Hello my darlings. I'd apologize for being ridiculously long since my update again, but you've probably settled into accepting that I'll never update, so instead I say SURPRISE! IT'S FOR YOU!
This one goes to my constant reviewers and the reason I feel so guilty about being terribly unorganized. Ashleys27 and tanner12, I hope you're having a great day :)
Now back to the story...
Exhaling into my cupped palms, I groan, sliding my hands up and down my exposed arms. The clinic did a great job of decorating with strategic warmth, but the actual temperature left a lot to be desired. Shifting in the chair, I cross my legs, trying to conserve body heat while wishing I'd have at least brought my suit jacket from the car.
Really, I could tell myself all day that the fidgeting was from the cold, but deep down the doctor's appointment ticking slowly towards me has got my muscles in knots: my first face to face with my Mother. The image of her dragging a hysteric Ashley by the hair into the back of a cab has been the immediate recall i had of her for years now. Why did I even come? It's not like I owed the woman anything. But deep down in my bones I can't deny that this feels right, that maybe I was meant to do this, even from the day I was born.
Sighing, I glance up at the clock as the hands sweep past noon and chuckle. Late again. Maybe some people never change.
The booming, high pitched laughter of my Mother arrives before she does. It steals my breath away, the closeness of her, the memories it rekindles, as the sound of her and the doctor chatting like old friends echoes outside the door. I smooth out my skirt and clear my throat as the door opens.
She is more haggard than I remember, but her eyes are steely, reminiscent of the youth she is clinging to, even as disrepair creeps into her features. She's still beautiful, still carries herself with unwavering confidence, one of the few traits Ashley had inherited from her, but something in her smile, in the way the corners twitch up immediately as her gaze falls on me, is completely new. There's a warmth in her that wasn't there before, captured in the small sterile space as the doctor closes the door behind them.
I am suddenly hyper aware of my awkward position, mouth gaping, fingers knotted in the hem of my skirt. Patting down the black fabric, I close my mouth and nod in recognition.
Her smiles widens, even with my little effort, as her eyes scan me from top to bottom. Do I look okay in this? Is she ashamed of how I've let myself go? I know she hasn't seen me since I was in high school and 115 pounds soaking wet.
You've been through a lot, Kyla, and you're a strong and bright young woman. It doesn't matter what she thinks.
I clear my throat again as the silence in the room bears towards awkward. The doctor is watching us as my Mother watches me and I mostly just look at the clock and spin my bracelet.
"Oh Kyla, you've grown so much."
For a second I think it's a dig, but as I turn back to my Mother's face, I notice the tears in her eyes and the worries in my chest disappear. When she reaches for my fingers as she settles into the seat next to mine, I let her take them, smiling shyly as she wraps her second hand around mine as if clinging to a life preserver. I guess, in a way, she is.
"You're beautiful, my baby."
"Thanks Mom." I say, giving her hands a squeeze. The doctor taps a stack of papers together on his desk, then folds his fingers together and smiles at us, reminding me of the last time I sat on this side of a desk, meeting Spencer. My how things have changed since then.
"So, doc," I start. "What's the good news?"
"Well," he says, placing a pair of reading glasses upon his nose as he shuffles through a folder. "The good news is you are a definite match to your Mother and your kidney is healthy and ready for transplant. You should recover just fine and live perfectly normal with the single kidney you will retain."
Mom pats the top of my hand, and turns back to the doctor as he pulls out another chart and points to it.
"The bad news, however, is this. If you look at this comparison chart, the red dots mark normal kidney activity in a healthy forty-something woman. Christine, your activity is marked by the blue dots, which as you can see, are much, much lower than we'd like to have them."
Clipping the chart to a clipboard, he sets it back on his desk and looks up at the two women.
"Now I know when we first spoke I had projected that you would have about three months until the surgery. But with this new information, I feel it is in our best interest to bump the surgery up, and make it in one month instead. I'm afraid your kidneys will begin to fail at about 6 weeks if we don't."
Mom visibly swallows, nodding her head as she crosses her legs.
"And you're positive that doing this isn't going to hurt Kyla's future in any way?"
I glance at her, as awful as it is, surprised by her concern for my well being.
"I'm absolutely certain. If the surgery goes as planned, there should be no physical damage to Kyla or her future whatsoever."
My eyebrows perk up at his choice of words.
"So there's a chance that the surgery could go wrong?"
"Honestly, Kyla, this procedure is standard these days. There's always a chance of complications, of course, but they are few and far between with the technology we use now. As long as you and your Mother prep as directed, everything should go smoothly, and you'll be out and back to work before you know it."
I nod, satisfied, as Mom lets go of my hand to reach for a pile of papers the doctor hands her; one for her, and one for me.
"Well ladies, if there are no more questions, that's all we need for today. Read over these and I will call you a week prior to surgery to review your individual prep schedules."
"Thanks doctor," Mom says, reaching for her bag on the floor. I stand and shake his hand, then move to hold the door open for Mom as she slips out into the office hall. Shutting the door behind me, I stop as I feel firm fingers wrap around my wrist.
"Thank you, Kyla."
"Oh, it's no problem." I say, shrugging as I start to walk away.
"No." She continues, holding me in place. "Not for holding the door. Thank you for doing this for me, even though I've done so little for you." Her voice, barely above a whisper, hits me in the face like a cannon in the quiet hallway. Her eyes burn into mine, brimming with sincerity.
"I want you to know that you don't have to do this. I would never make you. And I appreciate that you even came here today to meet me. You're one thousand times the person I could ever hope to be and, I'm just…so proud. So thank you. For everything."
It's strange when it finally happens, the moment you've been dreaming and re-dreaming for years. I had imagined hundreds of reactions to an apology from my Mother, but all those day dreams didn't really matter. The instinct in the moment, drowning in all the words I'd waited so long to hear, is natural. As she watches me with tear stained cheeks, I lean into her, wrapping my arms around her waist. The sharp angles and jaunting bones on her lean frame are new, but the smell, the smell of her is everything I remember, and I take a moment to breathe her in, to burn this memory over all the bad one's I hope to replace.
Pulling back, I give her a half smile.
"I know our path has been rough, and, honestly, I wasn't sure how today would go. But I'm glad I came and I hope more than anything that this can be a new beginning for us, Mom. I really do."
She squeezes my hands tight in her own and nods.
"I sure hope Ashley is as understanding as you."
I chuckle, turning towards the lobby.
"Not a chance in hell."
Her hiccuping laughter brightens my smile as she wraps an arm around my waist, walking beside me.
"Somehow I knew that. How about some lunch? It's well past time I caught up on your life."
Leaning my head onto her shoulder, I sigh.
"That would be fantastic."
Lose a kidney, gain a Mom? I'd take that trade any day.
"So is it like Weight Watcher's? I've done that before."
I shift the salad with my fork, looking for a tomato.
"I mean there's a definite nutrition side to it, but a personal trainer is more of the exercise portion. So like she plans my workouts and motivates me and stuff. If you asked her about nutrition she'd just give a long winded monologue about how beans are the bee's knees, or something."
"Hm," Mom says, sipping her soup. "Well it sounds like this Spencer has really gotten under your skin. I'm proud of you for working so hard, darling."
"Yeah well, my skin's not the only one Spencer's gotten under." I stop and smile at her, trying to cover my little blunder. It's a little overwhelming having all this positive reinforcement sent to me over the table throughout lunch, but I don't want to give her anything about Ashley, though she is different. She likes my job, my hobbies, my personal trainer. It's like a light switch, the Mom she was versus new Mom 2.0.
"Oh yeah? Is Ashley using her too?"
Chuckling, I shake my head.
"Something like that."
Mom goes on eating her soup.
"Well, good. I'm glad you girls have stuck together. A sister bond should never be broken."
"I don't think we'll have to worry," I say, placing my napkin on the table as I glance around the rather empty café. Lunch time had come and gone as Mom and I sat here drinking each other in, enjoying the warmth of the afternoon outside on the patio.
"Well," I say, checking my watch. "Speaking of, I actually have to get going to my afternoon session with Spence, but I would love to see you again soon. You have my cell number, right?"
Mom nods, placing her spoon in her bowl, and standing as I gather my things.
"I do, and I'll use it often, but not too often!" She adds, laughing. "But often all the same."
Wrapping me in another boney hug, I kiss her cheek fondly.
"Don't be long, Mom."
She smirks at the phrase, an expression she often used instead of goodbye when we were younger, saying goodbye made her feel like we wouldn't come back to her again. Perhaps I shouldn't have, but it seemed fitting, even if she'd only regained one of her daughters today.
"Soon, darling. Soon."
"Kyla get your knees up. Where's your head at today?"
I grunt in frustration, cranking up my knees to hit Spencer's waiting hands as I jog in place. Talk about a rollercoaster: super awesome lunch into horrible, horrible workout.
"Thirty more seconds, push it girl. You're almost there."
Gritting my teeth, I ignore the pain in the back of my thighs, focusing on the slap of my skin against Spencer's palm. When she finally introduced interval training into my conditioning, I was excited because she always talks about how it's the best way to slim down quickly. Then we started it, and I became a lot less excited.
"Okay two minutes rest. Drink this." She adds, pushing a sports drink into my hand. I gasp for air, sipping slowly.
"You feel okay?" Spencer says, concern across her face. I love hate her. Love because she's still Spencer, and I know she knows how this must hurt because she's never this much of a weenie. Hate because she's in full bore nazi mode the minute that stop watch comes out.
I despise that stopwatch.
Nodding, I cap the bottle and do a quick leg stretch as my rest ticks away.
"Alright, burpees with pushups. Fifty seconds on, ten seconds off. Go."
I push through the workout for another fifteen minutes, drained by the end of the session, sitting in more or less a puddle of my own sweat in the middle of the gym floor.
Spencer smiles as she strides back from the towel rack, tossing one to me and folding Indian style on the floor, her knees pressing into mine.
Wiping my face, I grimace as she chuckles.
"You did well today, oh ye of little words."
"Thanks." I grumble, wrapping the towel around my shoulders as I lean back on the floor. "I swear you're trying to kill me some days."
"Who told you!?" She gasps, whipping her head towards me with a playful expression. "God, Maybe has the biggest mouth ever, I swear."
Rolling my eyes, I watch her as she watches me.
"Did you have a good day?"
"I did," she says, playing with her shoelaces. Obvious sign number one that she has been with Ashley. "Did you?"
I nod, "yeah it was pretty excellent actually. What did you do?"
She blushes. Obvious sign number two that she has been with Ashley.
"Oh just hung out around the house. I didn't have a morning session today, so it's been kind of like a day off."
"I'm glad to see you take me so seriously."
She laughs, swatting my knee. "Hush. What did you do today?"
"I met up with my Mom."
Spencer stops laughing, staring at me.
"I'm going to bombard you with a series of questions now. Are you ready?"
I wipe my face again with the towel, then rest my elbows on my knees, my chin on my hands.
"Let's have them."
Spencer inhales dramatically.
"How did that happen? Where did you guys meet? What did you do? How was she? I thought it was all you and Ashley versus the world? Did she call you or did you call her? Do I need to beat her up? Does she have brown hair? How does she feel about pepperoni?"
As I answer the questions, I tick them off on my fingers, Spencer easing forward with rapt attention.
"She called me a few days ago, and I met her today for an appointment. We went to lunch after and it was quite enjoyable. She apologized to me and I feel good about the whole situation... And she does have brown hair... And I have no idea what her preference is in regards to pizza toppings."
Spencer nods slowly, watching me with wary eyes.
"Well, first of all, find out about the pepperoni. Muy importante. Also, don't think I didn't notice the way you skimmed over the appointment slash entire reason behind your meeting. I midnight as a spy. I notice things. So, details. Spill."
I sigh, unsure how exactly to handle this situation which I'd worked hard to avoid since that phone call.
"I'm kind of, sort of, in a very permanent way, giving my Mom one of my kidneys."
Spencer's eyes widen as her hand comes to her mouth in surprise.
"My middle name isn't May, Spencer."
She pats my hand, warmly, her eyes never leaving mine.
"Kyla May, that is a very noble thing you're doing. I mean, a kidney! And to your Mom! I just, man," she sighs, exasperated. "I can't even wrap my brain around all the feelings you must have inside of you right now."
I give an exasperated nod.
"Between all of my emotions, all the one's my Mom fired at me today, and all the one's I know Ashley is stewing over, honestly I'm just exhausted. I can't keep up with it all."
Spencer gives my knee an understanding squeeze.
"Well then don't worry about those two and focus on you. Make sure this is right for you for the right reasons, and when you come to that, you'll find your peace."
I consider her words and how, yet again, she always seems to know exactly what I need to hear.
"I know. The surgery is scheduled for a month from now. By then, I'll be ready."
Spencer clucks her tongue, standing up to grab the notebook she keeps on me, Kyla scrawled in scratchy chicken writing across the front, a doodled duck in a cape holding a piece of pie under it.
"Don't 'be ready,'" she says, "be right. There's a big difference. Now, as for your workouts, this will change things. We'll keep on with our normal schedule for about three weeks, but the week before your surgery we'll go straight to recovery workouts and not strain you much. I want your body to be well rested and in good condition for the transplant procedure." She continues, back to business as she scribbles notes down. "We'll also probably have your diet readjusted. It'll be really important for you to stay hydrated, for both you and your Mother's sake."
I stand up, straightening my pony tail.
"Okay. Just let me know what I need to do, and between you and the doctor and my family and me and work, I just… I'll figure it out."
Spencer slaps the book shut, tossing it onto the floor. She spreads her arms wide, a big smile on her face.
"You bring it in here."
"I'm soaked in sweat, Spencer. No way."
She edges towards me.
"Somebody needs a hug."
Sighing, I stand perfectly still as she slowly wraps her arms around me, squeezing me until my feet lift off the floor.
"There. I got you, Kyla. You don't have to do this alone." She adds, eyeing me as she reaches to squeeze my hand. "You don't ever have to be alone, okay?"
"I know, Spence… and I appreciate it."
Nodding, she turns away, reaching to gather the notebook and stuff it back in her bag.
"What's your favorite season?"
I look at her, confused.
"Uhh I guess Spring. I like flowers. You?"
"Oh, I like Fall. Football, duh. So, by spring you mean like March. Or April?"
"Probably May since that's when the flowers bloom."
Spencer shrugs her bag over her head, reaching to grab mine as I flip the dirty towel into the wash bin.
"May, you say?"
"Yeah," I grab my bag from her and push open the gym door. "I like it."
"Well if you like it then it's settled," she says, breaking away from me to head towards her office. "See you tomorrow, Kyla May."
Some days I just have to shake my head.
"So, this Kyla thing doesn't bug you?" I ask, spooning tuna salad on top of the lettuce spread on our two plates. Ashley sighs, shrugs, and adds bananas to the bowl of fruit.
"I mean I don't like it and I don't trust that woman any farther than I could throw her, but Kyla seems pretty sure of her decision and it's her kidney, so the least I can do is be supportive."
Nodding, I carry the plates to the table, kicking aside some plastic sheeting left on the floor from painting as she grabs a couple waters out of the fridge.
"How very big sisterly of you. It's got to be lonely, all the way at the top of the awesome people who donate their organs to life-crushing soap opera Moms of the past list." Ashley chuckles and pulls her hair up on her head in a sloppy bun, sitting in the chair across from me.
"I wouldn't know. I'm just worried Kyla is going to end up disappointed by the end of this. Mom can be very persuasive when she wants."
I nod, sipping at my water thoughtfully. By the way Kyla described her Mother's actions when I talked to her on the phone driving to Ashley's, she sounded like the threat of death kind of knocked some sense into her. Of course I know nothing of the woman outside of the description Ashley gave me, which made her sound gorgeous, if you're into the whole laser eyes and horns thing. Slipping my fingers into hers on top the table, I smile.
"It's gonna be okay, however it turns out. The three of us, we'll take care of each other." Ashley nods, squeezing my hand, as she forks a hesitant bite of food into her mouth. She's coming around to my healthy cooking, mostly because I do a lot of it and give her absolutely no choice. Groaning in satisfaction, she shovels more in.
"Are there peas in this? God, this is amazing!"
Laughing, I give her hand a pat and pull back, digging into my own dinner.
The days until Kyla's surgery fly by. Between her busy hours at work prepping for missed time and the few major projects at the house I tried to squeeze in before she stays to recover, we barely saw each other, and suddenly it was down to the week of the operation. Closing my car door, I pad across the parking lot, taking the stairs two at a time until I find myself knocking outside her door.
"Hey!" She says with a blinding smile, yanking the door open and pulling me in behind it. "I was hoping you'd show up today. Let me show you some of the new clothes I bought!"
I laugh as she literally skips down the hall to her room. Her training with Spencer has really started to show. She hit the fifty pounds lost mark at the end of last week and it's easy to see in the light curve of her hips, the square definition in her shoulders. She looks good and apparently feels good, as she's pretty much bubbled over on the phone the last couple of days I spoke to her. Mimicking her tone, I chase after her.
"Um YES! I thought you'd never ask!"
Her room is a disaster yet again, this time with bags of new clothes across the bed, and bags of stuff to be donated lining the wall. I beam in pride.
"Kyla you're getting rid of all those! That's awesome!" I add, pulling her into a hug.
"It is isn't it? Now look at all this!"
We oo and ahh together over the floral prints and smooth fabric of her new sundresses, giggling and chatting away like we're picking out first day of school outfits so very long ago. I sigh as I fall onto her bed, having just finished hanging all her purchases. She collapses beside me, her hair splayed out around her face.
"So you gonna be ready to take me in when I come out of the hospital?"
"Of course," I say, picking at a string on the bed spread. "Spencer's at the house now doing last minute stuff. I'm very excited for you to come."
She turns to face me, rolling onto her side.
"I'm nervous," she adds, whispering like it's a secret for only me. I reach for her hand and squeeze it.
"I am too."
"Have you talked to Mom at all?"
I shrug, playing with her fingernails.
"She's called a couple times but I was pretty rude. I'm not as forgiving as you, Ky."
She nods, watching my fingers on hers.
"You know if there ever was a time for forgiveness, it's probably now."
Resting my hand, I flip over on my back and sigh.
"I suppose so."
"Good," Kyla, says, patting my stomach.
"I just have a bad feeling, ya know."
"Oh I know," she says, turning onto her back as well. We both stare at the ceiling, looking for some answers. "I know.
"Hey It's the big Mr. T! How you big boy? How you?" I ruffle his ears, darting side to side as he pounces around at my feet barking happily. He sits, wagging his tail as I toss my keys on the side table and give his head a pat. "Where's your Mama, buddy?"
I chuckle as he takes off, peeling around the first corner on the wood floor. Bedroom, check. As I make my way through the house I shake my head, picking up every article and item Spencer brought with her and setting them in a pile in the living room chair. She's a total slob, but it's kind of adorable, the way she's so focused she doesn't even know she's leaving a trail of belongings behind her on direct route to her objective. Sure enough, I find her in my bedroom, perched on a step stool, biting her bottom lip as she adjusts the curtain she's hung so that it's straight. My heart warms at the sight of her, the way her bangs fall into her eyes because she hasn't gotten them cut in weeks, the red scratch marks on her legs from her last brawl with Tiggs leading all the way up to her black booty shorts, so covered in paint from our projects that the word's Come and Get It are barely visible across her backside. Slipping off my shoes, I make my way into the room quietly as she leans back to survey her work.
"Got ya!" I yell, ripping her off the stool by her waist and tossing her on the bed. Jumping on top of her, she screams in surprise, almost karate chopping me into paralysis, then realizes who it is and actually fights harder. Her laughter fills the room as I bat her hands away, tickling her sides and straddling her hips with my own.
"Your effort is futile! You cannot beat the great one!"
She simmers into chuckling as I finally catch her wrists, pinning each above her head. I grin proudly.
"I could break you with one hand right now, Miss Davies."
I laugh dramatically, throwing my head back, then lean closer, inches from her face.
"Even when trapped in the jaws of death, young Spencer struggles blindly with ornate over confidence."
She chuckles and lifts her head up to nuzzle her nose against my cheek, feathering a light kiss at the top of my jaw. It never fails to make me blush, how soft she is with me when she's so strong in front of everyone else. This side of Spencer is all mine.
"Did you have a good day?" She says into my hair as I bring my head down to rest on her chest, still pinning her to the mattress.
"I did. I went and saw Kyla for a while after work. It's weird to think she's going under the knife in a few days."
I hear the murmur of agreement echo under my ear, her heart beating resolutely against my cheek.
"You think she's ready?"
I nod, lifting my head to look her in the face.
"Yeah I think so. Am I? Well, that's another question completely." She raises an eyebrow and I continue. "I guess I'm just worried I'll go from having a sister and Mom to having neither. And I think maybe I should try to clear the air with Mom, even though I'm definitely not ready for that yet. But just in case, you know?"
Spencer watches me for a moment, then slips her hands down to grab mine from her wrists.
"I think that's wonderful, Ash. I'm sure it'll be okay, but you never do know."
I nod, exhaling some of the stress I'd been carrying over that decision as Spencer wraps both our arms, hands still interlaced, over the small of my back and kisses my forehead.
"You're a good person."
I smile at her cute expression and nip her nose.
"You're a great person."
She chuckles, then flips us in one smooth motion, burying me in the comforter as she smirks down over me, my arms crossed and held down by her hand on my chest. My smile switches to a frown immediately as she pats the side of my cheek.
"Told you. One hand."
Laughing, she jumps off and runs out of the room, her arms pumping in victory above her head as she hoots for Mr. Tiggs to join her in the champion's ring.
I swear she'll never let me beat her.
But really, listening to her and the dog sing and bark 'Who Let the Dog's Out?' as I pull myself up out of bed, I know I've already won.
I think a lot about moments: how many we have here, and how we spend them; how they change us whether we like it or not. The ones that sky rocket us into the air and beyond the stars are wonderful, of course, but the ones that send us crashing into dismay, into brutal heartache, those are the ones I want. A life of tragedy? People would laugh. But to feel so greatly about something that the idea of losing it literally ceases the air in your chest, how could you not want that? I want to love so fully that magic happens, so utterly that in losing it, I lose myself, maybe just for a moment, maybe, part of me, forever.
I want to feel the air on my skin and the rain on my face and the earth under my toes. And when I find fire, I want it to burn, down to my bones, deep in my soul.