Joan woke up the next morning in a chair in the hospital waiting room. Cat was back at the house with Audrey, Emily had to go back to school, and Arthur was in the chair beside her, with his hand on her leg. Elizabeth had arrived early that morning, so she was with Cat and Audrey.
"Mhhmm good morning, honey," Joan mumbled, rubbing her forehead. Arthur smiled and handed her a paper cup of coffee. She smiled gratefully and took a sip.
"Cat and Elizabeth are dropping Audrey at a friend's house and then coming over here," Arthur said. Joan nodded.
"Is she awake?"
"Not yet," Arthur said quietly. "I'm sorry, honey."
Joan stood up and reached down to touch her toes, then stretched out her arms. Arthur stood up too, and Joan wrapped her arms around him. They stood there for a few seconds before breaking apart. Joan took Arthur's hand in hers and together they walked down the hall to Lily's room.
Elizabeth pulled her sister into her arms, placing a kiss on each cheek.
"Hey, Lizzie," Joan mumbled into her sister's blonde curls. "How are you?"
"Oh, fine," Elizabeth said breezily. Joan half-smiled. Elizabeth was always poised, and always approached things calmly. Her defect was to act like nothing was wrong, and to be her bubbly, talkative self. Cat came up behind her and put a hand on Joan's shoulder.
"Arthur, look at you!," Elizabeth said. "Very handsome, as always."
Arthur smiled. "Thank you, Lizzie. How's the family?"
"David is loving his new position as senior partner at the firm, and Jake and Megan both just got their driver's licenses."
Arthur nodded and smiled. They all knew that the casual conversation was hiding the real reason they were all gathered there, but it felt wrong to just sit in silence.
The door to Lily's room opened, and a nurse walked out.
"Are you all waiting for Lily Fox?"
Joan nodded vigorously. "Yes, I'm her sister."
"Well, she's awake. You can see her now. No more than 3 people at a time, please."
"Thanks," Joan mumbled. She grabbed Elizabeth's hand, and Elizabeth grabbed Cat's. The three of them walked into the bland hospital room, and Joan had to hold back a gasp. Lily was sitting up in bed, her hair tangled and her eyes puffy from crying. She had a thick bandage wrapped around her left wrist, and her lips were chapped.
"Hey, girls," Lily croaked, her lips cracking into a weak smile.
They all sat on the bed, trying to keep their faces neutral. Joan spoke first.
"Lil, we're so glad you're alright."
"Yeah," Cat chimed in, squeezing Lily's hand. "You scared us."
Lily nodded and bit her lip. "I'm so, so sorry, you guys. I didn't mean to... to lose control. Is Audrey okay?"
Elizabeth nodded. "She's at a friend's house."
Lily sighed and put her head in her hands. "She deserves better. I keep failing her as a mother.."
"Oh, honey, no," Cat said, stroking Lily's hair. "You are the most dedicated mother I know. You're wonderful, and she knows you are doing your best. It hasn't been easy."
"But I never went back on my medication, or asked for help. I tried to everything all on my own, and look where it got me."
"But you're still here," Joan said. "We are all here for you, and we love you. Arthur is outside, Emily was here last night… you have a huge support system, and you're not alone."
Lily looked up at her sisters, with tears in her eyes. "Then why do I feel like this?"
Elizabeth sighed. "We don't know, Lil. But we are going to get you the help you need, and be here every step of the way."
"Yes, we will," Cat said. "I was thinking maybe I'd stay out here with you for a while, unless…"
"Unless I want to stay at the hospital," Lily whispered. "Like I did when it all started."
Joan nodded. "We just want the best for you, Lil."
Lily thought about it, but then shook her head. "No, I can't. I have to take care of Audrey, and I can't stop working."
Joan took her sister's hand. "Arthur and I will take care of Audrey. We only live a state away, so we can bring her for visits on the weekends. We have no kids of our own to worry about, a big house with extra bedroom, and we adore her."
Lily smiled softly. "You'd do that, Joanie?"
"Oh, Lil," Joan whispered, leaning in to hug her sister. "I'd do anything for you."
Cat and Elizabeth joined in on the hug, and the four of them just sat there for a moment, breathing in a mix of each other's perfumes and feeling like they were kids again. For everything became complicated.
"Well, would you look at that," a voice said from the doorway. "The Andrews sisters, together again."
They all looked up. A woman in a black coat, gray pants, a printed scarf, and her silver-y blonde hair in a French twist stood there, a warm smile on her face.
"Mom!," Elizabeth gaped. She jumped up and wrapped her arms around their mother, who was smiling. Joan and Cat got up, joining in on yet another group hug.
Violet Andrews smiled. "It's so nice to see all my girls together again." She looked over at the bed. Lily raised her hand in a weak wave.
"Oh, baby," Violet said, sitting down on the bed next to her youngest daughter. She kissed Lily's cheek.
Lily sighed and stared at her lap. "I don't know."
Violet let out a deep breath. "Honey, I love you, but we need to stop this pattern. Now, I'm on sabbatical this year, so I will staying here with you."
Elizabeth and Joan shared a glance. While their mother was loving and never judgmental, she was always cut the crap and got straight to the point.
"I understand Joanna will be taking care of Audrey," Violet continued.
Joan groaned. "Mother!"
Joanna was Joan's birth name, after Violet's mother, but it was rarely used. Except for by her mother, and not often until Joan was an adult. Joan always figured it was her mother babying her, but it bothered her nonetheless. It wasn't that she didn't like the name, but it made her feel like a child.
"Darling, I'm sorry, but it's a lovely name," Violet said. Cat laughed. Violet wasn't sorry at all. She loved to remind her daughters who was in charge, even though none of them had lived at home for over 20 years.
Lily was able to force out a laugh, which made everyone smile.
"You ladies look happy," Arthur commented from the door. Violet grinned.
"Arthur! You look dapper, as always."
Arthur chuckled and came over to the bed. He kissed Violet's cheek.
"Nice to see you, Violet. How was London?"
"Oh, rainy. Quite dreary, actually. But wonderful, as always."
The girls smiled.
"Hey, when can I see Audrey?," Lily asked quietly. "I want to explain everything to her before she goes back to Virginia with you guys."
Cat nodded. "I'll go pick her up." She stood up and kissed Lily's forehead.
"Hang in there, baby sister."
Lily nodded, and turned to her mother.
"Thanks for coming, mom. But you don't need to stay, I won't even be home."
"You're not getting rid of me that easy, Lillian," she said seriously. "I will be here for you."
Lily smiled. "Thanks, momma."
Elizabeth, Joan, and Arthur smiled.
"Mom, we're going to get some food," Joan said, kissing her mother on the cheek. "Lily, we'll be back soon, okay? I want to talk to your doctor before the move you to the psych floor, and then Arthur and I will take Audrey back home to pack a bag."
Lily nodded. "Thanks again, Joanie."
Joan nodded. "Love you, Lil."
Joan stood up, and Arthur put his arm around her waist. Elizabeth squeezed Lily's hand, and then got up to follow Joan and Arthur. Joan felt a pain forming her chest as they left the hospital. As much as their family all loved each other, it was beyond rare for them to all be the same place. Even Christmas was sometimes missing a few people. Joan's job had never made it easy to see her family often, but there was always guilt in the back of her mind that her sisters had no idea what she did for a living. They had been so close when they were younger, and Joan had distanced herself in an attempt to keep her family safe. Nevertheless, she hated herself for it everyday.
I imagine Violet, their mother, looking like Meryl Streep. And I decided that Andrews was Joan's maiden name, because it's pretty basic and I couldn't think of anything else. Did you enjoy it? :)