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!
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.
Janet woke to the Beep! Beep! of the Roadrunner. The sleep slowly left her mind, as she blinked in the sunlight, to be replaced by the jolt of memory. I've got cancer! The words were a shock wave crashing through her being. Why did everything sound and look so normal? Her alarm brought her eyes to the clock. Time to get up for work. There was so much to be done; she couldn't afford to feel sorry for herself. Okay, Janet, move your butt.
Forcing the depressive thoughts to the back of her mind, she slid from the bed that she had shared with Robbie. To her surprise, there was a small bunch of wild daisies lay on the pillow beside her own. She reached over and slipped out the card that rested underneath. The picture on the card was of a storm over a wind tossed sea. Janet flipped the card open, recognizing Robbie's bold handwriting.
I am not worried. There is nothing you can't handle. Robbie.
The fear that had fuelled her morning depression shrunk back into proportion. As long as Robbie believed in her, she knew she could see this storm through. A warm, fuzzy feeling filled her heart. I wish people knew Robbie as I knew her. She slipped into her house-coat and padded softly out of the bedroom and down the hall to peep around the corner.
Robbie was sitting on the floor with Reb between her legs watching The Roadrunner cartoon on T.V. They were sporting matching black eyes. "See, Reb, there is good animation in the character, but none in the background. That's how you save time and money. You gotta watch those below the line costs when you're a director. Good point-of- view here as the Roadrunner falls off the cliff again. You see him from the top and then from underneath and then below ground level all within a twenty second time frame. You remember, I told you there are twenty-four cels to a second of animation, so that scene had about eight to ten cels."
"Oadunna Ody! Oadunna!" squealed Rebecca with delight, pointing to the screen.
"That's right, Rebel. Roadrunner."
"What's a cel?" asked Janet, leaning in the doorway watching the two interact with delight.
Robbie looked up in surprise and a blush crept up her neck. "It's a word Disney created. Short for celluloid, which is the type of plastic the cartoons are painted on."
"Do you do cartoons too, Robbie?" asked Janet coming over to the pair.
"Mommy!" demanded Rebecca, standing up and holding her arms up to be lifted. Robbie patted the spot beside her. Instead of picking Reb up, Janet curled up beside the director on the floor and let Reb climb into her lap.
"Morning, Reb," Janet greeted her daughter, giving her a kiss on the forehead. "You, little one, are up very early."
"We went for a walk after my run this morning," explained Robbie, proudly.
Janet looked up and smiled with delight into Robbie's eyes and Robbie found her insides melting like an over heated candle. My God, she wanted this woman! She'd felt desire many times before but not like this. This was a hunger that just wasn't going to be denied.
"I need to be getting ready for work, but just share with me a little bit about what you and Reb have been talking about." Janet reached a hand out to briefly squeeze Robbie's arm. "Thank you for the flowers. It made my morning a lot brighter."
Robbie snapped back from her world of sensations and tried to remember what it had been she had been telling the kid! "Ahhh, you're welcome. Reb found them. No, I've never made a cartoon. It would be fun to try but it is hard to compete with companies the size of Disney. Even Universal can't match their work."
"How are they made?" asked Janet, enjoying the pride that Robbie took in her field. Robbie lost all her defensiveness when she talked about the art of film. Janet liked that side of her friend.
"Well, you start with the story, the script. Then the team is brought together to make a storyboard, which is like a big comic book only with just rough sketches. It's a brainstorming session where ideas are developed and interrelated. Once an idea is agreed on, it is written on the storyboard. That way, everyone working on separate parts of the production - animation, sound, background, special effects - will know how all the parts are to fit together."
"When you see an animated movie, you are actually seeing individual pictures moving at a rate of twenty-four frames per second. So, for every second of film the animator draws twenty-four pictures! In reality, the animator will do only the main positions of the character. They're called the extremes. The assistant animator draws the main interconnecting stages between the extremes, called the breakdowns. The less practiced artists, called inbetweeners, fill in the remaining sequences, called tweeners."
"Producing a cartoon feature takes a lot of time and money. It has to be a real team effort. A Disney or Universal production, of feature length, will take three to four years to produce and have around 400,000 drawings."
"But aren't they just produced by computer now?" asked Janet, looking at the cartoon closely as Roadrunner handed the coyote a stick of dynamite.
"Computers are used to set colour and create reversals and things like that but no, the only way to make a good cartoon is by hand. It is an amazing art form."
"So everything I'm seeing is done on cels?"
"The characters are. The backgrounds are painted. Each cel is put on, filmed, removed and the next one in the sequence put on."
"I guess I'd better not make some inane remark about cartoons being cute, kid stuff, huh?!" Janet laughed giving Robbie an affectionate push with her shoulder.
Robbie smiled down at her, one eyebrow raised. "Nope."
The urge to reach up and kiss Robbie was almost uncontrollable. Instead, Janet passed Reb back to her and got up. "Well, I've got a busy day. I'd better not be late."
Robbie watched Janet disappear back down the hall and then quickly picked Reb up and deposited her in her play pen. "Listen, Reb, play with Pooh Bear here for a bit and don't cry, got it?! I'll be right back!"
Janet stripped off her house-coat and nightie and turned on the shower to adjust the temperature. She turned back to get her shampoo and hit a human wall. "Ahh! Robbie! You scared me! How can anyone so big, move so silently," gasped Janet, recovering from her shock to feel a blush flooding her cheeks as she realized she was totally naked.
An eyebrow went up and the corner of a mouth raised in a bemused smile. "I had to follow you. You didn't give me a good morning kiss," reasoned Robbie.
"Hmmm, where's Reb?"
"Come here," ordered Janet with a smile as she wrapped her arms around Robbie's neck. There was no timidness this time. Open, hungry lips sought each other in a passionate dance. Tongues stroked and curled and sucked in a sensual imitation of things not yet done. Robbie let her hands slide down to cup Janet's round, firm bottom, and felt the responsive woman moan deep into her mouth.
Yes, now! Robbie thought and moved one hand to glide over a well defined waist, across tight abdomen muscles and up to the soft, warm breast. Robbie slipped her tongue deep into Janet's mouth as her thumb rubbed over a taunt nipple. Oh God, I'm going to come right here, Robbie thought as she bathed in the heat and scent of Janet's body.
Janet felt Robbie's explorations on a rush of heady sexual energy. Her whole being tingled with need and she rubbed herself along the lean hard body wrapped around her. She throbbed with want and tore Robbie's shirt free of her jeans so that she could run her hands across the silk-covered steel of the actor's chest. Ohhh, I should stop. Oh God, I can't! Then the hand that was rhythmically feeling her breast touched the area where the tumor lay.
Janet stepped back and leaned her head against Robbie's chest. "We can't."
"Why the hell not!" came the frustrated response, rough and breathless with desire.
Janet stood on her tip toes and kissed Robbie's cheek. "Because I'm not going to tie you to me when in a few days time my world could turn upside down. I can't anyway. I need to get ready for work and we can't leave Reb long," explained the teacher, unconsciously tracing patterns over Robbie's bra cup with the tip of her finger. Bother, she had fallen hard for this complex and moody woman.
"Okay," Robbie agreed with a sigh, as she kissed Janet lightly on her brow and lowered her hands to rest on Janet's hips. Janet's hands dropped slowly, weaving patterns across Robbie's chest, as she pulled her hands from under the T-shirt. Forest green eyes met winter blue. "This is not over," Robbie warned. "It is just beginning. I want you."
Janet nodded. She had entered that wind tossed sea and the elements were going to take her where they may in the next few days. One thing she knew was she wanted one night at least when she lay on golden sands and made love to Robbie to the beat of the sea of emotions that stormed within. " Nothing I can't handle," quoted Janet cheekily. Robbie laughed. "Now go get my daughter fed and dressed. I'm running late and need your help!'
Another quick kiss and Robbie was gone. Janet stepped into the now lukewarm shower and let the water beat against her sensitized flesh. My God, where is all this going?!
Janet gulped down the last mouthful of coffee as a too innocent Robbie and Reb stood by watching. "Okay, Wednesday, you went a round with Reb and lost, Thursday, you bought a truck, what is on the agenda for today?"
"Reb and I are going shopping," smiled Robbie.
"Well, that sounds harmless. If anyone asks for an autograph, please don't hand the baby away," laughed Janet, picking up her briefcase. "You sure you want to keep Rebecca all day? She can come with me to the daycare..."
"We'll be fine. She has to get used to me, in case you're laid up for a bit next week. We discussed this," responded Robbie, with an edge to her voice. Didn't Janet trust her!
Oh, oh, Williams' temper, observed Janet. "I know we did, but I'd hate Reb to get you in any trouble," giggled Janet, placing a kiss on her daughter's cheek and then Robbie's.
An eyebrow went up, "Funny!"
"Call me at lunch?" Janet asked in a worried voice, turning back at the door to look at the two trouble makers standing holding hands.
Robbie rolled her eyes. "I'll report in on regular intervals.
Janet laughed as she looked back through the now closed screen door. "You won't have to. Once people know you are in town, I'll get a constant report of your movements through the jungle telegraph!" Robbie snorted and Janet trotted down the porch steps and a few minutes later disappeared along the dirt road in her truck.
Robbie looked down at Reb. Reb looked up with a smile. "Kid, it is time to get the ingredients to seduce your mother. Come on!"
Gwen cradled the phone and cursed Robbie to a lower level of Hades than she had placed her yesterday. Her e-mail could patch hell a mile, she just wished she had shares in Bell Canada, and she'd had to post a security guard at the office door to repel boarders, in order to get any work done at all. And the instructions she and Brian were carrying out in Robbie's name indicated strongly that the woman was up to no good!
To her surprise, a ring came from her purse. Damn! The bastards have got my home number now! No, it might be her husband or one of the kids, she'd better answer it. "Hello, Gwen here!"
"Gwen, Robbie. Why can't I get through on the office phone?" came the impatient voice of Gwen's boss.
"Because you are behind at least a million others in line! That's why! Come back!" the harassed secretary responded.
"No! Listen, I'm in the grocery store. Do you know they've got these neat carts with seats for your kid? Where do I look for the Thanksgiving food?"
Silence. Robbie was clearly in one of her moods when she was going to try to stir things up. Patience! Then, "Robbie have you ever been in a grocery store before?"
"Sure I have, in grade two. Mrs. Rousseau bought the class to check out the vegetables."
"Oh God!" came the exasperated response.
"Hey, that was the Cook's job. It would have been presumptuous of me to interfere!" responded her boss, hiding her irritation behind a mask of sarcasm. It wasn't a crime to be raised rich.
"How do you eat?!"
"Eat out or cater in."
"How can you look the way you do and have such appalling eating patterns?! Okay, listen, above all don't lose your temper. Everyone has right of way over you because you're the new guy. Don't block the aisles, and if anything goes wrong give your name as Lucy Lawless," ordered Gwen, doing a little stirring herself. She got the response she wanted.
"I DO NOT LOOK LIKE LUCY LAWLESS!"
"Hmmm, first, we look for the meat counter. It's a cold section, usually towards the back of the store."
"Okay, here, Reb say hi to Aunty Gwen while I steer this thing. I have to get the one with the rusted wheels. It probably spent the winter in a snow drift and was only salvaged last spring," muttered Robbie, striding awkwardly with the wonky cart towards the back of the store.
Reb giggled gleefully. "Hi!"
"Hi, Rebecca! How are you?"
If I wrote a book, no one would believe it, Gwen thought with a sigh. "Is Robbie there, Rebecca?"
"Hi, Rebecca. Where is your mom?"
"Ad school. Mommy teacha. Oby di-ectta."
Robbie took the phone back. "Okay I'm here. And people complain about violence in movies! The carnage wrapped up on Styrofoam trays back here is scary. I'd hate to meet the butcher after hours. What are you laughing at?!"
"She calls you Oby!" giggled Gwen, her day improving immensely. "Wait until I tell Brian!"
"She does not! She calls me Robbie. She just hasn't mastered r's yet. R's are particularly hard, as an actor would tell you!" Robbie defended hotly.
More giggles. "Okay, you want ham, right? Two people, look for something around five or six kilograms, anything smaller and it will dry out."
"What does raw ham look like?"
"Robbie! For God's sakes, work with me here! The packages are labeled!"
By the time the exhausted and long suffering Gwen had talked Robbie through the grocery store, word had got out that Robbie Williams was in town. After she had paid for her groceries, she sat on the counter and signed autographs and gave an interview to and was photographed by the local paper. Robbie, true to her word, did not hand the squirming child over to anyone else, although she did make sure not to let Rebecca's face show in the picture.
Then, having charmed the locals, she headed over to the community centre to buy the three of them tickets to the town hall Thanksgiving dinner put on by the Ladies Auxilliary. Lastly, she asked directions at the gas station about how to get to the lumber mill, before heading back to the cabin for lunch.
The phone was ringing when she staggered through the door with Reb and two bags of groceries.
Dropping all three on the couch she grabbed it. "Hello."
"Hi, I could have got the tickets for the dinner. Should I buy extra copies of the paper so you can send the article to your family? And why do you need to go to the saw mill?" came a familiar voice.
Robbie burst out laughing. "Wow! And I didn't even do anything news worthy!"
"We live in the Canadian back bush, in a village with a population of 493, most of them related. Last week's headlines in The Barlett Gazette were about the minister buying a new car. Don't evade. What are you up to at the saw mill?"
"It's a surprise."
"I can live with surprises just not nasty , big shocks. Is that Reb I hear?!"
"No, that was eight cans of baked beans hitting the floor. Reb is inside the paper bag that they used to be in."
"Why do we have eight cans of baked beans?"
"They were on sale and came highly recommended by the store manager. It was a P.R. gesture. It was a lot cheaper than a billboard in Time Square. How are things going there?"
"Carolyn and Milka are pretty upset. The others don't know yet. I'll call a meeting after school to tell them about the administrative changes. Milka and I sat down and have gone through things with Carolyn. They are both bright women and professional. It's short notice, but if I'm not gone too long, I think they can manage."
"Ahhh, I miss you."
Janet could feel Robbie's smile right through the phone. "I miss you too, school marm, hurry home."
Robbie picked up the cans and unpacked the ham, vegetables and baby. Then she made them corn flakes and milk for lunch. It was a short time later that she realized that two year olds really need to be asked if they need to go to the bathroom on a fairly regular basis.
Sometime later, having turned the air blue with curses, a fresh Reb and an exhausted Robbie headed out to the saw mill. It turned out to be a pretty small operation. It was owned by a local, by the name of Walter Higgins. He was fifty-six, married, and his two children worked at the mill. Doug ran the circular saw and Tracy was the secretary cum bookkeeper. They owned about two hundred hectares around the Long Lake where Janet's cabin was situated and another thousand hectares to the east. So far, Walt had used the lake block mainly for hunting, except for the five or six hectares on which sat the saw mill itself.
The saw mill was on Saw Mill Road just off Highway 11 about twenty miles north of Long Lake Road. They certainly didn't kill any brain cells coming up with names around here, thought Robbie as she turned off the highway.
She had got all her background information easily enough by simply asking for directions to the mill. All information seemed to be given out up here wrapped in local history. She also knew that Walt's wife May had the arthritis bad and that Tracy was seeing Lou's boy, whoever Lou was!
A big beefy man with a friendly round face walked towards the truck as Robbie slid out and flipped back the seat to get to Reb in the back. "Hi, I'm Walter Higgins. I heard you were heading up this way, eh. It's a great pleasure to meet you, Ms. Williams!"
Robbie helped Reb down and held on to her hand tightly. Janet would never forgive her if she brought the kid home cut in two pieces! "Hi! It's nice to meet you, Walt. Is that your family over there?" May, Tracy and Doug were grinning awkwardly by the office door.
"Yup, that's them. Come over and meet the brood!"
"Sure!" Robbie smiled happily, inwardly cursing all family gatherings to hell. Janet laughed about "northern time". Robbie found nothing funny about it at all! True, no one was going to die of an ulcer, but they might grow roots! It was no wonder the north of Canada was so under developed! No one had got around to starting anything yet!
"This here's my wife, May and our kids, Tracy and Doug, eh."
"Hi! Great to meet you!"
"Ohh, Ms. Williams! I saw you in Midnight Terror, and I was so afraid for you! It was a wonderful movie!"
Robbie beamed (insincerely). "Thanks! Call me Robbie. Actually, I was rather afraid myself, with all those cars whizzing past me in the dark. I kept getting drenched every time one hit a puddle!" Everyone laughed and relaxed. The actor was human, Robbie thought sarcastically, behind her stage smile.
"Well, what can we do for you? Little Janet need some more winter wood?" asked Walt.
Business at last! "No, actually I have an offer I'd like to put to you. Can we use your office?" asked Robbie bending to pick Reb up. The child had been trying to escape since she had been released from the truck.
"Well, this has come as a surprise!" said Walter Higgins, flopping back into his chair and looking totally shocked. "Never thought about sellin, eh. But I'll have to turn you down. I guess, some day, Doug will take over and well, both my kids make their livin here. Now Tracy, she has been steppin out with Lou but..."
"Five hundred thousand."
"Good God, woman! No, my kids have got to make a livin!"
"May could go south for the winters. It would be great for her arthritis. There are more Canadians in Arizona and Florida than Americans. AND I'll guarantee good jobs for the kids, once I get my business under way."
"You're going to run a saw mill?!"
"Something like that; one million, my last offer," growled Robbie, bored by the chatty negotiation.
No response. The clock on the plywood wall ticked twelve seconds. "I need to talk to my family."
Robbie smiled. "Tell your kids that their starting salaries will be $30,000. They'll be working as Grips and get to be on set and meet all the stars."
"$30,000! Hell, that's good money for a starting salary up here! That's mighty generous!" babbled Walt.
Robbie stood with a sigh of annoyance. "It has nothing to do with generosity. It has to do with a union that has producers and directors by the... over the barrel," amended Robbie. "I'll let the family know that you want a board meeting."
Robbie played hid and seek with Reb around the yard, the two of them getting pretty muddy and sticky from pine gum. Sometime later, Walt came out and walked over to the two. He held out a hand. "You got a deal there, Robbie."
Robbie flashed one of her famous smiles. "Let's go phone our lawyers."
Janet hung up from having talked to the Chair of the school trustees. She rubbed her eyes and leaned back in her chair, spinning it around so that she could look down the lawns to the shoreline of Lake Superior. Patronizing jackass! she thought.
Carolyn burst in. "Janet, you'll never guess!"
"What have they done?" drawled Janet, turning back prepared to hear the worst. She just knew deep in her heart that her daughter had found a kindred spirit in Robbie and that trouble was going to follow them like a wake.
"She bought out Walt Higgins lock, stock and barrel for a million dollars!"
Janet's feet hit the floor with a bang as she sat forward with a start. "She's done what?!"
"Okay, Reb, we gotta think in terms of dinner here. You know I'm kinda the house-mom this week. Weird huh?" Robbie chatted happily to the baby, who was banging pans together with some energy as she sat on the kitchen floor. Robbie stopped what she was doing and looked down at the percussion section, "Say kid, maybe you'll take up jazz. I like jazz. I play a pretty good trumpet you know...well for an amateur. There's a clarinet in your mom's closet. I saw it while I was snooping. Maybe we could form a group and jam!"
The baby giggled and slammed two pot lids together. Robbie laughed and went back to opening a can of baked beans and dumping them into a pan. Getting all those cans of baked beans was a good idea after all, Robbie reasoned. Now she wouldn't have to worry about meals.
The door slammed open and Janet strode in throwing her case on the couch as she went by. Robbie looked up in surprise. The sound of crashing pans had masked the arrival of Janet's truck. "Hi!" called Robbie cheerfully licking the spoon clean of cold baked beans.
"Don't you hi me, Robbie Williams, as if butter wouldn't melt in your mouth! What are you up to? You can't just come into this town and turn people's lives upside down. A million dollars for the old lumber yard! Robbie those people make a living out there! It's one of the few industries in the town!" roared Janet, standing in the centre of the living room shaking with anger and beet red with emotion.
Robbie's body went strangely still and her facial muscles hardened into an expression totally devoid of emotion. The blue eyes that had sparkled a second before like rain drops in the sun were now the colour of glacial ice. "I wanted it. I bought it," she hissed.
"And what about Doug and Tracy?!"
"I bought them off," Robbie shrugged.
"Bought them off! These are people, Robbie, not stock commodities! What the hell is a Grip?" demanded Janet coming to hold on to the edge of the stone topped counter with white fingers.
Robbie leaned against the back counter forcing her body that was taunt with rage to relax. "It's someone who fetches and carries on site. They set up the sets under the charge of the chief grip."
Janet ran an unsteady hand through her hair. " And just where are they going to work? Toronto? They'd hate it! Damn it Robbie! You've ruined these people's lives on a whim!"
"Bad Mommy," called Rebecca, upset at her mother's anger as she pulled on Janet's skirt.
"Giving some one a million dollars is not wrecking anyone's life!" came the snarled response.
"You would say that," Janet yelled, "You stupid Williams think money and power is everything!"
"Shut up Rebecca!" Janet snapped looking down at the annoyance that was pulling at her skirt. Reb's face crumpled into a tight knot and her mouth opened in surprise. Then the tears started to fall and the wail of hurt echoed in the now silent room.
Janet dropped to her knees and wrapped the small child close to her. "Oh, Reb, I'm so sorry! Shhhh,
baby. Mommy didn't mean it. I'm so sorry!"
Robbie looked down at the two with eyes filled with confusion and pain. Then she silently left. Outside, the cool air felt good against her hot skin. Anger and hurt coursed through her system in pulsating waves. She broke into a run down the path.
The miles moved passed in green walls of trees as Robbie pushed herself on and on down the shoulder off the road. Finally, as the sun was dropping towards the western horizon, she came to a staggering stop and dropped down into some long, sun baked grass by the side of a beaver swamp. For a while, she lay on her back gasping for breath and trying to work the cramps out of her oxygen starved muscles.
Finally, pushing herself up, she walked down to the edge of the pond and knelt to splash cold water over her hot body. A wack and a splash, a beaver, angry with the intrusion, slapped its flat tail against the water and then swam out to the relative safety of its home, a dome of mud and sticks half submerged in the water. Robbie watched as the beaver slapped the water once more in warning and then dove below the surface to the entrance of its snug den. Despite her foul mood she smiled. In the soft, honey glow of the late afternoon, the bog and its creatures was a beautiful site.
It had been a long time, Robbie realized, since she had just stopped and enjoyed nature. She sat down, wrapping her arms around her legs and listened to the chirp of the frogs calling to each other. Over head bats and swallows swooped across the darkening sky chasing insects. Robbie slapped at a mosquito. It was time to head back. She got up reluctantly, unwilling to deal with the conflict back at the cabin. With a sigh she set an easy jog back. Maybe the bitch would be in bed by the time she got there and she wouldn't have to deal with the issue.
Thump, thump, the rhythmic tread of Robbie's sneakers echoed in the dark. She hadn't realized that she had run so far or so fast. She had been jogging now for almost two hours and she had only just reached the turn off to the cabin. It was dark now and she had actually run passed the driveway, only catching sight of Janet's mail box at the last minute and doing a U-turn to drop into the blackness of the long lane.
She slowed a bit, unable to see her footing on the rutted path. If I stay here, I'm going to have to get this driveway paved, she thought. That is if she didn't find her stuff on the stoop when she got back! Okay, maybe she had acted a bit impulsively but going with her gut reaction was the way she ran her business. Although she headed a multi million dollar company, she was an entrepreneur by nature not a business person. It was the empire building she loved not the maintenance of a corporation. Tigers hunt and sheep stay home on the farm, she thought. She didn't have time to worry about individuals. Everyone has to look out for themselves! So why was she feeling guilty?
Okay, so I promised Doug and Tracy more than a salary. I promised them jobs. I've got some ideas. I'm just not ready to talk about them yet. They're not so much ideas as they are those gut feelings again that just let me know I'm headed down the right path. How can I explain that to Janet without sounding like an idiot? In the long run, what I did today will work out all right for everyone, I just don't know how yet.
Thump, thump. I'm not used to having to share ideas. If I'd told Janet more this morning when she asked about my plans, maybe we wouldn't have fought. I guess I did put her in an embarrassing position. This is a small town and all and I am her guest sort of. Maybe I could have cut her some slack too. How would I handle knowing that I had cancer and could die. How would I say good bye?
Robbie's stomach reacted violently at this thought. Sending her to the side of the road to throw up. The thought of losing Janet or Reb was like a shot through her heart. Damn. I gotta work out more. When was the last time I threw up after a run? The Boston marathon? Robbie wiped the cold sweat from her brow with the back of her arm. Shit!
Janet sat in the corner of the couch, a small forlorn figure. She had a very stressful day and her talk with the chair of the Board had been the icing on the cake. 'So where do we stand here Janet? Should we be posting your job and interviewing? I'm sympathetic but the school has to have consistent and strong leadership.' The insufferable bastard had her dead and buried already!
She should have told him to go to hell but instead she had been diplomatically reassuring and come home instead and dumped all over Robbie. It hadn't been fair. Not that Robbie hadn't acted high handedly but she could have at least given her the chance to explain. Robbie had dropped everything and come to support a complete stranger when asked and in return Janet had insulted and berated her!
She got up once more and looked out into the dark night. Where are you? She wondered again if she should wake up Reb and take the truck out to look for Robbie. She might have been hit by a car and be lying in a ditch somewhere. A wave of fear brought out a cold sweat on her forehead and goose bumps on her arms. She was going to get Reb and start searching. Then she saw the tall figure jog tiredly into the circle of the porch light and she shot out the screen door, down the porch steps and into Robbie's startled arms.
"I'm so sorry!" she wailed into a sweaty shoulder.
"Me too, love. Me too," groaned Robbie holding Janet in a tight embrace.
Robbie emerged from the shower to the reassuring smell of canned pork and beans and fresh toast. She wrapped a towel around her and combed her hair back straight. Then she headed out to the kitchen where Janet was just dishing up their late meal.
They sat side by side on high stools eating their meal at the bar counter. Their conversation was pleasant but forced each of them still trying to deal with the emotion of their fight. Usually a fight didn't bother Robbie much. If she needed to dress some one down she did. She paid her employees well and they had an outstanding benefits package. In return, Robbie expected excellence and a high performance level to match her own.
But fighting with Janet had really hurt and it had left her feeling confused and vulnerable. She knew Janet was waiting for her to explain why she had bought the lumber yard. "Ahhhh, it bothers me that you slept with my brother." Why the hell had she said that?!
"I said, it bothers me that you slept with my brother," Robbie repeated moodily, stabbing at her meal with her fork.
"I didn't. Do you really think I'd sleep with a stranger?! It was done artificially."
Robbie tossed down her fork and turned to look at Janet. Blue moody eyes met flashing green. "You sorta implied that! It explains a lot. I didn't think my brother...Reb was mixed up in a petri dish?!"
"A test tube kid?!"
"There is nothing wrong with that or my daughter!" responded Janet, her temper rising again. Robbie broke out laughing. "What's so funny?!"
"It just explains a lot. Ahhhh, about Billy and about you. Ahhh, well, ahhh, it was just weird wanting to bed a woman that had slept with my brother."
"You make me feel like a hand- me-down shirt," grumbled Janet sipping off the stool to remove the plates.
"You are the most beautiful and enticing woman I have ever met," Robbie said honestly.
Now it was Janet's turn to laugh as she ran hot water in the sink. "You will say and do anything to get me into bed won't you?!" she giggled and then looking over her shoulder she saw Robbie's face.
"I meant it," Robbie said quietly and went to look out the window into the dark night.
Janet wiped the soap suds off her hands and followed after Robbie. "Hey," she said wrapping her arms around the actor's waist and leaning her head against Robbie's muscular back. "I'm sorry. I guess it is hard for me to believe that of all the beautiful and talented people you have known, you would find me the most appealing."
Robbie said nothing. There was a lot she knew she should say but somehow the words just weren't there. Funny, she never had trouble writing dialogue. But it was different when it was real emotion and you had to actually say the words.
Janet sensed the tension in Robbie and realized that the complex woman needed some emotional space.
"Thank you for saying it though. It makes me feel very special. I...I care for you Robbie. Hey, you want to teach me some more about film? We could go through my videos and you could tell me about them."
Robbie turned and gave Janet a quick hard hug. Pull yourself together here Robbie. You are supposed to be supporting Janet not her you! "Sure. You let me know when you've had enough. I can go on for hours!"
They walked hand in hand over to the television inset and settled down once again on the rug. Robbie sorted through Janet's videos with disdain. "I'm going to buy you a decent collection of films for Christmas. This lot are an embarrassment!"
"Hmmmm," Janet agreed, allowing Robbie to take over and find the safe ground she needed for her warring emotions.
"Okay, we'd better look at Disney cartoons. Seeing as Reb has been buying the videos in this house.
Beauty and the Beast was a block buster. It was beautifully made. Look at this horse pulling the cart through the dark woods. The animation is great. You can feel the weight, the muscle and the fear, it says draft horse and yet the expressions are human."
"Wait until I forward. Okay, observe the detail in the castle. Forget about the characters, just look at the background, the depth of detail and intense shadows and feel of dimension. The people who do the backgrounds are not animators, you know, they are fine artist. This work is superb! And then there is the personification of the clock, candlestick etc. This is Disney at its best!
Okay, look at this scene of the napkins spinning on the table and then parachuting off the edge. Remember that! Right here's Fantasia, which is the mother of classics in film amination. In my opinion it is the best animation ever made. Okay, see this scene, where the blossoms spin down the waterfalls, where have you seen that?"
"It's the same as the napkins!" exclaimed Janet getting as involved as Robbie in what she was seeing.
"Got it in one! This is one team of animators paying homage to another. Fantasia was made way back before the war. Walt wanted it to be an on going project where the film would be morphed each season and would be reissued. But there wasn't the money after the war to do that. There is talk that it might be done in the next few years."
"I love Fantasia!" exclaimed Janet eyes sparkling.
Robbie gave her a quick hug. "Good girl. There is hope for you yet!" Janet poked Robbie in the ribs.
Robbie leaned forward and slipped Beauty and the Beast back in the machine and rewound to near the beginning.
"Each character is done by one team with a manager overseeing. The woman who was in charge of the team that worked on Belle in Beauty and the Beast had the habit of using her hand to brush her hair back off her face when she leaned over a drawing board. The animators put the gesture in as a joke."
On the screen Janet saw Belle reach up and push her hair out of her eyes. "She did it!" laughed Janet with delight.
"Yep, there are all sorts of hidden jokes in film. Here's another one. The teams that did Beauty and the Beast did the crowd scenes for Hunchback while other teams did the principal characters. But they left their mark! Look closely now, right here near the beginning of the film when their showing the streets of Paris, see the character rounding the corner, she is only on for a half second..."
"It's Belle!" laughed Janet clapping her hands.
Robbie laughed at Janet's enthusiasm. "Right. Different coloured outfit but it's Belle all right."
Robbie slipped the tape out and got up to put some soft jazz on the stereo. She got two wine glasses out while Janet watched. Expertly, Robbie uncorked one of the bottles of Mouton Cadet from the private vineyards of the Rothchild's that she had bought for their thanksgiving dinner. The brick coloured wine glowed in the soft light of the fire. For a while, they lay contentedly watching the flames and sipping their wine. Like so many good French wines, it had that rich mushroomy body and peppery finish that was a delight to the senses.
"I bought the land for you," Robbie muttered not daring to look at Janet.
"What?!" came the startled response as Janet put down her wine and turned to face Robbie. Robbie downed the last of her wine and put her glass next to Janet's.
"You said you didn't want to see the trees around the lake cut down. So I bought the land for you," admitted Robbie starring with interest at the rug, as a blush crept up her neck.
"Oh Robbie!" came a strangled gasp and Robbie found her arms wrapping around the small woman that had just propelled herself into the taller woman's lap.
The music started slowly, a melody of rich, liquid notes that rained softly from a mellow guitar. Robbie let her mouth caress Janet's face, ears and neck enjoying the soft, rhythmic gasps of delight from the woman under her. The guitar picked up the tempo as clothes were loosened and discarded. Now the rhythm took over repeating its beat in an earnest need. Hot music, hot flesh as Janet let Robbie play her body like a finely tuned instrument. The guitar thumped out a crescendo of notes as Janet's body groaned with each passing wave of release.
The melody was passed to the piano player who hungrily took up the age old melody. Janet rolled Robbie onto her back and felt the woman's groan vibrate on her lips as she nuzzled a long, muscular neck. The music rose relentlessly to a climax allowing the pounding of the drums to take over and dominate. Then the other instruments once again took up the rhythmic refrain slowly, softly now bringing all the elements of the music into a single note that whispered off into silence.
Much later, Robbie lay on her back in Janet's bed. The smaller woman was fast asleep lying on Robbie with her limbs dangling like a little, golden cub asleep in the sun. Robbie was in a state of total shock. Bases loaded in the top of the ninth and who slams home the home run but the opposition team! When had Robbie ever let go like that before? Never! She had given herself completely to Janet and had let all the defenses down, screaming with ecstasy as her body bucked with each passing after shock. She had never let herself be that vulnerable before. Never let someone control her so completely. My god! It had been wonderful!
Tears rolled from the corners of Robbie's eyes and settled like dew drops on the floral sheets. My God! I'm in love, she realized with a shock. After all these years of being so careful not to make an emotional commitment to anyone, she had fallen hopelessly and completely in love without ever seeing it coming. She wrapped her arms around the sleeping form and nuzzled her face into Janet's soft hair. What the hell was she going to do now?!
Okay, okay, take it easy here, Robbie chastized herself as her heart pounded in her chest. I'll just end it. Walk away, like I have so many times before when things were starting to get serious. Her heart pained at the thought and the tears backed up and over flowed in a steady trickle. My God, I can't leave her!! I can't! Somehow life without Janet and Reb would be unbearable!
So what now? I can't just sleep with this one and walk away. I don't want her to think that this is a conquest and nothing more. I want some sort of commitment. I'd go mad if I thought she slept with stupid Bill Perkins! Or anyone else for that matter! The laws in Ontario had been recently changed. She could ask Janet to marry her in a civil service. She could legal adopt Reb then. No. That was impossible not after...
Well, at least she could do the honourable thing and be honest with Janet about how she felt. Not completely honest of course, she could never burden Janet with the complete truth but as honest as she could be at least. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, she would tell her. It was important that before she has this surgery that she know that I love her. The emotional pain this time brought a groan to Robbie's lips. Please God, don't take Janet. Please, she is all I've got, Robbie begged holding the sleeping woman close and crying in the darkness of the night.
Janet returned to the livingroom after putting Reb down for her afternoon nap. It had been a beautiful Thanksgiving Saturday. She had woke in Robbie's arms her body nestled into a chair made by the curve of the taller woman's body. They had made love yet again and after a late breakfast on the porch the three of them had gone for a long walk and picked wild blueberries on the sun warmed granite rocks at the western end of Long Lake. They had a picnic lunch there under the blaze of fall colour. Later, they walked back hand in hand along the old, abandoned logging road that ran to the south of the lake.
Through the picture window, Janet could see Robbie sitting on the porch rail looking out over the lake. Her arms were hooked around one leg that was bent up on the rail. The other long leg hung down. In her corded, Scottish wool sweater, she looked every inch the star. Robbie Williams in lights. It was hard to believe that this was the same woman who had given her so much pleasure last night and again this morning. I'm sleeping with THE Robbie Williams, she told herself , but in her heart, in that special place that was filled with love for this remarkable woman, she knew that this was just her Robbie. She was a complex and super private person who was so caring and honourable in her own vulnerable and stiff way. I love you Robbie, she whispered and then hid that knowledge deep before stepping out on the porch.
Robbie stood up and met her. Wrapping her in her arms and burying her face in Janet's hair. "Hmmm, you smell of summer heat and fresh herbs."
Janet laughed. "And Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo! Reb and I share." Too her surprise, Robbie bent and lifted her up into her arms. Eyes locked and Janet fell into the kiss, reveling in being so free and at easy with the powerful woman. If people could only know Robbie as I do, she thought again and then was surprised by the sudden dart of jealousy. No, she didn't want to share! She just wanted Robbie to herself forever! Tears had to be blinked back quickly. It was never going to be. To Robbie, she was just one more conquest.
"Hmmm, that's nice," whispered Janet.
"Yeah, it is." Robbie carried Janet over and placed her on the swing seat. Then she sat down beside her and placed her elbows on her knees looking down at the floor. Janet felt the lump forming in her throat and steeled herself. Here comes the famous Williams brush off.
"Ahhhh, I guess you realize that.... I ..I...I like you."
"I hope so Robbie. I am very fond of you."
"Fond. Ahhhh, good. Ahhhh," Robbie stopped to lean forward and pick up a red maple leaf that had drifted to the porch. She ran it nervously through her fingers. "Janet, I need you to know that there was a time in my life when I was very confused and I did things....well that lay heavily on my shoulders now."
Robbie steeled herself and forced her eyes to look up into Janet's. "Bad things. Things that I don't think you could ever forgive me for."
Janet sat and let Robbie say what she had to say without interruption. This was not what she had expected.
"Ahhh, about us..." Okay, now we are on familiar ground Janet thought. I wonder if she uses the excuse about her evil past as a way out of all her relationships?
Go on Robbie, just say it! Tell her that you love her!
"It's okay Robbie. I was using you too," Janet cut in. Robbie hid what felt like a mortal wound behind a face devoid of expression. "I needed to be loved. I needed you to know me as...as the woman I am now. That sounds awful callus. It wasn't quite that scheming. I am attracted to you Robbie. At another time, I probably would have wanted to know you a lot better before we.... but I might not have much time and...."
Robbie smiled, "Hey, its okay. Just as long as we both know where we are coming from, huh. Friends and occasional lovers, okay?"
Janet smiled too although the light had not reached either woman's eyes and the air was filled with stress. "Okay," Janet got out, her lip trembling with the pain she was holding inside.
Robbie scooped her into her arms immediately. "Shhhh, hey, its okay. There is nothing you can't handle sweet-one. Shhhh, I'm here, I'll always be here for you....friend."
"Oh, Robbie!" Janet sobbed, "Hold me. Hold me!"
They sat there until Reb's howl of protest from her crib, sent them inside. Janet curled in Robbie's lap. Robbie's bleak face staring out across the lake over Janet's sobbing shoulder.
It was after a dinner strained with fake happiness that Robbie's bleeper went off. She got up from the couch where she had been reading to Reb and went to the window snapping open her phone.
"Robbie, it's Gwen. I've had a call from London. There's been another incident."
Robbie stiffened and turned away from where Janet and Reb were playing. Janet saw the gesture and picked Reb up and disappeared down the hall. Robbie sighed. "What happened?"
Robbie's stomach turned over. "Is Ryan all right?"
"Yes, but the other guy's got a broken arm."
"Shit! Contact my law firm and have them send down their detective, Polinski. He handled the last case really well. We can't afford a law suit or criminal charges. Tell him, what ever it costs just make sure that this whole thing goes away, okay?"
"And thanks...thanks Gwen."
Gwen's voice softened. "I'll make sure everything is okay, Robbie, don't worry. You okay, there?"
"Yeah, fine. As well as can be expected. We'll be heading down to T.O. on Monday and after the operation on Tuesday, I'll try to get things back on schedule. How is Brian?"
"Eating Tums like breath candies. Ernie sends his love and hopes to see you in hell and Tracy said she would quit the movie except her Robbie is such a sex machine."
"If you tell a soul that Gwen, I'll have to kill you."
"Bring a gun when you come, Robbie, its all over the office! See you Wednesday. And don't worry, okay?"
"Thanks, Gwen, good bye."
Robbie found her two girls playing blocks on the floor in the nursery. "Everything okay? asked Janet reaching up to take Robbie's hand and tugging her down to sit beside her. It was written all over Robbie's face that something was wrong.
"Yeah, everything will be okay, just some unfinished business that needed immediate attention, that's all."
Janet rubbed Robbie's arm. " Being here takes you away from important things. I'm so sorry."
Robbie gave Janet's hand a squeeze. "Right at the moment, there is nothing more important than you."
Janet's sudden smile took some of the pain from Robbie's soul.
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