical consideration there is,” he explained patiently, his thumb gently massaging her clenched knuckles and slowly releasing their stiffness.

“I’d love to see him come to know the Lord just as much as you would - but it would have been clearly wrong to have taken advantage of him like that. Tyrone couldn’t have been in a more vulnerable position: alone, clinically depressed, bed bound, and utterly dependent on us. Those kind of circumstances are exactly why the ethical guidelines exist for a patient’s protection.”

“Even though he was clearly giving notice that he was going to commit suicide?”

“That makes no difference. I can assure you that we are taking all the appropriate measures to help Tyrone in the light of his state of mind.”

“Apparently everything is appropriate except making him face the truth,” she said, unconsciously reclenching her fist.

“I know you were upset by what Tyrone told you,” Cameron answered, calmly unfurling her fingers again and smoothing them flat against his palm as he spoke, “but your response was more emotional than professional. By your own account Tyrone made it perfectly clear that he did not accept that what you were saying was truth - and you had no right to try to impose your beliefs on him.”

“But Cameron, what if you were standing on top of a tall building beside a man who told you he did not believe in the theory of gravity, and was about to act on his conviction that he would float safely to the ground if he jumped. You would have no hesitation in imposing your own belief in the power of gravity on him and infringing his rights by dragging him away from the edge.”

Cameron shook his head with a smile, completely unmoved. “Nice try, Claire - but that is a completely different situation. Our society holds to a general belief in gravity - it is undisputed. Although you would be defying an individual’s belief, your actions would be clearly be in accordance with the general belief of our society. That is the opposite of what happened with Tyrone. The kind of literal belief you and I have in the Bible is very much a minority view.”

“Since when did truth become dependent on being held by the majority to make it true?”

“That is not the point. The fact is that we live in a society that sees it as a violation of a patient's rights for people in our position to impose our religion on them, despite the fact you and I believe it to be true. And it is this society which makes the ethics that we are bound by in our work.”

“And what good are ethics going to do for Tyrone when he takes his life?” she sighed, frustrated that Cameron’s implacable calm made it nearly impossible to say what she wanted with any force, and his unruffled patience made her feel guilty for even trying to argue with him. “What use is it to anyone that you and I know the salvation of God, if according to you we have no right to share that?”

“Oh, Claire - I know how fond you are of Tyrone, and that you only want to help him - but you’ve let yourself get so involved that you’ve lost your objectivity,” he leaned closer to her, clasping her hand with reassuring firmness between both of his as he continued.

“I’m not saying for a moment that we are not to share our beliefs with someone like Tyrone - but just not in the way you’ve gone about it. Jesus told his disciples that they were to be like salt and light in the world, and we can witness of God’s love legitimately by being godly in our daily lives, and letting our light shine before men so that they can see God through us. You can still be effective for Christ even where there is no place for spelling out your beliefs.”

Claire fell silent, searching for some kind of clarity in her thoughts. Although her conscience troubled her just enough to keep her from yielding to Cameron’s subtle pressure, its red warning light was nearly dimmed by a fog of conflicting emotions.

I don’t know that we can witness fully without sometimes going through horrible confrontations like those with Tyrone and Chris . . . but surely Cameron wouldn’t being acting against God’s Word . . . the last thing I want is to argue with him, especially when he’s trying so hard to smooth things over.

The constant awareness of his hand touching hers held her thoughts captive, as though she were no more able to pull back from him emotionally than she could have physically. She watched transfixed as he slowly laced his fingers between her own, the gentle brushing of his fingertips against the sensitive skin between her fingers making her whole body tingle and sending all other thoughts far from her mind.

Her eyes travelled from his strong, sinewy hands, along his muscular arms and to his broad chest and shoulders, vividly remembering every treasured sensation of when he had held her on Monday afternoon. If it feels this incredible when Cameron is just touching my hand . . .imagine how wonderful it would be when he took me in his arms . . .when he kissed me. . .

She studied his rugged jaw, the contours of his mouth, the firm lips curved by the hint of a smile. Her heart stopped. Why was he smiling?

Claire’s eyes flew straight up into Cameron’s, and she realised with horror that he was watching her intently, his expression as perceptive as though he were reading her thoughts. She looked quickly away, her face flaming with embarrassment, shocked that she had allowed herself to become so distracted.

Staring hard at the tabletop, she forced her mind to focus, praying that God would yet help her persevere until she could make Cameron understand why they had to plainly spell out the gospel truth to Tyrone and anyone else when they had the opportunity .

“I’m sorry Cameron, but I don’t agree that there are any circumstances that override our commission to tell what we have seen and heard of God’s salvation. Nothing on this earth matters more than bringing people to know God,” she stated, every sense still aware of his closeness. She took a deep breath before continuing, determined not to be persuaded from what she was convinced was the truth.

“The Bible says we are to shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life. That’s more than with actions alone or a word here and there - it’s confronting people explicitly with the word of God. That was made clear when Christ sent out his disciples to spread the gospel. What he had told them in the dark they were to speak in the daylight; and what was whispered in their ears they were to proclaim from the roofs.”

“But Claire - can’t you see it’s what you were proclaiming from the rooftops that has caused this problem? Even someone like Chris would give you a lot more lee-way about the ethical issues if you’d been content with just sharing your beliefs about God’s love and comfort with Tyrone. But you crossed right over the line by threatening him with hell.”

“I know that speaking about hell is not politically correct these days, but for someone on the verge of suicide surely it’s a lot more pertinent to face them with the certain reality of God’s wrath than to give some socially acceptable homily about God’s love and comfort?”

Claire’s heart had begun to pound uncomfortably, frightened by the direction his argument was heading, “You can’t even understand the depth of God’s love until you have some idea of extent of your own sinfulness and the utter horror of the hell which Christ gave himself to save you from!”

“As true as that may be, this is not the place for you to be delivering blistering sermons about fire and brimstone to Tyrone, or Chris, or anyone else.”

Although Cameron’s voice and expression were as gentle as ever, his uncompromising words stung Claire as though she had been slapped, finally jolting her from her daze. She snatched her hand away from him, staring at him in shock.

At last the real issue was clear to her - when it came to the crunch and he had to face the kind of opposition that was coming from Tyrone and Chris - Cameron was not prepared to stand behind the unpopular truth of God’s judgement.

“But our God is a consuming fire, and whether you like it or not you can’t deny that the whole Bible is unapologetically full of this “fire and brimstone”. Christ’s gospel was “Repent or perish!” and that is exactly the gospel which I will proclaim!”

“No, you won’t. Not here.”

His voice was still completely calm but inflexibly authoritative, “Your convictions do not justify you abusing the position of trust you have with my patients. I am not doubting your motives Claire, but I will not allow your misguided zeal to jeopardise the integrity of this institution.”

“I can’t believe you’re saying this! I thought you were as committed to bringing people to Christ as I am!”

“Of course I am - but I am not prepared to throw away my career by acting on an emotional impulse. You seem to think that because I am a Christian, I can give you carte blanche to do and say whatever you want in the name of religion. But this is not a Christian institution, it’s a government subsidised medical centre and I am accountable to secular medical boards and government bodies for everything I do, and I can assure you that not one of them would show me any leniency if I were to put into practice what you are suggesting.”

“Even if you are not prepared to openly witness - why do you want to stop me?”

“Because I am your boss - I am held responsible for your actions. The fact that I’m known to be a practising Christian means that if I allow any tolerance over your witnessing it could be construed that you were acting directly on my behalf.”

He ran his hands through his hair and sighed deeply, “This is not just a philosophical argument Claire - and all it will take to suddenly become very real for both of us is for either Chris or Tyrone to complain to the board, or even to the Mental Health Unit on their next visit.

Have you even given a moment’s thought to the position you’d be putting me in if a formal complaint is laid against the centre? Of what I stand to lose if accused of improper conduct? How easily everything I have worked so hard for could be lost?”

Claire shook her head miserably, the weight of his words almost crushing her.

“No. I’m so sorry . . .I didn’t mean anything like this to happen.”

“I know that. I just wanted to you to understand how serious a matter this is.” The tenderness in Cameron’s voice quenched the last embers of her resistance, and she felt grateful when he reached out to take her hand again.

“Don’t worry Ginger - I really don’t think it will come to that. Tyrone certainly made no mention of having any complaint against you when I saw him last night, in fact he was actually concerned about whether he’d offended you. And knowing Chris, I don’t expect him to take things any further - he’ll settle down now that he’s let off a bit of steam.”

Cameron chuckled, running his finger along her forearm affectionately, “Seeing you dealing with Chris was like watching someone pouring petrol onto a raging fire. I give you full points for your zeal for God, but you need to learn to approach things with a little more maturity. I’m sorry that it never occurred to me before this to make sure you understood what was appropriate behaviour in your job - but at least we’ve got it sorted out now.”

Claire swallowed hard, hurt by his dismissal of Chris’s aggressive threats as merely “letting off steam”, and dismayed by her inability to make him understand that no matter what the consequences she still felt compelled to speak openly about the truth of God.

Although every fibre of her being resisted risking Cameron’s displeasure now that things seemed to be resolved, Claire knew she has to make her position clear.

“Cameron - ” she began, but the phone on the desk rang, and he turned away to answer it.

“There’s a technician downstairs to see you about the photocopier,” he told her when he’d hung up the phone a few moments later. “He’s already been waiting a while - you’d better go down straight away.”

Claire nodded, sighing in frustration as she rose to her feet. Cameron smiled encouragingly, misinterpreting her worried expression.

“Don’t worry too much Claire - it will all blow over in a day or two - everything’s really okay.”

She nodded, although inwardly she cried out “No, it’s not all okay!” She hesitated in the doorway, but realising that she was unlikely to convince him in only a few moments of what she hadn’t been able to make him accept for the last hour, she merely thanked him for his time and hurried downstairs.

© R Brown 2005