Just a Breath Away

By Colleen

 

This is an alternate uber story. The physical descriptions of the two lead characters may remind you of two others we all know and love, but all characters in the story are from my own imagination. This story is an original work and is copyrighted by the author. It cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copyright July 2009

This story depicts a loving relationship between two consenting, adult women and contains scenes of intimacy, but nothing too explicit. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something else.

Feedback will be welcomed at coleen30@webtv.net

I have also created a group for discussions of this, past and future stories. Join us at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/colleens_corner

 

Chapter 5

 

It was after 9/11 and my patriotism was flying sky high. I joined the National Guard, wanting to do my part in the fight. I wasn't bloodthirsty, but I was willing to do what was necessary for justice.”

Drew had showed up at Carson 's on Friday, just in time to play with Logan a few minutes before his bedtime. When the blonde returned from the nursery, she had set out some snacks and they settled down to an entertaining game of trivia. Drew won the round, but not easily. They were both pretty evenly matched in intelligence. Instead of playing a second game, they had started talking over their coffee cups, and had eventually drifted into the family room. Claiming opposite ends of the sofa, they had kicked off their shoes and relaxed into some interesting conversation.

“My unit was deployed the next summer,” Drew continued, “but I was only there for a few months. A few of us were scouting this ridge one morning and started taking sniper fire. I took a hit. A bullet grazed my lower leg, but it was enough to drop me. I tumbled down the rocky embankment, breaking my collar bone and severely dislocating my shoulder. They got it back in, but I was sent back home for some specialized surgery. After months of recuperation and physical therapy I still hadn't regained full range of motion. And the orthopedist said I probably never would.”

“Did you?” Carson asked, remembering that Drew had lifted some awfully heavy boxes when she had helped on moving day.

“Almost. It only bothers me once in a while. Anyway, with my service over I went back to my studies.”

Carson considered her companion's expression. The shaded eyes held the burden of some powerful memories. Silent lips sagged low in a mournful manner. Carson put aside her cup and pulled her legs under her, debating whether she should delve into areas where Drew might not want to go. “I think, by the look on your face,” she said, “that there's more to the story…but if you don't want to talk about it, I understand.”

Drew nodded solemnly and took a sip of her cooling coffee. It now tasted bitter, or maybe it was the thought of the rest of the sad tale. Her gaze never left an abstract spot on the floor as she spoke. “After I had been home for about three months, I heard from one of my friends who was still over there. She wrote me from her hospital bed. There were five of us that had been close all through training. We were always being assigned to the same duty throughout our time together. My four friends and five others were on a truck in a convoy. The truck right behind them was hit by a rocket. Becky Travis lost half of her right leg. John Russell was hit in the throat by shrapnel and…bled out before medics could get to him. Steve Burnett and Don Singer suffered third degree burns. Everyone on the truck was severely injured, with three deaths. If I had still been there, I probably would have been with them.”

What Carson heard in the quiet voice was not relief or self pity…it was guilt. Survivor's guilt. “Drew, you didn't have to prove your patriotism or your friendship by dying.”

The doctor sighed and agreed…reluctantly. “I know. But sometimes I just think maybe I could have helped the injured…maybe saved…”

“Or maybe you'd be dead.” Carson moved over and covered Drew's hand with her own, squeezing affectionately. “I am so glad that you are here,” she said with heartfelt sincerity. “And you are here for a reason. You have a purpose. You should be proud of what you did. I'm proud of you.”

The simple, but earnest words pulled a tiny smile from the ex-soldier. “I am proud,” she confessed softly. Drew looked up at the caring face, her internal smile beaming brightly with blissful emotions. Outside, her expression remained gentle and thankful, her blue eyes sparkling with moisture. “And I'm very glad I'm here too.” Their gaze held for a long moment, until Carson remembered to remove her hand. After pulling away easily, she offered her guest more coffee.

“No thanks.” Drew slipped her shoes back on and got to her feet. “I need to get going; I have to get up early tomorrow. I'm playing tennis with a friend. She has a club membership. It's a good opportunity to get some fun winter exercise.” Drew grabbed her board game and Carson saw her to the door.

“I had a good time tonight Drew. I'm glad you came over.”

“Me too.” Drew gave her friend a quick hug. “Goodnight Carson .”

 

* * *

 

The two friends didn't see each other at all the next weekend; Dr. Dixon was at a convention in Orlando , Florida . But they kept in touch by e mail and phone. Drew was staying at a resort in Disney World, but refrained from visiting any of the parks in her free time. There just wasn't an appeal without anyone to share it with. In her life currently, there were two very special people that she could have envisioned strolling with down the busy streets, mugging for the camera with the colorful characters or enjoying the exciting parades and fireworks. Maybe sometime in the future, she thought at one point.

But Drew figured that she couldn't spend four days at the happiest place on Earth and not experience any happiness. So, on her last night, she hopped over to Downtown Disney, where she had a great meal and caught a performance of Cirque du Soleil. In between she did some shopping, finding some artwork for her mother, a Tinker Bell t-shirt for her sister and a figurine for her desk at work. But of course those weren't her only purchases. Her best friend would be the recipient of a Thumper snow globe and a cute baseball cap. She and Carson were always exchanging little gifts for no particular reason. It was just fun. For her best little buddy, Drew found a pair of Tigger pajamas, remembering his interest in the picture of the stripped cat on her sleep shirt. She also bought him a toy and a couple of Pooh DVDs to expand his fascination with the hundred acre woods.

* * *

“Okay Mom. I don't suppose there is any reason to ask if you have enough diapers, food and clothes. I know you do. His asthma medicine is in the side pocket of his bag. Tell him mommy loves him. I love you too Mom. Bye. Well,” Carson said aloud to the empty house. “What am I gonna do tonight? All this free time to myself.” She walked around the family room, where she and Logan spent most of their time, picking up toys, a discarded sock and several small books. With that quick task complete, she headed toward the kitchen, thinking about dinner. “I am hungry, but I don't feel like cooking.” Carson foraged around in a drawer, coming out with a stack of paper pamphlets. “Take out I guess,” she mumbled, flipping through the options. Passing up the Italian, Mexican and pizza, her eyes took on a certain glint when she came to the final one. “Oh yes, Chinese.” She hadn't had that in several months. Carson sat down at the table with a piece of paper to write down her choices; she always got extra for leftovers. “Hmmm,” she said, “I wonder if Drew is home. Maybe she'd like some company.” At that thought, Carson smiled without even realizing it. They had been spending Friday or Saturday together for a few weeks now. It was becoming a comfortable and anticipated event.

Several bags of food were delivered about thirty minutes later. Carson grabbed a jacket and locked the door behind her, leaving a single light on. It was just getting dusky after a cloudy day and the corner lamp post popped on to illuminate her way across the street. Approaching Drew's house, Carson noted the familiar car in the drive, but every window was dark. Taking the chance anyway, she walked up to the front door and rang the bell. The door opened to reveal a sad sight. Carson was immediately concerned. “What's wrong Drew?”

Dr. Dixon's eyes were reddened and swollen from an over abundance of shed tears. She didn't answer right away. She took the final swallow from the can of beer that was held loosely in her hand. With a crushing fist she tossed it over her shoulder. “I'm sorry Carson , I'm not good company right now.”

The blonde wouldn't be turned away so easily. “It looks like you need a friend right now,” she said. “Can I come in?” Drew nodded and stepped aside. Carson set the take out bag on a side table before following Drew to the sofa. The tall woman plopped down unceremoniously. Carson joined her, spying two more empty cans on the coffee table. “Whatever's happening, these won't help,” the blonde admonished gently. “Do you want to tell me what's wrong?”

Drew exhaled heavily and ran a hand through her short hair. “It's a patient. Today I learned that a twelve year old boy has an inoperable…brain tumor.”

“Oh God,” Carson reacted breathlessly. “I'm so sorry.”

“You'd think I could handle it better than this,” the doctor said angrily. “But it's not fair. We get the best medical training, have access to the finest technology and still we can't save a boy who hasn't even had a chance to live.” Drew's burning eyes slipped shut and she calmed herself with a heartrending sigh. “Last summer we sponsored his little league baseball team,” she explained, smiling softly at the memory. “I was there one Saturday and he jammed a knee sliding home. I put an ice pack on it and rode with him and his parents to the emergency room. I know he was hurting, but he brushed it off…the tough ball player. He loves sports though.” Drew raised her distressed gaze to Carson . “He told me he wanted to be a doctor…said I was his inspiration.”

Carson clasped her hand and gave it a consoling squeeze. “I'm sorry you're hurting. Is there anything I can do?” Drew shook her head despondently, but said nothing. “Is this the first patient…that's had…a serious…fatal disease?” Carson asked tactfully.

Drew sniffed and wiped at her wet face. “I've had two other younger children that developed leukemia, but they were both very lucky. They went into remission. That won't happen this time.” The anger welled up again. Drew sneered. “Sometimes I hate being a doctor.”

“No you don't!” Carson objected sternly. “You are a fantastic doctor with a compassionate spirit and a huge heart. Ninety nine percent of the time you relieve pain and suffering, whether it's a runny nose or…an asthma attack. You saved Logan that night, even if it was just a few less minutes of struggling to breathe. You're not going to give that up. So many people depend on you. Yes, that young boy's situation is tragic and painful. But if you were to give up now, just think of all the others that might endure more pain without you. You are a wonderful person Drew. And you're very special to me and my son.”

Drew looked deeply into the green eyes. A certain sparkle flashed a message, like sunlight on an emerald. The warm glow from that tender soul enveloped Drew's aching heart, supporting her tattered spirit…bringing her a confident peace. “I'm glad you stopped by,” she said. Drew leaned over and hugged Carson , prolonging the contact and soaking in the affection. “Thank you.”

Carson gave her an extra pat on the back and then a warm smile. She hoped it was just a one time incident, but Carson was concerned that her friend had fallen into the trap of using alcohol to escape her pain. She picked up the empty beer cans. “About these…”

“Don't worry Carson , it's not a problem…or even a habit. I know better. I should have talked to someone instead resorting to that. But I didn't want to burden anyone else with my sorrows.”

“A friend is never a burden. Promise you'll come to me in the future.” Carson didn't even realize what she had just asked for. Broken promises had been a thorn in her previous relationship. But somehow, at least subconsciously, she felt assured in her request. And positive when she heard the response.

“I promise,” Drew said.

Carson nodded happily. “I'll be right back,” she said. Carson quickly deposited the cans into the recycle bin in the kitchen, then hurried back and took her place beside her friend.

“ Carson ?”

“Yes.”

“Is it okay if I cry just a little more?” The tears fell without anyone's permission.

“Come here.” Carson guided the dark head to her shoulder and settled back into the sofa cushion. “Cry all you want Drew. I'm not going anywhere.”

About ten minutes later, Drew slowly pulled away. “That's enough of that,” she said, wiping her eyes from the last remnants of salty liquid. She grinned, needing a change of subject. “Did you happen to bring that bag of food over there to share with me?”

Carson smiled back. “I most certainly did. Logan is spending the night at his grandparents and I didn't feel like being alone.”

“I don't either.” Drew leaned over and kissed Carson on the cheek. “You're such a good friend,” she whispered.

Carson was surprised when the warm lips suddenly touched her skin. The simple gesture was so unlike anything from the past. The brief contact was executed very tenderly and she experienced the valid emotion behind it. “So are you,” she agreed. Carson gestured to the coffee table in front of them. “Should we be very casual and eat right here?”

“Sounds good,” Drew said. “Let me go splash some water on my face, and I'll get some plates and drinks. Pop the TV on if you want.”

Carson grabbed the remote and found a nice nature documentary, but turned the volume way down, hoping they could talk some more. “I hope you like Chinese,” she said as her friend returned and dropped to the floor, comfortably crossing her long legs.

Drew took a long sniff. “It's one of my favorites.” Soon the fragrant feast was spread out on the table and each plate was piled high with goodies. They kept the conversation light as they ate. It wasn't exactly a laugh a minute, but sadness was chased as far away as possible. Carson talked a lot about Logan . But Drew was always glad to hear about the little fellow that had found a place in her heart.

Drew swallowed her last bite and dropped the chopsticks onto her plate. “That was delicious,” she said. Checking her watch, she found it was only eight o'clock . “How about watching a movie?” she suggested.

“Sure,” Carson said. “Just let me pack up what's left. Can I put it in your fridge?”

“Of course.”

When Carson returned, she noticed that Drew was once again lost in sad thought. She sat down next to her and removed the remote, which was dangling from Drew's fingertips. “If you'd rather be alone, I can go back home.”

“What? No. No, I want you here. I think I just realized why this hit me so hard. All the time I've been spending with Logan has awakened my maternal instincts. I love all of my patients, but I really only get to see most of them for a few minutes at a time. Not really enough time to form a bond…except with David. I want to be a parent someday. But the thought of losing a child…”

“I know. I think I proved that terror the night I rushed here with my sick baby. But I can't…no one can let those desperate feelings stifle the overwhelming enjoyment that a child can bring into your life, whether, God forbid, that lasts just a few months or sixty years.”

Drew casually tossed her arm around the smaller woman's shoulder. “Who needs a fortune cookie when I have a best friend wiser than any philosopher.” She picked the remote back up and started the movie. Drew settled them back into the sofa and propped her feet on the coffee table. She didn't even think about removing her hand, it somehow felt natural there.

Carson enjoyed the friendly, affectionate touch. She hadn't realized just how much she missed the intimacy of a close relationship, especially a friendship. But Drew's presence in her life was soothing and something solid she could rely on. Almost all of her previous emotional burdens had slipped away since the good doctor had come into her life.

Drew gave the shoulder a little squeeze. “Anytime you don't want to be alone, I'll be here for you.”

“I know.” Carson 's eyes slipped shut momentarily, and for the first time in a long time, she felt so content.

* * *

Before the movie was finished, they had both fallen asleep. The depression once again tried to penetrate Drew's dreams, but a smiling blonde soon appeared to ease the heartache. Drew grinned in her sleep. It wasn't the first time the beautiful Carson had taken a starring role in her slumbering visions. It was happening more often, but much to Drew's delight.

A new, more intimate dream began to form, involving Drew, Carson and a moonlit beach. The waves splashed around their bare feet as they held one another under the silver glow. Not a word was needed as they peered into each other's eyes. Drew saw love, pure and simple. She leaned down and kissed the sweet lips, savoring the taste of an erupting passion. But her dream self suddenly realized that the other woman's desire was just imaginary. The blue eyes popped open. Her feelings were finally settling into a place deep in her heart. Drew looked down at the lovely lady snuggled against her side. She gently kissed the blonde head. I am falling in love with you, she thought. But fear gripped her because she hadn't seen any real impressions of romantic love from Carson . Should I give you more time? Or should I tell you how I feel and hope you feel the same. Maybe you're just being careful. Whatever happens, I don't want to lose you. Drew sighed. Maybe it's too soon.

 

Carson was exhausted and barely budged when Drew pulled her arm away. She guided the sleeping blonde down onto the sofa and slipped a woven throw over her body to protect her from the chill of the night. Before Drew headed off to bed she picked up her fortune cookie, breaking it open. Bringing the tiny slip of paper close to her eyes because of the dim lighting, Drew silently read the words. Love is a light in the dark. She looked back down at the sleeping blonde, whose face almost glowed. Drew smiled. It certainly is.

 

* * *

 

Drew picked up the phone early on Saturday morning. She was still working on her morning coffee and still a little sleepy. “Hell…o” she said through a yawn.

“Did I wake you Drew?”

“No Carson; I've been up almost ten minutes.”

“Yeah, I forgot that you like to sleep in on Saturday when you can. And how are you this fine morning?”

“Fine.”

“That sounded a little less than enthusiastic.”

Drew downed more of her coffee. “I stayed up too late last night, I guess.”

“Oh, did you have a guest?” Carson teased.

Drew chuckled at the question. She hadn't had that kind of guest, or been one for a long time. “No, no guest,” she said, “just me and the television.”

“I think you need to indulge in a few more evenings away from home my friend,” Carson suggested. “How do you ever expect to find that special woman, if all you do is sit in front of your television?”

Drew was nearly overwhelmed by the invisible punch to her gut. Her questions of Carson 's possible feelings for her were just answered. “I don't know,” she said quietly.

“Well, I was wondering if you'd like to come with us for some lunch and a little shopping.”

Drew carried her cup to the sink, suddenly unable to stomach any more of the hot beverage. “Oh, I would love that,” she said, mustering a bit more cheeriness, “but I can't today. Dr. Kline's son is having his fifth birthday party this afternoon and he asked me to entertain.”

Carson was intrigued at the possibilities. “Entertain? In what way?”

“Oh, just playing a little guitar and singing.”

Carson teased her playfully. “Another of your many skills?”

“It's nothing that spectacular.”

“You are just too modest, my friend. Well, Logan will miss you; he wanted some of your baby fashion expertise.”

Drew laughed with gusto this time. “Tell him no polka dots; it will only accentuate his chubby cheeks. Bye Carson .”

Drew spent the rest of the day in a state of misery, barely speaking to anyone. The only exception was when she entertained at the birthday party; she would never disappoint children.

Drew had thought that she and Carson were growing closer, heading toward a romantic relationship. But apparently those feelings were hers alone. And that hurt. But by the end of the day, and after a lot of rumination, Drew decided not to give up hope. She knew that Carson wasn't dating anyone else and decided that the single mother just wasn't ready to enter into another intimate relationship yet. But Drew vowed to continue the friendship, and to be there when the time was right for more.

 

To be continued...

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