Andrea sat silently on the chair at Jimmy’s bedside. His color had not changed and by this time the machine’s noises had faded into the background. Outside the day was slowly changing into night and the pace at the hospital was beginning to slow. Only a few nurses passed by the room in their pristine white uniforms and non-squeaking shoes. Rick had finally persuaded Lee to go home after promising to return to sit with Andi. But for now she was alone with Jimmy, waiting for a miracle.
“Andrea.” The soft voice floated into the darkened room. “Where are you?”
She looked up at the shadowed form in the doorway. He was tall and broad, blocking out most of the light from the hallway. “I’m next to the bed.”
He stepped into the room. “Are you all right?”
She wanted to laugh hysterically and pull out her curly hair, but instead she just said, “Yes.”
“Lee went directly to bed when we got home.” his voice was still soft, but closer. “He said he wasn’t really tired but he had some things to think about.”
“Thank you, for taking him home.”
“Will you answer a question for me?” he came up behind her and massaged her shoulders.
“What?” her voice was barely a whisper.
“What were you looking for in my room?”
His hands moved from her shoulders to her neck, where he continued to work the tense muscles. “You were in my room. What were you looking for?”
Her head rolled forward as his fingers worked their magic. “Nothing.”
“Just general snooping?”
“Sleuthing.” she corrected.
“Sleuthing implies that you were searching for something.” his voice remained quiet and his fingers continued their stroking.
“Did you find anything interesting?”
“You’re a slob.” she commented.
“It makes it more difficult for someone to find something.”
“But it makes it easier for someone to look.”
“All except the dust.” his hands dropped to his sides and he stepped back. “You might make a good detective someday.”
She grasped Jimmy’s hand tighter. “Are you angry?”
“I’m not sure.”
“I know you dug into my past, why I can’t dig into yours?”
“Was this retaliation?”
“No, human nature.” She heard him settle onto the chair behind her.
“I don’t understand.”
“I wanted to know how you work, what makes you tick.”
“Did you find out?” there was a curious lilt to his voice.
“I’m not sure.”
“You found the rock.”
“Yes.” She couldn’t see his face but she could hear the changing tone in his voice.
“You saw her.” It was not a question.
“She was married.”
They both fell into silence. She smoothed out the sheets near Jimmy’s arms.
“Would you like to talk about it?”
He was remembering her words from a few weeks ago. Accept it, hurt, and then move on. “We dated for over a year and a half and my biggest goal was to get her to marry me. I was still in college but school and a degree didn’t mean much to me. All I wanted was her. She was beautiful and fun and she took my breath away so I finally worked up the courage to ask her to marry me.” he paused as all the memories came rushing back, followed by the pain and the anger. “She laughed in my face and told me she was married already to an older man who worked a lot and made lots of money. She figured that I would be fun to swing with for a while because I was young and had a lot of energy, unlike her husband. Later, after I got into investigating, I found out,” his voice cracked and he stopped to take a deep breath. “I found out that she had an abortion while she was dating me. It could have been my child.”
She sat silently as he recounted his tale, wanting him to accept his past so he could continue with his life.
“She only wanted money and fun from life. I was looking for so much more and I thought she was too. Then, a couple of years later I saw Emily try to con Lee. It killed me to see her chop into my little brother like that. And then,” his voice faded out.
“Then there was me.” she finished softly. “I‘m sorry, I didn’t realize how much you’d been through. But please, believe me, I’m not after anyone’s money. For years I had money in my life and I was miserable. Then, when I moved out on my own and had very little, I was much happier.”
“And now that you have money again?”
“It makes life a little easier, but it doesn’t make it better. It can’t change the important things like Jimmy’s tumor or Lee’s cancer.” she whispered. “Rick, you don’t really think I’m out to get your brother or his money, do you?”
His answer floated over her shoulder and brought a smile of relief to her face. “Thank you.”
“I’d like you to answer another question for me.”
“Why do you and Jimmy want me to go home to London?” he asked.
Her head flew up at the hoarse whisper. “Jimmy?”
“Sweetie, I’m all right, don’t cry.” he mumbled as the tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Oh Jimmy, you scared me so much!”
Rick sprinted from the room to get the doctor.
“I’m sorry, Sweetie.” his hand tightened on hers. “There are some things I need to tell you. I thought I would have more time...”
“Mr. Womatt! Let’s take a look at you.” Dr. Raros came into the room with a nurse. “We’ll check you over and ask you some questions.”
“Please, I need to speak to Andrea first...” Jimmy pleaded.
“I’ll wait here for you, Jimmy, I promise.” She smiled and stepped out of the doctor’s way.
Rick came up beside her and squeezed her shoulders. “Come with me to call Lee?”
“No, I want to wait here with Jimmy.” she told him, a faint smile remaining on her lips. “Are you okay?” She kind of expected him to look differently in the light after everything he had revealed to her, but he still looked the same.
“Yea, I think so. You?”
“Doing much better.” she nodded and her eyes swept back to Jimmy. “Tell Lee I’ll talk to him as soon as we know something. But make sure he doesn’t stay awake waiting to hear.”
“All right, I won’t be long.” he touched her arm before leaving. As he was walking down the hall, he thought back to how many times he had touched Andrea that evening. More times than he cared to admit. He couldn’t remember the last time he had just touched a woman for the sake of touching her. And he never remembered it feeling so right.
Rick was waiting at Andrea’s side when the doctor and nurse left the room. Andrea immediately went to grasp Jimmy’s hand while Rick took a seat near the windows.
“How do you feel?”
“Andrea, I never meant for you to see me like this. I didn’t want you to hurt over me.” he told her.
“I can’t believe you went through everything by yourself. I never would have let you go through it alone. You should have told me!” she reprimanded him.
“I could have shared a room with Lee.” he joked feebly.
“Andrea, I’m going to get some coffee and some air. I’ll be back in a little while, okay?” Over her shoulder, he motioned for Jimmy to tell Andrea the truth.
“All right.” she watched Jimmy’s eyes follow Rick out the door before returning his gaze to her.
“We have to talk, Andrea.”
“What’s going on?’
“You wouldn’t get angry at an old man, would you?”
“How could I be angry with you now? I’ll wait until later.” she assured him.
“And you won’t be mad at Rick?”
“What does Rick have to do with this?”
“I asked him to find your parents.”
She just stared at him.
“He did.” Jimmy looked very uncomfortable.
“And?” her voice was barely a whisper.
“They’re in England, doing well. They, uh, have a child.” he watched her face. “A ten year old boy.”
“I have a brother.” she sounded faint.
“I don’t understand.”
“Your parents are not your real parents.”
“I’m afraid you’ve lost me, Jimmy.” She was tired and her mind wasn’t cooperating.
“You were adopted right after you were born.” He played with the blanket on his chest.
“Brian was not my brother?”
“Did you know my parents? Are they alive? Why did they give me up? Was Brian adopted, too?” the barrage of questions burst out.
“Sweetie, this is the worst time in the world to tell you, I know. Please, try not to get too upset.”
“What are you keeping from me?”
“Let me tell you this my way. You were born Andrea Layne to a woman named Samantha who wanted nothing more in this world than to have a baby. She tried all of her married life to have a child and when her dream finally came true, it turned into a nightmare. Your mother died in childbirth.” he ignored her gasp of surprise. “She wasn’t a young woman and even then they didn’t recommend women her age should have babies. But she was stubborn and had so much love to give, so she ignored the doctor’s warnings.”
“And my father?”
“He knew he couldn’t take care of a child by himself, so he arranged to have some very good friends adopt his baby girl. He knew his background and lifestyle were wrong for raising a child. He watched from afar to see how his little girl was doing. He watched her welcome a new child into the family, saw her growing up, and saw her pain when she found out her brother was ill. And he saw she wasn’t getting the love he wanted her to get, so he stepped into the picture.” his voice was low.
“Your dad shelved his wanderlust because he loved his baby girl very much.” his voice was clogged with tears. “But he couldn’t turn her life upside down by telling her the truth then. And after that, her friendship because so important to him that he didn’t want to change anything.”
“He never stopped loving you.”
The tears were pouring down her cheeks as she stared at the man she now knew was her father. “He was a handsome, gentle man, wasn’t he?” she said around her tears.
“Andrea Layne, you are our dreams come true.” he grasped her hand. “You look so much like your mother... so beautiful and strong.”
“Jimmy, I couldn’t love you any more at this moment. I love you because you are my friend and because you have always been there for me. Knowing that you are my father only explains why I found you and trusted you without question. You are much more than my father, you are my dear, sweet, friend.” She laid her head on his chest and gave him a careful hug.
Rick stood out in the hallway, listening to the conversation that father and daughter were having. Andrea had a knack for words but he was sure she couldn’t find a single word to express her feelings right now.
Andrea and Rick went home about an hour later because Dr. Raros wanted Jimmy to get some sleep. As they were walking into the house, she spoke quietly over her shoulder.
“You knew, didn’t you?”
“Knew what?” he closed and locked the front door behind him.
“That Jimmy is my real father.” she turned to face him.
“Yes, he told me. He didn’t know who else to talk to about your parents and then the whole thing came out.” he followed her into the kitchen. “How do you feel about the whole thing?”
She shrugged. “I still think of him as someone special. He was always my father figure so this news doesn’t change much. But now I don’t have to feel as guilty about not liking my parents. My adopted parents.” she corrected.
He sighed quietly. “You’d better go to sleep. You’ll be up early tomorrow.”
“Thank you for staying with me.”
He stepped forward and hugged her. “Thank you for listening to me.”
“I hope it helped.” she whispered into his shoulder.
Rick strolled into the kitchen expecting to find it empty as usual, but instead he found Lee sitting at the table, staring off into space.
“Good morning, Lee.”
“Did Andrea tell you about Jim?”
“Yes, she told me what she knew.”
“So,” Rick said cheerfully, getting himself a cup of coffee. “Why are you up so early?”
“A lot to think about, huh?” he fell into the chair across from Lee.
“Yea. Rick, do you really have to go home?”
“I wish you would stay. London is so far away.” A pout appeared on his lips.
“I have business there! It’s my livelihood.” Rick reminded him.
“Let someone else run it. Move here and stay. Please.” he pleaded. “You could work for yourself here. Or move the headquarters here.”
“I would still have to go home for a while to close up my house there. So, let me think about everything while I’m there. Look into the cost of everything.” He took a sip of his coffee while Lee continued to pout.
“Good morning, gentlemen. How is everyone this morning?” Andrea greeted them as she came into the kitchen.
Lee grunted and stared at his hands.
Rick lifted his mug. “Good morning.”
Her eyes strayed and remained on Lee’s hunched form. “I’m going in to see Jimmy this morning.” she announced.
“I’ll go with you.” Rick told her. “How about you, Lee? Are you up to it?”
“Yes, I’ll go.” he mumbled his answer.
“Great, I’m sure he’ll love the company. I guess we should go in about half an hour.” she continued.
“Fine, I’ll get dressed.” He got to his feet and left the room with his walker.
“Rick, what’s wrong with Lee? I heard you guys talking while I was getting dressed.”
“We were talking about me going back to London. But he was upset when I came in so it couldn’t have been me totally.” H watched as she put cream cheese on half a bagel. “I can’t believe he’d be that depressed about me leaving.”
“I can, but I do think there’s something else. I guess he’ll tell us when he’s ready.” Shrugging, she bit into the bagel.
“He suggested I move back home, maybe bring my whole operation here.” Rick commented quietly, his eyes trained on his coffee mug.
“It’s an interesting idea but one that requires a lot of thought. After all, isn’t your reputation basically set in Europe? Bringing things here would be kind of like starting from scratch.” she turned her back to pour herself some juice.
“Yea.” In the back of his mind, he thought about how exciting it would be to start building his reputation in the states. “It would be tough.”
“I’m ready.” Lee announced from the doorway, where he was leaning on his walker.
“Give me five more minutes to finish my breakfast.” she told him. “Why don’t you come sit down with us? We were just talking about Rick’s moving his operation here.”
“Really?” he shuffled into the room and sank back onto his chair.
“I said I would think about it. I can’t make any decisions until I look into it.” Rick repeated.
She stuck out her tongue before swallowing the last piece of her bagel. “Let me grab my purse and then I’m ready.”
Rick watched her scurry out of the room before turning to his brother. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” He pushed himself to his feet. “I’m going to head for the car.”
“All right, we’ll be out in a minute.” Rick nodded and stood to put his empty mug into the sink. “Watch your step!” he called out.
“Yea, yea.” Lee grumbled, hating the piece of metal because of his dependency on it. He was hoping to be using the cane by the end of the week so that he would be less conspicuous in public.
“Good morning, Jimmy!” Andrea greeted him cheerfully as she led the threesome into Jimmy’s private room.
“Good morning.” he echoed, looking pale and tired.
“Good morning.” Rick continued the calls, holding the door open for Lee.
“Oh, bust.” Lee grumbled. “Just say hi.”
A week smile slid across Jim’s face. “Hello to you, too.”
“How are you feeling?” She dropped her purse on the floor and approached the bed.
“I’m tired and they keep sticking me with needles and stuff.” Jimmy complained.
“I’m sorry. But they have to do that, you know that. Be patient with them, Jimmy.” she soothed.
“Why didn’t they just call my doctor in California? They’ve got enough test on me to choke an elephant.” he continued.
Lee grunted from the other chair. “Jimmy, my friend, you’re in it for the long haul.”
“Isn’t that the truth.” he grumbled back.
“Dr. Raros has already contacted your doctor.” Rick spoke up. “In fact, Dr. Raros has already received the results of some of your tests. I guess he’s either administering new ones or re-checking old ones.”
“Just tell those damn nurses to keep their hands off of me!” he slapped at his legs. “I hate needles more than anything in the world and nurses are right behind.”
“But what about the real pretty nurses?” Lee asked.
“Lee!” Andi called out, gaping at him.
He grinned and chuckled for the first time that day. “What?!”
“Why are you looking at other women?” she scolded softly.
“Not for me, for Jimmy.”
“Oh, of course.”
Rick watched the discussion with interest. Lee looked pleased with himself but Andrea looked a little miffed.
“I always get the old nurses.” Jimmy mumbled.
“Jimmy!” she stared at him.
“I’m human.” he reminded her. “And not dead yet.”
“But that is no reason to talk about women like that.”
“Andi, stop bugging the man. Let him think what he wants.” Lee’s voice was full of anger.
She shot to her feet. “I’d like to speak to you in the hallway.” When he made no attempt to move, her temper flared even higher. “Now!” She stomped out of the room.
Lee hauled himself to his feet and shuffled into the hallway with his walker.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” she demanded.
“Then stop acting like an ass. Whatever is eating at you, either tell me or let it go.” she told him.
He straightened his spine. “I want a divorce.” he announced before turning and shuffling off down the hallway.