DISCLAIMER: These characters and situations do not belong to me in any way, shape, or form. I have borrowed them as part of my sanity maintenance.
CHALLENGE: Written for Passion & Perfection's Big 5000.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
In the Words of
Words of an acquaintance.
"Hello." Abby's sleep thick voice answered the annoying telephone ring.
"Is this Abby, um, Doctor Abby Lockhart?"
"Yeah, who is this?"
"It's Courtney Brown. I've been asked to give you a call by WTVJ in Miami, Kerry's in trouble, and you're down as next-of-kin, but there was no contact number, so " the voice faded off as if she'd realized how much she was rambling.
Abby shot upright; in her drowsy state, she'd heard only two phrases, 'Kerry's in trouble' and 'next-of-kin'. "What do you mean, Kerry's in trouble?"
"I don't have all the details. It seems there's been an accident, and Kerry needs someone to take care of Henry, you, maybe?"
Abby didn't stop to think about why she was reacting as she did, she just did.
"Where is she?"
"She's at Miami General and, from the message I received, Henry's in good hands until you get there."
Abby barely managed to grunt out her thanks before starting to put the receiver down, in the distance she heard Courtney say something else. "Oh, sorry, I was just hanging up, what did you say?"
"Um, Abby, tell Kerry I'm thinking of her and give her a hug, please."
Words of a stranger.
"Are you okay, young lady?"
Abby looked up startled to see the face of a concerned old lady staring back at her.
"You look so sad there, and your little man's so beautiful I just thought you might need to talk."
"Huh? Oh no, I'm fine really. Joe's used to sleeping on planes and I use the time for thinking. Thank you though."
The old lady smiled and opened her wallet to reach inside. She pulled out a small flask and offered it to Abby; a frown crossed her face when she saw Abby visibly pale.
Abby stammered. "Oh, no, thank you; I don't, I can't."
The old lady touched her arm in understanding and called the flight attendant over. "Could we have two cups of tea, please?"
She quietly stroked Abby's arm while waiting for the arrival of the tea, and Abby found herself surprisingly soothed by this stranger.
The old lady introduced herself as Glynis from Miami, making her way home after visiting her grandson in Chicago. She continued to regale Abby with tales of her family, and the time passed in quiet companionship over a number of cups of tea. Abby was beginning to relax, sound in the belief that Glynis had no more awkward questions for her.
She was wrong.
"So, Abby, why the glum face of earlier? You have a beautiful son, a loving man, and a job you obviously love, what's wrong?"
Abby smiled wistfully. "I'm going to Miami to take care of a friend's son. She's been involved in an accident and is, so I'm told, just unconscious."
"Oh, my dear, that's awful. She must be a very close friend to trust you with her son."
"You see that's just it; we're friends, but I wouldn't say we were close friends, well not as you mean."
Abby sighed; she wasn't sure herself what it was about Kerry that kept her coming back for more. Kerry was just Kerry. The kind, interested eyes of the stranger brought all her thoughts forth in a flood of words.
"Kerry's Kerry; she's a more experienced doctor who's helped me through a drinking problem, through a financial crisis, through medical school, through my first years as a doctor, and finally, through my pregnancy and on into being a mom. She's just been there, quiet, strong and steadfast. Oh, we've had our bad moments, when her ire was just too much, but at the end of it all, she was just there."
Abby shrugged. "Me?"
"You must have given this Kerry something; she wants you to look after her son."
"Hmm, I guess so. As I said, she has a temper, I guess I've just ignored that side of her the best I could, standing up for her through others' anger. And then, when she met Sandy, a few others were against their relationship, but I couldn't care less that Kerry had found love with a woman, if anything it made Kerry a better person, she was certainly more relaxed. And then "
Her words faltered.
"Sandy had Henry, he's the little boy I'm going to care for, and Kerry trusted me, as a student, with the medical care of their son. That was the turning point for me; from then on, I knew I could do it, knew I could be a doctor. Not long after, Sandy was killed, and Kerry nearly lost Henry to her homophobic in-laws. I guess I was just there again."
She looked up at the old woman and smiled. "Later, Kerry needed an operation, and I got the shock of my life when she asked me, should anything happen, to be the guardian for her son. She had no other family, and Sandy's family was, well, they're Sandy's family. I tried to say no, but I couldn't. And here I am, fulfilling that decision."
Abby stopped talking and thought about Courtney and how they'd all just assumed that she and Kerry had moved to the other end of the country together. Now, it looked as if Kerry had either made the move alone, or something had gone wrong in the relationship. Abby was shocked at her sudden realization; she was glad.
" well, I think she's very lucky to have you as a friend."
"Kerry lucky? No, I think it's me who's been lucky to have her."
Glynis let out a little laugh. "I think you're lucky to have each other. Don't ever lose that, Abby; a friend is special."
Abby finally allowed a large grin to cross her face; she had no intention of losing contact with Kerry again. It was obvious when she thought about it that she needed Kerry in her life; she could only hope that Kerry's injuries were minor enough that that would be the case.
Words of the worried.
"Oh, Kerry, why did we never act on this thing?"
Sitting beside Kerry, many of the thoughts that had started to coalesce on the flight down had alerted her to the fact of an underlying passion between the two; a passion they had never acknowledged, never mind addressed.
She slowly caressed Kerry's hand, lost in thought; failing to notice the small flicker of eyes, almost as if Kerry was trying to answer the question, she glanced out of the window to berate herself out loud.
"It's always too late when I finally get my shit together. The only person that's managed to stop me being too late period is you and your support of me getting into medical school. Oh, Kerry, I can never thank you enough for that. Just the once, I did good, and it was all you. And now, now you trust me with Henry. I don't deserve your trust, you know."
This time she did feel a tremor run through Kerry. Turning quickly, she saw Kerry's heart rate had increased and that her breaths were more ragged. Forgetting all her medical training in her worry, she started to panic and again Kerry's hand spasmed.
"Hey Kerry, Henry's fine, you know. He's playing with baby Joe right now, being looked after by a lovely woman provided by your boss."
The monitor stayed as agitated as before; Abby racked her brain, if it wasn't Henry at the root of Kerry's agitation, what was it?
"You're telling me something, huh? Let's see, what's your maxim? Calm, calm, calm. Yeah, I can do that. So "
Sitting back down, she continued to stroke the hand in front of her, thinking back on her recent words. Then it hit her; even in her unconscious state Kerry was trying to support Abby.
"So, you're happy for me to be with Henry?"
The heart rate settled almost immediately, bringing a large smile to Abby's face.
"Yeah, I get you; I understand. Always have, you know. Even when you were at your most irritating, I knew underneath there was the woman you've become fighting to get out, this woman that's become my dearest friend."
Tears began to roll down Abby's cheek, and she muttered, "Jeez, look at me now. I'm going to go see what the boys are up to. In fact, I think I'll take them out and spoil them rotten. I want Henry to know mom's coming home soon."
She squeezed Kerry's hand hard. "Yes, Kerry, you hear that? I want you to listen to me for once. I need you here with me. Now. I can't do this on my own, I can't."
Letting her words trail off, she slowly leaned over, kissed Kerry's forehead, and whispered, "Don't leave me, Kerry, please."
With those words hanging in the air, she left the building to fulfill her part of the bargain.
Words of a child.
The small voice surprised Abby, and she spun around to see Henry smiling at her. She beckoned him over and pulled him up onto her lap.
Her faux French accident brought the usual ripple of laughter from her young charge. He grinned as he asked his obviously important question.
"Why don't you and Joe stay here with us?"
"Oh honey, we can't."
"But, I'd look after Joe; he'd always have a friend. And I'd look after you too, I'm growing quickly. You said so."
Abby laughed at the little man's earnest face as she hugged him tight.
"I'm sure you would, Henry, but I have to go back to Chicago."
"But Abby, momma needs you." He looked over his shoulder and then leaned up to whisper in her ear. "Momma loves you."
Abby allowed her gaze to follow his eyes, seeing Kerry fast asleep on the lounger. It had been four weeks since the accident, three weeks since she'd opened her eyes, and two weeks since she'd been discharged. And in that time, Abby and Kerry had finally shared the friendship that had always threatened.
A smile crossed Abby's face at the laughter and fun they'd shared with their two boys. Sure Kerry had been recuperating, but since when had Kerry let a little tiredness stop her doing what she wanted to do. Abby had been allowed to support Kerry through her recovery but not to mollycoddle.
The friendship and togetherness had been surprisingly easy and definitely right.
Feeling a small tug on her shirt, she turned back to Henry and ruffled his hair, admitting for the first time what she had come to realize through the difficult early days and the lovely later days in Miami.
"And I love your mom, Henry, but Joe's daddy is missing us and wants us home. We "
An indignant voice interrupted her. "But this is home with ice-cream and TV and games and hugs and "
This time Abby interrupted the little boy. "I know, Henry, I know."
Just how could she explain to a three year-old that what was right wasn't always the thing to do?
So, it was that just a few days later she walked slowly, dragging her feet, towards the departure gate. Reluctant to leave Kerry and Henry behind, it had taken Kerry's strong reassurance that she could cope alone now, and her quiet understanding that Luka needed Abby home that had finally persuaded Abby to leave.
After a tearful goodbye with Henry, Kerry had driven Abby and Joe to the airport, and the two women had promised not to leave their coming back together so long this time.
Just as she reached the gate, she heard Kerry's strong voice calling to her.
She turned to be enveloped in a crushing hug. Hugging back just as tightly, she couldn't hold back the grin as Kerry's whispered words tickled her ear.
"It's never, ever, too late, Abby; see you soon."
Grasping Joe's hand tightly, she smiled, nodded, and carried on walking.
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