It had been over two weeks since Luka Kovac had
met Adele on the El that morning. He had been unable to get her
out of his head since, and every time his phone rang he felt sure
it was her. Yet, it hadn't been, it was normally Mark or Kerry
asking him to come in and do yet another shift. When they had met
and he had given her his number, he had been sure that he was
getting the right ˘signals÷ from her. Maybe he had been wrong.
Luka was just beginning to give up hope of seeing her again when he met her outside the ER on a sunny Thursday morning. She was walking on crutches and still had her plaster cast on. He had thought she might have had it removed by then, but obviously not.
˘Luka - hi,÷ she said, like she hadn't been expecting to see him.
˘Hi,÷ he said, waiting for an explanation.
˘IÓI've got to go upstairs to get my cast removed,÷ she told him. ˘I thought I would come and see youÓand explain.÷ She wanted a response but received none - he just looked down at her and waited for her to continue.
˘I don't want to just make excuses, I honestly want to tell youÓ÷
˘Do you want to go over the street for coffee? I don't really want to talk about this in the middle of the street,÷ said Luka matter-of-factly.
Adele looked at her watch.
˘I can't, my appointment is in about two minutes, but I could meet you afterwards if you want.÷
˘I'm only on a quick break - I'm in the middle of a double shift,÷ he told her.
She wanted him to be friendly and nice to her, not formal and awkward as he was being.
˘Well, do you want to meet somewhere later? Just a coffee - or whatever - but I do want a chance to apologise and tell you what happened.÷
˘Ok, well I get off at six, you could meet me here if you like,÷ he told her.
˘Yeah, ok - I'd like that - I'll see you later then,÷ she called after him as he walked away.
At precisely six o clock, Adele came into the ER. Luka was sitting behind the admin desk filling in some paperwork for the patients he had seen that day - but he was really just using up the time until Adele arrived. He saw her, picked up his jacket and headed across.
˘Your cast is gone,÷ he commented.
˘Yeah - I've still got these bloody crutches, but it feels good to be able to scratch my leg again,÷ she told him as they walked outside. The evening was warm and the sun was still out so Luka refrained from putting his jacket on.
˘So where do you want to go?÷ Adele asked him.
˘We might as well just go over the street,÷ he told her.
˘Fine,÷ replied Adele, again wishing that he would be slightly friendlier.
When they reached Doc Magoo's, Adele took a seat and Luka ordered them some coffees, then slid into the booth opposite her. He looked at her expectantly.
˘I'm really sorry,÷ began Adele. ˘I should have got in contact with you sooner. It's just thatÓ÷
The waitress came over with their drinks and Adele stopped until she left.
˘It's just that I was really nervous about phoning you. I don't know why - it was a bit stupid really, I just felt sick whenever I got near the phone.÷
Luka smiled at her, seeming to relax a little. She smiled back.
˘I kept dialling your number, but I chickened out every time.÷
˘Why were you so nervous?÷ he asked her.
Adele paused, and looked uncomfortable.
˘I said earlier that I didn't want to make excuses, and I wanted to tell you the real reasons I hadn't phonedÓI wish I could, but I don't even know myself,÷ she explained. ˘However I know that I'm here with you now and I'm wondering why I felt so nervous.÷
Luka laughed lightly and Adele was pretty sure that - underneath his cool and calm exterior - she saw the slightest blush emerge.
˘Well, I'm glad you're here,÷ he told her.
˘Yeah, me too.÷
The pair decided to stay for more than just a coffee and after ordering some food, they sat and chatted easily.
˘So why are you in Chicago?÷ Luka asked.
˘I was really lucky actually,÷ said Adele between mouthfuls. ˘I'm a teacher and one of my colleagues was supposed to do an exchange for a year with a teacher at a school in Chicago. The two teachers basically swap lives for a year - they live in each other's house, and teach the other's classes, but always keeping contact with each other to let the kids have penpals and stuff like that. Anyway, my colleague pulled out at the last minute, and I was the only one at the school with no major commitments to keep me in Scotland. I got offered to take her place and I jumped at the chance.÷
˘So you're here for a whole year?÷ asked Luka.
˘Yeah, at first I was very blas┌ about the whole thing, but it's beginning to strike me that a year actually is a long time.÷
˘Sometimes time goes quicker than you think, if you've got friends and stuff with you,÷ he said - knowing only too well how slowly time could go when you were alone.
˘Well, basically everybody I know in Chicago is sitting at this tableÓ÷ said Adele trailing off.
˘You mean you've not met anybody else?÷
˘Well, no, I've spoken to the head teacher of the school I'm working at this year - but only over the phone. I hurt my ankle on my first day in Chicago - so it's basically you and Dave.÷
˘Well, don't let a meeting with Dave put you off everyone in Chicago!÷
It was Adele's turn to laugh.
˘So, I take it from your accent that you're not from Chicago either,÷ she said.
˘No - Croatia, but I've been over here for almost two years now,÷ he told her. ˘So this is pretty much home.÷
˘What made you want to come to Chicago?÷ she asked.
Luka looked at his plate.
˘It wasn't really a case of wanting to come to Chicago - it was more a case of wanting to leave Croatia, and I just kind of ended up here.÷
There was something in the way he spoke, in his mannerisms and in his eyes, which told her that he had lost something in his past. From experience, she knew automatically not to push the subject any further and she quickly began asking him about tourist sights in Chicago. He smiled again and offered to show her around sometime.
Later that night, after Luka and Adele had finished their meals, they sat and drank coffee together for a few hours. Luka was amazed - as was Adele - how easy they found it to talk to each other. As he drove her home, they sat in silence, apart from Adele giving him directions.
˘Ok, this is it,÷ said Adele as Luka pulled his car to a halt.
It was quite a large house, with a wooden porch all the way around it.
˘You live here on your own?÷ he asked, peering out of the window.
˘Yeah - and I feel really guilty because the teacher I'm on the exchange with has to spend a year in my little two-bedroom flat,÷ said Adele with a smile across her face.
Luka smiled and looked at her. She was pretty - angled but feminine features, large green eyes, pale skin and cropped blonde hair. He found himself focusing on her lips. They were nice lips. Kissable lips. Before Luka knew what he was doing he leant forward and kissed her. Adele froze and made no attempts to Luka kiss back. After a few seconds Luka pulled back and looked at her.
˘I'm sorry - I shouldn't have done that,÷ he said. Luka looked at Adele's face - she looked sad and he saw something in her eyes that he hadn't noticed before. Anybody who had lost something or someone or if they had spent some of their life in despair - you could always see it in their eyes - and Luka saw it in Adele.
˘NoÓI'm sorryÓI...UhÓWellÓIt's just that everything's quite complicated at the moment, and you know - I really like you as a friend and stuff - but a relationship isn't even in my frame of mind just nowÓso,÷ Adele told him quietly.
Luka leant back in his seat and sighed.
˘Are you still going to show me around Chicago?÷ she asked in a tone that suggested she was trying a little * too * hard to be cheerful.
˘Yeah - sure.÷
˘Ok, well, I'll speak to you soon then.÷ Adele gathered her bag and crutches together and struggled to get out of the car with her dignity intact.
˘Bye,÷ said Luka as Adele slammed the door shut.
He watched Adele hobble awkwardly up to the steps, then climb them with great difficulty. She turned and waved as she reached the door and he switched on the car engine and drove off - slightly confused by the day's events.
To be continuedÓ
To part 3
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