~ Running on 'E'~


Lainey's suspension during the investigation of her father's death accomplished what her worried friends had not been able to. For nearly an entire day the young psychiatrist lay in bed in a sound sleep. Emily's regular quiet checks of Lainey's pulse and temperature did not even stir her. And despite Lainey's deep slumber, Emily continued to murmur words of comfort in her friend's ear. She had been in that place of great grief. Somewhere deep she knew Lainey heard the concern and affection that was extended her way.

When Lainey awakened, she thanked her friends for their love and friendship. She assured them that she was up to the task of handling her father's business matters and final arrangements, but it quickly became apparent that her assertions were hollow. Lainey went through the days following her father's death in a haze, moving on auto-pilot, pretty much just going and doing whatever her roommates instructed. Watching her, Lainey's concerned friends decided it was more painful for their friend to wait to lay her father to rest than to begin closure on that part of her life. Roger Winters had been the victim of suspected foul play. It would be a while before his body was released from the morgue.

Lainey had been privately overwhelmed by the thought of organizing a small memorial for her father, but his attorney had presented her with Roger Winters' written wishes in that regard. Her father had, as usual, been both succinct and exact about the subject. He preferred a 'simple unemotional gathering where his colleagues could follow the societal norms and pay their respects'. His wishes made no mention of family. In truth, Lainey had no family who chose to attend her father's funeral. Kelly, Robin and Emily had all tried reaching out to the Winters clan, but those they found were all older and politely declined to travel to Port Charles on such short notice. One or two of them vaguely recalled that Roger Winters had a child. They suggested the young women try contacting her, wherever she was, unaware that Lainey resided in Port Charles.

Roger's colleagues, on the other hand, respectfully attended the memorial, despite his brusque ways. They made a beeline for the place where Lainey sat. After shaking her hand or murmuring words of consolation, to a man they privately diagnosed her as being in shock. Kevin Collins, Lainey's mentor at General Hospital, took a seat beside her and watched her carefully. He did not speak but his presence was a welcome one to Lainey.

The viewing room at the funeral home was plain and sparse, as per the older Winters' instructions. Two simple floral sprays flanked each end of the empty wooden casket. They were not a part of Roger Winters' directions, but Lainey had insisted on the gesture. On a small wooden stand near the door was a guest book for visitors to note their presence, if so desired. Next to the book was a small stack of about 25 memorial programs. Their content had been composed by Roger Winters and did not chronicle the evolution of his life but instead gave a listing of his professional achievements over a lifetime in the field of psychiatry.

When the lawyer handed Lainey one of the programs to peruse as she waited for the brief service to begin, she realized for the first time the true scope of her father's success in his chosen profession. Line after line she read, stopping in stunned silence as she read the final line of her father's self-written eulogy. Roger Winters had listed the date of Lainey's birth, her name and a simple statement - 'By far, my proudest achievement'.

The quiet declaration threatened to undo the tenuous composure Lainey had managed to maintain. Her father had never been an openly affectionate man, nor one prone to emotional displays. His words were so unlike what she knew that Lainey could not tear her eyes from them. She was so caught up in the proud declaration that looped in her head that she blinked when Kevin gently grasped her arm and murmured that it was time to go. Her father's memorial was over and Lainey hadn't taken in a single minute of it.

"It's over already?"

"Yes," Kevin nodded. "It's over."

Emily appeared and took Lainey's arm in hers. "Thanks, Dr. Collins. I'll take Lainey home now and make sure she rests."

Kevin released his young colleague into her roommate's care. "Lainey?" He waited until her empty gaze slowly focused on his face. "I will be calling to check on you later. But please feel free to call me before then if you need to talk."

Lainey gave him a wan smile. "Thank you."

"Come on. Let's go home. Nikolas had Mrs. Landsbury fix some finger foods for us. He wanted you to know that he was sorry for your loss." Emily steered an unresisting Lainey out of the funeral home and into her small car. The second-hand Volkswagen Beetle was a gift from Emily's brother Jason. It was slightly scratched and dented just above the fender but its looks were deceiving. Underneath the hood Jason made sure that a powerful engine existed. He had many enemies. Emily might need to evade them one day.

For several miles they rode in silence. "Things will get better," Emily broke the quiet. She took her gaze off the road long enough to reassure herself that Lainey was listening. "You won't always feel this lost and alone, I promise. When Paige, my birth mother, died, I was so scared. It didn't matter that she had made an agreement with Monica to take me in when she died. The Quartermaines were strangers to me." Emily shook her head and smiled fondly. "But look at us now." She reached over and grasped Lainey's icy fingers. "You've got a head start on where I was back then. You've got me and Kelly and Robin and Elizabeth. We already love you. And we'll be there for you. We'll be your family. Promise."