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I Survived You
By Amanda Berendt
Copyright February 2004

    Natalie Lambert sat by the window of her apartment sipping from a mug of hot coffee. Despite the winter temperatures, the midmorning sun felt warm on her face. She had spent so much of the past few years in the darkness that she now savored every moment of sunshine.
    That last night of darkness almost ten months earlier still haunted her dreams. When she had first awakened in the hospital, she didn't remember any of the night's events. Upon waking up, her immediate request had been for Nick, but everyone had told her he couldn't be found. For weeks, she had been frightened about what he might do to himself or someone else.
    As the days and weeks passed and Nick did not turn up, the search for him was lessened. Other than Natalie's attack, which they had no reason to suspect him in, there was nothing else to confirm Nick had also been a victim. It was determined he had been the one to find her and, thinking her dead, had run out of fear and anguish. Eventually, Natalie, too, began to accept this line of reasoning, until her memory of that night began to return.
    She began to have dreams about the night at Nick's loft. They had talked about faith in something beyond this life. She had asked him to bring her across - telling him she was not afraid of death, but of a future alone without him. He had finally agreed, but something had gone wrong. He didn't bring her across. He took more than he should. As she lay in that place between life and death, she heard Nick's voice telling someone he couldn't condemn her to an eternity of darkness. She felt his cool lips kiss her neck, and then he was gone. He had made his choice. Instead of giving her eternity at his side, he had condemned her to a life of solitude.

I see the picture clear now and the fog has lifted
The wool you tried to pull over my eyes was clever
Yeah, you're gifted
But you forgot to dot some I's and cross some T's along the way
I'm better now despite you baby, I'm stronger these days
Stronger

    That night at Nick's loft her world had come crashing down around her. It began with Richard's death two years earlier. Then when Schanke and Cohen had been killed in that horrible plane explosion, Nick had begun to backslide more and more. Finally after the virus and Lacroix's daughter Divia had ravaged through the community giving little reason for Nick to stay. The final moment had come when Nick's partner Tracy Vetter had been killed by a suspect. All this death, in such a short time, was almost unbearable.
    In the months following her release from the hospital, she had reentered the realm of daylight. Slowly, she began to go on with her life. When her medical leave ended, she took a leave of absence from the medical examiner's office. She had been away from the 'normal' world for too long.
    Despite everything that had happened, Natalie still retained her strength. It had saved her when her parents had been killed and she and Richard had been left orphans and it would save her now. She refused to accept the decision Nick had made for her.

I survived the crash
I survived the burn
Survived the worst, yeah baby, but I learned
Survived the lies
Survived the blues
It almost killed me, but I survived the truth
And when you wrote me off like I was doomed
I survived you

    One summer morning, she rolled out of bed and padded into the bathroom. For some reason, she stopped at the full-length mirror mounted on the bathroom door. She usually only used it when she was going out somewhere, but today she gazed at her reflection as if she were seeing something new. She hadn't paid much attention to her appearance lately. She stood there in her polka-dot boxers and t-shirt. The reflection stared back at her. Its eyes had a radiance even though it was early morning. It's hair shone with golden highlights - tokens of the time she spent in the sun. She lingered in front of the glass for several more minutes. Despite the horrifying events of the previous spring, there was a happiness reflected there.
    She took her shower and got dressed in a pair of khaki Capri's and a light blue blouse. She slipped into a pair of sandals and went into the kitchen to fix breakfast.
    Sitting at the small bistro table she had purchased for her favorite spot at the window, she ate her eggs and toast as she watched the sun rising in the cloudless sky. On such a beautiful day like this, she still had thoughts of how much Nick would have loved it. She pushed the thought of him out of her mind. She was no longer angry with Nick, but she had come to terms with the fact that when Nick was involved in something - it always revolved around him. She was striving to build her life around what she wanted.
    She opened the window to let in the sweet summer air. It helped to clear her thoughts. Picking up the dishes she carried them to the kitchen, letting her mind pause on Nick once more. Wherever he was today, she really did hope he was happy.

I can look in the mirror now
It's been a slow awakening
Haunted by a heart full of you, couldn't help mistaking
That you could ever care for anyone
Anyone but yourself, hey
But you would have to have a conscience, baby
Good luck I wish you well

    After washing her dishes, she grabbed a pair of sneakers and threw them in a bag. She left the apartment and walked downstairs. Getting into her car, she started it up and set off to the department picnic. She was still officially on her leave, but she wanted to reconnect with all of her co-workers and enjoy a day of recreation.
    When she got to the park, she was greeted with hugs and kisses. Everyone told her how wonderful she looked. Some greeted her with surprise. She had still been in the hospital for last year's picnic and they were amazed at how well she had recovered. They all told her how strong she was to have to have survived such a thing, let alone come back thriving.
    When night fell, she found a place with Grace and the rest of the staff at the picnic area to watch the fireworks. She laughed with the group when she borrowed Grace's sweatshirt that was several sizes to large. She wrapped it around her and they all huddled close as they cheered and gasped at the fireworks exploding above them.

I survived the crash
I survived the burn
Survived the worst, yeah baby, but I learned
Survived the lies
Survived the blues
It almost killed me, but I survived the truth
And when you wrote me off like I was doomed
I survived you

    That night, as she got ready for bed, she thought back over the past few years. Her time with Nick had been marred by heartbreak and death. She had lost her brother, two friends and finally Nick. How much anguish could one person take? She wondered. It was at that moment she decided that she would no longer voluntarily expose herself to the worst of humanity. Tomorrow she would call the university and accept the teaching position they had been offering her. As she closed her eyes, she knew she would awake to a new chapter of her life.

This heart has been torn in two
Cut and bruised
With too many bitter endings
I'll be damned if I have thoughts of you
Rain on my new beginning

    September. Natalie stood outside the doorway to the Forensics Department at the University of Toronto. Saying goodbye to all of her friends at the coroner's office had been awful, but they all wished her well and agreed that a new start was for the best.
    She was starting with only classroom lectures. One of her conditions for accepting the position was that she did not want to be in a lab for a while. Now, each day she looked forward to going to work. She enjoyed being around all of the young students. Their exuberance and excitement was such a departure from the coroner's lab. It made her believe there was hope for the future. Watching their faces as she taught and listening to their questions and comments made her happy that she was a survivor.

I survived the crash
I survived the burn
Survived the worst, yeah baby, but I learned
Survived the lies
Survived the blues
It almost killed me, but I survived the truth
And when you wrote me off like I was doomed
I survived you

Fin