By Queenfor4




Disclaimers1: Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renpic. And, this being an Uberish tale, the main characters will bear a physical resemblance to them, but that’s as far as is goes. Oh, and two supporting characters will be named after them. But it’s meant strictly as a tribute; nothing more. J

Disclaimers 2: There will be a tiny bit of violence scattered through the story, including one piece dealing with domestic battering and attempted rape. Nothing really intense though. There will also be some swearing scattered throughout the story.

Disclaimers 3: This is an adult alternative romance, which means that there will be sex between two consenting adult females later on down the line. If this bothers you, or is illegal where you live, then please read no further. You have been warned!

Copyrights: All characters mentioned in this story belong to me. Please do not use them, or any portion of this story without talking to me first. The song "Like We Never Had a Broken Heart" belongs to MCA Nashville, Garth Fandis and Trisha Yearwood.

Thanks: I would like to offer sincere and heartfelt thanks to the bestest <g> beta reader a bard could ever ask for. Thank you, Maggie Sheridan. Without your skills, patience, gentle guidance

And boundless encouragement, this story would never have seen the light of day. J


Chapter Twenty

Charlotte Grayson was not a happy woman.

It had been two weeks since she had brought her talented young client home. Twelve days of which the blonde had been on the move, racing from city to city on a self-imposed, non stop book-signing tour.

"I've got obligations," the blonde insisted when she requested, no, demanded this schedule. "I lost two months sitting on my ass. If I don't make that up now, I never will."

And off she went. Owning up to her 'obligations.'

"Bullshit! She's running. Running from that talk we were supposed to have. Running from whatever happened up on that damn mountain. Running from herself. Well that stops today, my friend. You didn't know I could cancel appearances that fast, did you? I hated to pull rank and drag you back here like that, but you left me no choice. Something happened between you and doctor Oakes and neither one of you will talk about it. But whatever it is, it's affecting you both.

Charlotte recalled a disturbing conversation she'd had last week.


"Dr. Oakes?"

"Yes. Who is this?"

"Dr. Oakes, my name is Charlotte Grayson. I'm Megan Galagher's publisher.

… "Is she…is everything all right?"

"Megan is fine, Dr. Oakes. Thank you for asking. Actually I'm just in the process of cutting you a check for your services in regard to my client, and I was just wondering if you would like to have a check sent to you, or would you like to have the amount wired directly to your bank account?"

"Mrs. Grayson, I've told Ms. Galagher and I'll tell you; I do not need, require, or desire any payment for my 'services.' If Ms. Galagher is so determined to write a check, then make it out to the Pediatric Aids Foundation. They need it a great deal more than I do."

"I see. Dr. Oakes, may I speak openly for a moment?"

"Please do."

"Megan is, physically, doing quite well. And that is due in no small part to the excellent care she received from you. But something is troubling her, Dr. Oakes. Something she cannot, or will not, talk about. When I picked her up in Cutters Gap, I could tell right then that something was wrong. But she refused to talk about it at that time; promising that she would when we got back to New York. However, when we got back, she went directly to her apartment and stayed there for two days. Not communicating with anyone. The next thing I knew, she blew into my office insisting on an immediate whirlwind book signing tour. Stating that she needed to make up for the ones she missed while she was incapacitated. Needless to say, she got her way. I suppose that, as her publisher, I should be happy that she's back in the saddle, so to speak. But, as her friend, I'm concerned. She's changed, Dr. Oakes. There's an aura of gentle pain that surrounds her now; so profound that it would make a statue weep. Try as she might to disguise it, she cannot. Now, this was not the sense I got when I spoke to her on the phone two days prior to picking her up. At that time she was in fairly good spirits. Something happened in between those times, Dr. Oakes, and I'm dearly hoping that you can tell me what it was."

"I'm afraid I can't do that, Ms. Grayson. That is information that you'll have to get directly from Ms. Galagher. I admit to being surprised though, at your perception of sorrow from your client. I would have expected anger."

"Why would you expect anger, Dr. Oakes?" Did something…did you…?"

"No, Ms. Grayson, I would never violate my patient's trust like that."

"Then what…?"

"As I said, I can't go into that with you. Suffice it to say she is angry. And it's entirely my fault. My…failure. And I'm more sorry than I can ever express.

"You care for her, don't you?"

"Very much so. She's a special woman, Ms. Grayson. We didn't hit it off very well at first, as I'm sure you know. But in the time we spent together, I discovered that beneath the prickly exterior I first encountered, there was a sweet, warm, lovely young woman.

"And do you know why she has that 'prickly exterior'?"

"Yes I do. And it shames me to say that I am yet another who's let her down."

"I see. And you won't provide me any more detail than that?"

"No ma'am, I'm sorry. Please, talk to her. It will not only answer your questions, but it may also help her if she gets it off her chest."

"I'll most certainly do that, Dr. Oakes. Before I go, are you sure you will not take any payment?"

"I'm positive. As trite as it may sound, just having her here, and getting to know her was worth a great deal more than any money you could offer."

"Very well, Doctor. Is there anything you would like me to tell her for you?"

"Tell her I…" There was a weighty pause, then, "no, there isn't."

"Very well. Thank you again, Doctor Oakes…for everything."

"You're welcome."

"And, Doctor?"


"Be well. Somehow I sense that my headstrong young client is not the only one in pain."

A hoarsely whispered 'thank you' was all she heard before the click that ended the call.

"A disturbing but very informative phone call," the older woman mused. "Methinks the good doctor is smitten with the fair-haired young bard. Now the question or questions of the day are,

1) Does Megan know?

2) If she does know is that what she's angry or sad about?

3) Or is she completely unaware, and simply missing the new friend she had made. That would explain her melancholy. But that wouldn't explain why Dr. Oakes thinks she would be mad. Nor does is explain what I saw when we were leaving the store.

"Or am I just a doddering old woman who's watched too many soap operas?" the publisher chuckled to herself.

Hearing a light tap on her door, she turned to find her Administrative Assistant's head poking in.

"Ms. Galagher's here," the portly brunette announced softly, then, looking back over her shoulder, she added, "and she's not a happy camper."

"Big surprise there," the older woman snorted. "Send her in and I'll build a little fire and roast her some marshmallows."

"I'll send her in," the Admin snickered. "But I don't think you'll need to build a fire. Just hold them over her head for a few seconds." With that, she left.

"Now," the older woman clapped her hands together and took her seat. "Let's see about getting some answers to those questions."

No sooner had those words left her lips when her door flew open and in walked one livid writer.

"All right, Charly, what in the hell's going on here?" she barked.

"Hello Megan. I'm fine, thank you for asking," she replied, keeping her voice deliberately calm. "And what do you mean, what's going on here?"

"You know goddamn well what I mean!" the blonde spat, slamming both palms on the desk. "You canceled my signing appearances and sent orders that I had to return immediately to see you. I don't know what in the hell you're playing at, Charly, but I'm not in the mood."

"Are you quite finished?" the older woman inquired calmly.

"No, I'm…"

"Oh yes, you are," the older growled, rising from her chair and, at 6'2", towering over her petite client. "You are going to calm down, sit down, and stop behaving like a spoiled two-year-old. Because if you don't you're gonna find yourself signing books in places like Bumfuck Arkansas from now until the end of your contract."

"You wouldn't," the blonde squeaked, goggle-eyed.

The older woman leaned forward until she was just about nose-to-nose with her client. "Try me, little girl."

The publisher's face was a study in steely determination and the blonde knew, without a doubt the she could, and indeed would, do exactly what she had threatened.

With her high fury properly deflated, the writer meekly lowered herself into a chair. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them again, her publisher friend was once again seated, a benign smile playing across her lips.

"I'm sorry, Charly."

"It's all right, hon."

"No, it's not," the blonde replied sheepishly. "I acted like an ass."

"No, like a two-year-old," the publisher contradicted with an amused grin.

The blonde blushed prettily. "Touché." Then sobering, she added, "I don't know what's gotten into me lately. I seem to be snapping at a lot of people."

"Hmm," the older woman agreed. "Either snapping at them…or avoiding them altogether."

The blonde blinked owlishly, her mouth opened, as if to refute, then snapped shut.

"It seems you've been avoiding everyone that knows you." The publisher snorted, "Hell, even lover boy called here bitching. It seems he's been trying to get a hold of you, but you're never home and won't return his calls. Of course I won't fault you for that," the older woman grinned devilishly, then sobered. "You can't keep running forever, honey."

"I'm not running," the blonde returned weakly, unable to meet the older woman's eyes.

"Yes, you are…and you know it," the older woman got up and walked around the desk. Sitting in the chair next to her friend, she reached over and cupped her chin, raising the bowed head until shuttered green eyes met hers. "You haven't been the same since you left Cutters Gap. Something happened between you and the doctor, Megan, and I'd like to know what it was. Because whatever it was, it's hurt both of you."

Megan pulled from the hand that cupped her chin, once again avoiding the older woman's penetrating gaze.

"What makes you think something happened?"

"Because you looked like hell when I picked you up Sunday, which is quite different from how I pictured you when I talked to you Friday night. Because the Randi you talked about Friday night, suddenly became Dr. Oakes again Sunday afternoon. Because the young woman who propelled herself into the car and attached herself to me like her life depended on it fairly vibrated with extreme angst. And finally, because that same young woman, who's normally a pretty talkative sort, didn't part with even ten whole sentences on the entire trip back home." Charly reached over and gently clasped the writer's chin, an indulgent smile gracing her lips. "Now, I'm no Samantha Steele, but there are some clues that even I can catch."

That earned her a small grin before she returned to studying her hands. "It's nothing really, Charly,"

The older woman leaned back, spreading her arms in a 'so what' gesture. "If it's nothing, hon, then there's no harm in the telling now, is there?"

The blonde looked up, a wry grin creasing her lips. "I'm not gonna get out of this, am I?"


"It's not real pretty."

The older woman's smile faded somewhat. "All the more reason you should talk about it. Just answer me one question first," somber brown studied the younger woman's face intently. "Did she….do anything to…?"

A guilty flush crept up her cheeks. "No, Charly," her voice was almost a whisper, "I did."

The publisher leaned back. "Whoa!" Quickly recovering her composure, she rose from the desk.

"Oookay, I think this is going to require a good, strong coffee."

Chapter Twenty-One

The publisher leaned back in her chair, her face an expressionless mask.

"You slapped her?"


"Said you hated her?"


"Threw that girl's name in her face without having the slightest inkling of exactly who, or what she was?"


"And all this because she cared enough to prevent your drunk, horny ass from making a mistake that you know you would have regretted the next day."

Megan couldn't sink any lower in her chair. "Yes," was a hoarse whisper.

"No wonder she was crying," the older woman mumbled, more to herself than her client.

Green eyes widened in shock. "You saw…?"

"That tall, dark haired woman sobbing into that old man's shoulder? Hell yes, I saw," the publisher returned, her tone reproachful. "And I wondered what that was all about." She shook her head sadly.

"Now I know."

"Not one of my finer achievements," the blonde confessed, shame coloring her tone.

"Not by a long shot," the publisher barked a laugh, then sobered. "I'm disappointed in you, Megan. More than that, I'm angry. That woman took you in, healed you, gave you all the comfort and compassion she had to give and you pay her back with verbal and physical abuse." She looked at the blonde, who sat with head bowed, her face concealed by a curtain of fair hair. "That was wrong, Megan. So terribly wrong."

"Don't you think I know that?" the writer answered, her voice cracking. "Do you think I'm proud of myself?" she continued, raising a tearstained face. "Do you think I spent those two days in my apartment gloating?"

Startled by the anguish written across the younger woman's face, the publisher's anger vanished, to be replaced by concern as she moved from behind her desk to kneel beside her distraught friend.

"I know what I did was wrong. I know I hurt her," the blonde was fully sobbing now. "She was only doing what was best for me and I disparaged her for it. That woman was right; I'm not a nice person. I'm a bitch," she sobbed into the arms that were now wrapped around her. "Nothing but a cold hearted bitch. No wonder they all leave me. I'm sorry, Charly…so, so sorry."

"No, baby, no," the older woman gently admonished. "You're not a bitch, little one, and nobody left because of you. Shhh, it's okay, baby…it's okay," she cooed, holding on tightly and letting the distressed writer release her pain.

After several long moments, the raging sobs were finally reduced to intermittent hiccups and shaky sniffles. The publisher leaned back and grabbed some tissues from the ever-present box on her desk.

"Are you okay now," she inquired as, with a mother's gentle touch, she dried the tearstreaked face.

"I'm fine, Charly," the blonde answered with minimal conviction as she took the proffered tissue and blew her nose. "I've made a mess of things, Charly, and I don't know how to fix them. I want to call her and say I'm sorry, but she'd probably hang up on me."

"Why would she do that, honey?"

The blonde looked at her friend incredulously. "After what I've done? She probably hates my guts." Shame colored the young woman's face. "And I can't blame her, Charly…I hate me too," she finished hoarsely.

"All right, enough of that," the older woman ordered crisply as she rose to her feet. Taking a position directly in front of the smaller woman, she leaned back against her desk and crossed her arms. "She doesn't hate you, Megan…she never did. Hell, as far as she's concerned, this whole thing is her fault."

Megan's head snapped up and green eyes narrowed skeptically. "How do you know this?"

The publisher shrugged, "I talked to her."


"Last week."

"She called you?"

"No, actually I called her. I needed to know if she wanted her 'payment for services rendered' to be sent to her as a check, or deposited directly to her account." The older woman paused deliberately before adding, "And she refused payment, by the way."

"Then you already knew what happened," the writer bristled, assuming, incorrectly, that the doctor had 'spilled her guts.'

"No, dear, I didn't," the publisher returned gently, knowing the path her young friend's thoughts were taking. "I'll admit, I did ask her what had happened, but she refused to tell me; insisting that I should talk to you. The only thing she would commit to, however, was that it was her fault. Her…failure, as she put it."

"Jesus, Charly, it wasn't her fault," the blonde cried, exasperated. "She didn't fail me…I failed me." The blonde slumped dejectedly in her seat. "What am I going to do, Charly? I need to talk to her. I need to apologize. But I'm scared. No matter what you say, she's got to be pissed at me. She won't want to hear from me."

"No, dear," the publisher smiled patiently. "She isn't 'pissed' at you. The overwhelming feeling I got from talking to her is that she is simply hurt. I won't sugarcoat this for you," the older woman warned as she focused a no nonsense gaze on the younger woman's face. "She's no doubt hurt by your reaction to her well-intentioned refusal…especially the bit about Casey," she emphasized the last part, noting the guilty wince by the young woman. "But I think she also believes that her 'failure' has cost her a good friend." Intense brown eyes captured engrossed green ones. "Someone that she had come to care for a great deal."

The publisher had to bite back a grin at the incredulous expression on the younger woman's face as the import of that last sentence became clear.

"She cares for me?" the writer squeaked, hesitant to acknowledge the truth that her heart already knew.

"Very much so. And I'm going to venture out on a limb here, and propose that she's not alone in that respect."

"I don't know what you're talking about," the blonde mumbled, somewhat weakly. But from the coral flush that highlighted the younger woman's cheeks, and her sudden aversion to direct eye contact, the publisher knew she had struck a nerve. Encouraged by these signs, the older woman continued.

"I think you have found that you also have feelings for the good doctor, and you have no idea how to handle it, so you figure that if you keep busy, keep running," she emphasized, "it'll go away. But it's not working is it?

"No…it's…I…" the blonde floundered, wanting desperately to deny the truth of the older woman's observation, but finding she could not. "Dammit, Charly, I can't feel that way about her," she finally blurted.

"Here we go." The older woman crossed her arms. "Why?"

"Because it's wrong!"


"Because she's a woman."


"Dammit!" the writer was getting frustrated. "It's not natural," she gritted.

"Says who," the older woman challenged. "Since when is 'love' not natural?"

Megan was looking at her like she had grown two more heads. "Charly, what are you saying?"

Her gaze then turned flinty. "Are you…?"

"No, Megan, I'm not. Though Gaia knows, sometimes I wish I were. The selection might be better," she muttered to herself. Then, bringing herself back to the original discussion, she continued. "And what I'm saying, my dear, is that you have been so tainted by your father's hateful bias and your mother's supposed betrayal that you're trying to close the door on what may be the best thing that ever happened to you." The older woman reached down and cupped the young woman's face in both palms, willing the soft green eyes to meet hers. And when they did, her heart hurt for the anguish and uncertainty that radiated from them. "Talk to her, sweet girl, let both of you heal each other for that weekend. And then, if nothing else, let her at least be your friend."

"I don't know, Charly," her voice was breaking. "What if she hurts me too?" Gentle tears slid down the writer's face, gathering in the publisher's cupped hands. "I couldn't take that again," she finally sobbed.

"Now we're getting to the heart of the matter, aren't we, little one. You're not worried about the supposed 'unnaturalness,' you're scared of being abandoned again. This can't go on."

Arriving at a decision, she grabbed another tissue and dabbed the young woman's cheeks. "All right, dear heart," she announced briskly. "I need you to get a hold of yourself here. I have something I need to tell you and I need (a) your undivided attention, (b) your promise that you'll keep a lid on your temper and your mouth long enough to hear me out, and (c) that you will at least give some honest and sincere thought to what I'm going to eventually propose."

Caught off guard by the statement, and the older woman's change in demeanor, the writer stared at her dumbly. "Charly, what…?" she sniffled.

"Please, honey," the older woman insisted. "This is something we need to discuss…for your sake more than mine. But I need your promise to stick with me."

Warning bells were sounding left and right inside the younger woman's head, but she was intrigued by the older woman's announcement. She took a deep breath to gentle her still raw emotions.

"All right. Go ahead."

The older woman quirked an eyebrow.

"All right, all right, I promise to behave," the younger woman huffed.

The older woman paused, searching for a way to begin. Finally she settled on the most direct.

"Your mother didn't abandon you."

"Excuse me?" the younger woman's tone took on an immediate chill.

"I said, your mother didn't abandon you. She left your father, but she didn't simply abandon you."

"Than why didn't she write, or call, or try to see me? It may be just me, but when none of those things happen, I call that abandonment." She remarked caustically.

"She tried, she…"

"Bullshit!" the blonde cut her off. "She didn't try hard enough!" The blonde narrowed her gaze at the older woman. "How do you know any of this?"

"I'll get to that later," the blonde opened her mouth to challenge, but Charly cut her off. "You gave your word, Meg. Now you just sit there and listen," the older woman commanded.

The writer glared at her for a long moment before giving in. She sat back and folded her arms across her chest, looking for all the world like a petulant child. "Go ahead," she gritted.

"As I was saying, she tried. She tried writing…all the letters were returned. She tried calling…your dad always told her you were 'unavailable.' She even tried a few times to visit you, but your father was always there to turn her away. After the third attempt, something happened, and she stopped trying to visit. And not too long after that, the calls and letters stopped too. But she never stopped thinking of you, Meg. Instead of writing letters, she began a diary of sorts. Writing down thoughts to you, and of you, in hopes that someday you would read them and know the truth…" the older woman stared deeply into wary green eyes. "…that she never, ever left you."

The older paused, taking a sip of her now cool coffee, and watched the myriad of emotions that played on the young woman's face as she processed this new information.

Megan was dumbstruck. Her mind and her heart were engaged in a furious battle of wills, one needing desperately to believe, and the other needing just as desperately to deny, for no other reason than to keep it's angry shield in place over that foolish, gullible heart.

Finally, the persistent mind gained a small foothold. She leaned forward in the chair; small hands gripped the armrests white-knuckle tight. "How do you know any of this?" she rasped, her gaze hard and cold. "How do you know anything about her?"

Now it was Charly's turn to be stunned. "God, I don't think I've ever seen her this mad. Ah, well, nothing for it now." Girding her mental loins, and keeping her voice deliberately gentle, she responded, "Because I've done something you've refused to do all these years, Meg. I talked to her." Raising a hand to arrest the younger woman's attempted outburst, she continued. "And more than that, I listened! I listened when she talked about why she left. I listened when she talked about the many times and ways she tried to contact you…and always failed. I listened to her, Meg, and I believed her."

"Then you're a fool," the blonde bit out.

"Perhaps I am," the older woman allowed. "But you'll be an even bigger fool if you don't at least entertain the possibility that what I'm telling you is the truth."

"I thought you were my friend," the blonde muttered, her tone was both sad and bitter.

"I am your friend, Meg," the older woman responded, ignoring the younger woman's sarcastic snort. "And that's why I'm telling you this. Because I can't just stand back anymore and let you keep on believing that, if you let yourself love someone, they're going to leave you."

"You don't know what the fuck you're talking about," the blonde fired back heatedly. "I love Eric, and I'm not worried that he's going to leave."

Now Charly snorted. "Give me a break, Megan! For all intents and purposes, Eric left a long time ago, and you didn't even bat an eyelash. Oh, you were irritated, when he didn't call or try to contact you, but that's about it. And love him? I don't think so. Eric was pretty to look at, and probably made a good bed warmer when you needed one, but you had about as much 'love' for him as I do for this cup of coffee." The older woman leaned forward, astute brown eyes pinning the younger woman in place. "Tell me I'm wrong, Megan," she challenged.

Green and brown locked on each other for a long silent moment; neither one willing to look away, or even blink. For to do so would be tantamount to surrender, and neither woman was prepared to allow that.

However, even in the most hard-fought battles, there can be only one victor.

"I can't," she sighed, slumping dejectedly in her seat. "I can't tell you you're wrong…about any of it. Are you happy now?"

"No. But I will be. And so will you. Talk to her, Megan."

"Who?" asked warily.

"Your mother."


"Why on earth not?" the older woman barked, beginning to lose her patience. "Are you so comfortable in your animosity toward her that you're unwilling to entertain even the possibility that it may be


"No…I…she," the blonde was stammering helplessly now. All her arguments were being shredded, her carefully built walls were being systematically decimated by the older woman's unrelenting onslaught. "Goddamit, Charly," she finally railed. "I won't let her hurt me again!"

"What makes you think she will, baby?" the inquired gently, knowing her young friend was close to breaking down completely. "How do you know she's not telling the truth?"

"And how do you know she is?" the younger woman returned hoarsely, on the verge of tears.

Charly didn't answer. Instead she pulled open a desk drawer and reached in. Pulling out a small, weathered envelope, she reached over and gently placed it on the desk in front of the blonde.

Watery green eyes glanced at the publisher briefly before tracking warily, hesitantly down to the item on the desk. The writer unconsciously held her breath as she reached over and plucked the envelope from the desk. The breath she was holding burst forth in a ragged sob as she laid eyes on the achingly familiar handwriting that listed her name, and the address where she lived those many years ago.

"No, it can't be," came as a broken whisper.

"Yes, it can be, sweetheart," the older woman cooed gently. "That was the first of many that would be sent…and returned, unopened."

"How…" her voice hitched, "how do I know that? How do I know that this wasn't written last week, or last month?" she was reaching now.

"C'mon, Megan, use your eyes," the older woman chastised. "Look at the postmark. And if that's not enough, look at the handwriting on the 'return to sender' notation. I'll bet even money you'll recognize that, just like you recognized your mother's handwriting."

Megan studied the faded ink symbol of the postmark, paying particular attention to the date. June 02, 1987. Exactly one day after coming home from school and finding her life forever changed. Her gaze then tracked to the terse three-word sentence scrawled across the front of the envelope. And she knew, without a doubt, whose hand wrote it.

She cast a helpless glance to the publisher, then to the letter, then back to the publisher. Her lips moved, but no words came. Charly ached for the pain and confusion so clearly defined in those green eyes. "Open it, Meg," her own voice was close to breaking. "It may be twelve years later, but you still need to know what it says."

With trembling hands, the young woman tore open the aged envelope and gingerly removed its contents. Unfolding the stiff, white paper, she read:

Dearest Megan

There's so much I have to tell you, Meggie; so much I need to explain in order for you to understand. I don't believe I can cover it all in this one letter, nor shall I try. For that is something best discussed when I can talk to you face-to-face. Suffice it to say that I have been very lonely, Megan, for so very long. A large part of me believed that it would be this way for all my life. And because I had you, my beautiful, bright piece of heaven, I accepted that tenet. (what intelligent mother wouldn't?)

But then I met Caitlin. And in her eyes, I saw so many things that I had never seen before. But most of all, I saw my future; a future that promised warmth, companionship, and most of all…love.

I know you are probably thinking, 'what about Daddy?' All I can say to that, sweet girl, is that your father is a good man, and has been an efficient, provider for us all these years. But the things that I have wanted, no needed all these years are things that he has ever been unable to provide. If this explanation seems vague, I apologize. But he is your father, and I will not diminish him in your eyes. For it is not his fault that I wanted…more.

I know it upsets you that I will not be there, but I want you to understand that I am not leaving you! I won't be home, that is true. But that doesn't mean that I won't be spending time with you, or that I won't continue to be the annoying mother-hen you have always accused me of being. What it does mean, my big girl, is that you are going to have to pick up after yourself, clean your own room, and, for heaven's sake, try to insert a few regular meals in that horrible junk food diet you're on.

Caitlin and I are in the process of moving into a larger place together, and it will take us a little time to become settled. But once that happens, we would like very much if you would consider coming to visit. Be it for an hour, a day, weeks, or even years. There will be an extra bedroom in our home, and it will always be yours. That is, if you want it. For I will not force anything on you. In the meanwhile, I will continue to write and call as often as I can.

I love you, Meggie, always remember that. I pray that you love me enough to try and understand. But whatever you do, please, do not blame Caitlin for this. She only opened a door; it was my decision to walk through it.

Love always


Charlotte Grayson sat there silently and intently watching the range of emotions that swept across her friend's expressive face. There was some anger, to be sure. But there was also confusion, surprise, awe, and even some small bit of amusement. But the one expression that pleased the older woman most was the expression of childlike wonder that suffused her face even as the tears ran freely down her cheeks.

"She…they…were going to have an extra room…just for me," she whispered, her voice tinged with awe. "She wanted me to come visit. Maybe even stay."

"Yes," the older woman smiled knowingly.

"She loved me."

"Loves," the older woman corrected gently.

"She wanted me."

"She still does, Megan."

"But, what happened? Why…" her voice trailed off, unable to finish for the burn in her throat.

"That's something you need to ask her, honey. I've been privy to a few details, but not all. You would have a better understanding of the whole picture if you talk to her. And I beg you, sweet girl," the older woman implored gently, "please talk to her. Give her that chance. Give yourself that chance. Perhaps talking to her will serve two purposes; to heal a very old and painful wound, and perhaps provide some insight to your dilemma regarding Dr. Oakes," the older woman finished with a wry smile.

The young woman nodded numbly as she gazed unseeingly at the pieces of paper in her hands. "Does she…does she still want to see me?" "After what I did to her…said to her at daddy's funeral."

"With all her heart."

The younger woman nodded again, acknowledging the sweet fluttering of her heart as she allowed herself to hope. "Oh, god! Is it just that simple then? To banish the pain of those lonely years? No, it's not. It may not change anything. But we can at least try." She took a deep, cleansing breath.

"Can you give me her address?"

Part 9

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