Arriving in Bendal brought about a rush of feelings to Maddie. It was later Monday when they finally touched down. The heat immediately hit her; warming every inch of her skin along with her smile. And as they drove closer and closer to the place she had called home for a year, her lungs opened up; breathing in the essence that was Bendal. They were early; earlier than anyone expected them. And, when the car pulled up to a stop on the street outside of the main complex that had been the last place Maddie remembered being, she felt her heart ache in her chest.
“Well, Doctor,” Harry’s voice broke into her thoughts. “You ready for this?” She turned to him then, finding a wide smile on his face.
“Actually,” she lowered her voice. “I wanted to do one thing before we go in.”
“Oh?” He raised an eyebrow. “What’s that?”
“Come on,” she gestured and, together, they stepped from the car. Of course, in Bendal as in London, Harry had a security officer with him. This had become such a fixture in her life that it no longer felt strange to have a third person along with them most of the time.
Taking his hand in hers, she led him across the street towards the home where the children lived. Knowing that there was an event planned, knowing the psychologists were preparing the children to see her, she didn’t want to disturb them. Though she desperately wanted to see them, to see some of what she loved most about her time there. Careful not to make noise, they peeked through the gate. Harry held his hand to his lips; suppressing a chuckle as he watched her. The garden was back; growing and blooming. The children were off in the distance; playing and laughing. Maddie’s eyes scanned around, looking at the green house that had remained relatively undamaged in all the craziness. She nudged Harry in the side and pointed.
“Care to give it a go for old time’s sake?” She joked easily.
“Don’t tempt me,” Harry grinned. It seemed as though she wasn’t the only one relaxing into the air and the sun of Bendal.
“Maybe later?” She offered.
“Say the word.” Maddie laughed, knowing he was completely serious. Taking his hand back in hers, she turned back to look at the main complex. It looked not at all different than it had when she had last been there. She took a breath as she remembered the last time she was there. They had taken almost the exact same route they were on now. Though it had been raining heavily. And there was much more screaming. Feeling her shiver, Harry looked to her; concern in his eyes. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” she nodded and continued on. They passed through the main gate and, without any issue, stepped right through the main doors; and that night came crashing back. Harry’s jaw clenched as his hand squeezed hers. Maddie took a deep breath and let it out slowly; her eyes looking around, scanning the room—remembering everything.
Just as Maddie opened her mouth to ask him the question he had asked her, she was interrupted.
“Maddie!” Her smiled stretched across her face.
“Khenda!” Maddie turned just in time to see her friend’s matching smile before she was pulled into a bone-crushing hug.
“Collins!” Khenda shouted out. “They’re here!” And then she moved to pull Harry into her arms; breaking nine kinds of protocol—and not caring one bit. As she did, Collins came through the door and with his wide, bright smile, he pulled Maddie to him. Hugging her tight, he lifted her right off the ground.
“It’s so good to see you Doc,” his voice was welcoming as he kissed her cheeks.
“Oh God, you have no idea,” Maddie looked around at all of their happy faces.
“You look amazing,” Khenda looked her over. “So refreshed and happy.”
“I am,” Maddie allowed a glance to Harry. “I am refreshed and happy.”
“Thank you for coming,” Khenda’s face grew slightly more serious. “It’s going to mean the world to them that you are here.”
“No problem at all,” Maddie shook her head.
“So, do you want to come in and meet the two new yous?” Khenda asked; nodding towards her old office.
“Not really,” Maddie laughed nervously. But Khenda insisted. It was time for her first meeting. They are going to meet with the new Psychologists to discuss what was going on with the children and find out what their game plan was in reintroducing her to the community.
“I have to tell you,” Harry spoke up with a grin. “I love that I don’t have to rush off to a meeting.”
“Me too,” Collins clapped his hands together. “Actually, I’m going to take Harry back to our place to get you all set up and maybe have some drinks.”
“Perfect,” Harry nodded as Maddie laughed.
“And start dinner?” Khenda looked pointedly at Collins.
“Of course,” he rolled his eyes playfully.
“You okay?” Harry checked on Maddie one fore time; bending his head to hers.
“I am,” she grinned; tilting her head up to meet his lips for a kiss that lasted one beat longer than normal. “Hmmm. Better now.”
“I’ll see you tonight,” he smiled as he released her. Maddie caught the look that passed between Khenda and Collins; a mixture of surprise and awe. As the two men left the complex; already laughing and planning, Khenda nudged Maddie lightly, a knowing smile in place.
“You seem to be…doing well.”
“I am,” Maddie grinned wider. “I am doing quite well.”
“You are going to fill me in on everything, right?”
“Ah, come on, a lady never tells…” Maddie linked her arm through Khenda’s as they turned towards her old office.
“That’s fine,” Khenda sighed. “I’ll call Ella. She’ll fill me in.”
Their laughter filled the hallway as it had not so very long ago.
Their first night in Bendal continued that laughter long into the night. After a successful and informative meeting, Maddie and Khenda packed up and went to join the boys at Khenda and Collins’ home. And they had settled in quite nicely; having finished off an abundance of beers, they had dinner ready and waiting.
They ate and laughed and caught up with all that had occurred since they had all last seen each other. Staying up way past late, they finished off bottles of wine and had smiled so much their cheeks hurt. And that night, after a round of good nights, Harry held Maddie close; both of them supporting the other, as they made their way to the room they would be sharing while they were in Bendal.
Harry helped Maddie change into her pajamas and then she helped him pull the covers up over the both of them. And together, with warm smiles still in place, they drifted off; closing off their first day back in Bendal with nothing but happiness.