For complete disclaimers, please see part 1.
I'm really sorry that it took me so long to get this update finished and posted. One of my classes (spell that Organic Chemistry) is really kicking my butt so I had to spend more time studying for the test I just had. Anyway, since it took me so long, I went ahead and posted parts 3 and 4. I'm not even going to attempt to tell you when the next installment will be up, but I do promise that it will be soon. Thanks for your patience and for taking this ride with me. Part 3 contains a few surprises, but I don't think it is as emotionally charged as the previous installments have been. I hope you like it and if anyone has any suggestions, please don't hesitate to email me. I love getting feedback.
The next few weeks passed without any major incidents. Reilly began working at the bookstore like she'd promised Al and Tia went back to work. At night the pair would work out together then fix dinner before settling down in the living room or Tia's office to talk or work. The young woman continued her counseling sessions with Sue and both of them had agreed that the young woman was definitely recovering.
Reilly's eye had completely healed and her vision returned to normal. When she had to read for a while, she'd get a headache, but Matt had assured her that it was normal and would fade with time.
With Tia's help, the wounds on Reilly's heart also began to mend. The pair deepened the bond of their friendship as well as the feelings they had for each other. Both women had taken the advice of their respective friends and didn't try to fight their emotions. Neither had mentioned anything to the other, but it was obvious that their relationship was changing.
When the weekend of Independence Day rolled around, both Reilly and Tia were ready to have some fun. The bookstore was hosting a July 4th party and Reilly invited Tia to attend. The small professor was thrilled that her friend was willing to get back into her life and readily accepted. Reilly and Tia made plans to head down to the river to see the town's fireworks' display then go over to the store for the party afterward. It took some heavy begging from both Al and Tia to get Reilly to bring her guitar with her, but the young woman had grudgingly agreed when Tia turned her impossibly blue eyes on her and simply said, "Please."
At around ten o'clock, Tia and Reilly were sitting on a small hill overlooking the river. Below them, they saw several people crowding the bank in anticipation of the light display. The smaller of the two was resting her back against the broad chest behind her. Reilly's hands were wrapped around Tia's waist, with Tia's hands resting on her bent knees. The small professor was wearing a light jacket over a thin, tight tank top and a pair khaki colored Capri pants. Reilly was wearing a pair of loose fitting jeans and a tight, white t-shirt. They chatted quietly while they waited for the fireworks to begin, both completely relaxed and content.
At one point, Tia turned in Reilly's embrace to ask her a question, but the words died on her lips as she looked at the beautiful, youthful face of the woman she loved. Reilly was looking up at the clear sky, tracing the patterns of stars with her eyes. The young woman seemed completely enthralled.
"What are you doing?" Tia asked quietly.
"Looking at the stars," Reilly replied, keeping her face turned skyward.
Tia tried to tilt her head back to look, but was hindered by Reilly's shoulder. The younger woman didn't say a word, but gently moved from behind Tia and laid back, pulling Tia down with her. The small professor leaned her head back against Reilly's shoulder and stared up as well.
For several minutes they were both quiet. When Reilly finally spoke, her voice was low, almost a whisper.
"When I was a kid," Reilly began, "My great-grandfather and I used to sit out in his yard at night and look up at the stars. I don't remember many of them now, but when I was younger I knew the shape and names of all the constellations in any given season. I used to love looking at the stars."
Tia smiled at how young her friend sounded, "It sounds very special."
"It was. Not just because I was spending time with him…which I loved, but just being able to see them. When I was a kid, I used to want to be an astronomer. I loved looking at them and wanted to know everything I could."
"Why didn't you? I mean, you're certainly gifted enough in math and physics…I'm sure you would have made a wonderful scientist."
Reilly sighed, "Yeah, but that was the problem. You know how much I love to read right?"
She felt Tia nod, "Well, when I was younger I was even worse than I am now. When I got interested in something I read everything I could get my hands on. I read every encyclopedia, book, magazine and story I could get my hands on about stars. I would spend hours out on our deck just looking at them. I kept that up for about a year."
Tia rolled to her side and propped her chin on Reilly's chest, "Did you lose interest?"
Reilly shook her head, "No, I didn't lose interest. In fact, I was more interested than ever, but I just couldn't bring myself to read anymore."
"Well, like you said I would have had to be a scientist. The stuff that I was reading was all math and physics and gases and distances and stuff like that. It just didn't go with the pictures of the stars I had in my mind or what I saw at night. They were just so pretty. To me, they didn't just look like balls of gas that were millions of light years away. To learn so much about them was taking away from the beauty that I saw. So, I quit reading about what they were, how they got there or what they were doing. I just sat on my deck or in my great-grandfather's yard and just looked."
"That's beautiful, Rei," Tia said sincerely.
"Some of it still fascinates me, I'll admit. It think it is amazing that what we're looking at right now could have ceased to exist a thousand years ago, but we're still enjoying it's right now. Wanna hear something kind of corny?"
Tia chuckled, "Nothing you have ever told me is corny, but go ahead."
"I every time I hear on the news that we are making such big strides towards being able to reach outer space, I have to laugh because I think that when the stars come out they are twinkling almost like their mocking our efforts because they know that we'll never figure it out."
"You know," she said when she calmed a bit, "I think you may be right. You really do have a unique way of looking at things. It's incredibly endearing, but a bit of a surprise."
Reilly rolled her head to the side to look at Tia, "Why is it a surprise?"
"It's not a bad thing, sweetheart," Tia said while rubbing her hand across Reilly's flat abdomen, "It's just that it's not often that you find someone who is as smart as you are when it come s to things like math, physics, and other concrete sciences who also has such a wonderful imagination and appreciation for the abstract. I think it is one of the things that I love most about you."
Tia snapped her mouth shut with an audible click as she realized what she'd just said. She felt Reilly's body go very still and silently hoped that Reilly wasn't upset at what she'd just said.
"Thank you, Tia," Reilly said after a few moments of uncomfortable silence. The younger woman wanted desperately to tell her friend that she loved her too, but didn't think that Tia had meant it like that.
"You're welcome," Tia said quietly, secretly grateful that Reilly didn't say anything more.
Tia stayed where she was, simply gazing into Reilly's eyes. The younger woman reached her hand up to gently stroke Tia's cheek and smiled when the professor closed her eyes and leaned into the touch. Both women felt like their hearts would jump right out of their chests and Reilly almost stopped breathing when Tia covered the hand on her cheek with her own and started to lean toward her.
Tia had no idea what she was doing and didn't really care to try and figure it out. She leaned closer and closer until she and Reilly were almost sharing the same air. Their eyes locked and both could see a small amount of fear and a healthy dose of anticipation burning in the other's gaze. Reilly raised her head slowly to meet Tia's and just before their lips touched a loud boom and an explosion of color rocked the sky above them causing both of them to jump. The spell that had held them just a few moments ago was broken and with shy smiles they resumed their seated positions to enjoy the colorful display. Tia sat between Reilly's legs once again and tried desperately to calm her racing heart. Unbeknownst to the smaller woman, Reilly was doing the same thing, but wearing a grin a mile wide.
After the grand finale, the two women made their way back to Reilly's jeep and headed to the bookstore. The party was already in full swing when the pair arrived. After securing her guitar behind the coffee counter and greeting several of her employees, Reilly led Tia through the crowd toward the stage so she could meet Al.
As they made their way through the crowd, Tia tried to take in the scene. She'd never been down to the bookstore and was a bit disappointed that the throng of people prevented her from really appreciating the look of the place. Due to the performances, the lights had been turned down so the professor couldn't really make out anything regarding color or decorations. Toward the left side of the store, Tia could see the doors of the patio which had been opened to allow some of the night breeze to filter through.
Finally, they made it to the stage and Reilly motioned for Tia to be quiet. The professor grinned and nodded her assent. She watched her friend move silently and stealthily toward another woman whose back was to them. The professor almost burst out laughing at the evil grin Reilly shot her before she reached out and grabbed the unsuspecting woman from behind and lifted her completely off her feet, spinning her in a circle.
"Ah," Al yelped in surprise as she was yanked off her feet.
Reilly set her back down and spun her around to give her a very loud, but very chaste kiss right on the lips.
The look on Al's face was one of shock, frustration, and embarrassment. When her brain finally realized who was standing in front of her, she smacked Reilly smartly on the shoulder then placed her hands on her hips.
"Shit, Boss," Al exclaimed loudly, "You scared the living hell out of me. Don't you know that you could kill someone scaring them like that?"
Reilly laughed, "Oh come on, Al. You've got a good twenty years or so to go before you're even near those danger years."
The two friends laughed and hugged each other tightly.
"Glad you could make it," Al said sincerely as she released her friend.
"Al, don't act like you're surprised I'm here. You threatened me, remember?"
"I did no such thing," Al said with a touch of indignation.
"Oh yes you did," Reilly argued, "You said, and I quote, ‘Boss, if you don't get your cute little ass out here on Saturday I'm gonna call Sara'. What part of that is not a threat?"
"Oh, are you afraid of my girlfriend?" Al asked mockingly.
"Yes and so are you. You know as well as I do she'd come up here and kick my ass from here to next Thursday if she thought I was being stupid."
The friends glared playfully at each other for a moment then burst out laughing. Al's eyes went to Tia, who was standing behind Reilly with a huge grin on her face.
"I'm gonna have to call her and tell her that you are being rude if you don't introduce me to this lovely woman standing behind you," Al said, motioning toward the professor.
Reilly grinned and held out her hand for Tia , who willingly accepted it, "Al, this is my friend and roommate, Tia. Tia, this is Al, the manager and my best friend."
Tia released Reilly's hand and held it out in greeting, "It's nice to meet you, Al. Reilly's told me a lot about you."
"And you still think it's nice to meet me?" Al said teasingly, "Damn, she must not have told you the good stuff."
Tia and Reilly both laughed as Al approached the small professor and enveloped her in a warm hug.
When they separated Al said, "It's nice to meet you too, Tia. Thanks for taking such good care of my buddy over there. She couldn't keep her head attached to her neck if Sara and I didn't keep it fastened there. Thanks for giving us some help."
Tia smiled and replied, "You are very welcome. She's stubborn as hell, but I think I can handle her."
"Hey," Reilly shouted in mock anger, "I am standing right here ya know."
Tia and Al both laughed at their friend. Reilly held her frown for only a few seconds before joining in the mirth then excused herself to go get them all a drink.
When Reilly was out of earshot, Al once again hugged Tia and whispered in her ear, "Thank you so much for helping her, Tia. You don't know how much I appreciate you looking after her."
Tia returned the hug and said, "It really was my pleasure, Al. I care about her very much."
Al pulled away from Tia and looked seriously into her eyes. Tia was momentarily embarrassed at the scrutiny, but lifted her chin and let her love for Reilly shine in her brilliant blue eyes.
Al saw it and nodded. A silent understanding passed between them and they both smiled.
Reilly came back with three bottles of water and her guitar slung over her shoulder. She handed out the drinks, winked at Tia, then turned to Al.
"Alright you troublemaker, what do you say we get this party started?"
Al's eyes lit up, "You got it, Boss. The sound system is already set up and we've got some other people already lined up to sing. You gonna start it off?"
"I'm not carrying this thing as a fashion statement, Al" Reilly said, indicating her guitar, "Let's go."
The two friends excused themselves and Tia found a seat near the front of the stage. She was excited at the prospect of seeing her friend perform. Sure, she'd heard Reilly sing along with the radio, but she'd never seen her friend play or sing by herself. She was thrilled.
Reilly climbed up on the stage and tapped the microphone a few times to get everyone's attention. The crowd immediately quieted and turned toward the stage.
"Happy Fourth of July, everybody," Reilly said into the microphone. Everyone answered her with the same sentiment, but at a much higher volume.
Reilly smiled and sat down on the stool Al had placed next to her before addressing the crowd again, "I want to thank everyone for coming out tonight. From what Al tells me, we've got plenty of drinks and plenty of entertainment to keep you all busy for a while."
The crowd laughed and Reilly continued, "I'm gonna get us started tonight then I'll turn the stage over to the real talent so let's get going. I promise I'll take a request or two before I finish, but let's start this out with a song to celebrate the day…I want to hear all of you on this one."
Reilly plucked out the chords of a familiar, patriotic tune and soon the whole bar was singing of how they were proud to be American's. When the song finished, everyone cheered. Tia was amazed to see how well Reilly worked the crowd. She thought back to comment she'd made earlier about how versatile Reilly was and realized that there was much more to Reilly Fredericks than she typically let people see.
When the crowd settled down, Reilly adjusted herself on the stool and directed her gaze at Tia. With a grin and a brief wink, she spoke.
"Good job, everyone," she praised the crowd, "Now, I'm only going to do a few songs tonight and I'm gonna start by asking that lovely woman right over there to make a request."
Tia's eyes grew round and wide as Reilly looked right at her. The devilish grin her friend was giving her made her blush, but she wasn't about to let Reilly get the best of her.
The small professor thought for just a moment then gave Reilly a grin of her own before making her request, "Anything but country," Tia stated loudly.
Reilly along with the rest of crowd burst out laughing. The younger woman nodded at her friend then titled her head to side, as if considering what she should play.
"Well, the lady doesn't want anything country so we'll go with the next best thing."
Reilly's fingers seemed to fly across the guitar strings as she began playing a very familiar yet very fast tune. The crowd immediately recognized it and gave her a quick cheer before she started singing.
Tia smiled and listened intently to the rich alto of Reilly's voice. She closed her eyes and let the sound wash over like the flow of water warmed by rays of the sun. The professor didn't pay much attention to the words, but loved the fast beat. She opened her eyes and laughed as she watched Reilly pace back and forth on the stage, strumming her guitar furiously and generally putting on show. When the song ended everyone, including Tia jumped to their feet and applauded the young woman on stage. Someone else made a request and after taking a sip of water, Reilly once again sang.
After about twenty minutes and four songs, Reilly announced that she would sing just one more song then let someone else have a turn. Unlike the other four, which had been upbeat, her final song of the evening start out slow and soft. Tia noticed that Reilly had closed her eyes as she plucked out the beginning notes and decided to listen intently to the words as well as the voice.
He said it's a long road you've begun.
Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's hard
But as you walk the road, remember who you are.
You've got to roll with the punches, you've go to aim to hit the mark
You've got to follow your hunches and try to finish what you start.
And when you come to the crossroads and you're deciding in the dark
You've got to listen to the whisper of your heart.
He said make it a practice, to be true.
‘Cause when push comes down to shove it's up to you
To keep believing in your dreams.
And to sing a song if you've got a song to sing.
You've got to roll with the punches
You've go to aim to hit the mark.
You've got to follow you're hunches
And try to finish what you start.
And when you come to the crossroads and you're deciding in the dark.
You've got to listen to the whisper of your heart.
The years have come,
The years have gone.
Yes and I have learned some lessons on my own.
I found the winds of fortune, are sure to change.
But the wisdom in these words will stay the same.
You've got to roll with the punches
You've got to aim to hit the mark.
You've got to follow your hunches
And try to finish what you start.
And when you come to the crossroads and you're deciding in the dark
You've got to listen to the whisper of your heart.
You've got to listen to the whisper of your heart.
Reilly finished the final chords and when she stopped, she opened her eyes and smiled at the people standing and applauding her. Tia hastily wiped the tears from her eyes and clapped right along with everyone else. Reilly thanked everyone again and stepped off the stage. Al took her guitar to place it behind the bar and Tia walked quickly to her friend and wrapped her arms around the broad shoulders, giving her a big hug.
"You were amazing," Tia said happily as she stepped out of the embrace, "I knew you could sing well but that was awesome."
Reilly smiled broadly, "Why thank you, my dear."
The two women found Al again and sat down at Tia's table to listen to the other acts perform and talk a little bit. After a couple more hours, Reilly looked at her watch and noticed that it was getting really late. Tia had been yawning off and on for about a half and hour so she readily agreed that they needed to get going. After exchanging hugs with Al, the two women left the shop and headed back to Reilly's jeep. Reilly and Tia drove home feeling light hearted and happy. Unconsciously, they reached for each other hands as Reilly drove. They talked about the party and Reilly's singing, the professor drowning her friend with her enthusiastic praise.
At the house, they each got ready for bed, but found that they were still too keyed up to sleep. The message light on the answering machine was blinking so Tia sent Reilly into the kitchen to make some hot chocolate while she checked to see who had called.
A very large smile spread across the professor's face as she listened to the voice of one of her long time friends coming across the machine. She and Kelly had been friends for a long time and the message was to inform the professor that her friend and her family would be in town the next day. Apparently, Kelly's nephew was getting married the following weekend and they decided to take a week to visit. After listening to the message, Tia checked her watch and noted that while it was late in her time zone, it was three hours earlier in Washington where Kelly lived. She picked up the phone and dialed the number from memory, very excited at the prospect of seeing her old friend again.
"Hello," a soft, high voice answered.
"Hey Kel," Tia said cheerfully, "I just got your message."
"Tia!" Kelly responded, "What's up girl? Why were you out so late, I just left that message a few minutes ago. You're normally in bed by now."
"Oh, I was out at a party with my new roommate. We went to see the fireworks then down to a bookstore that she owns for a little Independence Day party."
"Wait, what new roommate?" Kelly asked, "When did that happen?"
Tia sighed, but smiled, "It's a long story, Kel. But I promise to fill you in when you get here. When's you're flight?"
"Oh, we're leaving in the morning about 7."
"Do you need me to pick you up at the airport?"
"No, we rented a car," her friend replied, "We figured that would be easier with the kids and everything."
"Oh, are you bringing them too? That's so wonderful, I haven't seen them in so long."
Kelly laughed, "Yeah, I know. They're excited too."
"Where are you all staying," Tia asked.
"We made reservations at a hotel…I refuse to stay with my parents given how rude they can be and Becky and my aunt don't really get along either so…"
"Stay with me, Kel" Tia interrupted, "I've got plenty of room and I'd love to have you, Becky and kids here. It would fun."
"Tia I'm not going to just dump my family on you…besides, are you sure you're roommate would be okay with that?"
"Hang on one sec," Tia said excitedly and put the phone down to go find Reilly.
"Hey Rei," Tia asked when she found her standing by the stove stirring the hot chocolate, "That message on the machine was from one of my dearest friends. She and her family are coming into town tomorrow for her nephew's wedding. Would you mind terribly if they stayed with us? I haven't seen them in ages."
Reilly smiled broadly, "Of course, not. I'll even make myself scarce if you'd rather have them all to yourself for a while."
"No, no, I want you to meet them. They are awesome and you'll absolutely adore their kids."
The young woman chuckled, "Alright, sounds good to me."
Tia gave her a quick hug then dashed back into the room to finish her conversation.
"Hey Kel?" Tia said.
"I'm still here, Tia," Kelly replied.
"It's all set. Just come on over here when you get in tomorrow. We'll set up the rooms and everything before you get here. I can't wait to see you."
"I know, I can't wait to see you either," Kelly said, "I've missed you, darlin'."
Tia felt a warm wave wash over her, "I've missed you too. Give Becky and the kids hugs and kisses for me. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"You got it," the other woman said, "Thanks again, Tia. We'll see you later, goodnight."
"Night," Tia said and disconnected the call.
She joined her young friend in the kitchen and the pair sat down to enjoy their hot drinks.
"Wow," Tia said, "That is just too cool."
Reilly smiled at her friend's obvious delight, "How long has it been since you've seen her?"
"Oh, it's probably been three years now," Tia mused, "She lives in Washington so we obviously don't get to see each other much. But when she lived here, we were very close." Tia didn't want to reveal yet, just how close they had been. Reilly just smiled at her in response and didn't press the issue.
"What time are they getting in?" Reilly asked.
"They're leaving at around
seven in the morning so I'm guessing they'll be in sometime tomorrow afternoon.
She said they're renting a car at the airport and driving in. I can't wait
for you to meet them."
"I can't wait to meet them either if they make you smile like this," Reilly said with just a hint of teasing in her voice.
The pair finished their drinks and bid each other goodnight. At the top of the stairs each paused before heading to the respective rooms. They were both exhausted, but didn't want the evening to end just yet. Reilly finally found a little bit of courage and wrapped her strong arms around her friend, enveloping her in a warm hug. When they separated, the taller woman bent her head and placed a soft kiss on Tia's warm cheek and whispered goodnight.
Tia stood in the middle of the hallway, watching Reilly walk toward her room with a look of pleased bewilderment on her face. Her cheek tingled where Reilly had kissed it and she lifted her hand to gently touch the spot. Wearing a broad smile, she walked toward her own room in a daze. As she dressed for bed, she thought of how marvelous the night had been and crawled into bed tired, but content and drifted off into a deep, happy sleep.
The next day, Tia was a ball full of energy. She and Reilly had woken up fairly late and spent the whole day getting ready for their guests. The young woman readily agreed to give up her room and bunk with Tia while their guests were visiting. They made up the pull out bed in Tia's office for the kids and moved some of Reilly's clothes and other belongings into Tia's room.
Kelly had called early in the afternoon to let Tia know that they'd arrived safely and were on their way from the airport. Reilly offered to make dinner and headed out to the store to buy what she needed while Tia waited at home for her friends to arrive.
About an hour after she called, Kelly rang the doorbell to Tia's house and was nearly knocked off her feet when the door was yanked open and Tia came rushing out to embrace her long time friend in a fierce hug.
Kelly returned the embrace and the friends laughed with delight. Tia pulled back to look at her friend, still scarcely believing that she was really there. The tall lawyer topped Tia's height by several inches and actually was a bit taller than Reilly. As her point of reference, Tia also noted that her friend also had a slightly bigger frame than her young roommate which was a testament to years spent working out and weight lifting. Kelly had changed her hair style a bit, but the soft blonde tresses were still the same and the feature that had captured Tia so long ago were the electric green eyes that shone with fiery brilliance.
"God it's so good to see you," Tia gushed and hugged her friend again.
"Same here," Kelly said with emotion evident in her voice.
When Tia came to her senses she remembered that there were three other people that needed to be greeted. Giving Becky a bright smile, Tia knelt down to talk to the two children who clung to each of their mother's hands.
"My goodness, you two got so big," the professor gushed, "Come here and give me a hug."
The older of the two, a dark haired little boy who looked a lot like Becky despite the fact that Tia knew he'd been adopted, let go of his mother's hand and threw himself at Tia.
"Aunt Tia," the little boy gushed.
Tia engulfed the thin body in her arms, "Tristan, my little man, when did you get so tall?"
"I don't know, mom says I just shot right up after my last birthday," the little boy replied honestly, "I am almost seven now you know."
The adults laughed, "I know, munchkin."
Tristan turned and motioned for his sister to come over to him. The fair haired little girl was almost the spitting image of Kelly. At four years old, Tia could tell that she was going to have her biological mother's height. The shy little girl looked uncertain, but let go of her mother's hand and toddled over to her brother and the nice woman who had hugged her mama.
"Hey there, Sierra," Tia said softly, "You probably don't remember me, I'm your aunt Tia."
The small blonde looked at her curiously and Tia continued, ruffling the girl's blonde locks softly, "It's okay, sweetie. I know this is weird, but it will be okay."
She nodded her head and ran back to her mother, hiding behind her legs. Tia chuckled and stood up to face her friend's partner.
"Hey, Beck," Tia said, hugging the woman tightly. Kelly's partner was the same height as Tia, but that's where the similarities stopped. Becky had dark blonde hair that she wore shoulder length, brown eyes very similar to Reilly's and an long, thin body which made her look absolutely fabulous in her clothes.
"Oh, I see," Becky teased, "Everyone else gets the attention first."
Tia laughed and hugged her friend again. Stepping back she ushered them all into the house. After showing them where they would be sleeping and securing their stuff, the five of them met in the living room where the children played with a puzzle on the floor while the adults talked.
"So," Kelly said, "Where's this new roommate? You keeping her locked up in the basement?"
Tia swatted at her friend playfully, "No, she went to the store to get some stuff for dinner."
Both Becky and Kelly looked alarmed for a minute and Tia rolled her eyes, "Don't worry, I'm not cooking…she is."
"Thank God," Becky said teasingly.
"Amen," Kelly chimed in.
"Hey, I'm not that bad," Tia defended.
The three friends laughed easily and continued their chat until they heard Reilly's jeep pull up in the driveway. Tia got up to get the door for her friend.
When Reilly walked through the door, the smile she wore transformed to shock when she saw who was sitting in the living room.
"OH my God," Reilly gasped and dropped the bags she was carrying.
Becky and Kelly both turned to look at her, shock evident on their faces and Tristan turned his head and quickly ran to the stunned younger woman.
"Reilly!" the little boy screeched as the tall woman scooped him up into a hug.
"Baby boy," Reilly managed to get out as she spun the little girl in a circle, "What are you doing here?"
"We're here visiting aunt Tia," Tristan replied then placed a big, wet kiss on his large playmates cheek.
Kelly recovered her composure first and turned her attention to a stunned Tia, "This is your new roommate?"
Tia was completely shocked and merely nodded her head. Becky lept off the couch and ran to Reilly, giving her a huge hug after the young woman put her son back on his feet.
"My God, Rei," Becky said, emotion choking her, "I had no idea you were still in town much less living here."
"Yep and yep," Reilly replied and held out her other arm for Kelly who walked up to join in the hug. The three women embraced each other tightly while Tia continued to stare at them dumbfounded.
After a few minutes, Reilly pulled away and turned to Tia, "These are you friends?"
Tia finally found her voice, "Yeah, I take it they're your friends too."
Reilly smiled, "Actually, they're my family. Becky's my cousin."
Tia's eyes nearly bugged out of her head, "You've got to be kidding me?"
All three women laughed, "Nope, I promise you I'm not. Becky is my cousin on my dad's side."
"My God," Tia said, still unbelieving, "I guess the world is a pretty small place."
"Yes it is," Kelly chimed in, wrapping her arm around Reilly's shoulder, "Reilly and I also know each other pretty well. Rei and I met through our friend Jo a long time ago. Her senior year of high school Jo and I went down to watch the little shit in the championship game. When we went out to celebrate later, Rei introduced me to Beck and the rest…as they say…is history."
Tia just nodded her head.
"I better get this stuff off the floor and into the kitchen," Reilly said after a few more minutes of chatting. Sierra chose that moment to come over to Kelly and tug on her hand asking to be picked up. The tall blonde swept her daughter into her arms.
"Mama, who dat?" Sierra asked innocently.
"That's you're aunt Reilly," Kelly explained.
Sierra regarded the tall woman and narrowed her eyes as if she were trying to remember something. She leaned forward in her mother's arms and reached for the young woman. Reilly lifted her up and held her on one hip as she looked at her.
"You my aunt, Wyly?" the little girl asked.
"Yes, I am."
She turned her attention to Tia and asked, "You my aunt Tia?"
Tia smiled and ruffled her hair again, "Yep, that's me."
She looked between them for a few more moments then smiled and said, "Otay."
Reilly laughed and set the little girl back on her feet before kneeling to pick up the forgotten groceries.
"Hey, I'm gonna go get this dinner started," she said cheerfully, "I know Becky's gonna revolt if we don't feed her soon."
The three women laughed and Kelly took one of the bags from her and said, "I'll give you a hand. These two can stay here and keep the little ones busy."
The two taller women made their way into the kitchen where Reilly deposited the bags on the counter then leaned against it heavily, trying to control her heart.
"You okay, Rei?" Kelly asked, "I guess we really surprised you, huh?"
Reilly faced her friend and smiled, "You could say that. This is such an awesome surprise, though. I had no idea you knew Tia."
"Same here," Kelly said, wondering if she should reveal just how well she knew Tia.
"He's grown up so much," Reilly said with a sigh.
"Yes he has," Kelly agreed, "He is such a good little boy too. He's loves to read everything he can get his little hands on and is excelling in just about everything in school…except art…he hates that. He also is one of the best players on his soccer team back home."
The younger woman let a wry smile cross her lips, "Just like his mama, huh?"
"And, just like his mother," Kelly said pointedly.
Reilly's eyes flashed, "Kelly, don't."
"I'm not doing anything, kid. I'm just reminding you that Tristan may be legally mine and Becky's, but he is biologically yours."
"I know that," Reilly said softly, "He is absolutely beautiful."
"Yes he is and he looks more and more like you and Becky every day."
"I think he looks a lot like Dad, but I guess that means he'd look like me too," Reilly paused, "Does Tia know about him?"
Kelly looked at her friend curiously, "No, she knows that we adopted him, but she doesn't know any more than that. Why?"
"Because she knows what happened to me and after today, if she knew the circumstances behind his adoption she'd put two and two together."
"Ah, good point," Kelly said, "So how long have you known Tia?"
"She was one of my instructors. We sort of became friends while I was in school."
"Uh huh," Kelly said, mentally rolling her eyes at Reilly's succinct answers, "And you are living with her why?"
Reilly sighed, "Because I got into a bit of trouble and needed a place to stay…Tia offered, I accepted."
"You know, getting information from you is like pulling teeth," Kelly said letting her frustration show, "Okay, precise to the point questions: What happened to Maggie? Where did you get those scars on your cheek? Do they have anything to do with the fact that you are living here? What's up with you and Tia? And what are we having for dinner?"
Reilly laughed out loud at the last question and decided to play with her friend a little bit, "We broke up, Maggie gave me those, yes, Nothing why do you ask, and chicken fettucini."
"You little shit," Kelly laughed, "Alright, let's back up. I'm assuming that you finally dumped your bitch of a girlfriend…which is good. But how about explaining a little bit more?"
"Yeah," Becky's voice sounded from the doorway, "I'd like to hear that explanation myself."
Shit. Reilly silently cursed, she didn't want to go through the story again, but she knew her cousins wouldn't let it go until she did. She got three bottles of juice out of the refrigerator and motioned for them to sit down. After a deep breath, she told them the whole story from Maggie hitting her with the phone to the counseling sessions with Sue Walker. Her friends listened and Reilly could see the anger boiling as their faces simultaneously turned red.
"I'm okay, guys," Reilly weakly tried to assure them, "Tia's been great. Maggie hasn't bothered me in a long time."
"I'm going to make damn sure that doesn't bother you again period," Kelly said with a low growl, "Tomorrow I'm going down to the courthouse and taking out a restraining order against her."
"Kelly," Reilly started to say.
Becky squeezed her cousin's hand, "No, Reilly she's right and I'm going with her. She may have been silent for a while, but she's not gone. I'd feel lot better if I knew that you and Tia were protected by law if she decides to get nasty again."
"Oh come on, guys," Reilly whined, "You're overreacting. She's not going to bother me anymore. I promise."
"And how exactly do you think you are in a position to promise that," Kelly stated, "You didn't know she was going to cut you not once but twice and turn into the bitch that she did. So how can you sit there and say that you ‘promise' she won't hurt you again…or Tia?"
Reilly flinched at Kelly's words and threw up her arms in defeat, "Alright, whatever. You two do you're lawyer thing and hopefully she won't give me a reason to play that particular card."
Becky flashed a cousin a bright smiled and squeezed Reilly's hand again, "Thanks, Rei. We just want to protect you."
"I know and I love you for it," Reilly said, patting Becky's hand and standing up, "Now, I'm going to get this dinner started. I was going to fix some chicken and fettucini noodles, will the kids eat that?"
"You're kidding right?" Becky asked with a chuckle, "Sierra would eat shoelaces if she was hungry enough and Tristan loves anything that has the potential to make a mess…they'll love it."
Reilly laughed, "Okay, then. I'll get to it."
The young woman allowed Kelly to help her fix dinner while Becky went back into the living room to chat with Tia and play with the kids. When they were alone again, Reilly glanced at her friend asked, "So, how did you meet Tia?"
Kelly stopped chopping carrots for a second then resumed as she replied, "We knew each other through some mutual friends. The summer before my second year of law school and the beginning of Tia's doctoral work we hung out a lot."
Reilly sensed there was more to the story, "Were you really good friends?"
Kelly cleared her throat, "Uh, yeah we were pretty close…um hand me those tomatoes."
Reilly recognized a change of subject when she heard one. She handed the requested items to her friend and resumed cooking the chicken. The young woman was searching her memory trying to decide if Kelly had ever mentioned knowing Tia before. They had talked a lot over the years and the young woman was certain that she knew all about her friend's past. Hell, they'd entertained each other for years with stories of their college exploits and Reilly had roared with laughter on more than one occasion when Kelly and Becky would tell her of the hell they'd raised while receiving their education. Reilly had also turned to them for advice when she'd started struggling with her sexuality. She remembered that Kelly had taken her aside during one of her visits to Washington and told her of a summer when she'd fallen in love with…
Oh my God. Reilly turned slowly toward her friend who suddenly found making a salad very interesting. The young woman walked over to her friend and placed her hand on Kelly's. The older woman stopped her chopping and looked at her friend.
"Oh my God," Reilly whispered seeing the confirmation in her friend's eyes before she even asked the question, "That was Tia."
Kelly knew exactly what her friend had figured out and could only nod her head in affirmation.
Reilly stood completely still. She recalled the story Kelly had told her and let her mind drift as she absorbed the shock of the information.
The cool breeze off the lake behind Kelly's and Becky's house made the young woman shiver and wrap her jacket more tightly around her. She'd been in Washington for three days, visiting her cousin Becky and her long time friend Kelly during her spring break. So far, she'd had a marvelous time with her friends and their children. Two year old Tristan was a ball full of energy and curiosity and the new baby, Sierra was such a wonderful little thing. Although she loved the kids endlessly, the young woman still found it difficult to look at the happy little boy and not burst into tears. Tristan was the product of the rape Reilly had been a victim of and when she'd found out she was pregnant, she'd immediately placed a call to her cousins, asking them if they would take the baby when it was born. Becky and her partner readily agreed and although he was a happy, healthy baby and in the best possible environment, Reilly still found it hard to look at him.
After the rape, Reilly had really started to question her sexual orientation. Actually that wasn't quite true. She'd always known that something felt different and although she had been surrounded by loving examples of lesbian romance in the form of Kelly, Becky and her friend Jo, she'd never felt really comfortable admitting it to herself. After she was accosted, Reilly beat herself up over the fact that someone had wanted to punish her for something that she'd always thought was completely natural…loving someone no matter who they were. She struggled for almost two years with the knowledge that she was probably gay, but didn't want to admit it to anyone.
Kelly came up behind her as she stood gazing at the lake and wrapped a friendly arm around her shoulder.
"What's up, Kid?" she asked.
"I think I'm gay, Kel," Reilly blurted out, not knowing who else she could possibly talk to about this."
Kelly chuckled, "Nothing like getting right to the point is there?"
The young woman couldn't help but smile, "Yeah I guess."
"So, what's the problem?," Kelly asked, "As you've probably guessed by now, I'm gay, so is Becky and so is Jo. What has you so obviously freaked?"
"I..I don't know," Reilly stuttered, "I mean, you're right…it's not exactly a novel concept for me. But it still scares me."
"Because of what happened?" Kelly ventured gently.
"Partly," Reilly admitted, "Part of me is scared that if I acknowledge my sexual orientation that I'll leave myself wide open for stuff like that to happen again. I don't understand why people can't just leave other people alone."
"I don't understand it either, Rei, but I do know that you can't hide away from the world. Whether you choose to acknowledge who you are or not, you can't hide forever. For one thing, Becky, Jo and I won't let you. For another, that's not who you are."
Reilly was silent for a few minutes and Kelly stepped behind her and wrapped her arms around the young woman's waist, pulling their bodies into contact.
"What else is bothering you?"
Reilly sighed, "Well, I don't really know how to explain this…I mean, before…well, you know, I had been having all of these thoughts and feelings. Not really about sex, because to tell you the truth I have never understood why that was such a big deal. I mean, feelings about being close with someone. I would look at my guy friends and think about how great they are and then look at some of my female friends and think how wonderful it was to hug them and talk to them and look it at them. Do you know what I mean?"
Reilly couldn't see it, but Kelly was smiling widely at her friend's words, "Yes, I know what you mean."
"Good," Reilly said, "Then could you explain it to me because I'm confused as hell."
This time Kelly did laugh and Reilly joined her after a minute.
"Rei, what you're explaining is completely normal. Well, normal in the lesbian sense I guess."
Reilly chuckled again.
"Seriously, when I first started figuring things out I thought I was going nuts. In truth, I was just a few years younger than you are now when I got my first honest to goodness crush on another woman."
Reilly turned her head and eyed her friend suspiciously, "Really?"
"Yep, in fact it was my soccer coach."
Reilly stepped away from her friend and whirled around to face her, "No way."
"Yep, when she would go out in the middle of practice and start going through drills with us, I wouldn't pay a damn bit of attention to anything except that cute little ass."
"Oh my God," Reilly gasped, finding it very difficult to process this particular bit of information, "Did she know?"
Kelly shook her head, "No, she didn't know. But after that season I had figured out that I was most definitely attracted to women."
"How did you know that for sure though? I mean how did you know that it wasn't just that one woman? Did you start dating girls?"
Kelly chuckled, "Rei, remember where we're from, honey. I couldn't very well start asking girls to the prom. No, I didn't start dating until I got to college. But I didn't need to go on a date or sleep with a woman to know that I was attracted to them. I just knew. I had tons of male friends and had a lot of offers from them, but nothing ever made me feel like my coach did…and all I did was look at her."
Reilly looked at her friend like she really wanted to ask a question, but she hesitated. Kelly sensed it and held out her hand.
"Come on, take a walk with me."
Reilly grasped her hand and the pair walked slowly along the bank of the lake.
"What's on your mind, Rei?"
"How did you know who to date?"
"Well," Kelly cleared her throat, "It's not really all that difficult. I mean, most of the time the women I dated were friends of people I knew."
"Did you date a lot of women?"
"Where are all of these questions coming from, Rei?"
Reilly shrugged, "I don't know. I just want to know how you know if someone is gay and how you go about dating them and if dating in the lesbian world is akin to…"
"Oh God," Kelly laughed, "I get it…You got the birds and the bees talk at some point in your life, but now you need the birds and the birds info."
Reilly blushed and Kelly laughed harder, "Nevermind." Reilly grumbled.
"Oh, no" Kelly got herself under control, "No, please Rei I'm not laughing at you. I just thought I'd have to wait another 15 years or so before I had to have this talk with someone. Listen, I understand what you're asking and I promise I'll try my best to answer."
"Okay, first of all it is a little bit different when you're gay to know who else might be gay and available. Unfortunately, there's not much I can tell you on that front except to be careful and pay attention. Secondly, despite what books, magazines and movies portray there does not have to be a ‘guy' and ‘girl' role in a lesbian relationship. Look at me and Becky…do you think that either one of us is the so called ‘male'?"
Reilly shook her head and Kelly continued, "Of course not. Now, there are some women out there who are a little more masculine than others, but that's not always the case. Thirdly, just as in any relationship…gay or straight, some people equate dating with sex. But, just because you are dating someone does not mean that you have to sleep with her. Again there are exceptions to that, but it really is up to the people dating as to what their relationship will be like. I have only had sex with two women in my whole life and I loved both of them. You're a lot like me in that sex doesn't really spark your interest, but trust me sweetheart when you find someone that you trust enough to share your body with, making love is most definitely a big deal…a wonderful deal."
Reilly smiled at her friend's ringing endorsement of matters of the flesh, "I'll take your word on that. Right now, anything like that is something I really have no interest in."
"I know that sweetie, but I promise that some day you will find someone who will touch your heart, mind and body in a way that will make you want to share them."
"I'm guessing that since you are with Becky now that she wasn't your first," Reilly said, "Would you tell me who she was?"
Kelly sighed, "Yes, I will tell you, but I won't mention any names because she is still at the university and I won't betray the promise I made to her long ago, okay?"
Reilly nodded and Kelly continued, "It was the summer after my first year of law school. I went to a party at my friend's apartment. All of her roommates were really nice, but there was this one that was just too cute for her own good. She a lot shorter than me with raven black hair and the bluest eyes you've ever seen in your life. We'd talked on occasion whenever I'd come over to visit my friend, but we never really got to know each other until that night. Everyone else was drinking like crazy and dancing in the living room. This girl and I weren't really in the mood to get trashed, so we sat out on the porch all night long and talked. She was so easy to talk to. We discovered that we liked the same type of music, enjoyed the same sports and outdoor stuff, and even liked the same authors. As the night wore on and the people started leaving, I felt like I'd known her forever. It got kind of chilly so we went back inside. Everyone had left and her roommates had gone to bed. She walked over to the stereo and played this really slow, sweet song and asked me to dance with her. I swear to you Reilly when I held her in my arms I thought I was going to spontaneously combust. I'd never felt so comfortable with anyone else. We danced slowly to the song and somewhere between the second verse and the chorus we started kissing. It was so sweet. Anyway, when the song was over we made out on the couch for a while and then I left. We saw each other almost every day for two weeks and one night when her roommates were out I came over. I was so nervous I thought I was going to pass out, but she led me up to her room and we made love all night long. Neither one of us had a clue as to what to do, but we figured it out. It is one of the most precious memories I have. Don't get me wrong, I love Becky with all my heart and soul. No one, not even that girl, completes me like she does. But it was the first time I'd ever experienced anything like that."
"So what happened," Reilly asked softly, smiling at the fond look on her friend's face.
"We continued to see each other, but at the end of the summer we called it quits. We loved each other very much, but between my classes and her classes we knew we wouldn't get to see each other much. We were just too focused on our goals and neither of us was ready for anything that permanent. As the years went on, we remained very good friends and we still are. She and Becky are pretty good friend's too."
"That's a hell of a story, Kel," Reilly said.
Kelly laughed, "Thanks I think. So do you feel better?"
"Yeah, I think I do," Reilly said, wrapping her arm around Kelly's waist, "Thanks Kel and don't worry…when it comes time to have the birds and the bees, birds and the birds, or even the bees and the bees talk with the kids, you can get me back for this by deferring them to me."
The two friends laughed and headed back to the house.
Reilly came out of her thoughts when she felt Kelly place a hand on her arm.
The young woman looked at her in disbelief, "It was Tia? That was Tia?"
"Yes, Reilly it was," Kelly affirmed, her eyes pleading, "But please, please don't make a big deal out of this."
Reilly took arm away from her friend, "I can't believe this."
Kelly followed her young friend as she walked over to the stove, "Calm down, sweetie. It was a very long time ago. I told you, Becky, Tia and I are all friends now. Tia is Sierra's godmother. Becky knows about our past, but it isn't an issue. I know you're surprised, but please…"
"Surprised," Reilly interrupted, "I'm not surprised, I'm shocked…completely different emotion. The woman was married…to a man…for goodness sake."
Kelly looked at her friend in confusion for just a second then smiled widely, "Oh my God, you're in love with her."
Reilly glared at her friend, "What are you talking about? This isn't about me."
"Oh ho, I beg to differ," Kelly chuckled, "It most certainly is. You're in love with Tia."
"Kel, don't be ridiculous. As I just stated, counselor, she was married to a man. She is my friend, period."
"Ah, ah the fact that she was married once proves nothing. If you have ever talked to her about this, you know why she got married. There is nothing wrong with loving her, Rei. I told you that I fell for her once."
Reilly sighed, "I know that. I'll admit that I've got some pretty strong feelings for her, but I thought they were a result of feeling so close to her after all that shit with Maggie. I figured it was safe because there was no chance in hell that she'd ever reciprocate. I mean, I doubt that she would but for some reason this just changes everything."
"You mean you're going to stop loving her just because you found out there is a small chance that she might actually be willing to love you too?"
"Kelly, you don't understand."
"Yes, I do Rei. I understand better than you think. Look, Tia has been alone for a long time. She married that bastard because her mother kind of forced her into it. She loved him in her own way, but she wasn't in love with him. If you truly care for her and think that you'd be willing to find out if she could love you too, then don't hide from it. I told you once before that you can't hide forever…it's just not you."
The women were interrupted when Sierra came flying into the kitchen with Tristan hot on her heels. A moment later, Becky and Tia came in laughing. Kelly and Reilly abandoned their conversation and continued fixing dinner. Soon they all sat down to eat and talk. After dinner, Reilly took the kids into Tia's office to watch a movie. Kelly excused herself so she could make some phone calls regarding the upcoming wedding, leaving Becky and Tia in the living room chatting quietly while they sipped coffee.
"I still can't believe that my little cousin is living here with you," Becky said with a fond smile, "In case I forget to say it later, thank you for taking care of her."
"It really wasn't a big deal," Tia explained, "I didn't do anything that anyone else who cares about her wouldn't have done."
"That may be true," Becky conceded, "But Reilly is a very proud woman. She gets that from our side of the family unfortunately. She wouldn't let just anyone take care of her…I'm glad she let you."
Tia blushed and took a sip of her coffee to regain her equilibrium.
"So how is she really doing?" Becky asked, "No bullshit, Tia. Is she okay?"
Tia sighed, "I honestly think she's fine. The first couple of weeks was pretty rough. Maggie made several unsettling appearances at school and once outside the bookstore that really rocked Reilly. But, she hasn't heard a peep from her in a long time so I think she's settling down. My aunt is a counselor and has been working with Reilly on the weekends to help her deal with some of the stuff she's carrying around. Sometimes she talks to me about it and sometimes she doesn't. I think what's hard for her is that she wants to be completely honest with me, but is afraid sometimes of what I'll think of her if she is."
Becky nodded her head, "That sounds like her. She can be a tough nut to crack sometimes, but if you ask her a question you can be sure you'll get an honest answer if she wants to talk. If she doesn't she'll tell you."
Tia nodded, "She's a good person and has been through a hell of a lot. I can't imagine being strong enough to get through some of the awful things that have happened to her, but she made it."
Becky regarded her friend in amusement, "So, you seeing anyone?"
Tia blinked at the rapid change of subject, "Where the hell did that come from?"
Becky shrugged, "I just thought I'd ask."
Tia eyed her friend suspiciously, "Uh huh, you never just ask."
"What," Becky asked innocently, "I can't inquire about your love life?"
"Or lack thereof," Tia added with a smile.
"Ah, still got a firm lock on your heart I see," Becky teased.
"Beck, you know I love you, but shut up."
"Come on Tia, it's been years since you've been with someone, why aren't you out there dating? It's not like you couldn't have your pick of men…or women."
Tia's eyes flashed, "Beck, that was a long time ago."
"Yes, but that doesn't mean that it's gone, Tia."
Tia didn't know what to say to that so she chose to remain silent and sip her coffee. Becky wasn't about to be deterred. She had a feeling Tia already knew who she wanted, the lawyer just wanted to see if she could get her to admit it.
"What about Reilly? Has she gone out with anyone since this thing with Maggie?"
Becky nearly fell out of her chair laughing at the murderous glare Tia shot her.
"Ah, I knew it," Becky said triumphantly.
Tia knew she'd been caught and blushed a deep, crimson.
"Never you fear, my friend," Becky patted her thigh, "You could do a lot worse than my attractive cousin."
"Becky it's not like that," Tia tried to explain, "Reilly is just a very good friend of mine. She has been for two years now."
"But you want there to be more," Becky stated matter of factly, "I knew something was up when I saw how you looked at her over dinner. You've got it bad, girlfriend."
Tia sighed in defeat. She knew she was in too deep to even attempt to hide her feeling for Reilly so she merely nodded her head and affirmed Becky's suspicion.
Her friend beamed, "I knew it, congratulations. So you two are seeing each other?"
"No, we're not," Tia admitted, "I don't think she has one clue as to how I feel about her."
"And how do you feel?" Kelly's voice sounded from behind them.
Tia smiled as her friend walked around the couch and sat on the floor in front of her partner.
"I'm in love with her," Tia admitted softly, "I've been falling for her for a long time."
Becky and Kelly shared a sweet smile and Kelly asked, "So why haven't you told her?"
Tia looked at her friend in exasperation, "Kelly, let's take a look at a few things: first, up until a couple of months ago she was one of my students, second she just got out of a hellish relationship with a woman who shouldn't have a pet rock let alone a girlfriend, third in case you haven't noticed I am almost seven years older than she is."
Becky held out her hand and ticked off her fingers, "First, she's not your student anymore, second she's over Maggie and I have a pretty good feeling she loves you too, and third who cares how old you are."
"Okay, how about this one, the last woman I slept with is sitting right next to you and that was almost 10 years ago!"
Becky laughed, "Again, who cares, Tia."
"God, Becky give me a break, it's been a long time since I felt this way about anyone, much less someone as attractive and special as Reilly."
Becky's brown eyes softened, "Now that's an excuse I'll accept as valid. I know you're scared, Tia, but give it a chance before you totally write it off."
"T," Kelly spoke softly and moved closer to her friend, "I have in this room two of the purest, most wonderful hearts I have ever known in my life and I've had the privilege of loving both of them and being loved by both of them. Please, don't take that gift away from Reilly or deny yourself until you give it an honest shot."
Tia hugged her old friend tightly and reached out an arm to allow Becky to join in the embrace. The three friends held each other for a long time then sat back wiping their eyes.
"Well," Kelly said with a small sniffle, "I don't know about you all, but I'm getting pretty tired and I know the rugrats are probably worn out. What do you say we call it a night? We've got all week to make each other cry."
Tia and Becky laughed then agreed it was time to say goodnight. They made their way to Tia's office and when the professor opened the door, she turned quickly with a finger to her lips, indicating that her friends should be quiet. The three women stepped silently into the room and broke into wide smiles. The movie had long since shut off, but on the bed were three very sweet, very asleep individuals. Reilly sat on the middle of the bed with her back propped up with some pillows. Tristan was sprawled between her spread legs, with his dark head resting on her thigh and little Sierra was being held in Reilly's strong arms, her fair locks falling over her face and her large playmates shoulder. All three of them were sound asleep. Tia motioned for Becky and Kelly to be quiet and walked slowly over to her bookshelf where her camera rested. After focusing the shot, she snapped the picture and Reilly's eyes fluttered open as the flash went off. The younger woman smiled sleepily.
Kelly and Becky moved over the bed and picked up their children so Reilly could move. The proud mothers then resettled their precious ones and tucked them both in with kisses and whispered "I love you's".
The four adults then left the room.
"Rei, that was impossibly cute," Tia said, wrapping an arm around her friend's waist.
Reilly yawned then smiled.
"I so want a copy of that picture," Becky demanded, "That cute shot is going to be blown up and put right up on the mantle in the living room at home."
"Ah, Becky," Reilly whined.
"Forget it, Kid," Kelly chimed in, "I agree with Beck on this one, that one is definitely going up in the living room."
They all chuckled as the made their way upstairs. After showing Kelly and Becky where everything was, Tia bid them goodnight then headed toward her own room. Reilly had just tugged her t-shirt over her head when Tia walked in. The young woman hadn't yet put on her boxer shorts so the professor was greeted by the sight of impossibly long, toned, muscular legs that she wanted nothing more than to…
Tia shook herself and turned her head while Reilly finished dressing. The younger woman slipped into bed and tried to avert her eyes as Tia changed her own clothes. After a few minutes, the professor slipped under the covers next to Reilly and breathed out long and hard.
Reilly smiled and turned on her side to face her friend, "What was that for?"
Tia smiled in the darkness, "It's just been a very long, surprising day."
"Good surprise or bad surprise?"
Tia chuckled, "A very good surprise. It never occurred to me that you could possibly know Beck and Kel, it turns out you not only know them, but you're related to them. That's just wild, Rei."
The younger woman smiled, "Yeah, it sure is. Do you mind if I ask you a question?"
Reilly knew she was on shaky ground, but she had to know if Tia would be honest with her.
Tia turned so that she was facing the younger woman, "You know you can ask me anything."
"Well, you know how I know them, but how did you meet them?"
Tia swallowed hard, she wasn't sure she could tell her friend the truth, but her friend had always been honest with her so she tried.
"I…uh, I met Kelly first actually. She was good friends with one of my roommates when I was in college. We started hanging out a lot after this one party we had at our house and just became really good friends." There, that's the story just not all of it.
"Oh," Reilly mumbled, a bit disappointed, "I see."
"Rei, what's wrong?" Tia asked, afraid that her friend had sensed that there was more to the story.
"Do you promise you won't get mad at me or Kelly?" Reilly asked in a small voice.
Tia closed her eyes, knowing that Reilly knew, "No, I won't get mad…she told you didn't she?"
Reilly gazed intently at her friend's face, "Tia, I swear she didn't tell me today. She told me about it a long time ago, but she never told me who it was. She said that she made a promise a long time ago never to reveal who you were and she kept it. When I was about 22 I was really struggling with some stuff and Kelly told me about this amazing woman she met when she was in college. Today I asked her how she knew you and I think…before she realized what she said she told me. I remembered the story and figured it out."
Tia rolled back over onto her back and threw an arm over her face, "Jesus."
Reilly scooted closer and leaned over the professor, "Tia, what's wrong? It's okay I promise. I'll admit I was surprised, but it's not a big deal. Like Kelly told me one time, in case you haven't noticed there are a lot of people around you right now who have been with a woman or two."
Tia couldn't help but laugh at that. She moved her arm from her face and looked at Reilly. The younger woman's face was bathed in the moonlight that came through the window. Her eyes were solid black in the darkness, but Tia imagined that they were glowing a light brown that indicated that Reilly was being sincere.
"What exactly did she tell you?" Tia asked.
"Well, she didn't give me a graphic demonstration, but she did say that you were the first woman she'd ever slept with."
"What a coincidence," Tia interrupted causing Reilly to laugh softly.
"Yeah, well, she also said that she loved you very much and vice versa but that neither of you was ready at the time to have a serious relationship."
Tia sighed again as she let her mind wander to those summer days and nights with Kelly wrapped around her body like a second skin. Being with her had awakened a hunger and passion inside her that she'd only ever focused toward school. They made love, went for long walks and made love some more. At that age the professor had never met a man that could make her heart soar and her body hum with anticipation the way Kelly did.
Reilly noticed the far away look and the fond smile that formed on her friend's face and had to grin. She waved her hand in front of Tia's eyes, then snapped her fingers to get her friend to come back to the present.
"Earth to Tia," Reilly teased.
The professor startled a bit, "Oh, sorry. I drifted."
"So I noticed," Reilly said with a smirk, "Looks like it was a good place too."
If it hadn't been dark, Reilly would have seen her friend blush a deep shade of crimson.
"So," the young woman said, rolling onto her back as well, "I'm confused about something…if you were with Kelly and loved Kelly and I'm assuming loved…um…being with Kelly, why did you marry Josh?"
"Kelly didn't tell you that part?" Tia teased.
"No, she told me to ask you…please don't be mad at her. Honestly, she told me long before I knew you."
"Sh, I was only teasing," Tia assured her friend, "I married Josh because my mother knew about me and Kelly and threw a fit."
Reilly's eyes went wide with shock, but Tia couldn't see them and continued, "Mom and I got into this really big fight after Kelly and I had agreed to stop seeing each other. I moped around for a while because I missed her terribly, but I still thought that not being with her was the best thing. Anyway, Mom and I got into this really huge fight because of my ‘distant mood' as she put it and started hounding me about finding a boyfriend. I told her I was interested in finding a boyfriend and she told me I was being stupid and irrational. She just kept saying that so I got mad and told her I didn't want a boyfriend because I had just broken up with my girlfriend. Then she slapped me. I remember wanting so badly to hit her back, but I didn't. I just stood there stunned. Mom guessed that it was Kelly that I'd been seeing and did something I'll never forgive her for…she told me that if I ever breathed one word about my relationship with Kelly she'd do her level best to make sure the we both got kicked out of our respective programs. Mom was really influential on the board of trustees for the university so I believed her. However, Kelly and I did continue our friendship. Like I told you before, I met Josh while I was doing my doctoral work. We dated for several months and my mom started making noises about us getting married. The more she pressed, the more I wondered if she would follow through with her threat. Kelly was almost done with law school and she'd already met Becky. Josh gave in to my mother's pressure as well and asked me to marry him…I loved him as much as I could so I accepted. I still don't think my mother has forgiven me for divorcing him, but he is the one who left me."
Tia finished her explanation and turned on her side to face Reilly. The young woman simply laid there in the dark with her eyes closed and Tia thought she'd fallen asleep. Suddenly, Tia felt a soft touch on her shoulder. With a small tug, Reilly brought the professor closer to her and Tia gratefully laid her head on her friend's shoulder.
"I'm so sorry to hear that, Tia. I really am. Moms can be such a pains in the ass sometimes."
Tia nodded but didn't comment.
Reilly stroked the professor back through the thin fabric of her tank top and felt Tia's body relax against hers. A muscular leg slowly inched its way closer to Reilly's and eventually slid across the taller woman's thighs. Reilly hugged her friend closer and kept up the gentle touch until she heard Tia's breathing even out. As soon as she was sure her friend was asleep, she too closed her eyes and gave free reign to the dreams she tried desperately to stop. Dreams of a life she'd share with Tia Rickman. A smile played across her lips as sleep gently engulfed her…the young woman thought she might honestly have a chance.
The next morning, Reilly woke up early as usual and slowly slipped out of bed. She dressed quietly in her running gear, hoping that Kelly still kept up her morning jogs. Sure enough, as she descended the stairs, she saw her older friend sitting on the couch smiling up at her.
"We are so predictable," Kelly said as she stood.
"That we are, shall we?" Reilly motioned toward the front door.
The two women walked out into the dim morning and spent a few minutes stretching before taking off down the street at a brisk pace. After they settled into a comfortable rhythm, Kelly asked.
"So, how'd it go last night?"
"How'd what go last night," Reilly replied confused.
"You know, how'd it go sleeping with her?"
"Good God, Kelly. Sex really is the only thing you think about isn't it?"
"Sex," Kelly repeated, "Who said anything about sex? I was just wondering if it was weird sleeping with her."
Reilly rolled her eyes, "Uh huh, sure you were."
Kelly laughed, "So, was it weird?"
"No, Kelly it wasn't weird, we've slept in the same bed together before."
"Really," Kelly drawled.
"Kel, come on, give me a break," the young woman pleaded.
"Oh Reilly lighten up, I'm only teasing."
"Yeah well, after what happened yesterday I will admit that sleeping with her did take on a different meaning. She told me last night about you two."
"And," Kelly drawled, not phased by the revelation.
"Well, she told me the same thing you did and she told me about Josh. Her mother is a real piece of work."
"You have no idea," Kelly practially growled, "That woman should be proud as hell to have a daughter as accomplished as Tia, but instead she just pushes and pushes and pushes. I honestly don't know how Tia keeps it together like she does."
"Mm," Reilly mumbled, "Well, she sounds a lot like my mom. Remember how mom hated Jo and never wanted me to see her?"
Kelly frowned, "Yeah, I do. I also remember her being very opposed to the idea of me and Becky too. By the way, I'm sorry about that kid. I know you two didn't get along really well, but I'm sure you miss her."
"Yeah, I do sometimes. I wish we were closer before she died, but I think she knew I loved her."
"I know she did and despite everything, I'm sure she loves you too and is looking down on you and smiling at how much you've achieved."
Reilly shook her head and turned down a side street waiting for Kelly to catch up before she spoke again.
"Hey Kel, can I ask you a question?"
"Oh shit," Kelly muttered teasingly, "What now?"
Reilly smiled, "Well I need some advice."
Kelly groaned, "Reilly why do you always pick me to go to for advice? Why doesn't Becky ever get to have these sensitive chats with you?"
"Kel, who do you think gave me the birds and the bees talk?"
Kelly almost tripped, "She didn't?"
"Oh yes she did," Reilly said chuckling, "I remember she sat me down and said, ‘Now listen to me Reilly, I don't know if you're parents have talked to you about this, but I'm going to tell you something and I want you to listen. You're in junior high school now and I know that some of your friends are going to start doing some stuff they've never done before. I want you to know that if some boy ever comes up to you and asks you to get naked with him, you are to kick him as hard as you can and run the other way, you got me?' I swear I had no idea what she was talking about. I mean, I'd seen all those video's in health class, but I was still clueless."
Kelly laughed out loud and had to stop running in order to breathe, "Oh my God, did she really tell you that?"
"Yep, I asked what the hell she was talking about and after she smacked me for cussing she told me about what girls and boys sometimes do with each other. I swear I turned nine shades of red that day. I promised her that I wouldn't be doing that and she took me out for pizza."
Kelly fell to her knees laughing, "Oh shit, that is priceless."
"So you see, Becky has had her turn so now it's yours."
The lawyer got to her feet and the pair continued along at a walk rather than a run so they could talk.
"So, what can I help you with, Rei?"
"Well, it's not about sex…thank goodness. I don't think I could handle that talk right now and I've gotten a little bit of experience under my belt since we last talked about that. No, I wanted to know how I should go about finding out if Tia…well, you know."
Kelly rolled her eyes, "Reilly, for as smart as you are sometimes I think you are still a few bricks shy of a load…what do you mean how do you find out? Why not just ask her?"
"I can't just walk up to her and say, ‘Hey Tia I know we've been friend for a while and that I used to be your student but would you mind if I kissed you because I think you're hot and I'm in love with you…what do you say?'. Get real, Kel. I can't do that."
Kelly swatted her friend upside the head, "You get real, Reilly. If you love her, tell her. You won't ever know how she feels unless you talk to her about it."
Reilly sighed and reached down to take Kelly's hand in hers, "I'm just a little nervous, Kel. I mean, up until yesterday I thought there was no chance in hell that Tia Rickman would ever consider being with a woman. And I still don't know that she would, but knowing that she has before puts a different spin on things. I know that if I was her, it would scare the shit out of me if a woman even suggested that we go out. And I am scared because I don't want to hurt her or me."
Kelly squeezed the hand in hers, "Rei, I think she loves you too. And I know why you are afraid for her and yourself, but honey don't deny the gift you can give to each other just because you're scared. You won't hurt her, honey and she won't hurt you."
"Will you promise not to hit me or yell at me if I tell you something?" Reilly's voice held an honest note of fear so Kelly let go of her hand and put a long arm around her shoulder.
"I promise, Rei," Kelly said gently.
Tears welled up in the big brown eyes before she could stop them, "Kel I just don't know if I should even want another relationship…let alone one with Tia. I was so sure that I'd found something and someone special in Maggie and look what happened. What did I do that was so wrong, Kelly? I don't want to risk doing to that Tia. She's too good and too wonderful to risk hurting like that. I don't want what happened with Maggie to happen with her and I can't help but think that it was all my fault that things went bad."
"Oh sweetheart…no," Kelly whispered and hugged her friend, "No, sweetie it was not you. You didn't do anything wrong. It is not your fault that she couldn't separate her life from the one you shared. I told you a long time ago that she was a controlling, possessive, needy woman and while I wanted to shake you for it I do admire the fact that you didn't leave her because you loved her. But sweetie, Maggie has a problem that has nothing to do with you. You put your life on hold to try to be everything that she needed and while I respect you being willing to make that sacrifice, I think you realize that she wasn't worth it. Please don't think that there is something wrong with you because nothing could be further from the truth. You were in a bad situation; you recognized it and you did something about it. You never stooped to her level, you never let her completely break you and you never deserved what she did or said to you. I love you sweetheart, Becky loves you and Tia loves you too. Please believe us even if you don't believe yourself right now."
Reilly wiped the tears off her face and laid her head on her taller friend's shoulder, "I love you, Kelly."
Kelly kissed the dark head, "I love you too, baby girl. Come on, let's head home. The kids are going to be up soon."
They turned around and started back toward the house.
"Hey Kel, do you think I should tell Tia about Tristan?"
The blonde shrugged, "That's up to you sweetheart. If you're really asking me if I think it will make one damn bit of difference with regard to you two then the answer is no."
Reilly nodded, "Okay."
The continued the rest of the walk home in silence, still holding hands and enjoying their friendship.
Later in the morning, Kelly and Becky took their cousin down to the courthouse and took out a restraining order against Maggie. When they were finished, Reilly teased the older women for being overprotective, but secretly she appreciated their involvement.
That afternoon, after a leisurely lunch, the adults packed up the kids and headed out to the local pool for a little fun in the sun. As soon as they arrived at the pool and put their stuff down Tristan, Sierra, Kelly, and Reilly stripped down to their bathing suits and hit the pool. Becky and Tia laughed at all four of the children and took their time laying out their things before gently wading into the pool.
After a few minutes of watching them, any doubts that Tia may have had about Reilly having an inner child were dashed. The young woman seemed even happier to be in the water than her two young charges…and Kelly wasn't much better. The two overgrown children took turns holding each of the kids on their shoulders and wading them around in the deeper water and goading them into chicken fights. At one point, Reilly and Tristan got into a heated debate on the proper form and technique of the perfect cannonball which ended up with both of them in line for the diving board…each determined to prove the other wrong. Tia couldn't help but laugh at their antics.
Becky watched fondly as her spouse and Reilly entertained themselves and her children, but paid particular attention to Reilly's interaction with her son. Anyone who knew Reilly as well as she did knew that the young woman could not deny the seven year old if she tried. Although Tristan passed easily as her son, Becky didn't share the same personality, will, and general looks that Reilly did. The blonde lawyer noticed how intently Tia watched the pair and knew that something was niggling at her friend's brain. Becky knew it wouldn't be long before Tia started asking some questions…she just hoped Reilly was ready to answer them.
A couple hours after they'd arrived, Sierra started getting tired so Becky and Tia decided to let the older "kids" play for a little while longer and go sit with the baby while she took a nap.
Tia laughed at something Kelly and Reilly were doing and turned to her friend, "My God, they are like a couple of overgrown six year olds…I think Tristan is acting older than they are."
"Tell me about it," Becky said, shaking her head, "I swear sometimes I don't know who I'm supposed to be upset with when the three of them get going at home and end up breaking something. Most of the time it's Kelly's fault. But, I do have to say that I love this side of her. Our jobs are so serious and stressful most of the time…I'm glad she still has this in her."
"Me too, Beck," Tia replied, "It was always one of Kelly's more endearing qualities and I am so glad that Reilly is the same way. I love that side of her."
"It seems to me that you love all sides of her…I saw you drooling when you saw her in her bathing suit."
Tia swatted her friend's arm, but agreed, "I can't even deny that. She is a very beautiful woman."
"Tia, Reilly is a very beautiful person. She always has been. When she was a kid she could charm the skin off a snake with just a quick smile. She was never really gawky or awkward…she was just Reilly. That kid excelled in everything that she did and put her whole heart into anything that interested her. I wish you could have seen her play soccer, T. My God, she was made for that sport. She used to tell me that God made the inside of your foot curve so that a soccer ball could fit in there."
Tia laughed, "I don't think that particular explanation would have flown on her anatomy tests."
"No, but watching her play I'd swear she was right…or at least right about her foot. I never saw anyone love something that much and be so good at it. She told me once that when she stepped out on the field the rest of the world just disappeared….she said it didn't matter what else was going on in her life, no matter how much shit her mother and sister put her through she said it just disappeared and all she knew was the game. When she blew her knee I thought we'd lose Reilly forever."
"You know," Tia said, shifting on her side to face her friend, "I never really talked to her about that. I mean, I knew that she'd had surgery a couple of times on her knee, but she never did tell me about that."
"Probably because she didn't want to remember," Becky said flatly, "The first one was the worst. She was only fifteen years old when it happened. She said that when her knee went, parents on the other side of the field heard it. She dropped like a hot rock and started screaming for my aunt. I think that was one of the last times that Reilly's mom acted like a mom. Anyway, if you want to know the whole story just ask Rei. She doesn't volunteer the information, but she'll tell you if you want to listen. She had some problems after the surgery and spent eight months in therapy. At one point she was convinced that she'd never touch a soccer ball again. The light in her was gone. When she did finally get back to it, she was so timid and scared. I could see that her skills were still there, but she was afraid to use them. She got really frustrated and almost quit."
"What happened?" Tia asked, thoroughly interested in the story.
"Kelly and Jo happened," Becky stated bluntly, "After one of her games where Reilly's performance was way below par, they waited around and ganged up on her. They dragged her back out onto the field and just pushed her. They pushed and pushed and made her work to beat them. I watched them play in the rain for an hour, it was dark and cold but they kept going. Kelly and Jo weren't going to let her off that field until they had Reilly back. Finally something snapped. Reilly delivered a wicked slide tackle to get the ball away from Jo and then took Kelly on. She was cutting, she was pivoting and she was doing all of it with her left knee. Rei finished off their little game by ripping a shot off with her left foot. The three of them just stood there in the middle of the pouring rain staring at the goal. Reilly was pissed as hell and Kel and Jo weren't far behind her."
"Why was she mad? It seems like she got over her fear," Tia said logically.
"Yeah, she did, but Kel and Jo really pushed her. She didn't understand at the time what they were trying to do and they really had to piss her off to get her to stop thinking about her fear. As much as she hates it and tries to deny it, that anger is as element to her as air. When she was younger, she used the anger as a means of dealing with other emotions that she wasn't familiar with and when she got older, she started using it as a way to get through challenging situations. Kelly and Jo knew that and are probably the only two people in the world, besides Tyler, that could have done that to her not had their heads knocked off. Anyway, when Reilly finally calmed down, she dropped to her knees and cried. Jo and Kel wrapped her in a tight hug and told her how much they loved her. Rei's game got a lot better after that and a couple of years later she was the captain of her high school team then she just walked on here at the college, ended up starting on their JV squad and was practicing with varsity before the end of the season."
"Wow," Tia gasped, "I had no idea she was that good. I mean, she told me how important the game was to her and how much she loved it, but I never dreamed she was that talented."
"Well, she is and everything was going exactly the way she wanted it, too. She was so excited when that coach told her that she would start practicing with varsity and playing for them the following fall. Rei immediately called us and told Kelly who I swear was almost as excited as she was, called Jo. We are all very proud of her. But unfortunately, the week of her last game of the season, Rei's knee blew again."
"Jesus," Tia whispered, "Was she as depressed the second time as she had been the first?"
Becky sighed, "Actually, no she wasn't. Although she was terribly disappointed that she wouldn't be able to move up, she made a very mature decision and gave up playing college soccer. She told Kel that while she was sure she could go through rehab again and get back to playing, she didn't want to run the risk of hurting herself again. She said that if she was going to have to give up playing, she was going to do it on her own terms in her own time and in her own way. She did go through the rehab and was physically able to play, but she didn't. All of us were relieved and very proud of her for making that decision. Reilly still plays, but not with the same determination and intensity that she used to. Now she just plays because she loves it."
"She really is extraordinary, Beck."
"Yep, that's my little cousin," Becky said proudly.
"You love her very much don't you?"
"Yes I do. Kelly, Jo and I always said that Rei was the little sister we never had. And as close as Kel and I are to her, the really strong bond is between Rei and Jo. Those two are so much alike it's scary."
A loud shriek pierced the air causing the two women to abandon their conversation. Both whipped their heads around to see if they could pinpoint the origin of the scream and burst into laughter at what they saw.
Reilly and Tristan were grinning triumphantly while a very drenched Kelly scowled at them. Apparently, the two troublemakers had snuck up on the older woman on their way back from the snack bar and dumped a whole cup full of ice water on her. Tristan held the empty cup in his little hand and screeched as Kelly grabbed him and proceeded to tickle him until he begged for mercy. Reilly took that opportunity to sneak over to Tia and Becky before Kelly turned her attention to her.
"Oh, Rei that was very cruel," Becky said between chuckles.
"Yeah," the younger woman agreed with a twinkle in her eyes, "But she deserved it after she and Tristan swamped me a few minutes ago."
Kelly walked over to the group with a widely grinning little boy on her back and glared at her young friend, "Reilly, you are damn lucky I love you as much as I do otherwise I'd kick you're scrawny little ass for that move."
"Mama," Tristan chided, "You said two bad words. Mommy will spank you."
A completely lecherous look entered the fiery green eyes, but Becky piped up before she had a chance to answer.
"Not one word, Mama," Becky warned and turned her attention to her son, "You are absolutely right, little man. Mama did say some bad words and she will be punished…later."
Kelly winked at her partner and set the little boy down. He immediately went over to his large playmate and sat on her lap.
"Aunt Reilly, Mama's in trouble," he said seriously.
"Nah," Reilly assured him, "Your mommy isn't really mad at her just like she's not really mad at us."
"You sure?" the little boy asked.
"Yep, I'm sure."
"Okay, but if I say bad words do I still get in trouble?"
Reilly smiled indulgently, "Yes, you shouldn't say bad words like your Mama did. Mama just made a mistake when she said them, but she'll try to do better."
"Yes, I'll try to do better," Kelly echoed.
"Okay," Tristan agreed and leaned into Reilly's shoulder.
After another hour and another trip into the water, everyone was ready to head home. Sierra fell asleep again in the car and Tristan was struggling to keep his eyes open. When they got home, the kids went down for a little nap while the adults showered. In the kitchen, feeling fresh and revived after their outing the four women made some plans for the rest of the week.
"So," Kelly began, "What are we going to do to keep ourselves busy this week?"
"Well," Reilly answered, "I thought you guys might like to take a trip down to the store with me at some point. I'd love to show it to you and you will love Al."
"Al?" Becky questioned.
"Oh, Beck," Tia answered, "You will absolutely adore this woman. She manages the store for Rei and is a real character and the store itself is wonderful. That's where we were when you called the other night. On Saturday's they have these open mic nights where people come in and sing."
"Oh really," Kelly said, her eyes twinkling, "And does the proud owner ever lend her voice to the cause?"
"Kelly shut up," Reilly said, "Yes, I do sing on occasion, but not very often. I leave the stage to the real talent."
"Oh please," Becky and Tia simultaneously disagreed.
Kelly laughed and Reilly just shook her head.
"I haven't heard you in a while, but if I remember correctly you have a very wonderful voice," Becky argued.
"She still does," Tia said fondly, "She sang the other night when we were out there. Every person in the room, including me, hung on her every word. She was great."
"Alright, enough," Reilly said blushing furiously.
"Will you sing for us sometime while we're here?" Kelly asked hopefully.
Rather than arguing, Reilly simply nodded her head in agreement.
"Excellent," Becky stated, clapping her hands.
"Okay, okay, let's get back to figuring out what kind of trouble we can get into this week."
"Alright," Tia took the lead, "I suggest that we just hang around the house tonight since we kind of wore the kids out at the pool today."
The others agreed and she continued, "Tomorrow I have to teach for a couple of hours so you guys could take the kids down to TAB's while I'm gone then maybe we could go for a picnic or something. I haven't really thought far beyond that so what do you two want to do while you're here."
"I think that a night out with just the girls would be fun," Becky chimed in, "It's been a while since Kel and I have gotten a night off so it might be fun…we could probably get one of Kelly's family members to baby sit."
"That sounds like a great idea," Reilly enthused, "I'd love to go hang out with guys…that is if you want to Tia."
"Sure," the professor replied easily, "And I think I could probably find you a babysitter. My aunt loves kids and would love to meet Tristan and Sierra."
"Oh my God, I would love to see Sue again," Kelly exclaimed, "And the kids would love her."
"Are you sure, T," Becky sounded a little skeptical, "I mean, do you think she'd be willing?"
"Willing? She'd probably insist," Tia replied, "She'd love to see you too, Kel. She's never met Becky either."
"Honey, you will love Sue. She is the absolute best aunt in the world…next to aunt Tia and aunt Reilly that is."
"Nice recovery, Kel" Reilly teased.
"Okay, I'll give her a call in a little bit. When do you want to go?"
"How about Wednesday?" Kelly suggested.
Everyone else agreed and decided to play the rest of the week by ear since the wedding was on Friday.
"Well," Tia said after they'd made their decisions, "Since we've done that, we have a more immediate problem to address."
Three sets of eyes looked at her in question and she continued, "What are we having for dinner? I'm starved."
They all laughed and agreed that cooking was too much trouble so they all agreed on pizza. The kids woke up a few minutes later and the five of them enjoyed a peaceful dinner and very relaxing evening.
At around ten o'clock, the kids were tucked safely into bed and the adults turned in as well. Again, they bid each other goodnight and headed to their respective rooms. Tia and Reilly settled into the same position they had the night before and fell asleep quickly without conversation.
Reilly had only been asleep for about an hour when something woke her. She listened in a dark for a few seconds then gently slipped out of Tia's embrace and left the room quietly. The tall woman couldn't figure out what had disturbed her and made her way softly down the stairs. She wandered through the living room and was headed toward the kitchen when a soft sob sounded behind her. Reilly turned and saw Tristan standing in the hallway rubbing his eyes and sniffling quietly.
She walked over to him knelt, "Hey, buddy, what are you doing up?"
He looked up at her with wide eyes, "I had a bad dream, Aunt Reilly. I wanted to go find Mama, but I was afraid to go up the stairs."
"Oh, come here, sweetie," Reilly spoke gently and scooped him up into her arms. She carried him over to the couch and sat down, leaning against the arm.
"Now, what was this dream all about?"
"It was scary, I dreamed that a bad person tried to hurt you and Mama and Mommy and aunt Tia."
"Sweetheart, nobody's gonna hurt us, we're fine I promise."
"But it was really bad and really dark."
"I know it was scary buddy, but it was just a dream. Both of your moms are perfectly safe and aunt Tia is upstairs asleep."
The little boy snuggled closer to the young woman and simply nodded his head.
"Was there anything else about the dream, buddy? Do you want to tell me anything else?"
"I don't think so," Tristan said in a sleepy voice, "It just scared me and I wanted to make sure you were okay. You got hurt the most in my dream. I don't want you to get hurt, aunt Reilly."
Reilly hugged him tightly, "I promise you that I am okay, Tristan. I've got you and Sierra and your moms and Tia taking really good care of me and protecting me. Nobody's gonna hurt me I promise."
Tristan's body started to go limp as he relaxed. Before his eyes drifted shut he hugged his aunt tightly and whispered, "I love you aunt Reilly."
Reilly nearly burst into tears, but managed to choke out, "I love you too, pal."
A few minutes later the little boy's gentle breathing was all that could be heard in the darkened room. Reilly stroked his soft hair and was amazed at how much it felt like her own. She cried softly as she held her baby boy in her arms and was grateful beyond measure that she was still able to provide him with love and caring even though she had given him up so many years ago. Several minutes passed in silence and eventually, Reilly's tears subsided and she let her eyes drift shut.