A gentle knock stirred Rachel from her nap. A fluffy head of auburn curls peeked its head inside the door.
“How’d ye ken?”
“How could I mistake those burnt locks for someone else’s? Come in!”
Aine crept in with a beaming smile colouring her rose tinted cheeks. Peeling back her wool blanket, Rachel prepared to get out of bed to hug her boss.
“No dear, dinnae get out of bed on my account!”
“I’m okay. I can at least do this.”
Leaping to the cold floor sent shivers up her feet. Pulling Aine close, they hugged as if they’d not seen each other in years. Separating, Aine took a good look at her apprentice then nodded in approval. She didn’t look too sick to her.
“The doctor must be taking good care of ye.”
“They’ve done their best by me.”
“What’s the latest news?”
“Come on now, spit it out.”
“I really don’t want to say just yet.”
Aine slammed her hands on her hips and tapped her foot. Her face flushed in frustration.
“Oh Lord my foot. You’ve been in the hospital for months and dinnae let me know! I found out from Brody. Do ye ken how worried I was about ye?”
“I’m sorry. I just didn’t want you to see me sick.”
“Nonsense. Ye are my apprentice and have become a friend to me when my world crumbled before my eyes. Cancer is not something to be fought alone.”
“I’m sorry.” she lowered her eyes to the floor feeling like a scolded child.
“Now, now. Dinnae go pouting on me. All is forgiven. Ye do, however, need to tell me what the doctor has been saying.”
“I don’t want to jump the gun.”
“Still…” Both stood staring at one another until Rachel began to unwind her black silk scarf. Balling it in her hands, she stood in silence. “What am I to look at?”
“Aine! You’re a seamstress which means you’ve to pay attention to details. How can you miss such a simple thing looking at me?! Details, details!” she joked.
“Well, dear.” Rachel pointed to her head as if a sign to say ‘look here’. Realization struck and excitement gurgled from her throat. “Yer hair is growing back!”
“This means yer getting better, right?”
“Come, sit.” she led Aine to the bed. “You can’t tell anyone, especially Brody, what I’m getting ready to tell you.”
“I’m not gossiper.”
“Cross my heart hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. I promise.”
“Okay, well. My doctor said that my cancer cells are shrinking rapidly with the treatments I’ve undergone. He says I should be able to make a full recovery soon. I’m also on a strict diet, eating these so called “super foods”. I’m getting better Aine!”
Tears stung her boss’s eyes as heat lit up her apple cheeks.
“I’m so happy to hear this. Ye get another chance to live and realize yer dreams. But why dinnae ye want Brody to ken, this is good news?”
“I don’t to give Brody false hope. I wanted to be completely healthy before I tell him anything.”
“False hope?” she looked quizzically. “Now I see. Ye have feelings for Brody.”
“It wouldn’t be fair to him to have to take care of me with the possibility of me dying because I’m sick.”
“Honey, we’re all going to die one day. Every morning we open our eyes and set our sights on the sun, we’re dying. Ye have to chances and live while ye can.”
“I know but-”
“No buts, just live. Let Brody in. He’s a good man. Even I can see that he’s crazy over ye.”
Rachel puffed a laugh and felt her pulse kick up a notch. It’s true, she was charmed at the sight of Brody. Her smile illuminated any time he walked through the door. Her heart was so full she thought it’d burst.
“I’m going to tell him. I was just waiting for the right time.”
“The time is now.”
“I know you’re right, I’m just afraid.”
“It’s yer time to promise me you’ll tell Brody about ye getting better the next time ye see him.”
“Okay, okay. If I’d known you were going to strong arm me, I would’ve kept this all to myself.”
Aine stroked her shoulder with a wide smile.
“I’ll ken if ye tell him or not.”
“Stop threatening me.” she laughed.
“It’s good to ken yer doing better. I’m sure I’ve overextended my lunch break. When yer all better, I want to see ye back at work.”
Later that evening Rachel stood at the window in her camel coloured duster coat, blue jeans, wrinkled white t-shirt and socks. It had begun to rain again. The clouds took on a threatening black hue. Looked Glasgow was in for a cold miserable windy night. The clouds seemed to move at an unnatural speed, absorbing one another against the horizon. She watched stray leaves get swept up into the whirlwind nature governed. Rachel had gotten so lost beyond her confines she didn’t hear Brody come in. Feeling a light tap on her shoulder, she just in fright.
“I’m sorry I scared you. I called out to you thrice.”
“It’s alright. I was caught up with what’s going on outside these walls.”
“It’s getting pretty ugly out.”
“Shouldn’t you be in the comfort of your home?”
“I had to come see you and I didn’t come alone.”
There wasn’t anyone but them in the room until she heard the clang of metal on metal. Stepping away from the window, she rounded the bed and saw a ball of brown hair and floppy ears and the cutest black button nose she’d ever laid eyes on. Rachel lit up with excitement and scooped up the pup.
“I can’t believe you brought him! Did you sneak him in?” she poked.
“Not at all. Apparently you really do have special privileges. The nurses let me right in with the pup. If I’d known women would melt into a puddle of water over a puppy, I’d be married a long time ago.”
“Is that right?” she laughed. “In any case, thanks for bringing him. He’s full of energy isn’t he?”
Brody watched as Rachel played with the pup. They were all over each other. She laughing, the pup yipping in delight. Sprawled over the bed, the pup climbed and settled in the valley between her breasts while she stroked his head and floppy ears. She still had a soft smile over her face as she looked across the room at him. That familiar rattle in his chest made him feel like a school boy again. He just knew he was turning another shade of white from his inner embarrassment he was experiencing. He hadn’t felt this alive over anyone, let alone a woman in ages. Shoving his hands in his coat pockets, he continued staring at her, shifting from foot to foot.
“Do you plan on staying a while?”
“You’re still wearing your coat.” Stupid. He’d forgotten to take off his coat. Anytime he was within a foot of Rachel he became absentminded. Peeling off his coat, he rested it on the back of the chair he became so familiar with. “Come here.” He obeyed her command and stood by her bed. “Sit down.” Just like the school boy he felt he was, he complied, waiting for her next words. Rachel watched pensively, wondering why he was acting so strange. “You know, I haven’t been outside since I was admitted to this hospital. It’s gotten stale looking at asylum white walls everyday. I want you to take me outside.” she tested.
“I also want a basket of fruit. The ones that have a crazy amount of antioxidants.”
“Why are you agreeing to everything I ask of you?”
“It’s simple. I love you.” Her mouth dropped open, astonished.
“How can you say that?”
“Easy. It’s how I truly feel. I don’t mind giving you what you want as long as your requests aren’t too outlandish, forcing me to break the law.”
Rachel laughed, shaking her head. Slowly she sobered up remembering her promise to Aine.
“Aine stopped by this afternoon.”
“Ah. She told me to let you know she would. Slipped my mind. I’m sorry.”
“It’s no big deal. There is something I wanted to talk to you about though.”
“Is it serious?” his brows immediately furrowed with worry.
“No. It isn’t serious per say. First, I want to show you something.” Removing the slumbering puppy to the pillow, she began unraveling her silk scarf, revealing short tight coils of charcoal hair. Running his hand over her soft hair, he looked truly shocked.
“Does this mean what I think it means?” he asked looking her in the eyes eagerly waiting to lap up her answer.
“I’m recovering. My cancer cells are shrinking and I’m slowly gaining my weight back. The doctor said I should be released soon enough.” Tears began to well up in his eyes blurring his vision. He looked away staring at the wall. “Please don’t cry or you’ll make me cry.” she lamented in a shaky voice.
“I’m not going to cry.” Sniffing, wiping away tears that dared to escape. “I’m happy to hear this bit of good news.” Turning back to her, she saw his eyes started to redden and swell.
“I’m not completely healthy yet-”
“But you will be.” he interjected. “You will be.”
Laying facing each other, the pup between them, all he could do was stroke her hair and hold her gaze.
“What do you think we should name him?”
He laughed, “It’s up to you.”
“How about McGinnis?”
“Sounds good to me.”
With the wind howling stirring up a fuss, there they laid in a warm silence enjoying each others presence, and heart beat. Knowing every moment was precious, Brody rested in the fact that there was nothing standing in his way concerning Rachel. It was time they cemented their lives together.