Part 4 of 4
By Anne Azel
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters and events in the Seasons series are the creation of the author.
My thanks to the readers who have been so kind in showing their appreciation of my stories. You are a great bunch! My special thanks to Lisa and Inga, who are my patient beta readers, and Susan for her comments and insights.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction, please do not read on if you are underage or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp.
A still sleepy principal reached out a hand from under the covers and snagged the phone. "Hello?"
"They're here!" came the cheery voice of Mary Drouillard over the line. "George is just unpacking them now! Greta's T-shirt order is here too. She's on her way over. George and I have already set two aside for us!"
Janet smiled. Mary never introduced a subject. She just expected people to know what she was thinking. "What is here?"
"Why your snowmobile suits in your racing colours that Robbie ordered for the whole family! Oh! George is holding one up now! It's lovely, black with a gold slash down each side. You are going to look super! Bartlett will be able to hold their head up with pride this year, I can tell you!"
Janet controlled her emotions long enough to say, "Really! Well, that's great, and just in time too! We'll be down later today to pick them up."
Robbie came into the bedroom, drying her hair with a towel, to run into a small but mighty barrier. "You ordered racing colours?!" Janet hissed.
Big eyes looked out between strands of damp, tousled hair making her look a bit like Rufus. "Yeah. Are they here? I was beginning to think that they wouldn't get here in time for the winter carnival."
"You promised me that this would just be fun! No getting carried away! Damn it, Robbie! I was just at a Williams' funeral where the theme was racing colours! I don't want to attend another one!" Janet fought to control her emotions. If anything happened to Robbie, she wasn't sure she could go on.
Robbie pushed the hair off her face, realizing that Janet was really upset. "It's just an outfit, Janet. Team Bartlett has to look the part." To Robbie it was just all fun. The show, the competition, it was just all part and parcel of being Robbie Williams. She wasn't sure she understood Janet's fears. What could go wrong?
"Team Bartlett?!" fumed Janet, hands on hips.
"Hey it's no big deal!" protested Robbie. "It seems Bartlett has never had anyone enter the regional races before, so we are sort of the town's team by default. That's all. And George said all the other teams had colours so what was I going to do!" smiled Robbie innocently.
"Black and gold!" exclaimed Janet, realizing she was losing ground. Loving a Williams was no easy task. She was starting to realize why Alexandria had divorced herself from her feelings; it was probably the only way to survive.
Robbie wiggled her eyebrows. Janet threw up her hands in frustration. "I want final say. If I think it's too dangerous then I don't want you racing. It scares me," finished Janet her lip quivering.
Robbie pulled her close, not really understanding but moved by Janet's distress. "Hey, it's just a small, friendly contest. Okay, you've got final say. We Williams will be good. I promise."
Janet felt some of the tension releasing from around her heart. It was as if Robbie was just attracted to danger. She didn't want to chain her lover's free spirit but she did feel the need for placing some checks and balances on the woman. She had a daughter and responsibilities. She wanted Robbie to learn that she couldn't just live for the minute. "Robbie Williams, you are an olive!" she sighed.
"Mmmmm, let's have breakfast at Maria's and go pick up the outfits, okay? We can go to town on the snowmobiles!" laughed Robbie, almost dancing with excitement as she hugged Janet.
Janet smiled, lapping up Robbie's enthusiasm. " Okay. Let's get the kids up.
The four Williams paraded into Maria's and stripped off the layers of snow wear, their faces red with the cold. Outside, the ever faithful, Rufus sat looking through the window and waiting for the table scraps. The family had deliberately kept the speed of their snowmobiles down so that the determined dog could keep up. Maria bustled over. "Look, look, I am second to own one. Greta brought a box in for me to sell here in the store! These colours suits me, I think!
The group turned to see Maria in a black T-shirt with a gold four centimeter stripe along the shoulders and down the sides. On the left side in gold was the logo of a racing snowmobile. Across the top it read, "Team Williams" and below was written, "Bartlett's own!"
"Robbie...," started Janet.
"I didn't know a thing about it," cut in the director. Then she smiled. "We'll take four please!"
"Ahhh, good! They are selling like hot cakes! Greta is using them as a fund raiser for the drama society!" explained Maria bustling off. Janet looked around. Everyone was looking at them. She'd come to expect this but today the other patrons were all smiling and holding up T-shirts or pointing to the ones they were already wearing.
Janet sat down defeated. Robbie and Ryan went around signing the T-shirts. Janet looked over at Reb, who was sitting forgotten in the highchair. "We should have just driven the truck home ourselves the night of the funeral," Janet sighed. Reb blew a raspberry and laughed at Robbie across the room. "Great! My own daughter has become an olive."
The day of the carnival was beautiful; clear, calm, and crisp. There were games for the kids and rides on horse drawn sleds. The Lions Club was playing Christmas songs over the baseball park loud speaker and the women's auxilary were selling hot drinks, and barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers.
Ryan went off with some school friends, and Robbie took Reb on the small Ferris Wheel with Janet, rocking the seat back and forth until Janet ordered her to stop. Then they leapt on the back of a wagon covered with straw, and rode around the lake singing Christmas carols along with a handful of other town's people.
Back at the carnival, Janet took Reb and told Robbie that she had to go and do her half hour selling at the auxilary bake sale table. "Robbie, look around but please don't get into trouble!" she insisted.
Robbie looked angelic. "I am here just to have fun like any other Bartlett citizen!" she huffed.
"Be good," Janet reinforced and hurried off to help the ladies. Robbie walked along checking out the various displays set up by different companies. She saw a handmade cedar picnic table that she wanted to show Janet. They could put it on the porch or down by the lake to use in the summer.
Rounding the corner, her eyes lit up. There ahead of her was her childhood fantasy, a bright red fire engine with its yellow ladder extended! She made a bee line for it. "What about you, Walt? The volunteer fire department needs new recruits. You get to ride on the fire truck and hack through your neighbour's roof with an axe!" laughed George Drouillard, as Robbie came up.
"Sorry, George, my back's not up to it!" Walt responded moving on.
"You run the fire department too?!" asked Robbie in wonder, staring at the big, red, fire eating machine with dancing eyes.
"Hi , Robbie. Yup, I've been the Fire Chief of the Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department for about ten years now, because I've got the only garage big enough to keep old Betsy-Lou in."
"I want to join."
George chuckled and scratched a spot above his ear with a finger. "Well, Robbie, I don't think there is a rule against women belonging but it's never happened before. You see that ladder, there. You gotta be able to carry a full grown man down it. Not too many women can do that!"
"I can," stated Robbie, her blue eyes radiating confidence.
"Well," George laughed nervously. "I don't suppose we'll have any trouble finding a volunteer to help you with that test!
Ryan and her friends heard the excitement and came over. There was her mother climbing into yellow, rubber pullovers and big black boots. Standing up on a platform by the ladder was Dave Potts who ran the general store. "Hey, Dave, watch where you put your hands now!" someone yelled up.
"Oh dear," flustered David, who like his brother, was a shy, middle aged bachelor. He wasn't at all sure about being carried over the shoulder by the star who had been named one of the most beautiful and sexy women of the decade by People magazine.
"Two dollars says she drops him," called out someone.
"Five dollars says she gets him down but he dies of a heart attack with a grin on his face!" Everyone laughed and poor David, stranded at the top of the ladder, turned beet red.
"You can't do this, George! Every man in town will be setting his house on fire and rushing to the second floor!" More laughs and good natured fun followed as Robbie pulled on her work gloves and set her helmet in place.
"Hey, mom!" waved Ryan. Robbie looked over, saw her daughter and smiled. Ryan leaned over the rail. "You show them guys!" Robbie winked and swung up on the back of the truck and headed up.
At the top, she slung David's arm over her head, crouched and easily lifted the stocky man up on her shoulder. The crowd cheered. David closed his eyes.
This was the hard part, and the crowd fell silent. The other volunteers stood below with the fire net ready. For a second, she was hit by the pressure that she had taken on. That was her daughter down there. She couldn't fail and she couldn't fall. Maybe that was what Janet had tried to make her see.
Robbie got a good grip on the ladder with one hand and another on David, placed her left foot securely on the rung and swung out and around so that her other foot slipped onto the rung below. She shifted David into a more comfortable position and headed down the ladder to cheers and whistles from the crowd.
At the bottom, a few of the volunteers helped David, weak in the knees from the experience, down off the truck. Then Robbie jumped down. "You okay?" she asked David, who sat on the fender looking very pale.
"I'm fine. Dear me, nothing like that is ever happened to me before!" he gasped. Robbie laughed and leaned forward and pecked him on the cheek. Lucier, who had missed the ladder descent, had to be satisfied with a picture of Robbie's pucker and David's startled face. It appeared on the front page of the paper that Friday with the caption, Hot New Firefighter.
Janet stopped dead when she saw Robbie and Ryan advancing towards her. Robbie was dressed in the Fire Department yellow pants and jacket and Ryan was wearing a fire fighter's helmet. "Guess what, Aunt Janet. Mom carried David Potts down the fire ladder, and now she's a member of the Volunteer Fire Brigade!" bragged Ryan. "She's got a bleeper and everything!"
Robbie stood there with that silly grin she got when she was particularly happy with life and hadn't a care in the world. Janet closed her eyes and shook her head. Bartlett was never going to recover from Robbie Williams and her daughter. Somehow she had to make Robbie realize that little Bartlett was not Robbie's personal play ground.
Janet had to admit that Robbie had shown considerable restraint when they walked over, that afternoon, to where the races were being held in the old cow pasture, beyond the Lion's Club house. Big trailers with bright logos down the side provided storage for half a dozen snowmobiles and a full repair shop. The drivers had teams of helpers working on their machines. Team Williams was this pathetically small open trailer with one black and gold snowmobile perched on top. Their team consisted of the Williams clan and George Drouillard with a Jerry can of gas.
What they lacked in equipment, they made up for in spirit, however. Ryan drove their team entry slowly over to the warm up area with Reb sitting in front of her. The child's helmet she wore made her look like a little alien. Black and gold homemade banners dotted the crowd and a big cheer went up as they arrived. The Williams clan, all dressed in identical snowmobile suits waved back. How did I get to be part of another Williams orchestrated event? Janet wondered.
Janet wished Ryan luck in the under sixteen race and took Reb to find a good place to stand. Robbie stayed behind with her daughter to review their plans for the race. "Okay, kid. Remember to watch your speed into the third turn. It's icy over there, and you don't want to spin out," cautioned Robbie, checking everything over once again, before letting Ryan move up to the starting line with their snowmobile.
"Okay, mom!" smiled Ryan, with a sparkle in her eye at the thought of the speed and competition to come.
Robbie recognized the look with a sudden spurt of fear. She pulled Ryan's helmeted head close and spoke into her ear. "You be careful. I want you back in one piece. I love you!" Ryan smiled and gave her mom a quick one armed hug, then moved up to the starting line with the others.
Robbie ran around to stand with Janet at the starting line. "She'll be okay," Robbie reassured Janet and herself as she bounced from foot to foot nervously. Janet reached out and rubbed Robbie's back, feeling the tense muscles under her racing jacket. Robbie was a super mother in her own strange and wonderful way.
Robbie needn't have worried. Ryan easily beat the other kids without really feeling the pressure to push for that extra bit of speed. A good actor, she hung back and let Ryan enjoy the limelight before going over to wrap her daughter in her arms, and hug the daylights out of her.
The adult competition was a much larger field of competitors. Robbie moved up through the heats, coming in first each time. In the last heat, she was racing in a group of six. The most serious competitor was from Helingone, a community north east of Bartlett. Helingone had got its name from the early loggers who had wintered over there, and who swore it was several miles north of hell.
The residents of Helingone seemed to feel that they had to live down the name of their town by being fiercely competitive. They always won the snowmobile races and the summer regatta. They particularly enjoyed beating Bartlett because Bartlett's town sign read: "Welcome to Bartlett! We might be north, but at least we're south of Helingone!" They did not see the humour in this.
Big Jim Ableton was their number one racer. He was a logger by trade and resembled a hard wood tree both in size and intellect from what Robbie could ascertain. He had gone out of his way to pass nasty remarks about the 'girly' team that Bartlett was supporting. Robbie meant to wipe the course with him.
They sat in a row at the starting line, revving their engines in anticipation of the flag. They were off with a roar and a blue cloud of exhaust. Robbie let the world fall away until she was just one with the machine vibrating under her. The track tunnelled by in a blur, Robbie conscious only of what lay ahead. One by one, the other snowmobiles fell behind with each lap until it was just her and Jim jockeying for position close to the inside of the track. They came down the last stretch side by side, Robbie slowly edging forward. Fifty feet before the finish line, Jim edged his machine over, touching Robbie's back treads with his front ski.
The tread jammed for a split second sending Robbie into a wild spin. Jim crossed the line with Robbie spinning over a split second later. She felt the snowmobile tipping and leapt off. Her body was traveling at over a hundred kilometers an hour when it hit the snow. She spun like a top, arms and legs flinging out in all directions, then rammed back first into a bale of hay.
For a second, she lay there stunned. Then she rose up like a mushroom cloud over ground zero. She was going to cut Big Jim down to size, with her two bare hands. Shaking with anger, she took several steps in that direction. Then she caught sight of her family standing there, horror written on their faces. I scared them, she realized. She smiled and waved. She'd get that bastard in the final race.
Janet fell into Robbie's arms not caring, at that moment, what people thought. "Oh God, Oby! I thought you were dead!"
"That was cool," Ryan said, covering her own fear in humour. "You looked just like the blades on the helicopter. Bet you hurt!"
"Oby go booboo!" Reb observed, looking up at her hero.
Robbie bent and picked the small child up. "I'm fine Ryan, really. It looked worse than it was. I was just sliding along until I hit that soft pile of hay." In actual fact, every bone in her body had been jostled and she had some pulled muscles aching that she didn't even know she had. There was no use upsetting her family though and ruining a perfectly good day.
"I'll get Ableton in the final," she promised with a smile. "I'll be ready for his tricks next time."
"No," said Janet and all the Williams looked at her in surprise. "Robbie, you said I could call the shots and I'm doing so. You're finished racing today. I'm not letting you get hurt in some sort of grudge match!"
"Ahhh, Aunt Janet..."
Robbie touched her daughter's shoulder and she fell quiet. "I promised your Aunt that if she wanted me to pull out I would. So that's what we are going to do. The family's more important than the race," smiled Robbie, burning inside with frustration. Damn! Why did I make that silly promise!
Just then Big Jim swaggered past. He reached out a hand and gave Janet a slap on the back side. "Hey, girly, anytime you want a real man in your life, you just call. I think I can teach the school teacher a thing or two!" he smirked, as he walked on. Ryan and Janet had to both step in front of Robbie to stop her from going after him.
"Robbie?" said Janet, fuming with the insufferable rudeness of the man.
"What!" snapped Robbie, with more feeling than she meant. She was about one hair's breath away from murder. No one touched Janet. No one!
"You kick his ass good in the next race!" snarled Janet. For the second time in a few minutes, the other Williams looked at Janet in surprise. Then they all started to laugh.
Ableton had the post position with Robbie to his right. When the flag dropped, they were off to a fast start. This time, however, Robbie stayed close to Ableton just back far enough that she sat in his rear view mirror's blind spot. Every once in a while he would take a quick look back to see where she was. I'm getting to you, aren't I, tree stump!?
Just after the last curve, Robbie made her move, dropping suddenly to the inside and burning past Ableton. He tried to move to the outside. Robbie moved with him, keeping him right behind, in her ruts and exhaust. She kept one eye ahead of her, and one on Ableton watching out for his tricks.
Sure enough, he tried to ram her back end. She kept just that couple of feet ahead of him right across the finish line. The crowd of black and gold shirts clapped and hooted their approval. Robbie was pushed on a tide of well-wishes over to the platform to get her trophy. "Thanks, to George Drouillard and my daughter Ryan and the rest of the Williams team and a big thanks to the people of Bartlett for their support!" she yelled out above more applause and cheers.
The Williams clan, Droullards, Greta Corry, and several of Ryan's friends all sat at one table in the Lions' Hall and feasted on burgers. It was a tired family that hitched up their snowmobile trailer and headed back to the cabin in the late afternoon. Dinner was a plate of sandwiches by the fire, Janet holding the sleeping Reb at one end of the couch, Robbie at the other and Ryan nodding in one of the chairs.
"Don't you ever not tell me you are hurt again!" Janet commanded, later that night as she straddled Robbie's naked backside and massaged her aching muscles. Robbie moaned with pleasure and wiggled her back side between Janet's naked legs. Janet leaned forward and kissed the back of Robbie's broad muscular back. "I think you have misinterpreted my nurturing activities," she whispered into Robbie's ear.
Robbie growled. An arm shot up and around Janet, and the next thing she knew she was under Robbie. The director kissed her long and deep and hungrily as she lowered her hips between Janet's legs and moved rhythmically. It was Janet's turn to moan as Robbie slipped down and did things to Janet's body that made her go crazy with desire. She was getting close, panting with need, when Robbie's beeper went off.
"Nooo!," gasped Janet, burying her head in the pillow as Robbie leaped up and ran to the closet to slip into her clothes and firefighter outfit.
"Sorry, love, I'll be back. Save my place!" Robbie said as she hopped about getting her rubberized pants on.
Janet threw a pillow at her. Then called out as Robbie headed out the door, "Don't do a thing, just watch! You haven't had any training yet!"
Several hours passed, while Ryan, who had been woken by the commotion, and Janet, who was too stimulated to sleep, waited for Robbie to return. They filled in the time baking cookies for Christmas.
Finally, the fire truck, flashing red lights, pulled up at the side door. Janet was there just as Ted Potts raised his hand to knock. "Evening, Janet, we brought Robbie back on account of she was in no good condition to drive."
Janet paled. "Where is she?!"
"The boys are bringing her along now," replied Ted, stepping aside so that George Drouillard and Moe Singh could help Robbie in between them.
Robbie was soaking wet and an awful shade of blue. She walked along on stiff legs with her arms around each man's shoulder for support. Looking up and seeing Janet she said sleepily, "I'm hurt."
"Oh Robbie! Ryan put the kettle on!" instructed Janet, realizing that Robbie needed something warm in her right away.
"Why thanks, Janet, we could do with a cup of tea," said George, "I'll get the rest of the boys!"
The sun was showing on the horizon by the time Janet and Ryan had stripped Robbie of her clothes and got her in a hot bath and then into a sleeping bag on the sofa. She had refused to be put to bed while everyone else was drinking mugs of tea and eating fresh, out of the oven, chocolate chip cookies in the living-room.
"So Larry Butler did a little too much celebrating after the race today, and decided to take a short cut with his snowmobile over Turn Back Bay. 'Course, the ice there is no good, every fool knows that, what with the winds. Sure enough, the ice breaks up and he's left a driftin'. He calls his wife, Flo on the cell phone and she calls us out. By the time we get there, his vehicle had slid off into the lake and so had he," explained George between sips of tea.
"He'd managed to pull himself up on a small ice flow but it was clear he wasn't long for this world if we didn't get to him. We tried a few times, but the ice kept a cracken up under us. Finally, Robbie here, bein' the lightest, slipped into a harness and crawled out to the open water but by that time old Larry was too far gone to care. So damn if the lady doesn't keep right on a goin'. Swims about ten feet to him, hooks him on to her harness and we pulled both of them back in." George stopped here to chew a cookie philosophically.
"Larry will be okay. I figure he had too much alcohol in his blood stream to freeze. It was quite a night. Just like one of them Williams' movies." Ryan, who was sitting on the floor by her mom, looked up with pride. Janet shook her head. They finally got to bed about six. Reb had them up by seven.
The following week Robbie had to fly down to her office. "Why don't you invite your sister Elizabeth for Christmas while you are in Toronto?" suggested Janet, as she talked to Robbie on the phone.
Robbie snorted as if Janet was crazy. "My sister?! She only leaves her secluded world to go to physics conferences and then only once in a blue moon. I'm not sure she realizes Canada spreads farther than the suburbs of Toronto."
"Please," said Janet. "Family is important and Ryan really wants to meet her famous aunt."
Robbie's voice took a pouty tone. "So what is wrong with her famous mother?" she grumbled.
Janet laughed. "Ryan adores you but you are not the scientist!
"Where would we put her? The cabin is over crowded as it is. You practically have to book ahead to have a bath."
"I've got it all worked out. I asked Bill Perkins and he said we can borrow his trailer. It has a good electrical furnace and a reasonable sized bathroom. We can run a power cord from the house. That way if Elizabeth needs some private time she can escape to her trailer. How does that sound?"
"It sounds like you had dinner with Bill Perkins," accused Robbie.
"No, coffee at Maria's after the drama society meeting," confessed Janet. "Jealous?"
"Good. You'll get back here faster to me. I miss you," reinforced Janet, knowing that you could only pull the tail of a Williams once before you are likely to get a reaction that is less than funny.
"When, between coffee dates?!" snarled Robbie, partly in jest and partly out of a real need for reassurance.
"I miss you all the time, especially at night when I reach out for you," she whispered gently, knowing her lover would be thinking the same thing she was.
"Mmmm, I like that. I'll talk to Elizabeth but I make no promises. I'll phone you tomorrow. Bye, my love."
"Bye, darling," responded Janet with a sad smile. She really would miss Robbie terribly.
Elizabeth wrote a complex equation on a piece of paper and looked at it with a half smile. Physics was so beautiful, pure, loyal to the laws of nature and yet so complex in its structure. It was like dropping a stone into the pool of the universe and watching the ripples of energy create eternity. She wished people could understand enough math to be able to see that beauty. It seemed a shame that only a handful of people in the world could read God's blueprint.
"Hi." Elizabeth looked up with a start to see her sister standing there. "Sorry, Elizabeth, are you okay? I didn't mean to scare you."
Elizabeth wiped the sweat from her upper lip with a shaky hand. "It's okay. I usually keep my door locked when my secretary has left, that's all."
Robbie nodded. She understood Elizabeth's fears. "So can we talk?"
Elizabeth's eyes focused on Robbie sharply. What was going on with her sister? She had read with some surprise that Robbie had at last recognized her daughter. She had also seen an article about Robbie saving Billy's widow from a criminal. She was glad she lived in the relative safety of the academic world. There was no surprises. She hated surprises. "Of course. What is it you which to discuss?"
"You know how I feel about Janet, Bethy. I wanted you to know that I've decided to ask her to marry me. Would you like to join our family for Christmas," Robbie poured out, before she lost her nerve.
Elizabeth blinked, then blinked again. These were not surprises, they were two whopping big shock blows to her state of well being. Robbie waited. It took the better part of half a minute for Elizabeth to recover. "Love, I understand, is irrational, which explains the lack of logic in the rest of your statements," she observed.
Robbie nodded. Beth was right. "My daughter Ryan, would really like to meet you. She thinks science is wonderful. She has already blown up a lab and she is only fourteen. Janet can borrow a trailer. It's like a home on wheels, so you can have all the privacy you want. The cabin is kind of small. It would mean a lot to me, Bethy." Robbie got out, a bit of sweat forming on her own lip. She hated these meaningful conversations.
Elizabeth did not want to go. She didn't think she liked kids and she hated strange places, but Robbie had asked her, and if Robbie wanted it then there was no choice. "If you want me to, Robbie, I'll come."
Robbie smiled. "That's great. I'll take care of you, Bethy, you know I will!" Elizabeth smiled. Robbie always took care of things. Robbie was wonderful. She knew she could trust her.
"Listen, I haven't actually asked Janet to marry me yet, so don't say anything, okay?"
Elizabeth frowned. "You do know I do not approve of this relationship, Robbie," she said, doodling numbers nervously on her paper. "We agreed, that because of our past, involving others in our life was not fair."
A cloud came over Robbie face and she sighed. "There are days when I don't either, Bethy. I must be crazy to risk recognizing Ryan and bringing Janet and Reb into my life, but I can't go back. I don't want to go back. This is the first time I have been happy in a very long time, Bethy."
Elizabeth looked down at the numbers that gave her such beauty and pleasure. Robbie should have happiness too.
"Then I will support you, Robbie. I want you to be happy," promised Elizabeth.
Robbie drove, with a frown, through the wintry streets of Toronto. She hadn't noticed before how truly dreary winter in the city was. The yellow-grey sky hung low and wet and the snow, piled to the sides of the streets, was pitted with dirt. My lungs probably look like that, reasoned Robbie, pulling a face. She thought about the piles of white, fluffy snow in the north and the clear blue skies. I can't wait to get out of here.
It had been a busy week and Robbie was feeling tired. The Brian, Gwen, Joe triangle seemed to have resolved itself for the time being thanks to the company's bank of lawyers. The film was making millions, and was being hailed as the best love story ever. Ernie was making head way in selling nothing to the backers, and she had managed to get her Christmas shopping done.
That had been by far the most exhausting part of the week. It was dangerous out there! She had no idea how frantic and ruthless Christmas shoppers could be. No wonder they threw Christians to the lions! By the end of the week, she had been quite willing to participate in that age old Roman tradition!
Now she was heading her B.M.W., her Stingray never saw winter, over to the island airport to take the company helicopter up to Janet's. She could hardly wait! Damn, she had missed her family. The last six months of her life had been like a rebirth. Her whole world had changed from icicles to fire. The cell phone rang, cutting into her thoughts. She picked it up off the seat.
"Hi mom!" came her daughter's voice.
Robbie felt her particular cup of joy spill over. I've got one great kid, she thought proudly. "What's up?"
"I phoned to warn you. Don't come home; dye your hair, change your name, and move to Argentina.
She might not be able to track you down there."
Robbie's eyes widened as she turned into the parking lot of the commuter airport. "Who and why?" she asked calmly, as she punched the button to get her parking ticket. Robbie was used to having people gunning for her.
"Aunt Janet has spent all week watching your movies. She watched the ones you directed and wrote first, and then she started on the earlier ones you acted in. She said they are works of art and clearly show that you should be locked up as a deranged and sick human being."
Robbie beamed, "Works of art, huh?! Why am I sick and deranged?" she asked, conversationally as she found her spot and pulled in, shoving the car into park while she leaned back to talk to her daughter.
"You killed the dog in Cold Night Walking; she and Rufus took it personally," explained Ryan. "We all sat around and cried."
"That's what you were supposed to do!" protested Robbie. "Is that why I'm in the doghouse?"
"Nope, you're in trouble because of Female Marines. I quote, 'Robbie and THAT woman have something going! That Julie Devon is all over her like a rash!' You're in trouble."
"That was ten years ago!" protested Robbie.
"She has big boobs...two of them," Ryan explained, less than subtly.
"I'm to take Reb to the library this afternoon for Read Along. She wants me out of the house so there are no witnesses. So were you sleeping with Julie Devon?"
Robbie looked at the phone in shook. "What are you, the teen from hell?! You don't ask questions like that!"
Ryan giggled, "Thought so, you could see the chemistry."
Robbie snorted, "What would you know about chemistry?! No! Wait, don't tell me, I don't want to know. I wouldn't be able to sleep nights!"
Ryan laughed, "Bye mom! Good luck!"
"Thanks, kid." Robbie said softly, and hung up. Oh boy, I'm in trouble. Maybe a gift. Is there a store at the island airport?
Janet met Robbie at the door as she ran up the steps, grinning with happiness. "I'm home!" she yelled, and picked Janet up in her arms to kiss her. "God! I've missed you!
"Mmmm, I missed you too," smiled Janet. They kissed again. Long and slow, desire building like a tidal wave.
"Anyone around?" asked Robbie, between kisses.
"No," came the reply. Robbie carried Janet to the bedroom.
They sat later by the fire, waiting for the kids to come home, Janet snuggled into Robbie's side and Robbie with a possessive arm wrapped around Janet. "Ahhh, I've been watching your movies. They really are good." Oh,oh, here it comes, thought Robbie. "When you made Female Marines were you and Julie Devon...well...you know?"
"Yes," stated Robbie. She'd decided that the only way to make their relationship stronger was to be honest with Janet. She was too smart a lady not to pick out a lie, otherwise Robbie might have tried it.
"Oh," came a disappointed and pained voice. "She's very beautiful. Is she nice?"
"Yes, she is very beautiful and she was a real pleasure to work with. She's up beat, funny and a hard worker," responded Robbie, in fairness.
"ET said there are rumours that she will star in your next movie," Janet said, rubbing Robbie's hand with the tip of a tense finger.
"I don't have a screen play yet. I'm going to take some time off this winter and write. I have talked to Julie though, about the story line, and leaving herself available for the role next year." The body she was holding went strangely still.
Silence. Janet's hand stopped moving and she held onto Robbie's hand tightly.
"Does that bother you?" Robbie asked gently, wrapping her hand around Janet's.
"Yes." Janet gasped and started to shake with tears.
Robbie's heart gave a spasm of pain. She reached around and lifted Janet into her lap and held her close. "Shhh, love, it's okay. There is only one person I will ever need in my heart and my bed from now on, and that's you."
"I'm grotesque!" sobbed Janet, holding onto Robbie tightly and dripping tears down her neck.
"No, you are not! Don't ever think that or say it again!" said Robbie sharply. She pulled Janet away and forced her to make eye contact by lifting up her head with a gentle hand. "You turn me on. You satisfy me. You have given me more joy and happiness than I thought possible! Do you really think I'm such a low life that I'd cheat on you?!"
"You dumped Tracy Travelli," mumbled Janet miserably, though tear filled eyes.
Robbie snorted. "Tracy was a convenience. She knew it. I knew it. We were just using each other. Things are a lot different for me now. I've fallen in love, deeply in love. I've got this...family...I don't need or want anything else," Robbie tried to explain, although the words fell well short of what she felt inside.
"Oh, Robbie!" Janet moaned, wrapping herself around her lover again. "I love you so much! Every time you do something dangerous or go away, I feel so vulnerable. I don't mean to be so jealous and possessive!"
"It's okay, I kinda like being wanted," Robbie smiled, holding Janet close. "I work with a lot of beautiful and famous people, Janet. If I act, I'm likely to do a love scene. It's just business. Nothing more. Sure people come on to me at times, males and females. You have got to know though that you are something special, and I'm never going to risk that."
"I love you, Robbie," Janet declared holding on as tight as she could. Robbie made a decision. This was not how she had planned to stage it, there was going to be soft music, a shining Christmas tree, and a quiet drink. Instead, it wasn't going to be a performance, it was going to be real, here and now with a lover with a red nose from crying.
She slipped Janet onto the couch and went and got something out of her briefcase. Coming back, she sat beside her lover and kissed her softly. "You are my soulmate. I have always loved you, and I always will. Would you do me the honour of marrying me this Christmas?" asked Robbie, her stomach a nervous flutter.
"Oh Robbie, we can't, the kids, my job...Oh Yes! Yes, Robbie! I love you so much!" Janet responded, feeling warm and loved inside the circle of Robbie's arms. Robbie took out a blue velvet box and slipped out the ring she had bought. With great reverence, she slipped off the band of gold that Janet wore and slipped in its place her pledge of loyalty and love. For a long time, the two of them said nothing, too overwhelmed with the step they had just taken to find the words to express what they had found together.
"It's beautiful Robbie. Everything is so beautiful now I've found you," whispered Janet softly.
Robbie smiled. She knew exactly what Janet felt.
Robbie found David Potts sweeping out his small general store right on closing time. "You just made it, Robbie, I was just going to put the lock on the door," he smiled.
"We gotta talk," Robbie said seriously, closing the door behind her, and switching the cardboard sign around so it read, closed.
"Oh dear!" exclaimed David, looking truly frightened.
Robbie didn't look much better. But she'd proposed now, and there was no backing out. "Ahhh, I need a favour. I understand you are the Justice of the Peace in town."
David smiled in relief. " That's right! I bet you want your passport signed. I can take your picture too! I've got the camera back there by the meat counter."
Robbie licked her lips. This is nothing to be ashamed of Williams, just ask the man! Even if he refuses Janet said he could be trusted to keep quiet. "This is a confidential matter," Robbie clarified.
David frowned. "Well, I don't think I do things like that! My job is for the public record. Maybe, you should see a lawyer, Robbie."
Robbie swallowed. "I want to buy a marriage certificate and I want you to marry Janet and me," Robbie got out in one long sentence.
David looked stunned. "Oh, my."
"We don't want it to become a circus. We just want to quietly exchange vows, and adopt each other's children. Can you do that?"
"Well, I don't know," flustered David. "I mean I can, but I never have. Most people go to a minister!" he stalled. Robbie looked at him, one eyebrow up in annoyance and her arms crossed. "Oh! Oh dear! I guess that won't do, would it?" David bit his lip and then smiled. "You know, I always wanted to be a minister! I've got the licenses right over here! Oh, this is so exciting!"
Robbie followed him frowning. "We don't want a lot of people to know. We don't want it getting out to the media," she reinforced.
David stopped and looked at her in shock. "Robbie, I would never tell a secret," he said, indignantly.
Robbie smiled, this guy was just too cute to be true!
It was Friday afternoon, and Janet had asked Carolyn, Milka, and Amanda to pop into her office before they left. They now sat in a row in front of her desk looking vaguely worried. "Ahhh, this is a personal and confidential matter." Janet began, feeling embarrassed. "You are not only part of my staff but friends. I want you to know that I'm gay and that I've been seeing Robbie Williams."
She waited. There was no reaction. The three women just sat there with smiles, waiting. Janet cleared her throat and went on. "We've decided to get married and wondered if you would feel comfortable in being there." This time there were cheers and her friends got up to hug and congratulate her.
"We spotted the ring days ago!" said Carolyn.
"We thought you'd never tell us!" groaned Milka
"When is it going to be? Can Bert and Mohammed come?" asked Amanda.
Janet blushed brightly. "Yes, of course they can come if they feel comfortable at a gay wedding. It will be on Boxing Day, at the cabin. Robbie would like it outside, so we hope the weather will be nice. Ahhh, you understand, you can't say anything. If the media got hold of this it would be a mess, and very hard on the kids."
"Hey, we can keep a secret! We're your friends! This is just so neat! Who is doing the ceremony?" babbled Carolyn.
"Ahhh, Robbie is arranging something today," Janet stalled, not wanting to mention David's name until she knew he had agreed.
Gwen got an e-mail: This is for Brian and your eyes only, Gwen. Janet and I are getting married on Boxing Day. You two are invited. The 'copter will bring you up. R.
Gwen shook her head, typical Williams. She didn't have the nerve to tell her face to face! And where was she going to get a babysitter for three kids on Boxing Day?! They'd just have to go stay with their father and his new live in, because she was not missing seeing Robbie Williams getting her wings clipped for the world! She hadn't been sure about Janet at first but she had come to realize that the quiet principal was prefect for Robbie.
Christmas was wonderful. Elizabeth, to everyone's surprise, including her own, felt very safe and comfortable at the cabin. She liked the small coziness of the trailer too. After the rather startling noise and confusion of her sister's family, she could lie in her bunk at night, in the northern stillness and look at the clear stars out the window. She knew many of them by their name and number and their spectrograms.
She liked Janet. She was like a mother ought to be, friendly, caring, and she could cook too! She liked that. Elizabeth tended to warm some soup in a beaker over a Bunsen burner or stick a frozen dinner in the microwave. They had real Christmas cake, and sugar cookies cut and decorated with icing. There were stockings hanging on the fireplace, even one for her, and all sorts of parcels under the tree. She was glad that she had ordered each of them a gift. It was like the Christmases she had read about but never had.
And her sister was so different! Relaxed and funny and just great with the kids. Robbie was happy at last. That made Elizabeth happy. Ryan and Reb, she found, were fun. Reb liked to sit in her lap and play with her glasses. She called her Annie Beth and her sister Oby! Ryan was full of mischief and could be quite startling in what she would say and do. She was so very much like her mother, Robbie. Yet, when Elizabeth talked about physics with Robbie, she was right there and asked intelligent questions.
Elizabeth nodded in the dark of her trailer. Yes, she liked having nieces. She must find out when their birthdays were and send them a little something each year. Why that monkey, Ryan, had even taken her for a ride on her snowmobile into town to buy extra milk and butter and introduced her to the nice looking man who owned the store. Ryan had told her that he was also the town's Justice of the Peace and would be the one that married Robbie and Janet. There was a man who could turn his hand to anything.
Christmas Day, Ryan was banging at her trailer door with a coffee at dawn. Elizabeth slipped over to the cabin in her wool housecoat and boots and joined the family around the tree. Janet handed out the presents and wouldn't let anyone open any until they had been all handed out. Then it was pandemonium!
Once all the gifts had been exchanged with many hugs and kisses, much to Elizabeth's surprise, they had a breakfast of homemade braided loaves and jam made from the blackberries they had picked that fall. Then they all went to church. It had been...magical.
Janet and Reb had gone for a much deserved nap and Elizabeth sat in the window by the fire watching Ryan and Robbie, down on the lake, rolling snowballs industriously. What in the world were they up to now? Large snow balls gradually formed a semicircle on the lake near the beach. Then, at ninety degrees to the arch a second row of three large snow balls was hoisted into place. Two were placed on the top of these and then one. The semi circle now had central tower.
Elizabeth pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and watched with interest. Two wood benches from the cedar picnic table were carried down and placed inside with an aisle between them. Why they are building a snow chapel! Elizabeth realized. How lovely! Carried by the moment, Elizabeth went and got her coat and helped her sister and niece wet and polish the snow walls until they shone
Later, when Janet joined them, she smiled with delight as she inspected the winter fairy castle under the dome of a robin blue sky. Elizabeth, in a rare moment of insight, took Reb from Janet's arms and indicated to Ryan to follow her up to the cabin. Janet stood with Robbie and watched the setting sun turn their chapel to soft pink then royal blue. "I love you, Robbie. Thank you."
"I love you," Robbie smiled, "And you are welcome." They walked hand in hand back up to the house.
"Robbie?" came a soft voice in the dark.
"Mmmm," came the reply.
"Why are you still awake?" Janet asked, rustling the sheets as she moved closer.
"Why are you?" Robbie evaded, kissing a bare shoulder affectionately.
"Because, I'm scared skinny about tomorrow!" admitted Janet, kissing a soft breast.
Robbie laughed. "Me too. I do film, not stage," she admitted.
"Terrific, all we've gone through to get to this point, and now we both have cold feet! It's a very big step we are taking into the unknown. There could be some real tough moments ahead for us and the kids," fretted Janet.
"Yeah. There is sure to be. But gays have fought long and hard for the right to enjoy the responsibilities and privileges that legally married couples have always had. We would be foolish to let our fears of what society might say and do stop us from taking this step."
"I know. We've never talked about money or anything. I have a mortgage and..."
"We have a mortgage and we will pay it off."
"That's not fair! Why should you pay my debts!?"
"Because we are not going to be a you and me after tomorrow. We'll be a we. Janet, have you any idea how rich I am?" asked Robbie in amusement.
"Rich enough to have a spare million anyway," sighed Janet.
Robbie snorted. "Last year, my personnel income, not that of my companies, just mine, was over fifteen million. I think we can afford to pay off the mortgage."
Janet giggled. "What's so funny?" asked Robbie.
"Damn, you're a good catch!" Robbie was obliged to show her just how good.
The ice chapel shone under the clear blue, northern sky. Evergreen trees, bowed with white pillows of snow framed the scene as the guests arrived and took their places. On Robbie's side sat Gwen, Brian and Elizabeth. On Janet's side was Mika, Carolyn and Bert, and Amanda and Moe. Bill Perkins was there too. He fancied himself an amateur photographer, and it was his bitter sweet duty to photograph the event from the side lines.
David Potts stood proudly in front of the snow wall. Robbie had wanted to buy him a blue jacket to wear for the ceremony but he had refused. This was his first and possibly only wedding and he planned to do it right, he told her. He had braved the cold in his navy blue, Sunday best suit.
Robbie and Ryan waited nervously by him. They both wore black pants and boots and buckskin jackets in soft cream. Indian bead work in bright blues and reds formed small panels from each shoulder.
Soft Celtic harp music played as Janet and Reb, hand in hand, came down the small aisle. They wore black pants and boots too with matching white Eskimo parkas. Simple native patterns decorated the hem line in the same bold colours as was on the buckskin jackets. The four made a beautiful group as they stood in front of David.
David smiled shyly and then gathered himself together. "Who gives away, this lady?" he asked.
Janet squeezed Reb's shoulder and the little girl giggled, "I do." Everyone smiled, and Janet winked at her tiny daughter.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are here today, under God's immense sky, to witness the marriage of these two fine ladies. Marriage is a sacred bond. It does not deal with gender, age or religion but with the love, loyalty and trust between two individuals, such as Janet and Robbie, who choose to join their lives together as one. If anyone knows of any reason why these two should not be wed please speak of it now." David paused.
"Janet Jean Williams, do you take Robbie to be your lawful partner, trusting in her love, and loyalty to guide you through your life together?"
"Roberta Nichola Williams, do you take Janet to be your lawful partner, trusting in her love, and loyalty to guide you through your life together?
"If you would place the rings on this bible," David instructed. Ryan took the two simple bands of gold from her pocket and placed them on the white leather bible that David held out. "Robbie, if you would take one and make your pledge to Janet."
Robbie took the ring and placed it on Janet's finger. "My love, my loyalty, my trust, always."
Janet took the other ring and slipped it on Robbie's finger. "My love, my loyalty, my trust, forever."
"In this special place, made by Our Lord God, and before these witnesses and friends today, I declare you legal life partners. Please seal these vows with a kiss."
Robbie leaned down and brushed a shy kiss across Janet's lips. Their family and friends applauded. Robbie and Janet hugged Ryan and Reb and then accepted the congratulations of David and the others.
Janet and Robbie, now one, led the party back to the cabin to sign the certificate and to cut the wedding cake that David had shown up with that morning to everyone's surprise. He had baked and decorated the cake himself.
David and Elizabeth took the marriage certificate and carefully folded it and put it inside the bible. They walked over to where Robbie and Janet stood hand in hand and took them aside. "The bible I used today was bought for you by your sister, Elizabeth. In it is your marriage certificate. Best wishes to you both," he said, giving them the white leather bible.
Tears filled Robbie's eyes. Unable to speak how she felt, Robbie stepped over and gave her sister a big hug. For the first time in a very long time, Elizabeth didn't flinch at the touch but instead hugged back gently.
That night Ryan and Reb had a sleep over in Aunt Beth's trailer.
Janet and Robbie sat for a long time by the fire. They held hands and looked at the flames burning brightly, content to be together as partners. It was a new world and a new beginning.