“Dad,” Kirkland mumbled, his voice raspy and strained from having a tube inserted down his throat during surgery. He struggled to open his eyes for the second time roughly an hour after he’d initially attempted – and failed – at the feat.
In the meantime, Jamie had managed to convince Grant, who could barely keep his own eyes open – or focused – to go home and sleep; Jamie would keep him updated on Kirkland’s progress. Grant attempted to protest the banishment, but it was rather hard to deny being unwell when he needed Jamie’s help remaining upright.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Kirkland croaked, attempting to push himself up to a sitting position, but only getting as far as bending his elbows beneath him and raising his head, neck and shoulders, before vomiting everything he’d eaten prior to the accident.
“Sorry,” he gagged, as Jamie quickly and efficiently cleaned up both Kirk and the soiled sheets, dumping them in the disposal container, and reaching for a set of new ones.
“Don’t worry about it. Not the first time I’ve been thrown up on. Certainly not the first time I’ve been thrown up on by you.” Jamie recalled while laying down a fresh sheet, “Was it second grade you had the stomach flu three times in one winter?”
“Yeah. That sucked.”
“This is just your body reacting to the anesthesia and blood loss.”
Kirkland said, “Charlie. She was in the car, too…”
“She’s fine,” Jamie reassured. “Thrown clear, only got a few bumps and bruises, from what I understand.”
“What about me? You said… surgery?”
“Yeah,” Jamie tried his best to continue sounding off-handed. “You were bleeding a lot, so we had to remove your spleen. You’re going to be fine, though, Kirk. I promise.”
“Did I see… Did I see Grant in here before?”
“Where’d he go?
“He wasn’t feeling well himself. He went home to rest. He’ll be back. He donated a lot more blood than could be considered advisable. Your dad saved your life.”
Kirkland hesitated, laying back down, already exhausted. He said, “I think that’s the first time you’ve ever called Grant my dad.”
“I think it’s the first time he’s ever deserved it.”
“How much longer will Charlie need to stay in the hospital?” Sharlene asked Frankie after visiting her great-niece and leaving Charlie with enough fashion magazines to keep any teen from dwelling on her solitary predicament.
“Maybe another day or two. Cass is actually working those details out with the insurance company now. We’ll see what we’re allowed.”
“She seems in good spirits.”
“She’s been doing much better ever since we heard that Kirkland is going to be alright.”
“Thank goodness. I’m so happy for Jamie. And for you and Cass.”
“It isn’t fair, is it? Our children being well, and yours…”
“Don’t, Frankie. Stop. Please. I can’t… I won’t.”
“I’m sorry,” she quickly backtracked. “I didn’t mean to upset you, it’s just that, I didn’t want to seem insensitive or ever forget what – “
“John came to see me earlier,” Sharlene cut Frankie off.
“He did? What for?”
“To say Happy New Year. And to tell me that he’d finally decided to move forward with his life again, after Gregory’s death.”
“What does that mean?” Frankie asked cautiously. If the news was good, Sharlene certainly didn’t seem to be acting like it.
“It means that he’s decided to go chase Donna again like the lovesick teenager he once was, and he wanted to make sure I was okay with it. Not in so many words. But, that was the gist of it.”
“And are you?” Frankie wondered. “Okay…”
“John and I breaking up was my fault,” Sharlene said. “Well, the first time, anyway. And ultimately, Felicia was merely a symptom of other issues we had between us. John had every right to walk away from me. I even encouraged him to some extent. But, I never gave up hope, either. I guess, maybe there was a part of me – a part I didn’t know about, or was afraid to acknowledge; that sounds like me doesn’t it? A part that thought – irrationally, ridiculously, selfishly – that if I had to lose Gregory, didn’t the universe… didn’t it owe me one? If some higher power, or fate, or whatever you’d call it, if it was going to take away my son, didn’t I deserve to get John back in return?”
“Did you ever tell John that?”
“How could I? I only realized it myself this morning. When he made it clear that was now impossible.”
“Nothing is impossible,” Frankie rebutted instinctively. “Look at Cass and I. I’m sure he thought my coming back to him was impossible. Us surviving his going to jail was supposed to be impossible, but we proved them wrong.”
“Most of us aren’t blessed by the cosmos, Frankie, like you are.”
“Have you asked the cosmos for its blessing?”
“Please,” Sharlene scoffed. She was happy to humor her niece. But, only up to a point.
“If you live your life as if there was no possibility of failing to get what you want, how could the outcome be anything else?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because John also has a say in the matter?”
“And so does Donna,” Frankie said. Smiling. Planning.
“Where’s Devon?” Lorna asked her mother, pausing at the door, taking an extra long time to remove her coat, scarf, and boots; anything to keep from needing to address Felicia directly.
“Napping in her crib,” Felicia reported. “We had a lovely time together. She’s a very sweet-natured little girl.”
“She gets it from Jamie,” Lorna guessed. “How about Michele and Bridget, where are they?”
“Donna came to pick them up earlier.”
“Donna came here?”
Lorna looked around. “I see the house is still standing.”
“It was a family emergency. I posses the ability to rise above my personal grievances when there is a greater good at stake.”
“What’s the latest with Kirkland?”
“He’s going to be okay,” Lorna exhaled with relief. “Surgery, blood transfusion… but he’s going to be okay.”
“Jamie must be ecstatic.”
“We both are.”
“Of course. I didn’t mean – “
“Thank you for watching, Devon,” Lorna said. “I guess Sarah had… other concerns.”
“She called me,” Felicia reminded, wanting to make that aspect crystal clear. Felicia hadn’t forced her way into anything.
“She didn’t know.”
“That I was currently persona non-grata around here?”
Lorna considered her options in replying, before settling for a curt, definitive, “Yes.”
Felicia accepted the rebuke in the spirit that it had been given. “So that’s how it’s going to be, is it, Lorna?”
“Nothing has changed,” her daughter reminded. “I still look at you and see the woman who tried to get rid of my baby. You tried to do to me, exactly what your stepfather did to you.”
Felicia opened her mouth, about to argue for the umpteenth time that the comparison was grotesque, that her motives, not to mention her feelings and circumstances, were utterly different… when she abruptly changed her mind and reached for her purse, tossing it over one shoulder and striding towards the front door.
“Put a sock in it, Lorna,” she snapped at her daughter. “I am done – do you hear me? I. Am. Done being used as a punching bag. By you. And by your father. If the two of you are incapable of recognizing just how much I love you, the lengths I was willing to go for you, the abuse I was willing to take in order to get back into your respective good graces, then to hell with you. To hell with you both.”
“I’ve missed you,” Donna burrowed her face into Matt’s chest, despite having last seen him less than twelve hours earlier. She swept him into the Love library, closing the doors behind them to keep prying eyes away. “What a wonderful surprise, twice in one day!”
“I’ve got to get going soon,” Matt apologized.
“Come and go,” Donna cooed suggestively. “Sounds lovely.”
He smiled in spite of himself – Donna did have that definite effect on him – even as Matt tried to explain, “I only came by to tell you that I – I talked to Jeanne, and I think… I think we need a change of strategy where she’s concerned.”
That certainly got Donna’s attention. And not in a good way. Her eyes narrowed. “What precisely is that supposed to mean, Matthew?”
“It means… It means, I think I have an idea for how I can break up with her, and come back to you – “
“Sounds good so far.”
“Without anyone getting hurt.”
“Now it doesn’t.”
“Why not? What’s wrong with making things as easy as possible?”
“Well, to begin with, I find it downright impossible to conjure up a scenario wherein both Ms. Ewing and I end up equally content with our respective outcomes. You are quite the specimen of manhood, Matthew, but I regret to say, there is, alas, not enough of you to go around. And, quite frankly, even if there were, I should still insist on keeping you all to myself. I thought I made my position quite clear in that regard.”
“I want that too,” he swore.
“Then what are we even discussing?”
“We are discussing the possibility that our being together doesn’t require Jeanne’s utter destruction.”
“But, that was the part I was looking forward to most!” Donna trilled, just before the look on Matt’s face forced her to add a gay, “Just joking, darling. You know I was just joking.”
Matt said, “Jeanne isn’t a bad person.”
“I beg to differ.”
“Come on, Donna,” Matt pleaded, unable to win her over through logic, he fell back on the only other skill at his disposal – cajoling. “Listen to me, please.”
“Just as soon as you commence making sense.”
“Okay, well then, how’s this for sense? We want to be together, right?”
“Without a doubt.”
“Well, then, don’t you think we have a better chance of living happily ever after with a minimum of drama if Jeanne and I have a nice, clean, quick, amiable split, rather than some long, drawn out, acrimonious battle to the death?”
“Naturally. But, Ms. Ewing has made it crystal clear that her talons are in you for the long haul.”
“Not necessarily. I think I can get Jeanne to grant me a divorce by – by being nice to her.”
“That certainly would be a break from tradition.”
“I think I can convince her that it would be best for both of us to go our separate ways. We could even remain friends.”
“With the woman who blackmailed you into marriage?”
“Damn it, Donna,” he sputtered. “Less than a day ago the two of us sat right here, talking about how the things you’ve done don’t necessarily define who you are, and how I should be willing to overlook your transgressions towards my family because your intentions – if not your methods – were pure. Well, if that holds true for you, why shouldn’t it hold for Jeanne, too?”
“Because I am your wife, Matthew.”
“So is she,” he reminded.
“Come in,” Alice responded to the knock on her office door, looking up to recognize, “Lucas!”
“I’m sorry.” He appeared unsure of whether or not to actually heed her command. “I came to check on Kirkland, but I can’t seem to find anyone.”
“Jamie is in ICU with Kirk, and Lorna went home.”
“How’s he doing?”
“As well as can be expected. We’re all very optimistic about his recovery, though.”
“Good. Good. Great.” Lucas confessed, “You know, I keep remembering Jamie a year ago in this exact same hospital with Lorna…”
“I’ve no doubt he remembers it, too. But, that had a happy ending. And so will this.”
“Well, a happy ending for some,” Lucas qualified.
“I’m sorry,” Alice demurred. “That was unbelievably insensitive of me.”
He smiled ruefully to let her off the hook. “No worse than my barging in on you like this. Despite your graciousness at Thanksgiving, I doubt I’m someone you particularly want to see all that much of.”
“Kirkland needs all the friends he can get,” Alice said. “So do Lorna and Jamie. The situation with Rachel and Felicia… neither one of them is happy about it. I’m glad they still have you.”
“And you,” Lucas reminded.
“I’ve spent enough of my life trying to fill Rachel’s shoes. I think I’ll sit this one out. No matter how honored I am to be Devon’s godmother, that doesn’t – and never should – replace a grandmother.”
“Well, maybe things will still work out for the best. You never know. Time does have a way of making the improbable seem at least possible again.”
“But, that’s just it, isn’t it?” Alice sighed. “The main problem with that scenario is that none of us know precisely how much time any of us have left.”
“Jamie is full of it, like usual. All that crap about me needing rest. He just wanted to get me away from Kirkland,” Grant mumbled, even as Sarah was forced to drive his car home, help Grant up the stairs with her shoulder beneath his arm, and maneuver him into his bedroom where, despite her cajoling, he preferred to collapse in an armchair, refusing to get into bed.
“Okay,” Sarah sighed. “If you’re not going to listen to doctors’ orders – “
“Jamie’s a quack. I don’t even think he went to medical school. The way I hear it, he was a novelist,” Grant extended his fingers in air-quotes. “Then he leaves town, comes back barely a few months later, and suddenly he’s a doctor. This town will believe anything. As long as it’s not a Harrison doing the telling.”
“Then you leave me no choice,” Sarah picked up her thought as soon as Grant finished talking. Or rather, ran out of energy to continue.
“What?” he asked, alarmed by her serious tone.
In lieu of an answer, Sarah proceeded to strip, peeling off her jeans, sweater, bra and panties until she stood in front of Grant completely nude.
Despite his weakened state, he couldn’t help grasping out to touch her – it was an honed instinct really; Grant suspected he’d still have it after he was dead. Only to have Sarah take a step back and out of reach, smiling as she climbed into bed, tucking the covers primly around herself.
“Come and get it,” Sarah made Grant an offer she suspected he wouldn’t be able to refuse.
She was, admittedly, a bit surprised when he burst out laughing – albeit feebly – in response.
“Sarah…” Grant would have shaken his head if the action didn’t guarantee stomach-churning dizziness. He stood up slowly, shakily, reminding her, “I’ve got maybe a pint of blood left in my entire body, rushing around, trying to keep all the major organ systems from shutting down.”
“Well, in that case,” she held out her arms, catching Grant as he all but tumbled into them. “We’d better make sure it flows where it might do the most good.”
Grant groaned in response, giving in to her completely, allowing Sarah to patiently undress him and to straddle him, her hair falling over Sarah’s shoulder and trailing down his chest as her lips and her tongue and her fingers seemed to be everywhere at once.
He didn’t think he’d be able to respond. Hell, a few minutes ago erecting a complete sentence had seemed beyond his capabilities. But, damned if Sarah didn’t bring out the best in him – in every way possible.
Whenever she looked at him, she smiled. Prompting Grant to do the same, not just with his face, but with seemingly everything there was to him, as well. Even when he could barely feel his extremities, he could still feel her. Even while Grant’s head spun and his vision blurred, he could still see Sarah, without so much as needing to look.
He wasn’t sure how long they lay there together, wrapped in each other so tightly Grant could no longer tell where his heartbeat ended and hers began.
All he knew was that, eventually, Sarah rolled away, slipping out of bed, grabbing his shirt, throwing it over herself and heading for the door.
She told Grant, “I’m going to check out the kitchen, see if you have anything bland and edible.”
“I don’t do bland,” he objected.
“You will today. The tech said you might feel queasy for a while yet, so I’m thinking BRAT diet only: Bananas, rice, applesauce, toast…”
“I’m not an infant,” Grant said lightly. “Or an octogenarian,” he added with a bit more edge.
“Please, what do you think all of BCU lives on after a wild party?” Sarah fished her phone out of her jeans, scrolled for messages, and continued, “I’ll call Jamie, check on Kirk, find out when he thinks would be a good time for you to come see him again. Sit tight. I’ll be right back.”
“Sarah!” Grant called abruptly, the urgency in his voice surprising them both.
“What? What’s wrong?” she paused at the door.
“I… Why – Why are you doing all this for me?”
She looked at Grant as if he were out of his mind – but Sarah was willing to forgive him just this one time; he had been through a lot today. “Because,” to her, it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I love you.”
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