Strings Attached

Part Three (conclusion)

By Inyx

Chapter 4

Parental Guidance should be a four letter word

Because we'd all like to say a few of them when they do give it....

Is it just me? Or does time seem like it can expand so greatly you could never see the ending of an hour? I know it's happened a few times. Usually when I'm sick and I wish it would just kill me so I didn't feel so awful anymore. Or insomnia. And then you want to kill everyone at work because you didn't get a good night's sleep. Hmmm.... I think there should be insomnia days from work....

Anyway, there we were. I was the coach with Jessie breathing. I did most of my breathing taking in the soft, flowery, but slightly sweaty smell of Jessie's hair. It kept me from throwing up and oddly enough, the noises Jess was making... It was like sharing a bed anyway. Well, except the swearing and screaming part. My mother was out in the hallway waiting. The last thing she told me before I went in with Jess was, 'Don't pass out.' And then, she gave me a kiss on the cheek. I was a little shocked by that since I haven't let anyone except Jess kiss me on the cheek since I was ten. That combined with Jessie's panting and swearing I almost missed my mom mention something about calling Jess' family.

"AHHHHHH!" Jessie screamed out as she bent almost in half. She fell back into Kelly's arms once again. "Oh god!" she swore, wincing in pain.

Dr. Moreno looked up from where she watched below. "You're doing great Jessie. A couple more pushes and it'll be all over."

Jessie let out a deep breath. "Thank god," she hissed thankfully. "I'm never doing this again."

That got a round of chuckles from the entire staff. Dr. Moreno looked up at the dark haired woman. She knew about Kelly's weakness for messy things and so far the pale faced woman was holding her own. "How ya doin' Kelly?"

The blue eyes pinned her and the doctor could see a little bit of fear mixed in with protectiveness over the younger blond. "Fine," came the bit out reply.

Good enough, the doctor thought. She saw Jessie start to contract. "Give me another one Jessie."

Jessie groaned as she grunted in pain. "Dear god," she muttered as Kelly helped her back up.

Dr. Moreno smiled. "Jessie, at the rate your going you're going to have to change to another religion with more gods to get everything in."

That rewarded the doctor with a brief smile as Jessie began to push again.


Dora Jean sat in the waiting room for news. She had made a call to Jessie's home. There wasn't an answer but she had left a message for her parents that the baby was on the way. A grin warmed over her face as she thought about it. Things were turning out so beautifully, she couldn't be happier. Okay, maybe the dinner didn't turn out that well but here she was waiting for her fourth grandchild. The adoption papers were already in order so that when the baby was born Kelly could legally be the child's parent as well.

Her deep thoughts were dashed away by a commotion at the nurses station. She looked over with a few of the other people in the waiting room to see a handsomely dressed couple harassing the nurses. Dora Jean winced at the almost garish look of the woman's dress.

"If you'll just wait over there!" the nurse that the couple had confronted said briskly to them.

The couple looked at the people staring at them and they left the desk alone. The woman led the way with the man following embarrassed behind her. The woman didn't even look that phased at the display that had occurred. Dora Jean heard a sniff of contempt and a few words about the lack of clean seats as the couple sat in the chairs behind her.

"Let's just wait Farah," the man said calmly.

"We should be the ones in there with her, Paul. Not her!" Farah hissed out angrily.

'Farah?' Dora Jean said to herself. The man had sounded embarrassed to be with the obnoxious woman. This was Jessie's mother? She slightly turned in her seat to look behind her and she saw some of the features on her favorite 'daughter in law'. Dora Jean turned back to face forward again as her brow contracted in thought.

She knew that her own daughter didn't get along with a variety of people. And for the most part she believed that Kelly's dislike for Jessie's mother was because of them being in the same apartment together. Now she had to rethink things. Better yet, she had to figure out how to bring a little peace between all of them.

Slowly she drew in a breath and stood. Walking around the seats she faced the couple. They looked up at the dark haired woman who smiled at them. Dora Jean held out her hand to Farah Bowden. "Hello, my name is Dora Jean Harlow. I'm Kelly's mother."


"Once more, Jessie!" Dr. Moreno called out as Kelly wiped the sweat from Jessie's brow with a cool cloth.

Jessie groaned tiredly as Kelly helped keep her upright as she pushed. She had stopped swearing a while ago. She just didn't have the energy for it anymore. With a last ditch effort Jessie pushed and she heard the doctor say something as she felt Kelly's breathing increase on her neck. She was so tired she didn't care what anyone said anymore, she just wanted it to end.

The urge to push was even stronger and she did it again. Jessie felt the pressure ease and she leaned back into her partner. She glanced her way as she slowed her breathing down to see that the strong figure was almost limp except for holding her. Kelly's focus was riveted beyond her and Jessie glanced that way to see a tiny figure being held by the doctor.

Green eyes went wide as the loud scream of a newborn cry filled the room. Jessie leaned forward with a hand clapped over her mouth in awe as she heard a thump behind her.

Dr. Moreno smiled. "It's a girl, Jessie."

Jessie glanced from the doctor back to the child who continued to howl in protest from coming into the cold, cruel world this way. "Kel, it's a girl..." Jessie looked behind her to find that Kelly was gone.

"Look down," Dr. Moreno said.

Jessie looked to the floor to find Kelly passed out cold. "Kelly?"

Dr. Moreno carefully handed the child to a nurse and came around to check Kelly out. "She's okay." She looked up at the blond. "Harder head than yours."

Have you ever noticed how ugly newborn babies are? That was the first thought in my mind. All wrinkled and red and howling their lungs out... They cleaned her up and pulled me off the floor. I came around as they put our daughter in Jessie's arms. She cleaned up nicely. A halo of blond fuzz on her head and she wasn't so wrinkly and red anymore. She was beautiful.

Okay... so I can be a mushball about my own daughter, can't I?

We named her Anna Harlow Bowden. I know, I didn't really want my name for her middle name. But we didn't like the hyphenated last names. And I argued for hours that she was the one giving birth and it should be her last name and Farah sided with me. Though we both knew it wasn't for the same reason.

Jessie looked to the fear filled eyes as Kelly stood by the bed looking down at the two of them. "Do you want to hold her?" Jessie asked.

Kelly's eyes rounded and the fear was plainly clear. "I don't think that's a good idea, Jess," she said softly.

Dr. Moreno looked between the two of them and saw that Jessie was getting a little impatient with her partner. And Kelly was already scared before she even came in. She knew that the tall woman was nervous. And going through so many hours of labor together. It wasn't a good idea to start an argument in the delivery room. She stepped in. "Let's get her into the nursery first and I'll have one of the nurses bring her in to you later."

Jessie frowned at having to let go of her child but she did and watched as the nurse took it out. Now that it was over she was drained. She looked up to see that Kelly was looking at anything but her.

Neither of them said a word as the orderlies wheeled her back into her room and she was tucked into her bed. Kelly watched nervously as they moved around and then finally left. Jessie's eyes drooped as she neared sleep. "My mother's not always right you know," she said softly.

Kelly glanced up at her. "What?"

Jessie snorted as she rolled onto her side, wincing at the pain in her body from having a child. Kelly gently tucked her in and Jessie grabbed her hand before she could move away. She looked sleepily at the strong, long fingers, stroking the calloused palm with her thumb. She saw Kelly shift as she blushed slightly and Jessie gave a weary smile. "You have to believe in us more than you believe in her..." Jessie's eyes closed still holding onto Kelly's hand.

Kelly leaned over and grabbed a chair and sat next to her lover and held Jessie's hands in hers as a tear slipped out and down her cheek. "I want to," she whispered quietly as another tear slipped out.

It had been weeks earlier and Kelly had come home to hear HER still with Jessie. She had hear a very snide comment made towards Kelly's apprehension and a few other choice things about her lack of parenting skills.

Kelly slid quietly into the bedroom and spent the next hour staring out the window until Jessie came in, surprised to find her there. Usually Kelly would stand in the doorway of the living room until her mother couldn't take it and she left.

Kelly didn't say much of anything all night. And Jessie woke up to see Kelly still awake and pouring through parenting books shaking her head for the most part as she scowled at the pages. Slowly the blond coaxed a few words out of her to find that she had overheard what had been said. The fear had been planted and try as she might Jessie couldn't console what Kelly believe to be true.

But ever since then, even after she assured Jessie that she was okay and it wasn't spoken about, she couldn't get over the feeling that she would cause irreparable damage to the child in her care. And it terrified her to no end. And now that the time had come... Kelly didn't know what to do.


Farah pulled herself up gracefully out of her chair as she looked the jean clad woman over. She was a little older than her and an inch or two taller. And she could see a few of Kelly's features in her. But she also saw a kindness in Dora Jean's eyes. That and a reserve that no matter what Farah said it wasn't going to goad her into anything rash. She might even be more stubborn that herself.

Paul stood up and held out his hand. "I'm Paul Bowden, Jessie's father."

Dora Jean looked at the weary but friendly smile and she took the offered hand. "It's too bad we haven't met before this."

Farah snorted softly and Paul frowned. "But it's a good occasion anyway," he replied.

Dora Jean nodded and looked to Farah. "It doesn't look like any news is going to come soon." She nodded towards a coffee pot at the end of the hallway. "Why don't we talk?"

Farah's brow narrowed looking for something to disapprove of. But she couldn't find it. Slowly she nodded and the three of them headed down to talk for a while.


Jessie got a couple of hours of sleep before a nurse wheeled a small crib in with Anna inside of it. Jessie woke up and looked to the tiny figure. Eagerly she took her in her arms and Kelly watched curiously from the other side of the bed. She wasn't ready. Jessie could tell that just from looking at her. She tilted her up and pointed to Kelly as the soft green eyes blinked slowly in Kelly's direction only to move on to something else soon after. "Look Annie," she cooed softly to her.

Kelly looked between the two of them. "Her attention span is as long as yours."

Jessie snorted as she undid her gown and Kelly flushed bright red. Jessie glanced at her then down. "What are you blushing about?" She grinned. "Nothing you haven't seen before." Kelly rubbed her face in her hands to try and take away the flush as she went a deeper red. Jessie laughed and set a hand on the dark head. "Are you okay?"

Kelly shrugged. "I'm fine."

"Uh huh," Jessie replied unconvinced. "We'll work it out, Kel. We always have."

Kelly nodded but didn't reply.

The only thing I can say before this next part of my story is that I plead the fifth amendment to this. I disavow any knowledge of my state of mind. And even Jess says she doesn't know what happened to me. And she knows me better than anybody. Except she thinks that we shared more than most couples with pregnancy and I got the postpartum depression bit. Which now that I've read about it, I'm glad it was me and not her. Because I can't stand to see Jess cry.

Kelly came out of Jessie's room to see her mother and HER standing in the middle of the hallway chatting like old friends. Dark eyebrows crept up as Jessie's mother smiled slightly. Slowly, so she wasn't noticed, Kelly crept back and eased herself back into the room. She shut the door and leaned against it, breathing a sigh of relief with, "I'll be a son of a bitch."


Kelly looked up to see a scowl on Jessie's face and she tried to cover Annie's ears. "What?"

Jessie glanced down at their daughter. "Not in front of her!"

Kelly scowled. "She can't understand me!" she said firmly, but gently.

"That doesn't matter," Jessie replied as she smoothed down the small tuffs of golden white hair. "Babies are a lot smarter than you think they are."

Kelly looked past her as she milled that over in her mind with a touch of annoyance on her face. "How do you know that?"

"Because they said so in lamaze."

Kelly moved over and slumped down in the seat she vacated only a few minutes ago to stare at them both. "You're turning into them," she said sadly. Then looked directly into Jessie's worried eyes. "Aren't you?"

Jessie shook her head slightly. "Who?" She didn't understand.

Kelly nodded her head in the direction of the door. "Them. Our mothers. They're out there in the middle of the hall..... bonding." Kelly slumped even lower in her seat looking depressed.

"Carefree mom, and my mother?" Jessie asked not really believing it. Kelly nodded and looked even more depressed. "What's wrong with that? At least they won't be fighting over her."

Kelly grunted but didn't say anything. Jessie looked to her partner curiously as they sat in silence for a moment before there was a small knock on the door and it opened slightly to show Dora Jean's beaming smile.

"Ah! You're awake!" She spotted her brooding daughter. "I thought you were going to get me when you had news?!"

Kelly shrugged and Jessie looked worried. Slight verbalism was the norm for Kelly. Non verbal meant she was closing up. Usually that only happened around her mother...

Dora Jean came in with Farah on her heels. "Oh..... she's so beautiful!" Farah said as she moved around Dora Jean and stopped in front of Kelly's long stretched out legs and pointedly stared at her.

Kelly tucked her feet back and Farah moved on to compliment Jessie on her child and Dora Jean moved in on the other side. Jessie nodded and smiled until she looked over to find that Kelly was gone. The light had gone out of the room without Kelly there. Even a brooding one.


Kelly sat in the cafeteria with a cup of lukewarm coffee from the vending machine in her hands. She wasn't sure how long she had sat there. But she didn't care. There was an ache in her chest like her heart was seizing up and slowly dying. She was happy for Jessie. She'd make a good mother. She just wasn't sure if she would.

She looked up when she heard a chair at her table scrape along the floor as it was pulled back. It was Jessie's dad. He was still in his tux but the bowtie was undone and he had taken his jacket and cummerbund off. He looked more at ease than she had usually seen him. He gave her a slight nod and Kelly wished he'd go away.

"It's never easy being the one on the outside, is it?" he said softly as he leaned forward putting his arms on the table.

"What?" Kelly asked as her brow furrowed.

Paul smiled. "When Jessie was born, I thought, this is it! Farah and I have created a child and we'll raise her together and be happy."

Kelly snorted as she took a sip of her coffee.

Paul nodded slightly, knowing what the laugh was for. "I admit Farah's not the easiest woman to live with. But I always knew she wouldn't let anything stand in her way."

Kelly looked curiously at him. "Why did you marry her?"

"Because I fell in love," he said shrugging. "You can't pick an choose who you're going to love. And sometimes I really began to wonder if my brain was even functioning as the years rolled along." Paul looked up at her. "But I'll tell you this much. She's given a lot of her life to take care of our home and raise our children. For some reason you just seem to bring out the worse in her."

Kelly grimaced. "I seem to be doing that a lot lately with everyone."

Paul shook his head slowly. "It's always going to be that way with women."

Kelly glared at him. "I'm a woman."

Paul smiled. "I know. But most of your characteristic traits are male. It doesn't mean you're any less of a woman." He shrugged. "Farah just wishes you wouldn't have come into Jessie's life."

Kelly curled up the side of her lip in a scowl. "And what do you think?"

Paul blinked then smiled. "I think you make Jessie happy. My parents weren't to taken with Farah. But what choice did they have? What choice does Farah have? When Annie grows up. It won't be your choice either."

Kelly nodded. "Then why does she make it so goddamn miserable for me?"

Paul sighed. "She wants Jessie to have a normal life. It's what all parents want for their children."

"So she really does hate me, more than she loves Jessie..." Kelly muttered as she began to shred her empty cup.

"No..." Paul replied. "She loves her so much, she's blinded by what will hurt Jessie."

Kelly looked up confused at the man. "Why did you marry her again?"

Paul smiled as he stood up. "Just wait. The newness will wear off and you'll see."

Kelly watched the man's back as he left. "I'm not sure if I want to," she murmured quietly to herself.


Visiting hours were over by the time Kelly got the courage to go back upstairs. But Kelly slunk back into Jessie's room to see she was asleep. She looked on her in the semi darkness with a sad face. "Maybe your mom was right about me, Jess," she whispered softly as she gently stroked her cheek then left the room.

I know... don't say it. I was a fool and a coward... You don't need to remind me. Jess brings it up in a full out argument and damn... the woman wins every time with it. I went home and brooded the night away... Don't knock something you're good at. I almost went drinking, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. God knows I didn't want to repeat Jessie's mistake.

Not that it would likely happen since I found that women are much better lovers than men. But once you're punch drunk, who the hell knows what'll happen? It wasn't until midmorning when I somewhat snapped out of my funk when the doorbell rang. I could have sworn in the back of my mind that the phone had been ringing every so often but my mind was disconnected as it was too strained from the thought of Jessie being better off without me...

To this day, I swear that the evil child birthing fairy came down and made me incapable of thinking like a normal human being since I refused to bend to her wishes and bare a child of my own.

Kelly slowly pulled herself off the couch. Tired and sad, she made her way to the door. She opened it to find everyone including Jessie with Annie in her arms at the door. Kelly's brow furrowed. "What are you doing here?"

Not one of them looked happy and Kelly couldn't understand why. Jessie moved in with her entourage. "You were supposed to pick us up this morning," she said unhappily. She looked at Kelly's bloodshot eyes. "What's wrong?"

Kelly didn't get to answer as Jessie's mother led her on through to the nursery. Paul just shook his head in understanding and the level of shit she was stuck in for this oversight. But Kelly's mom just glared. "Kelly! How could you?!"

Kelly blinked as she tried to turn her mind on. She just couldn't. She left the door and went back in and sat on the couch. Dora Jean followed as Jessie and Farah came out. Jessie frowned at the sight of Kelly on the couch. She turned to the two grandmothers. "We can handle things from here."

Farah looked past her to the silent figure on the couch. "Honey,..."

Jessie hugged her mom. "We'll be fine." She hugged Dora Jean as well. "I'll call this evening."

They both gave her odd looks but with a little more coaxing the grandparents were gone. Jessie went down the hallway and came back to the living room with Annie in her arms. She stood in front of Kelly. She had rarely seen the strong figure look so weak.

"Here," Jessie stated firmly.

Kelly slowly looked up to see her holding the newborn out. The dark head shook slowly.

Jessie pursed her lips. "Kelly... You're going to have to do it sometime."

Kelly shrugged and Jessie's eyes hardened. Finally she sat down in Kelly's lap keeping the cradled Annie on her chest. Kelly was shocked at this but just watched as Jessie took her hand and laid it on the small back. Kelly felt the warmth of the child and tears came to her eyes as she tried to remove her hand only to be held in place by Jessie.

"Kel?" Jessie asked concerned.

Kelly looked out the window as she swallowed hard. "I don't think I'll do good at the parent thing, Jess," she got out hoarsely.

Jessie looked confused. "You haven't been around babies enough to know that, Kelly." Her eyes narrowed. "Was it about yesterday evening?" She gently stroked back the long locks of dark hair. Kelly reverently touched the light fuzz on Annie's head. Careful with her as if she was going to break her if she touched her to much.

"You might do better with HER here, than me."

Jessie cocked an eyebrow as she deciphered that. "You want out?" Her voice went a little hard. "Just because you're scared?!"

Kelly glanced at her and hung her head. "I want our life back. I want to come home and not feel the tension of HER being here. I want to have you trust me with Annie. I want ... to be with you." She glanced at her again. "I want you to need me."

Jessie's eyes went wide then furrowed just as quickly. "You think I don't need you?" Kelly looked down at the floor and Jessie grasped her chin and made her look at her. "How could you not think that?"

"I... don't know," Kelly barely got out.

Jessie shook her head and got up taking Annie down the hallway... Kelly glanced back then her shoulders slumped farther. She had really fucked things up. Big time. The walls began to close in as she stumbled up and headed for the front door grabbing her bike jacket off the coat rack.

"Don't you dare walk out that door," Jessie said from behind her.

Kelly turned. "What are you going to do? Make me feel worse than I already am?"

Jessie's eyes watered as she took Kelly's coat from her hand and threw it onto a chair, not taking her eyes off of her. "Is that what you want? To leave? Do you want me to yell and scream at how unfair this is?" She stepped forward and Kelly's eyes went wide as she stepped back smacking her back against the wall. Jessie pushed a finger into Kelly's chest. "I am not my mother, Kelly!" she said firmly but quietly. "And you are everything to me!" She slid a strong hand about Kelly's neck and pulled her down so that they were face to face. "If you ever think that again I'll kick your ass so hard... I'll do something awful." she finished.

Jessie watched as that little spark that had been missing from Kelly's eyes for the past few days came back.

"Really?" Kelly asked.

Jessie nodded as she kissed her. "Really." She kissed her again and Kelly returned it. "And that, I would never do with my mother. So you're stuck with it."

Kelly slowly smiled. "Jess..." she started.

"Don't say anything right now, Kel." Green eyes bore into blue ones. "Not with the mood I'm in and the one you seem to be coming out of. Just let it go until tomorrow." Slowly Kelly nodded and Jessie sighed. "Come on," she whispered as she led her into the bedroom. "I'm tired. Annie's sleeping and I need a warm body that's bigger than me around me for awhile."

Yeah, I know.... but you can't have her. She's mine.

Chapter 5

Childcare, and the lessons to be gained from it

Lysol... air fresheners... diapers... baby seat... sigh...

So here we are. Two weeks after Jess and Annie came home. Jess and her mother worked out an agreement that I could live with since I was working in the day and Jess was still at home recovering and being a mom. We also found two more willing babysitters in Colleen and Denise. Denise was the more enthusiastic of the two but Colleen did okay. I found that I was now ultra protective over Jess and Annie's welfare. And I think I stressed Jess a little over that. But I figure it couldn't be worse than her growing up with Farah.

I was still afraid to hold her without Jess there. Why? I haven't got a clue. You wouldn't think such a small person could have a hold on me. And I still have a problem being around when her diaper is changed. It makes me want to gag. And Jessie was doing her best at not talking down to Annie, but it was sort of funny to hear her coo back to Annie from the nursery room. Don't tell her I said that though. I still have somewhat of a reputation to uphold.

And I got teased by Travis when he, mom and the rest of his family came to visit. My mom stopped an all out war right there but I swore to him as he left that if he brought it up again, he'd need more than a dentist.

Jessie rolled over in the middle of the night to find Kelly was missing. Blinking a few times she woke up a little more and climbed out of bed. She found that Annie wasn't in her crib. Peeking out the door she saw a soft light coming from the living room and she followed it.

Peering around the doorway Jessie watched as Kelly held Annie close in one corner of the couch. Less apprehensive than before, but the long, strong arms cradled the tiny child with tenderness. Jessie smiled slightly as she saw Kelly hum softly, rocking the girl to sleep. 'Will wonders never cease,' Jessie thought. But then she had always seen more in her tall, quiet friend that most others ever would. And once Kelly had gotten over her initial fear of the child they found that Annie was quite taken with her.

She watched them for a while longer until Kelly looked up at saw her. Jessie gave her a smile and Kelly smiled back. Coming into the room Jessie sat down next to her and glanced in at her bundled up daughter. She had to give her child jittery partner credit where it was due. Kelly was meticulous about Annie's health. And hers. One cough or sniffle from either one of them and Kelly became concerned.

Kelly carefully freed her arm and wrapped it about Jessie and held her close. "What are you doing up?" she whispered softly.

Jessie smiled and leaned in against her. "Seeing where the two girls in my life went."

Kelly nodded slowly as she kissed the top of her head. "That's nice. But you need your sleep."

Jessie chuckled softly as she wrapped her hand about Kelly's thigh and settled in. "I've been sleeping for two days. I'm okay."

Kelly peered down at her. "You're sure?"

Jessie snorted in amusement. "Yes."

Kelly shrugged slightly and let it go not caring to argue about it since the mood was pleasant and peaceful.

Jessie turned her head slightly and looked up at her. "Kel?" She heard a grunt in reply. "You think you're ready?"

Kelly looked her way. "For what?"

Jessie patted Annie's covered up bottom slightly. "Your mom is going to harass you forever until you do it."

Kelly winced, but slowly nodded. "Tomorrow..."

Jessie smiled. "You're sure?"

Kelly sighed. "Before I've eaten."

Jessie chuckled silently, but Kelly felt it and poked her a little until Jessie squeaked. "Okay..." Jessie gasped before Kelly got serious about making her squirm. "Tomorrow morning then."

I..... am.... going.... to.... do.... this.... I keep telling myself that. I haven't changed a diaper in my entire life. Even with Travis' kids. I always refused. Jessie.... she was never shy about it. Still isn't. She acts like it's no big deal and a minute later, she's done. Where with me... well... I spent most of the first day the two had come home from the hospital staring at the large bags of disposable diapers in the nursery.

Actually, it was between that and watching Annie. I honestly couldn't believe that she would go through that many of them. And now six days later she was half way through one already. I mean she doesn't even eat solid food.... And I won't ask Jess about it. She'd tell me straight out about it, and personally I'm not ready to head into the detailed world of messy diapers and how they come to be.

But don't get me wrong. I'll do it. I promised Jess that I would. And Annie's my kid too. And I have come prepared.

Jessie watched as Kelly was all prepped for her first diaper change. She almost bit through her lip to keep from laughing. The tall, dark form was decked out in woodshop goggles, a swimmer's noseplug, a long plastic apron that came past her knees that she had gotten from a catalog. And long, yellow rubber dishwashing gloves that came half way up her arms. "You look like you're going into surgery," Jessie said as she bit her lip again, but the grin couldn't stop from being plastered on her face.

Kelly looked at her seriously. "You do it your way. I'll do it mine."

Jessie snorted out a giggle. "Kel, what are you going to do if you're in the mall?"

Kelly glanced up at her from where she held a wet wipe between two fingers. "I'm not the one that spends three hours in a mall, Jess. I'll just come back home."

Jessie rolled her eyes a little and nodded. "Sure."

Kelly looked at her again noticing the hint of sarcasm in her voice. "Or I'll take her to my mother's."

Jessie chuckled. "I'm sure she'd let you live that down."

Kelly shrugged as she peeled back the tape from Annie's diaper as if it was going to bite her. Jessie watched, amused at the scene in front of her. Annie was even more amused as she looked from one mother to the other and trying to stuff her entire fist in her mouth. Kelly cringed at the mess before her. At least she didn't have to smell it.

Jessie bit the inside of her cheek at the look on Kelly's face. "Oh, did wittle Annie go poopy?"

Kelly's head shot up and glared at Jessie as the blond tried to cut off a laugh. "I thought we agreed no baby talk."

Jessie laughed harder. "Poor wittle..." She stop her comment as Kelly rolled up the messy diaper and aimed it at her. "Okay, okay." She held out her hand and Kelly set the diaper in it. It was in a neat ball. Jessie was surprised Kelly didn't spray a can of Lysol over it. She dumped the diaper and Kelly cleaned Annie off until she was spotless then she rediapered her with the neatness of Kelly's usual demeanor.

Hands washed, Kelly removed the rest of her diaper changing outfit. "How was that?" she said with a hint of a smile.

Jessie patted her cheek. "Lovely, and it only took you a half an hour."

Kelly looked to her watch. It had. "I'll get better."

Jessie nodded. "Yes, doctor."

Chapter 6

It's a Wonderful Life

So maybe I was destined to be happy...

It's been an interesting year. Christmas is two days away, I've almost weaned Jessie out of her baby talk phase to Annie who is almost six months old. Thank God!

I know I skipped a lot of the past few months over. But my hand is cramping from writing, so I'll give you the run down of what happened. Jess and I exchanged rings when Annie was three months old. My bike is still in storage. Jess had decided over long, late night discussions that she preferred to raise Annie and not some daycare center. So she's staying home. Which is fine by me. Annie doesn't need the peer pressure yet, and my business is really picking up so money really isn't a big problem.

Oh... And my mother is actually speaking to me again. Long story...

One of my friends at work explained this whole gay thing to me the other day when I frowned at the term dyke. What to wear, who was what, all that crap. Know what I figure? If you're happy where you're at, why change it? I'm still the same old cynical, bad tempered person I've always been. Jessie's still cheery, though more tired than before. Only one thing has changed in the nine years I've known my best friend... that we're more than just friends.

I know I said that boys were way too interesting. But you know, I was just looking at the wrong thing to be interested in.

As for Travis... Well, I had to beat him to a bloody pulp. Annie cheered me on and Jessie helped Travis up afterwards. Not that he deserved it, but I just got tired of hearing him say told you so, over and over again. And that scar will help with his looks no matter what the little shit says. And as for family life and raising children... it's okay. Jessie still laughs as I put on a noseplug and rubber gloves.

I mean, I never would have guessed I'd be sitting on the couch waiting... for my 'in laws' to come over for Christmas dinner. Never in a goddamn million years would I be looking at Mrs. Farah Bowden, local garden club president and treasurer of the... PTA, as my 'mother-in-law'. And Jessie totally vetoed jeans and a t shirt for the occasion. And when I came out in slacks and a button down shirt that she 'approved' I told her what I thought about it. I offered my underwear and a sports bra as an alternative, but she said I could save that for later. I asked if she had enough whipped cream for everybody and she sent me in here. I was half way in the room before I realized I wasn't the child in this family. She couldn't order me about... Okay, she won this round. But tonight after everyone was gone, she was mine!

I looked at the tree, and the presents, and at Annie in her playpen staring with complete fascination at the lights as they fade for a moment then brighten again. I picked my daughter up and held her in my arms only to find her attention was now absorbed in the buttons on my shirt. I was proud of myself. I haven't dropped her once. Not that I don't think I would. But little children still tend to set off my panic button. I resolutely tell my child that if I have to, I'll follow her around with those wet things that Jessie now uses to clean up everything until she's ten, just so she couldn't get that gook on me.... what in the hell are they called... the damn wet napkins in a blue box! Like the ones in the little packets with KFC. Except they don't smell like lemon.

And I'm never going to a PTA meeting. It is my mantra. Parent/Teacher Conference, maybe... Jessie said I'm paranoid about the whole thing. It's four years until Annie starts kindergarten. I have to build up my reserves for both myself and my partner. I will not turn into my mother. And even more importantly, Jessie will not turn into hers. I look at my beautiful child and she looks back at me with a smile.

We sit and watch the lights on the tree, the doorbell rings, but I know who it is. I hear Jessie call out my name to get it. Maybe if I don't answer the door, they'll go away...


Author's note: Whew! I finally finished it! Yea for me! :) I would like to thank everyone that stuck through this with me. I especially would like to thank those who wrote in and my friends who encouraged me to finish it. They know who they are!

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