DRAGONJULS' Storybook

 ~ The Promise ~
JM Dragon
Part Two
November 2001
Email: jmdragon1@hotmail.com


Disclaimers

StorylineGeneral storyline.

LanguageNo strong language.
ViolenceNo violence in this story.
Hurt/ComfortThere are scenes of heartache to be dealt with by the characters.
DedicationTo all the souls that are searching for their other half.

AcknowlegementAs always my thanks go to my beta reader Alice.


Prologue

Did you ever wonder what happens to souls as they travel through eternity? Do the souls remain intact while the outward appearance changes? With a new generation, are the souls renewed? Are souls a circle around all our lives never beginning never ending? Madison is at a crossroads in her life while Christine is lost in a world few understand. Will their souls find each other? Can it last?

Searching

I met my love on a starry night,
The stars above remained so bright.
All that I could think of then,
Was how I'd really missed you when,
A thousand years might come to pass,
We might never cross our paths.
Yet in my heart I'll know for sure,
You are searching for my soul alone.

.................................................................................JMD



Sinclair Sanatorium 2010

“She tried it again Doctor!”

Doctor Shaw gave the charge nurse a long-suffering smile as he looked over the notes of the patient she was referring to.

“Hmmm, I wondered if she would do something like this, it is the anniversary after all.” The doctor consulted the sheaf of papers once more and looked up sharply as he heard the agitated words from the nurse.

“Why didn’t you inform us if you knew something like this was going to happen? You know we find her difficult to handle at the best of times, not that there are any good times with her!”

The nurse gave him a scowl and waited, hands on hips, for his comment; an apology would be a start. Damn these young doctors had all these crazy ideas about new methods of therapy but didn’t have to reap the aftermath when it failed dismally, as it did frequently with this particular patient.

“I understand your grievance nurse Calhoun and perhaps it was remiss of me to state the obvious to you in this case. I apologize for that, now where is she?”

“Where she always is when she tries a stunt like that, the secure unit, the only place for her in my view. I don’t know why you even bother with her, she’s never going to return to the outside world, she’s crazy and dangerous.”

Calhoun had been the senior nurse in the building for the past ten years and had seen her fair share of cases come and go, always pleased when one of the crazies finally responded and went home. This particular crazy, however, was here to stay, no matter what this doctor thought.

“I didn’t ask for your view nurse, with an attitude like that you had better be careful what you say in the future. I believe the salary review board is next month.”

Shaw gave her a long look; it was tinged with anger and dismay. He had found this particular nurse one of the best he had ever come across in the field but she tended to run at the mouth under pressure. Fortunately never in front of the patients, which was a blessing he supposed.

“I’ll check on her now, in the mean time clean up her room and this time try to make sure there isn’t anything there that she can try to harm herself with again. It’s bad for morale, not to mention business.”

Doctor Shaw strode off in the direction of the elevator, which would take him to the secure unit on the third floor.

Nurse Calhoun watched his retreating back her face visibly relaxed, if anyone could talk the woman out of her current state of…manic depression…he was the one. Christine had an eye for the handsome men, she might be crazy but she sure could charm the pants off them. That thought alone brought a chuckle, “wonder what the good doctor would do in that situation”.

A porter came into the corridor whistling happily.

“Randy, I need you to help me with a room.”

The porter looked up and his whistling stopped abruptly, as he came face to face with good old ‘frigid features’ as they called her during the breaks. “Right with you nurse Calhoun.” He didn’t want to receive a reprimand this early in his shift if he ignored her, it would end up being a longer day than normal if he did that.

Doctor Ben Shaw approached the door to the secure room where his patient had been taken. This wasn’t the first time and he really had thought that she had kicked this particular habit of hers. Obviously not, and this time it had been rather more violent than normal.

“Hi Steve, how’s she been behaving?”

The male nurse on the secure block, Steve Consett grinned at the doctor as he answered, collecting his keys to open the door for him.

“Oh she’s been a perfect lady. Why would she be anything else once I’d calmed her down with my brand of charm?”

The thickset man didn’t see the disturbed glance he was given as he turned his back away from the doctor to open the door of the room.

There had been rumors about his particular brand of charm on the female patients but nothing substantiated from his previous posts. The guy had been here for eighteen months and no complaints had been lodged against him so far, still it was only a rumor.

“Thanks, you can take a break Steve, I’m going to be fine.”

“Hey Doc you know it’s against the rules, what would ‘frigid features’ Calhoun say if I deserted you with our resident mad woman?”

Shaw heard the man’s mockery of both himself and Calhoun, not to mention the scathing in the tone about the patient.

“She’s disturbed not mad nurse Consett, remember that please. I’ll deal with the break in the rules, now give me a few minutes okay?”

“Fine with me Doc, I want to take a leak anyway, see you in ten.”

Shaw took a deep breath, sometimes he wondered why he had taken this road in his professional path and opened the door to the room, what he saw there reminded him why!

A woman stared at him with wild flashing ice blue eyes; her flowing black hair with snow-white streaks on either side, giving the dramatic madwoman effect most people associated with this patient. Her face had angry scratch marks on both cheeks and he saw the red welt around her neck that indicated her latest attempt to take her life. This would be the third time in two years and still they didn’t understand why, other than it was the same story she raved about.

“Hi, want some company?”

Ice blue eyes caught his grey ones in a searing gaze that felt like he was being scrutinized from the inside out. If he let her intimidate him now he was lost, he couldn’t shy from the gaze, she needed him.

“Can you handle it?”

He smiled at her tone, one minute she could be sociable the next restless and then dangerous, all within the space of a few minutes. Consett was right to warn him but he had to get through to her somehow and the only way he knew was to maintain this one-on-one relationship they had developed.

“Sure! Can you?”

“For you Doc anything, you’re always cute when I embarrass you.”

“Now, now Christine. Want to tell me what happened last night?” He smiled at her as she winked at him, obviously her previous depression hidden for a few moments behind a mask of bravado that would settle down to timid and unsociable. Today was the anniversary of her car accident and the commencement of her mental problems.

Christine Andrews turned her back on the doctor; his question was one she wished she could answer herself. If only that damn voice wouldn’t keep talking to her, she could figure it all out, and be out of this rat hole! She would one day, leaving this place one way or another and soon. It was a pact she’d made with the voice, except the voice wasn’t happy about her form of getting out!

“Same as always Doc, the damn voice told me to do it.”

Day Before
Town Closest To Sanatorium

“Mom I really don’t think I’m going to be the right person for that task, sorry.”

“Maddy don’t disappoint me now! Your father will be home tomorrow and you know it’s our anniversary; we always spend the day together. Especially as it’s the anniversary of Gran’s death too.”

“Mom please, can’t Dan or Lance go in your place, or a friend, and you have lots of friends?” Madison Smith was perplexed she hated to say no to her mother it was rare she had ever asked her for anything but…

“Maddy you know Dan is away until Monday and Lance is going to take care of the business, my friends are doing other things dear.”

Maddy gave a weak smile, she’d returned home to the town six months ago, after retiring early from her post in the army. When her favorite grandmother died two years ago she became restless and the career choice she made at twenty no longer appealed to her at thirty-six deciding to call it a day, now within two weeks of her thirty-eighth birthday she had returned home.

“You know how to make a point Mom. What time do I need to be there?”

Maddy gave a resigned shrug of her shoulders; she was remarkably fit considering she hadn’t done much exercising lately. The only thing she still maintained was the early morning wake up call that was now a habit and one she suspected would stay with her until the day she died. In-built she guessed, it had never been a problem to her as it had others in her unit; they called her the perfection machine because she never stopped until the job was done.

“I usually arrive around ten, they’ve settled everyone after breakfast and given the medications to those that need it. I’m sure Kate will be pleased to see you, I think the last time she saw you, it was at your school prom and you and she ended up arguing about Ken after he played the two of you off against each other.”

Maddy gave her mother a scowl, that was years ago and surely Kate wouldn’t still remember that particular event or her in particular. They had been friends once but that episode had severed the relationship and with the differing careers, they had both taken, it was hardly surprising that they hadn’t met again since that time.

“Does she know I’m taking your place?”

Jenny Smith smiled at her daughter, who had always seemed so certain of what she was doing in life, when Madeline had died something in Madison had died too. They had been close more like a mother and daughter than a granddaughter, which had at first been a bone of contention between her and Richard’s mother. However, when Madison grew older, it had been a godsend that they had a bond. She doubted they would have seen much of Madison had it not been for her devotion to her grandmother and the infrequent but very welcome visits home.

“I’ll leave her a message, I promise darling. Now you know where Sinclair is don’t you?”

“Yes of course I do, how could you forget the place, it kind of towers over the town from the hilltop. Thank God it was built to look like a palace rather than a monstrosity of a building that everyone traditionally associates with the madhouse.”

“For goodness sake Madison you can’t call it that! Certainly not to the residents or the staff.”

Maddy laughed at the outrage on her mother’s face. It surprised them all when she had finally given up on her pilot’s license at sixty and found worthwhile social projects around town in her spare time.

“I promise not to embarrass you Mom. Are we all meeting up for dinner tomorrow after you and daddy have the day alone together?”

“Yes, and you can tell me all about your terrible day then.” Jenny Smith placed an arm around her well-muscled daughter and hugged her in deep loving affection.

Sparkling green eyes stared up into the familiar loving warmth of her mother’s and she grinned.

“You can buy the first drink then.”

“I will Maddy and don’t worry, its going to be okay, you never know this might just be what you need in your life.”

Jenny had been quietly disturbed at the lack of motivation from Maddy of late, it was almost as if she hadn’t that wonderful spark that makes everyone want to experience each new day, no matter what it held. Her daughter appeared to be going through the motions of life. It was a pity she hadn’t found someone to share her life. There was time though, always time and James Fredericks was due home soon. He had been in love with Maddy since they were children and he was now onto divorcing number three. Not that she particularly felt that was a good trait in the man, perhaps he just hadn’t found the right one because she was here under his nose.

“Yeah and pigs might fly.”

Sanatorium Grounds

The gardens stretched for miles or so many considered. The clever landscaping of the architect, who had been commissioned to build it, had produced a marvelous optical illusion. Dee Sinclair had paid for everything way back in the early eighties, money being no object, as her husband had left her a rich widow. Her only son had taken drugs to such an extent that he literally was confined to such an institution. She had convinced the local council that it was a good idea and if they didn’t approve, she would close down her late husband’s business interests in the town and set up somewhere who had a more enlightened policy.

It had irked many on the council but the building was quite an attraction in its own way and certainly, they hadn’t really had any trouble with the patients escaping or causing trouble in town. Dee Sinclair had outlived her only child and eventually left her fortune in trust to the institution and it had managed to remain a remarkable monument to her and her son’s memory in an ironic way.

As Maddy pulled up at the gates of the building she recalled the time she and a few friends would bicycle up the hill and stare at the strange people who walked on the lawns. Funny thing was, Kate had been one of those friends and she had been frightened of looking at the mad people, wanting to leave as soon as they arrived at the gates. Maddy had been the brave one and had even talked to the odd inmate or two from time to time when she’d scaled the wall as a dare. Now it was role reversal, Kate was actually inside the gates helping them and she was a little tentative about entering the grounds for the first time officially, what an irony.

The guard checked her id and called for confirmation at the administration desk, several minutes later she was driving down the well-tended stone drive shrubs flanking her on either side like a welcome committee.

As she pulled up towards the main building, she was amazed at the alabaster walls of the building reminding her of a European white washed mansion similar to those in Italy. The architect must have majored in Italian design. It was simply a beautiful place and defied the utilitarian designed institutions she had seen occasionally on her travels.

Eventually taking her eyes from the building she located the visitor car park and left her car, walking quickly towards the reception area, maybe she was going to enjoy today in a perverse kind of way, the building alone was worth coming to see.

Stepping forward to the reception desk, she flashed a friendly smile at the young woman who was immaculately dressed in a dark blue fashionable suit, in keeping with the building not the residents she suspected. The initial image had to be good for everyone she suspected.

“Hi, my name is….”

“Oh yes, you are Ms. Madison Smith, I’ve called the charge nurse, she’ll be with you shortly. If you would care to sign the visitors book now and when you leave also, for fire regulations you know.”

Madison tossed back her blonde hair, which was short having decided to grow it to an off the shoulder style that brought out the classic beauty of her cheekbones. Gran had always said that was her next best feature, her best being her expressive green eyes. The mirror of the soul, Gran had often remarked. Her face shadowed with the pain of the loss of her grandmother it still hurt acutely whenever she thought about it and especially today.

“Sure, I understand.” As she did so, she heard a voice that was vaguely familiar as she looked up and had to grin, Kate still hadn’t learnt how to master the art of smiling.

“I see you made it Madison, it’s been a long time.”

“Yes it has Kate and you haven’t changed a bit.”

Kate Calhoun gave the woman who had been a friend in adolescence a swift glance, was she trying to be funny? Then she saw the green eyes unwavering with sincerity beneath.

“I think we all change over time Madison, how have you been? Your mother over the years of course told us the odd places you ended up in.”

Maddy laughed, just like her mother to tell all and sundry where she was stationed. Thank god, she hadn’t known the truth at times.

“I guess we do. I’m very well and yourself?”

“I’m well too, a little tired today, and I’m doing a double shift, we have several staff shortages with the flu epidemic that’s going around.”

“Yeah Mom mentioned that it was a little hectic at the moment, she didn’t want to leave you without a volunteer today.”

Madison had taken in the worn features of the woman and the slightly plump figure that made her uniform slightly untidy in certain places. Her brown hair streaked with premature grey or so Maddy thought, must be the job. She looked the girl next door type who was working to make ends meet, because she was either divorced or had a dozen kids to feed at home. I wonder which category she came into?

“Your mother said you were a good listener, she thought you might be an asset to us for the day.” Kate Calhoun smiled briefly at the woman, who stood only five six, however what she lacked in height she gained in the confidence she ousted. Not to mention she was immaculately turned out and a classical beauty if you went for the bone structure type. There were no lines of strain on her face or any indication that she had had anything but an easy time so far in life. Wonder if that was true?

“I suppose she mentioned that because of Gran.”

Kate heard the inflection of pain in the voice and her compassionate nature raised its head. Maddy always had a soft spot for the old lady. She often gave up several hours each day with her friends at the holidays to stay with her grandmother.

“I was sorry to hear about Mrs. Smith’s passing Maddy, I know you cared about her a great deal.”

Maddy heard the sincere regret in the other woman’s voice and gave her a bright smile. “Yeah I did, she wanted to go then it was her time she said.”

She’d also said that she hoped Chris was waiting for her, it had been way too long to keep him waiting and she’d promised him. Her Gran had had a wonderful imagination and she missed her so very much and probably always would.

“Well, I guess it’s time to show you around and to meet a few of our regulars.”

“Right with you, one thing is certain, they have a beautiful setting to get well in.”

Kate turned to her old school friend at the words, maybe she could be of help today, and at least she was better than nothing.

“Why not tell me again what the problem is Christine?”

“I’ve been through it a thousand times what’s the use!”

Christine was dragging a trembling hand through her tangled hair and it pulled painfully at her scalp as she felt a knot, the pain was a minor irritation to the voice that continued to rage inside her head.

“It helps you when you talk about it or so you said in the past.” Doctor Shaw remarked amiably as he sat opposite her on the chair Consett had passed to him an hour ago. This wasn’t going as he planned. Christine had to stay in this wing for longer than the few hours it normally took to calm her down.

“I don’t want to Doc, I want to go back to my room now.”

Shaw scribbled a few notes and then gazed at her averted profile, you wouldn’t think she was only twenty-six, she had the look of someone twice that age who had the world on their shoulders. Her parents were devastated when their only child started to suffer delusions and finally a mental breakdown. After an attempt to take her life with a cocktail of drugs, she insisted on going to the sanatorium, no one knew why and she had never been able to explain it. to-date.
 
 

“Christine, unless we talk this through and I know you won’t attempt to do what you did last night, then you will have to stay here.”

Ice blue chips glared at him like a wild animal cornered as she blew out a breath of stale air, the doctor grimaced at the odor. She needed to take a shower and clean up, her personal hygiene something that she was normally very proud of.

“I won’t Doc. I promise. The voice won’t let me.”

Shaw scribbled again in his book and asked her quietly. “How can I trust the voice Christine didn’t you say it was the voice who told you to take that attempt on your life?”

“Ah but doc, the voice wants to get out of here and it didn’t know that I was going to take that way out.” The words whispered as if imparting a secret.

Closing his eyes briefly Shaw wondered if all the good work of the past year had really been a lie. With the last statement it was clear that Christine was drifting even further into her psychological disorder and he wasn’t sure now if he could help her, maybe she needed someone with more traditional attitudes?

“Is the voice you hear becoming more frequent?”

“Every day now, same old stuff, it wants to escape. Should I let it escape Doc?” The words tentative as she gave him a doleful stare, it reminded him of a child; really that was what Christine was slowly becoming. A child locked inside a world she was powerless to break free from.

“Can you let it free Christine, maybe that’s the solution?”

Christine pondered the answer for a few moments and then gave him a wide grin.

“You finally understand doc, sure I can but the only way it can be free is if I’m free too. The only way I know is to die.”

Shaw rocked back in his chair stunned at her answer, for months, he had prodded and pricked her for an answer to that question and now here today she had finally given him one. Perhaps all wasn’t lost if he understood her dilemma he could help her couldn’t he?

“Christine I’m sure the voice doesn’t want you to die, surely it would die too.”

“Oh no doc it would be okay, you see it’s a lost soul and it’s looking for someone, can’t do that locked inside me now can it.” Christine chuckled as she considered her simple solution to the problem, why didn’t everyone see that it was the right thing to do!

Maddy had spent the next three hours talking or should she say listening to several of the older residents, who loved to ramble about everything under the sun, even things she didn’t understand. Nonetheless, they appeared to relish the contact of an outsider and looking back on her time here so far she hadn’t been too disappointed herself.

Now trying to gauge where the drinks dispenser was from the instructions given to her by Kate Calhoun, she walked along the brightly decorated hall, the sunshine making the pastel shades clean and sharp, nothing dull and dingy in this place. Opening the door with the pass code she had been given, it shut with a distinctive click behind her. It was then that she realized that this was a form of prison for those inside, even if it was a voluntary one in many cases.

Looking around the stairwell and towards the elevator door she couldn’t see anything that indicated refreshments, maybe she would have to go back to reception and ask, Kate wasn’t anywhere in evidence.

Finally deciding to go back to reception she walked through the door marked stairs and began her decent, as she reached the next level she wondered if they had a drinks machine, rather than go the next two flights down.

Opening the door, she was amazed at the difference in a level. Where the other had been bright and welcoming this place wasn’t exactly the opposite, it was much darker in hues of blue and the bars on the frosted windows didn’t allow the light that filtered down as it did into the other level. This was no ordinary level and she suspected she shouldn’t be here.

As she turned, the inner door opened and she heard several voices one of which she knew it was Kate’s.

“I think it’s too soon Doctor.” Kate’s voice raised a fraction as she spoke.

“It is my determination that Christine should return to her room, she will be no danger to herself if you have done as I asked earlier.”

“I don’t mind either way, she stays or she goes. Although it’s kind of nice to have a pretty face on the wing.” Steve Consett chuckled and both the doctor and nurse gave him a swift-concerned glance.

“Okay, Steve have Christine transferred back to her room.” Kate Calhoun replied rapidly having changed her mind at the man’s comment. She wasn’t going to have one of her patients under any more duress than was necessary and Consett was a strange man she wasn’t entirely sure about.

Doctor Shaw was amazed at Calhoun’s retraction and gave her a warm smile. As he did so, he moved slightly and Maddy came into his line of vision.

“I see we have a visitor.”

Kate turned, as did Consett who whistled appreciatively at the sight of Madison Smith. Kate rolled her eyes; she might have known Maddy couldn’t stay in one place, always the one with the inquiring mind and sense of adventure.

“Madison? What are you doing here, it’s off limits to everyone but authorized personnel?” Kate walked over to the woman who gave her a small smile of apology.

“Sorry Kate, I was looking for a refreshment dispenser and I guess I never noticed the sign on the door. I’ll leave now, I’ve not ventured any further than here.” Madison voiced her apology and turned to leave.

“I take it you are a volunteer Ms…?” Doctor Shaw smiled engagingly at the pretty woman it was nice to see a new face especially one as attractive as this one and Calhoun actually knew her.

“Yes, Madison Smith. My Mother couldn’t come today, she volunteered me.” A tinkling laugh followed the comment and Shaw felt himself rise to the age-old male female attraction of his senses.

“Looks run in the family then for your mother is certainly a beautiful woman.” Shaw replied, his eyes now resting on her well-muscled body, he wondered what she did other than cover for her mother?

Maddy laughed and nodded her head, easily acknowledging the compliment. “Yeah I guess, I’ll tell mom you said so Mr….”

“Shaw the name’s Shaw, Doctor Ben Shaw.” The younger man replied quickly as he held out a hand to take hers.

Kate was watching the exchange a tiny frown appearing on her forehead, Doctor Shaw had never taken this much interest in anyone before, except maybe Christine Andrews and that was professional.

“I’m Steve Consett, one of the nursing staff. Any chance of a date outside this mausoleum?” Consett quickly intervened and held out his hand, which Maddy politely took. She felt her skin crawl as he held it longer than necessary. Slime balls were everywhere evidently.

“Pleased to meet you Mr. Consett but I’m sorry I’m taken.” Maddy replied fluidly, she might not be but he was never to know that.

“If you ever are free give me a call.” Consett moved away and passed through the secure door that he entered with a code and a key.

“Kate didn’t you advice Ms. Smith where the cafeteria was?” Shaw turned to the charge nurse, admonishing her for the lack of attention to detail.

“I guess….”

“I’m sorry Doctor, Kate did advise me but I’m afraid being new here I totally forgot. I’ll go back to the level I was on back to what I was doing, I’ll be leaving shortly anyway.”

Madison was surprised when she had come to the aid of her old school friend, smiling when she saw the faint nod acknowledging that from Kate.

“Tell you what, I’m going to grab a quick coffee with nurse Calhoun want to join us?” Shaw had been disappointed when she had refused Consett’s overtures, not at the actual refusal but the fact that she was taken.

“Well I suppose….”

Maddy was stopped in her tracks as she heard a shout from the door into the main corridor. She saw through the small window a wild desolate looking face that was clawing at the door. The eyes drew Maddy to the frightened face. They held hers and she felt as if someone was drawing out her life essence, the gaze so powerful and hypnotic. Who was she?

Then the voice again screamed out, this time she heard the words as the Doctor rushed towards the door, leaving her and Kate standing there motionless.

“You have to come get me, you promised me, you promised me!” The words echoed in the hall as the Doctor and Consett pushed the screaming and raving woman back to where she came from. The sounds drowned out as the door clicked shut bringing Maddy from her silent observation of the scene. What the hell was all that about?

“Sorry Maddy, she’s a little highly strung I’m afraid. The doctor will calm her I’m sure, he usually does.” Kate placed a hand on Maddy’s arm and steered her to the elevator away from the scene she had witnessed.

“Who is she?” Madison finally whispered as the elevator door closed behind them.

“Oh no one you would know Maddy, a lost soul I’m afraid, in more ways than one.”

The elevator started its ascent to the next level, leaving behind the mystery woman.
 
 

A Month Later

Jenny Smith watched as her daughter Madison alighted from the vehicle she was traveling, and with little more than a swift peck to the cheek of her fellow traveling passenger she waved him off. Grinning as he shouted something, she couldn’t hear from the recesses of the porch.

Richard her husband was due anytime to partake in that luxury called a family lunch on Sunday. The boys would be over shortly with their families and then the house would be once more alive with children’s laughter.

“Hi Mom anyone else here yet?” Madison hugged her mother and gave her a quick peck on the cheek much as she had the man in the car.

“Hi yourself, why didn’t you invite James in for lunch you know there’s always plenty?”

James Fredericks was a dear friend of the family, his parents having been close friends of Richard’s mother, and his mother was still a close friend. Although nowadays she was generally confined to the house because of ill health, Cassy Fredericks was an odd friend to have in many ways; Madeline hadn’t exactly been in her league. Over the years, the friendship had grown stronger and had remained firm until Madeline’s death.

“Mother really! Jimmy is a friend of the family I know but it’s so rare we all get together. I thought you and dad would prefer it that way. Anyway I told him to go see his mother, you know how he hates sitting with her without company.”

Jenny saw the compassion that had always been deep seated in her daughter, it was somewhat at odds with her original professional lifestyle but then Maddy never did talk about her days in the army. It was a closed book and perhaps the only one who knew anything was now dead, as she only ever confided in her grandmother.

“How is Cassy?”

“Oh you know Cassy, I swear she still thinks she’s thirty all over again and Uncle Lance is going to come walking through the door and whisk her away on those precious cruises she loved so much.”

“Well, she did love to go and so did your grandmother as I recall, wasn’t that where she first met them?” Jenny remembered Richard’s mother would go on the same cruise year on year at the same time, until they finally changed the route and she declined to go again. She and Richard had never understood that and no matter how they badgered Madeline to take another cruise route she always politely declined. She never left town except for the odd shopping trip with Madison or the day of Maddy’s graduation from West Point.

“Yes it was.” The words barely a whisper as Madison recalled her grandmother and how she would retell those memories to her. It was also where she met Chris, the love of her life and lost him too, all in the space of ten days.

Truck’s pulling up the drive diverted the two women’s attentions as they were engulfed in the arrival of the boy’s families.

Dan Smith the eldest looked the image of his father and at forty-five had become almost identical to his father in mannerisms, and work ethic. He’d also inherited the love of flying that had run in the veins of both his parents. Having joined the family business rather than the air force as his father had done to pursue his dreams. He had married a local girl named Linda, twenty years ago and had never wanted for more. He was content with his life, marriage and family. His son’s, Richard nineteen and Lee sixteen were also heading into the family business as both boys spent most of their free time at the airstrip.

Lance Smith having achieved the accolade of being the middle child and therefore didn’t have the aspirations of his parents pinned on him as Dan had done, or been lavished with the love and spoiling that Madison had been given by right of being the youngest child. Even so, he had had a stable well-loved upbringing, and somewhere, in all that, he had been allowed to follow his own path without the expectations of his peers. What it had ultimately meant for him, was that he had fallen in love, and been allowed to follow that love, even though at the time it wasn’t exactly the norm. His partner of fifteen years, Sven Berlinger, worked for a large commercial airline for several years and met Lance at a conference, rarely apart since that time. They had even contracted out to have children and now had been blessed with Christi ten, Leo eight and Madeline five. Sven still worked for the airline as a chief purser and Lance had the sometimes-dubious task of bringing up three mischievous children single-handed when he was away.

“Gran, Gran we’re here.” Madeline chased over and was swung into the arms of her grandmother as she was smothered in kisses with the child’s affection.

A car pulled up the drive, and Madison who had been watching the two families arrive with a wide grin, saw her father appear. Her eyes softened as she saw him look up at the porch now laden with so many bodies it was hard to know if he could get inside the house. Walking down the steps, Maddy made her way towards him, with a smile.

“Dad, don’t ever forget they’re all your fault.” Maddy waved her hand at the family who were all talking together happily.

“Yeah don’t I know? Darling how do you fancy escaping with your old dad to the bar for a drink before we venture inside?”

Maddy laughed at the suggestion was he joking? He looked perfectly serious. “Come on dad it’s not that bad. Mom would kill us.”

Richard turned his eyes to the porch and caught his wife’s eyes as they passed a silent message over. “Actually darling, it’s because of your mother that I need to talk with you for a few minutes, hop inside and we’ll be back before they know we’ve left.”

Maddy was a little perplexed but walked around to the passenger side and slid inside, wondering what was so important it couldn’t be discussed at lunch in front of the whole family.

“You have my full attention Dad, hope it’s good or Mom will kill us, that’s a certainty.”

“I’ll let you be the judge of that Maddy.”

AWorking Miracles

“I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, perhaps you will be writing a very powerful paper for the medical journal on this case Doctor Shaw.”

Professor David Thomson clapped the younger man on the back as they surveyed the notes of Christine Andrews. She had given them cause for concern from her first day and now by the efforts of this doctor she appeared on the way to a partial recovery at least.

“Thank you Professor but I think it’s a little to early to say if Christine is on the road to recovery, permanent recovery that is.”

Ben Shaw’s eyes were serious as they scanned the sheets of paper in the folder on his lap. Sure Christine had been meek and willing to participate in most of the therapy sessions he’d insisted on after her last fall from grace a month ago. That didn’t mean she had recovered, it could be a ploy, it wouldn’t be the first time and not the last in this particular field.

“Don’t be a fool man, take the accolades when you can get them! In this profession they are hard won and well deserved, even if she fails to recover completely, at least she might interact with others here in the building.”

Shaw shook his head knowing that it would be futile to argue the point with his boss. The results so far were at least promising except for one thing, and he had decided that he would miss that out of his report for the moment.

“Thank you Professor I’ll do as you say. Would you like to visit with Christine for a time to check out my findings?” The older man looked at his watch and pulled at his chin considering the invitation, he really should he knew that but…his wife had a bridge meeting and he was going to watch a baseball game on TV, undisturbed for once. If he arrived home early enough to take the children to friend’s for the evening.

“Sorry Shaw but I have an appointment I can’t miss, how about I check on Christine on my round next week?”

Ben Shaw smiled slightly, he had kind of crossed his fingers that might be the verdict and he was glad, he needed more time and another week might be the difference between a great result and a bad one.

“No problem, Christine’s going to be here, she really doesn’t have any where to go right now does she.”

“Quite doctor, quite. Good work Shaw, what else have you got here for me?”

They went on to discuss several other patients.

Two hours later Shaw watched Christine Andrews from the window, she was actually outside, albeit with a nurse to accompany her, but outside! He couldn’t remember when that had happened in the last year voluntarily.

“I must say Doctor your patience has paid off.” Kate Calhoun said quietly as she entered the small office that looked out onto the drive leading up to the building.

“Has it? Kate I think it was another factor that changed Christine, absolutely nothing to do with me.”

Kate was confused at the comment and that he had used her Christian name, she had always been nurse Calhoun to him, what was changing here?

“What factor is that Doctor?” She moved closer to him as she too gazed out over the drive and saw the woman in question.

“Your friend actually!”

“My friend? I don’t understand Doctor, when has Christine been in the company of any friend of mine?”

Kate was puzzled, she didn’t have that many close friends and certainly the ones she had wouldn’t be seen dead a mile from the grounds.

“About a month ago, Jenny Smith’s daughter…Madison wasn’t it?”

Shaw turned so he could face the nurse; the comment had given her a jolt of surprise.

“Madison Smith has been responsible for this? But she hasn’t been near the building since the occasion she covered for her mother.”

“I know. Plain fact is Kate, our Christine here has a fixation on Ms. Smith and she’s doing her damnedest to show she’s now on the road to recovery. Thing is, how long will it last?” The Doctor sighed as he walked away from the window and reached for a coffee from the percolator on the side desk.

“I…well I find it hard to believe. Have you discussed your feelings with the professor?”

“No, he was too busy today, next week for sure.”

“What will you do when Christine realizes that Madison isn’t coming back?” Kate grabbed a coffee herself as she sat down opposite the man.

“I think I’ll wait for that particular event to take place, you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow do you.”

“That’s a fact.”

They both contemplated their coffee in silence.

“Out with it Dad, you’ve almost finished your beer, we’ve talked about your day and my day, how about why you asked me here?”

Maddy hadn’t lived with her father for over thirty years on and off not to know that something was amiss. Could there be something wrong with Mom?

“I know what you’re thinking with that expression of yours and the answers no! There’s nothing wrong, not really.” Richard Smith gazed into his beer and could now see the bottom of the glass, then glanced up into the expectant face of his youngest child.

“So tell me!”

“I want to take your mother on a three month cruise around the world. We’ve talked about it over the years and even though we’re both retired, we’ve never actually booked anything. I’d like to do that, I have a cancellation ready for me if I can call later today.”

“That’s wonderful Dad, Mom will be thrilled, she was always envious of Gran when she went on her cruise. Why this secret meeting? Are you planning on a surprise, is that why we’re here?”

Maddy grinned at her Dad as she drank the final mouthful of her beer, whipping a hand across her face as the remains of the froth settled on her top lip.

“I guess. Maddy it’s more than that, I need your help or your mother will say no.” Richard traced a long finger down the condensation of the defrosted glass that had been ice cold when they had been given it.

“Sure, you know you can ask me anything.” Maddy placed a loving arm about his slightly stooped shoulders, he was still a very fit man but at seventy-three his body was beginning to shows signs of the aging process.

“Your mother has taken on various responsibilities since she effectively retired from the business. Most of them I’ve contacted, friends who are willing to cover at short notice, except for one.”

“Okay, one of Mom’s part-time adventures won’t kill me, after all I’m a free agent at the moment.” Maddy saw the serious expression clear slightly and then a frown appeared.

“You didn’t ask which one it was Maddy? I still can’t, after all these years, reconcile this impulsive streak you have with your more rational one at times.”

Richard shook his head as he contemplated his child, the apple of his eye. The day she was born, she captured everyone’s hearts and he suspected she’d broken a few over the years. His kid certainly was a beauty, okay he was naturally proud of her and biased probably but…she certainly turned the heads anywhere she went.

He looked around smiling slightly as he saw a couple of guys in the bar giving her a second and third glance. As always, she wasn’t aware of the interest or gave that impression anyway, focusing on the matter at hand. Rarely had anyone managed to make her waver from her path when she was concentrating. Except his mother, she had done so in such a gentle and unobtrusive way, he doubted Maddy even knew it.

“Okay Dad, which one is it?”

Grinning at her father she waited patiently for him to continue. Sometimes her years in the army threatened to take over, wanting to shake the information out of him, he could be so…so slow!

“The sanatorium.”

Maddy pierced him with a keen glance, he was joking surely? Her one stint there hadn’t exactly enamored her to want to return anytime soon. Not that it had been difficult. However, she hadn’t been able to remove the picture of that poor deranged woman, who had shouted at her in the secure wing, from out of her mind. Sometimes so powerfully, she dreamed about the event. The dream never ended, and didn’t that mean something was unresolved?

“I thought Mom only went there when they were short staffed.”

“She did, until about two weeks ago and they asked if she would work three days a week, four hours a day of her own choice. It seems they haven’t recruited enough people to volunteer.”

Richard had talked to his wife about Maddy’s outing to the place a month ago and had been told she’d been non-committal. Very like her, that meant he couldn’t judge which side of the fence she would fall when he asked today.

“That’s some commitment Dad, even for Mom. I thought she was retired.”

“Will you do it Maddy?”

Hearing the pleading in her father’s voice melted her resolve to decline. How could she refuse him, he was her Dad and they deserved the vacation of a lifetime.

“Not exactly how I planned to spend the next three months, what the hell, it can’t do any harm can it?” Maddy slid off the barstool and stood beside her father who had the widest grin on his face. Wow, that was worth a million dollars to see. Strange how something so simple could create so much joy in another.

“We’d better get back to the house or your mother will kill us!”

“Dad, exactly what did you say to Mom about our escaping from the family get together for this time?”

“Oh, that, I said you had a problem and wanted a father daughter discussion.”

“What?!” “Really Dad, now Mom’s gonna quiz me to death.”

“Don’t worry darling, when I’ve told her the good news she will be rushing around like a chicken without a head trying to get things together. The ship sails from New York on Sunday morning, that leaves her exactly…three days to pack, we’ll be leaving Saturday morning for New York.”

“Actually Dad, you’re right, Mom is going to kill someone and it might be you not us! You know she hates to be rushed into things.” Chuckling as she pondered the situation, it would be amusing to see her Mom’s face anyway.

“Yeah right, let’s go or a certain wife of mine will be pacing the porch with the carving knife.”

Laughing they both climbed into the car and the journey home.

Maddy silently watched the familiar streets pass by as her thoughts, were overtaken with the image of the woman at the Sanatorium. Well, maybe, just maybe, her dream would break, she certainly hoped so.

A Lesson In Humility

“You’ve done well Maddy, we are grateful you could help us out. Thank you.” Kate Calhoun said quietly, as she looked over the additional hours that Madison Smith had taken on voluntarily when a couple of the other’s from town had called in sick.

“You’re welcome, I’m taking a sabbatical from full-time work at the moment.” Maddy grinned at the closed look on the nurse’s face. She couldn’t recall Kate being this dour when they were growing up together.

“That maybe so, although I wouldn’t think this was exactly what you had in mind when you were taking the time out, was it?”

Both women stared out of the window and watched the thin, almost emaciated figure of a woman walk determinedly up the drive.

“No it wasn’t.” Maddy whispered absently as she watched the figure, it was familiar to her strangely. “Why does she do that?”

Kate could have ignored the question or pleaded misunderstanding. For the past three weeks, since Maddy had volunteered in her mother’s place for a three-month stint, she watched the same ritual at the same time each time she came for what was becoming a ritual coffee break between them, when she was on duty.

“She’s looking for something.”

They hadn’t talked much about personal stuff over the weeks, although it was clear they gyrated towards each other at the coffee breaks they allowed themselves to indulge in once a day, which in itself a ritual but a surprisingly pleasant one. She now knew Kate loved her job but felt put upon and obviously didn’t know how to resolve the problem.

“Do you know what? Or is it a symptom of her problem?”

“With Christine who knows, she lives in a world plagued by voices that talk to her, or should I say a voice. Quite a tragic case really. When she lapses she’s hard work but at the moment she’s a model patient.”

“You don’t sound convinced that she will continue on that path?” Maddy again watched the mentally disturbed woman pace back down the drive only to turn again at the reception and head back down the drive.

“Well, she came here almost two years ago and she’s tried to injure herself three times that I know of.” Kate sighed at the thought, what a tortured mind she must have to contemplate such an action.

“Do you mean suicide?” Maddy asked sharply, a part of her had always been critical of those that were weak minded enough to attempt to take their own lives. Here she might be face to face with such a person.

“Yes, her last attempt was the day before you came that first time. She’s been good ever since, mind you I would be too if I had to be taken care off by that slime ball Consett. Damn man has hands like an octopus and then some. People in an unstable mental state are apt to be easy victims.”

“What do you mean? He’s a pervert? What’s he doing here if you think like that surely…?” Kate realized she’d voiced an opinion too much as she heard the outrage in the voice. Maddy’s green clear eyes sparkled with anger as she confronted her.

“No! Maddy I’m sorry, he’s not been found to be so just…how about we forget it? Please!”

Maddy was tempted to say more but remained silent for a moment holding back her temper. There would be another time for this and she’d make some inquiries of her own.

“Okay…for now Kate.”

Maddy watched the woman reappear and moved out of the window view just in time as ice blue eyes stared up at that moment. She didn’t want to be caught spying on anyone, they might get the wrong impression, it could easily happen here.

“Would you like to meet her?” Kate felt guilty at her slip up and knew Maddy of old; she would be like a dog with a bone if she thought something was wrong. Her bosses wouldn’t be happy if gossip of that order was heard and spread about, she really should bite her tongue.

“Christine?”

Kate went to stand beside her at the window as the woman below this time stepped inside the reception area, she would be back tomorrow at the same time.

“Yes Christine.” Kate silently watching the door swinging shut on the woman who had been walking outside.

“When? Now?” Maddy asked, her interest in the woman now taking precedence over anything else for the moment.

“How about tomorrow, she usually listens to her music for a couple of hours now and hates to be disturbed.” That was a lukewarm way of saying the woman could be violent if she was disturbed. Consett found that out first hand when he goaded her to anger giving him a black eye to show for it.

“Okay, I guess I’ll get back. Joe will be waiting for me to take up my chess challenge of the day.” Grinning as she recalled leaving the man with a tricky move yesterday.

“I’ll see you tomorrow Maddy, thanks again.”

Kate watched her leave the room and sat down heavily in her chair. I wonder if I’ve done the right thing. Doctor Shaw might not approve but he’s away, so it’s my call. Anyway what harm could she possibly do? It might solve that incessant pacing she did outside.

Maddy had been waiting for Kate for over an hour, the charge nurse hadn’t been seen since she arrived that morning, wonder what was up? Walking over to one of the other nurse’s on the corridor she asked where Calhoun was.

“Nurse Calhoun had to go home, something has cropped up at home. She’ll be back as soon as possible. Anything I can do?”

“No, it’s fine I just wondered that was all. I promised to walk with Christine today, volunteered to freeze outside with her today.” Maddy lied with a bright smile as the nurse smiled back.

“Well, you better get your skates on then because she usually goes out now. Down the corridor, third door on the right and I’ll advise nurse Olsen you’re taking her place, she’ll be grateful, she has a cold.”

Maddy smiled gratefully and sped off down the corridor to catch up with the woman, as she approached the door to her room she heard raised voices.

Opening the door from its slightly ajar position, she peered inside to find the woman being confronted by a burly man whose posture indicated aggression in her book. Watching for a moment, she waited for the right time to interrupt the scene, he had a white coat on so she suspected he was staff.

“You’re not going out there Christine.”

“I am, I will and you can’t stop me!”

“Oh I can, I’m in charge at the moment, Calhoun isn’t on-site and I’m the senior nurse in the building.” The man growled at her, distaste evident in his voice.

“I’m going, try and stop me!” The woman’s aggression quite at odds with her fragile looking body, she’d been told that normally the woman was shy of strangers, timid in fact.

The woman walked valiantly forward pushing her frail shoulders out towards the man. Who stood stock still barring her exits, she would have to go through him and he’d enjoy that. The bitch needed to pay for giving him a black eye and what better way would there be than to throw her in the secure wing in the dark with those damn voices. That made her scream at night in fear and panic if she was left in darkness.

Christine tried to get past the man, he merely moved over to continually bar her exit, finally his large arms wrapped around her to stop all movement.

“My dear Christine, what a surprise throwing yourself into my arms.” He smiled wickedly at her as she gave him a tearful look out of the blue eyes that took on a confused and angry appearance. Knowing she was no match for his strength, what could she do? She had to go outside, the woman might come over again and she wanted to be there this time and talk to her.

“Let me go, please.” The tears did fall this time as sheer frustration built up, the prelude to her final anger.

“She said let her go, I suggest you do so.” Maddy spoke authoritatively from the open doorway, having seen and heard enough to intervene in the situation.

“Who are… why Ms. Smith, what a nice surprise.” Steve Consett dropped his arms as if he’d been burnt and smiled sweetly at the visitor.

“Surprise would be right nurse. Have you quite finished here? Christine needs to go on her walk and I volunteered to accompany her today.”

Maddy crossed her arms about her chest, she might not be as tall as the man or as burly but she was all toned muscle, not fat.

Consett eyed her carefully as he walked closer to her, “I didn’t know that Ms. Smith, it’s kind of cold out today and I thought Christine would be better off inside.”

“Shall we ask her?” Maddy wasn’t to be thwarted, the guy had an evil streak and maybe the comments that Kate had imparted yesterday weren’t far from the truth, she would tell Kate about this later.

Consett turned about to face Christine who was staring at Maddy with a vacant expression on her face.

“Well Christine what’s it to be?” Maddy couldn’t see his expression but she suspected he had given a threatening look as he’d asked the question.

“I want to go!” the voice filled with a shy bravado that Maddy warmed to immediately, reminding her of her Gran oddly enough.

Consett turned on his heal and walked up to Madison, as he shuffled past he muttered, “This isn’t over.”

Maddy spun around but stopped herself following the man as the woman in the room stepped closer and placed a tentative hand on her arm. Recoiling from the touch in surprise, it obviously gave a different impression to the woman as she shrank back; her blue eyes filling with unshed tears.

Damn! She hadn’t meant to do that, she hated people touching her suddenly but this woman wouldn’t know that.

“Hi Christine, I’m Maddy. Want to go on your walk now?”

“No.”

Maddy’s eyebrows shot to her forehead, “No?“ “I thought that was the problem here, you wanted to go on the walk and the nurse refused you”.

“It was.”

Shaking her head, was she missing something here?

“I don’t understand. What do you want to do?”

Blue eyes searched her face and Maddy, not one to be embarrassed normally, felt herself coloring up a little at the soul-searching gaze. What was she doing, trying to read her soul?

A whisper, that sounded as if it was floating on the wind, was echoing eerily in the otherwise silent room.

“You kept your promise, I’ve stopped searching now.”

Maddy had to remember that the woman was mentally unbalanced, as she felt the words tugging at her subconscious. Did she really hear those words? It was like an echo in her mind. My god now she was becoming foolish in her old age.

“What would you prefer to do instead?”

“With you?” The words softly spoken hesitantly, waiting for a reply.

“Sure with me. I’m at your disposal for the next hour, so you can have my undivided attention, how would that be?”

What she hadn’t expected was the wonderful smile that was released onto the unsuspecting world at that comment. Like an explosion, to Maddy, it created an eruption of senses that she had never experienced before. Wondering if she was still standing she fought down the overload within her body. What the hell was happening here?

“I listen to music, do you want to listen with me?”

Maddy reeled from the feelings that were clamoring to be set free as she dampened them down and grinned at the timid woman before her.

“Great, what kind of music?”

Maddy walked further into the room to face the compact music system with neatly stacked and alphabetically stored CD’s. Maddy judged there must be at least two hundred.

“You can choose I like lots of music.” Christine pointed to the selection she had, her eyes held a far away look in them as if she were recalling memories of the past.

“Okay, I’m not as up-to-date as I’d like to think I was but I’m sure we can find something in this gigantic selection of yours.” Glancing at the titles, she realized that she needed to recall an artist, group or type of music and then she would find it. Strange how people can have such a messed up mind in one way and be totally organized in another.

Placing a hand on her chin she contemplated the range of music here, it was staggering and turned to Christine giving her a rueful smile.

“How would it be if this first one you selected? I’m kinda spoilt for choice here.”

“I can do that, sure.” A shy grin splayed over the thin features and Maddy saw that the woman was younger than she had first anticipated, probably around her age or maybe less.

Within seconds, the intro into a classical selection could be heard and Maddy’s forehead creased in concentration as she tried to place the music. When the tenor’s voice began, she smiled, it was one of her favorite’s, Andrea Bocelli, and he had a damn fine voice.

“One of my favorites, can you read my mind?” Laughing she sat down on one of the easy chairs in the comfortably furnished room it was small but organized so well, the diminutive dimensions had been well used.

Christine didn’t reply she gazed at Maddy instead. It was such a compelling stare that the older woman wasn’t sure what she was expected to say next.

“I now know you enjoy music, want to tell me what else you find enjoyment in?”

“The same as you.”

The words simple but clear resonated the small space as Christine sat opposite her in the only other free chair in the room.

“How would you know what I like? I haven’t mentioned anything, ah but of course you can read my mind.” Maddy bantered and was astonished as Christine jumped up with such alacrity that it might have frightened someone who was of a nervous disposition.

“No!”

“No?”

“I know you.”

Several silent seconds passed before Maddy commented.

“You do? Okay, well I’m a friendly kind of girl. How so? Has someone been talking about me…yeah I know Joe.”

As the woman, standing within inches of her now, shuffled from one foot to another in agitation, Maddy smiled to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation.

“Not Joe! The voice, the voice knows you, so I know you.” Christine’s tone held such conviction that Maddy raised her eyebrows in surprise.

The music playing in the background seemed to lend itself to the drama of the situation as the tenor sang relentlessly.

“Want to tell me what the voice knows Christine?”

“You came back for me! We share a soul, I know you.”

Maddy looked down at her fingers that were entwined together, it was a habit she had developed over the years to stop herself gesturing with her hands wildly as she was apt to do. A trait from her mother who was a master of hand signals or so her dad said.

“I don’t think…” She was stopped from completing the sentence as Kate Calhoun walked into the room; she sure had good timing or was it bad?

“Ah so here you are Ms. Smith, I see you are getting aquatinted with our resident…” She was about to say pain in the ass but realized that wasn’t strictly true, not at the moment anyway. “Christine did you have a nice walk?”

Christine remained silent and moved over to her music system again shuffling from one foot to another rapidly.

“We decided against it today, it’s cold outside so Christine was showing me her first class music collection, wasn’t that right Christine?”

Maddy smiled at Kate and waited for Christine to reply, she didn’t. Instead, she increased the volume on the music system and the other two women cringed at the amplification.

“May I have a few words with you?” Kate leveled her hazel eyes at Madison, who stood up and nodded her head. Walking over to Christine, she tentatively put a hand on the thin shoulder.

“How about tomorrow I come over at the same time and we can either walk or…whatever you prefer, what do you say?”

Maddy felt a surge of energy as she touched the frail shoulder and she wanted desperately to take away the demons this woman possessed, it was like a gut feeling inside, something she couldn’t explain but it was there.

“Yes.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow then, bye for now Christine.”

Maddy followed Kate out of the room and thought she heard a whispered bye but wasn’t certain. Quietly closing the door behind her, the music was rather loud and the other patients might not appreciate Christine’s taste.

Kate had stridden off in the direction of the office and Maddy followed like a schoolgirl about to be reprimanded for breaking the rules.

As they faced each other, Maddy decided she had better explain first before Kate got on her high horse and lost her temper.

“Look Kate I know I should have waited for you but Consett was giving her a hard time.”

Kate looked up at the mention of one of the staff, and indicated for her to continue. As she told her story, Maddy saw the strain around Kate’s eyes and wondered what the problems were that had made her leave the building.

“Christine can be difficult Madison, you need to understand that most of all.” Kate said resignedly as she fingered a folder on her desk her thoughts elsewhere to her own domestic problems.

“Hey Kate you’re talking to me now, who was the most difficult in our class all through high school?”

At the mention of the old days, Kate’s face cleared slightly and she smiled briefly. “You!”

“Exactly, it takes one to know one they say.”

“I was never difficult…ah you mean Christine.” Kate had been affronted at the comment and then realized it wasn’t about her.

“Yes Christine. Anyway, she thinks she knows me, what the hell harm can I do, it might help?”

Kate gazed into the open green eyes, what she would have given to have such an innocent view on life at thirty-eight! Then again, even in adversity as a child Madison had always seemed so…so enthusiastic regardless of the obstacles before her.

“What did she say to you?”

“Oh I guess it’s her illness but she said she knows me some voice knows me anyway, and we share a soul. Kind of weird but I wasn’t too worried about that.”

Perplexed at the comment, Kate wondered if it was wise to let Madison continue to remain in contact, who knew what this fixation could bring about. Rarely in her experience had these things been for the good.

“Madison, will you take it slowly and always remember that Christine is ill?”

“Of course Kate, I just want to help.”

The words filled the room with a pledge and Kate fervently hoped that it would be fulfilled and would not cause any further heartbreak.

Building A Friendship

James Fredericks watched as Madison Smith pushed her way to the front of the bar, which was three deep with Friday evening revelers. He’d volunteered but as always, she said it was her round and therefore she would go to the bar. There was no placid female she was one very strong-minded lady.

He had been brought up with the Smith children; his best friend at school had been Lance. Even now, although they had certainly chosen different paths in life, they still managed to go fishing three times a year and try to put the world to rights.

Having watched Madison grow from a tomboy to a beautiful if willful woman he had been smitten. Truth be told, he had never gotten over his first love. Not that Madison had ever reciprocated, she hadn’t, he was just another brother to her and he guessed that was how it would always stay. He had hoped though that this time around she might have a different view on things, now that she wasn’t in the army. A guy could dream!

He continued to watch as she elbowed her way forward politely and with that beautiful smile of hers apologetically move to the front of the bar. Within a couple of minutes, she was walking towards him a triumphant smile on her lips.

“No problem I see as usual.”

“Jimmy when have I ever had a problem with getting a drink?”

Smiling broadly she placed the two beers on the round table and sat on the barstool she’d vacated for a few minutes.

“Never to my knowledge Mad but then I haven’t been to every bar you have frequented.” He grinned at her as she placed a finger on her nose.

“Ah that’s true but trust me it has never happened.”

“I was hoping we could go for a picnic Sunday and…”

He knew the answer immediately. That quick change in expression as she shook her head.

“Why not? It’s been ages since you spent any time with me during the day.”

“Jimmy I have another engagement, I’m sorry I really can’t change it, next week for sure!” It gave her a warm feeling all over as she thought about the reason for her negative response, or should she say the person.

“Okay, I know you can tell me to go swing my hook but what are you doing Sunday?” She had been embroiled in that place on the hill for the past two months. Never seemed to have any free hours and she was a volunteer! Some volunteer, more like an unpaid slave to him.

Sheepishly she looked up at him. “I promised one of the patients that I would take them to the hairdressers.”

“Hairdressers? For god’s sake Mad, can’t someone else do that?”

“No!”

He had heard the tone before and it usually wasn’t pleasant if someone continued on that track.

“Lance said you hadn’t been around lately, Dan wondered if he still had a sister.” He knew he was pushing it but it was true. He and Lance had been fishing two days ago and it had cropped up, to such an extent that Lance had asked him if Madison had left town.

Madison felt guilty. It was true since their parents had left she hadn’t spent much time with her brothers or their families. She’d have to rectify that or her parents would be livid with her.

“I’ll call them. We’ll go out for dinner one evening.”

“What attracts you to that place Mad?”

Madison took a gulp of her beer and glanced around the bar milling with people. Wondering if Christine had ever enjoyed socializing this way? The thought of the woman made her smile and she didn’t realize she was until Jimmy spoke again.

“Okay so something does attract you, want to let me into the secret?”

Maddy heard the quiet question it was couched in such a way that implied friendly curiosity nothing more.

“Not attract Jimmy! Someone there is responding to me and I feel I’m doing some good. It’s hard to explain.”

Maddy wanted him to understand he was as close to a best friend as she had ever had, except her Gran. How she wished her Gran where here now. Yet, at the same time, she felt that she was, it was such an odd feeling.

“Mad I love you, you know that right?”

“Yes I know that Jimmy.”

“Don’t get so involved that it destroys you Mad. People can’t always be saved. They may appear like they are responding to you but that’s why we need psychiatrists and institutions.”

“I’m not a fool Jimmy! Come on let’s drink and enjoy tonight. How about going over to Spikes for a dance later?”

Her mind contemplated Jimmy’s words, she knew he was right but at the same time, she felt that she was as well. One way or another they would find out, she was here for the duration, it was one engagement she wasn’t going to break…ever!

“I’m not sure this is a good idea Kate, Christine hasn’t been out of the grounds since she arrived here two years ago.”

Doctor Shaw watched as Madison Smith and Christine Andrews chatted as they made their way towards Madison’s vehicle. They had discussed the situation in several meetings and the bottom line had been could they trust Madison with Christine? Would she be strong enough if an unexpected event occurred? The unanimous verdict had been yes!

They had watched Christine respond to the daily feed of Madison, who only ever permitted an hour of her day to concentrate on the young woman to prevent anyone saying she was becoming too involved in one case. Within a couple of weeks her new friend had been coming to watch Madison play chess with Joe, gradually integrating herself into the rehabilitation classes that eventually helped patients to get back into the real word.

“Believe me Doctor Shaw if I didn’t think it was a good idea I’d be the first to say so. I was as skeptical if not more so than you were but she’s worked wonders with Christine, how can we stop it now?”

Kate Calhoun had been cynical and expected Madison to tire of the chore of Christine’s constant…being there! She hadn’t. In fact, they had become virtually inseparable when she was in the building and the other patients didn’t appear to mind that where Madison was Christine followed closely behind. What had swung it for Kate was that one evening a week ago, Christine had been helping Sandra one of the severely retarded patients to read, the basics of course but the patience she administered was astounding. The change in the woman was like flipping a coin; a totally different personality was rearing its head. It fascinated Kate and at the same time she was apprehensive for both Christine and Madison, surely the bubble would burst? Her logical mind said it would, her heart hoped it wouldn’t.

“We can’t.” The Doctor watched as the vehicle roared into life and the two women they were discussing left the relative safety of the grounds out into the outside world.

Madison had relatively short hair and kept it that way; another legacy from the army she supposed and Judy the stylist had been a little hesitant but agreed to cut Christine’s hair.

Walking into the establishment Madison had to literally take Christine by the hand and drag her inside, not that you could tell that as a stranger but they both knew it.

“Got to start somewhere Chris, why not here and I’m right by your side.”

Madison placated the shy woman, who was having second thoughts about the whole thing.

“You won’t leave me?” The words echoed in Madison’s heart rendering her powerless to do anything, other than smile reassuringly and grip the hand she held in understanding.

“No I won’t leave you.”

It had the desired effect and now half an hour later Madison was watching a wonderful transformation, Judy the stylist was actually enjoying herself. Why wouldn’t she? Here was someone who had the natural assets requiring an expert to bring them out.

“Hey Maddy, thanks.” Judy grinned at the older woman as Maddy paid her for the hairstyling.

They both looked in the direction of Christine who was looking in the mirror, her eyes like saucers, she looked more like her age, as the hair had been colored to disguise the streaks.

“No thanks required it should be me thanking you.” Maddy couldn’t keep her eyes from the younger woman she would turn any man’s head that was for sure. That thought made her heart jerk and she wondered why for a moment. Then realized it was jealousy, here she had created a very beautiful woman and others would reap the benefits, there was some injustice there someplace.

Shrugging off the thoughts, she went to the bathroom before they set off for home. Christine was embroiled in her new hairstyle and wouldn’t notice she was gone for a few minutes.

“Keep an eye on her Judy, bathroom break.”

“No problem.” The stylist remarked as the phone shrilled in the background.

“Where is she?” Desperate words tumbled from Madison’s lips as Judy frantically motioned outside.

She’d heard a commotion as she was coming from the bathroom and felt a sharp stab in her stomach. It was fear and she hated that! Running as if she had wings on her heals she frantically glanced around and Christine was nowhere to be seen.

“She bolted Maddy, I took a phone call, I’m sorry.”

Looking around she saw a couple of women she didn’t know whispering to each other. Giving them an evil glance, she ran out of the building frantically looking about her for where Christine could have gone.

Then she gave a heavy sigh of relief as she saw Jimmy leading Christine back her way. Thank you god!

“Hi Mad, have you lost someone?” Jimmy grinned at the flashing green eyes he received and then watched in silence as Maddy asked the woman if she was okay.

“What happened Jimmy?”

James Fredericks had never in all the years he’d known Mad ever seen her this worried about anything. He watched her gently touch the woman’s cheek and speak reassuring words to her as she waited or did she, for his answer.

“Kind of had to remember my emergency stop Mad, your friend here decided to cross the road at an inopportune moment.”

Maddy looked up at Jimmy and saw the concern and understanding of her predicament. He was still affable Jimmy, how she loved him…as a brother. Why he couldn’t keep, a wife amazed her.

“Chris, are you okay? Why did you run away?”

The concern clearly etched into Maddy’s face.

“I want to go home!”

“Okay Chris we’ll go home, will you tell me what’s wrong?”

“Nothing!”

Maddy was torn between asking further questions and finding out what was wrong. Christine’s stance indicated that the subject for her was closed.

“Thanks Jimmy for….”

“No problem Mad, remember we have a date next Sunday.” He kissed her lightly on the lips, saying goodbye to Christine as he turned away back where he came from.

“Are you going to tell me why you left without me?”

“No!”

The voice adamant it reminded her of when she didn’t want to tell anyone anything.

“Okay, so how did you meet my friend James?”

The silence stretched between them like an endless piece of string.

“Let’s go home.”

Maddy placed a hand on the other woman’s arm, deciding that today was not the day to get any answers. What did they say; tomorrow was another day!

“Why hello stranger.” Lance smiled widely as he was engulfed in a hug from his recently absent baby sister, although you could hardly call her a baby.

“Oh I’ve not been that bad!” Maddy grimaced as she kissed her brother on the cheek and looked around the administration office he ran for the family air cargo business.

“Really? Well you could have fooled me Maddy; James and I were only talking about you last week as it happens. Dan… well Dan figures you’ve left the country.” Her brother grinned as he looked at her closely; she had never been the demonstrative type even when she was a kid. Maybe he was the substitute for the polar bear that she would drag everywhere when she was a five-year-old going on fifteen.

“I know, Jimmy told me Friday evening when we were out.”

“Oh so you still go out, I’m surprised, thought you had decided to become a permanent resident at the funny farm on the hill. Mom and Dad only wanted you to take over her few hours not devote the rest of your life!”

Maddy understood where her brother was coming from, as she shrugged her shoulders.

“You know me Lance when I get involved with something.”

“Yep I surely do, it’s the heart and soul Maddy. Guess that’s why we worry about you, even though you can usually handle everything on your own.”

Sitting down across the desk from her brother who twirled a pencil between his fingers as he waited for her to apprise him of why she was visiting.

“Heart and soul would be right in this case Lance. I need to speak to someone about what’s going on and now that Gran isn’t here, I guess I have to find another sympathetic ear.”

Settling back into his chair Lance sighed softly, he knew it, something was going on and he had an idea it was a romantic attachment.

“Jimmy was always good for you in that way.”

“I can’t talk to Jimmy about this!” It was romantic or she certainly would have. They had that type of deep friendship and Jimmy loved her and wanted only the best for her.

“Mom and Dad aren’t back for another two weeks, Dan is away up State, and I guess that leaves me? Unless of course you want to speak to Linda if it’s a sensitive woman’s subject, you know she’ll be there for you if you asked.”

“Yeah, I know that Lance. Actually I was wondering if…that is when do you have lunch today?”

He’d rarely heard hesitancy from his kid sister; she was always the confident bull-shitter even if things were going belly up on her.

“Sis if you need me I’ll have lunch now.” He glanced at the office clock it was ten am; okay it would be late breakfast.

“Aren’t you busy?” glancing round the room the only other occupant was Rosey Daniels who had worked for the business for thirty years, she knew everything there was to know about the administration.

“Yes as always, but Rosey can handle anything and probably better than I can, so let’s go, shall we?”

“Okay, I’ll meet you at the car.” Maddy grinned at him and shouted a brief goodbye to Rosey as Lance walked over to the older woman to explain his departure for a time.

“Things didn’t quite work out yesterday I hear Christine.” Doctor Shaw wondered when the bubble would burst. He considered it was close, as the woman hadn’t ventured out of her room since arriving back with Madison Smith yesterday afternoon.

“It worked out fine!” the voice shrilled around them and even Christine frowned at the tone.

“Madison said you were a little upset, you didn’t want to talk about it yesterday. It’s another day Christine, want to tell me what the problem was?”

“No!”

“I see. In that case are you going to join the others for breakfast as normal, or do I take it that the afternoon visit out of the building was a major mistake? I’ll inform Ms. Smith that we won’t let her take you again.”

He was goading her and he knew it, she had done so well. He had hoped that the outside venture yesterday was just the beginning of great things for her.

“It wasn’t a mistake, I…I just didn’t like what those ladies were saying about me. It wasn’t anything Maddy did, she was wonderful!”

The doctor heard the impassioned plea in the voice and wondered just how much Christine cared about Madison Smith. Conversely, he wondered the exact opposite with Madison, how did she regard her relationship with Christine.

“I must say your new-look is marvelous you should be on the cover of vogue.” Shaw smiled at her, and saw a hesitant smile drift for a fraction over her lips, in satisfaction of her new hairstyle.

“Thank you, Maddy’s friend thought it would suit me.”

“It does Christine.” He looked at her hairstyle. The raven flowing locks had been cut back to a more manageable off the shoulder style while the white streaks now matched her natural coloring. It now looked shiny and well cared for, giving the woman a younger, softer appearance than the ragged traditional lunatic appearance she had been sporting.

“What did the people say Christine to upset you?”

The quiet words settled in the confines of the room, awaiting a reply. As Christine walked over to her music system and selected a CD, not a good sign as the Doctor sat down heavily on one of the easy chairs.

Rather surprisingly, Christine responded.

“They called me names.”

“What kind of names?” This was an unexpected turn; usually you had to pry it out of her over time.

“They called me a crazy dangerous person, I shouldn’t be allowed out of the hospital. I was a mental case and their children shouldn’t have to have this threat of my type of people wandering around the town.”

The words were stated, no emotion behind them, the raw hurt however was in her stance as she shuffled around next to her beloved music system.

“Did Maddy hear this too?” He suspected not, for he doubted Madison Smith would have ignored the jibes on behalf of this woman.

“No, they waited until she wasn’t in the room.” Shaw looked up sharply had Christine been left alone to have people prey on her as they ignorantly assumed she did on others.

“Where did she go Christine?”

“The bathroom I think. I was frightened, they pointed fingers at me and I didn’t know what to do. Maddy wasn’t there you see and I ran outside to find her. I didn’t want to cause any trouble but those people hated me Doctor and I don’t know why.”

The tears welled up in her eyes as she spoke this time it was hard to understand people.

“If she was in the bathroom, why did you go outside? Surely you could have gone there to meet up with her or wait close by?”

“I didn’t know she was at the time, I needed to get away, so I made for the quickest exit.”

Shaw stroked his chin contemplating the facts. When you heard them, it was so simple and quite ludicrous that in this day and age people still regarded mentally ill people with so much hatred, anger and disrespect, when most were simply unable to cope with real life and had shutdown for a short break. Only the very ill were in secure units and Sinclair wasn’t a secure unit and never would be.

“What happened next Christine?”

“I was running up the street and I saw a group of young men, they were laughing and shouting, I was scared I tried to cross the road….”

The words trailed off and Shaw knew this was the reason for Madison Smith’s anger, she had returned and left as abruptly after signing Christine back into the building.

“And?”

“I didn’t look where I was going. A man stopped his car and took me back to Maddy that was all.” She gave him a sheepish glance and then turned back to her CD collection.

“Where you hurt? Was the man?”

“No! He stopped in time, it was a friend of Maddy’s…I think it was her…boyfriend.”

Shaw stood up at the last comment, so that was the problem, not the people in town but one person, this man who was a friend of Maddy’s. Jealousy! What a strange emotion it could be and why wouldn’t Christine be jealous, she probably felt threatened. Maybe to the extent that Maddy wouldn’t spend as much time with her.

“Well that was a piece of good fortune I would say Christine, what did Maddy say when you came back? I take it you did go straight back?”

“Yes, the man took me back.” She looked down at her hands that were shaking, what would she do if Maddy didn’t come by again. The voice had been quiet since Maddy started to visit everyday, what would happen if she didn’t come back!

The voice had already told her. She’ll be back; she always comes back to you.

It was incredible how it had gone, had she control over it like the doctor had said she would in the therapy sessions? If she did, was she cured? Could she go home now?

“Was Maddy angry with you Christine is that why you’re upset?”

“Maddy has never been angry with me, she can’t ever be angry with me.”

“Can’t? Now that’s a strong word to use and I hope you’re right. How would it be if you came and had breakfast with me? We can chat some more. What do you say?” He’d call Madison Smith, explain the situation and see what she made of it. He didn’t think she would stop coming over this little setback but it was always worth double-checking.

“Okay. Will Maddy come today do you think doctor?” The voice plaintive and anxious as she gave him a concentrated stare, the blue of her eyes no longer having the wild look of a frightened animal, no she looked like a frightened young woman and in a perverse way that was very promising.

“I think she will Christine, come on let’s have that breakfast shall we.”

“You’ve got to be joking sis!” Lance was flabbergasted at the recent conversation with his sister, he knew she did crazy things from time to time but he didn’t think she was that off the wall.

“No I’m not joking! I’m perfectly serious and why should it be so out of the Ball Park?” Maddy had told Lance about her involvement with Christine and a brief background of the last two months culminating in the final trip yesterday. Which had been going so well and then turned into a disaster or so she thought.

“Maddy I love you but look at it logically, the woman is ill right?”

“Yes! But she’s getting better I know it.”

“How do you know, you’re no psychiatrist or was that something you forgot to mention?”

“Don’t be so facetious Lance you know I’m not! That isn’t the point and you know it.”

“That’s just it, what exactly are you trying to tell me here? That your new best buddy is a nutcase?”

Maddy scowled at him in ill-concealed anger and rapped her hand on the table rattling the cups that held their coffee. Thankfully they had eaten and the plates and cutlery had been taken away or Lance wasn’t sure baby sister wouldn’t throw something at him or worse.

“She’s not! Chris is a very sensitive woman. She loves music, has a degree in English literature and was taking a doctorate before her accident. It was like a breakdown Lance that’s all and she’ll get better and is rapidly.”

Holding his hand up in peace he smiled at her, “Exactly what do you need counseling on Maddy? All you’ve said so far is that you’re her friend and that you think she’s important in your life, that you don’t want her leaving your life. What else is there?”

Lance watched his sister; she had that closed look that told everyone she was thinking carefully before she spoke. Maybe she wouldn’t even speak the truth if she felt it wouldn’t suit the purpose.

“I feel connected to her like I did Gran, so much so I’d swear Gran was with me at times.”

The words spoken in awe at the situation she felt she was in.

“Maddy have you thought that maybe you’re spending too much time at Sinclair and for your own sanity you need a break? I can take this afternoon off and we can take Madeline over to the park for the afternoon. I’m sure the babysitter won’t mind, Mrs. Green wanted to go home early today anyway.”

Lance wished his parents were here; then again, none of this would be happening for Maddy and wouldn’t have been covering for their mother at the damn place.

“I…Lance she expects to see me everyday now! How can I not go and see her, she’ll think I’m angry with her for yesterday.”

“Maddy, you can go later, it will still be today, right? What about this evening they don’t lock them up and throw away the key until morning do they, as the lights are dimmed?”

Maddy stared at him and saw the laughter hidden within his eyes; he was trying to lighten the conversation.

“I guess that would be okay, as you say it would still be today wouldn’t it? Anyway the mood she was in when I dropped her off yesterday, I doubt she wants to see me at the moment.”

“Great, I’ll call the office and Mrs. Green, you can pay the bill.” He grinned as she scowled at him again, this time with a grin to follow it as he pulled out his phone.

Yeah Christine wouldn’t miss her would she? Will I miss her though? Oh yeah without a doubt, she’s part of me now.

Kate Calhoun watched Christine Andrews and saw the gradual deterioration of her mood as the day progressed. Doctor Shaw had called Madison Smith but he was only able to reach her answering machine. Now was a good test of Christine’s ability to make it in the real world again but would she? That was a question that no one would make bets on because they wanted her to get past this and continue the progress. If she did who knew by Christmas, which was three months away, she might actually join her family for the festivities.

No one in their right mind, oh yeah good pun, would have thought it possible three months ago. Now, well now anything was possible.

As she continued her observations of the younger woman, she thought about her own problems at home.

Ken had left her finally! In itself that wouldn’t have been so bad but to take all the good pieces of furniture, even some of the kid’s stuff, had been downright selfish and totally uncaring of his children’s welfare. She knew why he’d done it, that…that bitch he had left her for had two children about Micky and Janey’s ages. What do you tell twelve and ten year olds about stuff that had gone missing without being damn right obnoxious about their own father?

Two months ago she had been called by the next-door neighbor that maybe she should come home, something was happening at her house. Innocently thinking it was a burglary or something of that kind she’d gone immediately. In a way, it was an intrusion in her home, Ken had brought home his lady friend and they were making out in her bed! For the sake of the kids she’d not thrown him out immediately and she really should have done, what she had done was go back to work and try to make sense of the situation. Reflecting on where had the time gone, she’d met him fifteen years ago and married him six months later. Her mother hadn’t approved and would be saying I told you so in her grave, and she’d be right wouldn’t she? The kids had known something was wrong but she held up her end of the truce even though Ken tormented her with remarks about her and the comparison with his new girlfriend. The man was a selfish bastard who needed castrating and locking up!

This weekend had been the worse; he’d rolled home drunk and began to make remarks about his own children, and how they weren’t as smart as his girlfriend’s. That had been the final straw, he could call her what he wanted but not her children, they didn’t deserve it and were good kids. If he didn’t see the good, it was his loss, as she quietly told him to go live with the new woman in his life and don’t come back.

He’d virtually spat his compliance with that suggestion, along with a few other choice expressions. Fortunately, the kids had been over at a friend’s and they hadn’t noticed that Dad wasn’t home for dinner Saturday evening. Not wanting them to become involved unless it was necessary she’d taken them over to a friend’s as she had work, when she arrived home the scene had been one blow too many and she’d sobbed as she collapsed into one of the two easy chair’s left in the room.

The kids had thought they had had burglars and she’d let them think that for a little while until she could get things in order. What she needed was some time off work, that was impossible with the staff shortages, and then again what would she do at home?

Sometimes she wondered if she shouldn’t take the easy option and shutdown on life as some of the patients in this place had done, Christine in particular. Gazing at the pictures of her children in her purse, she thanked god that she had them and it was all going to work out, it might take time that was all.

“You look disturbed Kate?” Madison Smith said gently from the open doorway, not wanting to disturb the woman if she was deep in thought.

“Oh sorry I didn’t see you, we didn’t think you would be here today Madison. You surprised me there for a moment.” Kate shuffled her papers on her desk and looked up into the intelligent and concerned green gaze. Madison probably knew her problems it wasn’t exactly a large town and people talked.

“Is there anything I can do?” Maddy asked gently they both knew at those words that the subject wasn’t about the sanatorium but about her personally.

“No, no everything is under control thank you Madison.” The words spoken stiffly and politely they might have known each other years ago as children but they were totally different people these days.

“If you should change your mind and just need someone to talk to I’ll be here for you.”

Kate glanced up sharply trying to gauge if the comment was sincere those innocent looking eyes indicated that they were and she smiled briefly as she nodded towards the woman, Maddy had obviously come over to see this evening.

“She’s been waiting for you, I think she thought after yesterday that you wouldn’t be back."

“Why would she think that? I don’t even know what happened yesterday not really.”

Maddy also watched Christine who kept looking at the clock as she sat with a book on her lap but not turning any pages.

“Maybe I had better tell you what Doctor Shaw thought might be useful to us if she decides to…well become difficult.”

“Why not say it Kate if she tries to harm herself as she’s done in the past.”

“As you say. Her behavior hasn’t been as erratic as you would expect if something gets to her.”

“No, and I don’t think it will. I know she’s going to make it!”

“Why not go see her and put her mind at rest, I’m sure if you ask her she’ll tell you what happened yesterday.”

Maddy headed for the door and turned back suddenly, “I meant what I said Kate, if you need a shoulder or listening ear.”

Leaving the room, Kate had to choke back the tears at the genuine offer.

“Hi Chris.”

Maddy walked slowly into the room and felt it spin around her again as she was given the full force of that beautiful smile. That told her more and more that Christine Andrews was becoming an integral part of her life and she didn’t think she could do without it now.

“You came back?” The three words tumbled out of her mouth so tremulously that Maddy had to choke back a sob as she realized how much this woman had come to depend on her.

“Yes I came back, you knew I would though didn’t you? I thought you knew everything about me, especially now?”

“I know you Maddy, not everything about you.” The younger woman stood up and let the tears slip slowly down her cheeks as Maddy moved quickly to hug her close and whispered incoherent words into her hair.

Minutes later she was holding Chris away from her and they both had tears in their eyes. As Maddy gently traced a line down each cheek tenderly, her heart flipped over causing a lump to develop in her throat.

“Shall we sit down and you can tell me what happened yesterday, would that be okay with you?”

Christine stared at her and glanced around the room realizing that they were alone in the sitting area, everyone else had gone to their rooms or occupied elsewhere. Strange she hadn’t noticed that as she looked up at the clock in the room, which indicated she’d been here at least three hours.

Fifteen minutes later Maddy knew the story and she was inwardly seething at the ignorance and offending nature of people who lived in the town. Maybe she would go back and find out just who it was that was there yesterday afternoon with Chris!

“Chris next time, hopefully it won’t, but if it does happen again will you wait for me, and we can work on the problem together?”

“I know I should have yesterday, I wanted to get away from those women, they were horrible to me Maddy.”

“I know Chris and unfortunately in the world you always get people who will never understand no matter how you try to explain. That doesn’t mean it has to affect all the good work that you’ve done towards getting well does it?”

Maddy watched several expressions cross the face in front of her and she was delighted at the change in the countenance from the pallor of the first day they met, to the pink and healthy tinge of the skin tone now.

“I’m well now Maddy, as long as you are with me.”

Madison Smith had lived to be thirty-eight and made her fair share of friends and loved ones over the years. Not to the extent, this woman held her it reminded her of only one other person. Strangely enough, many of Chris’s manners reminded her of that person too, and that was her Gran, wonder what she would have made of it all.

“Chris if you carry on as you are, soon you will be able to return to your family and eventually back to your own personal path in life. We will always be friend’s though and you can rely on me to be there for you if you need me.”

Even as she said the words, she knew it would hurt her as much as she thought it might hurt Chris, a separation. However, wouldn’t that be the right and the kindest thing to do for them both?

“How can you think of living without me Maddy? Don’t you know yet what this is all about?”

Chris had felt herself growing with confidence each time Maddy visited her and in the last week she wanted to leave with Maddy when she went home, she wanted to be with her every single hour possible. The voice inside her head hadn’t bothered her and as she gradually sought out people and interacted with them, she began to feel that she was almost back to normal, if you could call anyone normal.

Maddy looked up to the ceiling in the hope of getting inspiration. Her heart was telling her to accept what Chris was saying, that they belonged together, her mind refused to acknowledge such a notion. Continuing to take the safe route that Chris was ill and didn’t know what she was saying, she was just a crutch that the woman needed at this moment in her life.

“Who said I was thinking of living without you.” The reply so softly spoken it was hard to hear. Chris did hear and responded with a magnificent smile that made all the older woman’s resolve melt.

“Did I ever tell you about my grandmother?”

“No.”

“Well tonight I’m going to share a story or two with you about her when I was a child, she knew me too.” Chuckling as she recalled such an episode when she was five years old and wanted to fly like her daddy.

“I’d like that, thank you.”

The two women settled down into the armchairs as Maddy began her story, there was an answer to all this, there had to be.

Homecoming

Jenny Smith looked over the neatly trimmed lawn in front of the house from her window view. The cruise had been marvelous and she was sure she had gained ten pounds but who was counting, Richard certainly wasn’t as he had possibly gained more.

Now she knew what had excited her mother-in-law so much about cruising, the sheer decadent feeling of allowing someone to do everything for you and all you had to do was turn up to eat, drink and be entertained.

The other interesting part was how you could be so friendly with complete strangers in such a short time. They had been fortunate with the people they had met and even been instrumental in a budding romance between two single people on the cruise. Hard to say if they would make it but you never knew. Hadn’t Madeline had a short interlude of that description she must check with Maddy if anyone would know Maddy would?

Speak of the devil there was her absent daughter, who was now running up the drive and taking the porch steps two at a time.

“Mom, Mom are you home?”

Jenny had to laugh, of course she was otherwise why would the door be open. Smiling she left, her bedroom and walked down the hallway to virtually collide with her youngest child.

“Darling I wasn’t expecting such a welcome.”

Maddy hugged her mother tightly and kissed her cheek in welcome, although she had been home almost forty-eight hours now.

“I thought you might have been over earlier, where have you been keeping yourself?”

Jenny watched a hooded look cross her face. Oh no, troubling brewing that’s all that expression had ever brought with it!

“Oh this and that, keeping up your responsibilities Mom.”

“Really and my responsibilities have increased to twenty-four hour coverage? I think not my dear daughter.” Jenny hooked her arm in her daughter’s as she guided her child towards the kitchen and the coffee she had brewing.

As they sat opposite each other on the breakfast stools, Maddy asked how the trip had gone.

“I’ll give you a brief description but your father and I hoped to get the family together Sunday for lunch. We can go over everything once rather than three times, not that I mind regaling everyone separately with our adventures but you know what your father is like.”

Richard wouldn’t want to keep repeating himself he never had and after all these years, she doubted it would change because of a magnificent vacation. Somehow, her reticent man wouldn’t change his spots and she didn’t want that either, after spending almost half a century with him, she had loved him from the first day she met him faults and all.

“Mom I….” Jenny Smith held up her hand to stop what she knew was a declining of the invitation it was all in the expression.

“Don’t Maddy. You must have known we would want this I’m sure you can rearrange whatever you have agreed to do. This is important to us darling.”

Maddy gazed into her coffee cup and wondered how she could tell Chris that their ‘date’ to the park had to be cancelled. Having totally forgotten that her parents would expect them all to get together the first Sunday they were back. Damn!

“I guess, okay Mom I’ll be there.”

“Good, I knew you would see it my way. Now Maddy what have you been getting into while we’ve been away. Please don’t say anything because Dan said you had become a stranger and spent all your time at Sinclair.”

“Oh typical, Dan doesn’t wait a moment before he mentions something that has nothing whatsoever to do with him.”

“Now Maddy that’s not the case and you know it. Dan said he was worried until you spoke with Lance. Let’s face it he takes his first born role seriously even if you can all look after yourselves.”

“Yes I know Mom but…I decided to put in extra hours at Sinclair they were short staffed that was all.”

“Really? Now how is it that Fay Castor told me only yesterday that you were taking patients out and about to the hairdressers and it shouldn’t be allowed.”

Jenny heard the groan of disgust from her daughter, she had felt much the same and had said so too, that had put Fay Castor’s nose out of joint and well deserved too.

“Mom you know how I like to help and I had the time…” As she narrated her three months at Sinclair, a splendid idea jumped around in her head!

“I wonder where she is?” Richard Smith looked out towards the drive at the vehicles belonging to the other members of the family except his youngest child.

“She’ll be here dear, Maddy has never missed an appointment in her life she’s like clockwork.” Jenny Smith placed the roast on the rack to let it rest for a time before carving, noting that the rest of the meal was almost ready and Maddy was late.

“I begin to wonder with what the boys have been saying, maybe it wasn’t a good idea she replaced you at Sinclair.”

“Don’t be silly Richard, Maddy is just fine and she’ll be here any moment.”

A vehicle approaching had Richard glancing back out of the window as Madeline the youngest grandchild whooped with joy at the sight of her aunt’s car. Her small legs gaining speed as she ran towards the steps of the porch before being caught by her father and held aloft in his arms as she screamed her delight at the action.

“It looks like she’s here now, I’ll see what kept her.” He strode off in the direction of the porch. Jenny shook her head as she contemplated the items for the dinner and Linda; Dan’s wife, came into the kitchen at that moment to offer her help.

Lance Smith watched his sister approach and the guest she had with her. No one mentioned that Maddy was bringing a friend. Not only that it was someone they didn’t know either, she wasn’t a local girl, at least none he recalled, then again, she did look younger than Maddy.

His father approached at that moment, “Didn’t know Maddy was bringing a friend Dad?”

Richard looked at the figure who was about five inches taller than Maddy, with dark hair that shone in the sunlight and a willowy body that made his daughter look rounder than she was, like little and large one extreme to another.

“Nor did I Lance. This will be a surprise for your mother, want to go inside and let her know, we will need to set another place at the table.”

“Sure thing Dad. Come on poppet let’s go talk with grandma and see what’s cooking.” Lance spoke to his daughter as he jogged into the house with her on his shoulders.

“Hi Dad.” Maddy said with a bright smile, one thing she was assured was her father’s politeness in front of a stranger. When they were alone, that might be something else.

“Maddy, glad you could make it.” Her father looked pointedly at the woman at her side who was so close to her he wondered if they were attached at the hip.

“I wouldn’t miss it Dad, this is a friend of mine Christine. Chris, meet my Dad.”

Maddy moved slightly to allow Chris a clear view of her father who immediately held out his hand in welcome.

“Hello Christine or would you prefer Chris? My name is Richard, Maddy forgets such things I’m afraid.” Winking at the younger woman, who visibly relaxed at his friendly overtures.

“Hello Richard thank you for allowing me to come to lunch. Christine or Chris is okay.”

Richard smiled, his weathered face gentle, as he heard the hesitation in the timid reply, wonder where Maddy met this woman?

“Any friend of Madison’s is a friend of the family, why not come inside and meet the rest of the clan. I can assure you they don’t bite but just in case I’ll accompany you while Maddy touches base with her mother for a few minutes.”

Maddy felt the tension in Chris at her father suggestion. Turning to face the woman, she smiled reassuringly at her.

“Go with Dad Chris I’ll be along real soon, Mom will want to know why I’m a little late.”

“I made you late Maddy I’m sorry.”

“Hey it’s fine Chris no problem. Dad, take care of Chris please and don’t let the boys monopolize her! You know what they are like around a pretty face. See you soon okay?”

Maddy gently squeezed Chris’s shoulder and ran up the porch steps to see her mother and explain the unexpected guest. Her dad was a sweet man who would let her do anything at all; her mother on the other hand was different. Regardless of what her mother said, Chris was worth it, even if it meant she had to wash up at the end of the meal.

“Well young lady shall I take you to meet the family?” Richard waved her forward and smiled warmly as she mounted the final steps and entered the house with him.

“Mom how can you say that?” Maddy retorted angrily.

“I can say it because you should be saying it too! For god’s sake Maddy where is your common sense in this?”

“She’s my friend I thought you didn’t mind if I brought home friends for lunch? Why has that suddenly changed?”

“No it hasn’t! Madison the woman is ill and she’s not known for her peaceful co-existent with others. Now you want her to mingle with our family and what about the children?”

“Mother! How can you say that are you preaching one thing but practicing the opposite? Chris is doing so well, trust me for once!”

“Chris now, not Christine? How much of a friend is she?” Jenny couldn’t believe that Maddy had a patient from Sinclair here in their home without at least advising them, had she taken leave of her senses.

“She’s a friend! Look Mom we’ll leave if that’s what you want, no problem to me at all.”

Maddy knew she was being awkward and in a way reckless but she needed Chris in her life and her mother couldn’t dictate whom she called a friend.

“Don’t be so childish Madison! Here take the roast, stop pouting and let’s have a civilized lunch, your friend included.”

As Maddy was thrust the roast she had no choice but to do as she was told and she retreated into the large dinning room where everyone was seated including Chris who had been placed next to her.

“Ah lunch is about to be served I see.” Richard Smith saw the thunderclouds in his youngest child’s eyes and knew that mother and daughter had been having words, better to let sleeping dogs lie in this instance he suspected.

Placing the roast in the center of the table Maddy quickly sat at her position next to Chris at the table and gave her a bright smile, which didn’t reach her eyes and faded quickly as her thoughts went over the conversation with her mother. She had never had her down as a hypocrite but you live and learn they say.

“Are you okay?” The words uttered so quietly only Maddy could hear them.

Turning to face her friend, this was like role reversal. It wasn’t Chris’s fault that she felt angry. This was only the start she suspected if everyone treated her friend like this. It was going to be a faith in her strength of purpose and feeling for Chris to stay the course.

“I’m okay, trust me Chris.” This time the smile did reach her eyes and it satisfied her friend.

Their eyes locked and Maddy felt her senses reel, with the impact of those blue eyes she wanted desperately to touch Chris to know this was real and she was feeling it too.

A voice was cleared behind them as Jenny Smith stood looking with a strange expression on her face, first at her daughter and then at the woman at her side.

“Hello Christine, welcome to our home. I hope you enjoy the fare we have today it’s traditional for us to have a roast on a family Sunday.”

Christine looked up at the woman who was her friend’s mother and gave her a smile. She had seen the woman before of course over the time she had been at the sanatorium but had never spoken to her before. Strange how fate put things so close and yet so far away and it wasn’t until you were face to face with something you really saw it for what it was.

“Thank you Mrs. Smith for allowing me to join you all for lunch.” Her voice was cautious but clear; something in the older woman’s body language said the exact opposite to her words and that puzzled Christine. However, she would take whatever was to come from the woman if it meant she could stay close to Maddy.

“Gran, Gran can we start now?” Leo anxiously asked, he was starving and they had had to wait for aunt Maddy to arrive, as she was late.

Jenny was taken up with the chorus of voices asking the same question jovially as the family began the meal and going over their parent’s vacation.

Sven watched his sister-in-law pensively look for her friend as the younger children had volunteered to show her the yard area.

“Penny for them Madison.” With a name like Sven Berlinger you expected him to have a thick European accent but he was three generations removed from his ancestors.

“Oh I was just thinking.” She smiled at him as he came to stand at her shoulder; he was a very handsome man, blonde, tall and athletic. Her brother was a lucky man for he was the more sensitive of the partnership she suspected. The children adored him and he loved them, it was clear in the way they interacted together.

“Would it have anything to do with your friend by any chance?”

“Yeah it would. How did you know?”

“Call it an educated guess. She’s very beautiful and seems to be a nice person, otherwise I doubt the kids would have anything to do with her, you know how objectionable they can be.”

Maddy laughed as she recalled one of Linda’s friends from her days in college spending a couple of weeks with Dan and his family. She had certainly gone through the mincer with the boys and when she met the rest of the family. As the kids reacted to her condescending attitude, it was everyone for themselves.

“Yes that’s true, Chris appears to have settled in with them quite well. Pity Mom hasn’t been so easy to convince.”

Sven had noticed a strained attitude between Maddy and her mother; it was also plain that Jenny had reservations about Christine too.

“Maybe she’s worried about you, we all have been lately you know. Especially your brothers, they love you very much Madison.”

“I know, I know Sven but I’m old enough to chose my own friends hell I am thirty-eight after all!” Maddy retorted bitterly as she recalled her mother’s earlier comments.

“Thirty-eight going on eight according to your brothers, I don’t think they see you as anything other than the kid sister Madison. I guess that’s the negative side of such a loving family if you can call it negative.”

Maddy gave the man at her side a wry smile, “you know I doubt that the future King of England would be good enough for my brother’s, a sibling thing I guess.”

“I’m sure you’re right. I know it may seem impertinent. Exactly what is your relationship to Christine, you appear very close.”

There was no mistaking the hidden question behind the words he spoke, oh well it was a sure thing that was going to be asked at some stage wasn’t it. How to answer it without lying to him that was the real killer, however the truth would be as good an answer as anything.

“We’re friends Sven, she says we share a soul.” The words were so quietly spoken Sven had to strain to hear them and he smiled slowly as he did so.

“Do you think you do?”

“Oh I’m practical Sven, I don’t exactly believe in the sharing of souls romantic crap they write in books.”

Sven looked down at his hands before he spoke again and then made a decision.

“Not always in books Madison, your grandmother believed now didn’t she?”

At the mention of her grandmother, Maddy’s face slipped from its normal happy countenance to take on a sad expression for a few moments, missing the old lady dreadfully.

As she spoke her, voice cracked with the emotion she felt at the loss of the woman she had felt so close to in life, and had never settled since her death until she had met Christine.

“Yes she did Sven, so very much. She found hers, did she ever tell you that?” At the shake of his head she continued. “His name was Chris…Chris Andrews!” As she said the words something clicked in her brain, then a scream was heard outside, it was a child screaming in fear and panic.

“Madeline!”

Both Sven and Maddy rushed out of the room and were met at the porch by her parents. They looked ashen as they pointed to a car at the end of the drive, which was now wrapped around a tree, three feet from the road, a very young man looking dazedly around him.

“What happened?” they asked in unison as they saw Dan and Lance huddled over a figure in the road. Sven groaned. What if it was one of his children?

“There was an accident, the children were playing hide and seek with your friend Christine. The car had already mounted the sidewalk Christi was so close to it, she wouldn’t have seen it coming….”

Sven rushed off his thoughts on his eldest child, oh god please don’t let it be Christi.

As Maddy was about to follow, Richard Smith pulled her back gently.

“Maddy he didn’t let me finish. Your friend saw the situation developing, she saved Christi by pushing her out of the way.”

Maddy’s eyes rapidly scanned the area for her friend, where was she?

“Where is she Dad?”

He released the gentle hold he had on her arm as he pointed towards her brother’s who were still crouched down by the sidewalk.

“She was hit by the car saving the child Maddy.”

Thinking this impossible, she ran as fast as she could to the people now gathering around her friend. It couldn’t be her friend! Her father must be mistaken! He was mistaken!

Pushing at Dan’s broad shoulders, she stood as rigid as stone looking down at Chris. Her friend deathly pale with blood trickling from her nose and a large bruise appearing on the side of her head.

“Is she…?” Maddy couldn’t formulate the words as she stared at her injured friend, this wasn’t happening, it wasn’t.

Dan placed a tender arm around her shoulders as he answered.

“She’s alive Maddy, the paramedics will be here soon.” Dropping to her knees she was given space to get close to her friend as she touched her face so fleetingly she barely felt the heat of the flesh beneath her fingertips.

“Oh god no.” Broken words uttered as she moved closer and placed a tender kiss on her friend’s forehead whispering softly, “don’t leave me Chris, please don’t leave me you’re my soulmate remember what would I do without you now.”

There was no movement and Dan was advising people to move away as the sirens could be heard from the emergency vehicle approaching.

“Nothing to see folks, she’s gonna be fine the experts are here now.”

Lance watched his kid sister as she cradled the lifeless hand of her friend. Even he could see this was no ordinary friendship as the tears crashed profusely onto her cheeks.

“She’ll be okay Maddy, she will.” He tried to reassure her but knew at this time no words were getting through. She was lost in her agony over her friend’s predicament.

The paramedics arrived at that moment along with a police vehicle they immediately sought out the young man at the wheel of the car involved in the accident.

“I’m here Chris I’ll always be here don’t you forget that!” As she relinquished her friend to the waiting paramedics, her voice was thick with tears.

A Promise

“What do you think they will do?” Charge nurse Kate Calhoun asked the Doctor who was pacing the floor in her office, waiting to be called to the internal hearing regarding negligence of staff at the Sinclair sanatorium.

“Do Kate? Oh maybe hit me over the head with a baseball bat and say naughty boy don’t do that again.” Doctor Ben Shaw remarked bitterly.

“Please Doctor, be serious.” Kate demanded quietly as she contemplated his boyish features and the obvious strain there. He was a good doctor, no maybe a great doctor; this was such a tragic accident.

“That’s just it Kate, who takes me seriously?” the voice rose several octaves as he turned to gaze at the woman his eyes filled with loathing for himself for allowing a novice person to take charge of one of their more volatile patients.

“I do.”

Ben Shaw wasn’t sure he heard correctly as he gazed at the charge nurse, who was smiling at him rather shyly.

Shaking his head, he answered her, “you do?”

“I do!” this time she left the confines of her desk and came to stand in front of him. “You are an excellent doctor and very compassionate, how can they see anything else.”

Ben Shaw has spent his life embroiled in his profession; he had rarely taken the time to consider a private life. Romance certainly hadn’t been part of his plan at all. Here was someone who was giving him professional respect; did she respect him as plain Ben Shaw too?

“Kate whatever happens will you have dinner with me sometime soon?”

He didn’t want to say tonight or rush her; he felt that she needed to make the decision. Having heard about the recent break-up of her marriage he didn’t want to intrude at all.

Kate was stunned, was this a date? She hadn’t been on a date in years and even then, they had been few and far between, as she had worked the late shift and Ken had been a long distance lorry driver.

“I…as you know Doctor I have a family it would be difficult.”

“I’m sorry Kate I didn’t want to…that is I hope you don’t think that I was taking advantage or anything.”

Ben didn’t know what to do next, he hadn’t obviously considered Kate’s circumstances only his own, damn he was some kind of stupid fool.

“No! No please Doctor Shaw, I’m home this evening, would you like to come over to dinner. You can meet my family, I vouch for your safety my kids are good, really!”

She smiled and Ben felt good, better than he had when he came into the room, it was kind of nice.

“I think that you need to call me Ben under the circumstances Kate.”

Grinning broadly as the phone rang Kate retrieved it, a wide smile still reciprocating his. “Hello Calhoun here…Okay I’ll advise him.”

“I know I need to go into the lions den.” Ben Shaw shrugged as Kate put down the receiver.

“Yes I’m afraid so.” She stared at him as he straightened his tie but it still looked crooked.

Moving over to him, she carefully arranged his tie to look straight. Then was caught by his brown eyes as she felt a shift in her equilibrium, her senses doing somersaults something she hadn’t experienced since she was a teenager.

“Thank you Kate.”

“You’re welcome Ben.”

Both smiled broadly, as they looked at each other, so close and yet so far apart.

“I’ll go then and tonight what time and where?”

“How about six, 439 West Street. Next to Walmart.”

“I’ll be there Kate, thank you.”

As he turned to leave the room, she placed a hand on his arm and he turned back to her quizzically.

“For luck, not that you need it.” She placed a swift fleeting kiss on his lips and pushed him out of the door.

He grinned like a schoolboy, and felt a bubble of adrenaline crash around him. No problem he was ready for anything, now!

“I’m sorry Maddy.” Jenny Smith said sincerely, she had been wrong! What else could she say in the circumstances?

No reply.

Richard grasped hold of his wife’s hand as she tried again; he now knew what had gone on between his wife and daughter. He didn’t approve but they would work it out, they always had.

“She saved Christi’s life, we are grateful to her. If there’s anything we can do…” Tears flowed as Jenny Smith cried openly and was pulled into a loving hug by her husband.

Vacant eyes turned to the pain of her mother and there was nothing, no emotion at all she was numb. Chris was the only factor here…nothing else mattered. How could it?

“Ms. Smith if you want, you may see the patient now.”

“Is she okay?“ Maddy asked eagerly of the nurse who had spoken.

“I can’t say you would have to speak to the doctor.”

The nurse didn’t wait for a reply as she went away to another situation.

Maddy walked towards the room and then suddenly turned to her parents speaking softly.

“I love her, I’m nothing without her!” Turning she resumed her vigil with her friend.

Madison’s voice was hoarse as she narrated another story from her grandmother’s journal reading virtually none-stop for twelve hours. The doctor in charge of the case had been cautious that had been worse than negative leaving her adrift in uncertainty. What did she do now?

Flicking through the pages she decided to start from the time her grandmother and her soulmate had admitted that much at least.

“I’ve missed you Madeline.”

“I know, I’ve missed you too Chris.”

Watching and waiting were the hardest things she’d ever done as she looked over to the sleeping form of Christine in the bed. The hospital room was so sterile and utilitarian not a place to stay for too long.

After keeping her vigilance for two days and going home only to shower and change, sleep unable to invade her need to be here close to her friend.

“You know Chris, it’s strange but you have the same name as my grandmother’s soul mate, how weird is that? Would you laugh or give me one of those concentrated looks that say I told you so?”

Flicking over the volume she held of her grandmother’s journals, she began to slowly read about the time her Gran had literally fallen into Christopher Andrews’ arms on the deck that first day. In many ways sharing her grandmother’s story helped Maddy as she waited patiently for Chris to wake up, she was going to she knew it.

The door opened at that moment and her mother quietly entered the room and for a moment tenderly watched her daughter narrate a story to the sleeping woman. Taking in a deep breath she moved forward to place a hand on Maddy’s shoulder.

“Hi, has she woken up yet?”

Maddy stopped her story as she stared up into her mother’s concerned face, “no not yet but she will the doctor’s say she’s sleeping.”

Taking a seat from the end of the bed, she pulled it to sit alongside her daughter. “Has Doctor Shaw been here?”

“Yes he comes every six hours or so, I don’t think he sleeps either. I guess I let him down and Kate too, they trusted me to keep Chris safe and I didn’t do that.”

Maddy choked on the words as her face crumbled with the guilt she felt.

“No! Darling no you didn’t let anyone down. You have been marvelous for Christine and no one thinks that at all, it was a terrible accident. Maddy, Christine saved Christi’s life how is that letting anyone down?”

Tears welled up in her eyes as she reached for Chris’s hand and held it tenderly, “ I feel I did, she trusted me Mom, she trusted me!”

“How could you have prevented it Maddy?”

The tears flowed now. She was unable to stop them as she continued to stare at the pale features of her friend.

“What will I do if she doesn’t recover Mom? How can I live without her, she’s what I’ve been waiting for all my life.”?

Jenny Smith moved to embrace her child and tenderly stroke the wayward hair that lack of attention over the past couple of days had allowed it to do its own thing.

“She will recover Maddy the doctors are hopeful, her body is just trying to heal itself before it comes back to us and faces the trauma of the situation.”

“I love her Mom, I don’t understand it, I can’t explain it but the feeling is so powerful. She calls me the other half of her soul and now I actually believe it is true! How ridiculous is that?”

“Not ridiculous at all darling, love is a very wonderful and powerful emotion, it transcends all boundaries. Look at how you and Christine met, I think that’s a perfectly good testament to its power don’t you?”

Jenny Smith had wondered about the relationship when Maddy was gutted at her friend’s accident, admittedly it was traumatic but it was her total breakdown of character that had given it away.

“I don’t care about anything but being with her Mom. It doesn’t matter if she’s ill I just want to help her. If my life has to be spent in and out of sanatoriums with her I’ll gladly do that, it really doesn’t matter. Chris is the only thing that matters to me, until I die that’s the only important thing in my life, her welfare and happiness.”

What did you say to an admission filled with such fever, it warmed the heart but at the same time chilled it in its single minded, bordering on obsessive behavior?

“I’ll leave you to finish your story Maddy and I’ll be back later you need a good square meal to keep you going. Christine wouldn’t be happy would she, if you neglected yourself?” Kissing her daughter tenderly, she gave her a reassuring smile.

“Thanks Mom.” Maddy stared unseeingly at the journal in front of her, so many words that now blurred rapidly as tears stung her eyes. She felt so weary now, wanting to sleep but unable to just in case Chris needed her.

Shaking her head to try and clear the tiredness she began the story again, taking up where Chris and Madeline were brought together again by their friends. Their first true admission on love as they walked the deck back to Madeline’s cabin.

Slowly Maddy’s eyes shut and her voice trailed off as she finally gave into the insidious craving of her body for sleep, her head tipping until it lay next to Chris’s hand on the bed.

Whispering white clouds, a fluffy intangible mist that moved away as you approached it, puzzled her for a few moments as she looked around to get her bearings. Had she been left on the side of a mountain and the night was drawing in, surely not?

Then she saw two figures approaching from different angles and the woman was running towards the man or at least that was how it looked to her, their faces she was unable to make out because of the swirling mist. However, she could hear the conversation as a voice she was sure she knew shouted out.

“Darling you’re here.”

The woman’s figure was running so fast she tripped and was saved from falling…maybe the ground but she wasn’t sure it didn’t look solid at all to her, by the man figure.

“My love, as always you know how to make a rather spectacular entrance.” The chuckle that followed sounded so very happy and content.

“Darling I love you and I’ve missed you so much.” The woman spoke quietly with a tone filled with happiness.

Was she dreaming? Yeah she must be it was the stories she had been reading to Chris they were causing her to hallucinate in her dreams…yet they seemed so real she thought she could touch the figures. Okay so it was a dream she would let it go it’s course and she’d wake up!

“I have always been with you my love.”

“I know. Every time I looked in her eyes I saw you there darling.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t wait. It was such a wonderful opportunity to be with you and love you once again. How could I resist the opportunity? Do you forgive me?”

The woman tenderly stroked a finger down the cheek of the man as she replied. “Of course I do, at least you didn’t cause any of the trouble I have. I never meant to cause her so much pain but I couldn’t live without you darling. I thought if I could get your attention then we could rekindle the love we once had. Do you forgive me?”

“I understand completely, we did it for love how can that be wrong?”

“I have to go back and wait you know don’t you? I believe I have tormented the poor creature too much already. Farewell, my darling I will wait for you patiently this time although it will be hard. Know this, I’ll never leave your heart, you will never be alone that is my promise for every lifetime.”

The figures embraced as they kissed in what appeared to be farewells, which didn’t make sense to her. How could that happen?

“I’ve loved you from the beginning of life, next time for sure will be our time together that’s my promise to you.”

“I’ll wait for you whatever it takes love, but please don’t take too long next time we have a souvenir hunt to finish remember?”

The figures seemed to dissipate in front of her eyes as she tried but failed to see where they had gone. Then the swirling mists thickened and she felt herself pulled from the scene, as she awoke to find one of the nurses shaking her.

“What? Where am I, oh right”? Maddy blinked away the sleep and focused on the woman who had dragged her out of sleep.

“Your friend is waking.” The nurse said quietly pointing in the direction of Chris who was slowly trying to open her eyes. “I’ve buzzed for the doctor.”

Maddy couldn’t help it she was grinning and had tears rolling down her cheeks, as she watched Chris open those wonderful blue eyes to the world.

“Chris? How are you feeling?”

Christine Andrews gaze attached to the concerned green eyes staring at her from the side of the bed.

“I feel…light headed I guess.”

Maddy turned to the nurse anxiously. “Understandable in the circumstances Ms. Smith, the doctor will check it all out.”

“Do you remember what happened?”

Christine glanced around the room and shook her head slowly; wincing as the headache made itself known.

“Not really I was in a car accident I think.”

“Yes, yes that’s right Chris you were you saved….” Maddy stopped as Chris continued absently, what she said shook Maddy to the core.

“I was driving home from the University wasn’t I? The roads were icy, I skidded and lost control and hit a tree, that’s all I remember.”

Maddy stood up abruptly and the chair fell backward clattering to the ground as she did so. “I’m sorry.”

The words whispered as she picked up the chair and righted it. What did this mean? Did Chris know her at all?

“Do you know who I am Chris?”

Christine looked at her closely and the blue eyes scanned her face for any familiar features, there wasn’t any. “Are you a doctor?”

Madison Smith breathed in deeply this was not what she was expecting at all, no one told her this could happen, why didn’t they tell her?

“No, not a doctor a friend.”

“I’m sorry but have we met before?” Christine thought there was something familiar about the woman but she wasn’t very sure what it was.

Maddy turned to the nurse who shook her head; she didn’t know what to tell the woman. “No, we haven’t met before. I hope we can be friends though Chris and would you mind if I come visit you while you are in the hospital?”

“Sure, what’s your name?”

Christine wasn’t sure what to make of this, she had expected her Mom and Dad to be here not some stranger, albeit the woman did look concerned for her but she was still a stranger.

“Maddy, Madison Smith, I’ll let the doctor’s see you now and I’ll check back later okay?”

“Sure, are my folks here?” the bright blue eyes went from Maddy to the nurse.

“No, not yet but they are due anytime don’t worry they will be here soon.” Maddy turned to leave the room and then spun back with a question.

“Is there anything that you would like me to bring in for you?”

Sparkling blue eyes trapped her green ones as the wonderful smile that had captured Maddy’s heart shone out.

“Any chance of strawberries?”

Maddy closed her eyes briefly as she wondered for a moment where that came from and then she opened them again as she reciprocated with a warm smile of her own.

“A great chance, they’re my favorite I’ll bring them later.” Maddy left the room her heart heavy but not out for the count yet. She needed to talk with Doctor Shaw.

Suddenly the dream she just had came back vividly to her and she realized what it meant and why she would have to let Christine go. Understanding that for a brief moment, their two souls met and that had to be enough for this lifetime….

Time to say farewell…for now

Maddy looked out over the hill as she placed a suitcase at her feet from the trunk of the car, having arrived at the rail station a few minutes earlier.

“Thank you Maddy.”

Turning to her companion, she smiled at the younger woman as Christine Andrews climbed out of the vehicle depositing her hand luggage at the side of the suitcase.

“Are you ready? The train is at the platform and they’ve never been known to be late leaving the station.”

Christine turned her eyes to the sanatorium on the hill and her features turned reflective as she recalled being told of the past two years of her life. They had insisted that she stay for a few weeks to ensure themselves and her parents that she was…normal and back to the woman she used to be. Losing two years of your life was rather disconcerting but the woman here with her now had made the situation easier with her devotion and caring. She had never experienced having a best friend before having always been too busy studying but Maddy had proved that she could have both and they would remain friends for the rest of their lives she knew it deep inside.

“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, you won’t forget to visit will you Maddy, you did promise.”

“No, I won’t forget to visit and don’t you forget to come back for Christi’s birthday party you are guest of honor remember?”

Both women laughed as they agreed to the respective visits. The sound of the station speaker calling for the final passengers gallivanted them both into action, as they walked towards the steps of one of the carriages.

Stowing the suitcase in a free baggage space, Maddy retreated to the door so she wouldn’t be stuck on the train as Chris found her seat and placed a magazine and book on it as she turned to look at Maddy.

“I don’t know how to thank you for my sanity Maddy.”

“No thanks necessary Chris it was my pleasure. I’m glad you’re going back to the University to finish your doctorate, everything will be okay now.”

“You won’t forget me will you Maddy?” the words spoken quietly.

Maddy moved forward back into the carriage beside Chris as she tenderly traced a finger down her cheek, “How could I ever forget you Chris.”

The tears she had been holding back sprang to the fore as they welled threatening to fall and embarrass her, she had steeled herself for this and she would do it without causing a scene.

Chris felt the gentle caress and reacted to the motion, she had a feeling that this was goodbye and she didn’t want that.

“I will never forget you ever Maddy! I will be back you can count on it.”

The whistle blew on the platform as Maddy removed her hand and swiftly exited the train to stand watching the train pull away and with it a large piece of her heart.

“I love you Chris Andrews, safe journey.”

Maddy turned and left the station and walked up to her car and before she climbed inside she looked up at the hill and the sunlight streaming through the trees giving the Sinclair Sanatorium a serene peace. Shaking her head she sat in the driver’s seat, put on her sunglasses and turned the ignition on the car, setting off for home.

Today had been a painful time for her and she had lived through it. Tomorrow was another day and glancing down at the package peeking out of the glove compartment, she smiled wryly.

Yes, tomorrow was another day and she was going to live them as best she could, after all, she was experiencing life for two, hers and her soulmate.

“I’ll have to check how Gran started her first journal, got to keep in tradition.” She spoke to herself as she left the station behind and her old life, as she knew it.

There was a promise to keep!

Continued - Part 3


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