Disclaimers: The characters in this story are mine. This is a 'uber' story, set in today's timeline, and some of the characters may bear a more than a slight resemblance to certain other characters we all know, but which are not owned by me. Any similarity to real people is unintentional and purely coincidental. The location is Orlando, Florida. This story is character driven. As in my previous story, there once again is no plot. There is no violence, nobody is trying to kill anybody else, nobody is chasing anybody else, etc., etc. There may be some minor angst here, but nothing too traumatic. The backdrop is a law firm, and from first hand experience, law firms can be rather routine places to work. This story continues the tale of two people set in that environment whose lives are anything but routine.
Subtext Disclaimer: There is subtext, or maintext as the case may be, here. This story deals with the deep, profound love and devotion between two people who happen to be of the same gender. Although there are some scenes depicting the physical expression of that love, there are no graphic scenes here. If that is what you are looking for, you might want to read something else.
Continuing Story Disclaimer: This is the sequel to my first story "Undeniable" and picks up about one week after its conclusion. You may want to read the previous story prior to reading this one, otherwise it will probably not make much sense to you.
Feedback: This is my second attempt at fan fiction. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. Please feel free to let me know if there is something you especially liked or didn't like. I can be reached at email@example.com.
Written by KM
The mid-sized jet taxied its way across the runway, then parked at its assigned gate while a flight attendant cheerfully welcomed the arriving passengers to Detroit. Once the jetway was safely secured to the forward cabin door, the flight crew began the routine process of deplaning the passengers from the aircraft and offering assistance with connecting flights.
Robin debarked the plane and briskly stepped inside the metropolitan airport, shivering slightly from the cool air that had lingered inside the jetway. Almost simultaneously, a blast of dry, heated air greeted her as she entered further into the terminal building. What a contrast to Florida. In truth, for early February, Robin was quite amazed at the weather difference between the spring-like climate in Central Florida and the windy and cold conditions in Michigan.
The young associate pulled out her jacket and tugged her carry-on bag behind her as she made her way through the crowded concourse toward the airport's arriving flights exit. The prearranged plan was to meet her mother curbside just outside the baggage claim area. As Robin approached the designated location, she quickly glanced at her watch and noted that the flight, surprisingly enough, had arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule. As an added bonus, she hadn't checked in any baggage, deciding instead to bring just a carry-on bag for her overnight necessities. And a hasty exit, if the situation required.
Robin donned her jacket, then stepped outside and scanned the waiting vehicles, finding that her mother had not yet arrived. She glanced at her watch again. About ten minutes left to kill. She grimaced slightly as the chilly wind went through her thin jacket. Boy, it's cold out here. She idly mused that the colder weather shouldn't have gotten to her like that, especially since she'd grown up in it nearly all of her life. She further considered that the warmer climate of central Florida had done an incredibly fine job of spoiling her. With no more than a half-second's deliberation, the young associate came to the very wise conclusion that standing in the freezing cold wasn't a very attractive idea, and opted instead to go back inside the warm airport to await her ride.
A porter with a cart full of luggage edged by her as she stood just inside the automatic doorway. Since Robin now had a few moments of idle time, she took the opportunity to give Jess a quick call, just as she had promised earlier that morning. I bet she's waiting on pins and needles. Robin retrieved the cell phone and dialed the junior partner's direct line at the office.
After just one ring, a familiar voice answered. "Jessica Harrison."
Robin smiled, a warmth spreading within her, which the heat inside the airport couldn't begin to match. "Hi Snoopy."
That brought a gentle chuckle. "Snoopy? Somebody sure is in a good mood." Jess was actually quite surprised at Robin's light tone of voice, considering their conversation earlier that morning.
"Well, I had a lot of time to think about things on the plane, and I decided that it's not the end of the world if my parents don't understand what I'm going to tell them. They can either accept it or not, and if they don't, I'm still going to do what I want to do." The young associate sounded entirely resolute on the matter. "It's my choice, not theirs."
"That's my girl." Jess smiled into the phone. "Where are you now?"
"Actually, I'm at the airport waiting for my mom to pick me up. She should be here any minute now."
"How was your flight? I know how the taking off part and the coming down part can get to you."
She is the sweetest person. Robin smiled at Jess's concern. "A few white knuckles, but no real harm."
"Just as long as you're okay." The junior partner swiveled her burgundy leather chair and looked out the floor-to-ceiling window at the downtown skyline, pausing for a slight moment before continuing. "I'm glad you called."
"Well .." Robin drawled. "Of course I called. I seem to remember a certain someone, who shall remain nameless but who is very hopeless, who promised to show up on my Michigan doorstep if I didn't call." Her tone of voice was playful, and held no hint of resentment at Jess's earlier ultimatum.
The older woman couldn't help but chuckle. "Glad my threats work so well." She was absolutely amazed at Robin's good mood.
Green eyes spotted a familiar vehicle outside. "My mom just pulled up. I need to go." Robin headed for the exit doors. "I'll call you later." A brief moment's silence. "I miss you."
Jess forced a cheerful tone. "Me too, kiddo." Even though it's only been a few hours. "Good luck today. Call me tonight, all right?"
"Right." Robin zipped up her jacket. "I promise."
"Okay. Goodbye, sweetheart."
"Bye, Jess." With that, the young associate clicked off the phone, grabbed her bag, and headed outside to her mother's waiting car. As she did so, she reflected on her brief phone conversation with Jess. All things considered, she had decided to put the best face possible on the situation and not to worry Jess any more than necessary. Robin would handle things with her parents, then return to Florida. Simple as that, or as Jess would say, "end of story."
Robin shook off a sudden wave of anxiety. End of story. If only she really believed that.
"How was your flight, dear?" Colette Wilson pulled the car out onto the main highway, driving away from the airport.
"Not too bad." Robin was not particularly in the mood for idle chit chat and decided to get to the point. "I need to speak with you and Dad about something important."
"Oh." Her mother was momentarily surprised. "All right. Your father mentioned he had a long meeting today and may not be home until late this evening."
Great. Any hopes Robin had of getting this over quickly vanished. "As soon as he comes home, Mom, I really need to talk with the both of you." She gave her mother a pointed look. "Tonight."
Colette cautiously agreed. "Okay." She stopped the car at a red light and glanced over at her daughter. "You know, he's so thrilled you decided to come back for the interview tomorrow. We really do think this is a wonderful opportunity for you."
Robin closed her eyes, the beginnings of a headache steadily pounding at her temples. She decided to remain silent on the matter. This simply was not the right time to get into that particular discussion. Not to mention the 'other' discussion. Unconsciously, Robin brought her hand up to the heart-shaped pendent around her neck, fingering the cut diamonds lightly. She took comfort in its texture, and oddly enough, felt Jess's presence merely by touching it. Jess's words in giving Robin the necklace filled her mind. It's my heart. I will never ask for it back. Petite fingers gripped the pendant tighter as Robin's own words suddenly came back to her, the ones she had spoken to Jess just days before in making her own heartfelt vow. I will never betray you, and I will never willingly leave you.
Her mother, oblivious to Robin's turmoil, continued. "Let's you and I go somewhere and have a nice lunch."
Snapping out of her reverie, all Robin could do was nod and go along with the plan, deciding that she and her mother might as well have a pleasant time of it while they could. By tomorrow, she might not be speaking to me. In a resigned tone of voice, Robin agreed. "That sounds fine."
Later that evening, after dinner was finished and the dishes were washed, Robin and her mother and father retired to the living room. Thomas Wilson's meeting hadn't lasted as long as he had initially thought, allowing him to make it home in time for dinner. He settled himself back into his easy chair and pulled out the daily newspaper, glancing briefly at the front page, while Colette perused the evening television guide. Robin had considered bringing up the real purpose of her visit before dinner, but after some thought and a brief bout of nervousness, she decided to wait until a more appropriate time. That time had come.
The young associate sat on the sofa next to her mother and addressed her parents. "I have something I'd like to discuss with you both." She swallowed before continuing. "It's important."
Her father glanced up from his newspaper. "What is it, honey?"
I can do this. Green eyes closed briefly, then opened again. "It's about the interview you scheduled for me tomorrow."
"Yes, honey, it's all set up. Richard McKenzie will meet with you tomorrow afternoon at one o'clock." Thomas smiled warmly.
This is so hard. Robin looked cautiously at her father. "Dad, um ..as I already mentioned to you and Mom, I don't want to move back here. I want to stay in Florida." Her eyes pleaded. "Please cancel the appointment tomorrow. I don't want to go to the interview. It would be a waste of time."
Her mother spoke up. "Robin, how could it hurt just to go meet with the man?"
"Because I will not, under any circumstances, consider moving back here. I would be wasting his time." The blonde head shook as Robin realized her parents were simply not getting the point. It really wasn't surprising, considering that her parents never got the point before.
Colette furrowed her brows. "Just what's so special it about Florida that makes you want to stay there?"
Robin spoke very softly. "Jess is there."
Colette idly turned the pages of the television guide. "Your housemate, who also works with you? Robin, you can still keep in touch with her, call her, write and visit sometimes."
"No." Robin knew there was absolutely no way she could back out now. "That wouldn't work."
"Why is that?" Thomas chimed in.
"Because Jess and I are ..close." Robin mentally berated herself for not being direct.
"I don't see the problem." Colette shook her head, somewhat perplexed. "You and she still can be friends."
I'm not doing this very well. "No, Mom." Robin took a very deep breath, trying to muster the courage to continue. "I ..love Jess."
"That's very nice, Robin, but I still don't see .."
"Mom." Robin cut in mid-sentence, now speaking more confidently. "I love Jess, and Jess loves me. We want to be together." Do you understand?
Unfortunately, Colette still didn't seem to get it, or perhaps she intentionally didn't want to see what was becoming painfully obvious. "Robin, I understand that you're fond of your friend, but your family is here, and you have other friends here, as well."
Why must everything be so difficult? Robin looked at her mother, then at her father for a lingering moment. Taking another deep breath, she tried again. "Jess and I love each other very much. We want to be together."
There was a long moment of silence as each party contemplated that last statement. Finally, Colette spoke. "What are you saying?"
Robin swallowed hard. "I think you know."
Thomas Wilson's stern voice interrupted. "No. I don't think we do."
At that precise moment, a surge of confidence filled Robin, whether in response to the implied challenge of her father's tone of voice or simply in defense of her own life choices. She directed her gaze squarely at her father. "Let me say it to you this way so there is no misunderstanding. I moved into Jess's house. I put most of my things from my apartment into storage, but I brought over my bedroom furniture and some other items and put them into the spare room." Here, Robin shifted her gaze toward her mother. "I have my own room, but at night, I don't sleep there." She enunciated the last words very clearly.
Colette hung her head and whispered. "Oh, dear God."
Her father maintained a neutral expression, then cleared his throat. "Just so we're absolutely clear on the matter, where is it exactly that you do sleep?"
An internal sigh. He's intent on making me say it. Robin paused, then spoke the truth. "I sleep with Jess." She held his gaze solidly. "You may interpret the meaning of that statement in every way possible."
Colette closed her eyes, then opened them again, her face very pale. "Robin, you're ..not like that."
"Like what, Mom? That I've found someone I love, who loves me and understands me? Who touches a part of my soul down deep inside of me? Who I want to be with forever? Does it really matter the exterior package if the person on the inside is the most wonderful person I could ever know?"
Her mother interrupted. "But, David .."
Robin's voice grew very firm. "I will not compare Jess to David in that way. I loved him, and a part of me always will. I will carry what happened to him with me for the rest of my life. But Jess understands that part of me, and she loves me anyway. She's helped me through some very difficult times. And I will tell you one other thing, and you may not understand it, but that doesn't make it any less true. What I feel for Jess it's so much stronger and more intense than I ever felt for David."
Thomas Wilson leaned forward in his chair and rested the newspaper in his lap, steepling his fingers together in front of him in concentrated thought. "What I see here, Robin, is that this 'friend' of yours has obviously taken advantage of your situation. When you first left here for Florida, you were emotionally vulnerable, which was understandable considering everything that had happened. Your mother and I both knew that, but we wanted you to deal with things in your own way. We always believed that you would eventually realize you didn't want to be far away from your family, and that you'd return once you came to terms with things." His voice grew very hard. "It seems now that we have made a serious mistake. Your so-called friend, who is your immediate supervisor for all intents and purposes, has taken advantage of your vulnerable emotional state of mind in a most reprehensible way." His voice raised slightly. "She has seduced you away from your family."
"No." Robin vigorously defended. "You don't know her. She hasn't done anything I didn't want her to do. And just so you know, I was the one who took the first step in our relationship, not Jess."
"You didn't know what you were doing." Her father shook his head, then continued. "You've left the Church, Robin, and now you've taken up this type of lifestyle. Instead of dealing with what happened with David in an emotionally healthy way, you've gotten as far away from that as possible."
"Robin." Colette finally calmed herself enough to speak. "You weren't raised this way."
This reaction from her parents left Robin unexpectedly more sure of her commitment to Jess than ever before. It was a commitment, after all, even though she and Jess had never formally acknowledged it. "I'm very sorry you feel that way. If my loving someone with all my heart and soul is not the way I was raised, then that is indeed unfortunate. But it doesn't change the fact that I love Jess, and she loves me, and we want to be together." If I say it enough, maybe they'll get the point.
"But how can you love another woman that way?" Robin's mother asked, truly not understanding.
"I've asked myself that question many times, and it all comes down to the fact that, to me, it doesn't matter what's on the outside. It only matters what's on the inside." Robin sighed, trying to explain something which she herself didn't totally understand. "Jess is a beautiful person both inside and out. I love the person, and that person happens to be a woman." She could tell that her mother still was having a difficult time grasping the concept.
A flash of light glinted off the diamond pendant Robin wore, and Colette caught the reflection. Her mother spoke very softly, yet somberly. "Did ..did she give you that?"
Robin followed her mother's gaze and brought a hand up to curl around the pendant heart. "Yes, she did. It was a Christmas gift." Jess's heart.
"I see." It was all Colette could say at the moment, the combination of sadness and disappointment evident in her voice.
Setting aside the newspaper, which remained mostly unread, Thomas stood up and paced the floor. He then stopped and spoke directly to Robin. "Have you and this woman made any type of commitment to each other?"
Robin's green eyes blinked. That question was entirely unexpected. "Um ..we're not at a point in our relationship yet where we've formally done that, but I believe we're very close to doing so." God, I hope I'm right about that.
Her father arched an eyebrow, a thought occurring to him as he resumed his pacing. "I will not pretend to understand this. You have no commitment from this woman, yet you are ..sleeping with her and profess your undying love for her with nothing in return but a small diamond trinket. I'm sorry, Robin, but the truth of this matter suggests that she's taking advantage of you and has preyed upon your emotional vulnerability knowing full well what happened with David. I'm sure this is hard for you to hear, but someone who would do such a thing is, and I will be charitable here, not an honorable person."
I've had enough of this. Robin stood up and looked from her father to her mother, then back again. "You are wrong. Jess is the most honorable person I know. She has always thought of my feelings first before her own. She has never, even once, taken advantage of me in any way." Robin paused for a brief moment, then continued, her voice slightly shaky. "I wish you both could be happy for me, and happy that I've found someone who loves me and wants to be with me, and who makes me happier than I've ever been before. But I see that is not the case. I do want you to understand one thing, though. I love Jess. I will always love her. That will never change. Contrary to what you may think, I do know what I'm doing. I understand what it means to love her. I understand that loving her may not be an easy lifestyle, and that there are certain consequences involved. I accept all that and more. It's what I want, it's what I choose, and I will not change my mind."
Colette's saddened eyes glanced up. "We only want what's best for you, Robin."
"Jess is what's best for me."
From both Thomas' and Colette's point of view, any further discussion was futile. It was obvious to them that Robin had been completely taken in by someone who, at best, should have known better, and who at worst, preyed upon an innocent and emotionally devastated young woman.
There was an uncomfortable silence for several moments, then Robin finally spoke again. "I don't think there's anything else for me to say, except that now I think you know why I won't attend the interview tomorrow." She hesitated, unsure of her status in the family at this point, and not quite sure whether she was welcome in her parents' house anymore. "I'm going to go up to my room now. Is that all right?"
At her mother's nod, Robin proceeded up the stairs, entering her childhood room and closing the door behind her. She sat on the bed and valiantly fought the urge to cry, but was, in reality, powerless against the overwhelming emotions. It was clear that her parents were disappointed and upset. Worse, they blamed Jess, and nothing Robin could do or say was going to change their minds. Robin's tears came very fast, and she knew she needed to cry herself out before calling Jess like she'd promised. It was true, in her current state of mind, speaking with Jess at this particular moment would guarantee that the junior partner would show up on her parents' doorstep before the morning's first light, a situation that would only make matters worse. Robin wiped away her tears and reflected on what had just transpired. After all, it was a significant shock to her parents. It surely wasn't something they had ever expected to hear. So, maybe they just need some time to get used to the idea.
Right. And pigs can fly.
Jess arrived home from work, checked the answering machine for messages, and frowned upon seeing none. She had half expected Robin to have called, even though it was still rather early in the evening, and earlier still in the Central time zone. It took everything she had within herself not to pick up the telephone and dial the cell phone number. She'll call. Give her time. Sighing, the junior partner drew a hot bath for herself, turned on the Jacuzzi jets, and let the relaxing water soothe her aching body and distract her anxious mind. It didn't work. She winced a bit as she recalled the ultimatum she'd given Robin earlier that morning, threatening to show up in Michigan if Robin didn't comply with her demand to call her at the predetermined times. The junior partner closed her eyes and mentally chastised herself for treating Robin as a child unable to handle her own affairs. Affairs. That was an unintended double entendre and an unfortunate choice of words. Jess had to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Affair. Is that what she and Robin had? No. To characterize their relationship as an affair seemed so ..so what? Illicit. No. That made what they had together seem tawdry. And cheap. But then again, wasn't that exactly how it would appear to anyone else looking at their relationship from a distance, including Robin's parents? An illicit affair. A tawdry liaison. Nothing more. It was, after all, quite true that she and Robin had made no formal commitment to each other, although they had promised their love to each other forever.
But an affair? Blue eyes closed tight in deep regret. The junior partner mentally cursed herself for realizing only too late that she'd pushed Robin into revealing their relationship to her parents without first making it appear more ..legitimate ..honest ..permanent. A commitment. The magnitude of her own miscalculation hit her very hard, and she momentarily felt physically ill. The truth was, she had been so afraid of Robin's rejection of a commitment that she'd completely overlooked the significance of not having one. Damn it all to hell, Jess. You're an absolute fool for not realizing this sooner. You've just set her up to be crucified. As far as it stood right now, their relationship could be perceived as fleeting and not at all serious. Damn. Well, that particular misperception would absolutely have to end. Immediately. She'd remedy the situation once and for all as soon as Robin came back. If she came back.
Okay, fine. Remedy the situation. How? Jess would have to make a commitment, and make it real. Okay. How? The ring, Jess. Give her the ring. But what if Robin doesn't accept it? Or what if she accepts it but won't wear it because of the public acknowledgment it represents? Give her the ring. Wouldn't words or vows or promises work just as well? It would be a private declaration between them. It would mean the same thing, wouldn't it? Give her the ring. The junior partner leaned her dark head back against the side of the Roman tub, letting the warm bubbling waters relax her muscles for several minutes longer as she contemplated the implications of what her heart already knew, but her head was slow to recognize. A dark eyebrow arched in quiet realization. There simply was no substitute for the tangible symbol the ring represents. That was an undisputed fact.
Jess stepped out of the bath, dried herself off, then threw on her flannel boxers and one of Robin's oversized t-shirts, which although quite large on Robin, fit Jess just right. She didn't stop to consider exactly why she put the t-shirt on in the first place, but if she had thought about it, she would have realized she instinctively needed to be near the younger woman, even in the most remote way. The junior partner inhaled and caught Robin's scent as it lingered on the cotton fabric. The sense of smell proved to be a powerful catalyst. God, I miss her. And in that one moment of absolute and complete clarity, Jess's mind was made up. Or more correctly stated, her mind finally caught up with what her heart already knew. There were no longer any doubts, questions, fears or uncertainty. She'd give Robin the ring and take everything else as it came along. When Robin came back. If Robin came back.
Jess stood in front of the bathroom mirror and gazed at her own reflection, then closed her eyes and voiced once again her silent plea from earlier that day, this time with one minor, yet significant, amendment.
Come back to me, sweetheart. My ring is here waiting for you.
Sometime later, as Jess tried to busy herself with work she'd brought home from the office, the telephone rang. She nearly ran into the living room to pick up the cordless receiver. "Robin?"
There was a brief hesitation. "Hi Snoopy." The younger woman put on a cheerful front.
Jess took a second to calm her racing heart, then sat down on the plush sofa. "I'm glad you called. I was getting worried."
"Of course I called. Can't have you making good on your threat to show up on my doorstep up here, now can I?" Robin was teasing, and her tone of voice was playful. Yet still, something was definitely not right.
Let's not avoid the obvious. "Um ..Robin, how did it go with your folks?"
There was a lingering silence before Robin answered. "About the way I had expected. They're upset, but they didn't disown me or kick me out of the house, so I take that as a good sign."
Jess wasn't fooled and read between the lines. "So, they're upset?"
"But not at you."
Robin closed her eyes, realizing that Jess had picked up all too quickly on the truth. I should have known I couldn't hide this from her. "Right."
"I see." It's not like this was unexpected, Jess. You knew they'd blame you. The junior partner spoke very softly. "They ..um ..think I've corrupted you."
"Jess .." Robin's heart nearly broke, and her voice cracked with emotion. "It doesn't matter what they think. You and I both know the truth, right?" There was a very long silence, and Robin knew exactly what was going through the older woman's mind. "Jess, don't you dare blame yourself. You've done nothing wrong."
"But I pushed you into this." Have I pushed our relationship too far? Here I was thinking I didn't push it far enough.
Robin had thought she'd cried out all her tears, but now, somehow from somewhere, more tears came. "Jess, honey, please listen to me. Just like you told me that it was your choice to be with me in spite of the risks to you, I'm telling you that it's my choice to be with you in spite of the risks to me." She wiped her eyes and steeled her resolve. "You didn't push me into anything I didn't want. It was my choice to tell my parents about us, and it's my choice to be with you. You've done nothing wrong. Even if my parents don't believe that, I do. I know the truth."
All right. This ends now. The junior partner assumed her no-nonsense persona. "I'm coming up there to get you."
Oh no. "Jess, please don't do that. It'll only make things worse." They'll probably have her arrested for trespassing or something. "Listen, I'm taking the early afternoon flight tomorrow, then I'll take a cab home." The younger woman's voice pleaded. "It'll be all right. Please, Jess, let me handle this."
It was against every instinct the older woman had inside her, but nonetheless, she acquiesced to Robin's plea. "Okay." They had better let her go, or I will be on their doorstep. Count on it. "Call me then, before you leave."
Robin blew out a relieved breath. "I will." She was reluctant to hang up the phone, savoring the connection she felt between them even though they were hundreds of miles apart. She laid down on the bed and snuggled up tight against a pillow. "I miss you, Snoopy."
Jess cracked a smile. "Me too. Just remember that your legal beagle loves you very, very much." She paused. "I'll see you tomorrow, right?"
"Right. See you tomorrow. Goodnight, Jess."
"Goodnight sweetheart." Jess clicked off the receiver and stared at it for a long moment. She was extremely close to dialing the airline and making a reservation for a redeye flight, but she had promised Robin she wouldn't interfere. A dark eyebrow raised pensively. So I lied. The junior partner flipped open the phone book and started dialing, then stopped, her conscience lashing out at her for going back on her word to Robin. Long fingers reached up and rubbed her forehead, then traveled down across the bridge of her nose in a futile attempt to ease the tension, as she wrestled with herself on the appropriate course of action. She paced back and forth across the expansive living room for several moments before finally coming to an all-important decision.
All right. I'll wait.
Robin opened one eye, then the other, squinting at the morning sunlight bathing her childhood bedroom. She gave herself a quick stretch, then remembered where she was and what had happened the previous evening. She hadn't slept terribly well during the night, and now apparently had made up for it by sleeping until mid-morning. Getting herself up and grabbing a quick shower, Robin finally made her way cautiously downstairs, more than a bit wary of the reaction she'd receive from her parents this morning.
Robin found her mother in the living room. "Mom?"
Colette looked up from her magazine. "Robin, you're up. You should go ahead and have some breakfast before it gets too late."
She seems okay. "Yeah, maybe I will. Um ..is everything all right, you know, between us?" Robin just had to know.
"Let's not discuss that now." Colette suddenly seemed quite uncomfortable. "You should have something to eat if your flight leaves in a few hours."
Robin's blonde head nodded as she decided not to push her mother. It would take time, after all, for her parents to accept things. In a resigned tone of voice, she agreed. "All right."
"I do wish though, that you would stay for the weekend."
She wants me to stay. That's a good sign. "I can't this time, Mom. Jess is .." Robin's voice trailed off as she caught herself at the mention of Jess's name. "Um ..maybe another time." She padded into the kitchen and made herself a quick breakfast of coffee and cereal, then rejoined her mother in the living room. Somehow, and for a reason she couldn't explain, Robin didn't feel quite right about leaving later that day without first discussing things again, at least with her mother. "Mom, I think we should talk about it. You're my mother. I would hope that I could talk to you."
Colette closed the magazine and set it on the coffee table, sensing that she wasn't going to be able to avoid the issue with her daughter any longer. "Your father and I want what's best for you, Robin. We don't understand this ..this thing, or what hold this woman has over you. But, if you'd like to talk about it, I will listen, but I can't say that I will ever understand."
That's fair enough. "Okay. First, I want you to know that I don't want to hurt you or Dad. I came here to see you so that I could tell you about this face to face. I didn't want to do this over the phone." Robin took a breath. "I wanted you to know the truth. I didn't want to mislead you any longer."
Her mother swallowed and looked down at her hands, then asked the question that had been on her mind since the previous night. "How long has this been going on?"
Robin wasn't sure how to answer that. How long had she known Jess? How long had she loved her? How long had they been intimate? She decided to answer the only way possible. "I knew that I felt some connection to Jess from the first day I met her back in October. I didn't understand it, and I tried to deny it, and so did she. After almost a month of working together and becoming friends outside of work, I finally realized that I couldn't fight the feelings that I had for her any longer. They were too strong. There was just something about Jess that called to me down deep inside, almost as if I had known her forever. It was then that we finally acknowledged what we both knew to be true." Robin glanced at her mother to gauge her reaction, but the expression was neutral, so she continued. "If you're asking when I first knew that I loved her, I can't give you a precise date. It seems as though I've loved her forever. If you're asking when we became ..serious, I can say that for a long time, we both weren't ready for that. It was shortly before Christmas when I realized with absolute certainty that I wanted to be with Jess forever, and then I knew I was ready for a serious relationship."
Colette finally looked at her daughter. "At Christmas, when we were there, you never said anything to us. We even had brunch together with her."
Robin regretted the deception, but still defended her actions. "I didn't want to upset you, and I was nervous about people knowing about Jess and me. It seems kind of immature now, when I look back at it, but I wasn't ready for anyone to know."
Colette had one more question, still unsure if she should ask, but finally giving in to her own curiosity. "Is this her normal lifestyle?"
What is she asking? It took a moment for Robin to finally understand what her mother was getting at. "No. This is new for Jess, too. There was someone, a man, who had broken her heart a long time ago. It still haunts her to this day, and she hasn't let anyone get close to her again, until me. Sometimes I'm amazed that she trusts me so much, considering the pain he caused her."
"I see." But the truth of the matter was, Colette really did not see.
Robin saw the quizzical look on her mother's face. "You still don't understand, do you?"
"I'm sorry, Robin." Colette shook her head. "I don't. I can understand how you would want to be friends, even good friends, but I do not understand the romantic part of this."
"We want to share our whole selves with each other. Not hold anything back. It really doesn't seem all that strange, does it?"
Her mother held a blank look, but was otherwise silent.
The younger woman sighed, realizing any further explanations she might give would be useless. "At least you've listened, and I appreciate that." Robin checked the time. "I need to get ready to go. I'd like to give Dad a call at work, at least before I leave. I didn't like the way we left things last night."
Colette shook her head. "He's not there. He's ..out of town."
Out of town? "I didn't know he had to go out of town. Where did he go?"
The silence that ensued was deafening.
"Mom?" Robin felt a wave of apprehension grab her. "Where did Dad go?"
Colette decided there was no use in hiding it. "Florida."
Robin's green eyes closed tight reflexively as she felt physically sick. Jess. "Where exactly in Florida?"
"Now, Robin, your father is very worried about you. He just wants to talk with this woman face to face."
This woman. "No!" Robin was very agitated. "Without telling me? I can't believe he did that." She was shaking. "I have to call Jess and .." She started to head for the stairs and the cell phone in her room.
"He took the first plane out this morning, Robin. I'm sure he's already there by now."
Robin was beyond upset. "I don't care. I've got to call her." She raced upstairs, pulled the cell phone from her bag, and dialed Jess's direct line at the office, her fingers shaking as she did so.
After two rings, Angie answered. "Good morning. Jessica Harrison's office."
"Angie, it's Robin. Could I speak with Jess, please?"
"I'm sorry, Robin. She's been on a conference call all morning and left instructions for me to take all her messages."
Stay calm. She hasn't seen him yet. "Okay. Angie, could you give her a message as soon as she gets of her conference call? Please tell her to call me on the cell phone right away? It's urgent."
Ooooh. I wonder want's going on in paradise. "All right, Robin. As soon as she hangs up, I'll give her your message."
"Thanks." Robin clicked off the phone and sucked in a deep breath in a vain attempt to calm her nerves. The next number she dialed was for a taxi cab to take her to the airport. Packing her bag and then rushing downstairs, she paused just long enough to look at her mother still sitting on the sofa. "I'm leaving for the airport now. I've called a cab and will wait outside for it." Her voice was more of dismay than anger. "I can't believe you kept this from me, and I can't believe Dad did this."
"We're worried about you, Robin. I'm sorry you can't see that. He just wants to talk with this woman."
This woman. Robin stopped in her tracks and gazed squarely at her mother. "Her name is Jess. That is the third time this morning you've referred to her as 'this woman'. I love her, and I'm sorry you can't see that." She echoed her mother's words back at her. "I had hoped .." Robin shook her head, the sting of the betrayal by her parents hitting her hard, as she fought the tears welling up in her eyes. "Never mind. I need to go." Without a backward glance, she stepped outside the front door, not sure if she'd ever be able to return to this place again.
During the cab ride to the municipal airport, she tried again to reach Jess, but the junior partner was still tied up on her conference call. Upon arrival at the airport, Robin attempted to obtain an earlier flight, unfortunately to no avail. It seems that Friday flights into Orlando are a rarity, considering the fact that the Central Florida area is the number one vacation destination. How her father managed to secure an airline seat on such short notice was quite a mystery. He probably paid someone for their ticket. Resigned that she'd have to await her scheduled flight, Robin took a seat at the gate, clutched the cell phone in her hand, and hoped and prayed that Jess would call before it was too late.
Jess had no sooner hung up the phone after her two and a half hour conference call when Angie knocked and poked her head inside the office door. "I have your messages, and there's someone waiting in the lobby to see you."
The junior partner glanced at her organizer. "I don't have anyone down on my calendar for this morning."
Angie set the messages on the corner of the cherry wood desk. "He said he didn't have an appointment but was hoping you would agree to meet with him."
Strange. "Who is it?"
"He said his name is Thomas Wilson."
Jess's head snapped up. Uh oh. Something's wrong. Her pulse started racing, and for a long moment, she was entirely speechless. Damn. This can't be good.
Angie apparently had not made the connection between Thomas Wilson and Robin. She waited patiently, and upon not hearing any instruction, prompted Jess. "What do you want me to tell him?"
I could refuse to see him. Blue eyes closed, then opened. But what if something's happened with Robin. "All right. Go ahead and bring him in here. There's no need for a conference room."
The junior partner stood up and waited as her secretary escorted Robin's father into the office. "Thank you, Angie. Please hold my calls." Once her office door was safely shut, Jess turned her attention toward her unexpected guest. "Mr. Wilson, is everything all right? Is Robin here, or .."
Thomas interrupted. "Robin's not with me. She presumably will be on whatever flight she's scheduled to take back here later today. I need to speak with you separately. And no, everything is not all right."
Shit. "Okay. Please have a seat. What did you want to speak with me about?"
Robin's father settled into the chair by the floor-to-ceiling window and focused his gaze squarely on Jess. "I'll be blunt. Robin has told her mother and me that you apparently have a relationship with my daughter which is more than platonic. Is that correct?"
Here it comes. "Yes. That is correct."
Thomas grew increasingly agitated. "She seems to believe that, as she so consistently put it, she loves you and you love her and you both want to be together. Would that also be correct?"
Jess tilted her head to one side. "I would say that is accurate, yes."
"All right." Thomas stood up. "Here's the way I see this. Aside from the moral implications of this matter, which I won't get into right now, Robin is in no emotional condition to know what she really wants. She's had a difficult year, and was emotionally devastated prior to coming down here to Florida."
Jess just listened, even though she was becoming increasingly annoyed at the tenor of the conversation. The man had flown all the way from Michigan and apparently had a lot to get off his chest.
Thomas continued. "It seems that while Robin was trying to come to terms with what happened with David, for whatever reason, she filled the emotional void created by his loss with you. I won't mince words here. It appears to me that you have taken advantage of her fragile emotional state of mind."
The junior partner flexed her hands unconsciously, utterly offended at his statement, then responded, her voice terse. "Number one, Robin is perfectly capable of knowing what she wants, and number two, I have never taken advantage of Robin, emotionally or otherwise. And you are absolutely correct, we will not get into the supposed moral implications of this matter."
"Is Robin seeing a psychologist?"
Jess blinked. "You know that she is."
"Then you would admit that she's having trouble dealing, at a minimum, with David's death."
He's good at this game. "It's normal and healthy for Robin to want to come to terms with what happened. It doesn't mean that she's incapable of knowing what she wants."
Placing the tips of his fingers on the edge of the cherry wood desk, Thomas glared directly at Jess. "Do not imply to me that what you're doing with my daughter is normal and healthy."
A dark eyebrow arched at his attempted intimidation. "I am implying, sir, that Robin is perfectly capable of knowing what she wants."
"And that would be you?" It was a rhetorical question that required no response. "I don't think so. Eventually, she will realize her mistake, and I don't want her to be destroyed emotionally again."
In spite of the obvious arrogance of his statement, Jess had to admit that he had a point. One of her greatest fears was that Robin would eventually realize that their relationship was a mistake, and that Jess was merely an emotional substitute for David.
Thomas stared out the large window at the view at the downtown skyline. "Let me ask you this. What are your intentions?"
"What are your intentions toward my daughter. It seems like a simple enough question."
Jess had to stop and consider her response carefully. "If it were up to me, I'd devote my entire life to making sure that Robin was loved to the fullest. But it is not entirely up to me. A lot has to do with what Robin wants."
"It's convenient for you, isn't it?" Thomas continued to stare out the window.
The junior partner was perplexed. "What's convenient?"
"I know of your reputation in the legal community. I can be very resourceful. You're not an easy person to work with, as I understand it. Robin's convenient for you. She'll do your work. She idolizes you. Some sort of hero worship thing. It seems to be a pretty good deal. You get someone to help manage your caseload as long as you keep her happy, give her little diamond trinkets, claim you love her."
Hold it, buddy. Jess stood up. "I don't like the implication of that."
"Why?" Thomas turned to face Jess. "Hits a little too close to home?" He focused his attention back out the window. "This is an nice view."
"What's your point?"
"I'm willing to bet your managing partner and litigation department chair haven't a clue about your relationship with my daughter. And I'm also willing to bet that your firm has a policy against personal relationships between supervisors and subordinates."
Shit! I will not be blackmailed. "I will say this only once, and because you are Robin's father, I will afford you that respect, but you are way off base. You come into my place of business, unannounced, demand to see me, and imply that my personal life is somehow tied to some ulterior motives on my part. That is not the way it is." Jess enunciated the last sentence very succinctly.
In a blink of an eye, Thomas whirled around. "You're carrying on a clandestine, not to mention illicit, affair with my daughter right underneath your law firm's nose. From what I understand, you've made no commitment to my daughter, as if such a commitment would make what you're doing any less reprehensible."
Illicit Affair. Jess mentally cringed at the reference to what she, herself, had only realized the night before. Nothing escapes you, Tom. "For your information, I love Robin. To me, that is most certainly not reprehensible. If and when Robin and I make any type of commitment to each other, that is entirely up to us."
"I can see I have not made my point." Thomas sat down. "I would encourage you to end your relationship with my daughter ..immediately."
"And why would I do that?"
Thomas' eyes hardened. "If you insist that I spell it out for you, so be it. I can not allow my daughter to be abused in this manner. As her father, I have an obligation to protect her. Therefore, should you continue with your inappropriate conduct toward Robin, I will have no choice but to take this matter to the firm's upper management. You should consider your options carefully, then make the appropriate decision. End it now." He sat back in his chair, confident he held all the cards. He had one more ace to play, should he need it.
Son of a bitch. I refuse to be blackmailed. "And if I reveal my relationship with Robin to the firm, and accept the consequences of doing so .."
"Well .." Robin's father stroked his chin, as if in considerable thought. "Then that would be extremely unfortunate."
Spit it out. "How so?"
He played his ace. "I believe that Robin is emotionally incapable at the moment of realizing the precarious position she is in while working with you. She's seeing a psychologist, and has yet to come to terms with David's death, along with the guilt she feels as a result of it. Because of her emotional disability, she doesn't understand that her job may be tied to certain, shall we say, favors she affords you. Personal favors. After all, considering that Robin works almost exclusively for you, you do prepare her performance evaluations, do you not?"
The weight of the implication landed on Jess like twelve tons of bricks. My God. How could she have been so blind? She was so worried about the favoritism perils of their relationship that she completely missed this. Sexual harassment. She directed her attention back toward Thomas. "All performance evaluations are completely objective and subject to the review of the Management Committee." The junior partner paused just long enough to refrain from saying something clearly unfortunate, then continued "And any 'personal favors' as you say, number one, are none of your business, and number two, would be completely consensual."
"So says you."
"And Robin." Jess was more worried than she let on.
"Robin, who is emotionally fragile. One might even say she has an emotional disability at the moment. I think we both know what we're talking about here."
Damn it. How could I have misjudged this? "You'd have a very hard time proving any such allegations."
Thomas felt victory within his reach. "I don't need to prove them. I merely need to make the charge and file a complaint with the State Bar Association. There'd be an investigation. It's mandatory. You'd never recover from the scandal, and neither would this firm. To think that a firm of this reputation had partners who preyed on vulnerable young associates in such a detestable way .." He left the thought deliberately unfinished. "Well, let's just say I'm sure any such investigation would be devastating to this firm."
Jess felt sick, a thought occurring to her that truly made her ill as she addressed Robin's father again. "You'd put Robin though an investigation of such a nature?"
The corners of Thomas's mouth curled ever so slightly. "The real question is ..would you?" He stood up to leave, his point clearly made. "End it now. You have the weekend."
Jess watched as Thomas Wilson left her office, then sank back into her leather chair. She closed her eyes in genuine anguish before opening them again. I will not be blackmailed. Idly, she glanced over at the messages Angie had left for her on her desk, noting that the top one was from Robin marked "Urgent". Oh, sweetheart. There was absolutely no way Jess could speak with Robin right now. I need time to think.
Just then, Angie knocked and opened the door. "I have a few more messages for you. Robin's called three times. She said it's urgent, and for you to call her on the cell phone." Her secretary placed the additional messages on the desk, noting Jess's pale features as she did so. Then, Angie put two and two together, and it all suddenly became absolutely clear. Thomas Wilson is Robin's father. Robin's called three times, all urgent. Oh boy. There is definitely trouble in paradise. Just wait until Betty hears this.
"Angie, I'd like you to hold my calls and take messages for the rest of the day. Also, cancel my appointment this afternoon with Ted Riley on the Williams case. Go ahead and reschedule it for sometime next week." The junior partner stood up, grabbed her briefcase and headed out the door, her nausea at what had transpired overwhelming.
I need some air. Now.
Robin hailed a taxi cab outside the airport's main terminal upon returning to Orlando. It was already after five o'clock, and her attempts to reach Jess all day long had been unsuccessful. Her frustration was further complicated by the fact that she was unable to use the cell phone at all during her flight, and the plane wasn't equipped with an airphone. After situating herself in the cab's back seat, she picked up the cell phone and tried the junior partner again at the office, dialing her direct line only to reach the voice mail. Robin briefly considered trying to reach Angie, but then realized that, given the late hour, the staff had already gone home for the day. Maybe Jess is at home. Robin gave the cab driver directions to The Ranch and then called the home number. The answering machine picked up. Not there or screening calls? Robin chose not to leave a message at either location, opting instead to go home and search out Jess for herself.
Upon arrival at The Ranch, Robin found that Jess was nowhere to be found and her car was nowhere in sight. Sighing, the young associate decided to check the firm again just in case Jess had stepped out for a bite to eat before returning to get some more work done. Robin scribbled out a note to Jess and left it on the dining room table, then hopped into her metallic blue BMW and headed downtown toward the firm.
Twilight had started to settle upon the city when the young associate finally pulled her BMW into the building's parking garage. She breathed a sigh of relief when she spotted Jess's silver Mercedes parked in its usual spot. She's here. Robin quickly entered the lobby, gave the guard her usual greeting, and stopped to sign in the after-hours log. Perhaps it was because she was so anxious, but a wave of panic started to set in. What if she's upset with me? Maybe that's why she didn't return my calls. The elevator car arrived and Robin punched in the night code, riding up to the sixteenth floor law offices of Roberts and McDaniel. Gathering her resolve, she passed through the darkened reception area and then down around the corner toward Jess's office.
Robin stopped at the familiar wood door, sighing inwardly. Even though the door was partially closed, she could see that the lights were off. She's not here. Dejected, the associate opened the door wider and scanned the office, debating with herself whether to leave Jess a note. She had just decided against the idea when she saw the darkened silhouette sitting in the chair by the large window.
"Jess?" Robin hesitantly called out.
The silhouetted figure turned slightly. "Robin." The voice was familiar, yet oddly somber.
The associate entered the office, closing the door behind her. "I've been searching for you. I tried to call, but .." Something about the situation struck Robin. Jess didn't get up to greet her, or inquire about her flight, or sound in any way happy to see her. Robin raced over to the chair. "Why are you in the dark?"
There was nothing but silence.
"Jess." Robin knelt on the floor next to the chair and tried unsuccessfully to capture the junior partner's gaze. Her heart sped up. "He ..was here, wasn't he?" Does she blame me?
There was more silence.
She won't talk to me. Robin became very worried. "Jess, I didn't know he was coming. When I found out, I tried to call." Her voice became shaky. "Jess, I swear, I didn't .."
"Shhh." The junior partner turned and brought a hand up to the side of Robin's face. "I know." Long fingers stroked the soft cheek almost hypnotically.
The younger woman inched around to the front of the chair. "What did he say to you?"
Her only response was Jess lowering her head.
"Please talk to me."
Jess finally spoke, her voice hoarse. "I thought I had everything all figured out. If the firm found out about us, I'd take the penalty, whatever that was."
Robin's tone became hard. "He threatened to go to Harry and Gordon?" The associate steeled herself. "He had no right to do that ..to threaten you." She was finally able to capture Jess's gaze. "We'll figure something out. If I have to work with someone else, I'll do that."
The junior partner smiled a very sad smile, then ran her fingers slowly through Robin's bangs. "If it was only that simple."
What's going on? Something was very wrong. Robin felt her stomach clench. "Jess? You're scaring me. What happened?"
Jess refused to look at Robin, instead fixing her gaze out the window into the night sky. "I'm such a fool." Her voice was soft. "I arrogantly thought I had everything under control. It never occurred to me that .." She couldn't even say it, the mere thought making her ill.
Robin's stomach clenched further. "What?"
"I was so focused on the perception of favoritism. Remaining objective. I should have seen it, but I didn't."
A petite hand reached up and turned Jess's face to look into silver blue eyes. "What didn't you see? Please, Jess, tell me."
"That our relationship could be seen as abusive. That since I evaluate your job performance, you could perceive your job as being tied to .." Jess's voice was barely a whisper, as she swallowed reflexively. "Providing certain favors to me." It was all Jess could do to maintain her composure. Breaking down right now would only make matters worse.
Providing certain favors. Robin mulled that phrase around in her mind, until it suddenly hit her with a sickening clarity. Sexual harassment. "No!" Then another thought came to her, and Robin nearly doubled over in real pain. "He threatened you with that?"
All there was now was silence. Jess was simply unable to speak.
"Jess, he can't prove it. He doesn't have standing. He doesn't know how it is with us."
The junior partner found her voice again. "He doesn't have to prove it, just make the charge. He's right. The Bar will investigate. It's mandatory. The firm, me and ..you will be subjected to an investigation. He believes that you are emotionally fragile, and that gives him grounds to file such a charge." Jess paused, and then had to ask. It was something that had been on her mind for the better part of the day. "Robin .." She looked at the younger woman hesitantly, her voice very, very soft. "Did you ever think ..that your job was tied to .."
Robin's eyes grew wide, and she rushed up and hugged Jess to her, realizing the enormity of junior partner's torment. "No!" She hugged tighter. "No. I never once thought that. It's consensual. You know that." She pulled back, her eyes now glistening. "I love you. What we do, I choose freely to do. If you fired me tomorrow, I would still love you." Have you been tormenting yourself all day over this? Is that why you didn't call me back? It somehow cheapened everything they had together to put it into such a perverse context as tying job retention to providing 'certain favors'. "Jess, what we have together is very special to me. Never doubt that."
The junior partner merely nodded, then stood up and walked around Robin's kneeling form, stepping closer to the window and gazing out at some unseen object in the night sky. Without turning around, she spoke. "I will not allow an investigation to taint you. You're just starting out, and believe me when I say that a reputation follows you in this business where ever you go. I will not permit an investigation to damage your reputation, not to mention what a scandal of this nature would do to this firm."
"What are you saying?" Is she resigning?
"I've thought all day of all the options. If I choose to leave the firm, that may save the firm from a scandal, but it wouldn't prevent an investigation from going forward." Jess was unable to look at Robin. "You father gave me an ultimatum, and although I've tried, and believe me, I've tried very, very hard, I can't think of any other way to remedy this situation. It was my lapse in judgment that brought us to this point, so I have to take responsibility for what happened, and how best to resolve it with the least bit of harm to all involved."
Robin stood up and went over to the window where Jess stood. She rested her hand on the older woman's forearm and looked up as the junior partner continued to gaze out at points unseen. "What ultimatum?"
"If I ..ended our relationship, he wouldn't file a complaint with the State Bar or reveal our relationship to the firm."
Blackmail. "You're not going to let him get away with that." Robin suddenly had a very ominous feeling. "Are you?"
"Jess? Are you?"
Up until this point, and for as long as Robin had known her, Jess had always turned away and distracted her gaze when she felt uncomfortable or emotionally threatened. But now, Jess focused her gaze squarely on Robin, blinked once, and then delivered her answer. "Yes."
Robin reacted as expected. "No! You can't. What about us?"
"Now listen to me, Robin. I won't let you or anyone else pay for my mistakes."
"Is that what you think our relationship is? A mistake?" Robin was beside herself.
Damn it. I'm not going to get through this. "No." Silver blue eyes softened. "No. But this is the only way out of this."
"But I love you." Robin began crying. "I love you."
"And I love you, sweetheart. And that's why I can't let this scandal taint you." Although Jess seemed relatively calm on the outside, inside she was absolutely shattered. After all, she'd had all afternoon to perfect her brave front, and it took all of her willpower just to make it this far. Robin's crying was nearly her undoing.
"You can't let him win. We love each other."
The junior partner saw Robin approach, and took a step backward to maintain a distance. Otherwise, Jess was silent.
"Please, Jess." Robin pleaded as she reached up and grasped the diamond heart pendant she wore around her neck.
It was actually a good thing that the lights were off in the office, as Jess's eyes were surely glistening. "I promised you that if there was a backlash against you, I would protect you. This is the only way I know to protect you."
"And I promised you that I would never leave you."
Jess's heart broke into a million pieces. "I release you from that promise."
"Well, I don't. I take my promises seriously.
"You told me that I had to tell you if it became too dangerous and I wanted you to leave. You told me that you would accept my decision." Silver blue eyes closed, then opened again. "Robin, it's too dangerous." Jess never thought she'd say these next few words. "I want you to leave me." She swallowed back a sob. "I want you to accept my decision."
"Jess .." Robin tried to approach again, but Jess once more backed away.
"I need for you to go on home now, Robin."
More tears fell. "No."
"Don't argue with me on this."
Robin shook her head. This can't be happening. "This isn't over."
"Go on home now. Don't wait up for me." Silver blue eyes watched as Robin's form slowly turned toward the door. "And Robin."
The young associate looked back.
"Go ahead and sleep in your own room tonight."
Robin let go a strangled sob, and then in resigned fashion, made her way out of the office and into the hallway, closing the door behind her. She stood there, bracing herself against the wall, then slowly sank to the floor. What Robin didn't know was that inside the office, Jess had done much the same thing, collapsing to the floor in front of the large window and letting go of all the pent up emotion she'd held inside, as waves and waves of tears overcame her, and just wouldn't stop.
Outside the door, Robin wiped the tears from her eyes and stood up. What just happened? This whole thing seemed surreal. How could it end like this? It was at that one moment that Robin made a decision that would define who she was and everything she believed in. Some things are worth fighting for, and this was certainly one of them. She turned and opened the office door, intent on arguing her point one more time. "Jess, I .." What she saw inside tore at her very soul. In dim silhouette, Jess was curled up on the floor, rocking herself and sobbing uncontrollably. Robin quickly closed the door behind her and rushed over to the older woman, gathering her in her arms and holding her tightly. "No." She clung tighter. "No, Jess. I will not leave you."
Jess had lost all control. She couldn't form a single word, let alone speak to Robin. She relaxed her body, lost in the comforting presence that surrounded her and provided her safe haven from the storm within.
Robin clutched Jess's head to her chest, letting her tears fall onto the dark head. "You are so brave." She whispered, now realizing exactly what Jess had done. "You are the bravest person I know. You'd crush your own heart to protect me." The significance grabbed at the younger woman in the most profound way. If there was one thing Robin was absolutely certain about, it was that Jess's greatest fear was that she'd give her heart away again, only to have it torn apart by betrayal or abandonment. To have Jess shatter her own heart to spare Robin was the greatest sacrifice the older woman could ever have made. More tears fell on the dark head as Robin reflected on that. "I love you so much. I will never, ever leave you." She continued to rock Jess in her arms. "You gave me your heart, remember? And I promised I'd take good care of it. I won't give it up now. It's safe with me."
It was completely dark outside, the downtown city lights twinkling through the night sky. While safely enveloped within Robin's embrace, Jess took comfort in the quiet peace the nighttime afforded, trying to gather herself into some semblance of composure. In truth, she had no willpower to turn Robin away again, even though she knew what failing to do so meant. Still, she couldn't speak her acceptance of what the younger woman offered.
Robin held on tightly, gazing likewise out the large window into the night sky. Finally, she placed the tips of her fingers underneath Jess's chin and lifted it upward, whispering softly. "You and I are meant to be together. We're a part of each other. Even apart, you're with me and I'm with you." She shifted so the older woman could sit up facing her. "Can you feel it, Jess?" Robin raised up her hand and cupped the older woman's cheek, then brought Jess's larger hand up to her own face in similar fashion. "Can you feel it? When I touch you and you touch me?" She trailed her hand down and lightly stroked her fingers against Jess's neck, then back up to her cheek again, repeating the motion continuously. "It's like magic, this energy between us. I've felt it since the very first time you touched me." Robin brought her other hand up to rest against Jess's opposite cheek, smoothing away a few strands of hair. She locked her gaze with silver blue eyes in the darkness and whispered again. "Can you feel it?"
Since Robin had come back into the office, Jess hadn't said a word. She was completely lost in Robin's soft touch. Finally, she spoke, her voice barely a whisper. "I feel it. I thought it was just me."
"No. We both feel it. We have a connection. We're meant to be together."
"But your father .." The junior partner started to protest.
"Shhh." Petite fingers pressed against Jess's lips. "We'll figure something out. Together, Jess. Together. We're meant to be together, and we'll figure something out together." Robin kissed the palm of Jess's hand, brushing her lips against the blue and white sapphire bracelet Jess wore around her wrist. "Forever, remember?" She fingered the bracelet she'd given Jess, recalling the inscription. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"
The older woman wasn't sure, but she sensed hints of a commitment in Robin's words. "Yes. Together forever."
"Yes." Robin smiled. "You can't get rid of me." She tilted her head slightly to the side, a thought occurring to her. "I'm like crazy glue."
Crazy glue. The memory came back at Jess. "Crazy glue?"
"Yes. And I'm very, very sticky."
Robin's smile widened. "And you're stuck with me. You got that?"
Jess returned the smile. "That's my line."
A small, yet relieved chuckle came from Robin. "So, we're clear, right?"
"So ..any slipping out the back, Jack?" Petite fingers laced with larger ones.
"Or making a new plan, Stan?"
The irony of the role reversal was not lost on Jess. "No."
Robin brought their joined hands to her lips. "You're not going to be coy, Roy?"
"How about hopping on the bus, Gus?"
Silver blue eyes captured gray green. "Never."
Robin kissed the knuckles of their joined hands reverently. "Will you ever drop off the key, Lee?"
It was sudden, and it was strong. Jess engulfed the younger woman in a heartfelt hug. "No, sweetheart. I won't ever drop off the key." We're meant to be together.
Robin pulled back and rested her forehead against Jess's. "No one leaves."
Jess nodded in agreement. "No one leaves."
"Good." Robin grinned. "Glad we got that settled." She arched a pale eyebrow. "Even if you do steal my slippers and have a very strange fetish for a certain seafood-related item."
Silver blue eyes narrowed. "Are you accusing me of slippernapping?"
Slippernapping? "Well, if the shoe fits .."
"Ooooh." Jess chuckled for the first time all day. "That was really, really bad." She stood up, bringing Robin along with her. "And by the way, it's not a fetish."
Robin patted Jess's arm indulgently. "Whatever you say, Jess. Now, let's go home."
Home. The truth of the matter was, they were already home, and they both knew it.
To Be Continued ..
© Copyright 03/15/2001