Gabby’s still not ready to date, still skittish from the shock of it all, but she’s moving on. She’s happy. She got us a dog. A Saint Bernard just like Carl and Tina have. She named him Tucker.
The woman who hit me proved also to be responsible for another hit-and-run two years ago. She didn’t hit a person then, but she did hit a car and drive off. Between insurance payouts and the lawsuit, I’ll have enough money to be comfortable on my feet.
When I got to the point where I could get myself from place to place, I bought a car. It’s a cherry-red hatchback. You can see me coming from miles away, which I like. I think it’s a very “me” car.
Then, once I had a car, I started looking for a job.
I told Carl and Tina that I’ve been thinking about going to nursing school. After the money comes in, I’ll be able to afford it, and I keep thinking about the nurses who helped me during my hospital stay. In particular, I think of Nurse Hannah and how well she handled me at my most annoying. And I think of Deanna and that pediatric nurse who helped those parents on the oncology floor.
And of course, I think of Henry.
Nurses help people. And I’m starting to think there’s nothing more important I can do with my time than that.
When you almost lose your life, it makes you want to double down, to do something important and bigger than yourself. And I think this is my thing.
Carl offered me a job at his pediatric office until I figure out what I want to do. He says that his practice has a program to help staff members go to night school if they meet certain financial criteria. When I reminded him that I probably won’t meet those criteria, he laughed at me and said, “Good point! Just come take the job for the experience and living wage, then. Spend your money on school.”
So I took him up on it. It’s early still, I’ve only been working there a few weeks, but it’s confirming what I already know: I’m headed in the right direction.
I told my parents that I wasn’t moving to London, and they were sad but seemed to take it well. “OK,” my mom said, “we get it. But in that case, we need to talk about a good time for us to visit.”
And then my dad pulled the phone away from her and said he was coming in July, whether I liked it or not. “I don’t want to wait until Christmas to see you again, and to be honest, I’m starting to miss Fourth of July barbecues.”
A few weeks later, my mom called to say they were considering buying a condo in Los Angeles. “You know, just a place where we could stay when we come to visit from now on,” she said. “That is, if you’re staying in Los Angeles . . .”
I told her I was. I said I wasn’t going anywhere. I said I was here to stay. I didn’t even think twice about it. I just said it.
Because it was true.
Ethan has started dating a really nice woman named Ella. She’s a high school teacher and a pretty intense cyclist. He bought a bike last month, and now they are on some three-day trek raising money for cancer research. He seems incredibly happy. The other day, he told me that he can’t believe he’s gone so many years living in Los Angeles without seeing it from a bike. He has bike shorts now. Hilariously tight little bike shorts that he wears with a bike shirt and a helmet. We had dinner the other night, and he biked there from his place, a thirty-minute drive away. The smile on his face when he walked in the door rivaled the sun.
And he’s been great to me. He texts me whenever he sees a place with a cinnamon roll that I haven’t tried. When I could walk upstairs on my own, he came over and helped Gabby and me move my stuff back up to the second floor. Even he and Gabby have become close in their own right. The point is, Ethan is a great friend. And I’m glad I didn’t ruin it by thinking we had anything left between us. We are better this way.
I’d be lying if I said I never think about the child I might have if I hadn’t been hit. Occasionally, I’ll be doing something completely arbitrary, like taking a shower or driving home, and I’ll think about it, the baby. The only way I can make any peace with it is to know that I wasn’t ready to be a mother then. But one day, I will be. And I try not to busy my mind with too many thoughts about the past or what could have been.
I wake up most mornings feeling refreshed and well rested, with an excitement about the day. And as long as you can say that, I think you’re doing OK.
I woke up early this morning, so I figured I’d get into the car and head to Primo’s. It’s a habit I’ve started for myself, a small treat when I find the time. I often call my dad while I’m there. It’s not the same as when he would take me as a child, but it’s close. And I’m finding that, at least with my parents, the more we talk on the phone, the better I feel.
I call him now as I’m driving, but he doesn’t pick up. I leave a message. I tell him I’m on my way to Primo’s and I’m thinking of him.
I pull into the crowded Primo’s parking lot and park the car. I grab my cane from the backseat and walk around to the front of the store. I stand in line and order a cinnamon roll and a buttermilk doughnut for Gabby.
I pay, and I’m handed an already-greasy bag.
And then I hear a familiar voice speak to the cashier. “A cinnamon roll, please.”
I turn and look. For a moment, I don’t recognize him. He’s wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I’ve only seen him in navy-blue scrubs.
I look down at his arm, to make sure I’m not crazy, to confirm that I’m not seeing things.
“Henry?” I say. But of course it’s him. And I’m surprised just how familiar he looks, how natural it seems that he would be standing in front of me.
“Hello,” I say to him. “Hello, hello. Hi.”
“Hi,” he says, smiling. “I thought I might see you here one of these days.”
The man behind the counter gives Henry his cinnamon roll, and Henry hands over some cash.
“All the cinnamon roll joints in all the world, and you had to walk into mine,” I say.
He laughs. “By design, actually,” he says.
“What do you mean?”
“I figured if I was ever gonna meet you again, run into you, and start a conversation like two normal people, I knew my best bet was a place with good cinnamon rolls.”
I blush. I know I’m blushing, because I can feel the warmth on my cheeks.
“Can we talk outside?” he says. The two of us are holding up the line.
I nod and follow him out. He sits down at one of the metal tables. I put down my food. Both of us pull out our cinnamon rolls. Henry takes a bite of his first.
“Did you get my letter?” he asks me when he’s done chewing.
I chew, closing my eyes and nodding. “Yeah,” I say finally. “I looked for you for a while. On street corners and in stores. I kept looking at men’s arms.”
“For the tattoo?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say.
“And you never found me.”
“Until today,” I say.
“I’m sorry if I caused any problems for you at work,” I say.
He waves me off. “You didn’t. Hannah didn’t love the stunt you pulled after I left, though,” he says, laughing. “But she also said you seemed like a stalker. And that I was clearly not to blame.”
I blush so hard I have to put my head in my hands. “Oh, I’m so embarrassed,” I say. “I was on a lot of medication.”
He laughs. “Don’t be embarrassed,” he says. “It made my day when I found out about it.”
“It did?” I ask him.
“Are you kidding me? Prettiest girl you’ve ever seen rolls herself through a hospital desperately trying to find you? Made my week.”
“Well,” I say. “I . . . wanted to say a proper good-bye, I guess. I felt like we . . .”
Henry shakes his head. “You don’t need to explain anything to me. Are you free tonight for dinner? I want to take you on a date.”
“You do?” I say.
“Yes,” Henry says. “What do you say?”
I laugh. “I say yeah. That sounds lovely. Oh, but I can’t tonight. I have plans with Gabby. But tomorrow? Could you do tomorrow?”