Resting in the Arms
By Ainsley Wallace
The door of the lounge swung silently open a crack.
Kerry looked over her glasses towards the voice. "Yes, Jing-mei?"
"Do you have a minute?" Chen asked, creeping forward into the dimly lit lounge.
Kerry looked at the piles of charts to be reviewed which formed a small mountain range around her. "Absolutely," Kerry said, whipping off her glasses. "What can I do for you?"
Chen took another tentative step forward, then stopped and wrung her hands.
"Well, actually, I just wanted to well, I wanted to apologize to you about things I may have well, said earlier and I wanted to say that I have nothing but respect for both you and Dr. Legaspi and I think it's wonderful that you're you know, together and everything."
Kerry looked blankly at her. Chen wrung her hands and continued.
"I knew a girl in college who was a, uh, uh, lesbian and she was very nice." Chen sighed heavily. "This isn't going very well, is it?"
"I guess what I wanted to say was that I'm very comfortable with the fact that you and Dr. Legaspi well, I'm happy for you, really, and I wanted you to know that I don't think any less of either of you because of it."
Kerry's eyebrows arched. "Well, I'm glad to have your approval," she said.
Chen smiled uncertainly, then turned to leave.
"I wonder if you've ever noticed how many Asian-American doctors are on the staff of the ER?"
Chen paused. "Well, besides me, only one."
"So Asian-American doctors are definitely in the minority down here in this department, aren't they?"
Chen nodded. "I suppose."
Kerry leaned forward, propping her elbows on the open chart before her. "Do you think anyone would ever think less of Asian-American doctors simply because they are in the minority in this department?"
"Well, of course not, I think that --" Chen's mouth dropped open and she flushed. "Oh. Oh. I see what you're saying now. That would be ridiculous. And prejudiced." She backed out the door, bowing slightly to Kerry as she went. "Well, thank you, Dr. Weaver. I appreciate it."
Kerry watched the door for a minute wondering when exactly she had become a public service announcement for the gay and lesbian community. She shook her head, then put her glasses back on and continued trying to decipher Malucci's printing. The lounge door opened again and Kerry looked up.
Kim breezed in, still wearing her coat, and looking over her shoulder. "What's the matter with Jing-mei? She looks like she just saw a ghost."
Kerry chuckled. "She did, I think. The ghost of her residency."
Kim gave her a funny look. "Beg your pardon?"
Kim gave her a funny look. "Beg your pardon?"
Kerry waved it off. "Long story and one probably best not repeated." She got up and pulled off her lab coat and made her way to her locker. She hung the white coat up, tossed her stethoscope on the top shelf, grabbed her trench coat and slammed the door shut with a metallic clank. She turned and Kim was there beside her.
Kim was smiling in a curious way -- not quite happy, but rather as if she had some wonderful secret. Before Kerry could speak, Kim spanned the short distance between them and kissed her gently on the lips. She straightened up, amused now at Kerry's startled expression.
"What was that for?" Kerry asked.
Kim took her coat from her and held it up so that she could slide into it. "I'm just feeling grateful. That's all."
Kerry shrugged her coat on and examined the taller woman's expression for a moment. "I see," Kerry said, but she knew she didn't.
Kim laughed a little. "Come on," she said, slipping her arm through Kerry's. "I'll tell you about it on the way home."
Kerry lifted her head and glanced around through sleep fogged eyes. She could hear Lenny Briscoe making a sarcastic comment about a dead body and then the theme to "Law and Order" kicked in and Kerry had to shake her head a little to dislodge the sense of disorientation that was nearly making her dizzy. She got up on her elbows and looked around.
She was on Kim's living room floor, in a nest of blankets and pillows, Kim beside her, sound asleep, her hair splayed out around her. A couple of candles flickered at various spots around the room and everything was bathed in the strobing blue light of the television. The coffee table, which had been pushed far to one side, still held the remains of the Thai food they had picked up on the way home and the dregs of a bottle of wine.
The "Law and Order" music was over now and someone was extolling the virtues of the new Lincoln Continental at the top of their lungs. Kerry sat up and searched for the remote and quickly turned the television off before this electronic huckster could wake Kim.
The silence was blessed and she laid back down in the little den they'd made on the floor, propping her head with one hand to watch Kim sleep. Kim lay on her back, the blankets at her waist, her breasts gloriously exposed, her face relaxed and somehow so young in this light. Kerry still had the scent of her in her nose, on her hands, in her hair and if she breathed in deeply enough, she was almost drunk with the smell of her.
It had started innocently enough.
Dressed in well-worn sweats and t-shirts of Kim's, they had installed themselves with blankets, pillows and take out Thai on Kim's couch to eat, and watch "The Philadelphia Story" on video. Kerry had noticed that Kim was still rubbing her forehead and massaging her neck with one hand while they ate.
"Is your headache back?" Kerry asked.
Kim nodded. "Can't seem to shake it."
"Come here. Let me rub your shoulders."
Kim took her wine glass and settled onto the floor in front of Kerry and immediately moaned when Kerry laid her hands on her.
"God, you're tight," Kerry said, digging in with strong, deft fingers.
Kim groaned again. "Oh, that feels so good," she said.
Kerry worked her way down Kim's back a few more inches and she clucked her tongue. "No wonder you have a headache," she said.
Kim's head had fallen forward, blonde curls swinging a little with the rhythm of Kerry's hands.
"Listen, take off your shirt and bra and lie down on the floor," Kerry said.
Kim tucked her hair back and looked up at her with a smirk. "Well, that was romantic," she said. "Do a lot of girls fall for that line?"
Kerry chuckled. "Nobody is having sex until we loosen the knots in your back. I'd be afraid that you'd just snap in two from the tension."
So, the table had been moved and Kim's upper garments discarded and she'd laid down as she'd been instructed. Kerry lowered herself to the floor carefully, pushed her crutch away and then started in on the long, shapely back in front of her.
She was a master at it, Kim realized. The perfect amount of pressure, a sixth sense for the locating the roots of the tightest knots and the most loving touch she thought she'd ever felt. By the time Jimmy Stewart was getting Katharine Hepburn drunk at Uncle Willie's party, Kim's headache was gone, her back and shoulders had relaxed and she was cursing the laws of the state of Illinois that wouldn't allow her to propose to this heavenly creature here and now.
"Kerry," she said, thickly. "That was amazing." She hiked herself up on an elbow and rolled over. "Really, I don't think I've--"
The look on Kerry's face made her stop. She cocked her head. "What?" she asked.
Kerry shook her head slowly and reached out a hand to touch Kim's face, letting her fingers trail down to her shoulder and finally her breast. "Do you even know how beautiful you are?" she asked and her voice was a choked whisper.
Kim slipped her hand behind Kerry's neck and pulled her into a hungry kiss. Kerry moaned and then Kim felt two soft hands cupping her breasts, caressing them, making her nipples tingle and harden.
Never taking her mouth from Kerry's, she reached down and found the hem of the faded Bulls' t-shirt that Kerry wore and she pulled it up and over Kerry's head and tossed it away. Kerry was fumbling with the waistband of Kim's sweats and Kim made short work of Kerry's bra and a few moments later they lay in each other's arms, breasts and bellies pressed against each other, legs intertwined.
It had been almost frantic, that first time, as if they had been starving for each other. Afterwards, they'd lain in a sweaty heap, Kerry's leg flung over Kim's hip, their faces close together. And then the second time, Kim had driven Kerry to the edge and back again, not letting her fall, drawing out the exquisite moment before. And then she'd come, and it had been like a lightning bolt, every muscle in her body contracting at once, crying out involuntarily.
And then Kim had drawn her into her strong and comfortable arms and Kerry had slept, her head resting somewhere between Kim's shoulder and her breast.
Kim's long, flat belly rose slowly with each breath now as Kerry watched it, longing to touch her, but loathe to wake her.
Sometimes the thought occurred to her that this was almost too good to be true. Somehow these feelings, this intimacy, these moments of bliss just weren't within her realm of experience. Human beings torn in two by nature and machines, pain in her body and her heart -- she'd experienced those things and kept right on going. But this? This woman with the loving blue eyes whose touch set her on fire, laying here, naked and vulnerable, loving her? This was more than unexpected. This was well, too good to be true. And unfortunately, Kerry Weaver's experience with life had been that things that seemed too good to be true, usually were.
She was not accustomed to such kindness from the fates. After all, the fates had given her a crutch and a left leg that was almost useless. The fates had taken away her birth family and left her always wondering. The fates had almost taken away a job that she had worked years to get. She accepted this and didn't think there was much point in whining or moaning about it. There were certain things that you were put in this world to rise above and by God, she rose.
And then she'd met Kim. And her whole understanding of the world had faltered.
Kim slept on, oblivious to Kerry's ruminations, too deeply unconscious to feel the hand which gingerly touched her hair. Kerry traced the line of Kim's profile with her eyes and wondered if she really knew how to do this. How to be this.
Kim waved to the nurse on the ward as she let herself in the secure door. "Hey, Ben," she said. "How's that boy of yours?"
"He is a perfect copy of his old man, Kim," Ben said, handing her the clipboard and indicating where she needed to sign in. "He's smart, athletic, handsome and quite the little chick magnet."
Kim chuckled as she scribbled her name and handed the board back to him. "That's quite a baby," she said. "All that and only two months old."
"You just wait," Ben said and he rolled his chair back to face his computer. "In twenty five years he'll be winning the Nobel prize and I'll be saying 'I told y'all'."
Kim laughed and headed down the hall, counting off door until she reached Room 641. She looked back at Ben, who buzzed her through, and she slipped inside.
The room was small but it accommodated two beds well enough. The walls were a pale yellow colour but someone, in a misguided effort to make the room look more cheery had painted the bars on the windows the colour of melting orange Popsicles. This mainly served to draw your attention to the fact that you were not able to leave this room when you chose.
One of the beds was empty and unmade, but the other, the one closest to the door was occupied. The sheets and blankets had been carefully pulled up and tucked in and young man with very short blondish hair was sitting on the bed, highlighter in hand, a textbook open before him. He looked up when Kim entered the room and she could see the fear in his eyes.
"Hi, Michael," she said. "We spoke yesterday. I'm --"
"Dr. Legaspi," he said and visible relief washed over him. "Hi. I'm really glad you came." He bit his lip and dried his palms self-consciously on his bathrobe. "I mean, you're the only person here I've seen before. It's nice to see a familiar face."
Kim smiled at him. "I know. This place must seem pretty scary, especially when you're not feeling well." She came around the side of the bed. "Do you mind if I sit down?"
"No, please. Please sit down," Michael said. He scooted back a little to give her more room and snapped the textbook shut, pushing it out of the way.
Kim cocked her head to read the title. "Great Victorian Literature," she said. "Is that for school?"
He nodded, deep blue eyes earnest and wide. "I'm an English major and I have a lot of papers due right now. I got my friend to bring this in for me." He studied the weave of the blanket. "Actually, I find it just sort of helps me feel calm."
Kim nodded. "That's good. I'm glad you asked for it." She motioned towards the empty bed. "How are you getting on with Stephen?"
Michael took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "He's pretty well, pretty weird actually. But it's okay. He hasn't threatened me or anything."
Kim nodded. "Well, listen, you're almost a full day into the three day hold. I'll keep my eyes peeled for a private room if one comes up and if you're feeling up to it today, I can ask the nurses to take you out a little bit. You know, limit your Stephen exposure."
Michael nodded. "He cries at night, you know. Like someone's chasing him and he can't run away." He wrapped his arms around himself and leaned back against the wall. "It sounds awful. You must have to go through some awful stuff to get like him."
Kim put her clipboard down on the bed. "Sounds like you've been going through some awful stuff yourself lately."
He shrugged and couldn't quite meet Kim's eyes.
"Is there anybody at school who knows you're gay, Michael?"
"A few people. My good friends. Two other gay guys I met last year at a bar, who go to my school."
"What about your parents?"
He snorted and gave her a look. "Yeah, right. I was in a rush to give them that newsflash."
Kim smiled and nodded. "I understand. Parents are a toughie." She flipped through the pages in his chart from the ER, then looked up at him. "How are you feeling?"
His colour darkened enough to make him look slightly sunburned. "Stupid."
Kim laughed softly. "Stupid? Okay, that's an interesting one. Why do you feel stupid?"
He rolled his eyes and turned his face away from Kim. "Trying to kill myself with a bottle of Advil. God, how lame is that? I mean, I try to kill myself and I can't even do that right."
"You did it perfectly right," Kim said and his eyes snapped back to hers.
"What do you mean?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that you did it the best way you could have. It told everybody that you were trying to handle something big, it let us all know you need some support with it, and best of all, you're sitting here today, still able to talk to me about it." She smiled at him. "In my opinion, Michael, when the patient is still alive and able to talk about what's wrong, that's a very good outcome."
He hung his head and picked at the blanket.
Kim fixed her gaze on him. "Do you still wish you were dead?"
His head bobbed up and the fear was back. "No. God, no. I mean " He teetered on the brink of tears for a second. "I don't want to be dead, Dr. Legaspi. I'm just not sure I can live and be gay."
Kim nodded. "Well, then. I guess now we know where we need to start." She picked up his chart and scribbled a few notes. "How did you sleep last night?"
He frowned. "Not so great. I was feeling pretty sick and Stephen was well, being Stephen I guess and to be honest, this place makes me kind of nervous."
"Me, too," Kim said and she watched his face for the tiny smile that dawned there. "Okay, Michael, here's what we'll do. I'm going to prescribe a really mild sedative for tonight, but only if you want it, all right? I'll leave the standing order and you just ask the nurse if you want it."
"How did you find the pills we gave you last night and this morning? The anti-depressants?"
"Fine I guess. I still feel pretty sick from all that rum and the Advil, so, I don't know."
"They take a while to work, a couple of weeks to start, but I think they'll help you through this rough patch," she said as she stood up and gathered her clipboard and his chart.
"Do you have to go?" he asked and Kim was reminded of the puppies in the pet shop window begging the passersby to take them with them.
"I do," she said, "but later this afternoon I could give you a tour of our gourmet cafeteria and maybe we could get some sodas and talk a bit. Do you think you feel up to that?"
Michael nodded vigourously. "Yeah, that would be really nice. Thank you."
"Okay," Kim said and she buzzed for Ben to unlock the door. "And Michael, I want you to think about something." The lock buzzed and she opened the door. "I want you to think about how a person -- not you, necessarily, somebody else, some hypothetical person -- could be a gay man and have a happy life. Think it over, okay?"
He nodded slowly. "Okay. I will."
"I'll see you in a few hours," Kim said and she let the door close quietly behind her.
There was a sticky note on her door when she returned to her office. "Kim, See me ASAP, Carl."
She sighed and her shoulders drooped a little. Why did this not sound like good news? Granted Carl was not one to sketch little smiley faces on his memos right after his signature, but this little missive might as well have had lightning bolts and skulls and cross bones etched all over it.
She caught him in his office, a room he rarely inhabited, she knew from experience.
"Oh, hey, Kim, thanks for coming so quickly," he said, scribbling madly on a piece of paper as he motioned to her. "Uh, close the door, would you?"
Strike one. Kim closed the door and felt a sense of dread settle deep into her belly.
"Have a seat, I'll be with you in one second," he said, rifling through the controlled chaos on his desk top.
Strike two. Carl usually spoke to you on the fly -- in the hall, the elevator, the cafeteria, wherever -- and was brief and to the point. There was no sitting. She sat down, crossed her long legs and folded her hands in her lap.
Finally he finished pushing multicoloured paper from one side of his desk to the other and he looked up at her and attempted a smile.
Shit. Strike three on gut instinct alone.
"I'm really sorry about the other night, when I dumped that shift on you, Kim, but Phil fell off the climber at the park and hurt his wrist and the nanny panicked, so I had to head home before my wife's divorce lawyer could make a case for me abusing my own kids."
"Is he okay?"
"Sprain. He's fine."
"Good. Tell him I said hi and to stay on the ground for a while."
Carl chuckled a little. "I'll tell him."
"Listen, Kim the reason I wanted to see you " he said, studying his desk blotter intently, "is this new case of yours. Michael Lynch? Attempted suicide yesterday?"
Kim nodded. "That's right. I admitted him on a 72 hour hold. I was just with him, actually. What about him?"
"Well, I was reviewing charts and I happened to notice that in your interview with him, he told you that he had been feeling despondent and confused about his sexuality."
Kim frowned slightly. "He thinks he's gay, Carl and he thought it might be better to kill himself than --" She sat up. "Oh Jesus, tell me that's not where you're going with this!"
Carl sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. "Now hear me out, Kim."
"Please, Carl, please tell me that you're not going to say that I have to keep my sexual orientation a secret and not use my experiences as a gay person as the very valuable therapeutic tool they are, simply because you're afraid of Romano. Because that's not the Carl de Raad that I know."
"Kim --" There was a warning in his voice and Kim cruised straight past it.
"So now Dr. Romano's homophobia is hospital policy and is going to dictate how I treat my patients?"
"Kim!" Carl said. "You're not listening. Nobody wants another Shannon Wallace incident."
"Well, gee, Carl, by that do you mean we don't want poor, scared kids trying to take their own lives because they can't take the pain of trying to live a life as a gay person? Or do you mean we'd rather avoid lawsuits that might embarrass the hospital?" Her heart was pounding in her ears now and a voice in the back of her mind knew that she was right but wondered why she was this angry.
"Give me a little credit here, okay?" Carl said. "What happened with Shannon Wallace wasn't good for anybody, you included. I've never seen you so despondent."
"So, what, are we going to troop out the pedophile police because a lesbian is counseling a potentially gay young man?" Kim crossed her arms angrily. "First I'm molesting little gay girls, now apparently I'm at risk to molest little gay boys. I sure wish that the homophobic powers that be around here would at least get their facts straight, because last time I checked, I wasn't into that whole male thing at all. That would be why they call me a lesbian."
Carl sat in his chair, biding his time, letting her blow off steam. When she'd paused for breath, he leaned forward. "Are you done, now?"
She pursed her lips and avoided his eyes. "For now."
"Fair enough," Carl said. "I only brought this to you to tell you this: we do not live or work in a perfect world. If anyone in this hospital should know that, it's the people who work day in and day out on this floor. In a perfect world, I'd have enough attendings and residents and interns and orderlies and I'd have money for programs and recreation and for a fucking Jacuzzi in the staff lunch room. But we don't have any of those things and so we do the best we can with what we've got.
"In a perfect world, we also wouldn't work under that tiny-dicked little ass hole Romano -- and if you ever tell him I called him that, I'll deny it because right now I'm doing everything short of kissing his hairy ass to get more money for this department. But I digress. The fact of the matter is that he holds the purse strings, he's got the ear of the board, and he's got almost everybody but Kerry Weaver so scared of him that if I wanted to kiss his ass, I'd have to line up."
Kim sat with her arms crossed, eyes still blazing, listening.
"But we do work for him, Kim, and we have to work around that fact sometimes, as repulsive as that may be." He leaned forward, hands laced together on his desk. "Here's another fact. I can't afford to lose you. You're one of my best people and I marvel at your therapeutic skills and your empathy. If I lost you up here, I honestly don't know what I'd do."
Kim lowered her gaze and took a deep breath to calm herself. "You're not going to lose me, Carl."
"Well, you see, that's where I worry you're wrong, because that bald little sociopath has it in for you now. And he's just waiting for you to give him a reason."
"But divulging to a patient that I am gay as part of ongoing therapy is not a reason to persecute me," Kim said. "It's a judgment call, granted, but --"
Carl held up a hand. "For what it's worth, I agree with you. I think used properly and sensitively, it could be an excellent tool. But we're not talking about my judgment. We're talking about what Romano can distort. And because of the way things went down with Shannon Wallace, you've opened up a door to him and now he's just waiting for the invitation to step through."
Kim had a flash of sitting in her robe at her dining room table, police officers staring her down, pelting her with questions and she felt queasy.
"So what are you saying, Carl?" she asked.
"I'm saying be careful. Please. For everyone's sake, but especially yours."
Kim nodded absently, and Michael's sweet, terrified face came to her suddenly.
"You know, "Carl said, leaning back in his chair, with his hands behind his head, "I've been telling Phillip for two years to be careful on that frigging jungle gym. And every time he said, 'Oh, don't worry, Dad, I'll be fine.'" He skewered Kim with his gaze. "He didn't think he could fall off and yesterday he did. Could've broken his goddam neck."
Kim looked at him for a moment. "But he didn't," she said softly.
Carl closed his eyes and groaned. "You're killing me here, Kim," he said. "You're killing me."
Kim chuckled as she got to her feet. "Yeah and everybody knows that that's Barbara's lawyer's job."
Carl laughed, a deep hearty sound. "Just think about it, okay?"
"I will," Kim said, one hand on the doorknob.
"And get some rest, will you?" he called after her. "You look like hell."
Kim shook her head as she walked away. He always said the sweetest things.
Kerry stuffed the x-ray films back into their oversized envelope and wheeled her crutch around, ready to go back to the curtain areas. It was now official, Mrs. Henderson, the 73 year old woman in curtain area one had fractured her hip in a fall down her basement steps, having tripped on her Dachshund, Fritz. It was going to keep her in the hospital for at least a few days.
She was just heading off, preparing herself to be the bearer of bad news when she saw Kim loping her way through the late afternoon madness. Kerry felt a flutter in her stomach at the sight of her -- simple green silk blouse, tailored black pants and her hair pulled back, probably in deference to the wind this morning. She looked tired, Kerry thought, and even a little like she still had that headache from yesterday. She also looked vaguely troubled and Kerry wondered what might be making her look so serious and so sad. An image from last night seized Kerry -- Kim, her back arched in ecstasy, her head thrown back, mouth open, the creamy skin of her neck exposed and vulnerable.
Kerry nearly dropped the x-rays.
"Well, that's a curious smile," Kim said as she approached. "Makes a person wonder what you might be thinking about."
Kerry quickly glanced behind and around her before she spoke. "You, actually."
Kim leaned on the counter and smiled, her eyes twinkling. 'Oh, really? Anything in particular?"
Kerry felt herself being drawn into Kim's smile. "Actually, I was thinking about how much you, uh, enjoyed uh --"
Kim's eyebrows shot up. "How much I enjoyed what?"
Kerry blinked. "How much you enjoyed watching "The Philadelphia Story," she said and Kim laughed.
"I loved "The Philadelphia Story," Kerry," Kim said, straightening up and moving closer to the tiny redhead. "In fact, I would go so far as to say that watching "The Philadelphia Story" is my favourite thing in the world." She studied Kerry's eyes and her mouth, saw the rosy tone her cheeks were taking on. "But it's only my favourite if I can watch it with you." Kim adjusted the ID badge that hung from Kerry's coat pocket and Kerry felt herself shiver. Kim leaned close to her ear and fairly purred. "I could watch "The Philadelphia Story" with you every night."
Kerry's mouth hung open the slightest bit and her eyes were locked on Kim's. "Really?" she said.
Kim nodded slowly, a teasing smile on her lips. "It might be kind of fun to watch it again tonight -- maybe up in my bedroom?"
Kerry stared at her and glanced all around again, need written all over her face in block letters. And then her face fell. "I can't," she said.
Kim frowned. "Why not?"
"Because I sent Mark home early," Kerry said, gesturing with her free hand at nothing in particular. "Elizabeth has the 'flu and she called him to say that Ella has a fever-- and -- and--"
Kim nodded patiently, increasingly amused by the disruption she'd just created in Kerry's universe.
"What I'm trying to say is that Mark needed to go home to take care of the baby, so I told him to go and I'm covering his shift." Uncertainty flickered across her face. "Until ten."
Kim nodded gravely. "I see," she said.
"But, " Kerry said, hope dawning cautiously in her eyes, "maybe we could catch a late showing of it?"
Kim laughed and squeezed Kerry's arm. "It's a date," she said. She sighed and retrieved her clipboard from the counter. "I have to go, though. Somebody paged me."
"Luka," Kerry said, moving to fall in step with Kim. "A lady and her baby, brought in from a department store, I think. She was behaving strangely." Kerry paused when they reached Mrs. Henderson's gurney. "I saw you in the cafeteria earlier," she said. "It looked like you were with a patient, so I didn't interrupt."
"Michael," Kim said. "Attempted suicide yesterday. He's a little leery of the accommodations upstairs in the psych ward, so I sprung him for an hour."
"How's he doing?"
Kim waggled her hand back and forth. "About what you'd expect."
"So, I'll see you around eleven?" Kim said.
"If you'll have me."
Kim chuckled. "I don't want to watch that movie with anybody else, Ker."
Kerry smiled and blushed a little as she watched Kim walk away, chiding herself for being so obvious, here, at work of all places. She took a deep breath, tried to wipe the shit-eating grin off her face and turned her attention back to how she was going to explain to Mrs. Henderson that Fritz was going to have to go to the kennel for a few days.
Kim spotted Luka standing outside the exam room, his arms crossed, his brow furrowed. Kim pulled up beside him and followed his gaze. Inside, one of the beds was occupied by a woman in her thirties with long, dark hair. She was in a hospital gown, propped up and tucked under the blankets and she was holding a very small baby.
The smile that had instinctively started to rise to Kim's lips at the sight of the tiny infant was waylaid when she noticed the mother's expression. She stared sightlessly ahead for a few moments, then suddenly shook her head and tried to block her ears with her shoulder and her free hand. All the while, her baby lay tucked in one arm like a forgotten doll. Something about it all made Kim want to look away.
"Is she on something?" Kim asked.
"Blood tests say no."
"History of mental illness?"
"She hasn't been very coherent. She couldn't say for sure."
"Have we at least got a name?"
Luka sighed and slid his hands into the pockets of his lab coat. "Diana Calvecchio. We found some ID in her wallet. Abby is trying to contact the husband and she's already got the nanny coming in. Maybe she can fill in some blanks."
"Calvecchio," Kim said. "I wonder if she's any relation to that alderman or councilman or whatever that guy is."
Luka shrugged. "Could be. We'll find out soon, I hope."
"What are her hormone levels like?"
"We're just waiting on the labs."
Kim jotted down some notes to herself. "Who brought her in?"
"The police," Luka said. "A security guard at a big department store called them and said she was behaving strangely, talking to herself and yelling."
Kim wrote some more and then looked back into the exam room at the women.
"Are you thinking post-partum depression?" Luka asked.
"That wouldn't quite explain all the symptoms," Kim said. "You've spoken to her. What do you think?"
Luka glanced at the dark haired woman and her neglected infant. "Post-partum psychosis?"
"It's rare," Kim said.
"But it happens." He ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "I couldn't get her to talk enough to tell if she was delusional." He smiled and patted Kim on the shoulder. "But then, that's why we have you."
Kim chuckled wryly. "Yeah, that's me, the Swiss Army knife to Cook County ER."
Luka laughed and turned to go.
"Luka," Kim called after him, "can you ask Abby to get a bassinette ready and then to drop by the exam room. I might need a hand."
Luka nodded and strode off.
Diana Calvecchio was a beautiful woman, Kim decided. Or at least she was when she took care of herself. And when disembodied voices weren't shrieking in both ears.
It had taken a while to get her talking -- not because she was unco-operative, but because she was so distracted by the sound and light show that her unbalanced brain was putting on for her. Kim did get her to tell her that the baby's name was Tyler and that he was five weeks old.
"He's a beautiful boy," Kim said, giving Tyler an index finger to grip. She looked over at Diana. "Do you breastfeed?"
At first, the woman's expression was blank, but then Kim could see the tide of panic rising in her eyes. "I don't know!" she said. "I -- I can't remember!" She gripped Kim's arm. "Why can't I remember?"
Before Kim could reach out a hand to calm her, the frantic woman let Tyler roll out of her arms and onto her lap, so that she could slap both hands over her ears, her face a mask of pain.
Tyler, having been abruptly awoken, was working himself up to release a mighty howl when Kim deftly slipped him off his mother's lap. She laid him down beside Diana's thigh, in the space between her leg and edge of the bed, then scooted the stool up against the bed frame, so that she could keep a hand on him.
She gently rubbed his belly to soothe him and glanced up at his mom, saw the struggle going on within her.
"Even if you cover your ears, you can still hear them, can't you?" Kim said softly.
Diana froze and her tortured eyes locked on Kim. "You know about that?"
Kim nodded, drawing circles with her fingers on Tyler's terrycloth covered tummy.
"The voices," Diana said. "You know about the voices?"
Kim nodded again. "Some of my other patients have told me about them."
"Do you hear them?"
Only on days like this one, Kim thought. She shook her head. "But a lot of people have talked to me about them. About how hard it is because you can't make them stop and go away on your own."
Diana rubbed her eyes hard. "It's -- it's just-- I don't know what to do sometimes."
"Can you tell me what the voices are saying to you, Diana?"
"No. Oh, no." She shook her head vigorously. "No. I'm not supposed to."
"I see," Kim said. Tyler was dozing off again, and Kim rested her hand lightly on him. "Okay. Can you tell me about what you were doing at the department store?"
"I was shopping."
Kim felt Tyler sigh. "What were you shopping for?"
Diana picked at her nails, which Kim noticed were expensively manicured. "Nothing. Just a roasting pan."
"A roasting pan," Kim said. "You didn't have one already?"
"I didn't have the right size. I needed something just the right size." Diana's eyes were busy, roaming the room as if she was looking for an escape route.
Kim ran a delicate hand over Tyler's forehead, his tiny silken hairs tickling her a palm. "What size did you need? Are you having a party or something?"
Diana's eyes flicked down to Tyler and then back up so quickly, Kim wasn't entirely sure at first that she'd actually seen it.
And then it hit her. Her mouth nearly fell open and her stomach knotted itself into a solid lump.
"Diana," she said slowly and deliberately once she'd found her voice, "were you going to put Tyler in the roasting pan?"
Diana nodded, her dark eyes glued to Kim.
"And then what were you going to do?"
"I was going to put him in the oven for a while," she said and she was gesturing wildly as she spoke, "but it wasn't going to hurt him you know, because they said if I just put a little pillow on his face first, after a while he'd just stop breathing."
Kim made herself pull in another breath and she fought to keep her face relaxed. She kept a protective hand on Tyler, who slept on, dreaming his newborn dreams.
Kim stole a peek at the observation window and sighed with relief when she spotted Abby in her pastel scrubs, headed towards them.
Diana suddenly grabbed Kim's hand and Kim jumped a little.
"You realize I have to do this, don't you? He's bad." There was a strange fire in her eyes and every instinct told Kim to move away. Instead, she willed herself to stay calm, all the while keeping a tight grip on Tyler's sleepers.
"Diana, listen to me," Kim said, drawing the woman's attention away from the baby, "the voices that you're hearing are making you very confused. You need some medicine to help you --"
The door to the exam room opened and Abby walked in, pushing a bassinette. She looked at Kim, a friendly smile on her face.
"Dr. Legaspi, I have the --" She stopped abruptly, the emotional energy in the room nearly knocking her backwards.
An eternity passed and no one moved.
Then, all hell broke loose.
Diana Colvecchio, having done the math and realizing that, even if she counted her voices, she was now outnumbered, flew up out of the bed, screaming in a remarkably banshee like fashion. At the same instant, Kim, sensing the explosion a heartbeat before it happened, had swept Tyler off the bed and into her arms, dropping into a protective curl around his tiny body. Kim could see Abby's frozen expression as she stood with one hand still on the little bed. Another second and Diana Calvecchio was on her, powerful hands grabbing at Kim's arms, at Tyler, manicured nails seeking out Kim's face.
Abby's mouth dropped open and Kim shouted, "Five migs of Halperidol and two of lorazepam! Hurry! And get security!"
Kim moved like a demented basketball player, staying low with Tyler clutched to her chest, pivoting and dodging the shrieking woman in the hospital gown, looking for an opening through which to escape.
Pounding footsteps and there were Luka and Haleh, flying into the room, swooping down on this psychotic caricature of Tyler's mother. They gently wrestled her back to the bed and a moment later, Abby ran through the door with a loaded syringe and handed it to Luka. Abby hurried over to Kim.
"Are you all right?" she said, slipping an arm around Kim's back. "Is the baby all right?"
Kim slowly straightened up and tried to catch her breath. She gingerly tipped Tyler away from her silk shirt which was now very moist with baby drool and they both looked at him. His eyes were partly open, and he gazed at them with a lethargic expression, then gurgled and started to fall asleep again.
Abby gently took him from Kim. "God, I'm really sorry, Dr. Legaspi. I didn't realize -- I mean, Luka said you needed a bassinette, I thought, great, a baby." She tucked him expertly into a blanket and laid him down on the little bed. "Too many years in OB, I guess."
Kim waved her off as she stretched the tension out of her neck. "That's okay. You timing couldn't have been better."
"Listen, are you okay?" Abby said, moving closer and examining Kim's face and neck. "Did she hurt you at all?"
Kim massaged her neck with one hand and waved Abby off with the other. "No, I'm fine. You just take care of him."
Abby nodded and wheeled the bassinette out.
Kim looked over at the bed where Diana Calvecchio lay in a boneless heap. Her eyes were open and she was mumbling and Kim thought for a moment about what it was going to be like for this woman when her hormones and her neurotransmitters all evened out so that she was herself again. That was when she was going to realize how close she'd come to putting her child into a roasting pan and shoving him in an oven. That was going to be the real hard part.
"Dr. Legaspi, do you want me to call an orderly to bring this lady up to psych?" Haleh asked. "You are going to admit her, right?"
Kim chuckled and let out a ragged breath. "Yes, I'm going to admit her."
Haleh headed off to a find a phone and Kim looked around for a chair to sit in until her knees stopped feeling so weak. A figure caught her eye and there was Kerry at the observation window, still as death, her face tight with fear.
Kim gave her a wave. "I'm okay," she mouthed and Kerry watched her for a few more seconds, as if she was memorizing something. Then she nodded and walked away.
Kim reached for Mrs. Calvecchio's chart and started to write.
Kerry pulled a chart out of the stack of cases waiting to be seen and scanned chairs to get a sense of numbers waiting. Not bad. She opened the chart and read about the fifteen year old male with fishhook embedded in his penis and she had to fight the urge to roll her eyes. How the hell did people do these things to themselves?
"Is she okay?"
Kerry looked up, having vaguely heard a voice nearby, but not entirely sure whom it was addressing. Randi was two feet away, leaning on the counter and staring at her.
"Beg your pardon?" Kerry said.
"Dr. Legaspi. I heard that some crazy lady jumped her. Is she okay?"
The lack of attitude and sarcasm startled Kerry at first and she looked at Randi as if she'd never seen her before. Finally, she pulled herself back into control and closed the chart she held. "Uh, yeah. She's fine, actually." She studied Randi a moment longer. "Thanks for asking though."
Randi nodded, her dark eyes never moving from Kerry's face. "You know, everybody down here really likes her."
"Oh?" Kerry said and a little voice told her that this conversation had definitely stepped over into the surreal now.
"Yeah, they do," Randi said, "and you want to know why?"
Kerry wasn't sure if she did or not, but she nodded a little.
"She comes when you page her, she doesn't bitch about being here and she can talk the biggest crazies right off the ceiling. Oh, and she gives a shit, you know?"
Kerry nodded, her eyes wide and tried to think of something to say. "Dr. Legaspi is an excellent doctor," was what she came up with.
"You bet your ass," Randi said, straightening up. "Oh, I mean, well, you know what I mean."
Kerry smiled a little. "I do."
Randi lingered there a moment longer as if she had something else to say, then without a word turned and left. Kerry watched her go and shook her head. The fishhook in the penis didn't sound quite so odd anymore.
Kim handed Nancy a box of tissues, then sat down beside her on the small couch.
"I'm sorry," Nancy said, "Christ, I am so sorry, I just can't seem to keep this under control today."
The dark haired woman was leaned over, elbows on her knees, head in her hands sobbing and had been doing so since she's walked into Kim's office ten minutes before.
"It's okay, Nance," Kim said and she rubbed her back in slow circles. "It's just part of the whole depression thing. You can't control it."
"I know, but .Fuck! It's just so useless, you know?"
Kim nodded. "Did you have a chance to talk to your section supervisor today about some time off?"
Nancy nodded, sniffing and wiping her face with sodden tissues. "I did and he was wonderful about it. We're going to reduce my patient load by almost half. He's a really good guy and he seems to understand."
"Does he need a letter or anything from me about treatment for your file?"
Nancy shook her head, then blew her nose and tried to pull herself together. "No, I told him I was seeing you and what you'd prescribed and everything and he's fine with that."
She sat up straight and took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. Kim reached over and picked up the two mugs of herbal tea she'd prepared earlier and handed one to Nancy.
"Did you talk to Craig yet?" Kim asked, breathing in the soothing spicy orange scent of the tea.
Nancy snorted. "Yeah, for what good it did."
Kim sipped her tea, then kicked off her shoes and pulled her feet up under her. "What happened? He didn't hear it well?"
"We argued -- well, we struggled, really," Nancy said. "He just can't quite get it, even after all these years. He still seems to think that I should just be able to pull myself up by the bootstraps, you know, just exercise that Anglo-Saxon work ethic muscle and overcome." She cradled her mug in her hands and shook her head. "I love him but sometimes I just want to strangle him." She looked over at Kim. "That was not homicidal ideation by the way."
Kim chuckled. "Okay, thanks." She ran a slender finger around the lip of her mug. "Do you want me to talk to him?"
Nancy hesitated, then shook her head. "No, I doubt it would do any good."
Kim nodded but wondered if she should perhaps call in an unofficial capacity, as a friend, to let him know that his wife was sick and she needed him to pull his head out of his ass.
"All these patients I see, Kim I don't know if it's the depression talking or if I'm just seeing things clearly, but, " She turned and looked at Kim. "Nobody gets better, you know? Nobody get healed or fixed or, or or even just a little bit better."
Kim laid a gentle hand on her friend's arm. "That might be the effects of the depression, Nancy. It's making things seem really bleak right now.
"Is it?" Nancy's eyes were wide and remarkably child-like suddenly and Kim could see that she was feeling completely lost at this moment. "Or is it that they really are that bleak?" Nancy asked. "Because I'm forgetting why I wanted to do this, Kim."
"Why you wanted to do psychiatry? Oh my God, Nancy, I can remember for you. Do you remember in our second year of residency when your supervisor found out you were doing extra 'off-the-record' shifts down in the pedes oncology ward, and he stormed down there to confront you?"
Nancy chuckled the slightest bit. "He was a control freak wasn't he? And an arrogant bastard to boot."
"And he waved his arms around at the long halls of rooms filled with all these terribly sick little kids and he says --"
"Dr. Elliot, your residency work is to be done upstairs on the psych ward," Nancy said making her voice sound deep and pompous. "And if you don't soon abandon this ridiculous quest to 'heal' everyone you meet, you will no longer be a resident at this hospital. I will tell you who your patients are and how to treat them. And anyway, do you know how many children there are in the world with cancer? You can't possibly help them all."
Kim smiled gently at her friend. "And then you looked down at the little tyke hanging off your arm and said, 'But Dr. Langer, I can help this one."
Nancy laughed a little. "I thought he was going to have a stroke."
Kim watched her, seeing the flashes of her old friend seep through the cracks in the depression. "That's why you do it, Nancy. Because you're loving and compassionate and so goddam good at what you do. You do it because you can. It's who you are."
Nancy took a long sip of her tea, then stared into the depths of the cup, a thoughtful look on her face. "Who I am," she said and she chuckled softly. "I keep thinking about my mother these past few days. I see her in myself when I'm like this. So exhausted that I can't function and emotional and irritable and so negative." She ran a hand through her slightly disheveled hair. "I hate it, but it's there."
"Your mother coped with a serious chronic illness at a time when depression wasn't understood and when there really weren't any medications to help."
"She didn't need medications she had her friends."
"Yeah. Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Captain Morgan, Johnnie Walker and that English Beefeater guy," Nancy said. "You know, the usual crowd."
Kim smiled in spite of herself. "Yeah, I guess it was all she could think of to do. The crime is that it made it so hard for you." She touched Nancy's shoulder.
Nancy shrugged. "Life is hard for everybody. I work in a state mental asylum, I know that better than almost anyone." She sipped more tea and Kim thought she could sense her unwinding a little. "Mainly I try to see her as a really good example of a bad example. I think of what my mother would do and then I do the opposite. That approach has actually worked out quite well for me."
Kim smiled. "Did you get any sleep?"
"A little. Not much. The Serzone hasn't kicked in yet. I felt dizzy a lot today, though. Probably the first wave of Effexor."
"You'll feel so much better when it gets to full strength." Nancy nodded and Kim noticed that she looked so much more exhausted than yesterday. She took a deep breath. "Is there anything I could say or do to convince you to maybe check yourself in for a few days? I have a friend who owes me a favour and he works at this very secluded, peaceful sort of retreat center and rehab clinic and I could --"
Nancy shook her head and held up a hand to silence Kim.
"Just hear me out, okay?" Kim said. "You could take maybe a week or two from work -- no more than regular holidays -- and you wouldn't have to cook or work or shop or anything, you could just rest until the drugs start to work a bit."
"No," Nancy said. "I have patients and two residents to supervise and --"
"You're not going to be any good to anyone if you crash, Nance."
"I know that and I don't intend to. We've reduced my case load, that will help but I feel like I just need to keep moving, you know? Moving slowly, granted, but moving."
Kim sighed and studied her friend. "I am saying this as your doctor, Nancy, and as someone who loves you and cares about what happens to you: I wish you would consider this idea."
Kim sighed and studied her friend. "I am saying this as your doctor, Nancy, and as someone who loves you and cares about what happens to you: I wish you would consider this idea."
Nancy put her mug down on the little coffee table and stood up, straightening her skirt and jacket. "I'll be fine, Kim. And anyway, if you were that worried, you'd admit me on an involuntary hold and you're not doing that."
Kim's eyes were wide and serious. "Maybe I should."
Nancy smiled at her, as if she was dear child who had just said something clever. "You won't. You know I'll be okay." She grabbed her coat and draped it over her arm.
"You still got those numbers?" Kim asked.
Nancy nodded and patted the pocket of her coat. "If I feel trouble coming on, you'll be the first to know, Legaspi."
Kim tried to smile. "I'd better be," she said, but Nancy was already out the door.
Kim sat there a few more moments, wrapping her hands around her mug to warm her hands which felt very cold suddenly. Finally, she put her tea on the coffee table and made her way to her desk in her stockinged feet. A quick flip through her daytimer and she was punching a number into her phone.
"Hello," she said, when her call was answered. "This is Kim Legaspi and I'd like to make an appointment to see Dr. Goldman, please .Tomorrow, if she's free."
Return to ER Fiction
Return to Main Page