Lost Souls

AUTHOR: Victoria May
EMAIL: voria27@home.com
SPOILERS: most of season 6
DISCLAIMER: er and all its characters are owned by nbc, warner bros, constant c entertainment, etc. I'm writing this purely for fun--no profit involved.
SUMMARY: Two strangers meet on the shores of Lake Michigan.

She loved the water and came often to this quiet spot on Lake Michigan. It had little to offer except for its variety of trees sprinkled across the grassy shoreline. She was rarely disturbed here. Of course there were other people on this shore, but they were like herself-alone and deep in thought, or lovers reveling in each other's company.

She watched as waves formed and rushed towards land, splashing onto the shore and then retreating again. The setting sun glimmered on the water. A breeze caught a piece of her long, wavy, strawberry blond hair and blew it across her eyes. She didn't notice. The smell of the breeze caught her attention and she inhaled deeply. Summer was almost over and the days were getting shorter. She sighed deeply as she thought of the impending winter.

Flinging her arms open wide, she collapsed back onto her faded, patchwork blanket. 'Why can't I just stay here forever?' she thought wistfully. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the smell of the grass, the trees, and the softly scented breeze. She was happy here. She ran her outstretched hand over the blanket. Her grandmother would be happy that she had taken the blanket as her own after her mother's passing. She hoped that one day she would have her own daughter to pass the heirloom to. She ran her finger over a hole in a seam, and tugged at a piece of batting. She would have to mend it first.

She sighed again and pulled herself into a sitting position. She reached into her bag and took out a battered journal. Her head was racing with thoughts, her heart full of feelings ready to explode if she didn't channel them somewhere. She reached again into her bag and fumbled around for her journaling pen. Her fingers touched a small plastic cylinder and she wrapped her fingers around it. Withdrawing it from her purse she uncapped the blue fountain pen she had bought at the drug store. It had only cost her a couple dollars, but she liked the way it felt when she wrote with it. She reserved it for her journal entries, thus elevating it to a somewhat sacred status.

She lowered the tip to the paper and paused. This was always the hardest part. What was she feeling exactly? She glanced around the small alcove of trees and grass and took in the landscape and people near her. Sometimes it helped to write about her surroundings before she tackled the deeper issues. She began to write:

'Well, here I am again, at the lake. I know I've been writing a lot, but I have a lot to sort out. My life is falling apart. But you know that already-I think that's the main theme in here this month, no, year. I wish I could just sit here looking out at the water and breathing in the summer air and never have to deal with my life again. Can I do that? No, I didn't think so. There are quite a few people here today. I really don't mind, they aren't bothering me. There's an elderly couple sitting under a tree near the road. I think they're afraid to go too far from their car. They're cute though. They're cuddling like teenagers, but they could just be cold and are trying to keep warm. Older people do get cold easily. There's a woman down near the water with a couple kids. They look like they have a picnic lunch spread out. Oh, I guess that would be dinner. Whatever. Anyway, the kids are running in and out of the water. The woman isn't watching them very closely. I hope they don't go too far in, they could drown and she wouldn't notice. I hate people like that. They just let their kids run around and don't seem to notice or care that they're bumping into people or getting in trouble. I can't tell what the woman is doing. I don't think she's sleeping, she's sitting up. She's probably just stressed out and isn't really ignoring the kids. Maybe she's just tuning them out. I guess whatever works to keep from hitting them. Whoa! There I go assuming things again. I have to quit doing that. Just look at what's apparent and quit trying to analyze everyone. Hmm, the sun sure looks pretty today. Barely any clouds. Focused? O.K. There's a guy sitting on a bench a little ways away. He's got his legs all stretched out in front of him and his arms are crossed over his chest. Gee, he looks more bummed out than I feel. Could that be possible? I can't see his face though, I'm too far away. He's an interesting looking guy. He's dressed pretty nice too. Slacks, a pale blue shirt, suspenders! I haven't seen a guy wear suspenders since I was five and dad was getting dressed for a big New Year's Eve party. He never wore suspenders again after that. Hmm, the guy just stood up and stretched. Is he leaving? That would be too bad, he's kind of cute-of course I am pretty far away. He could be relatively unattractive close up. No, he's sitting back down. Actually he sat and then slumped over. He put his head down into his hands. Jeez, he really is worse off than me. I think he's crying! His shoulders look like they're shaking. I feel horrible. Like I just invaded someone's intimate moment. I'm sure he didn't come here to give a show. I guess I should start getting to my own issues, but. . ..'

Slowly, she lowered her pen and set it down. She looked towards the man on the bench again and sighed. He looked so alone and sad. Whatever was bothering him must be pretty bad for him to cry out in the open like this. Slowly, she got to her feet and shook out her long, flowered skirt. She ran her hand through her wavy hair and pulled it into a loose pony tail at the back of her neck. She leaned over and took a peach scunnci out of her bag and wrapped it around the ponytail. Leaving her belongings on the blanket, she casually walked in the direction of the man. As she drew closer, she knew that he was indeed crying. His shoulders shook, but he was making no sound. He appeared not to hear her as she approached as he didn't move or look up. She kneeled down beside him and gently laid her hand on his leg.

"Are you O.K.?" she asked quietly.

His body stopped shaking and he froze. Quickly she withdrew her hand from his leg.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you." He still didn't answer. She began to wonder if this was a mistake, coming to him like this. He probably just wanted to be left alone-like herself. Slowly, he raised his head away from his hands, and hastily began to wipe away the tears from his face.

"I'm O.K. You didn't scare me." He looked at her, and she realized he had the most beautiful puppy dog brown eyes she had ever seen. In fact, he was the most handsome man she had seen in some time. He looked young, about her age. He didn't look very healthy though. He was a little too thin and he had dark circles under his eyes. He looked defeated.

He shifted awkwardly and she realized that he looked very uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, I embarrassed you. I should have just stayed over on my blanket and left you alone."

He again didn't answer her and instead looked down at the ground. He reached his hand up and leaned his head on it. He was definitely not O.K. She kneeled at his side again, putting her hand back on his leg and this time left it there.

"I'm a good listener."

He turned his face towards her and noticed how innocent she looked. Her hair was hastily pulled away from her face, her fair skin was adorned with a sprinkling of freckles. Her eyes were green and gentle and he could swear they were looking right into his soul. She wore a simple peasant blouse paired with her long flowing, flowered skirt. He couldn't ignore how comfortable he felt with this stranger who was looking at him with such deep concern in her eyes.

Before he realized what he had said, he spoke. "I'm not O.K."

She sat on the grass in front of him and tucked her legs to the side. She smoothed her skirt over her legs and looked up at him intently. "I'm listening."

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