As a doctor, Lee can't always take off from work as easily as his lover Curt, a college professor, can. At the end of the semester, Curt wants to celebrate another year behind him with a quiet evening at home but finds Lee still at the office. When his lover rushes him off the phone to see to a patient, Curt decides to make an appointment of his own to finally catch up with Lee.
NOTE: These characters appear in my novella-length story, "Just What the Doctor Ordered," published by Aspen Mountain Press. For those keeping score, I wrote the novella first, then rewrote the beginning scene to jump-start this short story, which appears in my print collection "Shorts."
An hour later, there was no sign of Lee. I wasn't surprised. I put the steaks back in the freezer, the wine in the pantry, and toyed with the idea of calling the clinic again. One of the hazards of living with a doctor was that I had to share him with the rest of the world. But would it be asking too much for some time with him alone? It seemed he was always at work. If this kept up, the only time I'd get to see him would be if I made an appointment ...
Before I could change my mind, I snatched up the phone and hit redial. When the clinic's generic message began, I hit zero and prayed I didn't get the same bitch nurse I had last time. Luck was on my side, though. After a few rings, the familiar voice of Lee's head nurse answered. "Riverside, Janice speaking. May I help you?"
"Janice," I laughed. "I'm glad it's you. When were you demoted to receptionist?"
Recognizing my voice, Janice groaned. "When I made the mistake of hiring Lisa."
She must have meant the nurse who answered the last time. "The one with the attitude?" I asked, just to clarify. "When did she start?"
"Today's her first day," Janice admitted. Lowering her voice, she added, "And it'll be her last, if she doesn't shape up. I don't care how short-staffed we are." Then, as if remembering her manners, she said, "But I'm sure you called to talk to Lee, not me. He's between patients right now so let me see if I can page him --"
Before she could put me on hold, I said, "Actually, I did call to talk to you."
Janice's bright voice grew suspicious. "Why?"
Taking a deep breath, I reasoned that the worst she could say was no. "I wanted to know if you could maybe work me into the schedule today. Just to see him. Brighten up his day. He works himself to death, you know he does, and I thought maybe you could put me down as his last appointment, or something? What do you say?"
"I don't know, Curt." Through the phone, I heard papers shuffling as Janice checked the schedule book. "Lee's got two walk-ins down, but he wanted to leave after that."
At least he was trying to leave early. "Just pencil me in after the walk-ins," I told her. "Please? But don't say it's me. I want it to be a surprise."
Still, she hesitated. "I don't know ..."
"Come on," I cajoled. She was close to giving in, I could feel it. "He'll thank you for this, Janice. Trust me."