Simone held the music box in one hand, while the other held the card which had been attached to it. She had read the card so many times that she had it memorized, but still she couldn't resist reading again, her son's thoughts and feelings written by his own hand.
With school starting soon and my part-time job,
I won't be able to spend as much time with you
as I did before. Please let the music of this box
keep you company when I'm not there. When
you hear the music, know that I'm thinking of you
and that I love you very much. Thank you for
everything you've done for me.
She placed the music box in her lap, and then she carefully closed the card and put it back inside the envelope. She set the envelope on her bedside table where she would be sure to see it every morning when she woke up.
With the card stationed in a safe place, Simone leaned back against the bed. Her hands lifted the music box from her lap. She wanted to play it, but she wanted Tommy to be there when she did. She carefully turned it around and fingered the decorative trim. The pink box was covered with tiny ornate flowers. Pink flowers, white flowers, yellow flowers. So very pretty, Simone thought. Her son had good taste.
"Hi!" she said, surprised. "I didn't even hear you come in."
"I noticed," Gina said with a tight smile. "Want some company?"
"Always," Simone said, smiling. "Look at what Tommy gave me. Isn't it nice?"
"Yeah. It's very pretty," Gina said, moving to gaze out of the window.
"I haven't played it, yet. I'm waiting for Tommy so he can listen to it with me."
Gina kept her back to Simone as she nodded in response to her comment. Knowing that if they continued to talk about Tommy, she would break, she changed the subject. "Amy said that you and Dr. Quartermaine-"
"That Amy!" Simone said, exasperated. "One of the days, she's going to hear a few things from me about peeking into my life."
Gina laughed at Simone's heartfelt outburst. Turning to face Simone, she said, "So, what gives?"
"She offered me a job."
"That's great!" Gina exclaimed. Her expression changed when she saw the look on Simone's face. "You're not taking it?"
"I don't know," Simone sighed.
"Well, what's wrong? What kind of job is it?" Gina asked as she moved to sit beside Simone on her bed.
"She can't reinstate me as a pediatrician, but she said that I can assist in the Pediatrics’ Ward. She said that in time, I could be reinstated."
"You'd just have to proved yourself," Gina said with a nod.
"Yeah. Something like that."
"But, you don't want to?"
"I don't know, Gina. I was surprised and flattered by the offer, but I have reservations. I don't want to be controlled and that's what I see happening if I accept her offer," Simone said fiercely.
"Dr. Quartermaine isn't like that-"
"No, Monica isn't, but the hospital has its own set of rules and regulations-"
"But, it's not like you'd do anything wrong," Gina said, trying to understand.
"No, I wouldn't, but I don't like the idea of them or anyone telling me what to do. I'm not ready for that Gina. At least, not now, understand?"
"Yeah, I understand," Gina nodded. "How did your therapy session go?"
"It was painful, but necessary."
"Your therapist didn't push you too hard?" Gina asked with a slight frown as her eyes conveyed her concern.
"No, Leigh was fine. She was great actually. She gave me a few exercises to work on between sessions."
"That's good, just as long as you don't overdo it," Gina said rising to stand. "I'd better get back. My lunch hour ended a long time ago."
Gina laughed softly, but the humor didn't reach her eyes. Simone had felt that Gina was hiding something when she first came, and now, she was sure of it. "Gina, wait."
Gina's hand was on the door handle and she left it there as she turned to face Simone. "Yes? Do you need me to get you anything?"
"No, it's not that. I know you have to go back to work, but do you think you could spare a few more minutes?"
"Sure," Gina said, moving to sit beside Simone on her bed. "Is something wrong?"
"That's what I want to ask you. You seemed distant when I mentioned Tommy. Is there something I should know? Did something happen between you and him?"
Gina bit her lip. She couldn't believe how astute Simone was. Well, she could believe it. Simone had a sixth sense when it came to Tommy, but Gina had hoped it wouldn't kick in. At least, not until Gina was better able to answer Simone's questions. Their argument was too fresh in her mind and her feelings were too raw. She feared she may break down again, and she did not, under any circumstances, want Simone to see her do that. What if Simone then asked her even more questions, deeper questions, which Gina wasn't ready to answer, not to mention face within herself? How would she respond to her, she wondered.
"Gina? What is it?" Simone persisted.
"We had an argument."
"About?" Simone prodded.
"Gina, please. Is there something going on with Tommy that I need to know about?" Simone asked, becoming more worried as Gina continued to hedge.
"He...Simone, I can't say!" Gina said, rising to stand. She was about to step away when Simone grabbed her hand. She looked down at their hands through blurred vision. Her other hand blindly wiped her eyes as she felt Simone's eyes bore into her.
"You have to! If he's done something... Gina, something has obviously upset you. Something he's done. Just tell me what it is!"
"He told me to stay out of his life and that's exactly what I'm going to do. I'm sorry, Simone, but you'll have to ask him," she said, surprised at her ability to control her emotions as she said the words out loud again.
Simone released Gina's hand and rested her back against her pillows. She was shocked that Tommy would tell Gina that but even more so, she was confused and surprised by Gina's reaction. Simone was certain that Gina's lack of emotion meant something deeper. Something, Simone had never thought of. But now, as she considered what Gina's reaction meant, her mind reviewed what she had previously ignored.
"Do you have feelings for my son?"
Gina was stunned by Simone's question. Her eyes widened and she stammered as she spoke, "What do you mean? I care about him of course."
"That's not what I mean, and you know it. Gina, is there something going on between you and Tommy? Are you sleeping together?"
"Of course not!" Gina said, backing away from the bed. In her haste, she stumbled against the guest chair which was behind her. Her hands flew to steady herself and the best she could do was fall into the chair. "No! Simone, how could you even suggest that?!"
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything, but... He's still so young...and there's so many things I don't think he's ready for. Living the way we did, prevented him from developing like other kids his age and going through the things that teenagers go through. Someone could easily take advantage of him-"
"I would *never* take advantage of him! I care about him, Simone! I would never hurt him."
"I *know* you wouldn't, but I can't help but sense that there's something more going on between you and him. He's different around you, as you are him. Even when I mention the other person's name, I get a reaction. What happened between you and him while I was in a coma?" Simone asked.
"I don't know what you sense because nothing happened between me and him. I took care of him, but I didn't take advantage of him. I care about Tommy-"
"I know you care about him," Simone interrupted, using a softer tone. "I can see that and I know that he cares about you, but my question is in what way? I also want to know why he'd tell you to stay out of his life. That doesn't sound like him."
"He's growing up, Simone. He doesn't like me adding my two cents, so he told me to stop it. End of story. If you want to know why, you'll have to ask him."
"Okay. I can accept that," Simone replied with a slow nod. "But what about my other question? Are you attracted to him?"
Gina felt the walls closing in around her and her eyes went from Simone's steady gaze to rest on the floor. She couldn't bring herself to face Simone as she felt her head nod in response to her question. At Simone's sharp intake of breath, Gina stood and moved towards the door. Again her hand rested on the door handle as Simone softly called to her.
"I don't know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything. You don't have to worry about me taking advantage of him, Simone. It's the last thing I'd ever do."
"I know, Gina..." Simone said quietly, not sure of how to take Gina's comment or how she should respond to it.
Gina turned to face Simone as she said, "I'm not the right person for Tommy. I know that. He needs someone who has it together and I'm not that someone. He was right to order me to stay out of his life. I'm not good enough for him."
"No, that's not true!" Simone said, but her words fell on deaf ears. Gina smiled sadly at Simone and shook her head. She then left.