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Chapter 44: "What's TMZ?"

Keeping a careful hold around Kim's waist, Andrew helped his mother down the stairs to the living room.  Yesterday's chemotherapy treatment had been one of the longest so far, and Kim had gone through another night of vomiting and restlessness.  Andrew had spent the morning on the phone with the doctor's office, but only received assurances that the side effects would pass and that he just needed to help Kim through them.

"Mrs. Collier," said the pink-suited woman waiting for them in the living room.  She waited as Andrew helped Kim to the couch.  On the coffee table, the woman had set up a display of wigs.

The woman started her speech about the different wigs, but at the third mention of "human hair," Andrew tuned out.  He crossed the room to the large windows, took a seat in the Eames chair, and put his feet on the ottoman.  They were only into the second week of the treatments, and Andrew was already knackered.  At night, he barely slept because he stayed focused on the baby monitor, always waiting to have to run to Kim's room to assist her.  During the day, he did not sleep because he was either taking her to treatments, running errands, or otherwise caring for her. 

The situation actually was somewhat similar to being in Sangin, where he had been forced to keep pushing himself through the exhaustion, either repelling the attack that was happening or remaining hyper-vigilant while awaiting the next assault.  The only difference is that, in Sangin, he expected reinforcements to show up at some point.  In Malibu, he was alone for the foreseeable future.

For the moment, however, he could relax.  His mum was focused on wigs and, if she needed anything, the saleswoman would call him over.  In this chair, Andrew bathed in the afternoon sunlight cascading through the window and listened to the sound of the waves, the repetitive drone of the crash and the receding water.  That was far different than Sangin.  Here, there were no explosions, no screams.  Just the calming, repetitive pounding of the waves.  He let his eyes close and his entire body melted into the chair.

A crash woke him.  He jumped up, confused.  A second ago, the sunlight was streaming through the window.  Now it was dark outside.

"Mum?"  He sat up and looked around.  Kim was standing at the entrance to the kitchen.  Andrew did a double-take, blinked his eyes a few times, and looked again.  "Um . . . ."  He was at a loss for words.

Kim touched the wig, a touch nervously.  "Is it okay?"

Andrew got up from the chair and walked toward her.  He was no expert on hair, let alone wigs, so he could only give a personal opinion.  However, he figured the truth was hardly what she  needed right now.  Thankfully, Andrew considered himself a fairly good liar.  "It looks bloody marvelous," he lied.  "I was just a little surprised.  It's . . . ."  He hesitated.  "Well, it's very short.  And very, um, red."  Andrew was not terribly good at naming colors, and this was somewhere between red and purple, so "red" had to do. 

She laughed.  "I thought circumstances warranted something bold.  I tried a color like this before, but you were. . ."  She hesitated.  "Away.  I guess it does take a little getting used to."

"Hey, if it's what you want, you'll hear no opposition from me."  He looked around the room, trying not to look at his mother.  He feared he might betray his true thoughts by cringing visibly.  He glanced at the darkened windows.  "What time is it?"

"Just before 6," Kim said.  "I didn't want to wake you.  You seemed so tired, I wanted to let you sleep a bit."

"You were okay?"  It was only about two hours since he had collapsed, but that was the most uninterrupted sleep he had gotten in more than a week.  "You didn't need anything?"

"Well, Martha -- the lady from the wig shop -- helped me once when I got a bit queasy."  Kim shrugged her shoulders.  "I guess she's had some experience with cancer patients."  She looked down at her feet, where he saw for the first time a broken glass.  "I was just going to get some juice."

Andrew bent down and began picking up the shards.  The last thing his Mum needed was to cut herself.  As he worked , he apologized.  "Sorry, I should have been there."

"Andrew, you've barely slept and you're running yourself ragged.  It's good that you slept.  I've got a mind to send you to bed right now."

Andrew chuckled.  She was the one who needed care, but she was still acting like the overprotective mother hen.  "I'm fine, Mum.  I've survived on catnaps before."  He immediately regretted his choice of words, so quickly changed the subject.  "Besides Jeannie will be calling any minute.  Speaking of which, I'd better locate my phone.  You know my sis.  If she goes to voicemail, she'll be spitting tacks.  Meanwhile, you sit back down on that couch and let me fix you some dinner."

"What's the point?" Kim asked.  "I won't be able to keep it down."

"Don't blame me.  Doctor's orders.  You've got to keep eating so you don't waste away."  He quickly ran upstairs to where he had left his cell phone, reaching it just as the clock struck 6 p.m. and, almost simultaneously, the orchestra on his phone began playing "Les Toreadors."  He grabbed the phone of the bedroom desk.  "Good evening, Sis.  Everything's fine, except you're going to hate Mum's choice of wig.  She--"

"None of that matters," Jeannie said, interrupting.  "Have you seen TMZ?"

"What's TMZ?"

The exasperation was clear in Jeannie's voice.  "Don't you read gossip in the UK?"

"Absolutely," Andrew answered.  "I'll remind you that our tabloids perfected the art.  Or did you miss that in your class on defaming people?"

"Yeah, well, go to TMZ.com.  They have an article about Mom's cancer."

"Oh, bollocks," Andrew groaned.  He had been dreading that.  "Let me turn on my computer."

"Don't bother," Jeannie said.  "I'll read you the first paragraph.  'Sources tell TMZ.com that nationally syndicated radio talk show host, advice guru, and former wife of movie producer Philip Collier, Kimberly Collier is being treated for advanced-stage leukemia.  Collier was seen by TMZ.com entering a Malibu cancer treatment facility on Saturday for a four-hour course of chemotherapy.'  And it goes on from there.  Oh, if I find out who violated Mom's privacy rights at that clinic, I'll-- "

"Sis, look, there's no point getting upset over this.  Mum's taken a leave from her show and sooner or later, someone was going to figure out why."  He sighed.  Mum would be annoyed.  She valued her privacy and had been furious to be the subject of tabloid coverage regarding Philip's affair and their divorce.  She really did not need this now.  "I'll break it to Mum, but I wouldn't worry too much.  I don't think she's going to warrant that much press."

"I guess you're right," Jeannie said.  "Still, I know Mom didn't want a lot of people to know.  You'll probably start getting a bunch of calls from Salem.  I found out from Stephanie."

That hardly surprised Andrew.  His cousin probably spent a lot of time surfing the web for gossip.  "I'll deal with it.  If I have to disconnect the blasted phone, I will.  Mum needs to sleep.  And she needs to eat, which is what I bloody well should be taking care of right now."

"Are you sure you're okay?" Jeannie asked.

"I'm fine, Sis.  Everything's under control here.  Except Mum's wig.  I'm telling you, Jeannie, she looks like Sharon Osbourne.  It's terrifying."  He was glad to hear Jeannie laugh. "Look, I'd better get going, so I can prepare for the onslaught of flower arrangements from Mum's adoring public.  Do you think she has enough vases?"

"Go!"  Jeannie ordered.  "I'll catch you tomorrow, big brother."

Andrew pocketed his phone and headed for the stairs.  Mum was not going to be happy about the article, but she had to be told about the development.  As he reached the ground floor, he spotted Kim sitting on the sofa talking into on her cell phone.  "Just a short statement, Helene.  No details.  'She thanks the public for its support and asks that her fans respect her privacy.'   Stuff like that, okay?"

Well, at least he was spared breaking the news.  Thank God for publicists.  Andrew's job right now was dinner.  He turned toward the kitchen just as the door rang.  "Dammit," he muttered.  "It can't be starting already."  He did an about-face and walked to the foyer.  What would it be?  Flowers?  Chocolates?  A stray member of the press who had snuck past colony security?  "You'd better have a damn good reason for being here." He called out as he turned the knob and pulled the door open.

Without warning, he was pulled into a tight embrace, so fast, he barely caught a glimpse of golden hair as Marlena Evans Black asked, "Does wanting to see a very good friend qualify?"