Yours to Keep – Claudia Burgoa

Aristotle concluded that happiness is one of the central purposes of human life. It is a goal in itself. According to him, a genuinely happy life requires physical, emotional, and mental well-being. There has to be a balance between the three of them. If Aristotle is correct, I’m fucking doomed. Emotions and I are sworn enemies. I avoid them the same way I avoid collard greens, okra, and broccoli. No one has ever noticed or cared to see that I avoid them. Well, at least no one did until I moved to Baker’s Creek to live with my brothers. Or maybe I’m wrong. Mom once said I was a lot like my father. Perhaps that’s what she meant. I never understood the implication of being like him. William Tower Aldridge was a philanderer, an asshole, and a soulless man. Did she mean I’m soulless, an asshole, or both? I like sex—a lot.

But unlike my father, I don’t have time to collect lovers the way he did. I should’ve asked her for some context. Though, we don’t have the kind of relationship where we discuss our feelings. Maybe that’s the problem. Now I have to deal with my emotions, my brothers, and a future that doesn’t look promising. I’m talking about their future because there are days I want to strangle them. Why do we live together? We have my father to thank. Before he died, he decided to fuck up our lives. He left us all his money, properties, and businesses. In case we didn’t give a shit about his money—which we don’t—he threatened to screw two towns and all his employees. What kind of man does that? An asshole. In case it’s not clear, my father was the king of the assholes. Dear old Dad sentenced us for a crime we didn’t commit: being his children. The punishment was to spend eighteen years—it’s months, but each one feels like a year—in his hometown. Though we all thought we’d end up killing each other.

We haven’t yet. However, one of us almost died, and it was all my fucking fault. How am I supposed to live with that for the rest of my life? I’m tempted to leave Baker’s Creek and just forget about everyone, but with the stipulations dictating the future of thousands of people, I can’t do anything but try to forgive myself. I just don’t know if I can. Darren’s Prologue Sometimes, we need a clean slate. A new beginning when you don’t have to bring anything but yourself. The thought of a fresh start can release the tension that you accumulated for years. One day, you don’t know if you can continue, and the next, the tight knots in your back finally loosen. We all like the word new. We think new is better. Sometimes without knowing, we’re waiting for that new thing that will get us out of the rut we lived in for years. The day Hayes Aldridge offered me a job in his practice, I took it as a sign to start anew. Not once did I think about the implications, and there are several. I stepped into a small town that has no more than maybe five thousand people living there. The news spreads as fast as a wildfire.

On top of that, I have to interact with six sexy guys, who indirectly will become my bosses once the hospital opens. If they were single, I’m pretty sure all the women and men in Baker’s Creek would be all over them. If I could choose one…well, I don’t have the opportunity, but I do wonder who I’d prefer: Henry, the bossy CEO. Hayes, the sweet doctor. Pierce, the demanding lawyer. Mills, the hot hockey player. Vance, the brooding security guy. At least, I think that’s what Vance is. He doesn’t talk. The man is an enigma, and the scary part is I want to figure him out. Have I mentioned he’s single? Beacon, the sexy heartthrob musician, is my patient, so I can’t fantasize about him. This should be a new chapter, but some days it feels as if I’m dealing with my past. And maybe the beginning I thought would make me happy might be what breaks me even further. Is it worth sticking around, or should I pack my bags and leave? Chapter One Darren MY PHONE RINGS the moment I enter my apartment. My brothers-in-law always joke about my sisters having a Dare-radar.

Personally, I think they have hidden cameras right by my door. I just can’t see them. The other theory is that they pay my neighbor across the hall so she can text them every time I leave or when I come back. Either way, one of my sisters is always calling me when I set foot inside my place. If I ignore them, they call again, and again, and…it’s like a staring game. Who’ll give up first? Will they stop calling, or will I answer. I shed my jacket, hang it on the rack along with my medical bag, and look at the phone’s screen. It’s Danika. She might be the lesser of the three evils. Still, I need a couple of minutes to change, grab something to drink—my sister’s calls are easier to manage with alcohol—and find a comfortable spot where I can try to relax while they chat nonsense for hours. I slide my finger along the screen, canceling the call and sending her a text. Dare: Just arrived, give me ten minutes, and I’ll call you back. Danika: Ten minutes or I’ll call again. I pinch my lips together and take a deep breath. She can be so infuriating.

I go on with my routine. After I shower, pour myself a glass of scotch, and head to the terrace, I call her. It doesn’t surprise me that she answers right away. “Craig met this cute guy at the gym.” There’s no warning or even a hello. This is something my family likes to do often. If I was in a support group, I’d introduce myself like, ‘My name is Darren Joseph Russell. Most days, I save lives; during my free time, I fight my overbearing-meddling family.’ “No,” I say firmly. “I’m not interested.” She mutters something I can’t understand before saying, “You haven’t even heard about him.” “I don’t need to learn about him,” I say. “The bottom line is that I don’t want you to set me up with anyone.” “But he sounds like a catch. He’s a doctor just like you.

” “Just like me?” I laugh and take a long gulp of my scotch. “And wait, let me guess. He’s also gay, just like me.” “Are you mocking me, Dare?” she says, offended. Is she fucking kidding me? She’s pimping me like a stallion in heat, and when I protest, she acts as if I wronged her.


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Updated: 14 January 2022 — 11:28

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