The Aroma of Love
By Audrey W.
The two paramedics from Station 51’s A-shift checked over the supplies in the squad as they began their next 24 hour duty. A loud sigh from John Gage had his partner, Roy, looking up from inventorying the trauma box.
“What? Are we missing something?” the senior paramedic asked.
Johnny was staring down at the open drug box. “No.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“I’m not sure there is one, Roy.”
“Then what’s with the--”
“Well, maybe there is,” Gage interrupted. He closed the drug box and stood up to put it in the squad compartment.
“Can you elaborate a little?”
“Elaborate. Tell me more of what’s going on.” When Roy still got a blank stare in response, he tried again. “You know, fill me in.”
“I knew what you meant. I’m just not sure I wanna tell ya.”
“Is this like the problem you had with Barbara that one time? When she thought you wanted to get married and you didn’t, but you didn’t know how to get out of it?”
“Nah, this chick doesn’t wanna get married. . .yet”
Roy closed the trauma box and stood, picking up the box at the same time and placing it in the other space in the squad compartment. “So it is a girl.”
Johnny nodded, a sour expression on his face.
“What is it this time? Does she have kids?”
Gage shook his head. “No. No kids. I. . .I don’ know, Roy. If this gets out to Chet or anything. . .”
“It won’t. Look, you’ll tell me before the shift is over anyway. We went through this same thing with Barbara, remember?”
“Yeah, but you weren’t much help then and you’ll probably laugh now.”
“No, I won’t,” Roy said, letting the first comment go since Johnny was right. “Look, you need to talk, so talk.”
“Okay. It’s like this.” The younger man fidgeted with his hands as he tried to get the explanation out. “. . .uh. . .she. . .that is we. . .I. . .”
Gage sighed again and shifted on his feet. “Okay, I’m gettin’ there. We met about ten days ago at the grocery store. . .in the parking lot. She. . .uh. . .she saw me loading my groceries in my Land Rover and wondered if it was very new. We got to talkin' and I got her phone number. . .and I’ve gone out with her three times in the past week.”
Roy waited patiently for more.
“Well, our dates have been sorta. . .unusual.”
Johnny nodded. “All’s she wanted to do was go to car dealerships.”
“I get it. She wants you to buy her a car. Just tell ‘er you can’t afford to.”
“No, Roy, that’s not it. She gets the salesmen to think we’re looking to buy. But that’s not it. Not at all.”
“Now’s a good time to try elaborating.”
“She gets in a new car and takes a real deep breath. Then another and another. From one car to the next, it’s the same thing.”
“She loves the new car smell, Roy! We’ve been banned by two places already because they figured out that we’re just there so she can smell the interior of their cars. I can’t go to Tommy’s Toyotas or Mazda Mania anymore thanks to her.”
Roy tried not to grin, but this was not the problem he had expected. “Well, a lot of people like the smell of a new car. I do. And on the car lots and being banned. . .it’s not like you’d ever need to go to those dealerships anyway, would you?”
“No. . .I don’t need to. But it’s the principle of the thing, Roy. I’m banned. Me. . .John Gage. Banned like some kid who got in trouble.” Looking down at the floor, he shook his head and then continued as he looked up at his partner again. “And I know other people like the smell of a new car. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just. . .well. . .she seems almost obsessed with it, ya know?”
“You sure you aren’t making this into more than it is? Maybe you just caught her at a bad time. You know. . .maybe it’s one of those ‘time of the month’ things.”
Johnny screwed up his face. “What? I thought they got cranky was all.”
“Nevermind. I guess you’re going to have to break it off with her, huh?”
“Well, that’s another problem. I can’t.”
A painful expression came over Johnny’s face. “She’s a babe, man. Darlene’s the most beautiful chick I’ve ever dated.” He held up a hand and pushed down a finger with each quality he named off. “She’s not only pretty, but she’s petite, soft spoken, sweet, likes a lot of the same stuff I like. And I’ve gotta admit, I’m hooked.”
“Darlene, huh?” Roy shook his head. “I don’t know, Johnny. Something tells me this girl is going to be more than you bargained for.”
Gage closed the compartment doors and stepped back from the squad. “I know. But now that I think about it,” he snorted, “I guess haven’t met a chick yet that wasn’t.”
Roy nodded in agreement as they headed for the dayroom. It was true. Johnny was yet to meet a woman who was one hundred percent normal. The senior paramedic wondered what the days ahead with the girl held for his partner.
Much to Johnny’s relief, Roy kept his promise to not mention Darlene the entire time they were on duty. The younger paramedic had hopes that he could get his girlfriend’s mind off the new car smell fetish and that the whole thing he discussed with Roy would soon become non-issue. But when she suggested they go to Frank’s Ford dealership after they had lunch together on Johnny’s day off, he sighed and gave in.
I don’t see any Fords in my future, so what’s being banned from another dealership gonna hurt?
To Darlene, getting in a new car after a meal was like tasting an exquisite after-dinner-mint or having a few drags off a favorite brand of cigarette. How could he deny her doing what she enjoyed?
Heck, if I didn’t know better I’d think it’s almost like it’s better than sex for her, Johnny thought, as he stood in the car lot and watched the petite brunette moan in pleasure and close her eyes as they began to roll back in her head while she breathed in the scent of the brand new Ford Mustang she was seated in. That thought made the paramedic frown. Nah, he dismissed the idea. Not even *she* could be *that* far gone. I hope.
“So, you two want to test drive this baby?” The car salesman asked, tossing the keys up in the air and catching them.
Johnny shrugged. “Sure.”
Darlene shook her head. “This doesn’t quite do it for me. Can I try that car over there?” she asked in a sweet tone, pointing at the Maverick across the lot.
Here we go again. Johnny sighed. It’s just a matter of time now.
Less than thirty minutes later, he was crossing another dealership off his list. He glanced at Darlene as he drove her back to her apartment.
If she just wasn’t so damn beautiful!
The following shift, Johnny purposely arrived as close to roll call as possible so as not to have to make conversation with anyone in the locker room. Once he was dressed in uniform, he headed for the dayroom, and walked straight to the cookie jar to grab a snack and a cup of coffee at the stove nearby. Not wanting to appear like anything was bothering him, he kept his eyes straight ahead and didn’t chance even a glance at the others in the room.
Chet and Marco eyed the dark-haired paramedic suspiciously. Mike was engrossed in a section of the newspaper and Roy figured he knew why his partner was acting strange by trying not to look like he was acting strange. It had to be Darlene again. He’d have to ask the younger man about it later.
Suddenly Mike’s face brightened and he held up a section of the classifieds. “Look at this,” he said as he pointed to an ad that covered a large upper corner of the page. The others all looked on as he read the fine print. “Test drive a new Corvette at Carl’s Chevrolet and get a free t-shirt. Hey, Johnny, sounds like it’s right up your alley.”
The color drained from Johnny’s face as he stared first at Mike, then at Roy. Shoving a piece of cookie that was in his mouth to the inside of his left cheek, he groaned. “You told. Man, you told.”
Gage set his coffee cup on the counter and left the room before anyone could explain.
“What was that all about?” Mike wondered. “I only meant that he’d be there to get the free shirt.”
Roy was trying to think of a way to save his partner from later harassment. In the meantime Chet and Marco were now curious.
“Told what, Roy?” Lopez asked.
“Yeah,” Chet chimed in. “What is Gage hiding now?”
Feeling cornered, the blond paramedic was about to mention Darlene when Captain Stanley peeked his head in the doorway and hailed the men out for roll call.
Saved by the bell, DeSoto thought as he pushed his chair back from the table and got to his feet. For now. Maybe with a little luck, the others would forget the whole incident, though he doubted it. With even more luck, maybe he could think of a good cover story yet.
I wonder if they’d believe Johnny’s interested in buying a Corvette. I wonder if they’d believe he could even afford one. I wonder if Darlene's gotten him banned from Carl's Chevrolet yet.
After roll call, the men were assigned chores. Roy was relieved when Johnny was assigned to latrine and locker room duty by himself. Though the younger man’s expression showed he wouldn’t agree, Roy knew this was a way Johnny wouldn’t be able to fess up to the others anything he didn’t have to about Darlene. And the senior paramedic could use needing to go to the bathroom as an excuse to get a chance to talk to his still miffed partner and let him know his secret was still a secret.
First Roy went to the back lot with Mike to help hang hoses. After a short time had passed, he excused himself, promising to return in a couple of minutes.
Johnny looked up from mopping the floor as the door to the locker room opened.
“Oh, so it wasn’t enough to ruin my life. You gotta ruin my floor, too?”
Roy stopped just inside the door. “Would you be quiet and listen to me?”
“Sure,” Gage shrugged. “I’m listenin’.” The dark-haired paramedic began mopping again.
“I didn’t tell the guys about Darlene.”
Johnny stopped his chore again and stared at Roy in surprise. “You didn’t?”
“Then how come Mike said what he did?”
Roy grinned. He was getting through. “He just meant you were cheap and would go for the free t-shirt.”
“Oh, that’s much better, Roy,” Gage said, rolling his eyes. “I’m not cheap.”
“Cheap? Did I say cheap?” DeSoto gave a wan smile. “I meant thrifty.”
“I’m careful with my money. After all, five hundred and ninety-six dollars every two weeks doesn’t go that far.”
“You’re careful. . .even better than thrifty.”
“Nevermind. But the guys are gonna know about Darlene now because the way I reacted to Mike.”
Johnny cocked an eyebrow. “You’ve got an idea?”
“Sure. We just tell them you were thinking of buying a Corvette and didn’t want anyone to know yet.”
Johnny snorted. “A Corvette? Roy, I can’t afford a Corvette. Hell, I can’t even afford to look at a Corvette,” he exaggerated.
Roy chewed his lower lip as he gave it some thought. “How about this. You tell them your aunt may be sending you money, and you just were thinking about a Corvette and didn’t want to jinx it by word getting out.”
“That could work,” Johnny said, hesitantly. “Hey, aren’t you supposed to be helping Mike with the hose rack?”
Roy looked at his watch. It had been over five minutes. “I’d better get back there.”
As DeSoto opened the door to go into the apparatus bay, Johnny called out, “Thanks.”
Roy smiled. “Anytime, partner.”
When Roy got out to the hose rack, Mike was standing with his arms folded, waiting.
“Took you long enough.”
The paramedic shrugged. “Yeah. Too much coffee.”
“You okay now?”
Roy grinned. "Yeah, he'll be fine."
“Let’s do it.”
The two men set back to work, anxious to finish the chore.
Although the other guys didn’t quite buy into Johnny’s story about the Corvette and the possible money from his aunt, it was enough to keep them from asking questions about the incident in the dayroom. The remainder of the shift went smoothly and Johnny went home a relieved and happy man.
When the next shift arrived, Gage trotted into the locker room and met up with his partner. As he stepped over to his locker, he tossed a light blue t-shirt into Roy’s locker.
“What’s this?” Roy asked, looking at the shirt that landed in a heap.
“Look at it.”
The senior paramedic picked up the shirt and held it out to see. “Carl’s Chevrolet. Home of the Corvette? You went to test drive one?”
Johnny shook his head. “Darlene--”
The younger man nodded. “Yep.” He grinned. “But, I did get to test drive one before it happened. It’s a far out car, Roy.”
“If you got banned, how did you get to test drive one?”
“I talked Darlene into actually staying in the same car long enough so I could take it for a spin after all. Only problem was, I let her drive it on the way back to the lot,” Johnny explained, unbuttoning his white shirt. “I forgot she closes her eyes when she gets a good whiff of a new car.”
“You had an accident with a brand new Corvette?”
“No, but they saw me grab for the wheel to prevent us from hitting a parked car on the side of the street not far from the dealership. It was enough to give them the idea we were playing around.” Johnny pointed at the shirt. “They tossed us each one of those and sent us on our way.”
“You sure you don’t want to dump this Darlene girl?”
“I’m sure. We’re almost out of car dealerships. . .in this area, anyway. After that, things have to get better. If I quit now, some other guy is gonna get the best of Darlene after I’ve done all the work.”
Roy found himself shaking his head again. Some day he’d figure his partner out.
An hour into the shift, the squad was toned out to a motor vehicle accident. When the paramedics arrived on the scene, they saw a single car sitting on the side of a busy two-lane highway, its driver's side banged up from one end to the other. Vince Howard’s police patrol car was parked behind it and the officer was talking to the person still inside. The two cars were stopped on the opposite side of the street the paramedics were on, so Roy made a quick turn to get them going the other direction when traffic momentarily came to a halt.
“I wonder where the other vehicle involved is?” Johnny said as his partner pulled the squad up behind the police car and stopped.
“Could be it didn’t have as much damage done to it.” Roy opened his door to get out. “Maybe Vince got all the information he needed and let the driver go.”
The officer approached the paramedics as they opened the compartments of the squad. “The driver doesn’t seem to be hurt very seriously,” he was explaining. “But she was complaining of some neck and back pain, so I thought it was better if we didn’t take any chances.”
Roy nodded in agreement. “No problem. What happened?”
With their equipment in hand, Johnny and Roy walked to the damaged car with Vince as he explained more. “Hit and run. Another car hit this one in the rear, taking out the tail light, then sideswiped the whole driver’s side. Good thing is, a couple of witnesses stopped and we’ve already got a license plate number to trace.”
Johnny shook his head. “Man, I can’t believe what some people try to get away with.”
Luckily Vince had been able to yank the driver’s side door open just as the paramedics were arriving, so access to the victim was immediate. Johnny began to assess the woman after brief introductions and Roy set up the biophone.
“Vince said you were having neck and back pain, Wendy,” Gage said as he gently placed a c-collar on the woman’s neck. “Do you hurt anywhere else?”
Wendy whimpered a quiet “no.” She then began to wail. “My new car! I can’t believe they ruined my new car!”
“Hey, hey. . .” Johnny said, trying to calm the woman down. “A car can be replaced or repaired. Just be glad you weren’t hurt more seriously.”
“But it’ll never be the same,” Wendy cried. “I know. I’ve been through this before. My new car is ruined,” she sobbed.
Roy was on the biophone with Morton, but he wondered if his partner, like him, was curious if Darlene had any relatives named Wendy.
“Wendy sure loved her car,” Johnny said as he and Roy headed back to the station from Rampart.
“Kind of reminds you of someone, huh?”
Gage glanced at his partner and scowled. “I know what you’re thinkin’. And Darlene is not like that at all. She may love the smell of a new car, but she’s got her priorities straight on what’s more important. . .people or belongings.” He turned his attention to the scenery passing by out the passenger window. “She’s just got an attraction to a pleasant smell. One I’m kinda getting to enjoy more, myself.”
“Well, you keep seeking it out with her, and you’ll never get to experience it again. She’ll have the two of you banned from every dealership up and down the west coast.”
Johnny screwed up his face. “Oh, don’t be ridiculous, Roy. She’ll stop before it gets that far.”
“You really think so?”
“Yeah,” Johnny said, trying to convince himself as much as his partner. “Yeah, I do.” He sighed. “Anyway, I still say she’s not like Wendy.”
After getting off duty, Johnny took a shower then drove over to Darlene’s to visit the beautiful petite brunette. When she opened the door to greet him, he fell in love with her all over again. Gage stared at her brown hair that cascaded over her shoulders, her doe-like brown eyes that had a twinkle to them, her luscious red lips and the smile that could light up a room. When she opened her mouth to speak, it was like soft music to his ears.
“Come on in, Johnny.”
He gave her a peck on the cheek, then walked into the apartment and sat on the couch. “What did you want to do today?”
“Oh, I don’t know. How about we take a drive to--”
“How about we just stay here and talk?” Johnny figured going out would lead them to another dealership, so he cut her off in mid-sentence.
Darlene sat down beside the paramedic. “I’d love to have some quiet time to just talk. Would you like some coffee first?”
Gage smiled. This could be the breaking point. Where he could begin to wean Darlene from her habit.
All right! This is great!
“Sure,” he answered. “Coffee sounds fine.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back.”
Johnny leaned back and clasped his hands behind his head, a smug grin on his face. I wish Roy could see us now.
Darlene came out of the kitchen and handed a mug of coffee to Johnny. The paramedic leaned forward and placed one of her Mickey Mouse coasters in front of him on the coffee table and placed the mug on it after taking a sip.
“Mmmmm. That hits the spot. Thanks.”
“Rough night?” Darlene asked, sitting down beside him again.
“Boy, I’ll say.” Johnny leaned back and rubbed at his tired eyes, yawning. “I’m beat.”
Darlene placed a hand on his left shoulder. “Want to talk about it?” She set her own coffee cup on a coaster near Johnny’s.
“I guess. It was the run in the middle of the night that was the worst.” He turned to face the woman. “A house fire. We did everything we could, but it was just too far gone when we got there. It was a total loss.”
“Oh, that’s so sad. The poor family.”
Johnny nodded. “Yeah, they’ve gotta find a new place to live. The neighbors took them in for now.”
“I hope they can find a nice house soon.”
I knew it. I knew Darlene was a caring person. Johnny looked lovingly into his girlfriend’s eyes. I could live the rest of my life with you, Darlene.
He was brought out of his thoughts with the next question.
“What else happened?”
“A little boy was hit by a car. His parents weren’t paying attention and he chased a ball into the street. Luckily he just had some scrapes and bruises, and he’ll be okay.”
Darlene had gasped at the thought of a child being hit by a car, but now was breathing a sigh of relief. “Oh, I’m so glad to hear that, Johnny.”
“I just wish people would keep their eyes on their kids.
“Oh, I agree. Children are so precious.”
The more they talked, the more Johnny was convinced that this was the woman he wanted to be with forever.
So she has a new car smell hang-up. I have a hang-up or two, he reasoned with himself. We’re made for each other.
Johnny continued with the conversation. “Then there was a hit and run accident we were called to.”
“Oh, that’s just aggravating. I hope they catch the person.”
“They’ve got a good lead. A license plate number. Can’t get any better than that.” Gage grinned at the thought, then grew serious again. “The bad thing was the driver of the car that got hit suffered whiplash and her car was damaged pretty bad. She’d only had it a week.”
Darlene had been listening, but sat up straight at the mention of the new car. “Only a week old?”
“Yeah. She was upset. But I told her that her health was more important than the car. It could be fixed.”
“They hit a week old car? And left it?”
“Well. . .yeah. But the driver was there, too. Did you hear that part?”
Darlene nodded. “Oh yes. Whiplash. But the car. . .it’ll never be the same.” She reached for a napkin from the coffee table and began to dab at the tears in her eyes. “I. . .I don’t know. . .what to say. This is so tragic.”
“The car’s tragic?” Johnny was puzzled. What about Wendy?
“It’ll never smell like a new car again after being in a shop,” she whimpered. “I. . .I’m s-sorry, but this just has me so s-sad.” She leaned into Johnny and he instinctively put an arm around her shoulders as she cried onto his chest.
The paramedic wasn’t sure what to say. He was comforting Darlene over the news of a new car involved in a hit and run. As he rubbed her back, he asked, “Uh. . .Darlene. You don’t know anyone named Wendy by chance.”
Roy glanced at his partner as the younger man came into the locker room and went straight to his locker without taking his eyes off his destination. Johnny didn’t say a word as he began to pull his brown plaid shirt out of the waistband of his jeans.
Chet and Marco were also getting ready to begin the shift and eyed the dark-haired paramedic, both wondering why he was being so quiet.
“You’re doing it again,” Chet commented.
When no one answered, Johnny looked around at his shiftmates. The fact all three were staring at him clued him in that he was the one Kelly was talking to.
“Doin’ what? You mean getting dressed for work? I do it every time we start a shift, Chet.”
The curly haired fireman shook his head. “Don’t try to throw the subject off. You know what I mean. You’re trying to pretend we’re not here.”
Gage had his blue uniform shirt on and buttoned it up as he answered. “No I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.”
Johnny turned to Roy at the locker beside him. “Hi, Roy.” He then looked at Chet and Marco. “How ya doin’, Marco? There, Chet, ya happy? I’ve acknowledged every one here.”
Kelly eyed him curiously. Roy figured something must have gone sour with Darlene.
“Another car dealership crossed off the list?” DeSoto asked.
“Are you still thinking of buying a Corvette, Johnny?” Lopez wondered.
“No, Marco, I’m not. As a matter of fact, I don’t care if I never own a new car again. . .ever.”
“Darlene?” Roy asked.
Gage nodded. He forgot the others didn’t have a clue what was going on with his girlfriend and continued on. “I spent a good part of yesterday consoling her when she found out about Wendy’s car and broke into tears.”
“So she does know Wendy. Are they related after all?”
“No,” Johnny shook his head. “She doesn’t know any Wendys.” He pulled up his trousers and fastened them, then grabbed his shoes. “It was the news about the car being new that did it. She didn’t even care about the whiplash. She was sad the car would most likely lose its new smell while it was in the shop.”
Roy looked at Marco and Chet, who were staring at Johnny, baffled. They had no idea what the paramedic was talking about, but it sounded like a typical Gage problem to them.
Figuring his partner had forgotten the others were in the room, DeSoto motioned towards them with a nod of his head, hoping Johnny would remember they were there and realize he was spilling his secret.
“What?” the younger man wondered. He glanced over towards the two firemen as he bent down to tie his shoes. “Oh man.” He stood up, shoes still undone, and looked at Roy. “I just blew it, didn’t I?”
Johnny couldn’t believe he’d done the very thing he’d asked Roy not to do. . .tell the others, especially Chet, about Darlene. Giving in, he sighed. “I’ll explain it all later, man,” he said to Marco and Chet, just wanting to get out of the room before he said anything more without very much thought put into it. “Right now I could sure use a cup of coffee.” The excuse to leave sounded convincing to him.
The other three men watched as Johnny hurried from the locker room, exiting out the doorway that lead to the dorm.
“Hey, you forgot to tie your--”
The sound of an object or two hitting the floor, along with what sounded like a person landing on the same hard surface as a swear word filtered into the locker room, caused Roy to pause as he winced.
“. . .shoes,” the older man finished.
Chet, Marco and Roy ran into the dorm to make sure Johnny was okay.
Gage was rolling onto his left side on the floor of the dorm at of the end of Captain Stanley’s bed when the others came rushing in. A bit stunned and still trying to figure out exactly what had landed him on the ground, the paramedic didn’t make an attempt to get up.
An empty pencil holder, a clip board and several sheets of paper were on the floor between the desk and the captain’s bed. A few pencils were scattered around nearby. The items had been knocked to the floor when Johnny’s right arm swept over the end of desk as he lost his balance.
“Johnny!” Roy called out, squatting down beside his partner. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. . .yeah,” Gage said, out of breath and wincing. “What’d. . . I do?”
“Your shoes were untied. You probably tripped on a lace.”
“Shoes. . .?” Johnny took a quick glance towards his feet. “Oh. Oh man.”
“You must’ve hit the floor pretty hard,” Chet commented.
The dark-haired paramedic nodded. He had landed directly on his stomach, arms outstretched. He banged his chin upon hitting the floor, but not near as hard as the rest of his body. “Knocked. . .the wind. . .out of me,” he said as he grimaced in pain.
“Let me check you over,” Roy said as he gently helped Johnny to turn onto his back and noticed blood running from a small cut on the younger man’s chin. He then directed the other firemen. “Marco, go get the drug box and biophone from the squad. Chet, can you get the trauma box?”
“Also, tell Cap we’ve got a code I.”
“Roy, that’s not. . .” Johnny began as he tried to sit up. He changed his mind and stayed put.
“Nothin’. I was. . . gonna say. . .not necessary.” He took a few shallow breaths. “But. . .I think. . .I think it . ..is,” he said, grimacing again. “Just do me. . .one favor.”
“When Cap comes. . . rushing in . . .give him any excuse. . .ya wanna. Just . . .don’t tell ‘im. . .I tripped on a . . . shoelace.”
Roy nodded, but figured Johnny had already forgotten Chet and Marco would see the captain first. There was no way either of them would think of not telling the truth when Hank Stanley asked what happened.
After opening Johnny’s uniform and lifting up his undershirt, Roy gently palpated his ribs and abdomen, noting the pained expression on his partner’s face when he touched Gage’s lower rib cage on either side. “Hurts, huh?”
“Yeah. . .broken?”
“Could be.” Roy continued his assessment, checking Johnny’s sternum and breast bone, then commented on the other injury he’d noticed earlier. “Looks like you hit your chin pretty hard.”
“I’m lucky. . .I didn’t break. . .my jaw.”
If his favorite pigeon hadn’t been sprawled out on the floor and in pain, Chet would have had a good comeback to Johnny’s comment as he returned. But under the circumstances, the fireman knew smart remarks were better left unsaid.
Roy wrapped Johnny’s midsection with gauze as a precaution in case any of his ribs were fractured, but it seemed likely they were just bruised. The other paramedics on duty assisted with getting Gage’s vital signs and contacting Rampart.
When the younger man was set to transport and the ambulance was on scene, Roy prepared to help lift Johnny onto the stretcher. The younger man put a hand on his partner’s right arm, stopping him.
“Did I really say too much ’bout Darlene?”
“You mean to Chet and Marco?”
“Probably. But you sure found a way to take their mind off of it.”
Roy and Dwyer from C-shift placed the dark-haired paramedic on the stretcher and walked along side it to the ambulance that was parked on the side of the street near the front of the station. Since he was still officially on duty and Roy wasn’t, Charlie Dwyer elected to ride in with Johnny. The other firemen and Captain Stanley gave their reassurances to the injured Gage as they all gathered at the rear of the ambulance.
Once inside, Johnny caught the hint of an odor in the ambulance. He watched as Dwyer climbed in and sat on one of the benches. Roy began to close the doors when he heard his partner ask, “Is that the smell of ‘new’ in here?”
“Boy, Gage, you’ve got a keen sense of smell. As a matter of fact, you’re riding in one of the new ambulances just put into service yesterday,” Dwyer explained with a smile. “We had another one respond on a call last night.”
“A new. . .?”
Roy shut the doors and shook his head as he gave them two slaps. Darlene gets word of the new ambulances and she’s liable to find a way to get a ride in one.
With Johnny and Dwyer on their way, the other paramedic still on duty drove the squad to Rampart following behind the ambulance. Since there was no need to be at the station for awhile, Roy drove Johnny’s Land Rover to the hospital so that it would be handy for Gage to get himself home if he was treated and released.
The senior paramedic was glad to be out of the station. He had a feeling if he hung around, Marco and Chet might want to know more of what Johnny had been talking about in the locker room and he didn’t want to be the one to explain about Darlene’s hang-up. How he’d get out of explaining it later was yet to be figured out.
When Roy got to Dixie’s desk to find out which room Johnny had been taken to, the head nurse pointed to the door across the hall before he could even open his mouth.
“Sure.” She smiled. “Oh and, Roy, Dwyer and Clemens are in the lounge waiting for you. They wanted me to tell you they figured you’d want to see Johnny, then they’re supposed to drive you back to the station.”
“Okay, I’ll just be a few minutes. Thanks.”
Johnny lifted his head slightly when the door to the treatment room opened. When he saw it was his partner, he gave a slight wave.
Roy let the door close on its own behind him as he walked over to his friend.
“So, any ribs broken?”
“Brackett doesn’t think so. But he’s sending x-ray in to be sure there’s not a hairline fracture anywhere.”
“I see you got a few stitches in your chin.” Roy noticed the bruising and swelling already taking place in the area of the split.
Johnny reached up and gingerly felt the small wound. “Two. Better that than needing to have my jaw wired shut.”
“You want me to call Darlene for you?”
The younger man sighed. “I don’ know.”
Roy looked at Gage in question. “I thought you were in love with her? Maybe it’ll help to have her around.”
“I am and it probably would. I just have doubts she’d make it past any new ambulances to see me if they were parked at the emergency entrance when she got here.”
“I thought you said she had her priorities straight.”
“I did. But after seeing her cry over Wendy’s car . . .a car she didn’t even know--” Johnny noticed a strange look from Roy and sighed. “Man, she’s even got me confused with cars now. Anyway, I think I may have been wrong.”
“But you’re still in love with her?”
“Yeah. I mean, she’s a beautiful chick, sweet, smart, thoughtful . . .most of the time.”
“I remember you saying that. I sense a ‘but’ coming.”
Johnny sighed again. “Darlene gravitates to new cars like metal to a magnet. It doesn’t matter where we’re--”
The dark-haired paramedic stopped talking when the x-ray technician opened the door and wheeled in his equipment. Roy stepped aside so the technician could set up.
“Well, I’d better be going. Dwyer and Clemens are waiting on me.” He started to walk away, then turned around and reached in his pocket. “I almost forgot.” Roy pulled out some keys and handed them to his partner. “The keys to your Land Rover. In case you get released today.”
“Does that mean you want me to call her?”
Johnny nodded. “Yeah.”
“I’ll try before we leave here.”
The x-ray technician waited till Roy was out of the room, then set to work on getting the pictures of Johnny’s ribs taken.
After Roy had been back at the station awhile and had given an update on Johnny’s condition, Chet pulled him aside in the apparatus bay.
“So what was Gage talkin’ about?”
“When? You mean last shift?” DeSoto tried to avoid giving an answer to what he knew Kelly was wondering about.
“Nah. In the locker room. Before he fell. What was that about consoling a girl who was sad because the new smell of a car would go away?”
“Yeah, that. So? What has Johnny gotten himself into now?”
Roy shrugged, hoping to find a way around telling Chet too much. There wasn’t much he could leave out. “Johnny’s got a new girlfriend and she likes. . .well, she’s ‘fond’ of the smell of new cars.”
Kelly looked like he was expecting more to the answer.
Ah, heck, Roy thought. I may as well tell it like it is.
“She’s obsessed with new car smell and she was sad the other day when Johnny told her we responded to an accident that involved a new car and it was damaged to where it would need to be in a shop for awhile for repairs.”
There. It’s out. Johnny’s gonna kill me.
Chet stared at the blond paramedic. For once the Irishman was left speechless as he processed the information.
Roy took advantage of the fireman’s reaction and quickly walked away, leaving Chet staring at the space he once occupied. He headed into the dayroom to see what his temporary partner was up to. As he walked through the doorway, he could hear Chet yelling at him.
“Hey, you’re makin’ that up, right?”
“Well, you definitely bruised a few ribs,” Brackett said, turning off the light of the viewing screen that held Gage’s x-rays. “But there aren’t any apparent fractures.”
“Great. I didn’t think there were.”
His patient still lying down on the exam table, the doctor gently felt over Johnny’s ribs again as the shirtless paramedic grimaced at the pain it caused. “I’d say you’ll need to take a couple of shifts off. . .not counting this one. . maybe three. I want to see you in a few days, and we’ll see how you’re coming along.”
Johnny frowned at the thought of time off, but common sense told him the doctor was right. “Sure thing. Thanks, Doc.”
“How’s the chin?”
“Sore,” Johnny replied as he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the exam table.
Just then the door opened and Darlene came rushing inside. “Johnny! Are you okay?”
Kel Brackett stood back, arms folded across his chest and eyebrows raised, as he watched the pretty and petite brunette come darting over to his patient.
Johnny gingerly hopped down off the table and regretted it as soon as Darlene put her arms around him, giving him a hug, the top of her head just coming to the upper portion of his chest.
“I got here as soon as I could after your partner called me.”
“Uh. . .” Gage was trying not to gasp as he pulled her arms away from his sore body. “I’m . . .I’m okay.” He bit his lower lip to hold back a whimper.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” he said with a forced grin. “I’m being released to go home.”
Darlene stood back and looked at the two stitches in his chin that were now surrounded by bruising. She reached out and lightly touched the wound. “Oh, you poor guy.”
“Are you going to introduce me to your friend, Johnny?” Kel wondered.
“Sure.” Johnny grinned. “This is Darlene Brenner. Darlene, this is Doctor Brackett.”
She smiled as she reached out to shake the doctor’s hand.
Johnny stood back, a satisfied expression on his face while he observed the two talking a minute. His two worlds had collided and things looked to be okay.
I wonder if this means I can let her meet the guys?
As the couple headed out of Rampart, Johnny thought about how well things went with Darlene and the Rampart staff. Not only did Kel Brackett seem impressed, but Dixie and Joe Early were as well. Gage was certain that Chet and Marco would be eating their hearts out if they saw Darlene. And if no one brought up the subject of new cars, they’d never have to know about her obsession.
The automatic doors of the ER opened as Johnny and Darlene made their way outside. An ambulance and squad had just backed into the parking spaces in front of the doors. Johnny could tell it was another of the new ambulances, but didn’t give it any more thought until the rear doors swung open and his girlfriend caught a whiff of the new scent coming from the vehicle.
Darlene suddenly stopped, her eyes closed as she took deep breath after deep breath. “Oh, isn’t it wonderful, Johnny? I’ll take this over flowers any day.” She took another deep breath, then let out a pleasurable moan.
I can’t believe she can detect it from here. It’s not *that* strong of an aroma.
Gage tried not to look at the paramedics coming in with the victim. Odds were they knew him well and would want to know later what this was all about. Curious, he couldn’t help but glance to see who they were. Luckily they both were guys he had only run into a couple of times. The men gave Darlene a puzzled stare as the victim was taken in, but nothing more came of it.
Johnny sighed with relief, then looking down slightly, placed one hand across his eyes, hoping Darlene would be ready to move on soon.
Maybe I’d better keep her away from the station after all. Chet doesn’t need anymore ammo to pit against me than he already has.
“C’mon, Roy, tell me the truth,” Chet pleaded as he followed behind DeSoto at the station. “What’s really up with Gage?”
Roy turned around, annoyed. “I did tell you the truth. His girlfriend loves the smell of new cars.”
“You can come up with somethin’ better than that.”
“Look, you asked me what he was talkin’ about in the locker room, right?”
“I told you. It’s that plain and simple. Darlene likes new cars. Just do me a favor. . .when Johnny gets back, don’t harass him about it. He’s really hung up on this girl and if you give him a hard time, we’re all gonna end up miserable.”
“Roy, Johnny’s hung up on every chick he dates. It doesn’t mean anything.”
The paramedic gave his shiftmate a stern look. “Chet. . .”
“Oh, all right,” Kelly said, disappointment in his voice. “But I could have so much fun with this.”
Roy shook his head.
Again, the paramedic shook his head. “It’s gonna effect us more than it’s gonna effect him if you do.”
“How does Gage find all these weird chicks?”
DeSoto shrugged. “I have a feeling they tend to find him. He just doesn’t see it coming until it’s too late and he’s already hooked.”
Johnny slowly got out of his Land Rover after arriving at his apartment. Darlene parked her car beside his and was out of hers quickly to assist him. The paramedic had to grin. Here was the petite woman trying to help him to his place. But again, it showed the caring side to Darlene that he adored. She certainly meant well.
“Are you okay? Are you in very much pain?”
He didn’t even get to answer before she was talking about when they got inside.
“As soon as we get in, you take your pain pills and lay down. I’ll take care of you.”
Johnny didn’t argue. Because he wanted to drive himself home, he’d held off taking medication since it would make him drowsy. But his body was starting to ache all over now that it had been awhile since the fall.
Feeling the effects of the pain pills, Johnny was growing tired as he lay in the bed. The only thing keeping him from drifting off was Darlene’s incessant talking as she straightened his room.
“You know, I didn’t think about ambulances being new.”
“Ambulances being new. I never thought about it.”
“Oh. . .yeah,” Johnny replied groggily. “Rode in one. . .today. Nice.”
“You did?” She asked, suddenly pouncing on the bed in excitement.
Johnny’s eyes opened wide as the sudden movement caused a quick sharp pain to shoot through his body despite the pain meds. “Dar--”
“Oh, tell me about it!”
“N. . .now?” He just wanted to go to sleep.
“You’re right. I should let you get some rest first.” She gently leaned forward and kissed his forehead, then climbed off the bed. “Just go to sleep and I’ll have a nice, pleasant surprise for you when you wake up, okay?”
Already out of it, Johnny looked lazily at the girl through droopy eyelids. “Mmmm hmm.” He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Darlene smiled as she watched the paramedic in slumber. “I know just what’ll make you feel better.” She went into the livingroom, picked up her purse and keys, and headed out the front door.
Johnny slowly opened his eyes as he woke up. It took him a few seconds to recall where he was and why. The bedroom was darker than it usually was in the daytime.
Wow, did I sleep so long, it’s night already? Where’s Darlene?
He rubbed his eyes with his right hand, then glanced at the clock. 3:00 pm? Why’s it so dark in here?
Johnny carefully turned over enough to look at the window a few feet from the bed. The blinds that covered the window weren’t visible. Instead there was a pair of closed curtains with a printed design on them. Johnny could barely make out the pattern in the dim room.
Cars? There’s little cars on my curtains? In my bedroom? I have curtains?
He started to sit up and push back the covers when he noticed it wasn’t his usual blanket, but rather a quilted bedspread that matched the curtains.
“Wha. . .? Darlene . . .?”
Suddenly the bedroom door opened and his girlfriend smiled at him in surprise.
“Oh! You’re awake!”
Johnny was interrupted as she planted a kiss on his lips. Before he knew it, she was pushing him flat on the bed. “Now, you get your rest. I’m taking care of everything.”
“But the curtains. ..the bed--” he said weakly as he slowly tried to sit up again.
Darlene once again interrupted, pushing him back down. “Aren’t they groovy? I saw them in a store a few days ago and was going to buy them for me, but I just knew it was what you needed right now. I cleaned up the rest of your apartment, too.”
Johnny opened his mouth to comment, but she was already at the window, running her hands down the curtains, once again talking.
“I just love these! And I got ‘em on sale!”
“But. . .uh. . .I think they’re for kids.” He paused. “Don’t you?”
Darlene got on the bed from the other side and crawled across to Johnny. He stared, not sure what to expect. She lay on her stomach beside him and slowly ran an index finger along his upper left arm and shoulder. “They’re for the young at heart. Aren’t you young at heart?”
“I. . .I ‘spose.”
Lightly tracing her finger down his chest, she whispered, “They turn me on, Johnny. We can have so much fun behind closed curtains.”
Johnny slowly nodded, not able to take his eyes off the gorgeous petite woman. He so wished he wasn’t injured right now. But a deep kiss wouldn't hurt too bad, he reasoned. Gage started to pucker, ignoring any pain it caused in his chin, when Darlene was up off the bed and on another tangent.
"I've got another surprise for you!" She said as she headed for the door.
She wagged her finger in the air. "Ah ah ah. . .wait and see if you can guess. But first I'm going to get you something to drink."
Johnny gave a weak smile and nodded. Darlene was quirky with her hang-up and games, but he could easily overlook that for now. The paramedic glanced around the room as she left.
But how am I gonna live with the kid curtains and bedspread in my room?
As he and his temporary partner headed back to the station after a stop at Rampart, Roy wondered how his partner was fairing. When Dixie and Doctor Brackett went on about what a wonderful woman Darlene seemed to be, the senior paramedic had to be curious if maybe Johnny wasn’t exaggerating about her obsession. Maybe Gage had finally met the right person and was trying to find a fault to convince himself she wasn’t the one. He smiled at the thought of Johnny having his girlfriend possibly taking care of him while he healed. It would either build the relationship stronger or diminish it.
Maybe I’ll stop by tomorrow and see how he’s doing. With a little luck, I might actually get to meet Darlene for myself.
While Darlene was out of the bedroom, Johnny decided to get up and use the bathroom. He gently threw back the covers and carefully sat up, easing his legs over the side of the bed. With some of the pain medication still in his system and having been lying down all day, a woozy feeling came over him with the change in position.
Whoa! He placed his hands on the mattress to steady himself before standing up.
Johnny slowly made his way to the door and opened it, stepping into the short hallway. Once in the bathroom, he relieved his bladder, then went to the sink to splash some cold water on his face after rubbing his hands together under the running faucet. The paramedic made sure to be careful of his stitches. He looked at the wound in the mirror and winced. It was swollen and bruised, but he knew life would be a lot worse with a wired jaw.
As he brought a towel away from his face after patting it dry, he thought he detected a strange odor. . .it wasn’t very strong and it wasn’t unpleasant, but there was definitely a different aroma in his apartment. He tossed the towel onto the sink and, sniffing, opened the bathroom door.
Johnny nearly ran into Darlene as she came towards the end of the short hallway with his drink. Both startled, the woman nearly dropping the glass and Johnny banging his left side against the doorframe.
Owww… Renewed pain shot through his ribs and he gasped.
“Oh, Johnny! I’m sorry! Are you okay?” Darlene reached out with her free hand and grabbed his right arm.
Johnny bit his lower lip trying to get through the pain. He slowly nodded. “Yeah. . .I’m. . .I’m okay. But what. . .what’s that . . .smell?” It was growing stronger and seemed to be filtering down from his livingroom.
“Don’t worry about that now,” she said, as she started escorting him to his room. “You need to get back in bed and lie down. I’ll get you your pain pills.”
“Are you hungry at all?”
Johnny realized then that he hadn’t eaten for several hours and the pain pills on an empty stomach would make him nauseous. The thought of heaving with sore ribs was not a good one. “Yeah, just a sandwich is fine.”
“Okay, a sandwich it is.” They were back in the bedroom and Darlene set Johnny’s drink down on the night stand, then helped the injured paramedic into his bed. “I’ll be right back.”
“No buts about it. You stay put and I’ll be right back.”
Sitting up in bed, his back against the headboard, Johnny watched as Darlene once again disappeared out the doorway of his room.
“But what’s with the smell?” he called out to no avail.
It was only a few minutes before Darlene returned with the half of a sandwich on a plate and two pain pills. She handed the plate to Johnny as she sat on the edge of the bed.
“You still need to tell me all about your ride in the new ambulance,” she said excitedly. “What was it like?”
Johnny took a bite of sandwich and tucked it to the right side of his mouth. “I don’t really remember a lot. I was kind of . . .” How to let her down gently. “My mind was a little preoccupied.”
“Oh, that’s a shame.” Darlene couldn’t hide the disappointment in her voice. “I hope if I ever have to go in an ambulance it’s a new one.”
The paramedic was about to take another bite of sandwich, but stopped just as it reached his lips. He eyed his girlfriend warily. She wouldn’t . . .would she? He dismissed the thought, hoping Darlene wasn’t that crazy, and changed the subject..
“So are ya burning incense or what?”
Darlene shook her head. “Nope.” She smiled at his puzzled expression, then quickly climbed on the bed and kneeled, straddling the dark-haired paramedic’s legs that were under the covers. “Oh, you wouldn’t believe what I found! They sell the ‘New Car’ scent in little aerosol cans so you can have it anytime and anywhere! Isn’t that wonderful?”
“I. . .uh. . .” Johnny snorted under his breath. “It’s different.” New car smell? In my apartment? He wasn’t thrilled, but looking in her beautiful eyes he couldn’t hurt her feelings. Maybe it’ll go away pretty quick.
“I knew you’d love it!
“Well, I didn’t say--”
A dejavu’ came over Gage as Darlene was once again off the bed, this time handing him his drink from the night stand. She sure has energy.
“Here, take your pills with this, then finish your sandwich. I’ll stay here till you fall asleep.”
Johnny did as suggested, then laid down to get more rest. Peering out of one eye, he looked at the attractive brunette who was sitting in a chair nearby. A lazy grin spread across his face. “Ya wanna lay down with me?”
“You sure it’ll be okay?”
Gage nodded slightly.
This time Darlene hurried around to the other side of the bed, pulled out a tiny aerosol can spraying a short burst of mist, then climbed on the mattress. Placing a hand on Johnny’s waist after lying down, the woman took a deep breath as the aroma of ‘New Car’ filtered down around them. “I’ve never been so happy in all my life.”
The pleasurable moan that followed brought a few thoughts to Gage’s mind as he drifted off to sleep. I must be losing my mind. I think I could actually get used to this whole thing. But sooner or later, the kiddie bedding has got to go.
As the newly married couple ran out of the church after their wedding ceremony, guests lined the sidewalk leading to the brand new Corvette that was a gift from Darlene’s parents. The members of the crowd each had little spray cans to mist the bride and groom with the ‘New Car’ scent as they passed by. Johnny held his wife’s hand and led her along while she breathed in deep, taking in the wonderful aroma that was all around them.
Almost to the end of the line, Johnny glanced at the men of Station 51 as they, too, held up little aerosol cans, and misted he and Darlene. The paramedic and his wife were very happy, not to mention she was also turned on and ready to have fun in their new Corvette somewhere along the way on their journey to the reception, when suddenly the mist turned to an old stale smelling substance. Johnny frowned and tried to get away from the horrid stuff and to the car, taking Darlene with him. Much to their dismay, the Corvette was being driven away and an old rusty clunker of a truck was being towed into its place.
All the dealership owners from the area joined at the end of the line with the others and grinned evilly as Darlene began to whine and bawl.
“You thought you were getting a new Corvette? Think again,” one dealer said. “You’re banned from driving new cars.”
“That’s right,” the others agreed. “Banned, banned, banned,” they chanted.
Darlene’s parents joined in and suddenly the entire crowd was chanting the same word. Darlene cried as her eye make-up ran down her face, causing black streaks on her cheeks.
“I’ll never be happy again!” she wailed. “Let’s just go home, Johnny.”
The dark-haired paramedic glanced at the chanting crowd on both sides of them, the old rusty truck that was still hitched to the tow truck and then to his never-to-be-happy-again wailing bride.
What have I gotten myself into?
Johnny awoke in a sweat. He quickly sat up, wincing at the pain it caused in his ribs. The room was dark, but he could see Darlene still lying in the bed beside him fast asleep.
Oh man, what a nightmare.
After running a hand through his damp hair, he slowly got out of bed, and headed for the bathroom to take a quick shower. Just outside the bedroom he paused and glanced over his shoulder.
I dreamed about getting married?
Johnny closed his eyes as the warm water cascaded down his body, soap suds running off his feet and into the tub.
Now this is *my* idea of relaxing.
After a few minutes, he opened his eyes and reached for the faucet to turn it off. A small feminine hand reached from around the shower curtain and met his. Johnny pulled back the curtain slightly and saw a very exposed Darlene smiling back at him. No words needed to be spoken. All quirky hang-ups were forgotten as the woman stepped into the tub. The shower curtain shut again, the couple felt complete togetherness in their close confines.
Although he was feeling somewhat weak and not at all like his old self, Johnny made the most he could of the moment while Darlene gently planted kisses on his achy, water soaked body.
Oh man, I can’t give this up. . .can I? That’s it. . .I’m sunk.
The following morning, Johnny sat on the couch watching the morning news as Darlene got ready to head back over to her own place to get dressed for work. As she came into the livingroom after using his bathroom, the petite brunette took a deep breath.
“It still smells so good in here. I wish I could stay,” she pouted.
Johnny gave a slight grin. “You could always call in sick. Say your boyfriend’s a paramedic and is gonna take care of ya,” he said as he started to get up off the couch. Darlene hurried over, stopping him.
“I may try that one sometime. But my ‘boyfriend’ needs to take care of himself right now.” Seeing he was going to stay put, she stepped away. “I’ll see myself out. You take it easy.”
“Did you take a pain pill this morning?”
Johnny reached over to the coffee table and picked up a small bottle. “They’re right here when I need ‘em.”
A quick kiss and Darlene was on her way out. Johnny sat staring at the television screen, his thoughts elsewhere.
Man, I really dreamed about marrying Darlene. What was I thinkin’? She’s gotten me banned from at least six car dealerships, for crying out loud.
But the shower last night. Oh man!
And what will the guys think? Sure, they’ll say she’s cute, a great catch. But what about the first time that she mentions new car smell around ‘em?
But the shower last night was so damn good.
And I won’t be able to take her to any station functions. I’ll be afraid of her doin’ somethin’ quirky in front of the guys.
But, man, the shower. It was so incredible.
She’s intelligent. ‘Course Chet’ll just make a comment like ‘she sure knows her car smells’ and ‘can I borrow your wife? I need her to sniff out a new car for me’. He snorted. Yeah, he’ll have a field day with my married life all right . . .
Man, why did last night have to be so damn good? he thought, a painful expression on his face.
A knock at the door brought him out of his thoughts. Not wanting to get up, he eased himself to face towards the doorway and hollered, “Come on in, it’s unlocked!”
The door opened, revealing his partner. Roy stepped inside, and started to greet his friend when he noticed a strange odor in the apartment. He glanced around as he sniffed a couple of times. He returned his attention to Gage, and opened his mouth to ask what the smell was, but Johnny was one step ahead of him.
“Darlene. She. . .uh. . .it was a surprise for me.” He shrugged and gave a weak smile. “I guess I’m used to it, ‘cause I can’t tell it’s still here.”
Gage held up a small aerosol can that was in front of him on the coffee table. Roy walked over and took the item from his partner. He read the label, then glanced around the room again.
“She made your apartment smell like a new car?”
“Uh huh.” Johnny nodded. “That’s how obsessed she is with it. “New Car’ smell in a can so we’ll have it wherever we go.” He was about to mention the kiddie curtains and bedspread in his room, which was why he’d wanted to be out on the couch to begin with, but thought some things were better left unsaid.
“I was thinking maybe you’d exaggerated her hang-up. I guess I was wrong.”
“Ho, Roy. I didn’t exaggerate.” The younger man shook his head. “Ho, no. Not at all.”
The senior paramedic set the aerosol can back down on the table. “Well, how’re you feelin’?”
“Tired,” Johnny said nonchalantly without thinking. He then quickly looked to Roy, slightly embarrassed as if the blond paramedic knew exactly what he was referring to. “Uh, tired from the pain pills. . .you know. They make ya drowsy. And I’m sore.”
Roy nodded. “Brackett said you go in to see him day after tomorrow. . .”
“Yeah. Hopefully I’ll be doin’ a lot better by then. I’m already wishin’ I was back at work.” Then I wouldn’t have so much time ta think.
His partner glanced at the television set and grinned. “Already bored?”
“Uh. . .yeah.” Johnny tried to keep an unhappy expression. The past twenty-four hours had been anything but boring.
Roy sat down in a nearby recliner. “How’d it go with Darlene taking care of you? Aside from the fact your apartment smells like the interior of a vehicle, I mean. Is she gonna stop by at all today?” He hid his disappointment that she hadn’t stopped by around the same time he did. He was very curious about the woman.
“It went okay.” Just don’t look in the bedroom.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d be ready to toss her out.”
“Toss ‘er out? Roy, I think I’m gonna marry ‘er.”
With this news, the older man sat forward in surprised shock. “You’re gonna what?”
“Marry ‘er. I think she’s the one.”
“Is that the pain pills talking?”
“Haven’t taken any today. . .yet.”
“You sure you’ve thought this through? I mean, you’ve only known her a couple of weeks!”
“Yeah, but she’s so. . . so. . .”
“I don’ know. There’s just somethin’ there.” When he saw doubt on his partner’s face, he continued. “It’s true, Roy. I know she’s quirky, but maybe she’s just quirky enough.”
“Just quirky enough, huh?” Roy shook his head. “Have you even found out what she does for a living yet?”
“Sure. She’s an actress, but she’s workin’ as a waitress now.”
“An actress? What’s she been in?”
“She’s not really in anything. I mean . . .she is, but only as an extra. You know, one of those characters ya see over and over in the background, but you can never place ‘em when ya do see ‘em.”
“So she’s a waitress wanting to be an actress.”
“Yyyyyyeah. . .no. . .weeeell, yeah, sorta.”
Roy raised his eyebrows in question.
“She’s an actress pretendin’ to be a waitress while she waits to be an actress. But in the meantime, she’s acting by bein’ a waitress.”
“I’m sorry I asked.”
Johnny winced as he sat forward. “Roy--”
DeSoto held up a hand. “Don’t explain it. I just thought she was driving you crazy with her hang-up. . .I mean she’s gotten you banned from about ten car dealerships by now.”
“And she is drivin’ me nuts. . .or was.” He thought about the kiddie bedding. “Is. But that’s beside the point.”
“Well, if it’s what you want, I’m happy for ya. I was wondering if maybe you hadn’t found Miss Right and it kind of spooked you. I guess you did find her.” He grinned. “I have a feeling your offspring are gonna keep the local therapists busy.”
Johnny frowned. “What’s that s’pose to mean?”
“Nothing,” Roy said, waving him off. “It was just a joke.” He glanced over, hoping Johnny had bought it.
The two men went on discussing women and how Joanne could someday be friends with Darlene. . .providing the younger woman didn’t get she and Roy’s wife banned from the mall.
A couple of weeks later, a very quiet and mopey Johnny Gage came into the locker room to get ready for a new shift. Roy and Mike had just arrived shortly before him and were in the middle of changing when he got to his locker.
Mike looked to Roy, but all the senior paramedic could do was shrug. A loud sigh from his partner had him deciding he’d better get down to the cause of the mood or it was going to be a long shift.
“What’s the matter?”
“Hmmm? You say somethin’, Roy?”
“You look down. Mike and I were just wondering what’s wrong.”
Johnny glanced to his right. “Oh, hi, Mike. I didn’t see ya.”
“Johnny, what’s up?”
Gage stared ahead, then shook his head. “I can’t talk about it. Not now.”
Roy and Mike exchanged worried glances.
“It sounds serious.”
Stoker nodded in agreement. “Yeah, and you know if you don’t tell us and still act that way, Chet’s gonna get it out of ya. You don’t want that.”
Johnny sighed and turned to sit on the edge of his locker. “Darlene’s gone.”
“Gone?” Roy was shocked. “But I thought you were gonna get married.”
Gage shook his head. “I hadn’t gotten the nerve to ask ‘er yet. I wasn’t sure what I’d do if she said ‘no’. And I wasn’t sure I wanted her to say ‘yes’. So I was waitin’. But now I know what I want and it’s too late.” He put his hands together and rested his forearms on his thighs. “I blew it. Man, I blew it.”
“Why’d she leave?” Mike wondered.
Running a hand through his hair, the dark haired paramedic answered. “She got a movie deal, and it’s in Africa. Then England. She’ll be gone for eight months.”
“But she can write to ya. . .and she’s coming back,” Roy said. “Right?”
Johnny was up and pulling his blue shirt out of the locker. “Yeah, maybe. But think about it, Roy. I’m no match for a Hollywood actor. She’s bound to fall for her leading man.”
“She got the lead part?”
Gage nodded. “Great news, huh?” he asked sarcastically. Roy and Mike weren’t sure what to say. This wasn’t at all what they had expected. Soon the three men were on their way to line up for roll call.
Later in the day, Roy wandered into the apparatus bay to find his still unhappy partner. Chet was standing at the open rear doors looking out at the lot. The senior paramedic came up beside him and followed his gaze. Johnny was sitting in his Land Rover, the driver’s side window down; a small aerosol can could be seen on the dash.
“How long you think he’ll sit in there?”
Roy shrugged. “Till we get toned out or Darlene gets back, whichever comes first.”
Chet shook his head at the exaggerated answer. “Gage really has it bad for that chick, huh?”
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen ‘im. But he’s usually good about bouncing back. Give ‘im a few days. I think he’ll be okay.”
“I guess you’re right, at least when the next chick that catches his eye comes along.”
Roy agreed, but wasn’t sure the fix was going to be as easy this time. He glanced once more at his partner sitting in the Land Rover, his window open so he could hear the klaxons and so as to get some fresh air in the truck. The older man smiled. At least he’s not trying to gas himself to death with the ‘New Car’ scent. He watched as Johnny tilted his head back and ran a hand through his hair, then hit the steering wheel with his fist.
Hang in there, Junior. Things’ll get better.
Two months later, Johnny was finally getting to where he didn’t miss Darlene as much. He’d decided that there were benefits to not having her around. . .he could still go to the other dealerships in town and look at new cars. Not that he was going to. Truth was, even driving by one just reinforced missing her. But Johnny knew he could stop in if he wanted and convinced himself that was enough. And he no longer had little cars on his bedroom curtains and bedspread. He still wished now and then for a letter from the brunette, but after receiving two postcards early-on, the paramedic didn’t hear anymore from her. Thus, Gage allowed himself to date again in hopes of getting completely over Darlene.
Starting another shift, Johnny was inventorying the drug box when he glanced up at his partner who was putting the trauma box away.
“Whatta ya think of a chick who’s obsessed with rearranging furniture every other day?”
“You mean she gets tired of how her home is set up?”
“No, I mean mine.”
Roy shook his head and rolled his eyes. Here we go again. Another one found him.
Thanks to Ness for reading over some parts of this for me! :o) Also to Peggy Beddingfield for the inspiration. No offense is meant to car dealership owners and employees. It's all in fun. :o)
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