Valentine's Day Flash Fiction Contest: A Change in Plans

A Change in Plans

            I checked my watch. 6:57pm. Plenty of time to change out of my scrubs, touch up my make-up and dash over to the restaurant to meet Jonathon by 7:30. I signed off on the last patient release form, clicked my pen closed and stuffed it in my coat pocket.
            “Goodnight, Marcus,” I said to the young man just coming in to work the night shift.
            “Goodnight, Dr. Jane,” he said with a wide smile.
Everyone called me Dr. Jane since my last name was a mouthful of consonants handed down from generations past. 
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” he added with a wink. “Have fun with your new man.”
I instantly blushed. Jonathon and I had started dating in December and our relationship was very new, but I was excited about our plans for the evening. We were meeting at one of the finest restaurants in Los Angeles with views that stretched from downtown to the beach. A recipe guaranteed for romance.
I headed to the small locker room to primp and change into the sexy red dress I’d bought specifically for the occasion. But just as I put my hand on the door, I heard Marcus call my name.
“Dr. Jane, Dr. Jane!” he yelled, frantic. “Trauma room three!”
I rushed over to see what the problem was and discovered the patient I had just cleared for release was in cardiac arrest. My team and I went to work quickly, but I feared the old guy might not make it. His breath was labored, his blood pressure was through the roof, and his pupils non-responsive. It didn’t look good. But Harley had been my patient for ten years and I’d seen him through mange, heartworms and even hip dysplasia. I couldn’t let him down now.
It was nearly eight o’clock by the time I’d gotten Harley stabilized. I could feel my phone vibrating in my pocket while I was working on the large, lovable Labrador, but I didn’t even have five seconds to answer it. Harley was touch and go for nearly an hour and I simply would not give up on him. When his vital signs finally regulated and he regained consciousness, and I could tell by looking into his big brown eyes that he was feeling better, I phoned Jonathon.
            He’d left me two messages, but I didn’t bother listening to them. I just dialed, hoping he would understand why I hadn’t arrived at the restaurant. Emergencies came up a lot in an animal hospital, and my patients were my priority. Unfortunately, this had lost me more than one boyfriend over the years.
            My call went straight to his voicemail, though, and I feared my tardiness had jeopardized yet another relationship. I left a message explaining my emergency, and asked him to return my call as soon as possible. Defeated, I slipped my phone back in my pocket and headed to the locker room.
            I didn’t bother with the red dress. Instead, I changed into the jeans and sweater I’d worn to work. I shoved the dress into my tote bag, tossed my scrubs into the laundry bin and headed out. I peeked in on Harley, who was now resting comfortably in an oversized and cushiony cage. He was fast asleep, and as I stroked his silky brown fur, feeling the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest, there was no doubt that he would pull through with the usual gentle grace he always managed.
            “You have a good night,” I said to Harley. He snored in response and stretched out his paws, one big foot pressing against my hip. I pouted and gently placed his leg back inside the cage. Yeah, he was going to be just fine.
            I was less confident, however, about my budding relationship with Jonathon. Was this Valentine’s Day going to be the end of our barely begun love affair? I hoped not, but with no return call yet, all my past experiences with impatient boyfriends flooded my mind.
            I stopped by the front desk before leaving and found Marcus with his head buried deep in his medical books. The rest of the staff had gone once Harley was out of danger and resting, and our small hospital was quiet and still. He had a cup of coffee warming one hand and a yellow highlighter in the other, marking important passages in his textbook. Marcus was in his final year studying veterinary medicine and worked nights keeping watch over the animals in recovery and tending to emergencies that arose overnight.
            “This was very exciting,” he beamed, tilting his head up to me. “My first heart attack!”
            “And you did great,” I said. “Harley and I both thank you for being there. You’ll make a great Vet.”
            “Thank you,” he smiled. “Oh, and there’s a message for you.”
            Hope soared through me.
            “It’s from Jonathon. He said not to come to the restaurant. He’s made other plans.”
            “Oh,” I sighed, my elation quickly plummeting. “Thanks.”
            “Sorry,” he said, offering me a sympathetic pout.
            I shrugged in response and headed out the door.
            But when I stepped into the parking lot, I found Jonathon leaning against my car and my English Bulldog, Ralph, at his feet.
            “What’s this?” I asked genuinely surprised.
            “Didn’t you get my messages?”
            “Oh.” I’d completely forgotten about them!
            “I see,” he said with a knowing nod, his sandy hair falling over his blue eyes. “Well, I figured when you didn’t show up to dinner, you were saving somebody’s life. So, I thought a change in plans might be good. I picked up Ralph from doggie daycare and we’re going for a walk and a gelato. Care to join?”
            I smiled as Jonathon took my hand and led Ralph and me down the street.
            “So, did you have a good day?” he asked.
            “Yep. A really good day. But no gelato for Ralph. He’s on a diet.”
            “Got it.” He squeezed my hand. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”