The cloudy Seattle day brought a sense of comfort; a sense of normalcy; a sense of serenity. The city bustled as people got ready for the work day; everyday citizens just minding their own business walking around my slow gait. Some had headphones in, some were obviously in a rush to get somewhere, and then there was me: coffee in one hand, sweet baby Ellis on my hip. She clung to my jacket collar so tightly as she observed the day that played about in front of her big blue eyes. He would have loved her. She was so cuddly. She loved to be held and tickled and loved on. I was never good with that kind of stuff. He was always the one who would rock the kids to sleep and cuddle with them on the couch late at night before bedtime. The other two were never as snuggly as she was, and it definitely took some getting used to. Amelia had a special bond with her. I don't know if it was the Shepherd gene that made the almost 1-year-old little girl feel more comfortable or maybe it was simply the fact that Amelia would cuddle with her to no end.
"Zola, make sure you don't let go of his hand!"
The little girl looked back at me to acknowledge my command and turned back around, making sure that her little brother was a safe distance away from the curb. The two older Shepherd children walked a couple feet in front of me, far enough away to feel independent but close enough that I wasn't worried.
This was my life now. I remember coming home the night that it happened and looking into my little girl's eyes, terrified. How am I supposed to do this alone? I want to give her the life she deserves, but I don't know if I can? Those were just a couple of the thoughts that ran through my head that dreadful April night; the night my life changed forever. Bailey was about a year and a half when it happened. Old enough to miss the presence of his father's arms every night before bedtime but young enough that overtime, the memory of the man he was named after slipped farther and farther away. Zola still asks about him. I think she understands, but she never fails to break my heart when she's laying in bed and she mutters the words "I miss daddy…"
I had a breakdown a couple of months ago.
It had been a long day at work, I came home and Bailey had come down with the stomach bug while Zola decided that she was gonna be in a bad mood for no reason whatsoever. Amelia and Maggie were both still at the hospital which meant the I got to be a 100% single mother for a couple hours, and I had finally gotten both of my kids down for bed when my littlest decided otherwise. The crying started out soft and I thought that it was just her attention cry, but that soon turned into back chilling screaming that I was sure would wake the neighbors. The little girl looked up at me from her crib with those eyes that resembled her father's all too eerily and that's when it started. I hoisted her out of her crib, onto my chest, and the next thing I knew I was on my knees, crying while patting the little girl's back simultaneously. I vaguely remember the baby girl's cry's seeming to quiet down, but then again I could have just drowned out her cry's with my own. I remember looking up to sky, the ceiling barely visible due to the tears that were overtaking my line of vision.
"I can't do this anymore! Derek, I can't do this anymore! I can't do this alone!"
I don't know how long I was in that state. I just remember repeating those words. I can't do this alone. The next thing I remember was the sound of the front door opening, a bag being thrown on the floor, and keys being dropped onto the counter. I ran down the stairs of my home and came face to face with a concerned Maggie who already had her arms outstretched to retrieve the crying baby from my arms.
"Mer, what the hell is going on?! I could hear Ellie crying from the driveway! Mer? Meredith, look at me! What's wrong?" She began bouncing the young child on her hip and patting her back.
The words that came out of my mouth sounded like a whisper to me. "Sh-She wouldn't stop and I didn't know what was wrong…" my breath began to catch in my throat, "…I-I can't do this…'
Maggie's concerned expression turned into a look of worry but calmness as well. She laid a gentle hand on the side of my cheek and spoke to me in a calm and soothing voice.
"Meredith, I've got it from here. Amelia was finishing up post-op when I left, so she'll be home in about 45 minutes. You go upstairs, take a shower, and relax." I could barely see her face through my blurred vision, but I could see that gentle smile that she had that seemed to calm me.
"Meredith Grey, I need you to look at me." Her hand guided my chin up so I was staring at her face again.
A couple hours had passed and I had been able to compose myself a little bit. Amelia came home sometime later and I could hear her and Maggie whispering outside my door. Their whispers were interrupted when Zola's small voice became audible.
"Is mommy okay?"
I'm assuming that it was Amelia who led her back to her room, as I heard Maggie's footsteps walking the other direction down the hall.
"Did I make mommy mad?"
Amelia's voice was just above a whisper, sounding all too much like the voice of her brother. "No, Zo, you didn't do anything. Mommy was just tired, she's okay..." Their footsteps disappeared and I was left alone to my thoughts again. I think I eventually drifted off to sleep, but I was awoken by a knock at the door.
"Go away. Leave me alone."
There was no response, but the door opened shortly after. I shot up from my bed ready to throw my pillow against whoever went against my wishes of not coming into my room.
"It's been almost 12 years, you think I'm really gonna listen to you?" Alex's sturdy figure appeared as he turned on the light that was sitting on the table underneath my TV and shut the door behind him.
Margaret Pierce, I am a grown woman. I don't need to be constantly checked on!The speech I was going to give to Maggie sometime the next day already began to register in my mind.
"Did Maggie call you?" I looked down at the covers, somewhat ashamed at my behavior towards Alex.
"Who cares how I got here?" Alex had grown tremendously in the past 12 years, but when he wanted to, he could turn on his 'evil spawn' attitude. I could hear a slight smile in his voice and I knew he was just messing with me. He kicked off his shoes and hopped on the bed next to me. He was wearing jeans, but he was still in his scrub top. He put his hand behind his head and took a deep breath.
You know the feeling you get after you have a breakdown? Like you've been holding in your emotions for so long and then you finally release them? That feeling began to creep under my skin and I took a deep breath before speaking.
"You didn't have to come home from work to check on me."
He let out a chuckle while turning his gaze towards me. "You think I would stop everything I was doing just to come make sure you were okay? Nonsense."
He flinched away from me while chuckling when I brought my hand up to playfully slap him. I took a deep breath and pushed my hair from out of my face. I felt my eyes swell with tears again, but this time it was more out of relief than sadness.
"I just lost it. I didn't want to, but I couldn't make it stop. Zola was being a diva, Bailey was sick, and then Ellis began crying and I looked down at her helpless little face and I just couldn't hold it in. I lost it…" A stray tear fell down my cheek, and I felt Alex's hand rub my back.
"I don't want to hear that…" Alex's voice interrupted me, "…you're not awful. You had a bad night. You were already stressed, Zola and Bailey could sense that, and as a result, so could Ellie. This is a bad night, not a bad life…"
I'm thankful every day for Alex. He has been my rock through this all. He dressed up and participated in the Breakfast with Dad event at Zola's school. Every time he comes over to the house, Bailey's face lights up and he doesn't let go until he is pried off Alex by the end of the night. I heard a rumor milling around the hospital a couple months ago about me and Alex being romantically involved, but I shot it down so fast. Alex is my brother, not my lover. He loves me and he loves my kids and that's enough for me. Besides, as much as I hate to admit it sometimes, wedding bells will be ringing in the near future for Alex and Jo. I would never admit it, but I do feel guilty for taking so much of Alex's time away from Jo. I just can't help it though; Alex knows me better than anyone. If he's willing to provide my son with a father figure and my daughters with an example of who a man should be, I can't help but be thankful.
My thoughts were interrupted when Ellis began whining and squirming on my hip, signaling that she was getting bored and I'd be silly to ignore her because I know that if I don't pre-occupy her, the tantrum is inevitable. I tossed the coffee into a trashcan as I passed by and grabbed the tiny girl from under her arms so I could adjust her weight.
"No ma'am, we're not allowed to throw a tantrum right now. We're almost to the car." One quick kiss on the little girl's cheek and I reminded Zola to turn left at the corner so that we would end up back where the car was parked. I grabbed ahold of Bailey's hand so we were all connected and we wouldn't lose each other. It was about 10:00am on Friday and I decided to take the kids on a walk at the park to get some fresh air. Normally I would have decided to spend my day off at home alone, but these past couple weeks have left me feeling uneasy and the only way for me to clear my mind has been spending more time with my kids. I feel bad that they are stuck in the hospital's daycare all the time, so I have been making an effort to get outside with them more also.
I clicked the unlock button on my car keys as the Lexus came into sight. I opened the door so Zola and Bailey could climb in the back seat, and I smiled as I noticed Zola making sure that Bailey had properly buckled himself in. As I finished buckling Ellis into her rear-facing car seat, the memory hit me. The memory of what had happened in the back seat of this car just a couple weeks ago. I tried my best to ignore them when they came, but the flashbacks would hit at the most random times. I shook my head clear of the images, double-checked that all my kids were safely strapped into their seats, and finally climbed in my self.
"Go inside and wash your hands while I make lunch, okay?" With one jump out of the car, Bailey let go of my hand and ran inside. Amelia's car entered the driveway just as I pulled a sleeping Ellis out of her car seat and I let out a sigh of relief. Even though Amelia had worked the night shift, she was always great with keeping the kids occupied when she came home, no matter how tired she was.
"I wish I was doing that right about now…" Amelia announced as she stepped out of her car, acknowledging the baby's sleeping figure. I let out a chuckle as I waited by the door for her to enter the house, "Long night?"
The brunette let out a groan, providing me with a non verbal answer. The inside of the home provided a comforting atmosphere. Zola had found a safe spot on the couch next to Maggie, who was sipping on her morning coffee preparing for her shift later in the day. Bailey had found his monster trucks scattered out on the floor in front of the TV while Maggie complained about him blocking the television screen. The home was welcoming. Amelia trudged up the stairs while I followed closely behind, turning when I reached Ellis' room. I turned on the music that helped soothe her to sleep and placed her gently in her crib. She looked so peaceful; so innocent. Her little eyelids fluttered but the little girl stayed peacefully asleep. She smiled in her sleep as I stroked her cheek with my thumb.
"You are so loved…"
The late afternoon sun shone through the large windows that overtook the lobby of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. The hospital was bustling, but nothing out of the ordinary. The nurses acknowledged my presence as I passed, seeming somewhat intimidated. That's how Maggie described it once. One day, the two of us were walking through the halls of the hospital and she commented on how every nurse we passed by acknowledged my presence and made an effort to say hello. I brushed it off my shoulder, hoping not to sound too cocky, but there's no doubt that she's right. When your name is on all the hospital stationary, you get a reputation.
"Dr. Grey, I love seeing your face but only when you're on call!" Dr. Bailey's voice echoed from behind me as I made my way towards the attendings lounge.
"Don't worry, Bailey, I just forgot my cell phone charger. I'll be gone soon." I called over my shoulder with a hint of sass in my voice. The door to the attendings lounge came into my vision.
"Afternoon, Dr. Grey…" Jo Wilson's voice caught my attention, and I looked up to see the pained expression on her face. I chuckled internally at her attempt to be nice to me. After her speech to me a couple months ago, I thought that she had finally found her voice, but she still seemed nervous to talk to me sometimes.
"Afternoon, Wilson…" I shook my head to myself and let out a soft chuckle. The attendings lounge was empty, or at least I thought. I had been so pre occupied by the situation that had just happened that I failed to realize the strong figure sitting on the couch, surgical scrubs and red scrub cap. I stopped in my tracks and held my breath. He was looking down at a patient chart and seemed to not acknowledge my presence. I thought briefly about maybe turning around and making a run for it. That is until…
"Good Evening, Dr. Grey" He didn't even look up, but his voice still made my heart drop. I let out a sigh and reached for my phone charger that was still plugged into the wall.
"Riggs." My answer was curt; forced.
His eyes met mine for the first time as he looked up from the chart. We held the stare for what seemed like minutes.
"You can ignore me all you want, but we're gonna have to talk about it sometime, you know…"
His voice was smooth. He was calm. Like this whole situation hadn't been haunting his every thought for the past couple weeks.
"I know…" my hands fiddled with the charger, "…but just, not yet. I'm not ready."
We held our gaze again. He seemed to want to say something, but he thought otherwise. He took a breath as his attention turned back towards the patient chart.
He seemed to eliminate my presence as he went about his work. I felt exposed standing there in that room. Just as my hand reached the doorknob to leave, his voice once again rang in my ears.
"Have a good night, Grey…"
I opened the door, my heart racing, but my body language showing otherwise.
"See ya, Riggs...", my voice barely audible.