Disclaimer: Scarecrow & Mrs. King and all related characters are the property of Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended. The story itself is the property of the author. Excerpts from the episode "Mission of Gold" written by Lynne Kelsey and Dennis C. Duckwall.
Summary: A tragedy forces Amanda to make some hard choices.
Feedback: Expected, please!
Author's notes: A special 'thank you' goes out to my guardian angel, Sybil, the beta-goddess. Sybil, you keep me honest! Also, to Debbie for rescuing me in my hour of need by supplying me with her copy of 'Mission of Gold' when I couldn't find mine and for being a one woman cheering section 40 hours a week and then some. Thank you to Club Beta for being the best group around. And, most of all, a thank you to Jesse, who in April of 1987 told me that he was fine, that I was fine, and that I had to get on with my life. He had died in March. This story is for him.
Hanky Alert: I've been told by un-named sources that I'd better issue this alert and up it to a 'whole box warning.' You've been warned! :)
~~Early May, 1987~~
The late spring breeze, heady with the scent of honeysuckle in bloom, wafted through the space carefully left open between the window and the sill. The curtains billowed, dancing with each other in the moonlight, caressing one another like lovers. In the soft glow, Amanda could just discern the outline of the picture frame she kept on her nightstand. She couldn't see the picture itself, but knew the details as if they had been burned into her mind.
She felt her eyes welling with tears and forced herself to dam them up. Crying would do no good; she'd done enough of that over the past few months to know. Besides, she had to get up in a few hours, and she wanted to look fresh for her first day at work. Sighing deeply, she kissed her fingertips and lightly brushed them over the cold glass in the frame.
"Goodnight, Lee," she whispered. "Please, forgive me." Turning over, she closed her eyes and drifted off into a fitful sleep.
The rental car traveled down the California interstate. Amanda kept glancing at the speedometer, wondering if she should remind Lee that they were not in his Corvette. 'He's just anxious,' she thought, and he wasn't speeding at the moment. He'd been holding himself in check since her last gentle reminder. She knew how much he was looking forward to introducing her to his friend, Barney. He'd been talking non-stop about it since they'd lifted off from Dulles.
"Barney's gonna love you," Lee offered without taking his eyes off the road. "We're almost there. He said he'd meet us at the marina and take us out to lunch."
Amanda smiled. "I know. You've been telling me every fifteen minutes for the past two hours. I think your needle's stuck!"
Lee glanced at her and laughed. "I'm sorry. I'm just excited, I guess. It's been a while since I've seen him. That's all." He looked up and nodded ahead. "Here's the marina, now." He slowed the car and pulled onto the service road that ran along the seawall.
The last two days had been a whirlwind of activity, and things were finally starting to slow down for them both. Amanda took a deep breath and looked out the window at the boats and the waves as Lee chattered on about meeting his old friend again. She was only half listening, entranced by the blue-green water. Suddenly, a pop and the splintering of glass snapped her back to reality.
"Oh, my gosh! What was that?" she turned to ask Lee. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as she absorbed the horror beside her. Lee was slumped forward, his head resting on the steering wheel. A hole had appeared in the windshield, cracks spider-webbing out from it in all directions. Seconds seemed to drag into minutes as Amanda reached forward and gently pushed Lee back into his seat. It was then that she saw the blood. His blood. Time caught up with her then, and she began to scream for help.
The shrill ringing of the alarm clock rescued Amanda from what had become her nightly horror show. She sat bolt upright in bed, her body covered in a sheen of cold sweat. As her breathing slowed to a more normal rhythm, and she made her way to the shower, she recalled the words of the psychiatrist.
"It's perfectly normal for you to relive the events over, and over, again. Right now, you're still wondering if there was something you could have done to prevent this from happening. Until you can come to terms with the fact that this was out of your control, your subconscious will keep replaying it, like a recording, looking for that something. You have to let it go, Amanda. There was nothing you could have done."
"Yeah, right," she said to her reflection. It had been three months, and still, every night, her subconscious kept torturing her. She stepped into the shower and let the steam carry her away.
"I should have been paying attention to him and our surroundings, not staring at the water and daydreaming like a child," she had argued.
"You weren't there on business. You were on vacation. There was no reason for you to be on alert for anything suspicious."
"I should have been paying attention. If I had been watching and listening, my...partner would still be alive."
"Amanda, it's not your fault. You have to get on with your life."
Wiping the steam from the mirror, Amanda looked at her reflection again. "Well, let's get going. Time to get on with my life."
Billy Melrose knocked on the door and nervously shuffled his feet. He hadn't seen Amanda since the funeral and was worried about her. He knew she had been going to her appointments with the Agency psychiatrist, but his daily reports didn't tell him what he really wanted to know: how she was doing. The door opened a crack and then flew open wide.
"Mr. Melrose?" Dotty West held out her hand and welcomed Billy into the foyer. They had been speaking to each other on the phone nearly every day since Amanda had returned to Virginia, but this was the first time Billy had stopped by the house to visit. "I'm so glad to see you. Amanda's in the back yard." Dotty began to lead Billy up the stairs, but he laid a hand on Dotty's arm, slowing her. She turned to him, a question in her eyes.
"How is she?" Billy asked.
Dotty smiled sadly and patted Billy's hand. "She'll be doing much better when she sees that you're here. She's so lucky to have such a good friend. Come on. I'll show you the way."
Billy nodded and followed Dotty through the kitchen and out the back door. Amanda sat on a bench, holding herself in a tight embrace and staring at the sky. She seemed unaware of anyone or anything else. Dotty motioned toward the kitchen door, and slowly walked away, leaving him alone with her daughter.
Billy took a step forward, then stopped. It was obvious that Amanda had been crying. Her eyes were puffy and bloodshot; her cheeks tear-stained. It tore at his heart to see her like this. He held himself partially responsible for her heartache. After all, he had forced Lee to work with Amanda, hoping that having a 'rookie' partner would make him more cautious.
At first, it was an attempt to soften Lee's self-destructive nature, but then, he discovered that they worked well together. Little had he known that Amanda possessed more common sense than most of his staff put together. Her methods, while a little unconventional, usually led to a solution. When his senior agents were coming up dry, Amanda could look at the situation through new eyes. Unfortunately, their partnership had worked out better than he had ever dreamed.
Now, when he looked in the eyes of the remaining half of his best team, all he could see were her shattered dreams. He cleared his throat and took a step forward. Slowly, Amanda seemed to regain her focus as she lowered her head and looked in his direction. A smile spread across her face when she recognized her visitor.
"Hello, Sir," she whispered, "It's very nice to see you. Please, sit down." She patted the space on the bench to her left and Billy accepted. Quietly, he sat, trying to find the right words to say, when Amanda began again. "This is where we used to talk. He'd sneak in and tap on the kitchen window." She let out a small laugh and looked around the back yard. "I'm still amazed at how Mother never caught him. But he was good. He was very good."
Billy had been watching her as she spoke, and now took out a handkerchief as fresh tears began to roll down her cheeks. She took the cloth and wiped her eyes.
"I'm sorry," she apologized. "I've been trying to get that under control, but sometimes, it's hard."
"It will get easier," Billy lamely offered.
"Will it? When?" Amanda looked up and met her friend's eyes for the first time. For a moment, Billy could see the pleading within them. Then, it was gone. "Oh, never mind. I know you can't answer that question. No one can." She looked down, again, and sighed, shaking the thought from her mind like an Etch-A-Sketch. When she lifted her eyes once more, a painted smile rested uneasily upon her face. "Look at me, I've forgotten my manners, rambling on like this while I have a guest. Would you like something to drink?" She started to rise, but returned to her seat when Billy shook his head.
"No, I came to see you. I wanted to see for myself how you're holding up. The Doc says you should be cleared for duty in a few weeks. I've come to tell you that your job is open for you, whenever you're ready." He watched as her smile faded, once again.
"I'm glad you brought that up. Mr. Melrose," she paused, considering her words. "Billy..." she sighed and closed her eyes. "I don't...I don't know if I can do it. I don't think I can come back." When she finished speaking, she gazed up at her friend, her brown eyes full of pain and sadness.
Billy heard the words, but didn't want to believe them. It wouldn't be the same without her at the Agency. Surely, she didn't mean what he thought she did. "Well, don't rush yourself. Like I said, you can come back whenever you're ready."
"No. I mean, I don't think I can come back at all." She spoke in a rush, the words pouring out. She knew that if she didn't say them, right then, she'd never say them at all.
"Oh." That was it. Billy looked down at the ground. First Lee, then Amanda. He was going to lose them both.
"I've thought about this at length since we...," she choked and continued, "I...got back from California. I'd really rather not return to the Agency. I do appreciate the offer, though, and I will miss all of you, but it's for the best."
"I understand." Billy stood to leave and offered Amanda his hand. "There was one more thing. I'm not quite sure how to bring it up, but you're the sole beneficiary of Lee's life insurance policy." Amanda took his hand, nodded, and stood.
Billy cast his eyes downward, hating this part of his job with more passion than he thought possible. "It was a rather large settlement. I'd venture to say that you won't have to worry about things for quite some time. Not that that makes things any easier to handle, but, well...Lee wanted to make sure that you and the boys would be taken care of...comfortable...if anything were ever to happen." His voice had quieted to almost a whisper and a knot was forming in his throat.
"Thank you, Sir." Amanda's eyes were beginning to well up, again. He was aware that she had known about the insurance policy. Lee had told him about her reading the letter the Agency courier had delivered when he had been infected with the PD-2. He had made a promise to Lee then, that he would watch out for Amanda and her family. It was one that he had hoped he would never have to keep.
~~Early May, 1987~~
Amanda was surprised to find that she had already arrived at the Alexandria offices of Lehman, Greck, and Porter. She hardly remembered starting the car, much less the twenty-minute drive across town. She adjusted the rearview mirror and checked her make-up. "That's because you're used to a bit longer drive, Amanda," she scolded her reflection. "Now, wake up. It's time to get on with your life."
She stepped out of the Corvette, smoothed her skirt and blouse, and stood still for a moment, collecting her courage. She looked around and, seeing no one, gently placed one hand on the smooth silver hood. She knew it was odd, but she seemed to be able to draw strength from Lee's most prized possession. That was the sole reason she was driving the car.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. 'Lee,' she thought, 'I don't know if I can do this, but I'm not going to let you down; I've got to try.' Amanda opened her eyes, straightened her shoulders, and walked to the front door of her new employer. There would be no list of passwords to remember here, no security badges, no firearm training; only typing, filing and the occasional billing inquiry.
Joe had helped her get the job. He had gone to law school with Mr. Porter's son, and had heard of the opening for a clerk/typist. It seemed like a good enough offer at the time, and it kept her on the south side of the Potomac, away from all the landmarks that held so many memories. Yes, this was a safe job, a secure job, and a new start for the one who had to get on with her life. She had accepted the position after only a few hours thought. There would be no responsibilities with this job. Just nine to five, paycheck on Friday, thank you very much. Now, as she opened the front door, she hoped she had made the right decision.
The dinner dishes had been washed, dried and put away, and the boys were finally settling down for the night. Dotty was sitting on the couch reading a magazine, while Amanda finished straightening up the kitchen. A light tapping on the window startled her, and she whirled around, her heart catching in her throat, half expecting to see a bright, mischievous pair of hazel eyes staring back at her. She saw only darkness. Still, she was drawn to the window. Laying down the dishtowel she was carrying, she grabbed the bag of garbage, and stepped out the back door into the night.
Crickets were chirping; a light breeze blew through the jasmine vines. A dog could be heard barking in the distance. Aside from that, the night was quiet and Amanda was alone. She sighed, chiding herself for getting her hopes up. Lee had died in her arms. There was no coming back from that. Gradually, her heartbeat slowed to a normal rhythm, and she walked around the corner to the garbage cans.
She dropped the bag, and was closing the lid, when she felt the whisper of a touch on her shoulder. Suddenly her senses were filled with the familiar scent of Lee's aftershave.
"Lee?" she gasped and whirled around. There was nothing there. The crickets seemed to laugh at her, mocking her foolishness. She shook her head and walked to the bench, sitting down in an attempt to collect herself before going back inside. It was in that still moment, when her thoughts were clear and the breeze had calmed, that she heard his voice.
"Amanda, I know you can hear me. I just know it. I want you to know that I'm here. I'll never leave you. You just need to hang in there and be strong. Be strong for me. I love you. Don't give up, you still have a lot of living to do. I love you."
Amanda's hair stood on end; goose bumps covered her arms. His scent had surrounded her, again, and his words were clear and strong, as if he were standing only a few feet away. "Lee, I'm sorry," she whispered, "I'm so sorry I let this happen. Are you still there? Oh, if this is a hallucination, please, don't let it end." Just then, the breeze picked up and his scent blew away, leaving her alone in the back yard. She took a deep breath and walked back into the house, resolving to never tell her mother, or the psychiatrist for that matter, anything about what had just happened. 'They'd say it was all in my head, anyway,' she thought. But, somehow, she knew it was something a bit deeper than that.
~~Early May, 1987~~
Amanda eased the Corvette into her driveway, breathing a sigh of relief. She had made it through the first day of the rest of her life without major incident. She was barely inside the door when Phillip and Jamie surrounded her.
"Hi, Mom," Phillip said as he took her purse from her. "Let me get this for you."
"Yeah, Mom," Jamie piped up. "Dinner's ready and on the table. We've finished our homework and everything, too."
Amanda smiled and knelt down, taking her boys into her arms and holding them close. "You boys are the best thing that's ever happened to me," she whispered, holding back the tears. Ever since she'd returned from California, both boys had gone out of their way to behave. They thought they knew what Lee had meant to her, but they only knew part of it.
She hadn't told anyone about their marriage. At the time, it was too painful, now, it just seemed pitiful. For all they knew, their mom's boyfriend had been killed in a random shooting. No one had questioned the insurance policy with Amanda as sole beneficiary, or that Amanda was now driving the Corvette. No questions had been asked, no eyebrows raised. When she thought about it, it all seemed too easy.
Now, in the foyer, holding her boys, she was content to have almost everyone she loved around her. She hadn't felt Lee, yet, today, which was strange. Ever since the first occurrence in the garden, she had felt him or heard him a little each day. Sometimes, it was just a feeling of closeness, sometimes, a touch, and sometimes, a word. She had thought that today, of all days, he would be there for her the most, to help her ease in to this new life. But, so far, nothing.
Phillip squirmed in his mother's embrace and she loosened her hold. "Come on, Mom. Dinner's gonna get cold." She nodded and the boys bounded off. Slowly, she rose to her feet and followed.
~~Late April, 1987~~
Amanda lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. It had been a long day. She'd had to go to the Agency to sign some release forms, formalizing her resignation. She had asked Billy if someone could come to the house to take care of it, but he had insisted. Apparently, resigning from the Agency involved a debriefing, of sorts, that had to be witnessed and recorded, something that couldn't be done in her living room.
Today had marked the first day since she'd cleaned out Lee's apartment that she'd crossed the Potomac. She had walked into the Georgetown foyer, not knowing what to expect. Of course, business continued as usual. Her life had come to a screeching halt because Lee was gone, but that didn't mean that the Agency would shut down. Mrs. Marston looked up at her over the rim of her glasses, and immediately softened when she realized who it was.
"Mrs. King, it's good to see you. Mr. Melrose is expecting you." The older woman could have been speaking to the wall for the response she received. Amanda had fallen into a trance. As she looked around the room, all she could see was Lee. It took all of her resolve to avert her eyes from the stairs leading to the Q-Bureau.
"Mrs. King?" Mrs. Marston's words finally broke through, and Amanda had looked at the older woman, who was staring at her from across the desk. "Are you all right?"
"I'm sorry. Yes, I'm fine. You were saying something?" Amanda had smiled pleasantly, and reached for her ID badge, clipping it to her lapel in a show of normalcy.
The rest of the day had progressed in much the same manner. She'd round a corner, and a sight or sound would trigger a memory, so acute, that she'd have to stop and regain her composure before going on. Now, lying in bed, she reassured herself that she had made the right decision in resigning. There would have been no possible way for her to function there on a daily basis.
But what was she going to do with the rest of her life? Everyone was telling her that she had to get on with it. She had to start living again. Hanging around the house, while it had been fulfilling before she had met Lee, had lost its charm for her. She needed to do something to keep her mind active. Tomorrow, she was going to start looking for another job. Something decidedly less dangerous and more stable. Having made up her mind, she closed her eyes and started to drift off to sleep, feeling more content than she'd felt in what seemed like ages.
~~Early May, 1987~~
Amanda slowly crept upstairs, headed for a long hot shower. Dinner was finished, the dishes washed and put away, the boys already asleep in their beds. She and Dotty had sat up, discussing her uneventful first day, and, now, physically and emotionally drained, Amanda intended on making it an early night. She couldn't understand why she was so tired and sore. She actually felt as if she'd run a marathon. 'I sure hope I'm not coming down with something,' she thought, rubbing her shoulders.
She walked down the hall, first passing Jamie's door, then Phillip's. She looked in on each one as they slept. A few steps further and she was inside her bedroom. Suddenly, the bed looked so much more inviting than the shower. Sighing, Amanda sank into the mattress, immediately drifting into a deep sleep.
As the mist cleared, Amanda realized she was back in the rental car. Having lived this moment nearly every night for the past three months, she began to prepare herself for the worst as the car pulled up along the seawall, slowing as it neared the dock. Lee shifted the car into park and cut the engine. Amanda watched in awe as he practically jumped out of the car, and waved to Barney, who was walking up the dock with another man. 'This is different,' she thought, as the men approached and she started to step out of the car to greet them.
Suddenly a shot rang out, and she heard Lee's sharp words telling her to get in the car. She quickly complied, not thinking, only reacting. In a flash, she felt a searing pain in her chest and she gasped for breath. The pain was intense, and she tried to call Lee's name, but the words wouldn't form. She closed her eyes, and tried to move to reach for door, but a sharp pain shot through her and she blacked out.
Amanda opened her eyes wide, gasping for breath. The first sound she heard was the steady beeping of a heart monitor. As the room came into focus, she began to realize that she was in a hospital room. Before she could even begin to formulate questions, the door flew open and a nurse rushed in.
"Lie still, ma'am. The doctor is on his way," she said as she started checking the equipment and Amanda's IV.
A doctor walked through the door and over to where she lay. Amanda was frowning at the nurse, her face a mask of confusion. "Well, it's nice of you to join us Mrs. King. We were starting to get worried." The doctor smiled warmly at Amanda as he spoke, his tone light and cheerful. The nurse walked around the bed and whispered in the doctor's ear. He nodded, picked up her chart and began making notes.
"Where...am I?" Amanda groggily asked as the nurse left the room. Her raw throat caused her voice to sound cracked and raspy.
"What do you remember?" the doctor asked.
"I'm not sure. I don't...I don't know," Amanda whispered and shook her head in disbelief, cringing at the uncomfortable pain the motion caused in her chest.
"There was an accident, Mrs. King. You were shot. Do you remember anything at all?" The doctor had lowered the chart and was watching her closely.
Amanda's head was spinning now. She had been shot? How? She desperately grasped for some memory about what had happened. The last thing she could clearly remember had been having dinner after her first day at work. She remembered talking to her mother and then going upstairs to bed but, everything after that was fuzzy. She vaguely recalled dreaming about Lee and the marina, except he hadn't been shot in her dream. Now, even the clear memories were becoming jumbled. Clinging to hope, she swallowed hard and looked the doctor in the eyes. "Is...is Lee here?"
"No, he's not," the doctor flatly replied and Amanda's hopes fell. "Your mother is here, though, and will be thrilled to know you're awake."
He took a step closer and picked up her wrist, checking her pulse as he continued. "I'll go get her, but I want you to take it easy." Amanda nodded, still confused about the situation.
Sensing her confusion, the doctor lowered her wrist and patted her hand. "I'm sure your mother will be more than happy to bring you up to speed, Mrs. King." He winked at her and mockingly rolled his eyes. Amanda smiled and realized that this poor man must have been receiving a daily dose of Dotty for a while.
"I'm going to have one of the nurses bring you some ice chips, but you have eat them slowly. Let them melt in your mouth. You've been out for quite some time." He started to leave, but turned to her with an afterthought. "Oh, the nurse gave you some Meperidene through your IV. Don't be surprised if you start feeling tired again, very soon. We don't want you overdoing it. You still need plenty of rest."
Amanda nodded and the doctor left the room. Lee wasn't here. The doctor's words kept echoing in her head, keeping tempo with the monitor. She took a deep, shuddering breath, flinching again at the pain. Her thoughts were churning about in a whirlwind of confusion. Lee had been shot...Lee was dead...she had been shot...where was Lee? Had everything been a dream? Were they even married? Seconds later, Dotty came rushing in, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Oh, thank heaven! You're okay!" Dotty cried out. She gingerly hugged Amanda and sat next to her on the edge of the bed, holding her hand.
"I'm fine, Mother," she whispered. "I need to ask you something." Amanda eyed her mother as Dotty nodded. "I need to know about Lee. Is Lee..."
"Oh, my, Lee should be here any minute. He left me a number where I could reach him if anything happened with you, and I called right before I came in here. I'm sure he'll be here as soon as he can. You know, Amanda, he's been here almost constantly, talking to you while you were unconscious. I've never seen such devotion. The only time he's left your side was to go help the police look for the person who shot you." Dotty took a breath and Amanda seized her opportunity.
"So...he's okay?" she asked, the relief washing over her in waves.
"Of course, he's okay," Dotty replied, somewhat taken aback by the question. "Well, as okay as you could expect. He's been blaming himself about all of this, I think. I overheard him telling his friend, Barney, that he should have been paying closer attention; that if he'd been more alert you wouldn't have been hit."
Dotty paused for a moment, cocking her head to the side. "Funny, it just occurred to me...I didn't know you two were out here together," she said to herself. She shook her head and turned her attention back to Amanda. "Anyway, he didn't know I had heard, but I told him later that he couldn't possibly have known what was going to happen, that it was an accident, and that he shouldn't blame himself. I think it helped that I told him I didn't blame him, either."
Amanda smiled and squeezed her mother's hand. She tried to speak, but her throat was still raw, and exhaustion was beginning to creep in. Dotty noticed and jumped up.
"Let me go check on those ice chips. The doctor told me he was sending a nurse with some. I'll be right back." Dotty rushed to the door, bumping into someone on the way out. Amanda could hear her mother gushing about the fact that she was going to be okay. She closed her eyes, taking as deep a breath as her injuries would permit, and allowed herself to begin to drift to sleep. Hearing that Lee was okay set her soul at ease. The rest of her questions would just have to wait. She was nearly out when she felt his familiar presence and heard him speak.
"Hi," Lee whispered. Amanda opened her eyes and immediately smiled. Seeing him standing there brought home the realization that he was alive, and it had all been a terrible dream.
"Hi," she whispered back. "What happened?"
Lee knelt down and leaned in closer. "I'll tell you all about it when you're better, okay?"
She closed her eyes and nodded. "Mmm-hmm." A smile crossed her face and she shifted her position slightly. "Did you get the number of that truck?"
Lee chuckled, but then his voice took on a slightly serious edge. "You bet I did," he replied, and then leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.
Even though her exhaustive haze, Amanda knew, without a doubt, that Lee had most certainly taken care of that truck, whatever, or whomever, it may have been. The kiss, however, was electrifying. Her mind still had not shaken the feeling that Lee had been gone...dead...for three months. The feel of his soft lips on her own warmed her to the core. She felt him lean back a little and opened her eyes again. She had noticed that he was holding her left hand and rubbing the finger where a wedding ring would have been.
"No honeymoon tonight, pal," she teased.
Lee stuck out his lower lip in a pout that, at that very moment, was the most irresistible thing Amanda had ever seen. "Aw, shucks."
Amanda turned her head to the side and closed her eyes. The painkiller was kicking in, and her body was relaxing more and more with each passing minute. Her mind was swirling with questions, but her body wasn't cooperating.
"I'm gonna go to sleep," she slurred. "Will you sit with me for a minute?" Lee nodded and she relaxed a little more.
"I love you, Mrs. Stetson," Lee said, his voice full of emotion. Amanda smiled as he leaned forward and lightly brushed her lips with a tender kiss. Another question had been answered. 'At least that hadn't been a dream,' she confirmed.
Amanda lay still, relishing the feel of Lee's hand holding her own. He was so close that she could feel his breath on her skin and smell his aftershave. The scent brought the full memory of her dream crashing back. She had to tell him, now, before she lost it completely.
She opened her eyes and swallowed. "Lee?" she whispered. "I have to...tell you something." Lee nodded and she continued. "I dreamt that you had been shot and killed. I had to go back without you." She swallowed again and ran her tongue across her dry lips, while Lee brushed a stray hair off her cheek. "I tried to go on living, but it wasn't the same without you."
Lee looked up and placed his finger lightly on her lips. "Shh, don't talk. You need to rest."
Amanda kissed his fingertip and continued. "You were there...talking to me. I couldn't see you, but I could feel you, and smell you, and hear you." Her eyelids were drooping, and she knew it wouldn't be long before sleep overtook her. Forcing her eyes open, she whispered, "Even though you were gone, you were still there with me."
Lee smiled and took hold of her hand. "Amanda, when I promised for better or for worse, I meant it. Nothing is going to keep us apart. We were meant to be together, I can feel it. I can't explain how or why, but it's true."
"I think you're right," Amanda agreed. She paused for a moment, looking deep into her husband's eyes. "Where do we go from here?" she asked. She remembered her mother saying how Lee felt responsible for her injuries. She didn't know how Lee was going to react to her, now, in the field, where the possibility of serious injury was all in a day's work.
"We go home and make the best of what we've got," he replied simply.
Amanda smiled and nodded, knowing that the road ahead wouldn't be as easy as he thought it would. 'But,' she thought, 'I can't think of another person I would want to travel that road with.'
"I love you, Lee," she whispered as she drifted off to sleep.