Connecting Hearts

by Cephalgia & MJ

Disclaimers: This is an original work of fiction by Cephalgia and MJ. We are proud of it and prefer that you not move or post to any site without contacting us first.

Warnings: Violence: no. Sex: yes, some graphic. Language: mostly English but a few mild swear words also. Unless otherwise attributed, the poetry in this work is the property of and is copy righted by MJ. Please do not purloin, abuse or tamper with it in any way.

Thanks: Cephalgia would like to thank Jane W. for her expertise in the field of Neurology and insights into ALS. MJ would like to thank Monica C. for her inside information. The authors would like to express their thanks to one another, but felt it would be a bit too sentimental and will therefore only admit to a Mutual Admiration Society.

Feedback is always welcome at or

Part 2

Chapter 6

"Junk mail- delete, junk mail-delete, spam-delete, see Britney Spears doing what? Eww, delete immediately and hope my eyes haven't been permanently injured by even seeing such a thing!"

Randa continued methodically cleaning out her e-mail inbox, not overjoyed to see how much garbage had slipped past her so-called inbox protector. After removing multiple e-mails promoting get-rich schemes, claims of lower mortgage rates and websites promising "the best hardcore action on the net", Randa was left with three messages that didn't appear to be trash can material. The first was from her mother showing off the newly acquired computer skills she had picked up at the community center's adult education class. The nurse smiled and tapped out a quick reply to her mom congratulating her on transitioning to the 21st century.

"What will be next for you, Mom? Space travel?" she typed. The message was sent through the ether by a quick click of the "send" tab. The second message was from Derek giving Randa her schedule for the next month. He also included the amount of sick and vacation time she had accrued thus far as an employee of Brightwood Pharmaceuticals Incorporated. She noted with pleasure the generous fringe benefits given by the company and realized the employer was serious about retaining their nurses.

The final e-mail had a sender listed as DJ@midengland

"DJ! I don't believe it! She actually wrote!" Randa was astonished as she opened the e-mail to see the English woman had indeed sent her a message. The nurse read through the text carefully then leaned back in her chair to consider her reply. The blades of the ceiling fan rotated slowly overhead stirring the still warm evening air.

"Okay, Randa, now don't blow this. You said you wanted to help so try not to mess things up." The blond pondered how to best express her support for the woman who was dealing with some heavy emotional issues. She mentally rehearsed several approaches and rejected them all as too patronizing, too trite or too somber. Honesty had always been Randa's stock in trade and she decided that wasn't going to change now. The only way to show she understood what DJ was going through was to share some of her own experience. Though she wasn't sure why, Randa wanted DJ to know her, trust her and if she was candid with herself, like her as well. That was unusual for the nurse. Oh she made acquaintances very quickly with her easy smile and slightly wicked sense of humor but friends, really good friends, were a precious few. Why was it so important to make a good impression on a person who had sent her a single e-mail? Randa didn't have a clue and yet she knew it was important somehow. Sitting back up in the chair she used the mouse to tap the "reply" tab on DJ's note.

Dear DJ,

I'm very happy you contacted me; to be truthful I wasn't sure you would. I tried to put myself in your place and all I could see was someone poking her nose in where it might not be wanted or needed. I hope your vision is better than mine and you can see someone who genuinely wants to help and support you in any way possible. I've been a nurse for six years and though I don't know your aunt, I have known many people in her situation. Your aunt has received news that must have been damn near devastating. She now knows the manner and approximate time of her death and that can't be easy. I can tell from your e-mail you were really bothered by your aunt's decision to make out a living will. I can understand how you might feel as if she has taken the first step toward leaving you but I see it as something completely different. I see the action taken by her to be courageous and loving.

Her courage shows in the determination she has to have a say in how her life finishes. By making her wishes known she maintains a little of the decision making ability that you know she will lose soon enough. I'd be willing to bet she has been a strong willed and independent woman during her life. She shows her love by not forcing you to decide what will be done at the end. It doesn't seem like a loving gesture now but I can assure you it is.

Two years ago my father had a massive stroke. He clung to life a few days during which time my mother had to make very hard choices. Should she opt to keep him on life support when all hope of a meaningful recovery was gone? Would he have wanted to have artificial feeding when it would only prolong the inevitable? My mother didn't know because they never talked about it or made plans. They thought they had all the time in the world. I saw what my mother went through, DJ, and it was nothing short of hell. I am so happy your aunt has spared you that. She must love you a great deal.

I hope what I have told you makes it easier to understand your aunt's desire to make a living will and that it will help you accept her wishes. If I can help you by answering any questions you might have please contact me again. And DJ, if you just need someone to talk to I'd like to be here for that also.

Sincerely, Randa

Randa closed her e-mail session and shut the computer down. Feeling drained, she wandered into the kitchen and pulled a cold Corona from the refrigerator. Making short work of the cap, the nurse took a long pull of the golden brew then dragged the cool bottle across her forehead, down the side of her face and across her neck and upper chest. With a sigh she ambled out the back door to watch the remainder of the evening sunset. The sun had nearly slipped behind the hill and the red-gold rays cast a bronze color to the farmhouse and field.

Maybe next year I'll plant some wildflowers out here or maybe blanket the area with some golden poppies and let them just go wild. Randa wished, not for the first time, that she had someone to share the remarkable beauty of her home with. One day, she thought. One day.

The last fragment of sun receded from sight and a purple shadow enveloped the hillside. Not far off a young coyote yipped and barked into the early evening. Randa turned to go back inside the house when she spied the book of poetry she had once again left in the hammock. Picking up the volume she spoke to the mysterious figure on the back cover.

"I need your magic tonight, my poet. I'm afraid I've gotten myself into quite a state. Guess writing about my dad in the e-mail brought back some things I thought I was over but maybe I'm not so sure now. So, what have you got to take my mind off my problems?" The nurse strolled to the couch and made herself comfortable against the cushions. Closing her eyes, she began flipping the pages of the book back and forth. Dropping her index finger to a page, the blonde picked a poem out at random.

In the blackest of nights

I yearn for you

When the darkness takes its toll

My weeping heart cries out for love

To ease my tortured soul

Through a haze of tears

I seek you

Weighed down by my turbulent fears

My spirit blinded by loneliness

Had been searching all these years

When I close my eyes

I'm alone no more

Your arms keep me safe through the night

But as the sunshine graces the dawning sky

I'm alone in the morning light.

Randa closed "Derbyshire Dreams" and wondered again how it was that Ms. Jennings saw so clearly into her soul. "Maybe tonight I'll dream of your arms, my poet. Like you though, I'll be alone in the morning." Randa shut her eyes, meaning only to rest them for a moment but slipped away effortlessly into the arms of Morpheus and the poet.


The sudden, loud and obnoxious sound of the radio alarm clock blasted its wake up call into the darkened bedroom. Denise jumped, releasing the empty glass that she had held in her hand all night and sent it hurtling across the bedroom. It hit the magnolia wall with a resounding smash and shattered over the carpeted floor. Doing her best to refrain from cursing, Denise reached over and slammed her hand on the 'off' button, instantly rendering the room to a peaceful quiet.

With a sigh, the poet dropped her head back to a lime pillow as she stared over at the broken glass on the floor. "Last time I take a drink of juice to bed with me." She muttered and closed her eyes. Damn it! She knew that she should do something about the mess her surprise knee-jerk reaction had created but her sleep filled mind refused to lighten.

Rubbing tired blue eyes, Denise looked back at the notebook on her table and the pen lying precariously upon that and the ledge of the unit. She had gone to bed with the intent of writing the night before and her mind had somehow managed to construct two poems that she was damned sure she would never release. They just felt too personal. With a sudden frown, Denise took her pen and book again. She had an urge to bring to life the remnants of a dream that she suddenly remembered having last night.

A minute later a gentle tapping drew the poet from her writing. She looked up as Sara poked her head around the corner of her door and switched on the main light.

"The sounds of breaking glass led me to believe that you were finally awake!"

Denise smiled as her eyes adjusted to the brightness. "Yeah I'll clean it up in a moment, I just have to write this down."

"Late night?" The old woman asked.

Denise nodded.

Sara nodded and walked further into the room. "The publishers called earlier. They want to talk to you about something pertaining to the sales of your latest book. Apparently they are the best yet and it's also led to further sales of your other books. That was all I could get out of Carl, he said he needed to talk to you to discuss the rest of the call."

"Fine." Denise finished her writing and placed the notebook back down on her unit. "I'll ring him later." Swinging her long legs out of the large bed Denise slipped on her boots and walked over to the scattering of broken glass. "How are you feeling today, Sara?"

"Not bad at the moment. I got up feeling quite fine so I cooked a little breakfast, yours is in the oven, and now I am or was washing some pots. That was until I heard the smashing." She shook her head and looked Denise up and down with a quirky smile. "You know, honey? You really do create quite an image. Blue and white gingham shorts, those incredibly long legs of yours and great big, black, clog-hopping boots!" Sara chuckled as Denise placed broken glass onto a sheet of paper. "You are going to create quite an impression on the person who steals your heart, love."

The dark woman narrowed her eyes. "But what if I don't want to give my heart away? I think I write my best stuff like this."

"You are not going to be a martyr to your work, DJ. I swear one day you will find that somebody who makes you want to write - as you call it, 'Through the eyes of love'." She fluttered her eyes.

Denise rose to her full height and folded her arms, tapping one booted foot on the navy carpeted floor. "Uh huh!" An eyebrow rose in scepticism.

"Don't you look at me in that tone of voice, missy. You are not too big to be put over my knee."

Trying to keep away the smirk that threatened to betray her stoic façade, the poet shook her head. The line was one of Sara's favourites that she would use in getting a young DJ to do as she was told. It had worked too, even when the young woman had reached the height of five foot five at the age of thirteen. She smirked.

"Anyway." Sara moved back over to the door, feeling weary. "I'm going to lie down for a while."

A shadow of concern clouded Denise's face. "Are you okay?"

"Fine, fine. I just feel a little tired." Sara smiled to her niece as she exited the bedroom and closed the door behind her.

Out in the hallway, the old woman sighed as she leaned against the wall. She had wanted to go back down stairs but the sudden numbness in her body and usual cramping in her right hand had returned and she felt she needed to rest. Moving away from the narrow, and somewhat steep stairway, she walked slowly into her bedroom and straight to her bed. Her throat felt suddenly very tight, yet she knew at that moment she wouldn't be able to drink anything to ease the discomfort, swallowing suddenly felt like a chore. She would have to wait it out; Sara knew it would ease eventually.


"You've got to be kidding me!" Denise said down the phone as she sat at her desk, playing her favourite game of 'Mah Jongg' on the computer.

"I kid you not, DJ. I am telling you, they are willing to pay fifty-five thousand pounds just to get an interview with D Jennings and disprove many un-substantiated and well talked about rumours!" Carl said.

Denise looked incredulously down the phone as if thinking her publisher could actually see her expression. "What kind of rumours?" She stopped playing her game.

An amused chuckle rang in the poet's ears. "Well for a start, is D Jennings really a woman? Does she shy from the public eye due to some kind of disfigurement that she hides from the world? Are you a travelling gypsy with a tormented mind?"

"What?" Denise laughed.

"Oh but wait this is the best one," Carl exclaimed. "Is D Jennings really a hermaphrodite with the face of a woman yet the voice and tackle of a man? I must admit that's one of my personal favourites."

Still laughing the poet shut down the game's screen and slumped in her chair. "Sod them. Let them think what they want, it's much more fun this way."

"It's a lot of money, DJ."

"Oh so what." She muttered. "Carl you have known me for four years now. Hell you know what I look like. Just tell that magazine whatever you want, it makes no difference to me." The poet propped her feet up upon the corner of her desk. Still wearing her heavy boots, they clumped against the thick wood.

"DJ, I should tell you that they will up the offer if you don't accept this one. They are really serious about this."

"So the hell am I. Look, Carl, just say thanks but no thanks, I don't want to be interviewed. Got it?"

"Yeah I've got it, DJ. Okay, well I better get going then. Are you coming in soon to do lunch?"

Denise bit her lip. "Um, no sorry, Carl. I've got a lot on at the moment. I'll have to take a rain check on that one okay?"

"Sure, DJ. I'll be in touch. Bye."

"See you later, Carl."

Denise placed the phone back on the receiver and rolled her eyes. She'd had requests for interviews from one source or another for some years now and she had never given in, even as the money offered rose in amount. She wondered when people would get the hint and realised that she didn't want to hear their offers. She didn't want it. She wasn't interested. It just wasn't her.

Maybe it was the same with relationships, Denise thought. She could count them without the aid of the fingers of one hand! None. She had never been in a relationship. Ever. It used to trouble her aunt, confuse her friend Michelle, but for Denise it was simple. She didn't want it. She wasn't interested. It just wasn't her. She would admit, if only to her own self, that it wasn't so much a case of wanting to live the rest of her life alone. She just didn't want the commotion of moving from one bad relationship after another - all in the quest of finding 'the one'. She had seen it with Michelle. The woman was a sailor in the navy who seemed to have a beau in every port. If she liked to live her life that way, Denise was happy for her friend, but it was not the way for her. It was that simple.

Rubbing her thigh with her right hand, Denise realised that at some point in the day she really should get dressed. Walking around looking like, as Sara put it, "A reject from the Max Wall 'looky likey' brigade" was not productive. Besides, she had thought, who the hell is 'Max Wall' anyway?

Sara did seem much brighter today, Denise noted. Well at first, she thought. She had noticed that Sara did make a sudden departure and had then found her reclining upon the surface of her bed, resting. That had instantly worried Denise, but Sara had assured her that although she did feel a little tired earlier, she now felt better. The poet did believe her, but also noticed that Sara did favour her left hand slightly more than her right and Denise knew it was the right hand that suffered cramping.

Turning her attention back to her computer, the poet placed her glasses upon her nose as she accessed her inbox and scrolled down the page as she sorted through the junk and relevant mail. Denise frowned suddenly. "Who's M Martin?" She muttered, then dark eyebrows shot towards her hairline as she suddenly remembered. "Nurse Randa!" With a flutter of inquisitiveness the poet opened the link and read her mail.

Denise read over the nurse's reply, then again. She smiled slightly as she began to type her own reply.


First of all I would like to thank you for getting back to me.

You are right in stating that it bothers me that she made a living will. It became yet another confirmation that this disease was and is a reality, and that is the hardest part to accept. Being so unexpected I don't think I reacted as well as I should have, for Sara's sake. Family-wise she is all I have left.

I also want to thank you for telling me about your father; I can imagine that it must have been a difficult time for you. Knowing how I feel now I can imagine how it must have been for you. Somehow I feel sad that you had to go through that.

It seems that you have already gained an insight into my aunt's persona. Yes she is and always has been a strong willed and independent woman and had on many occasions in my disgruntled teens kicked my sorry behind into shape! I owe her a lot.

It is a relief to finally be able to talk to somebody about this, as I have been less than forthcoming with others. I have been trying to avoid talking about it even though I know maybe some people do have a right to know. It will be a hard subject to broach.

Well I don't want to take up any more of your time, so thank you again for responding. It means a lot to know there is somebody who is willing to listen to my ramblings of woe!


Oh and by the way. I don't see somebody who is poking her nose in where it doesn't belong… Unless of course you are too subtle even for me!


Denise emerged from her study after sending her mail, to find Sara standing in the kitchen. The old woman placed her hands on her hips as she studied her niece's appearance. "DJ, it's almost lunch time. Please tell me you are planning on looking more presentable for the rest of the day?" She shook her head.

Denise held up her hands. "I'm on my way right now!"


As Denise turned to leave the kitchen Sara picked up the tea towel that was lying on the side and coiled it into a whip before striking it across her nieces behind.

With a startled grunt Denise whirled around to see Sara diligently inspecting a large tin of mushroom soup. She looked up innocently. "I am planning on making soup for lunch so don't take too long getting ready, dear."

Narrowing her eyes the poet backed out of the kitchen. "Uh huh!" She said as she disappeared from view.

A mischievous smirk spread across Sara's lips. "Oh, DJ, you are just so much fun to tease." She said and then frowned as the cramp in her hand intensified

Chapter 7

Mushroom soup. Mushroom soup. Randa finally found the spot on the shelf where she kept the canned soups and added the can in her hand to it. Vowing to get some sort of system in place before the next grocery shopping expedition, the nurse finished putting the remainder of her purchases away and headed to the refrigerator for a bottle of water. Looking at the "to-do" list posted on the door, she noted with some satisfaction that all of her self-assigned tasks for the day had been completed. Grocery shopping, oil change on the pick-up, workout and cleaning out the tool shed had been on the list and now the last item was crossed off.

Woo-hoo, the rest of the day is mine! Randa thought. Time to engage in a little guilty pleasure. Randa ambled toward her computer whistling tunelessly. She pushed the master switch on the machine and as it booted the thrill of the hunt thrummed through her veins.

"By day, mild mannered nurse Randa Martin works for a major pharmaceutical company but later she's Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, who fights a never ending battle for truth, justice and the American way!" Randa was certain she had mixed her superheroes so she added "in the bat cave" for good measure. Finding the program she wanted, the nurse proceeded to dispatch bats, wolves, bears and mummies with her blazing automatic pistols. An hour later she had wreaked as much havoc as she could and Randa closed down the program. Rising, she strolled with an elegant grace through the living room and into the kitchen, her feet gliding across hardwood then linoleum flooring.

"Lady Croft returns to her manor deep in the English county of Derbyshire. Jeeves, you may bring me tea!" Randa popped open the refrigerator door and grabbed a Snapple off the top shelf. Eyeing recently purchased produce she added "and you may peel me a grape as well!" Taking her selections back into the living room the nurse had every intention of settling on the couch and devoting the afternoon to a showing of Casablanca on the classic movie channel. Passing the computer again she noted the icon for new mail was flashing. A glance at her watch told Randa she had enough time to see what had been delivered to her inbox before the start of the film. Settling in quickly she moved the mouse to bring up her e-mail. Under "New Mail" was a single message. Green eyes twinkled with happiness when she saw the sender.

Don't get so excited, Randal. She might just be writing to tell you she thinks you're as full of crap as a Christmas goose.

As the e-mail popped up Randa became less and less sure of herself until she had read the message through at least twice. Score! she thought. Relief washed over the nurse and she hopped out of her chair to do a small dance of victory, arms raised in the air. She sobered suddenly, realizing the woman had practically said that Randa was the only one she was talking to about the problems in her and her aunt's lives. Feelings of responsibility mixed with something akin to pleasure at that thought. The blond paced the floor a few minutes grasping the fact that she was something of a lifeline to the woman from England. Lifeline. So be it then, she thought, I'm ready for this. I want to do this. DJ needs somebody and it's going to be me. Randa returned to the computer and hit the compose tab.

Dear DJ,

First I want to assure you it is never going to be an imposition for you to write to me and I want you to feel free to do so at any time. I consider it an honor to be taken into your confidence. It struck me as I was reading your note that really you know nothing of me except that I am a nurse. I hope you wont think I'm too forward if I tell you a little about myself. Maybe if you know something of who I am, it will be easier to communicate with me. Well, I'm 29 years old and I was born near where I live now in Silver Valley, California. (I see by your e-mail address you live in England, someplace I've always wanted to see and one day will.) You've heard about my family; my Mom is all I have in the world since my Dad died. I moved into an old farmhouse about a year ago and its from here I do my work on the Brightwood Information Network. You know, the only thing I ever wanted to be was a nurse. Sounds stupid to some people but I knew what I wanted to do from an early age.

I need you to know it wasn't easy to share the story of my dad's death, but I realized a few years ago if I wanted to help others then I needed to be willing to share my experiences with them. Actually I didn't come to this epiphany by myself, it was the inspiring words of a favorite poet. She said:

What you learn you must teach, give with all of your heart

Your pleasure will be your reward

And together we'll build through the faults of the past

A future for lives yet told

What an insight. I think of those lines every time I'm tempted to withdraw into myself and not give everything I know I'm capable of.

Your Aunt Sara sounds like a real firecracker. I hope this will sustain her through her illness. But what of you, DJ? What will sustain you? Do you have the support you need? If you would permit it I would like to be that support. It's my humble opinion you can't have too many friends and though I can't quite put into words why, I have a real premonition we will become great friends. So much for me possibly being subtle, huh? I sometimes think if there was an award for bluntness it would be sitting on my mantle.

So, DJ, how are you doing?

Regards, Randa

Nothing like pushing yourself on the woman, Miranda. Well, if she doesn't want me she only has to say so but until that happens I'm going to try to be the kind of friend I would want in this situation. Randa hit the send tab and sped her message on its way. As the confirmation notice appeared, the nurse felt an unfamiliar sense of loneliness spread through her, a sensation she hadn't noticed while writing to the English woman. Maybe DJ isn't the only one who needs a friend Randa thought. Shrugging off the idea, the blond headed to the couch to spend the remainder of the afternoon with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in North Africa.


The ringing of the phone woke Randa with a start. She remembered watching Bogie and Claude Raines walking off into the fog together but then things became a little foggy for her as well. Fumbling for the phone a grumpy blond mumbled "This better be important."

"Cripes, Randa, is that anyway to talk to your best friend?"

"No, Derek, and if I had caller ID on this phone I probably never would!"

"Ouch, Randa, I'm wounded. Oh, wait let me guess, I woke Sleeping Beauty up?"

"Is it that painfully obvious? What's up, Derek?" The nurse rubbed sleepy eyes and barely suppressed a yawn.

"Well, I am just a harbinger of news, sweet thing. You know that poet you literally drool over? I just read some juicy stuff about her on the web."

"D Jennings?" Derek had Randa's attention now. "What vile gossip have you picked up about her? And I do not drool."

"Oh, that's right, drooling requires a moist area a little higher than where yours is. Don't lie to the best friend, you know damn good and well you hang on every word that woman has ever written. Now listen up, I read she is going to finally give an interview to some rag over in England. Maybe now you'll get all those juicy details you want."

"It would be great if it were true but I can't believe it. She's never said anything to anybody. Sorry, Derek, as far as I know D Jennings doesn't talk to anyone."

"Too bad for you then, Randa darlin,' if that's true. I was hoping you'd be able to get a few words right from the horse's mouth."

"Impossible. I just don't get that lucky, Derek. Nope, I don't get that lucky."


What Denise thought had started as a particularly decent day had pretty much gone down hill from the moment the first dark storm cloud edges its way over the bright morning sky. She had stood, looking out from her bedroom window at a small disused and abandoned mine. It's steel structure jutting up above the ground, marring the otherwise picturesque landscape. Then the clouds had come, covering the brightness of the day with a shrouded air of gloom.

It was then, as the first shower of rain fell onto the earth, that Denise had heard it; the sounds of yet another falling object hitting the floor with a heavy impact. Jumping from the window, Denise ran from her bedroom and into her aunt's room to find it empty so she turned towards the bathroom instead. She froze in the doorway, not expecting the scene that was in front of her.

Sara lay on the floor. She had obviously just had a shower, as the towel was still wrapped around her body, providing a slight amount of dignity to the fallen woman. When she realized it was in fact Sara that had fallen, the poet ran to assist the distraught woman lying helplessly on the ground.

Silent tears fell from Sara's eyes as her niece helped her to stand and assist her out of the bathroom and into her bedroom. Denise sat her carefully down upon the floral print bedspread. "Sara, what happened?"

"Oh, DJ, I am so sorry you had to see that. I have been feeling incredibly weak since I got up this morning and have only just had enough energy to get into the shower. As I was attempting to get out I wasn't able to get a grip on the shower door and I was unable to keep myself standing." Sara lowered her head too embarrass to look into her nieces eyes.

Denise moved to Sara's wardrobe and pulled out her thick peach bathrobe. She helped her aunt into the garment as she sat upon the bed. "I know this is hard for you, Sara…"

"Hard!" Sara interrupted, "DJ, this is damned near impossible. I have never had to rely on anybody's help before yet look at me now… too weak to even get myself dressed!" She shook her head in disgust at her own lack of abilities. "I didn't really give much thought to how bad this was going to be. Not really."

Sitting down upon the bed beside her aunt, Denise placed one arm around her shoulders. "This is just a bad day, Sara. Remember Doctor Macarthur said you will have them; you will be fine later I'm sure."

"And then what?" Sara questioned. "I maybe okay for now but soon I am going to be like this permanently. It's only going to get worse, DJ, how am I supposed to deal with that? To accept what is going to happen?" Tears once again accumulated in the old woman's eyes. "You shouldn't have to deal with this, DJ. It's only going to get worse."

Denise sighed. "However bad this is going to get, Sara, I will deal with it all. I am here to look after you. Please don't feel ashamed to ask for help, I know how uncomfortable it must be for you, but I want to help you in any way that I can. I am here for you." She held her aunt closer as her own cerulean eyes clouded with tears.

"How am I to cope, DJ?" The words were whispered lightly with raw emotion.

Releasing Sara, the poet moved to kneel in front of the tearful woman. "Together, Sara. You're not alone and you will not have to cope with this alone, I will be here for you."

Sara looked deep into her niece's eyes, seeing such a familiarity with her own brother. "But I'm going to die, DJ."

Denise was still; stunned into silence. She had no idea how she was to reply to that. What could she say that would in anyway ease her aunt's words? There were none. She was going to die and as painful as it was to admit, it was a fact. With a sigh she moved to a standing position. "But not today, Sara. Today you are going to let me help you get dressed until you feel strong enough to do so yourself and let me help you down stairs and to the warmth of the living room and fire… okay?"

The old woman smiled warmly. "I don't think I have much of a choice. I can see the stubborn streak glinting in your eyes that means you are not about to take no for an answer are you!"

"Nope." Denise smiled then frowned as a sudden thought entered her mind. "Sara?"


The dark woman paused, hoping she was not being too forward in this proposal she had in mind, yet also hoping that in the light of the recent events, Sara would see that what she was about to ask was for her own comfort and ease. "I know this is very sudden but I was thinking. What do you think about the prospect of me moving my study up here and your bedroom down stairs?" She held up her hand, as Sara was about to reply. "I think there could be much benefit in this. You wont have to deal with stairs if you are having a bad day. The lower part of the house is warmer as there is a fire and ground floor central heating, plus an unused fireplace in my study. It wouldn't take much to get it swept and ready for use, and there is the ground floor bathroom by the back door."

Sara was surprised and had not expected that proposal in the slightest. "What about your study and the fact that you have all your new fangled equipment set up. Plus my bed and furniture are old and heavy. The stairs will be a burden as they are so steep and narrow and I know you will not be able to do it by your self."

"Easy obstacles to overcome. A bit of drilling and threading of wires through the ceiling and as for lifting, I am pretty sure I know one such person who I will be able to convince in helping me." Denise looked at her aunt seriously. "What do you think?"

"I want to say no, but I feel that you are right."

"Does that mean yes?"

"Yes." Sara nodded. "But who are you planning on asking for help?"

The poet smiled. "Well let's just say that Carl has been badgering me to go out to lunch with him for a work related discussion. I figured that since you said you wanted to invite Diane around to talk tomorrow that I could ask him then. You did say you would like to talk with her alone." Diane was Michelle's mother; Sara's oldest friend and Denise knew that she would be the first person her aunt would tell about her illness. "Would that be okay?"

With a smile the old woman nodded. "That would be fine… thank you, DJ."

Denise looked up at the window as the rain outside turned to hail and large chips of ice began hammering upon the bedrooms windowpane. "Come on, lets get dressed and down stairs. I'll start a fire and you get warmed up, you must be cold… I know I am."

Denise helped her aunt dress and together they made their way downstairs and into the living room. Denise built a large coal fire that warmed both women and the small house within minutes.


It was the day after that found Denise walking down a sparsely crowded street on the outskirts of Matlock Bath's city centre. She turned down a narrow alleyway as she made her way towards a small popular tearoom. It was still cold and she was thankful she had chosen to wear her thick pair of black cargo pants and sweater under her parker.

As she approached the establishment she could already see Carl Lloyd sitting by the large window next to a small two-seated table. He looked up just in time to see her crossing the street and waved to the poet as she neared the small café. Denise smiled then noticed the blue folder resting upon tables surface; she knew it could only mean one thing and groaned internally as she entered the building.


"So," Carl pushed the remaining pea around his plate as he looked up at Denise. "You know what this blue folder is don't you?"

Denise rolled her eyes. "I would guess that would be a formal offer from that damned magazine wanting an interview. Am I right?"

The editor smiled as he pushed his plate away and opened the item in question. "Sure is." He pulled out a sheet of A4 sized paper. "Here is a list of the questions they want to ask you." He ignored the glare aimed in his direction. "Oh come on, DJ. I at least have to try you know, the boss is busting my arse to get you to do this. She thinks you should finally give an interview. Imagine the scoop!"

Denise ignored the sheet of questions that was placed in front of her. "Nope."

"Oh come on I will do anything you ask. Do you want me to strip and run around the streets naked? I think I might just do it. If you don't the magazine plans on dropping the article and doing one on poets and modern poetry in general. This would be so much better. Think about it." He smirked. "Or maybe I will do the strip if you don't say yes!"

Her mind working overtime, Denise thought how she would best gain from Carl's offer to do anything without actually having to give the interview. She did need his help after all and Carl was well reputed for shying away from any form of physical labour. "Look, Carl. You know I just don't want to do that kind of thing; I don't want the publicity… but… I do have an offer."

Light eyebrows framing grey eyes disappeared under blonde wavy hair. "An offer?"

"Yes and something that wont bring shame to your wife and kids when they see a picture of your naked butt in the local paper!"

"Go on."

"You said you would do anything?"

Grey blue eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Where are you going with this, DJ?"

"If you help me with a little task I have to complete tomorrow, I will not do the interview, but I will give you one," She held up a finger for emphasis, "from the horses mouth quote for the magazines article they are doing on Modern day poets and poetry. That is the best I can offer. Take it or leave it." She threw her napkin down, leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. Obviously portraying the end of negotiations with only an answer pending.

The editor was quiet as he considered her offer. "What's the task?"

"Help me move a couple of things at home. I am exchanging two rooms and could use a 'big strong man' to assist me in carrying a couple of large pieces of furniture down and up the stairs. So what do you say?"

"Sounds like black mail."

"Look who's talking!"

"What about the boss?"

"You can talk her in to it; you are married to her for gods sake!"

"Final offer?"

"Final offer."

"You don't want fifty/fifty or phone a friend?"

"Don't make me get physical, Carl." The poet warned.

"Awe… okay… done!" Carl held out his hand and Denise shook it with a smile of victory.


It was another two days later that Denise finally sat in her new study on the second floor of the house. She looked critically around the room. It was smaller than the old study but that didn't bother her much as she was still able to fit all her furniture into the room. At least the walls are plain cream and it was only the ex-bedrooms accessories that were floral!

With Carl helping her do the transfer she had managed to get the room done much quicker and had already reassembled her computer and re-connected it to the Internet. That was something she was very glad about as she dialled on line and accessed her e-mail account. Her inbox loaded onto the screen and as her eyes spied a now familiar name; she accessed the link immediately with a slight air of anticipation.

Denise read over the letter with a smile that suddenly turned to a look of surprise as she recognized the quote Randa had inserted into the mail. She smirked, so she has read one of my works, she thought. Denise hit the reply tab.


How am I? Well in all honesty if I had read your mail when if first arrived a couple of days ago I would have said 'fine' but politely declined your offer of support - even though I think I would have wanted it. Believe me, Randa, if your mantle holds the award for bluntness then mind holds the award for pride and stubborn independence. Unfortunately Sara took a bad turn a couple of days ago. She had a spell of weakness and fell while getting out of the shower. For a while it was difficult for her to dress herself and as I am sure you can imagine me having to assist her was very awkward for her. I then decided to move her bedroom down stairs and my study up; needless to say a business associate and I have only just completed the task.

To be truthful, Randa, I appreciate your offer of support and would like to accept it in any way possible.

I was surprised to see that you are only 29, as you seem much wiser than that for your years. By the way - I hold you by 3 so I think I am allowed to say that. Yes I am 32, I do live in England in a small village with my aunt and I guess you would call me self-employed. I work from home, which for Sara's sake is now a great advantage.

Denise paused as she considered whether to say anything about Randa's quoting of one of her poems. She didn't consider it as one of her better works, but Denise was sure she remembered that poem being published in an American magazine a couple of years ago. Maybe that was where she got if from.

She continued to type…

I guess it is nice to be able to look at something in life that you can draw strength from, even if it is just some old poem.

Thank you again for telling me about your father, even though it must have been hard for you to talk about. I think that in life there are many hurdles that we all must overcome and in doing so they make us stronger and wiser in the process. I refuse to believe they are there to hold us down and break our spirit - don't you agree?

I should go and see how Sara is now.

Take care, Randa.


Chapter 8

"Elvis has left the building!" Randa announced as she wrapped up another session on the Brightwood Information Network and shut down her database. The nurse could tell the school year had commenced and wondered exactly how many questions about head lice she was going to be asked in the next few weeks. The three questions she had on that subject tonight had her feeling like she needed a long hot bath.

Randa filled the garden tub and added soft musk scented bath crystals to the water. The nurse looked around her in satisfaction; glad she had started her renovations with the bathrooms. This master bathroom was a study in cool blue and lavender, a place where the blond could relax and recharge. Randa quickly shed her gray sweatpants and black Oakland Raider jersey and stepped into the tub.

This is so good it must be sinful she thought as she slid all but her head under the steaming fragrant water. Randa smiled and thought how good her life was at this moment. Good job, nice home and a new friend courtesy of the Internet. A friend who needs me! That thought made the nurse feel so good she wiggled her toes under the water. Now if I only had someone to share this life with me. The blonde thought back to Derek's comment earlier in the week. Okay, so maybe she did have a crush on the poet. Maybe? All right, no maybe about it, her words touch me like nothing else can Randa admitted. The nurse thought of the tall, dark figure on the book jacket. She can touch me anytime Randa smirked.

Noticing the water beginning to cool, Randa reluctantly left the tub and slipped into a green terrycloth robe. Heading out to the kitchen, she made a cup of hot chocolate and decided to use the Internet for a more pleasurable reason than to answer questions about lice. Logging onto her server she entered her user name and password to check her e-mail. DJ's name popped up on the screen and Randa ignored all other mail to go directly to the message. She read the text and her fingers flew to the keyboard in response.

Dear DJ,

I guess I can agree with your statement about hurdles in our lives making us stronger and it sounds like you definitely have a fighting spirit much like your aunt's. I think though that other things can make us stronger and wiser too without the struggle and pain of hurdles. Friendship, passion and love have given me strength in the past and though I'm not currently involved with anyone, I can see a time when I will share those things with a special person and we will learn and grow together. With that, philosophy class with Professor Martin is dismissed!

I think you were wise to move your aunt's bedroom downstairs. I've been doing some research and it appears the type of ALS your aunt has is "bulbar". This is a more aggressive form of the disease and I'm afraid it won't be long before negotiating stairs will be impossible for her. I am so reluctant to give you bad news but if I am to be your friend I have to be honest with you. Sara's ALS will progress rapidly. You should think now about making your home wheelchair accessible. I would suggest a shower chair to help her conserve energy while in there. You also need to think now about getting some help in the home for the time when Sara will require total care. I mean this, DJ, you will need to have someone you can trust to give you some time away from the situation. I know you're devoted to your aunt but for your sake you will need some time and support of your own.

One last thing about the ALS. Your aunt's type of ALS affects the central nervous system more than the other type. This may mean your aunt may experience emotional outbursts such as inappropriate crying or laughing. I want you to be prepared for that and you should tell any caregiver you bring in also. Ideally, hiring a nurse would be best as they would be ready to deal with both the physical and the emotional aspects of the disease. I'm so sorry to be the one to give you all this news; I wouldn't hurt you for the world. I hope you believe that.

Now, madam, I have to chastise you a little. I quoted you a piece of inspirational verse, which you then referred to as "some old poem". I am going to forgive you for that remark because I probably didn't make myself clear. This poetry is by an English author who in my opinion is one of the most perceptive and sensitive people on the planet. She is not a poet, she is the poet. I believe between the two of us I will have to claim to be the expert on this woman and her work because I own everything she has ever written. Her words are beautiful and poignant. I think her poetry is one of those things that I mentioned earlier, something to make us stronger and wiser without causing us pain. Okay, shall we try again?

My heart beats to the sound of your name,

Whether aloud or in unspoken thought,

I gasp air as I gaze at your face,

My eyes burn with a vision so sought.

Internal fires deep within my being,

Stir wildly out of control.

A desire so raw yet innocent,

Erupts from the depths of my soul.

Doesn't that just speak right to your heart? If that doesn't get your juices flowing you better check your pulse! Of course poetry might not be interesting to you at all and I may have just gone off on a tangent. Sorry. I'm glad you can't see me right now, I'm sure I'm blushing to high heaven. Guess I get a little defensive about my poet, huh?

I'll close now, it was a long night and sleep is creeping up on me. Be good to yourself, DJ. You need it and deserve it.

Your friend, Randa

Randa sent the e-mail off and closed her computer down. Shuffling to her bedroom, the nurse dropped the robe across the foot of the bed and slid between cool, crisp sheets. As her head hit the pillow, Randa's eyes flew open. Did I just refer to D Jennings as 'my poet' in an e-mail? Oh well, she thought, what are the odds they know each other? Probably about the same as me winning the lotto. With a little smile, Randa let sleep claim her.


Two days later Randa stood inside the Silver Valley Quick Stop staring at the orange and white ticket in her hand. Shaking her head in disbelief, she rechecked the results.

"6 yes, 9 yes, 24 no, 32 no, 36 no, 42 yes. I can't believe it." The nurse took the ticket to Mr. Park at the counter who checked it against the official results. The elderly Korean proprietor smiled up at Randa.

"You've been playing these same numbers twice a week for at least a year and you finally hit the ticket! Let's see, three numbers out of six, here's your five dollars."

Randa took the bill and giving it a brief kiss, dropped it in the donation bucket on the counter. Mr. Park looked surprised and said "You finally win something and you donate it to the new firehouse fund?"

"Yeah, I guess five dollars is more like a moral victory. Besides, I can still tell everyone I won the lotto!" Mr. Park nodded and chuckled along with Randa. Something in the back of Randa's mind was nagging at her, but she couldn't put her finger on it. Shrugging, she picked up her ticket for the next drawing and headed out the door to her truck.


Denise crouched down in front of a large bookshelf and pulled open it's single bottom drawer. With a furrowed brow she reached inside and started pulling out the contents. Paper, pens, and an assortment of knick-knacks were strewn all over the floor. "Where the bloody hell are you?" She muttered, growling as she continued her search.

The poet was brought out of her cursing and searching by the ringing of the phone. She reached over picked up the handset, then returned to her rummaging. "Hello?"

"Good evening, DJ, sorry it's late but I knew you would be up."

"Well, well, well, Carl…" Denise stopped her delving and sat down upon the floor, crossing her legs. "I was just about to call you."

"Oh, I'm honoured. Well ladies first; what did you want?"

"You know when you helped me move all my stuff the other day?"


"Did you by any chance happen to see the power pack for my laptop computer? I realized that I didn't want to spend all my time on my computer in the study now that it is upstairs, so I figured I would use the laptop down stairs so I am able to keep Sara company. Trouble is that I can't find the damned power pack for the buggering thing." Denise started placing the strewn items back into the drawer. Placing them in haphazardly the drawer began to look even more disorganized than before she started her search.

"Well, let me be your knight in shining armour, DJ. You know that small red, plastic box that you keep all your coils of wire and junk gadgets inside?"

"DJ, you dopey sod!" Denise shuffled on her knees over to a small cabinet and pulled open the double doors. "I can't believe I didn't think to look in here." Grabbing the container in question, it slid to the floor with a muted thud. She yawned quietly.

"You sound tired?"

"I'm knackered actually." Denise pulled the laptop power pack out of her junk and gadgets box and attempted to uncoil the tangled wire with one hand. After little luck she balanced the phone in the crook of her neck to free her other hand.

"Well I'll make this quick then. The magazine wants the quote."

The poet placed down her unravelled wires. "Woohoo."

The editor laughed down the phone. "DJ, do I detect a hint of sarcasm?"


"Oh, okay. Anyway so I am giving you a day's notice. They want you to give a comment on 'Passion and drive. What motivates the poetic soul?' Pretty ostentatious huh?"

"Should I just say 'privacy'?"

"You're really tired aren't you?"

"Now that I have found this thing," she waved the power pack in the air, "I am off to bed."

"Okay, DJ, I can take a hint. Listen I will ring you tomorrow evening to get the quote, okay?"



"Bye." Denise placed down the phone with a tired sigh. It was past midnight and the poet was more then ready for bed.

Leaving the confines of her study she made a quick stop down stairs to make sure Sara was okay and sleeping peacefully before making her way back up stairs and to her bedroom. As she was unbuttoning her shirt, Denise realised that she hadn't even had time to check her mail for the past few days. Sitting on her bed she leaned down to undo the laces of her boots as she wondered again whether she would have a mail from Randa. Denise had wanted to check her inbox but every time she had a free moment to herself something would call her attention.

Denise frowned as she tried to examine her feelings. She suddenly realised that she actually looked forward to correspondence from the American Nurse. She knew it was probably the distance but she felt like she was able to share anything with her. To be able to talk about things and not feel like she was being scrutinized or judged - it was a liberating feeling.

Kicking off her boots, Denise stood up and unbuttoned her jeans, letting them fall to the floor as she allowed her shirt to slip away from her shoulders. She briefly considered going back into her study to make a quick check on the computer but her tired body demanded that she waited until the morning. Quick shower, brush teeth, then bed! With that affirmation, the poet wandered off into the bathroom to commence her nightly ritual.


The next evening found Denise and her aunt sitting in the living room. Sara sat in her favourite chair watching one of the typical early evening black and white films on the terrestrial channels, while the poet sat in a single chair in the corner of the room working on her laptop. Denise switched her vision between the screen of the portable computer and a large note pad. She was inputting her latest poem. She had written it that very morning; remnants of a dream she'd had that night after she had collapsed exhausted into her bed.


Sara looked across from her viewing of 'Some Like it Hot'. "Is that the poem you wrote this morning, DJ?"

"Yep." Denise smiled as she closed the pad and attached the phone line to side of the laptop. "I wanted to get it on disk while remembered, but I don't think I shall be including this one in my next book."

The old woman frowned. "Why not?"

"I don't know." Denise shrugged. "This one just feels different." It wasn't the first time that the poet had written a poem and decided it wasn't for public viewing. She had a whole manuscript of such works that she kept private, away from prying eyes. She knew that some day, somebody would see these poems. But it would be somebody special.

Sara looked back towards the television. She smiled to herself as she thought of all the different ways her niece would try and convince herself as well as others that she was not looking for love. That happiness and affection were things that you could feel and achieve within ones self, and for her writing was the contentment she so desired. Sara was not fooled. She could see, if not read the yearning not only in Denise's writing but also in her eyes.

"What are you doing now?" The old woman asked, a hoarseness evident in her voice and a clear symptom if her disease.

"Just checking my e-mail box."

Sara shook her head. "Never will I understand today's modern technology. The Internet and e-mailing." She shrugged. "I still don't understand how that little thing you have shoved into your back pocket, almost invisible to the naked eye could actually be a telephone."

The poet shrugged. "Times a changing, Sara."

"You're telling me!"

Denise beamed as she looked back down at her screen and saw a mail from Randa in her inbox. A slither of excitement fluttered in her stomach as she selected the link. With a slight smile she started reading.

The woman's eyes flowed over every sentence closely. Emotional Outbursts! Denise thought, well she sure did have one of those this morning!

The poet had awoken with a jolt to the sound of laughter coming from the lower part of the house. Frowning, she emerged from the cocoon of thick quilt and into the cold stark reality of the new day. The clock on her wall stated that it was half past eight, so with a disgruntled sigh she slid from the warmth of her bed to investigate what it was that seemed to be causing her aunt so much obvious hilarity.

She did think that maybe Sara was watching one of her old favourite comedies. She was an avid fan of both 'Porridge' and 'Open all hours' and in her younger days had thought, "Mr Barker was one of the most dashing young men on the television" as she had often quoted to a bemused Denise.

She had entered the front room to find Sara sitting in the chair she herself was now sitting in laughing uncontrollably. The television was not on and in Denise's opinion there was nothing that she thought would cause such hysterics. It was then that she remembered what Doctor Macarthur had said concerning Sara's ALS and the symptoms that would follow.

To see these symptoms playing out first hand and knowing there was nothing she could do to help her aunt caused a certain amount of anxiety within the younger woman. She was unsure what to do or how best to help the woman. Eventually Sara did calm down though, much to Denise's relief.

As Denise continued reading through the mail one dark eyebrow began a slow rise followed by a gradual smile. She chuckled lightly to herself. Juices flowing? I don't believe it!

Sara looked towards her niece confused as she witnessed her unreserved smile. "What is amusing you so, DJ?"

Denise looked up at her aunt. "Um… you remember how I said I wanted to look for some more information on err… ALS."


"I found a site in which I was able to talk on line with a nurse from America. She answered all my questions and helped me see things a little clearer. You know… put things in perspective. Well anyway she gave me her e-mail address and we have been corresponding." Denise scrolled back and began reading Randa's words again.

"Modern technology at work once again!" Sara twisted in her chair until she was facing her niece. "So you have been talking with somebody who lives on the other side of the world. Interesting. What's her name?"

Denise smiled once again. "Miranda but she prefers Randa. She's twenty nine and works as an on-line nurse answering questions over the net on a medical site."

"And what amused you so?"

Licking her lips, Denise looked back down at the laptop balancing upon her knees. "The other day she actually quoted a couple of lines from one of my poems and I just blew it off. Well she has written back and chastised me for belittling her favourite poet."

An expression of surprise crossed Sara's features. "Really? So she is a fan?"

Denise wasn't sure why but she felt an inner delight at that prospect. "Apparently."

"In that case this woman has already gained a few extra notches in my book. So what are you going to say?"

That was the big question. The fact that Randa was obviously a fan of her work had suddenly brought a whole new facet into their sudden friendship. In any other case she would feel the need to back away from her correspondence, it's not like we have known each other that long anyway. But with sudden recognition Denise realised that she really didn't want to end this - What ever it is. She frowned. "What am I going to say? I'm not sure. I mean… I want to know her and I want her to know me. Does that sound strange?"

"Not at all, DJ." The old woman said as she witnessed an expression that she had never before seen in her niece's eyes. "You want to tell her who you are?"

"I think I do!" Denise replied seriously as she began to compose her reply. Knowing honesty was always a positive presence in any friendship, Denise wanted it to stay that way.


I am so glad you agree that me moving the bedroom downstairs was a good idea. I didn't want it to seem overbearing or forceful at all.

Thank you for your advice. I suppose I am going to have to start making the house a little more accessible for a wheelchair. I honestly don't know how Sara will react to that though. For her the slow loss of her independence is becoming the hardest aspect to accept.

As for her emotions, I am afraid I have already experienced one such outburst. I think you are right and I may have to start looking for a nurse soon. I had hoped it would never have to come to that though.

Okay I feel I must apologise for my remarks concerning the poem. You seem quite a fan of the author. That is a surprise. I guess maybe I thought I had some insight, being as though it was I who wrote it. But then again you do seem quite versed in my works. Thank you for your words; though I bet you don't own everything I have ever written!

So tell me, did that poem really get your juices flowing? (I'm joking, but I bet you're looking cute if you are blushing again)

Faithfully yours


PS… Although it feels good to be able to tell you this, as I am sure you are aware what I have just told you is very confidential. I feel I can trust you. I don't know why I feel this way but I do.

Have a good day Randa.

Denise Jennings


Denise stood in the kitchen, leaning against the work surface, one elbow resting on the worktop as she waited for the kettle to boil. Her chin rested squarely within the palm of her hand and she drummed her fingers upon the side of her face. The sound of a slow bubbling began to rise as steam made its assent from the kettles spout.

As the appliance switched itself off, Denise lifted the kettle off its base and proceeded to pour the boiling water into two cups. One contained dried instant tea, the other contained coffee granules. She stirred both infusions thoroughly before lifting the cup of tea and carrying it into Sara's bedroom.

"How are you feeling, Sara?"

The old woman sat rigidly in her bed. "Tired. My body feels stiff and achy and as usual my hand feels like I have been lying on it all night." With a grimace she attempted to flex her right hand.

Approaching the bed, Denise placed Sara's cup of tea down upon her bedside table before sitting beside her aunt. "Here let me have a go." The poet took a hold of the old woman's hand and began massaging her thumb over Sara's palm. She worked her own thumb and fingers over each one of Sara's as she tried to ease the cramp. "Feel any better?"

Sara smiled sadly.

"I guess not huh?" Denise didn't release her hand. Looking down she studied the peach and cream floral bedspread unsure of what to say. "Um… will you be able to hold your tea alright?"

"I'll manage."

Denise picked up the yellow mug and held it out for her aunt. "Try."

With a nod Sara reached out, taking the cup with her left hand. She held the handle as firmly as she could but a visible tremor moved down her arm, ending in her hand and the cup shook precariously. Golden tea lapped perilously around the rim of the mug and Denise placed her hand around Sara's steadying the motion. Sara smiled her thanks as together they moved cup to her lips and the old woman was able to take a drink.

Keeping her expression neutral, Denise hid the turmoil that was whirling around inside of her.


Sitting despondently in the silent gloominess of the living room, Denise was startled out of her dark thoughts by the ringing of the phone. With a slight jump she jogged over to the telephone and picked up the shrilling handset. "Hello, Carl."

"Hey how did you know it was me?"

Denise shrugged. "I knew you were calling some time this evening. So are you after my 'quote'?"

Carl could detect the downhearted tone in the poet's voice. "Are you alright?"

"Fine. So I was thinking about what to say and I have something that I think will correspond with what they are wanting and is also something that came to mind after a comment by a friend. I think it would work well."

"Okay, go for it, DJ."

"Right this is it… Not long ago somebody said to me that reading poetry was a way to make us stronger and wiser without causing us any pain. For some people that may be true but as I stated in one of my poems, 'You must learn from the errors that eventuated past'. I basically mean that the hurt and pain or even desire does come from somewhere and if that can be expressed through verse then maybe you can touch others. To show people that they are not alone or give others strength and the ability to learn through the errors or pain of the past; it can only make us stronger. So I would like to think this person was right." She paused briefly. "How was that?"

"Great!" Carl enthused. "I liked it. I've recorded it so I will get it written down and send it into the magazine… thank you, DJ."

"No problem, Carl. Now if you will excuse me I really do have to go as I need to check on Sara."

"How is she?"

Denise sighed. "Not too good at the moment."

"I'm sorry, DJ. If there is anything we can do just let me know okay?"

"Thanks, Carl. Well I'll see you soon."

"Bye, DJ."

"See you later." Placing the handset back down on its charger, Denise leaned against the wall in the dark hallway. Closing her eyes she slid down to the floor and let her head fall onto her knees. Randa had stated that she should think about getting a nurse for Sara. The problem was that Denise didn't want some unknown person helping her aunt when she thought it was her responsibility to take care of the woman who had done the same for her for many years. Maybe it isn't my decision to make, Denise thought Sara should have her say in this as this is all in her best interests. The trouble was that Denise was very much like Sara, far too independent when it came to personal issues. The poet had already experienced how Sara had reacted to being dressed by her niece. How would she react to being looked after a nurse constantly? And what of the wheelchair? With a sigh Denise let her head fall back against the wall. At that point, she knew inside she wanted to express her thoughts and feelings with the one person that she knew would understand. Yet she didn't move, stubborn independence, and if she was honest, an inner uncertainty, kept her immobile. It was some moments later before the poet left the murky hallway and headed back to her aunt's bedroom.

Chapter 9

Monday Night Football droned on in the background as Randa finished up the dusting in the living room. Her beloved Oakland Raiders had a comfortable lead and Randa was feeling good.

A day off, a football victory and I've got all my chores done. Does life get any better? she thought. Clicking off the television, she flipped her computer on. A quick check of her e-mail and then a little reading with a glass of wine was in the nurse's plan. The computer booted up and connected to the Internet without problem and Randa saw the flashing of the new mail icon.

Of course I have new mail, she thought, junk mail has still not been outlawed Randa scanned the list of senders with anticipation and was rewarded with the sight of her friend's name. Opening the message, Randa started reading DJ's note but when she had finished, the smile so noticeable earlier had fallen from her face completely.

Stunned. Stunned was the only word for it. Randa blinked her eyes rapidly and realized she was staring at she screen with her mouth hanging open. Picking her jaw up off the floor where she was sure it had dropped, she swallowed hard and began mumbling to herself.

"What the…DJ…D Jennings. DJ is D Jennings? DJ is my poet?" Randa realized she had used those very words in her e-mail to DJ earlier. She dropped her head into her hands and felt the heat rising in her face.

"Oh my god, I am so mortified! I can't believe I said all those things about her poetry. I am so embarrassed!" Randa's eyes returned to the e-mail and re-read DJ's question about "juices flowing". The blush returned with renewed vigor as the nurse let out a strangled groan. She stood and began pacing the living room running her fingers through her hair.

"Now what am I gonna do? My idol is my new friend? What is this, life's little cruel joke?" Randa stopped short as a new thought popped into her mind. A joke. It had to be a joke. Warming to the idea, Randa came up with a whole new scenario.

Sure, that's what this has to be. DJ must have recognized the poetry I sent and because of the coincidence of the initials, she took the opportunity to jerk my chain a little. A sigh of relief escaped her lips. I'm not worried that I'm wrong mind you but maybe I'll just do a little research.

Randa returned to her computer and exited her e-mail. Accessing her favorite search engine, she entered "D Jennings, poet". As the results popped up the nurse was determined to check out every link until she found the proof that DJ was just joking with her.

An hour later, Randa sat back in her chair and rubbed her eyes. She hadn't found any proof DJ wasn't D Jennings, but she had found out one important thing; D Jennings was a master at protecting her privacy.

"This is getting me nowhere fast. I need something else, the most recent information I can find. Maybe I'll find out D Jennings is married with five kids and never had an Aunt Sara. Think, Randa, think." Frowning, she put her mind to the task and after a few moments she had an idea. Snatching up her cell phone she hit #2 on the speed dial.

"Hmmphh?" was the muffled response to her call.

"Derek! Derek, wake up, it's Randa."

"Of course it is. Who else calls me during my beauty rest?" he yawned. "So, what's up?"

"Can you remember the name of the magazine that D Jennings was supposed to give an interview to? You told me about it a week ago."

" Oh Lord, Randa. You expect me to remember what happened a week ago? I barely remember yesterday. Listen, you can get that information yourself. Go to and do a search there."

"Thanks, Derek. I owe you another one." Randa hung up before her friend could respond and turned her attention back to the computer. Bringing up the website Derek had told her about, the nurse began a patient search for the article. When she found the item she was looking for, it referred to a literary magazine called "The Word". Tracking down the website for the magazine, Randa selected "Poetry" from the websites offerings. She didn't have to look any further than that. In a teaser, the magazine fairly trumpeted its excitement about having a quote from reclusive poet D Jennings. Randa's spirit fell. Only a quote she thought, not the in depth interview I was hoping for. I guess it's better than nothing though.

The nurse started reading the quote that was featured prominently in bold type. For the second time in the space of a few hours, Randa was speechless but this time when she sat back she was smiling. She used my words, she used what I said.

Randa realized that DJ wasn't joking, she really was the poet D Jennings. D Jennings is my friend. Wow. Derek is never going to believe this!

Randa could only sit quietly and be amazed at how her life had suddenly changed in the space of a few hours on a Monday evening in autumn. A Monday I won't forget as long as I live.

Randa brought up her e-mail again, found DJ's note and hit the reply button.

Dear DJ,

I'm a little bit lost here as you can probably imagine. I don't even quite know what to call you. DJ? D Jennings? Denise? Do you have a preference?

I hardly know what to say; you've thrown me for a loop here. I have a lot of feelings rolling around inside me right now so if it's okay I'll just spill them a little and maybe I can get things straight in my mind. First, let me say something and get it over with. I am so embarrassed to have said I know you better than you know yourself, even though I didn't know you were you at the time. Does that sound as jumbled to you as it does to me? I have been a huge fan of yours since I first read one of your poems in a magazine several years back. I have all your published works and I'm sorry to have said I have read everything you have ever written and for saying you might not be interested in poetry. Its obvious I couldn't have read everything you might have and it's equally clear you do have a poetic soul. Now that I have apologized and eaten enough crow to last me a lifetime, can you forgive me?

I hope you don't mind having a fan as a friend because if you think for a second that this changes our friendship in the slightest, you are sadly mistaken. So you are my favorite poet and you are someone whose friendship has grown increasingly important to me; I can handle that. If you truly are my friend though, I have one request. Can you forget I ever mentioned juices flowing? Yes, I was blushing and I'm sure it didn't look cute, but thanks for thinking it might have been so. I am going to attach a picture of myself to this e-mail. It was taken on a ski trip to Lake Tahoe. You will see by my wind burned cheeks that a blush doesn't become me. By the way, the other woman in the picture is my Mom.

How is Sara? You and she are in my thoughts often and I wonder how you are coping. I'm glad you're giving consideration to the idea of a nurse.

I want you to rest assured on one point. I see how important your privacy is to you and I will never reveal anything you have, or ever will tell me, not even if they shove lighted bamboo shoots under my fingernails. However, if they threaten to take away my chocolate, I may have to let a few details slip.

You know, I have DJ who I have known as my friend and I have D Jennings, a brilliant poet. Do you think I might just call you Denise? I think she is going to be a combination of both.

Your friend and fan, Randa

Randa sent the e-mail on its way. She closed down the computer and allowed the news of the day to wash over her again. Denise. Yeah, I like that. The nurse stood and stretched, then ambled toward the bedroom. Enough excitement for one day, Miranda. Time to put your head on a pillow. Bet I know what I dream about tonight. Randa went to the bed and turned down the covers revealing freshly laundered sheets. Spying her copy of "Derbyshire Dreams" on the bedside table she looked for the thousandth time at the figure on the back cover.

"Hey there, don't I know you? Oh, that's right, you're my friend. Good night then, friend."

A few minutes later Randa slept and in her dreams she was walking with a tall, dark poet in the rain.


Since early morning a heavy fog had drifted over the land. Dense in its presence it covered the semi crowded streets like a misty curtain. It forced those who braved the city's roads to drive carefully upon the icy surfaces, their vision impaired and car lights illuminated brightly, reaching out like beacons through the thick fog.

Although it was lunchtime, the streets were barely populated. Many people opted instead to stay inside, away from the precarious weather conditions that were both cold and dank. Denise walked down the long road of New Street, un-gloved hands pushed deep into the pockets of her thick parker to ward off the chill. A black scarf was wrapped around her neck that matched her woolly hat perfectly. Sara had knitted them both.

Only being able to see no more than twenty yards ahead of her, Denise walked carefully listening out for cars that may have been on the road. The odd echo of footsteps would signal the presence of another pedestrian even before her eyes could pick up the sight. The day was miserable and as such, it in turn was beginning to affect the poet's own mood.

It appeared out of nowhere, due mainly to the murky conditions, and Denise soon found herself standing outside of the DIY store. It was 'Jacob and sons'; a large family run hardware store; the kind of place where the owners knew you by name and vice versa. Pulling her hands from her coat pockets Denise pushed the door open and stepped into the warmth of the shop.

Instantly a strong smell of paints and varnishes, natural woods shavings and the recognizable aroma of packaged soils besieged her senses. Denise scanned the shop, searching out the items she needed along the rows of heavy stocked shelves.

"Denise, how wonderful to see you again. It has been a while."

The poet turned to the left where a small middle-aged woman with curly brown hair and a navy tabard stood behind the till. She smiled at the friendly woman. "Hi, Julia, how are you and the family?"

"Oh you know, the same. My eldest has just finished college and he is back at home for a while until he decides what to do with the rest of his life. He is helping me out in the mean time. How are you and Sara?"

Denise nodded and looked back into the shop. "Okay." She turned back towards Julia. "I am on a mission, Julia. I am widening a doorframe at home and need a list of items, you know… wood, plaster, and I'll need a new light switch. Do you have those remote control ones?" She asked and after receiving a nod Denise continued. "A large spirit level, cables for rewiring… oh and a hawk and wood float. I'm sure I have everything else I will need. Oh and of course I will need gloss, emulsion and sandpaper."

Julia nodded as she stepped out from behind the counter and approached a set of stairs that led down to the gardening area of the shop. "I'll get my Jamie to help you, then he can assist you on carrying these things to your car!"

The poet shook her head. "Would it be okay if he delivered them, Julia? I don't think my car would be big enough for the lengths of wood I will need etcetera."

The woman nodded. "Of course that would be fine. We will work out the when and where's later."

Denise smiled her thanks. She had gone through the whole of the lower house, the day before and had worked out what needed to be done in order to make the building more accessible for a wheel chair. She had discovered that the door that led into Sara's bedroom, which was in fact part of the extension to the house had a different sized doorframe. It was not as wide as the rest of the house's doors and she instantly realised she needed to resize the frame. So while Diane had arrived to visit Sara that morning, Denise had decided it was perfect time to purchase all the items she would need. The tall woman wanted to get her work started and finished as soon as possible.

Thirty-five minutes later, Denise stood at the till with a trolley loaded down with tools and materials. She watched as each item passed over the scanner then waited patiently for the total.

"Well, Denise, that all comes to one hundred and eleven pounds, seventeen pence. Add the delivery charge that is an extra four pounds."

"Okay." The poet dug her hands into her back pocket and pulled out a handful of notes. She began counting.

Julia shook her head. "Still walking around with money in your pocket? Don't you ever get nervous about carrying cash around like that? You could use a check book or credit card, surely it would be much more convenient… and safer."

Denise shook her head. "Hmm, maybe but I like it this way." She handed the small woman one hundred and twenty pounds and waited for her change. She did have a reason for not wanting to carry around credit cards or check books and it was purely because it would have her name on. She didn't want that and besides - she had been carrying money around in her pocket since she was a teenager. It was a habit she had never grown out of.

Once the transaction was complete, Denise left the shop with the understanding that her materials would be delivered just as soon as the fog had lifted.


The next day Denise walked into the living room with a sigh as she wiped her hands on the corner of her red and black tartan shirt, leaving behind a dusting of powdered plaster. Sara narrowed her eyes as she studied her niece, her face covered in speckles of dirt. "You are not going to come in here and make a mess, young lady."

Poking out her bottom lip, Denise looked down at her appearance. "What is wrong with me?" She brushed her hands over her clothes. "I'm not covered in grime."

"But you are covered in dust and if you sit in here you will get it all over the settee." Sara pursed her lips as she noticed Denise's pout. She pulled down the cream throw that covered the back of the chair and placed it upon the seat beside her. "Sit here then, Miss sulky."

Denise grinned as she ambled over to her aunt and fell into the chair beside her. A small cloud of dust rose from her clothes. She smiled sheepishly. "Sorry."

Rolling her eyes the old woman looked out of the doorway to where she could just see through the kitchen and into the back passage where the dark green-carpeted ground covered with a thick sheet of clear plastic. "So how is your destruction of my bedroom doorframe coming along? I think you have brought most of it in with you."

The poet nodded. "Well find thank you. Considering I have never done it before, that 'Weekend builder' book Carl lent me is coming in great use. I don't think that book has even been opened. I'm sure his wife brought it hoping to get him to try his hand at something other than constructing buildings out of matchsticks." Denise smiled. "There isn't even a crease down the spine."

"Just as long as you are putting it to good use. And by that I mean that you are following all those instructions carefully. When you came in from the garden with that great big hammer I think my heart skipped a beat." Sara watched Denise as she picked up the laptop that was placed upon the side coffee table. "You will have to teach me how to play with that thing."

"It's not a toy, Sara!"

"Oh like I don't see you playing card games on it."

"Oh okay." Denise smiled impishly. "After I have finished I will show you the games then you can use them while I continue with the doorframe. I need to cut the electric soon and this has a battery so it will keep you occupied if you want." Denise tapped her password into the computer; her fingers flew over the keyboard with swift efficiency.

Sara smiled. "Okay."

Denise nodded as she accessed her emails and went straight to Randa's link with a smile. She read through with Sara looking over her shoulder.

Sara beamed. "Is that her? The younger one I mean. Is that Randa the nurse?"

With an expression of complete surprise, Denise nodded. "Yeah. Wow huh?"

"I'll tell you what, DJ." Sara twisted the laptop around to gain a better look at the picture. She waggled her brows. "If I were thirty years younger!"

Jaw falling as she stared at her aunt in disbelief, Denise shook her head. "Sara! I will tell her you said that!"

"You wouldn't dare."

Two sets of blue eyes stared at each other in a duel of wits. Denise folded. "Okay, you are right I wouldn't dare!"


Denise grinned as she looked back at the screen. "No, I just don't want to scare her off by thinking I am living with a letch. She might think it runs in the family."

The old woman chuckled. "It does, you just haven't reached your zenith yet. Wait until you do because I may have to start sending out warnings."

"Funny!" Denise said as she began to compose her reply.


First of all let me apologize for throwing you. I didn't mean to shock you but I needed to be truthful and if we were to continue to be friends that was important to me.

As for forgiving you, I don't think there is anything to forgive. I didn't mean to tease you about what you said. I think I found it hard to resist because I'd never found myself in this situation before and I guess I didn't know how to react.

By the way, just for you I will forget about the juices remark; but it will be hard.

Sara is doing as expected. Yesterday I started making alterations to the house to make it more accessible for a wheel chair and tomorrow she has an appointment at the hospital.

Thank you for understanding my need for privacy. It means a lot and you can rest assured that I will not let anybody take away your chocolate without a fight. It is in both our interests after all. Either that or I will send you over some of mine; I am well aware of the supremacy of Brit chocolate!

Thank you for the picture I was very surprised to receive it. Sara was sitting next to me while I opened it and she says you are very attractive. I would have to agree. I would send you a picture in return but they are in short supply around here. Neither Sara nor myself own a camera, and we are both a little shy of the lens. Well there is a box full of pictures of me as a child with a chocolate smeared mouth or as a rebel teen in my punk phase! Instead I am attaching a poem, one that has never been published but I hope you will like.

If you want to use Denise then that is fine. I have been known as DJ for so long that I tend to use it as habit now. Whatever you feel comfortable with is okay with me.

Anyway I better get back to my demolition and rebuilding of the doorframe; it needs widening by five inches.

Can I ask how long you have worked on the Brightwood site?

Faithfully yours


Chapter 10

For Randa, the two months that had passed since Denise had sent the unpublished poem were busy but nearly perfect. She had a job she loved, a home she was proud of and a friendship that bordered on so much more. Communication between the two women was easier and frequent. Daily e-mails found their way across the wide gulf separating them and brought them closer. Family histories, amusing stories and the little dramas of everyday life filled their messages. Always there was an undercurrent was the specter of the increasing debility of Sara. Randa felt the increasing stress and dismay within Denise. Not that the poet ever complained, but the tone of the e-mail would change on one of Sara's bad days. And the bad days were becoming much more frequent.

Randa had tried to the best of her ability to be supportive of her friend. She consulted with physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists and researchers in order to give Denise the latest and best medical advice. In addition, she tried to give Denise a sense of normalcy also. The nurse filled her e-mail with little anecdotes from her life and slowly was gifted the same from the rather private Brit. Every revelation about the other woman's life was precious to Randa, instinctively feeling none were easy to make. The nurse gently teased the poet, using several monikers for the woman all in the same e-mail. Randa would call her Denise, then DJ, then D Jennings and then the Artist formerly known as DJ. They also continued their ongoing debate of American versus British chocolate.

And she is so wrong! thought Randa. The nurse was curled up comfortably on the couch in a sweat suit and large fluffy slippers with the growling countenance of the Tasmanian Devil popping up from each toe. She carefully extracted a silver foil wrapped chocolate from the Ethel M box and popped it into her mouth. The rich flavor draped like chocolate silk on her tongue. Biting slowly into the center, Randa tasted the rum laced sweet cream and felt the warmth of the alcohol in her mouth provide the perfect balance for the cream and chocolate. Oooh, DJ, it's a pity you are missing out on this!

On the coffee table were the remains of her opened Christmas gifts from Derek. Her friend was leaving for Atlanta to spend the holidays with his family and insisted Randa open her gifts though there was a still more than a week left before Christmas. Now gift paper and open boxes littered the floor as surveyed her booty. Derek had always been generous with his friends and this year was no exception. Randa had received the Taz slippers, two tickets to the Oakland Raider's last home game of the season, the chocolates and a thick volume of British poetry with a bookmark at the four poems written by D Jennings.

As Randa's mind wandered to the poet, she wondered if her Christmas package had arrived yet. To make the Christmas deadline for overseas packages she had selected her gifts weeks ago and mailed it out soon thereafter. A cream-colored hand crocheted shawl was sent for Sara and two presents were included for DJ. The antique cameo locket was simple yet elegant and opened to reveal an area for a small picture. On the card with the package Randa wrote she hoped Denise might find a photo of Sara suitable for that space. The other item was a small teddy bear wearing a sweater of the nurse's design. Cross-stitched onto the white sweater were the words American chocolates rule! Randa chuckled to herself, knowing this would be another salvo in the Great Transcontinental Chocolate Debate.

She glanced over to her Christmas tree and the box that had arrived from England the day before. Randa was surprised Denise had found the time to send her a gift. The nurse knew how much time Sara's care took now and knew the poet had little enough time for herself. The nurses DJ had interviewed so far were found lacking for one reason or another but Randa felt the real issue was probably how uncomfortable the poet and her aunt were with giving up that independence and privacy they cherished so much. The blond felt a stab of pain at the thought of the struggles her friend was going through. She stared at the twinkling lights on the fragrant pine tree through vision slightly blurred with tears.

Your friend? Randa thought. Why don't you just admit it? You've been half in love with the woman for weeks and it wouldn't take much encouragement for you to fall completely. With a clarity that comes with confession, she knew the words to be true. She couldn't put a finger on the moment it had happened but there it was. Miranda Leigh Martin was totally besotted with a person she had never met in person and of whom she had never even seen a picture.

Maybe it was when she sent me the poem. mused Randa. The nurse moved from the couch to the opposite side of the room where the orange flames crackled in the fireplace. To the right of the fireplace was a document hand printed in calligraphy and encased in an oak frame. The poem had no title that she was aware of, but it had touched Randa so deeply she had trembled a little at the very first reading. It was immediately after the first reading she knew the poem had to have as special a place in her home as it had in her heart. Randa read the words again, though by now she knew them by heart.

Last night I saw you

Through my minds eye

Though I've never seen your face

And when you smiled

You stole my heart

With dignity and grace

I saw your depths

When I gazed upon

The windows of your soul

Through an ocean green

I saw your light

To which my heart took hold

A honeyed halo

Of purest gold

Framed your physical shell

Waking my heart

A yearning called

And instantly I fell

Yet when morning came

Your vision faded

To the magic of the night

And my heart did weep

For the presence that only

Fills my somnolent sight

As the days now pass

I only live

For the nights when I can sleep

Just to see you

And feel your touch

Build the memories I keep.

Randa sighed at the unrestrained beauty of the words and felt a delicious chill pass through her. A part of her wanted to boot the computer and dash off another e-mail to Denise just to feel that sense of connection that was present every time they communicated.

Don't be an idiot, Randa. Two e-mails in the space of a dozen hours? She'll probably think you are obsessed or…something. The blond walking back over to the couch, turning off the room lights as she went. She pulled a quilt up over her legs and settled back against the cushions, just watching the small twinkling lights of the tree jump and flash. She looked again at the securely wrapped package from Denise again.

Yeah…or something.


Denise could never have imagined just how the events of the past two months would change so rapidly. She had given up writing altogether, a higher purpose taking precedence over even the most cherished aspect of her life. Sara. Her aunt had declined at a rate much swifter then even the doctors had expected. During the first few weeks after Denise had widened the doorframe to Sara's bedroom the old woman had begun to lose all strength in her ability to walk. It wasn't long before the need of a wheelchair became a high priority.

It had been a hard transition to make, neither Denise nor her aunt were prepared for the loss of independence that it entailed. Not only had Sara's lower body strength departed but her upper body's strength too. There were the occasional good days when Sara did manage to complete the odd task by herself, but for the most part it became impossible and she declined a little more every day.

To say that Denise hadn't felt the strain would have been a lie. Even the poet would admit to herself that some nights when she had finally made her way to bed - if she hadn't fallen asleep on the sofa first - she would pass out as soon as her head hit the pillow.

It wasn't just looking after Sara that took it out of Denise. There were many times while she would be dressing Sara or brushing her teeth that the old woman would just sit and cry. Not that Denise minded in the slightest, she was adamant about taking care of her aunt. She would do whatever she had to and whatever it took. Denise had also made many alterations to the house. She had converted the down stairs bathroom, installing a lift-able seat into the shower to make it easier for Sara to still enjoy the luxury of taking a warm shower. She had constructed a higher frame for her bed to make lifting from the wheel chair to bed and vice versa much more convenient.

Days would alternate between good and bad. Between days when Sara would seem stable to days when her emotions would overwhelm her, or her disease would advance further and she would lose a little more strength and independence. Denise did know that she needed somebody and had gone through the motions of interviewing several nurses. But deep down inside something was missing. She felt none of these men or women would look after Sara the way she wanted. Denise also knew that as much as Sara had insisted that they hire a nurse the old woman hated the idea of having a complete stranger look after her in ways that she was finding difficult enough allowing her niece to undertake herself.

Through it all Denise had managed to keep her resolve with the help of one person. Randa. Though thousands of miles away the nurse had provided help and emotional support to Denise when she needed it most. The friendship had grown, and even Denise would acknowledge that. Never did she expect that she would be able to share aspects of her life with anybody the way she had done with this woman.

Sometimes when the day had been especially draining, Denise would retreat to her room and look at the picture of the woman who unknowingly gave Denise the emotional strength she needed to carry on when times were rough. Never had she felt the ability to be so open with another individual and never had she thought she would come to care for somebody as much as she found herself doing with this woman. She enjoyed their correspondence, their contention on the superiority of British or American chocolate and their easy friendship.

As Christmas approached she had no doubts about the fact that she would send Randa a gift and Sara had wanted to do so as well. Denise had told Sara about their constant chocolate debates and so Sara had asked her niece to send the nurse a selection of her favourite chocolates. Denise on the other hand found the prospect of purchasing a gift slightly more difficult. She wanted to give Randa something that echoed her appreciation and sentiment towards the woman but she found it hard to recognise exactly what that was. Fortunately it didn't take long for her unconscious mind to make the decision and she just hoped Randa would remember exactly what this object was.

Denise had ventured into her bedroom and had crouched down under her bed to retrieve a small shoebox. Inside this box she kept the trinkets and memorabilia of her parents. Her fathers silver hip flask, cuff links, and a single cigar that was a constant reminder of his aroma. Her mother's earrings, bottle of perfume that had long since spoiled, lace handkerchief embroidered with her initials and an antique bracelet. It was the bracelet that Denise was looking for. A simple golden charm bracelet with one charm, a golden capsule that unscrewed to reveal a small scroll of paper. Upon this scroll in very small print was Shakespeare's sonnet, number 116. As a child the charm and sonnet inside had fascinated Denise. She had explained to Randa that it was this poem that had sparked her desire for the lyrical verse.

Hoping Randa would appreciate and comprehend the raison d'être behind the gift; Denise had placed it into a small, red velvet inlaid wooden box and had wrapped it in silver paper with a light blue ribbon. She had mailed the package a day later.


The door to the living room thrust open and Denise walked slowly inside. Pale and gaunt, she dragged her feet over to the nearest chair and fell onto the cushioned surface without little thought as to exactly where she was. Hands trembling the poet looked aimlessly around the room yet she noticed nothing. Emotions bombarded her senses.

Unable to stop them tears came unbidden. Vision clouding, her lip trembled as her composure broke and heavy sobs wracked her frame. Denise slumped forward, elbows upon on her knees, head resting upon her clenched fists. Her shoulder shook with a release of distraught emotion and fear.

She cried for like long minutes, heavy tears running down pale cheeks, and when at last she was able to take a much-needed breath and gain her composure, Denise needed the presence of one person.

Reaching for the laptop that she now kept permanently on standby upon the sofa she lifted the lid and began to write with shaky hands.


I'm sorry for the unexpected mail but I just needed to talk to somebody - to you.

I nearly lost her, Randa.

Denise took another calming breath as she felt her eyes once again sting with tears.

We were eating lunch when suddenly she couldn't swallow. What she was eating got stuck in her throat and it must have blocked her windpipe because she started to choke. I was so scared because for an instant I didn't know what to do. She was gasping and choking, and I did the only thing I could think of and that was to hit her on the back, then try and do that Heimlich manoeuvre to stop her choking. I managed to clear it but it was so close and I was so scared.

I don't know how much longer I can keep this up, Randa. I know now that there is no question that I do need help but I don't know where to turn for the best. I know she needs me but I don't want to do something thoughtlessly that could cause anything like that to happen again. I could see the fear in Sara's eyes and after she just cried herself to sleep. All I could do what hold her. I can't bear to see this happen to her, it hurts so much to see her suffer like this. I'm not enough for her and I have to admit this.

I'm sorry to spring this on you but I just needed to talk to you. I trust you implicitly and value any help or advice you can give me more than you could imagine.




Randa slumped back in her chair, tears filling her eyes as she felt the hurt and despair of her friend coming through from her words. The nurse had never in her whole life wanted to hold and comfort anyone as much as she wanted to right now. It was intolerable that she was so far from the person who needed her. Randa left her chair and walked straight over to the present Denise had sent her.

I don't give a damn if it isn't Christmas yet; I need to feel close to her while I try to come up with something to say that can help her. Randa opened the box and removed the packages within. Randa opened the first package and found a collection of chocolates. British chocolates, she noted with a soft smile and saw that Sara had sent them. The woman is so ill but took the time to think of me. Amazing. Then she removed a small package and unwrapped it to find a wooden box. Randa gasped as she opened the box to find the lovely bracelet with its unusual charm. Looking closely at the charm, she saw that it was in actuality a small capsule. A tiny scroll fell from the capsule and the blonde read the sonnet written there. Randa remembered DJ saying how touched she was by the sonnet, how it had inspired her, how it had basically been the beginning of her life as a poet.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments: Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken

Loves not time's fool though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks

But bears it out even to the edge of dawn.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ and no man ever loved.

Randa wasn't sure quite what to make of the gift. The jewelry was lovely but what was Denise trying to tell her with the sonnet? True minds. No matter what misfortunes happen, true love can never be shaken; it has a fixed place like the North Star. Time can cut down youth and beauty but it can't alter or destroy true love, which is immortal. Was Denise reaching out to her? Did she feel the connection?

True minds that's got to be the key. Our minds do seem to be in harmony. Okay then, if I were the one with the sick aunt, what do I think Denise would do?

Randa placed the bracelet on her wrist and walked to the phone. She crossed the fingers on her left hand while dialing the toll free information number.

"Can I have the number for British Airways?"

Continued in Part 3.

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