Mid-afternoon and Kim poked her head into the living room.
"That was the physiotherapist," she said. "She told me about the exercises that you should be doing and she said that it was important that you start soon. I saw you had some weights in the closet - do you want to do a little bit today?"
Kerry sighed and Kim noted the defeated expression. "Kim, I just can't. I'm sorry, but I just can't. Tomorrow maybe?"
Kim nodded. "Sure, no pressure." She'd learned a little something about dealing with Kerry the patient in the past few days. "I'll leave you alone to rest." She started to go.
"What are you doing?" Kerry asked suddenly.
"I'm working on that research paper I told you about."
A pause and Kim searched Kerry's face.
"Do you want me to get you a book, or maybe a journal? One came in the mail for you this morning."
"No, that's okay."
Kim waited. "Okay. Well, I'll get to work then. Shout if you need anything."
"Why don't you come and - I mean, if you wanted to, you could work in here."
The smile grew by degrees until Kim positively beamed. "That would be nice. I'll get my stuff."
The phone rang without pause all afternoon and through dinner. Every so often, Kim had taken to picking it up, saying, "Dr. Weaver is not taking calls!" and slamming the receiver back down.
"Maybe I should take some of those calls," Kerry said, as they dawdled over their salads at dinner. "Some of them might be important."
Kim put down her fork and pinned her with a look. "They will cope without you, Kerry and if they can't, then they'll realize how much you do around that place."
Kerry sighed and picked at her dinner, one protective arm wrapped around her sore side. "We could just put the answering machine on," she suggested.
Kim stabbed a forkful of salad. "The phone still rings," she said in a tone that left little doubt as to how much she enjoyed the electronic trill she'd been hearing all day.
"Do you want to just unplug it?"
Kim shook her head as she chewed. "I hate to do that," she said. "Because someone besides maintenance or accounting or payroll may want to reach us."
They ate in silence for a while.
"You know, I've owned this house for four years and I don't think I've ever spent this much time in the living room," Kerry said, glancing around at the pale walls. "I've never noticed how few windows there are in here."
Kim nodded and sipped her wine. "Yeah, it's not very airy, is it?" She watched Kerry moving lettuce around with her fork. "Hey, Ker, are you okay? You've seemed pretty down today."
Kerry glanced at her, then shrugged. "I suppose it's normal, after an injury," she said. "I just ... well, I guess I just feel kind of discouraged. This stupid leg and my eye ..." She ran her fingertips across the swollen orb, which could now open a crack. "I should be grateful," she said. "I know it could have been worse."
Kim listened intently, then pushed her dinner aside to move closer to Kerry. "Listen to me. Right now, it doesn't matter that it could have been worse. What matters is that you were attacked and badly beaten, Kerry. You have serious injuries and a long recovery ahead of you and you can't just sublimate everything and `decide' to be okay with it. It doesn't work like that." She smiled sympathetically and ran a hand through Kerry's fiery hair. "It's hard as hell but that's the way it is."
Kerry sat there, reveling in Kim's touch. She allowed the tiniest smile. "Oh, God," she said in a strangled voice, "what have I done? I'm living with a psychiatrist!"
Kim laughed out loud.
Kerry pushed her way up out of the heavy mist of Percocet-induced sleep to find trees rushing by the window at high speed. A moment of blinding disorientation and then the world snapped back into place when she realized she had been sleeping in a cozy nest of blankets and pillows in the back seat of Kim's pristine Jetta. Her broken limb was propped up high and there was a huge Ziploc bag of ice cubes draped over the cast to help fight the swelling that had been creeping up on her. She was laid out across the seat and actually found it remarkably comfortable. Witness the marvels of German engineering, she thought.
From where she was propped, she could see Kim's profile as she drove and Kerry just lay there for a while, gazing at her and trying to shake off the fog of sleep. She still wasn't sure if this was such a good idea but then since she was unable to make a decision as simple as what to eat next off her plate at dinner, Kerry wondered if she was really the best judge of anything right now.
Yesterday, Kim had come into the living room sometime before noon with all the necessary implements for a sponge bath.
"Hey, I want to bounce an idea off you," she said, laying down the basin of hot water on the coffee table. "I just got off the phone with a friend from college, Rachel Greer. She works in Washington as some sort of advisor to a senator." She helped Kerry to sit up and then to take off her nightgown. "Anyway," Kim said, "she built this summer house up on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan a few years ago. It's on this huge piece of beachfront property, out in the middle of nowhere, between two very small towns."
She slung an arm around Kerry's neck and helped lower her to the bed. "She says that we can have it for as long as we want."
"She's not using it?" Kerry asked and she could hear Kim wringing out the face cloth.
"Nope," Kim said. "She's trapped in DC for the whole summer working on some bill. Which isn't surprising. Rachel's career always was her single priority."
Kerry felt her muscles relaxing as the hot cloth moved back and forth across her body.
"I've only been there once, but as I remember, it's a fabulous place. A huge kitchen, hand-painted Italian tile floors, three big bedrooms, two full baths, one of which has a sauna, and get this ... it's all on one floor."
Kerry struggled to look at Kim. "Why is that important?"
"Because you would have full access to the house in your chair or on crutches. And we could get you into the bathtub."
Kerry's eyebrows shot up. All the hand-painted tiles in the world suddenly paled compared to the notion of an hour's soak in a real bathtub.
"This place sounds like a palace," Kerry said, still looking for the catch. "She had this built and never uses it?"
Kim wrung out the cloth and rinsed Kerry's buttocks and the back of her legs.
"Yes, well, that's vintage Rachel. Money's not an object. She wasn't just born with a silver spoon in her mouth. I think there may have been a full place setting."
Kerry chuckled. "So you just phoned her up and said, hey, can I have your beach house?"
"I was a little more subtle than that," Kim said. "Although not much. Rachel kind of owes me and I knew she'd be happy to give us the place."
"She kind of owes you?" Kerry said. "I'd like to hear about that sometime."
"Well you'll have to wait, because I like to be just a little drunk when I tell that one."
Kerry nodded. "I look forward to it, then."
"So, what do you think?" Kim said. "Maybe a change of scene might be good, you know, get out someplace with a great view, more windows and fresh air?"
Kerry tried to figure out what she thought and kept coming back to one unavoidable truth - it just didn't matter. She didn't care one way or the other because no matter what they decided, tomorrow morning the sun would come up and she would still have this cast, this pain and the inescapable feeling that she'd been used as a punching bag.
"Sounds great," she said, and she tried to summon up the image of the bathtub again.
Luka had obligingly dropped by to cart Kerry back down the steps and deposit her in the pillow-lined back seat. He'd helped Kim pack the trunk and then they'd driven him to the hospital to drop him off for his shift. Ten minutes later, they were off, leaving the city behind in its envelope of early summer humidity and smog.
Kerry scanned the landscape outside the car for signs that they might be near civilization. There were none. She figured that she'd slept for at least two hours, so they must be getting close to their destination by now. She watched the trees and fields passing by - it was so green and lush here - and then she turned her gaze on Kim again, tracing the graceful curve of her neck with her eyes. Kim had haphazardly swept her curls up and tied them there this morning and Kerry was astounded that it could look so good. A strong urge to lean forward and touch her hair gripped her and she had to push it back down.
There was something playing on the CD player that caught Kerry's attention. It sounded familiar to her. A piano and two women whose voices sounded like they were dancing with each other. She cocked her head and tried to hear the words.
"...rather you be mean, than love and lie, I'd rather hear the truth and have to say goodbye, I'd rather take a blow, at least then I would know, But baby don't you break my heart slow ..."
Kim reached forward suddenly and abruptly snapped the CD player off. Kerry glanced over at her, saw the tension in her shoulders.
She waited a beat. "You don't like that CD?" Kerry asked.
Kim glanced over her shoulder. "I didn't know you were awake. How are you doing back there?"
"I'm fine," she said. "Just a little thirsty. Is there more water?"
Kim handed back another bottle of water. Kerry cracked the cap and drank.
"So," Kerry said. "How much longer?"
"Less than an hour, I'd say. How are you holding up? Do you want to stop?"
"No, I can make it the rest of the way." She caught a glimpse of sand and water through some pines. God, she hoped this was a good idea. "Kim, are you certain that it's not a problem for you to away from work for so long?"
Kim wore sunglasses but Kerry got the distinct feeling that she was rolling her eyes at the question just the same.
"We've been over this already. Between the six weeks of vacation time I'm owed and the time that Carl negotiated for me, I'm probably not going to work a shift before Labour Day." She chuckled. "Carl said the ink wasn't even dry on his request for paid leave for me when Romano's office phoned to say that it had been approved."
Kerry smiled. "Good. You could use the time off, too."
"And I've got that research study to write up, plus that offer for a chapter in that textbook on ER psych assessment models," Kim said. "Which is great because I think, given the year I've had, it's particularly important to publish something to try to cement my position a bit."
Kerry nodded and watched road signs whisk by the window, and made a conscious effort to stop asking herself why in the world Kim was doing this.
They pulled into a long gravel driveway just as an older man in jeans and a work shirt was stepping away from the front door of the house and heading for the big red pick up truck that was parked in the drive. He spotted the navy blue Jetta and veered over to meet them.
"Welcome!" he said when Kim turned off the car and opened her door. "You must be Kim," he said, extending a very tanned hand in Kim's direction. "I'm Roger Fairbanks. I take care of the place for Rachel. She called and told us to expect you." He had an easy open face and soft brown eyes.
"Hi, Roger," Kim said. "That's my friend Kerry back there." She motioned to her backseat passenger. Roger bent down to look in and tipped his cap and smiled. "Pleasure to meet you, Kerry." Kerry gave him a half-hearted wave and noted that he had not so much as flinched when he'd seen her face. Definitely a gentleman.
"Well, listen, let's get you and your things inside," Roger said. He followed Kim around to the trunk. "The missus and I came over last night to open the place up and all. We made up the beds and got everything turned on and working, so you shouldn't have any problems." He pulled the heaviest bags from the trunk and set them down on the driveway. "Now would you like me to give you a hand getting your friend inside?"
Kim smiled and shook her head. "Thanks, we'll manage."
Roger nodded, hefted four bags and set off for the house.
Kim unfolded Kerry's wheelchair and then helped her slide out of the backseat and down into the chair. She could feel the tension in Kerry's body as she lowered her into the chair.
"Ker, are you okay?" she asked as she secured the leg support that would keep Kerry's cast elevated.
Kerry rubbed her forehead and Kim thought she could see a slight tremor in her hand.
"I'm fine," Kerry said. "My leg is just ... sore."
Kim nodded, her lips drawn into a thin line. "All right, let me just get you inside and I'll unpack your painkillers."
They slowly made their way up the driveway to the huge, sprawling house.
Kim had been right - it was spectacular. The entire front wall of the living room was glass: huge floor to ceiling windows and French doors that left you with the impression that you were outside, on the beach. Lake Michigan sparkled in the mid-day sun less than fifty yards away. Kim opened two of the doors that led to the deck and Kerry thought she'd never smelled anything so incredibly refreshing in her life.
While Kim and Roger carried in various suitcases and boxes, Kerry wheeled herself carefully around the place. A well-appointed kitchen decorated with terra cotta accents, two big bedrooms off the massive living room and a huge master bedroom with a king size bed, a desk and computer in one corner and a full sitting area with an overstuffed couch. She rolled into the master bath and peeked into the sauna, then caught sight of the huge Jacuzzi tub. She thought she might cry. To be able to soak away even a few of her aches and pains would be too wonderful for words.
She glanced at the toilet and hesitated. She had to go, but she'd better wait for Kim to give her a hand. The last thing she needed today was another daredevil flip out of this cursed chair. She propelled herself back towards the living room to find Kim.
"Okay, are you sure you're going to be all right?" Kim asked for what Kerry thought might be the sixth time. "Kim, the town is forty minutes away," Kerry said, shading her eyes with her hand to look up at her. "You have to do drug store, grocery store, post office. You won't be gone more than two hours. How much trouble could I possibly get into in that time?"
Kim had a sudden image of Kerry's broken body lying on the floor of her kitchen, doubled over in pain. It made her stomach clench.
"I know," she said. "I just worry."
"Well, don't. I'll be fine," Kerry said, waving her hand to dismiss the tall woman.
"All right. Last chance for any special requests."
"A new right leg," Kerry said, settling back into the pillows Kim had put out on the deck chair.
"I'll see what I can do," Kim said and she kissed the top of Kerry's head before slipping back into the house.
She stuck her head back out. "Yes?"
"This is really nice," Kerry said. "Thank you."
Kim smiled. "Anytime, Kerry."
Kerry heard the door slide shut and she let out a long sigh.
Roger's "missus" had sent along roast beef sandwiches, cookies, fruit and a pitcher of iced tea and after unpacking a little, they'd lunched on the deck, enthusiastically gobbling up the entire contents of the basket. Then Kim had set Kerry up in the shade in a deck chair laden with pillows. Now, with a full belly and a sufficient high serum level of oxycodone and acetaminophen, Kerry knew there was a nap not too far off.
She heard the faint sound of Kim's car starting and backing out of the driveway and she asked herself for the millionth time since they'd left this morning, if this had been a smart choice. She knew she couldn't completely take care of herself right now and she knew that Kim sincerely wanted to help, whatever her motivations. What she didn't know was how long she could keep from giving in, from letting herself start to need Kim again, like she had months ago. It had been the first time in her life that she had trusted someone so quickly and deeply and she still stung from how it had turned out. She couldn't let it happen again, couldn't let herself slide into the comfortable intimacy that Kim offered.
There was a fresh breeze blowing off the lake and she could hear the waves down at the shore. She ached everywhere and felt weak with exhaustion but she did have to admit that this beat the hell out of her living room.
Kerry remembered that Kim had kissed her before she'd left. She smiled a little.
She closed her eyes and let herself drift.
Faint footsteps on the faded wood of the deck and a then a long shadow fell across her. Kerry thought about opening her eyes.
She nearly jumped out of her clothes.
"Jesus!" she exclaimed and then her eyes fell on the boy standing a few feet away, watching her uncertainly. "Oh, I'm sorry ... you scared me. I guess I was falling asleep."
"Sorry," the boy said and even from this far away she could see that he had the most serious eyes she had ever seen on a child. He was slight and couldn't have been more than eight. He wore no shirt and his blue and red striped shorts hung low on his small tanned hips.
"I was walking on the beach and I saw you and I thought maybe Rachel was here," he said, wide gray-blue eyes trained on her face.
Oh God, Kerry thought, I'm scaring him because I look like Frankenstein's older sister.
"You know Rachel?" Kerry asked.
He nodded, blonde cowlick bobbing up and down.
"Well, she's not actually here, but we're friends of hers and she's letting us stay here at her house for a while." She stuck out her hand. "I'm Kerry."
He crossed the distance between them and politely shook her hand. "My name is Finn," he said. "Well, actually that's my nickname but everybody calls me that. Even my teachers. Only my grandma calls me by my real name."
"Francis." He made a face.
"Ah," Kerry said. "I can see why you'd prefer Finn."
He stood there a moment, his face unreadable.
"Can I ask you something?" he said.
"What happened to your leg?"
"I broke it," Kerry said.
He searched her face then saw that she was teasing. "I know that," he said with the slightest smile. "I mean, how did you break it?"
"I had an accident and two big men who were trying to help me kind of fell on me. Then it broke."
He nodded slowly, taking in every word.
"That's what happened to my face, too," she said. "It looks bad but it's just stitches and stuff."
He peered more carefully at her cast, while Kerry studied his profile. A full mouth, thin patrician nose and a dusting of freckles.
"Nobody signed your cast," he said. "How come? Didn't your friends want to sign it?"
"Actually, I didn't really have time to let them, before we left."
He pondered this, then met her gaze again. "Does it hurt?"
"Sometimes," she replied. "Hey, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure." He plopped himself down on the edge of a lawn chair.
"How old are you?"
"Nine and a half," he said. "I'm going to be ten in September."
Smallish for his age. But so beautiful. Kerry wondered if he got teased.
"Where do you live?" she asked.
"Well, I used to live in Chicago and during school I live in Connecticut, but right now, I live over there." He turned and pointed down the beach and Kerry could make out an enormous summer home about a half-mile away. "I'm staying with my Gran for summer vacation because my Dad has to work a lot."
"I see," Kerry said. "What about your Mom?"
"She died," he said and it was as if the sun had suddenly gone out.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Kerry said softly.
He shrugged, concentrated as a scraped knee. "She died right after Christmas last year. She had been really sad a lot and then one day, she killed herself."
Kerry's blood ran cold and she struggled to find the right words. "Wow," she said, "that sounds pretty rough."
He nodded, balancing on the edge of the chair.
"Can I ask you something else?" he said.
"Are you a lesbian?"
Kerry's mouth fell open. "How do you even know that word?"
He chuckled at her. "Everybody knows that word," he said.
She stared at him.
"So, are you?"
"Well, yes, actually, I am," Kerry said, "but I'm wondering why you would ask that?"
"Because Rachel is a lesbian and I figured since you were her friend, you probably were one too."
"I see." Kerry watched him swing his feet back and forth, then stop to scratch a mosquito bite. "So I guess you know what lesbian means, then."
"Oh sure. It means that you want to get married to women instead of men and that you have sex with them and stuff."
Kerry nodded. That did pretty much cover it.
"Anyway, I have to go," Finn said and he got to his feet. "I've got schoolwork to do."
"Schoolwork? Isn't it summer vacation now?"
He padded across the deck, towards the beach. "Not for me," he said. "It was nice to meet you Kerry. I hope your leg feels better."
"Nice to meet you, too, Finn," Kerry said and she shaded her eyes to watch him stride through the sand. "Hey Finn!" she called after him. He turned and looked back. "How did you get your nickname?"
"From Finn MacCool," he shouted back.
"Finn MacCool, " he repeated, "the Irish hero."
"I've never heard of him," Kerry said.
Finn threw up his hands in mock exasperation and then walked away shaking his sun-bleached head.
Kerry followed him with her eyes, most of the way home.