All I’ve Ever Needed by K. P. West

Disclaimers: This is an Uber-Xena story and the names have been changed. No copyright infringement is intended. This is written just for fun.

HURT/COMFORT WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story may be best classified as a Hurt/Comfort Story involving the Uber characters Xena: Warrior Princess and Gabrielle. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of issue may wish to read something other than this story.

SUBTEXT DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a loving relationship, although not explicit, between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

NAUGHTY WORDS WARNING/DISCLAIMER: There are a few not so nice words in this story. If this disturbs you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

 

All I’ve Ever Needed
by K. P. West

Sitting at the small glass topped kitchen table sipping her coffee, Jaime Bennett scanned the want ads for the job that would set her life back in order. I can’t believe I let things get so screwed up, she thought. Her mind started to wander to a time when she had thought she was all set in her mundane, but at least employed, life. She had been a dedicated employee at the same company for 15 years and fully expected to be there for at least another 15, so life on the unemployment line was a shocking new experience.


A glance at her watch shifted Jaime’s thoughts back to the present. She realized she must hurry through her shower if she expected to be on time for her physical therapy session. Grabbing her cane, she gingerly made her way a to the nearby bathroom, her bare feet chilled by the cold ceramic tiled floor. She was grateful that she had chosen this apartment over the first one she had looked at.

Her mind again wandered, this time remembering back to when she chose this apartment.

She could have selected either the apartment with the bedroom and bath up in a loft-type setting or the one she now lived in, which had everything on a one-floor plan. I’m glad I chose the cheaper rent. At the time she chose it, Jaime usually didn’t go for the less expensive things. Her philosophy was, so what if I am in debt, I’ll make more money tomorrow. Well, tomorrow came and, with it, a cold harsh reality.

Always a very active and athletic person, a little sweat or hard work had never fazed Jaime. She played several sports, but softball was the game that she loved most and she was always considered one of the best players around. Her 5′ 11” height didn’t hurt either; it just added to her strength.

Deceptively strong in spite of her thin build and panther-like movements, Jaime’s power at the plate often surprised opposing teams. When that power started to diminish, Jaime figured it was because she simply wasn’t an eighteen year old anymore. Hell, playing as hard as I have over the years I’m bound to lose a little something, were her thoughts when she noticed the changes. 33 years old and I am already going over the hill she would joke to her teammates. It wasn’t until her normally graceful movements were hindered by bouts of clumsiness-drinking glasses just slipping out of her hand, her feet tripping over imaginary lines-that she became alarmed.


The doctors hadn’t been able to find the problem. All of the blood tests showed there was something going wrong in her system, but the tests couldn’t find anything conclusive. As the symptoms progressed, Jaime became unable to work. At first her company was very understanding and helpful. It was a small company with only a few employees, however they soon needed to fill Jaime’s position. They filled it all right and, with the position filled, they unceremoniously fired Jaime. The harsh reality of life sometimes slaps you right in the face.


Finished with her shower, Jaime pulled on her favorite pair of well-worn faded blue jeans. Not the best thing to wear for PT but I don’t care……. I’ll be comfortable. After donning her favorite sweatshirt, black and equally worn as well, she looked in the full-length mirror. At least my clothes aren’t hanging off of me anymore, she mused as she pulled her hair back into a ponytail. The casual worn look was also new in Jaime’s life, she was usually “dressed to the nines” as she often put it. Her hair was another story, always left in its natural free state when not playing sports. The first time she went to PT she had left her hair free and it was quite a nuisance; the long dark  mane was everywhere except out of the way. So, from that day on, a ponytail was her style of choice.

Jaime looked around for her sneakers, finding them beside her king size bed in the small bedroom. She looked at what little room was in her bedroom due to the oversized bed. Shaking her head she wished she had gone for the double or at least queen size, but of course she hadn’t. Bigger and better were almost always her choice. Jaime carefully bent over and retrieved her shoes from where she had hastily thrown them the night before. She hobbled her way into the living room and sat on her black leather sofa. Putting shoes on was still a bit of a struggle. She often was consumed by painful muscle cramps while stretching to put on her footwear and she started noticing new pains, as well, as her atrophied muscles started to relax from her PT sessions. Bending at the hip while sitting or standing was a chore for her, and her life as a loner left no one to help out. As a result, Jaime often went around with untied shoelaces.


Well, I thought I would be late, I guess I’m getting a bit quicker at getting ready now, nothing to do but wait till David picks me up. Jaime had worked out a schedule with her local taxi service to bring her to and from her physical therapy appointments. David was the driver she liked most and she had asked him if he would consider being her permanent means of transport.


“Jay, I would be happy to be at your service,” he agreed as he bowed at the waist, bringing one hand to his stomach, the other thrown out away from his body in a mock show of servitude.


He was a very handsome young man with curly, dirty-blonde hair that often looked like he let it dry on its own after washing it. His eyes were almost the color of his hair, a golden brownish-blonde.


Since the day he said he would drive Jaime to her appointments, he had never been late nor missed a day. Today was no exception.


A car horn honking brought Jaime out of her thoughts and she gathered herself up, donned her sunglasses and exited her apartment.

As usual David had the car parked and was waiting at the door to escort Jaime to the taxi.

“You know you are going to have to stop this or someone may mistake you for a gentleman,” Jaime said with her dry wit and a hint of a grin. David looked back at her seeing only his own reflection in the lenses of her sunglasses.

“You keep that up and somebody may think you’re a regular comedienne,” he bantered back, which made the hint of the grin grow ever so slightly.

“Hey, was that a bit of a smile I saw?” he asked in mock surprise.

“Look at that, your face didn’t even crack, either,” he joked as he closely examined her cheeks.

When they reached the car, David let go of his hold on Jaime’s arm and opened the door so she could seat herself. He again took hold of her arm as she ducked her head to enter the taxi.

Now settled in the drivers seat, David pulled away from the curb and put his own sunglasses on, to battle the bright reflections the summer sun was giving off on almost every surface it touched.

The Connecticut roads in the summertime were usually congested with vacationers and high school kids on break. Never a problem for David though, he knew every street and back road there was having grown up in the Waterbury area.

Jaime was silent, as always, on the drive to the therapist’s. She had spent so many years alone that conversation did not come easy to her and she enjoyed what she called her thinking time. I have more “thinking time” than anyone has a right to, she sarcastically thought on the short drive to the medical building.

The taxi came to a stop and Jaime was surprised to find that they had arrived. David was already opening the door and helping her out of the car.

” Thanks David, I’ll see you in two”

David didn’t ask if she wanted help to the building. Jaime had already let him know on an earlier occasion, in no uncertain terms, that she would walk up to and from that building on her own, no matter what.

“Okay see you then” said over his shoulder on the way back to the cab.


 

I can’t believe he did this….. thought the blonde woman as she maneuvered her white Escort through the congested downtown streets.

A file on the passenger seat caught the drivers eye, I didn’t even get a chance to prepare for this.

The time displayed on the digital clock of her radio caused the young woman to wish she had already mapped out the best route to the medical building. I’m already fifteen minutes late.

Only forty-five minutes earlier, the woman had been sitting quietly on the sofa having a cup of tea and watching the morning news, when the day suddenly took a dramatic turn. The phone call she received played through her mind.

“How can you do this?” her voice thick with the disgust she felt.

“DO what? Leave?” the nasally voice answered from the other end of the line. “It is really very simple, I am not dealing with these lowlifes anymore! If you like them so much, be my guest, they are all yours. I have had about as much as I can take from them.” he griped, the contempt he felt clearly showing through.

With her anger barely in check, she replied to the arrogant man. “If the way you are speaking about your patients is any indication of how you treated them, than let me assure you, the feelings will be quite mutual.” As she hung up the phone, Kelly’s anger rapidly turned to panic when it suddenly dawned on her that she had only half an hour to get to her new patient.

With the car now parked, she ran through the parking lot to the medical building. She made her way through the doors into the still unfamiliar hallways. First floor to the right, she recalled from her only visit to the facility.

The rubber soles of her Reeboks squeaking on the newly waxed floor went unnoticed by the jogging woman, her mind once again occupied, this time by the case file she hastily read. The physical therapist went over in her mind what details she was able to absorb in her quick perusal of the documents for the now waiting patient. 

Slowing her pace, her eyes rested on the door in which she sought, she paused to collect herself and steady her breathing. I guess I am ready as I’ll ever be, she judged. With one last calming breath she opened the door.


 

Jaime’s thoughts turned to her therapist, as she waited in the reception area for him to arrive. Phil Walsh was not the most likeable person she had ever met. In fact, I’m sure he is the most unlikable. Not having insurance, Jaime was stuck with whoever was assigned to her, and that happened to be Phil. He thought himself above treating the likes of people with “lesser means,” as he put it, although when he said “lesser means” it came out sounding dirty and degrading.

He was impersonal, to say the least, and more than a little uncaring. In fact, he could be downright cruel.

His looks were not the most attractive either. He was very bald and what little hair he did have was above his ears and circled to the back of his head. Black-brown eyes and a wide nose that seemed to be held up by the huge mustache underneath added to his unattractive appearance.

He would often taunt and verbally abuse his patients when they were having a hard time doing a simple exercise. His feelings probably fell out along with his hair, Jaime would often think to herself with a smirk. He would be intimidating also, though it didn’t work with Jaime. The first time he tried, she gathered herself up and, even though it was a struggle, she stood at her full height and glared down upon the shorter man.

“I don’t know who.. you.. think.. you.. are talking to little man.” Jaime scowled, advancing on the now frightened man with each pause in her sentence. “But if you ever talk to me… like that again I guarantee you will regret it.” Phil glanced at the cane in her hand that now looked suspiciously like a weapon.

He never tried intimidating Jaime again.

Wonder what’s keeping the little runt. The therapist was twenty minutes late, unusual for him, the one thing he was, was prompt. Unfortunately…she mentally inserted.

Looking around the reception area, Jaime noticed the others waiting for their own respective therapist or physician. A mother and daughter sat nearby having a conversation of the coming school year. Another woman was sitting with a friend talking about the accident that was the cause of her need for therapy. The husband helping his wife to a seat while they waited their appointment to begin. An older woman, that looked to be suffering from the affects of a stroke, sat in a wheelchair while her grandson, looking very uncomfortable, related to her his plans for the car he had just purchased.

Jaime observed the interaction between the friends and family in the waiting area, envious of the closeness they all, in their own way, shared with each other…… Since when did you start caring about that? she inquired of herself.

Jaime’s attention was drawn to the door as it opened and a young woman in her mid-twenties walked into the reception area. She was about 5′ 4” tall, with a slim yet muscular build. Her shoulder length reddish-blonde hair tucked behind one ear. Casually dressed in a gray tank top, blue jeans and sneakers, looking for all the world the picture of health.

I wonder what she could possibly need rehab for? Looking down at herself, Jaime realized that those words, at one time, could have been said about her.

The young woman was searching around the room when her eyes settled on Jaime.

When her eyes lifted from the survey of her now depleted body, she found herself captured by the sparkling green eyes of the young woman. Those are the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen...  Jaime was thinking, when she realized that the young woman had walked over and was speaking to her.

Looking up from her seat, Jaime almost lost herself again in the emerald pools twinkling down at her. The woman was smiling and expecting an answer to a question that Jaime never heard. “I’m sorry, did you say something?” 

The woman’s smile grew. “I asked if you are Jaime Bennett,” she repeated, the beaming smile never leaving her face. 

Jaime cocked an eyebrow in puzzlement and answered. “Yeeaah,” she drew the word out. “How, may I ask, do you know my name?”

“Well, I was appointed as your new therapist. It seems Mr. Walsh has decided to take a leave of absence and I have taken over his case load.”

Holding her hand out, she introduced herself. “My name is Kelly, Kelly Young. I am pleased to meet you.”

Part 2

Jaime was more than little flustered, the pronouncement the young woman made taking her thoroughly by surprise.

Captured by her mesmerizing gaze Jaime took hold of the proffered hand.

“Um… Hello….Ms…Young” she muttered.

God, I don’t believe this. How lucky can I get, expecting the runt and getting her……. things like this just don’t happen to me, thinking of both the good fortune of not dealing with Phil anymore and his being replaced by seemingly his exact opposite.

The realization that she was still gripping the therapist’s hand snapped Jaime out of her reverie. Pulling her hand abruptly away, Jaime’s elbow collided with the cane that was inclined against her. The hard polished wood of the cane hit the tiled floor with a resounding clatter, startling the other patients in the waiting area.

How embarrassing. Jaime leaned over in her chair to collect the object that was the source of the noise and her embarrassment. Unexpectedly she was seized by an excruciating spasm in her lower leg. Biting back a gasp, Jaime frantically kneaded the cramped muscle.

Feeling a hand on her shoulder gently easing her back to a sitting position the distressed woman heard the therapist saying “Relax and sit back, that’s it.. just relax”

Coming out of the pain-induced haze, Jaime saw that Kelly was kneeling in front of her and softly coaxing the muscle out of its twisting state with a commanding, yet gentle, touch.

“Okay its starting to unknot, just relax, I’ll take care of it, you just sit back” Kelly’s comforting voice reached Jaime’s ears.

Jaime was looking down at the therapist, watching her work while she spoke in a soothing almost sedate pattern. Relax she says…..if she keeps doing that I’ll turn to jelly. I can’t believe this….how humiliating, she mentally groaned.

Kelly looked up at her new therapy patient as she was working on the afflicted leg. She watched as the expression on Jaime’s face changed subtly, I wonder what she could be thinking.

Feeling the muscle had finally loosened, looking down Kelly spotted the untied shoelaces. Aware of what caused the cramp to occur, Kelly understood why they were untied. Without a second thought she began to tie them.

“You don’t have to do that” Jaime harshly stated when she saw what the woman was doing.

“Geez.. relax..I know that, I just figured as long as I’m down here I might as well” she casually answered. Smiling up at the dark haired woman as she finished her task.

“So, do the muscle spasms happen often? ” she questioned as she left her kneeling position.

“Not so much anymore” was the curt reply.

Ookaayy….looks like I am going to be the conversationalist in this duo. Kelly also noted that Jaime did not like to make eye contact. After their initial meeting every time their eyes met Jaime would quickly turn them away.

“I guess its time for us to begin our session, I’m sorry I am so late. I didn’t know I would be here until an hour ago,” Kelly apologized. “That’s why I am dressed like this. I usually do try to look a little more professional,” she kidded as she extended her hand in an offer to help Jaime up.

“I can get up on my own, thank you” Said with a blunt coldness. Glowering at the offered hand as if it were an insult, Jaime rose to her feet by her own power.

“Whoa…Hold on a minute. I’m very well aware you can get up on your own, but just because you can do it alone doesn’t mean you have to. ” Kelly reasoned, not intimidated by Jaime’s cold tone.

“So lets get you started, we still have an hour-and-a-half to work and I would like to see for myself where your progress is.” Kelly was thinking about the files she glanced over. Unimpressive to say the least, they were not at all detailed and lacked any progression notes. I basically will have to start from scratch it seems.

Kelly walked over and held open the door to the exercise room.

Jaime followed a bit more slowly, impressed by the therapist’s ability to read her so well. Her hackles rose once more when she saw the woman holding the door.

“Please indulge me Miss Bennett” A small smile showing when she saw the look on Jaime’s face change.

Definitely disarming.

“You can call me Jaime…….Ms Young” Jaime responded, the corner of her mouth tilting upward ever so slightly as a thought came to mind. Not like the runt at all!

“That’s Miss and please call me Kelly”

Jaime looked down with a slight shake of her head. Man…… I am in trouble here. Looking back up, avoiding any eye contact…I can’t look at her…I feel like she can see right into me…. carefully she edged her way into the room.

Kelly followed Jaime through the door already thinking of ways to break down the barriers that the woman in front of her obviously constructed. Not realizing that she had already indeed started chipping the walls away with her unambiguous charm. The door closing behind them signaled the start of their first session together.


 

Laying on the sofa-bed looking the case files over meticulously, one file kept making its way back to Kelly’s hand.

Jaime Bennett

Age: 34

Birth date: 3-13-67

Marital status: Single

Family Medical History: Unknown

Birth Place: Waterbury, Connecticut

Height: 5′ 10 3/4″

Weight: 130 Lbs.

Doesn’t mention her long dark hair or her high cheekbones and those eyes. I don’t think I have ever seen eyes as captivating as hers. Blue just doesn’t do it. Pale blue that look right through you and a hint of silver as though someone sprinkled stardust in them. Intense and lonely, definitely lonely….. I know how she feels.

Tucking her hair behind her ears Kelly resumed the reading of the file.

Jaime Bennett lived much of her youth in an orphanage located in the Naugatuck Valley area of Connecticut. The orphanage has since been destroyed by fire and all records have either been misplaced or destroyed as well. It is believed that the birth date and age of patient is accurate. There could be no follow up on the family medical history.

The said patient started developing symptoms as far back April 1997. Symptoms include: Tremors, severe muscle spasms, muscle weakness, dizziness, depression, severe insomnia, tissue swelling, enlarged lymph glands, swelling of joints, migraine headaches and blurred vision. All symptoms have been observed by the tending physician. The patient has been somewhat uncooperative with the scheduling of tests. A MRI was scheduled; the patient did not keep the appointment. A lumbar puncture (spinal) was also scheduled; again the patient did not keep the appointment. All other tests failed to diagnose a specific disease.

Although not an M.D., Kelly knew what they were looking for. The symptoms and the test that are to be run give a clear indication as to what the doctors expect to find:

Multiple Sclerosis.

 


Jaime carefully stretched out on her leather-upholstered sofa, thinking of the days events, the young therapist foremost in her thoughts. That was definitely different. She sure does have a way of making the rehab seem … pleasant….pretty hard to have a bad day with her smiling at you the whole time. Sighing as she thought of the therapist, more like an angel, her mind inserted. She would have to be to put up with the likes of me….it didn’t seem to faze her, though.

Shifting her focus Jaime reached for the remote to her state-of-the-art large-screen television, another toy she had wasted her money on. She absently flipped through the channels trying to find something to keep her mind occupied. It was harder these days to rid her consciousness of the problems she was facing. Always in the forefront, the simple things just weren’t simple anymore. I don’t want to be dependent on anyone… not that there is anyone. She thought back to the many times others had tried to become a part of her life and she had driven them away. Not wanting to let someone in. Not wanting someone to care for her. Not wanting to care for them.

Not wanting. Okay enough of that self-pitying shit.


Looking around the apartment Jaime noted her belongings. I am going to have to sell this stuff. Her creditors were starting to put the pressure on. The majority of her debt was created before any problems ever arose. Just had to have the best didn’t you. Well, now look at what you have, a whole bunch of useless shit that in the end means nothing. The TV, stereo, VCR, computer, desk top and laptop, the black leather furniture, the coffee table and end tables, kitchen table and microwave would all have to go.

The only things she decided to keep were her bed and the first piece of furniture she ever bought, an old recliner that had seen better days. The foot rest was crooked and the armrests were a little threadbare but it was her favorite. Remembering how proud she was when she bought and paid for it.

Her boss allowing her to borrow his pick-up so she could save the money on delivery. How she struggled on her own to carry it into her old apartment! More like dragged it, she grinned at the memory. Looking at it now it barely held a hint of its former color.

Removing herself from her position on the sofa, Jaime slowly made her way over to the phone to call her acquaintance at the consignment store. She had met Bobby when she determined that her fancy, and, of course, expensive, clothing was no longer needed. What’s the sense of wearing designer when you look and walk like I do?

Flipping through the pages of her phonebook Jaime found the number to the store. She also found the business card, next to the telephone, Kelly had given her that she haphazardly threw there earlier when she arrived back from PT. Absently holding the card, her thumb brushing against the raised lettering Jaime phoned the store and made arrangements for them to pick up her belongings. She had another therapy seesion in the morning, so Jaime arranged for the pick-up at noon. That taken care of, she hung up the phone and held up the business card.

“Call me if you need anything” Kelly said when handing the card over.

I need to hear your voice. The thought paralyzed her. Why do I think that?
Probably because she is the first person to put up with me for a long time….with a smile, no less.
Maybe I should call and thank her.
For what? For putting up with my rotten attitude that’s what.

Maybe I should thank her for being an angel…….Yeah right! …Scare the hell out of her. She’ll think I’m some sicko or something.

Something in her conveyed a need to reach out to this woman. Confused by this need because nothing like this had ever happened before. She was drawn to the therapist and seemed unable to control the feeling. Like a moth to a flame, I’m afraid.

Jaime held the phone in her hand, still mentally debating whether to make the call or not. Closing her eyes, taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling, she made her decision. Hurriedly, before her better judgment took over, Jaime punched in the corresponding numbers that were emblazoned on the business card .

 

 

Part 3

 

 

The whistling of the kettle permeated the thoughts of the therapist as she was putting the finishing touches on her daily reports. The reports were more for her own records and not actually needed for the case files. Kelly preferred to keep a personal, detailed account on the progress of each of her therapy patients. Having only two patients for that day, the reports had taken Kelly little time.

Though not a particularly busy day, it had been mentally exhausting. Having found out that she was going to get her first cases in her new job was exciting. The excitement soon gave in to anger at the previous therapist, then alarm, when she had learned that she had to meet her first patient thirty minutes after being notified. Kelly had rushed about getting ready while trying to read over the medical files that had arrived as she was hanging up the phone after learning of her new assignment. The therapist had reviewed the files at red lights and stop signs to have a general idea what to expect on her first day.

I certainly didn’t expect that. The instant attraction she felt for the tall, black-haired woman astonished her. The moment she laid eyes on her she felt it and for a moment thought that she saw it in return.

Looking back at the case file she had read earlier, she wished that there were some other explanation for the woman’s ill health. I guess I’ll try to find out why she won’t go for the tests, the therapist in her proposed.

Putting her work aside, the golden-haired woman swung her legs over the edge of the sofa bed, placing her feet in the slippers she knew to be there. She stretched upright, musing, I have to get a desk, after seeing the files and reports scattered about the surface of the bed.

She turned back towards the kitchen area of her newly acquired apartment, where the now irritating sound was coming from. I hate those things… thinking of the offending kettle. Kelly knew it was necessary, though. She had, on a number of occasions, forgotten the water boiling on the stove when she was immersed in her work. Most of her pots were discolored from being left on the flame long after the water boiled away. Mother always said I was scatterbrained.

The unbidden memories of her mother floated to the forefront of her mind as she padded her way to the stove, taking the kettle from the heat. I never quite fit your idea for a daughter…did I, mother? But, then again, neither of us did.

Her mother was a hard woman and even harder to please. Warmth and tenderness were not used when speaking of Mary Young. How she produced such affectionate children was a question often asked when speaking of her.

“Kelly, stop that. You’re wrinkling my dress.” The impatient words recalled one of the many times her mother rebuffed her show of affection. You cringed every time we tried to hug you. Did you do that to dad, too? Is that why he left?

She could hear her mother’s voice scolding her yet again for some unwritten rule that she had unknowingly broken. “Your stupidity is your biggest downfall.” Kelly never asked what her other downfalls were.

Kelly’s choice of careers was another “unpopular” decision and the fact that she chose to work with patients who were less than affluent was the “final indignity,” according to her mother. Whether it was her work, schooling, books she read, the clothes she wore, or the friends she had made, her mother was never going to be satisfied. Finally accepting that and having no more ties to hold her, Kelly decided it was time to leave her hometown in Indiana.

I can’t believe it’s been five years. Having relocated a number of times in those five years, the therapist hoped that she had finally found a place she could call home. Connecticut. Never in all my dreams did I think I would be here…

Sighing, she poured the boiling water into the already prepared teacup. The steam rising from the tea brought the scent of cinnamon to her nose. The aroma reminded her of her grandmother’s home, which always carried the essence of cinnamon. Absently, she stirred the tea while her thoughts drifted to her grandmother, remembering back to her childhood, where so much of her time was spent at her grandparents’ house. It was her safe haven.

How she loved the stories of her grandmother’s own childhood told to her while they sat and had their “evening tea,” as Grams would say. Kelly could almost hear her grandmother’s voice as she spoke of her first moments in America.

“Aye, my most vivid memory was sailing into the New York harbor. It was dark but that didna matter. We all rushed to the ship’s rail to get the first glimpse of our new country. Oh, how my heart swelled at the adventures that were to come,” she would pronounce with a thick Scottish brogue and a tear in her eye.

She recalled the Friday night pizza parties that she and her grandmother were so fond of…and the later years when cancer so cruelly ravaged her grandmother’s body…

It didn’t ravage your spirit though… did it? You were the strongest person I have ever known. I do miss you, Gram…wish I could talk to you like I used to; nobody understood me like you did. I needed you so much when Shannon was gone.

The melancholy thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the telephone. Kelly glanced at her clock. 10:30 PM. Who would be calling me at this time? Who would be calling me at all for that matter?

“Hello?” she answered questioningly. No one spoke but she could hear the faint sounds of someone on the other end of the line. “Hello, is anyone there?” Again, no response.

“Listen, if this is some sick cookie getting their jollies, I really don’t have the time.” As she started to remove the receiver from her ear, she heard someone speak.

“It’s not… an obscene call, I mean,” the person uttered.

Kelly knew who it was immediately; the deep resonant voice was like no other she had known.

“Miss Bennett?” she questioned.

“Jaime… yeah… it’s me,” she answered, now thinking this was not one of her better ideas.

“Is there something wrong? Are you okay?” Worry creased her forehead. This is the last person I expected to call.

“I’m fine. It’s nothing like that. I just called to say thank you for…” her voice trailed off. How stupid does this sound. I can’t believe I did this.

“Jaime? You still there?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure you’re okay? Do you need me to come ov…”

“No!” raising her voice. Then, in a softer tone, “No… I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have disturbed you… I’ll let you go. Bye,” quickly hanging up the phone.

“Wait!” (click) Kelly stood looking at the phone in her hand. What was that all about?

Jaime stood in her living room, the knuckles of her right hand white as she tightly grasped her cane. Her left, still holding the phone, hung unconsciously at her side. That was stupid! What a fool… you practically hung up on her… I can’t believe you did that! What in the hell were you thinking?… a voice from within berated her. All you had to do was say thank you… A simple thank you… No big deal… But no, you have to make a fool of yourself, the mental scolding continued.

The beginning of a piercing headache was making itself known. Reaching to rub her temple, Jaime realized the phone was still in her hand. Looking at it in disgust, she slammed it down upon the table.

Trudging her way to the kitchen, where the often-used aspirin was stored, the dispirited woman attempted to extinguish her taunting thoughts… knowing that she was close to displaying another symptom, one that she had not related to the doctors, out of embarrassment.

The rages, or outbursts, began around the same time the other symptoms appeared. Out of all the symptoms, this was the one that she had always felt the most defeated by. Often, it was triggered by the feelings of failure or uselessness that were on her mental list of inadequacies.

Okay… stop thinking and do something. Occupying her time until the anger subsided had helped on more than one occasion, but also served to enforce the feelings of failure when she was unable to.

Inhaling deeply, Jaime reached into the cupboard to retrieve the aspirin and poured the caplets into her hand. Grabbing a drinking glass and filling it at the tap, she hurriedly downed the pills in hopes of heading off the migraine she knew would soon have her bedridden, if not prevented.

The coffeemaker still held the remnants of this morning’s brew…maybe some coffee would help. Making coffee when one of her headaches began had become a ritual. She felt that it was possible that she had not taken in the caffeine that her body had become so accustomed to, thus causing the headache.

While waiting for the coffee to brew, Jaime made her way into the bedroom to don her satin nightshirt. The black, knee-length pajamas were her favorite by far, reminding her of the first time she saw one at the department store as a young girl.

It was in the ladies’ section. Her youthful eyes took it in as the prettiest nightgown that she had ever seen. She hadn’t even thought to ask if she could have it, the idea never crossed her mind. Her admiration for the garment did not go unnoticed, though. That evening when she went to her bedroom, there, sitting on her pillow, was the very same nightshirt that she had been looking at earlier that day.

It still is one of her happiest memories. Something not asked for and totally unexpected. Thank you, Aunt Addy… I don’t think you knew how much that meant to me. After that first day with you, I should have known how special you were… but you always managed to surprise me.

Addy and John Burton were an older couple. They did not have children nor any living relatives and had only recently decided to become involved with foster care. Their first and only foster child was Jaime.

Her placement with the foster family came when she was six years old. Having spent her entire life at the orphanage, it was truly a frightening experience. The first day was spent hiding in her room, confused as to what was happening. Brand new toys were scattered about the room and the bed was unlike any Jaime had ever seen before. It had a pink canopy with white lace ruffles on the ends.

Jaime hated it.

The canopy overhead scared her. In her child’s mind there wasn’t a reason; it just did. When bedtime came around and Addy tucked her in, she didn’t want the woman to dislike her, so she kept her thoughts of the bed to herself. When the older woman left the room, Jaime gathered the blankets and pillow and quickly laid them out on the floor.

A gentle shaking of her shoulder woke her the next morning. Opening her eyes, she found the silver-haired woman smiling down upon her. After questioning her for a few minutes, Addy finally convinced the child to tell her why she wasn’t sleeping in the bed.

“Is that all?” she said, then proceeded to walk over to the bed and remove the offending material.

“There now… don’t ever be afraid to tell me about any problem… no matter what it is,” she said as she gently rubbed the young girl’s head. “If Aunt Addy can’t fix it, or help, then we will ask Uncle Johnny. If he can’t fix it, then we will all sit around, talk it over and try to make it, at least, better… understand?”

Well, Aunt Addy, you and Uncle Johnny pretty much did make everything better.

The sputtering noise coming from the kitchen signaled that the coffee was in its last stages of brewing. Taking hold of her cane, Jaime plodded her way back to the kitchen and the enticing smell of the freshly made coffee… noticing that the headache, while still there, had not worsened.

Maybe I lucked out and caught it in time, she mused, while opening the dishwasher that, earlier in the evening, she had loaded and set to wash. The dishes were still warm from the drying cycle of the machine. Finding a mug to her liking, the ebony-haired woman lifted it out of the rack, realizing too late that she did not have a proper grip. The heavy ceramic cup slipped from her hand and landed in the glass-laden rack from where she had attempted to retrieve it. The glasses and other cups in the rack could not withstand the impact of the mug.

Damn it… pay attention. Sighing heavily, she looked over the mess she had made of her dishes. I better clean this up and run them through the cycle again. The shattered remains of what were her drinking glasses, as well as her coffee cups, were everywhere… in the dishwasher itself, on the floor; some pieces of the glass even ended up on the countertop.Can’t say you do things half-assed.

Jaime opened the cabinet under the sink and pulled out the small plastic garbage bin to put the broken remnants in. Having pulled the larger pieces out first, she decided to take out the rest of the dishes, so she could sweep up the smaller, and harder to see, shards. The first glass she grabbed gave her quite an unpleasant surprise. Actually the glass was fine but laying beside it, quite invisible at the angle it was resting, was a rather large and very sharp fragment of one of the glasses. The razor sharp edge cut deeply into the back of Jaime’s right hand before she registered the pain. Yanking her hand back, she saw the gaping opening rapidly fill with blood. Clutching the injured hand with her left, trying to reduce the blood flow, she seized hold of the dishtowel arranged neatly over the edge of the sink and headed as quickly as possible for the bathroom. The white towel, now wrapped around the hand, was rapidly turning a dark red.

Rifling through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, she found the items needed to clean and bandage the wound. Taking the cane in her left hand, Jaime cradled the peroxide, antibiotic gel, cotton balls and bandages in her injured right arm.

Back in the living room, she placed the items on the table by the recliner. The wounded woman was ready to take a seat and administer to the now painfully throbbing hand when there was a knock at the door. Now what?… This night just gets better and better.

Leaning the cane against her leg, she opened the door with her left hand. “Can I help you?” she impatiently asked, while swinging the door wide. Standing before her was a very concerned looking, hastily dressed, golden-haired therapist. Stunned to see her at the door, Jaime just stood there speechless.

“Are you okay?” Kelly asked, her brows furrowed as she looked over the dark-haired woman.

“I’m… fine…What… are you doing here?” she stammered, believing her eyes were playing a trick on her.

“Well,” the therapist paused to take a deep breath, “after you hung up the phone I tried to call you back and there wasn’t any answer. I tried a few times but the phone kept ringing and ringing. Sooo… I decided I would drive over to see if everything was okay.” Taking another deep breath, she continued, “I wasn’t even sure whether you called from home or not, but it was a short drive and I figured it couldn’t hurt to check… so… here I am.” The blonde finished what was to Jaime the longest sentence she ever heard.

“So, are you… okay?” Kelly asked again.

“Yeah… sorry, I must have accidentally shut off the ringer on the phone.” She remembered slamming it down on the table. Probably bumped the ringer switch off. She reached to rub her temple as the headache made its presence known again.

“Oh, my god…you’re not alright!” Kelly exclaimed as she caught sight of the bloody towel wrapped around Jaime’s hand. Stepping through the door, she took hold of the bleeding hand and carefully unwrapped the towel.

“Really, it’s fine. I was just taking care of it when you knocked.” Jaime tried unsuccessfully to pull her hand back from the therapist.

“It’s not fine.” Kelly was examining the hand. “It is very deep and you probably need stitches. Come on, let’s get you sitting down so I can look at this,” she suggested, lightly tugging on the arm to get the tall woman to comply.

Jaime raised a now familiar eyebrow at the smaller woman, inwardly smiling at the therapist’s assertiveness. She pushed the door closed with her cane and did what the young woman asked, letting her lead the way.

Once she had her patient seated, Kelly delicately cleansed the wound with the cotton and peroxide. Sucking in air through clenched teeth, she grimaced as if she were feeling the pain of the peroxide in the gash and murmured “sorry,” each time she thought she had hurt the silent woman.

Watching Kelly diligently work on the lacerated hand, Jaime was reminded of Addy, the only other person who ever had done something like this for her.

Declaring herself finished, Kelly re-examined the hand. “I think you should go get some stitches; it really is a very bad cut,” she advised, still holding the hand as her green eyes met the blue of Jaime’s.

“No, I don’t have to. I have some butterfly closures in the medicine cabinet. I’ve… ah… been kinda clumsy lately,” making a reference to her symptoms. “I’ll just put a few of them on, and it will be as good as new.” She attempted to rise from the chair only to be stopped by a firm hand placed upon her shoulder.

“Jaime, will you please let me do it? As long as I am here I might as well be useful. Just point out which door and I will do the rest.” Her eyes scanned the apartment.

Jaime watched Kelly make her way to the bathroom, still bewildered by the arrival of the compassionate young woman. I can’t believe she came over to check on me.

Returning, Kelly pulled over the leather footrest, so she could sit while she closed the slice in the hand. “So, how did this happen?” she inquired, while putting the antibiotic gel on the wound, being careful not to spread it too generously. Nearby skin needed to be clear of the substance so the butterflies would hold.

Jaime explained what had occurred just before the golden-haired woman showed up at her door.

“So, I guess you haven’t had your coffee yet. How do you take it?” Kelly offered.

“You don’t have to do…” Jaime was cut off before finishing.

“I know that. I could use a cup myself… that is, if you don’t mind. Been a crazy day for me.” Green eyes twinkled along with a brilliant smile.

“No, go right ahead. I’m sorry, I should have offered. I don’t know where my manners are,” returned Jaime, clearly embarrassed by her lack of hospitality.

Kelly tilted her head in apparent consideration of that, crinkling her nose and furrowing her brow. “Gee… I can’t imagine… let me think… hmm… Maybe between the bleeding… and the headache… it kind of slipped your mind,” she concluded, with the ever-present smile.

The facetious remark took Jaime totally off guard. “How… how do you know I have a headache?” Both eyebrows raised in question.

“Well… your eyes are glassy… you’re pale as a ghost… although that could be because of the pain from your hand… but you also keep rubbing your temple and forehead. It really wasn’t that hard to deduce.” Her smile lessened as she approached and placed her hand on Jaime’s forehead. “No fever. Is it one of your usual ones?” she softly asked.

Confusion gave way to understanding as she realized the therapist would have some of her medical information. “Yeah… just the usual… it’ll pass,” she murmured, hating to acknowledge one of her many physical flaws.

Seeing Jaime’s eyes take on a distant look, Kelly changed the subject. “So… cream and sugar?” she asked, smiling at the nod of confirmation.

Kelly soon returned with the coffee for the now very pale woman. Going back to the kitchen, she cleaned out the dishwasher and ran the dishes through another wash to be sure all traces of the slivers of glass were gone. Finding a broom, she swept the scattered pieces off the floor, as well as wiping the counter down. As she prepared herself a mug of the coffee, another small task came to mind. When all was done, she grabbed her mug and walked back into the living room.

“All set in there,” she announced, then held her hand up to stop Jaime from speaking the words that came so quickly. “I know, I know. I didn’t have to. I wanted to.” Kelly was rewarded with a smile that warmed her heart and answered with a beaming one of her own. “I take it your headache isn’t any better?” she inquired, judging the wan look of the woman.

“They pass,” Jaime replied.

Placing her coffee mug on the table, the therapist walked behind the recliner, asking the seated woman to lean her head forward. After a moment of hesitation, Jaime followed her wishes and the skilled hands began kneading her shoulders till they relaxed.

Kelly began telling her story as she worked. “Since you’re probably wondering about this strange person who so rudely barged in on you,” she started, “I’ll give you the condensed version of my life.”

“I grew up in a small town in Indiana. My mother, Shannon, that’s my younger sister ,” she whispered, “and me. I hardly remember my father; he left when I was 4 years old. I have vague memories of what he looked like but not much else.”

Kelly’s soothing tones were working as much magic as her ministrations. Moving her attentions upward, her thumbs pressed into the area where the skull meets the neck, the slow, even pressure loosening the taut muscles.

“Anyway,” the narrative continued, “my grandparents lived very close to us. Shannon and I spent most of our time over at their house when we weren’t in school. I was very close to my grandmother, closer to her than anyone,” she reminisced, her voice taking on a sorrowful tone. “She and I talked about everything,” she softly added.

“When I was fifteen, my grandfather passed away. Grams and I became even closer, if that was possible. I guess it was about two years later that my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. Lymphoma, to be exact.” Kelly slowly worked her hands back down to Jaime’s shoulders.

“My grandmother took all the drugs and chemo’s that the doctors could dream up, but the cancer was too aggressive. All those treatments only served to damage her body along with the cancer. My grandmother… she was such a fighter.” The pride in her voice was touched with the sadness she felt. “But the fight left her. She was too tired and much too sick to keep up with what, we all knew by that time, was a losing battle. Three months after stopping the chemotherapy, Grams passed away.”

Kelly stopped speaking when the realization of what she was saying hit her, stunned and embarrassed at revealing such a personal part of her life to this virtual stranger.

“Geez… listen to me. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get so gloomy,” she apologized. “I must be boring you. I get lost in my own little world sometimes and if you don’t shake me out of it, I will babble on and on,” Kelly confessed, still confused by her candor. Her hands stilled, the massage forgotten in her perplexed state. “My mother always told me I never knew when to shut my mouth,” Kelly sighed. “I guess I proved her right.”

“Why don’t we get you sitting back now, you must be getting uncomfortable.” One of her hands, still on Jaime’s shoulder, lightly pulled till the dark-haired woman was sitting with her back against the chair once more. Kelly walked around to the front of the recliner and took a seat on the footrest once more. “Is the headache any better?” she asked, noticing the still ghostly appearance on Jaime’s face.

“You’re not boring at all,” Jaime ignored the question to make the declaration. “You didn’t say much about your mother or sister, though, or how you ended up in Connecticut all the way from Indiana.” Jaime was surprised by her genuine interest in hearing the rest of the therapist’s story.

Kelly sat leaning forward with her elbows resting on her thighs, her eyes settled on the cooling cup of coffee held in both hands. “That is… actually… another gloomy story,” she said, as she looked up from the coffee with a sad smile on her face. “One, I am sure, you are not interested in hearing.”

“You’re wrong, but if you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine. I understand. I really didn’t mean to pry,” Jaime remarked, accepting the possibility that Kelly didn’t want to go into any more detail with her.

Kelly surveyed the woman before her, aware of the openness that she hadn’t expected from the usually reticent woman. “Okay, then, you asked for it,” came the surprising answer. “Just be sure to tell me if your headache is too much, I don’t want to be the cause of it getting any worse.”

“I’ll let you know if it gets any worse,” Jaime promised, neglecting to divulge to the therapist that its worsening probably wasn’t possible, the intense pounding in her head was at a maximum.

“So, my mother and my sister…” she spoke out loud as though she were thinking to herself. “Like I said, this is another gloomy story.”

Once again Kelly’s voice went into a storytelling mode. “My mother, her name is Mary, is not the nicest person you will ever meet. I am putting that mildly.”

“Really?” Jaime interrupted. “I would have thought that your mom would be very ni….. Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut in like that.” Her pale cheeks showed a hint of color at her embarrassment.

“Don’t be silly,” Kelly grinned. “Yeah, really, to answer your question. She is one of the most unaffectionate, insensitive people I have ever known. I always thought that she was like that because she was disappointed in us but, as I grew older, I finally understood it was just the way she was. When my sister, Shannon, became ill, my mother withdrew from us entirely, probably couldn’t handle the sickness too well. But, again, I’m not even sure if that was the problem.” Taking a sip of her now cooling coffee she seemed to mull over that point.

“Shannon, as it turned out, had a cluster of tumors growing on and around her brain.” Kelly inhaled a shaky breath. “They were situated in such a way that her hearing was very poor and she lost most of her motor skills. She was confined to a wheelchair and needed physical therapy.” She paused once more at the painful memories.

“You don’t have to tell me this if it’s too hard,” Jaime suggested, her concerned blue eyes regarding the young woman.

Kelly looked at her, seeing the worry in Jaime’s eyes, her mask gone for the time being. “I think I need to talk. I haven’t really ever spoken to anyone about it,” she hesitated. “Believe it or not,” she kidded, trying to lighten the mood.

“Her first therapist was a sweetheart; his name was Michael. He truly cared about her and what she was going through,” she continued. “When Michael moved to another state, my mother “had to” find a new therapist. Shannon and I had many nicknames for the new PT. To put it delicately, she wasn’t a pleasant person. We came up with ‘the torturer,’ ‘PT from hell’ and ‘Baby Jane,’ as in ‘Whatever happened to…’ you know, the Bette Davis role. Anyway, you get the picture.” Kelly laughed at the memory.

“I would try to observe the therapy sessions whenever possible. Michael had explained a lot of the procedures. I learned all of the exercises that they would have Shannon perform, so, after a while, I would cancel the PT session with “Baby Jane” and do them with Shannon myself. My sister and I enjoyed those times together; she was the one who convinced me to do this for a living… I’m sure you’ve figured that, already.” A look of absolute solemnity took over the usually smiling face. “She made me promise never to become indifferent to or take any patient’s feelings lightly, or anyone’s for that matter. That is a promise that will never be broken.”

There was a long stretch of silence.

“Are you bored yet?” Kelly asked, in a half serious, half jesting way.

“No, not at all. I was just wondering why you left Indiana when you seem so close to your sister?”

“The reason I left is because Shannon died that year. The tumors, although not cancerous, were too numerous and the speed at which they grew made it impossible for the doctors to control them. She would suffer severe headaches, so I learned some massage techniques to help ease the pain.

“I would tell her stories to pass the time till her medication started to work. Not the heavy type of story I launched into tonight on you, though,” she said with a quick grin. “I would either tell one of when we were little or I would just make one up. Anyway, after she was gone there was nothing left for me there. I have been steadily moving east for the past five years. Not purposely, I’ve just been going to where the jobs are, trying to find a place to call home.” Taking a deep breath, Kelly finished with, “So that’s my story.”

“I’m sorry,” Jaime expressed, attempting to find the right words to say. The pounding in her head made the task too difficult. Much too young too have been through what she has, the thought pierced through the agony of her headache.

Knowing the look that she saw in Jaime’s eyes, Kelly was sure that the headache was not any better, but had, most definitely, become more painful. Making a decision, she stood and walked around to the back of the chair Jaime was sitting in.

“You, my dear, said you would tell me if the headache became any worse,” she mockingly scolded the woman, seeking to break the tension.

“It isn’t, honestly. They don’t get any worse than this,” she truthfully told the therapist.

“So, in other words, while your head feels like it’s in a vise, I am merrily prattling on about my life.” Kelly’s tone softened into a serious statement, ” I wish you had said something earlier, I may be able to help… lean back.”

Jaime spoke as she settled back. “Actually, the story helped me forget about it for a while.”

Kelly told Jaime to recline in the chair, reaching for and moving the lever to help her lay back. Once in place, she directed Jaime to close her eyes as she applied pressure to her temples in a circular motion. She began again to tell a story, this time a much lighter one of her childhood antics without the seriousness of the two stories she previously conveyed.

Jaime lay there wondering how Kelly could be so different from her mother. She also could not fathom how the woman’s own mother could not see what a special gift she was given.Any parent would beg for a child like her… hell… any person would want to be like her.

Jaime was listening to the tranquilizing sound of the young woman’s voice as she related a comical story about how she and her sister were caught throwing snowballs at passing cars. She could probably have made a living writing and telling stories. The foggy thought came to her as the voice slowly faded away, the much needed and sought after sleep finally taking over.

Kelly stopped the massage, along with the story, when she noticed that Jaime had fallen asleep. She contemplated waking her so she could move to the comfort of her bedroom. The peaceful expression and the knowledge of the insomnia made her mind up for her. Writing a note and leaving it on the table beside the sleeping woman, Kelly watched her for a few more moments, resisting the urge to kiss her forehead and wish her pleasant dreams. Soundlessly, she slipped out the door.

 

 

Part 4

 

 

Jaime slowly opened her eyes to the suns early morning rays softly lighting the room. Confusion clouded her mind at the unfamiliar setting, giving way to the memories of last evening.

It wasn’t a dream, she was really here.

She was still reclined in the chair which Kelly bade Jaime to rest while she massaged away her headache. She said she may be able to help me… she had know idea. That is the longest I slept in… I don’t know how long.

A slight throbbing in her hand brought back the other events of last night. Jaime held her hand up and carefully flexed her fingers, she noted that there was little swelling and only an insignificant amount of pain.

The coffee mug on the table along side the chair reminded Jaime of something else….I need coffee…now! Jaime reached with her bandaged hand for the lever on the recliner to carefully move the chair into an upright position. Her cane was hooked on the edge of the table that held the cold remains of the coffee from the evening before. As Jaime extended her arm to take hold of the cane, a scrap of paper that was settled on the table fluttered in the small breeze caused by the movement of her arm. Redirecting her hand to retrieve the paper Jaime observed that it was a note, the neatly defined letters standing out in stark contrast against the clean, snow-white surface of the paper.

Good Morning,
At least I hope it’s morning and you were able to get a full nights rest. I was going to wake you, so you could move to your bed and be more comfortable, but you looked so relaxed I just didn’t have the heart to. So, if you have a stiff neck you can blame me. I will see you at 9:00 AM, unless your hand is too sore. If you can’t make it call and let me know how your doing.
Take care,
Kelly

Jaime smirked at the wording. Didn’t have the heart….blame her. Kelly’s choice of words were ironic to Jaime, she understood what she meant but disagreed with the selection. Blame and didn’t have the heart, are not phrases I would attach to Kelly.

After she placed the note back on the end table, Jaime slowly rose to her feet , making sure to keep her balance while her body became accustomed to the movement, once she was settled and confident of her control, she moved as quickly as she was able to get the coffee she craved more than anything else at the moment.

With a look around the kitchen, Jaime observed that the disaster she had created the evening before was but a memory. Kelly had cleaned away all traces of the mishap. As she scanned the room over Jaime spotted a coffee mug placed on the countertop with what looked to be another note leaning up against it.

I set up the coffee machine last night so it need only be switched on. I hope I measured correctly, I guessed strong based on last nights cup. Hope I guessed correctly! Oh, and the dishes in the washer are all set too, I ran them through the wash cycle again. Please be careful putting them away. I know, I sound like a mother hen so I’ll stop now. Enjoy the java!!
Kelly

Jaime grinned once again. She likes to write notes I see.

While the coffee brewed, Jaime chose to get ready for therapy so she would not have to rush like she had the day before. I can’t get this wet, she reminded herself, after examining the bandaged hand.


“Uggghh……All right.. all right already…..I’m up.” Came a muffled response from beneath the foam-filled pillow. A pale arm snaked out from beneath the blanket, the hand attached, slapping about the surface of the end table searching out the source of the antagonizing sound. After all efforts failed, the therapist finally peeked her head out to visually target the obnoxious alarm clock that gave birth to the unrelenting wail. The display on the clock received another groan, all hopes of the snooze bar went by the wayside at the glimpse of the time. I have to get up, I have an appointment with Jaime… I wonder how she’s feeling? She didn’t look to well last night. Well, the only way I’ll find out is if I get up. One of these days I am going to have to learn to function on less than ten hours sleep, giggling at the private joke. Resigned to the fact that there would not be anymore sleep for her, Kelly dragged herself off the bed and into the shower.


David was right on time as usual. The drive to the medical building was hardly noticed by Jaime, her mind engrossed by the events of last evening. So absorbed in her thoughts that she didn’t hear David as he spoke to her.

“Jay? You in there?” David questioned. “Ooohhh Jaaaiimeeee,” he called in a singing voice.

“Huh…oh sorry went out there for a minute.” laughing at the way David finally garnered her attention.

“Way out there. What’s up? Your usually quiet but… you at least grunt at me when I talk to you.” He teased, as he looked back at her through the rearview mirror.

Jaime glared back with a feigned scowl. “Your just begging for it kiddo, one of these days… ” the pretend sneer in place.

“Promises, promises,” the drivers rapid reply. “Really though, something wrong?”

“Nah…just thinking…got a new therapist yesterday.”

“Gee, you must be really disappointed. Poor you, no more Phil.” If Jaime hadn’t known David better, the seriousness of his face, would have disguised the dripping sarcasm of his words.

The car gave a sudden lurch taking their attention away from the conversation.

“Damn! Did you feel that? The tranny has been acting up in this heap, it just slipped big time.” His concentration shifted to the car. “I’ll have them check it out at the garage when I bring it back after my shift.”

David viewed the building as they approached. “Well, we’re here.” He reported as he swung the car around the turnaround, pulling it up to the entrance.

David stepped out and around the cab, as he opened the door for Jaime, he reinitiated the banter.

“We have arrived Madame and on time may I add. Is there anything else Madame Bennett wishes?……Anything.” the last said with a suggestive leer and a wiggling of his eyebrows.

“No Dave… thank you, I’ll see you at eleven.” She fought to keep a bored monotone at the familiar repartee between the two. It was a game they had played since their first meeting. David continually made the faux passes and Jaime repeatedly ignored them. Wonder what he would do if I took him up on it, she rakishly grinned.


Throughout the therapy session, Kelly attempted to rein in her determined patients efforts. Jaime’s inability to perform specific exercises to her own satisfaction had only strengthened her resolve to complete the tasks. With each failure at achieving the unrealistic goals she had set, her anger and frustration increased.

“Jaime, you have to take it slow. Over exerting yourself is not going to help you, more is not better in your case. It will only hamper your progress, not further it,” the therapist lectured for the third time that day.

“Progress!… What… progress?” Jaime caustically snapped back. “I’ve been active all my life, there wasn’t a sport I didn’t play, now… now I can’t even walk across a room without the help of a fucking cane! I don’t know about you… but in my book, that isn’t progress!” The fatigue and anger getting the better of her, the seething patient turned her back on the blonde woman and precariously made her way to the chairs a few feet away. Jaime’s body was trembled from the attempts to restrain her rage and the fatigue from her failed efforts. Not now…please, she pleaded, as she felt her control slipping, she needed to distance herself from the therapist.

Kelly was not shocked by the outburst, her experience had allowed her to recognize the signs of the impending eruption. A number of patients had similar reactions at one time or another. Most had the same dilemma as Jaime, their formerly physically fit bodies were now seen as a tomb to the person encased in them. Kelly always found the patients that had been physically unable from birth or had become that way at a young age were much less demanding of themselves.

Kelly calmly occupied a seat next to Jaime, she understood far better than most people what Jaime had to deal with. Though her sister was much younger, Shannon had faced the same traumas as her body refused to respond as it once was able. The memories of her sisters struggle both emotionally and physically, the all night conversations in which Shannon expressed her fears, sadness and hopes, gave Kelly much more of an understanding than she would ever have wanted.

Turning her body towards Jaime, the therapist placed her hand on a shaky arm, feeling the flinch at the initial contact, she spoke in a delicate reassuring manner.

“Jaime……I didn’t mean that the way it sounded…honestly…Its just that if you over exercise you will only increase the fatigue and muscle weakness. You are doing very well….please believe that,” she tenderly added. “I just don’t like to see you be so hard on yourself. I only want what is best for you, overworking yourself is not going to make the problem go away. I know how diffi… ” the words cut off by the abrupt movement of the woman beside her.

Jaime wrenched her arm free of the therapist’s hand, the glacial austere glare impaling the woman before her. “You know?? You don’t know ANYTHING!” she exploded, her voice unrecognizable in its hostile state. “If you did have this great knowledge that you claim,” she ridiculed, “you would “know” better than to talk to me right now… so take your “all knowing” wisdom and your sickeningly sweet attitude and just… just get the fuck away from me.” Her eyes clamped shut, the knuckles of her clenched fists white with the strain.

“Jaime..please” Kelly gently pleaded.

NOW!!!!” The shout bringing the attention of everyone in the room.

Kelly hesitated a moment, with the disappointment she felt clearly etched across her features, she silently walked away.

Jaime watched the golden haired woman as she left, with each step Kelly took towards the door, she felt her anger dissolve away to be replaced by the regret of what she had just done. The significance of what she said weighed heavily upon her, Jaime closed her eyes, tilted her head forward placing the finger tips of her trembling hand on her forehead. Oh god..I don’t believe I did that. Her chest tightened as the words she spewed forth played over in her mind. You are worthless…ya know that… a worthless, hopeless fool. You are getting “exactly” what you deserve for being such a cold-hearted bitch all your life. Her mind giving voice to the self-loathing she felt. With one last glance at the door, the dispirited woman quietly departed through a side exit.


“Miss Young” The receptionist called out.

“Kelly” She beckoned again when no acknowledgment was given.

“Oh…yes? Can I help you?’ she distractedly answered.

“I’m sorry to disturb you but there is a phone call for a patient of yours, a Miss Bennett, the man on the phone says it is urgent.”

“I just left her in the exercise room; I’ll let her know.” Kelly went in search of her patient, coming back a short time later, she asked for the phone.

“Hello? This is Kelly Young, Miss Bennett’s therapist, Jaime has left for the day. May I help you?” she asked.

“Damn….” a voice muttered, “Oh… sorry… yes you can. I’m sure she is waiting outside for me, this is her ride, my car broke down and I won’t be able to make it. Could you tell her I will have the company send another cab? I’m just not sure how long it will take to show up though.” he admitted.

Kelly quickly ran her schedule through her mind noting that she did not have anymore patients for the day. “Actually, I am just about ready to leave, so, I can give her a lift home. If she’ll accept it, she thought.

“Thanks a lot, that’s great, I really appreciate it.” His gratefulness showed in his speech. “I feel bad about this, I make it a point to be on time for her. Oh… and… ah… could you have her call with next weeks appointments, I need to work them into my schedule. Thanks again, bye.”

Kelly gathered her files and the notes she took during the therapy session. Leaving the building through the front doors, she observed Jaime sitting dejectedly on the bench at the taxi stand. All traces of the anger she displayed earlier were gone, in its place a look of total discouragement.

Kelly’s approach went unnoticed as she took a seat next to her troubled patient. Jaime was absently adjusting the bandage on her injured hand that had loosened during the therapy session, oblivious to the fact that anyone was sitting there, much less Kelly.

With a tilt of her head, Kelly watched Jaime for a moment, before deciding on a direct approach.

“Hi” Kelly softly murmured, breaking the silence with the simple one word greeting.

Jaime was startled. Her body jumped at the sound of the young woman’s voice. Turning her head she was even more surprised to be looking into the compassionate gaze of Kelly’s emerald eyes.

The shame she felt did not allow her to hold the gaze for long, staring back down at the bandaged hand Jaime echoed the greeting. “Hi” her voice almost timid.

“You still mad at me?” Kelly tentatively asked.

Jaime turned her head to once again look upon the woman beside her. ” I wasn’t mad at you,” she faltered. “I am mad at the world… I just stupidly took it out on you.” again she turned back to the injured hand. “I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to, I just.. lose it sometimes. I am such a fool .” The sadness in her voice made the apology that much more sincere.

Kelly let out the breath she unknowingly held, the relief evident in her tone. “Oh… Its just that I know I can be very irritating sometimes, I’m sorry if I was a bit pushy. I know I can grate on peoples nerves.” offering her own apology.

“You didn’t do anything to deserve the way I treated you. You have been nothing but kind, considerate and friendly to me, I just don’t know why.” The last she mumbled to herself.

“Not pushy!” Jaime vehemently stated.

“So you don’t think I’m too forward then?” Came the impish question.

“No, I don’t.” Wondering at the change in Kelly’s expression.

“Well then, I guess I should tell you that the person that usually drives you called, he said his car broke down and he won’t be able to make it here.” She watched as Jaime checked the time on her watch.

“I didn’t realize how late it is. Do you know of a pay phone nearby? Kelly waved off the question.

“No need, the driver offered to send another cab but seeing as I am done for the day I offered to give you ride home, that is if you want me to.” She smiled then added, “Still think I’m not pushy?”

Jaime could not help but to return the smile. How does she do that? Once again Kelly’s unwitting charm, chipped away at another wall that the dark-haired woman constructed.

“Yes, I still think you’re not pushy, and I accept on one condition. That you allow me to make you a cup of coffee when we get there since the last two I’ve had were courtesy of you.” The proposition lay in wait for a response.

Kelly let her eyes take in the changed posture and the dazzling smile of the woman next to her. She should smile like that all of the time. Kelly nodded her head. “Sounds like a plan to me.”


“Oh no, I completely forgot.” Jaime blurted out as they approached her complex. She spotted the moving van situated not far from her apartment.

“What??” not understanding. “What did you forget?”

Jaime was going to fabricate a story to explain the reason why the people in the van will soon take her possessions away. A glimpse into the trusting, innocent eyes, she simply could not lie to her. “I’ll tell you when they are finished.” Jaime said as she opened the door to the now parked vehicle.

The crew Bobby had sent did not waste a moments time. They had taken less than an hour to remove the belongings that Jaime pointed out. She closed the door behind the last retreating member of the crew. Jaime turned back towards the now almost devoid apartment. The sole remaining piece sat forlornly in the center of the room. In reality it was the only item of furniture that truly meant anything to her.

Kelly! She suddenly remembered. She must be in the kitchen.

Jaime entered to find Kelly sitting on one of the stools in front of the breakfast bar. She determined she would need a place to sit for meals, so the stools kept their home. A familiar aroma teased her senses, she glanced to the coffee maker then back to the now sheepishly smiling therapist.

Kelly shrugged “Thought you might welcome a cup waiting for you when you were finished.”

Jaime found that she did like that idea. “I suppose I’m not used to having people do that for me, makes me feel, I don’t know, funny, for lack of a better word.”

They sat together talking for hours, the day slowly diminished to evening. The spoke of the reasons for the furniture being sold, Jaime’s love of softball, Kelly’s love of kick-boxing. That revelation brought with it a genuine burst of laughter from the normally stoic Jaime. Kelly giggled along with her more at the delight she felt to see Jaime so light-hearted. “What, think I’m too small for that?” Her face red from the laughter.

“No, Its… you… I can’t picture you raising a fist to someone, your too nice.” She reasoned, unable to reconcile the image in her mind with the woman in front of her.

Kelly’s hunger chose that time to announce itself in a long drawn out rumble. Her face deepened to a crimson, as her stomach protested the lack of food. “How embarrassing.” She said as she hid her face in her hands.

“I’m going to make a big assumption here, but are you.. ah… by any chance, um hungry?” She joked attempting to ease the embarrassment of the therapist. Kelly simply nodded, still too mortified to utter a sound.

Peering at the wall clock Jaime was amazed at the time that had gone by. “It’s no wonder, look at the time. What do you say we order a pizza? I’d offer to cook but there isn’t much in the fridge, I order out quite often. I warn you though, Friday night is busy, it may take a while. Sound good? Jaime babbled in an attempt to take the woman’s mind off of her embarrassment.

Kelly disregarded her abashed state, memories of her grandmother and sister pushed all other thought aside.

“Kel.. sound good?” Jaime questioned again, seeing the contemplative expression on Kelly’s face.

“Sounds wonderful.” A diminutive smile gracing her features as she regarded Jaime.

“Is there a problem? Don’t you like pizza? Jaime persisted, mentally replaying what she had said that caused the change in the therapist’s mood.

“Not a problem, some bitter-sweet memories that’s all. I’ll tell you over the pizza. Get what you want on it, I love everything!” Her mood once again playful.

A devilish glint touched the cerulean eyes of Jaime. “You love everything huh? Even… anchovies? she laughed.

“Of course.” Kelly said matter of factly, as a teasing smile formed . “Doesn’t everybody?.



The next few weeks developed a familiar routine. They had become fast friends, finding comfort in the others presence. Both unwilling to act upon the physical attraction, each oblivious to the fact that it was mutual. It was the mutual emotional attachment that was the most confusing to both, in the short time they were friends, they began to depend on one another. Spending all free time with each other again unwilling to admit what was happening, to themselves as well as each other.

Kelly had set her schedule so that Jaime was always her last patient for the day. After work they would go to the local cafe’, Friday nights reserved for a rented movie and a pizza with “the works.” During that time Kelly had not mentioned Jaime’s reluctance to get the final test performed.

On one particular night at Kelly’s apartment, they comfortably stretched out on the rug, their backs against the sofa. After watching a extremely intense movie, they sat quietly, each in their own thoughts. Whether it was the emotional movie or that it just seemed like the right time, she didn’t know but Kelly finally summoned the courage to broach the subject of the tests. Knowing it was, at the very least, a touchy subject for Jaime.

“Jaime, why is it that you won’t go for the MRI? I know you were scheduled but the test never occurred.”

Jaime’s eyebrows furrowed in thought, deciding whether to go into the reasons or lack there of in the question before her. Glancing to Kelly. Why not? She just wants to understand, don’t you? .“Honestly… I don’t know. At first it was that I didn’t see the point, after, I merely didn’t want to hear the spoken words.” Her voice then took on a wistful tone. “I guess I thought that if I wasn’t told, I could cling to the hope that maybe…” Shaking her head she continued, “Now… now I really don’t have an answer.” Finished, Jaime looked over to her friend, the understanding plainly exhibited in Kelly’s thoughtful eyes.

“I am going to ask you to do something for me.” The golden haired woman softly spoke. “Please go, get the MRI, if the diagnosis is MS, there are so many new drug therapies out there now. I’m not asking that you give up your hope, not at all, I just want you to redirect it towards your recovery… no matter what the diagnosis is. I know what I am asking is difficult.” Her eyes pooled as she seized Jaime’s hand, the emotional evening had weakened her ability to control her feelings. “Can you promise me you will do that?”

The gentle entreaty did more than any of the stern lectures received from her physicians had done. Jaime stared into the pleading verdant pools, the unshed tears shimmering in the light. The sight caused the silver-blue of Jaime’s to fill as well. As their gaze held, Kelly raised their clasped hands placing her cheek against the back of Jaime’s. In a voice hoarse with emotion, Jaime whispered the words. “I promise.”

Part 5

The long, narrow table that Jaime was instructed to lie on, was ice cold against her exposed skin. The directions they gave her were easy to understand. Lay still. As they strapped her head down she mused, I couldn’t move if I wanted too. The nurse explained that the procedure would take approximately forty-five minutes. She also explained that the machine would give off a loud hum accompanied by a thumping sound. They told her if she felt too nervous or confined to inform them and they would remove her immediately.

As the table moved into the cylinder shaped machine, Jaime realized just how little room there was. The coffin like feel in the imager gave Jaime an immediate uneasy feeling. This is what claustrophobia feels like. She closed her eyes and concentrated on staying calm. That’s all I need to do is freak out in hereJust relax. Kelly’s voice echoed inwardly, hearing her say those words over and over again. It was a comfort to know that when this was over, Kelly was waiting just down the hall. So Jaime kept her eyes closed and thought of Kelly, and she relaxed.

 


Kelly sat for the third time in as many minutes. Her roiling thoughts would not allow the therapist a moment of unease. The doubts that penetrated Kelly’s unconscious slowly bubbled to the surface.

Did I do the right thing? She asked herself once again.

The promise she elicited from her confused friend, the night before last, was the most difficult request she had ever made of someone. Now sitting in the virtually empty waiting area for Jaime to, at last, have the one remaining test that could confirm or deny their worst fears, Kelly questioned her understanding of the dark haired woman.

Maybe she needed more time, needed the hope she so desperately held to. No! Her mind argued. She is ready and stronger than she thinks. The conversation they had that evening after Jaime’s whispered words, helped Kelly believe in the strength of her friend.

They sat in silence on the floor, their shoulders touching, leaning into each other, their hands refusing to release one another’s.

Kelly’s voice was first to break the quiet of the room. “Are you afraid… to find out for sure I mean?

Jaime probed her feelings before replying. ” No, afraid isn’t the right word, to tell the truth, I don’t know what is..” Jaime released a ragged breath, the mental struggle evident in the lines of her face. A look of decision crossed her features and then she proceeded.

“When this all started happening, there were just little things at first. I didn’t go from running around a ball field to barely able to walk all in one day.” She grimly stated.

Kelly silently took in the words, no questions or interruptions. allowing Jaime to tell her story.

“You know how much I loved playing softball.” Referring to the numerous discussions on their fondness for their respective sports. “Well, when my skills began to diminish, my love for the game did also. That was hard for me, I prided myself on my ability. When I could no longer do what had come so easily to me before…I withdrew from the game. I didn’t want to hear someone say, “she used to be the best”, while I was still playing. So, I left the game and everyone connected to it, funny thing is, I never really missed the people. I always felt different from others as far back as I can remember. It was like I was looking through a window watching everyone but not being able to join them. Kinda detached, ya know? Like everybody was in on this “big” secret, only I didn’t know what the secret was.”

Kelly squeezed the hand she held throughout in a silent show of support, she sat quietly listening to her friend speak of this for the first time. They had conversations before but Jaime chose to keep them superficial, never delving deep into her inner most thoughts.

“Sooo, I started to put all my energy into my work. I was able to carry on pretty much as normal except I would get so tired. I thought that was because I stopped playing ball and simply lost my energy. One morning I woke and just didn’t have the strength to rise from the bed. I finally decided that it was time to go to the doctor, figured I probably needed vitamins or something.” She shook her head at how ridiculous that sounded now.

“Then I had what I call the ‘The Great Apple juice Incident’. I have this brand of apple juice that I used to buy, packaged in a plastic bottle. Well, one day, I couldn’t open the damn bottle. I tried every trick I could think of, every failed attempt just made my anger rise. The next thing I know, I am throwing the bottle against the wall. Needless to say it shattered the plastic. It took me a week to clean the walls and floor. I didn’t realize how unreasonable my reaction was until later.” A small grin appeared. “I don’t buy apple juice anymore.”

The smile then disappeared. “I then started to miss days from work, that wasn’t like me at all. Walking had become more difficult with each passing day. By this time, I knew, that something was very seriously wrong.” Jaime paused once more to collect herself.

“My boss, Dom, he was very supportive, he didn’t say much about the missed time because it wasn’t the norm for me. As the time passed though… well, Dom’s support did also. I was on my way out the door to another of the many tests the doctor ordered, when I received a registered letter from my place of employment. It basically said ‘Thanks for the fifteen years but…’. I haven’t spoken to him since. I didn’t go for the test that day, it was the MRI by the way, and haven’t gone for any others since.” She contemplated her next sentence.

“So, you asked if I am afraid, angry maybe, furious is more like it, at myself, at my boss, at this useless body of mine and, whatever it is… at this insidious disease.”

“Hey, you okay?” Kelly snapped out of her remembrance at the sound of Jaime’s voice.

“Huh? Oh yeah, just thinking.” she smiled “How about you, did it go all right?”

“Well, I can’t hear very well right now, except the hum of that damn machine. It took me a little while to get comfortable in that casket but once I relaxed it went pretty quickly.” Poking her finger in her ear and wiggling it as she finished. “What do you say we go for some… oh… I don’t know, um… coffee.” Green eyes twinkled in amusement at her joking friend.

“Sounds like a plan.” Kelly agreed as she stood, adding, “I’ll call the doctor tomorrow morning to see when he will have the results.”

Jaime regarded Kelly with a now serious expression, as she placed her hand on Kelly’s shoulder she replied. “Tell him I will only hear the results from you, okay?”

Kelly lifted her hand covering the one resting on her shoulder giving it a light squeeze, an unspoken comprehension passed between the two women. With an ever so slight nod of her head, Kelly uttered on a quiet breath. “Okay.”

 


Kelly let herself into Jaime’s apartment after her knock had not received an answer. It was the first time she used the key that she had eventually persuaded Jaime to give her a couple of weeks earlier. Kelly had thought it important for someone to have access to Jaime’s apartment in case of an emergency, reasoning it would ease her mind tremendously if not Jaime’s.

She needed to sit and talk with Jaime, the furniture emptied apartment gave only one choice for a comfortable place to converse.

Kelly entered the darkened bedroom, the blinds effectively blocking most of the brilliant sunlight of the peaceful New England morning. The day was in stark contrast to the turmoil Kelly felt. She perched herself on the edge of the bed, hearing the sound of the shower that she had noticed when first entering the apartment.

The phone call this morning was unexpected. Kelly had placed a call to Jaime’s physician last evening asking that he please rush the analysis of the MRI so the she could pass on the results as soon as possible. Rush it he did. The doctor called that morning with the results, explaining that he did a cursory examination of the image but he was quite certain of his findings.

The sound of the water running in the bathroom stoppedKelly’s attention was now firmly established on the bedroom door.

Jaime cautiously stepped out of the shower, securing her knee length robe around her. The soft blue terry-cloth material warmed her as she entered the cooler air of the room. Draping around her neck the towel that she used to pat dry her hair, Jaime left the confines of the bathroom to allow the heat and steam to dissipate before she could get ready for the day.

When she walked into the bedroom she was surprised to find Kelly seated on her bed.

“Hi, what are you doing here? David having car problems again? Her forehead creased in question.

“No, nothing like that, I just needed to speak with you.” her voice held a softness that drew Jaime’s full attention. “Hope you don’t mind that I came in here.” her arm indicating the room. “I needed a place where we could both sit.” Kelly patted the area beside her. “Please, come sit down, I have something to tell you.”

The somber expression and soft tone of Kelly left no doubt in Jaime’s mind what her friend needed to talk about. I just didn’t expect it this soon.

“That bad, huh?” she predicted as she propped her cane against the edge of the bed and sat in the vacant area beside her friend.

Kelly swiveled her whole body, bending her knee and placing her leg upon the bed so that she was completely facing her friend. She took hold of Jaime’s hand, settling it between both of her own. Kelly gazed emphatically into the silver sprinkled blue of Jaime’s eyes for a long moment. “It is Multiple Sclerosis.” She finally, candidly stated. “I don’t know of any other way to say that to you.” Taking a firmer hold on the hand she held, “And no, it’s not ‘that bad’. It is just what we suspected all along, right?”

Jaime silently sat there, absorbing the information. So it has finally been spoken. It wasn’t a shock, nor was there any great revelation. The earth is still spinning. This was exactly what she had expected.

Kelly examined Jaime’s face for any sign of what the taciturn woman was feeling. Her eyes held a distant, visionless stare, her face, devoid of any emotion. The impenetrable mask was firmly in place. The therapist felt powerless to comfort her friend. What can I possibly say to her? She did this because I asked her to, now… The thought trailed off as she again looked to Jaime. I should have let her do this at her own pace. “I’m sorry.” The golden-haired woman whispered an apology, her gentle voice awash with sadness and regret.

Jaime, so lost in her thoughts, almost missed the softly spoken words. Almost. “I’m not.” Came the stunning assertion.

Jaime’s eyes focused on the confused, sorrow filled ones of the therapist. “I… ” she hesitated, deliberating whether to go on, I need to say this. A glance into the tear-filled green eyes.She needs to hear it. Gathering her courage, she began anew. “You are right, it is what we suspected.” Jaime paused, her courage disintegrating. A tender caress of her hand, gave her the strength to continue. “There was a time, not that long ago either, that hearing those words would have shoved me right over the so-called edge. An edge that I was desperately clinging to.” Her voice lowered at the admission of how vulnerable she truly was. “I was trying so hard to keep a grip but the weight of the whole situation was pulling me down and loosening my very weak hold.” Jaime now gazed unwaveringly, at Kelly. “And then, out of nowhere, the sweetest, most gentle caring person I have ever met, not only grasped a hold of me, she pulled me back away from that edge and gave me a reason to go on.”

The tears that had threatened now cascaded down Kelly’s face at the powerful words of the woman before her.

Jaime went ahead with the heartfelt proclamation. “You have given me back my hope. I know I can’t change what happened, I accept that now, but hope in what will happen and how I deal with it. I have become so used to doing this all alone and suddenly this… ,” her voice scarcely over a whisper, hoarse with the strain of keeping back the emotions, “this golden-haired angel comes along and offers me friendship and support, for which I will be forever grateful and will never fully understand.” With her own eyes now brimming with tears, Jaime placed her free hand on Kelly’s cheek, her thumb delicately brushing the tear streaked surface. “Now how could I possibly be sorry for that.”

Kelly leaned into the contact of the hand cupping her cheek, selfishly reveling in the tenderness and acceptance awarded her by the dark-haired woman. An acceptance not only as a therapist but herself as well. Kelly had not sought this on her quest to help Jaime but after hearing the words and the warmth in which they were delivered, it was something she found that she profoundly needed.

The overwhelming feelings of the moment, added to the emotional connection they had built over the past few weeks, stripped Kelly of her own inhibitions. “I love you so much.” Green eyes flew wide at the inadvertent confession. Realizing that she had spoken aloud her true feelings for Jaime. “I… ah… didn’t…” Kelly stammered as she searched her mind to explain what she had disclosed. Kelly’s thoughts were halted by the half contained sob that burst forth from Jaime.

Never did Jaime imagine that the love she felt for this, most trusted beautiful person, could ever possibly be returned. Looking back to the wide-eyed tear stained face of the therapist, Jaime attempted to reply, her emotions effectively blocking her ability to utter a single sound. At last she simply mouthed the words, “I love you back.”

Kelly released the hand she was holding and drew Jaime into a comforting embrace, a gesture she had stopped herself from doing on many occasions.

Jaime had completely failed at all efforts to regain her composure, allowing Kelly to gently rock her as she cried herself out. They stayed like that for what seemed like hours. The exhaustion of the sleepless night, the energy spent on the intense emotions and the secure comfort of the reassuring arms that held her, Jaime had finally drifted into a dream-filled sleep.


It was a gorgeous day to play ball. The sun was shining brilliantly on the softball diamond. Jaime picked up a bat, this feels so good, she thought as she made her way to the batters box. A tug on her sleeve turned her around. There stood Kelly wearing her white therapist jacket. With a shake of her head, “I’m sorry Jaime but you can never play softball again.” Jaime spun back towards the field but it was gone, she was now in the exercise room of the medical building, her hand which once held the cold aluminum of the softball bat, was now holding the solid wood of her cane.

Kelly spoke in a tone unlike Jaime had ever heard from the golden-haired therapist, almost as if she were placating a child. “Don’t worry, I know you feel all alone but I will always be here for you… somebody has to.”

Jaime stared at Kelly, the blonde woman’s demeanor was so… different. The words that Kelly had uttered seeped into Jaime’s head. “Has to? I don’t… I don’t understand, I thought you loved me?”

“Love you?” Kelly laughed, “I feel sorry for you.” She explained. “You are such a pitiful human being, I guess you could have mistaken my pity for love.” Jaime was confused, this can’t be true, she backed away from the therapist. Kelly walked over to the retreating Jaime stopping her backward motion. “Now Jaime, don’t be that way, I do care for you.” She pulled Jaime into an awkward hug. “I just couldn’t love someone like you.”


Jaime opened her eyes, frightened as to what her surroundings would be, my bedroom, it was just a dream, her heart beat furiously. A movement to her side gained her attention,Kelly. She took in the sight of the woman who had fallen asleep holding her. Kelly’s arm still loosely draped around Jaime. She is more gentle looking in her sleep if that’s possible. The dream came back in all it’s haunting glory. What if it is pity? She is the type that would want to take care of me. Could she love me? Maybe she is mistaking pity for love?


The next week proved to be more than a little awkward. Jaime had reverted to her old ways, not speaking to Kelly unless spoken to. She would sit in a room with Kelly for hours and not utter a single word. The therapist was in her own world but for a totally different reason. Kelly had taken it upon herself to learn all she could about the disease that afflicted Jaime. She had a working knowledge from a therapist’s point of view but wanted to learn of all aspects of MS to gain a better understanding to what Jaime was facing.

The fact that Jaime retreated into herself was to Kelly, her reaction at the final confirmation of the diagnosis. She wanted to let Jaime deal with the it in her own complex way, allowing the silence between them to grow. Reading about the affects of MS during their time spent together filled in the quiet stretches. “Hey, did you know that Multiple Sclerosis means ‘Many Scars’? Kelly asked on one occasion. “How appropriate.” The bitter, cynical reply. After a few similar exchanges, Kelly ceased commenting on the texts she read, the remarks had become more hostile with each bit of information related.

By the end of the week it became clear to Kelly she misinterpreted Jaime’s withdrawal. There has to be something else, she can’t even look me in the eye anymore. They had not talked since the day of the test results. The mask was immovably fixed on her emotions when Kelly had risen from the mentally exhausted sleep they had fallen into.

They were in their usual routine of Jaime seated on the recliner while on the floor, Kelly lay on her stomach studying the medical journals she borrowed. The silence was unbearable to Kelly now, she could not concentrate on her reading any longer. She looked to Jaime who was staring off with unfocused eyes. “Jaime what’s wrong? Did I do something? You won’t even look at me anymore.” She finally asked out of frustration. Are you angry with me for asking you to have the MRI?” The first on her short list of a reason for the detachment. “No, it’s not that.” Jaime mentally slapped herself, the answer revealed more than she had intended.

“Not that? What then?” She moved into a sitting position troubled by the remark, Kelly considered the events that happened just before the change in her friend. Only one other event or conversation transpired between them in that time. Her heart sunk. “Is it because I told you that… I loved you?” Her voice was small almost childlike in it’s tentative sound.

Jaime looked down at her own hand as it idly played with the frayed worn material on the arm of the recliner. “I’m not going to hold you to that ya know, I mean… I… know that… it was that you felt sorry for me so, you don’t have to….

“WHAT?!!!! Kelly shouted as she sprang from the floor so quickly that Jaime hardly saw her move. She stormed over to Jaime, her eyes replete with the hurt and anger she felt. “Do you honestly believe that?” She demanded with an incredulous glare.

Jaime sat there speechless, her silence an invitation for Kelly to go on.

She paced the floor in front of the seated woman. “Oh, I feel sorry for you all right.” Kelly scoffed. “Not for the reasons you think though.” She stepped up to the recliner, her face showing more hurt than anger now. Kelly leaned over Jaime, placing a hand on each arm of the chair, her face mere inches from Jaime’s. “I feel sorry you think so… little of me, that you could even entertain the idea, I would say those words and not mean them with every fiber of my being.” She pushed herself away, afraid of what she might say if she kept speaking, she turned away from the dark-haired woman.

Jaime was taken aback by Kelly’s outrage. She had never heard the therapist raise her voice, much less in anger. The hurt that Kelly felt was also acutely visible through the fury. What could I have been thinking… I obviously wasn’t. Jaime would have removed her own tongue if that could erase the memory of the words from Kelly’s mind.

“Kelly… I’m sorry, I know you wouldn’t have said that unless you meant it. I… wasn’t… thinking.” She gave voice to her inner thoughts. “I just don’t understand why… why would you want to love me?” A shake of her head, ” I just don’t get it.” She whispered but not quietly enough for Kelly to miss.

Kelly spun around, once again staring into the pale blue eyes. “Why do you love me?” She replied with a question of her own, the anger now completely washed away by the vulnerability of the last remark. Not waiting for an answer, she kneeled in front of her friend, placing her hands on Jaime’s thighs, she continued in a soft, gentle, loving voice. “I can’t explain it, nor do I want to, but you ‘Miss Jaime Bennett’ are for some reason a… part of me. You are all I have ever wanted in this life, I simply did not know that till now.” She ended the declaration, still staring intently in to Jaime’s astonished eyes. “Why would you want to love me?” She threw the question back at Jaime.

Jaime paused, linking what Kelly said with her own feelings, want has nothing to do with it, contemplating the words before giving a reply.

“As you said, I can’t explain it either, and no, I guess I don’t want to.” She again hesitated, attempting to explain how she felt. “A long time ago, I taught myself not to want, not to expect certain things. I learned to disassociate from people.” Jaime leaned forward in the chair, delicately placing her hands on Kelly’s cheeks. “The past few weeks I have learned… now, to allow someone in. You are the most special person I have ever met. You look at me… into me, my flaws and all , with such love, that it touches me so deeply words can not explain.” Another hesitation as she gazed into the green eyes before her. “I never thought I was capable of loving someone as much as I love you. You my dear, are all I’ve ever needed in this life.”

They stared at each other for a few lingering moments, then slowly, moved towards each other, not thinking just reacting to the words that passed between them. With a shy tenderness, their lips met in a surrender of the love that engulfed them both.

“Wow.” Kelly breathed out first.

“Yeah… wow.” Jaime repeated with a look of wonder in her eyes.

“We… okay now?” Jaime added as she regained her focus upon the kneeling woman.

Kelly smiled at Jaime. “Oh… I would say we are very okay.”


They sat at their usual table in the often visited coffee house. The coffee cooling as they had their latest discussion.

“Come on Jaime, I know you have heard it all before, but I haven’t and I would like to ask him a few questions, if you don’t mind I mean.” Kelly innocently blinked at Jaime in her plea to accompany the dark-haired woman to the neurologist. “Please?” She begged.

“Fine, what’s the use of me arguing anyway, you always get your way.” She conceded with a quirk of her lips.

“You got that right lady.” Kelly triumphantly stated, the innocent look replaced by a sly grin.

“You only get your way because I let you get your way.” Jaime teased back.

“Mm hmm, you keep believing that dear.” Was the comeback. The easy banter between the two was now commonplace.

“Oh, yeah, a toast.” Before Kelly could react, Jaime grabbed the therapist’s coffee and drained the cup.

“A toast… to what? And next time… toast with your own coffee.” She playfully slapped away Jaime’s hand.

“Didn’t I mention it? Must have slipped my mind. I am now an employed person again. No big deal, office type work mainly. I know I can handle it physically and there is room for advancement in the computer field.” She smiled, a dazzling, radiant smile. “I’m happy about it.”

Kelly left her seat, moving swiftly over to Jaime and enfolded her in a heartfelt hug. “That’s wonderful, I am so happy for you.” Straightening back up she placed her hands on her hips. “But next time, could we both have a toast? A glance at the wall clock, “Oops, time to go to the doctor dear.” Kelly announced as she grabbed her keys, jangling them as Jaime joined her to the exit.


“Your doctor is really nice.” Kelly uttered when they arrived at her house.

“Yeah, he is.” Jaime thought of the overweight balding man, his beard and hair a mix of gray and black. She grinned. “He’s kind of amusing too.” She had observed that, in his chat with Kelly. She seated herself on Kelly’s sofa, the therapist soon joining her.

“He didn’t think I asked stupid questions either.” Kelly giggled as she settled herself. “He basically confirmed that what I have read so far, is pretty accurate.” She leaned against Jaime with her legs tucked beside her. “I wonder why it strikes women more than men.” She thought aloud.

“I have no idea.” Jaime answered. “I didn’t even know that until you asked him about it.”

Kelly looked to Jaime. “Did you ask many questions about this or read about MS when it was suspected?”

“Not much before… no, but when you left your books at the apartment after it was confirmed, I started to look into it some more.” Jaime admitted.

“What is the first thing you looked into?” Kelly quizzed, hoping to get a read on what bothered Jaime the most about the loathsome disease.

Jaime cocked an eyebrow at the therapist, speculating on why she would ask that particular question. She shrugged. “I guess it was the outbursts that I read about first, wanted to be sure that they were part of all this and I wasn’t just losing it.”

Kelly was a little surprised by that answer. “Well, now you know, they are.” She patted the shoulder she was propped against.

“It’s weird, you would think it was a muscle disease and not a disease of the central nervous system.” She absently remarked. Kelly sat back, realizing what she said. “I’m sorry, I am being very clinical aren’t I?” She apologized.

“Don’t be sorry. I think it’s pretty amazing that you are even bothering to learn so much about this. It is nice to know you kind of understand, ya know?”

“I know.” Kelly nodded. “There is one thing I don’t know and have been meaning to ask you. You have been to a counselor, right?” At the nod of confirmation she proceeded. “Have they given you any help or advice?” Another nod. “Did you follow any of it?”

“Some.” Jaime answered “But no, not all of it.”

With a familiar tilt of her head, Kelly regarded Jaime. “Why?”

“I can’t… do what he wants, that’s why.” An edge crept into Jaime’s voice.

Not wanting to push too far but knowing she still had room, Kelly probed further. “What does he want you to do?”

“Well, seeing that I am sooo good at telling him my feelings.” She facetiously started. “He wants me to write them down instead, to purge myself of all the pent up emotions, as he so eloquently put it.” She snorted.

Laying her hand on Jaime’s forearm, “I think that is a fabulous idea.” Kelly smiled enthusiastically. “What’s the problem?”

Jaime placed her hand on Kelly’s in an unconscious move. “I can’t do that, I tried.” A pause. “He wants to publish it in the local MS newsletter, I can’t write something I know others will read.” Another pause. “Besides the fact, I just can’t seem to write about myself.” She shrugged.

“Sure you can… don’t think about other people reading it, just you and the paper.” Kelly furrowed her brows in thought. “Try removing yourself from the story and write it about someone else, just give her your thoughts and feelings. Think you can give that a try?” Both eyebrows raised now.

Jaime pursed her lips, that might work. “I don’t know, I could try that I guess, but… I’m not promising anything.” She frowned. “I still don’t know about letting anyone, other than you, read it. If, and that is a big if, I am able to write one.

“I have no doubt in my mind that you can do this.” The therapist confidently stated. “Remember, you control what you put down, no pushing and no restrictions. You only have to reveal what you want to.” She then stood and sauntered into the kitchen area, opening the junk drawer, Kelly pulled out a pad and pencil. She returned to the sofa and convinced Jaime to lay down. “Here you go.” She handed over the items. “Lie back and think about it, if something comes to mind, jot it down.”

“Now?” The silver blue of Jaime’s eyes looked in question.

“Yes, only if something comes to mind. Don’t force it, just relax, think about everything that has happened to you.” Kelly then lifted Jaime’s legs and scooted under, laying them across her lap when she was seated. After a few moments she started to massage the muscles that lay across her, unaware she was even doing it.

Jaime lay there, pencil in hand, wondering what she could possibly put down on the paper. I don’t even know where to start. Her mind reviewing and dismissing many of the ideas. A gentle kneading of her leg muscles brought her attention to the woman seated on the sofa with her. She secretly observed Kelly as she tenderly, almost absently massaged her legs. The thoughtful caring look on her face, the compassion she unwittingly exuded was all the inspiration that Jaime needed. She thought of that day, the day she really began to live, she then started to write the first chapter in what she hoped, would be a long and fulfilling life.

All I’ve ever needed

Sitting at the kitchen table sipping her coffee, Jane Benten scanned the want ads for the job that would set her life in order……

The End

 

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