The next day, the pair went to see Tia's uncle about Reilly's eye.Since her last visit, Reilly's vision had improved dramatically.She was still wearing the patch for most of the day, but took it off in the evenings so Tia could change the bandage over her stitches.
During the exam, Reilly was very grateful for Tia's hand on her shoulder.Dr. Walker performed a thorough, yet very comprehensive exam and when he finished, he smiled broadly at his young patient.
"Well, young lady everything looks great.I'm going to leave those stitches in for a few more days just to make sure that everything is healed, but your eye is healing remarkably well."
Reilly was so relieved she almost cried, "Thanks, Dr. Walker.I really appreciate you doing this.And thanks again for the glasses."
"You are more than welcome Reilly," he said with a smile, "Tia, would you mind if I spoke to Reilly privately for a minute.I'm not going to give her any bad news, I just want to discuss something with her."
"Sure, Uncle Matt.I'll be in the waiting room when you're done," Tia gave Reilly a smile and left the room.
Dr. Walker turned to his young patient and regarded her for a few moments before he spoke, "Reilly, I want to talk to you and I'm not sure you would want Tia here for this."
"Dr. Walker no offense, but has anyone ever told you that you have an amazing capacity for freaking people out?" Reilly said with a twinkle in her eyes.
The older man laughed heartily, "Yeah, I've been told that a time or two.I'm sorry, I didn't mean to freak you out.Reilly, I hope you won't get upset, but I asked Tia what happened to you.She gave me a brief account, but she didn't betray any of your confidences.My niece is a wonderful woman and cares a great deal about you."
"I know she does.She's been wonderful. As a teacher, she is probably the smartest person I've ever met and she's turned into one of my dearest friends."
"I'm glad you are her friend, Reilly.Believe me she needs it," he said with a wistful look on his face, "But I didn't want to talk about her.Reilly, I hope you don't think I'm prying, but after Tia told me what happened I figured I might be able to help you with something besides your eyes.You see, my wife is a counselor.She works with people who are in or who have gotten out of abusive relationships.I think you are handling everything remarkably well, but I think you might find talking to a person who specializes in this kind of thing might help as well."
Reilly lowered her eyes and sighed deeply, "Is everyone in your family nice, Dr. Walker?" she asked with a grin and lifted her head, "If your wife would be willing to talk to me, I would like to talk to her.As a rule, I am adamantly opposed to talking about stuff with so-called ‘professionals'. I'm not insulting you're wife's profession, I just had a really bad experience once and have been really wary since then."
"Reilly I completely understand, but I think you will like Sue.She's very patient and doesn't try to psychoanalyze you to death," he added with a small chuckle, "Unless of course she's trying to convince me to do something I don't want to do...like shopping.Then she pulls out all the stops.Suddenly I become an anti-social, introvert who avoids people because of his fear of his own inadequacies."
They both laughed at that.
When Reilly got her composure back, she said, "Okay, it's sound like I'd like her a lot.If you could have her call me at Tia's I'll try to set something up to meet her."
"I can do that.Sue doesn't really practice any more except for a few patients here and there.I'm sure you two will work it out, but if you wouldn't feel comfortable meeting her at our place, I'm sure she'd come over to Tia's.It would give her an excuse to see her favorite niece."
Reilly laughed again and stood up to leave.The pair walked out the waiting room to find Tia talking to an older woman.When the small professor saw them, she excused herself from the woman, wishing her well.Before she left, she hugged her uncle and told him to give her a call soon so they could set a time for he and her aunt to come over for dinner.
The ride home was uneventful and neither woman spoke, each comfortable with the silence.Every now and then, Reilly would hum along with the radio making Tia smile as she remembered the impromptu performance in her kitchen a couple of days before.When they arrived home, Reilly filled Tia in on her conversation with Dr. Walker over a lunch of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.Tia was relieved to hear that Reilly had agreed to talk to her aunt.She had wanted the breech the subject herself, but hadn't really decided when the opportune time would be.
After they cleaned up from lunch, both women excused themselves to get some work done.Reilly took the bandage off her eye to sit down to study a bit while Tia went to her own office to work.About 2 hours later, Tia heard a knock at her door.
"Come on in," she said.
Reilly walked in looking quite aggravated, "What's wrong?" Tia asked.
"Well, I hope you don't take offense to this, but I'm bored.I've been over that stuff so many times; I'm starting to go cross eyed.I need something to do."
Tia chuckled, "No offense taken.What do you want to do?"
Reilly smiled just a bit, "I want to work out.I haven't been the gym in a few days and I think I'll feel better if I could work out a little bit."
"So why don't you go?"
"Well, two reasons," Reilly started to explain, "First of all, I don't want to have to go through a hundred questions about why I look like I've been 4 rounds with Rocky.Secondly, I'm a little concerned about how my head will react to the strain.I know I had a little bit of a concussion the other day after what happened with Maggie and then falling off the couch.I'm afraid if I work out I'll pass out."
Tia nodded thoughtfully, "Well, I understand both reasons so why don't I suggest an alternative to going out?"
"Go change then come down to the living room."
Reilly looked confused for a moment, but left the room.
A few minutes later, Reilly came down the stairs in her workout clothes and Tia had to mentally shake herself a few times to keep from staring.The young woman was dressed in a pair of basketball shorts folded down at the top and a tight, short tank top over her sports bra that showed a few inches of her flat, toned stomach and hugged every inch of her feminine features.
Reilly was oblivious to the appraisal and said, "Okay, I'm changed and in the living room.What next?" she said with a smile.
"Follow me," Tia said with a grin of her own.
The professor led Reilly through the kitchen to what Reilly had assumed was another closet. In reality, it was the entrance to the basement.Tia turned on the light and led the younger woman down the stairs.When they reached the bottom, the professor turned to her companion who was wearing an amazed, but brilliant smile.
The basement had been transformed into a fully functional gym.It had an elliptical machine, a wonderful circuit for weight-training and some free weights on a rack in the corner.Reilly stepped further into the room and noticed a heavy bag hanging from the ceiling in the far corner.She slowly turned around taking in the entire room and finally turned back to Tia.
"This is so cool," she said smiling broadly.
"Thanks," Tia said leaning against the wall, "It comes in handy when I can't make it to the campus gym."
"If I had a set up like this, I'd never go to that stupid gym."
"Well, most of the time I do work out down here, but every now and then I like to use the track and the climbing wall over there."
"So, would you mind if I used this stuff?"
"Of course not, this is your place now too, remember?If you will give me a couple minutes, I'll go and change and work out with you.That way if you start feeling dizzy or anything I'll be here, okay?"
"You are the absolute best, Tia," Reilly said and swept the smaller woman into a heartfelt hug.This time, both women felt a jolt of electricity at the contact, but didn't pull away from the embrace.When Reilly did finally let go, Tia went upstairs to change and collect her wits.
When Tia returned, the pair settled into their own routines with Tia starting out on the elliptical and Reilly hitting the circuit.Unbeknownst to either of them, each woman admired the other as they exercised.Tia was held in wonder and fascination as she watched Reilly's muscles stand out against the strain of the resistance work.Reilly had removed her tank top, leaving the majority of her body open for Tia's appreciation.And it was appreciated.
When Reilly thought that her friend wasn't watching her, she took the opportunity to watch Tia as she worked out on her machine.The older woman was wearing a loose fitting tank top over a blue sports bra and a pair of running shorts that showed just about all of her muscular legs.Though not as bulky as she was, Reilly found Tia's body amazingly toned and very well proportioned to her smaller stature.Her teachers face had taken on a hue of redness at her exertion and streams of sweat streaked down her face and her chest.Thinking that her friend was completely unaware of her perusal, Reilly's eyes continued their exploration of Tia and when they traveled upward, they met cobalt eyes that twinkled in amusement. Reilly averted her gaze quickly and blushed just slightly at getting caught.As she moved on from lat pull downs to fly's, she knew her heart was not racing from exertion.
Both women finished their workouts without further embarrassment and took turns in the shower before deciding what to eat for dinner.After thoroughly examining the kitchen, Tia asked if a simple dinner of Caesar salad and chicken was okay with her friend.Reilly agreed so they both worked quickly and efficiently to prepare dinner, each lost in her own thoughts.
The rest of the night was spent watching television and getting to know one another.They talked about their respective childhoods, their siblings, and schooling.Tia had laughed out loud of some of the antics Reilly and her sister had pulled as children and was astounded to learn of Reilly's accomplishments academically.The young woman did not brag on her accomplishments by any means, but simply spoke of them almost as an after thought.Reilly also had also told Tia of her struggle to come to terms with her sexuality and how difficult it had been to tell her family.The professor found her heart going out again to the young woman, but was relieved to hear that her family had eventually accepted her as she was and still loved her.
Reilly asked Tia if she had ever been married and regretted it when she saw the hurt in her eyes.Her professor got very quiet and did not look at Reilly for several minutes before she finally spoke.
"Yes, I was married.For 3 years," she said with a hoarse voice, "But it didn't work out."
"I'm sorry Tia, I didn't mean to pry," Reilly quickly apologized, "We can talk about something else."
"No, don't apologize.It was an honest question.I guess it still hurts sometimes though."
"I know I talk a lot, but I'm also a great listener if you are willing."
Tia smiled a bit, "There really isn't much to say.Joshua and I had met and dated while I was getting my PhD.He's a pharmacist.When I graduated, we got married. At the time, we both thought it was the proper thing to do.I guess I loved him, but not in the passionate way you are supposed to love your husband.For the first year, things were okay and we were the best of friends, but over time things just fizzled out.He started getting more and more distant and I buried myself in my work to cope with the loneliness.I thought things were going along fine and had resigned myself to the marriage.But, he had a different idea I guess.One night he didn't come home from work and for over 4 hours I watched the driveway and the phone hoping one of them would produce my husband. I was just about to call the police when he finally called.He offered no apology, no reason, and no explanation...he simply said that he couldn't be here any more and wasn't ever coming back.I was devastated and confused.He hung up before I had a chance to question him.He never came to get any of his stuff or anything.A week later I was served with divorce papers.He wanted nothing and neither did I so I signed them and sent them back to his attorney.The last time I saw him was when we met to go over the papers with our lawyers.He never did come get his stuff."
They were sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace and Reilly moved over to offer her friend a hug.Tia greedily accepted and cried softly into the strong shoulder that held her.
"I'm sorry Tia.This seems so inadequate to say, but that sucks."
Tia laughed slightly, still buried in the embrace, "Yeah it does, but after year I think I'm finally starting to get over it.I feel like I need to apologize to you because it's not my brother's clothes you were borrowing when you first got here...they were his."
Reilly was neither offended nor particularly shocked at this revelation, "No big deal.You didn't know me well enough to confide the truth, so I don't blame you.I do have a question though."
Tia looked up at her waiting, "Why didn't you get rid of his things?"
"I wanted to confront him if he ever came to get them.My head knew that it was over and my heart really doesn't care that he's gone because the last couple years of our relationship was more like a business one than a marriage.My pride, however could not accept the fact that he had just up and left me like that, so I told myself I was keeping the clothes and stuff in case he came back so I could pile them in the front yard and burn them when he came to collect."
Reilly smiled but looked stunned, "Surprised you huh?" Tia said as she sat back, "Hey, I'm not always nice."
"Remind me not to piss you off," Reilly said in mock horror, "I don't want to come back here to find my stuff smoldering on the front lawn."
Tia laughed and they sat once again in silence, content to bask in the other's presence.
Neither woman was concerned with how much time had gone by in silence until Reilly's cell phone rang.Reilly rose to retrieve her phone from her bag and walked into the kitchen.
When she returned, she placed her phone back in her bag and resumed her seat on the floor.
"That was dad," she began, "He wanted to let me know he got home okay and say he was sorry for missing me earlier."
"When did he come by?" Tia asked.
"Oh, he must have come by while we were downstairs working out.He said he rang the doorbell, but no one answered."
"Oh, Reilly I'm so sorry.I forgot about that."
"Don't apologize, I told Dad where we were and it's no big deal.He said that he would fill my sister in on what's going on, but promised that he wouldn't tell her where I am until I am ready to talk to her."
"Don't you want to talk to your sister about this?"
Reilly hung her head, "No, not right now. I know my sister.She'll find someway to make this my fault and probably tell me that if I would get out of this ‘lifestyle' that I wouldn't have gotten into this situation in the first place.I know she loves me, but when she is scared and feels helpless about something she always places the blame elsewhere.I guess it's a defense mechanism."
"I'm sorry, Reilly.I really am."
"It's okay.Mom used to be the same way.She used to tell me, ‘I'm fifty years old, I can do whatever the hell I want' and Jordan is the same way she is so I don't hold out much hope that she'll change."
Tia didn't know how to respond to that so she just left it hang in the air in silence for a few minutes.Reilly seemed to slip inside her memory and the look on her face was equal parts regret, frustration and sadness.
Tia felt helpless.She remembered hearing stories of Reilly's strained relationship with her mother. Her friend had told her of the fights they'd had and her ever present struggle to be good enough in her mother's eyes.The professor didn't know what had caused such a rift between them, but she did know that the day Reilly found out her mother died that her heart broke into a thousand pieces.Tia slipped into her own thoughts and remembered with startling clarity the broken look she'd seen on her friend's face when she'd called her out of class.
The second semster of the Reilly's second year had just barely begun.Tia was standing at the front of the class lecturing while Reilly and her classmates diligently took notes.The department secretary, Lucy, interrupted the class and motioned for Tia to follow her outside.
The small professor excused herself and left the room.When she came back, Tia apologized and told them that they were through for the day.Reilly took her time getting her things together like she always did so that she could talk to Tia for a few minutes after class.As the last of her classmates left the room, Tia closed the door and asked Reilly to sit down.
"Tia, are you okay?" Reilly asked, her eyes worried.
"I'm okay, Rei," Tia said while trying to figure out how to deliver her news to her friend, "But I'm afraid I just got some bad news."
"What's wrong?You're scaring me," Reilly said, suddenly very worried and frightened.
"Rei, your dad called just a little while ago.You're mom had a heart attack early this morning...and...I'm sorry, Reilly she died."
Reilly looked at her as if she either hadn't heard what she said or didn't understand.The small professor knelt next to her friend and placed a trembling hand on her knee.
"Reilly, honey?" Tia said quietly.
The younger woman looked like the whole world had just fallen on top her.She still looked confused, but Tia could tell she'd understood by the tears that had welled up in her dark eyes.
"Tia, no," Reilly started, "No, she didn't die.What the hell are you talking about?I just talked to her the other day."
"Sweetheart, I don't know all the details.Lucy just told me that your dad called and said..."
"NO!," Reilly shouted, "No, she isn't dead.She can't be."
Tia watched helplessly as Reilly broke down.The professor was crying herself and didn't know how to begin consoling her friend.
Gradually, Reilly sank lower in the chair until she was sitting on the floor, crying harder and harder.Not knowing what else to do, Tia wrapped her arms around her and let her cry.
"She can't, Tia," Reilly choked out between sobs, "She can't be dead."
"Rei, I'm so sorry sweetheart...I'm so, so sorry."
They sat there for close to an hour.It was how Elizabeth found them when she walked into the room after Lucy told her about the phone call.The older professor saw the pleading look in Tia's eyes, and sank to the floor to wrap her arms around her broken student.
Tia sat back and watched Elizabeth's motherly instincts take over.She whispered words of comfort and held the younger woman while she cried.
Eventually, Reilly calmed down a little and asked if she could use a phone to call her dad.Tia and Elizabeth helped her to her feet and led her down the hallway to Elizabeth's office.Reilly cried again when she talked to her dad and could barely manage to tell them that she would be gone for a few days.
When she finally left, Tia and Elizabeth cried again for the young woman.Neither one of them knew how this was going to affect her, but not because of school.They were both simply worried for a young woman they had both come to care about and hoped that she was strong enough to recover.
Tia was brought out of her reverie when Reilly knelt down beside her.She turned her pacific eyes to her friend.
"Reilly, can I do anything?"
The young woman looked hesitant and started to speak a couple of times, but the words didn't come forth.Tia waited patiently, knowing that her young friend would speak when she was ready.
"I don't want to sound foolish," Reilly said without meeting Tia's eyes.
"You won't sound foolish for expressing what you need and/or want, Reilly.What is it?If you can tell me."
Again, Reilly looked embarrassed but said, "Can I have a hug? The past couple of days I've gotten used to a steady stream of them and I think I'm short on filling my quota."
Tia smiled, "Absolutely...we wouldn't want you to go into withdrawal or shock or anything."
The professor wrapped her thin arms around her friend.Reilly sank gratefully into the embrace, with her head on Tia's shoulder.
They stayed in that same position for another hour simply talking while candles burned down.Tia felt Reilly yawn deeply and realized that she was a bit tired herself.She patted the strong back and started to sit up to move away.When she faced the younger woman, she took a moment to stare into Reilly's eyes, which had gone almost golden in the dimly lit room.
Reilly's eyebrows drew together in confusion, "What?" she asked, "Did I grow a horn or something?"
Tia laughed but didn't take her eyes off Reilly's, "No, it's just that I never know what color your eyes are going to be or even what their true color is.It seems like every time I look at them, they are a different shade or a different color altogether."
Smiling Reilly said, "Well, normally they are a kind of brown-hazel.But they range from light brown, to brown depending on the light, almost black if I'm frustrated or angry, and green when I'm tired, crying, or really happy.Why, what color are they right now?"
Tia cocked her head to one side and leaned just a little closer, "Right now they are almost gold.I guess you could call that really light brown, but the candlelight in here makes them look golden."
Tia finished, but didn't move away, continuing to study the orbs in front of her.
"That's a new one.It must be the light," Reilly said while struggling with the uncomfortable realization that her body wanted to lean forward and kiss the delicious lips in front of her while her mind disagreed, "Yours change color too."
"They do?" Tia asked still not moving away.
"Yeah, when you are teaching and concentrating on what you're doing they are a cornflower blue.But when you are concerned, frustrated, or wearing something blue they are a deeper color...like sapphire," Reilly finished.
"I never noticed to tell you the truth," Tia confessed, "What color are they right now?"
She hadn't meant the question to be blatantly flirtatious, but realized that it might sound that way to her friend.She was about to correct herself when Reilly spoke.
"They're silver right now," the young woman said almost in whisper.
The next morning, neither woman seemed willing to acknowledge the brief yet disturbingly intense moment they had shared the night before.Instead, they both worked out in the gym in friendly silence then fixed and ate breakfast together before parting to get ready for the day.
After their respective showers, the two met in Tia's office so they could both get some work done.The small woman sat at her desk going over some lectures for class while the younger of the two sprawled out on the floor with her books and notes surrounding her.After about an hour, Tia glanced over to see Reilly, her head in her hand and her glasses on top of her head, with a troubled scowl on her face.
"Everything okay?" Tia asked and went to kneel beside her friend.
"Yeah, I'm just having a lot of trouble seeing this" Tia replied frustrated.
"Is your eye hurting?Is your vision getting worse?"
Reilly smiled up at her, "No, it's not hurting and it's not getting worse. But it's still a little fuzzy and I've got a headache.It's making me nuts."
Her professor chuckled, "Okay, well if you want I can call my uncle and see if he can see you today to check that eye out."
"No, he said we should stop in tomorrow, so I'm going to wait."
"Okay, if you're sure," Tia said noticing she had started stroking Reilly's soft hair, "Do you want some help then?"
"Nah," Reilly said absently leaning into the touch, "Like I said yesterday, I've been over and over this stuff.I think I'm getting to the point where I either know it or I don't.I think I'll give it a rest for a while."
"Sounds like a plan," Tia said and gave her friend a final scratch behind her ear, "How about we go grab some lunch then get out of here for a little while?"
"Sure, where are we going?"
"Well, we have yet to go get you a desk and I thought while we were doing that, we could stop by to see Aunt Sue so you could talk to her."
Reilly looked a little hesitant so Tia quickly continued, "Reilly, you don't have to talk to her if you don't want to.She called yesterday around the same time your dad stopped by so we missed her call and I forgot about it until today.If you don't want to talk to her, maybe we could invite her to go shopping with us and you could kind of feel her out.Believe me, I think you'll like her."
The young woman still looked a little worried, but she offered her friend one of her best smiles and said, "Okay, that's sounds fine.I don't like the idea of jumping right into a counseling session without talking to her.I think I'd like it if she came with us."
Tia was smiling widely, "Great!Why don't you do go on out to the kitchen and I'll give her a call?"
"Okay," Reilly agreed amiably.
Tia went to call her aunt while Reilly went to fix them some lunch.Tia waited until Reilly was in the kitchen before she got on the phone and smiled when her aunt answered.
"Hi, Aunt Sue," she said grinning.
"Well, how's my favorite niece doing today?"
"I'm okay, how are you doing?"
"Oh, I'm great honey.I called there the other day to talk to this young woman you have hidden over there, but I didn't get an answer.Was everything okay?"
"Yeah, sorry I didn't call you back.I forgot about it until this morning.We were down in the basement working out and I forgot to turn on the intercom so I could hear the phone and doorbell.We missed Reilly's father too."
"That's okay, cutie.What can I do for you today?"
"Well, as I'm sure Uncle Matt told you, Reilly will be staying with me for a while and she needs to go buy a desk.I thought if you weren't busy that you'd like to come with us.I'd love to see you and I think Reilly would feel more comfortable if she got the chance to feel you out a little bit."
Her aunt chuckled, "She's that apprehensive, huh?Okay, that sounds like a plan to me.Let me finish up my lunch here and call Matt.I'll let him know he's off the hook for shopping this weekend since I'm going with you two.You don't mind if pick up a few things for myself do you?"
"Of course not, Aunt Sue.We'll pick you up in a few minutes.We have to take Reilly's jeep so we'll be able to get the desk back here...we'll pick you up in that."
"Alright, sweetie.I'll see you in a bit."
"Thanks Aunt Sue, bye bye."
The pair arrived at the Walker's house forty-five minutes later.Susan Walker was waiting on the porch, enjoying the cool shade.Tia jumped out to go and greet her aunt while Reilly stepped slowly from the car, truly amazed at the similarities between the two women.She had seen pictures of Tia's mom at her house and had thought that Tia resembled the woman quite a bit, but her professor was a carbon copy of the older woman Reilly had just seen on the porch.Tia topped her aunt's slight stature by only an inch or two, but the older woman still had an amazingly trim, fit body that matched Tia's almost exactly. Reilly hesitantly stepped up to the pair, waiting for their hug to end before she introduced herself.
Susan broke the hold and turned to greet her visitor.She noticed the look of surprise in Reilly's eye and answered her unspoken question.
"No, I'm sure this little darling is not mine," Sue said with a twinkle in her blue eyes, "If you ever met her mother, you'd see exactly where she gets her stubborn streak."
"And Mom says I get it from you, dear Auntie so hush," Tia chuckled.
Reilly blushed a little, "You two could pass easily for mother and daughter, but I'm assuming that's because Tia's mother is your twin?"
Sue laughed and Tia looked amazed at her friend's observation.Sue spoke, "Very good, my dear.Yes, my dear sister is older than me by only a couple of minutes, but she says that gives her more than enough clout to boss me around."
All three women laughed, introductions were made then all three climbed into Reilly's jeep.Since Reilly didn't want to try driving long distances because of her eye, she let Tia drive.She had removed the patch and was sporting the sunglasses Dr. Walker had made for her with her regular glasses tucked safely in her backpack.The two women up front gently teased each other and Reilly could not help the smile on her face as she watched them together.Tia had told her nothing of her own mother, but Reilly decided that if they had half the relationship her professor shared with her beloved aunt, then she was indeed a lucky woman.
Since no one had anything pressing waiting for them, they had decided to go out of town to a mall about 45 minutes away to do their shopping.The trio pulled up the mall at around 1:30 and spent the afternoon browsing leisurely.
Reilly had found a desk she thought she could live with almost the minute they walked into Sears.The other two women had wanted to shop, so she paid for it and made arrangements to pick it up when they were ready to leave.
Reilly was not a huge fan of shopping and as she was led from store to store she started to get a little restless but didn't want to appear rude to her friends.However, when Tia and Sue decided that they wanted to stop at Victoria Secrets, Reilly spoke up.
"I'm sorry, ladies I'm not going in that store," she said with playful force.
"Why not Reilly?" Tia asked with a twinkle in deceptively innocent eyes.
"Well, aside from the fact that I am adamantly opposed to shopping anywhere that requires you to browse solely for your unmentionables in front of God and everyone, I refuse to enter any establishment that gets decorating tips from Pepto Bismol."
Tia and Sue both looked stunned for just a few seconds before they both burst out laughing.During their little shopping adventure, Reilly had spoken little, but Sue already had a sense that she would like the young woman and her comment had just affirmed that.
"Reilly my dear, that was priceless.I think Matt could learn a few things from you," Sue said still laughing.
Reilly thought of what Dr. Walker had said to her about his wife's ability to guilt him into shopping.
"You're husband told me briefly of your persuasive abilities and I assure you that I am not anti-social, introverted or afraid of people for fear of my own inadequacies, take me anywhere else in this mall you want, but I'm not going in there," she said with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Touché," Sue laughed again.Reilly waited outside the store while the pair got what they needed.
They spent another hour browsing, allowing the pair to pick up the things they needed and talking.When they were ready to leave, they went back to pick up Reilly's desk, then loaded up the car and headed home.
Matt Walker was home when they arrived to drop Sue and her packages off. The doctor came out of the house shaking his head as he spotted Reilly trying to juggle all the bags that belonged to his wife.
"Sue, did you leave any money in the checking account?" he joked as he relieved Reilly of some of her load.
"I take it you think I over did it," she smiled sweetly at him, "Well, I suppose I could return the new golf glove and tees that I bought you as well as that new putter you ordered if you really think I should."
Matt Walker looked caught and Reilly smirked when he turned to his wife and said, "Well, honey I'm sure you only got what you needed.Thank you."
Tia and Reilly laughed while Sue smiled triumphantly then went to her husband to give a quick kiss on the cheek.The older couple invited the girls to stay for dinner so after they got all of Sue's parcels unloaded and in the house, Reilly and Matt took a tour of the house while Sue and Tia started fixing dinner.
Sue could tell that something was bothering her usually level headed niece and the older woman had a feeling it had everything to do with her attractive new roommate.
"What's up, cutie?" Sue asked handing Tia a glass of white wine, "You'll tell me eventually so you might as well go ahead."
Tia took a sip of her wine and let the cool, tangy liquid calm her nerves before she felt she could speak.
"Honey," Sue began before she could speak, "You can talk to me about anything.Now what's up?"
"I think I'm in trouble, Aunt Sue," Tia said quietly, not meeting her eyes.
Sue looked confused, but concerned, "Why sweetie?"
The older woman lifted her niece's chin so that she could look into the eyes that were mirror images of her own.Her heart almost broke at the sight of the tears, but she smiled at having her suspicions confirmed.
They gazed at each other for long moments.Tia didn't know what to say, but knew her aunt would see in her eyes what she was feeling.Sue Walker shook her head with a wry grin.
"I don't blame you honey," Tia's aunt said as she stroked her niece's hair, "She seems like an extraordinary young woman."
"It's the young part that is getting to me," Tia said mentally berating herself.
"Oh, I don't think that's the only thing bothering you," Sue said knowingly.
"You're right, the fact that she used to be my student and is one of my best friends is a big factor.Not to mention the fact that she just got out of a hellish relationship, oh yeah and did I mention that I've never felt this way about anyone...ever."
Sue regarded her with compassion and abounding curiosity, "Tia, you aren't giving yourself or her enough credit.I take it that you two have, um, explored this a little bit?"
Tia blushed a deep, pink, "Well, not really.Last night we had this really...I don't know...intense thing happen that really rocked both of us.But, we haven't really talked about anything.I am pretty sure it freaked her out as much as it did me.Aunt Sue, why is this happening?I mean, Reilly and I have developed a wonderful friendship, but Elizabeth must think I am truly crazy to take time off work and help Reilly move into my house and offer to let her live there permanently.To be honest, I'm wrestling with that myself.I mean, I care about Reilly very much and I want very much to help her, but at the same time I don't know what to do about how I feel."
"How do you feel about her, Tia?Be honest...with me and yourself."
Pained cobalt eyes filled with tears as Tia spoke, "She's such a good person, Sue.She didn't deserve all that's happened to her."
Sue's gentle eyes smiled, "Sweetheart, you didn't answer my question."
The small professor felt totally exposed under her aunt's scrutinizing gaze.With a deep sigh, she replied in a shaky voice, "Auntie, I think I have some very strong feelings for Reilly.She's a wonderful friend...hell she's a wonderful person.If I had to put a name to it, I'd say that I'm trying very hard not fall in love with her.She is the most amazing person I've ever met and one of the purest souls I've ever encountered."
Sue smiled, but said nothing, hoping that Tia would continue.
"Reilly has such a good heart.I have been fighting my attraction toward her since the first day I met her in class.She's wickedly funny, disarmingly charming, and so intelligent it scares me sometimes.But what scares me more is that fact that I have been falling further and further.And now, with her so close to me all the time I wonder if I'm being fair to her...to both of us."
Tia's resolve finally broke, as did the dam of her tears.Silently yet gently, Sue guided her niece out of the kitchen and into her office where she could comfort the younger woman without fear of her husband or Reilly finding them.
When the office door closed, Sue led her niece over to the leather couch and wrapped her arms around Tia in a protective loving embrace.As Tia cried, Sue realized that the proud, determined, capable, headstrong woman in her arms, who had worked so hard to achieve her professional goals, had finally come face to face with the one thing she had never really acknowledged...the reality of losing her heart to another person.Not even her ex-husband had been able to claim that.
The older woman suspected that her niece had no idea how to control the emotions raging within her and that it scared her far beyond the repercussions of having a relationship with Reilly.
After several minutes, Tia's tears subsided and she pulled out of her aunt's embrace.One look at the older woman's face told her that Sue had indeed seen the truth inside her.Self consciously, she avoided looking at her aunt while she composed herself.Sue simply watched her niece fidget and smiled wryly.
"Tia, are you okay, honey?"
"Yeah, sorry about the meltdown," Tia replied.
"No apologies needed, sweetie," Sue said while wiping a few errant tears from the flushed cheeks, "You know I love you more than just about anything else in this world right?"
"Good...I want you to remember that while you listen to me.Dear, you are quite possibly the most stubborn thing I have ever met and sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees, my sweet.There is not a single thing in this world or the next with loving someone or falling in love with someone...regardless of who that person is or what the packaging is.I haven't known her as long as you have, but the two of you are obviously very comfortable with each other and you are right in that she is an extraordinary young woman.She's also very intelligent and I think you need to give her some credit.I have absolutely no solid basis for what I'm about to say but...I think that you and Reilly haven't even begun to discover the depths of your connection to each other.She's hurting right now and whether her stubborn pride will let her admit it or not, she needs you like you need her.Don't discount your feelings or try to ignore them.Just give them the freedom to run their course.If you both can do that, I have a feeling that you and Ms. Fredericks will find that you mean more to each other than you realize."
Tia nodded her understanding and once again sank into her aunt's embrace.After a few more minutes of snuggling, the two of them returned to the kitchen just seconds before Matt and Reilly.
Despite the delay due to their talk, Sue and Tia had dinner ready very quickly and the four of them sat down to a very nice meal and wonderful conversation.
As they ate, both Dr. Walkers filled Reilly in on some of her teacher's adventurous youth, much to the chagrin of a deeply blushing Tia.Coffee was made for after dinner after the four of them worked to clean up the kitchen.Reilly and Sue excused themselves to Sue's office while Tia and her uncle watched the news in his den.
Reilly was acutely aware of her own discomfort as Sue led her into her spacious office and closed the door behind them.The older woman sat down in a very comfortable leather chair and motioned for Reilly sit across from her in the matching chair.Reilly took a drink of her coffee and hoped the hot liquid would calm her down a bit, although she smirked at that thought that caffeine would actually settle her nerves.Sue didn't want to make her young client uncomfortable by waiting for her to start the conversation so she relieved Reilly of the task.
"Is this okay, Reilly?I don't want you to feel uncomfortable at all."
Reilly's smile was anything but convincing, "I'm okay.I'm just a little nervous.I don't know if your husband told you or not, but I kind of have an acute aversion to therapy."
"Yes, he did mention it and I kind of picked up on it today when you thought I was watching you too closely."
"I'm sorry, Sue I really am," Reilly offered, turning her eyes anywhere but to Sue.
"No apologies necessary, Reilly.I would very much like to help you, if you feel that you would benefit from some outside advice.If not, I'd also be glad to listen and offer an opinion if you ask.This doesn't have to be a stereotypical kind of arrangement where I lay you down on a couch and convince you to tell me your deepest, darkest secrets while I make little notes on a pad.I don't like to work that way and I get the impression you don't either."
"You're right, I don't."
Sue smiled and said, "Okay then.Do you mind if I start by asking a question?"
Reilly shook her head, so Sue asked, "Why do you have such an ‘acute aversion to therapy' as you put it?"
The young woman took a sip of her coffee before replying, "Well, I had a really bad experience once when I was younger and I guess I never forgot it.Before that, it wasn't that I didn't believe in counseling, it was just that I was so damn self-riteous that I thought people would get along better if they didn't rely on someone else to help them with their problems."
Sue nodded her head and chuckled, "I see.And do you still feel that way?"
Reilly thought for a moment before she replied, "No, I don't.I've never been to a counseling session myself, but I have had enough happen to me over the past few years that made me realize that nobody can make it alone and that everyone needs someone."
"Would you mind telling me what your bad experience was?You don't have to if you don't want to, but I'm curious," Sue said.
"No, I don't mind at all," Reilly replied sincerely.
"Alright then,"Sue said with an encouraging smile, "Do you need some more coffee before we get started?"
"No, I'm good," Reilly said, then leaned back in the chair, "It happened when I was in high school.My parents decided that it would be a good idea to get us all into therapy because of the stuff my sister was doing."
Sue cocked her head to the side and asked, "What kind of things was she doing?And if it was about your sister, then why did you have to go?"
Reilly chuckled, "I asked that very same question.My dad told me that he thought we should go as a family since the whole family was being affected."
"Okay, back up a little for me," Sue said gently, "It would help if you could give me a little background here.You don't have to, but it would help me understand."
Reilly nodded and launched into her explanation.
"This is kind of a long story, but I'll try to condense it as best I can.In high school my sister was going through a very, very rebellious phase.She about drove my parents nuts.She got involved with a guy who was very controlling and very bad news.He was drug dealer and drinker.He routinely showed up to my house stoned or drunk or both, but surprisingly my mother never caught on.Anyway, when my sister started sneaking out at night, skipping school, and lying to my parents just to be able to see him my parents finally picked up on it and went ballistic.Every night was like a battle zone in my house.I eventually learned to drown out the sound of the yelling so that I could go to sleep at night, but everything and everyone suffered.Jordan, that's my sister, was a year younger than me so I heard about everything she was doing from different people at school, but I never took it to heart.Jordan has one hell of a mouth on her so I figured she had just stepped on enough toes to make people angry enough to spread nasty rumors about her.I never asked her if they were true because back then we didn't have the greatest relationship.I was always more school and sports oriented than she was and my mom constantly compared her to me.It really pissed Jordan off.Finally, my parents decided to put us in family counseling.I did not want to go, but my dad convinced me it might help.So, we went," Reilly paused in her story.Sue noticed that her eyes took on a feral yet disgusted look that would have concerned her if she thought it was directed at her.
Reilly took a breath and continued, "And to this day I would gladly pay $90 for an appointment to walk in there and punch that bitch dead in the face," Reilly noticed the surprised look on Sue's face and quickly apologized.
"I'm sorry, Sue.Please forgive my language."
Sue waved off the apology and asked her to continue.
"On our first appointment, she met with the family as whole then asked to speak with Jordan privately.I never did find out what they talked about.The next week, she spoke to us all, but about half way through I wasn't talking much so she said wanted to speak to me alone.My parents were out of the room all of 5 minutes.When they came back in, although I hadn't said 20 words to her and she asked me nothing about my parents, that woman sat there and told my mother that I didn't respect her, held no regard for her authority, and didn't love her.From that moment and for the following 3 years my mother hated me and distrusted me.She believed that woman and although I do partially blame her for that, that so called therapist should have realized the effect her words had on my mother.For God's sake, that's why we were there in the first place, because my mom wanted someone to tell her what to do.I never went back to that woman after she did that to me, even though my dad asked me to.I just couldn't."
Reilly paused again to sip her coffee and to gauge Sue's reaction to her story.She saw only encouragement and compassion looking back through the familiar blue eyes and kept on with her story.
"Anyway, when the family as a whole stopped going, but Jordan continued to see her and I'll admit that it seemed to help.But Jordan was still wild.She still fought with my parents on a regular basis and soon I was starting to get shit about her from people at school.One day when I came home from soccer practice, Jordan was nowhere to be found and mom was madder than I had ever seen her.I demanded to know where my sister was and mom told methat dad had taken her to the doctor for a pelvic exam and an AIDS test.I freaked.Mom sat me down at the kitchen table and demanded to know if I had known Jordan was having sex.I didn't want to lie to her, so I told her I had heard rumors at school, but hadn't ever asked Jordan directly.Mom asked me if I had known about all of the other stuff Jordan had done...the sneaking out, skipping school, and parties...and I told her I had suspected, but never said anything.Then my mom did something I still haven't forgiven her for.She started screaming at me telling me that all the trouble our family had gone through, all the money they had spent on therapy, and all the fighting was my fault because I had known what was going on and never said anything.She screamed at me, threw things at me, and backed me into a corner and slapped me.She tried to hit me again, but I caught her hand rose to my full height telling her not to dare blame me.I dropped her hand and left."
Sue felt like she was on the edge of her seat.Her professional mind was telling her to be calm, but the part of her that was Tia's aunt and hopefully Reilly's friend was anxious.
"What happened after that?Did you and your mother ever work things out?"
"Eventually, yes, we did.It took me going way to college and getting away from her. But things were never the same between us."
"How did you work it out?" Sue asked.
Reilly replied, "Well, one day I was working at my computer and she came into my room.I don't really remember what I had done that set her off...and to be honest she was always mad at me for something, but she started in on me for something and I just couldn't stand bearing the brunt of her anger any more.We started to argue and she pulled out her ever present trump card and told me once again that the ‘doctor was right'...that I didn't respect her or love her at all.The anger just drained out of me and I started crying.I asked her if, at 15 or 16, she always listened to everything her mother told her or warned her about.She acknowledged that there were times that she did what she wanted, but that there was never a time that she didn't love or respect her mother.I said, ‘there you go, just because you didn't always heed her advice, didn't mean you didn't respect it, now did it?'She agreed with me and from then on we were better."
Reilly let a silence hang when she finished her story.Sue sensed that as far as the young woman was concerned, that had been the end of it.Although there was overwhelming sadness lurking in her puppy dog, brown eyes.
"So," Reilly began after a few moments, "I think I went the long way around that one, but that's why I've never really gone to counseling.I was scared to death that someone would do that to me again.That woman was a so called professional and should have known the impact her words would have.We didn't always get along but I loved my mother very much and I know she loved me.She was the most incredible person I've ever met in my life and respected her more than she probably ever knew. I'm just sorry she died before I figured out a way to tell her."
Sue's eyes filled with tears, but she didn't let them fall.The pair sat in silence for a few moments.
Sue sighed, "Well, I think the first thing you need to do is realize that you have a good reason to be pissed at that woman and to be angry about it, even now."
"I don't think I'm holding onto the anger, but I will admit to being shell-shocked by the incident," Reilly said with a small grin, "But I think I'm going to be okay talking with you.So far, you haven't given me a reason not to trust you and it helped that I got to spend some time with you today in a non-professional setting."
Sue beamed at the young woman, "Thank you, Reilly.Now, is there anything else you would like to talk about before I start asking questions?You don't have to answer anything you are uncomfortable with...you set the pace."
Smirking at the words she had heard that morning from the older woman's niece Reilly said, "Thank you, I appreciate that."
"Okay, so do you want to start?"
"I think we'd have more direction if you would just ask me some questions," Reilly said taking a sip of her coffee.
"Alright, but I want to clear something up first.Given that he recommended we get together, I'm assuming you realize that my husband did give me a little bit of background.In addition to that, without betraying any of your confidences, Tia filled me in on something that I hope will not be an issue.In case you are worried about this, it does not bother me in the least that you are gay."
Reilly's eyes grew wide and she fought the urge to flee the room, but she stayed still.Sue noted the reaction and waited to see what her young patient would do.
After clearing her throat several times she finally spoke, "Sue, to tell you the truth, I wasn't sure how you would react.I've gotten reactions from people that run the whole length of the spectrum from hatred to total acceptance.It's hard to know who I can trust."
"Reilly, believe me I understand.I've never had that particular experience myself, but I've treated patients who have.Some of my patients come back to me ecstatic that they're family and friends accepted them and I've sat here and held people...men and women both...who have had terrible things said to them or been beaten, or raped.I understand your trepidation."
Reilly's eyes closed tightly at Sue's explanation.The older woman noticed it and prayed that what she suspected wasn't true...that this sweet, loving woman hadn't endured such violence and hatred herself.
"Reilly," Sue said softly, getting up to kneel in front of the struggling woman.
Reilly took in a shaky breath and looked at the older woman, "Believe me, I know," she said in a whisper.
Sue closed her eyes and wrapped the young woman in heartfelt hug, stroking her hair as she felt Reilly take a shuddered breath.She pulled away and looked at Reilly questioningly, but didn't want any information she wasn't ready to provide.
Steadying herself, Reilly spoke, "I know all about it, Sue.I've been there and done that.Before I ever came out, a guy who assumed I was gay raped me because I wouldn't sleep with him.He told he would change my mind.When I lived in the dorms, I put up with a lot of harassment and name calling...and that was way before I ever came out.Hell, they even tried to jump me once, but fortunately I only got a few bruises and scrapes.They, however didn't fair so well." The young smiled slightly at that memory.
Normally not one to condone violence, Sue couldn't help, but grin because Reilly had defended herself at least partially from those who wanted to hurt her.
Sue was quiet waiting to see if there was more while Reilly waited to see what she would say.Finally Reilly broke the silence.
"So what's the diagnosis, doc?" she tried to joke, "You think I've got an irreparable psyche?"
Sue shook her head slowly, "No, I don't.But I do think that you are a remarkable woman who should be pissed as hell all the time and not the relatively calm woman I see in front of me."
Reilly smiled, "I've had a lot of time to get over things.I did have a major meltdown after the attack, though.On top of dealing with all of that, I got hit with a lot of other stuff not the least of which was my father's heart attack so I got into trouble with alcohol.I wasn't sleeping at all and started drinking at night just so I could get some rest.Pretty soon, I was relying on the alcohol for everything.Then the anger started.I was like a loaded gun on a hair trigger. Anything would set me off and when it did, my friend's feared for their safety and mine.It took my best friend to save my life."
Reilly paused for a moment to take a drink of her now lukewarm coffee then continued.
"Whitney, was my best friend and though we were close, we never really talked about emotions or any mushy stuff like that.However, when she fell down on her knees in front of me one night crying, begging me to stop and get some help that snapped me out of it.I went the next day to get some help.I haven't touched a drop of alcohol since.All of this happened way before I got into PT school, thank goodness, so other than my mother's death and now this whole thing with my ex, things have been relatively sane."
Sue had listened to the story with a sense of wonder. Although she had heard stories much worse than Reilly's she had never seen a person more self-motivated to change than her young friend.
She looked at the clock and noted that they had been talking for the better part of an hour and figured that Reilly would probably appreciate not having to relive any more intense memories.
"Well, we've been in here for a while so we should probably start wrapping this up," Sue stated and watched Reilly nod before continuing, "I have just one more question."
Reilly tilted her head, waiting, "Does Tia know any of what you've told me?I know that the two of you are very close and that you've spent a lot of time together...even before all this started."
"No," Reilly said in a whisper, "She knows about the alcohol and obviously she knows I'm gay, but she doesn't know the rest of it.I'm not sure I want her to know."
"Do you mind if I ask why?" Sue pressed.
"I just...I don't know how she will react...especially now.There is so much going on right and she has been great, but I don't want her to know the rest of it.I don't want her to feel sorry for me."
Sue smiled and said, "She wouldn't feel sorry for you.And even if she did...what's wrong with someone who loves you being sorry that you had to endure something or some things that were very painful?What would be wrong with her wishing she could take that away?I know I do."
Reilly was silent for a few moments.She gazed into the eyes of Tia's aunt and marveled again at how similar they were to Tia's.
"I just don't want her to feel like she has take care of me...treat me like a fragile child that needs protecting," Reilly said with a hint of indignation.
"If the shoe were on the other foot...if Tia had gone through those things would want to protect her? To take care of her?"
"Oh, God no," Reilly whispered and felt tears sting her eyes, "I can't and won't imagine Tia going through anything even remotely similar to that.And yes, I would do everything in my power to protect her.I...".
"So why not let her do the same for you?Just because someone cares about you and wishes that they could erase the pain that life has given you, does not mean that they pity you.Quite the contrary...if someone simply pitied you would they offer you a home, open arms, friendship, and love without expectations?"
Reilly's eyes widened at Sue's last questions, but she couldn't think of an answer.
Sue's compassionate gaze held hers for a moment then the old woman continued, "I'll tell you the answer to that...the answer is no.Someone offering simply pity would eventually expect you to get over it.Only a friend would continue to be there to chase the demons away whenever you needed it.I think Tia may surprise you.If you feel that you want to share with her, I guarantee she'll listen, offer support, and hold you if you let her.Let her love you, Reilly."
Still speechless, Reilly simply nodded her head.Sue gave the young woman another hug and made sure that Reilly had her composure back before breeching the subject of scheduling their appointments.
The two made arrangements for Sue to meet her on weekends at Tia's house so they could continue to talk.Before they left the office, Sue assured Reilly that none of the information she learned during their discussions would gofurther than her.Reilly knew she would more than likely share some of the information about their sessions with Tia, but thanked Sue for her discretion.
They dropped their coffee cups off in the kitchen and went in search of their other two companions.When they walked into the den, the sight that greeted them warmed both their hearts.Tia and Matt had fallen asleep on the sofa, Tia with her head on Matt's shoulder and his head resting on hers.Sue put her fingers to her lips and led Reilly out of the room.They settled in the living room, both shaking their heads and smiling.
Sue and Reilly talked quietly for a few minutes until Tia and her uncle awakened from their little nap and found them in the living room.The young student had wanted to get home and get the desk set up before it got to be too late so, they said their goodnights to the Walkers and headed home.
After unloading the desk, Tia went to her office while Reilly assembled it.Tia opened up her email and frowned at a message she had gotten from Elizabeth that simply stated, "Call me when you get this, I don't care what time."
Quickly dialing the number, Tia waited nervously for Elizabeth to answer the phone.
"Hello?" Elizabeth answered.
"Hi, Elizabeth.It's Tia.I just got your message.What's going on?"
"Oh, Tia thanks for calling me back.I wanted to let you and Reilly know that Maggie was released today.Her parents helped her make bail.She showed up here again today, though she wasn't quite as angry as she had been.She apologized for her outburst but still asked me if I knew where Reilly was."
Tia sighed, "Damnit!I know you didn't tell her where Reilly was, but what did you say?"
"I told her that I had no idea."
Tia released a relieved sigh, "Okay, is that all?"
Elizabeth paused long enough for Tia to get a little worried, "No," Elizabeth continued, "I think Maggie might think she knows something.Andy came to see me after she left and apparently, before she came to see me, she must have stopped by his office to apologize for her behavior.She also apparently asked him where you were.He told her that you were taking some time off, but I don't know if that placated her.She said something offhand about talking to you later.She doesn't know where you live or your phone number does she?"
"Shit," Tia swore, "No, she doesn't know where I live or how to get in touch with me.I'm pretty sure Reilly picked up her address book that has all that information in it, but what do you think she's going to do?I mean, it isn't that hard to find out that kind of stuff if you really want to."
"I know," Elizabeth said with a sigh, "I'm not sure what you should do, to be completely honest.I mean, I don't even know what she is really after.If she is hoping to get Reilly back, it may take a face to face in order for Reilly to get rid f her."
practically shouted, "No, if I have anything to say about it that bitch won't
get within five feet of Reilly.She's done more damage than you could possibly
know and I'll be damned if..."
"Whoa," Elizabeth shouted into the phone, "Calm down, Tia.Jesus, I'm not the enemy and I don't want Reilly to get hurt either.Just calm down."
Tia was breathing hard and her heart was racing, but she forced her voice to be calm, "I'm sorry, Elizabeth.I just...you didn't see her that first morning.She's holding up remarkably well, but I can't help but see that look on her face Monday morning."
Elizabeth sighed, "Tia, I can't even begin to imagine what that was like, but I do know that Reilly needs to make that choice."
"Elizabeth, I..." Tia's voice caught as the tears that had formed in her eyes rolled down her face.
"She doesn't love her, Tia," Elizabeth said gently, "She's a smart young woman, but she knows that Maggie will only hurt her again.She won't go back to that."
"I know that," Tia said shakily, "I just...I don't want to see her hurt anymore.She can't take it and I..."
"And neither can you, I understand," Elizabeth spoke softly.
"Yes I do."
Tia was silent for a few moments, trying to regain control of her emotions.
Finally she spoke, "I swear I never meant for this to happen but I'm in love with her Elizabeth.I think I was before any of this started.I just can't bear the thought of that bitch getting anywhere near her again.I may never have a chance in hell with Reilly and if all she ever wants from me is friendship then she's got it...please don't be angry with me."
Elizabeth closed her eyes and said, "No, I'm not angry with you.I'll admit that I'm a tad nervous, but I'm not upset.Reilly needs to resolve this, Tia.She needs you to help her through that.Tell her about what Maggie did today and let her decide what to do.Offer your input and support.And whatever she decides to do, be there for her.Show her that you love her."
Tia sensed that her boss wanted to say more, but figured that she would wait until later to talk about it.
"Okay, Elizabeth.I'll go talk with her.I'm sorry for dropping all this on you."
Elizabeth released a breath, "I'm not, Tia.Just as I knew that you and Reilly were friends, I knew that you were losing your heart.I have no idea what you should do about that if anything, but I trust that you and Reilly will figure it out."
"Elizabeth, she can't talk to her.That bitch treated her like shit and nearly blinded her for goodness sake!"
"Tia, calm down.I know, but you need to let Reilly make that decision."
"Shit!"Tia was pacing now, "Alright, I'll go talk to Reilly and head to bed."
Elizabeth wanted to talk to her friend some more, but she could tell that Tia was done for the night, "Goodnight Tia."
Tia hung up the phone and rested her forehead on her desk, banging it gently a couple of times before sitting up.She paced back and forth in her office trying to cool her ardor and figure out what she was going to tell Reilly.She knew Elizabeth was right...that Reilly had to confront Maggie and perhaps take legal action like a restraining order so that she could be free of her ex-lover once and for all.When she thought she was calm, she left her office to give Reilly the latest news.
Reilly had just finished putting the desk together when her cell phone rang.Giving her handiwork a satisfied nod, she retrieved her phone from her bag and flipped it on.
"Hello?" she asked cheerily.
"Well, well.If it isn't my loving girlfriend."
Reilly's face blanched slightly, but her blood was beginning to boil.
"What do you want, Maggie?"
"Oh honey," she said in her best apologetic voice, "Baby, I miss you.I just want to come get you...wherever you are and bring you home.I'm so sorry, Reilly.I didn't mean to hurt you."
"You never do, Mag.You never do.Every time I thought things were different, that you were handling things better, that I had gotten back the woman I fell in love with...something else would happen and you would turn into a stranger."
"But you said I was getting better!" Maggie shouted into the phone, "You said that if I started seeing the psychologist that you would stick it out with me."
"Yes, I did.But you aren't getting any better.Jesus, Maggie.Do you realize I almost lost my sight with that stunt you pulled the other night?I've already got a permanent reminder of our pseudo life together on my cheek and now I've got another above my eye.You look at them as a mark on your territory, I look at them as a reminder of hell."
"This is bullshit, Reilly.You know I didn't mean to hurt you like that.So I get mad and yell, so do you.How the fuck am I supposed to get better when you don't give me a chance to prove that I can change.I love you, Reilly.I have loved you since I met you and I haven't stopped.Come back to me, baby.I miss you."
"Mags, to be honest there is part of me that misses you too.In fact, I have been missing you for the last year.You aren't the woman I fell in love with and maybe you could change, but don't you dare place the blame for you current and obvious psychosis on me.You did this yourself.I never wanted to change you, Mag.You did that all by yourself.I do love you.And I mean that, but I won't be coming back to you."
"I don't understand," Maggie was crying now, "I need you, baby. You are the only reason I stayed in school.Remember all of our plans?"
"Maggie, I'm not discussing this.I am not coming back.My dad has agreed to pay off the rest of the lease and I will pay you for this past months bills, but after that I'm done."
"Reilly please?Just meet with me, please.I just want to see you again.Please.I want to talk to you in person.I promise, just to talk."
"I'm sorry, but I can't Maggie.Do yourself and me a favor, don't come barging into my classes anymore to talk to me, don't try to contact me up at school and don't call this number anymore.We're done, Maggie.I am sorry."
Before Maggie could protest, Reilly disconnected the phone and turned it off.She hung her head and tried to fight the tears that threatened until she felt a small, warm hand stroking her hair.Pain filled brown eyes looked up at Tia, breaking the older woman's heart.
"You okay?" Tia asked gently.
"I honestly don't know, Tia.I honestly don't know," Reilly said sadly.
"Talk to me honey," Tia said and sank down to sit in front of Reilly.The younger woman backed up against her bed and pulled her friend's small frame back to her chest.With the small woman snuggled tightly to her, her small hands covering Reilly's long arms around her waist, Reilly spoke.
"Tia, I honestly don't know what to feel.I'm finding it very hard to reconcile the person she has become with the person I fell in love with.She asked me tonight how I could expect her to change when I don't give her a chance to prove she has.I think I have given her a chance.For goodness sake, I've got 2 scars and a broken heart to prove it."
"Reilly," Tia said leaning her head back on the broad shoulder behind her, "You did give her a chance.From what you've told me, you gave her more chances than she deserved.She's hurt you and as big as your heart is and as forgiving as I know you are, I was very proud of you for telling her it was over and sticking to your guns."
feel bad though," Reilly said with a sigh.
"I know you do, honey.Give yourself time to heal.You haven't done anything wrong."
Reilly sighed and pulled Tia closer.Reluctantly, the professor filled Reilly in on what Elizabeth had talked to her about.Reilly simply listened.
"She is such a bitch," Reilly said after Tia finished, "I hope she got the message tonight because I'm going through this anymore. I don't want or need her in my life, Tia."
"I know you don't," Tia said relieved, "I hope that she doesn't take this any further, but I'm afraid Elizabeth might be right...you may have to see her face to face or possibly take some legal action."
Reilly sighed, she was so tired of dealing with this.She just wanted Maggie to leave her alone and let her get on with her life.
"I think you may be right," Reilly said and felt Tia stiffen, "But I'm not going to seek her out.If she keeps trying to call me or tries to cause trouble down at the store or anything like that, I'll face her then petition for a restraining order.God, I hope it doesn't come to that.There's been too much drama in this whole thing as it is."
Tia didn't say anything.She pushed back a little more so that her back was pressed even more tightly to Reilly's chest.The professor was scared, confused, and feeling utterly helpless.She didn't even know which emotion she was supposed to feel first.
Reilly was a bit confused herself at Tia's silence.The young woman tightened her hold around her friend's waist and, without thought, kissed the top of the dark head resting on her shoulder.
"Hey, Tia," Reilly cooed, "Are you okay?I promise things will be okay.If you're afraid Maggie will figure out where you live or how to get in touch with you, please don't worry.I'm not going to let her hurt you, Tia.I promise."
Tia let go of the tears that were threatening to fall.As she cried, Reilly held her tightly and started rocking the smaller woman.She didn't understand why Tia was crying, but it didn't matter.
"Oh, Reilly," Tia said between sobs, "I don't care what she tries to do to me, sweetheart.I just want her to leave you alone.I don't want you hurt again."
"Sh, she can't hurt me anymore," Reilly said gently, "And she won't hurt you."
Tia didn't say anything else, she simply cried.She held onto Reilly's hands as if they were her lifelines.The professor's mind was whirling with thoughts of the abuse Reilly had endured and her heart was churning with the emotions she had acknowledged.She had no idea what to feel first.
They stayed that way for several minutes.Gradually, Tia's tears subsided and she turned slightly in Reilly's arms and the younger woman cradled her like a child.After a few more minutes of silence, Reilly heard her friend's breathing go deep and even.She looked down and saw that Tia had cried herself to sleep.Very gently, Reilly disengaged Tia's grip on her and got to her knees.She picked up the small professor and rose to her feet.Slowly, she made her way to Tia's bedroom and placed her precious bundle safely on the bed.As if caring for a child, Reilly covered up her friend and stood, gazing at her friend's peaceful face.During the time that they'd been friends, Reilly had been fighting her attraction to the small professor.At first, she fought it because of Maggie, but when their relationship started to fail Reilly found it very difficult not to notice her feelings for Tia.In fact, Maggie had once accused her of having an affair with Tia.After that, Reilly was halfway convinced that her feelings for her friend were quite possibly causing part of the distance she felt for Maggie.So, she'd closed down the thoughts and feelings she'd had for Tia and concentrated instead on their friendship...which was vitally important to her.
But since she and Maggie were over, all of the defenses she'd build up to block out the emotions Tia evoked in her heart were falling down one by one.She felt safe and loved in Tia's arms, but more importantly she felt the need to make Tia feel the same way in hers.Part of her was uneasy about the fact that she was thinking about Tia that way so soon after her breakup with Maggie, but a bigger part of her heart knew that Tia had captured her a long time ago.
With a gentle kiss to her friend's forehead and a soft sigh, Reilly turned to leave the room.
"Reilly?" Tia whispered into the darkened room.
The younger woman turned and asked quietly, "Yes?"
"Stay with me," Tia replied, "Please stay with me tonight."
Reilly didn't say another word.She moved across the room to the other side of the bed and climbed beneath the covers.Tia moved across the bed and snuggled up to Reilly's left side, her head on a broad shoulder and her leg thrown across Reilly's.The pair eased into a peaceful sleep, with Reilly's arm gently holding her friend in place against her shoulder.
The next day, neither woman felt like doing much.They'd both slept later than they were used to and decided that a day of decadence was in order.Neither of them broached the subject of their conversation last night because neither thought there was a need.All day long they watched movies and talked.The younger woman took a chance and told her all the things she'd revealed to Sue the day before.Reilly held her breath when she finished telling her friend about her relationship with her mom, the experience she'd had with the counselor and had given her glossed over version of her rape and the attack.She was praying that Sue was right and that Tia would listen and offer comfort, but not pity.
Tia, true to form, expressed her anger at the events that her friend had endured and offered her a warm, safe embrace to sink into.
"Reilly, do you mind if I ask what happened?I mean, how...uh, when were you...um," Tia stammered.
Reilly took a breath and began her story.Tia watched as Reilly seemed to slip into the past and simply held her friend more tightly while she listened, almost as is she was reminding Reilly to come back to her after her trip through the past.
It was the spring of her sophomore year.Reilly had just finished up a major project that had kept her up late most nights and was ready to get out of her dorm room for a little while and spend some time with her friends.Kelsey, one of her older friends, had asked her to attend a party at her friend's house and Reilly agreed.Neither Kelsey nor Reilly drank so they figured they could just go and have a good time for a few hours.
The party was in full swing when they'd arrived at the house and both of the young women were instantly swept up into the excitement of dancing and mingling.A young man, who had introduced himself as Eric, took an interest in Reilly and kept coming back to her side after he would leave to get a drink.
As the party wound down, Reilly took an opportunity to sit down and give her feet a rest from dancing and hopefully a break from Eric's constant attention.She'd tried a number of times to get him to leave her alone, but he just hadn't gotten the message in his alcohol-induced state. Kelsey, along with the few remaining partier's were out on the porch and Reilly was glad that the music had been turned down so that she could bask in the relative silence.She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, realizing just how tired she was.
A movement next to her, caused her to open her eyes.Eric had found her again and began stroking her thigh as he tried to lean in and kiss her.
"Eric, stop," Reilly said, exasperated and removed his hand from her thigh, "I already told you that I'm not interested.Please just leave me alone."
"Come on, Reilly," Eric said, placing his hand back on her thigh, "Just relax.It's a party for goodness sake, there's no reason for you to be so serious."
Reilly removed his hand again and moved away from him, "I am very serious, Eric.Leave me alone.I'm not interested.You're drunk and need to go find a place to sleep it off."
Eric kept moving closer and she kept sliding away until she reached the end of the couch and he pinned her there.
"Just relax, Reilly.I know you want this or you would have left already," he slurred.
He pressed his body closely to hers and used his arms to pin hers in place as he started trying to kiss her neck and rub his body against hers.
Reilly struggled against his hold and in a surge of anger, threw him to the floor and jumped up, eyes blazing.
"I said, no, Eric.Leave me the fuck alone.I'm going to go find Kelsey and get the hell out of here."
Eric got to his feet and stared at her, his face contorted in anger, "What the fuck is wrong with you? Why is this such a big deal?"
"I already told you, I am not interested.I'm leaving," Reilly refused to discuss it further since it was obvious that he wasn't going to listen to her.
Eric tried to make a grab for her as she walked around the couch, but she evaded him easily and went out to the front porch where everyone else was enjoying the cool, spring evening.Kelsey begged Reilly to stay for just a few more minutes and Reilly reluctantly agreed.A half an hour later, when Kelsey was ready to go, Reilly told her friend that she needed to use the bathroom before they left.Kelsey promised that she would follow right behind her friend.
When Reilly walked back inside, there was no sign of Eric.She figured that he had finally passed out and was relieved that Kelsey was following closely behind her in case he hadn't.The young woman made her way quickly to the bathroom and closed and locked the door before tending to her business.When she finished, she stepped out of the bathroom, expecting to see Kelsey waiting for her, but instead found Eric.
Before she could scream, he grabbed and covered her mouth with his hand.Reilly struggled to get away from him, but he was too strong.He pulled her into a room directly across the hall from the bedroom and pinned her against the door once he'd closed it.
stop, please stop," Reilly pleaded as he held her in place with his body and
used his hands to grope and fondle her breasts, "Please stop, Kelsey will
be here any minute, don't do this."
Her head rocked hard to the side with the force of the slap he delivered, "Shut the fuck up.Do you think I don't know what this is about?".
He pulled her roughly to him then turned and threw her on the bed.Just as she was about to scream, he delivered a hard, violent punch to her ribs that caused a sickening crack.Reilly couldn't breathe and couldn't move because of the pain in her ribs.
She looked up with fear at the dark, evil look in his eyes and started to cry, whispering "no" and praying that he would stop.
"There were at least five other girls at this party tonight who would have let me fuck them if I'd just asked, but I wanted you and I will have you.What's wrong with you?Why are you fighting me?Maybe all those stories I heard about you were true.Maybe I should have listened to my buddy when he told me tonight that I was wasting my time because you were a dyke.Is that right, are you a dyke?"
Reilly was so scared and in so much pain that her struggles to get way and her efforts to scream were muffled.Each movement that he made to tear her clothes away sent a screaming pain through her. She continued to try to escape, but it was useless.
"You are, aren't you," Eric continued, "You're a fucking dyke.Well, I can fix that."
A painful, aching sob ripped through Reilly, bringing her back to the present.Tia held on as the larger woman shook.She, too, was crying but she didn't let go.As Reilly cried, Tia went over the story Reilly had just told her.My dear, God, the professor thought.
Reilly cried and Tia held her for almost a half an hour.When the young woman seemed to calm a bit, Tia eased back to look at her friend.Reilly looked like a scared child, wanting desperately for someone to take the pain away.Tia's heart broke once again.
"Are you okay, Rei," Tia whispered as she brushed the tears off of Reilly's flushed cheeks.
Reilly took a shuddered breath, "Yeah, I'm sorry about that."
"Oh sweetie, you don't have to be sorry for that.Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me about it."
"I do trust you, Tia," Reilly said with a small smile, "I think I trust you more than I've ever been able to trust anyone."
Tia smiled, but didn't say anything.
"Before now, only my dad and my friend Meredith knew that it happened.I told Sue about being raped, but I didn't tell her the story.I'm sorry that I unloaded that on you, but thanks for letting me tell it."
"I'm glad you did," Tia said, "But I wish that it hadn't happened."
Reilly nodded, "Me too.Afterward, I left.I didn't even wait for Kelsey.I walked back to the dorm...in a fair amount of pain...and immediately took a shower.All weekend I avoided talking to my roommate and ducked phone calls.On Monday, I was really having trouble breathing and went to the student health center.The doctor tried to get me to tell her what had happened, but I simply told her that I'd gotten hurt playing soccer.It turned out that I had cracked a rib and unfortunately just had to wait for it to heal."
"Can I ask you a question without you getting upset?"
Reilly nodded, "Did you press charges?"
The body Tia was holding went very still and tense before Reilly spoke, "No, no I didn't.I was so ashamed and so upset at the time that I just wanted to forget it.I'd heard all sorts of stories of how difficult it is to prove rape and I just didn't want to go through it.Plus, I knew that if I made a big deal out of it, that I'd have to tell the whole story.I wasn't ready for that.I was constantly getting harassed because people thought I was gay and I didn't want to have go through the scrutiny.Plus, I didn't want it to get back to my family.My mom would have blamed me for the whole thing and I couldn't face that."
"Reilly, calm down.I'm not faulting you.I've never been through something like that and I can't imagine everything that you were feeling then or what you're feeling now."
They were silent again for a few moments.
"Thanks, Tia," Reilly said, hugging her friend again.
"You're welcome," Tia responded, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I am," Reilly said with a smile.
It was fairly late in the afternoon by the time they finished talking and composed themselves.Tia suggested that they order pizza a watch a couple more movies before heading to bed.Reilly readily agreed, so they spent the rest of the evening on the couch, snuggled up together.
When it was time to go to bed, neither of them could think of a good reason to sleep together again so they bid their "goodnights" and went to their respective bedrooms.After several hours of tossing and turning, Reilly heard a hesitant knock at her door and watched as Tia opened the door and walked across the darkened room.
The moonlight shining through the window offered enough light for Reilly to see the question in her friend's eyes.With a nod, Reilly pulled back the covers moved over so Tia could climb in beside her.Just like the previous night, neither of them said word.They simply cuddled up to each other and fell asleep.
On Saturday, Reilly made a trip down to her shop to check in with her manager and best friend, Al.
TAB's was a relatively small shop located off the main street of downtown.The patio outside was rather empty because it was pretty early in the morning, but Reilly could see few patrons inside that indicated that business would pick up later.She parked her jeep after looking around for several minutes for Maggie's car then entered the store.
Even though the store appealed to a lot of younger folks and offered technology such as Internet connections for laptops, Reilly had wanted it to have an older look.The inside of the store was decorated in rich, deep colors and the walls were lined with massive, walnut colored bookshelves.In truth, it almost looked like a library, but it didn't have a forbidden, stuffy feel to it.
Different paintings and designs decorated the walls and offered a lively, energetic feel.One of Reilly's friends, who was an artist, believed heavily on the energy of colors and shapes so she had been given free reign to do whatever she wanted when Reilly had asked her help in decorating.It had, Reilly mused as she looked around, turned out very nicely.Her friend had painted designs on the wall in bold, rich colors and had added her own paintings.
Reilly stood off to the side of the front door, watching different customers browsing, visiting the coffee counter, and reading or writing at the tables scattered around the store.On a Saturday afternoon, most of the customers were her own age or older and she figured that the younger crowd would filter later that evening for open mic.
Reilly's manager, Alysha (Al for short) spotted her across the room and made a beeline for her, smiling brightly.
"Hey boss lady," she said brightly, "Where ya been, girl?"
Reilly smiled at her friend, "Hey Al, I've been around.Sorry I've been scarce this past week and haven't called in, things have been nuts."
Al looked at her seriously for a second and asked, "Reilly, what's going on?I know that smile and you should know after 5 years that it doesn't work on me.Start talking."
Al led them over to a far corner table then went to grab them both a cup of coffee. When she returned, she set a steaming mug in front of Reilly then took her seat, looking expectedly at her friend.
Reilly exhaled, "Mag and I broke up, Al."
Al nodded, "Is that what the Band-Aid on your eye is about?"
Reilly lifted a self-conscious hand to her eye, "Yeah, I haven't been back to the apartment in a week."
For the next half an hour, Reilly filled her friend in on the fight she and Maggie had and all that Tia, her dad, and Elizabeth had done for her.Al listened with rapt attention and even though she was relieved that her friend had found such wonderful people to care for her, her blood was boiling with the knowledge that Maggie, whom she'd never liked anyway, had hurt Reilly.
"Boss," Al said gently, "I'm glad you found a safe place to go.You could have come to me you know.I would have been more than happy to have you move in and you know little Forest loves his aunt Reilly."
Reilly chuckled.Al's one year old lab/German shepherd mix puppy was Reilly's buddy.The two of them tended to drive Al crazy when the wrestled and terrorized Al's two cats, but they loved each other a lot.A couple times a week, Reilly would come over after class and take Forest for a run with her.
"Well, to be honest things happened rather quickly.I mean, I think Tia scared the crap out of poor Dad when she met him in my place that day.But he was really great.Tia's been phenomenal.I still feel kind of weird living with her, but she and my dad worked it out so I really don't have any arguments left."
Al eyed her speculatively, "Well, you've told me now so I guess I can forgive you," she gently teased, "Am I gonna get to meet this good doctor?"
"At some point, yeah.I just want to be careful right now because Maggie is not getting the message.She went to the PT office the day after I walked out and ended up getting herself arrested.When she got out, she went back there to talk to Elizabeth and asked her where I was.Then, a couple of nights ago she called tried to guilt me into coming back to her."
"Reilly, Hon, forgive me but that woman is a bitch and always has been."
"I know that now," Reilly sighed, "But I can't do anything to change the past.If she becomes too much, I'll take legal action."
Al simply nodded her head and drank down the rest of her coffee.
"So, how's business been?" Reilly asked trying to change the subject.
"We're doing great.The books sell almost as well as the coffee and people have really responded to the performances on Saturdays.We've got several people lined up for tonight.You gonna make an appearance?You know they love you."
"I don't know, Al.I'm not sure what Maggie's gonna do.You know she never got into this place they way I did.She was only interested in the money I shared with her.I don't want a scene if she shows up tonight."
"If she shows her face here tonight, Reilly, you won't have to worry about her causing a scene.I'll do it myself."
"Al," Reilly implored, "Please, please promise me you won't start anything.If she shows up here, whether I'm here or not...just don't start anything and don't, I repeat don't tell her where I am.This university is not that big, I'm sure I'm going to run into her eventually.I'm not going to stop living my life in hopes of avoiding her.She's controlled me enough.I know she pushes your buttons, but just remember that despite what she thinks, I own this place so if she shows up and starts her shit, just refer her to me.I'll take care of it."
"Boss lady," Al started, "I promise you I won't tell her a thing.And I promise not to slap her silly if she starts bad mouthing you...even though you know I would take great pleasure in that.But, if she comes in here and starts making trouble with me or any of the kids we have working here, I will make a very large scene."
Sighing the taller woman agreed.
Al smiled, "Now that we have that settled, why don't you tell me the real story between you and the good doctor?"
"Al," Reilly whined, "Please don't start."Reilly wanted desperately to tell Al about her growing feeling for Tia, but was having trouble dealing with everything herself.
"Reilly," Al said snapping her fingers in front of Reilly's face, "You in there, boss?"
"Yeah, I'm here.Sorry, just thinking."
"About Tia?" Al asked with a twinkle in her eye.
Reilly sighed, "Yeah."
"Ha," Al said smiling, "I knew it.You've been wanting that woman for almost two years, Rei.I knew you'd figure it out."
"Figure what out, Al?" Reilly felt herself getting upset, "Figure out that the woman is sexy as hell?Figure out that I was wanting her while I was still with Maggie?Figure out that I've been falling hard for her?"
Al was instantly sorry.She had only meant to tease her friend, but instead she'd succeeded in making Reilly angry.
"Hey, whoa," Al said, raising her hands, "I'm sorry, okay?I didn't mean to upset you.I just...okay, look...I never liked Maggie and I never pretended that I did.When you two first got together, I was glad that you were happy despite the fact that I didn't trust her.For three years I have watched her roll over you like a tidal wave and wipe out every belief you've ever had in yourself and in love.I'm sorry that I upset you, but you can't get mad at me for being happy that you've found someone who cares about you.And from what I do know about her, she's good enough for you to care about."
At Al's heartfelt words all of the tension drained out of her, "I'm sorry, Al.I'm just a little wound up I suppose."
"You have every reason to be a little uptight right now, Rei.I'm sorry I pushed things."
"No, I'm sorry for over reacting.And I'm going to make your day and tell you that you're right...I do care for Tia very much.It scares me to death, but I think I have fallen in love with her."
Al smiled, "There's nothing wrong with that."
"But Maggie and I just broke up, Al.How fair is that...to her or to Tia?"
"You don't owe that bitch anything, Reilly," Al said, her eyes flashing, "Your relationship with her stopped being about love a long time ago.And if you were honest, you'd admit that you fell out of love with her long before you walked out last weekend."
Reilly nodded her head slowly.
"Don't run from it and don't try to understand it, Rei.If you feel something for her then just let it be."
Reilly and Al talked for a few more minutes.Her friend begged her to come in that night to sing, but Reilly said that she didn't really feel up to it.Al, every persistent agreed to let her off the hook if she promised to come in the next weekend and perform.
"Alright, Al you win.I'll sing next weekend.I'm also gonna start coming in for a few hours during the day.Since classes are over, I'm gonna go stir crazy if I don't do something until I pass my boards and start my job at the hospital."
"Fantastic," Al said with a wide grin.
Reilly promised to see her on Monday and after a hug and small kiss goodbye, Reilly walked out the door and toward her car.
When she rounded the corner to get to her car, there on the hood of her jeep sat Maggie.Reilly never faltered in her stride toward the car, but her heart felt like it was ready to jump out of her chest.She only prayed she wouldn't lose her temper.
"What do you want, Maggie," Reilly asked in a bored tone as she slipped her keys from her pocket and opened her door, "I really need to get going."
"What, not so much as a ‘hi, how have you been'?Really, honey where are your manners?" Maggie said as she slid off the hood, "I've missed you baby."
"Maggie, we went through this the other night.Leave me alone.It is over," Reilly said staring hard at her ex lover.
"Bullshit, Reilly.I refused to believe that," Maggie said and stepped into Reilly's personal space, "We can't be over.You belong with me.I don't know where you've been, but I bet I can guess.I just want you to come home.I'm sorry I hurt you...you know I didn't mean to.I would never intentionally harm that beautiful face."
Maggie tried to reach out a hand to touch the wound above Reilly's eye, but instead she found her wrist caught in a firm grip.
"Listen to me," Reilly said barely containing a growl, "Get this through your head.We are not going to get back together; I am not coming back to you.We have been over for quite some time...we both just refused to see it.Now, let me get on with my life and you do the same.You need help...help I obviously couldn't give you."
The tall woman released her hand and got in the jeep.She had just put the car in gear when Maggie knocked on the window.In frustration Reilly lowered the window.
"Reilly, you are not going to do this.I spent an extra year in this hellhole of a town to be with you and I'll be damned if I am going to just let you walk away from me.Take the time you need to get yourself back together...I'll be waiting.But don't, I repeat don't make me wait too long.You will come back to me, Reilly.You're mine."
Reilly watched as Maggie turned and walked down the street.She wanted to jump out of the car, chase her down and scream at her until her throat hurt, but she refrained.For a few moments she calmed her racing heart and controlled her breathing until she felt it was safe to drive, then pulled away from the curb.All she could think as she navigated the streets downtown was how she needed to get back to Tia.
Tia had just gotten off the phone with her mother when she heard Reilly's jeep pull into the driveway.She was surprised at the jumping of her heart and the warmth that spread through in anticipation of seeing Reilly walk through the front door.
She crossed the living room and had just gotten the door open when Reilly stepped up...arms loaded down with grocery bags and a case of soda she'd stopped to get before returning home.The young woman smiled sheepishly at her friend and allowed Tia to take some of the bags out of her hands before they entered the house.
As they put the groceries away, Tia noticed that Reilly was unusually quiet and a little withdrawn.She wondered what had happened that had upset the tall woman, but had known her student long enough to know that she would tell her when she was ready to talk.
When they were finished, Reilly announced that she was going to work out for a bit.She asked Tia if she wanted to join her, but the young doctor figured her friend needed some space and declined.Reilly headed up the stairs to change and Tia went into her office to get some work done for when she returned to work on Monday.She figured Reilly would talk to her when she was ready to talk.
"Stupid," punch, "Fucking," backhand, "Bitch!" roundhouse kick.
The bag Reilly had been working at for almost an hour swung pitifully under the relentless attack the young woman was inflicting.Reilly's entire body was humming with anger and frustration as she repeatedly punished the heavy bag.With an intensity she hadn't tapped in a long time, Reilly let the rage fuel her as she delivered punch after punch and kick after kick, hoping to cleanse herself of the dark energy flowing through her.With a final punch that sent the bag swing wildly and a sharp pain all the way up her arm.She flopped to the mat and started a series of crunches that would have made even the most seasoned gym veteran cringe.
With a strangled cry of pain, she finished her workout and lay on the mat willing her heart and breathing to slow to it's normal pace.She wasn't sure if she felt any better, but the waters of her raging emotions had finally receded and she felt calm once again.
Her mind cleared enough for her to think about her unexpected meeting with Maggie and instead of anger, this time she felt only confusion and small amount of fear.She knew that she would never again fall under Maggie's control, but she couldn't help but think that Maggie would do something crazy to herself or to someone she cared about just to make the point that Reilly would never be rid of her.Although it seemed rather dramatic and farfetched, she couldn't help but think that there was some real meaning behind Maggie's threats and that she should take them seriously.
The hot, sweaty woman sat up and brought her knees to her chest as she thought about how seriously she should take her ex-girlfriends words.She knew Maggie wouldn't dare mess with her family, but that Al and the store were certainly vulnerable.Reilly also concluded that she wouldn't try anything again at school seeing as how Elizabeth had already arrested her.The only other person that Reilly thought could be in danger if Maggie ever found out about was...
"Shit, Tia!" Reilly exclaimed, her brown eyes widening, "Damnit, she probably thinks I've gone nuts or something.I just blew her off when I got home, damnit!" she said out loud then jumped up and headed upstairs.
Tia was still in her office when Reilly knocked hesitantly on the door.Before she called out, the professor reminded herself not to push the issue of her friend's silence.
"Come on in, Reilly," Tia forced a smile to her face as Reilly entered.
Pushing anything other than Reilly to the nearby couch and ravaging her was the furthest thing from Tia's mind when she caught sight of the long, lean, glistening muscular body coming through her door.Reilly was wearing a gray sports bra that had been soaked through with sweat and a pair of white cotton shorts that clung to her moist body, thus setting off strong muscular thighs.A flat, wash board abdomen was the most intriguing and Tia mentally kicked herself for staring.She followed those abs to the sweat soaked bra and hastily moved past firm, proud breasts that made her own ache to be touched andstrong, tight arms flowed easily into the broad shoulders.
After her hasty appraisal, Tia looked up to find Reilly grinning sheepishly.To the professor's eyes, she looked absolutely adorable with her dark hair plastered to her head and her soft eyes staring at her apologetically.
"Have a good workout?" Tia asked with a shaky voice.
"Yeah," Reilly replied then crossed the room to stand on the opposite side of Tia's desk, "Tia, I'm sorry.I just had to work off some steam.I didn't mean to blow you off when I got home."
"It's okay," the professor replied, "I was a little worried about you, but I figured if you felt like talking about whatever it was that had you so upset that you'd come to me when you were ready.And, for the record, you don't have to run everything by me.This is your house now too.If you feel like working out, go work out.If you need to get out of here for a while, go.It's okay, really."
Reilly sighed, "I'm still sorry."
"And the apology, though not necessary, is accepted.If you want to talk, I'll listen."
"It's not that big a deal, really.Well, yeah, I guess it is.I ran into Maggie today after I left the store.We, uh, kind of had words before I came home.I guess it just really rocked me."
Reilly filled her friend in on the conversation between herself and Maggie.Tia listened in silence while her anger steadily increased.She couldn't believe that Maggie had the audacity to approach Reilly at all after what she'd done, but to threaten her on top of that in hopes of getting her back was just plain idiotic in her book.
Reilly finished the story and waited to see what Tia would say.She thought her friend might be disappointed in her for not being able to deal with it better, but to her surprise Tia walked up to her and hugged her tightly...sweaty body and all.
"I'm sorry, Reilly.I know this is hard for you and she doesn't seem to help matters much.Though, I don't guess she would," Tia said breaking the embrace.
"No, she isn't making it easy and no I didn't expect her to.She's got this warped idea that since I put up with her shit for so long that I can just continue to put up with it and things can remain status quo.But, I think I've learned that I can't do that.She's just going to have to get over that."
"So," Tia said trying to change the subject, "Other than that, how was your visit to the shop?Everything okay?"
Reilly grinned, "Yeah, everything's running smoothly.Al, was there and I filled her in on everything.On one hand she's pissed as hell at Maggie which isn't surprising because they only tolerated each other because of me, but on the other hand she happy that I got out and that I've got such wonderful people looking after me."
Tia blushed at that and Reilly continued, "I told her about me staying here that if she needed to get in touch with me that she could page me or try the cell because I didn't want to give your number away.I trust her with my life, but she'd have to write the number down and some of the people at the shop might see it and give it to Maggie if she were to ask."
"I'm not worried about that," Tia replied honestly, "But do you think that Maggie will try to start trouble at the shop?"
"I honestly have no idea.I'm pretty sure she'll steer clear simply because she hates Al and won't want to risk getting throttled if she showed up.However, she is showing an awful lot of nerve lately, so she might just be froggy enough to try to get information out of Al.If that happens, I'm gonna have to take out a loan to bail Al out of jail."
They both laughed at that.The professor decided that she really wanted to meet Reilly's friend because she sounded like a very good person.
"Well, we'll just play it by ear.For your sake, I hope she gets the hint soon," Tia said.
"I hope so, too.But if she continues to harass me or even considers harassing any of my friends, I'll have to take some legal action.I doubt a restraining order will stop her if she really decides to be a bitch, but at least I'll have the police on my side if she gets nasty."
"I sincerely hope it doesn't come to that.I mean, I think that getting the police involved would be a good move, I just hope it doesn't come after the fact."
Reilly nodded at her friend.The two sat chatting for a few more minutes, then Reilly left to take a shower and get cleaned up while Tia made lunch.The pair spent the rest of the day taking care of some household chores and chatting amiably.Reilly was still a little restless so the activity did her a world of good.
Later in the evening after a leisurely dinner, once again they retired to Tia's office.Reilly spread out her books and notes so she could study while Tia continued to work on her lesson plans for the upcoming week.
On Sunday, Reilly had just put the lasagna in the oven when she saw the Walker's car pull into the driveway.She smiled as Matt got out and went to open the door for his wife, then reach into the back seat to retrieve a few covered dishes.The older couple then linked elbows and walked up to the house.
All four of them sat in the kitchen, the older couple idly sipping their wine and chatting while Tia and Reilly finished making dinner.The group sat down to eat, everyone complimenting Reilly on her cooking.The evening was filled with light hearted conversation, good food, and wonderful company.
After they cleaned up, Tia and Matt once again excused themselves so Reilly and Sue could have a talk.The young woman led Sue to Tia's study where they again sipped their coffee and chatted.
"Tell me about Maggie," Sue said, watching Reilly stiffen slightly.
"I'm not being flippant, but what do you want to know?" Reilly asked.
"Whatever you want to tell me," Sue responded, "If you need me to be more specific, I'd like to know how you two got together and what happened during your relationship that led up to last week's fight."
"Oh, is that all," Reilly said with a small chuckle.
Sue smiled, but said nothing.
"Well, I met Maggie during my senior year.We were introduced through a friend of mine.I knew through our friend that she wasn't gay, but the first night we met it was...wow," Reilly said with a fond look in her eyes, "We sat there at a little table in the student union and talked for hours.I'd never seen eyes like hers and I'd never felt so comfortable with anyone.I remember asking my friend later if she was sure that Maggie wasn't gay because was I ever smitten with her."
Sue chuckled along with her and waited for her to continue.
"After that, I didn't see her again until the following Monday.I was supposed to be giving a presentation on sexual assault and rape for this athletic coaching class.When I walked in and took my place at the front of the class I looked out at everyone and there, two rows back was Maggie.I gave my presentation and told the story of how I'd been raped while the class listened.During my speech and the question and answer session that followed, I kept looking at Maggie.When I finished, I noticed there were tears streaming down her face.The professor dismissed the class and out in the hallway she threw her arms around me and hugged me.We went out for coffee and she told me that she was crying because she knew that I wouldn't...not while I was up there in front of those people.I think that was when I realized that I could fall in love with her."
Reilly paused to take a sip of her coffee, "We started spending a lot of time together.We'd go for really long hikes or rides in the car late at night.Every second we spent together we became better friends.I let her see pieces of me that I hadn't let anyone see in a very long time...maybe never.Anyway, she knew that I was gay and that I'd never really dated another woman and she made it clear that she wasn't interested in me like that.At the time I accepted that, I was just thankful that I had a friend like her.A couple of months passed and Thanksgiving break rolled around.I went home and she went off to New York.The whole week I fell asleep thinking about her from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep then I would meet her in my dreams.When I got back to school, I took my courage in both hands and told her that I'd fallen in love with her."
Sue's eyes widened in surprise, "What did she say?"
Reilly chuckled, "Well, at first she didn't say much, but after a few seconds she smiled at me, told me she was flattered but that she didn't feel the same way."
"Ouch," Sue stated, "What happened then?"
"I told her that I completely understood, but that I couldn't go on pretending that I didn't feel anything other than friendship for her.We continued on as the best of friends, but the tension I'd been feeling was gone because I'd told her how I felt.Everything was fine until her roommate, Christine, got a bug up her ass because of all the time we spent together and asked Maggie if she and I were seeing each other.Maggie freaked and by the end of Christmas break, she was dating her old boyfriend again.To be honest, it hurt that she went back to him simply because Christine suggested that she was dating me.But, I accepted it and told her that things were okay with us...and they were until we got back to school."
Reilly paused again.Sue was listening with rapt attention and fascination, "Are you sure you want to hear all this?" Reilly asked.
Sue blinked then replied, "Of course...you can't stop now."
Both women chuckled and after taking another sip of her coffee Reilly continued.
"I came back to campus about a week before classes we scheduled to begin.Maggie was still at home and my roommate was still out of town, so I looked up my friend Chris and went over to his house because he was having a party.I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I drank a little more than I was supposed to, but I trusted Chris with my life so I knew I'd be okay. Maggie called me on my cell phone while I was over there.I told her where I was and that I was having a good time and that I missed her.She asked me if I was drinking...she sounded really angry.I told her that I'd had a few drinks, but that I had cut myself off and switched to water.She got really upset and started lecturing me, then she said, ‘I can't believe you would be that irresponsible.Have you forgotten what happened the last time you went to a party where people were drinking?'.God, I was so mad at her.I told her that it was none of her business and to go back to her boyfriend and let me worry about my life.I hung up the phone and went home."
"Jesus," Sue whispered.
"Yeah, it was pretty intense," Reilly agreed, "The next day she called me and we got into a huge fight.She told me that she'd told her asshole, redneck boyfriend that I was gay and that I had feelings for her.Apparently he took exception to that and told Maggie that if I ever touched her that he'd kill me.I asked her why she told him when it was none of his business and she said that she didn't want to feel like she was lying to him.It didn't make any sense to me at the time and it doesn't make sense to me now, but that's just how she is.I asked her if she had told anyone else...she had.She'd told all of our friends because she didn't think it was a big deal.That sent me over the top...I told her that she was wrong to tell her boyfriend and all of our friends.I told her that I'd trusted her and that she'd betrayed me in the worst way.I wasn't ready for everyone to know that I was gay.I mean, most of them had figured it out anyway, but still it should have been my decision...not hers.After that, we didn't talk for two months.Everytime I saw her in class, I'd avoid her and I constantly ducked her phone calls.One night I was studying in my room with my friend Rance when my roommate told me that Maggie was on the phone.I waved it off and she went to deliver the message.She came back down a few minutes later and told me that Maggie had been in a car accident and wanted me to come over.I asked Rance to go over there with me and the two of us jumped in the car.When I got there, I brushed right past Christine and into Maggie's bedroom where I found her laying on her bed in the dark.When she saw me in the doorway, she sat up and smiled.I went over to the bed and knelt.I asked her if she was okay then took her into my arms and held her.We both cried and said we were sorry for the stupid fight we'd had. After that night, we started rebuilding our friendship again.She was still with her boyfriend, but things started to change.By the end of the semester, we had both acknowledged a mutual attraction and had even kissed a few times, but the reality was that I was going home for the summer and she was still seeing her boyfriend."
"You kissed?" Sue asked before she could stop the question from slipping out.
Reilly laughed, "Yeah, we did. It was after a party at work."
"Wow," Sue stated.
"Uh huh," Reilly agreed, "Anyway, at the end of June, Maggie broke up with her boyfriend and I was seeing someone at home.At the end of the summer, about two weeks before school started, a bunch of us went on vacation for a few days to the beach.I was still sort of seeing the woman in Charleston, but Maggie took that particular opportunity to tell me that she was in love with me.I swear I almost swallowed my tongue when she did that.She knew I was seeing the woman from home and that she had planned to come up to campus for a few days before classes started, but Maggie said that she had to tell me.To make this long story even longer, Maggie came over to my apartment the day before Annie was supposed to come up.I couldn't stand the tension anymore and asked her flat out if she would want to be with me if Annie wasn't in the picture.I know I was an ass and not being fair to Annie, but I hadn't stopped loving Mags.She told me she would and we kissed to seal the deal. The next day I told Annie.She slapped me, which I deserved and went back home...Mags and I stayed together."
Reilly finished her story and Sue just looked at her, not really knowing what to say.
"Um, I ...wow," Sue stuttered, "That's a hell of story."
"Yes, it is.For the first year, we were inseparable and sickeningly sweet.It took us a while to get going, but once we did we just couldn't get enough of each other.And I turned into the biggest ball of mush you've ever seen.I'd see a flower I thought she'd like and buy it for her.I'd think of her and end up writing the sappiest poetry you've ever heard.I was whipped and not ashamed to admit it.That first year together was wonderful.We lived in separate apartments, but she stayed with me almost every night of the week.Some days we'd stay in bed and listen to the rain outside.My whole world centered on her.I felt attractive, sexy, and incredibly alive.I thought I'd found everything that I'd ever need in my life."
Reilly's eyes began to tear up and Sue moved next to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
"The next summer I was headed home again like I always did.I wasn't happy about leaving Maggie, but I had just gotten accepted to PT school and I was nervous as hell.I needed to go home and work at the clinic I'd worked at since I was 14 so that I could gain the confidence to do my best in PT school.Maggie didn't understand.She cried for weeks before summer started and begged me not to go.I promised her that I would come back to campus every other weekend and that I'd call her every night, but she still wasn't happy.I went home anyway, hoping that she'd see that it would all work out.Well she didn't.She changed that summer.Every night I talked to her she laid a guilt trip wider than the Grand Canyon on me.When I went up to see her, every other weekend like I promised...she looked so gaunt and tired.She told me that she wasn't eating well at all at that she didn't get more than a few hours of sleep a night.I was really worried about her.About a month before summer ended, I got a call at work from her mother.Maggie had passed out and hit her head on the front stoop of our apartment.I completely freaked.I told my boss that I was going back to school early and left the next day to be with her.The doctor had told her that she passed out because of malnutrition, dehydration and stress.I felt like such a bitch.And that's when things really started to change.For the next two years I was constantly paying restitution for leaving her.Every time we got into an argument or she would come home and start her shit she'd remind me that it was my fault that she'd gotten so sick.I loved her so much that I believed her.I strove to make her happy and to make up for leaving her.I was miserable, but she kept telling me how much she needed me and depended on me so I stayed.I blew off almost all of my friends because she got so jealous anytime one of them would call me or want to go do something.I was a prisoner, in a cell of my own making...or so I thought.In truth, I was a glorified roommate and servant.Anything she wanted, whenever she wanted it.I just felt so damn guilty and I kept telling myself that I loved her enough to stick by her until things got better.Well, I stuck by her and almost completely lost myself in the process."
Sue cleared her throat.The older woman was having a tough time wrapping her brain around the thought that the strong, confident woman sitting in front of her could ever play the submissive role to anyone.
"Can I ask you a very personal question?" Sue asked.
"Of course," Reilly said with a little more confidence than she felt.
"Well, actually it's more like several questions," Sue said and Reilly nodded her agreement, "Do you still think that Maggie's change of attitude is your fault?"
Reilly seemed to consider the question for just a few moments before she answered, "There are two answers to that question...the part of me that loved her and still does to some degree feels very much responsible.I just couldn't stand the idea that she'd just let herself go and endanger her health because I wasn't there.However, another part of me, the sensible part, knows that I was not responsible in the least.I mean, no matter how much I loved her I was still my own person and she should have been too.I missed her like crazy while I was gone, but I didn't choose to cease functioning just because I wasn't with her.She should have been able to do that, too.Does that make sense?"
Sue nodded and said, "It makes perfect sense.In fact, the sensible part of you is absolutely correct...you just saved me the task of lecturing you on it."
"My next question may be a little more difficult to answer so feel free to tell me it's none of my business."
Again, Reilly just nodded her head.
"What were you afraid of?" Sue asked bluntly, "Was she threatening you or threatening to harm herself if you left her?"
Reilly's face grew very serious, "She never threatened me, but yes she did threaten to harm herself...even more so than she had over the summer if I ever tried to leave her.I didn't have the guts to find out if she was serious about that."
"Is that the main reason you didn't leave before?" Sue asked gently.
"Again, not an easy answer," Reilly stated, "Yes, I was afraid of what she might do to herself.Whenever we'd have an argument and I'd tell her that I couldn't take much more of her shit she'd tell me that couldn't and wouldn't live without me.That's a very scary thing to hear.But that's not the only reason...Maggie was the first person, besides my dad that ever loved me just for who I am.When we first met, she used to tell me how intelligent I was, how talented I was and how attractive she thought I was.She held me and let me hold her.After I was raped, I'd promised myself that nobody was ever going to get close enough to me again because I didn't feel like I was worthy of anyone else's love.But Maggie made me feel worthy.She's the only person I've ever made love to...that bastard took my innocence, but I gave my heart and body willingly to her."
Sue closed her eyes and sighed at Reilly's last statement.The counselor couldn't believe how much the young woman had endured.
"How do you feel about Maggie now?" Sue asked.
"I love the woman I met three years ago, not the woman I left last weekend.I won't ever go back to her.I've learned my lesson."
"I'm sorry, Reilly," Sue said gently, "I had no idea how long all of this had gone on.Did she ever abuse you physically?"
Reilly sighed, "Although the scars indicate the contrary, no she never did.The cut on cheek and the one above my eyes were unintentional and the results of her throwing something and it subsequently hitting me.The first time it was a jar that shattered on the wall next to me and this second time, she threw a cell phone that bounced off the floor and caught me in the face."
"Did she ever abuse you sexually?" Sue asked very quietly.
Reilly blushed a deep crimson and her eyes brimmed with tears, "I...I don't really know how to answer that, Sue."
Sue nodded, "That's okay, maybe we can talk about it some other time if you need to."
"Thank you," Reilly said quietly, trying to get her composure back.
"Well, I'm not really sure that there is anything I can say right now," Sue stated, "You don't really seem confused about any of your decisions...is there anything you want to ask me?Anything I can help with right now?"
"To tell you the truth, it just feels good to unload some of this with someone who wasn't involved in any of it.My friends, the ones that Maggie didn't stop me from seeing or speaking to, care too much about me and would go completely over the top if they knew about a lot of this stuff.I do want your opinion on something, though."
Sue cocked her head to the side, inviting Reilly to ask whatever she liked.
"Do you think I was stupid to stay as long as I did?" Reilly asked quietly.
"No," Sue said immediately, "I don't think you are stupid at all.I think you were manipulated, very thoroughly and that Maggie took advantage of your vulnerability and your love.You sat here and told me that you recognize what she did and how you responded to it.I don't think that it is stupid to want someone to love you or to love someone else.Unfortunately, Maggie took advantage of that and of you.I believe that you have some issues with letting people close to you...and understandably so and I think that your ex-girlfriend has some serious control and self-esteem issues that she really needs to address."
"I don't think that I'm totally blameless in all of this, Sue," Reilly admitted quietly, "I keep thinking that I should have known better and gotten out of it long before I did.It wasn't healthy and I knew it, but I just couldn't bring myself to leave.I think that realization pisses me off more than anything else."
"I don't doubt it," Sue said with a small smile, "You are an intelligent, capable woman.You love with your whole heart, but still you guard it well.With Maggie you let that guard down because you trusted her.I'll admit that what you told me about your first year together sounded very special and very romantic.The problem was, that Maggie became too dependent on you for everything thing in her life...she couldn't separate herself from the way that you made her feel so she identified with you.You on the other hand, were your own person and could have and will make it without her, but you had trusted her with your heart.I think one of the big problems with that was that you thought she wouldn't break it when you started out and you didn't like knowing that you had been wrong."
Reilly nodded, "You're right, I don't like thinking that I had been wrong about her.And right now, I don't know if I'll ever trust my judgment in that arena ever again."
Sue hugged the younger woman again then sat back and tilted Reilly's chin up so that the younger woman could look her in the eye, "You will, Reilly I promise you will be able to trust that judgment.It may take a little time, though."
"You are very welcome, sweetheart."
Reilly and Sue left the office and went in search of Tia and Matt.It was very late, so the older couple said their goodnights and headed home.Tia and Reilly were both exhausted so they each headed to their own bedrooms to get some sleep.The younger of the two was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow...giving into the emotional exhaustion that her talk with Sue had caused.Tia on the other hand, spent several hours tossing fitfully in her bed.She wanted desperately to know what her aunt and Reilly had discussed that had left her friend looking so wiped out.With a sigh, she rolled onto her stomach and gathered her pillow under head.She let her thoughts drift to the nights she had slept next to the younger woman and found herself smiling as visions of the two of them together flashed through her head.Tia held onto those images as she closed her eyes.Her last conscious thought was of Reilly holding her in strong arms as she drifted off to sleep.