Michelle examined her reflection in the mirror. All things considered, the years had been kind to her (although she had worked hard -- sometimes very hard -- to earn that kindness). Okay, I've gotten a little on the plump side, she admitted. But damn, you know...I still wear it well. Anyway...women on the "plump side" were rather the fashion these days.
How things had changed since that spring two decades earlier. People then had been more open-minded about a lot of things than they had, say, in her grandmother's time -- but not that open-minded. There had been many things Michelle could never share with most of the people in her life...and it hadn't been easy.
Things had never been the same for her after Tammy. In retrospect, Michelle felt as though everything in her life prior to that time had led up to it, and everything afterwards had led away from it.
True to her word, Kathie had kept her distance while Michelle worked through the healing process -- although she had never completely gotten over Tammy. In the meantime, Kyle -- the young graduate student from the record store in Quadra Bay -- came back into her life on one of many trips to Port Landers. Michelle went out with him quite a few times over the course of that summer, and had genuinely enjoyed spending time with him. But as they got closer, Michelle realized that it could never be. Perhaps, if they had met before Tammy had come into her life, Michelle could have fallen in love with Kyle...or perhaps not. In any event, she finally accepted the fact that she would always love women (and one woman in particular). Kyle had been disappointed, but also wonderfully understanding. Over the years, Michelle had come to love Kyle in a sisterly way...in fact, when Kyle finally did marry a wonderful girl named Sara, he'd even asked Michelle to be his "best person" at the wedding (which Michelle politely refused -- too many people might have wondered...)
Eventually, Michelle gave up the apartment in the city and accepted Kathie's invitation to move in with her. Although Michelle had her own room, she and Kathie would share a bed on many a night (and not a few lazy afternoons). Yet, even at their most intimate moments, Michelle felt a part of her was never quite there with Kathie -- and she was sure Kathie felt it as well. They never spoke of it, however.
Things were fairly uneventful until about seven years ago, when Kathie realized she wanted a child of her own. Motherhood had never been on Michelle's agenda (she was genuinely fond of children, as long as they were other people's children), but -- Kathie was not only her cousin and best friend, she was her companion and lover as well. Against her own better judgement, she went along with it and supported the decision. A few trips to the local sperm bank, a few appointments with an OB-GYN, and it was done...within nine months, Kathie would have a baby girl.
"There is a little good in all evil." Michelle never could remember where she had heard that -- or read it. If anything good had come out of the tragedy, it was the backlash -- and beginning of the end of the "bottom-line" attitudes and methods of health maintenance organizations. Michelle held them directly responsible for Kathie's death. Like Fletcher Hamilton almost eighty years before, Kathie had fallen victim to mindless and selfish rules and regulations that were ultimately designed to maintain the status quo. The lawyers said Michelle stood very little chance of collecting anything...but like a woman obsessed, Michelle fought long and hard -- and she cried loud and long, telling the story to anyone and everyone who would hear it. Eventually, the courts made the award to the plaintiff -- and Michelle became a very wealthy woman. Another result was the passage of legislation that changed many of the parsimonious "bottom line" practices of greedy insurance companies.
In addition, Michelle was able to realize two pet dreams she'd had for several years. One manifested itself as "The Kathleen Norville Memorial Endowment for At-Risk Women," a fund that paid for, among other things, a shelter for battered and abandoned women, and a scholarship fund for needy women wanting to better themselves. The other was the "Fletch Hamilton Memorial Trad Jazz Festival," which Port Landers now hosted every year (at the newly restored Port Landers Hotel Royale), and of which Michelle was chairperson...
She would gladly have given it all up if it would have brought her beloved Kathie back.
Michelle turned. The little girl had long red curls and her mother's (and great-grandmother's) deep brown eyes. In fact, Michaela Katerina Devereaux-Norville was almost the exact image of Grandmama at that age.
Michelle knelt down and gathered the girl in her arms, hugging her tight. "Hi, sweetie...how was school?" She had never planned on being a mother...much less a single mother...but she was the only mother this little girl had ever known.
Michaela fidgeted a bit. "Yeah...we're still reading that boring stuff."
Michelle shook her head and clicked her tongue. Gotta get 'Chaela into a private school, she thought. At the age of six, Kathie's daughter was reading literature that seventh and eighth graders would have found challenging...the "dumbed-down" texts most public schools used anymore would kill her budding genius.
"I'm sorry, honey -- hey, did you bring the mail in like I asked?"
"Oh...yeah...it's on the dining room table. Mommy, can I have a snack?"
"Sure, baby -- " The little girl clapped her hands in glee and skipped off to the kitchen. "You can have an apple or an orange from the refrigerator!" Michelle called after her. She chuckled and shook her head. No doubt, Michaela would have headed right for the cookie jar.
Michelle sat at the table and looked through the mail while little Michaela peeled her orange. Bill...bill...request for money...bill...bank statement...junk...wait, what's this...? The envelope was embossed with a logo...
"THE RESORT AT QUADRA BAY." Michelle had heard of it...many environmentalists as well as residents had gotten very up in arms about it. Eventually, a compromise had been reached. The new resort hotel became an experiment -- as well as a model -- for eco-friendly tourist resorts. Michelle had been curious...but she really didn't have anyone to go with. Besides, Quadra Bay held some memories. Beautiful, wonderful memories -- but memories she really didn't want to deal with.
Michelle shrugged and turned the envelope over. Her heart nearly stopped when she saw the name on the back:
"Oh my god..." Michelle whispered.
"Mommy, is everything alright?"
"Huh -- ? Oh -- yes, sugar, your mommy's fine..." My god...what...how did she...? Finally, she said, "'Chaela, will you be all right by yourself for a few minutes? Mommy needs to read this letter in her study."
"Is it something bad?"
"Oh, no, no, honey...nothing like that...it's just..." Yes, how to explain it? Especially to a six-year-old girl... "It's from a very old friend of Mommy's...someone I...I haven't heard from in a long time." And never expected to hear from again.
Michelle reached over to a table and picked up a book entitled Amazons and Valkyries: Warrior Women Through History. An Introduction for Young People. "Look, honey...why don't you finish your orange, then be a good girl, sit here and read your book -- "
"But Mommy, what if there's a word I can't figure out?"
Michelle handed her a pencil. "Here...if there's any hard words, just underline them, and we'll talk about them when I come back. Okay sweetie?"
Michelle smiled. "Thank you, baby." She kissed the little girl on top of the head. "Mommy loves you."
"Hope it's nothin' bad."
"I'm sure it isn't." With that, Michelle disappeared into her study.
It was unusual for people to write hand-written letters anymore, since e-mail had become more common than the telephone of the previous generation -- and far cheaper. Many people did virtually all their business "on-line" these days -- but Michelle was still old-fashioned about some things. And so, it would seem, is my old friend Tamara Luisa, she thought, settling into her favorite chair, adjusting her glasses, and opening the envelope -- not without a fair amount of trepidation.
I suspect you never expected to hear from me again. To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure I'd ever be writing this letter. But here I am.
To be honest, not a day has gone by during the last twenty years that I haven't thought of you -- and missed you more than I can say. I know, I know -- I'm the one who broke it off, who "abandoned" you. But please, mija -- know that I never meant to hurt you...
Michelle couldn't help rolling her eyes at that...how many times have I heard that tired old cliche, she thought with some bitterness. If you never meant to hurt me, why did you hurt me, you bitch? Nonetheless, she read on:
I thought we had enough, Michelle said to herself...
So why didn't you let me decide that?
Michelle sighed. Okay, Tammy...cut to the chase. What do you want?
But deep inside, Michelle was a churning ball of growing emotion...
I miss you, Mishi. I've missed you for almost twenty years...
Is this going where I think it is...?
Suddenly, Michelle felt a tear roll down her cheek. Oh, Tammy, she thought, all hardness in her heart melting away. Tammy, Tammy...I did hate you...she recalled a line from an old Tony Curtis movie -- something about Vikings -- she'd seen as a child..."Love, hate...they are but two sides of the same coin..."
And I still love you. I don't know if we can ever re- capture what we shared that spring twenty years ago...but I feel I must at least see you one more time. Will you come down for a few days? Just to talk? You will of course be my guest at the hotel...
Michelle was torn. On one hand, she realized she still had very deep feelings for this woman who had changed her life so radically.
On the other hand, Tamara Luisa Carvallo had ripped her heart out, plopped it into her "Cuisinart of Love" and hit the puree button.
Whether she'd meant to or not, the result had been the same...
If you can't find it in your heart to forgive me... I'm sorry.
Know that I will love you always.
Michelle sat there quietly for several minutes. She looked over at her computer terminal, then out the window...
Mishi, you're a fool...
"'Chaela!" she called.
There was a sound of a chair moving and little feet running across the floor. Michaela poked her head into Michelle's study. "Yes, Mommy?"
Michelle opened her arms, and the little girl crawled into her lap. "Tell me, honey-bun...how'd you like to spend a few days with your Uncle Kyle and Auntie Sara...?"
Michelle stared out the window next to her seat, gazing at the seascape as it raced by. The new light-rail "Bullet Train" had cut the four-hour drive between Port Landers and Quadra Bay down to little over fifty minutes. The novelty of driving herself had worn off for Michelle about six years after recieving her license -- she always preferred to leave the driving to someone else when she could. Nonetheless, the trip in Antonio's roadster twenty years earlier had been a road-trip to remember...
She felt a slight tingling in her loins at the memory...
The train pulled into Quadra Bay a little less than an hour after leaving the Port Landers Station. Michelle disembarked and rented a small electric three-wheeled vehicle that resembled a golf-cart (virtually the only self-powered vehicles allowed on all city streets, as well as most country roads, anymore).
She spent about an hour driving around the town. Little had changed -- the citizens of Quadra Bay had made sure of that. Some of the shops had changed...but all the landmarks were still there. Finally, Michelle asked directions to the resort.
She wasn't all that surprised at the location...
The Resort At Quadra Bay was located very close to the beach where she and Tammy had spent the day making love over and over again that afternoon. And Michelle had a pretty good idea where Tammy's personal residence was...
Michelle was surprised that the resort hotel was actually quite small...more of an oversized "bed-and-breakfast." But it was quite exclusive...at almost $500 a night, it couldn't be otherwise. She walked into the lobby and up to the front desk.
"Hi, welcome to the Resort at Quadra Bay," beamed the perky young brunette desk clerk. She's cute, thought Michelle...but a little young for me. Actually, Michelle had not been with anyone since Kathie died...nor had she wanted to. Being a mother to little Michaela had occupied all her energies...but sometimes...on occasion...she missed the touching, the affection...
"Can I help you?" the clerk asked.
Michelle blinked her eyes and shook her head violently as her reverie was broken. "Uh -- I'm sorry...uh -- I'm Michelle Devereaux."
"Yes, Ms. Devereaux...we've been expecting you." She handed Michelle a key-card. "Room 111. Would you like some help with your bags?"
Michelle held up the one overnight case and the one small garment bag she'd brought. "It's all right," she said. "I don't have that much."
The clerk smiled, and said. "Very well, then...enjoy your stay."
Michelle started up a hallway and came to a door marked 111. Again, she felt an irrational wave of trepidation as she inserted her key-card into the slot. There was a brief buzzing sound, and the door slid back into the wall.
The room was cozy...despite many cleverly disguised "high-tech" gadgets, it looked rather 19th century. A big four-poster bed stood in the middle of the room, along with hardwood dresser and nightstand, a fireplace (butane burning, of course -- wood burning was outlawed, anymore), and a table...
On the table stood a vase with a dozen multi-colored roses; red, yellow and pink...in the middle of them, a thirteenth one -- white -- poked up. And there was an envelope marked "Michelle." Slowly, she picked it up and opened it.
Thank you for coming. I have no expectations of this visit -- nor have I a right to any.
But you came. Enclosed is a map to my place -- it's only about a twenty minute walk from here.
I'll be there all weekend. If -- when -- you want to talk, please come -- anytime, day or night.
If not -- I'll understand.
I love you -- Tammy.
Damn you woman, thought Michelle, as a tear came to her eye. After everything -- after all these years...you still know how to get to me...
Michelle took a bath, napped for about two hours, then ordered a small supper which she ate in her room while watching a holovid episode of Far From Home -- her new favorite "soap" since The Young At Heart had been cancelled ten years earlier. Far From Home was a soap with a sci-fi twist, centering around two families who were the first and second generations born to original colonists on the planet Mars. Other than that, it was standard "soap-opera" fare; lives, loves, triumphs, tragedies, etc.
Finally, toward evening, she began to get ready. She felt as nervous as a teenage girl going out on her first date -- carefully putting her red curls up, applying just the right cosmetic touches to her face -- not too much, now -- an just a hint of Jasmina -- her favorite jasmine scented perfume. Then, she put on the black dress she'd bought just for this occasion -- long sleeved, low cut, falling to just below the knee -- but slit enough to display a hint of still-shapely leg. Finally, she put on the choker with her grandmother's cameo. She gazed at herself in the full-length mirror. You still got it, girl, she thought to herself approvingly.
She took a deep breath, looked around the room one last time, and stepped out.
The cottage -- modeled after old English country homes -- stood on a bluff overlooking "their" beach. It was on the property they had once trespassed across in order to reach it. She actually bought the place, Michelle thought. Why do I get the feeling I'm falling into an episode of Wuthering Heights as rewritten by F. Scott Fitzgerald...?
She swallowed, took a deep breath, and pressed the doorbell. Several seconds later, the door opened.
The two women stood there, looking at each other for several minutes, not speaking a word.
Tammy looked almost the same as the last time Michelle had seen her. Like herself, she'd put on a few pounds, becoming rounder and more full-figured...but still as beautiful as ever. Her ebony bangs were gone -- she now had her hair pulled back into a Grecian-style ponytail, and there were strands of gray and white among the black. Like the first time they'd met, she wore a red dress -- a bit longer and of a much different cut than the other one, but virtually the same color.
Suddenly, Michelle's vision blurred. "Oh, good gods," she muttered as she realized she was in tears again.
"Come here, mija, said Tammy, opening her arms.
Michelle looked up and noticed tears falling from Tammy's eyes as well. "Oh, Tammy..." she said, melting into the other woman's embrace.
They stood in the doorway for a long time, hugging each other and crying.
Finally, Tammy had recovered enough to say "Please...come in..." She put one arm around Michelle, and they walked into the house as the door closed behind them.
Tammy led her into a well-appointed living room, where they sat down together on an overstuffed sofa.
Tammy took Michelle's hand. "I'm so glad you came."
"I must be out of my mind."
"Maybe...but you're here."
Michelle nodded. "I'm still not sure why..."
Tammy looked away. "I was afraid you hated me."
Michelle replied, "Oh...I did, I did." Then she added, "I got over it."
Tammy turned and looked at Michelle. "I'm glad to hear that."
Michelle shook her head. "I got over the hate." She paused, then said quietly, "I never did get over the love."
"Oh mija...I am so sorry..."
Michelle sighed and wiped another tear from her eye. "I know, I know...you 'never meant to hurt me.'" She turned to Tammy with an angry look. "Damn you, why?"
"Mija, I explained it to you -- "
"Yes, yes -- we're 'too different,' 'people would never accept us,' 'we'd have nothing but struggle,' yada yada yada. Well, let me tell you something -- it won't wash."
"I don't know what else I can say, mija -- "
"I had a good job -- I would have taken care of us -- "
"And how long do you think that would have lasted once they found out you had a live-in lover -- another woman, no less?"
"What business would it have been of theirs?"
Tammy chuckled and shook her head. "Oh, mi dolc' amor...you may have the college degree, but you know so little about people." Her expression hardened. "Or how hateful they can be..."
Michelle shrugged. "It worked for that T.V. actress back in the 90's -- "
"Michelle, this is America! Only fucking celebrities get away with that shit!" Tammy laughed bitterly. "Why do you think I was working in that dive for minimum wage?"
"Tammy, I don't -- "
"It was because goddam people pegged me as being a lesbian, okay? I got involved with women because -- well, in the first place, Tony hurt me, and I wanted to get back at him...and in the second place, I was curious." Tammy sighed. "The funny thing is, I liked it...that is, until I realized what sort of wierd shit Cindy was into -- and Angie showed herself to be the controlling bitch she was."
Michelle smirked. "I know about Angie -- I worked with her, remember?"
Tammy took Michelle's hand. "The point is -- when someone found out about me and Angie -- boom! Suddenly, all the gigs dried up -- all the bands that wanted to record with me pretended they'd never heard of me."
"Tammy, you never told me -- "
"No -- and maybe I should have." Another tear came to her eye. "I was so ashamed of the dump I was living in -- "
"Tammy, that never bothered me -- "
"But would you have wanted to live there? Come on -- tell me honestly..."
Michelle hesitated. Finally, Tammy said, "I thought so." She looked into Michelle's eyes for several seconds. "I loved you -- but I knew how much 'the good life' meant to you. I couldn't ask you to give it up for me." She paused, then said, "And after Tony found out about us, threatened to tell my family, threatened to hurt you...mija, do you understand?"
Michelle was quiet for a moment. Finally, she said, "Tammy...I -- I don't know...all I knew is...before the night I met you, I thought I was just a typical woman with typical dreams...and I had most of them. A job I really liked, a nice place I could afford...I hadn't met the man of my dreams...most every guy I dated turned out to be a total jerk -- but, you know -- I hadn't given up on that.
Then one night, I run into you -- my whole life turned upside down after that. For the first time in my life, I was in love -- with a capital 'L.' "
"Mija -- so was I..."
"My first love -- at age twenty-four -- and it turns out to be a woman."
"Didn't you tell me once that you and Kathie -- "
"When we were teenagers -- yes, I suppose...but that was something completely different."
"I heard about Kathie -- I -- I'm so sorry..."
Michelle sniffed and brushed another tear away. "It's -- it's all right. Gods, I miss her..."
Tammy put her arms around Michelle and tried to draw her close, but Michelle pushed her away.
"Anyway...we're sort of off the subject," Michelle continued.
Again, Tammy took Michelle's hand gently. "Mija -- I don't know what I can say...except I am so sorry for everything. I -- I would do anything to make it up to you -- "
Michelle laughed a bitter laugh through her tears. "Can you turn me back into a regular heterosexual woman again?"
"Hey -- now don't you dare lay than on me!" Tammy said sharply. "There is no way I could turn you into something you weren't already -- that whole thing about 'recruiting' is just a bunch of right-wing conservative Judeo-Christian bullshit."
Despite herself, Michelle laughed. "So, you're saying, if it wasn't you, it would have been someone else?"
Tammy replied, "Mija -- what I'm saying is -- people like us are what we are. We're born that way -- everybody accepts that now."
Michelle smiled sadly. "Yes...you're right, of course. I guess -- I just hadn't met the right woman yet." She interlaced her fingers with Tammy's. "Too bad I met her in a fucked-up, dysfunctional society."
Tammy placed a hand on Michelle's cheek. "But things are different now..."
Michelle turned away and gave another bitter laugh. "Yeah...we both have money, now." She added, "I guess when you've got money, you can do anything you damn well please."
"More than that, mija." Tammy protested. "Things are different, now...people are more accepting..."
"And just what did your family say when you 'came out?'"
Tammy laughed softly. "Well...my sister the nun is in total denial about it...won't even talk about it. My brother Paolo was pretty freaked out about it...but Maria and Carlos didn't even bat an eye."
Tammy shook her head. "Maria's seen it all in her line of work...although I got the impression she thought it was just a 'phase' I was going through. And Carlos...? He's sixty-two, now, playing the 'elder statesman.' He's got bigger fish to fry."
Michelle looked at Tammy quizzically. "'Elder statesman?'"
"Oh yes -- you didn't hear? Carlos is the first U.S. senator from Puerto Rico!" Tammy said with a hint of sisterly pride.
"That's how I landed here."
"You didn't know? This is Carlos' resort."
"Ye gods -- that beach house -- "
Tammy nodded. "He'd been checking this place out as somewhere to retire to. Except he got bored. He knew I was having a hard time, and he wanted to play politics...I had experience in the bar and restaurant business...so he turned it over to me."
"Well...I'm happy for you."
There was another silence. Finally, Tammy said, "There's something you should know..."
"There -- there's been nobody in my life since you."
Another silence. "Nobody at all?"
"Nobody that I ever cared about."
Michelle was silent again. Finally, she said, "Tammy...why did you ask me down here?"
Tammy hesitated. Slowly, she replied, "I guess...I guess I wanted to know that...the door between us isn't closed forever."
Michelle looked at Tammy. "Oh, don't kid yourself, sweetie...it's closed...closed and locked tight."
Tammy looked away, putting one hand up to her eye. Suddenly, Michelle put a hand under her chin and turned her face back. Softly, Michelle added, "But...you know...chances are, if you look hard enough...there's a window open." She smiled, and a twinkle came into her eye. "Or a key under the mat."
Neither one knew afterward who had made the first move...but before either one knew what was happening, Tammy and Michelle found themselves with their arms wrapped around each other, joined in a long, deep kiss. Silently, slowly, Tammy took Michelle by the hand and led her to the bedroom.
Slowly, tenderly, they undressed each other, kissing and caressing the whole time. They lay down on the bed together, their naked bodies stretched full length against one another. Lazily, sensuously, they made love with each other for several hours, exploring and getting reaquainted with each other after their long separation...
Michelle found, to her delight, that whoever said lovemaking got better as one got older had been absolutely right. She found Tammy's new Rubinesque roundness, like her own, to be extremely arousing as well. Their forty-something year-old bodies seemed even more responsive to each other than when they'd been twenty-something...and while her orgasms were quieter than they had been, they were more intense than ever...and from Tammy's reactions, Michelle could feel it was the same for her...
They finally fell asleep in each other's arms. Michelle realized later that it was the best night's sleep she'd had in years.
Tammy was gone when Michelle woke up the next morning. She looked around the room. "Tammy?" she called. No answer. She slipped on a robe and walked out to the kitchen.
On the table was a single red rose in a vase, a plate of blueberry bagels, a container of cream cheese and a jar of orange marmalade; on the counter was an espresso machine, loaded and ready to go. Michelle smiled...why should this surprise me...? She went to the espresso machine to turn it on and found a note:
Sorry I wasn't here when you woke up -- there was a minor crisis in the front office that needed my attention.
I should be back around lunchtime.
Michelle ate her breakfast slowly...thinking about the night before. It had been wonderful...as though the previous twenty years had not even passed.
But they had passed...Michelle had experienced a whole lifetime since Tammy had left her. Some things were the same...but many things were not. At forty-three, Michelle was almost a completely different person than she had been at twenty-four. She had new and different priorities, new commitments, new responsibilities...
...and one of those responsibilities was a little girl named Michaela. Whatever else, thought Michelle, my daughter comes first.
By the time she'd finished eating, showering and brushing her teeth, she knew what she had to do.
It was raining that afternoon when Michelle pulled up in front of Tammy's place in her rented triwheeler. Tammy emerged from the house and came up to the vehicle.
"The front desk told me you checked out of your room."
"I won't be needing it if I'm not staying there," Michelle replied.
Tammy turned away. "I see..." There was a pause. Then Tammy said, "So...when are you leaving?"
"Uh -- Tammy -- "
"Didn't last night mean anything to you?"
"Tammy -- "
"Well -- fine. Go, then. Go to hell. I don't care -- "
"Damn it, if you'd let me get a word in edgewise -- "
Michelle stepped out of the vehicle and put a hand on Tammy's shoulder. "I -- I just thought -- well, maybe I'd stay here with you for a few days -- that is, if you want me..."
Tammy's expression turned from disappointment, to surprise, and finally to joy. "Mija -- you mean -- ?"
Michelle put her arms around Tammy. "Yes...damn it. I love you." She kissed her, then kissed her again. They stood there in the rain, kissing for a long time.
Finally, Tammy pulled back. "We're getting soaked."
"Who cares?" said Michelle, non-chalantly, joining her mouth to Tammy's again.
After several minutes of kissing in the rain, Michelle finally grabbed her overnight case and garment bag out of the triwheeler, and the two of them went inside.
Twenty minutes later found them on the outside deck, sitting in the hot-tub, sipping cabernet, and watching the waves crashing onto the shore below. Normally, Michelle didn't drink wine (or any alcohol for that matter) before six in the evening; but had decided this time what the hell...I'm on holiday, and I'm celebrating.
Tammy had an arm around Michelle, as Michelle leaned against her, one hand on her thigh (casually draped over Michelle's leg) under the water. They sat there quietly, admiring the view, sipping the wine and enjoying the sensation of their naked bodies together beneath the warm, bubbling water...
"You know we still have a lot of things to talk about," said Michelle, finally.
"Of course, mija..." Tammy replied.
"I don't know if it can be like it was before."
"What do you mean?
Michelle sighed. "A lot's changed...we're different people, now."
Tammy nodded. "Yes...but...we're the same in the ways that count, aren't we?"
"We still love each other."
Michelle smiled and kissed her. "And that will never change...but..."
Michelle sighed. "Tammy, you know I have a daughter now."
Tammy's eyes grew wide. "A daughter?"
Michelle looked at Tammy quizzically. "I thought you knew...when you said you'd heard about Kathie -- "
"Well...yes, but...I thought...I mean, I never knew -- "
"Actually, Michaela's my second cousin."
"But I'm raising her now." She paused, then added: "I'm the only mother that little girl will ever know."
Again they were quiet. Then, Tammy said, "So...when do I get to meet her?"
Michelle grinned. "When would you like to?"
"Why not next week? I'm due for a few more days off."
Michelle looked up, put her wineglass down, reached over and pulled Tammy's face down to her own. They kissed once, then Michelle said, "It doesn't bother you that I'm a mom, now?"
Tammy smiled. "Mi dolce, if that little girl is part of your life...I want her to be part of mine as well."
A tear came to Michelle's eye as emotion swept over her. "I love you so much," she said quietly.
Once again, Michelle's mouth met Tammy's...arms and legs wrapped around each other, their bodies entwining in love as the warm water swirled and bubbled around them...
Two days later, Michelle was on the train back to Port Landers. Things had certainly changed...and would change even more in the next few weeks.
She had thought for a long time that she and Michaela should move away from Port Landers. Though not as dirty and violent as they were twenty years ago, big cities were still not the best places to raise children, Michelle thought. On the other hand...
It was not the nature of the new family the three of them would be forming that Michelle questioned. Two other children in Michaela's class had "two mommies," and one child had "two daddies..." it wasn't unheard of...or even as disapproved of as it had been when Michelle was a young girl.
Still...a resort town? Tammy had assured her that there was an excellent private school near Quadra Bay...a Waldorf school where Michaela's intellect would be nurtured and encouraged -- not seen as a liability for overworked public school teachers used to teaching mediocre subjects to mediocre minds.
Yet, Michelle wanted Michaela to grow up surrounded by diversity...a wide variety of role models to choose from. She wanted her daughter to become anything she wanted to be...but she would need to know what all of her options would be. Could this happen in a somewhat homogenous community like Quadra Bay? Was a "yupscale" resort any better an environment than the big city?
And what about Tammy? Suppose Michaela was unable to "connect" with her (although Michaela got along with -- and was loved by -- virtually everyone who knew her)? Michelle wanted her new relationship with Tammy to work -- how often do two people get a second chance at a love like that? But if it came down to a choice between her lover and her daughter, there would be no question. Michaela was Michelle's first priority...and she had let Tammy know it in no uncertain terms during their time together. Tammy had assured her that she would come to love little Michaela as if she were her own...and the girl was infinitely lovable...
But there was always a chance that things might not work out. Dear gods, Michelle thought. Sweet Tammy...I couldn't bear to lose you again...but she had a daughter to think of.
She looked out at the shoreline as it raced by her window. Suddenly, inside her head, she heard the voice of her grandmother say something she'd heard her say many times when she was growing up: "Mishi...don't borrow worry. Let tomorrow take care of itself."
She reached into her handbag and pulled out the choker with her grandmother's cameo on it. She looked at the image and smiled. Suddenly, she knew somehow, that everything would be alright.
"Thank you, Grandmama," Michelle said, quietly.
There would be adjustments to be made, certainly. There might be awkward -- even difficult moments. But where there was love, there would be a way. Tammy and Michelle shared that bond of love...and Michaela was, in a real sense, part of Michelle. The three of them would become a happy -- if unconventional -- family.
And in the end, that's the only thing that mattered.
Copyright 1998 by Jeanne D'eau