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:



Kim Pritekel


Part 6


Kevin grunted one more time, then slowly lowered his body, sweat making his skin stick to his wife's. Willow wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing the side of his head as her heart rate began to slow, her body relaxing.

"I love you," he whispered, laying a gentle kiss on Willow's lips. She smiled.

"I love you, too." Giving him a squeeze, he moved off her and rolled over. Within moments, he was asleep.

Feeling warm and content, but also rather sticky, Willow made her way to the bathroom to clean up. Looking at herself in the mirror, she wet her fingers, trying to flatten her wild hair.

Using the toilet, she headed back to bed, climbing in to find herself curled up in strong arms, and warm breath on her neck. She fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.


"Here you go, honey," Willow handed the little birthday girl a big, red balloon.

"Can I squeak your nose?" another gap-toothed kid asked. Willow bent over, and small fingers squeaked the red, bulbous prop. The kid gasped when the blonde made a loud horn noise between closed lips. Big, brown eyes looked up at the nose, and small fingers reached up again. But before they could touch the spongy nose, Willow reached out and tickled the little one's sides, making him giggle.

"Okay, kids! Cake time!" little Amanda's mom called out from the back porch. A dozen screaming, laughing five and six year olds ran to where the large cake with Care Bears on it, was being settled.

Willow eased her way out of the peripheral of the kids' attention, and headed inside the house where Amanda's dad was waiting to pay her.

"Hey," he whispered, so as not to grab the attention of the kids, he opened his wallet. "great job."

"Thanks, Ted." The blonde grinned, stuffing the payment into the pocket of her baggy costume. "See you at work."

"Have a good one, Willow."

The clown turned to leave when she spotted the leftover burgers and hotdogs from the kids' lunch.

"Oh, jeez," making a very hasty retreat, Willow leaned against her car, hand to her stomach and eyes closed. She willed her stomach to settle, taking deep breaths of fresh air, letting it fill her lungs and settle her body.

Feeling the nausea beginning to pass, she fumbled with her keys, hands shaky. Inserting the silver key into the lock, she slid behind the wheel, tearing the frizzy red wig from her head. It was almost as just the slightest bit of extra clothing made her blood boil, and body heat rise.

She heard her mother's words echo in her head:

"You're fine, Willow. Now get up off the floor and finish vacuuming."

"But mom, I don't feel good," I cry, wiping the back of my hand over my mouth, grimacing at the taste of fresh vomit.

"I said you're fine," mom looms over me, hands on her hips. "Everyone gets sick. You've gotten it out of your system, now don't be a baby. You're fine." With that, she leaves me alone on the bathroom floor.

I try not to cry, knowing she's right and that I'm making a big deal out of nothing. I mean, everyone throws up. Why should I be any different? Special?

"I'm fine," she whispered, taking several more deep breaths.


"So you had to assure him he'd like it, huh?" Rachel grinned, closing the oven door and removing the oven mitt.

"Yeah. I promised him there would be no, oh what does he call them? Right, weird vegetables." She chuckled, struggling to pop the cork on the wine bottle.

"What the hell are weird vegetables?" Rachel asked, stacking freshly baked rolls into a basket, then covering them with a towel to keep in their heat and freshness.

"Broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, or shrooms, as he calls them."

"Oh my god. So are there normal veggies?"

"Yes, there are, actually. They consist of peas, corn, carrots and beats. It's a bitch to cook for him."

"No doubt!"

"Is Connor that difficult?" Willow glanced over at her friend, pouring four glasses of wine.

"Not hardly. The guy will eat anything." She caught the blonde's eye. "And I do mean anything."

"Ew, gross! Far too much information, Rachel."

"Yes, well, that's easy for someone to say who has never had that done." Turning off the oven, she got the salad together, tossing it with a set of tongs.

"I don't know. It's only fair, Rach. If I'm not going to go down on him, why should he have to on me?" Gagging once when an ex-boyfriend had roughly shoved himself down her throat, she was done with that nonsense. She had thought it one of the most disgusting things anyway. Luckily Kevin didn't seem to care much.

"I don't get it."

"Apparently you do." They both laughed.

"So have you heard from Christine again? I cannot believe you didn't call me when she was there,"

"I know, and I'm sorry. No, I haven't."

"But it's been what, a month or so? Here, take this."

"Yeah, about that." The blonde took the salad in its large, wooden bowl, and hugged the various bottles of dressing to her body.

"Are you going to call her?" Rachel carefully removed the casserole from the confines of the cooling over, setting it on the stovetop.

"Why would I do that?" Willow pressed her back to the swinging door of the kitchen.

"Don't want to seem like some silly, obsessed fan, huh?" Rachel grinned, making the blonde roll her eyes.

"It's not like that, Rachel. I don't know," she sighed as she thought of what she was trying to say. "She's not like that. She's fun, has a great sense of humor." She shrugged. "She's a normal person."

"And I guess one who isn't into suing for damages," Rachel's eyes twinkled with mischief. Willow blushed, looking down.

"Yeah. That was extremely embarrassing." With that, she butted the door open, and dinner was served.

"You guys are going to really like this," Connor informed his dinner guests, forkful halfway to his mouth. Kevin look doubtful, but was willing to try it, at least for his wife's sake. He'd never been a huge fan of Rachel, seeing her as a gossip and a somewhat overpowering personality. They'd always clashed, but had kept it to themselves, both loving Willow too much to hurt her.

"Thanks, honey. It's just a little something I threw together once," Rachel said as she buttered a roll.

Willow smiled at the exchange, looking down at her own meal. The casserole looked good and even smelled better. At first.

She felt a bubbling in her stomach. Turning her head, she pushed her plate away.

"Honey?" Kevin said quietly, noticing his wife's color had suddenly become very pale.

"I'm sorry. I don't feel so hot," Willow almost knocked her chair over in an attempt to get away from the smells and sights that were making her want to lose her non-existent dinner.

Closing the bathroom door behind her, green eyes squeezed shut as she tried to get herself under control.

"I'm okay, I'm okay," she whispered over and over again. "I'm not going to throw up, not going to throw up. Shit, gonna throw up-" Rushing over to the toilet, she flung the lid open and anything she'd eaten that day came back for an encore, including the wine she'd had that night, which burned her throat. The taste alone made her gag all over again.

There was a soft tapping on the bathroom door as Willow rinsed her mouth out.

"Honey? Willow, are you okay?"

"Yeah," she opened the door, a very concerned Kevin standing on the other side.

"Are you sick?"

"I don't know." Clicking off the light, she stepped out into the hall, her husband resting his hand on her back. "Guess I have a touch of the stomach flu."

"Or maybe you got the plate Rachel intended for me," he whispered, nipping at her earlobe with his teeth. The blonde giggled, playfully pushing him away.

"Stop. You two are like children, I swear." She gave him a one-armed hug before heading toward the dining room. "Besides, I haven't eaten a thing, yet."

"You okay, sweetie?" Rachel asked, meeting the couple in the hall. Her blue eyes were narrowed in concern, glancing at Kevin for answers. He shrugged, and her gaze turned back to her friend.

"I'll live," Willow muttered, not wanting to talk to anyone. She felt self-conscious of what her breath must smell like.

"Come on, Wills. Let's see what I've got for your tummy," Rachel said, grabbing her friend's hand.

"Rachel, I'm not four," the blonde grumbled, feeling less than playful.

"Okay, hmm," the redhead put her fingers to her lips, looking through the medicine cabinet. Willow sat heavily on the closed toilet lid.

"I feel like a truck just rolled over me."

"Well, try this." Rachel handed the pale woman a bottle of Milk of Magnesia.

"Thanks," she unscrewed the cap and filled the little cup she was handed. Downing the thick liquid with a grimace, she handed it all back to her friend. "Yuck!"

"Give it a minute. It should help settle-" Rachel winced, looking away. "Or not." Rubbing small circles on her friend's back, Rachel was very concerned. "Honey, are you ..."

"Pregnant!?" Willow's eyes were huge as she looked at the stick in her hand, a plus in the little window. "This can't be," She looked at it again. She was on the pill.

"It happens, Willow. In fact, it's not as uncommon as you might think." Dr. Adele Stride removed her latex gloves, tossing them into the waste basket. "I bet Kevin's excited, huh?" the doctor, and long time friend smiled.

"He doesn't know yet." Willow stood, smoothing her gown in place. She sighed. "I wanted to make absolute sure, first."

Adele studied the blonde for a moment. She saw a line appear between the green eyes, but chose to say nothing.

Willow sat in her car, keys dangling from the ignition, unturned. Staring out the windshield, the small, one-story building squat before her.

Without warning, she was sobbing, face buried in her hands. The uncontrollable upset racked her entire body; tears of joy, tears of sorrow, and tears of fear.

Looking up through water-blurred vision, she saw a woman, probably not much older than herself, if not younger, carrying a toddler dressed in pants and little white tennis shoes. The child's thumb was in her mouth, black hair running down her back in a shiny wave.

Willow's tears stopped, her complete focus on mother and child. The woman balanced the girl on her hip, holding her steady with an arm while the other hand unlocked the back passenger side door of the Jeep Cherokee. She said something to the child, making her nod with a smile, dark eyes glimmering with the innocent happiness of youth.

The child was placed in a black and gray car seat, buckled into safety, then with a small kiss to the child's cheek, the door was closed, and the mother moved to her place behind the wheel. As she got herself settled, Willow's gaze turned back to the little girl who looked back at her through the window, dark eyes squinting against the harsh glare through the glass.

Willow smiled, the child smiling back, raising her colorful cup to the blonde in unrealized salute. The Cherokee was started up, and pulled out of the space, and out of Willow's sight.

She took another deep breath, running her hands through her hair, her eyes slowly following a path down her own body, hands falling to her flat belly.

"A baby," she whispered, sudden giddiness making her laugh almost manically.

The drive home was in a daze. She knew Kevin wouldn't be home when she got there, and that nagged at her. She wanted so badly to tell him. Seeing the turnoff that would lead her toward the ranch, she had a sudden burst of inspiration and flipped a bitch, headed the other direction, back toward town, then through it, into the neighboring town of Gail.

She smiled when she saw the orange diamond-shaped signs- MEN AT WORK. Driving past them, she pulled off onto the dirt shoulder, spotting Kevin's truck and pulling in behind it.

Checking herself in the rearview mirror, she spit on a Kleenex and rubbing the tear streaks from her cheeks and from under her eyes. They were still red, but what the hell.

Slamming the car door shut, she was mindful of random stacks of wood and plywood, as well as a wheelbarrow, dried remnants of cement crusting the edges.

"Excuse me, ma'am. Can I help you?" the first man she came to asked, his bare chest darkly tanned, white t-shirt tucked into a belt loop.

"Yeah, I'm looking for Kevin Bowman."

The man turned to the group who was pounding away on four-by-fours that would ultimately be part of the roof of the house.

"Hey, Johnny! You seen Kevin?" he yelled up, one of the men glancing over at him, hitching his thumb back toward the other side of the house.

"He's talking to Norman."

"Thanks. Follow me," the man led Willow around the rubble, reminding her to watch her step until they reached a huge, green dumpster, a small group of men standing in its shadow talking. Kevin was one of them.

He glanced over, sensing someone watching, a huge grin spreading across his handsome face at the sight of his wife.

"Hang on a sec, Norman," he said to the plumber, then walked over to his wife, pushing his sunglasses to the top of his head. "Hey, you," kissing her quickly, he looked down at her. "What's up?" His expression was a mixture of happiness at the unexpected visit by Willow, but also slight concern. She generally didn't come to a site unless there was good reason.

"I went to the doctor today," Willow began, her voice quiet, own eyes hidden by her sunglasses, though she studied those of her husband closely.

"Right. The stomach thing. Are you okay?" he tucked his thumbs in the back pockets of his jeans.

"Well, yes. And no." She smiled, but felt her heart began to hammer against her ribcage.

"What? I don't get it." He watched as his wife shifted her weight from one leg to the other, white teeth peeking out as a bottom lip was sucked in for a moment. Suddenly he felt a pang of unease wash through him.

"Honey, Kevin, we're going to have a baby." There, she'd said it.

Kevin stared at her, face barren of expression. "What?"

"I'm pregnant!" she said, her voice filled with joy.

"I don't understand,"

"Oh, come on, Kevin. I know for fact you know about the birds and the bees," Willow joked, though she felt her joy beginning to leak out her ear.

"But you're on the pill," he said. Yeah, her happy balloon was definitely starting to deflate.

"Yes, I am on the pill, Kevin, which tells me that this baby is supposed to be here."

"So you're going to have it?" The words were out of his mouth before he could even think, and knew immediately that had been the very last thing he should have said.

Willow stared at him for a brief moment, feeling her heart break, and her eyes fill with tears. Without another word, she turned and began to storm off. She heard her name called, and heavy footfalls behind her, which only made her move even faster, then into an all out run.

"Willow! Wait!"

She kept going, reaching her car, trembling hands dropping the keys before she finally got the large key in the lock. A hand rested on her shoulder, but she pulled away from it, opening the door and hearing Kevin's grunt as it smacked him in the mid-section.

"Damn it, Willow, wait."

"Go to hell, Kevin." She slammed the door, barely missing her husband's fingers. She locked the doors when she saw him reach for the handle, revving the engine to life.

She put the car into reverse, not daring to look at him, knowing full well that she'd stop and listen to what he had to say. She didn't want to hear him, didn't want to see him. She just waned to be angry.

Nearly running over that MEN AT WORK sign, she headed away with the squeal of tires and a rubber trail on the street.

"Fuck!" Kevin yelled, hating himself for what he'd just done and praying to God Willow could forgive him.

The blonde wiped angrily at the newest wash of upset the blurred her vision and made her cheeks feel tight and sticky.

She drove around for a long time, not sure where to go. She didn't want to go home as she knew Kevin was probably calling every few minutes. She knew he hadn't meant it that way, but still ....

Driving through the gated community, she drove through the winding streets, strangely shaped properties filled with beautiful townhouses. Fancy town cars were parked in many of the driveways, young kids in shorts and t-shirts working in the yards, watering, mowing and pruning.

Finding 216, Willow pulled up to the curb, the Lincoln in the drive, and cut the engine. Wiping her eyes and nose, the blonde sniffled once then headed out into the hot day.

The lawn was immaculate, of course, as were the flowers that lined the driveway, drying patches where the lawn had recently been watered.

The white sandstone townhouse seemed to glow from the afternoon sun, soft music coming from inside, the screened door doing nothing for sound insulation.

Willow rang the bell, waiting as she heard movement inside, then the music being cutoff.

"Willow!" the older woman hurried to the door, pushing the door open with her hip and pulling her granddaughter in with her arms. The blonde smiled, almost pulled off her feet as she was roughly hugged. The old woman still had some serious strength.

"Hey, grandma." She closed her eyes, reveling in the warm security of the older woman's embrace. Grandma could always make her feel like everything would be okay.

Pulling away, Myra studied her favorite person in the world, a barrage of wrinkles forming around her mouth and eyes. Something was terribly wrong.

"Come in, my love, and I'll make some tea." Willow followed her through the townhouse, open and airy, to the kitchen at the back of the place.

Within moments the two women were seated at the table, tall glasses of iced tea in hand. Narrowed, concerned eyes studied the downcast green.

"You know, Willow, I could begin by telling you a bunch of gossip that you won't care about anyway, or we can just get to it." She squeezed a bit of lemon into her glass, watching her granddaughter as she lazily stirred the juice into the drink.

Willow studied a bead of condensation that slid its way down the smooth glass, trying to get her thought and emotions in order.

"I'm going to have a baby, grandma," she said quietly.

"Oh, honey! That's wonderful news!" Myra Wahl reached across the table, taking the blonde's hand in her own. She was overjoyed.

"I just got back from Kevin's construction site." She took a deep breath, fighting the tears that were trying to break through again. "He's not thrilled."

"What? And he'll make such a wonderful father, too."

"I know." Willow sniffled back the threatening tears. "I don't know. We've talked about it, about kids, and we decided to wait." The tears began to fall. "I didn't do this on purpose, grandma," she looked up at the older woman with pain-filled eyes.

"I know that, love. Kevin knows that, too."

"He actually asked me if I planned to keep it," she buried her face in her hands. "It! As if this baby is some sort of growth inside me instead of a human life that he helped to create."

"Oh, my love." Myra sighed, glancing out at all the lovely birds that bathed and drank from the stone bird bath set up in the small backyard. She watched them flap their wings to rid of the excess water and then preen. She so loved birds. "He's young, honey. You both are, and he's afraid. Your grandpa was the exact same way."

"Really?" Willow looked at her grandma, desperation in her eyes. "I love him, but I love this baby, too. It's crazy- it's no more than a tiny blob right now, but I love it as if it were sitting right here," she patted the table and Myra nodded.

"Of course you do, love. It's a part of you, created of your own flesh and blood. This is a time of rejoicing, Willow, not tears," the older woman reached over and gathered some of the blonde's tears on a fingertip.

"I can't seem to stop," the blonde laughed.

"Get used to it, my love. Your hormones are going to be out of whack for some time." She stood, pulling her granddaughter to her feet, and pulling her into a gentle hug. The taller woman went willingly, resting her head on the sturdy shoulder. "Give him time, honey. This is all new to him. Women are far stronger creatures than our male counterparts, I'm afraid." She smiled when she heard Willow laugh softly.

"Isn't that the truth,"

They parted and sat again. "Have you told your father?"

"No. Only you and Kevin know." She blew her nose, then sipped her tea.

"Well, I think you should stay here with me for a bit and make him sweat," Myra winked, making her granddaughter smile. That was truly one of the most beautiful pictures in the older woman's mind. Her granddaughter was an unusually beautiful girl with an equally beautiful inside. Kevin had no idea just what he had.


"Well, it's about time you show,"

"I'm sorry, Sandra. I had a photo shoot this morning." Christine tossed her coat on the arm of one of the many plush couches the designer had scattered around her studio. "What have you got for me today?" she asked, eyeing the blonde, who was impeccable as usual. Her hair, as usual, was pinned up into some intricate style on top of her head, her clothing, wrinkle free and fitted like she was born with it on.

"Well," she said from behind her drawing board. "You could have at least called," glancing up at the singer, there was teasing her in her blue eyes. "Now," finishing a few lines on her newest design, she tossed the pencil down and walked over to her favorite client. "Robert has sent over some rather," she paused, looking for the right word, "interesting ... ideas."

"God. What now?" the singer sighed, running a hand through her wind-blown hair.

"Well, sometimes I think it would be easier, and far cheaper for you, if you just went out naked."

Blue eyes pinned the designer to the spot. "What did he do," was almost growled through clenched teeth.

"Come," Sandra led the way back to her drawing board, flipping back a few pages in the giant sketch pad. Basically strips of cloth, arranged in fortunate patterns to hide Christine's more personal spots, but otherwise, all was revealed.

"No fucking way," she said. They looked at each other, then Sandra smirked, flipping to another page. "Jesus! I'd look like Cher!" Storming away, she stood before a floor to ceiling window, looking out over L.A. "This is getting out of control," she murmured.

"Christine, come back here. It's no secret how Robert is. Everyone in the business knows that. Especially with you."

Christine looked over at her long-time designer, and reluctant friend. With a sigh, she walked back over to her.

"I already told him no. I told him I wasn't about to turn my creations into something you'd find on the Strip at 2 a.m. Here," flipping to one last page, she showed the singer what she intended to create instead. "You have a wonderful body, Christine, that's also no secret, and I think Robert's smart in showing that off. You have an army of lesbian fans who'd love nothing more than to see some great skin. The men, too, obviously."

She took in the designs, most of which were stunning.

"I figure this dress could be worn for the MTV Awards later on, and this one for the Grammy's."

"Grammy's? Sandra, I haven't even been nominated-"

"Yet. You and I both know you will be. Now, mouth shut, eyes open."

Soon enough Christine stood in the center of the room in a thong and matching bra, arms stretched out as Sandra took her measurements.

Christine had learned to disappear into her own little world while this was going on. She wasn't a fan, and still, after all this time, felt like it was an invasion of her personal space.

"When are you going to get rid of that man, anyway?" Sandra asked around the pencil she held between her teeth.

Christine snorted. "God only knows."

"You know, you're big enough now that you could easily drop him like a bad habit, and be fine." The designer looked up into those beautiful eyes, then turned back to the little, ever present pad of paper, scribbling down notes for herself.

"I know, Sandra," the singer sighed. "I know."

It had been a long day and Christine was sick of everything and everyone. She wanted to go home and rest, chill out, write some music and be alone. Not to be.

After Sandra was finished with her, she would be headed to the valley for some interviews and then off to LAX to catch a plane to promote the new album.

Whoever came up with 'no rest for the wicked' certainly had her in mind.

"Are we finished here, Sandra?" the singer asked, getting antsy and anxious. The designer, who had been working on some measurements of Christine's hips, glanced up at irritated blue eyes.

"That time of the month is it?" she quirked a perfectly plucked brow.

"No. That time of year. New album."

"Ah. Say no more, and yes. We're finished." Standing, Sandra put the material tape around her neck and tossed her notebook to a table. She looked at the singer. "You have changed since you came to us, Christine," she said quietly, looking deeply into a pair of the most beautiful eyes she'd ever seen. And in her business, with her clientele, that was saying a lot.

The singer stared back, not sure where this was going.

"You were so timid and sad." Sandra smiled, though it was troubled. "You're still sad. Aren't you?" She reached out, uncharacteristically touching the tall brunette. She brushed her fingers over a soft, tanned cheek. "Break free, Christine." She whispered. "Before it's too late."

Christine stared at her, this woman whom she'd known for seventeen years, and had a love/hate relationship with, though she did respect her talent and vision. The unusual caring and personal touch almost brought a tightness to the singer's throat that she didn't dare let break free.

"I need to go," she stepped away from the older woman's fingers, grabbing her bag and heading toward the door. "Give me a call when you're reading for the fittings." And she was gone.

Sandra sighed, shaking her head. She worried that one day Christine Gray would just disappear.


"Christine! Over here, please! Look this way, Miss Gray!"

Christine kept the smirk on her face, her trademark and professional disinterested look. She'd done it at fifteen just because she had felt unbelievably uncomfortable with a swarm of photographers snapping the new girl, and that discomfort had shown itself in a cocky smirk. It had stuck and was expected.

What the paparazzi wanted, the paparazzi got. God forbid she actually was herself.

She hooked her thumbs in the pockets of her tight-fitting jeans, holes in all the right places, and turned this way and that, nearly blinded by a veritable sea of flash bulbs. She recognized all the regulars- reporters from ET, E!, People and US Weekly, local news stations and of course the piranha of that sea, the free-lance photog. They were the most dangerous and most bold.

"Hey, there's Lindsay Lohan!" someone yelled, making Christine ever so grateful that the heat was off her. Keeping the façade in place until she was tucked safely into the back of the limousine, she sighed, grabbing herself an ice cold bottled water from the small fridge.

Snagging her cell phone from the console, she saw she had six missed messages. Rolling her eyes, she tossed the phone down again, having no interest in dealing with Bob.


With a small sigh, Willow tucked her cell back into her purse then studied herself in the rearview mirror again. She looked like hell, and felt about as grand.

Sniffling once more, she gathered up all her stuff and locked up the car, juggling her key ring to find the house key. Kevin's truck wasn't in the drive yet, so she'd have a few minutes to get herself together.

Patting her face dry with the wash cloth, Willow stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She definitely looked like hell, and felt tired, her eyes burning from all the crying. As she stared at herself, she couldn't help but wonder if she'd overreacted where Kevin was concerned.

She looked down at herself, seeing absolutely no physical difference, but she felt different. It was all psychological, but there was a human being growing inside of her body, feeding off the nourishment she was providing without knowledge. That little human would form into a child, which was up to her and the baby's daddy to raise, mold and teach.

Willow burst into tears again, plopping down hard on the closed toilet lid. What if she were a horrible mother? What if she was unsuitable and the kid turned into a raving lunatic serial killer?

In her misery she failed to hear the front door open then close, a pause, and heavy footfalls on the stairs, two at a time.

"Baby? Honey, what's wrong?" Kevin set the bouquet of roses on the bathroom counter and knelt down next to his wife who was crying hysterically.

Willow looked up, seeing the hazy image of her very concerned husband through her tears. She tried to pull away from him as he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into him.

"Shh," he cooed, mentally kicking himself over and over again for doing this to her. He was stunned by the words that met his ears.

"I'm going to be a horrible mother!"

"What?" For a brief moment Kevin was relieved that maybe he hadn't caused such intense upset after all. That quickly ended when the little blonde pushed him away, swiping at her continuously leaking eyes.

"Why am I telling you that. You don't care." She stood, blowing her nose then angrily throwing the spent tissue to the bathroom.

"Hey, that's not true, or fair." Kevin also stood, trying to keep his temper down and be understanding. That's what his mother had told him to do- be understanding and caring. He went over to her and hugged her from behind. She was stiff, but didn't pull away. "I'm sorry about earlier, Willow," he said in her ear, "it was a knee-jerk reaction, though I admit not a very good one. I was surprised."

"It's your baby, too, Kevin," she turned in her arms, looking up at him with beseeching eyes.

"I know," he said, his head lowering in shame. "I thought we were going to discuss when to have children, Willow." He looked at her shyly.

"We did talk about this, Kevin," she moved out of his arms, glancing at the roses, but making herself not react to her favorite flower and gift. "Do you really think I planned this behind your back? I said, okay, tonight's the night, God, knock me up?" Her anger was returning.

"Come on, Willow. Don't be ridiculous. I know it's not your fault-"

"Why does it have to be a fault at all, Kevin?" she whirled on him. "This is our child," she clutched her non-existent stomach. "and I refuse to see this miracle as a mistake. So with you or without you, I'm having this baby."

He looked at her, stunned and struck dumb. Blinking several times, he let out a breath.

"Are you threatening me?" he asked, his voice soft, anger draining out with the shock and blow of her words and the meaning behind them. She said nothing, just looked him square in the eye, jaw as firm as her resolve.


The hotel suite was like any other Christine had been in- beautiful, opulent and disgustingly expensive. This time, however, the bill was on the promoters, so it was all clear and free.

She went to the huge bedroom, her bags already unloaded and waiting for her to unpack. There was also a vase on the dresser filled with beautiful flowers of varying colors, shapes and types.

Snatching the card with two fingers, she took it out of the small envelope:

Welcome, and I look forward to sharing stage space with you. I expect you at dinner tonight, too.


Melissa & Tammy Lynn

Smiling, she tossed the card to the dresser and leaned down to take a deep whiff of the flowers, humming contentedly at the overwhelming fragrance.

She was glad to be in Colorado to do the benefit concert at Red Rocks. She loved performing there; the city lights behind the stage, cool night air enveloping the performers and audience, bringing them together in a sort of outside bond.

Sliding the light leather jacket she wore off her shoulders, she tossed it to the king-sized bed and walked over to the French doors, which led to the balcony that overlooked Denver proper. She didn't come this way often, but always enjoyed her time in the Mile High city when she was there. Though how on earth these people lived at such an altitude eluded her to no end.

Turning back to the suite, she got herself a bottle of water to clear her throat so she could start her singing exercises. She always had to do more of them when in Colorado to get her lungs ready to work harder.

She cleared her mind, taking deep breaths to cleanse her from the inside out, almost putting herself in a momentary meditative state, releasing the breaths in slow, measured movements, eyes closed, body relaxed. She was about to open her mouth when her cell phone rang.

Growling as her concentration was shot, she walked over to the bed, fishing her phone out of her jacket. Looking at the digital display, she rolled her eyes.


"Jesus, Christine! Where have you been? I've been trying to get hold of you since you left Sandra's yesterday."

"I've been a little busy, Bob. Maybe if you wouldn't jam pack my days so full I'd have the time and sanity to answer your calls."

"Well, either way, how's it going? Are you there, yet?"

"Yes," the singer sighed, sitting on the end of the bed. "I was about to start my breathing exorcises, so make this quick. I have to be downstairs in two hours." She ran a hand through her hair, feeling the exhaustion already seeping in.

"Alright. Well listen to the messages I left you, they have more information. But a quick rundown is you're not going to Philly anymore, but instead are hitting Baltimore. Also, the Kodak people want you in New York by Monday night."

"Jesus, Bob! I'm not seventeen anymore, trying to get me noticed. Why am I doing all this shit?" She stood, pinning a hand to her forehead.

"To make up for your fuck up earlier this year," he said, his voice dangerously low. "If it gets out you're ruined. The public has to think you're still with it and capable and willing."

"You make me sound like a cripple, Bob. Any particular reason?" her voice was dangerously calm, belying her bodily fluids which were now on boil.

"In some ways you are, Christine," he answered, his own calmness coming across the line. "You let yourself go and let yourself be taken over by that poison. I have to look out for you more than ever now."

"I have to go," she sighed, knowing that if she didn't hang up, she'd scream.

"Have a good show and give my love to Sting." The wall of silence made her grit her teeth as she snapped the phone shut. Holding it in her hand, she squeezed the small bundle, all too tempted to throw it against the wall.

Instead she set it down on the bedside table, hooking it up to its charger, then returning to her bottle of water and vocal exorcises.


Willow stared up at the dying day, the twilight upon the land. The trees began to look like giant, black monsters against the purple sky, their arms reaching up for their salvation of another day ending and night encroaching.

She ran a hand over Star's neck, the coarse hair of the mare's mane tickling her palm.

"Not sure how much longer I'll be able to do this, girl," she said quietly, the horse snorting in response.

The evening breeze blew warm air over her, displacing her short hair. She inhaled the smells you only found on a ranch- animals, earth, feed and nature. She loved it, bringing her security and peace. It always amused her how the smells she loved so much made new-comers wrinkle their nose up in distaste.

Eh, what do they know?

Urging Star into a light trot, they headed back toward the stables.


In a Colorado hotel room a cell phone rang before being picked up by voice mail. When finished, the lit up green display proudly blinked MISSED CALL.


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