Dr. Kristin Westphalen was exhausted. Fourteen hours in a tiny hospital, no air conditioning, and barely sterile surroundings. She hoped the two adults and four children she had stitched up and treated would make it without an infection to complicate already sketchy recoveries.
Shaking her head to clear the negative thoughts, her red hair, now shot through with a few strands of silver, fell about her face sticking to the perspiration on her skin although she had tied it up in a ponytail earlier.
Kristin stopped by her tent, picked up a towel and soap and headed for the makeshift shower set up for her personal use. One of her few luxuries. The water was cool and it was blessedly refreshing as it ran over her hair, across her face and down her body. Hurriedly, the doctor lathered up, washed her hair and then just stood under the rubber water bladder until it ran dry.
She was so tired. So, so, very tired. The past years had been a long endurance race, a marathon running from anguish and loss. Keep moving. To stop was to allow herself to be buried underneath emotional baggage that she no longer had the fortitude to carry.
Leaning her head against one of the wooden poles holding her 'shower' together, she just stood there. Not thinking. Just aching all over, legs, back, neck, and heart.
God, she needed to sleep. Please, no more emergencies tonight.
Wrapping her worn light cotton robe around herself, Kristin reentered her canvas home.
Carefully she zipped up the door before she turned on any type of light, and then she arranged the mosquito netting over her bed, an old cast off military cot, for which she was fairly grateful most nights.
The redhead grabbed a 'wife beater' t-shirt and men's small boxers that she preferred sleeping in and went through the netting to collapse onto her stomach and face to fall asleep.
Nathan's hand was holding her chin gently, looking into her soft brown eyes.
"I love you; you know that, right?"
Tears filled her eyes, as she nodded her head.
"Eight weeks and I'll be back. We have a lot to talk about. A lot of time we've lost."
Kristin felt his hard, slim body press hers against the wall of her office.
They were a tangle of arms, legs, kisses, and moans.
"I love you more than you'll ever know," he whispered. "Forever."
Bridger kissed her quickly and walked out the door and down the hall.
Realizing what was going to happen, Kristin ran after him, screaming for him to wait. Rounding a corner, she found sea water curling in a giant wave sweeping her backwards and Nathan being sucked forcefully into the undertow.
**********K & N***
Kristen woke with a start, her heart hammering in her chest. An awful nightmare that she knew would leave her bereft and lost and would haunt her for days. The same damn nightmare, or terror, that had kept her tormented for the last ten years since the disappearance of seaQuest.
The only thing missing this time was watching Lucas drown. That was always a pleasure, she thought miserably.
Flinging back the light sheet on her cot, Kristin angrily pushed the mosquito netting aside. Another day of feeling emotionally gutted; what else was new.
Shorts, cotton shirt and canvas shoes. Hair up, nice and tight. No makeup.
This was her life now. Sixteen months after seaQuest had vanished, Cynthia had come and almost forced her mother away from her home.
No more, mom, Cynny had said. Life is still out there. You have to live it.
So here she was. An island in the middle of nowhere, treating villagers while Cynthia was still saving the world as well. Their paths crossed about every week to ten days. Her daughter brought her mail, information, and anything medical or personal that she desired.
Kristin had no reason to leave. There was nothing left out there in the world at large for her. Her world consisted of this little village now because the man she had loved—no adored—and the life she had expected to live would never be.
Around noon, the people at the clinic had tapered off. Kristin was starving, so she headed to the mess tent where some food was recognizable and some not. Generally, she stuck to fruit, and today was no different.
She sat and watched the children play, running in circles and hitting rocks and cans with sticks. Finally the heat became too much, and she traded in her shorts and shirt for a swimsuit.
Before she headed out, her eyes fell on a chambray blue shirt that had traveled with her for the past ten years. It was worn and the original masculine smell had, of course, been long lost. She pulled it on over her bathing suit and headed for the beach.
This part of the island was nearly always deserted. Kristin threw down her towel and shirt and walked to the edge of the water.
Warm, foamy and sandy the water washed over her feet. She would never see an ocean again and not think of Nathan Bridger, Lucas, and the crew of the seaQuest.
Ploughing into the waves, Kristin headed out beyond the breakers and swam until she tired, then floated, allowing the waves to carry her along.
Here the ocean was so clear and blue that she could see nearly every fish beneath her, so she was startled when something gray passed beneath her, bumping her.
Alarmed, Kristin, twisted around trying to pinpoint the source of her fright when a dolphin jumped high into the air, twisted, and with great agility landed back into the water near her.
Laughing aloud, she clapped her hands. What unadulterated joy! How she envied the dolphin. Abruptly, her mammalian friend was back and bobbing up and down in front of her, squeaking.
Honest to God, if she didn't know better—impossible. There were thousands of dolphins like Darwin in the oceans.
This particular one was intent, however, on pushing her to shore. Finally, the doctor relented and swam with her friend where the waves were cresting in the shallows.
There her dolphin friend appeared to abandon her. She saw it having a blast out in the warm tropical waters. She couldn't help but smile, oh, if only it was Darwin!
Kristin walked back up the sand to her towel and saw a figure approaching down the path. The sunlight was so bright and the reflection of the sand made her wonder if she was imagining things.
A man. Silver hair. Slim. That walk.
Sinking to her knees, she lost her breath and her heart rate was out of control.
It couldn't be—could it?
She couldn't rise, only watch him as he drew closer.
Finally, he dropped to his knees in front of her and removed his sunglasses.
All she could do was stare into the face of Capt. Nathan Bridger.
"Kristin? Hey, I didn't think I'd ever find you. When you get lost, you really get lost." His smile was soft in his weathered face, as if he was afraid she would bolt.
Tentatively, she reached up to touch his face.
"Are you really here or am I hallucinating?"
"I'm here, baby. Believe me. I'm here."
Bridger reached for her and Kristin Westphalen's world went black.