Andrea sat patiently in Dr. Raros’ office, waiting for him to arrive for their meeting. The office was small, windowless, but impeccably neat.
“Mrs. Holivan.” Dr. Raros greeted her from the doorway. “I’m terribly sorry I’m late.” He stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting long.”
“No, not really.” she lied, knowing she’d been there for at least half an hour. She waited while he sat down behind his desk “What news do you have for me today?”
“We’ve gotten all of the results from Mr. Womatt’s tests.” he began.
“They confirm all the diagnoses from California.”
“What are you telling me?” she asked him, her voice trembling slightly.
“I don’t think Mr. Womatt will be leaving our hospital.”
“You mean anytime soon...”
“There isn’t anything we can do for him except make him comfortable for his last days.” the doctor said softly.
“Are you trying to tell me he only has days to live?”
“No, I can’t tell you how long he has. I would have to put a guess at two months... maybe more, maybe less.” he folded his hands on the desk top. “I’m sorry but you should realize that predictions like this are beyond our control.”
She jumped to her feet. “Yes, I know. And you’re sure that there is nothing left for you to do?”
Nodding, he continued, “I haven’t discussed any of this with Mr. Womatt, however I would assume he has heard it all from his own doctors.” He watched her with unreadable eyes.
“Thank you for telling me everything. I think I’ll go see Jimmy, now.” she shook his hand then left the office. She was all the way down the hall before the tears fell. She just kept walking, tears streaking down her face, falling silently onto her blouse. People stared at her before turning away, not wanting to intrude on her grief. As she reached Jimmy’s room, she tried to compose herself and wiped her face clean. Plastering a watery smile on her face, she entered his room. “Morning, Jimmy.”
“You’re a little late this morning, aren’t you?” he asked, looking up at her from the bed.
“Mmm, I had a meeting with Dr. Raros.”
“Oh. Well, where are the maddening brothers?” he changed the subject.
“At the big house.”
“How can you stand to be in that house alone?” he asked her.
“Jimmy, I lived alone for a lot of years before I married Lee. I’m fine.” she assured him.
“I think you should move back into the big house.” he told her.
“I’m not wanted there. It’s Rick’s house and he doesn’t want me in it... I have to respect that.”
“I bet he wants you back by the end of today.”
“Have you been talking to Lee?” she asked, a hint of a smile on her lips.
“Rick! Would you get me my toast!” Lee called from the table.
Rick brought the toast to the table.
“And some cream cheese.”
He stalked over to the refrigerator and practically threw the cream cheese down on the table.
“Thanks. Oh, could you pour me some juice, too?”
He turned away clenching his fists. “When are you going to hire that cook?”
“I’m working on it. Good help is hard to find, you know.” Lee reminded him. “Also, could you set out my swim trunks on my bed? I’d like to go swimming after breakfast.”
“Okay, I’ll get them out before I leave.”
“Oh, no! I can’t go swimming if you’re not here, I might need help. Why don’t you come out, too.” Lee suggested.
Rick sighed heavily. “All right, I’ll go swimming with you.”
“Lee looked up as the doorbell rang. “Oh, that must be Peter the gardener.”
Rick glared at his brother. “You found a gardener but no cook.”
“Those plants need to be taken care of! Please let Peter in for me.”
Rick stomped off, leaving Lee to grin silently at the table. He returned with a middle aged man dressed in khaki shorts and shirt.
“Good morning, Peter! I’m so glad you could take the job.” Lee greeted him.
“Lee, thank you for thinking of me.” they shook hands. “Why don’t I just get to it.”
“Be my guest. You know where everything is, right?”
“Absolutely. I’ll see you later.”
“Right.” Lee watched him go out the door. “Oh, Rick! I think I’d like to change into my suit now. I’ll dig it out if you’ll clean this up.” he waved to the food in front of him. “I’ll be ready to go outside in about fifteen minutes.” Pushing himself to his feet, he used his walker to hobble from the room.
“I’m gonna kill you.” Rick growled after he left. “If you don’t kill me first.”
Andrea stood in front of the door, wondering if she should knock or just go in.
She whirled around to find Lee’s old gardener looking at her. “Peter!” He was an older man whose hair had gone completely white but whose smiled was always sincerely. He was wearing his little gardening hat and gloves.
“Andrea, how great to see you!”
“Lee hired you to take care of the plants?”
“Yes. You’ve done a lovely job in the back garden. Just beautiful.” he told her.
“Thank you. There’s a lot to take care of now. Especially since there are a lot of new plants in.” she reminded him.
“Of course, and I’ll love every minute of it.” he smiled. “If you’re looking for Lee, he’s in the pool.”
“Oh, great, thank you. It was good seeing you, Peter.” she tapped his shoulder before trotting around the side of the house. She rounded the corner toward the back yard and entered the garden through the arched trellis. Winding her way along the path, she touched and checked each flower or plant she passed. Finally, she rounded the corner and came into sight of the pool. She could see Rick standing on the diving board and as she was watching, he gave a push and dove cleanly into the water. Without thinking, she continued walking until she reached the edge of the patio.
“Hello.” she called softly.
Rick was just breaking the surface when Lee whipped his head around.
She waved but stayed where she was. Lee was floating near the edge of the pool, hanging on by one hand. Rick was treading water in the middle of the blue water.
“Come on over.” Lee invited.
She looked at Rick for permission, but he just dove underwater. Walking to the edge of the pool, she kicked off her sandals and sat down. Then she dunked her legs in the water and waited for Lee to swim over. “Hi.”
Nodding her head at the water, she spoke softly. “Do you think he’ll come back up?’
“When he needs to breathe.”
She smiled. “How are you?”
“Fine. How is Jimmy?”
Frowning, she kicked her legs in the water. “Dr. Raros says he won’t be coming home.”
“Oh, Andi, I can’t believe it.” Lee said as Rick came up for air behind him.
“That’s what he said.”
Rick started swimming laps along the length of the pool, completely ignoring them.
“Does he know?”
“Yes, and he’s being very brave about it. But I just want to cry every time I think about it.” she whispered.
Lee touched her thigh. “Andi, please come back here.”
“I can’t. This is Rick’s house and he doesn’t want me here.”
“Then let me move into the other house with you.”
Rick swam by as she looked away from Lee. “I don’t want you and your brother to be apart. You should be together.”
Rick came to a halt directly behind Lee. “You can move back in if that’s what you want. Just stay out of my way and don’t expect me to be nice.”
“How very kind of you, Richard, but I wouldn’t want you to be uncomfortable in your own home.” she told him.
“Don’t push me, Andrea.” he growled.
“I didn’t ask to be accepted into your good graces or your house.” she informed him.
“But Lee wants you here and if he wants it, I want it.” he said through clenched teeth.
“Well, since you put it so nicely, how can I refuse?” she smiled and kicked water toward him. “But don’t expect me to be nice.”
“I don’t really care.” he mumbled as he swam toward the steps.
She waited until he was in the house before laughing. “Somehow I just knew. In fact, my suitcases are still in my trunk.”
Andrea moved into an empty room upstairs on the opposite side of the house from Rick. He ignored her, for the most part, except when she did something he didn’t like, then he would grunt and make comment to himself out loud. For the next two days, he avoided her, letting her take Lee to the hospital to visit Jimmy. In the evenings, she made dinner and he ate, then left the room.
Come Friday, Rick drove Lee and Andrea to the hospital for Lee’s first checkup. Andrea stayed with Lee while Rick wandered off to visit Jimmy.
“Hey, old man.” Rick said from the doorway.
Jimmy looked up. “What’re you doing here?’
“Is that anyway to greet someone you lived with?” he asked.
“You kicked my daughter out of your house.”
“You’re making her life miserable.” Jimmy accused.
“What would you like me to do?”
“Forgive and forget.”
He took a step into the room. “She lied to me.”
“I lied to her for more years than you’ve known her or me and yet she’s forgiven me! Her lie didn’t change who she is... she’s still just Andi.” Jimmy grunted and turned his head. “And the stupid girl cares so much about you. And your brother.”
“I’m sorry, Jimmy, I can’t just forget that she lied to me.”
“What about your brother? He lied to you, too.”
“But he’s my brother.”
“I trusted her! She knows things about me that no one else does! I told her the truth and she lied.”
“You’re afraid that you care about her. Look, Rick, she’s Lee’s best friend. They never consummated their marriage. One word from you and Lee will divorce her. But he won’t do it unless he’s sure that you’ll be there for her. Open up, Rick, you can trust Andi... I raised her right.” Jimmy finished.
Rick heard her voice in his head. “Accept it, hurt and then move on. Open up and care for someone again.”
“She’s a wonderful woman, Rick. She could give you everything you ever wanted.”
“Jimmy, I’m not looking for a woman.”
“That’s when they always find you.” he told Rick. “Don’t wait too long, Rick, she’ll grow angry and bitter at you. And then you’ll have nothing again.”
They fell silent, neither able to follow that statement.
“If they ask, Rick, I don’t want to be left on machines.” Jimmy said, his voice taught with emotion. “I trust you to make sure they know that.”
“These are things you should be telling Andrea, not me.” Rick told him.
“No. When she asks your opinion, you can tell her what I said. But whatever happens, no machines. I believe that when it’s time for me to go, then it’s time for me to go. No questions asked. Do you understand?”
“All right, I understand. I’d better go catch up with Lee.”
“And Andrea.” Jimmy called.
“I’ll see you later, Jim.” Rick wandered out into the hall, thinking about everything Jimmy said. Walking along the corridor, he thought about Andrea. He thought about holding her in his arms and not feeling guilty. Just that thought alone made him feel warm inside. Feeling her full, quivering body next to his...
“Okay, Lee, that’s it. I’m glad to see you aren’t straining yourself.” Dr. Hayes turned to Andrea. “I’m sorry to hear about your friend, Mr. Womatt. I did look into his file and everything that could be done was done.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that you looked into it.” she told him. “It’s been rough but with Lee getting better, at least there is some sunshine in my life.”
Just then, Rick came into the room. “How’d it go?”
“Went fine.” Lee called from the table. “He says I’m doing fine.”
“He’s gaining back some of his strength as well, which is excellent.” Dr. Hayes added.
“Great.” Rick smiled, surprising everyone in the room except the doctor. “Do you want to visit Jim?”
“I was hoping to. But you and Lee can go on home if you want.” she offered slowly.
“Sounds good.” Rick said, eyeing his brother over her head.
“All right then, I’ll see you later.” she said before leaving the room. She only glanced back once to see if Rick was still smiling that devastating smile, and he was. Standing there, looking so handsome, it made her want to cry. She turned away just before he turned to look at her.
“Okay, what’s going on?” Lee asked as Rick slid into the car behind the steering wheel.
“I want you to do me a favor.”
“What?” Lee turned his head to stare at his brother.
“I want you to divorce Andrea.”
“I want you to divorce Andrea.” he repeated.
“I’d like to see her.” Rick said in a strained voice.
“So, what’s stopping you?”
“I can’t do it when she’s married to you.”
“You know we’re not married in the normal sense of the word.”
“It doesn’t matter. I can’t date her if she’s legally married to you. I’d be thinking of her as my brother’s wife instead of just Andrea.” Rick explained.
“Can I please talk to Andi about this?”
“If you want.”
“Because you know that she may not want to see you anymore.” Lee reminded him.
“Then I’ll convince her.”
Lee shook his head.
“No, he’s totally serious.”
“Why would I want to go out with him after he kicked me out of his house?” she asked.
“He let you back in.”
“You like him, he likes you, what’s the big deal?” Lee asked.
“Lee, you do what you want to but either way, I won’t promise to go out with him.” she said stubbornly, getting up off the red couch. “Do you want a hand getting into bed?”
“No, I’m all right. I’ll see you in the morning, Andi.” he waved her away.
“Good night, then.” She left the room, closing the door behind her. Walking quietly down the hallway, she wondered what Rick was really up to. She strolled through the empty kitchen, into the front hall toward the foyer. As she was heading for the stairs, she heard a door squeak.
She turned with one hand on the banister. “Yes?”
“Did Lee talk to you?”
He was standing in the doorway to the study. “Yes, he did.”
“I told him to do what he wanted.”
“What does that mean?”
She had never heard him sound so unsure of himself. “You’re the PI, you figure it out.” Turning, she went up the stairs and disappeared from sight.
Rick followed her up the stairs and along the hall. “Andrea, wait.”
“I’m trying to do what you want.”
She spun around to face him. “I want you to do what you want, but you want to do what I want so what I really want is for you to do what I want, right? Look, don’t do me any favors.” she turned away from his puzzled look.
“Andrea, I’m confused!” he called after her.
“Join the club, my friend.” she called back before closing the door to her bedroom.
He stood in the hallway, staring at her closed door. Then, he knocked.
The door swung open. “What?”
“Will you go out with me once Lee divorces you?”
“Why should I let Lee divorce me? Why should I give up all the security that this marriage brings me?” she asked.
“So you can go out with me.” he said hopefully.
She started to close the door but he reached out one hand to stop her.
“Okay, fine. Then go out with me tomorrow night, divorce or not.”
She shoved at his chest and he stumbled backwards. “Maybe.” she answered before closing the door.
“I didn’t hear the lock click!” he called through the door.
“I wouldn’t check if I were you!” she sang back.
He grinned and went down the hall to his own room.