You walk into the elementary school teacher's lounge. Your first day as the resident doctor for the Lima School District was exhausting. Your office is set up in the admin building across town and all you want is a cup of coffee.
This isn't the worst job you could get. The district will pay off your med school loans in exchange for three years of dirt-cheap work. You thought it would be hell but you've learned that not all children are whiny monsters.
You look helplessly around the lounge where the teachers are scattered. You never like having to meet new people. It always makes you nervous so you wipe your hand on the front of your scrubs and step in.
You make your way to the coffee machine and pick up a foam cup from the stack. A blonde with her hair up in a sleek ponytail is washing her strawberries in the adjacent sink and is partially blocking the coffee pot so you just stand to the side and wait.
A few seconds later she sees you. With a disarming smile she apologizes and moves to the other side of the sink.
You fill up your coffee and fix it with creamer and sugar like you've drunk it since high school.
Now is the hard part. Where to sit? You don't want to seem like a snob and sit alone (you made that mistake at the middle school and now most of the teachers give you dirty looks) and you don't want to just join a group (that gets awkward fast).
You hear an airy giggle next to you. "Come on. You can sit with me." the blonde picks up her strawberries and makes her way to an empty table by the window.
"Thank god," you utter under your breath and follow her.
Once you're seated, she smiles brightly, "You looked lost."
"I'm new," you say for the millionth time that week.
She glances down at your scrubs, "You're the new district doctor?"
"I'm Brittany. Kindergarten."
"Santana," you tell her. She look like a kindergarten teacher, all friendly and approachable.
"How do you like working here?" she asks casually, taking a bite of a strawberry.
"It's a, um, different than I thought it would be," you say. You don't wanna offend her and tell her it's boring most of the time and you're jumping ship the second your contract is up.
She laughs and you find yourself smiling without reason. "Any sick kids?"
"A couple. Some paper cuts and a sprained ankle," you shrug.
"All the kids have been nice?"
You nod. "Most of them anyway." then you remember this morning and smile. "There is this sweet little girl that walked her friend to the infirmary and sat with her the whole time. She wanted to know everything I was doing and why. She's a smart kid for being so young."
"Yeah?" Brittany asks covering her mouth as she chews.
"Yeah. Her name was... I don't remember her first name but her last name was Pierce. No idea why I remembered that." you take a sip of your coffee that you almost forgot about.
Brittany chuckles, "Blonde hair and blue eyes? Pink and white polka dotted dress?"
You nod. Must be a smaller school than you thought. "Is she one of your students?"
"She's my daughter," Brittany says easily before taking a bite of her fruit.
You almost choke on your coffee and instead just ungracefully spill it on yourself. "Oh."
The bright laughter bubbled up from the blonde, "But I'm glad to hear she's taking care of the other kids."
"She's great," you look around and try to think of a good reason to leave before you make more of an ass of yourself. Of course you've really already put your foot in your mouth.
"Hey," the bouncy little girl from yesterday skips in.
You're totally confused. She looks fine. No bruises, no woozy, no bleeding. "Um, hi?"
"I'm supposed to be in the library," she states, studying you. Little kids never made you nervous before. But this one...
You sit down on your examination stool and close the folder in your hand. "Then why aren't you there?"
"I saw you in here. You look lonely." she rocks back on her heels. "It's ok. I was going to the library because I finished my work first and got bored."
"I see." You nod, checking out the door behind the girl for some other adult to rescue you.
"You're Dr. Lopez?"
"What's your first name?"
"Why do you want to know?" you tilt your head.
She grins. "My mom says friends know each other by their first names. I wanna be your friend."
"I don't know your name though."
"Your name is Summer?"
She nods, her blonde hair bouncing.
"I like your name. It's weird." She scrunches up her nose.
You look sideways at the girl. "Thanks?"
"You're welcome." You see an innate kindness in her eyes at her mother has. They're very approachable and that scares you. From your experience these nice people are just Trojan Horses carrying an emotional turmoil that you don't need right now.
But she's just a kid. You've got to stop thinking like that. Kids are typically honest unless cookies are involved.
You both stare at each other until finally you decide to be the adult. "You should get to the library."
She grins at you like that's funny. You just keep a straight face. Maybe working with kids is a bad idea.
"Do you like muffins?" she asks out of nowhere instead of leaving.
You nod. Maybe you have to play along to get her feet moving.
You nod again.
Then just like that she turns around and walks out making a barely audible effort to say, "Bye Santana."
You just stare after her. Finally you get back to work. Kids baffle you.
You get to work early the next day because you can't find anything to do in this town worth doing so you went to bed early leading you to wake up early. Laying in bed and watching movies on your laptop is not how you anticipated your glamorous life as a doctor would end up being. Of course you never planned to work with kids either. Especially work that someone with an LVN is over qualified to do.
So you stop by your office and take care of some paperwork before you get in your car and head to the elementary school. It starts before the middle and high school so it makes sense to go there first. That way you can sweep the kids who were too sick to come to school in the first place back out before heading to the middle school.
You do have to say that you enjoy wearing the green scrubs that the district allows you. They definitely save you time when you're getting ready for work. Scrubs, ponytail, sneakers, and enough make-up to not look like a zombie, or homeless, and you're good to go.
When you walk into the infirmary before the bell rings to start the day, you use your foot to pull your examination stool to you and sit on it. You push off of the ground and roll to the counter that you use as a desk. There are some memos for you in a stack on the counter. Policy changes and a request from the superintendent for you to write a letter to all the parents about the importance to instilling the habit of washing hands to the children. That'll be super fun. You're not a good writer. That's why you're a doctor. Science doesn't require finesse with words. It requires the ability to state fact and not coddle parents whose children are gross and don't wash their hands.
You pull a pen out of the top drawer and start to make a list of things you need to put into the letter. You turn the memo over and start to write on it. You get as far as testing the pen to make sure it works before there's a knock. You swivel around on the stool. At the door, you find Brittany the kindergarten teacher and her daughter Summer. Upon seeing the teacher a smile pops onto your face although you don't know why.
Summer grins at you with a basket of muffins in her arms. Not a tray or a tin of muffins. A real, honest to goodness basket. And they look homemade. You watch as Summer rocks on her toes and looks up at her mom. Brittany nods and Summer walks up to Santana, handing her the basket. "We made you some blueberry muffins."
"Thanks," you finally spit out. No one has ever made you blueberry muffins before or any kind of baked good for that matter.
"You're welcome," Summer smiles at you again. "I have to go to class. Have a nice day."
You have to say that baffled is a little of an understatement at this point. You look up at Brittany who just watches her daughter run off to class with a hint of a smile on her face.
"She is really sweet," you offer, placing the basket on the counter.
Brittany nods, "She is. But I've never seen her want to do something nice for someone so much before."
You shrug, "Maybe she feels sorry for me. I'm hopelessly lost most of the time and the high school teachers don't like me."
Brittany walks into the room more and sits down on the plastic chair a few feet from you, "The high school teachers just don't like people at first. You're a doctor and you're very beautiful. They're just jealous."
You actually feel yourself blush. That is certainly not something that's ever happened before. "I um, they're just..." You find yourself fluster under the gaze of the blue eyes.
She smiles kindly anyway. She crosses one leg over the other, her foot almost touching your shin in the process. She folds her hands around her knee. "They can be just like their students."
"That is no joke," you have to look away from her in order to speak. You pick up your pen again just to have something to do with at least one of your hands.
The bell rings and Brittany stands. "If you're here again for lunch, you're more than welcome to sit with me."
That does make you smile. You look up and meet her eyes. She has this ability to make it so that you feel like you're special. You bet her students love her. She's like an angel...
She giggles. You quickly look away because you're pretty sure that you were staring for an inappropriate amount of time. You're helpless and entranced as she exits the room, into a sea of children who all say hello to her.
Even if you had to drive all the way back across town from the high school, you're going to have lunch with Brittany. You didn't bring anything to eat for lunch from home because you were just going to eat alone at a deli instead of having to deal with judgey teachers walking by your office at the high school or the numerous invitations that you had at the admin building. So you're armed with two muffins from the basket you left at your office.
You walk into the teacher's lounge with them and a water bottle. You stop in the doorway of the teacher's lounge and look around for Brittany. You don't know why you're so crestfallen when you don't see her. You contemplate leaving when you feel a hand on the small of your back. A tingle shoots up your spine and you inhale sharply. When you turn you find Brittany holding a paper bag, a bright smile on her face. "You came."
All you can seem to do is nod.
"If you want to have lunch with someone else, I understand, but I have to spend lunch in the home ec classroom," Brittany explains, "I was volunteered by my enthusiastic daughter to make fortune cookies for the cultural fair which is tonight. I'm going to spend lunch learning how to make fortune cookies." She gestures to the bag in her hand, which you assume hold the ingredients.
"We can have lunch some other time if you're busy," you say although you were kind of excited about having someone to eat lunch with.
"Is that your way of telling me that you don't want to watch me make crooked fortune cookies?" Brittany asks with a playful smile.
"Of course not," you say. There's that smile again. You gesture to the hallway. "Lead the way."
The home ec classroom looks more like a science room that turned into a storage room. Most of the black counter tops are dusty and there are boxes in most of the back half of the classroom. In the front half, all the stools are stacked on top of the desks. Brittany sets her bag down next to a white stove that is between two sides of the long black counter across one side of the far wall. There's a stool sitting next to the oven. You can see that she's already been in here for a while because of some dirty bowls in the sink closer to the front of the classroom and you can feel the heat from the oven.
Brittany takes a stool off of the table and sets it next to the one she was using. She pats the top of it before spreading some waxed paper on the counter in front of her and moving to the oven. "So, how'd you end up in Lima?"
You exhale. "They were looking for a doctor and I was looking for someone to pay off my loans."
She smiles. "That makes sense." She opens the oven, slides on a glove, and pulls out a pant of little circular, tan cookie looking things.
"What about you?" you ask, then take your first bite of your first muffin. It is a really great muffin.
"I was born here," she says, taking a spatula and moving the cookies to the waxed paper. "I went to college here at Ohio State - Lima Campus. My parents live like four blocks from my house."
"Oh, cool," you nod. There's no way you could afford a house in your parents' neighborhood for at least another five years.
"Where are you from?" she asks, sitting on her stool.
"Chicago," you state. "But I went to med school at Case Western in Cleveland." Just like your parents wanted. Where your dad went to med school. Where your dad specialized in orthopedics. Like you did.
"That's really cool," Brittany smiles. She carefully picks up the first cookie and reaches inside of the paper bag to extract a tiny sliver of paper. It takes her a moment to figure out exactly how to fold it, but after the first few they actually start to look like fortune cookies.
"Did you always want to be a district doctor?" she asks, as she continues churning out fortune cookies.
You almost snort. This is on the opposite end of what you wanted to do. Well it's opposite of what your parents wanted you to do. You can't say it's ideal for you either.
"I guess that's a no," she chuckles.
"I just needed to slow down," you answer. "I've been in school for most of my life. I just needed somewhere to slow down."
"Lima is definitely somewhere to slow down," Brittany nods to herself as she continues folding.
You feel bad just sitting there and eating so you offer to help. She waves you off. "It's fine. If that's what you're eating for lunch, I bet you didn't have breakfast."
You duck your head. "I did not."
"Isn't that the most important meal of the day, doctor?" she asks with a coy smirk.
You roll your eyes just as playfully and she full on laughs. It's such a light laugh that you feel like her laugh has the power to make everyone in the world smile. It certainly works on you.
A comfortable silence settles over you both and you just sit there, munching on your muffin and watching her make fortune cookies.
"Hey Brittany," a woman's voice drifts in from the door. You both turn around and the woman looks surprised to see you. "Hey, Dr. Lopez." She taps a clipboard against her leg.
You give an awkward wave while Brittany smiles, "Hey Tina. What's up?"
"I was wondering if you could cover the Germany booth tonight," Tina asked, "I just went over the sign up sheet and Coach Puckerman wrote down Anita Fagina again in the Germany spot."
"Sorry," Brittany held up a cookie that she folded. "I was volunteered for the Japan booth."
Tina's eyes move to you and you know what she's about to ask you. You try desperately to think of an excuse. Some made up plans or something to get out of going. In your panic, you look to Brittany who is folding a fortune into a cookie, blonde wisps falling out of her ponytail and brushing against her face. All thoughts exit your head and you find yourself agreeing to man the Germany booth.
Tina grins. "Thank you so much." She moves her pencil to the clipboard and pauses, "I'm sorry. I don't know your first name."
"Santana," Brittany answers for you. There's a beautiful way that your name rolls off of her tongue and you find yourself smiling stupidly.
"Thanks Santana," Tina says. "See you both tonight."
You blink a few times after Tina leaves and pick up a half done cookie. Then you reach into the paper bag and try to figure out how Brittany is making the cookies.
"You don't have to do that," Brittany says, placing another one of her folded cookies onto the cookie sheet.
You continue helping though. "It's okay. I'm now the delegate from Germany. This is a diplomatic gesture."
She giggles and bumps her shoulder against yours. "I'm glad you're going to be there."
For some reason that gives you butterflies. You wonder if she has this effect on everyone. "Really?"
"Totally," Brittany grins.
"I don't have to wear like a yodeler skirt or anything do I?" you ask a few minutes later. That really does worry you.
Brittany belly laughs and shakes her head. "No. I'm probably going to be wearing this. You can wear jeans or those if you want." She gestures to your scrubs.
"Oh good," you let out.
The bell rings just as she puts the cookies in the oven. You check your watch. You were supposed to have that letter to the parents to the superintendent right now. "Oh crap. I gotta go."
"Thank you," Brittany reaches forward and wraps her arms around your shoulders.
You're a little stunned at first. You're not really a hugger, but this, like everything else that Brittany does, is nice. "I only made a few lopsided cookies."
She chuckles and pulls away. "It was nice to not have to do it alone." The way she says alone makes you a little curious. She emphasized alone and her smile faltered for a moment.
Before you can ask, she turns to clean up her mess. "Thanks again. I'll see you tonight at six."
"Six," you nod and let your gaze linger a bit before walking out.