Part 1 of 4
By Anne Azel
Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters and events in the Seasons series are the creation of the author.
I have received a flood of mail about Seasons. My thanks to you for your kind words of encouragement. I have tried to respond to everyone who wrote. I hope I didn't miss anyone! It is nice to recognize the addies of people who have been travelling with me from the very beginning. You have become friends. Robbie, Janet and the girls send their love to you all.
My special thanks to Lisa and Inga, who are my patient beta readers, and to Susan for her comments and insights.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction, please do not read on if you are under age or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp.
Special Note: The Seasons Series is written in a very different style than my other stories. There are no great adventures of dramatic fight scenes. Seasons just deals with the quiet sort of courage that it takes to be female and/or gay in today's world. The stories need to be read in the order they are posted.
Robbie watched the first real snow of the season drift down onto the black waters of Long Lake. She was tired. Bone tired. The last few months had been hell. A non-stop merry-go-round of hospital visits for radiation treatment, working on the new scenes for the film, editing, dealing with the traumatic issues of radiation sickness and flying in that damn helicopter back and forth to catch time with Janet and Reb.
The worst was over now but she wasn't sure their relationship had survived intact. Huh, what relationship! After the surgery, Janet would no longer let Robbie near her. Oh, they kissed and even hugged at times but they slept in separate beds. At first, it was because she needed time to recover from the surgery. 'You understand Robbie, I'm really tender.' Then it was; "I'm too sick and weak, please don't" or else " the radiation levels in my body liquids are too high!" When she started to lose her hair, Robbie was banned from the bedroom altogether. "I don't want you to see me like this!"
Robbie placed her forehead against the cold windowpane. She felt guilty for feeling resentment. After all, Janet had gone through hell and had never complained. If she needed space, well, that was to be understood...but there was a growing worry in Robbie's gut that the love they had shared, so briefly, was never going to be the same again.
She hadn't seen Janet naked since before the surgery and it was beginning to look like she was never going to! Nor had she seen Janet without the series of scarves and hats that she had bought from the store that specialized in that sort of thing. Robbie sighed, I gotta be patient. Janet is too special a part of my life to give up on! Yet, tonight when she had arrived, she found that even Reb had been sent away. Reb was the only bright spot in her visits recently and now she wasn't even here! The bleep of Robbie's phone brought her out of her moody thoughts.
"Robbie," came Gwen's quiet voice, "There is a jet helicopter on its way for you. There's been a serious accident in London. An explosion in the school lab. Ryan's in a coma." Robbie sank to a chair, her knees too weak to support her as a shock wave of fear ran through her. "Robbie?"
"How bad is it?"
"I don't know, Robbie," came Gwen's concerned voice. "Bad. The 'copter will take you straight to the hospital. It should be there in about half an hour."
"Keep me posted, Robbie."
"I will." Robbie snapped the phone shut. Her world seemed to be crumbling around her.
Janet fussed with her short hair once more. It was still very short, a sandy fuzz really. Would Robbie hate it? Lots of women cut their hair short these days. Robbie's was fairly short. Janet bit her lip. You can't put this off any longer. She had discussed it at length with her councillor. Either Robbie was going to be able to handle the fact that Janet had only one breast or she was going to be really turned off by it.
It wasn't fair to keep Robbie away. She had been such a rock. She'd been patient and kind and a second mom to Rebecca. Janet could see the hurt in her eyes each time she gently pushed Robbie away. It was so hard. Robbie was beautiful, vibrant and whole. She worked with people like Tracy Travelli. Why would she want to stay with Janet, now? There were even hints in the gossip columns that Travelli might be more than a friend of Robbie's.
But tonight was going to be different. She had wonderful news to start with; the doctor had told her that there was every indication that they had got all the cancer. She'd made Robbie's favourite meal and she'd asked Mrs. Chen to babysit so that they could have a special night together. She started out, then at the last minute put the Blue Jays baseball cap on that Robbie had bought her. Once they had talked a bit, when some of the tension that had developed between them had lessened, then she'd be ready.
"Hi, what are you looking at?" asked Janet coming up beside Robbie as she stared out at the gathering night.
"I'm looking for the helicopter. I'm leaving," stated Robbie tensely.
"What! You only just got here!" exclaimed Janet, sounding more annoyed than she'd intended.
Robbie swung around her eyes flashing and her face tense with stress. "So what! You don't give a damn if you see me or not!"
"That's not true! Look Robbie, I don't need..."
"Yeah, well, I've got some needs too!..."
Janet felt her own temper snap. "I think your needs were well taken care of by Tracy Travelli, or didn't you think I'd heard the rumours?!" countered the smaller woman spitefully.
Robbie turned pale, started to speak and then stopped as the bug-shaped shadow appeared over the trees, bright yellow eyes searching for a landing spot. Without a word, Robbie pushed past Janet and slammed out of the house to catch her lift to London, a city west of Toronto.
Janet stood in shock at the window and watched her go. My God, the rumour was true! Robbie was having an affair with her lead lady! Janet turned and looked around the room, hearing in her memory the happy banter of the good times they had enjoyed together there. Now there was only the tick, tick of the mantel clock to break the silence. On weak legs, she walked over and sank into a chair. It was over just like that. Robbie had left her.
It had been almost three weeks. Some days the young teenager would move or her eye lids would flutter but Robbie knew now not to get up false hope. They were, as the doctor explained, spontaneous, involuntary movements.
Ryan had been mixing some sort of rocket fuel together without the knowledge or consent of the school and the accidental explosion had thrown the girl through a wall. The back of her skull had been cracked and there was considerable swelling of the brain. Tests indicated no brain damage but the girl was not coming out of the coma.
Robbie had worked with her every day. Exposing her to music, reading to her, having her smell different odours or rubbing different textures against her finger tips, anything she could think of to stimulate Ryan's brain to unlock her consciousness. Nothing.
Robbie lifted the small hand. Ryan had long fingers like her own. They were strong, capable hands for a little girl. "I guess you've had to do it on your own, haven't you, kid? I was never there for you. You see, I'm your mother. I was just, eighteen when I had you. I was pretty confused at the time, wild, ya know. I never meant to hurt you, Ryan! I thought I was protecting you from the stigma of who I was. I loved you, you see..." Robbie stammered to a halt, realizing that she'd been talking out loud like, she some times did with Reb.
She wished Reb and Janet were with her. She missed them and needed them. She wished she hadn't yelled those things at Janet. Robbie blinked back tears as she looked at the still form of her daughter. She placed her head down on their clasped hands and tried to think of something that she had not yet tried to help her daughter. "Water," came a faint, gravelly voice.
Robbie scrambled to her feet and ran to get a nurse.
It was late and the weather was nasty. Robbie drove like a maniac through the night, her mind trying to make sense of the warring emotions inside her. All she knew for sure was she hurt inside like hell and needed to be with Janet. How long had it been since she had walked out? Three weeks, maybe? She'd just left Janet to cope by herself. Damn it all to hell! What had she been thinking off!
The windshield wipers struggled to keep back the thick, wet snow. Icy ridges were forming on each side narrowing Robbie's view with each sweep of the blades on the rented car. Just another kilometer and she should see Janet's mailbox at the end of her lane! Suddenly, the lights caught the shape of something brown and huge on the road in front of her. Robbie slammed on the brakes, sending the car's light rear end spinning around so that the wheels caught on the gravel shoulder. The car slid off the road and broadsided the hard packed snowbank left by the township plough, coming to an abrupt stop.
Janet stood at the window. There was nothing really to see. The outside lamp revealed a near white out. It was cold too, the wind howling through the trees. A true, Canadian snowstorm, Janet sighed. Fortunately, it was a weekend, so classes would not be too badly upset by the snow. Still, she would need to get in touch with the duty teachers and make sure everything was under control. Going back to her job full time had helped to fill the void in her life after Robbie had left. Her work allowed her to push back, for a little while, the loneliness and pain that were her constant companions now.
It had only been snowing an hour and already there was several inches on the ground. Janet checked again to make sure she had matches and candles handy and a good stock of wood for the fireplace in case the power went off. Then she wandered back to the window. Where was Robbie tonight? The possible answers to that question made her gut twist with pain.
Robbie leapt out of the car and checked on the snow covered road. No blood. Whatever, had loped across the road, she had managed to miss it. There was a movement to her right and she turned and gasped. Then she took a second look and laughed. There sitting by the side of the road was the biggest, scruffiest, ugliest dog that she had ever seen in her life!
It had long rusty hair which was knotted with burrs and clumps of mud and ice. It had long legs like a sloth and a face, what could be seen for hair, like a bull dog. One ear went down and one went up and its tail, when it stood up and wagged it, seemed to lean to one side. Robbie walked over to the beast in question. "You almost scared the hell out of me! You know that?" A tongue hung from a huge, smiling mouth.
The dog was skin and bones. Robbie remembered Janet telling her that the summer tourists often lost pets in the woods and simply went back to the city without them. "Well, that car isn't going anywhere tonight." She looked back at the dog. "You'd better come with me. I've walked out on too many lives already," Robbie explained bitterly and took off the belt from her coat to make a makeshift collar and leash. Together, they trudged up the road to Janet's lane and then waded through the snow to the cabin.
It was freezing and Robbie could barely see ahead of her. Now that she and the massive dog had turned down into Janet's lane the snow was much deeper. She had to climb over a ridge of snow left by the plough at the end of the driveway and then wade through two foot drifts that ridged the driveway where the snow blew between the pines and built up. Had she wandered off the path? She should be able to see the lights of Janet's cabin by now! She began to realize that her decision to leave the safety of the car and try to walk through the storm had been a poor one. All she wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep!
It was running into the back end of her own truck that alerted Robbie to the fact that she had found the cabin site. Carefully, she edged along to the front of the vehicle, walking blind in the heavy, wind wiped snow. Shit! No lights! Janet must be away. She followed the log wall around to the porch and tried to look in the front window. Nothing, the curtains were closed. Damn! She went around to the door, the big dog close at her side seeking warmth. The door was locked. Fishing into her pocket she hunted for the keys. Cold, numb fingers barely functioned. Had she left her keys in the ignition? The dog snorted in frustration and scratched at the door sensing the warmth inside. Maybe she could find something to break the window, she thought and turned to head for the wood pile just before the sharp crack of the rifle shot shattered the air around her.
Janet was just finishing putting some hot coffee into a thermos when the power went out. Well, that was good timing, she thought, tightening the lid into place. She felt her way across the room to where she had left the matches and candles. Then froze when she heard a thump and muffled footsteps outside. Oh boy! Janet lived alone in an isolated setting and although she loved the solitude of her private lake, she was aware that it left her rather vulnerable. She tip toed over to the phone. Dead.
Fear now grasped at her heart. Okay, don't panic, Janet, she told herself as she heard someone trying to clear the ice and snow to see through the window. She ducked and crawled on her hands and knees over to where she kept her grandfather's old twenty-two. With care, she pushed a number of cartridges in place and then quietly opened the back door to circle around behind the intruder. Through the heavy snow, she could just make out two large black figures trying to get in the door. One suddenly turned and came at her! She fired.
Robbie fell face down in the snow and the huge, big dog landed playfully on top of her. "Don't fire," she managed to yell above the wind. "I'm not armed!"
"Oh my God!" Janet ran over and knelt by the body of the tall woman. "Are you all right?"
"I don't know. Did you hit me?"
"Of course not! I shot in the air to try and scare the intruders off!"
"It worked," muttered Robbie rolling over in the snow and sitting up. Janet brushed snow from Robbie. Then she looked up into a big, shaggy face that was sitting near by.
"What is that?!"
"Rufus, meet Janet. Rufus is my dog. I think it's a mix of Tibetan Massif and Tree Sloth."
"Your dog!? Come on, let me get you inside. I think the cold is affecting your reasoning."
Robbie reached out and grabbed Janet's arm. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean those things! I..."
Janet reached down and gave the snowy, cold woman a quick hug. "I had it coming. Come on, you're freezing!"
By the firelight, Janet could get a better look at Robbie and the massive dog. She was shocked by what she saw. Robbie was soaked through and the light jacket she had been wearing had been little protection against the harsh elements. She tugged the clinging coat from the woman's shoulders and had her sit near the fire while she ran to get towels and blankets.
Returning, she gently stripped the clothes from the woman she loved, and replaced each item with tender kisses. Robbie moaned with pleasure and pulling Janet close she kissed her with desperate need. Her hands hesitantly moved across Janet's back and pulled her sweatshirt up so that cold hands could stretch across warm flesh. Janet shivered with the touch and then pulled back to let Robbie watch her undress.
It looked... weird, Robbie concluded, to see a woman with one breast and only an angry red scar curved around where the other should be. Then Janet was back in her arms and the touch of her warm skin sent the waves of passion back through Robbie. "I'll understand, Robbie, if you don't want to," Janet whispered emotionally into the actor's ear.
For an answer, Robbie pulled Janet down with her to the rug and made slow, passionate love to her in the rich glow of the firelight. Later, they lay in each other's arms too exhausted to continue but still touching, nuzzling and kissing with a desperate need to be close. "I've missed you. I tried phoning Gwen but she wouldn't tell me where you were just that you'd been called out of town on an emergency. I was so worried, Oby! Is everything all right now?"
Silence, while Robbie tried to find some way to explain. "No. We need to talk but...not just yet, not tonight, okay?"
"Okay. Hmmmm, I need to get Reb. The house is starting to cool and she'll get cold in the nursery. She'll have to sleep here by the fire with us. Is that okay, Robbie?"
Robbie's eyes lit up! "Yeah, go get the ankle biter!" she smiled eagerly.
Janet laughed and gave her lover a hug. "She's missed you terribly."
A sleepy bundle wrapped in a blanket was carried out by her mom. She took one look at her Oby sitting by the fire and launched herself from her surprised mother's arms. "Oby, you come back!"
Robbie caught the diving child out of the air much to Janet's relief and spun her to the ground. "Hi, Rebel. Want to see the dog I brought you?"
"What?!" gasped Janet, but it was too late. Robbie and Reb were all ready playing with the big lump of wet, smelly fur that was passing itself of as a domesticated dog. Janet sighed, bowed to the inevitable, and went to get a tinfoil dish of Cherrios and the left over end of a rump roast for the dog now that the canine mountain had rested and warmed itself by the fire. It would have to do until they could shop for some decent food for the poor animal.
The household routine was a complete washout. The power had come back on in the early hours and Reb, who had played with Oby and Rufus for hours, was put to bed at dawn near to exhaustion. Janet then insisted that Robbie have a shower because she smelt very much like a wet dog. Robbie in her turn insisted that she needed her back washed by her lover.
Janet ran slow, soapy fingers down Robbie's back, curving their path back and forth across rippling muscles. She scooped Robbie's cute butt in both hands and leaned forward to plant a nest of kisses between Robbie's shoulder blades. Robbie turned around and stood looking down at Janet. What Janet saw made a pool of hot lust form low in her being. Robbie's dark hair was soothed back off her face and pearly beads of water trickled over muscles of steel.. Robbie was simple breath taking. Eyes the colour of tropical seas traveled over Janet's exposed body.
"I like your hair like this," Robbie moaned softly, reaching a graceful hand up to play with a truant curl of dark gold. "You look like a pixie."
"Are you comfortable with this?" asked Janet looking down at her scarred and flat right chest.
Robbie lowered her head and kissed along the red line that marked the incision. Then she looked up at Janet. "You are very beautiful, very exciting, and everything I have ever dreamed of having. I wish you hadn't had to go through this but it makes no difference to us. What I love is far more than the package. It is the woman whose soul fits so perfectly with mine."
Janet felt a ball of tension that she had been holding tightly in her heart unravel. She poured a liquid herbal soap on to her hands and painted it gently over Robbie's body. Robbie returned the favour each woman teasing the other to new heights. It ended with them in bed loving each other way into the morning.
Janet lay in the crook of Robbie's arm, her one arm running down Robbie's body and her fingers gently playing in the soft hairs above the actor's sex. Robbie's arm was wrapped around Janet, stroking a flat, hard belly. "I had a child." Robbie announced to the ceiling she was staring at.
Janet froze in shock and then rolled over to look at her lover. "A girl. I called her Ryan. She doesn't know who I am, but I've supported her all these years.
"She was in a lab accident in school," Robbie managed to continue, as tears dripped from the corners of her eyes.
Janet placed a gentle hand on Robbie's chest. "Is she all right?"
"Yes, but she was in a coma for over three weeks. Her skull had been cracked."
"Oh Robbie, I'm so sorry! You were emotionally not ready to take on yet another crisis. Oh my poor love!"
"It was hard. I felt guilty because I was part of Reb's life, but I'd never been part of my daughter's."
"Why, Robbie? Why didn't you raise your daughter?"
"After, after the really bad time in my life, I was really mixed up. I thought I'd be going to jail and I just went wild. I dropped out of university at seventeen and just lived; wild parties, wild times, anything. When I found I was pregnant, I just hid away. I didn't want her to have to grow up with the stigma of being my daughter. I thought I was doing her a favour. It still haunts me now, what I did back then. That's why I don't feel I can offer you anything permanent. I'm always waiting to pay for what happened."
Robbie's body was stiff with tension and the effort it had taken her to tell Janet. "So what do you want to do now, Robbie?" Janet coaxed softly, as she painted patterns with a finger on Robbie's chest.
Janet sighed inside. This was going to be harder than she thought. Robbie had these huge walls of defense, not to protect herself, but to protect others from her. "Robbie, you can't keep beating yourself for things you did wrong as a child! How old are you?"
"So all this happened almost fifteen years ago. Let it pass, Robbie. It's time to stop hiding and live again. Look at all you have accomplished since then! You have added so much to our world. Robbie, we love you and just like you stood by me, I would stand by you, no matter what, because I know what you are now. I am so impressed with what I see in your soul! Robbie, it is you that I would leave my daughter if I were to die." Janet felt the spasm of fear run through Robbie. "Shhhh, it's okay. My first check up was okay."
Robbie wrapped Janet in her arms and rolled the smaller woman over her own body, holding her tight and burying her face in Janet's soft hair. "I don't deserve you," she muttered.
"Hmmmm, yes, you do, my silly olive! So are we going to fetch Ryan home?"
"Yeah, I just don't know how to do that."
"We'll work it out. Does she look like you?" asked Janet, trying to steer the tense woman into safer waters.
"No, well, she's got my build but she's got your colouring."
"Yeah, dark green eyes and sandy hair. She's kinda cute," Robbie concluded, with a blush. "She's smart as a whip too and a good athlete. My grandmother had that colouring; maybe she's a throw back."
"Who was the father?"
"My university professor."
"Shit, Robbie! You were seventeen!" the teacher in Janet reacted with contempt.
Robbie shrugged, "He was killed a few years later in a car accident. He was drunk."
"Good riddance!" Janet responded angrily.
Robbie rolled over and gave her a kiss, "Hey, you're cute when you are defending my honour but I told you, I was wild."
"I don't care!" snorted Janet.
Robbie looked deep into Janet's eyes. "She's had a lot of ...problems. She doesn't get on too well with other kids and she's always trying things she shouldn't and getting in trouble. Are you sure you want to take on a kid like that?"
"Robbie, I've got a whole school of kids like that!" laughed Janet.
Ryan wiggled her toes, played piano with her fingers, touched her nose with her eyes closed and did all the other silly exercises the doctor insisted on. She had already told the specialist that her responses and reflexes were, as always, above norms. He now knew that to be true.
"You are an unusual girl, Ryan, with a particularly hard head!" laughed the doctor. Ryan didn't laugh. It had nothing to do with hardness, she was just fortunate enough that the lambdoidal suture had opened to release the energy of the impact rather than her skull crushing in, which was by far the more common injury. Clearly her, sutures were not knitted as closely as one would expect for a girl of fourteen. She must ask to see the x-rays.
"Ryan?" asked a blond haired woman looking around the corner, "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know you were here, Doctor. I came to visit Ryan."
"That's okay, I'm just leaving," responded the doctor. "I'll sign your release papers for tomorrow, Ryan, and arrange with the nursing station to have someone pick you up."
Ryan nodded. "Thank you, Doctor."
The specialist continued his evening rounds and Janet entered Ryan's room. "Hi, I'm Janet Williams."
"Billy-the Kid's widow. You're the principal at Bartlett. I'd like to go there," responded Ryan seriously. "Did my mother send you? I had assumed that the lab explosion might have been the last straw and I'd be asked to leave. This will be my third school. My mother tends to pick schools based on the strictness of their program rather than their academic excellence."
Janet blinked. She was used to precocious children, but Ryan Williams was something else! "I have been sent by your mother, yes."
"She usually sends the detective that works for her law firm. He hates me," explained Ryan honestly.
Ryan considered this. "Well, I tend to treat him like a dork, and I'm not very co-operative. He tries to boss me around."
"Your mother was very worried about you," Janet said.
"My mother doesn't give damn," came the quick response, eyes cold and flashing.
So the girl wasn't as immune to feelings as she let on. "That is a hypothesis that I don't think would hold up to testing. You have fallen into the trap of making emotional assumptions rather than evaluating the evidence. You don't know your mother," responded Janet, fighting fire with fire.
The chin went up in anger but Ryan checked the retort, looking instead at the petite woman by her bed with some interest. "Do you know my mother?"
"Yes, very well."
Ryan laughed. "Not as well as Tracy Travelli!" she giggled, tossing the Saturday scandal rag in front of Janet. The picture was of Robbie leaving the studio, after promoting her new movie, with her arm around Tracy. The headline read: First Celebrity Gay Wedding? The colour drained from Janet's face. She picked up the paper and read: Reliable sources have told us that Tracy Travelli and Robbie Williams became more than just friends during the shooting of Williams' new film about one of Napoleon's mistresses. Was the leading lady getting personal coaching from the famous actor/director/ playwright?
"That bitch," Janet muttered and then blushed as she realized that she had spoke out loud.
"Which one?" asked Ryan happily.
Robbie leaned over her desk in fury. "I want to know where this information came from!" she growled, slamming her fist on the gossip newspaper that lay on her desk.
"I might already know," drawled Polenski, looking up at the angry face from where he sat in the visitor's chair.
Robbie calmed immediately, and sat down. "Tell me," she ordered in a quiet voice, edged with ice.
"There's been a small town reporter by the name of Lucier asking a lot of questions about you. He's even tried, unsuccessfully, to access files. We think he got wind of your ...ahhh... relationship with Travelli and sold the gossip to the tabloid. Travelli was pretty vocal about you running out on her."
Robbie sighed and rubbed her eyes. "This couldn't have come at a worse time for the film and for me. Let's see what we can do to put the wraps on this thing." Robbie spun at her desk and punched a code into her phone. "Hassan? Robbie. Listen, I need some damage control. Get Travelli on some of the talk shows to deny that she is gay. She's smart enough to know if she lets this one out of the bag her image as the Latin Bombshell just fizzled." Robbie hung up and turned back to Polenski. "Get the law firm to talk about a lawsuit. We'll try to put the scare into them."
Polenski nodded and got up and left. Robbie was already on the phone to Travelli. "Have you seen the paper?" she asked angrily without bothering to introduce herself.
"We look cute together!" came the sassy response.
"Latin Bombshells don't fuck gay women, Tracy," Robbie told her coldly, tapping her pen angrily on her desk. "I'm arranging to get you on some talk shows to deny the story. Be good, your Oscar is riding on this performance. I also need you to be seen around town with a male. Pick up some sucker and promise him marriage, okay?"
"But Robbie! I meant no harm!"
"Just do as I say and maybe, just maybe, we can salvage your career and my film!" snapped Robbie, hanging up.
Robbie clipped off her private phone from her belt and pressed one. At the other end, at the Victoria Hospital in London, Janet took out her phone from her purse. "Hello."
"This is Robbie. A scandal rag has just published an article about Tracy and me..."
"Yes, Ryan was just sharing it with me," Janet cut in sarcastically, pulling a funny face at Ryan who had her hand over her mouth trying not to laugh.
"Shit. I never slept with her, Janet, after I got to know you," clarified Robbie.
"Thank you for splitting those semantic hairs for me and letting me know in this manner," responded Janet, with polite acidity.
Silence. Then a voice laced with pathetic insecurity muttered, "I love you."
"We'll discuss it," was the response, as Janet hung up.
Ryan laughed merrily. "Wow! Did you toast her buns!"
"Let's change the subject. How long have you known who your mother really was, and how did you find out?" demanded Janet, her foul mood sending her on the offensive. Ryan straightened, and prepared to tell all.
"For a long time, I didn't care who she was. But last year, I began to wonder why my surname was Williams. Whoever was supporting me had money that was for sure. So I started with a list of possibilities, and the most obvious were the Williams sisters. Then I accessed birth certificates and bingo, mine turned up with Robbie Williams' name on it. But that didn't mean she was supporting me, so I snuck into the school office one night, and went through the files to see who was issuing my tuition cheques. It was a law firm that also represented Robbie Williams. So then I hacked into..."
"Don't tell me any more," Janet cut in dryly, holding up a hand. "There is no doubt that you are your mother's daughter!"
Robbie paced around her apartment, picking up things and putting them down again. Maybe Janet had decided to go back to her cabin instead of coming here?! No, she wouldn't leave Reb. Maybe she'd had an accident! The highway between London and Toronto was fast, busy and dangerous this time of year. A new knot formed in Robbie's stomach. Then she heard the whoosh of her elevator and she walked over to wait nervously by the door.
The doors opened and Janet stepped out. Robbie shifted from one foot to the other, trying to think of something to say to make it better. "Ahhhh, hi," was what she finally managed to get out.
Janet slipped out of her coat and dropped it on a chair and then turned and walked into Robbie's arms. Robbie wrapped her in tightly, filled with emotional relief.
"That really hurt and embarrassed me, Robbie," Janet said, her voice muffled and strained.
"Oh God, love, I'm so sorry!" groaned the actor.
"Come on, let's sit down. You want to make me a cup of tea? I'm exhausted. Then I want to know the truth, okay?" Robbie nodded and kissed Janet's brow gently.
"I'll get the tea," she whispered and disappeared down the hall. Janet watched her go with sad eyes. Was it too much to expect that Robbie Williams could settle down and live a family life?
"Ahhhh, I told you Tracy and I had a relationship years ago."
"Well, after the funeral, I had a one night stand with her," confessed Robbie uncomfortably.
"You'd made a pass at me that weekend," Janet pointed out, dryly. "Were you going to service both of us?"
"No!" protested Robbie, looking up from the tea mug that had held her attention fixedly. "I'd struck out with you and...and I guess my ego was bruised," she finished lamely. Janet said nothing. "It never happened again. I....I just sort of walked out on Tracy and came to you. She was pretty hot about it and did some talking and that damn reporter, Lucier, got wind of it, and sold the story to the tabloid. I'm really sorry, Janet."
"Me too, Robbie," responded Janet honestly. For a while there was an uncomfortable silence between them. When Janet thought that she had made her point, she continued with a sigh. "Your daughter, Robbie, is an olive out of the same bottle!"
Robbie looked up in shock, " She's fooling around?!!"
Janet laughed and shook her head, "No, at least not yet, but I've got to tell you, this child of yours is a hellion!" Janet settled back and Robbie listened intently to all Janet had to report. Then, they went on to discuss what they needed to do next.
"Okay, here is where we stand," said Janet, brushing her fingers through her short hair and pacing back and forth across the living room. They had been discussing the issue for several hours now and were on their second pot of tea. "You will call a press conference and admit to having a daughter, explaining that it was a youthful indiscretion. You have recently learned that the father was killed and so you felt it was okay to recognize the daughter that you have been secretly supporting all these years.
In the mean time, I'll slip Ryan away so that she does not get the opportunity to give a press interview herself because God only knows what that child would say! I'll keep her under lock and key, figuratively not literally, at Bartlett until this thing blows over!"
"I've really fucked up, haven't I?" Robbie sighed miserably from where she sat, elbows balanced on her knees, staring at the carpet.
"Well, one good thing about this whole mess is it will help to bury the story about your relationship with Travelli," snorted Janet.
Robbie was on her feet, eyes flashing, "I did NOT have a relationship with Travelli! I love you, damn it!"
There was a moment of startled silence, and then Janet started to laugh, falling into Robbie's welcoming arms. "You are such a charmer, you are!" she giggled.
Robbie squirmed awkwardly, "Well, I do love you," she muttered defensively.
"Then I'm a very lucky woman," sighed Janet, reaching up on tip toes to place a soft kiss on Robbie's lips.
Robbie smiled, "No, I'm the lucky one. Want to go to bed?"
"Thought you'd never ask," came the response as Janet buried her sleepy head into Robbie's chest. Robbie picked the woman that she loved up, and carried her through to the master suite.
"Do you think it will be on Entertainment?" asked Ryan, looking up from the book she was reading, as Janet drove her up to Bartlett in Robbie's truck the following Friday.
"What?" asked Janet, her own thoughts miles away with her partner.
"Do you think Robbie's press conference where she announces she got knocked up as a teen will be on Entertainment?" repeated Ryan, patiently.
Janey gripped the wheel firmly and set her jaw. "Ryan, please do not resort to crudity as a means of defense. It is in poor taste. I can understand why you harbour some resentment towards your MOM, you don't know her yet like I do. You need to understand that your mom is a very private person and today will be a real ordeal for her. Like you, she often hides her very gentle soul behind a tough facade."
"I'm not like my...like Robbie!" snapped Ryan.
"You have her build and looks despite your colouring and you do seem to display a number of similar personality traits, although I'm sure in many ways you are very different."
"I wish Elizabeth was my mom. She is a worthwhile person not a movie star," Ryan said with contempt.
Janet laughed. "You're mom is far more than just a beautiful face! You'll see." Ryan returned to her book. It was Stephen Hawking's, Universe. Ryan was definitely not your ordinary fourteen year old.
Janet thought about the dinner that she had prepared for Elizabeth at Robbie's apartment. The woman was so nervous that she had dropped her shoulder bag twice getting into the living room. With Robbie she had talked physics, Janet amazed at how readily her lover could keep pace with the complex maths and theories that Elizabeth was explaining. Janet had a good mind, but she only understood a general overview of what they were discussing.
With Janet, she was stilted and formal until she learned that Janet had a master's degree in gifted education, then the academic had asked her one question after another, absorbing information like a sponge. By the end of the evening, the conversation had become almost relaxed and normal.
Robbie had declared the evening a roaring success, saying that Lizzy had really warmed to Janet and relaxed in her company. Janet had opened her eyes wide in disbelief, but Robbie had assured her that Elizabeth had been known not to speak at all at social gatherings and so the night had been a real success.
"Robbie, what happened to your sister? Why is she so introverted?"
Robbie had become distant immediately, "It's part of the bad times. I don't want to talk about it," she had said stiffly and gone out to stand alone in the roof garden while Janet was left to finish the dishes.
Now here was another generation of Williams carrying scars! Janet looked over at the young girl. She was lean and tall for her age. Wearing blue jeans, and a green sweat shirt, under a waist length parka, she was every inch your average teen, a little conservative perhaps.
"When would you like to meet your mom?"
"Never," came the response from behind the book.
"I think tomorrow would be a good time. It's Saturday so I'll make brunch for us all, and you can spend the day at the cabin getting to know each other. That will give you the rest of today to settle into Bartlett and give your mom time to recover from the press interview."
Janet's voice took on an authoritative tone. "Ryan, please don't use that expression. It is not allowed at Bartlett. It carries with it a degree of bored insolence that is not an attitude that is tolerated at our school."
Ryan looked at Janet ready to rebel, then hesitated. There was something about the no nonsense honesty that Janet had with her that she liked. The principal didn't talk down to her. Besides, she wanted to go to Bartlett, and getting on the bad side of the principal was not the way to do it.
"Sorry," she said, closing up the book and looking out the window. Time for a little role playing. "I guess I'm just nervous about meeting...mom. Ahhhh, she's so beautiful and talented maybe she won't like me," sighed Ryan, dramatically.
To her surprise, Janet burst out laughing. "You are JUST like your mother, at times, girl!"
Robbie steeled herself and then walked into the room that had been set aside for the entertainment press. She walked to the front of the cluster of reporters and stood before the bunch of mikes. "I am happy and proud to finally announce the birth of my daughter, Ryan." Flashbulbs went off in her face, blinding her for a second, the bored group expecting yet another promotional release, surged forward with interest.
"She was born fourteen years ago, and I have supported her secretly until this year. Learning of the death of her father, I was relieved to be able to recognize Ryan as my heir. Ryan recently, was involved in a serious accident that left her in a coma for three weeks. I have been with her during that time and am very relieved to announce that she has made a complete recovery and is now on her way to my home."
"Ms. Williams, who was the father?"
"Was the child born out of wedlock?"
"Ms. Williams, how does Tracy Travelli feel about you bringing your daughter home?"
"I haven't discussed the issue with Ms. Travelli. The rumour that she and I were involved in a serious relationship was simply not true."
"In your father's will, the first grandchild inherited a fortune. Ms. Williams, will you make a claim on Billy-the-Kid's estate now that you have acknowledged that you had the first Williams' grandchild."
"No. Thank you for your time. No more comments." Robbie turned and with relief made for the door followed by a barrage of questions. Thank God that was over!
She took the elevator back up to the administration floor and walked down the hall to her office. Gwen had a phone under one ear and another in her hand. E-mail was flicking up on her screen. "Start with line two, Robbie, it's Alexandria. Then line one, it's Brian. I need a raise."
"I'll build you a house in the country instead, on a lake. The kids will love it!" answered Robbie on her way through to her office. "Order the helicopter, I'm heading north."
A house on a lake?! What was that crazy woman up to now?! Gwen thought, shaking her head and turning back to her phone console.
It was late afternoon. John Bartlett, the supercilious jackass, and used car salesman that chaired the Broad of Trustees, resettled himself in the chair across from Janet's desk. He had been waiting when she got back from settling Ryan into the Maplewood Dormitory. "You understand that the Board does not want to interfere, Ms. Williams, in your personal life, especially at this time when you are still recovering from cancer surgery, and grieving the loss of a fine man such as your husband."
Then why are you here? Janet thought sarcastically while maintaining a neutral expression on her face.
"But I'm sure you understand that as head of the school it is important that you set a high moral tone. We understand that your sister-in-law, Robbie Williams, has been staying at your place and well, she's an actress! And well, there is talk that she is perverted. And now on the way here, I hear it announced on my car radio that she has an illegitimate child! Ms. Williams, do you feel this association is setting the right tone?"
Janet only just stopped herself from going over the desk and ripping the idiot's throat out. She smiled. "My sister-in-law is well liked in this town, Mr. Bartlett. She is truly a talented and intelligent lady. I don't know what would make you think she is perverted. She lives a very upstanding life..."
"Ms. Williams, she is gay! That is a disgusting sin!"
"Mr. Bartlett, this is the beginning of the twenty-first century. Here at Bartlett, we teach tolerance. Ten per cent of all populations, whether lions, seagulls or humans are homosexual. It is a natural variation. I do not object to your religious stand that such behaviour is a sin. But please, do not force your views on me, my school, or the students. And above all do not feel that you are in a position to judge other people's life styles. I remind you that in Ontario discrimination against homosexuals is illegal and that this province now recognizes gay marriages, adoptions, and benefit rights."
"Well, I don't approve!"
Janet shrugged. "Actually, Ryan Williams has just been enrolled at Bartlett by my sister-in-law. I just picked Ryan up and brought her up to the school today. I think that can only do our school good. It is, to start with, good and free advertizing. And, looking at Ryan's C.A.T. scores, we are dealing with a child that is in the top one per cent. She will do our school proud."
"I...ugh...well, the Board will be monitoring the situation to see if there is any impact on the school's image and our enrolment," Bartlett finished stiffly, getting up. "Good day, Ms. Williams."
"Good day," Janet responded, standing but letting The Chair see himself out. Horse's ass, she thought.
At the end of a hard day, Janet went to pick up Reb at day school and Rufus from his pen that Robbie had bought and had set up behind Janet's office window. I've acquired more dependents lately than Rufus has fleas, she thought, as she strapped Reb into her car seat. Rufus jumped in beside Reb effectively filling up the back seat. When Janet got home, she almost cried with relief to see Robbie coming along the porch to meet her.
"Hi, love," murmured Robbie into Janet's ear, as she wrapped her in her arms. "You look tired. I've asked too much of you lately. You need rest; you're still weak from all you've gone through. Are you eating properly?"
Janet snorted and poked Robbie in the ribs. "You, Williams, wouldn't know a well balanced meal if one was put in front of you!"
"Hmmm, I just worry about you," fretted Robbie. "You get in out of the cold, and I'll bring in the rat and her pet rug."
It was great to be sitting with Robbie in the peace and quiet of the cabin and to feel, for a change, really healthy. Tired, she conceded, she was, but it was a good sort of tired. "You nervous about meeting Ryan tomorrow?"
"Be patient, okay"
"I can do patient!" Robbie protested.
"No, you can't. But try. She's got a lot of resentment that has built up over the years."
"Yeah, I guess."
"I need to talk to you professionally, principal to parent," explained Janet, getting up and going over to her desk to slide out Ryan's Canadian Achievement Test results.
"Oh boy, she couldn't have got into trouble that quick! Do I have to sit at the desk?"
Janet pulled a face and came back and curled up again next to her lover. "Ryan tests off the scale in some areas, Robbie. Particularly in maths and logical thought."
Robbie's stomach contracted in worry. " But she gets good marks at school!" she protested.
Janet looked at her with disbelief. "I meant, Ryan is very bright. She is actually testing in the top one per cent."
"Maths and logic, huh? She's going to be another egg-head like Lizzy."
Janet rolled up the report and swatted Robbie playfully on the knee. "Robbie! That is just the sort of bigotry I have to fight every day, please don't bring it into my home!"
"So what does this mean?" asked Robbie, taking the report and becoming serious.
Janet watched Robbie's eyes moving as they scanned the data. When they stopped, Janet answered. "She certainly will need some enriched programs to challenge her mind. We'll want to provide her with a lot of support. This is too good a mind to waste. Ryan has had a lot to face and has not had the security of a stable family life to fall back on. We'll want to track her pretty closely."
"I don't want my kid labeled!" snapped Robbie, eyes flashing with rage.
Janet's voice went cold. "We don't label kids. We educate and encourage them to be good citizens. Trust me to do my job right, Robbie."
Robbie sat forward, placing the report on the sled table and leaning her elbows on her knees. She balanced her chin on her hands and stared at the fire. "It's hard not to try to over protect her. I want to be part of her life."
Janet swung her feet to the ground and wrapped an arm around Robbie. "You've got to move slow, Robbie, or she will resent you even more than she already does. Trust the school to help her adjust, okay?"
"I trust you," stated Robbie sincerely, kissing Janet softly. " Hey, it's time for bed, love. The doctor said you've got to get lots of sleep. "
Janet laughed and pulled Robbie to her feet. "We can go to bed but we're not sleeping! I've got a lot of nights to catch up on!"
Robbie kicked a piece of bacon around with her fork. "Ahhh, you like your room, okay?" she asked.
Ryan shrugged, "It's okay."
Robbie nodded and swallowed the bacon that had finally been captured by her fork. "Ahhh, you feel okay, not getting headaches or anything?"
Ryan put down her knife and fork neatly on her plate. "No, I'm fine. That was a great brunch Aunt Janet, thank you."
"You're welcome, Ryan," responded Janet, as she scraped the last of the scramble egg out of the Winnie the Pooh bowl and fed it to Reb.
"I'll go clean up Reb," suggested Robbie, quickly getting to her feet at the possibility of escape.
Janet stayed her with an out stretched arm. "I've a better idea. I'd like to spend some time with Reb. While I was having treatments, I wasn't always there for her. Why don't you and Ryan get out the snowmobile from the shed and go over to the Lodge. You can show Ryan what you are doing over there. I think she'll find it interesting."
"Ahhh, okay," said Robbie, looking trapped and awkward.
Janet gave her a push towards the back door. "You two have a good time and I'll see you back here in a few hours," suggested Janet, giving Robbie a meaningful look and then turning it on Ryan. Robbie smiled weakly. Ryan scowled. Oh boy, this is going to be a long day, thought Janet!
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