Danielle carried her granddaughter up the wooden stairs and down to the open door. They had been playing on the beach for just ten minutes. The four year old had on a bright yellow jacket, its hood pulled up over her head protecting her ears from the winters breeze. But it did nothing to stop two little feet from getting soaked in the surf. Danielle had hoped to sneak in and change the saturated footwear before her daughter discovered the mishap. She switched the tiny body to her right hip and tucked the front foot under her lower arm. The two playmates sauntered in to find the girls mother and her aunt sitting at the table, deep in conversation. But not too deep. The older woman had almost made it to the doorway leading into the dining room.
"Yes Bridgett," said grandma, knowing shed been caught. She had taught her daughter too well.
The red head pointed to several spots on the blue tile floor. "Youre dripping. Want to tell me what happened Caitlin?" Bridgett knew her daughter wouldnt lie to her.
The little blonde head and green eyes dropped in shame as they turned to her mother. "I ran to close to the water." She finally looked up to see her mother giving the mad eye to her grandmother. "Grandma told me not to. Dont be mad at her Mommy."
Bridgett maintained her stern face as she approached the guilty pair. She pulled off the small tennis shoes and the white socks and then tickled the tiny bare feet. Caitlin squealed and laughed, twisting in her grandmothers grasp.
"Mommy dont!" giggled the child. "That tickles!"
The red head took her daughter and set her down on the floor. She sent her off with a kiss and a warning. "Listen to your Grandma from now on." Bridgett stood back up and turned to regard her mother.
Danielle stopped any further reprimand with an upturned hand. "I know dear. I shouldnt have taken her out to the beach, but its such a nice sunny day and she pleaded with me. The same way you used to do," she reminded the smirking woman. "It worked every time and still does."
"I know. Just dont teach her to try and cover up her mistakes."
Danielle nodded and they both looked around to find Erin turned in their direction. "You are a great mother."
"Who me?" they asked in unison.
"Yes." Erin gave them a smile, albeit a sad one.
Jamie had called one last time the night before and told Erin that she wouldnt be able to make another phone call until she was finished with her business. Of course this upset the author again, but Jamie managed to calm her with more reassurances. At least thats what the blonde led her to believe.
Sleep had eluded Erin for the second night in a row, leaving her looking pale and haggard. She sat at the small kitchen table finishing off her second cup of coffee, hoping that the caffeine would kick-start her stalled motor giving her the energy to join in on her familys plans for the day. Nothing would take her mind off of Jamie, but her family was trying so hard and she didnt want to disappoint them.
Bridgetts husband Brad had taken their son for a day of male bonding, so they had decided to have a girls afternoon out starting with Sunday brunch.
Danielle stepped over to the counter and poured herself a cup of coffee. "I am famished. Lets drive up the coast to The Roost. They have those chocolate chip pancakes that Caitlin loves." She walked over and brushed Erins short hair with her hand. "What about you sweetheart, what are you in the mood for?"
Erin could feel the concern in the air. The hesitations. The attempts at lame jokes. She mentally scolded herself for burdening her family with her worries. She pushed back her shoulders and brightened her expression. "I dont know, Eggs Benedict or maybe that great mushroom quiche they have."
Caitlin came bouncing back into the kitchen with new socks and shoes. Erin always kept extra clothes for her niece and nephew, a decision that had paid off many times. The little girl grabbed a hand. "Come on Aunt Erin. Ill help you find the car."
Erin smiled happily and bent over to place a kiss on top of the curly head. "Thank you sweetie." She followed the little girls lead with Artemis at her other side. They passed through the large dining room and into the living room where the sun was streaming through the big bay window. Erin stopped by the couch and reached down to stroke the dogs golden fur. "Im sorry girl, but you cant come with us this time. Well play when I " The ringing of the telephone cut off her words. She dropped the little hand and reached for phone, clutching it tightly as if her life depended on it. "Hello."
Erin giggled as the tension drained from her muscles like water through a sieve. She fought to stay upright on wobbly legs as relieved breaths circulated through her lungs. "Jamie, I love you," she rushed to say. "You are all right arent you?"
Jamie laughed at her lovers tone of voice. "Im fine honey, but Ill be even better when Im back in your arms. Im on my way home right now and Ill explain everything when I get there."
Erin turned toward the wall as her cheeks blushed with a tinge of pink. "Im just glad that I was wrong and Im a little embarrassed. I went a totally nuts over this. Im sorry. I never want to fight with you again."
"Sweetheart we are bound to have disagreements. But in the future we both should take the time to really hear each other out before the anger catches hold. I honestly dont think we will make that mistake again though. All I have to do is remember how much it hurt when I walked away from you that day."
Erin sniffled. "Can we talk about something else before I start crying?"
Jamie cleared her throat of its tightness. "Thats a great idea. I bought you a surprise."
Now Erin smiled. "Well you know how much I like surprises. Ill be anxiously waiting for it " Her voice dropped to a deep tone. " and you."
Jamie licked her suddenly dry lips and looked around at the empty seats surrounding her. "You know that thing we wanted to do yesterday over the phone? Well maybe we can do it now. This time I am all alone here in the back of the plane. Alone and very needy, if you get my drift."
"Oh, I get it all right," said Erin with a huge grin on her face. "But I dont think my mother and my sister would appreciate a demonstration of our abilities."
Jamies face fell with disappointment as she heard a voice in the background.
"You got that right," said Bridgett, seeing her sisters blush. "Come on you love birds. You can talk later, but Im hungry."
"Me too," said Jamie pitifully.
Erin chuckled. "When will you be home?"
"In about ten hours. So you go and have "
Jamies words were cut off by a loud screech. Then the phone went dead.
"Jamie! Jamie!" Erin called out frantically. She knew it wouldnt help, but she quickly tapped the button on the phone.
Her mother rushed across the room. "What happened?"
Erin pulled the brown phone from her ear and just held it in her hand. The feeling of dread washed back over her and she swayed.
Danielle grabbed her daughters arm. "Whoa. Take it easy."
Bridgett swooped in to her sisters side and together they eased Erin down into a chair.
"Shes just gone," Erin whispered the author.
"Im sure you just lost the connection." Bridgett raised the phone, which was still clutched in Erins hand, to her ear. The dial tone sang its mono tune as she and her mother exchanged glances.
"Dear, Im sure there is nothing to worry about. Jamie will call right back." Danielle reached for the phone. "But she cant do that unless you hang this up."
Once the phone was back in its cradle, Danielle ran to the kitchen and brought Erin a glass of water. The author downed the liquid, but it didnt drown the hurt.
"When are we going?" asked the little voice that came to stand in front of Erin.
Bridgett pulled her daughter into her lap. "We cant leave right now honey."
"But I want to."
"Caitlin, please dont whine. We just cant leave right now. Ill take you back to the beach in a little bit."
Erin listened to the childs pleas and Bridgetts response. She felt the dog nudge her leg. She heard the clock chime the half hour as Danielle took her hand. She might not have been able to see the faces filled with concern, but she could feel their loving concern. Her family. Their support and caring was the second most important thing in Erins life. Without them, she would be totally alone to face whatever was happening. But her capacity to love them wouldnt let her bring the mounting pain down upon their shoulders. Erin shook her head of the morose feelings. "Why dont you go on without me. Ill stay here and wait for Jamies call."
"Thats all right," assured her sister. "Im sure shell call soon and then we can all go to brunch."
The atmosphere in the room sparked with tension as ten minutes passed. Then fifteen. Then twenty. Erin had barely moved a muscle except for the twitching of her hand that lay next the phone on the end table. Her hard, but emotionless expression had been maintained while inside, her heart beat double time with fear.
Danielle moved about the room nervously straightening the already immaculate furnishing and decorations.
A bird that flew past the large window had momentarily distracted Caitlin. She watched the blue creature hunting and pecking for twigs, strands of grass and other nesting materials among the shrubbery. Once it flew off, hunger became her main concern again. Bridgett retrieved a bag of chips and some juice from the kitchen to placate her daughter a little longer.
Erin listened to the crunching as the snack was devoured and while her heart was consumed with worry about Jamie, her head was clear enough to feel the guilt. "You know she really shouldnt have to suffer because of me. Why dont you just "
Erin ripped the mouthpiece from its home before the first ring was finished. "Jamie?"
Erins head dropped to her chest.
"May I speak to Erin Casey?" the voice on the phone asked.
"This is she, but I really cant tie up this line." She had call waiting, but that didnt matter.
"I understand, but this is important. I am from the National Organ Donation Center and we have your tissue donation ready."
The blonde head shot up. "I I "
"What is it dear?" asked her mother.
Erin couldnt get her mouth to work and she mutely handed over the phone. She had waited for this moment for almost five years. She craved it, needed it. But why now? She heard her mothers voice in the background, getting the information as her thoughts ran to a single subject. I cant until I know Jamie is all right. It will just have to wait. She suddenly felt two very enthusiastic arms encircle her.
"Sweetheart this is wonderful!" cried the older woman. "You are going to see again. Ill help you pack a bag and well leave for the hospital."
"No! I cant leave Jamie you just I dont " The confusion in her brain wouldnt allow the formation of a complete sentence. Erin felt her soul being torn in two. The best and the worst moments of her life were battling inside her, threatening her sanity if she didnt take control.
Bridgett knelt down in front of the confused woman. "Sis, I will keep your cell phone with me and when Jamie calls I will tell her the good news. Just think about how happy she will be for you. And think about seeing her really seeing her for the first time. You deserve this. You both do."
One final shudder and a deep breath stopped the turmoil. Bridgetts words finally brought a smile to Erins face. She wanted nothing more in the world than to be able to gaze into the blue orbs she had imagined so many times. It was going to happen. She would make it happen. Jamie would be there when the bandages came off. She had promised.
Two hours later Erin was lying in a hospital bed. She wasnt concerned about the surgery; it certainly wouldnt make things any worse. But Bridgett had informed her that Jamie still hadnt called. Her fingers unconsciously scratched at the fuzzy yellow blanket that covered her lower body. Under the covering, her leg muscles twitched in tune with the tension that strummed through her. Again the war was building inside. Unbearable worry and giddy anticipation took the front lines. Heartache and hope came next. Tears and smiles held the flanking positions. Neither side held an advantage as every second waiting for a phone call was matched by a second closer to the coming medical miracle.
The doctor, who was going to perform her operation, was delayed by a snowstorm in the east, but he had been in contact with the surgical staff and everything was well prepared. One of the hospitals eye surgeons had been in to see Erin and had asked permission for her surgery to be observed by a group of medical students. She gave him a vague nod of the head since her attention was on much more serious matters. She would probably have agreed to a vasectomy if anyone had asked.
An hour later, Dr. Andrew Mathias stepped into her quiet room. "Good afternoon Ms. Casey." Erin jumped at the sound of his booming voice. "Im sorry. I didnt mean to startle you," he said.
Erin scooted herself up in the bed. "Its all right. I was just concentrating on something." She extended her hand. "Its good to meet you in person Dr. Mathias."
He returned the gesture. "And you Ms. Casey." He studied the chart in his hand as he continued. "Everything looks good to go and I have every confidence that you will regain some, if not all of your sight."
Erin took a deep breath and gave a nervous smile. "I know that you will do everything possible Dr. Thank you for giving me this opportunity."
"When you can tell me what color tie Im wearing, that will be thanks enough." He reached out and gently squeezed her arm. "Ill see you in just a little while in the operating room."
"Could you ask the nurse to send my sister in here?" Erin asked as she heard his footsteps head for the door.
"Ill do that."
The sterile, white room went back to being silent. The only sound was the faint hiss when the heating unit in the corner popped on. She listened as a wheel squeaked on the metal cart that passed by her door as afternoon meals were being served. The aroma of the hospital food combined with the strong odor of the antiseptic cleaner that permeated the air, did nothing to help the queasiness that began to rumble in her stomach. Erin concentrated on another smell that brought with it very nice memories.
They were at the mall. On a whim, one Saturday afternoon while waiting for Erin to try on clothing, Jamie picked up a bottle of cologne. She cautiously sniffed at it, having had her olfactory senses burned on previous occasions. She smiled at the pleasant scent that held the scent of a clean ocean breeze and just tiniest hint of floral. Jamie was not one to decorate her body with aromatic substances, other than scented soaps or other lotions that she would share with her lover. But she thoroughly enjoyed the perfumes that Erin wore and wondered if she should return the favor, especially since Erin relied greatly on her sense on smell. Jamie gave a curt nod and handed the bottle and the cash to the salesperson. She slipped her purchase into her jacket pocket, totally forgetting about it when Erin stepped from the dressing room in a stunning outfit.
They had returned home from their shopping excursion and started in on household chores. Jamie didnt remember the cologne until that evening when she retrieved her jacket from the car and felt the weight in one pocket. She went to their room and applied some to all the appropriate areas.
Erin was on the deck, in the twilight of the day, listening to natures harmonies. Her mind was so intent on the ocean waves she didnt hear the door slide open. Two long arms gently settled around her and the kiss that followed stirred the ever-present passion in both of them. Erin pulled back when her lungs demanded air. She inhaled deeply. "What are you wearing?"
Jamie mis-interpreted the tone of Erins voice. "You dont like it."
"Are you kidding? Its wonderful." She leaned in and nuzzled the tempting neck.
Her busy nose tickled the tall woman, but not enough to stop the sweet affection. "Im glad you like it," said Jamie. "I wasnt sure."
"Believe me, you made an excellent choice. But I didnt think you liked to wear anything like this."
"I didnt before, never had a reason to, never let anyone get close enough to care. But now "
Erin pushed against her lovers shoulders scooting her back. She stood, grabbed a hand and walked toward the bedroom door. Once inside, Erin started with the top button of Jamies shirt and very slowly proceeded downward. "Well I care." She kissed the exposed collarbone. "I really do."
"Wow. I should have bought this a long time ago."
"Its never to late." Erin was now on her knees, in the process of removing the snug black jeans. She brushed a bare hip with her fingertips as she stood back up. "I love you with or without it but I wont complain if you want to buy a truckload. In fact," Erin said as she pulled Jamie onto the bed. "I might even buy stock in the company, to make sure they never discontinue it."
Erin had snatched up the bottle of Iridescence in her rush to pack. It now sat on the table beside her hospital bed, giving her some small tangible connection to her missing partner. After taking a last deep whiff, Erin threw her head back into the plush pillow. And she waited. The intercom in the hall made three separate announcements before Bridgett made it back to her room.
"I guess this is it," she said as she approached her sisters bedside. She took the slightly trembling hand and placed a kiss on her cheek. "Im so happy for you. I know this is going to work."
"Bridgett has "
"No honey. Jamie hasnt called yet. But she will. You have to go into this surgery with a positive attitude." Her sister gave no response. "Right Erin? Tell me."
The blonde author took a deep breath and nodded her head sharply. "Right," she said with as much determination as possible.
Bridgetts husband had come to take Caitlin home, leaving Bridgett and her mother alone in the waiting room. They huddled together in the corner of a brown couch that had seen better days. Bridgett sighed and leaned on her mothers shoulder. She felt somewhat vulnerable, concerned not only for her sister, but for her friend as well. Everyone knew what effect it would have on Erin if something really had happened to Jamie. Bridgett needed the reassurance of a parent and a return to the innocence and happiness of childhood.
They started reminiscing about old times, remembering especially the summer of 77. Danielle had taken her daughters to Disneyland for the first time.
"You girls were so excited. You hardly slept for two days. Thats why we didnt tell you sooner. Every time we tried to get you two to take a nap," Danielle playfully tapped her daughters nose. " you would wake up and start ranting about something youd heard or seen on TV about Disneyland. You would sit up and go on and on and Erin would be wide awake asking questions of her well informed big sister."
Bridgett laughed, remembering how Erin had idolized her and how the redhead had loved it until she started dating. Having a little sister spying on you and giggling in the bushes when you were saying goodnight to your date was an experience to remember. Bridgett made a mental note to have a long talk with Caitlin once Conner started dating. And of course since that wasnt going to happen until he was twenty, Caitlin would be sixteen and by then she should be very understanding. Yeah right, thought Bridgett, laughing to herself at that whole little scenario.
Danielle continued the story. She had been standing by the living room door when she heard two little bare feet hop down the stairs and scamper into her fathers den. Danielle quietly followed her youngest daughter and peeked around the double doors just in time to see Erin climb into her fathers lap. He dropped the paper he had been reading and settled her into the crook of his arm.
"I thought Mommy put you to bed over an hour ago," he asked with gentleness in his voice.
Erin scrunched up her face, not wanting to get in trouble. The happiness she felt strummed through her little body as she bounced up and down in his lap. She finally relented. "I cant sleep Daddy. When will tomorrow be here?"
The corner of his mouth curled in as her wide green eyes pleaded excitedly for an answer. "Well unless you go to sleep my little E bug, tomorrow will never come."
She believed the small fib and crossed her arms over chest and her bottom lip popped out in the biggest pout her had ever seen. It took all of Timothys self control not to burst out laughing.
"Oh all right," she said. "Ill go to sleep. Will you tuck me in Daddy?"
He stood up, dwarfing her with her size, hefting her into his powerful arms. Danielle sneaked around the corner not wanting to be discovered, but she listened to the conversation as the two headed up the stairs.
"Are you bigger than Mickey Mouse, Daddy?"
"I dont know sweetheart, Ive never met Mickey in person."
"I think you are," said Erin, confident in her spatial estimation. "He wont be afraid of you will he? I wont get to hug him if he is."
"Dont worry honey, Mickey will love you. But not as much as I do."
Danielle and Bridgett both smiled at the happy memory, but as Bridgett went on to think about the trip, she remembered that Daddy hadnt been with them. But they did have a lot of fun, just the three of them.
Erin got to hug Mickey. In fact she carried on a very lengthy conversation with him about the importance of Pluto in his life and how he should help Chip and Dale find a nice safe tree to live in, one that wasnt always being cut down by Donald Duck.
Bridgett, whose tastes were a little more sophisticated, found Cinderella more to her liking. Her beautiful pink gown glittered under the California sun and Bridgett was mesmerized, asking questions about her castle, telling the costumed woman how she lived in a castle too. Bridgett told her every detail of her prince charming, who she would meet when she was twelve. They went on to discuss the finer points of romance, like sharing a double scoop chocolate ice cream cone in the backyard and holding hands on the swing set. Bridgett looked back where her little sister was still carrying on her animated conversation with the big mouse. Kids, she thought, his lips dont even move he talks.
"Remember how Erin insisted on buying Dad that special present?" said Bridgett. She ran into the house and down to his office. He stooped down and she put those Mickey ears on his head."
Danielle nodded. "And she said, Mickey may be bigger than you Daddy, but I love you more." What Danielle hadnt told the girls was the real reason why Tim couldnt go with them. He had gotten a call and was needed out of town on business. She didnt even bother arguing with him, but she wasnt about to hurt her daughters. She told them he was not feeling well instead of letting them feel less important in his life.
Danielle had called her husband just after their daughter was taken into surgery. He was very happy for the chance for Erin to see again, but declined to come to the hospital, not wanting to upset her. Jamies name never crossed his lips, nor his thoughts.
Two and a half hours after the operation had begun, Danielle had slipped out for coffee. Bridgett picked up the silver cell phone from the sofa beside her. She stared at it intensely, willing it to ring. "Damn it Jamie, where are you? Erin needs you. This is one of the most important times in her life and she needs your support." She leaned forward, closed her eyes and rested the phone against her weary head.
Danielle came rushing back into the room a few seconds later. She carefully put down the two cups of hot liquid. "I just saw Dr. Mathias down the hall," she nervously informed her daughter.
Bridgett moved to her mothers side just as the tall, blonde haired man walked through the door. His blue scrubs were rumpled, but clean. He scribbled a note on the chart in his hand then looked into the expectant eyes of the family. He cheerfully smiled through his late day whisker stubble. "Everything went perfectly. We will have to wait about forty-eight hours for the swelling to go down before we will know the results, but it looks very promising."
Danielle couldnt hold it in any longer. The tears slipped from her eyes as she hugged her oldest. They soon parted and thanked him furiously. Danielle took him completely by surprise and pledged one hundred thousand dollars to help him continue to make miracles around the world.
His jaw went slack and his blue eyes widened. "Thank you so much for your generosity Mrs. Casey. Ill have the nurse let you know when you can go in and see Erin. And Ill be by to see her first thing in the morning." With a final handshake he left.
* * * *
The powerful, butter colored horse galloped across the meadow. The two riders, astride her back, held tightly to one another and their shared smiles told the world of their total contentment. The taller woman pulled on the leather reigns bringing the animal to a stop. Erin hopped off and landed softly upon the carpet of vivid green. She stared into the clear blue sky dotted with just a few puffs of pure white. Her gaze slowly followed the beams of sunshine to where they reflected off the small lake ahead of them. She just stared at the shimmering, glassy surface drinking in natures beauty.
The cherished voice spoke quietly behind her and she felt a hand rest on her shoulder. She smiled and slowly turned, anxious to see the most beautiful blue she could ever imagine. The twinkling eyes of the woman she loved, awaited her. She heard her name called again. But the dream faded away leaving nothing but darkness. "Jamie?" her gruff voice called out.
"No sweetheart, its your mother."
The fuzzies continued to swirl around her brain, holding stubbornly to the desires of consciousness. She felt a straw placed against her lips and she took just a sip to clear the cotton that coated her mouth. "Mom?"
Danielle smoothed down the blonde hairs that stuck out from the white bandage wrapped around her daughters head. "Yes dear. Your surgery went fine. The doctor expects you to make a wonderful recovery." Another tear slid down the older womans cheek "You dont know how many times I have prayed for this day," she whispered.
"Me too mom." Erin adjusted her head against the pillow, feeling just a small amount of pain around her eyes. "Did Jamie call?" She heard Bridgett sigh and turned her head to the left.
"No Sis. Not yet."
"Its been too long." The blondes voice quivered. "Somethings wrong." Erins hand flailed in the air trying to find her sister. "Youve got to find out where she is Bridgett. You have to."
The red head shared a concerned look with her mother as Danielle rubbed a soothing hand down Erins arm.
"I will Erin. Ill call Brad. He will get the information from that courier service. We will find her, Sis."
"Please dear," said Danielle. "You need to stay calm while you are healing. You dont want to do anything to harm yourself."
Erin nodded solemnly. "Just find Jamie and Ill be fine."
* * * *
The next two days passed with still no word from Jamie. Brad had used his contacts and was calling in every favor he could think of to find some answers. The answers he was receiving were vague. He was given false leads by the courier service and told bold- faced lies by the supposed owner of the private plane that Jamie had been on. But Brad dug in deeper, willing to do almost anything to help his sister-in-law.
Erins mood was increasingly sullen. She said nothing unless asked a question. She picked at her food, even when Bridgett brought her a juicy hamburger from her favorite fast food place. She was slipping away and they didnt know what to do.
Finally the time had come for Dr. Mathias to remove the bandages. Danielle and Bridgett stood by anxiously. Bridgett had brought her children, hoping they could help lift Erins spirit with their exuberant personalities.
* * * *
Expensive leather shoes walked across the highly polished, gray, hospital floor. The casually dressed man could see the very distorted reflection of his bearded face and he didnt like what he saw. Timothy Casey stopped and considered his thoughts. Why do I feel so angry, confused scared. My daughter is about to see again for the first time in almost five years. But what will she see when she looks at me. What do I see? I love her and I know she is happy with the way she is but His thoughts trailed of as he looked up and saw the number beside the open door. Realizing he had arrived, he cautiously approached the room at the end of the corridor. But he did not enter. He chose to remain quietly just outside the door where he cloud hear the events inside.
* * * *
Dr. Mathias sat the metal tray down on the bedside table then perched himself upon the rolling stool beside the small bed. "Are you ready Erin?"
"I guess," she said with barely an emotion. She sat up, pushed the blanket aside and tossed her legs off to the side of the bed. Her shoulders slumped as the Dr. reached for a pair of scissors.
He slowly and carefully cut away the thick gauze, being careful not to touch her skin or her hair. "I want you to keep your eyes closed until I say." He pulled away the bandage and discarded it. He then peeled off the two oval shaped pads that covered her eyes. He carefully probed the slightly reddened and puffy area where he had removed some scar tissue. "This looks really good Erin," he said in a quiet, but reassuring tone. "There is one tiny scar left that will be mostly hidden by your eyebrow. Other then that, it looks perfectly normal." She nodded. He then took a damp cotton swab and wiped away the residue of the antibiotic cream that had been applied since the surgery. "Okay, I want you to very slowly open your eyes. Everything will be blurry at first."
The room held its collective breath as Erins eyelids twitched. Her lashes continued to flutter as the tired muscles struggled to move. Slowly her darkened world broke through to a palette of color. Blurred and very muted color, but defiantly the yellow of a shirt, the white of a lab coat; it all happily spoke to her. Her head turned toward the window where the blue and green plaid curtains were illuminated from behind by beautiful golden sunlight. She expelled a small puff of air and a smile spread across her face as she looked back to the doctor. "Brown," she said simply.
A puzzled expression crossed his handsome features.
"Your tie," she explained. "Its brown and Winnie the Pooh has always been one of my favorites."
He patted her on the leg and gave her a big smile. "Im very glad to hear that. I think there are some other folks here that you are probably anxious to see. Ill be back in a few hours to determine the specifics of your vision. I think youll need to wear glasses, but I doubt that will be a problem. Get some rest," were his last instructions as he walked out the door.
Danielle was the first to reach the patient. She placed her hands on either side of Erins face and just stared into the green eyes that now looked back. Her mouth trembled, wanting to say something, but she finally just pulled the seated woman into a fierce hug.
"I love you too Mom." Jamie was still at the top of all her thoughts, but this moment belonged to her family as much as to her. Their support and love, especially through the down times, was always crucial to Erin. She wanted to be positive for them now.
"Hey, can I get in on this?" asked Bridgett.
Erin tilted her head and studied her sister when she finally came into focus. "I had almost forgotten how pretty your hair is, even though its a lot shorter." The sisters embraced.
"Im so happy for you Erin. I love you."
"Thanks. I love you too." Erin was still a little weak from the inactivity and she leaned back against the raised mattress.
Bridgett took her children by the hand and brought them over to the bed. Caitlin immediately climbed onto her aunts lap. She put her tiny hands on either side of Erins face and leaned in real close. "Can you see me now Aunt Erin?"
The blonde smiled. "I sure can sweetheart," she said as she ran her fingers through the childs yellow, curly hair. "And you are absolutely adorable." The exuberant four year old bounced on her legs as Erin looked over to her nephew. He was still a little blurry, but his semi-toothless smile shone through loud and clear.
"Will you come and watch me do karate?" he asked excitedly.
"You bet sweetie."
Bridgett stepped forward and lifted the four year old off her sisters lap. "Okay guys, Aunt Erin needs some rest. Well come back and see her later."
Erin smiled as two small hands waved goodbye. Once she was alone again, her head sank into the pillow. She closed her eyes for just a moment, wanting to test them, just to be sure. She had a sudden thought and her eyes popped open, almost startling her as the beaded white ceiling came into fuzzy view. Erin reached over to the bedside table and opened the drawer. She grabbed the small red velvet bag, pulled open the string closure and tuned it over in her hand. The shining golden, engagement ring lay in her palm, invoking the memory of the words that had accompanied the treasure. Erin picked it up with a trembling motion and slipped it back onto her finger. She must have stared at it for an hour before her tired eyes finally slipped shut. She raised her hand to her mouth and kissed the heart shaped stone that Jamies lips had touched two days before.
* * * *
Erin heard muffled words near the doorway. She strained her hearing to make out who it was. What am I doing, she thought. I can see now. Unless it was a dream. Please dont let it be a dream. Please. Erin raised her head and blinked several times. The two fuzzy shapes turned in her direction. She could see enough to tell that it was Bridgett and her husband. She gave them a slight smile as they approached. But once she saw the expressions on their faces that smile fell like lead. "What? What is it?" She sat up quickly and nervously shifted the blanket over her lower body. "Tell me," she demanded. "Its Jamie isnt it? Where is she?"
Bridgett took her sister by the shoulders. "Erin calm down."
The author pulled away. "No! Just tell me whats going on."
"All right, all right. We Will." Bridgett nodded to her husband as a tear came to her eye.
The tall man stepped forward and clasped his wifes hand. "Erin, the plane Jamie was on crashed."
Erin began to shake her head furiously, but she remained silent.
"They were over a mountainous region of Asia. Three people on board, including Jamie, were not found. But they are presumed dead." He almost whispered the last word.
An icy hand clamped around her throat. The world stopped, as did her heart. Oh it still pumped blood to her organs, but there was nothing else. No feeling. No anger. No sorrow. Nothing.
"I am so sorry."
Erin sluggishly brushed aside her sisters comforting hands. She just sat there numbly, barely breathing. "You promised Jamie," she squeaked through parched lips. "You promised." The darkness swallowed her once again. Erin gave in to it and gave up everything else.
To be continued
Authors note: Sorry about this particular cliffhanger. In light of recent events, the posting of this chapter is kind of bad timing and I would just like to refer everyone to the statement I made in the disclaimers in part one of this story. The next part will be out in a week or so. Oh and the sight of Jamies disappearance is purely coincidental.
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