Disclaimers: The characters in the following story are of my own creation. Any similarities to anyone living or dead are purely coincidental. No part of this story may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission from me, the author.
If the thought of two women being romantically involved is not for you, then this story is one you won't want to read. But seriously if you are underage and live someplace where that is not allowed, please find more appropriate material.
Sit back and enjoy the story, any comments can be sent to me at email@example.com.
I want to thank my betas for correcting this for me. Beth and Len, you are godsends. I bow to your grammatical knowledge and for your very prompt turnaround.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the wonderful people who have taken the time to read this particular story. It was one of the first I posted and still receives a tremendous amount of feedback, which is truly humbling. I wanted to go back and smooth out some places so it's a more enjoyable read, and to revisit the characters. After doing this, I think they made it clear they still have plenty to say. On their behalf, I say thanks for reading and for the many wonderful notes you've sent over the years. I appreciate them all.
This is dedicated, as always, to the one woman who holds my heart. As in all things you've taught me to enjoy life and to live it so no day is ever wasted. To me every second with you is a treasure.
The old metal doors leading into the emergency room at Charity Hospital in New Orleans slammed open letting in the rushing EMTs. On the gurney lay a small blond woman with a grotesquely mangled leg. The bone fracture was so severe it had pierced the skin just below the knee causing the white sheet on the gurney to soak through with blood coming from the wound. As the pain intensified it was the patient who turned a sickly shade of white indicating shock wasn't too far behind.
"Sally, get a doc in here stat, we didn't want to medicate her figuring she was going be worked up for surgery, but she's fading on us fast." David, the short redheaded EMT ran along side the gurney with an IV bag held as high as he could get it, following the nurse he'd addressed into the first available examination room. He'd worked for the ambulance service for over five years and witnessed some horrific things, but this would be a case that would stick with him for a while.
It had taken them twice the time to get to the hospital, having to wait outside the small shotgun house at the cusp of an undesirable neighborhood until the police could subdue the young woman's husband before they were permitted to go in to retrieve her. David would never forget the bloody baseball bat lying next to the moaning woman, knowing it was what the son of a bitch had used on his wife's leg.
"We're in luck, Davie, God just finished up in the OR and should be able to descend from on high. I just paged her when y'all called in from down the street," said Sally, trying her best to sooth the patient until Dr. Harry Basantes was available to come down and see her. The young woman reminded her of her own daughter, and she thought if something had happened to Mindy, Dr. Basantes would be the only person she would want to fix the problem.
Not yet thirty-five, Harry was regarded as a prodigy in orthopedic surgery. Many local athletes from high school to the professional ranks had her to thank for their continued careers. The head of orthopedic surgery at "Big Charity" as it was referred to in New Orleans, Dr. Basantes also taught at the LSU Medical School located next to the hospital. Between her responsibilities at this hospital, the medical school, and her own private practice, she had little time for a social life, but had skills very few could rival.
Walking up behind Sally, with a group of students trailing behind her, Harry bent dow and whispered in the nurse's ear, "Taking my name in vain again I see, Nurse Hardass?" The low sexy voice sent a thrill down Sally's back, and she was sure that if there were fewer years between their ages she would have made a play for the young doctor by now.
"Doc, I was comparing you to God, how can you take that the wrong way?" She turned around and gave Harry her best smile. Sally was one of the only people in the big building who could give her such a hard time and not get pulverized by the equally famous Basantes temper.
"Uh huh, let's see what we have here." She stepped around the portly nurse, but not before she slapped Sally on the butt.
Not looking at the patient's face first, Basantes' attention went immediately to the injury. She let the noise and chaos of the emergency room fall away, her concentration fully on what it would take to fix the problem. Barking out orders for x-rays to be taken and other blood work to be done, the doctor finally moved up to address her new patient. When she looked into the tear stained face and watery green eyes, memories of high school flooded her brain and Harry had to clutch the side of the gurney in shock not to fall over.
"Desi? Sweetheart, is it you?"
"Harry? What are you doing here?" She wiped her face as surprise replaced the pain if only for a second. This would have to be the most humiliating day of her life, injury aside.
"I'm here to fix your boo boo as you used to refer to them. You have a severe fracture just below the knee from what I can tell, and it'll require surgery. A couple of pins and you should be good to go. Sally is going to give you a shot for the pain and once I get a look at your pictures we'll head into the operating room." Harry smiled at her before turning her attention to the chart Sally had handed her. With handwriting only a few understood, Harry started writing down all the orders she had just issued verbally.
"You're a surgeon?"
"No, I'm actually the janitor, but we're a little short handed at the moment so the state expects everyone to pull their weight." When she was done teasing she looked at her with a sincere and open expression. "Look, if you want someone else to do the procedure, it won't hurt my feelings, so just think about it. I'll be back as soon as your x-rays are back, okay?"
Not giving Desi a chance to respond, Harry moved away from the gurney running her hand through her hair. It was a nervous habit she'd had ever since she was a child and one that hadn't made an appearance in years. She moved to the nurse's station to finish filling out the orders in the chart and to put some distance between them. The emotions from seeing Desi again made Harry think that maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to let someone else do the surgery. They had a history she had tried to bury in the deepest recesses of her heart.
"But damn if I don't find at least a minute of everyday to think about you, Desi. I wonder if you've given me a second thought since those caps went flying into the air at graduation?" The sentiment was whispered under Harry's breath causing one of the admit nurses to stare at her with an arched brow.
Back in the examination room, Sally and the EMTs very carefully lifted Desi from the gurney and onto the exam table. Sally draped a clean sheet over her chest to keep her warm and lifted the IV pole to the right height. While most patients watched Sally intently when she was in the exam rooms to see what was happening with their care, Desi kept her focus in the direction Harry had walked off in.
"You know, the decision is up to you," said Sally as she stuck a syringe in the IV unit. "And granted, there's a lot of good doctors in the building, but none of them are Dr. Basantes. If she's offering, don't turn her down."
The adamant defense caused Desi to cry harder. Before she could move and cause more damage, Sally finished with what she had to do and reached over to run her hand over Desi's fair hair. She continued the comfort even after the medication had taken affect and her breathing had evened out. The only trace she was still upset were the fat tears that still fell in silence down the beautiful face.
Lost in her thoughts, Harry didn't notice Kenneth Reynolds walk up and stand beside her. One of the few people she did keep in touch with from her childhood was her best friend and also the head of pediatrics at the hospital. The nurses referred to them as the dynamic duo, at first wondering if there was a romance to go with the friendship that they obviously shared.
"It's not often that we see the Goddess of Bones down in the ER. What gives, Harrietta?" He leaned against the counter next to her and drummed his fingers on the old Formica counter top.
"Don't call me that, Kenneth, or I'll share with Sally what Tony calls you when you're at home. Got me, sugar pants?" Harry never peered up from the chart she was writing in as she gave as good as she got.
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry it's just been a long day and I felt like teasing you a little." He put his hands up in surrender and laughed. "Does someone have their leg coming out of their ass or something? It'd take something that drastic to lure you down here with the little people." He stood against the counter waiting to see what was wrong with his old friend. The first thing he had noticed when he stepped off the old elevator was Harry running her hand through her hair. It wasn't often the confident surgeon messed up those dark curly locks. Something had set her off and he was there to see if he could help with whatever it was.
"Did you learn that diagnosis technique in medical school?" Harry finally turner her blue eyes his was as she handed the chart off to the waiting nurse. "Ken, you wouldn't believe who's lying behind curtain number three." She made another swipe through the dark hair.
"Do I win a new washing machine if I guess right? Tony informed me old Betsy is about to call it quits. I've had that washer since we were in college," his tone was wistful, momentarily forgetting what they were talking about.
"If I bought you a new washer would you shut up?"
"Sorry. Who, Dr. Harry, is behind curtain number three? I've got no clue, and I'm horrible with guessing games so you're going to have to give in and tell me." He turned his full attention back on her and gave her an indulgent smile, maybe whoever was behind the curtain was the reason for Harry's demeanor.
"Desi Thompson. Can you believe of all the hospitals in the world, she had to walk into mine? Well technically she was wheeled in but it still doesn't change the fact that she's here and needs a surgeon." That she was now rambling was a clue as to just upset she was.
"She's in luck then, don't you think? You're a surgeon after all. Unless you forgot to pay the club dues and they've taken away your key and special decoder ring. By the way, did you sing the song 'A Kiss is Just a Kiss' when you first saw her, or are you waiting for the post op to do that?" For a brief second Kenneth thought about driving home and picking up his partner Tony. He was much better equipped to deal with old emotional baggage like this, while runny noses and nasty scrapes suffered on the playground were more his forte.
"You do realize, smart ass, that I'm bigger than you, thus I can deliver the leg out your ass thing?" She was now tapping the counter with her pen, letting Kenneth know seeing Desi again was driving Harry to distraction. He didn't think Harry even realized she was displaying every one of her nervous ticks.
"Sorry, pal, just go in there and do your job. After you're done, I'll take you home and treat you to a home cooked meal. You know Tony's red fish stew is to die for and he's been chopping stuff since early this morning. The man can't find a job but is a wizard in the kitchen. Just pretend she's one of the hundreds of nameless faces who walks in here everyday and put those memories of yours back in the box." Just as he finished, another patient with an ear hanging on by just a small piece of cartilage was wheeled into the bay next to Desi's. "See, just another typical day in the ER in the great city of New Orleans," finished Kenneth with a slap to her back. "Just do your job, Harry, and the rest will stay buried if you let it."
"That, buddy, is easier said than done."
"True, but most people don't have Tony and me to help them through it. And we'll be there for you no matter what you decide."
"Doc, your pictures are back," Sally called from the curtained partition. She waved the large yellow envelope in the air and motioned for Harry to come back. Slapping Ken back a little harder than she meant, Harry promised to meet him for dinner. With a sigh, she walked back to the girl who had walked out on her so many years before.
"Harry, hurry up or we'll be late for class. I'm not sure why you need to go to class, you know more about algebra than Mr. Boswell. You have to promise me you'll come over this afternoon and help me with this stuff. If I flunk this class I won't be able to go off to college with you. And if that happens, who's going to take care of you?" asked Desi. She was walking down the hall backwards so she could keep up her conversation with Harry. It was getting harder to talk to Harry without getting lost in those incredible blue eyes and dark hair, so Desi tried to face her in any dialog they exchanged.
Strolling behind Desi and laughing at all her fussing was Harry. They had met in grade school when Harry had transferred from one of the private schools in town. Harry's parents had moved into a different school district just before summer, giving them no choice but to change where Harry and her brother went to school. The tall personable girl had spent the summer making friends with some of the neighborhood kids, all of who attended the local public school. Begging her parents, Harry talked them into letting her attend theschool her new friends did.
As she was getting into her mother's car on the first day of fourth grade, Harry noticed some of the older kids picking on two small blondes standing in line for the bus. After briefly listening to cruel comments about their worn clothes, plain shoes and patched school bags, Harry excused herself from her mother and came to their rescue. Standing between the bullies and the girls, she offered them a ride.
"My mom won't mind so come on. You two don't want to be late on the first day do you?" She held out her hand and Desi had looked at it for a second before accepting it.
That had been the beginning of a friendship that would take them through high school. Unlike those kids at the bus stop that first day, Harry never noticed Desi's second hand clothes or the shoes with holes in the soles. Her parents never said anything when Desi would come to their house to spend the weekend and eat them out of a week's supply of groceries. The fact that she made Harry so happy was good enough for them.
"Time enough to think about that later. Now let's just do what Ken said and get the hell out of here," Harry mumbled to herself as she walked to the exam space Desi was in.
Firing up the light boxes attached to the wall Harry explained what needed to be done to fix Desi's leg to her as well as the students who were observing. The pain medication now flowed freely through her veins so Desi was able to follow what Harry was saying and study her without her noticing.
During the explanation Desi couldn't help but notice that time had been good to Harry. She was good looking in school but now her features were more refined and the tall lanky body had filled out leaving a strong confident woman standing before her. For all the things that had changed though, some things about Harry were still the same. Like the fact she talked with her hands and when she was finished explaining something, you understood the problem at hand as well as her well thought out solution.
"Do you have any questions, Desi?" Seeing her friend shake her head Harry continued, "Would you like for me to call one of my associates to do this for you? Don't worry about hurting my feelings, I just want you to be comfortable with your care." The only response Harry got was the tears rolling down Desi's face again.
Sally directed everyone to the other side of the curtain so Harry could have a moment with Desi before heading upstairs. She had known Harry since she was a resident tearing up these same halls, and Sally knew she was a sucker for a crying woman.
The second Sally closed the curtain behind her, leaving them as much privacy as possible, Harry leaned down and took Desi's hand into hers. All of Kenneth's warnings flew out of her head the second the glassy green eyes connected with hers. "Sweetheart, don't cry. It's going to be all right, I promise. After some rehab you won't even remember you got hurt, and I'll take extra care in my stitching so you'll still look good in a bathing suit." That made Desi smile up at her. It was like a fantasy to feel Desi's hand in hers again; the dreams she had didn't compare.
"I don't want anyone else, Harry. Please don't leave me alone now." Desi pulled her closer with the little strength she could muster. "I don't have any right to ask you, but please don't leave me alone."
"I promised you a long time ago that I'd take care of you and I never break a promise, so don't worry. You won't be alone in this, I'll take care of everything." With a slow and gentle hand, Harry wiped away the tears that had fallen down her before moving to put her arm around Desi."
"I've missed you, Harry. I'm sorry I never wrote or called you. I never stopped thinking about you. I've always wondered what you had gotten into so it's good to know you've done so well." Desi greedily soaked up the comfort Harry was offering. It felt wonderful to be back in the arms that had given her so much comfort in the first part of her life. After Harry left, Desi never felt safe or cherished, and it had made for a very lonely existence.
"Don't worry about that now. I need you to relax and let the medicine take affect. You rest and I'm going to take care of you." In an old reflex, Harry kissed the top of the blond head. "And I'll be there holding your hand when you wake up. You're not alone in this and I promise I'll take care of you."
"Do you want something to drink, Harry? We have water or water," called Desi from the kitchen. Looking out at the front porch where Harry was stretched out, she fantasized about what else they could be doing instead of studying for finals. There was something about the way Harry looked at her that made her stomach do funny things.
"I think I'll take water, if you have it," called Harry from the front of the house. "Hey, Mr. Thompson, how's it going?" Harry asked Desi father Clyde who was walking up from the bus stop.
"Okay, Harry, just going to take a siesta before my next job. Studying for something with all those books out?" He pointed to the stack sitting next to her.
"Trying to teach Desi word problems in math, sir. Should make for a long afternoon. Would you mind if I took her and Rachel out for a burger later?"
"Nah, just have them back early, it's a school night."
"You got it, Mr. T, thanks."
They sat on the swing, shoulder to shoulder, for the rest of the afternoon while Harry patiently explained the concepts Desi needed to solve the problems. When Desi's younger sister Rachel got home, Harry took them both to dinner. Dining on hamburgers and baked potatoes that were a specialty at the French Quarter restaurant Port of Call, the girls enjoyed each other's company like they had on many previous nights. It bothered them at times to let Harry pay their way for all the fun extras in their life, but their big guardian angel loved to look after them.
Harry's father was a surgeon at one of the local hospitals. Though a foreigner with a thick Spanish accent, Raul was loved by all the patients he came into contact with. The generous man had on many occasions waived his fees when a family that couldn't afford the medical treatment that had brought them to the hospital found themselves under his care. Many times Raulcamehome with a payment of an ice chest of shrimp or other food item for a favor he had done for someone. With her dark curly hair, brilliant blue eyes and powerful build, Harry had inherited not only her father's good looks but also his gentle nature.
"Harry, have I ever told you how happy I am that you came to our rescue all those years ago?" asked Rachel as she popped the last of her burger in her mouth. They were sitting in the corner table of the small restaurant with Harry and Desi sitting close enough that their thighs were touching.
"No, squirt, but I'm glad you're glad. You two finish up, I promised your father I'd have you home early." Harry paid their bill and piled them into the small car her father had bought her at the beginning of their junior year.
It was a two-seater that Harry loved to drive, especially when Rachel came along. That meant Desi would have to sit practically on her lap for the duration of the ride. Desi took those opportunities to lay her head on Harry's shoulder and pretend they were coming home from a date. As strongly as they felt for one another, they were afraid to voice their feelings.
Taking care of her throughout the beginning of Desi's life had been a labor of love for Harry and something Desi missed more than anything. It was almost unbelievable that it would be where Harry would pick up when they saw each other again, or even that she would even consider taking care of her again.
The reality of the situation wasn't lost on Desi as she stared up into the bright lights of the operating theater. She wondered if anyone had told Harry how it was she came to be there, and if Harry would even care after so much time. One of the nurses came over and started prepping her leg for surgery. She checked Desi's IV and started talking to a young man in a booth on the left side of the room.
"What do you think the doc's in the mood for today, Sam?" asked Tyler.
"She's scrubbing up so why don't you wait and ask her when she finishes up. Are you feeling any pain, ma'am?" Sam directed her question to Desi.
"No, whatever they put in that drip sure did the trick. Have you worked with Dr. Basantes for a long time?" Desi rolled her head trying to keep up with her movements around the room.
"For a couple of years now, honey, so don't you worry. You're in the best of hands. They don't call her the Goddess of the Bones for nothing. Just relax and when you wake up you'll be good as new."
Desi was about to rephrase her question so she could learn more about Harry's life, when the object of her curiosity backed into the room with her hands held out in front of her. "Crank it up, Tyler, let's go," Harry called out to the boy in the booth.
"What do you want to hear, boss?"
"I seem to remember Miss Thompson liked the Go Gos way back when, so cue it up, my man." Harry requested as she moved over to Desi.
Tyler was there to witness her work in the OR as many times as he could. Having met the charismatic Harry the previous year at a gathering put together by the city to match up professionals with kids from the inner city, he had begun to hang around the hospital eventually getting a part time job working for her. The boy's dream was to one day work along side the surgeon who had given flight to his dreams by being his tutor when her schedule allowed. When it didn't, she had one of the residents sit with Tyler and help with his schoolwork.
The nurse continued putting out all of the equipment Harry would need as Harry bent down and started speaking softly into her ear. "Okay, sweetheart, I want you to take slow deep breaths and let the medicine do its job. Hopefully we'll be out of here in less than three hours if we don't find any more damage in there once we go in. I promise it'll be all right, so just relax." Harry's voice was getting softer and softer as the anesthesia started to work its way through Desi's system. The last things Desi remembered were the sound of that deep voice next to her ear, and the all girl band singing in the background.
"Doc, there's a detective here to see you from the NOPD once we finish up. Said he'd wait," Sam told her as she got into position to start handing over instruments.
"What'd you do now, Sammy girl?" teased Harry.
"Cut the wise comments, comedian, it's about her and her injuries," she pointed to Desi.
"I never did ask her how she got here. Was it a car accident?" asked Harry as she got into position.
"I think a car wreck would be less traumatic to recover from in the long run. This was no accident, her husband did this to her with a baseball bat, that's what David told Sally down in the ER." A shiver went through Sam's body as she thought of someone coming after her with a bat. "Isn't that just horrific?"
Harry had to take a minute to fight back her anger when she heard that. In her mind Desi would always remain the sweet innocent girl from high school, not someone's punching bag. "What happened to you, Desi, and why didn't you come to me for help?" Sam heard the question but she held the scalpel out for her boss and kept her comments to herself.
The surgery went smoothly and Harry was pleased that there wasn't as much ligament damage as she first suspected. She felt comfortable with the first diagnosis she had given Desi, in that with physical therapy, she would heal nicely. Washing up, she stepped into the waiting room to talk with the officer who had waited patiently during the two and a half-hour surgery.
"Dr. Basantes?" asked the short blond man. If Harry had to guess by looking at his clothes, the guy had spent his time sleeping in one of the plastic chairs while waiting.
"Yes, and you are?"
"Detective Roger Landry of the New Orleans police department, ma'am. I know you've had a long day but I was wondering if I could ask you some questions about Desiree Simoneaux?" He stood and tried to smooth out the wrinkles in his jacket.
"Simoneaux," Harry said the name slowly and softly as if trying to retrieve it from the recess of her mind. Of course Sammy had just told her there was a husband and Desi would have taken his name.
"Sorry, ask away, detective, I don't know what I can tell you, but I'm game." He went on for about fifteen minutes and asked about the extent of Desi's injuries and about security measures at the hospital. It was a given that Byron Simoneaux, Desi's husband, would be out on bond before the night was over and the rumpled detective wanted to make sure Desi would be all right. The last thing she deserved was for the asshole to come and finish the job once he was out of jail.
"She's married to Byron Simoneaux? The guy whose dad owns the old mechanic shop and gas station?"
He arched a brow at how incredulous Harry sounded. "Sounds like you're familiar with him."
"Not really, just a name and face from a very distant past." Harry exhaled deeply and ran her hand through her hair. "I'm just surprised that's who Desi ended up with. I never realized they were close."
"I'm sure given their history together, if she had a do over, she would've made different choices. But tonight's reality is what we have to deal with. From what I know about this guy, when he gets out, probably tonight, he's going to come looking for her. An apology veiled with threats is what I predict for Desi's future if he finds her. That is if he doesn't stop at a local waterhole before he gets here. If that happens it's anybody's guess, you know?"
"Tell you what, Detective Landry, why don't I have Desi moved to another hospital once she's out of recovery? I'll have one of the services move her over to Mercy and into a private room. Don't worry about security, I'll take care of that myself. Once she's conscious tomorrow you can come by and talk with her. I don't know how these things work so I'll leave that part up to you." She ran her hand through her hair again then noticed that she was doing it, looking at her hand like it had somehow betrayed her usual cool façade.
"Thanks, doc, I'll see you both tomorrow. It's a shame what that asshole did to her. The boys in the precinct tell me it wasn't the first time, but she never wanted to press charges no matter how many trips they had to make out there." He handed her his card and shook her hand. "This time I'm hoping she'll think before just giving him a free pass, or there might not be a next time."
"Is there someone we should contact before we head out? I knew Desi in high school and she lived with her father and sister then, have they been contacted?"
"I'll check into it and let you know tomorrow," He pocketed his small notebook and turned to make his departure. "Thanks for everything, Dr. Basantes. I'm sure it was a comfort to Mrs. Simoneaux to see a friendly face tonight. It's going to help put this nightmare behind her."
Calling Kenneth's house and talking to his lover Tony, Harry explained what was going on and that she was moving Desi to another hospital. It would make it more convenient for her during Desi's convalescence to have her at Mercy Hospital, since Harry's house was so close.
"Do you want Kenny to meet you over there? He called a few minutes ago and said he's on his way home. I could get him to take a detour," said Tony.
"Nah, don't bother. I'm sure the big guy wants to get home after wiping snotty noses all day. Sorry about dinner, I'll call you guys tomorrow," Harry finished the conversation by snapping the small phone in her hand shut. Desi was resting in recovery so she found a chair to sit by her bed. The minute it was safe to move her patient they would be heading uptown.
Long moments passed without an answer so Harry thought Desi had fallen asleep because of the motion of the swing. They had just returned from dinner where the conversation had centered around their future and Harry's leaving for college soon. It was the crying that made Harry wrap her arms tighter around her in comfort. "Tell me what's wrong, Desi?"
"You're going away and you'll probably forget me. I just don't know what my life is going to be like without you here."
"I told you that you're welcome to come with me. It's just Baton Rouge, so you'll be close to your family. I could get a part time job and help you through school if that's what you're worried about."
They sat there in silence again except for the symphony of crickets coming from the garden. "Daddy would never let me do that. He needs help with Rachel and the house. I can't just run out on him. Without me here Rachel will be all alone, and…" There was a feeling of depression running through her as she clung to Harry.
As much as she trusted Harry, she couldn't bring herself to voice her fears about leaving her sister alone with their father. Clyde was a man who had grown angrier through the years and Desi didn't want to add to that, especially if her sister would bear the brunt of that decision. The desire to give into what Desi knew were selfish dreams was strong but she couldn't bring herself to commit and abandon her sister.
"Okay how about this?" Harry knew not to push – not yet anyway. "Rachel is only a year behind us, so for the next year you work and save your money, and I'll do the same. After that you both move in with me and we get you started on that nursing career you talked about, and we'll both help get Rachel started on what she wants to do. I love you, Desi, and I don't want to lose you either." It was a risk, finally admitting how she felt, but Harry couldn't leave and not tell her. Not seeing her everyday was eating away at her and maybe this would give her hope that Desi would someday join her.
"I love you too, I have for so long." Desi's tears dried after finally voicing her secret and finding the courage to seal it with a kiss. She was thrilled when it was returned with the passion she had only dreamt about.
For the next three weeks, the two made plans for the next year, and for all the ones to follow. While they waited for Rachel to graduate they would have to live for long weekends and school breaks at Louisiana State University, which is where Harry had decided to go. Despite her father's money, Harry was going on both athletic and scholastic scholarships. She was as good on the softball field as she was at solving math problems and had been heavily recruited by the state institution.
On their last night together they sat on their swing holding on to each other. The touchesand kisses had gotten a bit more heated over the last three weeks, and Harry was trying to memorize the taste of Desi's mouth. They never saw the man standing under the street lamp on the corner watching them. For the first time since anyone he worked for could remember, Clyde Thompson had gotten sick and had to go home early.
"Harry?" rasped Desi. She tried to lift her head and was confused as to where she was. She remembered being held by Harry and then total blackness.
"Try not to talk, " said Harry with a comforting voice from the chair next to her bed. The twitching of Desi's fingers woke Harry up from the deep sleep she had been enjoying. "Just relax and lay still."
After giving Desi a few chips of ice to sooth her throat and checking all her vitals, Harry called David in to get her loaded. After working at the hospital together for years, the EMT and Harry had gotten to be friends, so she didn't hesitate to call his service and have him waiting outside.
"Where are we going?" asked Desi.
"I'm going to move you to Mercy and into a private room. Charity is where you want to come to get your surgery, but not the best place to heal up. Don't get me wrong, the staff is excellent, but I just thought you might be more comfortable uptown. Ready, on two," said Harry as she grabbed on end of the sheet Desi was lying on. "Try to not hit any bumps and jar her leg, David. You wouldn't want to mess up my beautiful work." Following the gurney to the ER entrance, Harry called ahead to Mercy and asked one of the night nurses to get a traction setup ready for their arrival.
"Harry, I don't have the greatest medical insurance in the world so maybe it would be best if you left me here," Desi told her as she motioned for more ice.
"You can cook me dinner once you're back on your feet. I'm taking care of this so just sit back and enjoy the ride. David, hit one pothole and I'm going to come up there and rip your tongue out." The order was yelled through the small partition as David's partner secured the back doors after loading up.
"How about if I just try and hit all the potholes instead of trying to find a piece of paved street? It'd be easier on all of us." He looked back at them from the front cab and bit back a laugh at the glare he was receiving.
"How about I go up there and kick your ass?" retorted Harry as she tried to fold her long frame into the cramped space of the ambulance in an effort to get comfortable.
"How about I go nice and slow?"
They drove off the emergency room ramp having to maneuver around the dozens of other ambulances, police cruisers and private cars trying to get in. A Friday night in the ER at Charity in New Orleans was often compared to a triage unit during the Vietnam War. The trauma surgeons this hospital produced were the best in the country, which was why the competition to get in was so fierce. It was easy to fathom once you realized that on the weekends they averaged a hundred gunshot wounds a night, and even more stabbing victims. It was a typical night in the Big Easy.
As they drove further away from the chaos of Tulane Avenue, through the deserted downtown area and into the large oaks of uptown, the streets got wider and quieter. Uptown had its own share of crime but here the houses were bigger and surrounded by even higher fences keeping out the ugliness of what New Orleans had to offer. Most of the mansions along the city's famous St. Charles Avenue were owned by old money establishment, and nothing like the violence that had marred Desi's leg ever came in contact with their families unless it was invited in. The rich lived, played and socialized among these beautiful old trees. That had been the way since the city had been founded.
Driving up the ramp at the new hospital, Desi could tell the difference right off. There was no crowd of people waiting to be seen and no noise. Surprising for a Friday night, but then if you had been shot you wouldn't be here. Rolling along the professionally decorated walls the gurney stopped on the third floor in front of a private suite. From the moment the elevator doors opened, two attractive nurses crowded around Harry trying to offer assistance.
"Dr. Basantes, your room is ready, and all the equipment you ordered has been set up. Can I help you get your patient settled?" asked Mitzy. She walked up and leaned into Harry trying to get her undivided attention.
"Thank you, Mitzy, it's been awhile. How have you been?" She took a step back trying to put some space between them.
"Waiting for you to call me, doc, but it seems like you've cast me aside since you haven't made the effort to pick up the phone."
"Not the place or time for that discussion, Mitzy. Let's keep our minds on the task at hand shall we?" Harry gave her a glare that cooled her ardor.
Moving Desi into the room, the team gently transferred her onto the hospital bed. Harry spent twenty minutes getting her leg into the traction position Desi needed to help with the healing of the fracture. David took the time to talk to the forlorn appearing Desi bidding her goodbye and good luck. Once Desi was comfortable, Harry dismissed everyone allowing her some peace.
"How long do I have to be here?" asked Desi. She was having a hard time looking Harry in the eye now, so she looked instead to the warmed blanket the nurses had brought in to cover her.
"We need the bone to begin knitting, then we'll discuss your release. So sit tight because you're going to be here for at least a week if not a little longer. I know you're tired, Desi, but do you want to tell me what happened? Who did this to you?" She watched as Desi twisted her fingers into the bedding with a defeated look now that they were alone.
"I really don't want to get into that with you. Not that I don't appreciate your help but this really isn't your concern. This is my problem. I'm just sorry you got dragged into the situation because of rotten luck. You have your life and don't need my complications messing you up," answered Desi in a sharper tone than she intended.
"Desi, I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want to know. You aren't a complication to me, you never were. I thought you were my friend. The reason I'm asking is there was a police officer waiting for me when I got out of surgery tonight, and he had some pretty disturbing things to say about what happened. My offer's genuine. I want to help you if that's what you want," Harry finished with a sigh. Shouldn't she be the one getting angry? After all it was Desi who had walked out without explanations or reasons. But the urge to touch Desi was so great, she had to sit on her hands to keep from reaching out.
"If you know already, why ask me?"
"Because you were always the one preaching that there are always two sides to every story." Harry scrubbed her face with her hands, trying to fight off the fatigue she was battling. "I'm not trying to pry into your life, I'm just trying to help you."
"Why would you want to help me?" Desi's head came up for the first time since being placed in the room expecting to see pity and rejection in Harry's face. The compassion she found was surprising.
"Because I care about you, time doesn't kill that, or at least it hasn't for me. I won't lie and tell you I understand why."
"Why what?" She knew the answer to what Harry had said, but as much as it scared her, it was time to provide an explanation that was too long over due.
"Why you walked out of my life? Why you never returned any of my phone calls or never came to the door when I was home from school and came over to visit?" The memories of all that pain came flooding back and Harry had to stop talking to get her emotions back in check. "Did it only take a few weeks to forget how I felt about you?"
"Do you think so little of me to think I did all those things to hurt you? That I could just toss you aside and forget you?" Desi's voice projected a strength she didn't feel, but she couldn't turn back now. "Everything I did, I did because I cared about you. I did it all because I loved you!"
"Because you cared about me? Because you loved me? For the longest time I was in hell. I lost you for no reason, and I had to face that you didn't want me in your life with no explanation. Maybe it was the thought of living a lifestyle your family and friends wouldn't understand. I don't know, only you have the answers and they can remain with you if that's what you want."
Harry had to use all of her willpower not to sit on the bed and take Desi in her arms when her words obviously hurt and Desi dropped her head again. Funny how the feelings she had spent so long trying to bury could spring to life with so little effort. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to dump all of that on you especially now. It's just been a really long day, and you were a really big surprise."
"Do you have someone in your life now?" The fear of knowing the answers to all her questions that had added up in the time they'd been apart won out, and Desi's tears pooled in her eyes again at her own attempt to change the subject. With nervous fingers, she went back to twisting the blanket.
Harry laughed but the act had nothing to do with humor. "No, Kenneth and Tony pull me out of my shell every so often but there isn't anyone I'm seeing. It might have been a good thing for you to walk away from me. I can put someone's bones back together no matter what the damage, but I suck at relationships. Even when I've really tried, something always got in the way. I work, I teach and that's good enough for me." Harry put her hands in her pockets and tried to hide the surprise she felt at the unexpected question.
The truth was after what had happened with Desi, she was always waiting for whoever she was seeing to walk out. The pain of loss wasn't so great if you didn't put your heart at risk.
The defeated tone of the answer made Desi's head whip up. "But you were the most loving person I've ever known. You deserve someone who makes you happy, someone who makes all this work you do count for something."
"My work does count for something. I don't need a little woman patting me on the head at the end of the day to tell me otherwise. I've changed from the person you knew a million years ago. That Harry doesn't exist anymore." Harry's voice still carried a little heat, making Desi drop her eyes again and shrink a little into the bed.
In an instant Harry backed down not wanting to scare her. "Enough about me and my empty life for tonight. Think about my offer and we'll talk about it in the morning. Ring for Mitzy if you need anything. I'll be back around eleven, but someone can reach me if you need me before then. I have two surgeries in the morning so I'll be up after that."
"You don't have to bother just for me, Harry."
"The surgeries are here, so it's no bother. Charity doesn't pay the bills, the torn rotator cuffs from the tennis set here do. Here are my cell phone and beeper numbers if you need to talk to me directly." She handed over a card and fought back a smile when Desi pressed it to her chest. "Have a good night, Desi."
Harry walked out of the room with a quick stride before her emotions got the best of her. She passed the nurses' station without a word, trying desperately to repair the carefully constructed wall around her heart that had been rocked to their foundation at seeing Desi again. "Do I have anyone special in my life? What a joke." The closing of the elevator doors swallowed the comment as Harry headed out of the building.
Riding the elevator down to the first floor Harry realized her car was still downtown at Charity. "Crap, this day just keeps on giving doesn't it?" Walking out the main entrance she thought maybe a jog downtown would calm her down after the emotional roller coaster she had been on. Seeing the woman who had broken her heart was one thing, but knowing she picked some abusive prick over her was quite something else.
"Going my way, handsome?" asked a singsong voice from the car parked at the corner.
"I don't know, what do you have to offer?" asked Harry smiling genuinely for the first time in what seemed hours.
"A fried oyster poboy and a ride back to your house," offered Kenneth. "My fabulous spouse decided to make one of your favorites even though he's been slaving in the kitchen all day long. Must mean he really loves you to go to those extremes. It'd be dangerous to your health to turn him down."
"I need to pick up my car first, buddy."
"No problem, Tony got the thrill of driving your girlfriend home. We gave her a quart of oil and put her to bed all safe and sound." With all her excuses out of the way, Kenneth waved her toward the passenger seat.
She got in and fell back into the soft leather with an exhausted sounding sigh. A fatigue like she hadn't felt since she was a freshman at LSU fell over her. "It's going to be okay, Harry, just have faith." Kenneth told her soothingly as he started toward home.
Her two friends spent the rest of the evening trying to cheer her up, and offering advice on how to handle the situation. Noticing she had fallen asleep on their couch half way through one of Tony's takes on the situation, they decided to leave her there for the night instead of waking her and sending her home.
"She picked Byron Simoneaux over Harry? What in the hell kind of choice is that? I tell you, Kenny, I thought that girl was one of the good ones back then. It's a crying shame she turned out to be such a bitch. Christ, Harry would have handed her the world on a plate, what was she thinking?" asked Tony as he jammed another glass into the dishwasher.
After hearing what had happened, the more and more aggravated Tony became as the evening wore on. It was making him sick to think of Harry back in that dark hole Desi had dug for her.
"Honey, we don't know all the facts so maybe you shouldn't hate her right off."
The way Tony was holding the glass in his hand made Kenneth think it was about to fly in the direction of his head. His partner was much shorter in stature but someone to be reckoned with when something fired his temper. "Where exactly have you been for the last, oh say seventeen or eighteen years, lover?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Kenneth was still eyeing the glass warily.
"Have you forgotten all those nights we heard her crying herself to sleep? Have all those futile trips to that little shotgun house when we were home for the weekend slipped your mind? She tried forever only to be turned away by her father no less, since Miss Desiree didn't have the balls to do it herself." With each item ticked off the list Tony's voice got lower as his anger built.
"I haven't forgotten any of it, love, and I saw how quickly the same pit swallowed her up when she saw Desi today. What I'm trying to say is, maybe this time around Harry will find some resolution with the past." Kenneth moved closer and placed the glass in the dishwasher before pulling Tony into his arms. "You've given me all the happiness I could hope to have in one lifetime and I want the same for Harry."
"Even after all this time, I still don't understand."
"It isn't our job to understand, baby, it's just our job to be there when and if this falls apart. I tried warning her but I saw the expression on her face when she left that exam room on her way to surgery." Kenneth kissed the top of Tony's head and sighed. "Whatever hold Desiree had over her then is just as strong as ever."
"I could've told you that. No one moons over a woman this long for no reason. The one thing that would've made it worthwhile was if the girl was worth all the pain Harry's endured. The way Desi handled the situation proves she wasn't, but you're right, it's not our place to say so. Harry has to find that out for herself and we'll be here to pick up the pieces when she does."
Kenneth's embrace tightened at Tony's soft side. "That's my little trooper.
"It's not about being a good friend, Kenny, it's about being a realist."
"What do you mean?"
He looked up at Kenneth shaking his blond hair out of his eyes before turning in the direction of the sofa and saw the top of their friend's head. "It means that the first time Harry had her heart broken she was eighteen and there was the promise of the rest of her life to get over it. With time she built a life she's comfortable with, but if Desi pulls the same crap again I don't know if she'll be able to do that this time around." He rested his head on Kenneth's chest and tried not to think morbid thoughts. "I'm just worried about her and what could happen if Harry loses hope."
"You don't think…"
"That she'll do harm to herself?" He pulled away a little and gazed up at the handsome face. "Not really. Harry has too much respect for life. That's what makes her a brilliant surgeon. The other part of that though, is how compassionate she is, and that stems from hope. I don't want to see her ability to deal with her patients diminished in any way because something inside her shuts down."
"That just means we'll have to be more diligent in looking out for her."
Tony nodded. "We will be because I refuse to let anything bad happen to her. Aside from you, Harry is the most noble and honorable person I know. That's why I've never been able to understand what happened."
"I don't understand it, guys, she won't return my calls or answer the letters I've sent. The phone is out of the question now, since every time I dial her number I wake her father up. Clyde works three jobs and that's not fair to him. Two weeks ago we were making plans for our future, now she won't even talk to me. What the hell happened?" asked Harry. She felt was like she'd been kicked in the chest.
"Maybe this is her way of telling you she doesn't want to see you anymore, Harry. We get to go home in two weeks, so why don't you wait until then to try again? No matter what happens, buddy, Tony and I'll be here for you." Kenneth told her as he held his crying friend. He couldn't fathom what Desi was up to and he wondered if she realizedhow much it was hurting Harry. Over Harry's shoulder he watched as Tony cried along with her. It was hellish to watch their friend go through this pain and know there was nothing they could do.
Back in New Orleans, Desi was also making it a habit of crying herself to sleep. After Harry had gone home that last night, her father had confronted her about what he had seen. The choice he'd offered had been getting rid of Harry or being thrown out and disowned, which would mean never seeing her sister again. After his ultimatum, Clyde slapped her across the room to show the seriousness of his words.
"No daughter of mine is going to be some queer. I'll beat it out of you if that's what it takes. If that's what you intend on doing girl get out now. I want nothing to do with you. Just remember, if she's what you want, you can forget about ever seeing Rachel again. We'll both be dead to you," railed Clyde as he slapped her to the floor again.
Not having the courage to leave her family, Desi chose the only alternative she could live with, and hoped that it would make her father proud of her. She married Byron and tried to settle into the life of a married woman. For sixteen years Desi enjoyed watching her sister grow and soar, and tried to substitute that for the love missing in her own life.
She had stayed long after the forced commitment, knowing there was no place left for her to run. After what she had done, Desi was convinced Harry had moved on with her life and there would no longer be room in it for her. When it was late enough, and Byron was sleeping she could admit it wasn't what, but who was missing in her life that was ripping holes in her soul.
"Dr. Basantes, could you answer some questions for my family and me?" asked the elderly lady in the waiting room.
They had already had their post operation consultation but were still fuzzy about what to expect from the hip replacement surgery the older woman's husband had just undergone. The six residents and three nurses with the rolling cart of charts waited while Harry sat in the bright atrium and answered all of their questions.
As hard as the doctor was on her students, she was just as gentle with her patients and their families. Harry was regarded as one of the most compassionate doctors in the hospital when it came to her bedside manner. It was one of the things she had learned from her father in the years she followed him through the wards.
"It takes no extra effort to be nice, Harry, remember that when you have patients of your own. These people are scared and are looking to you for answers. Don't ever let me hear that you blew anyone off because you didn't feel like talking or answering questions. If you do, you'll need a surgeon when I'm done with you," her father had told her.
Finished with the Hebert family, Harry headed up to the wards to do rounds with her staff. One of the good things about being an instructor at the medical school was, even in private practice, the students assigned to her tagged along. Some of the patients were overwhelmed when that many white coats congregated around their bed, until Harry explained why they were there.
Pulling Desi's chart out of the pile and reading how her night went, Harry dismissed them and headed toward the cafeteria. Deciding instead on one of the local burger places within walking distance of the hospital, Harry picked up lunch for both Desi and herself before heading up to see her.
"I come bearing gifts since I see you're not into hospital food," Harry teased when she stepped in. Desi was sitting up in the bed staring out of the window appearing sad. A hospital tray sat ignored next to the bed. With the rays of light streaming into the room, the red highlights in Desi's hair were accentuated, and her face had that youthful appearance Harry remembered.
"My savior. You were always that, Harry, weren't you?" As she asked the question, Desi couldn't help the tears that spilled out. She had been sitting there all morning going over the choices she had made and what they had cost her.
"I can be again, if you let me," said Harry as she gave into her inner most desires and sat on the bed next to Desi.
"It might be too late for that. Look at me," replied Desi pointing to her leg. "You don't need some useless woman in your life, Dr. Basantes."
"You can choose to believe whatever you want about me, but don't think of yourself that way. If you do, he wins, and hasn't Byron taken enough from you already?" Desi lowered her head at the question and wouldn't answer.
Thinking Desi needed time, Harry changed the subject and asked about Desi's family. It was nice to hear that Rachel had become a hairdresser and was now working at one of the more posh establishments in town. Desi's father had died five years before of lung cancer, so besides Rachel, Byron was technically the only family she had left.
"Do you want me to call Rachel and tell her where you are?" asked Harry.
"Don't bother tall, rich and good looking," Rachel screamed from the door.
She had cancelled all her appointments for the day after getting the call from her sister that morning. Rachel had driven to the hospital with a smile on her face after she heard who the dashing surgeon was who had been on call when Desi was brought to the hospital. With any luck Harry wasn't hooked up with some skinny uptown bitch who would have to be taken out of the picture.
"Squirt, look at you. You look great. Is it true? Do redheads have more fun?" asked Harry as she rose from the bed to greet Desi's sister. The hair was a definite change from the brunette locks she remembered.
"Come out with me some time, doc, and I'll let you know. How's my big sister?" asked Rachel as she turned her attention to the bed.
"I'm okay. Come here and give me a kiss. My leg's broken not my lips," said Desi.
"Not this time anyway, sis. I hope now you'll listen to me and get away from that asshole once and for all. What's it going to take, Desiree? Him killing you?" Rachel lectured with her hands on her hips and no teasing in her voice.
"Be quiet, Rach, Harry doesn't need to hear all this," said Desi.
"I'll give you two some privacy. Eat your burger, Desi, and drink the entire shake I brought. You need all the calcium you can get at the moment. Rachel, it was nice seeing you again, take care."
It's none of your business, Harry, leave it alone. She doesn't even want you in the room when she talks it over with her sister, thought Harry as she walked down the hall to the atrium. Sinking into one of the comfortable chairs in the empty room, Harry closed her eyes for a moment, thinking about the rest of her day. She had another ten hours of work minimum, and she had to figure a way not to think about Desi in all that time. Her patients needed her head to be clear and her hands to be steady. It was only fair, so Harry tried her best to focus.
"Please don't talk like that in front of her again," begged Desi when the door closed behind Harry. "This is embarrassing enough without having you fill in the blanks for her as to how pathetic my life is."
"It's time to change all the things you think are pathetic, sweetie. Think of this as fate's way of giving you a second chance." The firm mattress squeaked a little when Rachel sat next to her on the bed. "You had your reasons before, Des, but now daddy's not here to hold you back, and that asshole you married deserves to have the jail dropped on him."
"How many times do I have to tell you what I did was my choice?"
Rachel put her hand on Desi's cheek so her sister would look her in the eye. "Tell me those choices didn't cost you the one person who mattered the most?"
"That's not important. I still have you and you're whole."
The red tinted hair fell in Rachel's face when she shook her head. "This time around you don't have to worry about me, Des. Nothing and no one is hiding in the shadows to hurt either one of us, so this time you can have it all, sweetie. You just have to want it bad enough to claim it as yours."
"Life isn't always so simplistic, love, trust me." Her words died away as the emotion started to build. "Could you give me a few minutes?"
The hands that came around Harry's neck were familiar so she didn't need to look up to see who it was. The fingers massaged the tense muscles they found there and in her shoulders, before the redhead came around to the front of the chair and slipped into her lap. "Rachel, darlin', how have you been really?" asked Harry as she cradled Desi's sister in her lap.
"You still smell the same, Harry, how is that possible?" Rachel put her head on Harry's shoulder and pressed her nose to the tall woman's neck.
"I'm a creature of habit, you know old boring Harry."
"You're no such thing. Do you think I would've wasted all the time I have over the years thinking about you if I thought you were boring? And I have, thought about you I mean."
Harry smiled when she felt Rachel pull her hair gently after the reprimand. "I missed you, squirt…both of you."
"Oh, Harry, don't do this to yourself. Nothing that happened was your fault, and you may not believe me, but none of this is Desi's fault either."
"I don't remember saying it was. She had a right to whatever kind of life she wanted, with whomever she wanted." Harry pulled Rachel's hand down and held it in her lap. "I don't blame her…well not anymore, but I can't go back, Rachel. I don't know if you realize how much I cared about your sister."
She squeezed Harry's fingers and took a few seconds to center her thoughts. "I know, sweetheart, and I know how she feels about you." She pulled on Harry's hand when she went to pull away from her. "She loves you, Harry."
"She did for one brief moment maybe, but then she moved on didn't she?" Harry stopped and took a deep breath wondering where all her control had gone.
"Harry, I want you to listen to me, okay? I've spent years missing you, so much so that I didn't think I'd ever forgive my sister for what she did to you. You were so good to us growing up and you never asked for anything in return. I was angry with her for so long, but then she finally confessed her reasons to me, so I'm here to ask you for a favor." She framed Harry's face with her hands so she could see those big blue eyes. "Give her the time she needs to explain what happened. It'll be worth it, trust me. She married that ass, but she never stopped loving you, I know it. She won't admit it yet, but it's in there. Will you promise me to at least try?"
"She doesn't want me in her life, darlin', that much she's made perfectly clear so I don't think my trying is going to make a difference."
"Then promise you'll try because you're crazy about me." Rachel scratched the back of Harry's neck and smiled to try and make her feel better. She laughed and nodded in agreement. "Good, now kiss me goodbye, doc, I've got to get back in there and take my lumps for saying something in front of you earlier." Pressing her lips softly to Harry's, Rachel got up and walked back to her sister's room leaving a confused Harry behind.
Sitting with Desi for the afternoon, Rachel tried to make her comfortable and pull her out of her funk. She washed Desi's hair and put on a light coat of make-up for when Harry came back. At five, Detective Landry returned to interview Desi about what had happened in her house the previous day. Between his and Rachel's urgings, Desi decided for the first time to press charges against Byron.
This wasn't the first time he had sent her to the emergency room, but it was the first time she needed surgery and a long hospital stay to get recover from the beating. Rachel only asked that the officer give her enough time to go by the house and get her and Desi's things before they issued a warrant for Byron.
Desi's husband would have to be rearrested since his father had posted his bail the night before. It had been her salvation when her younger sister had moved in after their father died. It was the only thing Desi could attribute to Byron not having killed her by now.
Walking in as the interview was concluding, Harry wanted to check the settings on the traction Desi was in before heading home. Desi looked tired but better since that morning, and Harry figured Rachel had been playing hairdresser. She was about to walk out to let them finish their conversation when Desi asked her to stay.
"Ms. Simoneaux, where will you and your sister be staying once you are released? For your own safety, I recommend you don't return to the house you share with your husband. Just call my office with an address and number where I can reach you and I promise to keep you informed. Take care of yourself, ma'am, and just remember, no one deserves this kind of treatment." He turned his attention to Harry. "Doc, it was nice seeing you again. Maybe next time I'll schedule more time so you can look at this bad knee I got. We can trade, I'll take care of any outstanding parking tickets and you can fix my leg," he said with a chuckle. He held his hand out and shook Harry's before bidding them all good-bye.
"You got it, Detective Landry, thanks for stopping by today and talking with Desi."
When it was just the three of them, Harry turned her attention from the door to the bed. "So you ladies need a place to stay?" She prayed she wasn't about to make another huge mistake.
"Yes," said Rachel.
"No," said Desi at the same time. Desi glared at her sister for answering for her.
"Rachel, feel free to come and stay with me. You can help your sister find some place to go after she gets discharged," said Harry addressing Rachel and ignored Desi fuming on the bed.
"Harry, you mean it? Do you still live around here?" asked Rachel.
"I bought a house over on St. Charles last year. I hired Tony to decorate for me, he just didn't know at the time he had to pick out the house as well. Kenneth was so thrilled with the contract and that it kept Tony so occupied, he sent me to Barbados last Christmas. It's almost finished, just a few dozen more fights and I'm sure we'll agree on something. Tony doesn't understand the concept of white walls, and I don't understand the difference between mauve and pink so it makes for interesting dramatic outbursts. If you can live with that, you can stay," said Harry as she rocked on her heels.
"You live on the Avenue?" asked an impressed Rachel.
"Two blocks up from Napoleon, trailer trash, so I should expect you?"
"Harry, we've never lived in a trailer so take that back," whined Rachel stomping the floor with her foot and putting her fists on her hips.
"I take it back, and you can stay with me, if you talk hardhead over there in to coming with you." Harry cocked her head in the direction of the bed and wiggled her brows.
Desi couldn't help but laugh at their antics. Being around Harry again was like balm on her soul.
They spent the next week developing a routine. Harry rearranged her schedule so she could have lunch with Desi everyday, then came back to see the girls together at night. The day they decided they would be coming to stay with her, Harry had driven Rachel to the small house she shared with Desi and Byron to collect their things.
Tony was thrilled with the developments since it gave him a reason to go shopping for new bedspreads more suitable for ladies having announced that Harry didn't count, and a way of gathering information about Desi. Accompanied by Rachel, Tony made sure all the clerks in the more exclusive shops in town would never forget them.
"Ready to head out tomorrow?" asked Harry.
"You sure we won't be in your way?" Desi had asked the question a thousand times before but felt the need for that last bit of reassurance. Having asked again, she put the last spoonful of ice cream Harry had brought her in her mouth.
"Desi, I've lived with Tony and your sister for the past week, believe me, you won't be in the way," answered Harry from her position next to the bed. They were slowly returning to the comfortable relationship they once shared. The realization hit Desi as she looked at Harry's socked feet propped up on the bed. When did I put my hand on her foot and I wonder if Harry noticed? Desi asked herself, but she didn't remove her hand.
"Desi, can I ask you something?"
"You know you can."
"I apologize if I'm way out of line here but, I have a friend who works down in the D.A.'s office who handles most of the domestic abuse cases for him. Would you be offended if I called her and asked her to come and talk with you?
"It would make me feel better if you knew what you were in for, and what to expect. Serena's been doing this for awhile and can walk you through the process." The empty container of ice cream hit the side of the garbage can before going in as Harry finished up. "I know Rachel and everyone else who cares about you wants you to take a stand here, but I think it's important for you to know all the facts before you make your final decision on what you should do with your life."
"Don't you think I should pursue this?"
"Right now it's not really important what anyone wants but you."
"So you don't think I should charge Bryon with anything?" persisted Desi.
Harry laughed remembering their conversations from the past. When she set her mind to it, Desi could ask questions until you cried uncle. "I believe what I said is that you should be the one who makes that call. Not me, not your sister nor anyone else who has your best interests at heart. I care about you, and I care about what happens to you, but I think you have to be comfortable with what's coming. If you were with a man like Byron…" The fact Harry just stopped talking made Desi curious as to what the end of the sentence was.
"If I was with a man like Byron, what?" She put her finger up to stop the denial she knew Harry had ready. "If you care about me, then don't say it's nothing, and I'm sure that was going to be the next thing you said. If I was with Byron then what?"
"If he was capable of this, if he's the one who in fact did this, then I'm thinking he isn't just going to sit back and wait for the police to drag him off." This time it was Harry who put her finger up to stop whatever Desi was going to say. "If you want me to be honest, then I will. I think you should meet with Serena then try and find a little of that girl I used to know and nail this cowardly bastard to the wall. Only don't do it because that's what everyone else wants. Do it because that's what you want, as payment for everything that's happened to you."
"And if I decide not to do this? What will you think of me then?" Harry noticed where Desi's hand was when she squeezed her foot. "Will I also be a coward in your eyes?"
"As long as you are comfortable with your decision then I'll support you. It's the fact that it's your decision that'll make me happy." Harry smiled and nudged Desi's uninjured side with her foot. "Just talk to her and I think you'll be better prepared for what's coming."
"Sure, I'd like that. So, what color is my room?" asked Desi trying to steer the conversation away from her miserable marriage.
"Magenta was the last I saw." They both laughed having formed a picture in their head of Tony and Rachel together.
"Am I ready for this?" joked Desi.
"I'm thinking you're going to drown in fabric swatches and paint samples in the coming weeks. There's nothing Tony likes more than a captive audience."
"I am that," said Desi pointing to her leg.
"I have it on good authority from your doctor that you'll be as right as rain sooner than you think."
Desi squeezed her foot again and smiled. "She's the best, so I guess we don't have any other choice but to believe her."
Continued in Chapter 2
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