His arms ached to hold her the moment she was lifted from them and placed back in her incubator. He kissed her good night, leaning over to touch his fingertips against her cheek then moved from the room to go home. He thanked the nurses at the nurses station and talked for a short bit with the nurse who would be on duty the next day before he looked for the elevator.
He would have made it down to the car again, but Melinda came out of nowhere and cornered him. She must have been there for a while from the scowl on her face. He imagined that she'd gone in the front door and had been bombarded by the press. "We need to make a statement."
He stopped in his tracks and stared at her for a moment, not really believing that she was being so bossy at a moment like this. He wanted to tell her about holding Roselyn and actually have some good news come out of his mouth for once, but it seemed that Melinda's plans and his plans were totally out of sync. "Hello Melinda. I'm fine," he said with an annoyed tone, "I'm just fine. Roselyn is doing better--Thanks for asking."
Melinda's eyes went wide for a moment and she started to say something back, but instead took a deep breath. "Hello Lance." She took another breath and squared her shoulders. "I'm glad that Roselyn is doing better. How is Serena?"
"Serena's at home. I don't know what she's up to these days. She's an emotional basket case, but who in their right mind wouldn't be in a situation like this. Now--" He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders as she had done. "What statement do you need?"
Her mind clicked back over to business and her whole body tensed as her mind went over her notes for the day. "I want to put something together about Roselyn's status and about Serena. We've had a lot of fans sending baby things too. I was wondering if you wanted to look them over or if you wanted to just send them to the Ronald McDonald house?"
"Roselyn is doing better and should be coming home soon." He started to think about telling her about how he'd held her the first time, but he wasn't sure that she was in the right state of mind to be happy for his little victory. "Serena is resting at home and trying to keep a low profile." He could have said more about that too, but he knew that telling the public that they were fighting and couldn't be in the same room for more than five minutes wasn't the right way to approach the whole subject. "We're both greatful for all the support-yada-yada-yada." He rolled his eyes. "You know how it goes. Just don't put out too much information and we're all good. Ok?"
"Ok," she said pulling out her palm pilot she quickly put in a note then looked at him. "Now about the presents--"
This was something he would never get used to. He hated that people were spending their money on his child. He and Serena had talked a little bit about what they would do if this were to come up and donating them to the Ronald McDonald House attached to the Orlando Children's Hospital seemed to be the best idea. "Write down all the information about who sent them and what they sent. Donate it all to the house and get me the list and I'll write a letter and send something to them. Ok?"
"That's all I needed," she said with a smile then leaned against the wall in the hallway. "How are you doing?"
"Well," he said, "I mean as well as a person can be who is going through all this."
"Has your mother gotten in touch with you?" she asked. He wondered if she'd heard about his fight with his mother. He wondered if she'd even been there. He couldn't remember.
"No," he said, "I thought Justin said that she went home."
"She's been over at WEG the last few days. I've seen her here. She stopped by anyway. I'm not sure if she stayed for long, but she's been here."
"She has?" He scratched his head. He was so out of it these days he probably had walked right by her.
"Yeah," Melinda smiled, "Maybe you should head over that way and talk to her. She's worried about you."
"She's worried that Serena is totally taking over my life."
"No," she said, "She's worried that you've lost your mind. You man-handled her and made a fool of yourself!"
"I didn't make a fool of myself. I was trying to protect Serena from dealing with people that she clearly can't deal with right now."
"She can deal with people fine. It's you that she doesn't know how to deal with."
"Me?" he said angrily, "You aren't going to blame this on me."
"I'm not blaming anyone," she said, "It just seems that the both of you are waiting to see who is winning this game and neither of you seem to really know how to play the game."
"The game?" he asked.
"You're both in the same place right now, but neither of you are talking about what's going on. You need to go to her and tell her that you're there with her and that you're there FOR her."
"It's kind of hard to do when--" He looked around for a moment. "--It's hard to do that when she's locking herself away or sleeping the whole day away."
"Just keep telling her Lance," Melinda said, "She'll get out of this funk soon and will be needing you to be there for her."
"I'm here for her," he said.
Melinda sighed and nodded seeing that he was ready to be done with the whole subject.
Lance's car was in the driveway when they returned from their walk. Serena was feeling a little bit better about things. She was asking Kelly about post parom depression and Kelly was completely sympathetic telling her that it would get better and that Lance probably was just as mixed up about things as she was. She'd told her to call any time she needed anything and mentioned that she'd try to talk to Lance a little about things too.
"I better go in," she said.
"Smile girl," Kelly said, "You've got a man who loves you, a daughter who needs you and a roof over your head. You just need to be patient with it all and let the pieces all fall into the right place."
Serena smiled and hugged her then pulled Brianna out of her seat and held her while Kelly put the stroller back into the Escalade. She hugged the little girl tight and kissed her cheek and thanked her for going on a walk with them before she helped Brianna into her car seat, got one last hug from Kelly and moved towards the door.
"Lance?" she called out as she went into the house.
She looked around and took a deep breath. She wasn't sure if she was going to be able to talk to him for long that day, but she knew that she should at least say something to him. "Where are you?"
"In the living room!" He called back. "Where were you?"
"Kelly came over and we took Brianna on a walk." She came around the corner and found him lying on the couch with a pillow under his head and the television on low. If things had been normal between them she would have curled up with him on the couch, but they weren't, so she didn't.
"I saw the car, how's Brianna doing?"
"You aren't going to get mad?" she asked, "I mean I disappeared--"
"I figured you were with Kelly and that you were ok. If something had been wrong Kelly would have called me and she didn't--" He sat up, "What's wrong with your face?"
She moved her hands across her face and felt the sting of a sunburn. "I was out in the sun a while. I haven't been out in a while so I think that's what's making--"
"No," he said and got up and moved towards her. "Your face is all--" His hands came to frame her face and he leaned and placed a kiss on each cheek. "You're all puffy."
"I was crying this afternoon," she said.
She let him kiss her cheeks and look into her eyes for only a few moments. When he started to pull her into a hug she had a strange feeling wash over her. It was like pin pricks all over her body, as if every nerve ending was telling her that she needed to move away from him before she got too comfortable with the idea that they might actually have a moment's peace around the house.
"What's wrong?" A frown formed on his lips and his eyebrows pulled together in confusion as she backed away from him.
"I'm really tired." She yawned for effect and tried to move around him into the kitchen to get a drink.
His shoulders slumped as he moved back to his seat and she heard the thud of his body hitting into the cushions. His sigh echoed off the walls. "How was your walk?"
"Good," she said, "I'm really out of shape though and this heat was killing me. Kelly is used to walking around their neighborhood, but ours has a few hills she's not used to. I should have warned her before she decided that we needed to be gone for a few hours instead of a few minutes."
"Be careful." His tone was flat when he said it and it brought tears to her eyes thinking that he really didn't care anymore about her. A sigh escaped his mouth. "I held Roselyn for the first time today."
Her voice caught in her throat and she had to take another drink of water. "Really?"
"Yeah," he said, "She's really tiny and slept most of the time that I held her, but it was just nice to have her there with me, ya know?"
Serena's tears were threatening to fall. She bit down on her lip.
The silence lasted through the two days that they were at home before James's funeral. Melinda had filled them in on all the plans, had told them when the limo would be picking them up and that they wouldn't have to think about anything during the ceremony. She told them that she had all the bases covered so that they could concentrate on the more important things of the day.
As they sat, surrounded by security, at the small gravesite two days later Lance's stomach rocked and rolled with the emotions he was having a hard time keeping in check. He'd cried that morning in the shower getting ready, had burst into tears when Serena had been difficult with him about attending the ceremony and then had bit back the tears he should have been sheding at the grave due to the fact that his mother and father and sister weren't on speaking terms with him. The scars of the morning were hiding under his dark sunglasses, much like everyone else's scars. He hated to be so cliche like that, but he couldn't imagine having to make eye contact with anyone that day and they didn't seem to be wanting to make eye contact either.
A deep voice rose over the wind that had started to blow across the gravesite, "A reading from Psalms twenty three."
Lance coughed back a sob as his eyes moved from Pastor Victor's spot at the head of the grave to find his mother across the grave from his seat. She was sandwiched between his father and his sister and all three of them were avoiding his gaze. He didn't blame them. They should have been avoiding him. His plan to reconcile with them hadn't been played out just yet. Everything was still to raw for him to be slinking over to enemy lines to make peace.
He hated that his mother was there for the simple reason that he didn't want to deal with her, but it made his stomach crawl seeing her act as if she was so upset about things. She'd dabbed her eyes and sniffed so many times someone would have thought that she was losing a son not a grandson. It was just an act. He knew that deep down, even without speaking to her, and he wasn't about to go and console her. He couldn't even console his own fiance or girlfriend or whatever Serena had now become.
The sniffing noise from next to him caught his attention and his hand went out to find Serena's empty one. Her fingers looked pale and frail next to the black material of her dress and the way that they wrapped around his, but put no pressure on his hand just reinforced the ghostly behavior she'd been exibiting over the last few days. She was there, but wasn't.
As he moved closer to her in his seat, her other hand wiped a tissue against her nose. She tried to look as normal as possible, but there was no hiding the way that all of this had taken a toll on her. Her breathing was hallow and he would bet that her eyes were closed underneath her sunglasses.
"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want." The Pastor continued the reading he was doing. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
Lance's free hand slipped inside his jacket and patted the two pictures that he'd put there that morning. He carried Roselyn's sweet face, and James's crying one with him whereever he went these days. He'd spent more than a few hours of each night staring at them and talking to them and was begining to feel that he was completely insane until that morning when his fingertips brushed against his pocket.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
Serena's shoulder began to lean against him and she sniffed again. Lance removed his hand from his pocket and let go of her hand to put his arm around her as the rest of the psalm was being read. She began to shiver even in the heat so he pulled her closer and kissed her temple.
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."
Lance's mind was on how he was going to get away and see Roselyn that day when he noticed that everyone was getting up from their seats and coming to speak with him. He pulled Serena from her seat and looked over at Eric who came over and protectivly moved her away from the crowd, heading towards the limo that was waiting for them.
"Thank you Pastor Victors," Lance said shaking the man's hand as he moved through the crowd trying to thank everyone for coming. He avoided his mother and father, but spoke to everyone else.
"You're going to have to speak to her sometime."
Lance turned to find Justin standing there with a frown on his face.
"I will eventually, but I'm not starting a discussion over the grave of my son," Lance said through gritted teeth.
Justin shrugged and hugged Lance. "I'm gonna head over and drop by and see Roselyn later on this afternoon. I know they won't let me stay long, but I wanted to check on her."
"Thanks." Lance said and found his eyes moving towards his mother in the crowd.
Justin coughed. "You need to talk to her."
"I will," he said, "Thanks for going to visit Roselyn."
"When is she coming home?"
Lance smiled at the change of subject. "Later on this week. I hope sooner than later, but hopefully by Monday."
The limo door was pulled open and she watched from under heavy eyelids as Lance slid into the seat opposite her. She took deep breaths as his body settled next to hers in the seat and prayed that he might think that she was sleeping so that she wouldn't have to speak to him. She'd already leaned on him too much earlier and didn't want to start a pattern with him.
She watched him remove his jacket, leaving him in
the white shirt and dark tie that had been hiding under his jacket. His
hand went and removed the knot at his throat before he folded the tie and
stuck it into the pocket of the jacket that was then thrown towards the
huge empty U-shaped seat in front of them.
"Serena?" His hand slid across the space between
them and he put his hand over hers as his legs slid out to full length.
With his other hand he slid his glasses off his face and slid them
into the outerpocket of his suit.
"What?" she asked trying to keep her tone even. Her sunglasses hid the tears that were threatening to fall, but she turned her head towards him to see what he was going to say to her.
She couldn't mistake the look of disappointment in his eyes as his hand slid away from her and moved to sit on his own thigh. He turned away from her. "Nothing."
Her eyes moved back to the outside world as the car moved from it's parking spot and wove through the cemetary and out to the street. Her mind tried to stay away from topics that would make her cry harder, but as flashbulbs and reporters bombarded the car she couldn't help but to shy away from it, moving towards the middle of the car.
"I hate this. I fucking hate this."
Lance's arm found its way around her and he hugged her to him, lips kissed her temple. "It's not supposed to be something that people look forward to."
Her mind worked for something to say to him to make him move. She would have loved to have sat there in his arms and enjoy the comfort he was giving her, but she was afraid she'd get to used to the idea of him beting there for her and she didn't want to do that. "Did you talk to your mother?"
He sighed and put both hands on the seat to push himself back to his side of the car. His elbow rested against the window and his knuckles tapped on the glass twice.
She silently rejoiced his retreat from her side. She hated to be cold like that, forcing him away on purpose, but she needed to think about things a little more before she made a finaly decision on how to deal with Lance. She wanted to believe that things would get better, but after her spontaneous crying spell the other day she wasn't sure that it was going to be that easy. Everything seemed to be mixed up and confusing and there didn't seem to be an answer that would settle any of it just yet.
"I'll do it later." His hand rubbed at his forehead then scratched at his scalp. "I would have done it today, but I'm not sure that it was the right time. There was too much on everyone's minds to make a conversation like that worthwhile."
"What are you going to say when you do talk to her?"
"I DON'T KNOW!" He snapped at her and then pounded his fist against the door handle.
"You guys ok back there?" Eric asked from his seat next to the driver. The window had been down and they'd been talking softly, but the outburst had sent the security guard into action.
"Who fucking asked you?" Lance snapped.
"Lance don't yell at him!" Serena said, "He's only worried about what's going on back here because you pay him to do that. He doesn't want us killing each other in the car...we can do that at home!"
"Killing each other?" he asked turning towards her. His nostrils flared out and she could almost see steam coming out of his ears with his anger. "I think you're the one that is killing me and killing our daughter by hiding from what is really going on around you!"
"Don't you dare say that to me." Her voice shook, but she finally got the words out that she'd needed to say a few days before. "I know you blame me for his death so don't try to blame more for the other things that are going on with Roselyn. I'm trying my GOD DAMN HARDEST to keep my head above water and you're FUCKING NOT HELPING."
He started to say something then closed his mouth, then tried again to form a sentence and failed a second time. "AND LIKE I'M HAVING A PICNIC OVER HERE?" He took a breath. "You don't know what it's like to go there and see her every day. She looks like a rag doll Serena. She's like the size of--" He took another deep breath, this time he put his hand to his chest and gulped back a sob. "She needs someone there and since you can't be there I'm going to be the one who is. It kills me that you won't go see her. She needs you. She'll do fine with me, but she needs you. She needs--"
"Stop it," she said, "Stop it. Stop it. STOP IT!"
"NO!" he said, "I should have said this to you days ago...you were the one who wanted this baby and now you're abandoning her because life isn't going your way. Serena you can't reshuffle the deck of cards or start over. She's here and she's real and she needs you. I ne--"
The car pulled into the driveway and Serena slipped from the car before it had stopped.
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Last updated: 07/09/04.