The Long Road Home

Part 4

by Kim (KP) Pritekel

Disclaimers: Though these two lovely ladies seem familiar, well, that's about where the Deja Vu ends. These two belong to me.

Subtext: Yes, this story contains all the good things in life. If you can't buy me a beer, or have a propensity for severe narrow mindedness, I suggest you don't read this.

Violence: This story depicts domestic violence, as well as some mild description of child abuse, and its results. If this bothers or offends you, then perhaps you shouldn't read this one.

In Memoriam: To Karey- March 23, 1977- February 16, 2001. Rest now.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at:

Wisconsin was a winter wonderland in the making as the Blazer's red and black body was a sharp contrast to the gray and white day. Jenny sat behind the wheel, a partial smile on her lips. She was so happy to be going with Sean, though she was surprised that she had agreed to it. She glanced over to see her travel companion glancing out the side window, marveling at the scenery. It was so beautiful, and Jenny knew that Sean was relieved to have a day as the passenger.

Jenny thought back to the night before. She had spent the whole night in Sean's arms, feeling Sean occasionally stroke her hair or back, even in sleep, as if her protective nature was still on full alert. Sean had been somewhat quiet this morning when they had woken at seven-thirty. They had a long drive ahead of them, but would reach Toledo by that night. The funeral was tomorrow afternoon. She knew Sean was nervous, antsy, even.

"It'll be okay, Sean." she said quietly, glancing over at her. Sean met her gaze and smiled.

"It will now. Thank you, Jenny. I'm glad to have you with me." she said, and was surprised at her own admission. Jenny reached over, and grabbed the hand that rested on Sean's thigh. She gently squeezed the fingers, and began to pull away when she felt Sean squeeze back, almost to keep her there. Jenny smiled, and left her hand where it rested, inside of Sean's. Suddenly she felt she owed Sean an explanation.

"Sean, this is not my first pregnancy." she said. She looked to catch Sean's reaction, but only saw interest. "When Ben and I were first dating, me as a stupid seventeen year old kid, well, I was stupid. Young. I got pregnant. That's why I agreed to marry him."

"What did he say about the baby then?" Sean asked, running her thumb up and down the side of Jenny's hand.

"He never knew. I knew he'd be mad, so I waited. I was going to tell him, but...." Jenny's voice trailed off as she tried to shake the image of Ben's face as he hit her that first time. His unbelievable jealousy getting the best of him. "Well, one night he accused me of cheating on him, he got angry, and he... he hit me. That night I lost the baby."

"Oh, Jenny." Sean breathed. She placed her other hand over their joined fingers, and caressed the soft skin with her palm. "I'm so sorry. Was that what woke you up last night?" she asked gently. Jenny nodded.

"I hadn't thought about it for years. I mean, that was ten years ago. It's amazing to me how things just seem to work themselves out. If that baby would have lived, what kind of life would it have had? A father who was abusive, and a mother who was too weak to do anything about it."

"Don't say that, Jenny. Please don't say that. You would have done something about it. Believe me, I had a mother who didn't-" Sean cut herself off, released Jenny's hand and stared out the window. Jenny looked over at Sean, her brows drawn, deeply concerned. Sean's body seemed to fold in on itself; her legs crossed at the ankles, arms hugging her chest, shoulders drawn up, stiff.
"Sean." she said, running her hand down Sean's arm.

"I'm sorry, Jenny. I just can't." was whispered back.

"Okay. It's okay."

They drove on in silence, both troubled deeply in their own thoughts. Sean wiped an impatient hand across an eye as she felt the moisture build.....

"Mom, why don't you tell him to stop? Why does he do this to us? To me?" Sean asked, the cool towel filled with ice cubes pressed to her left eye. Her mother turned from her, back to the stove where she was waiting for the water for the macaroni to boil. "Mom?"

"Sean, you are not a little kid. You're fourteen years old, and know how the world works."

"What if I don't?" Helen Farrow turned on her daughter, her face twisted with rage.

"Don't you get it, Sean?" she hissed, taking a step closer. "He hits and strikes out because you provoke him! Maybe if you kept your damn mouth shut now and then-"

"What, did I mouth off at age five when I was thrown down the stairs for the first time? Or how about when I was eight, and had the skin burned from my palm on that very stove?" Sean threw the towel onto the table. "Did I ask for this, Mother?" she pointed to the eye that was already turning a nasty purple, the corner of the white of the eye blood red where a small vessel had broke. Helen turned away again, one hand resting on her hip, the other the counter. Sean stood from her chair, and walked over to her mother's side. "Why won't you stand up for me, Mom? Why? You let that bastard do whatever he wants to me!"

"Don't you dare talk about your father that way! Because of him you have food to eat, and a roof over your head!" Helen yelled, her guilt turning into rage.

"He stopped being my father long ago, mother. And if that's why you stay, you're pathetic." Sean said, her voice void of anything but contempt, and walked out of the kitchen. Within six months she'd be gone.

* * * * *

Jenny hit the I-94 when they entered Milwaukee, and they headed toward Illinois. Sean had been quiet all day. Jenny kept her silence, quietly singing along with a soft rock station they had been able to pick up.

"You know, Sean, this whole thing would make a great story." Jenny grinned over at the older woman, trying to bring her out of the painful memories she had immersed herself into for the last couple of hours.

"What?" Sean asked, startled.

"I said, this whole thing would make a great story." Sean smiled, and raised a brow.

"Yes, it would. The great American road trip."

Around one in the afternoon, they stopped for lunch, then headed back out onto the road, Sean driving. Jenny took a deep breath and grabbed the novel that she had not picked up since the sex scene the day before. She opened the book to her marked page, and began to read.

Sean stared out to the long highway ahead, her heart beginning to beat a bit faster with every passing mile. Soon. Soon she would be at the house that she had not been to in many, many years, and never thought she would return to. The house that had never been a home. Donny, her little brother who had been six years younger, popped into mind. She had not thought of him in years; it was just too painful.

"Sean, honey, it's your mom." Sean's grandmother had said quietly. Sean had looked up from her homework.

"I don't want to talk to her, Grandma."

"Honey, I think maybe you should this time." Sean had knitted her brows, confused. Her grandmother had never pushed her, but had let her make her own decisions as far as her parents were concerned.

"Okay." she took the receiver, and felt her heart skip as she saw her grandmother wipe her eyes as she left the room. "Yes?" she had said impatiently into the mouth piece.

"Sean, something has happened." Helen had said, her voice full of emotion just under the surface.

"What? What happened? Is Donny okay?" she had asked, her voice rising with her fear. Her little brother was the only one in that house that she even cared about.

"No, honey, he's not." Helen's voice broke then. "There was an accident. Honey, Donny's gone. He,... he died...."

Helen's words from so long ago echoed through Sean's head, bouncing around, bringing the pain that she had fought so hard to push down, and ultimately forget, back up, squeezing at her heart.
She shook it off. She'd think about it later.

* * * * *

Night had fallen, and the old neighborhood looked the same, but maybe a bit more run down. The old houses, most two to three bedrooms, brick, front porches. Each looked the same as the house set only a few feet from it. The Farrow house was situated on the corner, the old drive leading to the garage in back had been redone in cement. The two faded sun chairs still sat on the front porch, the old green outdoor carpet stained, and torn in places. The place needed some work.

Sean cut the engine when she pulled into the drive, stopping next to the house, just in front of the small, brick garage. She stared out the windshield, the stars and moon covered by clouds. It would be cold for the funeral tomorrow. Served the old bastard right.

"Here we are." she said quietly, not looking at Jenny as she opened the door, and stepped out of the Blazer.

"This is where you grew up?" Jenny asked, yawning and stretching.

"I lived here until I was fifteen."

Sean opened the back of the Blazer, and began to remove their bags, handing a lighter one to Jenny, and taking the rest.

The night air was cold, a bitter wind blowing through the trees that were nearly bare, their skeletal branches reaching up to the night sky.

Sean led them to the side door near the Blazer that would lead to the kitchen. Lights were still on throughout the house despite the late hour. Sean didn't see any other cars, so she assumed no other family was staying here. She was grateful.

"What's your mother's name?" Jenny asked quietly as Sean opened the squeaky metal screen door, and knocked firmly on the hard wooden back door.

"Helen Farrow."

The door was opened, and there stood Sean's mother. Sean stepped back, and stared up at the woman that was nothing but a silhouette in the doorway, the light from the kitchen pouring out around her.

"Hello, Sean." came the soft voice.

"Helen." Sean said politely. Jenny glanced at her, surprised that she had used her mother's first name.

"I'm so glad you came. Who's your friend? You didn't mention-"

"This is Jenny. I didn't mention it because I didn't know. It's a long story, and I'm tired." Helen pulled the ends of her robe tighter around her body as the wind nearly blew Sean and Jenny through the door. They stepped into the large room, and Jenny looked around. All the appliances were pretty aged, and were that awful gold color from the seventies. The linoleum on the floor was worn. A round table sat in the corner, five chairs tucked under, the tops sticking out. One was pulled out, a steaming cup of coffee sitting near it on the chipped, oak surface.

Helen sat in the chair, and offered a seat to the two women. Sean studied her mother in the harsh overhead light. She had aged immensely, and looked much older than her fifty some-odd years. Her hair that had once been a sandy brown was now filled with gray, and her face was heavily lined. Her eyes, once vibrant and brilliant like her own, were washed out, lifeless. God, Helen. Why did you stay all these years?

"You look great, honey." Helen said, as if her thoughts were following her daughters. All the years when Sean had lived with her parents, they had sent picture of Sean as she grew from an angry teenager, to a beautiful young woman, full of confidence, poise, and ambition. She was so proud of her, and what Sean had done with her life.

"Thank you. You look tired." Helen smiled, and laughed softly.

"Yes, I suppose that's true. It's been very difficult these last few years with your father so sick."

"I'm sorry for your loss, Mrs. Farrow." Jenny said gently, standing near Sean by the door.

"Thank you. You're sweet." Helen smiled at the beautiful young woman. She knew of her daughters persuasion, and wondered if this young woman was with her. She knew better than to ask.

"I'm Jenny Aberman." Jenny stepped forward and extended her hand toward Helen, who reached out and took it in her own.

"It's lovely to meet you, Jenny." she patted the young woman's hand, and released it. "Can I get you anything? Coffee? Something to eat? I know you've had a long trip."

"No. I'm fine." Sean said, crossing her arms over her chest, and leaning back against the wall.

"Well, Sean, that's fine if you don't want anything to eat. But at least come in. I won't bite, you know."

Sean kept her face carefully blank as she sat in the chair opposite her mother, Jenny sitting between them.

"What about you, Jenny? Care for anything?"

"Actually, I'm quite embarrassed to admit that I am absolutely famished." Helen smiled at the beautiful girl, and patted her hand again.

"I'll fix you something right up. What would you like?"

Sean finally accepted a cup of coffee, and watched on with a strange sense of pride and a feeling of just being glad that her mother approved of Jenny. She wasn't sure why this was. She didn't care anymore what her mother thought, hadn't for twenty years. But now as she watched Helen searching through the fridge to make Jenny a sandwich, Jenny leaning against the sink talking, she was almost glad she had come. Almost.

Sean downed the last of her coffee, and carried the cup to the sink.

"Well, tomorrow is going to come pretty early, so I'm heading to bed." she said, turning to her mother and Jenny.

"Your room is all ready for you, honey." Helen said quietly. "Jenny, you can sleep in Donny's old room." she took a deep breath and walked over to her daughter. "I'm so glad you came, Sean.." she took a reluctant Sean into her arms, and hugged her daughter tightly to her, closing her eyes. She had dreamed of seeing and touching the girl again before she died. It's too bad it had taken the death of Sean's father for that to happen. "Goodnight, sleep well." she said as she released her. Sean backed away from her, and abruptly turned and headed upstairs. Helen turned from Jenny, headed back to the table, trying to swallow the sorrow.

"Are you okay, Mrs. Farrow?" Jenny asked quietly, placing a hand on the older woman's shoulder. Helen sat, and sighed heavily.

"Sean has known so much pain in her life." Jenny sat next to her, and listened intently. "Most of that pain before the age of fifteen." she sighed again, and looked into Jenny's concerned green eyes with her own troubled blue ones. "Russ was a cruel man, Jenny. And Sean was a beautiful, smart young girl. Everything Russ had always felt he wasn't. He took all his insecurities out on her. He-" Helen was interrupted by the sound of Jenny's rumbling stomach. Helen smiled. "What have you got in there? A monster?"

"Sorry. That's what my father used to call it, too." she smiled.

"Here I am going on and on when you're so hungry." Helen began to get up.

"No, no. I'll bring everything over here. Keep talking. I want to understand Sean." Jenny said. She really wanted to try and find out what made Sean who she was, the strong, stubborn woman she'd grown to be.

"Oh, well good luck with that one, honey. That girl is as thick as her father was in some ways."

Jenny grabbed the package of lunch meat, cheese, and jar of Mayo from the counter, as well as a knife from the strainer full of clean dishes, and a plate. She brought it all back to the table, and sat again.

"Continue, Mrs. Farrow." she said.

"Oh, call me Helen. I've never been one for formalities. Anyway, Sean has stayed out of our lives for so many years. I know about Sean's lifestyle, and you should know it's okay." Helen smiled, and placed her hand over Jenny's. Jenny realized that Helen thought she and Sean were lovers.

"Well, actually, we, thank you." Jenny couldn't bring herself to tell Helen how it really was between them. There was no 'them'.

"I just wish Sean would believe that. Perhaps you can tell her for me. I know Russ didn't know. He was, well, he was raised in a world of his own making. A world with spics, niggers, queers. He never would let go of those petty prejudices. I never understood it. I was raised in such a different place than he was."

"Sean told me he had it rough."

"Oh, yes he did." Helen took a drink from her cup, and scrunched her nose. "Never was one for cold coffee. Sean likes it, though. Even as a small child." she smiled and stood. "Care for a refill?"

"Yeah. Actually, on second thought I should cut the coffee." Jenny said, thinking of her pregnancy. The doctor at the clinic had given her a brochure on do's and don'ts of pregnancy. Caffeine had been on the list of no-no's. "Do you happen to have any juice, or water is fine."

"Apple, okay?" Jenny nodded. Helen poured her some more coffee, and got Jenny her juice as she continued to talk. "So have you known my daughter very long?"

"No. Not really."

"So where does your brother live." Helen took her seat again, and sipped her coffee. Jenny took a long drink of her juice to wash down the bite she'd just eaten of her sandwich.

"Just outside of Chicago in a small little town called Calderville."

"How nice. Visiting is always nice because you can see your family, spend time with them, and always leave." Helen smiled. Jenny smiled in turn, but said nothing. She was not ready to talk about her problem with Sean's mother. She decided to change the subject.

"So how long was Sean's father sick?"

"Oh, gosh. Let me think of when it started." Helen sat back in her seat, legs crossed at the knee, hands folded in her lap. "I'd say it all started about three or so years ago. He lasted a long time, though he was in a lot of pain. But he's gone now, and God willing has managed to find some sort of peace."

"How long were you married?" Jenny asked as she finished her sandwich, and began to make another one. Helen smiled.

"You've got one healthy appetite for such a little thing. We were married for thirty-two years. See, when I first met Russ I was a stupid kid. Only fourteen. I got pregnant when I was just barely sixteen. Sixteen by a month." she smiled bitterly. "In those days if you got pregnant, you got married. Even so my parents wouldn't let me marry Russ. They saw what I refused to. But two years later, when Sean was nearly two, I turned eighteen, and then my parents couldn't say or do anything about it. I went on to make the biggest mistake of my life; I married him."

"Can I ask you a question, Helen?" Jenny asked, staring down at her hands that held her glass of apple juice, turning it around and around.

"Of course."

"Why did you stay?" Jenny finally met Helen's frank gaze. Helen sighed at the question.

"You know, honey, that is a question that I have been asking myself for I can't tell you how many years. I think what it boils down to is I didn't know what else to do, where else to go. I knew my parents didn't support what I had done. Sure, they were here for the kids, but my relationship with them was not good after I married Russ. Back then women didn't have as many options as women today do."

"I left my husband." Jenny said quietly, suddenly needing to confide in this woman. All her life Jenny had been searching for that one woman who could be her mother figure, the mother hers was not; she realized that now. She felt like she could trust Helen. She figured that must be where Sean got her strength from, that rock solid aura. She wondered why this woman had not used that strength for her own good, and that of her children long ago.

At Jenny's words, Helen just stared at her, waiting for her to continue. She sipped her coffee.

"My story isn't much different than yours, except I was seventeen when I got pregnant. Ben is eight years older, so I figured he was more sophisticated, more mature than most of the guys m age. Was I wrong." she said bitterly.

"Is that why you left?" Helen asked, gently stroking the side of Jenny's face where the faded, but still visible, bruises lined her cheek. Jenny smiled and leaned into the motherly caress. She nodded her head, unable to find her voice for a moment. "One day a week ago I decided I'd had enough."

"Well then I'm confused. You and Sean..."

Jenny smiled, and placed her hand over Helen's, bringing their joined hands to the table. "We're not a couple, Helen. I know about Sean's preference, and in fact my best friend, Johanna is a frequent customer of Sean's book store."

"Oh. I'm sorry, Jenny. I shouldn't have assumed-"

"No, it's okay. I care about Sean very much. She was there when I needed someone who was so kind, and generous, the most. I am forever indebted to your daughter." Helen smiled. She could see the love that shone unchecked in Jenny's green eyes. Oh, if only this girl were the right one for her daughter. They would be so good for each other.

"So have you and Ben been together all this time? Married?"

"Ten years."

"Oh, honey! You don't look old enough to have been married that long. " Helen laughed.

"Twenty nine next summer." she smiled.

"Honey, I would ask for an I.D. in a liquor store!" Helen said, her voice incredulous.

"You're not the only one. " Jenny laughed as she stood. "It's getting late, Helen, and I am so tired. Where is your bathroom before I explode?"

Jenny stood in the bathroom, changing into her sweats and t-shirt. She was amazed at how often she had to use the restroom now. By god, she felt like she were five again. She remembered when a friend of hers from the grocery had been pregnant. Lois had talked about constantly having to pee, and it only got worse, especially when the baby starts to get big, and pushes even more on the internal organs, namingly the bladder. She took off her sweater, and stared at her abdomen which at that point was still relatively unchanged. She ran her hands over the smooth skin, then up to her breasts which were noticeably larger, and very sore. A small smile crept across her face, and she pulled her t-shirt over her head, and down over her middle.

* * * * *

Sean made her way up the stairs, and into her old bedroom. As she flicked on the overhead light, she was surprised to see that her room had not been changed since the day she had left it. She had only taken her clothes with her to her grandparent's house, choosing to leave most of her other things where they were. In her childish mind that had been the way to start over. Never in a million years would she have admitted that she had missed Blinkey, the black and white bear that she had been given when she was born. Within a month one of the bear's plastic eyes had fallen off, so he had been called Blinkey.

He sat on the bed against the pillows, just as he had done when Sean had been a kid. She walked over to the toy, and picked it up, examining him, turning him over, then holding his soft body against her chest. She smiled as she looked around some more. The two sets of shelves that were mounted on either side of the sliding, metal closet doors, still held her collection of Golden Books, and Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

She marveled at the blue and purple color scheme, still favorite colors. Sean set Blinkey on the night stand next to the bed, leaning him against the white, purple and blue lamp with the unicorn on the lampshade, and changed for bed. Her mind was so full of confusion, conflicting emotions. This is what she had always wanted; to be in this house without her father. But now it felt strange, wrong. Not that she missed Russell. Far from it. But the picture was not complete somehow. Of course, this was the first time she had been in the house since Donny had died.

Sean climbed into bed, and shut out the light, stared up at the ceiling, hands behind her head. What a week. She wished Jenny were with her. With that last thought, she closed her eyes.

* * * * *

The sun was just beginning to rise, and so was the temperature. The wind from the previous night was gone, and the day was looking to be bright, and mild. Sean was glad. She did not want to stand in the middle of a cemetery freezing her ass off. She stretched as she made her way out into the hall, hearing her mother already at work in the kitchen. Suddenly she felt like she were ten again, and it was Sunday. Every Sunday her mother would put together a huge breakfast that usually only she and Donny would eat. Russell was typically still in bed, passed out, or severely hung over, spending the good part of the day barking orders out at Helen.

"Morning, honey." Helen said brightly as Sean padded into the kitchen in just a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. She mumbled something unintelligible back. She usually didn't mind mornings, but all that driving over the last week had wiped her out. She needed to stay in one place for a while. Maybe when she dropped Jenny off at her brothers she'd get a hotel for a couple of days in Chicago and rest up for the drive home. Alone. That thought tugged at her chest, making it feel like she couldn't breath.

"Is Jenny up yet?" she asked, plopping down into a chair at the table, rubbing her burning eyes.

"No. We were up pretty late talking, though."

"Oh, don't kid yourself." Sean grinned. "That woman is hard to wake up on a good day." Helen smiled as she flipped the sausage patties over with a spatula, and began to crack eggs into a bowl.

"Well, you should probably go wake her so she can eat before we go."

"Okay. Is there any coffee made?" Sean asked as she stood and walked over to the cabinet to grab a mug.

"Of course. You should know better than that." Helen smiled, grabbing the carafe and filling Sean's cup.

"Thanks." Sean began to leave the room, but was stopped by Helen handing her a glass of apple juice.

"Take this to Jenny."

Sean, armed with coffee and apple juice, climbed the steep stairs, and headed toward Donny's old room, and lightly tapped on the door. She heard faint mumbling, and grinned, suddenly feeling mischievous. She tucked the glass of juice in the crook of her coffee arm, and soundlessly opened the door, setting the two cups on the dresser that was directly to the left of the door. Jenny was still sound asleep, laying on her stomach, arms above her head, under the pillow. Sean tiptoed to the bed, then in one leap, jumped up onto it, and began to jump up and down.

"Wake up, wake up, wake up!"

"What the hell!?" Jenny jumped up, spun around, her eyes wide. Sean plopped down on the bed next to her, feeling out of breath.

"God, I'm getting too old for this shit." she laughed.

"I can't believe you did that! You scared the shit out of me, Sean." Jenny laughed.

"Oops, sorry." Sean leapt up again, and began to jump, Jenny being bounced all over the bed, giggling like a child until finally, exhausted, Sean fell to the bed.

"That can't be good for the baby." Jenny laughed, not really worried, but immediately Sean sobered.

"Oh god, Jenny!" she sat up, grabbed Jenny's hand. "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking."

"No, hey. I was kidding. Now what did you bring me?" she asked, nodding toward the dresser.

"Ah, yes. Apple juice." Sean walked over, grabbed their drinks, and sat back down as she handed Jenny the chilled glass.

"Thank you. I was dying of thirst. That was thoughtful, Sean." she smiled.

"Well, actually I have a confession. This is from Helen."

"Well, that was very thoughtful of your mother."

"Yeah, yeah." Sean said with the wave of her hand, and a twinkle in her eye. Sean sipped her coffee and laid on her side, supporting herself on her elbow. "She said you guys stayed up pretty late talking."

"Does that bother you?" Jenny asked, mirroring Sean's position.


"I like your mom, Sean. She's a good woman. She's had it tough, too." Jenny sipped her juice, keeping an eye on Sean the whole time, trying to read her. "When did you start calling her by her name?" Sean shrugged, playing with the cup that she had balanced on the comforter.

"I guess the day I moved out. She stopped being my mother."

"Do you still love her?" Jenny asked gently. Sean stared out the window, her incredible blue eyes seeming to suck in the morning light, and make her eyes glow.

"Yes. But somewhere along the way those feelings of love turned into feelings of pain and betrayal." she answered honestly, finally looking at Jenny again. Jenny reached out, and grabbed her hand, squeezing slightly, encouraging her to continue. But Sean said no more about it. "Come on. Helen's making breakfast." Sean stood from the bed, and walked toward the door, and disappeared into the hallway.

* * * * *

The church was a beautiful old cathedral with huge spires topped by gold crosses reaching for the heavens, and stained glass at every window depicting scenes of Christ and all his apostles. Sean walked in with her mother on her left, Jenny on her right. The sanctuary was long with row upon row of highly polished pews, though maybe only a third were filled. Sean recognized some of the people as co-workers of her fathers, or friends of her mother. But there was no family from either side. As kids, Sean remembered she and Donny were told that their grandma and grandpa Waters was the only family they had; everyone else having been forsaken years before, or having forsaken Helen because of Russell.

Sean walked to the front pew, and ushered her mother in, her hand resting on Helen's lower back. Helen looked good in a long black skirt with a white silk blouse and black dress jacket over it. Sean glanced over at Jenny who wore a pair of black slacks borrowed from Helen's closet. They were a bit large on her, but a belt helped. She also wore one of her own emerald sweaters. Sean thought she looked beautiful. She sat next to her mother, and glanced over at Jenny to see her sitting next to her. She leaned over and whispered to Sean as she began to stand.

"Sean, I'm going to go sit in the back. This section is reserved for family." Sean grabbed her hand.

"No!" she said, a bit too forceful. Jenny's emerald eyes widened a bit. She smiled. "Please, stay here." Jenny gazed into troubled blue eyes, and with a smile, sat next to Sean.

Sean looked back to the front of the church, and studied her father's coffin. It was dark mahogany, with brass handles on either side. She stared at it, filled with mixed feelings and emotions. Part of her wished that it was an open casket. This way it was not real. She did not believe that it was actually her father in there; the one man who she had so much hate for for her entire life. She watched as the priest walked up to the front, and began to speak. As his voice began the mass, Sean realized just how empty she felt. She realized that she no longer felt the anger in that moment, or the hate, or the confusion. She wondered at this. She wondered what her mother was feeling at that moment, and glanced over at her. Her eyes were dry, but dull. And for just a moment, Sean thought she saw relief.

The sky was gray, clouds moving in as the short line of cars made their way through town to the cemetery. Helen could not afford a limousine for the family, so Sean drove them in her Blazer, following the hearse. The long black and silver car stopped, so Sean braked just behind him.

"Well." Helen smiled over at Sean. Jenny had insisted that Helen take the front seat after five minutes worth of Helen's protesting. "This is it." she said quietly. Sean glanced over at her mother, and could only nod. She turned off the ignition, and opened her door, pulling the driver seat forward so Jenny could get out. Jenny stepped out of the car, and placed her hand over Sean's that rested on the top of the seat.

"Are you okay?" she whispered. Sean smiled and nodded. Sean led the way to the green tent-type structure that had been set up over Russell Farrow's grave, two rows of chairs for the mourners to sit. Sean led Helen to a chair in front, then sat next to her, Jenny next to her.

Sean watched as six men carried the casket over, setting it gently down on the bars that would hold it above the hole. She drew her brows, not recognizing any of the men.

"Who are they?" she asked Helen, nodding at them with her head.

"They work for the funeral home." Helen whispered. Sean stared at her mother for a moment, surprised. She shook her head sadly, and turned back to the casket as once again the priest made his way to finish sending Russell to wherever the good Lord saw fit for him to be.

Sean's gazed drifted until it settled onto a small gray headstone. It was off to the side a bit, set a small distance away from Russell's. It was Donny's. Sean had not been here since the day of his funeral, that landed just three days short of what would have been his twelfth birthday.

Sean arrived with her grandparents supporting her on either side. Her grandmother was devastated by her only grandson's death, yet she would not allow Sean to keep her own emotions bottled in to protect and support her. She had her husband to keep her standing. Sean had no one, and as usual, would not ask a soul for help.

Sean could see her parents standing in the lobby of the small chapel, friends of her mother's standing near, talking to her, occasionally hugging her. Helen looked so dazed, her blue eyes glazed over. Sean's grandmother said that Helen had not yet dealt with the death of her son, that she was still in shock. Russell stood off to the side, leaning against the wall. He wore a dark brown suit, the jacket unbuttoned, the brown and black striped tie crooked. Sean thought he looked like hell, half drunk. Bastard couldn't even stay sober for his own son's funeral. Sean suddenly felt sick as she realized that Russell was meeting her gaze. His mean, dark eyes locked onto hers, both daring the other. Sean had not seen her father in nearly three years. But not in all that time had her feelings toward him changed, and it seemed in that moment that he felt the same.

"Honey, you should go see your mom." Sean's grandmother had said, placing a hand on her arm. Sean looked down at the older woman who she loved so dearly, and could see the pain reflected in her clear blue eyes, identical to Sean's and Helen's. Sean knew that her grandmother wished deep down that she could forgive her mother, but never pushed it.

Sean took a deep breath, and approached Helen, who was in the tight embrace of their neighbor, Karen Reynolds. Helen stepped back from the older woman who used to baby sit Sean and Donny for years.

"Thank you, Karen." Helen said, her voice weak, shaky.

"You just remember what I said, honey. Anything you need at all, okay?" Karen held Helen at arms length, and looked deeply into Helen's eyes. Karen looked up, and the kindest smile spread across her lips. "Sean, honey." she said, her smooth southern draw as soothing as ever. Helen turned, and nearly collapsed into her daughter. Sean caught the shaking form that was Helen, and reluctantly pulled her close. Helen's heaving sobs wracked both their bodies. Sean tightened her embrace, and laid her cheek on top of her mother's head. She was almost frightened, never seeing her mother like that before.

"Shhh. It's okay. It's okay." she said, not sure what else to do.

"I miss him so much." Helen cried, digging her fingers almost painfully into Sean's back.

"I know. I know." Sean opened her eyes when she felt someone watching her. Over her mother's head she could see Russell watching, an unreadable expression in his eyes. A man walked up to him, and Russell shook his hand and said something with a nod, but turned his gaze back to her as the man walked away. This should be your job, you son of a bitch.

"I should have..." Helen choked on a sob. "I should have been there. If only..."

"It's okay." Sean said, never taking her eyes off her father. Something was not right. She could feel it in her gut. She had not been given a straight answer about just how Donny had died. Her grandmother had mentioned something about falling down some stairs when he had been trying to roller-skate in the house. She had her strong doubts about that one. When she had been a child, she and Donny had been reamed for doing just that. Donny was not a stupid kid; he would not try that again....

"Sean? Sean, are you okay?"

Sean's snapped her head around to see Jenny staring at her, her green eyes filled with concern. She nodded numbly, and looked around. Her father's casket was nearly almost completely underground now. The priest was throwing some flowers from the bouquet that had been on top of his casket down into the hole, on the casket lid, and saying is final words. It was nearly over. I turned my gaze to my mother. She was crying silently, her fingers wrapped around a white lace handkerchief. The priest said some words in Latin, then turned to the small collection of people who watched with more curiosity then loss. Sean almost felt as if she and Helen were part of the spectacle. What would they do next? Get into a fight right there in the cemetery? Maybe the daughter, Sean would jump onto the coffin and open the lid, and pummel Farrow senseless. She nearly chuckled to herself at the thought.

It was now over. Russell's casket was where it belonged, and would remain for eternity, Amen.
Sean stood, and walked out from under the tent, and walked over to Donny's grave. She was surprised to see a single red rose placed on the winter-yellowed grass at the base of the stone. She could hear the group dissipating, the engines in cars starting, shattering the still of the cold day that only a cemetery can truly capture.

Jenny watched, feeling helpless as Sean made her way to the small stone. She was not sure exactly who it belonged to, though she had a strong suspicion it was Sean's little brother, Donny. She looked around, and saw Helen talking to a man, and walked over to them. They turned to her as she approached.

"Hi. I'm sorry to interrupt, but do you think you could possibly give Helen a lift home?" Jenny asked with a smile, not even sure who the man was.

"Of course." he smiled at her, and she smiled in relief. Helen looked over at her daughter, and sighed deeply.

"Is she alright?" she asked in a small voice.

"I think so. I don't know." Jenny said, watching as Sean knelt down on one knee, and wiped some snow off the face of Donny's stone. She walked away from Helen and the man she was talking to, and headed toward Sean, stopping a few yards behind her.

"You should go home with them, Jenny." Sean said quietly, still kneeling on the grass.

"I think I should stay with you." Jenny said, taking a step forward.

"I'm fine." Sean stood and wrapped her arms around herself.

"I'm not leaving." Jenny took another step, then another until she was standing next to her. Sean smiled to herself. That woman was so stubborn. Okay, so be it. They stood in silence as the cemetery became quiet once more, any sound of the cars far away. Jenny sighed, her breath carrying slightly on the cold air of the late afternoon. The day was beginning to turn cold like the night before.

"Did you know I had a brother?" Sean asked quietly, never turning her gaze from the small stone.

"Yes. Helen mentioned that last night." Jenny matched her hushed tone.

"Did she tell you he died?" Sean finally glanced at her. Jenny shook her head.

"No, but I sort of figured that out." Sean nodded, and looked back to her brother's grave. "What happened, Sean?" Sean took a deep breath, and buried her hands in her coat pockets.

"Nobody really knows for sure. The story was that Donny was trying to roller-skate in the house, and fell down the stairs." she chuckled bitterly.

"But..." Jenny said to Sean's unspoken doubt.

"But I don't buy it." Sean looked at her, her brows drawn. "I should have been there." she whispered, her eyes beginning to fill. "If I had never left, if only I had.... if only," Jenny could see that Sean was about to finally break. She turned to her, and pulled her into her arms. Sean wrapped desperate arms around Jenny's waist, and tucked her face into Jenny's neck, and let go. All the pain and anguish she had been holding in for over twenty years finally washed through her body, and escaped through wracking sobs.

"It's okay, Sean. Let go, baby. Let go." Jenny whispered, stroking Sean's long hair, feeling the wetness spread on her neck, and soak down into the material of her jacket collar. She closed her eyes, and pulled Sean even closer, her own sorrow burning behind her closed lids.

Sean was trying to fight a losing battle with her body, and her emotions. She could not stop the tears that flowed so freely from her for the first time in her life. She felt as if the weight of being strong was just too much. A pillar can only handle so much before it, too breaks. She clung to Jenny feeling that this small woman was the only person in the world who would see her this way, and not think less of her for it. True, it was a foolish way to see it, but that is how she was able to get through this, allow Jenny to hold her, comfort her, even though Jenny was going through her own private hell.

Sean cried for all that her brother could have been, all he could have seen, and the difference he could have made in her life. All she felt like she should have done for him, saved him, taken him with her. It was too late for all that now. Donny was long dead, and had hopefully found the peace long ago that Sean had been searching her whole life for. The peace that Jenny offered; the peace Jenny showed Sean was possible.

* * * * *

The house was quiet when they finally arrived. Jenny had taken Sean to get something to eat. Something to try and get her mind off of the moment. They had talked about frivolous things, and Jenny had told Sean about her brother Paul, and his wife Lana, and their two daughters, Rya, and Kayla. She had told her humorous stories of holidays as a child, and how she and Paul would fight as children. Sean chuckled, and joined in the conversation, but Jenny could still see the unshed pain behind those baby blues.

"Where's your mother?" Jenny asked as she removed her jacket, the excess snow that had begun to fall, falling to the kitchen floor.

"I don't know. Maybe in bed." Sean said simply, her back to Jenny as she also removed her heavy jacket, tossing it on the table. Jenny studied the slumped shoulders for a moment, then walked up to her, placing her hand on Sean's lower back.

"Maybe we should, too. It's been a long day." she said quietly, staring up at Sean's profile. Sean nodded.

"Yeah." Sean turned and faced Jenny, looking down into her clear green eyes that held so much; understanding, pain, sympathy, and something else entirely. Sean raised her hand, and gently brushed it through Jenny's hair, pushing if off her shoulder, tucking it behind an ear. Jenny looked into Sean's eyes, never breaking contact. Sean smiled, and Jenny smiled back. "Thank you for today." she whispered.

"You're welcome." Jenny whispered back. She raised her hands, and ran them down Sean's arms until she reached her hands that hung down by her sides. Jenny took Sean's hands in her own, and squeezed lightly. Sean squeezed back.

"You have got to possess one of the most beautiful souls I have ever seen, Jenny Aberman." Sean said, her thumbs gently caressing the backs of Jenny's hands that were still held in her own. Jenny smiled, transfixed by Sean's words, her voice, and her eyes that she could not have looked away from if she had tried. "Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?" Sean brought one of their joined hands to her own chest, and placed them over her heart. "Here." she placed Jenny's palm flat against her, her hand covering it. "You are so filled with love, with life." she released Jenny's hand, and brought it up to cup the side of Jenny's face. "And you're beautiful here." she fingered the fading bruises with gentle fingers. She shook her head in wonder. "Ben has no idea what he had, how lucky he was." Jenny felt her eyes beginning to fill with unshed tears of awe. No one had ever said these things to her, made her feel so utterly beautiful. "I'm so sorry he did this to you." Jenny took a step closer, placing her free hand on Sean's shoulder.

"Make me forget, Sean. Please." she whispered, her eyes pleading for the release that she knew only Sean could give her. "Please." she said again when she saw the hesitance in Sean's eyes. She could not believe the want, the need, and the desire that filled her. She had never felt this way in her life. It felt as if her body were suddenly filled with a fire that no amount of water could put out. A fire for Sean that had been building deep within her in a place that she had not yet realized she had. She brought her hand up to Sean's own cheek, then around to the back of her head, brought her closer. "Please."

Sean shivered as that simple word was whispered against her lips. She closed her eyes, and leaned down that tiniest bit of distance, and sealed the kiss. Jenny's mouth was so soft, so ready. She took it slow, deciding that Jenny would lead where this would go.

Jenny buried her hands in Sean's hair, pressing their mouths together, needing to feel all of Sean. Sean moved her hands around Jenny's slender body, and pulled her close, wrapping her arms protectively around her, pulling her body into her own. Slowly, almost shyly, Jenny's mouth opened, and a tentative tongue sought Sean's lips. Sean opened her lips eagerly, accepting her inside. A small sigh of contentment escaped from Jenny. She felt so at home, like she had done this her whole life. Or better yet, had been waiting to do this her whole life.

Sean reveled in the feel and taste of Jenny as the kiss deepened, their lips and tongues slowly exploring each other, caressing, saying so much without a word being spoken between them.. Suddenly Jenny pulled back, her chest heaving as she took a deep breath. Sean stared down at her, concern in her eyes. Jenny ran her thumb over the worry line between Sean's eyes, and smiled. Sean smiled in turn. Jenny did not say a word, but took Sean's hand in hers, and began to head toward the stairs.

"Jenny." Sean said quietly. Jenny turned to her. "Are you sure?"

"I've never been more sure." Jenny said, and again turned toward the stairs, Sean following.

They entered the room where Sean had grown into a young teenager. A room where she had found her sanctuary, where she had prayed for salvation, and now here was her savior, finally come to show her what love was really about. To show her that she counted, and to show her that it was okay to just be.

Jenny closed the door behind Sean, and softly turned the lock with a click. She turned back to Sean who stood in the middle of the room, looking like a lost child. Jenny smiled softly, and walked over to her, stopping just in front of her. Green stared into blue, neither sure how to proceed, but yet neither willing to stop. Jenny smiled again, and took one of Sean's hands, and brought it up to her lips, placing a gentle kiss in the palm, then nuzzling her cheek in the softness when she felt a hand in her hair, grazing the soft skin of her neck, followed by soft lips. She tilted her head a bit, and closed her eyes at the incredible feeling. She placed Sean's hand on her hip, and placed her own hands in Sean's hair, pulling her further into her neck. She breathed out a low moan as she felt the wetness of Sean's tongue trail across her skin, nipping slightly, moving up to her earlobe.

"I want you, Jenny." Sean breathed into her ear. Jenny shivered, and nodded in response, unable to speak. Her hands began to slide down Sean's shoulders, and over down her back until they settled on her hips, tugging at her belt loops to bring her body closer. "Can I take this off?" Sean asked, tugging slightly at the sleeve of Jenny's sweater. Again Jenny nodded, and took a step back from Sean as she pulled the garment over her head, shaking her head to free her hair, and throwing it on the floor. Sean studied her skin, made bronze by the golden light of the bedside lamp, her eyes burning as she took in the smooth skin of Jenny's stomach, just ever so slightly starting to show the evidence of her pregnancy. Her breasts full under the fabric of the white satin and lace bra she wore, the narrow straps stretching over delicate, yet strong shoulders. Her gaze fell to the bruise that lined Jenny's left side just under her left breast, and disappearing into the waistline of her pants. "Oh, Jenny." she breathed sadly, running her fingers over the skin that was now a yellowish, green color.

"It's okay, Sean." Jenny said, moving closer to her. "Never again. You'll protect me." Jenny's green eyes looked deeply into Sean's, conveying her infinite trust.

"With my last breath." Sean bent down, and placed the softest kiss on Jenny's lips, sealing her promise. Jenny deepened the kiss, pulling Sean to her. The silk of Sean's shirt felt wonderful against her heated skin. Not breaking the kiss, Jenny ran her hands down Sean's sides, her fingers taking in the texture of the fabric, then found the small, disc-like buttons, and somehow she managed to keep her fingers steady as she made her way down the front of the blouse, undoing one button after another. Sean moved her lips to Jenny's neck once again as her hands slid around to the clasp on Jenny's bra at her back. She heard the slight snap when the eyelet was freed from the hook, and the smooth material slid down Jenny's arms. Jenny took her hands away from Sean for just long enough for Sean to slide the bra from her arms, then they were right back, pulling the ends of the blouse open, down over smooth shoulders. The blouse hung at Sean's waist where it was tucked into her slacks.

"So beautiful." Jenny breathed as she took in the sight of Sean's torso with her toned abdomen and strong shoulders from hours of unloading boxes of books, and the way her bra pushed her breasts up just slightly.

Sean ran her hand down Jenny's shoulder, and gently cupped a breast. Jenny moaned into her mouth as she felt the warmth of Sean's hand envelope her, teasing the sensitive flesh of a hardened nipple. Jenny arched her neck, her eyes closed as she felt hot lips wrap themselves around the puckered flesh, then the tip of a hot tongue flick, and caress. He hands were buried in Sean's hair as all thought ceased. She was stunned by the incredible feelings that were coursing through her body, headed straight south. Sean's touch was like pure fire.

She opened her eyes as she felt the wet heat leaving her breast, and looked into Sean's blue eyes that were made electric. Without a word Sean gently tugged her toward the bed, sitting down on the edge, and pulling Jenny to stand between her open legs. She reached for the belt and buttons on Jenny's slacks, and quickly had them undone, and slid the pants down smooth, toned legs. Other smaller bruises were scattered down Jenny's thighs. Sean caressed them, and placed a soft kiss on Jenny's sternum, just beneath her breasts. Jenny stepped out of her shoes and pants, and kicked them to the side. She stood before Sean's adoring gaze wearing only her white satin and lace underwear that matched her bra. Sean could feel and smell the heat that radiated from Jenny's body, could smell her need, and it drove her crazy.

Jenny stepped back to the circle of Sean's legs, and bent down to kiss her as her hands began to explore, and unhook Sean's own bra. Sean struggled out of the garment, and tossed it to the floor by the foot of the bed. Jenny had never gazed upon a half naked woman before, and she felt absolutely exhilarated by the sight. She climbed onto Sean's lap, her knees on the bed on either side of Sean's thighs. Their eyes met for just a moment before Sean pulled her close for a searing kiss that left them both breathless. Jenny reached down and undid Sean's pants, and stood to remove them along with Sean's boots and socks. Sean lifted her hips as Jenny returned for her underwear, then pulled her own off, and then climbed back on the bad where Sean pulled her on top of her as she laid back. They both moaned as their skin made full contact. Sean ran her hands up and down Jenny's back, settling on her butt to pull her further into her as their lips met. Sean sighed deeply as she opened her legs slightly, one of Jenny's thighs moving in to rest against her. She lifted her own leg that was between Jenny's, and Jenny immediately began to move against it, their bodies sliding together in a very slow, lazy rhythm. Sean could feel the pressure beginning to build, so she gently pushed Jenny over onto the bed, and rested her body on top of hers. She held herself up on her elbows and looked down into Jenny's green eyes that were nearly the color of a Forrest with her desire. Jenny was breathing hard, her hands dancing through Sean's long, dark hair that was plastered to her head around her face.

"Let me show you, Jenny." Sean breathed, gently pushing Jenny's own damp hair from her eyes. She leaned down and kissed her softly, but within seconds the innocent contact had taken on mammoth proportions. One of her hands began to glide down Jenny's body, gently stroking the soft skin of a breast before moving on to tease the skin of Jenny's slightly puffy belly, and then down into damp curls, turned dark gold by her desire. Her fingers slipped between slick lips, and began to lightly stroke the hidden flesh. Jenny sucked in her breath, and took Sean in a tight embrace as her legs spread wider, her hips thrusting up to meet Sean's wondering hand. Sean found Jenny's entrance, and played around the edge, teasing her into an even more potent state of need.

"Sean, please." Jenny breathed, finding Sean's lips. Sean quickly slid two fingers into the throbbing heat, only to pull out, and return. Jenny thought she would go mad if she didn't come soon. Her hips thrust upward again, trying to quicken Sean's thrusts, but Sean stilled them completely. She slowly made her way down Jenny's body, licking and kissing until she reached the heated scent that made her mouth water. Sean lovingly stroked Jenny's sex with her tongue, tasting her, breathing her in. Jenny was beginning to squirm, and Sean knew she wouldn't be able to last long, so she slid her fingers out of her completely, and replaced them with her tongue, lapping up all the warm juices before making her way up Jenny's crease, sucking both lips between her teeth, until she reached Jenny's clit. Jenny's hips were beginning to rotate now, occasionally bucking up to meet Sean's hot mouth. Sean licked the engorged bundle of nerves once, and then took it into her mouth, sucking on it rhythmically, bringing her fingers back, and stroking her open more before entering her with three fingers, her thrusts matching her sucking. Jenny buried her hands in Sean's hair, pulling her further into her, her neck and back arched as wave upon wave of pleasure crashed against the rocky shore that was her resolve, which was slipping in the tide, until finally she could not hold back anymore, and her body convulsed around Sean's mouth and fingers, and a cry ripped from her throat, and filled the room. Sean stayed with her, running her tongue all along her clit, and then laying flat against it as her fingers stilled, Jenny's inner walls holding them prisoner.

Finally Sean's fingers were released, and she slowly slid them out, a slight shiver washing through Jenny as the fullness left her. Sean was about ready to explode. She crawled back up Jenny's body, and straddled Jenny's thigh, only thrusting twice when she was thrown over the edge, and collapsed on top of Jenny, holding her shaking body to her own, burying her face in Jenny's hair.

"I love you, Jenny." she whispered.

Part 5

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