The horrible dream has me incredibly freaked, but I manage to give Azalea the gruesome highlights.

“It’s a sign, Baby,” she cries. “You gotta call the doctor!”

“Maybe,” I admit. “Don’t want to get uglier than I am now!”

She frowns at me. “Gussy, you’re not ugly…ever! But you need attention! It looks nasty.”

I picture the friendly face of Doctor Ward who I’ve been seeing for years…since I was, like, a baby. Feel totally safe with him. “Okay,” I say, “Doc Ward knows I pretty much fend for myself and takes my dad’s insurance. But…can you do me a favor? Check the computer and google ‘broken cheeks’. I wanna see if I’m gonna have to go to the hospital. Fuck!”

Azalea gives me a frustrated look. “Baby, no way! Let’s just go! Now!”

I stumble to the phone feeling pretty weird. Actually, look forward to seeing Doc Ward. Picture his blue squinty eyes and flowing white hair. He’s old…was even my mom’s doctor…and he really likes me! Always seems happy when I show up. Kind of consider him the grandfather I never had. Unlike most doctors, he works seven days a week 24/7…out of his house.

His sister Justine answers the phone. “Hi, Cornell. This is a pleasant surprise! What’s up?”

“It’s a long story,” I tell her, “but I got punched in the face and my cheek’s messed up. Is Doc available?”

“My goodness!” She exclaims. “That sounds painful. Come right over.”

“Be prepared. I’m not a pretty sight.”

“Cornell, you never look bad to me.”

“Just wait…”

“Do you have a ride?” She asks…knows my dad doesn’t do shit.

“No,” I confess, “and would it be okay if Azalea, my girlfriend, comes along? Sure hope so…”

Justine catches her breath. “Girlfriend? My goodness, Cornell, you’re growing up fast. Of course, I’ll be right over.”

I hang up and explain to Azalea. She’s amazed. “Wow! I’ve never heard of a doctor sending a car!”

“They’re like my best friends.” I explain.

So, we grab fresh ice from the fridge and sit outside by the door. As we wait, I suddenly feel really strange, and my thoughts get, like, scrambled…can’t seem to focus right…start sweating bullets…don’t tell Azalea…not used to sharing worries with anybody. I’m totally losing my shit as Justine pulls up.

Azalea leads me to the SUV…stealing glances at my face. Guess I don’t look too good.

Justine gets out to greet us…looks same as usual…tall thin, older lady with her gray hair in a pony tail. She’s, like, a farm lady with four dogs, three cats and a horse.

She rushes to help us. Looks pretty concerned. “Hi, Cornell. I’m glad to see you’re not alone.”

“Yeah,” I gasp. “This is my better half.”

“Hi, Azalea,” Justine says. “What happened to your guy?”

Thankfully, Azalea puts a good spin on it. “Cornell was picking fights! He’s such a bully!”

Justine laughs. “Yes, he’s got a terrible reputation around town.” Takes a close look at my cheek. “That looks nasty!”

We climb in and the two start chattering away, but I’m in a daze. Just press the ice to my cheek and try to ignore the pain, but it’s intense! Seems like it takes forever, but we finally pull up to Doc Ward’s. He’s waiting on the porch…gives a friendly wave, then comes down the steps to meet us.

To Be Continued…