Disclaimer: The character of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.
My thanks to the readers who have been so kind in showing their appreciation of these stories. You are a great bunch! My special thanks to Lisa, Inga and Susan, my long suffering and hard working beta readers.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction, please do not read on if you are under age or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp.
Visit Anne Azel's World at < http://www.jes.com.au/~azel/ > or write to Anne at <firstname.lastname@example.org >
The reporter had waited, as instructed, on that cold autumn day, huddled by an old brick wall until the funeral ended. The press had not been allowed into the cathedral, but the list of attendants read like a Who's Who of the rich and famous and his editor was eager to get some good shots as they came out. Each public face, no doubt, showing the politically correct amount of grief.
The reporter shivered, pulling up the wool collar of his jacket against the bitter wind. They didn't come more famous than the "Remarkable Williams Family". Philip Williams had been a Welsh immigrant to Canada. Through hard work and brilliant financial dealings, he had carved a place for himself among a surprised Canadian Establishment.
Always a nonconformist, at fifty three, he had surprised the conservative Canadian Establishment yet again, by marrying Alexandria Thasos the prima ballerina of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company. She was, at the time, twenty two. To everyone's greater surprise, the stormy marriage endured until Williams' mysterious and fatal boating accident at seventy six.
Alexandria gave her "Philly" three equally remarkable offspring; Roberta, Elizabeth and William. Roberta, the oldest, had won Oscars as an actor, playwright and director. She was like her father, brilliant, ruefulness and driven. As one critic wrote, "Robbie Williams could make anyone a star and all it was going to cost them was their soul!"
Number two was Elizabeth, the reclusive physicist, who had advanced our knowledge of quantum mechanics to a degree so complex that few could understand. It was accepted however, amongst enlightened circles, that only she and God completely understood the dynamics involved in the creation of the universe.
"Billy-the-Kid" Williams, the baby black sheep of the family, wild ways had won him three world cups in Formula One racing and the brushed stainless steel coffin that was at this moment being carried from the cathedral.
The reporter moved away from the protection of the brick wall and out into the biting wind to lean against the dirty yellow barricades that had been put up by the concerned police force at the mayor's request.
The crowd buzzed, anticipating the precession of celebrities. The coffin was carried by Billy-the-Kid's racing team. They wore their team colours, black with a slash of red down their pant leg.
The blue steel of the coffin was partly hidden by the black and white checker flag that had been unrolled dramatically by Alexandria on her son's coffin only moments before. The two sister's had placed his red helmet at one end. It had done its job well. Billy's handsome head was undamaged, although separated from his neck by the crash.
Descending the long flight of stairs behind the coffin was Alexandria dramatically wrapped in black mink (not the one she had worn at her husband's funeral). A brilliant red clasp at her throat emphasized her long neck and repeated the racing motif. She appeared distraught at her son's death but on closer observation through the camera lens, the reporter noted that her eyes were dry.
One step behind the dramatic Alexandria walked the surviving siblings; Roberta, tall, dark and bristling with energy defiantly sneering at the gawkers and mousy Elizabeth, bowed not in grief but in the heady contemplation of the greater universe.
Following them in quiet dignity and completely forgotten by the others, was Billy's wife, Janet. She held in her arms a baby. Billy's child. The reporter took a number of close-up shots. It was the third generation's debut. What a hell of a tradition for a little kid to live up to!
The party paused on the last few stairs watching as the coffin was slipped into the black hearse. It was then that the reporter took the picture that would appear in black and white on newsstands all over the world.
There stood Alexandria dramatically posed with Elizabeth one step behind, lost in thought and partly hidden by the black swirl of mommy's furs. Alone to the right towered Roberta. She was not looking at the coffin, instead her head was turned looking to the left, past her sister to where Bill's wife stood with quiet dignity, her arms wrapped protectively around her child. Janet Williams' strawberry blond hair was the only spot of light in the dark scene.
The expression on Roberta's face was one of calculated curiosity as if she had just become aware that her brother had left a family and was evaluating her responsibilities and options regarding them, which of course was the case.
A black, stretch limousine pulled slowly forward and the racing team, now no longer burdened with their boss's body, turned and filed down each side. Those on the left opened the doors to receive the Williams family. Alexandria and Elizabeth stepped forward and disappeared into the luxurious interior. Roberta crossed the step and took the elbow of Janet Williams guiding the surprised woman and her child down to the vehicle. All three disappeared and the racing team closed the doors, waiting for the next limo that would carry them to the grave side.
Inside there was a moment of silence, then Alexandra shifted. "Thank you, Roberta. Beautifully choreographed as always. Although, I'm not sure we shouldn't have stood longer on the step for the press."
A ghost of a smile was exchanged by the two sisters. "Nonsense, Alexandria, the light today is far too harsh. It would not have done you justice," Robbie responded practically, noting the wide-eyed shock on the face of the wife opposite her. Billy had good taste, she thought her eyes slowly traveling up the small woman's body.
Alexandria sniffed. "Perhaps; that is your field so I shall bow to your judgement, Robbie. Beth, do straighten your shoulders, dear." Beth did so immediately, a red tide washing up her neck.
"I read your paper on your observations of the event horizon of Cygnus X-1. Can I assume that you feel Schwarzschild's radius is upheld by the current data?" questioned Robbie turning her neon blue eyes in the direction of her sister. Janet relaxed, no longer under Roberta's scrutiny. She saw Elizabeth relax too as her big sister came to her aid and led the conversation to waters where she felt comfortable.
"Certainly the light wave front has failed to escape to infinity and hovers around thirty kilometers from the star. That would be expected with Schwarzchild's radius. What is interesting," the recluse continued warming to her only interest, "Is that under the principles of quantum mechanics, particles can escape from a black hole. This of course would have appeared impossible using classic mechanics."
Robbie nodded, "The uncertainly principle," she muttered as she followed her sister's train of thought.
Beth smiled. "Planck's constant comes into play where ..."
Alexandria waved a hand in annoyance. "Girls, Billy's wife doesn't need to have her mind strained to the limit with Williams' thought play! Be polite."
"My name is Janet," came a soft, firm voice from the corner. All eyes turned to look at the petite blond in surprise.
At the sound of the voice the small child on her lap beamed and reached up. "Mommy, mommy."
The green eyes turned away from the family and focused on her daughter and her face broke in to a radiant smile. "Hi, little one," Janet Williams cooed letting the tot play with the leather glove that she had removed.
Robbie stirred uncomfortably. Elizabeth withdrew into herself and Alexandria looked in amazement at the baby as if she had just realized that she was now a grandmother, which of course was the case. "I am not to be called, Grandmother!" she proclaimed.
Janet looked up with startled eyes that quickly turned cool green. "If my daughter and I should ever meet you again, Mrs. Williams, how would you like us to address you?"
Robbie's laugh exploded in the limo causing the driver to look into his rear view mirror in surprise. Roberta Williams was just as beautiful in real life as she was on the screen. He wondered if the rumours were true that she was gay. Damn pity if it was, he thought, his eyes reluctantly shifting back to the road.
Beth cringed in her respective corner and Alexandria gathered herself up for one for her more notable tirades but was forestalled by a large, strong hand on her arm. "Alexandria is not maternal in nature. We call her Alexandria to her face and anything we dare behind her back," explained Robbie, those extraordinary eyes once again focused on Janet.
Janet nodded realizing that Roberta had once again come to the rescue. "Really, Roberta!" exclaimed Alexandria. "What will...Janice think?!"
"Janet. And what do we care what she thinks?" drawled Robbie with a raise of an eyebrow.
"Why did you lead me over to this limo?" Janet asked meeting and holding those remarkable eyes as they turned back to her.
"Show," explained Robbie bluntly stretching out her long legs so that her calf touched Janet's ankle.
This time Alexandria laughed. "Robbie is always directing, aren't you dear?"
"Always," murmured Robbie looking still into Janet's eyes.
Janet didn't look away. Backing down was out of the question. She had heard rumours that she was gay and very wild. Was Roberta coming on to her? No, unlikely. She was after all Billy's widow and was carrying her two year old in her arms. That alone should discourage any interest. No, this was just a little Williams' mind game but why she wasn't sure.
"Billy failed to inform the family that he had married. You came as quite a surprise when we read about his wedding in the papers and of course the birth announcement that followed. I didn't think Billy..."
"Roberta! You go too far. She is a Williams by marriage, I realize, but we hardly know her!" interrupted Alexandria.
The limo came to a stop forestalling any farther discussion. Alexandria, followed by Elizabeth, got out one side while Robbie got out the other. "Roberta, would you mind?" asked Janet holding up the baby. Robbie blinked in confusion then rallied and stepped forward and took the baby awkwardly.
Janet got out of the limo quickly, anticipating the baby making strange with the stiff, cold woman. Much to both Robbie and Janet's surprise however, the little child looked into those blue eyes and gave a delighted squeal burying her head in Robbie's neck and her chubby little arms into her dark, thick hair. When Robbie tried to give her back the two year old crunched up her face and hung on tighter. Janet's eyes twinkled at the look of bewilderment that came across Roberta's face. Her hand rose to cover a nervous grin then touched her forehead in thought, "Listen, may be you'd better hold on to her just for a little while. This is not the place for a scene," she suggested.
Robbie's eyes narrowed. Janet stared back innocently. "Stay right beside me!" Robbie ordered and Janet nodded, obligingly placing her hand around the tall woman's elbow. They looked at each other at the touch. The wind blew their hair gently about their coat collars. Leaves rustled over head. Then they walked over to join Alexandria and Elizabeth by the grave.
The reporter captured the knot of Williams. Roberta, now holding the third generation, was clearly the head of the family. Alexandria and Elizabeth played their roles and the little wife held onto Roberta's strong arm for support as she watched the coffin of her husband being placed on the grave supports. The picture appeared on page two.
At the end of the internment service, each of the family members stepped forward and dropped a red rose tied with a black ribbon on the checker flag that covered the coffin. Robbie gave her rose to the baby first then took it and dropped it by the red helmet. The child's serious blue eyes followed it with intense interest. The last to place her rose was Janet. She leaned down and placed her rose on the coffin. "Thanks," she whispered and then straightened, tears welling in her eyes as she made her way back to Roberta's side.
Robbie instinctively wrapped her long arm around the grieving woman and wondered what her self-centered brother had ever done in his life for which he should be thanked. The family moved off. Robbie with her one arm supported the beautiful child: the other wrapped around the upset mother. Alexandria and Elizabeth followed, Alexandria a little surprised at being up-staged by her powerful daughter taking the lead.
At the limo, Robbie turned to meet her sister's eye. Elizabeth gave the smallest of nods, following her mother into the vehicle, this time sitting beside her. Janet got in next and waited to take her child. To her surprise, Roberta held on to the little girl and easily slipped in beside her.
The conversation on the way to the hotel consisted of Janet telling bedtime stories to Rebecca who sat comfortably in Robbie's lap and played sleepily with her gold chain. The little girl watched her mother's face intently as the woman wove simple but beautiful fairy tales. The three Williams sat in wonder, watching the gold headed woman radiating love for her child as she told her stories.
When the child had fallen asleep in Robbie's arms, she whispered to Janet, "Are you staying at the same hotel?"
"No, no, I plan to drive back home tonight," explained the widow.
"Where is your car?" Robbie demanded.
"Back at the funeral home," responded Janet as the limo pulled up to the hotel, "I can get a taxi from here."
Alexandria made a noise somewhere between a squeal and a snort. "My dear, there is the reception. We have four hundred guests waiting to pay their respects. Do behave! Roberta!?"
Robbie trained her eyes on Janet who looked like she was about to rebel. "You will come with me and trust me to see that things are done right. Don't worry, I will not expose you to any of Alexandria's friends." Janet's face dropped the scowl and almost smiled.
"Roberta!" protested her mother.
Robbie ignored Alexandria and turned to her sister. "Sorry Sis, you will have to run shotgun while I babysit."
Elizabeth nodded but said nothing. It was obvious that as far as Beth was concerned Roberta's word was law.
They all trooped out, Roberta keeping the heir apparent in her arms. It was important that the press see a united Williams' front. They walked a gauntlet of reporters in the lobby. Robbie wrapped a protective arm around Janet and covered the baby's face by folding up her collar as they bee-lined for the waiting elevator.
On the top floor, they were ushered by the manager into a private suite where they took off their coats and straightened their make-up. Janet used the time to play with Rebecca on the floor after she had washed and changed her. Then they went to greet their guests in an adjoining hall.
The evening was a blur to Janet who was emotionally drained. Robbie steered her around and when she saw that her eyes were no longer focused she ushered her back into the bedroom and left her to sleep with Rebecca.
Several hours later, Robbie returned to find mother and daughter asleep still, Rebecca safely under the covers with her mom's protective arm over her and Janet on top of the covers wearing only her slip. Her strawberry blond hair washed across the pillow.
For a minute, Robbie leaned against the door jamb and enjoyed the view. She was a beautiful woman, Robbie concluded - photogenic features; wonder if she can act? She pushed herself off and walked over to the bed. "Janet. Janet. Hey!" Robbie called resorting to giving the petite woman's bare shoulder a shake. The skin was warm and silky soft under Robbie's hand. Robbie pulled her hand away.
"Huh? Oh! What time is it?" the blond asked, clearly not fully awake.
"Time to go," responded Robbie. "I'll get you a coffee while you are dressing." She turned and left. Janet got up and busied herself getting washed and dressed and seeing to Rebecca.
Robbie returned some time later with a coffee, a glass of milk and some cookies on a tray. "Here, the limo is downstairs. It will take us over to where your car is parked. Then I'll drive home with you," organized Robbie.
Really, I'm okay," stated Janet hurriedly, "I can manage from here."
"Feed the kid," was Robbie's only response as she again left the room.
When she returned, she had changed to jeans and a suede jacket over a brushed cotton shirt and was carrying an overnight bag. Janet was just getting Rebecca into her coat. "This isn't necessary," Janet complained.
"Yes, it is. You are tired and emotional and you plan to drive some five hundred miles through the night with the only Williams' heir," Robbie stated bluntly.
"Damn the Williams!" snapped Janet her temper rising at this woman's clear intention to meddle in her life.
"Too late, they already are," responded Robbie calmly. "I will drive and you can take care of..."
"Rebecca," supplied Janet sharply.
"Rebecca," repeated Robbie looking at the child as she registered her name. Then she reached into her coat pocket and pulled out her cellular phone. "Rowe, we are leaving the hotel now. I'll be gone two days maybe more." The phone clicked off.
"I don't need your help," Janet said with determination, an edge to her voice now audible.
"Good because you are not getting it. Rebecca is," muttered Robbie picking up Rebecca and leading Janet out and down to the elevator. They left this time by a side door and entered the limo that pulled up as they stepped out and left as soon as they were safely inside. The trip was made in silence back to the funeral home.
The limo pulled up beside the only vehicle remaining in the parking lot at the funeral home. It was an, old slightly battered, Chevy truck with an extended cab. There was a moment's silence. Then Robbie snorted, "What - is - that?!"
"My truck," answered Janet getting out with some difficulty with Rebecca, her purse and the diaper bag and walking over to the dusty, red vehicle. She shifted Rebecca to one arm and fumbled in her coat pocket for her keys. Her gloves fell out and Rebecca stirred restlessly.
Strong arms lifted the child from her. "Here, open the damn door before you drop the kid on its head," Robbie grumbled. Janet stooped and picked up her gloves then finding the right key she walked around and unlocked the passenger door. Robbie followed, her face devoid of expression. Janet placed the diaper bag inside and turned to scooped the sleeping child from Robbie's arms bringing the three of them together for an instant. Robbie's body felt very warm, that was probably why Rebecca liked being close to her. The faintest fragrance of spice drifted over to Janet as she looked up and met Robbie's eyes when the taller woman spoke. "I'm driving. You can be pissed off as much as you want by that. It is still going to happen."
Janet sighed in frustration and pulled Rebecca away and into her arms. The sleepy little child reached a hand over Janet's shoulder. "Oby, Oby come," she whined.
Janet placed the child into her car seat in the back, carefully fastening her in. She looked at her little girl wondering why she had bonded so quickly to this strange woman. She did look remarkably like her brother, Billy, but Rebecca had never met her father so it was unlikely that was the reason. Strange.
She wiggled back out and flipped the passenger seat back down, turning to face Roberta. "Thank you, Ms. Williams, for your concern. Rebecca and I will be fine," she said taking out her keys again.
Robbie stepped forward blocking Janet between her body and the door frame. Her hand folded around Janet's and she squeezed.
"That hurts!" snapped Janet, and the hand around her own relaxed a little.
"Let go of the car keys. You can't care for a tired baby and drive," ordered Robbie. For a minute their eyes held in a battle of wills. "Please," growled the director and Janet opened her hand and let the keys drop out. Robbie scooped them up and went around to the driver's side and hopped in, turning to look at the annoyed woman.
"On the rare occasions when I feel compelled to be responsible to others, it is for a damn good reason. Don't question my authority," Robbie stated calmly her blue eyes the colour of ice. Janet looked at her daughter. "Don't even think it," came the response to the plan that had barely seeded in Janet's mind, to take her daughter and walk off. The petite woman looked back at the driver, then got in and slammed the door.
"This is kidnap," she growled, staring out the front window in anger as she did up her seat belt.
Robbie leaned forward and turned the key. The engine started with protest. "Add it to my list of crimes," responded the director bitterly. "Shit! Is this the best vehicle that my brother owns?!"
"Billy and I never lived together," snapped Janet, anger making her say more than she would normally.
"Yeah, well how did you end up with the kid then?" Robbie asked sarcastically.
"That's not your concern," muttered Janet her hands folded in her lap to keep them from shaking.
The strong jaw of the driver tightened as she pulled out on the street. "Is she Billy's?"
Janet gave her a sneer and didn't answer. They drove on, Robbie expertly moving through the city traffic and then out on the highway taking them north.
Some hours later, Robbie pulled into a self-serve gas station and got out. Janet watched the famous director pumping gas and cleaning the windows. She looked as dynamic in blue jeans as she had in the black tailored coat of brushed silk she had worn at the funeral. Underneath had been a grey, wool suit, beautifully tailored and set off with a red silk blouse. Elizabeth had worn grey too with a red silk scarf as an accent. Show, Janet realized. The whole funeral, right down to the costumes, had all been arranged by Roberta to perpetuate the Williams' myth.
Robbie climbed back into the truck. "You hungry?" she asked, "It's eight o'clock and the sandwiches they served at the reception were for show not substance."
Janet considered. She was actually starving but it meant disturbing Rebecca and having to spend more time with the objectionable Roberta. Hunger won out. "Yes, something to eat would be good. Rebecca might be a bit cranky though. She doesn't like to be woken up."
"Well, if she starts to ball we'll stuff a hamburger in her mouth or something," suggested Robbie, looking back at the little bundle asleep in her car seat. She had a small, little fist balled up in her eye. She was kinda cute for a baby, Robbie thought.
Janet gave Roberta a weary look. The director clearly had no idea about children. She opened her heavy door and jumped down then flipped back the seat and undid the straps and pulled Rebecca out. Right on cue Rebecca started to cry. Janet bounced her and talked softly to her as Roberta locked up the truck and came around. The tall figure looked down at the fretting baby,
"Make her stop," she commanded.
Janet rolled her eyes. "I'm trying Ms. Williams but she is a baby and her schedule has been really upset today."
Robbie reached out her arms saying, "Gimme," and Janet handed over her heavy daughter. The director looked down at the startled baby face. "Shut up, okay," she said and much to Janet's surprise Rebecca laughed and grabbed for Robbie's chain. Robbie looked down at Janet and raised an eyebrow, a smug look on her face.
Janet laughed shook her head in disbelief, " Just for that bit of showing off, Ms. Williams, you can feed her the strained peas!"
"The name is Robbie, and no kid should have to start life on strained peas!" she growled, heading for the diner with Rebecca over her shoulder.
Janet followed not sure just how to take the unusual woman, "All children start out on strained peas. Rebecca is starting to eat solids but I thought it best to have her on the bottled foods while we were on the road."
"No wonder the world is such a fucking mess if we all started out eating that crap!" muttered Robbie, holding the door for Janet to go ahead.
"Hmmm," the tall woman responded, liking the way Janet said her name. Janet slid into a booth and Robbie slid in the other side.
"If you are going to be part of Rebecca's life you have to remember not to swear in front of her," Janet explained softly.
Robbie looked surprised, as she glanced first at Janet, then Rebecca and then back to Janet again.
"Who said anything about being in the kid's life?!" she exclaimed.
Janet smiled and looked down at her daughter, who once again had wrapped her little arms around Robbie's neck and was happily chewing on Robbie's collar. Then she looked back up at Robbie. A slow blush was creeping up her neck. "You are here aren't you? And you have taken Rebecca every chance you can."
"Hey, wait!" protested Robbie, the red now glowing on her high, defined cheek bones.
"Excuse me, would you like a highchair for your little one?" asked the waitress, looking down at Robbie.
"Agh," Robbie said, looking at the floor for the answer.
"Yes, she would," translated Janet. "Don't they look alike?" she added as a tease.
The waitress smiled, reaching out to smooth Rebecca's dark, sleep rumpled hair, "She's got mom's hair. Are you going to look just like your mommy?" she cooed.
Janet hid a grin behind the hand that was propped up on the table. Robbie buried her face in Rebecca's neck.
"Can we have menus too, please?" asked Janet.
"Sure thing," said the waitress, moving off.
Robbie looked up at Janet in annoyance. "Why'd you do that for?!" she demanded.
Janet grinned broadly and put her head to one side to observe the hot and bothered director. "This was your idea," she reminded sweetly.
Robbie scowled and was just about to respond when the highchair showed up. "Here you are," the waitress said, placing the wood highchair at the end of the table, and the menus down on the blue table cloth before she left.
Robbie looked at Janet. Janet smiled and waited. Robbie's scowl got deeper as she slid off the bench and lifted Rebecca up to put her in the highchair. Rebecca laughed gleefully and swung her legs up making it impossible to slide her into the chair. Robbie tried again. Another gleefully received aborted attempt.
"This kid has your sick sense of humour," Robbie muttered, grabbing Rebecca's legs with one hand and stuffing them gently under the highchair's table, as she lowered Rebecca in place on a successful third try. Rebecca grabbed hold of Robbie's gold chain, making it impossible for her to straighten up.
Janet decided prudently that this was the time to come to the rescue before there was one of the famous Williams' scenes. "Rebecca," she called softly and her daughter immediately forgot Robbie and let go of the chain, reaching her little arms out to her mom. Janet took the hands and kissed them. "That's a good girl," she said.
Robbie sighed and slid back into the booth, looking at the mother and daughter with confused eyes. Why the hell was she here anyway? Why should she be making Billy's family her responsibility?
"So are you going to try feeding her now you've mastered highchair?" asked Janet, leading Robbie on, as she read her menu.
"I can feed her," muttered Robbie with irritation, looking at her own menu.
"Ready to order?" asked the waitress, who had returned to their table.
"I'll have a cheese omelette," ordered Robbie, from behind the menu, "and...my daughter will have scrambled eggs."
"I'll have bacon and eggs with extra toast please," requested Janet with a smile. The waitress smiled back and went to see to the order. Janet looked over at Robbie. "Your daughter?" she inquired.
"Hey, you started it! What am I going to say now,? That I've never seen the kid before today?!" asked Robbie, leaning forward and propping her chin on her hand. "Do immature humans eat scrambled eggs?" she asked, as an after thought.
"Now's not the time to be asking," pointed out Janet, her eyes dancing with merriment at the thought of Robbie trying to feed her stubborn daughter.
Robbie looked down at the tablecloth, tracing patterns with a long, slender finger gracefully. "Listen, I'm kind of head of the family now. I feel I've got some responsibility to see that Rebecca here is okay."
"Were you and Billy close?" asked Janet looking up from watching Robbie's hand. She had beautiful hands with long artist's fingers. In fact, Roberta Williams was a knock out. One of those rare people that were very comfortable and unaffected by their incredible good looks.
Robbie frowned, "No."
"Robbie, Billy never saw his daughter. The Williams family does not have any responsibility to Rebecca. I'm quite capable of raising her on my own."
"What the hell sort of relationship did my brother have with you?!" Robbie asked in irritation. Janet was saved from answering by the arrival of their food. This time Janet noticed that Robbie deliberately did not look up at the waitress. Nor had she last time. She doesn't want to be recognized! I hadn't even thought about her being famous.
"Thanks," smiled Janet, drawing the attention to herself.
"You're welcome," replied the waitress, walking off.
"I'm sorry," Janet said, reaching over to touch Robbie's arm.
Robbie liked the touch but didn't show it. "Sorry for what?"
"For bringing attention to you last time the waitress was here. It never occurred to me...I'm sorry," repeated Janet sincerely.
Robbie shrugged and looked uncomfortable. "So you tell me about your relationship with Billy and I'll stuff these eggs into the kid, okay?"
Janet looked into those remarkable blue eyes while she considered. They seemed to glow with an inner light. "Okay," she said, wondering if Robbie would understand.
Robbie picked up a fork determinedly. Janet took it away and handed her a teaspoon. "Just put a little on and blow on it first so it is cool," she cautioned. Robbie nodded and scooped up some egg and blew on it. Then offered it to Rebecca. Rebecca grabbed the spoon with a laugh and tipped it over into Robbie's lap.
"Shit!" Robbie snapped.
Janet raised an eyebrow in annoyance.
"The kid got egg all over me!" protested Robbie. Janet said nothing. Robbie scooped up, blew on and offered egg again. This time Rebecca refused to open her mouth but one egg filled hand came up and grabbed Robbie's hair.
Janet saw the look and reacted immediately, "Here," she said, hurriedly offering Robbie her napkin, "like this." Janet took the spoon and readied a mouthful. "Here you are, sweet one, open up for mommy. That's a good girl. Do you like the eggs Aunt Robbie got you? Come on, have another spoonful," Janet coaxed, putting the spoon in her daughter's mouth then lifting it up so the egg was scraped off as the spoon was withdrawn.
Robbie watched intently, finding the exchange between mother and daughter fascinating.
"Okay, now you try," Janet smiled handing the spoon back to Robbie. Robbie repeated the action. Right down to Janet's expressions and voice tone. Rebecca ate her egg happily and Janet sat with her mouth open in shock.
"That's me!" She gasped.
Robbie smiled and wiggled her eyebrows. Rebecca burped and threw up on Robbie's hand.
Robbie lifted her hand and watched the partly digested egg drip off. "And just what expression do I use to describe what I am feeling now?" she asked quietly, pulling a face.
"I usually say, Oh dear," offered Janet trying not to laugh.
"Nope, 'Oh dear' just doesn't cut it dramatically," sighed Robbie.
"Here," said Janet softly, taking Robbie's hand and wiping it clean with her napkin. "Tell you what, you eat your dinner and I'll finish feeding Rebecca. I'm used to eating with one hand."
Robbie didn't protest. She'd had successfully stifled, for now, any nesting instinct that might have been lying dormant within her. She looked down at her cool and partly congealed omelette. Janet's eyes followed. "You get used to eating your food cold," she sighed. Robbie nodded and ate her dinner moodily, watching silently while Janet ate and fed Rebecca at the same time.
They left some time later, Janet carrying a now tired and grumpy child to the truck. Robbie gingerly held the crying child while Janet got in the rear seat and then with relief passed Rebecca over. Janet strapped her miserable daughter into her car seat while Robbie walked around and slipped into the driver's seat once again. For a while the sound of wailing pierced the air above Janet's soothing voice.
Then both child and mom went quiet as Robbie started to sing. Her songs were old Welsh lullabies and her voice was low and melodic. Soon Rebecca was fast asleep and Robbie pulled to the side to let Janet get back into the front seat. "You have a beautiful voice," she said as they started off again.
"Hmm," responded Robbie disinterestedly.
"Have you sung professionally? I don't remember you singing in any of your movies except in
'Dark Night' but that was just a few words and you were drunk then," pattered Janet.
An eyebrow went up, "No, I don't sing professionally. And I wasn't drunk. I was acting drunk.
There is a big difference," the actor clarified.
"You don't drink alcohol at all?" asked Janet in surprise. She had understood that the famous director had lived a rather wild life.
"Rarely and never to excess," responded Robbie. "Where do I turn off the highway?"
"Just north of Bartlet," Janet responded, as she studied the profile of the actor.
"Nothing is north of Bartlet," observed Robbie sarcastically, "Is there something wrong with my face?"
Janet smiled, "No, you are really very beautiful but I guess you hear that a lot. No, I was trying to understand you. You are a very complex person."
Robbie had heard she was beautiful a lot but somehow that Janet thought so made her tired spirits rise. She wasn't sure, however, if she wanted Janet to understand her. She probably wouldn't like what she found.
Janet had shifted so that she leaned against her door and was looking at Robbie. She was a strange and beautiful enigma, filled with a pulsating energy that could focus in a instant in violence or in care. Janet couldn't explain why but she really didn't dislike this woman as she had first thought she would. In fact, she found herself very much impressed by Roberta Williams.
She had found the Williams family a trying experience. What if anything happened to her? Legally, her daughter would be handed over to Alexandria. That scared the hell out of Janet. Elizabeth seemed nice, but she lived in her own world. She wouldn't have time for an active child like Rebecca. Then there was Robbie...
"Can I ask you a question?"
"I guess," Robbie sighed, waiting to hear one of the standard fan questions.
"Would you be Rebecca's guardian?"
The truck swerved onto the gravel shoulder and then bounced back on the tarmac. "What!?"
"If anything were to happen to me, I want to make sure Rebecca has someone that will take good care of her. Billy's dead and I don't have any family. I don't want Rebecca running any chance of having the childhood I did," explained Janet.
Robbie stole a look at the face of the serious woman beside her. "You were an orphan?"
"Who raised you?"
"My grandfather," answered Janet openly.
"Why me? Do you know anything about me?!" asked Robbie, in disbelief.
"All I've read about you was pretty negative. You are supposed to be a creative genius but a tyrant. Did you really cause Sally Gershman's nervous breakdown?"
"Most likely. So why me then?" Robbie repeated stubbornly.
"I've seen a bit of that tyrannical nature tonight, but I don't think Rebecca would be intimidated by it. I've also seen another side of you today. Elizabeth adores you. Alexandria respects you and I've learned that you have a really soft heart."
"Will you be her guardian?" repeated Janet, proving herself just as stubborn as Robbie.
There was a long silence as various emotions washed across Robbie's face. "Yes," she finally said.
"I'm glad," Janet said softly and leaned back against the headrest.
An hour later, they turned off the Bartlett road and bounced down a rutted dirt lane pressed in on either side by thick trees. "Do you live with the bears?" asked Robbie sarcastically.
"Only in the winter," Janet yawned, as they came to a stop outside a log cabin. "This is where we live," Janet explained.
Robbie looked at the log cabin in disbelief, "Who with? Daniel Boone!?"
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