Authors: Vesper Vaughn
RESCUE ME: A BAD BOY MILITARY ROMANCE
BY VESPER VAUGHN
COPYRIGHT 2016 VESPER VAUGHN
STAY IN TOUCH
STAY IN TOUCH
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“She’ll have the lobster,” Jason says to the waitress.
“No, I won’t,” I say stubbornly. “I’ll have the shrimp platter.” I sigh and hand her the menu, glaring at Jason.
He tries to take my hand on the top of the table. “What’s up, babe?”
I can’t fight the gnawing, nervous nausea filling me up in this place. We’re sitting at a restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Jason in his Sunday best and me in a dress I had to squeeze myself into. My time as a resident has not been the most optimal for keeping off weight.
I sip my lemon water, feeling ungrateful. Tonight was supposed to be special, the night before both of our residency graduations. But I can’t sit still. I feel like I’m choking in this dress, even though it’s strapless. I pick at a thread coming loose from the starched, white tablecloth, the drone of strangers’ conversations filling the air around me.
“Nothing,” I lie. I can’t fight this feeling, though. “I
sick of you ordering for me, though.” I add this with more than a hint of spite.
Jason pulls away from my hand and sighs. “You never order fast enough.”
“Yeah, whatever,” I spit back, feeling petulant. I want to get out of this place. Something about this scenario is making me scream:
run, run, run.
It’s what I do best, after all.
Jason leans back in the chair. “Is it your placement letter from the foundation?”
“No,” I reply. Then I realize I’ve missed my opportunity to have that be my cover. “Well, yeah. That’s it. Not knowing where I’ll be the next four years while I volunteer to have my massive student loans paid off isn’t exactly helping me sleep at night, I’ll admit.”
Jason smiles. “You know, there’s a simple solution to that.”
There’s my nausea again. I feel sick sitting here with him. “I don’t want to talk about this here,” I insist. “Not again. I don’t want to yell at you in public.”
There are a million and one girls who would willingly murder me to be sitting here with a guy like him tonight. He’s a doctor, he’s gorgeous, and he has a family inheritance. He’s the total package. Except for the part where I can’t beat this feeling of sickness in his presence. It showed up a few weeks ago, just tapping on the outer edges of my brain. But that tapping? It’s risen to a staccato drumbeat that won’t leave me alone.
Run, run, run.
Jason guffaws, rubbing his handsome jawline. “Yeah, much more preferable for you to yell at me in private like you normally do.”
“Don’t be a jerk,” I say back to him. Our server’s arrived with the food, and not a moment too soon. I dig into the shrimp platter, taking heaping dips of liquid garlic butter. At least the food is amazing.
“You should breathe between swallows,” Jason says, watching me pig out.
I roll my eyes and continue doing what I’m doing.
We say nothing to each other, instead listening to the pounding of the ocean against the beach, seagulls flying overhead. The sun will be setting soon, and I hear the band setting up for when the sun goes down. I hope we can get out of here before then. I pass on dessert, wanting this to go as smoothly and quickly as humanly possible.
Jason sticks his American Express Black card in the check folio and leans against the tabletop. “That letter is coming any day now, Ella,” he says to me, a serious look on his face. “And I want you to know that my offer still stands. We can be together. You can move in with me up in Santa Barbara, start your own practice. I have the money.”
My heart is beating so rapidly I feel like it’s going to fly out of my chest. I swallow more water and end up choking on it. I cough, tears filling my eyes from the lack of oxygen. “I…said…I…don’t…want…that,” I splutter, patting my chest with my hand and breathing in deeply.
Jason bites the inside of his cheek. “You know what, Ella? Fine.” He throws his napkin down on the table. “Tonight was supposed to be special. I made you this.” He throws down a house key. It lands with an ominous thud on the cloth-covered tabletop.
“What is that?” I ask, not wanting to touch it.
“It’s a key to my place in Santa Barbara. I signed a lease. It’s a nice place, really nice. I move in the day after tomorrow, and I want you to come with me. Forget this volunteering bullshit, and move in with me.”
Jason’s tanned face is too perfect. I have the thought that I’d like to punch him, mess up his nose. Maybe one of his plastic surgery coworkers could fix it for him. “No,” I say, clearly and firmly.
“No?” Jason asks, incredulous.
I wipe my mouth and set my own napkin on the table, grabbing my purse. “I said no. I know that word isn’t familiar to someone like you, someone who has women falling all over them, someone who has more money than God, someone who’s managed to get everything he’s ever dreamed of. But no. My answer is no. That’s it, Jason.”
Jason works his jaw. “So you’re breaking up with me?”
I nod and give a “duh!” look toward him. “Yeah, that’s generally what
The server returns with Jason’s credit card. “Excuse me,” I say to her. “Could you call me a cab?”
Jason shakes his head. “She doesn’t need a cab.” He turns to me. “I’m taking you home.”
I ignore him. “I need a cab. Please.”
The server looks panicked but there must be something in my eyes, because she nods at me and looks apologetically at Jason.
“I’m not leaving here without you,” he says indignantly. There’s something in his eyes that scares me. I can’t believe I ever thought he was handsome.
“I’ll scream at the top of my lungs if you try anything,” I say, trying to stay calm.
Jason stares me down for another full minute, then grabs his credit card and walks out of the restaurant.
My nausea is instantly abated, and I feel like I can breathe for the first time in months. Maybe years.
“Good riddance,” I say to myself. And I mean it.
“Three, two, one, CHEESE!”
The cameras snap and I untangle myself from the swirl of arms wrapped in their Sunday best. The sun is beating down on the happy proceedings around me, and I’m filled with a mixture of relief, dread, anxiety, sadness, and pure joy.
It’s a heady cocktail. I look at the smiling families around me: aunts, uncles, dads, and moms, and fall back against the wall of the medical school administration building. People are collecting their cameras and purses and heading toward their cars. I hear the jangle of keys and realize that tonight, I’m going to be alone. I don’t have anybody to congratulate me other than my fellow medical residency students.
I don’t have a family.
I take a deep breath and reach into my purse for my keys.
“Ella!” I look up and see Samantha, my roommate, waving me over. “Come on!”
I look at her, confused.
She rolls her eyes. “Did you really think that we were going to have dinner without you? Let’s go!”
I laugh and walk toward her. “I didn’t want to invite myself.”
Samantha shakes her curly, kinky hair and flashes me her trademark, brilliant white smile. “Don’t be ridiculous. I thought I told you we were all going out after the ceremony.”
Samantha’s dad, Roger, wraps his arm around me. “We sure are proud of both of you,” he says.
“I think what he means is
we’re really, really hungry and I’ve now been to more ‘graduations’ for Sam than I can possibly count
,” Sam’s mom, Martina, quips.
I laugh appreciatively as we walk back to the car. I’m relieved. Besides that, this will keep my mind off of the envelope that is waiting for me somewhere out in the world.
We all clink our glasses together, huddled in this brick-walled Italian restaurant in a corner booth. Sam’s family isn’t huge, but they make up for their numbers in sheer volume of voices and zest for conversation.
“So, Ella, where are you headed after this?” Roger asks me.
I shake my head. “Not entirely sure yet, actually.”
“Are you taking some time off before you apply for a fellowship?” Martina asks, hushing Sam’s younger twin brothers, who are arguing about some science fiction television show I’ve never heard of.
“No, actually, I’m doing one of the loan forgiveness programs? You know, the ones that send you to high need areas where there aren’t doctors.”
Roger smiles at me appreciatively. “That sounds amazing. Have they not told you where you’re going yet?”
I nod. “Yeah, that’s right. We had to put our top ten choices, but this year they had more applicants than ever and there was a paperwork mix up. They keep telling me they sent me my letter, but it must be stuck somewhere.” I shrug like this is no big deal instead of what it really is: the most annoying thing that’s ever happened to me. I haven’t slept in weeks from a combination of being a resident
from sheer anxiety and anticipation.
“If Congress would just stop defunding the postal service, this wouldn’t be a problem,” Roger says amiably. “You know they had a package of mine for eight weeks?”
“Can’t they just send you a letter?” Martina asks, reaching for another breadstick.
“Bureaucracy. They say they’re understaffed and can’t get to doing that. And they won’t tell me on the phone, either. Something about privacy and breach of confidentiality or something like that.”