A Place to Dance
Please See Chapter 1 for Disclaimers
"Honey, its been a week, you need to go home and get some sleep. Im here and so is Ricky, if anything happens we promise to call you." Sophia spoke softly as she held her daughters hand. The usually easy going Jolly looked tense and there were deep circles around the blue eyes.
For the past week Jolly hadnt left the hospital at all. The only reason she wasnt wearing the same clothes was because Sophia and Pam were taking care of her while Jolly took care of Mimi. The only time she left the Intensive Care Unit was to visit the babies who had gone through their own tribulations. So far the smallest of them had stopped breathing twice and the other two were fighting severe infections in their underdeveloped lungs. The large amount of medication they were on, and the fight to stay alive wasnt helping in their goal to gain weight.
One of the only times Jolly showed any life was when one of the nurses suggested they give Mimi the medication to stop milk production. Jolly remembered well their talk the night this nightmare had begun, but she was determined to let Mimi make the decision not someone not wanting to be bothered with the task of pumping. The problem was, no amount of talking, hand holding or care from Jolly had gotten Mimi to wake up.
"It could be a year and Ill still be sitting here waiting. She isnt going to wake up without me being here for her to see. I dont want her to feel like shes alone."
"Mimi knows how you feel about her, and Im sure she wouldnt want you to get sick from pushing yourself too far."
Jolly ran her hands up and down the tops of her legs in an effort to release some anxiety. When they made her leave Mimis side she felt like crawling out of her skin. "Can we just drop this discussion? There isnt a damn thing youre going to tell me thatll make me leave." She stood up and released a frustrated sigh. "Im sorry for being so gruff, but I feel so helpless. My lifes always been about order. I draw plans other people follow and in the end I get the results I intended. Thats so much easier than this."
"Jolly, I wish there was some wise thing I could say right now, but life isnt that easy. Its unfair as hell, isnt it?"
A mirthless laugh forced its way out of Jollys chest. "You know what all this has made me think about?"
Sophia watched as Jolly walked another couple of miles pacing the room. "Whats that?"
It was Sophias turn to let out the same kind of laugh. "Why ever would you do that?"
"Youre right, lifes not fair and hes the prime example of that isnt he? I mean hes spent his existence bullying his employees, those he supposedly loves and turning his back on anyone who doesnt march to his tune. Whats all that gotten him? Nothings ever happened to him thats cut him to his very soul has it? Mimi on the other hand is the epitome of goodness and look where she is now."
"I dont know, honey. Losing you out of his life hurt more than hell ever admit."
Jolly spun on her feet and looked at her mother not believing what shed just said. "Yeah right."
"Dont you ever sit and think why he pushed you harder than all the others?"
"Because my siblings are a pack of goddamn sheep. Im sorry, but you know its true."
The older woman patted the hard plastic chair beside her to encourage Jolly to sit. "I know, but when we started having children you were, in his eyes, the most like him." A snort from Jolly made Sophia smile. "Jolly, youve done with your life everything you wanted to, havent you?"
"I guess." Jolly went willingly when her mother pulled her closer so her head was on her shoulder. Taking advantage of their position Sophia ran her fingers through the thick dark hair.
"So has he. Granted you went in a different direction, but neither of you are ones to have your life dictated. He fought with you yes, but he admired your tenacity. If he ever gets over his pride you might find a person you can like. So I believe he has suffered some, and it came from losing you."
"How can you still defend him?" Jolly asked stifling a yawn.
"Itd be easy to hate your father, but Im not wasting time on that anymore. I dont think of what I said as defending him either. I just dont want you to let the past and your anger over it rob you of any relationship, even if its with your father. Go on, close your eyes and get some rest."
Jollys laugh this time sounded almost normal. "Youre giving up on getting me to go home?"
"I dont want to rob you out of seeing Mimi well again either."
Their talks continued for the next week and provided for Jolly the only high points to her day. Sophia told her stories about her father François that Jolly had either not heard or had forgotten. In her time sitting at Mimis bedside Jolly repeated them all as she put lotion on her partners dry skin, or just held her hand. There had been no other bleeding or emergencies but Mimi showed no improvement.
"You should see Moe, baby. Shes gained an ounce this week and she fans her fingers out when I touch the bottoms of her feet. She mustve inherited the Mulle ticklish gene."
"Jolly?" One of the nurses stood in the doorway hating she had to interrupt. Ellie had told them to give Jolly more time with Mimi, but there had to be breaks. Not so much for a patient like Mimi, but for people like Jolly. There was no sense in the caregiver ending up in the hospital along side their loved one. "Times up, darlin. Go take a nap and get some lunch then well sneak you back in."
Ricky was stretched out on the small sofa in the waiting room sleeping when Jolly stepped out. The thought of waking him to go and see the kids occurred to her but she decided to let him sleep awhile longer. With her hands flat against the wall Jolly tried to stretch the muscles in her back when she felt two small hands press against her.
The voice was one she hadnt heard in over a year, and in reality, it was one Jolly had hoped never to hear again. Maybe her mother was right about her being like her father since she was able to carry a grudge so well. "What do you want?"
"I heard about what happened and I wanted to come and see you."
Jolly turned around if only to reclaim her personal space and looked at Christina with cold eyes. "For what, to gloat?"
"Please, Jolly, I want to help. I heard Mimi isnt getting any better and I thought you might need help with your kids. Or maybe you just need a shoulder to lean on once you have to start making the tough decisions."
"Dont be so stubborn, I made mistakes but Im here to prove to you things can be different between us. I still love you. I want us to be able to depend on one another. You need me, Jolly."
"I said get the hell out of here." Jollys voice stayed low but it was enough to wake Ricky, but he stayed where he was for the moment.
"Honey, she could be like this for years and then what? Youre going to just live in this room and hope she wakes up and picks up where you two left off. You have to be realistic here, you have to be " Christina stopped talking when a large hand wrapped around her throat and squeezed.
"I warned you didnt I? I told you to get out. You are fucking something else, lady. My wifes in there and you think its a good time to come here and restake your claim." With each word Jolly squeezed harder until the blonde was hitting her arm in an effort to make her let go.
"You have to let her go, Jolly." Harry spoke soothingly but tried to pry the architects hands off the womans throat. "Let go, Jolly."
"God, what about you ever attracted me? Youre nothing but a fucking ghoul." Christina was turning red and her blows were becoming lighter as she became more light headed, but still Jolly wouldnt release her. It was as if she didnt realize what she was doing.
"Jolly!" Harry screamed. When she did two things happened, Ricky sat up and Jolly punched Harry connecting with her eye.
"Harry, what are you doing here?" The sight of Harry on the floor was as confusing to Jolly as why Christina was gasping for air.
"Getting a black eye would be my first answer. What in the hell were you doing?" Harry pushed Christinas head down after escorting her to a chair. "You couldve really hurt her."
"I dont know. She started talking about how I had to let Mimi go and forget about her and something snapped."
Ricky came up behind Jolly and put his arm around her shoulders pushing her toward the door. "Come on, lets go get a soda or something." She started walking not really caring where she was headed. "As for you, bitch, stay the hell away from my family. You come in here and talk about my kid like shes a piece of celery again, and I swear Ill finish you off myself. Consequences be damned."
They sat together in the cafeteria with two cups of coffee and silence between them. It was Ricky who finally couldnt take it anymore. "Want to talk about it?"
"No, not really." Jolly stirred the contents of the cup slowly as if it was the only thing she was interested in doing with it because she hadnt taken a sip yet. "You should head home and get some sleep. I appreciate you spending the night last night, but I can handle this."
"You look like shit, and youve lost more weight than is healthy in the last two weeks, so I dont think youre handling this too well at all. Youve got to let some of us in eventually, dont you think?"
The milky spoon finally stopped and was put on the table. "What do you want from me? For me to say we should all hold hands around the bed and tell Mimi its ok for her to die? Well fuck you if thats what you want, because its not ok with me. I want my wife back. I want us to go home and raise our girls and be happy. Is that too fucking much to ask?"
All the conversations around them just stopped as Jollys voice got louder. Without realizing it she was screaming at Ricky, taking every bit of frustration she felt on the one person in the world who loved Mimi almost as much as she did. "I dont want that at all, I just wanted you to let some of that out. Its been building for sixteen days and I didnt want it to cut you off at the knees if you kept it all inside."
"God, Ricky, Im so sorry. I didnt mean any of that, I know you love Mimi."
"Kid, I said dont worry about it. Hard as it may be to believe, I have heard the word fuck before, though never with such passion. What I want is for you to keep talking to her and bring her back. Youre the only one of us who can. Im looking forward to that." His hand moved across the table and covered Jollys.
"You miss her huh?"
"Yeah, I miss her, but what Im waiting for is her reaction when she sees those nametags on the incubators. Shes going to get madder at that than finding out Christina was here trying to lure you away."
Jolly laughed until the tears started running down her cheeks and she couldnt stop. The waiting was starting to get to her and her fear was it would break her if Mimi didnt come around soon. "Let it all out, Jolly. Trust me, itll make you feel better."
She cried until there was no emotion left, only the welcomed relief of exhaustion. Harry came in and found Jolly and Ricky both looking drained. "Can I sit?"
"Come to have me arrested for attacking blondes?" joked Jolly.
"After you left she told me you attacked her for no reason and was thinking about pressing charges against you."
Jolly shook off some of her tiredness and pointed her finger at Harry. "Thats a lie, she was "
With both hands up to stop the denial, Harry started laughing. "I didnt say I bought it, just that she said it."
"What changed your mind, doc?" asked Ricky.
"When she wanted to discuss her options over lunch if I was available. If not we could make it dinner if I wanted to give her my phone number. I was sorely tempted to do just that and have Desi talk to her when she called the house. Shes tiny but even Im afraid of her in the middle of a pregnancy."
"She asked you out?" Jolly wasnt surprised but if Christina wanted to stalk someone else for a while until Mimi was better, more power to her. If only it wasnt Harry.
"Why? You think Im bad looking or something?"
"No but trust me you want to stay away from this one, Harry. Shes cute but shes a bit of a physco."
"I was just kidding. I stay away from all of them no matter how good looking they are or arent. Desi is the girl for me, always has been. I have a feeling Christina just found that out not only about me but you as well." Harry was glad to see a smile on Jollys face. "Speaking of small, demanding blondes, mine asked me to come down here and throw my weight around and do something to make you feel better. How would you like to take a nap?"
"Maybe after I go in and see Mimi again. The nurses promised I could go back in after I got some lunch. Id rather not miss spending time with her."
"How about I show you where I want you to take a nap and if you dont want to, well go with your plan? Deal?" She held out her hand and waited for Jolly to take it.
While Jolly was out the nurses had moved Mimi over the bed a little to make room for Jolly. The blankets were turned on one side and another pillow had been placed on the bed. "Want to take me up on my offer?" asked Harry.
"I wont hurt her getting up there?"
"In my medical opinion I think you can only do her good by getting up there. Maybe what Mimi needs is to feel you as well as hear your voice? It might remind her of whats shes missing while shes taking this long nap of hers."
Not needing to be told twice Jolly slipped her shoes off and climbed into the bed as gently as she could. "Is it ok for me to put my arm around her?"
"I think shed like that so go for it. If you need anything just press the nurse call button behind you. If not sweet dreams and stay as long as you like. A full eight hours is what the doctors ordering."
"Thanks, Harry, and Im sorry about your eye."
"You can make it up to me by getting some sleep." The lights were dimmed when Harry stepped out and before shed made it out of the ward Jolly was asleep. But not before pressing a kiss to Mimis temple and enjoying the feel of her against her body.
"I love you."
The soft breath against her neck was what woke Jolly up about five hours later. She stretched slightly and pressed Mimi closer to her. It was nice to finally be this close again and feel Mimis head tucked against her shoulder. In their time together it didnt matter what position they went to sleep in, this was how they always woke up together.
"You know, sweetheart, youd better start thinking about opening your eyes. Youre missing out on a lot here, and if youre not careful Christinas going to show up and raise your kids. Can you believe she showed up here telling me she wanted to help with the girls and make me feel better?"
Jolly laughed as she leaned back a little so she could run a finger along Mimis bottom lip. "I think it wouldve hurt more if Id told her she hasnt crossed my mind once after seeing you naked."
"More than what?" The voice sounded like it hadnt been used in days and Mimi tried to clear her throat before opening her eyes. It died in a squeak when Jolly squeezed Mimi so hard she lifted her off the bed.
"I knew you were going to be ok." Tears ran down Jollys cheeks when she felt Mimi lift her hand and rub the back of her neck. "Thank you for coming back."
"I was never gone, love. Ive just had the hardest time getting my eyes to open." Even with the dim lighting in the room Mimi blinked rapidly until her eyes adjusted. "I missed seeing you, so I guess it was time to wake up."
"Ive been talking to you, did you hear me?"
"I kept calling for you in my dream, but you never answered me, but knowing you, youre never too far away so I kept looking." Her hands went from the back of Jollys neck to her midsection that wasnt completely flat, but now was missing the three people who had stretched it to the limit. "We lost them? Oh, Jolly, Im so sorry. I dont know what happened."
"No, sweetheart, theyre small but theyre fighters like their mama. Three perfect little girls."
"All beautiful blonde girls who get bigger and more gorgeous everyday. You did good, honey." Jolly wiped the tears from Mimis face and laughed. Every bad thought and fear shed experienced in the last couple of weeks just faded from her mind.
Mimi laughed with her and ran her hand over Jollys face into her hair. "No brunettes?"
"Not yet, but my hair was fairly light for about a year so you still have a shot. Not that Im not enjoying this but let me go and get them to call Ellie."
"Not yet." Mimis hands moved again mapping along Jollys body like they were hungry to touch her. "Would you kiss me first?"
"You never have to ask me that, love. Of course I will."
"Even if I have nuclear strength morning breath?"
"Even then." Jolly rolled Mimi onto her back and leaned over her and started on her forehead. As her lips touched now responsive lips, Jolly had a feeling this was what it felt like to win the lottery.
"I love you so much, and Im sorry I worried you. I wanted this to be so different." Mimi put her hand on Jollys chest over her heart.
"Were here and were fine. All five of us are so youve got nothing to be sorry about."
"Good, now answer my question." Mimi demanded as she pinched Jolly on the arm.
"It wouldve hurt the supreme bitch more than what?"
"Before I answer that, I should let you know Christinas probably going to try and sue us for everything including the kids."
"Jolly, I would rather be talking about them anyway so just tell me."
Taking a deep breath Jolly forged on, "She told me it was time to let you go and move on, or in with her. My reaction to that was to try and choke the life out of her."
"Figuratively or literally?"
"That would be literally."
"Even if it costs us everything its worth the price of admission."
Ellie and Sam checked her from head to foot before calling Jolly back into the room. Both of them were scratching their heads in confusion. "Youre sort of an anomaly, Mimi. There was no explanation as to why you were unconscious for so long, and theres no explanation as to why you woke up," said Ellie.
"Some woman was trying to put the moves on Jolly so I had no choice." The group laughed and looked toward the blushing brunette holding Mimis hand. "Can I go and see our daughters?"
"About that. You do realize theyre going to have to hit four pounds before you can take them home. Until then we want you to come as often as you want so theyll know you. Weve been giving them breast milk and theyre improving rapidly, so hopefully theyll be in that great room Desi told us about before too long." Sam rocked on her heels and waited for the objections that usually came in similar situations.
"Whenever I want, I can see them?" Mimi looked like she too was ready to do battle.
"Day or night, sweetie. The more interaction you have with them, the better theyll do," answered Ellie.
"I want to see them now."
A nurse walked in pushing a wheelchair at Mimis request. "We figured, so lets go get you ready." Sam unfastened all the monitors and leads not necessary since they were moving her to a private room closer to the children after the visit. "Besides, we got a look at Harry heading into surgery, I sure dont want to be the one to piss Jolly off by not making you happy. Harry looked like shed been mauled."
"Jolly, whatd you do?" Mimis question made Jolly take a small step away from her.
"It was an accident."
"Spill it, Andolini."
To the amusement of the two physicians Jollys blush got darker. "I accidentally punched her in the eye."
"Jolly! Good God, what for?"
"I was busy strangling Christina when Harry snuck up on me. Its not like I meant to do it, and I did apologize."
Mimi shook her head and pointed an index finger at her partner. "Well talk about this later."
"I told you youd get in trouble," Sam taunted Jolly.
"Sam, do not make me turn around," threatened Ellie. She pushed Mimi out of the room toward the elevators. "Youre worse than a two year old."
"Wait." All three women stopped laughing and looked to Jolly to see what the problem was. "In all the excitement I forgot to go out and tell your father."
"Hes like old faithful here," Sam pointed to Jolly. "The only time I think I saw him leave was when he was going home to get stuff for Jolly."
"How long was I out exactly?"
"A little over two weeks," replied Ellie.
"Oh, Jolly, I am so sorry." Mimi started crying again at the thought of how out of her mind she would have been had it bee Jolly lying there. "I never meant to hurt you like that."
Jolly knelt next to the wheelchair and held Mimi as well as she could. "All that matters to me is youre all right. We just worried so much because we love you so much, but just like always you never let me down. You fought your way back to me and our babies are going to do the same. Theyre yours so its in their makeup to be beautiful and gutsy."
"Lets go get daddy and see the girls."
He was standing looking at the painting over the sofa not really thinking about anything when the caravan stopped in the hallway. "Daddy." Ricky spun around and just as quickly his knees echoed loudly when they hit the tile floor. "Come on, daddy, lets go see your granddaughters." Mimi held her hand out trying to not let the emotions of seeing both her father and Jolly so vulnerable.
Ellie and Sam smiled at each other as they walked behind the two tall protectors holding Mimis hands looked down at her every so often as if convince themselves she was really awake. By the time they walked into where they were keeping the babies no one had dry eyes when they watched Mimi look at each one of the small creatures in turn. The two doctors had no doubt the three angels would have a wonderful life at the knee of Jolly and her special partner.
"They look so much like you when you were born," said Ricky holding his hands close together. "Only smaller."
The pleading face turned toward Ellie and Sam was hard to resist but Mimi would have to wait at least a week before they could take them out and let her hold them. "Give them a little time to get stronger then we promise you never have to put them down if you dont want to," said Sam.
Jolly helped her to stand and showed her where to reach in so Mimi could touch them. "Hey, guys, this is the lady Ive been telling you about. Say hello to your mama." The first little head moved a little as if to better hear the voice that spoke to her all the time. "Didnt I promise shed be ok?"
"Theyre so beautiful, and youre so dead if you really named them Larry, Moe and Curly." Mimi turned and glared at Jolly with tears in her eyes when she saw the pink nametags taped to each incubator.
"Even Im not that brave, sweetheart. You carried them so that means you get to name them. All these girls in here have been more than persistent that I come up with some names but I couldnt do it without you." Jolly pulled her arm tighter around Mimis waist and kissed the top of her head.
"I want us to do it together, baby." Mimi pulled off the first name tag and looked inside to the smallest baby, one of the twins. "I sat and thought about this for months, and like I told you in the beginning, I wanted to give you something of your grandfather, your cousin, you and me all wrapped up in one little bundle. It wouldve never crossed my mind Id get three bundles to give you."
"You always do things different from everyone else, but that is the most unique thing about you." Jolly held her tight so that there was no pressure on Mimis stitches.
"I hope this little girl inherits Francoiss strength and perseverance, so what do you think of Francis?"
"I love it."
Mimi moved to the next baby, the other twin with the white blonde hair. "Im thinking this little girl will steal your heart every time she bats her eyes at you. Itll be my job to teach them how sweet you are." She turned and ran her hand over the little back, loving how soft the skin was. "Daddys right, you may never survive into their teens since these two little ones look so much like me."
"Then its only fair she share a little of her mama, and they dont need any lessons on how to play me. You do that well enough already." Jolly turned Mimis head and kissed her. "How does Laine sound, Madeline Laine Andolini?"
"I didnt mean for you to name her for me."
"Madeline, if she grows up to be like you, how lucky would we be?"
"Then I get to name Moe over there." Mimi pulled off the last of the nametags the staff had put up after listening to Jolly talking to the babies. "So Jolly Lee Andolini, how about Lee?"
"Francis, Laine and Lee welcome to the world and welcome to our family."
"Ok, I cant stand it anymore. Here put these on." Ellie held out two sterile gowns and a pair of masks. "Come on, Ricky, lets give them a few minutes alone."
Not wanting to miss seeing Mimi hold her daughters for the first time, Ricky stood at the edge of the observation glass and looked on, his forehead pressed to the window. He might not have been the best father in the world but Ricky remembered the day the nurse put Mimi in his arms for the first time. In his mind he had made so many promises that day. Hed failed at keeping most of them, but making Jolly wake up to the life she was meant to lead had made up for a lot Ricky had done wrong. He waved to Mimi when she stepped up holding Lee; behind her the nurse put both Francis and Laine in Jollys arms.
Jolly looked down at the two tiny miracles in her arms and thought her lips would crack from the smile on her face. "What?"
"Why are my breasts killing me?"
"They wanted to give you something to stop the milk youre producing, and I know what you said, but I thought it should be up to you. If you want the nurse said it wouldnt take long and we can give them formula instead. Whatever you decide will be all right with me."
With careful steps Mimi sat in the rocker and waved Jolly over. "I was miserable at the time, which in most cases makes me an idiot. Theres nothing I would enjoy more than to feed them. If I do Ill get to hold them and maybe theyll come home sooner."
Jolly sat across from her and played holder as Mimi held all three of them to her breasts. When she was done one of the nurses came in and changed them all before putting them back. The room they had put Mimi in allowed for everyone to be able to come and see her together and after a long afternoon of kissing and crying, the young mothers were left alone for the night. Before they got ready for bed, Jolly walked Mimi back to the nursery so she could sing each of the little girls a song to put them to sleep.
"Are you ready for all this, honey?" Mimi moved around until she was comfortable lying next to Jolly. She was glad they hadnt had to punch anyone else for trying to keep them apart for the night. After everything that had happened she could tell that Jolly wasnt quite over the trauma of it all.
"One of the things I was telling you when you were out of it, was what wed be doing about thirty years from now. Well be sitting out in the yard with a whole bunch of grandkids running around. Inside therell be a whole house full of art the girls did. Since we raised them theyll give us a few pieces at a reasonable price." Mimi laughed and slapped Jollys arm.
"They all wont be painters, goober. I bet we get at least one whittler in the bunch." With slow circles, Mimi ran her hand over Jollys chest feeling her partner relax with the attention. "You know something?"
"I feel so happy right now that Im about to burst." Jolly laughed and nodded her head. "And you know what happens when I get like that dont you?"
"Yes I do, and youre in no shape to be that happy so think about something else."
"Come on, Jolly, we can talk about it cant we? You just wait until I get over all this child birthing stuff, youre in for the night of your life."
Jolly bent her head and kissed Mimi as a down payment on the promise the blonde had just made. "Lucky me."
They snuggled down for the night each thinking the same thoughts after the memories Mimi had evoked. Ellie and Sam had suspended their sex life for months, but they had more than saved up on experiences before that had happened. Mimi might have started as a novice, but with Jolly a now willing participant to her advances, she had driven the older woman to distraction.
"Ricky, call the lumber yard and tell those idiots they delivered two by tens and I specifically asked for two by fourteens. If they dont get their asses here in an hour Im going to have to send all these guys home, and Im taking it out of their hides." Jolly was screaming in frustration but Ricky didnt take it personally. They had been rained out for the last couple of days that Jolly had used to fine tune a few things on the plans, and to spend time with Mimi. Time well spent, but now the work was backed up.
"Will do, boss, and since youre already pissed, Ill go ahead and tell you now that Im leaving early."
A pair of aggravated blue eyes looked up at him from the blueprints and Ricky could have sworn Jolly had growled at him. "What in the hell for?"
Ricky twirled a nail punch in his fingers and tried not to look smug. "Ive got a date tonight, so I want to go home and wash my hair. Im taking Veronica out to dinner."
"And here I thought I was the fairy in the ointment," teased Jolly.
"You better not let Mimi hear you threatening me like that, grandpa."
He stopped his twirling so he could glare back at Jolly. "Im not the whipped one, smart ass."
A swift pinch to the back of his arm made Ricky drop the tool he was playing with. "Daddy, Id appreciate if you didnt tell Jolly shes whipped. Thats supposed to be a secret."
"Damn, girl, that hurt like hell." The grumble quickly change to a laugh when Mimi kissed his cheek.
"I tried to warn you, old man." Jolly straightened up and adjusted her tool belt. She wanted a better look at the jeans Mimi had on, or better yet, the movement of the hips in those jeans as she moved closer. "Hi, baby."
"Hey yourself. Busy?"
"Waiting on my right order of wood to get here." Jolly pulled the cap she was wearing off with an impatient tug. Appreciative eyes took in the tall body a little at a time loving the picture Jolly made. Despite the chilly weather she was wearing shorts that were a little longer than the ones she wore in the summer heat, but still showed a good bit of muscled tanned legs. Brown thick socks spilled over the top of the comfortable construction boots, and the leather tool belt hung low on Jollys hips. "Any more delays and well start losing money out here."
The project was one Jolly had agreed to do on a shoestring budget so she was watching the bottom line as much as possible without making the work suffer. It wasnt fair to Tim to share the costs of her good deed. They were repairing parts of an old retirement home near the park as well as adding a rec center for the residents. The peeling paint and worn exterior needed more work than the project had money for, but Jolly was determined to stretch every cent to bring the historically registered building back to life.
"How long before the wood gets here?" asked Mimi.
Ricky put the phone down and held up two fingers making Jollys smile disappear. "Two fucking hours?"
"Maybe one and a half but Id count on about two and some. No sweat, boss, we can pull all that rotten wood out of the back corner until it gets here. That way it gets done and no one goes home. Im pretty sure we have enough materials to get that part done."
"Thanks, man." Behind her father, Mimi smiled at Jollys choice of words. Two fucking hours is just what she had planned. "Go ahead and hand out assignments and Ill be there in a minute."
"Sure thing." Ricky laughed at the gleam in Mimis eye. It was weird to think of his little girl sleeping with someone, but he had feeling the last thing Jolly would be doing was ripping up an rotten outer wall.
"Hey, beautiful, sorry about that. What brings you down here besides making me feel better?"
Mimi walked toward her slowly setting the bait. "I came to ask you a favor."
"Sure, what can I do for you?"
"The door to the studio is stuck and I cant get it to open."
Jolly let Ricky know where she was going before jumping in her truck to follow Mimi home. He guessed after a few years together, Jolly would learn to figure Mimi out, but today shed been snagged as easily as a trout in a small aquarium.
"Things are going to be different now, huh?" asked one of the workers who had been with Jolly for years.
"I would definitely count on it. Why, you got a problem?" asked Ricky.
"No way, Ricky, that girl of yours is the best thing thats happened to Jolly."
Jollys Land Cruiser, which Mimi was now driving, was parked in its usual spot but its driver was nowhere to be seen. "I didnt give her that much of a head start." Jolly was talking to herself as she reached over for her tool belt in case she needed it to fix the door. In full forward stride she turned the knob for the front door and crashed into it when she found it was locked. "What the hell, she never locks this door."
Mimi heard the muttering from the other side but ignored it wanting Jolly to work for it a little bit. Knocking came next but she still waited hoping Jolly hadnt broken her nose on the door. When the doorbell rang twice Mimi opened the door and looked at Jolly like shed never seen her before.
"Can I help you?" The annoyed comment about to escape for having been kept waiting died on Jollys lips when she saw Mimi had changed. "Are you here about the door?" Jolly just nodded. "Good, come with me, I actually have a little project in the bedroom for you to do first."
The blonde waited for Jolly to stop in the middle of the bedroom before saying anything else. She knew her partner was interested since she hadnt talked about going back to work. With a little experience Mimi cursed herself for not painting Jollys mural naked so they could have moved to this part of their relationship sooner.
"Have I ever told you how hot you make me in this outfit?" The first question got the work boots to move further apart as Jolly tried to steady her stance.
"No, maam, you havent."
"Oh it does. When I was growing up all my friends talked about this hunk and that hunk, but I never got it until I saw you for the first time." Mimi stepped behind Jolly as she spoke and ran her hands over the t-shirt covered back. "You look so sexy with those tools hanging around your waist, and all these muscles showing." The hands moved down to Jollys legs making her breathing speed up.
With a quick move the button to Jollys shorts popped open making her drop her tool belt. "You left this morning and I started to ache for you." Mimi pulled the tie of her robe open and dropped the garment on Jollys forgotten tools. A soft growl from Jolly followed when Mimi moved away from her, but just as quickly turned into a moan when Mimi sat naked on the bed. "It made me seek out some sort of relief."
Frozen in place, Jolly watched the small hand move over the flat abdomen to one of the perfect breasts. Mimi circled the nipple with her finger until it got so hard it looked painful. "I think about you, and like the song says, I want to touch myself." The lucky finger moved to the other nipple giving it the same treatment. "Only thing is, I much rather when its your hands on me." When the circling digit stopped and Mimi pinched and pulled her nipples Jolly almost passed out.
"I think about your hands on me and it makes me want to make love." Mimis hands went from her chest down her body. She leaned back and put both feet at the edge of the bed. Slowly, and with a surprisingly steady hand, Mimi dipped her fingers into her own wetness. Holding up the glistening digits she asked Jolly, "Does it do the same for you?"
There was no verbal answer out of Jolly. She just moved across the room and buried her face where Mimis fingers had just been. Just a little taste was all Mimi was willing to give before she wrapped her fingers in Jollys hair and pulled. "I want to feel you on top of me, lover. I want you to hear what you do to me."
Two of Jollys fingers slid into Mimis wetness but parted before touching the blonde where she desperately wanted Jolly to be touching. The move made the nub almost throb as the pleasing fingers stroked around it still not touching.
"Baby, please, just touch me." Mimi had lost control of the situation and he knew it.
"I have every intention of touching you." The fingers stopped and squeezed getting Mimi to buck up into Jollys body. The pressure made Mimi claw at Jollys back until she had pulled the t-shirt up enough so she could feel skin.
Jolly started her soft massage again only this time as her fingers slid down they went far enough to just reach the opening of Mimis sex. "Youre killing me, baby."
"You ready for me, Mimi?"
The question had to be a hypothetical but Mimi wasnt chancing it. "Fill me up and take whats yours." Two fingers wrenched a moan out of Mimi that Jolly felt in her bones. When her thumb covered the neglected nub, Mimi ran her nails up Jollys back so hard it left red streaks. "Yeah, like that, baby. Dont stop."
Jolly went slow, wanting Mimis pleasure to last, but when the blonde wrapped her legs around her waist, she gave in and gave her lover relief. Mimis inner walls squeezed her fingers so hard at the end Jolly thought they would leave bruises. They shared a kiss and as Jolly went to sit up, she found Mimi had the strength to roll her over onto her back.
"Theres something else Ive been thinking about since you left this morning." Mimi stood between the booted feet and leaned over Jollys body. She lowered the zipper on the shorts so she could slide her hand inside. "Something tells me were on the same wavelength." Her fingers were surrounded by wet heat and Jollys eyes looked almost pleading. "Will you charge me extra for the service call if I take a little taste?" The shorts and underwear slid down until they hit the boots.
"Free samples all day long for you," offered Jolly.
"Lucky for me Im your only client." Mimi started with a flat tongue so she could enjoy the feel of Jollys most intimate place. When a big hand ran through her hair as encouragement she sucked in the hard bundle and gave Jolly what she wanted. She enjoyed the way Jollys hips came up to meet her and the way her fingers tightened on her locks the closer Jolly got.
The moans and thrusting Jolly was doing was driving Mimi insane. Her groin was aching again but she didnt want to stop until Jolly had finished. Mimi was surprised when Jolly pulled away getting her to stop. "Whats wrong, baby?"
"Nothings wrong, but things could be more right with one little move on your part." Jolly smiled down at her and held her hand out. "Climb up here and well do this together." Mimi lowered herself onto Jollys mouth before happily returning to what shed been doing.
"Whatre you thinking about?" asked Mimi softly.
"Stuck doors." Jolly looked down when she felt Mimis face grow warm. "Madeline, after everything you did to me that day youre going to blush now?"
"It was nice wasnt it? We had just found out we were pregnant with the girls and I was so happy I wanted to find some way to show you. More than anything, Jolly, I want that part of our relationship to always be like that day. I want to know I please you."
"Youre the best, sweetheart. Days like that are what make me want to quit working at about noon." Jolly kissed her forehead before relaxing back into the bed. "Though next time you should give me the opportunity to take my boots off."
"Honey, it was the boots that sparked my imagination to begin with. We had a great time, and think about how grateful that driver was when you didnt scream at him for being over an hour late with your wood."
It felt good to Jolly to just laugh again. "I wouldve but I was too busy blushing myself to make it sound convincing."
"You never blush for me, but you do it for other people? What made you act so out of character?"
"Your father asking me how I managed to get a hickey on my neck from fixing a door."
The heat on her chest got worse making Jolly laugh harder. "You never told me that. Howd you answer him? God, Ill never be able to look him in the eye again," whined Mimi.
"I told him you pay all my home repair service with sexual favors." A nurse cracked the door and gave them a stern look when the laughing Mimis pinch set off got too loud.
"I feel horrible about just leaving them here all alone." Dressed in loose comfortable clothing, Mimi was set to leave the hospital after a week of recovering. She leaned back against Jolly as they both looked in on their children.
"Baby, they wont exactly be alone, and Sam and Ellie said you can come by anytime you want. Ill bring you whenever you want to come see them."
"Its just Ive read how important it is for them to connect to us now. I dont want them to think were abandoning them because theyre not perfect." Mimi started crying again making Jolly wonder if she was in danger of dehydration she did it so often. Sam had explained only time and a lot of hand holding on her part would alleviate the problem, so she was taking the doctors advice. She held Mimi and rocked her until the emotions ran their course. There was no need to say anything since Mimi wouldnt respond to words just actions. Assurance would come when her small blonde saw that she was telling the truth, and a trip to the hospital would only be a request away.
Jolly figured they would be at the hospital in the middle of the night or whenever Mimis mothering radar would start to ping. The truth was she wouldnt mind what time it was, just as long as Laine, Francis and Lee knew how cherished they were. There was no way she was taking any chapters out of Anthonys book of parenting.
"Theyll have a lifetime of connecting with us, sweetheart, and the next six weeks wont be an exception to that fact. You have to come at least once a day and feed them so theyll know you, I promise." Mimi clung to her tighter as Jolly spoke softly to her. Another new mother walked slowly to the next section of glass trying to give them their privacy. Jolly noticed the woman dividing her time between looking at her new baby and looking at them. She smiled at the woman over Mimis head hoping she wasnt thinking of giving them a hard time.
"Im sorry, I dont want to bother you but I just wanted to let you know my first child, Bobby was a preemie and hes doing great. When I had to leave him here I felt like the worse mother in the world, like Id failed him, but its like they know they have to get better before they can go home." The woman stepped closer and put her hand on Mimis shoulder. "Theyre tiny things, but they have a great capacity for love."
"Thank you for telling us that. How old is Bobby now?" asked Mimi.
"Hes seven and a terror, so enjoy the fact they cant walk yet. Hes still my baby though even after this fifth little one."
Jolly laughed and felt Mimi laugh along with her. "One more pregnancy and well pass you up."
"All three of those are yours?" she asked pointing to the incubators.
"Yep, all three," beamed Mimi.
"Well congratulations, and good luck."
Jolly pulled a chocolate cigar with a pink wrapper out of her breast pocket and handed it over. "Thank you."
"Just what you want to give an overweight hormonal woman, chocolate," joked the woman holding her stomach. She waved to them as she made her way back to her room peeling the wrapper off her treat.
"I still wish we could bring them home. Its so drab in here, they arent going to get any visual stimulation." It was no time to remind Mimi the staff still had patches over the girls eyes so Jolly wisely kept her mouth shut.
Sam and Ellie entered the ward as Mimi continued with her list of reasons they shouldnt leave the children alone in the hospital. They pair in white lab coats gave Jolly an idea that would make everyone happy if they agreed.
"Honey, did you hear me?" Jollys blank expression said she hadnt.
"Sorry, I see our good doctors are here," she turned Mimi around to show her. "Go in with Ellie and say good bye to the girls for now."
The tall doctor stayed behind hoping to get an honest assessment on how Mimi was really doing. Leaving children in the hospital even over night was traumatizing to young parents. "Is she holding up ok?"
"No, but you and the hospital can fix that." The more Jolly thought about her formulating plan, the bigger her smile got.
Sam crossed her arms and waited for the explanation of how Mimi needed a roll away bed or something brought in to be closer to her babies. "Hows that?"
Jolly pointed to the spotless beige walls and started with her pitch. "For the one place in the hospital where most people are supposed to be happy, it looks like a prison."
"Hospitals dont have money to decorate, Jolly, much less buy art. Think of the new babies as our decorations. All you have to do is look through the glass for works of art."
"True, but lucky for you, the new daughters of one of the citys most talented artists are hanging out here for the next month or so. I bet if you asked real nice shed liven up these walls for you."
The arms stayed crossed but Sam did crack a smile. "Like I said, administration wont spend money on something like that. Ive seen what Mimis pieces go for, we cant afford her."
"How about you feed her, get her a comfortable chair to work out of and let her hold the girls whenever she wants?" Jolly had her hand out waiting for Sam to seal the deal. "Its a great opportunity thatll make us all happy.
"I think we can swing that past administration, especially when I tell them its Mimi Mulle doing the painting."
"Its Mimi Andolini now, doc. I dont want my kids and me to have different names, so try and remember that." Mimi stepped out with Ellie and caught the last part of the conversation. "And what exactly am I painting?"
The doctor and Mimis partner explained what they had in mind watching as Mimis smile grew brighter and brighter. Since she was herself still recovering, Mimi was talked into starting with the half wall under the observation windows to keep her off her feet.
After the initial excitement Mimi got quiet and walked the hall slowly. Sam and Ellie were about to tell her not to worry about taking on the project if it was going to be too much for her when Jolly gave them a lesson in understanding Mimi. "Each foot she passes is one more section of art completed in her head. She gets really focused when she plans, and becomes totally absorbed when she starts. I have a feeling therell be three new reasons who might change that now. Ill be the one she forgets about now."
"How can I forget you when youre always looking out for me?" Mimi eased her way back into the circle of Jollys arms and exhaled into her chest. "I love the way you know me. Thanks for thinking of a way to make me not go crazy by the time this is all over. I love you, Jolly."
"I love you too, sweetheart. Come on, lets get you home to your sketchbooks."
They went home until Mimis breasts felt like they were going to burst. Once she had fed the kids some of the staff watched in amazement as images started to appear under the wax pencil Mimi had brought with her. Before the afternoon was over, the hospital administrator took over twenty minutes to thank Mimi for her selfless act making Harry, Ellie and Sam laugh. The man was usually one big scowl and his favorite word was no, so to see him be so demonstrative and nice was a welcomed change.
In the next weeks, everyone one in the natal unit watched as Mimi added color to her outline and the three Andolini girls gained weight. The day the tape came off the small sets of eyes, with both Mimi and Jolly looking on, was the day the first section was completed Mimi was so full of energy. It was both strange and wonderful to find colors so familiar in the small faces. The twins Francis and Laine both had bright green eyes like hers and Lee had inherited Jollys blues.
When the girls started to close in on their goal weight, the staff was almost sorry. Not that they wished the children ill, but with their departure so would the fireball Mimi. It was fun to see the faces of new big brothers and sisters when they came to visit new siblings. The fantasy world Mimi had created made them sometimes just stand in the middle of the wards hall and stare.
There were dragons flying on the ceiling with flowers in their claws, children playing an assortment of things, bears peeking form behind multicolored trees, dinosaurs that served as slides, and in the middle, three small babies holding small hammers in their hands building a rainbow.
The hospital had arranged a dedication ceremony the day the new parents were given the go ahead to take the girls home. All that was left was for Mimi to sign her name to the mural and it would be done.
"Thanks for all this, Mimi. When you have the next batch maybe you could spruce up the lobby," joked Sam.
"How about if I just agree to do it no matter what. This long stay was a one shot deal." Ellie frowned and wondered if the trauma had turned Mimi off to having any other children. "Dont worry, Ellie, its just next time I plan to be here only over night then Im taking everyone home with me."
They drove home slowly with the new car seats securely fastened, looking forward to starting their family life without all the onlookers. Sophia and Ricky were waiting at home, anxious to get a turn holding their new granddaughters. The only sad thing Mimi had experienced was her mother not calling to congratulate them or ask about her new granddaughters, which meant Anthony hadnt called Jolly either. Before it depressed her too much, Desi had come by with her business partner Tony. The two of them had talked her into a new show before the visit was over, so she would have plenty of other things to think about to dwell on her mother. Tony reminded Mimi so much of herself it was hard to think about anything negative when he was around.
"Youre sure youre ready for this?" asked Mimi when they pulled into the driveway.
"All its going to take is about eighteen years to get them ready to leave for college, so yeah. This will be a piece of cake."
Laine was the last one to be fed that night, and like her sisters, she was rocked and sung to by Mimi until she fell asleep. When she did Mimi put her in the same bed as Francis and Lee. Until they were bigger, Mimi was planning to keep them together since they seemed to do better when they were in close proximity. Once she was convinced they were all sleeping Mimi went to join Jolly on the other rocker in the room. It was still amusing to watch Jolly when she looked at the girls. Mimi had seen more than one deep breath that ended with a big smile and a puffed up chest full of pride.
"Amazing isnt it?" asked Mimi.
"Its like Christmas every time I walk in here and see them. I love you for giving me so much."
After a long kiss, Mimi playfully pulled on Jollys ponytail and made her an offer. "The baby monitor is setup, you want to take me to bed?"
This time the tug on Jollys hair was a little harder. "No? You have plans to go out on the town or something?"
Jolly stood and took Mimis hand leading her to the back of the house. "Actually I have plans on surprising you. I wanted you to have something to remember their birth by aside from the masterpiece you created, so I have a surprise for you."
"Jolly, I have you thats all I need."
"Then think of this as a place I can take you to stargaze and hold you. And since we have so much fun doing it, a place to dance."
Nestled under one of the big oaks in the yard stood Mimis new gazebo. Jolly had left the roof just a series of beams knowing how much Mimi loved open spaces. The climbing vine she had planted, whose flowers would one day provide a dark purple tint to Mimis paints, would eventually provide shade once it wove through the top, but for now the sky provided a good canopy. On a small plaque over the opening were three names with a date of birth. Laine, Francis and Lee Andolini, all sharing the same birthday. Mimi laughed when she saw other spaces for the names that would come after the first three. This would be a perfect place to celebrate all the birthdays in their future.
"Thank you for my wonderful life, Mimi." Jolly turned on the outside speakers and waited for Mimi to finish looking and touching some of the hand carved surfaces. While Mimi spent her days at the hospital creating something for new families to enjoy for years, Jolly had spent her time creating something for Mimi alone. If she could Jolly would spend a lifetime making things for Mimi to show her how special she was.
"Love, its you who makes mine complete."
"Dance with me?" asked Jolly holding her arms open. There was no hesitation on Mimis part. She wanted to be held by the woman who held her heart. It was something she had missed when standing for any amount of time had become impossible.
Mimi swayed along with Jolly praying the girls would sleep for at least a couple of hours. "I have a surprise for you too."
"Youre not pregnant are you?" teased Jolly.
"Not yet, but Im finally recovered from being pregnant and Im really happy." Mimi ran her hands up Jollys chest very slowly, stopping when they were linked behind the taller womans neck where they only stayed for a moment before starting their roaming again.
"Delirious," said Mimi moving her hands to Jollys backside.
"Gotta love happy," said Jolly as she scooped a laughing Mimi into her arms.
The soft music filtered through the night forgotten as the two lovers headed inside. Standing at the fence watching them was their neighbor, Mr. Verret. Ben still brought Mimi tomatoes and other things from his garden, only now it amused him to no end the blush his visits caused. He figured they were caused from the noises he heard coming out of her bedroom now. Ever since the architect had moved in the blinds were closed more often and his young blonde neighbor looked like someone had given her the world as a gift she was so happy.
"Dancing? Is that what they call it these days?" He said to himself as he moved the hose to the next section of garden.
Ben laughed when the dark wooden blinds shut for the night, but not before Jolly gave him a quick wave and a wink. "Youre one lucky bastard, Jolly. May you both enjoy a lot of dances for years to come." The squeal from Mimi muffled by the outer bedroom wall told him they would.
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