Disclaimers: The characters in this story are mine. This is a 'uber' story, set in today's timeline, and some of the characters may bear a more than a slight resemblance to certain other characters we all know, but which are not owned by me. Any similarity to real people is unintentional and purely coincidental. The location is Orlando, Florida. This story is character driven. As in my previous story, there once again is no plot. There is no violence, nobody is trying to kill anybody else, nobody is chasing anybody else, etc., etc. There may be some minor angst here, but nothing too traumatic. The backdrop is a law firm, and from first hand experience, law firms can be rather routine places to work. This story continues the tale of two people set in that environment whose lives are anything but routine.
Subtext Disclaimer: There is subtext, or maintext as the case may be, here. This story deals with the deep, profound love and devotion between two people who happen to be of the same gender. Although there are some scenes depicting the physical expression of that love, there are no graphic scenes here. If that is what you are looking for, you might want to read something else.
Continuing Story Disclaimer: This is the sequel to my first story "Undeniable" and picks up about one week after its conclusion. You may want to read the previous story prior to reading this one, otherwise it will probably not make much sense to you.
Feedback: This is my second attempt at fan fiction. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. Please feel free to let me know if there is something you especially liked or didn't like. I can be reached at email@example.com.
Written by KM
Jess paced, then looked up at the clock on the wall, then paced some more, nearly wearing the carpet thin. She finally stopped her useless wandering, choosing instead to sit her tall frame down on the plush sofa in the living room, waiting impatiently for Robin to return home. It was taking absolutely too long. Robin should have spoken with Michelle and have gotten back to the house long ago, well before Jess. Long fingers reached over and picked up the telephone, dialing Robin's direct line at the office. No answer. Damn. Where is she? The junior partner glanced at the wall clock again, watching the interminable minutes tick by, well on her way toward convincing herself that something had happened. She closed her eyes and rested her head heavily against the cushions, almost as if that action alone could make everything that was wrong suddenly just go away. Instead, a loud and very persistent internal voice echoed incessantly inside her troubled mind.
What a mess!
'Go away.' The alternate internal voice hissed, apparently in no mood for chastisement at the moment.
Not so fast. You need to quit your self-centered pity and consider things a bit more objectively here.
The alternate internal voice took offense at the remark. 'And just what's that supposed to mean?'
You know perfectly well. Up until now, you've been looking at things only through your own eyes. Let's play a little game, shall we?
'A game?' An incredulous internal laugh. 'You're insane. This is no time for games.'
Ah, but it's the perfect time to play this particular game. It's called 'Who am I?' This is how you play. You ask me questions, and I'll give you answers, and then you try to guess who I am.
'What the hell. .? You want me to play your little game while Robin is who knows where, all alone out there? The alternate internal voice became increasingly desperate. 'I need to find her and talk with her, not play mind games with you.'
No. You need to play this game. Now, ask the first question. And by the way, the questions have to reflect a state of mind, not physical characteristics. Ready?
'This is unbelievable.' The alternate internal voice was exasperated beyond belief, but relented nevertheless. 'Fine. Let's get this over with. First question: Are you a friend?'
Yes. Stick to state of mind, please.
'Fine. Next question: Are you happy?'
Yes, but I sometimes think I shouldn't be.
'Okay.' The alternate internal voice thought about that. 'Then, are you confused?'
Yes. I want two irreconcilable things, and I don't know how to balance them.
The alternate internal voice attempted to ferret out the situation. 'Are you afraid?'
I'm afraid of many things.
I'm afraid I'll hurt the people I love.
'All right.' The alternate internal voice pondered the statement. 'What else?'
I'm afraid people won't understand.
The alternate internal voice became sympathetic. 'What won't they understand?'
The choices I make.
'Does it really matter if people don't understand, as long as you're happy?'
Yes, because I don't want to cause them pain.
'If you want two different things, why not weigh the pros and the cons, then decide which has the most benefit?' The alternate internal voice chose the rational approach to problem-solving.
I've done that. Someone always gets hurt.
'I see.' The alternate internal voice continued to prod. 'What if you didn't have to worry about causing them pain? Do you know what you would choose?'
In a perfect world where no one would be hurt by my actions, yes. But this isn't a perfect world, and someone will be hurt.
'Why not just separate yourself from those whom your actions would cause the most pain?' The logical approach seemed to win out again. 'That way, you could spare them from your choices.'
I've thought about that. They certainly wouldn't deserve to be hurt, and it might be for the best. It's just very frustrating and aggravating at the same time.
'You sound as if you're angry. Are you?'
I'm angry that I have to make a choice. It shouldn't be like this. I should be able to have both things and still be happy.
The alternate internal voice sensed a bit of desperation. 'Are you alone?'
I'm alone at the moment, and I feel alone in my decision. There are so many pressures from many different directions. I don't think anyone understands how great the burden is for me.
The alternate internal voice, ever rational, proceeded. 'Have you talked with anyone about it?'
Yes, but ultimately it has to be my decision. It won't be easy to do what I have to do.
'Do you know what you're going to do?' The alternate internal voice asked quietly.
I think so. Things ..things have gotten so out of control, and I need to put a stop to that. I ..um ..give me a minute, okay? This is very upsetting for me.
The alternate internal voice became agitated, realizing something was very wrong. 'Are you crying?'
'Hey. Are you crying?'
I was, but I'm okay now.
The alternate internal voice was now alarmed and abruptly attempted avoidance of any further revelations. 'I don't want to play this game anymore.'
'Are you listening to me?' The alternate internal voice mentally called out. 'I don't want to play this game anymore.'
Why? Is it because you know who I am?
Finish the game. Or are you afraid?
'I'm not afraid.' The alternate internal voice lied. 'What would I be afraid of?'
The truth. Finish the game.
An internal sigh. 'Fine.' The alternate internal voice hesitantly continued. 'Do you know me?'
The alternate internal voice swallowed. 'Do you ..love me?'
Yes, very much.
'And you don't want to hurt me?'
I'd never hurt you if I could help it.
'But you might not have a choice?' The alternate internal voice asked sadly.
I suppose that's true.
'Are you far away?'
Not too far away.
The alternate internal voice internally sobbed. 'I know who you are. Are you Robin?'
'Are you coming home?'
I'll be there. We'll have to talk.
'I'm waiting for you, sweetheart.'
Perhaps it was due to the stress of the day, or maybe it was just the gentle ticking of the pendulum on the nearby wall clock, but Jess's internal voice immediately shut down as she shifted back against the soft sofa cushions and drifted off into a light, uneasy sleep. Her last fleeting sensation before sleep claimed her was one of being enveloped in a warm cocoon of sea green comfort, contrasting with her last fuzzy thought that she should be the one doing the consoling.
Sometime later, Jess stirred, her blue eyes fluttering open to the light sensation of warm fingers stroking her cheek, leaving her momentarily confused. Robin sat curled on the sofa next to Jess and kissed the older woman's temple while lightly brushing her fingers back and forth across the smooth, soft skin. Jess tried very hard to move, but her limbs somehow wouldn't cooperate, leaving her content to melt under the tender and loving caresses. She closed her eyes again, and a small tear made its way down the side of her cheek, its path ragged and slow. She felt the tip of a small thumb gently smooth away the moisture.
"Shhh." Robin's soft voice whispered. "Why are you crying?"
Watery blue eyes opened once again. "Because I know your pain ..the pressure you feel. I realized it while I was waiting for you." Jess choked back a quiet sob. "I'm sorry."
Robin drew the dark head underneath her chin. "No. I'm sorry. Every day, I put your career at risk. Every day I jeopardize all that you've worked so hard for." She held the taller woman close, speaking very softly. "I'm sorry I kept you waiting. After I talked with Michelle, I got in my car and just drove around, thinking about things. I thought about how I didn't want to hurt you. I'd never hurt you if I could help it." Soft green eyes ducked to meet saddened blue. "I have to make some choices, Jess, and they're very hard. Someone I love will be hurt, no matter what I do."
Jess was very still. "You have to separate yourself from those whom your actions would cause the most pain." Even as she said the words, she somehow knew what was coming next. Was her internal voice clairvoyant? She closed her eyes tight. She had to know. "Were you ..crying?"
The blonde head nodded slowly. "Yes, briefly. I thought about my family. Even though I wish it weren't so, I know in my heart that they will never understand. It will hurt them to know about us." The younger woman swallowed. "I thought about you and the firm. Keeping the secret is so hard, and people are finding out. It's just a matter of time, and then everything you've worked for will be at risk." Petite fingers combed the dark hair, and several tears fell from regretful sea green eyes. "All because of me."
"No. Not because of you." Jess turned and wrapped her arm around Robin's waist, burrowing her head into Robin's chest. "Never because of you. I've made this choice, Robin. I chose to assume the risk." She sunk into the embrace as the younger woman held her tightly. "There is no place I want to be other than with you, whatever the cost." Another tear traveled down the angular face as Jess became increasingly terrified that her greatest fear was about to be realized. Please don't leave me, Robin.
"I've made a decision." The younger woman felt the larger body tremble in her arms. She kissed the top of the dark head and rubbed her hand back and forth against the broad back. "It's all right."
No. No. No. It was happening. Jess surprised herself, as what little was left of her fragile composure completely broke down. She couldn't ever remember being so hopelessly out of control, the sense of impending loss crushing in its intensity. The trembling increased and the tears flowed freely. Don't leave me.
"Shhh." Robin soothed. "Jess, honey. Listen to me, okay?" The younger woman waited a few moments, as the trembling lessened and the body wrapped in her arms calmed somewhat. "I love you so much." Robin whispered, then repeated. "I love you so much. Please know that. Always know that I love you."
No. The older woman's mind tried valiantly to grasp the enormity of the situation. She honestly didn't know how she was able to do it, but she gathered her voice from somewhere deep inside herself, and bravely uttered the words that cut straight through to her own heart. "You're leaving."
Leaving. Robin blinked, then placed her hand underneath Jess's chin and tilted it upward, fixing her gaze on grief-filled blue eyes. It was only then that it dawned on her. They had each been saying the words, but carrying on two entirely separate conversations. She suddenly felt sick. Oh, Jess, no. She rocked the older woman in her arms, then let her fingertips lightly graze Jess's face. "No, honey. That wasn't my decision. My decision was that I love you too much to give you up, no matter what the cost. I'm being selfish, I know that, but I thought about it, and I decided two things." Robin took a deep breath. "First, I'm going to go ahead as planned and tell my parents about us, and it will hurt them, I know that. But if they can't accept it, I'll be prepared to lose them, as hard as that would be for me." She clung to the larger body, now very tightly. "Second, I love you so much, and I don't want to hurt you. Please believe that." She paused, her composure nearly shot, then steadied herself and continued. "Jess, I want to stay with you. I know that sounds very selfish, because it jeopardizes everything for you. My staying with you could hurt you." She choked back a sob. "But you have to promise to tell me if it's too dangerous for you and you want to stop, or if you want me to leave now before we risk it going further than Michelle. You have to tell me. That's what I decided. I decided that I would accept your decision."
Jess sucked in a breath and half gasped in relief as she did so. She lifted a large hand and touched Robin's face, then drew herself up even with the gentle green eyes she loved more than her own life. "You want to stay?"
"Yes." The younger woman affirmed, then asked her next question in a very small voice. "Are you upset with me for being selfish?"
Jess nearly laughed, her relief so great. "Oh, sweetheart, no. You speak with your heart, and your heart is pure. It is not selfish." She lightly kissed Robin's lips. "Do you want my decision?"
The blonde head nodded cautiously.
The older woman whispered, her voice very tender. "My job, my belongings, whatever money I have, all mean nothing to me without you. I'd give all of it up in a heartbeat just to be with you. If I had you and nothing else, my life would be complete." She kissed Robin again, lingering just enough to convey everything she felt. "If it were up to me, I'd hold you forever. If it were up to me, I'd give up everything I have just to be with you. If it were up to me, I'd love you and take care of you and cherish you for the rest of your life." Jess felt she was on the verge of a commitment, and she didn't want to rush into something that was obviously so important at this overly emotional time. She steered clear of the topic just a bit. "Let me be clear. No job or career or anything else would be worth not loving you, even for one minute. That's my decision." A warm, affectionate smile slowly appeared in an attempt to break the tension. "You got that?"
The affectionate smile was returned. "Yes, I got it." A pause. "So, does that mean you want me to stay?"
Jess reclined on the sofa, pulling Robin down on top of her, and grinned for the first time that evening. "Yes. That's definitely what that means." She noted that the younger woman still wore her business suit. "You must be uncomfortable in that. How about we get ready for bed, and then we can talk some more, okay?"
Robin breathed in Jess's distinctive scent, comforted by its familiarity and the feel of the strong arms surrounding her. This is my home. "Yes, as long as you hold me like this."
The grin widened. "I think that can be arranged."
"How did it go with Michelle?" Long arms wrapped around Robin's petite body, drawing the younger woman closer as they lay snuggled together in the waterbed.
A heavy sigh. "She knows. She didn't say it in so many words, but she knows." Small fingers intertwined with larger ones. "She says she'll be discreet, and I believe her."
"Did she say anything else?"
Robin reflected on her conversation with Michelle. "She was surprisingly understanding. I didn't expect that. But she also warned me that people will talk, and that we'd have to be careful because of the perception of favoritism."
Jess nodded. "That's what Harry said."
The blonde head jerked up. "Harry knows?"
"No, not about us. Not like that. He just spoke to me about our living arrangements, and that I'd have to be careful to avoid the appearance of favoritism toward any associate."
Robin thought about the implications. "You promised, remember?" She fixed her gaze squarely on Jess in the dark. "No special treatment."
"Yes. I remember, and I told Harry that I would be completely objective."
"Can you? Be objective, I mean."
A long silence followed, longer than it should have taken Jess to answer the question outright. "I will try, and I think I'll be able to do that, but I want to tell you something. Sometimes, no matter how objective someone is, if people believe there is favoritism at play, nothing will change their minds."
The younger woman inched up so she was even with Jess. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that if the firm finds out about us, they absolutely will make sure you don't work directly with me anymore." If they don't ask me to resign first.
Robin had the same thought. "That's the best case scenario, isn't it?"
There was no reason at this point to hedge the truth. "Yes."
Jess. Robin felt her heart lurch. "This is too dangerous. I'll cost you everything."
A large hand reached up and grasped Robin's chin firmly. "You listen to me. You're not responsible for anything that may or may not happen to me. I've made this choice. I choose to be with you. I assume the risk, and if there is any backlash against you, I promise you, I will protect you."
Robin stared into the faint outline of silver blue eyes, reading their intent, then lowered her head and tucked it in the crook of Jess's neck. "This really sucks, doesn't it."
A wry grin surfaced. Jess hadn't remembered ever hearing such language from Robin before. In context, it was oddly endearing. "Yes, sweetheart. This really sucks." They laid together for a few moments longer before Jess spoke again. "On a more positive note, Harry asked us to dinner."
"He did? How come?"
"He said he and his wife had such a good time talking with us at the Christmas party that they wanted to get together for dinner one night. This week's shot, but next week's open. Are you up to it?"
"Sure, sounds good. I like his wife." A petite finger drew idle designs on Jess's sleep shirt covered stomach. "Could we make it for sometime early in the week?" I have a trip planned to Detroit. The small hand came to rest across Jess's chest.
"I'll let him know." A pause, then a quiet whisper. "So, when are you planning to leave for Michigan?"
How did she know I was thinking about that? Not unexpectedly, Robin felt the larger body stiffen beneath her and the strong heart beat beneath her hand speed up slightly. "The interview is scheduled for Friday, so I'll leave Thursday. That'll give me time to explain things to my parents, and then my dad can cancel the appointment. I know it's last minute, but I've already told them I'm not interested, and they won't listen to me."
Jess looked unseeingly at the lighted digital clock. She had an uneasy feeling, and it wouldn't go away. I don't like it. "When are you coming back?"
The heart rate beneath the small hand now increased considerably. Robin tilted her head up and noted that Jess had focused her attention on the clock on the nightstand. The younger woman recognized the action at once as Jess's tendency to turn away from a conversation when she felt uncomfortable or threatened emotionally. I'm not leaving for good. "I'm coming back Friday. There'll be no reason for me to stay longer than that."
Couldn't she just call them? Damn. Jess shook her head. She knew she was thinking of herself again, and what she really needed to do was look at things from Robin's perspective. These were Robin's parents, and news like this wasn't exactly something that could easily be explained long-distance. The older woman suddenly felt ashamed at her own self-absorbed behavior. "I'm sorry for the way I over-reacted before."
Light brows furrowed in the dark. "When?"
"Before, when I acted childishly, clinging to you like that. After what had happened with Michelle, I thought you had decided you didn't want to be together anymore, and that you wanted to leave permanently. I didn't consider things from your point of view, and how difficult everything was for you. I had just finished chastising myself for that very thing before you came home, and then I just lost it."
It sneaks up on me how sensitive she is to this. How do I convince her? Robin drew her hand up and stroked one of the long arms that held her. "Jess, I know how you've been hurt before, and I know how hard it's been for you to open up your heart again. That is the greatest gift to me." Soft lips pressed against the side of Jess's neck. "I promise you, Jess." She replaced her hand over the older woman's heart in a solemn vow. "I will never betray you, and I will never willingly leave you. I promise you that."
Although by now it really shouldn't have done so, the promise caught the older woman completely off-guard, and she had trouble verbalizing her next thoughts. She swallowed and responded the only way she could at the moment, tightening her hold on the smaller form and tenderly kissing the forehead resting next to her own lips.
Thank you, sweetheart.
The morning dawned with none of the anxiety from the previous evening. A golden white stripe of sunlight crossed the expansive bedroom, settling haphazardly over the gently sleeping forms entangled together beneath the crisp linen sheets. The taller of the two forms shifted first, blinking slowly to adjust to the increasingly bright light. She extracted her hand from around the waist beneath her companion's nightshirt and stretched her long body languidly, working out a kink in her neck as she did so. The smaller body turned over and threw an arm across a Calvin clad stomach, securing its position possessively.
A dark eyebrow arched. Trapped. Jess attempted to remove the uncooperative arm without waking its owner. No luck. The arm, instead, tightened around her. Uh oh. No way out.
"You're not going anywhere." A small voice mumbled into Jess's shoulder.
A chuckle. "Well, good morning to you, too, sleepyhead."
"Let me just say this. If you don't let me up right now, we're going to have a serious emergency here very quickly." Both dark eyebrow rose for emphasis.
Emergency? A green eye peeked up, taking note of the situation. Oh. The petite arm promptly removed itself from its location. "Go ahead. I'm not cruel." A happy smile. "You are coming back to bed, aren't you?"
Jess sat up. "Actually, I was going to get up and start breakfast. Want some?"
Green eyes closed again. "Um ..maybe. Let me think about it."
"You're such a sleepyhead. Maybe you should go back to sleep."
A grin. She's adorable like this. "Never mind." The older woman stood up, gave herself another quick stretch, then commented loudly. "Now, I just need to find my slippers."
That brought a playfully sarcastic remark from the opposite side of the bed. "You shouldn't have any problem. They practically glow in the dark."
Jess slipped on the bright yellow slippers and padded around to face Robin. "I'd be very careful if I were you, Robin. At least I can find mine." She lightly ruffled the blonde head, then beat a hasty retreat into the bathroom.
It took a minute for the sleepy woman to fully comprehend that last comment. A green eye popped open. She better not have stolen mine again. Robin called out loudly toward the bathroom. "When I get up, they'd better be here, Jess."
A dark head poked through the partially open door. "Did you ..um ..say something out there?"
"You heard me."
A knowing smirk. "Um ..I plead the fifth." The bathroom door closed tight.
Green eyes, now suddenly wide awake, narrowed considerably. She is so dead.
The delicious aroma of freshly brewed coffee hit Robin as she snuggled down further into the covers. God, that smells good. She sniffed in the enticing scent, her nose twitching slightly, then felt a slight jiggle as a larger body settled down on the waveless waterbed beside her. She opened one sleepy eye. "Hi."
Jess grinned. "Hi, there. I brought breakfast. Are you ready to get up, now?"
Robin rolled over on her back and stretched. "It occurs to me that this is just a clever diversion to make me forget about my slippers."
"Perhaps." Jess leaned in for a kiss. "But I could think of other more interesting diversions, if that were my intent." She winked.
Robin smiled and returned the kiss. "You're incorrigible."
"Of course. That's why you love me, kiddo. Now, let's eat." Jess sat back against the headboard and waited as Robin sat up. "I made pancakes." She handed the younger woman a tray.
"Thanks." Robin added cream and sugar to her coffee, then took a sip, perusing the tray's contents. "Ooooh." A delighted grin. "And you brought strawberries, too."
"Yep. I know how much you like them." Jess reached for one very ripe strawberry and dipped it in sugar. "Here." She held it out and watched as Robin's lips took the berry from her fingers, licking them thoroughly. The dark haired woman's mouth suddenly went dry. God. I can't believe how she has this effect on me. "Do you remember the first time we had strawberries?"
Green eyes looked up, a bit quizzically. "Yeah, why?"
"Well, you took the strawberry from my fingers with your mouth, and I thought I would die. I was so shocked at the way I felt when you did that."
"Hmmm." Robin considered the admission. "Let me try it." She found another ripe strawberry and coated it with sugar, then held it out, observing with fascination as Jess took the berry with her teeth, then swirled her lips sensuously around Robin's fingers. Oh, God. Robin cleared her throat. "That was .."
Before the younger woman could finish her thought, Jess leaned over and kissed Robin soundly, whispering. "You drive me crazy."
Breathless, Robin responded. "Likewise." Green eyes then twinkled. "Now, let's finish eating breakfast. I'm starving."
Starving? A dark eyebrow arched. "Fine. But after breakfast, Robin, I have big plans for your stomach."
A shy sideways glance. "That's your job, Jess, to keep my stomach happy."
Oh boy. I do so love my job.
Gentle fingers grazed sensuously across the broad bare back, stroking the pliant flesh before being replaced by soft lips trailing upward toward a sensitive neck, then over behind a conveniently placed ear. The smaller body hovered over, then covered the larger one, delighting in the skin to skin contact, then extended its length as much as possible. Petite limbs stretched out, mirroring those beneath them, as small fingers entwined with larger ones.
"You did a very good job." Robin murmured.
Jess felt the whispered breath caress her ear, sending a shiver down her spine. "I'm glad you agree." A cocky grin appeared. "I take my job very seriously."
A giggle. "Lucky for me. My stomach is very happy at the moment." A pause. "In fact, all of me is very happy right now." The younger woman slowly slid off to the side and began to draw idle patterns on Jess's back.. "Now, concentrate. What am I drawing?"
"Um .." Jess was almost distracted by the gentle touch. "A train?"
Another giggle. "Nope. Try again." The finger drew the imaginary image again.
"Nope, but the shape is similar. Let me draw it one more time. Close your eyes and concentrate."
Azure eyes fluttered closed as Jess took in the delicious sensation. She felt the soft fingertips dip and curve into the design, which she now fully recognized. A wide smile quickly appeared. "I got it." She proclaimed proudly.
"What is it?"
The older woman flipped herself over to face Robin, twinkling blue eyes complementing her broad grin. "It's a shrimp!"
Robin kissed the lips in front of her. "You are so smart." She leaned in for several more lingering kisses, enjoying the long, slow and languid explorations, before closing her eyes and resting her head next to Jess. "I never get tired of kissing you."
"Me either." The dark-haired woman breathed. "That's the best part."
Pale eyebrows wiggled playfully. "The best part?"
"Well .." Jess drawled. "It's all very good, but there's just something about holding you and kissing you that makes me feel so connected to you. I can't explain it any better than that." And it was true, Jess really couldn't put exact words to the feeling.
"The other parts .." Shy green eyes suddenly cast downward. "Um ..are they not what you expect?"
Ooooh. I think I need to explain. A slender finger hooked underneath the younger woman's chin, tilting it up so blue eyes firmly captured sea green. "The other parts are more than I ever could have hoped for. Don't ever doubt that."
"Do you miss it?"
Miss it? "Do I miss what?" The older woman was truly perplexed.
For some reason, Robin had a hard time talking about it. It shouldn't have been so incredibly difficult, but strangely, it was. "Do you miss being with men." There, she said it, and it was out in the open now.
Uh oh. "C'mere." Jess enfolded Robin into a strong embrace, whispering the reassurances she was sure the younger woman needed to hear. "Listen to me. You are all I need. You fill me up in the most complete way. No one has ever done that for me before. No one." Not even James.
"But it's different." Robin's voice was very quiet.
Jess's lips curved into a sweet smile, answering the comment honestly. "Obviously, it's different." Long fingers stroked the short blonde hair. "But loving you like this is the most wonderful thing. I'd never trade it. Never." A thought occurred to her, and she just had to ask, although to be honest, she wasn't quite sure she really wanted to know the answer. "What about you? Do you ..miss it?"
The blonde head shifted upward. "Well, my ..expertise in that area is not very extensive." A small smile appeared, then diminished somewhat as Robin sought to put order to her thoughts. "But, I would say that being with you surpasses everything I ever thought I could feel, or anything I've ever felt before. Sometimes, it seems as if we merge together, and I don't understand how that could be, but it's so intense that nothing else even comes close." She trailed a finger lazily across a prominent jaw. "So, to answer your question, the same as you, I'd never trade it."
"You know that I'd be happy to hold you forever. If that's all we ever did, it would be enough."
Robin contemplated that thought. "You know, I think that would be enough, too." Green eyes sparkled mischievously. "But fortunately, we don't have to limit ourselves to that." She leaned over and gave Jess an intense kiss to emphasize her point.
She's incredible. "Now, who's incorrigible?"
"I learned from the best, Jess. Remember?"
"Oh yeah." An amorous blue eye winked. "Thank you." A change of topic was in order. "Got any plans for today?"
"Nope. I'm all yours." An adorable pink blush made its way all the way to Robin's ears as she realized the context of what she'd said. I can't believe she still has this effect on me. "I mean, no, I don't have any plans."
"Want to take a little drive with me?"
Robin lifted slightly and braced herself up on one elbow. "A drive? Where to?"
"Well .." Jess drawled. "It's a beautiful day outside and rather warm for this time of year. How about we drive over to the east coast and do a little .." Both eyebrows lifted playfully. "Fishing."
That suggestion was unexpected. "Fishing? You fish?"
"Yep." Jess grinned happily. "Got a rod and a reel, a tackle box, and everything. How about it? It only takes an hour to get there."
Golden eyebrows knit together. "When do you have time to fish? Since I've known you, you've never mentioned it."
"Well, to be honest, I haven't had the time in a really long while, but I've always enjoyed it. C'mon, it'll be fun." Jess waited for an answer. In truth, she knew that the next week would undoubtedly be very difficult for both of them, and she figured they could use a little diversion right about now.
Robin contemplated the offer. "Hmmm." A slight pout. "But I don't have a fishing pole."
A chuckle. "I have a spare."
Why not? "Okay." Robin hopped up and headed toward the shower. "I'll make a picnic to bring with us."
Blue eyes followed the younger woman's retreating form with interest. I love picnics. A dark eyebrow arched ever so slowly. And showers. "Hey, wait up." Without another moment's hesitation, Jess sprang from the bed and quickly followed Robin into the bathroom, a picnic not the only thing on her mind as she did so.
Picnics and showers. What fun!
The drive to the Atlantic coast was largely uneventful. The silver Mercedes traveled the main state highway along its route, the mid-morning sun shining brightly in the late January sky. Robin had donned a pair of khaki pants and a light-blue long-sleeved cotton button-down shirt, rolled up at the cuffs. A short-brimmed floppy hat and dark sunglasses completed the ensemble. Jess, as always, thought the younger woman looked positively adorable. As for Jess, she sported blue jeans and a denim button-down shirt, complemented by silver mirrored sunglasses and a hat which held what the taller woman affectionately referred to as her fishing gear, given that several lures were affixed to the brim and sides in various positions of disarray. The resulting look was quite comical, and Robin did well to hide her amusement.
"I thought you said you hadn't been fishing in a long time." Robin held back a grin.
"What's with the hat, then?"
"I dug it out today. A good fisherman ..or fisherperson, is always prepared." Jess gave Robin a look. "Don't you like it?"
A raised eyebrow. "Indeed. It's quite .." Robin giggled, trying fervently to come up with a suitable description for the sight. "Becoming."
Blue eyes squinted behind silver sunglasses. "Yes, it is, isn't it." A satisfied grin. "I like it. Plus, it's very versatile."
"Yes. Keeps the sun out of my eyes and holds my tackle at the same time." Jess beamed, quite pleased with herself at the practical explanation.
Robin gazed as Jess in utter amazement. The older woman had such a different side to her, one which few people ever got to see. Not only was there the tough, no-nonsense, work-a-holic lawyer beneath Jess's admittedly striking exterior, but there was also the playful, easy-going and truly fun person inside. Fun. There was an enigma somewhere in there, and when Robin had a little time to herself, she'd have to think about that some more. "Did you fish a lot before?"
"Yeah, but not too much recently. When I was growing up, Peter and I would do a lot of fishing together." Jess's tone turned wistful. "We used to live on a canal, and there was a little bridge at one end. We'd go down to the bridge with our cane poles and later with our fishing rods, and we'd wait for the bait fish to come. We knew there'd be bigger fish going after the bait." She was lost in her memories. "Sometimes, we'd get our nets and walk along the seawall looking for blue crabs. We'd come back home with a bucket full of blue crabs, and my mom would make crab cakes, and crab casserole, and crab salad."
Green eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses surreptitiously watched the older woman, noting her fixated gaze on the open highway and sensing an air of nostalgia in Jess's voice as she related her story. Are you reliving simpler times, Jess? Is your life so much more complicated now that I'm in it? Robin shook her head of her thoughts and turned toward the side window, watching the trees and brush pass by. It was true, things had gotten completely out of control. Literally, all hell was going to break loose very soon, and the end result was anything but certain. Will you eventually blame me, Jess, even unintentionally, for jeopardizing everything for you?
"Hey, kiddo." The alto voice broke Robin from her musings. "We're almost there."
The younger woman noted the change in terrain. "Exactly where is it we're going?"
"First, we'll stop and get some bait, then we'll go over that long bridge over there to the other side of the Merritt Island Wildlife Sanctuary. There's a pretty good fishing hole off of one of the canals in there." A blue eye peeked above the edge of mirrored sunglasses at the younger woman, offering a ghost of a wink. "It's also very secluded."
Secluded. Robin considered that idea. I'm starting to like this fishing stuff more and more.
They parked the Mercedes alongside the narrow dirt road and dug out the rest of their fishing gear from the trunk of the car. Jess assembled the fishing rods and carried them and the bait bucket over to the canal bank. Robin took the tackle box and picnic basket, along with a throw blanket, and set up the picnic area on a surprisingly green grassy area nearby.
"Bring me that tackle box, will ya?" Jess called over to Robin.
The younger woman complied, walking over and handing the older woman the turquoise and black box. "I'm going to get the lawn chairs from the car. Do we need anything else?"
"Just the large ice chest. That's where we're going to put all the fish we catch." A broad grin. "Hope we can fit them all in there."
"You're pretty sure of yourself, aren't you?"
"Yep." Jess threaded the line through the hook on each fishing pole. "Be prepared, Robin, to catch your weight in fish today."
"Right." Robin smirked, then went over to the car to retrieve the lawn chairs, bringing them back. "Um ..Jess? You're not going to make me put the bait on, are you?"
Blue eyes twinkled unseen. "You got a problem with that?"
Robin sat down in one of the chairs. "Well .." She drawled. "You see, when I was little, my dad and I used to go fishing on the lakes, and he'd always bait the hook for me."
An eyebrow arched above the rim of the mirrored sunglasses. "I see." Jess put a live shrimp on a hook. "Did you ever catch anything?"
"Oh yeah. Bass and trout."
The taller woman handed Robin the baited fishing rod. "How'd you get the fish off the hook, once you caught them?"
"Well, my dad would help me reel them in, and then he'd unhook them for me." Petite arms cast the line into the water, sunglass-shaded green eyes watching intently as it lazily settled toward the canal bottom. Robin swallowed back an unexpectedly odd feeling. "I'd almost forgotten about that."
Jess caught the reflective tone. "Forgotten about what?" She relaxed back into her lawn chair, crossing her feet at her ankles and casting her line off toward the edge of the canal.
"The times when I was growing up, and he'd take me fishing with him on his boat. Sometimes, I think he wished he had a son to take with him."
Jess caught an underlying hint of sadness in that statement. "Why do you think that?" If truth be told, Jess was very interested in Robin's family life growing up. She had gotten the distinct impression that Robin was very protected, and the loss of David had exposed the younger woman to a sudden real-life cruelty which Jess was sure Robin wasn't nearly prepared to handle. Then, of course, who would have been prepared to handle that?
Robin continued. "Dad and I were pretty close. He would always call me his girl. Still, I always sensed that he missed having a son to do the guy stuff with, you know, like little league games, and cub scouts, and camping trips." Dark sunglasses hid hesitant green eyes as they glanced over at the tall form in the next chair. "I couldn't help but feel that I was a bit of a disappointment to him that way."
What? Mirrored sunglasses tracked their direction from the water to Robin. A disappointment? Jess considered her response carefully. "I can't believe he would ever think that. I can tell how much he loves you."
A sigh. "I know. I just worry about disappointing him." I don't want him to hate me.
Jess focused her gaze on the water in thought and watched as the bright sunlight glinted off the tiny ripples around her fishing line. Then, it hit her ..the reason why Robin had been so hesitant to tell her parents about their relationship. Jess closed her eyes and berated herself inside her mind. Damn, Jess, you're such an idiot. Why was it she always thought in terms of her own selfish perspective when it came to Robin? Robin wasn't reluctant to tell her parents about their relationship because she wasn't serious about it, she was reluctant to tell them because she didn't want to be a disappointment to them. Oh, sweetheart. The mirrored sunglasses returned their direction to Robin. "You are absolutely not a disappointment." Jess stated with conviction. "So don't even go there. You got that?"
The blonde head nodded gratefully. "Got it." Just then, the smaller woman's line went taut. "Jess, I got one."
"Well, go ahead and reel it in." The older woman watched excitedly as Robin stood up, and after a pretty good fight, reeled in a very good-sized Whiting. "There you go, kiddo! Now, go ahead and take the hook out."
"You're kidding, right?" The fish wiggled around on the line.
"Nope." Jess grinned. "Just lay the fish down on the ground, put your foot on it, and ease the hook out of its mouth. You can do it." I know you can.
Wary green eyes peered above dark sunglasses. "If you say so." The smaller woman took a deep breath. "Here goes." Expertly, Robin unhooked the Whiting and watched as Jess threw it into the large ice chest. That really wasn't so hard.
Jess sat back down and gave Robin a noticeable wink. "I think your dad would definitely be very proud."
The grinned that graced Robin's face reflected far more than merely reeling in and unhooking the fish. She considered what it all meant. The little girl inside of her had desperately wanted to please her parents, but the woman she was now was taking charge of her own life. She was in control. She decided where she lived, and where she worked, and whom she loved. Not her parents. Strangely enough, Robin had a renewed sense of self-confidence. All from taking a hook out of a fish? She shook her head in wonder. Amazing.
Robin and Jess settled back into their lawn chairs, each with a cup of gourmet coffee they'd brought with them in a thermos, and waited for the next fish to bite. By just after mid-day, Robin had caught another Whiting, and felt inordinately pleased with herself. Jess, on the other hand, still had yet to reel in one fish. The older woman pulled up the bait bucket and peered inside.
"Jess?" Robin caught the movement. "What are you doing?"
Innocent blue eyes peeked above mirrored sunglasses. "Nothing."
She's so hopeless. "I saw you looking in that bucket. Why?"
Jess set the bucket down nonchalantly. "No reason."
Sea green eyes narrowed behind dark sunglasses. "Jess, those shrimps are bait, not lunch. I packed a picnic, remember?"
A wounded expression. "I was merely counting them to see how many we had left for this afternoon, Robin, that's all. I certainly wasn't contemplating anything else."
A pale eyebrow arched. "Right. They're raw, Jess, and live. That is really, really disgusting."
"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about." The dark head shook vehemently.
"You do so." Robin pointed a playful finger. "You're in withdrawal. I can see it."
"No, I'm not," Jess vigorously insisted. She glanced down at the bait bucket once again, then after an appropriate length of time, spoke. "So, what did you bring for lunch?" It was a perfectly innocent question.
A chuckle. "Ham and turkey sandwiches, carrot salad, potato chips, and chocolate chip cookies."
"Oh." A long silence. "Is that all?" Another perfectly innocent question.
Robin narrowed her eyes again. "There might be, maybe, something else."
Jess nodded thoughtfully. "Care to give me a little hint?" That made three perfectly innocent questions in a row.
Dark sunglasses hid the roll of the younger woman's green eyes. "Okay, fine. A hint. It begins with the letter 'S', if you must know."
"Really? An excited look. "Am I going to like it?" It was official, Jess was on an innocent question roll.
The petite form set down her fishing pole and walked over to the picnic cooler, pulling out two cans. "Well, that depends on if you like ..soda." Robin was teasing, and she was absolutely enjoying every minute of it.
A dejected look accompanied another quick peek inside the bait bucket. "Oh." A slight pout. Rats.
Robin stifled a giggle. She pulled out another item from the picnic cooler and wandered over to where Jess was sitting. "I found this in the refrigerator this morning, and I thought I'd bring it along." She handed the container to Jess. "Might you be interested in having some for lunch?"
Jess pulled her nose from the bait bucket and inspected the proffered container. The transformation was immediate. A wide smiled appeared, and she leaned over and gave Robin a quick kiss on the cheek. "You know me so well." She grinned. "Yes, of course. I'd love some for lunch." Jess was practically jumping up and down in her chair in excitement.
For her part, Robin merely stared, mouth slightly open, at Jess in disbelief. It's amazing what a little shrimp salad can do. She took in the taller woman's continued exuberance. I wonder if there's a twelve-step program for this.
For January, it was a spectacularly beautiful day outside, with plenty of sun and a gentle warm ocean breeze hovering above the secluded canal. Jess and Robin took a break from their fishing duties and ate their picnic lunch, shrimp salad and all. At least as far as lunch was concerned, the bait was safe. The remainder of the afternoon was spent fishing and chatting about various uncomplicated things, keeping things light and generally carefree. It all was very pleasant and a much-needed diversion from their more stressful daily life. Robin reflected at length on that fact while she kept a watchful eye on her fishing line. It was absolutely amazing to her how Jess just seemed to know how to make things seem better. By fishing, no less. Who would have known?
The blonde woman secretly observed Jess industriously casting her line in several locations, seeking out the best fishing spots. In Robin's opinion, the taller woman was captivating, and in a way, such a mystery. Jess had truly remarkable beauty, noticeable as the golden sun bathed her already bronzed skin, and her dark hair cascaded in a most appealing way about her striking features. And the woman underneath it all was amazing in every way, from the brilliant high-powered attorney to the adorably silly, fun-loving, fiercely protective, and sometimes insecure person who had given up her own heart, and captured Robin's in return. There was just so much in one package. Robin shook her head in wonder. Who would have known?
Furthering her thought, it was also astounding that such an incredibly complex person as Jess had spent so much of her life alone in guarded existence. That fact, Robin knew, was attributable to one person, and one person only. James. There wasn't any particularly rational reason for it, but all at once, the younger woman felt an uncharacteristic anger rise deep within her at the mere thought of James' betrayal. She clenched her jaw reflexively. Damn you, James. You never deserved her love. Deciding not to dwell on such unpleasantness, Robin mentally shook herself from her musings and returned her focus to the task at hand. After all, there were so many more fish to catch, and she was actually having fun doing it. Who would have known? She smiled to herself, now suddenly feeling much better.
Indeed. Who would have known?
As the sun started its descent from the sky, Robin and Jess made their way back to the silver Mercedes and packed their fishing gear and picnic items. Once everything was safely stowed away, they settled into the front seat of the car and pulled out onto the narrow dirt road leading toward the main highway. Robin rolled down the passenger side window and let the waning late afternoon breeze blow freely through her hair. It had been a nice day.
"You doing okay?" Jess eased the car over some loose gravel.
"Yeah, I had a lot of fun."
The driver nodded, then glanced over at Robin. "Your nose got a little sunburned." Blue eyes inspected the damage. "But, it doesn't look too bad. In fact, it looks very cute." Everything looks cute on her. "Didn't you put sunscreen on?"
"Yeah." Robin touched her nose. "I guess it wasn't enough. I should have kept my hat on longer."
Jess finally pulled the car out onto the main highway. "You probably peel when you get sunburned, don't you?"
"You should see me. I'm like a lobster." Robin grimaced. "If we go to the beach in the summertime, make sure I remember to bring some heavy-duty sunscreen." She studied the terrain in front of her. "Are there any beaches around here?"
Jess nodded. "There's one just over those dunes called Playalinda Beach." She pointed, then grinned mischievously. "But I'm not sure you'd want to try that one out."
Light eyebrows furrowed. "Why not?"
A smirk. "Let's just say that particular beach is famous, or rather infamous, for its no-clothing policy."
Robin opened her mouth, then quickly shut it again. "Um ..I didn't think they had any of those around here."
"Oh, yeah. It's quite a scandal from time to time. They keep trying to close it, and somehow it always gets reopened again. This whole area is a National Wildlife Refuge, and the beach is a National Seashore, so someone is always trying to preserve the natural habitat."
Robin offered a wry grin. "You can't get any more natural than that."
That drew a significantly raised eyebrow. "Good point."
Green eyes twinkled, then a light chuckle followed. "So ..um ..tell me, Jess, do you sometimes ..frequent that particular beach?"
A shocked expression. "Why, Robin. I can't believe you'd think such a thing."
Another chuckle. "I only asked because you seemed quite ..knowledgeable about the subject." A golden eyebrow arched ever so slowly to add emphasis to the implication.
"If you're saying that you'd like to try it out sometime, Robin, perhaps that could be arranged." There was an unmistakable challenge in the older woman's voice.
"No, no. That's okay." Robin backed off. "I was just curious."
Curious? Jess left that particular thought to ponder for another time and deftly changed the focus of their conversation. "So, tell me, are you a dedicated fisherman, or fisherperson, now?"
"I think I'm becoming an expert at it." Robin grinned happily.
"An expert. My, that is something." The dark haired woman headed the silver Mercedes toward the long bridge crossing over to the mainland.
"Well, I did catch four fish, you know." Green eyes danced. "How many fish did you catch today, Jess?"
Jess mumbled something unintelligible.
"I didn't hear you, Jess. How many fish was that?"
A bored look. "One."
"One." Robin lifted both eyebrows knowingly. "And you threw it back."
"Didn't want to keep it." Jess, all of a sudden, was growing rather weary of this particular conversation, even though she had started it.
"Yes, it was rather small, wasn't it?"
Another bored look. "What's your point?"
"I'll have you know, Robin, that it was a perfectly lovely fish."
Robin nodded in all seriousness. "I'm sure." A well-timed giggle. "Small ..but definitely lovely."
Jess smacked her lips together in mock annoyance. "Everyone's a critic."
That sent Robin into a fit of laughter, requiring that she wipe her eyes several times. She finally calmed herself, and after a few moments of silence, turned to regard the older woman. "I really needed today, Jess. Thank you."
"You're welcome, kiddo. We'll do it again sometime, if you want."
"Okay." Robin pulled something from her pocket. "Next time, though, you can have Al for good luck."
The light dawned. "Ah, so that's why you hooked all the big fish. You had Al with you. I should have known." It must work. She's certainly hooked me.
"Yep. I'm a believer." Petite fingers hung Al from the Mercedes' rearview mirror. "Here, you keep him for a while." Keep him safe for me, Jess. I'm coming back for him. And you.
"All right." Are you trying to tell me something? Are you leaving him with me for good? Jess couldn't let her thoughts stray too far too soon. Robin wasn't scheduled to leave for Michigan for another five days. Besides, everything was going work out just fine. After Robin talked with her parents, much of the burden would be lifted, and a significant amount of the stress that had consumed both of them in recent weeks would be lessened. Right? Jess nodded in an attempt to convince herself of just that. Right. "Hey, I have an idea." Dark eyebrows waggled. "When we get home, I'll race ya to the Jacuzzi."
"Ooooh. The Jacuzzi." A delighted smile. "How can I resist an offer like that." Robin waggled an eyebrow in return. "Will you ..wash my back?"
"Reciprocal back washing whilst in the Jacuzzi, Robin. That's house rule number five."
The smaller woman considered the new rule for only a half-second, then grinned. "Deal."
The elegant restaurant sat high above the downtown city streets, its expansive glass windows providing breathtaking views of the surrounding area in all directions with a surprisingly clear glimpse south to the Disney castle. Harry and Barbara Roberts were already seated at a table in front of one of the windows, the darkened night sky filtering in through the glass, and the cozy corner accented only by the flickering candle strategically placed on the back edge of the tabletop. Harry spotted Jess and Robin arrive and waved them over.
"Jess, Robin, hello." Harry stood up and waited as the two other attorneys took a seat, then sat back down.
Jess nodded in greeting. "Harry, Barbara, it's a pleasure."
Barbara Roberts reached over and touched Robin lightly on the forearm. "I'm so happy you could join us tonight. I so enjoyed talking with you at the party last month."
"Thank you for inviting me." Robin watched as the waiter came over and filled their glasses with water. "This is a really nice restaurant. I've never been here before."
Barbara continued. "Harry and I love this place. We come here quite often."
The waiter proceeded to hand them their menus and recite the house specials. After a few moments of perusing the extensive selection of appetizers and entrées, they requested a bottle of fine Merlot wine, then ordered their meals. Of curious note, at least to Robin, was that Jess, in a wholly uncharacteristic move, chose not to order shrimp, neither as an appetizer nor as an entrée.
The young associate couldn't help herself. She just had to comment. "Becoming adventurous, are we?"
Blue eyes cast sideways at Robin. "Adventurous?"
"No shrimp tonight, I see." A blonde eyebrow lifted ever so slightly.
"I do eat other things, you know. Chicken Marsala is certainly one of them." A nonchalant look as Jess took a piece of bread and buttered it, ignoring the knowing smirk of her housemate.
Green eyes danced. She's trying to act cool. "Right. Chicken Marsala."
The playful tone of the interaction was not lost on Barbara. From her perspective, the genuine affection between the two women was more than evident, and the easy banter, however subdued, was a dead give-away of something more than simply a casual friendship, even if her husband hadn't quite picked up on it. "How is the new year treating you, Robin?"
Robin smiled. "Very well, thanks. I just bought a new car, and I'm all settled in now over at Jess's house."
Jess's head snapped up at Robin's reference to her new place of abode. Are we advertising this now? She rushed to clarify. "Um ..that's right. I decided it might be nice to have some company in that big house of mine."
Barbara seemed unaffected. "Oh, yes. I think Harry mentioned something about that to me last week. It must be a nice change for you, Jess."
The junior partner merely nodded. That felt odd. There was something about the way Barbara carried the conversation that caused Jess to wonder. Could Barbara suspect? And more importantly, was it something to worry about? As if there wasn't already enough to worry about. However, Barbara seemed entirely comfortable, either way, even supportive. An ally, perhaps. Jess considered that notion. Perhaps.
Harry finally chimed in, totally off-topic. "Dear, do you remember the first time we ever came to this restaurant? It has to have been more than thirty years ago now." He turned toward Jess and Robin and went on with his reminiscent musings. "This town was little more than orange groves and cow pastures at the time, and this building was one of only two high rises in the small downtown they had here at that time. It also just happened to have one of the few quality restaurants in the area."
"That's right, dear." Harry's wife continued. "We literally stumbled across it one evening, and it's been our favorite place ever since."
"Those were the days, all right." The head of the litigation department chuckled at the memory, then continued. "Back then, the firm was just starting out. We had just Gordon McDaniel and myself, and no real office staff. Barbara, here, was our bookkeeper, and Gordon's wife, Lynn, handled our administrative work."
Robin was intrigued by the story. "So, it was just the four of you?"
Barbara nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, for a while, until the firm got going. Several more lawyers eventually came on board, and the firm began to grow."
Harry glanced at his wife. "There were many times that Gordon and I didn't think we were going to last. I tell you, if it wasn't for the support of Barbara and Lynn throughout all the hard times, I'm not at all sure we would have made it. We had to work very hard to drum up business, and Barbara, here, was right out there with us in helping to bring in more clients. The firm is what it is today in large part because of her perseverance, patience and encouragement." He leaned over toward Jess and motioned back toward his wife conspiratorially. "I'll tell you a little secret. She's the boss and she never lets me forget it." He gave a quick wink.
All present caught the comment and laughed. It was a fascinating story, Jess had to admit, and even as the waiter brought their appetizers to begin their meal, the junior partner was contemplating the implications of what she'd just heard. Barbara was one of the co-founders of the firm. Interesting. Barbara could also turn out to be an ally of sorts. A positive development. So, perhaps, this new information could prove to be beneficial in the long run. Perhaps. The wheels were turning, as a dark eyebrow edged up ever so slowly.
Jess glanced up from her morning newspaper as Robin entered the living room carrying her overnight bag. "Are you ready?" It was an oddly absurd question, given the circumstances.
Unsettled green eyes caught a stripe of morning sunlight glinting off the oak coffee table before tentatively tracking up to meet cautious blue. "Not really, but I'm all set to catch my plane." Robin sat down on the sofa beside the older woman and blew out a shaky breath. "I wish it was tomorrow night, and I was back here again."
Me too. Jess acknowledged the apprehension in Robin's unsteady voice, and suddenly felt a surge of protectiveness wash over her. Her eyes hardened and she grasped the smaller woman's hand almost instinctively. "You don't have to do this."
That brought a weary smile. "Yes, I do. Delaying this serves no purpose now and will only cause more problems in the long run."
Damn it. Jess was feeling more uneasy as the moments ticked by. And guilty. You pushed her into this, Jess, now deal with it. She swallowed and fixed the blonde woman with an intense gaze. "I could go with you. I don't like the idea of you doing this alone."
A petite hand reached up and stroked the side of the chiseled face. "Thank you for that." Robin bit the edge of her lip to maintain her composure, then spoke more resolutely. "But I need to do this and explain this to my parents myself." She forced a smile. "Besides, how would it look to have my boss, who just so happens to also be my roommate, suddenly show up to accompany me to a supposed job interview at another law firm in Michigan?"
Jess smiled in return. "Right. I guess that would complicate things from the beginning, huh?" She squeezed the small hand she held. "Then, I want you to promise me something, and I mean it."
"Okay." Robin's gaze never wavered from the determined blue eyes in front of her.
"You call me the moment you get there, you call me tonight after you talk with your folks, and then you call me tomorrow before you leave to come back." Jess was absolutely serious.
Robin opened her mouth as if to protest, then quickly closed it and remained silent.
"I mean this, Robin. The last time you went up there, you had a difficult time with ..some things, and you didn't call me, even though I gave you my number at my mother's. You told me you'd call if things got hard for you, and then you didn't call." Jess was even more worried than she let on about the emotional toll all this would take on Robin, but there was also something else that bothered her, and she felt she needed to be honest with Robin about it. "Last time, I felt that that you didn't trust me enough to tell me what was going on with you."
Robin abruptly broke her gaze and let her eyes travel toward, then settle, on the empty fireplace, her voice very small. "I didn't know you felt that way about that."
The older woman continued. "When you were gone, I convinced myself that everything was okay because I didn't hear from you. But everything was far from okay with you. I felt it inside of me, and I ignored it." She grasped Robin's other hand and sought out unreadable green eyes with a determined focus. "I won't ignore it again. So, here's the deal. If I don't hear from you when you get there, I'm on the next plane. If I don't hear from you tonight, I'm on the next plane. And if I don't here from you before you leave to come back tomorrow, I'm on the next plane. There is no debate on this, Robin. Either I hear from you, or I'm on your Michigan doorstep. End of story."
It occurred to Robin that she should be really angry with Jess for trying to control her actions and her decisions. It was, after all, up to Robin to decide how and when to speak with her own parents about whatever she chose to speak with them about. It was also up to Robin to decide if she wanted to confide in Jess about anything. And, it was certainly up to Robin when and how often she would call Jess, if she decided to call her at all. Now, here was Jess, arrogantly trying to manipulate the situation all because she felt a bit slighted the last time Robin went to Detroit. It was totally brazen, utterly uncalled for, and absolutely intolerable. But ..in spite of all that, in spite of the heavy-handed and overbearing nature of the demand, Robin simply couldn't be angry. She recognized the ultimatum for what it was ..a declaration of love and concern, however over-reaching it seemed on the surface. Green eyes blinked, then a soft voice spoke, breaking the uneasy silence that had ensued. "Deal."
The dark head nodded, a small weight lifted from the broad shoulders. "We'd better get going, or you'll miss your flight."
They stood up and made their way toward the garage door. Robin stopped suddenly and looked back over her shoulder, intently studying the expansive house that had become her home. She lingered for a moment and committed the view to memory, wishing to carry the image in her mind until she returned the following evening. It was something to hold on to while she was far away from where she most wanted to be. Her home ..both the residence and the person.
The action was not lost on Jess, yet her interpretation of the event was quite different. Still haunted by James' betrayal, she instinctively misinterpreted the hesitation by Robin as an indication of finality, as if Robin was taking one last look around before leaving forever and shutting the door on their relationship. It was an unfounded impression, to be sure, but Jess just couldn't help it. Although she was continually trying, she had not yet been able to completely surrender her own fears and place herself wholly into Robin's shoes. With an increasing sinking in the pit of her stomach, the taller woman turned and opened the garage door, motioning Robin toward the car.
They made their way toward the airport in near silence, each lost in their own very intense thoughts. When they finally reached the short-term parking facility, Jess pulled the silver Mercedes into a parking space and shifted to open the driver's side door. She was stopped by a gentle hand on her wrist.
Blue eyes lifted slowly. The older woman could feel the warmth of the petite fingers gently soothing her aching heart.
"Jess, I .." Robin whispered. "I love you."
Long arms gathered the smaller woman and held her in a tight embrace. "I love you, too, and I'll miss you every second you're gone." Jess finally let go and bravely straightened up, touching a hand to Robin's cheek and offering a small smile. "Now, let's get your bag and get you on that plane."
They proceeded through the main terminal and then onto the shuttle leading to the airside gates. A few idle moments were spent at Robin's assigned gate, before the gate agent finally called for the boarding of the flight. As the boarding process began, Robin grabbed her carry-on bag and stepped over into line. Purely on impulse, Jess reached inside her jacket and pulled out her recently acquired cell phone, grabbing Robin's hand and placing it firmly against the smaller woman's palm.
Light eyebrows raised in silent question.
"Just take it." Jess was very focused. "This way, you'll always have access to a phone, and it'll be convenient for you to call. Plus, I can get in touch with you." She decided it was a very good plan, all things considered.
Robin simply nodded, then gave Jess a quick hug before handing the gate attendant her boarding pass. She glanced back at the older woman and smiled reassuringly, before quickly stepping onto the jetway and making her way onto the waiting plane.
The taller woman watched the retreating form disappear from view, the urge to run through the crowd and pull Robin back into the safety of her arms almost overwhelming. With great difficulty, however, she fought the impulse. Instead, she moved over to a large window and stood there, watching the jet stoically, until it finally pushed back from the gate a few moments later and began its taxi to the runway. Unwavering azure eyes followed the jet's path as it slowly rolled forward and then drifted out of sight. Jess stared out at the empty space where Robin's plane had stood just moments before, which oddly enough, matched the empty space within her own heart, and swallowed back an unsettled feeling. In a purely reflexive motion, she brought one hand up to the window pane in front of her and lightly pressed her fingertips against the cool glass, a gentle plea voicing a silent yet considerable appeal inside the realm of her increasingly anxious mind.
Come back to me, sweetheart. I'm waiting for you.
To Be Continued ..
© Copyright 02/20/2001