Liz and I stop talking about my patient once we enter the elevator. We leave the hospital, walking to the staff parking lot together.
“Who’s that standing by your car, Niki?”
“I’m not sure. It looks like Corey.”
It is Corey. He sees us.
“Hey Corey,” Liz says. “How was your shift?”
“The usual madness and mayhem of the ER.” He’s acting nonchalant, but I can tell he’s nervous.
“Well, it’s good to see you. Don’t be a stranger. And Niki, I’ll see you again tonight for another shift.” Liz heads off to her car, leaving Corey and I in awkward silence.
“So what’s that goofy expression on your face about, Corey?”
“Good to see you too, Niki. You’re not going to make this easy for me are you?”
“Sorry, Corey. My filters don’t work so good after a twelve-hour night shift. The truth is I’m really hurt that you’ve avoided me the past couple months, and now here you are! What do you want?”
“I’m sorry. I wanted to talk to you sooner. I miss you. Then Gerald told me you and Simon were divorcing, and then I felt like you’d think I was swooping in, and that’s not what I’m doing. I just miss you. I care about you Niki. I really do. That’s all. I’m sorry.”
The sincerity of his expression reveals the eight-year-old boy in a man’s body. My God, he’s adorable. My rehearsed reserve melts just a little.
“Why does sex always ruin friendship between men and women?” Groping for something to say, I resorted to cliché.
“We didn’t have sex, remember?” Corey pokes back. “You didn’t want me. That’s what hurt our friendship.”
I think about this for a minute.
“Corey, do you want to have breakfast?”
“Sure. Meet at the diner?”
“No. Follow me home. I’ll cook you breakfast.”