“I can’t believe I let them talk me into that,” Nick mumbled to himself while he sat on the raised bed in the partitioned emergency room, with blood dripping from the gash on his left arm, waiting to find out if he’d need stitches or an amputation. He chuckled at his own joke and waited for someone to come check on his arm.
“Well, look who dropped by to mingle with us commoners.” A beautiful, freckled nurse with long, strawberry blonde curls walked up, with a clipboard in her hands and a barely contained smirk on her lips.
“Adele?” Nick gaped. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ll be your nurse this afternoon.” She chuckled and then leaned closer and stage whispered. “I get to be the one to torture you.”
“You’ve been torturing me since we were in diapers.” Nick cringed as she lifted his arm to assess the damage.
“Does that hurt?”
“Do you seriously have to ask?” Nick raised his eyebrows.
“Let’s get you a shot of painkiller and get that wound cleared of gravel,” Adele said in a cheerful voice.
After multiple pokes and prods and blood draws and papers to be signed, they were finally alone again, with a basin of some sort of foul-smelling liquid antiseptic and a variety of tools designed to frighten patients.
“So… whatch’u been up to, Nick?” Adele asked as she more closely evaluated the gash he’d received while landing with his tandem instructor.
The last time Nick had seen Adele in person was when they graduated from prep school, number one and number two in their class, sitting side by side, always competing for the top spot. He still resented her giving that valedictorian speech even though his college entrance exams had only been five points lower than hers.
“I went skydiving. You?”
“I got accepted in the master’s program here at Hadassah University Hospital.”
“Wow, in what?”
“Nurse practitioner.” She included an underlying duh with her declaration.
“Congratulations,” Nick said, in awe of her accomplishments. He’d lost touch with her since they’d separated for college.
“What about you?” She dipped his whole elbow and wrist into the basin the triage nurse had provided. The shot of painkiller they’d injected into him was finally working. He barely felt a thing.
“Still helping run my dad’s companies,” Nick answered.
“You a billionaire yet?”
“Not yet, but I’m working on it.” He was vaguely aware of her picking little pieces of gravel from his arm.
“You’ll get there.”
“I’m glad you have faith in me.” Did his voice get husky? How embarrassing.
“How are your mom and dad?” she asked, pausing her work.
“Fine, I guess. I see my dad more than my mom since we work together.”
“You need to spend more time with your mother, Nick.” She looked sternly into his eyes.
“How about if you come with me,” he asked.
“If I did that, she’d get the wrong idea and think we’d gotten back together.” Her voice was lowered, and she resumed picking gravel out of his arm.
“Would that be such a bad thing?” Nick boldly raised his free hand and lifted her chin gently.
“You don’t even know me anymore,” Adele said, not distracted by his gesture. “How do you know I’m not dating someone else?”
“Are you?” Nick asked. She didn’t answer, just kept her tweezers moving. “That’s what I thought.”
“I follow your blog.” Interesting change of subject.
“You do?” He couldn’t hide his smile.
“You have interesting philosophical insights into the world.”
“Thank you,” he said. “I’m flattered.”
“You should quit working for your dad and be a writer,” she said.
“I was thinking about writing a novel, actually.”
“Really?” Adele’s smile lit her face.
“Ah, dang, you keep smiling at me like that and I’m for sure going to write a novel.”
“You know how much I love your stories.” She set down the tweezers and reached for some other torture instrument. He decided not to watch. “Which one are you going to write first? The dystopian one? Or the spiritual one?”
“Probably dystopian,” he said. Was he really considering his youthful dreams? This was crazy. He runs into his childhood sweetheart and he’s suddenly contemplating a career change? “Spiritual crap doesn’t sell all that well.”
“You’d be surprised.” She finished by taping some gauze in place with sterile strips. “Do you promise to keep that clean and dry?”
“If you’ll promise to come check on me in a day or two, like, say, at dinnertime tomorrow.” Nick raised his eyebrows.
“I don’t date my patients.” The gleam in her eyes told him he wasn’t her usual patient. He’d held her in his arms on the dance floor under twinkling lights in the gymnasium. He’d been her first kiss, and she’d been his only kiss.
“Do you ever wonder what might have happened if we’d stayed together?”
“We’ve moved on, Nick.” Adele stepped over to the nearby counter and jotted something on the paperwork there. “The nursing assistant will bring you some discharge papers. Here are some additional instructions.”
As she handed Nick the sheet of paper she’d removed from her clipboard, she finally looked him in the eye.
“It was really nice to see you again, Nick.” She quickly walked away. He looked down at the slip of paper.
Clean and wrap your arm daily, no more skydiving, and call me if you need anything. She’d included her personal cell phone number.