She didn't want to go. If it wasn't an absolute necessity, she wouldn't even think of leaving home, leaving her family. They were her anchor during this difficult time, keeping her from drifting off into her sorrow. And her precious girls—they were still so little, always doing something new and brilliant. Just the thought of leaving them, even though it was just for a short time, was breaking her heart. But she realized that there wasn't a choice in this matter, and therefore, she finally began packing for her early morning flight.
"Rose? Love, are you crying?"
She turned around at the unexpected sound of her husband's voice and saw him leaning against the doorframe, concern deeply etched in his features. At his question, she lightly touched her cheek and realized that she had indeed been crying.
"I guess so. I hadn't notice. My mind's been...elsewhere," she said softly. She went to turn back to her packing, but at a sudden thought, she stopped and looked at him. "What are y'doin' home? Don't you have rounds?" she asked, her brow furrowed in confusion. His suit jacket was gone, his shirt sleeves were rolled up, and his tie was loosened. Clearly, he wasn't going to the hospital dressed like that.
He walked over to her and encircled her waist. "Made a couple of the residents do them. They love it. Not one of them said no!"
"And the fact you're the attending and they had no choice but to say 'yes' had nothin' to do with it, yeah?" she said, looking up at him and giving an amused smirk.
He looked up in pseudo contemplation and smiled. "Weelll, maybe a little. It is rather nice they have to do my bidding. Dance puppets, dance," he said moving an arm to the side to manipulate his imaginary marionettes. He moved his arm back around her waist again and looked down at her, his gaze warm and loving. "No, I told them I needed to be home with you. They had no complaints after that."
She kissed him gently and then buried her face in his chest. She always found comfort in his embrace. After a pause, he continued, "I could go with you, you know. Zoe and Sarah could stay with Donna. I know she wouldn't mind."
"I know she wouldn't. But she's just started that new job and it's not fair to make her ask for time off. I'm sure they wouldn't think too highly of her asking after only two weeks working there. And even though I'd love nothing more than for you to come with me, I don't want the girls to be without both of us. They're still so little," she said, still buried in his chest.
He felt his shirt start to become wet and realized she must be crying again. He pulled her slightly back from him and looked into her reddened eyes, tears slowly yet steadily streaming down her face. He removed his arms from her waist and cupped her face, wiping her tears with his thumbs. He kissed her forehead and then smiled softly at her.
"It'll be alright, love. You'll only be gone a few days and we'll be right here waiting for you when you get back."
"Promise?" she said, searching his eyes.
He leant forward and kissed her soundly. When they parted, he gazed at her and gave her one of his, what she called, "boyish" smiles—the one that made her insides flutter like mad.
Three Years Later
Judge Henry Saunders had been presiding over the bench for twenty-seven years. While initially he had been anxious to beget change and excited about his new post, he started losing interest around year eleven. His cases were often mundane and seemed to come in droves daily. He never had anything new or interesting to report back to his wife, Sally—a fact she complained of often and much to his annoyance. Her grumblings from the previous night had left him in cantankerous mood; a mood which was augmented by the more than usually ridiculous cases he'd heard that day and a lovely little kidney stone that was currently and painfully trying to pass through his body.
His clerk stood and announced the next item on the docket—a case involving a Rose Tyler Arden. Saunders didn't quite hear the complete description due to a sudden sharp pain to his lower back which he knew to be the work of that pesky stone. He grimaced and took a sip of cranberry juice.
Blasted lil' bugger!
A fairly young man stood up from the galley and attempted to approach the bench, but the attractive blonde next to him still had ahold of his hand. The man gave her a smile that, while genuine, didn't quite reach his eyes. She relinquished his hand, and the man came forward. Saunders made a brief study of him—mid-thirties, tall, unruly hair that young women probably found attractive, but to him just appeared unkempt. He was wearing a pinstriped suit, so obviously a professional, but…were those trainers? Saunders felt himself grumble in irritation. When the man reached the bench, the clerk began to speak.
"This case is regarding the matter of the disappearance of one Rose Marion Arden nee Tyler. Present is her husband, James Ian Arden."
As he finished, the clerk laid a brief before the judge. He began to flip through the pages, trying to refresh his memory of the case. He only remembered snippets—young mother, boat wreck, but nothing else. He cleared his throat and addressed the man.
"So Mr. Arden…what brings you into my courtroom today?" he asked, choosing to forego reading the brief.
James' eyes widened slightly and then flitted over to the clerk, who appeared somewhat flustered over the judge's ill-preparedness. He leaned forward and began whispering in the judge's ear.
"What? ... Dead? ... Who's dead?" he said looking up at the nervous clerk. James coughed uncomfortably and turned his gaze towards the side. The clerk quickly whispered again. Saunders turned his attention forwards to the man in front of him. "Oh…that's sad. Very sad."
James turned his gaze back towards the judge and gave a tight uncomfortable smile.
The judge looked over the brief a little more carefully this time, reading parts aloud. "Rose Arden…small charter boat in the pacific…storm…..only wreckage found…," he said and then clearing his throat, continued, "so…before we proceed, tell me Mr. Arden—what was your wife, a young mother, doing in a boat thousands of miles away from her family?"
James bristled at the judge's tone and became defensive. "She wasn't being negligent if that's what you're implying. And it's Doctor."
Judge Saunders cocked an eyebrow. "Pardon?"
James straightened his stance. "It's Doctor Arden."
At another flare of pain and James' insubordination, Saunders' brow furrowed in anger and his tone became harsh. "In my courtroom, I will call you what I wish, Mister Arden. And you will address me as 'your Honor.' Understood?"
James flicked his eyes away for an instant and then turned back to the judge. "Yes, your Honor."
Saunders grumbled again. "So, explain your wife's actions to the court."
"Weelll, your Honor, as it says in the brief, my wife went to scatter her grandfather's ashes in the Pacific. He had served in WWII and it was his wish to have them scattered there."
"And why was his granddaughter scattering his ashes?"
James was doing a remarkable job keeping his temper in check, but the haughtier and more challenging the judge became, the more difficult he found it. His jaw tightened but he managed to answer, "My wife was raised by her grandfather. Her parents died when she was still an infant and they were each other's only family. I offered to go with her but, being the excellent mother she was, she insisted I stay with the girls. Not long after she arrived there, I received word that the boat she had chartered had been caught in a storm and they were unable to locate it. I went there immediately and helped search for her for weeks. All that we managed…," he swallowed in an effort to control his emotions at the recollection, "managed to find were some broken pieces of the boat."
After hearing the account, Judge Saunders felt his attitude towards the young man soften. He cleared his throat and turned his attention back to the brief before him, verifying various facts. After a brief period of silence, he turned his attention back to the man before him.
"After seeing due diligence has been done, I have no choice but to declare Rose Marion Arden legally dead," he said, punctuating his judgment with the sound of the gavel. He then looked through the other papers on his desk, looking for his schedule. Something clicked in his mind and he turned to his clerk.
"Wasn't I supposed to marry someone today? And on a Monday, too! Who gets married on a Monday?"
"That would be me your Honor," he heard James Arden say. He turned back to look at the man, and saw him take the young blonde's hand and approach the bench.
"You want to get married?! Today?" Saunders was completely at a loss over the man's actions. He had just seen the man choke up with emotion, and now he was getting married? He was baffled.
"Yes, your Honor," James confirmed, a faint quiver of uncertainty evident in his tone.
Saunders looked between the two of them. "You sure?"
The blonde spoke up. "Jamie is an adult, your Honor."
He sized her up quickly. Average height. Blonde. Beautiful, but not in a natural way. Everything was perfectly in place. She was too made up for his taste. And something about her just rubbed him the wrong way. Oh, I don't like you…
"What's your name?" he asked sharply.
She smiled, actually more like smirked, at him. "Reinette. Reinette Adams, your Honor."
"Well Miss Adams—when I address you, then you can speak. Other than that, you don't!"
"Yes, your Honor."
He nodded his head with a humph. "Now then, Dr. Arden," he said in a softer tone, "are you sure?"
James took another deep swallow. Reinette lightly elbowed him when he didn't respond.
"Yes, your Honor," he said with a nod.
Judge Saunders frowned but then sighed. "Alright. Let's get this over with…"
The cab slowed to a stop in front of the house. After a brief moment, one of the doors opened and the lone passenger stepped out. Her clothes were ill-fitting and very old. Too old for her age; but she wasn't concerned about her attire. She was utterly fixated on the house in front of her. She just stood there looking at everything—every flower, every window, the curtains, all of it. She felt the tears prickling the back of her eyes and she sniffed.
"Y'alright, ma'am?" came the worried voice of the cabbie.
She turned around to face him and leaned forward to speak through the window. "I'm…I'm alright. I'm just," the tears fell but she let out a small laugh, "…just so happy to be home." She looked at the meter and patted her pockets frantically, worry written all over her face.
The elderly cabbie shook his head and smiled. "Don't worry 'bout it, ma'am. S'mthin' tells me you've been waitin' for this for a while. G'on home."
She gave him another wet smile and waved as he drove off. Turning around, she took one last look at the house and began her slow ascent up the steps.
Donna was trying to make the house "special" for Reinette—James' words, not hers. If it was up to her, Donna would haven chosen to keep Reinette outside on a leash—food and water optional. James had given her a list of Reinette's "Can't Haves" and preferences. She had to make sure that the pillows were goose feather because Reinette "can't have" ones with stuffing. She had to make sure the blankets weren't "scratchy" and that the sheets on the bed were 1500ct, because anything less "irritates her skin." And those were just the first few items on the list.
How does he expect me to do all of this nonsense AND take care of five year-old twins?
She was too preoccupied silently arguing with James and trying to complete the ridiculous list he'd given her that she didn't hear the door open or the woman walk into the room. She had her hands full with toys when she heard a voice from behind her.
Donna's eyes widened when she heard that voice—a voice that she was sure she'd never hear again. Slowly, she turned around and her eyes were met with two familiar hazel ones. The toys fell to the floor and her jaw dropped. Tears came to her eyes as she spoke.