The Fantasy…after Changes
I walked up the path to my tiny house, exhausted from another day at work. It seemed that the days were longer and longer, and the rewards fewer and fewer. I loved my job, but it didn’t seem to be making that big a difference in the grand scheme of things.
Oh, well, maybe I’ll have some dinner, and go to the party that Jesse is having to celebrate Dana’s promotion. At least there will be some new people, some new faces…Liam O’Malley will be there…he’s been fun to be with the last two times we were out in the group…nice man… a little quiet, but a nice man…’
I sighed. It had been almost three years since I had heard from Lee. His last call was sweet, polite, and caring. He wanted me to know that he wouldn’t be coming east any longer. He had met someone, at the Institute. He was in love with her, and they were going to be married. He was worried about me. I understood…. The old adage ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ was so true, even in affairs of the heart. He told me that he would always love me, treasure what we shared, but that he hoped that I would understand, that I would not hate him too much.
‘Hate him! I could never, never hate my love. I knew, from the beginning, that we would not be together forever. I knew that this wonderful man would one day marry, and I would not see him again… I can’t explain how or why, but I knew. I told him so. Told him that I understood… I also told him that I loved him, would always love him, but I too would go on with my life. I also said that if he needed me, at any time, to call or come…I would always be there for him, no matter what. What I did not tell him was that I would always love him. That the love I had would never stop. Oh, I promised I would go on, but at that moment, I didn’t think that I would ever find someone to replace him… I probably never will…still I do want a family, children…and that path is not mine to share with Lee..’
I sighed again, and slid the key into the lock and opened the door. The house was in darkness, and I fumbled for the light switch, and screamed, when I saw a man sitting on my sofa! Then the dark head looked up, and those wonderful hazel eyes bore into mine.
"Lee!" I softly uttered.
"She’s dead." He said, flatly. "Cathy’s dead… and I couldn’t take the smothering concern any longer… I didn’t know where to go, so I came here…" he held up his hand, a key hanging from it. "I used this, hoping that you hadn’t changed the lock… Anne, I feel so alone…I…"
I closed the door, and moved quickly to his side. His arm was in a sling, and he winced with movement… "My love…what happened? To Cathy? To you? The baby…is he alright?"
He sat back in the sofa, some of the tenseness leaving his lean body. His face was a mirror of pain, sorrow and more…
"Robert’s fine. He’s with my mother… she came to us when this happened. She’s moving to Santa Barbara. She’s going to help with Robert. I can’t… not with the boat, and everything else…I … just don’t know…"
I reached out and laid my hand on his arm. He turned to face me, and I saw there all that I needed to see. What ever had happened to his wife, he was taking the blame for it. So like him… so like him to blame himself…
"She’s dead because of me… it’s my fault."
"I don’t understand…what do you mean, it’s your fault? Can you, do you want to talk about it? To tell me what happened?"
"I don’t know… where to begin…" he shifted uncomfortably, rubbing at his chest. "Took a bullet to the chest…that was almost ten days ago… it’s not healing well. Jamie wanted to put me in the Med Bay for a few days. I couldn’t deal with that. All the sympathy… all the mother-henning and clucking….All I’ve heard since she…died is ‘Poor Lee’, ‘Poor Captain Crane’… I can’t take that! I don’t need their pity…I appreciate their care, but … then they stop talking when I come into a room… the mission I was on, after the funeral, at least it gave me something to think about, other than Cathy. But now… She died because of the mission… They killed her… so that I wouldn’t go…"
He had stopped talking, looking for all the world, like a sad little boy. I put my arms around him, and held him… he gave a shuddering sigh, and began to cry…quietly at first, and then, harder… I felt as if he had held all his feelings at arms length until this moment. I said nothing, only held him, till the tide passed, and he began to recover himself.
I am mindful of his hurt, his enormous pain. I want to do all that I can for him, but I don’t know what to do but to listen, and allow him to tell me what he wants, what he needs….
"Would you mind…if I stayed here a while… Gil flew me in… I didn’t want anyone else to know… he’s gone back to the Institute, and he’ll come for me when I call him." He sighed again. "Right now, Anne, I don’t want to go anywhere but here… this is the only place that I want to be… With you… if you’ll have me…put up with me…"
"Lee… you’re always welcome here… always… You’ve known that… I hope that’s why you came here…because of what we had …what we still have… the friendship…"
"Thank you…"He said softly… "I hope I didn’t scare you too much by being here…I… that you didn’t have ….plans…that I didn’t spoil…."
I put my fingers to his lips. “Shhh…" I said. "Plans or no… you do, you always will come first…and no… I had no plans for tonight… or the weekend… and if I did, I would change them… You are more important than any plans…"
"Thank you," he said again… "I don’t know what I would do…"
"Shh…" I said again. "I want you here…" I became my ‘in control persona’… "Now, what can I get for you? You look tired… Do you want to rest, lie down for a while…? You tell me…"
He slid his arm around my waist, in a move so achingly familiar, that I had to stop myself from reacting to it. "I just want to sit here for a while…with you … and just let you tell me how things have been for you…I…"
I lightly laid my head on his uninjured shoulder, and began to tell him of the last three years of my life…
Hours later, he was, finally asleep. Once again, Will Jamison had sent a lengthy list of care, and a full bag of medications and preparations for him. I eased myself from his side, and quietly rose. In my heart of hearts, I was still startled that he would seek me out in this time of such sadness for him… I knew his heart had been broken by Cathy’s death, and that he carried such guilt because of it… for what he believed was his part in it. But he came to me… and I hope it was because this is a haven, a safe place for him. He knows that I will not judge him, question or criticize him. That I simply accept who and what he is. He also knows, somewhere in his heart that I love him, always have and always will, but that I make no demands because of that love… we will always have a connection… I will always, as I said, love him… but that is for me and only me to know.
I went to the bedroom, and laid open the bed. I knew that his wound would have to be cleaned and dressed, and that he would need to sleep in a bed, not on my couch… I never even entertained the idea that we would make love. He was still grieving for this woman that he had loved so intensely, so deeply. So I planned to sleep on the couch, once he was settled in the bed…
Making sure that all that I needed was to get Lee to the bed, I went to my bath. I live alone, and one of the things that I do for myself is the time that I give myself in my shower… It is my own, personal ritual… I light my lemon candles… a habit to make the bathroom smell much better. My fragrance is lemon… I love the sharp crispness of the scent, and lemon verbena is my favorite form of the fragrance. All of my bath articles are lemon verbena… shampoo, conditioner, soap… and I take my time in the shower… I like it hot, and steamy, and the fragrance fills the air, and envelopes me… It is my own, personal time of rejuvenation, and I rarely forgo it. This time is no exception, if anything, perhaps I need the time to calm down after the events of the night…I have checked on Lee, and I believe he is sleeping soundly. I gather my things, and go into the bathroom. As I turn on the shower, and allow the water to warm, and then the steam begin to fill the room, I strip, and step into the tub. I do indeed luxuriate in the warmth of the water… it feels good as it hits my body, and runs down to the floor of the tub. I take my time shampooing and bathing. I need this… So self involved in the sensations of the shower, I do not hear the door, which I never lock, open and close… usually I have my CD player on, and music playing, but I have not done that in deference to Lee. Still, I start when the curtain is pulled back, and a hand touches my shoulder. It’s a liberty he’s taken many times before… at least before he was married… He offers me a small smile.
"Let me do your back." Is all that he says… I nod, mutely, and he steps into the shower, taking the soap from my hand and lathering it between his… his hands touch my back, and I feel the electricity of the moment. Part of me is saying that this is wrong, and part of me is glad, so glad… it has been too long since I have known a tender, loving touch like this… I want this…need this…but I don’t want to make him feel obligated. That I expect him to do this for me because he came to me… I touch his hand… "Please…" he says… "I need to do this…" I nod, and lean into him, cautious of the large white bandage covering his right shoulder. His hands slide over my shoulders, and down to my breasts, and he works the lather in slow, easy circles. I sigh, and he bends his head, and kisses my neck, finding the pulse point, where my pulse is racing…
"Lee… you don’t have…"
"I know," he murmurs… "I need to…"
I put my hand on his… "No…" I whisper… "this isn’t right, my love…"
"Anne…" I turn, my body pressed against his…so familiar…so easy to go on, regardless of the consequences…but… "No, Lee…not now…You…you aren’t yourself… You will regret this in the morning, my love…" I hold his body tightly to mine…I feel the desire, feel the need… but I also feel the need to end this before it goes further. I run my hand over his face…and then drop it to his hand… He allows me to lead…I quickly turn off the water, and reach for my robe, and several towels… I wrap myself in the robe, and take the towels, wrapping them around Lee. He doesn’t protest. I take his arm, and we go into the bedroom, where I guide him to the bed. Turning to the night table, I take the bag from his doctor, open it, and remove the instructions for the care of the wound, and his medications… He is like a sleepwalker, allowing me to tend the wound, to dress him in pajamas, give him his medication… and then settle him in the bed… He sleeps almost immediately. I gather the things together, and after putting them away, return to the bathroom. I put out the candles, and clean up the room, and after putting on my nightgown, take a pillow and blanket from the linen closet. I check again on Lee, and then settle myself for the night on the couch, making sure that phones have been turned off, and the house is quiet.
I lay there… thinking… I have to admit that I have shed some tears this night…for my love, and for me… I wanted to bring the time in the shower to a conclusion far from the way it ended. I wanted to make love to Lee… long, leisurely love, in the shower.. but I know him… and he came to me there because of habit, and need…but it would have been wrong… very wrong, and it would have added to his guilt… he didn’t need that… not now, and I know that. Still, the feelings that his hands on my body brought, well, I wish… but I spend a lot of my time wishing for things that I know cannot be…. If only doesn’t work…Reality is very different. I finally fell asleep…
I am awakened by a soft, male voice calling my name. A hand is lying softly on my cheek. I smell coffee… I open my eyes, and find warm, hazel ones gazing into mine.
"Mmmm….morning…" I reply sleepily. "What time is it?"
"1000… seems we slept in…"
"Mmmm… well, it isn’t as if we didn’t need it." I sit up, pulling my robe around me, rubbing my neck… Lee reaches for my hand.
"I’m sorry… I don’t know what…"
""No apologies necessary… It wasn’t right… that’s all…."
I squeeze his hand in return. "Come on, let me fix you something besides coffee for breakfast." I move to get up from the couch, and he rises from his knees, to stand next to me. I tug at his good arm, and pull him gently to the kitchen. "If I remember, you don’t like to eat, but you do like scrambled eggs and toast."
"No… not this morning… I don’t feel like eating. Coffee is fine…"
"Not on your life, Captain Crane. You will eat a decent breakfast when you are in my house, sir!! So sit yourself down in that chair, and watch or read the paper or even pout if you want to , but here I agree with your doctor… You need to eat!" I was angry and frustrated. This man could be so DAMN stubborn!!!
"It’s not important, Anne. Not to me… I eat enough to get by… that’s all I need… to get by!"
I slammed the frying pan on the counter. I was angry, and I had never gotten angry with him. But I let my anger show… I think it was what is called a reality check for the both of us.
"Stop that right now!" I shouted at him… I was startled at my vehemence. "I know that this is an awful time for you , but dammit, Lee, you have a son… a part of the love that you and Cathy shared. You have to stay healthy and sane for him, if for nothing else! Damn the boat! the Institute! And everything connected with it… you loved Cathy!! I know that! But as sad as it is, she is gone, and you are here! You have to get on with your life!! Yours and Robert’s… maybe turn this horrible thing into something special for the two of you. You are going to be the one to nurture and raise him… you and he are going to have a special relationship because of this awful thing…but you have to get up and do something about it….not go on blaming yourself!" I let out the breath I was holding, and sat down hard in a chair opposite him… he was very quiet. So was I…I was afraid that I had pushed too far…
Slowly his hand moved across the table to take mine in his, twining his fingers with mine.
"I’m not going to say that I needed that… I guess I did, but I’m not going to say it… Anne, you are my reality check…my friend… you have been my lover…you let me come and intrude in your life whenever I need it…you never turn me away, never judge…you are always, always here for me…and you are right…it’s just been so hard… I just never thought I would be the one doing the funeral … I thought it would be Cathy burying me…I’ve come so close, so many times…" His eyes began to fill with tears, and they fell down his face, as he continued. "I can’t begin to tell you what it felt like…I couldn’t save her, Anne… she was right next to me, in the car, and I couldn’t get to her…she was alive, and happy and laughing…and then she was dead… we were pinned in the wreckage… Robert was in the back seat, and he was crying and I couldn’t get to him either…I knew, right then and there, I knew she was dead… and I wanted to die too, but all I could hear was the baby crying, and all I could see was my wife, lying there in the middle of all that twisted metal." He tightened his grip on my hand even more, and I covered both of our hands with my free one… he went on…talking to me, as I knew he had spoken to no one else. "I lost consciousness several times… and when I finally came to, to hearing voices, Robert had stopped crying, and I thought for a few horrible minutes, that he may have been dead too…I don’t remember much else. I don’t remember getting to the hospital… I do remember making them let me be with her…her…her body was still warm… I held her hand, and wanted her to wake up, and take the baby, and tell me that it would be alright." He shook his head, sadly… "but she didn’t and that was when I realized that this was real… that I, Lee Crane, the youngest sub skipper in the Navy, the man who had graduated first in his class, the man who had gotten everything he ever wanted, had lost the thing that meant the most to him in all the world… because he was Lee Crane…" he bowed his head, as the tears continued, and mine began to fall as well, sharing his loss, his enormous grief… "Because, if Cathy Connors hadn’t been the wife of Lee Crane, she would still be alive right now."
"Lee," I said softly… "You don’t know that… you don’t know that at all. If anything…Cathy was a victim of the world that we live in, and the world that she chose to share with you. You will miss her, you love, and will continue to love her… that won’t stop because she is gone… and you have in Robert, what many, in situations like yours, don’t have… part of her and her love for you…" I looked at him, and he raised his head, his hazel eyes boring into mine.
"I’m sure that you are right…but at this moment, it still hurts too much to be rational about it…I feel alone…completely and totally alone…oh, there are many, many people, friends and family who care… but I still feel alone in the midst of all of them." He shuddered. I stood and moved around the table to his side… I ran a hand over his forehead, surprised at the warmth I felt there. I ran that hand over his face, and lightly touched his shoulder… his entire body was warm…I wrapped my arms around him, to comfort him, as he continued… "I came to you, as I said, because of who you are to me…Anne, there’s no way I can explain what you and I have, and right now, I don’t want to." He leaned his head back into my chest, and held my hand tightly. "Pretty picture isn’t it? I can’t deal with what has happened to me, and I come to you and first try to take advantage of you, and then, fall apart at your kitchen table." He sighed again. "I don’t understand this relationship that we have, but I am glad that you are here right now… I really think I would lose it altogether if not for you!"
I also did not know what to say… this had to be the hardest time in my love’s life… and there was little else I could say, or do. He was here, and what ever else he did, I would be here for him… he knew that. I tightened by embrace, and he sighed again…
"Anne, I don’t know where this will lead us…but…I asked you last night, and I’m asking again…after I’ve made a fool of myself…can you put up with me for a while?"
"You don’t have to ask… My home is yours, as long as you need it." I didn’t tell him that my heart would be his always as well. I released him from my embrace, and moved to his side. "Come, let me look at your wound… I think it needs the dressing changed."
He came with me to the bedroom, where he sat on the bed, and I took the bag of medications, and opened it, taking out the things that I needed… I took off the wrappings on the wound, and watched Lee’s face. He winced as the final pad came off… I looked carefully at the wound, and saw that it was still puffy and tender to the touch. That explained why he felt warm to the touch…he probably had a fever, though he would never admit it. He flinched as I put the antibiotic on the wound, and covered it with the gauze bandages, holding it in place with gauze wrapped around his shoulder and chest. Then I took the medication from the bag, two different antibiotics, and held them out to him…He made a face, but took them. I replaced the materials in the bag, and turned back to him… "Well, Captain… what do you want to do today… go back to bed, or get up and get out… or what??" I tried to be light with my mood, to get him to lighten his, in spite of his sadness. It was a beautiful day… shining sunlight and clear skies… a moderate temperature… the East Coast at its best. "Be forewarned… I intend to open all the windows in about twenty minutes…" I smiled at him… "it may get very chilly in here…"
He smiled back… "then I guess we are taking a walk?" he paused… "any water nearby?"
"Ocean’s ten minutes away…beach is clean and clear…and free…just colder than California…" I offered.
"Sounds like a plan…" he smiled again, an easier smile… "Thank you…"
"Welcome…" I replied… "Very welcome…now, Captain… I claim the bathroom, you can change here!" He nodded, and I grabbed some things, and went into the bath, carefully locking the door.
Half an hour later, we were on the beach…the day was going to be a beautiful one…and we would enjoy it…and many others the rest of the week Lee stayed with me… I took a week’s ‘family’ leave from work…and we spent the time together… talking… laughing… crying…
We did not make love…not that we didn’t desire it, but rather that we didn’t want to… Lee still had a long way to go to recover from his loss…When he left me at the end of the week, I knew he had begun to recover from his loss…it would take him a long time…but I also knew he would come back to me, and we would be lovers again… I wanted him to know the love I have for him will not diminish, but that he has to go on…his life is in California with his son, and his boat…mine is here…each of us has to do what we must…but…as has been said….’there are always possibilities…’
End of this chapter…
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