Home > Surprise Delivery(17)

Surprise Delivery(17)
Author: R.R. Banks

“Unfortunately, it's probably going to hurt for a while yet,” I tell him. “There was some serious damage to your leg.”

He sighs. “When will I be able to play soccer again?”

“Not until you give your leg a chance to fully heal,” I say. “The last thing you want to do, is do too much, too soon, and end up making it worse. Believe me.”

I'm not going to tell him his leg is basically being held together with baling wire, duct tape, and a whole lot of hoping and praying at the moment. There's no need to scare the kid, but I do need him to understand the gravity of the situation. He needs to take it easy until he's fully healed, or he risks losing it still. Which, of course, is no simple task for an otherwise healthy fifteen-year-old kid. But he's got to do it if he wants to be able to keep playing soccer, among other normal activities.

Nizar falls silent for a moment and runs his fingertips over the cover of his comic book. He seems to be struggling with something. He's got something on his mind, I can tell.

“What is it, Nizar?” I ask.

He looks up, an expression of the purest gratitude on his face that I've ever seen before. His smile is small, but genuine, though I can see the fear still hiding in his eyes. And those eyes – they don't look like they belong in the face of a child. They are the eyes of somebody who's seen far too much and has had to grow up far too fast.

“The nurse says if not for you, I'd only have one leg right now,” he says softly. “She said you saved my leg and my life.”

I shrug it off. “That's just my job, Nizar.”

“Thank you, Doctor Duncan,” he says, his voice earnest and sincere. “Thank you for saving me.”

I squeeze his arm and give him a smile. “You can thank me by taking all of your meds, resting up, and letting that leg heal up completely before you start running around like a madman again.”

He laughs, and his smile grows wider. No kid should ever have to live like this. No kid should ever have to worry about going to the market and getting blown up – about losing their limbs, not to mention their lives. It's more than just a tragedy that so many children are forced to grow up wondering if today is going to be their last day. If they're ever going to see their friends or family again once they walk out the door.

I hate that so many are forced to endure that, but all I can do is patch them up and try to heal them when their whole world goes to shit. That's my job. It's what I do.

“I will, Doctor Duncan,” he insists. “I promise.”

I stand up and chuckle as I ruffle his hair. Nizar is a good kid and I'm glad I was able to help him. He deserves a shot at just being a kid.

“I'll check in on you later,” I tell him. “I'll see if I can round up some more comic books for you. Maybe we can get you into some Batman.”

He smiles and picks the comic book he's reading back up, diving right back into it. I linger for a moment, just looking at him. This is why I do what I do and why I'm so passionate about it. Hope really isn't the norm around this place but seeing it in this kid's eyes – if only the smallest spark – makes enduring all of this absolutely worth it.

I lean back in my chair, my feet up on my desk, sipping at my glass of scotch. I have music playing from the playlist I've got on my phone – some soft jazz. Everything is quiet, and I don't have a hundred people pulling at me from every direction. I enjoy these peaceful moments when I'm all alone and can just unwind. When I can just relax and let go of the day's stresses.

A knock at the door interrupts my downtime. I sigh and grumble under my breath.

“Come in,” I call.

The door opens and Sandra steps in, a smile on her face. She's holding a bottle of wine and two glasses and stands inside the doorway a little awkwardly.

“Duncan,” she says and holds up the wine bottle for me to see. “I thought we might have a drink.”

I give her a lopsided grin and hold up my glass of scotch. “Got one already.”

She purses her lips for a moment, but then the smile returns, and she comes in, closing the door behind her, completely unfazed. Sandra is never one to be this bold. She's always a little more deferential – especially when she deals with me. This sudden personality switch makes me a little curious.

“Well, I guess I'm drinking solo tonight then,” she says.

“Well, you're in my room and I'm drinking, so you're not technically drinking alone,” I reply.

She laughs. “No, I suppose not.”

Though we'd gotten off to a bit of a rough start, I've come to like Sandra enormously. She's a great nurse and I appreciate having somebody like her at the table with me. And over the course of my time here, I like to think we've become friends. We've gotten to know each other a bit over a few meals and some drinks together before – but never in my room. This is a first, and well outside the norm for her. But I just write it off to the tough day and everything being completely sideways at the moment.

She sits down on the bed, tucking her legs beneath her, then pours herself a glass of wine, setting the bottle beside the empty glass on my nightstand.

“You sure you don't want a glass of this?” she asks. “It's a really nice Cabernet I had sent in from France.”

I raise my glass again. “Doesn't really mix,” I say. “But, thanks.”

“Suit yourself.”

We sip our drinks in silence, each of us looking at the other. And though I'm looking at her more with curiosity, there seems to be something more in her eyes – something I recognize. It's then that I realize her reason for this little impromptu get together.

“Music's nice. She has a gorgeous voice. Who is it?” she asks.

“Her name's Mary Juane Clair,” I say. “I've only just stumbled onto her, but I think her music is fantastic.”

“This is actually not the kind of music I imagined you listening to,” Sandra laughs.

I chuckle. “No? And what did you figure I listened to?”

She shrugs. “I kind of took you more for a hard rock kind of guy,” she admits. “With some classic rock mixed in, maybe.”

“I do enjoy some hard rock. Classic rock too. Pink Floyd, in my opinion, is one of the greatest bands to ever perform,” I say. “But, sometimes something a little mellower, something a little more soothing is just what the doctor ordered.”

She nods and sips her wine. “Yeah, after the kind of day we had today, something a little mellower is probably a good idea.”

“What about you? What's on your playlist?”

She laughs. “I'm a Beatles girl at heart,” she says. “But I enjoy some hip-hop. A little R&B as well.”

“Yeah, that kind of fits you,” I nod.

“Does it?” she asks, taking a long drink of her wine, her eyes never leaving mine.

“It does,” I say and laugh.

An air of expectation suddenly infuses the air between us. It's crackling with an electricity that's never been there between us before.

“So, are you seeing anybody back home?” she asks.

I shake my head. “No,” I say. “Not at the moment. You?”

A slow smile curls the corners of her mouth upward in a feline grin. “Nope. As single as they come.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

She shrugs. “Believe it,” she says. “It's the truth. My last relationship was almost a year ago and was a total train wreck. It didn't end well, to say the least. Since then, I've kind of sworn off relationships. And guys.”

I laugh and take a sip of my drink. “Well, I'm sure you'll find somebody who makes you change your mind,” I tell her.

She shrugs again. “Maybe. I'm not too worried about it right now,” she says. “Right now, I plan on focusing on enjoying my life. And to that end...”

Sandra lets her words trail off as she stands up and sets her wine glass down on the nightstand, then reaches down and takes my glass from me, her eyes never leaving mine the entire time. She sets my glass down beside hers and then straddles my lap. As she leans forward, I feel my body reacting. Sandra grasps my head in both hands and only one thought stands out in my mind – she's not Alexis.

I abruptly break our contact by standing up and forcing Sandra off my lap. She takes a step backward, an absolutely mortified expression on her face. Her cheeks flare with color, her lips are trembling, and her eyes are wide, brimming with tears she's fighting like hell to keep from falling.

Giving her a small smile, I take her hand and give it a squeeze. “This is going to sound incredibly lame, but it's me, it isn't you.”

She chuckles softly, almost in disbelief, wipes at her eyes, and sniffs. “You're right, that does sound lame.”

“I'm sorry, Sandra, but I just can't.”

“It felt like you could to me,” she says, her voice filled with hurt. “I guess you just don't want to?”

I sigh. Though I've shared a lot of things about my life with her, there are always areas that I would prefer to keep to myself. I'm not the type who typically spills all of my secrets or shares my innermost thoughts with anybody. Some things are for me and me alone. But I can see the hurt etched into her features and kind of feel like I owe her an explanation.

“I'm not seeing anybody back home,” I repeat. “But there is somebody who I plan on seeing once I get back.”

“Oh,” she whispers. “I see. I'm sorry, I didn't –”

“No way you could have known, Sandra,” I interrupt.

She stands there biting her bottom lip, not meeting my eyes for a long moment. The expectation that had infused the air a short time ago is gone, but it's been replaced by an air of awkwardness. Which, I guess, is to be expected.

“Listen,” I say. “Any guy would be lucky to have a chance with you. Honestly, I'm flattered. You are an amazing woman. And if not for Alexis being on my mind, I would take you up on that offer in a heartbeat. Believe me.”

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