Resting in the Arms
By Ainsley Wallace
The house seemed strangely quiet when Kerry let herself in at a quarter to eleven that night. She had wrapped up her shift at ten and then moved heaven and earth to dispense with all the post-shift paperwork and her own usual ER chief demands quickly. She had pulled into a parking spot across from Kim's house, seen the warm glow from the living room and fairly tingled with the knowledge that Kim was there, waiting for her.
But now she wasn't so sure. Although she did detect the faintest hint of classical piano drifting into the hall, that was the only sign that anyone might be home. She hung up her coat and kicked off her shoes, then padded through the kitchen, taking note of the dirty bowl and spoon in the sink and the box of Special K, still on the counter. Another nutritional supper, Kerry thought as she crutched her way to the living room.
She located the source of the music -- a CD of Chopin's Nocturnes in the stereo, set on repeat. Kerry saw Kim sprawled out on the couch, files and notes scattered all around her, and wondered just how many times the CD had repeated.
She stepped closer, trying not to make a noise and gazed down at Kim, taking in her relaxed features and the delicately curled fingers which rested on the sofa cushion near her face. Kerry realized, not for the first time, that Kim was breathtaking. So beautiful that sometimes is actually hurt to look at her, like gazing into a light that was too white.
For only the briefest moment, Kerry thought about waking her so that she could lead her upstairs to her bed and lay with her, wrapping herself around Kim's warm, lithe body until she forget the day that had been. But then, Kerry remembered how exhausted she'd looked tonight when her shift had been over and she knew she should let her sleep. She sighed, partly out of sadness and a little out of regret, then she moved quietly around the living room, turning off the CD player, extinguishing lights. Finally, she silently slipped papers off Kim's lap and gently covered her with the throw blanket from the end of the sofa.
Kerry hesitated then, trying to put her finger on what exactly was gnawing at her insides. She stood perfectly still, looking at a shaft of moonlight streaming in the window and suddenly she knew. She missed Kim. She had missed her for quite some time but could only now give a name to that nebulous sense of loneliness and hollowness that had dogged her lately. It was that simple. She missed Kim. She missed her and she was afraid.
Kerry started at that last thought and was instantly in motion, heading towards the stairs. Enough introspection for one night, she thought. I'm too tired to think about this now.
I know the price of this to me,
I'll light the candle that shines on you..."
The board was overflowing, half the metropolitan area was in chairs hoping to get on the board and making an unholy racket while they waited, and still she heard him from the other end of the hall.
"Kerry, I want to talk to you about your ball and chain," Romano bellowed as he pushed his way through the masses of patients and staff between him and the desk. "And where the hell did all these people come from?"
Kerry considered turning and walking away. She also considered nailing him in the forehead with her crutch. That last visual allowed her to greet him with a smile.
"Good morning, Robert," she said, moving away from the desk and hoping he'd follow so that she could keep whatever conversation that was going to ensue out of the earshot of the waiting patients, if not the staff. "What brings you downstairs this morning?"
"That bubble-headed girlfriend of yours," he said, planting himself, hands on his hips, in front of her. "I spent an hour of my very precious, not to mention expensive, time on the phone this morning with one Mr. Mark Calvecchio. You might have heard of him. He sits at the right hand of God on the city council and knows people in places so high even I have only heard about them."
"So?" Kerry headed further down the hall. He followed.
"So, Mr. Calvecchio was extremely surprised and chagrined to find, upon returning from a business trip to New York, that his wife had been admitted to the Cook County Hospital psychiatric ward by your little psych dyke and was being kept on a 72 hour hold."
Kerry turned into the meds room and started scanning rows of pills and vials. "It was my understanding that Mrs. Calvecchio was diagnosed as suffering from post-partum psychosis and in fact posed a risk to the safety of her newborn son and therefore required hospitalization." She craned to look up at the top shelves. "And anyway, this is all beside the point, Robert because if you have a problem with Dr. Legaspi's actions, you need to talk to Carl De Raad about it, not me." She pointed up at the top shelf with her free hand. "Can you reach that box of insulin up there, please?"
Romano stepped forward and stretched as high as he could, to no avail.
"That's all right, Robert," Kerry said. "I can ask Luka, later."
Romano's bald forehead was the least bit pink, Kerry noticed.
"Have you spoken to Carl?" she asked.
"As a matter of fact, yes, and he was about as helpful as an abscess. Damn psychiatrists, they're all the same. Bunch of bleeding heart assholes and pantywaists."
"Well, that's too bad, but there's nothing I can do about it, so --"
"Oh, I think there is," he said, hands on his hips again.
"Robert, I'm not Dr. Legaspi's supervisor."
"No, but she's your girlfriend or wife or whatever the hell you people call yourselves and frankly, Kerry, I'm disappointed in you. I would've thought you'd have her on a shorter leash."
Kerry felt her face getting warm. "I beg your pardon?"
"Look, I'm bringing this to you as a friend, Kerry. Don't let yourself and your career be blindsided by those incredible ti-- uh, eyes of hers. She's incompetent and that's all there is to it. And when the malpractice suit comes down, your name is going to be right there beside mine on the line that says 'defendant.'"
Kerry banged her crutch into the floor. "I have every confidence in Dr. Legaspi's abilities. She is not only competent, she's one of the most caring and dedicated psychiatrists I've ever had the privilege to work with. And I would be happy to say that and more before the board. Or in front of a judge, when she sues you for slander." Her eyes narrowed dangerously but her voice stayed low and calm. "Incompetent is a dangerous word, Robert and I'd be careful using it without the proper evidence. Because then it wouldn't be my name on the line that says defendant. It would just be yours."
He held her gaze long enough to smirk. "Can you stay on the topic here, Kerry? This is about the possibility of the hospital getting some really terrible publicity as a result of an unhappy husband, who also happens to be very high profile. As chief, I have to think about things like that."
"Well then, tell me, Robert, as chief, would you have preferred that Dr. Legaspi have released Mrs. Calvecchio, thus allowing her to kill and cook her baby less than 24 hours after she'd seen a psychiatrist at County?" She raised her eyebrows in mock confusion. "I'm no expert but I think there'd probably be some pretty nasty publicity from that, too. And maybe a lawsuit as well."
He threw up his hands. "God, how you people stick together." He turned to leave, then paused in the doorway. "I'm not kidding, Kerry. She's dangerous. Reel her in."
He turned and bumped into Randi, then took a step back and looked her outfit over from top to bottom and back again.
"What's the matter?" he said. "Was your regular corner already taken this morning?" He chuckled at his own wit and strode off.
Randi and Kerry made eye contact and Kerry closed her eyes and shook her head. "I know," she said.
"You're kind of in charge here, Dr. Weaver," Randi said. "Isn't there some way you could arrange to have that little creep put down?" She rolled her eyes once more for good measure, then hurried off.
Kerry leaned against the wall and blew out an angry sigh.
The polished door at the end of the room opened and Kim looked up from the copy of the "Economist" magazine that she held and felt herself start to smile.
"Kim," a tiny woman with sparkling dark eyes said, and there was such affection in her voice that Kim felt momentarily overcome.
"Charlotte," she said, getting to her feet to greet her, "It's so good to see you." Kim bent to embrace her and Charlotte kissed her warmly on each cheek.
"You are more beautiful every time we meet," Charlotte said and she tucked Kim's hand under her arm and led her into her office, shutting the door behind them.
"What a wonderful surprise I had this morning when I saw your name in my book. And the first visit of the day. It is a good sign," she said, moving to the sleek coffeemaker not far from her huge cherry wood desk. "You will have coffee, yes?"
"Yes," Kim said and still she found herself smiling. Charlotte's office hadn't changed noticeably. She might have obtained a few more objets d'arts, but it looked remarkably like it had looked the first day that she'd crept across the threshold, a somewhat cocky, but deep-down terrified first year resident, obligated by her program to spend time working out her own issues with a therapist before they would unleash her on the unsuspecting mentally ill.
Dozens of late afternoons spent with Charlotte, in this room, sipping tea or sometimes Campari, as the mood struck her, discussing life and God and family and death and politics. And learning more about psychiatry than she ever had on the ward, or in her classes.
Charlotte brought her a delicate tea cup and saucer filled with steaming, aromatic coffee. Kim took it and chuckled. "I've missed your Viennese roast, Charlotte. It's one of my fondest memories of my residency."
Charlotte made a noise and waved her hand at Kim, then returned to get her own cup. She was a tiny woman, but her presence filled the entire room. She was at home here, among these thick Oriental carpets and expensive antiques. Kim noticed that her chestnut coloured hair was grayer than when they'd last met, but she was, as always, perfectly coiffed and the gray just made her look wiser anyway. Today she wore a very carefully tailored skirt and jacket that were a scarlet red -- Kim figured it had probably come from her native France, partly because it fit her so well, but also because she doubted anyone over here could've pulled it off like Charlotte.
"You must come and sit," Charlotte said, patting the spot on the sofa. "We need to catch up."
Kim sat, stopping long enough to take a long sip of her coffee. She closed her eyes. Even the coffee hadn't changed.
"How is Daniel?" Kim asked.
Charlotte's smile was quick and natural. "Daniel is well. His diabetes is under control again and unless he works too hard like the old fool that he is, he is usually well. He leaves in a few days for India on a conference. An inter-faith meeting of the minds of some sort. He will be seated beside the Dalai Lama at one of the seminars and I have heard about nothing but this for weeks." She sipped her coffee daintily. "And now you must tell me who you are seeing these days."
"Why do you think I'm seeing someone?" Kim asked.
Charlotte chuckled wisely. "Because I see your face, cherie."
Kim reddened and hung her head. "Her name is Kerry. She's an ER doctor at the hospital where I work."
Charlotte's eyebrows rose as she listened. "And she is how old?"
"So she is so much the wiser than you, yes?"
Kim recognized the teasing and laughed. "She is wise about a lot of things," she said.
Kim recognized the teasing and laughed. "She is wise about a lot of things," she said.
"Ah, but not others?"
Kim took a long deep breath, thinking. "She's a little new to being gay. This is her first relationship with a woman, as far as I know."
Charlotte drank more of her coffee, nodding. "And this is causing problems for you how?"
"It took a while for me to remember what it was like not being out," she said. "I had to realize that just because I had dealt with something and was comfortable with it didn't mean that she was automatically in the same place, you know?" She regarded the saucer and cup she held. "It was hard at first -- it still is sometimes -- but I -- well, I'm very committed to this."
Charlotte's eyebrows flew up again. "Oh, such words. 'Committed.'" She leveled Kim with a look. "I would like to hear feelings, please."
Kim squirmed. "Of course I love her, Charlotte," she said. "I think that she might be the one I want to last. You know, for the long haul."
"Why?" Charlotte asked, putting her cup on the table in front of them. "Is she good in bed?"
Kim's cup rattled on her saucer.
"I know, you are thinking, always with the sex," Charlotte said, "but you and I know, Kim, that the sex is like the thermometer of the relationship. I am simply the doctor taking the temperature, do you see?"
Kim put her cup down as well, in preparation for further questions from Charlotte. "The sex is very good," she said, a slightly self-conscious smile creeping up. "Pretty much the most tender and intimate I've ever had, I think."
Charlotte sat back, lacing her hands together on her petite lap. "This is excellent. Tell me more."
"Well, as I said, this is still all kind of new to her, but she's such an incredibly attentive lover. And although she can be a little -- well, rigid, I suppose, when we're alone she's amazing, so much more free-spirited and warm and uninhibited." Kim sat up straighter. "And so compassionate. I once saw her run a trauma on a teenager who had been hit by a car in a crosswalk." She shook her head in wonder. "He was on the verge of death when they brought him in. I remember thinking, I better stick around, they might need me to talk to his parents when he dies."
"He did not die," Charlotte said.
"No. I watched Kerry work on him and it was the most incredible thing I'd ever seen. Medically, technically, and and spiritually. She was right there with him the whole time, talking to him and telling him what she was doing and that he needed to just hang on for a minute or two." Kim smiled in embarrassment at the tears springing to her eyes. "It was so moving. I think I fell in love with her all over again, right then and there."
Charlotte nodded slowly, smiling like a cat. "You are in love with the lady doctor," she said. "And so full of happiness. Yet, so sad still. And this is why you are here today."
Kim paused, eyes distant, roaming over the terrain of Charlotte's well-appointed office. "I guess so," she said. "I mean, I'm not here about Kerry, I'm here about " Her eyes searched the carpet for answers and she blew out an angry breath. "God, I'm not even sure why I'm here, really."
Charlotte said nothing, just watched her with a benign little smile.
"For the past few days, I've been treating a good friend," Kim said, leaning back into the sofa and crossing her arms. "She's having a major depressive episode -- not her first, simply her most recent. She's also a psychiatrist and well, the two times that we've talked, some of the things she's said I don't know something just resonated within me, you know? I'm not depressed, I know that but the feelings of futility and hopelessness she was expressing it scared me because I've been thinking about that a lot lately."
"About what exactly?" Charlotte asked, leaning forward.
"About the futility of my job. About the fact that I only actually help about 5% of the people who come through the door." She chuckled without any joy. "If that."
Charlotte remained silent, watching her.
Kim threw up her hands. "I don't know, Charlotte, maybe I'm here to get you to tell me what I already know. That we can't help everybody. That we can't heal everybody."
Charlotte's face was impassive. "You feel you've lost faith in your purpose?"
Kim thought for a moment. "No, not yet. Maybe I've lost faith in myself. Or maybe I'm just questioning." She shook her head in frustration. "I don't know what I'm saying. I'm probably just wasting your time."
"You think highly of my time," Charlotte said. "I wonder if you think so highly of your own."
Kim stared blankly at her. "What do you mean?"
"Tell me how you spend your time these past weeks."
Kim started slowly, reciting the schedule of regular shifts and covered shifts, stolen lunches with Kerry, staff meetings, rounds, patients and more patients, cycles through the ER and the odd passionate and soothing night at home with her lover.
Charlotte nodded again and Kim started to remember why she had once accused this dear, wise woman of acting like Yoda.
"Of all your patients, about whom do you worry the most?" Charlotte asked, getting up to fetch the carafe of coffee.
Kim sighed heavily. God. There was such a list. "Well, I guess the top two today would be the young gay man who attempted suicide and the friend whom I'm treating."
"You are afraid the gay boy is going to leave the protection of your hospital and perhaps try again to harm himself." She poured them both coffee and went to return the pot.
"Yes, that's exactly it." Kim said. She picked up her cup and sipped the strong, hot coffee. "And I'm afraid of the same thing for my friend."
Charlotte sat down and picked up her cup. "And do you think that perhaps you will become like your friend?"
Kim shrugged. "I don't think so. But I've seen enough in the time I've practiced to know that you can never rule out some things."
Charlotte sipped her coffee and turned her gaze on Kim again. "And so, is this what you are protecting Kerry from?"
Kim nearly did a double take. "What?" she asked. "What are you talking about?"
Charlotte drank her coffee in silence, watching Kim with amused eyes.
"Protecting Kerry from what?" Kim said. "I don't understand what you mean, Charlotte. Do you mean protecting her from my own crashing and burning? Because I don't think I am."
Charlotte nodded with a skeptical expression and put her cup down. "This has been very well begun," she said. "Because now I am assured that you have both the question and the answer within you. Now all that is needed is for you to find them."
Kim sighed and wondered what Charlotte was having in her coffee besides cream. "Charlotte, I'm afraid I don't understand anything you're saying."
Charlotte smiled warmly. "Kim, remember that a good psychiatrist is one who really hears what her patient is saying. But a great psychiatrist hears what they're not saying." She leaned closer, her eyes never leaving Kim's. "I am a great psychiatrist." She winked and Kim sat there, numb.
Charlotte was standing now, adjusting her tiny red jacket. "Fortunately, you are also a great psychiatrist, cherie, and you are now going to start listening to yourself. You are going to listen for what's not there."
Kim still sat on the sofa, her cup and saucer in hand. "You mean, listen to what I'm not saying?"
"Not saying, not doing, not hearing, whatever. Look for what's missing. For what you need to fill the hole."
Kim stared at her a moment longer, then numb fingers put the china on the table. She stood up and looked over at Charlotte.
"Tell Elise as you leave that you will be here again in four or five days, ca va?" She grabbed Kim's hand and patted it, then planted a kiss on either cheek. "You will be fine, my dear Kim. Think with your heart."
With that, Charlotte strode away, her expensive pumps making only a whisper of a noise on the deep carpet.
Kerry's eyes flicked back and forth between her watch and the board for what was probably the fourth time, and Luka couldn't stand it any longer.
"Kerry, is there something you're expecting to happen or what?"
The little redhead looked over at him, apparently shocked by the very sound of his voice. "I'm sorry -- did you say something Luka?"
Luka chuckled and shook his head. "You seem tense," the huge man said. "And you keep looking at your watch. Are you late for something?"
"Well, no," Kerry said. "I was -- well, I was just noticing that the board was pretty light today and that there aren't many people in chairs "
Luka waited. "And..?"
"And I thought if you could cover for me for maybe an hour, I could --"
"Fine," Luka said, pleasantly. "I'll cover for you. Go."
Kerry blinked. "Well, don't you want to know why I need to --"
"It's none of my business, and anyway, I'm sure it's important."
"Why would you say that?"
Luka turned to face her. "When's the last time you left the hospital during a shift, Kerry?"
The chief of the ER stood there, lips pursed, thinking. "Um I can't remember, actually."
"Ah," Luka said, sitting down at one of the computer terminals. "Goodbye, Kerry. Take your time."
Kerry stood there a moment longer calculating the odds that she could get the last word, then realized she'd been outplayed. "Thanks, Luka."
She scurried off to the lounge to hang up her lab coat.
Kerry pulled open the heavy glass doors to the fitness club and braced herself for the noise. It didn't come.
She made her way cautiously through the foyer, past the front desk where a young man with startling biceps nodded at her and smiled, and still there was no ear-splitting, bone-jarring, brain-pounding music screaming at her from every direction. Every other time she'd been here to pick up Kim after a shift, she's found herself assaulted by the unbelievably loud music with its frantic tempo that reminded her nothing so much as an arrhythmia. She passed the empty aerobics studio with its blonde wood floors and suddenly realized why it was so peaceful. She strode on, enjoying the clean lines of the place, the frosted and clear glass that substituted as walls.
She caught sight of her own reflection in one of the thousand mirrors that had been installed in the aerobics room and she lurched to a stop. Two women in form fitting work out clothes strolled by just then, glancing at her as they passed. Kerry stared at herself and at her crutch for a long moment. This is what Kim sees, she thought and an instant later she pushed herself on, eyes straight ahead, blocking out the mirrors around her.
She found Kim at the end of the long hall, in a huge airy room that was spotted with exercise equipment of all description. Kim sat on a fly-wheel style rowing machine, underneath a huge window. She was pulling and gliding in a perfect rhythm, her long legs bending and stretching out, her shoulders curling with the effort of pulling the handle. Her hair had been yanked into a ponytail and the few strands that had come loose were plastered to her cheek and neck. Kerry stood motionless at the door, pulling with her, straining as she did, watching the sweat pour off her. Kerry wondered what it might feel like to do that and she studied Kim's face, trying to maybe divine what she was thinking or feeling.
It wasn't what Kerry had expected and Kerry observed her for a moment longer because more than anything, Kim looked frustrated. Angry.
Kim glanced up just then and saw Kerry, standing at the window. Kim's expression changed from surprise to delight to concern, all before she could get up from the machine and grab her towel. She jogged across the room to meet her.
"What is it? Is everything all right?" Kim asked, grabbing Kerry's arm.
"Everything's fine, it's fine, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you," Kerry said. "I just wanted to tell you something and so I -- I just came over."
Kim, her cheeks flaming from the exertions, wiped her face with her towel. "Oh, okay," she said, and there was relief in her tone. "God, I thought something was wrong."
"No, nothing's wrong, really," Kerry said. "I can't be long, though. Luka is covering for me."
Kim took Kerry's arm and gently steered her towards a nearby bench. "How did you know I'd be here?" Kim asked when they sat down.
Kerry studied Kim's face, the healthy flush and the incredible glow she had. "You always come to work out in the morning when you work a late shift," Kerry said.
Kim smiled a little. "You keeping tabs on me?"
Kerry shook her head. "No. Just paying attention. Oh, here," she said, handing Kim a small paper bag. "I got you one of those orange and banana shakes you like, from that juice bar down the block. You should have some."
Kim's expression dissolved into a stupid grin. "You didn't have to do that," she said, taking out the oversized Styrofoam cup and lifting the lid to smell the shake.
"I know. I wanted to."
She watched Kim gulp down the viscous orange liquid, still smiling at her and not really knowing why.
"So what was it that you wanted to tell me?" Kim said, between drinks.
Kerry blanked for a moment and then remembered what she had intended to say.
"Romano came to see me this morning," Kerry said.
Kim rolled her eyes. "God, I hate stories that begin with that sentence."
"Apparently, the woman you treated for post-partum psychosis is married to a big shot on city council. I think the husband might be feeling embarrassed by having his wife's illness come out in such a public forum. He chewed Romano's ear off, so Romano came to chew my ear off "
"That is such bullshit," Kim said and now the colour in her face was not from exercise. "You're not my supervisor. If he had something to say, he should have talked to me, or Carl."
Kerry nodded. "I told him as much. And for all I know, he's going to drop it. I mean, clearly the woman needed to be held, so really, he hasn't got much of a leg to stand on."
Kim sighed and looked at her shake. "That doesn't stop Romano, usually."
"Yeah, I know," Kerry said. She touched Kim's hand. "I just didn't want you to walk in at three o'clock this afternoon unprepared and have him blindside you with this."
Kim nodded. "Thanks, Ker, I appreciate it." She sat on the bench, head resting against the wall, legs splayed out in front of her.
Kerry opened her mouth to speak, thought better of it and shut it again. She gathered her courage and tried again. "That isn't the only reason I came over here today, Kim," she said finally.
Kim turned to meet her gaze. "It wasn't?"
"No," Kerry said. "The truth is that well, I just wanted to see you for a few minutes."
Kim smiled. "I missed you when I woke up this morning."
"You were pretty tired," Kerry said, "I thought I'd let you sleep."
"I was pretty tired," Kim said sheepishly. "I'm sorry I missed you last night, too."
Kerry shrugged. "You needed to rest." She looked down at her hands. "I'm just kind of worried about you lately. You're working so hard and you're so tired I just .I just worry, is all."
Kim reached over and touched Kerry's cheek. "You don't have to worry. I'm fine. I've got a few extra shifts a week, I know, but I'm okay." She held up her cup and smiled. "I even have a girlfriend who brings me healthy food."
Kim's smile was not convincing Kerry to join in and she continued to study the blonde woman's face with concern. "You're sure you're all right?"
Kim nodded and took a drink of her shake. "I'm fine, Kerry. Honest."
Kerry sighed. "Well, I'd better get back," she said, getting to her feet. "Listen, my shift is over at six, how about we meet for some dinner around seven?"
"Let me see how my shift goes," Kim said. "But it sounds good."
"Okay," Kerry said and she made no move to go. Kim peered at her. "Okay," she said again and she hoisted her purse back up onto her shoulder. "I'll see you later then."
"All right, bye," Kim said and she kissed Kerry's cheek.
Kerry turned to leave, her expression still heavy with worry. She made her way down the hall, then peeked back at Kim over her shoulder. The tall, slim woman was still on the bench, bent over, elbows on her knees, staring at the floor.
Kerry's mouth pulled into a tight line and she kept walking.
Kim's door was open and the psych nurse rapped gently on the glass. "Dr. Legaspi? I've brought Michael for his appointment."
Kim looked up from her paperwork. "Thanks, Chris," she said. "Hi, Michael, come on in and have a seat."
The nurse gave Michael a pat on the back, then departed. Michael took a few steps into the room, then hesitated,
"I just have to finish this page and I'll be right with you," Kim said, her head down, writing quickly. "Oh, and there's something for you over on the coffee table. I know what the food is like in this place."
Michael approached the low table with a curious expression. Near his usual seat on Kim's small sofa, he spotted a frosty can of Coke and Hershey candy bar. He grinned as he sat down in his spot and cracked open the soda. A moment later Kim was sinking into the antique rocking chair at the end of the sofa.
"Thanks a lot, Dr. Legaspi," he said, holding up the drink. "I really appreciate this."
"Are you in your new room yet?" Kim asked, settling herself in to listen and probe.
"Yes, this morning! Thank you so much for that, too! It's really much better than sharing with Stephen." He gave a low whistle. "Nice guy, but .wow. He's got problems."
"Well, I must confess, I had an ulterior motive in getting you that new room," Kim said.
Michael waited, one finger tapping absently on his Coke can.
"Your 72 hour hold is going to be up tomorrow at five," she said. "That's the length of time that the law allows me to keep you here without your consent. Unless of course I find that you still present a clear danger to yourself."
Michael looked slightly offended. "But I'm feeling better, Dr. Legaspi, you said yourself that I --"
Kim held up a hand. "You are making some real progress, Michael and I have a really good feeling about how you're going to come through all of this." She leaned forward, elbows on her knees, hands together. "But it's early, still. Very early in fact. It's only been about 48 hours since you tried to kill yourself, Michael. Forty eight hours. That's not very long."
Michael considered her words, looking blindly at the painting that hung on the opposite wall. "No, I guess it's not." He bit his lip. "I guess I've just been feeling a little relieved, I guess. I mean, I didn't actually die and I've got somebody to talk to who really understands and and I even think I can feel the anti-depressants working a little bit." He met her warm blue gaze. "I guess I'm being a bit cocky."
Kim chuckled and sat back in her rocker. "Well, here's what I'm proposing. Tomorrow at five you are, by law, free to go. I don't think you should because I don't think you're quite ready to be out there dealing with the whole world and all those stressors quite yet. It's entirely your decision, but I want to give you my opinion, all right? I think you should check yourself in for a few more days -- just a few -- and that way, you'll have a sort of secluded place to rest, we'll be here to help with your meds and whatever you need and you and I can still talk every day."
Kim saw his sneaker tapping restlessly and knew that he was not quite over the bridge yet. She leaned forward again, caught his eye. "I just want to make sure you're strong enough before we send you back out there again."
He studied her eyes for a long moment, trying to glimpse hidden agendas or malice or pity. He could not.
"I'll think about it," he said firmly and Kim smiled and nodded. It was all she could have hoped for at this point.
"So I spoke with your parents," she said and she saw him instantly stiffen. The conversation had gone remarkably well, actually, considering that she needed to let them know that their son was in a locked psychiatric ward because he had tried to kill himself.
He watched her fearfully. "And? What did they say? How did they sound?"
"They sounded worried, mostly, which seems pretty natural. Finding out that your child has been taken to a hospital inspires pretty much the same reaction in all parents -- dread."
"Did you tell them -- I mean, do they know how I -- ?
Kim shook her head. "I didn't tell them anything that you didn't want me to -- everything you say to me is confidential. I'm only acting on your behalf."
He sank back a little on the sofa. "Okay, that's all right then." He thought for a moment. "So what did they say?"
"Well, they thanked me very much for calling them and they wanted to be reassured that you really were all right. They also asked things like, were you depressed and how had you attempted the suicide, and I told them that I couldn't discuss those things with them just yet."
Michael looked he stopped breathing for a moment. "Are they going to come?"
Kim nodded and a great sigh gushed out of him. She waited.
He ran a hand over his very short hair and stared at the ceiling. "They're coming," he said. "Oh man."
"What are you feeling, Michael?"
He shrugged, never moved his eyes from the ceiling tiles. "Relief, which is weird. Fear. Confusion."
Kim smiled. "That all sounds reassuringly normal," she said and Michael took his eyes off the ceiling and looked at her and laughed.
"You said fear. What are you afraid of?" Kim asked.
He sank back into the sofa cushions. "Nearly everything. I'm afraid that my parents are going to hate me and never want to speak to me again. I'm afraid I'll never get to see my little brother and sisters again." He stared out at the room, eyes misty and distant. "I'm afraid I'm going to be a laughingstock at school. That my friends will think I'm a freak. I'm afraid that all those preachers and ministers are right and that I'm not normal and that I'm going to hell." He looked over at her suddenly. "Do you believe in hell, Dr. Legaspi?"
Kim had to bite back her first response which was that yes, she knew there was a hell, she worked in it, every day. "If there really is a hell, Michael, I really can't imagine how someone would be sent there for loving another person."
Michael looked at her for a long time, a curious expression in his eyes.
"What?" Kim said, finally.
"You never bull shit, do you?"
Kim chuckled. "I try not to."
"I wasn't sure, at first, about you," he said. "You know, you were being nice to me and everything but I didn't know if you were .you know, real."
Kim raised an eyebrow at him. "But now you think I am?"
He chuckled. "I know you are."
"And why is that?"
"Because you try really hard to make me feel like I'm not beneath you which, given my present circumstances," he waved an arm at her office and the hospital, "would be very easy to do. Like even just taking the time to tell me that you were gay, too. That was probably such a little thing to you, but it really made me trust you and respect you." He squeezed his Coke can a little and made the aluminum creak. "You probably sat someplace one day, just like this, totally freaked out about how you were going to tell your parents that you were gay, didn't you?"
A soft smile crept to her lips. "As a matter of fact, I did."
"And how did it go?"
She shrugged. "I lived."
He nodded slowly, agreeing with something inside himself. "See, that's what I mean. You do understand."
Kim laced her hands together on her lap. "All right. So, let's talk about how we're going to handle this meeting with your folks, okay?"
Michael nodded and they began.
"Thirty seven year old female, LOC once at the scene and once in the rig, heart rate 248 --"
Kerry grabbed the portable monitor as she struggled to keep up with the gurney. "Two forty eight? Jesus," she said.
Abby craned to see the monitor as well. "Whoa, that's really fast."
Doris nodded. "I think it's a record for our rig. B.P. 85 over 40. Medic Alert bracelet listing supraventricular tachycardia."
They pulled a tight right and wheeled her into the empty trauma room. "What's with the blood on her forehead?" Kerry asked.
"Hit her head on a pencil sharpener when she fainted," Doris said.
"A pencil sharpener?" Kerry repeated. "Easy now, one, two, three."
"Yes, a pencil sharpener. She's a teacher. About fifth grade I think. Cute kids." Doris loaded the paramedic equipment back onto the gurney and headed for the door.
"What's her name?" Kerry called after her.
"Brigid. Brigid Sullivan."
"Abby, help me get the cardiac monitor on her. Then I want you to start a line and get her on some oxygen," Kerry said, lifting the head of the gurney. "Then call Medic Alert and see what medications she's on." Kerry rubbed her knuckles hard on Brigid's sternum. "Ms. Sullivan? Ms. Sullivan, wake up now, we need you to talk to us."
The woman was on the small side, not much taller than Kerry, with short dark hair and skin that was probably usually fair but today just looked pale and sickly. Kerry persisted and a moment later, the woman's eyelids flickered and opened, immediately wincing at the pain Kerry was inflicting. She squinted at the bright overhead light, then flinched as Abby inserted an IV needle. Finally, her eyes came to rest on Kerry, who was reattaching leads to her bare chest and torso. "Oh, shit, I fainted again, didn't I?"
Kerry smiled slightly. "Yes, you did, Ms. Sullivan. I'm Dr. Weaver and your heart is beating very quickly and your blood pressure is low. You fainted and the paramedics brought you here to the hospital."
The woman sighed, then glanced down at her bare breasts and belly, covered in conductive jelly and cardiac leads.
Abby caught her expression. "I'll get you a gown in just one second, okay? I just need to get you hooked up to the blood pressure monitor."
"Oh, it's okay, " Brigid said. "I know the drill. I have almost no modesty left."
"Ms. Sullivan, your bracelet says that you have SVT. Do you happen to know what kind?"
The dark haired woman nodded, putting a hand over her heart and trying to catch her breath. "Wolff-Parkinson-White," she said.
"Are you taking any medications for it?"
"No," she said, shaking her head. "My cardiologist has tried a whole bunch of them but they don't help and they just make me really sick." She sighed. "Dammit, I probably scared the shit out of the kids."
"My class. I'm a teacher at St. Michael's. I was in the middle of a math lesson and my heart started doing this, so I left the room to try those little tricks that can help stop it, you know?"
"Valsalva maneuvers?" Kerry offered, watching the read out on the ECG.
"Yeah, holding your breath and bearing down and everything. I tried it three or four times and it didn't work. So I went back to the class to call somebody from the office." She shook her head in disgust. "I must've fainted there."
Kerry ripped off the paper from the ECG. "You do realize that there is surgery for this condition. It's call an ablation and it's really very --"
"I know," she said. "My cardiologist and my HMO are currently engaged in a war over it. For some obscure reason that I can't yet understand, they won't pay for it and I'm on a really long waiting list as a result."
Kerry rolled her eyes. "All right. Well, your ECG isn't showing any signs of sliding into atrial fibrillation, so let's try stopping the arrhythmia with some drugs first."
Brigid sank back into the pillows on the gurney. "Oh, good. I hate it when we have to do the paddles."
Abby reappeared with a gown and spent a moment snapping all the blinds shut, then came to the gurney and helped Brigid to sit up. "Here, we'll just get you out those clothes and into this "
"Abby, we're going to need 6 milligrams of adnosine followed by a 12 milligram bolus. And would you get some verapamil on stand by, just in case."
"You wouldn't happen to see my glasses anywhere around, would you?" Brigid asked. "I really can't see much without them."
Kerry peered under the gurney and saw a plastic bag. She grabbed it and rooted around, finding a shoe, a wallet, a coat and a pair of eyeglasses. She handed them to Brigid, who put them on and gave both Abby and Kerry a quick once over. She slid her arm through the hole in the gown and winced. "You know, it's strange," she said, " my head doesn't usually hurt when I have these attacks."
Abby stifled a smile and helped her to step out of her jeans.
"You have a cut on your forehead," Kerry said. "When you fainted you hit your head, I think."
Brigid touched her forehead gingerly. "Goddam pencil sharpener, I bet."
Kerry smiled. "Is there someone you would like for us to call?"
"You should probably call my partner," Brigid said.
"Do you have his number?"
The slightest smile. "Her number, actually. It's in my wallet -- the emergency contact number."
Kerry dug out the wallet again, opened it and found the number in question.
"Okay, I'll go do that now," she said.
"Could you try to stress how okay I am?" Brigid said. "Because otherwise she'll nearly kill herself getting here and well, I'm already taking up one of your trauma rooms."
Kerry nodded and went to find a phone.
Twenty minutes later, Brigid was laying flat on the gurney, craning her neck to see the number on the heart monitor, knowing it was still very high.
"It hasn't gone down yet," she said to Kerry who was studying the ECG readout.
"No, the drugs didn't do anything," she said. "So, we've got one more option before we try electroconversion." Kerry raised the head of the gurney, pulled a tall stool to the side of the bed and perched on it. "Abby, could you keep an eye on her blood pressure. I'm going to try massaging the carotid artery."
Kerry placed her hands carefully on Brigid's neck, feeling for the precise spot to press. She worked the tiny patch of neck with strong fingers. "B.P.?"
"Ninety over fifty."
She kneaded Brigid's neck more, feeling the pounding pulse of her heart beneath her fingertips. "Anything?"
Abby shook her head. "B.P. 90 over 50, heart rate 251."
"Two fifty one?" Brigid asked, flicking her eyes to see Abby. "My record is 262."
"No way," Abby said, sounding somewhere between shocked and impressed.
Brigid nodded ever so slightly so as not to disturb Kerry's massage. "But I had to have the paddles that time so I'm not that excited about breaking it."
Kerry stopped just then and sat back. "It doesn't look like it's working, Brigid. I'm really sorry but I think I'm going to have to use the --"
As Kerry watched, Brigid's mouth slowly dropped open and her eyes rolled back in her head. The monitor trilled and beeped.
Kerry looked at the monitor, started. "Oh, shit," she said. "She's in a-fib."
Immediately, Abby lowered the bed and grabbed the crash paddles.
"Charge to 200, " Kerry said and Abby pulled Brigid's gown down and out of Kerry's way.
Her body jumped a little and the shrill beeping continued at its frantic pace.
"Again at two?"
"Two fifty," Kerry said. She waited for the signal, then she fired the paddles against the pale skin of Brigid's chest again.
A steady, calm beep from the monitor.
"Sinus rhythm," Abby said with a smile.
Kerry handed her back the paddles and went to the ECG and yanked off a strip of readout to study it. "All right," she said. "At least we've stopped the arrhythmia." She tossed the strip in the garbage as she headed out of the room. "Can you monitor her, Abby, and call me when she comes around. I've got to check on a couple of labs."
Abby adjusted the IV flow. "Sure thing, Dr. Weaver."
"Frank, I'm still waiting for the post films on the separated shoulder in curtain two," Kerry said, nosing around every flat surface of the admit desk.
"Well, don't look at me," Frank said, "I didn't take them."
Kerry tried to count to ten, got to three, then said, "Well, then could you please get on the phone to radiology and tell them that I really need those films and if I don't have them in the next fifteen minutes, I'm going to come down there and throttle the first person I see."
Frank had the phone in hand and was dialing. "Would you like me to use those exact words?"
"Actually, yes," she said and she logged onto the computer to check the database for drugs used in arresting arrhythmias. She glanced up when the search started and spotted a blonde mane of hair and a deep azure blouse, some distance down the hall. Kim was talking to Carter outside an exam room and, clutching her ever-present clipboard and from the look on Carter's face, dispensing some great psychiatric wisdom.
Kerry felt herself smile and wondered if that was part of how you knew when you were really in love -- that the sight of this single person doing something so utterly ordinary as talking to a colleague, could fill you with such joy and desire and gratitude that you doubted your heart could keep beating.
Kim gave Carter a little nod, then turned and started towards the admit desk. Kerry's smile grew until a beep alerted her that her search was finished. It took a few seconds to remember what the hell she'd been looking for in the first place.
"Are you Dr. Legaspi?" A tall man in his mid-thirties had intercepted Kim a few yards from the desk. He wore an extremely expensive suit and was impeccably groomed. Kerry paused, hands on the keyboard and watched.
Kim stopped, nodded somewhat cautiously. "Yes, I'm Dr. Legaspi. Can I help you?"
"Your office said you were down here," the man said, "and I just really wanted to put a face to the name."
Kim's brow furrowed. "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't know who you are," she said.
"No, I didn't think you would," the man said and Kerry heard the slight change in tone. "I'm Mark Calvecchio. You recognize that name? You should because you locked my poor wife in your goddam psych ward yesterday!"
Kim froze for the shortest second, and then Kerry saw the veneer of calm descend again over her features.
"Mr. Calvecchio, I'm sure this has been very upsetting for you. Why don't we --"
"You bet your overpaid ass that it's been upsetting for me, lady! I come home to find that my wife has gone shopping with my son and through some incredible fuck up on your part, ends up drugged out of her mind and restrained in the fucking county psych ward!"
In chairs, every set of eyes was turned to take in the spectacle and Kerry realized that nearly every set of scrubs for twenty yards had paused to stare as well.
Kim's smile remained open and unthreatening. "Mr. Calvecchio, I don't want to discuss your wife's condition here in the hall. Please come and sit --"
"My wife's condition," he said. "Yes, please tell me about my wife's condition, since you seen to know so much about her, having met her for what, ten fucking minutes?" His face was red and although Kerry couldn't see his eyes from where she sat, she had no doubt that they were wild with anger. "How dare you treat my wife like she was some piece of refuse that had crawled in here out of the gutter!"
"I understand that you're concerned about your wife's treatment. Why don't we find a place to talk?"
"Concerned? You're goddam right I'm concerned, when the mother of a young baby can walk into this hospital and be misdiagnosed so severely! I'm concerned all right!"
"It would be better if we discussed this privately," Kim said, and she started to turn in hopes of shepherding him away from this audience.
"No, we'll discuss this now!" he said and he grabbed her arm. Kim wrenched it out of his grasp and Kerry saw the muscle along her jaw tighten.
Kerry was off the stool and on her feet, grabbing for her crutch, when she felt a restraining hand on her arm. She turned and there was Luka, watching over her shoulder like some sort of gentle giant.
"Frank," Luka said. "Call security right now, because I'm going to escort Mr. Calvecchio out."
"I think you need to calm down, Mr. Calvecchio," Kim was saying.
Calvecchio laughed. "Or what? You'll shoot me full of drugs like you did to my poor wife! Jesus! What is the matter with you people? My wife is not mentally ill!"
"Neither are seventy per cent of the women who develop this condition," Kim said.
He shook his finger in Kim's face. "I'm going to start by suing you personally. And then I'm going to get your medical license. By the time I'm done with you, you ignorant bitch, you'll be lucky to get a job putting Band-Aids on skinned knees at a playground "
His eyes moved from Kim's face when Luka stepped up behind her.
"Sir," Luka said, quietly. "It's time for you to leave."
"Who the fuck are you?" Calvecchio said.
"I am Dr. Kovac. I treated your wife here in the ER. Dr. Legaspi is my colleague." Luka's voice was low and even. "Furthermore, she is a lady and you have insulted and threatened her. So, I really think it would be best if you leave now."
Calvecchio measured Luka's height against his own, quickly checked out his frame, then planted himself. "Well, I don't really care what you think," he said. "I'm here about my wife and I'm not leaving until I get the answers I want."
Luka took a breath and leaned closer to Calvecchio. "Perhaps I haven't been clear. I'm giving you the chance to leave unassisted."
"Or what? Are you going to have security throw me out? That'll look great in the lawsuit."
Luka nodded towards the hall where two large men in uniforms were approaching. "They've already been called, but I'm beginning to hope that they give me the opportunity to throw you out onto the street myself."
"And you know, even if it might look good in the lawsuit, Mr. Calvecchio, I can guarantee that it won't look good in the papers when I'm done telling the story."
The two men stared each other down for a long moment. The security guards approached Kim and one said, "Dr. Legaspi, is there a problem we can help you with?"
Kim studied Calvecchio's face. "Uh, actually, Clarence, I think we're fine. Mr. Calvecchio is just leaving."
Calvecchio looked from Kim to Luka and then back again. He straightened his jacket and tie and gave her a parting glare. "My lawyers are going to feast on your carcass," he said and he turned and strode away, back out the ambulance bay doors.
Kim nodded to the security guards who wandered away. Conversation in chairs and the curtain areas slowly started up again.
Luka turned to Kim, laying a hand on her arm. "Are you all right?" he asked.
She nodded, smiling sheepishly. "I'm fine, Luka. But thank you."
Kerry arrived, her face flushed with fury. She grabbed Kim's arm. "Are you all right?"
Kim nodded. "I'm fine, Kerry. It's fine. He was just a little out of control." She rolled her eyes. "And pretty seriously in denial."
Kerry fixed her sights on Luka. "You didn't have to step in like that, Luka. I could've handled it. You don't have to protect me from guys like that."
Luka looked down at her and a slight smile rose to his lips. "What makes you think that I was protecting you from him?" He was gone before Kerry could work it out.
Kerry peered at Kim's face, saw the full impact of the last few weeks residing there.
"Really, are you all right?" she asked, voice soft.
Kim nodded. "I'm fine."
"Listen, I'm off at six and then I've got some paperwork to do," Kerry said. "Do you think you could slip away for a late supper? Maybe around seven, seven thirty?"
"Yeah, I think I could do that," Kim said.
"All right. Well, I'll talk to you closer to that time, okay?"
"Dr. Legaspi?" a voice said.
Kim turned to see Carter helping to wheel a gurney down the hall. There was a man on it, wearing nothing but black pants. He was in four point restraint and there was blood all around his mouth. "I am Nosferatu!" he shouted, directing his comments to Doris, the paramedic, who was singularly unimpressed. "I am the undead! I will drink your blood."
Kim looked at Carter.
"This guy was attacking people in the parking lot of a department store. Apparently he bit quite a few of them." Carter looked sheepish. "I haven't examined him yet, but I have a feeling I'm going to need a psych consult."
Kim nodded. "I'll be right there," she said.
"Be afraid!" the vampire was yelling at Doris. "Be afraid! For tonight there is a full moon!"
Doris made a face. "That's werewolves, you moron!"
Kerry was noting Brigid's most recent heart rate and blood pressure on her chart when she saw a tall figure fly past the trauma room doors, then double back to peer in. The woman pushed through the doors, hardly slowing from the jog.
"Are you okay? Do you feel okay?" the woman asked. She wore jeans and a black turtleneck with a v-neck sweater and she made a beeline for the gurney where Brigid lay propped up.
"I'm fine, I'm fine, it's all right," Brigid said, opening her arms to embrace her.
The woman buried her face in Brigid's neck for a moment, then kissed her quickly on the lips and the forehead.
"You're bleeding," she said with hurt in her eyes.
Brigid nodded. "Goddam pencil sharpener."
The woman nodded knowingly, then captured Brigid's hand and searched around for the heart monitor. "Did they get it down okay?"
"Two forty eight."
"Jesus," the woman said and she ran a hand through her shoulder length hair. "That's a high one." She looked over at Kerry who was observing the interaction, pen in midair above her chart. "Did you have to shock her?"
Kerry had to give herself a little shake. "Uh, yes, we did."
The woman gave Brigid a sympathetic look. "Oh, man, I'm so sorry, honey," she said and she stroked Brigid's head, smoothing back her hair.
"'S'okay," Brigid said. "I didn't mind so much this time." She turned her head to look at Kerry. "Dr. Weaver, this is my partner, Grace Stewart," she said and Grace extended her hand to Kerry across the gurney. "She's been treating me this afternoon."
"Is she all right?" Grace asked, serious hazel eyes locked on Kerry's face.
"Uh, for now, yes. Her heart's beating like it should," Kerry said. "There was a little complication --"
Grace gave Brigid a reproachful look. "I was getting to it," Brigid said.
"She developed atrial fibrillation and we had to use electroconversion to restore sinus rhythm," Kerry said.
Grace raised an eyebrow and Kerry thought Brigid might have coloured slightly. "The good news is that Dr. Weaver says that it responded really well to the paddles," Brigid said hopefully.
Grace sighed. "You are such a train wreck, you know that?" she said, affection evident in her eyes.
"That I am," Brigid said.
"Hey, did this happen at school?"
"Oh, man you must've scared the shit out of the kids."
"I know. Sister Geronimo will no doubt have things to say to me when I go back."
"Sister Geronimo?" Kerry asked, abruptly, then silently chastised herself for having eavesdropped so obviously.
"Well, it's really Sister Saint Jerome," Brigid said, "but some of us call her Sister Geronimo." She paused. "Although never to her face." She grinned wearily.
Grace leaned down and kissed the dark haired woman on the temple. "It'll all be worth it in a few days when you get thirty two really sweet construction paper get well cards."
Brigid smiled wearily. "Yes, there is that." She squeezed Grace's hand. "Listen, Dr. Weaver says that she wants to admit me for observation tonight. Could you go home and get some stuff for me?"
Grace's eyes flicked over to Kerry, who immediately tried to pretend she hadn't been watching the couple. "Keep her overnight? They don't usually keep her overnight."
Kerry tapped her pen on the chart. "She doesn't usually go into a-fib. It's worth watching."
"Oh," Grace said. "Okay. I'll go get your pajamas and toothbrush and stuff." She sighed. "This really sucks. I wish we could just get that operation for you."
"I know," Brigid said, patting Grace's hand. "But I'm okay. Don't worry. Just go get my things and take care of the dogs, okay?"
Another sigh. "Okay." The tall woman bent and gave Brigid a soft kiss. "I love you," she said.
Brigid smiled. "Love you, too. Don't drive like a maniac."
Grace grinned sheepishly. "Thanks, Dr. Weaver. For everything."
Kerry nodded. "My pleasure." She watched the woman head out through the trauma room doors, then peeked at Brigid's expression.
Abby had set up a sterile cloth across most of Brigid's forehead, Kerry had numbed the area around the pencil sharpener gash and was meticulously stitching it shut. Brigid lay on the gurney, propped into a sitting position, trying to stay still, the sound of her slow, steady heartbeat filling the trauma room.
"Could I ask you something?" Kerry said.
"How long have you and your partner been together?"
"Almost eight years," Brigid said, a little smile creeping up. "Next month is our anniversary, actually."
"That's great," Kerry said. "A lot of couples have a hard time staying together even a year or two."
"Yeah, especially gay couples," Brigid said. "I think that gay couples have a lot more stresses to handle than straight couples. Plus there's the fact that most of us grew up without any good role models to help us learn how to be in a relationship, gay or otherwise."
Kerry nodded, her gloved hands automatically stitching, knotting, cutting.
"May I ask what Grace does for a living?"
"She's a writer. She writes mysteries." Brigid looked thoughtful for a moment. "They're really quite good, actually. She's very talented."
"How did you two meet?"
Brigid chuckled. "We're kind of a lesbian stereotype. We met at a softball game." Brigid turned a little to look at Kerry. "There's this stereotype -- largely true in my experience -- that all lesbians play softball. As it happens, we both did and we met that way."
Kerry processed then nodded and said, "Oh, I see, that's one of those --" She stopped abruptly.
Brigid frowned. "One of those what?"
Kerry coloured a little and repositioned the sterile cloth. "I, uh -- I sometimes don't catch on to those sorts of lesbian in-jokes."
Brigid studied Kerry carefully. "I hope you don't mind me asking, but are you gay?"
Kerry went rigid but kept on stitching. She willed her shoulders to relax. "Yes, actually, I am."
Brigid pulled up the corner of the cloth to look Kerry in the face. "That's great," she said with a smile. "It's always so nice to meet other gay people."
Kerry let out a breath while Brigid repositioned the sterile drape. "Yeah, it can feel kind of isolating," Kerry said, retrieving the needle and silk.
"Yeah, that was the hardest part for me, I think, before I started meeting other lesbians and making friends in the community."
Kerry glanced down at Brigid, then stared at her shrinking gash. "Did you find that there was any sort of pressure to conform?"
"Conform to what?"
"To the stereotype. To the community."
Brigid waved a hand. "Oh, God, no. You just sort of find people who have similar interests to your own. Gracie has all these golfing pals who are lesbians and I have a bunch of friends who are starting a wine and book club. Everybody is just who they are." Brigid sat quietly while Kerry digested this.
"I couldn't help but notice, " Kerry said, "you mentioned that you teach in a Catholic school."
Brigid chuckled. "Yeah. Makes my life sound pretty complicated, doesn't it?"
Kerry raised an eyebrow as she sewed. "Yeah, a little."
"It's not really. I love to teach and that school was having a really hard time keeping teachers. It's inner city, the pay's not great and a few years ago, one of the teenagers knifed a teacher, so there's not exactly a line up of teachers dying to get in."
"So you work there because "
"Because I'm good with the bad characters. Because they need me. And because even though the Catholic Church is a fatally flawed institution that I have little to no respect for, I think it's crucial to help children develop spiritually." She scratched her nose carefully. "In the public system, you can't talk about God. At least at St. Mike's I can do that."
Kerry tied off another stitch and cut it and found herself wishing that she'd had this woman as her fifth grade teacher.
"But what if they found out you were gay?" Kerry asked. "Wouldn't they fire you?"
"Probably, but I think a lot of people there must already know. I don't talk about Gracie much but people see us together sometimes and we're not actively hiding anything." She turned to look at Kerry. "I'm at the point in my life where I'm not going to let a few small minded individuals tell me how to live my life."
Kerry stared at her, her mind reeling. "But what if you lost your job?"
Brigid shrugged. "Then I'd find another one somewhere else. There are always lots of kids who need a good teacher." She smiled. "And someday, maybe I'll be able to walk into a classroom anywhere and the fact that I'm gay won't even cross anybody's mind."
Kerry nodded numbly. "I hope so," she said.
Kim stopped in the door to the dining room, her coat still on, and took in the neatly stacked piles of paperwork, the glass of wine and Kerry's odd smile.
"I'm so sorry," Kim said. "I really wanted to meet you for dinner."
Kerry took her glasses off and put them down on the table. "It's all right, Kim, I understand." She slipped her arm through the cuff on her crutch and got up.
"It was well, crazy for lack of a better word and the only other attending who was scheduled called in sick."
Kerry made her way around the table, listening and nodding. Kim leaned down and kissed her as she passed by. "I felt terrible canceling on you, Ker. I really am sorry."
Kerry stopped, half way across the kitchen and fixed Kim with a stare. "It's all right, Kim. Really." She got a wine glass and a soup bowl down out of the cupboard and placed them both on the counter. "Take your coat off and have a seat. I made some of that lentil soup you like."
Kim stood there, exhaustion hammering at every nerve in her body and smiled. Of course she'd made her soup. She got rid of her coat, shoes and briefcase and when she came back there was a glass of a rich red wine and a bowl of steaming soup on the island. She pulled up a stool and breathed in the garlic and spice of the hot soup.
She heard Kerry making her way up the stairs, moving slowly and deliberately as always and then she heard the soft clanking of the house's ancient plumbing and she smiled. Kerry was pouring her a bath.
Kim ate the soup slowly, savoring every spoonful and sipped at her wine, letting it all nibble away at the knot of stress inside her.
A few minutes later, the water stopped running upstairs and Kerry was back in the kitchen, searching for her own wineglass.
"You didn't have to do all this," Kim said and she knew how lame it sounded even before it was out of her mouth. Kerry mercifully ignored the comment and doubled back to the dining room to fetch her wine. When she returned, she topped up her own glass, then lifted herself onto a stool and looked at Kim.
"So, do you want to talk about it?" Kerry asked.
Kim poked at her soup with her spoon. "About what?"
Kerry shrugged. "Your day, Carl, your pathetic vampire, Mr. Calvecchio anything."
Kim sighed wearily and put the spoon down, too tired to be hungry anymore. "Yeah, it was quite a day."
Kim picked up her wineglass. "Just sick enough that she should be hospitalized and just well enough that she won't let me."
Kerry pursed her lips and nodded. "I'm sorry about that, Kim. I know it must be weighing on you terribly."
Kim nodded without much conviction.
"And that scene with that ass Calvecchio couldn't have helped much," Kerry said. "I'm almost certain that Romano had something to do with him showing up in the ER."
Kim rolled her eyes. "I was half expecting it after what Carl said, so --"
Kerry's glass stopped half-way to her mouth. "After Carl said what? What did Carl say?"
Kim sensed the blip on her radar but couldn't identify the disturbance. "The other day when he warned me about Romano, that he was --" Her words faded as the expression on Kerry's face intensified.
"You didn't tell me that Carl had warned you about anything," Kerry said and her voice was quiet and wounded. "When did he talk to you about this?"
Kim's eyes never left Kerry's face. "A couple days ago, I think. It wasn't a big deal, Kerry, it was just --"
"Well, if it wasn't a big deal, why didn't you tell me about it?"
Kim's shoulders sagged and she chuckled but there was no mirth in it. "Because it wasn't a big deal." Kim leaned forward and peered at Kerry. "Kerry, what is this really about?"
Kerry sat ramrod straight and took a quick sip of her wine. "Well, it's about the fact that you heard something about that diseased little man being out to get you and you didn't bother to even tell me about it."
"But it wasn't important," Kim said, "I didn't really think it mattered that much."
Kerry's gaze pinned her to her chair with its intensity. "It concerned you, Kim. That means it matters to me. Very much."
Kim sighed and studied Kerry's face. "I'm sorry," she said. "I had no idea that this would upset you. I never meant to do that."
Kerry looked intently at her wineglass and said nothing.
Kim put both elbows on the counter and rested her head in her hands. Short of developing an advanced case of rectal cancer before midnight, this day just couldn't get much worse.
"Kim, I want to ask you something and I want you to be completely honest with me," Kerry said.
Kim looked up. "Of course," she said.
Kerry tried to make herself relax before she spoke. "Have I said anything or done anything lately to upset you? Anything at all?"
Kim felt her heart drop into her half-empty stomach and she suddenly wanted to cry. She got off her stool and crossed the two steps to where Kerry sat, and took her in her arms without a word. She felt Kerry's arms slip hesitantly around her.
Kim kissed the top of her head and then rested her cheek on her soft red hair. "Of course not. That's ridiculous."
Kerry held on tightly to the tall woman, her heart tripping over itself with fear and desire. "I just thought that -- that maybe I was staying here too much or that maybe you just needed some time alone to --"
Kim straightened up and held her at arm's length. "How can you say that?" she asked and the tears were close now. "How can you even think that?"
Kerry looked at her lap. "You've just seemed so distant lately and you're so tired all the time I just thought maybe you needed some time away from me."
Kim caressed Kerry's cheek, then bent and kissed her. She straightened again. "The biggest problem I've had for the past month is that I haven't had enough time with you, Kerry."
Kerry measured the look in Kim's eyes and Kim could see that she was only partly convinced. Kim took Kerry's hand and kissed her fingers. "I love you, Ker. And even though I haven't done a great job of showing it lately, I do want you right here with me."
Kerry's eyes were riveted to Kim's face, searching, reading, questioning. Kim felt her gaze like a blow.
"Hey," Kim said, leaning close to Kerry, her lips by the smaller woman's ear. "Want to come have a bath with me?"
Kerry's smile was slow but genuine. "Yeah," she said. "I do."
Kim held her hand while she slipped off the stool and found her crutch. They headed slowly towards the stairs, hand in hand.
Kim slipped out of the exam room and had to physically restrain herself from banging her head on the wall. Of all the neuroses and perverted thought patterns she had to deal with, there was none as sad or as frustrating as the "he-beats-me-but-he-loves-me" song and dance. Almost an hour of it from this most recent battered woman, Amy Walker, who had sat there on the bed, her three children sitting in the corner as still as proverbial church mice, and told Kim that her husband hadn't hurt her, the bathroom door had.
Which was a novel way to explain three broken ribs, a dislocated jaw, two black eyes and welts on your back. But hey, denial was a powerful thing.
Kim had tried her usual approaches. There are places where you can be safe. One of these times, he's going to go too far. Lots of women leave these situations and with a little counseling and support, build wonderful new lives. None of it had gotten past the fragile barrier that she kept in place, all the while peering at her through the one eye which was not completely swollen shut. Apparently the Walkers had one hell of a nasty bathroom door.
She'd even gone for the "think of your children" pitch. Two little girls and a boy, wearing not quite enough clothes for the season and looking terrified, although at home somehow in an ER exam room.
But her words fell on deaf ears. With a sad smile at Mrs. Walker and her children, Kim had left to chat with Mr. Walker, presumably the owner of the bathroom door, at Mark Greene's request. She knew where Mark wanted to go with it and also knew that it was futile, but she sat down with the head of the Walker household for almost a half an hour. He was a two-dimensional cardboard cut-out perfect husband and father, expressing nothing but concern and love for the woman who appeared to serve as his personal punching bag. But, she'd tried.
Mark was at the admit desk and Kim slipped in beside him.
"How'd it go?" Mark asked.
"Pretty much what you'd expect," Kim sighed. "Mom denies Dad hits her, kids toe the party line and Dad is oh, so concerned. Nobody's talking."
"Did you tell her about the shelters --"
"--and the support groups and the outpatient counseling we do here," Kim said. "I even let her know that if she so much as nodded her consent, I could have her admitted to psych on a hold where she'd be safe."
"No deal, huh?"
"No deal, huh?"
"Didn't want to even hear about it."
Mark threw his pen down onto the desk. "Goddammit, there's got to be some way to get her out of there."
"As physician of record, you can call the police and child services," Kim said.
"Yeah and they'll give the police the same story they gave you and that'll be the end of that." Mark rubbed his forehead. "Isn't there something you can cook up to put a hold on that guy?"
Kim frowned. "Mark, I can't just manufacture psychiatric symptoms so that we can lock this guy up."
"I'm not asking you to make anything up. I just think there must be something you can nail him on."
"Okay, first, I don't nail people. I'm not the police," Kim said, "and second, although he's a really cruel son of a bitch who beats his wife, he's alert and oriented to time and place, he passed a mental status exam and he doesn't appear to be posing a threat to himself or others."
"But you and I both know he is a threat."
"Unfortunately, Mark, I can't diagnose on what I think might be true."
Mark shook his head in disgust. "So there's nothing you can do," he said and the tone of his voice made Kim's back straighten ever so slightly.
"Mark, I would really love to be able to keep this guy from beating his wife to a bloody pulp tonight, but unfortunately the DSM doesn't recognize 'testosterone-filled asshole' as a psychiatric disorder!"
She pushed the chart at him and he took it and strode away, muttering under his breath.
Kim took a long slow breath and leaned against the admit desk to pull herself together. A movement out of the corner of her eye and there was Randi. "Don't worry about it, Dr. Legaspi. He's been premenstrual ever since they took that thing out of his head." She hurried off to grab a phone.
Kim sighed and resisted the urge to look at her watch and count the hours until the end of her shift.
Kerry leaned down to pick up a dropped blood work order form and saw the glossy magazines, some as thick as catalogues, stuffed into a small shelf below the phones at the admit desk. She grabbed the one on top and looked at the cover, then quickly flipped through it, skimming it for pictures of women wearing up to the minute clothes, make up and hairstyles.
"Randi," she said to the clerk who was sorting files nearby," are these magazines yours?"
Randi stopped chewing her gum and stared at Kerry. "If it's okay that I keep them here at the desk for times when it's not busy, then yes, they're mine." She chewed her gum a few times, then stopped again. "And if that's not okay, then I'm pretty sure they're Malucci's."
Kerry suppressed a chuckle. "You're not in trouble. I just wondered if these belonged to you."
Randi moved closer, peered over Kerry's shoulder at the layout on the page and said, "Oh, see, that jacket there, it would look so perfect with your hair." She chewed and snapped. "Well, if we fixed your hair up, just a little."
Kerry peered over her shoulder at her. "You think I need to fix my hair up?"
Randi tapped her foot and crossed her arms. "The colour works for you, totally. It just needs a little "
Kerry waited, eyes wide. "A little what?"
"I'm thinking a body perm to start, but something soft you know, not the poodle look, a little layering, here and here." She waved her hands around parts of Kerry's head. "And that would work. I can give you the name of a great hairstylist if you want it."
Kerry stood motionless. "You're pretty good at this, aren't you?"
Randi shrugged. "It's an art. I'm an artist."
"What about clothes and things?" Kerry asked. "I mean, you can tell what clothes would suit a person, right?"
Randi's eyes narrowed. "Dr. Weaver, are you thinking of doing a makeover?"
Kerry felt the colour rising up the back of her neck. "Well, no, not really, I was just thinking that maybe--"
"You don't want that one," Randi said, pulling the magazine out of Kerry's hands. "You want this one." She handed Kerry another glossy catalogue. "Look at the spread on sweaters. Now, personally, I wouldn't be caught dead in them, but then again that's not my style."
"Could you tell what a good style for me would be?" Kerry asked, paging through the magazine.
Randi planted a hand on her hip. "Dr. Weaver, trust me. You know stethoscopes and those little tubes you stick down people's throats, and I know fashion." She grabbed the magazine from Kerry's hands. "Now, your problem is that you dress like you're trying to make yourself invisible. Well, that and librarian-chic is way over, you know what I'm saying? First thing, we weed all the beige out of your closet and we work with your hair. Bright colours with depth will complement your hair and bring out your eyes. Then, with the right blouse colours you can get some suits and pants in neutrals -- but not beige -- that will pull everything together." She stopped leafing through the magazine long enough to look at Kerry. "Oh, and the granny chain for your glasses --" She shook her head. "The glasses are good but the chain says 'Hi there, I'm on social security.'"
Kerry's mouth was agape and she stood there, trying to take in everything Randi was saying.
"You know what else would be good for you?" Randi said, pointing at Kerry. "If we got you some blouses that were more lower cut. Not slutty or anything, just enough to remind everybody that there's a woman under that lab coat. And I always say, if a person has a great rack, they should show it off."
Kerry sat down on the stool and stared.
"Now, shoes. I think what you are looking for is suede and lots of it "
"Hey, shouldn't you be off?" Kim asked as she rounded the corner of the admit desk.
"I am off," Kerry said, writing her name on the board in white pencil. "I also happen to be still seeing patients."
"Well, that's too bad because I have to cover another half shift tonight and I was here to ask you if you wanted to head over to Doc's and have supper with me." Kerry turned and looked at Kim, a half-smile on her lips. Kim shrugged and looked apologetic. "I thought we could try again."
Kerry nodded. "I think I can sneak away for a bit. Give me ten minutes, okay?"
Kim nodded. "Okay," she said. She leaned against the counter, surveying the action in chairs.
"Hey, Dr. Legaspi," Frank said. "You haven't given me your picks for this week's football pool."
"I totally forgot, Frank," she said. "Is it too late?"
"No," the stocky man said. "But given the way you've been cleaning up, maybe we shouldn't let you in for a while. How many weeks have you won now?"
Kim grinned. "Four."
Kerry pulled up beside Frank, slapped a chart down and started writing.
"Four," he repeated shaking his head. "I'll be damned. I never would have taken you for such a football expert, Dr. Legaspi." He looked around, then leaned closer to her. "Tell me how you do it."
Kim smiled. "I have a system."
Frank's eyes widened a little. "Oh yeah? Do you use the predictions from the odds makers?"
Kim shook her head.
"Is it some mathematical thing, like with the statistics of the team?"
Kim shook her head again.
"Well, what is it?" he asked, in a conspiratorial tone.
Kerry looked up from her chart. "Every week she takes the list of the teams playing and she finds out the colour of each team's jersey. Then she picks the colour she likes best."
Frank looked from Kim to Kerry and back again, mouth open. "You're kidding me, right?"
"Afraid not, Frank," Kim said. "That's my system."
He stared at her a moment longer, then gathered up his charts and papers and stomped away.
A gurney slammed through the ambulance bay doors. Kerry glanced around and saw no white coats.
"What have you got?" she said, rushing to meet the stretcher.
"Twenty eight year old female, LOC at the site, multiple injuries inflicted with a baseball bat --"
"Oh, my God," Kerry said, "there's gray matter in her hair"
"-- blunt force trauma to abdomen, legs, arms and head. Heart rate is sixty seven, blood pressure eighty five over fifty, intubated in the field."
"Do you know her name?"
"Her name is Amy Walker."
Kim's heart leaped into her throat. She trotted down the hall after the gurney. By the time she got to the trauma room door, Kerry and Haleh were in motion, hooking the blood soaked body up to machines and tubes. Chuney pushed past Kim and she heard Kerry holler for an amp of epi. Kim stood there, watching the elaborate ballet of people moving around Amy Walker's broken body, then took a few steps back. She leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes.
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