Disclaimers1: Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renpic. And, this being an Uberish tale, the main characters will bear a physical resemblance to them, but thats as far as is goes. Oh, and two supporting characters will be named after them. But its meant strictly as a tribute; nothing more. J
Disclaimers 2: There will be a tiny bit of violence scattered through the story, including one piece dealing with domestic battering and attempted rape. Nothing really intense though. There will also be some swearing scattered throughout the story.
Disclaimers 3: This is an adult alternative romance, which means that there will be sex between two consenting adult females later on down the line. If this bothers you, or is illegal where you live, then please read no further. You have been warned!
Copyrights: All characters mentioned in this story belong to me. Please do not use them, or any portion of this story without talking to me first. The song "Like We Never Had a Broken Heart" belongs to MCA Nashville, Garth Fandis and Trisha Yearwood.
Thanks: I would like to offer sincere and heartfelt thanks to the bestest <g> beta reader a bard could ever ask for. Thank you, Maggie Sheridan. Without your skills, patience, gentle guidance
And boundless encouragement, this story would never have seen the light of day. J
Megan sat in her chair, idly running her finger across the surface of the small, three-by-five inch Rolodex card, studying the address printed in Charly's bold, distinct style.
712 East Lancaster Street
Conaway, NY 14102
Tel: (716) 555-1202
"How long have you known - about her - about this?"
Charly looked into the green eyes that studied her intently. Oy! She cleared her throat.
"Almost three years. She contacted me shortly after your first book came out. Knowing of your history with her, and your feelings about her, I was reluctant to talk to her at first. But she was persistent, and finally I agreed to meet her for lunch one day. We talked for a very long time as she told me of her repeated attempts - and failures - to contact you. Like you, I didn't believe her at first.But she showed me a few things that supported her story, chief among them being her letters to you."
The older woman shrugged nonchalantly. "She made a believer out of me."
Hurt green eyes regarded the older woman. "Why did you wait til now to tell me? Why didn't you tell me back then?"
The publisher met the hurt gaze with equanimity. "Were you ready to hear it back then? How far past 'I've talked to your mother' would I have gotten before you went ballistic and walked out of that door, never to return?"
Whatever posture the young woman had disappeared as the truth of the publisher's statement hit home, and she slumped miserably in her chair. And Charly's heart went out to her once again.
"But it was more than that, Meg," the publisher continued. "Your mother didn't want me to tell you. She said that you made your position quite clear at your father's funeral and, as much as it hurt, she would abide by that."
Megan flushed guiltily at the memory of her actions at her father's funeral. I wouldn't want to be with me after that, either. But one question nagged at her.
"Okay, I can understand her logic there," the blonde conceded warily, an ugly suspicion rearing it's head. "But if she didn't want to reconcile, what did she want?"
Charly grinned as she expertly read the blonde's expression. "Yeah, I wondered about that too. And I asked her pretty much the same question." The older woman's gaze grew distant for a moment, and her smile became bittersweet. "To this day I remember the hurt in her eyes and the exact words of her reply. She just said, 'I don't want anything. I just want someone to talk to every now and then. Someone who can tell me how she's doing, what she's doing…if she's happy. I just need to know that she's okay.'" The publisher gave a helpless shrug. "How could I really say no to that, Meg?"
The writer nodded absently, studying the card, thinking.
Finally, she looked up. "I can keep these?" indicating the card and letter.
Placing the items in her purse, she rose from her chair. "You've given me a lot to think about, Charly. Thank you." With that she turned to leave.
"You'll talk to her?" the older woman persisted.
"We'll see," she answered with a small smile, then quickly raised her hand to forestall the protest that the older woman was preparing to offer. "Please, Charly. You've given me a lot to take in here. Give me some time to wrap my mind around it. Okay?"
"All right," the publisher sighed, acknowledging the turmoil her friend must surely be feeling right now. "But will you call me soon?" the older woman pleaded. "I need to know that you're okay too."
"I will, Charly. I promise," she returned with a sincere smile, then turned and left.
"Dear lord," the publisher mumbled as she ran both hands through her hair. "Please let me have done the right thing here."
Megan sat out on her balcony, watching the pink blush of dawn emerge from it's midnight womb. Sleep would have been a futile pursuit, so she hadn't bothered trying. She had too much on her mind. Charly had indeed given her a great deal to think about, but, to be fair, she had given her hope too.
Hope perhaps, but not courage. Not enough courage to finish dialing the numbers to Randi's house.
No matter how many times she picked up the phone and tried.
She didn't even try to call her mother's house. No, that would have to be done in person.
If she did it at all.
Can I do this? Can I afford not to? Is Charly right? Am I so comfortable in my enmity toward her that I'm willing to let it continue, knowing that it may be unfounded? Jesus, why am I even thinking about this? I've been pissed for years and blaming her for it. Hurting because I thought she didn't love me. And now I have a chance to lose that hurt, and I have to think about it? Bullshit! Grow up, Megan.
Her mind made up, Megan rose from her chair and headed toward her room.
Okay…708, 710, 712. Oh, God.
Megan cruised slowly down the picturesque, tree-lined street and pulled quickly to the curb when she spotted the large, elegantly curved numbers she was looking for above the door. It was a small, single-level home. Now she sat staring at the neatly manicured lawn, overlooked by a large picture window that was framed on either side with tall, wide rose bushes, currently enjoying their long, winter slumber. C'mon, Meg, you can do this. You didn't drive three hours outside the city just to chicken out now, her little Charly voice chastised. "I'm not chickening out," the blonde protested aloud. "I'm just…preparing," she finished lamely.
Uh-huh, little Charly drawled skeptically. Get out there…chicken!
Heaving a resigned sigh, the writer opened the car door and exited. Closing the door, she stood beside the vehicle and breathed deeply of the crisp, cold air and noted absently the clean, dry streets. Thank God it's only been cold in these parts so far. I don't think I want to see any more snow again for quite a while.
And she felt her heart clench at the memory of blue eyes and raven hair.
Tucking that image away for another time, she strode resolutely across the street and up the short cement walkway.
Standing in front of the door, the writer paused, praying desperately for the rioting butterflies in her belly to lose some steam.
Finally, a trembling finger pressed the doorbell button.
The writer held her breath as the door opened to reveal a smiling, petite, auburn-haired woman about the same height as herself.
And watched as the smile faded, as pink cheeks became drained of all color, and bright, hazel eyes quickly filled.
"Meggie?" A hoarse, ragged whisper.
Megan had pictured several different scenarios for this moment, but none of them required her to lunge across the doorway and catch her mother before she hit the floor.
However, that was exactly what happened, as Laura Holloway's knees turned to gelatin.
Megan yelped a startled "No" as she leaped across the doorway and caught the swooning woman in her arms, gently easing her down to the floor. Great going, lamebrain. Make her die from a heart attack before you get the first chance to talk to her.
The writer's self-chastisement was cut short by the panicked yell from behind her.
Megan swiveled her head just in time to see the solid, well-proportioned body of the tai chi master slide to her knees beside them. Dark blue eyes widened in recognition before darting down to the dazed figure of her lover. Assuring herself that her lover was okay, Caitlin looked back to the still kneeling blonde.
"Megan," her greeting was cordial, but wary.
You think I'm going to hurt her again, don't you? "Hello, Cait," the blonde smiled gently. "Will you help me get her up to the couch?"
Caitlin gave a small nod, and both women lifted the dazed woman and led her to the couch.
Once Laura was seated, Caitlin backed off to observe mother and daughter.
Megan sat next to her mother, her hand held in a vise-like grip as watery eyes devoured every inch of her face, as if trying to convince herself that her child was really there.
Megan looked deeply into beautiful hazel eyes that she thought she would never see again, and saw every bit of the pain and loneliness she had experienced over the years reflected in those blue-green depths. God help me, she did care!
Megan felt her own eyes burn and begin to fill as she reached a trembling hand to cup a pale cheek.
"Let's try this again," she smiled tenderly, her voice cracking. "Hello, Mother."
And found her arms filled with a sobbing, warm, soft body that she missed terribly for so many years.
Tears ran unbidden down the blonde's face as she held tightly to the weeping woman. Megan chanced to look over at the intense, dark eyes of her mother's mate,
And was surprised to see that they too glistened.
Royal blue met tearful green for a long moment before Caitlin offered a sincere smile and small nod before silently exiting the room.
And a large, lonely piece of the small writer's heart finally found its way home.
Megan sat staring dazedly at the dozens of small envelopes that lay in her lap, each one bearing her name and address. And each one bearing the tersely worded command, Return to Sender! Some of them even contained the added, Addressee Deceased. Megan questioned this addition.
"Mother, why did he put that on there?"
Laura sighed and shook her head. "That was his way of telling me that you were dead to me."
Megan blanched at that revelation, but said nothing. She gazed thoughtfully at the letters in her lap, then turned her eyes back to her mother.
"There's something I have to know," she stated carefully. At her mother's "go ahead" expression, she continued. "Charly said that you had tried to come and see me a couple of times and were turned away."
Laura paled. She knew what was coming next and dreaded it. "That's true."
"She also said that after one of your visits, something happened and you stopped trying. I'd like to know what that 'something' was, Mother." She searched the older woman's face. "I need to know."
Laura closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to gather the courage she knew it was going to take. Finally, she girded her mental loins and began.
"On my third attempt to see you, your father and I got into a terrible shouting match. The end result being my vow to go to court and sue for custody of you. His only reply was, 'We'll see about that.'"
Laura looked down at her hands, which had unconsciously clenched into fists at the memory of what came next. "Two days later, after closing the studio for the night, Caitlin was attacked. She was beaten terribly, cut viciously and almost raped. But a couple who happened to be nearby managed to scare the attackers off and call the police. That nice young couple followed her to the hospital and called me to let me know what had happened. When I got to the hospital, they filled me in on what they saw and let me know that, if needed, they would go to court as witnesses on Cait's behalf. They provided pretty good descriptions of the attackers and what they saw, so you would think that it would've been pretty open and shut. The bastards would be caught and prosecuted, and justice would be served, right?" Laura snorted and angrily swiped at a tear that escaped her eye. "Don't kid yourself!"
Cait chose this time to bring the seated women some iced tea, which was gratefully accepted. She knew that Laura had reached a difficult point in her narrative and decided to remain. Perching herself on the arm of the couch next to her lover, she offered the silent support of her presence.
The action was not unnoticed by the young writer. God! How many times has Randi done that for me? Not talking, not touching, just…being there. Even when I was still being a jerk. I'd be lying there sulking, and she'd be sitting there, in that huge, old chair, reading a book or staring at the stars. I thought she was just being annoying. But she was offering me comfort in the only way she could. Oh, Randi, I'm sorry.
Buoyed by her mate's presence, Laura continued her tale. "Once the doctors were finished, Cait was moved to a room, and I was allowed to sit with her. I was there when the police officer came to take her statement. I remember him sitting there, looking almost bored, while she poured out the details of that vicious assault. He took few if any notes. And when she was finished, he just got up and said 'We'll call you if we come up with something.' Something about the way he said that bothered me, so I asked him, 'You'll catch them, won't you?' He turned to me, and he had the absolute deadest look in his eyes, and he said, 'If they're smart, they've left the area for a while. We'll keep our eyes open, but there are a lot of decent people out there whose cases are more severe and take higher priority.' Cait didn't catch it, and I didn't say anything because I didn't wish to upset her, but something in the way he emphasized the word 'decent' made me think that there was more going on than a simple assault. My suspicions were confirmed the next day when I got a call from your father. He chose his words carefully, but let me know in no uncertain terms that, should I continue to try and remain in contact with you, or make any attempt to gain custody, Caitlin and I both could be subject to 'other random acts of violence.' He also made it clear that we would get no help from the police. He had many friends in the police department, and they were entirely sympathetic to his supposed plight. I'll admit, Megan, that scared me. But what frightened me more was his casual mention that you would be going off to college soon, and that college campuses could be 'dangerous places for pretty, young girls.'" Tears spilled freely down Laura's face as she recalled that conversation, and she reached up and grasped tightly the comforting hand that her lover placed on her shoulder. Guilt-ridden hazel eyes pierced deeply into Megan's own. "That finished it for me, Meggie. I caved," she whispered hoarsely. "I gave him what he wanted and let go of my baby. God forgive me, I didn't know what else to do."
Megan's senses were reeling as she leapt up off the couch and fairly flew to the picture window on the other side of the room. She knew her father was stiff and distant, even more so after her mother left.
"No," she voiced less forcefully than she would have liked. "He wouldn't…he couldn't," she muttered, her mind refusing to accept such betrayal from a man whom she believed loved her, in spite of his aloof manner.
"No!" she spun on her heel and glared at them. "He wouldn't do that! You're making this up so you can worm your way back into my life. But it's not gonna work," she spat as she made for the door,only to find her path blocked by the slightly taller, solidly built tai chi master.
God! I never even saw her move! "I'm leaving," the blonde growled. "Get out of my way."
"Not yet," the woman replied with calm intensity, feeling Laura move up behind her and place a calming hand on her back. She met Megan's glare with steely poise.
"So you think everything your mother told you was a lie." It was more a statement than a question.
"We made everything up, just to get back into your so called good graces."
"I was never attacked. We were never threatened."
"Yes," was bitten out a third time, the writer's hard gaze never leaving the older woman's face.
Never noticing that that Cait was unbuttoning her blouse.
"Then this would be made up too, right?" With that, she pulled open her shirt.
Without conscious thought, the writer's eyes flashed to the bare skin suddenly on display,and fixed on the long, angry, red lines that ran diagonally, one on each breast.
They were the last things she saw before darkness claimed her.
Mmm, Windsong. The fragrance of her mother's favorite cologne filled her somnolent senses. A small hand tenderly brushed the bangs on her forehead, and the writer's eyelids fluttered blissfully as she basked in the tender affection.
Wait a minute! Windsong? Mother?
"Shh, it's all right, baby," the older woman cooed.
"What…where…this bed…how…" The writer sputtered, wholly frustrated with her inability to form complete questions.
Laura bit back a smile at her adorably flustered child. "You fainted. You're in our room. In our bed.
We carried you," she smiled, answering her daughter's incomplete questions in precise order.
"Fainted?" The question died on her lips as the image of ugly, red scars marring pale skin flashed across her mind. "Oh, God, Cait! It's all true, isn't it," she groaned. "I was so sure you were lying. I didn't want to believe you. I'm sorry, Mama. I'm so sorry," she whimpered, ashamed.
"Shh, it's okay, baby," the older woman reassured as she helped her daughter to an upright position. "You didn't know, and therefore your reaction to what we told you was perfectly normal." She emitted a chagrined chuckle. "If anything, I'm afraid it is I who should apologize. I never expected Cait to 'flash' you. But she was being rather protective of me and believed, at the time, that it would be the most expeditious way to convince you that I was telling the truth." Laura's expression became serious. "She never expected it to make you pass out, and she was horrified when you did so. She asked me to apologize for her, as she's quite unable to face you right now."
Megan chuckled in spite of herself. "Well, it was effective, I'll give it that," she offered wryly, then sobered. "Tell her it's all right. Tell her I'm sorry," the younger woman murmured, fastening her eyes on hands that had begun their nervous habit of plucking at the spread that covered her legs. "I just…I couldn't accept that daddy could be that cruel, that…evil."
Laura placed a gentle hand atop the fidgeting ones. "The actions were evil, honey, not the man."
"But he…how could he," the younger woman began to protest, but was interrupted.
"Let me try to explain," Laura offered. "Your father was a proud man. And very set in his…beliefs. I believe he would have accepted my leaving. He wouldn't have liked it…but he would have accepted it. But the fact that I left him for a woman was unacceptable. It was a blow to his pride, his ego, his beliefs, his very manhood." She shrugged helplessly. "I think something in him just…snapped. He wanted to hurt me, and he used you to accomplish that."
"Yeah, but," Megan swiped angrily at the tears on her face. "He was hurting me too, goddammit! I was confused and missing you and hurting, and he was always…busy! What did I do to deserve that?"
"Oh, honey, you didn't do anything," the older woman admonished gently, cupping her daughter's face. "I believe he was just so set in his ways and so bitter, that he just couldn't see what it was doing to you."
"Couldn't see it or didn't give a damn?" the blonde retorted angrily. "If I remember correctly what you said earlier, he threatened to see me harmed too if you didn't stay away."
Laura bit her lip and sighed. "I think," she paused, choosing her words carefully, "I prefer to think that that was an empty threat. But, at the time, I couldn't take the chance to test it."
Megan nodded, scowling. "I never knew he could be so cold-hearted."
"Anger and bitterness does horrible things to people, Meggie," the auburn-haired woman offered gently.
Tell me about it, the blonde mused, reflecting on her own behavior and seeing, once again, the image of a beautiful, gentle doctor sobbing into a big man's shoulder. I'm so sorry, Randi. Some way, somehow, I'll make it up to you…I promise.
Pushing that sad image away, the writer refocused on the present. One thing still bothered her. "Mother, how was Daddy always able to intercept my mail and be there to stop you when you came by? He couldn't be there all day, every day."
The older woman quirked her lips wryly. "It wouldn't have been terribly difficult. He knew, from the note I left, that I would be writing to you. And, as he was on pretty good terms with our mailman, he likely arranged for any mail addressed to you to be held and given directly to him. And, as for my attempts to come and see you, I figure that's where his police friends came in handy. If they saw me in town, they would call him and let him know, and he would just go home and wait for me because he knew that would be the only reason I'd come around. I even went to your school, in hopes that I could meet with you when you got out. But I was approached by an officer, and he politely informed me that if I didn't leave, I'd be arrested for loitering." Laura gritted her teeth at the memory. "He said it would be a shame for you and your friends to watch me being led off in handcuffs." A single tear escaped closed eyes and fell onto small, clenched fists. "I couldn't win, Megan…I just couldn't win."
Megan placed a sympathetic hand over her mother's clenched fists, her own eyes watering for the pain and frustration that must have haunted her mother for years. Something that the auburn haired woman said was sticking in her mind. "Mother, you said that, from your note, he knew you'd be writing to me. That doesn't make any sense. There was nothing in it about writing. There was no mention of me at all."
Laura's brow furrowed in puzzlement. "Of course there was, dear. I told him to tell you that I loved you and was not leaving you. That I would sit down that very night and write a letter to you explaining why I had gone. Did you not read the note?"
"Well, yeah. But there…" Megan halted, mid sentence, as a sudden thought hit her. "Mother, did you sign the note?"
"Of course I did, dear. What…" her question was interrupted by her daughter's vehement curse.
"Megan?" The older woman was startled by the sudden invective. "Honey, what is it?"
"I never saw that part of the note. He tore it off. I was so stunned and hurt that you had left, I never thought to question why it ended so abruptly, without your even signing your name." The young woman's chin trembled and tears spilled from her eyes. "I'm sorry, Mother. I should have asked questions, I should have known, I should have…"
Megan never got to finish her self-condemnation as she was pulled into warm, familiar arms and held tightly while years of bitter loneliness were finally released in a storm of convulsive sobs.
Megan heaved a long, cleansing sigh against her mother's bosom. Her tears had long dried, and now she simply basked in the comforting haven of her mother's arms. A small part of her chided that she was a grown woman and needed to straighten up and act like one. But another part, the winning one, decided that she needed this; needed this solid, loving, healing connection. A conclusion that neither Megan nor Laura was willing to argue with.
A timid knock called both women's attention to the open doorway, and they observed Cait standing there, her hands tucked deeply into the back pockets of her jeans, shifting from one foot to the other.
"I, um…I fixed a light dinner," one hand came out of a pocket long enough to point a thumb toward the dining room before quickly returning to it's haven. "If you two are hungry or anything."
Laura had to bite back a grin at how adorably shy her normally gregarious lover looked at that moment. She looked down at her daughter and noted the amused twinkle in those verdant orbs. A barely perceptible nod answered her unasked question, and she held out a welcoming hand.
"C'mere, you bristly ol' she-bear. Our cub has something she wants to say to you."
Cait had that deer-caught-in-the-headlight look and briefly entertained the urge to flee. But one look at the warm regard in two remarkably similar pairs of eyes quelled that urge, and she slowly entered the room.
The young blonde couldn't help but notice the term her mother had used. Our cub? Her mind rolled it around like a sweet treat. Our cub…I think I like that. She watched the brown-haired woman cross the room and sit lightly on the bed. Her mind turned once again to the hideous scars now concealed by the older woman's shirt, and her good mood evaporated under a wave of guilt. He did that because of me.
Cait approached the bed and sat gingerly on the edge. Looking into her lover's eyes, she saw a peace and contentment in those hazel depths that had not been there in a very long time. Oh, they had had a very loving and fulfilling life together, but Laura never stopped aching over her lost child. And in her deepest heart, Caitlin never stopped blaming herself for that loss.
But now mother and child had reunited, and the rapt expressions on both faces invoked a giddiness in her own heart that would linger for quite a while.
Her delighted musing was interrupted by a shy voice.
Warm, deep blue eyes shifted to the young woman. "Yes, Megan?"
Chestnut eyebrows furrowed in bafflement. "Why…whatever for?"
Contrite green eyes met hers. "For what he…for what happened to you."
"Aw, Meg, no. You had nothing to do with that. That wasn't your fault in any way."
"But it was because of me," the blonde protested meekly.
"No, hon. You were a convenient excuse for evil-minded people to do evil things. You were a victim, Meg, a truer victim than any of us. Your mother, your father, me…we all made choices, and we suffered the consequences of those choices. But you ¾ you were given no choices. You were forced by lies, deceit and selfishness to spend the most crucial years of your life alone, lonely and hurting, without ever knowing why." Cait reached over and gently grasped the younger woman's hand. "And for that, little one, I'm sorry."
Megan felt the now-too-familiar burn of tears. She knows, her heart cried with awe-filled wonder. In one simple statement, this woman, this virtual stranger laid bare the pain of the last twelve years, and, in doing so, showed a depth of compassion and understanding that the young blonde had seen in only one other person. Returning the clasp with a firm one of her own, the writer pushed back the tears and smiled at her mother's partner. "Thank you, Cait…very much." Then, looking at her mother, she added, "And thank you for being there for Mom all these years."
Deep blue eyes gazed lovingly into hazel ones. "It's been my pleasure." Looking back to the blonde, she sobered. "I wish we could have been there for you."
Megan's smile faltered slightly as she swallowed against the lump in her throat. "So do I," she responded sincerely.
Laura felt an intense wave of contentment wash over her as she watched the gentle interaction between the two most important people in her life. You didn't win, Peter. It may have taken a few years, but I've got my baby back. And I'll never let her go again.
"Did somebody say something about food?"
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