A Kiss At Midnight

Submitted into Contest #179 in response to: End your story with a kiss at midnight.... view prompt

1 comment

Romance Holiday Fiction

Dorothy scrambled to get the rest of her things.

Keys—check.

Purse—check.

Shoes—check.

Phone… Where was her phone?

She tossed the throw pillows off the couch and ran to the bed to do the same. She checked the common places: bathroom counter, entryway table, charging stand in the corner of the kitchen. No luck. 

Snapping when it finally hit her, she rushed back to the bathroom and shoved open the shower curtain. The phone was sitting nicely on the waterproof holder she used to watch YouTube as she showered earlier this morning. 

Today was a bust.

Dorothy hadn’t done the community service that her job required all year. She was now stuck visiting patients at the children’s hospital to earn those last-minute hours. And, boy, was it last-minute. The last day of the year precisely—New Year’s Eve. Instead of partying with her friends and toasting to the new year, Dorothy would be spending the holiday hanging out with the sick and diseased. 

She planned her day out perfectly. 

Wake up at 7:00 AM.

Have a quick breakfast and get ready.

Leave and get to the hospital by 9:00 AM (visiting hours start at 9:30 AM and end at 12:30 AM for the holiday). 

Squeeze out each second of time until midnight doing her community service so that hopefully her boss wouldn’t be too upset at the missing five hours. She really needed this job.

That was the plan, until she woke up at 8:47 AM with her alarm somehow snoozed and silenced. Now it was almost noon and she regretted getting that bagel and coffee from the cafe downstairs from her loft. She would have roughly twelve hours of community service instead of the twenty she needed.

On the plus side, a cab was pulling up just as she walked out. She waved her arm and went to get in just as someone else came up beside her.

“Afraid this one is taken.” A man wearing khaki pants and a black sweater, holding a coffee cup from the cafe went to reach for the handle.

Dorothy shook her head from the shock of someone taking the cab she’d flagged down. She pushed the door shut and crossed her arms. 

“Who do you think you are? I got this cab to come over. I’m in a rush. It’s mine,” she said, fury boiling in her stomach as he sipped his coffee nonchalantly. 

“Um, Miss. This taxi has been paid for already,” the cab driver said uneasily after rolling down the window. 

Dorothy dropped her arms as the man confirmed his identity with the driver.

“Thomas Thompson.”

Dorothy snickered.

“Your name is Thomas Thompson?”

“Yeah,” Thomas responded with a chuckle hidden under his next sip of coffee. “My mom really liked the name. Luckily, where I work everyone just calls me Dr. Tom.”

“You’re a doctor?”

“Had to have something to credit myself with a name like that.”

It was Dorothy’s turn to chuckle.

Thomas opened the door and gestured inside.

“Oh no, I couldn’t. This was your cab, I misunderstood.” Dorothy took a step back.

“Where were you headed?” Thomas asked.

“The children’s hospital.”

Thomas looked pleasantly surprised before sudden discernment. “You have anyone checked in there?”

“Oh no, I’m doing community service for my job.”

Thomas looked relieved and smiled thoughtfully, and Dorothy couldn’t help thinking how handsome he looked.

“That is where I am headed. Come on, we can share.” 

Before Dorothy had a moment to think about it, Thomas ducked inside and scooted to the far side of the cab, leaving enough room for her to join.

The car ride wasn’t long enough. The two strangers introduced each other better. Dorothy told him her name when he asked and shook his hand, which had a firm but gentle grip. He asked if it was from The Wizard of Oz, the most common question Dorothy ever got growing up and, unfortunately, it was. She told him about how her mother and father had a romance of the century, and how they met from strange circumstances at a showing of The Wizard of Oz on Broadway. 

“I suppose it’s better than the other name they had in store, Glenda. Don’t tell my sister.” Thomas choked on his drink from laughing, which made Dorothy laugh even more.

They talked about why he really wanted to be a doctor, and Dorothy couldn’t help but feel closer to him. 

“My mom was very mentally sick, which cost us a lot of time at the hospital. So, it was  mostly my dad around, but he was pretty busy trying to keep our heads above water. When she passed, it was due to a failure from the hospital staff. We got her life insurance and a pretty hefty set of hush money from the hospital that I was then able to use to get my doctorate. I felt like I owed it to my mom, in that sense. Someone in the hospital had wronged her, and I would be the one who could make sure that that didn’t happen to someone else.” 

“We’ve arrived,” the taxi driver said, pulling up to the colorful entrance of the children’s hospital.

Dorothy and Thomas stood outside and she hoped that he would do something—ask for her number, ask her out on a date, kiss her even. She thought he would be an excellent kisser. But, instead, he told her that he hoped to see her around and left to go inside.

She waited a moment before following, trying not to feel disappointed. 

The hospital was a lot cheerier than she expected. The scent of lemon cleaner and freshly baked cookies collided together into a surprisingly nice smell. Dorothy walked to the front desk and told the lady in pink scrubs what she was here for. The lady called another staff member, Sarah (who had blonde bouncy curls and was wearing a rainbow-print dress with white fluffy-topped tennis shoes), to give a tour of the hospital and introduce her to some of the patients. Sarah had a giddy and cheerful personality. The way Sarah talked to the patients made Dorothy think of her own kindergarten teacher. They passed through hallways covered in murals and doorways decorated with children’s names.

“How long have most of them been here?” Dorothy asked after passing another door that was being redecorated by what looked like a pre-teen girl and her parents. The theme of puppies and kittens was being exchanged for a collage of polaroid pictures. 

“This hospital is a bit selective. The children here all have long-term diseases that prevent them from really going home. There is another section of the hospital that is more like a dormitory, and the kids there usually have roommates since they visit on and off.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to keep the kids together then? To save room?”

“Luckily, this hospital has plenty of room to spare, so the kids here get to have their own room—which most of them need anyway.”

Dorothy felt disheartened.

“Don’t they get lonely? Or scared?”

Sarah stopped and turned toward Dorothy with a calm smile full of sincerity. 

“We do our best to keep the children entertained and social. We have little birthday parties, group readings, movie nights. Anything we can to give them normal lives. It’s honestly a lot like a retirement home!” 

The two started walking again.

“Tonight we will have a New Year’s party in the cafeteria. The kids and their parents will get to have apple juice to toast and we’ve got an abundant amount of snacks. The cookies have been tempting me all day with that smell!”

They rounded the corner to a hallway that was jungle-themed. 

“You’ll be down here today. I’ve got some other visitors coming this afternoon to do community service as well. Food is available in the cafeteria down this hallway,” she pointed in the opposite direction. 

Dorothy was about to thank her and walk off but she hesitated, suddenly feeling nervous.

“Hey, they’re still only kids. They’re just dealing with some pretty heavy stuff, but, I promise, most of them don’t even act like it, the little hooligans,” Sarah laughed to herself and gave Dorothy a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

Dorothy went to the first patient’s door, covered in monkeys swinging on vines and labeled “Carter.” She knocked before hearing a soft voice tell her to come in.

Sitting on the rug was a little boy playing trucks with his mom. Dorothy introduced herself and asked if she could play. The two nodded and Dorothy spent an hour playing with different trucks and action figures and pretend tools before Carter was exhausted and needed a nap. Dorothy went on to the next patient, Lily, who invited her to color with her. The next, James, was a little older and wanted to play video games—Dorothy struggled to play but James was kind and patient with her. The fourth patient, Abigail, was about to take a nap, so Dorothy read her a story from one of her books. 

As she was about to leave, Thomas entered the room. He smiled at Abigail who waved sleepily, and Dorothy. Was there a spark in his eyes when he looked at her?

“How are you doing today, Abby?” Thomas whispered.

“I’m okay, just sleepy now.”

“Have you been sleepy all day?”

She shook her head “No, just a little bit ago.”

Thomas patted her head gently and then smiled at Dorothy once more before walking out. This time, Dorothy didn’t wait. She saw him walking toward the cafeteria and  quickened her pace to catch up. 

“That coffee didn’t fill you up?” Dorothy asked, suddenly feeling her own hunger from only having a bagel. 

“I don’t think there’s enough coffee in the world to ever fill me up,” Thomas chuckled. “How’s it going with the patients?”

“It’s going well, although they’re keeping me a lot busier than I thought.”

“Yeah, they're pretty resilient.”

They walked in comfortable silence before getting to the cafeteria. 

“Sit with me?” Thomas asked.

“My pleasure. Is the food good or is it as bad as school food?”

“Mmm, a good step above school food but not as good as a restaurant. Stay away from the pudding though—I think it might be alive.”

Dorothy snickered. 

The pair grabbed a variety of different snacks as they continued to talk. Dorothy asked why he was working on a holiday and why he wasn’t wearing the usual doctor getup. He told her he was officially off the clock, that his family and friends all had plans for the new year, so he decided to check in on the patients and attend the hospital’s party. He asked her why she was working on the new year, doing community service, and she explained that her job required it for new staff workers, about how demanding of a year it had been and how every time she made plans to do it, something else always came up. 

“You don’t seem like you really like your job all that much,” Thomas stated.

“Who likes their job?”

He gestured to himself.

“All the time?” she added, rolling her eyes.

“You’re right, no job is great all the time,” he said sorrowfully, and she instinctively grabbed his hand.

Catching herself, Dorothy pulled away and shoved a mini muffin in her mouth. 

Just then, another worker came and greeted Thomas, asking if he was here for the party and alongside other idol work-chat. Dorothy, feeling ignored, decided to throw away the food wrappers and continue visiting the patients. When she got to the cafeteria doors, Thomas shouted, “I’ll see you tonight?” And, with butterflies swirling in her belly, Dorothy nodded before heading out.

Down the hallway, a boy stood peering around the corner of the wall. Dorothy leaned with him to see what he was looking at. The girl from earlier,  still redecorating her door, was looking between two pictures and trying to figure out where to put them. The boy, finally noticing Dorothy’s presence, jumped and skidded to the middle of the intersection, drawing full attention from the girl. She waved and he waved back awkwardly before giving an accusatory glare at Dorothy and sulking back to his room. Dorothy smiled at the girl before smugly following after the obviously lovestruck boy.

His room was at the end of the hallway and, instead of having a jungle-themed door like the others, his was black from top to bottom.

All this needs is a leave me alone, do not disturb sign on it, Dorothy thought.

She knocked anyway and opened the door when he said, “Yeah.”

He was laying down, tossing a mini basketball above his head and catching it with one arm.

“I’m sorry for spooking you a minute ago. I’m Dorothy, what’s your name?”

“Eli.”

“Can I come in?”

He just gave her a head nod, so she sat down in the chair across from the bed.

“How long have you had a crush on her?”

His face turned red as he gave an annoyed, “I don’t know.”

“You gonna try and kiss her at midnight?”

That made him sit up. Flustering for the right words, he finally looked at Dorothy squarely.

“You think she would?”

Dorothy smiled. 

“What girl doesn’t want a kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve?”

The day carried on till evening, and from evening to night. Dorothy was exhausted and elated from hanging out with the kids all day. She revisited rooms, played more games, and she truly believed that these kids genuinely liked doing that with her. Maybe she’d start visiting more often, even if her job had her insanely busy. It was an hour until midnight, and the staff was working to finish setting up the decorations and trying to herd everyone to the cafeteria. Some of the kids needed to be in wheelchairs, others needed IV stands, but everyone was going to the party. With all the kids, parents, and workers, the cafeteria was stuffed with people. A projector screen displayed a slideshow recapping the year and a countdown in the corner. The pictures were adorable; one of them flashed to a selfie of Eli and the girl in the hallway. She looked for him in the crowd and saw that the two were sitting next to each other—and blushing. 

Once it got to the last ten minutes of the year, Thomas bumped into her, offering a plastic champagne flute filled with apple juice. She took it, belly filling with butterflies once more, and wishing that actual alcohol was offered. 

“Any last minute resolutions?” he asked her.

She thought.

“You know what, I never did make my trip to Paris like I wanted.”

“I’m sure there are flights leaving in the next,” he checked his watch. “Four minutes.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to make it. I am currently preoccupied.” 

He chuckled lightly, moving closer to her.

“I have one thing I didn’t get to do that I hope to make up for in the new year.”

“What’s that?” Dorothy breathed, moving a step closer as well.

“Kiss a beautiful girl named after a character from The Wizard of Oz.”

“I don’t think you’re Glenda’s type.”

Thomas threw his head to the side, a bright white smile beaming from his face.

“Three!” everyone started.

Thomas and Dorothy stared at each other.

“Two!”

They moved together, the last bit of space an inch away.

“One! Happy New Year!”

Their lips met. A gentle caress of a new beginning and spark of an arising flame. They pulled apart slowly, still in each other's arms and took a sip of their apple juice as someone toasted to the new year. She smiled up at him as he pressed another kiss to her mouth, a promise for more witty banter and laughs, sharing their goals and passions, and a new invigorating adventure on the horizon. 

And Dorothy was right—Thomas was an excellent kisser. 

January 07, 2023 02:28

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Wally Schmidt
05:08 Jan 11, 2023

Welcome to Reedsy Brittney! Hope you enjpy this writing community. This is such a sweet story and it was refreshing to read after some of the life or death stories that I have been reading lately. Perfect for the holidays! Please stop by and read any of my stories and let me know what you think!

Reply

Show 0 replies