Socio (first half)

Shannon is a very average woman who doesn’t have much money.

Dr. Angelica Warren is a wealthy specialist with a luxury high-rise condo.

When Shannon loses her apartment to a fire in her gang-infested neighborhood, Dr. Warren is quick to take her in. Suddenly, Shannon has everything…a safe neighborhood, gourmet food, access to medical care, tons of amenities, the freedom to work at home, and a spectacular view from her posh new home.

Shannon is quick to devour it all. Including the building’s security guard, nicknamed Socio, who is fast becoming obsessed with her. When Shannon goes to break it off, she finds that Socio isn’t so eager to let her go.

What she doesn’t yet know is that the doctor herself has quite a surprise in store for her.


NOTE: If anyone reading this spots any errors, please let me know. Thanks in advance!

Chapter 1

33-year-old Shannon Owens cussed under her breath in one of the many reception areas of the medical building she worked in. Even though she answered phones and scheduled appointments just three days a week, she sometimes got sick of some of the bitchy nurses that she worked with. The way they rudely barked orders at her as if she were a disobedient child or a simpleton didn’t sit well with her. Most of them were actually pretty friendly. It was just this one bitch, in particular, that was getting on her nerves lately. Her expectations weren’t just high, they were ridiculous. The slightest imperfection and the crabby old lady would likely scold her and make her feel like a kid all over again.

Yet Shannon simply sucked it up as she scheduled patients in the hematology department and dealt with all the insurance companies as well. Screaming kids in the waiting room didn’t help her concentration very easily but she needed to get out of her apartment at least a few days a week to avoid getting cabin fever. She loved working from home as she did when she wasn’t at the medical center as a digital magazine editor. But as much as she enjoyed the comforts of home and her solitude, she couldn’t imagine being at home seven days a week.

It seemed to take all day for the lunch break to finally arrive and she and her growling tummy were more than happy to take the elevator down to the cafeteria when it did. The cafeteria was very crowded that day as doctors, nurses, office staff, and other hospital personnel bustled through it. The dozens of people around her reflected the amazing diversity of New York City. She could see every race, color, nationality and body size imaginable.

She took her tray and selected a tuna sandwich with a banana and a diet soda. After she paid for the food, she turned to scan the tables for an available seat.

Damn, it’s crowded in here, she thought to herself.

Yet just when she was pretty sure there were no available seats, she spotted a woman gesturing her to a nearby table. Shannon walked over to it and the woman told her she was welcome to sit at her table.

Shannon looked appreciatively into the woman’s dark eyes. She’d never seen her before but with the white coat she wore, she was obviously a doctor of some kind and appeared to be about a decade older than she was. She first thought she may be Puerto Rican or Mexican but the accent suggested otherwise.

“Thank you,” said Shannon.

The doctor brushed her hair aside. She had a thick long black ponytail that hung to her waist.

Shannon sat down and began eating. The doctor, who sat across from her, was eating a salad.

“You’re welcome. Haven’t seen you around here before,” the doctor said.

“I’m still fairly new here. I started last month in the hematology office and I only work here Monday through Wednesday. I’m Shannon Owens, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you, Shannon. That’s a very beautiful name you have.”

“Thank you. And you are?” Shannon asked, trying to see the doctor’s name tag better.

“I’m Dr. Angelica Warren.”

“Well, nice to meet you too, Doctor. Are you a PCP?”

The doctor shook her head as she chewed a sliver of tomato. “Endocrinologist. I’m up on the third floor.” She took a drink and asked, “Are you home with small children the rest of the week?”

“No, I’m home with a couple of rats and a laptop where I work as an editor for a digital magazine.”

The doctor’s eyebrows raised a notch.

“It’s just a lame beauty magazine. Not any kind of juicy gossip magazine or anything fancy like that.”

“You correct and verify the articles that are written?”

Shannon nodded. “It involves research and proofreading for the most part. I’m only here so I don’t go stir crazy from being at home so much of the time, not that I’m not a homebody because I am.”

“I see. And how about promotional modeling?”

Shannon looked at the doctor confused. “Pardon?”

“Would you consider participating in a promotional video?”

“Depends on who I’m promoting.”

The doctor smiled as if she found that statement funny, exposing a nice set of even white teeth. “Do you have a doctor here?”

“No. I’m both uninsured and healthy, so unless I get sick, I don’t need to bump up to full-time to be insured and see someone.”

“But you could be sick and not know it.”

“Yeah, I know. But life is about taking chances and I’m going to die someday anyway.”

The doctor studied her. Shannon could tell that while she may appreciate her humor and her directness, she thought it a shame that she didn’t have a doctor, which was understandable being a doctor herself. Shannon sensed a bit of surprise on the doctor’s part as well and had a feeling that the doctor wasn’t used to such directness.

The doctor pulled a pen and a small notepad out of her breast pocket and scribbled something in it which she tore off and handed to Shannon.

Shannon took it and found the doctor had written her name and a number in a scrawl that was barely legible. Didn’t most doctors have shitty handwriting, though?

“Many doctors now have promotional videos online. We don’t usually like to use any of our real patients because we don’t want to appear like we’re favoring certain patients over others. I have been looking for someone to do an updated video and I think you would be a good candidate if you’re interested. You don’t need to say anything. All you need to do is sit in the exam room and chat with me as they film. There will be no sound in this case. It will just be me appearing to examine and inform you of your health. If you are interested, rather than pay you, I would like to refer you to a PCP for a basic checkup to make sure you are as healthy as you think you are. I will take care of the expenses.”

“Wow, that’s quite generous of you, Doctor. But if I’m surprised with any health issues that need to be dealt with, I doubt I’ll be able to afford to do so.”

“Don’t worry about that right now. One thing at a time.” She crumpled her napkin and rose to her feet. “Just give me a call if you’re interested and please do it by the end of the week.”

“I will. Can I ask you a question first?”

The doctor stopped and looked at her.

“Why me?”

“You’re very beautiful.”

 

Chapter 2

Not wanting to seem overly eager, Shannon waited a day and then called the number Dr. Warren had given her. She expected some kind of answering service to answer for her but was surprised when the doctor herself answered.

“Hello?”

“Hello. Who’s this?”

“Well, who is this?”

“This is Shannon Owens. Is this Dr. Warren?”

“Yes, it is. Hello, Shannon. How are you this evening?”

“I’m fine. Is your offer still good?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“That’s nice to know, though honestly, I don’t mind helping you out as a favor. You don’t have to send me to the doctor.”

A slight laugh could be heard from the other end of the line and then the doctor said, “Going to the doctor is part of the favor you would be doing me.”

“Okay then. If you insist.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. What do you need me to do?”

“I need you to come to my office after hours tomorrow. Would that be okay for you?”

“Yes, that would work.”

“I need you to wear something casual but not sloppy or overly fancy.”

“Okay.”

“Nothing with any writing or logos but rather a solid color.”

“Pants or a dress?”

“Either one is fine.”

“I have a simple short-sleeved pale pink dress that falls to just above my knees.”

“That should be okay.”

“I take it my shoes don’t matter?”

“No. That is up to you.”

“Any hair or makeup requests?”

“Little to no makeup. The hair doesn’t matter unless you intend to dye it bright green or something like that.”

Shannon laughed and said, “Definitely not.”

“I will see you at 5 PM then.”

Shannon hung up feeling a strange sense of anticipation. She actually looked forward to doing the video. Not because she wanted to be in a video since anyone could make a video of themselves these days. And definitely not because she was eager to go to the doctor, paid for or not. It was something about the doctor herself. She wasn’t sure what it was, but for some reason she couldn’t understand, she was looking forward to seeing her again. It wasn’t that she was attractive. If anything, she ranged from ugly to ordinary. She wasn’t sure what to make of her personality. Even though she had chatted with her at lunch and asked some questions about her, she had the feeling that the doctor wasn’t usually very friendly. She didn’t think she was exactly unfriendly either but just quiet and indifferent appearing. Shannon was usually pretty good at reading people and she sensed that the doctor wasn’t a very emotional person overall and probably had a rather dry sense of humor as well. But she liked the woman. She didn’t know why but she did, even though she knew next to nothing about her.

She had trouble sleeping that night as she thought about her upcoming meeting with the doctor with the plain face and the beautiful hair. But eventually, sleep did claim her until the vibration of her Fitbit brought her back to wakefulness several hours later.

It was Thursday, so that was her day off. It was going to be a long day. Normally, she had the luxury of not setting alarms on her days off. But this morning she had some errands to run and she decided not to sleep in.

It seemed like forever had passed before it was time to take the train over to the medical center. She went to the third floor and the suite that Dr. Warren had instructed her to go to. She arrived a few minutes early, according to the clock on the wall behind the reception desk.

“Are you Shannon?” a tall slim black woman asked her once she stepped into the area.

“Yes, I am.”

“Dr. Warren is waiting for you. I’ll show you the way.”

Shannon followed the woman through a door and into a smaller waiting area where the doctor stood chatting with a younger guy. When she heard them coming, she turned to face her and said, “Oh, she made it. Good for you.”

“Hello there,” said the guy with a smile and a nod. “I’m your cameraman today.”

Shannon smiled and said, “Sounds good to me.”

The doctor slowly gave her a once over, inspecting her appearance. “Looking good. Okay then, Miss Shannon. Let’s head on into this exam room right here.”

The doctor motioned toward a room a few feet away, reached in and turned on the light. Then she swung the door open wide.

After it was decided where Shannon would sit and where the cameraman would be, the doctor spoke to her while he set things up. “You just have a seat in this chair right here. I’m going to appear to examine your thyroid as if you were a typical patient of mine.”

The doctor wheeled a chair over toward the center of the room and Shannon sat in it as she held the back of it. “Ready?” she asked her.

“Sure.”

“Okay, we’re rolling,” said the cameraman.

Remaining behind her, the doctor reached around in front of her neck and began to gently feel along where the thyroid gland was located at the base of the neck. “Now, I’m just going to check for any signs of enlargement like I would with patients experiencing thyroid issues. And then I am going to come around in front of you, sit in my chair, and we are going to chat until we are told we can stop.”

“Okay. What should we chat about?” asked Shannon. The doctor smiled and she heard the cameraman snicker toward her right.

“Tell me how you feel right now,” said the doctor. “What’s the first thing that comes to mind?”

“Well, I’m sitting in a doctor’s office for what’s probably the first time in close to a decade and it smells like someone recently peeled a lemon in here.”

The doctor smiled again just as the cameraman said he had enough video shot. His camera had a small playback screen and after they observed a few minutes of film and approved it, they all prepared to leave. The cameraman and woman in the reception area left first, leaving Shannon alone with the doctor.

“Tomorrow’s Friday,” the doctor said.

“All day.”

The doctor cracked a smile, exposing a set of gorgeous white teeth that matched her white coat. “Will you be free tomorrow at 1 o’clock?”

“I can be. What do you need?”

“For you to see this doctor.” She pulled a piece of paper from her white physician’s coat pocket. “Dr. Coleman is a wonderful doctor. She’s up on the fifth floor. I want you to go talk to her tomorrow at 1 o’clock. She will do a basic exam then.”

Shannon took the piece of paper from the doctor. “Okay. I’ll let you know what the results are when I have them.”

The doctor nodded and thanked Shannon for her time as she locked her office and the two headed out to the main reception area. When they went downstairs and exited the building altogether the doctor said, “Are you parked close by?”

“No. I travel by either train or my bike. I trained down and was going to take the train back up to my place.”

“Where do you live?”

Shannon told her.

“I know where that is.”

“It’s just a dumpy old studio and the neighborhood isn’t the greatest but it sure is cheap for being in New York.”

“Come,” she said with a nod of her head. “I will give you a ride.”

“Oh, thanks, Doc. I really do appreciate it because lately, this so-called spring weather has felt more like winter.”

“It has,” the doctor agreed.

Once in the doctor’s luxuriously comfortable car, Shannon found herself feeling a bit self-conscious and unsure of what to say. “You sound younger than you are.”

Now why in the world did she feel she had to say that?

Smiling but keeping her eyes on the road the doctor said, “And you look younger than you are.”

“But you don’t know how old I am?”

“Neither do you.”

“Late thirties?”

“Forty-five.”

“Wow, not bad, Doc. Should I call you Doc even though you’re not really my doctor?”

“Doctor, Doc, Angelica… take your pick.”

“I kind of like Doc. That’s what I’m used to anyway.”

“You look like you’re in your early twenties but I know you’re thirty-three.”

“Right on, Doc. How did you know?”

“I have my ways,” she said as they pulled up to her four-story apartment building.

Shannon noticed the doctor looking around her warily, eyes flicking from a suspicious looking guy hanging on the corner of the street to a small group of men loitering across the way. “Yeah, I know. Not exactly the greatest neighborhood.”

“No, it isn’t. Even though my car may stand out a bit, I’d like to walk you to your apartment and see that you get in safely.”

Shannon laughed. “I’m flattered, Doc, but somehow I don’t see how you could protect me unless you’re packing, and you don’t seem like the packing type.”

Without a word, they exited the doctor’s Infinity.

Shannon decided she really did like this doctor very much.

 

Chapter 3

The next day Shannon met with the doctor that Dr. Warren referred her to. She was a younger red-haired woman with short wavy hair, pale skin, and a perky voice. Shannon answered a series of routine questions and had blood drawn as well. The doctor did the usual things a doctor does when conducting a typical exam. She listened to her heart, looked in her ears, shined a light into her eyes, felt around her neck and throat, and then had her lay back so she could feel various areas of her stomach.

On her way out she was told that her nurse would contact her with the results of her blood tests soon.

The following Monday, which was quicker than she’d expected, she got a call confirming what she believed all along… She was in great health.

By Wednesday she was wondering if she was ever going to see Dr. Warren again to tell her the results, assuming she didn’t contact Dr. Coleman herself to find out. Just as she was settling into her seat in the cafeteria with a turkey sandwich and a small yogurt, she spotted the doctor entering the cafeteria. When they caught each other’s eye, Shannon gave a wave and the doctor smiled and nodded in her direction.

Shannon glanced around the large cafeteria as the doctor made her way through the food line. It wasn’t as crowded that day and there were plenty of other tables she could sit at. When she looked at the others around her she saw a mix of doctors, nurses and office workers like herself. A woman who worked in her office with her had been eating at her table but she left early because she wanted to make some phone calls. She assumed Dr. Warren would want to sit with other doctors and nurses but she surprised her instead by approaching her table and asking if she wanted company.

Trying to hide the surprise and pleasure she felt she said, “Sure, Doc. I’d love your company.”

Dr. Warren took a seat and then asked, “So how are you today?”

“Great. I’m also in great health.”

The doctor smiled. “I’m glad to hear it.”

“Since universal healthcare isn’t likely to happen in our lifetime in this country, I guess I’ll just have to hope that they someday decide to at least cover us part-time workers.”

“Not likely. You’ll have to get married instead to someone whose insured.”

Shannon laughed. “Thanks, Doc, for the advice. I’ll say yes to the first man or woman for that matter that proposes to me so I can have fun going to doctors every six months for blood tests, bright lights in my eyes, sticks in my throat, and my belly poked and prodded.

“Don’t forget the GYN.”

“Oh, those are definitely worth forgetting.”

The doctor unwrapped her sandwich and began eating.

“So, what country are you from? Your accent doesn’t sound like the usual you find around here… Mexico, Puerto Rico… that sort of thing.”

Dr. Warren bit into her sandwich and then swallowed. “What does it sound like then?”

Shannon shrugged. “I don’t know. Spain? Costa Rica?”

The doctor chuckled.

“Wait. You do speak Spanish, don’t you?”

The doctor nodded between bites of food.

“Así, tu habla español,” Shannon said thoughtfully.

“You?” The doctor asked, suddenly sounding a bit surprised.

Shannon nodded. “I know some. El Salvador? Guatemala?”

“Venezuela.”

“Ah, I bet I’d love living there with the beautiful weather they have.”

A doubtful look crossed the doctor’s features and then she said, “We do have nice weather there but it’s not a very liberal or open-minded country.”

“Oh, too bad. What brought you here?”

“Opportunity. Change. Variety.”

“Well, you definitely get all that in New York.”

“You don’t sound like you’re from New York.”

“No, I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. I’m up here for the opportunities, change and variety, too. The only problem is that I didn’t get much of the first two so I might have to leave because it’s pretty expensive here.”

“Oh?”

Shannon nodded. “Came up with an ex but she and I broke up less than a year later.”

“Been single a while now?”

Shannon nodded again. “About a year. Is New York the only place you ever lived in the US?”

The doctor shook her head. “Been in the country about twenty years and lived in California initially.”

“Wow, lucky you. Sometimes I think that experiencing different places would be fun and exciting, but moving around must be a pain in the ass as well.”

A moment of silence as they ate their lunch and then the doctor asked in Spanish how she learned the language.

“Yo me enseñe.”

The doctor’s thick dark brows rose. “You taught yourself?”

“Yes, first I studied using textbooks and then I learned more online. I’ve always been fascinated by languages.”

The lunch hour seemed to end all too fast that day and they both soon headed up to their respective floors where Dr. Warren would see patients and Shannon would schedule them for another doctor.

Over the next few weeks, she ran into the doctor half a dozen times or so in the cafeteria. Sometimes there were seats available so they could eat together and other times there weren’t. Even when they could actually sit together, they still managed to wave to each other and exchange greetings on the way in or out of the cafeteria.

“How is the lovely Shannon Owens today?” the doctor surprised her with one day when the cafeteria was rather empty.

Shannon glanced up from the phone she’d been poking at. “Oh, hi.”

“May I?” the doctor asked, motioning toward the empty seat in front of her.

“Of course. You never have to ask.”

“Oh, but I do have to ask how you’ve been since we haven’t had much of a chance to chat,” the doctor said, flashing her beautiful smile.

Shannon smiled appreciatively. “I’m okay. Been wondering what was up with you.”

“Yeah, it’s been busy in here so we haven’t had much of a chance to chat lately. So if you don’t mind an aging and sometimes tired doctor hanging out with you today, here I am.”

“I never mind, Doc.”

The doctor sat down and bit into the sandwich she’d unwrapped. “Back to getting to know one another. I guess most people just sort of pass me by without much thought but you, for some reason, pique my curiosity.”

Shannon was flattered to learn this for some reason. “I can say the same about you, though I’m pretty boring overall.”

“That’s hard to believe. How about family? Where are your mom and dad?”

Shannon stopped chewing suddenly and the doctor didn’t fail to catch her reaction. “I could tell you,” she said hesitantly, “but you won’t believe me.”

The doctor gave a small smile of uncertainty and said, “Now I’m curious. Are they famous?”

Shannon swallowed her food and said, “More like infamous.”

“Oh,” the doctor said in one of those dubious tones.

“I don’t have a problem with telling you. Telling people tells me who my true friends really are based on their reaction. The problem is that lunch break isn’t enough time to do it in. Catch you after work somewhere?”

“Sure. That would be nice.”

 

Chapter 4

This time the doctor did more than just walk her to her apartment door. She actually came inside the dumpy studio apartment with her.

“I wasn’t kidding when I said it was small and ugly.”

The expression on the doctor’s face said she agreed, although she remained polite and said, “But it’s neat and clean looking.”

That much was true.

“I’m Queen Diva of the house and home department. I cook, I clean, I decorate, and I make a mad bubble bath, too.”

The doctor giggled and then Shannon introduced her to her rats. Shannon liked that she wasn’t creeped out by them.

Soon, Dr. Warren suggested they head out for an early dinner.

“I’m up for that but I’m low on extra cash right now as cheap as this place is, so we have to be a bit picky.”

“No, we don’t,” said Dr. Warren on the way down the stairs from the second-floor studio. “Not if I’m treating and if you like Chinese.”

“I love Chinese.”

Although Shannon felt very comfortable with the doctor, she couldn’t help but feel like they were complete opposites at the same time. How often did doctors become friends with those who were broke and that didn’t have much of a social life?

After they were seated in the restaurant and the waitress had taken their order, Dr. Warren said, “I hope you don’t mind my doing so as I realize you may want to tell people your side of whatever happened with your family before they Google you, but I did so on my break and came up empty.”

Shannon nodded knowingly. “That’s because my name was changed. Like I said, though, I have no problem telling people. It’s just that they usually think I’m making it up for some crazy reason. But here goes if you’re ready.”

The doctor placed her forearms on the table and nodded.

“My parents were happily married at first and everybody envied them because they seemed like such an ideal and perfect couple. I was their only child, too. We started off struggling but then they found success in running a local diner. It wasn’t a huge success but enough to be able to pay the bills on time even if there still wasn’t much extra money. They finally had some real security and didn’t have to worry about whether or not they would be able to make bill payments on time. That was good enough for them.”

The waitress brought their drinks and set them down before them. “It’ll be just a few more minutes,” said the pretty Asian girl.

The doctor smiled and nodded.

Shannon continued when she was out of earshot. “Eventually my father hired a waitress who was nearly twenty years younger and absolutely gorgeous. Like she just stepped off some modeling runway or something like that.”

The doctor now gave her a dubious yet knowing look.

“It’s obvious where I’m going next, huh?”

Dr. Warren nodded.

“So yeah, they started having an affair. I was about eight years old at the time. I don’t know how long it took my mother to catch on but when she did she gave dad the usual ultimatum a scorned wife gives her husband. It was either she or the mistress. Although my dad promised my mother that it was she he would choose, he would joke with his mistress, whose name was Katia, about hiring a hitman to get my mom out of the picture.”

The doctor shook her head and grunted in disgust but didn’t say anything. She continued listening patiently instead, eyes studying hers along the way.

The waitress approached their table with their meals and the conversation stopped long enough to place their napkins in their laps and begin eating.

“By the time I was ten, Katia finally found someone who would do the job. It took her a couple tries, but they finally got some nineteen-year-old kid to do it. He insisted on being paid fifty grand to make the hit.”

Dr. Warren chewed slowly, still eying her intently.

Shannon took a bite of her orange chicken and swallowed before continuing. “My father convinced the kid to accept a payment of just ten grand up front, saying he had no way to be sure he would follow through with the job but he assured him that he would happily fork over the rest of the money once the job was done.”

The doctor gave her had another solemn shake of disgust.

Shannon sipped some of her diet Coke and then went on. “Everything went according to plan for the most part with one big twist in the end. Mom went to bed around 10 PM and the guy was to show up shortly after that and instructed not to knock on the door so as not to get mom’s attention. Dad was on the lookout for the kid instead.”

Dr. Warren put a fork full of egg foo young in her mouth, both horrified and fascinated by Shannon’s story.

“When he let the kid in, he gave him the gun he was to use to shoot mom in the head while she slept. Now, I was in the next room sound asleep barely fifteen feet away.”

The doctor shook her head as her eyes widened, horrified for what that must have been like for her.

“The guy was ordered not to go anywhere near my room, of course. He was simply to go straight down to the end of the hall, walk around the foot of the bed, and then shoot mom in the head. The head of the bed was against an exterior wall, so dad later said he wasn’t worried about me accidentally getting shot,” Shannon explained, not bothering to hide the disgust from her voice. “My father then told him to wait a few minutes in the living room before he came down the hall to do it because he wanted to be in the bedroom at the time to help make sure everything went as planned.”

The doctor shifted with discomfort but Shannon could tell the discomfort was about her concern for her and not that she couldn’t handle hearing the story itself.

“I woke up screaming and terrified by the blast of the gunfire, as I’m sure you can imagine.”

The doctor nodded sadly.

“Next thing I know my dad was telling me everything was okay and that I was safe but to stay in my room. He said the police were on their way. I huddled in the closet terrified until the police arrived a few minutes later. Of course, that seemed like hours.”

Another sad but understanding nod from the doctor.

“It took them a few minutes to convince me it was safe to come out. All I remember was my dad hugging me and me crying for mom but I think deep down inside I knew she was gone even before I was told that she was.”

“Where was the hitman? On the run?”

“Oh, no. Not even close. He was dead.”

The doctor’s brows shot up in surprise.

“You see, what daddy dearest didn’t tell the hitman was that he had another gun that he was going to use to shoot him dead with and then claim self-defense. This way he not only got to have the mistress of his dreams but he also got out of having to pay forty more grand and worrying that the kid may grow a conscience one day and spill the beans.”

The doctor snorted with disgust.

“Only someone did spill the beans.”

“The dream mistress?”

Shannon shook her head. “No. The first guy Katia tried to get to do the job. The case blew wide open rather quickly when he stepped forward. Katia turned state’s evidence against dad. She testified against him in exchange for a lesser sentence. She got something like twenty years. Dad got life.

The doctor shook her head sadly, warm chocolate brown eyes full of compassion and empathy.

“Another thing my dad messed up was the window.”

“The window?”

Shannon nodded. “After the guy shot mom and dad shot the guy, he kicked out a window to try to make it look like someone had broken in. He may have been smart enough to kick from the outside in but the window was too small for anyone to climb through in the first place. So that blew out the home invasion theory rather quickly.”

“Wow,” the doctor said sadly.

“Where did you go from there?”

“To live with my maternal grandparents. My last name was changed from Krueger.” Shannon sat back in the booth with a sigh. “So now you have something to Google.”

 

Chapter 5

After Shannon’s revelation to the doctor, she wondered if she would see her in a different light. She supposed she probably would and that there was a chance the doctor may not feel comfortable being around her anymore, but Shannon had decided long ago that she would rather be open and honest and scare people off than keep them around with her silence.

Eventually, the conversation swung back to trivial and even happier things. She wasn’t sure where the doctor stood with her revelation but by the time they left the restaurant she was stuffed with the wonderful food she’d eaten and felt closer to the doctor. This older person who came from a far different walk of life yet who genuinely seemed to take an interest in her and enjoy her company.

“Who are you?” Shannon asked the doctor as they pulled away from the restaurant.

“Hmm?” asked the doctor.

“I don’t know nearly as much about you as you know about me.”

“You’ve learned quite a bit about me.”

“I suppose, but I thirst for more knowledge about the very kind and generous Dr. Warren. What is your own family like?”

“They’re wonderful people. At least most of the time,” she added with a laugh. “My parents own a pharmacy and that’s what inspired me to become a doctor. I’ve always been fascinated by the way hormones work in the body and how they affect us and such.”

“Siblings?”

“M-hm. A brother and two sisters. They’re all younger than me but they’re very accomplished citizens in the community.”

“Kids?”

“Yup,” the doctor said proudly. “My 22-year-old daughter is a police officer who hopes to one day become a detective, and my 20-year-old son is studying anthropology.”

“Good for them. Husband? Boyfriend?”

“Neither. We’ve been divorced for a while now.”

They continued to wind through the streets toward Shannon’s apartment. The sun had just fallen behind the city’s building and lights were popping on in various windows.

Shannon, who felt very relaxed in the doctor’s comfortable car, continued her interview of sorts. “Pets?”

“None at the moment.”

Loud sirens could now be heard and a minute later they had to pull over to allow a fire truck to pass.

“I smell smoke,” said Shannon, not thinking much of it at the time. Ambulances, fire trucks and police cars were a regular part of the city.

“I think I see smoke over there,” the doctor said, nodding northeasterly.

Shannon stiffened as they approached the street her apartment was on. “Oh, my God, I hope that’s not my building. Please tell me that’s not my building!”

But it was.

Shannon was out of the car and running toward the building as soon as the doctor came to a stop. Dr. Warren was quick on her heels just as she was blocked by a firefighter telling her it wasn’t safe to go inside.

“But my rats! My pet rats! They’re my babies!”

The firefighter looked at her sympathetically as he continued to order her back and away from the building, Dr. Warren pulling on her shoulders at the same time. “Come on, sweetheart. Let’s get away from here and to where it’s safer.”

Shannon felt helpless and horrified knowing the kind of fear, pain and suffering her beloved pets must have been going through at the moment. She knew there was no way they would survive a blaze such as this. She leaned against the doctor’s car crying hysterically as the doctor gently massaged her shoulders.

Shannon was also angry. She was mad at the fire, mad at the world, mad at God if there was one, and she vowed to seek legal vengeance upon whoever was responsible for the fire should it turn out to be a case of arson and should the law fail to do the right thing as it often did.

“Come on, sweetie,” said the doctor. “This smoke isn’t good for you to breathe in.”

At that point Shannon allowed herself to be led back into the car. Her head was swimming with emotions, her heart aching heavily in her chest. She didn’t even think of her own belongings that were lost to the fire at first. All she could think about were her furry children.

They had been moving for several minutes before Shannon finally asked, “Where are we going?”

“To my place.”

“But I don’t have anything. I didn’t have much before because I prefer to travel light, but with the exception of my handbag, everything is gone now from the looks of how big that fire was. My pets, my clothes, everything.”

“Don’t worry about that right now. We can get you what you need. You’re alive.”

“And my furbabies aren’t,” Shannon said, continuing to sob.

They rode in silence for the near ten minutes it took for the doctor to pull up to what looked like a large hotel.

“This is where you live?”

The doctor nodded. “Sure is.”

“This looks like a fancy hotel. I forget just how many high-rises there are here.”

The doctor drove into one of those parking garages that had multiple levels to park on. She parked close to the ground and they both exited the vehicle.

“Isn’t this a pain when you have groceries?”

“No,” said the doctor. “I have a cart folded up in the trunk that I use.”

Shannon saw that the building had a name as they approached it. “The Windsor,” it said in big block letters over the entryway.

An aging security guard with a potbelly nodded his head and pulled open one of the glass doors. “Evening Dr. Warren.”

“Good evening, Zachary,” the doctor replied.

Zachary then gave Shannon a polite nod.

“You have a doorman?” Shannon asked once they were inside.

Dr. Warren nodded. “That and much more. There is always a security guard at the front desk, plus we have a fitness room and a small lounge that serves both food and drinks.”

“How many floors are there?”

“Twenty-two. There are four units per floor facing north, east, west, and south. Fortunately, I’m in the back of the building facing north and don’t have to deal with any annoying direct sunlight.”

“What floor are you on?”

“Eighteen.”

Shannon didn’t say anything more as they stepped further into the lobby. She could see the lounge to the left, the desk in which a female security guard sat behind to the right, and the elevators straight ahead. There were two elevators on each side of the small area that contained them. The doctor walked up to the first one on the left and pressed the button.

The doors parted a few seconds later and they rode the elevator in silence. When the doors parted, they stepped into a quiet, carpeted hallway.

“The elevators are in the center of each floor,” the doctor explained.

Shannon followed the doctor down the hall and around the corner. This section of the hallway was the same length as the other one at about eighty feet long and also had a single door that wasn’t quite in the center of the wall but more toward the left.

The doctor unlocked the door and motioned for her to step inside in front of her. Shannon stepped into the dim interior and stopped dead in amazement. What she saw took her breath away and made her momentarily forget her troubles.

 

Chapter 6

Dr. Warren’s apartment was way beyond anything Shannon had ever seen in the movies. It was amazing and spectacular in every sense of the word! As soon as she stepped inside she automatically froze in place and stared all around her in awe, jaw slack the whole time. “Oh my God,” she breathed. “This is incredible.”

The doctor simply smiled in appreciation as Shannon continued to stare dumbfounded. They had entered a giant living room with humongous ceiling to floor windows that rose nearly three stories tall. This city beyond it was breathtaking even from several feet away. Shannon could see hundreds of buildings and even part of the Hudson.

As if in a trance, she shuffled over to the huge windows and gazed at the city below. At the windows it almost felt as if she were suspended in the air, hovering over the detailed cityscape below. “There’s so much to look at. One could really get lost in a scene like this, daydreaming all day and trying to guess where all these people may be going.”

“It is mesmerizing,” she heard the doctor say behind her. “Sometimes distracting too, if you’re trying to focus on something. But until I retire to warmer weather it’s absolutely wonderful.”

“How high up are we?”

“Over three hundred feet. Even though there are only twenty-two floors, the space between ceilings and floors are double the average.”

Shannon continued to gaze in wonder. The vehicles below looked so tiny, especially the ones further off on the horizon. They wormed between the buildings and some of the people seemed as if they weren’t much bigger than insects. “This is just unbelievable. You ever hear sounds coming through the walls from your neighbors or is it soundproof?”

“The building is very solid and soundproof but I never hear them because there aren’t any shared walls. Only the interior corners of the apartments join, and if you look at the building from outside you’ll see the corners are cut out. Each apartment on each floor faces a different direction, giving each one added privacy, especially when out on the balcony. Unless you leaned your head over the railing and someone above or below you did the same thing, you can’t see each other. Once or twice I was out there and I could hear music drifting out of an open unit somewhere on this side, but you won’t hear much more than the staff vacuuming the hallways which they do Mondays and Thursdays. The only other thing you might hear are sirens but that’s usually only in the dead of night and only if you happen to be awake to hear it.”

“What about the people above you?”

“Very quiet.”

Shannon turned to look at the interior of the apartment. She’d been so taken by the scene beyond the giant windows that she hadn’t yet noticed the rest of the apartment. She could see a kitchen at the other end of the spacious living room and when she looked upward, she could see a couple of doors beyond a railing that ran the length of the far shorter wall of the rectangular-shaped apartment. “I take it that’s where the bedrooms are?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

As breathtaking as the apartment and the view was it couldn’t distract her long enough to jolt her back to reality. Her pets were dead and she was homeless. Fresh tears began to well up in her eyes as she took a seat on the couch and buried her head in her hands. The sound of a glass clinking on the glass coffee table before her made her look up. The doctor had placed a glass of water on it for her. “Thank you.”

Dr. Warren then sat down next to her with her own glass of water. She took a few sips and then placed it on the coffee table next to hers.

“My pets are gone and virtually everything I own is gone.”

The doctor ran a hand along her shoulders soothingly.

“What does a person who is broke and homeless do? Wouldn’t the landlord have some kind of insurance? I mean, wouldn’t he be responsible to help relocate his tenants?”

“I don’t know the laws, but I’m guessing that the landlord would only be responsible if they were at fault. Do you remember reading anything about that in the lease agreement?”

Shannon shook her head. “Like most people, I didn’t read every single word. I guess no one ever counts on these things happening to them in the first place.”

“You can call in the morning and see if you can find out more about the legalities and all that.”

“I’m going to have to quit my job and go back home. I have an old friend there who will help me out until I get back on my feet.”

“Well, you can do that if you want, but you don’t have to.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” the doctor said taking a deep breath, “I can’t give you your pets back and I can’t give you your belongings back, but I can give you a place to live and take you clothes shopping.”

Shannon’s eyes widened. Did she really hear what she just heard? “Oh, wow, that’s so incredibly generous of you to offer, Doc, but why? I mean I don’t think I could take advantage of such generosity knowing there was so little I could give in return. At this age, I think it’s safe to say that I’m probably never going to have much money.”

“There’s more to life than making money.”

“I know. That’s precisely why I haven’t made much, not that money is a bad thing either. But you would be giving me so much and there wouldn’t really be anything I could do in return.”

“Oh, but there would be a lot you could do.”

“Well, if I don’t return to my home state, you name it and you got it.”

“You can still keep your job and do whatever it is you do online once we get you a new laptop. That much doesn’t have to change.”

“Okay,” Shannon said waiting for the doctor to go on.

“But as you know, a doctor’s job never ends. There’s so much more than just seeing patients. The paperwork and the online portal is a whole separate job in addition. Not only that, but I’m occasionally on call in the emergency room.”

“I guess you don’t have much free time.”

“I work quite a bit. Meanwhile, my housekeeper just moved down to Florida. How do you feel about taking over the housekeeping?”

“I would love to but that still seems like nothing in comparison to all you’d be giving me, especially for a place like this,” Shannon said, sweeping her arm toward the darkening panoramic view before them.”

“Would you be up to the idea of cooking and doing laundry as well? God knows I could use the extra time it would save me not to have to do it myself and I wouldn’t want to hire someone just for those things either.”

“I wouldn’t mind cooking and doing laundry at all. There isn’t much I couldn’t do as long as it didn’t require driving. For everything else I know how to do, I’m ready and willing. For what I don’t know how to do, I’m usually pretty teachable.”

Shannon and the doctor became lost in conversation for a while. Shannon’s position on the couch meant that she wasn’t facing the windows. When she later turned to face them, her breath caught in her throat. “Wow!” she exclaimed as she gazed out at all the twinkling lights that stretched for miles and miles before her. “It’s like a million stars twinkling away right here on earth.”

Yes, she thought to herself. I’ll miss my poor little furry friends but I could definitely get used to this. Definitely.

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© Cassandra 2020
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