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Choosing Me (Or The Kelly Taylor Principle)

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Mindy ran through JFK as fast as her petite little feet could carry her. Which admittedly wasn't very fast. An elderly man on a Jazzy passed her.

"Rude," Mindy said, out of breath, but didn't stop until she reached the security area for Casey's gate. The line was long and winding, but it wasn't like Mindy was trying to board a plane, right? So no reason to wait. She started pushing past passengers, accidentally knocking into a five-year-old when she tried leaping over a rope.

"Excuse me!" Mindy called over her shoulder. "You won't understand now, but one day you'll want to make a grand gesture and you'll remember this moment fondly!" She squeezed past a lady holding a Pomeranian in a carrier. "Cute dog," she said.

The lady gave her the finger.

"Well, that was uncalled for."

"Ma'am?"

Mindy ducked under another rope.

"Ma'am, you can't skip the line like this," said someone from the TSA.

Mindy stopped. "Were you speaking to me?"

The security guard raised her eyebrows. "No, I mean the other woman who just knocked over a kindergartener. Can I see your boarding pass?"

"Oh, you don't understand. I'm looking for my boyfriend -- he's a hip-hop reverend about to board a plane to Haiti without me and I just need to tell him one thing."

"Riiight," said the security guard. "Boarding pass and passport."

Mindy sighed deeply. "Are you just completely not listening? I'm not trying to get on a plane, I'm making an important, sweeping gesture here."

"Ma'am, you can't go past security without a boarding pass. Gate waiting areas are only for ticket holders."

"What, really?" Mindy asked. "Then how come so many movies have dramatic gate confrontations? Answer that."

The security guard rubbed her eyes. "Probably because those are movies and this is real life. Please step out of the line immediately."

"No, I need to talk to him now!"

"Have you tried the phone--"

"Casey!" Mindy began yelling, her hands cupped around her mouth. "Casey! CASEY! CASEY, IT'S MINDY, COME TO SECURITY, I'M BEING UNFAIRLY DETAINED. I KNOW YOU'RE IN THERE."

People were staring now (well, more people) and three more guards were jogging up to join the first.

"Oh my god," Mindy said as the TSA agents began forcibly dragging her out of line. She thought one might have pepper spray. This was just her luck. She said no to going to Haiti and she was probably going to end up in Guantanamo, just like Harold and Kumar. Though John Cho was something of a hottie, she had to admit. "CASEY, THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. THE TSA WILL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE! ATTICA ATTICA ATTI --"

"Mindy?" Casey's face suddenly appeared just beyond the metal detectors. It was probably a point in her favor that he was decked out in his full minister gear because when he told security that he knew the crazy lady and he'd take care of things, they let her go just outside the security area and didn't arrest her or anything. Casey followed them, hiking his carry-on up on his shoulder.

"Thanks," Mindy said, straightening her jacket and hat. "You didn't have to call me a crazy lady, though."

"Are you kidding?" Casey said. "You're lucky my gate was within earshot. First, the guy next to me says some crazy woman is yelling and then I hear my name." Casey picked Mindy up by her waist and swung her around. "But there's only one reason you'd be here and that makes you my crazy lady."

"Okay, yeah, about that," Mindy said. "Like, I know I'm a kickass doctor and you're a kickass minister and we take a damned fine double-selfie together. We would be Haiti's premiere power [missionary] couple."

"Word," Casey agreed.

"But the thing is, I'm not just unsure about Haiti, I'm unsure about us. First, there's the whole religious differences thing. Second, you've called me self-centered like a billion times, which maybe I am --"

"Maybe?"

"Okay, I am," Mindy relented. "But I don't need, like, a self-centered intervention, which is what I feel like you taking me on this whole Haiti trip is. I like myself as I am. Anyway."

Casey sighed, looking like a mix of frustrated and angry. "So let me get this straight," he finally said. He did his adorable little eyebrow wrinkle that almost made Mindy want to take back everything she'd just said. "You ran to the airport, made a scene at the gate, and dragged me out here so I'll need to go back through security forty-five minutes before my flight just to break up with me more?"

"It sounds so bad when you put it that way." Mindy shrugged a little. "I guess I am, but just on my terms instead of yours. I'm pulling a Kelly Taylor."

Casey looked confused. And sad, and mad, but mostly confused.

"God, did you not watch TV in the 90's?"

"Well, that was when I was struggling with my calling, and --"

Mindy shook her head hard. "You know what? Never mind, it doesn't matter. I choose me is what I'm saying here." She stood up on her tiptoes to give Casey one last kiss. "Good luck in Haiti." Then she turned around walked right out of that airport.

God, that felt good.

+

God, this sucked.

Mindy did what she told Casey she would, she totally chose herself. And for that to work, she decided to focus on the non-dating parts of her life, like work and her friends. Which, in theory, sounded totally great, but communism worked in theory, too. In reality, people waited on bread lines for days and Mindy had become BFFs with her vibrator.

"La la la la la!" Danny shouted, covering his ears with his hands. "Too much information!"

"Oh, come on," Mindy said. "You're a gynecologist. The idea of a woman putting things into her vagina for pleasure shouldn't exactly be a shock. Like, I know I'm not going to get knocked up by my vibe, but it's not like you haven't written twenty prescriptions for the Pill just this morning."

"Yeah, but that's a more theoretical thing." Danny held up his sandwich. "Also, Mrs. Mendelson doesn't get her IUD inserted while I'm trying to eat an Italian sub in a deli. Plus, just about every table in here is eavesdropping on us."

Mindy looked around. Danny was totally exaggerating, but he wasn't completely wrong. At least two tables -- one filled with high school girls and the other Wall Street dudes in suits -- suddenly looked very engrossed in their potato salad and pickles. "Use condoms! Stay in school!" Mindy called to the table of girls. "And you," Mindy said, addressing the businessmen, "should all learn to give orgasms and butt out of other people's conversations."

Danny shook his head. "Come on, we've got to get back to the office. I have a 1:30."

"Ugh," Mindy said, checking the time on her phone. "Why is the hour for lunch ten times faster than any other hour of the day?"

"What are you doing after work?"

"Hmm?" Mindy said, not looking up from pinning twelve pictures of cupcakes on Pinterest. "Oh, I'm giving a talk to some Ladies' Auxiliary about the importance of protecting against STIs even in your golden years. Did you even know Ladies' Auxiliaries still existed? I'm not even sure what they are."

"Well, what time is that?"

"5:30. Apparently while they're too busy to protect against disease, they still like to make early bird specials."

"Okay. I have tickets to a Mets game," said Danny.

"That's nice," said Mindy, distracted. Gwen had posted a picture of her new baby and Channing Tatum to Facebook. Mindy liked Channing. "Have fun with that."

"No, dummy," Danny said. "Take your mind off your, uh, off your lady relief things and come to the game with me."

Now Mindy looked up. She laughed. "Lady relief things, Doctor?"

"Shut up. Come with me."

Mindy rolled her eyes. "Fine, I'll go to your dumb sports thing." She was about to look back at her phone and almost missed the big grin Danny shot her when she agreed, but caught it and found herself immediately grinning back.

+

The Mets game was an exercise in frustration. Sure, Danny bought her a hot dog and all the popcorn Mindy wanted, plus City Field had a way better ice cream sundae bar than she would have expected, but their seats were really good -- "right behind home plate!" Danny told her proudly -- and that meant Mindy had a really good view of all the players, especially the bat guys.

"Batters," Danny corrected her again.

"Right," Mindy said, "but why do they wear such tight pants? It kind of shows off all their assets." She giggled. "Assets. Get it?"

Danny sighed. "Obviously, I get it. But stop objectifying the players. They're professionals!"

"Yeah, professional hotties," Mindy agreed. She sighed and leaned back in her seat, tilting her head to one side to get a better look. "It's been almost five months since I've gotten laid."

"What, really?" Danny actually sounded surprised.

"Well, yeah! I told you before how it's been a while. Since Casey went to Haiti in May and now here I am still all alone with the holidays a couple of months away. I'm sure I'll get an invitation to Casey's wedding in the mail any day now. That's the way it always works."

"You haven't gotten laid in five months?" Danny repeated.

Mindy threw some of her popcorn at Danny. Not any good stuff, obviously, just some of the broken pieces. "Why would I lie about that?"

Danny shrugged. "I just figured you were, I don't know, putting ads for one night stands on Craigsplace or whatever."

"'Craigsplace'? What century are you from?" Mindy rolled her eyes. "But no, I'm not putting pictures of my boobs online for anonymous one-night encounters, while simultaneously complaining to you about how I'm all alone every night. When I chose myself over Casey, I meant it. I don't know, I guess it's good that I've spent some time alone and with you guys. You know, my friends," she clarified. "But it's still been pretty lonely, at least lately."

"Well, for what it's worth, you've got me." Danny put his arm around Mindy's shoulder, and Mindy put her head on Danny's shoulder. He gave her arm a little squeeze.

"Thanks," Mindy said. "You know --"

"HOME RUN!" Danny suddenly shouted, accidentally hitting Mindy in the back of the head as he leaped from his chair.

"For listening," Mindy finished. She made a face and rubbed the back of her head.

+

"Dr. Lahiri? Are you okay, Dr. Lahiri?"

Mindy shook her head and forced herself to listen to Betsy. Yes, this Girls' Night for wrapping Christmas gifts and drinking too much egg nog had been her idea, but it had been about two hours and Beverly had already drunk the egg nog directly from Mindy's punchbowl and Tamra was still trying to figure out how to wrap the Vespa she'd bought for Ron-Ron. A Vespa for the guy who had possibly turned their bathroom into a meth lab and hadn't bought Tamra an actual gift ever. A Vespa that was now inside Mindy's apartment. Mindy wasn't even trying to figure out how Tamra had gotten it inside and upstairs, she was just regretting her life and all her choices.

"Yes, Betsy?" Mindy tried to get her wrapping paper straight, but was having no luck. She tried another piece of tape and wound up tearing the corner. Mindy sighed. "I'm fine."

Betsy's pile of gifts looked like it had come directly from the wrapping counter at Saks. "You looked like you'd taken a trip to the moon!" Betsy said.

"Nope, just tired," Mindy said, giving up on wrapping paper and moving exclusively to gift bags. "How about you, how are you doing?"

"Oh, I'm great!" Betsy said. "Right after this I'm going caroling with my church group, and then we're going to plan Christmas Eve dinner at the soup kitchen."

"People still carol?"

Betsy ignored Mindy's question. "I was just worried about you because you look like Dr. Castellano does these days."

"Well, that's rude," Mindy said. "Are you saying I look like a short, Springsteen-obsessed, Italian man?"

"No!" Betsy shook her head violently. "I'm saying that Dr. Castellano has looked really distracted lately." She dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Did you know he hasn't had a date since October?"

Mindy couldn't keep the shock off her face. "What, really?"

"Yeah, not since the Mets were in the playoffs. Dr. Prentice said that was the miracle of the century but I didn't really know what he meant by that. I just know my dad gets really weird when his teams are doing well, so I figured Dr. Castellano was doing a superstitious thing, too. But then it kept going!"

"Huh," Mindy said. She still had Danny beat by a long, long, dry streak, but that information was still a surprise.

"Hey, Dr. Lahiri, can I open your mail?" Tamra suddenly called across the room. She'd apparently given up on wrapping the Vespa in Mindy's living room and had graduated to mail tampering. "It's from a guy named Haiti and I knew someone called that in high school. I want to see if it's the same guy."

"What?" Mindy struggled to her feet and dashed across the room, grabbing the envelope from Tamra's hands. "Give me that."

"Rude," Tamra said, but she shrugged and got back to the Vespa dilemma. Mindy tore open the envelope, and sure enough, it was a letter from Casey.

Dear Mindy,

I know I haven't written to you the entire time I've been here, and even though the mail is kind of spotty here, I don't think you've written to me, either. But I have a giant problem and it's you.

"That was uncalled for," Mindy muttered under her breath.

I know how that had to sound, but it's not like that. The giant problem is even after months of not seeing or speaking to you, and even after that mega-dumping at JFK Airport, I still miss you.

My mission in Haiti is almost over. I'll be back in the city on a week before Christmas in time to perform holiday services for my congregation, but my first priority is seeing you. So, if you're interested, then meet me at the top of the Empire State Building at 8pm that Friday and we'll talk about our future together.

Love, actually,

Casey

"Love, actually!" Mindy shouted when she reached the end of Casey's letter. She loved that movie, she loved old-school handwritten letters, and of course she'd told Casey how much she loved the top of the Empire State Building. It was the third most romantic top of something in the world, right after the Eiffel Tower and the Space Needle (she had a thing for Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle, okay?), and it was just a subway ride and three days away.

Maybe her Christmas wouldn't be such a bust after all.

+

"Yo, Mindy." Danny ducked his head inside Mindy's office.

"I can't go to lunch today," Mindy said, not looking up from her files. "I'm in the middle of another patient war with the midwives right now, so I had Betsy order me Chinese food."

"Ugh, I hate those guys," Danny said. Obviously. "Anyway, that's okay. I just wanted to know if you still wanted a lesson on how to make gingerbread houses."

That got her to look up. Mindy's eyes lit up. "Ooh, yes, of course!"

"Okay, well, no one else was interested or they were already busy, so it'll just be us," Danny said. "I don't know why anyone wouldn't be interested, I'm planning a scale model of Monticello this year."

"No one understands your art," Mindy said earnestly. "So when do you want me?"

Danny looked flustered for a minute, though Mindy didn't know why. "Uh, Friday at eight. That way I have enough time for assembly but everything won't be stale by Christmas."

"Friday at eight?" Mindy said, dismayed. "Can I let you know? I might have a thing."

"Suddenly you have things?"

"I can have things!" Mindy said defensively. She sighed. "Listen, Casey sent me a letter from Haiti. He's back in town and asked me to meet him on Friday. I don't know if I'm going yet," she added quickly. "But I'm thinking about it."

Danny shook his head. "Do what you want, Mindy," he said. "But I'll be at home if you need me." He ducked out of the room, then quickly ducked back in. "One more thing: that dude in no way deserves you. You were right to dump him. You just should know that." Then he left quickly again.

Mindy didn't know what to make of that.

+

On Friday night, Mindy found herself hanging out after work, helping any straggling patients and kind of hoping one of her very pregnant clients would go into labor. No such luck, though, and apparently OB-GYN patients aren't into hanging out for a pap smear a few days before Christmas. So, Mindy couldn't let serendipity make a decision for her and was forced to do it herself.

She got on the subway and headed downtown toward the Empire State Building. It was 7:30 and, sure, she was missing making gingerbread houses with Danny for this, but what if Casey was The One and she'd made an epic mistake when she'd dumped him months ago? This was really the only way to find out.

Except.

Except, okay, Mindy had dumped him months ago and while she hadn't gotten a new boyfriend, and had been spending way more me-time with herself than she had since she had that weird mullet haircut her first year of college, she also hadn't missed Casey. Like, at all. Almost instinctively, she found herself swapping out Casey for Danny. What would she be feeling if she hadn't gotten to see Danny since May? Well, she'd probably be clawing the walls. And Danny was just her coworker! Her coworker who she spent lunch with every day, who she'd actually listened to all of Born to Run for, and that was no easy task. Her coworker who actually listened to her tales of loneliness and woe, even if he wasn't too thrilled by them. And her coworker who told her Casey wasn't good enough for her and was possibly waiting -- alone -- for her in his apartment right now.

Crap, crap, crap!

"Crap!" Mindy said aloud. Several passengers turned to look at her. Mindy was totally having an epiphany here, and oh, it wasn't like her epiphany that she probably could save a ton of money on shipping if she just sucked it up and bought an Amazon Prime membership, this was an epiphany that she was totally head over heels bugfuck in love with her coworker. And oh crap, he had feelings for her, too, didn't he? Every sign was there! God, she was so stupid. Mindy suddenly jumped to her feet.

"Conductor, stop this train!"

Of course, nothing happened. Subways didn't work that way, and though her announcement made several passengers laugh out loud at her and begin typing frantically on their phones, Mindy ignored them and got out at the next stop. She had more important things to do.

She had to change trains twice because Danny couldn't live somewhere easy to get to and her life was always hard, even when she was having huge romance-related epiphanies, but at least there weren't kittens caught under the tracks or anything else that would stop the subways for hours. Mindy ended up outside Danny's building, frantically pushing his buzzer and crossing her fingers that he'd answer. Damn, what if he decided there was no way she'd be there and changed his plans for the night? She checked the time: only ten minutes late.

Okay, that was a good sign. No one gave up that soon, except that one time Mindy waited outside for the Backstreet Boys, but that was understandable because it was freezing outside and it was also in 2011 when they were on tour with New Kids on the Block, and she just no longer had the stamina for stalking celebrities that she had when she was sixteen. At least not those particular celebrities.

"Hello?" Danny's voice finally said after ten billion years.

"It's me, let me up," Mindy said. The door buzzed and Mindy ran up four flights of stairs, cursing Danny for living in a walk-up instead of somewhere with an elevator. What was the point of living somewhere where everyone had apartments if she was just expected to walk all the time? Eventually, Mindy dragged herself to Danny's door and knocked. She was surprised that all that train switching, and buzzer waiting, and stair walking hadn't changed her mind, not even a little, especially not once Danny opened the door.

Danny smiled his wide, crooked smile and he had a teensy bit of icing on his nose that Mindy wanted to lick off. Yes, because it was icing, but also because it was on Danny. "Hi," he said, and he honestly, genuinely seemed happy to see her. "So you gave Reverend Douchebag the blowoff?"

"Don't call him that," Mindy said automatically. "But yes." She reached up to thumb the bit of icing off Danny's nose, and wound up so close to him that they both leaned in at once. So Mindy kissed Danny, and Danny kissed back, and it was good. Okay, it was more than good; it was one of those kisses that was the kiss equivalent of eating an entire can of rainbow chip frosting with a spoon.

"Wow," Danny said once they broke apart. They pressed their foreheads together. "You wanna, uh, you want to come inside?"

"Oh hell yes," Mindy replied.

She shut the door firmly behind them.