I sighed heavily as I walked away from the conversation with Dr Fraser about Cristina’s progress with the conduit trial in Switzerland, looking forward to getting home to my girls. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my work and I was thankful for the job that I had because I loved saving lives and helping tiny humans, but today had been a long day filled with five surgeries. Three of them were quite simple, one was long and complicated and one of them was a trauma where the patient didn’t survive. Eleven-year-old Emily Green had been climbing a tree when she had fallen and been impaled with a branch. We’d worked tirelessly for hours but eventually there was nothing we could do for her, and I’d had to call it.
On cold November nights like these I was extremely grateful that our apartment was right across from the hospital. I walked with my head bowed against the chill along the cold and wet pavement that lead to a corner, from which our apartment building was in clear view. I could see the light from our window was on, meaning that Callie was still up. I smiled internally at the thought of coming home to her after a long day. After everything that had happened over the last six years, I was more grateful than ever to see that light in the distance.
As I rounded the corner, not really paying attention, I walked right into someone. This certain someone was walking so fast and determinedly that she sent me stumbling back a few steps. As soon as we both regained ourselves she started apologising profusely, stuttering and stumbling over her words.
“I am so sorry; I wasn’t looking where I was going! Are you okay?” She rambled on and I reached out to touch her shoulder to stop her.
“Hey, it’s okay. I wasn’t looking either.” I assured her. As she looked up at me I got a better look at her face, and what I saw shocked me. Her right eye was swollen and she had cut her bottom lip. Her eyes were red and watery and it was obvious that she had been crying. Her hair was messy and looked like it could do with washing, and her clothes were splattered with dirt. “Are you okay?” I asked her concernedly.
She looked down at her feet and was quiet for a moment. “Yeah. Actually, I’m looking for the council office. Is the rehoming department in a separate building, do you know?” She asked nonchalantly, as if what she was saying wasn’t a big deal. I also took in the fact that she was carrying a bag that looked heavier than her over her shoulder. She wrapped her arms around her body as she waited for an answer and it was then that I noticed that she wasn’t wearing a coat. I wasn’t sure what to make of this situation, but one thing was clear: this girl was homeless and hurt.
“Can I buy you a coffee? There’s a sweet little café around the corner.” I offered, gesturing over my shoulder in the direction of the café. She was quiet for a minute.
“No thanks.” She decided. “I need to find the office.” She said flatly and started to walk away. I held my arm out to stop her and she flinched. I frowned for a second but pretended to ignore it and persisted.
“Let me buy you coffee.” I insisted, turning around and starting to walk. After a few seconds I heard her start to follow me, and I mentally patted myself on the back. I was determined to help this girl. “So what’s your name?” I asked as we walked side by side. I found it funny how I was only enquiring about his now, as we walked to buy coffee.
“Poppy. And you?”
“Arizona. Yup." I laughed when I saw her face. Named after the battleship, not the state.” Just then we reached the coffee shop. We went inside and sat at the nearest table, which was by the window. The streets outside were pretty dead. except from the occasional person or gaggle of teenagers walking past. Almost instantly the person behind the counter came over to us and I ordered two vanilla lattes and two turkey sandwiches. When I said that Poppy’s eyes went wide.
“You didn’t have to do that.” She exclaimed quietly.
“You looked hungry, and I’m petty starving too. I just worked a fourteen hour shift and I forgot to eat.” I told her. “So, what has you wandering the streets after 10pm?”
“My mom and dad kicked me out. I was looking for the rehoming centre, to see what they could do.” She admitted. So I was right. She then laughed incredulously as turned her head away. “You know, I was always told not to talk to strangers, and here I am telling you everything.” She sighed. I pondered her words for a minute. I was consumed with protectiveness over this girl.It was kinda weird and probably sounded creepy, but I saw it necessary that she was warm, healthy, and with a place to stay.
“Well, as you know, I’m Arizona Robbins. I’m 35 years old, and I live in that apartment building right across from where we met. I live there with my wife, Callie, and my daughter, Sofia. I’m a paediatric surgeon, and not to brag, but I’m ranked as one of the best in the country. I have one leg, I was in a plane crash. I’m also an army brat, and my brother Tim died when I was twenty.” I summarised quickly. If I was going to get to know this girl then I could at least tell her some information about myself, to put her at ease about talking to a stranger. She looked overwhelmed and I was worried for a minute that I might have scared her. I mean, I did just completely unload on her. “You need a place to stay?” I prompted, and she looked at her hands, playing with her fingers as she tried to think of something to say.
“I’m Poppy Ross, I’m fifteen. I’m an only child. My parents are very conservative, so when I told them I had a girlfriend, my dad,” she hesitated, indicating to the bruises on her face. “He didn’t take it well. They kicked me out so now I’m homeless.” She copied my whole ‘introducing’ thing and I frowned.
I then had an idea. We had an extra bedroom, food, and a warm place. I could offer for her to stay for a while. I really liked Poppy, and she needed it. “We have an extra bedroom. We can put you up for however long you need it.” I offered, not really sure how to say it. There was an awkward silence.
“Why are you being so nice?” She mumbled quietly. I could see the tears collecting in her eyes. It made my heart break to think that this girl seemed so unused to niceness, and it only made my offer more sure.
“Look, if I leave you, you’ll either freeze or starve and I can’t have that. You don’t have to tell me anything, or suddenly become best friends, but at least stay with me. I can help you.” I tried to convince her. She looked slightly more convinced at the idea but I could still sense underlying hesitation.
“I don’t want to be a hassle to you.” She admitted shyly. Just then our food arrived and she took a sandwich, taking a big bite out of it. “Sorry.” She apologised after she swallowed. “I haven’t eaten in a while.”
“It’s okay.” I assured her, taking a bite from my own sandwich. “And as for being a hassle, don’t ever think that.” I told her and she nodded.
“Well if you’re absolutely one hundred percent sure, then I guess I could use a place to stay.” She agreed and I smiled. Success.
“I’m absolutely sure.”