Rita sat in her apartment watching an old movie on TV. The soppy plot had sucked her in. Much to her annoyance the phone began to ring interrupting her peace and quiet, not to mention her undivided attention and concentration. Grumbling she picked up the receiver.
"Yeah Lt. Lance" she barked.
"Now that's not very friendly is it?" the voice teased from the other side. Rita's face broke into a grin as she immediately recognized the familiar voice.
"Well, well, to what do I owe this honor?" Christopher Lorenzo scoffed at his best friend.
"A beg your pardon Lt. Lance. If I waited for you to call, I may forget what your voice sounds like Sammy." Rita grabbed the remote and turned the volume of the TV down and lay back on her couch.
"Well, I've been busy you know. Silk Stalkings left, right and center." She answered defensively before changing the subject.
It had been months since Chris and Theresa were married. Things changed inevitably but the bond between the two friends remained. Even through the lost phone calls.
"She's great. She wants me to tell you that she misses you. Hey Sam, the reason I called was to tell you that Reese and I were wondering if you'd come to spend the summer with us at her parents summer house by the beach."
"Chris, I would love to but…" It wasn't exactly how she wanted to tell him, but there was no time like the present.
"It's just that I won't be around for the summer that's all."
"What? Why not? Where will you be?" Chris asked in confusion.
"Um, I'm taking a year off, and travel, you know Europe, and all that. It's something I've always wanted to do, and there's nothing tying me down. I realized, as much as I love being a cop, it's no longer my life. So, I quit. I turn my badge in at the end of the week.
Stunned Chris remained speechless. He never thought he would see the day that Rita Lee Lance would quit the force.
"When does this all begin?" he asked meaning her travelling.
"In weeks…" She answered quietly, knowing it would upset him. She noted the disapproving sigh in the other line.
"When exactly were you going to tell me?" Asked a hurtful voice. Rita sighed and closed her eyes. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt his feelings by not telling him, but it was a decision she needed to make on her own…no consultation.
with everything that's been going on…I swear, the moment I turned my badge in I was going to visit you and Reese to surprise you. I promise… you were the first person I wanted to tell…I just had to sort out a lot of other stuff that's all. Sorry Sam." Rita apologized, knowing that if the shoe were on the other foot, she would feel just as hurt. Chris was still hurt and admittedly a little mad, but there was nothing he could do about it.
"So when are you coming Sam?" He asked, suddenly feeling the excitement at the prospect of seeing his best friend once more.
"A week or two. I might just go there before I leave for Europe. I'll see."
They talked for a little while longer before putting the phone down, By that time the movie was well into the credits and Rita had no idea what had happened. Rita realized that she and Chris had a lot to talk about. She knew she had surprised him with her decision to just get up and go, and she couldn't blame him. She herself never pictured that she would be the type to retire from being a cop, she loved it. Ever since the thought of travelling began to interest her more and more she avoided shop-talk at all cost while talking to Chris. The truth was, after Chris left it had never been the same for her. The adrenaline wasn't the same anymore. She could never find a partner she was comfortable with. Then Cap retired, Diana was transferred and George had been elected Mayor, everything had changed and it didn't seem as though she belonged anymore. Being a cop wasn't as it once was. Now she wanted to travel, to see the world. She wanted to maybe teach when she got back. Her options and desires were endless. ****************************************
Chris packed up his things ready to head home to his wife. He was shocked at the bombshell Rita had dropped on his lap without warning. He knew travelling was something she had always wanted to do, but what troubled him was the why, and why all of a sudden. He knew it was the best thing for her, to follow her dreams, but to be gone for a whole year, he shook his head. He was almost out of his office when he threw his briefcase back down on his desk and grabbed the phone.
"Hey Cap." A voice said quietly.
"Hey Lorenzo. How are ya? How's Theresa?" Harry asked enthusiastically.
"Fine…Cap, I talked to Rita." With the silence that fell before them Harry knew that Rita had told him. The silence also confirmed it for Chris.
"So it's for real?" He asked.
"Yeah Kid, she leaves in less than a month. Sorry Son." **************************************
Chris and Theresa sat around in their lounge. Theresa rubbed her husband's shoulders as they talked.
"Chris why don't you just fly down on her last weekend at Palm Beach, so you can spend time with her." Theresa suggested seeing the look of misery that was plastered all over his face. Losing her was something he was not ready for. Theresa knew the importance Chris and Rita held for each other. They were like twins separated at birth. Their kinship was so strong and evident.
"What about you?" Chris asked looking up at his wife who smiled at him.
"No, I'll be okay. It's just a weekend. Besides, she's spending her last couple of days with us. I think you should go, I think she'll need you there." Reese planted a kiss on top of his head and wrapped her arms around him. Chris hugged her arms tightly against his chest appreciating her support and understanding. Reese knew that Chris and Rita needed to say their own goodbye alone. ************************************
Rita busied herself the next couple of weeks with the arrangements. The decision whether or not she should sell her apartment was a tough decision. In the end Harry suggested she sublet it. So she did, to Harry's godson Michael, fully furnished. She was to spend her last couple of days at Boston to be with Chris and Reese. She, Harry and Fran were to say their goodbye in Palm Beach. Rita decided to stay home on her very last Friday in her apartment. She felt an overwhelming feeling of melancholy as she sat on her couch and looked around her. So many memories! She couldn't believe just how much memories, lived there. The video nights, the endless consumption of Pizza, Chinese and gallons of Ice Cream, the talks that lasted till dawn. The ocean of tears shed between her and her partner in their years together. There was a lot to say goodbye to, and she wasn't sure if she wanted to. Rita sighed deeply. She could feel her heart tighten as she felt the grief of saying goodbye to the memories that lived with her. Her thoughts were interrupted, by a loud constant knocking on her door. She got up and wiped her tears, composing herself as best she could.
"I'm coming….Geez…" she yelled annoyed at the banging that wouldn't stop. "What the…" She began as she opened the door then stopped.
"It's 'bout time you answered the door" Greeted the person right in front of her grinning widely.
"Christopher!" she cried out evidently touched by his presence. Chris noticed the puffy eyes and pulled her into a tight hug and wouldn't let go. Tears began to fall from their eyes as they stood there.
"What are you doing here?" She asked surprised, not caring what the answer. Chris made no move to let go, and neither did Rita.
"You didn't really think I'd let you go through this all on your own did you?" Not giving him a verbal answer Rita just hugged him tighter. After a few moments Rita broke their silence.
"You know Sam we have to move. We're kinda blocking my doorway, not to mention we're in plain view of all my neighbors." Chris grinned sheepishly and broke free. Rita grabbed his hands and sat down beside him on the couch. Chris wrapped his arms around her.
"So what was Harry and Fran's reaction to your decision?" Chris asked knowing with his absence they held unto Rita tighter than they already did.
"Like you have to ask? Well, you can imagine Harry's initial reaction. Mouth first, thought later." Chris nodded knowingly as Rita went on.
"Then after Fran finished crying she jumped to my defense telling him that I was a single grown woman who's capable of making decisions in concern to my life. Well between the two of us, how could he possibly argue? So he eased off the overly protective parent figure. I think he realized in the end, it's something I have to do for myself." Rita glanced up and stared at Chris hoping he would understood too. ***********************************
Even though he was in Boston he was quick to insist that he was only a phone call away. Rita knew the drastic changes in her life, was like a slap in the face for him. As though she was leaving him as he had left her, but that wasn't it. As she looked into his eyes, she could see a hint of fear in them. Chris was lost in his own thoughts, in his own insecurities. Having her so far away, for such a long time. He couldn't imagine it, nor did he want to. For the longest time it had just been the two of them. He was scared to lose her completely. Though they both knew it wasn't possible, the idea of being so far away frightened him. A year was a long time, and to not be able to be in the comfort zone of being a phone-call away, it made her decision to leave even harder to take. In a lot of ways, he couldn't help but blame himself. Not that he blamed himself, but he felt responsible that he had abandoned her. Though they were there for each other, Chris knew what it took for Rita to let him go to Boston. For her to push him towards Boston. The changes in her were changes that were afflicted by his decision to leave. Rita was amazed that she could still read him with one look. She knew that he was beginning to crucify himself, as though her only reason for leaving was his absence. Though true to an extent it wasn't all Chris. She needed to make decisions for herself. For a long time she and Chris decided on things together. Even his decision to move to Boston was in part connected to her. The first decision he had ever made without consulting her was marrying Reese. Though it hurt, she welcomed it. She loved Reese. But the wound was there. From there the decisions were no longer between her and Chris. They were now decisions made by Chris and Theresa, as it should be.
For once Rita made a decision for herself, without a second thought to what would anyone think. It was liberating, at the same time scary because there was nothing to fall back on. When she had made decisions with Chris, if ever they fell apart, they had each other to pick up the pieces. They both suffered through the consequences of their action together. Now Rita feared failure of her decision, but it was something she had to stick by. Rita took both of Chris' hands in hers and rubbed them to capture his attention. He looked up and stared into her eyes deeply as she spoke.
"Don't Chris. It's not you. This is just something I have to do for myself. Yes, you being at Boston, getting married contributed to my determination to leave and travel the world, but this isn't about you, or us. It's about me, and for once only me. Chris I don’t know if you know how much of myself is invested in you and our relationship…and don’t take that the wrong way because I wouldn't trade it in for the world, but it got me thinking that. I need to do something for me without you. As much as it hurts, I need to know if I can get by without you." The look of hurt that passed in Chris' face broke Rita's heart. Everything she wanted to say wasn't coming out the right way. Chris looked away from her. He was about to stand up when Rita pulled him back down. She took his face into her hands and made him look at her.
"You own such a huge part of me that is scares me Chris. It never bothered me before because we both put our all into it. But we can't do that anymore. It's not fair to Theresa. It's not fair to me. Because I know a day would come and it'll just be me there, and you won't be anymore. No, let me finish." She placed a finger on his lips to silence his protest.
"You can't promise me that you will be so don't. You and I are such a huge piece of each other's life that I don't even know if I could survive without you. And you certainly cannot give your marriage your all if you're trying to cater to my every whim, to my insecurities. It'll drive you nuts. It's not fair to Reese and as much as she understands that all we are, are friends. In the end she'll resent it Sam. I would."
Chris didn't say a word, it killed Rita to watch him there, his hurt look had passed and was now replaced by one that bared no expression, it was worse.
"Chris…" she began, but Chris cut her off by standing up.
"Uh, I can't talk about this now. I, uh, I have to go." Without waiting for a response Chris walked out of her apartment. Rita watched him leave, too stunned to protest. ******************************************
Chris drove to the only place he knew he could find the courage to think. As hurt as he was at what Rita had said, she was right. For the longest time they had played such a huge importance in each other's lives. They were like siblings, friends, the best of friends, all rolled into one. Being more than that was never something that needed to be questioned because their friendship was rock solid, and it was the only form of relationship that existed between them. Anything more, wouldn't be them. He asked himself why her words had hurt him the way they had. He had invested as much as Rita did on their friendship, it wasn't the question of keeping score, because in that, they were even. He knew he was angry because what she said would one day be right. He couldn't make it all work all at the same time. He wouldn't be able to give himself fully to his marriage when Rita owned such a huge part of him. It wasn't as though they were in love with each other. They were just a huge part of each other's life. It wasn't fair to Reese, or to Rita. He knew that. If he could just let her go. ************************************
Rita waited for an hour, when he didn't return she knew where to find him. She grabbed her apartment keys and put her running shoes on. She half ran and half walked to the beach, knowing it was the one place he would go. It was the place they went to when they were faced with decisions, troubles, and sadness. She found him exactly where she knew she would. By the dunes against a rock they had declared theirs. Taking her shoes off, she walked quietly towards him. Chris opened his eyes when he felt her presence beside him. Chris' arms were around his legs as he sat silently. Rita sighed. She placed her head on his left arm, as he remained motionless.
"I'm sorry I hurt you Chris. I really am. It wasn't something I meant or wanted to do. I have always been honest with you and I always will be. I'm sorry if the truth hurt you, but this isn't easy for me either you know. How do I say goodbye to you?" Chris heard something in her voice that made him look at her. Hear head hung low, her curly hair hid her face. Chris shifted his whole body so he could look at her. Lifting her chin to face him, he spoke
"You're not coming back are you?" It wasn't a question, it wasn't even an accusation, it was an obvious observation. Rita bit her lower lip as they began to quiver without a confirmation she buried her head against him as he encircled her in his arms. They sat there for a long time, not saying anything.
"Please don't hate me Sam." She said in a whisper. Surprised by her words he pulled away and looked at her.
"Sam, I could never hate you, don't you know that?" Rita didn't answer.
"Sammy, I understand what you're doing. And if you really want to do this, then I'm with you all the way. You just have to know that you don't have to do this."
"Yes I do Chris. If you and Reese are to progress as you're supposed to, I can't be in the scene. You need to give her your all…you have to Sam. She deserves nothing less. I'll be okay. I've had you for such a long time. It's time someone else does. Your wife is a wonderful person Sam. You need her."
"I need you too." He said desperately trying to change her mind. Rita stood her ground.
"You'll always have me. You're the one who told me that wherever you are. I'll always be in your heart. I'm just going a little further, but I'll still be in your heart. What we have is so strong. It can survive anything. You know that in your heart. Believe in it."
Chris sat there and held her in his arms, trying his best to believe in it. Not wanting her to go. Though he knew it wasn't open for discussion.
The next couple of days Chris and Rita spent every moment together. Never being more than a few feet away. When it was time to go Harry and Fran drove them to the airport. The tears that poured from all of them was endless. Rita was the daughter they were never able to have, the loss of Chris was hard enough, now Rita too. Harry was the last one to hug Rita. Chris held onto Frannie and she sobbed uncontrollably. Harry could feel Rita begin to shake in his arms.
"You don't have to do this you know." He whispered, trying one last time to convince her to stay. Rita shook her head.
"No Cap, I made up my mind. I love you." Rita choked at the words that were so heartfelt.
"I love you too Rita. You take care. You call." Nodding she wiped the tears that didn't seem to want to stop. Chris draped an arm around his best friend and led her to the gates. Just before she stepped in she looked back one last time. She saw the parents she had longed for staring back at her with all the love they felt written all over their face. She knew the love was mirrored back as they stared into her face. ****************************************
Chris and Rita arrived early in the morning. Reese welcomed them, with open arms. She could see from both faces that not much rest was exchanged the last couple of days. Rita was to stay the night and her flight to Italy was the following afternoon. Rita ignored Reese's insistence on resting. Instead she asked to spend some time alone with Reese. Chris obliged and left to pick up lunch. By dinner time Rita was exhausted after spending the whole day talking to Reese.
"Sam, Reese and I have something to tell you." Rita looked up tiredly from her plate.
"Reese is pregnant." Rita's face lit up as she jumped up from her chair and hugged them both.
"Oh wow. That's so great. How many months?"
"Two" Chris saw the happiness the spread through Rita and he was touched. Immediately Chris and Reese informed her that she was to be the godmother and that they were going to name it Sam either way. Overwhelmed Rita told them to slow down, but evidently the joy was glowing from the three of them. ********************************************
After Reese had gone to bed Chris knocked on the guestroom door. He found Rita sitting up on the bed against the wall. She was twisting her ring around her finger. The ring he had given her years before. Chris sat beside her. She looked up and smiled. She nudged him and grinned slyly.
"You dirty dog." Chris let out a laugh.
"Sam, if you have a girl. I want her to have this." Rita said quietly motioning towards the ring.
"I want her to have a piece of what we shared."
"She doesn't need that to have a piece of what we have Sam."
"I know, but I want her to have it. What we have will always be in my heart. I don't need a ring to remind me. If anything happens to me, I want you to give it to her."
"No Sam, you can give it to her yourself." Rita gave him a small nod. **************************************************
The next morning as they all got ready to go. Chris knocked on the guestroom door.
"Come in" Rita said, she looked up and smiled when she saw Chris.
"Sam, there's something I want to give you." Rita laughed when he handed her the box she had handed him months before. He unclasped the angel and pinned it on her vest. Rita grabbed his hands and held them
"Thank you Sam. For everything." Chris couldn't find the words, and they both knew that no words needed to be spoken.
At the airport all three of them were crying. Especially Chris and Rita. They held on to each other tightly before Rita had to board.
"I love you Sammy." Chris whispered, hoping that she would always remember.
"I know Sam, I know. I love you too. Take care of Fran and Harry. Take care of them especially." Meaning Theresa and the baby. Chris nodded. After one last long hug, Rita headed for the gate. Rita couldn't bring herself to look back. Chris wanted her too look back once more, but she didn't. They both knew if she did, it would make things a whole lot harder than it already was. ********************************************
The months passed slowly at first, gradually as the preparation of the baby's arrival neared everything was returning to normal. Though Rita's absence lingered and their longing for her, they were able to move forward. Just as Rita assured him they would and should. Rita sent short informative, almost cold postcards. At first Chris was hurt by her lack of emotion, but he soon realized that it was her way, just as it was her way not to leave forwarding address'.
At midnight on Rita's birthday Samantha Frances Lorenzo was born. Proud and happy Chris hugged Fran and Harry who had come up for the birth of their grandchild. The only cloud that parked itself on the happiness was Rita's absence. No one had any idea where she was. It had been months since any of them had heard from her.
Rita had heard of the birth of Chris' child almost immediately. She thanked Donnie for the message. As she put the phone down she took the ring off from her middle finger where it had been for 6 years straight. She kissed it and held it firmly in her hand. She wanted nothing more than to hold Chris' little girl in her arms. To see whom she resembled. To tell her she loved her. Just as she loved her mother and especially her father. Exhausted Rita closed her eyes and drifted into deep sleep. ***********************************************
That night Reese fell asleep early. Chris kissed her forehead before heading for the nursery. He wanted to watch his little girl turn a day old. He was mesmerized by his daughter. That she was his. His mind drifted to his best friend. How he longed to be with her. For her to see his child. How he wished he could spend this triumphant moment with her. His thoughts were interrupted by a young man.
"Excuse me sir, are you Lt. Lorenzo?" Chris looked at him confused as the young man handed him a small envelope. Not knowing Chris opened it. A loud cry escaped from his mouth as Rita's ring slid from the envelope to his hand. He clasped it tightly in his hand knowing in his heart that she was gone. ************************************
Chris headed home the next afternoon after Reese had fallen asleep, exhausted from everything. Reese cried for hours after he told her. Chris couldn't get a hold of Harry and Fran to tell them. He still wasn't quite sure what happened. He wasn't sure where to get the whole story. When he arrived he saw them waiting for him in his lounge room. With one look he stepped back.
"YOU KNEW. ALL THIS TIME YOU KNEW!" he yelled accusingly. Fran began to cry uncontrollably. As Harry tried hard to keep it together.
"WHAT HAPPENED? WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME? NOW SHE'S GONE! SHE WAS SICK WASN'T SHE? YOU ALL KNEW. WHY DIDN'T SHE TELL ME?" Chris' posture began to falter as he fell to his knees. Harry rushed to his side and tried to hold him but Chris was fighting him off.
"HOW COULD YOU?" At this time he knew that there was something wrong with Rita before she left. Everything had began to fall into place. The looks, the unspoken words. It all began to make sense. Harry waited a few moments before he started.
"About nine months ago Rita discovered she had a tumor in her brain. The tumor was situated where it was not accessible. So she didn't have many choices. The doctor wanted her to try radiotherapy, but she refused, she said it was no use prolonging the inevitable. She was getting sicker and sicker as the days wore on. She wasn't supposed to last as long as she did. Her doctor had given her a couple of months at most. She didn't want to tell you because you were just starting out your life. She knew that if you saw just how sick she was, your attention would be divided. That you would focus on her. She didn't want that. She wanted you to give your marriage your all, and as she explained that to you, you couldn't because you were so much a part of each other's life. As the months passed no one could explain why she was still hanging on. She was in so much pain but she kept hanging on. The doctor later realized that she was waiting to fulfill a promise to you. That was to give Samantha the ring, but she couldn't do that if she didn't know if you had a girl or a boy. As soon as she found out, Diana said she just went to sleep."
Diana? He hadn't heard from Diana in a long time.
"Diana went with Rita, as she traveled, as her friend. As her doctor. Chris we would have told you. I swear, but she wouldn't have it. She was insistent that you knew all she felt. That you'd understand."
"I didn't even get to say goodbye." He whispered.
"She didn't want you to. Besides, she's with you all the time. In your heart, in your soul. She's a part of you kid, she's a part of all of us."
Fran walked over to Chris and hugged him tightly before pulling away she placed an envelope in his hand. Without a word Fran and Harry left him alone. Chris's hand shook as he recognized the handwriting on the envelope. He grabbed his keys and drove towards the nearest beach. It wasn't their place, but it was close enough. The ocean had always made him feel closer to Rita. It was as though the ocean was a part of their connection. He sat down and began to read.
"To my dearest Sam.
The only words that come to mind at this point in time as I write this is, FORGIVE ME! I know how much I would hurt you by doing things the way I have done them. All I can say is that to me, it was the only way, I could make it right. It was the best way. When I found out about this tumor thing my first inclination was to call you, run into your arms knowing you'd try to make it all better. But there was nothing you could do. There wasn't anything anyone could do. I already knew how much you loved me, and how much I mean to you. Believe me that's what has kept me going for so long. I wanted to do something selfless before, you know. That was to let you go. Reese needs you and she deserves all of you. Give her that. Promise me that you will build that family we have always dreamed of, and were never able to have. I don't know if you'll ever really understand what I did. Heck I'm still trying. What I can tell you is that I don't regret a thing. I lived my life to the fullest. I guess if there was one regret it was that I was unable to hold my honorary niece. Aside from that, I'm happy for what I had. I got all the love I could ever ask for. Your friendship, Harry, Fran, and Reese. You're my family. I died knowing I had a family. To me that was enough. Sam, don't take things for granted and don't waste your time being angry at me. Life is short, appreciate what you have for all it's worth. Always remember that I am always with you. Just as I have taken a piece of you with me. I have taken a piece of all of you with me. Sam, I left the angel with you. I want you to give it to Reese. Tell her that even though I am already watching over both of you, I want her to have my back up. That guardian angel isn't just a back up of you, but of me too. I'd say she's covered. I had considered giving it back to you, but you don't need it. I got ya covered. Well Sam, its another tiring day. So I'm going to rest.
I love you. Forever and always…Sammy.
PS: Don't give Harry and Fran such a hard time for not telling you. I made them promise.
Chris folded the paper and carefully placed it back inside its envelope. He kissed it and held it close to his heart. Everything made sense. Rita sacrificed a lot and he knew it. For that he would always be grateful. He knew that she lived within him and she would continue to live through him. Chris looked up at the sky and smiled.
"I love you too Sammy. Thank you."