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[2006: JAN-FEB] Home Is Where The Heart Is


Julia Harden
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Home Is Where The Heart Is

My daughter stood in the doorway with her husband as I floated above the room. I could see everything as if I was awake and conscious. There were no feelings; I was a silent ghost looking in on myself as I lay in the bed with the covers pulled up over my shoulders. An old woman, no longer head of Starfleet Medical. Michael was filling in for me but at the moment; I didn’t care. My internal clock had stopped. No emotions came pouring out to engulf me with its raw pain. Floating high above those feelings, I felt relief.

“She doesn’t do anything any more, Robbie. She doesn’t play with Raya any more,” my daughter complained to her husband.

The frown on her face showed her worry. I could see little Raya in her crib. The crib that Ryan had asked the engineers to make for Brianna herself. Now there was a sadness for the little girl so like her father and my attention turned back to myself.

My body stirred and I was moving toward it. Suddenly frightened of the feelings I’d be having, I tried to stop myself. How does one stop a ghost from moving through air? Then the weight of sorrow came crashing down on me. I opened my eyes. “No,” I whispered. “I don’t want to be here.”

Brianna was at my side kneeling, her worried face searching mine. Her hands clutched the blanket. My eyes didn’t cry nor did they really see this young woman with Ryan’s unruly hair and blue eyes. My stomach seized with an ache I couldn’t fight. Ryan. My husband of so many years. He promised he’d stay with me for the rest of my life. MY LIFE, not his.

“Doctor, you’ve lain there feeling sorry for yourself long enough,” Robbie stated. No pity for me in that voice. He didn’t care how I was suffering. He was only thinking of himself. “Your selfishness has to stop. Your daughter lost her father. Your granddaughter lost her grandfather. You have a son that stays away because he can’t help you and can’t stand to see what you’re doing to yourself. I understand the grief you’re feeling, but we need you to come back to the living.” My eyes moved to his face. He’d come closer to the bed and was pulling Brianna up and away from me. I started to grab her, pull her back but my anger took over.

“Brianna, let the old woman lay there and die.” Hurtful words. My Ryan was dead and this man our daughter married didn’t care!

I flung the covers aside and swung my feet out of the bed. This was their quarters, I realized. I needed to get back to my own home. Away from this awful man that I knew hated me. In my nightgown I stumbled around fitting my feet into the slippers that Ryan had given me when my old ones became so tattered he couldn’t stand it anymore. He’d laughed as he replicated them for me. His laughter, so contagious, so filled with love for me.

My hand went to my stomach again where Brianna had grown for so many months. So long ago. Where Ryan had lain his head to listen to her heart beating. Where she had kicked him against his ear causing him to rub his hand over me while telling her to settle down. She’d be out of her mother and into his arms soon enough.

Robbie held Brianna in his arms firmly. So she couldn’t run to me and hold me. Anger shot out of my eyes at him. It wasn’t his father or husband who’d died. What did he really care? Ryan had been right. Robert Steele wasn’t good enough for our daughter.

I staggered across the room, my slippers flopping off of my heels. I didn’t care at that moment how I looked. So unlike me to not care. But I didn’t. Ryan was gone and this man who had married his daughter didn’t want me in his house any more. He was keeping my only daughter from... from.... I squared my shoulders, glared at him once more then walked directly across the room and out the door.

Our quarters, Ryan’s and mine, was only two apartment doors down the hallway. I hadn’t been able to go there for a long while now.

But the door whooshed open as I approached like it should and the memories came gushing at me. Ryan had stood in the middle of this room four years ago. He’d turned slowly in a circle and took in every bit of the rooms we would make into our own. And we had. The sofa and chairs we had picked out together. We had found the table at an antique shop and cleaned the glass and metal until it glittered. The matching chairs we replicated. Our Home.

Ryan wasn’t here in Our Home any more. He never would be here again. He’d taken that shuttle into space without letting Brianna check it out first. SHE was the chief engineer now, not him. He had no business making that test by himself.

I sunk down on the sofa, landing too close to the edge and slid onto the floor where I stayed. My sorrow and pain overwhelmed me. Tears came once again to burn my cheeks. I wanted him back. His arms around me. Wrenching sobs took over and I went with the feelings of helplessness, of lost hope, of pity for myself.

Floating around in my mind was Brianna and Sean. Sean, our son, so like me. Sean, standing defiantly in front of us and declaring he was going to be an obstetrician like his Uncle Michael. “I’m sorry mom, dad,” he’d said in his high, seven year old voice, “But I’ve made up my mind.” Now he was stationed on the medical ship USS Columbia in the far reaches of space. That same space we’d been in when he was born.

My sobs subsided to hiccups then sniffling. Pushing on the couch, I forced myself to stand and saw my Ryan in front of me, his hands out to help. Smiling, I put my arm out so he could grip my elbow like he did when I was pregnant with Sean. We’d had a hard time figuring out how he could help me get up with my big belly jutting in front of me. Sean had been a quiet baby. Brianna had kicked and turned at the most awkward times.

Ryan was there for me every bit of the way. Through the labor pains when Dr. Berrell wiped my forehead because Ryan was pacing nervously back and forth in and out of the hallway. Ryan watched our babies being born and held my hand, letting me squeeze his fingers so tightly that he couldn’t stop the grimace that stole across his face.

Dear Dr. Michael Berrell who had become such a close friend that he became our children’s uncle. Uncle Michael who agreed to join me when I was asked by Starfleet Command if I would take over as head of the medical department at the academy.

They had a position for Ryan, too, teaching the new cadets how not to blow up the ship. Who but Ryan had the most experience with engines and warp cores and generators? He reluctantly accepted because he wouldn’t go to space without me. So he’d become an instructor and loved every minute of it. Who but Ryan could get the students laughing and learning and destroying ships in the holodeck so they could learn and not destroy their ships in space?

I picked up the front of my nightgown noticing the wrinkled and soiled condition of it. Ryan had never seen me like this and I didn’t want him to see what had become of me. I undone the two buttons at my throat, pulled the gown over my head and stopped when I felt Ryan’s fingers touch mine. We pulled the gown off together. I waited for his hand on my body but it never came. Opening my eyes, I saw him hovering in front of me.

“Oh, Ryan. I miss you so terribly,” I said to this image I wished would be solid once again.

“I’m here, Luce. Let me back into your heart. You’ve closed it on me and it’s cold out here.”

The gown slipped out of my hands falling into a heap on the floor. “I’ll be right back,” I whispered.

At the door into the bathroom, I looked cautiously into the mirror. A white haired woman looked back, Ryan’s beloved face standing behind me. My hair turned dark, my eyes lost their puffiness, the red circles fading away leaving us the young, happy couple we had been.

I stood in the shower a long time, washing the cobwebs out of my mind, the dust of time from my aged and wrinkled body.

<^>

The medical department building rose 24 stories into the air with me inside a turbo lift. I was dressed now, the uniform of a vice admiral hanging from my skinny – no, slender! – frame. Makeup disguised the swelling in my face. I’d gotten my hair piled into a twist on top of my head. The pips Ryan had shined for me every day for two weeks when they were new rested in their place on my collar. My black Starfleet-issued boots made no sound on the carpeted hallway. Then the door of my office opened at my approach. The receptionist was away from her desk so I walked directly to what was called the Inner Sanctum.

“Lucilla! You’re back!” Michael was standing up, coming around the desk and opening his arms for a hug which I walked into gladly.

“Michael, I’ve been away too long.” I smiled up at him. His broad shoulders strained at his own vice admiral uniform.

“This is where you belong, Lucilla. Behind this desk at the head of this department, not me.” He chuckled as he shoved me gently into the chair facing the personnel board, it’s lights blinking as people entered and left the building.

“You’ve been the most wonderful friend, Michael. Now, shoo, so I can get caught up.”

“You give me a buzz when you’re ready and I’ll come back to fill in all the gaps.” Michael went out, thoughtfully closed the door and left me alone.

I sat there a while remembering the day I arrived in this office four years before. My hair was a silvery-grey then. I’d just made commodore. A title to befit my new position. Ryan behind me, his arms around my waist as he kissed the top of my head. My eyes strayed around the room, taking in the credenza, the small conference table, pictures of the two ships Ryan and I served on; the USS Forsaken where our children were born and the USS Exeter where we spent a mere two years before being called back to Earth. The picture of my first day in office. Ryan beaming at me; looking at me instead of the camera.

My love poured out to him.

Reaching out, I took a piece of paper and wrote a quick note on it, saying that I was going home, then took off my pips, laying them on top of the note. I stood, stretched the kinks out of my long unused muscles and walked out onto the small patio the department heads were privileged to have.

Taking a deep breath, I suddenly coughed at the taste of smog. They’d never been able to get rid of all of it no matter how hard the government had tried.

Ryan’s arms encircled my waist once again. I smiled when I felt the kiss on top of my head just the way he used to do.

“I’ll need a little help, Ryan,” I said out loud.

My panted leg swung over the black railing and I was falling; falling the many meters to the hard concrete below. Ryan fell with me, his face above me. I saw Michael leaving the building and as my body struck the solid surface, his face took on a look of horror. I wanted to tell him not to worry; I was home now.

Edited by Julia Harden
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