Lia (short for Calia) straightened out her scrubs, giving herself a final look before heading out for her first shift at Medford General Hospital. She moved to Medford to be near her brother and start potentially settling down after a few years as a travel nurse. Her brother, Nathan, had lived here with their Father since his teen years when their parents had split. Lia stayed with their Mother traveling along with her dedicated military stepfather.
‘Ugh, rain,’ Lia groaned as she stepped outside her brother’s house, where she stayed until finding her place. Nathan was out to dinner with his fiancée’ Dani, whom Lia was close with and would be working alongside in the ER.
As Lia pulled out of the driveway, she noticed a cluster of lights at the end of the country road; wanting to avoid an accident scene, she quickly found an alternate route thanks to Google maps. Riding along, Lia was still adjusting to these winding backcountry roads.
Cursing the rain, which she hated, especially at night, she drove up on a stalled vehicle.
Before she could even formulate a thought, a young woman came screaming up to her, banging on her car window. “Please, we need help!!” Lia shifted the car into park and jumped out without blinking twice.
“My baby, he’s not breathing, and the bridge is washed out. . . I... we. . . please, can you help?!“The Mother cried.
“Where is he?”
Lia questioned, heading to the stopped vehicle in front of her. As she approached, the back door came open, and a little girl, no more than five, held a small, limp baby in her arms with worry and fear on her tiny little face.
Lia did not hesitate before grabbing the boy and immediately starting CPR. The rain came down heavier and soaked her as the minutes passed while she continued CPR on the cold concrete with her headlights providing the only light. Lia had been around death as an ER nurse, and sadly many times, those were children, but tonight just felt so much worse. ‘No. Not tonight!’ she thought, fighting back the tears as she continued CPR.
“Have you called 911?!” Lia screamed at the grief-stricken Mother.
“I...I...I don’t have a phone.” She cried.
“In my car, the console, my phone, call 911, NOW!” Lia instructed.
Pausing for only a moment, the Mother rushed to do as instructed. Lia looked up at the little girl watching her desperately try to save her brother.
“Does he have a blanket?” Lia asked, knowing this was not going to end well. The little girl nodded, then handed her the small receiving blanket.
“Thank you, sweetie. Now climb back in the car, shut the door, and stay warm, okay?” Lia barely whispered, not wanting her to bear witness to any more trauma. Lia lifted the baby’s lifeless body and wrapped him in the blanket; she then slowly began walking toward her car.
Headlights nearly blinded her, and she paused as two figures came forward. The baby’s frantic Mother turned, phone in hand, “they’re here, help is here!” toward Lia.
Lia saw a man about her age approach with an older gentleman close behind.
“He’s not breathing, unresponsive. I just came upon them; I’ve been doing CPR but. . . “Lia trailed off, all her training leaving her as she handed the limp infant to the young man.
“Damnit,” He muttered, seeing the infant who had begun turning blue.
Lia went to the Mother, who returned her phone.
“I’m so sorry,” Lia spoke barely above a whisper.
She could tell the Mother was in shock, standing in the pouring rain, watching the young man begin CPR himself.
“Here, this will warm you up.” The older gentleman spoke, handing her a cup of coffee as they sat in an empty room at Medford General Hospital.
“Thank you.” She scratched out.
“I’m Steven.” He extended his hand, and Lia took it, shaking it politely though feeling oddly numb after the evening’s events.
“Lia.” She attempted a smile.
The interaction shook her to remember she was supposed to be working, here, right now. The chaos as they all piled in the ER hours earlier, she had just become lost in the shuffle.
“Wow. I am supposed to be working here, right now. I need to find Cameron. . . “Lia spoke, trailing off as she stood, the blanket she had been given falling off.
“Oh, you’re Nate’s sister?” Steven asked, smiling.
“Yes,” Lia stated plainly.
“Cameron, can you come to ER exam 4,” Steven spoke into the phone.
Lia sat back down, trying to gather herself, her thoughts. In years of being a nurse and dealing with so many intense situations, she had never been this shaken. Trying to compose herself, she put her soaked hair into a ponytail and took a deep breath just as Cameron entered the room.
Cameron was recently appointed charge nurse for the ER, was not much older than Lia herself. Cameron had blonde hair, blue eyes and spoke with a classic southern drawl; she was friendly and was excited to welcome Lia when she interviewed.
Cameron was in the friend circle with Nathan, Dani, and several others who had all grown up here together.
“Lia! Oh my God!”
Cameron pulled her in for a bear hug. “What a first night, huh?” she pulled away.
“Cody just briefed me. You did so well; there was just nothing else to be done. You both did your best.” She frowned, noting the little infant boy had no survived despite their efforts.
Lia let out a breath. “The Mother and little girl?” she asked quietly.
“They’re okay. Obviously, she’s not okay but doing as expected.” Cameron turned to Steven, who sat quietly observing. “When is the county going to fix that dang bridge?! How many lives before something is done about it?” She fussed.
“I know, I know.” Steven nodded.
“I don’t expect you to work tonight. Half the shift is over anyway. I’ll adjust the schedule, and you can start on Sunday instead.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m good,” Lia protested.
“Girl. This ain’t New York City. You don’t gotta prove yourself here. It’s fine. Go home and pester Nathan.” She laughed.
Lia flinched a little at the mention of NYC. Only bad memories there and not starting so great here either.
“Okay.” Lia accepted her fate; she was tired already, shivering cold and still soaking wet.
“If I weren’t soaking wet, I’d fight you on this, though.” Lia made clear.
“Sorry to interrupt, but where is Cody?” Steven asked, standing and straightening his pants. He had on a farm bureau hat, full dark beard, and mustache, wearing a pair of work pants and worn-out shirt. Lia hadn’t even noticed until now that he wasn’t in a uniform, and they weren’t in a medical emergency vehicle.
“Lia, this is Steven. He’s a fireman, as is Cody, volunteers as that’s how Medford operates. I’m assuming none of yall had time for introductions.” Cameron smiled as she continued. “Cody was finishing up his papers; then you guys are free to go.”
“Yeah, no introductions.” Lia laughed nervously. She gathered her things, ready to go now and forget this night. As she headed toward the door, it opened, and the young man entered.
“Steve?” He called, giving a half-smile to Lia.
“Hey, I’m Cody.” He extended his hand out to her.
She quickly studied his face. He was handsome, dreamy almost. Naturally tan, blue eyes, and dark hair. Stuble forming on his face, assuming from the long night. His hand was large, skin rough but gentle as it took hers.
“Lia. I’m Lia.” She stuttered, surprised at herself.
“Ah yes, Nate’s sister!” He smiled.
“Wow. I didn’t realize I already had a reputation.” She giggled.
“Nate and I have been friends for years. Welcome to Medford. I’m sorry this was how we met.” He shrugged.
“Yeah, me too. I am going to head out now. I’m sure we’ll have a chance to get to know each other another time.” Lia spoke softly, heading out the door.
Cody watched her step out. Her light brown hair pulled back. Brown eyes, she had beautiful full lips, cream-colored skin that was flawless with minimal make-up on. She was gorgeous, he thought.
“Lia, do you need a ride to your car?” Cody asked quickly, remembering she had ridden with them to the hospital.
“Crap. Yes!” She spun on her heels, frustrated.
“Steve, I’m gonna take Lia to her car. You good to get to yours?” Cody asked, starting toward Lia.
“Yep.“Steve smiled with a wink.
“Sorry for the trouble,” Lia said nervously, chewing her bottom lip. Cody could not believe how adorable she was at that moment and was surprised at himself for even thinking that after the evening’s events.
“What? No trouble, silly. That was pretty awesome of you to stop and help and then to follow up with that little dude.” Cody held open the truck door for her, motioning for her to climb in.
Lia shrugged and waited for him to get in before speaking.
“One, I wasn’t given much choice. Two, I’m a nurse, and three, I wasn’t much help.” She said sadly. Lia did not know why she was taking this so hard; this wasn’t new to her. She blamed it on being new, the rainstorm, and now exhaustion.
“Now stop.” Cody began softly. “You did all that you could. We did all that we could.” He spoke, almost reassuring himself. “Things aren’t always in our control, and as long as we did everything we could, then that’s what matters.”
Cody made a few turns then down the old country, curvy road, stopping at a roadblock positioned before the washed-out bridge. He rolled down his window, talking to one of the men, explaining Lia’s car and situation, before they let them through.
“Well, here you are.” He smiled at Lia. “Please be careful getting to the house.”
“I will. Thank you, Cody. Have a safe night.” Lia returned his smile and exited the vehicle. She entered hers, and Cody noticed she was fidgeting around quite a bit.
‘Are you kidding me right now?!’ Lia said out loud to herself. Her car engine refusing to crank. She was on the verge of tears at this point, and just as one little tear slipped out, she heard tapping on the glass.
Cody questioned, looking in. Lia tried to hide the tears but seeing his beautiful face and just the overall terrible evening, she finally broke. As she began to sob, Cody opened her door, kneeling next to her. Though the rain had slacked, it was still a cold drizzle in the early hours of that fall morning.
“No. Not at all. This has been the worst night.” Lia cried, surprising herself at being so weak and vulnerable with someone she just met.
“I’m sorry. Come with me; I’ll drop you at home. We’ll make sure your car gets taken care of later.” Cody spoke soft, helping Lia out. She nodded, feeling so defeated.
“Where are you staying?” Cody asked in his soft southern voice.
“Do you know where Nathan lives? I’m staying with him for now.” Lia squeaked out.
“Yea, of course, I do. I didn’t realize you were already in town; he had mentioned you coming soon the other day.” Cody tried to converse with her. He had to admit he was a little intimated by her beauty and taken aback by how upset she’d been, as well as unsure how to handle it with someone he’d just met. Of course, Nathan had spoken about his sister over the years, but this was his first time meeting her.
“I’ve only been here three days. I haven’t really seen him much due to his work schedule. Do you work with him?” Lia asked, trying to pull herself together.
‘Get a grip, woman!’ she thought to herself.
“I do, unfortunately.” He laughed.
“So, you’re a cop and a volunteer fireman?” Lia asked, surprised.
“Wow. Just a regular superhero, eh?” Lia joked.
“Something like that.” Cody winked at her. Lia felt little butterflies in her stomach when he did so, surprising herself. Before she could respond, she realized they were in the driveway. All the lights were on, and Nathan’s truck was parked.
“Speak of the devil. Suppose I’ll walk you in and say Hello.”
Cody put the truck in park, stepping out. Before Lia could open her door, Cody was doing it for her, reaching his hand out to help her down. Lia smiled and took his hand. She immediately felt a spark when her hand touched his; she looked up, meeting his eyes, hers wide, trying to read if he felt it too. Cody just returned her smile. If he felt anything, his face didn’t show it.
“Thank you.” She was able to get out barely.
“So, in one evening, you tried to save an infant, met my best friend, got extra days off work, and had your car break down?” Nathan asked, shocked and surprised. Lia stood at the kitchen counter, rubbing her temples.
“Something like that, yeah.” She groaned.
“Always the overachiever.” He laughed.
“I need to change; I’m still soaked.” Lia went to her room and slipped out of her soaked scrubs; checking the clock was nearly 3 a.m. She groaned.
She could just barely hear Cody giving the details of the little infant to Nathan. She closed her eyes, sighing as she shook her hair out and dressed in an oversized t-shirt and shorts before returning to the living room.
Cody tried not to stare as Lia came into the room. Her hair long to her waist, wavy and still damp. Her legs, oh God, her legs were long, lean, and beautiful. He was shocked at how attracted he was to her, this woman he just met, and feeling guilty that it was his best friends’ sister.
“I’m sorry, sis. I wasn’t trying to make light of everything.” Nathan apologized as he sat on the couch, still in his uniform. Nathan and Lia looked very much alike. He had the same light brown hair and brown eyes, their nose and lips the same, could almost pass for twins despite the year age difference.
Their Mother always referred to them as her Irish twins when they were younger.
“I know. It’s fine.” She flopped on the couch next to him, trying not to stare at Cody, who was relaxed in the recliner, giving a slight smile at them.
“I was hoping to see a beat down for you mean.” Cody laughed.
“It’s only been three days. Give it time. She will get me, I’m sure. She and Dani will be ganging up on me in no time. I’ll have to keep you around to help me out.” Nathan joked in return. Lia was oddly excited at the thought of Cody being around.
“Who says I’ll help you?” Cody winked at Lia, and those butterflies she felt before came fluttering back.
“Where is Dani?” Lia asked, forgetting what she had said her plans were.
“She went back to her place after dinner since I had work, and she assumed you’d be working too.”
Nathan replied, standing. “I’m gonna go change. Cody, you crashing here?” he asked. Cody often staying over to avoid winding roads late at night and out of laziness.
“Well, since I have no one waiting at home, I may as well.” He blurted out, mostly wanting to let Lia know he was single. Lia, of course, perking up when she heard his words. “It’ll be easier to help Lia get her car later too.” He explained, kicking his boots off and reclining in the chair further. Lia laughed to herself at how comfortable he was making himself.
Nathan nodded and continued to change out of his uniform.
“I’m sorry your first night has been so rough, Lia. I know you’ll settle in fine, though.” Cody smiled at her, leaning the chair up.
“Thanks. It can only get better, right?” She laughed nervously, tucking her hair behind her ear.
“Mmhmm.” Cody hummed, studying her every move.
“Don’t even think about it!” Nathan barked, causing Cody to jump.
“What?” Lia asked, embarrassed her brother could tell her lusting after his friend.
“My chair! Up!”
He shoved Cody.
Cody hopped up, smacking Nathan’s arm before sitting next to Lia.
“You work today?” He asked Cody.
“Yea. At 6.” Cody yawned.
Lia sat in silence, the evening’s events playing in her head, exhausting creeping up hard. Then she realized Cody would need the couch to sleep, so quickly she stood.
“I need sleep, and I assume you need this (she motioned to the couch) to sleep yourself.”
“Well yeah. It’s okay, though.” Cody chuckled.
“Goodnight, guys. Thanks for everything tonight, Cody.”
Lia said, heading down the hall and into her room. Nathan giving Cody a raised eyebrow and smirk.
Sleep enveloped her the minute her head hit the pillow.
“I can already see it. All I will say is, you break her heart, I’ll kill you.” Nathan stated plainly, not even looking at his best friend. He knew Cody was a good guy. A gentleman and would not purposely hurt his sister, but it was his job as her brother to at least warn him.
“10-4” Cody yawned before falling asleep with Lia’s face on his mind.