“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I know how completely inconvenient this is for you,” Vivianne apologized over and over again on the phone. “It’s just that I’m on the plane, and I can’t—”

Joelle laughed. “Viv, please. I’m Kiah’s godmother; this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m just surprised you aren’t down here yourself,” she held her Blackberry to her ear as she filled in the forms at the front desk.

“You know I would be, but I’m already on my way basically,” Vivianne sighed. “I have to go. We’re about to take off. Thanks so much again. Tell Kiah that Mommy loves her, and that she’ll be alright.”

“Will do. Have a nice flight!” She hung up the phone, shaking her head in mirth. Who would have imagined Vivianne Schwimmer, the working woman, to have even an ounce of maternal instinct in her? When they were younger, Vivianne rejected the conventional ideas of marriage and family with everything she had. “Marriage is a trap,” she always used to say. “Don’t believe the hype.” So her friends were astonished when she got engaged and even more so when she announced that she was pregnant.

“Auntie Jo?” Kiah’s tiny hand tugged on her sleeve. She looked down to see the three-year old with her thumb in her mouth. “My tummy hurts.”

Joelle’s brow knitted in concern, and she knelt to inspect her godchild further. “Your rash is getting worse,” she murmured, running her hands over Kiah’s smooth forehead. “Don’t worry, baby. We’re gonna have a doctor take a look and fix you right up, mmkay?”

The little girl nodded before taking the opportunity to scratch her red stomach.

A nurse working at the front desk smiled sympathetically at Joelle. “Dr. Bevereaux will be right with you. Room 106, to the left.”

Ryan opened the door to Room 106 and closed it behind him with his foot, all the while staring at the clipboard in his hands. “Kiah Schwimmer?” he look up suddenly, making eye contact with a topknot of hair that sat on the pretty head of a young woman. “Oh. You are not three years old.”

Joelle laughed, pointing behind him where Kiah stood, giggling. “No, I am not three years old. Your patient is right there,” she gestured for Kiah to say hi.

“She’s red and splotchy,” the little girl beside the doctor noted, scribbling something down on her own clipboard with a purple crayon. “Right, Dr. Beaver?”

He chuckled and headed for the counter, tucking his pen behind his ear. “This is Sade. She’s a patient here, and she decided to shadow me for a little while. That’s okay, right?”

“Of course,” Joelle smiled down at the child, dressed to the tee in an oversized lab coat and facial mask. “Where’d you get the coat from?”

“One of our past resident’s was really short. Just a little over four feet,” Ryan chuckled, looking over to see the Sade peering into the girl’s open mouth.

“She’s got one of those dangly things in her throat, too!” Sade exclaimed excitedly.

“Can you tell me some of the symptoms, Mrs. Schwimmer?” the doctor perched on the counter, his pen hovering over the clipboard.

Joelle’s brow furrowed. “Mrs. Schwimmer?” she echoed. “I’m not actually Kiah’s mom.”

“…just her guardian?”

“Temporarily,” Joelle replied. “Her mom is out of town, and her dad was busy. I’m her godmother.”

Ryan smiled. “So I was close. Symptoms?”

Joelle looked over to where her godchild was being examined. “Umm, loss of appetite, nausea, chills… what else was there? I think Viv said something about her tongue…”

“Her tongue?” Ryan questioned, tucking his board under his arm to properly view his patient. “Can you say ‘ahh’ for me, sweetheart?”

To his dismay, the three-year old’s tongue was covered by a white coating. “Though I’m not a hundred percent sure, I think it’s safe to say that what we have here is scarlet fever.”

Joelle paled at his words. “Scarlett fever?” her face grew taut. “Isn’t that a very serious disease?”

“In the Middle Ages, yes. But with the advances in medicine, it’s not so serious anymore,” he listened to Kiah’s breathing through his stethoscope. “From what I can tell, it’s not a severe case, but we need to get her on antibiotics as soon as possible.”

“My tummy itches,” Kiah pouted, lifting up her t-shirt to reveal her stomach, covered by a rash. Even her outie bellybutton was red.

Ryan smiled. “I know, Kiah. And don’t worry; you’ll be fine once you take some medicine.”

“Will it taste bad?” her eyes went wide.

“Even if it tastes bad, you still have to take it,” said Sade matter-of-factly. “Because it’s good for you. Right, Dr. Beaver?” she looked up at him expectantly.

“My assistant is right. So make sure you take the medicine like a good girl, okay?”

Kiah nodded, and Ryan lifted her from the examining bed and to the floor. He turned to Joelle, who was looking at her godchild worriedly. “Don’t worry. All you have to do is give her the antibiotics and make her feel comfortable. She’ll be alright.”

“But what about Sade?” Joelle spoke in a lower volume. “If it’s a fever, it could be contagious, right?”

“Luckily, it’s only in the beginning stages. Right now, it’s not really going to spread that easily,” he leaned over his clipboard, scribbling something in a hard to read handwriting. “This is the prescription. Take this to the pharmacy, and whoever is there will get this for you.”

Joelle smiled gratefully at him before taking Kiah’s tiny hand into her own. “Thanks so much, Dr…?”

“Bevereaux. Dr. Ryan Bevereaux.”

She laughed. “Beaver?”

“It looks kind of like that,” Ryan grinned sheepishly, rubbing a hand behind his neck.

“Close enough.” Her eyes shone in mischief. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Dr. Bevereaux. Thanks so much.”

“Just doing my job,” Ryan handed her the prescription before seeing them out of the door.

————*—————–

“Just a second, Jaxson,” Damien Wallace turned his back to the customer to find his medicine.

Jaxson Noland nodded, leaning against the counter. His mother’s doctor had called to inform him that Mrs. Noland hadn’t been taking her blood pressure medicine. It wasn’t the first time. His mom was well-known for her stubbornness and denial about her health issues.

“How’s Johanna doing, Jaxson?” the pharmacist called from behind. “It’s been awhile since I’ve seen her around.”

“She’s fine,” Jaxson forced a smile. The smile dissolved once he saw Joelle walking towards him, holding her goddaughter’s hand tightly.

Apparently, his ex-girlfriend spotted him, too. Her stride slowed almost immediately. He could practically see the gears in her head turning as she decided whether to approach the pharmacy or not. To ease the pain, Jaxson spoke first. “Hi, Jo.”

Once she was closer, Joelle offered him a slight smile. “Hi, Jaxson.” The smile was pained as it physically hurt her to speak with the man who’d just ended their three year relationship. “How are you?”

“Fine,” Jaxson nodded. “Just picking up my mom’s medicine for her. She’s not feeling too hot, you know?”

In all the time they’d spent together, Joelle probably knew more about Johanna Noland’s condition than he did. She and his mom spent so much time together; shopping, getting their nails done; and gossiping were only some of their bonding activities. “That’s not good,” Joelle murmured. “I’m sorry. She didn’t say anything when I talked to her last.” As she spoke, Joelle’s eyes never met his. She focused her attention everywhere but Jaxson’s face.

“Jo.” His voice was soft but pleading. When he’d broken up with her, Jaxson had asked Joelle whether they could have a cordial relationship. “We agreed to be friendly, remember?”

“I am being friendly,” she shot back, still not making eye contact with him. “We’re talking right now, aren’t we?”

Jaxson stepped towards her. “Breaking up doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends anymore.”

“It doesn’t mean we have to be friends, either.”

Her ex-boyfriend slipped his hands into his pockets, scuffing the toes of his shoes on the linoleum floor. “I don’t want things to change between us. Not like this, at least.”

“It’s fine,” Joelle offered him a small smile. “Nothing’s changed.” Looking down at Kiah, Joelle’s face brightened. “Let’s go, baby girl.”

Jaxson watched as she walked off without even looking back once, stopping only to greet a tall doctor on the way out.

<<Part 2 || Part 4>>

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