Above all, Nadia hated being late. She hated being late more than she hated spiders, or her Latin teacher at college, or feet (don't ask- it was a deep seated fear that Nadia's little brother had terrorized her with almost constantly in her childhood). Nadia in some ways, was not an uptight sort of person- she easily forgave mistakes, was a little messy, and more than once her grades suffered because of her dislike for the tedium of studying. But she always found herself thinking less of others when they were late for their appointment, even if it was only a few minutes and it could be dismissed as trouble with traffic.
That was why Nadia hated being late herself- it seemed like it was going against her only strict rule in an otherwise lenient lifestyle. But there was no avoiding it today- she would not get to Green Grove's Long-Term Care Facility on time whether she liked it or not. Nadia's set up blind date had arrived thirty minutes late for their scheduled lunch (Sorry, I had to drop my friend off at lacrosse practice and she would not get off the phone to leave- Nadia had declined his number at the conclusion of the date), and the facility was a whole town away. Nadia had written down in her schedule that she would be there within the next fifteen minutes.
Part of her urged herself to just skip the visit, and go straight home. Her aunt Maude was in a coma, it wasn't like she would appreciate the company, anyways. It wasn't like Nadia cared much for her, or vice versa. Aunt Maude was always pointing out how Nadia should not be aiming to become a physical therapist, and should instead become a stay at home mom- much more ladylike. If she could sense that Nadia was there, she would probably be irritated that she could not tell her only niece to straighten her posture and ask her why she wasn't married yet. If Nadia skipped the visit, she would get back to the dorm with enough time to do homework and eat dinner right on schedule, fixing the whole lopsided turn her day had taken ever since the date. But she had promised her mom that she'd make the visit, and her mom had a daunting ability to always tell if her children did wrong, even if Nadia was four states away. Nadia would get a scolding phone call for sure within the next five minutes if she turned around. She had reluctantly decided that she would make the visit, but would spend ten minutes at the center at most. Her mother had never specified how long Nadia had to visit.
Once Nadia finally arrived -she had run two red lights and she still was twenty minutes late, damn it- she ran inside, gave her aunt's name to the bored orderly at the front desk, and sat in one of the cheap chairs. God, Nadia hated nursing homes; it was self proclaimed as a Long-Term Care Facility, but Nadia was pretty sure her aunt was one of the younger patients in the facility. If that wasn't a nursing home, she wasn't sure what was). They always smelled like a combination of the mushy food they fed to people who were under two or over ninety and the faint chemical smell that drove Nadia away from hospitals and to being a physical therapist instead. She just wanted to be in, spend a few minutes in her aunt's room, and out, but the orderly hadn't come back yet with the room number.
There was a boy nearby in waiting room, leaning against the wall and whistling off key. Nadia decided she might as well distract herself from the irritation of knowing that her schedule would be delayed even further by being social for once in her life. "Hey, kid."
The boy jumped violently from his spot on the wall with a flurry of tangled limbs and swore, as if he hadn't even noticed Nadia. Or, maybe he thought she wouldn't notice him, because he was gaping at her with huge brown eyes. "You mean me?"
Nadia felt a mixture of annoyance and amusement. "Who else would I be talking to?"
"No one, I guess. I mean- yeah, I guess you are talking to me. Hi."
"Who are you here for?" The kid was still boggling at Nadia- maybe she has something in her teeth from the failed date. He looked like he was a little younger than her- maybe a local high school kid, dazed because he was thinking about sports or college.
The kid was dressed in a casual shirt, clean jeans. He had messy dark hair, and was tall and wiry- probably just had a growth spurt and was learning how to use his gangly limbs. Nice looking face, for someone that age- Nadia was sure he had caught the interest of one or two girls in his class.
Nadia's mother, who visited Maude whenever she drove down to see Nadia, noted that most families only came to the facility on holidays or special occasions. Nadia figured that it was the birthday or some sort of anniversary for whoever the boy was visiting- probably a grandparent.
"Uh, yeah. I am. Visiting someone, I mean. I'm waiting for dad. Um, do you need help finding something? I'm here pretty often, so I can probably help you," he fumbled, chewing on his lower lip.
Nadia didn't think the boy's nerves were related to her- she was dressed sloppily despite just coming from a date- but she was still flattered. "I'm just waiting for the orderly to come back to tell me which room my aunt is in," Nadia explained. Did the kid not notice her exchange with the orderly at all? His head must have been in the clouds.
The boy studied her face, like he could tell who her aunt was if he had a little bit more information. Probably could, if he was here often like he said he was. "My aunt is Maude Shay," Nadia explained. Maybe the boy might know what room she was in.
His face brightened immediately. "Oh! You must be Nadia, then." At Nadia's incredulous look, he rushed to explain himself. "Your mom was here a week or two ago. She told Maude's nurse that her daughter would be coming by to visit soon. Nadia. I'm Cody."
Nadia held out her hand, and Cody looked at it weirdly until Nadia dropped it. She wondered if the kid was always this awkward, or whether he was just off that day. He seemed to pick up on the silence, and quickly switched back to conversation again. "Well, your aunt is in room 114. I'd tell you to wait for the orderly to come back, but she's probably taking a cigarette break. You might as well just go now," Cody half-heartedly laughed.
"Yeah, might as well," Nadia laughed back with just as much enthusiasm. "It was nice meeting you, Cody."
"Same with you!" The boy called after her, but Nadia was already halfway down the hallway to her aunt's room. The conversation had delayed her another ten minutes, and her brain was already filing Cody under unimportant things in favor of worrying about how late she would be making dinner. After all, Nadia would most likely never see Cody again. Not for several months, at least.
Nadia saw him three weeks later, when she came back to the facility to visit her aunt.
This time, Nadia was not running late. In fact, she was a half hour early for her visit. Her mother had insisted she visit again, which Nadia agreed to more quickly than the first time- although she didn't know why. She had arrived at the facility at 4:30, just like the last time, but she knew her mother was visiting Maude right now. While Nadia would normally not mind spending more time with her mom, her little brother had just brought home a girlfriend within his first semester of college, and Nadia did not want to start up the argument of her lack of a love interest yet again.
Despite her avoidance of her mother, Nadia still came early to the facility and asked for directions to the fitness center. She figured that unless Maude sprung up from her coma and immediately decided she wanted to start training for a marathon, her mother would not come anywhere near it. Nadia was also hoping that with the ratio of residents who couldn't get out of bed without assistance to those who could would leave the center isolated. Maybe she could even get some work done on her laptop.
Nadia congratulated herself when she came into the fitness center and found it barren. Well, until a familiar messy haired head popped up at the sound of her entrance.
"Cody, right?" she asked, smiling in spite of herself. The kid hadn't been bad company the last time she was here. She sat down on one of the yoga mats across from where Cody had been lying down.
"Yeah!" The boy looked thrilled that she remembered, and Nadia's good spirits grew. "And you're Nadia Shay. Here to visit your aunt again?"
Nadia nodded. "I didn't think I'd be back, but turns out she's more bearable to be around when she's asleep than when she's awake." She covered her mouth, not quite believing that she let that slip out to a kid she barely knew.
Cody laughed, though Nadia didn't know whether he was laughing at what she said or her facial expression. She didn't really care- the kid had a great smile, one that made her want to keep him laughing. "Don't worry, I bet there are a lot of relatives here who would agree with you. Some people just don't know when to shut up." For some reason beyond Nadia, something he said made him somber, and the smile had melted off his face. "Well, on the subject of your aunt, if you are visiting her, why are you in the fitness center? Last time I checked, there were no residential rooms near here."
"I could ask you the same thing," Nadia retorted playfully.
Cody huffed out a breath, rolling his eyes. "I'm here with my dad again, but my mom came this time, too." He wrinkled up his nose, as if he had mentioned a rotting pile of fish instead of his mom. "They don't really get along. Actually, my mom doesn't really get along with anybody."
"Parent issues? I understand those," Nadia sympathized, tucking a stray piece of hair behind her ear. "That's why I'm here, actually. I'm sort of hiding from my mother. She always picks fights with me about the stupidest of things, and I'm waiting for her to leave." She sighed, leaning in towards Cody. "But I guess they are acting in our best interests, though. Even if they are hell bent on annoying the crap out of us, they are our moms, and they love us."
Cody laughed insincerely, before shaking his head. "Not mine. My mom has never cared about anyone in her whole life." The boy saw Nadia go to cut him off with an objection, but he continued. "If she was capable of love, then why wouldn't she come here more often? This is the first time I've seen her, and she started yelling at Dad within thirty seconds." Cody cleared his throat, looking a little embarrassed at his emotional outburst. "That's why I came down here. They were too loud- I could hardly hear myself think. I figured I might as well get caught up on my summer reading." He held up a weathered book with a faded cover that had sat on his lap, but he put it back down before Nadia could see what it was.
Nadia gratefully accepted the subject change for what it was. "Summer reading? Didn't your school year start a good month ago?"
Cody flushed, looking mildly surprised. "Yeah, you're right. I guess I am really behind the rest of the class then, huh?" The boy checked his watch before standing up and giving a small salute paired with a half smile to Nadia. "It was cool seeing you again, but my mom's probably left by now and, uh, my dad might be leaving soon. He has dinner pretty early." He got up, brushed off his jeans, and made his way to the door, before calling out to Nadia. "See you next week?"
"Sure!" she called back with a small smile, not realizing that she was committing herself to another visit to the nursing home. She realized herself a few moments later, and called out through the door, "Wait! Kid!" But Cody had disappeared back down the hallway.
Nadia looked at the clock before laughing to herself and making her way to aunt Maude's room. She'd go back to the facility next week. It wasn't like it would kill her friend if she was a little bit late to the next blind date anyways.