"Good morning, dear," Dr. Gail Baldwin said with a smile as Gina entered her office with the morning mail.
Several weeks ago, Gina had first come to Gail as a patient. Her ordeal under the city had left her emotionally spent and physically drained. The transition from being a prisoner to being free had been difficult, but the outcome had been worth the pain she had to face in her sessions with Gail. And in the end, she and Gail had formed a strong friendship which led to their present situation as employer and employee. When Gail's assistant left to pursue other opportunities, she offered Gina the position which Gina happily accepted.
"Good morning, Dr. Baldwin," Gina said, handing Gail the stack of psychology magazines and medical journals.
"Gail," Gail said.
"Sorry, I forgot," Gina said with a small smile. She lingered for a moment and then turned to leave.
"Gina, wait. Is something wrong?"
Gina shook her head. "Not really. I'm just… Nothing, Gail. Nothing's wrong."
"You come right back here and sight down," Gail said when Gina made to leave the room. When Gina sat down on one of the guest chairs, Gail said, "Okay. Out with it. Is it Tommy?"
From Gina's sigh, Gail knew she had hit the nail on the head. Tommy was one of her patients, too. His experience had left him even more emotionally haggard than Gina, and coupled with the fact that his mother lay in a coma, his progress had been slower. He spent most of his time at his mother's bedside and often missed his appointments with her.
"I spoke to him like you suggested, but… He's so pigheaded!" Gina said, exasperated.
"What did he say?" Gail asked, knowing that Gina was more forthcoming when she was prompted.
"No. That's all he ever says. 'No, Gina, I can't. No, Gina, it's not the right time.' He makes me so angry," she finished with a sigh.
"He doesn't mean to," Gail said softly.
"I know, Gail. Believe me, I know. But I don’t think it's good for him to spend all of his time at Simone's bedside. He needs to get out. School is starting soon and he hasn't made any kind of preparation for it. Mrs. Hardy and Lizzie
have both tried to talk to him about it, but he refuses to listen."
Gail leaned forward and smiled at Gina. "All any of you can do is try. Ultimately, the decision is his," she said gently, not wanting her words to sound harsh.
"I know, but Tommy is so smart. He has so much potential," Gina said with a sigh. "He says that the reason he won't register is because of Simone, but I don’t believe him."
"Why not?" Gail asked, interested. In many ways, Tommy was still an enigma to her. The few sessions with him had sometimes left her with more questions than answers. Whatever insight Gina had would prove useful should Tommy decide to make their scheduled appointment that afternoon.
"I think he's afraid to be around people," she said, pausing to look at Gail and then past Gail to the day that was beginning outside the window. "He doesn't trust easily. He thinks the other kids will laugh at him and he's too pigheaded to admit it so instead he hides at Simone's bedside."
"Do you think that's fair?" Gail asked, watching as a frown creased Gina's brow as her eyes flew to Gail's.
"Yes. Are you being fair to Tommy? He loves his mother and of course, he'd be hesitant about leaving her bedside."
"Maybe I'm not, but I just don't think it's good for him to spend so much time locked away in a hospital room. Gosh, Gail, he's spent most of his life locked away somewhere. Now, that he has the opportunity to be free…to live…he ignores it," she said, her voice rising with each word.
"Gina, I know that it's difficult watching someone you care about do things which you feel are unhealthy. You want to shake him and make him see reason, but you can't. He has to do it for himself. No matter how much you want him to live his life and move on, he won't be able to. Not now. At least not until, Simone wakes up."
"You mean, if she wakes up," Gina said quietly, trying to keep the sob from escaping her. "What will happen to him if she doesn't wake up, Gail? What will he do then?"
The sobs wracked Gina's body and Gail quickly moved to comfort her. As she gently rocked Gina, Gail hoped that they never have to discover the answers to her questions.
"Good morning, Mama," Tommy said, as he moved to stand next to Simone's bed. He gently pulled the covers around her and carefully adjusted her pillows. As Tommy administered to her needs, Simone continued to lay still. Never stirring as Tommy fussed around her.
Tommy moved away from the bed to open the curtains and let the morning sunshine flow into the room. He loved the sun. He loved how it felt so nice and warm on his face. For maybe the hundredth time, he wished he could open the window and breath in the morning air.
He had spent the night curled up in the two guest chairs. The makeshift bed wasn't comfortable, but it served its purpose. The few times he had tried to sleep at Audrey's house in Sarah's old bed, he spent most of the night tossing and turning. He felt guilty because he wasn't there. Because he was fine and his mother was stuck in a hospital.
"Good morning, Tommy," Lark said, as she entered the room. She was a candy stripper there. She couldn't remember a time when she went into Simone Hardy's room and her son wasn’t there. Either sitting by her bed or gazing out of the window. So much love and dedication. His mother must have really been something, Lark decided.
Tommy spun away from the window at the sound of the feminine voice. He smiled when he saw Lark and the cart of magazines and books she had with her. "Good morning, Lark. What do you have for us today?"
"Cosmo," she suggested, holding up the magazine.
"No way," Tommy said, blushing at the sight of the scantily clad model on the cover. "Anything else?"
"How about a book?" she asked. "We have quiet a few to choose from. Come on over and take a look. I won't bite. I promise."
Tommy laughed and moved to look at the wide array of books on the cart. He found one he liked, but was a little embarrassed to pick it up.
"See anything you like?" Lark asked. Her eyes lit up and she reached for a book that grabbed her attention. "How about this one?"
Tommy stiffened when she held up the book he wanted. He wasn’t sure if she was making fun of him or not. He looked away and didn't say anything.
"Tommy? What's wrong? I hope you don’t think I meant anything. This was one of my favorite books as a kid that's all. I wasn’t trying to imply anything. Really," she said, hoping he'd look at her again. He was always nice to her. A little shy at times, but generally a good guy. She would hate to offend him.
Tommy looked back at her. The sincerity in her voice and in her eyes convinced him that what she said was true. He took the book from her and read the title, "Mother Goose and Other Fairy Tales. I like this one, too."
"So do we have a winner?" she asked with a laugh.
"Yeah," he said smiling back at her.
"Well, I'd better get going. Maybe I'll see you around later," she said, backing out of the room.
Tommy smiled as she left the room and thumbed through the book. He hadn't thought about that book or its stories in years. He was surprised he remembered it. Maybe those tiresome sessions with Dr. Baldwin paid off. Gina would be happy, he thought.
"Gina," he groaned when he quietly said her name. She was upset with him. Again.
He placed the book on the bedside table and moved to sit beside Simone on the bed. He took her small hand into his larger one and gently held it. Softly, he began to speak to her.
"Gina is mad at me again, Mama. She wants me to register for school, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to leave you to be cooped up with a bunch of strangers all day. Okay, I know they're not all strangers, but still. I only know a few kids. Elizabeth, Lucky, Nikolas, who doesn't even go to school, and Dawn," he said, sighing when he said her name.
The crush he had on Dawn hadn't completely disappeared in the six weeks he had gotten to know her and the other kids better. It wasn’t completely gone, but it wasn’t so bad either. He knew that she only had eyes for Nikolas and he respected that. He respected Nikolas and he respected their relationship, but sometimes the longing crept back into his thoughts. Having a girlfriend wasn’t a priority for him, but he couldn't help it when he the thought crossed his mind every so often.
"And also Lark," he said continuing his conversation with his mother. "The girl who was just in here. She gave me a book to read to you, Mama. I'll read it to you later, okay? Now, about Gina. I think I made it up to her a little bit. I told her I would go to Dawn's thing with her tonight. I promise I won't stay long and I'll come back here as soon as I can. I'll only be gone for a few hours. This thing means a lot to Dawn and I promised I'd be there for her. I wish you'd wake up, Mama, so you could meet her. You'd really like her. She comes by and visits you sometimes… Mama? Why won't you wake up? Please," he said, buried his head on her shoulder as he began to sob tears of frustration.