Disclaimers: This story belongs to me so I don't give permission for it to be posted somewhere else under a different title, change in names or storyline.
Sex: But of course! J
Note: There will likely be somewhat graphic violence in this story, as part of it takes place during war times.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com .
San Diego , CA 1943
Danni ran her fingers through Kate's hair as Kate lay cuddled up with her in Kate's bed. It was late, and after an active night making love, the two struggled against sleep, wanting as much time together as possible. Luckily the tears had dried up a couple hours ago, as it killed Danni to see Kate so upset.
"Maybe we could start over in another state," Kate offered, adding to their conversation of life after Danni came home. "We could boycott California and Nebraska and start over." Kate lifted her head, resting her cheek in an upraised palm. "What do you think? Go somewhere where nobody knows you and who you truly are."
Danni grinned, caressing the side of Kate's face for no other reason than she needed to touch her. "Either that or I can go back to being who I am and we can be 'old spinsters' together."
Kate grinned, thoroughly amused. "Oh yes, there you go. We can claim that we're sisters and just - sigh - never found the right man to marry."
"Do you think there are other women out there?" Danni asked, trailing her fingers up and down Kate's naked back, smiling when she saw a shiver run through Kate. "You know, women who love another woman?"
"You mean besides Allison?" Kate asked, her voice slightly bitter. "She'll come after you when you come back home, you know that, right?"
"Stop." Danni delivered a playful yet firm slap to Kate's buttock. "She's no threat and you should know that."
"You never loved her?" Kate asked, her own fingers tracing lazy trails over Danni's stomach, the muscles twitching beneath the soft skin.
"No," Danni said, no thought required. "I care about her: she was good to me and was especially good to my family, but that's as far as it goes. And, I just think Allison is a woman with entirely too much money and time on her hands, so dabbles in a little of this and a little of that."
"You mean, she didn't love you?"
"No, I don't think she does or did. I was a distraction for her, Kate. Fun. Nothing more."
"And you're okay with that?" Kate asked, surprised.
"Very. She helped me and taught me some very valuable things." She grinned and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.
"That much is true," Kate laughed, dropping a quick kiss on Danni's lips. She studied Danni for a long moment. "Can I tell you something really crazy?"
"Of course." Danni cupped Kate's face, suddenly overtaken by deep emotion and affection for her. She placed a soft, meaningful kiss on full and startled lips. "Sorry. I had to do that first."
Kate nearly swooned, as she could feel how much love went into that rather simple kiss. "You're forgiven," she smiled, brushing Danni's jaw with gentle fingers.
"What do you want to tell me?" Danni asked, trying to keep her focus as she felt stirrings not only in her heart but also further south.
"I wonder what our children would look like," Kate admitted, feeling stupid the moment the words were out of her mouth. It was completely impossible for one, as well as quite presumptuous that Danni wanted children, or wanted them with Kate.
"Well," Danni said, her voice soft and wistful. "I'd imagine they'd be absolutely beautiful, as long as they looked like you. I'd want them to have your heart," she continued, placing her hand over Kate's chest, "your intelligence and drive, and they'd have to have your eyes. Baby, those eyes can burn me to the spot!"
Kate smiled, charmed and even more in love. "Oh no. They would have to look like you ! Danni, you belong on the movie screen." She traced the features of Danni's face with a fingertip. "I've never seen anyone so beautiful before. Even looking like a man, you are truly stunning. I wonder what you looked like before. Do you have any pictures?"
Danni chuckled and shook her head. "That would be a great big, giant no. Not here. Could you imagine if I got caught with them?"
"You could say you have a twin sister."
Danni rolled her eyes. "You're a goof."
" Your goof."
" My goof," Danni agreed, pulling Kate down for a deep kiss.
Six hours later, Danni and Kate stood at the harbor, Danni's giant duffel bag at her feet. She held a crying Kate to her, fighting with everything in her to not cry: she had to stay strong both for Kate and for herself.
"Please don't cry, baby," she whispered into Kate's ear. "Please."
Kate hated herself for breaking down. She had promised herself that she wouldn't, that she'd be strong for Danni, but once they'd arrived at the harbor, she'd lost her tenuous control of her emotions. "I'm sorry," she sniffled, using the kerchief Danni had given her to wipe her eyes and nose. "God, I'm sorry." she laughed ruefully. "I swore I wouldn't do this to you, but I just can't stop."
Danni leaned down and placed a lingering kiss on tear-salted lips. "I love you."
"I love you, too." Kate hugged Danni to her so tight it hurt them both, but she needed to feel Danni, needed Danni to feel her. If she could, she would have opened Danni up and climbed inside.
"I have to go, baby," Danni whispered, a lump forming in her throat. She cupped Kate's face and delivered a hard, possessive kiss. "Please write me."
"I'll start as soon as I get back home," Kate promised, knowing that was ridiculous, considering she had no idea where Danni would be.
Danni pulled away, Kate's hand still held in her own. She reached down and grunted as she heaved her duffel onto her shoulder, keeping Kate's hand even as she continued to back away. When finally neither of their arms would reach anymore, Kate's hand fell from her own.
"I love you," she said again, unable to think of anything else to say. Seeing Kate standing there, fresh tears running down her cheeks, her heart broke.
"Come back to me," Kate called out. "Please, come back to me!"
"I will." Danni blew her a kiss then turned and headed towards the gangplank, knowing that it would be better to rip off the bandage rather than a slow peel. She blinked several times, blinking back her own emotions, knowing she had a job to do and a duty to her country and herself.
San Jose , CA 1968
Kate sat on the front porch, a cup of morning coffee in her hands. She stared out at the burgeoning day even as she studied the past. When she'd gotten back to the house that fateful, painful day, Carol had been sitting on the couch, her own face covered in tear and makeup streaks. She took one look at Kate's own face as she entered the house and the two hurried to each other, meeting in a tight hug of tears and understanding. It was the last time the two exchanged any type of gesture of friendship. Until George killed himself, that is.
Kate shook herself out of her memories, surprised to find her cheeks wet with tears. She swiped at them as she rejoined the world of the living, in time to hear her phone ringing inside. Pushing up from the porch swing, Kate hurried inside.
"Hello?" she said into the phone. She paused as she listened to the caller on the other end. "Hello, Steve, how are you?" she asked the Chair to her department at the college. "Today? Um, sure. I can be there in an hour." She listened, her fingers toying with the phone cord as slight nervous energy gripped her. "Okay, see you then."
Kate hung up the receiver, looking at it for several moments as though it were a snake that would bite her. Finally, she let out a heavy sigh and hurried up the stairs to get changed and head out to the school.
Munson , ME 1968
Danni set the last washed pan out to dry on the spread towel, her dinner of spicy burritos still coming up in quiet burps and heartburn. "I know better," she muttered to herself, knowing full well that she'd suffer all night for her insatiable lust for all things hot and spicy. With little time to lament her cravings, she dried her hands on a towel and headed to the ringing phone. "Hello?"
"Hey Danni, it's Kate."
Danni sat in the nearby chair, brows furrowing. "What's wrong?" she asked immediately.
Kate, who was curled up on the couch smiled. "How do you know something's wrong?"
"Possibly because you sound like you're about to cry," Danni said simply. "So, what's wrong?"
Kate sighed heavily into the phone, swiping at her tears. "You got me. I lost my job today."
"What?!" Danni shot up in her chair, panic seizing her heart.
"Yep. Steve - our department chair - said with the 'boys off to war, our numbers are down'. I can't help but find it interesting that the only three people let go from my department were the two women and one black man. Know what he said when I brought this fact up?"
"What's that?" Danni asked, her voice soft and understanding.
Kate sighed, resting a hand to her forehead. "And I quote: 'I have enough of those damn hippie types preaching. I don't need a professional like yourself joining the parade'." Kate rolled her eyes, even as she swiped at more tears. "Can you believe that?"
"Ah jeez, I'm sorry." Danni stretched to reach the pad of paper and pencil that rested on the table: something she kept for sudden inspiration of artistic ideas. Grasping the pencil between her fingers, she poised the tip above the pad. "How much do you need?"
"What?" Kate shot up, thoroughly insulted. "Danni! I didn't call you to ask for money. I called because I need a friend. "You were unbelievably generous in your help with the money last year and I thank you for that, but if you think for a second that all I want is your money then you can kiss-"
"Whoa!" Danni interrupted. "Whoa. Wait, I'm sorry." Quickly, she thought back over what she'd just said compared to what Kate had said and realized in an instant the two were nowhere near the same spot. "I'm sorry. I never meant to offend." She ran a hand through her hair, tossing the pencil to the tabletop. She watched as it rolled off the table and to the floor where Healey sniffed it before continuing on his way to his water bowl. "I'm sorry," she said again.
Kate forced herself to calm down, realizing that perhaps in her panic and upset, maybe she'd reacted far more strongly than needed. She let out a heavy, stressed sigh. "I'm sorry, Danni. You didn't deserve that attack. I'm just really upset and stressed right now. Maybe I shouldn't have called-"
"No!" Danni closed her eyes, a hand coming up to cover them. "Damn," she whispered. "No," she said again, her voice once again soft and soothing. "I'm glad you did. Do you need anything?" she asked, trying a different tact. "Anything at all?"
"Just somebody to tell me it's going to be okay," Kate said, her words coming out as a sob at the tail end.
Danni stroked the phone cord, wishing for all she was worth that it was Kate's face she was stroking. "It'll be okay, sweetheart." The endearment came out before she could stop herself, but she let it go. Hopefully in this stressful situation Kate wouldn't take it for anything more than it was intended to be. "I promise you; everything will be okay."
"How could they do this to me, Danni?" Kate cried, swiping at more tears. "I've been at that school for ten years! I know I've been there longer than some of those other guys. It's so unfair!"
"I know. I know it is," Danni sympathized. "Why do you think I opened my own business?"
Kate smiled through her tears. "I think you've got the right idea."
"You can always come work for me, you know. You can be the Professor of Industry Mumbo Jumbo."
Kate laughed outright, grateful for Danni's humor. "Sure. Maybe I can throw a history lesson or two in there about your company."
"See?" Danni enthused, grinning at the idea. "Now you're thinking!"
Kate laughed again, but soon the tears hit her again. "I love what I do, Danni. I really, really love what I do. And, on top of that, classes start in two weeks!"
"I know and I know it hurts. You know Kate, sometimes the Universe has a different plan for us than we thought we'd ever do. Honestly, do you think at 5 years old I ever thought I'd end up running my own corporation? Hell, no!"
"What did you think you'd be doing?" Kate asked, sipping from the cup of coffee that rested on the coffee table in front of the couch.
Danni shrugged, even though Kate couldn't see it. "I figured I'd end up married and running the dairy farm," she said simply. "It made the most sense at the time. Now, my life couldn't be more different."
"Are you saying that I'm not meant to teach?" Kate asked, heart breaking all over again.
"No, sweetheart, I'm not saying that," Danni said softly, her voice taking on a soft, comforting tone. "I'm saying that maybe you were at that school as long as you were meant to, and perhaps it's time to move on to another one now. Who knows: maybe you'll be moving on to a private college for women where you're forward thinking ideas can truly be appreciated and understood. We live in difficult times right now, Kate, and a woman such as yourself - with your intelligence and determination - is nowhere near as appreciated as you should be. Maybe this school would have stunted that. Perhaps it already has."
Kate took a moment to take in Danni's words, and realized that she was absolutely right. "I'm so glad I called," she smiled, wiping away the last of her tears. "Truly. You make so much sense."
"I'm glad you called, too though this call is going to cost you a fortune, and a fortune you don't have."
"I don't care," Kate sighed.
"I do. Let me call you back so it's on my dime."
Kate had no say as suddenly the line went dead. Within moments of Kate cradling the handset, it rang to life. She lifted the handset back to her ear. "Hello?"
"Did you order fresh towels, miss?" Danni's voice asked on the other end.
Kate's smile was immediate and huge. "You are such a goofy woman."
"Indeed, I am. But, back to our previous conversation. Don't hurt me for asking this, but are you truly okay? I would never let you be in trouble or go without, Kate."
"I know," Kate sighed, resigned to Danni's kindness. "And yes, I'm okay. I'll be paid for this semester and then that's it. I'm sure in that amount of time I can find something else."
"Alright. If you're sure, I'll let it go. But," Danni held up a finger, even though Kate couldn't see it, "if you need anything at all, I'll be deeply insulted if you don't call and ask. I do have spies here, you know."
"Yes, I heard all about the fact that you and Carol have been in contact for years," Kate said, a bit more anger shining through in her words than she'd intended. "I'm sorry. I'm being a child."
"No, it's okay. Yes, we have been in contact, and yes, she has been my spy. Call me a snooper, but I wanted to make sure you were alright."
Kate smiled but said nothing. She didn't want to waste their time on the phone talking about the past; she'd lived far too much of that on her own. "So, are you excited to come out here for the wedding in two weeks?"
Danni's stomach immediately twisted in knots at the reminder. "I'm ... ready. I already have my planet ticket. If it's okay, I'll be coming two days early. I already sent out Megan's dining set to the warehouse we have out there in San Diego. I want to head out there and make sure it shipped alright before Megan sees it. Before you see it, for that matter."
"I got your sketches, Danni and it is so beautiful. Megan and Rob will absolutely love it," Kate assured, laying back on the couch, her head resting on a throw pillow.
"Good, I'm glad," Danni said softly, her fingers running along the phone cord, restless and lonely.
"You have to go to San Diego, huh?" Kate asked.
"Yeah. It's the closest warehouse to San Jose."
Kate was quiet for a moment, mentally deciding if it was a good idea to put voice to her thoughts or not. Finally, she decided: why not? "Just a thought. How about you and I both head out to San Diego and make a day of it? We can hit some of the old haunts we used to. Maybe get some lunch at Puck's. If they're still open, that is."
Danni digested Kate's words, her eyes squeezed shut at the idea and rush of memories. "Okay, Kate," she said softly. "We can do that."
San Jose, CA 1968
Megan finished with the lunch dishes, her mother up in the bathroom "getting ready for the mystery guest". Megan had no clue who that was, but suspected it was her Great Aunt Maddie, considering how crazy her mother had gotten about making sure the house was clean and perfect. Then again, her mother never got so excited over Aunt Maddie before. It was three days before her wedding, and she'd been hanging out with her mom to help out as much as she could and try and take some stress off her mother's shoulders, especially with the loss of her job. Guilt gnawed at her, as her mother still insisted on paying for the bulk of the wedding, though she knew in her heart her mother couldn't afford it.
Megan finished the last of the kitchen clean up when she heard a knock on the front door. Tossing the dish towel to the sink, she made her way to the door, seeing an absolutely stunning woman standing on the other side of the screen. She can't take her eyes off the tall woman with long, dark hair and vibrant blue eyes. Her fitted jeans speak of a flair of the modern yet her bearing obvious confidence speaks of a woman who has seen much and survived it all.
"Can I help you?" she asked, trying to place the face. Somewhere inside she feels as though she's seen this person before.
The woman stared into Megan's face, a soft smile spreading across full lips. "You look so much like your mom," she said, her voice soft and somewhat wistful. "It's nice to see you, Megan."
Something inside Megan snapped into place and her eyes bulged and hand came to her mouth. "Danni?" she breathed.
Danni was surprised, even as Megan pushed the screen door open for her to enter. "She told you I was coming?"
Megan shook her head. "No. She said some mystery guest was coming, but that was it. I just..." She felt terrible for staring but couldn't help it. Not only was Danni striking, but just the knowledge that her mother loved this woman, had loved her for a quarter of a century, hit her. "I recognized you from the picture I saw of the two of you, back during your war days."
Danni was very surprised Kate had told her daughter about their past. She wondered just how much of their past she knew. "Is she here? I came a day early."
"Yeah, she's here." Megan hesitated for just a moment, and then felt compelled to hug Danni, a woman who she suspected meant more to her mother than anyone, except perhaps herself.
Danni was surprised by the hug, but accepted it, giving the girl a quick squeeze before stepping back from her. She was still in awe at how much of Kate she saw in her: her fire and curiosity for life. She saw Kate's intelligence and undeniable beauty. "It's nice to finally meet you, Megan." She gave her a kiss to the cheek. "Congratulations."
"Thank you," Megan beamed. "Go on up the stairs; she's in the bathroom on the left putting her makeup on."
Megan watched Danni disappear up the stairs, her steps quick and obviously anxious to get to their final destination. Megan grinned and shook her head, heading back to the kitchen.
Kate leaned over the counter to examine her eye makeup close up in the mirror. Satisfied, she backed off, checking out the whole picture. She was trying out some new, more modern styles for the wedding. And perhaps, for Danni, though she refused to admit that to herself. About to call for Megan to see if she'd done it right - as Megan had been teaching her - she nearly choked on her words, seeing Danni leaning casually in the doorway of the open bathroom door, an amused smile on her face.
"Oh my god!" she blurted, turning to see Danni in the flesh, and not just a reflection. "Danni!" Without thinking, Kate launched herself at the mirage, happy when she was caught in strong and very real arms. Kate had no idea that her daughter was listening downstairs, amused and happy.
"Hey," Danni said, barely managing to stay on her feet at Kate's excited greeting. "I decided to surprise you a day early."
"I'm so glad you did!" Kate stepped back just enough to look up into Kate's face. Though she'd seen her but a few months before, it was far too long now that Danni was back in her life. "It's so good to see you."
"It's good to see you, too, Kate."
"Oh my god!" Kate gasped, eyes wide. "The house is a disaster! I wasn't expecting you-"
"Stop!" Danni laughed. "The house is beautiful and you don't need to go to any extraordinary measures for me, you crazy woman."
Kate blushed, looking away. "I know I'm being silly. I just want things to be perfect."
"Tell you what: I didn't exactly spend a lot of time here the last time I showed up, so why not give me a bit of a tour?" Danni suggested, more to calm Kate than because she really wanted to see the house Kate had shared with George.
"Okay," Kate smiled. "I can do that."
Megan made her way up the stairs and down the hall until she stood just outside the bathroom, feeling guilty as she listened to the conversation between the two women. When she heard the suggestion of a tour come up, she tried to hurry back to the top of the stairs but didn't quite make it before the two emerged from the bathroom.
Kate glanced at her daughter, surprised to see her hanging out at the top of the stairs. "Megan," she said, a bit of accusation in her voice. "You met Danni, I take it?"
"I did," Megan nodded, smiling big to keep her guilt down and out of her very expressive face. She smiled at Danni and then at her mother. "I think I'll leave you two be. Mom, I'll be back Friday."
"You're not coming back tomorrow? We still have more to do, Meg," Kate complained.
"If you need me, let me know. But, as far as I know, everything we have to do is done. So, wedding is Saturday, and it'll give you two time to catch up." She turned to Danni. "Danni, it was amazing to meet you and I'm so glad you came to my wedding."
"It was a pleasure, Megan," Danni smiled.
"Great!" Megan grabbed her mother in a quick hug then grabbed Danni in a similarly quick hug. "See you two crazy chicks later!"
Both Kate and Danni were left stunned by the whirlwind departure that was Megan. Kate turned away from the spot where her daughter had stood and turned to Danni, a sheepish smile on her lips. "Well, I guess that's that." She left the bathroom and headed across the hall to Megan's bedroom. "This is Megan's room, though it hasn't been for almost four years."
Danni took a look around, noting the various posters that lined the wall, all of popular singers and bands. "She's into music, I take it. Or was."
"You have no idea. I think her first word was 'concert." Kate returned Danni's smile at that. "She's actually a music major, set to graduate in December, though she won't actually walk until next May."
"This is also where you'll be staying, if you're okay with that," Kate said, leaning against Megan's dresser.
"Oh no, I don't want to intrude, Kate. I can get a hotel-"
"Are you seriously going to insult me that much by not staying at my house?" Kate accused, brow raised in challenge.
Danni met her gaze, mind reeling. "Um, no?"
"Very wise." Kate pushed away from the dresser and walked out of the room. "Let me show you the rest of the house." She led her across the hall to her own bedroom. "This is where I sleep."
Danni looked around the small, simple room. There was very little that denoted anyone lived there or slept there: no personal items, pictures or anything on the walls or furniture tops. Her gaze fell to the neatly-made bed and she felt a small twinge, thinking that every night this was where Kate slept. She had a quick flash of just how much Kate liked to cuddle, even during the hot, California nights.
Shaking herself out of dangerous territory, she followed Kate back out of the room and to the hallway. "What's in there?" she asked, regarding the closed door at the end of the hallway, considering everything else was open and inviting.
Kate glanced at the door, then led them towards the stairs. "That used to the bedroom I shared with George," she said quietly, "and where he killed himself. I have no use for that room anymore."
Danni said nothing, but filed that information away for another time. "How long have you guys lived here?" she asked instead, led through the living room and into the kitchen, which did remember somewhat from her brief visit there nineteen years before.
"This was the house George and I bought after we got married," Kate answered. "I've lived here for almost twenty-three years. This," she said, indicating the kitchen around her, "is the room of the house that I have spent the most time in."
Danni looked around, noting how clean and tidy everything was. The house, itself was obviously older, but it had been well maintained, the self-pride of its owner apparent. "It's a nice house, Kate. Good for you."
"Thank you. Come on out back, I'll show you my garden."
They stepped out into the warm, September air, met by a landscaper's dream. The small patch of lawn was well-kept and green, just like the front. Bordering the entire small yard were flowerbeds, colors and fragrances popping from every corner.
"Oh wow, Kate," Danni breathed, a smile curling her lips. "This is absolutely beautiful!"
"Thank you." Kate beamed, glad Danni was appreciative of all the time and hard work she put into her newest hobby. "I actually just started the garden a couple years ago, finally having some time to work on it. Also," she grinned, sheepish, "once Megan moved out, I had to have something to fill the empty nest void."
Danni smiled. "I've heard that's difficult. It looks absolutely amazing." She walked over to the flowers, reaching out to brush her fingertips over the soft petals of the blooms. "I can throw together a magnificent piece of furniture in five minutes, but I can't keep even weeds alive."
Kate laughed at that. "Well, anything I would try and put together would fall apart the moment you sit down, but I'll keep your yard colorful and vibrant all year round."
Danni laughed. "I'd like to see you try that in Maine!"
Kate stuck her tongue out at Danni good-naturedly before moving over to the patio and sitting down. She watched as Danni went from flowerbed to flowerbed, bending over and sniffing all the beautiful scents, her eyes closing and lips smiling in appreciation. It made Kate smile just to watch her, just to see Danni in her yard, touching her flowers.
"Maybe you can help me start my new garden on the patio of my new home," she offered.
Danni glanced over at her. "New home?"
Kate nodded, watching as Danni walked over and sat in the chair to Kate's left. "I don't want to live here anymore. This part of my life is very much over and I want to close that chapter."
"Where are you going and when are you moving?"
"Not sure," Kate blew out. "I haven't started looking yet, but I think - especially now that I have a lot more spare time than I anticipated - I'll start repainting and that sort of thing. Make this place as buyable as possible."
"Do you plan to stay in San Jose?" Danni asked, surprised at the sudden announcement.
Kate thought about Danni's question for a long moment, staring out into the yard. She watched a squirrel bounded up along the top of the fence before it disappeared up a neighbor's tree. "I don't know, Danni. You know, I thought a lot about what you said that day, after I lost my job." She looked over at her friend. "Things do happen for a reason, I believe that. So," she shrugged, "maybe everything is happening for a reason right now: George doing what he did, getting the house paid off," she reached across the glass-top of the patio table and squeezed Danni's hand in silent gratitude, "and now this job situation." She met Danni's kind gaze. "Maybe it's time for something new."
"Maybe it is," Danni agreed, squeezing Kate's hand back before letting it slide away. "Can I ask you a question?" she asked, voice soft.
"Why did George do it? Kill himself, that is."
Kate sighed. "Would you like something to drink or eat? I just realized I'm being a terrible hostess."
Danni smiled, wondering if that's truly how Kate felt or if she was trying to either get off the subject or stall. "Kate, if you don't want to talk about it -"
"No," Kate said, shaking her head. "No, I do. I guess I'm just a little afraid of what might come out if I answer your question, but I do feel it deserves an answer."
"Alright. I'm fine right now, so I don't need or want anything."
"Okay." Kate let out a breath and looked back out into her yard. "I'm not real proud of some of the choices I've made, Danni, and moreover, why they were made. I've never said this out loud Danni, but I don't think I ever loved George."
Danni listened quietly, admittedly surprised by Kate's disclosure, and - selfishly - somewhere inside it made her happy on some level.
"He knew that. He knew why I married him and he knew why I stayed with him, but I don't think he knew why I was leaving him."
Danni stared at Kate's profile. "You were?"
Kate met her gaze, sadness radiating off her in waves. "Yes. Danni, I married him to give my chance at an independent life." Her laugh was rueful. "Boy, sure got that, didn't I? My plan was to get through school and then go off on my own so I could concentrate on my career."
"What happened?" Danni asked softly, though she thought she knew.
"I got pregnant the night of our wedding. It was not at all intended, and in fact my goal was that would be the first and only time I ever had to be with him." She met Danni's steady gaze for a long moment. "You must think I'm such a terrible person."
"No," Danni said simply. "I think you are a woman who had a goal and a dream but very limited measures in which to make it happen."
"You make it sound so easy and far less devious than it really was," Kate sighed, returning her gaze back to the yard, unable to handle the understanding she saw in Danni's eyes; she didn't deserve it. "Anyway, I knew he'd never let me take his blood, or he'd get my parents to help him take her from me, so I stuck it out. Eventually," she shrugged, "it just became my life and I had to deal with it. As hard as it was to go to school all those years and be a mom and wife on top of it, I'm so grateful to have had Megan. Somehow she made it all worth it."
"Did George know all this? All of what you just told me?"
Kate nodded. "On some level I absolutely believe he knew." She brought up a hand to swipe at a sudden tear that edged its way out. "We had a horrible fight after New Year's the year he died. He first accused me of having an affair with a colleague at the school." She shook her head with a heavy sigh. "I never wanted to sleep with my husband, so why on earth would I want to sleep with some other man?"
"Perhaps because you didn't want to sleep with your husband," Danni said gently. "He may have known Kate, but it doesn't mean he understood."
"He knew about us, Danni," she said quietly. "That night when I went to see you at the motel: he knew. Well, he knew that I went, and assumed the rest."
"Oh Kate," Danni breathed. "I'm so sorry."
"Don't be. On some level I do feel guilt, but finding out all that I have these past months," she shook her head, "he made his bed, Danni. George was a bastard and then ultimately a coward. I don't think he could handle the total loss of control or me. I'm not a possession and I will never be anyone's possession again. I went from being owned by my mother to being owned by George." Her anger was rising and a sense of self-worth was making its way to the surface. "He took away the one person and the one thing that meant the most to me and by god, I will never let anyone do that to me again. Twenty-five years wasted, Danni. Wasted!"
Danni was shocked by Kate's sudden outburst and tears. She pushed up from her seat and grabbed Kate from hers. Taking her in her arms, she held her, Kate's floodgates finally bursting fully open as she sagged against Danni. "It's okay," she whispered, her own tears coming. "It's okay. Everything's gonna be okay."
Kate clung to Danni, her face buried in the warmth of her neck as she cried, able to feel the cocoon of protection Danni put around her, deeming it safe for her to let go. As her tears slowed, she felt a calm fall over her, as well as Danni's own emotions seemed to be calming. She tightened her arms around Danni's back, her head resting against her shoulder. It felt amazing, unlike anything she'd felt in nearly twenty-five years.
Danni relished in the warmth of Kate's body pressed against her own. She cupped the back of Kate's head, her cheek resting atop a golden crown. "I hate to see you cry," she whispered, her other hand rubbing soothing circles over Kate's back. "It kills me every time."
"I'm sorry," Kate murmured, eyes closed as she absorbed Danni into her very being. "I'm not sure what happened there." She smiled, even though Danni couldn't see it. "Guess things just got bottled up."
"It's okay. You can always tell me how you feel, Kate. And yes, you can even cry." She smiled at the light chuckle that earned her. "I'll always be here to listen, no matter what it is that you have to say. Alright?"
Kate nodded, no need to verbally respond. "Danni, do you ever look at your life now and think about where you thought it would be by now?" she asked softly, running a hand up and down Danni's back. "Did you think you'd be where you are?"
Danni closed her eyes as she inhaled Kate's scent, filing it away for after she left California and returned to her life an entire country away. "No," she finally said. "No, it's not what I thought it would be." It hurt to admit it, but she couldn't lie, not to Kate.
Kate pulled away just enough to look up into Danni's face. She could hear something in Danni's voice and was trying to place exactly what it was. Was it sadness? Was it resignation? "Are you happy, Danni? I mean, truly happy?"
Danni met Kate's gaze and brought up a hand, brushing her knuckles across Kate's soft cheek. "I have to think I'm where I'm supposed to be," was all she could say. She didn't have the answers Kate sought and was afraid to find them.
Kate didn't have a chance to question further as the back door to the house was opened and Megan stepped out with Rob in tow. "Hey guys," she said, bringing up a hand to swipe at the last of the tear streaks on her face and moved away from Danni, who moved away at the same moment.
"Hi." Megan looked from one woman to the other. "Rob wanted to meet Danni before the wedding, so we decided to come by for dinner." Megan again studied the two women before turning her focus to her mother. "Is that okay?"
"Yes!" Kate said with a beaming smile. "I think that's a wonderful idea!" She so badly wanted her daughter and son-in-law to get to know Danni, as she knew they'd fall in love with her if they did. She turned to Danni. "Is that okay?"
"Yeah. Let's do it."
Where Danni had been nervous to spend an evening with the entire family, she shouldn't have been. She was immediately embraced by both Megan and Rob, who's long-haired and shaggy appearance belied incredible intelligence and great humor within them both. She could definitely see why the couple were together: their love and strong bond was easy to see and made Danni extremely wistful.
As the four sat around the table eating the dinner of baked chicken and rice pilaf that Megan, Kate and Danni had made, she found herself glancing over at Kate often, most the time finding that Kate was already looking at her. They'd exchange a smile then return their attention back to the conversation.
Megan watched her mother's reactions to Danni, the way a soft smile played on her mother's lips throughout the entire meal. The way her mother would watch Danni's every move, listen intently to any and everything Danni had to say. She noted the quick looks the two would share, their connection total in that one, quick moment before it was broken. She glanced at Rob, catching his eye. In the silent communication of those who love deeply and who have been together for a long time, Rob got what she had to say: they're still in love with each other.
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