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Part X: La Vita Nuova
This has been the worst week of my life.
Kerry left on Sunday, the last flight she could find, and we still didn't have enough time. Forever wouldn't be enough time as far as I'm concerned but she has a life to deal with in Chicago.
It's Friday and I've come down with a flu bug that's quickly doing me in.
I'm holed up in bed, seven pounds lighter and nursing a 102 degree temperature. We've agreed to alternate weekends and I'm up first but the thought of a pressurized cabin circulating recycled air is making me woozy.
And I miss her, of course, something awful.
I pull the blankets tighter around me, fighting off a wave of nausea. I haven't been able to keep anything down since last night but that doesn't seem to stop my stomach from insisting on the need to throw up. I'm chilled and sweating slightly and as I drift into a fitful sleep, it occurs to me that maybe I should be sensible and fly down next weekend.
I finally wake eleven hours later and I feel like I'm dying of thirst. I wobble to the fridge and open a can of 7Up. Perfect for flu patients. I make my way to the living room and lounge on the couch, buried under a blanket, dialling Kerry's number without conscious thought. I finally give up on the fourteenth ring, pissed off that I can't even hear her voice on the machine. A sigh escapes me as I concede that I will have to phone the hospital.
"County General Emergency."
"Hi, may I speak to Dr. Weaver please?"
"Uh may I ask who's calling?"
"Hi Randi, it's Kim Legaspi. I'm trying to track Kerry down, is she around there somewhere?"
Randi pauses just long enough for me to pass 'annoyed' and head straight to 'concerned'.
"When was the last time you spoke with her, Dr. L?"
Scratch 'concerned', try 'worried'.
"Randi, what's going on?"
"Let me see if she's still here. Hang on."
She puts me on hold before I can protest and I fume silently. There is a muted click and Kerry picks up.
"Hi baby, how are you?"
Her voice is hushed and relaxed and the fact that she's calling me baby puts my senses on full alert.
"Kerry, what's going on?"
I can feel her curiosity at my prescience through the wire and I grin in spite of my anxiety.
"No but you'll have to tell me now."
She chuckles quietly and I feel my muscles loosen. It can't be that bad if she's so calm.
"Kim, Don Anspaugh had a stroke on Wednesday. He's, uh not doing very well."
"Oh Jesus, Kerry I'm so sorry."
"The board has temporarily asked Romano to replace him until they can hire someone else."
I shake my head from side to side, certain that I just heard Kerry say that Romano's back in charge. Her voice slides into the silence, trying to soothe me.
"It's only temporary--"
"They can't do that, Kerry. Part of my settlement clearly stated that--"
"Kim, there's more."
"I resigned as Chief of the ED yesterday. I think the board was expecting that given how the meeting went with me and my lawyer."
She huffs in fatigue and I can see her leaning against the wall, trying to order her thoughts.
"I'm making a mess of this. There's just so much to tell you and I don't know where to start. God, it feels like my whole life has turned upside down and it's only been five days since I left you."
I wince at her choice of words but she doesn't notice.
"When are you getting in?"
Any ideas I had about blowing off this weekend have vanished and I tuck the phone next to my shoulder and pull the blanket under my chin.
"I've got the flu so I'm feeling really crappy but hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow."
"Sweetheart, you shouldn't fly if you're sick. We can do this next weekend. I wish I could get away
Her voice trails off regretfully.
"No, Ker, this is important. I'm sure I'll be better in the morning."
There is a lengthy silence while she mulls over every possible response.
"I need you."
I can't even begin to describe the feeling that floods me as she says this. I feel tears prick my eyelids and I blink rapidly, swallowing to steady my voice.
"You've got me, I'll be there tomorrow afternoon. I'll call you before I leave the house, okay?"
"Okay. Thank you."
"You don't have to thank me, it's covered by the warranty."
I know she is staring at her ring and I smile to myself.
"I love you so much."
"Okay, I'm hanging up before we both start crying. What time's your shift?"
"I'm off indefinitely."
"Everything's going to be fine, trust me."
"I do I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yes, you will."
We hang up simultaneously and I sit there for a few minutes, puzzling things out in my head. Eventually I give up and go back to bed.
Another eleven hours have passed and we're about to land at O'Hare.
I couldn't sleep, tossing and turning restlessly, so I finally got up and packed. I made it the airport in record time, caught an obscenely early flight and decided against calling ahead. Kerry would've finished her shift at 4am and I knew she'd need sleep despite her relaxed demeanour when we'd talked.
Sleep, what a lovely concept. I hope to experience it again soon.
By the time I crawl into the back of the cab, I'm exhausted and monosyllabic. Thankfully it is too early for the driver to engage me in small talk and I doze on and off during the ride. We arrive at Kerry's house and I flop my suitcase to the sidewalk and pay the driver.
I have not been back since she was released from the hospital after her accident. Everything looks the same and I mentally run through a list of the ways that we are different now, just to remind myself.
I ease the front door open and place my keys on the entry table, leaving my suitcase in the hallway. I make sure I've re-locked the door, then run a hand along the wall, peering into the pre-dawn gloom. The stairs creak and groan beneath my feet and I'm certain that at any moment I'll be confronted by an angry redhead but the rest of the house stays quiet.
I pause at the bedroom door and take a deep breath, preparing for the sight that awaits me.
She is sprawled across the bed, the sheets pulled from the end of the mattress exposing a generous length of leg. Her head has abandoned the pillow and she clutches it to her chest. I carefully step next to the bed and strip off my clothes. I lift the sheet and blanket and slip in next to her. She half turns and her arm slides across my shoulder. I study her sleeping face for long minutes, drinking her in. I lean forward and kiss her tenderly and she shifts and sighs. Her eyes flutter open and she blinks at me, sorting out what is real and what is dreaming.
"Go back to sleep, it's still early."
"Are you really here?"
I press my lips to her forehead, then her cheeks, then capture her mouth in a searing kiss. We consume each other, the advancing light of morning warming our bodies. She pulls back when I yawn, kissing the tip of my nose and tugging on an unruly lock of my hair.
"Go back to sleep, it's still early."
I smile in response and roll away from her, allowing her to pull me in until I am pressed up against her. She tightens her arm around my waist and tucks her knees behind mine. It takes only moments for me to feel the steady tide of her breathing against my back.
I close my eyes, home at last.
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