#44 Sexy sponge baths from nurse Berger
We played our first set before Annabel and Aston got here to set the mood for the party, and it was great. No pressure yet, just singing and playing guitar with my friends, basically. It’s not like everyone is standing around looking at us. The little kids play on the swing set and kick a ball around while the adults stand around and sip their wines. We’re just background noise for now and that suits me just fine. It helps with my nerves.
What doesn’t help my nerves is Joshua. He doesn’t even seem to be able look at me anymore now that he’s seen my breasts. Or maybe I should say that the problem is that he keeps glancing over and then looking away from me the moment I catch him staring at me.
And I catch him staring at me a lot, because I keep steeling glances at him too, just to see if he’s still looking.
It’s distracting me from the party, but at least my singing doesn’t seem to suffer from it. Shaughna comes up to me right after we’re done with the first set, squealing. I can tell she’s trying really hard to be a good friend, sensing that I am still feeling off. I just don’t want to confide in her right now. She hasn’t done anything wrong, not exactly. We’ve been hanging out more the last couple of weeks, she calls a lot, she texts, she knows that I need her right now, but she doesn’t know why.
I just can’t talk to her about Josh. I can’t.
With a sigh, I sent Destiny a text, asking her how the baby in her belly is doing. She sends back a picture of an early sonogram – working in a hospital has benefits – and a picture of her and her husband at dinner, enjoying each other’s company. I feel comforted even though we’re not talking about my problems or anything. It’s just nice knowing that she’s happy and that she’s there if I need her.
A new text pops up on my screen. Hey stranger.
I smile. Hi Thomas.
Where are you right now? I’ve been missing you, crazy cat lady. Me and the General are lonely as fuck. I’m on your couch right now. He sends along a picture of him and General Fluffington on my couch, huddled under a blanket. The General looks inscrutable as ever, and Thomas is giving me puppy dog eyes.
My band is playing at a birthday party tonight. Or a wedding. I’m not sure what to call it.
My phone rings and I pick up, smiling when I hear Thomas’ voice yelling in my ear.
“Your band is playing?! Oh my God, send me the address, Franny! Right now! I need to see this. I’m coming over. The General can fend for himself for the night.”
I grin. “Sure, come on over. The more the merrier.”
“You used to invite me along to stuff, you know,” he says a little wistfully. “You’re never home anymore. I feel like we’re a divorced couple sharing custody of poor Fluffy.”
“Don’t be so dramatic and get your ass over here, Thom.”
He hangs up right away and I text him the address, feeling a little guilty for not being a better friend to him. He’s always there for me when I need him, but I’ve been neglecting the shit out of him since me and James have been getting more serious and working through our issues. I miss the fun carefree energy that Thomas brings, I realize. He makes things less serious.
I socialize with some of Annabel’s friends and family, curious to see what kind of people she hangs out with. They’re all lovely, aside from one bitchy woman who I’m told is Annabel’s sister Chloe. She’s a piece of work, just like Shaughna said she’d be. She does have great taste in wedding dresses, though. I scroll through the pictures of me in that dress, smiling to myself. One day, I will have a dress like that. Way, way in the future, of course.
Finally, Aston and Annabel arrive, and everyone cheers for them. Joshua, Yord, Marcia and I rush back to the stage and play a few songs. Annabel and Aston dance for a moment, looking cute as fuck. My heart sinks a little when I sing a love song while they dance, but it’s not because it’s Aston. It’s because it’s two people who love each other and know for a fact that this is it. That they found the relationship that will last a lifetime. That they will marry the person they’re holding in their arms right now. That nothing will ever compare to what they’re feeling for each other. That no one before this matters. That their hearts belong to each other. That this the house they’re going to live in, together, raising their kid. Or kids, maybe, if Aston knocks Annabel up again once she gets the first one out into the world.
I want that. I want that more than anything.
And James is ready to give that to me, maybe even tomorrow if I asked him, but I don’t want that with him. Not yet, at least. I love him, and I still see potential in our relationship, but I would drop dead if he asked me to marry him right now. I can’t imagine the face of the groom, even though I can see my whole wedding day playing out in front of me.
What if I never get the feeling that tells me this is him, this is it? What if I just have to take the plunge with someone and hope it turns out alright?
I finish the song, and get off stage right after, even though we had one more song planned in this set. I just can’t right now. I make my way inside and sit down on the stairs, taking a moment to gather my thoughts. About two seconds into my pity party, the doorbell rings. I grunt and get up, since I am the only one to hear it, sitting here on my own in the hallway while everyone is having fun outside.
“Hey stranger,” Thomas says the moment I open the door, grinning at me. He pushes his long blonde hair out of his face and those familiar blue eyes twinkle at me when he winks.
“Thom.” I hug him, sighing at the feeling of a body I know well.
“Guess you missed me too, huh?” He kisses my cheek and takes a step back to look at me. “You’ve been crying. And you’re stressed. Guess playing in a band isn’t all that glamorous after all, huh?”
“Let’s just say it’s been a long, weird week.”
He ruffles my hair. “And now Thommy boy is here to make it all better. Tell me, babe, whose ass do I need to kick?”
“I think that’s still my job,” a deep voice sounds from the darkness, and James steps onto the path leading up to the front door, his eyes finding mine. “Hi Fran. Thought I’d surprise you.”
“Hey!” I throw myself into James’ arms, giving him a peck on the lips. “You made it after all!”
“I told you I’d try,” he says, looking over my shoulder at Thomas, probably to glare at him. “I know how important it is to you that I see you play with the band.”
“That’s why I’m here as well,” Thomas says like he didn’t find out only twenty minutes ago that I was here at all. “Good to see you, James.”
“Yeah, same here.” It doesn’t sound like James is happy. At all.
Can you really blame him, though? I’m not sure anymore. Is he being too jealous or just the normal amount? He came over to surprise me, only to find me in the arms of the guy I slept with before him. That can’t be nice. This week was difficult enough without me adding Thomas to the mix.
“Come on in, guys,” I say, motioning for them to follow me.
We walk through the house and out the backdoor, where they take in the decorated garden, illuminated by the fairy lights Joshua painstakingly untangled earlier today. It looks beautiful in the dark, that’s for sure.
“How many sets did you play so far?” James asks, putting his arm around me and steering me away from Thomas. “Are there more songs coming up?”
I fill him on my day, giving Thomas an apologetic look. He doesn’t seem bothered at all, sauntering over to talk to Shaughna and Dshawn, asking them how they are. I watch him move through the garden, chatting to everyone, even though he only knows a handful of people here. He’s such social butterfly. I love that about him.
I see Joshua sitting in the grass a few feet away, five little kids around him while he plays a song from Frozen on his guitar. They sing along and he seems so happy there, just entertaining these kids he’s never met before.
Meanwhile James is standing here in his uniform, coming over straight from a long shift to surprise me. He presses his lips to my temple and I smile up at him, knowing how difficult it was for him to change his shift so he could be here for me.
I’ve got three guys who are into me, and I still feel like a total fuck-up, unable to make up my mind and be happy.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
“Hey James,” Yord says, walking up to us with Marcia in tow. “How are you doing, man?”
“Good,” James replies pleasantly. “Nice to see you again. Sorry to miss the first two sets. Fran says you’re playing again soon. I can’t wait to hear you guys.”
The three of them chat while I stand there, leaning against James awkwardly, wishing things could just go back to normal in the blink of an eye. Even now, I wonder if James is here because he loves me or because he can’t be alone. Someone who falls in love that easily and moves on so damn fast… Does his love have anything to do with me as a person, or am I just someone to fill a void in him. The void that his sister left, maybe?
From the corner of my eye, I see Joshua trying to get up from the grass, struggling to do so with his bad ankle. I rush over without even thinking about it, kneeling down to drape his arm around my shoulders, helping him up.
“Thanks, Fran.” His hand tightens on my arm and he grunts when he tries to walk. “Fuck. Okay, you were right. I should have listened to that annoying nurse Berger.”
I help him to a chair and kneel down in front of him, lifting the leg of his pants and tugging down his sock to examine his ankle. It’s swollen a little, and from the way he’s grimacing when I touch it, he’s in a lot more pain than he wants to admit.
“Men,” I grumble, shaking my head. “So stubborn.”
“Not all men are stubborn,” Joshua comments with a little smile. “I have to admit I am though. Sometimes. A little bit. Maybe.”
I roll my eyes. “You’re the worst patient ever.”
“Thank God for my own private nurse then.” His blue eyes twinkle. “Do you think there’s a sexy sponge bath in my future?”
“I don’t think so,” Thomas’ voice sounds above is. “And if there is, I’m next on the list. I could definitely do with a visit from nurse Berger in a white bikini, ready to clean up this dirty boy.”
I glance around to make sure James isn’t near us. He’s standing where we were before I rushed over to Joshua to help him, chatting to Annabel’s sister Chloe. They laugh at something, and I’m glad he seems to be relaxing a little, not so serious and broody anymore. And thank fuck he didn’t just hear Joshua and Thomas talking about sexy baths they want me to give them.
“I’m an ER nurse, not a porn nurse,” I remind them, getting up. “I’m gonna get some ice for that swollen ankle.” I give Josh a hard look. “Stay put, you stubborn fucker.”
“Yes, nurse Berger.”
“Fuck, she’s sexy when she gets all bossy, isn’t she?” I hear Thomas say when I walk away.
“Yeah,” Joshua replies a little more quietly. “She really is.”