I'm Only Here for the Beard

By: Lani Lynn Vale


I held up my hand. “Save it.”

“The doctor said you could go back to work in six weeks,” Aspen continued as if I hadn’t just told her to shut up. “And Kilgore Fire would love to have you back. They’re missing you already.”

I was sure they were, but that was only because I took all the shifts that opened up or filled in whenever they needed someone. Now, they had to find someone else willing to pick up the shit shifts or come in at a moment’s notice.

Though, if I were honest, they were about to have to start doing that anyway, because I’d made a decision last week, and I was going to stick with it.

“Aspen,” I started, “I have to tell you something.”

The drugs were wearing off, and my stomach was starting to hurt. That didn’t stop me from telling my best friend something I should’ve told her a few weeks ago when I’d gotten confirmation from the new ambulance service where I had applied.

“What?” Aspen yawned, leaning forward.

I watched her as her jaw cracked with how wide she’d opened her mouth. Had I been in a livelier mood, I would’ve poked my finger into her mouth like I always did when she yawned, but I was tired and could barely find the strength to lift my head, let alone my hand.

I was depressed.

I’d been depressed for a while now, which had sparked the idea to move.

I’d looked all over the country for a job, and I had finally found one that would hopefully work well for me.

In Alabama. Six hours away.

“I’m moving.”

She looked at me like I was crazy. “You’re not moving. You’re in bed.”

I rolled my eyes heavenward and tried to shift in the bed.

Pain exploded in my body as aches and pains from my involuntary tumble against the hood of Danny’s cruiser made themselves known.

“Sit still,” Aspen said worriedly, helping me put the pillow that’d slipped out from under my head back where it needed to be. “You’re okay.”

I drew air in through my mouth, trying to control the pain with deep breathing since the pain meds I was on didn’t seem to be helping.

“I said,” I breathed carefully, “that I’m moving…not right now, but in a few weeks. To Alabama. Mooresville, Alabama.”

Silence.

If there were crickets, they’d be chirping right now in the silence that followed my announcement.

“You’re what?” Aspen worded carefully.

“I’m moving,” I repeated, finally looking over at her.

She was flabbergasted.

I’d stunned her with my news, and clearly not in a good way.

“You can’t move!” she cried loudly.

I hissed a breath at her. “Shhh!”

She ignored me, got up and began pacing the length of the small room.

“Oh, my God. I can’t believe you’re doing this to me. How could you?”

My brows rose.

“It’s not like I just told you I was going to kill myself,” I informed her. “I’m only moving.”

“How many hours away is that?” she asked.

I bit my lip. “About six and a half.”

She stared at me blankly.

She would’ve had more to say to that, too, but I was saved by a knock on the door.

Relief poured through me that I had this small reprieve from explaining my motives, until I saw PD and Aspen’s husband, Drew, walking through the door and my heart sank.

Drew was awesome. I loved Drew. He was good for my friend. He loved and cherished her and he took care of my best friend like she deserved to be taken care of.

It wasn’t Drew who made my heart hurt, though. It was PD.

PD was my crush…or had been before he’d gotten back together with his wife, July.

Now I was just that pitiful woman who everyone felt sorry for at work because they knew that I had—still have—a crush on a man who is taken. Thoroughly and happily taken at that.

Why PD was even here right now was beyond me. I knew it couldn’t be because he was worried about me…though, I guess that maybe he could be but I doubted that was the case.

I had my answer a few moments later when he looked at me with pity filled eyes.

“How ya’ feeling?” PD asked.

I shrugged, and I could’ve screamed at myself had I had the energy.

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