"Addison, we need to talk."
Glancing up from the article on herbal fertility treatments I've been studying, I can see Charlotte standing in the doorway of my office. No, not standing; she's definitely not just standing there. She's fidgeting. In all the years that I've worked with her, I have never once seen Charlotte King fidget. Minimizing the browser, I lean back in my chair and motion Charlotte in. She glances back into the main corridor nervously before closing the door.
"We need to talk," she says again as she sits in the chair across from me.
"So you've said."
A stab of pain shoots through my heart at the mention of her name. What in the hell are we going to do about her? She's gotten so out of control, and she can't see it. She's going to kill herself if she can't stop.
"I know," I finally say, feeling the defeat over letting things get this far with her. "But I don't know what to do at this point, Charlotte."
"Yes, you do. You know exactly what to do now, but you're just too damned chicken shit to do it."
Okay, that hurt. Sucker punch to the gut, and it gets me on my feet. I start pacing, and I can feel Charlotte's eyes following me.
"She's my sister--"
"Yes, she is, and that's why you have to be the one to make this decision. You are the closest person to her right now." She falters as she says it, and I watch as she squashes down that odd emotion in her eyes that I can't quite name. "Well, not including this supposed fiancé of hers."
"I'm not the closest--"
"And you own this practice. You let this addiction continue unchecked, and you might as well just fire us all now and shut it down. She hurts someone, kills someone while she's working here, and we're all culpable. Remember what happened with Violet?"
"Yes, I remember what happened with Violet. I also remember the little girl that I watched growing up while I was dating and married to her brother. That Amelia doesn't exist anymore."
She digs into her pocket and pulls out a business card. I don't automatically take it when she extends her hand toward me. If I take it, I have to be the one in charge of this thing. I have to be the one that potentially loses Amelia completely.
"And you can be the person to bring Amelia back, too, Addison," Charlotte says softly. "You'll never know unless you make the call and start this thing."
It would be so easy to slip one of those little beauties out of the bag and keep it. Just one. All I'd need is just one to make this whole fiasco more bearable.
What am I saying?
"Cooper, come and take this from me please."
Thank God, he's smart enough to just walk over and take the baggie dangling from my fingers without needing any sort of explanation. It still feels like an eternity before that bag of poison's safely out of my reach and control.
Stay strong, Charlotte. You can do this.
From the corner of my eye, I can see him handing off the bag to Jake Reilly, who then must be handing it to Addison. Only once it's completely out of the room, I let out the breath I've been holding ever since I found the damned pills in the first place. Closing my eyes for a moment, I turn all of my focus on my breathing. Slow, deep inhale to fill my lungs; slow, steady exhale to expel what's there. Lather, rinse, repeat.
"Charlotte? You okay?"
Cooper's voice is soft; I recognize the tone as one he's used with Mason and hundreds of sick kids over the years. I want to lash out, to rake him over the coals for treating me like some pathetic, scared child. I am no such thing. I have beaten the worst of my addiction, and I am a stronger woman for it. I still fight the urge every day, but if being beaten and raped didn't make me slip, watching Amelia Shepherd freefall toward rock bottom sure as hell won't do it.
Taking another deep breath, I let the mantle of authority settle over me. "Let's get this over with, Coop."
"Amelia, can we talk to you?"
I am an idiot to have followed her into the conference room. Can we talk? What a crock! I should know better than to trust Addison, or anyone saying those words. I didn't need an intervention when I was drinking, and I don't need one now. I had a little slip, that's all. I can handle it. I have Ryan now, I'm getting married. My life is going to be just fine. I have anniversaries with Ryan and our four kids to look forward to. I don't need the oxy anymore.
I don't need the oxy anymore.
I don't need the oxy anymore.
"What in the hell am I supposed to do now? All that hatred spewing out of Amelia's mouth is killing me."
Thank God, I'm home alone with Olivia. I'm not sure that Gabriel or Maya would understand. Addie sounds so damned broken. Why the hell did I leave?
"Addie, listen to me," I say, breaking into her rambling. "Amelia's an addict. Of course she's going to be saying hurtful, hateful things at all of you. She's hurting, she's scared, and she's going to lash out at anyone who tries to stop her from getting high again. Don't you remember the stories that Dell told us about Heather when she was using?"
"Obviously not, or I wouldn't be calling you right now, would I?" The sharpness in her tone hurts, but not nearly as much as the pain and fear. "God, Nay, I wish you were here. Or Dell. Dell would know what to do to see past Amelia's shit."
A fresh stab of regret hits me at her words. What I wouldn't give to be back at the practice, especially if it meant that Dell was still alive. And if Dell was still alive, all of the hell we all went through wouldn't have happened. Maybe things between Addison and me wouldn't be so strained either.
"I miss you, Nay." Her words are so soft, I almost have to wonder if I've imagined them.
"I miss you, too, Addie."
"I wish you were here. Everything is so damned confusing right now, and I just… I miss you. I need you."
Don't do this to me, Addison. It's not fair.
"And they'd be just as confusing if I was there. Probably more."
She grumbles something that I don't quite catch, but I don't need to. I know what she's thinking. I know what she wants. She'd have been able to talk me into this baby she wants so badly now. Addison could have talked me into just about anything once upon a time. Maybe she's my addiction, which is why I'm glad I followed Gabriel to New York. Gabriel may be a self-important ass, but he's safer than being around Addison and Sam.
"Addie, you need to go back in there and take charge. Find your inner Bizzy and take control of the situation. Do what you need to for Amelia, okay?"
I swallow thickly and blink away sudden tears. "Um, I have to go. Olivia's fussing and Maya's at school, so…"
"Yeah, okay. I'll call you later to let you know how things go with Amelia."
"I'd like that. Take care, Addie."
I love you.
Naomi said I have to call on my inner Bizzy. Fine, I can do that if it means that Amelia gets the help she needs.
"I'll change the locks. Until you get help, I'll change the locks. You can't live at my house anymore."
Oh, don't you dare look at me like that, Amelia! Don't you dare try to pull that superior look when I can see the fear and pain in your damned eyes.
Taking a deep breath, I can feel Bizzy's no-nonsense attitude settle into place. It's now or never. We save Amelia or she's gone for good. Getting up, I move to sit next to Amelia. I won't touch her, but I won't let her look away either.
"I will change the locks, I will throw you out. Then I'm calling your mother, and your brother, and your sisters. Then I will call the medical board and report you. Because I love you, Amelia, but I will not love you to death."
For a moment, I will bet my life that I've finally gotten to her. She listened to me, damn it. Why did Charlotte have to bring the water now? I was getting through to Amelia, and that damned bottle of water just ruined everything. She's building that wall up again.
Wait! She's going to listen? She'll let us talk to her, help her get clean and sober again. Oh, I owe Naomi something decadent and indulgent right now for making me come back in here and get all Bizzy on Amelia.
"Get me some oxy."
*06. Further Proof*
"Oh no! Here. You want to do your drugs, you do them here in front of all those people who care about you. Show them who you really are. Or don't do the drugs at all, and show them who you want to be. It's your choice."
Just hearing that stapler smashing down against the desk sends a jolt of very familiar fear and desire down my spine. How the hell can I possibly explain to anyone in this room, outside of Amelia and maybe Leni, just what this whole fiasco is doing to me? More to the point, how would any of them understand?
I don't watch as Amelia snorts the dust on the desk. I can't do it. But I can hear her. Thank God, I never went that far. I bet she's been shooting it up, too. If she's snorting it, she's shooting it. And if she's gotten that far… Damn it! Why did no one listen to me when I warned them about her? Why the hell didn't Addison listen to me? Did she think I revoked Amelia's surgical privileges for fun?
Clearly Addison's little shot at tough love wasn't enough to get through to Amelia. I'm going to have to try myself. Hopefully Amelia will understand, will listen to me, now that the withdrawal symptoms have gone for a while.
" Sure as I'm sitting here, you keep up with this, you're gonna kill someone. You're gonna walk into some OR, you're gonna get behind the wheel of a car. You're gonna kill someone, Amelia. That's where this goes. And when you do, when you do that, you don't come back from it. You get sober, but you don't come back. You spend every day trying to be a better person, trying to save a life, trying to make it right. But you can't give back that mother her child, or that husband back his wife. You walk, and you talk, and you breathe, sometimes you even smile and laugh, but you don't come back."
Pet and Sam need to shut the hell up! She can hear me, damn it. She knows what I'm saying is true. Yes, she's high on oxy, but she can actually listen now and hear what I'm saying. This is our only shot. Today. If we don't get through to her, the next time we see her, it'll probably be her funeral. And I'm not ready to give up that easily yet. I don't care what kind of garbage she spews at me. I know it's the drugs. The rest of these idiots don't get that. They've never been there, so they just don't get it.
"What Charlotte said was very beautiful and real, and I worry about that. I do."
Oh, that's my girl. Come on, Amelia, take that next step. Take the hand we're offering you. Come on, sweetheart, just do it. Get your ass clean and come back to us. We need you here. I need you here. Nobody else here understands what it's like to be an addict, to have to play at being so damned tough on the outside when you're screaming and afraid on the inside. I need you to be strong and fight this.
"My mom gave it to my dad for their anniversary one year."
It's not a lie. That's what she did. She saved up for three years to be able to afford it, but she gave it to him one year for their anniversary.
I can't look at Addison right now. She's the only person in this entire room that knows the whole story behind that watch.
"That is not the significance. It's not, and you know it's not, Sam. Amelia?" Addison turns around to face snoopy shrink Violet. "Two guys came into her father's store when she was five--"
Now she's gone too far. That's not her story. She only knows that story because she was married to Derek, because she got close to me when I was growing up.
"Shut up! You do not tell that story! That is not your story. He was not your dad. He was my dad. You shut your mouth! Shut up, you stupid, ignorant, monster bitch. You do not tell that story. You do not ever tell that story. You ever tell that story to anyone and I will kill you with my bare hands."
I can't stay here any longer. Ryan's here, and I just want to be with him. These people are seriously trying to kill me with their sanctimonious crap. Ryan's all I need to get through this. He loves me, and that's all there is to it.
"Is this Dr. Addison Montgomery?"
"Yes, this is she."
"This is Detective Jameson with the LAPD. I have an Amelia Shepherd here who requested that you be contacted."
What in the hell has Amelia done now? And why is she suddenly requesting that I be her contact person? She knows that I'll be telling her mother and Derek, in particular, what happens. Wait. What if she's overdosed on the damned oxycodone and died? How in the hell do I explain that to her family? Derek will kill me for not telling him about her slip in the first place.
"Yes, Detective, I'm still here. Is Amelia--?"
"She's pretty shook up right now, and requested that we contact you. She's been taken to St. Ambrose to be checked out by the doctors there."
The detective goes on to explain in cop terminology how Amelia and Ryan were found by the hotel maid about an hour ago. He explains in that flat, unemotional terminology that Ryan had died from complications stemming from an overdose of oxy. How in the hell did Ryan die, but Amelia was spared? He concludes his call by saying that she wanted him to tell me that she's ready for rehab, then reiterates that she's at St. Ambrose currently.
"Charlotte!" I yell as I struggle to get up from my desk and head toward her office.
Violet meets me in the reception area, confusion plain on her face. "Addison?"
"Where's Charlotte? I need to talk to Charlotte."
"She ran out to get lunch. What's wrong?"
Before I can explain, the elevator dings and the doors slide open to reveal Charlotte. She steps out into the room and immediately stops to stare at me. "What?"
"Amelia's at St. Ambrose." The color drains from Charlotte's face at my words, and she sways slightly. "No, no! Not like that. She's just being checked out."
"What the hell happened?"
"Ryan died of an overdose. That's all I honestly understood from the detective that called. I need you to contact the rehab center for me while I go get Amelia. We need to jump on the fact that she said she's ready for rehab now."
Charlotte nods slowly and, even in my own surprise, I can see the shock setting in on her face. She heads toward her office in a daze, but stops at the door. "She really said she'd go to rehab?"
"That's what the detective told me," I reply, pressing the button for the elevator again. "She's going to be in shock over Ryan's death. I need you to call right away, so I can get her there before she changes her mind again."
"I’m on it, Addison," she replies, the steel I know so well back in her voice.
Thirty days is going to take forever, but I'll do it. I have to do it. Ryan wouldn't have it any other way if he was here. Of course, if he was here, I wouldn't be here, so…
"Hey, Amelia, you've got a visitor at the front desk."
Glancing up at Sara, I chew at my lower lip. "Is it Sheldon again?" She nod and I sigh. "Can you tell him I'm busy?"
"Are you ever gonna talk to this guy?" she asks as she walks away. I'm not sure I'm supposed to have heard her say it, but I don't care.
"I doubt it."
I lapse into silence again, staring out at the perfectly manicured lawns around me. Sheldon, Charlotte, and Addison have all come to visit me, but I've begged off as being busy every single time. Addison got a clue first and hasn't tried after the first two times. Charlotte tries about twice a week. Sheldon's been trying on a daily basis for three weeks now. I just wish he'd get it through his head that he's not going to get his love returned.
Glancing at the watch on my wrist, I feel a strange blended pang of loss and desire. Viciously tamping that down into the box marked as "Do No Open Ever", I get up and head off to my room to get ready for my meeting. It's been quiet around here this last week without Hailey. I'm glad she's on the outside and getting on with her life.
Heading toward the meeting room, I glance up at a familiar shoe squeaking. Stopping dead in my tracks, I watch as Hailey is led into the welcome room, as we call it. She pauses for just a second when she sees me, then continues into the room. She looks awful. Her parents shouldn't have pulled her out so damned soon. What were they thinking? Don't they realize that she needs the full program if she's going to get and stay sober? Or that they need to be one hundred percent behind her sobriety? I bet they didn't think that through at all. It's not like they came to visit her at all. Hell, they sent a cab to pick her up last week. I would think that a family invested in your recovery would be there as much as they could to show their support…
Okay, Ryan, I get it. I'll take the hint. Meeting first, then go find Hailey and talk to her. And if Sheldon shows up again, I won't send him away.
"Do you have a minute?"
I glance up from watching Cooper and Mason playing in the surf to see Amelia standing nervously next to me. I offer her my warmest smile and pat the chaise next to me. "For you, I will always have time."
She tucks her hair behind her ear as she sits down, staring out at the waves for a long moment. "I'm sorry," she finally says.
"Making amends already, are you?" Amelia flinches when I reach over to rest a hand on her knee. "And now I'm sorry. That came out harsher than I intended."
"No, it didn't," she retorts, meeting my gaze steadily. "In fact, I was expecting more sarcasm."
I shift to face her, studying her for a long moment. "If that's what'll make this easier for you…"
"It's not that. I do want to make amends, but I'm not quite there yet. Besides, like I said before, I'm not sure I'll ever really be able to make amends."
"Cut the crap, Amelia," I reply, a hint of steel in my tone. "This is me you're talking to. Whatever it is you want, just spit it out."
She smiles briefly at that, eyes shifting back toward the water again. "You're the only one that will understand, I think," she says as she removes her watch and hands it to me.
"If you came out here to give me some token because you're gonna kill yourself, you can save it, Amelia. I'll just kill you myself."
"No, Charlotte, that's not it. I'm not suicidal, not anymore. I just… I need to say this to someone that will understand. Addison and Sam already know. Sheldon would take it as some implicit admission of loving him, which just can't happen right now."
She's got that right. She gets into a relationship again so soon after getting clean, it could ruin everything she's worked for. I've seen it too many times to be comfortable with it. And I'm glad she understands that, even if it means that whatever there may or may not have been between us can't happen. Rather than dwell on that, I glance down at the watch in my hands.
"This is your daddy's watch, isn't it?"
"Yeah. My mom saved up money for three whole years to buy it, then she gave it to him on their anniversary. It was supposed to be a symbol of how much she loved him."
Amelia falters and I reach across the space between us to grip her hand tightly. Whatever it is that she needs to say, I will gladly listen.
"When I was five, Derek and I were playing in Dad's store. He'd given me two pennies and I was rolling them in a crack in the floorboards. I kept putting the pennies from him in there. It was my special piggy bank, and I was saving all my pennies from Dad to buy a town where we could all live together. Well, that’s what I told Derek whenever he'd ask me why I did it. All of his money went to comic books back then."
I don't know her brother by anything but reputation. I certainly don't consider his brief visit to help Archer as knowing him.
"Anyway, we were playing and we heard these two guys come in the store. They were talking to Dad, but neither of us was paying any attention to them. All of a sudden, Dad yelled and Derek pulled me back into a better hiding spot. We sat there and watched as the men made their demands: first the money from the till, which Dad gave them willingly, and then his watch, which he refused to give them. And then they shot him. These two assholes robbed and shot my dad because of his watch. That watch in your hand."
So that's the story that's been haunting her for so long. The story that she threatened to kill Addison over. The story she's already admitted that she's never told anyone else.
And she just told me.
I get up to sit next to her, pulling her into a hug that she clearly needs. The tears start then, hers and mine. At least now I have a vague idea where her initial addiction to alcohol came from. I hold her close, letting her cry.
"I tried telling Ryan that story, but I never got a chance to finish it before he died."
"Thank you, Amelia," I finally say, voice cracking slightly on the first word. "Thank you for trusting me with this story, this part of your life."
"Who else can I trust to understand what caused this fucked up life of mine?"
I pull back to curl a hand under her chin, force her to meet my gaze. "Every single person at that table that you consider family would understand, Amelia. That's what family's all about. But I want you to know that I won't tell anyone about this without your permission. As far as I'm concerned, this little chat of ours is the same as a meeting."
She smiles and wipes away her tears. "Thanks, Charlotte. You can let Addie and Sam know that you know. Everybody else? Not yet, okay? I'm not ready to share this dark tidbit with everyone yet."
"You got it," I reply, stroking her cheek.
"Can I ask you one more thing?" When I nod, she smiles again. "Will you go to a meeting with me later tonight? I need one, and I need--"
When her words trail off, I just nod.
"Any time, any place, Amelia. I will go to meetings all day long with you if you need it. You getting better is all that matters right now. Whatever you need, if I can do it, I will."
"I love you, Char," she murmurs, hugging me tightly. "Thank you."
"I love you, too, Amelia."