For disclaimers see part one




Lois Kay

Chapter two

With a groan of pleasure, Hannah let the warm water cascade down her body, skillfully avoiding the sutures in her eyebrow to get too wet. She knew Betty had tried to make her more presentable, but, in spite ofthe good intentions, it had only scratched the surface.

That morning she had been very impatient for Gary and Jake to pick her up at the hospital. She had been craving a long, cleansing shower, knowing it would make her feel so much better. And it did. And she had wanted to get away from the constant threat of coming face-to-face with Rachel Kendrick.

For a few moments, the warm, soothing water helped Hannah to push her thoughts and worries about Rachel Kendrick into the back of her mind, giving her the opportunity to relax completely. The night she had spent in the hospital had been restless and long. Hannah's body was tired and sore and she was looking forward to stretching out on her comfortable bed, closing her eyes and sleeping. She knew a longshower was prolonging the agony her body was in, but it was an almost sweet pain, because Hannah knew that soon she would be able to close her eyes and let sleep claim her. Letting herself drift away into peaceful oblivion would be a blessing that ignited a small light into the tired blue eyes.

"Just a few more minutes,"Hannah mumbled to herself, while the warm water caressed her bare shoulders, the mottled bruise on her chest providing a stark contrast with the pale skin that surrounded it.

"Hannah, sweetie, are you all right?"Gertrude's voice sounded from outside the bathroom door.

"Yes, Gran,"Hannah answered, "I'm all right."

"Good. You've been in there so long, I was getting worried you had washed yourself down the drain. Do you want to eat something, before you go to sleep?"

"No, thanks, Granny,"Hannah replied, turning off the flow of water and reaching for a towel. "I think I'm too tired to chew."

"Gary said you didn't eat this morning either,"Gertrude's voice accused.

"Is he your spy now?"Hannah sighed, wrapping the towel around her body before she opened the door and looked down at the smaller, elderly woman.

"Yes, dear, he is,"Gertrude winked. "He's always been my private source of information. I thought you knew that."

"I should have,"Hannah sighed, slowly shaking her head. "There have been lots of times I wondered which little bird you'd been talking to, or which grapevine you plucked. Now I know."

"It was all done with your best interest in mind, my dear."

Hannah sent her grandmother a tired smile and gave her a quick, one-armed hug, which earned her a squeal of protest.

"You' re still dripping!"

"It's just water, Granny. You won't melt."

"I'd better not. It's bad enough to shrink. Sometimes I feel like a midget."

"Did anyone ever tell you you're the queen of exaggeration?"

"In detail, sweetheart, more times than I care to remember. Your granddad told me at least once a day."

Hannah sank down on the edge of her bed and cast a look at one of the framed photo's that adorned her dresser.

"You still miss him,"she said softly, seeing the slight darkening of her grandmother's eyes. The mattress beside her dipped when Gertrude took a seat next to her.

"I do,"Gertrude nodded with a sad smile. "I still feel the pain every day. Like I still grieve the loss of your parents. My only consolation is that your granddad didn't have to live through losing Gregory."Gertrude gently patted Hannah's hand and gave it a loving squeeze. "Phil was the love of my life and we spent many years together, but still, it wasn't enough. It would have been wonderful to have had him for a few more years."

"At least Mom and Dad were together,"Hannah whispered. "Dad always said he didn't think he could live without her."

"I'm sure he would have coped,"Gertrude replied softly. "But at least he didn't have to deal with losing her. And vice versa."

Hannah's tired eyes studied the photo of her parents and in spite of the sadness she felt deep inside, she smiled. The photo usually had that effect on her. Her parents looked so relaxed and happy. And her Dad's smile had always been very contagious.

"It must be wonderful to have that,"she mused, not aware of the fact she had spoken aloud, until Gertrude wrapped an arm around her and puller her close.

"I'm sure that somewhere out there, there's somebody waiting for you,"Gertrude spoke in a soft but determined voice.

"I'm glad you have faith,"Hannah smiled, resting her cheek on the top of her grandmother's head.

Both women sat like that for a while, lost in thought, finding comfort in each other's close presence, while their thoughts traveled back to the loved ones they had lost. Hannah rubbed her eyes and suppressed a yawn. Her body had become quite persistent in its demand for sleep, but she fought it with all her might. It was obvious her grandmother needed her; besides, the gentle, loving presence of Gertrude was something she had craved as soon as she had awakenedin the Emergency Room.

"You don't have to respond to what I'm going to say next, sweetie,"Gertrude's voice was soft and kind. "But I hope you'll listen and give it some thought. You've never really told me, nor your parents, what made you and Rachel break up."Gertrude felt Hannah stiffen and she gave the younger woman a loving squeeze. "I never pried, because I decided it wasn't my business and I thought that if you were ready, you'd come and talk."Gertrude let out a small sigh and dropped a kiss on the top of Hannah's head. "My eyes might be old, but they're still pretty sharp and I did see the pain and grief you were going through, honey, and I dare to say that you've never really gotten over the break-up."Again, Hannah stiffened and Gertrude rubbed slow circles across the terrycloth- clad back. "I can only imagine what it must have been like to see her again, so unexpectedly. I could tell, just by looking at you, that you were in complete agony."

Gertrude paused for a moment and took a deep breath. She meant what she had just told her granddaughter; she did not want to meddle in the younger woman's affairs, but the pain in a pair of clear blue eyes and the brief look of total devastation, guilt and shame in a pair of soulful brown ones, had cut through her heart.

"Things aren't always what they seem, sweetie,"Gertrude continued. "And who knows, maybe sometimes things happen for a reason. However, I do know you about Rachel,"Gertrude chose her words carefully. "Personally, I'd like to know why Rachel Kendrick came back home. I wonder if she missed her family. It's not like she was close with her folks."

Gertrude's heart clenched when she saw a lone tear slide down a freshly scrubbed cheek. With her thumb, she wiped it away tenderly.

"She took a huge risk when she came back and she must have known that, sooner or later, the two of you would run into each other. Apparently, she was willing to take that risk and I can't help thinking there must be a reason for that."

"I tried,"Hannah's voice was soft, almost inaudible, and Gertrude had to strain herself to hear the words that were laced with a mixture of pain, sadness and frustration. "To hate her, that is,"Hannah continued, rubbing her tired eyes. "But I never could. I was...angry... so incredibly angry and hurt, but, for some reason, I could never hate her. Instead, I think I became numb."

"Until yesterday,"Gertrude spoke, knowing she was right when she saw Hannah nod.

"Until yesterday,"Hannah whispered. "You have no idea how many times I imagined what it would be like to meet Rachel again; the things I would say to her; how I would show her my anger and indifference. But...yesterday..."Hannah sighed and tried to blink away the tears that were stinging the back of her eyes.

"Yesterday, when I first heard her voice again, even before I saw her, I felt...,"Hannah swallowed hard and shook her head. She still couldn't believe the onslaught of emotions Rachel's unexpected presence had awakened. "Almost happy,"she ended in a whisper. "And now, now I'm just confused and that makes me angry. I don't deserve that. She should have stayed away. After the way she has treated me, I think I would have deserved at least that."

Gertrude had felt guilty when she had sat next to her granddaughter on the edge of the bed, knowing she was keeping her from a well-deserved and much-needed sleep. But Hannah's response to her words had pushed those feelings to the background because, for the first time in years, Hannah reallystarted to open up to her–--something the elderly lady was grateful for.

"May I share a story with you?"Gertrude asked softly.

"Can I stop you?"Hannah gently joked, grabbing her grandmother's hand between her own and putting both of them in her lap.

"Normally, I'd say 'no',"Gertrude smiled. "But I know you're tired, so, if you want this conversation to take place some other..."

"No, Granny, go ahead,"Hannah encouraged.

"All right, I will,"Gertrude responded. "But why don't you put on your sleeping gear. I don't want you to be cold."

"I guess I'd better,"Hannah sighed, letting go of her grandmother's hand. "Turn around."

"Like I've never seen you butt-naked before,"Gertrude snorted, but she obediently turned around, while Hannah quickly shed the towel and donned a light-blue flannel pair of pajamas.

"All right, Granny, what's this story about?"

"It's something that happened a long time ago,"Gertrude answered, turning back so she would be able to face her granddaughter. "Before your Grandfather and I got married. It's something nobody knows, well, except for your Grandpa and me of course."

The pensive, almost brooding expression in Gertrude's eyes made Hannah curious and she shifted on the bed, pulling one leg up and under her body, giving her Grandmother her undivided attention.

"Philip Jensen was one of the most attractive people I'd ever met,"Gertrude started, while a soft smile ignited a light in her eyes. "All the girls were quite taken with him, which was one of the reasons I ignored him,"she chuckled. "He was tall and athletic. His hair was thick and blond, kind of like yours, and his eyes were as blue as a clear Oklahoma summer sky. He knew he was good-looking and it annoyed him I didn't even look at him. Of course I knew he was there,"Gertrude grinned. "Anyway, after a long pursuit from his side, I finally gave in and let him walk me home from church one Sunday. That same day he asked my Dad permission to court me. A couple of months later, we were engaged and the wedding was set for the summer. Phil worked as a traveling salesman and was on the road a lot."Gertrude let out a small sigh, while her eyes stared in the distance, completely lost in her memories.

"Anyway, one Friday evening he came home after having spent a week on the road. I had been worried about him, because it was Spring and we had seen a lot of severe weather, including a few pretty violent tornados. But there was a knock on the door and when I opened up, there he was. In all his handsome glory. Phil Jensen always looked good in a suit, but I wasn't really pleased with the lingering scent of another woman's perfume on his skin and the lipstick on his shirt."

Gertrude paused and cast a look at Hannah, who was staring at her with wide, unbelieving eyes.

"Perfume and lipstick?"she echoed. "You mean...? No! Grandpa...? Really?"

"You bet,"Gertrude nodded. "Oh, when I confronted him, he confessed right away, telling me immediately how much of a mistake this young widow had been. He told me he had almost given into the temptation, but the thought of hurting me kept him from actually sleeping with her. He was very apologetic and he even cried, but I was so angry with him and so hurt, I sent him away and told him never to come back again."Gertrude sent Hannah a small smile and gently patted her knee. "It was about six weeks before the wedding."

"But you ended up marrying him anyway,"Hannah concluded.

"Because I loved him,"Gertrude answered softly. "I knew he was the only man I would ever marry and even though I was extremely upset with him, I knew I'd always regret it if I wouldn't give him, us, a second chance. So, after a couple of months or so, your Granddad and I had a long, air-cleansing talk. He gave up his job as a salesman and, for the first few years of our marriage, he worked as a ranch-hand, until his brother offered him a job as store-manager in Oklahoma City and he worked his way up from there."

"How did you cope?"Hannah asked softly.

"I was pretty paranoid for a few years,"Gertrude smiled. "But, as time went by, I started to trust him again, because in all his actions he always showed me how much he loved and appreciated me. We ended up having a wonderful marriage."

There was a brief silence, until Gertrude slowly rose from the bed, wincing when her knees reminded her of the fact that she wasn't twenty-one years young anymore.

"I won't tell you what to do or what not to do, sweetheart,"she said, putting a hand on Hannah's shoulder. "I just wanted you to know that, from my own personal experience, following your heart can be a risk that could be well worth it in the end."

Hannah nodded and patted the hand that lovingly squeezed her shoulder. She appreciated her Grandmother's concern and reluctantlyhad to admit that Gertrude's words held a lot of truth.

"Thanks, Granny,"she smiled.

"You're welcome, sugar. Now, crawl underneath that comforter, close your eyes and go to sleep. I don't want to see or hear you for the next eight hours."

"Works for me,"Hannah mumbled, exhaling slowly when she put her head on her pillow. It felt like her whole body let out a sigh of relief.

"What about you, Gran? Will you be all right?"

"Oh, yes,"Gertrude smiled, walking towards the door of the bedroom. "Gary and Jake will come over this afternoon and Jake has promised me he'd cook. I'll see to it we'll keep the noise level acceptable."

"Thank you,"Hannah smiled, not able to keep her eyes open any longer. "Love you, Granny."

"I love you too, baby. Sweet dreams."

Hannah realized there were a lot of things she needed to think about, but she was so tired, she couldn't keep her eyes open any longer. Even before Gertrude Jensen stepped out into the hallway, cautiously closing the door behind her, Hannah was curled up on her side, fast asleep.

Chapter Three

With a groan, Rachel Kendrick threw her car keys on the small table in the hall and put her briefcase on the floor next to it. A quick glance in the mirror showed a pale face that accentuated the dark circles underneath her eyes.

"You look like heck,"she mumbled, before she turned around and headed for the living room.

As soon as she entered the L-shaped room, she was greeted by a warm smile, which made Rachel instantly feel better.

"Busy day?"the blonde who approached her asked.

"Very,"Rachel answered, not willing to go into details about her meeting with Hannah the previous day. The different emotions had created chaos inside her head and all Rachel wanted was some quiet time to sit down and chew on them.

"How's Nicky?"

"Fast asleep,"the blonde answered. "I think she's coming down with something though, she sounded a little congested. Maybe you should check her out when she wakes up."

"I will, thanks, Melissa,"Rachel sighed, hoping that two year old Nicole would sleep through the night.

"There's some fresh tea in the fridge and I kept your dinner warm in the oven."

Rachel's brown eyes were warm when they looked at the young woman, who was now standing in front of her.

"You're wonderful,"she smiled, giving the blonde a quick kiss on her cheek.

"Keep reminding Joe of that,"Melissa grinned with a sparkle in her eyes. "Our anniversary is coming up and I've been trying to convince him to take me to Dallas, to do some serious shopping."

"Somehow I think my brother wasn't very enthusiastic about that idea,"Rachel smiled, knowing how her older sibling detested everything that involved shopping malls or clothing stores.

"Of course he wasn't,"Melissa answered cheerfully. "But I've been working on him for a while now and I feel I'm wearing him down."

"You go, girl,"Rachel laughed, knowing her brother was on the losing end.

"What time will you drop Miss Nicky off tomorrow?"Melissa asked while grabbing her purse from the table.

"Will six-thirty be all right? I've got to do some early rounds,because there's a budget meeting I need to attend."

"Six-thirty is fine,"Melissa nodded. She walked towards the door, but then she hesitated. "Rachel? Are you sure you' re all right? You look a little...I don't know, haggard?"

Rachel mustered up a tired smile, while she made a conscious effort not to avoid the inquisitive green eyes of her sister-in-law. No matter how well her brother's wife and she got along, she did not want to talk about Hannah. She wasn't ready for that. Not yet.

"I'm just tired, Melissa. Nothing a good night' sleep won't cure."

"Okay, you' re the Doctor,"Melissa winked, before stepping out in the hallway. "I'll see you two cuties tomorrow morning, six-thirty,"she called over her shoulder with a little wave, before stepping outside and closing the door behind her.

Rachel locked the door behind Melissa and walked towards a room in the back of the house. She carefully pushed open a door that was already slightly ajar and tip-toed towards the bed. While she looked down on the sleeping toddler, her features softened and with a small sigh she sank down on a chair in the corner, careful not to disturb the little girl. Rachel could easily hear the tell-tale sounds of a congested little nose and detected a faint trace of menthol in the air.

"Thank you, Melissa,"she smiled, realizing her sister-in-law must have rubbed Nicky's chest with a menthol ointment.

Rachel leaned her head against the back of the chair and for the first time that day, she was able to relax. Maybe it was the semi-darkness in the room, the familiar sounds of her sleeping daughter, who had turned on her side, with her fist tucked underneath her chin, being in the safety of her own home or maybe a combination of it all, but the stress and anxiety that had made her stomach clench ever since she had met Hannah, slowly started to subside.


Rachel's head shot up when the slightly hoarse voice of her daughter woke her up from slumber. The little girl had climbed out of her bed and was trying to crawl into Rachel's lap. Her arms automatically reached out to lift the sleepy toddler in her arms and Nicky immediately snuggled up against her.

"Hey! How's my favorite little girl doing?"Rachel pressed her lips against Nicky's forehead and was pleased to notice the girl's skin was cool to the touch. "Do you want something to drink?"

Rachel could feel Nicky nod her head and, with a smile, she stood up, holding the girl safely in her arms. She made her way to the kitchen, only then noticing the small stack of boxes in the corner. They were labeled as 'personal stuff' and Rachel knew Melissa, who had helped her unpack after she and Nicky moved into their new house, would never touch their contents. It would be up to her, Rachel, to find a place for her personal belongings.

"Looks like your poor, old, tired mother has a few more boxes to get rid of, sweetie,"she sighed, putting Nicky in her high-chair at the kitchen island.

"Apple juice or water?"

Nicky wrinkled her nose and her soft brown eyes looked at her mother with something that closely resembled exasperation.

"All right, apple juice it is. But you know you'll have to brush your teeth again, okay?"

"Ahwight,"the little girl nodded, making Rachel smile. She grabbed a clean, toddler-proof cup and filled it with juice. When she put it in front of the little girl, she gave her a stern look.

"Small sips, Nicky, it's too cold justto inhale it,"she warned, knowing all too well how fast her daughter could make a cold drink disappear.

"Ahwight, Mommy,"Nicky replied with a curt nod, reaching out and grabbing the cup with both hands and bringing it to her mouth.

Rachel smiled and brushed away a strand of dark hair from Nicky's forehead. She bent down and dropped a kiss on the soft, shiny hair.

"You're such a good girl,"she complimented, which earned her a beaming smile.

"Well, Nick, no better time than the present,"she continued with a sigh, looking at the boxes in the corner. Some of them had not been opened in years and she dreaded the confrontation with the physical presence of certain memories, but knew that postponing the challenge could only be regarded as an act of cowardice.

While Nicky was taking small, consistent sips of her apple juice, Rachel walked to the stack of boxes and lifted the top one, which she brought back to the kitchen island. She took a seat next to her daughter and, after taking a deep breath, folded back the cardboard flaps to give her access to the contents of the box.

Nicky craned her neck, but was too small to be able to sneak a peek. Rachel chuckled and lovingly patted the toddler's back.

"Don't worry, sweetie, if possible I'll share my treasures. Oooh, look at this, I forgot I had this,"Rachel exclaimed, followed by a mental 'duh, no wonder, you haven't looked at this stuff in eons.'

"Mommy?"Nicky asked, gazing at her mother with big, curious eyes.

"Here, sweetie, look it's my old Sooners shirt. Signed by the entire women's basketball team, including the coach,"she added with a grin, putting the crimson-colored shirt on the table, out of reach of Nicky's eager little hand. "It was the last home game and..."Rachel sucked in a breath and brought her hand to her mouth when, all of a sudden, she realized which box she had just opened.

"Figures,"she sighed. "First freaking box I open has to be the...,"Rachel swallowed and suppressed the urge to pick up the box and empty the contents in the trash can. " had to be the 'Hannah' box,"she sighed.

"Mommy? You sad?"Nicky's hand was on Rachel's arm and, with a watery smile, the Doctor looked down at the little girl.

"Just a little,"she smiled. "It's the memories, Nicky, they...sometimes they hurt."

Rachel reached inside the box and briefly closed her eyes when her fingers touched the cool glass of a frame. Deep down inside, she knew which photo was about to surface, so it wasn't a shock when her eyes caught sight of a framed memory that, at one time, had been a golden one. Her fingers traced the outline of windblown, blond hair that was being highlighted by the setting sun and slid down to a bare shoulder, its tanned skin kissed by the sun, enveloping it in a warm bronze hue. A pair of clear, blue eyes danced with happiness and radiated so much warmth and love it still, after all those years, took Rachel's breath away.

"Hannah,"she sighed, feeling the familiar, almost painful pressure building inside her chest.

"Hannah?"Nicky echoed. "Nicky see?"

Rachel slowly set the framed photo on the table, in front of Nicky and watched her daughter take in the picture with serious, brown eyes that occasionally traveled up to her mother.

"Pwetty,"Nicky finally said with a beaming smile, having trouble with her 'r'.

"Beautiful,"Rachel whispered sadly. For a brief moment, the photo had thrown her back in time. She could remember the exact moment the picture had been taken, the date...the time of day. And, for a moment, Rachel was convinced she could feel the heat radiating off Hannah's skin, while a mixture of perfume and suntan lotion wafted up into her nose. A scent that had become so much stronger and intoxicating after Rachel had put the camera down and, no longer able to resist, had pulled Hannah into her arms, kissing every inch of her face, finally coming to a slow, sensual stop when she had reached Hannah's lips.

Rachel exhaled and slowly shook her head in disbelief when she noticed her heart rate had picked up and her skin was flushed.

"Get a grip, girl,"she scolded. "Those days are over, remember? You made your decision."

For the both of you, an annoying voice in the back of her head insisted.

"For the better,"Rachel whispered, touching Hannah's framed picture with careful fingers. "I've got to believe it was for the better,"she repeated softly.

"Goodness, girl, look at you,"Jake exclaimed when Hannah entered the kitchen. "You look like you went three rounds with Mohammed Ali himself!"

"Thanks, Jake,"Hannah mumbled, taking a seat next to her grandmother who was invitingly patting the chair. She rubbed her forehead, trying not to wince when her fingers touched the painful lump that had taken up residence just above her eye.

"Be nice, honey,"Gary rebuked his partner, punching him in the shoulder. "Hannah's been through a lot."

"No kidding,"Hannah mumbled, sipping from the juice Gary had put in front of her. The cold orange juice exploded against her dry throat and it felt so good, Hannah had to restrain herself not to chug down the rest of the drink. The last thing she needed was a stomach ache.

"How are you feeling, sweetie?"Gertrude asked, rubbing Hannah's back in a slow, circular motion.

"Like I was hit by a truck,"Hannah sighed. "Which reminds me, I need to call my insurance company and..."

"Don't worry about it, sugar. I had Gary call them this morning. They' re waiting for the police report and said they'll go have a look at your car this afternoon. What's left of it anyway,"Gertrude added while pulling a face.

"Is it totaled?"Hannah asked, mentally bracing herself for the answer.

"I had a look at it yesterday,"Gary admitted, covering Hannah's hand with his larger one and giving it a loving squeeze. "I do believe this was the end of it, sweetie."

"Are you sure?"Hannah asked, casting her friend a hopeful glance. "Maybe it can be fixed."

"Hannah,"Jake spoke from across the table. "Your right passenger door has been folded in half, your front axle has been snapped in two and the left side of your vehicle has been ripped open from front to back. I think it's safe to say that your poor car is going to be retired."

Hannah's blue eyes were wide in shock when they met Jake's compassionate green ones and after a moment of silence, she exhaled slowly.

"Damn,"she muttered. "Guess I can't postpone buying a new car any longer, huh?"

"You've been putting that off for two years now, dear,"Gertrude remarked dryly. "I'm really sorry you had that accident and I'm very grateful you' re all right, but I'm glad you' re being forced to buy a new car. And please, do this old lady a favor, get one with an air bag."

"Yes, ma'am,"Hannah sighed, pushing thoughts of the upcoming task of finding a new vehicle in the back of her mind. She didn't want to think about that yet.

"So, what have you three been up to while I was asleep?"she asked in an effort to change the subject.

"Gertrude and Jake made some brownies, we played cards and gossiped about you."

"I bet you did,"Hannah answered, yawning behind her hand. "I'm sure there's a lot to gossip about."Those last words were spoken with more bitterness than she intended and by the look on Gary's and Jake's faces, she knew her friends had picked up on her mood.

"It wasn't done in a bad way, Hannah,"Gary spoke softly. "You know how much we care for you."

"I know, Gary and I'm sorry. I didn't mean it the way it probably sounded. I'm just sore and cranky and frustrated and..."

"Incredibly pissed at Rachel,"Gertrude added, raising a brow in challenge when Hannah sent her an indignant look. "Listen, baby, we, Gary, Jake and I, are your only family. If you can't talk to us, who can you talk to? Besides, we've been carefully tiptoeing around the subject for years now."

To give herself a few more moments before responding to her grandmother's words, Hannah slowly emptied her glass, feeling the anger bubble up inside when her thoughts returned to Rachel. How could Rachel just barge back into her life like that? Why couldn't she stay where she had been...wherever that might have been? Why did she resurface and turn her life completely upside down? And, why the hell did she, Hannah, even care?

With a groan of frustration, Hannah slammed down her empty glass on the smooth surface of the kitchen table, softly muttering an expletive.

"Yes! I AM pissed!"she admitted forcefully, immediately feeling a distant throb behind her eyes. "Damnit!"

"That's it, honey, just tell us how you feel,"Gertrude calmly responded, suppressing a chuckle when she noticed the shocked expression on Jake's and Gary's faces. She silently cheered when Hannah glanced her way, allowing her to see the fire in her eyes.

"All right, I will,"Hannah bristled. "I'm so angry with Rachel Kendrick that if she'd walk into the room right now, I'd gladly throttle her! Yesterday, I tried to be polite and pretend like there was no ugly history between us, but you know what? I can't and won't keep that up. When I return to work, I'm bound to run into her. Heck, I'll probably have to face her on a daily basis. But I refuse to pretend I'm not angry with her. I refuse to give her that peace of mind, because she doesn't deserve it. I won't allow her to waltz back into my life and pretend we have no shared history."Hannah took a deep breath and involuntarily clenched her hands into fists. "I can't go around and pretend she didn't hurt me. She broke my heart,"she added in a hoarse whisper, while a single tear escaped her eye and made its lonely way down her cheek, to land on the kitchen table as a silent testimony to the agony Hannah felt inside.

Gertrude scooted her chair closer to her granddaughter and wrapped an arm around the younger woman, pulling Hannah's head on her shoulder and dropping a kiss on the disarray of blond hair. Mentally, she cheered. It was the first time since Rachel had gone that Hannah had showed any sign of anger towards her former girlfriend and Gertrude knew that, if Hannah ever wanted some kind of closure, dealing with her anger would be one of the first steps. Gertrude did not want to compare her pre-marital crisis with her granddaughter's difficult situation, but there were some similarities. Dealing with anger was one of them.

"That's it, sweetheart, just let it out. You've got to deal with this anger. You've kept it locked up inside for too long now. You can't be a cool, calm and collected Jensen all the time. Even your Scandinavian ancestors had a hissy fit every now and then."

"You think?"Hannah smiled through her tears.

"Oh, yeah,"Gertrude nodded with a chuckle. "I remember the stories your grandfather told me about his parents and how his mother was known for her temper. And she wasn't even a redhead."

"Hey! I take offense,"Jake responded in mock annoyance, raking his fingers through his thick, red hair. "Tell her, Gary."

"What, honey? About your temper? Or your fiery passion? I didn't think you'd want to share our bedroom escapades with Gertrude and Hannah,"Gary joked, which earned him a playful slap across the back of his head.

"No, please! Keep it to yourselves,"Hannah reacted, pretending to shiver. "That's way too much information already."

"Spoilsport,"Gary said, but his eyes were twinkling.

Hannah smiled and turned her head to give her grandmother a quick kiss on the cheek.

"Thanks, guys, you always make me feel better,"Hannah sighed. "Even if that's not your intention."

"Thanks...I think,"Jake chuckled, raising his juice glass in a silent salute.

"Just out of curiosity, Hannah,"Gary started, after a quick glance at Gertrude. "Do you have any idea how you' re going to handle the situation?"

"I don't know,"Hannah mumbled, feeling tired all over again, even though she had just spent more than six hours in a deep, dreamless sleep. "But I'm open to suggestions."

From the corner of her eye, she noticed a silent exchange between Gary and Jake and with a frown she leaned forward, pinning her friends with a stare that made them shift uncomfortably in their chairs.

"What?"was all that Hannah asked.

Gary rubbed his forehead and, after glancing at his partner, he exhaled loudly and shook his head.

"I hate it when you do that,"he sighed.

"Do what?"Hannah frowned.

"See straight through me,"he admitted, which made Gertrude softly snort. But the elderly lady didn't utter a word. She just leaned back into her chair and decided to watch and listen to the conversation that was about to ensue.

"So, I'm right when I think that you and Jake have discussed my...difficult ...situation and have come up with an easy solution which will make everybody happy? Like, let's say, an unexpected meeting, or something ludicrous like that?"

Jake scratched behind his ear and tried hard not to avoid Hannah's eyes. He hated it when their friend became cynical. It didn't suit Hannah at all, but it did indicate she was not happy with them at the moment.

"Gary. Jake,"Hannah continued in a soft, but determined voice. "I really don't appreciate any meddling in my affairs. I know Rachel used to be a good friend to you both and I'm not expecting you to ignore her. But please,"Hannah's voice took on a pleading tone. "Let me do this my own way, at my own pace. I know you all care about me and I know you want some answers as much as I do, but please, I need to do this my way."Hannah glanced aside and met her grandmother's innocent eyes. "That applies to you as well, Gertrude Amelia Braun- Jensen. Don't try and pull the innocent routine, because I'm not buying it."

"I promise, dear,"Gertrude immediately answered. "I have to admit, I'd like to drag Rachel Kendrick in here, sit her down and have a long talk with her, but I promise I'll restrain myself."

"Thank you,"Hannah sighed, patting her grandmother's hand. "If somebody's gonna sit Rachel Kendrick down to have a talk with her, it will be me."


To be continued in part 3

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