"I'd like to see Dr. Ziegler."
The nurse at the main hub was new. At least she was new to me. She was a pretty brunette that obviously was not a mother because she still had time to straighten and curl her hair, put on eyeliner and gloss, and didn't smell like any sort of juice. She smiled at me.
"Dr. Ziegler is the best," she said. I smiled.
"I know," I agreed. "He's my husband."
Her eyes widened. "Oh, you're Marcie?"
"Macie," I corrected. The warm fuzzy feeling that he talked about me at work was extinguished by the name screw-up. The bottom glossed lip got sucked in.
"Sorry," she apologized. To my credit, I kept smiling.
"Happens all the time," I said. "Where can I find him?"
"He'll actually be dropping off charts in five minutes. If you want to wait in the waiting room, I'll send him in. Your little girl is adorable by the way."
I laughed. Rielynn knew a compliment when she heard one. To increase her cute factor, she wrapped her arms tightly around my neck.
For the next fifteen minutes I entertained Rielynn the best I could in a room where there were only ten-year old copies of National Geographic, AARP magazine, and one completely mangled copy of Highlights for kids. My amazing improv skills were on full display, my hand keeping warm inside a random sock I had found in her diaper bag, when Charlie walked in.
My sock puppet's mouth clamped shut. Rielynn turned.
Charlie looked at her with what I call the 'physician's face.' He started at her head and worked his way down, crossing things off his mental anatomical checklist. "Rie okay?"
There was a time in my life when Charlie had been more than happy with a visit from me. Sure I had often come missing various articles of clothing to spice things up but I had at least put on deodorant and brushed my teeth today. Hell, I had even gone hog wild and brought out the Chapstick.
"She's fine," I said before he could kneel down and start testing joints and reflexes. "I need to talk to you."
A big worm of a forehead crease appeared from out of nowhere. I stared at it, fearful it would come alive and start wiggling under the skin. It was a sure sign I spent too much time watching scary movies. "Can't it--"
"No, it can't," I said, happy to be interrupting him once instead of the other way around. "Rielynn and I have been asked to go on a trip and I've said yes, but I want you to know."
I had thought a lot about the phrasing. Asking for approval sounded very 'Mrs. Brady-ish' of me. I had aimed for the middle ground, but it still sounded very feminist. Charlie smiled.
"Where ya going?" he asked.
He said it in a way that made me think his vision of a trip was going to another city for a museum day or something. Rielynn grabbed my sock puppet hand. "Tawk!"
So that's how I broke the news. With my sock puppet, I gave him the news. "We're going to Kuala Lumpur."
"It's in Malaysia." my puppet pal continued, swooping in to kiss Rielynn's cheek. She burst into giggles.
"I know where it's at," he said over the sound of pure child delight. He wore a look of sheer disbelief. "Who invited you there?"
"One of the parents in the afternoon Little Gym class invited us," I said. "I'd be going along to help watch Parker. He's the same age as Rielynn. They've had a couple playdates."
"What is she doing there?"
Shit. My inner feminist tucked tail. My sock puppet made a big show of stealing Rie's nose. She clamped her hand over her face and giggled.
"It's actually a he. A dad. Nick is going on a business trip and needs someone to watch Parker while he's working."
"And his wife's going to be there?"
"She's away on business right now."
Charlie didn't answer right away. In fact, I finally looked up to make sure he was still there. Our eyes met.
"He's just a friend?"
I felt ridiculous, but I seriously was thinking the question would have been laced with some jealousy. Instead he asked me in the same tone he asked a patient about whether or not their ass boil hurt.
"Absolutely," I said truthfully.
"Malaysia," Charlie scratched his chin. "That's an incredibly opportunity for Rie. We'd never be able to afford to introduce such culture to her. And at such a young age..."
I held my breath. Was he seriously going to say---
"How long would you be gone?"
I couldn't believe my ears. "Five days, tops."
Charlie was still looking at Rie. "What an awesome thing to include on a college app," he murmured.
The farthest thing from my mind was my baby going to college. Rie grabbed my sock puppet hand. I started covering her in sock kisses. A buzzing sound filled the room.
"I'm being paged," Charlie said. Our eyes met.
"We'd be leaving in about a week," I said softly.
"Okay," he said. He gave me a quick smile.
"Thanks for visiting."
It took everything in me to smile.
The door was already closing.
"Anytime," I whispered.