Disclaimer : Characters and situations are all from my imagination.
Warnings : Sex and love between women
Feedback : Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2011 Geonn Cannon
Nadine woke on Tuesday to find her greatest fear was realized. She brought her arm up, crossing her elbow over her nose and mouth while she coughed, and then cleared her throat. When it continued to feel dry and scratchy, she reached for the glass of water she'd left on the nightstand and drained it. She licked her lips, coughed again, and rolled over. Miranda was awake and watching her, and Nadine reassured her that she was fine.
The words came out as a croak.
Nadine put her hand to her throat, and Miranda sat up to embrace her. Nadine didn't want to cry, but the thought of losing her voice was just horrifying to her. She'd had nightmares about it. Miranda held her for a long moment and then pulled back, smoothing Nadine's sleep-mussed hair. "It's okay. We'll get you checked out by Dr. Tom, and we'll make sure this is just laryngitis like we thought. You'll take some antibiotics, take a few days off, it'll be fine. Okay?"
Nadine opened her mouth to reply, pressed her lips together, and nodded. She should have known this was coming, should have anticipated. She had coughed all through Monday's show, abusing the mute button as often as possible, and she'd had a tickle since Sunday. She had hoped it would just go away, but apparently luck wasn't on her side.
"Okay." She kissed Nadine's forehead. "How do you feel otherwise? Nauseated?" A nod. "Okay. You shower, and I'll call the station to let them know I'll be in late, and I'll call Ben to fill in for you this afternoon. Worst case scenario, you're forced to take a vacation for a couple of days. It's not the end of the world, Dean. Okay?"
Nadine nodded, and Miranda slipped out of bed to begin making her calls. Nadine pulled her knees up, wrapped her arms around them, and rested her cheek against them. She looked out the window and tried not to think of the true worst case scenarios that came with losing her voice.
Molly Page took the order slip from the steel roundabout, peeked at it, and handed it to Shane. They moved through the small prep space like well-choreographed dancers. Music was playing from a small stereo at the back of the kitchen, low enough to be considered white noise. Over the sizzle of the grill, they heard the end of a song and a disc-jockey's voice came on.
Molly glanced up at the sound of the voice; she had been expecting a woman. She looked at the clock and her frown deepened. She turned to see Shane was looking at her watch.
"Shouldn't it be the Pixie now?"
Shane nodded. "That's exactly what I was thinking."
Molly went to the radio and turned it up loud enough that they could hear without straining. "--the substitute teacher in your favorite class, so I hope you'll bear with me until the Pixie recovers. Hopefully I won't be the second-best for long." He chuckled. "I'll help you guys with the transition by shutting up and playing as much as music possible. You're listening to KELF 1220, the number one radio station on Squire's Isle. Get well, Pixie, even I'm sick of hearing myself instead of you."
David Bowie started singing about "Ch-ch-changes." Shane had joined Molly by the radio. "Recovery?"
"I don't know. I hope she's okay." She nudged Shane. "Your salmon is ready."
They went back to the prep station, both of them focusing on the meal instead of speculating on what had happened to Nadine.
Kate paused typing in the middle of a word and tilted her head toward the radio. As the replacement DJ continued talking, her frown deepened until she picked up the phone and dialed the station. "Hi, Sue. This is Kate Price at the <i> Register </i>. I'm calling-- oh. Well, any chance you have a few words for the paper? I can still get a comment in tomorrow's edition." She picked up her pencil and began to write.
When she hung up, her phone announced that she had a voicemail. She dialed it even though she had an inkling who it would be. "You have - one - new message."
Amy said, "Hon, do you know anything about the Pixie? Call me, please."
Kate hung up and dialed her partner's number.
The pad was sitting on Nadine's lap, already covered in chicken-scratch. Nadine's handwriting had a habit of trailing off into random hills and valleys that resembled English only superficially. Miranda stood by the bed Nadine was sitting on, one arm around Nadine's shoulders. "The doctor will give you some medicine to take, and she'll tell you to take it easy. That'll be that. Everything will be fine. Trust me."
Nadine clicked open her pen. <i> It could be cancer. I might need surgery, and then my voice will never be the same. </i> She held up the pad and Miranda glared at her until she put it down again. She added, <i> Well, it's possible. We might as well be prepared for that. </i>
Miranda kissed the top of Nadine's head. "You're such a brat."
Rachel Tom smiled as she came into the room. "Sorry it took so long."
Nadine tapped her pen against the pad, then underlined the word cancer. Miranda rolled her eyes. "Please tell my wife that she doesn't have cancer."
Rachel arched an eyebrow, looked down at her chart and studied it carefully. "Not that I know of. But I didn't search everywhere. When someone comes in with laryngitis we tend to focus our efforts on the throat." She winked at Nadine. "You take great care of your voice, Nadine. You don't smoke or drink, and you come to the hospital to get checked out for a simple bacterial infection just to make sure it's not something worse. Since you did that, I can prescribe some great antibiotics that should clear it up in two or three days."
Nadine scribbled, and Miranda tilted her head so she could read it as it was being written. "Today is Tuesday, two or three days means Friday." Nadine looked up plaintively.
Rachel said, "I wouldn't recommend jumping right back on the air. Take the weekend."
Nadine wrote <i> Six days off work?! </i> She added a few more exclamation points and then underlined it.
"Six days or risk permanent damage to your voice," Rachel said. "Just take it easy. Keep that pad handy and let Miranda take care of you. I can't write a prescription for soup--"
"I'll make sure she's taken care of." She stroked Nadine's hair and kissed her temple. Nadine was sulking, staring helplessly at her pad.
Rachel squeezed Nadine's arm. "I'll leave you two alone. I'll fill your first prescription down at the pharmacy and bring it in before you go."
Once she was gone, Nadine sighed heavily. She looked at Miranda, her lips screwed into an expression that made Miranda laugh.
"I told you. A couple of days off work. It's going to be over before you know it, and then you'll be begging for some rest and relaxation."
Another heavy sigh. Miranda rolled her eyes and playfully squeezed Nadine's arm tighter. "Yeah, <i> that </i> is going to get really... really... annoying this week. Come on. Let's go see what lovely drugs the nice Dr. Tom is going to give you."
Thick rivers of water ran down the driveway from the apparatus bay, joining into a river at the curb before traveling downhill toward a drain. Alex Crawford was in her standard off-duty gear, black trousers and a navy blue T-shirt with FHFD written on the back in large white letters. Rachel had convinced her to add "Chief" underneath it, even though she was the only official employee of the volunteer fire department. A small stereo tuned to KELF was sitting in the window between the garage and her office, Billy Joel complaining that it was still rock and roll to him. Alex was almost done washing the engine when the song ended.
She hadn't been paying attention before, but she was now. The disc-jockey was a man, despite the fact it was well into Nadine's time. Alex glanced at the stereo, perterbed, and finished what she was doing before she walked across the bay. She bent down just long enough to switch from stereo to CD.
Miranda kept her hands on the wheel when her cell started ringing. Nadine reached over and fished it out of her pocket, checked the display, and flipped it open. She turned the phone on speaker and held it in front of Miranda. "Miranda Powell."
"Hi, Ms. Powell. This is Susan, from the station?" Miranda smiled. "I just wanted to let you know we were getting a lot of calls about Nadine. Ben wasn't sure how much he could say on the air, so he just said she was sick. After that we started getting a bunch of calls, including one from Kate Price at the <i> Register </i>. Is it okay--"
Nadine was already nodding. "Sue, that's fine. We just got back from the hospital and it's just laryngitis. Dean's going to take a little time off to rest and recuperate and she should be back Monday."
"Friday," Nadine croaked.
"She'll be back on Monday at the earliest." Miranda glared pointedly at Nadine, who wisely shut up. "Tell Ben he can reveal that on the air."
"Will do, Ms. Powell. Is she with you?"
"She's holding the phone."
"Nadine, hurry back! We already miss you."
Nadine smiled and mouthed her thanks, which Miranda conveyed to the receptionist. They said their goodbyes and Nadine hung up. "I'm not gonna make it until Monday." She winced and pressed her hand against her throat.
"No, you're not, if you keep talking. Dr. Tom says you'll be better by Friday, and then you'll have the whole weekend to get back to a hundred percent. Make me mad, and I'll force you to wait until Wednesday."
Nadine sagged against the seat, crossed her arms, and looked out the window at the town as they passed. She should have been on the air, and being outside was weird. She felt like a kid playing hooky. She sighed heavily.
"Dean, seriously. Please stop doing that."
Nadine put her elbow on the door and rested her head on her fist.
On Wednesday, Nadine tried to say hello to Miranda when she woke up. She hoped the antibiotics had done their magic while she slept but, if anything, the croak was worse. She took another dose, took a bath, and then sulked around in her pajamas until Miranda left for work. She tried listening to the radio, but that experiment ended when she started thinking of how she would read the news, or introduce a song. She finally went back to bed in the hopes that if she got three days worth of sleep into twenty-four hours, it would have the same healing effect as three full nights.
Amy Wellis left the radio on all Wednesday morning, but she switched to prerecorded music during Nadine's usual time slot. She also sold the Pixie cookies, but this morning she'd asked Stephanie to redo the icing so that it read "Get Well Soon." It was incredibly odd to not have her voice in the air, and the entire store felt different. Patricia Hood-Colby came in on her way home from work and shook her head.
"I usually have the radio on when I eat lunch at my desk, but today--"
"Yeah. What's the point?" Amy bagged up the cookies and handed it over the counter. "I hope she's not out for long."
"Here's hoping. Thanks, Amy."
Amy waved as she left and moved on to the next customer.
"Did you see this?"
Patricia looked at the paper as she went by. She had skimmed it while cooking breakfast, and then she abandoned it to Jill while she took a shower and dressed. "What, in particular?"
"Nadine Butler is sick."
"What? The Pixie?" Patricia stopped in her tracks, turning to look back at the paper. "Is it serious?"
"No, no. But she's taking the week off." She leaned back in her seat and picked up her coffee. "I know she's taken vacations before, but she announces those. This is weird. This is like she's just suddenly... gone."
Patricia nodded. "I understand that." She rested her hand on the fridge handle without opening it. It seemed like so long ago that she had turned on the radio at lunch and stumbled onto the drama playing out in the KELF studios. Nadine Butler, essentially forced out of her job for being gay, was taking a stand. She was holding the studio hostage, taking the last show she had been promised, and demanding that she be taken seriously. Patricia had been mostly in the closet then, divorced, jumping from one bed to the next without thought of ever settling down.
Then Nadine came along, and suddenly Patricia didn't care if people knew. If Nadine could announce it over the air to an island full of strangers, then how hard would it be to tell a friend? A coworker? She looked at Jill, who had come into her life right around that same time. Nadine had helped take down Patricia's walls, and Jill had walked right in.
"We should send her a card or something."
Patricia nodded. "Yeah. A card at the very least." She smiled. "Or maybe a boat."
Jill laughed. "What?"
"Nothing. Never mind. I'll look for cards on my lunch break."
"Dean..." A kiss on her cheek followed the whisper. "Wake up."
Nadine reluctantly opened her eyes and blinked at Miranda. It was Thursday, the third day of her imprisonment, and she had only gotten grumpier. It was noon, judging by the sunlight on the wall, and Nadine stretched before she sat up.
"Come out into the living room. There's something I want you to see."
Nadine got up and pulled on her robe. She followed Miranda into the living room and frowned when she saw something strung across the door to the kitchen. She pulled her glasses out of the pocket of her robe and put it on, blinking at the words.
"GET WELL SOON PIXIE! WE LOVE YOU!"
Miranda embraced Nadine from behind. "From Jill Hood-Colby's fifth grade class. A lot of the teachers signed it, too. They made it yesterday while you were, you know, hibernating."
Nadine turned around in Miranda's arms. She mouthed, 'thank you.'
"I thought you could use a little pick-me-up. Mrs. Hood-Colby dropped it off this morning and I knew I had to show it to you as soon as possible." She leaned in, but Nadine pushed her away. "Hey. You think I'm worried about germs? Lay one on me, sick girl." They kissed, and Miranda slipped her hands into Nadine's robe. "I plan on spending my entire lunch break here. So if you'd rather sleep and mope, let me know now." She kissed her way down Nadine's neck. "Seriously. Just say the word and I'll leave you alone."
Nadine kept her mouth shut as she was lowered onto the couch.
"Just one no..."
"Sh, sh, sh," Nadine said. Miranda chuckled and stopped teasing.
Nadine rolled over and snuggled against Miranda. It was still before dawn on Friday. Nadine kissed the hollow of Miranda's throat and, without thinking, said, "Good morning, baby."
"Hey. I heard that."
"Hey." Nadine sat up and touched her throat. "Hey. Hey! It's still a little scratchy."
"You're not up to par, but you're definitely on the mend."
Nadine sighed, but it was a happy sound this time. She fluffed up her pillow and faced Miranda. "Thanks for putting up with me this week."
"Sickness and health. It's right there in those promises we made."
The shirt Miranda slept in had ridden up, exposing her belly, and Nadine began to stroke the smooth skin of her belly. "Well, once I'm completely healthy, I'll repay you for everything you put up with while I was unhealthy."
"Oh, really? What might that entail? Could I have a sneak preview?"
Nadine grinned and ducked under the blankets.
Susan glanced up as Miranda walked in the front doors of KELF Radio, and her eyes widened when she saw who was coming in behind her. "Ms. Butler! Oh, I am <i> so </i> glad to see you. How are you feeling?"
"A little better. Miranda has promised to let me say a few words at the top of my time slot."
"I'm glad you're here." She picked up a thick stack of papers from her desk.
Nadine gasped. "You're going to make me work?"
"No, no. These are all the get-well cards that have shown up in the past few days." She handed them over and Nadine stared in disbelief at the stack.
"These are all for me?"
"There are some more phone messages, but those are up on your desk."
Nadine put an arm around Susan and hugged her tight. "Thank you for gathering them all up for me. And thanks for... well, for being you."
Susan laughed. "I'll try to keep it up."
They walked upstairs together, and Nadine sat at her desk to go through all the messages. They had the morning team mention the forthcoming announcement at the top of the eleven o'clock hour. Nadine read the notes until the appointed time, and then she and Ben went into the broadcasting booth together. She took her seat, put on her headphones, and smiled. She was home.
When the ON AIR light came on, Nadine leaned forward to the mic. "Good afternoon, Squire's Isle. You're not hearing things, but I hope my voice isn't too rough. I didn't want to make you wait any longer than you had to for the good news. I'm on the mend, and I'm going to be back here in my regular time slot come Monday. I didn't just want to make that announcement; I also wanted to thank everyone for the cards and calls that came in while I was out.
"It seems like every time I'm as down as I can get, you all come through for me. I don't know what I did to earn your loyalty and your dedication, but I can't thank you enough." She reached up and touched her throat, which had started burning when the tears started. Her voice was getting scratchier with every minute and she rushed to finish. "I started this job because I loved the island, and the people of this island. And now I know that the island feels the same about me. I'll spend this weekend doing everything I can to get a hundred percent so I can come back, good as new, this Monday. Ben?"
"Thanks, Pixie. And everyone else who might have tuned in late... yeah, that's right, I know you guys have been tuning out, and I totally understand... I'll be replaying her message every hour on the hour so you can all hear it for yourselves. She's slipping out the door, so everyone say goodbye to the Pixie. In about three minutes--"
Nadine shut the door on the broadcast booth and went to Miranda's office. She hooked her thumb over her shoulder. "I'm going to take your car and go home."
"Okay. How's your voice?"
"You're right. I need to take the weekend."
"I'm glad you can admit when you're wrong."
Nadine shook her head. "I didn't say that. I said you were right. Different thing entirely. Walk me downstairs?" Miranda nodded and took Nadine's hand. They went downstairs together, Nadine took another hug from Susan, and they stepped outside. They were almost to the garage when a passing car honked at them.
"What was that abo--"
A car several blocks over honked as well. Before Nadine could question it, horns were sounding all over the island. Nadine stopped walking and looked around. Miranda was laughing.
"You didn't hear what Ben said, did you?"
"No. What's going on?"
"Ben told everyone to honk their horns in three minutes." She held out her hands to indicate the bleating sound of cars all around them. "The island is saying welcome back."
Nadine laughed and her tears started up again. She put her arm around Miranda's waist and pressed hard against her side. "Well. It's certainly nice to be appreciated."
On Monday, Kate checked her watch. She reached up at two minutes to eleven and turned on the little radio over her work station.
Amy had the radio on all morning, but she turned it up just before Nadine's show started.
Rachel put her file on the counter of the nurses' station. She began filling it out and, after checking her watch, glanced at the head nurse. "Excuse me, could you turn up the radio, please? There's something I want to hear."
Nadine slipped on her headphones. She checked her play list, turned her eyes briefly to the clock hanging high on the wall, and flicked a switch with her thumb. She leaned toward the microphone like she was going to whisper something in a lover's ear. "Hi, Squire's Isle. I'm back. I'd ask if you missed me, but--" She looked at the cards that were lying by her hand. "I think I already know the answer to that. So why don't we get the formalities out of the way? I'm Nadine Butler, the Pixie, and I'm back. Here's hoping I won't ever leave you again. Let's start with a little John Sebastian. This song is more famous as a theme song, so I think you'll all know at least most of the words. Sing along, please, and it'll be like you're all singing it to me. This is 'Welcome Back,' the theme from <i> Welcome Back, Kotter .</i> You're listening to KELF 1220."
Molly squeezed a lemon onto the fish she'd been preparing as she sang along. She handed the plate to Shane, who took it to the window as she harmonized.
The dispatcher had her radio playing quietly, but it was still loud enough to be heard across the bullpen to Sheriff Cal Rucker's open office door. He tapped the tip of his pen against the desk, skimming one of Randall White's reports as he sang along under his breath.
Alex moved a little faster as she worked out, huffing and puffing along with the song.
All over the island, people sang along with the first song of Nadine's first show back. "Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back."
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