Mouths of Babes, Part 6, The

by Ainsley

Kim arrived back, breathless, trying very hard not to let on that she was worried, only to find Kerry asleep on the front deck, her glass of ice water untouched. Kim smiled as she draped a towel over Kerry's legs where the sun had begun to touch them. She stood there a moment longer, studying the sleeping woman. The cuts on her face were healing nicely, no sign of infection -- the guy from plastics had done a good job. The swelling around her eye was greatly diminished, but the bruising remained and it looked horrible -- it was like being back in that sterile hallway with that crazy giant. The healing had started but it was going to be a while before all external traces of that day were gone.

She did look peaceful, though, stretched out in the deck chair, her face relaxed in sleep. And, Kim thought, she's safe and she's here. That's all I can ask for.

She tiptoed back into the house, to start some serious unpacking.

Tantalizing whiffs of barbeque smoke wafted past as she dug her bare toes into the cooling sand. The sunset, which was going on behind the east-facing house, was being reflected in the eastern sky in glorious oranges and golds. She took a long sip from her wine glass and congratulated herself again for finding such an excellent Shiraz in such a small town.

Kim turned and looked at Kerry. "This is great," she said.

Kerry peered up over the top of the laptop that was balanced on her thighs. "What's great?"

"This!" Kim said, spreading her arms wide to take in the house, the sand, the water, the sky.

Kerry nodded. "Yes, it is," she said, and she glanced back down at what she was reading on Kim's computer.

"I'm telling you Kerry, this place is good for the soul," Kim said.

"How many glasses of wine have you had?" Kerry called back without looking up.

"One, and I'm not going to let you bait me," Kim said. "This is exactly what we need. Exactly what you need."

"That sounds remarkably like a professional opinion."

Kim didn't reply for the longest while. Kerry finally realized it and looked up.

"I'm worried about you," Kim said.

Kerry looked at her. Kim was standing there, one hand on her perfectly sculpted hips, in a tank top that was just a little too big for her and which gave the most delightful glimpses of the black sports bra underneath. She was wearing baggy madras shorts and they somehow made her legs look even longer, even more perfectly shaped. Her hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail and she was watching Kerry with the sweetest expression Kerry thought she had ever seen -- one part concern and three parts love, those cornflower eyes soft with sympathy.

Kerry wanted to speak, but found she couldn't.

How could I have ever doubted, she thought. How could I not be in love with this woman?

Kim ambled back to the deck checked the meat on the grill and then settled into the lawn chair beside Kerry. "I am, you know," Kim said, sipping her wine and studying Kerry's distant expression.

"I know you are," Kerry said and it was hard to look straight at her, hard to meet those searching eyes.

"You've been through a serious trauma and you've got a long recovery ahead. At some point, you've got to feel the aftereffects."

Kerry gave her a half-hearted smile.

"I just -- I want you to talk about it with me, okay? And I'm not trying to be your psychiatrist. I'm just trying to be your friend." She smiled and reached over to squeeze Kerry's hand. Kerry wanted to grab it and hold it and keep it, but she didn't.

"So what are you reading that's so darned interesting?" Kim asked, peering at the laptop screen.

"I am reading about Finn MacCool, legendary protector of Ireland, great warrior, seer and poet," Kerry replied scrolling down the screen.

"I didn't know you were interested in Celtic mythology," Kim said.

"I wasn't until today," Kerry said. "Here, listen to this: `Finn, meaning fair-haired or beautiful, was the leader of the Fianna, the military elite of ancient Ireland, responsible for guarding the high king. Finn instituted a code of honour among the Fianna, imploring them to be models of chivalry and justice. Some say that it is Finn's code that was the inspiration for King Arthur's knights of the round table. The most enduring myth about Finn MacCool is that he did not die at all, but is only sleeping in a hidden cave, waiting to awaken and defend Ireland in her hour of need."

Kerry looked up triumphantly.

"Quite a guy, this Finn," Kim said.

"As a matter of fact, he was," Kerry said. "Although kind of small for his age and definitely too small for a warrior. But he certainly was forthright. And he did have poet's eyes, I suppose."

Kim gave her a puzzled look. "I'm not following Ker."

Kerry described her visit with the Lake Michigan Finn, ending with his mother's death.

"Oh, poor little guy," Kim said, shaking her head. "My God, what sort of message do you get about yourself and the world when your mother kills herself?"

"I know," Kerry said, staring out at the water. "It breaks my heart to think about it."

"So why the intensive research?"

Kerry closed the computer and deposited it on the deck beside her chair. "Are you kidding? I got one-upped by a nine-year-old boy today. I want to be prepared in case he comes back."

Kim tossed her head back and laughed.

The pain and fatigue started to catch up with Kerry during dinner, so that by the time she and Kim had lingered over coffee and watched the last glow disappear from the sky, Kim could see it in the pallor of her face and the dullness of her eyes. She rolled Kerry back into the house and wordlessly fetched her painkillers.

"How about we put off that big bath until tomorrow?" Kim asked softly.

Kerry nodded, not trusting her voice.

Kim helped her to the bathroom, into a nightshirt and into bed. She left her with a book and the bedside table lamp on, while she went and cleaned up the kitchen and had a bath herself.

She sat in the tub for a long time, letting the hot water soothe her tired muscles and silence her restless mind. No thoughts, no worries for nearly twenty minutes. Now this was a good drug, she thought as she toweled herself off.

She left the bathroom, her hair still piled on top of her head, tightly wrapped in a thick terry robe. Kerry hadn't moved and the book she'd left for her hadn't been touched. Kim checked her expression and saw that she looked miserable.

"Kerry? Are you still in pain? Do you need more painkillers?" she asked softly, sitting down on the side of the bed.

Kerry didn't look at her, but Kim could see the tears slowly collecting in her eyes.

"Kerry, what's the matter? Talk to me," Kim said.

Kerry fiddled with the edge of the sheets. "Nothing's the matter, I'm just -- " She looked helplessly at Kim and shrugged. "I don't know what's the matter. I just keep wanting to cry."

"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry, come here," Kim said and she reached her arms out for the tiny red head. Kerry leaned into Kim and burrowed against her shoulder, holding onto her tightly. "It's just the trip and everything catching up with you. All the driving and moving around. You just need a good long sleep." She pressed her cheek to the top of Kerry's head and rested it there.

Kerry huddled in Kim's arms until Kim could feel the physical tension leaving her body. At last Kim pulled back a little to look at her face. "Do you want to go to sleep now?"

Kerry nodded, her eyes red and puffy. "Yeah," she said, "I should."

Kim rearranged the pillows and helped Kerry lie down and get settled, then turned out the light. "I'll leave the door to both our rooms open so that if you call for me, I'll hear you, all right?"

Kerry nodded in the half-light.

Kim smiled. "Night, Ker. Sleep well."

She padded around the quiet house, locking doors and turning out the lights. She was taking one last look at the stars when she heard Kerry's voice.


She retraced her steps to the bedroom.



"Kerry?" she asked and she felt for the light switch.

"Would you sit with me for a while longer?" Kerry said. "Just -- just for a little while?"

Kim's expression blossomed into a smile, which she tried to tame. "Sure," she said, heading for the bed. "I can do that."

She crawled up onto the huge bed, nestled herself against Kerry and settled herself into the pillows. "Here, just lie back," she said, guiding Kerry's head so that it rested against her ribs. Kerry shifted into place and laid a hand on Kim's leg.

Kim drew her fingers slowly through Kerry's silky hair and Kerry sighed.

Kim smiled to herself.

The breeze coming off Lake Michigan was just cool enough to take the sting out of the steadily climbing sun and Kerry sat with her eyes closed and her face turned into the sweet wind, letting it wash over her. It wasn't enough to erase the hangover of pain that soaked through her, but it helped. The water and the breeze and the peace... they all sort of helped.

She cast a glance back into the house, saw Kim busy at the stove and she wondered if she was possibly going to be able to keep anything down. Maybe just some coffee. Or fruit. But not milk. No more milk. She couldn't face another glass.

She sighed.

Roger, in an attempt to provide them with absolutely everything they could possibly need, had arranged to have the Chicago Tribune delivered to them and this morning's edition sat beside her on the table, screaming its usual mix of local, national and international bad news.

She was scanning an article on the latest catastrophic plan for O'Hare when she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye. She looked up, squinting in spite of her sunglasses.

Down at the shore, a small figure in bright blue Hawaiian shorts and a white t-shirt was trudging through the sand, a knapsack slung across one shoulder.

She watched him come, head down, taking quick steps, oblivious to everything around him.

Just then, Kim stepped out onto the deck with their plates. She followed Kerry's gaze. "Ah," she said, "can I assume that this is the legendary Finn, himself?"

Kerry nodded, still watching him carefully. "That's him."

"My God, Kerry, you didn't say he was so..."

"Beautiful?" Kerry supplied.

Kim put the plates down on the table. "Yeah. He's gorgeous."

He was almost within earshot and for the first time he looked up to find both women watching him from the deck. He stopped dead, his gaze shifting nervously from one to the other.

"Hi," he said and it was a question.

"Hi!" Kerry called. "Come on up, we were just having breakfast."

He took a few uncertain steps, close enough for Kim to see the bottomless blue in his eyes and then he hesitated. Manners reared their ugly heads.

"I should come back after you've eaten," he said and he started to turn.

"Have you had breakfast?" Kim asked.

He nodded. "I ate with Gran. At five."

Kerry stole a look at her watch. "Well that was over three hours ago. You must be starving by now. Why don't you come and have a little snack with us."

Another pause while he checked for potential etiquette violations and then he smiled. He climbed the steps to the deck.

"Hi, I'm Finn," he said and he stuck out his hand to Kim.

Kerry saw Kim's eyes widen slightly before she smiled and shook his hand with utter seriousness. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Finn. I'm Kim." She studied him for a moment while they shook hands and then she shot a look at Kerry, who just shrugged and smiled. "Listen, you just pull up a chair for yourself and I'll go fix you a plate. Do you like scrambled eggs?"

Finn nodded eagerly as he dragged a third chair to the patio table and sat down, depositing his knapsack on the deck beside him.

"Boy, you get up pretty early in the morning," Kerry said.

Finn nodded. "Gran gets up then. She says when you get old you can't sleep so well."

"Is it just you and your Gran over there?"

"And Estelle. She's the cook and housekeeper and everything. Sometimes my grandpa comes for the weekend, but he's pretty busy. He has a lot of factories and he needs to work a lot."

Kerry nodded. "Are there any kids your age around here?"

Finn shook his head sadly. "No. There's hardly anybody under a hundred here -- well, except for you guys. The Wallaces have a granddaughter but she's a teenager." His expression let Kerry know that he'd sooner pal around with boy-eating dinosaurs than a teenage girl.

Kim reappeared with a tray bearing another plate of breakfast, two glasses of chocolate milk and two mugs of steaming coffee. Finn's eyes lit up, but he said nothing while Kim place drinks and plates around the table.

"I hope chocolate milk is okay," she said and Finn nodded eagerly.

"Thank you," he said as his plate was put in front of him.

He waited until the two women had fixed their coffees and started to eat their eggs before picking up his fork.

"How's your leg feel today, Kerry?" he asked after downing a few mouthfuls of egg.

"It's a little sore," Kerry said.

Kim did a double take. What happened to the patented Weaver litany of `I'm fine, I'm fine?' She decided to hold her tongue and eat her English muffin. Maybe this little guy was a seer.

"How long do you have to have your cast?"

"We're not too sure yet," Kerry said. "We have to see how it heals, but it's probably going to be a few months."

His face fell. "You won't be able to go swimming all summer. My friend, Kevin in Connecticut, he had a broken arm and he couldn't swim when he had his cast."

Kerry nodded. "Yeah, I'll have to stay out of the water for a while."

He polished off his last strawberry and eyed his slice of cantaloupe. "That's awful," he said. "Your whole summer vacation." Something hit him then and he looked from Kim to Kerry and back again. "You're on vacation, right? I mean, are you gonna stay for a while here?"

The two women looked at each other.

"Well, actually," Kim said, "we're not too sure. We decided to come up here after Kerry got hurt so that she had a quiet place to rest and get better. We hadn't really decided how long we would stay."

"Is Rachel coming this summer?" he asked.

"I don't think she can make it this summer," Kim said. "She's pretty busy with her job right now."

"She's really nice," Finn said. "Some of the people at this beach yell if you walk in front of their place, but she didn't. And her girlfriend Laura was really nice. She played Frisbee with me sometimes."

Kerry saw the barely perceptible arch to Kim's eyebrow. "You've met Laura?" she asked.

He nodded, his mouth full of cantaloupe.

"Isn't that great," she said, and speared her scrambled eggs.

Kerry felt the temperature drop twenty degrees.

"So do you guys work in Washington, like Rachel?" Finn asked after he had wiped his mouth with his napkin.

"No," Kerry said. "We work in Chicago. We're doctors."

His eyes widened slightly at this news but it was impossible to tell whether in delight or dismay. "Really?"

"Yeah," Kim said. "Kerry is a doctor in the emergency room, so she takes care of people who have had accidents or who get really sick all of a sudden. And I'm a psychiatrist. I treat with people who--"

"I know what a psychiatrist does," he said quietly, eyes on his plate.

Kerry and Kim exchanged a look.

"So, Finn," Kerry said. "Yesterday you said you have schoolwork even though it's summer vacation. How come?"

He took a big breath, as if the explanation was going to require exertion. "Well, I told you my mom died, right?"

Kerry nodded.

"Well, before she died, my mom and dad used to fight a lot about what school I should go to. She wanted me to go to the school in our neighbourhood and my dad and my Gran wanted me to go to the private school that my dad went to. It's called the Blackburn Academy and it's pretty hard. Anyway, after my mom died I started getting really bad report cards and my dad said I would do better if he switched me to Blackburn." He paused, studied his chocolate milk as if he'd never seen the liquid before. "I'm not getting very good grades there, either," he said.

Kerry regarded him sympathetically. "What grade are you in?"

"I'm starting fifth grade in September."

"So your dad and your Gran want you to do extra work this summer to catch up?"

He nodded.

The three were silent for a long moment.

"Well that stinks," Kerry said. "In fact, that stinks worse than having a cast."

A giggle bubbled up and burst out of Finn. "It does," he said, laughing full out. "It stinks way worse."

His delight at her comment was infectious and Kim and Kerry laughed along with him.

"Oh," Finn said suddenly. "I forgot. I brought you a present."

He reached down to retrieve a weather-beaten green canvas knapsack, rummaged around and pulled out an oddly shaped red plastic contraption with a slightly crushed silver bow attached. He handed it to Kerry.

She turned it over in her hands, examining it carefully. It was made of red Lego pieces, with lots of hinges. She looked up at Finn.

"It's beautiful, Finn, but I'm afraid I don't know what it is."

He grinned. "Squeeze the part at the end -- the handle."

She squeezed and the contraption came to life, springing out of its coiled form and reaching all the way across the table to Kim, who jumped a little.

"See? It's a reaching and grabbing thing. So you can get stuff without getting out of your wheelchair." He was beaming and Kerry stared at him, soaking up the glee.

"It's fabulous," she said. "Thank you, Finn."

"You're welcome," he said and he just couldn't quite turn the smile off. "Hey, see if you can grab the salt shaker!"

Kerry made a half dozen aborted attempts and nearly knocked over her glass of milk before she finally snagged the plastic shaker and retrieved it to her side of the table. Finn applauded her then checked his watch, which Kerry noticed had some Star Wars character on it. "Oh, boy," he said, getting to his feet. "I'd better go. Gran said that I wasn't supposed to stay too long because it would tire you out."

"She doesn't look too tired to me," Kim said with a smile. "You tell your Gran that we like your visits and if Kerry is too tired, we'll send you home, okay?"

His smile grew slowly as he processed this information. "Okay," he said to Kim. "I'll tell her." He gathered up his knapsack.

"Thanks for the reaching and grabbing tool," Kerry said. "I think I'm going to get some real use out of it."

A slight blush. "You're welcome." He turned to Kim. "It was very nice to meet you, Kim and you make really great scrambled eggs."

Kim laughed. "Well thanks. It was great to meet you, too, Finn. I hope we'll see you again."

He grinned and skipped down the stairs, racing towards the water, then coming to a dead stop a few strides later. He whipped around, knapsack swinging with him. "Thank you for breakfast!" he called back at them. The two women waved and then he was off again, tanned legs pumping hard, running down the beach.

Kim got up and started clearing off the dirty dishes.

"So, tell me about Rachel," Kerry said.

Kim stopped moving and got a hard look in her eyes. "Not much to tell really."

"No?" Kerry said. "Because when Finn brought her up, it seemed liked there was something there."

"It's nothing, Kerry. We were together for a while, then we weren't, end of story."

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize that this was a sore point with you," Kerry said.

Kim deftly avoided Kerry's gaze and continued stacking plates. "Just because I don't feel like talking about it doesn't make it a sore point."

"But there must be a reason that you don't feel like talking about it," Kerry said.

"It's ancient history."

"It sure didn't look like ancient history at breakfast," Kerry shot back.

Kim kept her eyes on the tabletop. "It's also not really your business."

"That never seems to stop you."

Their eyes locked and Kerry couldn't quite make herself take those words back.

"Why are you doing this?" Kim asked and Kerry saw the hurt in her eyes. She searched for an answer, an apology, something. Nothing came in time.

Kim shook her head and picked up an armful of dishes. "Look, I have cleaning up to do," she said. She strode off across the deck towards the house.

Kerry hung her head and swore at herself, under her breath.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Ainsley