Steve stifled another yawn and swallowed another mouthful of bitter coffee. He had been up since daybreak and almost lulled back to sleep by this fruitless meeting with Oscar and other Washington suits. He was restless after the first hour. Finally his punishment ended and he headed home.
He was behind the wheel of his yellow Mercedes, feeling optimistic about this sunny day. With the rest of the day off Steve wondered what it would hold. He had a feeling something good was going to happen to him. He approached the familiar intersection near his home, smiling as the light turned green. ‘See a good day,’ he thought. Without slowing he proceeded through the cross streets. He never caught a glimpse of the red pickup truck running the red light nor did his ears perceive the sound of grinding metal on impact. Silence followed after the sedan spun to a halt, the driver’s side crumpled.
Steve regained consciousness strapped to a backboard, encased in a cervical collar and blinded by the lights of the trauma room. There was an unfamiliar female voice asking a question.
“What’s your name?”
Slowly comprehending the question was being directed at him Steve exhaled and responded weakly, “Steve….Steve Austin.”
“My name is Dr. Conrad. You were involved in a car accident and you are at St. Luke’s Hospital.” The doctor waited for the information to be digested as she continued examining him.
Steve became aware of the situation and groaned as the intense pain on his left side introduced itself.
A dark-haired, dark-eyed angelic face appeared over him, “Steve is there someone you would like us to call? A wife? A family member?”
Steve, suddenly realizing the security risks involved with this situation, attempted to free himself. Noticing the rising heart rate the 32 year old doctor attempted to calm her agitated patient.
“Steve take it easy. You must not move until we assess your injuries. Now who should we contact?” Her voice was sweet but firm.
“Rudy Wells.” Steve closed his eyes for a moment then relayed the phone number to her.
“We’ll contact him. I need you to try and relax and let me do my job.” She offered him a friendly smile. As the physician began manipulating his body the pain became unbearable and Steve gave into the darkness. He was never aware of the rest of the examination, nor the x-rays that were taken. He was also not witness to the horrified looks of the medical staff when they saw his mangled left leg.
Dr. Rudy Wells entered the hospital in quick stride. Dr. Conrad overheard him inquire about her patient. She approached him, “Hi. I’m Dr. Jessica Conrad. You must be Rudy Wells.”
“Yes, I’m Dr. Wells.” He shook her outstretched hand.
“I’m sorry doctor; Steve didn’t mention you were a physician. I’m not surprised; it was difficult to get information from him in the emergency room. Please…” She gestured toward the long hallway. They talked as they ambled toward the elevators.
“What is the extent of his injuries?”
“Mostly orthopedic, consistent with this type of accident. Your friend was lucky considering his car was broadsided by a truck traveling 40 mph.” They exited the elevator as the female physician continued, “The rescue crew told me it took two hours to extricate him.” She opened the door to Steve’s room and a concerned Rudy walked to the left side of the bed, taking in the bruising on Steve’s left temple and cheek. Dr. Conrad continued sharing her findings.
“He has a concussion. He was unresponsive from impact until arriving here, about three hours. He was groggy but able to answer simple questions.”
Rudy rolled Steve’s head toward him and checked his left eye for damage. Steve didn’t respond to his name being called. Dr. Conrad placed herself at Steve’s right side.
“He’s sleepy from the morphine I gave him.”
Rudy looked at her as he questioned the reason for strong narcotics.
“When you see the rest of his body you’ll understand. His left shoulder and upper arm are badly bruised, also his left ribcage.” She paused as Dr. Wells untied the hospital gown and lifted the fabric to view the purple area. He retied it and moved onto lifting the bottom of the gown to Steve’s mid-torso exposing the darkened area on the ribcage. Applying manual pressure to the patient’s abdomen he questioned the pretty woman, “Any signs of internal injuries?”
“No. Like I said he was incredibly lucky. If you think those bruises look bad wait until you see his hip.” She nodded toward Steve’s lower body.
Rudy kept the hospital gown gathered above Steve’s waist and pulled the sheet away from his left hip taking in the discoloration of the hip and pelvis. It was so purple it looked black. Rudy sighed before speaking, “And there’s no fracture?”
“Nope. I have the x-rays right here.” She placed them on the tray table above the bed. “The only other injury I found was to his left leg.” She eyed the doctor for a reaction but received none.
Removing the sheet from the entire leg he surveyed the damage. ‘Repairable’ he thought to himself. His thought was interrupted by Dr. Conrad’s melodic voice.
“I assume this is something you can fix?” Rudy just nodded as he gently moved the leg eliciting an angry groan from their patient.
“Steve, it’s Rudy. Can you move your left leg?”
Steve blinked a few times and tried to honor Rudy’s request. Dr. Conrad watched curiously. Taking a deep breath Steve answered, “I can’t move it. I can’t feel it.”
“How about the right?”
“Yeah,” Steve wiggled his foot.
“Yes,” he moved it from his side to his stomach.
‘Fascinating’ the woman thought. Out loud she commented, “That explains a few things.”
“Why we couldn’t get a pulse, blood pressure or even start and IV in that arm. It’s artificial too isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Rudy replied as he repositioned the hospital gown and straightened the sheet. He noticed that Steve was asleep.
The doctors made eye contact. “Dr. Conrad I cannot stress enough how imperative it is that Steve’s medical information remain confidential.”
“I understand Dr. Wells. I’ve already spoken with my staff. There’s no need to worry.”
Rudy felt relieved, “I’m afraid I’ll have to have him transferred to a private medical facility immediately.”
Feeling a little dejected she tried to remain professional. “I’ll get the paperwork. I’m sure you will want to take these with you.” She handed Rudy Steve’s chart with x-rays.
She paused in the doorway and suddenly turned back. “By the way, is Steve married?”
“No.” Rudy chuckled at her line of questioning.
“I see.” She confidently continued, “Doctor I’m afraid I am very protective of my patients. If you insist on transferring him I must insist on visiting him at your medical facility.” She shot Rudy a dazzling smile and a wink, letting the door shut behind her.
Rudy looked back at his patient enjoying a deep drug-induced slumber and shook his head in disbelief. “Unbelievable. Even battered and unconscious you still attract beautiful, intelligent women!”
Rudy sat in his office begrudgingly catching up on neglected paperwork. He was glad Steve’s transfer from St. Luke’s Hospital and surgical repair of his leg had gone smoothly. He chuckled softly at the fact that in his injured and drug-induced state Steve would probably not remember his experience at the local medical center or the engaging young female physician who treated him. Rudy was hopeful she would follow-up on her request to check on her patient at the O.S.I. facility and anxious to see Steve’s reaction to this charming and beautiful woman who seemed so attracted to him, even in his semi-conscious state. The doctor smiled to himself, ‘yes Steve could certainly use some normalcy in his busy life right now.’
He was fully engrossed in his budgetary requests when he was startled by the ring of his telephone. His annoyance at being interrupted was quickly abated by the warm and professional voice of Dr. Jessica Conrad calling to inquire on the status of her patient since leaving her care yesterday. Rudy assured his colleague that Steve tolerated the trip well and was improving. Hearing the dejected tone in her vague response Rudy decided to give her an opening by stating he was sure she would want to see for herself and offered a time for her to visit later in the afternoon. Jessica could hardly control her elation at the invitation and agreed. After concluding the call Rudy went about getting her clearance and a visitor’s pass.
That afternoon when approaching his door Dr. Wells explained that Steve might still be drowsy from medication and the six-hour surgery last evening to repair his leg. They padded up to the bed and viewed the slumbering patient. Dr. Conrad felt like an infatuated 13-year-old when her heart began to flutter at the sight of this handsome man. Rudy began to rouse his friend with a light hand on his uninjured shoulder. Steve took a deep breath as he turned his bruised face toward the familiar voice calling his name.
Without opening his eyes he just mumbled his annoyance, “Rudy if you are going to wake me up for a few minutes only to tell me to get some rest I’m going to discharge myself and go home.”
Rudy chuckled, “That would be interesting to watch considering your leg is repaired but you still can’t walk with your hip and pelvis in such bad shape.”
Steve, still not feeling the need to open his eyes, retorted, “Then I’ll crawl.”
Rudy smiled at Jessica and whispered, “You’ll have to forgive him he gets cranky when confined to a hospital bed.” She smiled and nodded her understanding.
Turning back to the patient Rudy explained his actions, “Steve I woke you up because you have a visitor who I thought you would like to see.”
Steve slowly opened his tired eyes to take in the wondrous figure standing next to Rudy. With his brow furled he asked, “Do I know you?” Steve thought she looked like a woman from a recent dream he had.
“No we’ve met but we don’t know each other,” She replied.
“I see, “He said simply unable to break eye contact with her dark eyes.
Rudy made the reintroductions, “Steve this is Jessica Conrad, Jessica you remember Steve.”
‘You remember Steve?’ the words traveled through his muddled brain a second time. Now he was really confused, unable to place her. He noticed she looked at him as if he was familiar to her. “Would someone please tell me what’s going on?” He exhaled.
Rudy couldn’t hide his amused grin as he clarified the situation, “Jessica is actually Dr. Jessica Conrad. She was the emergency room physician that treated you at St. Luke’s Hospital yesterday after your car accident before I had you transferred here.”
“St. Luke’s? I don’t remember that”
“It’s not surprising, “Rudy reassured him, “considering in the last 24 hours you’ve been concussed, heavily medicated and anesthetized.”
Steve struggled to lift his heavy head from the pillow to look at her. She had perfectly tanned skin, long wavy black hair framing her face, and large round brown eyes that held warmth he never experienced before. He dropped his head back into the softness before commenting, “Well that explains it I would have definitely remembered you under normal circumstances.” She flashed him a dazzling white-toothed smile unsure how to proceed. Steve continued, trying to hide his oncoming fatigue, not wanting to give her an excuse to leave, “So what brings you here? Did my insurance not pay the bill?”
He gave her a lopsided grin hoping she was as attracted to him as he was to her.
She giggled, “No, as I explained to Rudy, I’m somewhat protective of my patients. I understood because of your leg injury, why you needed to be transferred here but I wanted to check on the care you were receiving here.”
Steve suddenly lost his enthusiasm, realizing she was aware of his special characteristics and probably wanted what all doctors wanted. He responded curtly, “I understand. As you can see I’m in good hands.” He glanced at Rudy then at the ceiling, exaggerating his level of tiredness. Both physicians noticed the sudden energy drain. Jessica decided to conclude the visit.
“Well I’m glad to hear that you are well taken care of. I guess I’d better get back to my other patients.” She touched his right arm as her heart sank thinking this was the last time she would see him, “Take care of yourself Steve.”
He just mumbled a ‘thanks’ with eyes closed waiting for Rudy to walk her out. Once he heard the door close he stared at the tile ceiling, the old feelings returned to pummel his self-esteem into an unrecognizable heap. He sighed heavily thinking how attracted he was to her and was sure the feeling might have been mutual. To find out it was probably just the usual medical curiosity was just too much for his overwrought mind. ’God when will they stop treating me like a lab rat?’ On that thought he fell into a deep healing sleep, unaware that Rudy had returned to discuss his behavior. Finding Steve asleep he decided to drop the subject for now.
Steve was not hungry when his dinner came that evening or when his breakfast tray arrived the following morning. He knew he’d be stuck in bed for at least the next 2 days until his hip and pelvis could tolerate any movement or body weight. It was very easy to fall into the deep depression he was in. The nurses took notice of not only the uneaten meals but also the lack of social interaction they were used to from their patient. The head nurse notified Dr. Wells of the situation. Rudy immediately headed for Steve’s room where the patient was dozing, dreaming of what it was like to be a whole human being.
“Steve?” Steve opened his eyes but did not respond. “Do you want to tell me what is going on?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about?” Steve replied sincerely.
“Your nurse told me you’ve refused your last 2 meals and now your lunch sits here and it’s almost three in the afternoon. Are you on a new diet I should know about?” He tried to be form but light.
“It’s nothing Rudy, really. I’m not doing anything but lie here. Why would I be hungry?” Steve hoped this would pacify his friend’s concern.
Rudy thought it was a good rationalization but knew Steve too well to fall for it. “Uh huh. Why don’t I believe you?”
“I don’t know. Can I go back to sleep now?”
“Does this have anything to do with Dr. Conrad?”
Steve’s head sank deeper into the pillow, “Why would you say that?”
“Because your mood changed significantly since she was here. Now what’s going on?”
His annoyance at being interrogated began to show, “Did you ever think my mood changed because I’m stuck in this bed for days and it is only noticeable to you since I’m not in a drug-induced stupor?” He finished in a soft but firm tone, “It’s nothing you can fix so let it go.” His head began aching from the effort it took to control his emotions and sidestep any possible discussion on the subject. When he began to rub his forehead Rudy knew he had pushed too hard. The doctor curtly said his goodbye to retreat to his office and mull the situation over. His gut told him Steve was not being totally honest with him.
After letting the problem bounce around in his head for a few hours he came to a possible solution. Since Steve was not willing to provide him with the information he needed to affectively deal with the problem he would seek the help of a new acquaintance. He just hoped Jessica Conrad would be a willing participant.
By 8:00 a.m. the following day Rudy and Jessica were once again at Steve’s room. They shared the doorway unnoticed watching their patient struggling to get into the wheelchair positioned next to the bed. With his left arm in a sling and limited tolerance to weight bearing on his left leg Steve was finding it more difficult than he anticipated. Once he clumsily deposited himself in the seat the doctors made their presence known. Rudy was relieved that the thought of getting out of bed was so appealing to his friend. He hoped getting Steve out of this dreary room would lighten his mood. Their smiles greeted the panting man with the sweat-covered brow.
“I see you couldn’t wait for someone to help you get out of bed.” Rudy chastised, “I’m sure Jessica that you also have patients that are too strong-willed for their own good.”
“Yes but they are usually the ones who recover the fastest.” She stated matter-of-factly hoping Steve would see she was on his side. “Well now that you are in that chair how about we go for a walk?”
Steve didn’t look up at her, he couldn’t, it would crush his heart. He just answered through clenched teeth trying to subdue his self-inflicted pain, “No thanks. I think I’ll just stay right here,” His right arm rubbed his aching ribcage slowly regaining a normal breathing pattern. His annoyance bordered on anger knowing her presence was Rudy’s doing.
Rudy chimed in, “Come on Steve it’s time you got some fresh air and color back in your face, normal color that is.” He eyed the purple shades still evident on Steve’s face and winked at Jessica as he unlocked the wheelchair brakes. The doctor was sure Steve would not lose his temper in front of Jessica only resign himself that he was going for a ride, like it or not.
Once out on the portico Dr. Wells was paged overhead as planned. He inwardly smiled at himself as he headed back inside, leaving the couple alone.
Uncomfortable silence filled the small space the wooden bench Jessica sat on and Steve’s wheelchair. He stared out at the lush landscaping taking into his lungs as much fresh air as his injured ribs would allow. After seeing his forlorn expression Jessica decided to initiate the conversation unsure if it would be two-sided.
“So when are you getting out of this place?”
”I don’t know.”
“I see.” She leaned back against the bench. “So tell me about yourself?”
“I don’t know maybe I want to get to know you better.” She was trying to get back the person that seemed to reciprocate her feelings yesterday.
After years as an O.S.I. operative his gut was well tuned to falsehoods and his instincts were telling him she wasn’t providing the whole truth, “Let’s cut to the chase doctor. Why not tell me why you are really here?”
“I honestly don’t know what you mean?” She was confused by his tone. When Rudy requested her help he briefly described Steve as intelligent, witty and charming but that was not what she was seeing here. Maybe Rudy was right, something much deeper was happening here. “Maybe you should just tell me why you think I’m here.” She stated, not afraid to meet him head-on.
As he looked at her innocent face his anger rose, “Do you actually expect me to believe you came all the way over here, twice, just to get to know me? Come on doctor either you are really desperate to meet men, which I doubt, or you have an ulterior motive for being here.”
“Why do you assume I don’t have trouble meeting men? Maybe I’m shy?”
Steve’s eyes looked over her form and answered, “I would bet a year’s salary that at any given time you have men falling all over you. And from what I’ve witnessed the past hour you are definitely not the shy type, coy maybe but not shy.”
She smiled at his observations. Yes there were men asking her out frequently but none gave her the sensation of being struck by lightning as he did. Her feminine intuition told her Steve Austin was someone very special. Knowing their conversation was stalled she conceded with a heavy sigh, “Okay I’ll come clean. I was attracted to you since the first moment I saw you. I just wanted a chance to get to know you. That’s all. Please keep in mind I don’t make it a habit of chasing my former patients for romantic reasons.” She began to blush.
Steve turned to read her eyes. They were so expressive he could feel the honesty and embarrassment behind her confession. He smiled at her, relief and surprise showing in his blue eyes. He grinned as his cheeks informed her of his own embarrassment. She suddenly realized he was shy, an attribute that was most unexpected from this confident, well-educated man.
“Are you laughing at me?”
“No.” He said in a chuckle.
“Then what’s so funny?”
“You said you were attracted to me when you first saw me. I just realized the condition you saw me in. So tell me, doctor, which part attracted you more the fact that I was tied down to a backboard or drugged up and helpless?”
They both shared a laugh at Steve’s rhetorical question. “So Steve, would you mind telling me why you were so angry with me earlier? Did I do something to upset you?”
Steve lost his smile and once again stared out at the grassy hills. “It’s not important.” He stated in a hollow tone.
“Really. Well that seems a bit unfair.” She too stared off into the distance crossing her arms at her midsection.
“I reluctantly confessed my true reason for coming here the least you could do is share with me why my presence made you so angry.”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Having people treat you differently when they find out you are different.”
“Try me. You owe me that much.” She challenged him. When he looked into her beautiful eyes he felt compelled to share his thoughts.
“You know…about my…special…prosthetics.” he stammered staring at his feet.
“When I woke up yesterday and saw you I was instantly attracted to you and hoped you felt the same towards me. When Rudy said you were a doctor I figured your only interest in me was purely scientific.” His eye returned to her face as he finished.
She was shocked. Suddenly it dawned on her the psychological ramifications of his situation. “Oh,” was all that would come from her lips.
“I’m sorry I was angry. It’s not you; it’s just sometimes I feel like a lab rat. I get tired of everyone’s curiosity.” He felt lighter now that he had shared his feelings with someone.
“How long ago did you lose you arm and legs?”
“About 3 years.” He was glad she didn’t ask the usual ‘how does it feel to be half machine?’
“Plane crash. I was a test pilot for NASA. The aircraft malfunctioned and could not be controlled. It hit the desert at about 200 knots. When he looked at her face it held both shock and sympathy. “Please don’t look at me like that. It was my choice to climb into that cockpit. I guess sometimes I just forget how lucky I am that this technology was ready to be tested when I needed it. Otherwise…”
“Steve in my job I see people in many conditions. When I became aware of your artificial limbs it didn’t affect my perception of you. There are many people with prosthesis. Yours just happen to be electronically enhanced.”
Steve smiled and realized she had no idea how different he really was. She inquired further, “Did you ever go back to flying?”
“Yeah, I still fly on occasion.”
“For business or pleasure?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“A little of this and a little of that.”
“Ah, now you’re being evasive.”
“Yes I am.”
“I need to save something to talk about on our first date Dr. Conrad,” he gave her a quick wink that triggered her smile.
“I don’t remember being asked out on a date, Colonel Austin.”
“Well I’m asking and you are accepting.” He stated plainly.
“And why would I do that?”
“You don’t want to upset me in my delicate condition.” Her laugh was infectious as she agreed to see him again on the condition that he call her ‘Jessica’.
Dr. Conrad visited Steve during the rest of his hospital stay as often as her hectic schedule would permit. Sometimes late at night or during the wee hours of the morning when she was finished with her ER shift. Seeing the relationship growing and Steve’s high mood, Rudy would not deny her access to him at any hour. Occasionally, unbeknownst to Steve, she would just sit and watch him sleep. Rudy was glad to have Steve pulled from his depression so quickly.
The patient was discharged after a one week stay on the orders to keep his activities light. Steve agreed and went home to convalesce. He saw little of Jessica with work taking most of her time. They talked almost daily sharing the trivial events of the day and building a casual friendship. Jessica would occasionally hint that he still had not taken her out on that date. Steve promised her as soon as he was fully recovered he would make good on his promise.
Ten days after his discharge Rudy wanted to put Steve’s leg and hip through their paces before clearing him to return to duty. Jessica, unable to contact him at home, assumed he may have gone into work and called Oscar. She was told Steve was with Rudy at the lab. Since it was a short jaunt from St. Luke’s Hospital she decided to surprise him. Without knowledge of her presence in the hallway they went about the familiar testing procedures. Jessica was in total disbelief staring at the treadmill display screen. Her scientific mind insisting it was an error. As Steve stepped off the machine without even breathing heavy he caught sight of her in his peripheral vision and froze where he stood, the color draining from his face. Rudy, not knowing the cause of his pallor, questioned him, “Steve are you okay?” When he got no response he followed Steve’s gaze to the doorway and saw the confused look on Jessica’s face. Rudy realized Steve never explained to her the special abilities he possessed. Steve walked to her and said he would explain later over dinner. They agreed on a time and place to meet before she left the lab. She walked absently to her car, the impossible scene still running through her head.
The initial dinner conversation was unusually strained, as neither knew how to broach the subject on both their minds. Steve, unable to tolerate the tension, spoke first, “Jessica about today in the lab…what you saw…”
“Steve I just can’t believe what I saw. My God you were running at 60 mph. That’s not…not…”
“I was going to say normal.” Choosing the word carefully so not to offend him.
A small grin fell on his lips, dropping his head low he continued, “No it isn’t normal. There are nuclear cells in each limb that produce unbelievable power. Yes I can run fast, jump high and lift extremely heavy items with one hand, but Jessica I’m still just a man.” He so desperately needed her to see that.
She leaned in closer and looked into his deep blue eyes, stating softly, “I know that and a very handsome man at that.”
The heat rose quickly to his face as he finished, “Who is genuinely infatuated with a stunningly beautiful and intelligent woman.” Their eyes and hands met before they leaned across the small table and shared their first kiss.
Feeling a little out of breath after they broke the physical contact Jessica redirected the conversation, “So Steve tell me about yourself.”
“I thought I already did.”
“No I want to know about you….your upbringing, schooling, you know other stuff.”
“Okay, I am an only child, raised in Ojai, California by my mother and step-father. They still live there. I have two Masters Degrees in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, both from M.I.T. how about you?”
“I was also an only child, raised in Salt Lake City by my wonderful parents. I attended undergraduate school at University of Southern California and medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. I am.”
“Where are your parents now?”
“They were killed in a car accident, icy road. It was during my final semester at the University of Pennsylvania.”
“How did you end up here in Washington?”
“When I finished my residency at St. Luke’s they offered me a job so I took it. I do miss California though.”
“I’m sorry you lost both your parents. Any extended family?”
“No just me, although I consider my close friends as family.”
“That’s good. But after this date I hope you don’t consider me as family? I mean that could make things a little uncomfortable.” They shared a chuckle at his comment both remembering the sparks that were very evident during the kiss.
“Have you always worked for the government?”
“You could say that. I was in the Air Force for many years designing systems and flying. Then I worked for NASA for a few years. Since my plane crash and …‘adaptations’ I’ve been assigned to the OSI.”
“What did you do for NASA?”
“I was an astronaut and test pilot.”
“Why do you say you are ‘assigned’ to the OSI?”
“They footed my repair bill after the crash.”
”Really. Do you like your work?”
“Not really. I can think of several other occupations I’d rather be doing.”
“So why not change. Life is too short to waste doing something you dislike.”
“I don’t think Uncle Sam would appreciate that.”
“Because they paid six million dollars for me and they want to be sure to get their money’s worth.” He wore a weak smile as he began toying with his food.
Unknowingly touching on the sensitive subject she decided it was time to lighten the mood, “Six million, wow! I’m glad to see my tax dollars were invested wisely.” She winked and grinned, happy that her attempt to get him to laugh seemed to work. “So I guess now I know what arms and legs are going for these days.” She said sipping her wine.
“And an eye.” He mumbled figuring he would get it all out now.
“An artificial eye.”
“Oh, I forgot about that.”
“I was your doctor remember. I noticed it when I checked your eyes. I guess I just forgot. Are you blind in that eye?”
“No. It‘s like a telephoto lens on a camera. My vision in that eye is 20 to 1… and infrared.”
“So you can see in the dark? I’m not sure I like that.” She let out a loud chuckle. He looked at her surprised. Realizing he may feel offended by the comment she elaborated, “Well there’s a reason why women like to keep the lights off in the bedroom!” Steve let out a hearty laugh enjoying how comfortable she felt with him to make such a bold comment on a first date. Yes they were definitely comfortable together as if they had always been friends. She continued, “So is there anything else I should know about your ‘adaptations?” She batted her long eyelashes at him.
Steve quickly came up with a teasing answer, “There are some other parts.”
“Which ones?” She was being coy.
“Oh, you can’t see them.” He gave her a sly grin.
“Well I’m intrigued to say the least. Tell me, will I ever get to see them?” She asked.
Steve laughed knowing what she was thinking, “I doubt it.” Quickly changing the subject he stated, “So tell me more about you.”
“What do you want to know?” She offered with a friendly smile placing her fork down and sitting back in her chair and gave him her full attention.
“Favorite food? Favorite color? Favorite animal ? Anything you want to tell me.”
“Well let’s see, lasagna, hunter green and tigers.”
”Well Colonel Austin I need to have something to talk about on our second date.” He melted at the dazzling smile that spread across her face.
Within a month their courtship was in full swing. Steve and Jessica spent every possible moment together taking day trips by car or by plane, sailing, horseback riding, skiing or just sitting in front of the fireplace or on a beach enjoying their comfortable friendship. Within two month they began talking of a future together.
One day they spontaneously flew to Ojai for an overnight trip to meet Steve’s parents and as anticipated Helen and Jim adored their son’s new love. That night after dinner Steve drove her to a secluded beach and surprised her with a marriage proposal at sunset. He presented her with a gorgeous 2-carat princess cut diamond ring. Jessica smiled as he went through the whole ritual, getting down on one knee and saying all the romantic words a woman loves to hear. She landed in his strong arms as she enthusiastically accepted his offer to become Mrs. Steve Austin. They sat on the beach in the moonlight talking of becoming married, parenthood and grandparenthood, planning on growing old together.
They met Oscar and Rudy for lunch the following day at the Watergate hotel to share their news with them. Both men, having gotten to know her over the past weeks, loved her. She was confident, intelligent and had a quick wit that made her fun to be around. Yes, Steve and Jessica were the perfect pair. As the foursome ate they shared conversation, sometimes at Steve’s expense. His old friends felt the need to fill Jessica in on some details of Steve’s past. Steve had excused himself to the rest room and Oscar asked what Steve’s parents thought about their sudden engagement.
“They are both ecstatic. For some unknown reason Helen thinks I’ll be able to keep her son out of trouble,” She grinned. “I guess I didn’t do a very good job yesterday,” She began to laugh remembering the moment as Steve returned to the table wondering what she thought was so funny. Seeing the question in his eyes she continued, “I was just telling Oscar and Rudy that I didn’t do a very good job keeping you out of trouble yesterday.” Steve began to blush with embarrassment as Jessica continued the story. Oscar and Rudy gave her their full attention. “Well Steve and I went horseback riding in the afternoon. We became a little too competitive and, well we started to race full out over his ranch.” She couldn’t contain her giggles as the story continued, “We were both headed toward the fence and neither wanted to concede so we both picked a spot to jump the horses.” She glanced at her fiancé who was staring at his drink allowing a small smile to play on his lips. “Steve was slightly ahead of me and I saw him and his horse reaching the fence at high speed. Suddenly, for no reason at all, the animal stopped dead in its tracks. Unfortunately Steve didn’t stay on him because he was glancing back at me and didn’t notice the horse pulling up short.” Looking at Steve she clarified through her laughter, “You flew at least 60 feet! I couldn’t believe it. I was just relieved that Steve had cleared the fence or he would have broken his neck.” She tried to prevent her laughter to get to the good part. “Well the best part was when he also sailed over the adjacent fence next to the property. He landed hard, rolled, and came up to sitting in Mrs. Mayberry’s prized rose garden. I dismounted and jumped over the fences figuring he would be injured after such a violent fall and before I could reach him Mrs. Mayberry was screaming at him for damaging her flowers.” Jessica laughed out loud at the thought of the irate woman, “When I think about the whole situation all I hear in my head is, ‘Little Stevie Austin you haven’t changed a bit!!’” She said in a screeching voice and looked at Steve who was laughing along with Oscar and Rudy at Jessica’s imitation of old Mrs. Mayberry,
“Ain’t that right Little Stevie Austin?” She screeched again.
“Okay enough! If you keep that voice up I’ll never be able to look at your sweet face again without seeing that nasty old woman.” He looked at his friends, “You have to understand Mrs. Mayberry and I go back a long way, a long, long way. She still thinks I’m a juvenile delinquent.”
Jessica replied in a mock serious tone, “Maybe Oscar can put in a good word for you.”
With that the table erupted in laughter.
Rudy couldn’t help but ask, “So did you get hurt?”
“Oh, just a bruised left shoulder and wounded pride. I’ll live.” He took a swig of his drink.
At the end of the meal Oscar held up his drink and offered a toast to the newly engaged, fun-loving couple. As the toast ended Jessica gave Rudy all the credit for bringing them together.
She looked at Steve, “You are aware Rudy is responsible for bringing me back to the hospital to see you?” Rudy looked at Steve with a guilty face.
Steve slowly made eye contact with the doctor replying in a low tone, “Oh yeah, I knew exactly what he was up to the moment you walked into my room.” Rudy was unsure how to take the comment until Steve gave him a grateful wink.