As the wind blew softly through the trees and the sun shone brightly on a warm spring day, Nikki awoke slowly, blinking tiredly and stretching, hoping to find Victor still fast asleep beside her. She was disappointed when she saw the note Victor had left on the pillow beside her. “Went to work early, had lots to do. Will call later. Love Victor.” Rolling her eyes frustrated, Nikki debated whether or not to stay in bed.
The decision was made for her as she felt one of her babies kick and realized what time it was. “Past noon, how could I have slept in that late?” Nikki thought to herself aloud as she climbed out of bed and began to dress.
Starving, she headed downstairs to the kitchen, where she found Vicki setting the table for lunch.
“You’re finally up,” Vicki greeted her mom with a smile.
“Yeah, decided to sleep in.”
“That’s good, you need your rest. You’ve been spending all your time lately taking care of everybody but you. You need to watch that.”
“Yes, mother,” Nikki teased with a smile.
“I’m serious. The last thing you need is to get run down and end up in the hospital.”
“Alright, I’ll start taking care of myself.”
Treading lightly, Victoria carefully asked, “What’s going on? What happened at the doctor’s office?”
Deciding on telling her a half truth, Nikki carefully replied, “There’s a problem with one of the twins.”
“What? What’s wrong?” Vicki asked shocked.
“Something’s wrong with your sister.” Nikki replied a little guardedly, offering no further explanation.
“Well, what is it? Come on, Mom, tell me! Maybe I can help,” Vicki asked impatiently, part of her wanting so badly to be able to help.
Nikki gave her daughter a weak smile and replied, “Honey, I don’t want to get into it right now, not until I’ve had a little more time to process things and I’ve spoken to your father.”
“Alright, I’ll let it go.” Victoria reluctantly relented.
“Mom, whatever’s going on, you’re not alone in this. Whatever you need, you’ve got it. Just say the word!” Victoria whispered emotionally, her eyes locked with her mother’s.
Speechless, as tears rose in her eyes, Nikki tried to muster up a smile, but couldn’t.
Her heart breaking for her mother, Vicki took her hands and whispered, emotionally, yet firmly, “I won’t let you go through this alone, got it?”
As tears began to fall, Nikki said, “I’m fine, you don’t need to worry about me.”
Knowing full well her mother was only trying to save face, Victoria moved to the chair right beside Nikki and wrapped her arms around her, vowing determinedly, “Everything’s going to be just fine.”
Looking at her daughter and seeing the determination in her eyes, Nikki smiled genuinely for the first time that day.
After a few moments, and having wiped away the tears, Nikki looked at all the food Victoria had set out on the table and asked, “Just who’s supposed to eat all this?”
Shrugging her shoulders carelessly, Vicki teased, “I think the four of us can handle it.”
“Four of us?”
“Yeah, you, me and the twins. Remember?” Vicki asked with a little smile.
“Yeah, you’re right. I almost forgot. I guess I’m not quite used to the idea of having twins.” Nikki replied with a little smile. “Whoa!”
“What? What happened?”
“Somebody just kicked me.”
“Well, that’s what you get for making a comment like that,” Vicki replied cheekily.
Chuckling, Nikki shook her head.
Meanwhile, at Dr. Cornwell’s office, Victor sat in front of her desk talking to her and his new cardiologist, Dr. Thorton.
“Unfortunately, Victor, the medication you’ve been on the last few weeks hasn’t worked. I’m sure Dr. Cornwell has explained what your options are at this point,” Dr. Thorton began warily.
“Yes, she explained all that to me. Hopefully the medication I’m on now will work.” It was clear from the tone of his voice how much he wanted what he was saying to be true, how much he wished and hoped his hopes would become reality.
“Victor, at this point, it’s very ill-advised for you to get your hopes up,” Dr. Thorton warned wisely.
At Victor’s sombre silence, she continued. “It’s highly unlikely the current medication will be any different from anything you’ve tried up to this point.
Slowly letting out a small, sad sigh, Victor quietly asked, “What will happen if you’re right?” Dr. Thorton hesitated for a moment, then answered apologetically. “Well then, you have two choices. The first is a triple bypass, which will correct the problem and give you a much, much better chance than any medication ever could. And, the second is a transplant.”
“I have my reasons for rejecting the surgery, Dr. Thorton,” Victor replied tightly. “A transplant? Isn’t that a little drastic at this point?” he asked shocked.
Finally beginning to understand what he meant, she replied, “It’s a last resort, Victor; that’s all it is.” She thought to herself sadly, ‘Such a shame for this to happen to anybody, especially when it’s a member of such a close-knit one.’ Deciding it was best to see exactly where her new patient stood on a very important matter, Dr. Thorton said, “I know this is a sore point with you, but you need to tell your family, Victor! Don’t wait! You can’t afford to at this point.”
Stunned, Victor looked at both doctors and asked, “Same time next week?”
“Yes,” Dr. Cornwell replied, speaking for the first time since Victor had entered her office, she continued, “and, Victor, don’t give up. We aren’t! We promise we’ll do everything we can to get you the treatment you need for your sake and your family’s.”
Trying his best to muster up a smile, Victor nodded and walked out of the office, with his shoulders slumped, and feeling tears prick his eyes.
After battling some light traffic, Victor entered Gina’s and, instead of sitting at a table and ordering lunch walked straight to the bar and sat down.
“What will it be?” Joe, the bartender asked as he walked up to Victor.
Spotting him out of the corner of her eye, Gina walked over to greet Victor. “Victor, this is a pleasant surprise. What can I get you? Some lasagna maybe?” Then, noticing the whisky in front of him, she carefully asked, “Not in the mood for your usual brandy?”
“No, let’s just say I need something a little stronger today.” Victor glanced at her before taking a swig of his drink. The burning in his throat was a welcome change from the searing pain and mind-blowing numbness that had surged through his body for days on end since his first appointment with Dr. Cornwell.
“One of those days?” Gina asked carefully, sensing something was going on, but knowing enough not to pry.
“And then some,” Victor replied cryptically as he took another swig of whisky.
“In that case, I’ll let you be. Let me know if you need anything.”
With a friendly smile and a nod, Gina walked back into the kitchen.
Pulling out his cell phone, Victor dialed his number to check in at home.
“Hello?” Nikki answered. It was clear from the tone of her voice that yesterday’s events were still very much on her mind.
“Hi, how are things going? How are you holding up?” Victor asked concerned. ‘I wish there was something I could do for her, she sounds so down.’
“Actually, I’m doing pretty well under the circumstances.”
“Oh yeah? What happened?”
Smiling a little, Nikki recounted her conversation with Victoria.
“She’ really something, isn’t she?”
“Yeah.” Nikki’s smile brightened as she realized just how resilient, strong and sensitive her daughter really was. “It’s not often we get to see that side of her, but, in a way it makes moments like that one sweeter, dearer. I don’t know, am I making any sense?”
“You’re making perfect sense.”
The note of regret, of sorrow in his voice wasn’t lost on her. ‘He sounds so down, so depressed, what could be going on?’ she asked herself, doing her best to answer that question.
“I’m glad to hear things are better between you two. You need each other right now. You’ll need each other’s support in the coming months.”
“What? What are you talking about?” Nikki asked, perking up, instantly alert at the hidden message lurking just beneath the surface of the seemingly harmless, though heartfelt comment.
“Never mind,” Victor quickly replied, catching his mistake, only too late to do anything about it.
“Okay,” Nikki replied, still a little confused before adding, “So am I, but, we’ve got to tell the children what’s going on. We can’t keep this from them.”
“Okay, when?” Victor agreed.
“Tonight, Nicholas and Sharon are coming to dinner with the children.”
Wishing it were any other night, Victor tiredly replied, “Okay, I’ll be home soon.”
Victor had just walked into the livingroom when Nikki entered on her way out of the kitchen and asked, “You sounded really tired and down earlier. What’s going on?”
Not looking at her, but instead at his hands, which sat in his lap, balled into fists, Victor quietly replied, “Just one of those days.”
“Uh-huh,” Nikki replied, knowing full well there was more going on. “Come on, spit it out, there’s more going on here than you’re letting on.”
“Nikki, just drop it, alright? I don’t want to get into it,” Victor replied tiredly, yet firmly.
Defeatedly, regretfully, his heart breaking for his wife, he thought to himself, ‘The last thing Nikki needs is to worry about me after what she’s been through. She has more than enough to deal with without taking on my problems too. I can’t let her do that!’
Changing the subject to something he hoped would be more pleasant than his own increasingly morbid thoughts, Victor asked, “How was your day? Besides the obvious, I mean.”
“All things considered, it was pretty good. I wish I could say the same for you though,” Nikki replied pointedly.
“Nikki, it wasn’t that bad, really. I’m going to go shower and change before Nicholas and Sharon get here,” Victor replied before heading upstairs.
After dinner the family moved into the livingroom and continued their lively discussions.
Nikki sat on the couch only half listening to what was going on around her. Nervous, but resolved ‘It’s time for the rest of the family to know what’s going, time for her to tell them,” Nikki took a deep breath and prepared to do just that when she felt someone take her hand and hold it tight.
“Whatever happens, you have my full support,” Victor whispered firmly, comfortingly.
Smiling nervously, Nikki replied, “Thank you.”
Clearing her throat, she began. “I’m sure you’re all wondering what’s going on, why I called you all here tonight.”
“Yeah, why do I get the feeling there’s something wrong?” Nick asked curious.
‘Because you’ve always been very perceptive where I’m concerned, and obviously this time is no different,’ Nikki thought to herself before replying. “Im sure you know by now, I had an ultrasound done and your father and I got some unexpected news.”
“Yeah, you’re having twins,” Sharon replied.
“Yeah, but that”s not all.” At their confused silence, Nikki continued. “There’s a problem with one of the babies.”
“What? What kind of problem?” Nick asked, beginning to get worried.
“Your sister has spina bifida.”
“What’s that?” Victoria asked confused.
“It’s a serious birth defect that affects the legs and some other parts of the body and can affect the brain as well.”
“What?!” Nick asked shocked.
“Oh my God! Are you sure? Cause you know, doctors can make mistakes. Maybe we should get a second opinion,” Vicki asked shocked, unable to believe what she was hearing.
“No way, there’s got to be some mistake, they must”ve been looking at the wrong set of ultrasound pictures,” Nick replied disbelievingly.
“Yes, there’s no mistake, Victoria. Nicholas, your mother and I were right there when the doctor did the ultrasound and gave us the news,” Victor replied regretfully.
“I’m sorry, this must be such a shock,” Sharon whispered, her voice full of pity.
Nikki tried to ignore the pity ringing in Sharon’s voice, though, on some level it made her blood boil. ‘I’d rather be hated than pitied.’
“This isn’t right! You don’t deserve this! After everything you and Dad have been through you don’t deserve this!” Vicki burst out, completely outraged.
“No parent deserves anything like this, Victoria,” Nikki’s voice was somber and heartbroken, yet there was an air of wisdom in it too. It unnerved Nikki to see the sorrow shining from her family’s eyes, it unnerved her far more than she was willing to admit to anyone.
“What does the doctor know about this, what did she say?” Sharon asked sadly.
“Not much, at least I didn’t hear her say too much. After she told us what was going on, all the other things she said kind of faded into the background. I know I should’ve paid attention, but I just couldn’t, it was like somebody stabbed me in the heart. I didn’t know what to do, I just…” Nikki’s voice trailed off, unable to put what she had felt at that moment into words.
“Mom, Mom, you don’t have to explain. You just have to remember one thing.”
“What’s that, Victoria?” Nikki asked a little tiredly.
“You’re not alone in this, we’re all here for you. Remember that!”
“Vicki’s right. Whatever you need, just ask,” Nick echoed.
“And that includes shopping till we drop,” Sharon added with a smile.
“You’d better be careful, I might just take you up on that,” Nikki replied teasingly, smiling for the first time since everyone had come for dinner.
“Okay, now, there’s just one more thing I want to know. What can I do to help?” Vicki asked trying to offer support the only way she knew how.
“Victoria, sweetheart, you don’t have to worry about me, alright? I’ll be just fine.”
“We want to know what we can do to help too,” Cassie chimed in as Noah nodded in agreement.
“You’re doing it,” Nikki whispered with a sad smile.
“It’s getting late, we should head home, the kids have school tomorrow.”
“You’re right, you going to be okay, Mom?” Nick asked tenderly.
“Yeah, go on, I’ll be fine.”
“Call us if you need anything.”
“I will, Sharon, thanks.”
“I’ll come by tomorrow for a visit, if that’s okay,” Cassie said as they prepared to leave.
“That sounds great,” Nikki replied with a soft smile as she watched them leave.
After a few moments of awkward, stunned silence between them, Victoria said, “I’m going to head up to bed. Is there anything you need?”
“No, angel, we’re alright, you go on up.”
“Yeah,” Nikki reassured.
“Okay. Before I forget, Dad, you got a call from Doctor Cornwell”s office. Something about her wanting to talk to you about your options, now that your situation’s changed.”
At the speculative look on his daughter’s and wife’s faces, Victor quickly replied, trying to offer a comforting smile. “Thank you, my sweetheart, I already took care of it. Good night.”
“Okay, good night,” Vicki replied, still unconvinced all was as it seemed with her father.
Once Victoria was upstairs, Nikki asked, “You sounded strange when you called earlier, anything going on?”
“No, nothing to worry about,” Victor reassured.
“Uh-huh, why do I find that hard to believe?” Nikki asked sceptically.
“Nikki, there’s nothing going on.” Victor’s voice held a note of warning.
“Okay, fine, you don’t want to talk about it for now, I get that.” Nikki thought to herself determinedly, ‘This isn’t over! I’ll find another way, come hell or high water, Victor, I will get to the bottom of this!’
“Ready to turn in for tonight?” Victor asked, holding out his hand.
“Yeah,” Nikki replied as she took it and he lead her up the stairs.
The next day, Casey had reported to work bright and early, unaware this would be far from a normal day.
“Casey, I’m glad I found you. I want you to take a look at some test results for a patient of mine,” Dr. Cornwell said as she handed her Victor’s folder. She had no idea Victor was her brother-in-law, and of course Casey had no intention of telling her.
Casey’s eyes bulged out of her head and her jaw dropped, as she read the test results, unable to believe what she was seeing.
“What do you think?” Dr. Cornwell asked interestedly.
“Unfortunately, I completely agree with your diagnosis. If this patient doesn’t get treatment, effective treatment, he won’t be around much longer. Six months, maybe a year, but that’s it.”
“I was afraid you’d say that.”
“Why?” Casey asked confused.
“Because, he just got back together with his wife, and they’re expecting. They’ve been through a lot, namely a messy court battle over a daughter he didn’t know he had. Really a shame that this happened now.”
“Yeah, it is a real shame,” Casey agreed quietly as she thought to herself, ‘You have no idea how right you are.’
“I’ve got to go check on another patient, thanks for the help.”
“Any time,” Casey replied, as she watched Dr. Cornwell walk back down the hall.
As soon as the coast was clear, Casey wasted no time in heading straight out the door and to Newman Enterprises.
“Victor, I’m glad you’re here.”
“Casey, what are you doing here?” Victor asked surprised.
“Nice to see you too,” she replied with a cheeky smile.
“Sorry.” Victor returned her smile.
“Don’t worry about it.” Casey considered her choices and decided on taking the direct approach. “Dr. Cornwell wanted a second opinion on your case.”
“What? What did you just say?” Victor bellowed, startign to see red!
“Victor, just calm down!”
“Don’t you tell me to calm down! She had no right to do that without coming to me first!” Victor added acidically, “And you damn well had no business giving her the second opinion!”
“Just what was I supposed to do? Stay out of it? Come on, Victor this affects more than just you-it affects Nikki too! And I’ll be damned if I’m going to just sit back and watch her get hurt all over again!” Casey bit back just as acidically.
Considering her words and recognizing the truth in them, Victor quietly replied, “I know you’re right, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I shouldn’t have gone off on you the way I did.”
“What I don’t understand is why in the world you haven’t told anybody yet, especially Nikki. She has every right to know, Victor.”
“There’s a lot going on you don’t know about.”
“We got quite a surprise when we went for the ultrasound a few days ago.”
“Judging from the sound of your voice, I’m guessing it wasn’t a nice surprise, at least not entirely.”
“We found out we’re having twins.”
“Wait a minute, why don’t you look happy?”
“Because, the baby girl has spina bifida,” Victor replied, before beginning to explain what it that was.
“I know what it is, how are you holding up, how’s Nikki holding up?” Casey replied concerned.
“I’m okay, though I wish I could say the same for Nikki. She’s trying to be strong, but I can tell she’s devastated and terrified. I can’t even do anything to help.”
“If I know my sister, you’re doing exactly what you need to be doing, what she needs you to do. You’re helping her; more than you know.”
“I hope so,” Victor replied unconvinced.
“Now I understand why you haven’t told her anything. But, that doesn’t mean it should stay that way. Victor, she needs to know! She has a right to know! It’s time you told her. She’s stronger than you seem to think, trust in what the two of you have enough to be honest with her. She’ll stand by you, you know that Victor. Deep down, you know that she’ll stand by you.”
“Its not that I don’t have enough faith in her. She’s the strongest woman I know, maybe the strongest one I’ve ever known. But, she doesn’t deserve to have her whole world torn apart. And that’s exactly what I’d be doing if I told her about this.”
“I don’t think so. Victor, she adores you. You’re the most important thing in Nikki’s life! She’d do anything for you! Tell her, that’s the only way you can find any peace.”
“I’ll consider it. Thanks for listening, Casey.”
“Any time, Victor,” Casey replied as she prepared to leave.
“One more thing, Casey, Nikki can’t find out about this, you can’t tell her anything.”
“Alright, for now,” Casey reluctantly agreed.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” Nikki asked as she walked in with lunch.
“I haven’t spoken to either of you for awhile, except for a few phone calls,”Casey lied, in part to protect her sister, in part to protect herself. ‘If Nikki finds out I knew about this and didn’t tell her, she’ll never forgive me.’ “I came to pay Victor a visit and see what’s been going on with the two of you.”
“Oh,” Nikki replied lightly with a smile, happy to see her sister.
“Congratulations, two new arrivals. How are you going to manage? I know how jealous he can get,” Casey asked teasingly as she hugged her sister and felt the babies kick.
“Thanks, I’m sure I’ll find a way,” Nikki replied lightly, laughing for the first time since she’d gotten the news.
“Listen, Victor told me about what’s going on with your baby girl. I’m only a phone call away if you need anything, you got it?”
“Yeah, I know. It’s good to have my big sister back.”
“And this time, I’m not going anywhere.” After another quick hug, Casey said regretfully, “I hate to do this, but I need to go back to the hospital and check in on a patient. I’ll come by the ranch in the next couple of days, okay?”
“Sounds great,” Nikki agreed.
“I’m glad to see you,” Victor said as he closed the door to his office and turned his attention to Nikki.
“Yeah, come here.” With a mischievous smile and a naughty glint in his eyes, Victor wrapped his arms around her and kissed her with such tenderness, such passion, it made her head spin.
“So, what’s for lunch?”
“What?” Nikki asked, her brain still a little foggy and needing a moment to, very reluctantly, switch gears.
“See for yourself,” Nikki replied as she gave him the take-out bag to unpack.
As they ate, they talked of many things.
“Part of me still can’t believe we’re having twins.”
“Yeah, it’s certainly more than we bargained for,” Victor agreed.
“But, no less exciting or rewarding. There’s still so much we need to do.”
“Don’t go getting yourself worked up. We’ll get it all done in time. Don’t worry,” Victor replied confidently.
“Life’s changed, hasn’t it?” Victor commented.
“For the better,” Nikki agreed as she took his hand in hers and gave it a squeeze.
“I just wonder, what kind of life they’ll have, under the circumstances.”
After carefully considering his words, Victor replied firmly, with conviction, “The kind most children only dream of.”
“Victor, I’m not talking about money,” Nikki replied misunderstanding him.
“Neither am I.”
At Victor’s reply, Nikki couldn’t help but smile.
Meanwhile, in Vicki’s office, she sat at her desk, intently replaying the events of the last little while, along with the conversations she’d had with both her parents. “I can’t give up, I won’t give up! Something serious is going on! I need to figure it out before it’s too late,” Vicki vowed as she headed out the door for a meeting with Gary.
“I’m surprised at how well things went this time around.”
“Yeah, I bet, no interruptions, no strange vibes, and I’m actually paying attention to you for a change,” Vicki replied with a smile.
“You’re right about that,” Gary replied returning her smile. He thought to himself happily, delusionally, ‘I’m finally getting somewhere. Maybe there’s a chance for us after all.’
“I hate to do this, but I need to get back to the office, I’ve got a pile of work to catch up on,” Victoria said grabbing her purse and preparing to leave.
“Okay, I’ll call you later.”
“Okay. Talk to you later,” Victoria replied politely as she headed for the door. ‘I really hope he’s not getting the wrong idea here,’ Vicki thought to herself as she felt chills trickle down her spine knowing what dire straights she’d be in if he ever found out about her true plans. ‘God only knows what he’d do to me.’
Victoria got back to the office re-energized and ready to tackle the mountain of work on her desk.
After a little while, she decided to check her messages. “Nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow,” she said to herself relieved. “I really don’t want to talk to anybody tonight.”
She had just sat down to work when the phone rang.
“You don’t learn, do you?”
“What? Who are you? What are you talking about?” Vicki asked very afraid. “I wish I knew who was calling! Maybe then I could figure out what’s going on.”
“You’d better watch your back, Ms. Newman.”
“Hello? Hello? Hello?” Vicki called out frantically.
Only the haunting dial tone answered her…