Just One Night - Josh & Bailey

By: Melanie Shawn

She had to do something. Not that it would matter, there was no way that she’d make it in time. But she also couldn’t just sit here and wait.

Snatching her bag off the passenger seat, she knew that her only option was to abandon her beloved Buford on the country road and walk the five miles into town. In a floor length gown. And heels.

Before she set out she tried to center herself with a breathing exercise that CiCi, one of her co-workers, practiced. CiCi was an OR nurse and a single mom to twin boys. Well, she wasn’t technically a single mom, but her husband worked in the city during the week and stayed there Monday through Friday. He was supposed to come home from Chicago on weekends but usually only made it once a month. But no matter what was going on in her life, CiCi never seemed the least bit affected by it. Once, Bailey had asked her how she kept it all together and CiCi shared her mantra with her.

“Inhale the good shit,” Bailey said to herself as she slammed the car door. “And exhale the bad shit.”

She glanced down at the crimson-colored gown she was wearing and was grateful that she’d chosen this dress instead of the white one that had been in the running. Her final choice was born purely out of which dress was more comfortable, since she’d be dancing in it for twenty-four hours. But it now had the added benefit of camouflaging whatever dirt she might pick up on her five-mile walk.

It only took a yard or so of trekking on the unforgiving terrain of the unpaved back road before Bailey decided to ditch the heels. The last thing that she needed was a sprained ankle. She considered grabbing the ballet flats she’d packed in her purse for the event but she knew if she slipped those on, they’d be shredded by the time she made it to the country club. As a kid, she’d loved running around barefoot. She hoped to tap into that same joy now.

As she walked toward town, she couldn’t help but grin as she realized her life had turned into a full-fledged country music song.

She’d lost a patient at work. Been stood up by a man that turned out to be married. Her grandpa’s pickup had broken down five miles outside of town. And now, she was barefoot in a ball gown walking down a dirt road.

Barefoot in a Ball Gown.

That wasn’t a bad name for a song. She made a mental note to share the title with her friend Ginny aka Grammy winning country artist Virginia Valentine at their next Coffee Catch-up. Once a month, some of Bailey’s friends met at the local coffee shop to…wait for it…catch up. Despite the unoriginal name, Bailey tried her best to make it when she could, since her social life otherwise consisted of solo Netflix marathons.

Sometimes she felt like she lived at the hospital. Which was fine. At least, that’s what she’d kept telling herself. And for a long time, she’d been telling herself the truth. Lately, though, she felt like her nose grew Pinocchio-style each time she said it.

Especially on days like today. She’d been fine at the hospital and kept it together in front of her residents, but when she got home she cried and felt alone. Terrifyingly alone. And empty. That’s what had scared her into going on a last-minute drive.

She wished she had someone there to share the weight of her life with. Someone other than her cat, that is. Felix was great and she adored him, but it wasn’t the same as having strong arms to fall into.

There’s only one pair of arms that you’ve ever wanted to fall into.

A flash of Josh Scott with his arms held out to her illuminated in her mind’s eye, but she shook her head in an effort to erase it.

No, she instructed her brain firmly.

Her wayward thoughts did not heed her warning. Instead they filled with visions of blue eyes, wavy brown hair, and a smile that made time stand still.

She readjusted the strap of her bag on her shoulder and tugged the neckline of her dress up. The scoop neck and keyhole back had made finding the right bra a little tricky. Some women might be able to go without, but as an F cup, she wasn’t one of those women. The strapless bra she’d chosen was keeping the girls in place, but for some reason she felt fidgety.

Blue eyes, brown hair, and a sexy grin once again filled her consciousness and she knew the reason for her discomfort. Her mind was wandering to places she didn’t normally let it stray and it was making her physically uncomfortable.

Laser focus was a requirement in the operating room. It was required when treating patients. It was required when preparing for and performing surgery. Since that’s what her life consisted of eighty-percent of the time, it was easy to block wayward thoughts from creeping up into her consciousness. But apparently barefoot walks down country roads under a blanket of stars were a catalyst for them to unexpectedly spring to the surface.

Bailey tried to be in the moment and not let her thoughts drift to the past and instead concentrated on her breathing. She absorbed her surroundings. The earthy smell of acres of farmland, the crisp, cool air on her face, the crickets chirping, all brought her back to a simpler time. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d taken the time to appreciate the little things.

When she was young, she loved being on the outskirts of town just listening to nature. The wind blowing through the trees, the babbling water of the river, and the distant hoot of an owl had been her favorite soundtrack.