Destiny walked the halls of the hospital making her way to the bank of elevators. She needed to get to the hospice office to update files on Arthur James. Her eyes were captured by a masculine figure to her left. It was as if she had to see him. There, surrounded by three massive shopping bags, was Horacio Rucker. The young girl at the register stood slack jawed at the vision before her. He was holding out a black card attempting to pay for his massive purchases. He waved the card in front of the girl to focus her attentions back on his attempts at paying. She giggled at her awkward gawk and took the card from his fingers.
It was as if his name had been called from somewhere in her direction causing his head to spin instantly to his right capturing her gaze. The smile that slid across his face could only be described as orphic. There was an air of mystery behind his eyes. He was entrancing. He was captivating. He was looking at Destiny.
“Good afternoon, Miss Landin,” he said as he turned full towards her.
Destiny stood immobile. She couldn’t tell if she couldn’t leave or didn’t want to. “Um…Destiny, please, just Destiny, Mister…er…pastor? Sorry, what should I call you?” she stammered.
“Horacio,” he stated. “Please, wait a moment while I finish this transaction.” With that he turned back to the bumbling clerk to sign the receipt before gathering his bags. The young girl just sighed and watched him leave. “Now, would you like to join me for a horrid cup of coffee in the cafeteria?”
Destiny laughed at his accurate description of the sludge anyone would find if they happened to find themselves in the ‘dining hell’ as she called it. “Sounds like you have already had some of the tar they serve.”
“No, but I have found that it is standard fare in most hospitals. The acrid stench of cleaning product and bad coffee are a requirement to be considered a health care facility. If you would rather, I would be happy to take you somewhere else, but I must take these toys to the children’s ward first,” he said as he held up his treasures.
“Wow, that is very kind of you to think of the kids,” she smiled. “Sadly, I have some paperwork to fill out.”
Horacio walked across the hall to the bank of elevators. He scanned the sign that gave directions to locate departments throughout the hospital, “Which floor is your office on?”
“I see here that the children’s ward is on the second floor. So, when you are finished with your paperwork you can join me one floor down and we will go and have coffee.” Horacio turned to Destiny with a satisfied smile awaiting her answer.
Destiny shuffled from foot to foot as the heat rose in her cheeks, “That isn’t necessary, Mr…Horacio.”
He pushed the call button for the elevator and said, “You are right, Destiny. It is not necessary. It would be a pleasure and pleasures are not always necessary. They are, however, wanted and I want to see you.” The elevator dinged then the doors slid open. Destiny and Horacio stepped to the side to allow the elevator to empty. Horacio leaned a bit closer and whispered, “It will be a pleasure. I promise.”
Destiny’s eyes widened. He couldn’t mean what she hoped. Could he? She watched as Horacio boarded the elevator. He turned toward her while holding the door, “Shall we, Destiny?” Shaking her head to clear it of the impure images she had conjured she followed him into the elevator. He pushed the buttons for the second and third floors then the door close button to ensure the doors would close immediately blocking anyone else from boarding with them.
“It doesn’t have to be coffee, Destiny. It could be dinner if you would prefer. Or dessert.”
Destiny gasped. She didn’t know if she should be offended or aroused. It appeared that her body had selected the latter. “Coffee…yes, coffee, would be lovely. Um…I’m not sure how long I will be. When were you planning on leaving?”
The elevator dinged announcing its arrival on the second floor. Horacio turned to Destiny as the door slid open, “I will leave when you arrive and not a moment before. So, if you were thinking of slipping away then I will be left stranded on the second floor pining for what could have been.” He smiled and exited the elevator just as the doors started to close for her journey to the third floor.
Destiny staggered to the back of the elevator grasping for physical support on the railing. She felt weak and excited. Aroused and confused. Hopeful, but realistic. “It’s just coffee…with the hottest man I have ever seen,” she mumbled to the metal box as it came to rest on the third floor. She stumbled her way out of the elevator then into the hospice office across the hall. She had to pull herself together and get this paperwork done if she was going to…going to what? Slip away into the night or slip into the grasp of the men downstairs?
He was temporary. He would be gone as quickly as he arrived. As much as she may like him she had to get real. She couldn’t let this get out of hand. It would only leave her broken hearted in the end. He would leave, moving on to the next town and its willing women. She would be left behind wanting something she could never have.
Destiny waved at the receptionist then slipped behind the door to the back offices. She found an open computer in the communal office that all the outside workers used when necessary. Destiny quickly accessed Mr. James’ file and began updating the details of his current condition. These updates allowed the other nurses to know what to expect when they visited the home when Destiny wasn’t scheduled. Medications, dietary restrictions, physical condition, mental state, and notes on family interactions, detailed notes about Mrs. James. The notes on her were more of a warning to anyone stuck dealing with the shrew. It appeared, per the notes left by others, Leona preferred to torture Destiny and tended to leave the temps alone for the most part. Lucky them.
Destiny had been working steadily for about 45 minutes when the dusty desk phone rang. Startled by the intrusion, Destiny fumbled picking it up, “This is Destiny.”
“Hey, it’s Nora from the front desk. You have a call waiting on line 3.”
“Okay, thanks,” she quickly said before switching over to line 3. “Good afternoon, this is Nurse Landin. How may I help you?”
“You can tell me you are having coffee with me.”
The growl vibrated down the phone line and right down Destiny’s spine, “Horacio? I’m just finishing up here…sorry…I’ll be down soon.”
“Thirty minutes or I come up.”
“Would you prefer less?”
What did that mean? Would she prefer less? “No, thirty is good.”
“See you then,” Horacio whispered and then silence. He was gone just like he would be in just a matter of days.
Destiny finished her updates and saved the document. She checked her schedule for the remainder of the week then packed up her bag and left the office with a wave to Nora. She stood in front of the elevator hesitating to push the button. Technically she still had ten minutes. She turned from the elevator and decided to take the stairs instead. She hoped it would give her the opportunity to see him before he saw her. Destiny opened the door just a crack and peered down the hallway. She didn’t see him or anyone else for that matter, but she did hear him. She slipped into the hall and followed the sounds to the entertainment room.
There, in the center of smiling children and swooning nurses and doctors, sat Horacio Rucker. He pulled toy after toy from his bags and gave them to the children. She watched as the children gasped and giggled at the items he pulled from the plastic sacks. Each hoped for an equally cool toy as the last one pulled. Destiny watched as Horacio’s eyes danced with joy as he held each child briefly as he whispered something into their ears before releasing the toy to their tiny grips. Each child’s smile brightened and a glow came over them as he released them to enjoy their new gifts. He looked happy. He played with the kids as they shared their toys with each other.
Destiny kept out of sight as best as she could as she watched the display. She listened to the doctors and nurses as they fawned over the man who was focused on the ill children of their community. She dropped her head and allowed a small smile to slip across her lips before she felt it. She felt the pull. She felt the demand. Look, Destiny. Her eyes glanced up to find his locked on her.
“Destiny, I’m so glad you could make it down to see us,” he said while gesturing to all the children playing on the floor around him. “Come, play with us.” He reached for his bags and smiled, “I may have something here for you too.”
Destiny cocked her head in question, “What could you possibly have in there for me, Horacio?”
“Come and see,” he smirked holding the bag to his chest.
Destiny weaved her way through the crowd of staff and patients to get to him. She heard, lucky bitch…I’d like to give him a gift…why her…, but she did her best to not let the nastiness stop her advancement. Admittedly, it slowed her steps, these were her collogues, friends even, how could they be so mean? She looked to Horacio who held his hand out to her. She approached with caution, but grasped his fingers with little hesitation. He tugged her down to sit with him to watch the children play.
He leaned closer to Destiny with a sneaky grin, “Would you like to see what is in the bag for you?” She smiled shyly and nodded. Horacio pulled a box from the bag and handed it to Destiny. It was a coffee mug swirled with color and medical instruments and in bright red lettering was World’s Best Nurse!
She almost cried. In the few years that she had been a nurse this was the first time anyone and done something to acknowledge her accomplishments. Her mother had died when she was a child and her father before she earned her degree so no one was there to see her succeed. “Thank you,” she choked. “This was very kind of you.”
“What’s wrong? Did I do something inappropriate?” he asked at her reaction.
Destiny looked to him and softly smiled, “No, this is sweet. I don’t have a coffee mug like this. Thank you.”
Her response caused Horacio to narrow his eyes in an attempt to understand her reaction. “Shall we go have that coffee now, Destiny?”
She shook off the fog that engulfed her in reaction to the mug and straightened her spine, “Absolutely.”
Horacio stood and offered his hand to her helping her back to her feet. “Alright all you wonderful, silly, amazing children I must go, but…if you will let me, I would like to come back sometime and play. Would that be okay with you?” he playfully asked.
“Yes!!!” was the unanimous response from the room.
A little girl, no more than six, tottered over to Horacio and tugged at his pants leg. When Horacio looked down at her she raised her arms to him. Without hesitation he scooped her up into his strong arms and held her close. “Thank you, Mr. Horsy-o, for my pony.”
He chuckled at her attempt at his name, “You are welcome, sweet girl. Have fun with your friends and remember what I said, okay?”
“Be kind to butterflies,” she whispered.
“That’s right, sweet girl,” Horacio set the girl back on the floor and watched her scamper away to play with her pony.
“Be kind to butterflies?” Destiny asked.
“Let’s go get that coffee,” he said as he took her by the hand, “and I will tell you a tale about butterflies.”