Strained — Part 5

By KG MacGregor

© 2002


Chapter 14


"Lily, I don’t think I can do this." Anna was practically wailing.

"Sure you can. We’ve been through everything, and I even wrote it all down. It’s only for three days."

And three nights! "I don’t…." Anna was frantic. "What if he has another asthma attack?"

Andy had gotten sick last night, shortly after Lily had told him that she needed to go away for a few days. Still coughing at bedtime, she had asked Anna to bring the rocking chair from the other bedroom into his room, and she had rocked him for over an hour until he calmed down and fell asleep.

"Just hold him and rock him. Try not to let him get excited."

"Lily, how do you know Kristy’s not just jerking you around?"

"What difference does it make, Anna? She has the final word on what happens to Andy. If she gets pissed off, he gets to live with his loving grandmother. Been there, done that."

Why was Anna being so difficult? She had sulked for the last two days, all through Lily’s instructions on bathing, dressing, bed changing, cooking, and emergencies.

"Has it occurred to you that maybe she’s just bluffing? She probably couldn’t care less where Andy lives," the tall woman persisted.

"I can’t afford to take that chance. There’s just too much at stake."

As the time drew nearer for Lily to go to the airport, Anna grew more and more anxious. "You know, this is going to be really hard on Andy."

Lily had had enough. "Is this really about Andy?" She couldn’t keep the anger from her voice. "Because I have to tell you, it sounds to me like it’s about Anna. I know you’re scared to do this. I know you’d rather I didn’t go. But I don’t really feel like I have any choice. And I don’t appreciate you making me feel guilty about it." Her voice was shaking as she finished. It had been a very long time since they’d had a fight of any kind.

Anna knew she was being selfish. Of the three of them, her needs were the least right now. She had a supportive family, and Martine was more than willing to help this week by picking Andy up in the afternoon and feeding him dinner before Anna came for him after work. Lily had patiently shown her everything she needed to know. But she was afraid…desperately afraid.

"I’m sorry. I just…." Her voice trailed off. There was no legitimate excuse for the way she was acting and she knew it.

"Anna, why are you so worried about this?"

"I don’t know. I…. What if…? Suppose he…." If there was a complete sentence in there somewhere, it wasn’t coming out.

Lily felt sorry for the woman as she floundered about, trying to articulate her fears. As she finished her packing, she sat down on the end of the bed and patted the space next to her. "Come here, sweetheart."

Anna moved to her side and immediately took her lover’s hand. "Lily, it’s just that I’m worried that your being gone will upset Andy, and I won’t be able to deal with it. Not for me, but for him. What if I can’t reassure him? I’m not good at this like you are."

"Honey, you’re better than you think. Andy likes you. He loves it when you play with him. I can see it. His whole face lights up when you get down in the floor with him."

Anna smiled a little at her lover’s cajoling. She was ashamed at being such a baby about all this. Andy likes me?

"Anna, right now, Andy’s afraid too, and he really needs for you to be there for him. I really need it too. You’ve been wonderful about all this, and I love you more than you could ever know. Please hang in there with me, sweetheart."

"Of course I will." Anna put her arm around Lily’s shoulder and pulled her close. "I’m sorry for being such a jerk."

Lily was silent but returned the hug, burying her face into Anna’s soft neck.

"You’re supposed to say ‘Oh, you’re not being a jerk.’"

"Oh, you’re not being a jerk," Lily complied.


Goddamnit! Lily was fuming as she cooled her heels in the lawyer’s conference room. Kristy had sent word that she had a visitor, and would join her "lawyer" when visiting hours ended.

Shortly after eight, the door opened and her sister was escorted to the usual chair. Again, a deputy recited the visitation rules, finally stepping outside to her post.

The women eyed each other, Lily with suspicion, Kristy with the usual amusement.

"Mother says hello," she smirked.

"What do you want, Kristy?"

"Is that any way to greet your sister? The mother of the child you’re supposedly caring for?"

Lily didn’t rise to that bait. She was waiting to know why she’d been summoned again to this jail.

"Okay, have it your way. We don’t really need to have any friendly chit-chat."

Still the blonde sat quietly, glaring at the impish woman.

"What do I want? That’s easy. I want to beat this and get out of here."

"What do you want with me?"

Kristy’s humor disappeared for the briefest moment as prepared to answer. "Here’s the deal. Our lawyer says it looks bad for Kenny and me not to have anybody from our families in the courtroom to support us. The jury will think we’re scum."

And you’re not? The attorney refrained from saying that aloud. The thought of participating in this kind of charade was repulsive.

"So I need for you and Mother to come to court every day and sit behind me. That way, the jury can see that I’m a person who is worthy of being loved." Kristy smiled facetiously, obviously loving this little game.

"I couldn’t do that, even if I wanted to…which I don’t. You’re forgetting that I don’t live here. I have a job in LA and in case you’ve forgotten, a child to take care of."

"Well I can fix it so that the child is not your problem. With me in jail, the state gives a guardian almost a thousand dollars a month for support, and Mom thought that sounded pretty good. And I can do that first thing tomorrow."

Lily was ready to leap across the table and strangle the bitch. Kristy didn’t care one whit about her own son’s welfare. Still, she held her temper. "And what happens to Andy if I come? We can’t both have him."

"No, but you might be able to work something out with her so that you get to keep Andres and she gets a little…financial help from her rich daughter."

"Not going to happen, Kristy," Lily answered adamantly.

"Fine. Then you should get home so that you can start packing his little things. Grandma’s going to be so happy," the prisoner sneered.

"I don’t think so, Kristy. Because you know all that money you keep talking about? I’m going to use it to hire the very best lawyers I can find. Believe me, we won’t have any trouble at all showing what a pathetic mother Lisa Parker would be. And in the middle of all that will be a sidebar next to this trial story about how you tried to use your own child to buy favor with a jury so that you wouldn’t look unloved." Lily stood and started for the door. "You want a fight? Bring it on!"

This was not at all the reaction Kristy had expected. She was supposed to be the tough one, not this fancy lawyer who was made soft by a privileged life. And now, her only chance to beat the hangman was walking out the door.


Lily stopped and turned coolly. If she hurried, she might make the ten o’clock flight home.

"I need your help, Lily. They’re going to kill us for this." For the very first time since they’d met, Kristy showed her vulnerable side. The magnitude and seriousness of the trial had suddenly dawned on her when the prosecutor had laid out his case on Friday.

"Why shouldn’t they, Kristy? If the DA’s story’s right, you killed that man like a couple of savages."

"But I didn’t do it." The tough façade was gone now. In its place was a frightened woman–a girl really–looking for some kind of lifeboat that might save her from death row.

Lily slowly walked back to the chair but didn’t sit, instead placing her hands on the back and leaning forward. "Are you saying that your story about finding those things in the dumpster is true?"

The shaken woman didn’t answer right away. Kenny and their lawyer had told her over and over that they had to stick to that story. "No, but it’s not what you think. We just wanted some money. But he wouldn’t tell us where it was…and Kenny just lost it. I kept yelling at him to stop and let’s get out of there. But he just kept stabbing the guy."

Lily absorbed her sister’s words, filtering them both as an attorney and as a skeptical sister. "Then why is your attorney saying otherwise?" The public defender could be disbarred for knowingly allowing his clients to perjure themselves. Of course, it still remained in doubt whether McGinnis or Kristy would testify.

"It’s the story Kenny told him. Then he said he didn’t want to know anymore. I never get to talk to him without Kenny, and they both tell me not to say anything."

More than anything, Lily wanted to believe the woman, wanted badly to believe that her sister was incapable of such a brutal act. If what she said was true, McGinnis and the public defender were gambling with her very life on the slim hope that they would both be acquitted. If they were wrong, her sister would likely die for a crime she didn’t commit. But the older sister wasn’t convinced.

Besides, even if it were true, it didn’t excuse her sister’s participation in the crime, or in the cover-up. "Kristy, even if it’s proven that McGinnis did the actual killing, that’s no guarantee you won’t be convicted just the same. But your best chance to save your life is to come forward. If you cooperate, the DA might be willing to settle for a life term."

"Lily, if I tell that story, Kenny could get a needle up his arm," the younger sister said grimly.

"Are you willing to risk dying for him, Kristy? Is he worthy of that? It sounds to me like he’s willing to risk your life, but not his own." Lily pushed away from the chair. "You’d better think hard about that. Somebody needs to tell the DA what really happened."

As the words left her lips, Lily realized that she was in deep shit. Had she been here as Kristy’s sister, she could do what she wanted with all of these revelations. But in the jail’s records, she was here as an attorney, and therefore prohibited from revealing their conversation to anyone without risking disbarment. No doubt, the public defender had been looking ahead.

But the worst part was that her attorney status meant that she could be considered an officer of the court for the case. If Kristy were to testify to McGinnis’ version of events, she could be disbarred for not speaking up.

"Will you stay? Please?" The bravado gone, the small voice was pleading.

"What about Andy? I want you to quit jerking everybody around with him. None of this should concern him."

"Fine. He can stay with you." For the time being.

"I’ll come tomorrow. After that, I won’t promise anything."


Anna bent over the tub, adding two capfuls of Bubble Big to the running water. Her first thought had been to do the bath thing as expeditiously as possible: get in, get clean, get out. But Lily had explained that Andy enjoyed his time in the tub when he got to play a little bit, especially with the bubbles. Dutifully, the tall woman kept reminding herself that it wasn’t all about what she wanted. Adding two more capfuls, she reasoned that if bubbles were fun, twice as many would be twice as much fun.

"Andy? Are you ready?"

The boy came into the bathroom and eyed the growing white mass excitedly. Quickly, he discarded his clothes and placed them in the hamper behind the door like Lily had shown him.

In the two weeks that Andy had been there, Anna had never seen him completely naked before, avoiding the upstairs altogether when she knew it was bath time. To her mild surprise, he wasn’t the least bit modest, far too distracted by the allure of the bubbles, which now surpassed the rim of the tub. Oops.

When they got back from dropping Lily at the airport, Anna heated a frozen cheese pizza for Andy’s dinner, and threw together a salad for herself. He seemed happy enough with his food, but both struggled awkwardly for conversation. Most of her questions drew one-word answers; attempts to draw him out were met with silent shrugs.

After dinner, he played quietly with his cars in the floor of the family room. The highlight of the night was their usual short walk with Chester through the neighborhood, which the threesome had done together every night since the dog had returned home. Anna couldn’t help but smile as the small boy skipped ahead a few yards, then clapped his hands for the basset hound to catch up. Andy was undeniably cute.

Despite her reservations about bath time, the stand-in caretaker found herself having fun. Comically, she piled bubbles on top of Andy’s head, even fancying a beard and moustache on the child. As the bubbles started to fade, she helped him scrub his neck and ears, then his back, chest and arms.

"How about poking that filthy foot out here?" she teased, scrubbing and tickling first one then the other, all the way up past his knees. As Lily had instructed, she then soaped the washcloth and handed it to child, asking him to finish up by washing his own private parts. Thank goodness.

"Is there a particular story you want to read tonight?" Andy was dressed in his dark blue pajamas with the rocket ship on the front. He shrugged again, the familiarity of the playful bath scene forgotten.

"How about this one?" she asked, extracting a story of children who had stowed away to the moon. "This story has a rocket, just like this one." She started to tickle the appliqué on his chest, but suddenly remembered Lily’s cautions about getting him excited. The last thing on earth either of them wanted tonight was another asthma attack.

Grabbing his Dodger bear, Koufax–Lily had suggested the name to honor the pitching great–Andy pushed his feet under the covers and made room for the tall woman to stretch out beside him. A mere twelve minutes into the story, the weary boy was sound asleep.

Anna mentally checked off a day on the calendar. She had survived their first night alone. Only two more to go, and Lily would be home.


At 10 minutes to nine, the courtroom door opened, allowing the spectators and the press to enter and scramble for seats. Lily’s pass, which the public defender had left with bailiff, allowed her reserved seating in the row directly behind the defendant’s table. The blonde hoped that Lisa Parker had gotten the message that there was nothing in it for her to show up.

Moments after nine, the public defender appeared, leaning over with an outstretched hand. "I’m Terry Causwell, Kristy’s attorney. You must be Lilian Parker."

"Stuart," she corrected icily. No one had ever made that mistake, and she couldn’t help but wonder if it hadn’t been a mistake at all.

"Of course, I’m sorry. Thank you for coming. I really think it will help your sister."

At that moment, the side door opened and the two prisoners were escorted to the table. Kristy met her sister’s eyes and mouthed a silent "thank you," which surprised the blonde somewhat. The last few people filed in, the bailiff waiting for the courtroom to settle before summoning the judge. The last person through the door was Lisa Parker, who quietly took a seat beside the daughter that had been taken from her almost 30 years ago.

"All rise!"


"Good morning, Anna. Flat tire?" Carmen said cheerily to her boss, who grunted and stormed past on the way up the stairs where she slammed the office door shut.

Anna kept a change of clothes behind the door, ever mindful of the mess one could make when it suddenly became necessary to disassemble a motor. Angrily, she ripped off her tan Tahari jacket and ivory top, both of which now sported greasy black smears from crawling under the X5 for the matchbox car that Andy had dropped. Naturally, the navy top she kept for emergencies clashed horribly with the dark green slacks, so she was forced to change into the matching plaid navy skirt. That move necessitated hose, which she kept in her bottom drawer, and heels, which she did not. The first person who commented on her casual brown shoes would be fired.

The morning had been…somewhat less than ideal. Andy had probably had a restless night due to Lily being gone, and was very difficult to arouse. Twice, Anna had returned to his room to find that he’d fallen back to sleep. Must be in his genes, she mused, thinking of how Lily loved to languish in bed.

Finally dragging the small boy into the bathroom, Anna readied the washcloth as Andy stripped from the wet pajamas. She had laid out his clothes, but when he joined her in the kitchen few minutes later, he was wearing the favorite ragged t-shirt with the hole in the side. It immediately brought to mind Lily’s well-worn purple tank top. "No, no, Andy. That’s a shirt for wearing at home, not for going out."

So back he went to change, but now his mood was no better than hers. It didn’t help that she poured for him the same bran cereal that she always ate for breakfast…which he didn’t like. After watching the boy push it around in his bowl aimlessly for a while, Anna relented and dumped it out, discovering to her chagrin that they were out of the round oats. In a moment of inspiration, she smeared peanut butter and jelly on a piece of bread and folded it half. Over Andy’s protests that sandwiches were usually only lunch food, he finally finished all but the crust, but not without dropping a large blob of jelly on his clean shirt and shorts. That too must be in his genes.

Anna thought seriously about sending him on, but worried that he would tell her mother that he had in fact done this before leaving home. So back upstairs they went to find something new to wear. Anna threw the sheets and all the dirty clothes into a single load and started the washer.

Finally on their way out the door, the boy remembered his favorite toy–the matchbox Z8 convertible that Anna had given him on the first day they’d met. Andy rarely went anywhere without it. Twenty minutes later, Anna found it underneath the couch in the family room, but not before Chester had left a dirty footprint on the back of her top because she was, after all, crawling on the floor. A quick change and she too was ready to go.

She didn’t have time to switch the car seat to the convertible, so off they went in Lily’s car instead. Now 10 minutes late for pre-school, Anna hurriedly pulled him out, which caused him to drop the small car so that it rolled underneath the big one. And the rest, as they say….

"Anna, Greg Cahill is here to see you," came Carmen’s voice over the intercom.

"Send him on up, Carmen." How rude would it be for me to be barefooted when he got here?


Lily watched dispassionately as the public defender made his opening statements. In a skilled maneuver, Causwell took advantage of Friday’s turn of events, deliberately confusing some of the DA’s conjectures. Sure, the jury had had the weekend to mull the prosecution’s case, but they would have his statements fresh in their minds when they first began hearing the evidence.

From the corner of her eye, Lily could see Lisa Parker looking at her. The attorney was determined not to engage the woman at all. The very idea that this sorry excuse for a mother thought she could get money from her in exchange for Andy was repugnant.

When the court recessed for its mid-morning break, she quickly scooted to the opposite end of the bench, exiting and walking all the way around to the door. Lisa Parker waited, chatting briefly with her other daughter and the public defender.

Once in the crowded hallway, Lily dug for her cell phone and checked for messages. Finding none, she quickly dialed her lover’s office, hoping to leave a message of encouragement about Andy and share the news that Lisa Parker was sitting beside her in court.

"This is Anna." Recognizing the number on the caller ID, the car dealer had excused herself from Greg just a moment to take the call. "Is everything okay?"

"Peachy. You’d never guess who’s sitting next to me."

Anna knew at once. "How are you handling it?"

"Alright, I guess. How did your morning go?"

"Peachy. But I survived, and so did Andy." They had talked at length the night before, and she had assured Lily that she and Andy were getting by just fine, but that both of them wanted her to hurry home.

"Listen, I can’t talk long. This is just a break. Will you be around at lunchtime?"

"Yeah, but I don’t have much time today, sweetheart. Greg Cahill’s here, and Geri’s on her way over. We need to put the final touches on my speech for the Chamber meeting. Can we talk tonight?"

"Sure." Lily was disappointed but she understood. Besides, Anna was certainly doing her part to lend support. She couldn’t wait to hear how the morning had really gone.


"Sorry, Greg. Where were we?" The two were sitting side by side on the leather loveseat in Anna’s office, poring over the four-page speech she would make next Friday to convince Chamber members that she should be their vice-president.

"I gather that was your…significant other?" Greg had heard a bit of gossip recently from a couple of the members when he’d talked up Anna’s candidacy. In a subtle way, he’d chastised their behavior, noting that in a city like LA, their strength was their diversity.

"My partner, Lily. She’s in San Francisco today."

"What kind of work does she do? Is she a member of the Chamber?"

"She’s an attorney. I think her boss is a member, Tony LeFevre, but his is an individual membership."

"Oh, I know him. He’s the guy that runs the legal aid clinic downtown. Nice fellow."

"Yeah, Tony’s great. Lily’s been working there for almost seven years."

"I hope I get a chance to meet her someday."

"Me too, Greg."

Geri arrived soon after, and the threesome polished the speech for the rest of the morning. Geri suggested lunch at a popular Beverly Hills restaurant, but Anna declined, citing a backlog of work. In truth, it was the shoes.


"This court will stand adjourned until nine tomorrow morning." The public defender had finished his opening statement by 3:30, and both parties agreed to wait until tomorrow to present the first witness. The judge had given the jury strict instructions not to speak to anyone, to avoid news reports about the trial, and most important, not to form any opinions with regard to the case.

Lily picked up her purse and started again to slide out to the side when she was stopped by a hand on her arm.

"Lily? Aren’t you even going to say hello?"

The blonde woman turned and met the eyes of the mother who had failed her, now nothing more than an Oakland cocktail waitress whom she didn’t know at all, and didn’t want to. "Hello," she said simply, and turned again to leave.

"Lily, wait. I want to talk to you about Andres."

"I think I’ve already heard your thoughts on the subject, and the answer is no." If Lisa had more to say, Lily didn’t hear it, spinning abruptly and walking out, bypassing the elevator for the stairs. At the bottom, she hurried to the revolving door and pushed through, drawing in a deep breath as she exited. What a piece of work!

Walking back to her hotel room near Union Square, Lily fumed at Lisa Parker’s nerve. The very idea that she had any chance at all for custody of Andy was absurd. There was no way a judge would give her the child, even if it meant sending him back into foster care. Was there?

Lily quickly paced through the menu on her cell phone until she found the number for John Moss.

"This is John Moss. Can I help you?"

"Thank god you’re there! This is Lily Stuart. Is there any way I could drop by for a few minutes to talk about something?"

"Sure. Are you nearby?"

"Union Square. Give me 20 minutes."

Sooner than that, Lily was sitting in John’s cubicle, ranting about the woman who had sat beside her all day. "So I have to sit there and look supportive like one big happy family, or she’ll pull Andy out and send him home with that useless excuse for a mother. Can you imagine having yet another child in this world raised by Lisa Parker!"

"Lily, if it’s any consolation, I don’t think it would happen. Unless her circumstances have changed, she works nights, and the foster care system really frowns on that."

"But she’s married to that Haney guy. What if he stays home when she goes to work? Wouldn’t they argue that having somebody there all the time was better than putting him in day care? And god knows what she’d make of that DUI thing. And Anna! Wouldn’t she have field day with that!"

Moss could only listen as the blonde woman finished her laments. When she finally took a breath, he jumped in. "I wouldn’t worry about the Anna thing at all, Lily. If there’s any kind of hearing, it’ll happen here, and cases like this don’t get decided on the basis of sexual orientation. The gay community wields a lot of power in San Francisco."

That was a relief. "But what about Kristy? How much does her opinion count here?"

"Probably not at all if she gets convicted. We’ll move to sever rights as soon as the verdict comes down. But if she’s not, it’s really all up to her. Technically, she can just ask to have him returned, and we’re obligated to do that."

That Andy would go back to his mother was unimaginable to Lily. Yet, the only sure way to prevent that could be devastating also. Lily felt no compunctions about holding her sister responsible for her part in this crime, but she genuinely feared that Kristy might indeed be executed for her indirect role. From what she’d read about the case and what she’d heard in the opening statements, the outcome was a simple roll of the dice, and there wasn’t much middle ground.

"What happens if you sever rights, John? Where will Andy go?"

Moss leaned back in his chair and smiled slightly. He had been thinking ahead since the first time he met the woman across from him, and he liked giving good news. "I think there’s a better than average chance that he could be adopted by the first solid family that speaks up, especially if he’s already prospered under their care."

No, Anna can’t handle that, and I can’t ask her to. "That’s not what…I just want to know that he’ll be alright, and that he won’t go to Lisa Parker. That’s all."


"Do you want to spread out your roads again?" Anna reached for the box beside the couch that held all the street segments and accessories. "I need to go take a shower, then I’ll come back and play. Is that alright?"

Andy nodded, immediately dumping the box in the middle of the family room and sorting the pieces to build his little city. Anna was impressed that he never seemed to construct the same setting twice, and he had begun incorporating other items, making tunnels by stacking paperback books. I bet he grows up to be a city planner.

Just to be on the safe side, Anna left the bedroom door slightly ajar, thinking she could hear if there were any kind of emergency.

A hot shower would feel good. The service manager had popped into her office after lunch wearing a big grin, guiding her to the window where he showed the car that had just been brought in for a tune-up: a 1959 507, BMW’s timeless roadster. Unable to resist, Anna changed into her jumpsuit and spent the rest of the day in the garage.

The hot water penetrated her pores, soothing the tired neck and back that had bent over the classic engine all afternoon. Had Lily been home, she would have suggested the hot tub, but she couldn’t see going out there with the small boy.

The small boy…was now standing in her bathroom…where she was completely naked. Nervously, Anna wiped a wet circle from the shower door. Yep, that was Andy, alright.

"Is something wrong, Andy?" What should she do? Turn the shower off and cover up with her towel? Just carry on and act like it was no big deal? Tell Andy to leave the room at once?

"Can we go swimming?" he asked innocently.

Anna was still frozen in place. Nothing was wrong. He had asked a question.

"Uh, Andy? Would…would you mind going to sit on my bed until I’m finished? I’ll be out in just a minute and we’ll talk."

"Okay." She couldn’t make out his features through the steamy glass–and hoped that he couldn’t make out hers–but she saw him disappear from the room. Hurriedly, she finished rinsing off and stepped out, wrapping herself at once in an oversized towel. Crossing the open doorway to retrieve her robe, she noticed that the child sat obediently on the end of the bed.

"Thanks for waiting out here, Andy." What to say next? "Uh, when you get a little older, you’ll start taking baths all by yourself. For older people–like me, for example, or like Lily–taking a bath is more…private. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t come into the bathroom when an older person is taking a bath or a shower, okay?" There, that wasn’t so hard. Anna congratulated herself for getting all that out.

"But the door was open. Lily told me to knock when it was closed."

"You’re right, Andy, and I know that’s confusing. I forgot and left the door open. It’s okay."

"Are you mad at me?" He looked as though he might cry.

"No, of course not. You didn’t do anything wrong." Anna couldn’t help but notice the look of relief on his face. "And you know what? You’ve never done anything that made me mad. Not once. Or Lily either. Now, what was it you wanted to ask me?"

"I wanted to know if we could go swimming."

Andy asked for very little, so Anna hated to tell him no. "You know, it’s kind of late already. I had to work a little late tonight, and we only have few minutes before it’s time for your bath."

"But if I went swimming, I wouldn’t have to take a bath," he reasoned.

"Oh no, it doesn’t work that way. Baths are with soap. That’s how you get clean. Swimming is just water–no soap."

Andy nodded as though he understood, though he was noticeably disappointed about not going swimming.

"Tell you what. I’ll try to get home a little earlier tomorrow and we’ll go swimming for a little while. But you still have to take a bath, okay?"

"Okay," he agreed excitedly. Now he would have something really fun to look forward to.


The next morning was thankfully uneventful. Andy got to pre-school on time; Anna got to work on time; and neither had to change clothes again.

True to her word, the car dealer took the child for a swim when they got home, showing him the lever under the bush that made bubbles in the hot tub.

"It’s like a bubble bath!" he exclaimed with excitement.

"Not quite, because it doesn’t have…."


"That’s right. And speaking of soap, it’s time for your real bath now. Are you ready to get out of this tub and get into the other one?"

Anna agreed to one more trip across the deep end, her hands holding his as he kicked frantically. Lily would be proud of both of them if she could see them now.

As soon as they got inside, the phone rang and both had a chance to talk with the weary woman, worn out already from two days of the trial, followed by two long evenings in her hotel room preparing her cases for Thursday.

Andy got his bath and was ready for his story when the phone rang again. Anna guided him toward the bed, telling him she’d be right back. It was her lover again, calling back to finalize her arrangements for coming home the next night.

"I’m booked on the six o’clock flight. We’ve been getting out about 4:30, so that should be plenty of time to get my bag from the hotel and get to the airport. Should I get a taxi?"

"Are you kidding? You’re going to get a welcoming party." Both Anna and Andy would be very glad to herald her return.

"I can’t wait. I’ve missed you."

"I’ve missed you too." Anna sat on her bed, smiling as they exchanged sweet words. It was nearly 15 minutes before she remembered her charge in the other room.

"Oh, no. I have to go, sweetheart. Andy’s waiting for his story."

The boy was just getting into bed when Anna returned and picked up the book he had selected. Like last night, he was asleep only a few minutes into the story. The hour-long swim had worn him out. Anna stored that information for future reference. She was envisioning already a Sunday afternoon nap for the lad while she and her lover got reacquainted.


"I got some of that cereal you like," Anna told the smiling boy. "Do you want orange juice or apple juice?"

"Apple!" he sang with glee.

"Boy, somebody’s in a good mood this morning. What are you so…." Anna froze in her tracks, looking past the bay window to the stunning sight in the backyard. A pile–no, it was a mountain–of white filled her view. "What the…."

Anna released the deadbolt at the top of the French door and walked onto the patio, the grinning four-year-old in tow. She could hear the pump of the hot tub. She was certain she had turned that off last night. Where on earth did all of these…bubbles…come from?

"Stay right here, Andy. Don’t move." Gingerly, Anna navigated the wet mass in the direction of the hot tub, careful not to slip and fall into the pool. Finally, she reached the area where she knew the hot tub must be, stooping down on all fours to grope for the on-off lever. There! Turning off the churning pump would halt the production of these bubbles, but how did they get here?

Standing slowly, the confused woman turned to make her way back toward the house when her foot struck something…plastic. Grasping the blue object at her feet, Anna suddenly had the whole picture.

"Andy? Did you pour the Bubble Big into the hot tub?"

The still smiling lad nodded excitedly, rubbing his palms together. He was very proud of himself indeed. "Now we can take a bath in the swimming pool!"

Count to 10, she told herself as she marched sternly toward the clever child. 1...2…3…4…. That was as far as she got before her foot slipped off the edge, where her ankle viciously scraped the side of the pool as she fell headlong into the deep end. Her last thought before she hit the water was that they would all surely laugh about this someday.

"Uh-oh," the child uttered softly. The tall woman didn’t look very happy as she headed toward the steps, the bubbles covering her head and body. She didn’t seem to like his surprise at all. Andy spun around and dashed inside, suddenly terrified of what was going to happen next.

"Andy!" The angry woman stormed into the house. "Andy!" she called again. The child had vanished.

Sure that he had gone upstairs, Anna started in pursuit, not knowing at all what she would do when she finally found the boy. And she would find the boy!

The best news for Andy was that the tall, fully-dressed, dripping wet, bubble-covered bleeding woman passed the hallway mirror on her way up the stairs. In spite of her criminal intent, she laughed at the sight, wishing for all the world that Lily were here to see it.

"Andy? Where are you?" When she reached the top of the stairs, Anna continued into her bathroom, noticing now for the first time that she had left a trail of blood from her ankle through the house. First, she shed her sopping wet clothes and wrapped up in her robe, using a towel to push away the bubbles on her head. Next, she grabbed a washcloth to stop the bleeding, but that worked only as long as she held it in place, and she needed to find Andy.

Entering his room, it was hard not to notice the foot sticking out from under the bed. Chester lay on the floor beside him, his tail thumping wildly at this new game. Anna crossed over and sat on the opposite bed, holding the washcloth to her ankle again.

"Andy, I can see you under the bed. Will you come out?" She could hear the sniffles from his crying.

Inch by inch, the protruding foot disappeared. Now, he was hidden a little better. His young mind didn’t process that Anna still knew where he was.

"Come on, Andy. We need to have a talk. I promise I won’t hurt you, sweetheart. Come on out."

Whatever he said was incomprehensible as he crawled out from under the bed crying, but Anna was sure that she had heard the words "beat my butt."

"Andy, I’m not going to beat your butt. No one is, and you can forget all about that for as long as you live here. Now sit on your bed. We have to talk." We’re going to laugh so hard about this someday.

Andy climbed up on his bed and turned to face the tall wet woman in the bathrobe with the bleeding ankle. She didn’t look happy at all.

"Andy, putting Bubble Big in the swimming pool was wrong. Bubbles are only for bathtubs inside the house, never for outside. Do you understand that?"

The boy nodded solemnly, looking at his shoes.

"When did you do that?"

"At night," he spoke so softly she could barely hear.

"When I was asleep?"

He shook his head. "When you were talking on the phone."

Good lord, that must have been when she left him after his bath to talk to Lily. It’s a wonder the pile wasn’t higher than the house.

"Andy, how did you get outside? The door was locked up high. Did you climb up there and unlock it?" She knew he liked to climb on things.

Again, he shook his head. "Through Chester’s hole."

Anna raised her hand to her face immediately to hide the smile she was powerless to stop. Even that was in his genes. But this was more serious. No child should be out by the pool alone, ever.

"Andy, I’m not angry with you, but I want you know that I’m a little disappointed." She needed to make her point, but not at the expense of breaking his little heart. "Do you know why?"

"Because I put bubbles in the outside tub?" She had said that was wrong.

"That was wrong, and you should have asked first. But the reason I’m disappointed is because Lily and I told you that you were never to go out to the pool by yourself. Do you remember that?"

"But I didn’t get in the water," he argued.

"That doesn’t matter in this case. We didn’t say don’t get in the water. We said don’t go out to the pool. Isn’t that right?"

"I guess so." He had misunderstood.

"And the reason for that is because you’re too little right now to be out there by yourself. What if you had an accident and fell in and there was nobody there to help you? Anybody can have an accident, Andy. I even had one today."

Andy felt awful about that, especially all that blood on her leg.

"We don’t want anything to happen to you because we care about you very much. We’d miss you if you weren’t here."

"Are you going to tell Lily?"

"I think I have to tell her about this, Andy. It’s pretty serious. But don’t worry, Lily won’t be mad either. She’ll just be worried that something could have happened to you."

Andy really wished Lily didn’t have to know. She still liked him.

"Now let’s go get breakfast. We might be a little late for school today because I have to get dressed again."

Was that all? She wasn’t going to make him stand in the corner or stay in his room? This was different, and Andy couldn’t figure it out, but he liked it a lot.


Lily leaned over the rail and caught the public defender’s arm as he prepared to leave for the day. "I just wanted to let you know that I’m headed back to LA today. I have to be in court tomorrow. Will you let Kristy know?"

Causwell grimaced. "You’ll be back on Friday, though, won’t you?"

"I’m not planning on it. I really need to get back to my office. I’ve missed a lot of work, and I think we’ve established that Kristy has family." She intentionally left off "that care about her." Lisa had vanished after the first day, realizing there was nothing in it for her to come down here every day.

The public defender steered her into one of the conference rooms off the main hallway. "Lily, you can’t do that to us. Don’t you see how that will look?"

"Look, I came up here like she asked, and I only promised her one day. I stayed three."

"But the jury’s going to think you’re giving up on her. If all of a sudden you don’t come back, they’re going to think you heard something to make you think she’s guilty."

"Look, I have a life of my own. I haven’t committed a crime, and I shouldn’t have to be in court answering for somebody else."

"Do you have any idea what’s at stake here," the lawyer’s brown eyes were blazing. "Your sister could get the death penalty."

"That’s right. And since you brought that topic up, I’d like to know why you think it’s a good strategy to gamble both of their lives on this when you and I both know that probably only one of them is guilty."

"Because I don’t know that either one of them is guilty," he retorted. "I didn’t ask. I’m doing what I think is the best thing to win both an acquittal. I’m not going to sacrifice one for the other. That’s not my job."

"And if both of them get convicted, counselor…how are you going to feel about knowing that one of them was just a spectator?"

"And how do you know that spectator was Kristy?" he asked defiantly. "For all you know, she could have been the killer."

"Why don’t you ask…?" Lily stopped herself. Suddenly, she didn’t trust this man at all.

"You’re just here for support, Lily. You need to stay out of this case."

"I intend to. Goodbye, and good luck."


Chapter 15


"Shhh," Anna put her finger over her lips as Andy made the car noises on the floor. The exhausted attorney had fallen asleep on the couch with her head in Anna’s lap. Lily had gotten in after nine last night, grabbing a cab after all since that was after Andy’s bedtime. The attorney worked on her case files until after midnight, the tall beauty curled naked at her side in their bed.

"She’s sleepy?"

Anna nodded and smiled. "It’s almost time for your bath, Andy," she whispered. "Will you start putting your toys away, please?"

"Okay," he whispered loudly. Volume was a difficult concept for an almost four-year-old, an almost four-year-old who would be four tomorrow. He had no idea that the entire family was coming over after work for a cookout with ice cream and birthday cake. And presents.

Andy had been very excited to see Lily this morning when he woke up. He wondered if she knew about the bubble thing. If she did, she never said.

In fact, Lily had heard all about the bubble incident; and the shower incident; and Monday morning’s debacle. She had also heard about how easily he had accepted Anna as his caretaker; and how Martine had reported no trouble at all with his behavior or his picky eating. And she saw how Chester, the faithless basset hound, had taken to following him everywhere, even sleeping on the little bed each night by the boy’s feet.

As Andy was putting the last of the street segments in the box, Lily’s sleep was jarred by the phone.

"We should have taken it off the hook," Anna groused. It was her partner’s line.

"Hello," the blonde mumbled as she stretched across Anna’s lap. "Oh, Jesus Christ!" She was fully awake now, stumbling into the office where she closed the door.

"Andy, go on upstairs and pick out your pajamas and a book. I’ll be right there." Anna pushed the box to the end of the couch, and cracked the office door.

"Fuck her, John! Fuck them both! Hell, fuck them all!"

This was why she’d closed the door.

"Do I have a choice?" Lily stomped about the small room, wishing all of a sudden that she smoked. "What happens if I don’t come?"

Kristy was calling her back.

"How soon?" Her eyes told Anna that the woman had revoked her custody.

"So even if we try to fight this, he has to go back to San Francisco into another foster home until it’s resolved. Hold on a second." Lily covered up the phone. "That bitch has asked that Andy be placed with Lisa, all because I left the trial. Her goddamn lawyer put her up to this."

"You should go back, then."

I know I should, but…. "What? You think I should go back?"

"Lily, it’s only for a couple more weeks at the most. Can’t you get somebody to cover for you at work?"

"Anna, that means you’ll be here with Andy all by yourself again. I can’t ask that."

"You didn’t. We’ll get by, just like we did this week."

Lily couldn’t believe her partner was saying this. Just last Sunday, she’d been ready to throw herself under the airplane’s wheels to keep her from leaving.

Anna couldn’t believe she was saying this either. Just yesterday morning, she had walked out of the house into a mountain of soap suds, wondering how she would survive the day.

"Okay, John. Tell the bastard I’ll be there. And you can tell him that I called him a bastard."


Lily boarded United’s five o’clock flight back to LA. It had been a long day. Once again, she’d caught the 7:05 to San Francisco so that she’d have a pretty good chance of getting to the courthouse by nine. She had told the son of a bitch public defender at the first break that she was leaving at four o’clock to catch a plane, and if he didn’t like it, he could shove it up his ass.

Squeezing into the window seat of the last row, she closed her eyes. A nap on the way home would be really nice. Cleared for takeoff, the 737 barreled down the runway. At that moment, someone in close proximity…er… passed gas. A vision of Tony Bennett burst into Lily’s head: "I left my fart…," she crooned to herself. Anna would probably tell her that was disgusting.


Martine had agreed to bring Andy home once she got a call that everything was ready. Anna and Hal were hanging brightly colored streamers across the patio when Lily pulled up.

"Hi baby," Anna met her lover at the back gate, delivering a short welcoming kiss. "We’re almost ready."

"Did you get his present?"

"It’s in the garage."

Lily placed a quick call to Martine and went to visit her niece and nephew. "Kim, this stuff is great. Thank you for doing all of this." Her sister-in-law had volunteered at the last minute when there was a possibility that the party would be postponed.

"It’s no problem. You guys are easy. Jonah’s been to some of the most elaborate parties for two-year-olds you’ve ever seen. They all have clowns, or pony rides, and face painting. An artist comes and draws their pictures. They rent those big air slides. I don’t know what I’m going to do next month when he turns two."

"I’m sure you’ll find a way to put them all to shame."

"Don’t bet on it. I’m thinking we’ll just buy a house in Riverside and invite all his friends to Chuck E. Cheese."

"Works for me."

The next car in the driveway was Sandy and Suzanne, the latter of whom had brought a change of clothing in case she got wet exacting her revenge on that Hal guy.

Finally, the guest of honor arrived. George opened the gate and led the way. "Come on, Andy. I think Anna and Lily are in the back yard. Don’t forget your car."

Andy stretched across the back seat to get his Z8, and pushed hard to close the door on George’s brand new imported 750Li. He was the last one through the gate, greeted by a jubilant chorus of "Surprise!" This Birthday Boy had never seen so many happy people cheering for him, and he got so excited that he wet his pants.


"Bless his heart, we scared him. Anna, he’s probably never been to a birthday party in his life, let alone had one." Andy was finally asleep, and the women were readying for bed.

"Wasn’t he adorable?" Andy had gotten so excited by the presents that Lily had to take him in the other room to calm him down so his asthma wouldn’t kick up. She and Anna had gotten him a toy jeep that he could really drive. The battery was good for two hours, and would recharge overnight. It was perfect for their driveway and sidewalks, and he loved it.

Lily snaked her arms around the slender waist, touching her lips to the top of Anna’s smooth back. "I closed the door all the way."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. So that means we might have a little…private time tonight."

"Is that an invitation, Ms. Stuart?"

"Perhaps. Would you rather it were a demand, Ms. Kaklis?"

"No need for demands." Anna turned and found her lover’s lips. There hadn’t been many opportunities for this recently, and the dark-haired woman intended to make the most of it. Gently, she raised her hands to Lily’s face and trailed her fingertips along the jaw, slipping them tenderly through the short blonde hair to cup the precious head. Breaking the kiss, she murmured, "I really want you tonight."

"I’m here, Anna."

The dark-haired woman took her time, savoring her lover’s trembling excitement as she tenderly stroked the bare skin. "Look at me, Lily." The blonde had closed her eyes to concentrate on the feel of Anna’s fingernails gently scraping her nipples.

Green eyes were lost in blue as they watched one another react to each sensation. "I love you."

Anna repeated that emotion, but with her eyes, which bore into Lily’s as she slipped her long fingers into the wetness below. "You’re so wet."

"You do that to me."

Anna was torn, wanting badly to taste her lover, but not wanting to leave the intimate connection their eyes had forged. She would have both, but first one, then the other. Slipping inside, her eyes widened with Lily’s; both knew the blonde woman was close.

"Deeper," Lily moaned as she opened herself wide, reaching low to push the searching hand inside.

Anna’s long fingers stretched, curling deep to fill her lover. A thumb gently teased the bundle of nerves in a rhythm that matched the rolling hips.

"Yes…oh yes…that’s it." The green eyes struggled to stay focused as she felt the first ripples of her release. Anna was looking into her soul.

"Tell me."

"Oh…Anna…you’re making me come." Her neck and chest turned crimson as the climax took her.

Anna watched her as she gasped for breath. "God, I love you so much." Finally, the green eyes succumbed, and the dark-haired woman lowered herself to claim her second prize.


The guaranteed two-hour battery on Andy’s new jeep expired fifteen minutes early, about a quarter mile from the Brentwood home. Anna and Lily took turns bending down to push the little car along the sidewalk, the taller woman suffering a scraped knee when the youthful driver steered them unexpectedly into a neighbor’s driveway.

"Uh-oh. I thought this was our house." It was an honest mistake. Both houses had driveways, but they were not otherwise similar.

"Can we go swimming?" the boy asked as the tired pair wheeled the little vehicle into their own driveway.

"Maybe later, Andy. My watch says it’s your naptime," Lily answered.

"Then can we go?" He was certainly persistent.

"Yes," Anna jumped in. "After your nap, we’ll go swimming." Andy got out of his car and waited on the porch while the women returned it to its power source in the garage.

"You’re easy," Lily chided her partner.

"You and I both know we’ll eventually say yes. So why not say it now? That way, he won’t work us over when we say no."

The blonde’s face took on a puzzled look. "Do you do that to me?"

"Ha! When do I ever tell you no?"

That drew a smile. It was probably true, Lily thought. She had asked Anna to take the day off so they could spend it together, agreeing that it made more sense for Lily to return to San Francisco on Sunday afternoon so she wouldn’t be so tired. "I’ll put him to bed. Why don’t you wait for me in our room?"

Fifteen minutes later, Lily found her lover resting on their bed, the scraped knee sporting a new band-aid.

"How’s the war wound?"

"It’s fine. You know, I didn’t get this many scrapes when I was a kid. All of a sudden, I’m accident prone."

"Poor baby." Lily joined Anna on the bed, snuggling into her side.

"So what happens in the trial this week?" They had barely talked about how things had been going in San Francisco.

The attorney filled Anna in on the prosecutor’s case. First, they had taken testimony from the officer who received the call that a body had been found; then from the cleaning lady who had discovered Graves dead on his floor. The coroner testified to the approximate time of death, and to the cause–21 separate stab wounds, any one of six that might have been fatal. In his expert opinion, all but one of the wounds had been inflicted from the same angle and all with the same approximate force, making it likely that only one person had done the deed.

Three detectives from the crime scene unit described the disarray of an apartment that had been plundered. A technician talked about how DNA tests were used to determine that several long red hairs found at the scene belonged to the defendant, Kristy Parker. Fingerprint experts definitively identified Parker as the owner of prints found in the apartment.

Next up was the pawn shop owner, who had called police when he took in an item from the list they had circulated of things the housekeeper had identified as missing. He pointed to the defendants as the people who had brought the piece in.

Detectives described how they tracked the pair from the pawn shop to their one-room apartment in the Tenderloin District, arguably the seediest neighborhood in the city. Several of the items missing from the murdered man’s home were found in their possession. In addition, police recovered a pair of women’s jeans that contained drops of blood.

"The prosecutor’s still up. So I guess next they’ll do the blood analysis and the murder weapon. If they have anything else, I don’t know what it is, but they’re going to have to find a way to poke holes in the story the PD’s been floating."

"Do you think it’s possible that their story is true? That they found those things in the dumpster?"

Lily had hoped to avoid this type of question from her partner–or from anyone–now that Kristy had told her the story about the murder. She knew she shouldn’t talk about it, but Anna was the only person in the world she could truly trust.

"I…Anna, you can’t ever repeat what I’m going to tell you, okay?"

The tall woman pulled herself up against the pillows so that she was almost sitting. "Of course I won’t. What is it?"

Lily spun around to sit cross-legged on the bed. "Kristy told me that she was there. She told me that McGinnis lost it when Graves wouldn’t tell him where the money was."

"What does that mean? Is Kristy innocent?"

"Yes. Well, no. In the eyes of the law, she’s guilty if she took part in the act. But she says she tried to stop him. And if that’s true, it would mitigate her involvement, which means she could escape the death penalty."

"How do you know she’s telling the truth?"

"I don’t," Lily sighed. "I just…hope she is."

"So why doesn’t she just tell her side of the story and let the jury decide?"

"Her lawyer has them going for broke. I tell you, I think he’s taking a big chance, Anna. But if he can tie up all the loose ends with this story about the dumpster, that’s the reasonable doubt the jury needs to find them not guilty."

"What are the chances of that?"

"It’s…I don’t know, fifty-fifty. They can tell the jury the dumpster story from the police reports, because they’ve been telling it all along. But the jury will want to hear it from Kristy or McGinnis, and I doubt their PD will put either one of them on the stand."

"Why not?"

"Well, if they testify, the prosecutor might expose them on cross-examination. The jury would probably be skeptical of anything they said anyway, so a cross could make them look really bad. But if they don’t take the stand, the jury’s going to wonder why, even though they’re not supposed to consider that."

"So there’s a fifty-fifty chance that they’re going to get away with murdering that man. That’s not right."

"No, it isn’t. But our justice system favors the defendant. If a person’s life is at stake, we need to be able to prove they deserve it beyond a reasonable doubt."

"What do you want to happen, sweetheart?"

Lily had had misgivings about the case ever since Kristy had shared her version of events. She had tremendous faith in the justice system and in the wisdom of the jury, but if they didn’t have all the information, the outcome was anybody’s guess. "I just want justice. Whatever that is."


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