WE'LL FIND OUR FEET AFTER DREAMING / Days Four and Six, Night Seven

Sam had relented to obeying the hospital's visiting hours now that she knew Bailey was on the mend. So, there she was, visiting her friend during regular hours. He'd been moved to another floor of the hospital, a clear sign of his improving health. He even had a room all to himself. His bedside table was overrun by flower arrangements, and numerous balloons floated above his bed.

She took a look at the bouquet she'd brought in a few days ago. "Chloe would like to visit you. Do you want her to?"

Up until her question, they'd been enjoying a peaceful moment together, content to let keep one another company in silence. Sometimes they didn't need words. A smile danced on his features. "I would love it."

She responded to his smile with one of her own. "Okay, I'll bring her along tomorrow. I'll also bring you some fresh clothes. You're getting out of here the day after tomorrow, right?"

He nodded mutely. She guessed that he wasn't looking forward to returning to an empty house, with only memories to keep him company, for the time being at least. She'd seen to it that the dried puddle of blood had been cleaned days ago, and she'd taken upon herself to tidy up Frances' room otherwise, to spare him. She decided to fix him something to eat the night he got home.

Sam took Chloe out of school for a few hours for the girl's visit to Uncle Bailey. They would eat lunch at the hospital cafeteria, the three of them together.

She'd informed him of the time they would arrive, but to her surprise, when Chloe bounced in through the doors, he was napping. He startled awake and made believe that he'd been awake all along. Sam hid an incipient smile; for all his refutations, he sure was sleeping a lot.

"Uncle Bailey!" Chloe whooped and sauntered up to the bed in no time. Sam followed her daughter's steps and, without preamble, picked her daughter up and put her sitting on the bed by Bailey's side.

"Hey, sweetheart," he responded warmly and bestowed a smile to the little girl. He and Sam greeted one another without words.

"How are you feeling?" Chloe asked gravely.

"Perfectly fine now that you've come to see me. You know, you're my favorite visitor," he said without guile, and the girl preened under his praise.

"Thanks! Did you like our flowers?" she asked, wondering at the splendor of balloons and flowers surrounding them.

"I think I loved them the best, but don't go spreading that around, okay?" She nodded her head, vowing silently to honor his request. Then, remembering her most recent gift to him, she slid her backpack off her back and opened it, then produced a small and cuddly toy horse. "He's Mr Mustard. Mom bought it for me when I had chickenpox. Do you want to keep him?"

Bailey stared at Chloe with a slightly puzzled look on his face. "Chloe thinks he nursed her back to health," Sam jumped in to explain.

A look of comprehension dawned on his face. "Thank you, this is a very nice gift. I promise I'll give it back soon." He took Mr Mustard from Chloe's hands and inspected it.

Worried about a potential post-operation disease, Sam enquired from him: "You've had chickenpox, right?"

"Yeah, I had it when... I was your age, I think," he said to Chloe. "So, tell me what's been going on. How's school?"

Chloe launched into a story about her class' spelling bee preparations, and Sam took this opportunity to observe her friend. He listened intently to the girl's yarn, but at points she could see his attention drifted away and once, his face was graced by a forlorn expression. Sam guessed that he was thinking of Frances. She reached out her right hand and squeezed his left shoulder quickly. The contact brought him out of his reverie, and he answered her compassionate look with one of gratitude before focusing on Chloe again.

Chloe was scooping up her ice cream, but the adults were already done with their lunch. "So, tomorrow. What are you doing later?" Her question surprised him.

"What do you mean?"

"Do you want me... us to come pick you up and cook you dinner, for example?" She added Chloe's presence to the proposed plan for the evening for leverage. She was determined to not let him spend his first night home alone, and she estimated that extra fire power couldn't hurt.

She was right; he was in no state to say no in the face of Chloe's hopeful expectation. "Sure," he acquiesced and didn't even attempt to hide his pleasure at the thought.

She'd been as good as her word and had come to pick him with Chloe and enough food to feed an army for a week. The car ride had passed well enough, but she could tell he was anxious when they had walked up to the front door. When he'd inserted the key into the lock, she had placed her hand lightly on his upper back, in a show of support.

She had kept a close eye on him when they entered the house; when the lights went on; when his eyes were drawn to the direction of Frances' room. He had appeared to be coping well.

"Now, promise me that you'll sleep in tomorrow and take it easy," she pledged him as Chloe was putting on her clothes.

"And if you need me, call me any time," she stressed the last two words and he knew that she somehow knew of the nightmares. He guessed that she was worried about flashbacks, too. He nodded silently and solemnly, and she looked relieved.

He knew that she'd been watching him closely all evening; she hadn't realised that he'd been doing the same with her. There was a restlessness in her demeanour which hadn't abated all evening, even though she seemed relaxed and not as consumed with worry as she'd been in the past few days. But, he couldn't broach the subject in Chloe's presence, so he reasoned with himself that she'd tell him when she was ready.

He or she might stumble, but together, they'd find their feet again.