I Will Love You Forever Pt. 2 Ch. 20bykalamazoo707©
Note: Thank you all for patiently waiting for me. Real life interferes. Thanks to Donalde for beta reading for me and to all of you for reading this story.
Patricia waited nervously by the telephone. The rumor was that Dr. Coleman would be announcing who was going to be the next surgical resident that day. She was more nervous about it than Kenji was. In fact, he barely mentioned it. It was usually her that brought it up. She knew that he would be fine with whatever happened, but she really wanted this for him. As the day passed, she gave up hope that the decision had been made and began to prepare dinner. She was looking through the refrigerator when the phone rang. She slammed the refrigerator door shut and ran to the phone thinking that it was Kenji.
"Patricia?" It was Dai's soft voice instead of Kenji's. "Is Kenjiro there?"
"No, he won't be home until tomorrow- what's wrong?" Patricia asked picking up on the woman's anxiety."
"I-I don't know for certain," Dai replied.
"Is Hiro alright?" Patricia asked starting with the obvious.
"Hiro is fine, I am fine too."
"Then that leaves Hiroshi," Patricia said. "What's wrong?"
"I- he is always so tired lately and he is losing weight. He says that he is fine, but Patricia- I do not believe him. Something is wrong."
"Do you want me to call Kenji?" Patricia asked.
"No, but will you speak with him later?"
"Yes and I'll tell him about your concerns-Dai, is he having any pain anywhere?"
"I do not think so, but he would not say even if he were. I do not think that it is the disease that your father has, but Patricia, something is very wrong with Hiroshi. I can feel it."
"I'll talk to Kenji tonight," Patricia assured her. "Do you think that you could convince him to go to the hospital if Kenji thinks he needs to go?"
"I will give him no choice," Dai replied resolutely.
"I'll call you after I talk to Kenji," Patricia said and hung up. She almost called Kenji but decided against it. He wouldn't get the message until later unless she said that it was an emergency and as far as she could tell, this wasn't an emergency.
She went back to her dinner preparations making a mental list of all that she needed to tell him. The concern about his father moved up to number one the list followed by news from Joel and Penny and then news that Niko wanted to deliver himself. On second thought, she decided to let Niko share his news first. He was so excited and it would be wrong to make him wait.
Dinner would be something simple since it would be just the three of them. She would make a nicer dinner the next day when Kenji would be home. Actually, her mother would be making the dinner since she had classes and would ride home with Kenji.
She heard a car pull into the driveway and knew that it was Abby with Niko and Marie. Niko was the first one in the house.
"Did he call?" he asked his voice full of excitement.
"Not yet, but it's early," Patricia replied thinking that the excitement was over his news.
"So we do not know if papa was chosen?" he asked.
"No, not yet," Patricia replied touched by the fact that Niko's primary concern wasn't for himself. The thought that some girl was going to be very lucky crossed her mind. "He should be calling soon and I'll let you talk to him first."
"Thank you mama," Niko said with a slight bow. He could hardly wait not only to tell Kenji his news, but to hear what happened. The thought of his papa being a surgeon thrilled him to no end. He was proud of him anyway and wanted to be like him- but a surgeon! That would be something.
"I want to talk to papa too!" Marie chimed in not wanting to be left out.
"You will," Patricia said picking her up. "Were you a good girl for aunt Abby?"
"She certainly was," Abby said as she sat down at the kitchen table.
Patricia was about to offer her a glass of water, but Niko was already filling a glass for her and asking her to stay for dinner.
"I think I will if you don't mind," Abby replied. "I don't feel like eating alone tonight."
Patricia looked at Abby with concern. She wasn't going to say anything, but changed her mind.
"Abby, what's going on?"
"Nothing, I just feel like some company tonight. Is that a problem?" Abby asked her tone sharp.
Niko and Marie looked at her and then at Patricia. Niko took Marie by the hand and led her from the kitchen.
There was a long silence before Abby spoke.
"Patricia- I'm sorry. I've just been out of sorts lately and before you ask, I'm not sick or anything like that. It's just that lately-I've been missing people. I miss Ralph more than I can say. I've missed him since he died, but lately- then there's-well- never mind. You have better things to do and think about other than the mutterings of an old woman."
Patricia sat at the table and took Abby's hands in hers.
"Abby, do you remember telling me that you thought of me as a daughter and that you loved me as such?"
"Of course I do!" Abby replied. "I meant it then and I mean it now. I love Kenji and those children too."
"You also were the first person that I told about Kenji and the first to help us instead of telling us why we couldn't happen. You put yourself at risk hiding us and I can't tell you how much we all love you for it. Abby, I think of you as another mother and just as you once told me that I could come to you with anything, you can come to me. Tell me what's bothering you."
Abby didn't say anything for a long time and then glanced at the clock.
"We have time," Patricia said. "I can always make sandwiches so tell me what's wrong."
"There isn't really anything wrong per se," Abby replied. "I can't really explain it. I just feel-out of sorts. Patricia, if I tell you something can you try to keep an open mind?"
"Abby, are you in trouble?" Patricia asked with a grin.
"What?" Abby asked momentarily confused. Then she started to laugh. That had been the question that she asked Patricia when she made her tell her what her trouble was. "No dear," she replied still laughing. She actually felt better after the laugh and gave Patricia's hand a squeeze. "You always could make me laugh," she said still chuckling. "I think that my problem is that there are things that I've never shared with anyone. I'm beginning to realize that the older I get, the more important it's becoming to me that someone know the real Abigail J. Aldridge."
Patricia didn't say anything, but waited sensing that Abby really needed and wanted to talk. The truth was, she had always been curious about Abby's past; but didn't want to ask.
"Do you remember your mother asking me why I was helping you?"
"I remember and I asked you the same thing. You said something about 'Romeo and Juliette' being your favorite story."
"That was and still is true," Abby said. "Every time I read that story I imagined how I could have helped them. You and Kenji were my real life Romeo and Juliette. Thankfully your story turned out much better than theirs did. There's another reason why I helped you- Patricia, I know what it's like to love someone and not be able to be with them because it isn't socially acceptable. But let me tell you a little about my family first.
My parents were both from well to do families. Their marriage was an arranged one, but fortunately at least they liked each other. I do believe that had they been left to choose, they wouldn't have chosen each other, but at any rate; they were happy enough. I was an only child only because my mother couldn't seem to carry to term so when they found out she was expecting, she was put on bed rest. I was early, but not horribly so and as you can see, I survived. I had a happy childhood, but I wasn't spoiled. I learned the value of a dollar and learned not to take anything for granted.
I was considered quite beautiful when I was a young woman and had my share of suitors. The problem was that I wasn't interested. All of my friends where talking about this boy or that one, but I found it boring. However- when they talked about women they had my attention. At the time I didn't know or understand the significance of what that meant."
Patricia had an idea of where Abby was going with her story, but didn't interrupt. She gave Abby's hand a squeeze of encouragement.
"We managed to survive the flu epidemic of 1918 although we lost many loved ones. By that time however, I was educated- or as well educated as a woman could be in those days and I was supposed to get married. The thought terrified me. I didn't want to get married much less be touched by a man."
"But you must have had male friends," Patricia said.
"I did," Abby confirmed, "but the key word is friends. I wasn't expected to marry them and to have children with them. Anyhow, the wedding didn't happen. He married someone else which didn't hurt my feelings at all. Needless to say, my parents were furious. The marriage would have been both financially and socially advantageous for them."
"What happened?" Patricia asked.
"Nothing for a while," Abby replied. Then they hired new servants. There was one- a beautiful mulatto girl named Lorena. She was so beautiful. She was a tiny thing who made me look like an amazon. Somehow, much to my mother's chagrin; we became friends. Then we became lovers. We kept it hidden for quite a while before my father caught us. Lorena disappeared and I never saw her alive again. My father made me marry my late husband thinking that it would cure me of what ailed me. My mother blamed it on Lorena."
"Abby, I'm so sorry..."
"The man that they made me marry also came from a wealthy family and he was a brute. I won't go into the details but the torment finally stopped when we reached an understanding. He could go and do as he pleased as long as he was discreet. It was the same for me. My parents forgave me and thought that they had fixed me because whenever we were all together; we acted like the happily married couple that they wanted us to be. I wish that I could say that I mourned when he died, but I was relieved. I could hide under the cloak of widowhood and say that I was still in mourning and not be approached by the marriage issue. He did leave me rather well off and when my parents died, they left me money as well. All was well until 1929 when the great depression started, but we weren't nearly as bad off as most were. Many of my father's associates committed suicide because they couldn't face the fact that they were now as poor as some of those who served them.
Anyway, Lorena is part of the reason why I helped you and Kenji. Then fate or God was kind to me again and sent me a crotchety man by the name of Ralph. It seems that you and Kenji have a way of bringing good people together, but at any rate; I knew that he cared about me. But all I could think of was that he was a man. It didn't occur to me to be honest with him. He would have understood and we would have managed somehow. Unfortunately I didn't realize that I loved him until it was too late."
Abby wiped away a tear and continued.
"Watching you and Kenji and being a part of this family has been both a pleasure and a blessing. Watching your children grow has been an amazing experience..."
"Abby tell me the truth," Patricia said her voice intense, "are you sick?"
"I promise that other than the aches, pains and regrets of getting old; I'm fine. I'm not sure of why it took me so long to tell you about me, but now that I have; I feel much better."
"Abby," Patricia said after breathing a sigh of relief, "It doesn't matter what you were or are. You will always be Abby who loved me enough to teach me. Without you, I wouldn't be where I am today. Without you, Kenji and I wouldn't be together. We love you and don't you ever forget it."
Tears of relief down Abby's face. She was almost certain that Patricia wouldn't be disgusted with her, but she was still afraid. What would Kenji think of her?
"Did you think that telling me this would change how I feel about you?" Patricia asked almost hurt.
"I had hoped not," Abby replied.
"It doesn't and it won't," Patricia said firmly. "Is it alright to tell Kenji? I won't if you don't want me to."
"Patricia, one of the reasons why you and Kenji are so strong together is because you don't keep secrets from each other. No matter how bad it is, you share it and you work through it. What I'm saying is that it's alright to tell him."
"Thank you and Abby? It won't change how he feels about you so don't worry about that."
Abby's shoulders sagged in relief. Truth be told, she was more worried about Kenji's reaction although she didn't know why. Suddenly, she was ravenous. It was an indication of just how heavily her secret had weighed on her.
"It's early yet, I bet those kids are hungry; why don't we start supper?"
Everyone now knew that Kenji had interviewed for the position of surgical resident. Many congratulated him, some gave him looks of envy and a few had even stopped speaking to him. It didn't bother him-he continued on as he usually did. Every so often he would see Ernie at the hospital and ask how things were.
"They're good," Ernie replied. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed I get a letter from someone. My preference is here, but I'll go wherever I need to. The complicating factor if I get accepted somewhere else will be Maeve."
"She could transfer could she not?" Kenji asked.
"She could, but all of her family is here," Ernie replied. "The other issue is us. We're not sure if we really belong together. So in a way, an internship in another city or state might be a good thing."
"I understand," Kenji said. "I wish the best for you."
"Thanks- by the way, word has it that you're up for the surgical resident spot."
"I interviewed for it," Kenji confirmed. "I have not been accepted yet. If I am not, then we will continue as planned."
"Well, good luck," Ernie said offering his hand.
Kenji shook it and watched Ernie hurry off. He looked at the watch that Patricia had given him for Christmas and decided to wait a little longer before calling her. It wasn't quite five and he wanted dinner to be over before he called. He knew that her first question would be if he had slept and he would be able to tell her that he had. The last shift had been a difficult one and he fell into bed soon after talking with her that morning.
He bought a cup of tea from the cafeteria and went outside to enjoy it. As he sipped the tea, he read through his notes from the night before. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle and looked up. Mai was sitting with Vera on the opposite side of the large patio. Vera was reading something, while Mai stared at him with an expression of hatred, desire and confusion. They hadn't spoken since their last conversation and he planned to keep it that way. When he saw her start to stand, he stood up and left the patio taking his tea with him.
Even though it was early, he decided to call home.
Patricia answered on the second ring. As expected she asked him if he slept and for how long. Satisfied that he had rested, she put Marie on the phone.
"Hello pretty one," Kenji greeted.
They chatted for a few minutes before Marie told him that she missed him and had a new picture for him.
"I look forward to seeing it," Kenji replied. "I love you."
Niko was next.
"Papa! Do you know yet?"
"Not yet," Kenji replied. "How is school?"
"It's fine, papa guess what happened?" Niko asked excitedly making Kenji smile.
"Let me see," Kenji mused, "you have grown another ear?"
"No," Niko replied giggling, "that isn't possible. Do you give up?"
"I give up," Kenji replied laughing.
"Florrie can come over to play! Her mother said that she could."
"That is good news!" Kenji replied. "Is her father aware of this?"
"Yes, Florrie said that he said that it was alright."
"Then I am pleased for you," Kenji said meaning it. Florrie would be the first child allowed to come to their house to play. "When is this going to happen?" he asked hoping that it would be while he was home.
"Saturday," Niko replied. "She's going to eat lunch with us. Can we have a picnic?"
"I do not see why not; discuss it with your mother."
"She already said yes but I had to ask you too," Niko replied happily.
They hung up a few minutes later with Kenji telling Niko that he loved him and to help with his sister. A moment later, he was talking to Patricia. Her soft, "I miss you" was like music to his ears. He missed her too.
"So no word yet?" she asked.
"Not yet, I will call as soon as I know something. Kirei-Niko tells me that Florrie is coming over for lunch. Are you sure that her father is alright with this?"
"He was there when Florrie's mother gave permission," Patricia replied. "Of course this is only Wednesday; he could have changed his mind by now. For Niko's sake I hope that he doesn't. He's so excited. I told him yes to the picnic-is that alright with you?"
"He asked and I told him that it was fine," Kenji replied. "I saw Mai today."
"We did not speak, but Kirei; she didn't look right. She looked fine physically, but something is different."
"Maybe she finally got the message," Patricia said.
"Perhaps- what is happening at home other than the pending visit from Florrie?" Kenji asked changing the subject.
Patricia told him that Abby had stayed for dinner, but left out the particulars of their conversation. She did tell him that Abby was thrilled that Joel and Penny were coming for the summer and offered to have them stay at her house. Finally she got around to the conversation with Dai.
"There is no pain?" Kenji asked.
"No, just that he's losing weight and tired. I asked her if he's been eating and drinking more than usual, but she says no. She's pretty worried about him."
Kenji didn't say anything for a long time. Patricia swore that she could almost hear his brain working as it processed the information.
"I will call him after I'm through talking to you."
"What do you think it is?" Patricia asked.
"It could be nothing," Kenji said. "It could be that he needs to take a vacation- he works much too hard."
"Will you call me and let me know?"
"Of course," Kenji replied. "Kirei..."
He stopped when he felt someone behind him. He turned around to see Mai watching him. A moment later, Vera appeared, took her arm and led her away.
"I am here Kirei, I was momentarily distracted. I apologize. I was going to ask you about another overnight getaway before Joel and Penny arrive."
"Funny that you should mention that," Patricia said. "I was thinking about that earlier today. We'll look at our schedules when you get home. Call your dad and then call me back."
Kenji hung up and dialed his father's number. He was surprised when he answered the phone himself. He closed his eyes and listened to his father's voice.
"Kenjiro! What a pleasant surprise!"
"Hello father, how are you?"
"I'm fine, just a little tired is all. Have you heard about the surgical position yet?"
"No, not yet," Kenji replied. "Father, I'm calling because Dai called Patricia..."
"I told her that I am fine!" Hiroshi snapped.
"Do not be angry with her," Kenji said softly. "She loves you and is concerned about you. She did what any wife would do for her husband."
"I know," Hiroshi said softly. "You are right, but Kenjiro; I am fine. I just need to take some time off. I am not as young as I used to be."
"Will you come to the hospital for testing?" Kenji asked knowing that the answer would be no.
"I plan to take a week off to rest," Hiroshi said. "If I am not better by the end of it, I will agree to be examined."
Kenji knew that his father would want to try the herbal remedies first. "Do I have your word that you will come to the hospital if you aren't better by the end of a week?"