Set for Love (not yet published) takes place in a city of my own imagination, somewhere up north. Bern Cortland is a South Mississippi boy in the harsh, frozen wastelands of the big city. He's taken a job as the technical director at an up and coming theatre there. Bern's had an on again/ off again relationship with one of the actresses in the show. The night before, they had a great time—until Paige got angry and threw him out. Today, she ripped into him when he was helping the director run lines. To calm down, he decides to go jogging in the park, only to get jumped by a mugger. One of the cops thinks Bern is the mugger and doesn't pay attention until his partner spots the fact that Bern is bleeding. At the hospital, Bern hits on the nurse, Norah, and talks to his buddy Colt, who is there to pick him up
"Girlfriend trouble?" Norah asked as she moved around the cubicle. "Cutie, I need you to leave for a few. Got to take out the IV."
Colt nodded and left.
"Might say that. One left me for a chick. Next one just plain left me and the third—hadn't even got as far as girlfriend exactly."
"But you did fu—her."
"Yeah. Not my best moment. Lemme ask you something though. Don't take this wrong, but I need a woman's opinion."
"And I'm handy?" She giggled as she started to peel off tape.
"That and I don't know you."
"Or want to fu—me?"
"Did I say that?"
She laughed harder. "Go ahead and ask."
"Okay, so there's this woman who totally hates me for some reason. And last night she was drinking heavily at a party, so I took her home. She lives across the hall."
"Okay. . . ."
"So, she was grabbing all over me, I mean everywhere—then she kisses me and starts taking off my pants. I tried to tell her no—"
"Not real forcefully, I bet."
He gave her a patient look. "I'm single. . . and she had her hands on my junk."
"Got it. And?"
"So I did her on the kitchen table. Pants around the ankles, skirt around her hips. . . . Mutually satisfying experience."
"You sure about that?"
"She was very enthusiastic and bit the shit outta me." He showed her the bruise.
"Sounds like. And?"
"Then she freezes up on me, throws me out and today she ripped me a new asshole in front of everyone we work with."
"Okay—so what's your question?"
"What the hell did I do wrong?"
"Honestly? You didn't do anything wrong, sweetie. You behaved in the anticipated, desired fashion and she feels like a slut."
"So how's it my fault?"
She patted his hand, touching his cheek. "Because you're the man, honey. You did exactly what she wanted and now she's going to make you pay. There's no logic to it, she's a woman. But for what it's worth—if you'd done the same to me—we wouldn't be having this conversation. You'd be doing it again." She smiled, kissing his cheek. Tossing her hair, she walked out.
Bern's laugh followed her down the hall. Colt came in, watching the departing nurse.
"What'd you do to that girl? She looked ready to tackle the world."
"Told her about me and Paige last night and asked her what I did wrong."
"What'd she say?"
"I didn't do nothin' wrong, I did everything right and I'm still fucked. But she told me had I done the same with her, we'd be partyin' Where was she when my life sucked? What am I saying? It still sucks balls."
Norah came back in with his release papers. She went over care instructions and showed him where to sign. On his copy of it, she'd written her phone number under her signature.
"In case you need my opinion on anything else," she said with a sly wink.
"I do," he replied before she left the room. "What's protocol on kissing your nurse?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Why, Mr. Cortland, that would be unprofessional. So call me when I'm off duty."
"I'll do that," he said, folding the papers and putting them in his pocket.
Colt steadied him as he walked outside. Clay was there to pick them up.
"What do you do to these women?" Colt asked. "I mean, I've had my share of women, but damn! These girls come at you like a hurricane, milk you dry and run. You a one man baby daddy?"
"I hope not! I dunno. I smile and I'm polite. Not like I go outta my way to hit on anybody."
"Except the nurse."
"Well, she was steamin'! But she hit on me first. I swear."
"So, what happened with you and Paige?" Clay asked.
"Rather not talk about it."
"You told Nurse Norah!" Clay complained.
"Yeah, and she don't work with Paige. Wouldn't be polite to tell."
"But you were inside her?" Clay asked, expectantly.
Bern gave him a bland look and closed his eyes.
"She totally hates you, dude. She's so pissed, she can hardly see straight. And Brent—whoa!"
"Hope I still have a job."
"No worries. You're cool. Boss man knows talent and he knows I'll only take the job under protest. But he'll take someone less talented if it means less drama. You need to get this shit with Paige settled. He won't tolerate much more."
"Believe me, nobody wants it settled more than me."
© 2015 Dellani Oakes