The footfalls of my sneakers were the only sound in the parking garage besides the two men talking at a distance in front of me. Men being the comparative word as one of them was barely old enough to vote while the other seemed to be acting pretty childish. I, for one, would settle this now. I wasn’t sure what he thought to get out of spying on me but I didn’t have the want to put up with it.
Already mad I had to leave half of my charting uncompleted until tomorrow, I made my way over to where the two of them were leaning over the stone railing. Standing with my hands folded in front of me I put on my scolding face. I didn’t know their game, but I was sick of being watched. I had noticed it here and there for the last several weeks, unable to figure it out until the last night shift I worked. The sun came up just over the horizon and the angle flashed a shine off Quincy’s glasses and I knew he was ogling me. I didn’t realize he had another person with him though. Usually I had a pretty good meter for derelicts, so I was a little taken back when I realized Quincy and some other guy kept watch over me. Now was the time to set them straight. Remind them both that women were not a piece of meat to be stared at. Besides being creepy, it was not tolerated in the workplace and I intended on calling him on it. Both he and the other guy he collaborated with.
Before he turned around, I took notice of the stranger with the security guard. He wasn’t a co-worker, at least one I had ever seen. He had a familiar quality to him and usually I didn’t forget a face. From the back, I could see a broad-shouldered man with sandy brown hair slightly shaggy in appearance. A little on the skinny side, he dressed in jeans and a light coat. As he turned his head to the side, I saw his profile. He had a strong jaw and as he smiled at something Quincy had said, I noticed a smirk to him. I remembered that smirk.
He must have spotted me behind him, and he swung around to look. Quincy noticed finally too and I realized all too well that the security in the hospital was lacking at best. Shaking my head, I chided at them both, “What exactly do you think you are doing?”
“Dr. Sn... Rhodes! I was just... We were just...” While Quincy stammered for an answer I realized where I saw his acquaintance. He came in several months ago with a laceration to his right upper rectus femoris area. While I knew the face, names sometimes escaped me. Much better at remembering the diagnosis of aliments I had seen a patient for, I racked my brain to come up with his name. He seemed a little startled at me finding him there but it turned from startled to a look of being in trouble, and I savored the change in his demeanor for underestimating me.
“Can it Quincy. I had a feeling I was being watched. I just didn’t think you would have been the culprit.” I peered at the other guy as his name popped in my head. JJ something. I couldn’t quite think of his last name but I knew it would come to me. I still remembered our conversation from that day. Actually, he had been the highlight of the whole shift if I remembered correctly, but why was he here?
“Ah... I am sorry ma’am it is just ah...” I rolled my eyes at the ‘ma’am’ bit thinking that although he was young, I couldn’t be old enough to be his mother. Well, at least not easily.
“It is my fault.” JJ walked closer as I observed Quincy trying to shrink in the background. Although Quincy deserved a piece of my mind, I decided to lash out at his partner in crime first.
“What exactly is your fault? What were you doing?” My arms remained crossed in front of me as Quincy retreated further in the background. “Quincy! I will deal with you later.”
He nodded and left quickly while I rejoiced a little in the look of fear in his eyes before turning my sights back on JJ. Although taller than me, I somehow didn’t feel intimidated by him. Yes, there was an unnerving factor with what I caught him doing but I didn’t feel in jeopardy right now talking to him.
“I was watching you go to your car.” He didn’t deny it and I remembered how straightforward he appeared when I sutured his leg. His turquoise eyes showed no look of remorse or guilt either.
“Watching me get to my car? This parking garage is for employees only. How did you get in here?” My mind raced with questions although I knew the answer, “Quincy let you in.” And then, “What did you give him?” Quincy was young and distractible, but he liked this job and wouldn’t let just anyone in this garage and chance getting caught.
“Killer seats to the December Dolphins game in Miami.” My look displayed my confusion.
“Why the Dolphins?”
He shrugged, “They are his favorite team.”
After pondering this question, I asked, “And you just happened to acquire ‘killer’ seats to all the Dolphins games?”
Still staring at me he shot back, “No.”
Just no. I apparently wouldn’t get much out of him. “And if he alluded to being a New England fan, then what?”
He still stared at me with his stoic face. “Then I would have sold an arm and leg to get ‘killer’ seats for that game too.” And then he smirked causing a twinkle to his eyes and his face softened. I wanted to stay stern and stare back at him but found his candor had softened me as well. I hid a smile and walked closer to him to avoid a car coming around the bend and down to the exit. His eyes never left me as I got closer.
“Why were you watching me all this time? Didn’t you think that I would find out?” Did he think I wasn’t observant? I sure as hell didn’t come across as stupid.
“Just hoping you wouldn’t notice.” He avoided my question and it bothered me.
“Were you trying to frighten me?”
His face showed a sense of foreboding as he answered, “No, I didn’t want to do that.”
“Then what were your intentions?”
He sighed and his eyes wavered slightly. Returning my gaze, he acknowledged, “I wanted to make sure you made it to your car okay.” His answer confused me. Was he thinking he could protect me?
“And what if I didn’t? Was there anything you could do about it from the second landing of the parking garage while my car is all the way down there?” I pointed to the area in the parking lot where my car sat. Really, what could he do? Jump down and rescue me from way up here?
“No, I am usually positioned down at the door of the parking garage. I underestimated your time coming out tonight. You usually spend more time doing your charting.” His statement startled me a little. He really didn’t come across as a stalker but maybe I was wrong.
“You seem to know a lot about my work habits... Mr. Harries.” Pulling his formal name from my internal memory I also devised he was a big shot band member and probably not a stalker, but I didn’t want to make that determination without more information.
He looked down almost ashamed and I wanted to go in for the kill. How dare he stalk me like this. “Exactly how much information do you know about me?”
He came closer and when he looked at me I could see the earnestness in his eyes. In a low voice, he answered, “I know that you wear one contact in the left eye. I know that when you are concentrating there is a cute little furrow in your forehead just between your eyebrows. You prefer the night shift to the day shift although it is harder on you. You never wear green, possibly because you wear green scrubs during your shift here at the hospital. I know you like classical music after an easy shift but turn it off when it was a hard day preferring to have quiet, and I know you average fifty-eight minutes to do your charting before you leave for the day.”
Astounded, I listened to him name off my little idiosyncrasies as if he had known me for a lifetime. I wasn’t even sure my ex-husband knew those things about me. The hatred of green, me preferring the night shift to the day shift, hell, even the fact I wore one contact to improve my near vision. I should be worried but I found his attention to detail fascinating. I couldn’t answer him back at first trying to figure out why someone would get to know me without talking to me.
Swallowing deeply, I asked my next question in a voice that almost cracked, “How do you know all of that about me?”
He looked at me boldly, “Because I have been watching you leave here every shift you worked since the night you sewed me up.” It had to be well over six weeks ago. He watched me all that time?
“Why?” barely above a whisper, it surprised me he heard.
“When I was your patient that day I noticed a bruise on your forehead. Your nurse informed me of the guy who attacked you and stole your purse. That morning after your shift ended Quincy found me watching the parking lot trying to make sure you got to your car without a problem. It forced me to do some collective bargaining with him. I just wanted to make sure you would be all right.” He watched me all this time to make sure I was safe? It didn’t seem right. Who would put all that time and effort into something without getting a payback?
Although cautious, I drew closer to him. Close enough to find myself standing directly in front of him. If I were to reach out I could touch him, and even though I had an errant compulsion to do just that, I refrained. He had a quality about him that was attractive. I usually hated the bullshit with people when trying to figure them out but the mystery of him intrigued me. I threw out a statement to divulge his position, “You want to ask me out.” His eyes widen slightly, enough to tell me I was right.
He swallowed, “Yes.”
Coldly I played my usual retort, “I don’t date patients.”
He nodded and smiled, “You discharged me.”
I fought back the smirk playing at my lips. I had heard that line used by others. Usually by my drunk patients who tried to grope me as I examined them but coming from him at this moment and in that context, it seemed, well, cute.
I pondered his reasoning. Even though he wasn’t my patient anymore, he never got around to talking to me. That questioned bothered me more than anything. “Why haven’t you asked me out before? Why go through all this trouble if you were never going to proposition me?” He looked downtrodden but still seemed to keep my gaze. His sea-blue eyes showed a look of a man who had lived a lifetime.
“You are out of my league.” His statement shocked me. I looked down at his chest unable to look in his eyes any longer with the boldness of his statement. He felt I was too good for him? Me? Did he feel that way because he had a wild life? Because he had been a drug addict? Regardless, he seemed to be holding himself together better than I had been lately but I guess I could put on a good show when I needed to.
“Because you think I have my shit together?” I chanced a look at him and he smiled.
The look made his face appear so virile and sexy. He had a five o’clock shadow on his rugged face and his hair fell to a natural part imposed by the soft breeze in the stuffy parking ramp making him look weathered and masculine. He started to shake his head back and forth to the negative and then mouthed the words, “yes”.
Unable to contain my smile I leaned into him and realized I was indeed touching his chest. He felt firm under my hand and I quickly pulled it away before I let it wander the way it wanted. Coming to my senses I realized it wouldn’t be a good idea to date anyone, even him. Although I came across as being put together, I was far from it, and with him being the better of the two of us, I came up short either way.
My sparse relationships over the last couple of years came into focus and I blurted out, “I am already seeing someone.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted it.
He seemed startled by it but recovered quickly, “I am sorry. I didn’t know.” And then, “Is it serious?” He looked down at my left hand.
Sheepishly I called out, “With Charlie? No, it isn’t serious.”
He guarded his words now with a twist to the conversation, “No dating then for us but how about a meal... as friends?” The thought made me smile. I was off the market as far as he was concerned and the thought of eating with him, talking with him, getting to know him, was inviting. He tempted me further, “Just two people getting to know each other. I could ask medical questions and you could write it off as a business expense. You have to eat, right?”
A full smile now played upon my lips and I did what I thought was probably stupid on my part and said, “No need. I give free medical advice all the time. All right. Where?”
“What are you hungry for?”
Thinking I didn’t want anything heavy and try to sleep, I said, “Nothing filling and something close to my house.”
He nodded, “Makes sense. You do need to get your sleep. You have to work tomorrow again.”
His statement shouldn’t have surprised me knowing as much as he did about me but I still looked shocked. “So, you know my whole schedule?”
He laughed a little, “Quincy told me about the six-week cyclical they have you doing. I pretty much mapped it out for the rest of the year so I wouldn’t miss a shift.” Again, it should worry me but I honestly didn’t think he would harm me and I couldn’t help being a little taken back by his attention to detail.
I huffed, “Well then let’s go to Franco’s Italian restaurant just down from my apartment before it gets too late. I’ll even let you lead the way.”
He looked confused. “You know that I don’t have any idea where you live, don’t you?” My turn to look confused as he explained, “I never followed you home. That would have been creepy.”
Unable to stop myself, I let out an enormous laugh and shook my head at his admission. He joined me in the private joke and it felt good. As my chortle ended he looked at me with a sparkle in his eyes and I could tell that although his jovial nature was still there, he was serious as he said, “You look beautiful when you laugh. You should do it more often.”
I swallowed deeply as he started to walk to a red sports car a couple of stalls down. When he looked back and noticed me still standing there staring at him he smiled, “I guess I will let you lead the way.”