Love and Loss 5

A few days, maybe a week went by. Ellowyne and Rufus cleared out one of the bedrooms so she could use it as a work room and a place for her to store her various sewing machines and craft items. He was happily building shelves and tables for her. She smiled to herself. One of the perks of living with and loving an engineer! 

As Rufus was happily hammering away, Ellowyne’s phone rang. When she saw the name of the caller, she told him who it was and that she probably should take it. “What? You want to miss out on measure twice, cut once?” he playfully asked. She smiled and said she’d be back soon.

“Oh, Dr. Bantam. Hi. Um, sure, I can talk a little while,” she said.

“I haven’t heard from you for a while,” Dr. Bantam said. “How are things with you? Are you still seeing Rufus?”

Ellowyne replied, “Actually, we decided to keep living together.  It seems the most logical step in our relationship.” She paused for a few seconds and added, “Did I tell you that his parents died from COVID-19 in Italy?”

“Yes, you did,” Dr. Bantam said. “How is he handling his grief?” 

“Better every day, thank you. There have been some intense moments but we’re approaching grief as a team.” 

Dr. Bantam didn’t answer right away. Ellowyne suspected that she might be quaffing her “special” tea. She also wondered if Dr. Bantam was trying to get Rufus as a new patient. 

She wasn’t wrong. 

“Now, Ellowyne, dear girl, if Rufus needs help, a good therapist, perhaps, do feel free to tell him to get in touch with me.”

“Sure,” Ellowyne said, nodding her head. 

“And you shouldn’t stop talking with me. I haven’t heard from you in a while and I want you to know I’d prefer setting up a virtual session with you. We could do that weekly.” Dr. Bantam stated imperiously.

“Let me think about it,” Ellowyne replied. “Even though we’re still in lockdown, I really don’t know when I would have free time.”

“I know,” Dr. Bantam said exuberantly. “I could virtually see you and Rufus together and work with him on his grief and you with your ennui!”

Ellowyne rolled her eyes. “I’ll let you know. Sorry, I need to go now. Goodbye!” 

She shook her head. Therapy was a good thing for many people. But it could only work in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Ellowyne had lost her respect for Dr. Bantam quite some time ago because she felt that Dr. Bantam was keeping her in therapy for the money. It had been years since she first started seeing Dr. Bantam, but there was no resolution to her so-called “chronic ennui.” In fact, her therapist seemed to enable her. And Ellowyne felt so much better without her tedious, soul-sucking sessions with Dr. Bantam. 

She walked into the room Rufus was renovating, and picked up the stud finder. She pointed it at him and said, “Beep, beep, beep! I just found my favorite sexy stud!”

They laughed as he pulled her into his arms. There was no more work on the room that day.

To be continued…

Love and Loss 4

A few days had passed since Ellowyne met online with their friend group to share the news about Rufus’ parents. As promised, Pru sent healing gemstone bracelets to both of them. Lizette and Lawrence, her new beau, brought by some groceries. Amber dropped off some of Marisol’s delicious baked goods. And Penn drove by with frozen chicken wings and pizza, as well as margarita mix and craft beer. 

Little by little, day by day, Rufus worked through his grief. He wasn’t quite so withdrawn anymore, and occasionally he texted Penn or his other friends. He even scheduled a Zoom meeting to catch up on everyone. One night he arranged for a COVID date night, complete with carryout food, fine California wine, and a pick of rom-coms Ellowyne would surely enjoy. Eventually he learned to laugh again. Right after his parents died, things that used to amuse him failed to garner so much as a half-hearted smile. But the clouds dissipated, and he found he could once again laugh at the little and great absurdities of life. 

He mustered up the energy to deal with practical matters. He got in touch with his advisor, who assured him that not only did he pass all his classes, but his 4.0 GPA was safe as well. Almost obsessively, Rufus went to work sorting through his parents’ personal affairs. The money, house, and property were willed to him as he was an only child. After virtually meeting with bankers and lawyers on Zoom, he learned that he was quite well-off because everything was paid for and he would inherit no debt. He began to determine what things might need to be removed or replaced. He and Ellowyne had moved to his parents’ bedroom, although he wanted to replace the bed and other furniture. Ellowyne wanted to redecorate the house, one room at a time. She went to work helping him clear out closets, sorting things that they might want to keep, items that she could readily upcycle, and stuff to donate to her favorite thrift shop. 

As Rufus and Ellowyne set about sorting his parents’ clothing, he marveled at how kind and supportive she was. She listened patiently every time he said he couldn’t believe his parents were gone. She was a calming presence when he was angry with his parents for going on their trip and getting sick. She was also there when he prayed and when he promised anything to God if somehow his parents could still be alive. 

As he gazed at her, he remembered the first time he saw her in middle school. He was attracted to her because she was beautiful and wore creative, eye-catching clothing. But what intrigued him the most was that she looked so sad. At the ripe old age of 13, he decided he would fix her and make her happy. Fixing things was part of Rufus’ DNA, and Ellowyne’s grandmother hired him as a handyman when he was still in high school. He figured that if he could repair leaky faucets and dings in drywall, he could mend almost everything, including Ellowyne’s ennui-ridden heart. He deployed what he thought were the tools of romance—flowers, gifts, and candy—and wrote gushy, sappy poetry that he would never share. He used to daydream about what it would be like to be in a romantic relationship with her but whenever he would try to tell her how he felt, she shut him down, often saying that she loved him as a friend, nothing more. He would be devasted that his efforts failed yet again, but a few weeks later, he would try again. 

He never could have imagined how a real romantic relationship with Ellowyne would be so different—and so much better—than his one-sided infatuation. He didn’t need to give her flowers, candy, or other gifts. He just needed to be himself and respect and accept her authentic self. This was good. They were in a good place.

That evening, Rufus asked Ellowyne an important question.

“Things are good between us. I love you so much! I could never get through my parents’ deaths without you. I don’t want to pressure you or force things too quickly, but, would you move in here with me? Permanently, not just during lockdown.”

To be continued… 

Not All Superheroes Wear Capes 4

Penn’s first day back to work after he had a few days off was nothing like he expected. He had hoped that COVID testing might be a respite from the mayhem of the ER. He could not have been more wrong. When he arrived before his 6AM shift, an endless line of cars snaked through and outside the parking lot. Penn put on a full hazmat suit, given instructions, and sent to one of several makeshift booths in which he and another nurse could swab the nasal cavities of pandemic-weary people waiting to be tested. He was glad to be assigned with his nursing school classmate Beth, thinking they could catch up when the pace eased. That was not to be. Dozens of carloads turned into hundreds. People who were already anxious about COVID became more irritated and agitated while waiting to be tested. Some yelled at Penn and Beth, some complained that the nasal swab testing was uncomfortable, and some blatantly lied that they had met the medical criteria to get tested. 

Three hours into their shift, Penn and Beth were scheduled to take a break. However, they were supposed to remove their hazmat suits before going into the ER staff lounge, and it seemed too much of a hassle for fifteen minutes of downtime. The two nurses chugged some energy drinks, scarfed some chocolate, and trudged back to their claustrophobia-inducing booth.

Three more hours went by. It was time for lunch, which was delayed because other nurses needed their meal breaks as well. When they finally got a few minutes off, Penn noticed a text from Amber. She asked, “How goes your day?”

He answered, “Much better now that I’ve heard from you.”

Amber replied immediately, “You are making me blush! Everyone is fine. I heard from Ellowyne and she said Rufus was handling his grief better. He is so lucky to have her support. Pru is all over the place. She’s doing a lot of online yoga and meditation, but she’s also been spending a lot of time on YouTube.”

“Clearly, you’d expect her to be on TikTok, Penn quipped. Don’t her parents use YouTube?” Doesn’t everyone’s parents?”

Amber went on. “LOL! There is a little news. Lizette met a guy named Lawrence while she’s been volunteering at the bird sanctuary. He sounds perfect. He’s also going to UC Davis for vet school in the fall. Of course none of us has actually met him, although Pru got a picture from Liz. He’s really cute. I thought Ellowyne was the only person who would fall in love during the pandemic, but there goes Lizette!” 

Penn looked at the time and realized he needed to end their conversation. “I have to let you go for now. Go ahead and text if you’d like, but I won’t be able to answer right away. Thanks for the conversation. I really appreciate it.”

Amber responded, “Thank you! Let’s touch base again when we can.”

Penn’s spirits were buoyed from his talk with Amber, enough so that the next few hours were bearable. Beth noticed his upbeat mood and asked, “Is that your girlfriend?”

“Girlfriend? We’re close but not dating.” Then Penn confessed, “We have an arrangement. Friends with benefits.”

Underneath her hazmat gear, Beth smiled ruefully. “In nursing school, who has time for a real relationship?”

And the deluge of cars continued. Six o’clock in the evening could not come sooner for all of the testers. Security cut off cars that weren’t already in the lot, and the nurses could hear horns blowing and angry shouted threats of violence. 

Then the supply of test kits was drained, and people inside the lot, people who had waited for hours were unable to be tested. The resulting squalor reminded Penn of being in combat. His pulse quickened, his stomach rocked, and he felt woozy. He remembered the breathing exercises Pru once taught him, and told himself he would be alright. Eventually he was.

To be continued…