Emma's eyes widened in surprise and shock and involuntarily she clutched the phone so tight the knuckles of her hand were turning white. If the synapses in her brain were able to make a noise, the sound of firecrackers would have immediately filled the silence when Emma frantically tried to come up with a reason why Roderick Peters would be calling her lover. In the end, there was only one explanation and Emma's eyes darkened in anger.
"May I take a message?" she asked coolly, her voice slightly hoarse from emotion.
"I...I don't really know, Emma," Roderick Peters' voice sounded and the insecurity was audible. "It took me hours to wrestle up the courage I needed to call Kyra and right now I'm partly relieved I'm not talking to her, but also partly disappointed, because I finally managed to make the call."
"What do you want, Mr. Peters?" Emma asked with a sigh, wishing she had never answered the call in the first place.
"Please, call me Rick. You're angry with me," Rick Peters softly concluded. "I can't blame you, Emma. But please, believe me when I say I would never take Simon away from Kyra. I am a jerk, Emma. I treated Kyra pretty badly in the past. But I'm not heartless. How could I do such a thing to Kyra? And to Simon? It's something our mothers came up with, but you'll have to believe me when I say that Bridget, my wife, and I don't want to have anything to do with that. In fact," a soft, humorless chuckle. "We spent this morning trying to explain that to them."
"You will not try to take Simon away from Kyra?" Emma tentatively asked, slowly exhaling.
"Never," his low voice pledged.
Emma's eyes stared outside the window and followed a small, white cloud, clearly visible against the clean blue sky. She felt her body relax and only then did she realize how tense she had been those last few minutes.
"I...I don't want to sound rude, or anything," she started after a brief silence. "But can I ask you why you're trying to contact Kyra? Why now?"
"That's a valid question, Emma," Rick answered. "And I'll try to answer it honestly. It's just that...I don't know where to start. I told you, I was a jerk and even though at the time there was nothing between Kyra and me, except for friendship, I abandoned her. I turned my back on her and didn't take responsibility for my actions. It's not something I am proud of," he added softly.
"I think you should tell Kyra that," Emma responded, not unfriendly, but still hesitant. She didn't know where the conversation with Roderick Peters was heading, but her instincts told her there was something he was not telling her... something more serious and painful than the initial fear of Simon's father wanting custody.
"I will," he softly replied. "And there's so much more for which I need to apologize. I just wish I knew where to start. I haven't seen Kyra ever since...well, since she was pregnant. I honestly don't know how she would...react. She must have changed. I know I did."
Emma leaned against the wall and stared at the elevator door. The hall was pretty quiet. It was around noon and she knew most of the patients would be having lunch. Visiting hour was still a couple of hours away and there was no traffic of importance.
There was a question burning on the tip of Emma's tongue and she debated with herself whether to go ahead and ask Roderick Peters, or just tuck her suspicions away, locking them in the deepest recesses of her being. Because, if the answer to her question would be an affirmation, she honestly didn't know how she would respond.
Emma let out a shuddering sigh and squared her shoulders. She needed to know... for Kyra's sake.
"Can I ask you a question?" she quietly asked. "And will you answer me in all honesty?"
"Sure," Rick Peters immediately answered.
Emma swallowed hard and moistened her suddenly dry lips. She wondered if she should be subtle, or just throw it out in the open and see what would happen. Being from a family where directness was a common practice, she decided to do the latter.
"Rick, I know Kyra isn't the kind of person who would indulge in alcohol and get so drunk she wouldn't know what she's doing. I've been thinking about that ever since she told me she only had a couple of glasses of wine at that party. I know something must have happened for her to lose control like that and not even remember." She paused a moment and took a deep breath. "Did you drug her?"
There. It was out in the open and Emma closed her eyes, feeling her heart slam against her chest in fearful anticipation of Roderick's answer. A nauseous feeling settled in the pit of her stomach and she leaned heavily against the wall, eying a little bench across the hall and wondering whether she should cross the distance and sit down, before her question was answered. But before she could push away from the solid wall, she was pinned in place by Roderick Peters' soft answer.
Closing her eyes Emma felt like the ground underneath her feet was suddenly washed away, leaving her hovering in deep, dark void, before tumbling down in a free fall towards nothing. She didn't realize she let out a soft whimper and Roderick's voice pulled her back to reality.
"You raped her," Emma whispered and there was no hint of accusation in her voice, just a cold stating of facts.
"Yes," Rick Peters answered in a strangled voice and if Emma could have seen his face, she would have noticed the tears rolling down his cheeks.
There were so many emotions racing through Emma, she was numb, not knowing what to feel or how to feel. A cold haze had settled itself around her heart and she had to swallow hard to force back the bile that was rising in the back of her throat. Her stomach was tied in knots and slowly she sank to the ground, supported by the wall against her back.
"Right now, I honestly don't know how to respond," she croaked, raking her free hand through her hair. "You will have to give me some time to process all this. But I want you to tell Kyra. Personally. And I want to be there when you do."
"I...I think that's a reasonable request," Rick Peters answered. "Have you...what do you think Kyra...?" he couldn't finish his question and Emma could hear him sigh.
"I have no idea how Kyra will respond," Emma answered. "Right now we are in Amsterdam and it's not a good time. I'm not sure when we will be heading back home again."
"I understand," was the soft response. "I'm...I am so, so sorry, Emma. If I could change the past, I would."
But then there would be no Simon and Kyra and I would have never met, Emma suddenly realized and she lowly shook her head, amazed at how the emotions still raged through her system like a violent torrent.
"Does Kyra's mother know about this phone call?" she suddenly asked, hoping against hope she would be able to postpone the inevitable conversation with her lover about Roderick's phone call.
"Yes, I'm afraid she does. I...um...I talked to her this morning and...it wasn't pretty."
"I bet," Emma immediately answered, wincing as she tried to imagine Kyra's next conversation with her mother. Then a thought struck her and her eyes flew wide open.
"Rick," she almost breathed. "Did Vivian LeJeune know?"
There was an audible intake of air followed by a brief silence and Emma hugged her body with her free arm, breathlessly waiting for an answer.
"She gave me the stuff," Rick finally answered with a shame-filled voice. "It was GHB and she told me how to use it. But Kyra must have been very sensitive to it, because she passed out."
It was as if somebody had hit Emma in the stomach, with a sledgehammer. She gasped in pain and hugged her body tighter. Her eyes were dark in her suddenly pale face. The coldness was suddenly blown out of her system by an intense rage that left a trail of fire in its wake, making her hands tremble and her eyes blaze. A little voice in the back of her head kept telling her to calm down and get a grip, while Emma fought the urge to jump up and kick something.
That's it, take a deep breath. And another one. And another. Calm down, Emma, Kyra needs you. Don't lose it. Take a deep breath.
"Rick, I'm hanging up now. I need to calm down and think of a way to tell Kyra this as soon as possible, before her...mother...tries to contact her again," she spoke with difficulty. "I appreciate your honesty, but you do understand I'm so angry right now it's hard to control myself. It's better not to continue this conversation."
"I understand, Emma. Thank you."
"Kyra will probably contact you when she's ready. I don't know when that will be though."
Emma switched off the phone and buried her face in her hands, fighting to regain some of her composure. She had never been so angry before and she desperately needed to calm down, before she headed back towards her lover. And she needed to call her mother, like she had promised.
Suddenly Emma realized she needed to hear her mother's voice to help her calm down and bring some sort of order to the turmoil of emotions that had almost left her paralyzed. Talking to her mother would help her focus and it would chase away the chill that coursed through her body every time she thought about Vivian LeJeune. She desperately needed to feel the love that always laced her mother's voice whenever they talked. It had been her refuge and strength for as long as she could remember and she knew that if she could talk to her mother, she would be able to be there for Kyra.
With trembling fingers, Emma dialed the number and impatiently she waited for her call to be answered.
"Mom?" her voice rasped as soon as the call was answered. "We're at the hospital right now and Kyra's dads are doing fine."
"Then why do you sound like you're about to burst into tears, honey?" Ann Altena's voice sounded gently. "Did you and Kyra have an argument?"
"No," Emma whispered. "I just...right before I started to call you, Kyra's phone rang and I answered the call..."
In a strained voice, Emma softly told her mother about the conversation she had with Roderick Peters and even though she sounded reasonably calm, Ann Altena knew how upset her daughter was. She could hear it in the almost inaudible quiver in Emma's voice and her heart went out to her daughter and Kyra. They had been so happy together for the past few days and all of a sudden the new lovers had to deal with one disaster after another.
"I don't know what to do, mom," Emma ended her story with a sigh.
"Oh, but I think you do, sweetheart," was the gentle reply. "You can't keep this from Kyra, no matter how hard it will be to tell her."
"I wouldn't know where to begin," Emma muttered. "I want to be there for her and give her all the support she needs, but I'm so angry right now, I'm afraid I'll only upset her more."
"Then you'll have to calm down first," Emma's mother answered in a reasonable voice. "I have faith in you, Emma. If there's one person who can bring this news to Kyra in a gentle way, it's you. Just tell her what you told me and be there for her. She is the one that has to work through it, but you're the one she leans on. She loves you, she trusts you, and, honey? Don't underestimate Kyra. There's a strong willed, tough person underneath that soft exterior."
In spite of her anger and sadness Emma chuckled after hearing those last words.
"Yes, there is," she admitted. "You have her figured out already, huh, Mom?"
"Honey, I have eight children," Ann Altena smiled. "I might be a simple mother and housewife, but dealing with the lot of you taught me a thing or two."
"You're not simple, Mom," Emma objected. "You are the most sensible, loving and wise person I know. And you're better at dealing with people than any psychologist I've ever met."
"Hands-on experience, sweetheart," Ann Altena chuckled mischievously, making Emma smile.
"I feel better now, Mom. Thanks," Emma sighed, looking at the clock on the opposite wall to see she had only left Kyra to make a phone call fifteen minutes ago. It had felt like an eternity.
"I'm glad you do, Emmie. Now, don't worry too much, all right? Tell Kyra about the phone call and be there for her. Let her feel your love for her. Then take it from there. I don't have to remind you that your father and I are here for the both of you. We're only a call away, sweetie."
"I know. Thanks, Mom," Emma answered in a voice that was hoarse with emotion. "I guess I'd better go back, before Kyra starts wondering where I am. I love you, Mom."
"I love you too, honey. I'm proud of you."
Emma swallowed hard and quickly wiped away a tear that slowly trickled down her cheek.
"Thanks. I'll talk to you later. Bye."
With an amused twinkle in his eyes, Norbert Hartman watched his daughter looking at the door through which Emma had just left the room. Kyra's eyes held a dreamy expression when she let out a soft sigh and focused her attention back on her parents. As soon as she noticed the look in her father's eyes, she blushed.
"What?" she asked, her eyes traveled between her two fathers. "You two both look like those cats that eat canaries. Aren't you supposed to be too miserable to give me those looks?"
Albert Mendez grinned and winked at his partner, who smiled in return and then looked up at his daughter again.
"Our girl is growing up, Albert," he sighed, but there was pride in his voice.
Albert Mendez' dark brown eyes shone with love and delight when he saw his step-daughter blush a charming shade of pink.
"Dad," Kyra sighed, feeling like a ten year old again. "You two make me feel like a kid. I'm twenty-six years old and have been a parent for five years!"
"You'll always be our little girl, Kyra," Albert smiled. "In fact, it seems like it was only yesterday when you and Jazz came running into the house, crying and covered in...heavens know what that was," he chuckled.
"I was eleven at the time and Jazz had just dumped me in a ditch that was full of..." Kyra chuckled and shivered when she remembered the horrible smell that had clung to her body like a second skin. "I don't know what was in there, but it was awful."
"I had to scrub you down at least four times," Albert smirked.
"And she still smelled like she had been rolling around in a piggy pen," Norbert softly chuckled. "We'll have to tell Emma that story, Albert. She'll love it."
"Very funny, dad," Kyra smiled. "But you're right, she'll love that."
Norbert Hartman's dark green eyes twinkled and he reached out a hand to touch Kyra's arm.
"Honey, I only have to look at you to see how happy you are. You look positively...radiant. And you know the only thing I want is for you to be happy. So we won't give you a hard time about not telling us about Emma."
"I e-mailed you about her," Kyra muttered softly.
Albert laughed out loud, immediately grabbing his head and hissing 'Ouch', when his concussion made itself known and Kyra couldn't hide the smirk on her face when she shot him a look.
"You e-mailed us about...'a friend'," Norbert gently rebuked. "Of course we already knew there was a potential for a lot more, but we wanted you to figure that out for yourself. We only hoped that if you would run into serious...doubts, you would feel safe enough to confide in us."
"I didn't have a lot of doubts," Kyra softly smiled. "I think I fell for Emma the first moment I saw her."
"Love at first sight," Norbert Hartman smiled.
"You do realize that a couple of old queers like us completely melt when we hear love stories like that," Albert sighed with a dreamy expression in his dark eyes, making both Kyra and Norbert laugh.
At that moment, the door was pushed open and Jasper and Elvira returned with a tray that held a coffee pot, several cups and a small bottle of fruit juice for Simon.
"The nurse warned us to behave. We are not allowed to tire you out," Jasper announced, carefully putting the tray on a small table in the corner. "And even if we do behave, we have to be out of here in thirty minutes, so you two can get some rest. She said we're not allowed to come back before two o'clock."
"Cranky old wench," Albert muttered, earning a warning glance from Kyra, who had noticed the look of interest those words had invoked in her son.
"Be quiet, daddy," Jazz playfully whispered, glancing at his sister. "Kyra is a very serious parent and you really don't want to teach Simon bad language."
"Where's Emma, Kyra?" Elvira softly asked, taking a seat on the empty chair next to her.
"She promised her mother to call as soon as we arrived here. I guess she'll be back soon."
"She seems real nice, sis," Jazz spoke up from the edge of Albert's bed, sending his sister a warm smile.
"Emma is nice," Simon suddenly sounded, still tucked against his grandfather's side. "Mom and Emma kissed and when they get married I will get a brother or sister. I think I'd like a little brother the best, because they play soccer."
Kyra could only gasp, pressing her hands against her cheeks to try and cool them down a little, while her father and Albert hid their faces behind their hands and Jasper almost howled with laughter.
Unexpectedly, Kyra felt an arm wrap around her shoulder and Elvira gave her a friendly squeeze.
"Have faith, Kyra," her amused voice sounded. "By the time Simon brings home his first love, you can have your revenge and embarrass him. I promise."
"I hope you're right," Kyra mumbled with a wry chuckle, wishing Emma was back to give her some mental and emotional support.
As if on cue, the door opened and Emma stepped inside, her blue eyes immediately looking for Kyra. Even though her lover smiled reassuringly, Kyra was not fooled. There was a tension in Emma's face that had not been there before and with a frown Kyra shot her lover a questioning look.
Emma stepped closer and knelt next to Kyra's chair, grabbing her hand and giving it a loving squeeze. She had known the moment she stepped inside the room that she could never fool Kyra. The inquisitive look in those expressive green eyes had been clear enough. Her lover knew something had happened.
"What's wrong, honey?" Kyra softly asked, entwining her fingers with Emma's. "Did anything happen at home?"
"No, everything is fine at the farm," Emma quickly answered, not wanting to worry her lover. "We'll talk about it later, all right?"
Immediately, she noticed the brief flash of insecurity and she mentally slapped herself. The last thing she wanted was Kyra worrying about their relationship, which was still so new.
"It has nothing to do with us, sweetheart, don't worry," she whispered, wishing she had the courage to take Kyra into her arms and kiss away the small lines of worry that had appeared around her eyes.
"Did my mother call again?" Kyra guessed, seeing Emma wince. "She didn't, did she?"
"No, she didn't," Emma truthfully answered, casting down her eyes and swallowing hard under the scrutinizing stare her lover was subjecting towards her.
"Not here, Kyra," she whispered. "Please."
"Something happened," Kyra insisted. "I can see it. Don't...keep me in the dark, Emma. You are upset and that worries me."
Emma sighed and rubbed her face.
So much for my poker face, or rather, lack thereof.
"We can go for a walk," Kyra suggested, not able to ignore the gnawing nervousness in the pit of her stomach.
For a brief moment Emma debated with herself, not knowing what to do. She had recognized the urgency in her lover's voice and knew Kyra was worried. She also knew that no matter how gently she told Kyra about her conversation with Roderick Peters, the impact would be profound, no matter where they were... although Emma personally would have preferred the comfort and privacy of Kyra's or her own home.
But the worry in Kyra's eyes and the tension in her voice made her realize postponing would only make her lover more anxious.
Emma slowly stood up and reached out to grab Kyra's hand. She shot an apologetic look at Norbert Hartman, who nodded his head and sent her a reassuring smile.
"Go on, Kyra, we'll keep an eye on Simon," Jasper smiled. "If the nurse kicks us out before you two are back, we'll just be downstairs."
"No," Norbert Hartman interrupted, somehow feeling the talk Emma and Kyra would have could take longer than thirty minutes. "Go to our apartment, Jazz. Kyra and Emma can meet up with you there. Let them take their time."
Emma shot Kyra's father a grateful look and he smiled.
"Just make sure you girls come back to see us sometime today."
"Don't worry, dad," Kyra smiled. "We'll be back later."
Hand in hand, they left the room and slowly made their way towards the elevators. Emma was frantically trying to come up with a suggestion for a quiet location, when Kyra's soft voice broke her train of thought.
"Emma, I...I have a bad feeling about this. Am I right?" she softly asked, looking up into a pair of troubled, blue eyes.
"It is quite serious, yes," Emma admitted, reaching out a hand and tenderly cupping Kyra's cheek. "I'd like to find a spot where we can talk in private."
"We can go to my dad's apartment. It's not far from here and even if Jazz and Elvira show up, it's big enough to have some privacy."
"All right, let's do that," Emma nodded, wrapping her arm around Kyra's shoulders and guiding her towards the exit.
In silence, the two women had walked to the parking area and without a word, Emma had handed the car keys to Kyra, who had opened the door and sent her lover a tired smile.
Content not having to focus on the always busy roads that led into the city of Amsterdam, Emma rested the back of her head against the seat and closed her eyes, trying to mentally string together the words and sentences that would soon break her lover's heart. Swallowing away the lump in her throat, she carefully took a deep breath, not wanting to worry Kyra even more. Part of her was angry for having answered that dreadful call that could possibly change their lives, and another part of her was grateful for the fact that, as Kyra's lover, at least she could try and soften the blow.
Part of her wanted to talk to Kyra as soon as possible, while another part of her dreaded to be the one to inform her lover about Roderick Peters' actions...and Vivian LeJeune's betrayal. Every time Emma thought about the way Kyra's mother had basically set up her own daughter, her heart was grabbed in a cold fist and she could feel the bile rise in the back of her throat.
How could a person, a mother, who was supposed to love and support her child unconditionally, treat her the way Vivian LeJeune had? It was something Emma could not comprehend and she was certain she never would.
Almost unconsciously, her left arm reached out and she gently placed her hand on Kyra's right thigh, giving it a loving squeeze, before resting it on the thin fabric of her cotton slacks.
"Thank you," Kyra's soft voice filled the silence and Emma's eyes flew open as she cast her lover a questioning look.
"Your touch...centers me," Kyra explained, without taking her eyes off the traffic in front of her. "It reassures me when you touch me. If we weren't in the car, I'd be in your lap," she admitted softly, quirking a small smile.
"You will be soon," Emma promised. "I'd love that. I have a desperate need to hold you close. You've become my safe haven, Kyra."
"As you are mine," Kyra answered, all of a sudden feeling a little better. Her stomach had been in knots ever since she had seen the look in Emma's eyes after entering the hospital room. At first, her insecurities had reared their ugly heads, but she immediately remembered the evening before and knew there was no need to fear their relationship was in jeopardy. Emma's reassurance about her family had taken care of that trepidation and the only reason for the anger, pain and sadness in Emma's eyes she could come up with, was her mother. Even though her lover had explained that her mother had not called, Kyra could not ignore that little voice in the back of her head that was constantly trying to convince her otherwise. Or that hard to define feeling of confidence, deep within her body, that was called intuition.
Exhaling slowly, Kyra expertly steered her car through the crowded streets, until they finally reached a reasonably quiet side street. Both sides of the street were split in half by a narrow canal and were lined with trees that were showing signs of spring, with the eruption of small, bright green leaves scattering the branches.
Little sparrows were hopping around on the sidewalk, looking for small insects and breadcrumbs, their happy chirping filling the air. Emma couldn't help but smile when she noticed the industrious little birds. Her eyes traveled to the houses that lined the street and a small frown appeared on her forehead.
She had visited Amsterdam before and she was familiar with the majestic seventeenth century mansions that attracted visitors from all over the world, but she had never suspected Norbert Hartman lived in one of those beautiful places.
"I thought your dad had an apartment around here?" she hesitantly asked Kyra, who was looking at her with a bemused expression on her face.
"He does," Kyra answered with a smile. "See the house on the corner?"
Emma glanced over her shoulder and noticed the beautiful mansion that was built of reddish bricks. It was four stories high and huge windows lined every floor, giving the structure a very open and light appearance.
"It used to belong to my grandfather. My dad inherited it and he used to live there. When he and Albert decided to move to Aruba, dad had the place remodeled and now there are four different apartments. My dad's apartment is on the first floor. The other three apartments are rented out."
Emma moistened her dry lips, while her brain tried to process what Kyra had just told her. She had honestly expected that Kyra's father would have a simple apartment in one of the suburbs of Amsterdam...not a mansion in the city's cultural and historical area.
"Oh," was the only response she was capable of, making Kyra chuckle.
A pair of dark green eyes looked at her with a mixture of amusement and guilt and Emma noticed Kyra nibbling her lower lip in a gesture of shyness and insecurity.
"I guess we've never really talked about the...family assets, have we?"
"I can't remember," Emma muttered, wondering how many more surprises Kyra would have in store for her. "I guess it never really came up," she added. "But it's a beautiful house. I love old buildings."
"Then you'll love the inside even more," Kyra smiled, unbuckling her seatbelt and opening the car door. "Come on."
Emma silently followed Kyra towards the corner of the street and she watched her lover pull out a key and open the front door, stepping aside and motioning her lover to step inside. As soon as Kyra closed the door behind her, she stepped towards a little panel that was mounted on the wall and used a small key to open the little door. It revealed a state of the art security system and she quickly entered a code.
" Don't want the alarm to go off," she mumbled, closing the panel again and turning to Emma, who was staring at her with wide eyes.
"This place is gorgeous."
Kyra smiled and grabbed Emma's hand, pulling her towards a cream- colored door.
"This is just the hallway, honey. Let's get inside."
Emma obediently followed, while her eyes took in the high ceilings with the classical decoration that made her feel like she had stepped back in time. A hand tugged her inside another room and quietly Emma walked inside. Her blue eyes widened and for a moment she was speechless.
They were standing in a huge living room with a light-colored wooden floor that was sturdy and old, but perfectly maintained. The walls of the room were off-white and seamlessly embraced the high ceiling, giving the room a sense of incredible tranquility and space. One of the walls held an enormous fire place and Emma could tell it had been well used.
One part of the room was used as a sitting area. A massive couch and a couple of comfortable looking chairs were placed close to one of the big windows and Emma could understand why. It would be absolutely wonderful to curl up on the couch with a book and relax.
The walls were adorned with colorful pieces of art. They were eye-catching, but not in a disturbing way. They basically added to the quiet, peaceful atmosphere.
"Wow," Emma finally breathed. "This place is just gorgeous, Kyra. Did your dads do all of this themselves?"
"The decorating? Yes, they did," Kyra answered from another room and Emma suspected her lover was in the kitchen.
She walked towards the source of the sound and softly whistled when she entered the kitchen area. With a smile she accepted a glass of juice that Kyra handed her and she took a small sip of the cool, sweet liquid, grateful for the way it soothed her dry throat.
"I bet you this is your favorite room," she gently teased, looking at the rows of copper pans that lined the wall.
"Of course," Kyra smiled, sipping from her drink. "You know me and cooking." Her eyes suddenly lost their twinkle and she shot her lover an insecure look.
"Shall we go inside?"
Emma didn't answer, but she reached out and grabbed Kyra's hand, guiding her lover back towards the sitting area. She wanted to be as close as possible and carefully placed her glass on the low coffee table. Kyra did the same and, without losing contact, both women slowly sank down on the soft couch.
Emma scooted back into the corner and pulled Kyra towards her. Her lover quickly kicked off her shoes and practically crawled in Emma's lap, wrapping both her arms around her waist and burying her face in the crook of her neck. Emma's arms pulled her closer and with a sigh she closed her eyes, resting her cheek on Kyra's curly hair.
"Are you all right?" she softly asked.
"Not really," was the muffled response. "I know you're about to tell me something I'm sure I don't want to hear. It scares me."
"I'm so sorry, honey," Emma breathed, wishing she could protect the woman in her arms from all the pain that undoubtedly would be caused by what she was about to tell her.
For a brief moment Kyra closed her eyes, mustering up the courage to help her lover break the bad news, trying to ignore the nauseous feeling in the pit of her stomach. She only had to look into Emma's eyes to see the distress and she wished she could take away the shadows of pain in the deep blue depths she loved so much. Whatever it was Emma was going to tell her, she wanted to be strong and be there for her lover. No matter what.
After taking a deep, cleansing breath Kyra lifted her head from its comfortable hiding place and looked up into the face she had loved from the first moment she had seen Emma.
"Talk to me, Emma," she encouraged, sounding a lot calmer than she really felt.
The arms around Kyra's body tightened and she could hear her lover sigh.
"It's hard to...I don't really know where to begin," Emma softly answered.
"The beginning sounds good," Kyra gently replied, reaching out and cupping Emma's cheek, brushing the soft skin with her thumb. "You left the hospital room to call your mother. What happened?"
"All right, I guess that's a good start," Emma said, nervously moistening her dry lips. "I walked towards that little hall, where the elevators are, because I knew I could use the cell phone there. Anyway," she exhaled slowly and tried to organize her thoughts. Kyra didn't need her to be stuttering and stammering. "I was about to dial mom and dad's number, when your phone buzzed. The display didn't show a name or number, so I really didn't know who was calling. I thought you probably wouldn't mind if I answered the call, so I did."
Emma paused a brief moment and stared into Kyra's dark green eyes that looked at her with a mixture of anxiety and curiosity, inwardly she groaned.
"It was Roderick Peters," she finally said, immediately seeing the anger flare up in Kyra's eyes and she could feel her lover's body go rigid.
"He doesn't want to take Simon away from you," she quickly explained, her eyes never left Kyra's. "He said it was an idea of your mother and his mother. It's not something he and his wife are pursuing or even encouraging. They basically don't want anything to do with it."
Kyra let out a breath she didn't realize she had been holding and Emma could feel the body in her arms relax a little. But that didn't last long, because Kyra's quick mind had already processed the information and she looked at Emma with a frown.
"That is good news," she stated, a little more coolly than she had intended and Emma flinched. "What's the catch? Emma?"
"He...Roderick...he wanted to talk to you about...something that...I asked him if I could take a message," Emma swallowed hard. "He told me he had acted like a jerk and he felt really bad about that."
"That's about time," Kyra mumbled. "But that's not the issue here, is it?"
"No," Emma answered. "I...asked him something that has been on my mind and...he answered."
"What was it?" Kyra softly asked.
"Ever since you told me about...the circumstances that led to your pregnancy, I had a feeling something wasn't right."
Kyra took a breath to interrupt her lover and ask a question, but the pleading look in those indigo eyes made her change her mind and she slowly nodded, encouraging Emma to continue.
"You told me that you probably drank too much and ended up with Rick, without remembering anything. I thought that was...odd. I mean, I have spent many evenings at your place and you often have a glass or two of wine and I've never ever noticed you being affected in that way. For you to lose control like that...I...it just seemed strange. So I asked Rick...if...he drugged you."
Kyra's body went completely still and rigid, with pain in her heart Emma saw all the blood drain from her lover's face, while the expressive green eyes were suddenly filled with fear.
"What was his answer?" was the hardly audible question, Kyra's eyes never left Emma's.
There was no gesture, no word, no syllable that could soften the blow and Emma exhaled slowly.
"Yes," she simply replied, her voice thick with emotion. "He drugged you."
Kyra felt her whole body grow cold. Whatever she had expected Emma to tell her, this had not been it. Her eyes stared into Emma's, without seeing her lover. They were dark and empty and for a long moment Kyra felt like she was hovering on the brink of a deep abyss. It was like the solid ground had disappeared from underneath her feet and right now she was hovering in the cold void of numbness. Still, her brain kept sending signals and after a long moment, the elusive shadow of a memory tickled her awareness.
"I don't care, mother. I am not interested in Rick. I am not interested in anyone. All I want is to be left alone."
"But you don't realize what a good...he will be a lawyer, like his father. He comes from a good family, Kyra. The two of you would make a stunning couple. Can't you see how fortunate it would be if the Peters' and the Hartman's were connected?"
"Then go ahead, you can marry him. You certainly have my blessing."
"Do not speak to your mother like that, young lady! Are you really that ungrateful? I didn't raise you to be this selfish, Kyra. I want you to go to that party. I demand it. Besides, I have already made arrangements with Roderick. He is expecting you."
"I don't feel like going, mother. Don't you understand?"
"It's only this once, Kyra. You need to forget about your studies for a while and relax. Roderick will pick you up around eight thirty."
Kyra swallowed hard and slowly her eyes lost their haunted expression, much to Emma's relief, who was comfortingly rubbing Kyra's arm, desperately trying to make her lover feel their connection, while she dealt with the first bombshell Emma had dropped.
"Emma," Kyra's voice rasped and a cold hand grabbed Emma's wrist in a painful grip. "How...? Did he...? Was it my mother, who...?"
Emma had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep herself from crying out in pain and frustration when she saw the look of anguish in her lover's eyes. And again the anger raced through her body when she thought about Kyra's mother, but she took a deep breath and tried to push it back down. Kyra needed her.
"It was GHB. Your mother gave it to him. She wanted you to 'relax'. But, either Rick gave you too much or you had a strong reaction to it."
Again, Kyra went absolutely still and Emma looked at her lover with worried eyes. She wanted to be there for Kyra, but her lover looked so small, cold and lost, even within the circle of Emma's arms.
"I...I...I need to," Kyra stammered, taking Emma by surprise by suddenly jumping up from the couch and running towards the door that led to the hallway. It only took Emma two heartbeats to respond and quick as lighting she jumped up to follow her lover. As soon as she entered the long hallway she noticed that the door of the bathroom was open and from inside a retching sound echoed off the cream- colored ceramic tiles.
With a few long strides Emma entered the bathroom and her heart broke when she noticed her lover was bent over the porcelain stool, emptying the contents of her stomach. She didn't notice the tears that were rolling down her cheeks when she knelt next to Kyra's trembling body and gently pulled the long curls away from her face.
"Oh God, oh God," Kyra softly sobbed, pressing her hands against her stomach and doubling over again.
Emma felt utterly helpless when Kyra started retching again, her body shaking violently and the only thing she could do was to rub soothing circles on her lover's back, trying to provide as much support as she could, while in the meantime her own body ached out of empathy.
After a few minutes, Kyra stopped heaving and Emma quickly stood up to grab a towel and a wet washcloth. Kneeling back down again she tenderly cleaned Kyra's face, like she had done countless times before with her many nieces and nephews.
"Thank you," Kyra finally croaked in a tired voice, before she broke down in sobs. She turned towards Emma and let herself fall in her lover's arms, knowing that her lover would never let her fall. And Emma didn't. She securely wrapped her arms around her and just held her close. Only when she noticed that her lover started shivering, no doubt from sitting on the cold floor, she slowly stood up, pulling Kyra with her. She guided her back to the sitting area, where she stepped out of her shoes and positioned herself sideways on the couch, with her back against the armrest. She pulled Kyra down and tucked her lover's head against her shoulder, making sure she was lying down comfortably.
Kyra let out a shuddering breath and snuggled closer into the arms that provided such a warm, loving cocoon. For a very long time they were both silent. Now and then, Kyra sniffed and the telltale wet patches on Emma's shirt were another indication that her lover was still crying. But she let her...knowing Kyra needed to release the emotional tension that had held her body in such a rigid grip.
"Do you want to drink a bit of juice?" Emma finally asked softly, brushing her fingertip against Kyra's moist cheek. When her lover nodded, she reached out a hand and picked up one of the glasses that had been placed on the coffee table.
"Here, sweetie," she encouraged, holding up the glass.
Without pausing Kyra emptied the glass and silently handed it to Emma, who put it back on the table.
"Do you want another one?" she gently asked, brushing her lips against her lover's forehead.
"No," was the hoarse reply. "Thanks, Emma. I think I'm ready to talk now. But I don't want to move."
"Then you can stay right where you are," Emma promised, pulling her lover closer and smiling when Kyra let out a small sigh of contentment. "How do you feel now?"
"Empty. I feel cold inside," Kyra answered in a small voice that was laced with pain. "I feel betrayed and...I feel violated." She swallowed hard. "I hurt."
"I am so, so very sorry, Kyra. I don't think that..."
A pair of fingers were pressed against her lips and Kyra looked up at her, slowly shaking her head.
"Don't. It's not your fault. No matter how miserable I am right now, I'm glad you told me. I feel bad that you were the one who had to deal with that phone call."
"I'm not," Emma answered in a determined voice. "I know that, basically the news is the same and nobody can change the horror of it, but at least I can be here for you. I have at least that much control."
Kyra quietly nodded and pressed her face against Emma's neck, finding comfort in the familiar softness of her lover's skin and scent. Her presence provided her with an anchor she held onto when her world starting spinning out of control.
"No matter how...hurt and angry I am right now, I want you to know one thing," she spoke with a slightly quivering voice. "I have never regretted being Simon's mother. And I never will. No matter the circumstances when he was conceived, he's the most precious gift I have ever received."
"I know that," Emma smiled, tightening her hold on the body that was practically draped across her own.
"But I do feel...violated. Which is really strange, because I can't even remember that night. But all those years I thought it had been my own doing, because I drank too much. And now...now I find out that it was basically a set- up." Kyra's hands clutched the fabric of Emma's shirt and held on tight. "I guess the correct term would be 'raped'," she added in a strangled voice, feeling the tears well up again. "And knowing it was my own...mother," she practically spat. "It makes all this seem like a really, really bad dream."
Kyra let out a soft whimper and pressed her face closer in the crook of Emma's neck.
"Why did she do that, Emma? Did she hate me that much? Why couldn't she just love me? I always tried my best to please her. Why?"
Kyra's voice broke and Emma held her lover close as she cried, rubbing her back and arms, occasionally kissing the top of her head or the side of her face, slowly rocking her in her arms, patiently waiting for the tears to subside, while every sob laced through her heart with a pain that was almost physical.
"I'm going to ask her that," Kyra sniffed after a long time. "I want to know why she did that. And that will probably be the last time she'll ever see me, because I do not want that woman in my life any longer."
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