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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by KM
The sun had set long ago. A cool night breeze blew in lightly throughout the spacious living room, occasionally rattling the vertical blinds at the bay window. A tall figure sat on the plush sofa, posture relaxed, as a pair of petite bare feet rested comfortably in a denim clad lap. Long fingers gently and skillfully massaged each tired foot from heel to toe, focusing briefly on the tender insoles, before stroking and caressing the arches and ankles once again. After many moments of thorough attention to each foot, the smaller form lifted up and shifted completely around, so that now, the golden blonde head was situated squarely upon the aforementioned lap. Smiling green eyes met crystal blue.
"Thank you." Robin sighed deeply in contentment.
"You're welcome." Jess combed her fingers through Robin's short blonde hair. "Feel better now?"
"Yes. You know, you do that very well."
"Well, not to brag or anything, because you know I'm very modest, but foot massages are my specialty."
That brought a light giggle. "Is that so?"
"Yep." A dark eyebrow arched expectantly. "So ..?"
"Um .." Pale eyebrows furrowed slightly in question. "So what?"
"You know." Jess nodded confidently.
"Um ..nope. What?"
An exaggerated sigh. "Well, if you're going to make me say it .." The low voice held a playful tone. "Okay, fine. So, tell me Robin, do I get any points for my excellent foot massaging skills?"
"My. We are modest, aren't we?" Robin grinned. "Let's see, do you think you should get some points?"
"Yes. In fact, Robin, I think I should not only get regular points, but I should also get bonus points."
The younger woman raised both eyebrows above her golden bangs, then put on a serious face. "Bonus points?"
"Yes. This is because I have to make up for those points you erroneously deducted from me last weekend."
An outraged expression. "You woke me up, as I recall, practically in the middle of the night, with your zip a dee do whatever song."
A very, very bored look, but otherwise no response.
"And then .." A petite finger wagged purposefully in Jess's direction. "Your frisky self started singing, very loudly I might add, about Mr. Blackbird sitting on your shoulder."
The very, very bored look continued.
"And then, as if that wasn't already bad enough, you proceeded to start humming, and whistling, and thumping your fingers all over my back."
Jess waited with infinite patience. "Are you finished?"
"Good, because number one, Robin, it most certainly was not the middle of the night. Number two, that is a perfectly lovely song. And number three, it's Mr. Bluebird, not Mr. Blackbird, just so you know."
Green eyes narrowed considerably. "The point is not whether it was Mr. Bluebird, Mr. Blackbird, or any other bird. The point is that you woke me up."
"Maybe." A blue eye winked. "But it turned out okay, didn't it?"
"Yeah, it did." Petite fingers grasped larger ones.
"So .." A mischievous grin appeared. "Wanna hear the song again?"
Robin crinkled up her nose. "Don't push it, Jess." She brought their joined hands to her lips and gave the knuckles a light kiss. "Here's the deal. You restrain yourself from singing that zip a dee do whatever song, and I'll give you regular points plus bonus points for your foot massaging skills."
Jess grinned, pleased that her subtle blackmailing skills had served her well, then bent down and kissed Robin soft lips. "It's a deal, kiddo." She spent the next several moments slowly combing her fingers through the younger woman's short blonde hair before finally setting all playfulness aside and bringing the conversation back to more serious matters. "How was your day today?"
"I guess it was all right. Clay Taylor's not too bad to work with." The smaller woman let go an audible sigh. "But I'd much rather be working with you."
"Well, sweetheart, I think we need to be honest about that. Whichever way this thing goes, I don't think they'll allow us work together again." Jess found that thought unexpectedly painful, much more so than she'd first considered.
Robin's voice became noticeably shaky. "I'm so sorry that my father did this to you ..to us."
"Shhh." The taller woman soothed. "No matter what the firm does, and no matter what your father does, it doesn't matter, because we have each other. You just keep on thinking about that, and everything else will sort itself out just fine." Jess closed her eyes, then sighed to herself. They had carefully tip-toed around the subject up until now, but considering Robin's state of mind after her father's visit the previous evening, it was clear that they really needed to talk more about what had happened. Wounds tend to fester unless they're given the chance to properly heal, as Jess herself knew well from first-hand experience. Whatever had happened with Robin's father, it was quite clear that Robin's wounds ran very deep. "You were very upset last night after your father left. How are you doing now?"
Green eyes focused on some point in the distance, but otherwise, there was no response.
She won't talk about it "I'm very sorry he hurt you." Long fingers stroked Robin's face. "I want to help you, if I can. Will you let me?"
A small tear made it's way down the side of Robin's face, but there was still no response.
Damn it, Jess. You've upset her. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, sweetheart." Long arms gathered Robin up into a gentle hug. "I didn't mean to upset you." If truth be told, Jess was very distressed at the younger woman's inability to talk about everything that had happened. It seemed instead as if Robin was retreating further into herself over this matter. Let it go, Jess. How do you think you'd feel if you'd just found out that someone close to you had interfered not once, but twice in your life, with disastrous consequences? Resigned that Robin didn't want to talk about it, Jess carefully laid the blonde head back upon her lap. "When you're ready, honey, I'm here."
There was another prolonged silence, then the smaller woman finally spoke. "Jess?"
Robin's voice was rough. "Do you think I'm a good attorney?"
What? Well, that was certainly an unexpected question. "Absolutely. I'm very, very proud to have worked with you."
At least that's something. "Thank you." The words were barely a whisper, but nevertheless a sincere acknowledgment of the validation.
What's this all about? Dark eyebrows furrowed in concentrated thought.
She's here. With everything that was happening, the simple fact that Jess was still with her was immeasurably comforting. Robin tried to force her mind into believing that it would always be this way. "Thanks for being with me last night. I guess finding out about what my father did really shook me up." She hesitated, then asked a question that had been on her mind since the previous evening. "What made you come to my room?"
In truth, it was still an unexamined question. Just what was it, exactly, that caused Jess to go into Robin's room the previous evening? Instinct? Or maybe concern? Or ..Pain. Yes, that was it. It was the pain. A large hand pressed against Robin's cheek. "I was worried about you. I wanted to see how you were doing, so I checked our room, but you weren't there. I thought that you must've wanted to be alone for the rest of the night, so I started to go back into the living room, but before I got very far, I felt a pain inside of me. I can't describe it, but it was really intense." Blue eyes looked up for a brief moment, then refocused on Robin. "It was strange, but I felt the same thing on the way back from picking up the Chinese food last night, but I haven't felt it again. I don't know why, but after I felt it the second time, there was something ..I don't know. I just had to go find you."
"Are you sick?" Robin's voice held an almost urgent concern.
"No. I feel fine."
The younger woman's mind recalled that she had doubled over in anguish after her father had revealed his role in the events leading up to David's accident. Upon further reflection, she also recalled the horrible pain she'd felt as she entered the junior partner's office the night Jess tried to break things off between them, her own startled green eyes catching sight of the crumpled form curled up on the floor in the wake of a shattered heart. We're connected. "Jess?"
"I'm here." Jess tried to reinforce that concept.
"I felt it, too, or something like it, that night when I came back into your office." Robin thought about the events some more. "I think we just know when each other's hurting."
It could be true. "Do you think that's it?"
"Yeah." Something else then came to mind. "Remember when I was gone during Thanksgiving, and you told me that you felt it inside of you that I was upset?"
Jess grew contemplative. "Yes, I remember. I could feel that something just wasn't right, even though you were hundreds of miles away." The older woman grew increasingly annoyed at herself, yet again, for not relying more on her instincts back then.
But what if I'm wrong? "Will you still go see a doctor and have it checked out?" The tone of urgency returned to Robin's voice.
Attempting to dismiss the matter, Jess protested. "I don't think that's necessary. I feel fine. I think you're right. We just know when each other's hurting."
Apparently, it was the exact wrong thing to say. Robin sat straight up, a look of near terror in her eyes. "No. What if I'm wrong? What if it's something else?"
Jess couldn't have been more insensitive if she'd tried. "But, Robin, there's nothing to worry about. I'm fine."
After a second, pleading green eyes focused intently on confused blue. "Please, Jess." It was a desperate appeal, although barely audible. "I don't want you to be sick." I don't want to lose you, too.
After a long moment of processing the perceived fear, Jess closed her eyes and hung her head as the realization finally sank in. But I can't have her worry every time I get a damn hangnail. Not quite sure either of them was up to that particular conversation, and certainly not wanting to upset Robin even more, the older woman acquiesced. "All right. I'll have it checked out." She grasped both of the smaller hands and held them tightly within her own. "Now, I want you to do something for me. Promise me that you'll talk with Dr. Richmond about everything that's happened. She's on the outside of this, and she can see things from a different perspective." Jess paused, then continued. "It's not good to keep things inside, sweetheart. If you ever want to talk, I'm here. But, if you'd rather talk with Dr. Richmond, that's okay too. Just don't keep it inside. Will you promise me that?"
The blonde head nodded. "I promise." Robin nestled her body up against the larger one and snuggled close, taking in the familiar scent. "Have I told you lately that I love you."
That brought a crooked smile. "I think maybe you might have mentioned it a time or two."
"Oh." The younger woman hid a smirk. "Well, in that case, I wouldn't want to overdo it or anything. Perhaps I just shouldn't mention it anymore."
Two long fingers hooked underneath Robin's chin, lifting it up a bit. "That would be absolutely unacceptable."
"Is that so?"
"Yep." Jess grinned. "House rule number seven, Robin, specifically states that each party living in the dwelling otherwise known as The Ranch shall use the "L" word in connection with the other party at least once per day."
"I see." Robin pretended to give the rule careful consideration. "So, then that would mean that there's still one party living in this dwelling who hasn't complied with house rule number seven yet."
Jess was thoroughly charmed. "Really now."
"Yes. At least that's the way I see it." Petite fingers drummed expectantly on the sofa cushion. "Did you have something you wanted to say to me?"
A deep chuckle. "You're not supposed to ask for it."
"I don't think there's anything in house rule number seven about asking or not asking, Jess."
"Um .." Dark eyebrows knit together. "Okay. This is the amended house rule number seven. Each party living in the dwelling otherwise known as The Ranch shall use the "L" word in connection with the other party at least once per day at times when the other party does not ask."
Robin cast her gaze at the floor in a slight pout. "Okay." A green eye then peered upward. "Um ..I'm not really asking or anything, Jess, so if you do have something you want to say, you can say it."
At this point, it was simply impossible for Jess to resist. She's so damn adorable. Long arms wrapped around the smaller woman and positioned her down along the length of the plush sofa, the larger body coming to rest gently upon her. A low alto voice whispered seductively into a petite ear. "So as to strictly comply with house rule number seven, Robin, let me make this absolutely and perfectly clear. I love you, and I most definitely intend to prove it to you."
Robin threaded her fingers through the dark hair as sea green eyes fixed onto cool blue. "Then I'd say you'd better get busy." She brought lips up to meet the ones above her own, effectively sealing her statement with a searing kiss.
Oh my. Jess momentarily had to clear her mind. Intense blue eyes bore solidly into green. "You drive me absolutely crazy." Without further hesitation, long, wandering fingers began to unbutton Robin's blouse, button by button, lingering at each one just long enough to graze the soft skin beneath it. "You know, it occurs to me that house rule number seven doesn't have a limit on the number of times either party can use the "L" word." Jess ran her fingers up and down the length of Robin's bare stomach and chest. "So .." Soft lips followed the fingers' pathway. "Let me say it to you again." Those same fingers expertly unhooked the younger woman's bra and removed both it and the blouse all at once. "I love you."
Smaller fingers simultaneously made their own progress on Jess's clothing, managing to remove most of it before the younger woman felt the metal zipper on her pants slowly lowering and those same long, wandering fingers exploring, then massaging a very, very sensitive area. Robin's breathing became labored as the pressure increased, her own lips and questing fingers likewise teasing and massaging several sensitive areas on the body hovering above her own in what quickly became a sensual dance.
Between gasps and her own labored breathing, Jess repeated her mantra, again and again. "I love you. I love you."
The dance enveloped them both in its seductive embrace, its rhythm setting pace to an imaginary symphony, all other time and space ceasing to exist. In perfect, almost synchronized choreography, the intensity steadily built, then increased even further, until both bodies finally arched and cried out in unison, their passionate song reaching its high crescendo, before tumbling back down into earth's stratosphere once again.
Jess collapsed on top of Robin, burying her face against the younger woman's shoulder and breathing heavily. Unable to will her muscles to move, she instead focused her attention on their rapidly beating hearts keeping time together in a musical sonata all of their own. Finally, she lifted her dark head and gazed adoringly into slightly unfocused sea green eyes. "How do you do that?"
A small hand stroked the older woman's cheek, as one golden eyebrow arched ever so slowly. "Um ..are you sure I need to explain this?"
A crooked smile followed. "Not that. What I meant was, how do you almost render me unconscious?"
A slight blush, then a chuckle. "I'm pretty sure it's not all me." Robin lifted slightly and placed a tender kiss on Jess's lips. "You have the exact same effect on me, you know."
"Well, then I guess it must be magic." The older woman leaned in and once again captured Robin's lips in several long, slow, and sweet kisses. She pulled back and cocked her head to one side in apparent contemplation. "Yep, it's official. It's most definitely magic."
Magic. Robin savored the moment, enjoying the pleasant weight of the larger body resting upon her own. And indeed, it was truly magical. I don't understand how anyone could object to this. "So .." She drawled out the word, tracing her finger back and forth along the older woman's jaw. "Have I told you lately that I love you?"
"Um .." Jess suppressed a smile. "I think you might have mentioned it a time or two." She leaned in and kissed along the base of Robin's neck, nibbling lightly as she saw fit. "I also think that's what started this in the first place."
It was incredible, the skin to skin contact. "Does that mean you're complaining?" Twinkling green eyes prodded.
"Absolutely .." The distracting nibbling continued. "Positively .." The nibbling continued further. "Not." The nibbling continued even further still.
The younger woman kept her presence of mind just long enough to whisper into a conveniently placed ear. "Then come to bed with me, Jess." Before Robin could utter another word, she was essentially whisked to her feet and led down the long hallway into the master bedroom.
Considering all of the evidence, one might say it was indeed magic.
The week progressed slowly, adding further anxiety to an already frustrating situation. There was, however, one bright spot to focus on, even if only temporarily. Valentine's Day. It had arrived without much mention or fanfare, and in truth, in light of everything else going on, it was nearly overlooked. Nevertheless, Robin should have known that even though Jess was understandably distracted, she wouldn't let the event pass by without the day's formal acknowledgement.
As the very long day came to its close, Robin pulled her sporty metallic blue BMW into The Ranch's two-car garage and shut off the engine. She hesitated just long enough to lift from the passenger seat the single long-stem red rose which she'd found waiting for her on top of her desk at work earlier that morning. A simple card had been placed with it containing a small phrase that meant more to her than the words themselves appeared to convey. She removed the card from its plain white envelope and read the words to herself again for what must have been the tenth time that day.
Robin smiled just as she'd done the nine previous times she'd read the card, then stepped out of the car and entered the house, long-stem rose and briefcase in hand. Before she had a chance to venture too far inside, she was immediately greeted by her taller companion in a manner which consisted primarily of whisking the briefcase from her hand and drawing her smaller body into a strong and heartfelt embrace. Both women stood there for a very long time, wrapped together in each other's arms, simply enjoying their deep emotional connection.
After a few lingering moments, Jess softly whispered her more formal greeting into Robin's ear. "Happy Valentine's Day, sweetheart."
With the red rose still clasped tightly in her hand, Robin took a half step backward and looked into the cerulean eyes in front of her. "Happy Valentine's Day, Jess. Thank you for my rose." She drew the flower closer to herself and breathed in its sweet fragrance.
"You're welcome." Jess gave her a dazzling smile. "I received a very lovely bouquet delivery today. Thank you."
There just seemed to be something about the older woman tonight that absolutely captivated Robin. Jess was positively glowing, and in the wake of it, Robin felt almost shy. "You're welcome."
"Come this way with me." Jess led them both into the formal dining room where she displayed a beautifully set table accented by several long red tapered candles placed in the center. The colorful bouquet Jess had received earlier that day rested prominently on the far end of the table, while at the closer end, two place settings of formal imported china complemented by genuine crystal glasses were expertly situated beneath a white lace heirloom tablecloth. "Dinner will be ready in a few minutes if you'd like to change into something a bit more ..comfortable."
Green eyes gazed at the table, nearly mesmerized by the low incandescent lighting and the soft glow of the small flames dancing atop each of the slender red tapered candles. "It's beautiful." Robin commented, very much in awe.
Jess gently took the rose from Robin's fingers and laid it across the center of the table, completing the setting. "There." She smiled. "Now it's perfect."
And that, it was. Perfect. In a mystical, magical way, at that one singular moment in time, it was if the world outside with all its heartaches and troubles simply ceased to exist. As Robin absorbed one vision, she turned slightly, only to observe another. Her eyes all at once caught the near halo effect surrounding the taller woman as cast by the glowing and flickering candlelight. It was quite magnetic, and much too powerful to resist. She quickly closed the gap between the two of them, and took hold of Jess's hands. "The answer's yes."
Petite fingers reached up and rested against the older woman's cheek. "What you put on your card. My answer's yes."
"Oh." Be mine. Jess leaned in and placed a very tender kiss on Robin's lips, then swallowed a bit harder than she had intended. "Um ..it occurs to me that you should go ahead and get changed now, or we'll never make it to dinner." She flashed Robin another dazzling smile.
The blonde head nodded. "I think that's a very good idea."
While Robin set about changing into more comfortable attire, Jess put the finishing touches on dinner. A soon as the younger woman returned to the dining room, her companion pulled a bottle of chilled Chardonnay from the nearby ice bucket. "Care for some wine?"
"Yes, thanks." It all seemed rather formal in nature, but in a very good and very romantic way. "Dinner smells really great. What'd you make?"
"Chicken Cacciatore." Jess handed a glass of wine to Robin. "It's ready. Let's go ahead and eat."
"Okay." Curious green eyes peered into a nearby serving dish. "Um .Jess? You said you made Chicken Cacciatore?"
"Yes." The dark head nodded confidently.
"So then, that's what's in there?"
"Yep." Jess assured.
Right. Robin suppressed a smile. "But that's not all that's in there, is it?"
"Um .." Innocent blue eyes blinked several times. "I don't know what you're talking about."
A frank look. "I think you do."
There was absolutely no way out now. Jess had to come clean. "Okay, well maybe I did improvise the recipe just a little bit."
"You improvised a little bit?"
"Yes. I thought that those of us who preferred chicken could have the chicken, and then those of us who preferred ..the other thing, could have the other thing."
She's so hopeless. Robin couldn't suppress her smile any longer. It now turned into a full grin. "That's quite convenient and very resourceful of you."
"Yes. The recipe's very flexible. It works out perfectly this way."
The blonde head nodded agreeably. "I can see that."
"So .." Jess looked at Robin in all seriousness. "Would you prefer the chicken or ..the other thing?"
It was absolutely delightful, Robin decided, and thoroughly enchanting, that they could so easily combine their familiar banter with such an incredibly romantic setting. In fact, it served only to heighten the intensity of it all the more, given the low lighting and the flickering of the candle flames. And curiously, something in the back of Robin's mind told her that Jess had indeed planned it this way all along. She's the most irresistible person I've ever known. Sea green eyes, now hiding absolutely nothing, captured, then held, crystal blue in a smoldering gaze. "I think I'll have the chicken with a little bit of the ..other thing on the side."
Oh my. Jess swallowed with difficulty, her gaze never wavering. "Okay. And I think I'll have the other thing with a little bit of the chicken on the side." At this point, they could have been talking about absolutely anything and the intensity would still have been just as strong.
"Good." The gaze held further.
Dinner, although thoroughly enjoyable, was finished rather quickly that evening.
"Jess?" Robin fumbled around in the darkness, finally finding her nightshirt and slipping the crisp cotton fabric over her head.
"What?" The older woman once again donned her Calvin boxers and sleep shirt and lay comfortably on the waterbed.
"I don't know if I've ever told you this specifically, but you are very romantic."
Perfect white teeth almost glowed in the darkness. "Is that so?"
"Yes." The petite body curled up next to the larger one. "First there was the rose this morning, then dinner, and now. ."
Jess silenced her with a kiss. "Now?"
"Um .." The younger woman momentarily forgot her train of thought, as a larger hand wandered underneath her nightshirt, finally coming to rest on her bare stomach. "I think perhaps we got dressed too quickly."
I am in so much trouble. Jess arched an eyebrow unseen. "Perhaps we did." She gave Robin several long, slow kisses.
"So .." Another drawled out sentence. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Quizzical silver blue eyes stared at gray green in the dark. "Why didn't I tell you what?"
"About what you wrote inside the ring."
"Oh, that." Jess seemed somewhat embarrassed. "I wasn't sure you'd remember."
A petite finger traced a dark eyebrow. "October 12. How could I forget?" Robin leaned in and placed a very gentle kiss on the older woman's lips. "The day we met."
"See what I mean? You're very romantic."
That brought a crooked grin in the dark. "Well, I aim to please." A large hand grasped a smaller one. "So ..why didn't you tell me?"
"Um ..why didn't I tell you what?" Actually, Robin had a pretty good idea of what Jess was going to say next.
Azure eyes held a hidden twinkle. Two can play. "Why didn't you tell me what you inscribed on the ring?"
"Oh, that." She caught me. "Well, to be honest, I wasn't sure that it made sense."
"Of course it did." Jess recalled the inscription quite clearly. 'Yours'. "I think it's pretty self-explanatory."
Robin snuggled further against Jess and rested her head on the broad shoulder. "It's the other half."
The other half? Try as she might, Jess couldn't seem to connect the full meaning of that statement.
At the prolonged silence, the younger woman realized that she was originally right. Jess hadn't indeed made the connection. "It doesn't make sense, does it?" Robin buried her face into the fabric of the Calvin sleep shirt, now not wanting to look into questioning silver blue eyes. She waited another moment, but as the silence continued on, she finally clarified the inscription's intent. "The bracelet's the first half. The ring's the other half."
Silver blue eyes blinked, then closed fully as Jess recalled the inscription on the white and blue sapphire bracelet. Forever. The realization of the meaning of the two words taken together hit the older woman with an unexpectedly powerful force. Forever yours. Long arms tightened around the petite body. "Yes, sweetheart, it makes perfect sense." She kissed the top of the blonde head. "Absolute perfect sense."
Robin brushed her fingers idly back and forth against Jess's forearm, feeling the tiny fine hairs covering the soft skin. "So, is it okay?"
"Better than okay." Perfect white teeth showed themselves once again. "You know, kiddo, you're very romantic, yourself."
For some reason, that made Robin beam. She shifted and inched herself higher to look directly into silver blue eyes, her own gray green eyes now twinkling. "Well, I do my best, you know."
"And I must say, you do it very, very well." The older woman pulled Robin closer, capturing her lips in what turned into several long and slow kisses. After many moments, she pulled away again and breathed deeply in contentment. "I have a good idea."
"Jess .." Robin whispered playfully into a nearby ear. "We already did that."
A deep chuckle. "That's wasn't what I was thinking."
"No? Then, spill it." The blonde head rested on the pillow next to Jess.
"Okay. I was thinking that maybe we could take a trip to Tampa this weekend and tell my mom about us ..and our rings."
"You haven't told her?" Robin was quite surprised.
"Well, no. I thought we could do it together, if you want to." Jess gave a wry grin. "I learned my lesson last time about telling my mom something important about us without including you."
The smaller woman thought about that. "I don't mean for you to keep things from your family if you'd rather tell them. You don't need my permission for that."
A long finger hooked under Robin's chin. "When it concerns the both of us, and it's important, I think we should do it together." The finger then traced along the petite jaw line. "So, what do you think?"
"I think it sounds like a great idea." Pale eyebrows knit together in further thought. "What about your brother? Do you want to tell him, too?"
"I've been thinking about that." The older woman sighed, not sure how much she should go into it. She always figured that telling her mother was a given, and that in telling her brother, he would most likely understand, but in reality, Jess wasn't at all sure of what her brother's wife would think about this type of revelation. "Peter doesn't know about us. I think he'd be okay with it, but .."
Robin hitched up on one elbow, her gray green eyes studying Jess's profile in the dark. "But, what?"
"His wife, Peggy .." Completely within character, Jess shifted her gaze to the digital clock on the nightstand. "I just don't know how she'd react. She's deeply religious, and I'm not sure whether she'd have a problem with it. I don't want to create a family rift."
I guess it was too much to hope that her whole family would understand. "I don't want to come between you and your family, Jess."
Silver blue eyes turned slowly toward Robin. "Sweetheart, you're my family, too. Eventually, they'll have to know about us." There was a slight pause as Jess pondered all the options. "Maybe we should do this. We could talk to my mom about it this weekend and see what she thinks. She's around Peter and Peggy more often than I am. I think she'd know how to handle this."
"Okay." Robin agreed. "Are you worried, though?"
There was no reason not to be honest. "A little. But I know I can count on my mom to help us."
All things considered, if they were going to talk with Jess's mother about this, they might as well get everything else out in the open, including the situation with the firm. In truth, Robin was very anxious about this issue. After all, it was her own father who had put Jess's career at risk. The blonde woman abruptly stopped herself from casting further blame. No, that's not entirely true. I knew all along what I was doing. Although she was uncomfortable about it, Robin nevertheless decided to ask. "Do you think we should tell your mom about what's going on with the firm?"
"Yes." There was no hesitation in Jess's voice.
The younger woman laid back down, now very quiet. Too quiet.
What's the matter? "Hey." A slender finger tapped lightly on Robin's wrist. "Is something on your mind?"
Robin swallowed, then finally put voice to her fear. "What if your mom blames me for everything that's happened?" What if she thinks it's my fault that you might lose your partnership?
Shit. How many times do we have to go through this? "Listen to me, sweetheart. My mom won't blame you, so don't even worry about that. Nothing that happens to me is your fault. Your dad did what he did for his own reasons, nothing more, and you had absolutely nothing to do with that." Jess shifted to her side to face Robin, briefly combing her fingers through the blonde bangs, then patiently continued on with her explanation. "We both knew the risks in continuing our relationship. We talked about them many times. I made the ultimate choice to be with you because I couldn't imagine my life without you. So, whatever happens with the firm, my mom will understand why I chose you over everything else."
"Do you really think she'll understand?"
"I know she will."
The blonde head nodded slightly in acknowledgment. "I didn't tell you earlier, but Harry called me today and told me I'd be meeting with the Management Committee next Monday."
"Yeah, he called me, too, and said that I'd need to meet with them Monday, as well. He said the delay this week was in trying to reach your father. Apparently, they wanted something in writing from him as to his intentions. I suppose that makes sense. If the State Bar complaint is off the table, then the Management Committee can deal with this matter internally and very quietly."
Robin sighed audibly. "How long do you think it'll take before they make a decision?"
They've probably already made up their minds. Jess considered the question for a moment longer. "I'd say they'll decide sometime next week. There's no reason to drag this thing out any longer than necessary. The sooner it's resolved, the better." It was becoming quite apparent now that Robin was very tense about this whole matter, and it showed. "C'mere."
The petite body instinctively snuggled against Jess, then shivered slightly.
"Everything's going to be fine, sweetheart. No one can touch us. You got that?" The older woman felt Robin nod against her chest. "I forgot to mention it before, but Barbara Roberts called me today."
Now Robin was intrigued. "What'd she want?"
"She wants to meet me for lunch tomorrow."
"Really? Any particular reason?"
Long fingers combed leisurely through Robin's short blonde hair. "She didn't say, but my guess is that she knows what's going on at the firm and wants to talk with me about it. I didn't get the impression it was anything negative, though."
At that moment, Jess felt Robin unsuccessfully stifle a yawn, and then watched silently as a petite hand very discretely edged its way underneath the Calvin sleep shirt and came to rest flatly on Jess's stomach. It was a role reversal that was becoming increasingly commonplace as the days continued on. That, alone, was worth contemplating further. It seemed more and more as if they each needed to protect, and also be protected by, the other, in a give and take of strength which they both drew from somewhere down deep within themselves. The warmth of the petite hand resting against her skin brought a soft smile to the taller woman's lips. Then again, it was so much more than warmth. It was a type of energy, a current, passing from one to the other, and then back again in a continuous circuit.
And the unbroken connection it provided felt very good.
The small Italian restaurant was bustling at noonday with the usual lunch crowd, which made parking directly outside rather difficult. After finally locating a newly vacated parking spot, Jess entered the restaurant and immediately spotted Barbara Roberts already seated at a nearby table. Amidst the typical clinking of beverage glasses and dishes, the junior partner made her way past the hostess and joined her luncheon companion.
"Sorry to keep you waiting." Jess took a seat at the table. "I always forget how bad the traffic is this time of day."
Barbara smiled graciously. "Don't you worry a bit. I've only just arrived, myself." She picked up her menu and perused the day's specials. "Let's order lunch first, and then we can chat a bit."
Without too much difficulty, they made their selections and put in their lunch orders with a very efficient waiter. Once their beverages were brought out to them, both women relaxed and settled back comfortably into their chairs. There was a certain air of expectation, and although Jess had an idea of what the topic of their lunch conversation would be, she waited for Barbara to broach the subject first. She didn't have to wait long.
Barbara leaned forward slightly. "I wanted to mention to you that Harry told me about the situation at the firm with you and Robin. I certainly don't want to pry, and if you'd rather that we not discuss it, I'll understand completely, and we can talk about something else."
Well, let's find out if she's for us or against us on this. The junior partner took a sip of her iced tea, then smiled. "It's okay, Barbara. I don't mind discussing it."
"I must tell you that from the times I've seen you and Robin together, I sensed that you two were more than simple co-workers to each other."
Blue eyes met the older woman's gaze. "Does that bother you?"
It was unexpected, but Barbara smiled widely. "Heavens, no. Robin is a very lovely young woman. Let me tell you something. I know how easy it is to get so caught up in your work that you forget to take care of yourself. You might not know this, but I've often worried about you, Jess, working so hard but not seeming to enjoy the good things in life. There's no substitute for sharing your life with someone whom you care about, whoever that person may be. A job is a job and will come and go, but a person does not define him or herself solely by the job he or she holds." The older woman looked directly at Jess. "Many, many years ago, I told my husband that exact same thing. He wanted us to start the new law firm, and I told him that if the firm didn't ultimately succeed, for whatever reason, he and I still had a full life ahead of us together."
The junior partner considered everything that had just been said. She seems supportive. "So, what you're saying is that whether or not the firm asks me to sever my partnership, the law firm itself isn't the most important or enduring thing in my life."
She's a very bright one! "That's absolutely right. You just remember that. Now, since I have quite a bit at stake, myself, in the firm's continued well-being, I will tell you that it is both my husband's and my opinion that you are one of the law firm's stars. Harry has constantly praised you and your work throughout the years, and I'm sure you know how hard he fought last year to make you a full partner. Of course, you absolutely deserved it."
Jess gave a frank smile. "Well, Barbara, maybe that's true, but I've put the firm at substantial risk with my relationship with Robin. Harry may now regret having gone to bat for me." She sighed, then look down at her hands. "I should have considered all of the ramifications. I just never suspected that Robin's father would have interfered the way he did. I understand now that he's agreed not to file a complaint with the State Bar, and while that's certainly positive, there's still the problem that I knowingly continued a personal relationship with someone whose performance I evaluate."
"Yes, but this situation isn't unsolvable, Jess. There's been no real harm to the firm, and I'm sure you and Robin will be even more careful now. I do know one thing for certain. The well-being of the firm would greatly suffer without having the benefit your continued skills in their employ." Barbara smiled reassuringly. "And that's precisely the reason I've indicated my intent to speak with the Management Committee on Monday regarding this matter."
In a gesture that surely would have been comical were it not for the seriousness of the subject matter, Jess's mouth fell wide open, although she'd have been hard pressed at that moment to find a way to speak. Instead, she grasped her iced tea glass and took a long sip of the cool beverage. Finally, having cleared her mind, she set the glass down and looked back across the table. "You really don't have to do that, Barbara."
The wife of the litigation department chairman casually smoothed the linen napkin resting upon her lap, her eyes twinkling ever so slightly. "Well, now that's a matter of opinion. I would seriously object to a very talented attorney such as yourself being let go from the very firm that I, myself, worked so hard to get up and running in the first place."
The waiter approached with their entrees, resulting in a break in the conversation. If truth be known, Jess was really quite stunned. She had always sensed that Barbara most likely would be supportive, especially considering all the times Barbara seemed so eager to socialize together, and with Robin present, as well. What the junior partner never would have imagined in a million years was that Barbara would, in fact, actually be willing to defend her before the Management Committee, itself. The waiter placed their meals on the table, and then left the two women alone once again.
Jess cleared her throat softly. "I don't know what to say."
The older woman gave Jess another reassuring smile. "You don't need to say a thing. I want to see you have a happy life together with someone whom you care very much for, and I also want to ensure that our firm has the best and brightest legal minds available for its benefit. That means that it's in the firm's best interests to work through this thing with you, and I'm going to make sure the Management Committee understands that." With her point having been successfully conveyed, Barbara picked up her fork. "Now, enough of all that. Let's eat and talk about much more enjoyable matters, like that wonderful sale they're having this weekend at Burdines Department Store."
The junior partner flashed a wide grin. Harry was right. There's absolutely no doubt who's the boss, here. "All right. Thank you, Barbara." As if on cue, Jess's mind flashed back to Robin's profound and very knowledgeable explanation of the real purpose of shopping. A dark eyebrow arched. To have fun. Jess leaned in a bit, putting her fingers to the side of her mouth conspiratorially. "I understand from a very reliable source that shopping is so much more fun when you find something which you weren't looking for, which you certainly hadn't intended to buy, which you most definitely don't need, but which nevertheless is on sale to a point where you simply just can't resist."
Barbara's eyes twinkled mischievously. "I see your source has clearly trained you well."
Oh God! I am so transparent.
The early Saturday morning sun cast its rays through the partially closed venetian blinds, spilling across the crisp linen sheets of the queen-sized waterbed. A petite form slumbered contently beneath the covers, blissfully unaware of the day's beginning. Something unusual, though, filtered through to her mostly unconscious mind. It was not necessarily a tangible sensation, or anything remotely concrete, but the sense was present nonetheless. The petite body stirred slightly and inched over toward the edge of the bed, comfortably slipping further underneath the warm covers. The strange and unusual sensation, however, persisted. Now becoming somewhat more alert, the small form crinkled her nose a bit, then hesitantly opened her sleepy green eyes. Quite suddenly, she was startled, nearly jumping straight up in surprise upon seeing the clear azure eyes staring directly back at her from alongside the waterbed.
"Jess." Robin blew out a breath. "What are you doing?"
No answer, only further staring.
"I'm trying to sleep, here. What's going on?"
The azure eyes narrowed slightly. "You know very well, Robin, what's going on."
Unimpressed, the younger woman drew the covers back around herself. "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Not to mention the fact that it's practically the middle of the night right now." She closed her eyes. "I'm going back to sleep."
The staring continued. "Number one, Robin, it's most definitely not the middle of the night, and number two, don't play innocent with me." Jess put on her best menacing voice. "I want you to give them back."
A green eye popped open. "Give what back?"
"You know very well what. I put them right over there in the corner, and now they're gone."
The green eye closed once again. "If you lost something, Jess, when I get up I'll help you look for it, but right now, I'm going back to sleep."
That was a totally insufficient response. "I don't think so, Robin. You tell me where they are first, and then you can go back to sleep."
That prompted the blonde head to bury itself underneath a second pillow.
"I'm not leaving, Robin, until you give them back."
A muffled voice filtered from beneath said pillow. "I presume you're talking about those obnoxious bright yellow tweety-bird slippers which you insist on wearing just to get back at me."
"For your information, Robin, I wear them, number one, because I like them, and number two, because they're very comfortable. It has nothing whatsoever to do with your unbelievably over-sized rabbit slippers."
"They're bunny slippers, not rabbit slippers, and they are not over-sized." The tousled blonde head pulled itself out from underneath the pillow and resituated itself back in its original position, eyes still closed. "So now you do admit that you wear them on purpose just to get back at me."
"I admit nothing." Jess rested her chin defiantly on the edge of the waveless waterbed. "It occurs to me that you're cleverly diverting the issue away from the whereabouts of the items you clearly took. I'm giving you one last chance, Robin. Give them back. And let me warn you that if you refuse to tell me where they are, I will be forced to take drastic measures."
Drastic measures? The same green eye popped open once again. "What type of drastic measures?"
"Well, I seem to recall that I didn't get to complete my lovely musical rendition of last weekend, and you know which one talking about. In fact, I have very many other musical renditions just waiting to be heard. A particular theme song from "Gilligan's Island" immediately comes to mind."
She wouldn't. The younger woman continued to contemplate the implied threat.
"Come on, Robin. Spill it. Mr. Bluebird's starting to warm up, here. And the Professor and Mary Ann aren't far behind."
She's not getting a word out of me. "Blackmail doesn't suit you, Jess." With that, Robin rolled over, intent on resuming her blissful slumber.
That's it! "Fine, Robin. If that's the way you want it. But don't say I didn't warn you." The older woman leaned in very close to a conveniently placed petite ear and began her musical tribute to television's finest island adventure series. The tune was unerringly on-key, and in perfect pitch. "Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship." Jess paused briefly, and when no reaction was forthcoming, she continued on with her cheerful melody. "The mate was a mighty sailin' man, the skipper brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that day for a three hour tour, a three hour tour. The weather .."
Good grief! "Okay, okay." Robin rolled over on her back and rubbed her face briskly. "They're in the closet, Jess. I just moved them there last night because their obnoxious yellowness was distracting me while I was trying to read." Still foggy green eyes narrowed. "Happy now?"
A wide, satisfied smile. "Very."
"Now, will you please, please be quiet so I can go back to sleep?"
"Certainly." Jess replied in her most innocent tone of voice, then happily retrieved the slippers in question from the closet and put them on. "I'll go ahead and start breakfast in a little while, if you think you'll be up by then."
Robin chose not to acknowledge that little remark, and instead watched discretely beneath half-closed eyes as Jess padded toward the doorway. "You are very dead, you know."
"Ooooh." The taller woman flipped a look back over her shoulder. "I think I'm afraid."
"You should be."
What came next was a mischievous chuckle, as Jess promptly headed out of the bedroom happily completing the remainder of the aforementioned musical rendition solely for Robin's benefit. The strains of the lovely melody echoed down the hallway. "The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost, the Minnow would be lost .."
Robin drew the covers around herself once more and attempted mightily to go back to sleep. Instead, however, she found it unexpectedly difficult to do so, tossing and turning several times before finally giving up on the futile effort altogether. The cause of her troubles, it seemed, was the unfortunate fact that a certain television theme song kept running itself unceasingly around and around in her sleepy mind, absolutely refusing to relinquish its newly acquired domain. With an audible groan, she sat up straight against the headboard and contemplated her very grievous situation.
She's going to pay! I'm definitely deducting massive, massive points for this.
Shortly before noon on Sunday, the silver Mercedes entered the modern subdivision and pulled into the driveway of the two-story Tampa townhouse. Jess and Robin exited the car and made their way to the front door, stopping briefly to notice the now sunny and pleasantly warm late winter day taking hold. Jess knocked firmly on the front door, then retrieved her spare house key and let herself and Robin inside. Green eyes took in the familiar dwelling, as Robin recalled with a sense of warmth and inner peace her last visit to Jess's mother's house back on New Year's Day. What stayed with the younger woman, even now, was the fact that Jess's mother seemed so at ease and comfortable in the presence of both her and Jess together. There was no angst, no disapproving glances, no disappointment, and no awkwardness. Just sincere and genuine delight. And yes, as Robin remembered their visit that day, it was indeed absolutely and positively delightful.
Just then, Elaine Harrison made her way down the banistered staircase. "Jessie, is that you?"
"Hi, Mom." Jess greeted her mother with an enthusiastic hug, then couldn't help but beam. "You remember Robin."
"Of course I do." Elaine stepped forward and gave the younger attorney a warm hug, as well. "Robin, it's so nice to see you again. I'm glad Jessie finally brought you back here for a little visit."
"It's so nice to be back." Robin grinned from ear to ear, quietly suppressing a small chuckle. She then cast Jess a sly sideways glance. "I've been telling ..Jessie for the longest time that we really should come back and see you again."
Blue eyes narrowed slightly in Robin's direction. Jessie? "I'd be very careful if I were you, Robin."
The petite frame leaned in closer to Elaine. "Don't worry about her. She gets kind of cranky sometimes."
Elaine chuckled, then winked. "I'm so glad you've figured her out, Robin. Jessie can be quite temperamental at times."
"Mom .." Jess's expression combined embarrassment with exasperation. "Do you remember that little matter we discussed the last time Robin and I were here?"
"What little matter was that, dear?" Elaine watched as her daughter rolled her eyes and leaned closer to whisper to her.
Robin, of course, watched all of this, thoroughly amused. In fact, she couldn't help the giggle that escaped. "Yes, Jessie, please tell us, what little matter, exactly, was that?"
Suddenly, a large hand landed squarely at the back of Robin's neck in playful menace. "You are so dead."
"Oh, just ignore her, Robin. Like I said, Jessie .." Elaine caught herself, then enunciated her daughter's name very clearly. "Jess ..can be quite temperamental at times."
While this exchange was going on around her, Jess cast both her mother and Robin an extremely bored look. "Are you two finished?"
"Yes." Elaine winked at Robin conspiratorially. "Let's all go on into the living room and relax. I'll bring in some lemonade for us."
Once the three women were comfortably situated in the living room with their tall glasses of lemonade, it seemed that now was the right time for Robin and Jess to share their secret with Jess's mother. Both of the two attorneys were seated together on the velour sofa, while Elaine relaxed in the adjacent swivel chair. Jess spoke first, trying to preface the announcement with a bit of logic. "Mom, Robin and I wanted to talk with you about something. You know that we've been ..together for several months now, and Robin's now living at the house with me .." As Jess began her rather lengthy explanation, the ring on her finger conspicuously gave her away.
"Jess ." Her mother gasped in true delight. "Look at that beautiful diamond ring you're wearing."
"Um .." Jess froze, then glanced down at her finger. Well, so much for the long-winded approach to commitment revelation. The cat, as they say, was definitely out of the bag. "Yeah. That's really what we wanted to talk with you about." She took Robin's hand in her own and smiled broadly. Here goes. "Robin and I exchanged rings last weekend. We've decided that we want to spend the rest of our lives together."
Robin instinctively smiled, then spoke quickly. "It's true. We want to be together."
There was a genuine warmth in Elaine's next words as she looked from her daughter to Robin and then back again. "I am very, very happy for you both. It's important to have someone in your life to love and to be loved by. I see clearly that you make each other very happy." She reached for Jess's hand and examined the diamond cluster ring. "I must say, this is absolutely gorgeous."
By now, Jess was nearly too caught up with emotion to speak. She managed, however, to say one thing, which although quite obvious, held significant meaning, nevertheless. "Robin gave it to me." Simply stated, but accurate just the same.
"And it's lovely." Elaine next focused her gentle gaze on Robin. "Now Robin, I hope my daughter had the good sense to give you a ring at least as half as nice as the one you gave her."
The younger attorney smiled shyly, then extended her left hand to Jess's mother. "Yes. Jess gave me the most beautiful ring I could ever imagine." And in Robin's eyes, that particular statement was the absolute truth.
Jess's mother examined the diamond solitaire. "I do believe you're right, Robin. This is a truly exquisite ring. My daughter did, indeed, do very well." She looked at the younger woman fondly. "And not just in her choice of rings."
Robin was genuinely touched. She internally delighted in Jess's mother's approval, not just of the rings themselves, but also of what they represented. Why couldnt my own parents have been at least just a little happy for me? "Thank you, Mrs. Harrison."
"Please, Robin, call me Elaine. You're a member of the family now."
Green eyes sparkled in happiness. "Okay, Elaine."
"Mom, there's something we wanted to ask you." Jess stared at the floor for a brief second, then voiced her concern. "This obviously isn't something we can keep from Peter and Peggy. I'm not sure how they'd feel about the fact that Robin and I are together. We certainly don't want to cause any family issues if either one of them might have a problem with it." She looked at her mother. "What do you think we should do?"
Elaine didn't hesitate. "I think your brother would be just as delighted as I am. As for Peggy, well, that's a bit harder to judge. I think it might be best to give your brother a quick phone call right now and ask him to stop over for a little chat. You could tell him your news and also get his opinion on how Peggy might react."
Jess considered her mother's recommendation. "Okay. That sounds like a good idea. I'll go call him now."
As the older attorney left the room, Elaine focused back on Robin. "Now, while Peter and Jess are visiting later, why don't you and I go for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood. It is an absolutely gorgeous afternoon outside."
"I'd like that, Elaine."
Jess quickly strode back into the room. "He's coming right over." She addressed her next comment to Robin. "Um ..would you mind if I spoke with him alone at first? He doesn't know anything about us." Blue eyes searched green, hoping for understanding.
As if reading the older attorney's mind, Robin stood up and gently placed her hand on Jess's forearm. "No, I don't mind at all. Go ahead." A wide grin then followed. "Besides, your mom and I are going to take a nice walk outside together."
Suspicious blue eyes shifted toward Elaine's seated form then back to Robin. "You are?"
"Yes." Green eyes twinkled playfully. "And just so you know, I plan on taking this opportunity to pry quite a bit of useful information out of her about you."
"Oh, you do, do you?" Both dark eyebrows lifted.
"Yes." Robin was quite pleased with herself. "Especially since you're most definitely not off the hook for that little television show rendition you so eagerly sang to your heart's content yesterday morning." A petite finger wagged purposefully in Jess's direction. "Preventing me from going back to sleep, I might add."
A now patented bored look. "That was your own fault, Robin. If you had just told me what I wanted to know in the first place, none of what followed would ever have been necessary."
She can't win this one. A satisfied smirk. "Let's just say that I can't wait to hear all about your terrible two's."
The older attorney quickly stepped over to her mother and spoke in a very low tone. "Promise me, Mom, you won't tell her anything embarrassing about me."
"Jessie, dear." Elaine chuckled, then stood up and patted the side of her daughter's cheek. "I do believe you're way out of your league here."
Damn. It's a full-blown conspiracy!
"Let's stop over here and take a little rest." Elaine led Robin to a park bench situated around one of the subdivision's several small ponds.
Robin followed and sat down on the bench next to the older woman. "This really is a very nice neighborhood, and very modern looking."
"I've lived here about five years now, and one thing I certainly have to say is that the homeowner's association keeps the grounds up very nicely." Elaine attempted to engage Robin in a little conversation about herself. "So, tell me, how are things going with you? My daughter mentioned a while back that you'd had some difficulties during the past year. If you'd rather not talk about it, I would certainly understand, but do I hope you're doing better now."
Perhaps I could talk a little bit about it. "I ..um ..don't know whether Jess told you about this, but last summer, I was about to be engaged when my boyfriend was involved in a car accident." Robin took a shaky breath. "He didn't make it. I've been having a hard time coming to terms with all that's happened since then." She looked directly at Elaine. "But Jess has helped me through a lot of it."
"At least you have someone you can turn to." The older woman grasped Robin's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "My daughter absolutely adores you, you know."
That brought a warm smile. "And I absolutely adore her." Golden eyebrows knit together slightly as an additional, more complicated, thought came to mind. "It's been hard lately because my parents haven't accepted our relationship. They don't understand." The younger woman stared blankly at the small pond in front of them, desperately wanting to unburden her heavy heart. "My father's caused some trouble for us at the firm, and for Jess in particular, because she was functioning as my immediate supervisor. She'll probably tell you more about this later, but the firm ..um ..could take some action against her." Green eyes now became slightly watery. "Sometimes, I feel as if it's my fault that all this is happening. That she could end up losing things that she's worked so hard for."
Elaine listened, but didn't pry. She let Robin tell her as much or as little as she felt comfortable in doing. Jess's mother also sensed that Robin needed to talk about some things, perhaps even the very things that she couldn't share with her own mother.
"I wish my family understood how I feel about Jess, or at least be happy for me that I have someone in my life who I love and who loves me. But .." Robin trailed off for a moment, then resumed. "They've interfered in my life so much, mainly because of what they want, not because of what I want. I'm just not sure whether I'll see them again, or whether they'll want to see me, especially if they don't approve of how I've chosen to live my life."
It's so sad to see her so troubled. Elaine finally spoke. "I'm very, very sorry for the things you've been going through. Whether or not your parents ultimately come to accept the life you've chosen to live, I want you to know that you're also a member of our family now, and anytime you want to talk about something, or rant and rave about something, or complain about my daughter's hardheadedness, you just come and talk with me." The older woman winked and gave Robin a reassuring smile. "And one thing's absolutely for sure, if my daughter is in need of some serious shaping up, you may enlist my help in that department, no questions asked."
Robin giggled in spite of herself. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Good." Elaine grinned. "Now, I believe you were interested in Jessie's terrible two's."
Green eyes grew wide. "Do you have some dirt I can use on her?"
"Well, let me think. There was one time when I believe she was almost three years old, and we were living in our previous house. We had a gardener who came over every week to take care of the landscaping and occasionally do some other odd jobs around the house for us. One day, our backyard fence was in desperate need of a new coat of paint. Ellis, our gardener, had just finished opening a fresh can of brick red paint as Jessie toddled by. He looked at her and told her to be very careful not to step in the paint. Well, about two minutes later, Ellis heard what he said was a very suspicious sound."
Robin brought her hand to her mouth and chuckled. "Oh no."
"Yes, you guessed it. Ellis turned around, and there was Jessie, trying very hard to look perfectly innocent, standing with one foot completely submerged inside the newly opened paint can. It was quite a sight."
"Oh my." The younger woman was beside herself with laughter, wiping tears from her eyes. This could be very useful. "That's unbelievable."
"Yes. One thing we can safely say is that we never have a dull moment when my daughter's around."
"I'll say." Robin finally regained her composure and used the opportunity to gather a bit of further information. "Tell me, Elaine, how did Jess develop her very, very strange addiction to shrimp?"
"Oh, that." Elaine waived her hand casually in front of her. "She's not nearly as addicted as she pretends to be."
Pretends? "Um ..I don't think she's pretending. In fact, it seems a little bit obsessive to me."
"Oh, don't get me wrong, Robin. She has a definite fondness for shrimp, but she can't resist playing it up just a little bit for an audience."
Robin contemplated that theory for a moment. "No, I think I'd have to disagree with you on that. If you'd seen the things I've seen lately, you might think differently about it. For instance, do you know that she actually tried hiding it from me one night? She came home with some Chinese take-out, and I started looking through all the bags for the shrimp with lobster sauce, which she always gets, but it wasn't there. Then, I left to go get the drinks, and when I came back, the shrimp with lobster sauce had somehow magically appeared on her plate. She actually thought that I wouldn't notice that she'd snuck it in." Blonde eyebrows knit together in continued thought. "Then, there was also the one morning when she made shrimp shaped pancakes for breakfast, claiming that they supposedly taste so much better than the plain old boring round ones."
"Hmmm." Elaine chuckled a bit. "I see what you mean. Well, perhaps it really has become more severe, and I just haven't noticed."
"And I won't even get into the time we went fishing and used live shrimp for bait. Let's just say that it's a very good thing I brought a picnic lunch that day."
"Now, that does sound serious." The older woman stood up from the park bench. "You'll definitely have to keep me apprised of this situation. Right now, let's walk on over past the clubhouse and pool, and then we'll go back and see what my children are up to."
"All right." Robin stretched and took a second to breath in deeply the spring-like fresh air, noticing with interest as pair of squirrels played hide and seek in a nearby tree. The young attorney joined Jess's mother on their continued walk and reflected on their recent conversation. And, of course, mulling further one very interesting paint story in particular. Robin giggled lightly to herself.
The tall dark-haired man settled himself comfortably on the living room sofa and waited as his sister brought in a couple of glasses of lemonade. There was a bit of an awkward silence as Jess searched her mind for the best possible way to broach the delicate subject prompting Peter's unscheduled visit. Unfortunately, she ended up procrastinating even further, engaging in trivial pleasantries, unsure of just how to begin the conversation.
Her brother set down his lemonade on the coffee table in front of him. "So tell me, what's this burning issue that you needed to talk over with me?"
This is so much harder than I thought. "Well, you know that Robin works at my law firm, and she has moved into the house with me." Jess looked at Peter and received confirmation of her statement. "Over the course of the several months that Robin and I have known each other, we've become very close. That was one reason we decided to live together." She looked at him again to gauge whether he was processing the information. However, his face remained expressionless as he reached again for his glass of lemonade. "Another reason we wanted to live together was that we ..um ..realized that .." I'm not doing this well. "The bottom line, Peter, is that I love Robin, and Robin loves me."
At this, her brother's dark eyebrows lifted. "Okay."
"Robin and I love each other very much, and we've decided that we want to spend the rest of our lives together." Jess wet her lips nervously. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Peter took a sip of lemonade, considering what he'd just heard, then cleared his throat. "You and Robin ..love each other?"
"Yes." Jess likewise reached for her glass of lemonade, suddenly finding herself more than a little thirsty.
"Are you saying is that you and Robin are ..together?"
"That's a good way to put it, yes."
"I see." Her brother continued to contemplate what he'd been told, his expression now somewhat shocked, then leaned further back against the sofa cushions. "Wow. I'd never have expected that." He fiddled somewhat nervously with the rim of his glass. "Does Mom know?"
Jess nodded. "Yes. Robin and I told her today about our plans."
"We ..exchanged rings last weekend." Her gaze tracked from her glass of lemonade to the ring she wore, then as if on reflex, she extended her left hand to her brother to verify the statement.
Peter took a closer look at the ring. "It's very nice."
There was a definite stiffness to her brother's demeanor, and Jess was starting to become worried. "Does this bother you?"
Her brother took a moment to gather his thoughts. "To tell you the truth, I'm not sure what I think. From what I've seen of Robin, she certainly seems like a very nice person. And, if you love her, and you're happy together, then I guess that really is the most important thing."
Don't fall over yourself, Peter. "Listen, if this makes you uncomfortable .."
"No." Setting his glass down again, he edged closer to his sister. "It just took me a moment to put it all into perspective. The most important thing is that you're happy and that this is what you want." He captured Jess's eyes with his own, showing that he was completely sincere. "I won't say I'm not surprised, but if you're happy, then I'm happy for you." He smiled. "Robin really does seem like a very nice person."
Jess's own tense posture softened. Coming from a man, and one's own brother even, Peter's statement was in reality a ringing endorsement, and she knew it. "Thanks." She swallowed and brought up the other touchy subject that had been on her mind. "Peter, about Peggy, do you think she'll have a problem with this?"
Her brother's brows knit together in concentration. "You know that Peg's quite religious and is involved in many church activities, but I don't think she's judgmental. She already knows you quite well, and she met Robin on New Year's Day. It may take her a little bit of time to get used to the idea, and she may feel awkward about it at first, but I think eventually she'll be okay with it."
"Robin and I don't want to cause any family problems. If Peg isn't comfortable with this, Robin and I can work around it and maybe visit mom at times when Peg won't be around."
"Let me talk with her." Peter stood up. "I'll fill her in, and then I'll let you know if there's a problem. Would it be all right with you if I did that?"
That's reasonable. "Yeah. Thanks."
Just then, the front door opened and Elaine and Robin stepped inside. It didn't escape Jess's notice that both of them were laughing a little bit too conspiratorially for her comfort.
"Hi, Peter." Elaine entered the living room and gave her son a hug. "How are Peggy and the boys?"
"Good, Mom." He looked at Robin, a genuine warmth in his eyes. "It's very nice to see you again, Robin. My sister's told me about the very good news. We're very happy to have you a part of the family." He stepped over and spoke softly to Robin, albeit purposefully loud enough for all to hear. "Make sure you keep my sister in line. If you need any help, you know who to call." He winked and motioned with his thumb toward himself.
That brought a grin and a giggle from Robin. "I may just take you up on that."
Now, it wasn't normally in Jess's nature to be prone to conspiracy theories, but as she watched this interaction with avid interest, and then considered her mother's not so subtle betrayal of her earlier, Jess was quickly coming to the distinct conclusion that a vast conspiracy against her was indeed underfoot. They're all in cahoots, I just know it! She was brought out of her overly suspicious musings when her mother announced that dinner would be ready in an hour.
Elaine looked across at her son. "Can you stay for an early dinner, Peter?"
"No, sorry, Mom. Peg's got dinner planned already. I really need to get on home." The tall man said his good-byes to all present, then left the household.
Jess glanced over at Robin, all too aware of the younger woman's exceptionally giddy mood. "Can I speak with you a minute?" She grasped the petite hand and led them both over to the sliding glass doors, while her mother stepped into the kitchen to continue with the dinner preparations. "All right, Robin. Spill it. What'd she tell you about me?"
She's so paranoid. And definitely cranky. "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about." Robin grinned innocently. "Your mother and I had a delightful walk around the neighborhood."
Still suspicious blue eyes studied Robin further. I'm not buying it. "Fine. But when we get home, I want to know word for word exactly what you two talked about."
"What makes you think I'd tell you that?"
Jess stepped very close to Robin, as her low alto voice whispered seductively into a petite ear. "Because I can be very persuasive."
Robin swallowed hard. Ooooh. I think I'm in trouble now.
To Be Continued ..
© Copyright 05/21/2001
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