Good-Bye

"I can do this. I know I can do this," Amanda King whispered to herself. Taking a deep breath, she inserted the key to the lock on Lee Stetson's apartment and unlocked the door. Her hand reached out to turn the knob, but she hesitated again. She had remembered his beautiful Ficus as she drove home from the interment and decided to stop by his apartment to get it. Short and simple: in and out: over before you know it.

"Just like our relationship," Amanda thought. Well, perhaps relationship was too strong a word. Lee had spent enough time stressing the fact that there was nothing between them, but Amanda knew, even though he may have argued, that there was a friendship growing between them. He had become friendlier – more tolerant of her – and they had begun to enjoy an easier feel to their interactions. He spoke more gently to her, he smiled more frequently, and she often discovered his hand on her arm or at the small of her back. He would smile and his eyes would reflect that smile. Those eyes: closed now forever.

Amanda made a supreme effort to swallow around the horribly large knot threatening to close her throat and wiped the traitorous tears escaping her eyes. In one, swift movement, Amanda turned the knob on the door and pushed it open, stepping into his apartment for the last time.

She stood in the doorway for a few moments, making a show of examining the Ficus that stood right by the door. All she had to do was take it and leave; she barely had to set foot in his apartment. She could be gone within seconds…but she shut the door on that thought as she shut the door to his apartment behind her. Amanda took several, deep calming breaths to steady her nerves and then slowly moved farther in to Lee's apartment. Her hand trailed along the back of his sofa as she walked though his living room, eyes taking in her surroundings.

She glanced at his desk, messy as always, and walked to the window. She smiled at the western statue on the table in front of the window and let her fingers lightly trace the outline of the rider and horse. She turned from there and wandered to the fireplace. Amanda picked up a baseball and noticed Lou Gherig's signature on it. A sudden image of Lee as a young boy wearing a baseball cap came to her and she smiled. Replacing the baseball, she moved to the far end of the mantel and the only photograph in the entire place. It was black and white of a young couple: a man in an Army uniform who bore such a strong resemblance to Lee it had to be his father, and a dark-haired woman, presumably his mother. Amanda's eyes were drawn to the man and she couldn't help but marvel at the resemblance. The only real difference besides this man's moustache was the look of genuine happiness on his face. She had so seldom see Lee look truly happy and content; it brought tears to her eyes again to think of what Lee had never seemed to know.

Amanda turned away from the picture and continued her journey though Lee's apartment. She came to the door leading to his bedroom and hesitated. She didn't feel right about intruding here---this was where his most personal possessions lie---but she wanted to feel closer to him…needed to feel a connection. Hesitantly she pushed the door open and stepped into the room.

The first thing that Amanda noticed was the entire room smelled like Lee. His scent pervaded everything here. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Oh, God---it was like he was standing right beside her. She could almost imagine that was true and she reached out as id to touch him: a silly dream. She walked over to his bed and noticed it was unmade…big surprise there, Amanda thought. She raised an eyebrow as she looked at the blue sheets and dark blue comforter. She imagined all of the women in the steno pool lining up to leave flowers on the bed like some kind of altar and smiled amusedly. She looked at the nightstand and saw a pad of paper and a pen by the alarm clock and telephone. She picked it up and realized it was more or less a doodle pad for messages when the phone rang. She flipped through it, intending to toss it back down, when she saw her name on the pad. Her eyebrows drew together as she looked more closely at the scribbles around her name. What she saw made her throat constrict and she felt tears start again. She sat down on his bed and held the pad against her chest. One little hastily scribbled symbol had suddenly turned all her pent up emotions on and she began to cry. She sobbed as she thought of the first time she had ever looked into those hazel eyes, full of pleading. She remembered the first time he smiled---truly smiled---and the tears came harder.

Amanda looked around, searching for something to comfort her, and picked up his pillow. She buried her face in it, breathing in his scent between sobs. This was so much harder than anything else because she had no one to talk to about her feelings. As far as her family was concerned, Lee Stetson didn't exist. And even if she told her mother a friend from work had died, her mother wouldn't understand why she was so devastated because had he been someone important, Amanda would have told her about him. That would bring on too many questions and Amanda knew she wouldn't be able to handle them: not now. But she so desperately wanted to hold on to him.

Even though she was here to make peace and say good-bye, Amanda couldn't help but feel that this was all somehow wrong. She half-expected Lee to come through that door any second and make some wisecrack about her being in his bed. He just didn't feel dead. Was it because there had been no viewing…no ultimate farewell? She had never seen her Aunt Ruth after she had died, yet she hadn't gone through this period of disbelief. She supposed that it was because she hadn't felt the severing of the connection she had always felt existed between them. It was that same connection that had begun to make her less surprised to see Lee's head popping up at her kitchen window: the same one that had given her just the tiniest glimmer of hope (albeit, she usually crushed it immediately) that there might be something beginning to develop between them---a chance at more than friendship.

Amanda shook her head, but she didn't have to convince herself that what she felt for Lee was simply admiration and respect any longer. Now that there was no chance of rejection, Amanda allowed herself to dwell on what she had discovered herself beginning to feel. He had been so far out of her league that she had never seriously entertained the notion of anything ever happening between them, but that hadn't stopped her from falling for him. He was, by far, the most attractive man she had ever known. Those hazel eyes and his silken hair, combined with that stunning smile, often left her feeling like a sighing teen-age girl. Above those attributes, however, Amanda had probably loved hi hands the most. His long, slender fingers had often caught her attention, whether they were holding a pen or resting on the steering wheel of his car. They seemed to caress whatever they touched. The power in them when he held a gun or threw a punch only served to make them even more attractive to her.

Lately, as he had apparently grown more comfortable with her presence, Lee had touched her more frequently and every time he did, Amanda had been supremely conscious of where and for how long he touched her. It was often a matter of guiding her while they walked, but it had made Amanda feel like she belonged in Lee's life, even if it was only as a friend. When they had first started working together, Lee's touch had set her on edge. Even from the beginning his touch had been electrifying and it had scared her. She would move away from his touch because it made her fell less in control of herself than she had felt in a long time. She still felt a little out of control when he touched her, but Amanda had begun to enjoy that feeling.

She hadn't known him for very long and Amanda knew he didn't feel the same way about her, but that hadn't stopped her from developing feelings for him. She wasn't in love with him…she could never allow herself to fall that hard because she didn't have a snowball's chance (in her mind) of having that feeling reciprocated, but she was beyond a crush on him, that much she did admit. But very little of all that mattered now.

She calmed herself down and looked around his bedroom, hiccupping just a bit. Her eyes fell on the notepad and she took the page with her name on it and folded it up. Putting it in her pocket, she stood up and noticed one of his sweaters laying over the back of a chair. Would it be wrong of her to take it? It was the beautiful blue one that made his eyes look almost blue themselves. She picked it up and held it to her face; it, too, smelled of Lee. Draping it over her arm, she left the bedroom.

Amanda looked around one last time, hesitant to leave, but at least feeling as though she had said good-bye. She picked up the Ficus and took it outside into the hallway. She turned back and, taking a deep breath, shut the door. She felt like she was shutting the door on part of her life; it seemed so final. Then again, what could be any more final than death?

When she got to her car, she pulled her keys out of her pocket and unlocked the door. She managed to get the Ficus in the wagon and then sat down behind the wheel. She spent a few moments just sitting quietly and then turned the key in the ignition. Laying her hand on the sweater on the front seat next to her, she pulled away from Lee's apartment, feeling more numb than anything else.

On the sidewalk where Amanda had stopped to pull her keys out, lay a small piece of paper. The wind from a passing car blew it open so tat a passerby, thinking it might be money, glanced down at it. The name Amanda King was written on it with a left-handed slant and a heart for the dot on the i.