By Colleen


General Disclaimer: This is an alternate uber story. The physical descriptions of the two lead characters may remind you of two others we all know and love, but all characters in the story are from my own imagination. This story is an original work and is copyrighted by the author. It cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copyright 2003-2004

Love/Sex Disclaimer: This story depicts a loving relationship between two consenting, adult women and contains scenes of intimacy, but nothing too explicit. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

Author's Note: This is the third story in the Jamie and Erin series. You might want to start at the beginning with At First Sight and Seeing You Again for the First Time to get the full impact of this story.

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Chapter 15

Jamie spotted a parking area for expectant mothers in the hospital lot. She pulled the car into a slot near the main entrance and rounded the front of the vehicle to help Erin. After retrieving a vase of flowers, a stuffed animal for Caitlin, a card game for Conner and a present for the new baby, from the back seat, they headed in the front door and up to the maternity floor. They had left home very early, on the way to Los Angeles, but it still took them a bit longer to make the normally two hour trip because of a breakfast stop and two more bathroom breaks along the way, due to the extra poundage currently sitting on Erin's bladder. But it was still just before noon and they had already decided to stay the night at Erin's parents, so they had the rest of the day to visit with the family.

Erin rounded the corner, carrying only the baby present; it was all her protective spouse would burden her with. They found room 341 and the blonde stepped slowly through the door so she wouldn't startle anyone. "Looks like we got the right place," she said with a grin.

Bridget smiled back from the bed. "Yeah, come on in sis."

The kids had been watching cartoons on the small television attached to the ceiling, but they quickly abandoned it. "Aunt Erin, Aunt Jamie!" they both yelled and ran to hug their favorite relatives.

Erin set her package down on a nearby table just in time, before she was tackled by the two excited youngsters. Her hugs were abbreviated and the ever blunt Caitlin pointed out, "You're still fat. Haven't you had your baby yet?"

Erin took the observation in stride. "No, honey, not yet."

The older and wiser brother reminded his little sister. "Remember what Dad said, you don't call pregnant women fat. It's rude."

Caitlin tossed back her blonde curls and looked up at Erin. "Sorry."

"That's okay sweetie." Jamie took that moment to give the children their gifts and Erin went to see her sister and new nephew. The not so tiny tot was asleep, of course, since he wasn't eating. Wrapped in a comfy cocoon of blankets, his face was the only thing visible. Erin ran a finger along a puffy cheek and stated her opinion. "He's adorable." Jamie stepped up beside Erin, wrapped an arm around her shoulder and agreed with the assessment.

"Got room for one more in here?"

All eyes turned to the door, where a cheerful chorus of 'Mom' and 'Grandma' rang out. Danielle had already been there first thing in the morning and was now back for a second time to see her expanding family. There was another round of hugs and kisses before Erin asked about her dad.

"He picked a fine time to be out of town on business, but he said he'd call this afternoon." Danielle placed her hand on her younger daughter's belly. "Look how big you've gotten," she exclaimed. "And get that grimace off your face Jamie Shea, before it freezes that way. My daughter knows I didn't mean it that way." She moved over to the bassinet and placed a kiss on the infant's forehead. "It just means she is going to have a big, beautiful, healthy baby, just like my grandson here." Her head snapped back up. "You still don't know if it's a boy or a girl, do you?"

Erin rolled her eyes before catching Jamie's gaze. "No Mom. We want it to be a surprise."

Jamie pulled up a chair for her wife as Brad returned from his walk, to yet more greetings. They were a very happy family today. He promised to take them all out to lunch, minus his wife and youngest of course, before whispering something to Bridget. She smiled, nodded and kissed him before addressing the family. Brad put the baby in her arms. "I suppose you're all wondering what this little guy's name is," he said. Nodding heads all around.

Bridget settled the baby with a little rocking as he began to wake. "Well, I want you to know that his big brother and big sister helped choose his first name."

Erin winked at her niece and nephew, who were standing at her side. A couple of wide grins showed the pride at their part in their new brother's life.

Bridget tipped the baby so his chubby face was visible to all of the family. "We'd like to officially introduce you to Matthew Jerin Nelson."

Everybody clapped...softly, before Bridget continued. "Jerin is a combination of the two people, who we hope will agree to be his godmothers, in addition to being his aunts."

Jamie and Erin clasped hands, the taller woman giving her acceptance, but her face clearly showing her surprise. Erin was already godmother to Caitlin and Conner, but she felt it was extra special being asked to share this responsibility with Jamie. They jointly accepted. "We would be honored."

* * *

When the group returned from lunch, little Matthew was just finishing his meal. Jamie guided her wife to a chair at Bridget's bedside and Erin happily accepted the baby into her arms for a private moment with her nephew. She kissed his cheek and welcomed him to the world and to the family with whispered promises. A few minutes later Jamie pulled up another chair to get an up close look at her new godson/nephew.

"Would you like to hold him Jamie?" his mother asked.

An instant of panic quickly softened to one of apologetic sadness. "I...I don't want to insult you, especially since you asked me to be godmother and I do love him, but um, I want the first baby I ever hold, to be ours."

Bridget smiled. "I understand Jamie. I know you'll be a wonderful godmother; you already are a wonderful aunt."

Erin's lips trembled once and then the emotional dam burst.

"Oh sweetheart, I didn't mean to make you cry." Jamie wiped away the big tears. "You're getting the baby all wet. Here, I'll hold him if you really want me to."

Erin gently pulled Matthew out of reach. "No, no I'm not mad." She sniffed and caressed Jamie's face. "I think that's one of the sweetest things I've ever heard. I can't wait to see you holding our baby for the very first time."

* * *

Dry straw rustled noisily. A torn pants pocket flapped in the brisk breeze. Unblinking, blank eyes stared off into the dark, thick forest. A permanent smile painted the face with mirth...despite having a pole stuck up its backside. The merry, six foot scarecrow, three equally happy brothers and one decidedly more sinister looking one were hanging out in Erin and Jamie's backyard. Erin had been planning this day for over a year, but events, the most important one being her pregnancy had kept pushing back the date. This program was very dear to the author's heart and despite the unavoidable delays, Erin was very excited for it to begin. To kick off this children's horseback riding program, she had devised a day long celebration of riding, food, games and other fun activities. Since it was near the end of the month they had decided to go with a Halloween theme. She had only recently made the invitations and at 11:30 on this Saturday morning they were expecting fifteen disabled children, ages seven to sixteen and their families. In addition, another seven children and guardians were coming from a group home for special needs orphans. Just so there wouldn't be any problems later on or cause any disappointment to any child, Erin explained that she and Jamie were a lesbian couple. She was pleasantly surprised that there wasn't one objection.

Erin and Jamie recruited as many of their family and friends to help out as possible. A group of volunteers, seniors from a local high school, had arrived at seven a.m. to begin decorating and setting up the rented tables and chairs. Later, they would be riding buddies for the children. Soon there were ghosts and bats hanging from tree branches and fence posts. Pumpkins and carved jack-o-lanterns were scattered across the ground and on table tops. Jamie had borrowed an old buckboard from a neighbor. She draped it with spooky webbing, perched a life-size skeleton in the driver's seat and another one, wearing a cowboy hat and boots leaned against the big wagon wheel. This would provide a backdrop for the professional storyteller they had hired. A few dozen bales of hay provided seating for an audience.

The ranch hands set about cleaning stalls and feeding the horses extra early, so they could relax and enjoy the festivities along with everyone else. Jamie had double checked all the tack the day before, for possible wear and tear. Safety was always upper most in her mind, but with these delicate lives it was extra important. Each child would wear a helmet when riding and no one would ride alone.

Erin was restricted from lifting and most other activities, so she stayed inside to prevent temptation, but she checked out the window from time to time during the morning, watching as the back yard filled up. About ten thirty she finally stepped outside to peruse the finished product. A big smile brightened her face and she got a hug from her spouse. "It's great honey," she told the rancher, adding a kiss to the embrace. "This is going to be so much fun."

"I think so too. I'm glad you thought of it." Hand in hand they walked around, looking at all the eerie details. "Everything out here is all set," Jamie said. "The horses are ready to do their job."

"And all the food is in the kitchen just waiting for the cooks to arrive."

As if on cue, a car pulled into the designated parking area and honked. The pair of backyard chefs, dressed in comfortable jeans and soft shirts, got out and headed toward the couple. Hugs were exchanged and Anne and Leah expressed their enthusiasm for the event. As did their baby boy, Tanner who ran to meet his four legged sister, Skye and buddy, Arte. Before long the three canines would be joined by three more, for a doggie reunion. "Emeril and Wolfgang reporting for duty," the doctor said.

Jamie snorted. "Okay Ms. Lagasse and Ms. Puck, your grills are up by the house. And the burgers and hot dogs are inside."

Within the next half hour all the helpers had arrived. Brad brought along his oldest child, leaving Bridget at home with the new baby. Caitlin was spending the day with friends from school. The brother in law, Chad Benson and Jamie's brother Jeremy would be lending their considerable muscles, helping the children on and off the horses. Jamie was going to oversee everything, but of course her specialty was handling the horses and also acting as a riding buddy.

Erin was the people person. When the guests started to arrive, she greeted them cheerfully and made the introductions to the rest of the crew. By noon, the children, some in wheelchairs and some aided by crutches, and their brothers and sisters were playing games and already having fun, filling the air with joyous laughter. The parents were scattered about at tables and benches, talking amongst themselves while keeping an eye on their children without being overprotective. The aroma of grilling food was enticing everybody's appetite.

* * *

Erin was returning from a trip to the bathroom when she passed the food table, snatching a handful of potato chips. She was washing the salty bits down with a sip of soda when a voiced purred in her ear. "Care to share?" Erin popped a large, barbeque flavored chip into Jamie's mouth, following it up with a very quick kiss.

A large, blue van rolled to a stop beside the other dozen or so parked cars. The driver turned to speak to the passengers, before stepping from the vehicle and looking around for their host.

Erin approached the woman, she assumed to be from the group home. "Mrs. Gibson?"

The fifty-something woman smiled. "Yes. Miss Casey?"

"It's so nice to meet you in person. Please call me Erin. This is my partner Jamie."

"It's wonderful to meet both of you. Thank you so much for arranging for us to be here; you have no idea how much this means to these children. With our current financial situation...well, they've been talking about this special trip all week."

Erin and Jamie waited as two other adults and the children began stepping from the van. One of the guardians stopped to give two boys and a girl some instructions in sign language. The last child, a girl no older than five, was lifted from the vehicle and set gently to the ground. Erin studied the dark haired child for just a second before a soft, but painful gasp burst from her suddenly tight throat. She recognized the signs, the blank, unfocused stare, the cautious movements and the clincher came when a small cane was placed into the girl's little hand and she swept it from side to side in front of her, checking for obstacles. Mrs. Gibson held onto her other hand and they stepped forward.

"Sarah, I want you to say hi to Miss Erin and Miss Jamie. They invited us here today."

She grinned brightly, with just a hint of shyness. "Hello."

Erin was still a little emotional, but Jamie was right by her side, supporting her with an arm and a little hug. "Hello Sarah," Jamie said.

Erin struggled to swallow the lump, but her strong will finally managed the task and she shook off the shock, insisting on happiness in her voice. She leaned forward a bit and swept aside a few deep hued curls. "Hi Sarah. I sure hope you're going to have fun today." The little smile widened, revealing an adorable dimple. "Are you hungry sweetie?" A quick nod. "Okay. Would you like to come with me and get a big, juicy hot dog?" Erin looked for permission from the care giver.

She hesitated only momentarily. "I think that would be fine. If that's what Sarah would like."

"Yes," she spoke clearly and enthusiastically. "Do you have ketchup?"

Erin took the girl's hand. "We sure do."

Jamie watched the two walk away, her mixed emotions tumbling momentarily before she smiled and continued her hosting duties.

"Anne, can I have a hot dog...with ketchup for my new friend here?" Erin asked, once they arrived at the food table. "You like macaroni and cheese?" she asked Sarah.


"Potato chips?"

Another yes.

Anne quickly filled the request. "You got it; one full plate coming right up. And who is this cutie?"

* * *

More food and drink was munched, crunched and sipped. Games, organized and impromptu played out as the afternoon carried on. Three horses, in the mid-sized corral, patiently began carrying their passengers, giving the first timers an easy and safe ride. Each child was getting a twenty minute ride on this day to introduce them to this new activity. The length would increase on subsequent, individual visits.

An unexpected, but welcomed visitor came shuffling up to Erin with arms crossed and a pronounced frown on the otherwise attractive face.

"Katie," Erin said, gingerly hugging her younger cousin. "I'm glad to see you, but I thought you weren't going to be able to make it today."

A shoulder shrugged. "My plans fell through. We weren't really going to do anything exciting anyway."

A quiet moment passed as Erin studied her normally jubilant relative. "Do you feel alright right Katie? Are you sick?"

A huge sigh. "No, I'm not sick...physically anyway."

The author nodded. "You miss your folks."

A silent affirmation. "It's more than just that though. All my friends at school...there just...all they want to do any more is play around and do stupid things. That was okay last year...but now it just isn't fun for me anymore."

Erin smiled compassionately, tossed an arm over her cousin's shoulder and walked her over to get some food. "Well Katie, I think you're doing some maturing," she said, "really starting to think about life and your future."

"Had to happen sometime, huh?" Katie chuckled listlessly. She looked across the yard and saw the wave tossed in her direction. She signaled back to Jamie then turned to see the elated glow on Erin's face. She knew the one and only thing that could inspire that kind of complete heartfelt expression. Katie was envious. "Does growing up have to be so lonely though?"

"Of course it doesn't have to be. Chad's here."

"Oh. Didn't he tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"We decided not to see each other anymore...except as friends. He's a great guy, but we always knew it wasn't serious; we both saw other people."

"Well, what about those other guys, could any of them become serious?"

Katie answered immediately. "No." But she didn't elaborate.

* * *

At about two, the slightly tired cooks were finally able to sit down to their own meals. They were joined for a second round by Brad and the blonde veterinarian, the two men giving their backs a time out. The foursome chatted about the day's activities and the generosity of their friends Erin and Jamie.

"Where's your boy at Brad?" Doctor Anne asked. "I haven't seen him since you arrived."

Nelson looked around and spotted his elusive offspring across the field, tossing a baseball with a young boy in a wheelchair. "Looks like he made a new friend," he said. "Those two have been together since lunch."

They continued to watch as the boys played. After a few minutes the kids were approached by the boy's mother and Chad was instantly mesmerized by the beautiful woman. She was about 5'7 and slender, but with definite female curves. Her coal colored, straight hair and copper tinted skin, boldly told of her native heritage. To the amusement of his friend's, Chad soon left the table without a word. His swift gate carried him across the grass to the trio and he gallantly introduced himself. After some incidental small talk they left the children to their game and moved to a secluded table for a much more personal conversation.

Minda Hale told Chad about growing up in the Navajo nation, leaving at eighteen to attend a university where she earned a teaching degree and where she met her future husband. She returned to Arizona and taught for two years before following her new spouse to California with his career. A year later she had given birth to a beautiful and healthy baby. The move was to have been a temporary one, but everything in her world had changed one rainy night. She explained. "Three years ago Scott and his father were in an automobile accident. My husband was killed instantly. Scott's legs were crushed in the wreckage and he was in the hospital for over a year. He was only five. He's had four surgeries and there will be more as he continues to grow. Although he will never be completely out of the wheelchair, he can walk with forearm crutches for short periods of time, but it makes his legs ache. He's my pride and joy and I have devoted all my free time to making his life as happy as possible."

Chad looked to the youngster, who was giggling at something. "He seems to be a wonderful boy with a great attitude, despite everything he's been through."

Minda smiled at her son. "He gets depressed sometimes," she explained, "when he can't run around like his friends, but it never lasts long. He has a picture of his grandfather in his room and that inspires him. My father was a great rodeo rider. That was always Scott's ambition before the accident. He's crazy about horses and when I heard about this program I knew he'd love it." Working as a second grade teacher and a personal tutor supported them well, but wouldn't allow her to buy her son a horse of his own.

"Would you mind if I rode with him when it's his turn?" Chad asked.

She smiled at the tall man. "I think he would like that. And so would I."

* * *

Erin returned from the house with a light blanket and covered Sarah, who had fallen asleep in a chair. It was only mid-afternoon and the little girl had had a busy day already, discovering some things for the very first time. Her new friend Erin had introduced her to a dog. Artemis was quite a patient subject, letting two tiny hands map out her body and stroke her golden, silky hair. The canine was rewarded when her big human showed this little human how to throw the orange tennis ball, which Artemis retrieved with a minimal amount of slobber. Sarah giggled loudly and joyously as she played with the dog for almost half an hour. Sarah also got a simple lesson in biology as she felt Erin's big, rounded tummy and the movement inside. Perched atop a big hay bale, Sarah had held the author's hand as they listened to some slightly spooky stories. Now tuckered out, the girl slept on as Erin kept her warm and safe.

Erin joined Miss Gibson at the nearby picnic table, where the children's guardian once again praised Erin and her kindness and generosity. "Believe me," Erin said, "I'm having as much fun as they are. And I'd like to arrange a schedule for them to return every couple of weeks to go riding." They discussed a few more details before Erin's eyes drifted back to the sleeping child. "She's such a sweet little girl. Can you tell me a little of her story?"

"Sarah was orphaned when she was two. Her mother was a single parent and they lived in a dangerous neighborhood, because it was all she could afford. Late one night she went to a local convenience store; there was a robbery and she was killed. The mother didn't identify the father on the birth certificate and the state couldn't find any other relatives. Sarah came to us about a year ago. She had been in a few foster homes, but ultimately they didn't work out. As good as most foster parents are it's hard to find any who have the time to devout to a special needs child. Technically Sarah is blind, but she does have ten to fifteen percent vision. She can recognize very bright light and sometimes she can see blurry shapes, but nothing in the way of details."

Miss Gibson was called to help one of the other children, leaving Erin with her thoughts. Her silent questions were, of course, left unanswered, but they were many. Why? How? I wonder? Maybe?

"Miss Gibson?"

Erin didn't have much time to ponder the questions or possible answers before a sleepy, squeaky voice caught her attention. "She's nearby sweetie," Erin told Sarah as she moved to help her from the chair. "I'm here though. Did you have a nice nap?"

Still waking up, Sarah just nodded. Erin took both little hands in hers. "I think it's almost your turn to ride a horse; are you ready?" There was just a slight hesitation. "What's wrong honey; don't you want to ride a horse?"

"I do, but I'm a little..."

Erin hugged the tiny body. "It's all right if you're a little afraid sweetie. But I promise you it's really safe and really fun." She gave her a little tickle.

When the giggles subsided, Sarah asked. "Can you go with me?"

"I'm sorry Sarah, but I can't because I'm going to have a baby. But I know a very nice lady, someone I love very much, who would like to ride with you. She'll take very good care of you. Would that be okay?"

Another slight waver, but finally, "Okay."

* * *

By six o'clock, every one of the invited guests was headed home after an extremely fun and satisfying day. Jamie instructed the ranch hand to give the horses, who had performed admirably, a special treat with their oats, after their brushing. She then placed a covered crate in the middle of the table where all the slightly fatigued helpers sat slumped in their chairs. "Now that all the kiddies have gone," Jamie said with a grin, "I thought you might like this." She uncovered the box full of dark, beer bottles buried in white ice, to a round of quiet cheers. Honoring her previous pledge, Jamie pulled out two bottles, of the root variety and passed one to her spouse, who accepted it with a weary smile. The seven adults toasted themselves and to a job well done. Jamie eased an arm around her unusually quiet partner as she listened to and studied her friends.

Katie sat at the far end of the table laughing. She seemed in much better spirits then when she had arrived. Jamie was glad there hadn't been a confrontation between Katie and Jeremy like in past family gatherings. She just couldn't understand the personality conflict between them. Maybe they just avoided each other all day, Jamie thought. Looking down to the opposite end of the long table, her brother was also smiling, and she was glad to see that. Jeremy finally seemed to have gotten hope back and was moving on after his broken engagement. Still very much in the honeymoon phase, Anne and Leah were holding hands as they listened to Chad's story. He was being extremely animated as he regaled the group with a few jokes and a tale of some college antics. After one particularly embarrassing story, he had nearly everyone shedding tears with the laughter.

Nearly everyone.

Jamie gave her wife another sideways glance as she sipped her drink, after calming her own absurd mirth. But her eyes were not the only detectors in action. Sitting close together, Jamie felt the anxiety in Erin's body when they touched. She heard the barely audible sigh, which was laced with sadness. And Jamie had been watching. The corners of Erin's mouth lifted from time to time...but it wasn't the smile Jamie knew and loved. A blonde head nodded with a chuckle at the appropriate times. But still the sound didn't warm Jamie's heart like a genuine laugh usually did. In fact, no one else at the table probably even noticed Erin's somewhat passive reactions. But Jamie saw beneath the feigned merry mask. The jade eyed gaze swept away from the group now and then, seeing another face, thinking of a different laugh...worrying about another. Some spouses might attribute the mental distance to hormones and just brush it off, and even though now was not the time to investigate, Jamie would not ignore it. She would discover the problem, although she already suspected the cause, and she would do her very best to make things right.

Erin absently picked at a deep gouge in the well used, wooden table. A waxey, golden leaf landed in front of the author, catching her elusive attention. She picked it up, quietly examining its veined surface before releasing it again into the gentle gust that blew across the yard. Green eyes tracked it as the wind carried the foliage along its autumn journey. The rancher ran a hand down Erin's back, giving it a little scratch, then a more thorough rub. She leaned over and whispered, "I love you." Erin looked around and that quick reminder triggered a warm and completely loving expression, transforming her face and momentarily lifting her gloomy mood.

That was the smile that lit up Jamie's world. Yeah...I'll make things right.

To be continued.

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