The Throes of Spring
(Part 3 of The Guest)
By Joanne Grier
The delicate scent of soft spring greenery filled the air, creating a need to shed the winter coat and rush outdoors in shirt sleeves to rejoice. Angel crouched on the window sill, nose pressed against the screen, sniffing the tantalizing air. He mewed softly, indicated his desire to be free to chase the scents that blew in and caused his senses to rise in expectation. Jumping down, he wandered over to Charles, rubbing furiously against his pant leg and crying his displeasure.
“You have to wait until Dev comes back with your new harness, then we’ll go out. He won’t be long, OK?”
Angel continued his crying and frantic rubbing. Picking him up, Charles settled him on his back and began to rub his tummy. This normally soothed Angel and sent him into the throes of cat ecstasy. Today he wanted none of this, he wanted out! He leaped off Charles’ lap and raced toward the window, leaped upon the sill, settled with his nose pressed against the screen and his tail switching in double time, clearly indicating his annoyance with his supposed owner!
Once again Charles checked the wall clock, wishing that Dev would hurry. He didn’t like it when Angel was upset and today he surely was not happy. Hoping to distract Angel, Charles got out his favorite toy, which looked like a fly fishing lure attached to a flexible pole. He relocated nearer the window and began flipping the toy toward Angel, hoping to gain his attention. The cat barely glanced at Charles, turning to present his rump more prominently to Charles. He wanted out!
Charles was crushed. Angel always wanted to play and never before had he turned up his nose at his favorite toy. It was the toy his beloved Angel Bree had given to Angel.
After what seemed like hours, Charles heard Dev’s truck coming up the driveway and he rushed to the door to look out. “Angel, Dev’s home we can go out real soon now.”
Dev staggered in under the weight of six grocery bags as Charles reached to help relieve him of his burden. Together they headed for the kitchen and immediately Angel was on the floor rubbing circles around Dev’s leg and loudly pleading his case for freedom. “What’s up with him? He sounds like he’s ticked about something?”
“He wants out, but I told him we had to wait until you brought back his new harness. He’s been sniffing the air and swished his tail like he does when he sits on top of the TV when he doesn’t want us to watch TV.”
“Oh, then he’s really ticked. The harness should be in one of those brown bags.” Devin turned trying to hide his smile.
Charles abandoned the groceries and began searching within the bag for the harness. He didn’t like it when Angel was unhappy. Retrieving Angel from the window, he put him down on top of the table and began putting the new harness on him. “You know at some point you’re gonna have to let him run free outside. He’s used to the grass, rocks and trees now. He’s eight months old and nearly fully grown. He needs to be given his freedom.”
“But Dev, he might run away or get lost. He’s just a baby.”
“He might be a baby to you but in his world he’s fully grown. He needs to try his wings. He’s been in a harness and on a lead since you got him. He’s marked his territory so he knows it’s his yard, his space. He’s seen all the birds and wildlife, some up close when he hides out in the tall grass. I’m not telling you that you have to do this; I’m just suggesting that you think about letting him roam free. Okay?”
Charles didn’t respond, just picked up Angel, snapped on the lead and went to the door.
Dev watched them leave, aware of the conflict that filled Charles. His baby wanted his independence and like all parents, Charles was fearful of what that liberty might mean. Devin finished putting away the remaining groceries, walked into the living room wishing that Vincent were here so he could use him for a sounding board.
Bree signed off on the last of her daily reports, collected her tote bag and headed for the garage. It had been a long, bone weary day that had been filled with upsets, tears, and anger. All the problems that beset new patients seemed to happen at once as they struggled to come to terms with the results of their burns. She was used to the problems but it still didn’t make them easier to bear when the patients were young children.
Two accidents tied up traffic and she was over two hours in completing her trip home. The phone was ringing as she unlocked the door and hurried to answer it. “Hello?”
“Bree, its Cathy. I’m sorry but I’m calling to cancel our dinner this evening. I’m stuck in a meeting and they just took food orders so I know I’m gonna be here late. Could we reschedule for one night next week?
“Sure. Why don’t you call me later in the week and we can compare our schedules. I’m sorry you’re stuck. If you get out earlier than you think, come on by and I’ll give you some wine.”
“Sounds great. I’ll call you soon. Bye.”
Bree hung her coat and purse in the closet then headed for a soothing shower. She tried to shake off her day but the sobs and tears of the children stayed with her. The warm water eased her tense muscles but she longed for one of Devin’s deliciously relaxing back rubs. She remembered when he and Charles had last come to the city and how Devin managed a whole evening alone with her. He had been waiting, slumped on the floor asleep outside her apartment door when she got home. He awakened instantly with her soft greeting, stood and kissed her until she thought she would melt into her shoes! She smiled remembering that kiss and wished he were there to give her another.
She grabbed the soap and started washing her body as she thought of Devin and Charles and how much she loved them. Charles was the incarnation of the brother’s love she had lost when her brother had been killed. Devin was the love she never imagined she would ever know; he was her knight, protector, dear friend and hero rolled into one. She missed them and dreamed of the day they would all be together.
The contents of her closet were not appealing, so instead she grabbed her pajamas and slipped into them. She retrieved her robe and headed to the kitchen. From the refrigerator she withdrew the fixings for a salad and the left-over casserole. Quickly, she prepared the salad while she heated a serving of the casserole in her toaster oven. She poured some wine and crunched away on her salad. Devin had laughed when he had seen how she ate. She was ravenous when she got home so she always wolfed down her salad while the rest of her meal was heating or cooking. Remembering what Charles had said about eating fruit, she opened a can of peaches and put the bowl into the freezer for a quick chill.
The bell on the toaster oven rang – finally she could eat real food! She rushed into the living room, retrieved her mail and dashed back to the kitchen. Quickly, she sorted the mail and smiled in finding a letter from Charles. She settled into the chair, her plate before her, and the open letter in her hand.
Dear Angel Bree,
Do you think Angel is old enough to go into the yard alone? Dev said I should think about it but I’m scared. He’s so little and he might get lost, ‘nd not be able to find his way back home.
Angel was upset with me cuz he wanted out and I wouldn’t let him because he needed a new larger harness. Dev was getting a new one for him, but Angel got all mad, swishing his tail at me and wouldn’t let me rub his tummy.
I don’t know what to do. What do you think?
I’m gonna ask Vincent, too, cuz he is very smart and knows about lots of things. Maybe he knows about kittens and yards.
Would you send me more of your special tea? We are out and I haven’t been sleeping so good worrying about what to do about Angel. I don’t like it when Angel is upset.
I miss you.
P. S. Love you. Sleep good.
The letter made her smile but at the same time, she felt sad for Charles, understanding his feeling about Angel. He had done a remarkable job with Angel, who was the first pet he ever had. He had taught Angel manners and played with him constantly, helping him to burn off his excess energy. Of course, Charles did spoil Angel, just as all first time parents spoil their young.
Washing her few dishes, she thought about what she could possibly say to Charles that would help resolve the problem of freedom for Angel. She gathered up the letter and headed toward her desk. She knew Charles would be eager for a reply and she hoped she could find the right words to help.
So your baby wants to try his wings? It’s difficult when the young wish to branch out and take their first steps alone. It can be so scary watching them take their beginning steps to adult status.
It’s good that you are taking the necessary time to think about what is best for Angel. He is growing up and it is only natural that he wishes to venture out on his own.
I know you have a nice long lead so he is able to roam great distances within the confines of the yard. Have you thought about taking him out with Devin, each of you being in different parts of the yard so that you could watch over him and then allow him off the lead; free to roam but still within your sight?
He might venture away from his known area, but remember Angel has known only love in his life, and love is a very powerful magnet. He might go a few yards into the trees because he is, after all, a cat and cats are curious, but your love will bring him home. Its spring and all the new growing things make him inquisitive, and he surely wants to test his hunting and stalking skills.
This is like being a parent. Angel is your child and you are watching him grow, suffering as he wishes to test his wings and see how he fairs in this new world – walking alone into the great unknown.
I realize I haven’t given you a direct answer, but hopefully I have offered you some options and another way of looking at the problem.
Tomorrow I will order a shipment of tea sent to you. I think I’ll double the order just to be sure you have enough to get you through the process of trying to do what is best for Angel. I’ll have it sent overnight so you should have it before this letter gets to you.
You are ever in my thoughts and prayers.
The problem didn’t go away and Angel still perched in the window mewing to be let out. He played in his yard, but always confined to the length of the lead. For a few hours after going out Angel would act like his old self, stepping into Charles’ lap, laying on his back and asking for his tummy to be rubbed. Afterward Angel would butt his head against Charles’ chin, purring loudly and rubbing his face over Charles’.
Charles was quiet after Bree’s letter arrived and he didn’t mention what she had said. Usually they shared their letters from Bree and the fact that Charles didn’t share this one concerned Devin. He wondered what Bree could have conceivably said to make Charles so furtive.
Devin decided to call Bree using his bedroom phone. They talked for a long time about Charles before Devin got around to actually asking her how she was. He exploded in instant rage and anger when she told him she had been hurt at work two days ago and had only come home that afternoon from the hospital. A new patient had become upset when he saw his reflection in a mirror and in his despair, he had leapt out of bed, hitting Bree in the shoulder, knocking her off balance, and as they fell in a tangle of bodies, the patient stepped on Bree’s ankle with his full body weight, causing three hair line fractures, plus spraining her ankle. She was off duty, confined to bed rest with her foot elevated to keep the swelling down.
Bree tried to reassure Devin she would be okay, that with bed rest she would heal quickly and be able to return to work within a few weeks. He wasn’t buying any of it and all he could think about was getting to Bree. He wanted to know if her neighbors had a key, were they checking on her regularly, and what about her doctor, was he visiting her?
She explained that Mrs. Hawkins, who lived across the hall, had her door key. Another set of neighbors would come to fix all her meals, plus visiting morning and afternoon, so she truly wasn’t alone. Devin remembered that Bree was the youngest resident on her floor and all the other tenants looked upon her as their daughter or granddaughter and all would, he was sure, volunteer to help her. Even knowing this, all he wanted was to get to her as quickly as possible.
They continued to talk and, finally, he could tell she was getting sleepy. He said goodnight and hung up. Picking up the phone again, he made a quick call to Dr. Peter Alcott. He told Peter about Bree and gave him her address. Peter took all the information and agreed he would check on Bree tomorrow, as Devin had caught him on the way to an emergency at the hospital.
Devin knew he had to get down to the city. Having made a decision, he reached for the phone and called Ed, his friend and supervisor. They talked for twenty minutes and Ed agreed he could have a week’s leave.
“Come on, Charles, let’s go pack. We are going home for a week, but it requires that you be very brave, because I want us to travel by air. There isn’t enough time for us to drive down and back and have any time with Pops and Bree. And I gotta get to Bree, she was hurt at work and I want to make sure she’s okay. We’ll get that old brown fedora hat and I’ll rig some mesh around the brim so to disguise your features.”
“What about Angel? He’s never been on a plane and he might be scared.”
“I cleared it with Dr. Edmonds and he’s coming in the morning to stay with Angel while we’re gone. He knows all about Angel’s routine and he will take good care of him.
“But I don’t want to leave Angel. Why can’t he go on the plane, too? He could sleep inside my shirt like he does in the car when we went home last time.”
“They wouldn’t let him fly with us. He would have to go in the cargo hold and that’s very traumatizing for an animal. He’d be better off here with Dr. Edmonds.”
“No, you go alone. I won’t leave Angel. I can stay with Dr. Edmonds, me and Angel, we’ll be fine. You go see Angel Bree, then come back to us. Bring Angel Bree home with you.”
“Charles, please don’t fight with me. We need to get packed so we can head out by five a.m. The first flight to Kennedy leaves at 6:20 and we gotta be on it.”
“No, I’m not leaving Angel. You go, make Angel Bree better and bring her home where she belongs.”
“You’ll be okay. I won’t let anyone hurt or upset you. With a hat and veil no one will see your face, and your clothes have long sleeves and you can wear your rain coat. Please, let’s pack your things and then in the morning, if you still feel the same way, I’ll agree to your staying here with Dr. Edmonds. I’ll go call him to be sure it’s okay if you stay here with him. Will you agree to that?”
Reluctantly, and with great trepidation, Charles agreed and went to pack his clothing. Devin made a quick call to Dr. Edmonds who agreed it was all right for Charles to stay. He tried to reassure Devin that he was fine with this arrangement and he would be at the cabin by
Deciding he had done the best with a difficult situation, Devin went into his room to pack his clothes. Charles had his gear packed and was huddled on his bed holding Angel, who was peeking out from under his pajama top as Charles talked very seriously to him. “Dev has to go see Angel Bree and we can’t go on the plane. It’s big and would scare you, so Dr. Edmonds is gonna come stay with us. We gotta be good while Dev’s gone and not cause any trouble, do you hear?”
“Charles, would you like me to read to you tonight?”
“No, I don’t think so. I gotta tell Angel about the changes so he won’t be scared when you leave. I have to remind him about what he can and cannot do while you are away. I don’t want him afraid when you leave.”
Devin smiled, walked over to the bed, leaned down and kissed Charles on the forehead and scratched Angel’s ears. “OK, goodnight, and I’ll see you in the morning. You think about coming with me. Sleep well.”
Before heading for bed Devin got out some nylon netting and attached it as a veil around the brown fedora to screen Charles’ feature from prying, curious eyes. He was sure, he was wasting his time and he was positive Charles would not change his mind about leaving his beloved Angel.
Morning arrived too quickly and Charles refused to fly to
Dr. Edmonds was aware that Charles did not cook meals; he fixed sandwiches and salads, but never did anything that required a flame. Devin reminded him that Charles had a fear of fire and matches and he assured Devin he would prepare all the meals. Devin left Bree’s phone number and Peter’s private line, assuring Dr. Edmonds that Peter would be able to reach him in an emergency.
At 4:45 Devin climbed into the truck and, with great reluctance, headed down the drive without Charles. In the rear view mirror, he could see Charles waving, and then smiled as Charles lifted Angel’s paw and waved it at him. He made quick time and pulled into the airport parking lot with twenty-five minutes to spare.
The city noise was like a symphony to Devin as horns blared, cabbies shouted, and the general cacophony rose to sooth his jumbled nerves. He stopped long enough to phone Peter, telling him he was at the airport and heading to Bree’s.
The doorman remembered Devin from his previous visit and admitted him with no problem. He did, however, have to use all his old con man charm to get Mrs. Hawkins to open Bree’s door. Thanking her profusely, and again telling her how much he appreciated her being so careful with Bree’s safety, he quietly slipped through the open door.
He moved directly to the bedroom and stood beside the bed, looking down at a still sleeping Bree. There was evidence of dried tears on her face and he fought to control his instant anger at the man who had accidentally harmed his Bree. Instantaneously, he understood the rage that filled Vincent when Catherine had been hurt and he knew just as surely that he, too, would kill to protect his Bree.
Unable to control his emotions, he leaned down, placing a gentle kiss to her lips. Her eyes fluttered opened and she gave him a crocked smile as her arms stole up over his shoulders. “Bree, it’s good to be holding you.” He kissed her again as his heart thundered in his chest. He held her gently, not wishing to cause her further pain from her fall.
“How did you get here? Where’s Charles?”
“I flew down, and Charles refused to leave Angel, so Dr. Edmonds volunteered to stay with him at the cabin. I’ve got a week, then I gotta fly back. Ed couldn’t give me any more time off.
“Are you hungry? I can fix you some breakfast, tea or coffee. I’m yours to command for the next six days.”
“You could help me get up so I can get to the bathroom?”
He flipped back the blankets, scooped her up into his arms and headed into the bathroom. He helped her stand in front of the toilet, grinned at her as he asked, “Need any help in dropping your drawers? I’ll close my eyes, I promise.”
“Go on. I’ve had plenty of experience at dropping my drawers! Go, I’ll call when I need you,” she said with a smile.
Again, Devin grinned at her, kissed her forehead and headed out the door, politely closing it. He looked at the bed and walked over to straighten the pillows and the bedding. She sure sleeps neat. My bed always looks like World War III happened during the night. Hers is hardily disturbed.
He paced as he waited, remembering how many times he had yelled at Vincent for pacing back and forth in their chamber all those years ago. What was taking her so long? He had heard the toilet flush five minutes ago!
“Devin? I’m stuck. I can’t get enough leverage to get up. I’m sorry, can you come in and help?”
He bounded to the door in two steps and pushed open the door. Bree was seated on the toilet, her pajama pants at her knees and she was slightly pink from her effort to lift herself, and her face was woebegone. “There’s nothing close enough,” she looked toward the basin, “that I could hang on to so I could help myself. This cast just slides on the slick tile.”
Devin just smiled, slipped his hands under her arm pits and quickly lifted her up and before she could protest, one hand slid down her side, hooking a finger into the edge of her pants and settled them comfortably around her waist. “OK, let’s get you washed up, and then I’ll carry you into the kitchen so I can fix your breakfast.” He lifted her, walked to the basin, steadied her on her good leg, reached behind him and dragged the laundry hamper forward, creating the perfect seat for her.
He opened the medicine cabinet, grabbed her toothbrush and the paste, uncapped it and filled the brush. While she brushed, she heard him rummaging in her bureau drawers. She had just finished rinsing when he returned. He grabbed a wash cloth as he turned on the water to fill the basin. With complete aplomb, he proceeded to wash her face and neck, then tackled her hands and arms. He rinsed her, then making certain the cloth was soap free he ran some cold water over the ends. “Close eyes, please, so I can get the grit out.” Seeing her eyes close gently, he proceeded to wipe the corners of her eyes and lashes, changed the angle of the cloth, and wiped again. “Ah, there they are, my favorite chestnut eyes, looking all bright and clear.” He covered her mouth with his, kissing her with all his pent-up passion.
He lifted his mouth, smiling as he spoke. “OK, let’s get the piggys and legs next.”
She laughed as he bent, pushed up her pant leg and lifted her good leg and proceeded to wash her foot and toes, all while singing, “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home and this little…” Her laughter cut off the rest of the rhyme and as he looked up, she rumpled his hair.
Carefully, he washed the toes peeking out from the cast and then her leg above it. “Lotion?” She nodded toward the shelf and he snatched it and began to apply. His hands were gentle as he worked in the creamy liquid. “You smell great, Babe, good enough to eat.” His eyes were laughing as he began nibbling on her wrist and proceeded kissing his way up her arm. “We’ll work on the full bath business later, OK? I’m hungry, let’s go eat.” He produced a lone sock, slipped it on her uninjured foot. “I’ll work on something for the other foot.” He hung the towels, capped the lotion and then swept her into his arms, heading toward the kitchen.
They had finished their breakfast and were on their third cup of coffee when the phone rang. Devin answered and after a few brief words hung up. “Peter’s downstairs and he’s on the way up.” Seeing her puzzled look, he explained, “I’ve known Peter all my life. He’s our family doctor and he’s come to check you out.”
Devin opened the door, stepped back and allowed Peter to enter. “We’re in the kitchen, just finishing breakfast.” Peter walked into the kitchen and abruptly stopped, “Briana? You’re Devin’s Bree? Well, it is a small world!” Over a cup of coffee Peter explained that he had known Bree’s parents, and it was only during the past six years that he had lost touch with her. “It didn’t dawn on me to connect Briana and Bree Wellington as being the same person. Devin, would you help Briana into the bedroom so I can examine her?” Over her protests, Devin lifted her and deposited her on the chair in her room. Reluctantly, he withdrew to give them privacy but he really wanted to stay.
Again, Devin found himself pacing and inwardly smiled as he discovered yet another trait he shared with his baby brother! He thought never to find himself pacing, but he realized he had never loved anyone the way he loved Bree.
Peter finally opened the door and walked toward Devin. “She’s back in bed and will likely fall asleep soon. She’s in pain, so I had her take two of the pills the hospital staff prescribed. Sit down, so we can talk. You and Vincent … your pacing causes my neck to ache from looking up at you!
“Without her x-rays I can’t say much about the fractures or sprain. I’ll stop by the burn center and see if I can get a look at them. I gather you want me to continue to check on her?” Peter asked. “There’s an ugly bruise that’s quite large and tender just above her right shoulder bone,” he continued. “Probably from where she hit the floor so hard trying to protect Mr. Loganstein during the fall. It has a strange shape, resembling the edge of an instrument tray. She also has some other bruises on her upper hip. She’s going to be sore, smacking those concrete floors is brutal on the body and she’s lucky to have not been more badly injured. I gather from what she said that Mr. Loganstein resembles a pro linebacker.”
“Thank you for coming and checking on her.”
“Does Jacob know you’re here? And where is Charles?”
Devin explained about Charles and his refusal to leave Angel, which caused Peter to smile. “I’ve only been here a couple of hours so no; Pops doesn’t know I’m in town. I’d kinda prefer that you not mention it. I want to spend what time I have with Bree. I know I’m working with a short fuse from being so concerned about her and I don’t want to chance getting into anything with Pops. We’ve been getting along and I don’t want my temper to get the best of me!”
Peter reached out to touch Devin’s shoulder, indicating his understanding and compassion. He had witnessed too many years of loud disagreements between the tunnel patriarch and his son not to wish that their peace continued. “I won’t mention that I’ve seen you.”
“Oh, Peter, we had a small problem earlier.” Devin explained about the slick floor impeding Bree’s ability to rise off the toilet.
Peter smiled. “Use a rubber bath mat. Put it under the bad leg. The cast heel won’t slide against it. We might also think about a walker for support and protection. I’ll call the rental store and have one sent around,” he added. “My schedule is booked tightly today and tomorrow, so I won’t be able to see Bree for a couple of days. If there are any problems, call and I’ll come as quickly as possible.”
They said their good-byes at the door and Devin returned to the kitchen to clean up from their breakfast. Afterward, he looked around the kitchen to see what food was available and when he might need to leave to replenish it. He found a frozen container of vegetable soup in the freezer and decided that would be perfect, so he sat it in the sink to thaw. Noticing his suitcase by the door, he explored the apartment, discovered the second bedroom and deposited his case there on the bed.
Back in the kitchen, he got another cup of coffee, picked up the phone and put in a collect call to Charles. He told Charles how Bree was, how the accident had happened, and about the bruise on her shoulder. Before he hung up, he mentioned that if Charles wrote to Father or Vincent that he shouldn’t tell them about Bree’s injury or that he was in the city. It took several minutes to explain the why of this request but Devin was at last sure Charles understood and would not reveal anything via his regular letters. He assured Charles that as soon as Bree was feeling a little better, he would arrange for her to call him.
He wandered the apartment and then, giving in to his desires; he moved into Bree’s bedroom and gently lay down opposite her. Just the nearness of her soothed his jumbled nerves. He turned on his side and slipped his hand into hers, drawing it closer to his heart. He stayed beside her, watching her sleep, and felt a deep peace descend upon him.
The ringing of the door bell brought him instantly awake and he hurried to answer before it could wake Bree. Beside Mrs. Hawkins stood a very elegantly dressed lady and a second woman dressed in a nurse’s uniform. “This is Mr. Wells; he’s a friend of Bree’s and he’s looking after her.”
“Hi, I’m Ellie Bettendorf, Bree’s supervisor, and this is Mrs. Loganstein, the wife of the man who caused Bree’s injury.”
“I wanted to come by and tell Bree how distressed Bernie is over what happened. He insisted I come to see Bree and offer his apologies. He’s so upset that his actions caused Bree to be hurt. He adores her and she has been a Godsend in helping him come to terms with his burns. He can’t forgive himself, he…” Mrs. Loganstein’s voice began to tremble and her eyes filled with tears. “Bernie is normally so gentle, but burns have changed his gentle nature.”
“I’m certain your husband is distressed.” His voice was steely and his eyes cold; it was taking all of his self control not to completely let lose his fiery temper. “I’m sorry, but Bree is sleeping and I refuse to awaken her. She’s in pain and needs to rest. I’ll tell Bree you called.” He took a step backward, bringing the door slightly forward to indicate this interview was over.
“Mr. Wells, please tell Bree that everyone on the floor sends her their best wishes, and if she needs anything, all she needs do is call. I spoke to H. R. and Bree will be on sick leave with full pay for the next six weeks. That’s how long our doctors think it will take for the fractures and sprain to heal. If there are problems, her sick leave can be extended. All the paperwork will arrive in the mail later in the week,” she added. “We won’t stay any longer, as I can see this is a difficult time. Thank you for giving Bree our messages.” Ms. Bettendorf forcefully took Mrs. Loganstein’s arm and together, they left.
Devin stood there shaking trying to control his anger. Apologize? He wanted to go to the burn center and beat the crap out of Loganstein for hurting Bree! Sent his wife, the cowardly bastard! He wanted to inflict his own pain on Loganstein and it wouldn’t be minor either! He sat on the sofa, grabbed a pillow and began pounding it with his closed fist and swearing violently. Slowly, his rage eased and he tried to fluff the pillow back into some semblance of its former shape. He continued to breathe deeply, and slow his heart rate to normal.
His thoughts turned to Vincent and he wished he could talk with him this very instant. All the talks, the nights since he had returned from his years of travel, when he and Vincent had spent hours together; he needed the rock steady calming influence of his brother. He had truly tried to comprehend all Vincent told him of his rages when Catherine was threatened or the times when she had been in danger; the overwhelming obsession and love that forced Vincent to do whatever was necessary to protect her – to kill to save his beloved. But deep in his heart, he knew that he had only given lip service to Vincent, trying to ease the pain written on his face as he talked of the beast. It was impossible for him to understand this rage that drove Vincent to face any danger and to kill. It was beyond him.
For all his strength and stature, and his superior intelligence, Vincent was, he knew, truly innocent. He never conceived of being anything less than honorable, dealing with everyone with total kindness and he loved those within the tunnels. Then he found Catherine and, with her love, Vincent truly became the man Father had always denied he was. A man who was without limits when it came to his woman, the woman who gave his life purpose and meaning, the woman he loved beyond life and who completed him and had freed his soul to soar. Catherine truly was the other half of his heart and his soul mate.
Devin knew that he, after years of aloneness, years of empty, meaningless relationships, had found what his life always lacked. Soul-deep love. Finally he knew why, on all those long, empty nights after he had left the tunnels, he had cried in deep, bitter misery; what caused his soul wrenching sorrow. Bree had taken the worldly, wise con man and turned him into simply a man who loved beyond all knowledge, and who finally knew peace within his soul; that the circle of Bree’s all encompassing love had renewed him and had, at long last, made him whole. I don’t know why you blessed me, God, but I’m so grateful you did. Thank you for bringing Bree into my life. His thoughts continued to whirl as he thought of all his lost years and those he had hurt.
The afternoon, shadows had begun to lengthen when Devin heard Bree call. “Hiya sleepy head, how are you feeling?” He kissed her and her smile warmed his heart.
He perched on the edge of the bed, being careful not to jostle her. She looked over at the dresser and nodded, “Where did those come from?”
“There are four more bouquets in the living room. That was the first one so it got the place of honor in here with you. They all must be from your friends. I can bring you the cards when you feel up to reading them. Do you need to use the bathroom?”
As before, he carried her in and left, waiting until she called him again. “Peter’s sending up a walker, said it would help with the balance and all that stuff. Hopefully it will be here yet today.” After helping her wash, he carried her into the living room, stopping at each bouquet so that she could admire them. He arranged her on the sofa, propping her leg on a pillow to help prevent further swelling, brought her a glass of ice water and then settled on the floor beside her.
Daylight was beginning to fade on the cabin in the woods. While Charles was comfortable with Dr. Edmonds it wasn’t the same as being with Dev, and he was restless. Angel seemed to pick up on Charles’ melancholy and he constantly mewed, demanding attention, while seemingly determined that he would lavish his own particular brand of love on Charles. Several times, he had climbed onto Charles’ chest, purring and butting his head against his chin, then rubbing against his face. “You miss Dev, don’t you? He’s taking care of our Angel Bree and maybe he’ll bring her home to us. It’s fun watching them play huggy bear, kissy face, isn’t it?”
Dr. Edmonds looked up from his medical journal and smiled in delight. Staying with Charles was surprisingly easy and he followed the schedule that Devin had outlined. When Angel slept, Charles worked on his model ships or read, and he was more than eager to assist in preparing the fruit and salad for their meals.
“Would you care to go for a walk in the woods before it gets too dark? A little exercise might help you sleep better tonight. I remember you said you hadn’t slept well last night.”
Charles went to the closet and got his light jacket, and together the two men headed out for a walk. When they returned, Angel sat sniffing the cool evening air from his perch by the partially open window. He mewed at Charles, swishing his tail, indicating his displeasure that he, too, had not been allowed out.
“Would you like to have some dessert before taking your bath? Or perhaps you would prefer it afterwards?” Dr. Edmonds remembered that Devin said he should lightly prompt Charles about his evening bath.
Charles rose, stretched and said he’d like dessert afterwards and headed off to his bedroom. The sound of the shower was clearly heard in the living room and Dr. Edmonds went to the kitchen to get the slices of pie. After eating the pie, Charles got into bed and, as requested, Dr. Edmonds came to read to him. He and Devin were deep into Lost Horizon and Charles was eager to find out what happened next.
Rather than bringing Bree to the table, Devin opted to bring their snack to her so that she could keep her leg elevated. He kept her entertained while they ate, telling stories of his travels and all the things he had done. He hid nothing from Bree, telling her all the jobs he’d held, thanks to his fake IDs, and how he had first met Catherine. He wanted there to be no falsehoods between them. It was too important that she knew his faults, that she didn’t view him in anything but the harsh glare of truth. He needed her to know all he had been, know that he had an unsavory past.
Bree listened without interrupting, allowing Devin to cleanse his soul. She understood how difficult it was for this unique and proud man to lay himself bare before her. Her comments were not sugar coated and some things shocked her, but she didn’t condemn him or rail at him as Father had done. Taking his face in her hands, she stroked his cheeks and looked deeply into his eyes. “The person who did all those things is gone, he has been cleansed by a greater love in saving Charles’ life, and I know he’ll never return to haunt you,” she said. “There are still secrets and perhaps in time you will feel comfortable in talking about Vincent and your Father – truly talking on a deeper, more personal level than the light, joking conversations we have had. That’s your secret and it’s your choice as to when and if you are comfortable in sharing. I love the man you are now and your past is just that – the past and it doesn’t affect my love.”
Devin blinked rapidly. In all the people he had met, the women he had known, never had he met a woman such as Bree. Life had battered her, yet she dealt with genuine love and compassion with people who were deeply scarred from horrifying burns and still her heart was exuberant, as she sought the best in each individual she met.
They continued to talk of their past lives, what gave purpose and value, and what brought them joy. She yawned and then laughed as her hand covered her mouth. “Would you like to go back to bed?”
“No. What I’d really like is being held in your arms. Would you mind holding me?”
“I can think of nothing that would give me greater pleasure.” Carefully he lifted her, moving her further down on the sofa, rearranged the pillows for her foot and then sat, gathering her into his arms so her head rested against his chest. She sighed happily and brought her hand up to caress his face as she snuggled closer.
The sunlight faded and dim shadows filled the room, and still they cuddled and soft, nibbling kisses were eagerly exchanged. Devin was constantly aware of how fragile Bree was, the shock her body sustained from her falling on concrete, and he struggled to control the desire he felt. In his travels he had become sexually experienced and knew intimately the difference between sex and true rapture with a woman.
Experience had taught him the difference and he cared enough about his partners to seek their pleasure first. Rapture had only been his twice before, with exceptional women, and once he had attained this elation, he knew this was what he had dreamed of and had wanted his whole life, and that he would now never be satisfied with less. Ecstasy was what he craved with Bree and he was willing to wait. For now, he wanted to hold her close, cuddle her soft body against his, and know the joy of simply kissing her.
His voice was husky, filled with the emotions he felt and he struggled for control. Lifting his head, he smiled as he spoke. “Ya know if we were home Charles would be teasing us about playing huggy bear, kissy face.”
“And Angel would be walking around on your shoulders, batting at you with his tail.” She giggled and smiled. The door bell rang, cutting off further comment and Devin reluctantly rose.
There were two delivery people standing there, one holding an enormous bouquet of flowers and the other a clipboard and a walker. Devin quickly signed for the flowers, deposited them on the floor and then dealt with the required multiple forms attached to the clipboard. He managed to get the door closed without dropping the large vase while dragging the enormous bag which contained the walker. “Looks like they got it sealed against germs!”
Plopping on the floor, he tore the green florist paper from the flowers, plucked the card from the envelope and handed it to Bree. Then he fought the brave battle with the plastic bag which, of course, did not wish to open! After wrestling it into submission, he looked up and saw Bree was crying.
Wordlessly, she handed him the card as fresh tears cascaded down her
cheeks. Quickly he read the card. “To my sister Bree, get well quick.
Love you, Charles” and beneath it was another message, “Bree, missing my
favorite dancing partner. Heal soon. Sincerely,
“Oh, they were so sweet to send flowers. Aren’t they beautiful? How did they know yellow roses were my favorite flower?”
“If you mentioned it, Charles would remember, he remembers everything you say or write. Charles might have already gone to bed so how about we call in the morning?” Devin suggested. “I’ll heat up some soup and then I think I need to get you back in bed. Bed rest is what the doctor…” The door bell interrupted and again he went to answer. Standing there were two white-haired ladies each carrying a towel covered tray. They looked like perfect replicates of the faerie godmother from Disney’s Cinderella.
“Mrs. Hawkins told us you were here so we brought dinner for two.” They sailed past Devin, placing their trays on the small dining table and then walked over to hug and kiss Bree. “We made meat loaf, baked potatoes, glazed carrots, fresh salad, and blueberry pie for dessert. You’d better eat it while it’s hot. We’ll see you tomorrow.” They patted Devin on the cheek and glided out of the room, and he was positive if he looked closely, he would see faerie dust scattered in their wake. His mouth was still open as the door closed.
“They look like the ….”
“The godmother from Cinderella. Yes! I thought that the minute I first met them!” Bree’s laughter filled the room and her brilliant smile literally stopped Devin’s heart with its radiance. Devin smiled as he laughed, his eyes twinkling merrily as he walked toward Bree. He lifted and shifted her on the sofa so that her back was supported against the arm, then retrieved one of the trays. The tray was complete with napkin, silverware, and even small butter dishes filled to capacity. He brought the other tray over and sat on the floor with it balanced carefully on his knees.
As they ate, they continued to laugh and share other aspects of their
lives. “Do you think we could adopt the
“Their nephews might not take kindly to trucking to
“Ah, that’ll just gives me more of you to love,” he stated as he kissed her hand. He carried his tray to the kitchen and then went back to get Bree’s. He filled the sink and hand washed the delicate china, unsure if it would withstand the rigors of the dishwasher. As an afterthought he threw the linen napkins into the cooling dish water and washed them, too.
Devin returned from taking the trays and clean dishes back to the
“Yes, you’re so tiny I can see how they overpowered you, especially since it was two against one!”
Devin put the pie on the coffee table and then re-settled on the sofa, wrapping Bree in his arms. Just holding her, feeling her breath against his shirt, filled his heart with peace and contentment. They talked of Charles and the current problem of allowing Angel more freedom. Bree agreed that all of Angel’s natural instincts were to hunt and stalk, and the lure of spring was bringing those to prominence.
It was well after midnight and Devin still prowled the darkened apartment. He had showered and gotten into bed, but his restlessness drove him to the living room. He absently flipped through the TV channels and found nothing to hold his interest. His body was tired, as the last forty-eight hours had been exhausting, but he couldn’t turn off his mind. It was exactly forty paces from the door to the balcony; his bare feet silently skimmed across the silvery carpet. He paused, listened, and then once again resumed his pacing.
His gaze was drawn again to the city stretched out below him in all its dazzling glory. He wondered if Vincent was walking the city tonight, or was he with Catherine. Again he caught himself wishing that Vincent were here so that he might discuss all he was feeling. Though they had fought many battles, Devin knew that Vincent was the one person who would inherently understand his internal conflict and his compassion would help guide him through his turmoil.
Again, he crossed the room and paused. This time he was certain, and he gently opened Bree’s door. He could hear her crying into her pillow. He gathered her to his bare chest, holding her, his large hand rubbing slow circles on her back, and he murmured tender words in her ear. “Tell me what I can do? Let me help.” Her tears continued and he felt the deeper trembling of her body. “Are you in pain?” He felt her nod as her hot tears scalded his chest.
He eased her from his arms, stood and walked to the bathroom. Partially closing the door to dim the bright light, he jerked open the medicine cabinet, found the bottle and plopped two pills into his hand. He left the door partially cracked as he crossed to her. Tenderly, he helped her to sit up, handed her the pills and then held the water for her.
It broke his heart to see the tears still cascading down her cheeks and again he felt his fury in wanting to batter that bastard Loganstein! Gently he re-arranged the pillows that elevated her leg, straightened the blanket, walked to the opposite side of bed, lay down and gathered her to his chest. He stroked, whispering softly as he sought to ease her pain. “I, I’mm. I’m sorry,” she stuttered as her breath came in broken sobs.
“Babe, you don’t need to be sorry. You had a hard fall and have broken bones, naturally you hurt. There’s nothing wrong in crying when you are in pain. It’s night, dark, and the pain is always ten times worse in the dark. Last night must have been hell for you here all alone.”
He rocked her like a baby, kissing her forehead as he stroked her hair away from her face. Slowly, her tears ceased but her body continued to tremble and jerk in spasms beneath his hands. She tried to get comfortable, but the movement of her leg as she shifted sent sharp, stabbing pain ripping upward through her body and she cried out sharply.
There was little he could do but rock and hold her as the pain poured in endless waves through her injured body. He thought of all the nights when Charles had been racked by endless nightmares of Eddie’s violence, how he had read through the night trying to distract his mind from the savage beatings inflicted upon him. Haltingly, he began remembering the last book he had read to Charles. As he steadily told her the story, making up the dialogue as he went along, his hands caressed and stroked her quivering body. He glanced at the clock, wondering how long it was going to take the pills to kill the pain. Her body jerked and she again cried out as fresh, stronger pain pounded her tiny body. Her hand dug into his chest as the pain mounted, and he felt his chest hair being yanked as she struggled against the blinding ache. He grimaced as her fist constricted, further tightening the already stressed hairs and then her nails dug in adding to his discomfort.
Her crying started again, more savage than previously, and her body jerked in endless spasms. Devin eased away from her, prying her finger loose from his chest, he reached for the phone and quickly dialed.
“Peter, its Devin. Sorry about the hour. Bree’s in tremendous pain had two pain pills three hours ago and she’s still in agony. Can you get over here right now? OK, see you in a few. Thanks.” He hung up the phone and turned to Bree. “Peter’s on the way. He shouldn’t be more than twenty-thirty minutes tops.” He gathered her back in his arms as much for his comfort as for hers. Hearing her sob for the three hours and knowing he couldn’t ease her pain had shattered his nerves. Peter had to help her, he just had to!
This time, after leading Peter into the bedroom, Devin did not leave. Nothing and no one was going to force him from Bree’s side. Peter checked his morning notes to refresh himself on what drugs had been prescribed. He checked her temperature, felt her forehead, then felt her toes on the injured leg, checking the pulse. “I checked over her x-rays at the center and she doesn’t have three hairline fractures in her ankle, she has five, plus the badly sprained ankle. I viewed all five of the x-rays along side an orthopedist and together we counted four hair line fractures and one possible break but we couldn’t be certain without another set of x-rays. I also spoke with the doctor who did her cast and he said the ankle was already turning purple when he put on the cast which means it was badly bruised.”
Peter turned his attention to Bree. “Bree, I’m going to give you some morphine to kill the pain and allow you to sleep. Devin, ease her over so I give her a shot in her hip.”
Devin did has Peter instructed, gently rolling Bree onto her side, and tugging down her pajamas. Peter expertly eased the needle into her skin and it was all over in less than a minute.
“Devin, am I correct that you have experience in giving shots?” Peter’s look spoke volumes as he didn’t know if Bree knew about the tunnels or Father.
“Yes, I’ve had instructions and given shots several times.”
“Good. I’m going to leave this with you. There’s enough for one more shot. Sometime tomorrow, I want you to take Bree back to the Center. See Dr. Stromberg and get a new set of x-rays so we can get a clearer picture of the ankle.”
It was shortly after three when the limo pulled up in front of Bree’s condo and Devin lifted her out. She had protested the expense of the limo but Devin dismissed her concerns, saying a cab would be too cramped. He had forgotten to grab Bree’s keys, so he had to bang on Mrs. Hawkins’ door to get them back inside Bree’s apartment. Mrs. Hawkins was concerned but didn’t linger after opening the door, indicating she hoped to speak to Mr. Wells later about Bree’s condition.
Devin eased Bree onto the sofa, telling her he was going to put clean
sheets on the bed. He must have set some record for speed, for he
reappeared in less than ten minutes and once again lifted her into his
arms. “Ya know, I kinda like carrying you around like this. Sure does
make it lots easier to kiss you, cuz your mouth is so close.” He gave
her a quick kiss to emphasize his words. He settled her in bed and drew
the shades. “You’ve had a long day, so why don’t you try to nap for a
while. I’ll wake you when the
He drew a shuddering breath and sank in a boneless mass into the sofa, allowing his tense muscles to relax. He hadn’t slept after Peter left; instead he laid beside Bree, holding her until the morphine finally relieved her agony. He sat lost in thought, drifting as he reviewed the day at the center.
He had steeled himself when they went in, but he found his hard resolve melting while he sat waiting for Bree to be brought out and a young burn victim was wheeled next to him to await his turn. The young boy started talking and Devin found his core strength and he didn’t react to the drawn, scared skin on the boy’s arms. They chatted – the boy explaining all the inner workings of the x-ray lab, as he said he had been here at least twenty-five times.
After Bree was wheeled out and the boy taken inside, a nurse who had been standing a few feet away walked up to Devin, kissed his cheek and thanked him for treating Jimmy like a normal boy. It was this simple act that brought home to Devin the truth of all Bree did to help these people in what was surely the most devastating time of their lives. His chest still swelled with pride as he remembered all Bree had told him of her job.
Startled by the sound of the doorbell, he looked at the clock and realized he had drifted in and out of sleep for nearly three hours. He staggered up, rubbing his face as he opened the door to the faerie godmothers. They asked about Bree, saying they had been told he had taken her to the hospital. He offered a minimum of information, saying she had gotten a new cast as he thanked them for their kindness. “We weren’t sure, so we made a lighter dinner for Bree – soup and a salad – and we hope you don’t mind, but we brought you the left-overs from last night.” Once more, he grinned and again thanked them as he walked them to the door.
Carefully balancing the tray against his body, he opened the bedroom door. Bree was awake and had managed to get herself into an upright position against the bed headboard. He sat her tray on a pillow, tucked the covering towel under her chin and encouraged her to start eating while he went to retrieve his own tray of food.
After dragging her chair over near the bed, Devin sat to consume his meal. He was pleased to see Bree ate all her soup and salad. He fed her bites of pie and generously gave her the fork to lick clean.
Darkness had settled over the cabin and Charles and Dr. Edmonds had just finished doing the dishes when the phone rang. Dr. Edmonds answered, spoke for a few minutes and then flashed Charles a broad smile as he held out the phone. “It’s your sister.”
“Angel Bree, how are you?” His voice came in a loud rush of emotion and love.
“I’m slowly getting over the worst of it. Tell how things are going with you. Especially tell me how Angel is doing.”
Charles began tell her all of Angel’s latest adventures; how he had gotten upset when they had gone for a walk, leaving Angel inside. “Dr. Edmonds attached some rope to Angel’s lead and he is able to go all the way into the woods. I sit on the ground by the big rock so he thinks he’s all alone.” Charles went on to describe how Angel had stalked some flying bug and his description was so delightful Bree was laughing by the time he finished. He smiled, knowing he had made his Angel Bree happy.
“Maybe when you come home you can help me train Angel not to run away from the yard. I been thinkin’ about letting him off his lead so he kin be free. I have to wait until you and Dev are here to help.”
Bree commended Charles, letting him know that she knew it had been a long difficult decision and she reiterated how proud she was of him. She could literally see him beaming through the phone.
They continued to talk, and after twenty minutes, Bree gave the phone to Devin. Immediately, Charles wanted to know when Dev was going to bring Angel Bree home to him. He was more than ready to take care of her. “Dr. Edmonds has told me all about broken bones so I know how to take care of her, so you bring her home quick!”
“I’m proud you have been learning from Dr. Edmonds. He’s a very good teacher. I’m going to work on your suggestion, Okay? Just give me some time.” Charles told Devin the same things he had told Angel Bree about Angel and the rope and Devin praised him for his bravery and asked him to take his camera outside the next time so they, too, could see Angel stalking things in the wild grasses.
Devin asked to speak to Dr. Edmonds and, asking only the simplest questions, he was able to determine how things were going for Charles. He was more than pleased that life was going smoothly and there had been no problems.
Charles got on the phone again so he could say goodnight to Devin and to his Angel Bree. He was smiling broadly when he hung up the phone. Of course, he shared the conversation he had with Angel Bree with Dr. Edmonds just as though he hadn’t been in the same room. Charles was exceedingly happy that night when he climbed in bed with Angel peeking up at him. Dr. Edmonds could hear Charles’ voice as he told Angel all about talking with Dev and Angel Bree.
It was roughly four in the morning when Devin heard Bree calling him. He vaulted out of his bed, rushing to her room. She was hanging onto the side of the bed, her hand over her mouth. Instantaneously he swept her up and into the bathroom just as her stomach erupted. He held her as she retched, gagged and spit while he continuously flushed the toilet. Instantly, he remembered when he had last barfed and how he hated looking at what came out of his stomach, how he endlessly flushed to keep himself from getting sicker.
She continued to gag long after her stomach was empty. He eased her gently to the floor, stepped to the basin, turned on the cold water and got a cloth. He held the glass, telling her not to swallow just to rinse. Then he tenderly wiped her face, blotting the tears that streamed down her face. He sank to the floor, holding her as she struggled to regain her equilibrium and he tried to soothe her with gentle touches.
“I didn’t get any on you, did I?” Her hand brushed across his bare chest as her eyes searched his.
“Hey, you wouldn’t be the first to barf of me. Vin did an outstanding job of it on several occasions when we were young. Besides I’m wearing my wash n wear skin, it cleans up fine.” He smiled and kissed her cheek. “We’ll wait a few more minutes just to be certain,” his hand lightly brushed her stomach, “things are well below decks, and then we get you all cleaned up.”
After several more minutes he stood and helped her to rise, then he carried her over to the basin. “Feel like brushing?” At her nod, he grabbed the toothbrush and paste. After two glasses of water for rinsing she said she felt better. He filled the basin, soaped another cloth and then gently unbuttoned her pajama top. “Think we need to change these as they weren’t quite as lucky as I was.” He laid the cloth on the edge of the basin, brought her a towel to cover herself. He eased off the top and stepped away. “Think you can manage to clean the interesting parts?” he quizzed with a light laugh. “I’ll see if I can’t locate some clean PJs.” His voice was still airy as he walked into the bedroom.
As she washed her throat and breasts, she could hear Devin opening drawers in his search. “Is it all clear for me to come in?” Waiting a few seconds, he strolled in as if it were common place for him to see her bare back. Putting his hand on her shoulder, he leaned down and kissed her exposed flesh. “Nice. I look forward to seeing more of it.” His voice teased, making Bree smile.
He held out one sleeve, eased it up and over her arm and waited while she shifted her hold on the towel to her other hand so he could ease the other sleeve on. She began to button the top and made the mistake of looking up into the mirror, seeing Devin’s intense gaze. “Ah, don’t I even get one tiny peek?” he teased. He grinned as he began to clean up the area knowing that if he didn’t keep his hands busy he would be putting them all over Bree.
“I think tomorrow I’ll ask Mrs. Hawkins to come over and help you get a proper bath that includes all the parts and pieces.” He knew himself too well and he wasn’t sure he had the strength to assist Bree with a complete bath, and maintain his sanity.
Before she had awakened, he had called Peter to report her sickness in the night, questioning if the new pain meds could be the problem. Peter said he would stop on his way to the office.
Devin insisted that she have more than crackers for breakfast, firmly stating that she needed food before taking her new pain meds. He made scrambled eggs and finally got her to eat those.
Peter sat in the kitchen drinking coffee as he questioned them. “I think it could have been a combination of two things. Stress and too little food in your stomach before you took the pain pills. Soup and a salad simply did not offer enough protection, as those pills are powerful.”
“I want you to stay off that leg, too.” Peter added. “That’s why we changed it to a non-walking cast. While the actual break is infinitesimal and the bones will knit back together, we don’t want any stress that could accidentally push them further apart. Then we’d have to go in to surgically repair the damage. It’s better if we can allow nature to do the healing.”
“Peter, do you think it would be OK if I take Bree home with me? She’s
scheduled to be off for six weeks and I don’t want her here alone. I’ve
only got a few more days until I have to go back. Is there any medical
reason why she can’t recuperate and heal in
“Technically, there is no reason that she needs to be here. The retired doctor who looks after Charles’ health, would he be amenable to handling Bree’s care? How far is the nearest hospital or emergency medical care?”
Devin leaned back in his chair and snatched the phone off the hook, placing a collect call to Dr. Edmonds. He spoke briefly and then handed the phone to Peter. Peter talked quietly, asking his questions and replying to Dr. Edmonds’. After ten minutes, he handed the phone back to Devin, who encouraged Dr. Edmonds not to mention the reasons for the phone call to Charles. He agreed, and they hung up.
After Peter left, Devin went across the hall to Mrs. Hawkins, asking her
to help Bree bathe. While they were in the bathroom, Devin was on the
phone calling the airlines, making reservations for tomorrow and
arranging for a limo to the airport. He felt momentarily remorseful and
guilty, as he blatantly told the airlines he was a doctor flying with a
patient, he required three seats together and they would need to remove
the arm rest between two of the seats so his patient could fly with her
legs elevated. They would need to board first so he could make his
patient comfort before the other passengers boarded. And, of course,
they would need wheelchairs at Kennedy and in
Mrs. Hawkins called him, saying Bree was ready to get back in bed. He carried her to bed and then escorted Mrs. Hawkins to the door. With a big smile, he told her he was taking Bree home with him tomorrow and thanked her for all her help. Would she look after the apartment while Bree was gone? And was it possible for her to collect Bree’s mail? He scribbled his phone number for her, asking her to call collect if there were any problems, and told her he would see her before they left.
Returning to the bedroom, he told Bree of their reservations. Once again, he got the phone and the phone book and methodically placed phone calls to the electric, phone, gas, and cable companies indicating Bree would be away and could he pre-pay her bills based on the previous month? He was polite but firm and in less than an hour he had everything arranged just as he wished it. Bree stared in open amazement as he obliterated any obstacles to their departure.
“OK, how tell me where your luggage is and from there you can tell me what to pack. We gotta get this show on the road. Your brother is home chomping at the bit waiting for you.”
Bree was amazed at the way Devin handled everything on their trip, from speaking to the condo management and doorman to the flight attendants. He allowed nothing and no one to interfere with his plans; he was direct, polite, and firm when necessary, and everyone acceded to his wishes. A Skycap waited patiently, surrounded by their luggage, with Bree in her wheelchair while Devin retrieved his truck. The man broadly smiled as Devin pressed a twenty dollar bill into his hand, then Devin climbed into the truck.
Bree shook her head in amazement … one second she was in her bedroom and
now here she was in
After relocking the gate at the end of the drive, they barreled up the long drive toward the cabin. “Every time I view the drive I wonder how I managed to walk all this way in the blizzard. It was a miracle I ever reached the cabin.”
Devin smiled over at her, then squeezed her hand. “I thank God every day that you found us.” His eyes never left the road as he drew her hand to his lips.
When they were still one hundred yards from the cabin, he began honking the horn wildly. As they drew to stop, both Charles and Dr. Edmonds stepped onto the porch, and Charles bolted through the outer door and down the steps. He flung open the passenger door and wrapped Bree in his arms. Laughing and crying, he kissed and hugged her repeatedly. His joy knew no bounds as his large body surrounded his beloved Angel Bree
Devin looked over, smiled happily and brushed a tear from his lashes. He knew he might as well get out and haul the luggage inside, as Charles had no intension of turning lose of Bree for several more minutes. Dr. Edmonds came down the steps smiling, and after shaking hands with Devin, he assisted in getting the luggage inside.
Devin returned to the porch, smiling as he watched the tender reunion taking place. Charles still had Bree in a bear hug, smiling and kissing her cheek while Bree’s hands ran through his hair, patting and touching his face. They both were talking, laughing and crying all at the same time.
Finally he decided Bree had been too long with her leg down, so he walked out to the truck. “Charles, we need to get Bree inside so she can lie down on the sofa.” It took a couple of minutes, but Charles finally eased away from Bree. “Can I carry you inside? I’ll be careful.” Devin smiled and took a step back as Bree put her arms around Charles’ shoulders.
Devin watched as Charles looked down at her leg, then back at the door panel and at Devin. Smiling his encouragement, Devin waited as Charles stepped back then turned Bree so her legs slid toward the door opening. He put an arm around her shoulder and gently slide his other arm under her legs and lifted. Both Bree and Devin grinned as Charles walked up the front steps.
They had just gotten her settled when a hurtling bundle of fur bounded onto the sofa and threw himself at Bree, announcing his presence with loud mewing cries. Angel circled three times then presented his tummy as he purred loudly. They all laughed and the purring grew louder as Bree began stroking the upturned tummy.
The men stood staring and smiling, watching the tender scene before them. Devin told Charles and Dr. Edmonds about their trip as he prepared coffee in the kitchen. After their second cup of coffee, Dr. Edmonds said he would get his suitcase and leave the happy family to their reunion. As they passed through the living room, Devin noted that Charles was happily ensconced on the floor beside his Angel Bree, and he knew nothing would remove the grin from his face. He stowed Dr. Edmonds’ luggage in his car, expressing once again his appreciation for caring for Charles. “Any time. It was a pleasure to spend time with him. Truly, it was a pleasure. Don’t ever hesitate to ask. I’ll be over late afternoon tomorrow to check on Bree. Call if there are any problems.”
Not wishing to disturb the happy reunion, Devin headed into his bedroom, cleared out a couple of drawers and filled them with Bree’s things. He grinned as he picked up her bras and undies, slipping them into a drawer that already held her pajamas and a couple of silky gowns. Closing the drawer, the imagines of what she would look like wearing those lacy bites stayed with him.
He continued unpacking, hanging her slacks along side his jeans. He slid both suitcases into the closet and turned, surveying the room. He didn’t have to worry about changing the sheets, as Dr. Edmonds said he had done that chore after receiving his phone call. He debated, and finally laid Bree’s robe and pajamas at the bottom on the bed.
The day passed into evening, and it had been filled with laughter and a few tears. Angel was content with all the attention he received and there was no sign of his previous unhappiness as the breeze filled the cabin. Devin became the object of Angel’s favorite demonstration of his love – repeatedly butting his face against Devin’s chin and rubbing furiously. And when Devin would look away, no longer paying attention, Angel would gently use his paw to slap at his face.
It was late when Devin suggested they all get to bed, as it had been a long exhausting day for Bree. Charles carried her into the bedroom, hugged her and repeatedly told her goodnight. “Go along now, get your shower and I’ll be in shortly to read,” Devin’s voice was warm, filling with joy as he saw Charles smile at the mention of reading.
Devin folded the bedspread and then turned down the bed. He handed Bree her pajama then carried her into the bathroom, got down her toothbrush and his own. It seemed innately right to be brushing his teeth along side of Bree, as if it were something they had done together for years. He totally shut down his mind and emotions, which he held with a tight rein, as he helped Bree to undress. It was only by closing his eyes tightly that he managed to slide off her briefs and draw the pajama bottoms up and over her slender hips. His breath came in harsh gulps as he gathered up her clothing and shoved them into the clothes hamper.
“I’m sorry I’m so useless. I’ll work on trying to do this myself so that you won’t be so….” Her words faded as her voice filled with tears.
He turned, and seeing her tears, he slipped to his knees and gathered her against his chest. “Shush, Babe, it’s all right. I don’t want to rush things. It’s just hard to look and not be able to touch. Your body is so beautiful. We’ll work this out. Don’t cry, it breaks my heart to see your tears.” He continued to hold her and finally stood, lifted and carried her to the bed. “Try to sleep. I’m gonna read to Charles.” He kissed her tenderly and then slipped from the room.
Angel and Charles were keyed up with the excitement of Bree’s homecoming. As Devin read, Charles would suddenly interrupt, asking questions about Angel Bree’s care, then he would nod and fall silent. It was, Devin realized, going to be a night of talking, not reading, as he clearly saw that the story was not creating its usual magic for Charles. He placed the book on the table and settled himself to talk until Charles’ every question had been answered. He wanted to know all about her care, what he could and couldn’t do for her, whether he could take her into the yard with Angel. After a while, Charles began to tell Devin all about broken bones, how they knit together – except Charles said the body glued them back together. Charles went on and on and finally even Devin’s enduring patience had reached his limit. He reached up and turned off the light. The clock had said two-thirty and he was tired. “Let’s try to get some sleep. We can discuss Bree’s care again later today.”
He continued to sit in the dark and somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind he recalled a tune Mary had hummed countless nights when Vin had trouble sleeping. Softly he began to hum and after a while he heard the continuous purring cease, followed by Charles’ soft snore. He tiptoed from the room and closed the door.
Silently, he padded across the living room, cracked the door to his room and saw that Bree, too, was asleep. Sitting on the sofa, he pulled off his shoes and socks, then removed his belt and swung his legs onto the cushions. He flopped over on his belly, closed his eyes and willed himself to sleep.
Something alerted him, and he sat up on the edge of the sofa and looked at his watch. He listened, and could detect no noise from outside the cabin. He stood, stumbling across to Charles’ door and peered in. The bed was empty. He walked in, knocked on the bathroom door but got no answer, so he opened the door and flipped on the light. Nothing. Angel was still curled on the pillow, next to where Charles’ head should have been.
Devin checked the kitchen before he headed for his room. Carefully, he opened the door, then pushed it wider. On the floor, beside the sleeping Bree, Charles sat. Bree was turned on her side and Charles held her hand in his, and he was humming. Bree’s tiny hand was lost within Charles’ larger one, and as he hummed, he steadily stroked her hand.
Devin gently put his hand on Charles’ shoulder and motioned for him to follow him. Charles just shook his head.
“My Angel Bree is home. She’s my sister and I’m supposed to watch over her, to protect her. I’m gonna hum so she sleeps good like you hummed me to sleep.” Charles leaned upward and placed a light kiss on the hand he stroked, then he turned and smiled up at Devin.
One look at those beautiful eyes filled with love and devotion, staring up at him, and Devin knew he was lost. Silently, he slide to the floor to join Charles in guarding their beautiful Angel Bree.
Finally, they were home and Bree slept peacefully surrounded by two souls who found peace from her love.
Coming soon, further adventure in The Fires of Fall.