Tie Break

by Bonnie


© 2002

For disclaimers see Part 1.

Part 13

Chapter 17

As soon as Shana had closed the door behind her she held onto the wall for support. Walking was definitely more difficult than it should be and the rapid exit from the room hadn't helped at all. Okay, slowly and carefully it is then.

Keeping one hand on the wall, Shana made her way to the bathroom at the end of the hallway, glad for the warm feeling of the hardwood floor against her feet. Her body felt like it was one large bruise and she was slightly dizzy, but nothing like the feeling she remembered from earlier in the day. It was today, wasn't it?

She was relieved when she reached the bathroom and could sit down on the toilet. Afterwards she stood in front of the mirror surveying the damage her body had suffered in the accident. I assume it was an accident …

A small bandage covered the side of her head, pinpointing the location that hurt the worst. Okay, now I know where the throbbing comes from. She also realized that she probably had a mild concussion. She pulled off her shirt … no, Anne's shirt … to take a look at her upper body. She groaned when the movement reminded her poignantly that there was something wrong with her shoulders.

During the course of her career she had suffered what she thought of as the usual amount of injuries and she was able to look at her own body as if it belonged to someone else, checking out the bruises and calculating how long it would take them to heal. There were large areas of discoloration on her shoulders, along her collarbones and down to the top of her breasts. A second set of bruises along both hips complemented them. She laid a hand on her lower abdomen and stroked it gently, glad there weren't any bruises or injuries there. She knew her baby was okay. She didn't know how she knew, she just did. Hello, little one. I hope you didn't get scared too badly.

She splashed some cold water on her face and brushed her teeth with one of the new toothbrushes she found in the medicine cabinet. I love it that Irene is always prepared for surprise visitors. She felt much better afterwards. It even hurt less when she put the shirt back on, but she realized that was probably just her imagination.

She was very pleased that she had made the trip to the bathroom by herself. She hated the idea of needing Irene's or, even worse, Anne's assistance, even though she knew that both women would give their help gladly and without the slightest hesitation. It was just … she didn't want to appear helpless to the woman she loved.

And she loved her. No doubts about it, not anymore.

If she thought about it, there never was anyone else for her. She had always been drawn to her tall, dark-haired friend, even when they were teenagers. But as long as she thought her feelings were so much deeper than Anne's feelings for her, there had been this tiny kernel of doubt. She had loved Anne and Anne had slept with any woman who offered her affections. Could she love someone who didn't love her back? Couldn't she find someone to love who loved her as well?

Shana shook her head and looked into the eyes staring back at her from the mirror. No, there never was anyone else. The quiet look of love that Anne had watched her with just minutes ago made it all so clear. There was love there, all hers for the taking if she wanted it.

And, boy, do I want it.

In a way, knowing that Anne loved her made things more difficult. She had come here with a plan to get Anne to confess her love, to finally force an admission from her tall friend's lips. Now that plan could very well come back and bite her in the butt and could drive her friend away forever. I'm going to need Irene's help, that's for sure.

And then there was the baby. How am I ever going to explain this one?

Anne is going to freak.


Anne lay back on the bed, still sporting her thousand-watt smile, and thought about the last couple of minutes. She put her good arm behind her head and looked up at the ceiling even though her gaze went inward.

How could things change so profoundly so fast?

She had woken up a few minutes before Shana and had just watched the blonde face that lay so close to her own. A wave of tenderness had rushed through her at the sight and a feeling she hadn't felt in a very long time: protectiveness. All she wanted at that moment was to hold Shea and make all the hurt go away. Make her feel safe and good. Warm and loved.

She hadn't been able to restrain herself, didn't even know if she wanted to. She had pressed her lips to Shana's forehead with all the tenderness that threatened her composure and her ability to keep away from her friend without some sort of reassurance that the blonde loved her as well.

It didn't matter. For the first time since she had fallen in love with Shea, it didn't matter whether the small blonde loved her as well. She loved her and needed to express that love.

I'm in love with this woman and I will be forever.

And then Shana had opened her eyes and had looked at her with a completely open expression. The love that had shone out of those green eyes had taken her breath away.

She loves me too.

Anne felt like her heart would explode from the joy she felt inside. Her life had changed in the second it took Shana to open her eyes and Anne to realize the depth of feeling in those eyes. She had experienced all kinds of feelings towards Shana in the fifteen years they had known each other: friendship, affection, trust, desire, remorse, hurt, pain, love, lust, frustration, and almost every other emotion she was capable of feeling.

But she had never felt this tenderness and depth of love that she felt now.

This was new.

And scary.

And wonderful.

She swallowed. After she had tried to tell Shana about her feelings at her brother's birthday eight years before, she had never let anyone close to her again. She had had countless affairs, mostly one-night stands that served a certain purpose, but she had never allowed herself a shred of feeling for any of her conquests. She had conquered them or accepted their offers, had fucked them and thrown them away afterwards, detesting them for being such easy prey and herself for using them. Animated sex toys, she had called them behind their backs. Batteries not necessary. She had used the conquests between the sheets to her advantage on the tennis court, taunting her opponents with their affair before and after matches. It had made her career that much more successful. She had never lost to one of her conquests.

And she had hated herself for it.

All that had stopped after she had gotten closer to Shea again. The more their friendship grew to what it had been, the less she needed the physical release she had sought from other people. When the desire for Shana ran too high, too unbearable, she would work out or run until she was close to exhaustion. If that didn't help she would release herself, thinking about Shana.

I'm certainly no innocent. She snorted and shook her head at herself. Then why do I feel so damn virginal right now?

Because this feeling of purity is new. Because this tenderness brings a whole new quality to this love you're feeling. Because you've never been so deeply in love before and you're falling deeper with every passing second.

Or maybe because you haven't had sex with anyone but yourself in years.

And never with anyone you loved.

Anne closed her eyes and let her feelings run their course through her body. Telling Shana about her feelings didn't seem so difficult all of a sudden and her mind offered her visions of a life lived happily ever after. I'm going to tell her as soon as possible. I want to start the rest of my life. No delays. No obstacles.

A vision of Shana appeared behind her closed eyes and reminded her of a line in a song. My shirt looks good on you.

It sure does.

With a smirk Anne relaxed into the pillows to wait for Shana.


Shana grabbed a robe from a hook in the corner of the bathroom and put it on with an economy of movement that showed that her body still felt very sore. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and stepped out into the hallway, deciding to start with the easier of the two Patakis women.

"I'm going to talk to your grandma now, little one," she whispered to her belly. "You know, she's not your real granny, but it feels that way." I hope she feels that way too … should I ever find the courage to tell her about you.

Slowly, the blonde woman made her way towards the kitchen. She could her music floating through the open doorway and the deep resonant voice as Irene sang along. Amidst it all she could her the clutter of pans and other cooking utensils. Ah, relaxation time.

Shana nodded to herself. She had known the older woman long enough to know that cooking and music always meant that she was upset and trying to get over it. Let's hope I don't upset her any more than she already is. I wonder what happened …

She reached the kitchen and just glanced into the room, watching her surrogate mother with an affectionate gaze. Why couldn't my mother ever be like that? I wish Irene was my mom … scratch that … I so do not want to be Anne's sister … no way, no how … She had to grin at the thoughts running through her mind and shook her head to concentrate on the mission at hand.

"What are you doing up, little one?" came the wonderfully familiar voice. Shana hadn't even noticed that Irene had stopped singing and had turned to gaze at her.

She looked up. "Hello, Mom. It's so good to see you." She made her way over to the kitchen counter to hug the older woman who enfolded her gently in her arms.

"It's good to see you up, sweetness." Irene guided Shana over to the table. "But please sit down, I don't want you to exhaust yourself. You should probably still be in bed. Is Anne still sleeping?"

She's really upset. She hasn't rambled like that since Pete … Shana laid a hand on Irene's arm. "Mom," she spoke calmly, "I'm okay, really."

She watched as Irene took a deep breath and sat down on the chair next to her. "And Anne is awake. I told her I needed to go to the bathroom to freshen up. So, what happened?" She gestured at the clutter of pans and dishes on the counter.

"You're asking me? You're the one who's all banged up. I mean, look at you --" Her voice broke and she raised her hand and gently pushed the blonde bangs from Shana's forehead.

"Oh, Mom, don't cry." Shana took Irene's hand in both of hers. "I'm going to be okay, honest."

It was obvious that Irene cared deeply for the blonde woman across from her. The tears in her eyes were as much a sign of the stress of the day as of the relief she felt at the moment with Shana safe and almost sound in her kitchen.

"I know, honey, I know," she said and added her hand to the pile of hands on the table. "Do you remember what happened?"

Shana closed her eyes and let her mind drift back to the last clear memory. "I visited Peter and talked to him for quite a while on my way here. Then I drove over from the cemetery. It gets a bit fuzzy from there, but I do remember that there was another car on the road, a black truck. I thought it was one of your guests because the car was following me and I was going very slowly."

She blushed a bit, remembering all her attempts to delay her arrival as much as possible. Maybe I should have just driven here. I wouldn't be hurt right now.

"Well, it was definitely no guest because the only ones here right now are the Hinkels, an elderly couple who have been of great help with you today. I'm not expecting any more guests before the weekend."

"Anyway, the car was behind me and then …" She paused and tried to concentrate, but couldn't come up with anything much. She shrugged her shoulders in a gesture that was almost apologetic. "The next thing I know I woke up here, in bed next to Anne, almost naked."

"That's all?"

"No, there are glimpses of things, here and there. I seem to remember that Anne carried me, but I'm not sure it's an actual memory." Or a dream. "And I remember …" Her voice trailed off into a gagging sound.

"You did throw up, but that was to be expected since you have a concussion," Irene confirmed that particular memory in her own blunt way. "And yes, Anne carried you here from the crash site."

While Irene told Shana everything she knew, the blonde woman just sat there and couldn't believe her ears. Anne carried me all the way even though she fell and injured her wrist? The thought made Shana feel all warm and very loved. You're my hero, Anne, aren't you? And you would never have told me that. You didn't even mention your hand.

Now that she thought about it, she could vaguely remember seeing a bandage on Anne's hand. a viciously blue gel pack, and the impact it had had on her stomach. When Irene was finished she asked the question that seemed most important to her. "Will Anne be all right? Did the doctor say anything about it?"

Irene chuckled. "You know Anne, sweetness. She hardly let the doctor within two feet of her hand, but he managed to check it out and he said it was sprained. A diagnosis our own Doctor Patakis confirmed, by the way."

"Yeah, Anne always knows best," Shana added. She shared an affectionate grin with her friend's mother. "It's a good thing we love her so much, isn't it?"

"Do you?"

"Do I what?"

"Do you love her?"

Shana sobered up and the fond grin vanished from her face. It was replaced with a serious look and she gazed straight into the older woman's eyes. "Yes, I do. Mom, I love her with all my heart." She felt like she was asking for Anne's hand.

"That is good," Irene replied, equally serious. "She needs you in her life, little one." She paused. "I had hoped that you came here today to tell her that and that you two would finally, finally get together. You've been killing me."

Shana smiled at the obvious relief and acceptance in Irene's voice and eyes. Then she remembered that that was not all that she had wanted to tell Anne. She needed to tell Irene about her stupid plan. And about the baby, although she had decided that Anne should be the first to know about that.

"Listen, Irene, I need to tell you something, but I don't know how…"

"What is it, little one? You look so serious," Irene was concerned at the hesitancy that was obvious in Shana's face and voice. "Come on, you know you can tell me anything."

I sure hope so. Shana swallowed and decided to jump right into it. "You know I'm very happy that I'm in love with Anne. I wasn't always because it almost broke my heart, but now that I know she loves me too, I'm deliriously happy."

"That's good to hear, honey, but what is the problem?" Irene sounded confused.

"The problem is that I didn't think it would be as easy as it seems to be now." She hesitated before continuing. "I thought I had to force Anne to confess her feelings for me … and I think I wanted to be secure in her love for me before I told her about my feelings."

"I can understand, Shea. You were afraid that Anne didn't love you the way you love her. I could have told you that she does, but I know you need to hear it from her." Irene's voice took on a concerned tone. "What I still don't understand is what the problem is now. You know she loves you, so why don't you just tell her?"

The doorbell interrupted Irene. "Huh, I wonder who that is? I don't expect any guests today. Let me go take a look, honey." She stood and walked over to the door. "I'm sorry, you'll have to tell me later. I'll be back shortly." Then she left the room.

Shana felt as if all air had left her body. Frustrated, she leaned on the table like a deflated balloon. The trip to the bathroom and kitchen had taken up a lot of her strength and the interrupted attempt to confess the extent of her cowardice and stupidity to Anne's mother had drained her. She knew that she had to get back into the room to lie down if she didn't want to fall down in the middle of the kitchen.

It was then that she heard Irene's excited voice greeting her guests. "Kevin! Mike! Oh, boys, I haven't seen you in so long! What are you doing here?"

Shana put her head down on the table and closed her eyes. She knew what they were doing here. Kevin and Mike had the uncanny ability to be there whenever Anne needed them and she knew that Anne must have said something to one of them that drove them out here in this weather. Anne's troops just arrived. Which means I won't get to tell Irene tonight. Which means I get to crawl back into bed now and sleep. She didn't want to see anyone right now. All she wanted was sleep.

Tomorrow all hell is going to break loose.

And now there'll be four people who will want to kill me.

She got up and dragged herself back to the room.


Inside the bedroom, Anne was slowly getting worried. Shana had been gone for a while now and she hoped that she was okay. She knew that her friend had probably stopped by the kitchen to greet Irene, but still she hoped that one of them would be sensible enough to send Shana back to bed as soon as possible. She should be in bed. She should be near me. I want her near me.

I need her near me.

She heard the doorbell, but decided to ignore it. Just as she was about to get up and check on Shana's whereabouts, the door opened and her friend returned.

"Hey, Shea," Anne said, her voice huskier than she ever remembered it being. "I was getting worried."

Without a word, Shana dropped the robe and got back into bed in only the shirt and boxers she had been wearing before. She crawled under the covers and looked at Anne with tired eyes, barely noticing that Anne had removed her sports bra and was now naked from the waist up. "I talked with Mom a bit, but I'm totally exhausted now. I guess I'm not as fit as I'd like to be."

Anne looked at her with all the love she could muster, trying to tell Shana with just her eyes what she was feeling. She lay on her side, supported by one elbow, and tenderly stroked Shana's face with the fingertips of her other hand.

Shana closed her eyes and simply enjoyed the feeling. Anne closed her eyes as well and kept on moving her fingertips all over Shana's face, touching her ears, trailing her finger down her nose, following the line of the blonde eyebrows. She enjoyed the freedom of being able to touch the woman she loved without having to be afraid of the consequences, and she caressed the beautiful face much longer than she had originally intended to. She mapped out the face with her touch, committing every curve and dip, every pore, every line to memory.

At long last, she stilled her fingers and opened her eyes. "I love you, Shana," she said, her voice deep and husky, emotions constricting her throat. "With all that I am, I love you."

Deep, even breaths alerted her to the fact that Shana had fallen asleep. The sight brought a tender smile to her face. It doesn't matter. I told you now and I'm going to keep on telling you for the rest of my life.

"Sleep tight, love. I'll be here for you when you wake up."

And then we're going to continue this conversation.

With a sigh she snuggled up to Shana and soon succumbed to her tiredness as well.

Chapter 18

Irene greeted Kevin and Mike exuberantly, enjoying the feeling of having her complete "family" under her roof. And it's not even Christmas. She hadn't expected to see the two men anytime soon, but she wasn't really surprised to see them either. She knew from experience that Kevin tended to show up whenever Anne was in trouble and needed him, and where Kevin went, Mike invariably would go too.

Irene had loved Kevin from the moment she had met him and had adopted the gentle giant in her home and her heart as another addition to the family. When he had been gay-bashed she had taken turns with Anne and Mike sitting at his bed, keeping him company and showing him that he was loved.

He reminded her a lot of Pete. Like Pete, Kevin had blonde hair, hazel eyes, and a very kind soul, but he was taller and more muscular than her son had been. His overall appearance was that of a California beach bum, but inside he was serious, intelligent and fiercely loyal to his friends. He also dressed better.

Mike, on the other hand, always looked as if he had just stumbled out of bed. At 6 feet he was smaller than his lover by almost half a foot and seemed much more compact. His hair was a dark blonde and his eyes were a brilliant green. He could have been Shana's brother, especially since he and Shana shared the same impish grin and crazy ideas.

She led them into the kitchen, told them to sit down at the table and handed them each a cold beer from the fridge, grabbing one for herself as well. She checked the assortment of pots on the stove and finally joined her guests.

She wasn't really surprised to find that Shana had left the kitchen. The younger woman had looked exhausted and although Irene knew that something was bothering Shana she thought it could very well wait until the next day. Nothing is ever that important, she thought and decided to enjoy her talk with Kevin and Mike. Maybe we can have dinner with the Hinkels after I tell the boys what happened.

"So," she asked after taking a long swallow of beer, "what brings you two here?"

Mike and Kevin simultaneously said, "Well …", then looked at each other and shrugged before Kevin continued to speak. "We heard that Shana would be here and I had a feeling it would be good to be here too, that's all."

"Ah," was Irene's simple response. "And you expect me to believe that?" She grinned. It was always the same. Kevin would always say he had had a feeling and she would never believe him, even though she knew that he had rarely been wrong. That was, after all, what made him such a great coach and good friend for Anne.

Kevin was unsure of how much Irene knew about Anne's plans to talk to Shana and decided to change the subject. "Where are the girls anyway?"

"The girls," the older woman replied with a raised eyebrow, "are in bed."

"In bed?" Kevin asked incredulously.

"Together?" Mike added.

"In bed. Together."

"Thank you, Lord," Mike said dramatically, raising his hands as if in prayer.

"You're an atheist, darling," Irene commented in a dry voice, "and your thanks may be a bit premature."

"How so? We've been waiting for this for years now."

"I know, I know … but the reason they're in bed now is that Shana was hurt in a car accident this afternoon and Anne injured her hand trying to help her. They're both totally exhausted and simply need their rest."

"What?" both men shouted. "What exactly happened? How did Anne injure her hand? Which one? What's wrong with it? What about Shana? Is she all right?"

"Hold it, boys," Irene made the time-out signal. "I'm going to tell you everything over dinner and you can ask their doctor what's wrong with them. We had one of my guests here examine them because the doctor in town couldn't get here." She saw the concern in their faces. "But they're both pretty much okay as far as I can tell."

"Can I see them?" Kevin asked.

"I don't know, Kev. They're probably both asleep and I want them to get all the rest they can."

"Just a peek, Mom," the huge man whined like a small boy. "I'll be very quiet, I promise. I just have to see that they're okay for myself."

"We'll be very quiet, Irene," Mike promised as well.

"Oh, okay," Irene conceded, unable to withstand the gentle pressure and the pleading eyes. "They're in the room next to the library. Please, let them sleep, will you."

Both men stood and leaned down to kiss the older woman on each cheek before leaving the room.

"I'll just check on dinner while you're gone," Irene murmured to an empty room. "Or I could just go and ask the Hinkels to join us."

That said, she finished her beer and went to talk to the German couple.


Kevin and Mike made their way to Anne and Shana's room on tiptoes, trying to be extra quiet. Inevitably, they touched all the squeaky bits of floorboard, flinching and wincing every time.

Kevin opened the door as quietly as he could and squeezed his head through the opening. The light from the hall made the interior of the room barely visible, but it was enough to see the two figures sharing the bed.

Aww, that's so cute.

Kevin turned around and gave his lover a big goofy smile, pointing at the bed. "You have to see this, Mikey," he whispered and made room at the door for the smaller man.

Mike blinked and focused on the bed, smiling involuntarily as well.

Shana lay on her side with the taller form of Anne curled up behind her. Anne's arm rested in a protective embrace around the smaller woman's waist and there was not a millimeter of space between the two bodies. Good thing I'm gay or I'd be in trouble now, he thought when he realized that at least Anne appeared to be naked under the covers, which ended in the middle of her back.

He was just about to close the door and rejoin his lover when he heard a faint sound from the direction of the bed. Looking back he saw Shana move slightly, turning to lie more fully on her stomach, only to be grabbed and pulled even closer by an obviously deeply asleep Anne. Then he watched as the taller woman sighed in her sleep and nuzzled the light hair of the smaller woman in her arms.

He decided to close the door and leave them alone.

Back in the kitchen Mike and Kevin looked at each other and grinned broadly. With a step they were in each other's arms sharing a deep kiss that was prompted by the loving display they had just witnessed.

"You know," Kevin said after a while, "we can never tell them that we saw them like that."

Mike nodded. "Anne would kill us."

"And Shana would wipe the floor with our sad remains," Kevin laughed.

The smaller man grinned mischievously. "But it's great teasing material for later days, isn't it?"

"Oh, yeah … I can't wait for their wedding day."

"Hmm, I can see it now, the wedding of the century: cuddly Anne and snuggly Shana."

"They would kill you, boys," came Irene's voice from the doorway. "No doubt about it … and I would gladly help them bury your carcasses."

Kevin and Mike swallowed audibly.

And Irene laughed heartily.


The Hinkels did indeed join them for dinner in the kitchen since the hotel's restaurant was closed for the winter and the elderly couple saw no way of getting into the tiny town to get something else to eat. The snow had stopped, but driving on these roads in the darkness was still not without its dangers.

They all gathered around the huge table, Kevin and Mike on the one side and the Hinkels on the other with Irene sitting at the head of the table. They all filled their plates with the hearty Irish stew that Irene had concocted as a remedy for being upset. It was a potent dish since Irene had been very generous in the amount of stout she had added.

She loved cooking with alcohol.

It made for very interesting reactions sometimes.

They each had a bottle of stout before them and soon all five of them were enjoying the excellent stew and the strong and very dark beer.

Over dinner Kevin and Mike were told what had happened to Shana and Anne in the afternoon and to their relief, Fritz explained that their injuries weren't that problematic. After listening to the description of the injuries, Mike agreed and was already planning ways of strengthening the injured body parts of both women. It was his job as Anne's physical therapist and a pleasure for him as Anne's and Shana's friend.

After dinner Irene wanted to get the conversation away from her daughters. She was still curious about the history of the elderly German couple and after a few minutes of talking around the subject she decided to just ask.

"Hilde," she addressed Mrs. Hinkel, "you've been coming here now for years and I don't really know much about you." That got her a startled look from the older woman. Great start, Irene! It's not as if they owe you any information. "What I mean was that you always seem to be searching for something … and this afternoon you seemed to think it might be a good idea to talk to someone about it." She smiled encouragingly. "We're all friends here …"

The Hinkels shared a look and then both looked over to Kevin and Mike. They had gotten used to Irene and they liked her, but they really didn't know the two men very well.

Irene saw the look and smiled at the couple. "You can trust the boys, believe me. They're like my own sons."

Both men shot Irene brilliant smiles at that and then tried to look at the couple across from them with a trustworthy and encouraging grin, holding hands under the table.

The Hinkels looked at each other and nodded. Then Dr. Hinkel began to talk.

"As you may know, we're from Berlin --"

"Ooh, Berlin! What a great city," Mike interrupted him, which earned him a dirty look from Irene. He ignored it. "The Ku'damm, the Grunewald, the --"

"Mike," came the almost subvocal admonition from his lover. Mike closed his mouth mid-sentence and leaned back in his chair.

"Yes, Berlin is a great city," Dr. Hinkel continued, "but that is not our Berlin. We're from what was know as Berlin, capital of the German Democratic Republic. East Berlin." He paused for a moment.

"We had a good life, more or less. I was a doctor and Hilde a nurse at the Charitι, a large hospital in East Berlin. And we had a daughter, Daniela, a lovely little girl. We got her rather late, we were both already in our forties and we loved her very much, maybe because we knew she would always stay our only child."

His grip around his wife's hand tightened and he inhaled and exhaled deeply before continuing.

"Unfortunately I never joined the party … the SED --"

"Unfortunately?" he was interrupted again, this time by Kevin. "Isn't that a good thing? I mean they did all the bad stuff, didn't they?"

Dr. Hinkel nodded. "Yes, it was a good thing for my conscience. For our conscience. But it is not a good thing when you have a daughter who wants nothing more than to become a world-class tennis player. She had the talent for it, but she wasn't allowed to join a sports school to work on her talent because her parents refused to join the party." The last part was uttered with a bitter note in his voice.

"All talented young people were usually gathered in sports schools where their talents were brought to perfection. You couldn't go anywhere in your chosen sport if you didn't go to one of those schools. It was considered too risky to let her play her sport because it would eventually take her to tournaments in other countries and there was always the danger of defection. See, we weren't party members so the government thought we had no ties to the country. So I wasn't allowed to go to conferences in the West, my wife wasn't allowed to visit her family in West Germany, and our daughter was not allowed to play tennis for her country."

Irene put a hand on the older man's forearm and patted it in a comforting gesture. "What happened to your daughter? Where is she now?" she asked quietly.

"She did what everyone expected her to do, she fled," came the equally quiet answer from Mrs. Hinkel. "The irony was that six months after she left the country the Wall came down. We haven't seen her since then."

"She is who we are looking for all the time," Dr. Hinkel added. "We don't know where she is."

"But what happened?" Kevin asked. "Why didn't she come back to see you?"

A single tear crept down the old man's cheek. "She didn't come back because we didn't part on good terms. You see, her inability to play tennis wasn't the only complication in her life. The week before she left she also told us that she was gay. I reacted badly. I told her that she didn't know what she was talking about. She was sixteen years old, for Christ's sake. I was so unprepared for that talk. I shouted at her and told her that she couldn't be like that, that I wouldn't let her be like that. And she," his voice broke, "she was crying and telling me that she was confused as well, but that she liked who she was. I told her to snap out of it and come back to her senses. That were the last words I ever spoke to her."

Irene patted his arm again, full of sympathy and a little confusion. He didn't seem to have a problem with Anne and Shana or with Mike and Kevin, and all four of them were gay. So, something has changed …

"But you don't seem to have a problem with us," Kevin asked, confusion also evident in his voice.

"I don't," Dr. Hinkel replied. "I've learnt a lot in the last thirteen years since our daughter left. Having lost my daughter because of that made me look at gay people with other eyes. Today I don't even know why I reacted the way I did. If she were here now, I'd take her into my arms and be happy, and if she had a partner I would love her, too. I just want to see her again."

"What brings you here, then?" Mike asked. "Why do you think you'll find your daughter here somewhere?"

Mrs. Hinkel took over from her obviously very distressed husband. "After the Wall came down we tried to find her. She must have had help from outside the country. You didn't just get up and leave the GDR. If they caught you, you were shot and if they didn't kill you, you went to prison for a long, long time. But there were groups of people who helped those willing to get out. Not all of them, however, were trustworthy. We don't know for sure how Daniela got out and it was difficult to pick up the trail. None of her friends could help us much, but one of her closest friends told us that Daniela had started to talk of a great change in her life and that she would become a famous tennis player soon. This friend said that Daniela mentioned a man who was going to be her manager and who would make her a star."

"We assume that this was the man who managed to get her out of the country," Dr. Hinkel took over again. "Unfortunately, Daniela's friend could only remember a part of the man's name and that it was not a German name. She also said that according to Daniela the man had been a tennis player and was now a manager of several young players."

"We took the information to a private investigator and he tried to find out as much as he could. But there were so many former tennis players who turned into managers that it took him a long time to come up with a list of possible names … but after a couple of years we had a short list of names that we could take to Daniela's friend to see if she recognized one of them. She did. The name was Carlos Vila, and we later found out that he worked together with a man called --"

"George Patakis," Irene, Kevin and Mike said at the same time. They all looked stunned.

"But George has been dead for years now and Carlos Vila is not welcome in this house," Irene stated. "What do you expect to find here?"

"After we had found out the name we had him investigated further and what we found, we did not like. It seems that Vila had a habit of approaching young players from eastern countries and took them with him, presumably to the U.S. But this is always where the trail stops. We know he takes the girls somewhere and they just disappear off the face of the earth and none of them ever becomes a tennis player. We thought that maybe here we could find other clues, but we didn't really expect it. It was just that a feeling keeps drawing us here. And so we come every year. We feel closer to her here somehow …"

Kevin exhaled loudly. "So Carlos gets himself young girls from all over the world and nobody knows what becomes of them …" That sounds suspiciously like a modern-day slaver. Naahhh, that's impossible today. Isn't it?

The thought kept nibbling at the back of his mind, however, especially since he knew a lot more about Carlos than everyone else in this room, including his lover and Irene. But there was no way he could betray Anne's confidence. He needed to talk to her soon.

He could do something else, though. "Would you like me to listen around on the tennis circuit for you? I know a lot of people and I have good contacts. I could call a few people and see if they've ever heard anything about this."

Mrs. Hinkel nodded. "That would be very generous of you, Mr. Delaney."

"No problem. And call me Kevin, please." He smiled at the couple across from him. "Maybe we'll find your daughter and I bet she'll be very happy to see you."

Everyone was quiet after that and the evening ended on a very subdued note, each person at the table thinking about their own demons. Funny how those demons wore the name and the face of Carlos Vila for most of them.

TBC in Part 14.

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