For complete disclaimers see part 1.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally
suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com <mailto:XenaNut@hotmail.com>
Willow was almost giddy as she saw the Jeep Wrangler make its way across the winter wonderland that was her ranch. She ran out onto the porch, breath instantly freezing in the cold evening, but she didn't care.
Christine waved from behind canvas and plastic cocoon as she pulled to a stop. She barely had the door open when an excited blonde was in her arms.
"I missed you!" Willow exclaimed, nearly squeezing the breath out of the taller woman, who laughed and squeezed her back.
"I missed you, too." They pulled apart, and immediately Christine's gaze scanned down to a sweater-clad tummy. She placed a calloused hand over it, chewing on her lip as she concentrated on what she was feeling. Willow grinned.
"What are you doing, you goof?"
"Well, I figure since you're starting to show, I want to see if the little imp is doing somersaults yet."
"Ha ha, very funny. This little imp is going to freeze to death if I don't get her into the house. You're welcome to stay out here if you like, ..." Willow's voice trailed off as she turned toward the house.
"Hey! You going to help me carry in my stuff or what?"
Willow gave her a sly look over her shoulder. "Sorry. I'm already carrying a bundle," cupping her stomach to emphasize her point, she sashayed up the stairs, and into the house. Christine watched after her, mouth hanging open incredulously.
"Is she kidding?" she muttered, words freezing in the cold day.
"Of course I'm kidding, you nut!" Willow ran back down the steps, playfully slapping her friend's arm. Together they lugged in Christine's bags, all four of them, two to be wheeled up the stairs. Once settled in her room, the singer was left to unpack as Willow hurried to make some hot chocolate for the poor, frozen woman.
Christine looked around the small room, tastefully decorated in simple, yet very warm colors and themes. The four poster bed, naked oak, with what looked to be a handmade quilt covering the queen-sized surface. Pictures were scattered, looking to Christine to be mainly family. She looked at a few off them closely, recognizing a young Willow at various ages- blowing out candles; sitting atop her horse, Star; arm in arm with a man that looked to be her husband.
Funny that she'd never really paid much attention to the pictures before. Were they there last time she'd stayed in the room?
"Ah. I see you've discovered my newest hobby." Willow said softly from the door, two steaming mugs in her hands. "It's not good for me to spend too much time alone- I start getting creative." She smiled, walking into the room and handing Christine one of the mugs. "Marshmallows, just the way you like it."
"Thanks," sipping, the singer closed her eyes in pleasure at the taste of the rich chocolate. "I miss this." She raised the mug, "No need for it in California." She walked over to one of the pictures. "This is you?"
Willow nodded. "Yep. Me and my best friend from elementary school and junior high, Scarlet."
"Do you and Scarlet still talk?" Christine asked, taking in all the details of the two young girls, looking to be around eleven or twelve, dressed in white dresses with funny looking white, paper hats on their blonde heads. They both had their mouths open, and Scarlet was looking at the photographer.
"No. She moved away during our eighth grade year. We were in a play in that picture." Willow chuckled softly at the memory. "It was one of those ridiculous things where no one really has a role, per se. We were all supposed to be bakers. That's what those things are supposed to be," she tapped the glass over the funny white hats. "Baker's hats."
"Ah. I was just going to guess that," Christine grinned, then winked at the rolling green eyes.
"Do you have any pictures of you? When you were younger?" Willow sat on the edge of the bed, hands wrapped around her mug, warming them. Christine snorted, looking at a picture of the blonde with her grandparents, during her high school graduation.
"The first picture taken of me was a mug shot when I was eleven years old," she said absently.
"Oh." Willow looked down into her chocolate, watching a marshmallow begin to melt. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." Christine smiled, sitting next to her friend. "I've had enough pictures taken of me to last a life time."
"Yeah, guess you have, huh? Well," the blonde said, grinning from ear to ear. "when this baby is born, she's going to have a camera in her face all the time. I'll fill tons of albums with pictures of her." She stared off into space, imagining it.
"You're pretty sure it's a girl, aren't you?" Christine glanced down at the little protrusion in Willow's tummy, tempted to reach out and touch it again, but decided against it. Once in a day was enough.
Green eyes met hers, and Willow nodded. "Yeah. It's funny. It's like I just know I'll have a daughter."
"And if it happens to be a boy?"
"Then I'll love him just as much. I'll just have to find a new name for him." They both laughed. "And don't ask," Willow wagged a warning finger at her friend. "I don't want to jinx it by saying her name out loud."
"Fair enough. I won't ask."
"Come on," Willow gently slapped Christine's knee. "let me show you the other stuff I've done to the house."
"Mm, that's good," Christine sighed, bringing the mug back down to rest in her lap.
"Rub it in,"
"Hey, I told you to make the decaf," the singer said, glancing across the sofa to her friend, dutifully sipping her mug of decaf hot tea.
"Kevin was here," she looked at her friend, "about a week ago."
"What did he want?" She sipped the rich mocha, closing her eyes in pleasure.
Willow chuckled. "To see if I was a lesbian."
"Ah, the 'L' word. Not just a show," Christine muttered. "I guess he saw that wonderful work of literature?"
Willow nodded, playing with her tea bag, dipping it a few times, before removing it and placing it on the saucer resting on the coffee table.
"He also tried to get me to not divorce him." The blonde's voice was bitter, making Christine sad.
"What did you say?" she asked quietly.
"In not so many words, I told him Hell would freeze over first. He made his bed; let him lie in it." Without even realizing it, she brought her hand down, resting it on her stomach, protective instincts on high alert.
"Are you okay with his visit?" Christine set her mug down, turning a bit so she could face her friend, give her full attention to her. Willow didn't say anything for a moment, the fire reflecting in her green eyes as she studied the dancing flames. Finally she looked at Christine.
"Yes and no. It hurt, but I guess in some weird way it was good to see he's okay. You know? God, does that make any sense?" she ran a hand through her hair, turning back to the fire.
"Willow, you loved him, and you guys were together for a long time. It would be crazy for anyone to expect you to just forget about all that. Loving someone becomes almost like a habit."
"It can be hard to break," Willow agreed with a nod.
"Have you ever been in love?" the blonde asked after a slight pause of thought. Christine shook her head, no thought required. "Never?"
"Never." Christine sighed, thinking that perhaps this might be the perfect segue into the conversation she knew they needed to have. She'd been there for three days, and it hadn't come up. It was time that it did. "Willow, I really want to clear the air with something." Willow said nothing, waiting for the singer to continue. "That article in the magazine,"
Willow nodded, sipping a bit nervously from her cup. "There's really nothing to clear, Christine. It's not like you did anything wrong,"
"No, I didn't. But that still affected you, no doubt, our life, friends, family."
Willow chuckled quietly, staring down into her cup. "I got a few questioning stares, to say the least."
"I bet." Christine sighed, locking her courage into place. "You asked me a question, and I didn't really answer you. It's been bothering me." Their gazes met for a brief moment, a thread of understanding briefly shared.
Setting her tea cup and saucer onto the coffee table, Willow turned into the arm of the sofa, curling her legs under her. She looked at her friend expectantly.
Christine sighed before beginning. "You know, this world loves labels. Humans feel the need to label any and everything, I guess to relate, I'm not sure. Our culture and language is interesting that way, I suppose," she rambled absently. "Anyway," shaking her head, she focused on the topic at hand. "Since I came onto the music scene when I was fifteen, the world has wanted to put me somewhere, and I didn't really fit, you know? I wasn't exactly a pop princess, or a diva, whatever you want to say. So, when they couldn't put me in a category of music, they wanted to categorize me personally."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I had the gay community trying to tuck me under their wing as the next Melissa Etheridge, even though we emerged around the same time," she chuckled lightly. "but you also had the straight community pegging me with Sheryl Crow or Alannah Myles, or whoever else you can think of. Trust me, I've heard them all."
"Why do they do that?" Willow was fascinated, never even giving it a second thought, what she heard about the everyday celebrity. Not like she knew any.
"Because everyone needs to stake their claim. Like Bob, for instance. He made me, he discovered me, never mind it was my talent that got us there."
"So, everyone wants a piece of you," Willow said, a statement. Christine nodded.
"Yes. I have never been photographed with a man who couldn't be identified as belonging with someone else, or gay, or whatever. Okay, so they move on to women. Same problem, but since I have such a large lesbian following, that must be it."
"Why didn't you set the record straight, then? If you're not gay."
Christine's lips curled into a delicious smile. "What, and ruin the mystery? This may sound cold, Willow, but mystery sells."
"I thought sex sells?"
"Oh, it does. And what better story then a singer who's career is been built on mystery, pure sexuality, but yet remains sexless. Stumps 'em every time, so then they can't get enough. Sadly," she sighed, grabbing her cup again, and sipping. "it backfired. Every strange woman I was seen with automatically became my newest conquest." The bitterness was unmistakable.
"Christine?" Willow said softly, hand resting on the singer's ankle. "You still haven't answered the question."
Christine thought about what to say, how to word it as she took another sip, then held the mug between her hands, back in her lap. She stared down at the dark liquid, it's restless surface capturing the orange firelight.
"Both lesbians and straights alike gauge your sexuality by who you're having sex with, agreed?" she glanced at her friend, who nodded.
"Yeah, for the most part, I guess."
"Sure, you have your sticklers out there who claim it's far more than that, but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of it, it's all about whether you're enjoying a penis or a vagina."
"Okay," dark blonde brows were knit, trying to follow where this was going. Christine looked at her, dead in the eye.
"How can I be labeled if I'm not having sex with either?" They stared at each other for a moment, Christine's blue eyes unflinching. She saw shock and uncertainty flow through Willow's.
"Wait, what?" The blonde sat forward, crossing her legs Indian style, elbows resting on her knees. "I don't understand-"
"Willow, to me, sex is a dirty word. It's something I peddled on the street, something that's killing my best friend." She explained, her voice soft.
"Honey, it doesn't have to be that way," Willow said, saddened the her friend, who deserved all that was good in life and love, denied herself because of a past, riddled with imperfections.
"It does for me. I know that what I did isn't all that sex is. Trust me, I've heard this argument before, but I've never, ever made love. It's always been something naughty, up against a wall in some dark, dirty alley, or in some smelly, pay-by-the-hour motel room."
"Okay, so let me get this," Willow readjusted her body again, getting more comfortable for what she figured would be a long, in-depth conversation. "you have not had sex with anyone since your days on the streets? You've never made love to someone? Never been made love to?" her brows raising on that last question. Christine shook her head, eyes lowered, feeling shame flush her features.
"Since I started all this, I've had people throw themselves at me, you know? All wanting a piece of the pie, so to speak." She sighed heavily, then looked up at her friend with tortured eyes. "Not one of them wanted me for me." She tapped herself in the chest. "It was all about the image, and what I could do for them."
"Oh, Christine," Willow whispered, taking the singer's hand. "I'm sorry." Christine shrugged.
"You can't miss what you never had. It's just not anything I really waste my time on. I've kept up my part of the bargain, once again selling myself to the masses."
"Do you really feel that way?" Willow asked, her voice hoarse, almost feeling guilty of being part of those masses. Sad blue eyes met hers, and Christine nodded.
"I didn't used to. It's only been within the past five or so years. I'm just so tired, you know?"
"I can't stand in your shoes, but I can see the wear on you, in your eyes," she squeezed Christine's hand. "I hope this little trip here will give you a bit of peace. I mean, you'll certainly find quiet here." They both laughed. It hadn't escaped Willow's attention that Christine hadn't really answered her question, but she decided to leave it alone. For tonight.
"Well," Christine said, scooting her legs around so her socked feet hit the floor. She drained her coffee, then wiped the back of her mouth. "I'm exhausted." She leaned over and gave Willow a goodnight hug.
"Sleep well," the blonde murmured into it, then smiled up at her friend as they parted, and Christine stood.
"You, too. I'll see you in the morning."
Willow watched as her friend grabbed her mug, and Willow's near-empty cup, padded into the kitchen, then headed up the stairs, taking the steps slowly, hand on the banister, almost like she was tugging herself up.
That night, Willow went to sleep with a smile on her face.
"Connor. Stop it." Rachel gave Christine a clenched teeth smile, then whacked her boyfriend in the leg again.
"Sorry," he lowered his eyes, looking back at his hand of cards, though it took only moments for his eyes to flick back up to the woman sitting across the table from him.
For her part, the singer basically ignored his stares, but it wasn't easy. Especially when it was the man's turn to draw a card, and either Rachel or Willow had to smack him to get him back in the game.
"Uno," Christine said, wiggling the card left in her hand. The other two women growled, while the man in the bunch grinned like a fool.
"You're an embarrassment," Rachel whispered to him. "can't take you anywhere."
"Okay, you suck." Willow said, ignoring the other nurse. Christine stuck her tongue out at the blonde, holding her one card close to her chest, keeping it away from very curious green eyes. "We've got to keep her in the game, guys," she said, looking at her hand. Grinning evilly, tongue caught between her teeth, the blonde laid down their one chance of keeping Christine in the game.
"Hey!" Connor yelled, seeing the Draw Four card that had just been laid down for him.
"Sorry, buddy boy," Willow laughed. "That's what you get for sitting there with your tongue hanging out all night." He glared at her as he stubbornly drew his cards.
"What color, Wills? Chose wisely." Rachel warned.
"I know," the blonde chewed on her lip, glancing over at the black, white and red card that Christine had practically made part of her shirt, as though she were trying to see through it. Christine gazed back at her, brow raised in challenge. "Green. No, red. Wait, I think blue-"
"Come on, Willow. Pick one,"
"Green. Yeah. I'll go with green."
"Should have gone with yellow," Rachel hissed. "I had a Draw Two card in yellow." She tossed down a green two. All eyes turned to the singer, who looked forlorn as she took in two pairs of expectant eyes, and a pair of puppy dog eyes that made her want to roll her eyes. She resisted, for Willow's sake. Finally she sighed.
"Yep, you should have gone with yellow." Christine gave each of them another look, then turned to Willow, mouth curving up into a lopsided smirk. Without breaking her gaze, she tossed down her card.
"Willow!" Rachel exclaimed, gawking at the red two that topped the pile of cards.
"I'm out," Christine said softly. Willow glared at her, emerald daggers. With that, Christine threw her hands up in the air, pumping a victorious fist.
"Beginner's luck," the blonde mumbled.
"I still can't believe you've never played Uno before." Rachel shook her head as she tossed her own hand to the table. "Connor, stop it."
"That was fun," Christine said, glasses clinking together as she gathered them up between her fingers, heading toward the kitchen.
"Yeah, it really was," Willow called back from within. She was busy unloading the last few clean dishes so the dirty ones from the evening could be stowed. "I'm really sorry about Connor. He's usually not that obnoxious."
The brunette chuckled. "It's okay. I've met his type before."
"Well, somehow I don't think he's met your type before, though." Willow took the glasses from Christine, mounting the glassware on the upper wrack of the washer.
"It happens." She took the dishrag from where it had been left to dry, straddling the two sinks, and headed back out to the dining room, wiping down the table.
"Quite the card shark, aren't you?" Willow asked, leaning against the archway between the dining room and the hall. Christine grinned.
"Like you said," she glanced up at the smaller woman. "beginner's luck."
"Look, uh, I think I'm going to head back to L.A. this weekend," Christine twisted the rag around her hand, feeling suddenly nervous. Willow fought to keep the deep disappointment from her face, though she wasn't sure how successful she was.
"Oh. Uh, okay." She turned to the china cabinet, opening one of the glass-paneled doors, rearranging a few silver pieces, just to keep her hands occupied.
"Well, I've been here almost two weeks now," Christine explained softly. "I've run out of clothes. I only packed enough for the two weeks." She looked at her friend, saw her looking down at her hands, which was filled with a silver butter dish. Willow was softly clicking the top into the bottom, then removing it again, only to do it all over again.
"Okay. I understand." Willow glanced at her friend, smiling weakly. She was stunned at how her heart dropped at the sudden news. She felt lost already, and it was only Thursday.
"I figure I could go back, get some more clothes," Christine's voice trailed off, seeing the light return to Willow's eyes. Without a word, the blonde marched up the stairs, bursting into the room Christine was using. She looked around, seeing the black trash bag sitting in a corner, stuffed full of dirty clothes. Grabbing it, she heaved it over her shoulder, Santa Claus, as she headed down the stairs, past a stunned Christine, and down the second flight of stairs, that would take her into the dungeon.
Finally getting her bearings, Christine hurried down the stairs, boots clopping on the wood. Catching up to the crazy little blonde, she asked,
"What are you doing?"
"I'm saving you a plane ticket." Willow said, tossing her friend's clothes onto the cement floor of the washroom, separating them into piles of darks, whites, reds and delicates.
"Willow, honey, you don't have to wash my clothes," Christine tried to grab the blonde's hand, but her hand was slapped away.
Christine knew better than to try and change the stubborn woman's mind, so she leaned back against the ironing board, watched her work. The washing machine whooshed to life as the blonde set the dial, and then poured in Tide with bleach, and then a Downy ball.
Wiping her hands together, she turned proudly to the stunned woman.
"Okay. I'll stay."
Willow grinned, walking past her friend, and taking her hand in passing. "Come on, mega star. You owe me a rematch of Uno."
Leaves gone, winter transformation complete. The days were shorter, quieter, life, and sound muffled by the blankets of snow, while light was amplified to a blinding brilliance. The notorious Oklahoma winds blew the snow in sheets, flowing across the land in layers, almost like a sand storm across the globe.
Christine turned from the window, dashing off in a dead run when she saw Willow carrying a box from upstairs, tell tale garland hanging out the side.
"Willow!" she hollered, scaring the little blonde to death, almost making her drop the heavy box. She was saved when the singer snatched it from her arms.
"What are you doing? Are you crazy?" she tried to grab the box back, but Christine was already halfway down the stairs.
"Damn it, Willow. You know what your doctor said," the singer set the box down at the foot of the stairs. She walked back up the few stairs to the pouting blonde. "Honey, don't do anything that could hurt you or the baby," she said softly, placing a protective hand on Willow's substantial basketball.
Willow sighed, sitting on the stair she stood on. "I hate this," she mumbled, hand automatically going to support her internal bundle.
"I know. But it's temporary." Christine sat next to her. "Use me for this kind of stuff," she pointed to the box. "that's what I'm here for." Meeting green eyes. "Okay?" Willow sighed.
"Okay. I know you're right."
"Only two months to go. You're almost there."
"Mind if I hand the baton off to you, and you can finish the race for me?" Willow asked with a hopeful raised brow. Christine grinned.
"I would if I could. Now," she stood, pulling the blonde to her feet. "Tell me where you want that stuff, and then you can rifle through it while I get the rest of it."
"I guess." It was a thoughtful compromise, Willow knew, but she still hated feeling useless. Truth be told, she was so grateful that Christine had been there over the past month. She'd gotten bigger overnight, her belly seeming to have exploded, and she was beginning to find the simplest of things difficult and trying at best.
True to her word, within twenty minutes, all of the holiday stuff had been pulled from the attic, and both women were sorting through them, seeing what was broken, and what would be put where.
"A little to the left. No, more right. Up. No, down-"
"Woman, make up your mind!" Christine glared down at the blonde, porcelain and lace angel in hand, as she teetered over the fake tree, angel perched on the top branch.
"I'm trying to get it perfect," Willow explained, tilting her head to the side to try and get a better mental image of what she was looking for.
"Well, while you're trying to do that, I'm going to fall on the tree and knock the entire thing down, then it won't matter where it goes."
"Alright, fine. Put it where you had it a few moments ago."
Christine rolled her eyes, having absolutely no clue which of the dozens of positions it had been in a few moments ago. "Could you be just a smidge more specific?"
"Right," Willow reached up, on her tippy toes, nudging the singer's hand just a centimeter to the left. "there." Smiling proudly at their creation, she took a step back, looking at it. "Come down here! You've got to see this!"
Muttering to herself as she climbed down from the step ladder, Christine stepped back to stand just behind the blonde, looking at the finished product of an afternoon's work. Irritation immediately forgotten, she smiled.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Willow agreed softly.
"Oh, wait," Christine hurried over to the tree, dropping to her knees, then to her side, and doing a warped, side Army crawl around the back of the thing, and with a grunt, plugged in the lights. She smiled at the gasp she heard from her friend, then the room went dark, the tiny bulbs encircling the tree the only light.
Scooting herself out from behind the tree as quickly, but carefully as she could, she joined her friend again.
"You want to know something?" Christine said, her voice soft, as she pulled the blonde back against her.
"Hmm?" Willow asked, folding her arms over those that encircled just above her stomach and below her breasts.
"I've never really enjoyed Christmas all that much," the singer said softly. "Usually the guys were off with their families and stuff, and, I don't know," she shrugged. "I always felt bad interrupting Adam and Alice."
"So what did you do?" Willow said, her voice dreamy as she studied the twinkling lights, letting them almost lull her to sleep.
"Typically just stayed home, wrote. Millie is a Jehovah's Witness, so she and her husband and sons don't celebrate it. She and I would chat, maybe bake something." She shrugged again. "That's about it."
"But you celebrate Christmas, right?" Willow asked, head lightly leaning back against the taller woman's shoulder.
"I suppose I do," Christine said quietly. "We used to when I was a kid," she smiled at the memory. "a really young kid. Before they got into anything really bad. Well, that's not true. They were even before I was born. I guess I should say, before they allowed it to really fuck with, wait, sorry. I'm trying to watch my language," she cleared her throat as Willow giggled. "Before they allowed it to really mess with the family. You can take the girl out of the gutter, but you can't take the gutter out of the girl."
"Sounds like the title of a country song," Willow laughed, pulled away from the singer and planting herself firmly dead center of the couch. "Come here and keep me warm."
Not having to be asked twice, Christine sat next to her friend, wrapping her up in warm arms, and tugging the throw from the back of the couch, she tucked it in around Willow's feet, knowing how swollen and cold they got.
"Can I ask you something?" Willow asked after awhile.
"Are you bored here?"
It took a moment for the words' meaning to sink in, then dark brows drew. "Wait, what?"
"Well, it's not Los Angeles or New York. We don't have the bright lights and big city to keep you occupied. You know?" she glanced up at the singer, noting how the brilliance of the Christmas tree lights reflected beautifully in her already beautiful eyes.
Christine smiled down at the blonde, shaking her head. "How can you possibly get bored on such a huge piece of land that requires so much work? And your horse!" she rolled her eyes. "My god, and I thought children were demanding." She winked at Willow's laugh.
"I'm being serious, you goof."
All humor gone, Christine hugged her close. "So am I," she said softly into the blonde hair. "No, I'm not bored. I love it here. It gives me such peace, it's amazing. Really an amazing place. I can understand why you came here as a child. It must have provided some pretty cool places for an active, precocious child, that you no doubt were."
"Hmm," Willow smiled, feeling so safe and content. "My divorce is final tomorrow," she said so softly that Christine almost didn't hear it.
"Are you okay with that?" she asked, suddenly feeling a cold hand finger walk its way up her spine.
"Yes. Very." Willow sighed deeply. "It'll finally be over, all over, and I can move on."
"Do you think he'll try and fight you for custody?" Christine had to smile to herself, as her hand had absently wandered to cover Willow's extended belly. She felt so protective of what lay beneath. The warmth that met her hand filled her heart.
"I don't know."
"Guess we'll just have to cross that bridge when we get to it, huh?" Christine said softly, feeling Willow's nod. She stopped cold, realizing what she'd said. Feeling the fool, she squeezed her eyes shut, but said nothing. Fixing it would only bring light to her mistake, as Willow didn't seem to notice. How dare she add herself to an equation that was a simple one plus one equals two- Willow and Kevin.
"I have to start Lamaze soon." She pulled away, though it took a bit of effort, her belly not allowing her to move near as smoothly as she once did. After the grunting, she turned and looked up at her friend. "Would you be my coach?"
"I'd love to." Christine's suddenly dark world was filled with light again. God, Kevin was a fool.
"What? Would you stop? You're making me self-conscious." Christine growled, flipping the turn signal to turn on to Brandy, which would lead to the clinic.
"I'm sorry, I just can't get over how different you look. It's mind blowing."
"Yeah, but will it be convincing?" the singer looked over at her companion, wiggling her brows.
"Okay, mommies and coaches, find yourselves a comfortable spot, and lets get to work," Heather Yaklich called out, clapping her hands. As her class murmured amongst themselves, she turned to the few late arrivals, getting them signed in, and the appropriate brochures and paperwork to take home.
Two lovely blonde women entered, the shorter blonde obviously the reason for them to be here, and her taller blonde partner, with large, lovely brown eyes, the woman's partner.
"Hi. Willow Bowman and Casey," Willow smiled at the instructor.
"Nice to meet you both." Heather shook both their hands, and had Casey sign them in. "Okay, ladies, if you'd like to find yourself a spot, we'll get started."
"You'll do fine," Willow whispered, sensing Christine's nervousness.
"I hope so," the singer whispered back.
"Now, mommies, soon you will be responsible for taking care of your little one, guiding him or her, and nurturing that child to grow into the good, helpful, productive adult you are." Heather smiled at her class, looking at each couple individually. She didn't miss the green coloring to Willow Bowman's face. Must be her first.
Blinking several times, Christine looked at her red-rimmed eyes in the mirror, bringing her hands up to rub them with her fingers. Blinking several times again, she grabbed the bottle of Visine, dropping about a dozen cold little droplets in her hair before she finally made it into her eyes.
What she couldn't figure out was how people wore those evil things day in and day out.
Snapping the contact case shut, she turned off the bathroom light, running her fingers over the blonde wig that was mounted on its Styrofoam head, as she passed. Thank god for having connections. She was able to get her disguise FedEx'd overnight. No shrieks of surprise or delight had met them, no murmurs of recognition. Christine figures it must have been a success.
Besides, who'd be expecting to see Christine Gray in Oklahoma?
About to turn down the hall toward the stairs, she stopped, hand still on the doorframe of her own room. She stopped, listening.
Long legs eating up the distance quickly, Christine found herself pushing past Willow's partially closed bedroom door, and at the side of her bed.
Willow was laying on her side, as curled up as small as was possible, the beach ball under her shirt stopping the full effect. Her face was buried in the pillow, hands tucked under her chin, and she was crying.
In the five weeks Christine had been there, she'd seen the crying fits often, but it was usually like a child's cry- you could always tell what it was, simple or complex, hormones or something real. This was one of those real times.
"Hey, you," Christine said, her voice as soft as her touch, as she slipped onto the bed, curling her body around the smaller woman's. Willow didn't respond, just cried harder.
Deciding to let the blonde get the brunt of it out, she held her, one arm tucked up under her pillow, hand peeking out beneath Willow's, and taking one of the blonde's in her own. Her other hand snaked around to wrap around, pulling Willow back into her, her arm resting between Willow's breasts and the baby bump.
Willow allowed the body heat behind her to consume her, filling her with peace. The tears began to subside, small sniffles taking their place.
"Why are you crying, Willow?" Christine whispered in the blonde's ear, once she knew her friend was somewhat under control again.
"It's stupid," Willow sniffled.
"I doubt that. Try me."
"It's what that woman, Heather, said tonight. About us having to raise these babies, taking all that responsibility on our own heads. God, Christine, how am I going to do this?" her eyes began to leak again, and she angrily swiped at them. "I don't think I can do it on my own."
"Your not on your own, honey," Christine tried to reason with her. "You've got so many people here who love you, and who want to help you. Just last week Rachel told you she was more than willing to kidnap the baby for a few days at a time to give you a break." She squeezed the blonde playfully. "Her only ransom request was that you make your double chocolate fudge brownies."
Willow smiled through her tears, but it was short lived. "I guess once I decided I wanted to have kids, I had this picture in my head, a home, parents, dog, all of it. I wanted to be able to give my child everything my parents didn't, wouldn't, or couldn't give to me. I blew it," she began to cry again.
"Oh, honey. No you didn't,"
"I'm alone! A pregnant divorced woman!"
"Oh, sweetie," they rode out a fresh wave of grief and fear, Christine holding her, whispering words of encouragement and comfort into her ear, wishing so bad that she could just climb inside the smaller woman, take her pain.
After awhile, the sobs quieted again, and Christine decided to try a new tactic.
"You know, honey, there are all sorts of families out there. Sometimes when your blood turns their back on you, you have to make a new one. You've got that. No one is going to let you do this alone, and Willow, everything is temporary in life. You remember that. It won't be like this forever, I promise you that. You're a young, gorgeous woman with so much to offer. I know for fact that someone is going to come down and swipe you up,"
Sniffle, sniffle. "Do you really believe that?"
"With everything in me. And Willow, you're going to give this baby what your mother couldn't give you, and that was unconditional love and support. Your mother is a selfish woman who concentrated herself and her own needs. You won't do that."
"How do you know? Maybe I'll turn out the exact same way," Willow glanced at Christine over her shoulder, eyes wide with hope. The singer smiled at her, gently running a fingertip down Willow's cheek.
"Because it's not in you. You don't know what it means to be selfish like that. You give everything you've got to whatever you do."
They shared a moment, each searching the other for answers. Finally Willow smiled, laying her head back on the pillow, and scooting her body further back into Christine's.
"You're not alone," Christine whispered again. "You have me, too."
"Thank you," Willow whispered back. "You're the best friend I've ever had."
"Come on. Let's go make some of those double chocolate fudge brownies, huh?"
Christine kissed the side of the blonde's head, then pulled herself up off the bed, running her hands through her hair. She was surprised when she heard another sob coming from Willow. Turning back to the bed, she leaned over the blonde.
"Honey, what is it?" panicked, she was about to slid in behind her again.
"I can't get up," Willow whined. Christine tried to hide her smile.
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For all of Kim Pritekel's works, go to www.coloradobardsplace.net <http://www.coloradobardsplace.net/> .