The surgery went well, and Doctor Miller has been resting in her hospital room. Ryan’s been at her side all the time. I’ve had to wrangle him away and drag him home just so he could take showers and sleep. He hasn’t mentioned seeing the grim reaper to me. I’m glad about that.
Doctor Miller has been visited by pretty much the entire staff in the hospital. She’s really loved by all of them. One of them, a nurse named Angelo, has spent his breaks in the room showing her and Ryan his drawings. He says he’s also an artist, and draws portraits for some of the patients he sees. Ryan was absolutely delighted seeing his art, and begged Angelo to teach him how to draw. Doctor Miller told Ryan not to pester him, but Angelo, the good-natured guy that he is, told her it was okay. So now they’ve been drawing together anytime Angelo gets to go on a break. They look really adorable together, though if I’m being honest, Ryan’s portraits of me don’t really look like, well, me. But he’s a fast learner, and I think he could be a really good artist in the future.
My phone gave a soft beep. I checked it and sighed with relief to see if wasn’t an assignment. It was a text from Michelle, the librarian. She asked me if I wanted to go check out the nightclub she mentioned before.
“Friend of yours?” Doctor Miller asked.
“Um, yeah, I guess,” I said. “Though we haven’t really talked much.”
“Anya, have you ever even gone out with friends since you moved here?”
“Well… no. Not really.”
“You’re kidding me, right? I love your dedication to taking care of my son, but you need to go socialize with other people.”
“She did ask me to go hang out today, but I can’t just le-”
“Oh, just go! Ryan can stay here for the night, I can ask one of the staff to bring in a cot for him.”
“I know, I know. I’m apprehensive about letting him skip a day of bathing, but I don’t think just one day will do any harm. Go have fun with your friends for the day, okay?”
I replied to Michelle’s message, and we went to that club she was talking about. It was so loud and the lights hurt my eyes. I wanted to turn around and leave, but Michelle dragged me over to the dance floor.
“I don’t know how to dance!” I shouted over the music.
“What?” She yelled back.
“I can’t dance!”
“You don’t have to know how to dance! Just feel the music!”
I tried shaking my hips and swaying my arms like her, but my movements ended up being stiff and rigid. I felt stupid.
“People are staring!” I shouted.
Michelle laughed. “Who cares? We’re here to have fun, not win some trophy or anything!”
She grabbed my hand and spun me around. I couldn’t help but laugh as we whizzed across the dance floor.
Exhausted from dancing, we left the club and decided to walk through the park. The sun was setting, and we were the only ones there.
Michelle regaled me with stories about her work. Surprisingly, being a librarian wasn’t as boring as I thought.
“-so I jumped out from behind the desk and she screams her head off and drops her takeout on the floor,” she said, laughing.
I snorted. “You’re so mean.”
“I know,” she gasped in between her laughter. “She made me clean everything up and I had to stay behind to lock up, but it was so worth seeing her reaction.”
“By the way, I never asked you this, but what made you move here to Brindleton?” I asked.
“Oh, I just wanted a change of scenery,” she answered and waved her hand dismissively. “I was getting sick of it in my hometown. I felt so stifled back in Oasis Springs. What about you? You never told me where you’re from.”
“I moved here from San Myshuno.”
Her eyes widened. “San Myshuno! I’ve always wanted to go there, but it looks like I’m doomed to stay in obscure, little towns forever. What in the world made you leave that place?”
“Just wanted to live somewhere quieter,” I shrugged. It wasn’t exactly a lie, since ten years of living in that noisy city was this close to making me snap.
“Well, you came to the quietest place ever,” she chuckled.
“The quietest, but not the safest,” I muttered.
“Oh, right. There was that stabbing the other day. Do you think it’s a serial killer?”
“I don’t know. Can we talk about something else?”
“Are you scared?” Amusement glinted in her eyes. “Well, you shouldn’t be. I don’t think he’ll come after you since you never go outside.”
“I do go outside,” I huffed indignantly.
Michelle raised an eyebrow. “Well, if he comes after me, I’ll kick his ass!”
“Keep your voice down, jeez.”
“Why? You think the killer’s following us?” Michelle howled with laughter as I tried to shush her.
After a while, she stopped walking and turned to me, her expression suddenly serious.
“Sorry for joking about that stuff, Anya.” She said. “If there really is a killer on the loose, I’ll protect you.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Because… because I like you a lot.”
Before I could react, she leaned forward and gently pressed her lips to mine.
I pulled away, surprised.
“Oh god, what?” I said in disbelief.
“Shit. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that,” Michelle turned red with embarrassment. “I’m so sorry.”
I opened my mouth to say something, to tell her it was okay, but nothing came out. My brain was a jumbled mess, and I ended up leaving her there in the park without saying a word.
I was completely on autopilot, and didn’t process everything that just happened once I got home. I touched my lips wonderingly. That was my first kiss in 50 years.
I texted her and tried calling to apologize for leaving so rudely, but she wouldn’t answer. I sighed and was about to put my phone away when an assignment popped up on my screen. I looked at it, and my heart skipped a beat. The location was the same park I left Michelle in. Did something happen to her? My hands shook as I opened the notification.
I sighed in relief when I saw a different name on the assignment, and went to collect it.
I was still on edge, though. I got so worried thinking about what could have happened to Michelle it didn’t even occur to me that it was another stabbing victim. I shivered as I got up, feeling the killer’s eyes on me.
Whatever. I didn’t care about them anymore. I needed to talk to Michelle.