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Copyright © 2008 Susan Austin
All right reserved.
"Gene! You forgot to put the coffee on again!" Barb exclaimed, "and you know how I am if I don't have my coffee! I swear, sometimes I think that girl would forget her head if it wasn't sitting on her shoulders!"
"What are you mumbling about, Barb?" Donna asked as she walked into the kitchen.
"Oh, I just went to get my morning dose of coffee and it isn't even on yet!" Barb answered, rather peeved.
"It's not Gene's fault, I told her I would set the timer before I went to bed last night. I guess, I forgot. Here, let me make some." Donna walked over to the sink to start the coffee. Her hand was shaking as she reached for the pot.
"Are you alright Donna? You look kinda pale," Barb asked with concern.
"I'm alright. I just didn't sleep well again. I must be to keyed-up about the opening at the gallery. It's the first time I've arranged all of it on my own. I just want it to be perfect." She turned the water on and filled the coffee pot. Her hand was still shaking; she had to use both hands to steady it so she wouldn't spill the water as she poured it into the coffeemaker.
"It will be, you're great! And I still say you should display some of your own paintings," Barb added as she started to fix some toast.
"I agree" Gene said as she entered the room."Sorry about the coffee, Barb."
"That's okay, I'll survive," Barb said with a smile.
"Coffee should be ready in a few minutes," Donna said as she sat down at the table.
"Good. I have to be at the hospital early today. We're under-staff ed as usual. Barb, can you drop me off on your way to work?" Gene looked at Barb as she buttered the toast.
"What's the matter with your car now?" Barb asked, shaking her head.
"What isn't the matter with it?" Donna added.
"It's not that bad Donna," Gene said with a slight tilt of her head.
"Oh, no! I think it's time to lay it to rest." Donna said jokingly.
"I agree!" chimed in Barb.
"Okay, you two, you can laugh all you like, but that car has served us very well," Gene stated matter-of-factly.
"Listen, Gene, you got that car when we were still in high school, and it wasn't in that great of shape then! It's embarrassing!" Barb said, shaking her head from side to side.
"I remember quite a few times when you were very grateful I had that car! Like the time I had to rescue you from your date with Freddy!" Gene smiled.
"Oh, please!" Barb exclaimed, "I'm trying to forget about that! Of all people to loose my virginity to!"
"Barb, you never told us about that!" Both girls stared at her in amazement.
"Well, it didn't seem worth mentioning, if you get my point!" Barb stated as she got up to get a cup of coffee. It had finally finished brewing.
"Anybody else want a cup, while I'm up?" Barb asked.
"Sure we both do. So, go on with the story. Wasn't he supposed to be some great big stud?" Donna asked with open interest.
"Donna!" Gene exclaimed.
"Oh, Gene, lighten up! You can't tell me you didn't wonder about him," Donna said as she put some milk in her coffee.
"Well, yeah, I guess so, but I never set out to find out for myself!"
"Well, I did. What a let down! I don't know who started the rumors, it must have been Freddy, himself!" laughed Barb.
"Now, that I can believe!"
"Shh ... Donna, let her finish!" interrupted Gene.
"I thought you didn't want to here about it," Barb stated with a sly smile on her face.
Gene looked at her hands. They were folded nicely in her lap. "Well, I don't really.... Oh hell, just go on!"
Barb burst out laughing as she continued her story," Well, he picked me up at my house, oh around seven-thirty or so, of course my dad was all for my dating him. You know, captain of the football team and all."
"He was a jerk though, Barb. How could you go through with it?" Donna said, as she wrinkled up her nose in disgust.
"Well, I was curious. I guess I was just tired of listening to all the other girls talk about their latest conquests, so I thought I'd make a few of my own. Just to see if they were telling the truth. Well, let me tell you, he was very over-rated!" Barb rolled her eyes upward and shook her head gently, "On that note, it's time I got ready for work!"
Barb got up from the table and walked towards the door.
"Don't let me forget to talk to the landlord today."
"What about? It seems as if every other day, you're complaining about something!" Donna asked with a shake of her head.
"If you two would speak up, I wouldn't have to be the one who does all the dirty work. I'm just tired of no hot water in the morning, no heat during the winter, things like that," Barb scoff ed.
"I know, I agree. We really need to find a different apartment. It's just so hard to find anything worth while, and close to all of our jobs. Gene, did you call about that ad you saw in the local paper?" Donna asked, turning towards Gene.
"Yes I did. It was already gone. They don't last long when they do show up," Gene answered as she got up to put her cup in the sink.
"Well, get moving Gene, if you want me to drop you off at work," Barb said as she turned to go back to her room.
"P11 be ready when you are. It takes you forever to do your hair!" Gene yelled.
"Only in the spring and summer, this humidity just frizzes my hair beyond all help. I hate naturally curly hair! I'd give anything to have Donna's hair!" Barb said, while she ran her fingers through her tangled hair.
"You'd look pretty funny with her blonde hair and your dark complexion. I remember when you tried to lighten your hair and it turned orange!" Gene laughed, as she remembered the incident.
"You have pretty hair, Barb. It's nice and thick and it goes with your dark eyes." Donna complimented.
Donna uncrossed her thin, shapely legs and walked over to the sink.
"At least you have curl. Mine stays straight during this weather. I guess I'll pull it up again today," she pulled her hair up with her hands.
"Speaking of hair, you know that girl at work, Gladys? Well she came in the other day with orange hair! I mean pumpkin orange! I couldn't help myself, I laughed right out loud." Gene said as she walked back over to the table.
"You didn't?" Donna said, trying to look serious.
"Yes , I did," Gene answered back laughing. And do you know what she said to me?" She said, "Well, Gene, I thought I bought the same color that you use!"
"She thought you colored your hair? Anyone can tell, your color doesn't come out a bottle. Especially with your green eyes and light complexion." Barb added.
"That's what I thought too, Barb, but evidently, some people do. Anyway she says, "what color do you use?'" I told her, "I don't, this is my natural color. She looked at me as if to say, sure it is. And if you believe that ... "Oh, well, let her keep trying. Maybe it will all fall out!"
"Barb! That's not nice! Funny, but not nice." Donna finished her coffee and placing the cup in the sink, said, "Maybe I'll make an appointment to see one of the doctors where you work. Any suggestions Gene?"
"Dr. David Collins, I hear he's really good. Do you want me to set up an appointment?"
"No, I'll wait a few days. Maybe this will pass. It might just be my nerves and the added stress. Oh, are you seeing Steve tonight, Gene?"
"Yes, he'll be picking me up at work and we'll both come to the opening. I just hope he doesn't bring up marriage and commitment again. He's become so serious. I don't know if I'm ready for that yet. I just want to let things go slow and he's already talking, house, babies, and stuff ." Gene said with a worried look on her face.
"Have you told him that?" Donna asked.
"Not in so many words, but, yes." Gene answered softly.
"Do' you love him?" Donna touched Gene's hand.
"I think so, oh I don't know. I do know that I don't want to see anyone else and I think about him all the time. I guess I'm just scared."
"How is he in bed?" Barb said with a smile.
"Barb!! Is that all you ever think about?"
"No sometimes I think about ... ah ... Gee there must be something else to think about!" Barb put her finger to the side of her head as if deep in thought. All three girls started laughing and headed for their respective rooms.
"See you guys later!" Donna laughed.
"Good luck with the show, Donna."
"Your comings too, aren't you Barb?"
"I wouldn't miss it for the world." Barb said as she stuck her head inside Donna's room. "Bought a new dress and everything!"
"I hope it's one that can be seen in public!" Donna said with a raise of her eyebrows.
"Oh it is, but I intend to turn a few heads my way too! Not just at your art works honey. When I get done, I'll," Barb emphasized," be a work of art!"
Gene came to Donna's door and said, "Steve and I are going to dinner first, so it'll be after eight before we get there."
"That's okay, nothing really gets moving until then. I'm so nervous!"
"You'll be a hit! Stop worrying about it!"
"I guess your right, I need to calm down. After all it's just a show! Who am I kidding? It's my, show! I better call the caterer again to make sure everything is still on schedule."
"That girl is going to have a nervous breakdown before this thing is over." Barb said as she looked at Gene.
Gene and Barb finished getting ready and left the apartment together. They walked down to the elevator.
"I can't believe it!" Barb exclaimed.
"What?" Gene asked.
"The elevator isn't working again!" /
Gene walked over and punched the button, "It's only been working since yesterday. Now it's broken again? We need to find a new place!" Gene shook her head as she headed for the' stairs.
"If I'm not weak from climbing all these stairs, that landlord better watch out! This is one unhappy broad he's going to wish he hadn't rented too!" Barb exclaimed with a determined note.
Donna sat down to finish putting on her make-up. Her mind was spinning with questions as she sat in front of the mirror.
"I do look kind of pale." She said out loud. As she continued to sit there she thought to herself, my whole insides are shaking. I'll be glad when this show is over with. I don't know if I can handle this much pressure. Maybe I shouldn't have taken this position so fast. I knew it would be hard work, but I thought I'd have a bigger staff to help me. I know it's a fairly new gallery, but I want this to really get us noticed. Oh well, chin up Donna, what could happen that would completely ruin it?
"Everything!" she said, "Just, everything!" as she buried her face in her hands.
"I guess I better get to work. Staying here is just prolonging the inevitable. Take a couple deep breaths and you'll be fine." She said to her reflection in the mirror.
A pretty, young face looked back at her. She never really considered herself beautiful, but she was rather pretty, kind of wholesome, pretty. Her hair was always her best feature. People used to say, Donna, I'd kill for hair like yours, or, your hair is gorgeous, what do you do to it to make it shine so? It was long and full and came to the middle of her back.
She continued to stare at her reflection. I always wished that my eyes were a darker shade of blue, instead of a smokey blue. At least with mascara you can see that I really do have long lashes. I was blessed with my mother's small nose and high cheek bones. I guess when you put them all together it's not bad.
I've always had a full bust. It used to embarrass me, when I was younger, but now, as Barb would say, if ya got 'em, flaunt 'em! A smile crept over her face. Oh Barb, you are one of a kind. You've got 'em and you really know how to use them! Poor Gene, she's a little lacking in that department, but she has the prettiest skin. Just the right amounts of freckles across her nose to give her face that coquettish look. Like that fresh scrubbed look and a disposition to match.
How in the world, did three so very different women end up best friends over all these years? They used to call us the three musketeers. She laughed to herself; it was more like the three stooges! Well, I guess I better go. There's a lot to be done before tonight.
Donna finished getting ready and left for work. Jerry would already be there. Thank heavens for him. He was helping her get things done. She hadn't felt very well for almost two weeks now, nothing really serious, just tired and achy. She just couldn't seem to shake whatever bug it was.
By the time she got to her car she was so out of breath she had to stop and steady herself.
Perspiration was forming across her forehead arid on her upper lip. She felt her forehead with a shaky hand. It felt cool to the touch, but she felt as if she had a fever raging inside.
She thought maybe she had gone down the stairs to fast. Maybe she would stop and get some vitamins. She hadn't been eating very well lately, with all the added hours she had been putting in at the gallery. It would all be over pretty soon, and then she could relax and get back on a decent schedule.
She got in her car and turned the key. At least the sun was shining, maybe it would turn out to be a perfect day after all.
The console was all lit up. Phones were ringing off the hooks.
"North Side General Hospital, can I help you?" Rosie looked up as Gene walked up to the desk.
"What's going on?" Gene asked, as she looked all around at the confusion.
There was a crowd of white clad, young men and women milling around. A few patients had come out into the hail to see what all of the commotion was about.
"Thank you, I'll connect you now. Oh I have had it! You can't believe what's been going on! The new interns have arrived!"
"You got that right! Just a minute ..." An older man was approaching the desk. "Dr. James," Rosie called, "I have three calls waiting for you in your office. This is the third time they've called'
"I'm going, I'm going! Where did you say?" Dr. James walked slowly past the desk.
"In your office." With her voice low and her hand to her face, Rosie said to Gene, "That man needs to retire. At least they don't allow him to perform any surgery anymore. He has patients that have been his clients for as many years as he's been doctoring. They just won't let him retire."
"Some patients get set in their ways" remarked Gene, "You just can't make them except new things. If these new interns are any indication of what they have to pick from, I don't blame them. Did you get a look at some of them?" Rosie shook her head as she looked at the rag tag bunch of green interns trying to follow her brother, Dr. Lewis, down the hall to start rounds.
"Who is the tall one, walking behind Dr. Lewis?" Gene asked.
"Oh, him, that's Dr. Jeff Abramson."
Gene noticed a twinkle in Rosie's eyes that hadn't been there a moment ago.
"I wish he would just calm down. He knows what he's doing. I guess he's just nervious around Michael. He has that affect on people sometimes."
"Dr. Lewis has that affect on a lot of people. Especially women! Men find him intimidating, women find him fascinating. I'd really like to introduce him to one of my room mates." Gene added, as the group of men and women passed by the front desk.
"I wish Michael would get interested in someone too. Work, work, work! That's all he does. I think he is at this hospital more then his apartment." Rosie shrugged as she watched her brother go by.
Gene studied Dr. Lewis as he continued his rounds. "I just can't believe that someone hasn't landed him yet."
"A lot have tried, believe me. I would just like to see him relax and enjoy himself once in a while." Rosie said.
"Don't look now Rosie, but your intern is headed this way!"
"Oh stop it Gene! He's not my intern!"
Gene laughed and started on her rounds of checking in on the patients that had been newly admitted during the night.
Dr. Abramson walked slowly up to the desk, "Excuse me? Perhaps you can help me?"
"Yes. What can I do for you, ummm, Dr. Abramson?" Rosie asked as she pretended to look at his name tag.
"I seem to have misplaced my clip board and note pad. Would you by any chance have a spare one I could use?" Jeff asked while leaning over the desk. Rosie tried not to look too obvious as she took in all of his features. Tall, maybe 6'2". Nice thick brown hair, kind of unruly. Beautiful grey eyes that seemed almost too big for his face but very striking. Narrow, noble nose, nice chin, and lips that looked soft and that turned up at the corners so as to suggest a slight smile even at rest.
"A clip board. Do you have one?" He asked again.
"Yes! ummm.. I'm sorry, I must have been thinking of something else. It's been a hectic morning." Rosie tried to cover up the flush she could feel starting to warm her cheeks.
"Of course I can give you another clip board and note pad. How about a pen? Do you need that?" She asked a little nervously.
Excerpted from Love's Most Precious Gift by Susan Austin Copyright © 2008 by Susan Austin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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