© by JM Dragon and Erin O'Reilly 2007
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Amanda pulled her SUV into her driveway and blew out the breath she had been holding all the way home. The evening had gone spectacularly, and for the first time since Gwen went away, she felt truly happy. I can't leave Gwen behind, can I? No, I can never leave her. She is everything to me. Please forgive me for thinking I could move on. She reached down to take the keys out of the ignition but shook her head as her ears began ringing. She closed her eyes and flashes of multicolored lights stabbed at the insides of her eyelids. Her face twitched, then her arms, and soon she was jerking uncontrollably. Her head slammed into the steering wheel before wrenching backward against the headrest. Again, her head lurched forward then sideways as it hit the window. Finally, the tremors began to subside into smaller spasms that continued to rock her body gently.
A few minutes later, she opened her eyes and saw blood on the steering wheel. Touching her forehead, she felt wetness and flipped down the visor—her blonde hair plastered to her forehead was full of blood. Tiredness overtook her as she leaned her head back against the headrest and closed her eyes. I don't want to be here. Feeling as if suspended over an abyss, she saw an opaque light hovering in the distance. As she drifted toward it, she saw the faces of all those whom she had lost beckoning her, and she relaxed and flowed effortlessly into the abyss. Then, she saw Gwen.
>< >< ><
Raphaela walked in the dream state, more out of curiosity than a need. There had been a time when she had welcomed the many faces she acknowledged during this time and had actively sought them out, but that was long ago. Now, most were strangers whom she had never met in the physical world she inhabited before their passing. Nevertheless, all accepted her into their astral projection as a dear friend who was happy to help whenever she could. Her grand-mère had taught her not to fear this time for it would help hone her sensitive senses; thereby allowing her gift to manifest into something helpful for the short time she walked the earth.
As a child, she had friends in the astrophysical world who never grew older yet accepted her changes as she progressed from child to teenager and then finally to an adult. One such friend who never left her side was Raquel. Once she was old enough to understand, her grand-mère explained who Raquel was and how she would always be there to guide her through this lifetime. As time progressed, her need to be independent and seek out her own fate without any help from her spirit guide, or anyone else for that matter, grew. From then on, autonomy was the overriding factor that drove her life. Allowing Raquel or anyone else into her head and dreams without permission hadn't been easy at first, but eventually no one tried to communicate through her. In essence, she had locked the door between them and opened it only when she chose. Now, it was time to open the door.
Her grand-mère had accepted her decision with the dignity born of no choice; she was after all, her mother's daughter. Raphaela's mother had always been afraid to use her gift, so she never embraced any parts of it. Often, Raphaela wondered if her mother had lived would she have allowed her daughter to embrace her destiny. In a way, Raphaela had excluded many of her gifts from her life preferring to concentrate mainly on her herbalist skills. Yet, according to her grand-mère, she was so talented that she could will the right people into her head at any given moment. And this was such a moment.
Passing through the mists of astral memories, she smiled at her acceptance as an old friend without recriminations for being gone so long. As she glided among them, she saw the one entity she subconsciously had been looking for—Raquel. “It's been awhile, Raquel.”
Her spirit guide smiled as she always did. “For you, Raphaela, but for me, it is but a miniscule spec of time since we last spoke.”
Raphaela accepted the comment with a slight smile. Yes, time has no real fabric of importance here . “Please, I need you to answer a question.”
“Ask, although I suspect I know what it is you are wondering about.” She spoke with a beatific smile that lit her face and had always made Raphaela feel at ease.
“Why does Amanda think she knows me, or that I'm important to her? Why are you projecting yourself inside her head? I always thought the connection we had could only be between us. How is it that Amanda feels it, too?” Confusion was evident in the Raphaela's voice.
“Sit, Raphaela, sit. It is important you understand, or you will loose something that will change your life forever.” Raquel sat in a chair that had miraculously appeared. Then again, anything could transpire in her dreams if it made sense.
Raphaela sat in a chair opposite her spirit guide, reminding her of the times they had conversed when she was taking exams or going through various stages of puberty. “I'm listening,” Raphaela replied.
“The only thing you need to know and understand completely, Raphaela, is that Amanda and you share an astral essence that binds you inexplicably together. Because of that, I'm bound to you both, and I will guide both of you through your current paths, but you must allow me to do so. As you know, if you or Amanda asks me to leave, I will; and that is a real fear where Amanda is concerned. She is doubtful that what she hears in her head is real, but you know better and must impart that faith in Amanda. She must understand that I will never tell you or her anything that might harm either of you. When you both reach the journey's end, we will all be as one just as all are one in the universe.”
The kind eyes that had followed her every move through her early life and who, in the background, had done so ever since appeared to be sincere. How can I ignore this? For such a long time, I have refused to acknowledge the true gift I possess and perhaps that is why at night I feel hollow inside. There could be no sweeter appreciation of what Raquel said than to know that Amanda was part of her for all time. If she had accepted that particular part of who she was, she would have known that from the beginning. “I need to accept all of my gifts if I am to help Amanda. Is that what you're saying?”
Raquel smiled and inclined her head slightly as her force began to fade. “Be who you are, Raphaela, and all will happen as it is meant,” she said before her essence disappeared completely.
Raphaela knew that attempting to reconnect with Raquel would be a lost cause. She felt her consciousness glide backward out of her dream state as her mind cleared the cobwebs that had accumulated over the years. Suddenly, she felt a tremendous negative force invading her psyche. She now understood that the only person who could do that was... Amanda!
Raphaela virtually fell out of the chair where she had fallen asleep. Looking at the clock, she noted only ten minutes had slipped by since Amanda had left. The overpowering feeling that Amanda needed her, or worse yet, was in trouble claimed her every thought. “I have to go to her. No matter how ridiculous it might look if nothing is wrong I have to go.”
Within five minutes, a taxi was waiting outside the house. She had checked that her grand-mère was sleeping peacefully and locked the door as she left. Once she was in the cab, she gave the driver Amanda's address and they sped off into the night. Her only thoughts were to save a woman whom she now knew was everything she had been seeking for all her life.
>< >< ><
Raphaela climbed out of the taxi and debated about asking him to wait but decided against it. Besides, Amanda is probably perfectly well, and we'll laugh about it over coffee or something. From the other side of the sidewalk, she saw Amanda's car in the driveway of her house. That's a good sign. At least she is home. The full moon blazed brightly, lighting the driveway as if it were daylight. As she neared the vehicle, a sense of foreboding gripped her heart and mind. She closed her eyes in terror when she saw Amanda's lifeless body slumped in the front seat. Oh, god, why did I let the taxi leave? The doors were unlocked, and she quickly swung the driver's door open and felt for a pulse. “Amanda, Amanda, what has happened to you?” She felt a faint pulse, but Amanda did not respond to her question. This is bad…really bad.
She examined Amanda's head wound where blood was now congealing on her forehead and decided it was deep but not life threatening. The rest of her body checked out to be stable, and Raphaela decided it would be best to get her into her house, so she could try to revive her. In desperation, she glanced around the inside the vehicle until she spotted what might be the house keys in the well next to the handbrake. She snatched them up, ran to the front door, and tried the first then the second of the three keys in the lock until it opened. Thank god for that!
She hurried back to the SUV, and with great care, Raphaela gently picked Amanda up and got her into the house and onto the sofa. Checking her pulse for the second time, she noted it was irregular. Right now, she needs immediate medical attention. She grabbed the phone from the end table and dialed 911. “The ambulance is on its way, Amanda. Please stay with me until they get here.” Five minutes, they said it wouldn't take longer than five minutes. Is that too long?
For a few moments, she stood over Amanda's limp body while strange and erratic thoughts filled her mind. What if this is what she wants? Gwen was all she lived for, and now it looks like she might get the chance to be with her. Dare I ask her to stay for me? She knelt down, gently placed her arms around Amanda's shoulders, and held her tightly. “Come back to me, Amanda, please come back; I need you.”
Drifting closer to the light, the vision of Gwen shone brighter than all the rest. “You cannot stay,” Gwen said.
“I want to stay with you.”
Gwen smiled. “It is not your time.”
“But…but why did I come here if not to be with you?”
“So you will understand.”
“You always were stubborn, and I had to get your attention; that is why I asked Raquel to intercede for me.”
“Raquel? I don't understand.”
“She has always been with you, my love, but you would not hear her, so we sent you a message by way of the phonebook.”
Amanda shook her head. “You made the phonebook appear and open to Luminitsa's advertisement.”
“Well, Raquel did.”
“They are part of your being.”
Looking at Gwen's face, Amanda saw only love and happiness. “Why am I here now?”
“You wouldn't listen to Raquel when she spoke through the old woman, so I made you convulse. When you had dinner with Raphaela, I thought you had finally turned the corner—I can't move on as long as you mourn me so.” Gwen gently touched Amanda's cheek. “But, there you were sitting in your car thinking that you couldn't ever let me go. Convulsions seem to be the only way I can get your attention. You need to see that I am happy; I have moved on to the next astral plane. I am only here now because you can't let go.”
“Shhh. You can see the light, so that you will understand that I am in a safe place. You cannot enter; you must go back. The light of Luminitsa will set you free, and you will begin to understand why you are traveling this path.” Gwen leaned in and kissed the tear that was sliding down Amanda's cheek. “You still have more love to give and knowledge to share. Go back, my love. Your future is waiting for you.”
Amanda began to drift away from the light as she heard…‘come back to me, Amanda, please come back; I need you'. The light had disappeared completely; but Amanda was not sad; she felt safe in the arms of love.
For what seemed like an eternity to Raphaela, there was no response. Then, she heard a low moan, and Amanda's eyelids flicked open and shut several times like the clicking of a camera lens. She finally focused on who was in the room with her. A smile that lit up the whole room was Raphaela's reward as she hugged Amanda even closer. “It is you.”
Through her tears, Raphaela smiled weakly and tenderly kissed Amanda on the cheek in a mixture of relief and immense gratitude, “Yes, for always.”
The sirens of the ambulance screamed outside, and she heard two sets of feet beating a path to the front door.
“You needed me to stay,” Amanda whispered in a tone bordering wonderment and awe.
“I need you to stay; and if you do, I promise you'll get better.” Raphaela smiled and kissed her lips tenderly as she gently released Amanda and went to the door.
>< >< ><
The emergency room, packed with people who had contusions or moaned in wheelchairs, while others looked just as she did, somewhat bewildered and anxious. Amanda went into an area where a doctor could examine her. That left Raphaela to reflect on what had happened, and what it would mean to her future. Her thoughts then drifted to the herbal remedies that she had given Amanda. Could that have been the cause of her seizures? Closing her eyes briefly, she knew in her heart that it wasn't, even her head told that it is was improbable. However, will a general medical practitioner… Swallowing hard, she walked to the payphone and called Sun. She will know what to do; Sun always does in circumstances like these.
Ten minutes later, Sun walked through the doors of the ER and glanced around for her friend. When Raphaela saw her, a grateful and relieved smile crossed her face. “Am I glad to see you, Sun,” she said pulling her friend in for a hug. “What did you do? Hijack a plane to get here so soon?”
Sun laughed and shook her head. “No, I don't live far from here, and I was still dressed when you called.” She noticed the worried look on her friend's face. “What's the problem?”
Strain and anxiety flooded Raphaela's features as she replied, “It's Amanda…I think I might have almost killed her.”
Sun's eyebrows creased. “You're kidding, right? I can't imagine you would ever do something like that. Please sit down, and tell me what happened.” Just then, a woman in her mid-thirties dressed in scrubs stood and scanned the area before walking toward Sun and Raphaela.
“Sun, are you here for my patient Amanda Lawson, too?” Emily Banks asked.
“Um, I came because my friend here asked me to.” She turned to the woman next to her. “Raphaela Rousseau, this is Emily Banks, Amanda's doctor.”
“So, you are the Raphaela whom Amanda keeps asking for?” Emily said as she held out her hand. While they shook hands, Emily eyed the woman who seemed genuinely concerned about her patient.
“Yes, I'm Amanda's friend. She was with me this evening, at least before she went home. Then later, I found her slumped in her car. Would you mind telling me how she is doing?” Raphaela asked.
Emily looked at Sun then at the woman with her as it finally dawned on her where she had heard the name Raphaela Rousseau. The doctor's eyes lit up. “You're Raphaela Rousseau,” Emily said. “I read your article in a medical journal, what was it…about a year ago?” She watched as the woman gave her a slight nod. “Your idea about integrating holistic practices as a compliment to traditional medicine is not only enlightening but has merit. Your approach to the incorporation of herbal remedies with conventional medications was thought provoking, and I believe, worthwhile. But, you're not here about that. Amanda is resting and doesn't seem to have any lasting injuries from this seizure. The plastic surgeon on call stitched the gash on her forehead, and we don't foresee that there will be much of a scar.”
“Thank you. You don't know what that means to me. May I see her now? Will I be able to take her home?” Raphaela glanced at the swinging doors of the emergency area where Amanda was.
She really does care about Amanda . Emily reached out and touched Raphaela's hand. “I would like her to spend the night and then tomorrow run a test that hopefully will induce a seizure.” The doctor saw what she thought was terrified look on the woman's face. “Don't worry I will take good care of her. If we can cause her to seize while she is hooked up to the monitors, we can get a better picture of what is causing them.”
Raphaela dropped her gaze and allowed herself to breathe normally for the first time since she had found Amanda slumped over the wheel. As she did, a wave of intense emotional well-being washed over her. Then she glanced up at Amanda's doctor and with a wry smile said, “It won't happen again. I'll wait here until I can see her, if that's okay?” She turned her attention to Sun and squeezed her hand in grateful recognition of her friend's selfless act. “Thank you, Sun. I'll be fine now. You can go home and rest. I'm sorry I brought you out so late.” Then, she sat down on one of the hard, uncomfortable chairs.
For Sun, it was as if a dagger had pierced her heart when Raphaela had dismissed her. “No, I can stay,” she said. “You'll need a ride home.”
Emily eyed Raphaela. “Just how do you know it will never happen again? Is there something you aren't telling me?”
With a serene smile, Raphaela gazed into the quizzical grey eyes of the doctor. “There isn't any specific science that can prove how I know, I just do. Although early tomorrow morning, I can give you all my notes and samples of the herbal tonics I've given Amanda on four occasions. You can have your lab check them out, but you'll find them harmless unless Amanda is allergic to any of them; however, I never felt allergies would be a problem when I made them.”
Emily chuckled. “This isn't something your herbs caused. Where Amanda is concerned, I run every test imaginable. Her tox screen is negative, and her blood work is normal. There is nothing you could have given her to cause her to have a seizure.” She motioned to one of the chairs. “May I?” Once Raphaela nodded, she sat down then spoke again. “I don't know how much you know, but trust me, Amanda has been through more in the last two years than most people experience in a lifetime. She's in an enormous amount of pain most of the time, which in turn causes stress. As you know, stress is not good for healing.” Her gaze softened. “I think your herbs and holistic practices might be just what the doctor ordered.” She laughed and added, “And, I'm the doctor.” She patted Raphaela's hand. “Come on, I'll take you to her.”
Sun sat listening to the exchange between the two women. She had seen the great concern for Amanda in Raphaela's eyes and felt a pang of jealousy. “Do you want me to come with you?”
Raphaela had been so absorbed in her own fright and worry about Amanda that she had unconsciously ignored her friend. Now that she had a good idea that Sun's interest in her might be a little more than friendship, Raphaela wanted to be gentle with her friend. With a rueful smile, she turned to Sun, placed her arms around her and hugged her gently. “I love you, Sun. You are my most trusted friend and always will be. This time I have to go alone…she needs me, and I need her. Can you understand that?”
The feeling of Raphaela's arms around her elated Sun until she realized it was only as a gesture of friendship. She had wanted more—much more—and now, Raphaela's interests are in the woman in the examining room . “Sure, no problem, I'll wait here for you and take you home. I don't want you taking the bus home, or worse yet, walking there. She reached over and took a newspaper off a vacant chair. “Go on, she needs you.”
Tears shone in Raphaela's eyes as she felt the emotional turmoil she had caused in her friend. Second best isn't something either of us deserves. She stood up and glanced covertly at Amanda's doctor who was looking at Sun. Hmm, maybe, not all is lost for Sun. “Perhaps Dr. Banks might take pity on a fellow practitioner and allow you a better place to wait along with a decent cup of coffee.”
Emily's face brightened. “Of course, I can. In fact, I'd like you to do a consult with me on Amanda's case. You have treated her and perhaps new eyes might shed some light on her condition.” She lifted her eyebrows. “If that is all right with you, Sun.”
“Yes, I would like that. I know I was rather hard on her when she visited me and that was wrong of me. Perhaps this will be my opportunity to make it up to her.”
Raphaela's brow creased sharply as she heard Sun say she was hard on Amanda. I thought she told me that nothing happened . Her mind flashed to an angry Amanda telling her, “ don't worry, I wouldn't sue you .” The realization that Sun may have known even then about her feelings for Amanda might explain whatever occurred between them. That makes sense. I will have to speak with Sun about this later.
Emily grinned as she turned to speak to Raphaela. “I'll take you to Amanda, and then Sun and I will go over her notes and mine in my office. Please don't keep her too long; she needs her rest.”
Raphaela nodded as they headed toward the swinging doors. Her step was considerably lighter than when she first arrived.
>< >< ><
Amanda was lying on the stretcher and for the hundredth time began counting the ceiling tiles, dividing them into full, damaged, and partial. Each time the count began, she would become engrossed in the images she saw; she was certain she saw profiles of several presidents, three cats, a bird, and something that was akin to a person riding a horse. Her mind drifted to the woman who had saved her–Raphaela.
In the short time span of sixteen hours, she saw an aura, heard a voice speaking to her, convulsed and visited the emergency room twice, and dined with a remarkable woman she now desperately wanted to see . I wonder if she is even still here. Amanda frowned. She probably needed to go home and take care of her grandmother. She heard the voice of her doctor beyond the drawn curtain and waited for her to enter. When the curtain finally parted, she stared at the one woman she wanted to see.
“Hi, there, how are you feeling?” Raphaela, now that she was within touching distance of Amanda, felt incredibly shy as she tentatively moved closer to the stretcher.
Amanda couldn't help the beam that crossed her face. “You stayed,” she said in wonderment.
Emily saw the emotional reaction her patient and her friend emitted toward each other and she smiled. “I'll give you a few minutes, and then Amanda will be moved to the fifth floor for a good night's rest.” She then left in search of Sun.
With a smile that tugged nervously at her lips, Raphaela closed the gap between them and tenderly picked up Amanda's hand that was lying on top of the blanket. “I'll always stay. It's in my blood to watch over you and keep you safe.”
“Hmm, I like that.” Amanda's eyes searched Raphaela's, and when she saw understanding, she spoke again. “I came back to you; but I want you to know what happened to me while I was gone.”
“I already know, but if you want to tell me, I'm listening. Otherwise, we never have to speak of it,” she said wanting to give Amanda her own space if she needed it.
“I want you to know everything.” The smile on Raphaela's face was her answer to continue. “I saw a bright light, and Gwen was there.” She closed her eyes as she visualized the moment. “I wanted to stay, but she said it wasn't my time; and when I asked why I was there she said because I am so stubborn. I wouldn't listen to the messages she was sending me. Do you know she is the one who made me convulse both times?”
With a chuckle, Raphaela shook her head remaining silent while she waited for Amanda to continue.
“She told me the light of Luminitsa will set me free and bring me understanding.” She creased her brow. “Do you know what that means? Is there something special about your grandmother's light? Then she added tentatively, “She said you were my future.”
Considering the words for a few moments, Raphaela tried to decipher the message then she stooped over Amanda and whispered in her ear like a conspirator who didn't want anyone else to hear. “Didn't you know? We all have a light, and she probably meant my grand-mère's shines brighter than most. And for the record, I was told you were my future via a mutual friend.”
As much as she understood Raphaela's reply, Amanda knew there was more. “I know everyone has a light, but it was the way she said ‘ the light of Luminitsa will set you free' that made me feel she wasn't talking about that light. I know it is more, so much more, but I don't know what the more is.” She shrugged. “I do know that I want to be with you and get to know everything about you.” Her eyes searched Raphaela's face. “Is that okay with you? I mean…”
Impulsively, Raphaela bent again and kissed Amanda tenderly on the lips. “I want to get to know you, too. In my heart I know it will be the best thing for both of us.”
Amanda licked her lips and a grin played around her mouth. “I like the feel and taste of your lips. But, I think I need to have another sample, so I can make sure of my assessment.”
“I see. You do, do you? In that case, Ma'am, I have little option but to comply with your request.” Raphaela felt the blood stirring in her veins as her lips touched Amanda's for a few more fleeting seconds. Then she removed her lips but remained close as her eyes, sparkling with happiness, captured Amanda's blue ones. “It's going to be a wonderful education getting to know you, Amanda Lawson. However, I think you need to rest now and get to feeling one hundred percent, or the doctor will be after me. Besides, what will it do to my ego, if you keep convulsing every time we are together?” The lines around her eyes crinkled with amusement; they both knew that wasn't very likely.
Amanda chuckled and reached out to touch Raphaela's face. “It will never happen again,” she said. Just then, the curtain pulled back and Emily Banks and Sun Lapahie entered the small area. Amanda looked at Raphaela, then at Sun and back to the woman with whom she had just shared a kiss. Still smarting from the visit to the woman's clinic, Amanda was unable to keep the animosity out of her voice. “Why is she here?”
Sun was about to speak when Raphaela placed a hand on her friend's arm and spoke for her. “Amanda, Sun is my best friend. I called her for guidance. She's worried about you, too. Seems like you make a big impression wherever you go,” Raphaela teased to ease the tension that had suddenly hit from out of nowhere.
“It's true, Amanda, I am worried about you, and if you don't mind, I'd like to help Dr. Banks and Raph with your case. Perhaps the three of us together might find a solution to alleviate your pain.” Sun spoke quietly, grateful for her friend's intervention. She still wasn't sure she liked the woman on a personal level, but for Raph's sake, she'd try again.
Amanda's jawed clenched, as she ground her back teeth. She had no use for the woman or her bedside manner. It was obvious to Amanda that she was just putting on a front for Emily and Raphaela. She had witnessed a harshness that bordered on cruelty first hand and wanted no part of her solution . “I think…” she started. She smiled at Raphaela and glared at Sun. “Would you two excuse me for a minute while I speak with my doctor?”
Puzzled, but acceding to her request, Raphaela followed Sun out to wait on the other side of the curtain and left Amanda alone with her doctor. “Sure, take your time.”
>< >< ><
Amanda narrowed her eyes and lowered her voice to an ominous tone. “I don't want that woman evaluating or helping me.”
Emily frowned. “Why? She is a first rate doctor and very knowledgeable. I think she would be an asset.”
Taking a deep breath, Amanda clenched her jaw again. “When she examined me it was as if I were nothing more than a body for her to probe. When I asked her to help me by opening the door so I could wheel myself out of the examining room, she told me to get up and do it myself. I don't want her near me!”
Not believing what she heard, Emily shook her head. “I have known Sun for years; she is a thoughtful person who cares deeply for her patients.”
“Has she ever treated you? If she had, you might have a different opinion,”
“I hate to say this, Amanda, but you aren't exactly the model patient.”
Red colored Amanda's eyes. “That may well be, but I am the one paying the bills! I'm the patient, and doctors are supposed to care for patients not browbeat them!” Again, Emily couldn't believe her ears as a broad smile filled her face.
Glaring at the doctor, she added, “Just what the hell is so damn funny? If you think this is a humorous matter then perhaps I should find myself another doctor.”
Emily moved closer to the stretcher and touched Amanda's arm. In a soft, quiet tone she said, “I don't think it is funny, but I do think you are pissed off.”
“You're damn right I'm pissed off!”
“The good news is that you are passionately pissed off about something other than your pain, or the raw deal life has given you.” She cocked her head slightly as her voice softened more. “That means you have turned the corner and want to live. If Sun Lapahie inspired that in you then she should, for no other reason, be allowed to help with your treatment. Besides, she is a very competent doctor.”
Amanda massaged her face with her fingers as she tried to collect her thoughts. “Before that happens I want an apology.” She moved her hands and looked directly at Emily. “We will not have this discussion for a second time. If she ever treats me like that again, she will be gone. Agreed?”
Emily nodded. She noticed a distinct change in Amanda's voice from the times when she had treated her in the past. There is a new resolve, but it is more than that…her spirit has returned. She thought of the woman, Raphaela Rousseau, who was waiting outside the curtained room. She probably heard most of what we said. Her eyes widened. And, so did Sun. Damn. “So how do you want to proceed?”
“If I get an apology, she can help; otherwise, there's no deal.” Amanda's face brightened. “Do you think Raphaela's herbs will help me?”
“I think she has already helped you immensely.” The look on her patient's face told Emily everything she needed to know. Amanda is ready to join the world of the living. It is all thanks to her new friend, Raphaela. “Shall we call them in before you go to your room?”
“Can't I just go home and come back in the morning?”
In a voice that allowed no argument, Emily said, “No.”
>< >< ><
Outside the curtain, Raphaela stared at her friend in astonishment. She hadn't heard everything, but it was evident that Amanda was angry, and that anger focused on her friend, Sun. Was Sun unkind to Amanda? Sun, for her part, looked sheepishly down at the polished floor rather than be captured in one of Raph's penetrating gazes. “Is that true, Sun? Were you cruel to Amanda when she visited the clinic? I knew she wasn't happy when we left, but…I can't believe that you would have done such a thing. You've never had any problem with a patient before,” Raphaela said.
Sun looked up with a gritty determination in her eyes. “You know me, Raph, I'm not a cruel person. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Amanda was in such a state of self-depreciating pity; I felt it the best option to goad her into doing something on her own instead of relying on others. If I were wrong, I'll apologize, but I'm not. By the sound of it, Emily agrees with my tactic. I'll be damned if I do anything of the kind.” Emily had expressed her feelings about Sun's treatment of Amanda in their phone call earlier in the day. She hadn't necessarily agreed with her, but she hadn't said she didn't.
Raphaela considered her friend's adamant stand and the sound of anger in Amanda's voice and felt pulled in two directions. Defending Amanda was her first inclination, and she wanted Sun to apologize immediately. At the same time, she respected her friend's professional astuteness. After all, Amanda did respond with anger to the implied unkindness of Sun's words. “Sun, how do you propose to help if you won't apologize directly?”
This time, Sun did trade glance for glance as a sparkle of laughter appeared in her chocolate-colored eyes. “Simple really, you'll be the nice guy, and I'll be the bad one. Works in all the movies, doesn't it?”
Sun's attempt to alleviate the strained situation made both women laugh. Neither noticed Emily watching them with her arms crossed with a somewhat amused yet perplexed look that was in stark contrast to the expression on Amanda's face.
Raphaela was the only person Amanda had any interest in seeing. When the curtain opened, and she saw the two women laughing, all that changed. It was apparent to her that they were sharing a joke at her expense. Sorrow filled her heart. I was stupid to think… “Dr. Banks,” she said. “I'm tired, and I'd like to go to my room now.” Looking at Raphaela, she gave her a half-hearted smile before turning away and closing her eyes.
Raphaela's expression changed immediately to one of deep concern as she glanced quickly from Amanda's pale face to the doctor. Dr. Banks merely shook her head and gave the worried woman a small smile of reassurance.
Why is everything so complicated? She rubbed her forehead and sighed. “All right, Amanda, I agree you need your rest. Why don't you come back tomorrow, Ms. Rousseau? Bring along those notes you mentioned, and I'll sneak you in to see Amanda when you get here…even if it isn't visiting time. Would you like that Amanda?” She looked at her patient but knew in the back of her mind that she shouldn't have asked the question.
Raphaela felt a wall placed between her and Amanda. Right now is not the time to undertake its removal. After all her adventures of the day, Amanda is probably far too weary for another emotional confrontation.
Tears began to well in Amanda's eyes. This isn't how I want things to happen. Apparently, everyone around me, including Raphaela, think of me as no more than a joke. “I really don't care. Can I please go to my room now?”
Shit! Emily heard the old defeated Amanda in her voice. Why is happiness so elusive where Amanda is concerned?
The tears Raphaela saw had her heart beating rapidly. Has Amanda changed her mind, like the toss of a coin, about sharing our lives? It doesn't make any sense . She knew that Amanda was tired and emotionally wrought and that caused people to say and do things they didn't really mean. Breathing in deeply, she gave Amanda what she hoped was a bright smile. “I'll come back tomorrow. We can't let the light down now, can we?” She waited for a response, but there was none. “Goodnight and sleep well,” she finally said. Walking over to the stretcher, she gently squeezed Amanda's motionless hand. Then, she turned around and briskly left the area.
When Sun finally caught up with Raphaela, she placed a hand on her shoulder to prevent her from fleeing the scene. “You could always go back and make sure she's tucked in properly.” A part of her hoped that Raph wouldn't take the bait and maybe she then might have a chance.
For a few moments, Raphaela considered the words and shook her head. “No, we'll work it out tomorrow. I need to go home. If grand-mère has woken she'll be worried.”
Sun heard her friend's stilted and strained voice and felt a barrier come between them. “Would you like to get a coffee at Starbucks before you go home? It might make you feel better.”
Raphaela, with worry and concern, turned to Sun. “Until Amanda is out of the hospital, nothing will make me feel better. Sorry I'm such a nuisance, Sun. You go home, and I'll take a taxi.”
Knowing it was useless to argue with the determination of her friend, Sun kept walking beside Raphaela. “I'll take you home. As you say, tomorrow you'll work it out.” As she said the words, she felt that the slim chance she had for Raphaela's affections blew away like ash from a fire that encountered an unexpected wind . If necessary, I'll even apologize to the selfish bitch if that is what will solve the problem. She really didn't want to, but she would. It was the least she could do for her friend.
Raphaela said, “Thank you, Sun,” as they headed toward the car.
Ten minutes after Raphaela had left, the orderly came to take Amanda to her room. As the wheels clattered along the tile floors, she once again concentrated on the ceiling tiles above her. For a brief moment there, I thought I could go beyond the existence I have known since Gwen left. Now, I think it was just a dream. Situated in her the room, she swallowed down her medicine for the nurse and finally was alone. It was then that the tears began to flow unchecked.
Emily stood in the doorway and watched the emotions play across Amanda's face. “What's the matter?” Emily asked. “Are you in pain?” She crossed the distance to the bed with long strides.
“Why were they laughing at me? Do you think the treatment I received from that doctor was proper?”
Emily Banks felt tension and acute sadness rising from her patient. It hadn't been an easy road for Amanda, and the new zest for life that had appeared, however briefly, was something she didn't want to see disappear as soon as it had arrived. How do I explain this situation tactfully? “They weren't laughing at you, Amanda. Your friend needed to laugh. Looking at her, I wondered if she might require a bed for the evening, too. They overheard almost everything you said to me, and her tension needed easing. I'm not sure exactly what transpired between you and Dr. Lapahie and never will for I wasn't a fly on the wall. I'll bring the necessary forms in the morning, and you can make an official complaint against her if you feel she was improper in her medical care. From your expressions and tone earlier, I suspect you will do that. Just remember, there are more people involved in taking that action than just you and her. I cannot and will not make a determination one way or the other about the care you received.” The last thing Emily wanted to do was to be a part of offering one of her own up to the medical board. Silently, she hoped Amanda was reacting out of frustration and tiredness and would change her mind once she had a decent night's sleep. Emily picked up Amanda's chart and was glad to see that the nurse had already given her the sleeping medication.
Amanda blew her nose before shaking her head. “What should be of the most concern to that doctor is that I felt offended, and no doctor worth his or her salt should be happy to hear that.” She felt her anger rise again then wane. “I don't know what I want to do right now. I am really tired. I will sleep on it and let you know in the morning.” Her eyes gazed at her doctor. “I am glad you are here for me, Emily.” She closed her eyes, and although the noises that filled the hospital floor at night rang out through her room, she paid them no attention and fell into a deep sleep.
>< >< ><
Raphaela had slept fitfully. She rose at her usual six a.m . and was glad to get out of bed to greet the new day. It was a tradition in their household to meet at breakfast, and in their own way, send a thank you prayer for waking and being in a position to see another day. Luminitsa ventured out of her rooms only at that time. She would spend the precious breakfast hour chatting about the day as they had always done since Raphaela was a child. Her advanced years, and the stroke that diminished her physical abilities did not deter her from having that one piece of freedom. How strong she was when she woke determined how much of the day it would take her to recover her strength. “ It is all worth it,” her grand-mère would say.
Now, with the breakfast table set, she contemplated the previous day. If I go through it all in my head, I'll be here all day. Instead, she concentrated on the last few minutes with Amanda, and the woman's offhanded remark about not being bothered if she turned up. There was no way around it; the comment had stung. Once she was home and lying in her bed, she allowed the hurt to manifest into tears as she tried to forget the harsh words. Initially, she had been shocked at Amanda's adamant position regarding Sun. In all the years I've known Sun, I have never heard a harsh expression pass her lips. However, she had ignored Amanda's outrage and passed it off as the weariness of the day overriding common sense. Is it though? Does Amanda genuinely feel a grievance toward Sun? Why was I so quick to defend Sun without regard to Amanda's feelings on the subject? Sun did admit she hadn't been friendly, and some of the words she deliberately spoke were to goad Amanda out of her self-pity routine. Was I right in deciding, without all the facts, that self pity was the correct diagnosis? Could Sun have been wrong in her stance? Am I an even greater wrong-doer by ignoring Amanda's protestations and siding with my friend?
“Good morning, Ray, how is my darling granddaughter this morning?” Luminitsa's voice filled the room with a lively spirit that booted out any negative vibes that had been emanating from her thoughts.
Raphaela's troubled thoughts disappeared as she swiftly stood up to kiss her grand-mère's weathered cheek. “Excellent, Grand-mère, and you look as beautiful and rested as ever. I'll fetch our breakfast.”
Luminitsa saw the dark circles around Ray's eyes and knew something was amiss. She immediately placed a restraining hand on her granddaughter's arm. “You will do nothing of the sort. I see we have tea, and that will be fine for the moment. Sit, my darling, and tell me what's troubling you.”
Raphaela blinked rapidly knowing that she couldn't hide anything on an emotional level from the old woman. They couldn't read each other as well as they could others, and that was purely a safeguard as they lived so closely with each other. It was hard enough to know about strangers and friends, but to know that much about a person you loved and lived with had the potential to be a gunpowder keg waiting to explode. It had been a mutual pact that they didn't read each other that had lasted until this moment. “Are you reading me, Grand-mère?” she accused.
The twinkle in the kind eyes blasted Raphaela with love rather than inquisition. “We never do that, do we, my darling? However, the dark circles under your eyes tell their own story. How is Amanda? They tell me she will be fine.”
Banishing the last of her negative thoughts from her head, Raphaela smiled as she realized that her grand-mère already knew about Amanda. I should have known. “She's in the hospital for observation, but we know, as she does herself, that it will never happen again. Gwen apparently was responsible. I thought it was Raquel, but…”
“Raquel allowed Gwen those few moments; our Amanda Lawson is a very stubborn woman. If she's going to be fine, what makes you so sad, darling?”
Raphaela sighed heavily. Where do I start? Perhaps from the beginning or the end…I really don't know. She picked up the teapot and poured them both a cup of tea before she began. “I had a dream that Amanda needed me shortly after she left. Apparently, she had been convulsing again, and I took her to hospital. They couldn't find anything wrong, and they are keeping are overnight for some tests to ensure there isn't a reoccurrence.”
Raphaela stopped speaking, and Luminitsa gently prodded her before she sipped the tea. “And?”
“I called my friend at the clinic…Sun, Dr. Lapahie.”
“She's a charming woman with a wonderful bedside manner. I can see why you are friends as you both share a caring nature for others.”
Raphaela sighed again and blew out an irritated breath. “That's just it, Grand-mère, according to Amanda, Sun was cruel to her at the clinic when I took her there. Sun admits that she was a little harsh, but she said it was only for Amanda's own good. Now, I think Amanda blames me for it all. She isn't even bothered if I look in to see her today.”
Luminitsa stared into the teacup she had lifted toward her lips, and a smile crossed them before she drank from the cup again. Moments later, she answered. “Amanda has had a lot to deal with in the past twenty-four hours, darling. Sometimes things can take on an entirely different meaning from what they did the day before. Although Amanda strikes me as impatient and unforgiving at times, I don't believe she is a liar. Go to her today, Ray, and talk it over. She's as sad as you are that things have taken a turn for the worse. I think Amanda quite likes you, Ray.” She sipped her tea once more. “When I was at the clinic, I saw the way Sun looked at you, and believe me, it wasn't only as a friend.”
Opening her mouth wide then closing it silently, Raphaela didn't know how to answer that observation. Finally, she asked, “If I choose to have a romance…not that I'm saying I'm going to of course…but if I did, and it was with someone like Amanda, would you approve, Grand-mère?”
Old eyes that had seen many things over time caught the eyes of her granddaughter. With great care, she replied, “Whomever you decide to have a romance with, Ray, I will happily accept in our home. If Amanda makes you happy, Ray, how can I ever be anything other than that, too? I will issue you with a word or two of caution though. People are not always kind if you decide to love another of the same sex. They may say terrible things that will be totally undeserved and untrue, but people are not always so easy to accept love in the purest form.”
Raphaela digested the words of wisdom and smiled gratefully at her grand-mère. What would I ever do without her? She stood up and kissed the old woman's forehead. “I know that not everyone approves of such a relationship and may point fingers and say terrible things, but haven't they all my life? We are not exactly the conventional family, are we? I'm used to it, tolerate it and have grown to ignore the snide remarks of narrow-minded people who cannot accept anything beyond their blinkered upbringing. Remember, I've had a marvelous teacher. Now, I'll go make breakfast because I need the sustenance before I see Amanda.”
Luminitsa watched Ray leave the dining room. She was proud of the way her granddaughter looked at life, and she was pleased that she had a little hand in that process. A part of her was sad, though, for now if she elected to love women, Ray would be the last of their family line. I know first hand that love has a way of ignoring everything in its path…even tradition. As she glanced down at the tea leaves in the bottom of her cup, she swirled them around and provided herself with a personal reading as she waited patiently for her breakfast.
>< >< ><
Even though sleep was ebbing, Amanda kept her eyes closed. She knew where she was; the sounds and smells of a hospital were not ones she would forget. At some point in the night, she had been vaguely aware that someone had woken her to take her vitals, but as to whom that was, she hadn't a clue. Other than that slight disturbance, she had slept soundly. Now, as her mind began processing the events of the previous day, she refused to open her eyes. Foremost in her mind was the woman who had captured her thoughts and heart. She recalled the look of hurt that filled Raphaela's face when she told her it didn't matter if she visited her or not. If her hurt hadn't been so acute, she may have recognized something else sooner. When Raphaela turned to leave, she saw a smug look on Sun's face. Her eyes flew open in shock at her newly found discovery. “Sun's in love with Raphaela!”
“Good morning,” a cheery voice said. “How are we doing today?”
Amanda looked at the tall, pretty, dark-haired nurse whose nametag read Alicia. “To be honest, I'm feeling a bit grubby.” She ran her tongue along her teeth. “I think my teeth are wearing fuzzy socks…any chance I can brush them.”
Alicia laughed. “Don't you just hate that feeling?” She adjusted the IV bag and checked the monitors. “I'll bring you your basin with all your supplies; then you can take care of those fuzzy socks.”
The girl's sincere smile made Amanda respond in kind. “Thanks, I appreciate it.”
“Sure, no problem. They should be bringing your breakfast in soon, and after that, I will send in the aide to help you get washed up.” She looked at the blood that still clung to Amanda's matted hair. “Looks like you need to have your hair washed, too. If you need anything, Amanda, just push the call button. For some reason we have a light patient load right now, so I should be right with you.” She handed Amanda the basin filled with soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, mouth-wash, and the obligatory lotion. “You can use the water in the jug. Is there anything else I get for you?”
“No, thanks.” Amanda smiled and watched as the nurse left before she peeled the wrap off the tub and pulled out the toothbrush and paste. Her mind turned to Raphaela. Will she even show up to visit me? I sent her the message that I didn't care, so what can I expect . “But I do. I care more than I ever thought I would.” Sadness gripped her heart for what might have been.
“Good morning, Amanda, how did you sleep?” Emily asked as she entered the room and closed the door. After she picked up the chart and read the notations, she looked at her patient. “Looks like all your vitals are good.” She stood closer to Amanda and examined the sutures on her forehead before walking to the bathroom. When she reappeared, she had a wet washcloth in her hand. “Let's see if we can get some of this blood washed off,” she said as she gently dabbed the area around the stitches. “This looks like it is starting to heal nicely. I don't think you will even notice the scar.” She looked into Amanda's eyes. “Are you okay?”
“Mmm-hmm. I was just thinking about everything that happened to me yesterday. Most of it is rather unbelievable.”
Emily sat on the side of the bed. “You went through quite an ordeal. I thought I saw happiness in your eyes; now, I'm not so sure. Want to talk about it?”
Before looking at the doctor, Amanda rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands. “I'm not sure I can,” she said refocusing on the doctor. “Raphaela gave me hope that I might be able to love again…now, I don't know.” She shrugged. “I don't understand.”
Emily's heart went out to her patient for Amanda was special to her and always had been. Maybe it is my connection to Gwen, or perhaps it's Amanda's sadness crying out to me. Whatever it was, she hoped, with all her heart, that Amanda would find happiness again. “What don't you know?” she asked.
“If I'll ever see her again.” The words resonated throughout the room like a death chant.
There was nothing for Emily to say for she, too, wondered if the woman would return. “What have you decided to do about Dr. Lapahie?” she asked.
Amanda pursed her lips and thought about the question. “Here, as they say, in the clear blue light of the morning, I have gone over what happened, and…” She shook her head negatively. “I went there because it was close; my friend Raphaela works there and I had just had a seizure. I felt that she glossed over the seizure on the excuse of not having the proper equipment. She gave me the old ‘slam, bam, thank you, ma'am,' and then told me in essence to get off my ass and open the door myself. Later she came out and intimated that Raphaela was worried I would sue her.”
Emily frowned. “That isn't something you would do.”
“Exactly. I know I can be difficult, but I wasn't this time. It wasn't until she wouldn't open the door for me that I lashed out.” She chuckled. “All I could think was how lucky I was that she wasn't my doctor.”
After what seemed like a long moment of silence, Emily asked, “Do you want the forms?”
“No.” Her voice was almost a whisper. “Its time to stop the anger…it's not that I don't think I was treated poorly, for I believe I was, but it is time to let it go.” A tear slowly slid down her cheek. “It is time to let Gwen go, and move on with my life.”
Touched by the words, Emily bent down and hugged Amanda close. “I will be here to help you every step of the way,” she whispered. “Know that you are not alone…you never have been.”
Amanda melted into the hug; it felt good to experience something other than sadness. Perhaps I have lost Raphaela, but at least I know I can feel again. “Thank you.” Her voice trembled as she thought of the woman who had stolen her heart and whom she was sure she had lost.
A soft knock on the door had both women looking at it with interest.
“That's probably your breakfast,” Emily said as she let Amanda go and wiped a tear from her own eye. “I bet you're hungry.”
“Yes, I am.”
Emily opened the door and saw Sun Lapahie standing there with a bunch of beautifully mixed flowers in hand. “Hi, Emily, any chance I can have a quick word with Amanda? I promise no fireworks?”
Emily looked back at Amanda. “Is it okay with you?”
Weary of the mess, she shook her head. “Sure, come on in, Dr. Lapahie.”
“Thanks, I won't keep you long. Emily, any chance you and I can catch up when Amanda and I have spoken?” Sun asked her friend and colleague with a faint smile.
“Sure, I'm done with my rounds, so I will be in my office. Just let my receptionist know you're there, and she'll find me.” She patted Sun's arm as she left.
Sun stepped into the room hesitantly—something that didn't happen too often to her. Today, with this woman, I have to tread carefully; a lot is at stake . She tentatively motioned to the flowers hoping to use them as an icebreaker. “I brought these for you. I know how stark hospital rooms can be, and a little color helps to keep you cheerful.” Scratching the back of her neck as Amanda merely nodded her acceptance and waited for something more. “I guess you're be wondering why I'm here.”
She reached out, took the flowers, and nodded. “Thank you.” Once she gave them the necessary sniff and set them on the covers, she continued, “Yes, I do. In fact, shocked is a good word to describe how I felt when I saw you at the door”
“I guess that would be as good a word as any. Anyway, not to waste your time, I wanted to say I'm sorry.” Sun moved a little closer, so the woman could see how genuine her statement was.
Amanda nodded her head and gave the woman a half smile. “I accept your apology.”
Surprised at the immediate acceptance, Sun narrowed her gaze and stared at Amanda. Is that a token statement, or does she really mean it? “Thank you, though you haven't asked me what I'm sorry for.”
Weary eyes met the woman's stare. “Does it matter? I can't allow myself to have negativity in my life if I want to move on…I can't do that and be angry with you.”
Nodding, Sun motioned to the chair at the side of the bed and with Amanda's nod, she sat down. “I'm not really so harsh on my patients; in fact, most say I'm the opposite. Not that you're probably interested, but I need you to understand that Raph is very special to me, and I guess I was being protective of her. She's a rather unique woman who sometimes needs defending from the world in general. In a strange kind of way, I had you pegged as someone who might hurt her. It doesn't forgive my rudeness or callous indifference to you, but a part of me thought I was doing the right thing.” She shrugged. “I'm probably not making any sense, but anyway, thank you for accepting my apology. I meant what I said about helping you in your recovery, though I'll probably never be quite as gentle with you as Emily is. She always did have the best bedside manner when we were doing our internships.” Sun smiled weakly and stood up.
Amanda gently reached out and took Sun's hand to stop her. “Listen, we both want what is best for Raphaela. You're right, she is a very special woman, and she is lucky to have you in her life. We all need someone who will watch our backs no matter what.” Amanda gave Sun a sincere smile. “I will never intentionally do anything to hurt her.”
“You might not like this, but unfortunately you have already. She was kind of cut up when she left last night. Raph's smart though, and she'll have already figured out that it was the strain of the day and be hot footing it over here as soon as she can after having breakfast with her grandmother. Luminitsa is quite the character isn't she?” Sun grinned knowing that Amanda meant what she said and did forgive her. We might never be good buddies, but at least we can be cordial with each other.
Sun's words about the hurt Raphaela felt the night before cut Amanda to the bone. “I know I hurt her last night, and I haven't any excuse for my actions. I know now that I jumped to the wrong conclusions, and for that, I'll always be sorry. I hope you are right, and she will visit me, so I can apologize.” She looked intently at the woman. “I have always believed that you have to be responsible for your own actions, and you have done just that. I respect you for it…I'm sure it wasn't easy to do.”
With a tight smile Sun replied, “For Raph, I'd walk to the ends of the earth. She's that important to me…to us, now, I guess. She'll be back, count on it. I know she cares a great deal for you. I've only ever seen her that worried once before, and that was when she brought her grandmother into the clinic after her stroke. It was hard to keep her away. I'll leave you to rest and have breakfast, and if you need anything that I can help with, Amanda, just call me.” Sun dropped her card on the bedside table and turned to leave.
Although she knew that the doctor was in love with Raphaela, Amanda felt she needed to make an effort to find some sort of peace with the woman. “Sun,” Amanda said. “I'd like it if you were on my side in my treatment.” Sun's beaming smile gave Amanda her answer. “I'll check in with Em now and see what she plans for you, take care of yourself, Amanda.”
For a long time, Amanda stared at the card the woman had left. She felt a heaviness that she had carried with her for longer than she cared to remember lift. Then she felt it–the overwhelming sense of well-being. Raphaela is near. The powerful feelings consumed her from all sides until her eyes once again tracked to the doorway and a glorious smile crossed her face.
Raphaela grinned as she saw Amanda's smile. That was all she needed as she rapidly closed the space between them and dropped the flowers and box of candy she had brought on the bedside table. “How are you feeling, Amanda?” Her voice had dropped an octave as she tried to speak coherently.
“Come here.” Amanda held up a finger and motioned for Raphaela to come closer. When she moved in, Amanda said, “No closer.” She reached up behind Raphaela's neck and pulled her in for a kiss. Once they parted, she said, “I'm so sorry for my words last night. I'm sorry for hurting you…will you please forgive me?” She held her breath.
“Nothing to forgive, Amanda, I knew you were tired. It had been a long day for you…for all of us. All that matters is that you get well, and we spend time getting to know each other if that's what you still want.” Raphaela knew in her heart the answer. However, she needed to hear it and seal the promise they had made.
Moving her arm so the IV line wasn't in the way, Amanda put her arms around the woman. “I want that…I want that, and I want you in my life on whatever level you want.”
“You'll be hard pressed to get rid of me now, Amanda, remember, we share a bond. Besides, I told my grand-mère today that I was going to ask you to convalesce with us for a week or two. I decided that you needed someone to look after you…and who better than me. Right?” she asked. “What do you say?”
“That might entail giving me sponge baths, and a nightly massage with lotion. Do you think you'll be up for that?”
A faint blush stung Raphaela's cheeks as she tried to answer and couldn't. In truth, she hadn't gone any further in her mind than what they had now. A personal relationship is all new to me. What do I know about loving someone physically? Deep down she knew that love was what she was feeling, but she didn't want to chase it away by saying something wrong in the early stages. She swallowed hard and tried to speak, and once more, no sound emanated from her lips.
A slim finger crossed Raphaela's lips. “You don't have to say anything. We will proceed at whatever rate you are comfortable with.” As she spoke the words, Amanda knew there was a deeper truth that she hadn't admitted to the woman in her arms. I love her . Now was not the time to speak of her true feelings. Time was on their side, and there was no need to rush the words. “I would love to stay with you and your grandmother. I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.”
Raphaela was grateful for not pushing the tender subject matter. We have time, all the time the world has to offer us . “In that case, while you eat your breakfast, I'll go check with Dr. Banks for a time when I can take you home. I'll be back soon, so don't leave without me.” Raphaela winked as she chastely kissed Amanda on the lips and went in search of the doctor.
She watched Raphaela's body move as she left. All is right in my world. “I won't leave without you.” She found the button and pressed for the nurse. “I'm in need of a shower.” Then she thought of the strong, steady hands of Raphaela washing her body. “Maybe I will just ask for breakfast, and the shower can come later.” A rush of passion filled her body, and she smiled. Hurry back, my love.
>< >< ><
The cab pulled up in front of Amanda's home, and both she and Raphaela jumped out and exhaled deeply. “Was that onions or body odor?” Amanda let out an exaggerated breath. “I never knew I could hold my breath that long.” She playfully tapped Raphaela's arm. “Tell me again why we took the taxi and not my car…oh, yes, you would have had to drive it.” She laughed and walked toward the front door. Turning the knob, she frowned. “Did you lock the door? I don't have a key.”
Raphaela reached inside her jacket pocket and pulled out the keys to the house. “Are you looking for these?”
Amanda hugged the woman next to her and laughed. “I'm glad I have you to keep me organized.” She pushed the key into the lock, swung the door open, and bowed halfway. “After you, Madame.”
Complete with a gracious curtsey, Raphaela did as requested and waited for Amanda to follow her inside. She hoped she would like the flower arrangement that was waiting to greet her. The day before, she'd feigned a visit to the clinic, so that she could go there and clean the house. She wanted it to be a welcoming sight for Amanda after being away from her home for a month convalescing with her and her grand-mère.
Amanda's eyes opened wide as she looked around her house. Not only was it immaculate, but it had the fresh smell of… flowers . She squeezed Raphaela's hand before going to the table and inhaling their fragrance. “I like what you've done with the place.” It had been a month since her release from the hospital, and she and Raphaela had been there only to pick up her clothes and toiletries. It was strange having someone other than Gwen in the house, but after a month of being with Raphaela, she knew it was the right thing to do. “Maybe when you get back from Arizona you might want to move in here…after all, your grandmother will already be here.” She stole a quick kiss as she waited for an answer.
Raphaela's mind wandered to the day not too long ago when she had told Amanda and her grand-mère the news that she was leaving town for six months...
Amanda was making marvelous strides in her recovery since she'd been resident with her and her grand-mère. Her friend felt so good that she was making plans within plans of where they might go together and what they might share. It made the news she had yet to impart to her and Luminitsa that much more difficult. She had put off the dreaded deed for so long that she hardly knew how to tell them. She watched them chatting amiably over breakfast, apparently without any care in the world. The two women she cared for the most looked about as happy as she had ever seen them.
“Here you go, ladies, I have a fresh brew for us. Who wants to play mother?” Raphaela placed the teapot in the center of the table within easy reach of any of them.
Amanda looked curiously at Raphaela. Although she had only been there a relatively short time, she could read the woman like a book. The serious look in her eyes told her something was on her mind. Amanda stood up and took the teapot. “I will pour for my ladies.” She bowed her head slightly as she eyed Raphaela again. “Okay, out with it.”
Taken off-guard for a moment, Raphaela glanced sharply in Amanda's direction and shook her head feigning that anything was wrong. Grateful when her grand-mère spoke, until she heard what she had to say.
Luminitsa smiled as Amanda poured her more tea. She is such a lovely young woman. I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was a little that she has made my granddaughter as happy as she has. “My dear, thank you, while you were making more tea, Ray, Amanda was telling me about a Broadway performance that she plans to buy tickets for as a thank you for our kindness. In six weeks time, I believe. I must say I'm looking forward to it.”
Amusement filled Amanda's eyes as she saw the stunned look on Raphaela's face. Actually, she was surprised, too, for she hadn't expected Luminitsa to speak at that moment. “Not what you expected is it?” She clapped her hands and laughed. “What do you think? We will have such a great time, and I have arranged for a special handicapped room for both of us gimps.” Her gaze turned to Luminitsa. “Right, Grand-mère?”
With a merry twinkle in the eye, Luminitsa nodded as she sipped her tea. A thoughtful look entered her features as she gazed for a moment at Raphaela who had remained silent.
A deep furrow ran across Raphaela's brow at her grand-mère's comments. What on earth can I do now? This has to be the moment to tell them. A ticket for a Broadway show can be extremely expensive. She looked fondly at her grand-mère. She looks more animated than I've seen in years. This really is a terrible situation. Why didn't I tell them earlier? Maybe I can cancel and go another time. It doesn't have to be now…but these kinds of offers are rare. Taking a deep breath for courage, she smiled weakly as she spoke. “I can't go.”
Both Luminitsa and Amanda looked at Raphaela in surprise. “You can't go...why?” asked Amanda.
Clasping her hands around her teacup, she hoped it would provide inspiration, but none came her way. She gave the two startled women a sheepish smile and replied, “I've been offered a rare working sabbatical, you might say, at the Navajo reservation where Sun was brought up. The medicine man is her grandfather, and he's offered to share some of his knowledge with me. It's something I never thought would ever happen, now it has, and I've been trying to find the right moment to tell you both.”
Amanda just looked at Raphaela wondering if she had heard right. We have just begun getting to know each other, and she is going to leave. Unbelievable. Her eyes drifted to Luminitsa who appeared to be nonplussed by the announcement…but…as an outsider looking in, she could see a slight crack in the old woman's façade that told a story of its own. Impulsively, Amanda reached out and took Luminitsa's hand. “Well, it looks like we gals will have to take on the Big Apple all by ourselves.” When the Luminitsa's eyes gazed at her, she smiled. “What do you think, Grand-mère, shall your chariot be electric, or would you like me to push you?” She gave the older woman a wink. “I can't have my collaborator going around New York City in anything other than style.” Not skipping a beat, she looked directly at an open-mouthed Raphaela. “When do you leave?”
Raphaela glanced at Amanda gratefully for she had made the announcement less fraught than it might have been. Nevertheless, her beloved grand-mère still hadn't said anything, which made her sad. “A week today, I'm sorry I've taken so long to tell you.”
Luminitsa didn't say anything at first as she allowed the words and their meaning to fill her head. Am I the reason my granddaughter has found it difficult to tell us of such a marvelous opportunity? All my life I have brought up Ray to be independent. Have I, by default, chained the very essence of her independence by being a milestone around her neck? She gathered her scattered thoughts before placing a gentle hand on her granddaughter's arm. She said, “I'm very excited for you, Ray. It is a wonderful opportunity, and I wish I were young enough to go with you. Perhaps I'll leave you both to discuss your plans. I'm feeling a little tired.”
Amanda saw the concerned looks that passed between the two women and felt the sadness they both felt. She got up from her chair and put her arms around the old woman's shoulders, “You won't be alone. Either I will stay here, or you can come to my house.” She kissed the white hair tenderly. “Will you let me take Raphaela's place while she is gone?”
A tear rolled its way slowly down the aging skin of Luminitsa's cheek. She felt genuine warmth and affection from the woman who had been a stranger to them only a couple of months earlier. As Amanda's kindness permeated her being, Luminitsa now understand Amanda's role in both her and Ray's lives. She had wondered, and now, it had clarity like clear water in a glass. “My dear, you already have a special place in my heart; therefore, it is impossible for you to replace Ray, because you are already here with me. I will berate my granddaughter later for allowing us to make plans that she cannot possibly partake in. Although, it will be her loss, Amanda, two beautiful women alone in the big city—who knows what we might get up to? You enjoy your morning, and I'll catch up with you both at lunchtime.” Luminitsa saw the concern and love on her granddaughter's face and kissed the top of Ray's head whispering for only her to hear, “Don't worry, child, I really do think it's wonderful. Besides, you are my light; I carry you wherever I go.”
Amanda put her hand under Luminitsa's arm. “Let me help you back to your rooms.” She looked over her shoulder and smiled. “Don't go anywhere; I'll be right back…well, back as fast as two gimps can go.” She and Luminitsa laughed as they trundled slowly out of the room.
Five minutes later, Raphaela looked up into the warmth generating from Amanda's eyes as she came back into the room. “Thank you for doing that…I would have done it, but you beat me to it.”
“Your grandmother is a very special lady whom I'm honored to know,” Amanda said. She pulled a chair close to Raphaela and asked, “Why didn't you say anything about this sooner?”
Raphaela heard the hurt in Amanda's tone and realized that was one of the reasons she hadn't said anything. She didn't want to hurt anyone. “When I talked the position over with Sun…” Hearing the indrawn breath from Amanda told its own story as she tried again. “Sun mentioned her grandfather to me about two years ago, and I expressed an interest in finding out more about the Navajo remedies. Consequently, over the past eighteen months, Sun has been working toward that goal for me. Around the same time you came into our lives, I received the offer.”
“All this time you knew you would be leaving and kept it from me,” she touched her chest. “And, even more, you kept it from your grandmother…Raphaela that almost borders on cruelty. What did you think would happen to her? What if I hadn't come into both your lives…what would you have done then?”
Understanding in part the raw emotion, Raphaela didn't feel as hurt as she might at the stinging words.” Yes, I wanted to find the right time, particularly for my grand-mère. You see, I didn't want her to think I was being selfish and leaving her to fend for herself. Mostly because the only person we knew who could come to help at the time, my grand-mère didn't particularly care for. Then you came into our lives. It was easy to say I forgot about the offer with all that happened shortly afterward and has been evolving ever since. A part of me doesn't want to go now that I've met you, Amanda. However, another part, the greater part of who I am, knows it will be good, good for us both, and I can't ignore that, not now. Can you understand that for the first time in my life, I'm doing something, which might look selfish to an outsider, but will eventually benefit others? If you don't understand that than I really can't think of what else I can say. Perhaps you don't know me as well as you might think.”
For a long time, Amanda mulled over the words before she responded. “I am not all that concerned for me, Raphaela…it is your grandmother for whom I worry.” She took the woman's hand. “I understand your need to do this, and I applaud you for having the opportunity…” A tear rolled down her cheek. “I don't know that I will be enough for Grand-mère,” she admitted. “I've only cared for myself for so long; I'm not sure I'm equipped.” She shrugged, lifted Raphaela's hand, and kissed it gently. “We will manage, and you will be back before we even begin to miss you.”
Raphaela tried to comprehend Amanda's words. “I would never have left my grand-mère without someone to care for her, Amanda; I'm not without feeling in this matter.”
Amanda's eyes flew open. “That's not what I said at all!” Taking a deep breath, Amanda tried to push down the anger she felt. “All anyone has to do is watch how you act around your grandmother to know how much you love her! I can't believe that you took my words and twisted them around to make it sound like I said you were unfeeling.” She could feel her insides shaking with anger before the tears began to fall. “I never said that.”
Raphaela shook her head as she realized how ridiculous she was being. In a strange way, she was blaming Amanda for her own problems, and that wasn't right. “Amanda, I'm sorry, truly I am. I didn't mean to imply any such thing. I guess you could say I'm all out of sorts. This is the first time I'll have left my grand-mère alone for more than a few hours a day since we arrived in America . In Europe , we had family. Here, we haven't any who will pass the time of day with us. I'm glad you came into our lives and allowed us to be part of yours. For the record, you brought a bright light back into my grand-mère's eyes when you mentioned the show. I wish I'd thought of it years ago, thank you.”
Those were all the words Amanda needed to hear as she stood up pulling Raphaela with her. “The day you and your grandmother came into my life is the day I began living again.” She pulled Raphaela toward her and kissed her. “Everything will work out as it should,” she whispered into Raphaela's mouth before kissing her again.
Raphaela realized that with each passing day that led to the time of her departure, she was becoming more and more passionate about Amanda. Tomorrow morning, she had a 10:00 a.m. connection, and they would have to leave by 7:00 a.m . to get her there on time. Holding Amanda close, Raphaela whispered, “You could try having my grand-mère for the odd sleepover to see how it goes, although I suspect she'll want to remain in her own home. I'll let you ladies decide for me and have the answer when I get back. Okay with you?”
“Sounds good to me, but we need to take this up later. Will you wait here for me? I won't be long…I need to take care of something.” Grabbing her cell phone, she kissed Raphaela. Being in the arms of the gorgeous woman had almost made her forget her need to be elsewhere. “How about we meet back here at three, and I'll cook an early dinner?” she asked, moving in for another kiss.
Raphaela laughed at the dinner suggestion. “How about I cook dinner, and you eat? That way I'll leave with an easy conscience that you had a good meal before you go back to frozen items.” They once again embraced and their kisses became instant and passionate. Finally, Raphaela pulled back, shook her head, and sighed. “We'd better go before we both change our minds.”
Hand in hand, they left Amanda's house and walked toward the car.
>< >< ><
Raphaela had sorted through her files to ensure that everything was in order should there be a need for them while she was away. She closed the door to her small office that was little more than a broom closet. Space was at a premium in the building, but since she was the major contributor of the funds that kept the clinic open, she had that little modicum of space. The room also doubled as the main administration office with only Sun and Karen, the sole full-time clerical staff they employed, having access. She headed for the consultation office, and her hope was to see Sun to confirm the arrangements for the following day. Her thoughts drifted to earlier that day, and the surprise her friend had given her.
Hearing Sun's voice, she opened the door and smiled at her friend, then her expression changed to puzzlement as she saw Dr. Andrews seated opposite Sun in what appeared to be a briefing.
“I'm sorry, Sun,” she said. I'll call you before I leave.” Confused by Sun's greeting to “ come in” when she obviously was in the middle of a meeting, Raphaela frowned.
“No, no, Raph. This concerns you, too. Sam is going to be covering my weekend shifts. I thought I'd take a trip home and introduce you around. How does that sound?” Sun smiled first at the young man who had volunteered his weekend off to do this for her and then at her friend as she tried to gauge her reaction. When she saw the smile and bright expression in Raph's eyes, she knew she'd made the right call.
“Why that's wonderful,” Raphaela said. “Are we on the same flight?” Raphaela felt relived that Sun was going to introduce her around. She had dreaded that part and had been praying for a couple of weeks for a solution, as the date got closer.
“Yes, Karen booked me on the same flight.” Sun shrugged. “I wanted it to be a surprise for you.” When she saw the pleased look on her friend's face, she smiled. “Want me to pick you up, or shall I meet you at the airport?” She wasn't sure what arrangements Raphaela had made for getting to the airport. She had labored over her decision to go to Arizona with her friend for a couple of weeks. Initially, it was going to be a surprise, but when Amanda Lawson entered Raph's life, things became complicated. It wasn't until she talked to her grandfather several days earlier that she made her decision.
“Amanda and Grand-mère want to see me off, and I can't disappoint them. I'll meet you at the airport. See you tomorrow, Sun.” She turned to Dr. Andrews and smiled. “Thanks for the help, Sam.” Raphaela left the two to finish their discussion.
She glanced at her watch. It's two, and if I leave within the next fifteen minutes, I can catch the bus. She probably would be early, but it didn't matter, she'd rather be that than late and miss some precious time with Amanda before she left.
>< >< ><
As she waited in Amanda's house, she found it hard to associate the woman she knew now with the one she had watched several months earlier. From what had been just another case for her grand-mère and her, it was a little peculiar. The spirit world had been sending messages to all three of them informing each that she would benefit from the experience. Things had worked out spectacularly well. Not just for Amanda and her, but for her grand-mère, too. Luminitsa had gained another lease on life and had enjoyed the fact that she hadn't been the center of Raphaela's total care during the month Amanda had stayed with them. Just that morning, she and her beloved grand-mère had a long talk that made her finally accept that everything was exactly as it should be…
“My darling, Ray, don't fret so; I'm going to be just fine. Your Amanda will take care of me almost as well as you.” Luminitsa held the head of her granddaughter to her chest as they sat together as they used to do when she was child and worried over something. Age had no barriers; to Luminitsa, Ray was still the sweet, innocent child who worried about the slightest thing and tried to solve everyone's problems with little thought of what it was doing to her. That was one of the reasons she hadn't contested Ray's wish to move into herbalist remedies rather than the medium side of the family gift. With the certain possibility that Ray would become a powerful medium, they both knew it was highly likely that her life span would diminish rapidly as her power increased. Many a medium channeled all his or her energies into helping others and suffered for the work—in many instances, he or she died younger than necessary.
Ray had been the type who would experience just that, as her great-grandmother once had. The painful memory of her own mother's early death made her sad for a moment, but then she realized that Ray was her own woman. Ray had found this out long ago and chose to help others in another way and admirably, too. The path her granddaughter had chosen had been a relief in many ways. She was able to see her grow in her field but with less of the stress to her body that would occur if she had chosen Luminitsa's way. When she had announced her secret of working at the clinic, at first it hurt that her granddaughter hadn't thought she could be trusted with the knowledge. Even now, she didn't understand why it had been that way.
“I know, Grand-mère, I know. We have never really been apart.” Raphaela's voice cracked slightly.
Kissing the top of the dark head, Luminitsa smiled tenderly as she spoke. “We are never apart, Ray; you and I both know that. There comes a time in life when you have to think of yourself, my darling. For so long now, you've had to care for me along with those at your clinic and then finally, Amanda. Don't you think it's time that you gave yourself a break? Just enjoy the experience for the sake of it without the milestone of me, and yes, Amanda, around your neck for a few precious months. After all, you'll have us for the rest of your life.” Luminitsa chuckled. “A vacation without us won't be so bad.”
Raphaela looked up alarmed at her grand-mère's words. “I don't think of you or Amanda as a burden, Grand-mère. To me, you and she are what fulfill my life…it is who I am and want to be. I'm not whole without you both; I know that now.”
Cupping Raphaela's head gently in her hands, Luminitsa gave her a concentrated gaze filled with all the love she had for the child and what she had become. “Then, let it be a gift from Amanda and me. We are confident that when you have followed this dream, you'll return to us, and you will begin a fresh exciting life with Amanda.”
Eyes, glistening with unshed tears, captured the woman who had taught her everything she knew until Amanda's arrival in her life. “You're part of the fresh start, Grand-mère; we both want that. I guess three in this situation isn't a crowd.” She winked at the old woman.
“Put like that, I'm going to love the change as well. Besides, Amanda and I share things that you can't possibly understand Ray. When you get back, you might be surprised at how different we are as well.” Luminitsa smiled as she spoke for she knew it was true. Raphaela didn't have the burden of the physical disabilities she and Amanda had to toil with every hour of their lives. Together, they might learn to become a little more independent, particularly her. For so long, Raphaela had done everything for her, and she had allowed it to happen. However, watching Amanda making the strides to be less dependent on Raphaela, she realized it was time she did the same.
“I'll look forward to that, Grand-mère. Have I told you today that I love you?”
Luminitsa chuckled. “Every day in every way, my darling, Ray. Now, off with you, or Amanda will think we are conspiring against her.” Winking, she released Raphaela to go into the arms of someone she knew loved her granddaughter as much as she did.
>< >< ><
Glancing at the clock in the family room, Raphaela frowned as the hand moved on to 3:29 p.m . Where's Amanda? If there was one thing she knew about Amanda, it was that she was punctual. Her ability to be in tune with all that was happening around her was significant and well honed, but Raphaela felt woefully under informed about love.
The opening of the door brought a smile to her face. She walked quickly toward the sound and grinned when she saw Amanda. “There you are; I thought something had happened to you.”
Amanda smiled. “I'm sorry; I was at the cemetery.”
Raphaela's stomach churned as she walked quickly back into the room and took a seat. Looking up, she saw Amanda standing in the doorway with a questioning look on her face. “You were late because you were at the cemetery?” Jealousy, something she had never felt, careened unchecked around her mind. “I guess I will always have to compete with Gwen.”
Suddenly, Amanda was crouching beside her. She winced as the back of her plastic braces dug into her upper calves, but she ignored the pain. “No, no, you have it all wrong. I was there with Gwen's mother…I gave her the necklace.” She reached up and wiped a tear away from Raphaela's cheek. “Gwen is the past; you are my future,” she said with wonderment in her voice. “I love you.” The only other woman she had said those words to had been Gwen. “I love you,” she said as she struggled to get up.
Raphaela smiled gloriously as she stood up and took Amanda's hand to help her. They became lost in each other's arms as they kissed. Pulling back, Raphaela cocked her head and gazed into Amanda's blue eyes. “I love you, too. I think I always have but was too blind to see.” She stroked the woman's cheek. “I have a confession to make.”
Gently Amanda mirrored Raphaela's movements. “What?”
“Until you, I had never kissed anyone in passion...I've never made love with anyone. Will you…I mean…”
Amanda lifted Raphaela's chin then placed a slim finger over her lips. “Are you sure that is what you want?”
“Yes.” Her voice was barely above a whisper as she tried to hide her embarrassment.
Amanda drew in a breath. “After Gwen went away…” She saw the arch of Raphaela's eyebrow. “Death,” she said before continuing. “I never thought I could or want to love again. Then, you came into my life and turned it upside down in every which way, and I found myself loving you.” She leaned in and gently kissed Raphaela's cheek. “I won't lie and say I don't want you right now because I do. More than I thought possible. But, when we finally make that commitment to one another, it should be forever and not out of desperation because one of us is leaving.”
“How can you say desperation? I'm not desperate!”
“If we make love now, I won't want to let you go, and I don't think you will want to leave.” She searched Raphaela's hazel eyes. “Do you understand?”
Raphaela brought her hand up to the back of her neck and rubbed it gently. “Yes, I understand, and you're right…if we make love now, I would never want to be apart from you.”
Amanda hugged her close. “What do you say we go find your grandmother and take her out to dinner?”
“I have a better idea…let's go pick up some take out, and take that to her. She loves Kung Po chicken.”
Amanda stole a quick kiss before she picked up her keys. “Let's go.”
The three women spent the night in companionable enjoyment sharing good food and great company. That night each went to bed contented with Raphaela's upcoming departure and her ultimate return.
>< >< ><
Amanda and Luminitsa waited for Raphaela to return to the SUV with her last suitcase. Once Raphaela placed it in the third row seat, Amanda started up the vehicle and sped off toward Sun's house.
Three days earlier, Raphaela had announced over breakfast, “Sun has decided on visiting her family in Arizona and will be traveling with me. She will drive to the airport and leave her car there until her return.”
A pang of jealousy surged through Amanda, and she had to look away, unable to reply with anything other than silence. Luminitsa finally spoke up. “We are taking you to the airport, and if your friend Sun wants to ride with us, she can.” She saw Amanda's look of gratitude and smiled. “I am sure when she returns Amanda will be more than happy to collect her.”
Now, as they stopped in front of Sun's home, Amanda reached over and squeezed the old woman's wrinkled hand. A dark eye that had seen many years of events, winked at her conspirator. “All is as it should be, my dear.”
Amanda nodded as she watched the woman who owned her heart and Sun emerge from the front door. “Are you doing okay, Grand-mère?”
“Yes. In fact, I am feeling better than I have in years.” She smiled then greeted her granddaughter's friend. “Good morning, Sun.”
“Good morning,” Sun said as she put her bags in the vehicle.
Relative quiet filled the vehicle during the hour's drive to the airport. Each woman was lost in her own thoughts that reflected how each felt about the upcoming journey. For Amanda, she was bereft at Raphaela's leaving but knew it was only for a short period, and then they would start their lives together. For Luminitsa, although the thought of her granddaughter being so far away was disconcerting, she knew it was for the best. Although Sun was aware that Raphaela was only interested in her as a friend, she had a fleeting hope that their time together might change that. Raphaela had the most jumbled thought of them all–her mind filled with a combination of excitement and sadness, but she knew all would work out.
Stopping at the curb by the departures, Amanda turned to the women in the backseat. “I'll let you off here then park the car, and we will be in shortly.”
“Oh, just let us out here, and go on back home. You can't go beyond security, and I really don't think it is wise for Grand-mère to walk that far.”
Luminitsa said, “We will meet you inside.”
“But…” Raphaela looked at her grand-mère and saw that she had turned her attention out the window—the discussion was over. She opened the door. “We will wait by security for you.”
Once the two women had exited the vehicle, Amanda and Luminitsa began laughing. “If we hurry, maybe that spot over there will still be free.” Amanda pointed to a handicapped spot on the other side of the road behind a security blockade.
“Then for our surprise,” Luminitsa said with a smile.
Raphaela stood with Sun by the security area scanning the walkway from the parking garage wondering if her grand-mère and Amanda would arrive in time for them to make it to the gate before the plane departed. Her grand-mère's stroke had affected her left side, which caused her to walk at a very slow pace. Couple that with Amanda's limited abilities, and she was certain it would take them at least a half hour to travel the short distance from the parking lot. Then she saw them, her eyes opened wide, and she began to laugh. Coming down the walkway were the two women she loved most in the world. One was driving a yellow Jazzy, and the other a red one. Grand-mère will do just fine while I'm a way.
Laughing, Raphaela hugged both women. “Are you two entering in the Indianapolis electric wheelchair races?”
With a twinkling of her eye, Luminitsa looked at Amanda. “Sounds good to me.”
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