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Installment 5


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?"

"Yea. Why?"

"Well, when I went up to go to sleep, there was a light on in the room at the back of the house."

"Oh." Smiling, 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 here!"

"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!" he bellowed.

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 not."

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, Rick."

"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 gloves.

"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.

"No, thanks." 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.

"Nothing." Lee said tersely, glaring at Andi.

She looked away, her lips pressed together.

"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 another tactic.

"Lee, about the Tamarack house..."

"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 firmly.

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.