Lee years after Forever we Fall
I waited until Kyle had left the room before throwing off the covers and rolling myself into a sitting position. Breathing labored, I sat on the edge of our bed and dropped my head in my hands, waiting for the wave of dizziness to dissipate.
When it finally did, I reached for a bottle of meds off my nightstand and quickly flicked the cap open. Swallowing down the little pills with no water, I snatched up my cell and dialed the familiar number that was etched in my memory.
"Mrs. Carter," Dr. Brady's concerned voice came down the line after two short rings. He didn’t sound surprised to hear from me and that worried me for reasons only a person in my position could understand. "How are you feeling?"
"Worse," I admitted quietly, keeping the heel of my hand pressed to my brow. "Is there any chance you could be wrong?" Clenching my eyes shut, I forced my tears to still and not spill out. "Could the tests be wrong?"
There was a long stretch of silence before my doctor sighed heavily down the line. "There's no mistake. Your body is rejecting your kidney."
"But why now?"
"It's more common in transplant patients than you'd think," he replied. "We've been running tests and adjusting your treatment for over eighteen months now, Mrs. Carter. You're in kidney failure."
I held in the scream that threatened to tear from my throat and nodded. "Okay."
"You've been here before," he continued, tone gentle and coaxing. "And we found a match. Don’t lose faith."
"I was a lot younger then," I strangled out. "And my mother –"
"Please try not to stress," he cut me off and said. "It's not good for you."
"It's just –" I had to stop and drag in a calming breath before I could continue. "My boys, Cash and Casey –" A sniffle escaped me and I groaned. "They're only little."
"You are forty-six years old," he reminded me. "And I have no intention of losing a patient so young. We will continue with the dialysis and wait." He paused before adding, "And pray."
"So, that's the only way?" I whispered, barely breathing. "I need another transplant or nothing?"
"Yes." He sighed heavily down the line. "I'm afraid that's your only option. As soon as possible. Otherwise…"
Otherwise, I die. "How much time do I have?" I croaked out. "Be honest, doctor."
"With a successful transplant? Your whole life. Without one?" He sighed wearily. "A matter of months."
"I see." Frozen, I clutched the phone tightly in my hand. "I understand."
"Have you told your husband?" he asked gently. "Or the rest of your family?"
"Not yet," I replied numbly.
"I think it's time," he offered. "Your body is weakening, Mrs. Carter. It won't be long until hospital admission is your only option. You need support. You have a loving family. You also have the option of –"
"No," I bit out, unable to stop the tears from streaking down my cheeks. "I will not ask my children to do that for me."
"If they were tested, we could narrow it down significantly. Your husband isn't a match, but you have six biological children. That's incredible odds –"
"No," I snapped, tone harder now. "I had two perfect kidneys once, doctor. In the blink of an eye, I was thrown into this position. One moment in time took my health from me. I am fully aware of how quickly life can change for the worst. What if that happened to them? Say I take a kidney from one of my sons and then he's in a car wreck or worse? Needing a kidney and not having one because his mother took it from him? No. I won't risk their lives and futures for mine. I would never forgive myself."
"Mrs. Carter, you really need to think hard about what you're –"
"It's not happening."
With another weary sigh, Dr. Brady said, "You have your pager. Keep it on you at all times."
"I will," I whispered.
"Talk to your husband. You won't be able to hide this from him for much longer."
Kyle years after Forever we Fall
“Name the first song you and Lee ever danced to?”
“That's easy. Josh Turner’s Your Man.”
I blinked, stunned he remembered. Apparently, so were Hope and Teagan.
"First kiss music?" Teagan pushed.
Kyle smirked. "Kings of Leon."
"First song you ever sang her?"
"The Pogues’ Rainy Night in Soho."
"They clearly fuck, Hope. Your existence is proof to that."
"David Gray’s Say Hello and Wave Goodbye," Kyle shot back without hesitation. He turned to Hope and winked. "The night you were conceived."
"Ew, gross, Dad!"
"Keep going." Settling back on the couch, Kyle smirked. "I can go all night."
"You're a man."
"We remember the important things, too," he reminded her. "We just don't talk about it."
"First time you knew you were in love?"
"Probably long after it occurred," he replied.
"But the specific moment it hit you?"
He sighed and scratched his jaw, thinking back. "The night we lost Hope's twin."
The girls looked down.
"Obviously, I loved her long before that," he added. "But that was my come to Jesus moment. I'd lost everything. It was gone. Just like that." He shrugged. "It was my wake up call – or my rude awakening. However you want to look at it. I'd fucked it all. My life. Her life. Everything. I wasn't with her. I let her down. I screwed it all up. And I had to grow up. I had to fix things. After that night, I had tunnel vision when it came to Lee. I just…I went for it."
Lee many years later
"Up for a nightcap, Princess?"
Arching my neck, I watched Kyle approach the couch with a mug of steaming coffee in one hand and a tumbler of amber liquid in the other.
"With you?" I teased, smiling warmly at the sight of my walking home on legs.
He winked. "Who else?"
Setting our drinks down on the coffee table, he readjusted the blanket that was covering my feet until it was all the way up to my neck before settling down on the floor beside the couch.
On closer inspection, I could see how exhausted he truly was. Dark shadows danced under his blue eyes. His shoulders were rigid, his foot tapping restlessly on the plush rug.
"You can sit up here with me?" I offered, smiling lovingly down at the only man I'd ever given my heart to. "I'm not that broken, Kyle."
"I know," he agreed, forcing a smile that didn’t quite meet his eyes. "But it's comfy down here."
He was just too scared to come closer.
"Come here." Leaning closer to cup his face between my hands, I tugged his face to mine. "We did good, baby." I pressed my lips to his. "Listen to all that noise, " I added, smiling at the sound of our children fighting like alley cats in the other room. "We did it, Kyle." I touched my brow to his. "We beat the odds."
Shuddering, he clenched his eyes shut and leaned into my touch. "We're not done yet, Lee." His tears trickled down my fingertips as he stroked my nose with his. "Not even close, baby."
"I'll take that bet," I whispered, heart thudding achingly in my chest. "Fuck the odds, remember?"
"Yeah." A reluctant smile tugged at his lips. "And the whole damn world."