My daycare provider’s apartment always smelled like a combination of applesauce and baby powder, and my daycare provider, Donna, smelled the same. She had hair highlighted red and a goldfish face with eyes set wide. When I knocked on her door, she shouted her familiar, “Come in. It’s not locked.”
I let go of Caitlin’s hand and gave her a tight hug before releasing her to join the other kids at the toy chest. Donna sat on the edge of a kitchen chair, feeding a toddler some banana goop out of a jar. Two boys played with dinky cars on the pale taupe carpet.
I reminded Donna, “I’m working till four again today, so I should be back to pick Caitlin up around 4:30.”
Donna looked up and smiled, revealing small white kernels of teeth. “We’ll be here.”
“Bye, Caity-Cat. Have a good day,” I called to Caitlin.
Caitlin looked up from her puzzle. “Bye, Mommy.”
I blew her a kiss and then signalled for her to take her thumb out of her mouth. Although she never did it as a baby, she’d recently started sucking her thumb.
Once outside our apartment complex, I zipped up my coat to protect myself from the biting wind. Usually, I didn’t mind the walk to work but days like this reminded me that winter was on its way. Twenty minutes later, I was glad to step into the warmth of the dental clinic.
From the cloakroom, I called to my co-worker, Connie, “There sure is a nip in the air.”
Connie’s brow wrinkled. “Yeah, it’s a change from last week. That’s what I hate about September. The weather changes from one day to the next. By the way, your mom says hello.”
I smiled and nodded. Mom and Connie talked on the phone almost daily since I started at the clinic. I think Mom must feel more in tune with my life when she can talk about me with Connie.
Today, Connie had pulled her unruly brown hair into a braid. She wore a tight jean dress with one gold bangle wrapped around her left bicep.
I took off my jacket and walked through the waiting room. That’s when I saw the petite, blonde woman sitting with her back straight, and both hands in her lap, twisting the handle of her purse.
She looked up and smiled. “Hi. I’m a little early.”
I continued past her and sat at my reception desk. I looked to the appointment book to see her name was Sarah Dowe and she was indeed twenty minutes early.
“Can I get you a cup of coffee while you wait?” I said and handed her a clipboard with the standard dental forms to fill out.
Taking the paperwork she answered, “No, thank you. I just brushed my teeth.” She smiled brilliantly. “I’m a little nervous. No offence to Doctor Mott, but I don’t like dentists.”
As if on cue, Dr. William Mott entered the room. His tall frame filled the doorway. He had full lips, high cheekbones and slightly sunken sea-gray eyes. Carrying a motorbike helmet and leather jacket, he wouldn’t be mistaken for a dentist.
“Bill, your ears must be burning,” Connie said.
Bill’s face creased in a smile. “Hmm. Three women talking about me? Please don’t stop.”
I could feel the heat rising up my neck.
Connie wagged her finger at Sarah and me. “These two were saying how they don’t like dentists.”
Bill’s smile faded, “Oh.” His eyes found mine. He looked like a pierced puppy. Sarah sat up straighter. “Oh my, no. I like dentists. You come highly recommended. It’s just that I don’t like dentist appointments. I mean, I don’t like dental work.”
She seemed flustered so I tried to rescue her. “Dr. Mott, Sarah is a new patient and will need a preliminary exam.”
His smile returned so that both dimples showed. “Well then, let’s get her set up with some x-rays.”
The hygienist, Gail, walked with purpose down the hall. In her late fifties, she wore her slate-gray hair in a tight bun. I turned to Sarah and said, “Gail will take you to the room.”
“Thanks.” Sarah stood, handed me her paperwork, and followed Gail down the hall.