Disclaimers : See Part 1

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Part 4 of Loose Change Series - The Addy and Karen series.
(01) Turning on a Dime
(02) New Quarters
(03) One Little Bit
(04) Joint Venture

 

Joint Venture

By

K-Morgan

kmorgan.5674@yahoo.com

(Feedback is appreciated)


Part 14

The meeting on establishing a hospital, with the Health Commissioner, was successful. It was actually an entire committee who came to meet with Addy. She presented the problem, and the plan as a solution. The number of people, and certainly the number of the aging population in the town's vicinity justified more medical services.

Three weeks later she got word that the committee had approved an urgent care clinic for Altee. “That is not what I proposed or what I want!” Addy was furious.

“M'Addy, but at least we are getting something.”

“I will not accept that!”

“So what are you going to do?” Karen seemed worried.

“If we accept this mini nothing they are giving us now, they will never improve upon it. They will say that we already have basic services, and that they need to fund other areas that don't even have the basic services.”

“So what do you propose doing?”

“Go bigger.”

Karen raised her eyebrows. “How?”

Alex was listening attentively, amazed at her mom's audacity.

“I thought this could happen. I have a plan B.” She gestured to Karen, with her index finger. It took Karen many years to understand that Addy's business visions were not just based on impulse. Karen came to realize that, however her mind worked, Addy had well thought-out plans, and that if her ideas ever appeared to be impulsive, it was not for lack of planning, but for the enthusiasm and energy with which she conveyed them.

“I'll talk to the Mayors of the nearby towns. If we can't have our own hospital in Altee, maybe we can have a regional one in a central location accessible to all. I wouldn't mind driving ten minutes, if it saved me a trip to Edinburgh . Maybe that will be more appealing to all.”

It was. The plan was developed and by the end of the year the new hospital was breaking ground. The new regional hospital was to have forty beds and would provide all the services including MRIs. There would be specialists assigned to the hospital who would have regular days, or who could be called on an as needed basis. There would be an outpatient center and a surgical wing with a first-responder trauma center. It would also have a heliport. The approval and building of the facility was the greatest achievement of Addy's administration, which was indeed a remarkable accomplishment.

Ms. Simmons also got her wish and the ambulatory library became real, providing books and reading programs for citizens who could not come to the library in town. The farm subsidies were also maintained and the roads were improved. Also a direct bus line and a commuter park-and-ride were established between Altee and Edinburgh.

All those accomplishments and yet the trash continued to be picked up on time every week. There were also regulations developed for sheep road crossing, a matter of the most importance in Addy's agenda. She still remembered how the sheep on the road made her turn and drive straight into that ravine killing the cow. The one story for which in the intimacy of their bedroom Addy came to be known as ‘the butcher.'

Also during Addy's administration, all public buildings were painted. She raised the taxes of the higher-income citizens, which was primarily them, only because she thought it was a way for them to give back to a community which had given them so much. They had always been happy in Altee, from day one and Addy was always grateful for that. Not forgotten either was how the town came to their help in the custody battle for Alex against Karen's vicious family.

“When the hospital opened, two years later, Addy felt that her main job was accomplished.

“M'Addy, you are the best Mayor this town has ever had and you are leaving your mark with this building.” Alex pointed to the hospital. “I'm sure that you will be reelected in a jiffy.”

“Thanks, Alex. Your compliment means more to me than anything else.”

**

While Addy was busy administering Altee, and Karen working in her law firm, Alex made her debut s into high school. At fourteen, she continued to excel. During her freshman year, she made the varsity soccer and basketball teams and was very good at both sports. She also joined the drama club, the debate club and was a member of the student council as her class representative. She was already a black belt in karate and continued to practice to master her art.

In addition to her sports skills, she continued to travel with the moms every summer and between the travels, the language classes and her practice at home with the moms, she became fluent in Spanish and French. Her academics were also outstanding, always scoring at the highest level. The summer after her freshman year she went for a four week enrichment program at the University of Edinburgh and on the summer of her sophomore year she took a six-week internship at St. Andrews University .

By the time Alex was in her sophomore year at school, on account of all her attributes and skills, she was very popular in school. The teachers loved her, all the girls wanted to be her friend, and the boys wanted to date her and have her as a girlfriend. She was constantly asked on dates, but she rejected them all simply stating that she was not allowed to date. The latter was true, but it also made for a good excuse, to not make the guys feel officially rejected. She always preferred to go out in groups, because that way she wouldn't have to deal with any teen-ager slobbering all over her. She really did not like any of the boys and found them all to be immature, or conceited.

Even though, Alex was very mature, every time she spent time away from home, even in the safest environments, Addy was a pack of nerves. Karen was always glad that Addy had taken the role of the over-protective parent because that way she came across as the ‘cool' parent. Addy, however, knew there was nothing cool about Karen and that the woman wished she could have packed the two of them in a suit case and hide them somewhere in the house.

“The one thing I will not do, Addy, and I'm telling you now, is spy on her.” But she did. Only a couple of times, though, and only to find out that Alex had stuck to what she had said, and from that day on, they trusted her.

They also were at ease most of the time because Alex was no ‘crazy head' she was responsible and always hung out with a good crowd of kids. The women really had no complaints about her. Another important thing in her relationship with the moms was that they had great communication. Alex never hesitated to come to them with problems or questions. Probably because the moms were always helpful and although sometime they got on her case, they were never overly harsh and tried to understand Alex's point of view.

For her part Alex knew that the moms loved her and that she owed great deference and respect to that love. Alex simply adored them and that made for the best mother-daughter relationship.

**

However, as with any teen-ager there were those moments when things were said that resolved nothing and were hurtful to all. Things that a mother would always forgive, of course, but that nevertheless hurt at the time. Things that, having happened, made the child grow and appreciate the parent more. So it was with Alex at age fifteen.

On this particular occasion, Alex wanted to go fox hunting at a friend's summer house In Ireland , where the sport was still legal. Fox hunting had been illegal in Scotland for several years. The friend was the daughter of a prominent Irish family. The family lived in Scotland because the father had businesses in Glasgow , but the friend's grandparents lived in Ireland . Neither woman wanted her to go. They thought it was risky and dangerous.

Alex was mad and argued that she was already fifteen and that she was a good rider because she had been riding since she was five years old. There was no question about her riding skills, the problem was what she had never been on a fox hunt and had no idea what it was like. For that matter, neither did Karen, or Addy. What they had heard, they had not liked. All in all, they thought it was dangerous, and unnecessary for her to go.

“Why would you want to do such a thing?” Addy asked.

“For the fun! Because it's different! I don't want to hang around here all day doing nothing while my friends are having all the fun in the world!”

“Killing animals is not fun. And be careful Peanut Crunchy is listening.” Karen smirked.

Alex went on and on and on and the women just listened to her and after a while said nothing more because there seemed no way to explain or convince Alex of their reasons. So when Alex made the last statement about her friends having fun and she remaining bored at home. Karen could not take it anymore and turned her back to her and stopped paying attention. The gesture made Alex furious and it was then when she started to raise her voice to Karen.

“It's not fair! You are being ridiculous and unfair and it doesn't become you, mother!” As she made her statement, she raised her voice to the point that she was almost yelling to Karen.

“Alex! Don't yell to your mother. That is enough, young lady. You are not going period!” Addy had never spoken so tough to her in all her years, but she was not going to tolerate Alex disrespecting Karen.

“You can't tell me what to do! You are not even my real mother!” The minute she said it, she was sorry. The horror of her statement shattered her and the immediate regret was written all over her face. Addy remained quiet, looked away, turned around and walked out to the patio. Simultaneously to the statement, Karen got up from the sofa as if she had fire under her seat. She was livid.

Alex had done something she'd never allow anyone to do, not even her own daughter. No one had ever offended Addy in her presence. Karen's fury was such that Alex panicked when she saw her mom's face, and simultaneously watched Addy leave. Karen was enraged. The anger in her almost didn't let her speak. She thought it better to take a few minutes before taking any action because she was afraid of her own actions. Karen looked at her while trying to calm down, but at the same time with an air of indignation that was self-explanatory.

“I'm sorry mom. I'm so sorry!”

“What have you done, Alexandra? What have you done?” Karen's voice cracked. Her eyes welled instantaneously. “How dare you? How dare you?” Tears fell from the red swollen furious eyes. “Go to your room. Get out of my sight! Now!” Karen had never ever raised her voice. Today she screamed at her daughter with anger unknown to her.

Alex panicked and ran upstairs. From the patio, Addy heard Karen's command. Karen immediately came outside looking for Addy.

“Addy!” She wrapped her arms from behind around the woman she adored and buried her face into her hair. Karen was trembling. So was Addy. Still Addy patted her hand trying to calm her. She knew Karen was as hurt as she was, or more. “She didn't mean it, Ker. She's mad and she is a typical teenager. She'll come around.”

“I'll talk to her. I couldn't now. I need time to calm down for her sake. I don't want to risk strangling her.” Addy chuckled and Karen turned her around and held her. They were still trembling.

In her room, Alex was hysterical. She realized the pain she'd caused. She hurt also not knowing what to do, how to fix this awful thing she'd done. She'd never be forgiven. She knew the bond between her mothers. She knew she stood to lose. She knew she'd lost them both. How could she have been so cruel to the woman that was everything to her? There was no forgiveness for her. She cried and cried and then she just sat on her desk chair numb.

An hour later, Karen walked into her room.

“Mom, is she alright? Is she very mad at me? I'm so sorry mom. I didn't realize what I was saying. I was so mad, I shouldn't have said that. M'Addy is like a mom to me. I was mad.”

“Stop right there. There are two things I need to say to you regarding what you've just said. First, you may be surprised to know, as I was, that she is not mad at you. She thinks you didn't mean it, and that you only said it because you were mad at us.”

“Good because that's just what happened.”

“That is not all. I said there are two things I need to say. The second thing is that I need to correct your statement that Addy ‘is like a mom to you'. You see, you are already fifteen and is about time you know something very special about that woman that you think is ‘like a mom' to you.”

“But I know she is. She showed me the adoption papers a long time ago. I know she adopted me, and that legally I am her daughter also.”

“Yes, that is true. Legally you are her daughter. But that's just a piece of paper to comply with conventionalism. But that is not the only real reason for which you are her daughter.” Karen took a chair and sat in front of her. “What I'm about to tell you may be a shock to you, but I need to tell you. It's imperative for me that you know what I am about to tell you.” She paused and took a deep breath.

“I will preempt your possible shock by telling you that I love you, and that you and Addy are all that matter in my life. I need to tell you this so that you can begin to comprehend the love between your mother and me, our love for you, and your place in this house.” She took another deep breath. The seriousness of her tone made Alex anxious.

“You are my biological daughter, and I have a scar in my belly to prove it, but when Addy and I agreed to have you, it was not I who wanted you.”

Alex listened in awe. “Never, do you hear me? Never, ever in my wildest dream did I think I would have ever had a child. It was Addy who wanted to you.” She emphasized the last statement. “She created you in her mind and convinced me to have you.” She paused noticing that Alex was surprised. Karen smirked. “It gets better.” Alex continued to listen. “She wanted me to have a baby because I had no family and because she thought that if anything ever happened to her I wouldn't be left in this world without anyone to love. The baby she wanted, she wanted for me, not for her.” Karen's jaw clenched. Alex could see the muscles in her mother's face tighten.

Alex was numb. “So, the only reason I had you was because that woman downstairs wanted you. She asked me to have you, and because I love her and because I would never deny her anything, I had you. I had you for her and she wanted you for me. Do you understand that? Do you see what happened? We planned you and we wanted you, but we each wanted you for the other. Such is our love for each other and for you.” Alex was in tears.

“And she was with me every single second of those terrible nine months. Through morning sickness, vomiting, and the living hell that it was. She was there all the time. She was also there when the doctor delivered you, and it was she who took you in her arms straight from my belly when the doctor handed you over to her. She later took care of both of us. And I'm certain that you wouldn't have survived childhood had it not been for her because I couldn't even figure out how to feed you!” Karen paused. Alex was soaked in tears.

“That is not all. If you take a look at the adoption papers, you will notice that they are dated the very same day you were born. All the papers had been drafted months in advance because I wanted it that way. I wanted you to be as much hers as mine. In fact, the day you were born, I handed you over to her and I gave you to her physically. I placed you in her arms, and I told her that you were my gift of love to her. She took you. I would have never had you, had it not been for her.” Karen was now in tears also. “You are hers. I only delivered you, and later facilitated in whatever way I could in my very clumsy way, for the past fifteen years.”

Alex was sobbing when Karen got up to leave. From the door, she said her final words. “She may not be your biological mother, but if you are here today it is only because of her. The woman you think is ‘like a mother to you,' is more than your mother. She's your god!” Karen's voice cracked. “She created you, she loves you and she has also already forgiven you. And no one raises her voice, or offends her in my presence. Not even you.” Karen left the room emotionally shaken. She was still outraged. Alex remained in her room sobbing.

As Karen was going downstairs, she heard a door open and smash against the wall, and what appeared to be lightning bolt going down the staircase, Alex flew downstairs, practically skipping three steps at a time and jumping the last four. It was Alex running out. Karen panicked, thinking that she might have been too harsh on her and ran after her. She stopped when she saw where Alex was headed. She was running towards the ‘thinking tree' where she knew Addy would be.

With the years, and because of the many frequent visits and talks under the tree, they had placed a bench under it. Addy liked to sit there to think looking at the distant ocean. She always said she liked it there because most of their most important conversations and decisions had been taken under that tree. She had even agreed with Karen that, in another life, this is where they would meet again. Karen observed the scene from the distance and saw when Alex dropped to her knees and bent her head on to Addy's lap. She observed from the distance, when Addy hugged her and later when they began to talk. Karen went back into the kitchen poured herself a glass of wine as she wiped tears from her eyes. She later went out to the patio and sat looking at the only view she ever cared for, Addy and her daughter.

**

“Why weren't you the one who had me? Why did you ask mom to have me and not you?

Did you think she'd love me more if I was her own flesh?”

Addy laughed. “Oh no, Alex. She would have loved you just the same. The Lord knows I would have had you myself if I could have! If only to spare myself from the grieve of your mother's nine months of pregnancy.  She was unbearable!”

Alex smiled. “I can imagine. The big baby having a baby.”

“Exactly, that's how it was!  You see what happened was that I had an early menopause and I could no longer have children.  I married young and had Joey and Laurie very young. When I met your mom, they were already in high school. Sometimes I've felt like I've lived two lives. My only regret has always been that your mom was not part of the first.”  Addy smiled. “Your mom is my love.”  She would have continued talking about Karen, as she often did with her daughter, but this moment was not about them it was about Alex.

“And no, she would have loved you just the same, if I had been your biological mother. You would have been something from me, and that would have made you precious to her, just like it's now, but the other way around. You are lucky I was around because even if you made it, thanks to formula milk for the first three months, you wouldn't have survived your first solid food feeding.”  She paused and chuckled. “It seems as if it was just yesterday. I don't think I ever saw so many carrots everywhere. I still think that somewhere in the cottage's kitchen there might be some carrots left.” They both chuckled.

“First she expected you to open your mouth, which you never did. I had to put the little spoon on your lips and pry them open for you to taste it.  We were doing just fine, and then she wanted to try again.” She paused to chuckle. “She thought she was doing just fine and was all excited about how you were opening your mouth. When I looked I was horrified, but was too late and the unavoidable happened.” Addy laughed again and Alex smiled.  ”She didn't notice that you were swallowing and that your cheeks were full.”  She inflated her cheeks to demonstrate and Alex laughed.

“Oh no! Did I spit it out?”

“Now tell me, how could a bright woman like your mom didn't see that coming? I think she was too excited thinking that it was all going too well. You sprayed your mother with carrots all over her face and hair. Then as she was trying to wipe carrots of her face and yours, in the commotion, you were too happy playing in the mess and accidentally threw the bowl to the floor, creating more of a mess. Everything had carrots! She was so desperate, she started to cry and when you saw her crying you started also. It was like a scene from a comedy. I told her to take you upstairs to bathe you and I stayed downstairs cleaning the mess. When I went upstairs, she had you in the shower with her and was giving you a lecture on how to eat carrots.” I stayed outside listening to the conversation.”

“What was I doing? I couldn't have understood.”

“Oh, the lecture on carrots went on to how you should put the soap in your mouth and not splattering her with water in her eyes, or pulling her hair. I could write books on your poor mom's happenings with you.”

“Talking about books, she bought all the books she could find on babies and read them all and still she couldn't get her act together. Poor thing!”  They were both laughing. Karen was watching from the house.  She was delighted to see them and sat to drink her wine giving them some extra time alone.

“Your mother was of the opinion that babies shouldn't be handed out just like that. She thought there should be classes to prepare people for parenthood and testing to certify them as appropriate parents.”  Addy laughed.

“That would be mom, alright. Wouldn't she have flunked all the testing?”

“Oh no! She would have passed them all with an A plus!”

“I don't get it then?”

“No your mother was a talking encyclopedia on children. She knew everything. Except that she couldn't understand that there are things that are not in any book. Everybody is different. No child is like another.  You have to go with your instinct and your gut sometimes, and as you know, Ms. 1, 2, 3 cannot skip from 1 to 3 because we need to have that 2!”

They were laughing again.  Karen came to join them and sat next to Addy on the bench. Alex was crossed legged on the floor.

“What's all the laughing about?”

“Mom you were a disaster raising me!”

“True. You are alive because of this here person.” She took Addy's hand. “Although there were moments when I doubted her too. Do you remember that time when I had to mop the floor after I gave her a bath?” She was talking to Addy and Addy nodded laughing. “You made a mess while I was bathing you. There was as much water on the floor as in the tub. I wrapped you in a towel and took you outside the bathroom and left you with Addy so that she would finish you up and I could go back to mop the bathroom floor. When I came back into the room I found Casper and mother battling a sandstorm of baby powder.”

Alex laughed.

Addy picked up the story. “You were a terrible kid!  You took the baby powder in a second that I turned to get your diaper and before I knew it, I had a winter wonderland in front of me. You shook that thing merciless practically emptying the bottle before I could grab it.”

Karen chuckled. Addy continued. “You had baby powder in your eye lashes, everywhere! We didn't even know how to get you cleaned. We were afraid you'd get the stuff in your eyes.”

“So what did you do?”

“Mommy Karen put her hands under your arm pits and lifted you up and held you, she told me to turn on the shower. I got the shower ready and since she was already all wet, from your bath, she got in with you dressed and all and that's how we got the powder off of you.”

“Mom! Clothes and all?”

“I couldn't risk you rubbing your eyes with your hands and getting all that stuff in them!”

“Did I cry in the shower?”

“At first you did, but when you saw me all wet, you started to like it and then laughed.”


Mommy Addy stood next to the tub and got all wet too and eventually got in the tub also. You were having a ball laughing and playing with the water, and us with you.”

There was a moment of silence, as Alex looked at them smiling.

“I'm really sorry. You guys are awesome parents. I love you both.” She got up to leave but first kissed Addy and then she was going to kiss Karen, but stopped. “I don't know about you though.”

Karen smiled at the younger image of herself in front of her.

“I may have to take you back on a trial basis.”  She raised her eyebrow ‘the Addy way,' which only made Karen grin more. “What the heck! I'll take you back. I think you'd pass any test!”

She kissed a very smiley Karen.  As Alex left for the house, Karen spoke again.  ”You did a good job raising that kid, Addy.”

“We did, Ker, we did.”

Alex left laughing. She yelled from the distance.  ”Don't come home too late! And no making out under the tree! I can see you from the house!”

They laughed and held hands.  Karen brought Addy's hand to her lips and kissed it.

“Green eyes, what a good run we've had.”

Karen turned. “Amazing.” They held each other hands and kissed.

**

Later in their bedroom, they talked. Addy got in bed and, as usual, cuddled to Karen.

“I still can't believe you told her.”

“I had to. She's old enough to know her story.”

“Don't worry I told her I love her first and then I told her that it was you who wanted her.”

“Was she hurt?”

“She was so shocked. I didn't stop to consider her feelings.”

“You were punishing her with your words.”

“Yeah, I guess I wanted her to hurt as much as you did.”

“Ker, you have to remember she's a kid.”

“She was disrespectful and no one disrespects you, not even her! Much less her!”

“Sssh! Don't get excited.”

“Are you okay? Did she make amends?”

“Yes, all is well. She's my baby.”

Karen hugged her tight and kissed her.

Then they heard the call. It had been a long time since either one had been called in the middle of the night.

“M'Addy?”

Addy immediately sat up in bed, startled. ”Yes sweetie?”

Karen raised her head, in expectation of whatever was going on.

“Can you come and stay with me for a little while? I can't sleep.”

Addy smiled and bit her lip. Karen protested. “I can't believe it! She's too old for this crap!”

“Ssh! I think she's still hurting.”


“Why don't you come over here with us? Come on, I'll make room for you here on the side.”

Karen couldn't believe it. “That girl is lucky to have you as a mother. I would have given her up for adoption a long time ago!”

Addy swatted her in the butt and scooted toward the inside of the bed, making room for Alex on her left side. She thought it would be better to keep Alex away from Karen. Karen pretended to have gone back to sleep.

Alex laid on her side and cuddle to Addy like she did when she was a little girl. “It's been a long time since I've held you so close.” Addy hugged her and Alex wiggled in her arms. “Your hair smells all fruity and nice, Little Bit.”

“M'Addy? Will you ever forget what I said today?” Alex wished she could delete the hurtful words forever.

“I'm afraid not.”

“M'Addy!  But I didn't mean it, and I said I was sorry.”

Karen, although pretending to be asleep, was listening.

“I know you didn't mean it, but you can't ever take back some things. It's like with trust, once you lose someone's trust it's very hard to get it back.  It is possible, though. But it's an uphill battle. It's also like in a trial, when evidence is not admissible and the witness has already said it and the judge instructs the jury not to take that testimony into consideration. Since they already heard it, I've never understood how they could not consider it.”

“What must I do to redeem myself in your heart?”

“That is very simple, you must be my daughter.”

“But I am already!”

“Well, we certainly have a piece of paper that says so, but I guess that because of what you said, you are going to have to convince me through your actions, that you indeed want to be my daughter.”

Karen smiled thinking that Addy was a genius, and that she would now make Alex give her an unconditional allegiance for life. Karen pinched Addy's butt lightly, and Addy swatted her hand away making Karen smile. Of course in the dark and under the covers, Alex was unaware of this activity.

“I do, M'Addy. I've always wanted to be like you.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I've always thought you were funny and made friends with everyone and knew about everything and what you didn't know, you'd find out immediately. I remember you saying that you didn't want to be thought of as ignorant, and that true ignorance was not lack of knowledge, but rather not doing anything about not knowing.”

“I can't believe you remember all of that.”

Karen was also surprised. Addy had been a very effective teacher. Karen blew air directly to Addy's neck and Addy moved her hand back and pinched Karen's thigh. Karen made a muffled sound.

“Is Mommy snoring?” Alex seemed surprised.

“Maybe, she does sometimes.”

Karen hated when Addy suggested that she snored. She pinched her butt again, and Addy put her hand behind her again, pulled aside Karen's underwear and pulled her curls eliciting a higher pitch sound this time.

Alex raised her head to check on her. “I don't know how you can sleep with her making those sounds. I think she should have a sleep study done. Maybe she has sleep apnea.” Addy smiled thinking that Alex had no idea the sounds she could make Karen make.

Alex went back to her retelling. “I remember lots of things, M'Addy.  Sometimes it's as if I was hearing you saying things. I always remember everything you say.”

Karen thought, that she could say the same thing. She remembered years back, before they got together when she went to see JP in New York and he had introduced her to a redhead, funny she couldn't even remember the woman's name. She only remembered the woman undressing and then the naked woman with a Brazilian wax job inviting her to bed and how, having all of that in front of her, all she could think of were the sweet chocolate brown eyes that made her melt and her voice, her adorable sweet voice. Karen tightened the grip on the arm she had over Addy and came closer to kiss her neck. Addy got goose bumps and swatted her thigh gently and then rubbed it. Karen took her hand and held it to her thigh.


“Well, I guess that is a good sign that you think of me as your mom. I mean if you remember what I've taught you over the years, that is indeed a good sign.”

Her statement made Alex happy and she wiggled in her arms.

“Sweetie pie, why don't you go to sleep? It's kind of late already. “

“Okay.”

Addy thought she would go back to her bedroom, but she didn't.

“I love you, M'Addy”

“I love you too, sweetheart.”

Karen again kissed her neck and Addy took her hand and kissed it.  Then they all went to sleep.

**

It was in her sophomore year that Alex and Brook met.

The news had spread around school that there was a weird new girl in school. Immediately after the grapevine declared her gay, the girl was ostracized. Soon after, isolating her was not enough, they also had to make fun of her. They made fun of the way she dressed, the way she walked, the way she talked. In short everything about her became a joke.

Alex was everyone's friend and with the years everyone had come to accept the fact that she had two mothers. It was a matter of no consequence. It was so acceptable that it was a forgotten matter. So, when they began to make fun of Brook in front of Alex, they didn't realize that they had touched on a subject which affected their friend.

Alex, at first, said nothing to stop the conversations. She had learned that everyone was entitled to their opinion and learned to respect different points of views. As long as things didn't get personal, she thought people could speak their minds. However, she never liked to make fun, or ridiculed people. She also didn't see anything wrong with the new girl and was starting to get annoyed at the way people were talking about her.

“You guys have to stop this.” She clearly told her friends. They looked at her in wonderment. Alex was very popular and no one wanted to be on her bad side. “Judging and making fun of people for who they are is not right. You have to let people be however they are. I'm not going to be part of this. If you want to criticize her, don't do it in front of me. I don't like it when you do.” Alex got up and left. Everyone became serious and looked at each other. “Guys, we forgot that her moms are lesbians.” One of her friends observed.

“Ugh!” One of the girls commented. “I still don't get that.”

No one said anything else for fear of falling in disgrace with Alex, or with any of the others. At that age, everything was about being like your peers and needing acceptance.

At lunch time that day, Alex sat on the table where Brook was sitting.

“What are you doing?”

“Sitting to eat.”

“Are you crazy sitting here?” Brook looked around.

“No, why? Is someone sitting here? I didn't see anyone.”

“Haven't you heard? I'm the school lesbo. If you sit there everyone will think you are a lesbian too, or that you are my girlfriend, or something, and you'll life will be ruined.”

“But I'm not your girlfriend. How could I be? You've only been here a week!”

“The truth doesn't matter. It's what everyone thinks that matters.”

“That doesn't make it real, and besides, I don't care what anyone thinks.”

“What?! What do you want? Don't tell me you are gay?”

“I'm not. I just don't go by what people think. I think that I am who I am, and if they don't like it's their problem.”

“Who the hell are you? Why are you here? Are you looking to have a lesbian experience?”

“Nope. All I want is to sit here and have my lunch.”

“Are you out of your mind?”

“I thought I had already cleared that! No, I'm not out of my mind. I would just like to eat. Do you mind?”

“Okay, come clean. Is this some sort of dare someone put you up to? To sit with the lesbo, and make her drool over you? The pretty blonde tempting the lesbo?”

“Look, if it's going to make you feel better. The fact that you are a lesbian doesn't bother me at all. So, just shut up and eat, okay? And no, no one's dared me to do anything. I'm not that stupid, or shallow. And no I'm not looking for the lesbian experience. You are not my type, anyway. And don't call me pretty blonde, or I'll have to beat some sense into you.”

Brook almost smiled.

“Why doesn't it bother you? What makes you different than the whole world?”

“The whole world? Look, you've got this thing that the whole world is against you, well I have news for you, it's not. I've put up with my share of shit around here a couple of times, and now I don't give a damn. I'm going to tell you why, just to shut you up, so that I can eat. I'm not a lesbian, but my mothers are, okay? Once I beat the crap off someone because they told me that my mothers were lesbians. I thought I had to set them straight. Later I was talking to my mom and she said something that struck me. She said ‘you fought someone because they told you the truth?' That got me thinking. I've never denied that fact, or ever fought for that again. My mothers are wonderful women who happen to love each other. I'm very proud of them.”

Brook was speechless. Alex continued. “I've also been singled out as a lesbian, just because they are. I don't give a shit what people think of me. I am who I am and don't think much about what they are thinking.”

Brook spoke. “But you are the president of the student council, and captain of the girls varsity basketball team and track and field star and—.”

“And yes, a bunch of other things. Brook, I'm all that because I don't let others define me. I define myself. I sit wherever I want to, and don't care what others think. People respect that.”

At this point Brook was smiling in astonishment.

“You can wipe that smile of your face. I'm not coming on to you or want to be your girlfriend. Just get you act together. Mind your business and don't let others take the best of you. And FYI, I like guys. I'm not dating anyone because I think all them are a bunch of morons, and I don't have time for morons. It's not like I'm going to marry any of these idiots. Now just eat and leave me alone. I need to review a couple of things. I have a test the next period.”

“Sure.”

Alex continued to eat as if nothing had happened. Brook, however, was in awe. Years later she told Alex that she fell in love with her at that very moment and that it took her years to get over her.

Alex sitting there was no accident. She sat there to deliver her message. One of the things she had learned over the years was to speak tough to people when the occasion called for it. A few strong words at the right moment could stop something major from developing. She didn't like using foul language, but when she did, she used it well. Just like Karen did. She thought that Brook needed to be toughened up, if she was going to survive at school. She was also not going to be tolerant of anti-gay behavior, so rather than having to make a stand at some future time for Brook, which was going to happen sooner or later, she thought she'd try and toughen up the girl. Brook responded well and Alex was happy with her response.

When Alex finished eating, she got up to leave.

Brook looked at her. “Thanks. I'll see you around.”

“Are you trying out for one of the teams? Or joining any clubs?”

“I wasn't thinking. Should I?”

“You should. See you around.”

Brook nodded and smiled. She said nothing more. Since that day, they became friends. Later one of her friends insinuated that Alex was friends with Brook because she liked her. Alex's answer was “what is it to you if I do? Is it that you want her for yourself? Let me know and I'll tell her. Although, you may not be her type.” The other girl was left speechless. No one ever dared to ask the question again.

Meeting Karen and Addy also helped Brook. She loved being around them and seeing how wonderful they got along. Seeing them, she became aware that the future could be bright, that she was not alone and that there was nothing wrong with being how she was, and that she could one day fond someone to love her. She began to accept herself for who she was and liked it, and little by little became a brand new person.

Alex always teased her. “Just the fact that I'm your sexy gorgeous friend doesn't give you the right to look at me in any particular way, missy, let's be clear about that!”

“Don't worry, not going there. I always remember that you are a black belt in karate.”

Alex always kept things in the open. It was better that way. Bottom down she knew Brook liked her, but because of the way Alex treated her, she never thought of her as anything but a friend. Although, she constantly kidded about it. She would tell her that she had no hopes of ever finding anyone to love. “When you have the most beautiful woman in the world as a friend, what possible expectations could you have for a girlfriend?” Alex reply was always the same. “One that would go to bed with you?” And they'd both laugh.

**

Alex's senior year of high school was marked by her many academic and athletic achievements as well as the many tribulations that came with it. A lot of testing took place. There were all the academic achievement tests, advance placement testing and her regular school work and tests, of course.

The tribulations of that year were the college applications. Alex had outstanding credentials and she knew she would be accepted wherever she wanted to go. Finances were not a problem either since the moms could afford anything. Alex major problem was her natural desire to go off to college and be on her own versus leaving the moms behind. Unlike other children who were eager to leave home and cut away with all parental ties and burdens, Alex liked it at home.

Her home had always been a happy place where she had been nurtured and encouraged to succeed and be herself. She grew up in an environment of acceptance where she saw displays of affection and care every day of her life. She got along great with her parents and liked to hang out with them. In short, Alex looked forward to college, but was reluctant to leave home.

“So what colleges are we looking at, young lady?” Karen asked.

“I don't know, mom. This is very difficult.”

Addy was surprised when she heard the comment because just the other day she had heard her talk to her friends very animated about the different prospects. Addy didn't make much of the matter at the moment and let it go. Karen however, was looking at all different ones with her.

“You know that you can go anywhere, right? You will get in anywhere, and you don't have to be concerned with financial stuff.”

“Yes, mom. I know.” Again, not much enthusiasm.

“I think any liberal arts college will do, since you are not sure of what you would like to do. Here, or the States is also fine. You also have legacy rights in Harvard, Columbia and Oxford , you know.”

“Yes, Mommy, I know.”

“So, why do detect some reluctance? Am I interfering in your business? Should I stay out of it?”

“No, Mom, your input is good. I appreciate it.” Alex looked at Addy, who was silently sitting on the couch across from them doing her Sudoku puzzles.

“Ker, can you go and check if the clothes I have in the dryer are ready to take out?”

Karen gave her a strange look, this was a strange request. Addy was not the type to be asking for things. However, knowing that Addy always had ulterior purposes, she agreed.

“Sure, I'll go check. The beeper in the machine is not working as of lately, right?” Karen gave her a knowing smile indicative that she knew she was being sent away.

Addy smiled, knowing that Karen had caught the message. “No, it's not. Why don't you take some time and check it out while you are there.”

“But it was working well, M'Addy. I just had my karate uniform in there earlier.”

“No, something is wrong with it. You must have used it when it was still working.”

Karen twisted her mouth and grinned as she got up and walked toward the laundry room. Before Karen left the room, she heard Addy speak again. “Alex, since your mom will be taking care of that matter, can you walk with me this morning to the thinking tree?”

Karen chuckled. Addy definitely wanted time alone with Alex. This was confirmed when she got to the laundry room and found the dryer empty. She chuckled again. That woman is so sneaky!

“I think that when you go away to college, we are going to miss you, and we might end up being a pain in the butt going to see you wherever you go. I mean, don't think that you are going to get rid of us just that easy, missy! I'm afraid we are going to be one of those annoying parents who will always be around. I think it will come to a point that you might have to tell us to stop coming because you want to go out with your friends.”

Alex grinned. “What if I end up going far?”

“Huh! Like that's going to stop us! You know how much we love to travel. Visiting you then might be even better. I mean, the thrill of a trip just gives me goose bumps!”

Alex chuckled. “Look, you don't believe me? Look at my arm!”

“M'Addy!” Alex laughed.

“Would you be coming every weekend?”

“It depends.”

“On what?” Alex was grinning, she, like Karen, was always at the expectative of what Addy would come up with.

“In where you go, of course! I mean, if you decide to be in some tiny town, we could run out of places to see or things to do and then what excuse could we have for showing up, without embarrassing ourselves?”

Alex chuckled.

“I can tell you, flat out, I really don't want you to go too far for undergrad. I'd be worried all the time. I think you can leave Harvard and Columbia for grad school. You will be older and more experienced, and I think I will survive that departure.”

Alex smiled, somehow knowing that Addy knew what was troubling her. Her choice had been to stay close to home for now, as well. So, she felt good that her preference would, at least, meet Addy's approval, and in the end, Addy was the important one, because Karen ultimately was outvoted and she would easily be convinced by Addy.

“So, honeybunch, England is a great country and it has very fine schools to choose from. And like I said, it would be very easy for us to hop on the car or the train and come to see you.” Addy looked at her straight in the eyes. “We are proud of you, Little Bit, and we will be in your life always. Pick your college. You've earned that right, and I promise you that we will be there for you, no matter where you go. I'd even find a way to justify a New York or Boston prolonged stay!”

Alex hugged her. “M'Addy you are the best!”

Karen watched them from the house. She smiled “That sneaky woman! What is she up to now?”

Many applications were sent and ultimately the choice was St. Andrews University in Scotland .

Alex told Addy first. Addy congratulated her and they hugged in the kitchen.

“I don't want to go far, M'Addy. I want to be able to come home on the weekend if I want to.”

“Honey, it's an excellent choice. It's a great school too.”

Karen entered the kitchen and found them hugging. “How come she gets hugs and I don't?”

They chuckled. Alex then came and hugged Karen as well. Somehow, Addy's hugs always felt warmer. Alex always thought, as a child, that Addy's hugs were so good that it explained why Karen was always hugging her as well.

“So what is this about?”

“Alex has chosen St. Andrews for college.”

“ St. Andrews ?!”

“It's an excellent choice!” Addy proclaimed.

“I'm not saying it's not. It's just that it is practically around the corner from here.”

“I don't want to go far, Mommy.”

Karen rolled her eyes.

“I want to come home some weekends.”

“Have we made it that good for you here that you don't want to leave?”

She walked out into the living room with Alex following her.

Alex smiled. “You should be proud when you say that. Most kids want to forget about their parents the minute they can.”

“Yeah, yeah. We are going to have to be mean around here for you to want to leave the nest. No more cookie–baking, Addy!”

“In your dreams, Lady Karen!”

“She will never drop that one, would she?”

Alex laughed. It was not the cookies that kept her close, it was precisely that loving interaction between the two moms, and the nurturing they provided what made home a perfect place.

**

The graduation ceremony was very emotional. Mainly because Alex was chosen as class valedictorian. Also, because the guest speaker was one of the utmost importance. Alex had invited Lord Fannon to speak and to everyone's surprise, he accepted.

At his age, it was unusual for him to make public appearances, but as it turned out and unknown to all, over the years, Alex had stayed in contact with him. He always read her letters as part of his outreach program which she had asked him to institute to stay in contact with the people. All on account of Alex's childhood comment. He promised to do it, and he kept his word. He also gave specific orders to personally receive all correspondence from one Alexandra Marcos Larsen. His staff was very familiar with the name.

Once her name was announced as the highest achieving student of her class, and the clapping subsided, she began her brief but emotional speech.

“Today we mark the end of the known and we begin to walk on unknown roads. As we travel down the journey of life, we will be reminded many times the words of wisdom our parents and our teachers have taught us as well as the many experiences we have shared growing up amongst the wall of our dear school and sometimes outside.” There was laughter. “I, however, will like to pass on a message that impacted my life dramatically and to which I attribute all of my achievements. The message is simple ‘be proud of who you are.'”

“Oh, my God!” Addy was already in tears. Karen was sitting at the edge of her chair.

“I got that message from two great women a few years back. These two great women are my parents Adriana Marcos and Karen Larsen. Embrace your truth, live it, share it and be proud of it. However and whatever it is, and you will always be respected for who you are.” She looked up and left the script.

“Oh no!” Karen exclaimed. “What is she going to do? Stick to the script child!”

Addy was astonished. Her brown eyes were fixed on Alex in expectation of God knows what!

Anyone who knew Karen and Addy and saw Alex had to come to the conclusion that Alex was a perfect merge of the two women. In appearance she looked like Karen, although, as Addy would say, a much improved version of her. Alex was not only tall, but was more generously endowed in certain parts of her body than Karen. She also had Karen's coolness, focus and intelligence. But in character she was all Addy. She was social, eloquent, fun, passionate and fiery like Addy. When Alex walked into a room her presence was felt immediately, her beauty and charismatic attitude always attracted.

The women knew that no matter what Alex said, script or no script, it would be appropriate, and wonderful. They were sure to have raised a very fine individual.

“Don't ever fight the truth. However difficult it is. Being different is beautiful. It sets you apart and makes you unique. Make that difference work for you. Accept it and proclaim it and be proud of it.”

After she concluded, there was a standing ovation. Karen relaxed, she thought she would say something related to having lesbian parents, but there was no need for that. Everyone knew what Alex was talking about.

As a family, they had never proclaimed their way of life as different. They had just lived their lives, and it was reasonable to expect Alex to do the same. To the community in which they lived, the fact that they were a lesbian household was a matter of fact and nothing more. Their lives were like anyone else's in town. Alex lived that example and carried herself in the same manner.

Alex was the child of two well-known and appreciated women who happened to be much respected in the community. She had all the privileges of her parents' status, but she was nevertheless like every other kid her age. Granted that Alex was no ordinary person. She had been exposed to experiences through her life that few children her age had. She was as worldly as her parents and her attitude towards life reflected her upbringing. She indeed was the women's most successful joint venture.

After her speech, she introduced, Lord Fannon as the main speaker. “And now it is my pleasure to present to you our main speaker. I had the good fortune to meet him years ago, under unusual circumstances, and have since remained in contact with him. It's my privilege to present to you, one of our countries most outspoken statesmen and a true representative of the people. Lord Thomas Fannon.” The audience clapped and Lord Fannon slowly made his way to the podium.

As Alex left the stage area, he looked towards her but spoke to the audience. “I predict that that child will someday make it to Parliament! And with luck, she might one day occupy my seat! I will leave a mark on it, Alexandra. Just in case I'm not around to show you where to sit.” Everyone laughed, unknown to all, but three people present, that there was a history behind that comment, and those three people were surprised that he still remembered it.

“Wow! He remembered!” Addy exclaimed. Years ago, Alex mentioned that she wanted to be a politician and go to Parliament. In jest, Lord Fannon commented that he hoped to be around when that happened. A very young Alex replied that he had to because how else would she know where to sit?

In the depth of her mind, Karen wondered if his words today, although in jest again, carried some kind of wishful thinking that maybe someday someone like Alex, or maybe even Alex, would carry on his work. She looked at her daughter. Wouldn't it be something? Wouldn't it be ironic if Alex got into politics one day? Wouldn't Aunt Charlotte be proud that her descendant, a native Scottish by birth, made it to Parliament?

Had it all been fate that she'd return to Scotland prompted by the woman who later convinced her to have a child, and whose insistence also prompted her to reclaim the nobility title that one day could open doors for her daughter? Were the doors of Parliament to be those doors? She remembered Addy's words that day when they argued over the nobility title matter. Would Addy have also been the propellant of all that would come to be? And would Addy's political career be of any consequence one day to motivate Alex to one day pursue politics?

She looked at Addy in some sort of awe, and she grinned because she remembered that Karen going back to work would be a good example for Alex, and who knows if she had been the best example all along! Addy noticed Karen looking at her in an interesting way. “What's that smile about, Blondie? What's on your mind?” She smiled.

“Nothing, just crazy thoughts. ”

“What am I wearing in those thoughts?”

Karen chuckled. “Perv! I was just thinking about the past and the future. I'll tell you tonight.”

“I don't know, if I can deal with the past and the future in one night. The present is pretty intense as it is!” She winked and smiled.

Karen was the one laughing now. She had to bite her lower lip to constrain her grin.

After Lord Fannon's brief speech, the awards and diplomas were granted. Alex received just about any possible award there was to be given. Her diploma clearly stated that she was graduating Suma Cum Laude. Karen and Addy couldn't be prouder. James and JP were too. JP cried rivers of tears along with Addy and Karen. Marshall and Carol and Mel and Vic were also there. All who had seen her grow, from the little tyke to the young woman she was now, joined in a celebratory dinner at Andre and Margo Russoo after the ceremony.

Brook graduated third in her class. She also joined several clubs and had lots of fun while at it. No one ever teased her again. She always stood her ground. They both went separate ways for college. But her friendship with Alex in high school defined her attitude and her life. She began to feel confident of who she was and did not segregate herself from the rest of her classmates, but rather cherished her sexuality and flourished. She helped Alex write her valedictorian speech. There was something in the message about ‘the need to always be yourself, to not let others define you' that certainly struck a chord in her.

**

The following day, there was a huge party. More like an open house to which everyone known and some unknowns came. Especially, all the friends and family were there. Even Lori and Joey flew in with their families. There was plenty of food and the laughter and fun resonated through the once great Inn of Scotland. While the party was going on, towards the end of the night, two very important people went missing. Addy and Karen snuck out to the patio after most of the guests had gone. The moon was full in the cool spring night.

“Here, put my sweater on. I don't want you catching a cold.”

“How about you?”

“This turtle neck I'm wearing is pretty warm.”

The breeze felt nice and the moon was beautiful. The soft, relaxing music from the house could be heard outside. Karen came behind her and wrapped her arms around Addy. “Have I told you lately that I love you?”

“Hum? Let me see, how lately is lately? Within the last three hours or last night? If it's last night, you are covered, if it's within the last three hours, you haven't.”

Karen grinned as she continued to press her body against Addy's, caressing her with her face.

“I love you, Adriana.”

The mention of the full name was an indication of Karen's mood, and Addy grinned when she heard her. Addy breathed deep and pressed and caressed the arms that held her. “I love you too, Lady Larsen.” Karen bit her neck a bit, as pay back for the horrible offense of using the title to name her.

“Hey! Is this a form of aggression?”

“Yes, of the worse kind.”

“You are happy.” Addy commented.

“I'm always happy with you.”

“We did a great job raising her, Ker.”

“Yes, but it was you who started all of these. I still remember the day you asked me to have a baby. I was livid.”

“I remember the day you agreed. I thought it was a miracle!”

“I think it was. Alex is your miracle. You and only you could have convinced me of such a thing. I guess she's more a child of love than if we had physically conceived her.”

Addy turned to face her. “She is a true miracle. She is you, and she's mine.”

Karen smiled contently. “Like I am.”

“Like I am too.” They kiss. Then Addy they began to sway with the soft music and Addy turned inside her arms to look out to the night sky and the horizon. They danced softly, while caressing each other tenderly. Only their silhouettes were visible in the night, Alex noticed the patio door open and came over to close it, but spotted them in the far end of the patio. She smiled and leaned against the threshold to watch them. James noticed Alex smiling from the distance and came over to see what had captured her attention outside. He approached her from the back and being taller than her, saw the silhouettes of the moms in the distance. “Young lady, some things are meant to be private.”

Alex looked at him and smiled. Addy and Karen had always been pretty open about their behavior and feelings with each other in front of her. Of course, intimate moments were had always been private moments.

“I know Uncle J, I was getting ready to leave already. I always like to watch them for a little bit, though. They are so beautiful together. It's as if they were magically connected and are really one person split in two wonderful parts, and when they come together, it's like perfect harmony. I only wish someday I can find something like that for me.”

James was choking with emotion. “Perfect harmony. I think you've just described your moms to the dot. And if you ever find something like that, grab on to it and hang on to it with your life.”

She turned. “Uncle James! You are a romantic!”

He blushed. “Come on, my dear child, favor me with this dance.” He put out his hand, as if in request.

“Enchante.”

To be continued in Part 15

 

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