Max (Carolina Cold Fury Hockey)(8)

By: Sawyer Bennett

“I hope to fuck I never have to come to a place like this, though,” Hawke continues on. “When I die, I want to go fast.”

“Amen, brother,” I agree.

While the place is clean, smells decent, and is decorated very nicely, it still holds that overwhelming vibe of futility as I watch the elderly patients struggle to get around because their bodies are failing them. It’s fucking depressing actually.

The lobby area is cut through the middle by a hall that runs left and right, presumably to the two wings of the low, sprawling building done in white clapboard with green shutters. A commotion occurs at the intersection of the hallway as one elderly gentleman tries to navigate his wheelchair around the corner but runs into the wheelchair of another elderly gentleman. Seriously, it’s all I can do not to laugh out loud.

“Goddamn it, Ernie,” the first man yells. “You need to watch where you’re going.”

“No, you need to watch where you’re going,” the other guy yells back. “Fuckin’ blind as a bat, you are.”

I snicker as I watch the two men trying to disentangle their chairs that are now stuck to each other near the footrests. The receptionist looks alarmed but like she doesn’t have a clue what to do. I think she might stand up and try to assist, but then one of the nurses—I’m guessing by the fact she’s wearing cranberry-colored scrubs—jogs up to the men and with some murmured words and her hands to their shoulders gets them to stop yelling. She then squats down, pulls the chairs apart, and sends the men on their way in opposite directions.

When she stands up and turns toward me and Hawke, my breath freezes in my lungs as I recognize her.

The beautiful woman from the convenience store last week.

Julianne is her name.

She doesn’t see me because she’s walking with her head down as she makes her way through the lobby and out the doors, carrying a brown paper bag with her.

“Holy shit,” I say as I stand up from the couch, my legs involuntarily walking after her.

I’m not in the least bit ashamed to say I went back to that little convenience store three more times, hoping to catch her on duty again, but she was never there. I’d honestly given up after that third time, figuring she maybe worked a different shift or even that she didn’t work there anymore, and frankly, couldn’t say as I blamed her. Looked like a shit job to me.

I don’t know why I wanted to talk to her again. On the face of things—her working a minimum wage job and having three unruly kids—we didn’t have much in common. If I had to guess, I think it was the fact that despite what was clear exhaustion and frustration on her part that night, she still had a solid backbone when it was all said and done. That impressed me.

And let’s not forget…she’s totally gorgeous.

“Where are you going?” Hawke asks, but I don’t spare him a glance.

“Be back in a minute,” I mumble as I traverse around the low coffee table and follow the woman out the lobby doors.

She’s tall for a girl, maybe topping out at five-nine, but that’s perfect for me. I’m a towering goalie at six-five. Her hair is in a ponytail again and it swings jauntily as she turns right once she clears the doors and heads to a small courtyard. And when did nursing scrubs look so damn good on a woman before? They mold her ass perfectly, and I’m not ashamed I’m noticing that either.

Not a red-blooded male around that wouldn’t look.

She waves at a coworker sitting at a picnic table wearing the same colored scrubs, which I’m guessing is a uniform, but doesn’t sit with her, thankfully. Instead, she chooses a concrete bench set under a large crepe myrtle and takes advantage of the shade. Even though it’s the first week of October, it’s still fairly warm today.

I don’t even hesitate but walk right up to her. She doesn’t see me though, as she’s got her head bowed over the paper bag while she pulls out a sandwich wrapped in plastic and a fruit cup. I glance at my watch and see it’s only five after eleven, so I’m guessing this must be her lunch hour.

“Julianne?” I ask hesitantly when I’m just a few feet away.

Her head snaps up and she looks at me with blank eyes even though she answers almost hesitantly, “Yes?”

I push my hands in my pockets and try to look casual as I come to a stop before her. “Met you in the convenience store last week. Well, we weren’t officially introduced…”

She still stares at me blankly, and while her golden brown eyes are as beautiful as I remember, they’re still marred by the blue circles under them. It’s clear she has no clue who I am. This should wound my ego, but again the opposite occurs and I like that she doesn’t recognize me at all. I like being a true mystery for once and not having immediate assumptions made about me because of my fame.