Kim found it hard to keep her eyes open on the car ride home. She had forced herself to stay through the whole visitation. They had not left until Abby and Gary left. Nick had been calling from time to time all evening to make sure Matthew was okay and Kelly didnít need to be relieved. Each time, she had assured them she was fine staying as long as they needed.
When the last of the visitors had gone, the two couples had walked out together. Kim promised to be at the funeral the next day but Nick hoped she would change her mind. The strain was showing in her movements as well as her _expression. Nick noticed her wince when she lowered herself into the passagenerís seat of the car. As he drove home, Kim was quiet, deep in thought. It was obvious she was trying not to have her self control shatter into a million pieces. He knew when they were alone, she would probably let it all out. Kim had been trying to stay strong for Abby, let her have a strong place to put her burdens but it was taking a heavy toll on Kim. She was not only hurting for the pain Abby was going through, but for the loss of Grace, who had been like her own niece. When they arrived home, Nick helped Kim to the bedroom then left her to get ready for bed and went to pay Kelly. Kim undressed slowly, and was about to crawl into bed when Nick returned. "I know you wonít like this idea, but I think you need to take some of the pain medicine the doctor sent home with you. Youíve had a long, hard day and it will help you rest. If you are going to the funeral tomorrow, you need to get plenty of rest tonight. Matthew is down for the night, so as long as he shouldnít wake up until tomorrow. Kelly said she will come tomorrow so we wonít have to bring him to the funeral.
Kim could feel her defenses crumbling and without warning, she burst into tears. When Nick returned with the pills and a glass of water, he found her curled up in a ball, lying on the bed, sobs shaking her whole body. If he had not watched her defenses coming down since they left the funeral home, Nick would have been more shocked. He crawled into bed and enveloped her against his chest and let her cry. When the sobs subsided, he reached back to the bedside table and offered her the glass of water then the pills, which she accepted. After setting the glass back on the table, Nick took his wife back into his arms. She fell asleep there, protected in his arms.
When Nick and Kim arrived the next morning for Graceís funeral, the church was packed. As they were taking a seat in the far back, Abby caught Kimís attention and motioned for them to come sit beside her in the front. A young couple Kim had never seen before moved back a pew to allow them to sit down. Abby looked worn down and hopeless. Her eyes were red rimmed, and swollen. She held Garyís hand as if it were keeping her alive. He was unusually quiet, offering only a soft "hello" and "thanks for coming" as they took their seats. The music started and Kim tried to keep herself together as the small casket was rolled in from the back of the church. As the sermon was delivered, Kim forced herself not to look at the casket and remember the child who lay inside. After the graveside service, Kim tried to get back to Abby but her friend was surrounded by mourners. Nick finally helped her to the car. As they drove away, she glanced out the window in the direction of the group swarming Abby. She prayed Abby would forgive her for leaving without saying good bye.
Nick took the rest do the day off from work to stay home with Kim and Matthew. When they arrived home, Nick paid Kelly, despite her insisting she was glad to do something to help and didnít want to charge them. Kim was exhausted and went to change her clothes then lie down. She tried to sleep but thoughts of Abby kept plaguing her. It hurt Kim to know there wasnít anything she could do to help her best friend. She thought of calling to see how Abby was doing but changed her mind when she remembered they had family visiting who would not be leaving until tomorrow. Kim also knew Abby would be upset and Gary would probably convince her to take something to help her relax and calm her nerves.
Kim finally resigned herself to not knowing about Abby for several days. It was probably better not to overwhelm her with calls anyway. She hoped Abby would get the rest she needed and Gary would make sure she didnít get too upset.
Nick came to pick Kim up the next afternoon. He had arranged to take her to therapy during his lunch hour and his boss told him to take all the time he needed in getting back. Kim was just finishing getting dressed when she heard Kelly let him in the front door. Kim knew she was in for a long afternoon, because she was already tired and her therapist had not even gotten a hold of her yet.
Before she could make her way to Nick, he came and found her.
"Ready to go?" He asked, flashing the smile which made her fall in love with him in the first place.
"Yeah, I am. I was about to come in there. I donít think I am in for a fun day. Iím already tired and I havenít even had my therapy session yet."
"Maybe you ought to cancel today, if you arenít up to it." Nick said as a look of concern replaced the smile.
"Iíll be okay." Kim assured him. "I have to start some time, it might as well be today. No use in putting it off. I need something to take my mind off Abby anyway. I want to call her but I donít want to swamp her and I know she has a lot going already."
"If you want to call her, call her. Iím sure Abby would be glad to hear from you and to know you were thinking about her." Nick said.
Kim hesitated as she put her things in her purse. "I might do it later, she still has a lot of family visiting from yesterday. I donít want to call when I know she is so busy."
Therapy turned out to be a grueling as Kim had expected. Her therapist, Tina, put her through her paces. By the time her session was over, every muscle in her body ached. Tina was a good therapist, one Kim had worked alongside often in her time as a physical therapist. When Kim found out who had been assigned her case, she cringed inwardly but knew Tina was best suited for the job. She needed someone who was willing to break a sweat and do what needed to be done. She also knew Tina would not accept less than her best on her part. The rate of her recovery ultimately rested on her. She had to do her exercises at home as well as at the hospital.
A long, hot shower helped to ease Kimís aching muscles. After her shower, Kim helped Nick make dinner and then they watched a movie after putting Matthew down for the night. For the first time in months, Kim lavished in being in her husbandís arms. In the time she was in the hospital, Kim had forgotten how good having Nickís arms wrapped around her felt but it didnít take long for it to come back to her.
"I guess thatís one good thing my mother instilled in me." Kim said with a sigh.
"Whatís that, baby?" Nick asked, puzzled.
"The ability to take responsibility for my own success or failure."
"What makes you say that?"
"I know all the help in the world wonít do as much good for me as my own motivation. I have to be self motivation for therapy to have the best results. I canít depend of you, or Tina or Abby or anyone else to "make" it work. I have to do most of the work. I can just sit around the house three days a week and go to therapy two days and expect my muscles to instantly get stronger. I know my recovery partly depends on me doing the exercises at home, as recommended to get the best results from my work in my therapy sessions."
"Iím glad this is something you recognize. Some people in your situation and some situations much worse arenít as aware of their own responsibility to the same degree. They think their success or failure rests on the shoulders of their therapist, but Iím sure I donít have to tell you. Youíve been on both sides of this story."
"I donít know if I will ever get use to talking about Grace in the past tense. It doesnít seem real, her being gone. It seems like just yesterday she was running through the house, screaming at the top of her lungs. Half the time, she wasnít wearing anything but her underwear. I tried to keep clothes on her, but after she was old enough to take them off, she did. On my days off, I was always struggling to make her keep them on. I told the nanny to not even bother. It was pointless. She just liked to be naked. I will never understand why. I use to think, I am going to have so much fun showing her husband pictures of her at three and four and five, smiling proudly at the camera, nothing but her Barbie underwear. Now, I wonít get that chance. I wonder sometimes if her dying was my fault. I am a doctor, it seems like I would have been able to catch an infection sooner. I think God was punishing me for working. I knew in my heart I should have been at home with my girls, not leaving them from eight in the morning to six oíclock in the evening with someone who wasnít their relative." Abby said, staring down at her hand.
It was a beautiful, Sunday afternoon, a week after Grace died. Abby and Gary were spending the day with Kim, Nick and Matthew. Kim had been watching her friendís defenses drop almost from the time they arrived. It was obvious Abby had been trying not to bring everyone down with her sadness. Kim wished Abby wouldnít feel like such a burden. She wanted to be there for her friend, listen when she needed an ear and be a shoulder for her to cry on. Abby always tried to keep her emotions in check when she was around those she cared about. She didnít want people to worry about her and never wanted to unload her problems on people.
"Time, will make the hurt better." Kim said, placing her hand over Abbyís. "You donít think so now, but it does get better. You just have to give it time. The hurt never goes completely away, but it gets to be less as the years go by."
Abby didnít respond, just looked up at Kim with her eyes brimming with tears and reached out to pull her best friend into a hug.
The tender moment was interrupted when the guy brought the food over and placed it on the table. Allie came running up with a worm she dug up in the yard and Abby took her to wash her hands. While they were gone, Gary fixed a plate for all three of them. The strain of the past few were showing on his face. He still wore the same empty _expression Kim noticed on the day of the funeral. She wanted so badly to do something to help them but she knew time was the best thing for their hurts. When her father had died. Kim remember how badly she had hurt and how thankful she was to have Nick to lean on. At the time of his death, they were newly weds, on their honeymoon. Nick had not been aware of her relationship with her parents and had surprised her by switching their travel plans to allow her to spend time with them. During their visit, her father had passed away suddenly. As hard as Kim tried, she couldnít get her motherís screaming, when she found her father dead, out of her head. She had often tried. Even weekly therapy sessions afterward had done little to dull the memories. A person should not have to see their parent lying dead, on the floor of his own bedroom.
Nickís gentle hand on her shoulder pulled Kim from her memories.
"Letís not go back to the past." He said, as if reading her mind.
Kim stood at her front door, Matthew cradled in the crook her right arm looking out, waving to Abby, Gary and Allie as they backed out on to the street and pulled away.
"It was a good day." Nick said from her recliner.
"Yeah, it was. I think Abby was able to put everything aside for a little while, that was good for her."
"It was good for you, too. You have some color in your cheeks again, I havenít seen you look so happy in more than six months, since before you found out you were pregnant, I guess. Itís been so long since any of us were able to relax."
"Yeah, it has. Abby has been running herself ragged since Grace got sick and I have been doing the same since I found out I was expecting Matthew." Kim observed. "Itís funny how things work out, isnít it?" Kim didnít wait for Nick to respond. "They told Abby Allie was going to not survive past birth but Grace is who they ended up losing and the doctors told me I wasnít able to conceive, but Matthew was born without any medical assistance, it doesnít make sense. The world is so mixed up Nick. How do you make sense of it all? How can you have the peace you do. It doesnít seem to be in me like it is in you." Kim asked.
Nick reached up to take Matthew from Kim and pulled her to sit on the arm of the chair.
"As long as I have my family, you and Matthew, I have peace. If I ever lost one of you, I canít say I would be able to keep it together as well as I usually do. You can ask Gary, when you were in the hospital, in ICU, in a coma, I didnít have the peace you see. I was a mess. I was so worried I would lose my world. We all were. Abby didnít take it all in stride either."