Just Friends, Part Three

Rachel
Lucky day?  As if.

She was chewing a piece of gum halfway through the day when she felt the crown on one of her back molars give way. And it didn’t stop at giving way.  Oh, no.  The thing broke off and was rolling around loose in her mouth.

Of all the dumb luck.

Spitting it out in her hand, she groaned, knowing that this little beauty?  Had cost her more than a few dollars.  It had been the first thing she’d paid for after going off her parents’ amazing insurance and onto her own subpar coverage.

She was sure that getting it replaced would probably cost twice as much now.

It had been a long time since she’d seen her dentist.  A long, long time.  But she still had the number in her phone and was able to secure an appointment.

“You’ve got the last one of the day, Miss Finn,” the receptionist told her. 

Great.  Old Dr. Wright would be good and tired by then and would probably need to be reminded exactly which tooth needed the work.

Great.

She arrived to the office ten minutes before her appointment was scheduled and was taken back immediately.  When they saw how long it had been since she’d last been in, they did the full meal deal.  X-rays, a full cleaning, and scraping.  Oh, wow, the scraping.

Just when she was sure that the pain in her mouth couldn’t get worse, the hygienist smiled at her and said, “Alrighty then, the doctor will be back in just a few minutes to check out that crown.”

Rachel took a breath as soon as the woman left… then pulled out her phone and got right back to the registry.  A universal television remote and a –

“Well, at least you’re not driving this time.” 

She raised her eyes… and met his.

Oh, no.  That guy.  The guy she’d rear-ended!

She said what came to mind first.  “You’re not Dr. Wright.”

He raised his eyebrows at her.  “No, I’m not.”

“Dr. Wright is my dentist, and –“

“Dr. Wright passed on two years ago,” he said, moving into the room and sitting down on the stool.  “How long has it been since you’ve seen a dentist?”

“Three years,” she sighed, suddenly sobered by this news.  “He passed on?  I’ve been seeing him since I was a kid.”

“Yeah,” Micah answered, pulling out her x-rays and looking them over.  “He was a good man.”

“So… who are you?,” she asked.  “I didn’t get your name earlier today when –“

“When you ran into me?,” he asked.  “Yeah.  I’m Micah Johnson, your new dentist.  And you have three cavities and need a root canal, along with that broken crown.”

“What?!”

“Just telling you what I see,” he said, continuing to calmly look through her file.  “Though maybe it won’t be so bad once I get in there.”  He lowered her chair.  “You ready?”

“No,” she muttered.  “But it has to be done, right?”

“Great attitude,” he said, nodding as he turned the light on over the chair.

He explained that he’d be putting a temporary crown on her tooth, started the process of numbing her mouth, and then told her that unfortunately, there were actually five cavities in there and that they would need to be filled before he started on the bigger projects.

Projects.  Her teeth were an endless source of projects.  She should just tell Micah Johnson to pull them all now, get her in dentures, and save them both the trouble.

“Want me to fill all these cavities in right now or schedule you for later?  I mean, you’re going to be back, obviously.”

“Do it now,” she said.  “While we’re here and all, right?”

“Right,” he said, moving to get his supplies ready.  “You’ll have to come in over a few weeks to get the root canal done.  Dr. Wright always let these things go until it was a do or die situation, but I’m more of a preventative kind of guy.”

“Mmmm,” she murmured.

“Not to say he wasn’t a great dentist,” Micah said, starting the drill.  “Just that we had different philosophies and all.”

“When did you start working here?,” she asked around his hands, trying to keep her mind from the excruciating sounds.

“A few years ago,” he said.  “Started as soon as I got back from a mission trip to Namibia.  Ever heard of Namibia?”

“Nam… what?,” she asked.

“Yeah, didn’t think so,” he smiled.  “Anyway, I was on a team of dental students, fresh out of school, and took a few weeks to celebrate graduation by doing work on kids in a refugee camp near the ocean.”

Rachel squinted her eyes at this.  A refugee camp in Africa… this sounded like a strange way to celebrate.

“What?,” he asked, pulling the drill back.  “Is that tooth not numb enough?”

“No, I can’t feel a thing,” she said.  “Just… well, that doesn’t sound much like a celebration.”

He shrugged, going right back to work.  “It was one of the best months of my life.  Serving Christ, meeting real needs, and being there to see lives change.  Dr. Wright’s daughter and son-in-law had been missionaries there forever, so he’d been doing these clinics for… well, forever.  The Wrights found out I was from Fort Worth and that I was looking for a place to work once I got back from overseas.  So, he offered me a position at his practice.  He was close to retirement and wanted to start taking a lighter load with his patients, so I jumped at the chance to help him out while setting myself up for a great future.  Would have loved to have stayed on the mission field, taking care of teeth and sharing Christ like that, but my sister’s here in Texas.”

Rachel remembered his sister, of course. This made good sense.

“You have beautiful teeth,” he said.  “Orthodontic work?”

“Yuhhhh,” she affirmed, finding it difficult to say much with a giant drill in her mouth.  Why did dentists insist on carrying on conversations with their hands in people’s mouths? 

“I can tell,” he said.  “Although it’s troubling that a woman as young as you has already had to have a crown… and a couple of root canals, according to your chart.”

“Nofff dahhh yuuuunnn,” she mumbled.

“Young as me, surely,” he said. 

She held up two fingers.

“In your twenties,” he said.  “Twenty…”

She held up eight fingers. 

“Well, that’s young,” he said.  “But I was wrong.  You’re not as young as me.”

She frowned. 

“Keep your mouth open,” he said.  “We’re just getting started.”

An excruciating amount of time later, he wrapped up his work and led her to the front office.  His receptionist was already gone for the day, so he slid behind the desk and began making notations on the computer for her billing, for her next appointment, and for her insurance as she moved her jaw around and rubbed her face.

“So, tell me about this wedding you were obsessing about earlier,” he said, glancing up at her.

“Oh. That.”  She rolled her eyes.  “Former love of my life and all.”

“Hmm.  Watching the former love of your life get married will be a sorry way to spend the weekend.”

“Well,” she managed, still rubbing her face.  “It would have been.  But I haven’t found a date, so I’m not going.”

“Will they not let you in without a date?”

She shook her head, searching through her purse.  “They’ll let me in, but I’m not going to be that woman.  Dateless, red-eyed, pining over the stupid groom.  Idiot.”

“I’m not an idiot,” he sighed.

“Not you,” she said, waving him off dismissively.  “The groom.  The groom’s an idiot.”

He watched her silently for a moment. “Then, why are you so hung up on him?  I mean, if he’s an idiot and all?”

She looked up at him.  “I know, right?  Shouldn’t care either way.  But I’ve been loving that man since I was fourteen.”

“And fourteen year old girls know how to pick them,” he said.

She gave him an appraising look.  “Well, maybe not, but that’s life.”  She finally found her wallet.  “How much?”

“Let my office bill the insurance again with different codes and see if we can get you a better deal,” he said.  “Especially since you’ll have to come back for the root canal and the permanent crown.”

“Is that ethical?,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him.  “Trying to stick it to the insurance company like that?  I mean, it sucks, needing to pay anything, but I would still like to honor Christ in this.”

“Would you rather just pay me the $3000 yourself, then?”

“Three thousand dollars!,” she exclaimed.

“That’s actually pretty cheap considering all the appointments you have ahead of you,” he said.

“Yeah,” she muttered, pulling a compact out of her purse and opening it up to check her hair.  “Because that’ll be fun.”

“This wasn’t fun?,” he asked, leaning back in the chair with his arms crossed over his chest, watching her curiously.

“No,” she said.  “I’m drooling, and my hair’s a mess, thanks to that chair.”

“Looks fine to me,” he said.  Then, thoughtfully, “I don’t imagine a woman who looks like you would have a hard time finding a date for a wedding.”

She glanced over at him.  “Normally?  Probably not.  But men hate going to weddings.  Especially on a first date.”

“Maybe if you explained beforehand that the only reason you need him to go with you is so you can stalk the groom.”

She narrowed her eyes at him.  “Yeah, because that will –“

She stopped.  And looked at him.  Really looked at him.

He didn’t look like Seth.  His hair was darker.  His eyes were brown, not blue.  He was taller, more fit.  And handsome. 

He was actually quite good looking.

Well, this would work just fine.

“What?,” he asked.

“Maybe I won’t have to explain it,” she said.  “What about you?  Are you free this Saturday?”

He said nothing for a moment.  Then, “Are you asking me out?”

“Sure am,” she said.  “You like wedding cake?”

“Not really,” he said.  “It’s bad for your teeth.”

“Well, that figures,” she sighed.

“But,” he said, “I could probably go for dinner after the reception.  At a real restaurant.”

She nodded.  “Well, it’s a morning wedding.  But breakfast could be part of the deal.  Or lunch.  Whatever.”  She’d be willing to buy this man all three meals if she could walk in on his very handsome arm, acting as though she had a life apart from Seth.  She smiled.  “Hey, and you’re a doctor.  That’ll show them.”

“Well, I’m a dentist.”

“Still can legally put people under and get paid to do it,” she said.  “Close enough.”  She frowned.  “And it’s much better than being a stupid vet.”

“Who’s a stupid vet?,” he asked. 

“The groom.  And he’s marrying his receptionist.  Cliché much, right?”

He shrugged.  “My receptionist is single.”

“Is she now?”

“Yeah, but she’s seventy-nine,” he said.  “Amazing that she still wants to work a nine to five job, actually.”

“Nothing wrong with older women,” she muttered.

“No,” he said.  “I’m told that’s the way to go, actually.”

Rachel watched him for a minute, wondering if he was messing with her… and not really caring, as long as she could get him to go to the wedding with her.  “So, Dr. Johnson.  You up for a wedding?”

She waited, more than a little eager for his response.

“Sure,” he said, shrugging.  “But you should probably call me Micah.”

Come back next Monday for Part Four! 

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