See Part 1 for all pertinent disclaimers.
"Momma!" Sandra heartily embraced her mother, spinning her around, causing her to squeal with glee.
"Woah! Mon dieu. Put me down before you strain yourself." Andre' Broussard pulled back from her over exuberant daughter's arms to get a closer look at the face she loved for the past 33 years and hadn't seen in the last three months. Allowing her eyes to appraise all of her child without restraint, pleased that all the parts were where they should be, she pulled her eldest child to her bosom for another heart felt hug.
"Now, get in this house. The neighbors don't need to know our business." Andre' pulled her daughter through the screen door of her modest six room shotgun home off Bienville, walking distance to Mercy Hospital where she still worked nights as an LPN. She was comfortable with her life. Having the same job and living in the same home for over 30 years gave her a feeling of stability and security. The house was paid for. So, working as many double shifts as possible, she'd been able to save enough to pay for her daughter's tuition and books so she could attend nursing school and have a chance to improve her life. Even though the RN's and LPN's in New Orleans did much of the same work, RN's made twice the salary. Andre' never had the chance to go back to nursing school to acquire an RN, with raising two kids by herself. When Antoine Broussard died there was just enough life insurance to pay off their little home. She was determined her only daughter would have it easier. Sandy had made a lot of mistakes in her young life, but Andre' was certain her future now looked promising. After all, she was only 33, beautiful, sincere, honest and smart. Of course, Andre' was by no means prejudiced.
"I hope you brought your appetite with you. I've made all of your favorites to enjoy this weekend. Tonight we're having crawfish etouffe' and I have a pot of red beans soaking for lunch tomorrow."
"Mom, you didn't have to go to all that trouble. I just want to spend some quality time with you and catch up. We could have gone down to Mandina's to eat." A very grateful child walked through the house she was reared in talking and taking in the feel of home, as she made her way to her old bedroom to unpack.
"Sandra Camille Broussard, I haven't laid eyes on my only daughter in three whole months. This is a celebration and I will not be denied the joy of spoiling you." The older woman pulled her daughter back into her arms and gave her a quick powerful hug. "I've missed ma fille."
"I've missed you, too, Mom. I've missed you so much." Sandra felt the knot grow in her throat as the tears brimmed in her eyes.
"Hey, hey, hey, what's this? Tears? Pourquoi, ma cheri?" Andre' maneuvered her daughter over to sit on the bed. She let her child cry in her arms as she rubbed her back and kissed a dark head. "Has something happened with your school work?"
Sandra just shook her head, 'No'.
"So your grades are still good and you are keeping up with your clinicals with your boss' help?"
Sandra nodded her head, 'Yes'.
"Are you sick?"
The dark head shook, 'No'.
"Uh.....huh..... You are doing well in school and you are not ill..... Are you in love?" Andre' pulled back to look into red, swollen eyes and grinned.
Sandra nodded her head 'Yes' and burst into tears.
"Oh, mon Dieu. He is married!?!" Andre' continued to rock her child back and forth in her arms, offering comfort as her mind raced through the multitude of possible heartbreaks her daughter might have experienced.
Sandra shook her head, 'No'.
"Then what is it, cheri? What could possibly be so horrible?"
"It's not horrible, Mom." Sandra sniffled, trying to compose herself so she could talk sensibly to her mother. "Not really."
"Exactly, what does 'not really' mean?" Andre' pulled back so she could look into the gentle blue eyes once more.
"I'm just so confused. I've never felt like this before. I've never wanted anything so desperately as I want her, Momma." Sandra looked deep into her Mother's eyes to gauge her reaction. Seeing no judgment there, she continued. "Does loving another woman make me a bad person? She's so good to me. She makes me feel special, like I'm the most important person in the world, that my life has value. I've never felt like this before."
"Oh, mais no, ma cheri, love is never wrong. Only what we do with that love. You are a very special woman. I've watched you overcome obstacles that would have destroyed a lesser person. Through it all you came out with your ability to love and trust intact. I am very proud of you and I want to hear all about this young woman who has won your heart. Is she a nursing student, too?"
Sandra grabbed a box of tissues off her night stand and wiped her face and took a deep breath. "No.....Her name is Josie Ladner. She is the woman I work for." Sandra took a deep breath and quickly tried to relay as much positive information about her friend as she could before her mother had a chance to respond. "She is a wonderful, warm woman, who has been kind and generous to me. She makes me laugh and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when she looks at me."
The smile on her daughter's beautiful face halted Andre's immediate objections to the much older woman. "Sandra, she is quite a bit older than you, is she not?"
"She is not that old, just 44."
"And, she is quite ill. That is why you are living in her apartment, to take care of her, yes?"
"Yes. But she has her good days and bad days. She doesn't let her illness stop her from enjoying life. I've never known anyone who appreciated the value of each moment like she does. Besides, she is not an invalid, Mom. She just can't drive at times and needs to take a lot of medicines. I really don't do that much for her."
"Ok. Since you obviously are smitten, I insist on meeting this wonderful woman of yours as soon as possible. I want to know that you are being loved as you deserve. What do you know about this woman. Has she been married? Does she have children? Where does a retired nurse get the money to live with a companion? What are her intentions toward you. You have not had any experience with such things. In fact, you haven't seen anyone romantically since you've been sober. Speaking of which, are you keeping up with your meetings?"
Sandra's head was spinning with all the questions. She was beginning to feel on the defensive. "There's no time for that, Mom. I can't fit anymore into my day. It's just too much. Please, I can't do anymore than I am." Sandra began to cry again, slightly unnerving her mother.
"Sandra, you need your meetings to handle the stress. After we eat, let's go to the open AA meeting at church. It will do you good. Afterwards, we can go have coffee and beignet's with your friends. How does that sound?" Sandra had her head on her mother's shoulder, wondering how she ever got so lucky to have the best mom in the world.
"Great, Mom, that sounds perfect. Thanks."
"De rien, ma cheri. Now, how's about some good ole Cajun cooking, huh?" Andre' smiled into her daughter's face as she wiped away her tears.
"Oh, God....., Mom, I gotta get out of these pants before I bust the buttons. Why'd you let me eat two orders of beignets? I haven't eaten that much in a coon's age."
"Quelle histoire! Doesn't your lady friend feed you." Andre' laughed at her daughter's dramatics.
"She is diabetic, Mom. She doesn't eat french pastries. But she does love a good cup of coffee."
"Then she can't be all bad, can she." Andre' laughed again, knowing her daughter's fondness for New Orleans' favorite beverage.
"Go on and get ready for bed while I put a pot on, then you will sit down and tell your momma all about this Josie. Yes?"
Sandra let out a 'long suffering' sigh earning a dirty look from her mother. "I know, I know 'Quelle histoire'." Sandra successfully avoided her mothers swipe at her behind as she ran to the safety of her bedroom.
"Hiya. How's my favorite coon-ass?" Josie slipped into her friend's arms and gave her a hearty squeeze.
"Ooooh, you feel so good. So what's this important stuff you needed to talk to me about. You kinda scared me on the phone this afternoon. I was afraid you got sick or something. But, you look great." The tall red head put her arm around the little blond's shoulders and walked them both into the house and over to the sofa. Josie had a bottle of Merlot and two delicately carved crystal wine goblets waiting for them.
"Oooh, la la. Ma cher, what did I do to rate this. Or is it, what do you want me to do that will earn this treat." Kathy wiggled her eye brows lasciviously at her friend and sometime lover.
"Please, sit down and pour. We both may need it." Josie waited for their glasses to be filled, then proceeded with her story. "You know the other day when you assumed that my companion and I had a thing going?"
"Yes. And you said that you had just become good friends."
"That's right. Well, things have changed since then."
"Mais no, that was last night. How could things have changed since last night?"
"Kath, I am in love with her. I know how that must sound. I mean, I'm eleven years her senior and she works for me, for Christ sake. But, I love her. It's been building ever since that first day I hired her. Something inexplicable happened between us. Some kind of inner connection. She makes me happy to wake up in the morning. She makes me feel there is so much to live for. When I am with her I am whole and lovable and, most important, I feel worthy of her love. It's been such a long time since I felt that. In fact, I don't think I've ever quite felt what I feel with her. She is this wondrous gift from God. I just want to cherish her. I haven't even touched her, not really. She's never been with a woman before, so she is scared. We have to take things real slow for now. This is all new to her. So, we haven't..... made love." Josie bowed her head down to hide the blush she felt rising up her cheeks.
"You're shitting me. I've never heard you speak this way about anyone before. I've never even heard you refer to sex as 'making love'. I'm.....wow." Kathy shook her head and tried to assimilate all she'd just been told.
"I know. I don't recognize me either. I don't want just fun and games with her, Kath. I want to give her pleasure like she's never known before. I want to protect her and nurture her and help her be all she can dream of becoming in this life. I really want to share that with her."
Kathy just sat dumfounded and bemused and excited for her friend, all at the same time. "That is wonderful news, ma cheri. I'm so happy for you. It's about damned time God sent you a soul mate to share your life with. Unfortunately....., I guess that means we won't be having sex this weekend."
"Uh.....Did you bring your fishing pole." Josie grinned and held her glass up to toast her ex-lover. "Salut."
"So that's about all there is to tell, Mom. She's divorced too, no kids, lives off her investments and does have experience with other women. And, no, we haven't" Sandra looked up at her mother. "Um..... you know, done it....., yet. We're taking it slow." The tall beauty could feel her ears burning as her face flushed beat red.
"Before this goes any farther, I want to meet her. Call her and see if we can come up for a visit tomorrow."
Sandra couldn't believe what she just heard. "You want to drive all the way up there just to meet Josie?"
"Mais oui. If you are serious about this woman. And, obviously you are. Then, I want to meet her before you get any more involved. And," Andre' put up her hand to stifle her daughter's protests. "it has nothing to do with her being a woman. I'd want to meet anyone my daughter tells me she is in love with. You have never told me that about anyone, not even Frank."
"Mother, you know why I married Frank. It had nothing to do with being in love. I didn't even know what that meant then."
"And you do now?" Andre' was not trying to goad her daughter into a fight, but she could see that was the direction they were heading in. "Let's stop here and take a breath. I don't want to fight you. Those are old wounds, better left alone. I believe you are in love for the first time and that is a profound feeling. I was blessed to feel that for your father. I wouldn't trade those memories for anything in this world or the next. I just want to protect my interest. And my interest is my daughter's happiness. Besides, this woman needs to know that we are a family and she is not only gaining a partner, she is gaining a mother as well. Bon?"
"You are the greatest and I love you so very much." Sandra knelt down in front of her mother and snuggled her head on an ample bosom.
"Merci, ma petite fille. I love you too, very much, and I am very proud of the woman you have become. Now, I have one more question before we call your friend. Does she know about Antoine?" Andre' lifted her daughter's chin so she could look into her eyes. Eyes that were suddenly filled with unfathomable pain.
"No." Sandra pulled out of her mother's grasp and looked away.
"Then, I will not mention anything about him. It is important for me to know. He was my only grandchild and I do brag about him still. So....., call your friend and make the arrangements. We can bring the red beans up with us tomorrow to warm. First, however, we will go visit my grandson." The older woman's posture stiffened as she fought to control her emotions. Even after ten years, the pain was intense.
"I'd like that, Mom. You mind if we cut some camellias from your garden for him? He loved those flowers."
The older woman leaned down to kiss her daughter's head ever so gently. "That would be good. Let's do that. Now, pick up that phone and start dialing." Andre' helped her daughter to her feet and stepped out of the room to go throw water on her face. She refused to let her grief cloud their visit. But, she knew if Sandra's relationship with Josie had any hope of lasting, her daughter would have to tell her everything and tell her soon. The older woman could only pray that their love would be strong enough to survive it.
"I already miss you. Are you enjoying your visit with your Mom?"
"I really am. We had a long talk and I told her all about us."
"How did she take it." Josie asked as she held her breath.
"Very well, I think. For the most part, anyway." Sandy hesitated.
"What do you mean, ' for the most part'? What's up?"
"She wants to meet you."
"Well, I want to meet her too. I'm looking forward to it." Josie was relieved.
"How's tomorrow?" Now it was Sandra's turn to hold her breath.
"What!?!" Josie jumped straight up off the sofa.
"Tomorrow. My Mom wants to come up to the house and meet you tomorrow. She has some red beans she wants to bring up for lunch, too."
"Oh, my.....,uh....., that would mean you'd be driving back and forth tomorrow and then driving back again on Sunday. That's too much, Sandy. You're suppose to be resting this weekend.....Wait, just a minute, Ok?" Josie put the phone on mute and ran outside to where Kathy was cleaning a large, rather ugly, catfish. "Hey Kath, can you do me a huge favor?"
The Cajun was taken aback by her friend's obvious distress. "What is it, cher? You Ok?"
"Yea. I'm fine. But, I need a ride to New Orleans tomorrow morning. Sandy's mother wants to meet me."
"She mad at y'all.....? Will you be safe?" Kathy started to feel panicked. She'd had a few confrontations with bigots in the past and didn't want her friend to be in any danger.
"No, it's nothing like that. She wanted Sandy to drive her up here to meet me tomorrow, but that's just too much. She's suppose to be resting. I'd feel better going to her."
"Oh....., well....., if you're sure. I'd be glad to drop you off on my way to New Iberia."
"Thanks, you're a doll."
"Yeah, that's what they all say." Kathy said as she returned to the task at hand.
"Honey, you still there?"
"Yeah, where'd you go off to?"
"I've made arrangements for Kathy to drop me off at your Mom's on her way home. All I need now is the address and directions. I'll just bring an overnight case with me and leave enough food for the pups."
"That's great, Josie. I really appreciate this. Call and let me know about what time you'll arrive, deal?"
"Deal.....Hey....., Sandy....., I love you."
"I love you too, boss." Josie laughed at the name that had become a term of endearment.
"Good night, kiddo." Josie slowly hung up the phone. 'Oh my God, I don't believe this is happening. What have I let myself in for now?'
"This is it." Kathy looked at her friend appraisingly. "You sure about this. I can take you to see your Mother. You don't have to do this. Sandra will understand, cher."
"No.....Thanks. I need to do it for her. I want this to work out for us. If I have to pass her mother's inspection, then so be it." Josie opened the car door, then leaned back and kissed her friend on the cheek. "Thanks for everything, my very dear friend."
Josie stood on the front porch of the small cottage working up the courage to ring the door bell that would announce her presence. "Awe, shit! Come on Josie, you can do this. Just think of Sandy and those blue eyes. Ok, girl, here we go." Josie reached out and rang the bell, then leaned back and prepared herself to be appraised.
Almost instantly, Sandra swung open the front door and snuck onto the porch, sweeping her love into her arms. "God, it's good to see you. Thanks so much for doing this for me. It means an awful lot." The tall beauty leaned down to kiss the tempting lips. In her love's strong arms, Josie forgot all about being worried and scared and when she felt a soft tongue begging entrance into her warm mouth, she invited it with soaring passion.
"Girls, move it inside, tout de suite. Not all the neighbors need to know our business." Andre' shook her head in disbelief at her daughter's indiscretion.
Josie jumped back as if she'd been burned. Looking up at her future mother-in-law, she was impressed with the proud carriage and obvious self confidence of the older woman. Josie thought her a handsome woman with her long thick greying hair, worn in a loose bun behind her head, and the same gentle blue eyes as her daughter. Younger than Josie expected, her figure was quite impressive. Despite the thickening of her waist line, her rather buxom figure would still turn the head of many a man and woman.
"Mom this is Josie. Josie this is my Mom, Andre' Broussard." Josie was slightly taken aback, but with delight. It never occurred to her that Sandra's mom could be Cajun. She had many friends from the bayou country and had a great respect for the people and their culture.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Broussard. Sandra has told me so much about you." Josie reached out her hand, which was clasped firmly in the much larger hand of Andre'.
"My daughter has spoken very highly of you, too. Welcome to my home. I hope you brought your appetite cause I have a pot of red beans on the stove that will make you weep." Andre' winked at Josie playfully, immediately putting the smaller woman at ease.
After settling Josie's things in Sandra's bedroom, the women gathered around the kitchen table enjoying a café au lait and talking about Sandra's studies and her apartment and her job. But then Andre' switched the subject to Josie.
"Tell me about yourself, Josie." Andre' sat back in her chair trying to look unthreatening.
'I can do this.' The spunky little blond told herself. Then, taking a deep swallow from her cup, she dove in. "Well, there's not much to tell, really. I am a nurse, currently retired. I'm divorced, no kids. I've never been arrested, nor has any member of my family. Parents are divorced. I have a guaranteed income from investments. I'm not rich by any means, but I live comfortably. What else? Let's see, I'm a natural blond. My grandparents move to New Orleans from Sicily to escape the poverty. My grandfather worked as a farm laborer during the day and sent himself through night school for 14 years. He got a degree in law and did quite well. He's my hero. He had it very hard, but he never complained. He felt privileged to have the opportunity at the American dream. It was very real to him and his generation. Let's see, in spite of my Sicilian background, I have no connections to organized crime. I love living in the country. I enjoy reading, especially mysteries, and I love writing them. I have a degree in English. I also love music, the study of medicine," The determined little blond looked the older woman straight in the eye as she leaned forward, exuding as much sincerity as she could through her sea green eyes, she continued. "And your daughter. Not necessarily in that order." She grinned, reaching over to cover her love's hand with her own.
"Mrs. Broussard, I know that you are concerned for Sandy. If I were in your place, I'd be worried too and I'd probably be doing exactly the same as you. So, let's not beat around the bush.....I am a lesbian. I have been with other women..... Sandy and I haven't been together. Our love isn't based JUST on sex. Don't misunderstand, I am very attracted to your daughter. However, this is all new to her and I don't want her overwhelmed. I am not some worldly woman. I haven't had loads of sexual liaisons. I just have more experience than she does. But even if we never consummated our love sexually, I'd want to be with her. She makes me feel such joy and wholeness that words can't express." Josie had to stop for a moment and take a breath. She didn't fight the tears that had slipped from her eyes. "I look forward to the day, knowing she'll be there. Her happiness has become my reason for getting up in the morning. I thank God for her each and every night. I will try my damndest to never hurt her. I know that is unrealistic. Love hurts. It's a part of the package. But I promise you never to knowingly hurt her." Josie looked into Sandra's moist blue eyes and with all the affection in her said. "I love her."
Andre' Broussard new she had met her match. But still had an issue or two to cover before relinquishing her only daughter over to this Sicilian spit fire. "You do realize that when my daughter is your age, you will be mine. I am eleven years your senior. That may not seem insurmountable now, but it's a large gap."
Josie and Sandra looked at each other. "We realize that. It has not been an issue at all." Josie responded.
"Then there is the issue of your failing health. Perhaps you just want a live in care taker. You know my daughter is an honorable woman and once committed to you, will never leave you. It won't matter how frail you become. Is it fair for you to ask her to spend the rest of her youth caring for an invalid?" Sandra's mother said as gently and sincerely as she could.
"THAT IS ENOUGH. I won't have you saying such things to Josie. She does not deserve to be treated this way." Sandra jumped to her feet and stood behind her love with her hands on the smaller woman's shoulders.
"It's alright, Sandy." Josie reached her hands up to cover her partner's. "Please....., your mother is just looking out for your best interest." Josie turned her attention back to her inquisitor. "Mrs. Broussard, I can do a lot for myself. When I am in remission I lead a nearly normal existence. When the CFS is active I require a driver, someone to give me my meds accurately, so I don't accidentally harm myself, and to monitor my blood glucose. Sandy does all that for me. And, she does it well. She knows that's not going to change. In the future, we could move another RN student into the apartment. Just like I did with Sandra."
"No, you won't. I take care of you, boss. Nobody but me. I love caring for you. It gives me great joy. It truly does." Sandra leaned down and kissed the golden head of the woman she loved. "Mother, I love you like the stars in the skies, but this is my decision and I have found my happiness and I'm never letting her go. So, please accept us and love us..... Trust us to love each other."
Andre' Broussard was so impressed with her daughter, she could barely contain her pride. 'I think I did alright after all with this one. She has become quite the woman. Please Lord, help them. They'll need it.'
"Sandra, Josie, you two have a long and rocky road ahead of you. There will be many trials and many joys. I will always be here to help you. I will worry. This is a mother's prerogative. But, I will accept this love of yours. Josie you are always welcome in my home as I hope I will always be welcomed into your's." Andre' Broussard stood up and pulled the relieved little blond from her chair and crushed her to her bosom. "You must call my Andy. If I am to be your mother-in-law, I will not have you calling me Mrs. Broussard. However, I am much too young to have you call me mom."
Josie was absorbing all the warmth and affection in the larger woman's embrace. "Thank you, Andy. Merci, beaucoup."
"Ah...De rien, ma petite fille. Bon! Now, let's eat." All three women laughed at the typically New Orleans sentiment. All important issues are resolved over good food.
Let me know what you think, Lena.
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