Autumn Winds

Part 3

Anne Azel

Disclaimer: The characters 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! 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.

Work was a glass faced monolith, designed, thank God, with a planned obsolescence of thirty years. It had fifteen years to go, before it could be safely torn down as a really bad idea for city dwellers. Robbie parked her 1967 dark green Stingray between the yellow painted lines that marked off her territory in the underground parking lot. She stepped out, unfolding her long frame first, and then bending to retrieve her briefcase. She wore a classically cut business suit of Scottish wool in muted heather blue, over a cut lace blouse.

Her heels clipped an uneven rhythm as she limped across the stained grey cement. At the elevator, she pressed up and waited impatiently. Funny, she hadn't noticed how strong the stink of auto emissions were down here before. It could gag a horse. She probably had lungs that looked like tanned leather!

The elevator arrived, and Robbie entered, pressing the twentieth floor. To her surprise, the elevator stopped on the main floor. It was unusual for staff to be in this early. Brian McGill, her assistant director, stepped in. Brian preferred subway travel from the suburbs to facing the freeways of Toronto.

"Morning, Robbie. Gwen phoned to say you were back, so I thought I'd better get my butt in here early. It was a nice funeral. You okay? Everything go all right?"

Robbie's face was expressionless and her body strangely still. "Good decision, we can talk on the way up. Thank you. I'm fine. Everything went as planned."

Brian sighed quietly; this was not going to be a good day. The boss had that predator look that meant she had focused on something and she was going to go all out to see her concept through.

Glad I brought a lunch today, he thought.

"The hot set is at location A, Robbie. I'll be heading out there this morning to get things ready for the afternoon shoot. The light today should be prefect. This week should be the last of the dailies and then we'll be putting it in the can."

"No, we won't."

"What?!" Brian said in surprise.

"I'm rewriting and reshooting a lot of the scenes."

"Does Talsman know?"

"Not yet," Robbie responded determinedly.

The elevator ground to a halt and the doors slid open. Brian stepped aside to let Robbie go first.

"He'll have your butt."

"Not in his life time," shot Robbie limping down the hall with long awkward strides, while Brian made a valiant effort to keep up.

"Look Robbie, I don't know what bee is in your bonnet but we've got a damn good picture going to final edit here...What happened to your leg?"

"Gwen, get Ernie," cut in Robbie as she strode across her secretary's office on the way to her own with Brian following in her wake, and rolling his eyes comically.

Gwen stood and crossed her arms in annoyance. "Not until you return my good morning and explain to the two of us why you are limping," she stated flatly.

Robbie stopped with her hand on the knob and turned slowly to face Gwen. Oh boy, thought Brian, wondering if this was going to end in him having to testify in court. "Explain to me again, Gwen, why I haven't fired you!" growled Robbie.

Gwen opened her desk drawer, and took out a steno-pad and flipped the coiled ringed book open.

"I type 80 words a minute; despite my senior position, I still go out and get you lunch; I work appalling hours because I have no life and I'm the only secretary you've had that hasn't given you the finger and walked out when you've thrown your first temper tantrum," responded Gwen, snapping the pad closed.

"Gwen, you're fired," stated Robbie with a stony look.

"Can't, you haven't hired me back from the last time you fired me," explained Gwen.

"In that case stay fired," Robbie laughed whole-heartedly. "Good Morning, Gwen! How are you? Your husband? The cast of thousands the two of you are raising?"

"I'm fine, he's fine and there are only three children. You are just harbouring a grudge about the last maturity leave. Ernie is on line one," she frowned. "What happened to your leg?"

"Ahhh, twisted the knee in a fall, nothing serious," explained the director, feeling a blush creeping up her neck. She covered her embarrassment by disappearing into her office with Brian following, a relieved look on his face. "That damn woman terrorizes me because she knows I can't afford to lose another secretary," explained Robbie waving him to a chair. Brian sat. As a studio man, he rarely was in the boss's office. It was nice, real nice.

"Morning Ernie," said Robbie as she sat down at her desk and turned to bring her computer up.

A high pitched voice came over the speaker. "Hello Robbie! Joy and light to you! I hear the film's coming in on time and on budget. You've got a happy producer here!"

"Get unhappy, I'm doing a rewrite. I'll be going over budget and time."

"What?!" came a panicky squeal.

"You heard me."

"No! Disaster knocking, I hear, you I don't. Are you nuts?! Of course you are, what am I saying? The investors will go crazy!"

"Not my problem."

"Of course, it is your problem! You stupid or something?! They'll pull out!"

Robbie clicked disinterestedly through her e-mail. "They've got too much invested to pull out now. Tell them, I promise them a blockbuster."

"Can you deliver?" came a suspicious voice over the machine.

An eyebrow went up and Robbie looked incredulously at the phone system. "Have I ever not?"

"Christ, Robbie, I don't know..."

"You'd better know! That's your damn job!" snarled Robbie as she reached over and clicked off the receiver button.

"Too violent! I'll give her a film she'll have to sit up and take notice of, damn it!" she muttered under her breath. Then she looked up at Brian and smiled. "Let me outline the changes," she purred.

"Give mommy a kiss. Hmm, love you girl." Janet smiled her thanks, as she left Reb with Mrs. Chen, who took care of three of the staff's children in a room set aside for her at Bartlett School for the Gifted. Faced with the expensive and always problematic care of their young children, the three staff had pooled their resources and set up a day care room right at the school.

Lily Chen came each day and ran a stimulating and happy environment for the four children and the teacher parents could pop in whenever they had a free moment for a visit. Lily was a small, oriental woman, who had immigrated with her husband from Hong Kong. Her husband was working in the town of Bartlett as an accountant for several of the local resorts. Lily had tremendous energy and an out going personality.

"Janet, I was so sorry when I read in the newspaper that you were at the funeral. I did not know. If there is anything I can do to help..."

"Thank you," Janet cut in, feeling the heat rising in her face. "My husband and I have been separated for a long time. I felt it important that Reb...that Rebecca attended. That will be important to her in the future."

"She comes from a very wealthy and famous family. She has good joss in having such ancestors."

"Yes," stated Janet briefly, not wanting to go down that road!

"Bye Reb! Mommy will see you at lunch," called Janet and picked up her briefcase again to walk down to her office.

Her secretary, Carolyn, was talking to Milka Gorski in the hall outside the office. As Janet came around the corner, the conversation stopped. Janet sighed inside. This was going to be a difficult day.

"Good morning, Milka, Carolyn."

"Hi Janet."

"Morning Janet. Ahh, are you okay? I mean...everything go all right?"

"Everything went fine, thanks. Let people know I appreciate their concern and the flowers they sent to the house. My husband and I had been separated for some time but it was important that I had Rebecca there."

"We had no idea you were one of those Williams!" gushed Milka enthusiastically.

"Actually, it was the first time I had met Bill's family," clarified Janet. "I'd better get into my office and get caught up, excuse me."

The two women watched Janet's back as she walked through the outer office and into her own. "Do you think it's true that Robbie Williams was staying up at her home this weekend?" whispered Milka, her eyes sparkling with excitement.

"Paul, down at the framing shop, told Stacy at the donut shop, who told Jason, that Dr. Perkins brought the letter in first thing this morning for framing. So, I guess it must be true!"

"She's a close one, huh?! Imagine us never realizing whom she had married!"

"Rebecca's only two, so it couldn't have lasted very long," observed Carolyn.

"Hmmm, our Janet and Billy-the -Kid! They say opposites attract but my God!"

"I'd better get to work. See you later."

"Yeah," agreed Milka, as she headed off to run her science test. Janet and Billy-the-Kid; still waters do run deep!

Janet sat at her desk, trying to clear some of the paper work that had accumulated while she had been in Toronto. Carolyn slipped in and closed the door behind her. "Gerald Lucier is here from the Bartlett Post. You remember, he wanted to interview you about the school for an article he is writing. Be careful," advised Carolyn.

Janet's eyes snapped up, "Why?"

Carolyn shrugged. "Gerald bowls with my husband and Gerald's passed a few comments in general about education. You know, the usual myth about how kids today can't read and write, as if the adults are so literate! He thinks gifted education is elitist.

"What's new?" sighed Janet. "Another teacher basher. Sometimes, I think we should all resign and let these people who know so much more about education take over."

Carolyn snorted, "Or test the adults to see how well the good old system really worked!" suggested Carolyn as she slipped back out the door. Janet smiled; the peril of living in a small town was that everyone knew everyone else's business! I wonder if it's around town yet that Robbie stayed out at the cabin?

"Mr. Lucier, Mrs. Williams," introduced Carolyn with a flourish.

Janet stood up. "Hello, I'm Janet. I think our paths have crossed a few times before, but this is the first time I've had a chance to talk to you."

"Gerald, yeah, I've seen you around at functions. You're involved with the historical society aren't you?"

"Yes. I understand you have some questions you would like to ask about our school here." Janet gestured to a seat as she sat back down herself.

Lucier pulled a recorder out of his pocket, "Okay?" he asked holding up the instrument. Janet nodded. "The tax payer sinks a lot of money into public education. Why do we need these special programs on top of all that?"

Wow! Straight for the jugular with this guy! Janet noted, while she took a second to make sure her answer was clearly stated. "The public education system was designed for mass education. It is geared, by definition then, to the average child. It is very hard in a setting of 20 to 30 students, to provide specialized instruction to exceptional students. Bartlett is a privately funded institution, that provides a specially designed program for the gifted."

"So, what's a gifted child, one of those absent minded professor types that end up going around blowing up worlds?" laughed Lucier sarcastically.

Janet gritted her teeth but managed to smile pleasantly. "No, Mr. Lucier, that concept is a Hollywood myth. In fact, gifted children tend to have it all. They are bright, athletic and very socially aware. There are exceptions of course, but generally speaking the gifted child has a lot going for him or her."

"So why put them in a special school and make them different? Are they that damn special that they can't mix with the common folk?"

"Well, as I explained to you already, the public school system is not designed to handle exceptional students although it does try its best. To be gifted you have to have a consistent I.Q. score of over 140. That puts you in the top 2% of the world intellectually. In the regular school system, three things end up happening to the gifted child," explained Janet as she ticked the points off on her fingers. "A) They are given extra work to keep them busy, so they learn pretty quick to act out or play dumb to avoid this punishment. B) They are sat beside the trouble maker to 'be a good influence.' Good kids often are reward for their fine behaviour by sticking them with the kid no one else wants to be near. Or C) They skip grades and end up terribly socially isolated."

"So what do you do that is different?"

"We do not excel students. Instead, we provide a program that has breadth and depth. We are concerned with providing a challenging, stimulating program that will create socially responsible, well rounded, life long learners," quoted Janet. If I had a dollar for every time I've said that line, I'd be rich, she thought.

"Sounds elitist to me," argued Lucier.

"No, its not. These are the minds that will advance and improve our world. Do we not want to encourage and support them to do so? We think nothing of weeding out the best students to put them on the school sports teams. Is that not elitism? We provide millions of dollars to train them. We have special ceremonies to reward their athletic achievements.

Athletes get awards, fame, and money. What do the intelligent get for their efforts, Gerald? And what does that say about what is important in our society? Perhaps, we would have a better educated population if we gave more than lip service to the importance of education." Janet could feel her emotions boiling to the surface. This might not have been a good day to have this interview. "Parents and the media are always complaining about the education system but they rarely support it. If you are bright, Mr. Lucier, you are the Browner, the teacher's pet, the egg-head, the absent minded professor. It is the trouble maker that society respects, not the academic."

"Hey, don't lecture me!" grumbled Lucier.

"You wanted answers. I am passionate about my job, Mr. Lucier. Despite the abuse that we teachers take, I am proud to call myself a teacher. Anything else?"

"No, this will do. Thanks," muttered Lucier, getting to his feet stiffly. Janet stood too, trying not to reveal with her body language just how angry she was.

"Good bye," she said.

"Bye and thanks," said Lucier slipping his recorder back into his pocket and moving to the door. His hand dropped off the doorknob as he turned and asked, "Any truth to the rumour that the actress Robbie Williams is staying up at your place?"

Janet wondered if the tape was still running. "Yes, my sister-in-law provided my daughter and me with a ride home. She has now left."

"What's she like? She doesn't give interviews very often."

"She is intelligent, funny and very dedicated to her craft," responded Janet defensively.

"She is supposed to be a tyrant," observed Lucier with a smile.

"I found her to be strong, concerned and supportive," came the answer as Janet walked over to the door and opened it.

Lucier nodded and left. Carolyn looked up and met Janet's beautiful green eyes. Janet crossed them and pulled a face, then disappeared back into her office as Carolyn laughed.

Well, that had been a waste of time. She looked out the window across the soccer field to the forest on the other side. I wonder what Robbie is doing now? It bothers me that we didn't part on the best of terms.

"Janet?" came Carolyn's voice over the intercom.


"There's been another theft in the girls' dorm. I've got Angela Murphy here to tell you about it. It's her CD player that's gone."

"Okay," sighed Janet. "Just give me five minutes to make an important phone call and I'll see her."

Janet sat down at her desk and reached for the phone. For a second the hand hesitated, then picked up the receiver.

Brian McGill emerged from Robbie's office about an hour later. Gwen looked up from her desk and smiled. Brian went over and stopped in front of her desk. "It's official," he said sadly.

"What is?!" asked Gwen in surprise.

"Robbie's lost it," he observed.

Gwen laughed and shrugged. "Creative genius," she suggested.

Brian shook his head, "Maybe, but in a court of law, I think they'd label her criminally insane," sighed the assistant director as he headed out the door.

Sometime later, the intercom on the director's desk clicked on, "Robbie, Mrs. Janet Williams on line two," came Carolyn's voice and Robbie almost dropped the receiver in her haste to pick it up.

"What's wrong?" she demanded by way of a greeting.

A startled voice came from the other end. "Nothing's wrong."

"Ohh, why did you phone?" asked Robbie in surprise.

There was a moment's hesitation, "I didn't like the way we said good bye."



"How is your day going?" asked Robbie a silly grin forming on her usually emotionless face.

"There is a great interest in the actress who is reported to have stayed at my home on the weekend, there is no interest in education, and some one is stealing items from the girls' dorm.

"How is your knee?"

"Getting better," responded Robbie in her concise manner. Shit, what do I say now? Janet came to her rescue.

How's your day going?"

"My secretary, Gwen, tells me, that my assistant director thinks I'm criminally insane," observed Robbie happily.

"He'd be right," agreed Janet drily. "So why did he decide this?"

"I sent him out to tell my leading lady, Tracy Travelli, that I'm going to reshoot a lot of the scenes."

"Tracy Travelli, the Latin Bombshell?!" asked Janet in excitement.

Robbie felt an unreasonable amount of professional jealousy growing in the pit of her stomach and fought it back down. "So?"

"The fans voted her the one they would most like to be trapped on a desert island with, she's supposed to be hot stuff," laughed Janet delightedly.

Jealousy won. "Actually, she was a dry stick in bed."

For a second there was shocked silence. "Ahhh, you know her. I had heard you launched her career."

"You might say I opened her up to possibilities in more ways than one," smirked Robbie.

"That's cruel and crude!"

"No, that's truth," Robbie came back at her.

"I hope no one ever says anything about Reb like that," Janet observed, trying to make a point.

"They won't!" snapped Robbie angrily.

"What if she falls in love with some one like you?"

Silence. "I won't let that happen."

"You can't control, only teach and guide, Robbie," Janet explained.

"Don't preach to me!" Robbie snarled.

Janet sighed. "I phoned to end the fight not get in to another one."

"So sleep with me."

"No, I won't let myself be abused or my abilities as a lover judged in your phone conversations."

"I'm not abusive!"

"Which person are we talking about? The one you are or the one you pretend to be?"

"Get out of my head, damn you, school marm!"

"Am I in your head? That's a start," reasoned Janet.

"A start to what?" asked Robbie, cautiously.

"To being in your bed," responded Janet boldly. My god, what did I just say!!

A red hot tidal wave swept through Robbie's body and turned her insides to the consistency of jello. Her jaw was hurting, her grin was so big. Mentally, she gave herself a shake. I'm acting like a school kid.

"Verbal agreements are binding," Robbie managed to say in an even voice.

"I'll deny it in a court of law," teased Janet. "Ahhh, next week is Thanksgiving. Do you spend it with your family?"

Robbie laughed. "I'd like to see the look on Alexandra's face, if a dead bird was put in front of her to carve!"

"In that case, would you like to come up here. The colour should be good by then. The trees are turning quickly. Ahhh, I usually take Reb to church and we go to the town hall dinner. Ohhh, maybe that is not a good idea. I mean, you are sure to be recognized," Janet sputtered out. What am I doing!? Every time I open my mouth something comes out that my mind never okayed! First, I come on to her and then I invite her to go to church with me! She's going to think I'm insane!

"Hey, I can handle it, if you can! Okay, I'll be there Friday night. Do I need to bring pyjamas?"

"You are so cheeky! And yes, you most certainly do! Our sleeping arrangements are not changing!"

"You like me though, right?"

Janet smiled. Robbie could be so disarming.

"Very much so, but I'm not going to be bullied into sleeping with you."

"I'm not a bully!"

Janet rolled her eyes heavenwards. "No, you're sweet."

"Sweet!" snorted Robbie in disgust.

Janet laughed. "It's not a crime! It's a good thing."

"Good thing, huh? I can do sweet," reasoned Robbie smugly.

"It won't get you anywhere," warned Janet.

"Why not?!"

"Because, acting sweet wouldn't be sincere.

"You want sincere too?! You don't ask for much do you? And they say I'm a tough director!"

"I just want the best," observed Janet quietly, totally amazed at her brashness.

"Is that me?" came the surprisingly insecure voice.

"I don't know," responded Janet honestly.

Robbie nodded at her end of the phone, a determined look on her face. "I'll fly up on Friday night. Say hi to Reb. I'll be seeing you, Janet."

"Bye, Robbie." Janet looked at the phone and then a grin broke out all over her face. Suddenly, the day wasn't so bad after all.

Robbie sat for a long time after hanging up the phone and tried to get her thoughts in order. She'd never met anyone quite like Janet. She was a rare blend of innocence and spunk that Robbie found extremely appealing. I'm going to bed you next weekend, Janet Williams, she vowed. You just wait and see.

She smiled confidently and got to her feet. Picking up her car keys and briefcase, she headed out of her office. "I'm off to the hot set," she explained to Gwen on her way by. Gwen knew this was a set that had been set up ready for the performers. Every prop was in place and double checked by the chief grip and the set decorator and it was now sealed off waiting for the director and the actors.

Anything you want done?" asked Gwen.

Robbie raised an eye brow. A smirk hovered at the corner of her mouth and her eyes danced with excitement. "Under no circumstance are you to buy me pyjamas. I won't be needing them," she grinned, then turned and left.

Gwen looked at the closed door. Brian was right, she was officially insane!

"Okay, Angela, lets see if I've got this straight, your new CD player was on the table beside your bed last night and it was gone this morning. Is that correct?"

"Yes," Mrs. Williams. It's awful! Someone must have been in my room last night, while I was in bed! Anything could have happened!

"Angela, let's not get carried away here. Miss Singh was on duty last night, and she has since checked the windows, door and our surveillance cameras. No one broke in. No, I'm afraid this is an inside job."

"But that means that one of my friends is a thief!" exclaimed Angela even more distressed at this thought than of some stranger in her bedroom.

"Maybe, maybe not. The CD player might have been borrowed or it might be a practical joker. Try not to worry. We will get to the bottom of this soon. That's all for now, Angela."

Angela left not at all happy about not having her CD player restored. Janet got on the phone right away to reassure Angela's parents before a real dust up started over this issue. She had Carolyn go on the P.A. and call an assembly for the end of the day to talk to all the students about being more careful with their personal property. There was still the staff meeting to look forward to after that! It was turning into a really long day!

Robbie pulled her car into the gravel parking lot carefully so as not to kick up a stone that might damage the paint job on her pride and joy. Getting out, she headed over to the area where the actors waited in canvas chairs for their calls. Tracy Tarvelli caught sight of her and came running over. "What is this Brian is saying?! You want to start the film all over again! Never! Am I to be making this film of yours forever?!"

Robbie smiled down at the volatile actor. Her blue eyes glowed with an inner light that radiated energy and confidence. "I am going to make you immortal, Tracy. In a hundred years time, people will still talk about your role in this movie. Trust me. I am going to make you an icon."

"I do not trust you. You are a monster. But you are also the genius of film. So I will co-operate. But Robbie, you will make me great, no?!"

"My word."

The day had been indeed long for Janet. At the staff meeting, she had the new government standardized testing that were to be administered to all eleven year olds in the province. The teachers immediately saw the flaws in the testing that would make the results completely invalid.

The discussion had gone around in circles and got very hot. Finally, Janet had to use her position to call an end to the venting and insist that the teachers follow the government directive, however flawed. "We are civil servants. I think we all agree that educational reform is needed to keep up with the times. We'll just have to hope that, over time, modifications will be made to deal with some of the real concerns that you have expressed today."

The meeting ended in sullen silence as her over stressed staff walked out with even more paper work to take away from their teaching preparation time. Janet sighed in frustration, as she tucked a cranky Rebecca into her car seat. The little girl had had too much change and stimulation over the weekend and was out of sorts today.

Mother and daughter road home in grumpy silence. Usually the beauty of the northern forests and lakes relaxed Janet, but tonight she was feeling very stressed. I guess the emotion of the weekend is starting to catch up to me too, she reasoned. Time to snap out of this, she thought and made an effort to think of something nice.

Robbie immediately came into her thoughts and she replayed their phone conversation in her mind. The tips of her ears turned warm and she could feel her body reacting to the sexual tension that had under-laid their conversation. How could she have been so bold! My god, she'd really given Robbie a green light to come on to her! That thought sent a pool of hot delight streaming through her being. Oh boy! I want this to happen! And at the same time, I'm scared as hell that it might!

Once home, mother and daughter had a bath together that involved much giggling and splashing.

The two of them emerged in a better frame of mind and Janet warmed up some beef stew she had in the freezer. She carried Reb's highchair outside and the two of them had a picnic on the porch over looking the lake.

After the dishes were done, they played in the sand on the beach, and then, tired and happy once again, Reb was cleaned up and put to bed. Janet ironed her raw cotton suit for tomorrow and then settled down on the sofa to do some paper work. Picking up the cushion, she could still catch a faint scent of Robbie's perfume lingering there. She tucked the pillow under her chin and wrapped her arm around it. This can't be happening! I hardly know this woman and what I do know is bad news. Janet, for God's sakes be careful, she warned herself. But deep inside, she knew it was too late. She was completely infatuated with Robbie Williams. I wonder what Robbie is doing tonight?

Robbie nipped the earlobe of the beautiful, naked woman who lay exhausted under her. The sex had been good. Tracy had become a more enthusiastic partner with experience. Robbie rolled off and lay on her back, one hand under her head. The woman beside her rolled over and nuzzled Robbie's neck. "You want I stay tonight?" she purred.

"No," responded Robbie firmly.

Tracy sighed and rolled away, slipping out of Robbie's bed. "You are a bitch. I do not know why I went so willingly to your bed. You are a brute."

Robbie turned on her side to watch the Latin Bombshell searching for her scattered clothes. "Maybe you like brutes," she suggested playfully.

Tracy crawled back on the bed, an armful of rumpled clothes clutched to her full beasts. She kissed Robbie with passion and was pleased to feel the director respond in kind. "You are very bad," Tracy complained.

"Hmmm, You are very good," muttered Robbie pulling the clothes from Tracy's hands and dropping them on the floor. She took a second to enjoy the sight of Tracy's full breasts and then leaned forward to catch one swollen nipple in her mouth. Tracy moaned and let the brute have her way again.

It was when she was getting ready for bed that Janet found the small lump under her armpit. She traced it back following a row of them to her right breast. A dread filled her and made her heart ache with fear. She lay down on her bed and felt with her fingers as she had been taught. There was a lump there. Large and hard. Tears welled in her eyes, Oh God, no!

Bill Perkins felt Janet's beast until he had located the lump. He took the syringe and pushed it in, feeling it slide smoothly through the layers of skin and muscle and then having to push harder once the tip encountered the growth. Janet made a small noise of distress at the invasion but kept still. Bill pulled back on the plunger. Nothing. He shifted the needle slightly, knowing that it was going to hurt and tried again. Still nothing in the tube.

With a sigh, he pulled the needle out. "Okay, Janet, you can get dressed now and I'll meet you in my office," he said. He tossed the needle into the special container for "points" and slipped out of the room. With trembling hands Janet got dressed. Her breast hadn't hurt before but now it did.

She squared her shoulders and headed down to the office. Lily Chen had been kind enough to stay over time to care for Reb while Janet visited the doctor after school. She couldn't keep her waiting too long however. Whatever Bill had found, Janet was just going to have to handle it and get on with her life as best she could.

"Sit down, Janet. Well, we know some things but not all. It's a large lump and when I tried to aspirate it, there was no fluid inside. So we are probably not talking a regular fibroid cyst here.

That doesn't necessarily mean we are looking at cancer. There are other possibilities such as a fibroid abnorma. That will mean surgery but no real danger. I am concerned about the swollen lymph nodes however. That indicates an infection or invasion of some sort and we need to take that seriously. I've booked you for a mammogram and an ultrasound tomorrow in Barrie."

"Bill, I can't just keep taking time off work! Can't I go on the weekend?" protested Janet.

"No, with government cuts, these services aren't as available as they were. Besides, ...I don't think we should wait," he finished, meeting Janet's eyes. Janet saw compassion and worry there and dropped her objections. She swallowed hard and nodded looking down at her trembling hands that were clutched tightly in her lap.

"Look, why don't I come over to your place tonight? There is no need to worry until we know more. I could pick up a pizza..."

"Thanks Bill, that is kind of you, but I need to be alone to get this all into perspective. I..I'm going to have to make plans for Reb too. Thanks anyway," Janet explained.

Bill nodded and stood. "You know I'm always here for you Janet, both as a doctor and a friend."

Janet stood too and managed a weak smile. "I know, Bill and I really appreciate that."

Janet felt numb. She walked out of the doctor's office and got into her car as if she was a robot. Shock was a wall that separated her from her surroundings. She took a deep breath and tightened her fingers around the steering wheel. Okay, this is it. There is no hiding from this crisis. I've got to be brave and take things one step at a time. First, I'll pick up Reb and see if Lily can babysit after school tomorrow as well. Then, I'll have to phone Carolyn and Milka so they can handle things at school...

Robbie was like a bear with a sore paw. Each day was now going over budget and the below-the- line costs would be mounting quickly. She tried again to rewrite the scene they would be shooting Wednesday and it still would not work! With a primitive growl of disgust, she hurled a reference book against the wall. In the outer office, Gwen closed her eyes and grimaced at the thud.

Robbie got up and paced. Okay, if I was Desiree and Napoleon just propositioned if Janet was Desiree, what would she have done? Then it came, the scene she wanted, filled with passion and courage and drama. Robbie ran back to her terminal and started typing. Desiree had not been the victim, she had been a strong woman who had not been defeated by the course of history but instead had swum with the tide of events and survived.

No, more than survived - she had triumphed! Napoleon had died a prisoner and a broken man. His lover, the milk maid, Desiree, had married and become a Queen. This would no longer be a movie about the exploitation of a woman, rather the courage and intelligence of a woman of strength.

It would be a blockbuster appealing to the romantic and, the feminist alike and painted on the background of the Napoleonic wars, it would also have enough action to keep the pace quick and powerful. Robbie grinned. You'll watch this film, Janet, she thought!

Gwen opened the office door and snapped at Robbie, "Damn it, Robbie will you pick up your phone!"

"No, I'm busy! I told you to hold all my calls," barked Robbie.

"It's Janet Williams and by the sound of her voice...well I think its important.".

The click of the computer keys stopped and a grim faced director turned and picked up her receiver. "It's Robbie, Janet. What's up?" Gwen closed the door softly.

"You said I could call if I ever needed your help," Janet said uncertainly. " Robbie I...I..."

"Janet! What's wrong?! Look, take a deep breath, okay I'm here. You just tell me and I'll help."

"I might have breast cancer. I have to go to Barrie for tests tomorrow. The lady who normally takes care of Reb is busy after school and I don't know how long I'll be. I ..."

"You listen. I'm on my way. I'll be there soon. Don't worry. Everything is going to be alright. I'll be there tonight and I'll drive you and Reb to Barrie tomorrow. What time is your appointment?"

"Ten, but Robbie..."

"No, buts. I'll be there soon," came the calm, confident response.

"Thanks Robbie," came the shaky reply. "Robbie?"



"You and Reb get a fire going and make something for us for dinner," ordered Robbie knowing it was important to keep Janet busy until she got there. "I'll be there in less than two hours. Okay?"

"Okay," Janet smiled. "See you."

"Count on it," responded Robbie. She was buzzing Gwen as she hung up. "Gwen, I've got an emergency. I'll be gone for a few days. Tell Brian, I'll be in touch as soon as I can. Call for a helicopter to take me to Bartlett. I'm just slipping home to pack and then I'll head out to the island airport."

"Okay, Robbie," came the serious and concerned response.

Robbie throw clothes into a suitcase. Why was she doing this? A delay now in filming was going to cost her millions! She should be finishing her rewrites and climbing into bed with Tracy!

She leaned over her suitcase, balanced on her extended arms, eyes closed. Who was she trying to kid? She'd given it her all last night and had not felt anything. This damn, little school marm had got under her skin in a big way.

Christ! She'd said she'd take Reb if anything happened to Janet! If she had thought she could have been a good mother she wouldn't have... Don't go there, she warned herself, just deal with the here and now. Janet needed her and so did Reb, and no matter what the cost, she was going to be there for the two of them. After all, she owned it to Billy. They were family, right?

Janet stood at the screen door scanning the evening sky, while Reb made happy, little baby noises from inside her playpen. A shiver went through Janet and she wrapped her arms around herself and rubbed her arms with her hands. I shouldn't have called Robbie. I'm not her responsibility. I just wanted her here so badly. It was really weak of me. The poor woman hardly knows me!

The whoop, whoop of helicopter blades echoed across the lake and the silhouette of the bug-like 'copter appeared over the horizon. Yellow eyes searched the beach and then turned, as the craft slowly settled in the swallow water. The bubble door opened and Robbie slipped out into the ankle deep water. Bent double to keep away from the blades, water sprayed around her, as she reached in and grabbed her bags.

Squinting her eyes against the wind and spray, she limped up the beach and met Janet half way to the cabin. Dropping her bag, she wrapped the smaller woman in her arms protectively and let her cry. Neither one of them heard the helicopter lift off and disappear over the trees again.

Part 4

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