Chapter 44


The mid-morning sun blasted its rays through the open kitchen window, and Beatrice dared to let a fraction in to warm her heart. Despite her initial plan, somehow, she avoided a beating over the last week or so, but she was also unable to return to the payphone. Unfortunately, her husband had remained in house much of the time, but Houdini was not the only one to master the art of illusion. Beatrice learned long ago how to disappear--how to shrink into the walls and become lifeless like a piece of furniture. It had become her trade in life. When Max Sr. bellowed for her, she magically appeared to quietly cater to his needs. He had taught her well.

However, this morning, Beatrice was alone. She sat at the head of the table in the cherry yellow kitchen. The colors reflected the light, making the room brighter, almost blinding. For years, she wallowed in the dark, refusing to let the light in, and today was no different for she only allowed a trickle to penetrate. Hope was a fickle thing--constantly coming and going. I hope I'm not too late. A week is a long time, but I held on. That has to be something. It's been a long time since anyone needed me, and I know she's not here to say it. But, Michelle needs me. My purpose for a long time has been just to be the kind of wife and mother I was taught to be. I failed as a mother. I don't think I ever really tried.

This time I am trying, despite the setbacks and fear. I don't think I have a choice. It would kill me to see anything happen to my grandson. It would destroy me to see Max happen to him. I have to do this. I can't let anything else stop me.
Stooped shoulders straightened, and Beatrice smoothed a hand over her meticulously pressed blouse and skirt as she stood up. "I need to find money for the payphone."

Beatrice shuffled into the living room. She stopped at the sound of rustling near the front door. Mail fell through the door slot and slid harmlessly to the carpeted floor. Her heart leapt into her throat. I can check for the phone bill this time, and if the charges from Ivanhoe are on there, maybe I can find the checkbook and pay the bill myself. Maybe he won't notice that. I can't let them even suspect that's where she is.

She looked around guiltily before moving slowly toward her quarry.


***

The tires of Max Jr.'s 4x4 screeched as he turned the corner. Alan Jackson crooned loudly over the radio, but Max heard none of it. He didn't hear much these days except for his father's voice in his head. It appeared out of nowhere over the past few days, and it mingled with his own quite nicely, creating a cacophony that drove him to a bottle of Jack or a couple of lines of cocaine.

He neglected work, his appearance, food and sleep for the oblivion the liquid or powder gave him. Max ran a hand through the tangled mess that covered his head before scratching at the wiry bush on his cheeks that he decided to let grow. Seeing the one and only car missing from the driveway, his eyes narrowed as his parents' house came into sight. He's probably out drinking with those bastard friends of his. Maybe I need to be there or maybe I should just start looking for her on my own. What would you say dad if I brought her home? Would you still look at me like I disgust you? What would you say if I took care of her completely so she won't be a threat to our family anymore? I've been practicing, dad. I can do it.

A sinister grin, so much like his father's, curled his lips as he pulled into the driveway. He jumped from the truck and headed toward the kitchen entrance. Max walked through silently. Dark brows rose in surprise when the usual permanent fixture, his mother, was not present.

***

Panicked by the sound of a car door slamming and someone approaching, Beatrice tried hurriedly to stuff the contents of the envelope back inside. She let out a small cry of fear, when shaking hands dropped the pages instead. They floated to the floor, spreading everywhere. She squatted to the ground intent on recovery.

Beatrice glanced upward to see a pair of work boots heading her way. She swallowed hard as her gaze moved upward to reveal her son dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Relief flooded her. Oh, thank God. That is, until she saw his eyes.

Max Jr. bristled as he took in the jerky movements of the woman below him. She's doin' something that she has no business doin'. I just know it. Doesn't she know her place by now? Anger burst inside, deep and biting. Michelle is rubbing off on her. She's ruining everything. He sneered and his eyes darkened menacingly. Dad wouldn't like this.

"What the hell are you doin?!" Max towered over his mother's squatting form.

Beatrice's reply rattled from her throat but stopped midway. "I-." Her heart hammered crushingly against her chest. She recognized that look anywhere, having seen it on her husband's face hundreds of time. He is his father. Oh God, forgive me.

Max leaned down. "I'll tell ya what your doin! Shit you have no business!" Spittle flew from his mouth, and in his head, he could here his father clapping proudly.

Beatrice cringed as terror crept up her spine. Her son was the unexpected. She had never prepared herself for the unexpected. She eased back against the door hoping to blend with the wood.

Max kneeled to pick up a sheet of the discarded bill. "What is this?!" His eyes bore into hers.

Beatrice couldn't look away. "I don't--"

"Don't you dare lie to me!" He hissed and pulled his hand back ready to strike.  Do it!! The familiar voice screamed. Be a man again!

Max did not hesitate.

Beatrice let out a small cry and threw her arms up to protect her face. For her son she broke rules that she had come to live by---she cried out and resisted. It would only make things worse. I helped to make him into this.

The blow she was expecting turned into a hard yank as her arm was pulled away. The sheets of the phone bill she gathered fell from her grasp. She wouldn't know if the phone calls were on there, not today.

Blood roared in Max's ears as he squeezed his mother's wrist in a vice like grip. He raised his other hand. It sliced through the air, connecting with the side of Beatrice's face in a hard slap. Yesss! Triumph merged with the adrenaline surging through his body.

"Now, you're gonna tell me what your doin' aretcha?"

Totally humiliated, Beatrice bowed her head mindful of the throbbing pain in her face. She broke another rule as tears slid down her cheeks, blurring her vision. They were tears of despair, but somewhere deep inside there was still hope. She took several deep breaths and searched her brain for a plausible lie. No turning back now, remember?

"I-I know your father has been under a lot of strain as of late." Her voice was weak and hoarse, and she kept her gaze to the floor. "Um, I-I, uh wanted to help and d-do the bills, so he wouldn't have to worry about them."

Max clenched his fist. He refused to let guilt come. It did not dare rear its head. Finish this. Show her who's in charge.   "Then don't just sit there sniveling. Get to it!" He released her. His features went from angry to almost placid. Max turned and strolled calmly back into the kitchen. "I need a drink," he muttered to himself.

Beatrice watched him go. It was a minute victory in a whole new kind of war.

***

Christopher Matthews sat in the spot that most if not all of the men at the bar coveted.   He sat beside Maxwell St. Jean Sr. Men passed by the booth. Some of them looked at him with respect. Some of them gazed upon him in envy. Still, there was some whose eyes darkened with hate. He took it all with a grain of salt. His large callused hands scratched at the stubble on his cheeks, and he reached for the mug in front of him, wiping away the foamy head with a swipe of his finger. With a thirsty grunt, Chris brought the mug to his lips only to watch it spill down his protruding t-shirted belly into his lap.

His back stung with the hearty slap Max had just bestowed on him, but Chris joined in on the laughter at his expense as they both looked down at his wet shirt. He was prepared for the second slap.

"Let me fill that up for you," Max Sr. offered.

Chris met the other man's eyes and nodded silently.

"Somethin' told me those other bastards weren't gonna come through for me. They said they would do anything, but you haveta go that extra mile," Max added.

There was nothing Chris wouldn't do for this man just to stay in this seat. People always said he was nothing. Right now, he was proving them wrong. "No problem goin' that extra mile. I don't have to be in Wisconsin till the end of next week. I could probably cover a lot of ground south of here in I leave in a couple of days. I can catch some towns on the way back to. I'll just haveta come up with a plan to do this on the sly.  Don't want nobody suspectin' what I'm upta'."

Max clubbed him on the back again before throwing an arm over his shoulder. "Good man. Do what you haveta, and if ya can just swipe the baby from under her that'll be fine. His momma won't be worth nothin' after that."

Chris nodded his head and reached for his beer again.

 

Chapter 45

 

Janine took a deep breath before turning the key in the locked office door. The lock clicked with an audible pop. I can't stay away forever no matter how much I want to. Letting her know I was coming back was the hardest phone call I had to make. I don't know how I'm going to do this. I'm fooling myself to think that I won't feel anything when I see her again. The door opened with a loud creak. The nurse peered inside, seeing nothing but darkness. She stepped across the threshold. The thick carpeting muffled her footfalls. Iíve never felt so much in my life.

The brunette flipped on the light, illuminating the waiting area. She moved swiftly, straightening magazines and tidying up neglected areas. Bobbi doesn't want me. I can't blind myself to that fact, but can I make her want me? I can't believe she'd rather have the little blonde who looks like sheís barely old enough to drink. "Story of my life."

Janine let out a peel of derisive laughter as she changed the phones from the answering service. She sat on the edge of the big wooden desk, pressing the appropriate buttons on cue. The nurse moved through the rest of the office with cool efficiency and an authority she no longer felt.

Now, sitting in her own office, Janine leafed through the appointment book, hoping that reacquainting herself with the mundane would tame the emotions bubbling under the surface. I probably could have ended it all for them right there. The blonde looked naÔve enough to believe everything that came out of my mouth regardless of what she said to that woman. Why didn't I do it? I don't think thereís an easy answer for that. I don't know who that was. I wanted to, and the old Janine--she would have done it in a drop of a hat. Who am I kidding? I'm still her--somewhere deep down. Old habits die-hard. I felt that anger and that need to want, take and have. That's the problem. I still want her, and the question is would I do anything to have her? I guess I won't know the answer to that till it happens . . . again.

Janine leaned forward on her elbows and placed a fisted hand under her chin. Brown eyes lowered then closed as she released another long breath. "She doesn't want me, so why am I going on with this?" Because I want her, and I don't know anything else. I think you helped me with that, mother. All these years and I'm still trying to get you to want me, but now I'm losing to a ghost.

"At least I know why, but I don't know how to stop it." The nurse swept her hands through her hair, dislodging strands from scrunchee holding it in a ponytail. Anger, and something she never felt before-- shame gave her pause.  She tried to swallow the ball of emotion. It only got bigger, making her face flush hot and red. "Dammit!" Janine hurled the appointment book across the room. It smacked against the door then fell harmlessly to the floor. "I'm so fuckin' pathetic!" The violent outburst soothed her somewhat. The nurse stood up shakily and wiped a hand over her pink scrubs. "I need to get a hold of myself. She's gonna be in soon."

***

Despite being slightly buzzed from their workout, Michelle laid down and pillowed her head against the arm of the couch. She let out a relieved breath and pushed a hand through sweat dampened locks. The sweat pants and t-shirt stuck to her compact frame, but still, she was reluctant to get up and shower if it meant not seeing Bobbi. God, it feels like I'm addicted to her. There's just not enough hours in the day, but I need to start doing something more with myself instead of sitting here pining away all day. I love being on the computer, but there has to be more.

Michelle sighed and glanced at Toby as he played on a blanket not too far away. Taz lay by his side. The blonde watched in amusement as her son began banging the plastic keys against the Husky's back.

Taz looked at her and whimpered.

Michelle chuckled.

Unsatisfied somehow with his own antics, Toby lunged for the dog, digging a free hand into his fur and pulling. He cooed in excitement when the Husky yelped. With the keys in one hand and fur in the other, Toby scooted and wiggled with joy.

Michelle's chuckle changed into all out laughter. She shook her head and turned away, knowing the Husky would not hurt the infant. The sun, teeming its rays through the open windows called to her and covered her body in its warm rays. Michelle stretched, enjoying the attention. I feel like this everyday--warm and relaxed. Bobbi keeps me in the light. This past week has been especially incredible. She's so patient with me concerning everything. She's letting me find my own way. I like that feeling, but I've been so restless for the past few days. It's like I don't know what to do with myself. I guess this is the next step. I need to get out there. Maybe being at the picnic with all those people opened me up to more things. I think I'm ready for something more, but I have to figure out what. Maybe I could talk to her about this? She's always been there for me. Maybe I could give Annie a call or go see her. It's been a while since I've talked to her.

The sound of a closing door caught Michelle's attention. She glanced over her shoulder to see the doctor coming out of the short hallway and headed toward the living room. The customary faded jeans hugged long, muscular legs, and they were set off by a button down light blue cotton tee. Bobbi yanked at the fluffy white towel around her neck before slicking a hand through damp hair that hung down her back in thick shanks. Slashing cheekbones seemed more prominent, giving the brunette an over all rakish look. Glittering blue eyes only aided the cause.

Oh. . . my. Michelle swallowed hard--once again stunned by the doctor's effortless beauty. And she wants to be with me. A sliver of doubt announced itself before going back to its hiding place. Heat flushed to her face and neck, making her skin tingle.Mere anticipation of being near the brunette was almost overwhelming. I can't believe what she does to me.

Feeling the blonde's gaze, Bobbi smiled inwardly. You do the same thing to me, Chelle. I wish you could see how beautiful you are. The grin manifested itself outwardly. "Hey. Miss me?"

Michelle flushed an even darker red. "Uhm, maybe just a little bit."

"I guess I'll have to take that," Bobbi countered with a smirk. "I'm glad I caught you. I thought you would have been in the shower."

"Well, I didn't want to miss seeing you off this morning. We all got up kinda late and didn't have much time together. . ." Michelle's voice trailed off as she took in the amused look that covered the doctor's features. "What?"

Bobbi's smile widened. "Funny, I was thinking the same thing. I was trying to think of ways to . . .well, you know. All I came up with is--" She held up a brush. "Do my hair?"

Michelle sat up. "But, I'm all sweaty." She pulled the damp t-shirt away from her chest in demonstration. "And probably stinky too."

Bobbi closed the distance between her and the couch. She lowered herself to her knees in front of the blonde, moving in between her splayed legs. The doctor wrapped her hands loosely around Michelle's waist. "I don't care." She growled. Bobbi could feel her blood begin to simmer, so she moved closer, intending to make it boil. Michelle shuddered and arched against the brunette's body. Bobbi lifted a hand toward the blonde's face and traced the path of red from cheek to neck to shoulder. "In fact, I think it's damn. . ." The doctor leaned in further treating Michelle's sensitive ear to heated breath. ". . .sexy." She murmured while swiping an earlobe with her tongue.

Michelle whimpered as heat swept through her body in an unforgiving flash. As if on automatic pilot, small hands tangled in damp, sable tresses. Their foreheads touched and lips lingered barely an inch apart. "Yeah. . .you think so?" Michelle asked hoarsely.

"Oh yah, mmm," Words were left unspoken as Michelle began to nip at the doctor's mouth. The nips turned into light, moist brushes meant to tantalize. They did. Bobbi groaned for more. Open mouths caressed hotly for long minutes until the need for air became paramount.

Bobbi pulled away and smiled, taking in the blonde's flushed features as she tried to reclaim her breath. The need to be close kept them only inches apart. Foreheads touched once more. The brunette chuckled. "Now that's what I call breakfast of champions. I think that'll keep me wired for the rest of the day." I never thought we would get to this point--easy touches and constant laughter. Now, I feel like a kid in a candy shop.

A satisfied grin spread over Michelle's face. "Does that mean I don't have to cook anymore?"

"Mmm, I don't know." Kiss. "I think I could live on this for a while." Kiss.

The blonde let out a dignified snort. "You're terrible."

"Ah, that I know. So, you gonna brush my hair?" Bobbi held up the brush.

Michelle snatched it from the doctor's hand. "Yeah, gladly. Have a seat."

Bobbi hummed lightly when the petite blonde's hands sifted through her hair. Noticing the activity on the carpet a few feet away, she raised an amused eyebrow. "Um, Chelle? Why is Toby trying to climb on Taz?"

Michelle let the black silk slick through her fingers. They tingled with the contact, distracting her. "Huh?" She glanced up. "Oh, cause he can I guess."

Bobbi chuckled. "Good enough reason if I ever heard one." She leaned back against the blonde's thighs and relaxed.

Concerned, Michelle commented, "You seem pretty laid back for someone who's gonna be late for work."

"Oh, well, Janine is coming back this morning, so she'll open everything up."

The blonde's nose crinkled in thought. "Oh, you know, I told you about that woman who said all those nasty things?"

"Yeah, and let me say again how proud I am of you. I guess I did sort of out us when I got up on the stage. I didn't think about the repercussions or maybe I didn't really care. I should have taken you into account though. You could have been recognized after all."

Michelle and blushed at the memory. "It's okay. I got caught up in it all. I didn't care either, and I wouldn't take it back for anything in the world," she added softly.

Bobbi peered over her shoulder until their eyes met. "That's good to know because I don't think I coulda stopped. I-I just wanted it to be special." She covered the small hand that squeezed her shoulder.

"It was. Believe me. Um, but I wasn't talking about that. I met her," Michelle countered.

"Met who?"

"Your nurse, Janine. I sorta forgot about it since all that other stuff happened. It just seemed. . .I don't know--small. But, I have to say that it was kinda strange. She introduced herself, but I had the feeling she had more to say. Instead, she just left."

Bobbi stiffened. What the hell kind of game is she trying to play?! She took a deep, calming breath. Calm down, B. Don't jump to conclusions. "Oh, really?" Her voice was strained.

Michelle felt the doctor's body still. Her thoughts whirred in confusion. "Bobby? What's going on?" Her mind came to a stop. Why would she react like that? Is there something she's hiding from me? Unless. Oh God. . Something new and almost unidentifiable bolted through her with a jagged edge. The blonde's heart hammered in fear, and she swallowed in an attempt to keep some of the emotions in check. Is there something going on between them? Is that what that woman was trying to tell me? I knew I could never be enough for her. Look what Max has done to me. She looked much more experienced--much more everything. "Bobbi?" Her voice broke at the end. For the first time, jealousy revealed itself, weighing a ton on her slight shoulders.

"Yeah, um. . ." Why didn't I tell her about this earlier? I guess I figured that I could handle it, but still, I shoulda told her. "There's something I should have told you a while ago, when I first noticed it. She, uh, has a little crush on me. I've been trying--" Bobbi trailed off as she felt the blonde both physically and mentally withdraw.

Somehow, Michelle ended up at the other end of the couch with her hands balled into fist and fidgeting in her lap. She looked down at them as if trying to find some hidden meaning. "Uhm, she was very pretty--"

Bobbi moved quickly. She kneeled in front of the blonde. Maybe this is why I didn't say anything. Maybe I was afraid of this. This thing between us is still so new. I need to do something. The doctor reached out, lifting Michelle's bowed head by placing a couple fingers under her chin. "No."

Michelle's eyes widened in confusion. "No? I don't understand."

"I know what you're thinkin' Chelle, and she can't hold a candle to you. She's pretty--yes, but you're beautiful."

Michelle tried to hide again.

Bobbi tilted her head, trying to catch the green gaze. "It's okay. I know that's hard for you to believe with all you've been through." Think, B. You know sometimes words aren't enough. "Chelle look at me, please?"

Hesitant green eyes finally met hers.

"I know that sounded mushy, but look at me-- really look at me. You'll know I meant every word."

Michelle studied the doctor's features with a verdant gaze. She started with pink, full lips, recalling how they felt against her own---needy, hot, and mostly gentle. The blonde remembered the sounds of pleasure and of arousal that she had drawn out. There were also the smiles that ranged from smirks, toothy grins, to the soft ones that seemed to exist just for her. Then, there were the words that lifted her, carried her, and set her free. Michelle let out a gasp of wonder. It really is all for me.

With shaky hands, Michelle reached out to touch. In reverence, soft fingertips traced the curve of the brunette's lips. The petite woman's gaze faltered, and she glanced up into sky blue eyes. Her breath hissed from her chest. The doctor's eyes were dark, glittery, and seemed to glow with feeling. There it was all laid out for her to see----passion, compassion, need, caring, and truth. Her fingertips began a new journey as they brushed over chin, cheeks, and forehead. It's incredible.  This is incredible.

Their gaze grew in intensity, drowning them both. Breathing became heavy and ragged. Each minute seemed like an eon, and as each one passed, Michelle's doubts went from a flare to a simmer, until they lay dormant once again.

By silent mutual agreement, trembling lips met softly. Bobbi cupped the blonde's cheeks, prolonging the contact and caressing silky skin. Her eyes closed. I can't hide from her. I want her to see everything--all that I am.

They broke apart slowly but the gaze remained.

"You see?" Bobbi asked huskily.

Michelle nodded and smiled softly. "I think so, yeah."

Bobbi grinned back. "Good." She paused. "Can I ask you something?"

"Yeah, sure."

"You think that you're making this hard don't you?"

Michelle wanted to duck her head, but she didn't dare. Can she see through me? "Uhm, well, yeah I can't help but to think that. The way I keep--"

The doctor shook her head, but the smile remained. "No. . ." She brushed the blonde's nose with her finger as apology for interrupting. "For the first time it's easy. It's easy to feel; easy to touch; easy to talk; and easy to care. Think about it. You've never had this with anyone and neither have I. Now, look at us. It's an everyday thing."

Michelle's nose crinkled in contemplation. "I never thought about it like that."

Bobbi smirked playfully. "Well, learn something new everyday I guess."

Catching on to the doctor's playfulness, Michelle gave the brunette a push. "You!"

Bobbi snickered, "Yeah, me!"

Michelle shook her head in amusement. "You need to behave so I can finish your hair. You have to go to work remember?"

The brunette waved her hand in nonchalance. "Pssh. It can wait." She turned around making herself comfortable again between the blonde's legs. Bobbi raised an eyebrow at the two sets of blue eyes staring back at her.

Toby grinned goofily before shoving the keys back into his mouth and slobbering all over his white t-shirt. As an afterthought, he tugged on the Husky's fur.

Taz groaned and looked at the doctor imploringly.

Bobbi beamed. That's my Peanut. She hummed in pleasure as Michelle began brushing again in long, languid strokes. "Mmm, so what are you doing today?"

Michelle sighed. "I don't really know. I was thinking about going to see Annie. There's not much else I can do."

"What do you mean? You can go anywhere you want."

"I know, but I want to be doing something. Know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I do. We should definitely start going out more," Bobbi answered.

"I'd like that, but I need to start doing things on my own more." Michelle added.

Bobbi smiled. She couldn't help herself. Way to go, Chelle. "Go for it."

"I'm planning on it." And I can't wait. Her insides leapt with giddy excitement.

Long minutes later, the doctor's dark halo of hair was brushed into a soft shine.

"Okay, you're all done." Michelle tapped the brunette on the shoulder and handed her the brush.

"What, all ready?"

"Mmm hmm."

"Well, I 'pose I should grace the world with my presence," Bobbi murmured as she rose, but she thought better of it. Instead, she crawled toward Toby.

Toby squealed in delight and began bouncing up and down. The brunette chuckled at the display. On all fours, she leaned down and forward, greeting the infant's forehead with a kiss. "See ya later, Peanut."

"Gaaaa!" Toby exclaimed excitedly. He shoved the keys toward her. Bobbi nibbled on the one with the least amount of slobber and reached out a hand to pat the Husky, who had begun to nudge her side.

"Yeah, yeah. See you later too, big guy."

"Wuff!"

Minutes later, the doctor extricated herself and crawled with feline grace back toward the blonde.

Amused green eyes twinkled back at her.  "Bobbi, what are you up to?"

The brunette only smiled as she continued to move forward.

Michelle swallowed, hard.

When Bobbi reached her goal, she sat up on her knees. Their eyes met, and the brunette snaked her hand slowly up the blonde's thighs, parting them as she went. She wiggled inside the space between them.

Michelle shuddered but refused to look away.

Bobbi wrapped her arms around Michelle's waist and leaned forward, nudging the side of the blonde woman's face. Getting her lips as close to her companion's ear as possible, the doctor whispered throatily, "I hope lunch will be as good as breakfast." She kissed right below Michelle's ear and trembled at the little cry that resulted. I could get lost in her.

Bobbi backed away but not before gracing Michelle's nose with a kiss. "I'll see you in a few hours, okay?"

Still trying to find her breath, Michelle nodded and squeaked out, "Kay."

Suddenly recalling their earlier discussion, Bobbi called over her shoulder as she entered the hallway leading to the kitchen, "Hey, and don't worry about this Janine thing. I nipped that in the butt not too long ago. I'm sorry I didn't tell you about it."

Now that her nervous system had returned to normal, Michelle cringed at the bolt of jealousy that speared through her at the thought of the doctor spending any time in the nurse's company. However, she squashed it. "Don't worry about that anymore." And I'll try not too either. Instead, her mind focused on the time they just shared.

With a final wave, Bobbi was gone.

***

Bobbi sat in her office and waited for the nurse to knock on her door. Now that she had time to sit down and think, the doctor had many questions. "How the hell does she know what Michelle looks like? I hope to God that woman isn't up to something. She's crossed the line by bringing, Chelle into this."

The doctor leaned back in her cushy leather chair, gripping the arms with a white knuckled grip. "You don't want to know the bitch I used to be lady."

Sure enough after a few minutes there was a knock at her office door.

"Yeah. Come in."

Janine took a breath and let herself in. As discreetly as possible, she devoured the woman with her eyes. It seems like years since I've seen her. A slow smile spread across the nurse's face. "I betcha thought I was never coming back."

Cool blue eyes appraised her.

Janine ducked her head to avoid them. What's going on? "I just needed some time--"

"That's understandable," Bobbi interrupted. God, this woman is becoming a chore. "So you were at the picnic at Hole-In-the-Mountain Park?"

Why is she being so cold? I didn't do anything. "Yeah, I decided to check it out. Heard about it from one of the locals."

Bobbi sighed in exasperation. I need to just get to the point. I need to know what's up. She leaned forward. "How did you know who she was, Janine?" She tried to keep the icy hardness out of her voice, but it still came out strained.

The nurse fought to keep the nasty smirk off her face. Ah, the old Janine tries to rear her head at the strangest moments. Her features remained neutral. "She came to the office once remember. We just happened to be in the bathroom at the same time. I heard some woman bitchin' at her. I didn't know who she was until I came out. . ." Janine let her voice trail off. Well, it's essentially the truth.

The doctor studied the other woman, looking for deceit in her features. I just can't take any chances not where Chelle is concerned. Bobbi hardened her resolve, knowing she was about to hurt the nurse's feelings even more. "Janine, I meant what I said about being your friend. We have a lot in common, and I don't take friendship lightly, not anymore. I thought I made it clear that --that was my only interest in you besides being an employee. I might not have been involved with anyone then, but I certainly am now. And, I'm not the type to play around." The brunette tried to convey her compassion with her eyes and words. "I know it can be hard living somewhere where you don't know anyone just give it some time. You seem like a great woman. I'm sure--"

"I understand," Janine ground out. I see the pity in your eyes, Bobbi. Don't you dare pity me! Her hands clenched at her side as anger swift and red pooled inside. Friendship!! What about all the times she touched me? I saw that look in her eyes. I swear I did. I won't be played with not anymore. "Your first patient is at 10:30," Janine growled. She turned, snatched the door open, and vacated leaving a mound of tension behind her.

Bobbi blinked. "Okay, that went well. She was way too angry. Please don't let this mean trouble." She wiped her face with a hand. Momma never said there would be days like this, but I wish she was here to see who I am now. One little woman has changed everything. I bet she coulda even gotten through to dad. I just hope Janine doesn't have revenge on her mind, but maybe this time did it. Maybe it's finally seeping in. I hate to say it, but it's a wait and see game.

The doctor leaned back in her chair making the leather creek and groan in protest. "Hopefully lunch will take my mind off things." Bobbi smirked and shivered in anticipation, but after a few seconds, the smirk fell. "I can't believe she thought Janine and me were. . .ugh." There's got to be some way I can make her more confident in us. I don't ever want to see that look on her face again, but how can you help but to be insecure of something you never had? Then why do I feel like I'm ten feet tall and can slay a damn dragon? I should be as shaky as she is. Maybe I knew when she stepped foot in this house; when I convinced myself to help her. It gave me time to get used to her --to feeling again.

"When the hell did I become so philosophical?" She let out a bark of laughter. "Michelle's influence strikes again." Bobbi shook her head in acknowledgment and amazement. I should let it strike all the way. I've been sitting still for a while since I started dealing with what happened to my family. I think its time to deal with everything, especially the way I used to treat people.

She reached for her office phone.

***

Janine sat at her own desk in her own chair, holding on to the arms for dear life. She felt as if she were flying apart. Never had she been so lost, but maybe in fact she had never been found. It's all a lie isn't it? I never knew who I was. I was never meant to be happy. I was never meant to win, and I was never meant to have anyone for my very own no matter how I got her. I tried to be for real--no games, but that doesn't work. All I did was try to be what I thought she wanted. It never stops and none of it works. So where does that leave me? With friendship! No one ever wanted to be my friend! So why the hell did she try? I misinterpreted it all. I knew this! If I had accepted her friendship I would have had something, but now. . .

The nurse let out a laugh that sounded dangerously close to a sob. "I'll do just about anything to see her hurt," she whispered with conviction, but somewhere deep guilt and apprehension started to brew. Janine balled her hand into a fist and slammed it against the edge of the desk. "No!" She told the real Janine who struggled to get out--the same Janine that sent her running from the blonde a week ago.

***

In lieu of calling the library clerk, Michelle decided to visit instead. She pushed the door to the library open, and shuffled the stroller in. Michelle chuckled as she spotted Annie, almost immediately, coming out of the stacks.

Disregarding her surroundings, the older woman whooped in greeting and waved her hand in the air with enthusiasm, causing bracelets to shimmy and clatter down her arm. "Jo! Over here!" There was a loud "shhh" to which they both smiled and rolled their eyes at. With Toby in tow, the younger woman made her way over.

"Hi," Michelle murmured and smiled wide enough to split her cheeks.

Annie's eyebrows rose. "Ohhh, you're glowing!"

Michelle smirked, "I am not!"

"Uh huh. You've got that silly grin thing going too. That's quite a combination. I'd say." The clerk whispered.

The younger blonde tried to school her features but the smile returned. She stomped her foot in mock agitation. "Okay, so you're right."

The clerk cackled, "I usually am, dear. You'll learn that about me sooner or later."

Green eyes twinkled in amusement, "My aren't we full of ourselves. Do you have time to talk?"

"Sure do. We're pretty slow right now. Shall we go over to our table?"

Michelle took hold of the stroller again. "We're right behind you."

Once seated in the hard plastic chairs, Annie tilted her head toward her friend, examining her with intensity. "You know, it's hard to place the woman I met a couple months ago to the woman I see now." The older woman shook her head in astonishment. "The way you carry yourself is different. You even talk differently."

Michelle blushed.

"Ah, but there's still a little bit of her in there, huh?"

"Sometimes, yes." The blonde frowned slightly.

"Ah, don't look like that. You must keep a little bit of her with you to retain that innocence no matter what you've been through." Annie's eyes glowed with knowledge and understanding.

Their eyes met.

"Annie, anybody ever tell you that you're a little scary?" Michelle asked.

"Yes, but what's your point?"

Michelle chuckled and bent to unstrap Toby from the stroller. If I didn't know better I'd say she knows way more about me than she's letting on. The infant snuggled in her lap, bringing his favorite toy to his lips. He craned his head to see the other woman.

"Gooo!"

Annie smirked. "My goodness he certainly has gotten more vocal and assertive since I saw him last.."

"Yeah, he has. He's trying to crawl too."

As if he knew the clerk was talking about him, Toby reached out his arms to her.

Annie laughed and took the boy from his mother's lap. Toby squirmed until he got comfortable. Then, as if on cue, he offered the woman his keys. Annie gave them a jingle before handing them back.

"So, Jo? What's up with you? Have a nice holiday?" The clerk asked with a knowing smile.

Michelle blushed again. Green eyes sparkled. "I'll never forget it. It was the most amazing day."

She commenced to telling her friend about it.

***

Annie blinked, opened her mouth then shut it. It almost took a full minute before she tried to speak again. "You mean this woman who didn't even know you tried to accost you about your child?"

Michelle nodded, "Yeah, she did, but I refused to let it color my day. It was so perfect. Everything was so perfect. I even kept the necklace she made me."

"Whoa, kiddo. I'm so proud of you. Some people can be so small-minded especially when they have no clue whatsoever." Annie adjusted the baby in her arms.

"I know that now, but it was such a good day. I didn't want to see it end." Michelle added.

"Oh, there's more?"

The goofy smile reasserted itself once more. "When we got home. . ."

Michelle put the sleeping infant in the doctor's arms as she grabbed the blankets, diaper bag, and her stuffed toy. The two women glanced at each other and smiled as they headed into the house with the Husky right behind them.

"Why don't you put him in his crib, and I'll put the rest of this stuff up."

Bobbi nodded, "Kay, but hurry up. I'm not finished with you yet."

Michelle could feel the heat shoot to her face, but she did not do a thing to hide it. "I don't want you to be." Their gazes held and grew in intensity. The blonde shivered in reaction before turning away and making her way to her room.

She emptied her quarry on the bed. Then, sat on the edge, hoping it would calm her rampant body. When that didn't help, Michelle tried deep breathing. 'How is it possible to feel all of this?' She asked herself. There was no ready answer.

Her head jerked up in surprise at the sound of soft, low music wafting in through her open door. Michelle's heart accelerated even more. "What is she up to? I don't think anything could top earlier today." She got up and headed toward the door, hoping to get a peek of the brunette and decipher her plan.

Michelle's eyes widened to the size of saucers as she took in the dim lighting that shrouded the living room in semi-darkness. Bobbi and her white t-shirt could easily be seen. She stood tall and gently swaying to a ballad crooned by Boy George.

As if pulled by some irresistible force, Michelle found herself walking slowing into the living room. Bobbi glanced up with a sweet smile and shining eyes as if she was seeing the blonde for the first time. 'She makes me feel like I'm the only one in her world,' Michelle whispered to herself.

The doctor's long arm extended, beckoning her with the curl of a fingertip. "Dance with me?" She asked huskily.

Michelle did not hesitate, finding herself wrapped in the brunette's arms almost immediately. Their bodies molded and began to sway to the beat. Michelle let her hands rest in the tangle of dark hair at the doctor's nape. She trembled at the feel of large hands caressing the expanse of her back. 'I didn't think anything could feel this good,' she thought. She felt a kiss pressed to the top of her head and sighed.

"You know," Bobbi murmured. "Sometimes, when we're apart. I think this is a dream, but when I touch you again, I know it's real."

Michelle's heart squeezed at the sentiment behind the words. "Then, you can touch me anytime you want." She glanced upward meeting the azure gaze.

Blue eyes glowed with awe. The doctor reached up to trace her companion's features from cheeks to chin. "You mean that don't you?"

Michelle took Bobbi's hand in her own and brought it to her lips, caressing the open palm with moist lips. "Every word."

The brunette's head lowered, bringing their lips together in soft kisses. The silence extended between them as they danced into the night, but it was a good one, a poignant one.

 

With her face flushed with warmth and remembrance, Michelle glanced at the clerk. "Like I said, perfect."

"Awww!" Annie's eyes were large as moons. "You have yourself a big ole' romantic on your hands."

"You think so?" Michelle inquired.

"Most definitely. I'd bet my costume jewelry on it."

The younger woman chuckled. "I'm enjoying it too."

"Sounds like things are going well."

Michelle cringed inwardly, intentionally omitting, the situation with Janine. I'm just not ready to really deal with that yet. "Yeah, yeah, it is."

With astute eyes, Annie watched her friend. I meant what I said about watching yourself, Jo. "Uh huh."

Knowing the woman didn't believe her, Michelle decided to change the subject. "You know, it just occured to me that I don't know that much about you."

"Mmm," Annie decided to play along. "What would you like to know?"

"Your last name for starters."

The clerk chuckled. "It's Foster."

"You're not from around here are you? You don' t have the accent." Michelle asked.

"Actually, yeah. I just lived a lot of years on the East Coast. I guess that's where I picked up my flare for the dramatic. I do still have family here--the ones that talk to me anyway. I'm the Black Sheep, you see."

The younger woman's face scrunched in confusion. "You? Why?"

"Hmm, let's just say when you go against family tradition and decide to be someone different from what they want, it can cause major problems. To most of them, I'm a hippie that's still lost in the 70's," Annie answered.

"Ah, I think that I can understand that," Michelle muttered.

"I knew you could." The clerk paused. "So, what's on the agenda for today?"

Michelle shrugged, "I don't know. Haven't I seen just about everything?"

"Well, yeah. Now that you mention it."

"I figured as much. I love reading, but I'm tired of sitting at home," the petite blonde uttered.

"Oh ready to branch out are we?" Annie smiled.

Michelle's shoulder's slumped. "I don't know. I guess."

"Well, how about this? We need volunteers for Kid's Corner. That's where we have readers read from them for about an hour a day out of a book of their choosing. There are several groups that come in during the day now that school's out. It's something we offer to give the parents a break. Do you think you're up to it?"

Michelle's heart thudded in sheer excitement. This may be exactly what I need. Something for me---something just for me. The blonde's eyes literally sparkled. "I-I, wow!"

Annie snickered, "You can start today. We have a crew coming in at 11 o'clock and one at noon."

"Really?!" The younger blonde almost jumped from her seat.

"Yeah, really!"

Oh dang. I forgot about lunch. "Ohh, I would miss lunch with Bobbi."

The clerk smirked. "Ah, well you can just do the one at eleven."

But I really want to do this. I know I can do this, and Bobbi would understand. I'll just call and let her know. "No, no, I want to do this all the way, but I need to use the phone."

Toby picked this moment to drop his keys.

"Who's gonna watch him?" Michelle asked as she gave the keys back to her son.

"Oh, I'll take him. Like I said, it's kinda slow, and there are other clerks here. Next time just bring something that he can sit up in and you can take him into the circle with you."

"Great! Just let me go call Bobbi."

***

The phone rung four times before there was an answer. "This is Doc B. I'm probably with a patient right now or away from the desk. Please, leave a detailed message, and someone will get back to you as soon as possible."

Michelle grinned at the sound of the doctor's voice. "Um, hey. It's me. I've got some great news for you, but it's gonna have to wait until I get home. I'm won't be there for lunch, but I will be making dinner." The blonde chuckled. "And yeah, you can have some of what you had at breakfast. I'll see you later. Uhm, bye." She hung up the desk phone with a soft click and turned to Annie. "Okay, that's taken care of. Toby has a bottle if he gets hungry that should hold him until I can get him home for food. He has diapers too."

Annie nodded, "No problem."

Michelle brought her hands together and fidgeted nervously. "Okay, what do I do now?"

"Well, I take you to the children's area, and you wait. Sound okay?"

"Yeah," the blonde clapped her hands excitedly. "God, I feel like I'm bubbling over. If you only knew what this means to me--"

Annie grabbed her friend's hand. "I may not know everything about you, but I know what this means. It's written all over you."

***

Michelle sat in the children's area alone, surrounded by huge plastic crayons, large stuffed toys, an array of posters advertising children's books, and the smell of worn paper. She loved every minute of it. I know I can do this. It really, really feels like I'm coming into my own. It's where I always wanted to be.

The blonde jumped at the sound of a voice clearing behind her. She turned slowly and took a deep breath. They're just people. I can do this.

A red haired woman that looked to be a little bit older than her smiled back. The woman held out her hand. "Hi, you're new here. Never seen you before. I'm Maggie, and this is my son Randi."

Michelle took the woman's hand with ease and smiled a smile big enough to encompass them both. "Nice to meet you both. I'm Jo." She glanced down at the child with a shock of wild jet black hair and freckles that covered his entire face. "Randi, why don't you have a seat and make yourself comfortable. I'm sure a lot of other kids will be here soon."

Randi gave her a snaggle tooth grin and beat feet to a table, grabbing a book on his way.

I knew I could do this. Piece of cake.

Barely fifteen minutes later, Michelle was surrounded by at least twelve kids. Without missing a beat, she asked them what they wanted read. There was a simultaneous roar of Harry Potter. She smiled indulgently and asked one of the kids to get it for her. This will be my Toby someday. All because I got out and because of Bobbi.

There were no nerves. No fears, and no Max. No Marsha. The petite woman sat on the cushioned floor at the head of the circle. She glanced up to see that she had the rapt attention of everyone of her charges. Michelle took a cleansing breath and in a light, lilting voice began to read.

***

Janine sat down at the receptionist desk in the waiting room and smiled wanly at the waiting patient. Her head quirked to the side in interest when she saw the message light blinking. Thinking nothing of it, she dialed in the appropriate code and picked up pen and paper to scribe.

A red flush of anger filled her face and insides as she listened to the caring in the blonde's voice. As the message ended, Janine promptly erased it. Well, I guess I know how far I'd go. It's a start. She swallowed the guilt that tried to claw its way up her throat.

***

Bobbi hurried through the hall pulling off her lab coat and freeing her hair in the process. The need to see Michelle was overwhelming. The doctor bolted into the kitchen and was promptly greeted by Taz.

She smiled and immediately attended to him. "Hey, boy. I bet you're ready to go outside and play?"

The Husky yelped excitedly.

Bobbi chuckled. "Well, hold on. Let me say hi to your mom first."

The brunette exited the kitchen and went straight to the living room only to find the television silent and the room bare.

"Chelle?" There was no answer, so she sauntered toward the den with a sexy grin already plastered on her face.

The den was empty. A frown tugged at her lips. She glanced down at the Husky, who followed her. "I glanced into her room on the way in the living room too. I guess they're not back yet."

Bobbi didn't even try to hide her disappointed. Her shoulders slumped. "Well, let's get you a good run. They should be back soon."

Twenty minutes later, there was still no Michelle or Toby. Bobbi frowned with worry. She sat on the couch and looked at the Husky that laid by her side. "I don't like this, boy, especially with those crazy people possibly looking for her. She said that she would be home for lunch. Maybe I should call the library and make sure everything's okay."

"Wuff!"

"Yeah, I'm gonna do it right now." Wow, the house is so still without them in it. It's like it misses them too. It's kinda strange --her not being here. Bobbi snorted inwardly as she reached for the phone. I make her sound like the little woman, who's supposed to waiting at home for her love. She's anything but that.

She dialed information and got the library's number. Annie was the first person she asked for.

"This is Annie how may I help you."

"Uhm, hi. This is Bobbi I don't know if you remember me--"

Annie smirked and dangled a bracelet in Toby's face. "Ah, Jo's other half."

The doctor was startled that the clerk knew, but she recovered quickly. She was Michelle's friend after all. Bobbi chuckled shyly. "Yeah, that's me. Uh, I was wondering if she's still there? I was kinda surprised when she wasn't home."

The clerk's brow scrunched in confusion. "Uh, yeahh, hold on. I'll get her."

***

Michelle laughed along with the group as they reached a particularly amusing passage.

Annie gazed at her with pride, hating to interrupt, but she did anyway. Leaning down with Toby in tow, she whispered in the younger woman's ear, "Bobbi's on the phone for you." She almost snickered at the way the woman's face lit up.

"Can you take over for me? Michelle asked breathlessly.

Before the older woman could nod, Michelle was on her way. A thousand scenarios shot through her head.

Finally, she got the desk and picked up the phone. "Hey, you okay?" The blonde asked worriedly.

"Yeah. Thank God, I was just about to ask you the same thing. When you didn't come home I got kinda concerned."

"I don't understand why. I left you a message," Michelle said.

"You did? I didn't get anything." A frission of suspicion arced up her spine. She wouldn't dare. "I'll have to check when I get back to make sure it's working properly." She paused. "So, what are you up to," Bobbi whispered seductively.

Michelle's insides melted. "Don't do that."

A dark brow raised in amusement. "Do what?" Her voice lowered another octave.

The blonde almost whimpered as her stomach contracted. "That!" She said accusingly.

"Why what does it do to you?" All of a sudden, Bobbi wasn't playing anymore. The sound of Michelle's desperation made her lick her lips.

Michelle glanced around and saw that no one was paying close attention. "It makes me feel. . .all warm inside," she confessed, brokenly.

The doctor drew in a shaky breath and continued the game. "Only warm? Not hot?" Oh God, what the hell am I doing? I'm so bad.

What am I doing? "Bobbi, please?" Michelle begged raggedly.

They were silent for what seemed like hours.

Bobbi cleared her throat. "So are you gonna tell me what you and Peanut are up to?"

Michelle smiled through the heat that covered her face. "Nuh huh."

The brunette could hear the grin in the blonde's voice. "What do you mean nuh uh?"

"That means it's a surprise, and you'll have to wait till we get home."

Awww man! Bobbi could feel herself pouting. "Party pooper."

Michelle chuckled. "I have to get back. I'll see you later."

"Yeah, I should be home around 4 o'clock, but while I'm at home. I'm gonna call Shelia at her office and see if she'll set that post office box up so we can send for your school records and stuff. Okay?" Bobbi added.

"That's sweet of you."

"I like doing for you," Bobbi murmured.

The blonde could feel herself blushing again. "It was nice to hear your voice. I'll see you in a little bit."

"Okay," the doctor muttered before hanging up.

***

Shelia turned out to be very cooperative without being extra nosey--something about making up for sticking her foot in it. Bobbi snickered as she headed back toward her office after wolfing down a sandwich and feeding Taz.

She sighed as she walked down the hall toward her offices. Please don't let this woman be up to anything, but I have to ask. The doctor knocked briskly on the nurse's door. The 'come in' was nice enough.

With a neutral expression, Janine looked up at the other woman. "Is there something I can do for you?" That's it. Play it cool.

Bobbi blinked. Whoa, what was I expecting? Venom shooting out of her eyes? I'm feeling kinda stupid here. "Um, did I get any messages?"

"No, there hasn't been messages all day. Is something wrong?"

"Uh, no, but that's kinda strange. Why don't you call the phone company and see if we can get somebody out here to look at things?" Bobbi asked evenly.

"I think I can do that." Janine answered with a tight smile.

Before she could get frostbite, Bobbi nodded and turned to go. Okay, now I'm feeling real stupid. I don't think she even knew what I was talking about.

***

Michelle moved around the kitchen in a flurry of movement. Her two companions watched her as if viewing a tennis match. Excitement oozed from every one of her pours, and she couldn't wait to share it with Bobbi.

The doctor walked in with a smirk on her face, but she was unprepared for the 5'4' of blonde dynamo that launched herself into her arms. Bobbi pulled back a little. "Whoa, Chelle. Are you okay?"

The petite woman was nearly dancing with enthusiasm. "I did it! I went out, and delt with a bunch of people on my own. It was wonderful. Harry Potter was funny. It's a good book. I'm gonna go four times a week. Have to be there by 9 a.m. It's only till 1 o'clock, but it's something you know?" Michelle gazed at her friend looking for understanding.

Bobbi's mouth fell open in utter confusion. "Huh?"

Michelle snorted in exasperation. "Am I babbling?"

The brunette smiled. "Uh huh."

The blonde took a deep breath. "I got a volunteer position at the library. It's just reading to the kids, but they listened to me. They all laughed, and the parents were so nice. It was great. I wasn't that nervous at all. Everything just seemed to fall into place. Now, do you understand?"

Bobbi's smile became cheek splitting. "Yeah, I got it that time." Without hesitation, she crushed the other woman in a full body hug and buried her face in hair that looked and smelled of sunshine. "I'm so proud of you, Chelle." It came out muffled, but the impact did not lessen.

Michelle glanced up. "I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing you say that. No one ever has before, and it means so much coming from you." It means the world.

"I can't help it. You are just an amazing woman."

"So are you."

"Nah," Bobbi shook her head. "I'm just following your lead."

"No!" Michelle shouted indignantly. "If I say you are, you are."

Bobbi chuckled. "God, you're beautiful."

Somehow, Michelle mananged to scowl and look shy at the same time. Her nose and forehead crinkled.

That look is even cuter. "Uh, I mean. Yes, ma'am!" She's even more assertive. I like it.

"Good. Let's eat."

***

Dinner--fried chicken, corn on the cob and mashed potatoes, was full of laughter and long glances. It wasn't until they laid on the blanket that things became serious again.

Silent at first, Bobbi watched as, even in sleep, Toby buried his hand into the Husky's fur, but when the blonde cuddled up to her side, her attention split. "Hey, you. Tired?"

"Just a little." Michelle yawned.

"You know it's gonna be kinda strange not having you hear during lunch time, but I'm so happy for you. You're gonna be a workin' woman. . .well, sort of."

"Yeah, it was like Annie just knew I needed this. She's a great lady."

"She has to be to gain your trust," Bobbi commented.

"Mmm, yeah I guess."

"We're gonna have to get up extra early on the days you volunteer, so we can get Billy in," the doctor uttered around a yawn.

"Mmm hmm."

"And I'll have to fix you a lunch and make sure Toby's bag is packed . . ." The brunette yawned again.

"Mmm hmm."

Bobbi snorted sleepily. "I guess that makes ME the little woman," her chuckle turned into yet another long yawn.

Sleep swept them away.

***

Michelle dipped her shoulder and let the doctor put the diaper bag around it. She adjusted Toby as well as the strap of the bag.

"You got everything?" Bobbi asked as she leaned over to check the pockets of the bag one last time.

Hurried, the blonde turned and made her way toward the door. She called over her shoulder, "Yeah, I think so." She rubbed a hand over her jeans and Peanuts t-shirt, smoothing out real and imaginary wrinkles.

The brunette pushed a hand through her still wet hair and followed close behind her friend. "Now, I packed you a ham and a turkey sandwich. You might work up an appetite. I put you a couple of Dr. Peppers in there too." Thinking, Bobbi canted her head to the side. "Oh! There's a bottle, and his peas and apricots are in there too."

Michelle smiled as she turned back to the doctor. She was cute when flustered.

"What are you smiling at?"

Michelle's grin widened, "You." I never knew someone could care so much about me.

Bobbi cocked an eyebrow, "Me?"

"Yeah, you."

"Why--" Oh, brother. I am acting like the little woman. "You mean because I'm all over the place?" The doctor could feel her cheeks flush with embarrassment.

"Yeah, that, but it's okay." Michelle whispered.

Bobbi beamed, "I'm glad."

They stared at each other until Toby announced his presence with irritation.

Bobbi chuckled and bent down to kiss the infant. She glanced back up at Michelle. "Come see me when you get in?" She reached out and brushed a tuft of hair behind the blonde's ear. She's not even gone yet. You've got it bad, B.

"You don't even have to ask."

The brunette leaned in, bringing their lips together for a soft kiss. She pulled back. "You'd better go."

"Okay." Michelle swallowed. I miss her, and I'm not even gone.

Michelle stood in the open door, bathed in light and ready to step out on the little porch.

Aww damn! "Chelle!"

The blonde turned back.

"I'll miss you."

Michelle was back across the floor in four steps. With Toby on her hip and the diaper bag on her shoulder, she stood on tiptoes to brush the doctor's lips. She pulled away and whispered, "Me too."

Bobbi watched her go.

She cleared her throat and looked down, hearing a sudden whimper. "Where have you been hiding?"

"Wuff!"

"Uh huh, you didn't wanna say bye either." They headed toward the kitchen.

"Wuff!"

"I know I'm pathetic. You don't have to tell me smart ass."

"Wuff."

Bobbi headed toward the refrigerator. "Apology accepted." She paused as she searched for a bottled water. "Say, I've been thinking. What do you think about a doggie door?"

"Wuff!"

"Is that right?"


I hope you enjoyed this installment. We're coming to the home stretch soon. Tell me what you think. Minerva

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