Room For More(9)

By: Beth Ehemann

“Coffee? You abandoned us for five years and you want to buy me fucking coffee?” My heart was pounding so hard I thought I might die of a heart attack right there. I grabbed on to the hem at the bottom of my scrubs so that I didn’t reach out and punch him in his damn mouth.

“I just want to talk to you. Please?” he begged with sad, pathetic eyes.

“Sure, we can talk—in five years!” I rushed past him and pushed the door open. “Eye for an eye, asshole!” I called back before the door closed.

Tears were rolling down my cheeks by the time I reached the ER, though I didn’t know why. I wasn’t sad. I was mad.

So. Fucking. Mad.

My hands shook so fiercely, I didn’t know how I was going to be able to insert an IV, check someone’s pulse, or even write my name for the rest of the day. I wanted to run. Run straight to the bathroom, splash my face with cold water, and regain my composure the best I could, but I was already late from my break. I slid quietly back into The Square and asked Darla to update me on patients.

“Nada,” she said, spitting pieces of chewed-up turkey sandwich all over my sleeve. “It’s been really quiet. Lady with a UTI in one, guy with a broken wrist in three. Let’s hope it stays like this for the rest of the day.”

I smiled at her, praying to all that is holy that what she said was right. No more patients today, at least not ones that have to come in by ambulance.

Darla’s eyes sparkled at something over the desk. I looked up to see Zach leaning against the counter, glaring down at me.

“This isn’t over,” he said sternly, pinning me to my chair with his intense eyes.

I swallowed hard and looked down at the desk, not wanting to make a scene in front of Darla. When I heard his footsteps fade, I looked up at Darla who was staring at me with her eyes as wide as they could possibly go.

“Don’t ask.” I sighed, dropping my head into my folded hands on the desk. “And you have bread hanging off your bottom lip.”

“You know by saying don’t ask, that means I’m definitely going to ask.”

“It’s nothing. Let’s drop it.” I sat back in the chair and crossed my arms.

“Or we can pick it up.” She giggled.

“You’re strange, Darla, but I like you.” I peered at her out of the corner of my eye.

“I like you too,” she said quickly as she took another bite. “Now spill it.”

“It’s nothing. He’s just… someone I used to know.”

Darla didn’t say anything. She just sat, staring at me and chewing loudly. It was then that I realized maybe she could give me information.

“How long has he been an EMT? Do you know?”

“Hmm…” Her eyes drifted up to the ceiling as she pulled her brows in, thinking hard. “It’s hard to tell because he may have worked for other companies before, but he’s been coming here for about a year I would say. Yes, definitely a year because he was at our holiday party last year. He came with one of the nurses he was dating.”

My stomach rolled. Not a jealous roll, but an annoyed, I-Can’t-Believe-He’s-Moved-On-With-His-Life-Like-Nothing-Happened kind of roll. This hospital was roughly thirty minutes from my house. He’d been thirty minutes away from us for at least a year. Had he ever thought about us? I supposed he could have assumed we stayed in Minneapolis, but he knew my mom was my only support system. He had to have known I’d go home. Then panic started to set in.

What if he’s going to stop by? What if he’s going to force me to talk to him, or worse, try to see the girls?

For a moment, I started to seriously consider quitting this job, saying “screw it” to my degree, packing the girls up, and moving far away.

“Hey! Did you hear me?”

I jumped as Darla’s bellow brought me back to reality.

“I’m so sorry, Darla. What were you saying?”

“You weirded out for a minute there. Does it bother you that he was dating someone?”

I scoffed. “No. Not at all.”

It bothers me that he still lives in Minnesota. I would prefer somewhere like… North Korea.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, they broke up shortly after the holiday party. Apparently the girl he was with was caught making out with someone else in the bathroom at the party. Then she quit. That was it.” Darla reached in her lunch bag and pulled out a bag of cookies.

I swear all Darla does is eat.

“Anyway, that’s all I really know—other than he’s hot!”

I coughed, backwashing a mouthful of water back into my bottle.

“Sorry. You don’t think he’s hot?” She waited for my answer, but I was too busy choking. I just shook my head no. “That boy makes me want to turn into a jaguar.”