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“Luke, what just happened?” Bridget asked, a little annoyed that he wasn’t readily accepting her plan.

“Let’s get out of here, okay?”

He got up and didn’t wait for her to follow him out. She had to walk fast to keep up.

“Luke, I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” he said, unlocking her door. “But explain why we would fly back and forth to see each other if you don’t have any intention of having a relationship with me?”

She climbed into the truck and pulled her seat belt around her body.

“So I could involve you with the pregnancy,” she explained. “So when she comes, it won’t be a shock.”

“Okay, that makes sense, I guess.”

He closed his door, taking a couple of deep breaths so he’d stay calm. They wouldn’t resolve anything in twenty-four hours. There was nothing to resolve. She didn’t want to build a life with him, and he wouldn’t try to talk her into it. They were ostensibly finished as a romantic couple and that sucked. He’d try to be amicable and do what a friend would do for a last night together.

“I’ll cook a nice dinner for you tonight. The last supper,” he said. “Since we didn’t eat, I’ll do it up good. What would you like?”

“Seafood on the grill, baby. And since we’re at a fishing village, it’ll be fresh,” she said, laughing, trying to divert the situation from potentially explosive to bland.

Their last night was fun and platonic. He did the acting job of a lifetime, keeping idle chatter on the way to the airport, giving her space and not falling apart as she left for security.

“I’ll see you next weekend for sure,” she said, waving goodbye as the escalator took her up to the second floor of the terminal.

Chapter 4

Back in Southern California, the familiar surroundings didn’t have the effect Bridget thought they would have. It felt all wrong, like she didn’t belong there and it began the minute she stepped off the plane.

No one waited for her at the airport. Everyone knew she was returning, and she’d insisted she’d get a ride back to the apartment, but she still hoped that at the last minute someone would say, “Oh no, I’ll pick you up!”

The baggage carousel took forever to start and she stood there looking around, hoping to see a familiar face as she waited. It finally started up and her duffel bag was one of the first things out. Dragging it to the curb alone was hard enough as tears fought to come to the surface.

She got an Uber to take her to the apartment. Watching the scenery go by disappointed Bridget; the Mediterranean architecture with the red tile roofs and white stucco juxtaposed against glass and steel skyscrapers had lost its allure. Because of the drought, hillsides had turned brown in the heat, looking dusty and forlorn.

She missed the green jungle of the bayou, the misty swamp and moss-covered trees.

Over the past four months, she’d stayed in touch with her roommates and it thrilled them she was already coming home. The problem was that they had sublet her room to another nurse who was there on TDY or temporary duty.

“You can stay with me,” her friend Chelsea said.

Chelsea’s room had a futon and Bridget would sleep on that until the other nurse left her room.

Returning to the familiar milieu of work might bring her some relief and she went back to the hospital the same day. But when Bridget arrived for her reintegration interview, she received a shock. Mary Hail had expected her to return, but not for another eight months. The circumstances were complicated. She’d only be there until her maternity leave began and then wouldn’t return after the birth.

They hugged and Mary pointed to the chair. “Sit. I’m so happy you’re safe. That had to be a shock.”

“You mean the pregnancy? It was a complete shock.”

“I’m glad you’re back, Bridget, but I only have one position open and it’s on nights.”

This was not news Bridget wanted to hear. She let it sink in. There was no other alternative. Her superior was telling her she would get the worst assignment, nights in the OR, and if she wanted to stay in the Navy, she’d take it with a smile.

“And you realize night shift rotates weekends.”

“No, I didn’t know that. I thought call covered weekends. Why’d I have to take forty-eight hours of call over a weekend if the full-time staff covered it?”

“It’s just the way it worked out. We need at least two teams available at night.”

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