|Come Rain Or Come Shine
Author: cutelittlelawyer PM
We can never predict the future. One event, one choice, can change a person's life forever. Kenzie, Derek, Dylan and Sophie each have a challenge to overcome. Together, these four people learn the importance of honesty, trust, friendship and courage as they realize that coming back from the edge is something nobody can do alone.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Romance - Chapters: 48 - Words: 210,826 - Reviews: 68 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 04-06-13 - Published: 02-10-12 - id: 2996133
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N - Here's a shout-out to all my readers, and particularly to my reviewers – PonyTricks, True Talker, Mirabelle P and RoShAn. You guys are great! Thanks so much for reading this & supporting my efforts.
I also want to add a quick note about chapters forty-one and forty-two. Originally, they were a single chapter, but due to the length (over 20 MS Word pages) I decided to split them. I'm still doing a bit of clean-up editing on chapter forty-two, but you can expect it to be posted within the next couple of days. Enjoy!
Forty-One – Slings And Arrows
Since January, my life has turned in directions I did not foresee. If I thought I'd felt miserable before, I couldn't have imagined the new depths to which my misery would plunge following that disastrous Friday the thirteenth. I've had to make tough decisions. Some of my choices haven't been easy to live with, but I'm not sure the alternatives would've been any better. I do my best to make it through one long, lonely day at a time and try to convince myself that things will get better eventually. Sometimes, I almost believe it.
Towards the end of January, when I finally worked up the courage to tell Valerie everything, my confession did not prompt the response I expected. Val was angry that I'd kept so much from her for so long, but at least she did me the courtesy of listening to the whole horrible tale with her usual attentiveness. When I was done, my friend offered me neither consolation nor advice. Her only reaction was to say, "Holy crap! Of all the people I know, you're the last person I would've expected to screw up their life this bad." At that point, she seemed more disdainful than empathetic.
Sean was more tactful when I told him but, like Valerie, he was upset that I hadn't confided in him sooner. My conversation with Sean hurt me far more than talking to Val had done, and maybe it had hurt Sean, too. He said he would've tried to help me if only I'd come to him. "You used to tell me all your important stuff, Kenzie," he said. "Don't you trust me any more?"
I haven't seen much of either Sean or Valerie lately. Sean avoids me at work and Valerie rarely calls me any more. When we do speak, all we can manage is pointless small talk. I guess I'd describe my relationships with Val and Sean as polite but strained. The situation is hard to take, but at least Sean and Valerie haven't given up all contact with me entirely.
This is more than I can say about my relationship with Sophie. I went to visit her several days after our Friday the thirteenth meeting, only to be informed by a brusque correctional officer that Sophie didn't want to see me and that my name had been removed from her list of approved contacts.
I heard through the courthouse grapevine that Sophie's trial on the three charges she'd received before Christmas had been held on the fifth of February. She was acquitted on the two charges of breaking and entering, I was told, and the judge sentenced her to time served on the charge of driving without a license and registration. I wrote her a letter saying I was glad for the result of her trial and that I hoped it wouldn't affect her chances of getting paroled again. The letter came back to me, unopened, about ten days later.
Aside from my co-workers, the only people I have regular conversations with these days are Dylan Hamilton and my brother Alex. I'm grateful for my brother. When he found out about everything that happened he didn't offer his opinion on what I should do to fix things. He said he was sorry and wanted to know if he could help me in any way. I couldn't find the words to tell him that simply by listening to me without judgement he'd already done the best thing for me that anyone could do.
During the first week of March, Alex came to the city to stay with me for a few days. As it turned out, he had some news of his own, albeit of a much more optimistic nature than the information I'd dropped on him. Alex's long search for his birth parents has finally ended. He found his biological mother, Suzanne, living in a town less than half an hour's drive from where he lives. By happy coincidence, Suzanne had eventually gotten married to Alex's biological dad, John. Alex was practically bursting with excitement when he told me, and he kept saying over and over how fortunate he was to find both his real parents at once. He's spoken to them on the phone a number of times, and he has arranged to meet them soon. Alex learned that all four of his grandparents are still living, and that he has three younger siblings; a sister and two brothers. Christopher, the oldest of the siblings, is twenty-five, married, and the father of a one-year-old girl. Apparently, there's going to be a big family reunion in the spring.
In the light of his success, Alex encouraged me to start searching for my mother. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about it. It might be satisfying to have some questions answered about my past, but I can't ignore the possibility that Julia Reid might not be as glad to see me as Alex's parents were to reunite with him. Maybe she doesn't want to be found. She might not even be alive. Alex insists I'm worrying for nothing, but I think my misgivings are entirely justified. Nevertheless, despite my uncertainty, I've made an application to the court to have my adoption records unsealed and I've sent in a Freedom of Information request for my records from Social Services. Alex says I should ask Alan and Marianne for their help too, but I'm not particularly anxious to do that. For now, I'm just going to find out what I can from the documents when I receive them.
Alex's enthusiasm for my search is matched only by Dylan's. When Dylan found out that I've started looking for my mother, he got very excited. He told me that I should be keeping a journal to document it, and that if I eventually do find Julia, she and I could write a book. I don't see that as a particularly realistic outcome, but I'd never say so to Dylan. The last thing in the world that I'd ever want to do would be to crush his eagerness.
Dylan is the one truly bright spot in my life. Since he went to the rehabilitation centre, I've been visiting him two or three times a week. I usually go there in the evenings, when I'm less likely to bump into Derek, who apparently comes to see his brother every day at lunchtime.
During Dylan's first couple of weeks in rehab, my visits mostly consisted of me reading books or the newspaper to him. Now we're able to do other things together. We work on puzzles and Dylan enjoys it when I take him exploring around the corridors in his wheelchair. Of course we still read together, and we talk a lot. Dylan likes to tell me about all his plans for things he's going to do once he gets out of the hospital. Among his latest schemes, he says he wants his mother to teach him how to knit so that he can make hats for people who've lost their hair because of medical treatments. I don't discourage him from this plan because I think the idea itself is brilliant but, to be honest, I doubt he'll recover either the manual dexterity or the attention span to learn how to knit.
Whether Dylan learns to knit or not, there's no denying his numerous other achievements. The doctors and therapists all agree that, physically speaking, Dylan is experiencing a better-than-expected recovery. Each time I visit him, I discover that he's accomplished some new goal. He's regained most of the mobility in his damaged right arm, and the progress he's made with his speech therapy is nothing short of astonishing. His cognitive recovery, on the other hand, is slower going. Dr. O'Neill, the neurologist who's currently in charge of his care, says his issues with short-term memory may never resolve, and his psychologist thinks that some of the personality changes may be permanent, too. His psychologist, Dr. Davidson, described him as 'the new Dylan'. When I told him about that, his reaction was to laugh so hard that he ended up needing to wipe his eyes and catch his breath. Then, he informed me that he isn't new at all.
"I'm still the old Dylan," he said. "Just...you know...renovated."
The 'renovated' Dylan is as charismatic and playful as ever. He's still madly in love with Sophie and head-over-heels with joy about becoming a daddy, and he's still passionate about books and music. The obvious difference in him is that he has lost the hard edge that defined him before the accident. That aura of angry impatience has vanished altogether, leaving behind a man who doesn't need to be told to live in the moment. Some people might think experiencing a change like this would be an improvement, but there's also a downside. Dylan is far more sensitive now. He's less able to control his impulses and can't hide how he feels. Sometimes he reminds me of a child, laughing without restraint when he's excited or happy and weeping with equal abandon when he's frustrated, frightened or sad. Dr. Davidson says he may eventually regain some control over how he expresses his feelings, but she can't predict when, or to what degree.
Tonight when I arrive, I find Dylan in the hallway outside his room. He's dressed in green plaid pyjama pants and a well-worn green t-shirt with the words 'HUG A TREE' across the front in bold white letters. In the weeks that he's been here, his hair has finally grown out enough for his curls to reassert themselves. I hadn't thought it possible for his hair to be any more wild than it'd been before the accident but, freed from its usual array of products and unburdened from the weight of being collar-length, it has assumed an unruliness of mad scientist proportions. Dylan doesn't care. He says he's happy to have it back, no matter what state it's in.
At the moment, his curls are damp and sticking to his forehead. His face is set in desperate concentration, and he's got a white-knuckled grip on his aluminium walker as he moves forward with agonizingly slow and uncertain steps. I silently cheer him on. It takes a full minute for him to walk only four small steps, and I can tell the effort is exhausting, but for him to go even that far is no small victory.
I wait until he stops for a rest before I greet him. "Hey, Dylan," I say. "Looking good."
He glances up at the sound of his name and offers me a smile. "Hi," he says. "Did you bring me a treat?"
"Isn't the pleasure of my company enough?"
"Sure, but I like candy too. Reese's Pieces are my favourite."
"Next time, I promise."
"Thanks," he says. "So, what do you think of my walking skills?"
"You'll probably be ready to run the Bluenose Marathon by next year," I say.
Dylan grins. "I like a woman who understands the power of flattery."
"I hear it can get you anywhere."
"How about back to my room?"
"Under any other circumstances, I'd consider that inappropriate," I say. "Do you need help getting there, or can you make it on your own?"
"You know what'd be really nice? If you get the wheelchair from my room and bring it out here, then I wouldn't have to walk back there."
"I could do that," I concede, "but then somebody would have to carry your walker back to your room."
Dylan's response is to poke out his tongue at me and accuse, "You're no fun at all."
I follow him into his room and then sit on his bed to wait for him while he goes into the bathroom to wash his face. Dylan's roommate has a visitor this evening as well, so Dylan and I decide we're going to hang out in the patients' common room. Dylan's roommate is far less mobile than Dylan, and it's his wife who's visiting him. We conclude they're entitled to their privacy.
Each floor has a large room where the patients can relax, socialize, play games and watch TV. The common room on this floor has chocolate brown industrial carpet on the floor. The walls are painted a cheerful yellow. There are various sofas and chairs in shades of brown which, despite their institutional appearance, have all proved to be quite comfortable. Posters with motivational sayings decorate the walls. Newspapers and magazines are scattered on a table at one end of the room and, near the table, a low shelf contains an assortment of books and board games.
Tonight, the common room is unusually empty. The only other occupant is a woman in her mid-twenties. She's wearing pink pyjamas and a fuzzy purple robe, and there's a purple scarf tied around her head. She's leaning sideways in her wheelchair which is parked in front of the TV. The sound on the television is muted, so I don't think she's actually watching it. Dylan lifts a hand in greeting. The woman moves her eyes to look at him, but doesn't acknowledge him otherwise.
Undeterred, he calls out, "Hey, Ashley. I heard you moved your fingers yesterday."
The girl makes an unintelligible sound. Dylan gives her the thumbs-up.
'What did she say?" I ask.
Dylan shrugs. "Damned if I know," he replies quietly. "I always talk to her even though I don't really know what she says back to me most of the time. I think she's lonely. Her mother visits once a week, but nobody else ever seems to come. It's sad."
"What happened to her?"
"Her mother told me it was a brain tumour. Cancer. They got the whole tumour, but then she had a stroke."
"Is she going to get better?"
"I don't know," Dylan says. "I hope so. She's only twenty-four."
"That is sad," I say.
"Sometimes I think about it," Dylan says. "I think that even if I never walk again, I'm still lucky."
"You'll walk again. You seemed to be doing pretty well when I got here tonight."
"I can barely feel my right leg. I fall if I'm not holding onto something," he says. "Anyway, even if this is as good as it gets for me, I can stand up and I can talk and use my hands. I can mostly take care of myself. That's something to be grateful for, you know what I mean?"
I glance at the girl. From Dylan's perspective, I suppose not being able to walk is preferable to having brain cancer and being unable to move or speak. The thought of being disabled in any way is daunting to me, though. The turn our conversation has taken makes me uncomfortable.
"Let's find a place to sit down," I say.
Dylan points to a couch at the far end of the room. "Let's sit over there."
I push his wheelchair over to the sofa. "Do you need help?"
"Maybe," he says. "I'll let you know."
Dylan does not, as it turns out, need any assistance in getting from his chair to the couch. His strategy is decidedly lacking in style and grace, but he makes up for it with sheer determination, and after a minute both of us are settled. I occupy one end of the sofa, while Dylan takes up the rest of it. He sits with his back against the couch's sturdy armrest and his legs stretched out in front of him. The soles of his feet rest against the side of my leg. I should probably tell him this isn't polite behaviour, but he seems so pleased with our configuration that I decide to indulge him.
"Your feet are cold," I say.
"I know." He gives me an impish grin. "Why do you think I put them on you?"
He wiggles the toes of his left foot in their grey athletic sock and comments, "I still can't do this on the right side."
"Keep working on it," I say.
"If you want," I say. "Just don't poke me too hard, okay?"
"Okay," he says and flexes his toes against my thigh again, obviously unconcerned about propriety. "So, did you do anything interesting today?"
"Went to work. Nothing special," I say. "What did you do today?"
"Breakfast, and then the doctor came to see me, and then I had speech therapy, physical therapy exercises in the pool, and then it was time for lunch and Derek was here. I forget what I did after lunch. I shaved by myself today, but I cut myself three times, and then I talked to Richard on the phone and he said I should just grow a beard like I had in the eighties. What do you think?"
"You had a beard in the eighties?"
"Yeah, and my hair was longer than yours," he says. "I was kind of a hippie."
"I think you're still kind of a hippie," I tease. "I can't imagine you with really long hair and a beard."
"When I get out of here, I'll show you pictures of me and Derek and our band. We both had really long hair. Me and Derek, I mean. Then the police academy made me cut mine off, and Derek decided to cut his too, so we'd match."
"You guys like matching, don't you?"
"We're identical twins. We're supposed to match," he says. "So, guess what?"
"What?" I say.
"It's the biggest news ever."
"Really? Even bigger news than being engaged or finding out for sure that you're going to have a son?"
"That stuff isn't news. You already know about that."
"Okay, so what's the biggest news ever?"
He's practically overflowing with self-importance as he announces, "I'm going home."
"That's great," I say. "When?"
"April sixteenth," he says. "That's seventeen days from now. Right?"
"I'll still have to come here every day for my therapy and everything, but I won't have to stay here any more. When Dr. O'Neill came this morning, he said there are a lot of things I can do at home, like all my exercises and memory games and stuff. I don't remember everything he said, but I wrote it down."
"Does that help, writing things down?"
"Yeah," Dylan says. "It's like when I was on the job. I wrote all the important details in my notebook so when I had to testify in court or something, I could look at it and remember what happened. It's harder to write now, though. Sometimes I have to think about how to spell the words and sometimes I can't make my fingers do what I want them to."
"When you first came here from the hospital, you could barely talk and you couldn't write at all, remember?"
"True," he says. "I really wanted to talk. The speech therapist says I'm making really good progress."
"You are," I agree.
"Sometimes I still mess up when I'm tired. It's..." He trails off, his lower lip trembling. "It's embarrassing. I hate being like this."
"You're getting better every day, though," I remind him.
"Yeah, but I want to get back to normal now," he says plaintively. After a moment, he brightens again and, without warning, changes topics. "Want to see something amazing that I can do?"
"Sure," I say.
He raises his right hand and carefully touches his thumb with each of his fingertips in turn. This would hardly be considered amazing for most people but, given the fact that three months ago Dylan's entire right arm was practically immobile, it's a remarkable achievement indeed.
"That's awesome," I tell him.
"It is awesome, because now I can do this." He closes his eyes and sits perfectly still for a second or two. He reaches both hands forward, palms down, and starts raising and lowering his fingers in an odd series of movements. I watch, confused at first, but then astounded when it dawns on me what he's doing.
"Air piano," I say.
Dylan opens his eyes again."Didn't they teach music appreciation in your school? It's Beethoven. Not too difficult, but I can't expect to start with Liszt or Débussy, can I?"
"I have no idea."
Dylan laughs. "Not contemporary enough for you, I guess. Maybe you're into piano rock?"
"You mean like Elton John?"
"I was thinking more like Jerry Lee Lewis, but yeah. You know Jerry Lee Lewis?" He moves his fingers in a different, faster pattern and hums something under his breath. "Jerry Lee Lewis is the greatest. Anyway, I told the occupational therapist about playing the piano, and he said it'd be good exercise for my hands, so when I get home, I'm going to practice every day."
"You practiced every day before, didn't you?"
"Yeah, but now I can practice as much as I want, because I won't be going back to work. Not for a while, anyway. I might want a job again when I get better, though." He pauses, seeming to contemplate this idea for a moment but then, in his new, unpredictable way, he switches gears completely. "I just thought of something. Guess what else?"
"What else?" I ask.
"When I get out of here, I'm going to live with Derek."
I smile. "I know, sweetie. You told me that last time I was here."
"I don't remember if I told you that we're moving to a new house," he says. "Derek says it's really nice. Jonathan and Luke and Tim are going to help him move all our stuff tomorrow, except for my piano. I told Derek not to let anyone touch my piano. We have to get special movers for that."
"Derek's moving tomorrow?"
"March thirty-first. That's what he told me, and I wrote it down," Dylan says. "Oh...and guess what else?"
"Aren't you tired of making me guess things?"
"Okay. What else?"
"Dr. O'Neill said I can go out for the afternoon if a responsible adult goes with me. I guess it's sort of like day parole. When I talked to Sophie yesterday, she said they might let her have day parole some time in April. Anyway, Dr. O'Neill said I can go out next Saturday afternoon, and I decided I want to visit Sophie. After that, I want to see the new house and get pizza from Costello's. Will you be my responsible adult?"
"It sounds like you've got a lot planned. How long are you allowed to be away from here?"
"Dr. O'Neill said four hours," he says. "Can we do all that in four hours?"
"I don't know, but we can try our best," I say. "Are you sure you want me to go with you, though? Wouldn't you rather have Derek or Marley, or your mother?"
"Marley would be okay I guess, but I really want you to go with me. Derek wouldn't take me to see Sophie, and Mum would probably say pizza is bad for my health or something. Besides," he adds, "I like being with you. Next to Sophie, you're my best friend."
"What about Nick?"
"Nick used to be my best friend, but he's different since the accident. I'm different. We're still friends, but I don't think we'll ever be the way we were before."
"I'm sorry," I say.
"I don't really mind things being different."
"Every day, something's different than it was the day before," Dylan says. "That's life."
This sounds like one of Richard's pearls of wisdom, and I try to imagine the circumstance in which Richard might have imparted it to his son. I think Richard would be glad to know Dylan has taken this aphorism to heart. Perhaps Richard's rebellious son had been paying attention all along. I smile at this thought but, an instant later, I find the smile fading when I recall that it's been weeks since I've seen or spoken to Richard. With a pang of longing so acute that I'm startled by it, I realize how much I miss him. Even in the short time I'd known him, he became a sort of father figure to me. Before I met Richard, I honestly did not know how much I needed someone like him. Now, like so many other people, he's all but vanished from my life.
"How do you do it?" I say. "How do you deal with it when things change?"
"I don't know," Dylan says. "I just do."
"Do you see Nick very often?"
"He visits me sometimes."
"But, you used to talk nearly every day, right?"
"Do you miss him?"
"Yeah, but I have other friends, and I have my family and Sophie," he says. "I guess I still didn't answer your question, did I?"
"It doesn't matter," I say.
"I think it does," Dylan says. "If it didn't matter, you wouldn't have asked."
"A lot of things have been changing in my life lately, and I'm having a hard time coping with all the changes, that's all."
"Did you ever try to walk the wrong way on the escalator at the mall?"
I laugh, caught by surprise at Dylan's utterance of this apparently disconnected thought. "Dylan, what do escalators have to do with anything?"
"Did you?" he persists. "Did you ever try to go up the 'down' escalator, or go down the 'up' escalator?"
"Sure, when I was a teenager."
"It's not impossible, but it's harder than it looks, right?"
"We're meant to get on the 'down' escalator and just go down with it."
"So, what are you trying to tell me?"
"Maybe you're working too hard. Maybe you're fighting change instead of sort of...you know...going down with it."
"Escalators as a metaphor for life?"
"I'm serious," he says. "Sometimes things change and we don't like it, but there's nothing we can do. You know what Richard says?"
"He told me once, fighting against things you have no control over is like trying to swim upriver. You might think you'll get somewhere, but the only thing you really accomplish is to tire yourself out, and then you'll end up drifting downstream anyway."
"That sounds like something Richard would say."
"He's right, though."
"Your father is a wise man."
"He is," Dylan agrees. "I wish I would've realized that earlier in my life. I might've saved myself a lot of trouble if I'd listened to Richard more often."
"Me too," I say.
Dylan peers at me curiously. "What?"
"Richard gave me some advice that I think maybe I should've tried harder to follow."
"Oh," says Dylan. He doesn't ask me for an explanation. "Live and learn, I guess."