“Hi, Nonnie, it’s Nicole. Listen, I’ve…” Nicole fell silent as she searched for the right words. Saying yes to an extra shift had been so easy, but now she felt sick at the thought of disappointing Nonnie.
“You’re calling to cancel.” Nonnie sounded like she couldn’t believe it and Nicole wondered what she had done to make Nonnie believe in her so much.
“I’ll be stuck at the hospital until 8 tonight. I was asked to cover the shift of a colleague.”
“Was it necessary?”
Nicole didn’t even have to think about it.
“Yes,” she said without a moment’s hesitation. “We can’t be without a surgeon at the hospital, not even for a few hours.”
“Okay.” Nonnie sounded determined. “Have you slept?”
“Yes.” Nicole felt warmth spread through her chest at Nonnie’s concern. “I just woke up and have been sleeping since two this morning. I would have called sooner but I got home in the middle of the night and -”
“Don’t worry, there is no need to explain.” Nonnie chucked. “If there’s something I understand it’s your dedication to your job.”
“How is the leg?”
“Aching and keeping me from work.” Nonnie sighed. “The understudy is taking over my role for the next three weeks and then we’ll see.”
“Don’t be. Anthony is deliriously happy to have his mom home during the evenings. But I do miss it.” Nonnie was quiet for a moment. “Listen, I still have a baby-sitter for the night. Want to grab a bite to eat when you get off from work? I could grab some take-away and head to your place around nine?”
“I’m going to be tired.” Nicole didn’t mean to sound negative; the thought of seeing Nonnie after her shift was tantalizing but there was the risk that she would be tired. And grumpy.
“I want to make sure you eat.” Nonnie laughed. “That sounds stupid. But it’s true. Sorry.” She might have apologized but there was nothing apologetic about her tone. Her sincerity was a breath of fresh air and Nicole felt herself clutching the phone harder.
“Do you now?” Nicole wondered if Nonnie could hear the smile in her voice.
“Yes, doctor. So what do you say? Chinese?”
“I’ll be home around ten to nine.”
“I’ll be there.”
* * *
Some days everything that could go wrong, went wrong, and Nicole arrived home at five to nine feeling slightly tired but still looking forward to seeing Nonnie something immensely. Despite leaving the hospital later than she had planned, she cycled home fast and threw herself into the shower.
She walked through her living room, barefoot in jeans and towelling her wet hair when the doorbell rang. Her heart pounded wildly in her chest and she couldn’t stop the smile that came to her lips.
She opened the door and her smile grew even wider.
Nonnie wasn’t dressed as a deer this time, but she was definitely still as cute. There were snowflakes stuck in her hair and her cheeks were rosy from the cold. Nicole’s favourite part, however, was Nonnie’s eyes. Nonnie’s pretty and lively eyes, looking right at her.
Nicole realised that she was staring without saying a word and opened the door wider.
“Hi! Come in!’ She stood to the side as Nonnie entered, jumping on crutches. “Was it okay to get here using those?” Nicole closed the door and made a gesture towards the crutches.
“Yeah it was fine,” Nonnie said. “A little bit annoying but at least it isn’t slippery. Plus I got off the bus just down the street.”
She leant the crutches against the doorframe and took of her backpack, handing it to Nicole before working on her jacket and scarf.
“Food!” She said with a look to her backpack. “I figured that was the easiest way to bring it over, with the crutches and everything.”
“Oh yeah, right.”
They went into the kitchen once Nonnie had grabbed her crutches again. As they went through her home, Nicole couldn’t help but wonder what Nonnie thought about her rather bare walls. Nonnie’s home was probably more lived in than Nicole’s. Her own flat was only a place to sleep in after all.
When they went into the kitchen, Nicole placed the bag on the counter and Nonnie started unloading the boxes from it while Nicole went to get plates and cutlery. She sighed deeply when she saw the chopsticks. They brought back imagines from today’s patients that she didn’t want to think about right now.
“Don’t worry.” Nonnie was looking at her questioningly. “I won’t hold it against you if you want to use a fork.” She flashed a teasing smile.
“That’s not it,” Nicole replied. “There was a case involving chopsticks today.” She shuddered. “I’ll spare you the details.”
Nonnie’s eyes went wide and she quickly put a napkin over the chopsticks.
“There, out of sight, out of mind.”
They fixed their plates and sat down at the kitchen table.
Nicole was hungry and dug in right away. While she chewed on a delicious mouthful of Szechuan noodles, she thought about how strangely domestic their setting was.
“How are you holding up? With your leg and all?” Nicole tried to seem interested but little spots were dancing in front of her eyes. She was, in fact, very tired and hoped like crazy that Nonnie wouldn’t notice.
“When it doesn’t ache it’s okay. I’m mainly annoyed about my inability to work right now and… hey, you okay?” Nonnie looked worried. “You’re looking about ready to fall down. Why don’t you go and lie down on the sofa?”
Nicole shook her head, feeling her mind clearing.
“No, I’m okay. Just a bit tired.”
“I’m sorry. We should have met another day, you could have been sleeping by now.”
“Yes, but then I wouldn’t have had dinner or the nice company. Please don’t worry.” Reassuring Nonnie felt important, much more important than any impending headache.
“That’s sweet of you to say. When do you have to get back to work?”
Nicole looked at the clock on the wall.
“I start at noon tomorrow.”
“That’s plenty of time to sleep.” Nonnie smiled, clearly satisfied with the answer.
Nicole nodded. She finished her meal.
“That was wonderful, thank you.” She leaned backwards. “I’m sorry I had to cancel earlier.”
“Believe it or not, I completely understand. I know I may just be an ‘actress’,” Nonnie made quotation marks in the air. “But my job is very important to me. I would immerse myself even more if it wasn’t for Anthony.” She turned silent for a moment and then said quickly, “Not to mean that our jobs are the same. I mean, yours is very important and compared to mine -”
“Nonnie!” Nicole laughed. “You’re allowed to compare our jobs. I’m glad you understand my work-a-holic tendencies, especially if we’re going to… umm…” It was Nicole’s turn to blush a little and she awkwardly scratched the back of her head.
“Oh you’re blushing, how cute!” Nonnie’s eyes seemed to sparkle. “And yes, I don’t mind. Just talk to me. Plus, I do want to go out again. And maybe again after that. Maybe further away than your kitchen though.”
They shared a laugh. Nonnie was fun, sweet and daring; Nicole was surprised to see that the clock was already nearing ten. Well, you know what they say, time flies when you’re having…
“How long is your babysitter staying?” The words were out of Nicole’s mouth before she had even thought them.
“As long as I need her to stay.” Nonnie sounded coy. “She stays over if I’m out or ill. Like when I work.” She sounded sad again, probably thinking about her job and Nicole reached across the table and grabbed her hand.
“You’ll work again. Your leg isn’t broken and after Christmas you’ll be as good as new.”
“I know that, I just can’t believe I’m missing so many shows. I was good as Little Red Riding Hood, right?”
Nicole smiled at the memory of Nonnie on stage. The cheeky and funny character from Into the Woods definitely suited Nonnie. It was hard to imagine anybody else in that role.
“You were wonderful.” She could do no less than tell the truth.
“But if you don’t have to hurry home,” Nicole continued. “Do you want to watch a movie or something?”
“I would love to. But aren’t you too tired?”
“No,” Nicole said. “It’d be nice to unwind and just stare at something for a little while.”
They got up from the table and Nicole quickly cleared the table; she hurried so that Nonnie wouldn’t get the idea that she should do anything. Not with her hurt leg and all.
“What are you suggesting we watch?”
Nicole thought for a little while. What to show an actual actress? She probably had really refined tastes, maybe very specific tastes and nothing like what…
“It doesn’t have to be overly complicated.” Nonnie looked like she wanted to laugh again. “Do you have a favourite movie?”
Nicole stared at her, her mind completely blank. Nonnie started laughing.
“You poor thing, you must be so tired. Can I check which movies you have?”
They went together to the living room, Nicole aiding her rather than Nonnie needing her crutches. She placed her date in front of her DVD shelf. She didn’t have that many movies, only a couple, but she hoped that Nonnie would find one that she liked.
“How about this one?” Nonnie held up a movie and handed it to Nicole, their fingertips slightly brushing. Nicole tried to ignore the tingling in her arm and instead focused on the movie in her hand. It was an adventure movie, a regular find-the-treasure-get-the-girl kinda movie. Totally okay.
“Sounds good.” Nicole handed an arm to Nonnie to help her to the sofa before she went to the DVD player and put it in. She grabbed the controller and turned around.
Nonnie was sitting in the middle of the sofa, completely relaxed; the space next to her more than a little bit inviting. Nonnie looked hopeful but slightly shy. She made things easy and Nicole sat down next to her, their thighs touching. It felt totally natural for her to hold up her arm and wait for Nonie to sink into her embrace. With Nonnie’s head on her shoulder and her own cheek on top of Nonnie’s hair, Nicole felt better rested and more relaxed than she had in a long time. This is a perfect way to end the evening.
The movie was fun, but Nicole didn’t really pay attention. Instead she was focused on her body and what she was feeling. Nonnie was bewitching and she had captured Nicole’s attention just as surely as she did when on stage. Nonnie’s senses were filled with her. The way she smelled, the way she felt, leaning against Nicole’s sides and how her eyes looked whenever something funny happened.
Nicole didn’t know if this was the way Nonnie was with everyone, but every time something funny or exciting happened on the screen she leaned forward and looked at Nicole. It was as if she wanted to see Nicole’s reaction. As if she wanted to see if Nicole also found it funny, or maybe it was only for her to share the experience of watching the movie together. Nicole didn’t know, but it was nice.
The movie was drawing to a close and Nicole was fighting the need to yawn. She was tired but of course didn’t want the evening to end. She didn’t want Nonnie to leave. Nicole wanted to wrap herself in Nonnie’s warmth and scent, not for Nonnie to leave and take all the nice sensations with her.
The hero and the heroine kissed on the screen and Nonnie tensed up. Nicole waited for her to turn and look at her, but this time she didn’t. Nicole waited but Nonnie didn’t move. The movie finished and the credits rolled. Neither of them moved.
Eventually Nonnie sighed and seemed to melt. She turned her face slowly until her lips were resting against Nicole’s neck.
“This was nice.”
Nicole shivered as Nonnie’s lips moved against the sensitive skin she had there. She closed her eyes.
“It really was.”
“I should go home.” Nonnie’s words were disappointing, but not final.
They moved at the same time, facing each other and locking eyes. Nonnie’s smile was content, almost lazy and her eyes slightly hooded.
“Your smile is so nice,” she said. “I want to keep it in a jar.”
“You’re a little bit weird, do you know that?”
They laughed some more.
“Will you call me?”
They stared at each other, the magic slowly fading.
“Thank you for coming, and the food. The company. Everything.” Nicole knew she was rambling. So unlike her.
“It was my pleasure. I’m just happy that you’ve eaten and that… gosh, I sound like a total mom, don’t I?” Nonnie sounded slightly embarrassed and looked down on her lap. Nicole grabbed her hand.
“It’s nice that you care. Really. I mean it.”
“As long as you don’t find it annoying, I’m happy.” Nonnie looked up again.
“No never.” Nicole felt warm inside, a warmth that didn’t disappear as they got up from the sofa and she helped Nonnie gathered her things.
“Next weekend I’m taking Anthony to the zoo.” Nonnie put on her coat. “If you want, you should come. Unless you need to work of course.”
“I’m free on Sunday, I think.” Nicole put the backpack back on Nonnie’s back.
Nonnie turned around. She was smiling again. Her face was round, cheerful, a face made for smiling.
“Well, maybe the zoo with an actress and a ten-year-old… oh!” Nonnie looked like something had just occurred to her. “Friday! Are you coming to Leila’s birthday party?”
“Oh that’s what she meant!” Nicole touched a hand to her forehead. Nonnie looked confused so Nicole hurried to explain. “Leila texted me yesterday telling me that I better come to the party. She must have assumed that Ashley had asked me.” Plus I’m not even sure how Leila got my number.
“Well, I’m helping her host it. In her flat. Please come?” Nonnie took her hand and Nicole chuckled. Nonnie was very hard to say no to.
“When you ask me like that, I can hardly say no. I probably can’t stay for long though.”
Something tender passed through Nonnie’s eyes.
“I’ll take whatever you can give me.” The tone of her voice was sweet rather than seductive but Nicole couldn’t help the shiver that travelled down her shoulder blades.
“You’ll get home all right?”
“Yeah, I’ll just take the bus, like earlier.”
“Don’t be silly.” Nicole didn’t let go of Nonnie’s hand and their fingers naturally intertwined. “Let me call you a cab.”
“The bus is perfectly safe and it drops me off right outside my home.”
“If you say so.” Nicole couldn’t stop looking into Nonnie’s eyes or let go of her hand, how she would manage to be able to let Nonnie leave was a mystery.
“We’ll see each other soon, yes?” Nonnie looked hopeful.
“Definitely. And send me a text when you get home, so I know you’re okay.”
Nonnie bit her bottom lip and before Nicole could register what was happening, her arms were full of a chuckling Nonnie, lips pressed against lips. It was over too quickly, but the preview of what Nonnie was like left Nicole breathless and her heart pounding. Nonnie flashed her a cheeky smile.
“More of that next time, yeah?”
She pressed another kiss to Nicole’s cheek and opened the door.