The operation room was sterile, the equipment was set and laid out to the side. The anesthesiologist was milling about with Dr. Mathers as they made small talk with Cason.
“Alright, we’re going to get started Cason. When you wake up, you’ll be a new man.” Cason saw Dr. Mathers face crinkle into a smile under his mask.
The anesthesiologist, a woman Dr. Mathers age, stood over him, “Ready?”
At Cason’s nod she placed the mask over his face and asked him to count backwards from one hundred.
Cason knew the drill, it wasn’t his first op, and instead of numbers he simply thought of Sophie. Thought of her in the garage, remembered the kiss, the real thing, then let his mind go perfectly blank.
Sophie called her mom that morning to check in, “Mom. How’d it go? He still in surgery?”
“Yes, he is still in…” there was a long pause then her mother said, “Come to think of it I’m glad you called. I can’t pick him up at his scheduled time. Would you do that for me?”
Sophie was sitting in her office looking out over the downtown area. “Why, what are you doing?”
There was a pause before she answered, “It’s personal.”
Sophie raised her brows, “Really mom?”
“Uh, yes. You’ll need to pick him up. Here’s the address.”
She played along, “OK, mom. I’ll pick him up, but I still have work to do so he’ll have to come back to my place so I can work from home.”
“You can do that here honey.”
“Mom, you don’t have WiFi.”
“I do too.”
“That’s true, what I meant to say is that you don’t have an Internet connection that moves faster than a dead mouse.”
“That might be true but—”
“So you’ll need to come pick him up at my place.”
“I’ll have his truck there, so he can leave when he wants to.”
“But I thought you had something personal to go do mother…”
“I do, and I have to go now. Bye!”
Sophie looked down at her cell, her mother was up to something, what it was she had no idea.
At two o’clock Sophie showed up to Dr. Mathers offices, she checked in with the front desk person. A woman a few years younger than herself who bright and happy.
“Hi,” Sophie responded, “I’m here to pick up Cason McPherson and to check on his bill?”
“Yes…” she said turning to her computer and with a few clicks said, “He’s just about ready, you can go back and visit with him - is he your husband?”
Sophie tried not to choke, “No, just a friend.”
She looked at Sophie for a moment then asked, “Are you Sophie?”
“Yes.” Sophie said relieved that her mother must have called to give them the heads up.
The young girl smiled, “He’s been talking about you non-stop since he’s gotten out of anesthesia.” She turned back to her monitor and didn’t see the surprise cross Sophie’s face. “As for his account, looks like it’s paid in full with a credit due. That credit though might be helpful for his follow up visits so we’ll wait the standard ninety days before issuing a credit refund. Alright?”
Sophie nodded, still thinking about Cason talking about her. “I’ll just wait here until he’s ready.”
“Are you sure? You can head back now, he’s only got a few more minutes until he’s ready for discharge.”
“That’s fine.” Sophie said and found a chair in the waiting room next to the exit.
It was as she said, just a few minutes later and Cason’ emerged. His cheeks had taken on a five o’clock shadow and with his fitted black shirt in conjunction with just getting out from under the knife he looked rugged and battle worn.
He had a single crutch under his right side and an immobilizer on his leg.
Doctor Mathers was assisting him toward Sophie as she stood. Cason reached out for her naturally and she bore his weight as he adjusted his stance next to her.
“Hey babe,” He said and kissed her cheek before turning to Dr. Mathers as if he’d done it a million times before.
Cason smelled of anesthetic and a sterile surgery room. Sophie kept the surprised look off her face as Dr. Mathers spoke.
“Now, he’s got two days where he needs to stay off of his right side. It’s just a tiny incision and if he can keep it immobile it’ll heal faster. We were lucky to get him in when we did, the shrapnel hadn’t gotten to the bone just yet and was small enough that our incision is barely visible.”
Cason smiled at Dr. Mathers and held his fist up for him to bump.
Doctor Mathers laughed and did.
“Now, wait babe til you see this.” He said and switching his weight to his other side with the crutch, dug into his pocket and pulled out a small clear plastic container with a fragment of metal in it.
“This is what was in me. It’s part of the RPG. Part of the fucking insurgents that fucking killed your brother and failed to get me.” He said, his voice slurring at the ends.
Cason wavered on his crutch, his mood suddenly darkening, Sophie righted him as he continued.
“Those motherfuckers failed—”
“Shhhh,” Sophie said softly to him and lightly patted his chest to quiet him. He was incredibly drunk on something and it was apparent that whatever boundaries he held for himself in his daily life were in shambles from the anesthetics.
He looked at her, his eyes glassy and touched her face, “OK babe. I’ll be quiet.”
Sophie ignored his calling her babe and just gave him a reassuring smile then turned to Dr. Mathers, “And what is he on right now?”
“A light pain killer, and the residual anesthetics. He may do and say things that he normally wouldn’t because all his inhibitions are suppressed from the medication. It’s a harmless side affect that happens to a few of our clients. Especially those wound tight, or put themselves under a great amount of stress and control.” he said and pulled out a bottle of pills and gave them to her, “One pill every eight hours as needed. You have enough there for just a few days. His pain tolerance is through the roof compared to yours and mine. Tylenol will be fine for managing aches after these run out. As for the rest of his recovery we’ll see him next week for his post-op, in the meantime if anything comes up feel free to call here or my home, you have those numbers?”
Sophie smiled, “I do, and I know where you live and have to congratulate you on selecting the best interior design team in the state.”
“That’s right! Great, my wife has spoken very highly of you and your team! Well, bring him over if anything happens, but I assure you as long as he stays immobile for the next few days, he can be back to work next week Monday.”
“That’s good babe.” Cason said to Sophie, “I’ve been arranging to take over the ops department at work, that’s a pay bump big time now that I can work at a desk. With that you can cut back your hours at work. It’ll be good for us.” He said and putting his hand to her abdomen rubbed gently as if caressing his unborn child.
“OK…” Sophie said and grabbed his hand taking it off her stomach. Then said to Dr. Mathers who had a questioning look on his face, “When will this wear off?”
“Ah, yes. In just a few hours he should be back to his old self.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, are you two—”
“No. Definitely not and never will.”
“Are we what?” Cason asked.
“Going for ice cream.” Sophie interjected then added, “Let’s go.”
“No ice cream?” he asked, “But you love ice cream.”
“Goodbye Dr. Mathers.” She said and left him standing in the foyer to his office with a puzzled look on his face.
Cason was a tall, solidly built man who was able to heft concrete chunks into wheelbarrows and the finesse to smooth a patio into a polished work of art. On residual anesthetics he was an unwieldy mass of man, as Sophie found out back at her condo.
She gripped him as he tried to coordinate his stabilized leg and crutch with his stride to her front steps. Then up them.
Sophie had him in a bear hug by the time they made it to the top step, for fear that he’d topple backwards down the stairs. Cason occasionally trying to push her off him saying, “I got it babe. I got it.”
She finally got the front door open and him through it. It was another few minutes before she got him to her bed, after knocking the side lamp to the floor.
Cason fell back onto the bed and smiled up at her, “Made it.”
Sophie was breathing heavy at the exertion and looked around her room for a blanket for him. Her dark wood and eggplant toned room was, before Cason was in it, masculine with a touch of feminine in the soft lines and glass side lamps. But seeing Cason flopped in the middle of her duvet with the large padded headboard behind him, instead made the room feel like it was one giant pink ruffle.
“Alright.” She said and went to the chest at the end of her bed, “Let me get you a blanket.”
“Naw I got it babe, I’ll just get under the covers. I’m beat, feel like I could sleep forever.” He said and made his way to a seated position at the edge of the bed.
She looked up from the open trunk and reached her hand out to stop him, but paused half way. Cason reached behind his head and pulled his shirt off. He wadded it into a ball and tossed it across the room. It landed softly and slid over the polished dark walnut floor stopping in front of her double mirrored closet doors. She looked up from the wad of shirt to his reflection there, not sure what to say. He stood then, oblivious of her paused at the end of the bed and reached for the button on his jeans.
Sophie’s breath stopped and time stood still as she squatted next to the blanket trunk. She watched the chiseled features of Cason McPherson, stoned on anesthetic and living in an alternate reality where he called her babe and God knew what else. He gripped the front buttons of his jeans.
On one hand she wanted to leap up and stop him. Stop him from embarrassing himself when he realizes later what he’d done. Then, on the other hand she wanted to let him continue on his beautiful train wreck of undressing. There was no way that he’d get his pants off with the leg immobilizer on. But, his physique was pure mastery for her to watch in the mean time.
Cason, with one grip to the front of his button fly twisted his wrist yanking open his fly. Underneath were tight black boxer briefs, Cason slipped his thumbs into the top of them oblivious of the fact he had a brace on his leg.
“Wait.” Sophie said seeing the top of a white bandage. She leapt up and grabbed his wrists.
“What?” he said confused.
“You-you’re still wearing,” she swallowed hard, Cason’s half naked body was radiating heat and she was close enough to feel it. “You’re wearing, that.” She said pointing to his leg, “And doesn’t wearing jeans with your operation hurt?”
“Naw, can’t feel a thing.”
“Either way it’s probably best you keep your pants on.” She said breathlessly and pulling his fly back together attempted to hastily button them.
Cason was still as she made to put the first button back in its respective hole. The V of his pelvic muscles etched lines in his sides. Averting her eyes from his tight abdomen to the button she realized that she’d not be able to put the button into its hole without touching what lay right behind it.
“Why the hell did you wear jeans, why not sweat pants?” She said letting go of his fly and standing up flustered in front of him.
His face was in a slight smirk, “You’re cute when you’re flustered.”
“I’m not flustered, I’m—”
Cason’s hand went out and cupped the back of her head and brought her in against him, “I love you.” He said, his thumb brushed over her eyebrow while his other hand held her in against him. Cason very gently put his lips to hers, a warm kiss full of kindness and love.
Sophie had been struggling to breath properly since his shirt had been tossed down, but at that moment she lost that function all together. Warmth flooded her extremities as his lips softly imbued a honeyed promise. It took her several seconds to recover when he pulled back and smiled at her, one that was too intimate. It was as if at that very moment he believed he’d always been her better half, that they’d been together as lovers and soul mates since the beginning of time. Not arch enemies vying for the other’s blood.
“Cason.” She said, knowing that he wasn’t in his right mind, “I think that you should just lie down and s-sleep.” She said trying to keep her mind from exploding with the overwhelming moment they were sharing.
“Sounds good. I’m beat.” He said and flopped back onto the bed wincing.
“Maybe more slowly is better.” She said and going to the trunk pulled out a thick blanket and laid it over him. She arranged the pillows under his head. As she pulled out the decorative ones from underneath him she felt his wide hand come to rest on the back of her thigh.
“Thanks babe.” He said, his eyes already closed.
Sophie looked down, his hand was firmly cupping the back of her thigh just under her rear, his fingers resting familiarly between her legs. Her heart jackhammered in her chest, she felt like an actor in her own play. She simply couldn’t slap it away, he was completely out of his head and for the life of her she couldn’t look too closely to the fact that she didn’t want to stop what he was doing.
She finished pulling the pillows out and tucked in the blanket around him, quite aware of the hand on her. By the time she got the last corner tucked his hand had loosened and fallen off her. Sophie gently laid it atop the blanket and going to the side table picked the fallen lamp off the floor and replaced it.
Looking back at Cason he was sound asleep, it was as if he hadn’t slept for decades. His slumber took him deep and Sophie moving back to the bedside sat next to him. She studied his face, Cason was like a puzzle in that moment. One whose pieces were quickly forming into a whole picture. There were pieces, however that still blurred the edges with their questions.
Why did he call her babe? Why did he pretend for two years that he’d walked away from her brother on the battle field? It was becoming evident though, she thought as she gently touched his cheek with her finger tips, that on some level he felt more than friendship toward her.
Sophie got up, not letting the black of his eyelashes or the arch of his brow and the way that his whole face against her pillows looked right somehow, draw her in. Instead she left him there to sleep while in the other room she got her things out and got back to work.