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Kim opened the little white bag and studied the vials of pills she had picked up at the pharmacy.  Drugs to help avoid nausea, anemia, and prescription-level vitamins.  She had been avoiding facing the treatment, but now, with it starting in less than 24 hours, she could no longer do so.

"Admit it, Kim," she said to herself.  "You're scared."

No she wasn't.  Kim was strong, a fighter, a survivor.  She could not give in to fear.  She would not even acknowledge fear.

"Mrs. Collier, do you have any further questions?"  Dr. Lawrence looked across his desk.

She shook her head, then shrugged.  "Do you know where I can get a decent wig?"

He smiled, a bit too indulgently for her tastes.  "I think my nurse may actually have some information on that."

"Of course.  This is Beverly Hills."  She feigned her own smile.  "You would never allow a lady who lunches to walk through Barney's bald."

There was a knock on the door and a nurse poked her head inside.  "Mrs. Collier's son is here."

"Send him in," the doctor said.

Kim tensed.  If Andrew was back, that meant Jeannie was gone.  Now it was just her and Andrew for the time being.  They had not really talked since she had thrown him out of the living room so she could talk with Jeannie, and she had to admit that she was worried about what was going to happen between them.

Andrew entered.  He moved casually and confidently, showing no real signs of the fall from two days earlier.  She wondered if that was just for show, suspecting her son was much like his father in covering up anything that might be seen as a sign of weakness.  Andrew shook hands with the doctor, and began peppering the man with questions, all the while keeping up an affable demeanor.  Her son was quite a conundrum.  One minute closed and guarded, another angry, yet another open with his sister, and, here, in public, a self-confident man.  Jeckyll and Hyde, she had called him, but more like Sybil.  Andrew had more personalities than she realized.

"Mum?"

She looked up, so caught in her observations of his demeanor that she had barely paid attention to a word he said.  "I'm sorry.  What?"

"I asked if you're ready to go," he said with an indulgent smile.  "Or do you need anything else from Dr. Lawrence?"

"No," she said, with a quick shake of her head.  She looked at the doctor.  "I think we've covered everything."

"We have, Mrs. Collier.  The Malibu clinic should have everything you need, and you or your son can let me know about any side effects from the treatment."

Andrew took her arm as they exited.  The perfect gentleman, she thought, as he escorted her to the car.  Once they were both inside, she turned to him.  "Okay, tell me what's going on?"  At his confused look, she added, "You unload on me the other day and we barely talk yesterday, and now you're acting like everything's fine."

"I'm just trying to make things easier for you," he said, quietly.  "Is that so bad?"

No, she had to admit was not bad, but she also knew there was too much unresolved to simply pretend that everything was okay.  "So we just go about everything and never discuss what happened?"

"I didn't say that," Andrew replied.  "We'll talk, well, at least about some things -- the stuff about Father.  I just thought you didn't need any more stress right now."

Kim had a sneaking suspicion that Jeannie had read her brother the riot act, and this was the result.  It sounded like a bit of a negotiated settlement, something she had personally experienced with her daughter.  She glanced out the window, realizing they were driving east from Cedars Sinai, not west toward Malibu.  She jerked her head back toward her son.  "Hey, where are we going?"

"Just a little surprise."  Andrew gave her his lopsided grin.

"Andrew?" Kim said, warily.  "I'm really not in a mood for a surprise."

"Okay, okay.  Go ahead and make me ruin the surprise," he said in mock exasperation.  "You know, Mum, it's bloody hard to do something nice for you sometimes."  Despite his words, he continued to smile.  "We're on our way to lunch at Chez Jacques.  I know it's your favorite, and figured you won't be up for a lot of meals out on the town in the near future."

Kim was touched that her son would think of something like that, but then something dawned on her.  "Wait.  Chez Jacques is only open for dinner."

"Yeah, well, they're doing you a favor.  For a 'favorite customer,' I think the chef said."  He looked at her and winked.  "Plus they're taking a sizable chunk of my trust fund."

Fifteen minutes later, they were seated in the empty restaurant being swarmed by the maitre d' and two white-coated waiters.  As they perused the menus, Andrew asked, "So what would Madame like for her last meal?"

Kim had to laugh.  "You make it sound like I'm going before firing squad, not starting treatment."

"Just keeping things light," he said.  He leafed through the wine list and ordered a bottle of Burgundy.

She glanced around the room.  The restaurant was one of the most expensive in the city, a true pantheon to classic French cuisine, something her son obviously understood.  "So I bet this is how you charm all the girls in London."  At his embarrassed expression, she grinned.  "Gotcha."  Then she grew a little more serious.  "I hope you aren't burning through that trust fund."

"Of course not.  The trustee has me on an allowance.  It's more than I need, especially living at Donovan Manor."  He chuckled.  "Don't worry, Mum, I'm not going to be on the dole any time soon."

Kim listened, thinking that it was a good thing Shane had set up trusts for the children before he disappeared.  Then she grew pensive.  How must he have felt anticipating the possibility that he might disappear for such extended periods of time?  She could not even imagine not speaking with her children for more than a few days.

Still, Kim had to give Shane credit for protecting his children financially.  He had always done so.  Even when Kim was married to Philip the multi-millionaire producer, Shane had insisted on covering most of the children's expenses.  And now, although Kim was well-off from her book and radio deals, plus her divorce settlement with Philip, the trusts covered Jeannie's college expenses and law school, as well as Andrew's living expenses.  In some things, Shane had been so responsible; in others, well, she could only let out a heavy sigh.

"Are you okay?" asked Andrew.   "You're not worried about tomorrow?"

"No," she shook her head.  "It's funny, with you and Jeannie here, I haven't really had much chance to think about it.  And just now . . . I was thinking about your father.  You know, if he knew about my being sick, he would have been here in an instant."  She toyed with the soup spoon on the table.  "You know him.  He would have said he was coming to support you and Jeannie."

"You really think so?  It's not like when you were both in Salem."

She nodded.  "I know, but I do think so.  For all your dad's faults, when it came to family, he would move heaven and earth to help."  She picked up the spoon and studied the pattern in the silver.  "Where could he be that he wouldn't know about this?"

"According to his company, he's on assignment," Andrew said, as he lifted his water glass and took a sip.

"Andrew, let's be honest here.  You and I both know that your father has never been in business for himself.  This has ISA written all over it."  Andy choked slightly on his water, and grabbed a napkin to cover his mouth.  Kim's eyes narrowed.  "Do you know something about where your father is?"

"I only know what Father told me," Andrew said, his face suddenly becoming unreadable.  "He said he was off on some business for Nightwing.  That's all I know."  At her questioning look, he became insistent.  "Honest.  Whatever happened, though, it's all gone Pete Tong."

"Gone Pete Tong?  I don't know that one."

"Oh, sorry, rhyming slang.  It means things went wrong."  Andrew sat back in his seat, then leaned forward.  "That has to be it.  Father would never have stayed out of contact this long if this was just a regular job."

Kim reached out took her son's hands in hers.  "I know you're worried about him.  On top of everything else you have to deal with, having him missing, not knowing where he is. . . ."  She almost said not knowing if he is alive or dead, but stopped herself.  "I know what that's like.  It's one of the worst feelings in the world."

"He's not dead," Andrew said softly.  "No matter what Eve says or what Jeannie believes, I refuse to think he's dead."  He shook his head, then caught the question in Kim's eyes.  "Eve started proceedings last week to have Father declared dead.  I got a call from her solicitor.  She just can't wait to get her share of the estate."

"I'm sorry," Kim said.  "I didn't know you were having to deal with that.  And you think Jeannie thinks so too?"

"She won't say it to me, but, yeah, I think she does."  Andrew thought about their conversation earlier in the day.  "We agreed that I'd talk to you about everything but the war if she gave Father a chance to explain himself to her when he gets back.  She agreed far too quickly to that, like she thought she'll never have to follow through."

Kim looked away.  So there was a deal.  Damn.  She had figured as much, but she had started to think Andrew was opening up to her because he wanted to, because he trusted her.  She tried to hide her disappointment.  Still not looking at him, she said, "I wish things were different.  For Jeannie, about Shane.  I tried to talk with her, tried to make her understand."

Neither said anything as a waiter set their appetizers on the table.  They each took a few bites, and each sampled the other's dish.  Silence.  Finally, Andrew spoke again.  "I think you convinced Jeannie of some things, some important things.  I just wished. . . ."  He flushed a little.  "I'm sorry about what I said, I mean, about you and Cal."

Kim smiled sadly.  "No, you shouldn't have to apologize.  Oh, I'll admit that I was mad, well, really it was more that I was embarrassed, but we should have talked about it before.  I'm sorry, Andrew.  I didn't realize just how much that must have hurt you, how confused you must have been."  She saw he was puzzled, and realized that even now he did not know much of the story.  "Cal was a patient, and I thought he was harmless.  And you seemed to form such an attachment that, with your father away, I thought it would be good for you to have him around.  Bo was traveling the world, and Roman was busy with other things, and that was just a terrible mistake."  She set down her fork.  "I just figured you were so young that you didn't remember that part of it.  I certainly never thought you misinterpreted it."

"I don't know if I did," Andrew said.  "I know you loved Father.  Sometimes I can see you sitting on the couch in the living room or at breakfast, and there's something just about the way you used to look at each other."  He looked down at his plate.  "I'm not sure I've ever seen any two people look at each other like you did.  I know you had something special."

"We did."

"But I know other things happened," he said.  "How couldn't I?  Sometimes I felt like I was bouncing around like a pinball, from Dad's to Papa's and Grandma's, and then back and forth between Salem and Los Angeles, and sometimes I was with Dad, but you weren't."  He sighed.  "I guess it was a bit of a roller coaster, and I understand why you decided to get off."

Kim studied her son.  This was yet a different side of him, a perceptive, observant side, and there was a maturity that she had never really seen before.  "When did you get so smart, Andrew Donovan?" she asked, then smiled as he flushed.  "Someday, you're going to find a woman who will look at you the same was as your father looked at me."   Then, with another sad smile, she added, "Preferably without the roller coaster."

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Oct. 13th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
Loved it.

E
jwsel
Oct. 16th, 2010 09:26 am (UTC)
Thank you. See, Andy can be a nice bloke if he tries.
Myrthala Miranda-Guzman
Apr. 3rd, 2011 10:53 am (UTC)
oh how could shane donovan's son be anything but a nice bloke. LOL
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )