Blindsided

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.

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.

Feedback will be welcomed at coleen30@webtv.net

I have also created a group for discussions of this, past and future stories. Maybe some sneak previews as well. Join us at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/colleens_corner

Or if you only want updates and special announcements please join http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Colleens_Corner_Announcements/

 

Chapter 9

The somber mood draped over Jamie’s soul the minute she stepped through the back door. The dog was lying on the kitchen floor with her golden head resting on her crossed paws. Jamie bent down and rubbed the long ears. "What’s up girl?" she asked. The animal licked her hand, almost apologetically. "Something wrong?" She gave the dog a few more pats. "Maybe you ate something that didn’t agree with you, huh? Where’s your Mommy?" Jamie washed her hands in the sink and took a small bottle of water from the refrigerator. She walked from the room calling out for her wife. She heard no reply, but soon found Erin sitting in the dining room. The small woman had her back to Jamie and gave no response to her at all. The rancher took in the dark room and her wife’s posture. A stinging shiver went down her back as she approached her. "Honey, what’s wrong?"

Erin couldn’t meet her eyes. With a shaky finger, she continued to trace a pattern of lace on the table before her. "I’m not…" her voice caught. "I’m not pregnant," she whispered.

Jamie felt the small jolt to her mid-section and she took a long drink of the water hoping to swallow the lump that had suddenly formed in her throat. "Oh. Are you sure?" After catching the nod, she pulled over a chair to sit beside the despondent blonde. "Well… honey we knew that chances for a successful first procedure were slim."

Erin just nodded again. She had cried herself out when she came from the bathroom earlier that afternoon. Then she had dropped into the big, lonely bed, hugging a small black teddy bear to her chest. She hadn’t expected it to hit her that hard, especially knowing the odds were against them. But it did. Erin felt a warm hand under her chin and she was soon looking into the caring, blues.

Jamie’s thumb rubbed over the soft skin as she held back her own tears. She looked straight into the weary eyes and forced the corners of her mouth to lift. "We’ll try again in a few weeks, right?"

Erin forced a very weak smile of her own. "Right," she agreed. Soft lips touched hers and she fell into the kiss, putting her sadness aside for the moment.

Jamie pulled back and nuzzled her nose against Erin’s. She took both of the smaller hands in hers. "How are you feeling, physically I mean? Any cramps, your back hurt?"

Erin gave a confusing combination headshake and shrug. "It’s not too bad," she finally confirmed.

Jamie kissed the backs of those hands and held them against her chest. "I’ll tell you what, why don’t you go and put on something baggy and comfortable. Don’t worry about making dinner. I’ll jump in the shower real fast and then go out for a pizza. We’ll snuggle up in that big bed upstairs and eat and watch a movie. How does that sound?"

"Good," came the simple reply.

Just about an hour and a half later, long after the sun had bid goodnight, the couple sat side by side with a half empty pizza box between them. They were both dressed in their warmest, coziest pajamas. Erin had even added a thick pair of socks to her outfit, but it didn’t seem to help against the chill that was skimming her body. Instinctively, she knew it was the stress of the day lending to her incredible discomfort, but no matter how hard she tried she just couldn’t shake the sense of disappointment.

Jamie refilled Erin’s glass with the dark cola and handed it over. The blonde was just nibbling on her second piece of pepperoni, mushroom and extra cheese while Jamie had finished her third and reached for another. The comedy movie playing on the television had garnered very few laughs from either one of them. Although Jamie had squeezed a few out, hoping to infect her spouse and lighten her mood. Jamie had expected Erin to be upset if she hadn’t gotten pregnant, but her withdrawn reaction tore at Jamie’s heart and she didn’t know what to do to make it better. A thought suddenly popped into her head. "I heard from the architect earlier," she said. "He has all the blueprints for the new house drawn up and said he has time at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon for us to go and give final approval. Do you want to go? I know how anxious you are to see our new house get started."

The author paused only a second, picking at a small piece of lint on the blanket beside her. "Yeah, we can go," she said. "I don’t have anything else planned."

Jamie sighed silently. Okay that didn’t help. "Good," she said. "I’ll give him a call first thing in the morning."

The rest of the movie was watched in silence.

At ten o’clock, Jamie cleared away the remnants of their dinner and did a final check of the doors downstairs. She returned to the melancholy room, flipped off the one light beside the bed and climbed under the covers. Erin had already settled in with her back to Jamie. The rancher waited for a few seconds, but Erin made no move to say goodnight.

She approached gently and put a hand on her partner’s shoulder. She was heartened when it didn’t twitch. "Sweetheart, I know you’re sad, but are you mad at me for some reason?"

Erin quickly turned over and they lay there face to face. "I’m not mad at you," she said with conviction. "I could never be mad at you." Her eyes drifted away and she gave a little shiver.

Jamie pulled the blanket up over Erin’s shoulder and asked, "Don’t you feel well?"

"It’s not that." Erin was quiet for a few more seconds as Jamie rubbed her arm under the blue blanket. "I’m sorry," she finally whispered.

"What is there to be sorry for?" Jamie asked.

A sob escaped the trembling lips. "I heard the disappointment in your voice when I told you I wasn’t pregnant."

Jamie smiled very softly and caressed Erin’s soft cheek, sliding her thumb over the drooping lips. "I was disappointed honey…but not in you," she was quick to add when her wife cringed. "Erin, getting pregnant…it either happens or it doesn’t. There isn’t one thing that you could have done differently to change things."

"I just thought…I felt…"

Jamie pulled her closer. "I know sweetie. Like I said before, we’ll go back in a couple of weeks and this time it will work." Jamie stopped short of promising as she directed the sad eyes toward hers. "Do you believe me?" she asked.

Even in the pale light, Erin looked deeply into the sapphire orbs and she saw the truth. She had always seen her future in those eyes, but now she saw the gleam of happiness that a child would bring. "I believe you."

Jamie reached forward the scant few inches and kissed the soft lips. "I love you Erin, more than anything in the world."

Erin sighed, this time in contentment. "I love you too."

* * * *

Early the next morning, drowsy, emerald eyes fluttered open to find Jamie staring back. Jamie smiled. Erin blinked once. Then she smiled…a true one full of peace and joy. The dark haired woman’s expression grew and her insides settled into a state of ease. She knew that if Erin could wake up and smile like she did, that the blues of the previous evening had disappeared. And if Erin was happy then all was right in Jamie’s world.

They were still in almost the exact same position that they had fallen asleep in. Jamie reached up and traced a single fingertip down the side of the face so close to hers. "Good morning," she said.

The blonde head snuggled a little deeper into the fluffy pillow as she answered the greeting. "Good morning." A lovely little kiss followed. "What time is it?" Erin asked.

"It’s about eight."

"Aren’t you running late?" the surprised author asked. "You usually like to be out in the barn by seven."

Jamie’s eyes twinkled. "Nope," she said. "Not going to work today. Brittany and the guys can handle it."

A pair of golden brows converged. "Why?"

The rancher paused just a second, staring into Erin’s eyes. "I woke up at seven," she finally said. "But I saw my wife, so beautiful in slumber and I stayed here just watching her. I want to spend the entire day with you. We can go down to L.A. early, have some lunch…and who knows what other trouble we can find to get into." She contemplated a second as her spouse stretched. A wicked idea invaded those thoughts as some delectable skin peeked out from underneath the blonde’s shirt. With a mental shrug she decided to go for it. They both needed a fun little diversion. "Maybe we can even investigate that costume shop," she suggested with a naughty giggle.

The author immediately recognized that sound and the accompanying look. "Oh no. I don’t think so," Erin said, rolling over onto her back and stretching her taught muscles some more.

"Why?" asked Jamie. She got out of the bed and scooted into her slippers to protect from the chill of the wood floors as she moved to pull open the curtains.

The small blonde rose up on both elbows, appreciatively watching the lanky form cross the room. "The one I went to in Switzerland was legitimate," she said under a yawn, "the one you’re talking about is hidden in…well that one is hidden..."

Jamie turned and cocked her head, the morning sun flowing like a waterfall through the panes behind her. "Where is it hidden?" she teasingly asked.

While Erin was not shy by any means when participating, when it came to discussing more erotic, sexual matters, she was quite reticent. The blonde eyed her sideways and finally spit out, "In an adult shop."

Jamie shook her head, giggled again and headed for the closet. She returned just seconds later with a pink colored box. Pitching the lid aside, she held up the enclosed item and cleared her throat loudly. It had been a few months after they had finally gotten together, the rancher remembered, when her partner had first introduced her new purchase. With rosy cheeks, Erin had slipped into bed one night with the box. She had verbally danced around the subject, nibbling nervously on her lower lip for five minutes before unveiling the new, sex toy. She was quick to assure Jamie that she adored the way they made love, but she had wanted to expand the horizons of their love life. She told Jamie that it had arrived almost three weeks earlier, but she had to build up the courage to bring it out. Jamie suspected that the shyness had stemmed from Erin’s inability to see. The dark haired woman had quickly abated those fears and together they had shared a wonderful evening, discovering new and exciting sensations. After her initial inhibitions, Erin had quickly gained her confidence with eroticism…in private that is.

Erin’s eyes darkened a shade when they fell onto Jamie’s. She pulled the inside of her jaw between her teeth to stave off throwing her cocky lover a smirk. In defiance of the moment, she threw off the bed covers and marched over to her wife. A tinge of scarlet rimmed her ears as she grabbed the item, which was in a lovely shade of lavender, and stuffed it back inside its container. Erin looked her smiling spouse straight in the eye. "I don’t mind using them…"

"You certainly don’t," Jamie interjected.

"…but I won’t go browsing for them or anything else like it in public," finished the blonde. "That’s what the Internet is for."

Jamie suddenly grabbed her and pulled her in for a most wanton kiss. "That’s okay," she said. "You can stay in the car and I’ll go inside and look around." The rancher ducked into the bathroom before the words really registered in the author’s lust hazed brain.

"Oh no you don’t," Erin finally called out. "I’m not letting you run rampant in a place like that. There might be more of those pesky salesgirls who want to demonstrate the merchandise." Erin picked up the dropped lid and stepped into the closet. "And if you don’t behave," she said to herself, "We won’t be using this for awhile." A hefty pause filled the small space before Erin smiled. "Oh who am I kidding?"

* * * *

They climbed into bed that night, happy with what they had accomplished that day. A few kisses, laughs and soft caresses lulled them into an easy sleep. But as with most of the previous nights, their peaceful slumber soon revolted and became unconsciously tumultuous for one and gave the other a waking round of pain that centered around the heart.

But the pain on this night suddenly became all too real for the blonde bedmate.

"Noooo!"

Erin jumped, her brain trying its best to recede from the deep, murky sleep she had fallen into. Her eyes were still plastered shut as she blindly reached out for her lover. Suddenly, a hand flew between Erin’s and smacked her in the face. Propelled backward, she grabbed onto the edge of the bed to stay atop the mattress and off the floor. Ignoring her swelling lip, she quickly turned back to her troubled partner. "Jamie, it’s okay," she said. "I’m here. You’re not alone." She pulled the thrashing woman close to her body and that’s the way they stayed for the rest of the night. "You’re not alone," Erin whispered one last time before they both fell back to sleep.

* * * *

Jamie woke the next morning and carefully untangled her legs from the shorter ones of her partner. She stretched, feeling drained instead of restful. A small smile drifted across her face though at the sight next to her. Erin had pulled the blanket almost over her head; only her tousled hair peeked out. Jamie kissed the yellow crown and quietly got up to start work.

After finishing a small amount of paper work, the rancher headed back to the house for breakfast. The smell of bacon greeted her at the door. "Morning baby," she said as she stepped inside to find Erin standing at the stove.

The small woman returned the greeting and presented her cheek for a kiss. She knew she couldn’t hide her face from her wife all day long, but she tried for just a few more minutes.

Jamie poured herself a cup of coffee and took her seat at the table. "That smells great," she said as she buttered a hot biscuit. Biting off a fluffy chunk, Jamie reached up to take one of the plates Erin had carried to the table. They both settled back down and only then did Jamie see her spouse’s injury. "Honey, how did that happen?" she asked, moving to her wife’s side to examine the puffy and bruised lip.

"It’s nothing sweetheart. It was just an accident." Erin smiled painfully and gestured across the table. "Eat, before it gets cold."

Jamie took her seat again, curious about her partner’s behavior. She took another drink of her coffee, watching closely as Erin gingerly took a sip of orange juice. The acidy liquid stung, but the author did her best not to flinch. "Why won’t you tell me what happened?" Jamie asked quietly. "You didn’t have that last night." A tingle ran across the back of her left hand, not exactly spurring a memory, but raising a strong suspicion. "Please tell me honey." The green gaze finally shifted her way.

"It was just an accident," the blonde reiterated. The tone of voice sent a shiver down the tall woman’s spine. "Last night," Erin continued, "you had a nightmare. I didn’t wake up fast enough and I got in the way of your…hand."

Jamie didn’t even take a breath for the next few seconds as the thought absorbed into her head. "I did that to you?" she finally uttered under a strained and heavy inhale of air.

"Jamie, I said it was an accident. I just didn’t get to you soon enough before the nightmare took hold. As soon as I held you, you calmed down and went back to sleep."

A napkin twisted between the rancher’s long fingers and her sapphire eyes grew impossibly sad. "It has happened before hasn’t it…the nightmares?"

Erin nodded. "A few times…since…"

"Since Mr. McIntyre made his visit." Jamie moved back to Erin’s side and reached down to tenderly kiss the bruised area. Her forehead rested against Erin’s. "I’m sorry. I won’t let this happen again," she whispered. "I won’t bring you any more pain." Warm hands settled against her cheeks and she looked into the concerned face.

"This doesn’t hurt nearly as much as my heart hurts for you," said Erin. "I just want you to be able to resolve your feelings so you can be happy again."

Now that it all had come so vividly to light, Jamie could no longer deny the truth of what she had been feeling. The nightmares, the pain, the old resentment and now the guilt…it all poured over her like flood waters. She no longer had a choice; it wasn’t just disrupting her life any more. The dark head nodded. "I’ll try."

 

* * * *

A timid knock on the front door brought Erin from the kitchen. It didn’t take her long to make the short trip, but she opened the door to find her guest retreating down the stairs. "Jeremy?"

The young man turned and nodded. "Hello Ms. Casey."

She held the door and motioned for him to step inside. "Call me Erin," she said.

He peeked inside and muttered. "I…I don’t want to disturb you…I just…"

Erin boldly took him by the hand and led him into the living room. "Jamie isn’t in here right now," she said easily.

His head dropped despondently. "And she still doesn’t want to see me," he said.

"As I said before, Jamie is still working out some things from her past. Give her some more time. If you have a few minutes I’d like to talk to you and get to know you. We could be friends…if you’d like."

That brought a tiny smile to his handsome face. "I would like that."

Erin smiled back and said, "Good. Have a seat. Can I get you something to drink?"

"No, thank you."

They went on to talk a little about his childhood and as the minutes slipped away Erin’s charm eased his nerves and she saw Jeremy’s true personality. The twenty-four year old said he never resented not having a father. His mother had enrolled him the big brothers program and he was matched up with a really great guy who took him to ball games and fishing and taught what being a man really meant. And it had nothing to do with brawn or machismo and everything to do with heart and courage. They had always had a wonderful time together, but still there was always that question. The question about the man who had given him life. Jeremy had been a very good student in grade school and an even better one in high school. His mother was always proudly raving about her honor roll student. He smiled when mentioning his mother. She sounded like a great woman and Erin hoped that she would someday get the opportunity to meet her.

"Where did you go to college?" Erin asked.

"Here in California. I have a degree in Environmental Engineering and a minor in Business Management. I’ve always loved the outdoors. I had this great idea that someday I’d have my own company that worked to preserve nature in all its glory. Right now I’m working over in Bedford, for Redding Development as an environmental advisor." Erin knew of the logging company and their good reputation among the, so called tree huggers. "I’m not totally naive," Jeremy said. "I know that wood is an important resource, but there are definitely right ways to go about harvesting the forest without causing irreversible damage."

As he continued to speak, Erin found herself loving this young man’s determination and his passionate spirit for life. He had a lot in common with his sister, she soon realized.

Artemis trotted in and flopped down at Jeremy’s feet. "Well, hello there," he said. Without even thinking he scooted from the sofa to the ground and began scratching the dog’s belly. Arte’s tongue shamelessly drooped out the side of her mouth and she laid her head on his leg.

"Once you get started, she won’t easily let you stop," warned Erin.

Jeremy laughed. "That’s okay. I love dogs." A hint of sadness flew over his eyes. "I never got to have one when I was a kid; mom was allergic." His smiled then returned. "My best friend down the street let me share his dog though. He was a beagle and he could run us both ragged during a long afternoon. Bucky had more energy then the two of us put together."

Erin watched fondly as he continued to lavish attention on her dog. "So Jeremy do you have a significant other?" she asked.

"Yeah, her name is Rachel. We’ve been going together for two years. We’ve talked marriage, but not until after she graduates next spring. We can only see each other on weekends since I got this job. That’s not easy, but at least she gets to spend more time on her studies." He was quiet for the next few seconds as he continued to play with the dog.

The sadness in his voice returned when he spoke up again. Only this time he was much more subdued. "I want you to know, that I applied for my job before I knew my sister lived here. I don’t want her to think I’m a stalker or anything."

Erin squeezed his shoulder. "I understand. I know this is hard for you too."

"Why doesn’t she like me?" he asked pitifully.

A pain gripped Erin’s heart after hearing the despair in his voice, "Jeremy, it’s not you," she said, "it’s the situation. It’s not really my place to tell you this, but you deserve to know something. When she was just a child, Jamie lost her identical twin sister, her grandparents and her parents all within three years." Erin saw his dark brows furrow and she could read the sorrow in those familiar eyes. She hoped this little bit of information would help ease his hurt. "She’s only recently really begun to start dealing with that deep seeded pain. Your appearance has…

He gave the dog one final rub and struggled to his feet. "You don’t have to say anymore. I’m sorry if I’ve hurt her. I never wanted to do that."

Again, Erin laid a hand on his arm. "I know you didn’t Jeremy."

He gave her a very weak smile. "I think you’re a really great person Erin and I’m really glad she has you in her life." Jeremy sucked in a deep breath and took, what he was sure would be the last look around the room. His eyes found a picture of two small, dark haired girls that he assumed were his sisters. They were standing in front of a carousel and grinning as they had their arms around one another. He wistfully wondered what it would have been like growing up with those siblings. He had no regrets of his childhood; at the time he didn’t know any better. But now… "I’d better go," he said. "I don’t want to upset Jamie anymore."

"Jeremy all I can say is please don’t give up hope. Can I have your phone number? I’d like to keep in touch."

The young man pulled out his wallet and handed Erin a white business card. "Actually I just got these," he said with a touch of pride. "It kinda makes me feel like a real adult now."

Erin smiled, causing him to echo her after just a few seconds. She walked him the short distance to the door and they said so long. She refused to make it a permanent good-bye. The author stepped back into the house and she heard the footsteps rush up the stairs. She didn’t know how long her spouse had been there, but Erin crossed her fingers, hoping Jamie had heard something that would finally spark her interest in Jeremy McIntyre.

 

* * * *

Erin walked into the bedroom that evening carrying two cups of hot chocolate. It seemed more and more that they used that particular beverage as a comfort. But she wasn’t sure it would scratch the surface on this night. Erin felt the tension the moment she crossed the threshold. Jamie was standing at the farthest window staring into the evening, the dark sky matching her mood. It was a heavily clouded night, blocking out even the smallest dot of starlight and the moon’s glow. Jamie had always liked to watch the stars. She saw her parents there. But tonight they were hiding from her. The taught muscles flexed in her arms as her fingers unconsciously grasped at the wood trim around the panes of glass. Her clenching jaw matched their rhythm. The author placed the hot mugs on the nightstand and moved to stand behind her tall spouse. Jamie felt her presence, but made no indication of it. Erin stood there for several seconds, not touching, not talking, just breathing.

Finally, the dark head moved, but no more than an inch. "I have this pain in my gut," she said hoarsely. "And I can’t figure out why?"

Erin moved forward and slipped her arms around the aching middle. She kissed the cloth covered back. "I know sweetheart. I know." Gently, she rubbed little circles over her wife’s stomach, but said nothing more. And she would remain quiet until Jamie opened up and addressed the issue that loomed in the wake of her personal peace.

Jamie went on to talk about inconsequential ranch business for the next five or ten minutes as Erin continued her silent support, stroking a lock of onyx hair now and then. Through clenching muscles, she did feel the outburst that was about to come.

"I should probably keep Thursday and Friday open for the next insemination right?" Jamie asked. She felt the positive nod against her back and continued. "Then I can make some appointments tomorrow and Wednesday if I need to. I think the word is spreading about Cooper and as soon as I can get the Internet site up and going, I should have more business than I can keep up with. I might have to hire someone to help me in answering those requests...but that’s okay. I can do that." She stopped and took a needed breath. "I’m thirty years old Erin, I don’t need a…him. What does he want from me?"

Erin took Jamie by the hand and led her to the bed where they sat on top of the folded down blanket. "Honey, I don’t think he wants anything from you," she said. "He just wants to get to know you, to talk to you. Laugh with you and maybe cry with you. That’s what siblings do. Jeremy is a wonderful young man. I know you heard us talking this afternoon and I know you see that too." Erin watched the gradual change in Jamie’s expression, whether from her words or from exhaustion, she wasn’t sure. The skin around her eyes loosened, but the blue orbs still held on to that thread of resistance. Erin knew she couldn’t push, but she had to gently prod her wife along this path she had started down. "And," she drawled, "he would probably like to hear about the father he never knew." Jamie finally glanced up as Erin continued. "As short as it was sweetie, you had him for ten wonderful years. You have those precious memories. Perhaps you could share some of those with your brother. I think he’d like to hear about his other sister too. I know that twins have an incredible bond and I know you still miss her…and maybe you’re feeling just a little guilty because she can’t be here to know him."

A film of saline developed over her tired eyes as Jamie sat there in total silence for almost five minutes. Erin anxiously watched the trancelike state her wife had fallen into. She thought the conversation was over for the night until Jamie sighed and threw her head back. "My head is kinda figuring all that out that," she said. "But my heart…" Erin pulled her in for a long hug. The outside tears never fell, but inside they consumed that small place inside Jamie’s soul that she had long ago reserved for those three people that had been the most important things in her young life.

Erin pulled out of the hug and kissed Jamie’s cheek. She took her hands and gave a small, supportive smile. "Perhaps you’re afraid," she said, "that if you get close to Jeremy, that would leave you like they did." There was a small, almost imperceptible nod. "But you took that chance with me sweetheart. You can do it again. Deep inside, I know you want to." She squeezed the hands entwined with hers "And you know it too. Don’t cheat yourself out of all the great times you could have with your brother."

Jamie swallowed once and bolstered enough courage for a hopeful bit of a smile.

 

* * * *

She was afraid to fall asleep. Not afraid of the nightmares that would surely have come in slumber. The unfriendly visitors had graced her nocturnal hours for many years. After falling in love with Erin they had abated…until recently. What frightened Jamie the most was the thought of hurting Erin again. A fleeting thought of sleeping in another room had crossed her mind, but never left her lips. Her stubborn spouse would have had a few choice words on that suggestion. So her busy mind and fearful heart had kept her awake. Jamie had looked down at the peaceful face beside her as had Erin lay sleeping. The bruised lip was barely noticeable in the dim light, but to her it was painfully clear.

Those damn nightmares.

Subconsciously, Jamie had known what was happening. She just wasn’t aware that it had been affecting her so strongly, physically. While she hadn’t really remembered seeing the horrible visions, she had certainly felt them the next day. Every morning they had left that lump in her stomach. More vague images had also come to her during the waking hours when she had allowed her mind to drift. It was like watching through a wall of stretched cotton webbing. Tiny holes here, a paper-thin section there. Beyond that hazy barrier flashed the most painful moments of her life. Her seven-year old eyes saw a hospital bed and inside lay her sister, pale and still. A coffin that was just her size was lowered deep into the earth and the dirt that was tossed in after, suffocating the scared little girl. The same little girl still lived inside the thirty-year old woman. Then there were two larger coffins side by side in a church on the day she had lost it all.

Lying awake that night, she had thought a lot about what Erin had said. She couldn’t go to another funeral, could not see another dead body of a cherished relative. She shared blood and a heritage with Jeremy, but could she afford the price of that emotional investment.

The answer was slow in coming, the pros and cons weighing in heavily. But once it had, the thick cloak around that part of her heart slowly dissolved, leaving her in a state of apprehensive acceptance instead of sheer denial.

About three thirty in the morning, the blue gaze had drifted over to the window, back to the dark sky. She suddenly recalled something she had said just a few months earlier. Jamie whispered in the darkness, addressing the hidden stars. "Guess I was wrong. You can’t be proud of the way I’ve acted toward…my brother." It was the first time she’d referred to Jeremy by that title. The two, unfamiliar words rattled around inside her brain before traveling southward and scarcely settling in the vicinity of her heart.

* * * *

Erin and Jamie held hands and each placed a wishful kiss upon the gold locket that hung around the smaller woman’s neck. It was a repeat of the action they took just a month before. This time they took an extra few minutes and doubled their prayers to be blessed with a child, but I love you, were the only words exchanged.

The optimistic couple took the long drive home from the doctor’s office without any stops and once they had arrived home from the doctor’s office, the author was pampered for the rest of the day. The positive changes in Jamie’s behavior over the last two days had been extremely subtle, but Erin saw them. But she had been the only one who had seen the discomfort as well.

At lunch, Jamie made two of her extra special sandwiches with three kinds of meat and cheese and all the garden fixings on thick, crusty bread. She carried them and a bowl of leftover coleslaw into the den where they had an impromptu picnic on the floor in front of the fireplace. They toasted with tall glasses of cold milk and just enjoyed their time together. At one point during the meal they had a friendly intruder, when Artemis trotted into the room and plopped down between them, shamelessly begging for a snack. She got a slice of meat, but also the not to welcomed news that a bath was in order.

Sometime later, Jamie took on the task of dog washing after showing Erin to a recliner with a well-worn book and setting a plate of cookies beside her. Up to her elbows in soap and wearing a water soaked t-shirt, Jamie scrubbed the surprisingly cooperative beast. She already rued the day the animal would tangle with a skunk. It was really inevitable since Artemis spent a great many hours scrounging the woods that surrounded the house. "You know girl," said Jamie, "I hope you don’t get jealous, but you are going to be sharing this house and our attention very soon." The dog sniffed the air and Jamie laughed. "No not yet. And don’t worry, you won’t have to share your bed."

Once she and the dog were dried, Jamie grabbed a brush and headed for the den. Erin had apparently finished her book, at least for the moment and sat staring into the twisting flames. She finally noticed her visitors when a wet nose nudged her hand. "Hey sweetie," she said to the dog. Sniffing the drying fur, she added, "Well, that’s much better. I promise not to neglect you so long next time." She looked up and smiled at Jamie. "Thanks hon. Here," she held her hand out for the dog brush, "I can do that."

Jamie complied easily. "Oh, okay. Actually, I do have to run out for a little while. Anything you need?"

"Nothing that I can think of."

The tall woman bent to kiss the golden head, Erin’s that is. "Don’t worry about dinner," she said. "I’ll take care of it. I won’t be too long. Bye."

* * * *

Jamie walked into the quiet office and nodded to the receptionist. It was slow on this Friday evening. But that was always good news here. "Hi Sheila," she said with a smile. "How’s it going?" She had become friendly with the middle-aged woman through her repetitive visits to the Kingdom Clinic.

"Just great," the woman replied. "My son is coming to visit for Christmas break. I might bring him over to your place to do some riding, if that’s okay?"

"Sure. Come on over any time. If I’m busy, I’ll get my new hand Brittany to take care of you."

"Yeah, I’d heard that you hired the Smith girl." The blonde rolled her eyes in a motherly way.

"I’m sure Robert will enjoy his time there," Jamie said with a little laugh.

"No doubt. Chad’s in his office; you can go on back."

Jamie stepped through the doorway and headed down the long hall. "Thanks, Sheila. Talk to you later."

Knock, knock.

"Come on in. Hi Jamie," the vet said as she walked into the room.

"Hey Chad."

"Have a seat." The tall doctor walked over toward a small refrigerator tucked away in the corner. "Can I get you something to drink?" he asked.

"No thanks. I’ve got to pick up dinner and get back to Erin soon. The Erickson’s gelding is off his feed and a little sluggish. I called and they would like for you to go ahead and have a look at him, tomorrow if you can."

Chad took a seat back at his desk and scribbled himself a little note. "Sure thing. I’ll be over about ten."

The dark head nodded. "Say, while I’m here can I get a look at the newest member of my growing brood?"

The blonde haired man laughed out loud. "Absolutely."

Jamie followed him to the opposite side of the building and to the back of the mostly empty kennel area. Not having an enclosure big enough for all five of them, Chad had improvised. Four plastic gates had been secured together blocking off one corner of the room. Near the back wall sat the multi colored, mama dog. Her formerly battered, but now healthy body was cushioned in a thick, brown blanket donated by Dr. Carson. The cast on her leg remained, but that was the only reminder of her ordeal. Her eyes were bright and clear and her happy tongue went to work when Chad reached over to pat his new friend.

"Wow," said Jamie. "She’s beautiful."

"Yep. I’m sure her puppies are going to be just the same."

Jamie looked down at the smaller versions of the adult dog. The four pups jumped and tumbled over each other as they played. The excited high pitched yipes had started the minute their mother was alerted to the visitors. They were easily identifiable to the vet who had been taking care of them for more than three weeks. A large hand reached down and scooped up one of the two larger babies. The dog licked Chad’s chin in a flurry of motion as he cuddled it close to his body. "This is the lucky little girl who will be going home with you," he said. The vet held the pup right up next to Jamie’s face, doing a little comparison. He bounced back and forth between the similar sets of blue and clucked a tongue. "I can’t understand why Erin chose this one."

Jamie’s face developed a shade of embarrassment as she took the pup from him. "Yeah, she told me." Her head shook, not understanding the fascination. But then she herself had perused at least thirty different paint samples in shades of green, when fixing her office in the barn. "You are a cutie," she said to the animal who had immediately settled down in her hand, enjoying the warmth. "But then again they all are."

"Yep." He pointed to a mostly tan colored one that was standing up on the fence stretching to get some attention. "She chose this little girl for her sister and Dr. Carson picked that male over there. Everyone has a home except for that little guy over there by mama."

The pup in question turned from his snack and looked up at the two humans. Jamie noticed that he was the only other pup with blue eyes. The other two had deep brown.

Chad scratched the small black head resting on Jamie’s shoulder. "Erin was determined to find homes for all of them with someone she knew," he said. "Even said something about all the owners and dogs getting together at your place at least once a month. She said they’re a family and they shouldn’t be separated forever." Jamie unconsciously leaned down and kissed her puppy’s dark head as the tall man got back to his feet and dusted off the knees of his jeans. "You can take her home now if you want. She’s at a good weight and ready to be weaned." Jamie didn’t say anything. "Or," he said. "You can wait and let Erin come and get her.

Her gaze finally re-focused and met his curious one. She smiled slightly. "No, we’ll go back home together."

* * * *

Erin listened to the soft strains of the Irish flute as she rested in the den. She had put on the CD when her eyes had become tired from reading. Her stomach rumbled and she checked her watch. Jamie had been gone for over two hours and dinnertime was approaching. With that thought, Erin heard the front door open. She waited, but her spouse didn’t immediately appear. So she waited a little longer.

A smiling face poked around the door a few minutes later. "I’m back," Jamie said. "I put dinner in the fridge for a little while. I have a surprise for you." Erin uncurled her feet and started to rise. "No, no. Stay right there. And close your eyes."

The author did as she was requested and soon she heard the footsteps walking over the hard wood floors. She sensed her wife kneel in front of her and soon felt a tongue on her face. It’s too small to be Jamie’s, she thought. Erin reached up to grab the puppy even before her eyes opened. "Welcome home sweetie," she cooed as the animal continued to lick her face.

Jamie smiled at the scene of affection and explained how the dog came to be in her possession. "It must have been love at first sight," she said, scratching the pup on the belly.

Erin looked into Jamie’s eyes. "It was. I would have loved any of them," she explained, "but there was just something about this little one that called to me."

That same chagrined expression floated over Jamie’s face, but quickly disappeared. "Uh huh. What are you naming her?"

Erin held out the squirming pup and scrutinized the tri-colored body. But her eyes soon fell back into those bright pools of blue. "How about Sky?" she said.

The little tail wiggled at an incredible speed just under Jamie’s nose causing her to almost sneeze and definitely laugh. "Sound’s good to me," she agreed. "I’ll call Arte and you can make the introductions. I guess the back porch is going to be too cold for her, so I’ll spread the puppy papers in the kitchen," Jamie said, stopping in the doorway to watch Erin and the puppy. She smiled, gladly willing to share her wife’s affection with the baby canine…as long as the author didn’t bring it to bed.

* * * *

Later they crawled into their bed…alone. The puppy had been retired to the kitchen with just a little sadness lingering in the shiny eyes. But Artemis quickly came to the rescue snuggling up in her own bed and allowing the soft pup to curl up in her long, warm fur.

For a change, Erin was lying on her back and the tall rancher was cuddled against her side, running gentle fingers over the author’s belly. Several contented sighs broke the darkness as sleep was still keeping its distance from the lovers. Baby thoughts danced inside heads, fair and dark alike. A good life involved change; nice ones that would bring joy and sometimes sad ones that would at the very least hopefully impart lessons for the future. These changes tended to affect behavior, but it was up to personal perspective as to whether that behavior was good or bad.

Erin’s fingers traced the back of the ones on her middle. "Do you wonder if they ever think about what they’ve done, about what the future holds?"

Somehow Jamie was able to decipher that somewhat cryptic statement. Her eyes stayed glued to the movements of their joined hands in the dim light. "The donors you mean?"

"Yeah."

Jamie paused. "Like my father. I guess that proves that some of them do at least." She shifted, bringing her right arm up under her head. "If I were a man, I don’t think I could do it. I would have to wonder every time I saw a child."

"I was thinking that too," said Erin, rubbing a hand down Jamie’s side. "But I think we have to be grateful to those who can give that gift."

The muffled sound of a hooting owl drifted in through the closed window beside their bed, but soon faded as the bird took flight hunting for an evening meal. A far off puppy whimper sounded three or four times before it quieted once again returning the house to silence.

"You know," Jamie said in a voice just above a whisper. "Ever since I met you I have envied your relationship with Bridget. You’re close not just because you are sisters, but because you’re friends and because of all the memories you share."

Erin’s head nearly spun with the drastic turnabout in subject matter. But then again maybe it wasn’t. She reached beside the bed, flipping on the muted light, wanting Jamie to clearly see her face and vice versa. "Jamie, it was the day to day building of those memories that was most important. That hasn’t stopped and hopefully it won’t for a very long time. It’s not too late to start making those kinds of memories with Jeremy. But you have to take the first step."

Jamie’s expression remained indifferent, but Erin saw the wheels turning behind those silvery blue eyes.

 

To be continued.

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