“Fat chance,” she argued. “I want you to come back tomorrow, okay?”
“Fine,” I agreed, “but not before ten o’clock. This early shit is for the birds.”
She walked back over to her desk and pulled her calendar out. “Damn.” She tapped her finger on the page. “I’m booked up tomorrow. You know what”—she sighed, looking up at me—“I have a lunch break from one to two. Be here at one—not a minute later. There’s a little deli one block north of here. Tell them you want a number four for Shawn. They know me there. They’ll make it just the way I like it.”
THE NEXT MORNING, I was up and showered early, ready to go. I wouldn’t say I was excited to get back to Shawn’s office, but I wasn’t dreading it as much as I’d been the last two times. I stopped and took a quick look at the phone number on my kitchen counter from the night before.
I opened the drawer in my kitchen, tossed it in, and was on my way. A rainy, shitty day in Minnesota meant leaving the bike at home, so I parked my car in front of the Brown Bag Deli and hustled inside.
A bell rang as I stepped through the door, catching the attention of the middle-aged woman behind the counter.
“Hey, sweet cheeks!” she said cheerfully. “What can I get ya?”
“Uh…” I laughed. “I’m supposed to order a number four for Shawn. I have no idea what that is or what that means, but she said you’d make it just the way she likes it.”
“Ah! I know exactly who you’re talking about. Coming right up.” She turned around and gave the order to the cook through the window as I took a seat at the counter near the front.
I couldn’t believe the place was only ten minutes from my house, yet I’d never known it existed. The inside was decorated to look old-fashioned—black and white checkered tiles, tables and chairs with that silver rim around them, and a huge chalkboard with the menu written on it hung behind the counter. A huge glass case that held all sorts of cookies and desserts at the other end of the restaurant caught my attention, so I walked over to check it out.
“See anything you like?” the same woman asked as she walked up to the other side of the glass.
I glanced up at her name tag. Ruth.
“Hi, Ruth. Yeah, actually. I’ll also take a cinnamon scone and a blueberry scone, please.”
“Really?” The corner of her mouth lifted as she paused. “I took you for more of a… meat guy… but scones it is.”
My mouth hung open as she turned around and grabbed a piece of tissue out of a box. She scooped the scones out of the glass case and put them in a little brown bag. “Anything else? A shake or float maybe?”
“Oh, Ruth. You had me at float. Can I get a root beer float?”
“Damn. I’m off today. Once again, in my head you were an orange dreamsicle guy, but root beer it is.” She giggled as she scooped vanilla ice cream into a big Styrofoam cup. “You’re taking that sandwich down to Shawn now, right?”
Still laughing at the dirty bird cashier from the sandwich shop, I nodded as she handed me the cup over the counter.
“Hang on.” She turned back to the counter and started dumping things into a blender while I continued looking through the cases.
“All right, cutie patootie, you already have your root beer float and here’s your order. Blueberry scone, cinnamon scone, number four, no mayo, and a strawberry banana smoothie with ginseng.” I frowned at her when she mentioned the smoothie, but she just winked at me. “They’re the doc’s favorite.”
“Ruth,”—I grinned—“you’re amazing. I might have to take you home with me.”
“Don’t say it unless you mean it, honey buns.” She winked again.
I laughed out loud. It felt good. “How much do I owe ya?”
She punched a few buttons on her register. “Seventeen dollars and twenty cents, please.”
“You’ll definitely be seeing me again. Count on it.” I winked back at her as I handed her a fifty-dollar bill and left.
As the elevator climbed to the third floor, I looked at the time on my phone.
Made it with seven minutes to spare. Feeling proud of myself, I opened the door to the little waiting room and strutted over to the light switch, laughing as I flipped it up, then down, then up and down and up and down and up and down.
The door flew open and Shawn glared at me as she shook her head.
“My bad.” I held my hands up in the air defensively as she closed it again.
A few minutes later, the door opened again. Thankfully, she wasn’t glaring this time.
“Come in.” She rolled her eyes, a slight smirk on her face.
“What’s up, doc?” I grinned as I walked past her. “Sorry about that. I guess I got a little excited flicking the switch.” I bit into my bottom lip, trying hard not to laugh. “Get it? Flicking the switch?” I set the food and drinks down on the coffee table.
She shut the door and sat down on the chair across from me. “Yes, Lawrence. I got it. I may be a doctor, but I’m not a stiff idiot. My fiancé makes the same perverted hornball jokes as the rest of the male population.”
I took her sandwich out of the bag and pushed her smoothie toward her. “I can’t take credit for that. Ruth told me you’d like it.”
Her shoulders slumped and she clapped her hands to her chest. “Isn’t she the best? I was hoping you’d meet her.”
“She’s pretty awesome. I told her I’d be coming back.”
She tapped my cup with her straw before pushing it into the smoothie. “What’s that?”
“Root beer float.”
Covering her mouth with her hand, she coughed loud, trying not to spit it everywhere.
“What?” I exclaimed.
“You, with a root beer float. It’s like you instantly transformed into a five-year-old sitting on my couch.”
“Wow,” I said sarcastically as she laughed out loud. “I’m so glad I went and bought you lunch and came back here today.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. You’re right.” She took a quick bite of her sandwich and a swig of her smoothie. “Let’s get down to it.”
I wiggled my eyebrows up and down at her. “Now you’re talking.”
“Not that, testosterone head.” She rolled her eyes. “Where did we leave off yesterday?”
“We were talking about Gam.”
“No, we were done with that. And I’m pretty sure your nose is growing, again.” She wiped her mouth on a napkin and sat back. “I believe we were talking about why you ditched your friends so suddenly after the accident.”
Just like that the mood in the room shifted.
“I didn’t ditch my friends,” I snapped defensively as I took a bite of cinnamon scone.
“You said there was an accident. You said it was your fault. You said you stopped hanging out with them. Right?”
“Well, yeah, but—”
“Do you know if they’ve all hung out since the accident?” She took another bite of her sandwich and set it back down
“Yeah, they have.”