When You Least Expect It
“You don’t have to sit around here with me, you know,” Nicole said, annoyed. They were now in the waiting room waiting to be called. Luck appeared to be on their side at first, with no one ahead of them, but typically they still had to wait to be called before being seen by a doctor.
“I know,” Nick said while reading an outdated magazine, “but I think it’s considered ungentlemanly to leave your date at the hospital.”
“I’m sure you have a lot of experience at that,” Nicole muttered.
Nick glanced at her and glared, making Nicole fidget in her seat. Nick wasn’t much to look at but he had one of the most intense stares she had ever seen. Normally she would consider that to be in his favor but at this moment it was a definite minus. Getting up, she walked over to the desk nurse and asked how much longer.
“You’ll be seen when you’re called, ma’am.”
Walking back, Nicole plopped down annoyed.
“Have you ever heard you get more flies with honey then vinegar?” he asked.
Rolling her eyes, Nicole mimicked what he said. She then looked at Nick and said, “Like anyone could get anywhere with Nurse Ratchet up there.”
Nick set his magazine down and walked over to the woman who obviously heard Nicole’s comment. “Look, ma’am, I just want to apologize for my date. It hasn’t been a good night as you can see, and she’s normally a very sweet, kind person.”
The nurse glared at him in disbelief.
Nick smiled, “Okay, you hear that all the time, I’m sure. Hospitals will bring out the worst in some people.”
That she did believe and nodded but still was unmoved.
Giving up, Nick walked back over and sat down. He heard Nicole say, “I told you.”
“I didn’t do that to help you, I did it because there was no reason for you to be rude to her, it’s not her fault you are bleeding and in a bitchy mood.”
“Well, it’s not mine either!”
She might have been referring to how bad their date went, but her statement did remind Nick about why they were really there, “What were you doing to that dog anyway?”
“What was I doing?”
“Nicole, you have this bad habit of repeating what I say to you. You heard me, what were you doing?”
“I was trying to get him out of the middle of the road!”
She said it with such sincerity, he could hardly believe it. “Nicole, that’s a busy street, and at night, walking out on the road with the way some cars come speeding through, you could have easily got hit…”
“I know, Professor! That’s exactly why I wanted him out of the street! He could get hit!”
Both jumped at the sound of her name and they stood. Another nurse stood in the doorway to let her come back, and Nicole walked off without saying a word to Nick. But he had to ask something else, “So, you risked your life to save an animal you didn’t know?”
Nicole stopped and stared at him. She didn’t answer and turned away to go in.
Nicole walked out holding her hand up. The bite wasn’t too bad but she got a shot anyway repeating Nick’s earlier comment it was better to be safe than sorry. She was very sore but for the moment she could only concentrate on how hungry she was. She thought about what she had in her apartment to eat, she didn’t have money to get a cab AND stop for food too. However, waiting for her in the waiting room was the last person she expected to see.
She couldn’t believe he was still there. She was about to ask him if he was really that hard up to find someone to spend time with but her eyes glanced down and she saw he had Styrofoam boxes and then the smell hit her.
“I thought you might be hungry when you got out of there, and I did, well, I did owe you a dinner.”
Nicole’s mouth fell open. Never in her whole life had she seen anyone do this kind of thing before. Looking at Nick, she said, “I don’t understand, you bought dinner?”
“Well I think its dinner. It’s what the hospital mess had but it’s cold by now but at least it’s edible.”
She walked up to him while glancing at the waiting room clock. It was almost ten, he’d been here over two hours. “I don’t know what to say.”
“You want to eat down in the dining room?”
Nick shook his head, “Well, they close at 9 actually. I hate to say this, but, do you want to head to your place and we’ll eat it there. We could probably nuke it then too, assuming you got a microwave.”
Nicole started to giggle. Nick returned the smile but asked what she was laughing at.
“It’s just… I’m standing here in the hospital in a wine soaked dress with a bandaged hand because I got bit but not by my date.”
Nick smiled larger, “At least the dog that bit you was cuter than your date.”
Holding Nick’s gaze, Nicole returned, “Maybe, but I was right you know.”
“I told you I could stop traffic.”
In Nicole’s apartment, Nick began setting out their food to place in the microwave. “Nicole, where do you keep the plates?”
Nicole had gone back to her bedroom to get her dog and change but she answered, “I haven’t really bought any yet, just use the Styrofoam.”
Nick shook his head while saying “You should never warm up anything in the microwave with Styrofoam. There are all kinds of chemicals and toxins that get released which soak up into your food and…”
“Whatever, Professor, I have some paper plates in the pantry.”
Nick glanced at her and felt his heart stop. Nicole was wearing a simple t-shirt and shorts while holding her dog. She’d wiped off some of the makeup and she looked much younger then her real age. “What’s the matter, Nick, taken aback at my average looks once I stepped into some real clothes?”
Before he could stop himself, Nick answered truthfully, “No, as a matter of fact, you look great natural. Much softer and really, um, lovely.”
She felt a blush to her cheeks at his compliment, something she wasn’t expecting and probably didn’t deserve. But of course a guy like Nick would go for the simple look, he was a simple guy. Sitting Pookie down, Nicole went to grab some water bottles out of the refrigerator. When she changed, she had thought about going for another typical outfit but by now, and everything they had gone through that night, it just seemed silly. Nick was obviously not looking to score and it was frankly a relief to put on something comfortable. Especially with her hand throbbing.
“I haven’t had time to really go shopping since moving in here, so I’m pretty down to the basics,” Nicole said sheepishly realizing she had a Horton in her one bedroom apartment.
“No, it’s fine,” Nick said. “Remember I hang out with the college crowd mainly. Sometimes they are lucky to have furniture.”
“You don’t seem to really fit in with the students though.”
“Why? ’Cause I’m such a geek?”
Nicole glanced at him; she should have expected him to take that wrong the way she’d been snapping at him all night. “No, actually, you seem way too mature for them. You’re not much older than they are and yet you’re a professor, working on a grant, got your own apartment I hear…”
“Yeah, from Chelsea’s blog.”
“Maybe,” Nicole said as she ate some vegetables. The food wasn’t the quality of Chez Rouge but Nicole was so hungry it tasted fabulous. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Could I stop you?”
Laughing, she shook her head, “Probably not. What did you see in Chelsea?”
Nick stopped, looking up, “What do you mean?”
“It’s just…well, she’s so young. She’s pretty, maybe…”
“She’s gorgeous,” he corrected.
Rolling her eyes, “So says the man in love with her, fine, but what else is there about her? ‘Cause the time I’ve spent with her she seems really…”
Nick cut her off, not wanting to bad mouth Chelsea. “You don’t know her; you have to get to get to know her to see the great person she is inside.”
“But that’s what confuses me,” Nicole said. “Why did you bother to get to know her in the first place?”
“Look, Nicole, can we talk about anything else? Please? I just… I really don’t want to talk about my ex-girlfriend.”
“You’re still in love with her.”
Now it was his turn to roll his eyes, “You think?”
Again, she giggling, “You should be a smart ass more, Nick, it suits you.”
“Well, I have a feeling the more I hang out with you, the more likely that will happen.”
Giggling some more, Nicole wondered how he had that affect on her without any liquor in her system. A growl from the couch got their attention and Nicole jumped up to give Pookie a treat.
“So what’s her name?”
“His name is Pookie.”
Nick laughed, “Of course it is.”
Putting the treat can away, Nicole felt annoyance creep within her. Nicole wasn’t ignorant and knew when people patronized her about her dog. As she turned around, she was surprised Nick had gotten up and sat down to play with him. Pookie immediately took to him and together they were playing with a nearby toy that Nick had found.
“You like him?” Nicole asked as she watched in wonder. Most guys ignored her dog, even if they were supposed dog lovers; a toy Chihuahua was too beneath them to play with.
“I like all dogs.” Nick started growling back which seemed to delight Pookie, who let his tail wag faster then she’d ever seen it. “Though, I think the sweater is a bit much.”
“Yeah, I know, it’s just I think he’s so cute I can’t help myself dressing him up..”
“It is nearly July; you should get him something summary.”
Nicole stopped and looked at Nick who winked at her. “Well, I’ll keep that in mind, but it’s unforgivable at the lack of style there is in summer doggy wear.”
Nick continued playing with Pookie as Nicole sat down and watched them while eating. She had to give the guy credit, she felt like she knew more about Nick Fallon than most guys she just met, yet she felt she really didn’t know him at all.
“You surprise me, Nick.”
“Well, after tonight and the hell I put you through, you’re here at my place playing with my dog after making sure I got food and medical attention.”
He stopped momentarily worried Nicole would put him down again, this was usually when Chelsea would call him a sucker or gullible. “So?”
“So, why do you do it?”
He didn’t have an answer. He wanted to tell her he wanted to not just walk away from her but run at top speed. But the fact she thoughtlessly risked her life for a mangy old dog, it touched him and maybe there was a bit more to Nicole then there seemed. Instead, he simply said, “I am what I am.”
Glancing at her, Nicole seemed to study him thoughtfully.
Eventually he got up to leave but made sure to help her clean up first, not that it was difficult with everything disposable. She expected him to give her a lecture on how environmentally wrong that was, she knew the whole town had been captured by the green bug and it was what every one talked about. However, Nick surprised her again by not saying a thing.
As they said goodbye, Nick asked her if this meant they could just be friends.
She laughed, “Well, yeah, you know I’m only interested in guys with money! You have none!”
He laughed back. “Good, cause between us fighting at the restaurant and the hospital, I didn’t know if I could survive our next date!”
After she watched him get on the elevator, Nicole shut the door and chuckled. Nick was a weird and strange guy, a definite boy scout, but he sure wasn’t boring. She had to give him that.