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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Part XI: Picture This

By Chris


I stand in the entryway, bouncing on the balls of my feet in anticipation. I tilt forward and poke my head around the corner, scanning the room. The place is almost deserted, save for a lone patron near the back. She is seated at a ninety degree angle to me and I quickly run my eyes over her. We've never met but I would know that face anywhere.

I wave the waiter back and head for the table. She looks up just as I arrive and there is a brief moment of hesitation. I break into a wide smile and she rises and grabs my outstretched hand.


"Yes, yes, hello Mrs. Kavanagh, it's lovely to meet you. I hope you weren't waiting too long. When do you have to be back?"

"I'm playing hooky for the rest of the day. It's almost winter, not a lot of parks being built this time of year. Please, have a seat. I haven't ordered, I wasn't sure about the timing."

"Um, that's fine, Kerry's at an appointment but she shouldn't be too much longer."

A hint of worry threads my voice and she gives me an assessing glance.

"Is everything all right? I mean, about us meeting today? We could make it another time, I know this is…"

"No, no, today is fine, really. She's anxious to meet you."

"Emphasis on anxious, no doubt. I changed outfits three times before I finally put on the one that I'd started with."

It is then that I notice her trembling hands as she reaches to place her napkin in her lap. Impulsively I reach forward and grasp her wrist. Startled, she looks nervously into my eyes.

"She's wired, too, and I hope you don't misunderstand me but she doesn't have any expectations. She's curious more than anything. I think she realizes it's a little late in the day for anything more."

Mrs. Kavanagh stares hard at me after this pronouncement and I hasten to smooth out my previous statement.

"Not that she wouldn't welcome something more. Hmmm, you'd never know I make a living counselling people would you?"

She laughs easily at this, the first time she's relaxed since I arrived. She turns her hand up and squeezes my fingers.

"Thank you, Kim. I can see why Kerry wanted you to join us. You certainly like to say what's on your mind."

"I learned that from your daughter, Mrs. Kavanagh. She's, uh…forthright."

"Please, call me Margo."

I grin and nod.

"Kim, would you do me a favour? I don't expect you to tell tales out of school but could you… What's she like? Is she happy?"

I lean back in my chair and stare idly at the tablecloth. God, where to start?

"She's brilliant and articulate. Compassionate…really, she's one of the finest doctors I've ever seen. And she's a thick-headed hard ass who pisses me off on a regular basis."

Margo's eyebrows rise at this and a rueful look crosses her face.

"Sound like anyone you know?"

I am being cheeky and I know it but she is delighted.

"It's ringing a few bells but I can't quite put my finger on it. You'll have to tell me more."

"She's sensitive and geeky and she's a great leader. I wouldn't say she's the most tactful person on the planet but she commands respect and she deserves it. She's very hard to get to know, almost impossible, and she's got a temper to match her red hair."

Margo reaches up and unconsciously plays with the ends of her hair.

"Does she…do we look alike?"

"I recognized you the second I walked in here."

"Is she happy?"

"You know what? I think she's at a place in her life where she's finally allowing herself to be happy. I think for a long time she didn't think she deserved it and that caused some trouble for us."

My vision clouds and when I finally rejoin the present, gentle green eyes are looking at me but she doesn't pursue the subject.

The waiter glides past our table and heads for the podium to tend to another arrival and I smile when I hear a familiar voice. I look up just in time to catch her adjusting her tailored suit. The fact that I arrived before her betrays her nervousness. She catches my eye and grins weakly before making her way to the table. We rise as she approaches and I watch the inspection that our lunch guest furtively makes.

Kerry stops before the empty chair, all signs of anxiety banished to a place that she will explore later. Right now she stretches out a hand and summons her voice.

"Hello, Mrs. Kavanagh…Margo…it's a pleasure to meet you."

I know from experience that Kerry's grip is a strong one and my eyes move to their joined hands. I cannot bring myself to look at the two women standing before me. It is far too early to capture a tableau of them together and I wait until they find their seats before looking at each of them in turn.

The resemblance is startling.

The same sea-green eyes; the same sculpted cheekbones; the same cupids bow mouth. I close my eyes briefly as an image of Kerry in her later years crowds my mind.

"Dr. Weaver…I don't know what to say, I don't know where to start."

Kerry contemplates her for long drawn out seconds, finally arriving at her decision.

"Please, call me Kerry."

They stare at each other, neither willing to take the lead. I am about to get things rolling when our waiter appears at Margo's elbow.

"Good afternoon, ladies, care for anything from the bar?"

Margo shakes her head and Kerry softly mouths 'no'.

"Would you like to order or do you need a few more minutes?"

There is a quietly amused cough from Margo but she covers it with her napkin.

"I think we need more than a few minutes, actually. Why don't you bring us some rolls with butter and water with lemon. That should do for now, don't you agree?"

Formidable, just like her daughter. I nod and try not to glance at Kerry.

The menu settled, we fall into an uncomfortable silence. From the corner of my eye I see Kerry place both hands palm down on the table. Here we go.

"I suppose its kind of late to introduce you to Kim…"

"Yes, we got all that out of the way while we were waiting for you."

Kerry grimaces slightly.

"Uh, I was detained at my lawyer's office. I'm in the middle of a professional…situation and there are far too many details to remember."

Margo makes sure to look Kerry straight in the eye.

"No need to apologize, we had a very pleasant time. As long as there isn't a quiz later, we should be okay."

Kerry's eyes narrow and she purses her lips, considering her response. I take the opportunity to try and dispel some of the tension.

"Margo mentioned that she's a park designer."

Two heads swing to stare at me and I feel my mouth go dry at being the focus of so much attention. Kerry slowly turns to Margo and waits expectantly.

"It's only interesting if you're fascinated by trees and flowers. I design for Chicago Parks and Recreation."

"Kerry loves flowers, she attends all the shows."

Before we can stumble along any further, the waiter reappears, baskets and glasses in tow. As soon as he leaves, Kerry abruptly stands.

"If you'll excuse me, I need to use the restroom."

I wait for a couple beats while she crutches away, then stand.

"I'll be right back, I'm just going to make sure she's not ducking out the bathroom window."

Margo's thin smile informs me that her nerves have returned and I pat her arm soothingly as I leave.

I push my way into the restroom and lean against the vanity lining the wall. Kerry is standing in front of the farthest sink, water dripping from her face, staring at her reflection.

"I can't do this, Kim."

She continues to stare at the person she sees in the mirror.

"I think I'm going to throw up."

"No, you're not."

I say this firmly, pushing off from the vanity and walking over to stand beside her. I carefully trace a finger across her forehead, through the damp tendrils of her bangs. She shudders slightly and I brace myself but the moment passes.


She turns to me and her eyes take a slow inventory from the top of my head to the tip of my chin. She sucks in a deep breath and nods once.

"I'm ready now."

"Go on, I'll be there in a minute. I really do have to go to the bathroom."

I pat her on the ass when she passes by and I see her shoulders relax but she does not stop. It is several minutes before I rouse myself from my careful inspection of the floor tiles and head back to our table. I am stopped in my tracks by the sight of two red heads bowed closely together in conversation. Margo is speaking intently and Kerry is nodding in agreement, a serious look on her face. I walk closer and snippets of their conversation drift toward me.

"-and I believe he's living somewhere in Ohio but it's been years since I've seen him."

"Does he know about me?"

"No, I never told him. I never told anyone. I was so desperate to keep the whole thing under wraps."

"I know something about what that's like…"

I reach the table and clear my throat.

"Ladies, I hate to break up the party but I'm very much a third wheel here. Anyone have any objection to me doing a bit of shopping while you two get to know each other?"

Kerry's head snaps up and a look of abject terror flashes through her eyes. I hesitate but a second later she gives a quick nod and a lop-sided grin.

"We'll be fine. I'll see you at home."

"It was lovely to meet you, Kim, I hope we'll be seeing more of each other."

I duck my head in acknowledgement and raise my eyebrows at Kerry. She mouths three words that make my pulse race and I bite my lip as I smile.

"Call me if you're going to be late, okay hon?"

Kerry flushes a becoming shade of pink as Margo regards her with interest. I wave and make my way out of the restaurant, pausing on the street to peer through the glass. The heads are dipped toward each other again and I turn away before they see me.

I make my way to the curb and glance up and down the street. My Dad taught me to whistle when I was thirteen and I never fail to get a cab. I make a mental note to chill a bottle of white wine when I get home; Kerry will have much to tell me.

The End

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