Andi stayed in her workroom all night and for the first time since she had moved into Lee's house, she had to close the door to her studio. At about eleven thirty she heard Rick pass by the door and although his footsteps slowed as he walked by, he didn't stop or knock. At about one a.m. she finally stretched out on the couch to relax. The words refused to flow from her fingers onto the pages because all she saw was the disbelieving look on Rick's face when they'd spoken earlier.
What really bothered her was that Rick's opinion seemed to matter to her.
"Good morning, Lee."
Rick strolled into the hospital room.
"Rick." he looked
over Rick's shoulder. "Where's Andi?"
"She told me last night
that she was going to let me come in and talk to you alone." he answered,
dropping into the chair at Lee's bedside.
"This is the first
day she hasn't been here to greet me when I wake up. Since I've been in here,
I mean." Lee explained.
"Despite her flaky
manner, she's been my rock in all this." he continued. "So, what did
you guys talk about last night?"
"Hardly anything. Right
after we got home, she disappeared upstairs and I didn't see her again."
Rick paused. "Isn't your bedroom on the garage side of the house?"
"Well, when I went
up to go to sleep, there was a light on in the room at the back of the house."
Lee shrugged. "That's her studio."
"She's an artist?"
"A poet." Lee
nodded. "She's very good, too. You should read some of her stuff."
Rick grimaced and shook
his head. "I'm not into flowery phrases and romantic mush."
"Big brother, you have
a lot to learn." he reached over to the night table and pulled out a small
stack of papers. Sifting through them, he pulled one out and held it out for
Rick. "Go on, it won't hurt you."
Rick took the piece of paper
and studied the words. The poem spoke of shame and fear... it was meant to inspire courage but instead
it evoked a feeling of sadness within him.
"When did she write this?"
"The day I realized
that the cancer I had was indeed terminal. I was enraged with the world, thinking
I had been dealt a raw deal. I was so mad on the outside but I was really hiding
my fear and shame. Andi just came up to me and dropped that poem
in my lap." Lee shook his head. "I'll never understand how she saw
everything so clearly."
"I thought it was you."
he dropped the paper onto Lee's blanket-covered legs. "I should have been
"I wasn't alone, Rick.
I had Andi with me every step of the way." Lee tried to soothe him.
"Then tell me why your
precious 'Andi' didn't marry you until after you were diagnosed as terminal!"
Lee's face tightened. "I
hadn't asked her before then."
"Yea, that's what she
said." Rick said glumly.
"You interrogated my
wife? You had no right! If you want to know something, you come ask me. Do you
understand?" he was furious.
"Fine." Rick grunted.
"Fine." Lee repeated.
Rick slammed the front door
behind him and stalked into the kitchen. He deposited the six-pack of beer on
the counter before pulling a can off of it. Popping the tab, he tipped back
his head and drank.
Andi stood just inside the
back door, leaning insolently against the frame. She was watching Rick with
an amused expression on her face.
"I see you and Lee
had it out today."
The can met the counter
with a metallic clang. He turned slowly to glare at her. "Maybe, maybe
She shrugged and looked
at her gloved hands. "It doesn't matter to me if you argued or not. How
does he feel today?"
"Was he tired? Did
he look pale? Was he allowed to walk the halls today?" she questioned.
"I, uh, don't know."
his tone was somber.
Her shoulders sagged as
she turned away. "Don't worry about it. I'll see him later."
She stopped and looked at
him over her shoulder. "Yes?" His eyes were as black as coal.
"My brother... Lee...
he's really dying, isn't he?" his voice cracked.
Turning to him, she nodded.
"I'm afraid so."
"Oh god." he covered
his face with his hands.
It took Andi a full minute
to realize that this hard-nosed, obstinate man, was crying. Her own eyes filling
with tears, she crossed the room and pulled him into her arms.
"It's hard to stand
back and watch something awful happen, knowing you're powerless to stop it."
she murmured, holding him tightly. "We just have to be there for him. We
have to love him as best we can."
Rick found himself in her arms without knowing how he got there. There was a strength in her embrace that he needed at the moment. "I can't believe that he might not be here next month."
"I know." she
murmured, pressing his head into the curve of her shoulder.
He tightened his hold around
her, trying to compose himself. "How do you stay so positive?" he
choked out. "How can you bear to let him go?"
"For now, having him
in my life, is enough. I'll deal with whatever happens, when it happens."
she stroked his hair, trying to comfort him.
Sighing, he pulled away
and wiped at the moisture on his cheeks. "I'm sorry I dumped on you."
She shook her head. "Don't
be. It isn't good to keep it bottled up inside. I'm here when you need to talk,
"Who's been here for
you, Andrea? Who listens when you need to talk?" he asked.
"I have my writing.
It's a perfect outlet for my emotions." she told him, pulling off her gardening
"Well, now you have
me as well, for what it's worth." he said quietly.
Her shimmering green eyes found his. "It's worth a lot. Thank you."
Over the next few days,
Andi and Rick established a pattern for visiting Lee. Rick drove to the hospital
first thing in the morning, then Andi replaced him just after lunch. Then, around
dinnertime, they would return to the hospital together.
Sunday evening, Rick had
a small announcement.
"I'm going to start
going to work at my satellite office in New York."
Lee's eyes brightened. "Really?"
"Yea. I've been in
touch with the home office in London and there are some cases I need to review
personally." he explained. "I'll come in to see you first, then I'll
commute into the city."
"Don't forget to bring
back lots of stories to entertain me." Lee told him.
"Will you be going
in every day?" Andi asked.
"I'll have to see what
needs to be done." he said. "Sometime this week I would like to go
back and see the Tamarack house. That is, if you don't mind."
"Of course not. Andi
knows where the keys are." Lee waved his hand toward his wife.
"I'm going to get a
cup of coffee. Want anything?" Rick asked her.
she approached the bed as Rick left the room. "Lee, that's the second time
Rick has mentioned the Tamarack house."
"I think you should
leave the house to him."
"No. I told you that
you would get everything and I meant it."
"The house was your
parents' house. Please, at least think about it." she pleaded.
"Think about what?"
Rick asked, coming back into the room with a styrofoam cup in his hand.
said tersely, glaring at Andi.
She looked away, her lips
"What going on?"
Rick asked curiously. "Are you guys fighting?"
"Rick, this isn't any
of your business." Lee's tone brooked no argument.
Rick chose to ignore the
warning. "Go ahead and argue. Don't let me interrupt you." he said,
amusement lacing his voice. "I just love a good fight."
"This discussion is
closed." Lee ordered, glaring at her.
She looked straight at him, her eyes flashing fire. "Not by a long shot, Lee." Turning, she stalked out of the room.
Monday afternoon, she tried
"Lee, about the Tamarack
"I said no."
"It doesn't matter.
I've decided that I will give it to Rick as a gift. It would mean a lot more
if you left it to him but either way, it will be his." Andi stated
Lee sighed heavily. "Why,
Andi? Why is this so important to you?"
"That house is part
of your family and it should remain in the family. Besides that, I think he
really wants it." she said softly.
"You're a part of the
family, Andi. Rick can afford whatever he wants. No, everything I have will
be yours." he repeated.
"But I told you..."
"No!" he interrupted
her. "I told you..." his words were lost in a coughing fit.
Andi was at his side in
an instant. "Lee!" She placed a hand lightly on his back and leaned
over to peer into his face.
He waved his hand at her
while he took quick, gasping breaths. His hand went to his chest as he leaned
back against the pillows.
"A... are you all right?"
she asked, her face full of fear.
"Yea." he said
hoarsely, his hand falling to his side.
"I'd better get the doctor." she raced from the room, guilt and fear squeezing her heart.