Idea by Tom Austin Edited by Meg Sorick Improved by Meg Sorick, Author Part three in the story of Panooksa
As I sat on the stoop, watching, while Brad and Quincy walked toward me, I suddenly felt warm. It was all I could do to keep from fanning myself. Brad looked so… yummy. Yummy? Where had that come from? He was my boss after all. But now that I’d left the hospital and all that it had put in our way, we were free to explore our feelings and emotions. The trouble was that this was the first time I’d thought of anyone this way. Oh sure, I’d felt love before. I’d loved my parents, but clearly this wasn’t the same thing. After they had died, my emotions had simply shut down. Was I afraid of feeling something for someone? Someone like Dr. Brad Peters? He sure was making me feel something at this very moment…
With Quincy trailing behind, I led Brad by the hand to my apartment. I’m not sure why I took his hand, but I did. As we made our way along the dimly lit hallway, he made a remark about the lack of illumination. I, for one, was grateful for the low lighting —the paint was peeling in spots, mail was overflowing from slots that hadn’t been emptied, the carpet was so worn that it was shiny in places.
I kept holding his hand. I didn’t plan to do it, I just did it. Touching his hair wasn’t planned either. But I couldn’t seem to help myself. When he turned to look around the apartment, I noticed his broad shoulders and his strong arms. I wondered how it would feel to be held by them. Tucking his hands in the pockets of his jacket, he suddenly turned back to face me.
“Mildred, why did you leave the hospital ?” he asked.
“If you call me Milly, I’ll tell you.”
Raising an eyebrow, he asked, “Ok, Milly, why did you leave?”
“Have you ever just felt you were supposed to be somewhere else? That where you are, and what you’re doing is all wrong?” I asked.
He frowned and sat in the nearest chair. “Maybe?”
I began to pace in front of him. “That’s the way I felt at the hospital. Like I was supposed to be somewhere else. To do something else. Do you know what I mean?”
Brad leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and cradling his face in his hands as he recalled a long forgotten memory. After a moment, he said, “I think so. Once, when I was a boy, I was at my uncle’s place in the summer. For the whole time I was there, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was supposed to be somewhere else. Is that what you mean?”
“Yes, that’s it exactly!” I said. Thank God, he understood. I went on, “I can’t explain it, but I felt like I was drawn here. My heart just wasn’t in medicine. I know I had responsibilities at the hospital, and I know this apartment doesn’t look like much, but it’s more of a home than the apartment I had near the hospital. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do yet, but I know it’s not medicine.”
Brad smiled warmly. “I’m glad for you, Milly. Some people do the wrong thing for an entire lifetime and are miserable. That’s what happened to my dad. He spent his whole life as an accountant and he was lousy at it. AND he hated it.”
“Why didn’t he try something else?” I asked.
“He thought he was too old to start all over again. He was a whiz with electronics, but he kept plodding along crunching numbers. I’m sure that’s why he died of a heart attack at sixty.”
I realized he was still wearing his jacket, and offered to hang it up. As he handed it to me, there was a spark. An actual spark! Then he said, “You might want to get a humidifier. It’s pretty dry in here.”
We walked through to the tiny kitchen. “Would you like coffee?” I asked, cursing myself for not offering earlier.
“Thanks, Milly, but I’ve already had my fill for the day. If I have too much I get all jittery, and then I can’t sleep at all,” he said.
We sat at the table and talked for hours. About the mystery of Panooska and how he had become unstuck in time. We were both smart people, but neither of us could begin to explain it. We ended up with more questions than answers. As it grew late, Brad started talking about work the next day. I worried about him walking through the neighborhood at this hour.
“It’s really late,” I began. “Look, I don’t want you to think I’m cheap or easy, but if you want, you can stay here tonight. You could sleep on the couch. What do you say?” I really hoped he would stay. I really hoped.
“If you’re sure…” he said. “It’s not too much trouble?”
“Trouble? You? Dr. Brad Peters? No, no trouble at all!” I replied, smiling.
He returned the smile. “Milly, can we set a few ground rules? If we’re going to be friends, why don’t we leave the Doctor titles at the door. What do you think ?” he asked, putting just a touch of emphasis on the word ‘you’. He gave me a sheepish grin. “You seem a little nervous. Well, you’re not the only one. I feel like a long tail cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs.”
He still hadn’t told me if he was going to stay. I held my breath.
He held out his hand. “Let’s try this again. So, how do you do Milly? Mind if I crash on your couch?”
I let out my breath in a relieved laugh. “I’m very well, thank you. And you are welcome to crash on my couch.”
Further musings of Meg Sorick can be found at https://megsorick.com/