~ A Little Help From My Friends ~


"Lainey?" Lainey Winters awoke to find Emily Quartermaine seated on the side of her bed. "How are you today?" Patiently Emily awaited Lainey's answer. It had been a little under two weeks since her father had been buried and each morning Emily had come into Lainey's room to ask the same four words. Lainey knew that it wasn't just a formality extended to her in her time of grief. Emily hoped for a truthful reply.

"I am good enough to be left on my own for a while." The young psychiatrist sat up in bed. She hoped her friend could not see through the weak smile she pasted on her face. "I'd better start getting used to being all on my own, right?"

Emily nodded softly. "It'll take a while," she said. The young medical student spoke from experience. "Are you sure you're okay on your own? I would like to visit Nikolas and Spencer and check in on my family."

"Yes. I'm okay, Emily. Go and see Nikolas. And thank him for the wonderful food he sent over. Again. Maybe I'll eat some of those sandwiches after I get up and dressed. I might actually be able to do them justice."

Emily nodded though her brown eyes remained worried. "Okay. But you know that if you need me, all you have to do is call my cell phone. Or call Wyndemere. I'll come right back."

"Em," the psychiatrist chided, "I'll be fine. Go."

Lainey forced herself out of bed and headed for the bathroom. A long, soothing bath would go a long way toward helping her get up and moving. She was determined to prove that the claims she'd made to Emily were true. Her friend had placed her life on hold to be there for Lainey. It was time Emily got back to her own life and her medical studies.

Despite the bravado of her assurances, Lainey could not bring herself to run the water for her bath. A little voice inside her head cautioned her that soaking in the tub with only provide time for her to obsess over her recent loss. No, a hot shower was the thing she needed to help begin this new phase of her life.

Lainey stood beneath the pounding spray, the heat of the water loosening muscles taut with stress and grief. At one point she leaned into the needlelike jets and let them wash away the tears she had not been able to shed since the shock of her father's death. Lainey felt that if she truly gave herself over to her grief, she would fall into a well too deep to climb out of. And so she did not allow herself to cry for long. On autopilot, Lainey soaped and rinsed her body. Her mind raced with unanswered questions about her life going forward and she lost all track of time until the hot spray of water that only earlier seemed so comforting now grated painfully against skin made raw from scrubbing.

A series of tremors shook Lainey's slender frame. Her fingers fumbled with the shower dials and she stepped out of the stall on legs that were rubbery and weak. It was only the memory of her father's voice, commanding and sharp in her ear, that kept her going through the motions of getting dressed. 'You know what this is you're experiencing,' he would have barked. 'Take a deep breath and take charge of the emotions!"

Lainey carefully made her way to the kitchen. Emily's departure from the apartment made the place seem unnaturally still. For the first time in her life, Lainey understood the phrase 'deafening silence'. Her breath caught and she fought to breathe calmly. The thought of Nikolas' gift of food, which smelled so mouth-watering the previous evening, now turned her stomach.

She could not recall ever feeling so helpless and unsure. Oh, she had grieved when her mother passed after a long bout with cancer. But her mother fought against her illness long enough for Lainey to gather some sense of preparedness for the inevitable. Roger Winter's death gave her no such time.

The logical, trained side of Lainey pointed out that what she was experiencing was most likely the onset of a mild panic attack. She had all the classic symptoms. On the other hand, the vulnerable, grieving side of Lainey didn't care enough to give what she was experiencing a name. She simply wanted it to cease.

Several futile moments passed and the young psychiatrist was no closer to calm than before. She picked up her phone with fingers that trembled and dialed the office number of her colleague and mentor, Kevin Collins. In all probability he was in the middle of a therapy session and would not be able to accept her call. Lainey prayed that was not the case. To her relief, Kevin answered the phone on the second ring. "Dr. Winters?" His calm, familiar manner eased the band of panic attempting to tighten about the young psychiatrist's chest. "Lainey?"

"I'm sorry if this call is interrupting someone's session, Dr. Collins." Lainey's voice was strained. She gripped the phone so tightly her knuckles were white. "I think that I am at the onset of a panic attack."

"It's not an uncommon part of the grieving process," Kevin replied calmly. "Where are you?"

"I'm at home."

"Alright. I have a small window of time open before my next patient comes, if you would like to talk now."

Lainey appreciated Kevin's simple, soothing manner. "I'd rather come to you."

"I don't think you should drive here." Kevin paused. "Perhaps just as a precaution, I should send an am-"

Lainey shook her head vehemently even though Kevin could not see the gesture. "No, no!" She knew that she was already the topic of hospital gossip in the wake of father's death and the ongoing investigation that followed. The last thing Lainey wanted was to be wheeled into General Hospital on a gurney. "I'll call a cab." She pushed to her feet. She already felt better now that the decision to go see Kevin was made. "I will just wait in my office until you are free."