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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Part XIII: Fate
I am standing at the admit desk at County again. Waiting for Kerry, again. This is getting to be a bad joke but thankfully one that has an ending, not a punch line.
She is boxing up the last of her things which admittedly are few to begin with. I suspect she never really started to clean out her locker or office, awaiting some last minute solution that never came. She will miss this place and these people well, most of these people. I will not but I suppose that isn't the point.
The phone rings and Randi grabs it with practiced indifference.
There is a brief silence while she listens to the caller.
"Sure thing Dr. K, she's right here."
Randi mutely hands me the phone, already focusing her attention elsewhere.
"Hi sweets, how are you doing?"
"I'm bored and impatiently waiting for my girlfriend."
Randi catches my eye and winks at me.
"Well, this could take a while. There's a stack of charts on my desk that require my signature."
"Surely someone else can do that?"
"No, you know that's not true and quit calling me Shirley."
I grin in spite of myself.
"Why don't you go home and I'll meet you there later? I'll grab a cab or something."
I sigh quietly but not quietly enough.
"Kim, this is the last thing, I promise. Christie has already approved a copy of the memo that's being distributed and she's got a substantial cheque waiting for me. That's it, I'm done."
I suddenly regain my senses and start thinking like a lover and not a sixteen year old.
"Are you okay?"
There is the briefest hesitation.
"Sort of, I guess. Mostly yes but I loved my job, Kim. I'm going to miss County."
"I know baby, I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry, just be there when I get home."
Is there a word to describe the sensation of wanting to crawl down the phone line and kiss someone senseless? There should be.
"You still with me?"
"Yup, just got lost along the way. I'll be waiting for you. And Kerry?"
"I'll take the cab, okay? Don't argue."
She laughs throatily and I get that sensation again, the one that there must be a name for.
"Don't be too long, Ker, we have a victory dinner waiting."
"I won't, I promise."
"I'm hanging up now "
"Yeah right, you never hang up first."
I hear the start of her laughter and then a click. Shaking my head, I return the phone to its cradle. Randi has been engrossed in a magazine and I'm certain I've escaped her clutches when she strikes.
"You know, you are one lucky stiff."
"Kerry Weaver is a certified, Grade-A babe. Brains, looks, makes a better than good living and I've got a hunch she's just mind-blowing between the sh-"
"Randi, do you spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff?"
"You'd be amazed what goes through my head."
I start to back away from her, holding my hands up in defense.
"Another time maybe, right now I've got to go home and make myself beautiful. I'll see you later, right?"
"Oh, I'll be there. I wouldn't miss this for the world."
Fuck, should I be worried? I'm just about to turn and exit when I hear the emergency doors slide back. There is a shout to clear the way and I automatically lean against the wall, giving whoever it is a clear path. I turn around and catch a glimpse of three EMTs and two fire-fighters half carrying, half dragging a woman into the ER. She has about four feet of two-inch galvanized steel pipe protruding from her chest and back and I stare in shock. Within seconds a nest of white coats direct the cluster of personnel into a nearby exam room and I sag back against the wall.
"Did you see that?"
Randi is excitedly popping her gum.
"Of course I saw it, how could I miss it? I practically tripped over the fucking pipe!"
There is muted cacophony from the exam room and the EMTs and fire-fighters suddenly file out and start making their way to the desk. They mill about, hoping to hear word before they are called back out into the field but slowly start to disperse as the minutes tick by.
I sidle up to the desk and pray that my voice remains steady.
"You probably hear this all the time but I just--thank you I can never thank you enough for saving her."
Lt. Sandy Lopez turns and looks at me briefly, a warm smile spreading across her pretty features.
"My pleasure, I'm just glad we were able to cut her out. I hope she's okay."
She pats my arm, throws Randi a wave and is gone. I let out a shaky breath and close my eyes against the threat of tears, realizing I should have thanked her for saving my life, too.
"You've got class, Kim."
Randi speaks softly, reaching across the desk to squeeze my arm. I meet her eyes; of course she would know who Sandy is.
"All of a sudden I don't feel much like celebrating."
"Hey, come on now. The woman you love is moving to San Francisco to be with you. That sounds pretty damn good to me."
Her good mood is infectious and the truth of her statement warms me. I feel a grin spread across my face.
"You're right, as usual."
She's quick to correct me.
"Right, sorry. Okay, I'm, uh, heading home and getting things ready. Remember, not a word to Kerry."
I snort as she raises her hand to her forehead in mock salute.
"I'll see you later. Thanks Randi."
"Anytime, Dr. L, anytime."
I make my way through the emergency doors and hail a passing cab. Snow is steadily falling and I cock my head, straining to hear the muted sounds of traffic and pedestrians vying for supremacy. The trip to Kerry's is blissfully quick and I clamber up the steps, my mood improving exponentially the closer I get to home. I open the door and am greeted by the aroma of honey garlic chicken amidst a myriad of other scents. Margo has been hard at work.
"Hi Margo, yeah, it's me."
"Thank goodness, I thought Kerry had blown your surprise."
She rounds the corner and everything stops. She is wearing an emerald satin dress and it winds its way around her still shapely form. Her long hair is swept up in a chignon, gold earrings dangle delicately from her ears and the scent of sandalwood wafts toward me.
"Wow Margo, you look stunning. Maybe I've been chasing the wrong redhead."
The comment pops out before I can censor myself and we stare at each other, a blush starting at her chest and rushing to the roots of her hair. I'm appalled and I start to stutter in my embarrassment.
"I c-can't believe I just said that out loud. Margo, I was-"
She suddenly starts laughing, her head tipping back in genuine delight.
"Honestly, Kerry didn't stand a chance, did she?"
I duck my head, taking a moment to compose myself. A gentle tug on a lock of my hair causes me to look up again.
"Compliment received, thank you very much. You should get ready."
I nod in reply and drift into the dining room, gaping at the platters of mouth-watering food covering every available inch of table space. Cutlery and plates are waiting on a sideboard next to a carefully stacked tower of glasses. I sense Margo behind me and I turn quickly.
"God, this looks great! I can't thank you enough for all your hard work."
"It was my pleasure, Kim. I can't tell you what it means to me to be included in your celebration."
"Actually, it was Kerry who suggested you join us for dinner tonight."
Her eyes mist slightly and she shakes herself.
"I have a case of champagne cooling on the back steps. The temperature should be just right."
She starts to tick her fingers one by one.
"The cd player is loaded with lovely but quiet music. Food is ready. So that leaves you."
"Unless you planned on wearing hiphuggers and a flannel shirt tonight?"
I glance down and contemplate my wardrobe just long enough to make her nervous.
"Kim Legaspi, get up those stairs, your Mother would be scandalized!"
Universe restored to its proper order, I grin cheekily and climb the stairs two at a time.
I look good. Better than good, I look fantastic. It is almost six o'clock and Kerry should be home any minute. She will be flabbergasted to see what awaits her. And who. The fire crackles and casts a gentle glow on the various friends and co-workers scattered about the living room.
Kerry is selling her home to the Kovacs and I watch in amusement as Luka and Susan wander around, chattering enthusiastically about minute architectural details. John is hauling the champagne in from outside. Christie has placed herself in an overstuffed chair in the corner and is holding court, eyeing Abby speculatively. Every once in a while they catch each others eye and grin nervously.
Randi appears at my elbow and I suck in my breath. She looks drop-dead gorgeous and I rack my brain for something to say.
"I know, I know, I'm hotter than the fourth of July. What's up with Abby, she's looking good."
The phone rings and I grab it, gratefully heading for the entryway.
"Your ass better be in your car, headed home."
There is a slight pause and for a millisecond I worry that it's not Kerry on the other end.
"Well, hello to you too."
I start to giggle.
"Ker, where are you? Dinner is ready."
"So am I."
"Open the front door."
I grab the handle and fling the door open, snow swirling around my high heels. No one is there. I'm about to close the door when I notice a small figure sitting on the curb across the street.
"Are you fucking crazy? It's twenty degrees outside."
"Come over here, I'll keep you warm."
"This won't take long, I promise."
I shut the phone off and set it down on the hall table. Gingerly I make my way down the front steps to the sidewalk and across the street. Like an idiot I haven't brought a coat and I am shivering uncontrollably by the time I reach her.
She stands and pulls off her bulky coat, throwing it over my shoulders.
"How did you know about the party?"
"I didn't. Not until I arrived and saw John's car up the street."
"Do you hate it? 'Cause I can tell everyone to get lost if you hate it."
"No baby, I love it. It was very thoughtful."
She reaches up and pushes my hair behind my ears.
"Kim, do you remember a couple of nights ago when I had that dream?"
I nod slowly. How could I forget waking one morning to find her crying in my arms?
"You asked me what I'd dreamt about and I brushed it off, told you it was nothing. But it wasn't nothing, Kim."
She locks her eyes onto mine.
"I was talking with my parents, telling them about everything that had happened in the last few years. We talked for hours and hours and when we were almost finished, they asked me about you."
I reach up and stroke the side of her face, rosy and cool to the touch.
"And what did you tell them, love?"
"That all my life I'd been lost. And then I met you and then I was saved."
She clears her throat and blinks rapidly.
"I was crying when I woke up and for a moment I thought nothing had changed and I was alone again. But I was wrong because you sheltered me in your arms and whispered promises in a gentle, loving voice, stroking my hair until I was lulled to sleep."
She reaches up and grabs the hand I've rested against her face.
"We can go inside now. I--I just wanted you to know."
I bend down and kiss her soft lips, tasting her mouth and the tears that slide down her cheeks. She drapes her arms around my waist and I pull her beneath the coat, warming her. We stand like this forever and then I turn in her grasp and direct us back across the street, toward home.
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