Author: Chelle Storey-Daniel
Pairing: Mark/Callie Callie/Hahn Mark/Addison
Summary: What happens when a man steps up and offers you everything you've ever wanted at the same time that a woman does? What happens when you're feeling things that you've never felt before and you question everything you thought you knew about yourself. Callie takes a journey that is rocky, wonderful, terrifying, and breathtaking as she realizes that there is one heart too many in her life and that's the one that she will have to break.
Dedicated: To the readers. Thank you! You are all a breath of fresh air.
Ange, sorry I deviated from the banner you made. This picture is made of win, too. :)
The news of my vandalized car has spread through Seattle Grace like wildfire. The cliques that exist have drawn their own conclusions and bend my ear about obvious suspects. The nurses are certain that the culprit is a religious orderly who had a bad day and decided that God would be nicer to him if he stoned Red Rover to death. The orderlies are convinced that the nurses still hold a grudge against me for the entire Mark thing. The residents think interns probably did it because they’re still in ‘college prank mode’ and the interns are convinced that vile Dr. Simmons, who heads up Ortho and makes it a point to express his dislike of me daily, took his geriatric ass to the parking deck and turned his hate into art. Erica shot down my theory that Izzie, after I mangled her face, had every motive. Erica thinks that’s too obvious and while Izzie is a skank, but she’s not a stupid skank. Addison, who sits with us at lunch (albeit nervously), sides with me and scowls across the cafeteria at Stevens, who has her back to us.
"I can’t believe I missed the fight. I’ve encouraged you to go all ‘Matrix’ on her ass and you do it when I’m not here!?" Addison sighs. "Callie, that’s just wrong."
"It was wrong," Erica snaps, narrowing her eyes at her. "She could have gotten fired."
"Yeah, but I didn’t," I say, putting my hand on hers. Erica said she would *try* with Addison and I don’t think snarling and death glares is trying too hard. From the moment that Addy greeted me with a hug this morning and proceeded to exclaim over the bruise on my jaw and my bandaged hand, Erica has been less than thrilled with life. I get that she hasn’t forgiven Addy for slapping my face, but she’s also not extending anything that remotely resembles an olive branch. "So, yay."
"Whoever did it," Addison says, "knew that the parking deck would be empty for extended periods of times because of the shift change falling like it did."
"Well, that narrows it down to everybody who works here," I reply sarcastically. "Ugh, I don’t want to talk about this anymore."
I shoot a pointed look at Addison, who she shakes her head firmly. "Well, we are *not* talking about me. Or Mark. At all. Let’s talk about Jasper’s surgery. I saw that Derek had the paperwork ready to apply for the trial."
My eyes widen. This is not a topic I want to get close to in Erica’s vicinity. "Let’s not talk about that either."
Addison pats my hand. "He’ll be fine. Derek’s good at what he does and Jazz stands to benefit from it so much. I mean, he needs it. He needs to know everything that life offers instead of what Lori Anne shows him. No offense to your Mom ... but the way she dresses him would mortify a twelve year old. He’s a man."
I laugh. "Yeah, the plaid and the khaki will be the first thing to go. I will fully support him being the classic skater dude with the long hair, baggy shorts, and vulgar t-shirts."
Grinning, Addison nods, "Oooh, or he could decide to be all GQ."
"Or," Erica deadpans, her voice lower than it usually is. "He could be accepted like he is and not forced under the knife to change what people perceive to be ‘wrong’ with him. You can dress him up in skater clothes or make him look GQ the way he is *now* if what he looks like is so important. Or ... you could let him be and enjoy the fact that he’s here and he’s healthy."
Addison raises her eyebrows pointedly when Erica gets up and carries her tray toward the trashcans near the front of the room. I watch her go, expecting her to come back, but she doesn’t. I sigh and say, "She doesn’t think that Jazz should have the surgery. She thinks that it’s too risky and that the threat of losing him is too high."
"Is she always against everything you do?" Addy asks. "Because in the thirty minutes that I’ve been talking to the two of you ... she’s made it very clear that you need to not eat regular chips or drink Coke, that you shouldn’t have hit Stevens after she attacked *you*, and that you’re wrong about Jasper ... who, incidentally, is *your* brother. So, am I missing something or did she not get the memo about being supportive of your lover?"
"She is. Supportive. She’s just ... on edge after what happened yesterday. It was stressful."
"I’m gonna be blunt." Leaning forward, she rests her elbows on the table and looks me dead in the eye. "I’ve yet to see anything in her that would explain to me why you would leave Mark ... the same Mark who pretty much worshipped the ground you walked on ... for her. I’ve seen her yell at Yang for nothing, argue with Richard over nothing, and now I see her disagreeing with you over something as simple as what you want to *eat*. So forgive me, but I don’t get the appeal. She’s harsh."
"You’ve obviously been listening to Mark."
"I’ve *seen* it. She’s cruel to people, specifically Yang. And -"
"Erica and I discussed that last night and she said that she was going to give her a chance."
"She shouldn’t have to give her a chance. She’s the cardio attending and Yang wants cardio. That means Erica is contractually obligated to teach her because she signed on at a teaching hospital. She doesn’t have to like her, but she agreed to do it."
"I’m not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth her. Addison, I love her and I’m happier than I have ever been."
"I’m glad that you’re happy, Cal, because you deserve it ... but I’m not impressed."
"You don’t have to be."
"Fair enough." Addy returns to her sandwich and takes a bite. "By the way ... I’m back at the Archfield."
That’s a shock, but I try to keep the evidence of it off my face. "I thought your things were at -"
"Change of plans. I’m on the twenty fourth floor now, though. Way nicer view."
"Why are you there?"
"Because Mark and I decided that we need to get to know each other again. Who we are now, I mean. He’s not the same Mark Sloan and I’m definitely a different Addison. I - I think maybe a few brain cells died from all the organic shit I ate in California." She plucks a chip from my tray and smiles at me. "But I can do the dating thing. I can also warm up to Erica if that’s what I have to do because I really did kinda like her the first time I met her."
"So ... is Mark going to warm up to me again or has he pretty much written me off?"
"You’re impossible to write off. As soon as he finishes licking his wounds ... he’ll remember that."
"You planning to help lick those wounds?"
She stops chewing. "Pervert."
"I prefer sexually charged."
"Sexually enhanced," she corrects.
"Oh my God!" I gasp, leaning toward her. "Erica found the Purple Pulsater that you gave me as a wedding gift."
"Ah, the gift that keeps on giving." She snags another chip. "Did she use it on you?"
"I didn’t hear that."
"Oh come on! Tell me!"
"No, she didn’t or no you’re not telling me." She purses his lips playfully and in a singsong voice adds, "Someone’s turning red. She *so* used it and you *so* liked it."
"It’s good to use it, Callie. You don’t want to get cobwebs."
Now she actually *sings*. "It was a one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eat-"
I throw a chip at her, but I have to laugh. Addison is that friend who isn’t afraid to tell you what she thinks and can still make you laugh afterwards. She’s that friend whose life you try on for a while and realize that it doesn’t quite fit. She accepts it when you return it and doesn’t mind that you’ve stretched it too much and have made it hard for her wear again.
I hope that she can get to know the real Erica ... because I think she’d love her, too.
And I hope that Mark can want to know me again ... because I think he’d realize that it’s okay for me to love him as a friend.
I really just hope for a lot of things.
Like a good surgery ... which doesn’t happen.
I purposely took extra care with my appearance so that I would look presentable when I meet Erica’s friends. As horrible as it sounds ... I really didn’t think that she had any which is absolutely ridiculous. You’d think she would have mentioned them, though. She has avoided my questions about them all day and when I find her two hours after lunch, she appears to be just as cranky as she was during lunch so I don’t press. What I do is ask her if she wants to head to the roof and enjoy the view. For a split second ... she looks like she wants to decline, but she holds out her hand and we take the elevator up. It’s windy and I didn’t consider what that would do to the hair I spent an hour on, but I roll with it because she leans her face into the wind with a strange look that concerns me a hell of a lot more than my hair.
"Erica, are you okay?"
"I’m tired. I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept thinking about your car and how - fuck - I really, really hate people."
"I know the feeling." I watch her closely. I’ve seen what she looks like when she’s tired. This doesn’t look tired to me. "You want to tell me what that was at lunch?"
"Addison doesn’t like me." Erica pulls her white lab coat a little tighter and sighs, scuffing the toe of her shoe along the rough surface of the roof. "I can tell."
"Well, Yellow, you did threaten to flay her skin off and shove it up her ass if she hit me again." I wrinkle my nose. "It’s hard to bounce back from that."
"In my defense, I was sleeping when she called me." She gives me a lopsided grin that does crazy things to my stomach. "And if she hits you again ... I’ll show her that I can keep my word."
"That’s oddly sexy. Not so much with the flaying or the shoving ... but the fact that you get all protective? I like that." The door opens behind us and Stevens comes out, lighting a cigarette and blowing a plume of smoke into the air. "She hit me, too. Maybe you should toss her off the roof."
"It’s expected from her. Not from Addison." She tugs me into her arms and kisses me. I’m vaguely aware that the door opens again and slams behind us, signaling that Stevens finally realized that she wasn’t alone on the roof. When we break apart, Erica rubs her nose against mine. "What do you want for your birthday?"
"I’ve already got it."
"I can think of a few things that you would like."
"I’m sure you can." I hug her, wrapping my arms around her neck. "So, who are these friends of yours that we’re meeting?"
She shakes her head. "You’ll see."
"You’re honestly not going to tell me anything about them?"
"Nope. But just so you know ... I value their opinion. So if they don’t like you ... well, you’re out of luck."
My smile fades and my mouth drops open in shock. "Oh my GOD! No pressure or anything!"
Our pagers sound at the same time.
I shouldn’t have hoped for surgery.
Now I’m nervous as HELL about tonight and I have to force myself to have steady hands while I cut into an ankle and try to pin it back together.
I wish that Addison had not voiced her opinion about Erica ... because her words stay on my mind a little too much for my liking.
"Stop fidgeting, baby."
"I’m not," I reply, gazing out the windshield. I am definitely fidgeting. I can’t get comfortable in the seat, my legs feel too long as I attempt to stretch them out, and the seatbelt is confining. Usually, Erica’s car is very, very comfortable, but right now it’s killing me. It’s like riding in a bubble of claustrophobia.
"Just breathe," Erica says calmly, turning onto the highway.
Oh, if only it were that easy. I had a minor panic attack when I changed out of my scrubs and put the jeans and shirt I had chosen on. I couldn’t exactly bring four or five outfits to work with me and Erica made it very clear that we were leaving from the hospital to meet her friends. She looks put together and perfect in a pair of cream colored pants and a short sleeved shirt with dark brown and beige swirls. I look frumpy in comparison and I wish I had worn the navy blue shirt I debated on instead of the red one because red screams ‘easy’ or something. I squirm against the leather seat of the car and crank the air up, letting it blast me in the face before my makeup melts off. It’s a good thing I keep deodorant in my locker because I’m sweating like a pig. I have the distinct impression that my girlfriend is enjoying my discomfort a little too much because she cheerfully sings along with the radio as she navigates traffic and a) she’s tone deaf and b) she’s smiling and I know for a *fact* that she hates The Beatles.
I seldom visit the side of town that Seattle Presbyterian is on. It’s considered the ‘rough’ area even though it’s like a ghost town. There are abandoned buildings and closed down shops all over the place. Poverty settled thick into the area a long time ago and Presbyterian is the only safe harbor that a lot of locals have. Because of its proximity to the water ... they see a ton of fishermen and dock workers on a routine basis. The hospital isn’t overly large, but it does boast one of the best trauma centers in the Northwest. I came very close to applying for a residency there at one point based on that alone, but Seattle Grace won out. Truthfully ... I wanted to put as much distance between me and Miami as I could. Miami is a ghost town for me, too. The ghosts of my past linger over everything there and I can only take it in small doses.
I’m a little shocked when she drives into the parking lot of the hospital. I kind of expected to meet her pals at a restaurant or at one of their houses, but she takes the parking pass from the machine and the arm swings up to let us park in the visitor area. She drives toward a building that is separate, but connected to the main structure by a long glass walkway, and parks near the double doors. There’s a sign overhead that reads, ‘Summer Smash’ and several balloons have been attached to the metal stair rail. I realize that the building isn’t a break room or a common room for the doctors when I see the wheelchair ramp and the large letters on the side.
Seattle Presbyterian Mental Health Professionals ... the words are gold against the stark whiteness of the building and I glance her way when she cuts the engine.
She simply smiles at me and opens her door. I follow suit and watch her retrieve an oversized bag of lollipops from the backseat. It’s big enough to pacify an angry hoard of greedy Trick or Treaters. She doesn’t offer her hand as we walk up the steps, but I don’t say anything. She goes so far as to stuff her empty hand into her pocket and I get the message ... whether she means to drive it home so clearly or not. We’re not *together* here.
I don’t let it bother me too much because I have a very strong suspicion that Erica’s friends ... are very much like Jasper.
My theory is proven correct when she walks into the ‘Summer Smash’ and becomes the center of attention like a celebrity returning to her high school. She’s instantly surrounded by people who stumble over each other to be able to grasp some part of her. With an authoritative voice, she tells her fan club that she wants them to meet a friend of hers and then I’m enveloped in the swarm and thoroughly hugged, patted, and squeezed. Because of Jasper, I’m at ease with the slow speech and endless questions. I don’t mind repeating my name and hearing variations of it murmured incorrectly in response. Erica knows every name, every face, and she tells me something specific about each of them as she introduces them one at a time. There are eleven patients in all and I can tell that Erica’s comfortable, she’s in her element, and she makes each person feel special. There are no children, just teenagers and adults who try to talk at once ... bending her ear about everything from their new shoes to the ruffles on their dresses.
With the patience of Job, she untangles herself and greets several staff members. They usher their charges toward a nearby row of tables while one man stays behind. He’s extremely jovial and if his beard was white instead of bushy brown he would make a great Santa. He’s got a big, round belly and twinkling eyes when he shakes my hand. "You must be Callie. Erica said you were pretty, but that’s an understatement," he says, winking at me. "I’m Jim Phillips."
It would be ever so nice if I had a single clue who Jim Phillips was. "Hi, nice to meet you."
He gives me an oddly familiar, ultra tooth whitened smile and looks at Erica. "They were so excited to dance that Geneva funky chickened her way into the radio and smashed it. You wouldn’t happen to have a boom box on you, huh?"
"Sorry," she replies, shaking her head. "I left it at home with the kitchen sink."
Jim makes a face at her. "Caleb isn’t here tonight to play the piano so this is a music free fiesta. Unless you suddenly figured out how to play something more than ‘Chopsticks’."
When she shakes her head, he swears under his breath. "I promised music. And singing."
I glance at the baby grand in the corner of the room. You don’t grow with a music producer for a father without learning a thing or two. Music was as common in our house as breathing. I can remember sitting quietly on top of the piano in our study while Billy Joel, literally... Billy Freakin’ Joel ... worked through the less than stellar moments of a song he wanted to release while my dad paced the room listening. Some truly amazing music emerged from that study and I was too used to it happening to soak it all in too much. The only time I was ever excited to see any celebrities in our house was New Kids on the Block and I came so close to fainting that my mother had to put ice cubes on the back of my neck. I was fourteen years old and went running into the study in my gown and fuzzy slippers because I thought Joel was lying about them being there. Donnie Wahblerg leaned down and picked my glasses up, slipped them back on my face, then kissed the tip of my nose like I hadn’t just rolled out bed with my hair stuck up at all angles and the wire around my neck that connected to my braces was invisible. Yes ... he kissed me and I broke out in a cold sweat all over. I almost gave in to the urge to pretend to choke to death to see if he would give me mouth to mouth, but my mother took one look at my star struck, pasty face and ushered me to the kitchen where ice cubes did more than stop my swoon ... the cold chips made me realize that I had just humiliated myself beyond anyone’s humiliation in life.
The band stayed for dinner.
I hid in my room under my New Kids on the Block comforter ... which truly ... only added insult to injury at that point.
There’s a young girl standing in front of the piano now and I recognize her as the infamous funky chicken dancing Geneva. Her name stuck in my head when Erica introduced her and so did her beauty. Her ebony skin is radiant as she brushes her fingers over the keys of the baby grand like a whisper, not making them tinkle at all. "I, uh, could help you out with the piano," I say softly, still watching Geneva. "Years of practice could finally be put to good use."
"Now this is a team player!" Jim says, taking my arm. "Can you read sheet music?"
"I can *write* sheet music in my sleep."
Erica, who did not know that I could tickle anything ivory except her, watches with a shocked expression as he leads me to the piano and hands me a book of Disney music, telling me that anything and everything I want to play would be greatly appreciated. I sit down on the bench, then slide to one side a little as Geneva sits next to me. She doesn’t make eye contact with me, but she flips the pages and points at ‘Beauty and the Beast’. "One of my favorites," I tell her and she grins shyly. I play the first page, but before I can reach up to turn to the next, she does it for me, watching my fingers. "Can you play, Geneva?"
She shakes her head and waits for the song to end. She chooses ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ next and I realize that she’s humming along as I play. Her eyes close as she rocks her head back and forth a little. Two more patients walk up and lean against the piano, resting their palms against the side to feel the vibrations. One of them, a man with the beginnings of gray in his temples, sings along. He mangles the lyrics, but the gap toothed grin he gives me more than makes up for any real ability to carry a tune. When I finish the song, he claps his hands enthusiastically. If I remember correctly, his name is Brandon, and his Down Syndrome is evident in his features and spotted eyes. "Do Aladdin!" he cries, hopping in anticipation. "Aladdin!"
Geneva flips automatically to the correct page and I run my fingers through ‘A Whole New World’. The man beside Brandon, Chris (I think), has a startling voice when he sings. It’s clear, crisp, and perfectly pitched. The sound of it lures several other patients to the piano where they watch him with admiration. Jasper does the same thing when he hears someone sing. He loves to hear music. He loves to hear singers and watch people dance. He didn’t care too much for it before the accident, but now that it has happened ... he listens a little closer to life, he pays more attention to things that sound pretty. Before we discovered that his mural lamp would calm him enough for bed and that he could chase dolphins until he fell into peaceful slumber ... the notes of a music box carried him to sleep. My dad gave it to me when I turned sixteen. It plays ‘Over the Rainbow’ and its still on Jasper’s dresser. He winds it every morning before he will let my mother help him dress.
Sometimes I miss him so much that I wish I had braved the ghost town of Miami to stay with him.
I wish I had kept my word about never leaving him.
I hope that I can bring him back all the way so that he can understand that.
The patients here know every Disney song ever written and they want to hear several more than once. On the faster tunes, they pair off ... girls with girls, guys with guys, girls with guys ... and hold hands as they dance. Geneva stays beside me, even when doctors and nurses start to filter in. They’re all still wearing their scrubs and start playing around with the patients. I could play all night because the enthusiasm is infectious, but dinner time arrives and everyone groans when I close the lid on the piano. I make eleven promises to do it again before I leave and join Erica at one of the tables. Geneva sits beside me, her elbow rubbing mine as she picks at her hot dog. I half listen to the conversation Erica is having with Jim about the transport van breaking down. I’m distracted because Geneva is moving the fingers of her left hand over the edge of the table like she’s stroking the keys of the piano. They’re long and graceful and I realize as I watch that only three of her fingers move properly. The other two have been fused into a claw like position that she doesn’t seem to have any control over. Even hooked in a curve, her fingers were clearly skilled at one time and I think she knows how to read sheet music.
I haven’t heard her voice so I’m a little shocked when she taps me on the arm and says, "You love music."
I really don’t love music. It’s one of those things that you take for granted if it’s a huge part of your life. It would be like having a pet monkey that you’re used to so it’s no big deal, but people who visit for the first time are amazed. I like some bands more than others and jam out in the OR, but it’s not my life. Not the way it is her life. I still nod at her and say, "I do."
"Long long time ago ... I play."
"You did?" I ask, but I knew that. It’s obvious. Her passion is just too profound.
She nods and one of the tight curls on her head falls over her face. She pushes it back with her gnarled hand and grins a little. It’s just the hint of a smile, though, like she’s afraid that showing her teeth will somehow erase her memories. "I play all the time. Long long time ago."
I can’t ask her what happened because she gets up and moves to sit next to one of the nurses, who helps her cut her hot dog into bite sized pieces. Erica, who was listening to our conversation, leans a little closer to me and says, "Geneva was planning to go Julliard when she graduated. Her boyfriend took offense to her leaving Washington and beat her with an aluminum bat. She suffered a stroke on the operating table that affected the left side of her body. Her short term memory is shot, but she can remember playing. She can remember what her life was like, but she can’t get it back. Ever."
I meet Erica’s eyes and she nods across the room. "Riley, the kid in the blue, he was a star athlete. He was on the pitcher’s mound one day and when the batter who was up nailed the ball ... it hit him in temple. During the surgery to relieve pressure on his brain ... something happened. He can’t talk now. He can’t read or write, but he puts that dirty baseball cap on every single day and no matter how many new ones I give him for Christmas ... he only wears that one. It’s the one he wore the day he was hit. I think maybe he plays ball all day long in his head. And that smile never, ever leaves his face."
Riley is handsome. When he sees us looking at him, he waves and holds up a hamburger, rubbing his belly like it’s the best thing he’s ever eaten.
"This was Rachel’s baby," Erica continues. "She was a social worker who got tired of watching people with handicaps be bounced around in the system. She started support groups and planned activities like this so that they could look forward to something. The Rachel Phillips Center is in Sammamish. The eleven people in this room live at that facility year round and work here at the hospital. They get paid, they learn how to be self sufficient, and enjoy themselves. Which they do, by the way ... just the way they are."
My eyes move toward Jim and now I can see why his ultra bright smile is vaguely familiar. He has Rachel’s smile. And her last name.
Yes ... it would have been really fucking nice to know who Jim Phillips was beforehand so I could have had the panic attack *then* as opposed to *now*.
I’m slightly irritated, but I don’t let it show. I can’t let it show because Brandon flops down beside me and points at the piano. I’m actually relieved that I have something to do. I don’t say anything to Erica as I get to my feet. The second Geneva sees me move, she leaps up and follows me, sitting next to me on the bench again. When she asks for Beethoven ... there is no sheet music. I play ‘Moonlight Sonata’ and ‘Fur Elise’ from memory. I play Pachelbel and Bach while everyone finishes eating and then I return to the Disney formula and try not to think about the fact that I don’t know *anything* about the woman I’ve moved in with. The great love of Erica’s life made it her life’s mission to help people like Jasper and that explains so much ... and complicates so much more.
The mental image I had of Erica connecting with Jasper on some cosmic level or because she was somehow better than anyone else is shot to hell now.
Jasper was easy for her because she’s used to it. Bottom line. There’s no great, mystical, or profound rationing behind how well she gets him.
I didn’t bring anything new into her life with Jazz ... she was accustomed to it.
I play until my fingers ache from it while Chris holds court with his beautiful singing voice. He knows every word and sings with passion and conviction about living ‘Under the Sea’. He breezes through ‘Hakuna Matata’, the ‘Circle of Life’ and ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ like he was made to sing them all. He could have starred on Broadway in another life ... if his limitations didn’t leave him stuck in a group home in Sammamish, Washington ... he could be accepting a Tony award.
I don’t want this kind of life for Jasper. If Erica brought me here to reinforce her stance on leaving well enough alone ... she didn’t. It’s had the opposite effect on me. I’m more determined than ever to make sure that Jasper has something more to look forward to than finger painting and dancing slightly off balance. There’s more to life than that. There’s more to life than *this*.
Chris leans against the piano when I wrap up ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ and says, "You sing."
"Yeah," Geneva says, "You sing now."
"Me?" I ask with a laugh. "I play ... I don’t sing."
Just like that, Chris looks like he’s about to cry and I quickly change my position. "Okay, okay. I’ll sing. Any requests?"
"Anything," Chris replies, wiping at his eyes dramatically. "Okay?"
I was forced to perform and the front row in the audience was comprised of jocks, cheerleaders, and the rest of the popular crowd. They kept distracting me by flipping me birds and commenting ... loudly ... on the fact that my stomach was very, very pudgy in the tight dress my mother chose. I mangled the lyrics, messed up the tempo of the song, and nearly burst into tears when it was finally over ... and Jasper stood up in his chair and yelled ‘Woo! That’s my sister!’ as loud as he could. I started laughing and kept laughing with the audience as I bowed and left the stage.
Jasper loves ‘Over The Rainbow’. He watched ‘The Wizard of Oz’ almost daily growing up and after the accident ... he still watches it fanatically. He gets lost in the colors and sounds.
So I play it now for him and the lyrics couldn’t be more fitting.
I want to help him fly.
I’m *going* to help him fly.
He’ll never wonder why he can’t soar the way bluebirds do.
When I finish the song ... I realize that there’s silence.
Possibly ... it was *that* bad.
I move my hands from the keys and my face gets so hot that I know it’s crimson and everyone starts clapping. Chris apparently lost his battle with tears because he’s crying when he slugs me on the shoulder and Geneva is staring at me like I just brought about world peace with my bare hands. It’s a nice song to end with so I don’t attempt to play anything else and the party is winding to a close anyway. I watch Geneva as she closes the cover over the keys and I wonder if Jasper has ever run his fingers over a skateboard with the same reverence that she has. I wonder if he can remember how it felt to do an ollie or slice the wind during that first drop over the ramp. I wonder ... if he misses it the way she misses music.
I wonder if Derek Shepherd can slice through Jasper’s brain and fix it.
I find myself shaking a ton of hands and making small talk with the doctors and nurses who are still filing in to take part of the ‘Summer Smash’. Erica doesn’t touch me or do anything to make it obvious that we’re a couple. When I get a little too close to her ... she takes a step back or goes to refill her glass of punch. It makes me sad that she couldn’t live out loud at Seattle Presbyterian (and still can’t apparently) and I’d give my right arm to hear myself introduced as something more than her ‘friend from Seattle Grace’. I don’t particularly want to be called a girl ... but I’d much rather hear that word preface friend because it diminishes so much to NOT hear it. It reduces me to acquaintance and not who I really am. Which is supposedly her GIRLFRIEND.
It puts me in an unbelievably bad mood and I find myself replaying the conversation I had with Addison during lunch over and over in my head. Addison doesn’t *see* what I see in Erica ... and Addison is causing me to look a little closer at Yellow ... and I don’t like what I’m seeing. Or thinking. Or feeling.
When Riley’s baseball cap is knocked off by a playful Brandon and he throws a chair in retaliation ... the festivities officially end. The staff begins to wrangle up the happy party people and get them ready for their trip to Sammamish. I find myself folding tablecloths with Jim and my nerves fray around the edges when I realize that he’s watching me very closely. When I hand him my end of the table cloth we’re folding together, he says, "Erica told me about your brother. He sounds like an amazing guy."
"He is," I reply. "He’s unbelievable."
"If you ever want to bring him out to see us ... we’d love to meet him."
The ‘us’ he is referring to is the group home that bears Rachel’s name. "Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind."
He smiles that haunting smile that I see in the hallway everyday. "Erica’s happier than I’ve seen in a long time. She talks about you nonstop and she laughs a lot more than she did when she worked at the hospital here. You’re good for her."
I don’t know what to say. Jim doesn’t seem to mind my silence because he adds, "My sister would have loved you. Rachel would have been singing your praises just as pretty as you sang that song."
"Erica’s told me enough to make me think it would be a mutual admiration society," I give him a sad smile. "I’m really sorry for your loss. By all accounts, she was a wonderful woman."
He pats me on the arm and gathers up the arm load of cloths we folded. "Thanks, Callie. For coming and for taking care of her."
Even if I’m slightly pissed and uncomfortable ... I mean it.
Erica and I say goodnight and head to her car. I slip into the passenger seat and wave at a couple of doctors who greeted me earlier. When she pays the fee for parking ... she takes my hand. I look down at our entwined fingers and wonder if she really thinks they’re so ugly together that she doesn’t want to show all of her old co-workers how they contrast. My feelings are definitely hurt and I’m angry. With me ... that’s a deadly combination so I bite back on the urge to point out that Erica blindsiding me with Rachel’s brother, not telling me where we were going or what we were doing, and why she understands Jasper so well wasn’t very amusing.
"You never told me that you could sing like that," she finally says, cutting through the quiet. "I was stunned."
"There’s a lot of that going around." I can see that she glances my way, but I don’t explain.
"You didn’t touch your dinner. You want to stop somewhere?"
"Hey." She shakes my hand a little, tightening her grip as if she can sense that she needs to make up for lost time. "What’s wrong?"
I look out the window, watching the bad side of town slowly become the good side of town. There’s a line of demarcation in the asphalt where the boarded up windows stop and brightly decorated shop windows begin. I wonder how often people stand on the ‘bad’ side and watch people prance around the good side without a care in the world. As much as I lived on the ‘good’ side of Miami ... I didn’t close my eyes when we drove through the worst areas. I was never blind.
Erica ... Erica may be blind. How could she not know that pulling me into Rachel’s world would be jarring? How could she not see that I was perfectly fine to labor under the illusion that her bond with Jasper was somehow bigger than all of us, that it was a sign that this was meant to be. Why would she think that I’d enjoy being called her ‘friend from Seattle Grace’ enough times to make me believe that the line of demarcation between the good and the bad part of town somehow split the two of us. She’s mine on the good side ... and not on the bad. We’re out and then in. In and then out. Closets open and shut and we ride a revolving door so much that I’m confused about whether or not we are or we aren’t ... together. Or maybe we’re always together, but the fear of another broken windshield keeps us from venturing very far into the world and shouting it from the rafters.
Being her ‘friend from Seattle Grace’ and having her stand the official friendship six inches from me when I wasn’t at the piano has given me a headache.
"Did someone say something to you that you need to tell me? Callie?"
"Then you’re mad at *me*." She states it as fact, as something that can’t be disputed.
Her voice is sexy. It’s smooth and sultry and deep. She has a tendency to draw words out a little longer than she should and I’ve never been to the Midwest, but it makes me wonder if that particular trait is something regional ... like my mother’s Southern twang. I guess I ponder her vocal tendencies a little too long because she pulls off the side of the road, parallel parking in front of a specialty shop. She keeps the engine running because of the heat and clears her throat twice until I look at her.
"I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s wrong."
Saved by the bell. My phone rings and I recognize the tone as my brother Joel’s. I fish my Blackberry from my purse and answer. "Hey, Joel."
"So, Dad’s on the warpath because I went through all of Jasper’s medical files and got everything out of order," he says by way of greeting. "And because he’s yelled at me for an hour I thought I’d pay it forward."
"What do you have to yell at me about?"
"Well, nothing yet, but I’m sure I will if you talk long enough," he laughs. "How are you?"
"Are you drinking?"
"Because you’re being less of an ass to me. Oh, god ... has something happened?!"
"No. Just wanted to talk to you. I’m sorry I have to miss your big birthday bash tomorrow, but our parents are flying out first thing in the morning with a couple of presents for you. I hope you like it."
BIRTHDAY BASH! SHIT! I WILL KILL WHOEVER THE FUCK DID THIS.
I don’t say that to my preacher brother. What I say is, "Oh, I see how it is. Chicken shit."
"I don’t fly, sweets. If God had intended us to fly ... he would have given us our angel wings now instead of when we’re dead. Are you okay? You don’t sound like a sparkly birthday girl in the making."
"I’m tired," I reply. "Someone vandalized my car yesterday, but don’t you dare tell our parents that. They think Red Rover simply died."
"Imagine the worst thing possible that you can do to a car and multiply that by ten. It even came complete with hate speech."
"Oh," he replies softly. "I’m sorry. I’m really ... sorry ... about ... everything. I’ll try harder ... you know ... to be okay ... with this ... thing. With Erica. I suppose she’s not ... revolting. Well, I mean, she’s moderately revolting because of the whole sin thing ... but ... if you like her ... I’ll try to not think about that. Not that I actively think about you ... and sex ... but ... I’m sorry. And I’ll try. I really will."
When my brother Joel stumbles over his words ... it’s usually because he means them enough to pick them carefully. I have to smile a little. He’s never apologized to me unless he was forced by my father. When he choked me that one time he followed his apology by kicking me hard enough in the shin to give me a hairline fracture. Our relationship has always been far from loving. I’m oddly touched by his pregnant paused apology. "That was the best birthday present you could have given me."
"Yeah, well ... I try."
I hear him telling Trevor to stop climbing on the China cabinet and laugh. "Give the brats a kiss for me."
"No way. Savvy has chicken pox and I’ve never had it."
"Oooooh! You’re screwed."
"I know. I guess I should go. Happy birthday, Calico."
He hasn’t called me that since I turned part of my hair orange with a home bleaching kit. That’s a walk down memory lane that I never hope to revisit. Talk about humiliation. That ranks right up there with Donnie Wahlberg smelling my morning breath. "See ya, J."
I hang up the phone and stick it back in my purse. Erica has waited patiently for me to finish up the call. She hasn’t budged the car and she reaches for my hand again. I let her take it and say, "I’m exhausted."
"Tell me what’s wrong."
"Nothing." I shake my head and meet her eyes. "Everything’s fine."
"No, it’s not."
"Please ... let’s just go home."
"I said no," she snaps. Her voice is a warning to me that her fuse is very, very close to sparking. "If you’re mad at me then tell me! Put your big girl pants on and say something instead of sitting there like a little kid in the time out chair! Talk!"
My fuse has run out. "Where do you want me to start!? Do you want me to tell you that I didn’t particularly enjoy realizing that I was face to face with Rachel’s brother until halfway through the night? Or maybe I should tell you that being introduced as your ‘friend’ doesn’t exactly sit well with me since we’ve fought with everyone and ourselves to finally get to call it something more. I know ... why don’t I tell you that as much as I value your opinion about Jasper ... you don’t get to have one now. You’re biased as hell and you don’t see anything wrong with a half life because *she* didn’t. I’m not *her*."
Erica’s face falls more with every word and when I finish my mini-tirade ... her mouth is slack and her blue eyes are sparkling in the streetlight. She doesn’t reply and seeing her that way makes me want to apologize for every single thing I just said, but she straightens up in her seat, puts her seatbelt back on, and drives back onto the road. It’s not her usual easy pace. She drives fast and when she turns onto the street she ... no ... we ... live on fifteen minutes later the tires bark in protest. I grab the door handle and brace myself for the turn into the drive on two wheels, but she slows down a little. It’s bumpier than usual, but she doesn’t scare me. She parks in the garage and slams the door the same way she did the night she picked me up at Joe’s. I watch her go into the house and slump back against the seat.
We never, ever fought when we were friends. Not like this. Never like this.
I spent months after we first touched in Miami building her up in my head. I never saw her as having flaws or shortcomings. She was something unattainable, something forbidden and perfect. I wanted her the way any person wants what they can’t have ... with every fiber of my being. There are parts of being with her that are better than my wildest dreams could have cooked up. She’s sexier, gentler. I feel safer with her than I ever have in my life and I’m also *happier* than I’ve ever been.
But maybe I built her up too much during the endless days I spent with nothing on my mind except her. Maybe all the endless moments spent wanting her and picturing a life with her has made it impossible for her to live up to that standard.
Maybe I put too much stock in my own overactive imagination and not enough in reality because I never, ever imagined being this pissed at her. Ever.
A movement catches my attention and pulls me from my thoughts. Erica yanks my car door open and glares down at me. "Did it occur to you that I don’t have to introduce you as anything other than my friend because I didn’t know if you were ready for that? And maybe I didn’t tell you about Jim because I didn’t want you to be any more nervous than you already were because I hate watching you be uncomfortable. And here’s a newsflash for you, Cal, I know you’re not her. I don’t want you to be her. I’m so fucking glad that you’re you and you’re HERE that I can’t stand it. So ... get over it. We’re not going to bed mad. I mean it!"
If Addison could see Erica like this ... her nostrils flared, her hair a little wild from running her hands through it, her cheeks flushed with anger ... then there would be no question why I chose Erica over Mark. We have pure, unadulterated, and heavy passion between us. It’s undeniable. I can’t be mad enough at her to stop wanting her ... even for a second.
My heart does a flip in my chest when she holds her hand out to me. Damn my fucking betraying ass mushy emotions because ... I put mine in hers.
I step into her arms and hug her, my face against her neck.
I’m great at holding a grudge.
But I’m even better at holding *her*.
Which I do ... for a long time.
I’ve never been in a relationship where I can convince myself that I’m very pissed off one minute ... only to have my significant other convince me that I’m not a minute later. That’s exactly how it is with her though. I build up a raging inferno of anger and she cracks into the fire hydrant and sprays me down with water before I let it consume me. I can’t go to bed pissed at her because I can’t STAY pissed at her. I just ... can’t.
We fought too long and too hard to get to where we are to let anger at each other do us in.
Erica keeps teaching me things ... and maybe the greatest lesson I’ve learned so far is how to meet someone half way.
I can smell a Pop Tart from twenty miles away. If I had to be stuck on a deserted island for the rest of my life ... all I would need to be perfectly happy is Erica, a stack of comic books, and a lifetime supply of Pop Tarts. Any flavor, every flavor, any way I can get them. Jasper and I used to stay in trouble for going through an entire box in one day. Any time my mother went to the grocery store and brought them home ... it was open season and we’d join together to find new and exciting ways to sneak the loot from the kitchen. I’d distract Mom so he could scale the cabinet and find them or he would distract her so that I could hunt them down. We also used the pastries as currency when we absolutely had to. If I had the last one ... Jasper could be coerced into doing my share of kitchen duty and vice versa. They’re my crack. Not getting my daily fix can dictate whether I’ll be in a good mood or not.
It’s the smell of warm strawberry goodness that wakes me up and I breathe deep when Erica holds out a plate to me. She has put a mountain of whipped cream on both Pop Tarts and I smile when she lights the two skinny candles that are stuck down into the white fluff. "Happy birthday. Make a wish."
I close my eyes and wish to feel the way I feel right now ... for the rest of my life. I blow out the candles and pluck them from the whipped cream, licking the sweet off them. I notice that her eyes are a little red from tossing and turning most of the night so I put the plate down on the bed and take her hand. "We should talk."
She nods. "Yeah, we should."
"Do you want to go first?"
Her eyes move over my face in that way she always looks at me, like she’s taking in every freckle, every pore. "Growing up ... I listened to my parents fight all the time. We’re not as bad as they were, Callie, but it feels like all we do is argue about everything and we need to stop. I won’t live this way and I won’t let you live this way either. We have to do better."
"We really do. We will."
"And you have to stop bringing Rachel into everything. That’s not fair."
"Okay," I tell her, tightening my grip on her hand. "My turn. You can introduce me as your girlfriend or your partner or whatever else you want to call me as long as it’s not friend. I graduated from that a long time ago and I want everyone to know that we’re together and we’re happy. I like living out more than in."
"That’s fine." She brushes a strand of hair from my forehead and kisses me there. "Hmmm. I don’t like partner. What else could I call you that would be fitting?"
"Sex goddess? Willing slave? Perverted pal?" As I talk, I unbutton her shirt and she doesn't try to stop me. She watches with an amused expression as I expose her breasts and dip my finger into the whipped cream. I slather it over her nipple, then repeat the process on the other. Before I lean down to lick it off, I say, "How about Latin lover?"
She catches me before I can clean the mess I’ve made, resting her hands on my cheeks. "One more thing."
"You better hurry before I drool."
"No matter what happens today ... you cannot be pissed at me. Deal?"
"Are you perhaps referring to the fact that my parents are on their way to a surprise party that I didn’t want?" I dip my finger back into the whipped cream and wipe a little onto her bottom lip. "I won’t get mad ... I’ll just get even."
"Who told you!?" she demands. "Addison? Yang!? I knew Yang would blab like a freakin’ asshole! I’m going to -"
She stops in mid rant because I close my mouth around her nipple, sucking off the sticky sweetness. I move to the other, running my tongue around and around until it’s clean as well, then I smile up at her. "It’s my birthday so what I say goes, right?"
"I thought you were *my* willing slave. Not the other way around."
"You have on way too many clothes. So, if you repeat that little strip tease you did in Cristina’s apartment ... I’m sure I’ll be satisfied all day."
"You want to be satisfied alllll day?" She slowly pushes herself to her knees and puts her hands on my shoulders, coaxing me back against the bed. "Dancing horizontally is guaranteed to do that."
"I dunno ... I really did like the strip tease."
Her hand moves between my legs and she hooks her fingers into my panties, pushing them aside to expose me. One long finger runs along my center and she smiles when I lick my lips in anticipation. "You know what I really like, Callie?"
I shake my head at her.
She moves her hand away from me, forcing me to bite my lip in silent protest. I watch as she scoops up two finger fulls of whipped cream and holds it up. "I like making you squirm."
The whipped cream is cool against my skin when she spreads it over me. My breath hitches in anticipation when she stretches out on her stomach with her head between my legs. The path she takes is excruciatingly slow and by the time I feel her breath exactly where I want it ... I’ve got the comforter balled up in my fists. Her tongue is hot when she swipes away some of the cream and it feels so damn good that I can barely stand it. She knows what’s she doing. She definitely knows how and where to touch me to make my spine curve and my hips lift against her face. When she latches onto my throbbing clit, I grip a handful of her hair and hold her against me, relishing the feel of her fingers digging into my thighs. I get off so hard that I can’t make any sound at first ... but she remedies that by slipping her fingers into me and curling upward. Back to back orgasms are never, ever silent.
By the time I’ve returned the favor ... the whipped cream is gone and we’re both so sticky that our hair is matted to our cheeks. She picks up one of the Pop Tarts and says, "Do you still want this?"
"Nope." I kiss her neck. "In case you haven’t figured it out yet ... the key to making me eat a well balanced meal ... is lots and lots of orgasms. I’m very agreeable afterwards."
"Is that right?"
"Yeah. If you were to, you know, wake me up with sex ... I’d probably eat oatmeal. And if you pulled me into an on call room before lunch ... I’d probably eat a salad. And then at dinner time ... well ... the possibilities are endless." I wink at her. "Just thought you should know."
"I’ll introduce you as my sex addict. How’s that?"
"Not on your life." She kisses me. It’s sweet and tangy and pretty fucking sexy. "Do you want your birthday present now or do you want to wait for the party?"
"I’ll wait." I shoot her a look. "It’ll make me less pissed at you for this entire thing."
"It wasn’t my idea. Your mother suggested it and Addison agreed that we should go for it."
"Where is this brilliant scheme being hatched? Here?"
"Well, at least there will be alcohol to help get me through the festivities."
"You won’t need it." She gets to her feet and extends a hand to me. "Shower?"
It’s while she’s scrubbing my back that I realize it’s too easy.
Life with her is too damn easy.
Being totally content and perfectly happy is throwing me off my game because I’m not used to it. I keep feeling like every relaxed moment with her is the calm before the storm and I shouldn’t do that. It’s not fair to either one of us.
I have to do better.
This chapter did not turn out the way I wanted it to turn out. Four rewrites and two days worth of revisions didn't help it either. I almost scrapped the entire chapter so I could go in a different direction, but the revelations in this installment are important to the bigger picture that I planned from the beginning. I'm sorry that it sucked. The next one will be better. Ugh.