A month after rehab, she sat outside by the pool. By all rights, it should have been a beautiful afternoon. The sun paled the water, made it seem insignificant against the brilliant orb, lit everything with an iridescent kind of fire licked light. She, too, would be bathed in the glow, her hair turned an orange hue, black clothing set alight. She had a glass of water beside her; she was so used to wine, she'd almost called Sandy to bring home a bottle, before remembering why there was none in the house.

She was feeling rudderless in a life that had suddenly been derailed. Her company, being sold off in bit parts, her boys, so foreign to her now, her husband, still seemingly a stranger to her, even though he seemed not to notice. She'd made a point of smiling at the right times, asking questions that would be expected of her, taking an interest. She had nothing, though.

She hadn't lived through the summer with them, hadn't been there for Seth or Ryan when Trey was shot, had left Sandy before he properly realised it, had let herself be lowered to her father's level, screaming long repressed wounds at him before his death, had flirted with the idea of another man's hands touching her. Now Seth and Ryan were still treading gingerly around her, still testing the waters of this foreign mother-figure who had so abruptly changed in front of them. Sandy was cordial, loving, attentive, so smothering she found herself wanting to push him away, hurt him so that he left her alone. She knew she loved him, knew she'd lost sight of that when she'd been reeling from her evolving relationship with her father, hurting from Rebecca and the ease with which Sandy had immediately left his family to run back to her, and the evolvement of her relationship with Carter.

Her life, seemingly perfect to everyone but her, had started crumbling, falling about her in shattered pieces while she watched, helpless to stop a progression of events that had been brewing for too long.

She knew, too, that most of it was her fault. Sandy had only run to Rebecca to fulfil himself of something he wasn't getting at home, her father's apparent disappointment in her was only warranted through something she had done and Carter had come to her because he sensed her willingness to offer him something more than a work relationship. She was always to blame, always the guilty party in her own mind.

Kirsten often shrank from self-reflection; it seemed, at least to her, to be too wounding and indulgent. But she feared self-delusion even more. Her training, growing up in the Nichol household, where appearances were everything, had made her so insulating.

Even Sandy, in all his indulgence, his prowess in the face of any problems she had imparted to him, hadn't been able to rid from her the need to keep so many issues that, when shared would become diluted and less significant, from him, or indeed, anyone else. Instead, she kept them to herself, allowed them to simmer just below the surface while presenting herself to the world, a perfect wife, perfect mother, witty conversationalist. Even Sandy, as attuned as he was with her, and the way she was feeling, could, on occasion, fail to notice her, seething, crying or slowly dying under the veneer of perfection. She had grown sick of her charade, had wanted to trade it in for something where she could be real, could scream if she felt like it, or burst into tears because she wanted to. So many times, arguments between her and Sandy had ended with her, talking softly to him, shutting, but never slamming, a door behind her. He expected this, a rational figure, someone who wouldn't scream obscenities at him, no matter how much she wanted to. She'd let herself crack when her father had started to lecture her, feeling like a child again, being berated for mistakes he had brought upon his own wife and now his daughter. She'd yelled at him, revealed a side of herself usually kept firmly locked, walked back to her bedroom, to the half full bottle of vodka left in the bottom of her bedside table. She was surprised Sandy hadn't done a thorough search, surprised it was still there, surprised she hesitated with the bottle to her lips, remembering her promise to Sandy, even more surprised when a sudden flash of rage made her tip the bottle, emptying far too much onto an empty stomach, already unsettled by her anti-inflammatory prescription. She'd hid it quickly when she heard Sandy coming, had darted into the bathroom, started the shower and quickly undressed. He'd come in after her, and she'd seen the flash of pity, and something else, in his eyes when he saw the bruises on her stomach and shoulders from the seatbelt, the airbag. They were a brilliant vermillion, the seatbelt line still etched deeply in her shoulder. She'd avoided undressing around him, had worn long sleeves and high necked shirts to protect he and the boys from looking at the marks of her steady downfall.

"Are you okay?" He'd asked her, his words already tinkling around her, split and broken, meaningless. She'd shrugged, stepped into the shower, shut the door and waited until he'd left before crying silently to herself, holding her aching bruises, letting the water sluice over her injured face, wondering what she could do next.

And next, Kirsten reflected now, she'd resolved to build herself back into the mould of perfection, hope Sandy was involved in his work, and the boys with school, so that they wouldn't notice how easily she could split, shatter, fall apart again. Her father's death, after her unforgiving words to him, had been the final straw to send her into the last dizzying spin. Sandy, giving her the news, she recoiling from him, the support he offered, to find solace with a bottle of vodka and an empty room.

She'd woken up, hangover stifling her movements, to find the bed beside her empty. Her hand, reaching out in the dawn light to find a comfort that had not been there. She'd stood up, walked as steadily as she was able to the kitchen. She'd make herself a coffee, take it back to bed and spike it with the remaining vodka hidden in her drawer. She'd walked too far into the dark side to not allow herself this one, guilty pleasure.

But Sandy was at the kitchen bench, sitting, looking up at her when she entered the kitchen. She'd wanted to turn, brace herself with raw alcohol before facing him, but in the morning stillness he'd heard the scrape of her socks on the floor.

They regarded each other for a moment after she walked in, he probably gauging how drunk she might still be, or how hung over, she how she could make an exit without having to talk to him, reveal her feelings, try and hold it together without her usual armour of vodka.

"'Morning." He said. She attempted a smile, couldn't manage it, instead walked over to the coffee pot, poured herself a coffee that stopped an inch from the top of her cup.

"I haven't told Seth or Ryan yet, I'm waiting for them to get up." Kirsten nodded, her eyes out the window, back to Sandy. They were so physically close that it was hard to imagine how far apart they had become. She remembered, with a jolt, standing in almost this same spot, staring up at Carter, willing him to kiss her, hold her, make her feel as special as Sandy used to. Make her feel something.

Behind her, she heard Sandy get up, felt herself tense involuntarily, willing herself not to, knowing he would be able to see it, knowing how it would make him feel. He stopped behind her, waiting for her to move. Kirsten turned around, looking up into the eyes of the man she could once have poured her soul out to, the eyes that were becoming less familiar to her, reminding herself how far she had drifted from the person she once was. She desperately wanted the old Kirsten back, the one who was in control, who was, according to Dawn Atwood, loved so intensely by her family, including Ryan, before he had even become a part of it. Looking into Sandy's eyes then, she'd felt more dead than alive, a shadow of the girl he'd married. She'd looked down, had known he would notice that, although she hadn't taken a sip of her coffee, it was low in the cup. Had known that in this simple act of looking away from him she'd damaged their relationship, perhaps beyond repair. She walked away, reminiscent of so many times lately when she'd felt the need to turn her back on him, knowing she was walking away from something she'd believed was fate, something that was breaking beneath them both, spinning them around and hurling them to places so far apart neither knew where to reach the other.

Kirsten took another sip of water, allowed herself a brief moment of elation when she realised she didn't need it to be vodka, or wine. She'd had her last bottle of the former at her father's funeral, had seen the hurt in her family's eyes at the intervention, had known she was becoming the sister she never wanted to be, the self-destructive one who lashed out at herself in such a way that it hurt everyone else. She'd come through rehab remarkably effortlessly, able to slip her mask into place easily once she didn't have to deal with people who knew her, knew how to reach her. She'd smiled when Sandy had driven all that way to see her, kissed him when he expected it, even felt surprised when she'd felt stirrings of passion again. It would take longer for the scars in their relationship to heal, but her willingness to get help, her need to be back with her family, had invoked in Sandy something that was similar to what they'd had, pre-Seth and Ryan's departures. They'd always had ups and downs, issues between them that happened when two people, so dissimilar, decide to fall in love. But after that summer, their relationship had been in a steady decline. Kirsten had noticed first, but had held it together as much as she could, finally throwing herself into work, and the interest of Carter, to try and deal with the obvious rift that had appeared between them. They'd been able to pretend around the boys, but moments alone never had the same easy feel as they'd once had. Every word was an effort, every kiss sweet torture for the absence of endearment it represented. Their usual love making had been replaced by sex, initiated by either of them, for their own reasons, not to express the way they felt about each other. Sandy was less affected than she, but after Rebecca, after his suspicions of Carter and her carried guilt about it, he had noticed how bad it was, how pouring coffee in the morning had become a chore to them when it had once been such a natural act, perfected after twenty years of drinking coffee together in the mornings.

They were starting to rediscover each other now, the reasons they were together. They found time to kiss more often, found time to talk to each other. And, although it was hard, Kirsten was trying to give Sandy more of herself, more of her feelings, so that she didn't walk down the path of self destruction again or, if she did, Sandy would be beside her, closer than he was before, gripping her hand and pulling her back from the terrible abyss she had built for herself.

They both started getting up together, rather than Kirsten staying in bed, hoping for a reprieve from the day, drinking coffee together and talking about their plans for the day like they used to.

They made love more often than last year, and afterwards Kirsten clung to Sandy, revealing to him without words that he was her lifeline. In those moments afterwards, being held by Sandy, Kirsten allowed herself to believe in this life again, in the small moments that made living worthwhile. She loved him so much then, in those semi-dark embraces, that everything that happened before seemed to be a bad dream, a time that had never happened, the horrible things she'd said to Sandy words that had fallen on deaf ears, words that hadn't hurt him as much as she knew they would have. In those precious seconds they stole lying together, uninterrupted, she dreamt of a future unmarred by Rebeccas or Carters… Directed only by them, their love for each other, their family.

Kirsten sighed, finished the last of her water so that only ice cubes rattled in the glass. She turned from her silent musings as she heard footsteps on the stairs, saw Sandy walking up to her, bathed in the dying sunlight. She allowed him a smile, received one in return. She thought back to what she had remembered, how much she had hurt him, how much she still had to atone for.

"I love you," she said quietly as he drew closer. He looked surprised, then pleased as she moved her legs so he could sit on the end of her pool younger. She leant forward and placed a finger against his lips when he started to return the sentiment, searched his eyes for the familiarity that, once missing, was now restored. She knew his eyes now as well as she once had, better than her own. Knew what emotions were brewing, saw his love for her, as always, reflected. She'd lost sight of it, had been unable to see it, had convinced herself that, because of Rebecca, it had been lost forever. She'd been led to that conclusion by her own blindness, her unwillingness to confront Sandy with how she really felt. She removed her finger and leant forward to kiss him, feeling his lips on hers, his tongue slide into her mouth. They leant back only when they were both breathless, rather than, in the majority of the time, when Seth would interrupt.

"Thank you." Kirsten said softly. Sandy looked into her eyes, and she knew he'd find what he needed; proof that she had finally emerged from the dark tunnel, unfolding her wings, heading towards the light. She leant back against the chair as Sandy leant against her, kissing her more intently until they both knew they'd have to depart to their room to avoid Seth or Ryan catching them out here.

They didn't notice the boys had appeared inside the kitchen, looking through takeout menus, occasionally looking outside to see Sandy and Kirsten, together like they used to be. Instead of making a face, or an ill-timed comments, Seth leant back from his brief look out the window to smile at Ryan. Ryan smiled back and, unspoken, they knew they were a family again.


I wanted this to be a very visual story, a short but angsty delve into Kirsten and what she might have, or now be feeling. Hopefully it captured her, some of her history which had forced her into a downward spiral, how her love for Sandy and the boys had allowed her release. Please review, good or bad, I'll be grateful. Thanks.