Title: Perfect Stranger
Alex is having a good day. I can tell when she has good days because she asks to get up and walk around, and she asks for visitors other than me, and makes me leave to have some time to myself. Usually when this happens I go down to the er and take some patients to get ready for my return which is scheduled for January third. Every night she makes me go home to spend time with the kids and Jill, who are living with us now. Her parents went back home, but are planning on coming back when I go back to work. They left me with strict instructions to call them if anything happened. On good days Alex is allowed to put her ring on, something she will not go very far without. Even on days she isn't allowed to have it on she has it close by sitting in its box next to her bed.
So today Abby has just come up and I am on my way downstairs to take a patient. January third is actually tomorrow so I also have to pick up Alex's parents later on tonight. I'm taking the kids with me to try and distract them. They are both pretty upset that Alex is sick again. The room is covered with pictures from Kris and my old stereo plays tapes that Susie made for her. I get myself down to the er just in time to jump in on a trauma. Little boy with a gsw to his stomach. These are the worst. I holler out orders and call Elizabeth who comes down promptly.
She assesses and decides he has to go up. As we're taking him she turns to me, "How's Alex doing Susan?"
"Well she's having a good day."
"Oh good. I'll go visit her later." Everyone knows by now Alex only likes to have visitors on her good days.
"Around three would be good. I have to pick up her parents then." Elizabeth nods and gives me a hug before getting off the elevator with the boy. I stay on and go back up to oncology. Abby is leaving as I walk in. She puts a hand on my arm and smiles. I walk in to see Alex sitting up in the chair. She has a scarf tied around her head, which is now completely bald. But she still looks good. "Hey there good looking. Nice to see you sitting up." Alex smiles and holds out her hands. I go over and give her a kiss before embracing her in a hug. I get her to stand up so I can sit down and then pull her onto my lap. She leans back and I hold her.
"I'm feeling good today. What time do you have to pick up my parents?"
"Three. I'll be leaving soon."
"That's good. Listen Susan, I want you to go home more and get some rest when they get here. There's no need of you slaving here when you're not at work."
"Don't be silly Alex. What would I do at home if you weren't there?"
"Well spend time with the kids for one."
"They know why I'm here. And I still get to see them. Susie and Kris both understand. They come in to visit and I see them most afternoons."
"Yeah but what about when you're working? You won't get to see them as much."
"I'll be working half shifts. It'll be fine."
"Alex…are you trying to tell me you don't want me here?"
"No…of course not. But you'll end up hating me. Resenting me. I don't want that to happen."
"Alex, turn around and look at me." She does this, turns around and gets on her knees to look me in the eyes. I take her hands for effect. "I am not going to hate you or resent you. I hate my parents. I resent my sister. But I love you more than anything or anyone I've ever met. And I'm going to be here for you as long as it takes for you to get better. Then, when you're in remission long enough we'll go on a trip and have a great time. Alex. I'm…not…going…to…leave…you."
She has tears in her eyes now, but she's looking at me still. I pull her up and kiss her again just to make a point. Then I get up and sit her down. I go into the hall for a wheelchair and bring it in and sit across from her so that we can stare at each other. I take her hands in my own. I can feel her ring on her finger. It makes me so happy knowing it's there. I am about to say so when my beeper goes off. "What's that?" Alex asks.
"My beeper. I set it to go off so I wouldn't be late for the airport. I have to go now."
Alex nods, then gets up to kiss me goodbye. "I'll be back really soon with your parents. It's going to be okay Honey."
I give her a hug and make my way out the door and to my car. Somehow I manage to drive to the airport, find a parking spot and find the gate. I watch the plane land. I remember the last time I was here. With Alex. I try not to think about that, but the minute Carol comes through the gate she hugs me and I'm crying again. "It's okay sweetie. It'll be okay."
"Oh Carol, she thinks she's getting on my nerves. What's with that?"
"She's scared Susan. You know that. When Alex gets scared she thinks everyone is gong to leave her. She just wants to know that you will be around."
"I just hope she gets over this. I'm wondering if I should get Kim to talk to her."
"It probably wouldn't hurt. If you can talk her into it."
"I'll just get her to visit as a friend. Everyone's visiting. Kim's good at listening. I've talked to her. It'll all work out."
We get into the car and drive home first. I still haven't gotten around to moving out of my apartment, but they guys and Bill are going to fix the offices so that they are one room. However, I call the house home now. The girls are there and will soon have their rooms decorated. Jill is in the guest room right now and Carol and Bill will sleep in our room while I sleep downstairs. When I go home that is. We drop everything off, pick up the kids and Jill, switch my car for Elizabeth's van and make our way back to the hospital. After scrubbing the kids in we enter the room to find Alex in the middle of what is known as a bad day. I can't believe that in the time it took me to pick up her parents she has gone downhill.
Abby is still there, sitting on the bed with her patting her back as she pukes her guts up. I go to the bathroom and get a cold cloth for her neck. I go around the other side of the bed and put it on her neck and give her a kiss on her head. I talk to Abby over her retches, "How long?"
"Uh since about four thirty. She tried to eat, and then she got sick."
"Did they give her anything?"
"Yup, Compazine. But I don't think it kicked in yet."
"Okay. Thanks for staying with her Abby. Would you be able to take the kids out and explain to them why you're taking them out?"
"No." That was Alex. I tilt her head up, "Sweetie they don't have to see this."
"They understand. I want to see them. I'm fine now."
"Okay. Susie, Kris. Come on over and say hi to your aunt."
The kids look scared under their clothes, but they come over and hop on the bed to give Alex a hug. I look at her parents and see they look shocked at what they just saw. I go over to them. Carol looks at me and says softly, "How often?"
"Whenever she eats. They think it's the chemo mixed with the antibiotics."
"Well are they doing anything about it?"
"Mostly they feed her through the iv, but every couple of days they try to give her real food to see if she can take it. Her fever is down now so once the antibiotics are out of her system she'll be fine. Then she can go home if her blood levels stay up."
"You might want to think about donating some blood."
Carol sighs and her and Bill go over to see their daughter. Abby is still there. She comes over to me. "Have you eaten?"
"Huh?" I'm still watching Alex. She looks better now but still pale. Her meds are kicking in. She'll be asleep soon. I want to see her before she falls asleep.
"I said have you eaten. Come on we can go to Doc's." I look at Abby and then back to Alex. She looks up at me. She mouths, "Go eat"
"I should stay here" I mouth back.
"I'm fine now. Come give me a kiss and go eat with Abby. You need your strength." She mouths to me. I walk over and give her a kiss and a hug. "You're going to be okay" I whisper into her ear. Susie looks at me and says, "Aunt Susan can I come with you?"
"Of course Pumpkin. Lets go down and see where I work okay?"
"I'll stay here with Aunt Alex."
I nod, then pick up Susie and follow Abby out the door. We get Susie changed out of her scrubs and make our way down to the er, no one saying much. I think of Alex laying there throwing up and feel a lurch in my stomach. We're not going to be able to take her home until she can hold in food. If her blood stays low she might need more blood. More blood means more antibiotics. More antibiotics means she can't eat. Will this ever end?