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Chapter 38: After the First Treatment

Kim struggled to sit up.  Her body ached and she had no strength in her limbs.  She had gone through more car accidents, falls, and other mishaps in her lifetime than most people, but she could not recall any time she felt as debilitated as now.

"Let me help you," Andrew said, one of his arms encircling her.  He lifted her easily, then set a couple of pillows behind her back.  "You sleep okay?" he asked, though his the tone of his question told her that he already knew the answer.

"You were with me half the night," she said, smiling.  "Or was it the entire night?  I couldn't really tell."

"Most of the night, but it's okay.  That's why I'm here.  I can handle being a little knackered."  He did not look particularly tired, but then she remembered being his age and how she had been perfectly fine after a lot of nights with very little sleep.  Of course, her reasons for not sleeping were far more pleasant than his.  As she recalled a few of those reasons, a tiny smile played on her lips, something Andrew must have caught.  "Penny for them?" he asked.

Now she smiled in earnest.  "Your father used to say that.  He'd say I'd get this faraway look and he'd have to bring me back."  She saw that Andrew had tensed a little.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean it that way.  It's just. . . ."  She did not know how to explain.

"It's just I'm a constant reminder of him," he said, evenly.

"Yes.  It's the curse of children that they have their parents genes."  She reached up and touched his arm.  "It's not just you.  I look at Jeannie, and she is so like Shane at times.  You know how she raises her index finger when she's going to make a point?  Or how when she gets angry, her jaw clenches so tight you can see the muscle twitching?"

"But you respect her choices," Andrew said.

Kim nodded.  "Yes. . . . Maybe it's because they're so different from Shane's.  I want to believe that you're living your own life, but it's hard when you seem to do so many of the same things your father did."  She shrugged.  "Thank God, at least, that you didn't follow him in one area."

"Such as the ISA?"

"The ISA," Kim confirmed.  "That was always my biggest worry.  That you'd rush off after Cambridge and become another Donovan spy for the ISA.  I don't know, but maybe joining the army was a good thing.  Not that I wasn't scared to death half the time while you were over there, but I guess it cured you of 'duty, honor, country,' and all that."

Andrew tensed again, and Kim worried that she had said the wrong thing.  But he did not get angry.  Instead, he just nodded.  "I guess so."

She reached up and touched his cheek.  "I'm not going to push you on this, but if you ever do want to talk about what happened, I'm here."  She tried to lighten the mood.  "You know, some people think I'm pretty good at listening.  I've made a career of it."

"I thought you made a career of talking at people," he said with a cheeky grin.

"Hey!" she said, laughing back at him.  "Watch the mouth.  I'm your dear sick Mum."

"Speaking of which," Andrew said.  "I'll be right back.  Wait right there." 

Like Kim was going to go anywhere.  Just sitting and talking with him was using up what little strength she had.  It was odd, this Andrew.  Except for the little moments where he tensed up, he seemed completely different than he had when he arrived in Los Angeles.  Maybe their argument on the mountain had done some good, let him blow off some steam, and opened him up to her.  Whatever it was, Kim felt like she had her son back.

A few minutes later, Andrew reappeared, carrying a tray with some fruit, scrambled eggs, and a single yellow rose.  She looked at him skeptically.  "Breakfast in bed?"

"An absolute must when caring for a beautiful lady," Andrew said.  "And before you say it, yes, I know this reminds you of Father.  For some things, I'll gladly admit that I learned from a master."

Kim shook her head, as he began to set the tray in front of her.  It was awkward to hear her son talk about how he pursued women, not that she had any illusions that Andrew was a monk.  He had gone through his share of short-term girlfriends, including one at Cambridge named Prudence who bore such a strong a resemblance to Shane's first wife, Emma, that Kim could barely stand to be in the same room with her, even though she probably was a lovely girl.  And there had been the girl in the colony, the daughter of one of Philip's main film distributor's.  That had been a bit of a disaster.  Frankly, just looking at Andrew, with his looks and the way he could turn on the charm, anyone would know that he had no trouble finding girls to share his bed.  Kim had come to terms with that.  So that wasn't the problem.  No, what was awkward was hearing that her son got "pointers" from his father, and realizing that Andrew probably used some of the same lines on women that Shane had used on her. 

Knowing she should let the subject drop, Kim went against her better instinct.  "Please don't tell me that you recite Shakespeare to girls.  Oh!" she cried as Andrew nearly pitched the entire tray into her lap, giving her an answer.  He quickly grabbed a towel and began mopping up some juice he had spilled, beet red, as she stepped even farther into the abyss.  "So which is it?  As You Like It or Romeo and Juliet?"

Andrew choked out something that sounded remotely like "sonnets," before he managed to find his voice.  "And, no, I won't tell you which ones," he added quickly.  "Now, do you think you can eat?  Dr. Lawrence wanted you to have small meals to keep up your strength." 

"I think so.  At least, I'll try."  She reached for the fork and picked it up with shaking hands.  The last thing she wanted was for her son to have to feed her.  She still had some dignity left.  Kum managed to get some egg on the fork, lifted it to her mouth without dropping it all, and ate.  "Not bad."

"Glad to hear it.  I added some truffle butter to give it some flavor."  At her look, he assured her, "That came from Simmons.  He called it Epicurean Boot Camp."

"That sounds far too American for Simmons," Kim said.  He had been the caretaker at Donovan Manor in England and later moved to Salem to serve as their butler after Shane purchased their lakefront mansion.

Andrew shrugged.  "I guess some things stuck.  Now, please, eat some more so I don't have to tell the good doctor why you're wasting away." 

Kim stabbed at a slice of pineapple, but stopped as some hair got in her face.  She brushed it back, only to have a clump of it come off in her hand.  She swallowed hard, frozen for a time.  Then she lowered her hand and stared at the light red hairs for a long moment. 

"I . . . I didn't realize this happened so fast." 

She blinked a few times, hard, trying to avoid tears.  Funny, she had spent the entire past day and night unable to keep down even a soda cracker, but until this moment, it had not hit home that she had was sick, that she could be dying.  She felt a single tear run down her cheek.  In a small voice, she said, "I might not beat this."

Strong arms enveloped her, pulling her close.  "Don't say that." 

She tried to stifle a sob.  "I know it's silly.  It's just a little hair; it'll grow back.  But . . . But what if it doesn't?  What if I don't . . . if I don't get that chance?"  Andrew pulled her even tighter, and she pressed against him, momentarily feeling a familiar sense of comfort and protection. 

"You're going to beat this, I promise, Mum." 

In that instant, the sense of being protected fled her.  Kim realized that, despite all of the similarities between Andrew and his father, his arms were not the ones she needed and his voice was not the one she needed to hear.  And she wondered yet again where Shane Donovan was and why he was not here with her.