written by Flutter
She received that nod from Professor Talbot. Then again, then again, then again over the next several weeks.
Evan had become her partner in crime, they always partnered in class, his technical perfection balanced nicely by the bravery she was finding in her ingredients. He kept her calm; she kept him on his toes. They moved around the station in total awareness of each other, but never in discomfort. Neither of them ever missed class.
She waited for him to arrive and to take his seat at the station with her, the station that made the other teams roll their eyes. The station that had earned them the nickname “The Gruesome Twosome”. Together, they nailed every task set before them. Their dishes were elegant, daring and gorgeous. No one in class could stand them and that fact alone drove their friendship closer. It also made them laugh.
As the hours dragged on, she began to get worried. She’d received no phone call telling her he would be late. At break she grabbed her cell phone and tried to find a quiet place. She dialed his number and waited, trying to account for the sense of dread that was welling up, turning her stomach into a fiery knot.
“ ‘lo,” he answered on the third ring, sounding asleep.
“Ev, it’s me, where are you?” her voice held the slight edge of hysteria in it. Taking a breath, she tried to calm down.
“I was in an accident last night, my car is trashed and I broke my leg.” He was definitely on painkillers, his voice slurred and he yawned at the end of his explanation.
Her heart squeezed as she listened to him tell her the story. About the stoplight, the drunk driver barreling through, the crunch of the metal and breaking glass. How all he could hear afterwards was someone screaming and then he woke up at the hospital, where he remained. She quickly took down the name of the hospital and his room number.
“I’m on my way.” The finality in her tone caused him not to argue. He would normally have told her not to miss a minute of class.
She sped in her car to the hospital, tears collecting on her lower lids. She refused to let them spill. Evan, in a very short time had become the most important person to her. The reality of that slammed into her, making it hard to breathe as she reached the low brick building of the hospital. She stood outside the sliding doors for a few minutes to collect herself.
A few numb moments passed until she found his room, she paused in the doorway before entering and looked at him. He was asleep in the light of the early afternoon, a bruise blooming black from his cheekbone. The light of the open blinds sliced his face in sections. Light, dark, light, dark. His hands rested in his lap, one hand a perfect construction of long fingers and olive skin. The other a swollen version, an IV pushing fluids within.
She walked in and sat next to his bed looking at his face and his hair. She leaned in close to his sleeping face and whispered.
“Nice work staying out of the way there, idiot.”
His eyes fluttered open catching golden highlights in the slice of sun coming in through the window. He laughed.
“Hi, I smell, don’t get too close.” He joked.
“So it’s just the leg? Looks like you threw half of your face into something, too.” She had the strangest urge to brush his cheek with her fingertips, but she kept her hands in her lap.
“Yeah, that steering wheel was bugging me, I thought my face could move it where I wanted it to go.” His lids were heavy but he kept his eyes open, and right on her.
“When will they spring you?” She asked, fearing the worst.
“Oh, I can leave tonight I just have to find a ride home.” He closed his eyes for a second at the end of the sentence.
“Evan, I am right here, I will take you home.” She playfully pinched his arm.
He looked surprised. He smiled, and nodded. But then his face turned stormy and he broke his eyes from hers and looked away. “I will probably have to drop out of school…”
“The hell you will.” She stated with finality. The truth was, she could make it through school without him, but she didn’t want to. The thought spread a fresh wave of panic through her.
“I don’t want to but my car is done and it’s not like I can drive with this, “ he pointed to his leg.
She bit her lip. Without thinking she asked “Your mom?”
“Nah, I mean, my family is all in Halifax, remember?”
She did remember. She remembered every detail he’d ever told her about him and the silliness of that made her blush. Then inspiration struck. As he talked softly she was lost in thought.
His apartment, huge, and less than five miles from school. Three bedrooms. One his, one a makeshift paint studio where his paintings – finished and not – lived. The third? The third was meant for his brother, who decided not to move with him from Halifax. It remained empty. She thought of her own long commute, the price of gas, the apartment she hated an hour away. How much time she had spent in these few weeks, studying and cooking in his house. Being his nursemaid and chauffeur would be a cake walk compared to my commute. I could just take up residence and pay rent for the third room.
“-so by the time I can drive I will be so far behind…” he trailed off.
She spoke again well, the worst he can do is say no, She thought. “I think I have an idea.”
“Oh yeah?” he asked, arching an eyebrow and smiling his crooked smile.
“But it all depends on one thing.” Well a few things really, she lamented internally.
“How do you feel about cats?”