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August 1982



Taylor faced the window and wondered why doctor's offices were always so cold. It was a ninety degrees outside and felt to be slightly above the freezing mark inside. She watched as the cars sped by outside, her ear always listening to the conversation behind her. Torrey hated going to the doctor alone, especially once she started showing. The young girl always seemed to have a run in with the same old crony of a nurse in the office that noticed she wasn't wearing a wedding band and that she signed everything Miss. Last month when Taylor came home from work, Torrey was in tears over the situation. The dark haired artist promised that from then on she would leave the office early and join her friend for her obstetrics appointment.

Actually, it was starting to get to Torrey. She felt that everywhere she went, people looked down at her hand, then at the missing wedding ring, and instantly she felt inferior. It was hard for Taylor to convince her to blow off people like that. Her young friend was sensitive at the best of times, but being six months pregnant and a walking hormone factory did nothing for the woman's self image. Of course, it didn't help when Taylor had to go to San Francisco for a client meeting and Torrey couldn't go along because of classes.

Taylor made up for it though. While wandering around down on the Pier, a wedding band set caught her eye in one of the small jewelry shops. Platinum settings were circled completely with small stones of pale green jade and blue sapphires. The color combination of their eyes prompted the dark haired woman to purchase the set. She had one sized for herself while she waited, and the other sized down to Torrey's ring finger. The look on the young woman's face made the expensive purchase worth it all.

"I mean, I don't think people will...I mean you don't have to tell them you and I are...well, I got it mostly so people wouldn't think..." Taylor stammered incessantly when she arrived home. She was feeling rather tongue tied as she tried to give Torrey the duplicate ring to the one the young woman immediately noticed on the older woman's hand.

Torrey slipped the band on the ring finger of her left hand and threw her arms around the taller woman's neck, but not before placing a kiss on Taylor's cheek.

"You're wonderful, you know that, Stretch?" The young woman beamed.

Taylor didn't think her young friend would be having any more problems here in the doctor's office after today. The tall woman smiled to herself as she looked out the window. Taylor was running late and got a hold of Torrey between classes to let her know she would meet her at the office. As Taylor walked through the waiting room door, Torrey sat, about to be brow beaten by the frowning nurse. Every head in the room turned to look at the striking woman as she walked in.

Taylor's foray into the professional world gave Torrey reasons to go clothes shopping and one thing Taylor could say was, the girl had good taste. The dark-haired woman came directly from the office and so still wore her dress clothes. Black slacks, a purple silk blouse, and a black jacket. With the high heel pumps that Taylor hated, but tolerated for the office, she stood well over six feet tall.

She immediately noticed the nurse that Torrey described to her and was in no mood for her. She had a hellish day and if the old bat wasn't careful she was going to become the next in a long line of victims the artist had to crucify today. Torrey watched as her friend got that look in her eye. It reminded the young woman of a cat who just cornered a mouse, knowing mealtime was a sure thing and within easy reach.

Taylor walked up to Torrey and leaned over, placing a small kiss on the top of the girl's head.

"Hey, Little Bit, you look like you've already had a long day." Taylor said, noticing how tired the young woman looked, brushing her fingers against her cheek.

"Excuse me," the nurse interrupted.

That's when Taylor gave the woman the look. Torrey had seen it plenty of times. Taylor recently perfected it, finding it most beneficial to instill the fear of God into her employees. Of course it deflated the dark-haired woman's ego a bit when she used it on her roommate and Torrey merely laughed at her. She realized then, that it helped if the person didn't know you had no intention of wringing their neck.

The ebony-haired artist pulled herself up to her full height, arms crossed upon her chest. She shook back loose strands of hair that framed impossibly high cheekbones, an eyebrow arching up and disappearing beneath dark bangs.

"Yesss," she purred.

"Can I help you?" The nurse asked.

Torrey had to reach her hand up over her mouth to cover her smile. Oh, someone should have warned this old gal.

"Nooo, I've done my part," Taylor whispered quietly, winking at the nurse as she looked from Torrey's swollen belly to the old woman.

Torrey was biting her lip to hold back her laughter by this time. Taylor had a look on her face that was as serious as surgery, as the nurse sputtered and coughed.

"Do you belong here?" The flustered woman asked.

"I belong to her," Taylor replied, her fingers drumming against her crossed upper arm, the band on her finger gleaming as the light caught it.

The nurse looked at the ring and then at the ring on Torrey's hand, opening her mouth to say something, but thought better about it as Taylor's smile turned into a withering 'back off' glare. The old woman turned on her heel and disappeared into the back office.

"Taylor, do you want to listen?" Joanna Weller, Torrey's doctor asked. She offered the stethoscope portion of the Doppler to the tall woman.

"Yea, why not. I bet he's singing Gene Pitney or Tony Bennett," she winked at her young friend, lying on the examining table.

Torrey giggled at the remark and watched as her friend's eyes widened slightly, the corners of her mouth curling upward, then breaking into a toothy grin.

"That is totally cool!" She pulled off the earpieces and grinned at her friend. "That's some good work you're doing, Little Bit."

Dr. Weller began writing in Torrey's chart. She watched the two women and couldn't think of a better pair to raise a child. It seemed obvious they adored one another.

"Well, everything looks great. I've got all the information you'll need for your Lamaze classes here, Torrey," she said, laying a few papers on the table beside the young woman as Torrey buttoned her blouse.

"I do have a small group that will be meeting on Monday nights that's comprised of female partners. We have five couples so far, if the two of you would be more comfortable in that class." Joanna offered.

"Uhm," Taylor started, feeling she was going to have to explain.

"That would be great," Torrey answered, without hearing Taylor's voice or seeing the look of stunned amazement on the taller woman's face.

Once they were outside of the office Torrey turned to her friend.

"I guess I should have asked you first. I mean, you may not even want to go to Lamaze with me."

"Hey, we're in this together, right?" Torrey smiled down affectionately at her.

 

Taylor stumbled into the darkened kitchen to get a drink of water. The muffled sound of crying woke her from her drowsy half-sleep state. She quietly peeked into the living room and saw Torrey, huddled on one end of the couch.

"Torrey, are you okay?" the older woman asked in alarm.

Taylor surprised the young woman. She wiped her cheeks with the sleeve of her robe.

"I'm allright." Torrey answered.

Taylor sat next to the blonde, stretching her arm along the back of the couch, her chest pressed softly against the smaller woman's back. Taylor ran her hand up the woman's arm reassuringly.

"Honey, what's wrong?"

"I'm going to be a terrible mother." Torrey blurted out.

Taylor smiled and chuckled out loud.

"Torrey, you're going to be a great mother." Taylor comforted her.

"Yea, well I bet Evelyn thought that, too. Look what happened there!" Torrey's tears reasserted themselves.

Torrey had taken to calling her mother by her first name. The fight the two engaged in was almost enough to melt the phone wires when the young woman told her mother of her plans to keep her baby. When Torrey told her that she would be living with Taylor and the artist would be providing for she and her baby, Evelyn exploded. The things she said to her daughter that evening, the names she called her, caused an incendiary reaction from Taylor, who was listening in on the extension per Torrey's request.

The dark-haired woman slammed the phone down in her hand and quickly walked into the other room. She pulled the receiver from Torrey's hand.

Torrey, go take a walk." Taylor hissed.

Taylor's eyes turned dark with anger and she was trying to control herself in front of her small friend. Torrey, sobbing hysterically by now, ran outside, but as soon as she heard the door close behind her she heard the first few words Taylor had to say to the woman on the phone.

"You goddamn bitch..."

They never talked about what happened after. Torrey never asked her friend what words had been exchanged and Taylor didn't volunteer the information. Now, sitting in the dark with Torrey in her arms, Taylor felt something inside her that said Torrey would be a wonderful mother. She felt this young woman's child would be blessed with a love beyond anything Torrey could now imagine.

"Whoa, wanna feel something neat?" Torrey took hold of Taylor's hand and placed the woman's palm on her abdomen.

"Wow," Taylor exclaimed as she felt the baby's kick for herself. "Does that hurt?"

"No, it just feels kind of...I don't know, weird." Torrey answered.

Torrey relaxed back against her friend, Taylor resting her chin on the smaller woman's shoulder.

"Hey, Tor, after the baby's born, why don't we take a little vacation?" Taylor asked.

"Did you have somewhere in mind?"

"Ever been to California?" Taylor asked, already knowing the answer.

"No. Are you thinking of taking me?" Torrey laughed.

"I thought it might be kind of cool. I could show you where us beach bums grew up and you could meet my mom. I may be a little on the wild side now, but I guarantee you, my mom knew all the tricks. I'm sure she can give us some pointers."

Torrey smiled at the way Taylor said, "give us" some pointers. She enjoyed the feeling that they were a family, even if it was only temporary.

"You will be a great mom." Taylor whispered in the young woman's ear.

"How do you know?" Torrey asked.

"Because, like you're so fond of telling me, everything happens for a reason. You're having this baby for a reason. You have so much love to give, Tor. I just can't picture you being a bad mother. I don't think you have it in you. I think you'd do anything...make any sacrifice to see that your baby grew up healthy and happy." Taylor responded.

 

"Hi, I picked up Chinese. I hope that's okay?" JT said as she walked into the loft loaded down with her treasures.

"That sounds good, smells good too." Torrey said with a smile. "I'm more than ready for a break."

JT watched her mother's face when the older woman wasn't looking. The young girl noticed that the purplish bruise seemed even larger than it did last night. The fact that her mother's eyes told her she spent the afternoon crying didn't escape her attention either.

They sat on the living room floor, a number of food cartons still spread out on top of the coffee table. They didn't converse much, but mother and daughter enjoyed the time simply because they weren't fighting. These kinds of interludes were rare for them lately.

They both leaned back against the couch, but eventually Torrey moved up to sit on the piece of furniture.

"God, I'm getting too old for hardwood floors," she laughed.

After a few moments, JT turned and leaned her elbow on the seat of the sofa by her mother's legs.

"So, are you gonna send me to one of those drug rehab places in Malaysia, where they treat you like POW's?" JT asked quietly.

"Where in the world would you get an idea like that?" Torrey asked, sitting up a little straighter.

"I saw something on 60 Minutes. These parents were all happy, even though it looked like their kids were all brainwashed zombies when they got out." JT replied. Deep down, she didn't think her mother would really set her up in a place like that, but she'd crossed the line this time and there was no telling what that might prompt her usually loving mother to do.

"I have no intention of sending you anyplace like that."

"But, you are sending me somewhere, aren't you?" JT questioned.

Okay, here goes. "I thought it might be a little fun for you. You've never been to California. Well, actually you were, but I don't think you would remember, considering the fact you were only five months old at the time." Torrey answered.

"Is it like Betty Ford or something?" JT asked nervously.

"Jess, I'd like you to go live with Taylor for six months." Torrey said seriously.

"I don't even know her mom. I mean, I know you two are like friends forever and she's the most incredible woman in the world, according to you, but she's a stranger to me." JT explained. "Couldn't I just go to school or live in an apartment out there?"

"Honey, first of all, I'm not sending you out there to get rid of you or so that you can live it up." Torrey reached down and stroked her daughter's hair. JT rarely accepted affection from her anymore and she could tell that, even though her daughter was trying, the young girl still tensed at first.

"Second of all, do you really think you've earned the right to go out there unsupervised?" Torrey asked.

"I guess not." JT answered.

The young woman closed her eyes and enjoyed her mother's touch. It bothered her a little at first, but suddenly she was craving the tender caresses. A feeling like fear ran through her. She would not only be living with a stranger, but for the first time in seventeen years, without her mother. JT lay her head on her mother's knee and let the woman's soothing voice comfort her for the first time in a long time.

"I already asked Taylor and she's looking forward to it."

"Mom," JT smirked up at her mother, "either you're lying or you didn't tell her what I've been up to lately."

Torrey returned the comment with a grin. God, she looks so much like Taylor when she does that.

"Touché. Let's just say she's looking forward to seeing you again." Torrey replied.

"At least it sounds a little more honest. I barely remember her, though." JT said. Her remark tinged with worry.

"You used to cry if she wasn't home to tuck you in. She loved you very much." Torrey finished quietly.

Her mother told her stories of her as a young child and her interaction with Taylor, but she couldn't remember much of it. She was only two years old when the two women went their separate ways, but sometimes when Jessica watched her mother doing simple ordinary tasks, she would get the feeling that she witnessed the same scene once before, but her mother was not alone in her memory. There was always a dark figure that stood silently alongside her mother, but Jessica couldn't put a face to the apparition. After so many years it was almost as if the silent stranger wasn't real, only a part of JT's dreams.

"If she loved me so much and you two got along so well, then why didn't you stay together?"

"It's...complicated." Torrey answered, and JT knew by the look her mother was giving her, there wouldn't be anymore explanation than that.

"It's funny. I met Taylor for the first time when I was your age." Torrey mused almost as if to herself. "You promised me, Jess. Will you keep that promise?" Torrey asked, pulling her daughter's chin up until their eyes met.

JT tried to give her mother a casual smile.

"I promise, mom. I won't let you down this time." JT responded.

"I know how hard what I'm asking you to do is, Jess. When you have one of those overwhelming days just remember, I believe in you, honey." Torrey replied, leaning down to kiss her daughter's head.

Both women held tight to the spoken promise and the reassurance, wondering if the promise would actually be kept.

 




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