Chapter 49For those who have read this, I have made some changes in how Michelle takes this Janine thing. It occured to me that she was dabbling into something that she never felt before, jealousy. So I rewrote little sections of 44-48 as well as big parts of 49 to correspond. I think it makes more sense this way. You'll have to let me know.
Janine stood outside of the doctor's office. Her gaunt, drawn features matched the dreary backdrop of the gray day. The cool wind bristled around her. It blew straight through the fabric of her khakis, but she ignored it. There were more important things on her mind than her own comfort. She brought a shaky hand up to the bridge of her nose and massaged, hoping to get rid of the raging headache. It throbbed behind her eyes to the rhythm of her heart beat, making each breath the nurse took painful. The brunette blinked back miserable tears and fished keys out of her jacket pocket. She sorted through them until she found the right one.
The office door opened with a creek. Janine looked around the dim interior, as if searching for something. What the hell am I doin' here? She snorted ungracefully. Because I don't have any place else to go. So, I'm sittin' here in the belly of the beast that's eating me. I must love torturin' myself. The nurse felt along the walls and flicked the first light on, illuminating the waiting area. She cringed at the brightness and brought a hand up to cover her eyes. "Damn it!" After a few moments, she slowly took her hand away to give her eyes a chance to adjust. She scanned the vicinity and sighed. Although the doctor was absent, her prescence still lingered, making the brunette long for what she could not have. Janine shook her head. Nothin's turned out like I thought it would. This was supposed to be a new start for me, but now I'm back where I've always been--alone. To top it all off, I've been actin' like some crazed stalker. That's not me. It never has been. She made her way down the hall to her office. I don't drink either, but I let myself get lost in it last night. Recalling the pain of the intial hangover, the nurse shook her head in disgust. And it still didn't help a damn thing. I need more than a temporary fix.
The voice she tried to muffle under a fifth of vodka came rolling back through her head as if it had never gone. The guilt returned full force along with the loneliness. I don' t even have the energy to be angry anymore. She plopped down into her chair and laid her head, pillowed by her arms, down onto the desk. "There's nothing to be angry about," she muffled. It was a revelation reached sometime before sunrise between inebriation and stone cold sober. Besides, it just makes me do stupid things, and I can't handle the guilt it brings. I'm so tired of this. The nurse reared up and looked down at herself. She glanced at her hands, turning them then making fists. "What is it? I can't help but wonder what is it about me that people find impossible to love?" She whispered. "Why is it her and not me? Why?" There were no answers, at least none that made themselves known. Suddenly feeling restless, Janine rose for her chair and meandered around the room. She passed the open door several times before her gaze zeroed in on the office across the hall. As if pulled forward, the nurse moved toward it. She stopped once she reached her doorway and leaned against the frame. "That door really is closed to me. I have to learn how to accept it because I feel like I'm goin' crazy here." But how? How? Maybe the alcohol really did help. It showed me how low I could get. I don't want to be there anymore. I have to do something about this.
Janine sighed helplessly as she peered past the doctor's office door down the dim hall. Another door came into view. She paused for a few seconds and stared at it. "Why her?" She asked once more. "Maybe if I understand that --things will get easier for me." She closed her eyes in exasperation, and when they opened again, the door leading into Bobbi's kitchen still loomed in front of her. But, it seemed closer. The nurse looked down at her feet. She gasped. Without knowing, she had stepped out into the hall. This is ridiculous. I can't even believe I'm thinkin' about it. Bobbi would fire me if she found out. Janine paused and sank deep in thought. Deep down, maybe that's what I want her to do. I can't do this on my own. All of this would stop. In a way, it could save me. She took a conscious step forward. After all, Bobbi's not home, but maybe this Michelle is. Maybe this could go well. I wonder what Bobbi has told her about me? "Oh God, what am I doing?" She moved forward two more steps.
Michelle sat at the table, staring into some far off place. Taz lounged at her feet, and Toby squirmed in his high chair, banging his favorite keys against the plastic enclosure that was keeping him in. He cooed loudly adding to his symphony of noise as he waited for his snack. From a distance, Michelle heard the sounds, but her mind continued to linger on the phone conversation. It's gonna be okay? Isn't it? She asked herself. Nothing seems that bad when I know she's with me. Not even Max. He's just a man-- just a sick man. I learned that a while back. He's not a twenty foot tall super human. He's just a man, and I'm a woman who has everything to fight for. The stress of the day weighed heavily on her. Slim shoulders were tense and drawn. She shrugged, feeling the tightness in her neck. As long as I know I have Bobbi, I can do anything. Without her I would try, but it just wouldn't be the same. Nothing would be. So, it has to be okay. I wonder was she as lost as I was? I'm glad we're gonna talk about this. I don't want to have to worry about this on top of everything else, but I know I will. I don't have a choice. Max is coming.
The petite blonde rose and meandered toward the counter intent on finding her son a cookie to snack on. She had expected to be over run with terror. It was there--the fear, but it was knowing that she wasn't alone that kept it from being paralyzing. Standing on tip toe, she reached up to search through the cupboards.
Janine stood outside the kitchen door. She leaned forward slightly, hearing activity. The brunette took a breath and turned to look back down the hall. "I'm here. I might as well go through with it." Her thoughts turned inward. What am I goin' to say to her? The nurse swallowed. This could go bad or good. She did a mental double take. Who am I kiddin'? What good could come out of this? Nothin' ever goes good for me. I can't believe I even convinced myself of that for a minute. She's gonna tell Bobbi either way, and I"m outta here. Somebody has to end this for me. She swallowed again and raised an arm, preparing to knock on the door.
Michelle pulled out the box of cookies and ambled back toward the table. A soft knock coming from the side door stopped her mid stride. Thinking, she imagined it all, the blonde canted her head to the side and blocked out the other noises, intent of figuring out what the obscure sound was. She glanced at Taz who had jumped up in surprise. His blue gaze was glued on the door.
A few seconds later, the sound came again. The Husky moved forward quickly to investigate. Michelle sat the box on the counter and followed. It can't be Bobbi. There's no reason for her to knock. Besides, it's too soon for her to be back. Taz sniffed at the door. He whimpered and shook his head. The smell was vaguely familiar. Warily, he scratched at the door with a paw.
"Tap, tap, tap."
This is ridiculous. I should just see who it is. She told herself, trying to get rid of her sudden unease. They probably heard us in here anyway. "Um, who . . .is it?" Her voice was hesitant.
Janine's heart jumped in her throat. It's now or never. I just have to keep it together if she let's me in. God, I hope I can. "It's, uh, Jan? Bobbi's nurse? I was wondering if I could talk to you?" She said it with as much confidence as she could muster, which at this stage was not much.
Michelle's eyes widened in shock. No, no, no I don't need this! Not now. "W-why?"
The nurse closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "It's about Bobbi."
The blonde's stomach dropped. What does she mean it's about Bobbi? Is there something going-- Before she could stop herself, Michelle yanked the door open. The two women stared at each other with open mouths and wide eyes. A million questions raced through the petite blonde's head. She didn't know which one to ask first.
Janine blinked and studied the blonde for the second time. She looks so young. Something cold turned over in her stomach and worked its way upward. Alarmed, the nurse tried to swallow it down, but jealousy can be stronger than any will. And she looks so damn innocent. What would a woman like Bobbi want with that?! Brown eyes glittered darkly, but Michelle didn't notice as she stepped aside to allow the other woman entry.
Michelle took a seat at the table, near her son's highchair. Alert and ever aware of the stranger, Taz sat on his haunches at his mistress' feet. The blonde tangled her hand in his fur for her own comfort and reasssurance.
Janine leaned against the counter with a casulness that she did not feel, allowing the green wave of jealousy to rage through her.
The two women stared at each other from across the room--learning, speculating, and contemplating each other. The tension surrounding them was thick enough to see and taste. Michelle refused to break the intense gaze. Her hands clenched into fists. She probably thinks that I'm a push over, but I won't allow her to run over me, especially with what hangs in the balance.
Janine fought the urge to blink. A sliver of respect for the blonde slipped in somehow, but it was dismissed as soon as it appeared. What does this little woman have that I don't? The nurse crossed her arms in front of her chest. "You know, I'm not gonna beat around the bush here. Bobbi probably tells you everythin' so you know why I'm here."
With a slight nod of her head, Michelle acknowledged the truth. She sat completely still, refusing to let the fear of what this woman had to say shake her senseless. Blunt nails cut half moons into the palm of her hands as she increased the pressure of her closed fists. I can't let this get to me. Not now.
Shocked at the blonde's silence, Janine decided to forge ahead. Either I'm severely underestimatin' her, or she's a push over. "Why you? I mean, look at you. You're pratically a girl playing at being a woman. You can't know how to keep a woman like Bobbi happy." The nurse spat out each word as if they tasted nasty. "Why would she want a little girl when she can have me? I know what she wants, what she needs both in and out of the bedroom." Dark eyes narrowed shrewdly. "Can you say the same?"
Michelle flinched. She could not help it. The words that fell from the brunette's mouth were so close to the doubts that had been plaguing her, especially regarding this woman.. The fear crept in, slowly moving through her veins with an icy coolness. The blonde swallowed. It was a cold reality that slapped her right in the face. She took a deep breath trying to collect herself. "Y-you're wrong." Isn't she? Bobbi wouldn't be with me unless she wanted to. Right?
Janine smiled but it held no humor. "Oh really? How do you know that she's just not feelin' sorry for you? I bet you have no money or no where to go. Maybe the only reason she wants you is because of simple proximity. Did you ever consider that?"
Michelle shook her head to clear it. No, no, no. This just doesn't sound right. Bobbi's would never. . . I can't let her do this to me. "You don't know her at all, do you?"
The brunette canted her head to the side. Well, I guess this one does have fire. "What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean." Michelle's voice gained in confidence. "What she's been through or who she really is. You can't know what we've been through together. I'm sure if she was the woman she used to be that she would have snapped you up in no time, but she's not her anymore. But I guess the question here is what kind of woman are you? Why are you here if you know she's not available? What kind of woman does that make you?" Each word was dipped in the anger she could feel rising from deep within. "What did you hope to accomplish by coming here? That I would leave and she would go to you? If that's what you're thinking then you really don't know Bobbi at all."
Flustered by the blonde's speech, Janine's hands dropped to her side. The little voice she had been trying to hide knocked loudly on the door leading to her conscience, but the hard shell of jealousy denied entry. "You talk big for somebody who's scared. You're not sure of anything are you? I saw it in your eyes, in the way you flinched. Think about it long and hard. You're just a minor diversion. You're not the real thing. She'll get tired of playin' house. They all do, and they all come to women just like me."
"You're wrong! She loves him, and she loves---" Michelle quieted abruptly. How does she really feel about me? Toby began to cry, sensing his mother's distress, and she could feel the coiled tension radiating from the Husky as he whimpered and growled.
Unpeturbed, Janine pounced. "Who? You? You want to say that don't you, but you can't. You don't know." She wanted to move closer, but the imposing presence of the dog stopped her.
She's right. I don't know. She shivered, wrapped her arms around her torso. Her head hung as she drew further and further away from the things around her. A sudden gush of something white hot pushed its way forward, burning her with its brilliance. Michelle took a deep breath, letting it flow like she had the fear, minutes before. Momentarily, it pushed away the insecurity that had been plaguing her. This isn't me anymore. I don't have to do this. I don't have to take this, and I don't have to act like this! "No!" Michelle stood up, startling the Husky, Toby and the woman, who stood before her into total silence.
"You're wrong! I know people like you! I've dealt with them all my life, and I don't have to take this anymore! You're just like the rest of them. You're sick! You're telling me to take a look at myself. Why don't you do the same! Look at what you're trying to do! We're happy! Bobbi's happy! You don't care about her! How could you? How could you care about anybody?! You just want everyone to be as miserable as you, and that's wrong! It's just plain wrong! People like you deserve to be alone to wallow in their own sickness and hate because no one else wants it in their lives. Can't you see that!? You're the diversion! How dare you come in here telling me what's wrong with me or my relationship! Fix yourself because this is none of your business!" Michelle's voice trailed off. Her chest heaved as she fought for breath, and her hands remained clenched tight. Beads of sweat covered her upper lip and forehead, and green eyes glared full of defiance and conviction.
As if time had stopped and sped up again, things righted themselves around her. Toby began to cry once more, if he had ever stopped. Taz was at her side, growling and more than likely waiting for her next move. Futhermore, Janine stood frozen and ashen faced as she tried to grasp what had just occured. The green haze that clouded her vision lifted as if it were yanked away, leaving her ashamed and appalled at the things she'd said. She's right. Dear God, she's right. What did I just do? Her body sagged as if all fight deflated. The blonde's gaze was so intense that she had to turn away from it. The nurse took in a shaky breath and began to tremble from the inside out. "Oh God, I-I'm so sorry. I. . .I didn't mean--" Her voice was thick and husky. "I didn't come in here for this. I just wanted to see--" Janine's thoughts were as broken and disjointed as her words. It's like some damn self fulfillin' prophecy. Destined to screw up. She wrung her hands and continued to look down at her shoes. "You're right about me, you know? And I was so wrong about you. She listened to me. I thought she understood. No one ever has before."
Michelle steeled herself against the other woman's words, unable to trust what came forth. Anger and pain radiated from her. She shook with it. Despite that, her voice was deceptively calm. "Get out."
Janine's head jerked upward wondering if she heard right. Their eyes met briefly before the nurse's skittered away. "Look, I--"
"Get out," Michelle uttered firmly.
Finally knowing when to stop, Janine nodded and moved briskly toward the door, but she got what she wanted. It was over. It was only a matter of time now.
Michelle watched the woman leave. After the door closed, she moved jerkily toward her son, who's arms were already waving in the air. She picked him up, crushing him to her and feeling his cries deep in her chest. His tears broke the dam, and Michelle began to sob almost uncontrolably. Everything crashed down on her at once, hammering her to the ground with its weight and nearly sending her to her knees. The heat that had burned in her so brightly was down to a cinder, leaving her cold inside and making it a perfect playground. The words the woman had uttered just a few minutes before seeped in, bringing with them an overflow of tears and the sharp prickle of pain. They reverberated in her head, pushing aside the promises Bobbi made, the murmured words of affection, and the truths she spoke of. Jealousy raged within her, leaving unanswered questions in its wake. While she had defeated the spector of her husband and mother to find all the emotions and their rewards hidden underneath, Michelle fell pray to one of the most powerful ones.
In somewhat high spirits, Bobbi continued to hum even as she exited the jeep. An ominous cloud hung not too far over her head, but knowing the blonde was just inside waiting pushed it a little further away. We'll get through this just like everything else. We have to stand together to beat this. I see that now. I see everything a little clearer now. She switched her medical bag from her left hand to the right and reached for the mailbox as she got to the small porch. A small smile curved her lips as she looked at the manilla envelope marked with Shelia's bold handwriting. Her grin became uncontainable when she saw the college information booklet. She's gonna love this. It's what she's been waiting for. It maybe what we both need right now.
The raven haired doctor pushed open the door and was surprised by the silence that greeted her. Knowing where to check first, Bobbi headed for the den. Seeing it empty, apprehension crept slowly up her spine. She has to be here. The Caddy was in the garage. On quick feet, Bobbi went back to the living room and threw the mail on the table. She wiped suddenly sweaty hands on her pants and did the only other thing she could think of. "Taz? Chelle?" She called loudly.
A loud bark made her sigh in relief. Bobbi almost ran toward the blonde's bedroom. She knocked then tried the door. A frown tugged her lips downward. It was locked. "Chelle, are you dressed? Can I come in?"
There was more excited barking followed by the whimpers of the infant.
Bobbi put her ear to the door. Maybe she's sleeping. It's been a hell of a day. But surely she'd want me to wake her after what happened. "Chelle? You okay?"
Michelle sat in the middle of the bed listening to the doctor's pleading voice. She wanted to believe, but doubt nipped and nagged at her. I can't face her. Not right now. It could be true. Everything that woman said could be true. If it wasn't why do I feel htis? "Go away."
Bobbi's eyebrows shot upward. "Wha--what did you say?"
"Go away. Please." Michelle sucked in a breath as she envisioned the confusion and hurt on the brunette's face.
The doctor's insides knotted painfully, making her gasp for breath. "Chelle? Baby, I thought we were gonna talk?"
The blonde closed her eyes as she heard the endearment, allowing it to wash over her like a warm blanket. "You. . .thought wrong. Please don't make this harder. Go away."
Bobbi's heart clenched then fell in her stomach, sending bile into her throat. Pain and confusion burst forth like old familiar friends. She greeted them with a broken breath and trembling hands. It hurt to breath. It hurt to swallow. It hurt to think. It hurt. She leaned against the door, placing her forehead against the cool wood. She wanted to yank the door from its hinges. She wanted to storm in like some conquering hero. Instead, she turned around and slid bonelessly to the floor, using the door as a back rest. Totally baffled by this turn of events, Bobbi sat, wounded more deeply than ever before. She drew her knees up to her chest, hoping to contain the sheer agony radiating in her chest, but it was too late. Her heart lay beside her stuttered and shattered. I'm too late. I've lost it all anyway! Oh God, I can't do this without her. All because I was scared! Now, she was terrified.
Christopher yawned as he sped up to clear the exit. Traffic was light, enabling him to cruise down the highway. Tired eyes glanced up at the big green sign that greeted him--Ivanhoe 43 miles; Lake Benton 22; and Hendricks 12. He scratched a couple days worth of beard and yawned again. Knowing that his predaccesors probably didn't even consider it, he figured a small town was the best place to hide, and Hendricks being so close by seemed like a place to start. Max would be proud that he was such a thorough man. "I gotta get some sleep," he muttered. "Then, I'll hit the local businesses and work my way through these little towns." He changed lanes and hiked up the music until Garth Brooks virtually echoed through the cab.
Remember, it's always darkest before the dawn. Hang on, and do tell me what you really think about this turn of events. Drop me a few lines at Minerva
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