COPYRIGHT: Xena Warrior Princess and Gabrielle are the property of MCA/Universal and are used here without permission, but for entertainment purposes only, and for no monetary gain. No copyright infringement implied or intended. The ladies in this story, although, of my own creation, resemble our two X:WP heroines. The story line however is completely mine.
SUBTEXT: Yes, this is alternate fan fiction which is based on the premise of two women who are very much in love with each other There is nothing terribly graphic here, but quite a lot is implied. I believe that sometimes, your imagination can take you places that the printed word can not. If this type of love offends you, if you are less than 18 years old, or if love is illegal where you live, climb on board the anti-subtext train and get outta town.
VIOLENCE: None. There is a mention of rape, and some unwanted sexual advances, but nothing graphic.
TIME LINE: This is an Uber-Xena story which occurs in modern day time. I am one of the believers that the ancestors of our faviorite two heroines are destined to find each other and fall in love.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my second attempt at writing fan fiction. Please be gentle with your criticism. All flames will be flushed down the toilet. Send all feedback to email@example.com.
by: kd bard
It had been a long and difficult day at work. Billie's boss was being a real pain the ass again. He could be so demanding at times! Billie swore the man thought there were 50 hours in a day. She DID have a life, and responsibilities outside of work after all. If she didn't need the money so much to keep Seth in that private hospital....... Oh well, no use fretting over something she had little control of.
Billie was running late again - not an unusual thing considering the demands of her job. Now she had to rush to make her 5 pm aerobics class. Normally, being late for a class was no big deal, but when you're the instructor, it's a different story. Again, she wished that she could get out of her teaching commitment, but it did pay well, and she needed the money.... for Seth.
Billie started teaching aerobics about a year ago, not too long before Seth's accident. So much had changed since the accident. Where she used to look forward to teaching her class, and then going home to prepare dinner and spend time with Seth, now, after class, she went directly to the hospital, spending countless hours, sitting by his bedside, holding his hand and talking to him. She was sure he could hear her. The doctors weren't so optimistic.
Seth had been hit by a car that was passing his school bus illegally. He didn't have a chance. On impact, he was thrown 20 feet into the air, landing on his head. For all intents and purposes, he should be dead. He was rushed to the hospital, where a team of trauma doctors worked on him for hours. That was six months ago.... he had been in a comma ever since. The doctors said he may have permanent brain damage.
Billie wouldn't let herself believe that her vibrant little six year old son was doomed to spend the rest of his life as a vegetable, so each night, after working all day and teaching aerobics, she would make the drive to the hospital and diligently sit by his side, reading to him and smoothing back his corn-silk colored hair. She would finally leave his side each night around 9 pm when visiting hours were over, just to drive home and fall exhaustedly into bed.
Tonight, as she was driving to her class, Billie had high hopes that Seth's condition was improving. She could have sworn that she saw him move his little finger yesterday. Convincing the doctors was another story. Unfortunately, he didn't do it again, so she had no proof to back up her claim.
One could easily describe Billie as a regal beauty. Nearly six feet tall, with long slim legs, a tiny waist and full breasts, she was the envy of nearly every woman who saw her. Her long black hair flowed easily to the middle of her back, with bangs that framed a face so beautiful, it would take your breath away. Her most striking feature though, were piercing azure eyes that seem to look right through you. Everyone acknowledged her beauty.... everyone except Billie. She seemed to be totally unaware of her good looks.
As usual, after a demanding day, Billie arrived at the gym with just enough time to change into her leotard and get to class. As she stripped off her work clothes, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, and noticed that she was losing weight. Between the demands of her job, her classes, and Seth, she wasn't taking very good care of herself. "Well, time for that later... When Seth is better." she thought as she headed to class.
Billie poked her head into the aerobics room and found about a dozen of her regulars waiting for her. Mumbling apologies for her tardiness, she quickly set the music up and took her position at the front of the class. Her students fell into their usual positions in the room and began stretching as the music started. Tying her hair back, she began the dance routine with some mildly taxing warm-up moves. Having done aerobics for nearly a year now, Billie understood the importance of warming up before jumping head-on into a difficult routine. She was glad her class was all regulars tonight. That meant they knew the routines, and she wouldn't have to spend extra time going over simple steps with rookies.
About ten minutes into the warm up, the door slowly opened. Without really looking at the new arrival, Billie barked out a warning that the class had already started, and that the new member would be better off coming back to tomorrow's class - on time. Not to be dissuaded, the new arrival adamantly insisted on joining the class anyway. Irritated with this person's persistence, Billie put on what she hoped was her most intimidating look. Usually, one of Billie's "looks" was enough to convince even the toughest of guys that she meant business, however, this person seemed totally unfazed!
As Billie was winding down the warm up, she took advantage of the mirrors lining the room, to study this persistent little imp. "Imp" was the first thing that crossed her irritated mind, however, upon further reflection, Billie realized that this person before her was a sight to behold. This "imp" was a slight woman whose head came to just about Billie's chin. She had red-blonde hair and well-toned build, including wonderfully sculptured abs. Billie's eyes were drawn to her face, to china-doll features, full lips, and to the most startling emerald green eyes she had ever seen. "My god, I wonder if the woman knows how striking she is." thought Billie.
Suddenly, the new arrival fell flat on her face.
"I'm all right." she said, holding her hand up to ward off another student who had rushed over to help her. "It happens all the time."
Embarrassed, and blushing a lovely shade of red (or so Billie thought), she climbed to her feet and tried to get back into step with the rest of the class. Taking pity on her, Billie ended the warm up and told the class to take a short breather and water break.
Approaching the "imp", Billie said, "Are you Okay?... You know, you really should have stretched first, you could hurt yourself without a proper warm up."
"I know, and I'm sorry I was late...." She apologized. "My boss is being a real jerk lately... I swear the man is married to his job...and he expects his employees to be as well. He needs to get a life."
"Been there... Done that!" said Billie. "My name is Billie Charland, and you are...."
"Caitlain O'Grady... Cat for short." she said, extending her hand to meet Billie's. Cat felt a spark of electricity pass between them. "By the gods!" she thought, "Look at her eyes! A person could drown in them!"
"Well, Cat, welcome to my aerobics class. I'd like to stand here and chat, but I gotta get the class moving again before we lose our momentum." Billie said as she walked back to the front of the class.
"Okay class, " Billie said as she started with a "step-touch". "We have a new member tonight, so we'll spend a little time going over the basics before starting our routine". Billie suddenly noticed that her sense of irritation at having a rookie in tonight's class had vanished.
Billie ran through four or five basic steps that would be used in the dance patterns, all the while, keeping a close eye on how Cat was handling the footwork. Not a little dismayed, Billie noticed that Cat did not have a graceful bone in her body. In fact, she was totally uncoordinated! "I knew there had to be a flaw in that beautiful package somewhere." she thought. "Whoa... wait a minute Billie, where did that come from?" she thought. "Get a grip... You don't have time, or room for this kind of complication in your life right now, girl!"
Completing her demo of the basic moves, Billie immediately started the first routine. If the danger didn't exist for real injury, Cat's performance would have been laughable. Rookies were almost always out of step at first, but most picked up the moves quickly. It was a rare case when someone showed such a lack of coordination that there was virtually no hope of improvement. Unfortunately, it appeared that Cat was one of those people. It was almost painfully embarrassing to watch Cat put herself through the routine... bumping into the other students, tripping over her own feet. Billie was grateful when the end of the class drew near.
Finally, the class was over and the students hurriedly exited... all wanting to get home to their families and personal lives. Cat met Billie at the door.
"I'm hopeless, aren't I?" She asked, an amused twinkle in her green eyes.
"Well... I wouldn't say hopeless, but.... uhm.....", Billie stammered, not really wanting to tell Cat the truth.
"It's Okay, Billie.... I've always had two left feet. I was hoping that by joining an aerobics class, I could learn a little coordination. Guess I shouldn't waste my time, huh?" Now it was Cat's turn to feel uncomfortable, as she looked at the floor in shame.
Billie lifted Cat's chin with her index finger. "Hey, don't sell yourself short. I'm sure you would improve with practice... and time. Don't give up on yourself after only one class." Billie encouraged.
"You wouldn't be interested in private lessons would you?" Cat inquired, half jokingly, half serious. "I'd even be willing to pay you for them."
"Pr.... Private lessons?" Billie said haltingly. Deep down, this idea really intrigued Billie, but on the surface, with the part of her that dealt with everyday realities, she knew the complicated nature of her life wouldn't allow her the time she needed to devote to Cat's training.
She was just about to turn down Cat's offer when she thought... "Wait a minute, I don't have to be at work until 9 am. Maybe we could meet for a hour each morning. Heaven knows I don't have time AFTER work, and for some reason, I really don't want to say No to her."
"Look Cat," she began, "I have a really busy life, but I might be able to squeeze out an hour in the morning before work... that is, if morning is okay with you."
"Mornings is it!" Cat said excitedly. "What time?"
"How about 7 am... right here at the gym?
"7 am is fine." Cat replied, a little uncertainly... she never was much of a morning person, but she found herself thinking that meeting Billie each morning was more than enough motivation to drag herself out of bed. "When can we start?"
"No sense putting it off... Let's start tomorrow morning. Okay?", asked Billie.
"Okay", Cat said, picking up her towel and water bottle and heading for the door. "See you at 7... I'll bring coffee - how do you drink it?"
"Black, and strong." Billie replied with a grin.
Cat cocked her head slightly to the side and said with a smile on her face... "Why did I know you would say that?"
Before Billie could reply, Cat headed for the door, waving her hand in the air without looking back.
Watching her leave, Billie thought about what she had just committed to.
"Billie, you are SOOOO STUPID sometimes!" she chastised herself. "You don't have the TIME for one more thing on your plate! What possessed you to agree to her offer?"
Taking a look at her watch, Billie realized that she was going to be late arriving at the hospital if she didn't move her ass. She jumped into the shower at the gym and quickly washed the sweat from her body and hair, then changing into a clean set of clothing from her gym bag, she ran out to her car and took off for the hospital to spend another night visiting with her son.
Billie arrived at the gym bright and early the next morning. She had always been a morning person, and lately, had been spending the early hours drilling herself in martial arts. She had taken martial arts lessons as a child, her parents adamantly believing that girls needed to be taught to defend themselves. Through years of hard work and effort, she had managed to earn a black belt, and had even won a few competitions.
With Seth in the hospital for the last six months, she found herself moping around in the mornings, feeling sorry for herself. Finally, she realized that she would be of no use to her son, if she didn't break out of her funk, so she turned to the gym and put her body through the rigorous routines of martial arts drilling instead.
It was in the middle of said drilling that Cat found Billie when she arrived at the gym. Unbeknownst to Billie, Cat silently crept into the gym and secreted herself near the doorway to the aerobics room where Billie was working out, affording herself a clear view of the room without being seen.
Cat was awestruck by the sight of Billie working out. Billie was dressed in a pair of loose fitting white trousers, held up with a black belt tied in a knot at her waist. A tight-fitting black tank top covered her upper torso. Her feet were bare. Black hair flowed freely around her face and shoulders, and was tinged with sweat along the hairline. Muscles rippled under tightly stretched skin as her arms circled in defensive moves. Her eyes were closed, her faced totally absorbed in concentration. Cat was hypnotized by her beauty, and mesmerized by the sheer concentration of effort she saw before her.
Suddenly, it was over. Billie stood at attention, feet together, arms at her side as she bowed slightly at the waist, paying homage to her invisible master. Coming out of her self imposed trance, she opened her eyes and noticed Cat standing in the doorway, frozen in place like a deer caught in the headlights. Their eyes locked, neither willing nor able to look away.
Cat was the first to break the spell, as she spilled some of the coffee she was holding down her leg.
"Damn it, Cat!", she scolded herself, "You are SOOO clumsy. The fact that you're not dead yet certainly isn't due to your own lack of trying!"
Trying to hide a smile, Billie quickly grabbed her towel and gently wiped the hot coffee off Cat's leg, mindful of potential burns.
"Let me take a look at that." Billie commanded. "I have some salve in my gym bag if you need it."
Billie led Cat over to a chair, took the coffee away from her and set it on the table, then gently lifted the edge of Cat's spandex gym shorts to examine the scalded area.
"Looks a little pink, but not burned. You'll be good as new in no time." Billie said as she looked up into Cat's face.
Cat was finding it difficult to breath. "Uhhhh.... Thanks." she murmured as she quickly pulled the leg of her shorts back down. "Did her face look as flush as it felt?" she wondered to herself.
Cat tried to cover for her flustered state. "Billie, I want to thank you for spending this time with me. I know you must be busy... I hope I'm not taking you away from anything... or anyone." "Real subtle, Cat... Yeah - real subtle." she thought as soon as the words left her mouth.
Billie was standing at the sound system, with her back to Cat. "Thank god she can't see my face!" she thought. "Touching her leg like that was torture! I know my face is flush - I can feel it!" Out loud, she said, "No, it's all right... Okay, let's get started."
Cat stripped off the sweat shirt she was wearing over her aerobics wear to reveal tight fitting spandex shorts and a spandex sports bra. The outfit hugged her curves, exposing her abdomen, and leaving nothing to the imagination.
"Great, just great!" Billie thought. "How am I going to concentrate on teaching with her dressed like that? Okay, deep breath... breathe.... that's it."
As the music started, Billie fell into her normal warm up routine, using very basic and simple steps. Cat stood next to her, looking at the two of them in the mirror, and trying to follow Billie's every move. After about a half hour of stop-and-go, trying to keep Cat in step, Billie was just about at the end of her patience. She was trying hard not to yell at her, but enough was enough. Finally, Billie put a stop to it.
"Okay, Cat. This approach just isn't working for you.. We need to try something else." she said.
Exasperated with her ineptitude, Cat was ready to give up. "I just can't do this Billie. You're wasting your time on me. I'm ready to call it quits."
"I don't think so, Red. I haven't exhausted by bag of tricks yet. You're not quitting on me now." Billie scolded.
Cat was amused at the "pet" name Billie had used for her. "Billie, if you think it's worth another try, then I'm game, but I still think you're wasting your time. I'm hopeless!".
"Well, we'll see about that." Billie said as she rewound the tape and then came to stand directly behind Cat.
Placing her hands on Cat's shoulders, she said, "Reach back with your arms and placed your hands on the outsides of my thighs. I will hold your shoulders. You need to attach yourself to me so that we can move as one."
Cat's mouth suddenly went dry, her eyes bulging out of her face. Billie saw her reflection in the mirror and chuckled.
"Cat, I won't bite you... Now come on, do as I say. One way or another, we're going to teach you how to be graceful... if it kills us both!"
"That's probably not far from the truth, Billie." Cat said in all seriousness.
"Relax." Billie whispered in her ear as the music started.
"Okay, step touch... That's it, right leg over, left toe tap, left leg over, right toe tap. Good... you're doing fine." Billie encouraged as Cat seemed to master the repetitious move.
"Now, on the count of four, Cat, we're going to take this two steps to the right, then two steps left, Okay? Here we go, four, three, two one... Two steps right." Billie instructed. Cat tried valiantly to follow her directions, but somehow, their connection was broken and Cat ended up going left while Billie went right.
Cat stamped her feet in anger at herself, her fists clenched at her sides. "I'm so stupid.... I'll never get this!" she exclaimed.
"Cat, don't be so hard on yourself. Come here, we'll try it again... only this time, I'll hold on tighter." Billie said as she once again, came up behind Cat. This time, Billie wrapped her arm around Cat's waist and pulled her directly to her, locking her in place tightly against her chest.
"Okay Cat, now, hold onto my thighs and let's try this again."
Cat obeyed, and soon, they were repeatedly moving back and forth across the floor, in step with each other and with the music. Cat was ecstatic, not only with her new abilities, but with the position she currently found herself in. Watching the two of them in the mirror as they moved together, looked so right... and Billie's arm wrapped securely around her waist felt wonderful. Cat let her head fall back onto Billie's shoulder. Soon her eyes were closed as they floated back and forth across the room.
Billie was in heaven. She didn't know what it was about this woman that appealed to her, but she knew that holding her in her arms the way she was just felt right. She only hoped that Cat felt the same way. She had always known that she was attracted to women. Seth's father was a mistake - an attempt to placate her parents. The only good thing that came out of that relationship, was Seth himself.
Thinking of Seth, Billie realized that she didn't have time for a relationship right now. Her son was her main priority, and until he was healthy again, she would barely have time for herself, never mind a partner. She didn't even know if Cat felt that way about women. Sure, she was receiving mixed signals from her, but she could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time she'd misread a situation. And even if she was right about Cat, it wasn't fair to ask her to enter a relationship plagued with so many problems right out of the starting gate. No, she had to be careful not to lead her on.
Snapping out of her daydream, Billie noticed that their hour was almost up. She leaned into Cat's ear and whispered, "Hey, Ginger, time's up, I've got to get cleaned up and off to work."
"Okay, Fred." Cat replied, picking up on the joke. She reluctantly withdrew from Billie's arms. Cat was embarrassed that she had let herself relax so easily in the arms of a virtual stranger. But then, Billie didn't feel strange to her... it was almost like she had known her forever, or maybe in some past life?
Billie placed her hands on Cat's shoulders and looked directly into her face. "You done good, girl... we'll pick this up again tomorrow at 7 am, Okay?"
Cat didn't like the idea of waiting until tomorrow morning to see Billie again. So, she did the only thing she could think of... open mouth/insert foot.
"Ah, Billie, I was kind of hoping that we could get a drink after work tonight, or maybe dinner. What do you think?" she asked pleadingly.
Billie's heart was in her throat. "She asking me out!... I can't believe it. Maybe she DOES feel the same way I do?", she thought.
"I'd love to, Cat, but I'm afraid I can't. I have a standing commitment after my aerobics class each evening... its a commitment that I can't, and don't want to break. I hope you understand." It broke Billie's heart to see Cat's hopes dashed like that.
"No, I understand, Billie, really I do. Maybe some other time then?" she asked dejectedly.
After mumbling a terse "I'll see you in the morning.", Cat turned to leave. Billie's heart was in pieces on the floor. She had to fix this somehow.
"Wait, Cat!" she exclaimed. "My commitment is in the evenings, but that doesn't mean we can't meet earlier, say... for breakfast?"
Cat's eyes lit up with renewed hope. "That would be great! How about you meet me at Rose's Diner at 6 am tomorrow morning. It's a truck stop, but they have great food. Then we can come over here and still have our class at 7 am. Is that okay with you?"
"Sounds fine, Cat. I know Rose personally... you're right - it's a great place to eat. I'll see you at 6 am then. And by the way Cat, " Billie said as Cat turned to leave. "... you really did do great this morning. You'll be an expert in no time!"
Blushing slightly, Cat accepted the compliment, "Thank you, Billie, I couldn't do it without your help. See you tomorrow morning!".
"Bye, Ginger!" Billie whispered as Cat walked out the door.
6 am found Billie sitting at a small table in a secluded corner of Rose's Diner, sipping a cup of black coffee. When dining out, she generally chose a table that was strategically placed such that she could have a view of the entire diner. She got into this habit during the messy breakup with Seth's father, Brian. It would not be unusual for Brian to barge into a restaurant, ranting and raving at her in one of his drunken stupors. Sitting in the corner had allowed her to make a hasty retreat on more than one occasion when she saw him coming. It was out of habit that she had chosen such a table today.
Billie was glad for her choice of seating this morning, for she was able to observe Cat's arrival, before being spotted herself. Cat was wearing her workout clothes, with yesterday's sweatshirt over the top. Remembering how Cat looked in spandex sent a shiver of anticipation down Billie's spine for their upcoming lesson. "Damn, I've got it bad!" she thought to herself as Cat spotted her and approached her table with a huge smile on her face.
Good Morning, Billie!", Cat said enthusiastically. "I'll have you know that this is a big sacrifice for me.... I'm not much of a morning person.... it takes a lot to get me out of bed this early!" she said, chuckling as she sat down across from Billie.
"'Morning, Cat. " Billie said as further conversation was interrupted by the waitress.
"Good Morning Billie-girl." the waitress said with a tinge of good humored teasing in her voice. "Whose your new friend?"
"Darlene, this is Cat.... Cat, Darlene. Cat is one of my aerobic students. We're just having a little breakfast before hitting the gym." Billie replied as she made the introductions. "Why do I feel I have to explain myself to Darlene?" she thought. "Maybe it was because Darlene has made no secret of the fact that she wants a relationship with me?"
"Nice to meet you Cat." she said with barely controlled hostility. "What can I get you ladies this morning?"
Billie ordered a fruit cup, toast and orange juice without lifting her eyes from the menu.
"I'll have the big breakfast..., two eggs over easy, hash browns sausage, bacon, toast, orange juice, and a side of cottage cheese please." Cat replied.
Billie's eyes flew to Cat. "How on earth can you stay so beautifully trim, eating like that?" She exclaimed, not realizing the personal nature of the comment until it had left her mouth.
Irritated at Billie's comment, Darlene grabbed the menu's out of their hands and stomped away.
The reference to "beautiful" did not go unnoticed as Cat blushed. "I've always had a fast metabolism. I guess my body just needs a lot of fuel. I work out all the time though. I run, lift weights, and of course, now I do aerobics.
I've never put a lot of thought into how much I eat." she replied. "By the way, what's her problem?" she added, indicating the huff that Darlene had left in.
Billie shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "Let's just say that she's been trying to sell me something that I'm not interested in buying, and now she thinks I'm shopping elsewhere."
"Shopping?", Cat asked, her brow knit with confusion. Suddenly, Cat understood the gist of the comment, and blushed down to the roots of her hair. "I sure am blushing a lot around her." Cat thought. "I don't remember when I've been so school-girlish around someone!"
Billie sensed Cat's obvious discomfort and knew that she needed to change the topic of conversation before things got out of hand.
"So, tell me about yourself, Cat." Billie asked.
"About me?", she asked. "What do you want to know?"
"Everything.... How old are you, where to you live, what do you do for work. You know, the usual stuff." Billie prompted, resting her elbows on the table and placing her chin in her hands.
"Okay, let's see... I'm 24, I live on the east side in a condo on Canal Street and I'm an anesthesiologist. Two nights a week I volunteer at the Crisis Management center, and in my spare time, I write." she replied, and then thought, "Should I tell her about Tara?"
Billie interrupted her thoughts. "You write? You mean, like stories and poetry and stuff like that?"
"Yeah. It's always been a hobby of mine, ever since I was a little girl. It gives me a sense of peace. It helps me to relax after an especially taxing day.... Enough about me, your turn." she said, turning the tables back on Billie.
Just then, their food arrived. Billie marveled again at the massive amount of food Cat had ordered. Cat, mindful of Darlene's earlier treatment, thanked her sweetly, while at the same time placing her hand over Billie's on the table. Billie froze, not sure what Cat was up to. Darlene saw the gesture and again, stomped away in anger.
Cat started to laugh uncontrollably. "I'm sorry, Billie... I couldn't resist. I guess her attitude just got to me. Forgive me?" she begged through tears of laughter.
By then, Billie had gotten over her momentary shock and had also started laughing. "Serves her right." she chuckled. "I guess she won't be so obvious the next time you're around."
"Maybe not." she replied finally getting herself under control. "Okay, Billie, spill it.... Tell me about yourself."
"Turn about is fair play I guess... all right, I'm 27... almost 28, divorced, I live in a loft near the hospital, and I'm a legal assistant. I need one more year of college to complete my law degree, but that's on hold at the moment. Oh yeah, and I teach aerobics - but you already know that." She paused to take a breath and then thought, "Should I tell her about Seth?"
"You've only got a year left on your degree? If you don't mind me asking, why put it off? Cat asked out of curiosity.
"I ah... I have other priorities right now that are demanding my time and financial resources. Maybe later... when things straighten out." Billie said hopefully, then looked down at the table when she felt her eyes begin to sting with unshed tears.
Cat could see the pain in Billie's eyes. "What ever the problem is, Billie obviously feels very deeply about it." Cat thought.
Cat reached out and covered Billie's hand with her own, this time out of concern. "Billie, you've only known me for less than a day, but if there is anything I can do to help... know that I'm here for you."
Billie couldn't hold back the lone tear that rolled down her face. She reached up with the back of her hand to wipe it away. "I really appreciate your concern, Cat, but there's not much anyone can do to help me with this particular problem. Everything that can be done has. It's pretty much a waiting game at this point."
"Sometimes it helps to have someone to wait with, Billie. Don't wait alone if you don't have to.... and I'm telling you that you don't have to. Understand?" Cat questioned.
Billie smiled through her tears. "Yeah, I understand.... and thanks - I'll keep it in mind." Looking at her watch, Billie noticed that it was nearly 7 am. "OOPS, we'd better get going if we're going to have time to get your lesson in this morning."
"Billie, if you're not up to it......."
"No, Cat. Working out helps to relieve the stress. I'd rather do the lesson... that is, unless you're too full to move!" Billie said, trying to lighten the mood by making a teasing remark about the amount of food Cat has consumed.
"Don't you worry about me Billie-girl!" Cat said, mocking the waitress. "I can move just fine. Just you watch me!"
"I intend to do just that!" Billie whispered under her breath as Cat led the way out to the parking lot.
Billie and Cat fell into a routine where they would meet at 6 am each Monday through Friday morning for breakfast, then go to the gym for Cat's lesson. Sometimes they would meet at Rose's or some other establishment in town, or sometimes, they would bring bagels and croissants to the gym and sit in the middle of the floor to share their morning meal. Both women grew dependent on the relationship that was rapidly blossoming into something deeply profound. Nothing sexual had transpired between them, but the tension was heavy. Each had come to admit to themselves individually, though not to each other, that they had fallen in love. Each one was afraid that voicing those feelings might signal the end of their relationship. For the sake of their friendship, both remained silent.
Cat waited patiently for Billie to reveal what the "priority commitment" was that took up her evenings, but to no avail. Each evening after aerobics, Billie promptly disappeared, never once offering an explanation as to her whereabouts. Cat hated not knowing, and secretly wondered if Billie was seeing someone else. She knew in time that Billie would tell her... She would just have to be patient and trust her.
One Monday morning, about six weeks after Cat's first appearance at the gym, Cat failed to show up for breakfast. When 7 am rolled around, and still no Cat, Billie began to worry. She found Cat's address in the gym's membership registry and went searching for her condo. She had a feeling in her gut that something was wrong.
A half-hour later, after fighting rush-hour traffic, Billie finally found Cat's building. Parking in the lot behind the condo, Billie entered the lobby and scanned the mailboxes until she found the one labeled "Caitlain O'Grady". The number on the box indicated that she lived on the third floor, in unit #4. Having no patience to wait for the elevator, Billie took the stairs two at a time until she reached the third floor. Seconds later, she was standing in front of the door with a large brass "4" above the peephole.
Raising her fist, she knocked on the door with four sharp raps. Almost immediately, the door swung open and there, clothed in just a short nightgown, was a woman Billie had never seen before. In the background, was a small girl, sitting at the breakfast table eating cereal.
Not really sure if she had the right unit, Billie asked, "I'm sorry if I'm intruding, but is this where Caitlain O'Grady lives?"
"Yeah, you've got the right place." the woman answered. "Tara, go wake up your Mom and tell her she's got company!"
At that , the little girl climbed off her chair and ran towards the back of the apartment.
"Mom!?" Billie thought. "She has a daughter? Why didn't she tell me?" Billy was both hurt and angry at this revelation.
"So, you're the one she's been spending so much time with lately, huh?" Asked the night gowned woman.
Billie looked at the woman suspiciously, taking in the nightgown, bare feet and disheveled hair. She had obviously just gotten out of bed. "But whose bed?" Billie thought.
Suddenly very uncomfortable with the situation, Billie shuffled from foot to foot, trying to come up with an excuse to just leave. "Maybe this woman was the reason Cat seemed reluctant to take their relationship to the next level." mused Billie. "How could I be so blind?" she chastised herself. "I should have never left myself open... I was better off alone!"
"What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?" the woman asked, trying to break Billie out of her trance.
"Ah... Look, just tell Cat that Billie stopped by, Okay? I'll catch up with her later". Billie turned to leave when she felt a small tug on the hem of her jacket. She looked down into the face of a miniature Cat, same green eyes, same red-gold hair.
"Mama is sick and can't get out of bed. She said to bwing you to her. She said your name was Bilwie and that you were a nice lady. My name is Tara, and I'm four years old. How old are you?" The child looked innocently up at Billie.
Billie crouched down in front of Tara. "Did you say your Mom was sick?".
"Mama has been thwowing up all night. She told me to bwing you to her." With that, Tara took Billie's hand and tugged her into the apartment, closing the door behind her. The woman had gone back to the kitchen to finish her coffee.
Tara dragged Billie through the apartment and to a door at the end of the hall. Once the door was open, Tara let go of Billie's hand and scampered up onto the bed perching herself directly on Cat's lap.
"I bwought her Mama... Here she is!" She said, straddling Cat's waist and holding Cat's face in both her hands.
Thank you, Sweetie. Now why don't you go finish your breakfast like a good girl, Okay? I need to talk to Billie for awhile." Cat said to her daughter.
"Okay, Mama! Bye Bilwie!" Tara exclaimed as she bounded off the bed and ran out the door.
Billie walked to the doorway, silently closed the door and leaned her head up against it, her back to Cat. "Get a grip on yourself, Billie. You need to deal with the sickness first. You'll have plenty of time to discuss the child, and the woman, later. She's still your friend and she needs you right now." Billie turned to face Cat and noticed for the first time just how ill she really was.
Cat looked like hell. Her hair was dull and matted and her face had a pale muted hue. Her lips were cracked and the usual sparkle was gone from eyes that were now red rimmed and darkened by black circles.
Billie crossed over to the bed in two long strides. She sat down on the edge and placed her hand across Cat's forehead.
"Damn, Cat, you're burning up!" she exclaimed. "Tell me what's wrong... What are the symptoms?"
"I don't know what's wrong, Billie. This all started Friday night. I just started throwing up... and I have this achy feeling all over. Maybe its the flu or something." Cat explained.
"Does it hurt anywhere in particular? Like here?" she asked as she pressed down on her stomach. "Or here?", she said, pressing on her lower abdomen.
"Oowww!" Cat protested. "That's it - that's where it hurts the most". Billie noticed that it was in the area around her appendix.
"Cat, I need to get you to the hospital right away. I think its your appendix. If we don't get it taken care of, it could burst and kill you. Do you understand?" Billie looked directly into Cat's eyes as she spoke.
"All right, Billie. Help me up, I'll need to throw some clothes on." she asked.
"No time for that Cat, I'll just wrap a blanket around you and carry you to my car. I don't want to waste one minute, Okay?" Billie tried to make Cat understand the urgency of the situation as she wrapped a blanket around her and lifted her into her arms.
"Billie, wait! What about Tara? We have to take her with us!" Cat exclaimed.
"Cat, that woman out there can stay with her. We've got to get going now!" Billie protested.
"No, Billie, that woman, Terry, is leaving me today... She moving out!. I can't leave Tara alone!" Cat cried.
"Okay, okay... We'll take her with us. Please calm down, you're only making yourself sicker." Billie scolded Cat as she carried her down the hall into the living area.
Gently laying Cat down on the couch, Billie turned to address the child, squatting down so that she was face to face with her. "Tara, I need you to get dressed quickly and to come with me and your Mom. We have to bring her to the hospital. She is sick and the doctors need to make her feel better. Do you understand?"
"Is Mama going to die?" the child asked with tears in her eyes.
"Not if I can help it, little one... not if I can help it. Now show me where your room is, and I'll give you a hand." Billie and Tara disappeared into a room off the hall and reemerged a few minutes later with a fully clothed Tara in tow, holding a rag doll tightly to her chest. Billie looked around and noticed that Terry was no where to be seen.
"Terwy is gone, Bilwie. Mama and Terwy had a big fight yesterday about you , and Mama told her to leave." the child explained. Billie had no time to explore what the child meant by that. She noticed that Cat was rapidly losing consciousness. She needed to get her to the hospital as soon as possible.
Billie carried Cat down three flights of stairs, with Tara holding tightly to her coat tails. Within minutes, she was settled as comfortably as possible in the front seat of Billie's car, with Tara seat-belted into the back. Billie wasted no time pulling the car into traffic for the trip to the hospital.
Billie pulled into the emergency lane of the hospital and ran into find a doctor. In no time, they had Cat out of the car, strapped to a gurney, and wheeled into an operating room. Tara was nearly hysterical with fright over her mother's condition.
"Shhh, little one, it's Okay. The doctor's will fix Mama up good as new, I promise." Billie told her as they sat waiting in the lounge.
Tara climbed up onto Billie's lap and wrapped her arms around her neck. "You promise?" she asked.
"I promise." Billie said, praying to the gods that it was a promise she could keep.
Billie sat in the lounge, holding Cat's daughter tightly against her chest. She couldn't believe Cat had a daughter!. Sitting there like that, holding her, reminded Billie of times she and Seth would share such moments.
Thinking of her son, lying in his hospital bed helpless and unresponsive, brought a wave of loss and guilt down onto her heart. It seemed as though she spent her whole adult life losing the people she loved. First there were her parents, killed in a car accident when Seth was only two, then there was Brian. Divorcing Brian had been a blessing disguise, but at the time, it was very traumatic. An then there was Seth, cut down by a drunken driver illegally passing his school bus. Seth was still alive, but at what cost? Now, there was Cat. The other half of her soul, was now lying in the operating room, with a team of doctors trying to save her life. "Oh god, please let her live!" Billie anguished internally, closing her eyes and letting the tears run down her cheeks.
Tara noticed Billie's tears and sitting back, reached out with her small hand and wiped the tears away. "Are you sad about Mama, Bilwie?" she asked?
"Yes, Sweetie, I am." she replied.
"Do you love Mama, Bilwie?" asked the inquisitive child.
"I love her very much. I hope she gets better soon, so I can tell her that." Billie answered.
"Mama loves you too, Bilwie. I heard her tell Terwy that. That's why they were fighting." Tara explained.
"She loves me?" thought Billie. "We have been fools - wasting all of this time avoiding the subject." Billie vowed to herself that she would set things right with Cat as soon as she was well enough.
Looking at her watch, Billie noticed that it was only 8:30 am. She couldn't believe it was still so early. So much had already happened that morning, that it felt like a whole day had passed. Deciding that she wanted to take some time off from work to care for Tara and Cat, she got up, told Tara to sit tight while she went to make a phone call. After arranging for the entire week off, she returned to sit with Tara for the long wait.
Three hours later, there was still no news. With each moment that passed, Billie became more and more worried. "Something must be wrong.... it shouldn't be taking this long!" she thought. Not willing to wait any longer, Billie approached the receptionist.
"Excuse me, my friend has been in there for over three hours. Is there any way you can check on her? Her daughter is beside herself with worry." Billie asked.
Taking pity on the distraught woman and child, the receptionist said, "Wait here, let me see what I can find out."
Several moments later, the doctor came out of the operating room with some news. Billie was immediately on her feet. Picking Tara up and cradling her on her hip, she approached the doctor.
"Ms. Charland?" he asked.
"Yes... how is she?" Billie demanded.
"Well, she has you to thank for her life. She's a lucky young woman. If she had been brought in any later, we would have lost her." he began.
Billie sank to the couch, her knees suddenly weak with relief. Tara snuggled herself in closer to Billie, placing her head on her shoulder. Billie unconsciously kissed the top of Tara's head.
The doctor continued, "The appendix burst as soon as we touched it, spilling toxic infection inside her abdominal cavity. We managed to flush it clean, though. She has an excellent chance of a full recovery. She'll be sedated for the next 24 hours in the Intensive Care Unit to give her body a chance to recover. We'll have fluids and nutrients going into her continually through an IV." He paused, seeing the relief on the woman's face. " The two of you look exhausted. Why don't you go home and get some rest. Like I said, she be unconscious until about this time tomorrow. Leave your number with the receptionist and we'll call you if her condition worsens... which we don't expect to happen. Okay?"
Billie just nodded and thanked the doctor for his help.
Normally, Billie would have objected to leaving, but she had Tara to think about, and Seth. She still needed to visit with her son... but what to do with Tara?
"Tara, do you have any relatives around here, like grandparents, aunts, uncles or someone?" Billie asked hopefully.
"No, its just Mama and me. Grandma and Grandpa live in Florida." the child replied.
"Great, just great!" she said to herself. "I guess I'll have to take her with me." she decided.
"Tara, Mama is going to be fine, just like the doctor said, but she's going to be sleeping for the rest of the day, so she won't be able to talk to us. How 'bout the two of us go out for a nice lunch somewhere?" she asked the child.
"Can we go to McDonald's?" Tara asked hopefully.
"Sure, love, McDonald's it is." she said, ruffling her hair and leading her towards the door, after giving the receptionist her number.
After lunch, Billie brought Tara back to Cat's condo. She thought that being in familiar surroundings would help ease the worry over her mother's illness. Before they even pulled into the parking lot, Tara was sleeping. "Poor kid." Billie thought. "I guess this has all been too much for her." After finding a place to park, Billie carefully lifted Tara out of the car, carried her to the apartment and put her to bed.
"Okay, Billie", she said to herself after tucking Tara in. "You've got a few hours to kill until your aerobics class. Guess it won't hurt you to pitch in and clean up the mess that was left behind this morning." With that thought in mind, Billie started cleaning. Two hours later, the apartment was sparkling clean, including clean sheets on Cat's bed and what she soon realized, was Terry's bed. She'd have to change Tara's bed after she awoke from her nap.
She had just finished putting the last load of laundry away, when she heard the patter of little feet from the direction of the hallway. Pretending not to notice, Billie played opossum and let Tara sneak up on her. Suddenly, at the last second, she turned around, scooped the child up in her arms, flung her down on Cat's bed, and started tickling her.
"Hey, no fair, Bilwie... You were peaking!" the child screamed between peals of laughter.
"I'm not the one who tried to sneak up on you... you little rug rat! Now you must pay the price! The CLAW is coming to get you... Aarrgghh." with that warning, Billie formed a claw with her right hand and unmercifully tickled the girl with it.
"Stop! Please Stop, Bilwie... No far... you're bigger than me, ha, ha, ha." Screams of laughter filled the apartment.
Finally, after an appropriate amount of tickle warfare, where by the way, Tara managed to get in a few licks as well, they both fell exhausted onto the bed. Billie rolled over onto her back and placed her hands behind her head. Tara, seeing an opening, climbed up on top of Billie and sat straddling her stomach. She placed her hands on Billie's arms, "pinning" her down.
"I've got you now warrior... surrender to Tara the Great!" teased the child.
Playing along, Billie begged for her life. "Please Tara the Great, please don't hurt me. I surrender. Take me prisoner if you want, but please don't hurt me!" Billie had forgotten how much fun playing with a child could be. Memories of Seth rushed in, causing Billie to remember that she needed to discuss this evening's trip to see him with Tara.
Tara leaned into Billie's face until their foreheads were touching. "I wouldn't really hurt you Bilwie, I'm just playing."
Pulling her hands out from behind her head, she wrapped them around Tara and flipped them both over so that Billie was on top, looking down into Tara's face while supporting her weight on her elbows. "I know that Sweetheart" she said, placing a kiss on her nose. "Hey, I've got a question for you.... I've got some things to do this afternoon and I want to know if you'd like to come along".
"Sure... where are we going?" she replied eagerly.
"Well, first, I've got an aerobics class to teach. The gym has a great child care center with lots of toys and books, where you can stay while I'm in class. Do you think you'd like that?" she asked.
"Will you come back to get me?" she asked, with a slight trepidation in her voice.
"Of course I would, you silly goose! We'd be in the same building, just different rooms. It will only take an hour and I promise to come back for you, Okay?" she assured the girl.
"Okay. Where else are we going?" she asked.
"Well, I thought that maybe we could pick up a quick pizza and go visit someone. Whaddaya think?"
"Who?" she asked, her eyes full of wonder.
"A very special young man named Seth. Seth is very sick and is in a special hospital. I go to visit him every day. I love him very much, and I think you'll like him too. Someday, he will get better, then we can take him home. Would you like to visit Seth with me? Maybe you can help him to feel better." Billie appealed to the soft side of Tara's heart.
"Do you really think he'll like me, Bilwie?" she asked.
"He'll love you, Tara, but he won't be able to tell you right away. You see, it looks like Seth is sleeping all the time. His body needs to sleep a lot to help him get better. I like to spend time reading to him and talking to him. I think he can hear me, even though his eyes are closed." "How do you explain something as complicated as a comma to a four year old?" Billie thought to herself.
"Bilwie, after we go see Seth, are you going to come home with me? Mama's not here, and I will be afraid all by myself".
Billie gathered the frightened child up into her arms and held her close. "Tara, I would never leave you alone here. Don't you know that? You are very special to me, and I will do everything I can to keep you safe, Okay? I promise."
"Pinkie swear?" Tara asked, crooking her right pinkie and holding it out.
"Pinkie swear!" said Billie, locking her pinkie with Tara's.
Tara threw her arms around Billie's neck and gave her a big kiss full on the lips. "I love you, Bilwie. Will you come live with Mama and me when she comes home?"
"Let's just take this one day at a time, Okay pip-squeak?" Billie asked.
"Okay. What time do we leave?" Tara asked.
Looking at the clock, Billie turned back to Tara and said, "Well, it's only three o'clock, so we don't have to get ready for another hour yet."
"Three o'clock!" Tara exclaimed. "Time for Barney... quick, turn on the TV!"
For the next hour, Billie and Tara sat and watched the purple dinosaur sing and skip his way across the TV screen.
Tara liked the daycare center at the gym so much, that Billie had a hard time pulling her away. "Time to go, Munchkin." she said. "You can come back tomorrow while I teach class, Okay?"
"Can I, really? Oh boy. I'm gonna color some pictures for my new friends. I can't wait." she was so excited, her sentences were blending together.
Finally, after saying good-byes to nearly everyone in the gym, Billie had Tara seat belted into the car and they were on their way to the pizza parlor. Dinner was over quickly, and soon, they were on their way to visit Seth.
"Bilwie, how did Seth get sick?" she asked.
"He got hit by a car that was passing his school bus Honey. He hit his head real hard and it hurt him inside his brain." A simple explanation, but easy for a four year old to understand.
"Mama said cars aren't s'posed to pass busses when the lights are on." she said.
Billie marveled at this girl's intelligence. "You're right, Tara, but the man who hit Seth was drinking, and he made a bad decision because of it."
"He's a bad man... did the p'lice put him in jail?" she asked.
"Honey, he isn't really a bad man. He feels really bad about what happened to Seth and he is very sorry. He just made a bad choice that day." "How do you teach a child compassion when all you want to do is rip the guy's head off yourself?" Billie asked herself.
"Here we are, Pumpkin. Now, you need to be quiet in here so that we don't disturb the other sick people, Okay?" she instructed Tara.
As they walked across the parking lot, Tara slipped her tiny hand into Billie's larger one, causing a smile to break out across Billie's face.
Billie was a familiar face around the hospital. There wasn't one night that she had missed visiting with her son since his accident. In the beginning, she took a leave of absence from work, and basically stayed at the hospital with him around the clock. When it became apparent that progress towards recovery would be slow, if at all, the doctors talked her into at least going home at night. Soon, the demands of her job, and her financial situation required her to return to work full time. That was nearly five months ago.
Billie led Tara through the maze of hallways and into Seth's room. There on the bed, lay a small boy, with the face of a cherub. He had corn-silk colored hair, and long eyelashes that brushed his cheeks with their length.
Tara climbed up into the chair, a little intimidated, as Billie bent over her son and placed a kiss on his forehead.
"Hi, Scout!" she said to him. "How are we doing today, huh? I've got lots to tell you, but first I want you to meet someone." She turned to Tara and motioned for her to approach the bed. She was a little leery, but did as she was told.
"Seth, this is Tara... Tara, this is Seth." she said, making the introductions.
"Hi, Seth." Tara said in a soft voice. "Bilwie, I don't think he can hear me... His eyes are closed!".
"Tara, can you still hear when you eyes are closed?" Billie asked.
"Yes." Tara replied.
"Well, Munchkin, I think Seth can hear us too. He just can't talk back yet." Billie explained.
For the next few hours, Billie and Tara both took turns talking to Seth and telling him stories. Prior to his accident, Billie had enjoyed a very open and honest relationship with her son, and saw no reason to change it now. She told him all about Cat's illness, and about the life saving rush to the hospital. Over the past six weeks that she had known Cat, Billie relayed stories to Seth about her, including her ill fated attempts at aerobics. She could have sworn that she saw his mouth twitch into a slight smile when she told him about Cat falling on her face in the middle of class.
Never had a visit flown by so quickly as this one. Billie found herself immensely enjoying Tara's nonstop chattering to Seth, and all through the visit, she saw evidence that he was responding. The signs were small... a slight movement in his little finger, the fluttering of his eyelashes, a sudden quirk at the corner of his mouth. Yes, the signs were small, but they were there. Billie left the hospital that night with more hope than she had ever had since the accident.
All the way home, Tara begged Billie to let her go back the next night. Even though he was unresponsive, Tara seemed to have developed a bond with Seth, and was looking forward to her next visit. She even volunteered to color a few pictures to decorate Seth's room with.
When the arrived back at the condo, Tara was still chattering away, but yawning frequently between sentences. It was almost 10 pm by then, and quite late for someone so young to be up. Billie gave her a piggyback ride up the stairs, and abruptly deposited her on her bed, which she bounced on a few times before Billie told her to change into her night clothes. She readily complied and was soon tucked in snugly (after a potty call and drink of water, of course).
Billie was about to leave her room, when Tara reminded her that she hadn't said her prayers yet. Coming back into the room, she met Tara scrambling out of bed to kneel on the floor. Billie joined her, however she didn't have much use for religion.
"Jesus," Tara began. "Please make my Mama feel better real fast so she can come home to Bilwie and me.... and please help Seth to open his eyes. I want him to be my big brother and to come live with us too. Thank you, God. Amen." Prayers over, she climbed back up into bed and let Billie tuck her in again.
Billie leaned over and gave her a kiss on the forehead. "That was a really nice prayer, Tara. Thank you for thinking of Seth. Good night now sweat-pea".
"Good night Bilwie... I love you." she replied.
"I love you too, Tara.... Good night." Billie shut off the lights and closed the door slightly.
Wearily, she headed towards Terry's old room, but for some reason, she couldn't make herself go in. "Oh, Hell, I'd might as well sleep in Cat's bed." she told herself as she stripped off her clothes, leaving on her T-shirt. She crawled between the clean sheets and immediately sank into a deep sleep. It had been a rough day.
At some point in the night, Billie started dreaming. Suddenly, she found herself in a room, more like the ruins of a temple, really, surrounded by injured soldiers. The soldiers were all dressed like gladiators. Her role in the dream was that of spectator, rather than participant. She saw herself, also dressed in warrior leathers and armor, rushing back and forth between tables, doing what she could to save the dying men. Suddenly, a litter was brought into the room, carrying a gravely injured woman. The warrior woman ran to the litter yelling "By the gods, Gabrielle!.... No!" Moving in for a closer look, Billie saw that the woman on the litter was Cat!
The warrior woman worked furiously to revive Cat, but she remained unresponsive. "No, don't you leave me!... Don't leave me!" the warrior cried. "Save her!... Save her!" Billie yelled, but apparently, no one could hear her. The warrior woman started breathing into Cat's mouth and pounding on her chest. "Wake up!... Wake up!" she demanded. Again, she pounded on her chest, "Wake up!". Suddenly, Cat gasped for breath and opened her eyes. The warrior woman gathered Cat up into her arms and held her tightly, tears streaming down her face. She heard Cat softly whisper the woman's name, "Xena?"
Suddenly, Billie was awake. Bolting upright in bed, she didn't immediately recognize her surrounding. Looking around in wide-eyed confusion, the events of the previous day slowly returned to her. Drenched in sweat from her nightmare, Billie drew her knees into her chest and wrapped her arms around them. "Get a grip on yourself, Billie, it was only a dream... a very vivid one at that."
A movement under the blankets caught her eye. Cautiously, she lifted the corner of the spread and found a sleeping Tara, arms and legs brought up tightly into a fetal position. "Poor kid must have woken up in the middle of the night and crawled in with me." she mused. "Guess I'll let her sleep a bit longer while I shower."
Getting out of bed, Billie quickly showered, and then realized that she didn't have any clean clothes to change into. "Damn!" she thought. "I should have stopped by my placed for a change of clothes before coming here last night. I wonder if Cat has some underclothes I can borrow... I'll stop by the apartment to change on the way to the hospital this morning." Billie started rummaging through Cat's dresser, and was able to find a pair of underwear, some socks, and a T-shirt that fit all right. After slipping her jeans and shoes on, and combing out her wet hair, she went to wake Tara. Time to go to the hospital to see Cat.
Tara turned out to be a very difficult little girl to wake up in the morning, so by the time she got dressed and ate her breakfast, it was nearly 9 am. Billie had really wanted an earlier start, so she decided to put off the side trip to her apartment for clothes, until just before her aerobics class. Piling Tara into the car, they were soon on their way to the hospital.
While waiting in traffic, it suddenly occurred to Billie that Tara was bound to tell Cat about Seth. She wasn't sure that she wanted Cat to know yet. She had hoped that she could put their meeting off until Seth was recovered, however, that prospect was looking pretty dim at the moment. Still, she wanted to wait at least until Cat was well before revealing her son's existence. Now, how to stop Tara from telling her....
"Tara," Billie said. "I think that until Mama is feeling better, we shouldn't tell her about Seth, Okay? If think knowing about Seth would make her really sad, and I don't want her sadness to get in the way of her getting better. Do you understand?" she asked the child.
"You mean, Seth can be our secret?" she asked.
"You could put it that way. Seth can be your secret pal for now. We'll tell Mama about him later." Billie agreed.
"Cool... I've never had a secret pal! I'm gonna draw him a picture and write him a secret message. Can I go with you to see him again?" Tara asked.
"Yes, you can. Until Mama is out of the hospital and able to take care of you, it looks like you're gonna be my shadow... You'll go everywhere I go." Tara's face beamed with self importance as she heard this declaration from Billie. "Here we are, little one." she said as they pulled into the hospital parking lot.
Coming around to open the door for her, Billie said, "Out you go!".
Tara jumped out of the car and took Billie's hand as they walked into the hospital.
Excited at the prospect of seeing her mother, Tara let go of Billie's hand and started running toward the bed. Billie just barely caught her in time before she pounced on top of Cat.
Swinging her up and around into her arms, she said to Tara, "Okay, Munchkin.... take it easy. Mama has a very sore cut on her belly, and you need to be careful not to bump it."
Putting Tara back on the floor, she looked towards the bed at Cat. Cat's eyes were staring back at her, full of love and wonder and the obvious relationship that was developing between her daughter and her soul mate. Sharing a special, knowing smile with Billie, Cat turned her eyes towards Tara and then put her arms out to take the child into them. Mindful of Cat's surgery, Tara gently folded herself in Cat's arms and covered her mother's face with kisses.
"I missed you, little one." Cat said gently to Tara.
"Hey!, That's what Bilwie calls me!" she said gleefully. "She calls me Munchkin and pip-squeak, and rug rat too!"
Cat looked up at an embarrassed Billie. "Rug rat, huh?... Why didn't I think of that!" Then looking back at Tara, she asked, "So tell, me, whatcha been up to Rug rat?"
"Mama, I've been having sooooo much fun with Bilwie! We went to her gym and I made some new friends and we went to McDonalds and we went to eat pizza and we watched Barney and we colored and we had a tickle fight and...."
"Whoa... slow down there girl." warned Billie before she blurted out Seth's name.
"Sounds like you had a great time, Sweetie. I bet you didn't even miss me!" Cat said to Tara.
"No, Mama, I missed you too. I was worried about you a lot. I woke up last night afraid, but I went to sleep with Bilwie, then I felt better. When can you come home?" she asked.
"Yeah, when can you come home?" Billie added.
"The doctor came in this morning and said my vitals looked good. If things continue to improve, I may be able to go home tomorrow... that is, if I can get some help at home for the next few days." she said, looking up at Billie with undisguised hope in her eyes.
"You've got all the help you need right here." Billie said, indicating herself and Tara. "I've arranged to take the whole week off as vacation. You tell that doctor of yours to start writing up the release papers... You're coming home with us tomorrow morning."
Tara, becoming bored with the conversation, asked Billie for the bag of coloring books and crayons they had brought with them. "I have to make some secret pictures... remember?" she whispered into Billie's ear. Taking the books and crayons over to the corner of the room, Tara sprawled out on the floor and started coloring.
Billie sat on the edge of the bed and took Cat's hand in her's. Looking her straight in the eye, Billie took a deep breath and said, "Cat, it took almost losing you to give me the courage to say this.... I love you. I think I have since you walked into my class that day. I didn't realize how much until this happened." Slightly embarrassed, and not a little afraid of Cat's reaction, Billie cast her eyes down onto the bed.
Cat reached up and cupped Billie's cheek with her hand. She raised her chin so that their eyes met. "Billie, you own my heart. I think you've always owned it - even before I met you. Do you remember me saying that I felt we had known each other in a past life?" Billie nodded, remembering her dream. "I really believe that, Billie... I have had dreams where I see you, dressed in warrior garb, holding me, loving me. I have always loved you, Billie. I've always known that someday I would find you." Cat finished, tears streaming down her face.
"I believe you Cat.... I have had the dream too.... Xena, Gabrielle. I think we were meant to be together." Billie gently lowered her face to Cat's and claimed her lips in a tender, heart wrenching kiss. "I love you, my Bard." she whispered as she pulled away.
"I love you too, my Warrior." Cat replied.
"Hey, what about me!" Tara demanded indignantly, standing there with her hands on her hips, obviously, wanting to be part of the group hug.
"C'mere, Rug rat." Billie said as she scooped Tara up and sat her on her lap between herself and Cat, and wrapped her long arms around both of them.
Even though it had only been a day since the surgery, the nurses demanded that Cat get up and out of bed. The more mobile she was, the greater the chance that she could be discharged the following morning. So, Billie and Tara spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon, helping Cat walk up and down the hallway.
When Cat's lunch arrived, Billie and Tara took one look at it, wrinkled their noses and announced that they were going out for burgers and fries. "Traitors!" Cat accused. "You're gonna leave me here to eat this slop while you enjoy nice juicy hamburgers??!"
"Yep... That's exactly what we're going to do." replied Billie. Then she turned to Tara a said, "Come on partner, let's ride out of here and get us some real grub."
Tara giggled, kissed Cat on the cheek, and took Billie's hand. "We'll be back, Mama." she said. "Let's go Bilwie!".
"Hold on a minute, Tiger." she said to Tara. Walking back to Cat's bedside, she leaned down and kissed her soundly.
"You're spoiling her, you know." Cat said to Billie, a genuine smile on her face.
"Hey, we can't let our daughter starve, now can we?" Billie replied.
"Our daughter... I like the sounds of that." she said, placing a quick kiss on Billie's lips. "Now go and enjoy your lunch, and if you can, sneak something real good back for me, Okay?"
"You got it, Slim." she said, then taking Tara's hand again, they went to get some lunch.
While Billie and Tara were gone to lunch, Cat wondered if Billie would disappear again to her mysterious "commitment" later that evening. After some quiet contemplation, and some internal struggle, she decided that she would encourage Billie to go. The last thing their relationship needed was the element of manipulation of one over the other. She knew that sooner or later, she would find out what this commitment was, but she didn't want to find out by backing Billie into a corner about it. Resentment was the only possible outcome of such a confrontation.
When Billie and Tara returned from lunch, they surprised Cat with a juicy burger, fries, hot apple pie and chocolate milkshake of her own. Having only picked at the bland hospital food, Cat was overjoyed with the treat, and ate it hungrily.
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking the halls, talking, and coloring with Tara, interspersed with a great deal of touching, kissing and tender caresses for all. Cat noticed that Tara was hell-bent on coloring a certain number of pictures before she and Billie left for the day. She'd have to ask her about it later. In the meantime, the afternoon passed pleasantly.
Around 4 pm, Cat reminded Billie about her aerobics class. Billie told her that she had to teach today's class, but that during lunch, she had arranged to have the rest of the week's classes covered by another instructor, so she'd have more time for Cat when she went home tomorrow.
"But you still have your evening commitment to go to... right?" she asked Billie, trying hard not to pry too deeply.
"Yes, I do." she replied. "But I'll take Tara with me for the rest of the week, so you'll be able to get some rest."
"Are you sure Tara won't be in the way?" she asked.
"Not at all. In fact, I brought her with me last night, and I think she actually enjoyed herself." It was on the tip of her tongue to tell Cat about Seth, but she just couldn't do it. She really wanted to wait until Cat was feeling better.
"Well, if you're sure about it....." she said.
"I am." Billie replied, standing and bending down to place a kiss on Cat's mouth. "Don't you worry about her, Tara will be fine. Well, Love, as much as I hate the idea, we've gotta go. Will you be all right here alone?" she asked?
"Now, don't you worry... I'll be fine. I'll just catch up on my writing... by the way, thanks for the writing tablet." Cat replied.
"All right then.... Hey Rug rat," Billie said, turning to Tara. "You about ready to go?"
"Where are we going?" Tara asked.
"To the gym." Billie replied.
"Yeah!!! I get to see my new friends... oh boy!" Tara quickly gathered up her books and crayons and put them into her tote bag. Then she climbed up onto the bed and gave Cat a big kiss and hug. "I love you, Mama. Bilwie and me will be back in the morning to get you."
"I love you too, Sweet-pea. You be a good girl for Billie, Okay?" she asked a little teary-eyed.
"Oh, she'll be good all right." Billie said. "If she doesn't, she knows the consequences!"
Tara piped in, "Yeah... To the Moon, Alice!" she said, trusting her fist into the air.
All three of them broke into peals of laughter. Cat laughed much, her side hurt.
Several kisses, hugs and "I love you's" later, Billie and Tara were on their way to the gym, and to their visit with Seth.
The next morning, Billie awoke and again found Tara curled up at her side.
"Your Mom's gonna kill me for letting you get away with this, you know." She told the youngster after waking her up.
The girl replied by placing a quick kiss on Billie's nose. That little move started a tickle war, and soon, both of them were sprawled out on the bed, exhausted from laughter.
After a quick shower and breakfast, Billie and Tara piled into the car to make what they hoped, would be their last trip to the hospital to pick up Cat. When they got there, Cat was already dressed and waiting for them. "Spring me outta this joint! "she begged when they entered the room.
"Not before I talk to your Doctor about special instructions..... and restrictions!" she said.
"Drats!... Busted!!" Cat said, smiling at Tara.
After getting a list of "can do's" and "can't do's" from Cat's doctor, Billie commandeered a wheel chair and the trio gleefully exited the hospital and headed home.
Billie made sure that Cat was settled comfortably in the easy chair front of the TV, then announced that she had to go home to water her plants and collect some clean clothes.
"You know, Billie," Cat began. "You should just move in here and forget about keeping a separate place. I suspect you'll be here most of the time anyway."
"Now what do I do?" Billie thought. She was reluctant to give up her apartment until after Cat knew about Seth. Who knew what her reaction would be - she just might need to keep her apartment - just in case.
"Yeah, I thought about that too, but right now, I want to concentrate on getting you well. I'll deal with my apartment later, Okay? she replied.
"Sounds like a plan to me!" Cat said enthusiastically.
"Whew!... I got out of that one easily!... Almost too easily!" Billie thought as she left to make the trip to her apartment. Tara wanted to go with her, but Billie convinced her that she needed to stay home to help her Mom with little things, like getting her a soda, or a sandwich. Besides, Billie would be back in no time. Tara reluctantly agreed.
It took just 15 minutes for Billie to make the trip from Cat's place to her's. She packed about a week's worth of clothing in a suitcase, watered her plants, and picked up her mail on the way out. Quickly scanning through the envelopes, she came across one from Mercy General Hospital, where Seth was staying. With a nervous twitch in her stomach, she opened the letter.
"Dear Ms. Charland," it read. "We are sorry to inform you that you will have to find alternate accommodations for your son's care. Our review board has gone over his case, and it is the unanimous option of the board that no further improvement in his condition is probable. With that in mind, we feel he would be better cared for, in a nursing home or convalescent home setting, and at a more economical cost to you. We ask that you remove him from our facility within the next two weeks. Please contact us if you have any questions. Sincerely, Dr. Wayne Wyckart, Director, Mercy General Hospital."
"Oh my god!... Oh my god!" Billie exclaimed. "What am I going to do now?"
After a few minutes, Billie composed herself and called the phone number on the hospital letterhead. "There must be some kind of mistake." she mused. Ten minutes later, after a very heated discussion with Dr. Wyckart, she conceded the loss. Now she had to figure out what to do next. Her son needed professional care.... She certainly couldn't bring him home... Not yet.
"Okay, Billie. Calm down. Hysterics will get you nowhere. You have two weeks to resolve this. You'll think of something." she thought, giving herself a pep talk. "You have to act normal... can't let Cat know what's going on - not yet. Now just go to Cat's and deal with this when you go visit Seth tonight."
With a heavy heart, Billie grabbed her suitcase, locked her door and headed back to Cat's condo. She stopped at the local Chinese Deli for takeout on the way.
Billie arrived back at the condo just in time for Barney to come on TV. "Oh great!" she thought. "It's purple monster time again!" Luckily, there was another adult in the house, so this time, she didn't feel obligated to sit and watch the program with Tara.
"Chinese!" Tara screamed as Billie pushed the door open with her foot.
"Smells great!" chimed in Cat. "Looks like you've got enough to feed an army there."
"Well, one thing I forgot to tell you about myself.... I'm not much of a cook - I eat take-out a lot, and buying enough for left overs saves me the trouble of having to cook the next day." Billie admitted.
Cat struggled out of the chair into a standing position. Billie was immediately at her side, helping her to the table.
"Luckily for you, my love, I enjoy cooking... and I'm pretty good at it if I'd say so myself!" Cat bragged.
"We're a match made in heaven, it seems!" Billie said jokingly. "Tara, go wash your hands, then come and eat!"
"Okay, Bilwie, I'll be right there." she replied.
Cat sat there looking stunned. "How do you get her to do things without an argument? Washing her hands is usually a 10-minute battle with me!" she exclaimed.
"Well, I'm a lot bigger than her, and she knows it!" Billie replied with mock severity. "Besides, kids always give their parents a harder time than other adults."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. Hand check!" she said to Tara as she came to the table, wiping wet hands on her pants. Tara held out her hands for inspection. "Good job, young lady... now sit down her and enjoy this wonder feast Billie as seen fit to provide us."
If Billie had any hopes for left overs, they were dashed by the time Cat finished eating. She once again, marveled at the woman's appetite.
After eating, Tara went to play in her room, while Billie and Cat snuggled on the couch watching TV. Soon, Billie's mind began to wander back to Seth's problem. Noticing how distracted Billie was, she asked "Billie, is something wrong? You seem to be a hundred miles away."
"Whaaaa... Oh, no... I'm sorry. I've just got a problem I need to work out. It'll be fine... thanks for asking though." Billie replied.
Cat guessed that it had something to do with Billie's "commitment". "You know I'm here for you, don't you? Don't shut me out if there's anything I can do to help, Billie. We're in this relationship together... I want to help if I can."
"You are a huge help, just by being here with me, Cat. This is a problem I need to deal with on my own." Billie hoped she didn't sound as severe as she felt.
"I love you, Billie. No problem big or small will change that. Okay?" she asked.
"Okay... and ditto on the love part." Billie replied. She immediately earned a punch to the shoulder for her lack of romanticism.
Billie left around 6 pm for her visit with Seth, promising to be home by nine. Tara begged to go with her, but she really didn't want the child there when she confronted the doctors face to face, and besides, Cat had just gotten home from the hospital that afternoon, and she really did need someone to be with her... even if that someone was just a child.
When Billie arrived at the hospital, the doctor was still on his rounds, so she stopped at the front desk to tell the nurse that she needed to see him as soon as he was done, then she went directly to Seth's room to visit.
"Hey Buddy-Boy, howya doing today, my love?" she greeted him as she entered his room. Seth lay passively in his bed, with his eyes closed. It was times this like that Billie had to keep a stiff upper lip and hope for the best. It was so discouraging some times, to come in here day after day and face such unresponsiveness.
"Well, Cat came home from the hospital today. She's pretty sore, but she'll make it... she's pretty tough you know." She paused to see if there was any reaction to her words. None was evident. Continuing, she said, "Cat is really a special person, Seth. I know you'll love her as much as I do. She's Tara's mom. You remember Tara, don't you? She's been here to visit with you for the past two days." This time, she could have sworn she saw his eyebrow lift. She had a hunch about something.... "Tara can't wait until you come home. She wants you to be her big brother. Would you like that?" This time, the corner of his mouth twitched. "Well, I'll be damned!" Billie surmised. "He seems to react to Tara's name." Trying again, she added, "Tara had colored some really nice pictures of race cars for you. I've hung them on your wall over here. I wish you would open your eyes to see them, love." His eyelashes fluttered, but remained closed. "That's it!... It's Tara... She's getting through to him!" Billie thought excitedly.
Back at the condo, Cat found herself with a very upset Tara on her hands. She just couldn't understand why Billie had left her behind.
"Mama, is Bilwie mad at me or something?" she asked Cat.
"I don't think so, Honey. Why would you think that?" Cat prompted.
"Cause she didn't take me with her to see Seth." Suddenly realizing that she let the cat out of the bag, Tara, clamped her hand over her mouth... her eyes wide and tearing.
"Seth?" Cat asked.
"Mama, I told Bilwie I wouldn't say anything to you about him. She said it would make you sad if you knew about Seth! Now Bilwie will hate me!" she cried real tears.
"Tara, come here, love." She climbed into Cat's arms and cried into her shoulder.
Cat was seething with rage. "How could Billie put Tara in this position? Hell, what kind of woman brings a child along on clandestine meetings? What a fool she was. How could she have misread Billie so badly?"
A sob brought her attention back to the child in her arms. "Tara, I'm sure Billie won't hate you. You didn't really tell me anything about Seth - you just said his name - that's all." she said, trying to soothe the child's fears.
"You think so, Mama? I really love Bilwie... I don't want her to be mad at me."
"Shhh... It's all right my love. You'll see." Cat cooed in her ear.
Several minutes later, Tara fell asleep in Cat's arms. Being too weak to carry her to bed, Cat just shifted her off to the side and laid her on the couch, pulling the comforter down and tucking it around her.
Cat tried hard not to believe the worse, but as the hour of nine, and then ten came and went, she became more and more convinced of Billie's guilt. Finally, she got up and slowly made her way to bed as tears coursed down her cheeks.
Wanting to make sure that it wasn't just a fluke, Billie didn't mention Tara's name again for a while. Instead, the spent the next hour reading to Seth, holding his hand, and stroking his hair. She paused for a time and just looked at him. He was indeed a beautiful child. He inherited a few traits from Brian... the corn-silk hair, the spattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose, the clef in his chin. The rest of him however, was a miniature Billie, right down to him being tall for his age. The most obvious characteristic he inherited from his mother, was his eyes. The same light sky-blue, with the power to melt any heart they set themselves upon. How Billie longed to see those eyes now.
Billie's daydreams were interrupted by the doctor. "Uh, excuse me, Ms. Charland. You wanted to see me?"
Billie stood to her full height. "Yes, Dr. Richmond. I received this letter from the director of the hospital, and I'd like to discuss it with you, in private, if we could." She indicated with her eyes that she didn't want to discuss the matter in front of Seth.
"Of course, please follow me to my office." he replied.
Billie kissed Seth on the forehead and tucked the blankets in around him. "I'll see you tomorrow, Sweetheart. Maybe I'll bring Tara with me again, Okay?" Billie saw the corner of his mouth move in response to Tara's name. Now she was sure of it!
Following the doctor to his office, Billie had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. He allowed her to enter first, them closed the door firmly behind him.
"What can I do for you Ms. Charland?" he asked.
"Let's cut the bull shit right up front, shall we?" she asked sarcastically. "This letter indicates that your team of doctors reviewed Seth's case, and that none of you believe there is any hope of recovery. Is that a correct assessment?" she asked, falling into her lawyer mode.
"That is correct. As much as we'd like to ignore the truth, it has been staring us in the face for the past... let's see, seven months now." He said, checking Seth's chart for the date of his accident.
"This letter is also demanding that I remove Seth from this hospital, and place him in some nursing home somewhere. I ask you, Dr. Richmond, would you do that to your child?" She asked.
"We're not talking about my child, now are we Ms. Charland?" he replied sarcastically.
"No, we're not, but I thought I was talking to someone with a heart. Apparently, I was wrong. I can see that I am wasting my time with you. I guess I need to go straight to the director." she said as she gathered up her jacket and prepared to leave.
"Ms. Charland," the doctor interrupted her. "Maybe we can discuss this over dinner?" he said, raking his eyes over her.
Billie suddenly felt dirty. "What are you suggesting, Dr. Richmond." she asked, throwing out the bait.
"I'm suggesting that maybe we can work something out about your son." he said suggestively as he backed her into the door, his chest pressing her up against it. He reeked of cheap cologne.
Billie brought her knee up and caught him sharply in the groin. She watched him sink to the floor, holding his crotch.
"I don't think so, Doctor. I will move my son out of here all right... as soon as I can find a suitable place for him. Until then, he will receive the best treatment possible, or your superiors will hear about this little encounter. You got that?"
He just laid there, groaning.
Billie reached down and grabbed his scrotum, giving it a hard squeeze. "I said, You got that?"
"Yes.... yes, please just leave." he gasped out.
"Gladly... but I WILL be back tomorrow to see my son. I had better not be unhappy with his treatment. Good night you sorry piece of shit." With her anger just barely in check, Billie stomped out of his office and slammed the door behind her.
By the time she got to her car, her anger had subsided enough to drive home at a decent speed. When she pulled into the parking lot of the condo, she glanced at her watch and noticed that it was 10:30 pm. "Shit!" she exclaimed out loud. "I promised Cat that I'd be home by nine. Damn."
Billie took the stairs three at a time to the third floor and reaching Cat's apartment, she quietly let herself into the condo. She noticed right away that Tara was sleeping on the couch. "Poor little tike." she thought, "Probably fell asleep watching TV."
Scooping her up, Billie carried her into her room and tucked her into bed. Bending over, she placed a kiss on Tara's forehead, then went to check on Cat.
Cat heard Billie come in. Heard her put Tara to bed. Not wanting a confrontation until she had a clear head, she feighned sleep. Even though they had professed their love for each other, they had never discussed sleeping arrangements, so Cat had no idea what Billie's intentions were when she crossed the room to the bed.
Billie came over to the side of the bed Cat was sleeping on, and crouched down so that her head was very close to Cat's. Billie reeked of men's cologne, further convincing Cat of her infidelity. Cat's heart was crushed.
Gently, Billie brushed a stray lock of strawberry blonde hair off Cat's forehead, then leaned over and replaced it with a warm kiss. Then, standing, she walked out of the room and softly closed the door.
Within moments, Cat could hear the shower running. Minutes later, she heard Billie make her way to Terry's old room. That was the last she saw of her that night. It was several hours later before Cat fell into an exhausted sleep.
Billie was awakened bright and early the next morning by a small child sitting on her chest, stretching her face into funny contortions.
"Okay, you little imp... you've had it now!" Billie exclaimed as she pinned the child between her thighs and started to tickle her unmercifully until she gave up.
Finally letting her go, Tara climbed up the length of Billie's body and laid down on her chest so that she was nose to nose with the tall woman.
"Bilwie, I thought you were mad at me yesterday, cause you wouldn't take me with you, but Mama said you weren't." she said.
"Your mom is a very smart woman, Tara. She's right - how could I be mad at you?" Billie asked.
Before Tara could answer that question, Cat appeared in the doorway and announced that breakfast was ready.
Bounding off the bed, Tara tore out of the bedroom and into the kitchen.
"That kid's sure got her mother's appetite!" Billie joked, looking at Cat. Cat did not look amused, sparking Billie's concern.
Getting out of bed, Billie crossed over to Cat and placed her hands on her shoulders. "Cat are you feeling all right? Does your incision hurt... Here, let me look at it." she insisted.
"No... no, it's fine." She said, brushing Billie's hand away. "You'd better hurry if you want to eat... like you said, she's got her mother's appetite." Cat sounded like she was making a joke, but the smile never reached her eyes. She turned and headed for the kitchen.
Billie shrugged Cat's mood off, chalking it up to the trauma she had been through over the last couple of days. Soon, the trio was sitting around the kitchen table, eating the most flavorful omelets Billie had ever had.
"Wow, Cat. This is great. Even my mother's cooking wasn't this good!" she exclaimed.
Cat hardly acknowledged the compliment. Instead, she sat there, chasing the food around her plate, not eating much of it at all. Noticing Cat's strange behavior, Billie pushed her own plate aside, got up and positioned herself behind Cat, wrapping her arms securely around the smaller women. She felt Cat stiffen at the contact.
Seeing that Tara was done eating, Billie suggested that she go turn the TV on to cartoons for a while. Tara was more than happy to oblige as she scurried off to the living room.
Pulling a chair up close to Cat, Billie sat facing her. Cat looked down into her lap, refusing to meet Billie's eyes. Reaching over to grasp Cat's chin, Billie turned her face up, forcing eye contact. "Enough is enough, Cat. Now tell me what's wrong."
"You were late last night, Billie." she whispered, hoping Billie would volunteer an explanation that would mend her heart.
"I know I was, love. It couldn't be helped." Billie cringed at the sound of her lame excuse.
Cat wrenched her face out of Billie's grasp and stared directly into Billie's eyes. "And you smelled like men's cologne." Cat noticed the startled look on Billie's face. "I was awake when you came into my room last night, Billie."
Billie saw the love of her life crumbling right before her eyes. "Cat, there is a good explanation for all of this, I promise. I just need you to trust me right now. I promise I will explain everything soon. Please... trust me." she begged.
"Are you seeing someone else, Billie? I want the truth... please don't lie to me." she demanded, her eyes full of unshed tears.
"Am I seeing a man? Or another woman? No, Cat, I'm not. I love you and Tara too much to throw away our future. Please believe me." Now it was Billie's turn to shed tears.
Cat's heart was breaking. She had only seen Billie cry once... that morning at the restaurant when she seemed so vulnerable. She was willing to bet the same issue was making her cry again. Cat wanted desperately to ask about Seth, but then, she would be betraying Tara's confidence. "Damn! Why did life have to be so hard?" she thought. "Should I trust her? After all, she's been so good to both Tara and I through this whole illness. Should I give her the benefit of the doubt, and hope she'll explain Seth to me soon?"
When Tara came into the kitchen and wrapped her arms around a crying Billie, she made her decision. For the love of this woman, and for the love of her child, she would take the chance and trust Billie, and hoped to god that she wouldn't live to regret it.
"Okay, Billie. I believe you... but I won't wait forever for an explanation. Please don't shut me out." Cat reached up and pulled Billie and Tara into her arms. Soon, tears were flowing from all three sets of eyes.
Trying to lighten the mood, Billie sat up and said, "Look at us... If we keep this up, we'll drown the kitchen!" This comment drew a laugh out of all of them.
Suddenly, purple dinosaur sounds started coming out of the living room TV.
"Barney! Barney is on. Yeah!" Tara screamed as she ran into the living room and threw herself on the couch.
Cat and Billie looked at each other. "Barney, Oh Goody!" they said in unison and then fell into another round of laughter at their timing.
Cat got up to start clearing away the dishes, when Billie stopped her. "I'll do this." she said, taking the dirty dishes out of her hands. "You go take a nap... you look like hell Ms O'Grady."
"Well, I love you too, Ms Charland!" she responded, then turned to walk towards her bedroom.
"I hope so, my love... I hope so." she whispered under her breath.
The next couple of days passed without incident. Billie encouraged Cat to rest in the afternoons to help regain her strength, while she kept Tara occupied. It was during this time that Billie made phone inquiries about alternate care for her son. After several dozen calls, she had come up empty. There were several good convalescent homes out there, but each one had a waiting list, and very few of them were even willing to take on a young child. Most of them primarily specialized in the elderly.
Time was running out. She had just a week left to find him a new home.
Billie continued to visit with Seth in the evenings, and after her initial reluctance, Cat let Tara go along with her. She could tell Cat was struggling with the trust issue... not that she blamed her. After all, she DID come home that night smelling of men's cologne. She only wished she could tell Cat how the cologne got there. There would come a time soon, she hoped, that she would be able to reveal all to Cat. She felt so bad keeping things from her.
The next day was Saturday. Billie planned on taking Tara to visit Seth while Cat rested in the afternoon. Just as Billie was about to yell to Tara to get ready to go, the phone rang. It was Mercy General Hospital. Unbeknownst to Billie, the ringing had wakened Cat.
Billie was on the phone in the living room with her back towards the hallway. Cat made her way down the hall and stood against the wall, not really hiding, but also not making her presence known.
"What do you mean he has to be out by Monday? I thought you said he had two weeks!" Billy exclaimed with a hint of hysterics in her voice.
"Calm down Ms Charland." Dr. Richmond said on the other end of the line. "There is no need for hysterics."
"I'll give you hysterics, you slimy piece of shit! I have made dozens of calls over the last two days looking for a place to put him... No one will take him!" she explained.
"Then I suggest you take him home with you until you DO find something. We have a patient waiting for his bed." Dr. Richmond insisted.
"You don't understand... He can't come to live with me yet. I can't give him what he needs here! Can't you get that through your ignorant head?" she screamed back.
"I'm sorry for your predicament Ms Charland, but I can not be responsible for every sick child in the world. I expect you will have the matter taken care of by tomorrow. Good bye." With that, he hung up on Billie.
"No!... Don't you dare hang up on me. Damn you!" she said, slamming down the phone.
"Billie." Cat said.
Billie turned around sharply to see Cat standing in the hallway. "For the love of Zeus, what else can go wrong today?" she said.
"Billie." Cat said again. "I think it's time you told me about Seth."
Already fired up by the phone call from Dr. Richmond, and irritated by the accusing tone of Cat's voice, Billie snapped back, "You want to meet Seth? FINE... Get your coat." She abruptly turned towards Tara's room. "Tara", she called, "Come here, please."
Tara timidly came out of her room. She had heard all the yelling on the phone and she was a little bit afraid. Seeing the hesitation in her step, Billie dropped to one knee and opened her arms for Tara to run into.
"I'm sorry if I scared you, little one. I need you to get your coat. Mama and I need to go out for a while, and I want to drop you off at the gym daycare for a couple of hours. Okay? I promise that we'll come back to get you." Billie explained in soothing tones.
"Okay, Billie. Can I bring the pictures I colored for my friends?" she asked.
"Sure you can, Sweetling. Go ahead now and get ready." With that, Tara scampered off to find her coat.
After dropping Tara off at the daycare, Billie and Cat headed toward the private hospital. They had not said one word to each other the whole way..
When Billie turned into the driveway of the Mercy General, Cat looked at her sharply and said, "Billie, this is a hospital!"
"Yes it is." was all she replied as they got out of the car and entered the hospital.
Cat began to have second thoughts about Billie's guilt, as Billie took her hand and led her down the hall.
Finally, they stopped at a room at the far end of the hall. Billie pushed Cat inside. Standing in the doorway, leaning against the jam, Billie pointed to the bed and said to Cat, "Cat, meet Seth. Seth, this is Cat." Seth just laid there, eyes closed, and unresponsive.
Cat looked from Seth to Billie and back to Seth with wide-eyed horror. This was not what she expected, and definitely more than she could take! She turned and left the room, nearly running down the hall to the solarium at the end. Billie was right behind her.
Cat hugged herself, trying to hold back the pain in her side from the choking sobs. Billie came up behind her and wrapped her strong arms around her. Cat turned in her arms and pulled her close, whispering "I'm so sorry!", over and over again.
After what seemed like an eternity, they pulled apart and wiped their tears. Leading Billie to a bench, Cat sat them down and asked Billie to tell her about Seth. Billie went through the whole story, starting with the mistake her marriage had been, Seth's accident, the ill-fated sexual advance Dr. Richmond had made against her, and ending with her current predicament of needing to find a place to move Seth in two days time.
Billie looked at Cat with red-rimmed eyes and said tearfully, "Cat, I just don't know what do to anymore. I've tried so hard to keep up hope. I know he's in there. Cat, He responds to Tara. I can see it! Damn... Now I'm rambling. I just don't know what I'm going to do."
"What you're going to do, Billie, is let me handle this from now on!" Cat insisted.
"You?" Billie asked.
"Yeah, me. And I'm going to start by making a phone call to Florida." said Cat as she approached the pay phone in the solarium.
After punching in several numbers, including the one on her calling card, Cat made the connection. "Hello, Daddy? Daddy, this is Caitlain. No Daddy, everything's fine. At least it is now. Look Daddy, I need you to do something for me, for me an my future stepson... yes Daddy, finally a grandson. Okay, here's the situation..." Cat continued by explaining Seth's condition and the fact that he was being evicted from the hospital. The conversation finally ended with "Okay, Daddy, I'll pick you and Mom up at the airport tomorrow morning. Okay... I love you both. Bye". Cat turned and grinned at Billie.
Billie stood there, mouth agape. "Close your mouth, you're catching flies!" Cat joked as she pushed Billie's mouth closed. "Now, come introduce me to our son."
Billie was paralyzed to the spot. "What just happened here, Cat?"
"Well, it just so happens that my Dad is a surgeon... specifically, a brain surgeon, and he believes strongly that unless there is absolutely no electrical impulses going to and from the brain, then there is still hope. He also happens to be the current president of the American Medical Association. He carries some weight, and he's not afraid to throw it around if he has to. And for his grandson... he will definitely NOT hesitate." she explained.
"Cat, he doesn't even know me! And what will he think about the fact that we're both women?" Billie wasn't as sure about all of this as Cat seemed to be.
"Billie, my parents have known about my preferences since I was a teenager. They are totally supportive and accepting. All they need to know is that I love you, and you'll become family to them. Trust me, Billie. Our son's life is on the line here. I would not risk that if I wasn't sure. Okay?" she asked.
"Okay, Cat... You're in charge here. I don't know how I'll every repay you for this, except by devoting the rest of my life loving you and our children." Billy offered.
Reaching up with both hands to cup Billie's face, Cat said ,"I couldn't ask for more than that Billie. Now for the love of Pete, will you please let me get aquatinted with my son?!" she demanded in mock anger.
Both women chuckled as they walked hand in hand to Seth's room.
The hospital was a scurry of activity the next morning. The first thing Dr. O'Grady did when he arrived straight from the airport, was to reprimand Dr. Richmond, and recommend to the board of directors that he be dismissed. The next thing he did was examine Seth.
Billie sat by Seth's side during the examination, holding his hand, and answering Dr. O'Grady's questions. Half way through the exam, Dr. O'Grady looked up at Billie and said... "Girl, if you're going to become by daughter-in-law, then you'd better get used to calling me Dad, or Doc, or anything but Dr. O'Grady. You got that?"
"Yes Sir.... I mean Dad" she replied after receiving a warning glare for the formal title.
"You're a beautiful woman, Billie. My daughter has chosen well. And from what I've seen with the grandson here, you're good mother too. I understand that Tara adores you."
"She's a very special child. I love her like she was my own." Billie replied.
"Has Caitlain told you about her conception?" he asked.
"I.. uhhh... No, she hasn't." Billie replied with uncertainty at the odd question.
"I see... Okay, son," he said, addressing Seth, "Let's look at those eyes of yours." Doc lifted each of Seth's eyelids, shining a light back and forth across the pupils. "He has your eyes, Billie." Doc commented.
"Yeah, I know. It's been so long since I've seen them, that I've almost forgotten what they look like."
Doc moved on to check Seth's reflexes, muscle tone, and his reaction to sharp objects. In all of the tests she had been present at, she had never seen any doctor be as thorough as Doc was.
Finally, Doc stepped back from the examining table and told Billie to go ahead and dress him while he went to get Cat. A few minutes later, he returned with Cat in tow. "Sit down ladies, and I'll tell you what I know." he said.
Billie looked at Cat. "Where's Tara?" she asked, slightly alarmed.
"Relax, she's with Mom." Cat assured her.
"Ahem... Now that you know where your daughter is, let me tell you about your son." he paused for effect, drawing the complete attention of both women. "First, let me say that Seth was not injured as badly as the original diagnosis suggests."
"What?" Billie said, coming to her feet.
"Now you listen to me, young lady, you're going to sit still and hear me out, or I'll have to ask you to leave the room while I explain this to my other daughter." he scolded.
Billie was totally taken back by his commanding attitude. She immediately sat back down and promised to listen. Catching a sideways glance at Cat, she could see that she was grinning. Obviously, she was used to this attitude.
"Okay, like I was saying, he was not injured as badly as the diagnosis suggests. He has strong reflexes and reacts to pain. His muscle tone is poor, but I think that is due seven months of inactivity. The only thing that concerns me is the lack of reaction the pupils of his eyes have to bright light. Now, I have seen this before, in another small child in the hospital in Florida, and I WAS able to reverse the damage...." his speech was interrupted by a sharp gasp of breath and choking sob from Billie. Cat immediately grabbed her hand and held it tightly to her chest.
He continued. "Like I said, I was able to reverse the damage in that case, but the procedure is extremely risky, and only has a 50/50 chance of success. Now, there is one other problem... one that I think I can overcome on a technicality. You see, it is frowned upon for surgeons to operate on their own families. However, since the two of you are not married yet, you, Billie, nor your son, are technically family. So, if you want to me attempt the procedure, I will."
Billie looked at Cat and saw complete confidence in her eyes. Billie turned to Doc and said, "Do it."
Ten grueling hours later, Doc emerged from the operating room, tired, and covered with blood, but sporting a smile on his face.
"Everything went fine." he told he girls. "We were able to remove the scar tissue in the damaged area of the brain and repair some of the electrical connections that had been severed. Whooaa, there girl!" he said, catching Billie as she started collapsing to the floor. "Here, sit down. I know this has been really hard on you, but you've got to hold it together now, more than ever.Seth is just starting down the long path to recovery, including some pretty intense physical theraphy. If the surgery worked, he should make a full recovery, but it won't be easy, and you've got to be strong for him. Do you understand?"
Billie looked at him through her tears and nodded her head.
"Daddy, when will be know if the operation was successful?" Cat asked.
"This type of procedure either works or it doesn't. If it worked, we'll know as soon as he wakes up sometime tomorrow morning." Doc replied. "He's being stitched up now and will be moved to recovery in about a half hour."
Billie reached out to take Doc's hand. "I don't know how to thank you." she said meekly.
"I already have all the thanks I need, daughter. You've finally given me what none of my natural children have been able to... a grandson! Do you believe it? I have six granddaughters, but no grandsons... until now that it. For that, I thank you. Now, I need a bath, a good stiff drink, and my bed. Not necessarily in that order!" he chuckled, walking away.
Cat looked at Billie. "We need to get you home. You heard Daddy, Seth will be out of it at least until tomorrow morning. You need some sleep, Billie, or you'll be no good to him. Now come on. Tara is staying the night with Mom and Dad, so we've got the condo to ourselves." she commented, raising her eyebrows up and down suggestively. The gesture was not lost on Billie.
When they arrived home, Cat went to fill the Jacuzzi with hot water, while Billie screened the calls on the answering machine. While the tub was filling, Cat went back into the living room, walked up to Billie and slipped inside the circle of her arms. Lips immediately sought each other out for a long searing kiss.
"Come on, Billie. You need to relax in a nice hot tub with a glass of wine. How does that sound?" Cat asked.
"Sounds great, but only if you join me." Billie replied, trailing her lips down Cat's neck. "Uhmm, you taste so good." she murmured.
"If you keep that up, neither one of us will get that bath!" Cat replied, throwing her head back to give Billie better access to her neck.
Finally pulling herself out of Billie's grasp, Cat grabbed a bottle of wine and two glasses, then took Billie's hand and led her to the Jacuzzi, placing the wine within reach of the tub. The next few minutes were spent slowly undressing each other, savoring the prizes revealed as each article of clothing was removed.
Soon, they were totally naked in each other's arms, hands roaming across breasts, backs and buttocks, while their mouths remained locked in a battle of tongues.
"Billie.... Billie." Cat said between kisses. "We really need to get into the tub."
"Okay, but let me take a look at your incision first." Billie said as she knelt down in front of Cat. Billie ran her fingers lightly over the cut, noting that there were no signs of infection and that things looked to be healing just fine. She leaned in and gently kissed the injured area, sending intense waves of desire through Cat.
"Oh God!" Cat moaned as she pulled Billie's head closer. Billie proceeded to drop butterfly kisses all over Cat's abdomen, turning her into a complete pile of mush.
Coming back to her full height, Billie took Cat's face in her hands and gently kissed her. Then she leaned over, scooped Cat up into her arms and stepped into the tub. Luckily, the tub was oval shaped, and fit Billie's long frame just right. Billie sat with her back against one end, and Cat tucked in front of her, using her chest as a back rest. Reaching over to the wine, Cat poured two glasses and handed one to Billie, relaxing back into Billie's arms and savoring the moment.
"This feels sooooo good!" Cat exclaimed, letting her head rest on Billie's shoulder."You take such good care of me." she continued. "You know, I never did thank you for watching Tara when I was sick. Hell, I never even asked you to stay with her..., but I'm so glad you did. She loves you very much, you know." Cat finished, slightly turning her head so that she could see Billie's face.
"I love her too, Cat. It's funny how she wriggled her way into my heart so fast." Pausing, she chuckled at a memory. "You should have seen her visiting with Seth. "He was, just lying there, totally unresponsive, but she just kept talking away at him like the little chatterbox she is."
"I can't wait for Seth to come home." Cat said. "We'll have to redecorate Terry's old room for him. I don't think he'll appreciate pink walls!"
Cat had just hit on something that had been bothering Billie for the past week now. "Uh, Cat?" she began. "About Terry..."
"Hold on, Billie... Let me put your mind at ease right away." Cat said. "I hired Terry as a live-in day care provider for Tara. She had been with me for about six months before I started seeing you. What I didn't know when I hired her, was that she was more interested in me, than in my daughter. As you said, she was trying to sell me something I wasn't interested in buying." Cat explained.
"Tara said that you had a fight with her... over me no less, and you asked her to leave." Billie said.
"That daughter of mine sure has a big mouth - I'll have to talk to her about that." she paused, "Yes, we did have a fight... and yes, it was about you. She threatened to leave me in the lurch with daycare if I didn't stop seeing you. You can imagine how that pissed me off!... No one tells me how to live my life, Billie - not even my parents! She was stupid enough to pull this on me after I had spent a day and a half throwing up over this appendicitis. It didn't take me long to tell her to pack her bags and get the Hell out!"
"I wish I had been her to see that!" Billie laughed.
"I'm glad you weren't!.... I don't think I would have enjoyed cleaning Terry's blood off the walls!" Cat joked.
Billie grabbed the bottle of wine and refilled their glasses.
"Speaking about your parents, Cat, I can't believe how incredibly nice they are being towards Seth and I. It's almost like we're family to them. They act as if they've known us for years." Billie mused.
"They actually know you better than you think... or at least they've heard enough about you over the last two months... you see, I stay in touch with them 2-3 times a week. My parents know that I love you, and I'm happy with you, so you have their complete acceptance."
"Well, it's obvious that they don't have a problem with our relationship... Your dad was pretty blunt about it." Billie said, chucking at her own shock when Doc had referred to her and Cat as not being married YET. He obviously expected them to take this relationship to that level.
"Billie.... My dad means well, but don't let him push you into something you're not ready for. I heard him talking about the marriage thing and..." Cat was at a loss for words.
"Cat, I didn't say his talk of marriage bothered me. In fact, I've been thinking about it quite a lot lately." Billie held her breath, a little unsure of Cat's response.
"Billie Charland, are you proposing to 'little ole me?'" Cat said, putting on a fake Southern accent.
Cat turned to look over her shoulder at Billie and saw the fear of rejection in her eyes. Her heart shattered at the sight. "I have to fix this." she thought to herself. "Billie, I love you with all my heart. Nothing would make me happier than being your wife."
"I think we'd better wait to see what happens with Seth before you commit yourself, Cat. If the operation didn't work, the future may not be so rosy." Billie pointed out.
Cat turned around sharply, splashing water onto the floor and spilling her wine into the tub. "What did you just say?" she shouted angrily, into Billie's face.
"Just that you need to go into this with your eyes open, Cat." Billie said in her own defense.
"Is that what you really think of me, Billie?" Cat spat out. "That I would turn tail and run as soon as the going got rough?!" Cat had Billie pinned to the back of the tub by her arms now, their faces a mere breath's width away from each other. "Damn you, Billie!".
Cat pushed backward and retreated to the other end of the tub, tears cascading down her face. "Heaven forbid, if something were to ever happened to Tara, would you want out of the relationship?" Cat asked Billie in a shaky voice.
Billie cast her eyes down, knowing she had over reacted and feeling as guilty as hell. "No Cat, I wouldn't."
"Then why can't you have the same level of trust in me? Huh? I love you, and I love Seth. I will continue to love him, even if he stays the way he is for the rest of his life. I'm made of a lot tougher stuff than you give me credit for Billie. If I wasn't, Tara wouldn't be with us today." Cat paused, letting her message sink into Billie's thick skull.
"What do you mean.... about Tara?" Billie asked.
"Billie, haven't you ever wondered about Tara's father?" Cat asked.
"Yeah, but I just assumed...." Billie started to say.
"You assumed that either I had been married and divorced, or that I got myself into trouble. Right?" Cat supplied for her.
Billie just nodded.
"Billie, Tara is the product of rape." Cat watched Billie's head snap up, and her eyes fly wide open. " I was in my Junior year of college, walking back to the dorms from one of my evening classes. Tara's father was another student... one I had been acquainted with, but not on a friendly basis. He jumped me when I took a shortcut between two of the dorms." She paused, recalling the painful memories. "He beat the shit out of me, and then raped me. I was in the hospital for weeks. I took a pregnancy test as part of a post-rape physical, and it came back positive." She paused again, letting the information take effect. "The point is, Billie, I could have taken the easy way out. Considering that it was rape, I was given the choice of terminating the pregnancy. I chose not to, and I thank the gods every day for that decision. I won't say that it's been easy raising Tara alone, but I would do it again in a heartbeat." Finally, she added, "I have grown a lot over the past four years, Billie. I've grown older, wiser and stronger. I know that I am strong enough to accept Seth, and all of the potential consequences that go with him. The question is, will you let me?"
Billie's eyes filled with tears. She didn't know what to say. Cat was right... she was being stupid, and selfish, and she felt like the world's biggest asshole because of it. Not knowing what else to do, she lifted her arms out of the water and opened them for Cat. Seconds later, Cat was cradled against her chest, whispering endearments of love. All Billie could do was kiss the top of her head and hold her close, while she let the tears run down her face.
"So," Cat said, looking up at Billie. "Are we in this together, or not?"
Billie smiled through her tears. "Together, Cat... together".
"Good. Now dry your tears, warrior, and come make love to your bard." Cat invited.
"Oh, I intend to do just that.... but not here." Billie replied as she lifted herself up out of the Jacuzzi. Stepping out of the tub, she toweled herself dry, then held out a clean towel to wrap around Cat as she climbed out after her.
Billie took her time drying the water from Cat's body. Each swipe of the towel was followed by a trail of kisses. By the time Billie reached her feet, Cat was almost over the edge with anticipation and desire. Throwing the towel aside, Billie lifted Cat up to allow her to circle her legs around her waist. Billie held her firmly in place with her hands strategically placed on her buttocks, caressing the firm cheeks, as she carried her to the bedroom.
Placing one knee on the bed, Billie gently lowered their entwined bodies to the mattress, effectively pinning Cat beneath her. Billie shifted her weight to her right knee and propped herself up onto her forearms to avoid placing any undue pressure on Cat's incision.
The next few moments were spent exploring each other's mouths and running hands over every part of each other's bodies within reach.
Billie started exploring further, as she worked her way down Cat's body, finding all of the secret places that made Cat screem out in ecstacy. "Oh god, Billie, that feels so good!" Cat moaned. "Please, I need more." she said. Billie was more than happy to oblige, filling her mouth with the sweet taste of her lover. Sensing that Cat was drawing near to release, Billie filled Cat to her very core, sending her over the edge to oblivion.
Climbing up Cat's body, Billie gathered her up and held her close, feeling the aftershocks of her orgasm pass in waves over her lover. Soon, Cat relaxed into her arms. Billie lowered her mouth to Cat's and kissed her passionately.
Seconds later, before Billie knew what hit her, Cat had managed to flip them over so that she was on top. "Now it's time for me to return the favor, warrior." She said as she descended to claim Billie's lips.
Soon, the sounds of Cat's name being screamed into the night could be heard as the warrior reach her own fulfillment.
Too nervous to sleep, Billie paced the floor of the bedroom. Cat, still recovering from her own operation, watched her soul-mate's trek across the room, until her lids grew heavy and she dozed off. Billie covered her with the comforter, then set about rearranging the furniture in the living room to make space for her martial arts work out. That was the only way she could think of to burn off this nervous energy. Then, maybe she could sleep for an hour or two.
For the next hour and a half, Billie worked up a sweat with stretches, kicks and other moves, finally burning off enough energy to allow her to relax. After her workout, she snuggled in behind Cat, pulled the comforter up over them both, and dozed off, holding Cat in her arms.
A 6 am phone call the next morning, startled them out of their slumber. Billie was immediately on her feet and grabbing for the phone. "Please god, don't let it be bad news." she begged.
"Hello?" she said into the phone.
"Bilwie? Is Mama home with you?" Tara asked.
"Yes Sweetie, she's right here. Hold on." Billie handed the phone to Cat, relief evident across her face.
"Hi Honey, what's up?.... Yes, Billie and I will be going to the hospital soon.... What's that?.... You want to come with us?..." Cat could see Billie nodding her head "yes" vigorously. "Sure Honey, we'll pick you up in about a hour, so you be ready, Okay?... all right, I love you too Love-bug. See you in a bit. Bye-bye." Cat hung up the phone and went to make them a quick breakfast.
An hour later, with Tara tucked securely in a seat belt in the back seat of Billie's car, they set off for the hospital. On the way there, Tara asked, "Bilwie, will Seth wake up today?"
"I hope so Honey." she replied.
"Me too!" Tara said enthusiastically. "I want to ask him to be my big brother."
Billie's voice choked with emotion, "I'm sure he'll like that, Tara." She looked over at Cat and saw tears in her eyes as well. "Look at us." Billie thought. "We're just a couple of mush balls!".
Doc met them coming down the hall towards Seth's room, excitement clearly written on his face. "Now, I don't want you to get your hopes up just yet, Billie, but here are some definite signs of animation from your son this morning."
Billie's hand flew to her mouth to hold back the burst of emotion trying to get out. Her eyes met Cat's.
"Breathe, Billie... breathe. Come on, Love." she said, rubbing Billie's back.
Grabbing Cat's hand, she scooped Tara up onto her other hip and flew the rest of the way down the hall to Seth's room.
Entering the room slowly, Billie handed Tara over to Cat and approached Seth's bedside. He looked so small and pale with those white bandages wrapped around his head.
She sat on the edge of the bed and leaned completely over Seth to kiss him on the cheek and whisper in his ear, "Come on baby, open your eyes for Mom."
Suddenly, blue met blue.
"Mom?" a weak little voice said.
Billie just lost it. She lowered her head to Seth's chest and cried her heart out. Soon, Cat was beside her, tears coursing down her face as well.
Seth just looked at them, confused about why they were crying.
Tara thought that grownups sure acted funny some times. She went around to the other side of Seth's bed and climbed up beside him. "Hi Seth!", she said, picking up his hand to hold it in her own.
"Hi Tara." Seth stated simply. "I remember your voice."
Billie's, head flew up. Looking at Cat, she said "I KNEW he was in there, Cat!... I just KNEW it!"
"Mom?" Seth said.
"Yes, my love?" Billie answered, wiping the tears from her face.
"I'm kinda hungry... Can we get McDonald's?" he asked.
"Count me in!" said Tara excitedly.
Both women looked at each other and dissolved into a mixture of laughter and tears.
Cat drew Billie's face to her own and kissed her soundly. "Together?" she questioned.
"Together!" replied Billie.