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Sarah L Tagert

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Learning Freedom(Chapter 1)
By Sarah L Tagert
Saturday, April 17, 2004

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Recent stories by Sarah L Tagert
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As Nick sat quietly watching Kim silently face off with her parents he began to wonder if he had made a mistake in bringing her here for an extended visit. Something had said triggered this battle and as much as he would like to have known what was going on Nick knew better than to say a word.

Kim breezed through the automatic doors of Central General. After stowing her stuff in a locker she made her way to the Physical Therapy room. Her first patient was not scheduled to arrive for an hour but Kim started gathering the things she would need for the session anyway. If there was one thing people said about her it was Kim liked to be prepared. She hated to be caught off guard. Not many people knew what made her so adamant. A time five years ago haunted her. This secret drove Kim to always expect perfection in all areas of her life. 

“How’s it going?” Kim turned to see her best friend Abby standing in the doorway of Kim’s office. “I’m just getting ready for my first patient.” Kim answered abstractedly. “Are you okay?” Abby asked concerned. “You seem a little distant lately.” Kim focused on the file she had been searching for before Abby interrupted her for a moment before she answered. “I’m just overloaded with work right now.” She lied. Kim hated herself for lying to Abby but she didn’t think Abby would understand the pressure she kept on herself. Keeping her weight down was a constant struggle for Kim and at times she resorted to desperate measures. She knew the risks she took every time she gave in to the desire to purge. Kim’s guilt was always heavy afterward. When she was bent over the toilet retching Kim felt powerful. She had control over her weight if nothing else in her world. She could never force her Mother to love her as an adult and see how she was successful and independent. It had been in her early teens Kim had turned to bulimia as a means of gaining some control over her life.  Over the years she had experienced relapses when stress overwhelmed her. The current stress overpowering Kim centered around her upcoming wedding. It was two weeks away and there were still many decisions to be made. She found herself nauseated by the thought of food more than ever. Kim knew she should eat to keep up her strength. As Kim unlocked her car at the end of the day she fought lightheadedness from the lack of food. If she did not eat something soon Kim knew she was going to end up in the hospital as she had so many times before. She sat down in the car and rested her head on the steering wheel. A tap on her window brought Kim out of the fog surrounding her.  “Are you okay?” Kim saw her best friend Abby peering through her window. “I’m just tired.” Kim kicked herself for yet another lie to Abby. One of these days she was going to have a long talk with Abby and get this problem out in the open. Kim heard Abby’s heels clicking as she walked around the car. Kim fumbled for the lock. When it was unlocked Abby opened the door and sat down. “Kim something is up. I know it. You and I have not been friends for very long at all but I have known you long enough to know when something is wrong. I am not going to try to force you to tell me but remember I am willing to listen whenever you want to talk.” Abby said finally. “I need to get my thoughts together better before we talk okay?” Kim said wearily. “Why don’t you let me drive you home then we can ride back to work together tomorrow?” Abby asked gathering her keys. “I don’t want to bother you. I know Gary and Grace are waiting at home for you and I am sure you are eager to get home to them. I can make it home on my own just fine.” Kim said distantly. “If you’re sure I guess I will see you at the dress fitting tomorrow afternoon.” Abby answered. After Abby left Kim started the car and pulled out of the parking garage. When she arrived at her own apartment Kim checked her answering machine before going to her bedroom to change clothes. “Hey Baby. It’s me. I was just thinking about you and wanted to call and say hi.” Nick’s smooth voice came through the machine and Kim paused to listen. “Call me when you get home. Maybe we can have dinner or something. I’ll talk to you later.” He said. She heard a click and knew Nick had hung up. Grabbing the phone from its cradle Kim headed to her bedroom. Punching the first speed dial Kim brought the phone to her ear. When it stopped ringing Kim caught her breath and then sighed when his answering machine picked up.  She listened to the message before hanging up. Hearing his voice even if it was only on an answering machine made Kim feel warm inside. As Kim dressed went through her nightly routine the feeling stayed with her. As she stood in front of the stove cooking dinner Kim thought about the day she met Nick. From the moment she met him Kim knew he was the one for her.  The doorbell rang jolting Kim out of her thoughts. Padding across the floor her bare feet making a swishing sound. She stood on her toes and peer through the peek hole. A smile came to her face when she saw Nick standing on the other side of the door. “I had a feeling you might show up here.” She said opening the door. “I cooked dinner. Are you hungry?” She asked going back to the stove. “I’m hungry if you are.” He said coming into the kitchen. “I ate on the way home from work.” She lied cringing inwardly. Nick sat down at the table as Kim brought his plate over and took the seat across from him expectantly. The fruits of her labors were rewarded when Nick took one bite and closed his eyes to enjoy the full effect.

“You really should eat some of this. It’s wonderful.” Nick said bringing his spoon to her mouth. “I’m full.” She insisted gently pushing it away. “I’ll never figure out how you enjoy cooking so much and stay so thin.” Nick said shaking his head. After dinner Kim and Nick decided to watch a movie. As the huddled together on the couch Kim melted into the safety of Nick’s embrace. More than any other place in the world Kim felt the safest in Nick’s arms. Lying on the couch beside him Kim felt sleep sucking her under. She awoke later under the covers of her bed. The clock on the nightstand said it was ten o’clock. Nick must have carried her in here before he let himself out of the apartment. Getting out of the bed she went to the front door and found it to be locked.  When she got back to the bedroom Kim changed into her pajamas before climbing back into the bed again. Sleep overtook her again and when she opened her eyes again the sun was glaring into her face. The clock began alarming and she turned over to shut it off. Slowly she emerged from under the covers. Walking across the room Kim went to her dresser and pulled out a scrub suit and headed for the shower.  The hot water helped her wake up and Kim emerged feeling refreshed and ready to meet what the day held.

At the hospital Kim scanned her ID card. On her way to the physical therapy room she passed the break room where many employees were drinking coffee and eating breakfast. She saw Abby standing to one side talking to one of her colleagues. Glancing at her watch Kim cringed when she realized she didn’t have a reason not to stop. She entered the room hesitantly and quickly went to where Abby stood. Turning to Kim Abby asked, “Where were you last night? I tried to call several times but never got an answer.” Kim thought for a moment before she answered, “Nick came over for dinner and we watched a movie. After he left I went to bed a little early. I guess I just didn’t hear the phone.” She said finally.  Abby stole a glance at her watch before excusing herself for her first appointment of the morning. Kim hung around for about thirty minutes after Abby left before excusing herself to begin her own work. At noon Kim forced herself to walk to the cafeteria. Scanning the menu Kim felt her stomach churning. When her turn came Kim ordered a small salad and slowly walked to the nearest table. Sitting down she removed the plastic top and picked up her fork. Staring down at the food she swallowed hard before spearing a small bite of the lettuce and bringing it to her lips. Kim rolled the food around in her mouth for a few minutes before she was able to swallow it. After an hour Kim had managed to eat a little less than half the food. Dumping the bowl in the trash she headed back to work feeling like she had accomplished something much greater than eating a simple meal.  As Kim went through the rest of the day her lunch felt like a lead weight in the bottom of her stomach. She tried to keep herself distracted as much as possible to avoid the strong desire to rid herself of the food. Kim knew she needed the food in her body to stay alive. As she drove to the dress fitting after lunch Kim could not stop the thought whirling though her mind.  She parked in the small lot next to the shop. When Kim entered she found Abby already there waiting for her. Seeing the look at Kim’s face Abby became concerned. “Are you okay?” She asked peering into Kim’s face. “I’m just tired I guess.” Kim said slowly. Abby did force the issue but made a mental note to bring the subject up again as soon as she got the chance. When Abby invited her to get some coffee at the nearby café Kim accepted quickly glad for a break. There was a few minute of silence after they both placed their orders. Kim found a secluded table in the outside area and wearily sank into a chair. Abby joined her and sat down across from her. Abby look a deep breath and launched into the subject they had both been avoiding since for several days. “I know something is wrong Kim. You look tired all the time and it is more than just the stress of this wedding. I wish you would tell me what was bothering you. I might be able to help. I can’t do anything for you unless you let me in though. I am not a mind reader.” Abby’s tone was patient and gentle but Kim could hear the unstated strain. She could tell Abby had been worrying about her for quite a while. Kim decided to just drop her bombshell. Abby might not be so understanding when she knew what Kim battled everyday. “I’m bulimic.” She said softly and waited for her words to sink in. Abby looked shocked for a moment then Kim watched her try to quickly begin to recollect herself. “How long have you been struggling with this?” Abby asked finally. “Since I was a teenager.” Kim answered “I’m able to keep it under control most of the time but when I get stressed out I find myself unable to control the binge and purge impulse.” She said sadly. “What can I do to help?” Abby immediately wanted to know. “I will do whatever I can.” She insisted. “I don’t know if anyone can help me. Nick doesn’t even know yet. I haven’t been able to work up the nerve to tell him.” She said beginning to cry. “It’s going to be okay.” Abby tried to reassure her. “You aren’t alone. I’m here and Nick is too. He isn’t going to love you any less when you tell him you have a problem. He is going to want to help you overcome this.” Abby said honestly. “I’m glad you told me. You shouldn’t try to fix this by yourself. You need people in your life who can love and support you.” She said looking Kim in the eye. “I know. I was just afraid when you found out I had this problem you wouldn’t want to bother with me anymore. I’m not sure Nick is going to be as understanding as you think he is. The truth is I wouldn’t blame him either.” Kim said wiping her eyes again. When the coffee was brought to their table Abby changed the subject sensing Kim needed to get her mind off her problems for a while. “Gary’s mom has been watching Grace while I work a few hours a day. I’m not sure who enjoys it more grandma or Grace.” Abby said laughing. 


The day had finally come. Kim stood in front of the mirror in the bride’s dressing room at the church. Abby darted around behind her straightening her train and making sure her vale was secure. The music began playing and the wedding party took their places.  Kim knew it was time when her father came to get her. As she stepped into the sanctuary Kim spotted Nick standing at the end of the aisle and all her nerves melted away.  Electricity sparked between them when Kim placed her hand in his. Time seem to freeze as Kim gazed into Nick’s eyes and she almost missed her cue to hand her bouquet to Abby who stood nearby expectantly.


The happy couple waved as they dodged rice on the way to the limo. “I can’t believe it’s finally over.” Kim said astonished “I can’t believe we are finally married.” Nick said leaning over to kiss his bride again.   “It seems like yesterday we were engaged and making our wedding plans. It’s unreal we could be married already.” Kim said thoughtfully. “I’m really glad we decided to get married.” Nick returned.  Silence fell as both husband and wife reflected on the events of the day.


The celebration was already under way when Nick and Kim made their entrance at the reception. Everyone cheered and clapped as they stepped on to the dance floor.   Kim enjoyed the feeling of being cocooned first in her father’s arms and then Nick’s. She glanced over to see Abby and Gary swaying to the music with Grace sleeping peacefully on Gary’s shoulder. She couldn’t help but smile at the sight. Abby and Gary were so perfect for each other and both their worlds revolved around Grace. Abby loved her job but had found herself torn when it came time for her to go back to work. Part of her wanted to stay at home with Grace. At the same time Abby wanted to return to the job she did so well.  There had been many times Kim tried her best to reassure Abby she would not be neglecting her obligations to Grace if she went back to work. “It won’t be easy but you can balance your job and a family. Neither one has to suffer either.” Kim had told her one night.  Kim had decided then if she and Nick were ever blessed with children she would be able to quit her job and stay at home full time.  When the music died away Kim kept her head nestled against Nick’s chest and waited for the next song. When Abby’s voice came over the speakers Kim was jolted from her daze. “I just wanted to say a few words.” Abby said nervously and Kim realized Abby had not decided to do this on her own. Kim didn’t know whom but someone had coerced her into making this speech. “Kim is my best friend and I could not be happier for her. I know Kim has found the love of her life and they have a long happy future ahead of them. I think everyone would agree we wish them the best in the years ahead.” Wild applause followed Abby’s speech. “As much as we hate to I think we had better send them off on their honeymoon now, or they might just miss their flight.” Abby said when things had quieted down again.  Kim glanced up at the clock and realized what Abby was talking about. Their flight left in two hours. She had been enjoying herself so much Kim had neglected to keep an eye on the time. Kim decided she had better change clothes and Abby followed to help with the zipper on the back of her dress. “I can’t believe how time has flown by today. It seemed like I just got up an hour ago.” Kim said mystified. Abby stifled a yawn before answering. “Not to me. It seems like I have haven’t slept in three days.” She said. “Maybe things will quiet down after tonight.” Kim said concerned. “I am looking forward to having two weeks off from work and going to Cancun but I am looking forward to coming home and getting to settle in more.” She said honestly. “I know what you mean.” Abby returned. A knock on the door interrupted the conversation. Nick poked his head inside. “You are about ready to go? We really need to get to the airport.” He said hastily. “I’ll be ready in a few minutes.” Kim said rushing to finish dressing. “I am going to miss you so much.” Abby said tearfully when Kim was ready to leave. “I’ll be back in two weeks. You probably won’t have time to miss me as busy as you usually are.” She returned. The two women embraced for a moment then Kim rushed to join Nick in the limo. Most of the other guests had already left. Abby stood beside Gary who still held a sleeping Grace on his shoulder watching the car pull away. When the car had disappeared from view they made their way to their own car. 


Kim leaned her head against the headrest on the plane. “I’m glad we’re going to Cancun during the cooler season not the middle of the summer. I get enough of scorching heat in California.” She said thankfully. “I’ve been meaning to tell you something.” Nick said hesitantly. Kim glanced over at him puzzled. “We aren’t going to Cancun at all. I arranged for us to spend our honeymoon in Texas with your family. I know how much you miss them and I want to meet them so instead of a tropical honeymoon I thought you would enjoy some time with your family more.” He finished and glanced over at Kim watching his words sink in. She was silent for so long Nick began to worry he had made a mistake. “Maybe we should have just gone to Cancun as planned.” He chided himself inwardly. “But my parents and sisters were staying in California.” She said finally. “No honey they were flying back tonight as well. They just told you they were staying to make it more of a surprise.” Nick said quickly. “In fact your sister Debbie is meeting us at the airport in Houston.” Kim cringed to herself. She could not deny Nick was trying but of her three sisters Debbie was the one she got along with the least. If he had asked her Terry would have been a better person to pick them up. She hoped this did not turn out to be a disaster. As much as she longed to have a normal relationship with her family Kim knew it would happen. Her mother was never going to forgive her for moving away to pursue her dreams. Even if she was at least now speaking to Kim deep down she still harbored resentment toward her.

As the plane touched down Kim felt the heavy burden of the food she had eaten at the reception sitting in the pit of her stomach and longed for release she knew could only be obtain in private. Tension mounted when Kim saw Debbie stand about fifty feet from them. Nick immediately rushed over to her but Kim found herself hanging back. When she finally found the nerve to approach Kim used Nick to shield herself from Debbie. Wrapping both her arms around his chest Kim avoided having to embrace her sister. Kim felt her stomach churning and quickly excused herself. Frantically she searched for the rest room. Once inside Kim locked herself in a stall and sank onto the floor. Nausea swept over her and Kim fought to remain in an upright position. Relief came after she had finished retching into the toilet. As she stood and unlocked the door Kim stepped out of the stall. She crossed to the sink on the opposite wall and turned the tap. As the water flowed out over her hands Kim peered into the mirror at her own blood shot eyes and pale skin. She brought her damp hands up and splashed her face with the cool water. When she pulled her hands away and turned away from the sink Kim saw Debbie standing behind her concern written all over her face.  Debbie handed her some paper towels and Kim accepted them gratefully. “I would have thought you would have gotten over that juvenile habit for dealing with your stress by now.” Debbie said cynically crossing her arms over her chest.

“You don’t understand at all.” Kim said coldly “Some does not just “get over” bulimia.” Kim turned to leave and Debbie grabbed her arm. “I would have thought you loved this guy more than this. Nick probably doesn’t even know does he? If you had told him he might have called off the wedding. Well it was selfish of you not to tell him.” She said before releasing Kim who stormed out of the rest room.


Kim slapped angry tears away from her cheeks as she stomped back to where she had left Nick. By the time she reached him Kim had managed to subdue her fury somewhat. He smiled when he spotted her then his joy faded at the distressed look on his wife’s face. Rushing to her he gently placed a hand on her arm. “What’s wrong?” He asked concerned. “Nothing.” She lied. “You’ve been crying. I know something is wrong.” He insisted. “Just a fight with my sister.” She said vaguely looking away as if to end the conversation. When Debbie found them a few minutes later she acted as if nothing were wrong. Kim was relived she did not say anything to Nick about the episode in the rest room but made a mental note to confront Debbie the next time they were alone.  The ride to her parent’s house was quiet. Nick sensed the tension between the two women but decided to keep his mouth shut. Kim was still quietly seething and Debbie drove staring straight ahead.  As they pulled into the driveway at Kim’s parents’ home they came out of the house to meet them. Debbie got out of the car and went straight into the house leaving Nick and Kim to talk to her parents.  “We are so happy to see you.” Her mother exclaimed wrapping Kim in a hug. Kim stood stiffly not returning the embrace. “There wasn’t really enough time to really talk at the wedding. This way we can have some time to catch up.” Her mother said ushering her into the house. Nick followed actively involved in a conversation with Kim’s dad. When they reached the living room Kim found Debbie there. She had made herself a sandwich and was seated in the recliner in front of the television. Kim took the small couch in front of the window on the other side of the room and Nick settled next to her. “So what do you do?” Kim’s dad asked finally. “I’m in law enforcement.” Nick returned. Kim watched her parents share a look and knew right away what they were both think. She placed a protective hand over Nick’s but did not answer. Silence hung heavy in the room as Kim’s dad contemplated what he wanted to say. Kim braced for the impending battle. Her parents had always been very firm in their opinion of whom Kim should marry and someone in a dangerous line of work was not on their list. They had made it clear more than once they would never give their consent for her to marry a man who was in law enforcement. Kim had avoided their questions about Nick job when she had called to tell them about being engaged. The look on Kim’s dad’s face told Kim he wished she had warned him about this sooner and Nick were not sitting in the room right then.  The look she gave him in return said, “You know why I didn’t tell you”. “Can we please just have a good visit and forget about this right now?” Kim pleaded. After several minutes of uncomfortable silence Kim heard her mom clear her throat and then she launch into another conversation. Kim noticed her father was reluctant to talk but she tried to forget about it and enjoy her visit. She might never get the chance to spend this much time with her family ever again.


As Nick sat quietly watching Kim silently face off with her parents he began to wonder if he had made a mistake in bringing her here for an extended visit. Something had said triggered this battle and as much as he would like to have known what was going on Nick knew better than to say a word. When Kim’s mom shifted the subject Nick jumped into the conversation hoping things would clear up. Debbie had been sullen since the episode at the airport both of them had declined to discuss. Nick sensed she had something she wanted to say but something made her keep quiet. She sat across the room from Kim peering over her sandwich watching the scene in front of her unfold.


When the family sat down to dinner tension was still high. Kim’s father had been simmering since the earlier episode and Kim had been trying desperately to pull him out of it. It had crossed Nick mind to pack up their things and take the next flight back to California. Seeing Kim so distressed was almost too much for him to bear. After dinner everyone had gone his or her own way. Kim had left for her apartment and Kim’s mom and dad had gone to the living room to watch television. Kim had decided to unpack some of her things and then call Abby to let her know about the change of plans. Nick followed her and sat on the bed while she unpacked. “I think I made a mistake when I changed our travel plans.” Nick said apologetically. “You didn’t know how my family is. I never told you I about them because I didn’t think it would matter.” Kim said with a sigh. “You meant well. You thought I would enjoy having a chance to visit with them.” She said honestly. “Do you parents have something against cops?” Nick asked timidly. Kim stopped unpacking and sat down on the bed next to him. “They don’t have anything against cops my parents just didn’t want me to marry someone with a dangerous job. I know they are just trying to look out for me but trying to choose my husband is just too controlling.” Kim said sighing again. “They just afraid something will happen and I will be left a widow.” She said softly. “Why would they feel that way?” Nick asked. “Because Debbie was married to a fireman. Three years ago he was killed in the line of duty. There was a huge warehouse fire around midnight. There had been reports of homeless people sleeping in the building. He and four other firefighters rushed in to search the place and it fell in on them. They found his and the other bodies two days later.” Kim said sadly. “Part of the bitterness you see in Debbie is from this. She never really got over his death and she blames all public service people for Joe’s death. The police officer on the scene was new and he did not know he should not allow them to go in the building.” She finished. The couple sat in silence for a few minutes. Kim heard her dad turn the television off and a few minutes later she heard his bedroom door shut. She was just getting up to start getting ready for bed when her Mother knocked on the door before entering the bedroom. Nick watched her once again brace for a fight. “You can relax Kim. I am not here to start a fight with you. I actually came to apologized for your father’s behavior this afternoon. He should be over the resentment of police officers and firefighters by now but he just can’t seem to let go. He can’t accept the past and let it rest.” She said regretfully. “I guess Kim told you why he is this way.” She asked Nick. “She did.” Nick returned nodding. “I can understand his fear in a sense but wives lose their husbands every day. Even taxi drivers get in wrecks and die. Not marrying someone who has to put their life on the line is not a guarantee of growing old together.” He said sympathetically. She smiled before bidding them good night. Leaving she shut the door behind her. Kim stood with her arms across her chest. Nick thought she was shaking. He crossed the room and took her into his arms. Thankfully she laid her head on this shoulder. It had been a long day both physically and mentally. Nick longed to curl up in the bed beside his new wife and sleep for a week. Gently he guided her over to the bed and helped her climb in. He climbed in next to her and drew her up to his side. It wasn’t long before sleep sucked him under. 


*Author's note: This is my newest novel in the works. Right now I am planning to finish it 2 weeks before Thanksgiving. I hope everyone will enjoy reading it and will kindly leave me reviews of what you think about it.      

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Reviewed by Thomas Lanechanger 6/27/2004
WOW!!! Sarah, although I have just begun reading this remarkable story, I will continue until I get brought up to speed. This is really terrific writing!!! Great job!!!
Reviewed by Michelle Kidwell Power In The Pen 4/17/2004

This is truly awesome, keep it up...
God Bless
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 4/17/2004
great start to this series, sarah! congrats on your new book! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY, SARAH!! You GO, gurlfriend! Thanks for the shout; I will write you tomorrow! (Gotta' go to work soon!)

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Tx., Karen Lynn. :D :D :D :D (BIG grins for you on your news!)

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