Chapter 19

The weekend usually signaled peace and rest. Neither were present in this household. Marsha leaned against the counter in the St. Jean kitchen taking in the shaking hands and the desperate look covering Beatrice's countenance just as the bruises did. There was no make-up attempting to hide them. There was no make-up at all, and Marsha was sure she wore the bruises as some badge of courage, mocking her own lack of it. She took a long swig of the scotch-rocks and continued to stare openly at the trembling woman who pretended to wash the same dish over and over again.

Green eyes just as lifeless as her daughter's once were narrowed in suspicion and dislike. She has a good roof over her head and a man to take care of her. A few punches never hurt anybody. It's a small price to pay. She's lucky, but I know I'll never have that.

She swallowed the bile that seeped up her throat and brushed a hand down the front of the tattered blue dress. Marsha glanced toward the polished, oak table that that the men sat around. They sat and drank quietly for the time being, perhaps getting the story straight before going in front of the news camera.

Her eyes eventually returned to the other woman as her face twisted in a sneer. She leaned forward and almost laughed when the taller woman jumped back. "You look so scared. I'd think you'd be happy to get your grandson back. This idea should work," Marsha spat out. "And my daughter will be back where she belongs, with us." Green eyes flashed. None of us deserves anything less than this Hell. Who is she to think that she can get out?

Beatrice turned sorrow filled, spiritless eyes toward the graying blonde, studying her. If I knew she would have helped, I would have told her about my past plans, but looking at her now, I know that would have been suicide. I don't think there's anything more I can do. The lies they are about to tell on television will end it all. I hurt. I failed. God, help me.

Beatrice took a deep breath and ignored the physical pain of her constricting torso but welcomed the one tearing through her soul. It was well deserved by her own standards. Then, she spoke as she had been taught, soft and toneless. "You look and speak to me as if you hate me. I recognize it well, but why since we are so much alike? We both failed our children." She stared unblinkingly at the blonde woman, willing her to see the pain she caused, willing her to see the sorrow through her own eyes. "No one belongs with us."

Marsha blinked in disbelief. For the first time since this ordeal, the woman spoke, and she had said more in those few words than she had said in four long years. Speechless, the blonde continued to stare, seeing conviction in the eyes that held hers. She believes what she's saying. How can they not belong with us? They're ours to mold and teach. There's no way I could have failed her. I made Michelle into what I wanted her to be, what I needed her to be.

Marsha whispered to herself with just as much conviction. The blonde displayed a slow, sick smile before downing the rest of the drink. Finished, she raised it toward the taller woman in a mock toast. "To us both believing our own lies," she sneered and shoved the drink toward Beatrice. "Now, fix me another."

Used to receiving orders, Beatrice did as she was told without question or hesitation.

From the corner of his eyes, Max Jr. peered at his father. He saw his mouth moving but paid scant attention to the words coming out. There was no point. He would lie and do what he had to do on command. It's what his father wanted, and today, Max Jr. didn't have the energy to defy him. He took a long pull of the Jim Bean that he brought with him, letting the fiery burn encase his insides. They had been on fire forever anyway. You'll be mine again, Michelle. The thought made him want to drink more.

So many times the lines had blurred between what he wanted to do and what he needed to do. Despite wanting an end to the doubt, to the pain, to the hollowness, and to it all, Max needed to please his father. He needed the eyes that looked so much like his to shine with pride instead of anger. He needed to hear the words that had eluded him since birth. The needs out weighted the wants, hands down. Shuddered, blank eyes devoid of emotion glanced toward the two women. Max spied the labored breathing of his mother as well as the pained movements but could not seem to produce the glimmer of feeling that had been there recently. There was nothing.

He tore his eyes away and looked down at his hands as they shifted the glass in between them. Max Jr. lifted the glass and downed the rest of the amber fluid in one gulp. It all threatened to come back up as pain radiated from the back of his head. He turned quickly to see his father's hand raised as well as his look of disgust. "Where the hell are you boy?! You better not fuck this up just like you do everything else! Listen to me and listen good. You need to get back what's yours, and you'd better do what you need to do in front of that camera to get it! We don't want anyone thinking that this is a kidnapping just a plea for others to help get that wayward wife of yours home. Good thing the police are still doing us this favor. They can't do much though but ask and look around, since there are no charges against her. "

Junior's eyes widened as he felt the old guilt of past failures fall on his shoulder. He took in the hard lines around the eyes and mouth of the wrinkling face, the hulking form, and the shock of gray mixed with dark brown. That is who I need to be to make him proud. I need to be him. With difficulty, Max Jr. swallowed down his drink and nodded vehemently while rubbing the back of his head. "Yeah, dad. I will. I promise."

"You damned well better, boy." He clapped a hand hard in his son's back. "We're gonna get her back, boy. They said the segment would air tonight and all day tomorrow. Someone's seen her. I just know it." The graying man tore his eyes away from his son and peered at the women at the sink. Useless. Got too much of his mother in him. Ignoring his wife, the blonde caught his gaze. "Marsha, we'd better get ready to go. We gotta show to put on."

Long minutes later, alone in the kitchen, Beatrice glanced at the door just used. She walked toward it and peered out at the snow covered ground, feeling forever trapped on the inside, looking out at the brightness of the world as it passed by. This time was slightly different. Today, both worlds were dark, teetering on the last strings of hope. Beatrice covered her battered face and cried for her grandson as well as Michelle. The cry turned into a soul shattering wail. "I'm so. . . sorry, Michelle," she whispered thickly, brokenly, through hot tears and leaking nose. "I don't know what else to do."

Chapter 20

Seeing the brightness of the sun that glinted off the snow and filtered into the living room, the blonde glanced toward the open blinds as she made her way to the entertainment center. She peered at minute specks of dust caught in the golden rays teeming in from the window and recalled the feeling of being trapped and suspended by forces that were uncontrollable. The thoughts lened to the morose morning, so she pushed on.

As quietly as possible, Michelle turned on the Best of Eurythmics CD that she found near the bottom of the stack. Putting the TV and Billy on mute, the petite blonde hiked up the volume on "Sweet Dreams" as loud as she dared. Clad in a pair of tattered purple sweat pants a t-shirt with the teddy bear's picnic printed on the front, and old sneakers, Michelle picked up the rhythm set by the Tae Bo master. She punched and kicked, feeling the exercise do the job cooking and holding Toby had not-- by dispelling the vestiges of this morning's nightmare. Right now, the blonde controlled the space around her where as a few short hours ago, she had no control and ran for her life from unseen assailants with familiar voices.

Aware of the deep blue eyes on her from the couch as well as the dosing baby in the bassinet, Michelle continued to slice through the air unperturbed. She murmured triumphantly with each blow, feeling the anger and some of the fear dispel. If I have to fight you everyday, even if it is the both of you. I will. You're both liars. I know what I can be, now The blonde threw a right cross and grunted as she assaulted the air with a kick. Sweat covered her form dampening the t-shirt in the back as well as the front. Still, Michelle continued. She was tired of the fear but in itself feared that it would never go away. It was a pitiful place to be.

Now, able to see the possibilities of a life and hope in front of her, fear continued to latch on from behind constantly reminding the blonde of why she was running and the ever present possibility that she could be caught. She punched harder hoping to beat it down and grunted with the effort. Maybe Bobbi could have helped, but I couldn't go to her. I just couldn't. Maybe it was shame or maybe it was fear. Michelle did not know. She just continued punching and kicking, wishing the fear was a solid entity that could be pounded because at the moment, it felt like one.

Bobbi moaned and kicked the dark covers from her body, subconsciously hoping for cool air in the well heated room. Pale eyes opened slowly to the dimness aided by the drawn curtains, but it was her other senses that came alert first. Bobbi sniffed the air, smelling the sweetness of baking goods waft its way around the house. Her ears perked up next at the sound of a long forgotten CD.

She groaned and rolled over, being pulled to wakefulness by the smells and sounds around her. The doctor sat up in the bed and stretched, enjoying the sound of popping vertebrae. She scratched her t-shirt encased abdomen and basked in the last remnants of a restful night, devoid of dreams. It was an oddity really, the lack of nightmares, simply because for years they had been so frequent. Even though, she could not see, the brunette glanced toward the living room. "Is she the reason?" She asked herself with a hushed whisper.

Her thoughts turned inward. So many doors have opened literally since she's been here. I know that she's part of the reason, and I know now that I am ready to face what I've been hiding. I'm ready to face life again as if it were the first time. I wanna see so much, and I want to show it all to her too. I think she wants that too.

Bobbi stretched again and ran a hand through bed raggled sable locks. She scratched the back of her neck and meandered out of bed, picking up familiar black shorts and pulling them on along the way toward the bathroom. It was time to get the day started or at least try to.

The doctor peered in the mirror on the medicine cabinet. She smirked and wiped away left over drool from the corner of her mouth before reaching for the electric blue and pink toothbrush along with the Colgate toothpaste. After washing her face and running over midnight tresses with a brush, Bobbi ambled out the bedroom toward the living room, hoping to plan her Sunday with the blonde.

Now, leaning against the wall of the hall entrance, Bobbi watched as the petite woman continued her work out. From the looks of it, she had been doing it for some time. It took less than a minute for forest green to meet azure, and Bobbi blanched at what she saw in the gaze. It was haunted but determined with a trace of fear. Something happened this morning, and she's not ready to come to me about it. That realization urged her on a different path. Instead of asking what was wrong, Bobbi simply stated with a soft smile, "Something smells good."

Thrown by the brunette's understanding, Michelle moved forward and turned off the music before meeting the other woman's gaze again. "Found a breadmaker and made banana nut bread," she answered with a straight face. I don't want to close her out after all we've been through lately, but it's all so much.

Taz watched quietly from the floor, sensing that they needed no interruptions.

Bobbi took several steps forward, stopping near the entertainment center. She has to know that I won't push her. "Sounds good. It would go great with a tall glass of milk. Is it almost done?"

Michelle shook her head. "In a little while, I just put it in not too long ago." She paused. "Bobbi, I—" Her voice cracked, revealing in a couple of words her torment and need.

Understanding made her lift a hand to interrupt the blonde. "It's okay, Chelle. Do you mind if I join you? I need to work the kinks out myself."

Instead of answering, the petite blonde only nodded and reached to turn up the music once more. A moment later, fists and feet sliced through the air in almost perfect synchronicity. Michelle felt the warmth beside her and moved closer to it. She was tired of being outside. She was tired of the cold.

They continued the work out on into the cool off portion in companionable silence until the ding of a loud bell stopped them. Michelle turned to her friend and murmured, "Breakfast is ready." Bobbi nodded and watched her go.

She wandered toward the bassinet and the sleeping baby. With an indulgent smile, the doctor peered down at the little boy. "You're getting big, Peanut. Pretty soon, you'll be running circles around your mother and me." The brunette chuckled. "I kinda like that idea. Means you're gonna stick around. I hope so because that's one hell of a woman in there. You'll be proud that I promise you." She reached down and softly brushed away a lock of hair from his forehead.

Bobbi heard the panting, Husky approaching before she felt his usual nudge of her leg. She glanced down at him and heard a slight whimper. "Yeah, boy. I know that she's different today. Let's just see if I can do something to bring her out of it."


Michelle stared blankly at the wall as she set the bread still encased in pan to cool on the counter. She threw the oven mits back in the open drawer and closed it as her thoughts continued to churn. The fear, it can't always be there. I didn't feel it there when I touched her or while we laughed and played. No one was there, not Max or momma. It was just Bobbi and me. It comes when I'm alone and in the dark. How do I stop it? How do I make days like the ones last week continue to happen? "How do I keep the days all good?" She asked aloud and jumped at the sound of a velvetty voice.

"I don't know, but the bottom line is you take the good days with the bad ones. I think that's advice we should both take."

Michelle looked up to see Taz amd Bobbi, along with the bassinet behind her. Their eyes held until the blonde lowered hers. "Is it that easy?"

"Hell no," Bobbi answered as they entered the kitchen. "I still haven't mastered the trick of that trade." Her tone was regretful but honest. She pulled the white bassinet along side her and sat in one of the padded wooden chairs with a soft thud. "All my days used to be bad, but I used to try like hell to convince myself otherwise." Urged forward by the sound of her voice and the sincerity in her gaze, Michelle found herself pulling out a chair and folding herself into it. She leaned forward with elbows on the table and chin on her hand. "I guess it didn't work?"

Bobbi shook her head and smiled warily. "No, just gave me a lot of migraines."

They were silent for long moments as Michelle looked down at the table, studying the circles of age in the well-polished wood. She understands. I know she does. She knows this feeling just like I do. She looked up slowly to find pale blue watching her and waiting patiently. "B? How did you know?"

Bobbi shrugged. "I saw it in your eyes," she murmured. "I must have seen that look in the mirror a thousand times, but you had something in there that I didn't at least not until recently. You were trying to fight it. I welcomed it."

The blonde brought petite hands together in front of her, as she straightened up in the chair. "I-I try to, but it's so hard sometimes." Her voice was small, soft.

Bobbi peered down at the woman's appendages. The pale skin reddened as fingers grasped each other tighter. The doctor wanted to reach out, open them, and sooth the tension away, but the newness of it all stopped her. Instead, she laid her hand on the table, palm up and beckoned with her eyes. The brunette saw the blonde's throat bob on a hard swallow. It's okay. I understand about the darkness, the demons, and the running. I understand. Electric blue implored.

Michelle stared at the offered appendage. Years ago, it was all she wanted-- for someone to reach out. It was a fantasy that the blonde stopped indulging in rather quickly. Now, it was sitting in front of her as real as life and a few inches away. She blinked several times, hoping the image would not disappear. It didn't. Are you real? Is this real? Michelle wanted to ask but remained silent. Closing her eyes one last time, she began to inch toward the warmth, centimeter by centimeter until she felt the softness of skin.

Bobbi watched the emotions chase across the blonde's face, and with baited breath, she waited. We need this, Chelle. We both do. Finally, skin brushed skin and a welcoming heat extended from the connection. Bobbi curled the tips of her fingers grasping the blonde's. Their eyes met, and the doctor smiled hugely into green in hopes of conveying reassurance. "It's okay to be scared," she added. "It's okay to be tired, but you have to keep fighting. We both do, and I believe in the end that it'll be worth it."

Michelle eased her hand entirely into the doctor's grasp, and she felt what she had been missing, what had been growing the past few weeks, the warmth of friendship. The blonde wallowed in it, willing it to swell. "I-I guess this is just one of those bad days, huh?"

The brunette squeezed the hand in hers. "Maybe, but it's early yet. It doesn't have to stay that way."

"Maybe. Um," Her voice fell. "Um, I'm sorry. I didn't come to you. It's just—"

"No, no it's okay. I'm here whenever you wanna talk."

Not responding, Michelle looked away then down at their joined hands. Is it okay to be scared? She makes me want to tell her so much. "I-I," she stammered then quieted with an exasperated sigh. "Uh, can I ask you? What do you see when you look at me?"

Dark brows scrunched in confusion. "In what context do you mean?"

This time Michelle did not hesitate. "They came to me this morning, momma and Max. I felt them chasing me. They yelled things at me. Things so cruel. . I-I should be used to hearing it by now that I'm stupid and nothing, but it hurts every time, even in dreams. I guess it sort of makes me feel that I've come all this way for nothing. It makes all the weeks I've been here seem like a day--like I haven't accomplished a thing. It makes fighting extra hard, you know?" Emerald eyes drooped with sadness.

Bobbi squeezed the blonde's hand. "Yeah," she let out a long breath. "Uh, I don't know what kind of weight my opinion carries with you, but if I have to, I'll tell you this over and over again until you take it to heart." She caught the green gaze and refused to let go, willing the blonde to see the sincerity. "I see a very strong woman when I look at you. It takes so much courage to do what you did and get as far as you have. You're sensitive to almost everything around you, but you really shouldn't watch scary movies alone." The comment earned Bobbi a flush and a soft smile.

"You love to laugh. It's like a release for you. I see it on your face. That you can do that after all you've been through is a testament to how strong you are. You're bright and so eager to learn everything, especially things that make you think or feel. I find it refreshing to be a part of that. There's this determination that just teems off you even on days like today, and it's contagious. You have a great capacity for love and caring despite never feeling it. You show it with Toby and Taz. Most of all, I see a woman coming into her own." The smoky voice trailed off.

Jade eyes blinked in disbelief, but the conviction burning in bright blue made her want to believe. Doubt nagged her, making her want to move away to a safe place, a known place. Michelle jerked her hand in an attempt to free it. Bobbi only tightened her grasp. "No, Chelle. Believe it."

Green eyes widened and her face flushed at the plea in the other woman's voice.

"Don't run from me. You don't have to. I'll never lie to you. I'll tell you the truth as many times as you need to hear it. I know my mother loved me and I guess my father did in his own way. But, that doesn't mean that I don't know about the darkness. Believe me." Bobbi added in a gentle voice.

Michelle wanted to tear her eyes away but found that she could not. She was caught just like she had been many times before, but the blonde realized that it was a place that she wanted to be. This is what it feels like for someone to believe in me? To care about me? This is friendship? This is truth? Oh God, it's just as scary as everything else, but it's okay to be scared. Um, you s-see all that?"

Bobbi smiled warmly at her red-faced friend. Welcome back from wherever you went. "Yeah, off the top of my head," she murmured lightly.

"There's more?"

A dark brow raised. "Could be. We can discuss it over breakfast." Bobbi glanced toward the cooling bread with a sassy smirk.

Michelle followed her gaze. "Oh, almost forgot." She looked down at her sticky clothing. "Uh, I want to go shower first.'

Bobbi noted the sweat still covering the blonde's torso. "Well, that's okay. I need a quick one too. I'll take these two with me. Taz will keep an eye on the little guy, right? Even when I'm in the shower?"

Michelle nodded as she released the doctor's hand and got up from the table. "Yeah, believe me he'll come get you if something's wrong."

Ignoring the sudden lack of warmth, the doctor chuckled and watched as the blonde moved toward the doorway, "Okay, good deal. I guess I'll see you back here in a few?"

"Yeah, few minutes." The petite woman called over her shoulder. As she closed in on the open doorway, Michelle turned to face the brunette. "Uhm, thanks. . .for this." She fidgeted and played with her hands nervously. "Can I ask you something?"

Sable brows rose in curiosity. "Sure, anything."

"Uh, can we do this again. I liked the way it felt."

"What? Talking?"

"No. . . I mean yeah. That and working out together." Michelle asked, barely meeting azure eyes. Please say yes. I don't know how to explain it. It just felt right.

Bobbi felt that warmth that she was missing return in a colourful burst. She grinned and welcomed it. "We can do it every morning if you want." She paused and scratched the back of her neck. "Uh, cause I liked it too."

Instead of using words, Michelle answered with a red flush and a soft smile that crinkled her nose.

Lying at their feet, Taz watched the whole display in total silence.

Long minutes later, naked and with damp hair, Michelle stood in front of the large mirror in her room. The clean scent of Ivory and Salon Selectives shampoo wafted around her. Now refreshed from the shower, studious eyes took in the voluptuous form before her. "This is me. What do I see?" She reached out and traced her reflection. "You're a part of me now, aren't you?" Her voice trailed off as she took in her slightly battered body. "This is all a part of me. I feel you. I can laugh now, cry now, feel now. Am I strong?" She peered into the mirror as if waiting for an answer.

"I survived. Yes, I'm strong, and I can love. I should be bitter. Toby came from that monster, but he also came from me. God, yes I can love. I know all this, and momma, I know you lie to me, even in dreams. You're the lie." Michelle touched the mirror again. "This is the truth." A slow smile formed on her face, lighting up her features despite the absence of make up. She traced its progress through the mirror and gasped at what she saw. "Am I beautiful?" It was a question that haunted her even as she pulled the smiley face t-shirt on over her bare chest along with a pair of black sweat pants, covering the pale criss-cross of old scars. The same question followed her even as she left the room.


Now in the kitchen, Michelle chuckled as the now awake Toby reached for the bread in Bobbi's hand. They look so comfortable together. The child's face went from irritation to concentration as he followed the doctor's movements. The brunette lifted it in the air only to find him reaching for it again when she took a bite. Pale blue eyes met with mirth filled green and pleaded without saying a word.

Michelle turned in her chair and reached for the glass of milk in front of her. She held it up in one hand and took a bite of the banana bread that was purchased in the other. "Sowwy, hands full." The blonde said around a mouth full of crumbs.

Bobbi scowled and threw the remainder of her piece of bread to Taz, who was sitting and waiting patiently for a treat. The doctor turned back to the blonde. "When did he learn how to do that anyway? It's not time for that yet. I don't think. Do you have a pacifier he can suck on? Maybe it will distract him long enough for me to eat."

Michelle shrugged. "Never seen it before. Just now, I'm guessing. Maybe he's advanced for his age. I think he's always been. Never would take a pacifier."

The doctor smirked. "Could be. He has a smart momma."

Michelle blushed and took a swig of milk to hide her face.

Bobbi snickered, "Are ya gonna blush every time I give you a compliment?"

The blonde reddened even more but smiled through it as she sat the glass back down. "Don't know. No one's ever said things like that to me before." I don't know how to take it yet.

Bobbi sobered. "Yeah, I figured as much." The next second, azure began to twinkle. "Get used to it."

Michelle bit her lip and looked away. "I'll try," she commented softly. She stuffed the last piece of the bread into her mouth before turning back to the brunette. "Um, do you want another piece?" She began to slice off the loaf setting in front of her.

"Yeah, I think I can slip it pass the little guy, here. It's really good by the way. If you keep cooking like that, I'm gonna have to double up on the workouts." Bobbi waited. "Oh, here it comes!" She chortled as the blonde tried to hide her red face as she got up to head for the refrigerator. The brunette heard a muffled, "Milk?" "Sure, I could use some of that too." She's priceless, and I really like being around her. She makes everything so new. Deciding to stop the teasing, Bobbi let the other woman sit back down before speaking again. "So, what do you want to do today? Maybe we could go out and build a snow man or snowwoman if you prefer."

Michelle thought as she poured them both another glass of milk. "I don't know. Don't really feel like going outside right now. Maybe later? I'll even try not to destroy this one."

Bobbi smiled slightly. "It's okay we have the whole day. What do you suggest, then?"

"Um, I was thinking about getting on the computer."

The doctor nodded and tried to hide her disappointment. "Well, that's okay. I'll just putter around. Maybe I'll actually clean my room or do laundry or . . .something."

The blonde head lowered then green eyes glanced upward. She did not hide her disappointment as well as the brunette. It was written clearly on her face. "Uh, you don't want to join me. I mean, it's okay if you don't want to."

Bobbi switched Toby to the other leg. She wanted that look to disappear. "No, no it's not that. I just. . .I'd be glad to join you."

Michelle could not hide her smile. "Okay, um, I guess I need to clean up in here first."

Bobbi jumped up out of the chair, bringing the baby with her. "No, I got that. You take him and go ahead and get the puter fired up. I'll be there in a minute."


Waiting until the blonde left, Bobbi sprang into action. The curious Husky, who chose to stay behind sat on his hind legs and watched the brunette's antics. The doctor pilled the plates and glasses into the sink. She reached for the closest tap to her not caring if it was hot or cold. Ignoring the dish washing liquid beside the sink, Bobbi reached for the sprayer and brushed the crumbs off the plates with a high powered blast. She gave the glasses the same treatment before putting them in the drying rack. Bobbi pulled open a counter drawer and took out the saran wrap. She turned to see deep blue eyes watching her. The brunette stopped mid-stride. "What?" Taz continued to stare. "What?!"


"Hey, I washed them. They're clean.!"


"I am not in a hurry!" She breezed past the dog and reached for the remainder of the bread, wrapping it up. Bobbi sat the bread on the table with a soft thump and let out a breath. "Okay, maybe I am a little excited." She looked down at the Husky and asked in smart alleck fashion. "Do you want to tell me why?" Isn't it okay to be excited about being with a friend?

Taz peered at her and sneezed. He licked his chops and turned to make his way out of the kitchen. "Hey! What kind of answer is that?" As an afterthought, Bobbi mumbled, "Smart ass."

Minutes later, Bobbi knocked on the open door briskly, letting her presence be known. She gave Taz a look then smiled warmly at the blonde as she looked up from the computer. Standing in the middle of the room, the brunette held up her hands. "Um, how do you want to do this?" She asked cheerily. God, I can't believe I'm so excited about playing on the computer. Everything is fun again thanks to her. She paused on a new thought. Maybe it's just the company. It's great to have friends again.

Michelle blinked in confusion, but after a few seconds, realization dawned. "You can just pull up a chair beside me I guess."

Bobbi paused as she grabbed the chair in front of the desk, preparing to swivel it around. "You sure this is okay?" She pointed to the space beside the blonde.

Michelle nodded, "Yeah, I think that it'll be fine."

Without anymore hesitation, Bobbi pulled in beside her and leaned over the desk as she peeked at the screen. "What do you do on here anyway?"

The petite blonde glanced up into eyes that were so close to her own. She got lost in the attempt to decipher the color then found her gaze raking over the planes of the brunette's face. Curious pale blue met green again, and realizing that she had been caught staring, the blonde's gaze skittered away. Still, the warmth of the body beside her engulfed her. This is what if feels like to be close to someone.

"Chelle? You okay? I can move back a little if I'm crowding you."

Michelle shook her head vehemently. "No, it's not that. It's just. . .it's been a long time since I've been this close to an adult without being yelled at or punched." Jade eyes were full of resigned sadness.

Bobbi felt anger bubble up hard and fast. Even though she had never met Max or the blonde's mother, the doctor was sure that she hated them. The doctor could feel her brow scrunch, weighted down by the emotion, but the look of confusion in the other woman's eyes sobered her. Without permission, Bobbi reached over and grabbed the small hand beside her. There was no protest. "Chelle, I'm so sorry. It just makes me so mad that -–that could happen to anyone, least of all you. How could anyone hurt you?"

Michelle pressed into the hand holding hers. "I used to ask myself that all the time," she answered in a husky whisper.

"Oh God, Chelle." Bobbi could feel the tears prickling the backs of her eyes. She let them come.

Green eyes watched her with wonder. Are those for me?

Needing comfort as much as she wanted to give it, Bobbi stood up. She tugged on the blonde's hand bringing her too. Making her decision, she did not look back. It felt too right. Without preamble, Bobbi released Michelle's hand, only to wrap strong arms around her. She willed all the warmth and caring she could into the gentle embrace and tightened it only when she felt the blonde stiffen. "It's okay," Bobbi whispered.

The fear that always seemed to stand in the background, engulfed Michelle. Residual images of raised fists assaulted it, but the images faded the longer the embrace lasted. The fear was still there, fear of the unknown—-this kindness. Words from earlier today came back to her. "It's okay to be scared." For a long time, she had given into the cruelty. With a soft whimper and a sob, Michelle gave into the kindness. She relaxed, muscle by muscle and wrapped small arms around the doctor's broad back. Her hands dug into the black t-shirt and held on as she soaked it all in.

Bobbi squeezed the woman in her arms and closed her eyes as the tears continued to come. Someone should cry for her—-cry for who she could have been and who she is now. I guess I'm the one. She rubbed her chin over soft blonde hair and cradled the back of the other woman's head that seemed to fit so perfectly in the crook of her neck.

They stood like that in total silence for some time. Basking in the warmth, but growing embarrassed, Michelle began to pull back. Bobbi let her to wipe at her own wet eyes, but she laughed through her tears at the customary red face of her friend. The doctor reached out a hand and brushed away blonde bangs from her forehead "Um, you okay?"

Michelle looked from under fair lashes. "I-I think I will be."

"That's good to know," she gave the blonde a half smile.

The petite woman returned it. "I think this is turning into an okay day."

Bobbi chuckled and waited for the other woman to sit before she did. "Maybe, we can make it into a good one." She leaned forward and peered at the screen again. "Now, show me what you do on this thing."

Michelle paused and clicked as she went to her favorites file. "Um, I mostly like reading about other countries and the history of their past. I think Greece and Rome are my favorites. I like all the mythology and legends."

The doctor scanned the site through squinted eyes. "So, you're really into that stuff, huh? Maybe ancient history is your thing."

The blonde shrugged. "Don't know. How did you know what you wanted to do?"

"Well, I tried to avoid going into medicine. I picked chemistry at first, but the idea of being a medical doctor just grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go no matter how hard I tried. I pretty much knew then."

"I don't know about that, but this stuff fascinates me. It's amazing what the Greeks thought up to explain the simplest of events." Michelle pursed her lips. "We do that today. I mean, don't we do the same thing with our own religions?"

Ebony brows raised high on the doctor's forehead. "Whoa, you really have been reading."

"Yeah, I have. I sit her pretty much until my eyes cross. I start seeing two of Taz, and I know it's time to go."

Bobbi let out a bark of laughter. "You got quite a dry wit developing there."

Turning colors, Michelle looked away but whispered shyly, "Really?"

The brunette ducked her head trying to catch the other woman' eyes. When she did, she smiled. "Yeah, really. Truth, remember?"

"Yeah, um, so what do you think?"

"Oh, about the religion thing?"

"Yeah, that."

"I've read books by a lot of scholars that are inclined to agree with you, but I think people believe what they need to in order to get through life and the prospect of death with some semblance of happiness."

"Really, can I read these books?" Michelle's face lit up as if it were Christmas.

Bobbi made a face. "Ugh, sold them back to the bookstore while I was in college, but there maybe some stuff that you can read online." The doctor chuckled, "You know, I'm beginning to think that you'll be right at home at that library."

Jade eyes widened in surprise. "You remembered that?"

"I'm remembering a lot lately."

They talked, browsed the Internet, and laughed for what seemed like hours, breaking only to feed themselves, the dog, and the baby. As the day wore on, the two women found themselves outside rolling snowballs and clumping snow together in an attempt to form the body of a snowman. When they were finished with the warped rendition that was skinny at the bottom and fat at the top, they found themselves again, dissolving into peels of laughter.

The night was filled with popcorn, Dr. Pepper, and Amstel Light that went along perfectly with the movies. Finally, with Taz in front, Michelle shuffled toward her bedroom, pulling the bassinet behind her. Too tired to look for pajamas, the blonde yawned as she sat down heavily on the bed. A soft smile lifted her features. It had been a good day after all.

Chapter 21

The bright colors of early morning filtered in through the windows, catching the lounging blonde in its glare. Sprawled on the couch with the now sleeping form of Toby on her chest, Michelle rubbed his back gently to get him to stay that way. She rose up slowly and swung her legs off the couch. Reaching with a free hand, she pulled the bassinet as close as possible, and with gentle care laid Toby inside.

She sighed at peered over at the dosing Husky, who barely acknowledged her existence. Forest green glanced toward the darkened hallway, seeing the open door of Bobbi's room. I don't want to wake her. It's still early yet, but I can't wait to get started. The blonde let out another impatient sigh as she fished for the remote control between the cream colored couch cushions. Sometimes it did not pay to be an early riser.

Michelle turned on the TV and whisked through the channels, hoping to catch her usual episodes of "The Golden Girls." The channels went by quickly, but Michelle's eyes widen when she thought she spotted a familiar face splattered on the screen before a newsreporter stated, "Next, a human interest piece picked up from a sister station." She went backward, hoping to see it again. Finding the channel, the remote slid nervelessly from her fingers, and her heart thudded to a sudden stop before picking up again in a staccato rhythm. The blonde blinked and whimpered when she tried to take a deep breath.

There was no air left.

She blinked again, praying that the display in front of her was a mirage. When green eyes opened, she found herself staring into eyes so much like her own. A gasp escaped her lips as horror grasped her with icy hands and shook hard. Breaths came out loud, whimpering and shallow as frigid tendrils of fear took root in her body. She could not move. She could not speak. She could only look on as Marsha Nieland cried the biggest fakest tears she had ever seen. The sound of her name as well as other words leaving her mother's lips felt like poison. "We miss her, and we just want to know if she and the baby are okay. We're not upset just worried. If she could contact us or if somebody has seen her. Please let us know, so that we can just hear her voice and tell her that she's loved and missed at home."

The blood stopped cold in her veins when a familiar meaty arm wrapped around her mother. Max Jr. filled the picture, hugging his mother-in-law close as if to comfort her. Michelle peered into his eyes. They were dead. Then she knew, if they found her, when they found her. It would be the end. The trembling started from the inside and moved outward. Michelle's mouth opened on a blood-curdling scream that made her ears ring, sent the dog into fits of barking, and beckoned Toby to join with his own cry. Once started, she was unable to stop.


Lying awake last night long after the blonde went to bed, Bobbi made some decisions, profound ones. It was time to try and clean up one room at a time starting with her brother's. There would be a lot of memories to live through as well as guilt, but it was worth a try. With that on her mind, the brunette had slept fitfully.

Suddenly, with thudding heart, Bobbi sat up in the bed, listening for the sound that jerked her from sleep. She heard it again, agony in a scream. "Michelle," she whispered fearfully and yanked the covers away.

Foregoing, the shorts, Bobbi, clad only in t-shirt and panties, headed directly toward the cacophonous sound. The site tore her heart in two. Michelle sat, trembling, broken, and screaming. "Oh, God." The doctor rushed forward, taking the blonde in her arms, shushing and holding her tightly. The blonde didn't resist the embrace, but she did not return it either. The screaming continued.

"Michelle! Talk to me, please!" Bobbi yelled over the collection of noises. Fear shook her. "MICHELLE!" The blonde still did not respond nor did she stop the wailing. A few seconds later, her arm raised, and with a shaky finger, Michelle pointed at the television. The scream changed. "Max!" Bobbi turned, watched, and listened as a dark, burly man tearfully begged anybody who had information to call the newstation hotline. The doctor closed her eyes cursing silently and forgetting her plans for the day. It was a bad day, a very bad one.

Chapter 22

Beatrice knew what it meant to be helpless.  The feeling had been her best friend for over twenty years, and she was as well acquainted with it now as she had ever been.   It sat beside her now as she rested tired, aching legs at the kitchen table.  The deed was done, and there was nothing she could do to rewind the past couple of days.

What must she be feeling after seeing that?  Probably the same thing I am.  Ah, Michelle for a long time I didn't have a focus in my life.  I just felt like I was tumbling through at.  Now, I do have one, you and Toby, but I think he's even taken that away from me.   I think that I would kill him with his own gun if I thought that would stop anything, but it won't.  Everything has already started.  What do I do now?  Pray to a God who has never listened?  She shook her head before covering her face with shaking hands.   Nothing to do but wait and see if things get better.    If Beatrice had it in her, she would have scoffed at the notion.  I'm still waiting for the life I wanted.  I wish I knew how to take it all those years ago.  I wish I knew a  lot of things.  I wouldn't have brought another monster into the world.

At the ringing of the phone, Beatrice struggled to lift her still throbbing body.  She shuffled toward the phone and said a feeble, "Hello?"

"How ya doin, Miss?  This is Deputy Shotski over in Lincoln county.  Heard from a fellow officer in Yellow Medicine that you were a lookin for a young lady?"


"Well, ma'am, one of the officers thinks he saw her over in Ivanhoe, and after seeing the news, he's sure it's her.  We don't know where she's staying, but we can poke around and see if we can find out somethin. That's as much as we can do since she hasn't been reported as breakin' any laws."

Beatrice's heart thudded and hope blossomed.  "We would sure appreciate it deputy.  Ivanhoe you say?  Isn't that southwest of here?"

"Yes ma'am it's a far piece from you though."

"Thank you very much deputy."

Beatrice hung up the kitchen wall phone  with an audible click and committed the name Ivanhoe to memory before she again wrote down a different message to give to her husband.  Since I'm the only one here during the day, maybe there's hope Michelle.  Maybe I can put them off your trail and get to you before they do.  Maybe.

The woman took in a long shaky breath.  If  found out, everything could end before it started, even her life.  It was a chance she was willing to take for a life that did not amount to anything anymore.


Marsha looked out her door toward the empty, snowy driveway.  The pert nose sneered up with disgust.  "Shoulda reported that damn car stolen.  Bet that woulda got her ass back here real quick.  I can't believe she's makin us go through all this mess.  Nothing wrong with getting knocked around a little.  Hell, my momma took it from her men and they kept comin."    Marsha scratched the top of her stringy blonde head the smoothed a hand over her flowery housecoat.

"Damned fool girl.  He should beat some sense into her.  Make her learn to stay where she belongs."  

Marsha snorted as she remembered how Michelle used to stare out the window like she had someplace to go or to be.  And, no matter how much she yelled or how hard she shook her, Marsha would still find her doing it just like her father did.   "Stupid man was always dreamin."     She ignored the voice that whispered, "Never about you.  You wouldn't let him.  You didn't know how."

"Guess I couldn't stop that girl from dreamin either.  S'pose some of this is my fault.  Shoulda told them about her little defiant streak.  He coulda beat it out of her."   She backed away from the open door and pushed it closed.

"Maybe I shoulda beat it out of her."


Helplessness.  Bobbi was more than familiar with the emotion, the feeling, and its side effects.   It was something she had felt for years, only feeling competent with a medical instrument in hand.  It was an emotion that she had not felt in a while, not since Michelle came along, and she did not expect to feel it again so soon.  But, here it was as new and as full of life as a new born child, tearing at her, nipping at here, and hollowing her out.

It was quiet in the house again with only the buzz of the television or the plaintive cry of Toby to let Bobbi know that this was indeed the land of the living.  She ignored the glare of the midday sun along with the pull of her office, having posted a sign that the doctor would be out for some time.

  The tall brunette, clad in wrinkled Nike shorts and matching shirt, sat at the kitchen table, haggard, tired, and listless.  Sleep had proven elusive, leaving the doctor bleary eyed and a tad incoherent.   She might call out.  She might need me.  The first night, the brunette sat at the kitchen table waiting for her name to be called.  The second night, she had moved to the couch, stretching her ears to encompass every noise that the house possessed.   There had been nothing.

Bobbi canted her head to the side and peered at the bassinet holding the sleeping baby, wishing she could feel that peaceful.   After pushing long fingered hands through her hair for the hundredth time,  Bobbi, with both elbows leaning on the table, supported her hanging head by strategically placed hands on her forehead.  She let out a long breath and let the loneliness continue to creep in.

It had been two days since they had seen that broadcast, and in those two days, Michelle had not said a word; had not acknowledged her presence; had barely moved a muscle.  Somehow the doctor had gotten the blonde to her bedroom only to see her staring blankly at the far wall.  If this is catatonia, it is not a nice place to be.    Michelle had not eaten, moved, or bathed in those following days. Even the hungry cries of the baby could not yank her from the world she was in now.  Without a word and with as much clinical detachment as she could muster, the doctor cleaned the dribbling mother's milk from the blonde and changed her into the seemingly endless supply of T-shirts.  Michelle never batted an eye, allowing her body to be maneuvered by the doctor's hands. Maybe she knew that it was me.  Bobbi told herself time and time again.

Bobbi had taken over motherly duties gladly,  with the help of expressed milk and bottles.   She chattered with the child even played with him cheerily, even though there was not a cheerful bone in her body.   She tried her best to never let on, keeping Toby cooing and gurgling through the potentially devastating crisis.   Taz chose to spend his time by his mistress'   side, and Michelle held on to him, with small hands grappled through fur, like a security blanket.   So, Bobbi sat virtually alone.

She glanced up at the banana bread on the table and felt a pang as the coldness inched forward a little more.   I miss her.  How could we have come so close and be torn like that in a matter of hours.  It doesn't make sense.  All I know now is that  I hate them for what they are doing to her, doing to Toby, doing to us.  Bobbi closed her eyes and shuddered as she remembered the screaming that seemed like it would never stop.  It did only to turn into rocking and hoarse sobs.   Every word she had whispered in the blonde's ear, fluttered away into nothingness.   As a result, Bobbi just held on tighter, hoping the warmth of her own body would supply somekind of solace.  It did not.  It was as if she was not even there.

That day in the bedroom, Bobbi continued to whisper bravely in the blonde's ear, begging for her to return, begging her to fight, and begging her not to give up.   The only acknowledgment came from Taz in a soft whimper.  The look in sad blue eyes broke her heart further.   The brunette brought breakfast and following meals to them both, only to have to take the bowl and tray away still full.   The second day was not any different.

Bobbi continued sitting in the same position, ignoring the bottle of Poland Springs along with the bread.  The memories behind her eyes began to take a different shape.  They became older and more familiar.   Bobbi took a whimpering breath and fought them.   She covered her eyes, hoping to black out the pictures behind her eyes.  It did not work.  They came anyway like movie reels without sound.   Pale blue eyes opened and watched as the scenes played out right before her.   Stevie.  She reached out as if to touch him, only to find him further away.  The scenes continued to roll, depicting each time he yelled at her, hit her, threw food at her, and bit her during her efforts to draw him out of his self imposed shell.   Bobbi whimpered in anguish.

"No."   It came out in a harsh whisper.  "What are you trying to do to me?!  I will not fail her!"    Her fist banged solidly against the table.   "I can't.  She needs me!"    Azure eyes scanned the room wildly as if looking for the presence she had just spoken to.  "I don't know what to do, but  I won't fail her."

Bobbi jumped at the sound of the house settling, then settled back into her own thoughts.   I'll find a way.  Soon, every morning, we'll be doing Billy together.  We'll talk and laugh.  I won't let them beat us.  Only a few people have seen her, and I won't have any problems keeping them quiet.   There's  Mike down at the garage, Kevin and his friend, and the Polinski's.   No one else knows.    A slow smile began to form, but it died mid-flight.  God, I miss her.  It's like she's not even here.  Two days without her blushing, giggling, and talking about anything and everything seems like forever.   Now that I have all of this back.  I can't just let it go.  I can't just let her go.   I have to keep trying to get through to her and hope something that I'll say will make her feel again. 

The raven-haired doctor picked up the bottle of water,  took a long swig, and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.    She stared down at the long fingered appendages, knowing that she had used them many times to detach her body from her mind.   That detachment did not exist anymore.   The brunette recalled  the warmth generated when she held hands with Michelle.   That was me reaching out.   The hug flashed through her mind, and Bobbi could feel her body warm at the remembrance of the embrace.  The doctor felt tears prickle the back of her throat, and with a sob, she let them come.  GodI don't wanna be alone again.  I don't know how to anymore.  I have to keep trying. 

A low, keening cry caught the brunette's attention.  She jumped up from the chair and wiped at her eyes with shaky fingers.   Sniffling, Bobbi walked the short distance to the bassinet to see a crying Toby looking back at her.  "Hey, Peanut.  I bet you need to be changed and fed, huh?"   She scooped him up without hesitation and padded into the living room to the diaper bag she had filled herself.   After spreading a thin blanket on the couch, Bobbi laid Toby down.  His legs kicked in the air, and he chewed on his fist, muffling his cries.   Bobbi unsnapped the purple Onesie and removed his diaper.   "It's okay, Peanut.  Mommy may not be here, but Auntie B is gonna take good care of you until she gets back."    She smoothed a thumb over the arch of his tiny foot then leaned down to kiss it.   "She will be back.  I promise."

Recalling the tune that she had heard numerous times, Bobbi, as well as she could, began to hum "Greensleeves"  and marveled as she wiped and powdered the now quiet child.

Michelle blinked and repositioned her hold in the familiar smelling fur, but she felt nothing.  She saw nothing.  There was only a cool blackness that blotted everything out.  Images floated above her, around her but they were blurry, filtered incoherent by the darkness.  Therefore, they didn't exist.  The sounds of her breathing surrounded her, soothed her---deep and even like the beat of her heart.  

Everything seemed so far away seeming as though nothing ever existed---the fear, the kindness, the cruelty, the laughing, and the growing happiness.   It they did not exist, they could not hurt her or perpetuate the lie that she had come to know.  Life is pain, and she had learned long ago how to make it all disappear.

Suddenly, Michelle's  breathing turned harsh and rapid as her head reverberated with an almost recognizable phrase and voice.  Somehow,  something had gotten through.   The words became louder, almost cacophonous in nature.   "I'll always tell you the truth."    The blonde covered her ears in an attempt to end the echo, but it was useless.  Images began to form and take shape through the dark --- the sable haired woman laughing with her, talking with her, touching her and holding her.  The images brightened, turning the blackness into a dull gray.

The blonde's heart thudded against her ribcage as the gaping maw that had become her world began to lighten.  With lips chapped and throat dry and raw from lack of moisture,  Michelle croaked, "B-Bobbi?"  She reached out to touch but the pictures distended and separated like smoke.   A single point of warmth entered her chest and began to grow as Michelle looked on.   She felt the presence beside her stir as well as hot breath and warm dampness on her face.   Remembered whispers surrounded her, and she recognized them as Bobbi's voice. "It'll be okay.  Fight it.  Stay here with me.  They'll never touch you.  I promise."   Each phrase was broken and raw with emotion.  "Bobbi?"

Michelle sat up in the bed, seeing the now illuminated room for the first time in days.  Taz wuffed lightly and continued to lick her face.   The blonde let him as she peered across the room at the mirror that held her reflection.  "You.  Where are you?"    The warmth radiated outward, causing her insides to tingle.   She closed her eyes and held on to it, welcomed it as image after image of the dark haired doctor bombarded her.  Michelle could almost feel the bite of the snow being thrown at her.   She could almost taste the French Toast, the popcorn, and the Dr. Pepper.   She could almost hear the laughter and the smooth, velvet voice of her friend.   Again, with closed eyes, she whispered,"Bobbi."

Pictures and images continued to come in quick succession, but soon the brightness around them changed.  Frayed with dark around the edges, Michelle saw reels of slashing fist along with her broken, bloody body.   She saw familiar faces contorted in rage and hate.  Her blood stopped cold, and she whimpered out loud as the ghastly parade went on.   It brought with it the smell of blood, feelings of humiliation, the sound of flesh hitting flesh and insult after insult.   Michelle backed up until the cool headboard was at her back.  She brought her knees up to her chest, wrapping an arm around them, using the other appendage to swat at the demons flying around her.  "No!"   She husked out.  Green eyes opened but the pictures were still there, mocking her, laughing at her.  Taz started to whine, but Michelle didn't hear.  Her eyes widened as she recalled the newscast.

Michelle let out a strangled cry as terror pierced her.  Her heart rammed painfully against her chest as breathing became a thing of the past.  This was the truth.  The only truth that she knew to be solid.   There was no Michelle who liked to laugh; who had a dry wit;  who liked to talk; who liked to read;  and who liked to learn.   There was no strong, sensitive Michelle.  The truth was pain and cruelty.   The truth was searching for her.   The light that was present only moments before began to dim.  Still, there was some part of her that wanted to fight it.  Small hands reached out, grabbing hold of anything heavy, solid and hurled it across the room.   It hit with a loud crash, shattering the glass of the mirror into minute pieces.   At impact, Michelle screamed for help from the only place she had learned to trust.  "Bobbi!"    Without preamble, the blackness engulfed her.  Again, there was nothing.

Bobbi jumped at the sound of the scream and crash, dropping almost empty bottle she held to  a drowsing Toby's mouth.   Galvanized into action, she put the child back in to the bassinet as fast and as carefully as she could.   With her heart in her throat and the crib behind her, the doctor headed toward the blonde's room.   "OhGodohGodohGod, " she whispered like a mantra.  "Please be okay."    Still, her stomach tied itself into knots of apprehension as she neared the door.

The doctor pushed the door open and was greeted by an excited Taz, who barked at her as if begging her to do something.  Her reason to hope fell a notch as she examined her surroundings.   As white as a sheet, Michelle sat up in the bed, rocking and staring into distant space.  Bobbi cursed inwardly and scanned the room further to find the book that had once been tossed at her head, lying on the floor accompanied  by shards of glass from the mirror.  Ignoring the glass, she walked slowly toward the bed and whispered the blonde's name, "Michelle?"

There was no answer.

Bobbi pulled the bassinet toward the bed and sat down on the edge.  "Michelle, please."   Still, getting no response, the brunette inched toward the head of the bed and sat as close to the blonde as she dared.    She reached for her friend's hand, hoping to get a response that way, but while she squeezed the small appendage lay limply in her embrace.  The familiar tickle of tears assailed her.   No, I won't cry.  She needs me to be strong.  I have to be strong.

  Instead of removing her hand, Bobbi tightened her grip and got comfortable on the bed.  It shook slightly as Taz jumped up from the other side to take his place beside Michelle.  As if on automatic pilot, the blonde reached for him, curling her fingers in his fur.   Bobbi watched in surprise as the blonde's other hand latched on to hers in a vice like grip.

She smiled.  It was something.

Not knowing what else to do, Bobbi began to talk as she stacked up pillows behind the blonde.  "Your little man here is almost six months old.  Can you believe it?   I think he's about ready for cereal and baby food, and Before you know it, he's gonna be crawling and that means that I need to get some carpet down as well as child proof the place.   He's gonna need something to do with his hands too.  There's a store.  I think I showed it to you that carries baby toys and such.  I'm gonna get him some things, so he won't drive his mother too crazy.  I might even get the smart ass with fur over there something if he learns to curb that mouth of his."  

Bobbi chuckled and squeezed the hand under hers.   "You should have heard what he said the other day.  Anyway, both your men have been really good the past couple days.  Peanut has been using that hose of his for only good and that means that I'm staying dry."    She said with a smirk.  "He looks at me like he knows me now. He's a very happy baby. I've even been singing to him if you can believe it.  Well, humming actually.  At least then, I don't sound like some screeching owl.

He misses your voice though.  I can't hold a candle to you.  I'm gonna have to go get him some formula though.  I'm sure you don't want to stop breast feeding him.  I think. . . I know you would miss it.  Like I said before, he's probably ready for something besides milk. So, you need to come back to us soon.  'Sides, we're supposed to be doing Billy together.  You don't want me to get fat do ya? God, that would be a sight."   Bobbi stopped and propped up an extra pillow behind her.  "It's kinda quiet around here too. Don't get me wrong. I could listen to Peanut coo and giggle all day, but it's not the same." She let out a long breath.  "Oh, I found some of that information you wanted on religion and such.  It's stuff on Weber and other sociologist.  I think you'll find it interesting. Hell, even I did.  Should give us a lot to talk about.  I agree with a lot of them on some points, but heh, they're all dead, so they can't prove their theories either way if you asked me."   She chortled at her own joke.  Bobbi paused, trying to collect her thoughts.

Turning her head slightly, she glanced over at the blonde, noting the pasty profile, chapped lips and dull green eyes.  " I'll get you back.  We won't let them win.  I know you wouldn't want that."   She laced her fingers with Michelle's.   "Um, Chelle, it's kinda lonely around here.  I even watched  "The Golden Girls"  this morning, but it's not the same.  I miss hearing you laugh.  I bet you would have howled at this episode.  Rose slept with this guy and he died in her bed.  She thought she killed him so she tried again with another guy.  He died too.  It was hilarious, and I know I'm not telling it right."    Bobbi swallowed back the sudden surge of emotion.

"Uhm, remember when I told you that I would always tell you the truth?   I know you believed me, and I'm telling you now that I won't let them come near you.  I'll do whatever I need to do.  I'm gonna make some phone calls to Mike, the Polinski's and others to cover our tracks, but if worse comes to worse, I'll tell the whole town about you.  We protect our own here, and you're part of us whether you realize it or not. I hope you hear me because I mean every word.  We're gonna have pork chops for dinner, and if I have to, I'm going to feed you."   Bobbi brought their joined hands up and kissed the smaller one.  "All of this is a promise from a friend."

Sometime later, Bobbi awoke with a jerk.   She groaned at the feel of pins and needles in her hand shooting up her arm and tried to shake them off before realizing that she still held Michelle's hand.  With sleepy eyes, the brunette peered over at the blonde to find her eyes closed and her breathing even and undisturbed.   Good, she's able to sleep.  Atleast for now.  The doctor scanned the room, noting the darkness of late day.  "Guess I'd better go put dinner on and clean up.  Maybe she'll be awake by then."

Bobbi wiped the remaining sleep out of her eyes and glanced at the nearby bassinet at the sleeping baby before taking a quick peek at the slumbering Taz.   Everybody seems okay.  Bobbi swung her legs down to the floor, and tried slowly to disengage her hand from the blonde's grasp.   A small whimper made the brunette whisk her head around.  "Michelle?"   Bobbi tried to pull her hand away again.  Another whimper.  The sound tugged at her heart.  The doctor leaned over until her lips were aligned with small ears.  "I won't leave you.  I'm right here just a shout away."    The doctor tried again to pull her hand away.  The appendage encased squeezed before slowly letting go.   Finally able to get up from the bed, Bobbi husked, "I'll be back.  Promise."

In the cool darkness, the only point of warmth came from some distant source.  Michelle had latched onto long ago and refused to let go.  Now, broken words in a familiar tone echoed from a distance a million miles away.  Michelle latched onto those also, willing them closer as she let go of harbinger of warmth for another.   Unseeing green eyes opened as if searching for it.


With a small knife, Bobbi cut the pork chop into bite size pieces and separated them from the corn and spinach.  A new confidence grew inside her.  I can do this.  This is what friends do for each other.    She loaded the plate  a tall glass of Dr. Pepper, along with a straw floating in it, and dishes filled with dog food and water onto the tray.

Minutes later, balancing the tray precariously as she entered the room.   Bobbi smiled into the blonde's eyes despite the lack of response.  "Dinner's ready.  You'll have to tell me how it is.  I sautéed the chops and added some lemon herb seasonings.   I left a plate for myself in the kitchen for later. I haven't cooked like this in ages. I'm enjoying it again."     The doctor sat on the bed and sucked in a sudden breath as memories  on one sided food fights reared their heads.   "She's not Stevie,"  Bobbi murmured.  The brunette whispered Taz's name and showed him the food dishes.   His head raised then lowered in disdain.   Bobbi sighed hoping that seeing Michelle eat would prompt his appetite.     Placing a pillow in her lap, Bobbi laid the plate on top.

With determination, she turned toward the blonde's profile, noting the unblinking eyes and fixed features.  "Okay, Chelle.  We're gonna start with the meat and work our way around."   Spearing a piece of pork, the doctor lifted it toward the blonde's mouth and waited.  "You're not gonna open for me are you?  We'll I'll do it for you."   Bobbi set the fork back down and parted Michelle's lips by pressing on her chin.  "Okay, here goes."   

Once the food was in, it stayed there but the blonde's jaw refused to work.  Bobbi leaned in close.  "Come on.  I know you're in there.  Chew for me.  You need this.  We need you.  All of us, especially Toby."    With both hands, the brunette worked her friend's jaw, and with a triumphant whoop, she backed away and watched the blonde's jaws work for themselves.  "Heh, no one can resist my cookin."   She received no vocal reaction, but when food was pushed against her lips, Michelle's mouth opened.   Bobbi smiled at the blonde,  and with her free hand, she reached for the blonde's smaller one.   It's a start  that'll be even bigger when I make those calls.   The smaller appendage clasped her tightly.  The smile brightened as Bobbi watched Taz jump for the bed and head toward his food dishes.

Somewhere deep inside, Bobbi felt old, painful memories settle in the face of calmer, fuller ones as a piece of her damaged soul mended.

Through the darkness, Michelle listened for the voice.  She reached for it and obeyed it, instinctively knowing that it was right and true.   She let the warmth slowly fill her.

Feedback?  Hell yeah! Um, I mean, please? Drop me a line at Minerva

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