Feisty Francesca

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#26 I’ve got the music in me again

Once again, I’m stuck in the ICU with Leonard Schwartz, adding yet another extra shift to my own one in the ER. I’m so done with how understaffed we are and the flu that’s going around. Thank God there are interviews scheduled next week to find more nurses and other staff members. We sure need them.

During my break I text James to let him know I once again won’t be able to make it home in time to have dinner with him.

I’m stuck at work as well, he replies right away. Pulling a double, won’t be home before midnight. Your place or mine?

I smile to myself, happy that it feels so natural to make plans with him. He never gets annoyed with me for cancelling on him or changing plans, because his job is just as unpredictable and demanding. Like me, he doesn’t know how to say no. He feels responsible for keeping the city safe, just like I feel responsible for my patients. I love that about him.

Yours, I reply. We’ve been hanging out at his place ever since Thomas told me about his feelings for me. Even though I want to keep Thomas as a friend, I’m not comfortable enough around him right now to want to risk him and James running into each other. I don’t think Thomas will say anything to James about the other night, and I didn’t do anything wrong, but James has been doing so well with me hanging out with my male friends that I don’t want to upset the balance by admitting that one of them confessed to me that he wants to date me.

I’ve got five more minutes before my break is over, and I haven’t talked to Joshua in a few days, so I give him a call. He picks up right away, and I hear laugher in the background.

“Hey Fran,” he says happily. “I’m having some friends over. Wanna come?”

“I’d love to, but I’m stuck at work.”

“Bummer.” Someone shouts something at him and he laughs and tells him to shut the fuck up. “Sorry, that was just Yord being annoying. Are you free to hang out this weekend?”

“I’ve got Saturday off.” James is working Saturday, so I was planning on cleaning my apartment, but hanging out with Joshua sounds like a lot more fun.

“Sweet. Your place or mine?”

“Yours,” I decide right away. “Your coffee machine may be a total bitch, but she makes great cappuccinos.”

We decide on a time and then I let him get back to his friends. It’s time for me to make my rounds anyway. I check everyone’s vitals, help nurse Debby flip over a patient from his back to his belly, and check up with Leonard on the new treatment for the man that had a heart attack last night. A few hours later, Leonard tells me to take a short break to eat something, and I happily oblige, flopping down on the comfy couch in the doctor’s lounge.

“You’re not supposed to be in here,” Debby tells me, flicking her long red hair over her shoulder and giving me an angry look.

“Neither are you,” I shoot back, not in the mood for her crap. Hell, I’m never in the mood for Debby. She’s such a bitch. She gives nurses a bad name. The only reason she hates me even more than she hates the rest of the world is because she used to sleep with Aston a few months before I started hooking up with him. I wonder what she’d make of Annabel. I think she’d like to stab her right in the heart if she could get away with it. She doesn’t even love Aston or anything, she just feels entitled to get whatever and whoever she wants, and Aston isn’t someone you can control.

“Dr. Schwartz lets me come in here for coffee,” Debby says like that’s something to be proud of.

“Yeah, I don’t really give a shit what Lenny does or doesn’t allow me to do,” I reply, knowing how much it bothers me that I call half of the doctors by their first names.

“Franny!” Destiny Tennille walks in, about to start her shift in a few minutes. “I didn’t know you were working tonight!”

Debby walks out, huffing at the fact that yet another doctor seems to like me better than her. Little does she knows that the whole damn world likes me more than her. Not because I’m so great, but that’s what happens when you’re a raging bitch all the time, I guess.

“Hey,” I greet her, remembering what Thomas said about her needing a friend. “How are you doing?”

Destiny shrugs. “Alright, I guess.”

“Can I…” I hesitate. Is this too personal to ask about? Then again, she told me about trying to get pregnant herself. “Can I ask about how the baby-making is going?”

Destiny smiles. “Of course. Still no luck. I’m going in to see a fertility specialist soon, to make sure nothing is wrong. It just feels like all I can think about these days is when my next period is, when I’m ovulating…”

“How about we take your mind of those things then?” I ask, sitting up straight while I finish my salad. “You’ll get pregnant soon enough and then you won’t be allowed to drink, so you enjoy the fact that you still pour booze down your throat, right? How about we go out for cocktails or something? Saturday night?”

“Oh,” Destiny says, sounding pleasantly surprised. “Yeah, that would great, actually.”

We finalize our plans and put the date and time in our phones. We both need to get to work after that, so we don’t talk anymore that night, but I do feel good about asking her to hang out. Thomas is right. I can have more friends if I want to. And I want to. I think it would be good for me to have people to rely on outside of the group with Aston and Shaughna. They are focused on their own shit right now – kidney transplants, biological fathers, pregnancies… Dshawn and Shaughna bought two buildings to start their own night club and restaurant, so they’re busy with construction and permits. I get that, but that does mean none of them can hang out when I’ve got time off, and with James’ schedule clashing with mine, I only seem to have Joshua to call when I feel lonely. And Thomas, but I still feel a little weird around him.

Time to step out of my comfort zone and make some new friends. Destiny might be a good person to start with.

***

My free Saturday turns the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

Joshua and I start out drinking coffee and taking a walk around the neighborhood. He’s getting quite fast on his crutches, but we do need to sit down a few times. His cast is coming off in a few days, and then it’s just a few more weeks of being careful and using crutches when he does more than just more around his apartment, some therapy at the hospital, and then he should be good as new. He’s very excited about that, talking about all the things he wants to do when his leg is completely back to normal. Turns out it’s mostly running that he misses. He apparently runs at least ten miles every weekend. That explains the lean, secretly muscular physique. He doesn’t have bulging muscles, but he’s also not scrawny like Shaughna and Aston are always calling him.

When we get back to his place, his friend Yord is hanging out on the couch. We stare at each other for a moment, feeling like we know each other somehow.

“Did we meet before?” Yord asks, cocking his head to the side while he gets up and shakes my hand.

“I’m not sure,” I reply, trying to place him. Tall, brown eyes, sandy blonde hair that’s cropped short, a few years younger than me, but older than Joshua. I know I’ve seen him before, but I can’t figure out when or where.

“You probably did,” Joshua says, laughing at our confused looks. “Fran is one of Shaughna’s closest friends,” he says to Yord before turning to me. “Yord and I actually met through Caroline and Shaughna. I ran into Shaughna in that club Rock paper scissors where she was partying with Caroline, and Yord ran into Caroline, and we got to talking. Turns out Yord and I are both getting our business degree, only I’m in my final year of my bachelor and he’s getting his MBA already.”

“Oh, you’re the guy that pulled Danny off Caroline the night he assaulted her,” I realize. I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard the story about how her ex Danny slammed her into a wall and how this guy, Yord, came to her rescue. It’s the night Shaughna and Dshawn sort of got together, so they tell that stupid story over and over again.

“And you’re the cute nurse who saved Josh’s life,” Yord counters, grinning. “He’s been talking about you non-stop, you know.”

“Shut up,” Joshua grumbles, shooting his friend a dark look.

“You play, right?” Yord asks, gesturing at the guitar on the couch. “Josh and I are thinking of starting a band. We could use some female vocals and another guitar player. Interested?”

“Dude,” Joshua says, grunting. “I was going to ask her that!”

I laugh at their antics and look at the guitar longingly. I’d love to play more, especially with Joshua, but being in a band means trying to get gigs, and getting gigs means playing in front of people, and I’m not sure if I’m up for that. It’s been so long.

“Maybe,” I decide, not willing to make up my mind just yet. “Are you guys any good?”

“Hell yeah!” Yord says, flopping back down on the couch while Joshua sits down next to him, propping his leg up on the coffee table. I take the loveseat, kicking off my shoes to make myself more comfortable. “I’m the best damn drummer in the city,” Yord brags, “and Joshy boy here writes song himself and he’s okay on the guitar, I guess.”

“He’s great,” I reply automatically. “And he’s got a nice voice.”

“Thanks.” Joshua is blushing. He’s such a cute little puppy. “You do too.”

“We could go over to my place, jam for a bit?” Yord offers, his dark eyes alight with excitement.

“Sure,” I agree, shrugging. Playing one or two songs and watching these guys rock out can’t hurt, right? It’s not like I’m going to play my dad’s favorite songs and cry over his loss or anything. Or play the song I used to listen to when I was down in the dark pit while I was getting over Aston. I’m in a good place right now, and I feel confident I can get through the day without crying.

I drive the guys to Yord’s place, since Yord doesn’t even have a driver’s license and Josh can’t drive with his broken leg. Yord has been staying with Joshua in the spare bedroom ever since he got home from his parents’ place and needed some help with his broken leg, but Yord actually lives on the other side of town in an old converted warehouse. The place is awful and his tiny little loft reeks of old sweat socks, but he does have his own garage to play the drums without disturbing anyone, which is exactly why he loves this place. We grab Joshua’s guitars from my car and head in, ready to play.

Turns out Yord wasn’t kidding when he said that they were good. Yord is a maniac on the drums, and I already knew Joshua could hold his own on the guitar. They mostly play covers, and I know a lot of them, playing them in the privacy of my own apartment normally. I join in and they make it easy for me to feel like I fit right in. I even sing along a few times, but I’m not ready to go solo at first.

“Okay, what’s the song you’ve got on repeat this week?” Joshua asks. I told him earlier that I usually listen to one single song for an entire week until I know all the lyrics and can play along on my guitar, before moving on to the next song.

Julie,” I say, smiling. “Do you know it? By Chef’Special.”

“Oh hell yeah,” Yord says when Joshua shakes his head. “I’ve been playing that song with my friend Marcia. She loves that band. Wait, let me go get her!”

Before I can protest, Yord is already sprinting off to get Marcia. Joshua laughs at my shock when I realize that this means Yord is going to expect me to sing that song for them.

“Yeah, he’s not taking no for an answer,” Joshua says, grinning. “Let me hear that song, will you?”

I move over to where he’s sitting on a stool so his leg can get some rest and I turn up the volume on my phone and hit play on Julie. My lips move along with the words immediately, without making sound. Joshua smiles at that and he taps his good leg in synch with the beat.

“Sweet,” he says. “That’s quite different from that Billy Raffoul stuff we did last time we played together.”

He’s right. Singing this, with a band? If I do this right, I’ll need to rock out. I’m not sure if I have that in me. I’ve never been in a band in the 26 years I’ve been alive so far, and I haven’t played in front of other people since the high school talent show when a teacher had to escort me off stage because I kept crying and couldn’t go on.

These past weeks with Joshua have awoken something inside of me that I thought I’d lost. It’s like I discovered my drive to make music all over again.

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