Nonnie put the last touch on her deer costume and exited the bathroom. She looked at the tiny Super Mario that was waiting for her at the end of the stairs. Please let Anthony grow this year, he can’t take any more teasing.
“I’m coming honey.” She went downstairs, picking up her coat that was hanging over the railing. The coat wasn’t brown like the rest of her costume, it was dark green and Anthony wasn’t slow to voice his complaint.
“Your coat doesn’t go with your costume.”
“Yes it does, deer live in the forest, you know that.”
“Fine,” Anthony said and grabbed his pumpkin-shaped basket. Nonnie looked at him sentimentally. He was ten now, who knew how many more times he would even want to go trick-and-treating. At least his red woollen jumper was warm enough; he didn’t need a jacket that would ruin his costume.
Nonnie grabbed her purse and they left the house.
It was nice to walk down the street with Anthony by her side. Just like it was for many other families it was a dear tradition that Nonnie looked forward to. Sure, he doesn’t hold my hand anymore but the look in his face is more than enough.
They went up to a house and knocked on the door.
“Trick or treat!”
“It’s-a-Mario!” The man who had opened the door smiled widely and Nonnie laughed.
They exchanged pleasantries, Anthony got his candy and they set off.
After a little while they passed someone that looked like an un-dead surgeon and Nonnie’s mind drifted to Nichole, the charming doctor she had met a few weeks ago. She hadn’t called even though Nonnie had expected her to by now. You don’t even know her last name, Nonnie said to herself. If this was supposed to become anything serious, you would have known her last name.
Nonnie shook her head. She needed to stop thinking about elusive doctors and focus on her son instead.
* * *
Over an hour later Nonnie felt a little bit tired and there were goosebumps under her costume. Anthony’s basket was full of candy and a good time had been had by all. Nonnie put her hand on his head and ruffled the blond curls that strayed from his red cap.
“Should we head home, monkey?”
“Just one more house. Please?”
Nonnie nodded and they went through the gates of a yellow house. The garden was strangely void of the regular Halloween decorations even though the lights were on. Maybe we should choose another house, Nonnie thought, I’d hate to bother someone who doesn’t want to be bothered.
They passed by two crooked looking apple trees when a figure suddenly jumped out from between them. The thing let out a deafening cry that had both Nonnie and Anthony stumbling backwards. Nonnie reacted instinctively, pulling Anthony behind her even as she felt rage rising inside her.
The figure had started laughing and she took a step towards him.
“That wasn’t funny, you jerk!”
She had taken another step forward to just punch him just a little, when her foot landed on something slippery. Before she knew what was happening she was on her back and there was a sharp pain in her right ankle. She cried out.
“Mom!” Anthony was immediately by her side, his hand on her cheek.
“What happened? Oh gosh, I’m so sorry. The grass is wet.” The figure, a man clad as a skeleton came to Nonnie’s side, apologizing over and over.
“Just help me up.” Nonnie swallowed the angry remarks; it wasn’t his fault that she had fallen even if scaring them had been a very stupid thing to do.
The man gave her a hand and pulled her to her feet in one swift movement.
“Ouch!!” Nonnie cried out as soon as she tried putting weight on the foot. She swayed to the side and would have fallen had the skeleton not have grabbed her arm.
“Are you okay?”
Nonnie tried to stand on her hurt ankle and noticed to her distress that she couldn’t.
“I can’t put pressure on it.” Her voice sounded strangely calm considering the inner turmoil she was feeling. She tried the foot again, willing it to stop hurting but there was no use.
“Would you call us a cab?” Nonnie asked. “I think we have to go to the emergency room.”
* * *
The skeleton-clad man had felt so bad about causing her accident that he drove both her and Anthony to the emergency room.
After thanking him for the ride and him again apologizing profusely, Nonnie limped into the hospital. Her ankle was still hurting and she was struggling. She prayed to whichever divine being was listening that her ankle wouldn’t turn out to be broken. Of course she and Anthony would manage whatever it was but it would be nice if the rest of the year could pass by relatively problem free.
They hobbled their way to the registration desk.
“Hi,” Nonnie said to the nurse sitting there. “Niente Nunster, I called a few minutes ago.”
The nurse nodded mindlessly and handed her a form without looking up.
“Sit down and fill this in. There will be a long wait probably, Halloween is a busy night.”
“I understand.” Nonnie took the form. “Thank you.” She turned towards Anthony. “Where do you want to sit?”
Anthony sighed and dragged his feet behind him as they went to find somewhere to sit. Nonnie saw her son’s tired and disappointed face and felt a twinge of guilt. This wasn’t how the night was supposed to have gone. Please let us be able to go home soon.
At first time went by quite comfortably; they read magazines together and munched on candy from Anthony’s basket but pretty soon they grew restless. Anthony first started fidgeting and then yawning. Nonnie checked the clock on the wall: 8:30. She sighed. By now they should have been home, lying on the sofa and watching The Addams Family, not be sitting in the emergency room.
“Why don’t you lie down?” she suggested, folding her coat into a pillow and putting it on the chair beside her. Time would go faster if he slept. Anthony grumbled a bit but then he lay down.
It had been relatively quiet in the waiting room so far, despite people coming and going, and Nonnie hoped that it would continue the same way. She had no idea how long she would still have to wait and she was getting increasingly tired.
“Oh, doctor James! Hi.” The nurse’s voice had taken on a coy tone and Nonnie couldn’t resist looking up. Her heart jumped in her chest and she immediately understood why the nurse had sounded so happy.
Doctor James was definitely one to be happy about, dark haired and very good-looking in her lab coat. The doctor greeted the nurse and lifted her gaze to sweep the waiting room. She met Nonnie’s eyes and smiled widely as she came closer.
“Doctor Nichole James I presume?”
“Yep.” Nichole raised an eyebrow at Nonnie’s clothes and she remembered her costume. She felt her cheeks heating underneath the heavy make-up.
“Yes, I’m a deer. Got a problem with that?” She smiled teasingly.
Nichole chuckled, showing off her pearly-white teeth. She had such a sweet laugh, Nonnie wanted to hear more of it. But then Nichole suddenly frowned.
“Why are you here?” She looked to the side and seemed to notice Anthony for the first time. “Is… he okay?”
Nonnie felt touched that Nichole had asked about her son first.
“No, I…” she felt her cheeks heat again. “I slipped. I’m worried my ankle might be broken.”
“You know when people tell you to break a leg before a show they don’t mean it literally.” Nichole’s words were teasing but her tone sympathetic and there was concern in her eyes. She looked up on the clock. “I have to run since I’m the only doctor working this hour but hopefully…” she looked focused for a moment. “My goal is to look at you within an hour, okay?”
“Please don’t hurry.” Nonnie couldn’t bear to add to her stress, knowing how much she worked. Not this late at night. She placed her hand on the sleeping Anthony.
“Well, I should get going. See you later!”
* * *
An hour and ten minutes later a tired looking nurse came out and finally called Nonnie’s name.
“Do you need help?” She asked as Nonnie groaned. Getting up was much harder than it should be.
“Just an arm to lean on would be good.” She looked at Anthony who was still sleeping soundly.
“I can watch him,” the nurse that sat at the reception desk said. It was closer to 11 now and the room was empty except for an elderly couple and a woman breastfeeding her infant. Nonnie hesitated for an instant, but since she hated the idea of waking him up she eventually agreed.
She followed the nurse through the doors and was guided through a corridor and into a small examination room where Nichole was waiting for her. The nurse helped her sit down on the examination table and then she left, leaving Nichole and Nonnie on their own.
“Sorry about the wait.” Nichole’s smile was light, apologetic, but there were lines in her forehead that hadn’t been there before and her eyes looked tired.
“Oh it was no problem. No need to apologize.” Nonnie resisted the urge to run her fingers along Nichole’s jaw line.
“Well, let me look at your leg then.” Nichole pushed her chair closer and they both looked down at Nonnie’s tights-clad leg.
Nichole cleared her throat.
“I hate to screw up your costume but I need to look at your leg. Can you take off your tights and lay down on the table?”
“Of course.” Nonnie tried to shake off the awkward feeling. She had been to see doctors loads of times; attractive ones too. And yet she had never been as self-conscious as she felt now. Nichole met her gaze and then turned around, facing her computer screen again.
The brown boots were easy to take off but the tights were harder. She pulled it off one leg but she didn’t even want to touch the other leg; everything south of her knee just pounded. She sighed and was about to hold her breath and just endure when Nichole turned around.
“I can help you if you like. If you lie down.”
Nonnie knew that Nichole’s intentions were pure, but still wondered if that was something she would have offered to anyone. Either way she lay down and held her breath as Nichole came closer. At least Nichole looked equally breathless so Nonnie didn’t have to feel so silly.
Nichole’s fingers came to rest on Nonnie’s bare leg and worked their way under the hem of Nonnie’s tights; Nonnie’s heart sped up. Thank god I shaved my legs this morning.
Such muddle-headed thoughts disappeared as Nichole pulled the tights down the injured part of Nonnie’s leg. She winced visibly.
“I’m sorry,” Nichole said in a low voice. “Almost done. There.” She pulled the tights free and placed them next to Nonnie on the table.
“Please just tell me it isn’t broken.” Nonnie put her hands over her eyes. “I have two shows every week until Christmas. I need the money. And the visibility. Plus…” she fell silent. “Sorry, I’m rambling.”
“It’s okay.” Nichole was examining her leg. “What were you going to say?”
“I’d like to be fully functional at Christmas. Ouch!”
“Sorry, sorry.” Nichole took pressure off of her leg. “I don’t think it’s not broken.”
“But it’s blue.” Nonnie glanced down even though she didn’t want to look at it too closely; when she did the pain seemed worse.
“It’s blue but that happens with really bad sprains too.”
“So it’s just sprained?”
Nichole went back to her desk and started writing something on a piece of paper.
“Yes, I think so. We need to do an x-ray though, just to make sure.”
“Is it going to take long?” Nonnie wanted to take Anthony home.
“I’ll send you to the x-ray nurse. Then I’ll call you in again.”
* * *
“Well, I have good news,” Nicole said when Nonnie came back into the examination room. “It’s not broken. It is badly sprained though. You should get crutches and a compression wrap. Don’t walk unnecessary, rest and sleep with it elevated. You should take painkillers such as ibuprofen.”
“How long…?” Nonnie started putting her tights on again.
“Recovery is at least six weeks, maybe more.”
“Will I be able to perform?”
Nichole looked thoughtful for a moment.
“My recommendation is that you don’t perform for the next three weeks. I’ve seen what you do, it’s a lot of walking and a lot of skipping.”
“There is an understudy.”
“Good.” Nichole handed her a note. “Here are some instructions to care for your leg.”
Their fingers touched and they shifted closer almost without meaning too. They were so close, Nonnie could feel Nichole’s breath on her cheek; she wanted so badly to just lean in. Their gazes met and the air seemed to vibrate between them.
“I’m sorry.” Nichole leaned away. “I’m quite tired.”
“No,” Nonnie said softly and pulled Nichole’s sleeve until she came closer again. Before Nicole had had any chance to pull away, Nonnie reached up and kissed her. It was very short but also very sweet and when she pulled back she noticed to her satisfaction how Nichole’s breathing sounded a little bit strained and her pupils were dilated.
Nonnie smiled, and was all of a sudden very aware of how bad the timing was. Nichole was still working. And your son is sleeping at the ER! Get a grip of yourself woman! She turned back and tried to gently get them back to normal.
“Thank you doctor.” Her smile was teasing. “Your bedside manner leaves me wanting for nothing.” Well, almost nothing. Nonnie tried to get her breathing under control.
Nichole breathed deeply and then leaned backwards.
“Oh, nothing to thank me for. I mean, you do know I get paid, right?” They laughed in unison. Once the laughter had died off, Nichole looked like she was pondering something. She eventually took a hold of Nonnie’s hand.
“I meant to call you, you know.
“Really? Nonnie couldn’t keep the surprised pleasure out of her voice.
“I’ve worked every night for the last three weeks. I didn’t… “ Nichole took another deep breath. “I have some time off tomorrow. Do you – “
“Yes.” Nonnie didn’t wait for her to finish her question. “I’d love to. As long as I can find a babysitter and as long as you don’t mind going on a date with a woman on crutches, then yes.”
“Great!” Nichole looked relieved. And so, so, tired.
“Do you get off soon?” Nonnie didn’t bother to keep the worry out of her voice. To her concern, Nichole shook her head.
“No. A few more hours. I’m going to have a cup of coffee after seeing you out though.” She looked at Nonnie and seemed to see her concern. “Usually I’m not this tired.”
Nonnie couldn’t stop her hand as she lifted it and cradled Nichole’s cheek. Nichole closed her eyes and breathed deeply. The moment couldn’t last forever, it didn’t matter how much Nonnie wanted it to. Nichole opened her eyes and it was gone. Nonnie took away her hand and Nichole straightened her back.
“I’ll help you back to your son. And we can call you a cab.”
Supported by Nichole, they made their way back to the waiting room.
Nonnie sighed in contentment when she saw that Anthony was still sleeping soundly.
“Call Ms. Nunster a cab, will you?” Nichole asked the nurse sitting at the reception. Then she helped Nonnie to sit down on one of the chairs close to Anthony.
“I’ll call you tomorrow around noon. Is that okay?” Her voice was low and discreet but still loud enough to be heard by the nurses. She wasn’t trying to hide and it made Nonnie happy.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
With one last wink, Nichole left. Probably to get coffee.
Nonnie put her hand on Anthony’s arm and squeezed.
“I’m here Anthony. Come on, it’s time to go home.”