Better late than never, right? Hoping the next chapter won’t have such a delay. Thanks, guys!
The moment Dr. Devilson approached him with that familiar haughty look in her eyes, Asher felt incredibly grateful that their shifts weren’t overlapping that evening. Some days working with her weren’t so bad, but others were positively hellish. And something about her demeanor told him that tonight would have been the latter kind.
“Alright, Asher.” She greeted him with a curt nod. “What have you got for me tonight?”
He wondered whether she noticed the flicker of irritation that crossed his face at her words. He really didn’t care whether his colleagues referred to him as ‘Asher’ or ‘Dr. Rosebrook’, but Gwen always insisted on being ‘Dr. Danielson’… So why couldn’t she address him the same?
“Waiting on foot and ankle x-rays for the patient in 2A.” He replied, shaking off his frustrations. “Ten-year-old, no known allergies, no previous injuries or hospitalizations on file. Fell while he was jumping on the bed with his little sister.” Asher couldn’t help a small smile at that detail. “Pretty sure it’s a Grade 3 sprain, but I wanted to rule out any bone damage. Just need radiology to send those results up.”
Gwen just nodded as Asher went on, explaining that he’d just started an IV drip for the severely dehydrated woman in room 5B.
“Anyway, I think that covers it. Kennedy’s still here for a few more hours. She can give you more info if you need it.” He finished, trying to sound pleasant.
Her expression was difficult to read, but the skepticism in her tone was abundantly clear. “That’s it?”
Asher wasn’t about to play into her game. He knew full well that if he questioned what she meant, he’d get some unnecessary criticism for how he’d handled one of the patients. Typical. “That’s it.” He forced a smile. “Have a good night, Gwen.”
He hated the way she rolled her eyes, as though she knew exactly what he’d been trying to do. “Dr. Danielson.” She corrected him, smirking. “And you too, Asher.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Dr. Rosebrook.” It was his turn to correct her. Asher had never shot back at her like this before, but for whatever reason, he wasn’t about to let her get away with it this time.
To his dismay, her smirk simply widened. She was looking at him like he was some pathetic little child playing pretend. “Of course. You too, Dr. Rosebrook.” Gwen gave him a condescending bow of her head before disappearing down the hall to check on the patient in 5B.
Asher was so focused on his anger at Gwen that he hadn’t even noticed Kennedy coming up behind him. “Aw shit… Three more hours with her?!”
“My condolences.” He gave her a small smile. “Tell Darryll I said bye, if you see him. See you tomorrow.”
Asher was in a foul mood the entire drive home. He knew this was only his first year practicing medicine independently, but so what? He’d worked his ass off for twelve years to get where he was right now. How could Gwen act like she was so much better than him? He was just as much of a physician as she was. And he had the medical license to prove it!
These angry and frustrated thoughts clouded his mind completely on the way back home, but as soon as he walked through the front door, Asher instead found his vision clouded by something else — thick plumes of dark smoke pouring out of the kitchen. From somewhere above, the high-pitched screech of the smoke alarm blared.
“Penny?!” He shouted, running toward the source of the smoke.
“It’s fine!” His sister cried back, her voice clearly panicked. “I’ve got it under control!”
Asher found her standing by the stove. The contents of the pan in front of her were completely ablaze, and bright orange flames licked up from the burner beside it too.
“What the hell are you doing? You’re gonna burn the house down!” Asher rushed forward and pushed Penny out of the way, turning off both burners and removing the pan from the heat.
The flames died down quickly then, though the smoke in the air still lingered. It stung Asher’s eyes terribly. Once he was certain that the fire would not start up again, he beckoned for his sister to follow him back out into the living room, where the smoke had already begun to clear.
“I’m sorry, okay?!” Penny shouted defensively once they were out of the kitchen. “You know I suck at cooking. I fucked up.”
Now that his house was no longer in danger of burning down, Asher was able to find the situation fairly amusing. “Yeah, no shit.” He let out a teasing chuckle. “What were you even trying to do? That guy coming over tonight or something?”
“No… “ Penny suddenly looked embarrassed. “I was doing it for you.”
His eyes widened. “What? Penny… Do you feel okay?”
Asher reached forward to place the back of his hand against her forehead, but she pushed him away, scowling.
“Don’t ruin it!” She snapped at him. “But yes, I feel fine. Just… grateful, I guess.” Penny’s expression softened. “For you letting me stay here so long.” Her cheeks had turned slightly pink. “I wanted to surprise you with dinner when you got home… To say thanks.”
Asher stared at her for a moment or two, speechless. “You’re sure you’re okay?” He asked at last. She shot him a look and he changed course. “I mean… thanks. That’s really nice of you. Just surprising, I guess.” He confessed. “What gives?”
“Well, I was gonna tell you over dinner, but I guess that ship sailed…”
“More like ‘went down in flames’.” Asher smirked.
She rolled her eyes. “Ha-ha… Anyway, I’m finally gonna be out of your hair soon, so I wanted to make sure I thanked you before I left.”
Penny nodded, then took a deep breath. “I’m moving in with Keith!” She cried happily.
Instead of the excitement and relief he’d always imagined this news would bring him, it brought a nervous twisting sensation to the pit of his stomach. If his math was correct, they hadn’t even been together for two months yet, and they were already moving in together?
His silence must have been telling. “What’s wrong? I thought you’d be happy!” Penny smiled at him. “I know I’ve been driving you crazy ever since I moved in.”
“Oh, you have.” He couldn’t help but smile too. “I just…” Asher hesitated. This is her life, he reminded himself. She can do whatever she wants. She’s a grown-ass woman now… even if she doesn’t always act like it. “I’m really happy for you, Penny.” He continued at last. “But… If you ever need anything again, you know you can come to me, right? You might drive me insane, but you’re still my sister.”
“I know.” Penny smiled warmly at him. “And even if I kinda-sorta suck at showing it, I really do appreciate it. Sorry my ‘thank you’ dinner totally failed.”
“It’s the thought that counts.” Asher assured her. “But hey, why don’t we order a pizza and you can tell me more about this mysterious Keith?”
His sister grinned. “Sounds like a plan!’
About an hour or so later, the two oldest Rosebrook siblings found themselves stuffing their faces with pizza and beer and actually talking to one another for the first time in… Asher wasn’t even sure how long. They rarely crossed paths due to their differing work schedules, and whenever they did, things usually escalated into some sort of stupid fight.
But this time, they were somehow managing to enjoy each other’s company. And, to Asher’s surprise, it actually felt nice.
Am I losing my mind? Is this a side-effect from inhaling all that smoke or something? He wondered as he took another sip of his beer.
“Alright, enough about me and Keith.” Penny said between bites of her pizza. “It’s your turn.”
“For what?” Asher asked curiously.
“Tell me what’s been going on with you! Besides work and stuff, I mean.” She explained. “Ooh! What about Ollie?! All you told me last week was that you saw him, and that he got divorced… But I need more details!”
He laughed softly. “There really isn’t much else to tell. He’s coming back the weekend after next, and we’re supposed to meet up again. So that should be pretty cool, I guess.”
“Well, when you see him again, tell him I said ‘hi’ and that his ex is a crazy bitch for leaving him.”
Asher laughed yet again. “Okay, I’m not saying that second part.”
“Why not? It’s true!” Penny insisted. “She’d have to be crazy to give a guy like him up! I mean okay, I haven’t seen him or talked to him in like… ten years. But he’s still hot, right?”
Asher nearly choked on his beer. “Penny!”
“Answer the question!” She teased.
He felt his cheeks grow slightly warm. “Yes, he’s still hot.” He admitted.
“Ha! I knew it! So yes, she’s totally crazy.” Penny paused for another bite of pizza. “Hmm… Y’know, I was just thinking…”
“Well that’s dangerous.”
She ignored her brother’s teasing. “Still hot, single, and moving back to the area…” Penny eyed Asher significantly. “Might finally be time to go for it! Better late than never, right?”
“Oh my God, you are something else.” Asher shook his head. How the hell could she even suggest something like that?
“What? I know you always had a thing for him…”
“I… I did, yeah.” He replied awkwardly.
“And he obviously had a thing for you too. Don’t act like you didn’t know!” Penny paused and appeared thoughtful before speaking again. “I was a weird psycho-bitch about it, remember?”
It took a moment for Asher to realize that Penny never knew about his and Ollie’s brief relationship — they’d kept it hidden from just about everyone. Little did she know that he’d been well-aware of Ollie’s feelings… And that they’d already ‘went for it’ once before, long ago.
“I do remember…” He replied at last. “But Ollie and I barely even know each other anymore. All I care about right now is trying to be friends again.” Asher finished with a small shrug.
“I guess ‘friends’ is an okay place to start.” Penny admitted with what seemed to be reluctance. “But for the record, I’m totally rooting for you guys.”
He rolled his eyes and let out a deep chuckle. “Wow, you’ve certainly changed your tune since we were kids, huh?”
“What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good romance!” Penny replied playfully.
“I know, Hollywood’s ruined you.” He teased.
His sister smiled. “Nothing juicer than a good love story! Especially that whole ‘one that got away’ thing, or whatever.”
Asher raised an eyebrow. “‘One that got away’?”
“Yeah! That’s what Ollie is, isn’t it?”
He paused to consider this. It was such a cliche saying, but it certainly applied here, didn’t it? His memories of his time with Ollie brought him nothing but happiness and warmth, and he’d spent years wondering what would have happened if the two of them had stayed together… Can’t get more cliche than that, can you?
“Yeah… I guess he is.” Asher confessed. “And you could throw Landon in that category too, actually… If you’re allowed to have more than one.”
His sister’s face fell slightly at the mention of his long-lost ex. “Landon? I haven’t heard you talk about him in a long time.”
“Yeah, well, no reason to, really.” He shrugged. “But yeah, I’d say it applies to him too.”
“What do you mean? He dumped you!”
Asher hesitated. He wasn’t sure if it was the beer or the strange nostalgic feeling seeing Ollie again had stirred in him lately, but he found himself thinking of things he hadn’t dwelled on in years.
“He did… And I guess that’s part of what made it so hard. I used to wonder what would’ve happened if he didn’t. We had all these plans, y’know? Like dating long-distance and me following him to Ohio and stuff… So that stupid ‘what if’ thing haunted me for a long time. Messed me up pretty bad, for a while.” Asher wondered whether he’d ever admitted any of this out loud before. He couldn’t remember if he had. “But that was all such a long time ago now, just like everything with Ollie. So none of it really matters anymore.”
Penny appeared strangely distressed by what he’d said. “Asher, I never told you before but… I’m really, really sorry for everything that happened back then. With Ollie and…” She paused. “And Landon.”
He eyed her curiously. “Why would you be sorry? You were a pain in the ass, sure, but it’s not like any of it was your fault.”
“Y-yeah… Yeah, I know. But still, I… I just feel bad.” Penny bit her lip. “Like you said, what if things were different?”
Asher just smiled. Penny was certainly in a weird mood, wasn’t she? “Who knows? Maybe I would’ve gotten my happy ending.” He admitted, thinking back on her ‘love story’ metaphor. “But that wouldn’t have made for a very interesting story, would it?”
Her smile seemed forced. “Guess not.”
“And speaking of happy endings, I really hope everything works out with you and Keith.” Much as he doubted that it would, Asher really meant it. “You deserve it, Penny.” Okay, yup. The beer is DEFINITELY getting to me.
“Thanks, Asher.” She replied seriously. “And promise you’ll keep me updated on Ollie? You deserve to be happy too, you know… Even if it’s just as friends.” She added quickly.
He smiled warmly at her. “I will. And thanks.”
Penny lifted her beer to her lips for a few moments, drinking deeply. When she put it back down, she stared intently at her brother. “Know what? I hate to say it, but… I really think there’s a part of me that’s gonna miss living with you.”
Asher chuckled. “Well, that makes one of us.” He teased.
Of course, there was a tiny, near-microscopic part of him that would maybe miss her too…
But he wasn’t about to tell her that.