February 11th: Strange romance
Spending My Time
, by Shenoa Carroll-Bradd

I couldn’t make you love me, so I went back to school and became an OBGYN. It took years, but after graduation I got a job at the hospital where you were born. I made friends there, gained recognition for my work and my bedside manner, but I never let those things distract me from my goal.

I kept my eyes on the schedule until your last name appeared. I barely slept that week, dying to see your face again, terrified that, after all this time, I might miss my opportunity.

When the day finally came, I greeted your mother with insuppressible joy. I patted her hand and chatted to set her mind at ease. She laughed at my jokes, and smiled, and said I was quite the catch: handsome, funny, and a doctor. Her words, not mine. I wrote it down, in case you didn’t believe me. I fought the urge to tell her that she was in luck, and that she might have me as a son-in-law someday, if the chips fell right.

But I didn’t. I refrained, difficult as it was. She had so much on her mind just then, there was no need to add to the pile.

***

My hands were the first to touch you. I held you before your mother ever did.

I bathed you, I weighed you, I savored the wet, snuffling sound of your first, perfect breaths drawn in through your tiny pink nose.

I stayed in the hospital until you and your mother were discharged, then I quit.

I spent the next five years getting my teaching certificates and took out heavy loans so I could buy a house on your street. I didn’t go outside much, I couldn’t let your mother see me, but my patience was rewarded with visions of you toddling across the grass, playing in the sprinklers, and chasing butterflies as you grew.

***

I was your first grade teacher. I helped you conquer addition, and the bewildering curves of your own name. Your mother didn’t recognize me when she came for Back to School Night, but she liked me just as much as she had at the hospital. I entertained a brief fantasy of wooing her. I could move into your house, darling. I could be there for every scraped knee, every loose tooth. Every nightmare.

But no, that would be too close. Too messy. I had to be patient, and grateful for whatever I got.
I mentioned that my true interest was in teaching high school, planting that seed in her brain so that, sometime down the road, she would not think twice about seeing me again.

***

I taught your 10th grade history class. You talked back and texted under your desk. You were cruel, my love, but I passed you anyway. You deserved to fail, but instead of consigning you to summer school, I let you go free. I let you spend those sticky months sunbathing and eating popsicles with your friends.

I was there for your graduation, too. My heart swelled when you crossed that stage, and I felt a touch of pride knowing I helped get you there.

The month you turned 18 was a particular bit of torture for me, as I realized the fatal flaw in my plan. I had grown so distracted b joy, watching you grow up, I didn’t consider that you were nearing the age when I first knew you, but I was leaving middle age. You’d never love me like that, not while the young, golden lions still chased you.

I could skip forward until you were my age again, but the thought of missing such a large chunk of your life tied me in knots. What if I skipped ahead to find you married, or pregnant? Or dead? Then all of this would have been in vain. If any time spent in your presence could be considered a waste.
My decision was made for me when you got the acceptance letter, packed up for college, and left me behind. I stuck around for a year, to see if you would fail and come home, but you surprised me. You excelled at college. I briefly considered trying for a professorship, but I thought that might draw suspicion.

Instead, I skipped forward eighty years, then searched back for your obituary. I found you, at last, dead at 83. I learned what nursing home you expired in, and skipped back to find you.

I had to train as a nurse all over again, things can change so much in a lifetime, but eventually I was certified and hired as a caretaker at your home. I grew out a beard so you wouldn’t recognize me.

So much had changed, but the shine of your eyes and the curve of your mouth were the same.

***

Every day I come into work carrying a little box in my pocket, guarding a ring I’ve held onto for nearly a hundred years now. A hundred of your years. Only a few decades of mine. It’s the same ring you rejected a lifetime before, and every day, I tell myself I’m going to propose.
I keep your obituary in my apartment, and it still says unmarried. Is it because I never found the courage to propose? Or because you rejected me again?

I know what day you die, love, so I feel my window closing. But every day I chicken out, and tell myself I’ll be stronger tomorrow. I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t make you love me. I’m getting older. I’ve used up a lifetime with you, and if you say no this time, that’s it.
No more do overs. No more chances.

So I try to make the most out of every day I spend with you, even though each dawn brings us closer to the end. But I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to propose to you tomorrow, love. I definitely will this time.

*
Shenoa Carroll-Bradd lives in Southern California with her brother and dancing dog. she writes whatever catches her fancy, from horror to fantasy and erotica. Join her fanpage at Facebook.com/sbcbfiction or say hello on Twitter @ShenoaSays.


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