Terry's Journey: Chapter 4

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Chapter Four
Clouds in September

"And of some have compassion, making a difference..."
~ Jude 22 ~

To his amusement on Monday morning, Terry awoke to three little girls all proclaiming that today they didn't have preschool. Of course, they hadn't had school all summer long, but the fact that tomorrow marked their first day back to Wee Ones Christian Preschool, made it a special occasion for the triplets. Never mind Labor Day, today they had no school.

Labor Day. In all the fuss over his new houseguest, Terry had quite forgotten about the Labor Day barbeque. After all the plans John and Terry made for the party, all the expectations of a relaxing time on the beach, Terry didn't feel like celebrating. Not after yesterday.

When Terry went into the kitchen for breakfast, John and Izumi didn't look in the mood for a party, either. They sipped coffee in silence, letting the girls have their day off without adding any rain clouds to their sunshine. No mention of Madison at the kitchen table, no talk of hurting people or the things Terry knew John and Izumi were thinking.

The dishes cleared away, John and Terry went outside to get the barbeque ready for that afternoon. Only when they were alone, did John bring up the subject of Madison.

"Are you going to see her this morning?" John asked, as he and Terry hauled a basin firepit onto the beach.

Though half fearing what John might say about him getting too involved in someone else's troubles, Terry answered anyway. "I was thinking about it."

John moved the firepit over a few inches, stepped back, wiped his hands against his jeans. "Mind if I come with you?"

"She might act weird."

"I stand warned." John hefted one side of the picnic table while Terry lifted the other. "For all this talk about Madison, I'd like to meet her, get my own opinion of who she is. Izumi said Madison was a broken heart, hiding in a broken body, and that I'd understand what she meant when I saw Madison for myself."

"Don't expect too much," Terry said as they lowered the picnic table closer to the firepit. "She hides a lot of the time, and I can't get her to open up about where she came from, the people she knew who might be interested in her welfare. She said she doesn't have anyone but God, and unless it's proven otherwise, I have to believe she's telling the truth."

John gave a thoughtful look. "No one but God? That's an odd thing to say."

"That's what I thought." Terry pulled a list from his back pocket. "Even though everything appears to have been going against Madison, she still has hope. I believe that says a lot about her."

"Careful, Terry." John slanted him a sidelong glance as Terry checked off firepit and picnic table from the to-do list. "She's a stranger, and as such, it's better to treat her with a great deal of caution. Agreed?"

"I don't think she's dangerous, John."

John gave a wry smile. "Izumi shares your opinion. Whatever happened at your apartment yesterday, Izumi has stopped being as insistent about Madison's hasty departure."

Terry couldn't help smiling. "You'll understand when you see Madison."

"So I keep hearing." John took the list from Terry, looked it over before handing it back. "Do we visit your apartment before, or after, the run to the grocery store for the wieners?"

* * * *

The absolute quiet of the apartment didn't bother Madison. What did bother her, however, was the visit from the woman called Lauren-- Terry's building superintendent and very pushy neighbor. The woman had rung the doorbell with such tenacity, Madison felt no choice but to open the door. From the front step, Lauren welcomed the newcomer to the complex, and when she couldn't gain entrance, kept talking nonstop. Terry had told her about one of his friends using the apartment, and as one of his closest friends, Lauren had rushed over to make Madison welcome. Terry mentioned something about leaving Madison alone, but Lauren dismissed it as nonsense. Of course she must come and make Madison welcome, and of course she must have Madison over to dinner sometime soon. The door narrowed several inches more, but Lauren had stuck it out and finally extracted a "maybe" from Madison.

What an insistent woman.

When the front step visitor left, Madison again locked the door and then closed the living room windows. If Madison hadn't been caught watching the woman looking through the window, she wouldn't have had to open the door in the first place.

Retreating to the room with the filing cabinets, Madison lay on the carpet, her knees tucked against her chest. No one could see her here.

Quiet settled around her, the only sounds small, off in the distance and unthreatening. She let out a breath, shut her eyes and wished for sleep. After two nights of shifting on the hard floor, getting comfortable was out of the question. So was the bedroom down the hall. But the sofa downstairs... sometimes, she imagined it called to her. Though her hip answered with every burning ache, she continued to ignore the conversation. Hidden behind the locked door and huddled beside boxes of who knew what, she felt safe.

A shudder passed through her heart when the doorbell sounded. Oh, no. Another visitor.

Hands pressed to her ears, she prayed the person at the door would go away. She had food. She had running water, and a place to keep out of the weather. Until she ran out of something, why couldn't everyone stay away?

A muffled knock sounded nearby. She lifted a hand, realized it came from the door to her hiding place.

With a swallow of tremoring resolve, she pushed herself upright. The visitor had to be you-know-who with the jeep and the lopsided grin.

"What do you want?" she asked, expecting Terry's voice to respond. When it did, she gave a dull sigh. Not that she wasn't grateful, but why couldn't God have sent a woman to save her life, instead of that man?

"I brought you some company," Terry said through the door. "I asked Izzy and her husband to come with me so we could have a visit. I even brought Izzy upstairs with me, so you'll feel better about opening this door."

Better to not respond, thought Madison, so she remained silent.

"Are you okay in there?" Terry asked.

"I'm all right." Madison struggled to sound convincing. She was fine. Just fine. He could go away now. Any second would do. Just walk away and leave her alone.

"May I come in?" he asked.

"No."

"I'd like to see you."

"Why?"

"You don't sound all right."

"I can't help how I sound. Please go."

"I'm afraid I can't do that, Madison."

"Why not? You know where the door is."

A long stretch of silence. Maybe he left, she thought with growing hope. To her dismay, the voice came again, this time more insistent than before.

"I'm responsible for you. Open this door so I can see for myself that you're all right."

Getting to her feet, she made her way across the room.

"Madison?"

"I'm coming," she said, biting against the blaze raging in her hip. She unlocked the handle, pulled the door open.

She found Izzy and Terry waiting in the hall. Madison didn't pay much attention to the woman, her whole being focused on the man.

Unlike last time, Terry wasn't dressed in slacks, but a pair of blue jeans and a white pullover shirt with a fish on the front. Perpetually casual in slacks or jeans, Terry gave Madison the impression of someone who tried to enjoy life. His lopsided smile greeted her, but he didn't come inside until Madison had first moved away from the door.

Hands in his pockets, Terry surveyed the room, then her.

"How are you feeling?" he asked.

"I told you, I'm fine."

He nodded. "How's the hip?"

Madison lowered her eyes. It was none of his business how her hip felt. She would have told him so, but lacked the courage.

"Do you have enough to eat?" he asked.

"Yes, I'm fine."

Terry blew out a breath. "I don't suppose you'd tell me if you were in any pain?"

"No, I wouldn't." She risked a quick glance at Terry. The answer didn't please him, for his brow wrinkled in thought and his shoulders heaved with another sigh. The discouraged expression he wore made her almost feel sorry for him.

Terry gave a sad sort of smile. "Izzy's husband, John, is here. I was hoping you'd go downstairs and say 'hi.'"

Madison remained quiet.

Head bowed, Terry stared at the floor. "It would mean a lot to me if you did."

Reason argued with her that she owed Terry this request. Even so, she hesitated.

"Please, just for a few minutes." His quiet voice pulled at her.

"I can't."

"Why not?" He looked up, his brown eyes unnervingly gentle.

Madison gave a half shrug. "I can't."

Turning, Terry glanced at the woman behind him. Izzy remained in the hall, but her slight frown communicated displeasure to Madison.

Feeling trapped, Madison backed from the door. "Please, don't make me go downstairs. Please, Terry."

To Madison's surprise, Terry gave a heartfelt smile. "Finally, you've stopped calling me 'mister.'"

"Please--"

Terry held up a hand to stop the begging. "I won't make you do anything against your will. The person I wanted you to meet is a very good friend of mine, that's all. If you don't want to come downstairs, you don't have to."

Hugging herself, Madison gave up. "Okay. I'll come."

"You will?" Terry grinned, turned and nodded to Izzy. "She's coming."

Even though Madison didn't think Izzy still looked very pleased, Izzy smiled at Terry, then disappeared down the stairs.

Not one word passed between Terry and Madison as they descended the steps. He went several feet ahead of her, and she followed behind. He moved slow, as though understanding she couldn't go very fast. The unspoken thoughtfulness made Madison shrink even deeper inside herself. They stepped into the living room while someone opened the windows Madison had closed earlier that morning. Terry said something about his best friend-- a man named John Johannes-- and Madison barely heard the words. She kept her eyes on the gray carpet, intent on bracing herself against running away.

John said something polite, and after an awkward silence, Madison realized it was her turn.

"Hi," she said, then backed away to the dining area and the nearest chair.

The conversation that followed took place without Madison's participation. Izzy said a few words about a friend watching the girls, Terry made mention of it being a holiday, and John said nothing at all. After what must have been minutes later, Terry moved over to the dining area.

"I noticed the bed upstairs hasn't been slept in. I hope you're not sleeping on the sofa when you've got a perfectly good bedroom all to yourself."

Hands tucked beneath her, Madison watched her socked toes wiggle.

"You are sleeping on the sofa, aren't you?"

Why did God put five toes on each foot? Why not six or seven? Did it make a difference?

"Madison," Terry's voice rose, "tell me you haven't been sleeping on the floor."

Frowning, Madison looked up from her toes. Terry stood by the table, his mouth drawn into a thin grimace.

"Is that where you've been sleeping? On the floor in the storage room?"

"Please," she fought the tremor in her voice, "stop asking questions. What does it matter where I sleep?"

"It matters, if it's hurting your hip."

"It's my hip."

"Then you are in pain?"

An inadvertent sigh slipped from her lips. From the way Terry went into the kitchen, Madison guessed he had taken that as a "yes."

He came back with a white bottle, popped off the cap, dumped pills into his hand. He placed them on the table in front of her, then went back into the kitchen. When he returned, he brought a glass of water.

"Take them," he said, setting the glass beside the two pills. "It'll help with the pain."

"I never said I was hurting."

"You don't have to say it-- I can see for myself. Now take them."

She had no idea what they were, but swallowed the pills down without further struggle.

"That was ibuprofen," Terry said, as though having read her thoughts. "I'll put the bottle on the kitchen counter. When you're hurting, take more, but make sure you read the directions first. You can read, can't you?"

"Of course I can read," she said, her eyes narrowing on Terry. "I'm not stupid."

"I never said you were." Terry pressed his lips together, waited a few patient moments before continuing. "This is over-the-counter pain medication. It'll help you."

"I don't want help."

"Maybe you don't, but your pain does." Terry took the bottle and empty glass of water into the kitchen. When he came back, he passed through the living room, and went upstairs.

The other two visitors-- John and Izzy-- remained quiet. Madison didn't look in their direction, but sensed their unease. At least they didn't try to approach her. She felt grateful for that. It was all she could do to manage Terry, let alone two more strangers.

Before she had worked up more alarm at being left alone with the Johanneses, Terry came downstairs carrying a stack of blankets, a comforter and two fluffy pillows.

Izzy and John didn't say a word as Terry made a bed on the sofa. Terry placed the television remote on the coffee table, then returned to the dining area where Madison sat watching.

"From now on, you sleep on the sofa. There's a bedroom if you ever change your mind, but until then, you sleep on the sofa. Not the floor. Got it?"

Bewildered, Madison nodded her head. Who was this person, and why should he care if she was hurting?

"I brought more food," Terry said, jerking a thumb over his shoulder toward the kitchen. "This time, it's healthier food, not the junk stuff we bought for Labor Day. I don't suppose you want to come to our picnic, do you? No? That's what I thought you'd say." Terry smiled, though the gesture looked distracted, as though he had a lot on his mind. "We'll leave you alone now. The next time I come, though, I want to see you on that sofa."

Again, Madison nodded without thinking. He seemed almost angry, but from the continued gentleness of him insisting she got some rest, she knew he couldn't be too angry.

When they left, she went to the kitchen to see what Terry had brought. Apples, bananas, an extravagance of fresh whole strawberries, and even a cantaloupe, sat on the countertop. The fridge held eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, and in the freezer she found TV dinners of chicken, shrimp Alfredo, and even a frozen peach cobbler. All she had to do was pop them into the microwave. She looked about, easily located the microwave oven above the counter. Whole wheat bread and a carton of "Smart Eating" cookies sat beside the fruit.

So much food. It nearly caused Madison to pass out from giddiness. Instead of repeating her previous mistake of eating too much, too fast, she forced herself to reign in the excitement. She never possessed an over-fondness for food, but when someone is used to very little, this bounty seemed like a great deal.

Taking a small carton of berry yogurt from the refrigerator, she found a spoon in the silverware drawer, then headed for the stairs. As she passed the sofa, she slowed to a stop.

The blankets and pillows beckoned, and even though her head kept shouting to go upstairs, her body demanded cushions. Taking a deep breath, Madison moved to the sofa, sat down on the blankets, and realized for the first time since her arrival, how good it felt to rest on something soft. She saw the remote on the coffee table, clicked it on, then curled up in the blankets with her sweetened yogurt. Terry had said it was all right, and that made it all right for Madison. The relief of such immediate wants came with a rush of fatigue. The yogurt half eaten, she sank against the fluffy pillows and shut her eyes.

The memory of the locked front door made it possible for her to relax, and when she realized that the fire in her hip no longer raged, Madison's comfort was almost complete. Shifting onto her other side, she hid in the blankets and fell asleep.

* * * *

Fishing never appealed to John the way it did Terry, and when it came to fly fishing, Terry far outstripped John in enthusiasm. Fly fishing required practice, a lot of skill, and more practice-- all things John didn't mind doing, but not to simply catch fish. An ordinary fishing rod did John just fine, and as a consequence, he left all the fancy loops to Terry.

For almost as long as John could remember, his friend loved to stand at the shoreline with a fly rod, letting the line play over the water in a dance of graceful finesse John always admired. Presenting the fly to the fish took skill, an understanding of the factors that effected the all-important cast, such as wind and time of day. Terry knew his equipment, knew the fish, had a feel for the bay and the surroundings of Upstate New York. Unlike John, few things got in the way of Terry's fishing. On days where the wind wasn't too stiff, and the air not too cold, Terry would take his rod, walk down to the waterfront a short distance from the Johanneses' house, and fish his heart out.

That's what John called it-- fishing his heart out. Though John never asked, he sensed Terry used those hours of fly fishing to ease the sensitive parts of his life into something more manageable. The quiet rhythm of the cast, soothed Terry. John understood this, knew it without having to ask, so whenever Terry didn't go out to the shoreline with his fly rod, it always gave John a reason for quiet alarm.

On the afternoon of the Labor Day picnic, the opportunity looked perfect to do some serious fly fishing. Two of Terry's fly fishing buddies-- Dr. Gregory and Pat O'Shea-- took full advantage of the near perfect weather by adding smallmouth bass to the already full menu of barbecued chicken, roasted wieners, Boston baked beans, fruit salad, and potato chips. John was used to manning the firepit while Terry fished, but today, Terry didn't join the others. Instead, he remained by himself, sitting on the sand with his thoughts, away from everyone. When the triplets joined the men on the shore with their small fly rods, and Terry didn't even look up to watch, John felt an undercurrent of trouble wash against his soul.

Izumi sat at the picnic table with Agatha Hopkins, a longtime friend of Izumi's. From his station at the firepit, John overheard them discussing Terry.

"Except for those clouds in the distance, its a lovely day for a picnic," Agatha said, smiling at her husband as he strolled down the beach to watch the anglers ply their craft. "I notice Terry isn't fishing. Is he feeling well?"

Like a mother checking one of her children, John saw Izumi turn in Terry's direction. The picture of a usually upbeat man, sitting by himself while others had a good time, brought a frown to Izumi's lips; John saw her expression turn to one of worry, and understood what she felt.

The last time Terry declined to go fishing, Terry had been nearing his breakdown.

Excusing herself from Agatha, Izumi moved to the firepit and took John's apron from him. "I'll handle the cooking. Go sit with Terry."

Dispensing with the soothing assurances that Terry was fine, John accepted the offer in silence. He strolled to where Terry sat, took a seat next to him without explanation.

"Why aren't you fishing?" John asked, letting his arms rest on raised knees.

Terry shrugged. "I don't feel like it."

"I see." John watched a boat leave the bay, most likely, on its way for a pleasure cruise for the Thousand Islands. "You're getting in over your head-- you know that, don't you?"

Terry picked up a small pebble, flicked it toward the bay. "What did you think of her?"

"I only saw her once," John said, picking a smooth pebble for himself. "From the little I saw, I think you're in over your head."

Terry smiled. "Maybe I am."

"You've made up your mind to really help her, haven't you?" John pitched the pebble toward the water, grunted when it failed to match Terry's mark. "She's here to stay for more than just a few more days, and we both know it."

"You think I'm making a mistake?" Terry hurled another pebble, sighed when it only went as far as John's. "Do you think she'll turn into another Victor?"

John slanted a glance at Terry. "Do you?"

With a shake of his head, Terry chose another pebble. "I don't think there's a mean bone in Madison's body."

"Speaking of which," John gathered two pebbles at the same time, rolled them in the palm of his hand, "she's not that bad looking-- for someone who isn't Izumi, of course." He grinned when Terry tossed him a laughing smile. "You know I only have eyes for Izumi, but I'm warning you, Terry-- what Madison has, could get you into trouble."

Terry hurled the pebble, nearly missing the water. "I'm not doing this because she's pretty."

"I know you're not." John let the smooth stones drop from his hand. "I don't question your motives, only the wisdom in putting yourself in this position. She's the most helpless puppy dog I've ever seen, and knowing your big heart, you won't be careful about helping her too much."

Terry frowned.

"Just be careful, Terry. To the extent you help her, you will be responsible for her. That's a lot for anyone to take on, let alone you."

"She needs help, John."

"I know that. Just be careful."

A sigh parted Terry's lips. "Izzy keeps telling me the same thing, but I think I know what you're trying to say. Madison is pretty, and because I'm in a position of responsibility, I can never take advantage of any authority I might have. I won't, John. I think you already know I won't, but I appreciate the warning."

John took a deep breath. Now was as good a time as any. "Izumi and I talked and prayed this over after we left your apartment. Neither of us think it's wise for you to be with Madison alone-- for your sake, as well as hers. Hold on, Terry, this isn't a no-vote of confidence. Izumi and I want to help."

"I don't understand."

"Whenever possible, bring Madison over to our house for extended visits; that way, you can help her, and we can help you."

"But I don't need any help."

"Careful, Terry, you're beginning to sound like the puppy."

The pebble-tossing forgotten, Terry shook his head. "This isn't just because you want to protect me. You're afraid I'm going to fall apart again."

"Are you?" John watched Terry's confident reply slip away before Terry uttered a sound. "I'm not trying to shake your confidence, only to offer more help with Madison. Don't do this alone-- not when you have us."

"So..." Terry squinted a bemused look at John, "Madison is going to be a family project?"

"More or less. You're first in line to help her, then Izumi and I come next."

"And all this, because--"

"Come on, Terry, don't make me get sentimental. Family sticks together. Nuff said."

"You and Izzy tried to help me with the others, but why is this one so different?"

John smiled. "None of your other needy people looked like Madison. Izumi thinks you need to be extra careful with this one, and I agree. And, unlike your other crusades, this one seems deserving of your help." John slapped Terry on the shoulder. "I'm hungry. How about some bass?"

* * * *

After John's talk with him, Terry felt able to enjoy the rest of the picnic. The triplets wanted to show Terry their casts, and even though they were pint-sized munchkins who didn't have much reach, those little girls did pretty well. Not as good as Abby, of course, but then, very few were as good as Terry's first pupil. He wished Abby were there to see her sisters fishing. She would have enjoyed watching them attempt casts, offering direction when needed. At heart, Abby was a teacher.

Before long, AJ would make their decision as to whether or not they would return to Three Mile Bay anytime soon in the future. All Terry had to do was wait, though he figured patience had never been one of his strong points.

As Terry ate bass at the picnic table, Dr. Gregory, the local veterinary and longstanding friend of the family, picked up a can of soda and turned to Terry with a shake of the head.

"John says you have a new houseguest."

"Yup. Her name is Madison."

"Is she staying long?"

"It depends." Terry accepted a wiener wrapped in a hot dog bun from John, and noticed John's amused smile as John returned to the firepit. "She needs time to get on her feet," Terry continued. "How long that will take, I don't know, I only know she needs help getting her life in order."

Curious, Dr. Gregory's brows raised in an unspoken question.

"I don't know what her problem is, but from what I can tell, she's not a drug addict or a prostitute. Just someone who needs a place to stay until she can get back on her feet."

"Is she from the hotline?"

The simple question depressed Terry, for it proved he had a track-record to overcome.

"No, she's not from the hotline. I found her hitchhiking, that's all."

Dr. Gregory nodded. "John said she has some problems."

Picking up the ketchup, Terry squeezed red goop over the roasted hot dog. Another houseguest with "problems," of course, meant the person was deeply troubled and probably needed psychiatric medication.

"She very well may have some issues to overcome, but she's not from the hotline."

Taking a bite from the wiener, Terry noticed the silent exchange of the guests around the picnic table.

"If there's anything I can do to help," Dr. Gregory smiled, "let me know."

A chuckle came from John's direction, and after a moment of thought, Terry caught on. The veterinarian who wanted to help the puppy. Terry smiled. Madison needed help all right, but not that kind.

However, it did give Terry an idea-- one worth considering in the future. For now, Madison had more pressing needs, and as soon as this picnic ended, and he had the chance, he needed to start addressing them. She would object, and he wouldn't force. She had already said "no" to it before, and Terry hoped she wouldn't continue to be so adamant. No fear of hospitals was worth the pain she was obviously in.

The conversation around the table made no more mention of Madison. Terry guessed they were uncomfortable talking about her, especially after Terry's previous failures. Aside from their best wishes, what were they supposed to say? "Hope you don't get hurt again?"

* * * *

When the doorbell sounded, Madison woke from her sleep. Her show had ended sometime ago, replaced by a courtroom drama that made her click off the television. The bell turned into a knock at the door, then a shadowed figure moved to the window and looked in. From the porch light, she could make out his face.

Terry. He had said he was coming back, but she assumed it to mean at a much later time. Not today, and certainly not this afternoon.

She pushed herself up from the sofa, took a blanket and wrapped it around her shoulders. The room felt cold, and she couldn't see very well as she went to the door. She glanced at the clock glowing in the television cabinet, saw the lateness of the hour and realized her mistake. The entire afternoon had slipped away while she napped.

"Madison?" Terry called from the other side of the door. "Would you let me in?"

Needing some time to think about it, she pulled the blanket closed.

"Madison, open this door."

She hurried to obey.

When Terry stepped inside, he took off his wet coat and hung it on the door handle. It was raining.

Fearing his anger, Madison retreated toward the stairs.

"Wait a moment," he called, "I want to talk to you. Why is it so dark in here? Have you been in the storage room, again?" He clicked on the light switch, illuminating the living room and part of the dining area. "Madison, come over here and sit down. I have something to discuss with you." A smile parted Terry's mouth when he noticed the rumpled blankets and pillows. "Good. You've been using the sofa. Get over here. I want to talk to you about something important."

Reluctant, but unable to do otherwise, she obeyed and took a seat on the sofa. To her relief, Terry grabbed a dining chair and placed it opposite from her on the other side of the coffee table. He sat down.

"Sorry, I forgot to bring Izzy along. I wanted to talk to you before it got too late, and she's busy putting the girls to bed. I'll only stay for a few minutes." He rubbed his hands together. "I've been doing some thinking. Tomorrow, I'd like for Izzy and myself to take you to the medical center in Watertown."

Madison shook her head. "I'm not going."

"I want you to choose a doctor to be your primary physician, and for you to make an appointment to get your hip looked at."

"No."

"Madison--"

"You can't make me go there."

"I know that, but I'd like you to at least consider it a little longer, before turning it down."

Madison waited for what she considered "a little longer," then shook her head, "no."

Terry sighed, leaned back in the chair. "What do you want out of life, Madison? What are your dreams, your goals? How are you going to make them reality, and what are you willing to do to get there?"

"That's none of your business."

"Maybe so, but I can't help you unless I have more information. To start with, a last name to go with Madison would be nice."

"It's Crawford. Madison Crawford."

"There, that didn't hurt, did it?" He smiled. "What do you want out of life, Madison Crawford?"

An avalanche of dreams and hopes tumbled into Madison, and for a long while, she had trouble picking out only a few. "I want a job," she said at last. "I want a place of my own, and I want a job."

"Good, that's good." Terry rubbed his hands together in a thoughtful manner. "Then you need to consider what you have to do to make that happen. First of all, you have to be in good physical shape, good enough to hold down a job."

"I can do it."

"I'm sure you can, but not in the condition your hip is in. You need to see a doctor."

Though the mere thought made her stomach turn upside down, she needed an answer to a longstanding question. Everything pointed to now being the time to ask.

"Would you promise not to tell?" Madison heard the quaver in her voice and ignored it.

"Tell what?"

"Not until you promise."

A flicker of understanding crossed Terry's face. "I promise."

Madison swallowed her pride long enough to get out the question. "Could someone get into trouble if the doctor saw things that weren't normal?"

The easy look in Terry's eyes faded away. "What do you mean?"

"If someone went to a doctor, and that doctor saw things that meant something bad had happened, could the person who went to the doctor get into trouble?"

Profound pain settled into Terry's expression. He asked nothing, sucked in a breath and stared at the carpet.

Panic tugged at Madison for having asked. Even so, she had to know the answer.

"Terry?"

"I'm not a doctor, Madison, and I'm no lawyer, so this isn't legal advice. Unless there's something specific the doctor is duty-bound by state law to report, I don't think they'll tell anyone what they saw."

"But what if it's really bad?"

"Doctors see a lot of people with all kinds of problems. I'm guessing they're hard to shock."

"But could I get into trouble?"

"Trouble for what? You haven't robbed a bank, have you? You're hurt, and the doctor is there to help you get better. They're not there to judge you, or make you feel ashamed for..." again, Terry paused. "They'll understand."

Dread made her pull the blanket even tighter. "They'll know. They'll know everything."

"Doctors can't always tell, just by looking. Unless something is drastically wrong, I'm guessing they won't know everything."

"But..." Madison quieted her protest. She wanted to ask more, but couldn't.

"Okay," Terry breathed, "let's take a hypothetical approach to the problem."

Uncertain what he meant, she remained silent.

"Let's say a woman was abused, and now needs to go to a doctor."

Shocked horror filled Madison, and she stiffened like a petrified board.

Terry's voice gentled even more. "This is hypothetical, remember? This woman who needs medical attention is afraid that if a doctor looks at her, the doctor will know this hypothetical woman's secret. I don't think a doctor can necessarily always tell, but let's say this particular doctor is really sharp, and has a hunch something bad happened. Our hypothetical woman should be protected by something called doctor-patient confidentiality. There can be exceptions to the rule, such as instances of suspected child abuse, and the exceptions will vary from state to state and from doctor to doctor. But in general, as far as I'm aware, this woman's problems should remain private. This isn't legal advice, but as far as I understand, this is the way things are supposed to work. It's why you need a primary physician, one who will establish a doctor-patient relationship with you, so you will be covered by that privilege. Do you understand?"

Confused at Terry's sudden change from the hypothetical woman to his use of "you," Madison didn't respond.

Understanding dawned in Terry's face and he backed off with an apologetic smile. "I don't think this hypothetical woman should worry about what her doctor will think. She needs to pay attention to her health, and maintain a safe environment so she can move on with her life."

Madison bit her lip until she tasted blood, the hurt steadying her nerves.

"Can you hear me, Madison?"

She nodded, "yes."

"Do you want me to take you into that medical center, tomorrow?"

"Yes, please."

With a look of heavy pain, Terry's eyes closed. "Dear, God..." he breathed the words, the remainder of the prayer fading into silence. The lids opened, and something very close to tears filled his brown eyes.

"Are you all right?" Madison asked. "Do you want the ibuprofen?"

He passed off her concern with a sad smile. "This Labor Day hasn't been very easy to get through."

"Maybe the next one will be better."

"Yes," he smiled, wiping the water from his cheeks, "maybe." He stood up, looked about the room until his voice steadied once more. "Izzy and I will come as soon as we can tomorrow morning, after the triplets start preschool, so Izzy can give you some clothes to try on before we take you into Watertown. Agatha Hopkins is about your height, and Izzy thinks you might be able to fit her clothes. Anyway, it'll give you something to wear besides my old sweats and jeans."

Becoming self-conscious, Madison felt grateful for the blanket covering her shabby appearance.

"Izzy will take you shopping later, but for now, our first priority is to set up an appointment with a doctor." Terry pulled car keys from his pants pocket. "Do you need anything before I go?"

Madison shook her head, "no."

"Okay, then. I'll see you tomorrow at nine." Terry strode to the door, grabbed his coat, and left without locking the apartment.

As Madison got up to put on the deadbolt, she noticed a low muffled sound coming from outside. Curious, she went to the window and peeked through the still open blinds.

There in the pouring rain, his coat not even zipped up, Terry leaned against his jeep. She studied the bowed head, the hand over the eyes, the shoulders that shook as though he had been holding something in until that moment. With a stab of reality, Madison felt the jarring sensation of knowing she had somehow caused him pain.

Terry was weeping.

His head moved to the side, and fearing she might be caught watching, she closed the blinds.

Numb, Madison went to the sofa, her eyes fastened on the front door. He was crying. The thought gave her a sharp twist inside. She pulled the comforter over her body, buried her face in the soft pillow and squeezed her eyes shut.

If she absolutely had to cry, no one but God must ever know.


"Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto Thee daily."
~ Psalm 86:3 ~

end of chapter