Publish Novellas 6 November 2022
EPISODE 7 – PAIRS
There is an epidemic of affection as new couples kindle relationships, while some conversations border on interrogation.
Did you skip prior episode?
The Agassi motto, “Abstinence from ink is the new sexy,” is a play on words to also discourage premarital sex. Though not policed, plenty of public service posters appear as reminders. It’s reinforced enough to make the cashier look sideways when ringing up condoms. Sporting a baby bump as a single mother will not engender a supportive baby shower.
The goal is to cut down on sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies. Rather than indefinitely lasting courtships, abstinence encourages couples to date with a goal of marriage in view.
Over the next two weeks, people see Michael around town with Beverly, sipping coffee, laughing on park benches, and dining at restaurants.
It suddenly dawns on Beverly that Michael’s prolific dating has a correlation to her examination of female bodies. Dwelling on some that could be competition, and some that should not, causes Beverly to quiz Michael about his past dalliances.
“We already established that you grazed a large pasture of females here. Have you ever dated my work partner, Alison?”
“I didn’t venture into her dairy farm. She’s a little on the thin side for my tastes. Besides, she’s my doctor. How is she feeling, by the way?”
“She is well. Have you been out with Susan Barlow?”
“You’re getting quite specific with your inquiries. But, yes, we went out for lunch once.”
“Sally Summers is pretty. What about her?”
“I heard that she covers a contagious body rash with makeup. So I steered clear of her.”
“You can’t believe everything you hear. These are people I may or may not have interactions with. What about Tamika Johnson? She’s very curvaceous. Do like her body type?”
“We went out a couple of times. She was a little too assertive for me. Are we gonna go through my entire black book?”
“You mean you still carry one around?”
“No. It’s at home. I haven’t peeked since we have been going out. At the appropriate time, I’ll present it to you for incineration.”
“When will I know the appropriate time?” asks Beverly.
“It’ll be obvious to both of us.”
“I guess it’s good that you didn’t exclude women of other races. Is there any chance you might be tempted to revisit Tamika?”
“Why is there so much focus on her? Let me turn it around. If you were a man, would you go out with Tamika?”
Sipping water and fanning herself, Beverly responds. “Uh, I don’t think I should answer that. Things got uncomfortable really quickly.”
“Well, that’s what your interrogation feels like. What gives?”
“I’m sorry. I performed an examination of her recently. Maybe it’s silly, but I envy her tush. So I wonder if, as a man, you might harbor secret desires to graze in nearby pastures.”
“Thanks for your candor. But I assure you that you’ve seen far more of her body than me. Besides, pregnancy has a way of blessing women with more curves than they ever wanted. If you begin a little under, you’ll end up just right.”
“That’s reassuring. Are there any bad breakups I should know about, in case I plan a dinner?”
“It’s my belief that when you’re with the right person, fireworks should go off. It takes just one or two platonic dates for that to happen. You’re the only woman to surpass two dates with me.”
“What if I, am still awaiting the fireworks?” Beverly inquires.
“Then perhaps I need to up my game,” concludes Michael. “Excuse me, just a moment.”
Jack and Nicole continue pranking each other throughout the week. He learns that she has some impressive cooking skills. Nicole replicated the meal they had at their first restaurant dinner together. Nicole has pushed all her chips in, as it were, on Jack. Focusing on him, she changed her phone number to terminate conversations with Ricky.
After one date with Aaron, Phyllis realizes she was just arm decoration for someone playing the field. Assisting Randy with concert setup for nearly a year, she has grown to admire his creative genius. Obsessive focus on his work suppresses his love life. So Phyllis takes the initiative to ask him out on a date. He accepts and insists on paying for whatever she plans.
Paulette is taking innocent bets on which couple will get engaged first. Most people feel it will occur by the next concert. Winners will receive a free coffee beverage.
At the concert, Michael pre-arranges with Randy a spectacular color-coordinated display accompanying his proposal to Beverly. The singer on stage repeats the lyric, “Beverly, will you happily, marry me?” to a rhythmic beat. While bobbing his head, Michael sings along softly before sliding out of his chair onto one knee. As the music stops, he pops open a ring box before repeating loudly, “Beverly, will you happily, marry me?”
It feels like 2,000 eyes are staring at her for an answer. She is shocked that a proposal came within 30 days of dating. So the first response out of her mouth is, “Are you sure?”
Then she begins babbling. “When you said to promise you the next two concert dates, I thought you may have been working with a 60-day timeframe. Tonight, really caught me off guard.”
“You ask if I’m sure? I think the engagement ring, colors in the sky, and coordinated concert music are good indications of my seriousness. I’m deeply in love with you, Nicole. Will you make me the happiest man on earth, by marrying me?”
“Yes, Michael. Yes, yes yes!” she replies as she admires the ring on her finger before burying him with kisses.
“I’m so happy you said yes. With such a public proposal, I didn’t have a recovery plan if you declined. And now I present to you my little black book for your disposal.”
The music resumes as everyone chimes in with the lyrics and the sky lights up with fireworks.
At a distance, while Nichole snuggles beneath Jack’s arm, he asks, “Would you have preferred something as elaborate?”
Admiring her own engagement ring, she replies, “I wish that couple the best, but I’m very satisfied with your quiet candle-lit proposal.”
“Love is in the air. It’s a beautiful concert,” Jack concludes.
Outside of Agassi, Ricky moves on to date another female tattoo customer—named Jillian. From conversations together, she learns that Ricky used to date her brother’s fiancée. This increases her attraction.
To rub in further rebellion, she sends to Jack a photo of them all inked up with a text message that says:
Jillian: “Ricky and I congratulate you on your engagement. Perhaps we can double-date -- outside of Agassi, if you prefer.”
On Monday, Alison gets up at 4 o’clock in the morning to end her insomnia. She begins jogging just before sunrise, admiring the layers of warm colors folding into the lavender mountains. After showering, she heads to work and begins preparing for patients.
Beverly gets in the office at 8 AM. Gushing with excitement, she asks Alison, “Were you at the concert on Saturday?”
“No, not this time. How was it?”
Extending her hand with the new engagement ring, Beverly replies, “He wrote a song that everyone was singing.”
“Who? Oh, Michael?” noticing the ring, “Wow! He proposed?”
“Yes! Try to keep up. Michael proposed.” When Beverly wraps her arms around Alison it feels like she is hugging a tree branch.
The change in emotion, lack of sleep, and malnutrition makes Alison feel faint. She collapses for a moment within Beverly’s arms.
Beverly helps her to an exam table to lay down while she calls for an ambulance. The emergency room doctor asks Beverly questions about what brought on the symptoms while noticing her frail stature.
“She is severely malnourished. We will start an IV with some nutrients. But she requires followup care. Is there anyone who can assist her at home?” the emergency room doctor asks.
“I’m her partner at the dermatology office. She lives alone. I’ll pick up the slack for her at work. Can you recommend a home-care worker?”
“Phyllis Robbins or her roommate, Susan Barlow, are usually available for odd jobs,” the doctor suggests.
“Good thinking. I know them and will work it out,” Beverly replies.
Beverly went on a date with Aaron before noticing him with Phyllis at the festival. She does not want to give the impression that she is occupying Phyllis in order to get back with Aaron, so she contacts Susan.
“Hello Susan, this is Dr. Beverly Jordan.”
“Hel-lo… Is every-thing all right…?” Susan cautiously responds.
“Susan, there is no issue with your health. I want to hire you for some home care, if you’re available,” Beverly clarifies.
“Oh, sure. For how many days?” Susan asks, eager to earn money.
“Initially, at least three. If you can meet me at the hospital emergency department, I’ll explain when you get here.”
“Okay, I’ll be right there! I’m in my pajamas. Give me 20 minutes,” Susan replies.
When Susan arrives, she is shocked to see that Dr. Alison McCarthy is the patient.
“Oh my! Is Dr. McCarthy all right? She just examined me last week.”
“She’ll be fine. Dr. McCarthy is not used to being a patient, so she overexerted herself and needs some rest,” Beverly replies.
The attending doctor advises that she take a week off with three balanced meals per day plus a multivitamin prescription. “Please follow up with your regular physician within two weeks.” He then jots down some notes.
With the ER doctor, Beverly, and Susan insisting, Alison relents to taking some time off. Alison pulls Susan aside to say, “This is a gossipy town but I want you to keep this confidential. Can you live in with Dr. McCarthy for the week or are you only able to make periodic visits?”
“Either way. Just tell me what you need,” Susan confirms.
“I prefer for you to remain with her. Prepare balanced meals for her or have something delivered. She is a vegan so include 20–30 grams of plant-based protein with each meal. I can pay you $150 per day plus expenses, if that sounds fair.”
“Does she need any help bathing?”
“I don’t think so. But she was faint this morning so no showers. I’ll schedule a doctor visit for her and I appreciate if you can drive her there.”
“I understand everything. Instead of me itemizing fuel and food receipts, can we just agree to $200 per day?” Susan asks.
“Sure, that’s fine. I’ll transfer to you the funds for the first three days with Apple Pay now. Keep a log of what she eats and how much protein it contains if possible.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll take good care of her,” Susan assures.