Kerry heard Luka slip out of the house and close the door. He settled his frame into a lawn chair and gazed out at the early evening sky for a few moments.
"Kim says that dinner will be in about an hour and also that if you want some more pain medication, she can send it out."
Kerry chuckled, never taking her eyes off the horizon. "I'm fine," she said.
"She takes very good care of you," Luka remarked.
Kerry looked at her lap, suddenly. "Yes, she does," she said.
Luka noted the change in her and decided to let it go. For now, anyway. "It's going to be a beautiful sunset," he said.
Kerry nodded. "I've been watching it every night since we've come up here and I don't seem to get tired of it."
Luka looked around, saw what he was looking for and stood up. He grabbed the blanket that Kim had left for Kerry in case she got cool and he jogged across the deck and down towards the shore, where he laid it out, carefully smoothing down all the corners.
Kerry watched him jog back. He grabbed his Corona from the patio table, handed it to Kerry and said, "I think you should see the sunset from the beach, tonight."
Before she could say a word, he'd helped her stand on her good leg and had scooped her up and was striding across the sand towards the blanket.
"Luka, you don't have to ..."
"It would be a tragedy not to see at least one sunset from here on the sand," he said, laying her down gently on the blanket. He sat down beside her, stretching his long legs out and leaning back on his hands. He looked around and nodded his approval. "Much better," he said, as he accepted his beer bottle back from her.
"What happened to Finn?" Kerry asked.
Luka took a pull on his beer. "He is chopping things to make a salad under Kim's supervision and there is even talk of her teaching him to make ... what did she call it ... a vinaigrette?"
"Oh, so he can stay for supper?"
"Yes, Kim told me she phoned his grandmother and everything is okay." He looked at Kerry. "Kim also told me about his mother and about your meeting with the matriarch herself."
"He's a good boy," Kerry said.
"He's certainly attached to you," Luka said.
She gave him a sideways glance. "I guess so, yeah. I think it's been sort of ... well, actually sort of good for me to have him around. It's kept me from being so self-absorbed."
Luka laughed and looked down at his hands which were laced around the neck of his beer bottle. "Kids are especially good at that."
Kerry studied his face. Such a sweet man. Sweet and handsome and so haunted, still.
"So how are you really doing, Kerry?" he asked.
She arched a brow. "Don't tell me that you drove all the way up here just to check up on me?"
He shrugged and grinned. "Can't a friend check up on another friend?"
Kerry studied the sky for a while and let his question become rhetorical. Eventually she took a deep breath and spoke. "My ribs are healing well and as you can see the plastics guy did a great job. I'm still sore, but it's getting better. I have good days and bad days with the leg but overall it's improving." She picked up a handful of sand and let it trickle slowly out of her hand.
Luka sipped his beer. "What about your mood?"
She shrugged. "I've felt a little depressed here and there but Finn's helped a lot. It's nothing I can't handle."
Luka waited, watched her play with the sand. "And Kim?"
"Kim's fine, I guess," Kerry said. "She's getting a lot of work done on her publications."
"No, I meant, how are you and Kim?"
Kerry's eyes shot up to meet his and froze there for a long moment. "I honestly don't know," she said finally. "Mostly right now, I think I must be a great burden to her."
Luka looked up at the house then over at Kerry. "She looks very happy to me."
"I think she feels ... an obligation to me."
"I'm sure she feels something, but I doubt it's an obligation."
Kerry snuck a peek at his profile, then returned her gaze to the slowly trickling sand.
"Kim doesn't strike me as the type of person who does things just because they are expected," he said. "She's a grown up, Kerry. If she's here, it's because she wants to be here, not because she feels guilty or whatever."
"She's missing a lot of work - "
"And is clearly enjoying herself here at the beach, with Finn. With you. She's had a few very stressful months, too, Kerry. Maybe she needed a vacation."
Kerry gave him a look that was at once hopeful and doubtful. She picked up another handful of soft, fine sand, while Luka sipped on his beer.
"Whatever the case, Kerry," he said, "she's here with you. And that's what matters." He looked out at the pink tinted sky. "Believe me, that's what matters."
The bonfire flames were dying down and Kerry could see that Finn's eyelids were drooping, too. He sat beside her lawn chair, on the sand and every so often, he leaned his head against her knee as he nodded off for the briefest moments. The headache she'd had since late afternoon had dulled a little and she laughed at herself for thinking that it hurt less when Finn was sleeping against her leg.
Kim and Luka were up at the house, doing the last of the dishes, and she could see them clearly through the huge windows overlooking the deck. It was still hot and Kim had left her bathing suit on and just wrapped an azure and black sarong around her waist at dinnertime. Kerry watched her now, breezing back and forth in the kitchen, laughing with Luka, looking so indescribably beautiful that Kerry's heart physically ached in her chest.
"Kerry?" Finn's quiet voice gently ended her reverie.
"Did you and Kim have a fight?"
He might as well have slapped her. "What do you mean?"
"Well, did you guys argue or break up or something?" He wiggled around to face her, kneeling in the sand.
"Oh," she said, "that kind of fight." She pursed her lips and thought, trying to see where this was going. "Well, kind of, I guess. A few months ago."
"Did you break up?"
Kerry sighed and debated whether or not to answer. One look at Finn's face and she knew there was no other option. She nodded.
"Aren't you going to make up again?" His words were packed with hurt and confusion and fear. His world was coming apart again and Kerry couldn't bear being the cause of that.
"I honestly don't know, Finn. Sometimes I hope we will, but I just don't know," Kerry said. She leaned forward and touched his face. "Why are you asking me this? How did you know we'd had an argument?"
"Well, because you're always so polite to each other, like you don't want to make the other mad. And I never see you kissing and hugging and stuff like that. So I figured you'd had a fight or something."
Kerry nodded. How could things be so clear to you when you were only nine?
"Does Kim want to get back together," he asked, "because I think she does."
"Why do you think that?" Kerry asked.
"Finn? Finn! I'm going to drive you home now!" Kim's voice, rose over the night waves. Finn turned towards the sound and it struck Kerry yet again how much he looked like Kim. Her colouring, her eyes, delicate bones.
"I have to go," he said, getting wearily to his feet. "Thanks for letting me stay for dinner."
"Thanks for staying," Kerry said and she impulsively took his hand in hers and held it a moment. "You're quite a kid, Finn Ryan."
He grinned. "Goodness in our hearts, strength in our limbs and truth on our lips," he said.
Kerry's smile was tinted with puzzlement. "Where did you hear that?"
"My mom made me memorize it," he said. "It's the motto of Finn MacCool and the Fianna, the bravest warriors and finest poets in Ireland. She said it was a good motto to have."
"Goodness in our hearts, strength in our limbs ..." Kerry began.
"And truth on our lips," Finn concluded. "I gotta go. Thanks for all the stuff today, Kerry. I had a really good time." He hugged her quickly and then raced across the sand to the house.
Kerry sat and stared blankly into the dying flames, her smile slowly fading.
Kim heard the quiet tapping on the glass of the front door and looked up from her notes. Finn's face was pressed to the glass, his hair tousled by the wind. She smiled and motioned for him to come in.
"Hi," he whispered as he closed the door behind him.
"You don't have to whisper, she's not asleep," Kim said. "She's just resting."
"Oh," he said and he looked pleased. "Is Luka gone now?"
Kim nodded. "He left at lunch time. But he said to tell you he's coming back in a few weeks so you can teach him more Frisbee tricks."
"Cool," Finn said. "He's really nice. I like him. He should have kids of his own."
Kim smiled and nodded. "You're right. He should."
"Is it okay if I go and see her now?"
"Actually, I'll go with you, to see if she needs anything."
Kerry was propped up on the bed, her leg supported by pillows. A magazine sat on her lap, ignored.
"Look who's here," Kim said as they entered the huge master bedroom.
"Hey, Finn," Kerry said and even Finn could hear the weariness in her voice.
"Hey," he said, crawling up onto the bed. "You're still not feeling very good, are you?"
"Oh, I'm just a little tired," Kerry said. Kim watched her while she spoke to the boy and noticed that she was managing to look both flushed and pale at the same time.
"How's the head?" Kim asked.
"I'll have some more ibuprofen if you're offering," she said.
Kim nodded and headed to the kitchen for meds and water to wash them down with.
"Finn, I'm really sorry but I don't think I'm feeling up to reading to you today. I'm sure I'll feel much better tomorrow and we can read then."
"I thought we could do something different today," he said, holding up volume one of Harry Potter. "How about I read to you?"
Kerry smiled. "That would be nice."
He bounced his way to the headboard and arranged some more pillows for himself, then reclined into them. He leaned towards Kerry so that she could see the pictures while he read.
"Chapter one, The Boy Who Lived," Finn read. "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Pr ... Prr ..."
"... Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd ex ... exp ... expect to be in ... in ..."
"... involved in anything strange ..."
Kim stopped in the doorway, pills and glass in hand and smiled at the two of them, curled up side by side on the pillows, gazing intently at the book. She glanced at her watch. She was giving it two more hours and then she was going to begin her campaign to convince Kerry that she most likely had an infection at the point of her fracture and that she needed to go to the hospital to have the cast broken and the leg recast. And to probably have a great big dose of IV antibiotics. But she'd been through such hell for weeks and right now, lying in bed and having a little boy read Harry Potter to you was probably the best medicine of all. She summoned up a smile and headed into the bedroom.
The Beaver Point District Hospital was small. Very small. If this was not amply illustrated by the fact that the nurse at the front desk greeted each incoming patient with great familiarity and by name, it was further highlighted by the "emergency department," which consisted of, as far as Kerry could see, two ancient gurneys separated by a curtain and one small room with a large observation window for "traumas." Kerry figured the place probably had a defibrillator that ran on double-A batteries, and she was suddenly very grateful that she just needed a new cast and a couple shots of antibiotics.
The wait was mercifully short though and within a few minutes Kerry was in a hospital gown in the "trauma" room - since no one was using it and it afforded a little more privacy than a curtained of stretcher. Her blood was taken, her temperature, pulse and blood pressure checked and before she knew it, the doctor on call was breezing in. He turned out to be a family doctor from Chicago, on a locum, while the local doctor vacationed in Arizona, with his grandkids. Dr. Fisher looked youthful and athletic and he had a way of speaking and moving slowly and deliberately that made it seem that he was concentrating intently. He also seemed much more up to date than their surroundings, which made Kerry relax a little.
Kim sat at the head of Kerry's bed, watching Dr. Fisher maneuver the Stryker saw and ably remove Kerry's old cast. All three of them craned their necks to get a glimpse of Kerry's leg. The center of the wound was an angry red and the smell of diseased tissue wafted up.
"Yup, you've got yourself one heck of an infection," the young doctor said. "We'll treat this with a topical, then get you hooked up to some IV antibiotics and some anti-inflammatories to hopefully get that swelling down. We'll keep it splinted tonight and recast it tomorrow morning and in a day or two you'll be good as new." He scribbled on her chart as he spoke. "Then in two weeks, I'm going to get you to come back so we can x-ray it, see how the bone is healing. At that point, I'll be able to tell you whether or not your football playing days are over." He smiled an infectious, charming smile, but it was lost on Kerry.
"I don't want to stay overnight. Recast it now and I'll do the IV at home," she said and Kim could hear how dangerously close to tears Kerry was.
Kim's eyes swiveled back to the doctor, waiting for his response.
"Dr. Weaver," he said in a remarkably respectful tone, "these are the results of your labs and your vital signs." He handed her the chart to inspect. "Look particularly at your temperature and your white blood cells. You have a serious infection, ma'am, and you need to be observed overnight. Now would you send a patient with those symptoms home or would you admit them?"
He managed to sound concerned, sensible and deferent all at the same time and Kim had to bite her lip to keep from smiling. Beside her, Kerry flipped pages in her chart and read the lab results. Finally she shook her head wearily and handed him back the metal clipboard. "As much as I hate to say it, yes, this patient needs to be observed overnight. You're right."
"I'm glad you agree," he said and he stood up. "I'm going to go and make arrangements for a bed for you, but I wonder if you would give some thought to your preferred course of treatment as far as antibiotics go. It's not my area of expertise and I could go and look it up, but I think I'd rather have your opinion."
Kerry nodded. "Ceftriaxone. One gram IV over six hours times four, not to exceed four grams per day. It's the best choice for this particular case."
"Why is that?"
"It's a broad spectrum antibiotic for gram-negatives. You can do a stain if you want, but I can tell you it's gram-negative."
He scribbled a note to himself and then hurried off to the admit desk to give instructions to the nurse.
Kerry looked over at Kim, who was smiling sympathetically at her.
"I know you don't want to stay," Kim said, pushing Kerry's bangs back up off her face. "But it's probably best."
Kerry looked away and nodded. Kim saw the pool of tears welling in her eyes and she sat down on the side of the bed and took Kerry's hand. Her touch released the floodgates and Kerry started to sob.
"I know, I know," Kim said softly. "But this is going to make you feel better, Ker and it will help your leg to heal. You just have to get through this little part and then you're going to feel better. You're just really sick right now and it's making you feel upset."
Kerry tried to meet Kim's eyes, but it made her cry harder. She wrapped her arms around herself to try to hold the tears in, to staunch the flood of hiccupping sobs that were escaping her.
Kim felt her own eyes begin to sting with tears at the sight of her. She reached over and gathered the tiny woman in her arms and held her tightly, her lips close to Kerry's ear, whispering soothing words, rocking her, riding out the waves of sobs.
"It's going to be all right, Kerry, I promise," Kim said, silently marveling at the heat rolling off Kerry's tiny frame. Her fever was still very high.
"No, it's not going to be all right," Kerry said, pulling herself away to look through her tears at Kim. "Look at my leg! Look at it, Kim! No matter how well the fracture heals, no matter how much physiotherapy I do for it, it's never going to be the same again! I'm 42 years old, I have the beginning stages of osteoporosis which is why it broke in the first goddamn place, and no matter what I do, it's not ever going to be as strong as it was before. And Kim, that's my good leg! It was the strong one. It was the one that always helped to make up for the weaker one and now it's going to be useless."
"It's not going to be useless, Kerry," Kim said gently. "It's healing well and I'm sure that - "
"If it's not strong enough to compensate for my other leg, then it's useless to me. Don't you understand that?"
Kim stared at Kerry's flushed, tear stained face and realized she'd never seen her as afraid as she was this very moment.
"I think I'm starting to understand," Kim said.
Kerry sank back against the gurney, swiping at the tears on her face. She glanced over at Kim. Kim tried to smile and opened her arms again. Kerry hesitated, then burrowed her way back into them.
Kim held her tightly. It was all she could think to do.
There was a God, Kerry decided later that day, when the nurse wheeled her, and her IV pole, into her own - private - room. If she'd had to share a double or, heaven help us all, a quad, that would've been it. Cast or no cast, she'd have crawled back to the house on beach. She'd had about all she could take.
The nurse helped her to get up out of the chair and ease herself onto the bed, watching that nothing disturbed her splinted leg. She was the same nurse who had been working the desk of the ER when they'd arrived. Kerry wondered if she also cooked the meals and read the x-rays, since this place was so small.
"Now there you go, dear, watch you don't hit your leg on something, now," the older woman said. "You don't need that now, do you?"
Kerry shook her head as she lowered her leg gingerly down to the surface of the bed.
"My husband broke his leg a few years back," the nurse was saying as she fussed with Kerry's pillows and the rate of the IV drip. "Had to be in traction for weeks with the pulleys and weights and the whole nine yards. Well every single time someone came into the room, they would bump into the bed and he would just holler! He said it hurt something fierce." She laughed at the memory and Kerry began to sincerely wish she would leave.
"These antibiotics are going to fix you right up, Dr. Weaver, never you mind," she said. "You'll be up and around again in no time." She fluffed extra pillows and delicately propped Kerry's leg on the fluffy mound. "Now, supper has already been served, but I know I could rustle you up something down there. My friend Edna is in charge of the kitchen and she makes the best homemade soup you've ever tasted. I'll bet there's some leftover. Or I could fix you up a sandwich. How does that sound to you?"
Despite it all, Kerry was hungry and it was the only way she was going to get some supper. "That sounds lovely - uh - "
"Anita. Anita Rawlings," she said with a big friendly smile.
Kerry nodded. "That would be wonderful, Anita. Thank you."
Anita started to leave, her crepe shoes making no sound, then she turned back and regarded Kerry again. "Now, will your partner be coming back later on? Because she's probably going to be hungry too and it would be no trouble at all to make her a little something at the same time."
"I'm sorry," Kerry said, puzzled. "My who?"
Anita's smile faded slightly. "Your partner? That lady who came in with you - the one with that beautiful hair?"
"Oh," Kerry said. "No, she won't be coming back tonight."
Anita studied Kerry's expression for a moment. "I've said something wrong, now, haven't I? I'm afraid we're not very sophisticated here, after all it's just Beaver Point ... is partner the wrong word to use? Should I have said ... wife? Or maybe girlfriend?"
Kerry couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry. Two more minutes of this, though and she was fairly certain she would end up doing both at once.
"Well, I suppose all of those terms are correct, Anita, but Kim is not my partner. We're not ... uh, together."
Light dawned on Anita's face and she nodded, the figurative light bulb going on. "Oh, I see," she said. "Well, I just thought ... she filled out all your forms and then you know, the way she was ... it's just that you seemed very close is all." She looked suddenly pensive. "You know ... you seemed to make such a nice couple."
Kerry half-nodded, a wilting smile on her face.
"Well, I'll get you some supper," Anita said brightly. "You just sit tight, Dr. Weaver and if you need anything at all, just use your call button and Sandra or Gloria will be here in a jiffy."
Kerry sank back into the pillows and watched her hurry down the hall, presumably towards the kitchen. She rolled her head to one side, spotted the call button and wondered if it was too early to ask for Percocet. A lot of it.