Connecting Hearts
Part V
by Cephalgia and MJ

Disclaimers: See Part I
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Chapter 21

Randa woke in unfamiliar, but very comfortable warmth. Opening her eyes she saw, as well as felt, Denise's long frame next to her. Randa had snuggled in close to the brunette, wrapping an arm possessively around her middle. One of the blonde's legs was flung over the longer ones of the poet. She gazed up at Denise, watching the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest as she slept peacefully on.

This has been the most wonderful Valentines Day ever the nurse thought. How did I live my life up to now without her? Lifting her head further, Randa was able to see the alarm clock over Denise's shoulder. With a sigh of resignation Randa placed a tender kiss on the other woman's lips then trailed smaller kisses along her jaw line.

“Denise?” She said softly. “Denise, it's time to…”

“Okay, Randa, but I'm going to be knackered in the morning, you know,” the poet mumbled as she reached for the nurse.

Randa laughed out loud at Denise's assumption. A puzzled expression crossed the brunette's features.

“Denise, it's two o'clock. Now I admit staying right here in bed with you is much a more appealing idea, but we need to get up and turn Sara.”

Denise blushed. “Oh, yeah, we uh…we need to do that.”

Randa laughed again at the poet's embarrassment saying, “After we're done though, may I suggest we pick up on your marvelous idea?”

“We can most definitely do that,” Denise replied. She hugged the blonde to her and initiated a kiss that threatened to re-ignite the passion of previous hours. Her lips then moved to the nurse's earlobe with tantalizing nibbles.

“God, Denise, if you don't stop right now I guarantee it will be a long while before we get down to Sara.”

The poet stopped abruptly and rolled from the bed. “What are you waiting for, slow coach? The sooner down, the sooner done and the sooner back to bed.”

Randa laughed as she pulled her pajamas from the floor where they had been discarded hours earlier. “Uh-oh, I think I've created a monster!”

Denise found a pair of boxers and a T-shirt that she put on quickly. Reaching for Randa's hand she said, “Come on, Dr. Frankenstein, let's get moving!”

The pair went downstairs and moved Sara to a new position and massaged lotion onto the areas she had been laying on. When they had completed the task, Randa addressed the brunette.

“Why don't you go back to bed? I just want to get a drink of water and then I'm going back too.”

“I'll be waiting.” Denise clapped a hand over her mouth and her eyes widened as she looked down at her aunt trying to ascertain if her words had been overheard. Sara's eyes were closed and apparently she had drifted back to sleep. The poet made a wiping motion across her forehead then gave Randa a grin. As the brunette turned to leave the room she heard an unmistakable snort of amusement followed by poorly suppressed giggles. She turned back to see both her aunt and her lover convulsing with barely contained laughter.

“Sara, you could have at least pretended not to hear,” Denise pouted.

“Oh, no, I could not,” said Sara and laughed again. Denise maintained her air of disapproval for all of three seconds before joining in the laughter. After a few moments the laughter subsided and the poet gave a visible shiver.

“I'm going to go back upstairs before I freeze.” Giving Randa an adorable smile, she added, “Don't be long.”

“Not a chance,” replied the nurse.

Denise left and Sara looked at Randa.

“So you…”


“And it was…”

Randa blushed but met Sara's gaze and said evenly, “It was the most incredible thing to happen to me in my entire life. I love her so much.”

“That's good then.” Sara smiled. “You best go along and if you're heading to the kitchen…”


Randa re-entered the bedroom with a tray bearing two bottles of water, a few candles and a napkin covered plate. Denise was already back in the bed, covers pulled up to her waist. Handing one of the bottles to the poet, the nurse said, “I thought you could use this.”

“Hmm, I could, thanks.” The brunette twisted off the cap and took a long drink as she watched Randa place the candles around the room and light them. Randa switched off the light and approached the bed.

“And what might be under the napkin?” asked Denise.

“Denise, when you gave me your book of poems, I was so touched. I know what your work means to you and how difficult it must have been to share the thing that's been so important in your life. I want to sit and read each one slowly; savor them because I know your heart and soul show through each line. I don't think I can ever tell you how much it means to me to be allowed to see that work and your beautiful heart. I know I don't have anything to compare with your gift, but I do have this.” Randa removed the napkin from the plate to reveal a mouth watering chocolate éclair cut into bite sized pieces.

“I saved it for you when you didn't come down for lunch. Do you want it now?” Randa's tone made it clear she wasn't just talking about the éclair any longer.

“ Oh yes…I want it now,” whispered Denise.

“That's very good, Denise, because it's all for you.” Randa took a small step back from the bed.

“All that I am, and ever will be, is for you.” Saying that, Randa reached for the waistband of her pajamas, dropped them to the floor and kicked them away. Left in only the striped pajama top, she unbuttoned the top button and then the second one, never losing eye contact with the poet. Ample breasts were revealed again and Randa felt herself respond to Denise's burning gaze. There was no mistaking the look of hunger on the brunette's face.

“Impatient for your treat?” Randa teased. Denise could only nod. The nurse opened the remaining buttons and let the shirt fall from her shoulders. Climbing onto the bed, she straddled the poet's thighs.

“Ah, Madame, welcome to the Bare Naked Café. The specialty of the house today is éclair, which we would love to serve you, but you are in violation of our dress code. I'm truly sorry but your shirt must go.” Randa reached out and pulled the shirt from the poet's body, favoring her with an appreciative gaze.

“Madame, we are not crazy for your clothing but your…accessories…are outstanding!”

Denise laughed at the words in spite of the very sensual situation. “Randa, you are absolutely bonkers!”

“No, just bonkers for you, love. Ready for some éclair?” Receiving an affirmative reply, Randa picked up a piece of the pastry and brought it to Denise's lips. The poet took in the offering as well as a little of the fingers that delivered it. The nurse brought her fingers out of the brunette's mouth and up to her own. The combination of Denise and chocolate was heady stuff and Randa's heartbeat picked up noticeably. Taking another piece of the éclair, the blonde scooped the sweet cream filling out and, using her fingertips, coated Denise's taut nipples. The poet sucked in her breath as Randa leaned over and took one nipple in her mouth, working her tongue around and across until all traces of the cream was gone. She repeated the action on the other breast, eliciting a low moan from the brunette.

Randa placed soft kisses between Denise's breasts then trailed them down across the flat planes of the poet's stomach. She looked up as she reached to tug the waistband of the boxers down. The brunette's breathing was ragged now as she lifted her hips, allowing boxers and covers to be tossed to the end of the bed.

“All for you, Denise,” the nurse vowed as she lowered her mouth to the poet's glistening passion. At the first touch of Randa's tongue, Denise's hips bucked involuntarily and the blonde grinned, knowing the pleasure she was giving to her partner. As Denise began moving her hips rhythmically to match the nurse's strokes, Randa brought her fingers up to the brunette's wetness. Slipping two fingers inside the poet, Randa increased the speed and intensity of her intimate caresses. Denise neared the pinnacle and her movements became almost frantic. Randa curled her fingers inside Denise and felt the contractions begin. Taking the swollen nub in her mouth and sucking firmly, Randa felt Denise's orgasm take her.

“Randa! Oh, God…” Spasm after spasm passed through the poet.

The nurse gentled her touches and slowly brought Denise back down to earth. Removing her fingers from the brunette and moving up into her embrace, Randa felt a peace settle over her that she had never known before.

“Randa, we should…for you…”

Randa smiled and held Denise tightly. “Oh, we will, but not this time. This time was for you. Sleep now. We can always have more…éclair…later.”


Peeking through small gap in her bedroom curtains, Denise gazed at the dawning sky. The abundance of textured clouds brightly lit by the rising sun created an awe-inspiring sight of orange hues. It forced the poet to feel a certain amount of insignificance when faced with the grandeur of Mother Nature.

Feeling a shiver travel down her spine as a chilly draft whistled through a gap in the window, Denise turned away and looked toward the bed. She gazed adoringly at the sleeping form resting peacefully on her stomach. Her face was turned away from Denise but the sound of deep even breaths filled the room.

Picking up the tee shirt that had been repeatedly discarded upon the floor, the poet shrugged into the extra layer of warmth before moving around the bed. Sitting upon the edge Denise studied Randa closely. Lifting her right hand she pushed her fingers through the sleep tousled blonde locks with an affectionate smile. Denise thought that maybe she should have felt a certain measure of astonishment but the poet was filled only with a happy contentment. In the space of one evening alone, Randa had changed her forever. Suddenly she was now living a whole new world of passion and sensuality that at one time she believed would always be foreign to her.

With a contented smile, Denise trailed her fingertips down Randa's back, slightly pushing down the thick quilt that covered her smaller frame. Leaning down she kissed Randa's shoulder blade before pulling back. On the bedside cabinet Denise spotted the plate containing the half eaten éclair. With a smirk she took one of the bite sized pieces from the plate and popped it into her mouth, sighing with indulgent delight. Hmm, chocolate. Sucking the remaining cream from her thumb, Denise leaned forward and removed the appendage from her mouth before kissing Randa's neck. She couldn't resist the urge to wake the nurse and gaze once again into those heated green eyes.

Stretching her body out beside Randa, Denise lay upon her side and propped her head in one supporting hand. In a singsong voice she said, “Randa?”

There was no response.

She tried again. “Randa, wakey, wakey.” A moment later Denise was greeted by two sleepy green eyes and she smiled brightly. “Morning.”

Randa blinked before replying. “Morning. What time is it?”

Denise shrugged before looking briefly at her clock. “It's just gone seven o'clock.”

“In the morning?”

The poet laughed. “Of course in the morning. You haven't gone and lost all perception of time and space have you?” she asked with a look of pseudo seriousness. “Do you know what the date is? Can you tell me your name?” Denise held up her index finger and moved it in front of Randa's nose. “Look at this and follow my finger as it moves, okay?”

With a swift movement, Randa grabbed Denise's hand and rolled over onto her back pulling the poet with her. “You, as usual, are far too effervescent for such an early hour of the morning.”

Denise looked down and grinned happily. “I guess I was just hyped this morning.” Leaning forward she kissed Randa softly upon the lips. “I can leave if you want more sleep though?”

Randa held on to her tightly. “Don't you move.”

With a smirk Denise asked, “Ever?”

Randa shook her head. “How long have you been awake?”

“Not long.” Lifting herself, Denise pulled the covers out from between their bodies. She looked down briefly at the span of unblemished naked flesh before settling her body down upon Randa's. “I was just indulging in one of my favourite past times.”

“Which is?”

“Looking up at the sky and feeling utterly insignificant in the presence of such magnitude… and thinking.”

“About.” Randa's fingers moved inquisitively under Denise's shirt and travelled along the warm flesh of her back.


The nurse then separated her thighs and Denise slipped a thigh of her own between them, they fit together perfectly. “And did you come to any conclusions?” She closed her eyes briefly as Denise pressed against her.

“I did actually.” Moving one hand from Randa's shoulder, Denise lowered her appendage and caressed Randa's thigh. She felt the blonde open her legs a little wider as her hand moved with curiosity.

Randa's breathing increased. “And?”

Denise smiled slightly as she lowered her head and trailed light kisses across Randa's chest. “And what?” she whispered.

The nurse clasped the back of Denise's head as a tongue moved languidly over her breast. “How… did your thoughts conclude?”

“Ah!” Denise looked up as her hand moved in between Randa's thighs. “It's a little selfish.” Her heart picked up its pace as she felt the moist heat of Randa's desire.

“Tell me,” the blonde pleaded and moved against Denise's caress.

“Are you sure?” Denise looked into heavy lidded jade eyes. She leaned forward and pressed soft kisses across Randa's forehead, down her nose and upon her lips where they instigated a kiss of mutual intensity.

Moments later both women pulled away breathlessly.

“Please?” Randa asked.

“I decided…” Denise sunk her fingers into an abundance of molten desire. The sheer heat that enveloped her was overwhelming. “I decided that I want you forever.” She entered Randa slowly, teasingly. “I want to feel this… you… forever.” Denise paused all movement and looked at Randa seriously. “Is that a selfish feeling? How can I possibly feel the way I do in the face of such… considering everything else that is happening? If it weren't for you, Randa, I would have fallen apart a long time ago. How you've changed me so!” Once again Denise initiated a slow pace as she moved in and out of Randa, desperately wanting the moment to last.

Placing her forehead upon Randa's, blue eyes gazed into green with absolute devotion. “Randa?” she breathed.

Randa groaned as DJ increased her speed. “Yes?” Her strong hands gripped Denise's shoulders urgently.

“I… um you're… I just….” At a loss for words that the poet deemed appropriate, and feeling that her actions could speak louder than her confused ramblings, Denise sunk into the blonde, deciding to show her what she seemingly felt unable to say.


The gentle, soothing sound of the gas cooker heating a large saucepan of milk filled the otherwise quiet kitchen. Denise stood over the stove and watched the movement of the semi-skimmed milk as it began to bubble slowly. She dipped her finger into the increasing heat and then sucked the liquid off her finger.

From her wheelchair positioned at the table, Sara watched her niece at the cooker. She couldn't help but notice how DJ had yet to make eye contact with her. She smiled inside. “So… where's Randa disappeared to?” Sara's rough strained voice broke the calm of the kitchen.

“She's gone to have a shower.” Denise answered as she turned off the gas and picked up the saucepan, carrying it toward the three bowls of 'Readybreck'. She poured the hot milk into two of the bowls and stirred the mixtures together.

“Hmm,” Sara replied, “she looked a little tired this morning.”

“Did she?” Denise picked up the two bowls of the hot breakfast cereal and carried them over to the table. Placing the bowls down upon the surface, Denise sat down facing Sara. She picked up her aunts spoon as she said, “I don't think it's too hot.”


With her head still lowered, blue eyes peeked up through the dark fringe of her hair. “Hmm?”

“Are you embarrassed?”

“No!” Denise looked back down at Sara's breakfast, stirring the spoon around the slow cooling cereal.

“Well look at me then.”

Rolling her eyes, Denise looked up at Sara with a coy smile. “Okay, I admit it, it's a little embarrassing knowing you know what… well… you know what I mean.” She blushed noticeably forcing Sara to chuckle.

“DJ, give me your hand.”

With only slight reluctance as she wondered what her aunt had in mind, Denise reached over the tabletop and placed her hand in Sara's that rested limply upon the chairs armrest.

“Now you listen here, DJ. Nothing makes me happier than knowing you and Randa have acknowledged the special connection the two of you share. I can leave this world now, safe in the knowledge that you will not be alone.” Older blue eyes stared seriously into younger ones.

Those simple words struck a deep emotional cord within the poet's heart. Shaking her head, Denise said, “I don't want you to die, Sara. This just isn't fair.” Her bottom lip trembled as she held onto Sara's hand tightly.

“We have no control over fate, DJ.”

“Fuck fate.” Denise replied angrily. “How anyone can believe in something so cruel and ruthless is beyond me.”

Though surprised by her niece's outburst - that in itself was so out of character, Sara understood from where it came. To her it was understandable that DJ would feel such anger towards something she was unable to control. Her usual calm head and mild manner disappeared in the face of utter helplessness.

Sara looked evenly into moist blue eyes and felt her heart break. She knew of no way she could make this easier for Denise and she hated the knowledge that DJ would watch her die. “DJ, … have you ever considered…”

No!” Denise replied firmly,

“You don't even…”

“Yes I do and the answer is no.” The poet stated seriously. “You stay here with me… and Randa. She did come all the way over here to help take care of you remember?”

Sara nodded, feeling internally relieved at her niece's words although she knew the nurse travelled to England for more than just her needs. For that she was eternally thankful.

There was a moment of awkward silence as Sara decided it was time to lighten the mood. “So…” she waited until Denise looked back up. “Randa isn't the only one who looks a little on the tired side this morning, you know!”

Denise snorted as her head fell into her hands and she shook it with a groan. “You never let me get away with anything, do you?” The poet looked back with pink tinted cheeks.

“Not since you tried to blame your hamster 'Snotty' for eating the icing on that three tier wedding cake I was making when you were eleven.”

Denise chuckled. “Poor Snotty. How on earth did I ever get away with calling her a name like that anyway? And why on earth did you agree to it?”

Watching as Denise pushed her spoon back into the breakfast cereal and stir around the contents of the bowl, Sara smiled slightly. “Believe me, if I recall correctly that was the most respectable of the names you had suggested. You see… even then you were far too creative for your own good.”

“And I never got over the disappointment of not being able to call her after a certain part of the female anatomy!”

“Thank the lord for small mercies. I would have probably shrivelled away with mortification if I'd have told people what you did want to call her.”

Denise smiled in memory as she lifted a small spoonful of cereal towards Sara's lips and said; “I think this should be cool enough by now.”

Sara accepted the offering and the women fell into an easy silence while eating their breakfast.


While Sara sat peacefully in the living room, watching one of her many favourite soap operas, Denise went on a search for Randa. The blonde hadn't made an appearance since she had disappeared to take a shower over an hour ago and Denise was starting to get curious as to what was taking so long.

Ascending to the upper level of the house, Denise wandered across the landing until she reached her study door. There was no sound coming from inside the room, yet DJ knew Randa was in there. She could almost sense it. Lifting her hand, the poet rapped her knuckles on the door and waited. A moment later Randa appeared with a frown.

“Why are you knocking?” she asked.

DJ shrugged and walked into the room. “Um… I was just wondering whether you wanted anything to eat? You have been ages and I had made you breakfast.”

“Oh!” Randa looked down at her watch. “I guess I have been a while, huh? I was just on the computer, I needed to do something for work and mail Derek a question concerning the site. Sorry. Did I miss breakfast?”

“You did… and after I slaved all morning over a hot stove to make you your essential nourishment… you go and ruin all my hard work.” Denise folded her arms with false indignation and a hidden smile. She sniffed melodramatically as she said, “I don't think I will ever recover from the disappointment of your blatant rejection.” Her bottom lip drooped into a pronounced pout.

An expression of amusement crossed Randa's features and she moved a hand to cover her growing smile. “Man, where did you learn such melodramatics? Its just breakfast.”

Denise pursed her lips and arched an eyebrow as her arms fell to her sides. “Just what exactly are you implying, Miss Martin?”


“Uh huh.”

DJ took a step forward and Randa took a step back. She could clearly see the nefarious glint sparkle in the poet's eye.

“I'll have you know that my cooking is more than just.”

“Your cooking is nice.”

Denise moved another step in her advance towards Randa. “Just nice? Nice is a pretty non-descript word in my opinion. To me, nice is the colour of black socks or the flavour of warm water.”

This time it was Randa who moved a step towards DJ. “Are you fishing for compliments? She who has literary critics singing her praises is digging for yet more accolades?”

“Well no… I was just…” Denise paused; hold on a minute! “Hey don't you go trying to turn this around! If I remember correctly you were insulting my cooking.”

“I was not.”

“And that is something I just cannot let slide.” DJ sighed empathetically as she said, “I'm afraid I'm going to have to make you pay.”

Randa's eyes widened as she took another step backwards and realised she'd hit Denise's overly tidy desk. She had almost backed herself into a corner. “Pay? What do you mean make me pay?”

“I think you have a pretty good idea what I mean.”

“I'm not sure.” Randa replied cautiously, watching DJ to try and gauge her next move.

Pale blue eyes narrowed and with a sudden movement, Denise stepped forward, lunging towards the blonde. Randa stepped to her left quickly, opting for her only route of escape as she shot past the poet and headed for the door.

“Oh you are not trying to escape!” DJ laughed as she spun around and followed Randa out of the room.

Randa took off down the stairs as fast was she was able but Denise was close behind, taking the steps two at a time. She was closing in on the nurse rapidly. Randa hit the bottom step and ran through the lower part of the house, bursting into the living room where a startled Sara watched her enter with bemusement.

Denise shot into the room and cornered Randa behind the sofa. “Ah… I've got you now! Surrender and I may give you reprieve.”

“Never.” Randa looked towards Sara beseechingly, keeping one eye trained upon the poet. “Sara, will you please tell your niece that I did not just insult her cooking?”

Not completely sure what was happening, Sara did as requested. “Randa didn't just insult your cooking, DJ.” The older woman moved her eyes back towards Randa. “You didn't by any chance use the words 'okay' or 'nice' or even 'fine' did you?”

“Well…” Randa looked at Sara then jumped as Denise made a false move to her right then stopped. “I may have said something like that.”

“Oh well then I'm sorry, Randa honey, but you are on your own. DJ takes after me with her pride in cooking. Give her hell, DJ.”

Randa's mouth dropped and she looked at Sara in shock.

“My pleasure,” Denise said as she stepped up onto the sofa and vaulted over the back of the chair, landing in front of the nurse. In one swift movement she grabbed Randa and hoisted her over her shoulder.

“Denise!” Randa shrieked as she found herself hanging half upside down and facing the poets back. “Denise put me down!”

DJ grinned down at her aunt. “Don't worry I have this under control.” She patted Randa's jean clad behind softly. “Let me go and take care of this and I'll be back in a jiffy.”

“Take your time.” Sara laughed as she watched Denise carry a protesting Randa out into the hallway. When they were gone she turned back to the television with a smile.

“Denise if you don't put me down this very minute I'll…” Randa suddenly found herself deposited in a sitting position upon the stairs.

“You'll what?” Denise asked with a smirk.

“You… you are a… a…”

Denise leaned forward and silenced Randa with a kiss. “You are so adorable when you are flustered.”

Randa grinned as she said, “And you are a pain in my…”

Once again Denise's lips silenced Randa. The poet leaned forward, bracing her knees on either side of Randa on the stairs. She pulled away with a pout. “Do you really think I am a pain?”

“Maybe.” Randa replied, “Unless you can convince me otherwise.”

“Ah… and how could I do that?”

Randa pushed Denise forward until they were both standing. “Let me think about it and I'll let you know tonight.” She hooked her finger around the buttonhole of the poet's denim shirt. “Don't worry too much though; I'm sure you won't be disappointed.”

“Well in that case I will look forward to it.”

“Me too,” replied Randa with a lascivious leer. “So, is it time to eat your astonishingly wonderful… delight to my senses… treat to my taste buds breakfast?”

Denise nodded with approval. “You see, that wasn't too hard now was it?” She took Randa's hand and led her towards the kitchen. “Anything madam desires, I'll do my best to grant.”

“Those may be your famous last words.”

“Just this evening I hope.”

“You're unstoppable.”

“I learned from the best.” Denise waggled her eyebrows.

The women entered the kitchen as Randa asked, “The best?”

“You know, that impassioned woman who kept me awake for more than half the night.”

“Are you complaining?”

Denise pulled the blonde into her arms. “Never.”

Chapter 22

The week after Valentines Day was blissful for Denise and Randa. Sara's condition had seemed to stabilize and the house settled into a routine that gave the younger women time to explore the new aspect of their relationship. The days and evenings were reserved for Sara and work, while the nights were reserved for each other. The exploration started on the holiday continued and they became more comfortable with each other's bodies. The long nights spent in each other's arms were the most restful either had ever spent, each finding a feeling of rightness and contentment.

Randa and Denise split the nighttime duty of repositioning Sara allowing the other to continue to sleep uninterrupted. Uninterrupted, unless the one remaining in bed chose to be a one-woman erotic welcoming committee on the other's return.

It was the middle of the night late in February when Randa made her way downstairs to turn Sara. Moving quietly, the nurse slipped into the room as she had done so many times before to look at the woman who had become almost as close to her as her own mother.

As Randa reached to gently wake Sara, her hand stopped short of touching the woman's shoulder. The training drilled into the blonde came out and she realized something wasn't right with Sara. Pulling back, Randa slipped her professional demeanor on and began an assessment of the older woman. The problem hit her almost immediately. Despite having the ever-present oxygen on, Sara was still struggling slightly for breath. Randa observed the breathing for a moment and saw what she believed was the problem. They would need to call Dr. Macarthur first thing in the morning, but it was the talk with Denise that the blonde dreaded more than that. Waking Sara, Randa completed the repositioning and kissed the older woman goodnight.

Randa climbed the stairs slowly. This news is going to hurt Denise. I thought it was tough to give her bad news before, but now that we've moved beyond the 'just friends' stage it's going to hurt like hell to tell her what she has to know. Randa walked into the room she had shared with the poet for over a week and looked at the sleeping woman. This will wait until morning; I'm not going to wake her up right now. The nurse slipped quietly into the bed where Denise reached for her in her sleep. Randa closed her eyes, allowing the warmth and security of the brunette's embrace to banish temporarily the chill that had settled in her heart.


The next morning Randa woke to find the bed empty. She was just starting to rise from the bed when Denise walked in toweling her hair dry. Just the sight
of the taller woman was enough to pick the nurse's pulse rate up pleasantly.

“Good morning, love,” Randa said to the poet. Denise approached the bed and leaned over to give the blond woman a lingering kiss.

“No doubt about it,” the nurse sighed, “you absolutely know how to say 'good morning' right.”        

Denise chuckled. “What are you doing up so early? I thought you might sleep in as you were up with Sara last night.”

Randa frowned as she remembered the conversation she needed to have with Denise this morning. “Denise, could you sit here with me a minute before you go downstairs? I want to talk to you about Sara.”

Concern was evident in the poet's voice as she said, “What's the matter? Has something happened to Sara?”

“No, no!” the nurse said. She reached up and drew Denise down to sit on the bed. “Sara is okay, love. I think though that there has been a change in her condition and we are going to have to do something about it. When I went down to turn her the last time, I noticed there was a problem with her breathing. I think she's had further weakening of her respiratory muscles.”

The nurse felt the brunette's hand tighten around her own. “Further weakening? I didn't notice anything yesterday. She seemed the same as always.”

“During the day she's taking deeper breaths because she's awake but at night she breathes more shallowly and her respiratory muscles aren't strong enough to hold her lungs open fully,” Randa explained. “I think we need to contact Dr. Macarthur and get a C-PAP machine for Sara.”

“Whatever you think is best, Randa, but what exactly is a C-PAP?” Denise asked.

“C-PAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It's a machine that's connected to a mask Sara will need to wear at night. The mask is a pretty tight fit over her nose and mouth. The machine will give a positive airflow to Sara, helping to keep the lungs open even though her lung muscles are weak.”

Denise thought about this a minute and chewed lightly on her bottom lip. “Her condition is deteriorating again, isn't she?”

Randa reached out and pulled the poet to her. “Oh, love, I'm so sorry. I know we had hoped she wouldn't progress to this point so quickly.”

The nurse felt the brunette choke back a sob as she asked, “How long do you think she has? She won't suffer, will she? I don't know if I could stand that.”

Randa pulled back to look into tear filled blue eyes. “I don't know how long Sara has, Denise, but I want you to know one thing for sure. We will not let Sara suffer. We will see her through this no matter what it takes and she will know she is loved and cared for in whatever time she has left.”

Denise swallowed hard and nodded. She moved away from Randa and stood up. “I need to go downstairs and get the fire going in the living room.” The nurse could only watch as the brunette left the room wiping the tears from her eyes.

You've handled everything by yourself for so long you have no idea how to let someone in, even now. Let me help, Denise. Let my love help you through this. Randa sighed and left the bed, knowing she needed to find the key to getting the poet to open up to her and let the hurt and anger out.


Throughout the day, Randa made several attempts to get Denise to talk about what she was feeling. The poet gently rebuffed those attempts, saying she was fine and just needed some time to think through the things that had occurred in the space of the last day. Dr. Macarthur visited and ordered the C-PAP, agreeing with Randa's assessment of the older woman's respiratory system. He asked about Sara's food intake. The pair admitted Sara's swallowing difficulties were more noticeable again and they had been forced to change her diet to only soft and liquid foods. Denise repeated the question she had asked Randa earlier.

“How long?”

Dr. Macarthur looked uncomfortable as he said, “It's difficult to say. Maybe days, maybe weeks. Everything will depend on the progression of the weakening of the breathing muscles. I'm going to prescribe Sara a mild sedative. Many times patients who feel their breathing is failing have problems with panic at some point. The sedative can help her get through those times. Denise, are you sure you still want to care for Sara at home? I could arrange for a bed in hospital if you'd like.”

“No!” Denise replied angrily. “No hospital! Sara is my family, she stays here in her home as I promised!” The poet walked angrily from the room and Dr. Macarthur turned to Randa.

“I didn't mean to offend her, but you and I know how difficult this is going to get. How is Denise holding up?”

“About as well as can be expected given the circumstances. She's been so independent for so long it's hard for her to accept help. She made a huge leap by letting me stay and help with Sara. I only wish it was easier for her to talk about it, she keeps the hurtful feelings bottled up and tries to deal with them on her own.”

“I can see that. Well, here is the prescription. You know, you two are doing a very impressive job with Sara. Let me know if there are any more changes or if you need anything at all.”

Randa saw the doctor out and wandered back into the house, finding Denise sitting on the couch staring into the fire in the living room. The nurse sat quietly next to the brunette and rested her head on Denise's shoulder. The poet said nothing, but reached for Randa's hand and held it tightly.

“I love you, Denise Jennings,” Randa said simply. Denise turned slightly, kissed the blond woman's head and rested her cheek there.

“Thank you for that,” Denise said.

The two sat silently watching the fire, no more words passing between them.


It was early evening, two days after the C-PAP had been delivered and while Randa was working and Sara was asleep, Denise sat out on the step of the back door. The days were just starting to grow longer and there was still enough light outside to provide adequate vision for Denise. Sitting with her legs stretched out upon the pathway, the poet studied the overgrown, shabby garden. It had been neglected over the winter months and now stood as a shadow of the pruned and sculpted beauty it used to be. DJ knew Sara would have tended her garden all through the winter, keeping what was almost an obsession, a sight of perfection. From the rambling rose bushes and perfect lawn, to the small orchard at the bottom of the garden. Sara dedicated much of her time tending to her passion.

Rising to her feet Denise slipped the monitor to her side and turned on the outdoor light by the switch next to the back door. She then pulled the door closed and walked out in to the garden.

Pushing her hands into her pocket to ward off the evening chill, Denise strode down the garden path. Light trousers and a short-sleeved top did not provide adequate warmth for the weather. DJ was overwhelmed by the state of Sara's garden and for once she was glad her aunt wouldn't be able to see it. She would be heartbroken, Denise thought.

Reaching the vegetable patch she looked down into the mass of neglect. Amongst the rubbish were weathered stray potato shrubs, rubbish that the wind had swept over the fence and even a dead mouse, obviously left by a generous neighbourhood cat. Shaking her head, the poet leaned down and picked up the empty crisp packets and sodden firework that had fallen into the garden from the last Bonfire Night. Placing the rubbish upon the path, Denise rose and studied the garden, taking in the sight in a three hundred and sixty-degree turn.

“Sara would never have allowed this to happen,” the poet muttered, feeling a surge of anger towards herself for allowing the garden's deterioration. Kicking the retrieved garbage that lay by her feet, DJ strode over to the shed. Pulling the door open she stepped inside and surveyed the rows of tools. Picking up a spade, fork and pair of shears, she took them back outside. Moving over to the vegetable patch, Denise dropped the fork and shears onto the ground and began turning the soil in the vegetable patch.

It was two hours later when Randa found Denise. The sun had set and the moon shone sporadically through a mass of moving clouds in the dark sky. The poet was working in the artificial light of the garden's halogen lamp. With a noticeable frown, Randa stepped out into the cool air as Denise stood by the far fence trimming the stray branches of the rose bushes.

“Denise?” Randa called as she made her way up the garden path. “What are you doing?”

Unable to yet to hear the nurse, Denise carried on with her pruning. Her vision was hindered as she squinted in the medium darkness. Being at the bottom end of the garden meant the light was not as bright.

Randa stepped further up the garden path and quickly approached the poet. “Denise, what is going on?”

Hearing Randa's voice Denise stopped and turned to face the blonde. “Hey!”

“What are you doing?” Randa asked again.

With a deep sigh the poet turned back to the bushes and snipped at another stray branch. “Just tidying a little.”

“How long have you been out here?” asked Randa, placing her hand upon the poet's exposed forearm she instantly felt the chill of the frozen flesh.

Denise shrugged. “I don't know… a while I guess.” She looked back at Randa. “This place was Sara's pride and joy. She would spend hours out here every day tending to all of this.” Denise made a sweeping motion with her hand. “I can't believe I let it get so bad.”

Randa shook her head. “This overgrown garden was not your fault; other things have just taken a higher priority, Denise.”

“If Sara knew what this looked like.”

“So what are you going to do? Stay out here all night? Denise, you're freezing; come back into the house before you catch a chill.”

“I want to get this looking right again. Even if Sara can't see it at least she'll have the knowledge and peace of mind to know that I am still tending to its upkeep.” DJ persisted.

Randa pulled the shears out of Denise's hands. “And are you going to stay out until you catch a chill? What help are you going to be to Sara if you're too ill to look after her? She needs us, Denise. She needs you. You know what Doctor Macarthur said.”

Yes I know what he said,” Denise stated, “how could I forget?” She pulled the sheers back out of Randa's hands. “And what can I do about it? Nothing! There is nothing I can do for her.” In a rush of anger Denise threw the metal tool across the garden. It landed upon the lawn in the overgrown grass. “Sara's dying and there is nothing I can do.”

Randa looked at DJ in silence, unsure of the poet's next move.

After a while she spoke. “Maybe you can continue with this tomorrow?”

Denise snorted. “What's the point? What's the point with anything anymore? We as human are worth nothing in this life. We are born just to die. We live our lives for no purpose other than our own selfish gains. Why bother?”

“I don't believe that,” Randa said with conviction. She reached over and pulled DJ's hand into her own. “I don't believe for one moment that you think that. Not in here.” She placed one hand over Denise's heart as her eyes stung with unshed tears. “Don't let your hurt and feelings of helplessness turn into something darker.” She lowered her head, trying to look into DJ's downcast eyes. “Please talk to me.”

When no answer was forthcoming, Randa took a firm hold of Denise's hand and pulled her back towards the house. DJ allowed herself to be led back inside, as Randa escorted her through the building and into Sara's bedroom. They stopped at the door.

Sara was asleep in her bed, breathing much easier with the assistance of the C-PAP. The room was dark, the only illumination coming from the lighting in the hallway. Both women stood within the doorway looking at the sleeping form upon the hospital bed.

“You know she needs you, Denise.”

Watery blue eyes gazed down at the nurse. “What can I do for her, Randa? What possible use could I be to her anymore?” Denise whispered. “You and that machine are more beneficial to her than anything I could do.” With an angry sniff, Denise wiped her eyes before any tears could fall.

Randa turned to face the poet, placing her hands on Denise's upper arms. “You're her niece, and for all intent and purpose and a lot of wishful thinking… the closest thing to a daughter she has ever had… and those were her own words.”

Denise looked up at Randa, feeling slightly surprised by her statement.

“Your presence is all she will need, Denise. You can't deny her that.”

Shaking her head, Denise replied in a slow whisper. “Never.”

With a deep sigh, DJ closed her eyes and leaned into Randa. “I'm sorry. Sometimes I feel so angry and frustrated. I acknowledge that Sara is dying then feel glad that it isn't quick as I get to spend this extra time with her, then I resent myself for thinking and feeling that way because Sara is going through so much suffering and stress. She is like my mother too. It's not like I forget my real mother you know, I just feel extra blessed that I was lucky enough to have two.”

Wrapping her arms around the taller woman, Randa lifted upon her toes and kissed Denise softly. The poet leaned into the blondes' lips and revelled in the contact a little longer before pulling away. Opening her eyes she looked down at Randa and studied the nurse's face intently. “Do you sense it?” She whispered.

“Sense what?”

“That shadow of doom looming over us? Sara calls it fate, but whatever it is, it will cause nothing but pain and heartache. I know you, Randa. In here,” she placed her hand over the nurse's heart, “and here,” she then moved her finger up to the side of Randa's head. “I know how you feel. I don't want that shadow of despair to hurt you too.”

Randa removed one hand from Denise's back and took the finger upon her forehead. She kissed the digit gently. “What do you suggest then because I am not leaving you, Denise. I wont let you face that despair alone. I love you.”

DJ smiled as she cupped Randa's cheek. “And love conquers all?”

“I for one believe it does.”

“Then I have faith in your beliefs.” Denise replied, hoping beyond all hope that her words were true.

Chapter 23

Randa's curiosity got the better of her and she went up the stairs to find Denise. The blonde knew Denise was up as she had heard the shower running earlier, but that had been some time ago and she hadn't come downstairs yet. It had been the poet's night to turn Sara and she had stayed down with her aunt for a while, as had become her habit the last several nights, just watching as the older woman slept. More than once Randa had found the brunette asleep at Sara's bedside in the uncomfortable chair. The nurse would pull Denise away then and bring her back to bed, knowing her friend needed her rest as well.

Denise feels it, she knows we're coming close to the end and she desperately wants to hang on. I've seen it a thousand times, the death vigil. It doesn't make it any easier though, especially when it's Sara. I just hope Denise doesn't make herself sick and exhausted in the process. At the top of the stairs Randa turned into the study to find it empty. She smiled with pleasure at the conspicuously absent foldaway bed. It had been relegated back to its storage area, as it had not been used for the past few weeks. Randa felt a shiver of pleasure as she recalled waking up in Denise's arms again this morning. The blonde had wanted the other woman right then but, seeing the dark circles under Denise's eyes, had decided to let her sleep on and settled for a light kiss to her cheek instead.

Now Randa entered the bedroom to see Denise sprawled face down over the bed fast asleep. The poet had obviously dressed halfway before succumbing to her need for sleep again. Her blue jeans were on and Randa appreciatively noted the snug fit over hips and bottom. Up top, Denise was attired in only a black bra. Randa gazed lovingly at the well-toned body that belied a totally literary life.

Unable to resist, Randa felt herself pulled toward the bed. Sitting quietly on the edge, she reached up to stroke the brunette tresses on the head facing away from her. So beautiful. The nurse knew though that despite the physical beauty of her friend there was so much more to this complex, wonderful person. Heeding a sudden need to be close to the poet, Randa leaned over and placed soft kisses on the poet's back, crossing from shoulder blade to shoulder blade. Denise wriggled slightly under the gentle assault and gave a slight sigh. Moving dark hair from Denise's back, Randa trailed more kisses down the poet's spine. Reaching the bra, the nurse used both hands to unclasp the ends and move them apart. Fingertips pushed the material to the side and continued on their journey outward to the swell of Denise's breasts. Randa felt the firm muscles of the brunettes back bunch slightly at the movement. The nurse continued her southward path with her kisses, adding the tip of her tongue to Denise's skin. Her hands roamed down to the brunette's firm rear.

“Randa…stop.” The nurse's movements stilled immediately. Denise turned over and fixed her amazing blue eyes on the blonde. “We can't…Sara…”

“Denise,” Randa interrupted, “Sara is bathed, dressed, breakfasted and downstairs enjoying a visit with Diane. Believe me, we can.” Still Denise hesitated so the nurse asked, “Love, what's wrong?”

“I'm not really sure.” Denise replied. “It's just that with Sara so ill sometimes I feel almost…disloyal that I'm so happy when I'm with you. Does that make sense?”

Randa thought about it a moment. “No, it doesn't. Well, I mean I guess I can understand why you feel that way, but I think that you should try to have some happiness in your life precisely because Sara is sick. She wouldn't want you to be unhappy and she wouldn't want you to stop living. You deserve happiness, don't ever think you don't. Please.” Randa reached out to caress the poet's cheek.

Denise looked into the green eyes opposite her and saw the sincerity there. She turned her head and placed a kiss on the palm of Randa's hand. Bringing her deep blue eyes back to the nurse, she gave a small smile. Never losing eye contact, she shrugged out of the black bra.

“Do you think you could do that back thing again?”

Randa felt her pulse rate jump and she leaned toward Denise to capture the poet's lips. “Oh, yeah. The back thing, the front thing and everything.”


Randa sat with Sara in the dimly lit room. It was 4 a.m. and the only sound in the room was the hum and whooshing sound of the C-PAP as it held open the older woman's lungs as she exhaled.

Not one of the best days I've ever had Randa thought. To be sure, the morning lovemaking with Denise had been wonderful. The completeness they found in each other was incredible as always. Almost immediately afterward, however, Denise had left the bed, washed quickly and went downstairs to check on Sara. Randa went with her but missed the feeling of holding the poet and enjoying their closeness in the afterglow of pleasure.

It was almost as if Denise regretted being with me and felt guilty about our being together. A part of Randa was hurt at those thoughts and she desperately wanted to talk to the poet about it, but held back. She doesn't need me loading her down with my insecurities with everything she's carrying. This can wait for now. Randa believed the words but somehow it felt like she was trying to convince herself.

I wish I could talk to you about it Randa thought, glancing at Sara. You know that niece of yours so well and you have more wisdom than most of the people I know. I'm going to miss you so much. The nurse thought about how Sara had taken to confiding in her recently. She told Randa stories about DJ, gave her the recipes for the poet's favorite dishes and went over her arrangements for her funeral and burial. She did all this out of the love she held for Denise.

“I'm sorry to have to lay these matters at your doorstep but I worry about DJ. Please promise me you won't let her go back to her solitary world of total self reliance.” Sara's voice took on an unmistakable sound of urgency though it was little more than a whisper these days. Randa assured the older woman that it would be her honor to help Denise in any way she could and would do her damnedest to keep her from ever dealing with unpleasant things alone.

Sara's features relaxed then. “Good girl. I knew you were the right one for that headstrong niece of mine almost from the moment I met you. I am glad you came into our lives.”

Tears rolled down Randa's cheeks as she kissed the older woman's head. “So am I, Sara Jennings, so very glad.

With a sigh, Randa stood to return upstairs to Denise. She didn't rush as she had on other nights when going back to her lover. Earlier in the night the poet had rebuffed the blonde's attempts to be close, saying she was exhausted. Randa hoped it was the truth but feared it was something more.

Entering the bedroom, Randa heard the slow even breathing that indicated the poet was sleeping peacefully. Please don't back away from me, Denise. I need you and I know you need me. Taking off her nightshirt and slippers, she slid under the covers. The brunette turned and wrapped the nurse in her arms and held her tightly.

You do need me, Denise. Please remember that when you wake up. Snuggling in even closer to the poet, Randa fell deeply asleep.


It was almost like the beat of a drum, rhythmic and consistent, that coaxed DJ from a weary sleep. Opening heavy eyes she focused on her surroundings, still slightly curious about the noise that had woken her. Instantly she realised she was resting upon Randa's chest and the constant beat was the nurse's steady heart rate. Randa was sleeping deeply due to the fact that it had been her turn to tend to Sara last night and the effects of the heavy night remained as shadows around her eyes. DJ knew she would sleep for a few more hours yet.

Rising to a sitting position, Denise turned slightly and looked down at the sleeping woman. One arm was positioned over her head and the other had been wrapped around the poet. Bending her knees, Denise pulled them up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs. She continued to look down at Randa. She remembered waking during the night as she heard the blonde ascend the stairs after attending to Sara. She kept her eyes closed as the blonde re-entered the room, pretending to sleep with deep even breaths. DJ lay silently and as Randa got into bed she waited for the nurse to approach her side or wrap an arm around her like she usually did, but it never happened. Denise rolled over and looked at Randa; she lay on her back with her arms by her side. It was then she realised that her rebuff from the night before had obviously affected her more than she let on.

By the light of the moon shining through a gap in the bedroom curtains, DJ had been able to see Randa's eyes shimmering in the marble glow. The blonde lay silently, staring at the ceiling and seemingly thinking. Denise could just make out the faint lines of tension upon the blonde's brow.

“Hey,” she called in a light whisper.

Randa had jumped, unaware DJ was awake. She turned her head and looked at the poet. Denise noted the apprehension so clearly visible in her eyes. Without a word she reached out and took Randa's hand, twisting their fingers together in a light grip. Randa instantly increased the hold and pulled DJ close. The poet moved beside Randa and placed her head upon the nurse's chest. Within moments Randa was fast asleep. Denise followed close behind, content in the woman's embrace. They had stayed in that same position until DJ awoke.

Resting her chin upon her knees, the poet sighed as she gazed at Randa. Reaching out she lightly traced her middle finger across the nurse's lips. The blonde moaned and rolled onto her side. With a lingering smile Denise turned and looked at the clock; her thoughts instantly turning to Sara. With a twist the poet rolled out of bed and headed out of the bedroom, straight for the stairs. As Denise descended quickly to the ground floor, the phone began to ring.

She picked up the hand set, “Only one person would dare to call me at this time of the morning.”

“That is because only one person knows you would be up and about at this time.”

“What can I do for you, Carl?”

The editor cleared his throat. “DJ, are you aware of just what time it is?”

Denise frowned. “I thought we had already established that?”

Carl sighed. “No I don't mean clock wise… I mean date wise. DJ, it's the 28th
of February. Your deadline was yesterday and although I will admit it did temporarily skip my mind too… you never forget. So I am wondering what's up? You would have usually delivered by now. My better half is throwing a wobbly.”

A bolt of genuine surprise rushed through the poet. Not only could she not believe she had missed her own deadline, but she was also shocked by the date. The days seem to pass in a haze. I'm not even sure I know what day it is anymore. “Sorry, Carl, things are a little blurred at the moment.”

“Well, have you finished?”



“Yes… almost. I've had a lot on my mind, Carl. I'm sorry but work has taken second place at the moment.”

There was a slight pause before Carl asked, “Is it Sara? DJ, what is wrong with her… really?”

Denise bit her lip as she studied the base of the phone. The fingers of her free hand trailed over the numerical digits.


“She's… she's um…”


“She has ALS.”

After a small silence, “What?” Carl exclaimed, “but that's terminal.”

A heavy stillness fell down the line as Carl seemed lost for words and DJ tried urgently to steel herself from the hurt that besieged her emotions.

Eventually Denise spoke, “Yes… terminal.”

“Why didn't you say something… anything?” Carl asked, sounding almost angry. “DJ…” he sighed, “I can't believe you didn't tell me.”

The tone in the editors voice was one of hurt and Denise felt a sudden regret. “I'm sorry, Carl. I had a hard time dealing with this myself.”

The sound of thoughtful tapping echoed down the receiver before Carl spoke again. “Okay, DJ, listen. Forget about the deadline all right? We can hold off longer; you know I always like to work ahead of schedule anyway. Just you concentrate on Sara and don't worry about things on this end; I'll handle everything.”

Denise sagged against the wall. “Thanks, Carl.”

“And DJ?”


“You should have told me, you know.”

She nodded. “Talk to you soon, Carl.”

“Bye, DJ.”

Denise dropped the phone back onto its base. She looked at the device briefly before her body slid down the wall. She landed on the cool carpeted flooring. Without the fire warming the house the air was still uncomfortably cold.

Shaking her head, DJ let it fall to her knees. What day is it anyway? She wondered with confusion, I don't know anything anymore.

Suddenly a gentle and familiar voice invaded her musings. Looking up Denise noticed Randa standing in front of her. She hadn't even been aware of the woman's approach. The blonde looked down at her with confused green eyes, her sleep rumpled hair was tousled around her head in what Denise always considered a most endearing sight. The poet frowned, realising she was unsure of what Randa has just asked.

“Denise, are you alright?”

“Um… yes.” Bracing herself upon her feet, DJ slid up against the wall as she pushed herself to a standing position. She smiled slightly and moved past the nurse. “We better go and see to Sara and start a fire.”

After a few steps, she looked back to find Randa still standing by the phone. A confused expression shone in the blonde's eyes. “Are you coming?”

Randa nodded. “Yeah.”

Silently she followed Denise into Sara's room.


It was later in the day, just after lunch, a lunch that Denise had been conspicuously absent from. Hunger having all but abandoned her; the poet had used any excuse possible in order to stay away from the midday ritual of eating with her aunt and Randa. Now as the two women who meant more to her than anything else sat in Sara's room talking, she stayed outside in the hallway listening. DJ could hear the muted tones of Randa's voice as she spoke to Sara but she was unable to hear Sara herself. The woman's voice was nothing more than a strained whisper.

Leaning with one shoulder against the wall, Denise looked at the door, trying to find the courage to enter. To her confusion, an internal barrier had frozen her limbs. To make matters worse she wasn't even sure she wanted to go inside. The poet was at a loss for something to say and if she was to admit it – if only to herself – she was afraid.

As Sara's physical health rapidly deteriorated and the inevitable edged ever closer, the more DJ felt herself withdrawing from her family. She knew she was hurting them both, could see it plainly written in Randa's eyes, but she wasn't able to fight against it. The more she feared losing her aunt and the worse Sara's suffering became the further into herself she retreated.

Denise closed her eyes and the night her parents died instantly came to mind. She remembered the smell, the acrid stench of thick smoke that filtered into her bedroom, waking her from a happy sleep. Opening bright blue eyes Denise remembered seeing the grey fumes as they filtered under her door. The ferocious roar of savage flames raged in the ground floor of their large home. Scrambling out of bed and running to her parent's bedroom she found them still sleeping and woke them hastily. Instantly she was scooped up into her father's arms and together they made their way through the burning house. Around her DJ could see the orange and yellow flames as she clung to her father. The penetrating heat engulfed her flesh as the fire ate through their home.

Reaching the door and running out into the fresh open air, her father instantly realised his wife wasn't behind him. He had let go of her hand as they reached the stairs. Placing DJ onto the ground he told her to wait while he went back to get her mummy. They could hear her shouts for help above the roar of escalating flames. Promising to be 'back in a minute' her father rushed back into the house to save his wife. It was the last time she ever saw him.

Standing alone on the front lawn, Denise trembled in the warm summer night air. She heard her mother's screams; her father's desperate shout to find her – and then there was nothing but the mounting siren of approaching fire engines.

She had watched her parents die. Saw her mother at the second floor window of their home, hearing her screams as the flames ravaged her body. The poet didn't know whether she could watch another person she loved die. Sara's disease was apparent, her deterioration rapid and the fear clear in alert blue eyes. She just didn't know whether she had the strength that both Sara and Randa needed to go through it all again.

So deep in her own thoughts, DJ was unaware Randa had exited Sara's room until she was standing beside her.

“Denise, what are you doing?”

Blinking unfocused eyes the poet looked down at Randa. “Oh! Um… I was just thinking.”

Randa nodded noticing the glaze in her eyes. “Are you going in to talk to Sara? I know that she really…”

“Actually no,” DJ interrupted, “I just remembered something I must do and should get on with it while I still remember. I'll talk with Sara later.” The poet turned and headed back toward the kitchen but stopped as Randa's gentle voice called out to her. She turned around and looked at the nurse in question.

“I just wanted to say that I think it would be a good idea if you did speak with Sara while…”

“I will… just not at the moment, okay?”

“Denise,” Randa insisted, “You don't understand. I…”

“I know,” the poet said. “I just…” She looked down, casting her vision away from Randa's beseeching eyes. “I just can't right now.” Not looking back up, DJ turned and disappeared from sight.


Hearing muffled footsteps re-enter her bedroom, Sara knew instantly that the short light steps didn't belong to her niece. Unable to turn her head she waited until Randa moved into view.

“No DJ?” She asked with effort.

Randa shook her head. “She has something she needs to do but she'll be back later.” Even to her own ears it was obvious the nurse was doubtful of her words.

“If that's what she said,” Sara replied, “then she will be here… soon.” Weary eyes studied Randa's expression. “You are worried about her… yes?”

The blonde nodded. “Yeah… I am. I feel like she's slipping away from us, Sara, and I don't know how to reach her.”

“You will.” Sara replied reassuringly. “No matter what it takes, or what you have to do, I know you will reach her.”

Chapter 24

Randa closed the door to Sara's room and leaned against the frame. The face that had been composed only moments before crumbled to be replaced by a look of pure anguish. A strangled cry escaped her lips as hot tears escaped her eyes. She dropped to her knees and brought her hands up to her face.

Not now, not yet. Denise isn't ready for this. The nurse shook her head, as if wishing that the early morning's events had not happened would make them go away. But it would not go away; this was forever. For however long that will be.

Randa stemmed the flow of tears by sheer force of will alone. Taking a deep but shaky breath, she attempted to calm herself and tried to decide how she should deal with the problem and how she could help Denise do the same. I have to tell her and I have to do it now.

Rising to her feet, Randa wiped the remnants of moisture from her face and headed for the stairs. She knew Denise would be in her study working as she had been doing the past three days since her conversation with Carl. Randa hadn't minded taking over the care of Sara for those days, she knew how strongly Denise felt about keeping her word and honoring her work commitments, even if the deadline had needed to be pushed back. The nurse knew Denise also wanted to complete the next book for Sara. She had told Randa how much pleasure the older woman had in reading the poetry before it was published.

Entering the study, the nurse saw Denise at work at the computer, small glasses perched on her nose. Randa felt the strong rush of affection that coursed through her every time she looked at the poet. I love her so much. Walking up behind the brunette, Randa wrapped her arms around the strong shoulders and placed a loving kiss on the poet's cheek.

Blue eyes turned on the nurse and Denise smiled a welcome. “Did you need something or are you just up here providing me with inspiration?”

Randa returned the smile, but then her face became serious. “Denise, this morning I went down to Sara just like every other morning but there's a change today.” The nurse felt the tension immediately in the body under her hands. Maintaining contact for support, Randa looked straight into Denise's now intense gaze.

“Love, Sara can't speak anymore. You know she hasn't had much more than a whisper for some time now but when I went into her this morning, she wasn't able to vocalize at all.” Denise slumped a little in her chair and Randa could see tears brimmed the poet's eyes. Each day recently had seen a steady decline in Sara's condition. She could no longer eat solid food and had been changed to a completely liquid diet and there was nothing left of her ability to move her extremities. The ravages of her ALS had left Sara with only some movement of her head and facial muscles. Her ability to speak had been her last pleasure and now that had been stripped away also. Sara was almost totally a prisoner of her own body.

Denise squeezed her eyes tightly shut and leaned into Randa, accepting the comfort briefly before moving back in the chair.

“How is she holding up?” the poet asked. “Does she need anything, should I go down to her now?”

“In just a minute, love. As you can imagine, Sara was upset. I went through her morning routine as usual though and afterward she calmed down somewhat. I talked to her and tried to keep any questions I had simple. Sara still has some head movement so she can let us know yes or no to questions, but she's not going to be able to call us when she needs help. The monitor in her room isn't going to be enough anymore. I can't think of anything else to do, one of us will need to be with her at all times. I think we should move the fold-away bed down into Sara's room.”

Denise was silent and nodded, agreeing with the unspoken conclusion that this move heralded the final days for their beloved Sara. As one, the women moved into a close embrace, each feeling as if another small piece of them had been taken away. Reluctantly Randa broke the hug and moved away from Denise.

“I suppose we should take the bed down now. We'll need to do a little rearranging down in Sara's room.”

As the two women moved the bed down the stairs, the blonde couldn't help but look across the landing to the door of Denise's bedroom. She sighed at the pending loss of closeness, knowing they wouldn't be together in Denise's large bed for sometime to come. Denise saw the direction of Randa's gaze but said nothing. The rest of the morning was spent in changing the appearance of Sara's room yet again.


That evening, Randa sat alone in the living room with the volume of unpublished poetry Denise had given her on Valentine's Day. Sara had been cleaned and dressed for bed when DJ volunteered for the first shift in Sara's room. The nurse and the poet had agreed to split the nights on the foldaway bed while the other slept upstairs. Randa knew there was no way she could sleep in the brunette's bed without the woman herself and resigned herself to a night on the couch. She remembered the nights she and Denise spent on the couch together and smiled at the memory of warm arms around her.

Settling back, Randa continued with the reading of the unpublished works. What she had read so far had amazed her. The poetry was almost luminous in its beauty and the nurse felt near to tears as more and more of Denise's soul was revealed. If the whole world could read these poems it would be as deeply in love with you as I am. Randa again felt the privilege of knowing and loving the poet.

The window rattled in the living room and the nurse looked up momentarily startled. March had started out sunny but windy and the swift breeze could cut through you at night when deprived of the sun's warmth. Randa moved to the window to check on the security of the fastenings. Satisfied, she moved restlessly around the room. Randa had always trusted her instincts when it came to her patients. She had said many times that she could walk onto her nursing unit and just feel there was going to be a problem. That same feeling brushed across her now and the nurse knew the reason was Sara. Her decline had been rapid and she had taken on a look of resignation today that was almost painful to observe in a woman so strong. That look was reflected in her niece's eyes.

Randa's heart ached for the two women destined shortly to be parted. Though Sara's nightmare would be over, Denise's would continue on. The blonde wondered again what Sara's passing would bring for Denise and herself. They hadn't spoken of any long term plans, there had been no discussion of commitment. Those things wouldn't have bothered Randa, but one other thing still loomed large in her mind. Denise had yet to say “I love you”. I don't want to push you, love, but hearing that from you would ease my mind so much. I guess I'm still afraid that someone as wonderful as you might not be able to love someone as insignificant as me.

The nurse drifted down the hall and peeked into the door of Sara's bedroom. Sara was apparently sleeping quietly and Denise sat cross-legged on the foldaway bed writing on a tablet. Feeling the blonde's gaze somehow, Denise looked up from her work. Blue eyes connected with green and the poet reached out a hand to Randa. Randa made her way quietly over to the small bed and sat down closely to the brunette. They leaned into one another and Randa felt a measure of reassurance about Denise's feelings for her.

Seeing the tablet in the poet's lap, Randa was struck by the title.

“ 'A World of Sara', that's beautiful. Is it a new poem?” the nurse asked in a hushed voice.

“No,” replied the brunette, “I actually finished up the new book of poetry a little while ago. These are some notes for an idea I had for a novel. I thought maybe I could fictionalize Sara's life in a book. I know I'm going to lose her but maybe this way I can give her a touch of immortality.”

Randa turned to look at Denise. “A novel of your own, with your name on it?” At the poet's shrug, Randa smiled. “I think it's a great idea. I especially like you considering using your own name. Sara would be proud.”

Denise gave a small smile. “No, she would be furious with me for invading her privacy but, I thought that after…”

Denise's words faltered as a soft sob choked off the sentence. Randa reached for the poet and drew her close.

“It's okay, love. I understand.” The evening grew late as the two women sat wordlessly together, hands clasped and hearts joined.


“No, no, no, no… NO!” Denise's forehead fell to the floor with a loud growl. She lay upon her stomach in front of the smouldering fire as her head slowly pounded up and down on a large writing pad. With a sigh she threw down the black pencil in her hand and looked at the sheet of paper containing a single sentence. Lifting the papers edge she ripped the sheet from the pad and scrunched it into a ball.

Randa walked into the living room in time to witness a projectile wad of paper hurtle towards her and she ducked just in time. With a frown she looked down at Denise who had started another round of head butts upon the floor.


The poet looked up startled. “Oh… hey.”

“What's wrong?”

“I can't think… I've got writers block… empty mind… airhead syndrome…” she paused in thought, “is that last one even conceivable?” DJ pulled silver framed glasses from her nose and placed them on the floor before rolling onto her back. Blowing out a forced sigh of annoyance through pursed lips she sat up and pushed herself to her feet. Denise looked down at the pile of crumpled paper scattered around her feet.

“Denise, why don't you take a break for a while? You've been at this since five o'clock this morning. I know you missed breakfast. Have you even eaten anything today?”

DJ shrugged.

“Are you hungry?”

She shrugged again.

Randa sighed. “Well anyway, I came out here because Sara has just woken up.”

Denise looked alarmed, knowing full well what Randa was about to suggest. Nervously her eyes scanned the perimeter of the room as though she was plotting her means of escape. For the past four days she had hid away from her aunt, too afraid to face her and hating herself a little more as every day passed. DJ knew she could no longer delay the inevitable and her responsibilities. Sitting with Sara while the old woman slept was not the same and she knew it. The poet hadn't made verbal contact with her aunt for many days and the guilt alone was tearing her apart inside.

Denise looked back at Randa and nodded. She wiped suddenly sweaty palms down the front of her pullover and jeans. “Okay.”


“Okay I know I have to go and see her… speak to her.”

With a smile of relief the nurse stepped forward. “Are you all right?”

A nervous smile was her reply.

“Do you want me to go in there with you for a while?” Randa took DJ's hand and brushed her fingers over her palm. She looked up into anxious blue eyes.

Shaking her head the poet released Randa's hand. “No, that's okay.” She took a step backwards away from the nurse. “I need to do this alone. I've delayed this for too long now.” Taking a deep breath to steel her confidence, Denise closed her eyes. Just go in there, DJ. God… what if she can't forgive me for hiding away for so long. I am so stupid!

As a look of anguish crossed Denise's features Randa closed the distance between them and lifted up onto her toes, placing a loving kiss upon her lips. Denise opened her eyes with surprise and looked down into supportive green. Within the space of one precious moment she saw her world, her future, and her only anchor right in front of her. A great emotion surged inside, filling her heart with devotion. Parting her lips, Denise attempted to speak, to vocalise her feelings but no words escaped. Stuttering clumsily she sighed with frustration and kissed Randa's forehead before stepping away.

“I'll see you in a bit.” She walked away.

“I'll be here.”

Denise looked back at Randa. Always? She thought. Winking she turned and completed her journey towards Sara's room.


The poet entered Sara's bedroom, keeping her eyes averted from the bed in the centre of the room. Her gaze was down, studying the floor beneath her as she closed the white gloss door. Hearing only the sound of the C-PAP, Denise walked toward the bed in the centre of the room; she didn't stop until she was directly within her aunt's line of sight. Biting the inside of her cheek, DJ looked over to her aunt. Alert blue eyes gazed back. Denise smiled weakly as a sorrowful emotion swelled within her chest. She swallowed hard fighting against the lump in her throat.

After a long moment of silence DJ spoke softly. “Sara…” She waited, as though needing the older woman to acknowledge her presence. Sara's eyes narrowed in an expression that DJ could easily identify as her aunt's smile. Whenever Sara smiled her face would light up and her eyes would sparkle as their lids lowered.

Denise reached out and took her hand. She looked closely at the withered appendage as she whispered, “I'm so sorry.” The motionless hand within her own was warm to her touch and DJ sat on the side of the bed, covering Sara's hand in both her own.

“I was… I just didn't… think I could…” confused and frustrated Denise rubbed her suddenly throbbing forehead and looked back at Sara. A single tear had fallen from older blue eyes and was trailing lazily down the side of Sara's face. A shuddering sigh escaped Denise's chest as she leaned forward and wiped away the stray droplet. Fighting against her own emotions was futile but she did it anyway. “I've been so selfish.”

Sara's eyes widened as her head moved slightly to the left then right.

“Don't, Sara,” Denise said sternly, “I know how I have been acting. I've seen the upset I've caused so clearly in Randa's eyes. I've distanced myself from you… I've pushed her away.” The truth Denise acknowledged was that whenever she did have a problem and did need to talk she'd always had Sara as her sounding board and could guarantee sound advice. Now that was impossible and although within her own heart she knew she had that closeness with Randa, the poet was afraid to divulge to the blonde just how much she needed her.

Eyes glazing with reluctant tears, Denise looked back at the closed door. She blinked hard in an attempt to clear her vision. “Would you have ever believed she would have happened to us? Randa, I mean?” DJ cast her eyes back toward her aunt as she said, “She made the house feel brighter from the moment she entered.” There was a pause as the poet frowned in thought. “Or maybe she just made me feel brighter.”

There was another moment of quiet.

With a slow smile, DJ suddenly chucked to herself. “Do you remember… oh it must have been about fifteen years ago now?” She rolled her eyes, “I can't believe I have only just remembered this. Anyway… it was after my rather disappointing first sexual encounter. I declared that if that was what 'it' was like then I was willing to spend the rest of my life celibate.” She chuckled, “You told me one day I would meet somebody that would change my mind,” she shook her head, “then said that it would be pretty boring if I spent the rest of my life being my 'own best friend' anyway. I can't believe I have only just remembered that. I had no idea what you were talking about at the time… it didn't quite compute!”

Sara's eyes sparkled with mirth.

“Sara Jayne Jennings!” The poet admonished, amused.

There was silence before DJ spoke again. “There are so many questions I wish I'd asked you, Sara. You know… when mum and dad died I was so afraid I'd have nowhere to go… nobody to love me. I wondered where I would live. Then I discovered you wanted me. I know I was one hell of a pain in the beginning but I want you to know that no matter what I may have said or how I acted… I knew from the start that I was in the only place I would have ever wanted to go. Sometimes I used to wonder why you wanted a tag along kid when you had such a free and exciting life style. Travelling around, subbing at schools around the country, never knowing where you would be needed next but loving every minute of it. I couldn't believe that you gave it all up to look after me.” Denise paused and looked deep into Sara's eyes. “I do have one question though. How come you never settled down with anybody special?” The poet smiled shyly, “I knew about you and Diane.”

Sara's eyes portrayed an expression of shock and the poet chuckled again.

“Whatever your reason was for keeping it quiet… I want you to know that I understand and respect that. Though I am sure the secrecy was mainly due to Diane, yes? She was married after all.”

Sara nodded shortly.

Lifting the older woman's hand Denise looked down. “Did you love her?” She paused and looked back, “no… don't answer that. I was just wondering really but… how do you know though? How do you know when you have found that one special person that you are willing to spend the rest of your life with? I want that person for me to be Randa but I'm afraid. I'm afraid of me… to look deep down within myself and acknowledge what is in my heart. She says that she loves me… and I don't know how to respond. Its like my insides freeze, my mind stutters and I'm suddenly scared to say the words. I want to tell her that she is the last person that fills my mind when I go to sleep and the first one I think about when I wake but when I look at her… its like… I think that if I say any of this it will be acknowledging that she does mean something special to me and for that I will lose her. Like mother… and father… and now you.”

Biting her lip, Denise released Sara's hand and reached out, smoothing loose strands of grey hair around her head. She needed to change the subject.

“Anyway… how are you feeling… all right?”

After a moment Sara blinked once.

“Does that mean yes?” The brunette asked.

Sara blinked again.

Denise nodded. “You're surprised I knew about Diane aren't you?”

With a blink and slight nod, Sara confirmed her niece's suspicions.

“It was more of an inkling at first; like I always saw something special when you were together. The look in your eyes when she was around, it was a look that she mirrored. Then something changed between you both and it was like part of you was missing. I always wondered what happened. Sara… did you love her?”

One blink.

Denise frowned. “Do you still love her?”

Another single blink

“Have you told her that you still love her?”

At Sara's double blink and small shake of her head, DJ nodded in understanding. “Because she was married and then her husband died and it didn't feel right? Like maybe she would see it as disrespectful or something like that?”

One blink

“Even though she obviously feels the same way?”

Sara nodded once.

“Life's so damn complicated,” the poet sighed, “maybe I was right and it's better to stay alone.”

Sara's eyes widened and she shook her head, glaring at her niece. Denise noticed her expression and grinned sheepishly. “Maybe not?”

Sara blinked twice.

Rising from the bed Denise turned and walked around its edge towards the window. Looking through the glass she gazed briefly at the garden with a critical eye. She had pruned the climbing rose bushes along the fence and tided the vegetable patch but the rest was still an overgrown mess.

“I finished the new book,” she said turning back toward her aunt and walking to the bed. She regained her position beside Sara. “I made a decision. I've decided for the first time ever that I am going to put a dedication inside the cover. I'm not sure yet exactly how I will get around to wording it but I just wanted to let you know because… well because…”

Twin sets of blue eyes locked upon each other as understanding settled between them.

Squeezing her eyes closed, Denise sighed but was determined not to lose herself in front of her aunt. She felt she needed to be strong for her but every time she so much as looked at her aunt and acknowledged the almost completely paralysed body in front of her it was difficult to keep her composure and not to seethe with anger, hurt and frustration. The worst part is that she knows everything that's going on yet she can do nothing about it, Denise thought, she is a prisoner in her own body.

Taking a deep cleansing breath the poet looked back into Sara's understanding eyes. “I'm dedicating the book to the two most important people in my life. I'm not going to tell Randa yet though… I may not use your names, but it will be obvious to the two of you. I sent the collection off to Carl and his ever impatient wife and I am sure I will hear from them within the next couple of days.”

Denise looked to her left and spotted a large book lying upon Sara's dressing table. Rising from the bed she crossed the room and picked it up.

“Les Miserable?” she asked, walking back to Sara. “Has Randa been reading this to you?”

Sara's eyes twinkled with a small nod.

Denise laughed. Sara had stated many times that she had wanted to read the novel but often said she couldn't find the drive needed to tackle the mammoth book. “You are a cunning one, Sara Jennings, I'll give you that!”

Sitting back upon the bed, Denise flipped through the pages as she said, “Would you like me to read some to you?”

Sara blinked once.

“Okay… hold on a moment.” Denise dashed out of the room and quickly returned seconds later with her glasses. Placing the silver frames upon her nose she retrieved the novel and began to read aloud.

“Chapter twelve…”


Time seemed to pass quickly as DJ read to Sara and it was while the poet was half way through reading chapter fourteen that an unexpected sound forced her to stop and look up from the novel. Sara's breathing had changed. Her eyes had taken on a wide panicked expression as her breath laboured and she seemed to gasp for air.

Jumping from the bed, Sara's book fell unnoticed to the floor as Denise's full attention turned toward her aunt.

“Sara, what's wrong?”

The frail woman's eyes were brimming with fear and unshed tears.

“Is it… what… can't you breath?” Denise asked in desperation as Sara's lungs fought for oxygen. “Oh hell…RANDA!” The poet shouted as she dashed out of the room and into the main area of the house frantically looking for the nurse. “Randa, quick it's Sara, she can't…”

Suddenly the sound of rapid footsteps echoed as Randa flew down the stairs. She met the poet in the living room and instantly noticed the terror in her eyes. Without question she followed the brunette back to Sara's room. The older woman was still fighting for breath in an obvious state of alarm.

“What's happening?” DJ asked as Randa swiftly attended to Sara.

The nurse barely responded, focusing all her attention on the older woman. “She's panicking,” Randa answered quickly as she continued to take care of Sara.

Standing back against the wall, Denise watched Randa at work. The look of sheer terror in her aunt's eyes haunted her thoughts and not being able to endure seeing Sara this way, she quickly left the room.

When the nurse had finished and Sara had calmed down enough to sleep, she turned around to find Denise absent. Feeling a spark of concern, Randa went in search of the poet.

Sitting silently in the living room, Denise leaned forward, her elbows resting upon her knees and her head hidden within her hands. She heard Randa as she entered the room and looked up at the nurse in question. A clear expression of apprehension shone in her worried blue eyes.

“How is she?”

“She's okay,” Randa replied. “She had some difficulty breathing which made her panic. I gave her a sedative to calm her down. She's resting now.”

With an anguished frown the poet let her head hang limply. “I can't take what this is doing to her, Randa. Can't even begin to understand what she must be going through or how she must feel, knowing there isn't anything anybody can do. I'm so glad you're here for her.” Rising to her feet, DJ approached the blonde. “How are you?”

“I'm okay,” Randa replied simply.

“You're tired.”

“A little.”

Denise reached out and wrapped one arm around Randa's shoulders. “Come on.” Taking the lead she led them both back into Sara's room and toward the foldaway bed. “You lay down and rest for a while.”

Sitting down upon the low metal action bed, Randa kicked off her shoes. “What about you?”

“I'll be right here.” DJ slid down the wall until she was sitting beside Randa. Spying the book still lying upon the floor she reached out with her foot and dragged the large novel toward her. She looked back at Randa who was lying on the bed watching her. Leaning to her side, Denise pressed her lips upon Randa's and they were welcomed immediately. “Just try and get some sleep for a while. I'll be here when you wake.”

Re-opening the book, Denise stared blankly at the pages, neither reading nor seeing the text in front of her. She tried to close her eyes but the terror filled blue orbs of her aunt filled her mind's eye. With a heavy sigh she turned to look upon Randa and settled for watching the blonde as she slept.

Chapter 25

The early days of March were grim in the Jennings household and the weather outside seemed to reflect it. The skies were gray and opened frequently to douse the countryside with icy rain. When there was no rain, the wind blew in frigid gusts, bending trees to its will and pushing humanity along its way.

It's an ill wind that blows no good thought Randa, remembering a phrase spoken by her grandmother in times of bad weather or bad fortune. She turned away from the large window in the living room and returned to the couch where she had been resting and thinking about the bleak situation. It seemed when Sara lost her voice; her will to fight and live went with it. She had seemed slightly better after her talk with Denise but for the past two days Sara had taken little nourishment. A few spoons of soup or tea, then she would refuse to open her lips further, no matter how much she or Denise implored her.

The twinkling, always so present in Sara's eyes had disappeared, replaced with resignation and a measure of fear. The fear had led to a few panic attacks but those had been fairly well controlled with the Xanax prescribed by Dr. Macarthur. The C-PAP was in use almost continuously but Randa could tell Sara was still having difficulty getting enough oxygen. Her weak respiratory muscles left her breathing shallow, occasionally labored and just recently, somewhat irregular.

None of the symptoms Randa had seen worried her as much as when she looked into the older woman's eyes today. Sara's gaze was fixed on some distant point, as if lost in memory. She roused a little when Randa spoke to her and gave her body the care it required, but then she soon drifted off again. Having observed many patients at the end of their lives, the nurse knew Sara's passing would not be long in coming. Randa's feelings were torn about the situation. On one hand I'm glad the torture of the last six months is coming to an end for Sara but losing her so soon after meeting her is tearing me up inside.

Randa knew she should be resting. It was her night to be with Sara, sleeping on the foldaway bed. The nurse had abandoned sleeping in the bed upstairs altogether, preferring to sleep on the couch on the nights Denise stayed with her aunt. The bed just felt too cold without the warmth of the poet beside her, though the blonde's discomfort had nothing to do with the temperature of the room.

Randa had never needed a great deal of sleep and she had worked shifts on less, but she decided to try resting for a while. Laying back on the couch, green eyes closed and the blonde napped fitfully.


At eleven o'clock, Denise woke the nurse with warm lips pressed to her forehead and a soothing hand stroking her cheek.

“Randa?” the poet said. “Randa, you wanted me to wake you at eleven.” The blonde stretched and wrapped her arms around Denise, pulling her close.

“Good evening,” she murmured and brought DJ down for a lingering kiss. “I was dreaming about you, but the real thing is so much better.” That made Denise smile but it wasn't enough to hide the exhaustion seemingly ever present in the poet's eyes these days. Randa gently traced the outline of the brunette's lips and asked, “How's Sara?”

“About the same. She looked at me once or twice but for the most part she just stared off into space. Do you think she could be suffering in any way?”

Randa considered her reply a moment. “I don't think so. I think she's calm now, the low oxygen levels in her body are probably responsible for that but I'm glad she doesn't seem so scared anymore.” Denise nodded and seemed to accept that. Randa sat up and yawned widely.

“Sorry about that. I think I'll just take a quick shower to wake up and then go sit with Sara. I'll only be a few minutes. Why don't you lay down here and get some rest?” The women exchanged places and as Denise started to lie down she grimaced. “Denise, what's the matter?”

“Nothing much, I just made the mistake of sitting too long on that chair in Sara's room instead of the foldaway bed and my back is bothering me a little. The next Bonfire Night that thing is going to be first on the bonfire pile.”

Randa chuckled and said, “I'll help you toss it on myself. Right now, why don't you turn over and let me work on those knots a minute?” Denise flipped to her stomach and the nurse ran her hands under the poet's sweater feeling the tension that had settled into the muscles there. Initiating a rhythmic kneading and massaging of the area, Randa soon had DJ sighing with relief.

“Better now?” asked the blonde. Denise responded with a sleepy nod and a barely audible “Better.” Randa covered Denise with the blanket and lowered the lights in the living room. She made her way upstairs, took a brief shower and was back in Sara's room in only a few minutes. She approached the bed and routinely let her eyes wander over Sara and the equipment at the bedside. The C-PAP was functioning efficiently providing Sara with as much support as it could. The older woman's body was in good alignment and limbs were supported with pillows. Satisfied everything was as it should be, Randa allowed the nurse inside her to recede a little. Now she looked down at Sara through the eyes of a friend. Randa found herself wondering what the older woman was seeing as her gaze seemed to be fixed on a spot somewhere high in the corner of the room.
“Let it be friends and family you see, Sara. Let them come and guide you. It's okay now; you go when you need to. I'm here and I'll always be here for Denise. I'll remember and keep my promise to you. I will love Denise to the end of my days and do everything I can to make her happy.” If Sara heard she gave no visible sign of it. Randa leaned over and placed a kiss on the soft gray hair. “I love you, Sara. I'll be right here if you need me.”

The nurse moved to the foldaway bed, took her place on it and picked up the book on the table. She saw Denise's glasses sitting next to the book and smiled. The brunette always looked so adorable with them perched on her nose, probably looking very similar to what Sara had looked like in her teaching days. Well, if Denise grows older and looks like Sara I'll have nothing to complain about. The prospect of being with Denise until they reached a ripe old age together gave Randa a warm and secure feeling inside. It's going to be happily ever after for us, Denise.

Randa opened the book, found her place and began reading.


It was almost 4 a.m. when Randa finished Les Miserables. She had started reading it at Sara's request but after Sara didn't seem to comprehend it anymore she decided to complete the book to keep her mind occupied. Sara's status had been unchanged through the wee hours and Randa had checked on her breathing and repositioned her several times. As the nurse set the book down she felt a chill pass down her spine. Something had changed in the room and she sat still a moment trying to figure out what her senses had picked up that her conscious mind hadn't processed yet. Rising and heading toward Sara's bed the nurse in her took over and she methodically began assessing the situation. The C-PAP hummed properly, the connections were fine. The mask fit correctly but she soon realized the problem was Sara herself. The woman's respirations were shallow and more irregular. Randa brought her watch up and timed the respirations; Sara was only breathing 8 times a minute. The nurse reached for Sara's wrist and found her pulse to be 42. Randa's heart dropped as she thought This is it.

During those brief moments of clinical observations, Randa almost missed it. As the nurse brought her line of sight to Sara's face, those wonderful blue eyes looked at her with clarity for the first time all night. “Oh Sara…hang on, okay. I'm going to get Denise.” Randa went to the living room and gently tugged on Denise's arm.

“Denise, you need to wake up, love. It's Sara, you should come now.” DJ shook off her sleep and rose to her feet.

“Is she…?” Denise began. Randa reached out and took the poet's hand.

“Not yet but very soon I think. She needs us to be with her now.” With hands still clasped the pair made their way quickly back to Sara's side. Randa didn't need her watch to tell her that the rate of Sara's breathing had slowed a little further in the bare minute she had been gone. Denise went immediately to the head of the bed and reached out to touch Sara's soft cheek. Looking up at Randa, Denise asked, “Can we remove this now?” The blonde nodded and undid the Velcro straps holding the mask of the C-PAP in place. The sudden quiet in the room as Randa turned the machine off accentuated the ragged breathing.

Denise saw that Sara's eyes were on her and she leaned over closer to her aunt. In a shaky whisper the poet said simply, “I love you. I'll never go a day without remembering you. I'll see you again on the other side.” The tears came then; Denise could not stop them and did not want to try. Randa moved around the bed to stand next to the poet. Wrapping an arm around the brunette's waist, Randa saw that Sara struggled to pull in a breath now.

In a voice choked with emotion, the nurse said, “Godspeed, Sara. Safe journey, my friend.” Randa held tightly to Denise and let her own tears fall as well. For one brief moment it seemed Sara looked directly at the two women then her eyes fluttered closed. There were a few short, shallow breaths then Sara exhaled and did not draw another. Sara Jennings passed from this world, guided by her brother and sister-in-law, toward a place where her physical limitations no longer mattered.

Remaining behind, Denise and Randa turned and held tightly to each other, letting their grief and their tears flow unchecked.

Part VI

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