Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. This is just some not-for-profit fun
A/N: I missed a lot between 1991 and 2010, so if something doesn't make sense, that's why.
She strides quickly through the house that had for so long provided the backdrop to her life, gesturing this way and that, doing her finest imitation of a tour guide. The realtor and the young woman from Worldwide's real estate division follow closely behind, asking questions and making notes. The girl had been dispatched to handle the sale on her behalf, a small concession from Lily, though not one she particularly wants or needs. She's still more than capable, and this is…was…her home. The only real one she'd ever had, it could fairly be said. She owes it this goodbye.
The glow of avarice on the young woman's face mounts they move from room to opulent room. A baby shark, she thinks, with something less than approval. She's hungry. She'll have to tell Lily to watch this one. She could be very good for the company. Or very, very bad.
She begins to plan the conversation with her daughter, an old habit, though one that rarely helps. Other people – the ones that matter at least, the ones who aren't trying to impress her - tend to refuse to stick to the lines she's assigned them. It's tedious, but there you have it, and in any case, this is probably the kind of meddling she's supposed to be avoiding now. Non-interference is difficult, even more so than she anticipated.
She leads the way from the kitchen, through the dining room and into the library, her heels clicking against the marble floor, the other two women conversing loudly behind her. She glances back over her shoulder, eyes narrowed, and they stutter into silence.
This house is haunted, she's come to decide. Not with ghosts, but with memories.
It amounts to the same thing.
The kitchen had brought back visions of Rosa chopping and stirring, whipping up something spicy and fattening, waving her butcher knife at anyone daring to try to sneak a premature taste. Memories of late night raids followed, she and John laughing and whispering, picking the lock on the refrigerator and scurrying back upstairs with their booty, the absurdity of having to steal the food they rightfully owned making it all the funnier.
And out by the pool, she'd seen herself, cover-up clad, having lemonade with the young people she's always liked having around: her own daughters and their friends, John's boys, his niece Pamela, who'd come to live with them for a time. These days it's her grandchildren. She'll miss those times, but what is life without trade-offs?
They're in the library now; the other two women are at the window discussing the grounds; she stands alone in the middle of the room.
Like most of the house, it's still furnished – she has no need of furniture in her new circumstances – but all the personal touches are gone. The few things she absolutely couldn't part with are with her and John over at the Lakeview. All the rest has been put into storage for her girls, in case they ever want any of it one day.
It could be anyone's home now, but still she feels…more than she wants to…as she looks around the space. This room had been her sanctuary for so long, more so than any other, save maybe her private bath.
She blinks, and the décor changes to something more suited to the late eighties than today and she's sharing a pot of tea with dear, sweet Ambrose as they go over contracts for whatever is to be her latest acquisition. He was the closest thing she'd ever had to a father.
She's nearly as old today as he was then, she realizes with a start.
He's been gone for almost two decades now.
She blinks again, this time to hold back the tears.
Stiffening her spine, she walks toward the old floral sofa, the one that hasn't been there in years and memories descend of Kirk Anderson, when he was still her right hand man, smirking and flirting and calling her boss lady, back before everything went to hell. They'd sit on that couch, plotting for hours and dear Matthew, always so protective in his stiff and formal way, would hover and look stern, asking pointedly when Dr. Dixon was expected home.
He'd always approved of John, still occasionally calling her Mrs. Dixon long after it was appropriate, until one time he'd caught her on a bad day, and her former married name had stung so badly it brought tears to her eyes. The poor man had never done it again.
She'd have to send him a Christmas card this year, sign it Dr. and Mrs. Dixon. The thought makes her smile.
(No, they haven't remarried and she doesn't know if they ever will, but in her heart, he became her husband again the moment their lips first touched in the elevator on the way up to his room, that day in September. The prefix "ex" no longer applies, not any way that matters.)
They'd done well together in Amsterdam, she and John, but Amsterdam wasn't real life. Maybe that was the key for them, they'd decided, staying away from real life. After all, they're old now, aren't they? Haven't they earned it? So she's mostly retiring, merely keeping her fingers in a few small pies that will require only as much of her time as she's willing to give them, and selling her house. He's going to help out at Memorial for a while until a new Chief of Staff is in place, but then he's mostly retiring too.
He's going to guest lecture to keep his mind sharp and accept some of the invitations he regularly receives from medical schools. She gets them too sometimes, though from business schools, and he'd suggested they hire out as a package deal, both of them speaking at the same schools at the same time, but she'd demurred. Her lack of formal education has always been a source of embarrassment for her, the inevitable questions about her background not something she's willing to get into with a bunch of young strangers. She doesn't tell him this though, she only shrugs and says she prefers to mold young minds on a more intimate, one on one basis. Then she adds a suggestive wink and he laughs as intended, but she knows he understands.
He knows her.
So they're going to travel, he'll make his speeches, they'll visit their children and grandchildren, and they'll have some fun. Together, for however long they have left.
Later after the vultures have left, she finds him waiting alone in the library, having arrived to fetch her for dinner at Margo's.
He's slouched in a chair, staring at the fireplace.
"Darling? What's wrong?" she asks, coming up beside him and tousling his hair. "You look positively morose."
It takes him a moment to answer and she threads her fingers through his hair as she waits.
The ghosts have gotten to him too.
"Do you realise," he says eventually, reaching for her hand and grasping it firmly, "if we were still married, our twenty-fourth anniversary would be coming up? Twenty-four years." He pulls her hand from his hair and brings it to his lips.
She smiles sadly. The years they'd lost, they weigh on her as well. Sometimes she feels she could drown in the if onlys and regrets. So many years gone, given up to obstinacy, insecurity and foolish pride. "It seems like yesterday. And it seems like another lifetime belonging to other people."
He chuckles grimly and bobs his head in agreement. "Yeah."
They don't talk about the past much. The loss is too great and the time they have left too brief.
"Are you leaving all these books?" he asks, rising, and she shrugs.
"No one ever read them but you, darling." While his bookishness was always something she admired and loved about him, she herself was far more likely to pick up a newspaper or an annual report, than a moldering old novel. "If there are any you want, take them."
He picks up one from the arm of the chair he'd been sitting in.
"You know, maybe I'll take just this one. It's the first book I read after moving in here. Thought it might have some pointers for me."
He turns the book over for her to see the title: The Taming of the Shrew.
"John!" she exclaims, feigning indignation, then laughs and swats his arm. He grins and pulls her to him, wrapping his arms around her and burying his face in the crook of her neck.
How she loves this man.
She'll miss the old house, but now, with John, she's home.