Word of mouth about his practice was growing. He was getting more patients. His work kept him busy all day without interruption. Sometimes he felt like he should refer some of his patients to other doctors or stop accepting new patients. His life as a single person was getting boring. He liked cooking but it was much easier and faster to order takeout. He didn’t like visiting restaurants by himself and there was no one he could go out with. His sister Kaylee would visit him from New York on major holidays and he would entertain her. But that was it.
He was renting a ranch style single family home. He could afford to hire help for cleaning, but doing the household chores like vacuuming and lawn mowing kept him occupied. He remembered his days in Oklahoma where he had shared a house with Ashley and how he would mow the lawn using the manual lawn mower. When he was busy in these activities he often thought of Agnes, unknowingly. He would imagine what she would be doing if not with Nathan. He wanted to call and talk to her, but thought that it would be intruding in her relationship with Nathan.
It was late October. Owen was watching the Miami Dolphins at New York Jets. He got an urge to call Agnes. He didn’t care if she was alone or with Nathan. He thought of two scenarios about dealing with his call depending on who answers. If Agens answers he could proceed to talk with her and get a sense of how long she would allow him to talk before cutting him off. If Nathan answers he could always say he was Agnes’s friend from the Peace Corps days. That wouldn’t be a cause of concern to Nathan.
Owen tried to remember where he had kept the contact information she had given him. He knew he had put it in his pant pocket when she gave it to him. It would be worse if he had forgotten it there and it got washed when he gave his clothes for dry cleaning. Calling Jodi would be awkward.
He went to his bedroom and searched the dresser drawer. The drawer was full of nick knacks — his wallet, a bowl with loose change, various bills that he didn’t want to throw away. Underneath all that he found a small piece of paper with just a telephone number. No name. When she gave him the number he knew it was from her so he didn’t bother to write down her name against it. Now he wasn’t sure that it was her number. He walked over to the foyer that had the telephone book. He looked up the area code for Columbus. It matched the one on the number. It was worth a try. He dialed and heard the phone wring. No one answered. He let in ring more.
“Hello.” Someone said.
It was Agnes. He wondered what kept her so long. He hoped he wasn’t calling at an inappropriate moment. He had planned to keep a message on her answering machine if she wasn’t home. It was a weekend and it was possible she was out with Nathan.
“Hi.” Owen said.
“Owen?” Agnes responded as if she was kind of anticipating his call. “What a great surprise.”
“Well, remember I said I would keep in touch.”
“I’m so glad to hear from you. How you been?”
“I’m good. How’re you? It’s been, what?” he paused then said “two months since your visit to Miami?”
“Something like that. But, hey, who’s counting.”
There was a moment of silence. Owen was trying to figure out how to keep the conversation going. Asking about Nathan would be awkward. What if he was sitting next to her?
“How’s school? Are the kids behaving?”
“School’s oooh kayh.”
Owen was not expecting this.
“What’s the matter Agnes? You sound like the work’s getting to you.”
“No, No, No. It’s just that this place is boring.” Again she elongated the ‘boring’.
Owen sensed a complete silence in the background that meant she was alone. Not even the sound of a radio. Owen almost asked about Nathan, but before he said anything Agnes explained.
“Nathan’s out on a long-term overseas assignment. I don’t know when he’ll be back.”
Owen wondered whether there really was a Nathan. She could be faking it just to show that she wasn’t without a boyfriend.
“There is nothing to do here.” Agnes said after a pause.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Owen said. “Why don’t you come on over here for a visit?” Owen blurted out and realized what he had done. He was making her make a trip to Miami just to meet him.
“I don’t know, Owen. Let me think about it.”
“What’s there to think? Just hop on a plane and you’ll be here in a couple of hours.”
“Thanks. I’ll let you know.”