She looked down at the empty rows of seats. Rose stems lay at her feet, intertwined with confetti and marks of dirty feet. Her hands tightly wrapped around her shoulders as she rocked back and forth, staring down from the stage. She was exhausted, having felt sick the entire show about the news only she knew. The nerves, a combination of shit scared and excitement, had been stewing inside her. She had to talk to him.
Kiara tied her scarf around her neck absent mindedly, slinging her bag over her shoulder and wrenching the front door shut. The early morning air was bitter and she pulled her jacket tighter. Kiara was pale in color, the traces of being bone tired showing in the dark circles beneath her eyes. She busied her mind with the sounds of Paramore as she made her way to work. This 12-hour shift couldn’t finish any sooner.
She knew it was going to be a long day. She just wanted to curl back up into bed, or even better Aiden’s cloud like king bed. The thought of having tomorrow off was enough to force a smile on her face as she walked into the hospital. She shouldn’t have bothered. The hospital was eerily quiet this early hour. The corridors were white lit and quiet as she made her way to Maternity ward.
“Hey Kiara,” Sadie smiled at her from behind reception, “I just had some mail come in for you, it’s in your cubby.”
“Thank you, Sadie,” This time Kiara’s smile was genuine, her department head Sadie was full of so much perk that you couldn’t help but smile around her. “Is Finn doing better?”
Finn was Sadie’s sweet six-year-old boy who had come down with a persistent ear infection. Sadie nodded, looking much calmer than she had the last week “Much better. Toms looking after him right now.”
“Send him my love,” Kiara said softly.
“I will. Have a good shift,” Sadie was stretching from her chair, “Best I finish these rounds then get going, or Tom will be here after me.”
Kiara attempted a smile. It must’ve been nice, to have her partner waiting for her to come home after a night shift. It felt like going to a hotel when she stayed at Aiden’s, not wanting to move a thing out of place or unpack too many belongings, and she usually bet him there.
With a sigh, she put her bag and scarf in her locker. She shouldn’t be thinking about this. She needed to focus on the expectant and new mothers waiting in the wards for her. Kiara shut her locker sharply. Time to make the rounds. She couldn’t help but think of him.
They had first met when she was 14 and she had been playing Snow White in a community play.
“You were great.”
Kiara eyes had widened in surprise at the compliment and the dark-haired boy speaking to her.
“Thank you,” She mumbled, lifting her head higher to peek at his face.
“Kiara!!” She was swarmed by her cast, friends and family. She had lost sight of the dark haired boy who had been right beside her. Smothered by pats on the back and shoving forward of flowers.
“Thank you,” She replied to their praise absently, eyes searching for him. The stage lights faded out behind her.
“Good Morning miss Kiara, you are looking fine my dear,” She was enveloped in a warm hug.
“Hi Lee,” Kiara grumbled into his back, drained from the first half of her shift.
Lee Andrews, her old next-door neighbor and pain in the ass best friend.
“I think we need to get you a coffee,” He poked her in the cheek, drawing himself back.
“Please,” She agreed as they moved towards the corner café.
She felt much more alive once she had a cup of caffeine in her and had stolen half Lee’s pastry. Lee was talking about his work week, teaching seventh graders and coaching the soccer team. Kiara nodded along, letting herself sink back in the café chair as he told her stories of the kids and their new production.
“You don’t act anymore Ki.”
Kiara shrugged. “I don’t do a lot of things I did as a kid,” She murmured, “It’s called growing up, google it.”
He shook his head in disagreement, “Kiara.”
“Lee,” She said monotonically.
He glared at her, “C’mon, I’m being serious. You lit up on the stage. You were born to be up there.”
She shook her head, avoiding his gaze, “I’m too tired to talk about this right now.”
She knew he thought it was bullshit but she couldn’t explain the truth. She just couldn’t. Not even to her best friend.
“Lee sighed, “I just want to know why Ki. I don’t know how you gave it up.”
She swallowed the lump in her throat as Lee continued to babble on.
“Where’s Aidan this weekend?” Lee quirked an eyebrow, “New York or San Fran?”
“Arizona,” She looked at him pointedly, “He has a lot of contract meetings at the moment.”
“Sure,” Lee knew not to press this subject.
“Wanna come with me to the Farmers Market Sunday then?” Lee winked, a sunny grin on his face. “Could use you to help me scope out a new date.”
“You are disgusting,” Kiara snickered, “I would love to help you be a manwhore but I have a shift Sunday.”
Lee huffed disgruntled, “Really Ki, you work too much.”
She gave a soft smile, “I love it.” It didn’t quite reach her eyes. “C’mon, aren’t you lucky I gave you my lunch break,” She poked Lee playfully.
He eyed her scrubs, “Arent you lucky I bought you real food not that hospital cafeteria shit or those bars you live on.”
“I just worry Ki,” Lee said fondly.
“You can worry less by buying me another pastry,” She winked at him.
“It’s your turn next time,” He reluctantly agreed and got to his feet.
Having her lunch break with Lee and a stomach lined with pastry, she felt much more at ease. And ready to finish the other end of her shift with some energy.
This day had always been one of Kiara’s favorites. Simpler times. She had spent the morning listening to the Black-Eyed Peas new song and dancing, curling up with a new book and baking muffins before Lee had dragged her out of the house, insisting on biking to the store to get ice-cream. Lee had got distracted talking to the girl at checkout, and now she was balancing a tub of ice cream in one hand and attempting to jiggle her bike chain loose.
“Hey there,” She glanced up at the voice in her direction “Do you need a hand?”
Kiara flushed, squinting in the sun “Oh, ah no, I’m okay, really.”
She raised her head properly, meeting the eyes of the stranger. It was the dark-haired boy from the theatre. He smiled down at her. His eyes crinkled with his smile, the irises green glass like the ocean on a clear day.
“Please, let me give you a hand,” He said.
Kiara opened her mouth to object.
“Let me hold that for you for a sec,” His voice was crisp, clear and more direct than any other boy she had met. It was refreshing.
She bit the corner of her lip, “Okay, uh thanks.”
He stepped towards her, tall and lanky with dark features.
“I’m Quinn,” He said, as he took the tub, “I saw you perform at that show-“
“I remember,” Kiara pulled the bike chain loose, straightening up.
“I’m Kiara,” She was red in the cheeks, mildly embarrassed and her pulse was hammering through her body.
“Kiara,” He repeated. Something about the way he pronounced her name made her feel warm inside.
She shook her head. She held her wrists together tightly as she let the memory of him roll over. Good memory, or bad, they froze her in her steps. Kiara stared at the end of the hall.
It’s just because your exhausted Ki, she told herself.
It had been a long day. The energy revive and caffeine spike of being with Lee had only lasted so long. Being in the maternity ward always kept her on edge. A day off to look forward too and a few hours with Aiden before his next flight. She sighed, trying to shake herself free of the dull ache in her head, and heart.
She felt like the last hour of her shift dragged, forcing a smile on her face as she checked in on wee babies. She could never feel too down when checking wee new-borns were tucked up and healthy.
She fiddled with her bag as she ducked into the staff room, heading to her locker. She toyed with her scarf, bag slung over her shoulder as she walked down the ward.
“See ya Kiara,” Thomas, a friendly colleague, waved at her.
“Have a good night Tom,” She said in passing, heading down the corridor to go out the back door.
Visitors were passing by, all heading for the reception exit as the end of visiting hours drew near. She carried on, hurried footsteps along the lino floor, too tired to think anymore.
Her stomach lurched at the sound of the voice coming towards her.
She felt like her blood had frozen “Kiara?”
She looked up, into the green eyes that had been haunting her for the last 9 years.