A Thousand Kisses

Part 1

By: Girl Bard


Disclaimer: While I pay homage to the masterminds behind XWP and their two beautiful leading ladies, I don't own them. But these characters are all mine. So there.

Subtext: But of course.

Summary: This is fourth story in what I've dubbed the "Jaden and Grace series." I highly recommend reading I Know This Bar and the following two stories before starting this one. They can all be found on the Academy's wonderful site.

Author's Note: As I seemed to have gotten in the habit of naming stories after songs important to me, I will not break tradition. Thanks to the mournful band by the name of Wild Strawberries for their music. Check them out, they're great.

Feedback: I'd be delighted: girl_bard@yahoo.com

Dedication: My beta readers are the best; thanks!! J I have to thank my girlfriend for her undying support and wisdom, and of course, my dog and cat are simply wonderful. Thank you to all the readers who consistently read and email feedback on my stories. You keep me writing!



August 15, 2000

"On the road again, just can't wait to get back on the road again.." Jaden sings as I regard her warily. It's way too early for her to be this awake.

Yawning, I rub the sleep from my eyes and regard the dingy motel room as my insane girlfriend efficiently packs our suitcases and straightens the dresser.

"You almost ready?" She questions and I roll my eyes as I climb out of bed. Why are we awake at 9:00 am? I'm not sure. I thought we had agreed to sleep in this morning.

I shuffle off into the shower, grabbing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt on the way. Wrinkling my nose at the small bathroom I sigh and step into the lukewarm shower.

At least I was able to postpone our Ohio adventure by a day. We got a late start yesterday on account of the destructive dog duo and didn't leave until lunchtime. We drove until 7:00 last night, only stopping for a bathroom break or two. I decided I didn't want to keep driving straight through and get to Ohio in the middle of the night so we stayed at this small Pennsylvania motel, the only close one we could find that didn't mind housing the two dogs.

I was hoping we'd sleep in and not get to Ohio until just before dinner today, but Jaden decided that we should get an early start, I guess. If it were up to me, we wouldn't get a start at all.

Not that I don't want to see my sister and my uncle, I do. But it's my mother that I'm nervous about. I know I need to come clean and tell her about my relationship with Jaden, the fact that I'm not coming back to Ohio or marrying Scott and various other things, but it's just so much easier to not bring it up.

I guess I'm just a big chicken. At least that's what it feels like.

Sighing again I finish rinsing the motel's bar soap from my body. I shut the water off and dry myself with a threadbare towel, shivering slightly in the cool air.

I can do this. I know it's going to be difficult, but I have strength now that I never thought I had.

Dressing quickly, I hang my towel over the shower stall and join Jaden outside. She's just finished packing our few suitcases and dog items and has both Bella and Bean all set in the Explorer.

"I'm ready." I tell her quietly as I get in the driver's seat. It only takes a second for me to move the seat up enough for my legs to reach. Jaden nods and climbs in the passenger side.

"Got this for you." She mentions as she hands me a bottle of Coke. I smile gratefully at her and open it, feeling the acid liquid turn my throat to fire. Yum. "You sure you don't want me to drive?" She continues and I shake my head.

"Nope, I'm fine. Are we ready?" I ask and she nods.

The Explorer purrs as it starts and I turn on the headlights to head back to the highway. We're probably only five or six hours away, depending on traffic.

"What's our game plan once we get there?" Jaden asks and I contemplate the answer. We haven't really talked about what I think is going to happen once we reach Ohio.

"My uncle is expecting us sometime today, so we'll go over there first. It will be nice to see a friendly face. I asked him to let my mother know I was coming for a visit." I answer and Jaden agrees. "From there, I guess we'll call my mother and see if she's speaking to me yet." I continue.

"Can we go to Cedar Point?" Jaden asks and I giggle, remembering how much fun she had there. "I really want to ride that new ride."

"Millennium Force?" I question and she nods, her eyes bright with excitement. "I'd love too. But we'd have to ask my uncle to watch the dogs. Who knows what they will tear up."

Jaden laughs. "Bella's a bad influence. Bean was never a destructive dog until they met. But I don't blame Bella, she must have had a really hard life."

I think for a second as I merge onto I-80. "What about crate training her? I've heard that really works."

"What do you mean? Keep her in a cage?" Jaden responds, her voice incredulous.

"It's not like that." I soothe her. "Basically you train the dog that their crate is their den and it's a place where they can feel secure and safe while we are gone. The only time they stay in there is when we're not home and as soon as she learns to feel safe when no one is home, she won't need to stay in it anymore."

"Oh." Jaden answers. "It might work. We should ask Sam about it when we get back and maybe pick up a few books on it."

"Sure." I tell her, smiling. She sure has taken to Bella quickly. Not that I haven't, but there is definitely a bond between the two.

A warm hand finds its place on my thigh and I feel a surge of protectiveness around me. No matter what happens on this trip, I have Jaden. And I have myself.

That's all that matters.


Something green. That isn't very difficult I guess. Glancing around the interior of the Explorer I see very few green things.

"The speedometer?" I ask and Gracie shakes her head no. Hmmm.

"The stripe on your sneakers?" I try and again get rebuffed.

"Gracie," I whine, "There isn't anything else green in here!"

"Yes there is." She argues, taking her eyes off the road to smile at me.

Aha! That has to be it. "Your eyes?" I ask, knowing I have to be right.

"Good job!" She praises me. "Now it's your turn."

"You cheated." I tell her and she looks at me with her pale eyebrows quirked. "You can't spy your own eyes. So you cheated."

She giggles and takes one hand off the wheel to adjust the rearview mirror. "Actually, I can spy my own eyes, so there." She returns the mirror to its original position and smiles cockily.

I sigh, relenting. She is right after all. "Fine. I spy something golden and arched in the distance. I'm starving, let's stop for lunch." I tell her, pointing at the McDonald's at the rest area.

She agrees and pulls off of the highway. "We aren't that far, we'll reach the Ohio border in a few miles."

"I know, but I'd rather eat now. While we're still out of their clutches." I remark, smiling to let her know I'm just kidding.

Grace grins and pulls through the drive thru as we place our order. Bean and Bella wake up in the back seat and immediately come to attention as they smell the scent of McDonald's. Bella whines slightly and I turn to look at their focused expressions.

"Get a six-piece chicken nuggets for the dogs!" I whisper and Grace groans. I turn to the girls in the middle seat and wink at them.

I must be going crazy if I'm actually having conversations with dogs and making facial expressions at them. But I swear they know exactly how to work me.

Grace pays and takes the bag of food from the kid at the window. She pulls into a vacant parking space and turns off the engine.

"You know," she says thoughtfully as I divide up our lunch, "I actually like driving your big car. It makes me feel all powerful because I'm up so high compared to my little car."

I nod in agreement. "I like it. I hate driving an SUV because of the low gas mileage, but I'm so tall that most cars are uncomfortable for me. And it's nice to be intimidating too." I add and she smiles as she munches on a French fry.

We eat in silence, both of us consumed by our thoughts. I know that Gracie is incredibly nervous about seeing her bitch of a mother, but I'm more upset about possibly running into Scott again. This entire trip isn't going to be fun, but I know Grace is desperate to see Lydia and Rick. I'm looking forward to seeing them also, I haven't really gotten to spend much time with Grace's sister, but from what Grace has told me she's great. And Rick and I get along.

It's going to be strange to see the bar though. It's where everything started and although it wasn't that long ago that Grace and I met by chance, it feels as if I've known her forever.

The most difficult time I'll have is trying to bite my tongue in front of Debbie. What she's done to Grace makes me want to rip her throat out, but I know that Grace is an adult and can take care of herself.

I have to try and be on my best behavior. Too bad we didn't get a huge guard dog that could stand between Grace and her mother. I picture Debbie being attacked by a huge German Shepard and try to contain my smile.

"What?" Grace asks and I shake my head.

"You don't want to know, trust me." I answer and she rolls her eyes. She knows me well enough by now to believe me when I tell her that. As she runs her hands through her mussed hair my grandmother's ring sparkles in the sun. "What are you going to say about that?" I ask, pointing to the ring. "Or are you just going to take it off?"

"No way. I'm never taking it off." She answers definitively. "I know that I have to tell my mother about us. It's not going to be easy and hopefully she will understand. I'm not counting on it though." She finishes sadly.

"I know it's going to be hard and I'll do whatever I can do." I offer, feeling helpless to ease her pain. Grace nods and starts the car and soon we are on our way once again.

The road is long and winding ahead, and the rolling hills of the green Pennsylvania countryside surround us on all sides. It will be a difficult journey, but we are together.


I drum my thumbs nervously on the steering wheel as I pull into the parking lot for both the bar and my uncle's apartment. I'm not nervous to see him, in fact, I'm thrilled, but just the fact that I'm back in my hometown is enough to make me jittery.

Jaden hops out once I kill the Explorer's engine and goes about unfastening Bella from her seat belt. I free Bean and put her leash on and we let the two dogs stretch their legs.

"You go say hello to your uncle and let him know we're here. I'll take the girls." Jaden offers and I hand her Bean's leash. "Come on ladies, let's go potty!" Jaden calls to them in a singsong voice and I can't help but laugh as she walks them away.

She's such a nerd sometimes.

I climb the wooden stairs to my uncle's apartment and knock softly at the door. It opens immediately and he greets me with a warm smile.

"Hey! You made it!" He welcomes and pulls me into a hug. "It's so good to see you." My uncle tells me and releases me when Herc starts jumping at my legs.

"It's great to see you too." I answer, smiling at him. He looks great. I reach down to pat Herc who continues to jump.

"He's excited, I've been telling him all morning that his Bean is coming for a visit." My uncle explains for his hyper dog.

"Actually, we have a new friend for him to meet. Jaden and I got a dog for my birthday." I tell him and he raises his eyebrows.

"Wow, that's some development." He mentions as he joins me out on the stairwell, followed by Herc.

"There's a lot to fill you in on." I tell him, holding up my left hand for him to see the ring. His jaw drops and he looks back and forth from my face to my ring.

"I'd say." He mutters, his portly frame grunting as he walks down the stairs. "Let's meet this new dog of yours and then you and Jaden can give me the update."

I smile as I follow him down the stairs. Herc has spotted Jaden and is practically dragging my uncle in his haste to see them. Bean spies them and yips in excitement while Bella looks cautiously on, unsure as to what to do.

Herc and Bean finally reach each other and are a wiggling mess of legs and sniffing noses. My uncle hugs Jaden and bends slowly down to pat Bella, who despite her overwhelmed expression is interested in what is going on.

"She's pretty." He remarks, scratching Bella behind her ears. "Well, let's go inside. Seems we have a lot of catching up to do."

It doesn't take us long to get settled inside, we put our suitcases in the spare room my uncle has generously loaned us while we are here. We sit in the living room, Bella hopping on the couch next to Jaden as the two Russells wrestle and play.

"Spill it." My uncle orders and I smile. I really did miss him.

"Jaden surprised me on my birthday not only with Bella but with this beautiful ring and undying promises of forever." I state and Jaden beautifully blushes.

"So, when are you getting married?" He questions. I shrug uncomfortably, not really sure how to answer. We haven't talked about this yet. Looking to Jaden for help she says nothing and just raises her eyebrows at me.

"I'm not sure." I answer finally.

"In a few months?" She blurts at the same time. My uncle roars with laughter while Jaden and I just look at each other helplessly.


Grace knocks at the door, her small hand shaking with fright. I smile at her, both with reassurance and sympathy as we hear footsteps come closer to the door.

It opens to reveal a red-faced Debbie who looks both shocked and pissed-off.

"Hi." Gracie greets her quietly. Debbie says nothing, looking between the two of us icily, and only smiling when she looks down and spies Bean.

"Come in." She says finally, holding the door open for us. Grace enters and I follow with Bella, who is on her leash.

The tension is so thick that it is practically visible. Grace looks like she's going to puke. I want to touch her, to pull her into my arms and reassure her that everything is going to be okay, but I can't. And it's killing me.

Grace sits on the couch, folding her legs up underneath herself. She motions for me to sit and I do, Bella immediately lying at my feet. I'm trying really hard to be civil to Debbie when all I want to do is rip her heart out of her chest and stomp on it.

What she has done to Grace is inexcusable. Besides treating her like shit for her entire life she's actually blamed Grace for Scott's attack and hasn't even called to see if she was recovering after being shot. She is not a mother, certainly not in my eyes.

"How have you been?" Grace asks softly as Debbie sits in a chair across from us. "How is Lydia?"

"We're fine, Lydia included. She at least respects her parents enough to obey them." Debbie snipes as Grace swallows uncomfortably. I clench my hands, knowing how easy and rewarding it would be to strangle Debbie.

"How is dad?" Grace questions, trying again to make small talk with her mother.

"He's fine. Listen, why are you here? I've made it clear that if you were not going to abide by my rules then you were not welcome here. You made your choice." Debbie states harshly and I look at her with complete disdain. How could this she-devil have birthed Grace from her loins?

"I came to see you because you're my family." Grace responds, her voice shaking. I can tell she's on the verge of tears and it's driving me insane. I just want to help her. If it involves punching Debbie, so be it.

"Jaden, if you'll excuse us, I need to speak with Grace in private." Debbie remarks and disappears down the hall.

Grace stands weakly to follow her.

No way. This is not happening. There is no way in hell that I am letting that psycho hose beast alone with my Gracie. I bolt upright and begin to follow Grace. She turns, smiling softly at me.

"You can't fight my battles for me Jaden." She speaks, squeezing my hand reassuringly. She heads after her mother and I stand in place, knowing it's what Grace wants.

I remain frozen for a few seconds. Realistically I understand that I should back off and stay out of their business. Miranda would tell me that Grace needs to find her inner strength to deal with her mother and I shouldn't put myself in the way. But my heart knows that Grace is MY business and I can't just sit back and let her be thrown to the wolves.

My decision made, I head to the door where they disappeared and stand outside listening. At least now, if Grace needs me, I'll be here in case things get too sticky. Bella has trotted after me and sits at my feet, studying me with her unusual eyes. Reaching my hand down I scratch her soft ears, wishing we were all far away from here.


"Hi Dad!" I greet him with surprise. I had no idea he was here. He stands from his desk and hugs me tentatively, looking as nervous as I feel.

"Sit." My mother orders and I do, wondering what she's up too. "Isn't this nice?" She quips to my father. "Little Grace has paid us a visit."

As usual, my father says nothing. He sits at his desk and looks at my mother, his light eyes not betraying his emotions.

I don't know what to say. My mother is looking at me expectantly as if I'm supposed to begin to speak. I return her gaze dumbfounded, having no idea what this is about.

She finally sighs, exasperated, and stands in front of me with her hands on her hips. "Well?" My mother demands, glaring at me.

"What?" I answer, completely dumbfounded as to what she's trying to say.

She laughs and a chill goes up my back at the sound. This is her evil 'I know something you don't' attitude she loves to flaunt.

Not to my surprise, she points her well-manicured finger in my face.

"I know what you're up to missy. No more playing dumb." She states. "I will not have you in my house with that woman."

"Jaden?" I ask again, feeling utterly clueless.

"Stop acting stupid. You know exactly who I mean." My mother snarls. "When Rick told us you were coming to visit we had Scott over so you two would patch things up. Scott told us about her. Even showed us that picture of the two of you."

"What?" I ask again, shocked by this news.

"Listen to me, little girl," My mother continues, her voice becoming loud and shrill, "You are not to see her again. I don't know how she's warped your mind but we didn't raise you to become one of those repulsive people."

I can't find my voice. I know I should be sticking up for Jaden and myself but I'm unable to speak. Looking at my father, I try to find any chance for help, but he says nothing.

"You are a disappointment. Your father and I had the perfect life planned out for you and instead you lower yourself to this. You are an abomination in the eyes of God and this entire family! And to think you had the gall to call me from that place of sin and tell me that I was a horrible mother! You are the horrible, sick, revolting, pervert!" My mother rants, and I can tell she's just getting worked up.

"You little bitch, I never want to see you again. You and that woman are not welcome here and if I ever see her again I swear to God I will kill her for what she's turned you into. As far as I'm concerned, Lydia is our only daughter. You are nothing. I wish that bullet would have killed you!" She screams, her long red fingernail shaking in front of my face.

The anger bubbles up inside me and I raise my head to look directly into my mother's dark brown eyes. And then I find my voice and say the two words I've wanted to say to her all along.

"Fuck you." I tell her, and her mouth opens in shock. I barely see her raise her hand back and don't have time to dodge the blow. The slap resonates around the room and my face stings from where she hit me.

The door flies open and Jaden enters, her eyes filled with fire. "Don't you dare touch her!" Jaden shouts and my mother regards her, hate evident on both of their faces.

"She's my daughter and I can do whatever I want!" My mother screeches, raising her hand back again to slap me.

Bella lunges at my mother, barking viciously as she puts herself in between my mother and myself. Instantly my mother backs away from me as Bella continues to bark aggressively toward her.

"Get out of my house." She spits to us. Jaden extends her hand and I take it as I pull myself out of my seat.

"Rot in hell, Debbie." Jaden remarks, her tone ice cold. "You have no idea what an incredible person your daughter is and you will regret pushing her out of your life. She is not a fat pig and even if she were I would still worship every inch of her, something you've never even tried to do." She turns to regard my father. "And you, you make me sick. No man I know could just stand quietly in the background and let his wife ruin the lives of everyone around her." Jaden turns to me, her eyes the color of thunder. "Come on, let's get out of here. They don't deserve your time."

I nod numbly to her, unbelieving as to what has just happened. Jaden turns and leads the still-upset Bella through the door as I follow them.

"Good riddance, you fat pig." My mother's malevolent voice snipes to my back.

That does it. I've always considered myself to be a very tolerant and forgiving person, but I can only take so much. I whirl around, my anger coming un-checked.

"How dare you! You fucking bitch! For twenty-three years of my life I have done everything possible to make you proud of me. I tried so hard to win your love and attention and this is how you see me? No matter what I've done or how perfect I have been it's still not good enough. You have never loved me and certainly never been a mother to me. All I've gotten from you is violence and pain, criticism and intolerance."

My mother says nothing, but I can tell she is seething with anger as I continue. "All I wanted was for you to love me. My entire life. Every straight-A report card, every blue ribbon and trophy, they were all for you. I dreamed of a mother who would cherish me and love me and I have never gotten that dream. All you had to do was tell me that you were proud of me and that you loved me. You can't even do that. You are pathetic."

The words fly from my mouth now. "Debbie, you are no mother. You're a selfish and materialistic bitch who has never been happy in your own life so you have tried to destroy mine. You didn't want me to marry Scott for my own happiness; you wanted it because it would look good to all your friends. All you care about are appearances."

She starts to interrupt and I raise my hands in front of myself as I continue to speak. "I used to really think that it was my fault. You made me believe my entire life that there was something wrong with me, that I was defective. I thought that if I tried harder to be good and perfect that I would win your love. But nothing is good enough for you. So as far as I'm concerned, you got what you deserve. You won't have me in your life. I'll be nothing more that your dirty little secret, your sickening lesbian daughter. But this is where I win, Mother. It won't be your dirty little secret. Everyone in this town will know and they will all turn and point fingers at you. And I guess that's your worst nightmare, isn't it?" I smile now, knowing I look like a raving lunatic but not caring.

"Perfect little Debbie in her designer house with her working husband and 2.5 children. Not anymore. The town gossipers will talk behind your back about your disturbed daughter. People won't look at you in the grocery store. Pretty soon all your friends will stop calling you. It will be your hell. I just wish I would be here to see it."

My mother looks devastated now, her smirk has faded and her eyes look lifeless compared to the insane rage they were filled with a few minutes ago. "But I can't be here. I have a new and exciting life to live. And that's probably what kills you the most. I've gotten out, I've moved away from the town where I was born and bred. I actually have a partner who loves me and isn't obsessed with work. I will have children who are brought up knowing they are loved unconditionally. I will help people and try to help them better their lives. You'll just continue to be a former socialite with no more admirers while I am enjoying my life. You are nothing." I finish, completely out of breath and exhausted.

I turn my back on my mother one last time and walk out of the door. She is quiet as we leave the house. Jaden settles Bean and Bella in the back seat and I quietly sit in the passenger side.

"You okay?" She asks as she starts the car.

"No." I tell her, willing myself not to cry until we're long gone.

"I'm so proud of you." She responds and I nod numbly. "Where should we go?"

"Anywhere." I answer. "Anywhere but here."


Part 2: Coming soon! Stay tuned and please email me with feedback!!!

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