DISCLAIMER: Story mine, Characters mine.


The gruff, clearly irritated, shout from upstairs propels me from my comfortable armchair and my morose musings of guilt and fear. I run up the stairs preparing for the worst.

The sight before me is a kick in the gut. The person standing in front of the old mirror that came with the house and we never had the time or the will to change is a stranger. I stand there immobile, mouth hanging open as my mind desperately tries to make sense of it all.

The ankle-length black skirt, one inch-heels peeking underneath, the form-fitting blouse, the styled short hair. I don't have the time for my thoughts to coalesce into anything that remotely makes sense.

"Do you know how to put this thing on? Mary says it's essential. Apparently."

A tube of liquid make-up sails through the air and I catch it instinctively. I look at it, my thoughts a jumble.

"Mary said just a touch. How much is a bloody touch?"

There is gruffness in the voice and irritation but I can hear the slight tone of despair underneath it all. It seems to jumpstart my stunned mind. I have never heard despair in my baby's voice before. Not in that cursed auditorium, not in the hospital afterwards, not when the doctors said that there was no hope for the eye, not once in the three years since then.

"Babe?" I start hesitantly. "What are you doing?"

The face I know better than my own turns to me. My thoughts screech to a standstill once again. I look at the eye-patch, not the usual thick black one but one in pale blue that I have never seen before. I look at lips with a slight rose glossy sheen. I stand once again like a fish out of the water, mouth hanging open, eyes blinking in incomprehension.

The stinging slap against my shoulder pushes me out of my state of speechless incomprehension. The voice is the same that brings me to wakefulness every morning and lulls me to sleep each night. "Del… Snap out of it. Think it's Halloween, not Christmas."

"Huh?" The wordless grunt is the best I can do. It seems like my brain has just stopped and refuses to put any of my trailing thoughts into words.

The half-smile that is the sun of my days and the beacon of my nights appears on the face that barely seems familiar. The strong grip on my shoulder reminds me that this is the one I love under the unaccustomed clothing.

"What happened, happened. It's just a meal. We'll survive." The words are a balm. There is no anger there, no barely disguised resentment.

Still my eyes fall to the floor. I cannot bear to look in the lone eye that holds my soul. This is my fault. If I had not lied. If I had just told them the truth. Even now the thought brings a flash of fear to my heart. It had taken so long for them to accept me. I don't think they would be able to accept this. Hell, it had taken a madman holding a gun to my head for them to speak to me again.

The firm caress against the side of my neck pulls me from my thoughts. I daren't look up. A soft but calloused hand lifts my chin. "Stop it, Del. It's alright."

I can hear the truthfulness in the low tone. I can see it in the single brown eye that looks at me full of conviction.

The sound of the doorbell surprises me. God, they are here. A flood of panic almost engulfs me. It freezes before it can rise to drown me. The look of fear and pain that crosses my lover's face is a blade straight to my heart. Still worse is the look of steely determination that follows it.

The voice that to me is the voice of life and love sounds strange in my ears as it tries to rise a few notes higher than its usual gruffness. "Go get the door, love. I'll be down in a minute."

My feet are already moving, even as my thoughts once again descend into chaos. I stop as I reach the door. I straighten my tie nervously. I bite the inside of my cheek as I stand to my full height. With a jerk, I open the door.

They come in slowly, almost hesitantly. A strong hand that bellies its age grasps mine. He has not hugged me, not once in all these years.

I look at them. I can hear the sound of hesitant steps upstairs. My feet move even before decision coalesces into thought. Once more, I run up the stairs.

I can feel the tension on the broad shoulders I touch. I ignore the sounds of whispering from downstairs as I unbutton the blouse. I kiss the lips that open to protest trying to put all my love into it.

I am quick as I remove the long skirt, the heels, the lipstick. Everything that should not be there. I am gentle as I offer a pair of trousers, a shirt, the scuffed boots that have seen better days, the thick black eye-patch. They are put on quickly even if the hands that handle them tremble.

The soft question reaches my ears. "Are you sure?"

I don't answer as I grasp the hand whose touch is my balm and lead the way downstairs. There, just at the bottom of the stairs, I stop. The slight squeeze of my hand reminds me of the strength that stands quietly beside me. I clear my throat once, twice.

"Mum, Da… I'd like you to meet Jo… my lover."

I watch the surprise on their faces. I wait for it to turn to anger, disgust, rejection once more, like before.

"Nice to meet you." My father's voice, warm, welcoming, sincere.


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