Part 15

For disclaimers see Part 1



Chapter 20

Anne wanted to run, needed to run. The urge to put as much distance as possible between herself and the woman on the other side of the door she was leaning against was amongst the strongest feelings she had ever experienced. And yet she stood there in the hallway, feet rooted to the spot, not moving a muscle.

I wonder who I pissed off to rate such a fucked-up life. I can't believe this is happening again. When will I ever learn not to put my heart on the line? She snorted at her question and shook her head dejectedly. When it comes to Shana, the answer is probably never.

Anne's head touched the wooden door behind her and she heard the faint noises Shana made inside. She knew she should get away from the door if she wanted to avoid her friend, but she realized with something close to horror that her body wasn't obeying her commands. Something inside her wanted nothing more than to ignore everything and be back inside that room with Shana.

God, I'm pathetic. How can I still want her after that?

The noise behind the door came closer to the door and Anne's heart rate increased. Go now, go now! Go! Finally her body followed her orders and moved away from the door. She made it to the corner just in time to hear the door open behind her and she fervently hoped that Shana would walk the other way.

She did.

Anne breathed a sigh of relief. She looked around the lobby and then at herself, realizing for the first time that she was wearing nothing but a short thin robe that did nothing to keep the cold at bay. I can't go out like that.

Now that she was away from temptation, her body was calming down a bit and the need to be in her own home resurfaced. For a moment, she contemplated running over to her own place dressed as she was and she was halfway across the lobby to where she could see her boots when the stupidity of that idea hit her. She turned around and walked towards the staircase, intent on just going up to her room on the top floor to find herself something warmer to wear.

Like all members of the extended family, Anne had a room on the third floor of the house. Her room was nothing more than a large closet, but it housed a twin bed and some clothes for the days when going over to her own house just wasn't a good idea.

She climbed up the stairs and walked along the dark hallway. Her mother's bedroom was up here, as was the room Kevin and Mike used. Even Shana had a small room up here that she could use now that moving around on her own two feet didn't seem to be a problem. Carrying her friend up here when she was unconscious just hadn't been an option.

She's probably going to share the room with that … fiancé of hers. The thought hit her like a punch to the stomach and she stopped walking until the feeling subsided. It was a good thing that she had decided to come up here and not join her mother in the kitchen. She was certain that Irene, good hostess that she was, had taken their guest into the kitchen, and Anne knew that if she saw him right now she would blow a fuse and do something stupid like hitting him.

She clenched her fist. Maybe hitting something wasn't too bad an idea …


When Shana entered the kitchen she was met by three pairs of angry eyes and one rather intimidated young man. Irene, Kevin and Mike sat around the large table and just looked at her. Oh shit, welcome to the Spanish Inquisition!

She decided that getting the young man out of the room was the first thing she had to do and she waved him over to her with one hand. He was next to her instantly, a fact that brought an almost imperceptible smile to the three stern faces that were watching the couple.

"Are you okay, Mishka?" she asked quietly and looked into his face. He was handsome, in a boyish way, with curly blonde locks and gray eyes. He also looked hardly old enough to shave. She liked this quiet young man a lot and she hoped that her friends hadn't scared him too much. But she still needed to find out what he was doing here.

He nodded. "Yes, I'm okay." Even this short answer betrayed his heavy Eastern European accent.

Shana turned towards the others. "I'll be right back." Then she led Mishka out of the room and towards the library. Inside, she sat him down on the sofa and told him to wait there for her. She knew she ought to talk to him, find out how he knew where she was, but talking to Irene and the boys was even more important right now.

She closed the door of the library behind her and took a deep breath before she walked back to the kitchen. When she passed the door to the room she and Anne had been sleeping in, she gave it a wistful look before she continued down the hallway.


Once inside her room, Anne dressed quickly in an old pair of jeans and a worn, but warm sweater. Then she sat down on the bed, at war with herself. Go away, forget her. She doesn't love you. She finally found some nice young man she can be happy with and she'll forget about you soon enough. She was just playing with you.

She tried to put the pain she felt into a place in her heart and mind where she could stow it away until she felt strong enough to cope with it. As if that's ever going to be the case. That storage area in your mind is so large that you're going to need a cargo plane to empty it. If you ever gather the courage to try it, that is.

The longer she sat there in her room thinking about everything, the more her rational side took over. You know Shana. She's not like that. She remembered the touches, the looks, the desire and passion in Shana's voice when they had touched and kissed earlier. She can't be that good a liar. What would be the use? She doesn't gain anything from playing with me.

Her body happily chimed in with its own take of the situation. Remembering Shana's touches and their heated kisses increased her heartbeat and her temperature and she could almost feel and smell Shana again.

Anne groaned.

I need to talk to her. There must be an explanation. She realized that she wanted there to be an easy explanation. She wanted an excuse for Shana's behavior. But what if she's telling you lies? a part of her asked and was silenced quickly by another part of her. She won't. Shana can't lie. Not to me. Not about this.

God, I'm so pathetic.

She stood and straightened her shoulders. I'm going to find her now and we're going to talk about everything.

Everything is going to be okay, because I love her and she loves me. Right?

And with that thought she realized that she would believe almost anything Shana told her, because she wanted to believe.

She opened the door and went to find Shana.


When Shana returned to the kitchen, Irene, Kevin and Mike hadn't moved and were still staring at her. Something doesn't smell right here, the blonde woman thought. She had the feeling that for some reason her friends were putting on a show more than anything, but she wasn't sure why or why she felt that way. Well, I guess I'm going to find out soon enough …

Irene was the first to break the silence that threatened to settle over the little group. "So, that was your brilliant plan to win over my daughter?" She got up and walked over to Shana. "To come here with a guy in tow?"

Shana swallowed. "Well, in a nutshell —"

Irene interrupted her. "I only have one question for you. Are you totally out of your mind? How could you do this to Anne? Hurting her like this?" Her voice had become increasingly lower the longer she spoke and that only served to make Shana feel worse.

"Well," Irene prompted when Shana didn't say anything, "I'm waiting. We're all waiting. What was that glorious plan of yours?" She returned to her seat at the table.

Shana stared at the floor for a long time, trying to come up with the words to explain her plan. It sure sounded like a good idea when I came up with it, she thought defiantly, but refrained from speaking the words aloud.

She looked up to meet Irene's gaze and was surprised at what she saw on the older woman's face. Instead of the anger she had expected to see there was only mild curiosity and a hint of something else that she would have called amusement if it hadn't been for the severity of the situation. What the hell is going on here?

She looked at Kevin and Mike and found the same look on their faces. Oh God, of course, Mishka is a tennis player and that's a very small world. She mentally smacked her forehead. They probably know about him. They must have told Irene.

The thought relaxed her considerably as she walked over to the table and sat down across from the others. "Yes, that was my plan," she said and held up a hand before anyone could interrupt her. "I know it was probably a crazy idea, but here is what I thought."

She poured herself a cup of tea before she started to speak, certain now that the situation wasn't as bad as it had seemed only minutes before. "You know that I love Anne. I've been in love with her for years and I finally figured I'd probably have to be the one to do something about it."

"What a nice way you have of showing her your love," Kevin grumbled under his breath.

"I know this whole thing might look heartless to you, but I swear this was not how it was supposed to be. I wanted to come here and ask Anne to stand up for me at my wedding, to shock her into revealing her feelings for me. I thought that if she was faced with the prospect of losing me to someone else she would get over her pride and tell me she loved me too. Then I would have explained everything and we could have been happy ever after." The last bit was said in a rush when what she was saying penetrated Shana's brain. After I had told her about another tiny thing.

She looked up sheepishly. "Not a good plan, huh?"

Kevin just looked at her with an incredulous expression. "How did you ever come up with such a hare-brained idea? You know Anne, you know she would never have stood between you and the man you were going to marry if she thought he would make you happy. She would have given you her blessing and then she would have crawled into a dark corner to lick her wounds."

Mike nodded. "You have seen too many romantic movies, Shana. Life doesn't work that way."

"Why didn't you tell me that plan of yours when I asked you about it before you came here? I could have helped you. I specifically asked you not to hurt her because she can't take much more pain in her life, Shana. Didn't that mean anything to you?"

"I couldn't, M … Irene," Shana replied, deciding that being called Mom would probably not be appreciated by Irene right now. "I was so stuck on the idea that I just couldn't."

"Then what happened?" Kevin asked. "Why didn't you tell her as soon as you had the opportunity?"

"Because as soon as I woke up and saw Anne beside me I knew that she loved me and that she didn't really need that kick in the pants. My whole plan had backfired, you see. Now I didn't need the threat of a wedding, but I still had to tell her about it. And I really wanted to this morning, but …" She let the sentence trail off.

"But what?" Three voices asked as one.

"But things got out of hand and we were way past the talking stage," Shana replied flatly.

"Oooh, bad timing, huh?" Mike winced in sympathy.

"Or good timing," Irene countered dryly. "Depends on how you see it."

"So, what's with the boy?" Kevin wanted to know.

"Mishka? Well, he wasn't supposed to show up here, at least not before I called him and told him to come. He didn't even know where I was, or so I thought. I need to find out how he got here …" She took a sip of tea.

"Anyway," she paused to look at Kevin and Mike, "you know about Mishka, don't you?"

A nod confirmed her suspicion.

"You're very lucky the boys know that young man, little one," Irene added. "Otherwise I would have thrown him and you out a long time ago. But Kev and Mike told me a bit about him and I think I have an idea about what you're trying to do."

"You really are going to marry Mishka, aren't you?" Mike asked.

"Yes, I am. It's just a farce really, but it would offer him protection and the right to stay here indefinitely. I can't let him go back to Russia with that prison sentence looming over his head."

"Prison sentence?" Irene looked shocked. "You didn't mention a prison sentence, boys. What has he done?"

"His only crime is that he's gay," Shana explained, "and that he had the misfortune of being caught in the act with another player. And for that he could go to prison in his home country."

"So you're going to marry him to save him. Then what? You have Anne as a lover on the side?"

"I was hoping she'd understand. I'd almost never see Mishka anyway since he would be all over the world playing tournaments and I'm …" She caught herself before revealing too much. "And I would stay by Anne's side since I intend to end my career."

Irene looked at her with a curious expression, but said nothing.

"The problem is," Shana continued, "what am I going to do now?"

"You will go to Anne and will explain everything to her," Irene answered. "And I mean everything. No more surprises, no more idiotic plans, just the truth, and all of it." She raised an eyebrow.

Oh God, she knows. Shana nodded and swallowed hard. Might as well tell her.

"Mom, I'm … I'm —"

"I know, sweetie," Irene interrupted not unkindly. "But you should tell Anne that, not me."

"Tell me what?" came Anne's sarcastic voice from the door. "Even more lovely surprises?" Then she turned and walked away before anyone could react to her words.

"Oh shit," was Shana's only comment. My life is turning into a soap opera before my eyes. I want out!

"What now?" The blonde woman turned to the others for help.

Kevin looked out the window. "She's heading over to her place and knowing her, she won't stay there too long. Go, get your boots and jacket. I'm going to walk you over there and then you two are going to talk."

Shana turned on her heels and walked out, not pausing to wonder why Kevin would need to walk her over to Anne's house.

Kevin looked at the others with a grim smile. "And if I have to I'm going to lock them inside Anne's bedroom until they have talked about everything."

Irene and Mike simply sent a prayer to unknown forces to help the two women resolve their problems.

It would be hard enough. They needed all the help they could get.


To be continued in Part 16

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