The verdict may be in, but for Liz Olivet, her case will never be over, unless she can get a little help from her friends.


Aftermath
By Lady V

One

There was an air of anticipation in the court. Liz Olivet had arrived and managed to find a seat behind Assistant District Attorneys Ben Stone and Paul Robinette. She looked around the room, with its high ceiling and wood paneling. The room somehow conveyed a warm feel, despite the ugliness of the situations that were usually heard within its walls. Liz's stomach began churning and her palms began to sweat. This was it. This was the big moment. Now she would know whether or not her living nightmare would finally end.
A door was opened in the front of the courtroom and the jury began to enter inside single file and took their seats in the jury box. On the other side of the room, the judge suddenly appeared and took his seat on the bench. Liz began to pray, even though she wasn't quite sure whom or what she was directing her silent thoughts to.
"All rise," the bailiff said.
Liz stood up along with everyone else in the court. Suddenly, her thoughts became as jumbled as an unfinished jigsaw puzzle and she barely paid attention to the opening proceedings. Her thoughts turned toward Diane. Liz thought back in time to when the living nightmare had started. Diane Perkins had been a private patient of hers who suffered from depression and had suicidal tendencies. At one point, she had asked for a referral to see a gynecologist, so Liz had recommended hers. Unfortunately, her gynecologist wouldn't see Diane. Liz had heard through the grapevine about the good reputation that he had and had sent Diane to see him, which was a decision that she would regret. Diane had hinted in a few of her sessions that he had raped her and Liz, knowing how fragile her patient was, had wanted to seek justice for her. She never could have imagined that her own dignity would have been taken away from her in the process. She hoped that justice would not come at too high a price.
"You may all be seated," the judge said.
Most everyone, including Liz, sat down.
"Has the jury reached a verdict?"
"We have, your honor," the rather nondescript jury forewoman answered.
"What is the verdict?"
The jury forewoman paused to glance at something written on a card. "On the count of rape in the first degree, we find the defendant guilty."
There was clapping and whooping sounds. Liz felt as if she could've floated to the ceiling. She had received justice. Her nightmare could finally be put behind her. She was free.
The judge's mouth began to purse so tightly, it looked as if it disappeared from his face. He banged his gavel.
"Order, order in this courtroom."
The court became silent. Liz's nerves started to tighten like a cap on a jar. What was the judge's problem? What could be wrong?
"Are you sure about this verdict?" the judge asked, turning to the jury forewoman.
"Yes, your honor."
"...A verdict...should be based on the facts of the case, not on the emotion of someone's testimony. The people have not provided the sufficient evidence necessary to justify such a verdict. Therefore, I'm entering a trial order of dismissal."
At the defendant's table, he broke into a smirk and shook his lawyer's hand. Liz's spirits started to deflate like a flat tire. The bastard was free. And she would forever be held in this internal prison.
Ben Stone turned to face her, a look of sorrow on his boyish face. He'd started to say something, but Liz suddenly felt the walls of the courtroom closing in on her. She turned and hastily walked out of the court, without hearing Stone and without so much as a glance backward.

Two

She was standing in an examination room, its walls painted so white that her eyes felt nearly blinded. She saw syringes, Band-Aids, petroleum jelly and other medical instruments lying on a counter a few feet away from her. She also noticed the examination table, with its long white sheet draped over the black leather padding and the stirrups attached to the end. She had discarded her street clothes and was wearing a standard issue off-white examination gown that tied in the back and exposed much of her backside. She patted her pocketbook, where she had left her tape recorder, it's switch set to "on". She felt a surge of electricity coursing through her veins and she was anxious to get the show on the road. If the things that she had heard about the bastard were true, then he had to be stopped. After a moment, he entered the room. He turned in her direction and in a deep, rich baritone, told her to lie down on the table. He then gave a short speech about the medical procedure that he was about to perform. Then, picking up the speculum from the counter next to him, he inserted the cold unyielding metal deep inside her. She immediately tensed up as the foreign object reached the most private regions of her body. The baritone voice in front of her told her to relax and the face it belonged to looked rather bemused. She never did like this part of the gynecological exam and was impatient for this part to be over. A haggard looking nurse entered the room, gave him a syringe and quickly left. He pierced her flesh with the needle, the clear liquid within disappearing inside her skin. Within seconds, her body was paralyzed, as if it were encased in concrete. Her whole emotional state turned into toss salad as she heard him unzip his pants. Panic such as she had never felt before in her life seized her as he removed the speculum and came closer to her... his face contorted in such a way that he didn't seem human...
"NOOOOO!!!!"
Liz's voice reverberated around her bedroom. It took a few moments for her to adjust to the darkness of her surroundings. When her eyes focused, she could see the wooden work desk just a few feet ahead of her and she could feel soft fabric underneath, bending and yielding to her weight. As her mind was clearing itself of the dust that had inhabited it, she began to realize that she was safe in her own home. She exhaled deeply and her muscles started to relax. It had been a long time since she had relived the events of that horrid day. Never before or since had she felt so powerless. That man had shattered her very being and she felt as if she were infected with the germs of his demented soul. Not only had he invaded her body, he was now starting to invade her mind.
After a few more hours of fitful sleep, Liz arrived at her private office earlier than usual the next morning. She couldn't stand to be alone with her disturbing thoughts any longer, so she'd figured she'd head here and try to concentrate on something else. She'd loved what she'd done with the space. The walls were painted a pale blue. A lush, thick, cerulean blue carpet was anchored to the floor. Several lithographs hung on the walls. A large oak desk lined the right corner of the office. Three off-white swivel chairs were opposite the desk and a glass coffee table was wedged in between the desk and the chairs. To complete the furnishings, a dark blue sofa was placed in the left corner. Liz immediately felt a sense of peace as she entered. It was as though these inanimate objects alone could soothe her.
Since she wouldn't see her first appointment until 9, she sat on a stark white chair behind her desk and used the downtime to catch up on some paperwork she'd been neglecting. Five minutes before her first session was to start, her receptionist buzzed her office phone.
"The Baxters are here."
Using the speakerphone, Liz said, "Thank you." She grabbed the Baxter's file from a corner of the desk and skimmed it. This was the first time she'd seen them. They were a professional couple in their early 40's who'd been experiencing a lack of communication and sexual dysfunction for a while. They'd been referred to her by one of her colleagues. Liz didn't usually do much marital therapy, but she figured she was up to the challenge. After probing the psyches of rapists and murderers much of the time for the Police Department, she'd come to rely on her private practice to keep her relatively sane.
After another minute perusing the file, Liz buzzed the receptionist.
"You can send them in." Liz's head had been down, so she heard rather than saw them enter. It wasn't until a few seconds later when they had sat down on two of the swivel chairs across from her desk did she finally look up. And gasped. The husband...looked...just...like...him.
Liz's heart began to pound like a drum. Her hands began to sweat. Those cold eyes...that mustache...just like him. God, would her torment her forever? Would he keep punishing her simply for surviving his brutal assault?
Mrs. Baxter cleared her throat. "...Uh...Doctor?"
Her question brought Liz back to the present. She forced herself to take several deep breaths to calm herself. Of course the man across from her wasn't him. He had a different name, for one thing. As Liz's muscles began to relax and her heart rate began to slow down, she started to notice distinct differences between this man's appearance and him. Mr. Baxter's eyes were rather curious, not cold at all. He was noticeably thinner than he was as well. And his skin didn't look as haggard either. It looked as smooth as silk. How could she have been so stupid as to think that he would even dare to come here?
Liz finally summoned up the nerve to speak. "...I'm...I'm sorry. Something else had my attention and I was distracted, that's all. Would you like to tell me what brought you both here?"

Three

Liz sat in the back of the yellow taxi, fuming. Traffic was moving slowly. Well, actually a turtle might probably move faster than this traffic. She was running late for an appointment at the police station. The cops had asked her to evaluate a murder suspect. She'd endured another night of fitful sleep. When she'd finally gotten a considerable amount of continuos sleep, she'd discovered that she'd slept through her alarm. It wasn't like her to be late for anything, but then, ever since that day, she'd been doing a number of things that weren't characteristic of her.
Twenty minutes later, Liz finally entered the 27th precinct squadroom. As she walked toward the middle of it, she saw Detectives Mike Logan and Phil Cerreta look up from their desks. Both of them wore looks of pity on their faces. When she had approached them, both men suddenly put their heads down. Were they now ashamed to be associated with damaged goods? Did they think she was responsible? Were they angry with her? Liz wasn't sure from their behavior. And she wasn't in a hurry to have them explain themselves. Sometimes ignorance was bliss.
Mike, his eyes still averting hers, cleared his throat. "...I...uh...look...um...we heard what happened in court the other day. I'm sorry...I just wish...you know...that there was some other way to get the bastard."
Liz considered his words. Mike could be a moody and arrogant SOB, but he was a good cop and was pretty down to earth. He didn't usually say things he didn't mean.
"No one's sorrier than I am, Mike."
An awkward silence followed. Then after a few beats, Phil tried to lighten the mood.
"We were starting to worry about you, Liz. We were wondering if a pothole had swallowed you."
Liz gave a short laugh. Now at least the conversation was moving to safer ground. "No, it was only the typical New York traffic jam that tied me up."
"Well, you're lucky. The suspect's not here yet either."
"...When you guys called me last night, you said something about the suspect killing her stepfather?"
Mike glanced up at her. He'd shed the uneasiness from his appearance and also seemed grateful for the change in topic. "Yeah. The perp said that the stepfather had tried to rape her, so she'd grabbed a gun from her nightstand and shot him twelve times."
Liz felt her insides sinking as though a massive body of water were pulling them downward. It sounded too much like her own experience for comfort. But she was a professional. Somehow she had to manage to separate her personal issues from those of her clients. She'd always been able to do that before. There was no reason why she couldn't do it now.
"This sounds like self-defense to me. Why do you need me for?" she asked as she tried to get her emotions under control.
"Because some of the things she's told us don't jibe. Just yesterday, we found out her boyfriend rented that gun out to her. Seems like premeditation to me."
Phil added, "We'd like to know what makes her tick, whether she's sane, the usual."
It had been on the tip of Liz's tongue to say that all this was a waste of time, but she kept silent. The cops had their reasons for bringing her here, she figured.
After a few more minutes, the suspect finally arrived. Liz used an empty interrogation room in order to do her evaluation. The suspect was a fairly attractive young Latina woman with shoulder-length dark brown hair. Her left ear contained four earrings, the right one contained two. She wore baggy jeans, black Timberland boots and a red Tommy Hilfilger T-shirt. She tried to appear tough and nonchalant, but Liz could see a myriad of emotions behind her eyes.
When the two women were seated, Liz said, "I'm Elizabeth, but a lot of people just call me Liz for short. What's your name?"
"What 'choo care for?"
"...Well, I'd like to know who I'm dealing with."
After a lengthy pause, the girl answered "It's Yvette, okay?"
Liz was beginning to feel as though she were about to step into a minefield. She had to keep reminding herself to breathe. She'd dealt with many subjects like Yvette before, many of them more dangerous than she. But then again, until that day months ago, she'd never been attacked before either. If only this girl knew how much they had in common.
"Good." Liz reached into her briefcase and pulled out a stack of cards. She laid them on the table.
"Now, I'm going to hold up a picture and you're going to tell me your interpretation of it, okay?"
Yvette shrugged her shoulders.
Liz picked up the first card from the stack. She liked doing the inkblot test on young subjects such as Yvette since many kids lacked the vocabulary or the experience to adequately describe their crimes and the tests proved to be safe ground.
Liz held up the card, which to her eye looked like the picture of a butterfly. "Tell me something about this picture."
Yvette stared at it for a while. Then she averted her eyes. "...Looks like...someone's grabbing someone."
Liz's ears perked up. "What do you mean?"
"It looks...you know...like two people in there. One of 'em is grabbing the other... that person wants to do something bad to the other one."
"What do you mean by doing something bad?"
"Like...beating 'em...messing with 'em or something."
This was certainly not a typical response to this inkblot. Liz was beginning to think that this girl was indeed a victim of some kind of abuse and that she was severely disturbed.
Most of the other inkblots she'd shown to Yvette yielded similar responses. When Liz tried to broach the subject of abuse in a more direct manner, Yvette got defensive and shut down, furthering her suspicions. Liz decided to cut the evaluation short and presented her thoughts to the detectives. By the time she left the precinct, her head was reeling. During the evaluation, she couldn't help but feel envious of what the girl had been alleged to have done. How she wished that she had been carrying a gun that day. Perhaps her nightmare wouldn't have ever begun.
Liz was suddenly taken aback by her train of thought as she looked out the passenger window of the cab she was riding. Cold monstrosities that passed for buildings in the city loomed on both sides of the street. A smorgasbord of pedestrians shuffled their feet on the sidewalks. Did she just wish that she had taken someone else's life? Normally, she abhorred violence. She couldn't even stand to kill the few cockroaches that managed to invade her apartment every now and then. Had something finally rubbed off on her from the sociopaths and various other criminals she saw on a regular basis? Now she had to wonder if something other than her dignity had been taken from her that day. Like probably her mind.

Four

Liz received a phone call later that night at home.
"So have you finally had your head shrunk, Liz?" her friend Patti chirped.
Liz couldn't help but smile. She'd known Patti from their days as students in Columbia University. On the surface, they couldn't have been more different. Liz was the sensitive, serious and practical psych student, while Patti was the spontaneous, easygoing theater major. But somehow, they seemed to compliment each other and remained fiercely loyal to one another.
"Hi. How're you doing?"
"Pretty good, actually. I've got some under five work on the soap 'All My Kids" next week."
"Good for you."
"Well, I should be asking you how you're holding up. I can't believe they let that sick bastard off on some stupid technicality."
"I can hardly believe it, either. It's to be expected though. Rape's a very hard crime to prosecute."
"I'm willing to bet that if he'd been the one who was raped and you were the accused rapist, they wouldn't think twice about convicting you."
"Patti, please. I can't deal with another rant about how oppressed women are. Not all of our problems can be blamed on sexism."
"Suit yourself if you want to keep your head in the sand. You know I'm speaking the truth."
A tense silence followed for a beat before Patti said, "Sorry about before. I just hate to see my friend getting shafted, that's all."
Liz sighed. "Apology accepted."
"...Hey listen...a friend of my agent's is throwing this party tomorrow night. She says it's supposed to be classy and a lot of professional men will be there. Wanna go?"
Liz's walls started to erect around her emotions. Men had been the last thing on her mind. At least since that day.
"I don't think I should."
"Oh come on. I hardly see you anymore. You've holed yourself up in that office for so long, you're beginning to think about putting a bed in there or something. I know what you do is demanding, but burying yourself in your work isn't healthy. You need time for play, too."
"I appreciate your concern, but I'm fine. Really."
"...It's because of him, isn't it?"
"Him, who?"
"You know which him I mean."
Liz stiffened.
"He won't be at the party, Liz. By shutting yourself up away from the world, you're letting him win. Moving on with your life is only gonna prove that you're a survivor, that your spirit isn't broken --"
"Gee, I don't remember who died and appointed you my keeper!"
A moment of uncomfortable silence passed before Patti spoke.
"...Look...um...I'm sorry...I was being presumptuous...I thought...you know...that you were ready to be social and meet people again, you know?"
"It's okay, Patti...Look, it's not like there's a set period of time for people to heal from a traumatic experience. Everyone's different. Humans aren't like machines, you know?"
"It's just...I just hate to see you suffering the way you are. When you're not working, you're hanging around the house."
"I'm not suffering."
"Don't tell me you're turning into one of those professionals that do the opposite of what they tell their clients."
They both giggled.
Patti continued, "The party might do you some good. You don't have to marry anybody there. You don't even have to stay long."
Liz mulled it over. She had to admit that she'd been turning into a practical hermit. It might do her some good to talk about things other than inkblot tests, after all.
"Okay. You've twisted my arm. I'll go."
"Oh, good. I'm glad. You won't regret this, Liz, really."

Five

Liz stood in a corner of the room, surveying the activity. She had to admit that it was good for her to come to the party. The agent's friend's apartment was located in the well to do Upper East Side. It was decorated in a rather modern fashion-lots of black and white but with flashes of pastels to tone done the starkness of the surroundings. The agent's friend was a charming hostess. She repeatedly asked if everyone had had enough to drink and eat and made sure to engage in short conversations with all of the guests. Liz had already gotten into several conversations about city politics, traveling and books. She felt energized in a way that she hadn't been in a while. She had just wanted to step back for a moment to take a breather.
Patti sauntered over to where Liz was standing. "Don't tell me you're not having a good time."
"Actually, I am. I just wanted to take a little breather."
"Oh. I just wanted to see how you were doing. I'm gonna go check out more of the merchandise. Later." Patti walked over to a group of men that were huddled in a far corner of the room.
Liz decided that she wanted to get some punch, so she walked over to the punch bowl that was set up on a table at the other end of the room. She retrieved a plastic cup from a stack that was located next to the bowl and proceeded to take the ladle in her right hand. She spooned some milky red liquid into the cup. After she loosened her grip on the ladle, she whirled around on her feet, meaning to join a group of three women just five feet away from her. At that moment, she found herself bumping into a stiff surface that had suddenly appeared in front of her and dropped her cup, spilling the punch all over the floor.
"Oh, I'm sorry," a voice murmured just below her left ear.
The spilled punch forgotten, Liz found her bearings and took a step backward, bumping into the table in the process. Her eyes slowly took in the figure in front of her. And there stood a man, with a fairly muscular build. Then, her eyes moved to his face.
And terror gripped her being like handcuffs.
That mustache, that evil glint in the eyes, that smirk...him.
Liz felt as if an icy, biting wind were blowing within her, chilling her to the core of her being. Her feet froze. All other thought was driven from her mind like water flowing down a fast drain until the only thing on her mind was the fact that she had to get away now before he could have another crack at her.
"Is something wrong?" the bastard asked, his voice dripping warm like honey.
Liz spoke through chattering teeth. "L-leave m-m-me alone."
His facial muscles contorted in such a way that he soon resembled an alien from the X-Files. "It was just an accident. I'm sorry if I offended you in any way. Here." He extended his right arm.
Liz began to shake as if she were standing in the middle of the North Pole and looked at the arm before her as though it were a weapon. She could not believe the audacity of this man. Did he not have his fill of her already?
"D-don't touch me. D-don't you ever touch me again."
He started to appear flustered now. "I-I'm only trying to help you."
Liz gave a bitter laugh. "Help? You want to help me? I think you've done enough."
"Look, I don't know what's bugging you, but really, all I want to do is apologize."
Anger was now bubbling up inside of Liz. It managed to shut out the chill, which she had been feeling up to then.
"Apologize? You want to apologize for what you've done? Do you really expect mere words to make up for the foul act you subjected me to? Do you?"
Lines started to appear on his face like cracks on a concrete sidewalk and his lips tightened. He lowered his right arm down to his side. When he spoke again, his silky smooth voice took on an agitated tone. "I only wanted to apologize and I get treated like a criminal. Jeesh." With that, he started to move closer.
Liz put up both her hands, as if to shield herself. "Don't come any closer. I swear, I'll rip out your face if you do."
All activity in the room stopped and silence started to cover it like a blanket. All heads were turned in Liz's and his direction.
For his part, he shook his head and gave Liz a bewildered look. And started to take another half step closer to her.
At that point, Liz opened her mouth and unearthed a scream that seemed to be coming from the lowest depths of her soul. She was oblivious to the strange looks of the other guests, Patti reaching her and trying to calm her down and in the end, to him trying to be slick and pretend that he didn't know her. She was only aware of the interminable cacophony of sound escaping from her lips. Until the moment that she felt a sharp, stinging sensation across her cheek and she fell backward, letting the darkness swallow her whole.
When the darkness melted away, Liz could feel the silence suffocating her. She could also see the shocked looks of the guests boring into her like a laser. Her thoughts felt as if they were encased in alphabet soup -- all jumbled and confused. As her thoughts righted themselves, Liz let her eyes wander to the man who had tormented her previously. Only to find that the man wasn't him, after all.
While the man in front of her did indeed have a mustache, he also had an olive complexion and jet-black curly hair-attributes that he definitely didn't have.
Liz immediately felt stupid and ashamed for her mistake. How could she have taken this guy for somebody else? Was she in the midst of a nervous breakdown?
Then she began to feel trapped. She suddenly had the urge to escape the scene of her worst embarrassment. And with that thought, she turned and fled from the fancy apartment without so much as uttering a word, or so much as a glance back.

Six

Liz spent the next eight days hibernating in her apartment. She'd canceled all of her appointments and postponed her therapy sessions with her private clients until further notice. She let all of her phone calls go to her answering machine. And she bathed and combed her hair only sporadically. Most of her time was spent lying on her bed, trying to stem the tide of her emotions from leaking into her consciousness. After acting like an idiot at that party, she simply didn't feel fit to be seen in public.
On the eighth day of her self-imposed exile, Liz was startled to hear her intercom buzz. She made no motion to get up off her bed, but the ringing grew more persistent, as if the person downstairs was leaning on the bell. Annoyed, Liz rose and went to the intercom in the foyer. She pressed the button labeled "Talk" and growled,
"Who is it?"
After Liz pressed the button labeled, "Listen", two discombobulated voices answered in unison, "It's Ben and Patti."
Liz jabbed the intercom button labeled "Door", which allowed the both of them to enter the building and go up to her third floor apartment. Within two minutes, she heard loud, persistent knocking at her door.
Liz took a quick glance at the foyer mirror. Her chestnut hair was disheveled, her blue eyes were bloodshot and there was a musky odor emanating from within her, which was a telltale sign that it had been a while since her last shower. It was too late now to make herself more presentable. Her company would just have to understand.
Liz shuffled to the door and opened it. Beyond the threshold stood Ben Stone and Patti, their faces showing looks of concern. She waved them both inside and they promptly took seats on her black leather loveseat in the living room, their concerned expressions never leaving their faces. Liz followed them inside and asked, "Would you both like anything?"
Patti shook her head, while Ben said, "No, thank you."
Liz took a seat on a black leather recliner across from her company. She glared at them. "So. What brings you both here? I'm sure this isn't a mere social call."
Patti, with a flustered look on her face, said, "...After what happened the other night...and then when you wouldn't pick up your phone...I...I got worried and decided to see how you were for myself."
Liz nodded her head toward Ben's direction. "How did he come into the picture?"
Patti looked at the floor. "Well...when I kept calling here and getting the answering machine, I decided to call your work numbers. Your receptionist at your private office said that you were out indefinitely and when I called the DA's office and spoke to him," she gestured toward Ben, "he told me that you had canceled all of your appointments. We both agreed that this wasn't like you at all...he wanted to see if you were all right, too."
Liz, who continued to glare at her guests, said, "I don't remember anyone appointing you two my keepers. And as you can both see, I'm doing just fine. So since I'm not in need of any assistance, you can both leave."
Ben held up his hand. "Hold on Liz. I can tell just by looking at you that things aren't right with you. You look unkempt, for one thing. For another thing, you're shirking your professional responsibilities. Now that's simply not the Elizabeth I know."
In a voice that seemed to come from the North Pole, Liz said, "Well, maybe you never knew me at all."
A heavy silence followed for a few moments, the air thick with tension. Ben suddenly spoke up.
"Your friend here...she told me what happened to you the other night..."
Liz rolled her eyes and groaned.
"No, listen, Liz. Your reaction to that man is definitely not normal...the way that you've been withdrawing from the world isn't normal. It's a sign of some deep problem. It might help if you talked it over with someone."
Liz laughed bitterly. "You're telling me to get help? That's rich."
Patti piped in. "That bastard of a doctor's been affecting you in more ways than you care to admit. You haven't been yourself in a while. It's time to start dealing with your problems in a more proactive way."
Liz's eyes starting to take on a wild look. "You know what kind of help I need? I need for that so-called esteemed doctor to get what he deserves, that's what I need."
"And we may have started to come up with another way to do that," Ben said.
The wild look of Liz's eyes was replaced with hope and trepidation. "Really?"
"Yes. I don't want to go into the details yet in case what we've come up with doesn't work."
"I'm glad that you haven't given up."
"Well...you deserve a lot better from the system you're a part of. You'll get justice if it takes the rest of my natural life."
Liz shifted her eyes to the far corner of the room. She was suddenly uncomfortable with the sudden emotion that threatened to gravitate to the surface. "...Thank you."
Patti waited a beat before she spoke. "Is there anything that's bothering you? If there is, you can tell us. We're your friends. Even if we can't help, we can always listen."
A sob escaped Liz's throat and she spoke haltingly. "...Well...I keep having these nightmares about the attack...and I keep mistaking every man who looks even remotely like him for him. After what happened the other night, I haven't been able to face anybody."
"Those are just the reasons why you might need to talk to someone, Liz. You should know better than anyone that you can't expect to keep going the way you've been going."
A few tears made a trail down Liz's face. "I know you're right. The first step is just so hard, though."
"Then we'll all take that first step with you."
Liz raised her hand to her face and wiped her tears. "...Now I guess I know who my real friends are, huh?"
Patti and Ben gave each other an unspoken glance.
"...This...this really means a lot to me...Thank you."
Patti rose to give Liz a hug. And all of Liz's misery evaporated.
 

end

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