Copyright 2018 by Andrea Renee Cox. This story may not be copied or reprinted without prior written consent.
This is the Day
inspired by Caitlyn Santi
“… and that little monster bit me when I was trying to take his vitals.”
Lena slammed the first of two doors on her coworker’s grumbling. She’d had just as rough a time as he—though, she hadn’t been on the receiving end of a teeth chomping—during the work at an apartment-building fire. At least they’d finally been released to come back to the station, where they’d been for the last hour, sanitizing and restocking the bus.
She angled an irritated gaze his direction. “Mark, I get it. You got bitten, it hurt. Move on.”
“I don’t think you’re getting it.”
The next door banged shut even louder. “I get it just fine. We both had a rough day. If you don’t mind, I’d like to go clock out and enjoy what’s left of the waning daylight.”
“Want to go to dinner?”
A skeptical look shot to her face before she could halt it. “That’s, what? The fiftieth time you’ve asked me out this year?”
“Oh, at least.”
Despite her efforts to tame them, her lips quirked upward a little. “Don’t you ever give up?”
He let loose the goofy grin she found completely charming and completely kid-like. “Nah. Never win anything that-a way.”
With her head, she motioned for him to come with her as she headed inside to clock out. He fell into step beside her, then let her precede him inside. Once they’d clocked out, they went to separate restrooms to freshen up from the shift’s hard work.
The shower and clean clothes hadn’t felt as good against Lena’s skin since the last extra-hard shift she’d had. That was last Easter, when she’d thought to spend the spring holiday with her parents but then had gotten called away for overtime when a city-wide disaster had taken place. It had really been much too early in the season for a tornado to wreak havoc, but sometimes the unexpected came in the form of dustups that turned into nasty storms in the blink of a hummingbird’s eye. After Mark and she had taken care of dozens of victims, they’d ended up wrangling up a small herd of frightened horses that had run for their lives when their corral fence had been sucked up by the strong winds. It was a wonder they hadn’t discovered what unicorns felt like when soaring through the air—if the make-believe creatures truly existed.
Back in her cubby of a bedroom, Lena grabbed her handbag and car keys, then met Mark in the parking lot. Of course he was already leaning against his black Jeep. He was known as the Speedy Gonzales of the crews stationed at this particular firehouse. He was quick about eating and showers, though everything else he took at a more leisurely pace.
“How about Mexican? Or Thai. That’s always good after a long shift.”
She opened her door. “I’ll meet you in the middle and agree to Chinese. Panda Express is much quicker than either of those suggestions, and I’m starving. We can still sit there for a couple of hours if you like, but give me food ASAP, okay?” She settled on the driver’s seat and tossed her bag into the passenger-side floor. That space really needing cleaning, as it had gathered lots of takeout sacks and cups. Too many double shifts lately, due to some absences and family emergencies of coworkers, prevented the purge her little Honda needed.
Mark pulled open his own door but kept looking at her. “Want to make a pit stop at the movie theater, or would you rather go after dinner?”
Lena cranked the engine and checked the time on the dash. “This is technically a late breakfast—”
“We can call it brunch or even brinner.”
“—not a date. How many times do I—Really? Brinner?” She shook her head. “You’re a goof, you know that?”
“Realize it every time you tell me.” That silly grin of his returned as he draped an arm atop the Jeep’s door. “So how about it?”
“No. I’m eating with my partner at Panda, then I’m heading home for two days’ worth of sleep.”
“Fine, fine.” Mark held up his hands, though he left the one arm draped over the door. His keys dangled from behind his thumb, which kept the keyring pressed against his palm. “One of these days, you’re going to cave in.” He pointed at her, then got in his Jeep. “Mark my claim right now, Lena. You’re gonna be my girlfriend by the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.”
“In two months?” She smirked even as he shut his door and started his vehicle, then rolled down the window. “Forget it, Mark. You don’t stand a chance.” As she pulled out of the parking lot, she smiled widely. He stood quite a fair chance, actually, but she wasn’t about to admit that to him. As much as he irritated her at rare times, he was gentlemanly and caring and charismatic overall. Just the sort to lay claim to her old-fashioned heart that still treasured chastity, compassion, and common sense.
Whether he captured a yes for one of his date suggestions prior to the parade was yet to be seen, but every time they went out on a job together, she felt her heart inching closer and closer to accepting his charms and stories as things she couldn’t live without. It was easy to enjoy his laidback personality and storytelling manner. She could definitely do a lot worse. Over the last couple of years, the more she thought about Mark, the more she realized that she couldn’t do very much, if any, better.
For now, she would enjoy this current day, what little she’d see of its remaining hours before finding a pillow. Psalm 118:24 came to mind, reminding her that this was the day the Lord had made. Perhaps she ought to say yes to Mark today, even if it meant falling asleep during whichever movie happened to be playing when they got to the theater. As her job often revealed, she didn’t know how many more tomorrows she’d get.
With fresh resolve to make Mark’s day feel a little like Christmas, she pulled into the parking lot at Panda Express and found two slots together, so they’d be able to park next to each other. As she stepped from the car, she couldn’t help but allow her smile to widen even more. That goofy grin was about to fall off of Mark’s face, because he wouldn’t believe the words about to pass by her lips.
My Lord, Jesus: Thank You for sparking up this bit of a romantic story with a comedic flair. All my talent is gifted by You, for which I’m grateful.
Caitlyn Santi: Thank you for the inspiration for this story and the encouragement you’ve given me over the last couple of years. I appreciate you!
What’s the last novel that made you laugh out loud?
What characteristics do you treasure?
October's reading challenge will Keep the Lights On.