Disclaimers: This is a little short story to keep myself occupied while I work on editing two books at one time. These folks are of my own creation, so please no stealing. Lex doesn't like it when someone steals. LOL – and you sure don't want to make Amanda mad. You don't have to read my other Lex & Amanda stories, but this one will make a lot more sense if you have.
I've always been a huge fan of the movie, It's a Wonderful Life . I think we've all wondered if those we love would be better off without us, and that's the premise of this little ditty. Amanda gets tired of being everything to everyone, and feels a little sorry for herself. It takes a visit from an old friend to show her the truth. The title is taken from an old Reba McEntire song of the same name – no copyright infringement is intended.
As always, I dedicate this, and everything, to my wife, Jan. I love you, sweetheart. Always and forever.
A big, special THANK YOU to the amazing Munchkins at The Royal Academy of Bards for all their hard work and dedication to the written word. You folks are awesome!
If you like it, let me know. If you don't, let me know. I can be reached at email@example.com For information and other crazy stuff, check out my webpage – www.CarrieLCarr.com .
Merry Christmas! – Carrie
Present Day, Rocking W Ranch
“Mom! Make her stop!” Lorrie yelled, chasing her younger sister into the kitchen.
Amanda looked up from the table, where she fed Eddie a mixture of steamed peas in carrots in his high chair.
“I didn't do nothin',” Melanie cried, putting the high chair between her and Lorrie.
Eddie waved his goop-covered hands and chortled. “Liya!” he parroted. At nearly two years old, his vocabulary grew on a daily basis.
Amanda set the spoon on the high chair tray and silently counted to five. “That's enough, girls. Both of you sit down right now.”
Lorrie grinned at her little sister.
Amanda spun and saw the smirk. “You too. Sit.”
“It's her fault.” Lorrie crossed her arms over her chest. “I was in my room, minding my own business, when she ran in and started going through my stuff.”
Melanie glared at her sister. “I needed a pencil. You said I could borrow one.”
“I said that a month ago. I never said you could come into my room.” Lorrie looked at Amanda. “See what I mean, Mom? She started it.”
“I don't care who started it.” Amanda pointed to the chair where Lorrie normally sat during meals. “Sit right there and be quiet.”
“Mommy, wook.” Eddie had his hands in his wispy dark hair, which was standing up in strands of orange and green. “Pwetty.”
Amanda turned and saw the mess. “Dammit!” She went to the sink and put a handful of paper towels under the faucet. When she began to wipe her son's head, he started to struggle.
“Eddie, stay still.” Amanda gently worked the worst of the food out of his hair.
“No, no, no, no!”
Melanie giggled when Eddie grabbed another handful of peas and swatted Amanda on the arm. “That's gross, Eddie.”
“Not another word, Melanie Leigh Walters,” Amanda warned. She released the belt holding Eddie in the chair and lifted him. “I want you two to sit here quietly, while I give Eddie a quick bath.”
Lorrie rolled her eyes and groaned. “I've got homework to finish.”
Amanda rested Eddie on her hip. “You should of thought of that before you chased your sister in here, screaming like a couple of banshees.” She cringed as Eddie's sticky fingers tugged on her hair and goo made its way into her ear. “Eddie, no.”
It took all she had not to curse again as she took Eddie upstairs. “You may end up an only child before too long,” she told him. “And if your Momma ever shows up to help with those two, I'll be surprised. Just because it started to rain she thinks she has to run up and check on the guys at the bunkhouse.”
Eddie giggled and waved his hand. “Hosses.”
“That's right.” Amanda went into Eddie's room and grabbed a clean diaper on the way to the attached bathroom. “She's up there playing with the horses instead of being down here and watching your sisters. But I've got news for her. Your Momma is going to clean up the kitchen and then handle the terrible twosome.” Amanda had been feeling particularly stressed since Martha and Charlie had left to visit her relatives in the Carolinas.
“Momma,” Eddie agreed.
Amanda ran the bath water and undressed Eddie. “It's bad enough that I've become the sole caretaker for you three since Lex signed that beef contract. But now I'm the maid, too. Don't get me wrong. I love all of you. But sometimes, I wonder how this house would survive without me.” There was a squashed carrot under one of his arms. “How did you manage that, son?”
“Ugh.” Eddie wrinkled his nose. “Ucky.”
“Extremely ucky.” Amanda tested the water before she set him in the tub. The ear-splitting scream of delight was almost more than she could take. “Ssssh. Let's not make Mommy deaf today, all right?”
The back door slammed, and heavy bootsteps raced up the stairs. “Amanda?” Lex yelled. “Have you seen my spare truck keys?”
“No,” Amanda yelled from the bathroom. “I swear,” she grumbled, “am I supposed to keep track of everything?”
A moment later, Lex arrived at the bathroom door. Her clothes were soaking wet and had the appearance of a drowned rat. “I thought they were on the dresser, but I didn't see them.” She stared at her wife. “What's that in your hair?”
Amanda self-consciously put her hand on her hair. “Your son's lunch. Where's your raincoat?”
Lex took a towel from the cabinet and wiped her face. “Locked in my truck. Which is still running at the bunkhouse.” She tossed the towel toward the hamper, but missed. “That's why I need my spare set of keys.” She missed the glare from Amanda when the towel ended up on the floor.
“Momma!” Eddie squealed. He slapped at the water with his hands, splashing Amanda. “Bath!”
“I see that, son.” Lex leaned against the door. “Where are the girls?”
Amanda gritted her teeth. “In the kitchen, waiting for you.” She used the washcloth to rinse the food out of her hair. “Lorrie chased Melanie into the kitchen, and they were both screaming.”
“Damn. Okay, well, as soon as I can find my keys and get the truck unlocked, I'll talk to them.”
“And how long will that be? I've got things I need to be doing, too.” Now that he was clean, Amanda lifted Eddie from the tub and wrapped him in a towel.
“No, Mommy. No want!” He struggled to break free.
Still on her knees, Amanda watched helplessly as he spun out of the towel and toddled toward Lex. “Dammit. Eddie, get back here!”
Lex reached for him and missed, as his slick little body scooted away. “Oops. Hold on, kiddo.”
Amanda stood. “No, I'll get him. You're too busy, remember?” she sniped, pushing by Lex. “Edward Lee Walters, stop!”
Eddie cackled and started out of the bedroom, his small hands waving in the air. “Ha! Mommy!”
“No! Stay here,” Amanda screamed, chasing after him. She worried that he would head for the stairs, even though he knew he wasn't supposed to go near them without her or Lex. Amanda's shoe hit a muddy spot on the wood floor, and both legs flew out from under her.
“Amanda!” Lex yelled, reaching out for her.
As if in slow motion, Amanda watched as the ceiling came into view. She heard Lex's cry just as her head hit the floor with a heavy thump.
# # #
When she came to, Amanda groaned and slowly sat up. She was alone in an unfamiliar room. The white walls were blank, and the only furniture was the bed she was on and a white, wooden chair. “Hello?”
A hidden door opened along the farthest wall, and a man dressed all in white slacks and a white sweater stepped inside. Tall, with dark hair and light gray eyes, his handsome face smiled in recognition. “Hello, Mandy.”
Amanda blinked and shook her head. “No. This can't be. You've been,” she struggled for the right word.
“Dead?” he asked with a grin.
“For twelve years,” she finished softly. She reached out for him when he sat on the foot of her bed.
Frank Rivers patted her leg. “It's going to be all right.”
“What's going on? Where am I?”
He stood up again and put his hands in his pockets. “That's kinda hard to explain, but I'll try. You've been feeling a little overwhelmed lately, haven't you?”
“No, of course not.”
“You were never very good at lying, Mandy.”
She scratched the back of her neck. “Not to you, anyway.” Frank had been her best friend almost from the moment they met. When he continued to stare without saying anything, Amanda realized he expected an answer. “Yeah, I guess so. I mean, I love my life. I really do. But, lately,” she sighed. “Lately, it's like I'm not Amanda anymore.”
Frank nodded. He propped one foot on the chair and rested his elbow on his knee. With his chin on the palm of his hand, he asked, “You're feeling totally unappreciated, right?”
“Maybe.” Amanda turned and sat on the side of the bed. “I know I'm not all that special. But still.”
“You're very special, Mandy. And everyone who knows you realizes that. Because of you, I met the love of my life and we had a beautiful little girl.”
Tears came to Amanda's eyes. “That you didn't get to see grow up.”
“You're wrong. I see that she's grown into a strong, healthy and happy kid. And I have you and Lex to thank for that.”
Amanda began to cry. “But, maybe,” she lowered her head and stared at the white tile floor. “Maybe you'd still be alive, if—”
“If I hadn't been driving my newborn daughter home?” He shook his head. “Things don't work that way. People are only given a certain amount of time, sweetheart. And I'm afraid mine was always destined to be short. One way or another, I would have died on that day.” His eyes took on a faraway look and he cocked his head, as if listening. “Are you sure? All right.”
Frank held out his hand. “Come with me, Mandy. And see how important you are to those that you love.”
Her hand shakily reached out and grasped his. The room began to spin, and just before Amanda fainted, she felt Frank's strong arms hold her close.
# # #
Opening her eyes, Amanda frowned. “What's going on? Where are we?” She looked around. The dark-paneled room was familiar. “Wait. This is the study of my parent's old house. We shouldn't be here.”
“Patience, Mandy.” Frank nodded toward the door, which opened and a harried, older man stomped into the room. His face was blotchy and puffy, and his hair was an unnatural shade of reddish-brown. The expensive suit he wore was tight on his body, showing that he was at least thirty pounds overweight. He tossed his leather briefcase onto the floor beside his desk before he poured a healthy dose of scotch from the mini-bar.
Amanda gasped at the man's appearance. “Daddy?”
“He can't hear or see us.”
She turned to Frank. “What happened to him? And why is he here?” She moved around the room and glanced at the bookshelves, which were devoid of anything personal. “Where are all the family photographs?”
Frank gave her a sad little smile. “Since you weren't born, there weren't many family photo opportunities. Your sister did whatever your mother told her to do, and your dad,” he gestured to Michael at the desk, yelling at someone on the telephone, “buried himself in his work.”
“But, they're divorced. And Mother is dead.” Amanda frowned when Michael went to the bar and poured another drink. “Oh, Daddy. Don't do this to yourself.”
“No, in this life, your parents are still married. In name, anyway.” Frank handed Amanda a handkerchief to wipe her eyes. “You were the catalyst that opened your father's eyes to how wrong his marriage had become.”
Amanda's eyes widened. “But Lex—”
“Never met your parents, and your mother had no reason to be in Texas. So she was never killed in that accident.” Frank put his arm around her waist. “Come on.”
In a moment, they were in a different room of the Los Angeles mansion. The bedroom was more ornate than Amanda remembered. A third of the massive room was taken up by a dressing area that would have put a Hollywood starlet to shame. Seated at the center was a well-dressed, middle-aged blonde, giving concise instruction to the woman behind her.
“Really, Constance. I don't have all day to sit here and wait for you to develop a brain. If you can't get my hair finished in a timely manner, you can seek employment at QuikCut.”
The stocky girl seemed used to the abuse. “Mrs. Cauble, your roots need touching up. I'm sorry if I'm taking too long but these things take time. You don't want me to miss anything, do you?”
“Just hurry up. I have a meeting this evening at the Ritz-Carlton.” Elizabeth Cauble stared into the mirror. “Francois won't care about my roots.” She ran a delicate fingernail around the edge of her mouth. “He never does.”
Amanda shook her head. “She didn't change much, did she?”
“I'm afraid not,” Frank admitted.
“What about Jeannie? Is she all right?”
He lowered his gaze. “No, not really.”
“Please, Frank.” Amanda grabbed his arm. “Can we see her?”
# # #
Soon they were standing in front of a mansion larger than the previous one. Amanda grinned. “I guess Jeannie finally got to outdo Mother. I remember she always gave you a hard time about how ‘tiny' the place was that you insisted on buying.”
“Yeah.” Frank stuffed his hands into his front pockets and stared at the cobbled driveway where they stood. “We don't have to go in, if you don't want to.”
“No, that's fine. I can—” Amanda saw the sadness in his features. “What's the matter?”
Frank shook his head. “Come on.” He touched the middle of her back and they were suddenly inside the palatial home.
Amanda stared open-mouthed at the ornate décor of the large dining room where they ended up. “Good lord. Who are they expecting, the governor?”
“No.” Frank moved to stand behind Amanda, just as the doorway from the kitchen swung open.
A dark-haired woman stepped into the room, her body slim to the point of gauntness. Bruises dotted her bare arms, and there was a purplish knot on her left temple. She was dressed in a sleeveless, black designer gown, the low cut highlighting her prominent breastbone.
“Oh, my god. Is she sick?” Amanda whispered.
Frank placed his hands on her shoulders. “Unfortunately, no.”
Amanda turned to look at him. “But what—”
“Louise! Where the hell are you?” A masculine voice bellowed from another room.
Jeannie looked up fearfully as her entire body began to shake. “In,” she had to clear her throat to get her voice to work. “In the dining room, Anthony.”
The door on the opposite side of the room burst open, and a tall, muscular man filled the doorway. “What the fuck are you doing in here?”
“Shut up!” He started toward her, frowning when she moved to keep the table between them. “I thought I told you to wear the yellow dress. At least then your fat arms will be covered. You can't be seen like that, you stupid cow.”
Jeannie hugged herself. “I'm sorry.” She edged toward the door. “I'll change right now.” When she tried to scoot around him, Anthony grabbed her arm and made her wince. “Anthony, please. Your parents will be here any moment.”
He shoved her away. “We'll discuss this later, Louise. Now hurry up.”
“Yes, Anthony. Of course.” Grateful of the reprieve, she slunk out of the room.
Amanda moved to follow, but Frank held her in place. “It won't do any good, Mandy. She can't see or hear us.”
“How could she marry him?” Amanda asked, gesturing to the man who appeared pleased with his wife's fear.
“You weren't around to introduce us. Your mother set them up. Anthony's family owns a very lucrative import business. Some of which, is actually legal,” Frank muttered darkly.
Amanda shook her head. “No, I can't believe Jeannie would ever agree to something like that. And why does he call her Louise?”
Although they couldn't be seen, Frank led her to the edge of the room as a bevy of servants began to set the table. “His mother's name is Juanita, and he told Jeannie her name was too similar. She argued with him about it on their wedding night.” Frank choked back his emotions. “The next morning she had her first miscarriage.”
“Yeah.” Frank closed his eyes for a moment and sighed. He rubbed his face and looked into Amanda's tear-filled eyes. “After the third, they had to do a hysterectomy just to save her. They've been married almost three years.”
Amanda turned to stare at the door her sister had disappeared through. “She can't have children?”
“Anthony doesn't want kids. He blamed her for getting pregnant.” He cleared his throat. “Come on. We're not finished.”
“It can't get any worse than this, can it?” Amanda asked, right before they disappeared.
# # #
Their next stop was in a front of a small frame house. The yard was patchy with grass and dirt. A wooden ramp led up to the uncovered porch. Several potted plants lined a walk to the driveway, where an older model Chevrolet sedan sat in front of a one-car garage.
“Where are we now? This doesn't look familiar,” Amanda asked as she looked around. “It kind of reminds me of Somerville, though.”
“It is Somerville. Just not a part you're used to seeing.” Frank put his hand on her shoulder. “Let's go inside.”
Amanda squinted in the gloomy interior of the cramped living room. A small television flickered in one corner of the room, while the man in the recliner stared impassively at the screen. Behind him, an empty wheelchair stood sentinel. His face was creased into a perpetual frown and he barely looked up when a slender woman came into the room with a tray of food.
“Jacob, are you certain you want to eat in here? The kitchen would be much more comfortable,” Anna Leigh asked.
“There's no sense in all the extra trouble.” Jacob used his hand to carefully lower the footrest on the recliner. “This is fine, love.”
She placed the tray across his lap and brushed her hand along his cheek. “Is is bad today?”
“Been worse.” He took her hand and kissed the back of it. “Thank you for dinner.”
“Of course, dearest. I'll be back with my plate in a moment.” She kissed his forehead before leaving the room.
While she was glad to see her grandparents together and still in love, Amanda could sense that something was horribly wrong. She turned to Frank. “All right. What did she mean by that? Why are they here, and not in their own house?”
“This is their house. They've lived here for the past seven years.”
She shook her head. “No, that's impossible. Why would they live here?” Amanda walked down the short hallway and saw Anna Leigh in the kitchen. It was clean, but much smaller than what she had expected. “Oh, Gramma. You look so tired. This can't be right.”
Frank stood behind her. “Remember that accident your grandfather had, which brought you to Texas?”
“Of course. But he completely recovered from that.”
“Not in this life.”
Amanda turned away from watching her grandmother and stared hard at Frank. “What do you mean?”
“Because you weren't a constant in their life, your grandmother didn't have anyone to help her. Not at the office and not at home. She allowed Rick to take over Sunflower Realty and he embezzled what he could before he ran it into the ground. The office had been closed for over a year by the time your grandfather's accident happened.”
“That still doesn't explain—”
Frank blew out a breath. “They sold their house, and everything in his shop, to pay the medical bills. But they still couldn't afford everything, so he never fully recovered. He's on disability, while Anna Leigh works part-time at a greeting card store in Parkdale. The pain is almost too much for him to bear some days, but your grandmother's love keeps him going.”
“My father wouldn't allow such a thing to happen.”
“Maybe the father you know and love. But here,” Frank shrugged. “They haven't heard from Mike since Jeannie was born. And even then, all they got was a birth announcement in the mail. They've been completely cut off from their only son, and it's broken their hearts.”
Amanda began to cry at the harsh realities. “No.” She pushed by Frank and stood as close to Jacob's chair as she could. “I'm so sorry, Grandpa,” she whispered. She longed to feel his arms around her, but knew it was impossible. “Take me out of here, Frank. I don't think I can stand it much longer.”
“All right.” Frank held out his hand. “Be strong,” he implored, as they faded away.
# # #
Although night had fallen, there was enough light by the full moon to see where they were. Amanda stood on the graveled driveway and had trouble reconciling the house before her to the home she knew so well. “Frank?”
“Is this the ranch?”
He nodded. “It is. The old ranch house, anyway. Your mother and Lex never met. So she wasn't here to burn down the house.”
“Yeah, but.” Amanda stared at the two-story house. The old stucco was stained, and missing altogether in a lot of places. Weeds grew up against the house, and the wooden porch looked in need of repair. “Lex would never let the house look like this.”
Frank put his arm around her waist. “Come on.”
Once they were inside, Amanda looked around in shock. Nothing was as she remembered. The wood floors were dirty and worn. Old, faded wallpaper covered the walls as she walked down the hallway. “I don't understand.”
“You will,” Frank offered cryptically. He motioned to the kitchen. “In there.”
At the table sat an overweight, dark-haired man. He slurped a bowl of soup and read the newspaper, oblivious to the mess around him. Dirty dishes covered the table, the countertops, and could be seen piled in the sink.
Amanda stared at her brother-in-law. Hubert looked a lot like he did before he went to prison, although the expensive, tailor-made suit was missing the jacket. His hair was dyed black and slicked down with oil, and the silk tie he wore had spots from his previous meals. “What the hell is he doing here? And where is Lex? And Martha? God, this place is a disaster.”
Frank was saved answering by the sound of a galloping horse outside. The crash of glass against the side of the house caused Hubert to look up from his paper, but only for a moment.
“Stupid bitch,” he growled, before going back to his meal.
Five minutes later, the back door slammed. “I'm going out tonight,” Lex yelled from the hall.
“You go out every night,” Hubert countered. He pushed away his soup bowl and stood.
“Fuck you!” Lex swayed drunkenly in the doorway.
Amanda gasped at the appearance of her wife. The woman before them bear little resemblance to the person she fell in love with and married. Long, tangled hair, streaked liberally with gray, jutted out from beneath a filthy baseball cap. Lex's eyes were red and sunken, and her dirty clothes draped loosely on her frame. Her jeans had holes in the knees and her stained tee shirt advertised a tractor company. “Lex?”
Hubert walked up to Lex and poked her in the chest. “If you get arrested again for DUI, don't call me for bail. I can always find someone else to run this shithole, you know.”
“Yeah, right.” Lex brushed by him and opened the refrigerator. She took out a can of beer and popped the top, draining half of it before setting it on the counter. “Nobody else will work for your crooked ass.”
He laughed at her. “I'd rather be crooked than queer.”
“Kiss my ass, dickhead.” Lex finished the beer and threw the can at him. “Not my fault you can't keep a girlfriend. Although the last one was sweet enough to me.” She took another beer from the fridge and started toward the door. “Don't wait up.”
“I never do,” he countered.
Amanda turned to Frank after Lex left the room. “What's going on?” She was afraid to follow her wife, but felt she had to.
As they walked up the stairs, Frank explained. “Do you remember the story where Lex's girlfriend dumped her, and she started drinking?”
“Yes. But I remember that Martha helped her through that.” Amanda watched Lex walk to the far end of the hall, away from the master bedroom. “Where's she going?”
“To her room.” Frank lowered his gaze when Lex stripped off her shirt and threw it down on the hall floor. “Um, anyway, about the time that you would have come along, Hubert offered to run the ranch for Lex so she could go to college, like she wanted. After she signed the papers, she found out that he had already spent her college money. She took him to court and they ended up having to share the ranch, fifty-fifty. Hubert was put in charge of the operations since he was the oldest, and the first thing he did was fire Martha. Lex became so disgusted by the whole mess that she started drinking and partying.” At the sound of the shower running, he stopped in front of the open bedroom door. “I think I'll stay out here.”
“My god. Poor Lex.” Amanda looked into the room. Clothes were strewn about, some dirty and some clean. The only furniture was a five-drawer dresser and a queen-sized bed. Both appeared old and cheap. The shower stopped and Lex stepped into the room, a tattered towel around her waist. “Oh, honey.”
Lex stood in front of the dresser, using her fingers to comb out her wet hair. Her ribs stood out prominently and her torso was peppered with old and new scars, many that Amanda didn't recognize. She took a drink of her beer as she looked around the room for something to wear.
The sound of a car horn made her frown. She went to the window and looked out. “Fucker's early.” Unconcerned by her nudity, she opened the window and stuck her head out. “Give me a damned minute!” The horn honked again and she flipped the driver off. “Asshole.” Lex slammed the window closed and grabbed the nearest pair of jeans. “Good enough.”
“Honey, don't,” Amanda begged. She moved to get as close to Lex as she could. “Please, you're killing yourself.”
Frank spoke from the hallway. “She doesn't care, Mandy. The last time she was arrested for DUI, Charlie told her the same thing. Nothing matters to her in this life.”
Amanda took a final look at Lex before she joined him in the hall. “What happens to her, Frank?”
He took her hands in his. “Trust me, honey. You don't want to know.”
“No, I don't. But I have to find out. Please, tell me.”
In a flash, they were standing alone in the Walters private cemetery. The moon seemed brighter, its beam of light landing on a freshly-filled in grave. Frank squeezed Amanda's hand as they stepped closer to the lone headstone.
Lexington Marie Walters
November 11, 1971 – April 23, 1999
Amanda dropped to her knees beside the plain, black-granite headstone. She ran a shaky finger over the last date and began to cry. “This can't be true. That's the day we were married.”
“Not in this life,” Frank gently explained.
“What happened to her?”
He rested his hands on the top of her shoulders. “Does it really matter?”
“Please,” Amanda sobbed, her tears blinding her.
“She was out checking fences on a secluded part of the ranch. Because she was drunk, she was thrown from her horse and broke her back. They didn't find her for almost a week, and by that time,” his voice trailed off. “Hubert had assumed she had gone to Austin to party. No one missed her.”
Amanda wrapped her arms around herself and rocked. “What a horrible way to die.” She didn't even realize when they materialized back in the white room. “Oh, god. I can't stand this.”
Frank knelt beside Amanda and held her close. “Sssh.”
She continued to cry for a while, before gathering her wits about her and pulling away. “I'm sorry, it's just—”
“Hey, no need to apologize.” He handed her another clean handkerchief from out of nowhere.
After she blew her nose, Amanda took a deep breath and exhaled heavily. “Oh, god. That was a nightmare.” She dabbed at her eyes with the cleanest part of the cloth. “How can one person make such a difference?”
Frank helped her up and motioned for her to sit on the bed. “It all depends on the person, Mandy. But you've touched so many lives for the better. Please don't think it's all for nothing.” He brushed his hand along her cheek. “Your family needs you, Amanda.” He kissed her cheek.
“But, I…” Amanda blinked and yawned. “So sleepy.” She felt herself being gently laid down on the bed.
# # #
The feel of warm hands cupping her face woke Amanda. She opened her eyes slowly, the pounding in her head making her nauseous. She closed her eyes against the bright light. “Ow.”
“Amanda? Sweetheart, can you hear me?” Lex asked anxiously.
The warm hands trembled but didn't release her face. “Please, love. Open your eyes for me.”
Unable to resist the request, Amanda opened her eyes again. She was greeted by the most beautiful sight in the world, the tan and healthy face of her wife. “Lex?”
“Hey, sweetheart.” Tears fell from her eyes, but Lex didn't stop looking at Amanda. “You gave us quite a scare.”
Amanda raised her hand and lovingly traced Lex's face. “I'm so glad you're okay,” she murmured.
Lex turned to the person behind her. “Uh, Rodney?” Although she didn't completely relinquish the hold she had on Amanda, Lex did move out of the way enough for her brother-in-law to come into Amanda's sight.
“Do you remember what happened, Amanda?” he asked her gently.
“Um.” Amanda took a moment to consider the question. A quick flash of the visions Frank had shown her skipped through her mind. She struggled to remember the events prior to his visit. “I'm not sure.”
“It's a wonder she can even breathe, the way Slim's hanging on to her,” Jeannie teased. She peeked over Rodney's shoulder. “You'll do anything for attention, won't you?”
Amanda smiled at the healthy glow to her sister's face. “You look great, Jeannie.”
Jeannie rested her chin on Rodney. “Better check her eyesight. I think she hit her head harder than you thought.”
Rodney took out a pen light and checked Amanda's eyes. “What's the last thing you remember?”
She blinked a few times once he was finished. “Peas and carrots,” she answered.
Lex laughed in relief. “She's fine.”
“What am I missing?” Rodney asked. He reached beneath Amanda's head and removed an ice pack. “Knot's gone down, that's good.”
“She was feeding Eddie peas and carrots today,” Lex explained. She leaned over and lightly kissed Amanda on the lips.
Amanda threaded her fingers through Lex's hair and pulled her back down. “I feel better than fine.”
“Ahem.” Rodney blushed and stepped away from the bed. “And on that note, I think it's time for us to leave.” He squeezed Amanda's hand. “Stay in bed tomorrow and take it easy for the rest of the week, okay? I'll come back to see you in a couple of days.” He patted Lex on the shoulder. “She needs to rest. Give me a call if she feels any worse. You know the drill with concussions, right?”
Lex nodded. “All too well.” She shook his hand. “Thanks for rushing out here. I didn't know what else to do.” She lowered her voice, “When I couldn't get her to wake up, I was on the verge of piling all the kids in Amanda's SUV and rushing her to the hospital. But I figured you could get here quicker.”
“No problem.” Rodney pointed a finger at Amanda. “Stay in bed.”
She winked at Lex before she grinned at him. “No problem.”
Jeannie laughed and grabbed her husband by the arm. “Come on, handsome. Let's relieve Dad and Lois of our monsters.” She blew her sister a kiss. “Get some rest, and let Slim spoil you for a few days.”
“Sounds like a great idea to me,” Lex agreed. She kept a tight grip on her wife's hand. “I'll call you tomorrow.” Once they were alone, she sat on the edge of the bed beside Amanda. “How are you feeling, really?”
Amanda blinked a few tears from her eyes. “Extremely blessed. Where are the kids?”
“Helen came to the rescue and hauled them to the bunkhouse. I'm sure they'll all be spoiled rotten by the time we get them back.”
“Can you call Helen and ask her to bring them home? I'd really like to see them.”
Lex nodded. “Anything you want, sweetheart.” She frowned as Amanda grabbed her left hand. “What's the matter?”
“Nothing.” Amanda traced the wedding band and brought Lex's hand to her lips. “I love you so much, and I'm so grateful for our life together, Lex. I'm sorry if I've been out of sorts, lately.” A few more tears spilled from her eyes, but were caught by her wife's trembling finger.
“I love you, too. And you have nothing to apologize for. I'm sorry I haven't been more help around here. Maybe we should reconsider hiring someone to help with the house.”
“Maybe you're right. There aren't enough hours in the day to take care of the house and four rambunctious kids.”
Lex started to agree, but paused. “Four?” She laughed when she was poked in the chest. “Okay, okay. I can take a hint.”
Amanda released the first button on Lex's shirt. “If you could take a hint, you wouldn't have any clothes on right now,” she teased.
“Uh-uh.” Lex fought off the determined hands. “Not tonight. You need to rest.”
Suddenly all serious, Amanda tugged on Lex's shirt. “I need you, more.” When she could see that her wife was beginning to waver, she added, “please?”
“All right.” Removing her shirt, Lex stood and kicked off her boots. “But we're going to take it nice and easy.”
“Thank you.” Amanda marveled at her wife's fit and trim body as it came into view. She closed her eyes as Lex's weight caused the mattress to slightly sink. Thank you, Frank. I promise I'll never take this for granted, again. She wasn't certain, but she thought she heard his gentle laughter echo along the wind outside.
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