By K. Stoley
Comments and criticism happily received at email@example.com
It is a well worn verse but I could not shake it from my mind:
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both….
….I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
“Hey, you ready to go?” Mia called out when she entered her brother’s house. She was picking up her sister-in-law to go out and shoot some pool with the latter’s co-worker. Terri came down the hall, grabbing her key’s off the counter replying, “Yeah, I’ll drive”.
The resemblance between Mia and Terri was uncanny and most of the time people mistook them for sisters. They both leaned towards blond hair, Terri’s a little redder than Mia’s but their green eyes and height were the same. They had an easy friendship born of trust and familiarity. Terri was probably the only person in the family that Mia could trust to talk without worry of who would find out. Secretly, Terri knew that Mia wasn’t happy with her life and did mostly what was expected of her. She also knew that Mia alone would never have the strength to break those binds.
Arriving at Sharkey’s they went into the bar area and waited for Terri’s friend. They sat at a table across from each other, ordered drafts and watched the hockey game on the television over the bar. After their third round Mia was getting restless and asked “So, who are we waiting for?”
“Linda and I think she is bringing Lee with her”.
Terri took a sip of her beer and leaned in confidentially, “She lives with Linda. I don’t think they are getting along right now and Lee may be moving out soon. Do me a favor?”
“Let me know if you think they are together-together” Terri asked seriously.
“You mean together as in a couple?” Mia asked grinning at Terri’s nervousness. “Not getting homophobic in your old age are you?”
“No! You know better than that, I love your brother but, if anything were to happen to him, I wouldn’t be looking for another man anytime soon” Terri answered downing the rest of her beer.
“So, you’re saying you want to switch camps?” Mia teased.
“With the right incentive, sure why not!”
“What incentive would that be?” Mia asked curiously.
“Oh, say a Xena perhaps” Terri offered laughing and signaling for another beer.
‘Oh, it’s going to be one of those nights’ Mia grinned mischievously. Drinking tended to loosen up Terri’s tongue and anything was apt to come out of her mouth, and usually did.
“Yeah, so who wouldn’t go for that, tall, dark and gorgeous” Mia agreed. “Those killer eyes are an added bonus. I’ve always been a sucker for dark hair and blue eyes!”
Terri smiled raising her glass in mock toast and then teased, “Wait until you see Lee”.
“Why?” Mia asked suspiciously.
Terri looked over Mia’s shoulder and smiled, “finally, here they come”. Mia turned to face a brunette with brown eyes as Terri made the introductions.
“Mia this is Linda, and…Lee”. Mia smiled and said hello and turned to greet the woman behind Linda. ‘Oh shit!’ Mia exclaimed silently and closed her gaping mouth as she stared into the bluest eyes she had ever seen.
“Nice to meet you Mia” a throaty voice spoke from just below those eyes. “Ni…nice to meet you too” Mia stuttered and pulled her eyes back to Terri and found her grinning like a fool at her expense.
Lee smiled and took the seat next to Mia as Linda sat next to Terri. The waitress came to take orders, effectively giving Mia time to recover from her shock. The woman sitting next to her definitely fit the description of tall, dark haired and blue eyed. Mia felt like an idiot at the way she had reacted. Glancing over again she inwardly groaned, ‘and gorgeous too! Jeez, get a grip girl before you start drooling all over yourself’ she silently admonished herself.
For the next couple of hours they sat talking and joking, Mia found that Linda was a very outgoing and opinionated person, and a perfect match for her sister-in-law’s wit. She could understand why they got along so well at work; one warped mind usual gravitates to another. In the beginning, Lee was pretty much quiet and the smattering of responses left Mia to agree with Terri’s assumption of the two women’s incompatibility. After a few more rounds, things started to warm up and Mia found Lee fun to talk to, and at one point, they were laughing so hard, Lee grabbed Mia’s arm to keep her from falling off the high bar chairs. Lee didn’t remove her arm right away and kept it resting on Mia’s forearm. When Mia looked over at Linda she could tell she wasn’t happy. When Terri announced that she was headed for the restroom, Mia quickly offered to accompany her. Lee decided at that point to go in search of an open pool table. She left, she leaned forward and asked, “Do you always travel in pairs?”
Mia looked over her shoulder and replied, “No, but with Terri you have to watch her or she might end up in the kitchen thinking it’s a bathroom. Not a pleasant sight I assure you!” Lee laughed at the visual Mia described and walked away towards the front counter.
“Well girl, what was that all about?” Terri asked grabbing Mia as soon as they entered the restroom. “What?” Mia asked steadying her sister-in-law.
“She’s been all over you since they got here” Terri laughed, slightly tipsy. “Either she has the hots for you or she’s trying to make Linda jealous”.
“I am sure it’s the later” Mia answered searching through her purse for a comb.
“So you think they are a couple?” Terri voice came over from the cubicle behind Mia.
“Yeah, I’d say they probably were but, I think it’s a little rocky right now. They don’t seem to be able to talk to each other civilly”. Mia answered as she combed her hair waiting.
“Yeah, that’s what I think” Terri answered coming to stand next to her and turning on the water.
“Hey, you don’t think Linda is mad at me because of all the attention do you?” Mia asked concerned.
“No, I think she knows what Lee’s is doing. Does it make you feel uncomfortable?” Terri queried.
“No, I can handle it. I just don’t want Linda getting mad at me or anything” Mia answered following Terri out the door. “Don’t worry about it!”
They arrived back at the table in time to find a subdued Lee and Linda waiting. “So what’s the verdict?” Terri asked regarding an available pool table.
“I had to put our name on a list” Lee answered. “Linda and I were talking about it and it’s seems silly to wait for an open table when Linda has a perfectly good one at home.”
Linda chimed in, “yes, why don’t we just go there and we’ll stop and pick up some beer on the way. What do you say?”
“There’s a Jacuzzi too, if you’re interested?” Lee offered looking at Mia. Mia just looked at Terri and let her handle the decision.
“Sure, we can come over and shoot some pool but, Jacuzzi? It’s too damn cold for that!” Terri answered.
Linda laughed and said, “It’s only cold going in, we’ve been known to roll in the snow afterwards to cool off!” Settling up the bill they headed towards their cars. On the drive over, Mia and Terri also decided to make a stop for beer and munchies and arrived a little late.
“Why did you buy all this, I told you we had everything?” Linda scolded Terri.
“Yeah, yeah, we didn’t want to drink all your beer, so live with it!” Terri quipped in reply.
They paired off and played a couple games of pool, Linda and Lee easily winning all the games, before moving on to darts in which Mia and Terri took the lead. As the evening progressed Mia noticed that Lee’s attention wasn’t blatantly focused on her anymore and, that the tension between Lee and Linda had risen a couple of notches. On the other hand, Linda had warmed towards Mia since they had gotten to the house. By midnight things were winding down and Mia was concerned about Terri driving home and took the keys away from the woman.
“I think it’s time for us to go” Mia announced pushing Terri towards the front door. “Thanks for having us over!”
“Thanks for coming, we’ll have to do this again” Linda responded. Since things had gotten better between them Mia began to actually like the feisty woman. Lee just stood in the background and added, “It was nice to meet you”.
“Likewise” Mia answered smiling back at Lee before heading out the door with Terri in tow.
On the drive home Terri commented on the change of attitude in the two women, almost a complete reversal of characters from the bar. “Things definitely aren’t happy in paradise”.
Christmas Day found Mia, her parents, her brother Alex, Terri and the kids together for the day. During clean up Terri and Mia found themselves in the kitchen alone and Terri asked Mia, “What’s up with that Steve guy Mom set you up with? I though you would have brought him today?”
“No” Mia simply answered.
“Did you guys break up?”
“When?” Terri persisted.
“Two months ago” Mia answered and turned her back in an effort to end the conversation.
“Well?” Terri asked irritated at the monosyllable answers she was getting. ‘It’s like pulling teeth to get anything out of her lately’.
“Steve’s no longer in the picture” Mia answered simply.
“Why what happened?” Terri knew she had hit upon what had been troubling her Mia for the past month.
“Let’s just say when I told him I wasn’t interested in him sexually, he tried to prove me wrong” she answered quietly.
“What!” Terri exclaimed and instantly quieted when Mia gave her a warning look and turned to see if anyone had heard. “What did he do?” she demanded.
Mia just shrugged her shoulders and turned back to drying the dishes. Terri turned her gently around and looked into sad green eyes. “Tell me” she asked gently.
“I only have myself to blame. If I hadn’t gotten drunk, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity. I let him have the control” she replied trying to smile. “Aw shit, he didn’t!” Terri replied hugging Mia.
“Yeah but, I’m sure he will be thinking twice about ever doing that again to anyone” Mia answered chuckling. Terri pulled back to look into her sister-in-law’s face and saw an evil grin and burst out laughing, “What’d ya do to him?”
“Well, after he was relaxed and feeling pretty proud about himself, I caught him off guard and gave him another sensation he isn’t likely to ever forget!” Mia answered smugly. Terri laughed and hugged Mia; “You go girl!”
The two women went back to the dishes and Terri watched the other woman out of the corner of her eye thinking, ‘She’s taking this harder than she let’s on. I wish she didn’t have to pretend for everyone else’s benefit and could be happy.’
Terri had a thought and leaned over to whisper to Mia, “Lee left Linda the week before last”.
“She did?” Mia replied, remembering dazzling blue eyes framed by long black hair and smiled.
“Yeah, packed up everything, left the presents under the tree and moved out. It was a long time coming, just rotten timing with the holiday’s and all” Terri relayed.
“Where did she go?”
“To her sister’s I think?” Terri answered unsure.
“How’s Linda taking it?” Mia asked curious. “You know Linda, she’s so use to being in charge, I think she figured she could orchestrate a relationship too” Terri replied.
“That’s too bad, the holidays are rough enough, without having to go through that too” Mia answered thoughtfully. Both women agreed but, each empathizing for a different woman.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Mia exclaimed as she exited the office building uncaring if anyone heard her. She was bordering between terrified and extremely angry and wasn’t sure which she wanted to be more. “I can’t believe it! If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!” she raved unaware that someone had fallen into step behind her. Mia reached her car and thumped her hand on the top of the car in anger. “Happy Freaking New Year Mia!” she cried before placing her head against the cold metal, in an attempt to either stop her thoughts from whirling or freeze her brain permanently.
“You know it’ll be a nasty mess if your head sticks to that metal!” a deep voice called out from close behind. Mia straightened and spun around to look into familiar blue eyes.
“Lee?” Mia whispered. “Yes, everything o.k?” Lee asked concerned with the woman’s behavior. She had been behind her since she exited the elevator and had basically heard the whole berating Mia had given herself.
“No” Mia answered turning away as tears stung her eyes. “Want to go for coffee and talk about it?” Lee offered.
Mia looked over at Lee and nodded as a tear slipped down her cheek. Lee reached up and wiped the tear away and led the woman towards her own car. “Why don’t I drive us”.
The ride to the coffee shop was quiet and Lee didn’t push the conversation until they were settled into a booth in the back which afforded them a little privacy. Lee’s mind came up with a multitude of possibilities, most of the office building had been filled with doctor and dentist offices. She had just had her six-month cleaning and half-heartedly thought, ‘Maybe she needs a root canal?’. Finally, giving in to her concern Lee asked, “So what’s going on?”
“Why me?” Mia asked tearfully. “Why, you what?” Lee asked reaching across to touch the other woman’s hand to relay her concern.
“I let myself be guilted into a situation and when I try to be honest, I get smacked in the face in return, now what do I do?” she asked bordering on hysteria.
“Calm down Mia, who smacked you?” Lee asked looking the woman over for any evidence of this accusation.
“No not smacked, knocked up is more like it!” she replied angrily. Lee was having trouble following the conversation but, the last reference left her really needing to know the truth. “Stop right there Mia. Now, tell me exactly what’s happened!” she demanded.
“I’m pregnant!” Mia cried and glared at the woman across the table. “I gathered as much, and this isn’t a good thing right?” Lee asked.
“Hell no!” Mia answered loudly. “O.k., o.k. calm down. I’m not the one who did this to you!” Lee responded testily.
“I wish you were!” Mia answered unthinking. Lee looked over at the woman and raised her eyebrow in question. “Why don’t you start from the beginning and tell me the whole story”.
Mia nodded, wiping her eyes began, “I went out with this guy to appease my parents. I don’t know why I went along with it as long as I did but, when I finally tried to put an end to it, I did something stupid and, he took advantage of the situation. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do so I just put it behind me. Little did I know it was going to come back and kick me in the ass!” she answered bitterly. “I’d like to kill the bastard!”
‘Me too!’ Lee thought immediately questioning the strength of the emotion behind it. “What are you going to do now?”
“I’m not sure. If I hadn’t been so stubborn and had had checked sooner, I could have done something but, now, it’s too late. The doctor said he wouldn’t do anything at this late date. I suppose I could find someone who would” her voiced trailed off in thought. She had started getting sick in the mornings and knew something wasn’t right but kept denying it. When the sickness continued and she had missed another month, she knew she was in deep trouble.
“No!” Lee answered loudly and quickly calmed, “You need to think this through before you go doing something you might regret later”.
“Your right I guess!” Mia answered rubbing her forehead in an attempt to push away the headache that was forming.
“Why don’t you take some time and think through all your options. I take it you haven’t told anyone yet?” Lee asked.
“No, you’re the lucky first!” Mai answered sarcastically and quickly looked up in apology.
“Well, I’m glad you talked to me. I’d like to help if you need me” Lee offered.
“Thanks, just being able to talk it through with you has helped. The only other person I can talk to is my sister-in-law, Terri but, I’m don’t want to put her in the middle”.
“Why would that be?”
“As soon as I tell my family, they will expect me to marry the jerk and raise babies” Mia offered in simple explanation. “I know Terri will be on my side but, I don’t want there to have to be ‘sides’.”
“I see. Why don’t you wait until you decide what it is exactly you want to do before saying anything” Lee replied.
“Your right. I had better know what I want so I can handle my family instead of them handling me,” Mia concluded.
“Sounds like a good plan to me. Listen, I’m in my own place now. I’ll give you the number, if you need to talk, you can call me at any time, day or night, o.k.?”
Mia agreed and they left the coffee shop to retrieve her car in the doctor’s parking lot. “You going to be alright?” Lee asked as Mia got out next to her car. “Yeah, it’s just a lot to mull over at once”.
“Call me if you need me” Lee called out as Mia got into her car. Lee waited until Mia started her car and followed her out of the lot before turning towards home.
Three weeks had come and gone and still Lee hadn’t heard from Mia. She hoped the young woman was alright, she hesitated calling Linda to get Terri’s number but decided against it. They had parted on rocky terms, Linda had wanted more out of their relationship but, Lee had known early on that there wasn’t going to be anything more than friendship between them. Although it hadn’t lasted long, she had regretted sleeping with Linda in the beginning of their relationship. They had been roommates and friends for the past six months and nothing more. Lee had tried to explain this to Linda but, she wasn’t willing to accept it and finally, Lee had moved out. Lee had stayed with her sister for a while until she had found this place and had been here for almost a month. On Friday night Lee was finishing up laundry when the telephone rang. “Hello?”
“Lee?” a tired voice called out. Lee recognized the voice immediately and replied, “Mia? Are you o.k?”
“Yeah. But, I could really use a friend right now” Mia responded.
In the background Lee could hear the constant bickering of children’s voices and Mia sounded like she needed a repreive.
“Why don’t you come over here and we’ll talk” Lee offered and gave Mia directions to her condo. Fifteen minutes later Lee opened the door to a haggard young woman.
“Hey, come on in” Lee said and directed the woman towards the living room sofa. “Can I get you something?” Mia shook her head no; the thought of food made her instantly nauseous. Lee noted the reaction without comment. Right now, she just wanted to get the woman to sit down before she fell down.
“When was the last time you slept?” she asked.
“Seems like forever!” Mia answered. “I finally told my parents last week and ever since then I have been trying to convince them that it wasn’t all my fault and, that I have no desire to marry Steve or any other man for that matter. Needless to say, a couple of nights ago we went at it again and, it became quite a scene. As usual, I lost it! I ended up telling them that I was gay!”
“Wow, you’ve sure had your hands full” Lee replied and ran a hand through her hair, before asking, “are you?”
“What?” Mia asked tired and confused.
“In theory, but never in practice” Mia offered.
“Deep down I’ve always known I was different. From the time I was in high school I’ve been attracted to women and no matter how hard I tired, I never felt anything for the men I’ve dated. Since, I’ve never dated a woman, I can’t really say that I am gay. But, I know what I feel and it’s not for anything male” Mia tried to explain.
“O.K.” Lee conceded still not sure she fully understood but pushed on, “So what did you decide to do?”
“To keep the baby and get my own place.”
“So, what part of that did they have a problem with?” Lee asked.
“The part where I do this without a husband and it’s not fair that I don’t tell him he is a father. Can you believe, after everything I said, they still feel that he has a right to know about the baby? They could care less that it was against my will, only that we should be a happy family unit!” Mia answered sarcastically.
“Are you still living at your parents house?”
“No, the gay part finished that. I’ve been staying at my brother’s house that last two nights but, it is putting a strain on their relationship with my parents and I don’t’ want to do that anymore. Care to help me find a place?” Mia asked hopefully.
“Sure, we can start looking in the paper tonight and go out tomorrow and check some out. There might even be something to sublet in this building” Lee replied.
“Great, thanks for all your help. Terri’s been great but, she hasn’t been able to be really objective about it all and her and my mother have been getting into it.”
“Hey, no problem. I’m here if you need me. Hey, why don’t you spend the night so we can get an early start in the morning? You look like you could use some peace and quiet” Lee replied.
“I’ll take you up on the offer. Can I use your phone to call Terri?” Mia said and Lee directed her to the telephone in the study. Leaving Mia to her call, Lee went into the kitchen to rustle up something light for the woman to eat. She had a feeling along with the sleep had gone the appetite.
Mia found Lee in the kitchen heating up soup and lightly buttering toast squares. “Everything o.k. with them?” the raven-haired woman asked. “Sit down” she promoted.
“Yeah, I talked to Terri” Mia responded taking a seat at the kitchen table. “Alex is at work and, my parents are dropping off the boys after hockey practice. So it’s probably a good thing I won’t be there tonight.”
“So are you not talking with them at all now, or just taking a break to let things calm down?” Lee asked as she placed the food on the table keeping an eye on Mia’s reaction.
Mia looked down at the food in front of her and waited for the familiar queasiness that usually accompanied meal times. Not finding it nearly as bad as usual, she found she actually felt hungry. Looking up at Lee she said, “My decision is made and I’m just keeping a low profile to let it all sink in. This smells good, what is this?”
“Chicken soup broth. Do you think you can eat a little?” Lee asked. Mia laughed, “Most of the time I feel like I could eat a horse but, then I instantly regret it! It’s gotten better lately”.
“How far along are you now?” Lee inquired pushing the toast towards the young woman as she hesitantly sipped on the broth.
“Almost 4 months and I’m already feeling my clothes tightening on me! Luckily, Terri’s got some stuff left over from her last pregnancy. I can’t believe I am going through with this!” Mia answered shakily munching on a piece of toast.
“It won’t be so bad, you’ll see” Lee responded glad to see that Mia was eating. When she finished, Lee cleared the table and started to make coffee before thinking better of it, got some juice out of the refrigerator. She poured two glasses and lead Mia into the living room to relax. “Have a seat and I’ll get the newspaper.”
“Sure” Mia responded trying to get comfortable, she desperately wanted to unbutton the top of her jeans as they were even tighter now that she had eaten.
Lee watched the young woman shifting uncomfortably and got an idea. “Hey, how about I find you something to sleep in so you can change and relax. Come on” and indicated for Mia to follow her. “My clothes will be a little big but, they will be more comfortable to sleep in then your jeans.”
“That would be great” Mia responded relieved, popping the button on her jeans as she followed the taller woman. Lee went through her drawers and pulled out a pair of sweatpants, “These should keep you warm, the elastic at the bottom will keep them from dragging too. Now, we need a top for you” she stated and headed towards the closet. Pulling out a flannel shirt, she held it up to the young woman laughing, “This isn’t going to be as easy to adjust, you’ll probably have to roll up the sleeves a little”.
“These will be perfect. I’m really sorry for all the trouble I’m causing” Mia answered pulling off her shoes.
“It’s no problem at all, o.k? I’m really glad that you came over tonight” Lee replied warmly.
“So am I” Mia answered looking up into a pair of ice blue eyes that surprisingly exuded warmth and trust.
“Well, you change and I’ll go look for the paper and a phonebook” Lee looked away embarrassed and turn to leave the room.
A short time later Mia appeared, the flannel shirt hung down to her knees and she was struggling to keep it up while tightening the drawstring on the sweatpants.
“Need help” Lee asked grinning at the sight.
“No, I think I’ve got it” Mia responded satisfied that the tie would hold and let the shirt drop into place. “May be loose now but, I’ll bet in a few months I won’t even need to tie them to keep them up!” Mia dropped on the sofa next to the tall woman in defeat.
“Are you sure you really want to do this?” Lee asked a frown creasing her brow. Mia looked up and answered truthfully, “I’m scared”.
“What are you scared about?”
“Everything!” Mia answered quietly. Lee wasn’t satisfied with the answer and knew that her new friend need to talk it through and pushed, “What scares you the most?”
Mia tucked her leg under her and concentrated on the foot dangling in front of her before answering. “I’ve heard all of Terri’s horror stories when the boys were born and all the pain involved but, it isn’t even that,” she paused taking a breath and looking up into intense blue eyes. “I just don’t think I will make a good mother” she finished quietly and looked away as she felt her eyes start to burn. ‘Damn!’ She seemed to be having trouble keeping her emotions in check lately.
Lee knew that Mia needed to remain in control and gave her space by reaching for their glasses and handed one to Mia before asking, “What makes you think that you wouldn’t be a good mother?”
Mia took a sip of her juice and then laughed, “Let’s see, maybe because I have no patience, I’m selfish, and can’t even take control of my own life let alone be responsible for an other!”
“So who isn’t? You think the greatest mothers out there don’t feel they’ve fallen short too?” Lee replied.
“Part of me feels that there are some people out there who should never have children and I may be one of them but, another part of me really wants someone to love and to let them experience life the way I never could. I want them to be whoever they want to be and not who someone else thinks they should be” Mia explained. “Doesn’t make sense does it?”
“Makes perfect sense. I may not know everything about you but, I think you would make a better mother than half the women that already are!” Lee answered seriously.
“I doubt that” Mia answered sarcastically.
“I don’t! You just said it yourself – you want give someone everything you didn’t get, to me that’s a good start. You know what you didn’t like and what hurt and, if you can stop that from happening to another, you will have done pretty well. From what Linda told me, your nephews think pretty highly of you too. So you can’t be as bad as you think!” she answered smiling.
“Aunt Mia, the human wallet – what’s not to love!”
Lee looked over and raised her eyebrow at the last comment causing Mia to retreat, “O.k., O.k., I’ll just take it one step at a time! First things first, find an apartment. Where’s the newspaper?”
The two women poured over the classifieds and made their list of calls and visits for the next day. When they were done they had approximately six good prospects and two possibilities. Lee finally noticed that Mia was barely keeping her eyes open and agreeing to everything Lee was reading. “Well, I think that’s a good start and if we want to get an early start, we should get some sleep. Sound good?”
“Yes, tomorrow..” Mia mumbled as the stress and sleepless nights of the past week began to catch up with her. Feeling safe and warm her reserves had crumbled away and exhaustion had taken its place.
“That’s what I thought!” Lee grinned and led the sleepy woman to the guestroom, pulling back the covers she deposited Mia on the edge of the bed and the blond quickly slid under the covers and curled up instantly asleep. Lee tucked the comforter around the woman and watched as her face relaxed, the fears of a moment ago were lost in the void of sleep. She looked around at the room and thought, ‘I finally have a guest for the guestroom. I really didn’t need such a big apartment.’ Turning back towards the sleeping woman a thought came to her as she whispered “Good night” and retreated to her own room and her own thoughts.
The next morning Mia was up before Lee and laid in bed grateful that the morning sickness had passed so quickly. Still, she didn’t seem to be able to relax and sleep through the night anymore. “Too much on my mind” she grumbled and went into the kitchen to check the time. “God, only 4 am” she mumbled and made her way to the living room. Bleary-eyed she sat down on the sofa grabbing the newspaper and notes they had made the night before. Trying to reread the advertisements she finally crossed three of the six off the list. “What was I thinking, I can’t afford those rents”. The three left were only one-bedroom units and she knew that would only do for so long. So tired, the print began to blur and Mia dropped the papers as the enormity of the situation closed in on her. She pulled her feet up on the cushion and buried her face against her knees as the tears formed. ‘Oh God, how am I going to do this? She silently cried and rocked herself until she felt a pair of warm, comforting arms wrap around her. She knew whose they were and gave in to the fear and longing, releasing the flood of tears that been held back.
Lee was a light sleeper with great hearing and when she had heard Mia get up; she listened to make sure the woman was all right. When she heard a sob she shot out of bed and ran to living room finding Mia curled up in the corner of the sofa rocking. Quickly sitting next to her, she wrapped her arms around the tight bundle and pulled her in whispering soothing words to the distressed woman.
When the sobs began to abate Lee loosened her hold and looked down at the still shaking woman and quietly asked, “Hey, what’s going on? Talk to me!”
Through the tears Mia shakily replied, “I can’t do this…I’m just so tired”. Lee shivered as she felt the chill of the room and wished she had turned up the heat before going to bed. “Come on it’s still early, you need to sleep some more, we’ll sort the rest out later o.k?” she encouraged. Mia wasn’t in any shape to talk rational and Lee knew it.
“I can’t sleep, I try and I try but, it just doesn’t do any good. I can’t!” Mia sobbed not making much sense. “It’s o.k, let’s just go where it’s warmer and we’ll talk this through” Lee promised and pulled the woman up and lead her towards the bedroom and tucked her back into bed. Lee sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed the blonde’s back until she had fallen back to sleep. When she was sure Mia was asleep she went to her room to grab her robe and into the kitchen to make some coffee. She has a feeling she was going to need it today.
After the first episode things were quiet for most of the morning. Surprisingly, Mia slept through the entire morning with only a few stirrings, which were quickly quieted by Lee’s low and soothing voice. Noon found Lee sitting at the table drinking her third pot of coffee. The newspaper and scribbled out notes had long been discarded into the trash. Lee had made the decision to ask Mia to share her condo with her and decided, “Hey, it’s not like it’s any great sacrifice. I hate living alone!" She got up and put her mug in the sink and after checking on Mia went to take a shower.
Lee looked at the clock as she finished dressing, 12:30 PM, “Boy, from no sleep to non-stop sleep. I don’t know which is worse!” She needed to go to the grocery store sometime today and didn’t want to leave Mia alone. Peeking into the room she was met by wide green eyes looking back at her. “Good Afternoon” Lee softly called out, “How are you feeling?”
“Like I’ve been drugged. What time is it?” she asked sitting up. “Almost 12:30”. “12:30! I’ve never slept this late in my life!” The astonishment on Mia’s face was quickly replaced by horror as she remembered the events of the morning. “I made a fool of myself this morning didn’t I?”
Lee chuckled and came the rest of the way into the room and sat on the end of the bed. “No, you just had a rough start but, you didn’t make a fool of yourself.” Mia flopped back down on the bed and pulled the pillow over her face with a muffled groan. Lee pulled the pillow off the woman’s face and looked down. “Hungry?”
“Always!” Mia responded looking up at Lee. “Well, what say you get ready and I’ll whip us up something” Lee offered and walked towards the door, turning she added, “Would you be interested in going shopping with me later?”
“I guess it’s too late to look at apartments now?” Mia asked secretly glad that she might not have to make any decisions just yet.
“Probably, but we’ll talk about that after you get ready” Lee responded and left to start breakfast. There was still plenty of time but, Lee was hoping that Mia would take her up on her offer.
Mia got up, grabbed her clothes and headed into the bathroom thinking, ‘I have to find someplace to live but, I just don’t want to do it today. I’d rather go shopping with Lee.’ Smiling on that thought she stepped into the shower.
“Think I could con you out of a cup of coffee?” Mia asked as she stood in the doorway and watched Lee move around the kitchen. “No, but if your good you could probably get a cup of chamomile tea” Lee replied without turning around.
“Can’t hurt me for trying!” Mia shrugged. “Anything I can help with?”
“No, all done. Tea is in the carafe on the table.” Lee replied, “and, yes I can!”
“Can what?” Mia asked helping herself to a cup.
“Hurt you if you make a move towards the coffee” Lee smirked as she set a plate of scrambled eggs and toast in front of the woman.
“I believe you would too!” Mia answered half-laughingly. She wasn’t sure how serious the other woman was at the moment.
“Yeah, I have this awful habit of wanting my friends to take care of themselves, especially the pregnant ones” Lee answered with a twinkle in her eye.
“So do you have a lot of pregnant friends?” Mia teased. “Nope, you’re the first” Lee admitted putting a forkful of eggs in her mouth.
“So how do you know so much?”
“I read a lot” Lee answered and put her fork down suddenly not all that hungry. Mia noticed the change in the woman and knew that she had hit a sensitive area, leaning over she touched Lee’s arm until the woman looked up blinking. “Thank you” Mia said quietly. Lee shook off her gloomy thoughts and looked directly into green eyes replying, “No problem”. Mia patted her arm and went back to her breakfast.
Lee continued to watch the young woman eat and finally decided now was as good a time as any. “Mia, I was just wondering, and you don’t have to answer right away or anything but…., I was wondering, if maybe, you would like to move in here and share the condo?”
“Really?” Mia was at first taken back by the offer but part of her warmed to it quickly.
“Sure, there’s plenty of room and if we share everything, it would certainly be cheaper than an apartment would be.
“I don’t know?” Mia paused as the doubt took over, ‘I don’t want Lee to feel she has to do this or anything’. “I don’t want to intrude on your privacy”.
“Don’t worry you wouldn’t be. Actually, I have to admit I’m not as fond of living alone as I thought I would be” Lee answered, sensing hesitancy in the blond she backed off adding, “But, I don’t want to force you into anything, just think about it as an option o.k?” Lee replied.
“O.k.” Mia answered and picked up her plate and took it to the sink. Lee followed behind with her plate and said, “I’ll just load the dishwasher and we can get going”.
“Sure, just let me go find my shoes”.
“I think you left them in my bedroom” Lee called after her, “at least that’s where they were when I tripped over them last night”.
“Sorry” Mia called out as she spied her shoes lying next to Lee’s bed. Slipping them on she sad down on the end of the bed to reach the ties. Straightening and stretching her back out, she took in the room around her. The air still held traces of Lee’s cologne and Mia decided she liked the scent very much. Looking on the dresser she found no bottles to give her a clue, in fact, she was struck with just how barren the room actually was. Outside of the usual furniture, bed, dress and nightstand, there was nothing to give a hint of who occupied the room. ‘Maybe she just hasn’t gotten around to decorate in here yet’ she mused. The bed beneath her, however, felt wonderful. It was firm with a plush softness on top. “I’ll bet it’s a pillow mattress” Mia murmured laying back to luxuriate in its comfort. ‘Oh, I’ve got to get one of these’ she purred.
“Your not falling asleep on me again, are you?” a smooth and slightly amused voice called from the doorway.
Caught, Mia jumped up with heart racing stammered, “No. I was just tying my shoes and the bed felt so nice that I got to wondering if it had a pillow on top and… Jeez!” she paused taking a sharp breath, “You scared the daylights out of me!”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to” Lee replied smirking. “Ready to go?”
“Yeah, just let me get my coat and finish having my heartattack!” Mia grumbled embarrassed as she walked past the tall woman into the living room.
“Are you o.k?” Lee asked suddenly sober and concerned.
“Yeah! Just don’t like being surprised”.
“I’ll remember that” Lee quietly responded and held the door for the young woman to proceed out the door. Exiting the building they were hit with a world of white. It had really snowed during the night and the white stuff was still falling down.
“Doesn’t look good” Mia remarked. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“No, but we need groceries or we’ll be eating eggs again tonight”.
‘So, I’m staying for dinner too’ Mia thought happily and then frowned at the thought of driving in this weather.
Lee unlocked the doors to her Durango, looking around at the cars in the parking lot she was glad that she had held out for a condo with a carport. Dawning on her that Mia’s car was probably one of those buried in the parking lot, she turned to the young woman asking, “Which car is yours?” Mia pointed to a little blue car in the corner of the lot that was covered knee deep in snow.
“Give me your keys and I’ll move it under cover” Lee replied pointing to the empty space next to them. “Another perk to living here, the condo comes with two carport spaces,” she added taking the keys from the blond.
After repeated attempts to move the car, Lee came back covered in snow. “It’s definitely stuck for now. I need to dig it out a little but, I’ll worry about that when we get back. It’s getting nasty out there and I don’t think you’d get very far in it today anyway. Do you mind staying over again or would you rather I drop you somewhere and you come back for your car later?”
“I think I’d rather stay if you don’t mind. Alex is working double shifts a lot and Terri has the boy’s so, I don’t really want to ask them if I don’t have to” Mia explained.
“It’s better you stay over then” Lee agreed as they made there way through the snowy streets. “Plus, it’s been fun having company”.
“Then it’s settled, I’ll stay! Do you think the roads will be cleared by Monday for work?”
“Not if the meteorologist on TV have their story straight. It’s suppose to dump 14 to 16 inches before it’s all over” Lee stated.
“Yuck!” Mia retorted.
“Hey, since were out in this mess anyway why don’t we run over and get some of your clothes in case we get really snowed in” Lee suggested.
“Not a bad idea. Alex and Terri only live about a mile over and there’s a store right by their street”.
“O.k., clothes first and food last” Lee decided and turned in the direction Mia indicated. The women arrived at the house and Mia lead the way up to the porch and opened the front door. Calling out they were met in the hallway by Terri. “We were wondering if you were driving in this mess. I called but no one was home. Hi Lee!”
“Hi Terry” Lee responded warmly.
“My car is buried in the parking lot at Lee’s house and I stopped by to pick up some clothes. I thought I’d stay there until we can get the car out” Mia explained.
“What’s the problem? Don’t you have better sense then to drive around in this weather!” a voice called from the other room causing Mia to instantly stiffen. Lee saw the look in Terri’s eyes and felt sorry for the woman who was definitely caught in the middle of something bad. Instinctively, she put her hand on Mia’s back in a silent show of protection. This gesture was not lost on Terri and she whispered, “I’m sorry, that’s why I tried calling you, to warn you that they been stuck here since last night”.
“It’s o.k.” Mia signed and resigned herself to the fact that she would have to face her parents sooner than expected. With Lee’s reassuring presence behind her she walked into the Den where her mother and father were seated.
“Hello mother, dad” Mia acknowledged calmly.
“You didn’t drive in this did you?” her father asked concerned.
“No, Lee brought me, she has four wheel drive. My car is stuck at her house and I thought I get some clothes and stay over until we can get it out” Mia told him.
“It don’t think we’ve ever met” Mia’s mother abruptly interrupted.
“Mother. Dad, this is a friend of mine, Lee. Lee, these are my parents”. Lee could tell Mia was nervous and just smiled and replied, “Nice to meet you”.
“How did you get stuck over at her place?” her mother asked. There was a hint of something more being said in that simple question and Lee listened as Mia defended herself.
“I stayed over last night and my car got snowed in”.
“I was wondering where you were when we dropped the boy’s off. I didn’t see your car” her father remarked.
“I was already gone by then” the blond answered simply, not wanting to make a big deal out of her disappearance. “Well, I’d better get my clothes so we can get going before the roads get any worse”.
“Your not thinking of going back out in this weather are you? You need to be more responsible now. I think it’s best if you stay here and your father and brother can worry about your car next week” her mother informed her in a voice that made it clear the topic wasn’t up for discussion.
Terri knew what was coming and turned towards an irritated raven-haired woman, “Lee, I just made a fresh pot of coffee why don’t we go into the kitchen”. Lee was unsure she wanted to leave Mia alone with this woman, but the look in Terri’s eyes told her another story.
“Thanks, I’d love some” she answered and turned to Mia, “whenever you’re ready, let me know”. She said this not so much to let everyone know where she stood but, that Mia would understand that she wouldn’t leave without her, unless it was her decision. Mia smiled in relief and nodded.
As Terri and Lee walked into the other room, Terri noticed the taller woman’s shoulders stiffen perceptively when an accusing voice demanded, “Who is that woman? You’ve never mentioned her before and all of a sudden you are spending the night?” Terri grabbed Lee’s arm when she hesitated and whispered quickly, “Let her handle it. It’ll only get worse if we get involved!”
Lee wasn’t sure she agreed with this woman, she was more worried that Mia didn’t have the strength to ‘handle it’ right now.
“Mother” Mia started and stopped to rub her eye as a headache began to form. “I met her awhile ago and then ran into her again the other day”.
“So, you’d rather stay with someone you barely know than your own family? Does she know you’re pregnant?” Exasperated, Mia looked to her father but, as usual, he remained silent.
“It’s not like that and, yes. We were talking and it got late so I just stayed over. Now my car is there and I figured I’d stay until I can get it out myself. Alex is working and Dad doesn’t need to be out in the cold” Mia replied resenting having to defend her actions all the time.
“Is she your girlfriend?” her mother asked mockingly. Mia snorted and felt her sarcasm rise, “Well, she’s a girl and a friend so, I guess that qualifies her as a ‘girlfriend’”.
“Don’t you get smart with me young lady, you know full well what I mean! Are you sleeping with her? she demanded.
“Doris!” her father cautioned but stopped any further comment when the older woman looked over at him coldly. Lee and Terri sat silently in the kitchen as they heard the voices steadily rise in the next room. Terri blushed and looked at Lee when she heard her mother-in-law’s accusations.
Lee remained stoic and tired to control her urge to go into the other room and pull Mia out. ‘She didn’t deserve to be treated like that!’ Just as she was about to give in to her urge she heard Mia’s reply.
“No, but I sure wish I was!” Mia shouted and turned to leave the room. Running away had always been her choice of action with her parents, that and later giving in to avoid further confrontation.
“What? Where are you going?” her mother shouted.
Mia stopped her shoulders sagging in defeat and quietly answered, “To pack mother”.
“So you’re going to go with ‘her,’” she asked spat putting an emphasis on the ‘her’.
“Yes, I am.”
“How could you? What about the baby? If you don’t care enough for yourself and the father at least think about the baby” her mother threw at her like a robe of guilt.
“How could I what? Raise my own child or get pregnant in the first place?” Mia asked deciding to get it all out in the open once and for all.
“First you get yourself in this situation and then you turn your back on the baby’s father to go away with that, that ‘woman!’” Mia’s mother stepped forward and gripped the young woman’s arms and shook her in anger adding, “How can you do this? I thought we had raised you better. What about the church?”
Mia jerked from the stinging verbal blow and stepped back. “You just don’t understand do you. Your so worried about what others will say that you even take the side of a man who took advantage of a situation he knew I didn’t want. You care more about that than you do about me”.
“I care about what’s right for you and the baby, and going with her isn’t right!” her mother replied turning away to end the conversation.
“I’m sharing her house mother, not her bed”. Mia turned towards the door and hesitated, “You know what’s funny, I’ve known her less time than anyone but, she has shown me more compassion than anyone has my entire life!” The room was quiet as her mother stiffly looked out the window and her father looked back and forth between the two women. “I’ll be my next week to get my things. I think it’s best for me ‘and the baby’ to live where we’re wanted and accepted”. On that final admission she turned and left the now silent room to face two very surprised faces in the kitchen.
Mia could not look them in the eye and instead stared straight ahead and said, “I’ll get my things and be right down Lee”. Terri, “I’m sorry for putting you in the middle of all this. Thanks for trying to help”. Mia did not see the tears that sparked in the women’s eyes as they watched her stiffly walk down the hall and up the stairs.
Lee had heard the entire conversation, including Mia’s answer to their relationship and only nodded when the young woman appeared in the kitchen. When Mia went upstairs, Lee let out the breath she had been holding and turned uncertainly towards Terri.
“Wow” Terri said quietly expecting her mother-in-law to come storming into the room at any moment but, the only sound coming from the Den was the low murmur of the television.
“Terri, I just want you to know that I offered to share my condo nothing more” Lee tried to explain. “We’re friends, we haven’t done anything!”
“It’s o.k. Lee. I’m glad she is going to be staying with you. I won’t worry so much about her then. I know you’ll watch out for her but, are you sure you want to get involved in all this?” she asked waving her arms in the direction of the Den.
“She deserves better than that!” Lee bit off, the anger apparent in her eyes. “I can’t believe they actually feel that way. Don’t they understand what they are doing to her?”
“No, they never have” Terri admitted sadly. Lee shook her head sadly realizing that Terri meant more than just today. Mia had been on the receiving end of this behavior for longer than just this episode.
“Mind if I go see if she needs any help?” the taller woman asked anxious to find her friend.
“Upstairs, first room on the right” Terri replied shooing the woman down the hall. She watched her slowly climb the stairs thinking, ‘My dear mother-in-law things may just have backfired on you. I think you may have opened up a few eyes. For once your big mouth may be doing some good’. This intuition brought a tiny smile to the woman’s face, looking up she realized that Alex and the boys would be home soon, and walked back into the kitchen to make a fresh pot of coffee. It was going to be a long night.
Lee found Mia slowly putting clothes into a canvas tote as tears ran down the young woman’s face. Without a thought of where they were, she took the bag out of Mia’s hands and pulled her into her arms. Mia clung to the taller woman as if to a lifeline and Lee responded and became her safe haven. Lee tried to reassure the woman but didn’t know what to say and finally fell silent. The silence continued, punctuated only by the muffled sobs against Lee’s shoulder. Finally, they heard the backdoor slam and the sound of children’s voices raised in excitement. Lee pulled back and brushed her lips lightly across Mia’s forehead. “Why don’t you go wash your face while I pack the rest of your things, you can say hello to the boy’s before we go”. Mia nodded and turned to go to the bathroom. Lee finished packing the few items of clothing left and was zipping up the bag as Mia returned. Her eyes were still puffy from crying but she was in control again.
“I’m sorry you had to go through all this. I just can’t do what they want this time. I just don’t have me to think about now” Mia defended.
“Hey, I’m on your side remember, whatever you want goes” Lee answered gently as she lifted the bag onto her shoulder. Smiling to lighten the mood she put her arm around Mia and asked, “Ready to go back down there?” Mia nodded and led the way down the stairs. At the bottom, they ran into Mia’s brother, Alex, who looked up unsmiling.
“Well, looks like you stirred up a real hornet’s nest this time.”
“I’m sorry” Mia answered meekly causing Lee to bristle at yet another manipulation of guilt towards the young woman.
“Don’t sweat it! They’ll come around eventually. They may not like it but, there not going to loose out on the possibility of a granddaughter! You know how they are” he ended with a casual shrug. Lee could tell that he wasn’t thrilled about having to take part in the whole mess. ‘Looks like maybe he just likes playing the odds that are in his favor’.
“Yes, I know how it is, it’s how it’s always been” Mia replied thankful for the presence that had come to stand close behind her. Alex finally looked up and acknowledged that presence, “Hi, I’m Alex”.
“Lee” she replied standing close behind to Mia. Neither one of them offered more than a nod of recognition. “She staying with you?” Alex asked Lee looking past Mia as he always did.
“Yes, MIA is going to share my place. We’ll get the rest of her things as soon as the snow clears up”. Lee hoped she hadn’t added to Mia’s problems by taking this led. Mia hadn’t actually told her yet but, if the conversation in the Den was any indication, Mia needed to follow through with this move and Lee was more than happy that she move in her place.
Alex looked at Lee skeptically before offering, “If you need my help, let me know”. ‘I may not understand or like my sisters choice but, I can’t fault her taste, she’s a knockout!’ Turning to Mia he asked, “You sure about this?”
“Very sure” was all she could say before the sound of running feet herald the approach of her two nephews. Mia braced herself for the onslaught and hugged their small bodies to her tightly. Looking over the top of their heads she caught her brother watching her, with a catch in her throat she smiled. The depth of her moist eyes told him all he needed to know and he nodded in response. Lee hadn’t missed the look in Mia’s eyes and knew that she was making the right decision.
After detaching herself and kissing each boy, they scampered away to play. Alex went into the Den to salvage what he could of his relationship with his parents. Terri was the only one left in the hall to stay good-bye. The faint sound of the television could still be heard from the Den where her parents sat. ‘Listening, I’m sure’ Mia thought angrily. Hugging Terri tightly, Mia left closing the door on that chapter, and followed Lee down the walkway.
Unlocking the car doors, Lee placed the bag in the back before sliding in behind the wheel. Looking over at Mia as she buckled her seatbelt, she could see the weariness of the past days had returned to mar the otherwise smooth face. Lee already missed the sparkle that had been in those green eyes that morning and silently promised to help get it back.
Grocery shopping was taking on a whole new meaning for Lee as she looked for the right types of food for a pregnant lady. In the past, if it was quick and easy, it usually found it’s way into Lee’s shopping cart. Shopping wasn’t a chore that Lee particularly enjoyed but, now she found herself taking extra care to select fresh foods and less processed items. A smile edged her lips as she admitted how energized and alive she actually felt, even after everything that had happened in the past 24 hours, she was enjoying herself. This acknowledgement both excited her and terrified her. She knew there would be issues she would have to face as time went on, shrugging, she told herself she would just deal with them. Pulling herself out of her private thoughts she decided it was time to see if she could coax Mia out of her shell. Stopping in front of the large glass doors of the dairy section, Lee grinned and asked, “What do you say to being bad and getting some ice cream?”
Mia had been quietly following Lee through the store watching her read labels and make comments outloud. At one point, Mia had almost burst out laughing, she could tell by the confused look on the tall woman’s face as she read that, this wasn’t normal shopping for her. Lee hummed with energy and each step brought Mia closer to her old self. By the way Lee was shopping it seemed set that Mia was staying for awhile. Encouraged, Mia decided they should talk about financial arrangements when they got home. ‘Home!’ Mia thought how easy that had come to her and how comfortable she felt with Lee. Mia looked up into twinkling blue yes and couldn’t help but giggle at the sight before her, Lee was practically pacing back and forth in front of the freezer doors, stopping only to read outloud the various flavors.
“So, which is it?” the tall woman asked turning when she heard a chuckle behind her. Seeing Mia giggling behind her touched off a happiness that she hadn’t felt in a long while. Her usually controlled attitude crumbled as she began to pull random cartons out of the freezer in mad abandonment, and tossed them in the cart. Mia’s giggling turned to laughter as she tried to stop Lee from getting anymore cartons, they were four different varieties in their cart already. Grabbing Lee’s arm out of the frosty air of the freezer she pulled her back to the shopping cart.
“Stop! I think we have more than enough already” Mia laughed and pointed into the cart keeping her hand on the woman’s arm to keep her still. Lee looked down into twinkling green eyes and felt an uncontrollable urge to kiss the young woman as their eyes locked and an undeniable warmth spread through them. Breaking the connection Lee took a step away, embarrassed by her reaction, and looked down into the cart. “I guess you right” she acknowledged soberly.
“I think we should keep only two” Mia replied shivering at the attraction she felt for the raven-haired woman. In that brief moment, she had felt a heat she had never known existed and it made her feel alive.
“Right, why don’t we each pick one and I’ll put the rest back?” Lee offered roughly and cleared her throat in an attempt to hide her nervousness. “Deal” Mia replied quickly and reached into the cart for her selection. As her fingers closed around the carton of Pralines and Cream she felt a warm touch envelope the back of her hand, a sharp intake of breathe caused her to pull away suddenly to find that her skin still burned where Lee had touched her. A flush burned her cheeks and she mumbled, “Sorry”. Lee’s hand remained hovering over the carton as the sudden chill of a frozen container replaced the soft warmth.
Recovering Lee said, “I guess we can narrow that down to one” and busied herself with putting the other three back in the case. ‘This is just a stress reaction Lee, everyone is on edge today. She isn’t thinking straight right now, so you had better be. Neither one of you needs to do something you’ll regret later!’ she justified.
Mia watched the fluid movements of her friend and the way her body responded to every touch. She knew that the goosebumps she felt had nothing to do with the chill of the freezers. She knew she felt something for this woman but, she also knew that Lee didn’t need anymore trouble from her, especially with a baby on the way’. Saddened by these thoughts and knowing that they did nothing to change what she felt for the dark-haired woman, she quietly followed Lee towards the checkout.
Sensing the change in mood, Lee decided she had been right as the two women silently placed the items on the conveyor. ‘She’s on overload and needs time to adjust to all the changes in her life.’ With this in mind, Lee was careful to keep a distance between them.
“Feel like watching TV?” Lee asked as they put the last of the groceries away.
“Not really. If you don’t mind, could we talk instead?” Mia asked hesitantly.
“Sure” Lee replied, a sense of fear creeping into her. She wasn’t sure if this was necessarily a good thing but, she wouldn’t let Mia know how she felt.
“Great, I think I’ll change into something more comfortable” Mia frowned pulling on the tight waistband of her jeans.
“Not a bad idea, maybe I will too after I put some water on for tea”.
Mia went into the bedroom and looked at her bag she had brought and then to the clothes she had left on the bed. Ignoring her bag, she went directly to the discarded clothes and began to change. The feel of Lee’s clothes warmed her body in a way that had nothing to do with physical warmth, it was a sense of peace and security laced with something much more. Shaking herself from her daydreaming, she braced for reality and went out to talk with Lee.
Lee was just coming out of the kitchen with two mugs; she had discarded her jeans for a pair of sweats and thick woolen socks. ‘She’d look good in a burlap sack!’ Mia noted wistfully. Setting the mugs on the coffee table Lee indicated a heavy pair of socks lying on the end of the sofa. “Thought you might need those”.
“Ooh thanks, my toes are freezing!” Mia exclaimed quickly pulling them on before tucking her legs up under her on the sofa, “mine are all at my parents still”.
Lee smiled and handed her one of the mugs as she settled on the sofa next to the young woman. Mia took a sip of her tea suddenly unsure of where to begin. ‘Maybe, I should give her a chance to change her mind, especially in light of everything that’s happened today.’
Lee interrupted her thoughts when she said, “I hope this is about your decision to move in”. Mia looked up confused as to how the woman had known, and then it hit her, ‘she must have heard her conversation with her mother. Oh God, how much did she actually hear?’ Embarrassed she lowered her head and nodded. “I hope it’s, yes” Lee added softly watching until surprised green eyes peered up through blond bangs.
“You mean, even after all you heard today, you still want me to move in?”
‘Want you? That’s an understatement!’ Lee’s other half quipped as she quickly answered, “yes, of course! Mia, your not responsible for your families beliefs or actions”.
A relieved smile crept across Mia’s face and she answered, “I really do want to move in but, I’ll insist on paying my share, fair and square”.
“O.k., how about half the utilities and food” Lee suggested happy that Mia had finally agreed. “And…half the mortgage payment too!” Mia added quickly.
“No, that’s not necessary. I’ve got the mortgage covered already”.
“I insist! I can’t just stay here without paying rent too” Mia exclaimed.
“But, it wouldn’t be fair for you to pay that much on something I own!” Lee answered stopping when she saw the clench of Mia’s jaw and the determined look in her eyes. Amending her offer she tried, “how about one-fourth?”
“A third” Mia replied stubbornly crossing her arms across her chest, “and not a penny less!”
“Deal!” Lee conceded with a smile. She would have rather Mia put the money towards the baby but, she understood the woman’s need for true independence right now and Lee knew that she would help with the baby when the time came. They continued discussing their arrangement and split the household chores amicably. Lee gladly relinquished cooking duties in favor of cleaning detail and confided, “You’ve already eaten my specialty, scrambled eggs!”
Agreeing that things would go along this way until the pregnancy advanced and then Lee would take over the bulk of the cooking too. Mia fought this decision but, finally agreed to let Lee take over, if she wasn’t physically able to handle it. She didn’t foresee this happening so she let Lee win this round.
Conversation lagged as each woman drifted out to her own thoughts and concerns. Lee was excited about Mia’s moving in but, she was also realistic of the complications involved. She’d never been attracted to someone who wasn’t out, especially someone who was pregnant. Now, living together was going to prove to be a whole new challenge for her. She hoped she cold put the past behind her and be there for Mia through this pregnancy.
“Lee?” Mia called softly trying to get the other woman’s attention. Her finely chiseled face was creased with a frown and there was a faraway look in the steady blue eyes as they blinked into focus. “Umm?”
“Where are you?” Mia asked curious.
“Oh, just thinking” Lee answered bringing her full attention to Mia. “Were you saying something?” Mia had always had a thing for blue eyes and Lee’s were no exception. The way the dark of the pupil contrasting with the blue always made her stop and stare. It seemed Every time Mia came under the gaze of those incredible eyes that, she also lost all train of thought.
“That’s what I said, what were you asking?” Lee questioned seeing the blank stare directed at her, ‘and just where are you right now?’
“Oh yea” Mia blushed and looked away, ‘busted again’. “I was just wondering, exactly how much did you hear today?” Lee hesitated unsure if she should tell her everything. Finally deciding it would only embarrass the woman she answered, “Oh, not much. Only when your voices were raised, Why?” This was basically true except for the fact that they were raised the whole time.
“Oh, no reason I was just curious, that’s all” Mia responded half relieved that Lee hadn’t heard her mother’s accusations, or her response to them. But, then again, part of her was somewhat disappointed she hadn’t heard.
“Hungry?” Lee asked as she watched conflicting emotions cross Mia’s face. The face cleared and looked over impishly as they chimed together, “Always!” Laughing, they went to the kitchen and raided the refrigerator.
The next morning, neither woman was in any hurry to start the day; they lazily watched television until almost noon and then finally, made their way through the snow towards the parking lot. The snowplows had been through and had removed most of the snow on one side of the small car. Mia got in and the engine turned over on the first try as Lee began to clear the snow away from the buried tires. After turning on the heat in the car, Mia got out and began to clean off the exterior of the car. Lee got as much as she could away from the tires but it was a trench at best, with the belly of the car was still resting in knee deep snow.
“Get in and let’s see if I can’t push you out” Lee instructed and moved to the rear of the car. Mia was guiltily relieved to be in the warmth of the car and directed the heat towards her body. Putting the car in drive she stepped on the gas sending tires spinning and a mixture of slush and mud back into Lee’s face. Lee pounded on the car and shouted for her to take it easy and try rocking the car. Cold and wet Lee continued pushing as the car inched forward and then settled back in the snow. The muscles in her back strained from the effort as she continued to push against the little car.
Mia had finally gotten the car into a steady rocking motion first shifting forward and then quickly into reverse. Almost out of the drift, the car began moving farther forward and Mia punched the accelerator and the car shot forward free of the snow. Triumphantly, she looked in the rearview mirror but there was no sign of Lee. Quickly putting the car in park she leaped out and ran around the back of the car. Lee was just lifting herself from where she lay face first in the snow. Her eyelashes glistened as snow dripped from her bangs onto her face. Getting to her knees, Lee began dusting herself off and looked up to find Mia leaning against the car grinning.
“Need some help?” she offered trying not to laugh.
“Yeah, next time you push and I’ll drive” she replied crossly. Mia felt badly for laughing and quickly went to give the woman a hand up. Lee accepted the helping hand only in a rouse to pull the young woman down into the snow with her and proceed to bury her in the snow.
Laughing and squealing in the melee of snow, Mia began to throw snow back in retaliation at the attacking woman. Lee grabbed Mia’s hands to pin her down and held her with her body as she looked down into a snow covered face grinning.
“God! That’s cold!” Mia sputtered trying to free a hand to wipe her face but Lee had her trapped. “Thought it was funny didn’t you?” Lee purred as Mia tried to shake off a clump of snow that was steadily sliding down her cheek towards her neck.
“Oh – no, please get it off me, it’s cold!” Mia squealed in panic as the mass slipped past her jawline. Lee laughingly reached down and licked the snow off the woman’s neck without releasing the pinned arms. The warmth of Lee’s breath on her skin set her heart racing and the rough feel of the woman’s tongue brought a shot of warmth through her body. Nothing she had ever experienced before had prepared Mia for such an intense arousal. Her body was on fire and every movement was sublime torture.
Closing her eyes and breathing in Lee’s closeness she hoped the sensation would never stop. Vaguely, in a fog, she heard Lee’s deep voice warm against her ear whisper, “All better?” Feeling her imprisonment lift Mia groaned, “unhuh” before opening her eyes wide as the warmth was quickly replaced by a cold wet chill. Mia jumped up quickly trying to brush off the clump of snow that had just been dumped on her, to see her friend sprinting towards the open door of the car.
‘Whoa, that was close! What the hell are you doing’ Lee chastised herself as she put Mia’s car in gear and pulled it under the carport next to her own. Hands shaking she cut the engine and got out locking the doors. Lee walked over towards her own car and unlocked the front door and waited for Mia to come over. She handed her key’s back asking, “Do you like Chinese food?”
“It’s one of my favorites” Mia answered confused at Lee’s sudden aloofness. “What say you go inside and warm up and I’ll go get us some” Lee offered climbing behind the wheel of her vehicle. “Are you sure?” Mia asked feeling hurt and confused at her sudden withdrawal.
“Yea, I’ll just pick up a variety and then you won’t have to cook tonight” Lee hurriedly replied and started up the engine. She knew she needed to get away before she gave in to the sad green eyes looking back at her. ‘I’ve really got to go’ she anxiously thought.
Mia backed up and watched as Lee drove away and recognized that she wasn’t the only one who ran from difficult situations. Armed with that knowledge she went into the house to clean up and set the table. ‘God, I’m so confused! Every time she comes near me something happens and then she retreats. It’s driving me crazy! Either it is or it isn’t!’
Lee drove slowly through the slippery streets berating herself for her loss of control but, mostly for causing the pain she saw in the other woman’s eyes. There was no denying she felt attracted to the young woman and the feelings were reciprocated but, we’re either of them were ready for a relationship? What about the baby? Lee engaged in one of her favorite mental exercises, “What’s the worse that could happen”.
She had been attracted to Mia from the first time she had seen her at Sharkey’s. The way her eyes lit up when she smiled and the way they could draw you in, as if there was no one else in the room. But, she also knew that Mia was very confused about things right now and wasn’t equipped to make any life altering decisions just yet. The worst would be that Mia would decide she didn’t later that she had made a mistake and would leave. What about the baby. Didn’t the child deserve a future with people who could love her? Deep down Lee felt that she wasn’t the right person. ‘She had proven that before hadn’t she’. Sadly, she knew that it was too late to go back and made amends for the past. ‘Either way I may loose her, better to know now before it goes any further’ she decided, cold and wet she turned into the restaurant parking lot.
Mia went back into the house to dry off and change clothes. Although her sweats weren’t as comfy as Lee’s they were warm. Heading into the kitchen she decided to clean up the breakfast dishes and set the table, even though that was Lee’s department, Mia needed to stay busy. With that done, she went back into the bedroom to unpack. She found the dresser was empty and started putting her clothes away and stowed the bag in the closet. Lee still hadn’t returned and Mia decided to lie down until she came back. No sooner had she gotten comfortable and Mia was fast asleep.
Lee entered the quiet house and went directly to the kitchen where she noticed that the table was set but Mia wasn’t around. Concerned, she placed the food on the counter and went in search of the young woman, hoping that she wasn’t too mad at her. Passing the bathroom she saw it was empty and continued down the hall to Mia’s bedroom. Peeking into the room she found the young woman curled up and sound asleep. Lee decided that dinner could wait and pulled the bedspread into place over the sleeping woman, stopping when Mia stirred and opened her eyes.
“Your home” Mia stated sleepily.
“Yes, why don’t you go back to sleep for awhile” Lee suggested.
Mia shook her head stretching as her stomach rumbled, “Hungry!” she grinned. Lee laughed lighting and replied, “Well, come on then, I’ve bought way too much food as usual”. Mia got up and followed the tall figure into the kitchen noticing that Lee still seemed tense.
“Smells good” Mia pronounced as Lee pulled carton after carton out of a large paper sack. “How much do I owe you?”
“Nothing. This one’s on me” Lee answered. Mia began to bristle at the response until Lee looked up and said, “Please let me”.
Mia saw a look she hadn’t see before, one of sadness and maybe even a little fear. She reached out and caressed her face in a need to connect with her. Lee closed her eyes and rubbed her cheek against the hand that cupped it thinking, “Who am I kidding, I need her”.
“I think we really need to talk” Mia said quietly waiting for Lee to open her eyes. When she did she was rewarded by one simple look that told Mia what the solution was for both of them. Lee’s face was an open book and her eyes reflected what Mia had always felt but, she gave her one last out and asked, “Is there something going on between us or is it just with me?”
“That depends” Lee answered and grasped the hand resting on her cheek.
“On what?’ Mia asked with a catch in her voice.
“On if you want this” Lee whispered and kissed the palm she held. A bold of electricity ran up her arm making her spine tingle as soft lips gently caressed her hand. The touch was feather light and soft yet so moving in its simplicity, that Mia stood mute. Finally, she nodded and replied, “Yes, I do”.
“Then there definitely is something between us” Lee replied looking deep into green orbs before looking down at the hand that she held.
“Is this a problem?” Mia asked sensing Lee’s hesitancy.
“It might be” came the answer as Lee released her hand and got up. Mia watched her turn away and busy herself with getting glasses and milk.
“Because of the baby?” came a quiet question. Lee shook her head without turning. Mia got up and went to Lee and took the carton out of her hand placing it on the counter. Lee still stood facing away so Mia gently took her arm and turned her.
“Then what? Is it me?” she asked trying to get Lee to talk to her.
“It’s a lot of things. It’s you, it’s me. I just don’t want you to make the wrong decisions right now. You’re vulnerable and I won’t take advantage of that” Lee answered gently pulling away.
“Why is it that everyone seems to know what is best for me instead of letting me decide? First my parents and now you” Mia flashed angrily.
Lee turned around to confront the young woman; “you don’t know what you are asking. You are so torn up with the way your family is reacting to your pregnancy, do you have any idea what will happen when they find out that we are together?”
“I have spent my entire life worrying about that and trying to fit into their mold. Well, I am done living my life by their standards and rules. Now, there is another life involved and I’ll be damned if I’m going to screw that up too! When does my life become my own?” she pleaded to Lee. Lee looked back and fought for the right words to say.
Mia just shook her head and replied, “Never mind. It’s o.k. If this isn’t what you want too. I don’t want you to feel obligated in any way”. Turning she left the room and went into her bedroom closing the door. She lay on the bed facing the wall, her chest burning as she waited for the tears to come.
Lee paced the floor calling herself every name under the sun. “Well, you wanted to know and now you do! What are you going to do about it? Are you going to let the best thing that’s ever come into your life walk away because you don’t have the guts to do anything about it? What about the baby? This is not the same as before, you didn’t have a choice then. You do now. You can either be a part of their lives or live without them in yours!” Running her hands through her hair she knew that the choice was already made. Turning, she left the kitchen and entered the bedroom without even knocking.
Mia heard Lee coming down the hall and was surprised when she walked into the room and even more surprised when she felt her get on the bed behind her and wrap her arms around her from behind. She lay stiffly in Lee’s arms until she felt the heat of Lee’s breath on her ear and a hoarse whisper, “Before you say anything I need you to listen to what I have to say. First of all, forgive me, I do love you! At first, I was afraid that you would jump into something for the wrong reason but now, I know that isn’t so. Now, I’m afraid that I will do that same thing. You see, I was pregnant once,” she said softly as a tear slipped across the bridge of her nose onto Mia’s neck.
Mia relaxed against her and, taking a deep breath, Lee continued “I made the decision not to have the baby. I was in a tough spot, I had lost my job because of all the time I had missed from work and my family well, they haven’t been a part of my life since. I didn’t know what else to do so, I gave up and had an abortion”.
Lee choked back a sob unsure if it was the woman in her arms or herself that was trembling, maybe it was both of them. She wondered if Mia thought her a monster and closed her eyes to continue, “I know now that I can’t make up for what I did. It is something that I will have to live with the rest of my life. Part of me is afraid that you won’t think that you and I together wouldn’t be good for the baby. Oh God, I do love you but, would it be enough?” Softly she kissed the back of Mia’s head and began to get up.
Mia quickly rolled over and pulled Lee back down towards her and looked her steadily in the eye. Lee watched anticipating the condemnation that would soon follow. Instead Mia eyes began to tear as she smiled. “Now, you listen to me. I know I’ve fallen in love you and, you’ve just as much admitted the same to me right?” she said waiting for a reply.
When Lee nodded she continued, “As for what happened, it was the only thing you could have done given your situation. I know that having you in my life right now has made all the difference for me. I just wish you could have had someone back then too. Things happen in our lives that we can’t control and to carry that kind of guilt is not something anyone should have do. Remember what you told me about this baby, raising it with the knowledge of not repeating past mistakes, and if I could do that, I would make a good mother. How much of that is true for you too? We both have a lot to offer this baby and as for you loving this baby; I would want that with my whole heart. She is going to need two parents and I can’t be both. As for me, if it matters, I know that I want you without a doubt or a reservation”.
“It matters to me” she whispered hoarsely as her throat ached from the tears that washed down her face. Instead of judgement, she saw love in the green eyes before, and pulled the small woman tighter to her. For a long time she had kept a part of her heart closed but now, she felt old walls crumble around her and a raw exposure she was willing to bear to keep this woman near.
Mia held Lee tightly rocking as she told her again how she much she needed her. Neither stirred until tears subsided and Mia heard Lee sigh. Leaning back she looked up into clear eyes that seemed less haunted and smiled knowing things wouldn’t change overnight but, this was a definite start. Lee smiled back and brushed a lock of hair behind Mia’s ear.
“Are we o.k?” Mia inquired.
“Yes” Lee grinned playing with the errant lock of hair.
“Then, why haven’t you kissed me?” the blond asked with a slight pout.
“Kiss me” Mia quietly asked again.
“Oh, well, I wasn’t sure umm..” Lee hesitated, her focus drifting from green eyes down to red lips pursed in a perfect pout.
“Well?” Mia giggled unable to keep up the innocent charade.
Lee smirked at Mia’s playfulness and went along with it, yawning she replied, “Well, I don’t know it is getting late and I am awful tired. Maybe I should just go to bed now.”
Mia watched amused as Lee got up and left the room thinking, ‘What’s she up to now? Maybe, I’ll just wait here and let her think about what I’m going to do!’ She waited listening as she went down the hall towards her bedroom and then there was silence. “O.K., I think that’s long enough” she announced and jumped off the bed and headed in the same direction.
Lee smiled when she heard Mia’s footsteps coming down the hall and said, “that didn’t take long!” Pretending not to see Mia leaning against the doorframe she sat on the bed removing her shoes, until she heard Mia clear her throat loudly.
“Oh, did you ‘need’ something?” Lee asked coyly. The only hint to give her away was the twinkle in her eye and it made Mia’s heart soar.
Mia placed her hands on her hips in mock authority, “Yes you! To coin a phrase from a favorite movie, I’ll be dammed if I’m going to have a baby with someone I’ve never slept with!”
Lee burst out laughing and reclined back on the bed, “O.k. ‘Junior’, come here” she called seductively.
Mia walked towards the bed slowly, suddenly aware that this was no longer a game. Her desire for this woman was evident by the quick rise and fall of her chest but she had never experienced anything like this before. Stopping in front of Lee she looked down not knowing anything but the need to feel the woman’s arms around her again. Lee recognized the hesitation and pulled Mia down onto the bed with her. Leaning over she lightly kissed Mia’s lips and withdrew.
“That’s it?” Mia’s voice thick with disapproval.
“No, just a taste of things to come” Lee promised. “Listen Mia, we don’t have to rush into anything, I’m in this for the long haul. I love you and I’m willing to wait”.
“I think I’ve waited too long as it is, don’t you?” Mia answered seriously.
“I just want you to know you have a choice here”.
Mia reached up to caress Lee’s cheek. “Thank you for that but, I choose you” and pulled Lee’s face towards her own. This time there was no hesitation as lips joined in tender exploration. Mia felt a slowburn begin in her gut spreading throughout her entire body and draped a leg over Lee’s thigh to keep her from moving away. Lee had no intention of going anywhere and deepened the kiss to prove it.
Somewhere between the I love yous and kisses, hands joined lips in their gentle dance of passion. Mia loved the feel of Lee’s touch on her body and gave over to all the yearnings she had ever denied. Sometime during the night Mia awoke to find herself wrapped in Lee’s long arms and for the first time in her life she an actual connection to another person, she finally felt whole.
Morning light brought a smile to Lee’s lips as she held the slumbering woman in her arms. She loved the way Mia possessively held on to her but, most of all, she loved the feel of the pronounced swell of abdomen that pressed against her side. Running a finger lightly over the edge of Mia’s stomach she whispered, “I promise this time, to go the distance. I will always be here for you, and your mommy”. Thinking Mia still sleeping, Lee was startled when Mia placed a hand over here’s trapping it against her stomach and smiled. Lee felt a ripple pass under her hand and looked up into sparkling green eyes that mirrored her own joy. This was the closest she would ever come again to knowing that joy and Lee realized, that it was enough.
“How many times do I love thee, dear?
In the Atmosphere
‘Of a new-fall’n year,
Whose white and sable hours appear
The latest flake of Eternity-
So many times do I love thee, dear...”
Monday morning arrived along with the snowploughs as Mia and Lee grudgingly got up and ready for work. Lee had insisted on driving Mia to her office and secretly, the young woman was relieved. She definitely wasn’t looking forward to plowing her little car through the snow-covered streets. Pulling up in front of the office building, Lee was unsure if she should kiss her lover or not. They had agreed not to tell anyone of their relationship until after the baby was born. Lee finally left it up to Mia to decide how to proceed.
Mia undid her seatbelt and turned to Lee. She wished they had more time together before having to join the world outside. At this moment, she felt the need to touch Lee but there were too many people passing by the car. Instead, she placed a hand on the tall woman’s knee and patted it. Frustrated at the feel of cotton pants instead of skin a glint entered her eye and she ran her fingers up the inside of Lee’s thigh until she heard her gasp. A quick wink and Mia scooted out the door before the surprised woman could react.
Lee slid over and caught the door before Mia could close it completely, grinning she called out “Paybacks are a bitch!”
Mia turned laughing and waved, she couldn’t remember when she had felt so alive. The day seemed to drag for Mia. Her co-workers were suspicious of her happy demeanor, certainly a contrast to the previous three weeks. They had caught her on more than one occasion wrapped up in her oversized sweater smiling contently and staring off into space. She had already told them about the baby so they began to attribute her strange behavior to hormones.
Lee decided to call it a day early and logged off, shutting down her system and headed out; she had an undeniable urge to go shopping. That was one of the perks of her job. She could set her own hours and as long as the programs ran smoothly, no one watched your time that closely. Of course, when there were problems and deadlines, time was irrelative. Walking through the mall she knew exactly what she was looking for and found the maternity shop just outside of Bloomingdale’s. It didn’t take Lee long to find an outfit for Mia. She would soon be needing more work clothes as the pregnancy progressed but, this was just something special she felt like buying. . Lee knew that Mia’s choice of clothing was limited as this morning she had even let her browse through her own clothes. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot for Mia to choose from.
Scanning the racks for a casual at home outfit, Lee finally had to admit that she liked the way Mia looked in her over-sized clothes and made a mental note to pull more of them out for Mia. Looking at her watch she had time for one more stop before picking Mia up from work. Heading into the department store she made her way to the baby department. This next purchase posed more difficult as she couldn’t decide whether to get it in pink or blue and, finally, opted to buy both, just in case. Although they had both referred to the baby as she, they really didn’t know. On impulse Lee picked up a soft teddy bear and added it to her purchases. It was a corny gesture but she wanted to get it for Mia.
Mia spotted Lee’s Durango as soon as she exited the building and had to restrain herself from running towards the vehicle. Getting into the car she was met by smiling blue eyes and, she had to exercise extreme control in not leaning over and kissing the beauty next to her.
“Hey, how was work today?” Lee inquired pulling away from the curb.
“Long” Mia replied fastening her seatbelt. “I sort of missed you,” she admitted.
“Yeah, me too” Lee replied and reached over to squeeze Mia’s hand. On the drive home, the women chatted about what they had done at work. Lee didn’t tell Mia of her shopping trip, she would save that for later.
Arriving home, Mia handed her coat to Lee and headed to the bedroom to change. She couldn’t wait to get out of her suit. Lee slipped the packages in the front closet along with their coats before following the young woman.
Mia had removed her jacket and was straining to unfasten her skirt. It was getting too tight to wear and she was having a hard time with the button in back.
“Let me help” she heard from behind as she felt a slight tug and her skirt slip easily over her hips to the floor. Stepping out it she turned to be quickly enveloped in warm arms.
“That’s better” Lee murmured drawing Mia up into her arms.
“You know” Mia began as Lee kissed her way up the woman’s neck. “You are entirely too good at that”.
“That’s not all I’m good at” Lee chuckled teasingly.
Lifting her head up Mia looked into dazzling blue and replied, “Oh really? Care to prove it?”
Lee smiled and did just that.
Safely curled up against Lee’s soft body, their hands resting across her swollen abdomen. Mia smiled as Lee felt movement against her hand and looked down at her speculatively, “Do you ever notice how much more the baby seems to move whenever I hold you?”
“Yes, she likes you, she takes after me” Mia replied snuggling deeper into welcoming arms.
“Let’s just hope she doesn’t have your appetite too!” Lee chuckled when she heard Mia’s stomach respond.
“Normally, I’d be offended at that but, I think she does” Mia laughed as her stomach emitted another rumble.
“We’d better feed that beast quickly” Lee replied and reached for her robe. Mia watched with silent appreciation of Lee’s body. Her proportions were perfect in all the right places she mused until a flannel shirt landed across her face obscuring her view. “Hey!”
“Get your mind out of the gutter and come on” Lee responded.
“Hey, can I help it if I appreciate a nice view?” Mia asked innocently pulling the shirt into place and climbing out of bed. Lee’s shirt hung down to her knees effectively serving as a nightshirt.
“Nice view huh?” Lee asked warily and pulled Mia into an embrace, kissing her lightly on the lips she murmured, “I think that deserves a reward”.
“Just what did you have in mind?” Mia asked wiggling her eyebrows suggestively. Lee shook her head pulling Mia into the living room, “your incorrigible, come on and I’ll show you”. Settling Mia on the sofa she went to the closet to retrieve her package.
“It’s beautiful!” Mia exclaimed when she saw the outfit Lee held up. “You shouldn’t have, it probably cost a fortune”.
“Don’t worry about it. I just wanted to get you something” Lee replied handing the outfit to Mia and grinned, “I got the baby something too!” She pulled out the remaining two garments and handed them to Mia.
“Oh, there adorable!” Mia crooned.
“I didn’t know which color, so I just got one of each.
“There perfect little outfits” Mia replied hugging them to her belly, “What do you say little one pink or blue?”
Lee noted the weight of the bag and reached in to find the bear, she had almost forgotten about it.
“I got you something else” Lee said hesitantly, suddenly embarrassed at her sentimentality.
“Well, are you going to let me see it or not?” Mia asked watching Lee pause with her hand still in the bag. Lee looked up blushing; “It’s kind of silly”. Setting the clothing down, Mia walked over to Lee and peered into the bag as Lee slowly pulled out the stuffed bear.
“Oh, he’s so soft” Mia squeezed and hugged the animal to her cheek. Lee beamed slightly red, but happy that Mia liked her presents.
“Feel how soft” Mia requested and rubbed the animal lightly against Lee’s check. “I love him. Thank you” Mia whispered before putting her arms around Lee’s neck and hugging her and the bear tightly.
Lee’s arms wrapped around the shorter woman, their lips searched out each other exploring deeply until lack of air caused them to break. Lee continued nuzzling Mia’s neck and groaned, “If I had known this was the thanks I’d get I would have gotten the matching booties too”.
Saturday came all to quickly; Lee and Mia were getting ready for the big moving day. Lee had recruited a friend from work to give them a hand and they were waiting for him to arrive.
“You don’t mind that I asked Jeff to help us do you?” Lee asked over coffee that morning.
“No, not at all” Mia replied smiling. “The more the merrier, maybe my mother won’t start anything” she added more hopeful then she really felt.
“Don’t worry honey we’ll get through this; we’re in an out in two hours max, I guarantee” Lee offered. “With Jeff and Alex helping you can concentrate on packing your clothes. Please, whatever you do, don’t lift anything o.k. Lee asked.
“I’m fine, the baby’s we can both help out” Mia retorted. Lee leaned over and placed her hand on Mia’s cheek and added blue eyes to her plea. “Seriously, please don’t lift anything heavy”.
“O.k., o.k.” Mia agreed shaking her head, “You know I can’t refuse you when you look at me like that!” Lee chuckled “yeah, because you know I’m right”. The intercom buzzed at that moment and Lee quickly got up, sidestepping Mia’s half-hearted swat and went to open the door.
Jeff turned out to be a carbon copy of Lee except for his somewhat hyper personality. “So, you’re the one who finally got ‘ole gloomy Gus’ smiling. I didn’t think it was possible, Congratulations!” he said to Mia and gave her a brief hug before stepping back and sticking out his tongue at Lee.
Mia looked at Lee uncertain of how to respond to Jeff’s acknowledgement of their relationship. She had assumed he thought her just a roommate.
“Jeff and I go back a long way. He thinks he’s a comedian but, he’s harmless” Lee assured her getting their coats out of the closet.
“Well then, it’s nice to meet you Jeff” Mia smiled warmly.
“Lee and I were in college together, we were quite the pair, of course, I was the smart one” he informed her.
“That’s because I was the good looking one!” Lee smartly retorted.
“That’s not what you thought back then!” Jeff teased.
Lee laughed and replied, “I was young and naïve but, I’m a lot wiser now!” The light banter between the two went on and Mia couldn’t help but feel a little jealous, ‘Just how close were they?”
Lee noted the speculative look on Mia’s face and grinned, ‘Oh yeah, payback time!’ and continued to keep light bantering.
“I’m hurt!” Jeff cried with a pout that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“Oh, you poor baby!” Lee crooned and patted his cheek. “How about I let you drive my car to make it up to you?”
“O.K.” Jeff replied instantly smiling again and rushing everyone out the door. Lee almost burst out laughing as the frown on Mia’s face just got deeper but it wasn’t time to tip her hand just yet.
They stopped to pick up the rental truck and leaving Lee’s car in the lot, the three of them squeezed into the cab of the Uhaul. Arriving at Mia’s parents house, Alex already met them at the door and whispered, “Mom’s been ranting and raving all morning. I just got her quieted down so, let’s just get this over with quickly”.
“Fine with me” Mia replied stiffly and followed her brother down the stairs. Lee sensed that Mia brother’s indifference hurt more than her friend was willing to admit and briefly placed her hand on Mia’s shoulder as she held the door open. Entering after Mia, Lee turned to make sure Jeff was following. Nodding grimly back at Lee, he they followed her down the stairs.
Lee had pretty much filled him in on their situation, so he had known how volatile the day could become. This was one of the reasons he had offered to help, Lee had been a good friend to him over the years and he wanted to do something in return. He had seen a change in Lee over the past week and if this young woman was even remotely responsible then, he would help them in anyway he could.
They quickly began moving the heaviest furniture to the truck first. As most of Mia’s things were still in boxes, Mia concentrated on boxing up the clothes in the wardrobe and disassembling the computer system. They lost count on how many trips they made up and down the stairs. Alex, Lee and Jeff struggled to get the final dresser up the stairs and onto the truck. They had just gotten it to the top of the ramp when a car pulled up and a raven-haired man got out and headed towards the house.
“What’s he doing here?” Alex mumbled softly causing Lee to look over with a raised eyebrow, catching her look he shook his head and continued pushing Lee and the dresser back farther into the truck. Lee didn’t have a choice but to keep walking backwards with her end of the load. Worried, she looked at Jeff and motioned her head towards the house. He wasn’t exactly sure what was going on but he knew Lee meant Mia and he hurried back to check on her.
Lee was fuming, she knew Alex was trying to stall her and had effectively blocked her way out of the truck; short of physically moving him, and she couldn’t get around him to check on Mia. Lee’s patience was wearing thin and she had no doubt, by Alex’s reaction, who the new arrival was.
“Move Alex” Lee ordered when her patience finally reached it’s limit. The dresser has been moved twice and Alex was still complaining that it wasn’t right.
“Quit the act, you and I both know what’s going on here!” she said in a controlled voice.
“It’s for the better Lee, this is none of your business” he answered still blocking the way.
“Mia IS my concern” she informed him, her fists clenched tightly at her sides. “I’m going to ask you one more time to move”.
“And if I don’t?” he replied bristling at her anger.
Lee didn’t want to start anything with Mia’s family, she knew it would only make matters worse. Calming herself she looked at him and pleaded, “Please Alex just let me pass”.
“He has a right, it is his child” Alex countered softly, his anger tempered by what he saw in Lee’s eyes.
Lee continued looking at him and saw a brief change in Mia’s brother. He was just trying to protect his family and she took the opportunity to try and reason with him.
“You don’t really believe that do you? It’s not what Mia wants, he hurt her”.
“But, it is his baby” he answered stubbornly.
“So that gives him the right to continue to hurt Mia? Think about it Alex, she’s your sister and you know her better than anyone. Do you really think she could be happy with him?” she reasoned.
“No” he replied looking away.
“Then why?” Lee asked in frustration as tears formed in her eyes.
Alex looked at up when he heard the change in Lee’s voice, the surprise instantly registering on his face. He really hadn’t really considered, or fully understood the depths the women’s relationship could go. He was so use to his mother pushing Mia around that he had started to think the same way, and it made him sad. ‘If nothing else, Mia was an adult and she deserved her own life.’ He couldn’t deny the connection between his sister and Lee. He hadn’t wanted to see it before but it didn’t make it any less true.
Shaking his head he answered, “I don’t know” and stepped aside to let her pass. Lee jumped down from the truck and raced down the stairs. Lee stopped short when she heard Jeff say, “Sorry, Rick is it? Well, Rick you really don’t have any say because, it’s not your baby”.
“What is he talking about?” Rick asked Mia impatiently.
Jeff was standing between the two and turned to Mia without hesitation saying, “I’m sorry, I know I promised not to say anything but, I think he has a right to know”. Turning back to Rick he clearly proclaimed, “She didn’t want anyone to know that we’d been seeing each other and that the baby’s mine”.
Lee’s jaw dropped along with Rick’s but he was quicker to recover. “Your were sleeping with him but, you wouldn’t with me?” he asked angrily.
Mia nodded mutely, she couldn’t believe how convincing Jeff could lie. The turn of the conversation had taken off her guard and she wasn’t sure what to say now. When Mia had first caught sight of Rick coming down the stairs, she knew there would be trouble. Her mother just couldn’t leave this alone.
“You bitch! Your nothing but a whore!” Rick spat at her.
“Hey!” Jeff called out getting angry, “Watch your mouth!”
“Why don’t you shut up!” Rick shouted and pushed Jeff backward over a stack of boxes.
Lee finally came out of her initial shock when Rick started advancing toward Mia as she had tried to go to Jeff’s aid.
Tapping Rick on the shoulder Lee’s voice coldly warned, “I wouldn’t if I were you!”
Rick spun around at the unknown presence behind him, his anger quickening when he realized who it was. He snorted in disgust and announced, “Well, look whose here, if it isn’t the big dyke herself. Seems Mia will put out for just about anyone won’t she?”
“Except you!” Lee taunted in reply. She hadn’t meant to sink to his level but, she really wanted him to give her a reason for smashing his face in.
“Ha! That’s what you think” he replied and turned to Mia, “What’s the matter didn’t you tell your dyke girlfriend that you went to bed with me too?”
“From what I heard, you weren’t even man enough to get her to go willingly” Lee replied shaking her head in mock disapproval. Rick’s face was rapidly darkening and Lee could tell she was getting to him but, she was disappointed that he wasn’t going to engage in anything more than verbal sparring.
“Yeah but, she didn’t have any complaints afterwards” he snarled.
“Probably couldn’t remember it” Lee replied drolly.
“Listen, you stupid dyke…” Rick pointed at Lee but, never got the chance to go any farther when a fist connected with his face knocking him soundly on his rear.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you that it’s rude to point!” Lee smiled coldly at Rick as he sat holding his eye. Stepping over him, she went to Mia who was helping Jeff up off the floor.
“I’m sorry,” Lee said softly rubbing her sore knuckles. “I didn’t mean to cause you any more trouble. I just couldn’t stand listening to him anymore”.
Mia took Lee’s injured hand and began to kiss each reddened knuckle. “There isn’t anything for you to be sorry about. I should be thanking your for doing something that I should have done a long time ago” Mia responded. Putting an arm around Mia she turned to Jeff and pulled him in with her other arm, “and thank you for sticking up for me too”.
“Alright! Group hug!” Jeff cried and pulled the three of them tighter together. The trio hugged laughing until they heard Rick shout, “You’re all sick! The three of you deserve each other.”
“I’m just glad I’m off the hook. I wouldn’t want any child of mine to call you ‘mother’” he leveled at Mia before turning to go up the stairs.
“I would” Lee said softly more to herself than anything but, Mia had heard her and buried her face in Lee’s shoulder.
Turning to go up the stairs, Rick ran smack into Alex who had been watching everything from just inside the doorway.
“Out of my way Alex, I have no fight with you. I feel sorry for you having a sister like her. She’s not fit to raise anyone’s child!”
Alex slammed Rick up against the stair rail and in a voice laced with hatred replied, “No, you are the one who’s not fit. Actually, you’re an asshole! I would love nothing more than to kick your ass right now but, you just not worth it! I promise you this though, if I ever see your face anywhere near my sister or the baby, I’ll make it so your mother won’t even recognize you!” Alex grabbed the cowering man’s arm and pushed him up the stairs. Reaching the landing the trio in the basement heard Mia’s mother call out to Alex, to stop his nonsense and let Rick go at once.
Mia’s felt tears come to her eyes when she heard her brother say, “Mother, shut up! You’ve caused enough trouble for one lifetime!”
Alex returned to find the other three quietly closing the last of the boxes. Silently, they finished carrying out the remainder of Mia’s things. Mia and Lee went back to take one more look around to see if anything had been missed.
“Do you want to take this?” Lee asked holding up a picture of Mia’s parents. The picture had been taken at their recent 45th anniversary celebration. Mia walked over and took the picture from Lee deliberately placing it upright on the table next to them. Turning Mia gently took Lee into her arms and kissed her. The young woman put everything she had into that kiss and Lee responded in kind.
“Whoa, not that I’m complaining or anything but, what was that for?” Lee asked in a hoarse voice.
Mia smiled and her eyes twinkled, “because I really wanted to and I can” she answered taking Lee by the hand, and they walked out of her parent’s house. Lee looked back at the portrait and new something profound had happened to Mia this day and, that the kiss was in some way a symbol of her new found freedom. Lee was just happy that Mia’s new life included her and she followed her willingly.
Alex and Jeff were shutting the back of the truck when the women came outside. Mia tightened her hold on her lover’s hand as a silent message, Lee squeezed back in understanding and they remained clasped together.
Alex looked at the two women, a smile edged the corners of his mouth as he said, “That’s going to take some getting use to but, I hope you’ll give me the chance”.
“Why the change of heart?” Mia asked skeptically, “Terri put you up to it?”
“In a way” he admitted “but, not like you think. Earlier today, I caught a glimpse of Lee looking at you. It was the same way Terri looks at me sometimes and, I guess I finally woke up”. He shrugged his shoulders and added jokingly, “Gee, I hope that’s a good look?”
Lee smiled looking at Mia answered, “It’s a very good look”.
Mia hugged her brother and couldn’t help but ask him, “What about mother?”
“I don’t know” Alex admitted seriously. “I guess they have two choices, either they accept your decision and be part of your life, or not, and miss out on a whole lot”.
Lee realized the truth in Alex’s statement. ‘Yes, it is as simple yet, as hard as that. For me, the decision had been made the day she walked into my life’.
Alex walked back into the house after extracting a promise from Mia and Lee to drop by the house during the upcoming week. Jeff started the engine as Lee helped Mia into the truck; she couldn’t resist running her hand down the woman’s smooth backside as she stepped up in front of her into the cab of the truck.
“Lee!” Mia admonished almost jumping into Jeff’s lap.
“What? I was helping you” Lee replied trying to look innocent.
Jeff chortled, “She always was a ‘hinny’ gal”.
“Too bad you don’t have one” Lee smirked settling in next to Mia with one arm across the back of the seat.
“I don’t remember hearing any complaints” he retorted.
“Is that so?” Mia questioned looking at Lee. She couldn’t help it, as curiosity and jealousy vied for answers.
Lee looked back keeping her face straight and matter of factly asked, “So Jeff, how’s Peter these days?”
“He’s fine. He had to work today or he would have come along. You guys should come over for dinner sometime” Jeff offered.
“Sound good to you Mia” Lee asked trying to not laugh as understanding lit up Mia’s eyes. Leaning over Mia kissed the woman on the cheek and whispered in her ear, “Gotcha! Payback’s are a bitch, huh!”
“Just wait until we get home!” Mia growled lowly.
“Ooh, I’m counting on it!” she whispered back looking up at Jeff’s questioning look.
“Step on it Jeff, I’ve got a date later” Lee ordered. Mia’s face flushed in embarrassment causing Jeff and Lee to burst out laughing.
“Laugh now but later…Mia deliberately left the threat hanging. The tall woman instantly sobered up and pulled her arm down onto Mia’s shoulder tugging her closer. Jeff looked on thinking wryly, ‘Can’t underestimate the little one, looks can sure be deceiving. I think Lee has finally met her match!’
It took the three of them the better part of the afternoon to unload and set up Missy’s things. They had decided to replace the bed in the guestroom with Mia’s and cram the rest of the furniture into the storage area. The boxes of clothes were piled in the guestroom until Lee could clear out some space in the master bedroom. When the last of the boxes were stowed away, Jeff returned the truck and brought back Lee’s car before heading home, with a promise to have Peter call regarding dinner. Mia dropped down on the couch to rest, concerned Lee sat down next to her and asked, “Tired?”
“A little” Mia admitted and leaned against Lee’s shoulder. Lee propped her feet on the coffee table and they sat quietly relaxing. After a few minutes Lee looked over and asked, “Hungry?”
Nodding Mia answered “As long as it doesn’t require moving”.
“Why don’t I order a pizza and we can relax and watch TV tonight” Lee offered grinning as she thought about curling up with the warm body next to her.
“What are you plotting?” Mia asked suspiciously looking up into mischievous blue eyes.
“You’ll like it, trust me”.
“Trust you? Where have I heard that before?” the blond answered warily.
Lee winked before slipping away to call their order in. “Cheese and pepperoni?” she called from the kitchen.
“Just cheese, if that o.k. with you” Mia called back.
“It’s perfect, then I won’t have to pick the pepperoni off ”.
With their bellies full and a mushy movie Mia had insisted they watch, the two of them were curled up under an afghan.
Mia sighed contently in Lee’s arms with her head pillowed against a soft shoulder. Lee’s lips were next to Mia’s ear and she whispered seductively, “I told you you’d like it”.
“Mmm, very much!” Mia purred and turned her head to kiss the lips next to her. Savoring the taste of the blonde’s mouth Lee asked, “Ever do it on a couch?”
Mia chuckled and replied, “No, but there’s always a first” and pulled Lee’s lips back to her own. Lee shifted to stretch out along side Mia and began exploring buttons and zippers, soon of warm skin intimately touching drove them on.
A winter afternoon sun streamed through the windows warming the sleeping women. They had easily developed the habit of sleeping in on Sunday morning. Rolling over brought Mia’s body half across her taller partner’s and the woman groaned.
“You o.k?” Mia asked sleepily.
“I won’t be if your knee presses any harder into my bladder!”
Mia giggled and moved away as Lee scrambled out of the bed and hastily exited the room. She had been dreading getting up but now, she didn’t have much choice and hurried across the room.
“Now you know what it feels like. Try having that pressure all the time!” she called out to the retreating figure. “No thanks” a voice called out from the other room.
Mia stretched out on her back, taking in the opportunity of having the bed all to herself. She looked down at the hump that use to be her stomach and sighed. Almost five months pregnant and every week saw her belly growing. Outside of a few pangs of fear, she was happy about the baby. She knew that having Lee in her life made all the difference. She rubbed her hands around her stomach and wondered if the baby was a boy or a girl. She hadn’t really wanted to know until recently. Her ultrasound was scheduled for the following day and Mia was debating whether she wanted the doctor to tell her or not. Maybe, she would leave the decision up to Lee since she had insisted on accompanying her. Her lover had even made her sign up for Lamaze classes and Mia had agreed to them as long as Lee consented to be her coach. The light in Lee’s eyes had told Mia that she had made the right move. It was funny; Lee was more involved in the pregnancy than most fathers, certainly more than her brother was with either of her two nephews.
Mia felt gentle ripples under her hand as the baby moved. All she had to do was think of the raven-haired woman and the baby responded to it. “Your one smart cookie” Mia told the baby.
“What are you talking about?” Lee asked softly as she entered the room.
“Come here” the reclining woman requested and waited for Lee to settle on the bed next to her. Taking Lee’s hand, she placed it on her stomach and held it in place. Lee looked down at Mia confused.
“Watch this” Mia replied and then closed her eyes. Lee watched Mia’s face waiting for whatever was suppose to happen. A smile broke across Mia’s face at exactly the same moment that the baby began to move.
“How did you do that?” Lee asked in wonder.
Mia opened her eyes and Lee caught her breath at the look of love directed at her. The baby moved again and Mia sighed.
“How?” Lee as again.
“All I have to do is think of you and the baby knows. Smart kid, huh?” Mia answered.
“I think it’s more like annoyance, ‘What’s she doing here again!’ Lee answered wryly.
“Why do you think that?” Mia asked seriously concerned at Lee’s feeling regarding her role with the baby. Mia wanted Lee involved very much but, she really didn’t know what Lee wanted.
“I don’t know, maybe the baby senses things that we don’t” Lee answered softly.
Lee shrugged and rolled onto her back staring up at the ceiling. Mia wasn’t going to let the conversation end here and turned onto her side to look at her lover. Gently she urged, “come on Lee, talk to me, tell me what’s bothering you”.
Lee blew out a breath and looked over into sincere green eyes. “What if I won’t be good at this? I don’t want to disappoint you”.
“How could you ever disappoint me? You have stood by me through so much. I love you, all of you. I don’t know if I will be any good at this either but, I’d like us to try together. If that’s what you want too?” Mia replied.
“More than anything but, I couldn’t do it before, what makes this any different?” Lee asked blinking away a tear.
“The difference is, your not alone this time”. Mia replied gently tugging on Lee’s face to turn it back towards her own. Looking deeply into her favorite blue eyes she continued, “I don’t think I could have done any of this alone. If you hadn’t been here, I know I would have given up”.
“No, you’ll be fine. You’re going to be a natural, it’s part of who you are”. Lee tried to explain.
“And what about you? You have so much to offer Lee. When I’m with you I feel so, I don’t know, alive. You’re so patient and understanding. You are things that I am not. You never back down from difficult situations. Lord, knows I do it all the time” Mia stated.
Lee looked down embarrassed somehow that Mia thought so much of her. “You really think so?”
“Lee, look at me” Mia requested, “I know so” she told her.
A smile broke across Lee’s face and she reached up to pull her lover, her friend into a searing kiss. Releasing a slightly breathless Mia, Lee asked “So, am I the father and you the mother?”
“I think you’re the best of both” Mia replied hugging Lee to her and whispering in her ear, “and you’re everything to me”.
Lee sat in the crowded waiting room while the doctor examined Mia, flipping restless through a well-worn Time magazine. “The least they could do is have current reading material if they’re going to make you wait so long” she muttered under her breath. She was anxious to hear the outcome of the ultrasound results. They had talked the night before and had decided they wanted to know the sex of the baby, it would be easier to start picking up items as they went along. She was also worried that everything would be o.k. with the baby and Mia. Lee didn’t hear her name the first time it was called out, when the nurse repeated it louder she jumped up, “Yes!”
“The doctor would like to see you” the nurse replied indicating for Lee to come with her. ‘Oh God! What’s wrong?’ Lee panicked as she followed the white uniform down the hallway.
“There in here” the nurse said opening another door. Lee slipped into the darkened room to find Mia lying on a table talking to the doctor.
“Everything o.k?” Lee asked worried.
“Everything’s fine” the doctor replied smiling. “We just thought you’d like to be here while we do the ultrasound”.
Mia looked up at Lee smiling and motioned for Lee to come closer as she introduced her to the doctor. “Lee, this is Dr. West”.
“Hi Lee!” he responded as she hesitantly walked to Mia’s side.
“Hello” Lee replied standing next to Mia fidgeting with the gurney rail. Mia reached up to grasp Lee’s hand. “I wanted you to be here too”. Lee nodded relieved and squeezed Mia’s hand.
“Are we all set then?” Dr. West asked as he adjusted a few dials. Mia nodded and he began to explain the ultrasound procedure.
“Gods, that’s cold!” Mia shivered as the doctor squeezed gel onto her bare abdomen.
“Sorry, we try to warm it but, it never quite gets to there” he smiled apologetically. “It’s only cold for a moment” he added and moved the wand across the surface of her stomach as the machine’s monitor came to life. When he reached what he was looking for he smiled and asked, “Would you like to hear your babies heartbeat?”
Mia nodded and looked over at Lee with a touch of fear in her eyes. Lee winked and squeezed her hand; eyes locked as the first rapid heartbeats of the new life filled the room. “It’s suppose to be fast right Dr. West?” Lee asked more to reassure Mia than for confirmation.
“Yep, in fact, it’s perfect” he responded lowering the volume to a steady backdrop noise. “Now, let’s see if we can figure out if we have a son or a daughter”. After a few minutes of searching and prodding with his fingertip the doctor started laughing. “You little dickens”.
“What?” Mia slightly concerned as the baby kept rolling. The doctor’s laughter stopping her from actually being afraid but, she was still worried of the unknown.
“It seems your baby is camera shy. Every time I try to get a different angle, the baby turns away. Watch” he said and pulled the monitor closer. “Here’s the babies head and arm and when I try go around the front…see, the baby turned again”.
Lee laughed at the antics on the monitor and stated, “I guess she’s modest like her mother”. Mia giggled embarrassed and Dr. West remarked, “I guess were not going to find out the sex this time”.
Mia grinned and looked over at Lee, “why don’t you give it a try?”
“I don’t think…” Lee began shaking her head and looking at the doctor.
Dr. West shrugged his shoulders; “It couldn’t hurt. I’ll hold this in place and you rub around to see if you can get the baby to respond”.
Lee looked hesitantly from the doctor to Mia, whose green eyes were gently encouraging her asking, “Please?” Feeling slightly exposed Lee gently touched Mia’s abdomen with the tip of her index finger.
“She’s not going to bite you!” Mia teased.
“She might if she has your appetite” Lee retorted.
The doctor chuckled, in all his years of practice he had seen many different couples pass through his office but, none of them failed to respond with the same awe and uncertainty.
Lee moved closer and began a light caress across the swollen abdomen eliciting a slight shiver from Mia. Looking down with a twinkle in her eye she winked at her lover. Lee continued stroking the belly until the baby began to respond.
“Well, look at that” the doctor exclaimed as the silhouette began to unfold on the monitor. “Let me see if I can get a close up for you now” Dr. West asked and Lee stepped back. Instantly, the baby reverted to its former position.
“Lee, put your hand right there” the doctor asked pointing. Lee went back to stroking the mound in a tight little circle.
“That’s it” Dr. West coaxed softly, “just a little more. Gotcha!” he beamed triumphantly looking at the monitor and flipping a switch. “Well, it seems like the two of you have already bonded” he said to Lee.
“Weird huh?” Lee asked.
“Not at all” Dr. West replied, “It’s been documented before were not sure why but, it happens”. ‘Kid’s got good taste that’s for sure’ he thought looking appreciatively at the raven-haired woman. ‘Why are all the cute one’s gay?’ he sighed.
Mia looked up at Lee smiling with tears in her eyes and Lee reached down to touch her lovers cheek, keeping one hand on the baby.
“Well, it looks like you three ladies will do just fine” Dr. West announced and began shutting down the equipment. He lightly wiped the gel from Mia’s abdomen before relinquishing the towel to Lee.
“I’ll get a copy of the video for you to take home while you get cleaned up and dressed” he offered. “Everything looks good. I’ll see you in a month unless you need me sooner”.
“Thanks Dr. West” Mia called after him as he left the room.
“We have a daughter” Mia exclaimed as Lee wiped the excess gel off her abdomen. Leaning down she placed a kiss on the baby before helping Mia sit up and kissing her lightly, responded “I know, junior already has your temperament”.
“Can we help it if we both react to your touch?” Mia asked.
“Umm, I’ll take that as a compliment. Thank you” Lee murmured and caught Mia’s lips again.
Lee helped Mia get dressed and picked up their video on the way out. “I think this deserves a celebration” Lee announced. “How about I take the three of us to dinner?”
“Ooh, can we go to Andiamo’s?” Mia pleaded.
“You got it! Why don’t you call Terri and Alex with the news” Lee replied handing her the cell phone. Mia hesitated and frowned, “You know what this means when my mother finds out?”
“Hey, don’t worry about that now. Don’t let her cloud your joy right now. We’ll deal with her when it happens” Lee assured her and pushed the phone towards her lover.
Mia talked with Terri all the way to the restaurant and for ten minutes in the parking lot. Finally, Lee took the phone and told Terri that they would call her as soon as they got home.
“So everyone happy?” Lee asked as they munched on breadsticks waiting for their order to arrive. Lee winced when Mia ordered the calamari fra diavolo knowing her lover would pay for it later. She made a mental note to get the Tums out when they got home.
“Yes. Oh, your gonna love this. Mother believes that Jeff is now junior’s real father!” Mia giggled happier than Lee had ever seen her.
“You’re kidding!” Lee smirked. “That ought to get her off your back”.
“Yes, she won’t be pushing Rick anymore and I would just a soon never have to deal with him again”.
“I don’t think you have anything to worry about now” Lee remarked as their food arrived. Lee watched amazed as Mia polished off her meal and gently burped her satisfaction.
“I’ll take that as approval of the meal. Happy?” Lee asked chuckling.
“Very” Mia responded patting her belly.
“So, are you going to start thinking of a name for her” Lee inquired.
“You mean “we” are and no, “junior” is not an option” Mia added.
“Well, that was my best one, now I’ll have to think some more” Lee pouted.
“Why don’t we go home and watch the video and maybe something will come to us” Mia suggested.
“Works for me” Lee drawled wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
Summer arrived, as the months seem to fly by, between work and getting the nursery in order. They had turned the office into a nursery and the storage room into an office. It wasn’t the biggest of spaces but, it fit both their workstations comfortably and, Mia rarely used the room except to check her email. Lee did a lot of work at home so that she didn’t have to travel as much in preparation of the baby’s arrival.
Of course, no pregnancy would be complete with the requisite baby shower and that day was here, much to Lee’s discomfort. She was just happy that she didn’t have to organize anything. Terri had taken charge and invited some of Mia’s friends and co-workers to over to her house. Lee and Terri were in the kitchen getting drinks for everyone and had stopped to talk privately as Mia entertained her shower guests. Mia’s mother was not in attendance and Terri had confided in Lee that she had asked her but, she refused to come.
“I hate being the reason” Lee replied sadly. Terri shook her head and responded, “Don’t be, it’s her choice not to come. She can be a real bitch sometimes. I have to tell you that I have never seen Mia so happy and I know I have you to thank”.
“Don’t thank me, Mia’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. If you had told me a year ago that I would be standing here, right now, I never would have believed you” Lee admitted.
“A lot has happened in the past year. I don’t suppose you’ve talked with Linda lately?”
“No, we really don’t have much to say anymore” Lee replied, “Why?”
“I was hoping you were on speaking terms because she might show up today,” Terri said nervously as she watched the other woman’s reaction.
“Oh boy!” Lee blew out a breath.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t think, and then it was too late to do anything about it”.
“Don’t worry, we’re both adults here. I’m sure we can handle a couple of hours together without a major catastrophe. I have nothing against her anyway. Our relationship was over before it ever started and that was a long time ago” Lee replied taking the tray of drinks into the Den.
“Your not the one I’m worried about behaving” Terri said quietly and began to fill more glasses.
After everyone had been served, Lee settled on the love seat next to Mia and put her arm around the back to get comfortable. Everyone chatted amicably as the room filled with more guests. Linda finally showed and said her hellos and sat staring from across the room. Lee could tell by the glint in her eye that trouble was brewing and shifted uncomfortably. She didn’t want anything to mar Mia’s day and refused to look in Linda’s direction. The air was charged with tension and Linda continued her silent intimidation until Lee excused herself to help Terri in the kitchen.
The air was definitely more palatable in the kitchen and Lee relaxed as the two women chatted and worked together. “Do you have anymore napkins?” Lee asked Terri. “Yes, in the utility room. Down the hall on the basement landing” the other woman directed.
Lee looked through the cabinets until she found the matching napkins and turned to find Linda in the doorway.
“Hello Linda” Lee offered trying to remain casual and friendly.
“Well, don’t you just have the perfect little family thing going” the brunette replied sarcastically. Lee knew her hopes of a peaceful afternoon were quickly diminishing.
“Don’t start Linda. This isn’t the time nor the place” Lee replied calmly.
“Now I know why you were in such a hurry to move out”.
“Mia had nothing to do with my decision. We didn’t get together until long after I moved out. You and I both know, what we had was over a long time ago” Lee answered and moved to go out of the room. Linda pushed her backward into the cabinet causing Lee to drop her packages.
“Don’t start anything here” Lee warned as she bent over to pick up the napkins. Linda kicked the packages away before she could reach them replying, "Start? No honey, I never finished”.
Lee straightened up coming face to face with Linda as she leaned in and pinned Lee against the cabinet door. “What’s the matter are you afraid of me?” she taunted.
“Not in the least, I’m just not going to ruin Mia’s party by responding to your childish behavior” Lee replied coldly.
“What is it with you and her? Some kind of little fantasy to make up for your inadequacies of motherhood or, do you just like fucking pregnant women?”
Lee could feel Linda’s hot breath against her face as the anger at her words mounted she began to rise. Lee counted to ten and kept reminding herself to stay calm.
“What’s the matter a real women too much for you?” she asked viciously before clamping down on Lee’s mouth with her own. Lee felt the woman’s teeth bite into her bottom lip as she tried to pull away, tasting blood she heard Mia’s voice call out. Pushing Linda away Lee grabbed her mouth in pain and heard the mockery in the brunette’s voice, “it was just for old time’s sake Mia, don’t sweat it”. Linda walked out of the room leaving Mia and Lee together.
“What was going on in here?” Mia asked, the hurt evident in her voice.
“Nothing” Lee mumbled behind her hand and turned to collect the fallen packages.
“Nothing! You were kissing her!” Mia accused when Lee turned her back.
“I wasn’t…. Oh shit!” Lee exclaimed as the blood flowed down her chin. Standing up she turned angrily to Mia and said, “I didn’t kiss her!” Lee saw the shock register on her lover's face at the sight of the blood and her anger quickly dissolved.
“Oh God, what did she do” Mia cried and pulled Lee’s chin down for a closer look.
“She bit me!” Lee exclaimed, as Mia ripped open a package of napkins, pressing one against the cut, Lee winced at the rough treatment.
“Let’s get some ice on it fast” Mia ordered and pulled Lee into the kitchen. Terri was just finishing the table and looked up. “What happened?”
“Shh” Mia replied not wanting everyone to hear what was going on. Wrapping ice in a kitchen towel she gently placed it against Lee’s lip and turned to her sister-in-law.
“I don’t care what you have to do but, you get that bitch out of here before I take her apart!” the low threat rumbled in her throat as the women in question strolled into the kitchen.
“You! Get the hell out of here and fast!” Mia warned trying to keep her voice from rising.
“Hey, don’t get all excited! It’s o.k. when what’s mine if yours but I take it, what’s yours isn’t mine.” Linda leaned against the counter eyeing Mia coldly. “Consider it just a little love bite between old friends” she snickered.
Mia vision narrowed as her anger focused on one person, grabbing the broom next to the refrigerator; she began swinging it at the stunned woman.
“She fighting your battles too?” Linda laughed as she ducked a high swing.
Lee shrugged her shoulders. Linda looked over at Terri as she ducked around the counter island trying to keep it between herself and the broom. “Hey, get her off me!”
“I told you not to start anything today. It’s hormonal, never underestimate a pregnant woman” Terri replied amused.
Mia’s swinging finally connected with Linda’s knee almost taking her down. The woman’s smile quickly vanished as she hobbled backwards to avoid another sweeping blow. Her leg stinging, the woman kept limping backwards towards the front door trying to stay one step ahead of the slashing broom.
“Get out of here and don’t ever come near us again” Mia ordered. She was past caring who heard what, her only intent was to get rid of the person who had hurt Lee.
Turning to retort, the brunette was met with a sharp jab to her stomach, giving up any thought of further conversation, she fled out the front door.
Lee and Terri remained in the kitchen doorway watching the pregnant woman successfully wield a broom at a woman twice her size and win. When Mia returned to them, Terri started giggling, soon followed by Lee who gasped in pain each time she tried to smile.
“What’s so funny?” Mia demanded pointing the broom at Lee menacingly, which caused the two women to laugh even harder. Mia threw up her hands and set the broom down and walked over to Lee, grabbing her roughly she planted her in a chair. Pulling the ice pack away she began to clean the blood off Lee’s chin with the end of the wet towel. The lip had slowed it’s bleeding but, threatened to reopen each time Lee moved her lip.
“I don’t think you need stitches but, you’d better keep something on it to keep it from cracking” Mia observed and then lowered her voice, “I hope your not mad at me for barging in like that? I guess I just lost it. Are you mad?” she asked unsure.
Lee reached up and lightly kissed Mia causing an instant stab of pain. “Oww, I guess I’ll have to go easy on that for awhile. I just wanted to thank you for coming to my rescue. No one has ever done that before” she grinned trying to hold her lip together.
“I happen to think you’re worth it. Your just lucky I didn’t catch you at anything or I would have done worse to you” Mia warned her with a smirk.
“Oh, I know better than to mess with a mama-to-be”.
“Yeah, we get a little over protective don’t we” Mia chuckled.
“Hey, all joking aside, you know I didn’t invite that right?” Lee asked seriously.
“Yes, as soon as I saw your eyes, I knew” Mia admitted, “you’re an open book, they give you away every time”.
“Oh they do huh?” Lee replied and crossed her eyes. Mia laughed and kissed her lover’s cheek murmuring, “But, I do love those eyes”.
“Everything o.k. in here?” Terri asked stepping back into the kitchen.
“Yep” Mia responded straightening up slowly.
“Good because we’ve got some hungry people in there”.
“We’ll bring them on” Mia announced and pulled Lee up out of her chair.
The rest of the party went smoothly and Lee was happy Mia was able to relax once again. Mia decided to tell everyone that she opened the cabinet door into Lee’s face by accident. Everyone got a chuckle over it and Lee suffered the humiliation, it was the least she could do.
As the due date drew near, Mia became more and more irritable and Lee’s patience was quickly reaching an end point. After a rather touchy day of bickering, Lee escaped to the office and worked on her computer, giving Mia the run of the house to rampage through.
“Oh, now what!” the raven-haired woman mumbled. It was 10 PM and she had already been interrupted three times to either find something, explain something else, or just listen to Mia complain. She pretended not to hear the woman until a crash sounded and her name was shouted again. Lee was up and out of her chair heading for the kitchen before Mia had stopped screaming.
“What?” Lee demanded as she rounded the corner to the kitchen. Mia stood gripping the counter and her stomach as a wave of pain rolled over her; the remnants of a plate lay shattered at her feet.
“Shit!” Lee muttered and ran to Mia to keep her from sitting down amidst the shards on the floor. Mia looked up frightened, “It hurts” she whispered grabbing on to Lee as the contraction subsided.
“O.k., It’ll be o.k.” Lee soothed and helped her to a chair. “Let me call Dr. West and get your bag o.k? You sit right here and I’ll be right back” Mia nodded tired from the constant backache and dull pain that had plagued her all day and now, the pain was getting more frequent and more intense.
“Lee hurried to the phone in the bedroom and hit the speed dial as she pulled Mia’s bag from the closet. She got through to the answering service and gave them her cell phone number and, went back to Mia.
“O.k., It’s time for us to go, just take it slowly and lean on me” Lee told Mia as she helped her out of the chair and towards the front door. After pausing for another contraction she got Mia and her bag into the truck, tires squealing she flew out of the carport. Heading towards the hospital, she tried to get Mia to focus on her breathing instead of the pain. After several failed attempts and a look that told her she was dead meat. Lee gave up sighing; ‘It’s going to be a long night!’
The cell phone rang as they turned into the emergency entrance; Dr. West was already at the hospital finishing rounds and would meet them in the ER shortly. Lee abruptly stopped the car in front of the doors and ran around to help Mia out. An attendant showed up with a wheel chair and she lowered her friend into the chair. Flipping her keys to the security guard she told him to park the car anywhere he liked. The guard grinned and decided to help them out as he watched the tall woman chasing after the wheelchair. It wasn’t his job to park the cars but, what the heck he thought as he eyes the Durango appreciatively. They made Lee stay out in the waiting room filling out paperwork until Dr. West arrived and examined Mia. Shortly, an aide came for her and took her to the gowning room. She quickly dressed as told and was led into another room.
“Where have you been?” Mia whined and Lee didn’t even attempt to answer the question.
“O.k. ladies, it looks like show time” Dr. West grinned as he washed up and donned a fresh gown. Lee went to Mia’s side and grasped her searching hand as another contraction ripped through her. Lee winced at the strength in the small woman’s hand and hoped the feeling would eventually return to her fingers. Dr. West and the nurses kept talking to Mia to get her to calm down but, nothing was working.
“O.k. Mia easy” Lee coached prying her fingers free. “Can’t you give her something for the pain?” Lee asked the doctor shaking her hand to get the circulation flowing again.
“No, I’m afraid it’s too late for anything, the babies already crowning” he explained trying to keep Mia still. The young woman was out of control and it was Lee’s responsibility to change the situation. Grasping her lovers jaw Lee shifted Mia’s attention to her face.
“Look at me!” steely blue eyes matched the demanding voice. “Now, you listen to my voice and do everything I say, you got that?” Mia nodded slightly and Lee kept her jaw trapped when she tried to move away.
“Oh no, no, no! You keep looking right at me” Lee ordered leaning in closer so that they were only a breath apart. “Now, take a deep breath and hold it” she paused, “let it out slowly. O.k., now more time”. Mia began to visibly relax and when the next contraction hit she wasn’t so frantic. Lee continued to coach her in her breathing as the labor continued.
Mia kept her focus on Lee’s voice and let her eyes get drawn in by the blue orbs before her. She felt a calming security take over and her fears began to lessen in her lover’s presence. When another contraction hit she went past the fear and listened to Lee’s steady voice. Mia felt Lee’s arms slip under her and lifted her up as her lover’s deep voice whispered in her ear, “Your doing great Mia, we’re almost done”.
Lee murmured reassurances and wiped Mia’s sweaty brow. “O.k. now, let’s get ready and when I say push, I want you to push as hard as you can, O.K.?
“I’m tired!” Mia cried.
“I know honey but, were almost there. I’ve got you and I won’t let you go. Just try to concentrate on pushing. I’ll never let you go” Lee promised.
“Push Mia!” Lee instructed as she supported her back. “Come on, one more big one and it’s over” Dr. West encouraged and nodded towards Lee.
“Come on Mia, I know you can do this. Just one more time, do this for me” Lee asked and kissed a wet temple, whispering in her ear so that only she could hear. She knew Mia was quickly getting tired as the labor had dragged on for longer than anyone had expected. Lee was proud of how she well she was doing, she didn’t think she could have been as brave.
Mia heard Lee’s “I love you” and knew that she would find the strength to keep going. As the pain hit her again, everyone shouted push and soon Mia heard the sound of a tiny voice cry out.
Lee hugged Mia gently as Dr. West laid their new daughter in Mia’s arms. Tears stung Lee’s eyes as she looked down at this small extension of Mia. Reaching out, Lee touched the small hand in wonder and looked at Mia who mouthed, ‘I love you”.
Tucked into a bed on the maternity room Mia held her new daughter as Lee poked her head in the door. “How’s it going?” Lee asked softly.
“Come here and have a look at your daughter” Mia asked and patted the bed next to her.
Lee started to pull up a chair when Mia stopped her, “No, lie down next to me, there’s plenty of room, please?”
Lee gently lowered herself next to Mia and slipped her arm under Mia to hold them both, kissing Mia before turning her attention to the baby.
“Hey, little one” she called out softly and watched as the baby curled her hand around Lee’s finger and held on. The tears were quick to Lee’s eyes as she looked down at the two most important people in her life. “She has your nose and chin” Lee remarked.
“Did you get a load of her hair?” Mia asked pulling the blanket back to reveal a patch of dark hair and added, “it’s the one thing of Rick that I’m happy she inherited because now she looks like a lot like you”.
“Think so?” Lee asked amused.
“Yes, and that’s not even the best part” Mia answered as the baby blinked open a pair of startling blue eyes.
Maybe second chances did happen afterall.
The sun had already begun its descent into dusk as Lee arrived at the hospital. Humming a tune that had been running through her head all day, she walked down the hall towards Mia’s room. If all went well Mia and the baby would be home by tomorrow at this time, provided they could agree upon a name. Lost in this thought Lee almost ran into Mia’s nurse when she stepped out in front of her.
"Excuse me Ms. Edwards, I’m Sally, Mia’s nurse, could I have a word with you in private?" the nurse asked briskly. Lee nodded and followed her into the supervisor’s office.
"What’s wrong?" Lee asked concerned at the nurse’s uncharacteristic behavior. This nurse was a stern, no-nonsense individual who looked like she hadn’t cracked a smile in years. Mia affectionately referred to her as, "the nurse from hell", more so, because she wouldn’t let the young woman get away with anything than, because Sally had actually said or done anything to warrant the title. Actually, Lee hadn’t heard the woman utter more than one word in the past three days, ‘no’, end of story.
"I know this is against policy but, I wanted to let you know what’s been happening before you go in to see Ms. Peters" she stated and turned to close the door.
"Is Mia o.k? the baby?" Lee asked standing by the closed door. Sally put out a hand to assured her; "Yes, yes everyone’s fine. Please sit down." Lee sat, looking confused and concerned as the nurse opened the folder on her desk and said, "Ms. Peters listed a Jeffrey Ames as the birth father."
"That’s correct" Lee confirmed. When Jeff had first approached them with the idea, Lee had been hesitant until he had made a good case for his reasoning. They knew that Rick and Mia’s mother wouldn’t just let things stay the way they were. After discussing it with Mia, they had decided that it would probably be the best thing to do at this point and, when the baby got older, they would explain the situation to her then.
"We’ve received a court order for a paternity test, the petitioner is claiming that he is the rightful birth father. He is also seeking custody of the child if the tests prove he is the father.
‘Oh God!’ Lee’s heart sank as she tried to keep her face fixed and unresponsive. "Who?" she asked knowing what the answer would be.
"A, Richard Jeffers".
"Does Mia know?" Lee asked not wanting to say more than she needed to at this point, unsure of how much the nurse actually knew of their situation.
"Yes, papers were also served to her earlier, she’s been upset ever since which, frankly, hasn’t been very good for the baby either" Sally informed her unhappily.
"Shit! Why wasn’t I called!" Lee asked angrily and she stood to leave the room.
"Wait! You weren’t called because technically, you are not her spouse or a blood relative".
Lee’s head shot up defensively to retort but stopped when the nurse held up her hand and continued, "Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree either but, it’s policy. I choose my battles carefully and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a non-issue right now."
"So, what do you want from me then?" Lee asked briskly. If she had no say in the matter then, what the hell was she doing sitting here.
"I just wanted you to know the procedure and what’s going to happen and, you do have a role to play, as far as I’m concerned".
"We will be testing both men’s blood for matching qualities. If we rule the petitioner is negative then, we should be able to avoid the DNA testing phase, which is very expensive and could take months to complete. The blood-work is relatively simple and can be ready by tomorrow. Lee’s anger was quickly diminishing into a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach; all of a sudden her happy little world was turning upside down. They could fight this but, at what cost? She wouldn’t put Mia, or the baby through anything like that, a fact, she was sure they were well aware of.
Sally saw the change in Lee’s expression and touched her arm softly to get her attention back. "I’m only going to be able to say this once, if it’s repeated, I’ll deny it, do you understand?" she asked Lee sternly. Lee nodded and looked up, the nurse definitely had her full attention now.
"We already know that the baby and Mia share the same blood typing. Next, we will type both fathers for grouping. If there is no match we will look at secondary factors. If the total matching ratio falls below a certain level, the test will be deemed negative. Dr. West is personally going to see to the procedure, and I’ve volunteered to assist. We don’t want any mix-ups on the calculations as such. One wrong figure, and it skews the totals which could read a false negative". Sally paused to take a breath and let this information sink in. She could loose her career if anyone knew what she was doing. When Dr. West had approached her, she immediately accepted, especially after meeting the petitioner when he came in to be tested. His attitude did not sit well with the entire staff.
"Lee, do you understand what I am saying?"
"I think so" Lee replied hesitantly, unsure if she was hearing what was actually being said or, just what she needed to hear.
"Good, now go see Mia and get her to calm down. She needs to relax or the baby is going to suffer too" she instructed.
Lee walked towards the door and stopped, turning hesitantly to the woman seated behind the desk, "I….."
"Lee, you have a lovely friend and new baby waiting for you in the other room, go to them", the stoic woman replied, a quick wink appeared and vanished causing Lee to blink, and wonder if she’d seen it at all. Opening the door, she walked down the hall to her family.
"So, how’s my two favorite girls?" Lee called out over the sound of one unhappy little girl. Mia’s eyes were red-rimmed from crying and when she saw Lee, fresh tears began to fall.
"Lee…" she cried unable to finish her sentence. Lee calmly walked over, sitting on the side of the bed and pulled the two into her arms. "It’s O.K." she reassured them as Mia buried her face in Lee’s neck and broke into sobs. The baby was red from crying, and Lee decided sighing, this little one has a pretty good set of lungs on her. Lee reached over and lightly rubbed the infant’s belly and rocked the two in her arms until they started to calm down. After a few moments Lee could fee the tension ease and watched as the baby’s eyes began to droop. Lee whispered in Mia’s ear, "Look". Mia picked up her head slightly and saw the baby was sleeping peacefully and looked up into steady blue eyes, "They brought me papers today. Rick is trying to take her away!" she stuttered.
"I know" Lee told her and kissed her lightly on the forehead.
"What are we going to do? I can’t loose her!"
"Shhh!" Lee soothed as the baby moved and resettled again, gently patting the baby she turned back to Mia.
Mia searched Lee’s face for some hint of her reaction to the situation and knew, ‘I can’t lose Lee either!’
Lee smiled down at her lover and said, "Don’t worry, its going to work out just fine".
"Lee, he ‘IS’ the father and he wants custody! It says that I’m not a fit parent!" Mia cried.
"Do you trust me?" Lee asked simply looking into tired green eyes.
"With my life, you know that".
"Then listen to me, let this go, everything will be alright!" Lee told her neglecting to mention any details. She didn’t think it was wise to let Mia know everything just yet. Mia had a good heart, sometimes too good for her own well-being and Lee was afraid she wouldn’t approve of what they were doing.
"You’re sure about this aren’t you?" Mia asked suspiciously. For some crazy reason, she believed that there wasn’t anything this woman couldn’t do and this filled her with sense of peace as nothing ever had in her life.
"Yep!" Lee answered and kissed her lover more intently before pulling back and saying, "I’m not about to lose either of my favorite ladies to anyone!"
"What are you hiding?" Mia asked cautiously.
"Well, between you and me", Lee whispered as one conspirator to another, "the warden isn’t going to let us leave with the baby tomorrow unless we have a name for her. We may have to sneak down the backstairs!"
For the first time all day, Mia felt like her world just might hold together awhile longer and laughed, "I could hurt you!"
"Ooh, stop teasing me" Lee retorted.
Mia placed her free hand on the side of Lee’s face and rubbed her thumb across the smooth lips and murmured, "I love you, do you know that?"
"Every time you look at me darlin’" Lee drawled nibbling on the passing thumb.
"So, we need a name to spring the runt, huh?"
"Well, since you vetoed "Junior, I don’t think she’d appreciate being called "baby girl" all her life" Lee replied grinning.
"No, I suppose not" Mia admitted thoughtfully looking at the sleeping child. Lee watched Mia’s face as she contemplated this, a spark of light entered the woman’s eyes and Lee grinned, "So?"
Mia looked up and answered, "I’ve given this a lot of thought. I’d like to name her after someone very special to me".
"Not your Aunt Maude, please tell me it’s not her!" Lee groaned.
"No, not her! I was thinking of naming her "Katie", short for "Katherine".
"But…that’s…." Lee started surprised.
"Your middle name" her lover finished. "You are one of the two most important things in my life and, it’s only fitting the other one be named the same; you are my life, my family".
"Are you sure?" Lee asked hoarsely, her eyes stinging from unshed tears. Mia nodded and softly replied, "of everything". Lee leaned down in confirmation and captured the lips of her friend and lover.
"Well, Katie, welcome to our family" Lee whispered brushing a stray tear from her cheek. "She’s perfect like her mother". Mia grunted at the compliment.
"Hey, I should know because I love them both very much and I happen to have impeccable taste!" Lee stated.
"Yeah, well she also has her mother’s disposition!" Mia replied sarcastically when the baby began waking up fussing.
"Only because she has your appetite!" Lee laughed watching the baby purse her lips in search of dinner.
"Too true!" Mia laughed and lifted the baby to her breast, Katie quickly settled down contently attached to her favorite object. "Look, she gets the same look you do!" Mia burst out laughing as Lee buried her reddened face in the pillow.
Lee made arrangements to take a week’s vacation and was at the hospital by 8:00 a.m. She didn’t care when visiting hours were, she wanted to be with Mia when the report came in. Passing the visitors lobby she saw Mia’s mother and sister-in-law arguing with the receptionist to be allowed to go up. Lee had no doubt that her mother had a part in today’s events. Lee ducked into the stairwell to avoid being seen but upon reaching Mia’s rooms she found it empty. She needed to find Mia to prepare her for these unexpected visitors but she also missed having her lover at home. She had spent a restless night alone.
Mia stood watching the baby asleep and marveled at the little life before her. Feeling a comforting presence slide up behind her, Mia leaned back as Lee’s arms reached around her and together; they looked at their daughter. Mia did not want this moment to end or to face the day’s events, as they stood silently soaking up the peace in this simple connection. After a few minutes Mia heard Lee’s voice break the stillness, "Good Morning. Did you have a good night?"
Mia looked down the empty hall before turning in Lee’s arms and planting a serious kiss on her lover. "Yes, but not as good as my morning’s turning out" she replied huskily and rested her head on Lee’s chest.
"Umm thanks but, unfortunately, I’m going to have to burst your bubble. I passed a couple of visitors in the lobby on the way up" Lee replied with a sigh and tightened her hold.
Mia looked up warily, "Who?"
"Grandma" Lee responded, avoiding showing any emotion one way or the other.
"Great, just what I needed" Mia moaned walking back toward the glass window to the nursery.
"If it’s any consolation, the desk won’t let her up for another ten minutes" Lee replied grinning.
Mia looked back mischievously, "And you?"
"I’m the father, I can visit anytime". At the mention of the word father, Mia’s face suddenly saddened and Lee could have kicked herself. Going to her, Lee lifted Mia’s chin up to face her and softly said, "Hey, remember what I told you". Mia tried to smile but Lee could see the fear in the young woman’s eyes.
"No one is taking that baby away from you, do you hear me?" she replied emphatically.
"And no one is taking you away from me either!" Mia responded bravely.
"That’s my girl!" Lee replied and hugged her and hated asking, "Should be about time, ready to go face the lions?"
"Lead the way oh, mighty warrior!" Mia replied and looked up confused.
"Where did that come from?" Lee laughed.
"I don’t know, silly huh?"
"I don’t know, I kind of like it" Lee replied as hand in hand they walked back toward the room.
Not surprised they found Mia’s mother trying to browbeat answers out of the doctor. Looking relieved at their entrance, he cut the older woman off and greeted the two women, "Well, we were wondering where you’d gone off to".
Mia gripped Lee’s hand and pulled her into the room after her, perversely satisfied at the response on her mother’s face. "What’s going on here, we having a party?" Mia asked dryly.
Dr. West winced at the comment knowing its intent, he quickly jumped in to avoid being a witness to any family disputes. "Well, I have good news and bad news" he answered seriously. "I have the lab results to the petition and I’d like to go over them with you. Would you prefer to do this privately?"
Lee surprised Mia by speaking up and answering, "No, I think her family should all be present, don’t you".
Dr. West closed his eyes for a moment, ‘Great, they’re both in rare form today’. Opening his file he began, "O.K., as you know, we tested both of the men in question and found that only one was a match. The other matched at only 10% which was determined across the common bonding sites of all blood, meaning just about anyone can match at that percentage" he paused to consult his file.
"Who was it?" Mia heard herself ask in a shaky voice.
Dr. West read the file; "The father is undoubtedly Jeffrey Ames, as listed on the birth certificate. I see no reason for further testing and I’ve said so in my report".
Mia sagged against Lee’s shoulder and squeezed the hand she was holding. Mia wasn’t sure how but she knew Lee had something to do with what had just happened. Surprisingly, she didn’t care how, all that mattered was that they remain a family.
Lee watched as Mrs. Peters took the news, the woman didn’t look thrilled with the outcome but, then again, she didn’t look too upset either. Lee knew she was cutting her losses when she impatiently asked, "Can I see my granddaughter now?"
"Yes, I’ll have the nurse bring her right in" Dr. West replied thankful that no one was asking for tough answers. He almost ran to the door in his effort to escape.
"Dr. West" Mia called out, "What was the bad news?"
Trying to hide a grin he coughed and answered, "Why, you’re leaving us today, of course".
Mia heard her mother’s slight intake of breath and winked at Lee whose eyes twinkled in response.
The room fell into an uncomfortable silence as they waited for the nurse to bring in Katie.
"I don’t suppose you have any intention of marrying this Jeffrey person?" her mother asked quietly.
"No mother, he’s gay" Mia answered bluntly causing Lee to wince. She realized Mia was just coming into her own and needed to take charge but, ‘easy honey, not like a bull in a china shop!’
"Oh, Good Lord!" the older woman exclaimed sitting down, "what have you gotten into, is everyone gay?"
"Pretty much so, mother" Mia baited and pulled Lee to sit on the bed next to her, facing the distraught woman. Lee wished she were anywhere but right here, ‘maybe she should go check on what’s keeping the baby?’ she thought.
Mia could almost read Lee’s tense body and knew she was looking to flee, pulling their clasped hands onto her lap, she slightly shook her head ‘No!’
Lee looked over at Mrs. Peters and thought wryly, ‘If looks could kill I’d surely be dead right now!’
"Mother, stop glaring at Lee, she isn’t going to go away and neither is the way I feel about her" Mia stated flatly.
Mrs. Peters looked at her daughter in total shock; no one had ever spoken to her with such blatant disrespect before. Lee cringed and waited for the inevitable explosion but it wasn’t forthcoming. Instead, silence permeated the room once again and, catching Terri’s attention, Lee received a slight shrug of shoulders in return.
Mia finally broke the silence when she addressed her mother, "Mother, I need you to understand that we, Lee and I, have a daughter, and we plan to raise her together. I want her to know her grandparents but, not at the cost of my family. Please don’t make me choose because, you won’t like the outcome".
"Where did I go wrong in raising you?’ her mother asked tearfully, "Is it my fault?"
"There’s no fault involved Mother, it’s who I am, not what I am" Mia tried to explain. "No one wakes up one day and decides to be gay. It’s not that easy, believe me, it’s not a choice, it’s what makes me, me!"
"I’m not sure I’ll ever understand you people. The Bible says it’s wrong and that’s all there is to it!" Mrs. Peters answered piously.
"Maybe not wrong, just misinterpreted" Lee quietly replied. When she didn’t receive a rebuff she took courage and continued, "It’s hard to believe such a loving God would condemn people based on who they love, not who they are. Is God not a respecter of persons? If this is wrong, then why are we born with these feelings?" she asked sincerely.
Mrs. Peters looked at Lee uncertain of how to actually respond to what she said and finally answered, "I don’t know". She realized that, outside of what she believed the scripture to say, she really didn’t know all the answers.
Mia looked back and forth between her mother and her lover and could feel the tears reforming. She wanted nothing more than to throw her arms around Lee and thank her for what she had said and, in getting her mother to see more than black and white. Mia knew it wasn’t over, not by a long shot, but it was a definite beginning.
A nurse arrived with Katie and further conversation ceased as the women joined in unison for the first time and shared the joy of this new bridge between their families.
A cry pierced the night brining an instant moan from the small body next to her. Lee rubbed her face and mumbled, "Stay put, I’ll get her". After three nights of this, she was exhausted and knew that it was worse for Mia. "Good thing, I’m on vacation", she grumbled, as the cries became more insistent. "O.k., O.k., your dinner’s coming, jeez you’d think you hadn’t just eaten two hours ago!" she whispered to the baby and rocked her tiny body as she walked back down the hallway.
Placing the bundle in Mia’s arms she heard a sleepy voice ask, "Can’t you train your daughter to tell the time yet?" Chuckling Lee crawled back into bed, as the room became quiet once again.
Sunlight stretched across the bed as one green eye peeked open, the house was silent and she guessed it had something to do with, the empty bed next to her. Glancing at the alarm clock Mia realized she had slept for the last four hours without interruption, surprised she got out of bed and went in search of the other two. Tiptoeing into the nursery, she found her other half dozing in the rocking chair with Katie tightly snuggled against her chest also asleep. Mia stood silently watching until a smile appeared as Lee acknowledged Mia’s presence in the room.
"Good Morning" she whispered, softly approaching the chair and leaned down to kiss Lee lightly. "How long has she been out?"
"Since you last fed her and I changed her", Lee answered proudly. "Let’s see if I can get her into her own bed without waking her up. I could use some coffee!"
Mia watched as Lee gently laid Katie down and soothed her back to sleep. Triumphantly smiling, Lee led Mia out of the room and down the hall. "Feeling pretty full of yourself aren’t you?" Mia replied as they entered the kitchen.
"Yep. Now, what was that about Good Morning?" Lee asked pulling Mia to her as she leaned back against the counter.
"You mean this?" Mia asked and lightly kissed her lover’s lips. "Or this?" she asked huskily and continued kissing her with purpose.
"Oh, definitely the latter" Lee responded nuzzling the smaller woman’s neck.
"Didn’t you say something about coffee?" Mia asked hopefully.
"Not on your life!" Lee retorted pulling back. "Katie’s up all night as it is!"
"What about me?" Mia whined. Lee looked down at the tired woman in her arms and decided what they needed was more sleep, not coffee, leading Mia back to bed, they curled up together and quickly fell asleep.
The days fell into months as they developed a comfortable pattern of Lee working and Mia on extended leave to take care of Katie. Katie, who was finally sleeping longer each night as she quickly filled out. Sunday afternoons were spent at Terri and Alex’s with the grandparents in attendance. The three of them were yet to be invited to the grandparents’ house directly, instead they used Alex as the intermediary. Lee didn’t mind as everyone got along and they basically confined themselves to making a fuss over Katie. On the few occasions that Mia’s mother tried to correct her on the proper care of the baby, Mia simply handled the situation by telling her; "This is how I prefer to do this".
On one particular afternoon, Terri and Lee were in the kitchen talking and Terri asked, "Have you thought about having another baby some day?"
Lee looked over at her like she was crazy, "I think once was enough for Mia".
"I didn’t mean Mia" Terri replied matter of factly as Mia walked into the room.
Handing Katie to Lee and flexing her tired arm she asked, "Didn’t mean Mia, what?" Katie was getting heavier and heavier.
Terri tickled the baby’s chin and replied, "I asked Lee if she had thought about having the next baby".
"Hey, that’s a great idea. The next time you get carry Godzilla around for nine months!" Mia joked.
"Yeah, and don’t forget the delivery." Terri added, "Do you think you can handle it?"
Mia noticed Lee pale as she mumbled, "Katie needs a diaper change" and headed out to the living room. Turning to Terri, Mia laughed lightly saying, "I think one is more than we can handle" and went to help Lee.
"You o.k?" Mia asked, quietly putting an arm on Lee’s back as she watched her re-dress Katie.
"Yeah, sure" Lee replied casually but, Mia could feel the tension under her hand. "You’re just a little stinker, aren’t ya" Lee cooed to Katie and received a smile in return. Looking at Mia, Lee replied,
"Check that out, and don’t tell me that was gas!"
"I wouldn’t put anything past the two of you!" Mia responded, letting the conversation go for now.
By Saturday night, Mia was knew that something had been bothering Lee all week and she had a feeling it had something to do with Sunday’s conversation. She put Katie down for the night and joined Lee in the living room. The taller woman was stretched out on the couch with the remote control, sitting on the end of the couch she patted her lap and Lee laid her head down. "What are you watching?"
"The Dolphins just lost their chance at the Super Bowl" Lee replied sadly and switched the TV off.
"Feel like talking?" Mia asked.
"Sure, what’s up?" Lee answered casually.
"I keep thinking about your conversation with Terri last week". Lee didn’t say anything and just fiddled with the remote control.
"If you don’t want to talk about it, we don’t have to" Mia said softly brushing raven hair out of Lee’s face.
"No, it’s O.K." was the simple reply.
Mia watched as her lover’s brow creased, rubbing her thumb over the crease she waited for Lee to continue.
"Do you want more children?" Lee asked quietly.
"I don’t know, do you?" Mia replied. Mia was content with the way things were. She didn’t necessarily want to have another baby but, if Lee decided she wanted to have one, she would support her all the way.
"You didn’t answer the question." Lee stated.
"I like our little family but, I wouldn’t be opposed to extending it" Mia answered vaguely.
"Then let me ask, do YOU want to have another baby?" Lee asked again.
Mia gave this some thought and knew that she had to give a definitive answer this time and let Lee know that she would be supportive. "No, not me necessarily but, if you want to that’s great".
Lee thought about his for a moment before asking, "Would it be a problem if we didn’t?"
"No, but can I ask why?"
Lee looked directly up into green eyes for the first time and didn’t answer. "Lee, what’s going on?" Mia asked as looked intently into her lover’s eyes.
Lee rolled on her side and looked away as a tear escaped the corner of her eye and responded "Nothing".
Mia felt the tear on her knee and pulled at the shoulder facing away from her. "It’s not nothing" she said and leaned closer.
Lee looked back up, her eyes glistening and told Mia the truth; "I can’t have children".
Mia realized that Lee’s pain went deeper than she first realized and asked, "Because of what happened?"
Lee nodded her head and looked for any sign of reproach in her lover’s eyes. "I’m sorry", she offered lamely.
"You have nothing to be sorry about. I’m happy just the way we are. I’m just sorry that you had to be hurt so much."
"I should have told you sooner but, I didn’t know it would matter", Lee replied.
"It doesn’t matter to me. I’m here with you because I love you, not your ability to have children. The only thing that matters to me is how this affects you", Mia answered stroking the side of Lee’s face.
"I guess I had gotten used to it; for a long time I thought it was my punishment for what I had done. When Katie came along, I felt as if she were truly mine and I thought I had put the rest behind me until Terri mentioned it," Lee explained sitting up "then I was worried that somehow I would disappoint you when you found out".
"Hey, you could never disappoint me. I just wish I could have been there for you, but I’m here now. You don’t still believe it was a punishment do you?" Mia asked entwining Lee’s fingers with her own.
"No, I realized that sometimes the choices we make have consequences, bad things happen, period."
"You’re right, bad things sometimes happen, but so do good things. Nothing is going to change the fact that you have a daughter and you have me. Mia said and wrapped her arms around her lover. "Although, I’m not sure if the latter is a bonus?"
Lee grinned at Mia’s attempt at humor and rested her head against the smaller woman’s, "I think it’s a definite bonus!"
"Good, because I’m too old and too tired to prove it!" Mia yawned. "Are you o.k., with this?"
"Yes, actually I think I finally am" Lee replied feeling a weight lift from off her chest.
"Want to take an old woman to bed?" Mia asked playfully.
"You bet!" Lee replied jumping up and put a hand down to help Mia off the sofa, and into her arms. She pulled her close and whispered softly in her ear, "Thank you my friend, you and that little girl mean more to me than anything".
"Ditto" Mia replied and surrendered herself to her lover’s kiss.
Mia stirred the pot of sauce on the stove and realized she hadn’t heard a sound coming from the other room for quite some time and contemplated the benefits of having two women caring for one child. It sure made life easier. Lee would jump right in on with diapers and laundry, and on the weekends, Mia could take a breath and relax. Lee had been gone all last week on business, Mia knew that Katie had missed her but, not as much as Mia had. She found that sleeping hadn’t come easy without the shelter of Lee’s body that always curled around her at night. Turning the heat down to a simmer, she covered the pot and went to find her lover, ‘wish it were that easy for me’ she mused.
As Mia neared Katie’s room she heard a voice softly singing and was surprised to find it Lee, but who else was in the house? Peeking her head around the door she saw Katie in her crib and Lee sitting in the rocker near by, singing to her. The look on her lover's face made her heart lighten; she had never seen such a look of absolute peace on it before. Lee had come home last night tired and haggard, but you would never know it today. Mia crossed the room quietly and whispered, "keep singing" in Lee’s ear when she hesitated, and climbed into her lover’s lap. Continuing to rock and sing, Lee held her tightly and Mia’s world was once again complete.
Lee had finished singing and saw that Mia’s eyes were closed, and continued rocking thinking the young woman asleep. ‘She must have had a very busy week by herself.’ Lee thought about her own week and whispered, "I really missed you." The blonde head nodded in agreement as lips grazed Lee’s neck, letting her know that she was indeed awake. Lee shivered every time Mia touched her neck, it was her one ticklish spot, and normally, it would send her to the floor in a heap if anyone else tried touching her. Mia was the only one that Lee had ever been able to let get that close and Lee knew it had to do with trust.
Mia took full advantage of this knowledge and nuzzled and nipped her way down the smooth soft skin. Lee moaned as Mia continued on her attack of the sensitive area, "you’d better not start something you can’t finish" she whispered huskily.
"I have every intention of do so later tonight" Mia replied teasingly and slid off her lover’s lap.
"Is that a promise?" Lee asked raising an eyebrow in challenge.
"Bank on it! Now, come help me finish cooking, everyone will be here soon."
Lee groaned and got up to follow after Mia, "Tell me again, why we agreed to have everyone over for dinner tonight?"
"We?" Mia retorted stirring the sauce, "I seem to remember it was you who thought it would be fun!"
"Yea, I said that didn’t I?" Lee answered bemused. "Oh well, it’s the holidays, I guess we can make the best of it."
"Could you get me the big pot for the macaroni and stop looking so dejected, it’s only for one night" Mia chuckled and patted Lee’s rear as she reached up to retrieve the requested item.
Lee pulled the pan down and looked menacingly back at her playful partner, "I wouldn’t do that unless you want your parents to really get to know this family intimately."
"Why, you don’t think my parents haven’t done it in the kitchen?" Mia replied enjoying the surprised blush on Lee’s face.
"They have! How do you know?" Lee asked giggling at Mia’s conspiratorial look.
"Let’s just say I have inside information" Mia laughed, taking her turn at blushing.
"You didn’t!" Lee replied her eyes and mouth open in astonishment. She just couldn’t picture the upright and honorable Mrs. Peters ever doing anything so unconventional. If it hadn’t been for Alex and Mia, Lee would have wondered if she had ever even had sex.
"Yes, I did! Well, could I help it if I got up to get some water, after all, the sink is in the kitchen!"
"Where were they?" Lee asked curiously.
"On the table!" Mia replied her face darkening even redder.
"Oh God!" Lee cried holding her side, "It’s a good thing we don’t get invited for dinner over there!" and burst out in renewed laughter. Lee could barely ask, "How old were you? Did they see you?"
Mia shook her head as her eyes teared, "I had just returned home from college so, I must have been twenty-three, and no way did they see me. I ran as quietly and as fast I could back to my room! I was traumatized for weeks!" The two women leaned against the counter weak as they fought to get control of themselves.
"Oh, that’s too rich!" Lee moaned which started them laughing all over again. Mia grabbed Lee and begged, "You’ve got to promise me that you won’t say anything to anyone! Please!"
Lee wiped her eyes on the back of her sleeve and nodded, "I promise because I don’t think anyone would believe me."
"Lee….!" Mia threatened grabbing a wooden spoon for emphasis.
Lee put her hands up defensively laughing, "I promise! I promise!"
"Thank you! Now go get ready while I finish up in here. You get to greet them at the door and make them feel comfortable!" Mia replied with relish.
Lee groaned as she walked out, "Why me?"
"Because you love me, that’s why!"
"Boy, are you lucky!" Lee called back.
"Don’t I know it" Mia whispered softly.
The family arrived all at once, having driven over in the same car. Lee secretly had the feeling that Mia’s parents didn’t want to show up alone, which was fine with her too. She hung up everyone’s coats and settled them into the living room. Terri quickly fled to the kitchen to help Mia, and left Lee at a loss for conversation. Katie came to the rescue by waking up and Lee quickly excused herself to get her.
"You, my little darling, are a lifesaver!" Lee cooed as she changed and dressed the infant for grandma’s inspection. She made sure she dressed Katie in one of the outfits that Mrs. Peters had given her. "Now, try to behave yourself and don’t let Grandma think that we raise delinquents!" she whispered to the happy baby. Walking back into the living room with Katie in her arms, Lee hesitated for a moment and then approached Mrs. Peters. "Katie’s been excited about seeing Grandma all day, haven’t ya?" Lee replied and handed the gurgling baby to her grandmother.
"Thank you" Mrs. Peters said with a surprised looked as she took her granddaughter from Lee. She was the only one that was dressed to the teeth, ‘one might have thought she was going to church instead of an informal family dinner’.
"You’re welcome" Lee responded quickly as she felt laughter bubbling up from her recent insight into the outwardly conservative woman. Lee excused herself to check on the status of dinner. Entering the kitchen, Mia caught the twinkle in her lover’s eye and knew it wasn’t a good thing.
"Are you behaving yourself?" she asked quietly when Lee joined her at the stove. "Always!" Lee replied innocently.
Mia knew better and thought, ‘Oh boy, it’s going to be a long dinner’.
As dinner progressed and everything went smoothly, Mia actually began to relax and enjoy herself. Lee took care of Katie during dinner and left Mia to socialize with her family, which wasn’t hard since Lee had a knack for getting Katie to fall asleep anywhere. Mia looked over to find Katie, as expected, sound asleep in her carrier nestled between her two mothers and looked up to meet Lee’s eyes. Lee winked as a mischievous glint entered her eye causing Mia to involuntarily giggle. Mia took a sip of her water in an attempt to hide her actions. Mia’s eyes widened as Lee began to pat the table next to her plate, she felt the water catch as it went down her throat and, began to cough. Terri reached over and gently rubbed Mia’s back as she alternated between coughing and laughing.
Lee looked up concerned and asked, "Are you all right?" Mia nodded, seeing the guilty look in Lee’s eyes she smiled innocently and replied, "Oh yes, I just swallowed wrong when I thought about putting my buns on the table." Now it was Lee’s turn to choke and she left the room coughing into her napkin. "I almost forgot they’re in the oven."
"I hope you two aren’t coming down with anything!" Mrs. Peters pronounced. "If you are, then maybe I should take the baby home with me."
"No, it’s all right mother, we aren’t getting sick" Mia replied and looked over at Terri’s curious look. Winking at Terri, Mia got up and said, "I’ll just go check on her and make sure she’s o.k."
Mia found Lee at the stove removing garlic bread from the oven. Sliding up behind her she put her hands around her lover’s waist. "Buns, huh?" Lee replied amused.
"You started it", Mia defended and relaxed her grip so that Lee could turn around to face her. Leaning down to lightly kiss the blonde’s lips Lee replied, "Round one goes to you."
"Oh, is this going to be a fight?"
"Naw, just tactical maneuvers" Lee replied leaving Mia to absorb the innuendo as she carried the bread back to the dining room.
By 11 PM everyone had departed and Mia was finishing up in the kitchen. Lee had left to put Katie down for the night and hadn’t yet returned. Mia hung up the damp dishtowel and went to say good night to Katie. Entering the darkened room she found the infant tucked in and sound asleep. Kissing her lightly she smiled and headed to the bedroom to find her missing partner.
The only light in the bedroom came from the half closed bathroom door. Slipping off her shoes, Mia made her way quietly across the carpeting and gently pushed open the door. The room glowed and flickered from the light of the candles that were placed strategically around the room. In the middle of this glow, Lee sat in a tub full of bubbly water holding a glass of wine. "It’s about time you showed up" she replied seductively. "Care to join me?"
"Depends, do you have one of those for me?" she asked tugging at the buttons on her blouse.
"Yes but, you’ll have to come and get it" Lee replied holding up a second glass of amber liquid. Lee watched appreciatively as Mia slipped out of her clothes and into the water.
Mia settled in front of Lee as her lover made room for her in the cramped tub and handed her the glass of wine. Taking a sip, she placed her glass on the ledge and leaned back pulling Lee’s hands around her bare abdomen.
Lee’s finger tip drew tiny circles around Mia’s soft smooth skin as she kissed the side of her lover’s face and began nibbling on he smooth skin behind her ear.
"Mmmm" Mia purred and stroked the thigh that rested next to her hip. "This is very nice."
"Glad you approve" Lee whispered huskily in her ear and continued her exploration.
"Lee, I was wondering, what would you say to spending the New Year’s somewhere alone together?"
Lee stopped and asked uncertainly, "You mean without Katie?"
"Yes, I thought we could ask Terri to watch her, it would only be for the weekend" Mia replied.
"Well, I guess it would be alright. She’s old enough and I know Terri will be fine. What about your mother?"
"Well, I thought about that and I don’t mind if she’s there, I just don’t know if I’d feel comfortable leaving her totally with my mother. There are still unresolved issues between us" Mia explained turning sideways to look at Lee.
Lee nodded and thought about time alone with the gorgeous woman in her arms and smiled, "Yeah, I think I’d like it."
"Great! I’ll call Terri tomorrow" Mia answered and snuggled down against her lover. "Where would you like to go?"
"How about somewhere secluded with a fireplace?" Lee suggested.
"Works for me!"
"Good, I think I know just the place. I’ll take care of the arrangements tomorrow. Right now, I think there are some promises that need to be kept" Lee answered and began fulfilling her end of them.
In order to smooth the ruffled feathers about their decision to leave Katie with Terri and Alex, Lee and Mia agreed to spend the night of Christmas Eve at Mia’s parents with Alex and his family joining them on Christmas day. Arriving, they were amused to find that Mrs. Peters had set up two rooms for them. Mia took charge as the three women entered the first room, "Lee put Katie’s things in here and I’ll put our bags in the other room." Mia looked directly at her mother and knew all it would take was one comment by her mother, and they would turn and walk out the door for good.
Mrs. Peters threw her hands up and replied, "I just can’t deal with this right now" and walked out.
"It is her house, honey", Lee said putting down Katie’s portable crib and their bags.
"That may be true, but this is my life and she either accepts it or she doesn’t. I’m tired of trying to be something I’m not", Mia explained.
"O.k., as long as you understand you are drawing a permanent line here and are prepared to deal with the outcome", Lee answered.
"I think for the first time in my life, I am prepared to face just about anything!" Mia replied and kissed Lee lightly and pulled her back down the hall towards the kitchen.
"Everything but that!" Mia said shakily, the fear heavy in her voice. Lee looked up to find Rick seated at the table making himself at home. "What the hell is he doing here?"
"Mia! I will not have that kind of language in my home!" Mrs. Peters admonished. "Rick stopped by to wish us a Merry Christmas!"
"Let’s go Lee" Mia stated flatly. Lee did not hesitate and replied, "You get Katie and I’ll go get our things".
Mia looked at her mother, "Why can’t you ever leave things alone? I hope you are happy with your decision.”
"What are you talking about?" Mrs. Peters asked worried.
"I’m talking about you choosing a stranger over your granddaughter because that is what you just did" she answered and walked out of the room.
"Wait…" Mrs. Peters called out moving towards her daughter before she felt a hand on her arm.
"Let me handle this Mrs. Peters" Rick said and left after Mia.
She wasn’t sure but maybe he deserved another chance. Mrs. Peters hesitated on that thought and asked herself, ‘Why?’ She had to admit she had never seen Mia look so happy and Katie was such a delightful little girl. She had to begrudgingly admit that Lee wasn’t such a bad person and the way she took care of Mia and Katie was very special. "Oh what have I done?" she cried when she remembered the look on Mia’s face return to haunt her and hearing the finality of the word’s echo in her mind, she hurried to find her daughter.
"So, is this the kid I keep hearing about" Rick drawled as he walked into the room behind Mia. "What do you want Rick?" Mia asked putting herself between him and the baby.
"I just wanted to see what the fuss was all about" he smirked. "I can see she had dark hair like mine."
"No, like Jeff’s" Mia corrected and instinctively grabbed Katie to her startling the infant awake.
"Just keep away from us Rick" Mia warned and tried to sooth her daughter as her face began to screw up into tears.
"Oh, don’t worry, I want nothing to do with you or your little bastard. Even if she were mine, I wouldn’t admit to it now. You should have been nicer to me back then; maybe things would have turned out better for you. You could have had it all" he sneered.
"If that means having you, I’ll pass" Mia replied flippantly.
"Acting awful high and mighty for a dyke. I had to show you what a real man was like" he laughed.
"Ha! You’re the reason I turned dyke" she lied but it had the punch she was looking for. "Real men don’t take!" she finished and pushed past him to find Lee.
Rick followed her to the living room and blocked her exit. Mia could see that he wasn’t going to give up without causing some sort of trouble.
"Don’t you dare touch me again", Mia screamed as the baby erupted into loud wails. "Look what you did", he accused angrily and tried to take Katie from her.
Lee knocked the snow off the car and proceeded to put their bags in the back. She really wished things hadn’t gone so badly with Mia’s family. For Katie’s sake she had hoped everyone could learn to get along. It had even seemed to be happening, until now. Closing the hatch, Lee heard the first screams and took off running towards the house, opening the front door she heard Mrs. Peters raised voice coming from the living room.
"You take your filthy hands off my daughter and that baby!" the indignant woman roared as she entered the room.
"I was just trying to help Katie, Mrs. Peters. Your daughter’s crazy and she’s upsetting the baby", Rick smoothly lied to cover himself. He couldn’t afford not to have this woman on his side.
"You filthy piece of cow hokey!" Mrs. Peters swore, "You’ve lied to this family for the last time. I want you to leave right now!" she ordered and moved towards Mia and the baby. Mia looked at her mother in shock as she whispered soothingly to Katie and rocked her in an effort to quiet the frightened child. She had never heard her mother use such language, let alone in her defense. Tears stung Mia’s eyes as she looked down into little blue ones tinged with fresh fear. "No, no it’s o.k. Sweetie", she cooed.
"What! Are you throwing me out? You’re taking that dyke’s side after all she’s done?" he asked furiously.
"That’s my daughter you are talking about and she has done nothing to you!" Mrs. Peters spat. "Now I see you for what you are, the vilest of human garbage. My daughter deserves better than you!"
"Oh yeah, you mean the big dyke!" he snorted. "You need me to validate that child’s existence."
"You get out of my house right now! I don’t ever want to see your face again", Mia’s mother ordered, "And don’t think I won’t bring this up to the church board."
Rick stood defiantly and replied, "Yes, let’s tell them all about your daughter!"
Lee had heard enough and the cries of her daughter were tearing at her as she stepped into the living room unnoticed.
"I think you were asked to leave" Lee replied, her tone of voice was well past anger and into something more chilling.
Rick spun around to face the 5’11 wall of stone and stupidly tested her resolve, "Make me dyke!"
Ice blue eyes looked down at him as if he were already dead and ordered, "Shut up and leave now!"
"Drop dead bitch!" he spat and dared her to make a move.
A smile curled the edge of the woman’s lips as she replied, "You first!"
Mia never saw Lee move, one minute they were staring each other down and the next Lee had Rick pinned against the wall, his face reddening as he gasped for breath. Leaning into his face Lee warned, "If I ever see you again, I will kill you! You stay away from this family, do you understand?"
Lee released the pressure on his neck and pushed away from him in disgust, "Leave now!"
Coughing and drawing in a ragged breath he rasped, "Bitch!" and moved towards Lee. Without hesitation Lee brought her knee up cutting off any further advance. With a guttural gasp Rick dropped to the floor.
Lee looked down and with a cold calm replied, "And don’t swear in front of my daughter again!" She remained looking down at the writhing man until she felt someone touch her from behind.
Turning, the tension drained out of her body as she found blue and green eyes looking up at her. Checking to make sure they were all right she looked over at Mrs. Peterson who looked at her with an expression Lee couldn’t decipher, and turned her attention back to Mia.
"You o.k?" she asked and took the trembling infant from her arms. Holding Katie in one arm she put the other around Mia and led her from the room.
Mr. Peters walked into the front door as the women walked out of the living room. Handing Katie to Mrs. Peters, Lee turned to Mia’s father, "Help me take out some trash?"
Looking past her shoulder to the man the floor he smiled, "With pleasure!"
"I can’t say that I will ever approve of your lifestyle but, I hope you can forgive me. I did what I thought was right but, I now realize that what is right for me isn’t necessarily right for you. I don’t want to lose you or Katie". Lee stood in the doorway listening to the conversation between Mia and her mother. She turned to give them some privacy until she heard her name called out.
"Lee, please don’t leave, sit down and join us. We need to talk and you’re a part of this too", Mrs. Peters said. Lee turned back into the room and took a seat next to Mia at the table. Mr. Peters had taken a sleeping Katie into the other room so the women could talk.
"I know that we didn’t get off to a very good start Lee and I want you to know that I’m sorry for that. I believe in the sanctity of marriage and the union between a man and a woman, but I’ve come to learn there are many forms of love. Even if I cannot agree, it doesn’t mean I am blind either. I’ve never seen my daughter so happy as she is with you. I’ve also seen the way you take care of them and I don’t think any husband could do better. If you will give me the chance, I would like for us to become friends", the woman ended, her eyes twinkling with unshed tears.
"I’d like that very much", Lee replied. "I know how much you all mean to Mia and I will do everything in my power to make this work. Mia and Katie mean a lot to me, they are my life". Mia took Lee’s hand in hers and the tall woman felt the trembling in her lover’s touch. Lee squeezed Mia’s hand not trusting herself to say any more.
"Mother, I know we have our differences and that we don’t agree on many issues. I would like us to be able to put our differences aside and give Katie a loving family that includes her grandparents. As long as we both understand that Lee and I are just as much a couple as Alex and Terri, and I expect our relationship to receive the same respect. I love Lee with every ounce of my being and that is never going to change", Mia told her mother tearfully.
The three women continued to talk for a long time. While not everything could be resolved in one night, they had made a very good beginning. This holiday brought many changes all around, but none greater than between Lee and Mia. Their love would only grow stronger, with this new acceptance, tensions eased. Mia had withstood the slings of her family to maintain her love for Lee and Lee had accepted this charge to protect this fragile bond.
Lee drove home with a smile on her face as she reminisced about a snowstorm, a cabin and a certain blonde. She hoped tonight proved equally memorable. Today marked one year since she and Mia had come together, and Lee had left work early and headed home. Looking at her watch, she realized that she had half an hour to spare before Terri picked up Katie and she had one stop left to make. If she timed it right, she could get home just before Terri, and have Katie ready and waiting. Mia had no idea what was going on. Lee hoped her two ladies stayed on their usual schedule and were napping when she got home.
Lee made a quick stop before racing home, arriving just behind Terri. Grabbing her packages she tucked the long box from the last stop under her arm and went to meet up with Mia’s sister-in-law.
“I wish you’d give some hints to Alex! I can’t remember the last time he got me roses,” Terri commented pointing to the box under her arm.
Lee blushed at the request. “I’ll see what I can do.” Together they crept into the house and found it pleasantly quiet. Lee went to the bedroom first to reassure herself that Mia was asleep, finding it so, she went to the nursery to get Katie. At Lee’s touch sleepy blue eyes opened and peered at her mother, smiling Lee kissed the baby’s rosy cheek as she dressed her in her snowsuit. Wrapping her in a blanket, Lee lifted the baby and retrieved the overnight bag from the closet. The top shelf was a great hiding place Lee thought, ‘Mia never thought to look over her head’. Lee went back into the living room, handing the bag to Terri, she carried Katie out to the car. Settled comfortably in her car seat, the infant was already falling back to sleep and Lee whispered, “You be good for Grandma and Mommy will see you tomorrow”. Looking up Lee noted Terri grinning at her and replied, “Don’t go there!”
“I can’t help it. Mia is so lucky, I’m jealous!” The redhead chuckled.
Lee beat Terri to the next punch line by replying, “you just need to train us right!” This brought an instant laugh out of the redhead as she slipped behind the wheel, "You are probably right! I’ll drop her by Moms and then Alex and I will meet you at Sharkey’s around 8 PM. In the meantime, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do” she called out as Lee stepped back to close the door.
“That leaves us wide open!” Lee retorted, gently closing the car door and watched the car drive away before hurrying back into the house to commence with Plan B. ‘I know you don’t like surprises Mia but, I think you will forgive me this one time’ she mused as she slipped quietly into the house. Lee put the roses in a vase and set them on the table, retrieving the other package she headed back to the bedroom. Mia hadn’t stirred and was still curled up invitingly on the bed, shrugging out of her jacket and slipping off her shoes she climbed onto the bed and molded herself around her lover.
In Mia’s dream she felt warm and safe, she could feel the warm breath of her lover on her neck and reveled in the sensation. The warmth persisted, causing a shiver to run through her entire body as she realized that she wasn’t dreaming at all. Familiar arms were wrapped around her and she could feel a constant tickling behind her ear.
“Is it that late already?” she asked sleepily as her body involuntarily pressed closer to the one behind her.
“No, it’s only 2 o’clock,” a soft voice whispered in her hear. Rolling over concerned green eyes focused on lazy blue, “What’s wrong? Why are you home so early?”
The blue eyes twinkled as soft red lips replied, “Nothing’s wrong, I just wanted to spend some time with you”.
“Ooh, I like that,” Mia purred and reached up to pull the inviting lips closer, fully satisfying herself that this was indeed reality. Mia pulled back slowly, “Is Katie still asleep?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Lee replied lightly nipping at the blonde’s neck.
“What do you mean?” Mia giggled as Lee teased her way down her neckline.
“She’s not here,” Lee’s reply muffled as teeth began tugging open the top button of Mia’s shirt. Mia held Lee away asking, “Where is she?”
“Grandma’s for the night,” Lee grinned pretty satisfied with herself and resumed her button attack as soon as Mia released her hold.
“When?” Mia asked unable to concentrate fully as each button gave way.
“While you were sleeping.”
“Oh!” was all Mia could say as a kiss was placed in the opening of her shirt.
Lee slid down to tug the last button free with her teeth and smiled triumphantly, “Surprise!” and crawled her way back up to use her teeth in pulling apart each side of the unbuttoned shirt. She could hear Mia’s labored breathing as small hands reached between them on a quest of their own. Lee smiled when she heard, “I could start liking surprises after all.”
Showering took a little longer than usual but neither woman seemed to mind. Wrapping a towel around herself, Lee left Mia to dry her hair and went to retrieve the box she had hidden next to the bed. Coming up behind the blonde she placed the box in front of her and whispered, “Happy Anniversary!”
Mia put her brush down and opened the present to find a sweater in a blue as deep as her lover’s eyes. “Lee, it’s beautiful!” she cried as she pulled the soft garment completely out of the box.
“I knew it was your favorite color,” she teased nipping the bare shoulder in front of her. Mia turned and planted a quick kiss on Lee’s lips before slipping away. “Don’t go anywhere,” she ordered.
‘Not likely’ Lee mused tightening the towel wrapped around her naked body. Mia promptly returned and pushed a box shyly at Lee, “If you don’t like it, I can get you something else!”
Lee opened the box and smiled, “I can see we have an eye thing going here,” and pulled out a silky shirt the color of emerald green along with a black suede vest.
“I thought you could wear it with your black jeans or any black pants, in fact,” Mia suggested. Lee had a good idea, which one’s Mia would prefer.
“I love them. I’m going to wear them tonight”. Lee went to the closet to find her black jeans. “Boots or flats?” Lee inquired.
Lee removed her black jeans along with a pair of Mia’s faded denims. They were easily her favorites, as she liked the way they hugged the young woman in all the right places. “These would go great with that sweater,” she suggested hopefully and smiled when Mia nodded her agreement. Dropping her towel Lee proceeded to get dressed.
‘Oh Good Lord!’ Mia moaned softly, ‘We’re never going to leave this room if she insists on doing that!’
“Anything I can help with?” Lee looked up to find Mia watching her with a glint in her eye.
“No, you stay right there or we’ll be late again and I don’t want to be ribbed all night by your sister!” Lee retorted and quickly pulled her pants on causing Mia to groan disappointedly.
Buttoning her jeans she replied, “But, I will let you help me take them off later!”
“Deal!” Mia answered grabbing her clothes and heading to the bathroom to dress. They needed distance right now or they would indeed be late.
Hurrying into Sharkey’s, the women found Alex and Terri hadn’t yet arrived. Breathing a sigh of relief they grabbed an empty pool table.
“Want a beer?” Lee asked dropping her coat on a chair next to their table. Mia nodded and Lee went to the bar to place their orders. When she got the bartenders attention she called, “Two Fosters, please”.
“Bottle or can?” the woman called back. “Bottle!” Lee replied and turned to watch the game on the TV while she waited.
“Where’s your pet Pit Bull?” a voice asked mockingly from behind causing Lee to cringe, ‘Ah, not tonight.’ Linda slid up along side of her at the bar as Lee looked over without responding.
“So you enjoying family life or did you sneak out of the house tonight?” she asked looking around for the woman in question.
“No, Mia’s over there,” Lee indicated where she sat waiting with her back to them waiting. ‘At least she hasn’t seen Linda yet, maybe I can get rid of her before she does!’
“What are you doing here?” Lee asked wishing the bartender would hurry with their order.
“Waiting for friends, you remember having friends don’t you?” she asked.
“What do you want from me Linda? Just tell me and I’ll do it,” Lee asked sincerely. She didn’t want to play this cat and mouse game anymore.
“Go out with me sometime,” Linda challenged her.
“I can’t do that Linda,” Lee replied tiredly. “I wasn’t like that before, why would be I now?”
“Just thought I’d ask,” Linda answered and looked over Lee’s shoulder to note that Mia was now watching then intently.
Smiling, Linda leaned in and said, “I’m just yanking your chain Lee, but all joking aside I’m really sorry for the way I acted at the shower. I guess I was jealous, I hope I didn’t do any damage?” The woman proceeded to run her fingers lightly over the Lee’s lip.
Lee pulled back hesitantly at this sudden change in Linda’s behavior. “No, it’s o.k.”
“I’d like for us to be friends, not enemies. Think you can ever forgive me?” she asked looking sincere.
“Sure,” Lee answered cautiously.
“Can I hug you for old times sake?”
Perplexed Lee nodded and allowed Linda to pull her into a warm embrace, releasing Lee she kissed her finger tip and ran it seductively down the side of the woman’s cheek and walked away.
Lee shivered involuntarily, more from uncertainty than any desire on her part.
“What was that about?” Mia asked curiously when Lee returned with the beers and sat down next to her.
“I don’t know, Linda said she wanted to apologize and then she hugged me,” Lee explained, “Somehow, I really doubt her motives”.
“You’re right, she was smiling over your shoulder at me while she was hugging you,” Mia confessed.
“That bitch!” Lee retorted and moved to get up. Mia caught her arm and kept Lee in her chair.
“No! That’s exactly what she’s looking for, she wants you mad enough to respond”.
“So, she wants a response does she?” Lee grinned evilly at where her current thoughts were taking her. “Well, what do you say we give her one?”
“What did you have in mind?” Mia was curious as to what plan her lover was hatching in that beautifully devious head of hers.
“Well, for starters, can you tell if she’s watching or not?”
“You bet! The whole table is looking this way,” Mia replied trying not to be obvious.
Lee picked up Mia’s hand and held it to her lips in full view of the table across the room. Looking into Mia’s eyes she began kissing each knuckle sensually, loosing herself in the task, Lee began to nibble on each finger tip until Mia gasped at the sensation her lover was stirring.
“Oh my!” a voice moaned, breaking the spell between the two women. Together they looked up to find Terri standing next to the table with a big smile on her face.
“Having fun?” she asked shaking her head in disbelief. “It’s a good thing your brother stopped at the bar first!”
“It’s a long story,” Mia replied letting out a shaky breath.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Linda’s here does it?” Terri asked knowingly.
“You could say it started there,” Lee answered smiling at Mia.
“Thought so! Just ignore her.”
“That’s right, we came to play pool!” Mia slapped the table in response and got up to rack the balls.
“Don’t let her get to you, not tonight,” Terri whispered to Lee.
“Don’t worry, she won’t,” Lee replied winking at the redhead and moving to join Mia at the pool table.
Linda was quickly forgotten as Alex arrived with more beer and a couple of menus. The group ordered and played pool the rest of the night. Mia and her brother spent the time joking and teasing with one another; Lee and Terri nodded at each other in approval of the siblings’ camaraderie. As the evening wore on, Mia could feel Lee’s eyes on her. She wasn’t sure if it was the mood of the group or the beers they had consumed, but Mia began a silent flirtation with her lover. An occasional sideways glance, an added sway to hips, and the ‘accidental’ brushing against her lover, had the desired effect. Lee’s eyes took on a predatory look as she began a counterattack of her own. The air fairly sizzled with electricity as sparks flew from the heat of desire.
They were barely though the front door as articles of clothing were pulled from each other’s bodies and strewn in a trail to the bedroom. Lips met and separated as barriers were encountered and quickly removed. Lee held the woman tightly in her arms as they exchanged passionate kisses. She had never experienced anything so intense as this night, and clung to the smaller woman who lay claim to her body and her heart.
Mia shifted to look down at Lee and smiled slowly when she looked into the reflective blue eyes. “Did I ever tell you that I love you very much?”
Lee nodded unsure if she could explain all she was feeling at that moment. She continued gazing into the depths of her lover’s eyes and whispered, “I can see my life in your eyes”.
Tears clouded the blue eyes and Mia leaned in to kiss each one, tasting the salty drops that escaped down the finely chiseled cheeks. “If you’re reflected there its because you’re the part of me that makes each breath possible. I wasn’t living until I met you.”
“I don’t think I could ever live without you,” Lee admitted outloud.
“Does that frighten you?” Mia asked when she saw Lee’s eyes darken.
“It terrifies me!”
“I guess that’s one more thing we have in common then,” Mia replied softly. No further words were necessary as they came together in their need and their fear. Tomorrow held many uncertainties but tonight, they were one and that was all that mattered.
Arms and legs entwined, the women fell into an exhausted sleep, each knowing that she had never been loved more than she was at this moment.
“Hello, I’m home,” Lee called out as she dropped her briefcase in the chair by the door. “Where is everyone?”
“In here,” Mia called out from the bathroom. Lee heard the splashing of water as she neared the small room.
“Bath time!” Lee squealed dropping to her knees and tickling Katie until she was laughing and slopping water everywhere. The child’s eyes shone with undisguised joy at her mother’s antics.
“Hey! I’m getting wet here!” Mia complained.
“Sorry Mommy!” Lee offered and splashed a wave in Mia’s direction.
Drenched and sputtering, Mia grabbed a towel and began wiping her face mumbling, “Very funny you two!” Lifting Katie from the tub, Mia wrapped her in a towel and turned to Lee, “Since you’re having so much fun playing in the water, you can clean up in here!” Mia left with Katie and Lee found herself having to dry half the bathroom floor and walls in her effort to clean up the mess she had caused. ‘But, it was worth it’ she smiled remembering the look on her daughter’s face.
Lee fed Katie and they had playtime until Mia was finished preparing dinner. Lying on Katie’s blanket, they explored all the shapes and objects attached to it. Katie squealed with delight each time Lee made an animal sound to match a picture on the blanket. Mia could hear Lee talking to Katie, “Katie, say cow. Moo – cow.” Nothing but laughter came from Katie and as much as Lee persisted each day, Katie still hadn’t said her first word. Mia knew that Katie would talk when she was ready and went back to her cooking.
After dinner, Mia got Katie settled down while Lee cleaned up the kitchen. Mia joined Lee on the sofa to watch TV but the blonde seemed restless tonight. Lee turned down the volume on the remote and asked, “O.k., What’s up? You’ve been jumpy all night”.
“Nothing really,” Mia answered and Lee’s eyebrow went up in a silent reply of, try again, not a good answer’. Mia grinned at the gesture and continued, “I was just thinking about the fact that I have to do back to work in two months”.
“Does it bother you?” Lee asked.
“No, not really.”
“If it’s about Katie, you don’t have to go back if you don’t want to, we can make do on what I make,” Lee offered.
“No, I think I’m ready to go back. I’m just worried about Katie,” Mia confided.
“Did you talk with your mother and Terri about arrangements?”
“Yes, actually I talked to both of them today and they agreed to share time with her” Mia replied hesitantly.
“And?” Lee pushed knowing there was more to the story.
“And…”, Mia looked up unsure of how to go about getting what she wanted from Lee.
“Spit it out Mia!” Lee asked firmly. Mia could take forever getting to a point when she was nervous.
“Well, since I won’t be able to get any time off for a while after I go back, my family wants to go on a family trip. You know, all of us together to give us time to relax and build a relationship,” Mia explained slowly.
“And where did they have in mind?” Lee asked wondering what torture she was going to be subjected to this time.
“In the past, we’ve always taken an annual camping trip and they thought we could do it again,” Mia replied quickly as Lee let out a groan as she closed her eyes and put her head back against the sofa.
“Come on, it won’t be so bad. You and me under the stars next to a campfire, can’t you just picture it?” Mia wasn’t getting the response she wanted and dug into her memory to add, “Did I tell you there’s fishing too. You know you like fishing!”
Mia pried one blue eye open and looked down into it pleading, “Will you go?”
Lee sighed and opened both eyes to ask, “Where exactly would we be going and for how long?”
“Northwestern Canada for two weeks.”
Lee finally consented to go even though she knew she would when Mia first asked. She just liked watching her lover try to manipulate her into doing something she wanted. If nothing else, it would be worth seeing Mrs. Peters out of her element. She had to admit she was surprised that the woman would go for something as primitive as camping.
Lee’s vacation was approved and by the end of summer the entire family was packed into two cars and on the road. Since Lee had the vehicle with the most room, they carried the bulk of the gear while Alex’s van held his family and the grandparents. The first couple of nights they stayed in small inns along the way. So far, Lee had to admit things weren’t so bad. By the end of the week they had arrived at their destination. Lee quickly realized what the family meant when they said, ‘Camping.’ They were in a secluded site by a stream with no amenities save the wide outdoors and one pit toilet.
“Just great!” Lee mumbled under her breath as she set up their tent. There were four tents in all and they spread them out in a circle, Mia’s parents in one, Lee and Mia next, followed by Alex and Terri, and then the boys. The fire pit was dug in the center and it served as the family gathering site. Camp was finally complete as darkness descended, their only light coming from lanterns and firelight.
Mia snuggled down next to Lee on a log after putting Katie to sleep. “Isn’t this beautiful?” she cooed looking up at the stars.
“Yes,” Lee replied rubbing her hands together for warmth, “except I didn’t expect it to be so cold.”
“Try this,” Mia offered and leaned behind her to retrieve a thermos. Lee took a sip and sucked in a deep cooling breath as the liquor burned her throat unexpectantly.
“Wow! What is this?” she asked coughing.
“Just something Alex and I always bring to take the chill off,” she grinned, “Just don’t let my mother catch on”. Lee and Mia passed the cylinder back and forth until it was gone and they glowed with renewed warmth.
“It’s empty!” Lee replied as warmth spread through her body. “That’s o.k. we brought plenty,” Mia giggled. Alex and Terri came over from their tent with another thermos and the four sat talking and sharing until Mrs. Peters called out for them to quiet down and go to bed. The couples headed back to their respective tents stumbling in the dark and giggling like children caught staying up too late. Trying not to wake the baby the women shrugged out of their jeans and climbed into their sleeping bags and fell into alcohol-induced sleep.
During the middle of the night Lee awoke to her whole body shivering. ‘Damn it’s cold!’ she groaned silently. She had wished she had zipped their sleeping bags together to share body heat. She should get up and put on her jeans but there was no way she was leaving what little warmth the sleeping bag afforded. Instead, she lay on the hard ground shivering and willing morning to come quickly.
By dawn, Lee was up, dressed and building a fire to brew some coffee. Mr. Peters showed up soon after and helped her with the fire. The two sat drinking coffee in silence watching the day begin. When they finally heard stirring from the other campers Mr. Peters commented, “so much for peace and quiet, the troops will be up soon”. Lee smiled and nodded. Mia’s father was an enigma to her. This was only the second conversation she had ever had with him. The first wasn’t more than two sentences when they had escorted Rick out of his house. Lee heard her name called and looked over at the man.
“I was wondering if you were interested in doing a little fishing with me today? Mia tells me you like to fish and I’d enjoy some company.”
“I’d love to Mr. Peters,” Lee replied sincerely.
“O.k. but only if you call me Ed,” he replied grinning.
“All right Ed, whenever you are ready”.
“Now’s a good time, before those kids wake up and start hootin’ and hollerin’,” he answered and motioned for Lee to follow him. Gathering the fishing gear, they headed around the lake to a favorite spot of his. Lee hesitated in telling Mia because she figured that Mia had put her father up to this and would already know where she was.
The warmth of the sun and the gently rippling water in the stream relaxed Lee to the point where she almost dropped her line. A soft chuckle rumbled in the quiet morning, startled she opened her eyes.
“Has the same effect on me too,” Ed softly said as he reeled in his line. Lee grinned, embarrassed, and fiddled with her line.
“It’s beautiful up here,” Lee replied softly looking at the backdrop of mountains that ran along the stream.
“It’s my favorite place and the fishing’s not so bad,” he nodded as Lee felt the first tug of the day. Patiently, she waited for the second hit and pulled back on her pole, taking up the slack on the line, steadily fighting whatever was on the other end. Lee brought the fish to the shore and Ed picked it up by the gill and proceeded to remove the hook. Lee had to admit this was the part she hated most. She always felt a pang of sorrow when she first looked at the fish. Re-baiting her hook she threw her line back in and walked over to the cooler where Ed was adding water to cover their first catch.
“Not a bad start, a couple more of these and we’ll have dinner for tonight,” he commented. “Where did you learn to fish?”
“My Dad,” Lee replied. “We used to go to our cabin in the Upper Peninsula during the summers. There was a lake so, I guess you could say I grew up with fishing”.
“You still go up there?” he asked watching her. Ed wasn’t comfortable with prying, but he wanted to know about the woman his daughter had fought so hard to keep. Although he didn’t hold all Doris’ beliefs, Mia was still his little girl and he didn’t want to see anyone hurt her again.
Lee was silent for a moment before she replied, “No, my Dad passed away about 8 years ago. I haven’t been up there since”.
“I’m sorry to hear that. What about the rest of your family?” he asked in his quiet, relaxed manner.
Normally, Lee would have bristled at the intrusion but, some how, she felt comfortable talking with Mia’s father. “I was an only child.”
Ed nodded and played with his line waiting for Lee to continue, when she didn’t he prompted, “and your mother?”
Lee looked up with a sadness that he hadn’t expected and instantly he felt bad for asking so many questions. “I don’t mean to pry, I just wanted to get to know you better.”
“It’s o.k.” Lee tried to smile but only succeeded with a shadow of a grin. “Unlike you and Mrs. Peters, my mother chose not to be a part of my life.” She didn’t tell him everything because she wasn’t sure he would understand. Mia knew and that was enough.
“How long has it been since you’ve talked with her?” he asked looking at Lee in a new light. He could now understand why she protected Mia so fiercely and why Katie meant so much to her. They were a family in every sense.
“A year after my father died, I guess seven years now,” she replied thoughtfully. “My father and I were close. My mother, well, growing up I always felt like I was a disappointment to her and after his death, she let me know that I was.”
Ed felt compassion for the woman next to him and realized that she knew what it was like to be truly alone. For many years he had seen a haunted look in his daughter’s eyes, even when the family was altogether she seemed lost and lonely. Ever since Lee, that look had disappeared. They reminded him of a story he had heard a long time ago, he couldn’t remember it all, but it was something about two kindred spirits that after centuries of searching, had finally found each other.
Looking at Lee he remarked, “That’s too bad, you miss a lot that way. Sometimes when we don’t know how to deal with something we do the stupidest things and drive those closest to us away. I’m glad that Doris realized that before it was too late. She’s not a bad woman, she’s just too damn opinionated for her own good!”
Lee smiled at this last comment and said, “Mia’s lucky to have you.”
“No,” he answered thoughtfully, “She’s lucky to have you.”
Lee was taken aback by this gentle man’s acceptance and murmured, “Thank you.”
Ed nodded and jerked back on his line, fighting to bring another fish toward shore. After putting the trout in the cooler, he resettled his line before addressing her again.
“You ever thought of trying to contact her again?”
“No, not really. She pretty much ended things between us,” Lee replied sadly.
“What about Katie? Do you think she’d like to know she has a granddaughter?” he asked.
“To tell you the truth, I doubt she would care.”
“Well, it’s up to you, but maybe you could send her a note with a picture of the baby and let her take it from there. Since you don’t expect anything from her, it won’t mean much if she doesn’t reply,” Ed reasoned.
“It’s an idea,” Lee admitted, “I’ll think about it”.
By afternoon they had caught eight fish in all and as they walked back to camp, Lee felt more relaxed then she had in a long time. She had thought Ed a weak man but she realized he was just the opposite. Arriving back at camp Lee found Alex had driven into town for more ‘thermos filler’ and Mia was wielding an axe in an attempt to cut more firewood. While Ed cleaned the fish, Lee went over to help Mia. Lee chopped wood for the better part of the afternoon and ended up with a nice pile of wood and a few blisters for her effort.
Dinner was a pleasant affair as they enjoyed the fresh fish along with dishes put together by Mrs. Peters. Lee was amazed at how adept the woman was in this element. If she hadn’t known better, Lee would have thought she was born to this lifestyle. ‘First impressions can be very deceiving’ Lee thought. The rest of the evening became a repeat of the night before with the two couples trying to keep warm. Alex passed a bottle of Jack Daniel’s around and they talked until it was time to turn in. Ed and Doris had retired earlier and Lee suspiciously wondered if they didn’t have a heater in there. Calling it a night, Mia got up and helped Lee who rose stiffly. Her were muscles tight from their unaccustomed workout, and sitting on the cold ground hadn’t helped.
“Want me to massage your back?” Mia offered.
“Sure,” Lee groaned as she tried pulling her sweatshirt over her head.
“Here, let me help,” Mia offered and moved to assist Lee in undressing. Lee had already arranged their sleeping bag into one big sack and they both quickly climbed in after shrugging off their jeans.
“Roll over and let me get a start on your back,” and when Lee complied Mia began to gently work her way up Lee’s back, taking infinite care and time to release each knot as it was encountered. As she kneaded her way across her lover’s shoulder Lee moaned in misery, “Not so hard, you’ll leave a bruise.”
“Quit complaining and take your shirt off, I can’t feel anything though this flannel” Mia replied. Together they tugged the shirt over Lee’s head and she gasped, “It’s cold!”
Mia pulled the sleeping bag as high was she could over their bodies, “Is that better?” and continued working across the tight shoulders.
“Ooh much!” Lee purred as Mia fingers lightened their touch and began to work their magic. Feeling Lee finally relax, Mia leaned down asking, “Am I hitting all the right spots?”
“Umm, better than O.K., you have the greatest hands,” Lee replied, and Mia worked her way up Lee’s neck.
“Oh yeah, right there, a little more to the right. Yes, harder! That’s perfect!” Lee sighed contently as the last muscle gave in to Mia’s manipulation.
“Thank you,” Lee stretched feeling less stiff and rolled over to pull Mia next to her.
“You’re very welcome” Mia replied yawning, and pulled the covers tightly around the two of them. Lee kissed Mia lightly and sleepily said, “Next time it’s my turn to do you”.
“Deal,” Mia mumbled, neither woman heard the collective gasps coming from the tents on either side as they drifted off to sleep.
The next morning Mia awoke to find Lee had once again left with her father and smiled. ‘I’m glad they are getting along so well.’ Quickly changing Katie, they made their way out of the tent and toward the rest of her family. Mia’s mother looked up disapprovingly and reached for Katie.
“Well, I’m surprised you were able to get up so early this morning.”
Mia looked confused at her mother as she walked away towards the picnic table with Katie. Alex looked away embarrassed and rounded up the boys to head out for some hiking.
“What’s going on?” Mia asked her sister-in-law who stood with a mischievous grin on her face. Pulling Mia down towards the stream they strolled for awhile until Mia stopped and demanded, “O.k., what the hell is going on here?”
Terri burst out laughing and stammered, “Lee’s quite vocal isn’t she?”
Mia looked back even more confused, “Sometimes if she feels strongly about something.”
“Oh, is that what she was feeling last night?”
“What?” Mia asked her impatience duly noted by her sister-in-law.
“Don’t get angry with me, I don’t care how vocal you guys want to be. Secretly, I think Alex liked it! But Mom’s another story.” Terri replied stopping to climb up on a large boulder near the water. Mia looked up at Terri as confusion turned to understanding and her jaw dropped with a thud.
“You don’t think we were….” Mia stuttered. Terri nodded with chuckle, “Sounded pretty good to me too!”
“No!” Mia shouted, “We weren’t doing anything!”
Terri shrugged her shoulders laughing, “Sounded like a whole lot of something to us.”
“Oh God! I was giving her a massage. Her back was so tight after chopping wood. We didn’t…not with mother in the next tent!” Mia blushed every shade of red conceivable as she paced in front of the rock.
Terri was beside herself. “You mean you weren’t doing anything?”
Mia shook her head adamantly, “No!”
“Mom’s been awake all night fussing over it and lord knows what Dad is saying to Lee at this very moment!”
“Oh God!” Mia groaned again and dejectedly climbed up onto the rock next to her sister-in-law. “Mother’s never going to believe me is she?”
“Look on the bright side, at least it wasn’t you leading the vocal section last night.”
“No but, she thinks I was conducting it!” Mia replied breaking into nervous giggles.
Lee and Ed quietly cast side by side as they settled down to enjoy another morning of fishing.
“So, did you sleep o.k. last night?” Ed asked casually.
“Yes great, and you?”
“Not too good really. Doris kept me awake most of the night,” he replied.
“She wasn’t sick was she?” Lee asked obliviously concerned.
“Nope,” he replied stifling a grin. Lee looked over surprised, she had never seen him react like this and wondered what the joke was.
“I feel like I’m missing something here.”
Ed cleared his throat and replied, “I guess I should warn you that sound travels up here, especially at night when it’s very quiet.”
When Lee continued to look at him like he had lost his mind, he got right to the point. “Seems you and my daughter were exercising your relationship a little too loudly last night for Doris’ taste.”
“We were what?” Lee said incredulously. ‘Last night she had fallen asleep immediately after Mia’s backrub…oh, shit!’ A look of fear entered Lee’s eyes and Mia’s father chuckled loudly. “I’m not going to hurt you, girl. I figure your consenting adults and all. I just wanted to warn you not to consent so loudly next time.”
“You mean everyone thinks we were…” She trailed off unsure of how to finish the sentence to Mia’s father.
“That’s about the size of it,” he grinned watching the flustered woman.
“But, we weren’t,” Lee sensed his disbelief and explained, “Mia was giving me a backrub and it felt good but, it certainly wasn’t that good! Oh God! What a mess!”
“Lee, don’t worry. I’ll help explain everything to them. You have to admit it is pretty funny,” he concluded.
“Yeah right,” she replied unconvincingly and asked, “Would you mind if we headed back early. I don’t want Mia to have to bear the brunt of all this alone.”
“Sure, let’s pack up and go.”
They reached the outskirts of the campsite to the sound of women shouting. A look of puzzlement and concern passed between the two. Lee shivered when she heard Mia scream and took off at a run. She entered the camp to a sight she will never be able to forget. A wall of black fur complete with teeth and claws stood poised over Mrs. Peters and Katie. Another scream erupted and Lee turned to her left to see Mia trying to pull free from Terri’s grasp.
“No!” Lee screamed, “Mia stay back!” Without another thought, Lee ran toward the bear and began whipping it with her fishing rod. The bear turned and lunged toward his new antagonist. Lee barely had time to back away before he rose up again on his hind legs and began slashing perilously close to her face. Lee continued jabbing and swinging her fiberglass sword until she heard it snap and then there was nothing between her and the bear save a few feet of empty air. A movement out of the corner of her eye turned her attention to where Mia was running toward her. Lee shouted Mia’s name as she felt a sharp burning pain travel down her arm and another across her right side. Shots rang out, but not before her teeth ground down together as a giant paw slammed the side of her head dropping her into instant darkness.
Mia saw Lee distracting the bear and made a run for Katie but never reached her as she saw the bear turn to attack Lee. Everything happened in slow motion as she tired to get to her lover.
“No!” she screamed as three loud explosions erupted from behind her and she saw Lee disappear under a cover of black fur. Alex ran to stop Mia as the Mountie approached the now silent bear, satisfied that it was safe he shouted, “Help me get him off her!” The three men along with Mia tugged and pulled on the now dead animal until they could get to Lee.
Blood was everywhere and Mia silently hoped it was from the bear, but in her heart she knew it wasn’t. Then she saw the gash on the side of Lee’s head and the tattered remains of her coat. Falling to her knees she touched her still lover’s face and cried.
“Oh God Lee, please open your eyes. Please be all right. I won’t let you leave me, not now!” she pleaded. The Mountie was kneeling next to her, trying to assess Lee’s wounds.
“She’s alive but, we need to get her out of here fast. I’m going to radio for an airlift. There’s a rescue squad based not far from here,” he replied and ran back towards his truck. When he returned he had a first aid kit and began packing Lee’s wounds in an effort to stop the bleeding. It seemed like hours before they heard the whirling of the rescue craft. Alex had arrived behind the officer to witness the bear maul Lee. Now, he gathered his family and began loading them into the vehicles to get down to the hospital. Ed had reached his wife and granddaughter and pulled them to safety before going back to help his daughter and Lee, but he had been too late. Both men were angry with themselves for not being able to stop the attack on Lee. Their only hope now was that Lee would be O.K. For once, the family was truly united in purpose, but why did it have to be at Lee’s expense?
Mia clung to the limp hand as the rescue workers tried to stabilize Lee for transport. Strapping on a backboard they loaded her into the helicopter and helped Mia up after her. There was never a question as to whether Mia would accompany the injured woman. Mia was strapped into a seat across from where Lee lay pale and still on the stretcher. All she could do was look down helplessly at her lover and friend during the longest ride of her life. If she ever needed to believe there was a God it was now, and she closed her tear stained eyes to pray.
The rest of the family arrived as Mia paced outside the surgery waiting area. Lee had been in surgery for over an hour already without any word. She couldn’t sit still in the lounge with every one else, her clothes covered in blood. She couldn’t stand the looks of pity she might see reflected in the eyes of strangers. Alex quickly went to the administrator and they were all lead to a private room, which would be Lee’s if she got out of surgery. ‘No, when she got out’ Mia vowed.
The nurse had found scrubs for Mia to wear and they had quietly removed the clothing stained with her lover’s blood. Mia rocked Katie, holding her close to her chest, her one constant reminder of what she wasn’t ready to lose in that operating room. Another three hours had passed before they heard a light knock on the door followed by the weary face of Lee’s surgeon. He approached Mrs. Peters and asked, “Is Lee you daughter?”
“No, she’s my daughter’s partner,” Doris replied without any hesitation. The doctor looked confused for a moment before asking, “Is there a next of kin we can contact for you?”
Mia’s nerves were frayed beyond belief, she didn’t have the time or the desire to be civil and spoke up, “I’m her next of kin! I’m the ‘significant other’ and this is our daughter so, let’s cut the crap and tell me where she is!”
The doctor looked down at the small woman holding a sleeping infant and compassionately replied, “She’s out of surgery, it took a while to stitch up the lacerations, but thankfully, none were deep enough to cause serious consequences. Now, the bad side, she has lost a lot of blood and sustained a serious head injury. Currently, she is in a coma. We will have to wait for her to come out on her own. I’m confident that she will, but it all depends on her.”
Mia nodded as the tears rolled down her cheeks. “Can I see her?”
“Yes, I can let you in for a few minutes,” he acknowledged. Mia handed Katie to her mother and followed the doctor. He lead her into the recovery area where Lee lay surrounded by monitors and lights that quietly beeped and flashed telling Mia what her heart already knew, that life still pulsed through the still body of her lover.
“I’ll come back for you in a couple of minutes,” he instructed and left Mia to visit in private, or as much privacy as a curtained cubicle could afford. Mia rested her hand on Lee’s good arm in desperate need of the contact, leaning down she whispered, “Lee, Katie and I are here and we’ll wait for you. When you are ready to come back to us, we will be here. I will never leave you”.
In a fog of pain, Lee heard Mia’s voice call out to her, but she couldn’t reach her before the comfort of blackness overtook her once again.
Lee had been moved to her private room two days later and Mia hadn’t left her side. Alex had taken the rest of the family and checked into a nearby hotel. Each adult took turns sitting with Mia while the others stayed with the children. No amount of reasoning would bring Mia out of Lee’s room. They finally gave up and brought her a change of clothing, promising to sit by Lee’s side if she agreed to take a quick shower and eat something brought to the room. Mia spent the time alone with Lee talking to her and coaxing her back to her family. After a week had passed some decisions had to be made, and it was agreed that Alex and Terri would return home with the boys. Mia’s parents would stay and take care of Katie. Alex called the hospital after arriving safely back home and told Mia he had informed Lee’s boss of the situation. He had assured her that he would take care of all the paperwork. Lee had plenty of time banked and he would make sure that the paychecks kept coming. At this point, Mia could not have cared less about the money, but she knew that insurance wouldn’t cover everything, and didn’t want anything to hamper Lee’s recovery.
Katie’s first birthday came and went without a celebration. This would wait until Lee was awake, Mia told her parents. It had only been two weeks since their ordeal and her parents had seen a new side of Mia. Instead of a quiet indecisiveness, she had become a strong woman, in charge of her family’s welfare. Lee had become a very dear part of their family. She had almost sacrificed her life to save them. Mrs. Peters knew there was no longer a question of what was right or wrong for this act of love spoke to her heart as no amount of scripture ever would.
This evening her parents had brought Katie by for a brief visit and Mia was positive Lee had moved, but no one else had seen anything. Mia let it go until they left and climbing on the edge of the bed, she leaned in close to Lee’s ear.
“O.K. now, it’s just you and me. I know you are in there and can hear me. I was just wondering if you were ready to wake up yet. You see, I have this desperate need to hold you in my arms and kiss you senseless, but it won’t be any fun if you’re not here to participate. The doctor says you need verbal stimulation and I thought that maybe a little physical stimulation might not be a bad thing either. Of course, if you don’t like any of this, please feel free to let me know.” Receiving no response, she began nibbling on an exposed earlobe and ran her tongue along the edge of the ear. Not stopping there, she continued nibbling her way along Lee’s jaw line to the other side, giving equal attention to the other ear. So intent was she on her journey she never noticed the subtle change in her lover’s breathing or the blue eyes that blinked open in recognition.
A moan escaped Lee’s lips and Mia was jolted back to reality and fell into the most beautiful blue ever imaginable.
“You’re back! I’ve missed you so much!” she cried softly, and for the first time since the accident, she allowed her tears to fall freely matching those of her lover.
“I thought that would get your attention,” she teased wiping the tears from Lee’s face. Lee rasped to speak, “What…you trying…to kill me?”
Mia smiled, “no, raise you from the dead!”
Lee blinked in response, tired from the effort of talking and closed her eyes.
“Don’t you go away again!” Mia called out alarmed. Blue eyes opened slowly and Lee whispered, “Be back…promise,” and once again fell into her painless sleep.
Mia rang for the nurse with the knowledge that Lee was back for good. After checking her vitals, the doctor indicated everything was looking good. Mia telephoned her parents with the news and they put Katie on the phone. Mia didn’t know how much a one-year old could understand and simply told her, “Mommy was back”. Katie smiled causing Mr. Peters to blink back tears in response.
It was three more weeks before Lee was ready to leave the hospital and travel home. Three months after the accident, Lee was up and about although she still tired easily she pushed herself to get stronger. The following weekend they celebrated Katie’s first birthday, some four months late. After all the presents, cake and excitement of the party, Lee rested while Mia cleaned up the birthday girl and settled her for a short nap. Mia quietly entered the bedroom to see if Lee was sleeping. Lee was awake and patted the bed next to her and Mia crawled up beside her happily. Time together seemed more precious now, and the simple contact of holding one another was worth all the money Mia could have made had she returned to work. They lived simply on the money Lee received until she was able to return to her job. They both realized that as long as they were together, they didn’t need more than what they had at this very moment.
Lee traced a fingertip along Mia’s collarbone and kissed the exposed skin below. Gentle caresses were all the women had traded since the accident. In the beginning, it was fear of injuring Lee, and now it was just the fear that kept them from anything more.
Reveling in each other’s touch, their kisses deepened. Mia’s hands lightly traced the scar long Lee’s side and she leaned down to kiss the rippled skin. This moment had been building for the past month and they knew that their love would eventually be stronger than any fear that might arise between them. Fear of loss and mortality was set aside this day as, ignited by passion and need, they renewed their vows as only two people in love could do.
Later as the evening approached, they lay in each other’s arms basking in the warmth of love’s afterglow. Mia groaned as the sound of Katie’s waking could be heard. They lay listening to their daughter’s rustling and Lee sighed when Katie cried out.
“I was wondering how long she would last,” Lee mused at the sound of the little insistent cries. Lee made a move to get up and Mia pushed her back down. “Stay put, I’ll take care of her”.
“Bring her back here,” Lee called out as Mia pulled on a robe and went to see to their daughter. Mia returned shortly with the little girl and set her down in the middle of the bed as she climbed in after her.
Together, they watched as Katie crawled on top of Lee, blue eyes peered down into blue and a little voice was heard for the first time, “Mommy wake?”
“Mia come here quick!”
“What?” a concerned voice called from the kitchen.
“Hurry up and get in here!”
Mia dumped the pan unceremoniously into the sink and ran to see what was wrong in the living room.
“Look!” Lee stood pointing to where a small girl stood drooling as she chewed on a mouth full of marshmallows, looking like a rabid bunny as the gooey mess bubbled from her mouth and down her chin.
“Oh, Lee you didn’t,” Mia replied trying to act angry but, couldn’t help giggling at the sight. “You do realize that you are going to get to clean her up.”
“Yeah but, I got it all on film!” Lee chuckled and hugged Mia to her. Mia responded by laying her head against Lee’s chest listening to the woman’s heartbeat as it began to match her own rhythm.
“Umm.” Mia was comfortable in Lee’s arms and could have fallen asleep if she weren’t standing.
“How hard is it to get marshmallow out of hair?”
“Ugh! I don’t even want to look,” Mia moaned as she slowly turned to find Katie smiling with her hair stuck out at odd angles courtesy of marshmallow gel, her face and shirt smeared with the white gooey mess.
“Guess it’s bath time”, Lee replied reluctantly releasing Mia. “Care to join us?”
“I’ll run the water and you get ‘Messy Marvin’ over there.” Mia went into the bathroom and left Lee to catch one sticky little girl. Lee caught up with Katie and removed what was left of the marshmallow from between her fingers. Pulling at the residue that dotted the dark curls she remarked, “How did you get it in your ear?”
Katie looked up and replied, “Good!”
“Yes I know, but you’re supposed to eat it, not wear it!” Little blue eyes clouded over and Lee realized just how much they resembled Mia’s eyes whenever Lee did something to hurt her. “You guys are killing me,” Lee groaned and began tickling the little girl. Soon the sparkling blue eyes of a laughing child replaced the dull, sad eyes. Pulling Katie’s shirt off, she carried her to the waiting bath.
After settling Katie for the night, Lee and Mia relaxed over coffee at the kitchen table. Mia noted Lee’s pensive mood and watched as the woman chewed on her bottom lip.
“Are you nervous about going back to work tomorrow?”
“No, not really. Although, I’m going to miss being home with you and Katie.”
Mia reached for Lee’s hand and placed hers over it. “If you’re not ready to go back, you can wait. The doctor said he would extend your leave and I have that interview on Monday. Maybe, I’ll get the job and you can stay home with Katie a little longer.”
“No it’s O.K. I think I’m ready to go back. It's just that I like us, you know?”
“Yes, I do,” Mia interlocked her fingers with Lee’s and squeezed lightly.
“That reminds me, I thought we could go to the mall on Saturday and get you something nice for your interview,” Lee replied.
“Don’t forget we have to take Katie to the photographer’s in the morning.”
“O.K., we’ll go afterwards, maybe have lunch and then go shopping.”
Mia nodded absently. Lee could see that she had something on her mind and waited for her to continue. It wasn’t long before Mia looked up hesitantly and said, “I was thinking, maybe we could take a picture of the three of us together too.”
Lee took a deep breath, she knew what was coming next. She should have never told Mia what her father had suggested.
“What?” Lee replied dreading the next sentence.
“I know we’ve sort of discussed this but, have you really decided against contacting your mother?”
“I don’t see the purpose,” Lee replied removing her hand from Mia's and placing it around her coffee cup.
“I’d like to try,” Mia answered softly and placed her hands around Lee’s as they clutched the coffee cup nervously.
“Maybe she just needs something to give her a reason?”
“It means that much to you?” Lee asked, shifting to look directly into her lover’s face. Mia simply nodded and waited for Lee’s response. She watched as the blue eyes darkened a moment and knew that Lee had made a decision.
“O.K., I guess Katie deserves that chance. Just don’t expect too much, all right? She probably won’t even reply.”
“Then all we’ll waste is a stamp, but at least we will have tried.”
“Yeah.” ‘Like I tried in the beginning and where did it get me?’ “I’m going to work on the computer for a bit.”
Mia nodded as she watched Lee leave the room and thought, ‘This is really hurting her. Maybe, I shouldn’t have pushed her so hard. Just because my parents came around doesn’t mean her mother will, and what happens when she doesn’t?’ Even though Lee had said she didn’t expect anything, Mia knew this would still affect her.
“It’s just not worth it!” Mia replied outloud and went to find Lee staring at silent monitor. She softly called out to Lee, receiving no response, she placed her hand on the woman’s shoulder.
Lee jumped at the slight touch and turned to face Mia. “Oh, What…? I’m sorry I didn’t hear you come in.”
“Lee, I know that this is bothering you a lot, and I shouldn’t have pushed you into it. Let’s just get Katie’s pictures taken and go shopping.”
Lee smiled up and took Mia’s hand off her shoulder and kissed it. “No, I think you are right. This is something I have to do not just for Katie but, for me too.”
Mia tugged on the hand that Lee held, pulling Lee up out of the chair and wrapping her arms around the taller woman she replied, “Just so you know that you have a family that loves you very much. If your mother can’t see that then it’s her loss because you deserve so much more than that.”
Lee kissed the top of the blonde head that lay against her chest, “What did I do to deserve you?”
“It’s your punishment for loving me,” Mia looked up with a smirk on her face.
“Oh, punish away then,” Lee replied and leaned down to kiss her lover, the one person who didn’t make her feel less than who she was, but more.
“You look nice,” Lee commented at Mia’s reflection in the mirror in front of her. Still wrapped in a towel, Lee moved to the closet in search of what to wear for the family photos. Mia wore the sweater that Lee had bought for their anniversary and decided that she would wear Mia’s gift to her. Brushing out her long raven hair she debated whether she should add a touch of make-up, and decided on a little eyeliner. Finishing buttoning her vest, she went to help Mia with Katie. All was quiet now, but earlier it hadn’t been the case. By the sounds Katie was making, Mia must have been trying to get her into her new dress.
“She’s your daughter all right!” Mia stated as Lee entered Katie’s room. The new dress lay discarded in a heap on the floor and Katie sported an outfit similar to Lee’s.
“Hey, we look like twins,” Lee commented hesitantly.
“That’s the idea,” Mia replied handing Katie to her and began picking up the discarded clothes.
“Why don’t you let me try?” Lee asked quietly, balancing the baby on her hip, she wasn’t sure if Mia was upset.
“No, its O.K.” Mia smiled at Lee as she hung up the little dress on its hanger. “I had an idea this would happen and bought both outfits.”
“It is a very pretty dress, “ Lee offered.
“Yeah, think I could get you to wear one like this?”
Mia noted the change in color in Lee’s face and laughed, “I didn’t think so.”
“I…I would if you really wanted me to.”
Mia patted Lee’s arm and began brushing Katie’s hair. “Thank you for offering but, I’d never do that to you.” Lee let out a breath in relief and held Katie still while Mia tried to brush her curls into some sort of order.
At the photographer’s studio they had Katie posed alone and then the three of them as a family.
“How about we take one with just mother and daughter,” the photographer suggested. Lee handed Mia the little girl and moved away.
“Oh, I thought, she looks just like you,” the photographer remarked surprised and Lee replied with a shake of her head and pointed to a grinning Mia. Lee watched him pose the two and instantly knew which would be her favorite photo.
“How’s it coming?”
“How do you think!” Lee threw her pen down in anger and ran a hand through her already ruffled hair.
“Can I help?” Mia approached Lee and sat on the armrest of her chair, leaning a hand against Lee’s back as she slumped forward at the desk. Mia could feel the tension in the muscles beneath her hand.
“How do you tell a woman you haven’t spoken to in almost ten years that she has a two year old granddaughter? She doesn’t recognize me as her daughter; she certainly won’t recognize Katie as mine! I can’t do this, it’s just too hard.”
Mia could see Lee’s jaw clenching and knew that she was fighting her emotions and if left alone, she would lock herself behind a wall again. In the time they had been together, they had worked hard to break down the walls that held them separated, and began to trust each other enough to allow the other behind those walls. Mia did not intend to lose that.
“We’ll do this together. “Come on Lee, let’s try,” Mia coaxed. Lee remained silent for a moment and Mia felt the inner struggle that was taking place. For a moment, Mia thought she had lost until Lee slowly picked up her pen and began to write. She watched her lover write, keeping her hand firmly on Lee’s back in silent support. ‘If she needs me, I’m here.’
Lee needed to do this herself. She could not hide behind Mia on this one. She would give her mother one last chance, but that chance would not include hurting Mia or Katie. When she finished, Lee put the pen down quietly and got up leaving Mia to finish mailing the letter. If left to her, she did not think she had the strength to actually do it. Mia moved off the armrest and picked up the letter reading,
It has been a long time since we last spoke and a lot was said in anger that I regret. I am sorry if I couldn’t be the daughter you would have wished for; I really wanted to be. I do not know if your feelings are still the same as when we last spoke, or if you will even care, but I am enclosing a picture of my family. Katie is two years old now and is the joy of our lives. Mia is my partner, and without whom I would be lost. The love I have found is something I had never expected. With Mia and Katie, I am whole. I also know what unconditional love is. I see it every time I look into Katie’s eyes.
We would like Katie to know her grandmother, but if this is not possible for you, we will understand. I have put our address and telephone number at the bottom if case you are interested in contacting us. However, I must ask that you only do so if you are willing to accept my life as it is. I have no intention of changing one thing about it.”
Lee walked into the bedroom, her whole body shaking as she remembered the last time she had talked with her mother. All the contempt and disgust that had poured forth from her mother had stripped her soul bear. Lee lay on the bed and curled up into herself as the tears silently slipped down her cheek.
Mia slipped the paper and photo into its envelope and sealed it. She knew Lee’s hurt ran deep and could only imagine a small portion of the grief she must carry. Setting the envelope on the table, she went in search of Lee. Finding her in the bedroom, she climbed onto the bed and molded herself around her lover, holding the trembling body in her arms.
“She can’t hurt you anymore because I won’t let her,” Mia whispered in the ear that lay beneath her lips. “No matter what she said, it wasn’t true. What is true is right here, right now; nothing else matters.”
“I won’t let her hurt you or Katie,” Lee whispered hoarsely and turned in Mia’s arms to face her.
“Shh, she’s not going to hurt anyone.” Mia lightly kissed Lee’s forehead and kept her lips pressed against the smooth skin. “What we have is real. She can only do to us what we let her do, right?”
Lee nodded and Mia pushed her on her back and softly began nibbling on her lover’s lips. She continued her exploration down Lee’s neck until she felt the body beneath her relax. Looking deeply into Lee’s blue eyes, Mia laid claim to her heart and then her body.
The following week turned out to be a tiring one as Lee got back into the swing of working again. Deciding to leave work early, she picked up Katie and the two were having a nap when Mia returned home. Her interview had gone well and she would be starting her new job on Monday. Terri’s office was close to her mother’s and it would be convenient dropping off Katie while she worked. Mia was surprised to find Lee already home. She tiptoed into the bedroom and caught Katie playing with her favorite toy, Lee, as the woman pretended to sleep. Mia watched smiling until Katie saw her and let out a squeal immediately alerting Lee, who opened her eyes. Stretching lazily, she wrinkled her nose, “Oh good, you’re home, someone needs to be changed.”
Mia stepped over to the bed and began to unbutton Lee’s shirt.
“Ah, I meant Katie,” Lee replied as her heart picked up an extra beat.
“Oh, too bad,” Mia replied and lifted Katie over the reclining woman and left the room.
“But, I’ll wait my turn!” Lee called our hopefully.
Mia returned shortly and slipping off her shoes, she climbed up onto the bed next to Lee.
“So, what happened today?”
“Tired?” Mia asked ignoring the question.
“Not anymore,” Lee replied, “so are you going to tell me?”
“I start on Monday.”
“That’s fantastic, congratulations!” Lee replied, and hugged Mia.
“Yeah, it looks like exactly what I was doing at Axion, except I’ll have more responsibility.”
“Wonderful!” Lee hesitated asking the question that had been plaguing her all day, and decided to finally ask, “Did you see Linda?”
“No, I don’t think she works that close by because I didn’t see Terri either.”
Lee let her concerns go and concentrated on Mia’s excitement and listened to Mia describe the events of the day.
“So, what do you say to my taking my two favorite girls out to dinner tonight to celebrate?”
“No cooking! Count me in.”
“Where would you like to go?” Lee asked sitting up and pulling Mia with her.
“I could go for pasta but, I guess, Tony’s is out of the question after what Katie did the last time we were there. I don’t think they would be excited to see us again.”
“Hey, he deserved it!” Lee defended her daughter’s action.
“No one deserves to get a handful of spaghetti thrown at them!” Mia retorted sliding off the bed. “Your daughter is developing some very bad table manners.”
“No, she’s just an excellent judge of character. The guy was an annoying jerk!”
“Still, we can’t encourage that kind of behavior,” Mia voiced her opinion on the matter and went into the bathroom.
“I don’t!” Lee was still on the defensive and opened the closet to find a clean shirt as Mia walked back into the room and looked at her with a sigh.
“I don’t consider laughing helping the situation.”
“You have to admit it was pretty funny!”
“Yes,” Mia chuckled, “but we can’t let her know that.”
Mia arrived to her first day at work to find a bouquet of roses on her desk. There was no card and thinking Lee had sent them she smiled. The day went relatively quickly as she acclimated herself to the job, and she met Terri for lunch before spending the afternoon learning the agency’s computer system. She found that no matter where in insurance she worked, every system seemed different. Luckily, they used the Saggita system that she had learned at Axion. Mia quickly learned the agency's application of the program and the day flew by, at 4 PM the telephone rang and a deep smooth voice asked, “How is it going?”
“Pretty good actually.” Mia loved the sound of Lee’s voice, no matter where she was it brought a smile to her face.
“By the way, thank you for the flowers.”
“What flowers?” Lee asked mentally slapping herself for not thinking of something like that.
“You didn’t send them?”
“No,“ Lee replied, “maybe they’re from Terri.”
“No, I had lunch with her and she didn’t say anything.”
“Maybe she wanted it to be a secret,” Lee answered feeling a ripple of dread creep up her spine.
“I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime, I’m getting ready to leave work so I’ll pick up Katie. Do you want me to stop and get dinner? I figured since it was your first day at work, you were probably tired.”
Mia’s smile deepened at Lee’s thoughtfulness, “You’re always looking out for me, huh?”
“You bet; you’re a precious commodity.”
“I am a commodity now?” Mia laughed quietly, thankful she at least she had a cubicle to herself. Privacy was a tough thing when you had to share the same space three other people.
“More valuable than gold,” Lee purred, not as lucky as Mia, as she noted the looks her cubemates were giving her. ‘Oh well, not like I haven’t heard some of your conversations either,’ she thought grinning.
“Remind me to thank you later.”
“How about Chinese? Make sure there is white rice for Katie.”
“Your wish is my command,” Lee replied packing up her briefcase as she balanced the phone on her shoulder.
“I’ll remember that!”
“I’ll remind you!”
Mia chuckled and signed off, “See you at home in about an hour.”
Hanging up the phone with a goofy smile on her face, Mia turned to find Linda standing in the doorway.
“Oh Linda, I didn’t know anyone was there.”
“Obviously,” Linda grinned and stepped into Mia’s cube.
“What can I do for you?” Mia asked sharply, she didn’t want any trouble on her first day of work.
“Oh, I just came by to see if everything is O.K. and if you got my little welcome present.” Linda stood fingering a rose petal watching Mia’s reaction.
“You sent them?” Mia asked suspiciously, ‘What, did you do poison the thorns?’
“Yes, I wanted you to know that there are no hard feelings, and I’m glad you’re working here.”
“Why, thank you, but you didn’t have to,” Mia answered surprised.
“Yes, I did,” Linda replied and walked out with a wave of her hand.
‘Great, now what do I tell Lee?’ Mia sat thinking, ‘nothing unless, I have to!’
Dinner was a quiet affair with a smattering of conversation regarding Mia’s new job. Her usual exuberance was dimmed and Lee knew something was on her mind. Taking a chance she hesitantly asked, “So, did you find out if Terri sent you the flowers after all?”
Mia was momentarily distracted from answering as she leaned over to pick up the spoon Katie had dropped, not having to look at Lee she lied, “Yes, she did.”
“Well, that was very nice of her,” Lee answered relieved, maybe she was just worrying for nothing.
Mia busied herself with cleaning Katie and didn’t respond further. Later that night as they curled up in bed together, she felt Lee’s arms around her and hated herself for the deception.
“Everything O.K.?” Lee asked sleepily.
Mia nodded, glad she was facing away so that she didn’t have to face her lover.
“Just a little tired, I guess.” She pulled Lee’s arms around her tighter and waited for sleep to come. It took a long time, but finally, her body stilled to join the sleeping woman behind her.
“Oh shit! I can’t believe I forgot about the meeting this morning,” Mia hurried into the office building and jammed the elevator button, willing the car to arrive quickly. She reached the conference room to find it empty and continued on to her boss's office. ‘Smooth move, your first week here and you already screwed up big time!’ She berated herself. Pausing to straighten her collar, she knocked on his door, waited for a reply, and then entered his office.
“Mia, you made it!”
“Yes Mr. Bookman, I’m really sorry about this morning.”
“Everything turn out O.K.?” He asked motioning for her to take a seat.
He smiled and began to explain himself, “Linda told me you had a flat tire this morning and were stuck on the expressway. I’m just glad you could get it taken care of so quickly. I know what a nightmare it is breaking down on that road.”
“She told you?” Mia asked confused at exactly what was happening.
“Yes, she said you were worried about missing the meeting. Normally, I don’t like anyone to miss, but this couldn’t be helped. I’m just glad you thought to call in, thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Mia replied quietly wondering, ‘why would Linda side with me? No sense in saying anything until I can get to the bottom of all this. No sense in getting him upset with me if I don’t have to.’
“Here’s a copy of what we discussed, we tabled any decisions until Monday’s meeting, so you really didn’t miss anything.“ Mia left her boss’s office and went in search of Linda. Finding her in her cube Mia called out, “Hello.”
“Hey Mia, come on in,” Linda looked up and instantly smiled.
“Linda, why did you tell Bookman I had a flat tire?”
“You weren’t there and he was getting antsy. I know how he can be when he gets something under his skin; he doesn’t let it go. I figured you weren’t the type to miss meetings so, I thought something must have happened.”
Mia looked at Linda for some trace of deceit but found none and asked, “Why do you care all of a sudden?”
Linda shrugged and leaned back in her chair before replying, “Maybe, it’s because I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused. I consider Terri my friend. What I did to Lee was stupid and it affected that friendship. I want to try to patch things up among all of us. I’d like to be friends again with Lee, too.”
Mia smiled in response to Linda’s confession and hoped that this meant things wouldn’t be so tense anymore. It certainly would make working here a little easier.
“O.K., why don’t you join Terri and me for lunch today?”
Linda’s face spread out into a satisfying smile and she replied, “I would like that very much, thank you.”
“O.K., see you at 11:30 then.” Mia left and went back toward her own office and didn’t hear the low chuckle emitted from in office behind her.
“Mia, I have no intention of ever being her friend again!” Lee announced as she helped prepare dinner that evening. Mia, in an attempt to clear the air had told Lee about what Linda had done for her this morning and what the woman had said about Lee.
“But Lee, she didn’t have to step in and tell Bookman anything. She could have let me fall flat on my face.”
“Trust me, she didn’t do it out of the kindness of her heart. She has other motives,” Lee sarcastically replied and turned to face Mia. “Listen to me. She loves to manipulate people, it’s best just to steer clear of her.”
“You could at least give me credit for being able to make up my own mind. Why do you always have to expect the worst from people? Why can’t she just be trying to be nice and wanting to make things right,” Mia asked defensively.
“Because I think I know her better than you,” Lee replied coolly.
Mia stiffened at this comment answering, “I know what she did was not very nice, but can’t we give her a second chance?”
“If you want to, you go right ahead. I have no intention of becoming one big happy family with her ever,” Lee replied with a stone-face and walked out of the kitchen.
Lee booted up her computer and put on her headphones to listen to music as she beat on the keyboard. Her fingers punched in code as her mind drifted to the conversation in the kitchen. ‘Why can’t Mia just trust me on this one? Linda is not someone to turn your back on. Even if I tell her all the things that woman has done, she will still want to see the best in her. Aww, Hell! It’s an admirable trait but misplaced when it comes to Linda.’ Lee thought sadly, especially knowing that this would make Mia think of her as such a negative person.
Mia awoke to the sound of the news on the television and realized that she had fallen asleep on the sofa. She had sat in the living room brooding over what Lee had said. Mia wanted to give Linda a second chance and Lee was being stubborn about it. Rubbing her eyes sleepily she looked around and wondered why Lee had not woken her up and went to see if she was still working. Finding the office empty she quickly went to the bedroom to find Lee already asleep. Sadly, Mia changed and climbed into her side of the bed. This was the first time they had ever gone to bed without speaking and Mia felt her eyes begin to burn. A rustle of covers and Lee rolled over pulling Mia toward her, tucking the smaller body in its usual spot.
“I am sorry” Mia whispered softly.
Lee kissed the top of her head. “Shh, it’s all right, go to sleep.” She could feel Mia’s head nod and the arms tighten around her body with a sigh. Lee did not want this to come between them, but she hadn’t been able to make the first move.
In the morning, Lee opened her eyes to find green ones staring back at her. “Morning,” she muttered and blinked in an effort to focus clearly.
“Good morning yourself,” Mia answered and kissed Lee softly. Lee responded by pulling Mia closer to her body and holding her as she slowly woke up.
“Are we O.K.?” Mia asked uncertainly.
Opening her eyes, Lee leaned back and looked down at Mia for a moment before replying, “We’re better than O.K. I love you, silly.”
“I don’t like fighting with you. Let’s not do that again,” Mia replied and burrowed closer to lee. They snuggled for a while longer until the calls from Katie forced them to stir.
“Better than an alarm clock,” Lee groaned and got up to take care of Katie.
“Dress her while I shower and then I’ll fix breakfast,” Mia replied getting up and squealing lightly when Lee wrapped her arms around her.
“One of these days, we will be able to do that together again.” Mia grunted her disbelief, and with a quick kiss Lee left to take are of Katie.
Linda became a daily visitor to Mia’s cube and became a regular at her lunches with Terri. Everything seemed to be going smoothly even though Mia would have preferred that they weren’t so chummy. Things seemed to be going smoothly, but Mia never discussed any of this with Lee. She new it would just upset her.
As the week drew to a close, Mia was rushing to complete her report and give it to her boss before lunch. Attaching the final figures she searched through her drawers for a file folder. “Why does everything have to be due on a Friday morning?” she grumbled to herself.
Mia turned to see Linda in her doorway and smiled asking, “What’s up?”
“Have you seen Terri today?”
“I just talked to her, she doesn’t feel well and is not coming in today,” Mia explained and continued her searching. Not finding the folder she needed, she turned to Linda.
“Hang on a minute while I go to the supply room.”
“Sure, take your time,” Linda replied and sat down to wait. Not long after Mia had left, the receptionist came in with a message for Mia and placed it in the clear spot on the middle of her desk. Linda looked down at the message and saw that it was from Lee, picking it up she tucked it into her pocket. Mia returned with her folder and began assembling her report as they talked.
“So, do you still want to go to lunch?”
“Sure,” Mia replied.
“How about we go out to the mall. I really need to pick out a gift for my mother and I could use some help.”
‘I’d love to help,” Mia answered, “11:30 as usual?”
Mia looked at her watch with a sigh realizing Linda would be arriving any minute for lunch, and she plodded through her stack of mail as fast as she could. Hearing footsteps on the carpet behind her, Mia called out without turning around, “I will be ready in a minute.”
“Take your time,” Lee replied and sat down to watch her lover work.
“Lee!” Mia spun around pleasantly surprised.
“You were expecting someone else? You still take lunch at 11:30 don’t you?” Lee joked with a smile.
“I didn’t know you were coming.”
“Didn’t you get my message?”
“No, what message?” Mia asked lifting the file from her desk and looking around. Not finding it, she called reception and the receptionist, Mary, assured her she had set it on the middle of her desk.
“Oh well, it must have become mixed up with one of my files,” Mia explained into the receiver and hanging up turned to find Linda entering the office.
“Ready to go Mia?” Linda called out already having seen Lee out of the corner of her eye. Feigning ignorance, Linda turned towards Lee, “Oh Lee, I didn’t see you. Are you joining us for lunch?” Linda kept her back to Mia and winked at the look Lee gave her.
“I didn’t know you were coming Lee,” Mia explained watching her lover’s face turn to stone.
“That’s O.K., maybe another time,” Lee answered and stood to leave. Mia could see the hurt anger in Lee’s eyes and tried to stop her from leaving.
“Wait! Linda, you were here earlier did you see Mary drop off any messages to me?”
“No, I didn’t see her,” Linda replied and looked over at Lee grinning, “sorry.”
Mia did not see the look she was giving Lee and stepped back at Lee’s response to the simple answer.
“Liar!” Lee growled dangerously.
“Excuse me?” Linda asked, “Why would I lie?”
“Where do you want me to begin!” Lee answered a little more loudly this time.
“Lee, don’t!” Mia asked grabbing Lee’s arm to restrain her from anything more than words.
“The message probably just got misplaced. I’m sure Linda didn’t have anything to do about it.” Lee looked at Mia, unable to verbalize what she was feeling at the moment and could only pull her arm away from Mia’s grasp in reply.
“Lee, I hope I didn’t overstep my bounds when I bought those roses for Mia. I just wanted her first day to be pleasant for her.” Linda watch satisfied as Lee’s face paled considerably.
Lee eyes snapped instantly to Mia as her heart sank in disbelief and she immediately turned away replying, “Have a nice lunch.”
Lee walked quickly down the hallway, at the moment she needed to get out of the confined office and breath some fresh air. Her chest felt as though there were a weight crushing the air out of her lungs. Nearing the exit, she heard Mia calling from behind her.
“Lee wait! Come on, please stop!”
Lee pushed through the double doors to the lobby and slammed her finger on the elevator button before she felt a tug on her arm.
“Let me explain,” Mia cried.
“Which part? Your lies or taking her side?”
“You were so against this and I didn’t want you to be upset and overreact,” Mia replied not knowing how to reach Lee or what to say to fix the mess she had created.
“Oh, so you lied to me for my own good!” Lee jerked her arm out of Mia’s grasp once again and stepped into the elevator as the doors opened. She hit the down button and replying, “Don’t do me any favors, go back to Linda she’s obviously the one you trust, not me!”
The doors slid closed with a final snap as Mia tried to push the button to get Lee back, but it was too late. She looked for the stairway and began running down the six flights to catch Lee. She made it to the parking lot in time to see Lee’s truck pull away and speed down the street. Trying to hold back the tears she bent over to catch her breath before going back up to her office.
“Mia, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize you hadn’t told her. I don’t want to cause you any trouble but, honestly, I think Lee has always been a bit possessive.” Linda reached over to touch Mia’s arm in sympathy and said, “I really didn’t see any message either.”
“I don’t think I’m in much of a mood to go shopping right now,” Mia told her quietly and wished she would just leave her to her pain. She had betrayed Lee and she wasn’t sure what she could do to regain that trust.
“I understand, no problem. Will we see you at the company picnic tomorrow?” Linda asked as she was leaving. Mia just nodded not really registering what the woman was asking. Fighting her desire to burst into tears, Mia threw herself into her work and feverishly worked to ward off the pain that stabbed her heart.
Lee drove around for a while. She had no desire to go back to work, and finally headed to the lake to watch the freighters go by. The afternoon was crisp and sunny as she sat alone thinking about what had just happened. ‘Why did Mia lie to me? Worst of all, why did she stand up for Linda against me?’ Lee felt a tear roll down her face and angrily wiped it away. Lee shivered as the sun weakened and the wind picked up. It was nearly 5 PM and she decided to go home. On the way, she called Mia’s mother to tell her that she would not be able to pick up Katie and asked if she would call Mia to come and get her. Arriving home, Lee quickly changed into her sweats and grabbed her workout bag and headed back outside. She needed to work off this anger so she could think clearly and headed for the gym. She had not been to the gym since Katie was born, but she needed to do something constructive at the moment.
Mia called Lee’s office and left three messages, it was obvious that Lee had either not returned to her office or chose to not answer Mia’s calls. By 5 PM she was packing up her things to leave when the telephone rang.
“Oh, Hi Mother, anything wrong?”
“I don’t know. I just got a strange call from Lee telling me that she couldn’t pick up Katie and would I call you”, Mrs. Peters replied. “Is everything all right?”
“Yes, just fine,” Mia lied. “She probably just got tied up at work. I’m on my way to your house to get Katie right now.”
Passing the reception desk on her way out, Mary stopped Mia.
“Mia, did you ever find your message?”
“No, it must have been lost in the shuffle,” Mia replied thinking how wrong that sounded.
“That’s funny, I set it right in the middle of your desk and there were no papers around it, just ask Linda, she was sitting right there when I brought it over.”
“You mean Linda was sitting in my office when you came by?” Mia asked feeling her heart sink even lower than it already was.
“Yes, she was sitting at your desk in fact.”
“O.K., thank you.”
“I am really sorry for all the trouble,” Mary remarked.
“Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t your fault,” Mia replied knowing full well whose fault it was. ‘Why didn’t I just listen to Lee.'? Her thoughts tumbled around on her drive to pick up Katie until finally, Mia realized she was jealous. She was jealous of Lee’s past relationship with Linda. She wanted them to all be friends instead of rivals for Lee’s love. Mia had blindly rushed in to prove Lee wrong and instead, she ended up pushing away the one she loved more than anything else.
Mia got away from her mother’s house with the excuse of being tired and drove home anticipating the worse.
“Where Mommy?” Katie asked looking around for Lee. Mia set the child down and answered, “I don’t think she is home yet.” Katie tottered off to see for herself. Mia dropped down on the sofa and put her hands over her face. She remained like this until tiny fingers forcibly pried apart her hands.
Mia smiled at her daughter and attempted to distract her from her current mission. Not succeeding for very long she suggested, “How about we go in your room and play?”
“Where Mommy?” The little voice insisted.
“She’s still working, we’ll play until she gets home.”
“No Mommy, I want Mommy!”
“Well, she’s not home yet,” Mia, replied trying to remain calm.
“I don’t know where she is!” Mia snapped at the little girl and watched in horror as the tiny face dissolved into tears. Mia clutched her child to her as she cried, “Want Mommy.”
“Me too!” Mia echoed as tears rolled down her cheeks and she rocked her sobbing daughter in her arms.
Lee entered the darkened house to find Mia and Katie fast asleep on the sofa. Lifting Katie gently, Lee put her in her own bed and returned to Mia.
“Katie?” Mia called out, her voice hoarse from tears and sleep.
“I put her to bed,” Lee’s voice responded from the darkened doorway.
“Lee? Where have you been?”
“At the gym,” she replied and stepped into the room. Mia looked her over and saw she still wore her workout clothes.
“I was worried.”
“I’m sorry. I should have left a note. I needed some time to sort things out,” Lee replied quietly.
“I’ve made a mess of things haven’t I?”
“I don’t know Mia. I guess it depends on what you wanted to happen,” Lee answered and ran a hand through her hair.
“Not this!” Mia cried as fresh tears forced their way into her eyes.
Lee hung on to her resolve when her body wanted nothing more than to run to Mia and comfort her. Lee’s mind knew that that wasn’t the answer right now.
“I think I know why you lied to me. Given how I feel about Linda, you knew I wouldn’t have let it go unanswered. I don’t like it, but I can understand. What I don’t understand is why you stood for Linda against me today. You didn’t even ask me how I knew she was lying, you just jumped to her defense.”
Mia got up and went to Lee. She stopped just in front of her, afraid to touch her, but afraid not to be near her too. She could see the tension in Lee as she struggled to maintain her composure. She had hurt Lee deeply with her actions today and, somehow, she had to make things right again.
“I was wrong. I never should have lied to you in the first place. I want our relationship based on trust and I’ve destroyed that. I know it’s not an excuse, but I did it because I was jealous.”
“Jealous? Why? Have I ever given you reason to be?” Lee asked surprised. She hadn’t kept her relationship with Linda a secret. Mia had known from the start.
“No, it wasn’t you, it was me. I hated the fact that you were ever involved with her. I thought that as long as she was the ‘other woman,' I had a rival for your attention. Maybe if I could make your relationship with her insignificant than I would be the only one to have you. I know it doesn’t make much sense and I am so sorry!” Mia looked down unable to look Lee in the face and see the pain her insecurity had caused.
Lee was floored by Mia’s admission. She had never realized that her battle with Linda had been seen as a wedge between them, but then again, hadn’t she felt the same thing about Rick? His presence had always put her on the defense, so why would Mia feel any different? Reaching, she lifted Mia’s chin to look at her directly and said, “No, I’m the one who’s sorry. I never realized that it would affect you like this. I guess I should have known since I basically felt the same way about Rick. I was always afraid he would eventually get you away from me. He offered you acceptance and respectability in your world.”
“He offered me an easy way out in my mother’s world, nothing more. He couldn’t offer me the love of a family that you could.”
“Come here,” Lee tugged Mia towards her and put her arms around the smaller woman.
“No more keeping things from each other, O.K.?”
“I’m sorry I didn’t trust you. You were right about Linda, she did know about the message. Mary told me Linda was sitting at my desk when she delivered it,” Mia answered and burrowed her body into her lover’s taller frame.
“I knew it had to be something like that by the look she gave me.”
“What look?” Mia raised her head to ask.
“The one that I’d like to wipe of her face one of these days!”
Mia could fell Lee’s body tensing again and reached up to caress the tightening jaw. “I was so afraid you had left for good.”
“I remember you once told me you’d never leave me. It was all that I had to hold on through the pain. So, no matter what, I’ll never just walk away from you. It would take a lot for me to leave,” Lee replied kissing the top of the golden head.
“You heard me that time?”
“My heart will always hear you.”
Mia stepped out of the bathroom brushing her hair to watch Lee wrestle with Katie on the bed trying to get the child into shoes. Finally, Lee snagged the giggling child and placed her on her lap to tie the little shoes.
“It’s like roping a calf to get shoes on this kid!” Lee looked down at Mia’s bare feet and grinning said, “Gee, I wonder why?”
“Very Funny!” Mia replied as she helped Lee finish dressing the squirming child.
“We don’t have to go if you don’t want to,” Mia offered, half wishing Lee would agree.
“Does my past with Linda still bother you?”
“No, not so much now that we’ve talked about it,” Mia admitted brushing Katie’s hair quickly as the child fought to stop her. Lee put the restless child down and let her play with the brush, and pulled Mia down to sit on the bed next to her.
“But, it still bothers you.”
Mia chuckled, “I think I’d still be jealous of the pet dog you had as a kid! I don’t know, it’s something about having to share you that bothers me.”
“Listen, she had me for a brief moment. You have me forever.”
“Forever,” Lee murmured as she pushed Mia backward on the bed kissing her. An insistent tugging on her jeans made Lee break the kiss off sooner than she would have liked. Sitting up, Lee looked down to find Katie gripping her leg.
“We go bye-bye?”
Lee looked over at Mia questioningly, the latter sighing and nodding in agreement.
“Yes honey, we’re going on a picnic!” Lee jumped up grabbing Katie and swinging her around the room. Mia lay watching the two and smiled when Katie began laughing and thought, ‘I have more than anyone has ever had of Lee, I have her heart.’
“You ready for this?” Lee asked as she put the car in park and turned off the engine, looking over the milling crowd. She dreaded getting out of the car.
“Yes, I think I see Terri over there. She said she would save us a spot by them.” Mia got out grabbing the camera and Katie’s bag as Lee unstrapped the child from her car seat.
“Do you want the stroller?” Mia asked.
“No, she won’t stay in it anyway. I’ll carry her for now.”
Alex waved when he saw them and hurried over to grab the bag from Mia. “So how’s my favorite sister?”
“You mean your only sister, don’t you?” Mia teased.
Alex grinned and hugged Mia. “Yeah, but you’re still my favorite!” Next, he kissed Katie and Lee asking, “What’s shaking ladies?”
Katie began shaking her head from side to side causing her Uncle to laugh. “I see you and Mommy have been busy again!”
Lee smiled at the ease of their relationship. The accident had changed a lot of how the family interacted and Lee’s acceptance wasn’t in question anymore.
“I couldn’t help it, it’s her favorite phrase, just don’t say ‘shake a leg!” Lee replied.
Terri came over and accepted a hug from Katie before Lee transferred the child to Mia’s arms. A voice from behind caused the four adults to turn around in unison. Mia’s boss followed by Linda walked over to the small group.
“Mia, I am glad you could make it,” Mr. Bookman called out. “This must be your daughter,” he stated and patted Katie on her knee. Katie buried her face in Mia’s neck and tightened her hold in response to his attention. Chuckling, he turned back to Mia and waited for an introduction to Lee.
“Lee, this is my boss Mr. Bookman.”
“Nice to meet you Lee, I’m glad you could join us today,” Mr. Bookman smiled at the attractive woman and reached out to shake her hand.
“Thank you, it’s good to meet you too.”
“Well, I hope you have fun and join in today’s activities. Linda tells me that Mia is going to be on my team today.”
“What team?” Mia asked nervously.
“Every year we run an obstacle course competition and prizes are awarded to the winners,” he explained excitedly, “last year my team won second prize.”
“Oh, I don’t think I can do it Mr. Bookman. I didn’t realize it would involve running and I wore sandals,” Mia explained giving Linda a nasty look in the process.
Mr. Bookman looked crestfallen until his eyes fastened upon Lee’s long legs, “Perhaps your friend would like to participate instead?”
“Lee would be perfect Mr. Bookman, you would be assured a win with her on your team, “Linda replied. She insisted on stoking an already slow burning flame within Mia and looked over at Lee daring her to refuse.
“Sure, why not!” Lee responded taking up the challenge.
Mia reached over and placed hand on Lee’s arm concerned that Lee’s recovery wasn’t quite to this stage yet. “Are you sure you are up to this?”
“I’ll be fine,” Lee assured her.
“Great! Meet us by the pavilion in about fifteen minutes, “ Mr. Bookman replied and happily walked away.
“I think you just made his day Mia. “ Linda tickled Katie who instantly scrambled for cover on Mia’s shoulder.
“Go to Mommy now, honey,” Mia softly said to the child and handed her to Lee.
“Oh that’s so cute!” Linda offered somewhat sarcastically as Lee took Katie into her arms. “You’re finally a mama.”
Lee stiffened at the comment but did not reply. Mia looked around to see if anyone had heard the woman before turning back to Linda. “That wasn’t a very nice thing to do. I never volunteered to join any team. I really don’t think I need you to speak for me anymore. I’m more than capable of handling my own affairs.”
“Well, I was just trying to help you get in good with Mr. Bookman. That’s what friends do for each other,” Linda replied surprised.
“Oh, and do friends also destroy messages from each other’s mates? Don’t deny it, I talked with Mary yesterday. Just what kind of friendly help was that supposed to be?” Mia asked angrily. Alex looked at Terri for some kind of reaction. He knew that Linda was her friend too and noted that Terri had a disgusted look on her face. ‘I guess she has had enough of the woman too,’ he thought happily.
Linda’s face turned to stone, but before she could comment any further, Mia put her arm through Lee’s and said, “Give it up Linda, not you or anyone else is going to come between us. I suggest you get a life of your own and stay out of ours!” Mia turned and walked away with her family towards the pavilion. If they had turned to look back a Linda, they would have seen a very angry and vengeful woman staring after them.
Approaching the crowd around the pavilion Mia dropped her arm and quietly said, “Lee, don’t feel you have to do this competition for me, I can handle Mr. Bookman.”
“I’m sure you can, tiger,” Lee replied conscious of Mia’s effort to act casually and let her eyes tell her story.
“Tiger?” Mia looked up and caught the twinkle in Lee’s eyes. Grinning, Lee looked down and said, “Yeah, it kind of fits.”
“Seriously Lee, I’m worried about you doing this competition thing.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t overdo anything, tiger!”
Mia moaned at another new pet name from Lee and took Katie from Lee so that she could sign up.
Mr. Bookman ran the first heat of the race and won. Lee waited her turn and they watched Linda easily win her race. Another men’s team ran and then Lee would run. Together, there would be four teams running. Each team accumulated points from successful wins and the higher scores would remain in the race until there were only two teams left for the final race. Mia watched as Lee easily won her first race as the family cheered her own. Lee’s long legs gave her an advantage as she gracefully outmaneuvered her competitor. Linda won her next race and looked at Lee smugly as she received congratulations from her co-workers. The next race pitted Lee against a spouse of someone from Accounting whom Mia didn’t know. This time Lee won by a narrower margin. Concerned, Mia watched as Lee tried to hide the fact that she was holding her side and breathing heavily.
“Are you O.K.?” Mia asked refraining from overreacting and embarrassing Lee as a group of well-wishers had formed around them.
“Yeah, just very out of shape,” she replied taking shallow breaths in an attempt to stop the pain in her side. Terri returned and handed a water bottle to Lee and noticed that her color had paled, “You sure you are all right?” she whispered when Mia looked away.
Lee nodded and watched, as her teammate got ready for his race, secretly wishing he would lose so she did not have to run again. It would be easier if she weren’t the one who lost the race for their team, but she wasn’t sure if she had another race left in her. Her side burned and pulled where the scar ran down her ribcage. Sighing, she watched as Mr. Bookman just eked past his opponent to win the semi-final race. The finals were next and they waited to see whom they were racing against.
Mia watched quietly as Lee’s eyes narrowed with each breath that she took. Leaning over, she asked Terri to keep an eye on Katie and grabbed Lee by the sleeve and lead her away from the crowd.
“What are you doing?”
“Just come with me for a moment, please?” Mia asked and when Lee saw the look on her face she didn’t refuse. Mia didn’t stop until they reached a stand of trees and pulled her behind them.
“You’re hurting aren’t you?”
“No, it’s O.K., really,” Lee replied looking out at the activities.
“Look at me!” Mia demanded pulling Lee face to face. Lee looked down into green eyes and when asked again, she could only nod ‘yes’.
“That’s it then, you’re done running!” Mia proclaimed putting her hands on her hips and standing firm. “I won’t have you hurting yourself over a silly competition. This job doesn’t mean that much to me! I want to go home now!” Mia turned to collect Katie and their things leaving Lee to follow behind.
“Mia wait! If I run now, we’ll never be free of Linda. She would just love to hold this over your head at work and everywhere else she can.”
“I don’t care!” came the stubborn reply and Lee could see by the set of Mia’s shoulders that she was serious. Walking up behind her she placed her hand on the shoulders and turned her around to look at her.
“Do you really think running home is the answer? We can’t hide forever Mia, it doesn’t work that way.”
Lee stood silently watching the blonde pace back and forth thinking about what she had just asked. Finally, Mia turned back to Lee and without a word slipped her arm around her lover’s waist and together they walked back to the crowd. Instead of breaking apart at contact with her co-workers, Mia’s arm remained firmly planted around Lee’s waist and she looked defiantly back at anyone who chose to stare at them.
To their dismay, the final heat placed Lee against Linda. Luckily, Mr. Bookman ran his final race first, giving Lee more time to recover. Lee tried to ready herself mentally for the race as she set up at the staring line.
Clearing the first obstacles they were tied, next they approached two trees just wide enough for one to pass through at a time and both women sped up to be first. As they neared the tree’s Linda pushed Lee as hard as she could, slamming her injured side against the first tree. Lee grabbed her side as she tried to catch her breath, and Linda shot past her through the opening. Angry, Lee held her side and gave chase after Linda using pure adrenaline to propel her forward. She finally caught up with Linda as they neared the final stretch of the race. Lee had to let go of her side to balance along 2x4’s on a raised platform. As she tried to pass Linda, she felt an elbow slam into her already throbbing side. Instead of letting up, she threw her arm sideways into the protruding elbow, and both women tumbled to the ground. Linda was up first and ran across the finish line ahead of Lee. Dropping to her knees after crossing the line, Lee gasped painfully, “Just what the hell do you think you were doing?”
“Winning! What’s the matter, too much for you?” Linda laughed and answered spitefully.
The slap echoed through the crowd that had quieted as they watched the spectacle and now stood watching the smaller woman who vibrated with anger. Linda raised a hand to her stinging cheek, momentarily stunned.
“Don’t you dare touch her again! What is wrong with you?” Mia screamed at her before turning her back on the woman to help Lee.
“You Bitch!” Linda advanced angrily towards the two women until her arm was forcibly jerked from behind.
“I don’t think so Linda, you’re not going to cause any more trouble,” Terri stated grasping her arm tightly. Mr. Bookman stood next Terri looking over at the scene in disgust.
“Linda, that was the worst display of sportsmanship that I’ve ever seen. You’re disqualified and I think you should leave now. Monday morning, I’d like to see you in my office first thing.”
Linda wrenched her arm free from Terri’s grasp and spat, “I thought you were my friend.”
“You don’t know what a friend is,” Terri replied sadly and watched as Linda stormed off to the parking lot.
After checking on Lee’s condition, Mr. Bookman walked over to clear out the crowd and Terri approached the two women.
Leaning lightly on Mia for support Lee grinned and looked at Terri, “Feisty little thing isn’t she?”
Terri laughed relieved that they weren’t angry and asked, “You doing O.K.?”
Lee took an experimental breath, “Not bad.”
“Oh-oh, don’t look now but big brother must have just heard what happened,” Terri announced as her husband jogged over trailing two boys and a little girl.
“You guy’s O.K. What happened?”
Everyone walked back toward the picnic area as Terri explained the events of the race. Katie ran to Lee wanting to be lifted. When Lee tried, she winced causing Alex to quickly direct the little girl over to where the boys were playing.
“Why don’t you two go on home and let us keep Katie overnight?” Terri asked.
Seeing Katie already caught up in play with her cousins, they agreed and packed up their things. Mia took the keys without a complaint from the tall woman who stiffly settled into the passenger seat. She knew she would be sporting one heck of a bruise come morning but, at least the sharp pain was gone and she could take a full breath once again. Mia belted herself in and reached over to help Lee, as their fingers brushed in passing, Lee grasped the smaller hand and brought it to her lips.
“Thank you,” she murmured holding the soft hand against to her lips.
“Feisty huh?” Mia asked smiling at her lover.
“Yeah, my little tiger!” Lee teased releasing Mia’s hand so she could start the car.
“Always, “ Mia replied and drove them home.
On Monday, Mia and Terri met for lunch without Linda who had been fired that morning. Terri explained that it had been in the works for some time because of her lack of teamwork skills. Saturday’s events had just been the final straw.
“By the way, what’s all this about a party?” Terri asked as they walked back from lunch.
“How did you know? I haven’t really mentioned it to anyone yet?”
“Well, you obviously mentioned it to your daughter,” Terri replied with a knowing grin.
“I guess I am going to have to stop discussing things in front of her,” Mia laughed.
“They do repeat everything!”
“God, I hope not!” Mia thought momentarily worried if Katie had said anything to Lee about their outing on Sunday.
Mia paused thinking before answer, “I’m planning a birthday party for Lee, it’s not a surprise or anything but, I sent an invitation to her mother.”
“I thought you said she wasn’t around?”
“She’s not officially. Lee sent her a letter with our picture in it a couple of months ago but, we never heard anything. I just figured since it wasn’t returned that, maybe there was some hope?”
“Maybe”, Terri agreed doubtfully.
“I didn’t want Lee to know and suffer anymore pain in case she ignores this one too.”
The day of the party arrived and as Mia looked out over their guests, she decided that the party was a huge success. Everyone had shown up including Jeff and Brian who had Lee in hysterics over near the bar. Even Mia’s parents were having a good time talking with some of Lee’s friends from work. The kids were playing noisily in Katie’s room and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Mia smiled and handed another platter of snacks to Terri to take out to the guests as the doorbell rang. She quickly turned off the oven and went to answer the door. Mia opened the door to a tall gray haired woman; the resemblance was striking. There was no mistaking who this woman was.
“Hello, I’m Lee’s mother, Gina,” the woman announced nervously. “You’re Mia right? I received the invitation you sent me.”
“Yes, I’m Mia. Come in. I’m so glad that you decided to come for Lee’s birthday.”
“Well, I have to admit that I had my reservations about coming. We definitely have our differences and that hasn’t changed. Because of it we haven’t spoken in many years, but I have come to realize that Lee is still my daughter, and I’m hoping it’s not to late to salvage something of our relationship.”
“I’m glad that you did come. It will mean so much to Lee,” Mia replied and led the woman into the living room. Lee was nowhere to be found. Mia turned to Gina and said, “Maybe she is in the kitchen. Why don’t you come with me and then you two can have a little privacy before you meet everyone.”
“That would be nice,” she replied and followed the young woman. She had to admit that it seemed Lee had chosen well. Mia was not only pretty, but she seemed to be a very nice person. Who else would have tried to get the two of them together again after all that had happened?
“Lee?” Mia called as she saw Lee in the kitchen putting ice in the bucket.
“Right here,” Lee replied without turning around, “we are running out of ice so I sent Jeff to the store.”
“Lee, there is someone here to see you,” Mia gently touched Lee’s back to get her to turn around.
Lee turned and her smile faded when she saw who was standing behind her lover. “Mother?”
“Happy Birthday Lee,” Gina offered unsure of what her daughter’s reaction would be to her presence. Even though she knew Mia had sent the invitation, she had an idea her daughter had no knowledge of it.
“I guess I don’t need to ask how you knew,” Lee replied looking over at Mia unsure if she was unhappy or grateful.
“I hope you don’t mind that I invited her,” Mia answered a little worried by Lee’s less than enthusiastic reaction.
“No, I’m just surprised that she came,” Lee answered looking back up at her mother. “I didn’t think you approved of my life choices.”
“I still don’t, but it was something you said in your letter that made me realize the mistake I had been making.”
Lee moved protectively closer to Mia and looked up questioningly at her mother, “Which part?”
“You told me about your family and I realized that love is unconditional between a parent and a child. I’ve dwelt so much on how you didn’t fit my idea of the perfect daughter, that I didn’t look at how much I had failed you as a mother. I was so busy looking at what I wanted that I didn’t take into consideration your needs too. I still don’t agree with this type of lifestyle, but that is not my decision to make. I hope you can forgive me for what I said. I know that our mother-daughter relationship is probably over, but what about a friendship between us? Do you think that’s possible?”
“I don’t know mother, but I am willing to try,” Lee answered and moved toward her mother's attempt at physical contact. The women hugged hesitantly until Lee broke into tears and her mother clutched her to her tightly. Mia slipped away to give the women some privacy and went to the bedroom to get Katie.
Turning down the hall she ran into Terri who stopped her, “Was that Lee’s mother?” she asked excitedly. Mia nodded her head tearfully and Terri wrapped her into her arms and hugged her.
“I got them together, now it’s up to them to work it out,” Mia told Terri as she wiped her eyes on her sleeve. “I’m going to get Katie, do you think you can keep everyone occupied and out of the kitchen for a few more minutes?”
“No problem, take as long as you need,” Terri winked and went back to the party.
Mia picked up Katie and told the boys that she was borrowing her for a few moments and would bring her right back. They nodded and continued playing with the fort they had built in Katie’s room.
“Where going?” Katie asked curiously.
“There is someone Mommy wants you to meet!” Mia whispered.
Katie hugged her neck tightly and then placed a sloppy kissed on her mother’s cheek. Mia set Katie down in the doorway to the kitchen and whispered, “Go by Mommy, Katie,” and gave her a little push in Lee’s direction. Katie eagerly ran to the tall woman and was instantly lifted into her arms. Lee looked over at Mia and her eyes told her all she needed to know, winking Mia mouthed that she would be in the living room with the guests. Lee nodded and turned to Katie who was peering into her face curiously.
Lee shook her head smiling, “No mommy’s not sad.”
“I Love you, Mommy,” Katie replied and hugged Lee’s neck tightly. Lee looked over her daughter’s head to her mother who stood with tears in her eyes at the sight of her daughter and the child.
“Mother, there is someone that I would like you to meet,” Lee replied emotionally.
“Katie, this is your…um your,” Lee looked at her mother hesitatingly, unsure if she would accept Katie.
“I’m you grandmother,” Gina whispered and reached out to touch the child’s arm lightly not wanting to frighten her. Instead of frightening Katie, she was immediately enveloped in a tiny hug of her own as the child pushed herself into her grandmother’s arms. Taking the little girl from her mother she held her for the first time.
“She’s precious Lee.”
“Thank you mother, that’s why I wanted you to know her too,” Lee replied.
“I have a lot of catching up to do,” Gina replied, briefly touching her daughter's cheek before putting both arms around her granddaughter once more.
Lee had thought her family complete with just Mia and Katie, but she realized that a small piece of herself had always been missing and now, that part was coming together to complete the picture. Their acceptance would come at a price, Lee had no doubt of that but, at least they had a beginning. Whatever the outcome, whatever the differences, Lee needed to believe that a mother’s love was unconditional.
Carrying Katie, Gina allowed Lee to lead her into the living room to meet the rest of the family. Facing her whole family for the first time, Lee announced, “Everyone, I would like to introduce you to my mother.”