THE RELUCTANT GROOM
It was another day, just like any other as Nurse Dixie McCall arrived for her shift at Rampart General Hospital. As Dix looked at the people entering through the familiar white doors, she was relieved to see Dr. Kelly Brackett not among them.
I’m not sure I could handle him right now. Dix thought.
Dix sighed as she left her car and entered the emergency room. After hanging her coat in her locker, she made her way to the ER lounge for coffee. Entering, she encountered Drs. Joe Early and Mike Morton.
“Morning, Dix.” Joe greeted.
“Hi.” Dix replied, softly.
“Dix?” A concerned Morton asked. “You okay?”
“I’m fine.” Dix replied, her tone hushed.
Mike finished his coffee, then left for rounds.
“Dix, C’mon, I know you.” Joe said. “Talk to me, please?”
Dix knew her funk was obvious to the kindly neurologist.
“Joe, I’m turning forty five tomorrow.’ Dix began. “And the one thing I want most, it may be too late to have. Joe, I went to my high school reunion a few months ago. Know what I saw? Most of my classmates are married with families.”
“So?” Joe asked.
“One of them asked how come I was still single as beautiful as I was.” Dix told her good friend. “I didn’t know what to tell her, but her question made we wonder.”
“Hey, Dix, you are beautiful, both outside and in.” Joe comforted her.
“Then why won’t Kel tell me he loves me?” Dix asked. “Every time I try to bring up the subject of marriage, he quickly changes the subject. I feel like he’s playing with my heart and just stringing me along.”
“Dix, I’m sure that isn’t true.” Joe soothed. “He may just be trying to get up the nerve to say the words.”
“I wonder if I’m just wasting my love on a man who can’t return it.” Dix replied. “I’m not getting any younger and my biological clock is ticking loudly in my ear.”
“Ah, you’re feeling the pressure to marry and have kids.” Joe understood. “And the beginning of a mid life crisis. Dix, are you sure that Kel is right for you? Have you tried being with other men?”
“What does that have to do with it?” Dixie wanted to know.
“I think you’re pinning all your hopes on Kel for a happy ending.” Joe answered. “I think you should test the waters a little. See what else is out there in the dating world.”
“You mean I should see other people.” Dixie understood. “You’re right. There are other fish in the sea besides Kelly Brackett.”
As the shift wore on, Dixie decided it was time to force Brackett’s hand. It was time for an ultimatum. Later that night, Dix went straight from Rampart to Kel’s apartment not far away. Kel was sick with the flu and in bed so Dix just went in without knocking.
“Dix, what are you doing here?” The sick doc asked, weakly.
“We need to talk.” Dix told him curtly. “About you and me and if we have a future together. I’m turning forty-five tomorrow, Kel and I’m not getting any younger. I see people my age who have spouses and families.”
Here we go again. Kel thought. She’ll say how she dreams of a big church wedding, with all our friends there. Then, she’ll start shoving bridal magazines in my face!
“Kel, you do love me, don’t you?” Dix asked.
“Dix, I’m not dating you just for kicks.” Kel answered.
Could’ve fooled me. Dix thought.
Dix made her way to the bed and laid down by her beau’s side.
“That’s not what I asked you.” Dix said. “Now, Kel, I wanna hear you say you love me. It’s time we got serious about us.’
“How do you mean?” The raven haired man wanted to know.
“I mean I want us to set a wedding date, here and now!” Dix declared.
“Dix, this is absolutely nuts! You know that, don’t you?” Kel asked of her. “Do you know how much a wedding would cost?!”
“Kel, I’m not saying we should get married right now, but don’t you think we should at least be engaged?” Dix asked. “Kel, why won’t you pop the question?”
“Because, I don’t see the need for silly ceremonies just to prove you love someone! You should know how I feel!” Kel yelled. “Why you women need silly dresses and a bunch of silly vows and a guy to tell you he loves you every minute of the day is beyond me!”
Dixie was shaken by the outburst, but she was determined that Kel would not drive her away so easily.
“Okay, so you’re uncomfortable with marriage.” Dix said after a minute. “I can accept that.”
“Good.” Kel answered.
“How ‘bout if I move in here instead?” Dix offered.
“Dix!” Kel growled.
“Kel, I love you, even if you’re afraid to say you love me.” Dix told him. “Why do those three words scare you so much? Do I scare you?”
Dixie watched as Kel squirmed in his bed. It was obvious to her that talks like this made him ill at ease. After a few minutes, Kel looked Dix in the eyes.
“I’ve never fallen for anyone like this before.” Kel said. “If only you knew what was going on inside me right now. Dix, I’ve seen a lot of relationships end when the people said I do.”
“But there are also many relationships that have been enhanced by taking that walk down the aisle.” Dix offered. “Honey, I’m not saying that we should run and find a preacher right now, this minute. What I really want is for us to make a promise to marry in the future. I was talking to Joe about this earlier and he suggested that I try seeing other people. Trouble is, I’m in love with you.”
“Dixie, I love you too.” Kel finally admitted. “I love you more than I ever dreamed I could.”
With that, they both held each other close.
“When I get better, we’ll go and pick you out an engagement ring.” Kel promised. “Anything you want.”
Kel got better over the next few days and soon he was back at work. As weeks turned into months, Dixie heard the promise that Kel had made ringing in her ears. As months turned into a year, Dix lost all hope that Kel would ever propose.
Dixie just came to accept that maybe she was meant to be single. So, Dix just moved on, pushing the promise to the back of her mind, forcing herself to forget it. One night, in late March, Dix was drinking a glass of wine at a local night club when Johnny Gage entered. Dix was surprised to see the fireman with no date.
After ordering a beer from the bar, Johnny joined Dixie at her table in the back.
“Come here often?” Dix teased.
“Hiya, Dix. You alone too?” Johnny asked.
“Johnny, you sound sad.” Dix noted.
“Dix, I spent a thousand dollars that I saved up on a ring.” Johnny told her. “I dressed up nice, rented a limo.”
“Kate?” Dix asked.
“She and I dated for two years. Then I ask her to marry me. Know what she does?” Johnny asked. “She spit in my face! Literally! Told me she didn’t wanna be married to an Indian fireman! Dix, what’s the use in loving someone if all I get is pain?”
“I wonder that myself.” Dix soothed. “This time last year, Kel promised to buy me an engagement ring. He never did. I spent a year of my life depressed over that. Tonight, I finally realized that I can’t wait for my prince to come. I’ve gotta find and make my own happiness. So what Kel didn’t keep his promise? I can be happy without being married.”
“You’re right, Dix. So Kate spat on me and turned me down, who needs her?” Johnny shrugged. “I can keep that ring and save it til I meet someone worthy of it and my love. Even if I never do, what’s so bad about living alone?”
“Exactly!” Dix grinned. “What are you going to do with that limo outside though and your tux?”
“How about we treat ourselves to a nice night on the town?” Johnny offered. “Nothing romantic. Just two friends, out for a night of fun?”
“I’d like that.” Dix grinned.