All That Matters

 

by

 

S X Meagher

 

 

Chapter 6

 

The next afternoon Kylie got home early, changed clothes and packed the dogs into the car. She drove down to San Vicente Boulevard, one of the main jogging streets on the Westside. It wasn't an ideal place to run, since the path was in the middle of six lanes of speeding traffic, but the day was cool and breezy enough to blow most of the exhaust away. Kylie knew that the dogs liked to socialize as much as they liked to walk, and San Vicente was always so filled with people that she knew the pups would get all of the attention they craved.

The dogs had a tremendous amount of energy, but Kylie was a neophyte in the land of physical fitness. She knew they'd be happier if she let them off their leashes so they could run round her in circles, but she wasn't about to risk their safety. "I'm sorry, guys," she said when they looked up at her at a stop sign. "I know you can go much faster than I can — even though my legs are about twenty times longer than yours — but you've got to give poor Mama Kylie a break. This exercise stuff isn't in my nature."

She heard a pair of feet slapping the ground behind her, and hoped that the runner hadn't heard her speaking aloud to her dogs. Thankfully, there was a break in traffic, and the woman blew by her, not giving her another glance.

Kylie watched the woman for a moment, liking the way her hips moved when she ran. "You guys should be with her," she said to the dogs. "She knows how to run!" They started off again, and Kylie tried to pick up her pace a little bit. Several people stopped to exclaim over the pups, making all three of the walkers happy.

They’d managed to do about a mile when Kylie told her canine companions that it was time to turn around. She turned and Nora went right with her. But Nicky darted between her legs, continuing towards the ocean. When he saw that he was alone, he ran around Kylie's left leg, nearly tripping her in the process. She started to hop on one foot while she kicked at the leash, trying to get it off her leg. Both dogs thought they were playing a new game, and they gleefully joined in. They jumped and barked, while Kylie got more and more twisted in their leashes. She was finally reduced to sitting down and working her way through the mess that had developed. When she was finished, she got onto all fours to rise, and was unable to avoid looking at a pair of terrifically long legs that were directly in front of her.

"Need a hand, Doctor Mackenzie?"

The voice, then the legs, triggered her memory, and she gasped in surprise. "Julie!"

The woman extended a hand and helped the doctor to her feet. "What have you got here?" she asked. She got down on the ground and let the dogs make a fuss over her. "Are these yours?"

"Yep." Kylie looked down at the woman, marveling at her with her mouth slightly open.

Julie looked up at her and asked, "Something wrong?"

"I'm … I'm amazed," she said. "Your hair is the same color as the puppies!"

Julie laughed, then grasped one dog in each hand and held them up to her face. "You callin' me a dog?"

"Far from it," Kylie said, her voice softening. "I don't think I'd ever noticed how beautiful your hair was. It's really extraordinary."

Julie put the dogs down and got to her feet. "You okay?" she asked.

"Yeah, yeah," Kylie said, nodding. She fidgeted a bit, looking decidedly uncomfortable. "I'm just … I hope … I wish things hadn't ended like they did."

The woman put a hand on Kylie's arm. "I knew you weren't involved in my firing. It was all Doctor Greene. We never got along."

"Well, I wasn't in favor of firing you," Kylie said. "I thought you were the best office manager we'd ever had."

"Thanks, Doctor Mackenzie. That's nice to hear."

"Hey, please, I was never comfortable with your calling me doctor."

"You were the only one," Julie said, laughing. "And if I had to call the men by their titles, I certainly wasn't gonna call the only woman by her first name."

"It wouldn't have bothered me," Kylie said.

"That's why I liked you," Julie said. "You didn't act like you thought you were God."

"Well, I do," Kylie laughed, "but only my closest friends know that."

"I think you're lyin'," Julie said, smiling the smile that Kylie had always been innately attracted to. "Wanna have a cup of coffee so I can judge for myself?"

"Yeah," Kylie said, surprising herself.

"Okay. I live right off Montana. Wanna come to my apartment?"

"Well, my car is the other way." Kylie waited for a moment, then proposed, "Come to my house. I have to take the dogs home anyway."

"Sounds great, Kylie," Julie said. "Give me your address, and I'll come over after I go home and shower."

"We'll be waiting," Kylie said. She took her small leather note holder from her pocket and wrote down her address.

Julie took the note and smiled. "Still working on the original notes?"

Kylie looked down and said, "Oh, right. You gave me this, didn't you?"

"Yeah. I tried to find Christmas presents for you guys that'd be personal but not too personal."

"I obviously liked it," Kylie said. "I still carry it with me every day. And you'd be surprised how far a thousand cards goes!"

"That’s how I make sure people remember me," Julie said. "Give 'em a huge supply of personalized note cards."

"You should've put your name on them," Kylie teased.

"Not a bad idea. I'll do that in the future." She waved to Kylie and the dogs and took off in the opposite direction. Kylie gazed after her for a moment. I was staring at Julie's ass when she ran by us at the stop sign! How could I forget that butt after staring at it for three years?

They started to walk towards the car at a fast clip with Kylie's mind moving even faster. Was she coming on to me? I didn't know she was gay. She sure doesn't look gay. She nearly slapped herself for her own stupid comment, then started to worry again. Maybe she wants to talk about old times at the office. Hell, maybe she wants to sue us! The other guys'll kill me if I reveal anything to her about why they fired her. Of course, it's not illegal to fire someone so you can hire your cousin. It ought to be, but it isn't.

But she sure was friendly. And not just co-worker friendly. More like lesbian friendly. She looked down at the dogs. "Mama Blair says I don't have a good first move. Let's go prove her wrong."

 

ĄG

 

Kylie raced home and spent a few minutes picking up the newspaper that she'd left at the table that morning. Then she sorted the mail and put Blair's in her room. The dogs were on her heels the whole time, knowing that she was excited and not wanting to miss anything. When the house was neat, she went to her room and washed her face and combed her hair. She looked at herself carefully, then decided that she didn't like her hair. She put some styling gel on her hands and worked it through her hair, arranging her curls to her satisfaction. "How does this shirt look?" she asked the dogs. "Do I look as good as that pretty lady we saw today?"

The dogs didn't have an opinion, so she decided to stay as she was. She was too nervous to sit still, so she went outside with the dogs and threw their stuffed football for them. They were getting better at fetching, even though there was always a brief wrestling match involved. After what seemed like hours, Julie arrived.

Kylie jumped when the bell rang, then ran for the front door. She paused for a moment so she wouldn't sound out of breath, then opened the door. "Wow," she said, "you look great." Damn! Do I have to say everything that I think? Hold back a little, Mackenzie! She showed Julie inside, then took her on a brief tour, pleased when Julie was so complimentary.

They reached the backyard, and Julie exclaimed, "What a great place, Kylie. This is the backyard I've always dreamed of!"

"Thanks," Kylie said. "It was what made me buy the house." She realized that she hadn't extended any hospitality at all, so she asked, "I usually sit out here in the late afternoon and vegetate. Wanna have a drink and veg with me?"

"I'd love a drink," Julie said. "What've you got?" They walked inside together, and Kylie recited the options. Julie chose cranberry juice with a little vodka, and Kylie joined her — adding less than an ounce of vodka to her own drink. Julie watched her work, commenting, "Do you have a patient in the hospital?"

"How'd you know?"

"I'm used to doctors. The good ones have child-strength drinks when they might be called in."

"I try to be a good one," Kylie admitted. "Besides, with the cost of my malpractice insurance, I can't afford a drinking problem."

They went outside and sat down, and soon both dogs were on Kylie's lap. "They seem pretty fond of you," Julie said.

"Oh, they are." Kylie laughed and said, "But they think my roommate is their mommy. I'm only a stand in."

"I assume your mortgage is astronomical, but I never figured you for the roommate type." She gave Kylie a long look. "A girlfriend, yes, but not a roommate."

"Nope, no girlfriend," Kylie said. "My friend Blair's living with me. She's in the process of getting divorced, and we really like living together. We're good buddies."

"Divorced … from a man?"

"Uh-huh." The dogs ran for the front door, and Kylie said, "You'll get to meet her. My early-warning devices are never wrong. They bark when anyone comes close to the house, unless it's Blair or me."

Seconds later Blair's voice called out, "Kylie, I'm home!"

"I'm outside," Kylie called back. "Come on out; we've got company."

Blair walked outside, dogs flanking her. She gave Julie a pleasant smile and said, "This looks like a fun way to spend the afternoon."

"It is," Kylie said. "Blair, I'd like you to meet Julie Holland. Julie and I used to work together. She was our office manager. Julie, this is Blair Spencer."

"Pleased to meet you," Blair said.

"Same here," Julie said. "Kylie was just telling me about you."

"Oh, God," Blair said. "Has she told you she's opening a home for pregnant divorcees?"

Julie's eyes widened. "I didn't know you were pregnant. Kylie said you were getting divorced."

"Well, just because Kylie doesn't have a big mouth doesn't mean I don't." She laughed and said, "I'm gonna change and go for a little walk with the pups. While I'm gone, I'll think of a few more embarrassing things to tell you about myself, Julie."

"Don't worry if you can't think of anything," Kylie said. "I've got a million of 'em."

She turned to her former co-worker when Blair left and asked, "So, where are you working now, Julie?"

"I'm managing the office of a laser eye surgeon in Beverly Hills. It's much easier to work for one doctor," she said, giving Kylie a thin smile.

"I'm sure that's true," Kylie agreed. "Are you still a big theatre goer?"

Julie gave her a warm smile. "I'm surprised you remember that. Yeah, I am. A friend and I are going to New York on Thursday to see a few plays. I go at least twice a year."

"Cool! I never do that, and I really should. I go to almost everything here, but I never get off my butt to go to Broadway."

"You should come with me sometime," Julie said. "I bet you'd be fun to travel with."

"I can be fun," the doctor said, giving Julie a sly smile. "Who do you normally travel with?" she asked, trying to figure out if they were on the same team. "You used to talk about what you did for fun, but you were always very circumspect about your personal life."

Julie nodded and took a sip of her drink. "I don't give my employers any reason to dislike me," she said. "You never know when someone won't like your religion or your hobbies or your sexual orientation. I thought it would be okay if I was out at work, since you were, but I didn't want to take the chance."

"Huh. I never had a clue," Kylie said. "I guess my gaydar isn't very good."

"Come on!" Julie stared at her for a moment. "You didn't know?"

"No. Really. No clue."

"I guess I'm better at hiding my life than I thought I was. I was sure you knew."

"You should never assume I'm aware of anything," Kylie said, laughing at herself. "I'm in my own world at work. I pay attention to my patients, but everything else is kinda like white noise."

"That's how you seemed," Julie said. "Unless I caught you first thing in the morning, you always had a sort of vacant look in your eyes."

"That's concentration!" Kylie protested.

"That's what I meant," Julie said. "You always had a mask of deep, studied concentration on your face."

"That's better," Kylie said. "I've got a reputation to maintain."

"You have a great reputation, and I think you know it," Julie teased. "I think you're a pretty confident woman, to be honest."

Kylie studied Julie for a moment, then decided to give her an honest answer to what she understood was a teasing comment. "I'm confident about work, but I'm not so self-assured when it comes to women. I've been single for two years now, and I haven't had much success in finding someone I like."

Julie gave her a suspicious look. "Are you only considering twenty-one-year-old supermodels?"

Laughing, Kylie shook her head. "I'm sure there are some wonderful women who model, but that wouldn't be my preference. I'm looking for a nice woman who enjoys the same things I do. I'd like someone close to my age who likes a pretty quiet life. I get enough excitement from my work, so I like to relax at night by going to a concert or a play. I didn't know my requirements were all that difficult to meet, but, as I said, I haven't had much luck."

"Are you looking anywhere? 'Cause I know a lot of single women who'd chew off an arm to date someone like you." She brought her forearm up to her mouth and began to act like she was gnawing on it. "One person in particular comes to mind," she added, her mouth filled with her own skin.

"Hey, I don't want you to lose an arm," Kylie said. "We'd better make a date before you do any damage there."

Julie released her hold and gave Kylie an open, guileless smile. "I'm not even gonna act like I have to squeeze you into my schedule. I'm available any time you want to get together."

"How about Monday?" Kylie asked. "I would ask you for this weekend, but Blair's parents are gonna be in town, and I said I'd help entertain them."

"Gee, you're helping to entertain your roommates parents? Are you sure you're human?"

"Positive," Kylie assured her. "But I can be sickeningly thoughtful."

"You can make me sick any time, Doctor Mackenzie. You can start on Monday night."

 

ĄG

 

Blair and the dogs walked in as Julie was leaving. They all said their goodbyes, and when Kylie and Blair went into the house, the doctor started chanting, "I've got a da-ate. I've got a da-ate."

Stopping in her tracks and whirling around, Blair said, "Get out! That woman's a lesbian?"

Kylie laughed and nodded. "I hate to admit this, but I was surprised, too. I worked with her for a couple of years, and I had no idea!"

"Wow, she must be really closeted for the gossip mill not to have spread that around."

"I don't know if she's closeted or careful," Kylie said. "She said she doesn't want to give her employer any reason to dislike her."

Blair thought about that for a moment, then nodded. "I guess that makes sense. Did she do a good job?"

"Yeah, I thought so, but Doctor Green never liked her. He convinced the rest of us that she wasn't doing a good job for him, and two weeks later, his cousin became our new office manager. I'm still pissed about that."

"Sounds like a jerk," Blair agreed.

"I think his mother might have put pressure on him. So he's a jerk and a mamma's boy. Not a good combo."

"Speaking of just such a creature, I got a call from David today, telling me that he told his mother about us and that she'll probably be showing up on the doorstep soon. So if you see a stocky, dark-haired woman who looks like a human tornado — bar the door."

"I'll do my best," Kylie agreed, "but I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to physical confrontations. If she yells at me, I'm giving you up."

"Nice to be able to rely on you, bud," Blair said. She gave her friend a rough, one-armed hug, and as they went into the kitchen together to start dinner, she captured Kylie’s cheek in a healthy pinch. “A date!” she said, squeezing a bit for emphasis. “My little girl is growing up!"

Kylie giggled and slapped ineffectually at her.

“Let’s hear all about it — and don’t leave anything out! God knows how I hate to threaten such a vulgar, despicable method … but I’ll tickle if I have to.”

 

ĄG

 

The new bed, dresser and night tables were delivered on Thursday afternoon, and Blair washed the new linens before Kylie got home. After dinner they got the room ready, even making up a little travelers basket for the dresser. Everything was ready by 10:00, and, as usual Blair got ready for bed as soon as they’d finished. "I know we're gonna be busy this weekend, so I want to catch up on some sleep while I can."

"Eh. I'll join you. It's no fun to stay up when you're not hanging out."

"I don't know how you ever lived alone, Kylie Mackenzie. You, my friend, are a people person!"

"That's me," Kylie agreed. "I'm pleased as punch to have more company. I might ask your parents to move in, too."

"They've never been crazy about California, but this might be the time they feel the magic!"

The next day, Blair took the afternoon off to pick her parents up from the airport. Nicky and Nora accompanied her, resting in the back seat in their wire crate. The dogs had traveled everywhere with their original owner, and she wanted them to feel that they were getting back into their normal routine.

When she reached LAX, she pulled up to the arrivals level and parked, trying to look busy so the police didn't force her to leave. Luckily, her parents were right on time, and by the time they reached her, she was in tears.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” Werner Schneidhorst asked, his eyes wide with alarm.

“I’m pregnant, Dad,” she said. “I cry all day long. Seeing my parents for the first time in months is a guaranteed gusher.”

“My poor baby,” Eleanor Schneidhorst said, wrapping her daughter in a hug.

“Are you sure you’re all right?” Werner asked again, his concern obvious.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m so glad to see you both. Wanna meet the kids?”

Eleanor chuckled and said, “Try and stop us. Your father talked about the dogs during the entire flight.”

Blair opened the back door and was met by much excitement from the terriers. “This one is Nora, and this one is Nicky, or at least that’s my best guess. We’ve taken to putting different colored collars on them. Saves having to lift them up to look.”

“They’re adorable,” Eleanor gushed. “Aren’t they cute, Werner?”

“Very,” he agreed. “But is it a good idea to let them be so close to you while you’re pregnant, Blair? Can’t they transmit … something?”

“Other than fleas, I don’t think so,” she said, smiling at his concern. “Believe me, if there were any risk to my health, Kylie would have the little guys in quarantine. She’s more of a worrier than you are, Dad.” She wrapped an arm around her father and kissed his cheek. “You’ll like her.”

“Well, I should think we would,” Eleanor said. “She must be a very generous woman to welcome you into her home.”

“She is that,” Blair said. “She’s become a very close friend, Mom. Just like a big sister.”

 

ĄG

 

By the time Kylie got home, the threesome was sitting outside in the warm afternoon sun, one dog on Werner’s lap, the other on Blair’s. “Well, isn’t this a happy-looking group?” she said, her grin wide. Both dogs leapt from their respective perches to circle her , then both sat up and pawed at her legs. “Those are expensive nylons, guys, let’s watch it.” To Blair’s parents she said, “Hi, I’m Kylie Mackenzie.”

“This is my mom, Eleanor, and my dad, Werner,” Blair announced.

Werner stood and shook Kylie’s hand. “Pleased to make your acquaintance,” he said.

“The pleasure is mine. I’ve been spending the last month listening to your entire catalog. The CSO has always been one of my favorite symphonies, Werner, and I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to meet one of its members.”

“It’s rare to meet someone your age who even knows of the symphony,” he said. "Are you sure that Blair didn't force you to listen?"

“Don’t get him started, Kylie,” Eleanor warned. “He’ll talk your ear off, if he thinks you’re really interested.”

“I am, Eleanor. Actually, that’s how Blair and I met. We found that we went to the same cultural events. The first time we really talked was at a chamber concert, remember?”

“I do,” she said, smiling at Kylie. “At the Getty.”

“Oh, I’d love to go to the Getty,” Eleanor said.

“Great. That'd be fun,” Blair said. “We can shop a little, spend a day at the museum and then you two can go home. I know you wanted to check on me in person, but I also know that this isn’t when you’d scheduled your vacations. I bet you’re missing a concert in Grant Park this weekend, Dad.”

“The second chair cello can use the increased exposure,” he said, smiling slyly.

“And I know you’re in the middle of getting the fall season lined up at the theatre, Mom. Once you see what good care Kylie takes of me, you can go home and rest easy.”

“Well, you do look absolutely wonderful, Blair,” her mother admitted. “I thought you'd look ten years older after all you've been through.”

“It's been tough,” she said, “but I’m being very well taken care of, and Kylie makes sure I’m eating well. Having the dogs really brightens my spirits, too. So, given what’s happened, I’d say I’m doing remarkably well.”

Werner, his eyes narrowing, said, “I’d like to pay a visit to David while we’re here. I want to have a man-to-man talk with him.”

“No way, Dad,” Blair said. “You and Mom are not getting in the middle of this. This is our issue.”

“What kind of man would leave his pregnant wife?” he demanded, his face turning red.

Kylie leaned over slightly, muttered, “Hear, hear,” and went into the house, asking, “Anyone for a little snack?”

 

ĄG

 

A few minutes later, Blair went into the kitchen, giving Kylie a swat on the seat. “You’re not allowed to aid and abet my father. You’re supposed to be neutral.”

Kylie turned to her and gave her a very serious look. “I could never be neutral about you, Blair. Never.”

Blair tucked her arms around her friend’s waist and held on tight, fighting tears once again. Eleanor came into the house just then and blinked her eyes in surprise before discretely walking down the hall to find the bathroom on her own.

 

ĄG

 

Blair was bed-bound by nine o'clock, the emotional reunion with her parents having thoroughly drained her resources. Her mother went to sit with her while she got ready for bed.

“Kylie's such a lovely woman,” Eleanor said. “You’re awfully lucky to have met her.”

“You don’t have to tell me, Mom. I know how lucky I am.”

Eleanor watched her daughter brush her hair. "Why don't you let me do that, honey? I haven't brushed your hair since you were a girl."

She turned and gave her mother a smile, then nodded. "I'd like that." Blair sat on the edge of the bed and let out a contented purr when her mother started sliding the brush along her scalp. "Good lord, that feels good. I'm afraid I'm gonna have to add that to the list of things Kylie already does for me."

The brush paused for a moment, then Eleanor asked, "What else does Kylie do for you, honey?"

"I'm embarrassed to say the list is endless." She laughed softly. "If I had to pay someone to do everything Kylie does, I'd have to find a second job."

"Like?"

"I don't want it to sound like I take advantage of her," Blair began. "She offers to do so many things that I find myself saying yes more than I should. She cooks for me every night that I'm at home, and I have to fight her to clean the kitchen."

"Who could resist that?" Eleanor asked. "I hoped you'd inherit your grandmother's love of cooking, but I'm afraid you got stuck with my love of dining out or ordering in."

"Yeah, that's my idea of fun," Blair agreed, "but it's so nice to have a home-cooked meal. We've been eating outside every night, and most nights, we stay out there until it's fully dark. We're watching less TV, which is really great, too. It gives us more time to talk." She was quiet for a moment and then said, "I know more about Kylie's work than I did about David's, and David did something that I understood!"

Her mother didn't respond to that comment; she just kept brushing, hoping that Blair would continue to talk.

"Kylie usually rubs my feet or my shoulders when we're outside, and I've gotta tell you — I've never experienced such tranquility. Sometimes we're completely silent for an hour, with Kylie just rubbing my feet. You can hear all of the sounds of the neighborhood and the little nocturnal animals coming out. Of course, seconds later, those little animals are running for their lives," she laughed. "Nicky and Nora are two ferocious little hunters. Thank God they haven't had their first kill yet."

Eleanor laughed, thinking of the sweet little puppies becoming hunters. “So, what are your plans, honey? Are you going to stay here until the baby’s born?”

“Yeah, at least that long.”

“At least? You aren’t planning on living here permanently, are you?”

“I don’t know, Mom,” she said thoughtfully. “I mean, I’d like to meet someone at some point, and Kylie wants a partner, too. I've been just the tiniest bit worried because she's met someone. If she and Julie work out, I guess I’d have to leave.”

This time the brush stopped completely. There was a brief pause, then Eleanor asked, “A woman?”

“Yeah, Kylie’s gay, Mom.”

Blair couldn't see her mother's face, and Eleanor's voice didn't change much, but the older woman's expression was one of intense surprise. “Oh. You didn’t mention that.”

“Mmm," Blair nodded. "I don’t think her being gay is one of the most notable things about her. I have a long list of attributes that I’d comment on before talking about her sexual orientation. Besides, to tell you the truth, I forget she’s gay sometimes. She’s just my friend.”

"I suppose I forget that some of my friends and co-workers are gay," Eleanor agreed. "I doubt that they ever forget it, though."

Blair turned and gave her mother a puzzled look. "What do you mean by that?"

"Oh, nothing, really. I was thinking of something one of the artistic directors at the theatre said to me once. He said that straight people stop thinking of him as gay once they know him. But he never stops thinking of himself that way."

"Hmm … I don't know how Kylie feels about being gay," Blair said thoughtfully.

“Are you sure that Kylie’s not … interested in you, honey? To be honest, you two act like you’re more than friends.”

Blair nearly fell off the bed. She got up and gave her mother an indignant look. “Because we care for each other?”

“No, sweetie. Not at all. I’m glad that you have a friend like Kylie. But she’s a lesbian, honey, and she might be looking for more from you than you’re able to give.”

Blair said, “Not everyone is looking for something when she offers her friendship. I love Kylie, Mom, and she loves me, but our love is entirely platonic.”

“Honey.” Eleanor got up and put her arms around her daughter. “I can see I’ve upset you, and I hope you know I didn’t mean to. Maybe I’m not used to your being this close to a woman . You have to admit that this is very different for you. You’ve never been much for women friends.”

“That’s only because I’d never met a Kylie before,” Blair said, putting an end to the discussion.

 

ĄG

 

A few minutes later, Blair tossed and turned in her bed. She’d been relaxed and half-asleep while her mother brushed her hair, but now she had a jolt of adrenaline coursing through her body. She can say so much with a few careful questions, Blair thought. She can get inside my head without even trying.

I’ve never given a second thought to the way Kylie and I interact, and now Mom has me obsessing about it! She thumped her pillow like a punching bag, annoyed that she was letting her mother’s casual comments get under her skin.

I’ve never thought that Kylie was being too familiar, but we do touch each other nearly as much as David and I did. Is that normal?

She looked back on their relationship, considering how their physical affection had progressed. I don’t think that Kylie has ever touched me in a way that I didn’t ask for. I asked her to cuddle with me in bed after she got home from Maine. I’ve asked her to hold me when I’m sad. I started kissing her head when I come home at night. Hell, I’m the one who tosses my feet in her lap at night. She doesn’t come sneaking into my room, trying to rub my feet when I’m asleep!

Her analysis was starting to take effect, and Blair felt herself start to relax. Kylie’s a wonderful friend who offers me all of the affection I want. There is nothing in the world wrong with that! Just because I haven’t done this with other women simply means that Kylie and I are closer than I’ve ever been with my other friends. That’s all there is to it!

 

ĄG

 

The next day, Eleanor and Blair made plans to go shopping for some of the necessities that Blair had finally agreed to buy for her changing body. "Any chance of your coming with us, Kylie?" Blair asked.

“No, I think I’ll hang out with your father. He should be back from his walk with the puppies soon. I thought we could chat about music. Of course, I’ll make you a sumptuous dinner. All you have to do is call me when the mood strikes you for a particular thing, and I’ll have it ready when you get home.”

At Eleanor’s surprised expression, Blair commented, “Now I know why men want wives.” She got up and stood behind Kylie, bending slightly to kiss the top of her head. Eleanor watched the interplay between the two women, trying to stop a kernel of worry from sprouting in her imagination.

 

ĄG

 

The Schneidhorst women were driving from one maternity store to the next, so far only choosing some panties and a couple of supportive, expandable bras. "I've never bought such unattractive underwear in my whole life," Blair grumbled. "Underoos were sexier than these things."

"You won't have to wear them for long, honey. As soon as you don't need them, you can burn them."

"I'm not sure they will burn. They might just melt. I swear the panties are made from recycled soda bottles."

"I didn't know you were so particular about your underthings," Eleanor said, smiling at her child.

"Well, I am, and being with David all these years made me worse. He was definitely a lingerie guy."

Eleanor looked at her daughter for a moment, loving to watch her profile when she was concentrating. Despite all that had happened, Blair looked happy and healthy and content, and Eleanor was completely puzzled by that. "Do you want to talk about David, honey?"

Blair glanced quickly at her mother and said, "I don't particularly want to, but I will. What do you want to know?"

"I suppose I don't want to know about David, to tell the truth. I'm much more concerned about you and how you're taking all of this."

"I'm fine, Mom, I really am. I'm moving on with my life."

"You know, honey, I see that," Eleanor agreed. "I just don't understand how you can do that so … easily."

The look Blair gave her mother this time wasn't particularly kind. "Easily? You think this has been easy?" She pulled over to the curb at the first opportunity and put the car in park. Knowing that she was on the verge of snapping off a sharp comment, she tried to calm down. She opened the sunroof and took a few deep breaths, then said, "It might seem sudden to you and Dad, but this has been going on for months. From the time I got pregnant, I knew that there was something seriously wrong with our relationship."

"You did?" Eleanor's voice was half an octave higher than usual.

"Yeah. I did." She was quiet for a few seconds, trying to remember the chain of events. "It's like the people in Malibu who are losing their houses to erosion. The house might only move an inch or two a month, but they know that they can't rely on the foundation to save them. It's only a matter of time before they slide down the hill." She let her head drop back against the headrest. "I knew that our foundation wouldn't hold. I knew it almost from the start."

"But, honey, you never said —"

"What could I have said, Mom? I wasn't about to worry you and Dad with my troubles. There was nothing you could do about it. Besides, I thought there was a ghost of a chance that David could try to pull it out."

"A ghost of a chance? That's all?"

Blair nodded. "I know him well, Mom. He has a lot of good qualities, but he's not a very flexible guy — especially emotionally. He gets something in his head, and I swear it turns to stone. I didn't think he was going to be able to change, but I wanted him … I needed him to try."

Eleanor grasped her daughter's hand and held it to her chest. "I'm sorry you didn't tell me sooner, honey. Why didn't you?"

"You know how I am, Mom. I'm not good at sharing my troubles. I like to wait until I know where I stand before I start talking about things like this."

"That's not good for you, sweetheart. And it puts the whole weight of the situation right on your shoulders."

"I know, Mom, but I don't know how to be different. I went through a very, very hard time, but I worked my way out of it. I'm looking forward now and focusing on my baby."

Eleanor gazed at her child for a few moments, then nodded. "I've got to admit that I'm worried about your staying with Kylie, honey."

"Worried? What is there to worry about?"

"I think it'll be upsetting if she falls in love with someone and you have to move. Wouldn't your life be more settled if you found a place now?"

"Well, yeah, I guess it would be more settled, but I don't want to do that. I love living with Kylie, and I don't want to leave until I have to." Blair was quiet for a moment, then said, "She claims she wants to find a partner, and I still can't figure out why she hasn't. She's the best catch in the world!"

"I don't know, honey, but there's usually a reason for everything."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Blair asked a little irritably. "Don't you like her?"

"How could anyone not like her?" Eleanor asked. "I simply meant that it's hard to know what someone really wants. Maybe she prefers being single."

"No, Mom, and she wants to be loved. She has a real need to be connected to another woman. I'm sure of that."

Eleanor gave her daughter a puzzled shrug. "I can't venture a guess, honey. Only Kylie knows why she's single."

 

ĄG

 

Kylie and Blair dropped the Schneidhorsts off at the airport on Sunday evening, and as they drove away, Kylie shook her head. “I’m gonna miss that guy.”

Blair beamed at her. “You two were as thick as thieves. How late were you up last night?”

“I don’t even know,” Kylie said. “We started talking about the difficulty of getting audiences to listen to newer symphonic works, and before I knew it, I was half-looped. I haven’t had that much to drink in years!”

“My father loves a good bottle of Scotch,” Blair said. “He doesn’t drink often, but he can’t resist an excellent single malt.”

“Well, my single malt is gone,” Kylie said, “but it was worth it. I had a great time, Blair. They can visit any time.”

“They were really serious about inviting you to visit, you know. Dad really wants to take you on a thorough backstage tour of the symphony.”

“Hey, I’m going home in two weeks. Why don’t you go with me? You’ll still be able to fly then.”

“Two weeks, huh? I think I can make it, and I’d like to visit Chicago before winter. Are you going for any particular reason?”

“Yeah. My birthday. My family is having a big party for me.”

“Oh, your forty-first birthday.”

“No. My fortieth.”

“But you’ve been telling me all year that you’re forty,” Blair said, giving her a puzzled look.

“This is the year that I turn forty. I always click my age up in January. Then I don’t have to remember what month it is.”

“You’re an odd one, Mackenzie. But I can’t resist the lure of meeting a whole house full of your clan. Will all of your brothers and your sisters be there?”

“They’d better be,” she said. “How often does Doctor Baby Sister turn forty?”

 

ĄG

 

The next morning, Blair was up when Kylie came into the kitchen. “Hey, what’s got you up so early?” Kylie asked, tousling Blair’s already tousled hair.

“Just nerves,” she admitted. “I’m going to the doctor today, and I'm nervous. I’m always worried that she’s not gonna hear a heartbeat or something equally horrific.”

Kylie sat down and gazed at her for a moment. “I thought we had a deal. It doesn’t do much good if I’m over here being all positive, and you’re thinking bad thoughts. You’re gonna cancel out all of my good vibes.”

“I know,” she moaned. “I can’t help it.” She shook her head. “I used to be such an optimist. But ever since I’ve been pregnant, I have these horrid dreams and wake up certain that his spinal cord isn’t going to close or that he doesn’t have a brain.” She shivered. “It scares me half to death.”

Giving her a warm smile, Kylie said, “That’s not going to happen, bud.”

“I wish I could feel his heartbeat when I’m lying in bed, worrying about him.”

Kylie reached out and took her hand. “Have you noticed that you call the baby 'him' almost all of the time?”

She looked at Kylie . “I guess I do. He’s always seemed like a boy to me, but I kept forcing myself to say ‘he or she.’ I’ve given up the ruse.”

“Why does he seem like a boy?”

“I’m not sure. It’s a feeling I’ve had.”

“Do you want to know? I mean, if Monique does an ultrasound, and gets him in the correct position, she’ll be able to see. His genitals are formed by now, you know.”

“I’m kinda ambivalent, to tell you the truth. Part of me really likes not knowing. But if he’s gonna be an exhibitionist, I guess I won’t have much choice, will I?”

“Nope, not unless you don’t want to look.”

“Oh, sure, like that’ll happen. I’ll make sure she gives me the little printout so you can see, too.”

“Are you going this morning?”

“No, three o'clock.”

“I should be at the hospital then, checking on patients. Page me when you leave, okay? I should be able to call you back immediately.”

“Will do, Doc. Now you’d better get going. Nobody likes to be kept waiting in an operating room.”

“Big day,” she said. “I’ve got two vasectomy reversals and a pair of fallopian tubes to clean out.” Bending, she picked up the dogs and let them lick her face. “You two be good today. Maybe Mama Blair will give you a new toy to fight over before she leaves.”

“Mama Blair sounds so darned funny,” the blonde said while she giggled.

“Hey, they sleep with you, so they must think you’re their mama.” She kissed the top of Blair’s head. “They know a good Mama when they see one.”

 

ĄG

 

Blair was only half-undressed when someone knocked on the door of the exam room. “You can come on in if you don’t mind watching me strip.”

“You never make that offer at home,” Kylie’s low voice teased. “Do you like Monique better than me?”

“Kylie!” Blair whirled around, clad in her bra and panties, and threw her arms around her friend. “Damn, I’m glad to see you.”

“I heard that Baby Spencer was going to be on TV, and I had to be here for his big performance.”

Blair squeezed her tight, then pulled away. “I’ve got to get undressed. I don’t wanna keep Monique waiting.”

Kylie took the paper gown and held it in front of her friend, so she could have a modicum of privacy. When Blair had the gown in place, she held up the panties she’d just removed and showed them to Kylie. “Have you ever seen a less appealing pair of panties? This is the new sexy lingerie that my mother insisted I buy.”

Eyes wide, Kylie said, “I have to admit that those wouldn’t get my engine running, but then again, I’ve never dated a pregnant woman. If the woman in the panties made me hot, I guess that before long, the panties themselves would make me hot. I’m very adaptable.”

“I wish more men thought like you did,” Blair grumbled.

“I’m not most men — thankfully. I’ve seen how temperamental their equipment is, you know. They break down too easily.”

With a soft rap on the door, Monique entered, then paused to give Kylie a look. “Don’t tell me I’m gonna have you in here from now on.”

“‘Fraid so,” she shrugged. “The AMA has asked me to keep an eye on you.”

“Are you sure about this, Blair? Your care might actually be compromised by having Shakes in here looking over my shoulder.”

“I’m most certainly not going to be looking over your shoulder,” Kylie said. “That’s a view I don’t think Blair wants me to have, anyway.”

“No, I’d rather you were near my head,” the patient agreed. “There are some things only your doctor should have to see.” Blair thought for a second, and decided to tell Monique the truth. "The bad news is that my husband and I are getting divorced."

"Oh, Blair, how awful that must be for you." Monique sat on her rolling stool and gazed at her patient with sympathy. "How are you handling it?"

"I'm okay," she said. "I moved out of the house and moved in with Kylie."

"Kylie? You moved in with Kylie?" The sparkle was back in the doctor's warm brown eyes. "You poor, poor thing."

"She must not show you her best qualities if you think that, Monique. Doctor Mackenzie is the best roommate I could ever hope to have."

"Well, well, Shakes has hidden qualities," Monique teased.

"Not very hidden," Kylie insisted. "You haven't been looking." She stuck her tongue out at her old friend and said, "If Blair doesn't mind, I thought I'd come to some of her appointments. But don't you even think of keeping us waiting," she warned. "I'm a very busy woman!"

"I'll pay you fifty bucks to lie to her about your appointments," Monique said to Blair, adding anaggrieved look. "She'll be good," Blair promised. She turned and looked at the surgeon. "Won't you?"

"Yeah, I'll behave," Kylie agreed.

"We'll see," the obstetrician said. She turned around and washed her hands, then put on a pair of examination gloves and sat down again. Monique looked at Blair. "I want to talk about some pretty personal things today. Are you sure you don't mind having company?"

Blair's eyes grew a little wide, and she shook her head. "No, I want Kylie to be here." She stuck her hand out, and Kylie was there immediately, holding it. "My heart's pumping here, Monique. Is something wrong?"

"No, nothing like that, Blair. But I want to talk about genetic testing, and I know this is a sensitive issue for almost every woman."

"Oh." Blair let out a breath, profoundly relieved.

"Kylie's been the one I've talked to about this. She's been a tremendous help, Monique. She nows exactly how I feel about the testing."

"Great," Monique said. She gave her friend a smile. "You really do come in handy every once in a while, don't ya?"

"Not often, but I remember every time," the doctor said, smiling thinly.

"Well, we talked about amniocentesis last time, Blair. What are your thoughts about having it?"

"I don't want to have it," Blair said, and Kylie felt her friend squeeze her hand. "The results wouldn't make me terminate, and the risks are too high just to have the information."

"Okay," Monique said. "We don't need to discuss it any more. What about the multiple marker blood test? It's not as accurate as amnio, but it's completely safe."

"I think I'll have it," Blair said. "There's a part of me that wants to know if something's wrong — to prepare."

"That sounds like a wise decision," Monique said. "So, let's do that and do an ultrasound.”

“Transvaginal or transabdominal?” Kylie asked.

“Vaginal,” Monique said her, narrowing her eyes at her friend.

“Is that good?” Blair asked.

Monique gave her a noncommittal shrug. “Some women prefer the transvaginal, some like the transabdominal. I like the transvaginal because the image is a little crisper since the probe is in your vagina.”

“Mmm … probe … vagina. Sounds like fun,” Blair decided, making a face.

“I’ll give you a quick exam first, then draw some blood and send you over to the hospital, okay?”

“Hospital?” Kylie asked. “Why don’t you do it?”

“Because I read the studies that the National Institute of Health puts out, Shakes. Using the same set of patients, thirteen percent of women had abnormalities show up in the doctor’s office. But thirty-five percent of those same women showed abnormalities when given the test by a registered sonographer.”

“Thirty-five percent!” Blair blanched. “Thirty-five percent?”

Shooting Kylie a lethal glare, Monique said, “That doesn’t mean that thirty-five percent of women have problems, Blair. The number is far, far smaller than that. Most abnormalities are easily explained away.”

“Sorry,” Kylie said quietly, looking completely chagrined. “I’ll keep my big mouth shut.”

“I’ll believe that when I hear it,” Monique said.

"If I could ask just one more tiny question …" Kylie said, holding her hand up like a schoolgirl.

"Yes?" Monique asked, quirking an eyebrow.

"Don't you normally do ultrasounds at every appointment?"

"We used to," Monique said, "but Blair's insurance only pays for one, so I didn't want to do one too early. Twenty weeks is a great time. We can see a lot now. Anything else, Dr. Mackenzie?"

Kylie shook her head and walked over to the window to stand by Blair's head. Monique got Blair into position and started to perform the exam, asking, “How are things going in general, Blair? Anything bothering you?”

“Not really." Her brow furrowed, and she bit her bottom lip. "I got a very sharp pain in my side today when I bent over to pick up one of the dogs. Is that normal?”

“Probably. Did the pain go away quickly?”

“Yeah. As soon as I stood up.”

“The ligaments around your abdomen are starting to stretch, and they don’t really want to. Having a pain or two like you describe is nothing to worry about. Just let me know if it lasts or gets worse.”

Giving her friend a stern look, Kylie said, “Call me when things like that happen. I’m a doctor, too, ya know.”

“Kylie, you were in surgery. I’m not going to page you and worry you like that. Monique’s my doctor — you’re my roommate.”

“I’m Doctor Roommate,” she insisted, “and I want to know when you have unexpected pain.”

“Yes ma’am, Doctor Roommate. I’ll keep you informed henceforth.”

“Anything else, Blair? Are you sleeping well?”

“Much better. I’m only getting up once a night to pee now that Kylie’s started to restrict my fluid intake in the evenings. That really helps.”

“Things do tend to calm down here in the second trimester. You seem like you’re feeling pretty spry.”

“I am. Actually, I’m feeling quite good. No more morning sickness, my breasts aren’t tender anymore, and I’m sleeping better. As soon as I can feel the baby start to kick I’m gonna feel fantastic.”

Monique looked at her curiously and asked, “Is that worrying you?”

“Yeah, a little.” She cleared her throat. “Okay, a lot. My books say I should start to feel him at sixteen weeks, and here I am at twenty — and nothing!”

“You’ll feel movement soon. I’m certain of it. Now let’s draw some blood, then you can go have that ultrasound. You’ll see some movement during the test — even if you can’t feel it. That should make you feel better. I’ll have the technician come and get you as soon as she’s ready to draw your blood.” Giving Kylie a smile, she said, “I’ll see you Saturday, Shakes. Can’t wait to see your new house and your new dogs.”

“Blair will be there, too,” Kylie reminded her. “Maybe we can make her sit in for a few hands.”

“No way. I’m not a card player. I’ll play hostess, though.”

“Sounds great. See you both then.”

As soon as Monique left, Kylie started opening cabinet doors, peeking into each one curiously. “What are you doing?" Blair demanded. "Get out of there!”

“Ah … here they are.” She took out a sterile glove and blew it up, tying off the top like she would a balloon. "Have I ever showed you the proper way to milk a cow?" the doctor asked, making Blair giggle.

"No, I don't think you have," she said, reaching out to pull on the faux udders.

"You'd better watch it," Kylie teased. "You don't want the nurse to think you're as odd as I am."

“I’ve lost all sense of decorum,” Blair said. “I guess that's what happens when there are so many people poking around between your legs that the hookers are jealous.”

“Braggart,” Kylie said, earning a well-placed pinch.

 

ĄG

 

While they walked the short distance to the hospital, Blair looked up at her friend and asked, “How in the heck did you have time to be with me? Don’t you have surgical patients you check on in the afternoon?”

“Yep. I got the two men checked out before I came over, and sent them both home. The woman is going to stay overnight, so I can pop in on her any time. I thought I’d go by after we were finished. Going to the hospital will make it easy for me to check on her, so this is great for me."

“I’ve never been to your hospital,” Blair said. “Will you show me around?”

“Sure. I might even be able to let you peek into an operating room if any are vacant.”

“I don’t know about that. Being with you, unsupervised, in an operating room might be more temptation than you can handle.”

“I’ll check my scalpels at the door,” she assured her.

 

ĄG

 

When they reached the radiology department, Kylie gave her friend a wink and said, “Give me your insurance card, and don’t disagree with anything I say, okay?”

“I can’t guarantee that, Kylie. God only knows what you’ll say. What’s going on, anyway?”

“Trust me, I’m a doctor,” she insisted, then took her hospital ID out of her purse and clipped it to her dress. As she had expected, the room was bursting with patients. Walking up to the window, she smiled and said, “Hi, I’m Doctor Mackenzie here with my partner, Blair Spencer. Monique Jackson sent us over for an transvaginal ultrasound.” She reached down and picked up her beeper, shaking her head. Turning to Blair, she said, “Honey, I’m not going to be able to stay for long. I have a surgical emergency.” Giving the woman at the desk a winning smile, she whispered, “She’s very nervous about the procedure. Is there any chance you could squeeze us in before I have to leave?”

“Well,” the woman looked down at the list in front of her and said, “transvaginal, right?”

“Right,” Kylie agreed.

Keeping her voice low, the woman said, “If you can be on the table in about two minutes, we can do you right now.”

Kylie beamed a smile at the woman. “You’re a goddess. Through that door?” she asked, twitching her head.

“Yes. Someone will show you to the proper room.”

“Here’s her insurance card,” Kylie said to the receptionist. “We’ll pick it up on the way out.”

“Come on, sweetheart,” she said to Blair, placing her hand on her back. “We have to hurry.”

Walking down the hall, Blair gave her an elbow in the ribs and whispered, “That’s cheating! All of those other people were waiting patiently, and you cut in line!”

“I didn’t spend eleven years in training to sit in a waiting room. I don’t get many perks, but getting cuts is one of ‘em. Now quit complaining and get undressed!”

“No wonder you don’t get any dates if that’s your best line,” Blair grumbled, but did as she was told.

By the time Blair was up on the table, the technician came in, ready to get to work. “Hi,” she said. “Had one of these before?”

“No,” Blair said. “I’m a little nervous.”

“It's really not a big deal,” the woman assured her. She picked up the probe, and showed it to Blair. “See? This is actually a little smaller than a tampon. I put a sterile condom on it, lube it up a little and place it in your vagina. The only discomfort you should feel is because I need to hold it against your cervix.” She made her preparations, then approached Blair, placing a hand on her thigh for a moment. “Ready?”

She nodded, and gripped Kylie’s hand firmly, noting that her friend was watching the technician like a hawk. “Uhm … not to be a big baby, but could you hold onto my forearm?” the doctor asked. “I really need those fingers to work.”

“Sorry,” Blair winced. “It’s uncomfortable, and I’m nervous.”

But her discomfort vanished when Kylie turned towards the monitor and said, “Look! There he is!”

There, on the screen, was a picture of the baby, his little body floating around peacefully in his cushioned bed of amniotic fluid. “Oh, my God, Kylie! Look at him!”

“Do you two see something I’m missing?” the technician asked. “I can’t tell it’s a he.”

“She has a feeling,” Kylie informed her, giving her a pointed look. “Besides, his hand is between his legs.”

“I don’t care what he is!” Blair cried. “He’s moving! Look at him, Kylie! Look how perfect he is!”

Kylie wiped a tear from her eyes, then leaned forward and kissed Blair’s forehead. “He’s absolutely perfect,” she murmured. “See how well his little heart’s pumping?”

“That’s not too fast, is it?” Blair asked worriedly.

“No, no, it has to pump fast. That’s perfectly normal.”

“Yes. His heart looks just great," the technician said. "Want me to see if I can get him to move a little? I might be able to get him to move his hand.”

“No,” Blair decided immediately. “He can do whatever he wants as long as he’s moving.” The baby’s other hand reached out, and the trio watched, transfixed, as he grabbed the umbilical cord and gave it a robust tug.

“He’s putting on a show,” the technician said. “He’s a very active little guy today. You picked a good day to come in. We’re almost done, now,” she advised. After the technician took the probe from Blair’s vagina, she handed them the little pictures and left the room, promising that they’d hear from their doctor with the results.

Blair stretched a little while Kylie handed her a few pre-moistened wipes. “You might want to get rid of that lubricant,” she said. “You certainly don’t want to ruin those sexy panties first day out.”

Trying to scowl, but having it turn into a half-grin, Blair commented, “That was a very strange experience. It felt like a fifteen minute long Pap smear, but I never wanted it to end. Can you bring one of these machines home?”

“Sure. The baby will be driven mad from being pinged with sound waves, but that’s a small price to pay to see him every day.”

Blair sat up, and tugged her gown back in place. That's when it hit her that her friend had seen her naked and then some, given that Kylie had watched the technician insert the transducer. “It doesn’t make you uncomfortable to have me so blatantly exposed before your very eyes, does it?”

Kylie chuckled and said, “Uhm … please don’t take this the wrong way, but I didn’t really notice.”

“How could I possibly take that the wrong way?” she asked, quirking a grin.

“It’s a doctor thing,” Kylie insisted. “I mean, if we were at home, and you took off your pants and spread your legs apart, I’d see your vulva.” She shook her head and corrected, “I mean, I’d see your vulva. But in a clinical setting like this, it doesn’t connect for me like that. It’s not my friend Blair I’m looking at. It’s only an exam. It doesn’t have any emotional resonance for me. I was watching to make sure that she knew what she was doing. I wanted to make sure she’d done one of these procedures before. If she looked nervous, I was gonna take over,” she said, sounding completely serious.

“I’d prefer you let the poor thing do her job,” Blair said. “But I appreciate that you care. I find it odd that you could probably have taken over for her and not felt like you were looking at me or touching me.”

“You have to be like that,” Kylie insisted. “I mean, I have my hands in more than my share of vaginas, but when I’m in a clinical setting, the vagina is just about as erotic as a uterus or a vas deferens. But when I’m with a woman that I care for, I get a real thrill from touching her inside. It’s a completely different experience for me, odd as that sounds. I mean, thank God it’s that way! How horrible would it be to put my fingers inside a woman and think, ‘No gross abnormalities, the walls are smooth, no noticeable lesions …’ Yuck!”

Blair giggled at the look on her friend’s face. “I always wondered about that. I thought that a gynecologist might be unable to get a thrill from being with a woman after seeing so many of them.”

“I can’t speak for them, but that’s never been a problem for me,” Kylie assured her. “I honestly feel like I haven’t touched a woman in almost two years, even though I most definitely had the better part of my hand in a woman’s vagina this morning.”

“Speaking of which, you’d better go check on that woman before she calls in a missing person’s report on you.”

“I’ll go collect your insurance card while you get dressed. If anybody’s mad that we got cuts, I’ll let them take a swing at me rather than you. See you outside.”

 

ĄG

 

They were chatting quietly as they walked down the corridor and as they got close to her patient’s room, Kylie commented, “You’d better wait by the nurses station. I think I’m going to have a problem here.” The room was one down from the nurses station, and Blair stopped obediently to give her friend some privacy, but the man approaching Kylie didn’t seem tomind who heard him.

“Where’ve you been?” he demanded, in what was about one decibel short of a yell.

“What’s the problem, Mr. Hart?”

“My wife needs attention, and she’s not getting it from these nurses! We paid good money for this surgery, and I expect the surgeon to be here to check on her.”

“I’m here now,” Kylie said patiently, trying to guide him into his wife’s room. “What do you need?”

He roughly shook her hand off. “I want to see you here before five o’clock at night! Her surgery was at 8:00 a.m.!”

“I didn’t see you when I came out of surgery, Mr. Hart, and you weren’t here at noon when I stopped by again,” Kylie said, still patient and calm. “I’ve been nearby all day. If there’d been an emergency, I could have been here in ten minutes.”

“You should have called me! Isn’t it important to talk to me? I’m her husband!”

“I did call you. I spoke with your secretary as soon as I was finished with the surgery."

"I assumed you'd call me back," he snapped.

"I'm sorry if there was a misunderstanding," Kylie said, "but we're both here now. Let me go take a look, then I’ll come back and talk to you.”

He glared at her, and after a tense few moments, she walked into the room. The man started to pace up and down the hall, his grating voice disturbing everyone near. “Incompetent woman,” he growled. “I’ve been waiting for hours.” He glowered at the nurse on duty and said, “I told you to page her. Why didn’t you?”

“There was no emergency, sir,” she said, barely controlling her temper. “Doctor Mackenzie saw your wife at noon, and she said she’d be back this afternoon. I told you that earlier.”

“Everybody’s supposed to sit around and wait for the great Doctor Mackenzie. Well, I’m a busy man, too, and I don’t have time to wait for her to decide to take her sweet time.” He turned and started to walk down the hall, not even waiting for the nurse to answer.

Eyes narrowing, face flushed with anger, Blair started to follow him. He was obviously heading for the visitor’s lounge, and she was about to launch into a thorough tongue lashing when she felt a pair of hands on her shoulders. “Hold on there, sparky,” Kylie’s voice sounded in her ear. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“I’m not going to let him talk about you that way!” she whispered loudly. “Stupid asshole!”

Kylie physically turned her in the opposite direction and said, “Go to the nurses’ station and tell them you’re with me. They’ll let you sit down in their lounge. Go on now.”

“But —!”

“Go on, Blair. I can take care of myself.”

Letting out a deep breath, Blair followed orders, sparing one last look over her shoulder. Kylie was standing right where she’d left her, pointing in the direction of the nurses’ station.

About fifteen minutes later, Kylie returned with the nurse who’d walked into the patient’s room with her. “Would you write a scrip for a sedative … for me?” the woman asked. “That man is about to make me lose my mind.”

“I think I calmed him down,” Kylie said. “He’s going home now.”

“God, at last!” the nurse said.

“Are you all right?” Blair asked, her concern evident.

“Sure. I’m fine. Things like that happen all the time.”

“They do?”

“Sure. This kind of surgery is usually elective, Blair. A lot of these people have to pay for this, and all of their other fertility treatments, out of their own pockets. To afford this kind of thing, you have to be a pretty successful person, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that many powerful people are major pains in the ass.”

“What was he so mad about?”

“You heard him,” Kylie shrugged. “He wanted me to be here all day. He’s used to having people jump when he tells them to, and it pissed him off that he had to wait for me to return. Funny thing is, his wife said he didn’t get here until 4:00. He put in almost a full day at the office.”

“Doesn’t it bother you to be yelled at like that?” Blair asked.

“Mmm … not too much anymore. It’s either frustration or fear or the person’s really a jerk. Not much I can do about any of those things. The ones who reach me are the men who cry their eyes out when I tell them that I couldn’t fix the problem I went in to fix. That gets me right here," she said, tapping over her heart.

The nurse gave her a smile and said, "Doctor Mackenzie is everyone's favorite surgeon. She really cares about her patients not just her reputation."

Blair got up and gave her friend a robust hug. “That’s because she's got such a kind heart. You’re a very special woman, Doctor Mackenzie, and if those jerks don’t know that, it’s their loss.”

 

ĄG

 

“Hey, as long as we’re here, let’s stop down in the obstetrics area and get you signed up for your Lamaze classes.”

“Aren’t those kind of a crock?” Blair asked, whispering “crock.”

“Why would you say that?”

“I don’t know many women who want totally natural childbirth anymore,” Blair said. “Anyone I’ve ever known says that the breathing techniques only work if they’re accompanied by a nice epidural.”

“Well, let’s go see,” Kylie said. “Maybe they have a short course for drug addicts.”

To Blair’s surprise, they did have a nice, short class that met on three Saturday mornings. During the class, the breathing techniques would be discussed, but the overall focus was more of an introductory parenting and childbirth class. Blair filled out all of the forms, her pen poised over the spouse/partner/coach box for a moment while she gave Kylie a pointed look.

“Like you could talk me out of coming,” the doctor scoffed. “Heck, I might sign up for the six week course, too, so I don’t miss anything!”

 

ĄG

 

Blair stopped for Chinese food on the way home, but even with her stop, she still beat Kylie. She had fed the dogs and set dinner out on plates before the doctor arrived, and she called out, “What took you so long?”

“I had to make a quick stop. Let me change, and I’ll be right in.” Over dinner, Kylie said, “I’ve been thinking about what Monique asked you today, and it dawned on me that you’ve been in extraordinary spirits for quite a few days now. Are you really feeling that good?”

“I am,” she said. “It feels so wonderful to be able to eat and hold food down. And it’s no small deal to sleep through the night. I’m not nearly as tired as I was, and my hormones even seem to be taking a rest.”

“Well, the progesterone has slowed to a trickle,” Kylie said. “That’s what causes most of the nasty symptoms in the first few months.”

“I’ve started to have those really vivid dreams,” Blair said, smiling shyly. “I’m dreaming about sex more than a pubescent boy.”

“That’s really common,” Kylie assured her. “Enjoy it while you can, ‘cause by the third trimester, you’ll start having problems sleeping again.”

“Well, I feel great now, and I’m going to revel in it.”

"So, how did you think the visit with your parents went? Did you have enough alone time with them?"

"It went well," Blair said. "I got to talk to my mom about David when we were out shopping. She was surprised by how well I'm taking the whole divorce thing. But then, she didn't see me when I was at my worst."

"Well, you have bounced back awfully quickly," Kylie said. "You know, if I didn't know better, I'd think you'd been expecting that you'd get divorced."

"I had been," Blair said. "When I saw the look on his face when he said he didn’t want the baby named after him — I knew.”

Kylie looked down at her plate. “I didn’t know that was something you fought about.” Her head shook slowly, and she looked like she was holding back tears. “How could a man be that callous? How could you not be thrilled beyond belief to have your wife want to honor you like that?”

“I guess he’s like the people who yell at you sometimes. He’s either scared or confused, and hedoesn’t know what to do with his fear. I feel sorry for him, Kylie. I really do.”

“Do you still love him, Blair?”

“No, not like I did. If he changes his mind and wants to help raise the baby, I’d love to have him, but he’ll never be my spouse again.” She looked at Kylie for a moment. “I’ve lost the respect I had for him. That’s not something you can get back.”

“He’s lost more than he realizes,” Kylie murmured. “Women like you are hard to find.”

“Maybe,” she said, “but maybe he doesn’t need a woman like me. Maybe he needs someone who can pump up his ego more than I did. Not all men really want an equal partner, Kylie, and I would never settle for less. Maybe it was time that we moved on.”

“I don’t know about that,” Kylie said, “but I do know that I’m impressed with how well you’re moving on with your life.”

“It’s what’s best for the baby,” Blair said. “It’s not good for him to have me moping around and crying. I’ve been doing that for weeks and weeks now. Now it’s time to get on with my life.” She gazed at her friend for a moment and said, “I wouldn’t be in shape nearly this good if it weren’t for you. If I were living alone in a little apartment, I’d probably drown in my tears. Having you and the dogs has been such a blessing, and I hope you know how much this all means to me.”

“I think I do,” she admitted, “but it means a lot to me too, Blair. I love having you here. Uhm … after dinner, I'm gonna go see Julie. Is that okay with you?"

Blair gave her friend an aggrieved look. "I'm not the house mother of The Mackenzie Home for Unwed Mothers, pal. You can go wherever you want."

"I know, I know, but I'm usually home with you."

"And I love having you here, but you're supposed to be hooked up by the end of the year, and I'm not doing a very good job. So you've got to work twice as hard!"

 

ĄG

 

After dinner, Kylie put up a very feeble argument about doing the dishes. As soon as Blair started running water in the sink, the doctor went to her room to emerge a few minutes later with a fresh shirt and a crisp pair of shorts. "I'm gonna get going now," she said.

"Have fun," Blair said. "I'm sure I'll be in bed when … and if you get home."

"Why wouldn't I … oh, right." Kylie gave her a sheepish look and said, "I think I'll be home. I don't wanna rush things."

"Well, have a good time, even if you don't have sex."

"Oh, we'll have sex," Kylie scoffed. "It's just too soon to have sex all night long. Gotta pace yourself." She placed a soft kiss on Blair's cheek and added a pat on the belly. "See you two later. Bye puppies!"

As she walked out the door, Blair stared after her. I can never tell if she's kidding about things like that!

 

ĄG

 

Kylie rang the bell at Julie's condo, her heart rate a little accelerated. The door opened, and Julie gave her a smile that made her knees weak. "Damn, you look fantastic," Kylie said, then reminded herself that she had a functioning brain that was equipped to filter her thoughts before they became words.

"You're not so bad yourself, Kylie. Come on in." The doctor walked into the nicely decorated space and let Julie take her on a tour. She was watching her former employee's ass more than the decorating scheme, but she was unable to control herself. "I just got home from work," Julie said. "Wanna go for a walk? I've been cooped up all day. I haven't even smelled the air."

"Sure," Kylie said, feeling anxious and knowing that she'd feel better working off some energy. Julie grabbed her keys, and they walked outside, pausing when they reached the sidewalk.

"Side streets, Santa Monica or Wilshire?" Julie asked.

"Let's cross Wilshire and go north. It's quieter."

"Good choice." They started off and spent the first few minutes talking about the past few days. Once they were both up to date, Julie took Kylie's hand, making the doctor smile. "Is this okay?” the redhead asked.

Kylie looked up at the night sky, giving the matter her full attention. "Well, holding hands on a first date is a little risqué, but I'm game."

"Are … I can't …" Julie stopped and looked at Kylie for a second. "I can never tell if you're kidding. Your expression doesn't change a bit! You always have a kinda half-smile that looks like your teasing, but you look like that when you're perfectly serious, too."

The smile left Kylie's face, and she adopted a more earnest expression. "I'm sorry, Julie. Of course I was teasing." She bit her lip for a second, then decided to be completely frank. "I'm nervous, and sometimes I sound like a smart-ass when I'm not in control of a situation."

"Why are you nervous, Kylie?"

The doctor looked adorably shy. Her eyes roamed a little, never meeting Julie's directly. "I want you to like me."

"I like you already," Julie said. "I'm nervous 'cause I want you to like me."

"Well, I like you already," Kylie said. "So let's not be nervous anymore."

"It's a deal." Julie took Kylie's hand again, and they walked down the street, exchanging small talk and details of their personal lives — neither one nervous in the least.

 

ĄG

 

They got back to Julie's home at 9:30, and Kylie stopped at the door. "I should get home," she said. "I've got to be at the hospital by 6:30."

"I understand," Julie said. "I go to work early, too."

Kylie smiled at her and said, "Do you mind if I summarize the information I've gleaned tonight? I want to make sure I have it all right."

Julie leaned against the door frame and crossed her arms over her chest. "You are awfully adorable, Kylie. I mean that."

The doctor smiled back. "I noted that you're adorable, too, so that's one thing off the list. I also learned that you've been single for about the same amount of time that I have, that you're looking for a relationship — not a fling — that you like to spend your free time attending cultural events, although you have a fondness for the L.A. Sparks women's basketball team, and that you're a runner, but you're not a fanatic about it." She had been ticking the items off on her fingers, and when she finished, she looked at Julie and asked, "How'd I do?"

"Very well," Julie said. "I learned that I attend more things at LACMA than you do, but that you do go to the major exhibits."

"Yeah, I'm more a live event kinda girl, but I spent a couple of weeks in Italy two years ago, and I was in one museum or another every day. So the art museum is definitely something I could get into."

"I also learned that you're a very nice woman to go on a date with," Julie said. She leaned close and touched Kylie's cheek, barely pressing her fingers against the skin. She kissed her very gently, her lips brushing across Kylie's like a whisper. "I had a very good time tonight."

"I did, too," Kylie said. She put her hand on Julie's waist and pulled her close, then kissed her. She held the kiss for several seconds, breathing in the pleasing scent of the woman. "I like you."

Julie was still staring at Kylie's lips, but she busied herself by straightening her collar. "Can I see you again?"

"Definitely. How about Sunday?"

"Afternoon or evening?"

"Yes," Kylie said. She gave her one more light kiss, then turned and walked down the sidewalk. "I'll call you."

"I'll be waiting," Julie said.

 

ĄG

 

Kylie got home early — a little after 10:00. Blair was asleep on the couch, both dogs sprawled over her. The dogs opened their eyes, but didn't move, and Blair didn't even do that. The doctor tried to tiptoe into the room to turn off the TV, but the sound woke her friend, who let out a little cry.

"Are you all right?" Kylie asked, walking over to her.

"Yeah. Yeah." She lazily wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and asked, "What time is it?"

"10:00. Wanna go to bed?"

"I think so. Help me?"

Kylie gave her a hand up after putting both dogs onto a cushion. Blair leaned against her, walking like a drunken sailor. When they reached her room, she sat on the bed, then fell backwards, too exhausted to move. "You can't sleep like that," Kylie said.

"Bet me," Blair muttered.

"Come on, take your clothes off and use the bathroom. You'll feel better." Blair let herself be pulled to her feet, and she stumbled a little when she started to walk to her bathroom. "I'm gonna wait here," Kylie said. "You look like you might fall asleep in there."

Blair muttered something and went into the bathroom, and a few seconds later, Kylie heard a bang and then a string of profanities. "I hit my funny bone," the blonde called out before Kylie could throw the door open.

"You sound more awake," Kylie said.

"Very helpful," Blair grumbled.

When she emerged, Blair collapsed on the bed once again, not bothering to pull the covers back.

"Can I cover you with something?" Kylie asked. She paused as Nicky and Nora got into position. "Besides dogs?"

"No, I'm …" Kylie heard the first soft snore, smirked at her friend and left the room, amazed at Blair's ability to fall asleep.

She went into the living room to read the paper, something she hadn't had time to do that day. She was about halfway through when Blair walked into the den. “Hey, Kylie?”

"Why are you up?"

"Backache," she said, a dramatic pout in place. "I forgot to ask if you had a good date."

"I did, thanks. I'll tell you about it tomorrow."

"'Kay. I don't remember when I put the dogs out. Will you let them out before you go to bed?"

"Sure." Blair started to head back to her room and Kylie asked, "Want a back rub?"

"You don't have to. It probably won't help."

"I’d like to," Kylie said. She got up and followed her friend into her bedroom, then took some lotion from her bathroom. When Blair was lying on her side, Kylie started to rub the lotion into her skin, working her fingers into the stressed muscles. Blair didn't say a word for a long time, but she let out many moans and groans of appreciation. Her voice was alert when she finally said, "Kylie?"

“Hmm?”

“How does this feel for you? Is this clinical?”

Her hands stilled, and she hesitated a moment. “Uhm … no, it’s not clinical. It … makes me feel very close to you and to the baby. It calms me down at the end of the day. I really like doing it.”

“Good,” Blair murmured. “That’s how I feel, too, and I didn’t want to think you were dispassionate about it.”

Kylie started to rub her back again, working on the muscles while she thought aloud. “I have to be in my usual business setting to feel businesslike about it — like today, during the ultrasound. The hospital is my office, and I feel very detached around medical equipment.”

“Good thing we don’t have a lot of medical equipment lying around then, ‘cause I like having you present when you touch me.”

"I like it, too," the doctor said.

"So, nothing personal today, huh? You couldn't identify me if all they found was the lower half of my body?"

"Gosh, you come up with the most optimistic scenarios."

"You know what I mean," Blair said. "I can't believe you didn't notice anything."

Kylie laughed. "I didn't say I didn't notice anything. I said it was clinical. Part of my job is to look at things and see if they look right. I looked at you, and you looked right."

Blair couldn't let go of the issue, so she kept prodding. "What did you notice?"

The doctor grinned at her. "I noticed a Caucasian woman, obviously pregnant, somewhere in her second trimester. I saw a faint linea nigra on your belly along with some visible veins. When the technician opened you, I saw what I assume was Chadwick's sign. I didn't notice any abnormalities on your vulva. Everything was just like I would expect.”

"Linea nigra? What in the hell is that?"

“A little darkening on your belly from your navel to your pubis. It usually starts in about the fourth month. Yours isn't very pronounced yet, and with your coloring, it might not get much darker."

"Great. I've always wanted a dark line down my belly. And what's Chadwick's sign? I know I read about it, but my memory is shot."

"That's a bluish tint to your vagina and cervix."

"I have that?! I'm blue?"

"Not blue. Bluish. Nothing severe."

"You tell me my pussy is blue, and I'm supposed to be reassured by 'bluish'?"

"You're fair-skinned, Blair. Your skin is more translucent than some women’s. The increased blood supply shows through a little bit."

"And it's on my belly?"

"Uh-huh. I assume it's on your breasts, too."

Blair sat up and yanked her T-shirt up. "Is it on them?" she demanded.

Kylie gave her a half-smile and nodded. "Yep. The veins show through, and they're definitely bluish."

"Oh, fuck me. Every good part is blue!"

"Hey, it's no big deal. It'll go away after you have the baby. The linea nigra might stay, but it's very faint."

Blair got out of bed and turned the overhead lights on. She went into her bathroom and pulled her T-shirt up, then stood on her tip-toes to be able to see her belly. "Why aren't there any full-length mirrors in here?"

"They're not recommended for pregnant women," Kylie said, only partially kidding.

Blair came back in the room and pulled her shirt up. "Tell me the truth. Swear you'll tell me the truth."

"I swear," Kylie said gravely.

"How bad do I look?"

With a full, warm smile, the doctor said, "You look wonderful. One of the prettiest women I've ever seen."

Her eyes closed a little when she spoke, and even though Blair was completely sure she was telling the truth, she was still astounded. "How can you say that? I've got a big line down my belly that looks like I was attacked by a sadist with a black magic marker, my tits are blue and swollen, my belly bulges out and has blue lines all over it, and my pussy's blue!"

"Well, you're wearing panties, so I can't see everything," Kylie teased, "but I say it because it's true. You look absolutely wonderful. You're like a beautiful meadow right before all of the blooms burst into color."

"I don't wanna be a meadow," Blair sulked. "I wanna be hot." She fell onto the bed again and tossed her arm over her face. "I want men to swoon when they see me naked, but not because they're ill!"

Kylie leaned close and spoke softly. "I'm not a man, but if I saw you lying in my bed, waiting for me, I'd … well … you'd learn how hot I thought you were."

Blair's arm moved just enough to show one eye. "Really?"

"Cross my heart. This is the first time that a straight friend ever begged me to tell her she was sexy, but I'm telling the truth, Blair. You are sizzling hot in my not-so-humble opinion." She leaned even closer and kissed her friend on the cheek. "And I have to tell you, I love natural blondes."

Blair took her arm away and stared at the doctor. "You looked!"

"Intellectual curiosity," she giggled, almost scampering out of the room before Blair whacked her with a pillow.

A minute later, the doctor knocked on the door. “I got you a little present today. Want it?”

"Of course." Kylie walked in, and Blair smiled at her. "I'm not mad at you, you know. I would have looked, too, but I know your hair's naturally dark."

"I didn't mean to let that detail register, but it did, and I thought I'd better come clean," she admitted.

“Where's my present? You owe me one for sneaking a look."

“I’ll show you. Close your eyes and lie on your back.”

"You're not gonna look again, are you?"

"Nope." When Blair lay down Kylie pulled her shirt up, exposing her abdomen. Then she placed something in Blair's ears. “Headphones?” the blonde asked.

“Shh. Gotta be quiet for this to work.” Suddenly, Blair felt something cool and smooth on her belly and concurrently heard her baby’s heartbeat, thrumming rapidly.

“Oh, Kylie!” Her eyes flew open, and she saw her friend grinning at her, moving the stethoscope around to various parts of her abdomen. “Is that your stethoscope?”

“Nope. It’s yours. You need a special kind to hear the heartbeat at this stage. I picked one up at a medical supply store on the way home. You said this morning that you’d sleep better if you could hear him.”

“Kylie Mackenzie, I’d gladly give up men and sex to keep you in my life. You constantly touch my heart.”

The doctor leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on her friend’s belly. “Well, you won’t let me touch your heart the fun way, so I have to get at it through your emotions.”

“Lean over here and put these on, wise guy. I want you to hear Baby Spencer.”

Kylie did, and the delighted look on her face remained in Blair’s heart, soothing her to sleep minutes later.

 

ĄG

 

On Saturday, Kylie spent much of the day at the hospital, tending to a woman who continued to have unexplained bleeding and pain nearly twenty-four hours after her surgery. The doctor called Blair several times, keeping her apprised of her schedule. “It’s okay, Kylie. Get home when you can. If your little doctor friends get here before you do, I can keep them entertained. Actually, I’ll spend the time finding out which one of them might be in the market for a new home.”

“But I won’t have time to cook,” she said. “I hate to order pizza.”

“I’ll handle it,” Blair assured her. “I’ll go to the gourmet market and buy all sorts of goodies. Don’t worry about it.”

“Okay, I guess I don’t have much choice. I think I have this patient stabilized, but I want to stick around for another hour or so — to make sure.”

“You do what you have to, Doc. Everything’s under control on the home front.”

 

ĄG

 

When Kylie got home, she stopped in her tracks as she entered the kitchen. The counters, bare when Kylie’d left, were now filled with attractive, silver-colored serving platters, trays and bowls. A dozen appetizer plates, a dozen matching glasses and vividly-colored linen napkins were neatly displayed, along with silverware that matched the Southwestern-themed serving ware and plates. “What's all of this?” she gasped.

“You didn’t have anything appropriate for a party,” Blair chided her. “You’re not in college any longer, Kylie. You have to act like an adult.”

“But … it's only my turn to have my buddies over for cards once or twice a year. Other than that, I never entertain.”

“Well, I do,” Blair said. “I have to entertain clients, and I have one or two big parties a year. We need things to serve people.”

The doctor picked up one of the platters and hefted it in her hand. “This stuff must have cost a fortune!”

No more than one month’s rent in a decent apartment, the smaller woman chuckled to herself.

“Is it silver?” Kylie asked.

“Of course not. I’d never buy something I had to polish. It’s … well, I don’t know what it is, but it’s not silver. It’s great stuff, though. It retains heat beautifully, and it’s got a real Southwest look, which is great for this style of house.”

Kylie looked at her for a moment, then asked, “Do you like to decorate? You sound like you know what you’re talking about.”

“No, not really,” Blair said. “I called a buddy of mine who dresses homes for me, and we went shopping together.”

“Forgive my stupidity, but how does someone dress a home?” Kylie asked, grinning.

“Oh. Well, when I have a house that isn’t up to par because of how it’s decorated, I make the owners put their own things into storage, and I have Walter furnish the place with things he rents or keeps in his warehouse.”

“People don’t mind having to do that?” Kylie asked.

“Well, of course they mind,” Blair said, looking slightly puzzled. “But that’s part of the deal before I’ll agree to list the house. I’m not going to waste my time trying to sell a dog.” She patted Kylie on the side and said, “Walter was going to dress your condo if I’d had to list it. I would have squeezed another $25,000 out of your unit if I’d had it spiffed up.” She was giving Kylie her usual confident grin, and the older woman realized that she wouldn’t have complained a bit if this determined, charming woman had ordered her to clear out of her own home.

“You’re good at what you do, aren’t you?” Kylie asked rhetorically.

“You betcha. Now go put on something nice. We’re having company!”

 

ĄG

 

Blair didn’t spend much time in the living room during the time when the doctors were actually playing cards. She did her best to keep the dogs entertained in the den, but the little devils kept dashing into the living room, hoping that someone dropped a scrap of shrimp or some guacamole, which Blair discovered, quite by accident, the puppies adored.

The card players took a break for dinner at 8:30, and Blair joined them, drawing a chair up next to Kylie. The food was a big success, and after everyone had eaten, Blair started to get up to return to the den. “Hang out for a while,” Kylie urged. “You might like playing cards.”

“No, I really don’t,” Blair insisted. “I never got the bug.”

“C’mon,” the doctor urged. “Watch a hand or two. You can help me.”

Unable to say no to her friend, Blair tucked her chair right behind her and leaned over so they could whisper. They were having such a good time that Eileen finally said, “C’mon, Kylie, let’s move.”

Giving her an outraged look, Kylie said, “I’m instructing my friend. Patience.”

Another few whispers, several more giggles, and Kylie finally asked for two cards. Perhaps because everyone else was bored to distraction, Kylie won the hand, and Blair gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Good job,” she said. Standing, she said, “That’s enough excitement for me. Have fun.”

As she walked away, Monique couldn’t help notice the furtive glance that Kylie shot after her or miss the mild look of disappointment on her face.

 

ĄG

 

When the game broke up at 11:00, Kylie said to the group, “I’ll go tell Blair you’re leaving.” She returned moments later, saying quietly, “She’s asleep on the couch. She never makes it past 9:00 anymore.”

“It’s good for her,” Monique said.

“Oh, I know. She usually sleeps while I watch TV at night. I make sure she’s getting her rest.”

“I’m sure you do, Shakes. You’re quite persuasive when you want to be.”

On the way to their cars, the doctors gathered near the end of the driveway to gossip. “What in the hell is going on here?” Jocelyn asked Monique. “Are they lovers or what?”

Monique wasn’t going to reveal anything she’d learned from Blair, so she shrugged. “Not to my knowledge.”

“Well, Kylie acts like she’s in love — big time,” Jocelyn said. “I’ve never seen her act so considerate and caring. She smothered Stacey less.”

“Well, I don’t know what’s going on, but I think Blair’s a doll," Monique said. "I’d love for Kylie to have a family, no matter how she gets one.”

“Yeah,” Jocelyn agreed, “we’d all like for her to have that. But I sure hope she isn’t trying to get it from someone who can’t give it to her.”

 

Continued in Chapter 7

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