8 November 2019
Are you a morning person? Or are you the kind of person that needs a ton of coffee in order to feel revived, alert, and energetic? Or are you always feeling crabby in the morning, even on your best days? Madison starts to rub off her constant cheeriness on Cole in these beginning chapters as you’ve already read. Sometimes extra cheery people annoy me. Other times, I’m grateful to have them around as opposed to negative, grumpy people or people who complain a lot. For me, hearing other people complain about stuff they shouldn’t be complaining about is one of my pet peeves. Although, for myself, I do complain more than I should. But alas, we are all a work in progress – including Cole. Watch below as Madison begins to change his demeanor.
“No way am I getting strolled around in that thing.” The next morning, Cole eyed the wheelchair Nurse Bettie had indicated.
The nurse quirked a challenging eyebrow. “Hospital regulations.”
“Fine.” Madison crossed her arms and met the woman’s glare. “If he does get to ride on it, we’ll make it look like a recliner instead of a wheelchair. And, I’m going to be the one pushing him to the door.”
“Nope.” Madison shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I’m not taking what you say.” She reached forward without waiting for a reply from neither Nurse Bettie or Cole. She slipped the pillow at the back of the wheelchair, and then threw a small blanket she’d brought along over the back so it looked more comfortable. “There! Is that a dealio or what?”
“Fine,” the nurse said, and then reached for Cole’s left arm while Madison grabbed his other arm. Together, they helped him into the wheelchair.
Cole felt ridiculous as the nurse pulled out the foot rests, and he wondered what Madison must think of him. But one glance at her, and she sent him a bright smile before giving a quick frown in the nurse’s direction. She went behind him.
“I’ll push him.”
The nurse sighed. “But hospital—”
“Hospital regulations, my foot! Let me push him, and you can just walk alongside, and then wait instead of touching the wheelchair or any part of him, unless of course, he feels sick, while I go and get my car. Are we clear…please?”
Cole had never been so defended in his entire life. Madison sounded so serious, however, that he had to hide his smile behind his hand. For the first time in too long, he actually wanted to smile.
“Fine. Go ahead.”
“Thank you.” With that, Cole was being pushed out the hospital room door, and down a long white corridor. They stopped before double doors, and he braced himself.
“I’ll be right back, sunshine.” Madison sent him a wink, and then hurried out into the sunlight.
Minutes later, to Cole’s great surprise, a bright yellow—literally—VW Bug drove up to the curb and parked. Madison got out, and then took the wheelchair again. She had the nurse open the car door as they gently helped him into the passenger seat. After he was settled, the nurse shut the door, and Cole watched in amusement as Madison practically shoved the wheelchair at the nurse, and said something that actually made the nurse’s eyes widen. Madison briefly watched as the nurse stormed away, and Madison went to the driver’s seat.
“All right.” She clipped herself in, after him, and then brought the car into Drive. “Are ya ready?”
Cole raised his eyebrows. “What exactly did you say to her? She looked mad,” he said as they began to make their way out of the hospital parking lot.
“Oh, not much. Just told her if I saw him treat another patient so rudely, I might have her fired.” She chuckled. “I was only half teasing, but Nurse Balonga probably didn’t know that.”
He almost smiled. “I think it’s Nurse Bettie, Madison.”
“Whatever.” She grinned at him, and then gently stepped on the accelerator once they reached the road. “Say, are you feeling better today? I don’t think I asked.”
She’d already asked three times, but surprisingly enough, Cole didn’t mind. “I’m fine. Thanks.”
“You didn’t have a rough sleep, did you?” She winced. “How hard can it be to sleep with an IV attached to your arm?”
“I’m a pretty still sleeper anyway.” He shrugged. “I slept okay.”
“Awesome.” Madison beamed at him once they reached the main highway. “I’m so proud of you for getting through this. You’re so brave to constantly chew the nurse and doctor both out.”
“Not like what you did.” It had to be said. “You should win an award.”
She chuckled. “Oh, stop.”
But Cole kept looking at her. She was dressed in a yellow T-shirt, jeans, and flip flops. Honey blond curls hugged her shoulders, and her violet eyes were alive with great enthusiasm. He had to wonder why she was so proud of him. He’d just had a gash to the forehead. Nothing major. He hadn’t had a concussion that bad. He hadn’t even felt sick once.
“You didn’t worry about me, did you?” he asked. “‘Cuz you know I’m fine.”
Madison waved a hand. “Worrying is natural. Besides, I know you are now. But I hated how those people treated you.” She shook her head with disgust. “As doctors, I hope they treat people a whole better than that. Gee Louise.” She giggled. “I wonder if they even enjoy their jobs.”
Cole really, really didn’t know what to think of her. She was a constant ray of sunshine. “Where do you get all your energy?”
“Probably coffee.” She giggled again. “I drink like six cups of it every morning. It’s amazing I’m not hyper.”
“Yeah. Amazing.” So amazing that all Cole could do was stare at her. He hadn’t even met a woman like her. She was a too far contrast from both of his sisters put together.
Madison noticed, and then giggled again! “Oh, go ahead and say I’m weird. Or random. I probably deserve it. You must think how crazy I must be for a total stranger to give you a ride home.”
“Not really.” And she didn’t feel like a stranger either. The moment she’d been with him from his accident, she’d never felt strange. And she was so positive.
“Well, thanks. I really appreciate that.” She grinned at him. “Now where do ya live, silly?”
“I’ll show you.” Cole rambled off the directions to his apartment.
Madison kept the car alive with happiness and tease up until she parked in front of his apartment.
“The nice girl that I am, I’m going to make sure you get to the door okay.” She beamed at him, obviously no stranger to happiness. “You just got out of the hospital after all, and the doc had said that you had a mild concussion.”
Cole smiled wryly. He couldn’t help it. She was just so full of joy that he didn’t know what to do with himself. Besides, if he refused, he might hurt her feelings. That had to be a rare thing for her, being the way she was constantly joyful. It was almost ridiculous the way she was acting.
“I supposed I’ll lose the argument if I try to talk you out of it,” he said, and then grinned.
Madison killed the engine, and then motioned to his face. “That’s what I’m talking about, sunshine! Just a little bit of grinning. That’s all it takes to make everything better, don’t you agree?” She tossed him a wink, and then got out of the car, keys, purse, and all.
Cole led the way to his apartment door, and then unlocked it. “I think I’ll be fine here now, Madison. Thanks.”
“Don’t lie to me,” she warned teasingly. “It’s rough getting out of hospitals. I know, because my brother’s had two minor surgeries before.”
“I could never lie to you,” he said. “But anyway…thanks again.”
“Oh, no problem.” She waved a hand. “I should totally give you my number, though. Not because, you know, that I want to ask you out, but because in case you need anyway, dear.”
She called him dear? Cole raised his eyebrows. “I’m fine. Really. I probably won’t need it.” But just as the words were out of his mouth, a wave of sudden dizziness hit him. He needed to get inside ASAP.
But when everything suddenly started to swim from around him, Cole felt like he’d lost his brains. The apartment keys somehow had dropped to the floor, and Madison’s “yeah, right, silly” reply sounded way too far away. Like an echo, almost.
Addison’s threatening words, “I’m going to kill you if you don’t get this right” from yesterday echoed from around him, and before Cole knew it, his head had hit the floor.
“That’s right. Just breathe. You’re all right.” Cole heard Madison say in another echo. He wasn’t sure how long it was later, but what he did know was that the moment he opened his eyes, the room was spinning again.
Madison’s blurry face was grinning over him. “You’re on the couch, sweetie. You just fainted, and I had to carry you inside. Are you still dizzy?”
Cole had absolutely no idea how Madison had gotten him into the apartment, much less on his couch, but she had. “Uh…” He suddenly felt a little sick.
Madison chuckled and then held something over him. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
He looked at the four fingers. “Four.”
She chuckled again. “Close enough. It was actually two, but I think we’re making progress. What do you think?”
“Ow.” He slapped a hand to his head. “It hurts.”
“Yeah, I bet it does.” Again, her voice was echoing. “I called your doctor, by the way. He said to just let you rest, so don’t even try getting up, mister. It’ll totally not be worth it.” She laughed. “My goodness, I wonder how you must feel right about now. But anyways, don’t fret. Just close your eyes and count to a hundred for me. Can you do that?”
Cole nodded and closed his eyes, though it felt like he was on a roller coaster, going round and round and round.
The sound of a lawn mower was what woke Cole up the next morning. He found himself on the couch, covered up with two blankets. He gazed around his empty apartment, and then immediately felt grateful that his dizziness had ceased. He was feeling a lot better, except for some pain, but that he could definitely deal with. He carefully sat up, holding a hand to his forehead in case another wave of dizziness came about. He carefully got up, and then figured that Madison must have gone home. The clock in the living room said that it was eight-something in the morning. He would miss his first class, but that was fine. He didn’t much care for those classes nowadays anyway.
The moment Cole stood, however, and then took a real look around his apartment, he knew there was a definite change. The dishes in the sink were all washed and set aside. The coffee pot was on, with a full pot of coffee all ready for him. He was shocked. Madison had done all this?
Stepping forward, Cole froze. And then gaped.
At the island counter, there were four different kinds of fruit, all freshly bought. Oranges, apples, and bananas piled there. Stepping around the counter, he counted two or three bars of chocolate, a medium-sized case of French vanilla cappuccino, a new bottle of ibuprofen, and a new box of brown-sugar-flavored instant oatmeal. Madison had bought all this. He could not believe it.
At the far corner of the counter, though, was a note from under a last, but not least, new loaf of white bread. He studied the note, where Madison’s cursive, beautifully sprawled handwriting had her phone digits at the top. The note read: “If you need anything, just give me a holler. Figured you could use some extra food. Make sure and eat it or I will track you down. Hope you’re feeling better, Madison Brooks.”
Again, Cole shook his head. He just couldn’t get over how a strange woman like Madison herself, no matter how welcomed she’d brought herself out to be, could buy all this stuff for him just because she was concerned. Or that she cared. But no woman in his life except his mother had ever done anything like this. Especially no one non-related to him had ever done anything like this before, and he was just in awe. But deep inside him, Cole felt a big swirl of emotions that he’d never felt before. It didn’t make any bit of sense to admit that he might possibly be a smidgen attracted to Madison Brooks, but it was also highly possible. Yet a pretty, sunny girl like herself probably had a boyfriend anyway. Isn’t that how it always went?
And why was he even wondering if she had one anyway? It wasn’t only none of his business, it was totally wrong altogether.
Cole decided to eat the stuff, and he did, but the whole next week of classes and constantly hoping Addison would never call bit into him. It kept him busy all the way through, but in the days when it wasn’t so busy, when he was driving back home at night, or when he was lying awake right before going to sleep, Cole thought about Madison. He’d wanted to call her and thank her, since he still had her number. It was lying beside his phone mocking him constantly, but what else would he say? Would he want to hear her joyful voice and then feel terrible that they couldn’t see each other anymore? What on earth did Madison even mean to him?
He didn’t know, but the following Saturday afternoon, a week later, Cole found himself in a Starbucks, staring into his hot chocolate, and wondering where he was going.
A couple left in the booth ahead of him, and to his great surprise, Madison was sitting two booths away facing him. She was eating something. When she looked up, her entire face brightened, as did part of Cole’s soul. She waved at him, and before he knew what was happening, Cole was standing and walking over to her booth.
“Hey, Cole.” Madison grinned at him.
“H-Hi.” He indicated the seat across from her. “Are you alone? Can I sit?”
“Sure.” She beamed. “Of course I’m alone. I very rarely come here with somebody.” She chuckled, and them motioned to his drink. “Hot chocolate, huh?”
“Yeah.” He nodded to her to-go, Styrofoam cup of something. “What do you have?”
“Oh, just a big coffee.” She finished chewing her large cookie, a quarter eaten off of it. She motioned to it. “You can have a bite if you want. It’s massive.”
“No, I’m fine.” He smiled at her gently. “I, um…was going to call….you.” He swallowed hard at her curious look. What was going on with him? “I wanted to…thank you for everything you did. And you didn’t even need to buy that stuff for me. I mean…that’s really nice, thanks.”
“You’re very welcome.” She cupped her hands around her cup. “I was afraid of leaving you, so I asked my friend Kristi to buy the stuff for me, and then I’d pay her back. I did so without even leaving you, even when you were sick.”
“Oh.” Cole grinned. He barely remembered that moment. “I’m…I’m so sorry.”
“Hey, it didn’t bother me too much.” She grinned. “So did you eat the stuff? You didn’t go hungry, right?”
“No. I still have some left, but I’ve been eating it.” Cole shook his head. Why was she even wondering? Why did she care so much?
“Well, since I’m a good Samaritan, you know. I wanted to make sure you had some stuff you needed. I did your dishes, too, because I thought you might not feel well enough to do them.” She shrugged. “Sorry if I interrupted any privacy.”
He chuckled. “What privacy?” he asked, and then he wished he hadn’t said that. His life was pretty private as it was.
“At least you’re better now.” Madison reached over, patted his hand, and then let go to take a sip of her coffee.
But Cole had to wonder why her touch felt like an electric zap straight to his heart. For about twenty seconds he couldn’t breathe normally. Which was extremely odd in his situation. He just wasn’t thinking straight.
“Go ahead and have it.” She motioned the cookie to him. “I’m pretty full. I’ve had a big breakfast.” Suddenly, another lightbulb seemed to have flipped on inside her head, because her face brightened even more if that was possible. “Say, you know, you should have a homecooked meal. You know, a whole three-course extravaganza kind of dealio. Let me ask you something, Cole. When’s the last time you had a homecooked meal?”
Her gaze briefly filtered over him, as if trying to guess why he was skinny as he was. Cole felt like he should hurry and buy a sweatshirt, even in the hot summer air, because maybe he wouldn’t look as skinny then.
“Um…” He had to think about the last time he had a homecooked meal. It’d been quite a while.
“All right, that settles it.” She slapped the table. “Sometime, I will definitely invite you over to my condo, someday, maybe, and you’ll have what you’re looking for.”
“In my defense, I do eat every day.” Cole knew that he looked skinny, but sometimes, the stuff that happened in his family and the company just made his appetite vanish, to the point where he sometimes even felt sick. Of all the bodies he’d seen in his lifetime, few of the killings he’d seen occur…it was a wonder he wasn’t thinner.
“Yeah, you probably do.” But Madison shook her head. “But in case you go hungry or run out of food, at least you have my number, right?” She chuckled, and then glanced at her leatherband watch on her slender left wrist. “Oh, my. I better run. I have to head to the bank before home. There’s lunch cooking and waiting for me there.” She grinned, and then stood. “It was really nice seeing you again, Cole.”
She was leaving? Cole wanted to seriously object, another new thing for him.
“You don’t have to go yet.” Had he actually said that?
“But I do.” Thankfully, she didn’t look taken aback at all. She grabbed her cup of coffee, and then patted him on the shoulder. “Take it easy, all right? Hope to see you sometime in the future.” She flashed him one last grin, and then waved. “Bye, Cole.”
“B-Bye.” Cole couldn’t help watching her leave, though, and again, the booth felt empty. Just like the hospital room and the apartment had both felt empty when she’d left. It was like he was never going to see her again, and suddenly, Cole needed to see her again. He didn’t understand why, exactly, but he just couldn’t let her get away so easily.
Before he could even make himself have second thoughts, Cole stood and hurried out of the building.
Madison had just opened her driver’s door to her bright yellow car when he hurried onto the sidewalk, clutching the crumbs of the cookie in one hand, and his cup of hot chocolate in the other.
“Wait!” he exclaimed.
She looked up, surprised, and then grinned. “Did you forget something?”
“Y-Yeah.” Cole swallowed hard. “I…on s-second thought, I think I might take you up on that…homecooked meal offer.”
“Really?” Pleasure seeped over her lovely heart-shaped face. “Well, I’ll be. Did you want to do it now? Do you like lasagna?”
Cole nodded, and then felt himself grinning like a fool. What on earth was wrong with him? He’d never acted this way before. “Y-Yeah.” He swallowed hard. “I love the stuff.”
“Well, awesome!” Madison gave a little squeal, and then clenched her left fist as if fighting to contain her excitement. “How about you follow me up there? That way you’ll know where I live in case you ever want to visit me.” She grinned. “Then I can head to the bank this afternoon. Sound like a plan?”
“It sure does,” he concluded. “S-See you there.”
“Yeah, see ya!” She clutched her cup. “Oh my goodness, this is going to be so much fun.” She got into her car.
Cole watched her for a bit before realizing what he was doing. Staring like an idiot. He sharply turned away to his car two cars down from hers, and got into his Mustang. He wasn’t sure how he could’ve parked in this lot without seeing her bright yellow car.
As he turned on the ignition, he seriously wondered what he would have done if he had seen it, went to a different coffee place or gone inside anyway.