- Text Font:
- Text Size:
- Line Height:
- Line Break Height:
Bailey: I’m still deciding. My old doctor just retired and I really liked him. I think this new guy will be okay once we find our rhythm.
He and I text back and forth into the evening. It feels good that he seems to be pursuing me, but I’m not really all there yet. I have no idea how long he’ll be in Cincinnati, not to mention, I’m not sure I’m even in a good place to be dating someone right now. I explain this to Josie after she sees my phone light up with his name while we’re folding laundry and demands to know every detail of our relationship.
“I’m confused—how could you be any more available? You’ve had zero dates lately. ZERO.”
I nod. “Yeah, I know that. It’s just…” I let my sentence linger because I’m not sure how to explain. Cooper is really cute and nice and wants to get to know me. But, my heart doesn’t flutter when I think about him. I don’t turn into a ball of nervous energy when I see an incoming text with his name on it. “I don’t know.” I push up off the couch. “I need to start making dinner.”
“But Cooper is still waiting for a reply!”
Ugh, this whole texting-with-a-hot-guy thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
“Can you reply for me? Just don’t make me sound too eager,” I say as I start grabbing ingredients from the refrigerator for taco night.
“So I shouldn’t send half a dozen kissy-face emojis?” She smiles and tilts her head to the side like an adorable puppy when I glare at her over my shoulder. “Kidding.”
They go back and forth texting while I chop up onions. Cooper asks about my plans for the night and I tell her to be vague. He doesn’t need to know how embarrassingly nonexistent my social life is.
“I told him you were going to ‘hit the town with your girls and do body shots.’ What are body shots again?”
She ignores me. “Aw, poor guy. He says he’s eating room service alone in his hotel room.”
Someone else cooking and cleaning? Sounds pretty great to me.
A few minutes later, my phone chimes with an incoming email and Josie asks, “Who’s Dr. Russell?”
My stomach falls out of my butt and I drop the block of cheese I was halfway through shredding. “WHAT?!”
Her eyes widen in shock. “Oh my god! It’s him! The hot guy from the website!”
I have never moved so fast in my life. I’m up and over the kitchen island and yanking that phone out of Josie’s hand before she has time to blink.
“Jesus,” she cries. “You nearly tore my finger off!”
My heart drums hard against my ribcage as I unlock my phone and open the email app. My fingers are covered in cheese, making my phone screen blurry, but I don’t care. He emailed me! Why? I could vomit or scream. My emotions have gone off the rails.
He’s never contacted me outside of work. This could be a small step in the right direction. My finger is shaky as I tap to open his email, and I know Josie sees it.
Then I actually read the dang thing and I’m a sad, deflating balloon. It’s just a last-minute time change for the surgery we have on Friday. He didn’t even address me personally. Three other people on our surgical team were CCed.
“What does it say?” Josie asks, grabbing a bag of cold peas out of the freezer to apply to her finger. “And why is the hot doctor emailing you?!”
“Oh…um…” I look down. “I kind of work for him now.” The bag of peas hits my chest and I stumble back like I’ve been shot. “Ow!”
“You work for him?!” she asks incredulously. “Since when?”
She picks up the peas and is about to throw them at me again when I try to wrestle them out of her hand. The bag splits and tiny green spheres spray out around us like confetti.
The two of us freeze. Her head cocks to the side as she waits for me to cave.
“Since this week,” I finally offer, sounding nonchalant. “It’s new. It might not work out.”
We both drop to our knees to start collecting peas.
She narrows her eyes in disbelief. “What is he emailing you about?”
“Boring work stuff.”
“Oh.” She’s sad about that too. “You acted like it was something else.” Her eyes jump back to mine. “Did you want it to be something else?”
“I don’t know.” I stand to toss a handful of peas into the trash so she can’t see my face. “I guess.”
“Like something personal?”
My phone pings again with an incoming text from Cooper and I jump on the opportunity to redirect Josie. While she responds to him, I continue cleaning and face the fact that there is a major difference between how I feel when I get a text from Cooper and how I felt when I thought Dr. Russell might have been emailing me about something other than work.
My excitement was through the roof. I mean, Jesus, I nearly broke my sister’s finger. I sprayed frozen vegetables across my kitchen.
I know I only care this much because of the way things are between him and me. Our working relationship feels like a volcano liable to explode at any minute. It’s like he can hardly stand me. Not only that, he’s put up a wall between us, which only makes me want to get to know him even more. It’s silly. He’s just my boss. I never cared if Dr. Lopez emailed me, but then that was a different situation entirely.
Dr. Lopez liked me. He was nice to me. He talked to me during surgery and asked me about my life.
I can’t imagine a day in which Dr. Russell tries to dabble in idle small talk. In fact, the very idea is ludicrous.
“Cooper really seems into you,” Josie notes from the ground as she sweeps up the last of the peas, her voice taking on a hopeful tone. She’s trying to lighten my mood, and it makes me angry that my mood even needs to be lightened. What business do I have worrying about Dr. Russell? It makes no sense. The last time I checked, I couldn’t really stand him, and now suddenly I’m upset he hasn’t noticed me and turned down my offer of friendship.
It doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to be his friend!
The only logical explanation is that I just want him to like me. That’s all. I want to take a pickaxe to his defenses and chip away slowly until one day he looks up and realizes, Huh, that Bailey, she’s not half bad.
It sounds like a good enough plan, so I vow to put my nose to the grindstone and get to work.
For the next two weeks, I am a model employee. I am early, I am focused, I am respectful and polite and eager to learn. Dr. Russell and I have six more cases together in which I assist him flawlessly. The nurses notice, the anesthesiologist compliments me, and the device reps confide in me that Dr. Russell has never had such seamless surgeries.
I am preparing a spot in my locker where my Employee of the Month certificate will hang. I practice in front of the mirror, trying to look the exact right combination of shocked and appreciative, but in the end, it’s laughable. I bend over backward to try to earn Dr. Russell’s respect, and everyone notices—except for Dr. Russell.
If anything, his attitude toward me has only worsened.
He’s snippy with me for no reason, angry if I make even the slightest mistake. For instance, if I take too long arranging an instrument on the device tray, or if I don’t answer him quickly enough when he asks a question, or if I have the audacity to ask for a bathroom break during an eight-hour procedure. Most surgeons would allow their assistants to take a break or even—God forbid—swap out with someone new. I thought I was making a point by sticking by him, but I guess not.
I never see him outside of the OR. He’s gone by the time I scrub out. I try to catch him in the hallways, but if he’s not in surgery, he’s locked away in his office. Patricia warns me not to bother him.
“I’ve never seen him like this. Something must be going on outside of work,” she tells me on Wednesday. “If I were you, I’d steer clear.”
I don’t take her advice.
I can’t steer clear of him. We stand across from each other at an operating table for hours on end and I’ve done nothing to warrant this sort of attitude on his part.