Pop! Went the Champagne and Boom, said the Yacht

Standing in my office with my shirt half-off, I smiled at the memory of  Nick. Oh, the joys of being me! There I was, with my shirt off, pressed up against a brick wall with Nick blocking my way. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place! Hee, hee. Whew! The thought is enough to get a girl happy these days.

Finishing with my shirt, I walked around my office in my bra. I hoped fervently that no one would pay me an office visit, and truthfully with it being near 6 pm, I doubted that anyone, save Nick, would stop by my office. I try to keep regular hours, you know.

Rummaging around in a shopping bag lying on my office couch, I came up with a fushcia colored tshirt, which I now slipped on. I caught an earring. 

”Ow!” I tried to extricate the errant earring from the t-shirt but I was stopped cold when someone coughed. I stood there, with the tshirt over my face and bemoaned the fact that I hadn’t chosen the sheer, see-through blouse I’d also purchased. At least then I’d have an idea of who was in my office. 

As it was, I had the rotten luck of facing the door and my bra was certainly one of those sheer, see through contraptions designed to hold up a bit of sagging flesh.

Sagging flesh! At my age? Bah! I don’t want sagging breasts in my middle age, even though I disdained bras during my medical training.

The person coughed again. Who was it? I struggled to extricate my earring from the tshirt. I’d have to speak to Nick about these oversized gold hoops he purchased for me on a whim yesterday. Thinking back on it, I believe it was a bribe to keep me from popping my top off whenever I get around those impromptu rallies. Ah, rallies! How I love those rallies. Democracy in action and all that.

I heard footsteps. I froze again as hands gently pulled the shirt free from my earring. I quickly pulled down the tshirt and with my face deep red, I faced my intruder.


He smiled in response. “Nice show you have there. Ever consider going into lap dancing?”

“Tease,” I replied. “I thought you were in emergency surg…Oh.” My face fell as I realized the reason why Nick would be here in my office so soon after going into emergency surgery.

“Yeah,” was all he replied, his eyes downcast. Looking closer at his face, I noticed it was a bit drawn from the strain. The bit of silver adorning his temples seemed to have grown bigger and I noticed that beneath his dazzling smile, there was sadness.

Impulsively, I reached up to hug him and he hugged me back, fiercely, nearly lifting me off my feet.

After a minute or two of hugging, Nick put me down.

“Dinner?” he inquired. Sadness tinged his voice and I realized that tonight might be an excellent night to try a new Italian restaurant that was very small, very cozy and very quiet.


“Let’s go.”

So the two of us left, passing by Jules on the way out of the building. 

“You going to host the party tomorrow night?” Jules asked me, as she struggled with a large duffel bag. Jules and Jackie were heading off to Harriet’s Napa house for the weekend, Harriet having found a steady stream of  renters for her home. “Nice income,” Harriet had said, referring to the paltry hundred bucks for the weekend, forty bucks overnight. The Napa home was booked for a month, including on the weekdays when people just wanted to get away overnight without paying an arm and leg for the privilege. 

“Sure thing,” I called as Nick pulled me into the garage. I suddenly found myself in his arms, being carried to his car.

“My, my, my! What a gallant man we have here!” I told him. He smiled in response and soon deposited me next to his car. With a jerk of his head, he indicated that I should get into the passenger side.

“Italian?” I inquired of him. 

“Take out,” he replied. I nodded. When Nick was in these moods—meaning, when Nick had lost a patient on the OR table—he tended towards the pensive and the introspective. I let him have his way with dinner, hoping he’d stop at that Greek takeout.

“What’s on the menu?”


I nodded, understanding Nick's curt reply. Greek food was what Nick chose to eat when he’d unexpectedly lost a patient. It reminded him of home, I had guessed. One day I'd have to ask him about that.  I looked out the car window as Nick wended the car through the City’s streets, filled now with the rush hour people. With the entrance of summer, people were out on the sidewalks and streets, rollerblading (at least Terry Howland will be doing a brisk business in the ER treating all those blading injuries), walking, jogging. 

I craned my neck around to the back.

”What’s wrong?” Nick asked as I half turned in my seat. Restricted as I was with the seat belt, I found that my initial assumption had been correct.

“There’s a very small stroller with a cat inside,” I informed Nick. I turned back around in the front seat and adjusted my seat belt.

“I’ve seen several of those. In fact, the lady in the apartment below me has one of those. She uses it for her toy poodle.”

“Pet strollers?” I asked.

Nick nodded. “Yeah. Cats like them too. Humans like taking their cat masters outside but most cats don’t like leashes.”

I smiled. That was very true. “Cats own humans. Not the other way around.”

“Whereas a dog’s self-worth depends entirely on how much attention it receives from its owner.”

“But what about those cats who like to play with humans?”

“Reincarnated dogs,” was Nick’s reply.

I chuckled at that. Taking a glance at Nick, I noticed that the corners of his eyes were crinkling. I knew he was beginning to accept the sudden death of his patient. I also knew that Nick wouldn’t talk about the failed surgery until he was ready.

Swinging into a small parking lot, Nick pulled up in front of the door. I began to unbuckle my seat belt but Nick shook his head.

“Already phoned in the order,” he said as he exited the car. I sat back and watched him walk into the small stand-alone restaurant. Damn, he looks good wearing jeans, I told myself. Now, none of this naughty stuff! 

But I couldn’t stop the warm feeling that welled up within me as I watched Nick disappear into the small restaurant. A wonderful smell wafted out of the restaurant and I breathed deeply.

“Mmmmm!” I said aloud. And it did smell good. I wondered what Nick was going to bring me and I hoped his order included some spanikopita. 

Shortly, Nick exited the restaurant, a large shopping bag in his hand. 

“Whatcha got there?” I asked through the window. 

“All my favorites,” he replied as he carefully placed the bag into the back seat. Good. His favorites included spanikopita and baklava. I smiled at him as he got into the car.

We drove the few short blocks to his apartment and exited the car. 

“I’ll set up down by the pool,” Nick said, much to my surprise.

“Pool side dinner?”

“Yep. There’s a swimsuit for you up in my apartment. It's in a bag on the coffee table. Bring mine down. Mine is in my third dresser drawer. Before he walked around to the back of the building, Nick threw me the keys to his apartment. I caught them then went up in his apartment and opened the door. He’s gotten some new furniture, I noted. Strange, he didn’t tell me. Spying a small bag on his coffee table, I went and looked in. A new string bikini—turquoise and black—was in there. I went into his bedroom and changed into the bikini. 

Rummaging around his dresser drawers, I found Nick’s bathing suit. Or, shall I say, bathing suits. Being Greek, Nick obviously liked to swim and there were plenty of bathing suits from which to choose.

“Hmmm. Do I want him in a speedo?” I held up a black speedo. “Or do I want him in swim boxers?”

I smiled as I held up the swim boxers. They were pale rose with hearts on them. Definitely something his mother probably chose. I smiled at the thought of Nick swimming around in the pool wearing the pale rose boxers but then realized they were something he might not have liked to be seen in. 

“Speedos,” I decided. Smiling, I found two towels and took the speedos. Out in the living room, I made a detour into the kitchen and peered into Nick’s refrigerator. Sure enough, there were two single serving bottles of champagne. I grabbed those and some champagne flutes and began humming a happy tune as I wandered downstairs towards the back of the building

Once in the backyard, I noted that the pool was very—very—recently installed. Dirt from the installation was still showing around the edges of volcanic rock planters. Did I see those correctly? Volcanic rock planters. Hmmm. Interesting idea. The planters did make for some very nice looking pool adornments. 

Looking up at me from his chair, Nick seemed to read my thoughts. “It was just completed last weekend,” he informed me in a soft voice.

I smiled. “How did you know what I was thinking?”

“The surprised look on your face. The owner decided to install a small pool with an attached hot tub to bolster the real estate price.”

“He thinking of going condo?”

“It’s a possibility. The other tenants and I have discussed the possibility.”

“Here’s the suit,” I said then tossed Nick’s speedos to him. He smiled then went behind a cleverly placed stone planter containing a towering fern, evidently stratetically placed there so Nick could change into his swimsuit.

I tried—really, I tried, ladies—not to get a warm fuzzy feeling when I heard the jeans zipper slowly unzip (and that zipper sounded loud in the quiet of the backyard of the small apartment building!) but warm fuzzy (not to mention dirty) feelings overran me and I couldn’t help but think of, well, you ladies know what I mean!

Emerging from his fern bedecked dressing room, Nick looked...well, “wow!” was all I could think. Words eluded me as all coherent thought fled. Nick kept walking towards me. Noticing my expression, Nick smiled hugely for the first time that day.

“Shall we get down...to dinner?”

I nodded dumbly, and we wandered over to the small poolside table already laid out with our dinner. Roast chicken, spanikopita, rice in grape leaves (I need to ask Nick what the name of that dish is), and baklava rounded out our meal.

I was hoping we could get down to other things, but that would have to come later. I knew Nick needed food and he hadn’t eaten since breakfast. A man with Nick's kind of busy job needs to be fed well on a regular basis and idly I wondered if this is why his mother ran a restaurant back in Athens. I made a show of slowly sitting down, hoping Nick was watching my bum.

He was. “Nice legs,” he commented softly, indicating that he was indeed paying attention to me.

“It’s those water noodle exercises,” I replied as I watched him come round to his side of the small table.

Sitting down opposite of me, Nick did his eyebrow trick. I chuckled then helped myself to some spanikopita.

”Water noodle exercises?” he inquired, then raised his right eyebrow quizzically. 

“Yeah.” I took a look around the small pool. “I’d show you, but you don’t seem to have a water noodle around.” Wiping a bit of spinach and feta cheese off of my chin, I smiled at him.

“I can definitely obtain a water noodle. Care to explain?" Nick took the champagne bottles and uncorked them. Fortunately, they were easy to uncork, only a slight twisting motion and pop! said the cork. Fizz went the champagne. Plop! the champagne said as it bubbled into the tall fluted champagne glass. 

"Well...," I began, but I suddenly noticed the muscles moving in Nick's chest as he uncorked the next bottled. Their ripples seemed to flow like the sunlight dappling the water in the pool. "Uhm, see, how..." I stammered, hoping I wasn't sounding like a fool. I risked a glance upwards. Nick was smiling at me, his deep brown eyes were actually twinkling. Damn him! He knew exactly how I'd react and he was playing me! 

The sly little devil. No matter. I'd make him earn his punishment later on...and you know what I mean by that, ladies!

I cleared my throat. Nick had asked me for an explanation of water noodle exercises and I would give him one, come hell or high water. Besides, Nick always performed better after he ate so I was determined to fill his stomach full of food before we did other things. 

"Exercise 1: Water cycling. You sit on the water noodle so that your bottom is in the middle and you grab onto the ends of the water noodle."

Nick's eyebrows furrowed as he tried to transfer my words into an image. "I see. Like a U-shape."

I nodded and reached for a champagne glass. Sipping, I swallowed, then added, "You sit in the curved part of the U. Next, you merely begin to bicycle. You move soooo slowly through the water and you feel dumb, but hey, it works."

Nick smiled as he too sipped his champagne. "And other exercises?"

Grinning, I put down the champagne glass. "Water stepping. It's where you try to stand on the water noodle with one foot, again forming that u-shape with the water noodle. You raise and lower the water noodle with just the one foot, bringing your knee closer to your chest."

"Sounds good for resistance and toning," Nick commented, picking up a piece of roasted chicken. I tried not to look at him and to distract myself, I quickly stuffed a piece of chicken into my mouth. "This is good!" I exclaimed. And truthfully, the roast chicken was good. I could eat the entire chicken and sure enough, much to Nick's amusement, I soon discovered I had devoured the larger part of the chicken.

"Good thing I bought two," Nick commented as we finished with the chicken. I leaned back in my chair and burped.

"Ohhh! That was good, Nick!" I said, feeling slightly embarassed.

"Authentic Greek food is good. Just how my mother makes it. In fact," Nick went on as he too leaned back in his chair. "The owner of the restaurant is a cousin of mine."

This time, it was me who raised my eyebrows. "I didn't know you had a cousin living here in the City." I crossed my legs. Damn! Nick was on the other side of the table and he couldn't see how the water noodle exercises had toned my legs quite well. No matter. I raised one leg up in the air, and pretended to stretch. I glanced sideways at Nick and noticed that he was trying quite hard to ignore my raised leg. I smiled inwardly.

"Yeah. He came over three months ago. I didn't know myself until he came round with take out food from his new restaurant just a few days ago."

"That was quick. Him getting his new restaurant."

Nick nodded. "He's been back and forth here several times. Actually, he and an American friend opened up the restaurant. Mikos is the chef and his friend Sandy runs the rest of the restaurant. Sandy set the restaurant up and when decided he needed a chef. So he asked Mikos to come. Since I was already over here in the City, Mikos said yes."

"The sneaky little devil!" I commented. Privately, I thought the Kokoris males were a bit sneaky but that was a trait I was willing to live with. 

"Yes. I thought he was still in Athens, cooking for my family's restaurant. Seems the whole family wanted to surprise me."

"Did they?"

Nick nodded and smiled. "Yep. Sure did."

I smiled then stood up, went around to the table and kissed Nick. He responded with warmth but he was a bit distracted. I decided to go for a swim. Regretfully, I pulled away from Nick and then went to the pool edge and dove in. Swimming back and forth the small rectangular pool (it was about 40 feet by 20), I dismissed Nick from my mind and focused on swimming. 

The water noodle exercises (coupled with the stomach crunches down while hanging from the side of the pool using the water noodle as a float device going across my back and under my arms so that every time I did a crunch, the ends of the water noodle would touch my knees) had increased my muscle tone in the backs of my thighs and stomach and I really felt like a fish in the water, my swimming was that smooth. The water flowed over my lean, toned up body and I had the sensation I was swimming in the buff. It was quite a nice sensation. I had results in less than a month and I was pleased that Nick had chosen an evening poolside dinner. 

After a few more easy laps, I floated on my back and did another water exercise: scissor kicking. This exercise keeps your inner and outer thighs in shape. The object is to scissor kick with your legs and try to keep in a stationary position by moving your arms under the water. 

"Nice!" Nick called. I spluttered and stopped scissor kicking. The deep end of the pool was about 7 feet and I ended up treading water. Nick came over to the side of the pool closest me. "Nice!" he repeated, keeping his expression neutral.

I wondered about his neutral expression but when you are looking at Nick in a speedo, kneeling, coherent thought seems to take a temporary leave of absence. "Makes for nicer legs," I offered by way of explanation. 

"I noticed." Nick's eyes twinkled and I wondered what devilment he was up to. With a jerk of his head, Nick indicated I should get out of the pool. Obligingly, I swam to the side of the pool and heaved myself up. Standing, I followed Nick back to the pool table. Nick's longer legs meant that he reached the table before me and he had a towel in his hands by the time I reached the table.

"Here," he said, smiling hugely. I wondered what it was that had him smiling so big. Ah! He had enjoyed my impromptu swim performance. I must say, ladies, that those water noodle exercises really do work, especially the stomach crunches. Placing one foot on the chair, I dried my leg and that's when I noticed it.

"Took you long enough," Nick commented drily.

I looked up at him. "When did this happen?"

He smiled in response. I tried to flick him with the towel but he moved back. 

"When?" I demanded.

"Uhm, just after you entered the water."

"Thanks for telling me." I looked at the pool, where much to my chagrin, the bikini that Nick had purchased for me lay on the bottom of the pool, its bright turquoise mingling with the water and it was only the thick black stripes which gave the bikini away.

"So that's why I had the sensation I was swimming in the buff!" I wondered aloud.

"You didn't notice?"
"I thought that my recent water exercise regime was responsible," I sheepisly replied, realizing that I had given Nick a surprise gynecology view when I scissor kicked.

He smiled at me then wrapped me in the other towel. "Here. I'll go get your bikini then we can do some swimming."

I nodded and watched Nick walk to the pool's edge. Damn! I told myself. Watching Nick smoothly enter the water, I wondered why he'd never been on a swim team. He dove to the bottom, picked up my bikini and came up with it in his hands.

"Here!" he called, throwning the bikini over to the edge of the pool. Both pieces landed wetly on the side of the pool and I wandered over to retrieve them. While I was bending down to pick them up, Nick had swum over to me and taken ahold of my wrist. Gently pulling me into the water, I landed in the water with an ooomph.

Coming up for air, I asked him, "Why'd you do that?"

Nick shrugged his shoulders, then the next thing I knew I was up against the pool wall, hands clinging to the edge of the pool and all thoughts fled as Nick and I started to water google. 

Good thing we were in the shallow end of the pool or we might have drowned. 


"You did what?" Jules asked me as we sat down on the couch. Harriet and Letty weren't coming this evening so it was just us bachelor girls for the Friday night soiree. Nick was on duty at the hospital but promised to come over after 11 pm when his surgical shift ended. Damn those new surgical shifts! Why couldn't the administration keep nice shifts, like 8 to 5 and 6 to 3. Then again, Nick was in surgery and they'd recently decided to create more humane hours in as much as surgical hours go. Nick worked from 11 am until 11 pm on the new shift. 

Jackie hadn't yet arrived. She was running a bit late with her new boyfriend turning out to be a bit more possessive of her than she realized. That might become a problem for her later on in the relationship but Jules swears Tony's just happy that Jackie's his new girlfriend. I had to admit that Jackie is attractive, especially when she pulls her hair back from her face. 

I giggled. "We googled in the new pool."

Jules couldn't help but to giggle alongside me. "And none of the other tenants noticed?"

I shook my head. "They were out."

"Good thing. You two did clean the pool afterwards?" Jules asked this as a question, but her tone suggested she was trying to assert her maternal instincts with me. Seems that she's thinking more and more about her embryos and about her relationship with the dashing Matt Slingerland. Had Nick not travelled to America, I think I might have started an affair with Matt. Matt in a hottub, I mused. Jules nudged me just then, breaking my train of thought.

"Uh, no. We, uh, didn't get around to that," I admitted as the doorbell rang. "We were too busy in the hot tub and later on we went to his apartment."

I got up to answer the doorbell. 

"Nice," was all Jules could respond. I pulled open the door and a deep male voice said quite loudly, "Man-o-gram! Man-o-gram for Miss Rae Brennan!"

Then music started--some sugary tune made popular by a group of handsome young men-- and a tall, muscular man entered the home. Dumbly, I stood aside as he pranced inside my living room, clad only in a speedo bathing suit. The speedo was white which contrasted nicely with his deeply bronzed skin. 

"Mercy!" Jules gasped. 

Mercy? Had we somehow gone back in time when people actually said mercy? The man turned around in front of me and bend over, showing his very muscular bottom to me and wiggling it. 

I could do nothing but gape at the man. He straightened and noticed Jules sitting on the couch. He pranced over to her and much to my shock (not to mention Jules' shock) he began to lap dance. All I heard were moans of pleasure, 'oooohhhsss!" and "ooooooo, yes. Do that again!" seemed to dominate. 

Tearing my eyes away from the spectacle, I noticed Jackie standing inside my front door.

"Like him? I thought I'd liven up our bachelor girl party," Jackie grinned.

"What about Tony?" I asked. "He'll be livid when he discoveres this."

"He'll never know and if he does find out," Jackie said in a warning tone, "I'll know who to blame."

"It won't be me," I told her. I crooked my finger in the direction of Jules. "She might blab."

Jackie gazed at Jules. Only her legs could be seen underneath all that muscle. I started suddenly. "His speedos are off!"

"Not off. Just down," Jackie corrected. Jules didn't seem to notice but the man somehow slithered into his speedos and stood up. 

"Man-o-gram!" he announced, smiling. He seemed to know only a few phrases but I didn't mind. Jackie reached into her purse and withdrew some bills which she handed to the man.

"Thank you!" he said, surprising me with this new addition to his vocabulary. He gathered his things and left, smiling hugely. 

After Jackie shut the door, I asked her, "What was that about?"

She shrugged. "Someone at work discovered him and I wanted to see what he was like. Hey Jules, was he good?"

Jules could only nod. I noticed there was some drool on her chin. I went over to the couch and sat back down. Jackie put her purse on my coffee table and went to get herself a drink. She glanced at Jules then fixed Jules a whiskey--neat.

"So, did you like him?" I inquired of Jules.

"Yes. He was quite, nice."

"Except he lap danced with the one person," Jackie commented. "He was supposed to lap dance on you, Rae."

I furrowed my eyebrows. "You know I'm with Nick now that I've left Sean."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just thought you'd like a bit of excitement in your life," Jackie mumbled.

At this comment from Jackie, Jules perked up. "Rae googled Nick in the pool last night."

Jackie carried the two drinks over to the couch. She handed Jules a drink then sat down carefully, trying not to spill her glass of wine. "Googling in the pool now are we? Let's see, you two googled while parked on the Bridge, googled in parking lot of the hospital, googled in the kitchen, of all places! Now the pool?"

I shrugged. "It seemed expedient at the time. Besides, I didn't have much choice in the matter. He can be persuasive when he wants to be."

"Agreed," Jules said, wiping the drool from her chin before sipping her whiskey.

"So what got you stripping your shirt off at that rally yesterday?" Jackie inquired. "Enquiring minds want to know." She grinned at me and I grimaced inwardly. Would I never live this down? 

I sighed to emphasize I was tired of the discussion. "I just got carried away."

"We noticed." This comment came from Jules.

"I guess I was trying to relive my college days. I went to college in the mid-70s, just as Watergate and Vietnam were winding down."

"Were there many protests like that?" Jules wanted to know. 

I nodded and sipped my wine. "Yes. Seems like every campus wanted to get their protests into the news. And the more 'colorful' the demonstration, the more likely the protest would make the news."

"So the stripping off of shirts was like, required?" Jackie asked.

"Mostly. I never stripped off my shirt but I was around a lot of women who did. This was the mid-70s and although it was free love and all that, stripping off in public, especially with tv cameras around, was still quite a novelty. And it certainly made the news."

Jackie grinned slyly. "We also heard..."

Oh brother, here she goes again with her gossip mongering. Some days, it just doesn't pay to know Jackie. 

"...like that movie, How to Beat the High Cost of Living."

That perked my ears up.

"What about that movie? I inquired innocently, then cleverly stood up. "I"m going to bring us some Naughty Cake."

"Ooooh! Sounds good. What is it?" Jules asked, taking my bait like a puppy takes a juicy steak tidbit from its masters hand. 

"Chocolate torte with bittersweet chocolate sauce and mixed berries. It's delicious. So dense, you almost need a knife to cut it with. I picked it up earlier this afternoon."

"Gosh, I hope the sauce didn't get the cake mushy. I hate mushy cakes," Jules commented as I walked into the kitchen.

"It won't. The sauce comes in its own container," I called back over my shoulder. I took the cake box, opened it and slid the cake out onto a plate. Opening the sauce container, I dipped my finger in then sucked it before replacing the sauce. I would have to serve the sauce when I cut the cake. "Mmmmm," I told no one in particular. In my own rambling way, I next went to the fridge
for the berries. Pulling them out, they were nicely chilled. I took some cake plates, a cake knife and some forks and carried all these things out into the living room. Jackie jumped up to help me. 

"This does look good!" she commented as she took up the knife. "Ooomp!" she grunted. "This cake really is dense."

"But it's good," I commented. "That's why they call it Naughty Cake."

After large slices were served on the plates, I drizzled the bittersweet chocolate sauce onto each piece then served a generous helping of mixed berries.

"Are these blackberries?" Jules asked.

I nodded. "It makes an interesting accompaniment. Damn! I forgot the whipped cream." While I trotted off to find the whipped cream, Jules and Jackie dove into their Naughty Cake slices.

"Oh, my gosh," I heard Jackie say around a mouthful of cake. "This is good!" 

"Mmmm," Jules mumbled. I came back with the whipped cream and gave generous portions to all. 

"I need to save some for Nick," I told the girls. 

"He's coming over tonight?" Jackie asked, swishing a raspberry around in the chocolate sauce."

I nodded. "With those new surgical hours, he gets to sleep late in the morning so we miss each other frequently. I'm considering shifting my hours to ten in the morning until six in the evening."

"Wish I could do that. The one bad thing about being a pediatrician is that you're on-call even when you're not on call!" Jules complained. "Parents call about every little thing and expect you to be there and answer their questions."

"Why haven't they called here?" I asked, forcing my fork into the dense chocolate torte. I was beginning to yearn for coffee. Coffee goes so well with this cake.

"I turned off my pager and instructed my answering service to tell the parents that if it's an emergency, to take the kid to an urgent care center."

I grunted. "Every parent thinks their kid is having an emergency."

"Tell me," Jules replied. "Ah, but most of them are first time parents. They get jittery at the slightest hint of trouble. By the time the siblings start to arrive, the parents have adapted. You know," she said, taking a large bite of cake. "Muuuvvee yewll usk fff I can spekilize."

"Huh?" Jackie asked. Jules swallowed her cake. 

"I said, Maybe I can ask if I can specialize in second time around parents and leave the first timers to the other docs."

"It's worth a try," I offered. But how would one go about treating sibling groups? I wondered.

"Perhaps you could offer a family discount. That would bring in the parents," Jackie offered.

Jules laughed. "Like your underarm deal?"

"Don't remind me," Jackie groaned.

"Seriously, I could ask around and see about getting the idea," Jules said. The phone rang. I waved it off and let the answer machine pick up.

"Rae, it's Nick. Can't get there tonight as there's been a boat explosion about fifty miles offshore. I'm going off in the air rescue team to try to get the survivors stablized..."

Heedless of the mess, I dropped my cake plate and stumbled towards the phone. Nick was still talking. "...about two dozen people were supposed to be on the boat. It's a private yacht owned by Gloria Alexa..."

"Gloria?" Jackie croaked. 

"Nick!" I said, picking up the handset. "Do they need help?" 

"I'm en route to the air rescue right now but no, they've got all the docs they need right now. Thanks."

"You going to be home in the morning?"

"Nuh, uh. Some of the injuries sound serious and the Coast Guard is way overloaded. Seems there's another tanker that's in distress, a trawler that needs tugging and several pleasure boats have gotten themselves into trouble. So it's air rescue."

"You mean a sea rescue," I commented.

"Air and sea. I need to go, as I don't like driving while talking on a cell phone. I'll see you tomorrow and if you could make up the futon in my office, I'd appreciate it. I'm gonna need a place to crash for a few hours."

"All right. Let me know," I instructed him.

"Love you," Nick said then clicked off before I could return his endearment.

Jules had the tv's remote in her hand. "Let's see what we can find out," she said as she clicked the tv on and began to surf the local channels.

"Look!" Jackie said. "That was Amanda Sotheby! I bet she's covering the story. Go back! Go back!" 

Fumbling with the remote, Jules finally found the channel. Sure enough, there was UMC's pet reporter, Amanda Sotheby, who, sporting a stylish new hairdo, was on the scene down at the marina, where more than a few yachties were anxiously milling about.

"Yeah, she's on the story," I said as Jules turned up the volume. Amanda held a hand to her ear, where undoubtedly a bug was placed and she was receiving some very recent news. She turned to face the camera. All poised and professional now, I noted with a touch of sadness. 

"It's just been released that UMC surgeon Doctor Nicholas Kokoris is en route to the scene now. For those of you just tuning in, about a half hour ago, the yacht, Ocean Dancer, owned by singing sensation Gloria Alexa, exploded some fifty miles offshore. About two dozen guests were onboard the yacht. The Coast Guard has appealed for the air rescue team to assist in the rescue effort and Doctor Kokoris has responded to that call. It is not known about any injuries and no information about the whereabouts of Gloria has been released by her press agent. Stay tuned for details as the story unfolds. This is Amanda Sotheby reporting live from the Marina."

Jules muted the broadcast as the news cut back to the newsroom where a special bulletin newsteam had been assembled to cover the story. The two broadcasters, obviously shocked by the news concerning Gloria Alexa, tried to maintain their composure while addressing an assuredly equally shocked San Francisco audience. 

"I just attended her concert last weekend," Jackie said, trying to hold back tears. "Anthony took me as a last minute surprise."

"She'll make it," I offered, not knowing what to say.

"Nick will know what to do when he gets there."

I noticed the tv station had cut back to its regularly scheduled broadcast. Knowing how Jackie was having a voice affair with the Mexican singing star (Jackie had developed a passion for Spanish upon hearing Gloria's Spanish language CD), I made a decision. "Let's see what CNN has to say," I told Jules, who obliged by flipping over to the channel.

"There's Amanda again!" I exclaimed. "Turn it up!"

"At this time, Gloria Alexa's press agent is refusing to divulge information on the whereabouts of Gloria, but it is confirmed through official channels that Tristan Johnstone, of the singing duo, Milky Way, was onboard Ocean Dancer to celebrate his 21st birthday. Information about other passengers has not been made available as of yet."

"He's just a baby!" Jules said forlornly. "Not even twenty one yet."

"His birthday is day after tomorrow," I said. Tristan probably went offshore frequently in order to take advantage of the international laws. Those laws included the imbibing of alcohol at age 20. 

Amanda was still speaking. "And University Medical Center's Doctor Nicholas Kokoris is en route to the scene." CNN cut to a stock shot of Nick and Matt. "Doctor Kokoris is on the left," Amanda's voice added helpfully. Yeah, as if people in the City didn't already know who my boyfriend was.

I tried to smile at that thought but found myself suddenly staring at the scene of wreckage so shocking, it took me a moment to register. Bits and pieces of the flaming wreckage covered the water for what looked like miles. Dark objects with arms and legs floated in the water amidst the bright orange of life jackets.

"Oh. My. God," Jules breathed. "I don't think anyone could have survived that. Oh, god! Was that someone's head?" Jules' voice rose on the last word and I had to choke back a sob. Yes, I wanted to say. That was someone's head bobbing sideways in the water. Judging from the dark pink color of the hair, I knew whose head it had to be. Gloria's. 

I knew the image of that disembodied head would burn in my brain for months to come. 

"Get that footage off the air and tell the cameraman to shut off that camera!" someone shouted. That was the first time I'd ever heard someone in the background at CNN. Quickly, Amanda Sotheby came back on screen. "And for those viewers just tuning in, the yacht, Ocean Dancer, exploded some fifty miles offshore. Ocean Dancer was owned by singer Gloria Alexa..."

"Turn it down," I breathed. "I don't think I can hear any more." Even in the worst war ravaged areas I'd been in, I don't recall seeing devastation like that. Only one other time had I seen devastating footage like what I was seeing now: 9/11/01. The thought wandered through my mind that CNN was trying to be sensitive by not showing the footage of Ocean Dancer's wreckage. 

"My god, is Nick going into that?" Jackie asked no one in particular. I prayed that she hadn't seen the disembodied head with dark pink hair--hair which would have been bright pink when dry--bobbing in the water. 

"It appears so. It doesn't look like anyone survived," Jules quietly said.

"How did they get footage so quick?" Jackie inquired. She was trying to choke back tears. I looked at her closely and I realize that she had seen the disembodied head and that she'd registered the color of the hair. 

"Apparently someone borrowed a traffic helicopter," I replied helpfully, wondering if this was indeed the case. I didn't think that Nick was on the scene as of yet and I figured it would take some time to fly fifty miles offshore. So somebody was already on the scene. 

On the tv screen, Amanda was still talking. I noticed that I had close captioning on the tv and running across the bottom of my screen were these words of Amanda's: "A San Francisco traffic helicopter detoured and moved onto the scene. The Air Force has sent a warning to the helicopter and has asked it to move off and to stop filming footage of the accident. To ensure compliance, the Air Force has dispatched a plane to escort the traffic copter back to San Francisco."

"So that explains it. A quick thinking reporter got on the scene."

"And they invited themselves to an Air Force escort home and most likely a debriefing," I reminded the two women. I glanced down at the coffee table. Our Naughty Cake slices lay forgotten in the shock and horror of learning about the yacht explosion. 

Onscreen, Amanda was talking to some of the yachties then CNN cut to back to the newsdesk. Shortly thereafter came a story about Tristan. His singing partner, George Almonds, was shown being led to a limosine. George was in tears and I believe he knew in his heart that Tristan was dead. It sure looked like no one survived that explosion. I didn't think that Nick would have much to do except pronounce people dead.

I winced inwardly. I hated that word, dead, yet I had chosen as my career oncology. I saw people die nearly every day but every day also brought new life to those patients who had survived their cancers. The three of us women sat numbly watching the television reports, each of us undoubtedly wondering about what happened. I had the added thoughts about Nick and whether or not he would be safe when he arrived on the scene. 


"I won't ask," I told Nick as he awoke groggily and I was sincere in that remark. It was mid-afternoon and Nick had just woken up from a short nap. As I'd suspected, he'd arrived back at UMC in the wee hours with very little to do. The only survivor of the yacht explosion was Tristan's little white dog, Fifi. Tristan had been on the ship to shore phone with his mother, telling her how Fifi was swimming around the ocean like it was her own personal swimming pool. 

Then the explosion had occured while Tristan was on the phone. Fifi had missed most of the explosion, emerging nearly unharmed, but had suffered some burns resulting from flaming wreckage. All other passengers had died in the explosion, including Gloria Alexa. Nick had carefully wrapped her head in a blanket before being told by the Coast Guard not to touch anything. The rest of her body has yet to be found. 

Nick has also found Fifi, and had carefully kept her on his shoulders while he was attempting to ascertain if there were any survivors. How he had kept a hold of Fifi while dangling from a helicopter, Nick wouldn't tell me, but I heard there is some nice footage taken by the traffic copter crew. Naturally, the traffic copter crew had filmed the scene until the Air Force escort had arrived. The traffic guys had filmed Nick being lowered close to the water so he could make an assessment. Fifi was in the care of Tristan's mother.

Still shellshocked from seeing what he saw last night, Nick would need a lot of attention in coming hours. Plus, he was still reacting to suddenly losing his surgical patient from Thursday. Sudden brain embolism, nothing anyone could do, was the pathologist's verdict.

Nick had been upset about the loss of the patient, a vibrant young thespian going by the name Thelma Williams. Now, he also felt pain for all the people who had died in Ocean Dancer's explosion, including Gloria and Tristan, two of the entertainment industries most beloved young people. People Magazine was rushing an issue featuring a story on Gloria and Tristan. The story had been due for release in the next issue anyways but apparently it seems like Gloria and Tristan had made a single together, finishing up the recording the day they sailed for the blue seas. Their respective record companies have decided to issue the single in the coming weeks.  

"Thanks," was Nick's groggy reply. There were shadows under his eyes and his face still had a look of shock. It was Saturday and things were a bit slow. I liked coming into the office on Saturday and I kept some Saturday office hours for those patients who preferred a bit more privacy. 

"Coffee?" I asked. Nick nodded and I went to fetch his coffee

"Hazelnut with half and half,"  he called out to me. I raised my hand in reply, then thought better of it. I turned around and began walking backwards while facing him. I blew him a kiss and was rewarded with a big smile.