THE LADY OF ALKALI LAKE

You never told me no. That's what I remember about you and what I won't forget.

"Come on out," I said, when your parents brought me a shell of a girl. "It's safe, now."

My voice was calm, commanding. Your sea-green eyes, too old for a child's face, met mine and recognised me.

"Yes," you said, the first time you had spoken in weeks, and your mother cried with joy.

I followed you and your parents to the gates, my hand resting on your shoulder.

"Jean is welcome here anytime," I said. "You'll come back, won't you, Jean?"

"Yes," you said. Your father frowned at your rudeness and you added:"If I may."

"Come to Westchester," I said, several years and a stack of letters later. "I'll put you up. I'll pay for med school."

"Jean wants to be a teacher," your sister piped up.

"No reason she can't do both," I answered with a smile. "Jean, I need a doctor on my staff."

"Yes," you said, picking up the suitcases.

I had most of your clothing replaced during the first two weeks. Then I sent you into the City with my Visa Gold to shop for shoes. Your taste was better than I had expected, or you had already learnt something about mine.

It didn't occur to me to ask you to come to bed. You were there anyway, one late evening, your skin shockingly pale against my black silk sheets.

"I'm an old man, Jean," I said kindly. "An old cripple and I get cold at night. You may stay if you want to, but I must ask you not to touch me in anyway."

You curled up by my feet and I slept well then, comforted by your warmth and presence.

"Let's not speak of this again," I told you in the morning. "Do you understand me, Jean?"

"Yes," you said, slipping away like a ghost in Ferragamo heels.

I looked for others. With your help, I found them.

"This is Scott Summers," I said, neglecting to mention his severe brain damage.

He was a handsome boy and powerful enough. As hearts go, his was harmless. I gave him a home. I gave him to you. Being all grownup, you had needs and this boy would never leave you.

"Come with me and speak to Congress," I said, when Erik had paid me the first of what was going to be many visits. "You're a doctor now. They'll listen."

"Yes," you said, typing, and I made sure they listened.

Logan wasn't part of any plan of mine, though I was glad to see he could amuse you. If I had known he could make you smile like that, I would have brought him in years ago.

"Come back to me," I said as you passed me in the hallway, already in mission mode, "I couldn't bear to lose you."

"Yes," you said and strode out the door with the others.

In the end, when you walked away from me, I didn't say a word. I saw the relief in your eyes as you dropped your hand and let it all go.

"Yes," you told the waters, that did for you at last what I had not, would not. "Yes, I'm coming."

FIN