don’t even need to look past her flirtatious eyes; they tell me everything I need to know. I try not to act shy, but I fail miserably. My head moves on its own volition as it turns slightly downward. I smile back and am rewarded with the most beautiful shade of pink when she blushes. In this moment, her smile is my salvation. I know she’s from South Africa, her parents are American missionaries, but she was born and raised here. I never see her with make-up or her hair full of products. Her bright blue eyes accent her lightly sun-kissed skin. I should take the time to get to know her. If anything she can at least be a friend.
I take the pile of charts from her extended hand and hold them to my chest, a move simply to protect my most valuable asset, one that needs to heal and be whole again. I nod and walk back to my makeshift office. A thin piece of gauzy fabric creates the walls we use around here. When I first arrived, my expectations were so low that I was pleasantly surprised at what I’d be working with. Albeit, it’s not much, but it’s enough for me to provide good healthcare for the patients and it’s more than enough for me to get my mind off of things back home. My day is relatively smooth, peaceful even. I see a few of my favorite kids and they coax me into a game of football after work. I can’t pass up the opportunity to spend time with them; it’s one of the reasons I’m here. When I told Josie we were moving, I knew she wouldn’t come with me. It was my last-ditch effort to save what was falling through my fingers. I won’t lie, I saw Noah out there playing with these children and appreciating what he had, giving him the ability to teach them what he knew and learn from them. For me it was a win-win. I’d be doing a service as a doctor and a parent. I was being selfish. After handing Aubrey my files and once again avoiding any personal contact, I step outside into the blazing inferno. Nightfall will be a welcome reprieve simply because the sun won’t be burning itself into our skin. “Doctor, doctor,” one of my young patients yells. He’s motioning for me to come to him. He kicks his football to his buddy and takes my hand, pulling me into the circle. He tells his friends that I’m playing, this much I can decipher as the kids split off into two teams.
I crawl into bed and pull her into my arms. She’s so warm and soft against my rough hands. Tomorrow is our two-year anniversary. I have plans that I’ve kept secret from her. I had to work out the logistics with her parents so they could watch Noah and her mom can work in the store. I’ve been on her about hiring someone, but she’s happy working alone. “Are you asleep?” I whisper against her skin. “Mhm,” she mumbles. “Liar.” She rolls in my arms, her fingertips dance along the stubble on my jaw. I lean down and kiss her softly. “I love you, Josie.” “I love you too.” “Noah wants to play football. He asked me after dinner.” I feel her stiffen in my arms. I wish I could take away the pain, but she never talks about it. I hate that she has to deal with all this shit. Sometimes I wish Noah was a girl. Maybe things would be different. I know she sees Liam when she looks at Noah. Hell, I do. It’s like Liam is living in our house while not actually being here. “I don’t want him playing.” “I know you don’t, but he’s a boy and his friends are playing. It’s a natural thing for him to want to play, plus there’s Mason. We are throwing football down his throat.” She rests her head on my chest, her fingers dancing along my skin. “He can’t turn out like his dad.” “He won’t. I won’t let it go to his head.” “You’ll protect him?” “As if he was my own, Josie, you should know that.” “Okay.” “Okay,” I say, kissing the top of her head. She knew this day was coming and I know she was hoping he’d play soccer. We’ll just have to deal with it.