Tuesday, August 8, 2000

In/Exhale - September 13, 2000 - Part I

September 13, 2000


Kai wasn’t sure the hour; like ICU, the step-down unit room was windowless and gave little indication to signal the passage of time. He suspected it was early morning, the nurses' shift change happening soon, since his night nurse had drawn some blood and recorded all his current vitals not long before. She’d encouraged him to get some sleep, and he’d promised he would, but had spent however many minutes since then staring at his sleeping brother instead, in far too much pain, his stomach swirling with barely-suppressed nausea, to fall asleep himself.
 
Yesterday was a fog, but he faintly remembered a bout of spasms, fear and pain mingling together, overwhelming him. He’d been sick, and hurting, and terrified, and he’d let it show, acting like an ignorant child, embarrassing himself in front of Jon. Even before his transplant, he’d never let Jon see his fear, truly see his pain, because Jon was an empath who could imagine enough on his own, who wanted to save the world, and who bore any failures--even if they weren't his fault--harshly. If Jon ever learned, ever found out some of the things Kai had lived through while they were apart. . . .
 
Suddenly, Jon’s pager sounded, snapping him awake. It took him a moment to pull his mind from sleep; Jon didn’t sleep much, but usually by the time he did, he sank deep, even if it didn’t last. Jon checked the number, frowning, before rising to stretch.
 
“Please tell me you slept a little,” Jon said, smoothing some of Kai’s hair out of his face.
 
Kai debated a full-out lie for a moment, then decided for a diversionary tactic. “Do you need to answer that?”
 
Jon sighed and looked at his waist again, though he didn’t remove the pager. “Yeah. But I promised you.”
 
“And I appreciate it. But I’m scheduled for tests and prodding all morning anyway.” Gates had Dr. Johnsen, Kai’s nephrologist, and a cardiologist coming in to look into Kai’s blood pressure problem, and later, he was scheduled for an MRI and a consult with an orthopedist to determine how badly the spasms had hurt his legs.
 
“I haven’t even thought about work the past few days,” Jon said, as if defending himself. “But this . . . I asked to be paged when the test results for this patient came in. . . .”
 
“Jon.” The nausea was welling up now, and Kai had to force himself to focus, to not let Jon see.
 
“He’s fifteen. If they’re paging me, it means it’s Aspergillosis.”
 
Kai’s stomach did an extra flip, and he had to close his eyes to keep from retching. This kid had to be one of Jon’s FS, or maybe CF patients. Aspergillosis was a serious situation in which the immune system in the lungs overreacted to a fungus that naturally occurred in the air, causing serious complications. Kai had been fortunate enough never to suffer from it, but he'd had friends who had. It could be treated, with limited success, but never completely eliminated. It was possible this kid would die.
 
A little too close to home for both brothers.
 
“Go. I’ll be fine.”
 
Jon nodded, his brow furrowed in worry, perhaps for both his patient and Kai. “I’ll make it back as soon as I can. I promise.”
 
#
 
Hours later, Kai gripped the sheets in both hands, trying not to scream as the orthopedist, Dr. Micovic, examined his legs. Fire shot up his left thigh as the doctor manipulated his knee, but the real pain came with his right. Kai held his breath as the ortho pressed against the tender flesh, Kai’s knuckles whitening as the doctor tested the range of motion of his right knee, which had been fixed at nearly 90-degrees since his admission, apparently, and hurt like a motherfucker any time Kai or anyone else moved it.
 
Finally, the ortho finished his exam and Kai was able to catch his breath. Pain still throbbed through his body, making him dizzy, but he needed to focus. He could pass out later, preferably doped up on something nice.
 
“I was pretty certain from the films, but the examination clinches it. The ligaments in your left leg have been strained, so the joint’s loose, and that’s where most of the pain is coming from. But if your orthotist adjusts the brace for a closer fit around the knee, you should be OK. The bigger issue is your right leg.”
 
“Yeah, it hurts like hell.”
 
Dr. Micovic nodded. “You’ve torn the muscle, and the swelling’s irritating the nerve.”
 
Kai covered his face with one hand, murmuring a curse into his palm. “How bad is it?”
 
“It’s a partial tear, so that’s the good news, but I saw a lot of scarring in the muscle on the MRI from previous tiny tears that have healed over. So that complicates things.”
 
Of course.
 
Kai watched Micovic cross his arms on his chest. It was never a good sign when a surgeon did that. “Normally, with an injury like this, I’d advocate surgery. Suture the tear, repair the scars as best I can. But in your case, I think rest, keeping the joint immobilized, and physical therapy to gradually increase flexion is the way to go.”
 
“And weight bearing.”
 
The doctor swallowed, his muscular arms tensed beneath the fabric of his white coat. Fuck. “If the tear doesn’t heal well, walking or standing, even with orthotics, may not be possible.”
 
Kai closed his eyes, gritted his teeth. “So you’re saying since I’m already crippled, why do surgery? What does it matter if I never walk or even stand again?”
 
The surgeon balked, and actually stepped back. It took him a moment to recover. “You’re not a good candidate for surgery.” Micovic counted off on his fingers. “Firstly, because you’re immunocompromised so you’re at an increased risk for infection; secondly, because your blood pressure’s been unstable, which ups your chance for dying on the table. But mostly because of your MLS. The success of a fix like this relies on keeping the joint immobile for weeks at a time. Even with a brace, that’s not possible with your MLS. It’s not worth putting your life at risk for a repair that could be completely ruined within hours after surgery.”
 
Kai frowned, his face blank, speechless. He let his eyes slide closed for a few seconds. He’d known it was bad; he’d never felt pain quite like this before, but he never imagined. . . . “Can you at least give me something for the pain?”
 
The orthopedist unfolded his arms and scratched his forehead.
 
“Jesus,” Kai sighed.
 
“Gates doesn’t want you on anything that’ll suppress your breathing, and NSAIDs have been shown to inhibit healing in injuries like this. Tylenol, keeping it slightly elevated and the joint immobile, and ice are the best things we can do right now. In a week, you can start PT, but I won’t lie to you. Best case, it'll take weeks before you can support weight with that leg, and if everything goes well, months before you can walk on it again.”

#
 

Nikki hovered just outside Kai’s open door, debating about going in. She peeked through the partially closed blinds on the large glass window and saw the nurse was there, which gave her time to change her mind. She wanted to see him, especially now that he was doing better, but her hair could hide the injured portion of her face only so long, and was she ready to tell him? If he knew about Mark, she’d either have to lie and say he was an old, jealous boyfriend, or tell him the truth. And if he knew the truth, would he look at her the same way? Would he even want to look at her again?
 
“How’s your pain?” the nurse’s voice filtered out.
 
“Just shy of passing out,” Kai said. His tone was jovial, but his words were halting, strained. He wasn't joking.
 
“The ice will help.”
 
“I’ll go back on the bipap for morphine,” Kai said, any feigned mirth lost in simple pained pleading.
 
“I’ll talk to your doctor and be back to check on you in a few minutes.” A moment later, she exited, nodding to Nikki as she passed.
 
It was now or never. Taking a breath, checking her hair, Nikki knocked softly on the door and strode in. The head of Kai’s bed was just a few degrees from flat, the foot raised. His right leg was bent at the knee, supported by a pillow, the ice pack on his thigh. His eyes were closed, and though he looked much better than he had yesterday, he was pale, his hair clinging to his forehead with sweat, his breath effortful and calculated. Nikki could see the subtle twitches of his nose and brow and jaw, the quick rise and fall of his chest that signaled the severity of his pain.
 
As she drew closer, his mouth twisted into what he likely intended to be a smile but was actually more grimace than grin, then slowly opened his eyes.
 
“Giving the nurses trouble?”
 
“None of them kiss nearly as well as you,” he drawled.
 
She let out a short laugh, made sure to angle her head so he was less likely to see the hair as the veil it was. “I don’t know. That one nurse. Jack? He's pretty good.”
 
“Uses too much tongue,” Kai said, his smile faint, but present. Nikki realized how tired he seemed, the pain wearing on him.
 
She worked her hand into his and squeezed. “How’d it go with the muscle doctor this morning?” she asked hesitantly.
 
Kai took in a harsh breath. “Fine.”
 
“Mmm. And right now. You’re fine, too?”
 
“Yup. Tap dance routine’s in an hour. Stick around or you’ll miss it.” His forehead wrinkled sternly, and she heard him swallow. Then he opened his eyes, looked at their joined hands. His face changed immediately, and Nikki had to resist the urge to pull away. She’d forgotten her arms were scraped up, especially her right, from being rubbed against the rough brick of the alley wall. His eyes darted up toward her face, then narrowed. “You've done your hair different."
 
She swallowed. “I’m overdue for a change, so I thought I’d test out a few looks before I commit.”
 
Kai’s lips dipped into a frown. “What happened.” It was a statement, not a question. He hadn’t been fooled.
 
“Nothing,” she said, laughing nervously, turning her head away.
 
“Move your hair.”
 
“What?”
 
“Push it aside.”
 
She started to shake her head, realized that would reveal herself, stopped, then simply said, “No.”
 
He reached toward her, but she leaned back, out of his range. “Don’t make me get up and do it myself,” he said with a smirk, but his eyes were fierce, focused on her.
 
She managed a smile. “I’m fine.”
 
“Just like I’m fine. Nikki. I know the hair trick.” He hesitated a moment, his eyes shifted away, then returned to her. “I’ve done that trick.”
 
She dipped her head, focusing on their fingers; his were long, thin, rounded and flat on the ends. If she let him see her face, she’d have to tell him about Mark. And if she told him about Mark, he’d have questions. She didn’t want to lie to him. She didn’t want to hide or run anymore. Taking a deep breath, she raised her chin and pushed her hair aside, tucking it behind her ear.
 
Kai’s breath caught. She knew how bad it seemed; she’d seen herself in the mirror before she’d come. The bruising around her eye was a mix of purples and greens, and though it didn’t hurt really, it looked awful. Her cheek, like she’d been dragged on a sidewalk, and her lip had a split that had scabbed aggressively on the edge.
 
Finally, she let herself meet his eyes, which had gone steely. “Who did this to you?”
 
She shook her head.
 
Felt him squeeze her hand. “Nikki.”
 
She couldn’t meet his eyes. “A guy I knew a long time ago. Before I came to Jonesville.”
 
His eyebrows dipped. “Where did this happen?” Even though the anger in his voice wasn’t directed at her, it made her recoil.
 
“Outside the diner. Last night, before my shift. But it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
 
“The fuck I won’t.”
 
Nikki pulled her hand away, wrapped her arms around herself. God, what was she thinking? “It’s fine. I’m fine.” She forced herself to meet his eyes. Maybe she could convince him to leave it. She’d backed herself into this corner, but now all she wanted was a way out. “It’s not like you can do anything about it anyway.”
 
His face slackened, his jaw dropped, and his eyes grew round, shimmered. The hurt she saw there made her sick, and she reflexively pushed back, rose to her feet.
 
“Kai--I--didn’t--” she stammered, desperately fighting her tongue.
 
He blinked rapidly. “Get out,” he said, his voice a whisper, marred by her harried attempts at an apology, explanation. “Get out,” he repeated, firmer, louder.
 
“Kai--”
 
“Get. Out!” He’d covered his face, but she still couldn’t get the image of his eyes, so betrayed and sad, out of her mind.
 
“I’m sorry,” she said at last, heading for the door. Her vision grew blurry, and she sucked in a breath, blinking, looking up, because she wouldn’t cry. She never cried.
 
Oh, fuck, she thought, shielding her face with her hair and a hand as she hurried down the hospital hallway, a single drop dampening the fabric of her shirt.

#

Normally, Jon could get lost in his work. He loved taking care of patients. He found pulmonary physiology fascinating; it never ceased to amaze him how incredible modern mechanical respiration was, even if it had its cons and flaws. Sometimes, his favorite moments were those in which he visited a patient for the after they’d successfully weaned off the respirator, breathing on their own for the first time, often after days or even weeks.
 
Normally, he liked the music of the ICU and CCU, the shuffle of feet, the whisper of nurses, the ringing of phones and clicking of keys, the beeping of monitors and hiss, whoosh of respirators. He liked knowing that he was needed, that his decisions--to prone a patient or change the settings on a respirator--could make a difference. He knew that that there were dozens of people, most of them young, who led better, healthier, fuller lives because of his treatments and interventions.
 
Normally, that made even the bad days good.
 
But not today. Kai still wasn’t out of the woods, and though Jon was hopeful, he was skeptical any of the consults would solve the mystery of Kai’s blood pressure problems. And now, now Jon had to examine Martin Gomez again before he spoke to the boy’s mother.
 
Jon had been treating Martin for years, even as a fellow, watching him turn from a tiny, shy boy into the beginnings of a man. He’d also seen Martin go from monthly ER visits and quarterly hospital admissions, sometimes for weeks at a time, to having his FS controlled. Until recently, Martin breathed well most days as long as he was dutiful with his medicine and careful, and if Jon was able to treat potential infections early before they blossomed into full-blown pneumonia.
 
But the past few months had been rough for him, his body seeming to resist the drugs that had worked for years, his lungs producing more mucus than ever, even with increased drugs and coughing treatments. A week earlier, Martin had been brought in by ambulance after his mother woke up in the middle of the night with a “bad feeling.” When she’d gone to check on him, she found Martin had stopped breathing.
 
Jon hadn’t been on-call when Martin was admitted, and the attending had started Martin on antibiotics when his X-rays suggested pneumonia. By the time Jon was called in a few days later, it was clear pneumonia wasn’t the issue, at least not the primary one. So Jon had ordered blood tests and biopsies, suspecting Aspergillosis and leaving strict instructions he was to be paged as soon as the results came in.
 
Now they had, and Jon had seen the figures and the notes and the samples. There was no doubt. Martin’s lungs were being destroyed by his own immune system.
 
Jon entered the ICU room, squaring his shoulders and putting on his neutral face. Martin’s mother, Inez, sat beside her son’s bed, reading softly aloud from her bible. Jon eased into the room, attempting to be as unobtrusive as possible. Even at a distance, Jon could see Martin’s saturation numbers weren’t good. It was times like these, when he knew there was little he could do, that he hated his job.
 
“Dr. Taylor,” Inez said, surprised, taking off her reading glasses and rising from her seat, setting her bible aside. “We weren’t expecting you.” Inez always spoke like that, “we” or “us,” even when Martin was unconscious.
 
Looking into her dark, trusting eyes, Jon felt his stomach clench. Jon lied to the fellows and residents he trained. Told them the more bad news you give, the easier it gets to deliver it. But it wasn’t true. It never got easier.
 
“Could you give me a few minutes with him, Mrs. Gomez?”
 
Ay, recuérdese. Por favor, ‘Inez.’
 
Jon offered a faint smile, a nod. “Claro que si, Inez. Un moméntico, por favor. Después, se necesito hablar con usted.” Jon spoke with an accent, but his Spanish was actually very good; certainly better than his ASL.
 
Claro. Se espero afuera.” She patted his arm and disappeared into the hall, likely heading for the waiting room for a drink.
 
Alone with Martin, Jon went through the exam on autopilot, checking his pulses, his fingernails, listening to his heart and lungs, adjusting some of the settings on the respirator. Jon was studying the nurse’s notes in the chart when he heard footsteps and looked up. Jo, one of the best respiratory nurses Jonesville had, stood on the opposite side of the bed.
 
“What did his mucus look like last time you suctioned him?”
 
“Very thick, even for FS. Nasty. Some blood in it.”
 
Jon nodded, glanced down at Martin, who, at fifteen, was still small and underweight. Though he looked nothing like Kai, Jon couldn't help remembering those horrible final weeks over a year ago, when Kai had lain, much like this, a shadow of a person, death hovering above him.
 
“I don’t like his sats, but there’s not much to be done. Hopefully the steroids will help. I want him proned for an hour, twice a day, starting immediately,” Jon said, scribbling his orders. “See if that helps bump him up a bit while we give the steroids time to work. Have the fellow on-call page me if his sats don’t improve within the next . . .” Jon checked his watch. “Six hours.” Jon quickly signed off and replaced the chart, heading out the door.
 
Jo stopped him, and they both stared at each other, neither one speaking.
 
Finally, Jon said, “Take care of him for me.”
 
Jo nodded. “How’s Kai? It kills me I can’t be his nurse.”
 
Jon shook his head. “I haven’t seen him since this morning. I think he’s in more pain than he’s letting on, but he’s doing a little better.”
 
Jo smiled. “That sounds like the Kai I know. Tell him hi for me, will you?”

#

Jon walked slowly toward the waiting room, feeling this strange sense of distorted deja vu. Not since the last few weeks before Kai’s transplant and those terrifying hours and days immediately afterward while they waited to see if Kai’s body would reject his new lungs had Jon felt so unsettled, worried, as he had this past weekend.
 
Inez rose as soon as she saw Jon enter. “Dr. Taylor,” she said, offering a tired, if warm smile. Her small hands clutched a cup of coffee, the steam slowly rising up. The room was empty right now, to Jon’s relief, so he gestured for her to sit, then joined her. He towered over her, more than a foot, and this was news that needed to be delivered face to face, at eye level.
 
Thank you for coming to see Martin. For talking with me. They told us you were away. We’ve been dealing with a Dr. Kainer mostly. He doesn’t speak Spanish. I don’t like him,” Inez said in her quiet, rapid Spanish.
 
Jon’s mouth twitched, but he forced his face to stay neutral. He’d known Inez and Martin a long time, and nearly all his FS patients knew Kai, or at least of him. Pulmonology was a small program, especially the area in which Jon specialized--CF, FS, severe asthma--nearly all the doctors, nurses, and patients knew each other. Some were even friends. An extension of the small-town atmosphere and Jon’s inclusionary policies.
 
Jon didn’t see the point in holding back. “Kai’s been sick. I took some time to be with him,” he added in Spanish.
 
Inez laid a hand on Jon’s forearm and spoke sincerely. “Lo siento.”
 
Jon took a breath, nodded, readied to do one of the worst parts of his job: give bad news. “How much did this Dr. Kainer tell you?
 
Not much.”
 
Jon sighed. “Martin has something called allergic brunchopulminary Aspergillosis, or ABPA. It means his lungs are reacting to a fungus that occurs in the air, naturally. We all breathe it in all the time, and normally, our bodies ignore it. But he’s developed a sensitivity to it, so his immune system has gone into overdrive trying to eliminate it, as if it were a pathogen.
 
Inez tried to maintain her calm, sipping from her coffee, but Jon could see her hands were shaking subtly. “What does this mean?”
 
His body is producing more, thicker mucus, and he has a lot of inflammation in his lungs that are damaging the tissue and inhibiting his ability to get oxygen. I’ve started him on some steroids to try to help with the inflammation, and I’m going to have him moved onto his stomach for periods of time to help increase his oxygen saturation. If that doesn’t help in the next few hours, I’ll start him on an antifungal.
 
But?
 
Jon sighed; he’d hoped she wouldn’t pick up on the inevitable “but.” “But ABPA is very serious. I’m going to treat him aggressively, but this isn’t something we can cure, like a bacterial infection. Only manage. We’re fighting his immune system, and the treatments mean he’s at increased risk for secondary infections.” Jon took another breath, swallowed. “It’s also possible we may not be able to increase his pulmonary function sufficiently--”
 
Y que me dice usted?!”
 
I’m saying that I’m going to do everything I can for him. But you need to prepare yourself . . .
 
Inez mumbled a slew of curses under her breath. “Then put him on the transplant list,” she said, switching into English. The shift felt abrupt and strange to Jon’s ears after the last fifteen minutes.
 
“You know I would if I could, Inez, but I don’t have control over that.”
 
Her face turned angry, hostile. “So you could pull the strings for your brother but not my son? He’s fifteen. Solámente quince años, doctor. Please.”
 
Jon shook his head. “The transplant committee ruled a few weeks ago that they wouldn’t allow any other FS patients to be listed until they could see that Kai had long-term benefits from the surgery.”
 
What do they need to wait for? Kai’s alive, isn’t he? You’re saying they would let my son die?
 
Jon had to look away, unable to meet Inez’s gaze, hating that he could do no more than what he was already.
 
You would let him die?

#

Vicky strode down the main hallway of the sixth floor of Jonesville Memorial, the pulmonary floor, toward the main nurse’s station. She normally didn’t venture out of the outpatient clinic wing, but there was a fellow she needed to track down--Kainer again--and she figured this would be a good place to start. She was surprised when she saw the slim, haggard form of Jon Taylor leaning on one of the counters, scribbling notes in a patient’s file.
 
She smiled secretly, shaking her head, as she approached. “I thought you were taking some time off.”
 
“I was. I am,” he said without looking up, seemingly not surprised to see her. “I had a few inpatients I had to check on. I’m actually just finishing up. I promised Kai I’d head back as soon as I was done.”
 
“Have you eaten?”
 
He sighed, signed off, and filed the chart. “You’re always feeding me.”
 
“Because someone has to,” she said playfully.
 
He finally looked up, his face tired and sad. Her eyebrows furrowed, but they were in public, and other than a “to be continued,” she wasn’t quite sure where “they” were, so she reigned it in.
 
“There’s a really great wrap place a few blocks away. Let’s get out of here for a little while.” She hoped Jon got the signal that she was so desperately trying to convey without actually saying it: I know you’re not OK. Let’s go somewhere private and we’ll talk about it.
 
He sighed, looked around, pushed his fingers through his hair. “Sure.”

#

Vicky settled into a corner table of the restaurant, which was moderately busy because it was so close to the hospital, even though it was hours past the peak lunch rush and too early for dinner. Jon was picking at his wrap, staring at the pieces of tortilla as they settled into a pile.
 
She glanced around; a few people in scrubs and white coats who’d also walked over for a bite, but no one from pulmonology or critical care, and they were partially shielded by a large potted palm, so Vicky grabbed the front of Jon’s shirt, pulling him toward her into a kiss. She kept it simple, but soon felt Jon’s tension melting away into the touch of their tongues as he deepened the kiss, his hands gripping her shoulders tightly, as if holding on for dear life.
 
Finally, he pulled away, resting his forehead against hers. “Martin may not make it. I had to tell his mother. She called me a hypocrite and a self-serving traitor.”
 
Vicky pulled back, pressing against Jon’s collarbone so she could study his face. “Inez said that?”
 
“Not in so many words,” Jon said, shaking his head, sinking down into his seat.
 
“Jon.”
 
Jon unfolded his wrap and stabbed at the contents with his fork. “I could have tried harder at the last transplant committee meeting to convince them that disallowing FS patients from being listed was a mistake.”
 
So that’s what this is about. She reached for his free hand, smiling faintly when he let her link her fingers in his. “You fought just as hard to convince the committee last month as you did when it was Kai’s life on the line. They’d already made their minds up long before you even walked into that meeting room.”
 
Jon sighed heavily. “Maybe. Doesn’t make me feel any better.”
 
“Whatever Inez said, I’m sure she didn’t mean it. She’s worried and upset and angry. You know what that’s like more than anyone else in pulmonolgy. And she knows that. No matter what happens, she’ll forgive you.”
 
Jon nodded reluctantly and ate a few bites of food.
 
Vicky wanted to pull him close, tuck his head under her chin and just cradle him. Instead, she asked, “Kai’s doing better?”
 
“He was having a bunch of tests today. I guess I’ll find out after this.” Jon shrugged and took a few bites of his mangled sandwich.
 
Vicky admired him for a moment. "You should keep the beard." After several days without shaving, Jon had the beginnings of a golden-brown beard framing his jaw, which, surprisingly, drew attention to his eyes.
 
He smoothed a palm over his cheek, as if realizing for the first time how long it'd been since he'd shaved. "Ugh. I must look like a caveman. No wonder Inez got angry."
 
Vicky let her own fingers trace a path along his jaw; the hair was unexpectedly soft. She smiled when his eyes closed and he leaned into her touch. She wanted to take his weariness, pain, stress away like she had so many times before. "I like it. I think you look sexy."
 
He choked out a skeptical laugh. "I can't keep it. My TB mask won't fit properly with facial hair.
 
Vicky frowned. "When was the last time you treated someone with tuberculosis anyway?"
 
Jon leaned back in his seat and tore off a piece of meat from his dissected sandwich. "A year? No. Longer. Two. We had a case come in about thirteen months ago, but that was when Kai was really sick, and I didn't want to take any chances, so I had MacDonald make sure someone else handled that patient." Jon popped the bite in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. "Besides, TB is getting more common the more you have workers from the third world showing up in the county looking for jobs on ranches, farms, construction, the slaughterhouses. . . ."
 
Vicky smiled and watched Jon eat for a few minutes before digging into her own sandwich. It was nice, sharing this meal together, even when neither of them were talking. She noticed his knee would occasionally bump against hers. Jon had long legs, and at first, she thought it was an accident, but when it happened again, she glanced up, and he met her eyes with the suggestion of a smile glinting in his, though he kept eating and said nothing.
 
Vicky enjoyed seeing this playful side of Jon, to see that she could relax him and take his mind off his worries, even if it was only for a few fleeting minutes.
 
They were almost finished their meals when Vicky decided to say what had been on her mind for the past few days. “You probably don’t remember, but my friend has that party . . .”
 
“The costume one,” Jon said, nodding, balling up his wrapper and fishing out his glucose meter.   
 
“Yeah. It’s not this Friday, but next--the 22nd, I think. Look, with all that’s going on with Kai and everything, I totally get if you want to back out. I did kind of force you into it, anyway.”
 
It annoyed Vicky she couldn’t see Jon’s eyes, as he was focused on pricking his finger and testing his blood, but he managed a faint shrug. “You should know me well enough to know no one forces me into anything. Kai and I have that much in common, at least.”
 
Vicky chuckled, found her heartbeat altering to a slow, chaotic rhythm when he finally looked up at her, a sweet, easy smile on his face unlike any she’d seen before.
 
“I don’t like parties, but I’m going to need a diversion. As long as Kai’s OK, I’ll be there. I even have a costume.”
 
Vicky’s eyebrows raised. “Really.”
 
Jon bit his lip, looking at her a little sheepishly. “Really.”
 
Vicky let her laughter bubble out at last, her eyes sparkling. “That I have to see. So, if everything goes well, it’s a date?”
 
Jon linked her fingers with his, nodded. “It’s a date.”

##########

Continue to September 13, 2000 - Part 2 --------->

5 comments:

  1. Great installment. So well written.

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  2. A good choice to update straight away and not to wait any longer! :) Thanks!

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  3. It´s superb
    I don´t like nikki, but kai was very hard on her in this chapter

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  4. Great post! I really like the flow, the way you create multiple scenes with different characters. Fantastic!

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  5. Ahhhh. I was so upset that Nicki didn't just tell Kai. Man girl.

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