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New York - Later That Night 1 страница



"Will she ever be back to normal?" asked Claire. She had finally resurfaced hours later at the penthouse she shared with Briar.

"We need to concentrate on keeping her stable before we start talking about long term prognosis, ma'am." Dr. David Rider finished writing something in Briar's chart trying to keep his voice calm since this woman was doing everything to get a rise out of him.

"I need a better answer than that," said Claire from the chair furthest from the bed. "As prepared as Briar is for everything we haven't had the opportunity for her to make provisions for me, so you have to tell me when she'll be up and around. Shelia, you tell him. Who's going to take care of me?"

"What's the chances of finding a suitable donor?" asked Shelia, ignoring Claire's outburst. It had been a long day but she'd refused to leave Briar's side.

"Right now what Briar has going for her is that on the current list, she's the only one waiting for an organ with her particular blood type. Our problem is the fact she had this particular blood type."

"And with a new heart, she'll be back to normal?" asked Claire again.

"It's her only chance at a normal life, ma'am, but right now all we can do is make her as comfortable as possible."

Before he could go on, Briar opened her eyes and looked directly at Shelia. "What'd you put in that coffee this morning?" she joked weakly.

"Honey, thank God," said Claire. She jumped out of her chair and ran to Briar's side as soon as she heard the raspy voice.

She looked shocked when Shelia grabbed her by the collar and pulled her back. "Give her some room to breath."

"Listen, Shelia, I realize you're upset but don't touch me again," said Claire.

"Claire," Briar turned her head and tried to find the strength to finish. "I want you to wait outside."

"But I want to take care of you."

"I need to tell Shelia a few things about work then you can come back in." Her lips never moved as Claire bent and kissed her before stepping out of the room. "Shelia, you know what to do about that."

"I'll take care of it don't worry. I'm just sorry it had to turn out like this," she said meaning Claire and her self-interest. "Don't worry about anything when it comes to Claire and work, I'll take care of everything."

"Keep it up and I'll give you the company," said Briar as her eyes closed. She had fought her way out of the darkness but after only the short talk she had no choice but to give into it again.



The shrill beep of David's phone made Briar open her eyes again. Her slow pulse picked up some when she saw the excitement on his face. "What's your ETA?" he asked the person he was talking to. "We'll be ready so radio dispatch to the operating room so we can be ready for when you arrive."

"What's going on?" asked Shelia.

"Your boss must have a lot of friends in heaven, ma'am." He moved to the door and signaled the nurse to come in. "Get the paperwork ready and we'll prep when you're done."

"Please, doctor," said Briar wanting to know what was going on herself.

"There's an organ in route and it's the right blood type. We'll have to do some further tests but it's a start. I just need your consent to operate if this works out."

"Give me the papers, doc. Life's full of gambles and I love nothing but to continue to sit at the table," said Briar as her eyes closed again. Despite what was happening she felt deceptively calm.

Early the next morning Shelia gave Dr. Rider the biggest hug he'd ever received in the family waiting room when he gave her the good news. It would take months of recovery and a lifetime of medications but Briar was on the way to a second chance.

The heart had been a perfect match and was in perfect condition. For David it was always a thrill to take a heart from an ice chest rushed into the room and watch it come to life in his patient's chest like it just belonged there.

"Take care of this one, Briar," he'd said as he closed her chest after surgery. "Someone gave you the ultimate gift so honor that by taking good care of yourself and those you love."

************************************************************************

"Are you sure you aren't pushing it? It's only been two months."

Briar had a smart reply ready to fly then reminded herself Shelia was just worried about her. "It's been two months, sweetheart, and you've been to every doctor's appointment with me. Did he sneak off and tell you something he didn't tell me about my recovery?"

"It's just that I know you better than David Rider does. Given a chance you'll go back to smoking cigars, eating steaks, long days and aggravating women in no time." She pushed the container of applesauce closer since Briar had finished her low fat turkey sandwich.

"What if I promise to stick to a schedule you keep for me?" Briar put a pout on her face and tried to act pathetic. "I'll go mad if I have to spend another day holed up in here."

The apartment Briar had lived in for five years had a spectacular view of the park from the outside balcony where they were sitting. Inside the decorations were understated and comfortable, mostly reflecting her personality. Her study was lined with books that had actually been read and weren't for show. It was in that room that they spent a majority of their time when Shelia came over and gave her a run down of what was happening at the firm.

"Yes I can see where the average person would call the police the conditions are so deplorable."

The jibe made her laugh and she stood slowly to go inside to the study before Shelia had to return to work. Along with the rows of books the room had a large window under which sat a chess game. The pieces were still in play from the last match of wits she'd been locked in with her father. When he'd passed away, she'd just left the pieces where they sat.

Shelia looked at it as Briar took a seat behind her desk ready to study some papers she'd brought over. As well as she thought she knew Briar, coming up to the inner sanctum every day had brought her new insight. Briar's world in the office was filled with uncertainty and risks, but here there was order. From the closets to the kitchen that was used only by the staff because she didn't cook, it was all neat to the point of compulsion.

She turned back to the enigma that was her boss and noticed again the differences in her appearance. She' lost weight, and her skin had lost that tanned appearance, but she seemed more relaxed. "Are you sure you can't give it another month?"

"The doctor said it was fine and I believe him. Trust me on this one, Shelia. I need to get back and test this baby out," she said as she tapped her fingers over her chest.

"That's not funny."

"I'm sorry, but I promise to make the most of this second chance. I'm going to do that by going back to what I know best and enjoy it."

She walked Shelia to the door after calling for the driver. There was one more thing to do before she could put the trauma of what had happened on the shelf like one of the books in the office. The organ donation program had asked her to write a letter to the widow her donor had left behind. The fact they'd been married was the only personal information she had about the person who had lost their life to make hers possible.

She sat at the antique library desk, pulled out a few sheets of her best stationary and her favorite pen only to just stare at the blank sheet. An hour went by before she started and when she was done two pages were filled with her distinctive scrawl minus her signature. She sealed it then put that envelope in the one the organization had provided.

Not wanting to wait, she walked down the street until she found a mailbox to send it off. The letter was as poignant as she could ever remember being, but the magnitude of what had happened to her had a way of making her feel as if her life had become somewhat surreal.

When Briar returned home the place was quiet. The maid had gone home for the night and Shelia had kept her promise to not come back after work to check on her again. She locked the door and headed for the bathroom wanting a shower before having to face the bland small piece of chicken with a side of broccoli that was going to be dinner.

She stripped from the waist up and was about to take off her pants when something jumped out at her. The long wicked scar that now dominated the landscape of her chest had healed. With time the doctor had promised it wouldn't be so red and wide, but that hadn't happened yet and sometimes it caught her by surprise.

Her fingers were tentative as she followed her fingers in the mirror. Slowly Briar started at the top and worked her way down, the whole time awed by the truth that someone else's heart was beating in her chest.

"I didn't ask for this you know." She put her hand over her heart and felt silly for having spoken out loud but felt compelled to finish.

"My father had the same weak heart. He just wasn't as lucky. I'm not sure what you used to do, but tomorrow you're going to become a stockbroker." She laughed and flattened her hand more as if trying to feel the steady beat.

"They told me you were young, healthy and married. I'm sorry it took your passing to give my sorry ass a second chance. Please don't take it out on me by quitting anytime soon, and I promise to follow where you lead me."

New Orleans

"I promise I'm all right, Al." Megan was busy packing empty boxes into her car. School was fixing to end and she was staring to put away all the supplies they weren't using anymore.

"I don't understand why you don't move in with me and Bridget."

"Viv dying on me has made me sad, Mr. Worrywart, it didn't incapacitate me."

"You never leave the boathouse except to go to work for starters. How many times have we invited you over for dinner?" He took the boxes from her and carried them around to the trunk when the backseat was full. "Being holed up in there isn't healthy."

She moved closer and hugged him. "I know you worry because you love me, but I'm not ready. The way I'm going about it might not be your way, but it's the best I know how. I promise I just need time to come to terms with the fact that she's gone." She stopped there not ready to voice that she needed time to forgive herself for the feelings of wanting more than she'd had. Losing Vivian had been her punishment for those feelings and it was eating away at her.

"Sis, you can have all the time you need, but I don't want you to cut us out. We're your family and we love you. Mom keeps asking about you and I don't know what to tell her to keep putting her off."

She smiled and started for the driver's side having had enough of the emotional conversation. "When I'm ready, you'll be the first one I call. Until then you need to stop worrying so much. Tell mom the same thing." Before she opened the door she paused and turned to the grassy area at the beginning of the dock. "Because we both know how she felt about Vivian when she was alive. Having her worry about her now that she's gone seems tacky in a way."

"Just remember that I'm here for you." He moved closer and put his hands on her shoulders. "I miss her too you know."

"You spent more time with her than I did. I haven't forgotten that."

"Take care and I'll stop by in a couple of days."

The rumble of Alan's truck started and faded just as quickly as he made his way to work. She didn't turn around not being able to turn her eyes away from the grass lot that was just on the other side of the levee.

"We're going to be late," said Vivian as she looked at her watch. A college acquaintance of Megan's was getting married and she wasn't really looking forward to it. Why they had even gotten an invitation was still a mystery but not wanting to be rude Megan had accepted.

"Tell me again why I agreed to this."

"For the free liquor and fascinating conversation there's going to be at the reception," teased Vivian. She held out her hand to Megan to help her off the boat admiring how good she looked in the dress she'd picked out. "You look beautiful, baby."

"Thanks."

They didn't let go of each other's hand as they made their way to the car so Megan was surprised when Vivian pulled her in the opposite direction of where she'd parked the car. The sun was starting to set and the breeze from the lake was starting to pick up. They stopped just at the slope of the levee and Vivian kicked her shoes off and bent to take off her socks. She looked so content with the grass under her feet Megan ended up doing the same thing.

She laughed when Vivian took off her jacket and spread it on the grass so she wouldn't get her dress dirty when they laid down to watch the colors fade into the violet color the sky in New Orleans was known for.

"It's amazing to me that for all the things that have changed over the years, the stars stay constant," said Vivian pointing to the emerging night sky. "There might be more of them now, but sailors who sailed to distant lands to make all sorts of discoveries depended on them to show the way."

"You sound like such a romantic." She turned and looked at Vivian's profile. "Maybe you were born too late."

"I get to share my life with you so I think I was born just right."

They had gone on to talk about whatever popped into their heads as they used the levee as a backdrop to look at the sky and listen to the lazy waves lap against the rocks on shore. Megan had learned a lot about Vivian that night. She had been a sailor at heart but loved the feel of thick grass beneath her feet. The wedding had been forgotten but that night would stay with her forever.

"I hope you found some stars to show the way to the next life, Viv. If you did I hope you left me a trail to follow when it's my time. I miss you."

New York

"I want you to just sit and let everyone do their job today. The firm has done without you all this time and we didn't implode so just relax and ease back into the hustle." Shelia was sitting next to Briar on the way into work acting like she'd burst from the build up if someone pricked her with a pin.

"Speaking as someone who had a heart condition, I want you to calm down and take deep cleansing breaths." She put her hand over Shelia's knee and turned from looking out the window. "I promised you I'd be good if you didn't give me a hard time about coming back. Time to hold up your end of the bargain, sugar plum."

Next to them a truck pulled up and stopped waiting for the light to turn green. On the side panel was a sailboat cutting through rough waters if the full sails were any indication. A feeling of happiness came over Briar so strongly that she put her hand up to the window.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"I said to please not call me sugar plum where anyone would hear you," said Shelia. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine." The truck pulled away and just as quickly as it made its way down the street was as fast as the feeling left her. "Just saw something."

For the rest of the trip Shelia talked about certain deals they had going and who was accumulating commissions not noticing her boss sitting quietly rubbing the scar on her chest. The motion had become so second nature that Briar didn't realize she was doing it.

The trip into the office took some time as everyone came up to tell her how good she looked, and how glad they were to have her back. Her office looked as if no one had touched the papers she'd left for further review and the desk chair was facing the window. There was something new on the credenza on the side of her desk and along with the bow a card sat waiting for her return.

"I know you hate stuff like this but I saw it at Sharper Image and I thought it would come in handy on the tough days," said Shelia before Briar threw it in the trashcan.

"Then it should come in handy everyday," Briar answered with a teasing tone. "I guess I should ask what it is before I thank you."

"It's one of those sound machines that help you relax to the sounds of the forest or the ocean. I know it's silly but I really missed you and I want you around for years to come."

In an uncharacteristic moment, Briar pulled her close and hugged her. "If I haven't said it enough, thanks for everything, Shelia. I wouldn't have gotten better this fast without you taking care of me."

"Anytime, and before I give you this next message would you like to turn on my gift?"

"It can't be that bad." She took a seat and turned her new toy on to the sounds of the forest.

"Your mother called and wants to come and see you."

"I'll give you the company if you call her back and tell her I died in surgery."

Shelia came close to shooting coffee out of her nose from laughing so hard, which she tried to cover up by giving Briar a scolding glare. "She's your mother and you can't put her off forever."

"All right I'll call her. Maybe the planets are in their proper alignment and I'll get off with only a warning for not heeding her advice years ago."

"What was her advice?"

The pen on her desk was twirled without effort through her fingers and Shelia could see the small idiosyncrasies returning as Briar adjusted to being back. "To join a commune and learn to talk to nature."

"That doesn't sound horrible."

The pen came back the other way just as quickly. "Once I had that down pat, then I was supposed to make love under a full moon to learn the true meaning of life."

"Your mother sounds like an interesting person." The picture of Carlson Kilston hanging in the lobby didn't quiet fit with the person Briar was describing. "After working with your father for only a short time…"

"It's hard to believe he made love in the house much less outside. Uh huh, I always thought the same thing. My mother in my opinion is best described as a force of nature. She's sort of like a hurricane."

Shelia laughed in agreement of the description. She'd only met Henley Kilston a few times but she left a definite impression. "What does that make your father?"

Leaning back in her chair Briar took time to remember the man she tried so hard to please. Not that it had been hard, but she tried always to excel at everything she'd gotten involved with. Her life had centered around trying to build on what her father had started. She'd surpassed even his high expectations.

"It made him a thatch hut on the beach of life when it came to her," she finally said.

"That doesn't paint your mother in the best of light."

Briar shook her head. "I didn't mean it that way. Thatch huts just don't hold up well against forces of nature, and when they met it was the way he described it. She was a force of nature that turned him inside out and gave him a sense of being blown over. My mother, as different as she is from him, made him extremely happy."

The sound moved from the forest to a gentle rain as Briar fooled around with her new toy. "Maybe that's what you should hold out for then, your own force of nature."

"And I should get back to work."

For the next few hours she methodically went through the reports on her desk, returned some calls and had a brief meeting with her managers. She was enjoying the glass of orange juice Shelia had insisted she drink now that coffee was off her list of choices, when she flipped her gift to the sound of the ocean.

It was strange to feel her heart race for no other reason than the sound of waves, and then an overwhelming urge to be outside took over. Without Shelia or anyone else noticing Briar left the office and got into the first cab she found.

"Central Park."

The driver looked at her though the rear view mirror with a bored expression. "It's a big place, so pick on entrance."

"First one you find that has sun and grass."

He pulled close to the entrance near the Plaza Hotel and accepted his fare not interested enough to ask if this was a good place. Briar got out and walked the path a bit till she came to an open area ringed by trees. She felt like aliens had taken over when she found herself taking her shoes and socks off so she could feel the grass under her feet.

It was cool and comforting making her heart beat slow to a steadier rate. The biggest surprise was that she felt and overwhelming sense of happiness come over her that far eclipsed the foolishness of standing there in a business suit in bare feet.

"When you were a kid you would've demanded I bathe you if your feet touched the ground." Her mother's voice startled her but Briar didn't move from her spot. Henley kicked her sandals off and joined her, and with her jeans and Indian style top appeared like she did this often.

"Hello, mom." Briar put her arm around her shoulder and gave Henley a hug. "How'd you know where to find me?"

"I was on my way up to see you when you shot passed me like your feet were on fire." She glanced down at the mentioned body part. "And it seems like I was right. Do you come here often?"

"Actually except for the occasional dinner down the way," she said pointing the direction of Tavern on the Green, "it's the first time I've been in the park."

"Why today?" Henley pulled back a lock of brown hair infused with a little gray wanting to see her daughter's face. A little of the normal healthy glow was coming back but Briar still looked a bit haggard.

Had anyone else asked Briar most probably would've made some thing up, but with her mother she knew better. "I was sitting at my desk listening to some sound machine Shelia gave me when the sound of waves made me want to take my shoes off."

"That's interesting don't you think?" Henley tried to sound neutral now trying to lead Briar to feeling one way or the other.

"Considering this was the first time I've ever had to rush out of the office to do something like this I'd have to say it's very interesting." With her hands in her pockets Briar rocked back and forth enjoying the sun on her face.

"Are you finding anything else interesting these days, sweetheart?"

"There are only so many admissions I'm willing to make in a day, mom."

Henley had to laugh at the answer it reminded her so much of her late husband. Carlson could be bent out of his normal routine to a point but he'd never fully snap. When she'd had Briar it was like the kid had completely skipped over the buffet of her gene pool in favor of Carlson's. If it couldn't be proven to them with charts, graphs and tons of sound research they took nothing on faith.

"That's true, so I'll let you off the hook for now." She bent to put Briar's socks in her shoes feeling the need to do something for her even if it was small. "Feel like taking your mother to tea?"

After putting their shoes back on the two walked across to the Plaza holding hands. For Henley the contact was special since Briar usually wasn't much into things like that either.

The jeans and sandals were forgiven with the size of Briar's tip and they were escorted to a table. Once they'd ordered Henley turned to her and reached for her hand again.

"I know you'll probably get mad, but why didn't you have Shelia call me when all this happened?" She'd been at the apartment plenty after the surgery, but had missed all of Briar's hospital stay.

"She tried, regardless of whether it was what I would've wanted or not, and I asked her not to since I didn't want to worry you. You were in New Mexico doing some volunteer work I think is what she told me. I was all right by then so I told her to let you finish. Your work's important to you and I understand that."

"Nothing in this world has ever been more important to me than you and your father. The thought of something happening to you too just about drove me mad when I talked to her."

She put her hand over her mother's and smiled. "You don't have to tell me that, mom. This, just like what happened to dad, was just something beyond everyone's control, especially mine, but it turned out for the best."

Henley sat back when the waiter put down a tiered tray of finger foods along with their tea. "Did I ever tell you your father and I had our first date here?"

Selfishly Briar shook her head wanting to hear the story again. She never foresaw a day when she'd answer yes to that question not wanting to hear her mother tell it. The telling had always given her hope that the story would be one more thing she could emulate her father in. His biggest success to her was the love he'd found with her mother. They had been so different, but Henley had give Carlson's life meaning.

"Thank you for sharing that with me," said Briar when her mother finished. "I'll have to play hooky from the office more often I had such a great day."

"Careful, honey, you might trigger a run on the market with talk like that." They walked down Fifth Avenue admiring the window displays. "You think you can handle one more bit of advice?"

"Does it have to do with dancing naked under the full moon or something?" The question got her a swat on the arm.

"After what you've been through, I did a lot of reading," started Henley. She was enjoying the feel of Briar's hand in hers and the calm look on the handsome face. Usually by her third word Briar was usually rolling her eyes.

"What about?"

"Patients of transplants are finding that at times their new parts come with an added bonus."

"A 90,000 mile warranty?"

Henley slapped her arm again. "I'm being serious."

"Sorry, I couldn't help myself," said Briar. "What did you find?"

"The research in some people found that the organ had somehow retained memories from their original owner."

Briar stopped walking at the answer. "How's that possible?"

"The doctor's can't answer that question, and I'm fairly sure you know my answer on the subject." She smiled at the way Briar nodded indulgently at her. Most of her late husband's friends had thought her zany at best, but Henley's more whimsical side had always been charming to him. "There are things in life you're just going to have to take on faith, my darling. Could you do me one tiny favor though?"

"Sure, I've made a few promises over the last few months, what's one more." Briar answered.

"There has never been a more important time in your life than now to start listening to your heart."

"I promise I'll try, unless it starts telling me that capitalism is bad and I should live in a box in the woods. Then it's on its own."

************************************************************************

"We're going to Disney World this summer, Miss Megan." The little boy next to her desk was holding a book with a picture of Mickey Mouse on its cover.

"That's wonderful, Jamarcus. After your great year in school I hope you have a wonderful time." The bell hadn't rung yet so she was trying to finish her lesson plan for the week while her teaching assistant stood outside waiting for everyone to arrive. "Are you excited about it?"

"I can't wait to meet Mickey and Donald Duck. They're my favorites." He held his book higher hoping to take her attention from the papers on her desk. "They make me happy and they're both in here."

Putting her pen down she turned and bent down so they were at face level. Her hair was pulled in a ponytail and she was casually dressed in a pair of khaki pants, a look that helped put the kids at ease with her. "Would you like me to read this to you before everyone gets in here?"

Jamarcus shook his head and pressed the book into her hands. "I brought it from home 'cause I wanted to give it to you." He watched her face as she took it again hoping his plan would work.

"If it's got your favorite characters in it, then why would you want to give it away?"

"I wanted you to be happy too, Miss Megan. You don't smile as much as you used to and I thought my book would help."





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