All That Matters
S X Meagher
Blair tried her best to limit contact with David, but she found herself calling him after every therapy session. He always seemed so down that she wanted to try to prop him up a little, and a phone call was the only way she could think to do it.
She'd been out of the house for three weeks when she told him, "It means a lot to me that you're working so hard, David. I know this isn't something that comes naturally to you, and I appreciate that you're going out of your comfort zone."
"Blair, I told you I'd do anything to get you back, and I meant it. But to be honest, I don't see how this is helping. We don't even talk about the baby. This guy is totally focused on my infertility, and it's driving me nuts!"
"He is? That's what you talk about?"
"Yeah. I finally asked him why we keep going over the same stuff, and he said that he thought I had a lot of unresolved conflicts about my inability to get you pregnant. Jesus, did he have to go to school to learn that?"
"I'm sure he knows what he's doing," Blair said. "Nick says he's very good."
"Well, his only advice to me was that if I don't think I'm making progress, he can see me more often. I'm already going three times a week. I think the guy must be trying to save up for the down payment on a house, and he’s decided to use me rather than go to a bank."
"Maybe he's right," Blair said. "You should at least consider it, David."
He sighed. "All right. I'll consider it. I guess I don't have anything else to do with my evenings. I might as well spend them with Charles."
He said the name like an insult, and Blair asked, "Do you dislike him?"
"I don't …" He paused for a second, and Blair could just imagine his rubbing his hand over his short hair, one of his nervous habits. "I don't dislike him. He just seems like such a know-it-all. He sits there and looks like he knows what I'm thinking. I hate that."
"Keep working at it, David. It's too early to tell if you're going to click with him. If you really don't like him, I'm sure Nick can find someone else for you."
"No, no, I've bared my soul once. I don't wanna have to go through that again."
"Okay," Blair said. "It was only a suggestion."
"I'm sorry," David said quietly. "It's just frustrating. I've seen him seven times. Shouldn't something be happening by now?"
"I don't know, honey. I've never been in therapy. If you can think of another way to change how you feel, go for it. But this is the only way I know."
"I guess you're right," he said, sounding very defeated. "If it's possible to change the way you feel, I guess this is the way to do it."
Later that night, Kylie was sprawled out on one end of her new extra-long sofa, Blair curled up on the other. They were watching a movie. Rather — Kylie was watching a movie, and Blair was drooling down her shirt, her head at an impossibly uncomfortable angle.
Trying to get up with as much stealth as possible, Kylie eased herself off the butterscotch-colored leather, grimacing as it creaked noisily. She snuck over to Blair and gently slipped a hand under her face to try to place her head back onto the cushion. Pale eyes blinked open, and the sleepy woman muttered, “Getting fresh?”
“Yeah,” Kylie said, smiling at her. “The only way I ever get lucky is to sneak up on a woman while she’s asleep. You woke up before I could get your clothes off.”
Blair looked down at her herself. “Was I drooling on the new furniture?”
“Like I care about that. Besides, that's why I bought leather. I knew you were a drooler, and I figured my new dog might be one, too."
Blair rose up onto an elbow and smiled at her friend. "You have a strange sense of humor, Doc. I guess that's why I like you."
"I like you, too," Kylie said. "That's why I was trying to sit you up a little — so your neck didn’t cramp.”
“I think I’d rather go in the other direction,” she said, dropping back down and scooting a little so her head was on the seat cushion. She forced an eye open and saw that she was taking up most of the space. When she started to get up, Kylie urged her to stay.
“Go right ahead and stretch out. You can rest your feet in my lap. I don’t mind.”
“Sure?” she mumbled sleepily. “I could just go to bed.”
“I like the companionship,” Kylie said. She sat back down and put Blair’s legs across her lap, giving her feet a rub. By the time she’d expended ten minutes of attention on her, the smaller woman had started to snore, and Kylie reached for the TV headphones which were a requirement once Blair started sawing logs. “Sleep tight, Blair,” she whispered, continuing to pat her gently.
The next week, David called Blair after his Wednesday afternoon therapy session. After some small talk, she commented, “I go to see my obstetrician next week, David. I told her I’d make up my mind about amniocentesis before I came to see her.”
“I've been reading that book you left me," David said. "Is amniocentesis where they stick that great big needle into …” He paused, then asked, “Talking about this doesn’t make you sick, does it?”
“Well, yeah, a little. Thanks for asking, though. And, yes, this is where they take a sample of amniotic fluid to test for some heavy-duty birth defects. Monique hasn’t pushed it, but she thinks I should probably do it. I’m sure you remember, I'm right on the cusp of a high-risk pregnancy.”
“Then why waste time worrying about it? Just let her do it.”
“It’s more complicated than that, David. There’s a risk to the baby’s health."
"Oh. Is it a high risk?"
"What else is bothering you?" he asked. "You sound like you're worried."
"I am. If the results come back showing a major genetic defect, we'd have to make some choices."
“Abortion, David. It doesn’t make sense to even have the test if I’m not considering the option of an abortion if something horrible is wrong.”
“Well … would you?” he asked tentatively.
“I wouldn’t make that decision without your help, David. This is our baby.”
“I can’t … I couldn’t …" He took in a breath and said, "I don’t think I’m the right person to help you with that, Blair. It’s your body.”
“And our baby,” she said for the millionth time. “I would never make a choice to terminate the pregnancy without you.”
“Blair,” he said, “please don’t ask that of me. You know how ambivalent I am right now. If I urged you to have an abortion, you’d always worry that I did it because I didn’t want the baby. I know you’ll make the right decision if it comes to that, and I’ll be there for you. I promise I will. Just don’t ask me to help make the decision.”
“All right,” she said tiredly. “I’m bushed. I’ve got to take a nap.”
“I love you, Blair. I really do.”
“I know, David. I know.”
She hung up and sat in her room, crying for a long while, but she didn't follow her instinct to isolate herself. She went in search of Kylie and found her in the den, watching The Magic Flute on PBS. "You're home early. Mind if I join you?"
"Love to have you," Kylie said.
Blair dropped onto the sofa. "I just need some company. I'm feeling awfully lonely."
"Actually, I'd love to have a foot rub. It makes me feel grounded. If it’s not too much …"
"One foot rub, coming right up," Kylie said, smiling warmly at her friend. Blair slumped deeper into the sofa and swung her feet up, putting them carefully in Kylie’s lap. Kylie began to rub Blair's bare feet, sneaking occasional glances at her friend. As expected, the blonde nodded off within seven minutes. I get better all the time, Kylie thought. One of these days, I'm gonna break the five minute barrier.
A half hour later, Blair’s soft moans made Kylie start to stroke her leg, trying to reassure her in her sleep. Suddenly, the blonde sat bolt upright, eyes wide, a fine sheen of sweat covering her face. She started to pant, and Kylie leapt up, then knelt in front of her. “You had a bad dream, Blair. Everything’s all right. Just calm down and take a deep breath.”
Leaning heavily against her, Blair did as she was told, and after a moment, she caught her breath. “God, that was a bad one,” she moaned.
“Wanna talk about it?”
“No, no, this one was too real.” She wiped her hair away from her face and said, “Nick told me to write down all of my fears before I go to sleep, but I've been passing out so easily that I haven't been doing it. Damn!" She shivered and hugged herself tightly. "I’ve been having this one a lot when I nap.”
“It might help if we talked about it. Wanna try?”
“No, I don’t … I can’t," she admitted shakily. She tried to slow her racing heart by breathing slowly. The television was on, but Blair couldn't convince herself to listen to it. All that she could focus on were the images from her dream, still assaulting her. She looked at Kylie. "Are you watching this?" she asked.
"Nope." Kylie switched off the set.
"I don’t wanna talk about the dream, but I can tell you why I'm having it." She took in a calming breath and said, "I’m worried about having amnio.”
“Oh." Kylie nodded and looked contemplative. "I was wondering when that would come up. Are you worried about the test or the results or what?”
“All of the above,” she said. “I'm sure I'm worried about more things, too, but that's all that I can think of at the moment."
"Tell me what's going on," Kylie said. "I know I'd be worried about it."
Blair sat stock still, trying to gather her thoughts and then said, "I guess my real issue is whether to have the test at all.”
“I can understand that,” Kylie said. “It'd be hard for me, too.”
“You wouldn’t be in the mood to tell me what to do, would you?”
“No, that’s not what you need,” she said. “You need someone to support you no matter what you do. That’s my job.”
“That’s my husband’s job, too,” Blair grumbled. “Actually, it’s his job to help me make this decision, but he won’t.”
“Tell me what the issues are for you. Maybe I can help you sort them out.”
“Issues? I'm too screwed up to organize my thoughts. I'll just tell you what I'm afraid of," she said. "I'm afraid of hurting a perfectly healthy baby by having the test."
"That's a possibility, but it's not very likely," Kylie said. "What else?"
"I'm obviously worried about finding out something horrible. Given my age, there's a real chance that I could have a baby with a genetic defect."
"Yeah, there is a chance. Again, it's not likely, but there's a chance. How would you feel if you didn't have the test and your baby had a genetic defect?"
"I can't be sure," she said thoughtfully. "I don't think anyone knows how she'd react in that situation."
"What's your guess?" Kylie asked.
"I’m afraid I’d hate myself for not having been able to prepare for the news.”
Looking at her with an expression of warm concern, Kylie asked, “How would you ever prepare yourself for that?”
Blair rolled her head slowly, trying to work some of the tension from her muscles. "I don't have the slightest idea." She looked at Kylie and said, "I told you I wasn't thinking clearly."
Kylie shook her head. “No, no, you're doing well. Just think about it for a minute. If you knew the baby had a genetic defect, how do you think you'd react?"
The room was completely silent, but Blair was sure she could hear her own heart beating. The question she'd been avoiding was finally on the table, and it scared her to death. “I guess I might have to decide to abort if the birth defects were severe enough.”
“Would you?” Kylie gave her a penetrating look, holding her gaze for a long time. "Would you be able to make the decision to abort if the baby had a severe problem?"
“No,” she said immediately, surprising herself. “I guess I could withhold treatment once the baby was born if he didn't have brain function or something horrible, but I can't make the decision to actually kill my baby.” She shuddered roughly, and shook her head. “I can't.”
“Then don’t have the test,” Kylie said. She blinked and said, “I just told you what to do!”
“You sure did,” Blair said, tears welling up in her eyes. “Thank you, thank you so much, Kylie.” She leaned forward and brushed her lips against her friend’s, then held onto her for a long hug. “This is the right decision for me. Thank you, thank you for helping me make it.”
“Any time,” she sighed. Pulling away, she got to her feet and tugged Blair up with her. “Time for dinner.” She walked with her to the kitchen and stood in the doorway for a moment, looking pensive. “Let’s make a pact. Let’s both believe that you have the healthiest, happiest baby in the whole world growing inside of you. Belief can make things happen, Blair, and I’m a believer.”
Blair looked at her, seeing the quiet confidence she radiated and allowed herself to feel its infectious power. “I believe, too, Kylie. I do.”
On Friday night, Blair came into the house and found Kylie in the den, reading. "I've got great news," she said.
Her delivery was so unenthusiastic and her expression so flat that Kylie said, "You look pissed off. That's never good news."
"Oh. I sat in Monique's office for two hours before I finally gave up. I had to psyche myself up so much to make the decision about not having the amnio, and now I'm bummed that I have to wait to tell her." She walked over to Kylie and threaded her hands through her hair, giving her curls a little fluffing. "I wanted to get it over with, so I could stop worrying about it."
"Aww … that sucks. And I know how you hate to wait. You must have been pissed off, too."
"Yeah, even though I understand her schedule is bound to be unpredictable, I'll never like it." She made a face and then tried to look happier. "I shouldn't make a big deal about it. I'll just go next week."
"Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but Monique's only gonna be in the office on Monday and Tuesday. She's going away for a long weekend."
"Then it'll be the week after that," Blair said. "I can't let a little delay bring me down."
"So what's the good news?" Kylie asked.
Blair stuck her hands out and took in a deep breath. She opened one eye a little bit and said, "I'm getting excited." Another deep breath, a little running in place, then she opened her eyes and raised her voice to a higher register. "I think I’ve found you a puppy!” She jumped up and down as much as her changing body would let her, looking like a happy child.
“Let’s go get it!” Kylie cried. She scrambled to her feet, grabbed Blair's hand and headed for the garage.
"Wait!" Blair pulled her to a stop. Her enthusiasm drained out of her in a moment. “That’ll take a little work. It’s in Boston.”
“Boston! The only Norfolk terrier in the country is in Boston?”
“Well, no,” she said, looking abashed. “There’s a litter in Pacific Palisades.”
“Blair, I could walk to Pacific Palisades. Why on earth would I go to Boston?”
“’Cause the one in Boston needs you more,” she said, batting her eyes at her friend.
“Come sit down here and give me the whole story,” Kylie demanded, “’cause I want to go to Pacific Palisades right now and get a puppy!”
“Okay,” she said. She took a deep breath and told the whole truth. “I want you to take a dog that’s been rescued. I’ve been trying to find one that was abandoned.”
“Because it’s the right thing to do. There are so many dogs that people give away that it just seems wrong to buy one from a breeder. You don’t want to make it into a show dog, Kylie, and you don’t want to breed it, so why not take a dog that someone else didn’t want?”
Seeing the hopeful look in her friend’s eyes, Kylie nodded agreeably. “Okay, I see your point. But I want a puppy. I want to make sure the dog's socialized properly when it’s young so that it’s good with the baby. Besides, the book says that the dog can be tough to potty train. I don't want a dog that someone gave away because it peed all over his house.”
“I found you a puppy,” Blair said. “Some family bought a puppy from a breeder, and when the children didn’t feed it and walk it like they'd promised to, the parents took it to the pound. A woman in Boston rescues Norfolks, and she took him in. He’s sixteen weeks old, and she said he's just perfect. He needs a home, Kylie — don’t you want to adopt him?”
Something about the way Blair’d said "adopt" nearly made Kylie cry. She found her head nodding decisively. “Let’s call. I want him.”
Throwing her arms around her friend, Blair started to cry, sobbing pitifully. “I knew you’d want to take him, I just knew it.” And suddenly Kylie felt as proud of herself as she had at any time in her life.
"Hi, Linda. This is Blair Spencer. My friend, Kylie, definitely wants the puppy."
"Oh, that's good to hear, Blair. When can she come to Boston?"
"She has to come? I thought you could just send the puppy —"
"Oh, no. I'd never do that in a rescue situation, Blair. This dog has been through enough turmoil having to change homes twice in the last four weeks. I have to make sure Kylie is going to be a good owner."
"I can understand that," Blair said, "but Boston is quite a trip."
"I'm sure there will be a dog on the West Coast, Blair. If it's too much for her to get away, she'll just have to be patient."
Kylie saw how the conversation was going, so she asked for the phone. "Hi, Linda, this is Kylie."
"Hi. Blair tells me that it'll be tough for you to get out here. I wish I could help, Kylie, but I can only wait another week. Blair called first, but I've gotten a dozen calls since then."
"It's not a problem," Kylie said. "I can be in Boston on Thursday, if that works for you."
"That's great. Why don’t you give me your address, and I'll e-mail you all of the details."
Kylie finished with Linda, turned in her chair and shrugged. "I guess I'm going to Boston."
"Can I go, too?"
"Sure. We can go on Wednesday night, since Thursday is the 4th of July. We could come back later that day or stay over and come back Friday." She went to her wallet to pull out a credit card, but stopped on the way back, pausing to tap her nose with the card for a moment. “How close is Boston to Maine?”
“You could drive it easily. Why … oh, I know,” she said. “Someone wants to go pay a visit to Professor Amanda, lesbian poet.”
“Well … I’ll be right in the neighborhood … it would be rude not to stop by. I’ve always wanted to see Maine, you know. Actually, it’s a life goal.” She was grinning, and Blair gave her a pat.
“Tryin' to dump me, huh?"
"Well, not dump exactly, but …"
"Go ahead, Doc. Call her and pitch the idea. You do have her number, don’t you?”
“Why, I believe I do,” Kylie said. “But since this trip will cost me an arm and a leg, I think I’ll send her an e-mail. Much cheaper.”
Amanda was happy to have a guest, and Kylie was able to rearrange her schedule, so she was able to make the trip guilt-free. But her clear conscience didn’t extend to Blair. “I don’t like the idea of your being here all alone. I think I’ll have Nick come stay with you. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”
“Kylie, I haven’t needed a babysitter since I was ten. I certainly don’t need Nick to watch me. If I have any trouble, I can call David; he’s five minutes from here.”
“But who’s going to keep you company at night? And you know, you sleep better after a little massage.”
“Some pregnant women go an entire nine months without one massage. Rumor has it that the experience doesn’t leave lasting scars. Now I want you to go, and I want you to have fun doing whatever you people do on a second date.”
“You people?” Kylie said, blinking.
“Just trying to get your goat, Doc. Now lighten up. Give me a nice backrub tonight and make it extra special to make up for the ones I’ll be missing.”
“You got it,” Kylie said.
By the time Blair got home from a dinner meeting on Wednesday night, Kylie had already left for the airport. She found a pillow, nearly the size of Kylie and with a note taped to it, sitting in her friend’s usual place on the sofa in the den.
Cuddle up with me while you sleep in
front of the TV, then take me to bed with
you. I know I’m really big, but that means
you can drape a leg over me, and that
might help take some of the strain off
I’m no substitute for Kylie’s magic
fingers, but that’s understandable since
she’s god-like. She’ll be home on Sunday
night, and she said to tell you that she
misses you and Baby Spencer already.
Damn, she must have some very scary hidden quirks to still be single. Maybe she forces her girlfriends to undergo "minor" surgical procedures once she gets 'em alone. Blair giggled for a moment, wishing Kylie were there to hear her joke. Well, there's nothing else to do around here; it's time for a nap.
Smiling, Blair kicked off her shoes, slipped off the skirt that had been digging into her belly all evening, and curled up with Puffy, barely remembering to turn the TV on before she fell asleep.
Kylie had not recruited Nick for babysitting duty, but Blair wasn’t surprised in the least when the psychologist just happened to call her on Thursday afternoon to ask if he could take her to dinner. “Did she coerce you into this, Nick? ‘Cause I’m all right.”
“No, actually, it was my idea,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to try a new place on Montana, and I thought you'd be the ideal date.”
“Sold,” Blair said, knowing that he was lying a bit, but not minding. “Drop by my office whenever you’re free. I have tons of work to do, so just get here when you can.”
"It's the 4th of July!"
"Real estate agents work when there's something to be done. And lately I've had a hell of a lot to do."
Nick arrived quite early, just after5:00, and Blair was very happy to see him. Sitting at her desk for long was hell on her back, and she loved the idea of a nice walk to help her get the kinks out. “How far is this new place?” she asked.
“It’s at Montana and 22nd Street,” he said. “Is that too far to walk?”
“She told you to make me walk, didn’t she?” Blair asked, eyes narrowing.
“Well,” he drawled, “she mentioned that if we happened to go out, it might be best to make sure we got in a nice, long walk. You know, dinner was my idea, but Kylie made me promise to take you for a walk on the palisades this weekend.”
“She watches me like a hawk,” Blair said, laughing. “Is she like this with all of her friends?”
He hesitated for a moment, then shook his head. “No, actually, she’s not. She doesn’t mother her other friends at all." He gave Blair an appraising look and said, "I've known her for quite a while, and I'm surprised by how generous and concerned she's been with you. You bring out a side of her that only Stacey got to see.” He smiled and said, “You've gotten beneath her façade, and that's not easy to do.”
They were nearly at the restaurant when they passed a café with an outdoor seating area. Blair was speaking when she stopped mid-word and stared at a couple as if she’d been turned to stone. Nick put his hand on her shoulder to see what was wrong, and she managed to gasp out, “My husband!”
He whirled and saw a man and a woman, laughing and sharing a platter of oysters, then looked at Blair again. Her normal demeanor slowly returned, and without looking at Nick, she said, “I’ll be right back,” then stalked away before he could move. She approached the railing that separated the diners from pedestrians and tapped a man on the shoulder. David's eyes nearly popped from his head when he turned and saw her.
“David,” she said briskly. Extending her hand, she faced the woman and said, “Blair Spencer. David’s wife.” She said the word wife with as much emphasis as possible, feeling some satisfaction when the woman looked more than a little abashed.
“I'm Kimmy Reynolds. David and I work together,” she managed to get out. “We were just, uhm … talking about work. We're having a … meeting.”
David looked too stunned to speak, and after a moment, it became clear that he wasn't going to.
“Ahh … the 4th of July is always a good time to meet,” Blair snapped. "Although it's hard to hear each other over the fireworks." She twitched her head at Nick and turned in the direction whence they’d come, marching away like an army of one.
It took almost three blocks to get Blair to stop shaking violently, then another quick side trip to let her vomit against the curb. Nick had never been so cognizant of the lack of public transportation or cabs in his home city, but there were none to be found, and Blair and he were forced to walk the entire fifteen blocks.
When they reached her office, he said, "I'm gonna take you home. You're in no condition to drive."
"Look, Nick, I know what I'm capable of. I can drive home, and I'm going to."
"Blair, I don't think that's wise."
She put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed it. "I've been through worse traumas in the last few months. I'll be fine."
She entered Kylie’s house at 6:30 and spent the next half-hour cursing David’s name — wishing she’d never met the man — hoping that catastrophe befell him in the immediate future — and thanking God that her baby would not share one single chromosome with the cheating bastard. She was just about drained of her anger and was well on her way to the depression she knew would follow, when the front doorbell rang. Assuming it was Nick, checking up on her, she went to the door and peeked out, surprised to find David standing on the porch. “Go fuck yourself,” she shouted through the closed door, kicking it sharply to emphasize her point.
“Come on, Blair, open up. I can explain,” he shouted.
“If I open this door, I might kill you,” she yelled back. “Still wanna come in?”
“Yes,” he hollered back. “I want you to know the truth.”
She flung the door open, looking as horrid as he had ever seen her. She hadn't gained much weight, and no one at work had noticed the changes in her body. But her waist had thickened, making her short, tight skirt look positively obscene once her jacket was off. Her eyes were red and bloodshot, her nose was running liberally and her expression was one of pure malevolence. “Go on, explain,” she shouted, hands balled into fists.
“She’s just a co-worker,” he said. “Really. I’ve never touched her, Blair!”
“I’ve met your co-workers,” she said. “Every person you work with is at least ten years older than that woman! Damn it, David, every one of your co-workers is a man.”
“She’s new,” he explained. “She doesn’t know her way around yet, so we went to dinner to talk about office politics. That’s it, Blair, I swear.”
“What does she do at your firm?” she asked, one eyebrow raised.
“She’s, uhm … she’s a receptionist.”
“Well, that makes sense,” she sneered. “I’m sure you have many techniques to share with her about how to answer the fucking phones properly!”
“Look,” he said, “you don’t have to believe me, but I have never touched her. Never.”
“How many times have you been out with her?” she demanded, sensing from his tone that this was not the first time they'd socialized.
Realizing he was digging himself in deeper, he told the truth, “We've had dinner or lunch together four times.”
“I’ve been out of the damned house for six weeks,” she yelled, “and you’ve had four dates!”
“They were not dates. I don’t pay for her. We just have a meal together or go to the movies. We’re just friends, Blair. Is it wrong to have a woman friend?”
“Yes. It’s wrong to have a woman friend when your pregnant wife's living away from home, while you're supposed to be making some changes so she can come back. Yes, in that case, it’s wrong to have a woman friend.”
“You were with a man,” he said, then wished he could pull that sentence right back in when he saw the hurt expression she gave him.
Tears flowing, she sniffed, “That was Nick, Kylie’s friend. She’s out of town, so she forced the poor guy to baby-sit me. She’s just my friend, and she cares enough to make sure I’m taken care of — even when she's gone. You, on the other hand, are spending all of your energy on making sure Kimmy can answer a phone. What in the fuck kind of name is Kimmy anyway? Adults aren't named Kimmy!"
“I didn't name her, Blair, and you're the one who didn't want to see me. You’re the one who made that rule, not me.” He glared at her and added, "But that shouldn't surprise me, since you've made all of the rules."
"I have to set down rules because you're so fucking helpless. All I hear from you is that you're not connected and you don't know how to change."
"I still don't," he grumbled.
"Have you made any progress at all in therapy?”
He looked down at the ground, silent for a moment. Finally, he said, “No. I haven’t.”
“In six weeks, you haven’t made any progress at all?”
“No.” Again he stared at the floor, infuriating her.
She grabbed him by the tie, yanking hard. “What have you been doing? I’m a third of the way through this pregnancy, and you haven’t made one bit of progress!”
He glared at her, while prying her fingers from his tie. “I’ve been humiliating myself. Three times a week, I go and tell Charles how it feels to be half a man.” He got right into her face and fumed, “You want to know why I like talking with Kimmy? I like her because she doesn’t know my dick doesn’t work right. I feel like a real man when I’m with her. Like I used to feel before this whole God damned mess started!”
She turned and walked down the hall, headed for her room. She didn’t much care if he stayed or left, she just had to get away from him and get out of her constricting clothing. Tossing clothes haphazardly, she reached into her dresser and pulled out the cozy flannel nightshirt that Kylie had recently bought for her. It was a message shirt, and she'd delighted in it until tonight. Now it seemed positively ironic, but she didn’t have many other things that fit her and kept her warm in the cool evenings. Tugging the navy blue garment into place, she looked at herself in the mirror, nearly shocking herself with how truly awful she looked. “Baby under construction, indeed,” she snarled at her image before returning to the entryway.
The front door was closed, and she assumed David had left. She actually let out a startled yip when she saw him sitting stiffly in the living room. “What do you want?” she asked tiredly.
“We were having a conversation —" he began, but she cut him off.
“What do you want to do about us?” she asked, clarifying her point.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I do know that I want to quit therapy. It’s not working, and it only makes me feel worse and worse.”
“Fine. Quit,” she said without emotion. “My question remains.”
He sat back heavily and scrubbed his face. “Do you have any liquor? I could use a drink.”
She had to think, then said, “Look in the cabinet over the sink. That's probably where she keeps it.”
He got up and looked, and she could hear him say something to himself. A few moments later, he came back, a stiff-looking drink in his hand. “She has some very nice Scotch.”
“She’s Scottish. Maybe she makes it herself.” Giving him a pointed look, she repeated, “What do you want to do?”
"Could we go outside? I need a cigarette."
"I need a husband. My baby needs a father. Everybody needs something, but nobody's gonna get what he wants tonight."
He stared at her for a moment, then shook his head and sat down. “I want you to come home, and I want to try my best to be a father to the child. I can’t promise to be as enthusiastic as you want me to be, but I’ll try my best. That’s all I can do, Blair. I can only try my best.”
“What if your best isn’t good enough, David? What if our baby knows he isn’t wanted? Is that just the breaks?”
“I don’t think that'll happen, Blair. I'll probably be crazy about him or her once it's here. And even if I wasn't, I can’t imagine the baby would know that.”
“And what about us? How do I get over the fact that I would know? How do I regain the respect I used to have for you? How do I get the man I used to know back? The one who would never create a child, and then decide he wasn’t able to love it? Where’s that guy?”
“He obviously didn’t exist,” David said quietly. “I’m the same guy I’ve always been. You just want someone better.”
“I don’t think that’s true, David. I think you’re a giving, caring man who's trying not to love this child. I think you're afraid to take the risk. I think you're afraid to open your heart.”
“I’ve tried, Blair. I swear I’ve tried. I wish I were the man you think I am, but I’m not. I’m just a guy who loves you and very much wants you to come home. I’ve loved you for ten years,” he said, “and in just a few months, you’re ready to walk away from me forever. How much could you love me to be able to do that?”
“We obviously have some sort of communication gap,” she said. “You don’t understand how parenthood changes you. Your focus naturally goes to your child. The baby I carry is my top priority. I think of it before I think of my own needs, and, yes, I think of it before your needs. This child is what matters.”
“Not to me,” he said firmly. “You’re my priority, and if you love me as much as I love you, you’ll come home and try to work this out together.”
“I can’t do that. I need total support, and I get that from Kylie. She cares for this baby like it’s critically important, David, and she’s just a friend!”
“I know that Kylie's the world's most perfect person, Blair, but you didn't marry her — you're stuck with me. Besides, maybe she's got an advantage because she's a woman. Being supportive might be something that women are programmed to do.”
“No, that’s not it. It’s that she realizes that this is vitally important to me, and since she’s my friend, it’s vitally important to her. Shouldn’t the same be true of you?”
“I wish it were true,” he said quietly. “I wanted a child more than you did. This meant more to me than I can ever explain to you. I’ve had to give up my dream to have a child of my own, and I don’t think that’s something you can ever understand.”
“Yes, you’re right, David, I can never understand that because I think it’s wrongheaded. Your idea of fatherhood seems to be passing on your genes. Well, what makes your genes so fucking wonderful? Your genetic contribution is nothing compared to what you could give this child in love and nurturing and guidance. That’s a contribution that a real man can make. So maybe you’re right. Maybe you are half a man. But it’s not your sperm that makes you that way.” She stared at him until he met her eyes. “It’s your heart.”
He leaned his head back as he drained his drink. He got up, and she assumed he would leave, but he returned with another drink of the same strength. Sitting down, he stared at her for a long time. “It’s your turn. I told you what I want. What do you want?”
“You know full well what I want, but I’m not going to get it. I’m willing to live apart, and hope that you change your mind. You might have some epiphany when you hold the baby for the first time and realize that you’re the only father he’ll ever know. He either has you or no one, David.”
“Maybe," he said, looking unconvinced. "And if I don't have some major revelation when the baby's born?"
“Then I'll divorce you," she said without emotion. "I’ve got to be honest, David; if I knew you felt this way about non-biological children, I never would have married you. Hell, I wouldn’t have dated you.” She shook her head and said, “There isn’t a better father in the world than mine. And there’s no doubt in my mind or in my heart that he’s my father — my real father. The jerk who had an orgasm in my egg-donor is nothing to me. Our baby will always know that you're his father, even if you don’t recognize him as your child. That’s a burden you’re going to have to bear, David.”
“I’ve offered you the best that I can do, Blair. I want to remain your husband. I want to try to be a good father to your baby. I wish I could live up to your standards, but I can't. Sometimes loving someone means that you have to accept a person with his flaws.”
“Sometimes you do,” she agreed, tiredly. “And sometimes you don’t." She stared at him for a full minute, the time ticking by like hours. "I'm gonna ask you an important question, and I want the truth."
He looked her right in the eye, waiting for her to speak.
"You've been in therapy for six weeks. Have you given it everything you have? Or did you just do it because I made you?"
He didn't even blink. He looked at her with his head held high and said, "I did it because you made me. It was a complete waste of time."
She nodded, then said, "I'm not going to wait until the baby's born. I’m gonna file for divorce right now. You don't deserve to be this baby's father or my husband."
He stood and looked at her, his mouth moving, but no sound coming out. She gazed up at him like he was a stranger, and after seeing that her resolve didn’t waver, he set his glass down, turned and walked out the door.
On Friday afternoon, the phone rang, waking Blair from her afternoon coma. “Blair? It’s Kylie. I wanted to check to see how you’re doing.”
“Fine,” she mumbled, trying to make her voice work.
“Did I wake you? It’s noon there.”
“Oh … I’m just taking a nap. Didn’t get much sleep last night. So, how are things?”
“Good … great, actually. I spent most of yesterday with the breeder. She’s really nice, although she missed her calling as a police interrogator. She knows more about me now than my mother does.”
“Tell me about the puppy!” Blair said, her excitement for her friend making a small dent in her depression.
“He’s a doll,” Kylie said, “a real little comic. The people who gave him up must be psychopaths.”
“Are you going to take him now?”
“No, no, I’m on my way up to Maine. I'll come back here on Sunday, then go to the airport. I’ve got to buy a traveling crate and a few other things.”
“Are you excited?”
“Very. I’m so excited that there’s a part of me that wants to come home right now. But then I slap some sense into myself and remember that I might be able to kiss a real live woman before the weekend's over. So I’m off to Maine. Wish me luck, buddy.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Blair said.
Kylie was quiet for amoment, then she said, “I’ve got about twenty comebacks to that comment, but I’m not sure if they’d offend you. For the time being, let’s just say that the most fun parts of being a lesbian are doing the things you wouldn’t do.”
“I want to hear every one of your dirty comments when you get home,” Blair said. She could feel herself misting up, but she was determined not to let Kylie know what had happened with David. “I miss you, Kylie. Baby Spencer misses you, too.”
“I miss you both, but I’ll be back soon. You two get your rest and get ready to have fun when I come home. The house will never be the same!”
Blair spent all of Sunday showing a client around, and when she poked her head in the front door that night, she paused for a moment, listening for puppy sounds. “Kylie?"
Her friend came running into the room. “Hi!” she said brightly. She went to the door and pulled Blair in, then kissed her gently. “Missed you.”
“Where is he?” Blair asked, looking around. “Oh, I missed you, too,” she added, slipping her arms around Kylie’s waist and giving her a big hug.
“Won’t be long,” she said. “We were playing in the back yard.” As predicted, a fluffy, brick-red ball of energy appeared on cue, scampering across the tile so quickly that it slipped and skidded right into Blair’s feet.
“Oh, my God! He’s adorable!” She bent and picked him up, cuddling him, then tucking her hands under his front legs and holding him up in the air. “Uhm … Kylie, he’s not a he.”
“I know,” she said. Just then another ball of fluff flew into the room. “But he is.”
“You got two?”
“I had to,” she said. “They needed me the most.” She scooped the other pup into her arms and held him up for Blair’s inspection. “Meet Nick and Nora. They’re just seven months old, and they’re siblings.”
“But I thought you didn’t want an older dog,” Blair said. “And why in the hell did you name one of them after your best buddy?”
“I didn’t and I didn’t,” she said. “The dogs already had names, and I didn’t want an older dog, but only because I wanted to be sure the dog, or dogs in this case, would be good with kids. I’m completely satisfied that these two will be.”
“Let me go change. I want to hear the whole story.” She looked at her friend and said, “Come with me. I can’t bear to wait.”
“Okay. Do you two want to go watch Blair change?” Giving her friend a grin, she advised, “They’re in.”
When they got to her room, Blair started to take off her suit, and Kylie couldn’t help but note that the time had arrived for maternity clothes. Even though Blair wouldn't have been showing in casual clothes, her work clothes were not at all casual. She always wore a skirt or a dress, and most of them were very form-fitting and short — highlighting every spare pound. “Wanna go shopping this weekend?” she asked as tactfully as possible.
“Smooth,” Blair grumbled, seeing through her comment. “Actually, I’m sure I’ll be going shopping this weekend. With my mother.”
“Yep,” she said, plopping down onto her bed. “That’s something we need to talk about. My parents are coming to visit for the weekend … actually, maybe a little longer than that. I don’t know how you feel about having them —"
“They’ll stay here,” Kylie said immediately. “We have two guest rooms. We’ll just go buy another bed.”
“Oh, Kylie, I don’t want to impose. I’m just a guest myself.”
“Not if I had my way,” she said. “I want you and David to sell your house and move in here. I love having you here, Blair. It’s gonna be so hard for me when you leave.”
Unwilling to start revealing her bad news until Kylie had told her all about the dogs, Blair tried to hold back her tears. “I love it here, Kylie. I … I … don't want to leave … I don't have anywhere to go." By the time she finished her sentence, she was bent over at the waist, crying her eyes out.
Kylie went to her and held her in her arms, stroking her body to calm her. The dogs got agitated as well, and started to scamper all over her, licking her face and whimpering.
“I’m upsetting the puppies,” she sobbed, crying even harder.
“They’re fine,” Kylie assured her. “They just want you to feel better, and so do I.” She kissed her head repeatedly, rocking her gently and murmuring into her ear, “Tell me what’s wrong, Blair. Why are you so sad?”
“D … D … David and I are getting a di … divorce,” she choked out, a fresh stream of tears accompanying her words.
“Oh, no,” Kylie gasped, holding her even tighter. “Oh, Blair, what happened?"
“A lot of things. It all began when Nick took me to dinner on Friday, and we saw David with another woman.”
The shock that immediately covered Kylie’s face quickly turned to an expression of abject sorrow. She started to cry as well, and soon Blair found herself comforting her. “Oh, Blair, how could he do that to you?” she sniffed. “Stupid fucking bastard!”
“It’s all right," Blair soothed, stroking her friend's back. “He claims he isn’t sleeping with her; he just likes to hang out with her because she makes him feel like he used to.” With an outraged expression, Kylie started to speak, but Blair placed a finger on her lips. “I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s how he feels, and I don’t have any way to reach him anymore. He hates therapy — it humiliates him to have to talk about being infertile.” She shook her head. “He isn’t going to get to where I need him to be. I decided that the baby would be better off with no father than with one who didn’t love him with all his heart.”
The doctor's eyes were filled with both tears and fierce determination. “I know it’s not the same, but I’ll fill in for him in any way I can,” Kylie promised. “I’ll be there for you, Blair, I swear.”
“I believe you. I knew it without even asking.” They held each other for a few minutes, both of them slowly calming down. When neither woman was crying, Nick curled up across Blair’s thighs, with his head leaning against her belly. Nora took a similar spot on Kylie, even though her pillow wasn’t as pronounced. “The puppies are tired,” Blair yawned. “Me, too.”
“A nap sounds great,” Kylie said. “We’ve been running around since 3:00 a.m., California time.”
“Lie with me?” Blair asked, a touch of shyness inflecting her voice. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but I’d love it if you’d hold me. I feel so broken today, Kylie.”
“I could never be uncomfortable holding you,” Kylie said. “Never. It makes me feel good to have you ask me.” She tucked Nora up under her arm and scooted into position. Blair took Nick along, then snuggled up next to Kylie, putting her head on her shoulder.
“Is this okay? Not too close?”
“It's perfect,” Kylie said. Nora moved down to lie on Kylie’s belly, while Nick draped himself across Blair’s hip. “I’d love to get a picture of this,” Kylie chuckled. “We must look like quite the group.”
“I don’t care how we look. All I know is that I haven’t felt this safe in ages. Thanks.”
“You’re very welcome,” Kylie murmured. “You’re welcome to cuddle with me any time you want. I always cuddled with my older sister … it’s addictive.”
"A nice addiction," Blair sighed. "Feels good."
Blair woke before Kylie, nuzzling tightly against her friend, needing the warmth of her body to help feel grounded again. As soon as Kylie felt her move, she was awake, eyes bright and alert. “How do you wake so quickly?” the smaller woman asked.
“Training,” Kylie said. “When you’re a surgical resident, you might be sound asleep one minute and expected to make a perfect incision ten minutes later. When you have people depending on you for their lives, you learn how to wake up quickly.” She stretched and said, “But my training also taught me how to fall asleep quickly. If you have twenty minutes to yourself in a twenty-four hour period, you don’t want to waste precious minutes falling asleep. I can sleep in any position, for any length of time.”
“If I could only learn one thing from you, it would be that,” Blair said enviously. “I waste so much time trying to wake up and then trying to go back to sleep during the night. I’ve got to learn to be more efficient.”
“Once the baby comes, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you wake,” Kylie predicted. “You’ll pick up my talent all on your own.”
“Looks like the dogs are more my style,” Blair observed, seeing the two limp puppy bodies.
“Nah. They’re just like me,” Kylie said. “Watch. Who wants dinner?” she asked excitedly.
In a flash, they were awake, hopping around the bed, jumping on top of Blair, scampering across Kylie in a rush to get their evening meal. Blair giggled at their antics, deciding, “No, they’re like me. I haven’t had all-day sickness since Friday, and the thought of dinner makes me drool. Let’s go, guys!” She slid off the bed, and both dogs followed her, running in circles around her bare feet.
“Wait for me,” Kylie called after them. “I’m the one who cooks!”
Blair wanted to help, but Kylie insisted that she wanted to cook. "You sit down and get acquainted with the babies."
The blonde put Nicky on the breakfast bar and petted him. “Tell me all about them. I’m all ears.” She giggled as Nicky nibbled one of the ears in question.
“When I got there on Thursday, I met the puppy, and he was just as cute as you could imagine. But the breeder did have a long list of people who wanted him. These little guys had only been with her a few days, but she didn’t have any takers yet. She says it’s harder to place a pair of dogs, so she expected it might take a while.”
“How do you know they’ll like kids?”
“Ooo, it’s a sad story. Sure you want to hear it?”
“I can take it. I’m all cried out, anyway.”
Kylie glanced over at her, but continued. “The guy who owned the dogs was a breeder in the Boston area. Martha, the woman who rescued them, knew the guy pretty well. He was an older man, and he found out he was dying of an inoperable cancer. So he started to give his older dogs away to other breeders he knew. This pair was from the last litter his dogs had produced, and he kept these two just because he couldn’t stand to be without any dogs at all. He had them spayed and neutered, mainly because he wasn’t sure what would become of them, and he didn’t want them bred indiscriminately. Anyway, he started taking them to the hospital when he went in for treatments. The hospital he went to had a pet therapy program, and the dogs took to it. So for the last few months, these little guys have been going to the pediatric department every week, cheering up sick kids. Apparently, they were a big hit and learned how to be around kids of every age.”
“Oh, Kylie, that’s so sad,” the blonde said, reneging on her promise not to weep. “Did the owner die?”
“Yeah, he did. Just a week ago. So the puppies are understandably sad. They need some extra care until their little broken hearts heal.”
At that, Blair lost it and started to cry in great, wracking sobs.
"Hey," Kylie soothed, "we'll make them feel loved, Blair. They won't forget their daddy, but now they've got two mommies."
"I can be a mommy, too?" she asked, looking up at her friend while she sniffled.
"Of course you can be."
Blair looked at the sweet, inquisitive face of the pup and asked, "Can I be your mommy, Nicky?" At the sound of her voice, Nora started to cry. Kylie swept the other dog up and put her on the counter as well. Nora licked Blair's face, pushing her brother out of the way to get full access.
Kylie put one arm around Blair while herding the pups close with the other. All four faces were huddled together — tiny dog tongues furiously licking human faces. "No one can have too many mommies," Kylie said, sputtering a little between licks. "The puppies need all the love you can spare."
Blair pulled out of the huddle and wiped her face. She grabbed Kylie with both hands and pulled the doctor into a ferocious hug. She was still sitting, so her face was nuzzled against Kylie's stomach. "You make me feel so good," she said. "I've been so sad since you left, but now … now I feel as happy as I have in months."
"It's the puppies," Kylie said. She ran her hand down Blair's back, gliding from her shoulder to her hip.
She could feel Blair's head move as it shook slowly. "No, it's you. You know how to cheer me up. You make me feel needed, Kylie. Like the puppies need me too."
"That's not something I try to do," Kylie said. "It's just the truth. I need you, Blair, and so do Nicky and Nora."
The blonde released her hold and patted Kylie on the back of her leg. "Well, the truth is that being with you makes me happy." She looked at the dogs and said, "I have a feeling you two could cheer up Ebenezer Scrooge." On cue, they licked her face, their tongues making her giggle. Blair thought of a question she'd forgotten to ask. “Are they named after the couple in The Thin Man movies?”
“Uh-huh. Nick and Nora Charles. The owner loved old movies. I thought we could call the puppy Nicky just to be a little different. I don’t want Nick to come running when I call the pup.”
“I think Nicky and Nora are cute names. Cute names for very cute dogs.”
When they sat down to dinner, the dogs lay at their feet — one head on Blair's foot, another on Kylie's.
"It's very generous of you to let my parents stay here, Kylie. Luckily, they both like dogs, although I can't imagine who wouldn't like these two. One condition, though — you let me buy the bed. You’ve spent so much money on furnishing this place that even your ample resources must be tapped out.”
“I’m a long way from looking for a second job, Blair. You don’t need to furnish my house. I just haven’t gotten around to furnishing the guest room. This'll spur me into action.”
“Well, can I buy the linens and the pillows? I’ll feel bad if I don’t contribute.”
“Sure. It’s a deal."
"You know, we’ve been home for hours, and I haven't heard one word about Maine."
"Well, we were a little busy," Kylie reminded her. "But if you're interested, I can fill you in."
"Of course I'm interested. Tell me everything."
“'Kay." She put down her fork and leaned back in her chair, something Blair had noticed she always did when she was telling a story. "We had a nice day on Friday. She showed me around the campus, which was one of the most gorgeous places you could imagine. If I’d seen this place when I was considering schools, I would have gone there for sure. Then Amanda made dinner for me at her apartment.” She smiled and said, “She’s a decent cook. Nothing too fancy, but she’s very competent.”
Blair tsked and gave her friend a mock scowl, “Such a critic.”
"Well, you asked for everything." Kylie wrinkled her nose and continued, “We just sat around her apartment for the rest of the evening, talking. It was nice. I got to know her a little better, and I told her all about myself. Around 11:00 I was too tired to move, so I went to my hotel and collapsed.”
“You stayed at a hotel?” Blair asked, surprised.
“Well, yeah. She didn’t offer to have me stay with her, and she only has a one-bedroom apartment.”
“Have you ever heard of making a move?" Blair asked. "Do I have to teach you everything?"
"No," Kylie laughed. "I know how to make a move, but … it didn't seem right."
"You’re pretty cautious, aren’t ya?"
“Yeah, I guess I am. I don’t want to get too close too fast. She might not even wind up living here, Blair.”
“Do you have to be in love before you sleep with a woman?”
“I think so. I didn’t feel that way when I was a kid, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve decided that sex doesn’t mean as much to me as being intimate. I can please myself sexually — and I do a much better job than a stranger would. Luckily, Amanda feels the same way. We both decided that we should keep this very casual until she decides to move here.”
“So mature,” Blair said, grinning and batting her eyelashes.
“Cautious is more like it,” Kylie said. “I’m not sure she’s the woman for me, even if she does move here. I don’t need the complication of sleeping with her before I know it’s right.”
“Do I detect a cooling of interest? You don’t seem as excited as you were before.”
“No,” she said thoughtfully. “I like her a lot.” She paused a moment, then said, “Well, you might be right. I hate to resort to such a cliché, but I don't feel any chemistry with her. She seems more like someone I'd like to hang out with than date."
"You don't think like can turn into love?"
“I guess it can, but it never has for me. Amanda seems a lot like me — emotionally at least — and I'm not usually attracted to people who are too much like me."
"Opposites can attract," Blair said, adding a sad smile. "David and I were opposites in some ways."
Kylie nodded. "I know what you mean. Stacey was my opposite in so many ways. You know, she’s one of the first people I’d ever seriously dated who knew how to handle me.”
“Are you tough to handle?” Blair asked curiously.
“I don’t think so, but only Stacey and you seem to know how to keep me from running roughshod over you.”
Blair blinked, totally surprised. “You don’t try to do that to me.”
Kylie blinked back, puzzled. “I … I guess I don’t, do I? That’s always been the number one complaint from my serious girlfriends.”
“You must have changed, Doc, ‘cause you’re the easiest person to get along with that I’ve ever known.”
Grinning widely, Kylie said, “That’s what I kept telling them. I knew those women were psychos!”
Blair was so tired that she didn’t even pretend to watch TV with Kylie and the puppies. She gave her friend a hug and went to bed not long after8:00, falling into a stupor in minutes.
The dogs wandered around the house for much of the evening, occasionally getting onto the couch with Kylie and cuddling for a while, then roaming again. It was obvious that they missed their former owner and their routine, so she decided to let them settle in at their own pace. She’d left the door to the back yard open a crack, and they immediately figured out that was where they were expected to relieve themselves. Just before bed, she decided to take them out and wait with them until she was sure their bladders were empty. After locking up, she looked around the house, unable to find them. Padding down the hall, she snuck a peek through Blair’s open door, finding Nora lying between Blair’s breasts and Nicky curled up at the apex of her thighs, his head pillowed on her belly.
The pups know who needs them more, she decided, blowing a kiss to the trio.
When Blair got home the next night, she spent a few minutes sitting on the floor with the dogs. They cheered her up so much that she was almost cheerful by the time she got outside to say hello to Kylie. "You've got some very cute anti-depressants here, Doctor Mackenzie."
"They do make you smile, don't they?"
"Yeah, and I had a hard time doing that today." Blair unzipped her skirt and tugged it off, then draped it over the back of a chair. "You don't mind if I just wear my slip, do you?"
"Nope. I'm used to greeting complete strangers who're wearing disposable paper gowns. You're a little overdressed for me."
Blair sat down on a chaise, then let her head sink back. Nicky jumped onto her chair, then Nora had to follow, both dogs trying to occupy her lap. "There's barely room for one of you," she said.
Kylie snapped her fingers. "Nora, come." The dog cocked her head, then jumped from Blair's chair to Kylie's, looking at her expectantly. "Good dog," she praised, then scratched her under her chin. "Lie down, baby." Nora did so, giving her brother a haughty look.
"Sibling rivalry, huh?" Blair asked. "I guess that's one more reason to be glad I'm only gonna have one child. It'll also let me get by with a two-bedroom apartment."
"Yeah. Our deal was that I could stay until David and I resolved things. Well … they're resolved. I'd like to stay another couple of weeks if you don't —"
"I don't want you to move!" Kylie was staring at her friend with an alarmed expression. "I don't!"
"But, Kylie, this is your house. You don't want a roommate."
"I do, too," she said. "I didn't know it until I got one, but now that I've had the experience, I've decided it's just what I need."
"Look," Kylie said. "I've told you several times that I don't like to be alone. Part of the reason I'm not going out as much as I used to is because of you, but not because I'm babysitting you. I like you, Blair, and I enjoy being with you. You're a lot more fun than some of the movies and plays that I used to spend my evenings at. I really like having you here."
"Yeah, I do. I cook more, I read more, I'm listening to music more often. It's been great for me. I mean that. I don't want it to end." She looked at her friend for a moment, then said, "Oh, shit. I didn't mean to put you on the spot. You probably need your privacy."
Blair returned her gaze, then felt a smile form. "I usually do, but it's been nice for me, too." She reached over and took Kylie's hand, giving it a squeeze. "You're fun to live with. I find myself perking up when I pull into the gate and see that your car's here." She shook her head. "It's surprising for me, but I like being here. I mean, I knew I liked you, but I never thought I'd prefer living with a woman to being alone —and I think I do."
"Then it's settled," Kylie said, her full, bright smile in place. "We'll live together until one of us doesn't like the arrangement."
"That's what the marriage contract should say," Blair grumbled. "That'd save a lot of attorneys’ fees."
"Thank God we don't need an attorney," Kylie said. "We can cement our deal with a handshake."
"Okay, but we have to work out the financials. How much rent do you want?"
"Rent?" Kylie looked at her like she was crazy. "I don't want money from you."
"Then I can't stay," Blair said. "You know I have money, Kylie, and I don't want to feel like a charity case."
"Money has to be an issue for you," Kylie said. "It's gonna cost money to get divorced, not to mention having to sell your house."
"House? Oh! I don't own a house. David owned our place before we got married. I didn't contribute to our housing expenses."
"Nope. We kept our finances separate. He paid for the house, and I paid for groceries and utilities. He paid more than I did, but he owned the place, so that seemed fair."
"You kept your finances separate?"
"Completely. I have a rough idea of how much money David makes, but I don't know how he spends it, and I don't have a clue how much he has saved. That's his life."
Kylie just stared at her friend for a moment, trying to think of something to say. She'd never heard of a marriage like Blair's, but she didn't want to show her puzzlement. "Well, even if you don't have a lot of expenses, I still don't need for you to pay to live here."
"Whether you need it or not, I need to pay."
The doctor realized she wasn't going to win this one, so she cut her losses. "Fine. Why don't we do it like you did with David? You pay the utilities and buy most of the groceries. Now, I don't want us to nickel and dime each other, so if I go to the store — I'll pay. But I'll let you shop most of the time."
"Sounds more than fair, since you cook all of the time," Blair teased. "It's obvious I'm getting off too easily, so I'll just have to make myself the world's best roommate to compensate."
"You already are," Kylie said.
"Yeah. A pregnant woman who cries most of the time, won't communicate when she's upset, can't cook, is prone to snappishness and lies on the sofa napping all night. You've picked a winner, Doc."
"I know I have," Kylie insisted. "I like you a lot, Blair, and I know we're gonna get along fine. As for the money, if it was good enough for David, it's good enough for me."
"David was compensated — very well, I might add — in ways that you won't be," Blair said, giving her friend a sexy smile.
Kylie stared at her, seemingly unable to offer a comeback. "Yeah, well, I'm taller than you are," she finally said, looking proud of herself.
"You weren't on the debate team, were ya, Doc?"
"Secretary of the science club," she said. "I'm just a nerd."
"You're a very lovable nerd, Kylie Mackenzie, and I think we're gonna be very good roommates."
Blair had a business meeting the next night, so Kylie called Nick and convinced him to come over for a barbeque. "The place is looking great," he said after he'd wandered around the house. “You've had to spend a lot of money to furnish this space, haven't ya?"
"Yeah, but Blair's helped me out a lot. She arranged to have some guy on La Brea make my leather sofa at about thirty percent of what I would've had to pay in a store. And a carpenter she knows built the entertainment center. I'm pleased with the job he did, too. I think it looks like it's been here since the place was built."
Nick walked over to the rustic-looking shelving in the den and rapped his knuckles on it. "To be honest, I thought it was here when we looked at the place. How did he do this?"
"He's from Mexico, and he has a big stash of mesquite down in his home village. He doesn't like to give it up, but he loves Blair, so he agreed to do this for me. It matches the front door so well that it looks original, doesn't it?"
"It sure does," he said. "I'm gonna have to have Blair help me furnish my place better."
"She's your woman," Kylie agreed. "She knows everyone!"
Nick took his beer and walked out onto the veranda. He looked all around and said, "This is such a great place, Kylie. I'm so happy for you."
"Thanks, buddy," she said. She put her arm around his shoulders and pulled him in for a hug. "I'm happy now that I have Blair and the puppies and a baby coming by Christmas."
He gave her a puzzled look and said, "You make it sound like Blair's staying. Is she?"
"Yeah, she is," Kylie said, beaming. "I didn't think she'd want to, but she likes living here."
Nick didn't say anything for a minute. He took one of the rubber balls that were lying on the veranda and tossed it, watching both dogs run for it and wind up in a ball, tumbling across the lawn — the toy forgotten. "Good retrievers," he said, laughing.
"They're terriers," she sniffed. "Throw a bunch of rats out there, and they'll have them cornered in no time."
"Do they have the run of the house when you're gone?"
"Oh, sure," Kylie said. "I have a house full of new furniture, so I thought it would be fun to bring two puppies home and let 'em chew on it. You know how I love to live on the edge." She laughed at her cautious nature. "I keep an eye on Blair, Nick. You never know when she's gonna put a glass down and not use a coaster."
"Well, you're being kinda wild lately. I thought that might extend to the dogs."
"Nope. They have a big wire crate that they've had since they were born. They seem to like it. I think they feel safe there. I make sure they eat early enough so they have time to go to the bathroom before I leave in the morning, and they're fine until 2:00 or 3:00. Either Blair or I can at least swing by the house by then — even if we have to go back to work. Actually, she's often home until 10:00 or 11:00, so the dogs won't have to be crated for more than four hours at a time."
He sat down and watched the dogs gambol around the yard. "Sounds like you two have things all worked out."
"You're using your shrink voice. Spill it."
He sighed, hating that she could always read his mind. "Are you sure it's a good idea to have Blair stay?" He didn't look at Kylie, and his tone was very neutral, but she knew what he was getting at.
"Nick, I can make my own decisions."
"I know you can, but you've just gotten to the point where you're ready to date again. I know you, Kylie, and if you have someone waiting for you at night, you won't want to take the risk of dating."
"I went all the way to Boston to see a woman this past weekend. Blair was here then. As a matter of fact, Blair's the one who fixed me up."
"I'm not saying you'll close yourself off," he insisted. "But we both know you have a tendency to …"
She let her head drop against the back of her chair. "I know I cling, Nick. But I'm not doing that with Blair." She laughed. "Mostly because she won't let me."
"That worries me, Kylie. I don't want to see you get so involved with someone who can't return your affection. You'll wind up getting hurt."
"I know I'm a delicate little flower, Nick," she said sharply, "but it's not like that with Blair."
"Answer one question for me?"
"Sure. Give me your best shot, 'cause you're not getting another."
"Do you have feelings for her?"
"Yeah," she said immediately. "I love her like a sister. Actually, I like her better than my sisters. I care for her a lot, Nick, and I want to help her through a very tough time."
Nick was quiet for a moment, then asked the question he was a little afraid of posing. "You're not in love with her, are you, Kylie?"
"That's a second question, but I'll answer it anyway. No, Nick, I'm not in love with Blair. I love her very much, but I don't want to sleep with her." Well, that's not entirely true, but I don't think of her as a potential sex partner. He doesn't have to know about the cuddling. No matter how evolved a guy is, he never seems to understand that a lesbian can cuddle with a friend and not be tempted to jump on her. Maybe women are better at keeping people in categories. Blair's not in the "available" category — and that's that!
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