Room For More(8)

By: Beth Ehemann

She looked at me, but her eyes didn’t meet mine. Her mind was somewhere else. “Yeah,” she stammered as she rubbed her face. “I’m okay. I think I’d better head back. Maureen just walked by and I don’t want her hating me any more than she already does.”

I didn’t say anything, hoping she’d elaborate. Instead, she gave me a fake smile and turned her attention to the girls, obviously not wanting me to ask any more questions.

“Let’s clean up so mommy can get back, okay?” Kacie stacked their soup cups and silverware on the tray and stood to throw it in the garbage. She was about five feet from the table when the tray slipped out of her hand and everything crashed to the floor.

“Stay here one minute,” I said to the girls as I got up from the table and rushed to help her. I reached for the soup cup in her hand and noticed she was trembling. “Kacie, your hands are shaking. What the hell is going on?”

Sighing heavily, she sat back on her heels with her shoulders slumped, looking at the ground. “It’s Maureen. I think she hates me.”

“Why would she hate you?”

“I don’t know. She’s just… so intimidating.” Her face lifted as her eyes finally connected with mine. “It’s hard to describe. This one person has your whole future sitting in their hands and they can either make you the happiest ever or completely squash you. And they have no clue how powerful they really are. Know what I mean?”

I reached over and tucked a wavy piece of hair behind her ear, “I know exactly how that feels.”

A small smile crept across her face. A real smile.

I needed that smile.

My stomach was still in knots as I kissed the girls and Brody good-bye.

“Hey, you sure you’re okay?” He squeezed my hand, concern evident on his face.

“Yeah.” I sighed. “Just wishing I were leaving with you guys. I’m jealous.”

“Go. Quit. Dozens of little Brodys, remember?” He wiggled his eyebrows up and down.

“Tempting, but I can’t. Independence, remember?” I lifted onto my tippy-toes for one last kiss. “I gotta go.”

The girls waved on their way out the door. I leaned against the wall and watched them for a minute as they passed through the extra-wide automatic hospital doors. The sun was shining bright outside and their dark silhouettes made their way hand in hand, out to the parking lot. They walked in slow motion, as if I was watching a movie. In that moment, I wanted to run out the door after them and jump in Brody’s truck, never having to go back to that damn hospital again.

While we were sitting at the table, innocently talking about Halloween costumes, Zach strolled down the hallway behind Brody. I don’t think he saw us, but it sent my nerves in a complete tailspin.

I felt like a sitting duck in that damn ER. At any moment, he could come in with a patient and I would be face-to-face with him again. And eventually, I would be forced to talk to him. Lauren had grilled me on why I hadn’t told Brody that I saw him, and though I knew I should have, now wasn’t the right time. Brody and I only had a couple days left of being together before his training started, and I wanted to enjoy them. Zach working at the same hospital as me would make him feel protective and edgy, and I didn’t want us going into our first season apart full of tension.

My running shoes clicked against the cold tile floor while I walked quickly through the hallway connecting the main building to the emergency room wing. I was so lost in my thoughts about timing and the irony of my life that I didn’t notice the big wooden door to my right swing open until Zach grabbed my arm and pulled me inside.

“Get the hell off me!” I snapped, jerking my arm free.

He pushed me into the janitorial closet and closed the door behind him, blocking it so I couldn’t leave.

“Was that them?” His face was panicked, his dark brown eyes drilled into mine.

“Was that who?” I responded, irritation dripping from my words.

“Them. At the table… our girls.”

My eyes widened as I fought the urge to lunge forward and strangle him with my bare hands. “They’re my girls, not yours,” I spat at him through clenched teeth.

“That was them, wasn’t it?” His voice was gentle.

“No, genius, I was having lunch with some other random six-year-old twins. Get out of my way.”

He crossed his arms across his chest and stood firm. “Why won’t you talk to me?”

“Why?” I yelled incredulously. “I can think of five years’ worth of reasons. Now move it!”

“Kacie, please. I have so much to explain.” He took a step toward me, causing me to instinctively back up against the shelves of cleaning supplies behind me. “Can we meet up after work today? Just to talk? I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.”