Autumn Winds by Anne Azel

seasons

Autumn Winds
by Anne Azel

Part 1

The reporter had waited, as instructed, on that cold autumn day, huddled by an old brick wall until the funeral ended. The press had not been allowed into the cathedral, but the list of attendants read like a Who’s Who of the rich and famous and his editor was eager to get some good shots as they came out. Each public face, no doubt, showing the politically correct amount of grief.

The reporter shivered, pulling up the wool collar of his jacket against the bitter wind. They didn’t come more famous than the “Remarkable Williams Family”. Philip Williams had been a Welsh immigrant to Canada. Through hard work and brilliant financial dealings, he had carved a place for himself among a surprised Canadian Establishment.

Always a nonconformist, at fifty three, he had surprised the conservative Canadian Establishment yet again, by marrying Alexandria Thasos the prima ballerina of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company. She was, at the time, twenty two. To everyone’s greater surprise, the stormy marriage endured until Williams’ mysterious and fatal boating accident at seventy six.

Alexandria gave her “Philly” three equally remarkable offspring; Roberta, Elizabeth and William. Roberta, the oldest, had won Oscars as an actor, playwright and director. She was like her father, brilliant, ruefulness and driven. As one critic wrote, “Robbie Williams could make anyone a star and all it was going to cost them was their soul!”

Number two was Elizabeth, the reclusive physicist, who had advanced our knowledge of quantum mechanics to a degree so complex that few could understand. It was accepted however, amongst enlightened circles, that only she and God completely understood the dynamics involved in the creation of the universe.

“Billy-the-Kid” Williams, the baby black sheep of the family, wild ways had won him three world cups in Formula One racing and the brushed stainless steel coffin that was at this moment being carried from the cathedral.

The reporter moved away from the protection of the brick wall and out into the biting wind to lean against the dirty yellow barricades that had been put up by the concerned police force at the mayor’s request.

The crowd buzzed, anticipating the precession of celebrities. The coffin was carried by Billy-the-Kid’s racing team. They wore their team colours, black with a slash of red down their pant leg.

The blue steel of the coffin was partly hidden by the black and white checker flag that had been unrolled dramatically by Alexandria on her son’s coffin only moments before. The two sister’s had placed his red helmet at one end. It had done its job well. Billy’s handsome head was undamaged, although separated from his neck by the crash.

Descending the long flight of stairs behind the coffin was Alexandria dramatically wrapped in black mink (not the one she had worn at her husband’s funeral). A brilliant red clasp at her throat emphasized her long neck and repeated the racing motif. She appeared distraught at her son’s death but on closer observation through the camera lens, the reporter noted that her eyes were dry.

One step behind the dramatic Alexandria walked the surviving siblings; Roberta, tall, dark and bristling with energy defiantly sneering at the gawkers and mousy Elizabeth, bowed not in grief but in the heady contemplation of the greater universe.

Following them in quiet dignity and completely forgotten by the others, was Billy’s wife, Janet. She held in her arms a baby. Billy’s child. The reporter took a number of close-up shots. It was the third generation’s debut. What a hell of a tradition for a little kid to live up to!

The party paused on the last few stairs watching as the coffin was slipped into the black hearse. It was then that the reporter took the picture that would appear in black and white on newsstands all over the world.

There stood Alexandria dramatically posed with Elizabeth one step behind, lost in thought and partly hidden by the black swirl of mommy’s furs. Alone to the right towered Roberta. She was not looking at the coffin, instead her head was turned looking to the left, past her sister to where Bill’s wife stood with quiet dignity, her arms wrapped protectively around her child. Janet Williams’ strawberry blond hair was the only spot of light in the dark scene.

The expression on Roberta’s face was one of calculated curiosity as if she had just become aware that her brother had left a family and was evaluating her responsibilities and options regarding them, which of course was the case.

A black, stretch limousine pulled slowly forward and the racing team, now no longer burdened with their boss’s body, turned and filed down each side. Those on the left opened the doors to receive the Williams family. Alexandria and Elizabeth stepped forward and disappeared into the luxurious interior. Roberta crossed the step and took the elbow of Janet Williams guiding the surprised woman and her child down to the vehicle. All three disappeared and the racing team closed the doors, waiting for the next limo that would carry them to the grave side.

Inside there was a moment of silence, then Alexandra shifted. “Thank you, Roberta. Beautifully choreographed as always. Although, I’m not sure we shouldn’t have stood longer on the step for the press.”

A ghost of a smile was exchanged by the two sisters. “Nonsense, Alexandria, the light today is far too harsh. It would not have done you justice,” Robbie responded practically, noting the wide-eyed shock on the face of the wife opposite her. Billy had good taste, she thought her eyes slowly traveling up the small woman’s body.

Alexandria sniffed. “Perhaps; that is your field so I shall bow to your judgement, Robbie. Beth, do straighten your shoulders, dear.” Beth did so immediately, a red tide washing up her neck.

“I read your paper on your observations of the event horizon of Cygnus X-1. Can I assume that you feel Schwarzschild’s radius is upheld by the current data?” questioned Robbie turning her neon blue eyes in the direction of her sister. Janet relaxed, no longer under Roberta’s scrutiny. She saw Elizabeth relax too as her big sister came to her aid and led the conversation to waters where she felt comfortable.

“Certainly the light wave front has failed to escape to infinity and hovers around thirty kilometers from the star. That would be expected with Schwarzchild’s radius. What is interesting,” the recluse continued warming to her only interest, “Is that under the principles of quantum mechanics, particles can escape from a black hole. This of course would have appeared impossible using classic mechanics.”

Robbie nodded, “The uncertainly principle,” she muttered as she followed her sister’s train of thought.

Beth smiled. “Planck’s constant comes into play where …”

Alexandria waved a hand in annoyance. “Girls, Billy’s wife doesn’t need to have her mind strained to the limit with Williams’ thought play! Be polite.”

“My name is Janet,” came a soft, firm voice from the corner. All eyes turned to look at the petite blond in surprise.

At the sound of the voice the small child on her lap beamed and reached up. “Mommy, mommy.”

The green eyes turned away from the family and focused on her daughter and her face broke in to a radiant smile. “Hi, little one,” Janet Williams cooed letting the tot play with the leather glove that she had removed.

Robbie stirred uncomfortably. Elizabeth withdrew into herself and Alexandria looked in amazement at the baby as if she had just realized that she was now a grandmother, which of course was the case. “I am not to be called, Grandmother!” she proclaimed.

Janet looked up with startled eyes that quickly turned cool green. “If my daughter and I should ever meet you again, Mrs. Williams, how would you like us to address you?”

Robbie’s laugh exploded in the limo causing the driver to look into his rear view mirror in surprise. Roberta Williams was just as beautiful in real life as she was on the screen. He wondered if the rumours were true that she was gay. Damn pity if it was, he thought, his eyes reluctantly shifting back to the road.

Beth cringed in her respective corner and Alexandria gathered herself up for one for her more notable tirades but was forestalled by a large, strong hand on her arm. “Alexandria is not maternal in nature. We call her Alexandria to her face and anything we dare behind her back,” explained Robbie, those extraordinary eyes once again focused on Janet.

Janet nodded realizing that Roberta had once again come to the rescue. “Really, Roberta!” exclaimed Alexandria. “What will…Janice think?!”

“Janet. And what do we care what she thinks?” drawled Robbie with a raise of an eyebrow.

“Why did you lead me over to this limo?” Janet asked meeting and holding those remarkable eyes as they turned back to her.

“Show,” explained Robbie bluntly stretching out her long legs so that her calf touched Janet’s ankle.

This time Alexandria laughed. “Robbie is always directing, aren’t you dear?”

“Always,” murmured Robbie looking still into Janet’s eyes.

Janet didn’t look away. Backing down was out of the question. She had heard rumours that she was gay and very wild. Was Roberta coming on to her? No, unlikely. She was after all Billy’s widow and was carrying her two year old in her arms. That alone should discourage any interest. No, this was just a little Williams’ mind game but why she wasn’t sure.

“Billy failed to inform the family that he had married. You came as quite a surprise when we read about his wedding in the papers and of course the birth announcement that followed. I didn’t think Billy…”

“Roberta! You go too far. She is a Williams by marriage, I realize, but we hardly know her!” interrupted Alexandria.

The limo came to a stop forestalling any farther discussion. Alexandria, followed by Elizabeth, got out one side while Robbie got out the other. “Roberta, would you mind?” asked Janet holding up the baby. Robbie blinked in confusion then rallied and stepped forward and took the baby awkwardly.

Janet got out of the limo quickly, anticipating the baby making strange with the stiff, cold woman. Much to both Robbie and Janet’s surprise however, the little child looked into those blue eyes and gave a delighted squeal burying her head in Robbie’s neck and her chubby little arms into her dark, thick hair. When Robbie tried to give her back the two year old crunched up her face and hung on tighter. Janet’s eyes twinkled at the look of bewilderment that came across Roberta’s face. Her hand rose to cover a nervous grin then touched her forehead in thought, “Listen, may be you’d better hold on to her just for a little while. This is not the place for a scene,” she suggested.

Robbie’s eyes narrowed. Janet stared back innocently. “Stay right beside me!” Robbie ordered and Janet nodded, obligingly placing her hand around the tall woman’s elbow. They looked at each other at the touch. The wind blew their hair gently about their coat collars. Leaves rustled over head. Then they walked over to join Alexandria and Elizabeth by the grave.

The reporter captured the knot of Williams. Roberta, now holding the third generation, was clearly the head of the family. Alexandria and Elizabeth played their roles and the little wife held onto Roberta’s strong arm for support as she watched the coffin of her husband being placed on the grave supports. The picture appeared on page two.

At the end of the internment service, each of the family members stepped forward and dropped a red rose tied with a black ribbon on the checker flag that covered the coffin. Robbie gave her rose to the baby first then took it and dropped it by the red helmet. The child’s serious blue eyes followed it with intense interest. The last to place her rose was Janet. She leaned down and placed her rose on the coffin. “Thanks,” she whispered and then straightened, tears welling in her eyes as she made her way back to Roberta’s side.

Robbie instinctively wrapped her long arm around the grieving woman and wondered what her self-centered brother had ever done in his life for which he should be thanked. The family moved off. Robbie with her one arm supported the beautiful child: the other wrapped around the upset mother. Alexandria and Elizabeth followed, Alexandria a little surprised at being up-staged by her powerful daughter taking the lead.

At the limo, Robbie turned to meet her sister’s eye. Elizabeth gave the smallest of nods, following her mother into the vehicle, this time sitting beside her. Janet got in next and waited to take her child. To her surprise, Roberta held on to the little girl and easily slipped in beside her.

The conversation on the way to the hotel consisted of Janet telling bedtime stories to Rebecca who sat comfortably in Robbie’s lap and played sleepily with her gold chain. The little girl watched her mother’s face intently as the woman wove simple but beautiful fairy tales. The three Williams sat in wonder, watching the gold headed woman radiating love for her child as she told her stories.

When the child had fallen asleep in Robbie’s arms, she whispered to Janet, “Are you staying at the same hotel?”

“No, no, I plan to drive back home tonight,” explained the widow.

“Where is your car?” Robbie demanded.

“Back at the funeral home,” responded Janet as the limo pulled up to the hotel, “I can get a taxi from here.”

Alexandria made a noise somewhere between a squeal and a snort. “My dear, there is the reception. We have four hundred guests waiting to pay their respects. Do behave! Roberta!?”

Robbie trained her eyes on Janet who looked like she was about to rebel. “You will come with me and trust me to see that things are done right. Don’t worry, I will not expose you to any of Alexandria’s friends.” Janet’s face dropped the scowl and almost smiled.

“Roberta!” protested her mother.

Robbie ignored Alexandria and turned to her sister. “Sorry Sis, you will have to run shotgun while I babysit.”

Elizabeth nodded but said nothing. It was obvious that as far as Beth was concerned Roberta’s word was law.

They all trooped out, Roberta keeping the heir apparent in her arms. It was important that the press see a united Williams’ front. They walked a gauntlet of reporters in the lobby. Robbie wrapped a protective arm around Janet and covered the baby’s face by folding up her collar as they bee-lined for the waiting elevator.

On the top floor, they were ushered by the manager into a private suite where they took off their coats and straightened their make-up. Janet used the time to play with Rebecca on the floor after she had washed and changed her. Then they went to greet their guests in an adjoining hall.

The evening was a blur to Janet who was emotionally drained. Robbie steered her around and when she saw that her eyes were no longer focused she ushered her back into the bedroom and left her to sleep with Rebecca.

Several hours later, Robbie returned to find mother and daughter asleep still, Rebecca safely under the covers with her mom’s protective arm over her and Janet on top of the covers wearing only her slip. Her strawberry blond hair washed across the pillow.

For a minute, Robbie leaned against the door jamb and enjoyed the view. She was a beautiful woman, Robbie concluded – photogenic features; wonder if she can act? She pushed herself off and walked over to the bed. “Janet. Janet. Hey!” Robbie called resorting to giving the petite woman’s bare shoulder a shake. The skin was warm and silky soft under Robbie’s hand. Robbie pulled her hand away.

“Huh? Oh! What time is it?” the blond asked, clearly not fully awake.

“Time to go,” responded Robbie. “I’ll get you a coffee while you are dressing.” She turned and left. Janet got up and busied herself getting washed and dressed and seeing to Rebecca.

Robbie returned some time later with a coffee, a glass of milk and some cookies on a tray. “Here, the limo is downstairs. It will take us over to where your car is parked. Then I’ll drive home with you,” organized Robbie.

Really, I’m okay,” stated Janet hurriedly, “I can manage from here.”

“Feed the kid,” was Robbie’s only response as she again left the room.

When she returned, she had changed to jeans and a suede jacket over a brushed cotton shirt and was carrying an overnight bag. Janet was just getting Rebecca into her coat. “This isn’t necessary,” Janet complained.

“Yes, it is. You are tired and emotional and you plan to drive some five hundred miles through the night with the only Williams’ heir,” Robbie stated bluntly.

“Damn the Williams!” snapped Janet her temper rising at this woman’s clear intention to meddle in her life.

“Too late, they already are,” responded Robbie calmly. “I will drive and you can take care of…”

“Rebecca,” supplied Janet sharply.

“Rebecca,” repeated Robbie looking at the child as she registered her name. Then she reached into her coat pocket and pulled out her cellular phone. “Rowe, we are leaving the hotel now. I’ll be gone two days maybe more.” The phone clicked off.

“I don’t need your help,” Janet said with determination, an edge to her voice now audible.

“Good because you are not getting it. Rebecca is,” muttered Robbie picking up Rebecca and leading Janet out and down to the elevator. They left this time by a side door and entered the limo that pulled up as they stepped out and left as soon as they were safely inside. The trip was made in silence back to the funeral home.

The limo pulled up beside the only vehicle remaining in the parking lot at the funeral home. It was an, old slightly battered, Chevy truck with an extended cab. There was a moment’s silence. Then Robbie snorted, “What – is – that?!”

“My truck,” answered Janet getting out with some difficulty with Rebecca, her purse and the diaper bag and walking over to the dusty, red vehicle. She shifted Rebecca to one arm and fumbled in her coat pocket for her keys. Her gloves fell out and Rebecca stirred restlessly.

Strong arms lifted the child from her. “Here, open the damn door before you drop the kid on its head,” Robbie grumbled. Janet stooped and picked up her gloves then finding the right key she walked around and unlocked the passenger door. Robbie followed, her face devoid of expression. Janet placed the diaper bag inside and turned to scooped the sleeping child from Robbie’s arms bringing the three of them together for an instant. Robbie’s body felt very warm, that was probably why Rebecca liked being close to her. The faintest fragrance of spice drifted over to Janet as she looked up and met Robbie’s eyes when the taller woman spoke. “I’m driving. You can be pissed off as much as you want by that. It is still going to happen.”

Janet sighed in frustration and pulled Rebecca away and into her arms. The sleepy little child reached a hand over Janet’s shoulder. “Oby, Oby come,” she whined.

Janet placed the child into her car seat in the back, carefully fastening her in. She looked at her little girl wondering why she had bonded so quickly to this strange woman. She did look remarkably like her brother, Billy, but Rebecca had never met her father so it was unlikely that was the reason. Strange.

She wiggled back out and flipped the passenger seat back down, turning to face Roberta. “Thank you, Ms. Williams, for your concern. Rebecca and I will be fine,” she said taking out her keys again.

Robbie stepped forward blocking Janet between her body and the door frame. Her hand folded around Janet’s and she squeezed.

“That hurts!” snapped Janet, and the hand around her own relaxed a little.

“Let go of the car keys. You can’t care for a tired baby and drive,” ordered Robbie. For a minute their eyes held in a battle of wills. “Please,” growled the director and Janet opened her hand and let the keys drop out. Robbie scooped them up and went around to the driver’s side and hopped in, turning to look at the annoyed woman.

“On the rare occasions when I feel compelled to be responsible to others, it is for a damn good reason. Don’t question my authority,” Robbie stated calmly her blue eyes the colour of ice. Janet looked at her daughter. “Don’t even think it,” came the response to the plan that had barely seeded in Janet’s mind, to take her daughter and walk off. The petite woman looked back at the driver, then got in and slammed the door.

“This is kidnap,” she growled, staring out the front window in anger as she did up her seat belt.

Robbie leaned forward and turned the key. The engine started with protest. “Add it to my list of crimes,” responded the director bitterly. “Shit! Is this the best vehicle that my brother owns?!”

“Billy and I never lived together,” snapped Janet, anger making her say more than she would normally.

“Yeah, well how did you end up with the kid then?” Robbie asked sarcastically.

“That’s not your concern,” muttered Janet her hands folded in her lap to keep them from shaking.

The strong jaw of the driver tightened as she pulled out on the street. “Is she Billy’s?”

Janet gave her a sneer and didn’t answer. They drove on, Robbie expertly moving through the city traffic and then out on the highway taking them north.

Some hours later, Robbie pulled into a self-serve gas station and got out. Janet watched the famous director pumping gas and cleaning the windows. She looked as dynamic in blue jeans as she had in the black tailored coat of brushed silk she had worn at the funeral. Underneath had been a grey, wool suit, beautifully tailored and set off with a red silk blouse. Elizabeth had worn grey too with a red silk scarf as an accent. Show, Janet realized. The whole funeral, right down to the costumes, had all been arranged by Roberta to perpetuate the Williams’ myth.

Robbie climbed back into the truck. “You hungry?” she asked, “It’s eight o’clock and the sandwiches they served at the reception were for show not substance.”

Janet considered. She was actually starving but it meant disturbing Rebecca and having to spend more time with the objectionable Roberta. Hunger won out. “Yes, something to eat would be good. Rebecca might be a bit cranky though. She doesn’t like to be woken up.”

“Well, if she starts to ball we’ll stuff a hamburger in her mouth or something,” suggested Robbie, looking back at the little bundle asleep in her car seat. She had a small, little fist balled up in her eye. She was kinda cute for a baby, Robbie thought.

Janet gave Roberta a weary look. The director clearly had no idea about children. She opened her heavy door and jumped down then flipped back the seat and undid the straps and pulled Rebecca out. Right on cue Rebecca started to cry. Janet bounced her and talked softly to her as Roberta locked up the truck and came around. The tall figure looked down at the fretting baby,

“Make her stop,” she commanded.

Janet rolled her eyes. “I’m trying Ms. Williams but she is a baby and her schedule has been really upset today.”

Robbie reached out her arms saying, “Gimme,” and Janet handed over her heavy daughter. The director looked down at the startled baby face. “Shut up, okay,” she said and much to Janet’s surprise Rebecca laughed and grabbed for Robbie’s chain. Robbie looked down at Janet and raised an eyebrow, a smug look on her face.

Janet laughed shook her head in disbelief, ” Just for that bit of showing off, Ms. Williams, you can feed her the strained peas!”

“The name is Robbie, and no kid should have to start life on strained peas!” she growled, heading for the diner with Rebecca over her shoulder.

Janet followed not sure just how to take the unusual woman, “All children start out on strained peas. Rebecca is starting to eat solids but I thought it best to have her on the bottled foods while we were on the road.”

“No wonder the world is such a fucking mess if we all started out eating that crap!” muttered Robbie, holding the door for Janet to go ahead.

“Robbie?”

“Hmmm,” the tall woman responded, liking the way Janet said her name. Janet slid into a booth and Robbie slid in the other side.

“If you are going to be part of Rebecca’s life you have to remember not to swear in front of her,” Janet explained softly.

Robbie looked surprised, as she glanced first at Janet, then Rebecca and then back to Janet again.

“Who said anything about being in the kid’s life?!” she exclaimed.

Janet smiled and looked down at her daughter, who once again had wrapped her little arms around Robbie’s neck and was happily chewing on Robbie’s collar. Then she looked back up at Robbie. A slow blush was creeping up her neck. “You are here aren’t you? And you have taken Rebecca every chance you can.”

“Hey, wait!” protested Robbie, the red now glowing on her high, defined cheek bones.

“Excuse me, would you like a highchair for your little one?” asked the waitress, looking down at Robbie.

“Agh,” Robbie said, looking at the floor for the answer.

“Yes, she would,” translated Janet. “Don’t they look alike?” she added as a tease.

The waitress smiled, reaching out to smooth Rebecca’s dark, sleep rumpled hair, “She’s got mom’s hair. Are you going to look just like your mommy?” she cooed.

Janet hid a grin behind the hand that was propped up on the table. Robbie buried her face in Rebecca’s neck.

“Can we have menus too, please?” asked Janet.

“Sure thing,” said the waitress, moving off.

Robbie looked up at Janet in annoyance. “Why’d you do that for?!” she demanded.

Janet grinned broadly and put her head to one side to observe the hot and bothered director. “This was your idea,” she reminded sweetly.

Robbie scowled and was just about to respond when the highchair showed up. “Here you are,” the waitress said, placing the wood highchair at the end of the table, and the menus down on the blue table cloth before she left.

Robbie looked at Janet. Janet smiled and waited. Robbie’s scowl got deeper as she slid off the bench and lifted Rebecca up to put her in the highchair. Rebecca laughed gleefully and swung her legs up making it impossible to slide her into the chair. Robbie tried again. Another gleefully received aborted attempt.

“This kid has your sick sense of humour,” Robbie muttered, grabbing Rebecca’s legs with one hand and stuffing them gently under the highchair’s table, as she lowered Rebecca in place on a successful third try. Rebecca grabbed hold of Robbie’s gold chain, making it impossible for her to straighten up.

Janet decided prudently that this was the time to come to the rescue before there was one of the famous Williams’ scenes. “Rebecca,” she called softly and her daughter immediately forgot Robbie and let go of the chain, reaching her little arms out to her mom. Janet took the hands and kissed them. “That’s a good girl,” she said.

Robbie sighed and slid back into the booth, looking at the mother and daughter with confused eyes. Why the hell was she here anyway? Why should she be making Billy’s family her responsibility?

“So are you going to try feeding her now you’ve mastered highchair?” asked Janet, leading Robbie on, as she read her menu.

“I can feed her,” muttered Robbie with irritation, looking at her own menu.

“Ready to order?” asked the waitress, who had returned to their table.

“I’ll have a cheese omelette,” ordered Robbie, from behind the menu, “and…my daughter will have scrambled eggs.”

“I’ll have bacon and eggs with extra toast please,” requested Janet with a smile. The waitress smiled back and went to see to the order. Janet looked over at Robbie. “Your daughter?” she inquired.

“Hey, you started it! What am I going to say now,? That I’ve never seen the kid before today?!” asked Robbie, leaning forward and propping her chin on her hand. “Do immature humans eat scrambled eggs?” she asked, as an after thought.

“Now’s not the time to be asking,” pointed out Janet, her eyes dancing with merriment at the thought of Robbie trying to feed her stubborn daughter.

Robbie looked down at the tablecloth, tracing patterns with a long, slender finger gracefully. “Listen, I’m kind of head of the family now. I feel I’ve got some responsibility to see that Rebecca here is okay.”

“Were you and Billy close?” asked Janet looking up from watching Robbie’s hand. She had beautiful hands with long artist’s fingers. In fact, Roberta Williams was a knock out. One of those rare people that were very comfortable and unaffected by their incredible good looks.

Robbie frowned, “No.”

“Robbie, Billy never saw his daughter. The Williams family does not have any responsibility to Rebecca. I’m quite capable of raising her on my own.”

“What the hell sort of relationship did my brother have with you?!” Robbie asked in irritation. Janet was saved from answering by the arrival of their food. This time Janet noticed that Robbie deliberately did not look up at the waitress. Nor had she last time. She doesn’t want to be recognized! I hadn’t even thought about her being famous.

“Thanks,” smiled Janet, drawing the attention to herself.

“You’re welcome,” replied the waitress, walking off.

“I’m sorry,” Janet said, reaching over to touch Robbie’s arm.

Robbie liked the touch but didn’t show it. “Sorry for what?”

“For bringing attention to you last time the waitress was here. It never occurred to me…I’m sorry,” repeated Janet sincerely.

Robbie shrugged and looked uncomfortable. “So you tell me about your relationship with Billy and I’ll stuff these eggs into the kid, okay?”

Janet looked into those remarkable blue eyes while she considered. They seemed to glow with an inner light. “Okay,” she said, wondering if Robbie would understand.

Robbie picked up a fork determinedly. Janet took it away and handed her a teaspoon. “Just put a little on and blow on it first so it is cool,” she cautioned. Robbie nodded and scooped up some egg and blew on it. Then offered it to Rebecca. Rebecca grabbed the spoon with a laugh and tipped it over into Robbie’s lap.

“Shit!” Robbie snapped.

Janet raised an eyebrow in annoyance.

“The kid got egg all over me!” protested Robbie. Janet said nothing. Robbie scooped up, blew on and offered egg again. This time Rebecca refused to open her mouth but one egg filled hand came up and grabbed Robbie’s hair.

Janet saw the look and reacted immediately, “Here,” she said, hurriedly offering Robbie her napkin, “like this.” Janet took the spoon and readied a mouthful. “Here you are, sweet one, open up for mommy. That’s a good girl. Do you like the eggs Aunt Robbie got you? Come on, have another spoonful,” Janet coaxed, putting the spoon in her daughter’s mouth then lifting it up so the egg was scraped off as the spoon was withdrawn.

Robbie watched intently, finding the exchange between mother and daughter fascinating.

“Okay, now you try,” Janet smiled handing the spoon back to Robbie. Robbie repeated the action. Right down to Janet’s expressions and voice tone. Rebecca ate her egg happily and Janet sat with her mouth open in shock.

“That’s me!” She gasped.

Robbie smiled and wiggled her eyebrows. Rebecca burped and threw up on Robbie’s hand.

Robbie lifted her hand and watched the partly digested egg drip off. “And just what expression do I use to describe what I am feeling now?” she asked quietly, pulling a face.

“I usually say, Oh dear,” offered Janet trying not to laugh.

“Nope, ‘Oh dear’ just doesn’t cut it dramatically,” sighed Robbie.

“Here,” said Janet softly, taking Robbie’s hand and wiping it clean with her napkin. “Tell you what, you eat your dinner and I’ll finish feeding Rebecca. I’m used to eating with one hand.”

Robbie didn’t protest. She’d had successfully stifled, for now, any nesting instinct that might have been lying dormant within her. She looked down at her cool and partly congealed omelette. Janet’s eyes followed. “You get used to eating your food cold,” she sighed. Robbie nodded and ate her dinner moodily, watching silently while Janet ate and fed Rebecca at the same time.

They left some time later, Janet carrying a now tired and grumpy child to the truck. Robbie gingerly held the crying child while Janet got in the rear seat and then with relief passed Rebecca over. Janet strapped her miserable daughter into her car seat while Robbie walked around and slipped into the driver’s seat once again. For a while the sound of wailing pierced the air above Janet’s soothing voice.

Then both child and mom went quiet as Robbie started to sing. Her songs were old Welsh lullabies and her voice was low and melodic. Soon Rebecca was fast asleep and Robbie pulled to the side to let Janet get back into the front seat. “You have a beautiful voice,” she said as they started off again.

“Hmm,” responded Robbie disinterestedly.

“Have you sung professionally? I don’t remember you singing in any of your movies except in

‘Dark Night’ but that was just a few words and you were drunk then,” pattered Janet.

An eyebrow went up, “No, I don’t sing professionally. And I wasn’t drunk. I was acting drunk.

There is a big difference,” the actor clarified.

“You don’t drink alcohol at all?” asked Janet in surprise. She had understood that the famous director had lived a rather wild life.

“Rarely and never to excess,” responded Robbie. “Where do I turn off the highway?”

“Just north of Bartlet,” Janet responded, as she studied the profile of the actor.

“Nothing is north of Bartlet,” observed Robbie sarcastically, “Is there something wrong with my face?”

Janet smiled, “No, you are really very beautiful but I guess you hear that a lot. No, I was trying to understand you. You are a very complex person.”

Robbie had heard she was beautiful a lot but somehow that Janet thought so made her tired spirits rise. She wasn’t sure, however, if she wanted Janet to understand her. She probably wouldn’t like what she found.

Janet had shifted so that she leaned against her door and was looking at Robbie. She was a strange and beautiful enigma, filled with a pulsating energy that could focus in a instant in violence or in care. Janet couldn’t explain why but she really didn’t dislike this woman as she had first thought she would. In fact, she found herself very much impressed by Roberta Williams.

She had found the Williams family a trying experience. What if anything happened to her? Legally, her daughter would be handed over to Alexandria. That scared the hell out of Janet. Elizabeth seemed nice, but she lived in her own world. She wouldn’t have time for an active child like Rebecca. Then there was Robbie…

“Can I ask you a question?”

“I guess,” Robbie sighed, waiting to hear one of the standard fan questions.

“Would you be Rebecca’s guardian?”

The truck swerved onto the gravel shoulder and then bounced back on the tarmac. “What!?”

“If anything were to happen to me, I want to make sure Rebecca has someone that will take good care of her. Billy’s dead and I don’t have any family. I don’t want Rebecca running any chance of having the childhood I did,” explained Janet.

Robbie stole a look at the face of the serious woman beside her. “You were an orphan?”

“Yes.”

“Who raised you?”

“My grandfather,” answered Janet openly.

“Why me? Do you know anything about me?!” asked Robbie, in disbelief.

“All I’ve read about you was pretty negative. You are supposed to be a creative genius but a tyrant. Did you really cause Sally Gershman’s nervous breakdown?”

“Most likely. So why me then?” Robbie repeated stubbornly.

“I’ve seen a bit of that tyrannical nature tonight, but I don’t think Rebecca would be intimidated by it. I’ve also seen another side of you today. Elizabeth adores you. Alexandria respects you and I’ve learned that you have a really soft heart.”

“Crap.”

“Will you be her guardian?” repeated Janet, proving herself just as stubborn as Robbie.

There was a long silence as various emotions washed across Robbie’s face. “Yes,” she finally said.

“I’m glad,” Janet said softly and leaned back against the headrest.

An hour later, they turned off the Bartlett road and bounced down a rutted dirt lane pressed in on either side by thick trees. “Do you live with the bears?” asked Robbie sarcastically.

“Only in the winter,” Janet yawned, as they came to a stop outside a log cabin. “This is where we live,” Janet explained.

Robbie looked at the log cabin in disbelief, “Who with? Daniel Boone!?”
part 2
I like it, Robbie concluded looking around the small log home while Janet busied herself getting an exhausted Rebecca to bed. The log walls were varnished a soft honey colour and the furniture was over stuffed, traditional and comfy. The sofa and chair were in a deep burgundy plaid and the matching chair a forest green.

The focus of the room was a huge fireplace of granite stones on either side of which were large windows. Robbie looked out but the night was too dark to see the view. The kitchen was to the other side, separated by a log counter with a cut stone top. The third wall was built-in bookcases with a t.v. centre inset. And the last wall opened onto a hall, off which were two bedrooms and a bathroom.

They had entered by the side door, near the kitchen. The front door was in a small entrance hall beside the living room. The front door, from what Robbie could see out the window, seemed to open onto a front porch that ran the length of the house.

It was small but very well organized and tastefully decorated. Robbie put her overnight bag down on the chair and walked over to look at the large painting over the mantel. The artist was a well known Eastern Woodland Indian painter. The image was of Corn Mother feeding her young. The subject was simple and bold in colour. Like that too, Robbie thought then wandered across the room to look at the books.

There was a scattering of popular literature but the vast majority of the books were related to educational philosophy. Hell! Billy married a school marm!

“Sorry to leave you standing there, Robbie, but I had to get Rebecca to bed,” explained Janet walking back into the room.

“You’re a school teacher?! Over paid, under worked, summers off, don’t care about basics or kids, school teacher?!” growled Robbie lifting the book in her hand to reveal the title, Methodology in Gifted Classrooms by J. J. Layton.

“What! Listen you…” started Janet in annoyance, the red warming her cheeks. Then she saw the sparkle in Robbie’s eyes. “I bet you were a real terror in school,” she laughed folding her arms across her chest and giving the tall woman her best teacher look.

Robbie’s face became instantly innocent as she pointed her index finger at herself. “Me?”

“Hmmm, it explains why you turned into a rude, overbearing, ego-centric workaholic,” growled Janet in her best imitation of Robbie’s voice.

Robbie feigned surprise and hurt and Janet walked over to her and took the book from her hand and placed it back on the shelf. Their bodies were very close now and again Janet sensed the warm, gentle heat and spicy scent of the famous actor. It’s no wonder she has such a wild reputation. Robbie Williams would be very hard to resist, thought Janet.

She turned to find Robbie very close, looking down at her. For a moment there was a silence that radiated tension then Robbie stepped back and asked, “Well, are you a school marm?!”

“Yes, I’m the principal at The Bartlet School for the Gifted,” revealed Janet over her shoulder as she hurried to put the kitchen counter between her and Robbie. The way she was feeling about this woman was definitely not good. Shit! “Can I get you anything? I usually have a cup of tea around this time,” rambled Janet.

Robbie nodded and moved to stand by the dark window in contemplation. “Yeah, tea would be good,” she responded after a minute. Damn, I must be tired. I almost kissed her! What the hell is the matter with you Williams! Robbie thought trying to pull herself together. What the hell am I doing here?!

“So just what kind of relationship did you have with my brother?” asked Robbie going on the offensive, “You never did answer me.”

Janet grimaced and put down the mug that she was holding. She looked over the counter at the tall woman who had turned to look at her. Their eyes met. Janet licked her lips. There was no point in lying. Robbie would check, she knew she would. “I needed money quickly. Lots of money, so I sold my body to your brother,” she answered quietly pleased that her voice hadn’t cracked with the emotion she was holding firmly in check. The blue eyes registered surprise followed by doubt.

Janet swallowed and fumbled to make the tea with shaking hands. The splash of the hot water and rattle of the china were painfully loud in the deafening silence that had followed her statement. When she finally looked up Robbie was still standing there looking at her, a shrewd and calculating look on her face.

“Would you like to put your bag in your room while the tea is brewing?” Janet asked to end the silence.

“Yes,” Robbie replied meeting Janet’s eyes. Janet read perplexity. Robbie saw pain in the green eyes that looked back at her.

Robbie followed Janet into a bedroom that was clearly hers. Here the large logs were hung with Navaho rugs. They weren’t big but they were of a good quality, Robbie noted as she leaned on the door jamb after placing her bag on the floor. “So you sell your body, huh?” she purred and saw the shock and anger rise in Janet’s eyes. “How much?” she enquired with a voice laced with steel.

“It was a one-time business deal, Robbie. Back off!” Janet warned, stepping back as Robbie stepped toward her. The tall woman looked hungry and mean and she walked like a dark, jungle cat stalking its prey. Janet reached behind her as she took the last step back.

Quickly, she picked up the wood based lamp and swung it at Robbie. Robbie stopped it with one hand. For a long minute the two women glared at each other. “What did you think I was going to do? Rape you?!” drawled Robbie, one eye brow arched in annoyance.

“Let’s get one thing straight here, Williams. If you are going to be part of Rebecca and my life, you will not try your little mind games or intimidations on me!” snarled Janet.

“I want to know the truth!” growled Robbie.

“Truth?!” snorted Janet, pushing past Robbie and heading for the kitchen, “After the Williams’ staging I witnessed today, I’d be hard pressed to believe that truth could survive in your world!”

She walked into the kitchen and found that her hands were shaking so hard with anger, she couldn’t pour the tea. Robbie stepped around the corner and Janet jumped.

Robbie rolled her eyes and turned to pour the tea with steady hands and carry the mugs into the living room. The coffee table, she put the mugs down on, was in the shape of an old fashioned sled. Janet had unusual and creative taste, Robbie decided, as she sat down in the green chair and stretched out her long legs crossing her ankles comfortably. She raised an eyebrow at the angry woman who still stood in the kitchen and waited.

Janet came around the counter and dropped into the Burgundy chair at the other end of the coffee table. “That was a disgusting thing you did, you god-damn bitch,” snarled Janet her voice shaking with emotion.

Robbie shrugged unimpressed. She’d been called worse. “And your business deal wasn’t? I told you before, accept my authority. Everything you have ever heard about me is true and there is a lot you haven’t heard. Now, tell me what I want to know.”

“I am prepared to accept your intelligence and ability, Robbie. But you have no authority over my life and never will. We will start to get on a lot better when YOU accept an equal relationship with me,” responded the petite woman confidently.

Robbie got the ghost of a smile that Janet found so sexy. “I’ll give you this, school marm, you can hold your own! I don’t want the press digging up any dirt that I don’t know about and can’t react to immediately. What you tell me will not go any farther.”

Janet nodded. “There is not too much to tell. My grandfather was a gambler. As he got older he lost some of his sharpness and all of his money. He signed my name to some debts that he was not able to pay. He died and I found out I owed a fortune. The creditors would not consider payments and the bank would not give me a loan for that amount of money. I was facing a prison term.

I was desperate. I met your brother at a party. He was desperate too. He said he needed an heir but he didn’t want any obligations to either the child or its mother. I said I’d have and raise an heir for him in exchange for the money I needed,” explained Janet looking at the fireplace, her face white with stress.

Silence.

Robbie got up, “I’m going to bed now. Where are you sleeping,” she asked abruptly.

Janet looked up, her eyes blinking at the sudden change of subject. “Here, on the couch,” she stated. Robbie nodded and was gone. Janet leaned her head back on the chair, emotionally drained by the day and by Robbie Williams. The woman was impossible, an erratic blend of fire and ice.

Robbie lay in Janet’s bed, her hands folded under her head, and stared at the ceiling. She was taut with anger and she had absolutely no idea why. She had got what she wanted from Janet. She had spirit, that little one. The bed had a lingering scent of hot summer herbs and honey that she knew was the chemical makeup of Janet.

Billy had got what he wanted too. Her heart jolted and a pain filled her chest, Shit! That was it! She was jealous that Billy had bedded Janet! Get a grip here, lady! This woman is nothing to you! She probably isn’t even gay. You’re just experiencing some latent nesting syndrome because you like Rebecca. Reb was all right. Really, well behaved for a kid. Wonder why Billy suddenly felt he had to have a child? Then an awful realization exploded on her mind. A fear gripped her heart and she rolled out of bed, grabbing her night gown.

Janet was still sitting in the chair. She looked and felt completely numb. The bedroom door opened and in a few quick strides Robbie was in front of her, “Why did he marry you? He could have got an heir without marrying you?! Why?!” she demanded.

Janet sighed and answered in a voice devoid of energy or emotion. “He insisted. He said his child couldn’t be a bastard. We even waited a few months after we were married before… He wanted no doubt that the child was his legal heir. He said it was important.

Then Robbie understood and cold icicles of fear ran down her back. “This is important,” she stated seriously, fighting not to show any of her true feelings, “Did he tell you anything else?”

Janet shook her head and the towering woman seemed to relax a bit. She wore only a blue, silk bed jacket tied with a belt. The jacket ended half way between her knee and her hip. Her legs were incredibly long and shapely. She must sleep naked, Janet thought and then looked away to the dead ashes in the hearth.

Robbie looked at the woman intently. No, she didn’t know anymore, she reasoned and turned on her heel and was gone. Janet barely noticed her leaving she was so exhausted.

Janet woke early, to the sound of Rebecca demanding attention. For a minute, she had no idea where she was, then the events of the day before filtered back into her consciousness. She’d better get up. No doubt her damn uninvited houseguest would want a hunk of raw meat thrown in her direction for breakfast. With a sigh, she rolled off the couch onto her feet and moved blurry eyed towards Rebecca’s room. “Hi sweetheart!” she called to the small child who stood in her crib holding on to the bars. At the sight of her mom, she bounced with glee. “Want to shower with mommy this morning?” More giggles of delight.

Janet stripped off Rebecca’s diaper and carried her into the bathroom. The happy child played with her rubber ducky until her mom had turned on and adjusted the water for their shower. After much singing, giggling and soap bubbles the two emerged squeaky clean and with a warm glow. Janet slipped a Toronto Maple Leaf jersey over her head and a similar one over Rebecca’s. Then mother and daughter headed off for the kitchen to see to breakfast.

Robbie’s bedroom door was open and after hesitating, Janet moved farther down the hall and looked in. The bed had been stripped and the sheets left neatly folded at the end of the bed. Robbie’s overnight bag was zipped closed and lay on a chair. It was the only indication that Robbie was still around. Rebecca squirmed to be let down and Janet came back from her thoughts and lowered her active daughter to her feet. Rebecca looked into the room. “Mommy’s room,” said the child pointing.

“Yes, mommy’s room,” agreed Janet. “Come on Rebecca, let’s get some breakfast, okay?”

Rebecca giggled and ran wobbly on her feet towards the kitchen.

“What will it be partner?” asked Janet looking over the counter and down at her daughter who looked back with serious blue eyes.

“Banana, peas,” came the response.

“You’d like a banana on fresh bread?” clarified Janet with a smile at her daughter’s good manners.

“Yes, peas,” came the response as Rebecca ran across the room and stood by the screen door. “Oby come. Oby come,” the little child reported happily.

Janet felt her gut tighten but she smiled and said, “Good, Robbie can have breakfast with you, Rebecca.”

Robbie kept a steady pace up the dirt road. It was nice running in the cool of the woods rather than out on the hard pavement of the city. The air smelt of pine not diesel and the ground was softer under foot. She picked up the pace enjoying the high that a long run always gave her. The road bent and Robbie caught a glimpse of the lake before she dropped back into the mottled shadows that lead back to Janet’s log cabin.

Running up the wide wood stairs, she came to a stop on the large porch that over looked a long, narrow lake. The view was framed by tall pines and out on the lake a pair of loons called to each other in a lonely, plaintive cries.

“Oby!” came a voice from behind her and the director turned to see Rebecca standing at the screen door, looking at her.

“Hi, Rebel! How are you doing this morning?” Robbie asked feeling herself drawn to her brother’s child by some powerful inner force. She carefully opened the door and stepped in. Rebecca looked way up and fell on her bum in the process. “Oops, you okay, kid?” asked the dark woman from way above her.

Rebecca reached up her small arms, “Oby up. Oby up,” she insisted. Strong arms wrapped around her and the next minute, she shot up in the air and was looking down at Oby’s face. She laughed happily and the tall woman laughed too.

Robbie swung Rebecca up into her arms and walked over to where Janet was working in the kitchen. “Morning,” she said stiffly.

“Good morning,” came a hostile voice in return.

Robbie smiled cruelly. “Still got our feathers ruffled have we?” she drawled. Janet gave her a murderous look but said nothing. She sliced a banana onto a piece of fresh bread, folded the bread over and passed it to her daughter who was still wrapped contentedly in Robbie’s arms.

“What would you like to eat?” she asked the tall woman formally. Robbie looked down at Rebecca who was busily pulling out slices of banana and mushing them into Robbie’s shoulder.

Robbie smiled wearily as a partly chewed piece of sticky fruit slipped down her cleavage. “You did that deliberately, didn’t you?” she asked an eyebrow going up in annoyance.

“Yes,” smiled Janet from behind her coffee mug as she watched her daughter be… well, her daughter. Rebecca laughed with a mouth full of banana and reached up with a sticky hand to grab Robbie’s nose. Banana slime now dripped from the famous woman’s face. Janet snorted into her coffee.

“Okay, Reb, you’ve given your mom enough entertainment at my expense,” said the tall woman coming around the counter to place Rebecca in her highchair. The banana sandwich went on the floor. Robbie sighed and bent to pick it up. “I can’t understand why the world is over populated,” muttered the director looking disgustedly at the mushed sandwich before she dropped it into the garbage.

“Go clean up and I’ll finish feeding Rebecca and get us some breakfast too,” stated Janet looking at the woman who now stood beside her.

Robbie looked down at Janet. The petite woman had spunk and a nasty sense of humour. She was pretty and intelligent too. Her little brother had picked some good genetic stock it would seem. “So you are speaking to me now, huh?” she growled.

“It would be childish not to. However, for the record, you are not forgiven for your appalling behaviour last night,” stated Janet turning away. She could feel Robbie behind her. Feel her warmth and the intense energy that always seemed to be around her. Then the feeling was gone, Robbie walked passed on the other side of the counter.

“Breakfast isn’t necessary,” stated the retreating figure.

Janet’s eyes followed the arrogant woman in amazement. Robbie bullies her last night and then gets her feelings hurt this morning because Janet is still angry at her! The woman was the strangest piece of work that Janet had ever come across! Angrily, Janet peeled the remainder of the banana and passed it to her daughter to eat. “Here you are, Reb,” she said softly. Now where had that come from?! Robbie had called her that. Damn! The name seemed to suit her fearless daughter too. Perplexed, she turned back to the kitchen and started to prepare blackberry pancakes for the two of them.

Robbie stormed into the bedroom and stripped off her sweats. Opening her bag, she pulled out her dressing gown and slipped it on and then took out underwear, jeans and a sweatshirt. She headed down the hall to the bathroom and was dismayed to find it smelt of the warm sweet herbs that were Janet. Shit! Why am I angry? Who cares if she thinks I’m a bastard? I am! Damn the woman anyway, Robbie grumbled, as she slipped out of her wrap, and stepped on a wet rubber ducky in the shower.

Janet had cleaned Reb up and was just placing her in her play pen when she heard the crash. She walked over to the hall and then hurried down to the bathroom door. “Are you okay?” she asked the door. No answer. “Robbie, are you okay?!”she repeated, her voice a little louder. There was still no answer. Janet knocked on the door. Nothing. She turned the knob and looked in. Robbie lay on the bathroom floor, half in and half out of the shower. Janet’s shocked mind registered three things one after the other: She’s naked. She’s gorgeous. Oh my God, I think she’s dead!

Robbie came round a few minutes later to find herself in Janet’s arms and covered respectfully with a bath towel. Her head throbbed and her knee ached terribly. She closed her eyes and played hurt to the best of her ability. Janet held an ice pack on the lump growing on her temple and she was calling to her softly. “Robbie, Robbie are you okay?”

The actor milked the scene for all it was worth before opening the baby blues. “You left that duck there on purpose, didn’t you?” she drawled, her eyebrow going up in question as she looked at Janet.

“Well, no, but I wish I had,” revealed Janet with a grin.

Robbie nodded. “Are we even now?” she asked seriously.

“No,” stated Janet, “I did not try to intimidate you! But I am sorry that you hurt yourself on Reb’s toy,” responded the smaller woman honestly.

Robbie sighed in annoyance. “Why, because I might sue?” she asked sharply.

“No, because I don’t like to bring harm to anyone deliberately or by accident,” responded Janet with feeling, “Even if that someone had it coming!”

“I might sue!” snapped Robbie in annoyance.

“Oh yeah, the mighty Roberta Williams is going to sue because she was laid low by a rubber ducky!” mocked Janet and the two women broke out laughing.

“Ouch, that hurts!” grumbled Robbie reaching for her temple and in doing so covering Janet’s hand where she held the ice pack in place. Robbie pulled her hand away immediately. “Sorry,” she said awkwardly.

For a second the two women looked into each other’s eyes, then Janet said, “Listen, you want to try getting up?”

“Janet?”

“Yes?”

“My knee is twisted. I’m letting you know in case I have to lean on you,” stated Robbie seriously.

“You can lean on me,” came the response and both women knew that an apology had been offered and accepted and that new lines of behaviour had been drawn between them. Robbie could not remember apologizing for her actions before, even as indirectly as she had just now done to Janet. This whole weekend was turning out to have some real surprises in it!

“Janet, I am not going to your doctor!” yelled Robbie, some time later from where she lay on the living room couch.

Reb, who was sitting contented on top of Robbie looked startled and then hit Robbie’s hand. “Bad Oby! Bad Oby!” she scowled.

Robbie looked at the little girl in surprise, “Shit, you are just like your old lady,” she muttered.

“Robbie don’t…” started Janet who had walked over to continue the argument. Robbie had a pack of frozen peas on her knee but the knee was continuing to swell by the moment.

“Shit, mommy! Shit, mommy!” Reb repeated. Robbie roared with laughter.

“No,” Janet stated firmly and Rebecca looked worried. “Bad, Rebecca,” Janet said and Rebecca reached up to her mommy in tears. Janet picked up her upset daughter and held her.

“Now look what you have done!” growled the actor fighting the urge to come to Reb’s defense.

“I did!? Look, Roberta, your leg is getting worse. You need medical attention.”

“I’ll need more than that if I go sit in a waiting room. Have you any idea how aggressive fans can be?”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. Look Bill, that’s Doctor Perkins, is a friend of mine. I’m sure if I asked him, he’d come over after work and look at the knee. Okay?” suggested Janet swinging back and forth as she soothed the worried child.

“How good a friend?” demanded Robbie pulling herself up on her elbows and scowling.

“What?!” asked the startled woman lowering her daughter to the floor to buy some time.

“You heard me, how good a friend?”

“That is not your business, Ms. Williams,” stated Janet formally, going to start the breakfast dishes in the kitchen. To her surprise, Robbie was right behind her! “Robbie! You are going to damage your leg even more!”

“I want to know!” demanded Robbie getting that stubborn look that Janet was quickly learning meant big trouble.

“Don’t even think about intimidating me!” hissed Janet angrily pushing past Robbie so that she wobbled back against the counter.

“I’m family! Family has no secrets,” argued the tall woman rubbing her knee in pain.

Janet snorted as she wiped Reb’s highchair table clean. “Your family is totally dysfunctional!”

“Don’t try to change the subject,” Robbie commanded, remaining focused on her goal.

Janet sighed, rolled her eyes and turned to look at this stranger who had bullied her way into her life in a most irritating manner. “A deal. I’ll tell you about my relationship with Bill and you agree to do what he says,” she suggested already planning to have Bill pack Robbie off back to a city specialist.

“Okay,” agreed Robbie all too readily. She had some plans forming of her own.

Janet’s eyes narrowed. What was the exasperating woman up to?! Leaning against the counter she said, “Bill and I have an understanding.”

“What the f… What does that mean?” Robbie amended as Reb came running around the corner and wrapped her arms around her mother’s leg. She had Robbie’s bag of frozen peas on her head. Janet reached down and took them off placing the plastic bag on the counter. “It means that there might be a time in the future, when Bill’s practice is established, that we might consider marriage,” she explained awkwardly, not looking at Robbie.

Silence. She’s a lousy liar, thought Robbie, “Ahhh; would he be a good step father?”

“Yes.”

Robbie limped past Janet, picking up the bag as she went, and returned to the couch to work on her laptop. Janet went back to her dishes and Reb quietly went to play in the ashes of the fire.

Late in the morning, the fall day clouded over and a steady drizzle started to fall. Robbie had closed up her laptop and had flipped through a number of the books on the bookshelf. There were four by J. J. Layton. Flipping to the back jacket, Robbie was startled to see Janet staring back at her in black and white. So Janet Williams was also J. J. Layton M Ed.

Janet returned from having put Reb down for her afternoon nap. “These are yours,” observed Robbie as Janet walked by.

“Yes, I know,” responded the author stiffly. “Bill said you were to stay off that leg until he has a chance to see it,” Janet pointed out as she went to clean the ashes out of the hearth.

“I’m bored!” grumbled the famous actor, putting the book back neatly on the shelf and hobbling over stiff legged to sit back down on the couch and watch Janet work. Janet placed the ashes in a metal pail to be carried outside and dumped in a sand pit.

When she came back in from this chore, she found Robbie sitting on the floor going through her small collection of videos that she kept in the drawer under her T.V. unit. “Make yourself at home. Feel free to go through my cupboards,” said Janet sarcastically as she put away the ash bucket in the broom closet.

“Thanks,” muttered Robbie ignoring the barb. “You don’t have any of mine,” she continued peevishly.

“No,” answered Janet, heading for the kitchen to put the kettle on.

“Why?” asked the Robbie looking over at the petite woman who could barely be seen over the counter from that angle.

“They’re too violent,” stated Janet. “I like things with happy endings.”

Robbie let her face remain still and passive. Okay so Janet doesn’t like her movies, so what!

“You’ve got Jurassic Park. Didn’t the really big dinosaurs scare you?” she asked resorting to a bit of sarcasm herself.

“Nope, I always root for the animals,” Janet observed. “But I was terrified for those kids!”

Robbie nodded. Putting kids or animals in danger really heightens tension in a screen play, she thought. “Ahhh, you want to watch a movie with me?” she asked much to her own surprise, feeling a heat climb up her face.

Janet hesitated for a minute. She really did find herself liking Robbie even though she hated the way Robbie behaved at times. She did seem to be the best of the pick in the Williams family, not that that was saying much. Reb needed to know her father’s family and this was the woman, for now, that she had picked to watch over her child if anything was to happen to her.

Robbie would take that job very seriously, she knew. However inappropriately she might behave, there was a sort of noble core about Roberta Williams. It was a shame she was so filled with anger. “I was just going to make a pot of tea. I think I’ve got some home made oatmeal cookies. Shall we have some with the movie?” To her surprise, she saw Robbie relax, as if she had been holding her breath waiting for an answer.

“Yeah, that would be good. Those pancakes you made this morning…they were good,” Robbie got out awkwardly as she pretended to read the copyright information on the video case.

Janet smiled. A compliment of sorts! It sounded like the first one she has ever given! Janet made the tea and brought it over on a tray with a plate of raisin-oatmeal cookies. Robbie slipped in the video and pulled a cushion onto the floor so that she could watch lying down. She watched intently, her blue eyes moving constantly over the screen, taking in every detail.

Janet watched Robbie. She was very beautiful and in a very, real way. She wasn’t the product of dieting and makeup, she was just naturally good looking and healthy. She was almost larger than life in her vitality and presence, Janet realized. The woman, however aggressive and commanding, was mesmerizing.

“I like a good adventure show, do you?” she asked the director passing her the plate of cookies.

“Adventure show!?! God-damn-it lady, this is Spielburg! Have you really looked at this film?!”

snapped Robbie making Janet jump in surprise and spill cookies over the polished wood floor. Robbie did not appear to notice; she had grabbed the remote and was rewinding the tape, a look of utter disgust on her face.

“Okay, look, the helocopter comes in low over the water. ‘Copters don’t do that in real life! It’s dangerous and besides aviation regulations call for five hundred feet minimum. The director chose to do that,” Robbie pointed, freezing the action, “See, now look, the point of view has shifted from the ‘copter to the approaching island. The viewer is forced to look up. You are approaching the Jurassic World were nature dominates and humans are made small. Spielburg is setting the stage.

Watch,” Robbie ordered, starting the film again, ” Look how the ‘copter has to go around the small island. Already nature is dominating. And look at the shape of the island! Tall, dinosaur-like!” Robbie’s mood shifted from annoyance to excitement as she warmed to her subject. “Okay, this is the valley scene. Watch! See, they go down the long valley. No ‘copter pilot would do that normally. It’s symbolic. You are entering the world of Jurassic Park. It is a birth image.”

“Now they run into trouble. Turbulence. The missing seatbelt strap. There is confusion. They can’t cope. Finally, the knotted belt; it is a very human action. It draws us to the protagonist. We bond in the common experience of having to deal with the ordinary frustrations of things like seat belts. This whole section is foreshadowing of things to come. The best laid plans are all ready falling apart. And it is in that out of control state, that we go down, down into the Jurassic World. Brilliant! See how the waterfalls in the background repeats that message?!”

“Right, now, here is the meal ticket,” explained Robbie freezing the action again and pointing to the screen, “The jeep door opens and there is the Jurassic Park symbol. Blatant commercialism. I bet he sold a pile of those toy jeeps! The guy not only has the heart of an artist but a damn good business mind too! That one second of film promotes the show, reinforces the title, and sells a billion toys. You can almost hear him laughing all the way to the bank!”

One long, slender finger clicks the remote and the action starts again. “Now the jeeps enter through the gates that close behind us. Foreshadowing, right? We become trapped in a world from which not all of us will escape. Note the pink uniforms. Female references are starting to appear. Rebirth. Subtle hints that nature’s reproductive cycle can not be controlled.”

“Right, now we move out on the savannah. Note the tall trees creating that dinosaur height again. The jeep circles around the tree. Nature dominates. The pattern the director established at the beginning of the show is now being repeated for the dim-witted. We went down the valley, now the protagonist is seen in a reverse image, rising out of the roof of the jeep. A birth image. Human trouble again. The character, so overcome by the power of nature, falls to the ground.”

“Listen to the music, stirring, building. It is female music, filled with hope and rebirth. Okay, back to the action,” ordered Robbie now completely lost in her work. “Listen to this line, ‘They’re moving in herds,’ again it’s foreshadowing. The dinos will work together to defeat the humans. The music climaxes and the viewpoint shifts to the world of Jurassic Park that opens out in front of us!”

“How much of the film did we look at? Maybe a few minutes and look at how much careful planning was in it to create the prefect illusion! And you say to me,” snarled Robbie turning on Janet, “That you like a good adventure story! Shit!”

Janet blinked, completely taken back by the out burst. The video played on into the silence of the room as the two women looked at each other. Robbie’s facial features slowly changed from anger to confusion as if she had suddenly become aware of where she was and what she was doing. “Well, it is what I do for a living. I guess I see it differently than most,” she grumbled to hide the embarrassment she felt at having shown so much of her excitement and love of her craft.

Janet laughed, her eyes sparkling with delight. Robbie looked up sharply, her temper rising; was Janet laughing at her?! “That was the most fantastic experience. I learned so much! Wow! You just opened doors for me, in terms of what I can start to pick out of film now. Please Robbie, go on! I want to learn more!” Janet begged, slipping onto the floor by Robbie in her excitement and leaning her back against the chair.

Robbie gave a nervous smile. “Yeah? You liked that? Okay, let me rewind,” smiled the director,’s picking up the remote again from where it lay in her lap. Janet eyes followed the action lingering on the spot where tight blue jeans covered Robbie’s sex. Oh boy, this woman could really get my motor humming, Janet thought and then quickly turned her attention back to the screen before Robbie noticed where her eyes were.

For the next three hours, Robbie talked about her craft. She was encouraged and pleased when Janet asked intelligent, probing questions. When Reb woke from her nap, Robbie played with her on the floor while Janet prepared a chili for dinner and made bread to go with it. They’d have a fresh tossed salad too and she would ask Bill to stay.

She hadn’t been really truthful about Bill. The truth was Bill wanted marriage and Janet didn’t. She liked Bill a lot and she’d had satisfactory relationships with both sexes. But, well, she always thought that when she met her special person that it would be a woman. Some one like Robbie – only nice.

Bill arrived at five carrying two bunches of spring flowers. He gave Janet one as she opened the screen door and pecked her lightly on the cheek. Robbie rolled her eyes as she watched from the couch. The actor wore her black running shorts and a tank top of the same colour with a slash of gold down the sides. One long leg was bent up and the other out straight as she lounged back against the arm of the couch her arms spread wide. Blue eyes, almost inhuman in their intensity, slowly stroked up the young doctor’s body. Come here, Robbie thought, I’m going to eat you alive.

Janet saw the look and narrowed hers in warning. Robbie flashed a dazzling white smile at the short, wispy-haired doctor and held out a graceful hand to accept her flowers. “How, lovely,” she said in that famous voice that could turn a heart of stone to lava.

“Roberta this is Dr. Bill Perkins. Bill this is Roberta Williams,” introduced Janet shaking her head and heading for the kitchen.

She knew as soon as she saw Robbie’s face what the woman was going to do. She should be furious! To steal someone else’s man right there in front of them was just damned disgusting! But instead, she found herself thinking it was rather funny.

“Doctor, do you think it is just my knee? It hurts up here too,” cooed Robbie taking the stupefied man’s hand and placing it on her inner thigh. “Maybe I …pulled something.”

It was Janet’s turn to roll her eyes. She opened her mouth and put her finger in. Robbie watching Janet’s antics over the poor doctor’s shoulder, raised an eyebrow and smiled wickedly.

“Ms. Williams, I’m a big fan of yours! I’ve seen all your movies!” babbled the doctor as he examined Roberta.

“Then we have something in common, Bill, I’m a big fan of yours because you went to all the trouble of coming out here. Imagine having a doctor that does house calls! I’m so lucky you were near by.” Janet buried her head in her hands and tried not to laugh.

The doctor stayed for coffee but not dinner. He wasn’t invited. Janet packed him off with a personal letter of thanks from Roberta to hang in his office and a reluctant hug from Janet. Once the love-sick doctor had driven down the drive way, Janet came back in. “That, Robbie, was a new low, even for you!” she growled.

Robbie smiled broadly and stretched like a panther in the sun. “Nope, not even close to how low I can go, kid,” she gloated.

Janet walked over and stood by the couch arms crossed. “And what if I’d really loved that guy?” she asked tapping a foot.

“You didn’t and we both knew it. You’re a terrible liar. Besides, if he can be swayed that easily, would you want him practising in this town with his plastic glove up….”

“Robbie!” interrupted Janet picking up a pillow and tossing it at the director.

Robbie caught the missile easily and looked up at Janet. Her blond hair was catching the evening light from the window bringing out the red highlights. I am going to have you, Janet Williams. You just don’t know it yet, Robbie decided. Instead, she said, “Can we go out on the lake after dinner?”

“You have water on your knee, Robbie, Bill just told you to stay off it,” sighed Janet knowing that she was going to let Robbie win this argument. A canoe around the lake was always beautiful in the Fall. The rain had let up and the evening was promising to be beautiful.

The three of them walked down to the lake, Robbie carrying Reb with a comfortable arm wrapped around Janet’s shoulder. Janet had wrapped her arm around Robbie’s waist. Before Robbie let go, she gave Janet’s shoulder a small squeeze. Janet looked up and smiled and then lifted Reb to the ground.

She turned the red canoe over and slipped it into the water. Then she brought it in along the shore for Robbie to step in. With a grimace of pain, the actor got in and seated herself on the bottom leaning against the wood cross piece. Janet checked the life-jacket on Reb and handed her to Robbie. Then she spun the canoe out and putting one foot in, she pushed off with the other.

She pulled out the paddle from its holder and checked to make sure there was a floatation device under both seats then they were off.

Robbie felt a bit awkward letting Janet do all the work but that had been the condition of the canoe ride. “Trying to balance on that bad knee and paddle will put all of us in the lake,” Janet had told her firmly. “If we go, you have to sit in the bottom with your leg out straight and hold on to Reb.”

Robbie decided that it wasn’t such a bad deal. Facing towards the stern, she was able to observe Janet openly. It was clear that Janet knew how to handle a canoe well and they slid through the water at a quiet, smooth pace. Reb, tired out with an afternoon of play, snuggled deeply into Robbie’s warm chest and was soon fast asleep.

“Who owns all this land?” asked Robbie looking around. The lake was clear and deep and the forest around was just starting to show its fall colour. The only house on the lake seemed to be Janet’s.

“My great grandfather owned it at one time. Then my grandfather. He gave me one lot for my twenty-first birthday. A local saw mill holds it now. They bought it for back taxes. So far, they haven’t started cutting in this area. I don’t know what I’ll do when that happens. It will be so sad,” sighed the petite woman.

“You got a good job, royalties on books, a house, how come you couldn’t pay off your grandfather’s debt?” asked Robbie moodily. She really liked Reb but the thought of her brother and Janet together upset her. There were pieces missing in this story, she knew it.

Janet frowned. “Hasn’t anyone told you that you don’t ask about other people’s finances?!”

“I’m going to hell in a hand basket anyway,” Robbie replied a little too seriously, “So I don’t have to play by societies rules. Tell me and save me the trouble of having you investigated.”

Janet gave Robbie a dirty look. “You would, wouldn’t you?!”

“Without a second thought,” Robbie replied with predator glint in her eye.

Janet sighed. “My home is mortgaged to the maximum, royalties on educational material are pathetically low, as are educators’ salaries and I’m carrying a student loan too. I was only just getting on my feet and establishing my career when I found I was thousands of dollars in debt. I….It was really scary,” stammered Janet at the end, feeling all the emotion and fear of that dark time in her life returning.

“So you made a deal with my brother.” Robbie snorted, looking away so that Janet couldn’t see her face.

“I love, Rebecca very deeply, Robbie. I wouldn’t have had a child if I wasn’t prepared to be a good mother. The arrangement suited me too. I…I…don’t see myself as ever marrying and yet I wanted a child.”

The blue eyes swept back. “Because you’re gay?” she asked. Janet nodded, and after that they paddled on quietly for awhile. Janet put her finger to her lips to signal Robbie to stay quiet. They came around a point and slid silently into a small marshy bay. There a moose chewed leisurely on underwater plants. Robbie, a city person, had never seen a real moose before. It was the size of a horse but with coarse, crude features. It would wade forward on long, knobby-kneed legs and duck its head under the water. Sometime later, the head would surface dripping water and with a mouthful of green plants.

“They can close off their nostrils and hold their breath for a long time,” Janet explained. “That’s why they can feed on the water plants. They are safe enough this time of the year but in the spring, they can be pretty aggressive. Along the roads, you’ll see moose warning signs because the bulls become so territorial, they will charge a small car. They’re clever too. The hunters will tell you that moose will sometimes circle around behind a hunter and hunt the hunter!”

Robbie nodded, enjoying listening to Janet’s knowledge of the forest world. They moved on and Janet showed her the tall standing rock near the shore where red ochre rock paintings could still be seen. They were pictographs left by the Woodland Indians of the area a thousand years ago.

Robbie took metal notes. Janet was showing her scenes that she could use in her work had she known it. Janet thought she was showing Robbie the beauty of nature hoping to ease the anger that always seemed to be just under the director’s surface.

When they returned, Janet made a fire and carefully locked the screen in place now that Reb had discovered fireplaces. What a mess she had been when Janet had found her that morning. And there had been Robbie, her co-conspirator, watching Reb with delight as she built grey ash hills on the floor!

Later, when Reb had been tucked into bed and the fire had burned down low, Janet opened the screen again and dropped some chestnuts on the red coals. Their shells darkened as they hissed and cracked open revealing their starchy, white centers. The two women lay in comfortable silence by the fire eating the roasted chestnuts with a bit of butter and salt.

“Dinner was really good,” stated Robbie looking at the fire.

Wow! Two compliments in one day! I’m on a roll here, thought Janet. “Thanks,” she said.

The ‘copter will pick me up tomorrow,” Robbie said suddenly. Janet looked at her in surprise. Only this morning, she would have gladly sent her packing on the end of her foot but now, well, she had sorted of taken it for granted that Robbie would stay until such time as her leg was better.

“Tomorrow’s Sunday, I’ll still be here to help you. Monday, I have to go back to work but you are w…I mean you could stay until your knee was a little better,” stammered Janet.

Robbie raised an eyebrow, “I see I’m not welcome but you won’t throw me out on the street if I’m injured,” she clarified sarcastically.

“No! Robbie its not like that! I just didn’t want to give the wrong impression,” Janet tried to justify, only making things worse.

Suddenly, Robbie rolled up on her side and looked intently at Janet. “You are welcome to stay,” Janet said playing idly with a shell from one of the chestnuts. Robbie picked up the last chestnut and peeled the white meat from the shell. She dipped it in the butter and sprinkled a bit of salt on it. Then she held it to her mouth and bit off half. The remaining piece she reached over and placed next to Janet’s lips. Mesmerized by Robbie’s silent actions, her lips parted to accept the warm meat into her mouth.

Warm butter lips followed and Janet found herself kissing Roberta Williams with a passion that scared her in its intensity. She pulled back in surprise, pushing Robbie back with her hands. “No!”

“Why?” asked the surprised actor. No was a word she might use but not others.

“No, I don’t want to do this,” said Janet wiggling out from under Robbie’s long, sexy form and standing up. “I don’t want to be another conquest, Robbie. I’m not interested,” Janet stated emotionally.

Robbie got awkwardly to her feet. “You didn’t kiss me like you weren’t interested,” she observed moving closer.

A straight arm stopped her. “Well, I’m not interested. I’m sorry if I gave the wrong impression. I am your brother’s widow and there is Rebecca and my standing in this community to consider,” Janet explained.

Robbie’s temper snapped, “Oh, your standing in the community! Well, we wouldn’t want your STANDING to be undermined by the likes of me fucking you, would we! Better you sell your self…”

Janet turned and slammed out of the house. A few minutes later, Robbie heard the car pull out of the drive. Rebecca started to cry.

Okay, I can handle this, Robbie tried to convince herself. I head a multi million dollar enterprise. I employ hundreds of people. What’s one dirty diaper? Oh God! Gross! “Here Reb, just sit on the bed while I get rid of this thing,” Robbie mumbled. Could you flush these things? No hazardous waste container around. She dropped it on the floor then turned back to Reb. “Oh boy, look at the sheets! I guess I should have cleaned you up first, huh?”

Holding the now laughing Rebecca in front of her like a time bomb, Robbie carried her into the bathroom and wedged her in the sink. Then popped her out again, remembering just in time that you had to test the water or something. With one hand, she managed to get a luke-warm flow and then wedged Reb back in. The water splashed all over!

Sometime later, Reb was washed and dried and training panties had been put on to replace the diaper. Robbie having forgotten to make a diagram before removing the last one. The director and the bathroom looked a little worse for wear but the job was done! “Okay, Rebel, bed time! You’re going to have to sleep with me ’cause I’m not making up two beds,” Robbie explained, and carried the child into her mom’s bedroom.

Reb fretted a bit but Robbie sang to her until she went to sleep. For a while, Robbie lay thinking miserable thoughts about whether Janet had gone to spend the night with Dr. respectable-male Perkins. Eventually, though, exhaustion claimed her.

A few hours later, after driving down the back roads for a while, Janet calmed down enough to return home. She found all the lights on, a dirty diaper on the nursery floor, and an equally disgusting mess in the crib. The bathroom was a state of chaos and Robbie and Reb were curled up sound asleep like Madonna and child. For a while, Janet stood there and looked down at the beautiful pair. Then carefully she lifted Reb out and took her back to her freshly changed crib.

Robbie woke with a start the next morning. Reb was gone! Christ! I fell asleep and lost the kid! Robbie realized and leapt from the bed. Her stiff and swollen knee gave out immediately and with a cry of pain she crashed to the floor.

Janet leapt from the sofa and ran down the hall to find Robbie rolling around in silent agony.

“Do you do this every morning?” she asked walking over and offering to help the actor up.

“Reb’s gone!” Robbie moaned trying to get to her feet without help.

“She’s in her crib,” Janet revealed.

“Shit!” muttered Robbie running a shaky hand through her hair. “Where the hell did you go?!” she snarled.

“Out,” was what she got as an answer. “I’ll get you some ice. When is the helicopter coming to pick you up?”

“Later,” Robbie answered from between clenched teeth.

Robbie collapsed on her bed and now that Janet was out of the room she let the pain show on her face as she held onto her leg in agony. Janet returned silently and walked over to the bed. “It’s worse today, huh?” she asked placing the iced bag of peas on the swollen and bruised knee.

‘It’s okay, just hurt a bit when I jumped out of bed,” muttered Robbie, pulling away from Janet’s touch. “The ‘copter will be here by ten. I’ll stay in here until then,” she stated.

“Want breakfast in bed?” Janet asked.

“No,” came the frosty reply. Janet nodded sadly and left the room.

The helocopter touched down on the lake at quarter a to ten. Robbie was already outside waiting with her soft sided overnight bag. Janet and Reb came out to say goodbye and Robbie scooped the little child up and gave her a big hug. “You be good Rebel,” Robbie whispered. Then she passed the child to Janet being careful not to touch the woman.

“Thank you, Robbie. I really did need someone else with me to drive back after the funeral. I ..ah.. Well, keep in touch with Reb, okay,” she finished lamely.

Robbie nodded, “Bye,” she said abruptly and hobbled down to get into the helicopter. In a whirl of wind, they lifted off and Janet turned to protect Reb with her body. When she turned back, the ‘copter was already disappearing over the ridge.

“Bye,” Janet echoed feeling a painful loneliness settle around her.

She lowered Reb to the ground and the little child looked up into the sky and pointed, “Oby’s bird gone!” she said sadly.

“Yes, she’s gone.” Janet sighed and took her child’s hand to lead her back up to their home.

Robbie looked down at the little log home in the bush. A dull ache filled her chest and she had no idea why. She had a thousand things to do. Billy’s death could not have come at a worse time with the final editing cuts of her new film under way. The dailies and their time-codes waited for her attention on CD-Rom. This procedure allowed her immediate access to any scene without the often frustrating delay of rewinding video.

She pushed Janet and Reb out of her mind and focused instead on organizing her thoughts. Her film work was acclaimed for its artistic quality. Robbie saw herself as an ‘auteur’, a French word that meant author. In film, it meant that the director was the driving force in establishing the film’s artistic elements and style. Robbie’s films had a quality to them that reflected the intelligent creativity of the director in methodology, style and theme. They were not just entertainment, they were art and Robbie had the Oscars to prove just how good she was at achieving that goal. Such success, however, did not come without a tremendous amount of energy, talent and focus. Robbie had all three qualities in great amounts.

Janet pressed the suit she would be wearing to work tomorrow. It was vital that she meet with her staff to discuss the new ministry guide lines and establish some curriculum writing teams. Janet believed that teaching the process of research and academic thought was just as important as content. That meant that all her staff had to have a common methodology woven into their classroom studies.

She sighed. It wasn’t always easy to convince the teachers that they would have to give even more of their time to meet Janet’s vision of education. She knew her staff was all ready doing a lot more than they were paid to do. But they were a really dedicated bunch that she had hand picked and she was sure that if she approached the issue right they would be receptive.

It would make her job a lot easier however, if each newly elected government would not change the direction of education! One of the frustrating elements of teaching was that every one who managed to conceive a child or get elected suddenly became an expert on education. They would be a lot better off if those people with the classroom experience and training were allowed to write curriculum and policy.

Janet put away the ironing board and iron. The house tonight seem so quiet and empty. It was silly. Robbie had only been there forty eight hours and yet she really missed the aggravating woman’s presence. She hoped Robbie’s knee would be all right.

She picked up her suit and carried it into the bedroom to hang up. There beside the bed was Robbie’s card. Sprawled in a bold hand on the back were the words, ‘In case I’m needed.’

I don’t need you Roberta Williams, Janet thought, don’t even think it!
Part 3
Work was a glass faced monolith, designed, thank God, with a planned obsolescence of thirty years. It had fifteen years to go, before it could be safely torn down as a really bad idea for city dwellers. Robbie parked her 1967 dark green Stingray between the yellow painted lines that marked off her territory in the underground parking lot. She stepped out, unfolding her long frame first, and then bending to retrieve her briefcase. She wore a classically cut business suit of Scottish wool in muted heather blue, over a cut lace blouse.

Her heels clipped an uneven rhythm as she limped across the stained grey cement. At the elevator, she pressed up and waited impatiently. Funny, she hadn’t noticed how strong the stink of auto emissions were down here before. It could gag a horse. She probably had lungs that looked like tanned leather!

The elevator arrived, and Robbie entered, pressing the twentieth floor. To her surprise, the elevator stopped on the main floor. It was unusual for staff to be in this early. Brian McGill, her assistant director, stepped in. Brian preferred subway travel from the suburbs to facing the freeways of Toronto.

“Morning, Robbie. Gwen phoned to say you were back, so I thought I’d better get my butt in here early. It was a nice funeral. You okay? Everything go all right?”

Robbie’s face was expressionless and her body strangely still. “Good decision, we can talk on the way up. Thank you. I’m fine. Everything went as planned.”

Brian sighed quietly; this was not going to be a good day. The boss had that predator look that meant she had focused on something and she was going to go all out to see her concept through.

Glad I brought a lunch today, he thought.

“The hot set is at location A, Robbie. I’ll be heading out there this morning to get things ready for the afternoon shoot. The light today should be prefect. This week should be the last of the dailies and then we’ll be putting it in the can.”

“No, we won’t.”

“What?!” Brian said in surprise.

“I’m rewriting and reshooting a lot of the scenes.”

“Does Talsman know?”

“Not yet,” Robbie responded determinedly.

The elevator ground to a halt and the doors slid open. Brian stepped aside to let Robbie go first.

“He’ll have your butt.”

“Not in his life time,” shot Robbie limping down the hall with long awkward strides, while Brian made a valiant effort to keep up.

“Look Robbie, I don’t know what bee is in your bonnet but we’ve got a damn good picture going to final edit here…What happened to your leg?”

“Gwen, get Ernie,” cut in Robbie as she strode across her secretary’s office on the way to her own with Brian following in her wake, and rolling his eyes comically.

Gwen stood and crossed her arms in annoyance. “Not until you return my good morning and explain to the two of us why you are limping,” she stated flatly.

Robbie stopped with her hand on the knob and turned slowly to face Gwen. Oh boy, thought Brian, wondering if this was going to end in him having to testify in court. “Explain to me again, Gwen, why I haven’t fired you!” growled Robbie.

Gwen opened her desk drawer, and took out a steno-pad and flipped the coiled ringed book open.

“I type 80 words a minute; despite my senior position, I still go out and get you lunch; I work appalling hours because I have no life and I’m the only secretary you’ve had that hasn’t given you the finger and walked out when you’ve thrown your first temper tantrum,” responded Gwen, snapping the pad closed.

“Gwen, you’re fired,” stated Robbie with a stony look.

“Can’t, you haven’t hired me back from the last time you fired me,” explained Gwen.

“In that case stay fired,” Robbie laughed whole-heartedly. “Good Morning, Gwen! How are you? Your husband? The cast of thousands the two of you are raising?”

“I’m fine, he’s fine and there are only three children. You are just harbouring a grudge about the last maturity leave. Ernie is on line one,” she frowned. “What happened to your leg?”

“Ahhh, twisted the knee in a fall, nothing serious,” explained the director, feeling a blush creeping up her neck. She covered her embarrassment by disappearing into her office with Brian following, a relieved look on his face. “That damn woman terrorizes me because she knows I can’t afford to lose another secretary,” explained Robbie waving him to a chair. Brian sat. As a studio man, he rarely was in the boss’s office. It was nice, real nice.

“Morning Ernie,” said Robbie as she sat down at her desk and turned to bring her computer up.

A high pitched voice came over the speaker. “Hello Robbie! Joy and light to you! I hear the film’s coming in on time and on budget. You’ve got a happy producer here!”

“Get unhappy, I’m doing a rewrite. I’ll be going over budget and time.”

“What?!” came a panicky squeal.

“You heard me.”

“No! Disaster knocking, I hear, you I don’t. Are you nuts?! Of course you are, what am I saying? The investors will go crazy!”

“Not my problem.”

“Of course, it is your problem! You stupid or something?! They’ll pull out!”

Robbie clicked disinterestedly through her e-mail. “They’ve got too much invested to pull out now. Tell them, I promise them a blockbuster.”

“Can you deliver?” came a suspicious voice over the machine.

An eyebrow went up and Robbie looked incredulously at the phone system. “Have I ever not?”

“Christ, Robbie, I don’t know…”

“You’d better know! That’s your damn job!” snarled Robbie as she reached over and clicked off the receiver button.

“Too violent! I’ll give her a film she’ll have to sit up and take notice of, damn it!” she muttered under her breath. Then she looked up at Brian and smiled. “Let me outline the changes,” she purred.

“Give mommy a kiss. Hmm, love you girl.” Janet smiled her thanks, as she left Reb with Mrs. Chen, who took care of three of the staff’s children in a room set aside for her at Bartlett School for the Gifted. Faced with the expensive and always problematic care of their young children, the three staff had pooled their resources and set up a day care room right at the school.

Lily Chen came each day and ran a stimulating and happy environment for the four children and the teacher parents could pop in whenever they had a free moment for a visit. Lily was a small, oriental woman, who had immigrated with her husband from Hong Kong. Her husband was working in the town of Bartlett as an accountant for several of the local resorts. Lily had tremendous energy and an out going personality.

“Janet, I was so sorry when I read in the newspaper that you were at the funeral. I did not know. If there is anything I can do to help…”

“Thank you,” Janet cut in, feeling the heat rising in her face. “My husband and I have been separated for a long time. I felt it important that Reb…that Rebecca attended. That will be important to her in the future.”

“She comes from a very wealthy and famous family. She has good joss in having such ancestors.”

“Yes,” stated Janet briefly, not wanting to go down that road!

“Bye Reb! Mommy will see you at lunch,” called Janet and picked up her briefcase again to walk down to her office.

Her secretary, Carolyn, was talking to Milka Gorski in the hall outside the office. As Janet came around the corner, the conversation stopped. Janet sighed inside. This was going to be a difficult day.

“Good morning, Milka, Carolyn.”

“Hi Janet.”

“Morning Janet. Ahh, are you okay? I mean…everything go all right?”

“Everything went fine, thanks. Let people know I appreciate their concern and the flowers they sent to the house. My husband and I had been separated for some time but it was important that I had Rebecca there.”

“We had no idea you were one of those Williams!” gushed Milka enthusiastically.

“Actually, it was the first time I had met Bill’s family,” clarified Janet. “I’d better get into my office and get caught up, excuse me.”

The two women watched Janet’s back as she walked through the outer office and into her own. “Do you think it’s true that Robbie Williams was staying up at her home this weekend?” whispered Milka, her eyes sparkling with excitement.

“Paul, down at the framing shop, told Stacy at the donut shop, who told Jason, that Dr. Perkins brought the letter in first thing this morning for framing. So, I guess it must be true!”

“She’s a close one, huh?! Imagine us never realizing whom she had married!”

“Rebecca’s only two, so it couldn’t have lasted very long,” observed Carolyn.

“Hmmm, our Janet and Billy-the -Kid! They say opposites attract but my God!”

“I’d better get to work. See you later.”

“Yeah,” agreed Milka, as she headed off to run her science test. Janet and Billy-the-Kid; still waters do run deep!

Janet sat at her desk, trying to clear some of the paper work that had accumulated while she had been in Toronto. Carolyn slipped in and closed the door behind her. “Gerald Lucier is here from the Bartlett Post. You remember, he wanted to interview you about the school for an article he is writing. Be careful,” advised Carolyn.

Janet’s eyes snapped up, “Why?”

Carolyn shrugged. “Gerald bowls with my husband and Gerald’s passed a few comments in general about education. You know, the usual myth about how kids today can’t read and write, as if the adults are so literate! He thinks gifted education is elitist.

“What’s new?” sighed Janet. “Another teacher basher. Sometimes, I think we should all resign and let these people who know so much more about education take over.”

Carolyn snorted, “Or test the adults to see how well the good old system really worked!” suggested Carolyn as she slipped back out the door. Janet smiled; the peril of living in a small town was that everyone knew everyone else’s business! I wonder if it’s around town yet that Robbie stayed out at the cabin?

“Mr. Lucier, Mrs. Williams,” introduced Carolyn with a flourish.

Janet stood up. “Hello, I’m Janet. I think our paths have crossed a few times before, but this is the first time I’ve had a chance to talk to you.”

“Gerald, yeah, I’ve seen you around at functions. You’re involved with the historical society aren’t you?”

“Yes. I understand you have some questions you would like to ask about our school here.” Janet gestured to a seat as she sat back down herself.

Lucier pulled a recorder out of his pocket, “Okay?” he asked holding up the instrument. Janet nodded. “The tax payer sinks a lot of money into public education. Why do we need these special programs on top of all that?”

Wow! Straight for the jugular with this guy! Janet noted, while she took a second to make sure her answer was clearly stated. “The public education system was designed for mass education. It is geared, by definition then, to the average child. It is very hard in a setting of 20 to 30 students, to provide specialized instruction to exceptional students. Bartlett is a privately funded institution, that provides a specially designed program for the gifted.”

“So, what’s a gifted child, one of those absent minded professor types that end up going around blowing up worlds?” laughed Lucier sarcastically.

Janet gritted her teeth but managed to smile pleasantly. “No, Mr. Lucier, that concept is a Hollywood myth. In fact, gifted children tend to have it all. They are bright, athletic and very socially aware. There are exceptions of course, but generally speaking the gifted child has a lot going for him or her.”

“So why put them in a special school and make them different? Are they that damn special that they can’t mix with the common folk?”

“Well, as I explained to you already, the public school system is not designed to handle exceptional students although it does try its best. To be gifted you have to have a consistent I.Q. score of over 140. That puts you in the top 2% of the world intellectually. In the regular school system, three things end up happening to the gifted child,” explained Janet as she ticked the points off on her fingers. “A) They are given extra work to keep them busy, so they learn pretty quick to act out or play dumb to avoid this punishment. B) They are sat beside the trouble maker to ‘be a good influence.’ Good kids often are reward for their fine behaviour by sticking them with the kid no one else wants to be near. Or C) They skip grades and end up terribly socially isolated.”

“So what do you do that is different?”

“We do not excel students. Instead, we provide a program that has breadth and depth. We are concerned with providing a challenging, stimulating program that will create socially responsible, well rounded, life long learners,” quoted Janet. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said that line, I’d be rich, she thought.

“Sounds elitist to me,” argued Lucier.

“No, its not. These are the minds that will advance and improve our world. Do we not want to encourage and support them to do so? We think nothing of weeding out the best students to put them on the school sports teams. Is that not elitism? We provide millions of dollars to train them. We have special ceremonies to reward their athletic achievements.

Athletes get awards, fame, and money. What do the intelligent get for their efforts, Gerald? And what does that say about what is important in our society? Perhaps, we would have a better educated population if we gave more than lip service to the importance of education.” Janet could feel her emotions boiling to the surface. This might not have been a good day to have this interview. “Parents and the media are always complaining about the education system but they rarely support it. If you are bright, Mr. Lucier, you are the Browner, the teacher’s pet, the egg-head, the absent minded professor. It is the trouble maker that society respects, not the academic.”

“Hey, don’t lecture me!” grumbled Lucier.

“You wanted answers. I am passionate about my job, Mr. Lucier. Despite the abuse that we teachers take, I am proud to call myself a teacher. Anything else?”

“No, this will do. Thanks,” muttered Lucier, getting to his feet stiffly. Janet stood too, trying not to reveal with her body language just how angry she was.

“Good bye,” she said.

“Bye and thanks,” said Lucier slipping his recorder back into his pocket and moving to the door. His hand dropped off the doorknob as he turned and asked, “Any truth to the rumour that the actress Robbie Williams is staying up at your place?”

Janet wondered if the tape was still running. “Yes, my sister-in-law provided my daughter and me with a ride home. She has now left.”

“What’s she like? She doesn’t give interviews very often.”

“She is intelligent, funny and very dedicated to her craft,” responded Janet defensively.

“She is supposed to be a tyrant,” observed Lucier with a smile.

“I found her to be strong, concerned and supportive,” came the answer as Janet walked over to the door and opened it.

Lucier nodded and left. Carolyn looked up and met Janet’s beautiful green eyes. Janet crossed them and pulled a face, then disappeared back into her office as Carolyn laughed.

Well, that had been a waste of time. She looked out the window across the soccer field to the forest on the other side. I wonder what Robbie is doing now? It bothers me that we didn’t part on the best of terms.

“Janet?” came Carolyn’s voice over the intercom.

“Hmmm.”

“There’s been another theft in the girls’ dorm. I’ve got Angela Murphy here to tell you about it. It’s her CD player that’s gone.”

“Okay,” sighed Janet. “Just give me five minutes to make an important phone call and I’ll see her.”

Janet sat down at her desk and reached for the phone. For a second the hand hesitated, then picked up the receiver.

Brian McGill emerged from Robbie’s office about an hour later. Gwen looked up from her desk and smiled. Brian went over and stopped in front of her desk. “It’s official,” he said sadly.

“What is?!” asked Gwen in surprise.

“Robbie’s lost it,” he observed.

Gwen laughed and shrugged. “Creative genius,” she suggested.

Brian shook his head, “Maybe, but in a court of law, I think they’d label her criminally insane,” sighed the assistant director as he headed out the door.

Sometime later, the intercom on the director’s desk clicked on, “Robbie, Mrs. Janet Williams on line two,” came Carolyn’s voice and Robbie almost dropped the receiver in her haste to pick it up.

“What’s wrong?” she demanded by way of a greeting.

A startled voice came from the other end. “Nothing’s wrong.”

“Ohh, why did you phone?” asked Robbie in surprise.

There was a moment’s hesitation, “I didn’t like the way we said good bye.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.

“How is your day going?” asked Robbie a silly grin forming on her usually emotionless face.

“There is a great interest in the actress who is reported to have stayed at my home on the weekend, there is no interest in education, and some one is stealing items from the girls’ dorm.

“How is your knee?”

“Getting better,” responded Robbie in her concise manner. Shit, what do I say now? Janet came to her rescue.

How’s your day going?”

“My secretary, Gwen, tells me, that my assistant director thinks I’m criminally insane,” observed Robbie happily.

“He’d be right,” agreed Janet drily. “So why did he decide this?”

“I sent him out to tell my leading lady, Tracy Travelli, that I’m going to reshoot a lot of the scenes.”

“Tracy Travelli, the Latin Bombshell?!” asked Janet in excitement.

Robbie felt an unreasonable amount of professional jealousy growing in the pit of her stomach and fought it back down. “So?”

“The fans voted her the one they would most like to be trapped on a desert island with, she’s supposed to be hot stuff,” laughed Janet delightedly.

Jealousy won. “Actually, she was a dry stick in bed.”

For a second there was shocked silence. “Ahhh, you know her. I had heard you launched her career.”

“You might say I opened her up to possibilities in more ways than one,” smirked Robbie.

“That’s cruel and crude!”

“No, that’s truth,” Robbie came back at her.

“I hope no one ever says anything about Reb like that,” Janet observed, trying to make a point.

“They won’t!” snapped Robbie angrily.

“What if she falls in love with some one like you?”

Silence. “I won’t let that happen.”

“You can’t control, only teach and guide, Robbie,” Janet explained.

“Don’t preach to me!” Robbie snarled.

Janet sighed. “I phoned to end the fight not get in to another one.”

“So sleep with me.”

“No, I won’t let myself be abused or my abilities as a lover judged in your phone conversations.”

“I’m not abusive!”

“Which person are we talking about? The one you are or the one you pretend to be?”

“Get out of my head, damn you, school marm!”

“Am I in your head? That’s a start,” reasoned Janet.

“A start to what?” asked Robbie, cautiously.

“To being in your bed,” responded Janet boldly. My god, what did I just say!!

A red hot tidal wave swept through Robbie’s body and turned her insides to the consistency of jello. Her jaw was hurting, her grin was so big. Mentally, she gave herself a shake. I’m acting like a school kid.

“Verbal agreements are binding,” Robbie managed to say in an even voice.

“I’ll deny it in a court of law,” teased Janet. “Ahhh, next week is Thanksgiving. Do you spend it with your family?”

Robbie laughed. “I’d like to see the look on Alexandra’s face, if a dead bird was put in front of her to carve!”

“In that case, would you like to come up here. The colour should be good by then. The trees are turning quickly. Ahhh, I usually take Reb to church and we go to the town hall dinner. Ohhh, maybe that is not a good idea. I mean, you are sure to be recognized,” Janet sputtered out. What am I doing!? Every time I open my mouth something comes out that my mind never okayed! First, I come on to her and then I invite her to go to church with me! She’s going to think I’m insane!

“Hey, I can handle it, if you can! Okay, I’ll be there Friday night. Do I need to bring pyjamas?”

“You are so cheeky! And yes, you most certainly do! Our sleeping arrangements are not changing!”

“You like me though, right?”

Janet smiled. Robbie could be so disarming.

“Very much so, but I’m not going to be bullied into sleeping with you.”

“I’m not a bully!”

Janet rolled her eyes heavenwards. “No, you’re sweet.”

“Sweet!” snorted Robbie in disgust.

Janet laughed. “It’s not a crime! It’s a good thing.”

“Good thing, huh? I can do sweet,” reasoned Robbie smugly.

“It won’t get you anywhere,” warned Janet.

“Why not?!”

“Because, acting sweet wouldn’t be sincere.

“You want sincere too?! You don’t ask for much do you? And they say I’m a tough director!”

“I just want the best,” observed Janet quietly, totally amazed at her brashness.

“Is that me?” came the surprisingly insecure voice.

“I don’t know,” responded Janet honestly.

Robbie nodded at her end of the phone, a determined look on her face. “I’ll fly up on Friday night. Say hi to Reb. I’ll be seeing you, Janet.”

“Bye, Robbie.” Janet looked at the phone and then a grin broke out all over her face. Suddenly, the day wasn’t so bad after all.

Robbie sat for a long time after hanging up the phone and tried to get her thoughts in order. She’d never met anyone quite like Janet. She was a rare blend of innocence and spunk that Robbie found extremely appealing. I’m going to bed you next weekend, Janet Williams, she vowed. You just wait and see.

She smiled confidently and got to her feet. Picking up her car keys and briefcase, she headed out of her office. “I’m off to the hot set,” she explained to Gwen on her way by. Gwen knew this was a set that had been set up ready for the performers. Every prop was in place and double checked by the chief grip and the set decorator and it was now sealed off waiting for the director and the actors.

Anything you want done?” asked Gwen.

Robbie raised an eye brow. A smirk hovered at the corner of her mouth and her eyes danced with excitement. “Under no circumstance are you to buy me pyjamas. I won’t be needing them,” she grinned, then turned and left.

Gwen looked at the closed door. Brian was right, she was officially insane!

“Okay, Angela, lets see if I’ve got this straight, your new CD player was on the table beside your bed last night and it was gone this morning. Is that correct?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Williams. It’s awful! Someone must have been in my room last night, while I was in bed! Anything could have happened!

“Angela, let’s not get carried away here. Miss Singh was on duty last night, and she has since checked the windows, door and our surveillance cameras. No one broke in. No, I’m afraid this is an inside job.”

“But that means that one of my friends is a thief!” exclaimed Angela even more distressed at this thought than of some stranger in her bedroom.

“Maybe, maybe not. The CD player might have been borrowed or it might be a practical joker. Try not to worry. We will get to the bottom of this soon. That’s all for now, Angela.”

Angela left not at all happy about not having her CD player restored. Janet got on the phone right away to reassure Angela’s parents before a real dust up started over this issue. She had Carolyn go on the P.A. and call an assembly for the end of the day to talk to all the students about being more careful with their personal property. There was still the staff meeting to look forward to after that! It was turning into a really long day!

Robbie pulled her car into the gravel parking lot carefully so as not to kick up a stone that might damage the paint job on her pride and joy. Getting out, she headed over to the area where the actors waited in canvas chairs for their calls. Tracy Tarvelli caught sight of her and came running over. “What is this Brian is saying?! You want to start the film all over again! Never! Am I to be making this film of yours forever?!”

Robbie smiled down at the volatile actor. Her blue eyes glowed with an inner light that radiated energy and confidence. “I am going to make you immortal, Tracy. In a hundred years time, people will still talk about your role in this movie. Trust me. I am going to make you an icon.”

“I do not trust you. You are a monster. But you are also the genius of film. So I will co-operate. But Robbie, you will make me great, no?!”

“My word.”

The day had been indeed long for Janet. At the staff meeting, she had the new government standardized testing that were to be administered to all eleven year olds in the province. The teachers immediately saw the flaws in the testing that would make the results completely invalid.

The discussion had gone around in circles and got very hot. Finally, Janet had to use her position to call an end to the venting and insist that the teachers follow the government directive, however flawed. “We are civil servants. I think we all agree that educational reform is needed to keep up with the times. We’ll just have to hope that, over time, modifications will be made to deal with some of the real concerns that you have expressed today.”

The meeting ended in sullen silence as her over stressed staff walked out with even more paper work to take away from their teaching preparation time. Janet sighed in frustration, as she tucked a cranky Rebecca into her car seat. The little girl had had too much change and stimulation over the weekend and was out of sorts today.

Mother and daughter road home in grumpy silence. Usually the beauty of the northern forests and lakes relaxed Janet, but tonight she was feeling very stressed. I guess the emotion of the weekend is starting to catch up to me too, she reasoned. Time to snap out of this, she thought and made an effort to think of something nice.

Robbie immediately came into her thoughts and she replayed their phone conversation in her mind. The tips of her ears turned warm and she could feel her body reacting to the sexual tension that had under-laid their conversation. How could she have been so bold! My god, she’d really given Robbie a green light to come on to her! That thought sent a pool of hot delight streaming through her being. Oh boy! I want this to happen! And at the same time, I’m scared as hell that it might!

Once home, mother and daughter had a bath together that involved much giggling and splashing.

The two of them emerged in a better frame of mind and Janet warmed up some beef stew she had in the freezer. She carried Reb’s highchair outside and the two of them had a picnic on the porch over looking the lake.

After the dishes were done, they played in the sand on the beach, and then, tired and happy once again, Reb was cleaned up and put to bed. Janet ironed her raw cotton suit for tomorrow and then settled down on the sofa to do some paper work. Picking up the cushion, she could still catch a faint scent of Robbie’s perfume lingering there. She tucked the pillow under her chin and wrapped her arm around it. This can’t be happening! I hardly know this woman and what I do know is bad news. Janet, for God’s sakes be careful, she warned herself. But deep inside, she knew it was too late. She was completely infatuated with Robbie Williams. I wonder what Robbie is doing tonight?

Robbie nipped the earlobe of the beautiful, naked woman who lay exhausted under her. The sex had been good. Tracy had become a more enthusiastic partner with experience. Robbie rolled off and lay on her back, one hand under her head. The woman beside her rolled over and nuzzled Robbie’s neck. “You want I stay tonight?” she purred.

“No,” responded Robbie firmly.

Tracy sighed and rolled away, slipping out of Robbie’s bed. “You are a bitch. I do not know why I went so willingly to your bed. You are a brute.”

Robbie turned on her side to watch the Latin Bombshell searching for her scattered clothes. “Maybe you like brutes,” she suggested playfully.

Tracy crawled back on the bed, an armful of rumpled clothes clutched to her full beasts. She kissed Robbie with passion and was pleased to feel the director respond in kind. “You are very bad,” Tracy complained.

“Hmmm, You are very good,” muttered Robbie pulling the clothes from Tracy’s hands and dropping them on the floor. She took a second to enjoy the sight of Tracy’s full breasts and then leaned forward to catch one swollen nipple in her mouth. Tracy moaned and let the brute have her way again.

It was when she was getting ready for bed that Janet found the small lump under her armpit. She traced it back following a row of them to her right breast. A dread filled her and made her heart ache with fear. She lay down on her bed and felt with her fingers as she had been taught. There was a lump there. Large and hard. Tears welled in her eyes, Oh God, no!

Bill Perkins felt Janet’s beast until he had located the lump. He took the syringe and pushed it in, feeling it slide smoothly through the layers of skin and muscle and then having to push harder once the tip encountered the growth. Janet made a small noise of distress at the invasion but kept still. Bill pulled back on the plunger. Nothing. He shifted the needle slightly, knowing that it was going to hurt and tried again. Still nothing in the tube.

With a sigh, he pulled the needle out. “Okay, Janet, you can get dressed now and I’ll meet you in my office,” he said. He tossed the needle into the special container for “points” and slipped out of the room. With trembling hands Janet got dressed. Her breast hadn’t hurt before but now it did.

She squared her shoulders and headed down to the office. Lily Chen had been kind enough to stay over time to care for Reb while Janet visited the doctor after school. She couldn’t keep her waiting too long however. Whatever Bill had found, Janet was just going to have to handle it and get on with her life as best she could.

“Sit down, Janet. Well, we know some things but not all. It’s a large lump and when I tried to aspirate it, there was no fluid inside. So we are probably not talking a regular fibroid cyst here.

That doesn’t necessarily mean we are looking at cancer. There are other possibilities such as a fibroid abnorma. That will mean surgery but no real danger. I am concerned about the swollen lymph nodes however. That indicates an infection or invasion of some sort and we need to take that seriously. I’ve booked you for a mammogram and an ultrasound tomorrow in Barrie.”

“Bill, I can’t just keep taking time off work! Can’t I go on the weekend?” protested Janet.

“No, with government cuts, these services aren’t as available as they were. Besides, …I don’t think we should wait,” he finished, meeting Janet’s eyes. Janet saw compassion and worry there and dropped her objections. She swallowed hard and nodded looking down at her trembling hands that were clutched tightly in her lap.

“Look, why don’t I come over to your place tonight? There is no need to worry until we know more. I could pick up a pizza…”

“Thanks Bill, that is kind of you, but I need to be alone to get this all into perspective. I..I’m going to have to make plans for Reb too. Thanks anyway,” Janet explained.

Bill nodded and stood. “You know I’m always here for you Janet, both as a doctor and a friend.”

Janet stood too and managed a weak smile. “I know, Bill and I really appreciate that.”

Janet felt numb. She walked out of the doctor’s office and got into her car as if she was a robot. Shock was a wall that separated her from her surroundings. She took a deep breath and tightened her fingers around the steering wheel. Okay, this is it. There is no hiding from this crisis. I’ve got to be brave and take things one step at a time. First, I’ll pick up Reb and see if Lily can babysit after school tomorrow as well. Then, I’ll have to phone Carolyn and Milka so they can handle things at school…

Robbie was like a bear with a sore paw. Each day was now going over budget and the below-the- line costs would be mounting quickly. She tried again to rewrite the scene they would be shooting Wednesday and it still would not work! With a primitive growl of disgust, she hurled a reference book against the wall. In the outer office, Gwen closed her eyes and grimaced at the thud.

Robbie got up and paced. Okay, if I was Desiree and Napoleon just propositioned me…no if Janet was Desiree, what would she have done? Then it came, the scene she wanted, filled with passion and courage and drama. Robbie ran back to her terminal and started typing. Desiree had not been the victim, she had been a strong woman who had not been defeated by the course of history but instead had swum with the tide of events and survived.

No, more than survived – she had triumphed! Napoleon had died a prisoner and a broken man. His lover, the milk maid, Desiree, had married and become a Queen. This would no longer be a movie about the exploitation of a woman, rather the courage and intelligence of a woman of strength.

It would be a blockbuster appealing to the romantic and, the feminist alike and painted on the background of the Napoleonic wars, it would also have enough action to keep the pace quick and powerful. Robbie grinned. You’ll watch this film, Janet, she thought!

Gwen opened the office door and snapped at Robbie, “Damn it, Robbie will you pick up your phone!”

“No, I’m busy! I told you to hold all my calls,” barked Robbie.

“It’s Janet Williams and by the sound of her voice…well I think its important.”.

The click of the computer keys stopped and a grim faced director turned and picked up her receiver. “It’s Robbie, Janet. What’s up?” Gwen closed the door softly.

“You said I could call if I ever needed your help,” Janet said uncertainly. ” Robbie I…I…”

“Janet! What’s wrong?! Look, take a deep breath, okay I’m here. You just tell me and I’ll help.”

“I might have breast cancer. I have to go to Barrie for tests tomorrow. The lady who normally takes care of Reb is busy after school and I don’t know how long I’ll be. I …”

“You listen. I’m on my way. I’ll be there soon. Don’t worry. Everything is going to be alright. I’ll be there tonight and I’ll drive you and Reb to Barrie tomorrow. What time is your appointment?”

“Ten, but Robbie…”

“No, buts. I’ll be there soon,” came the calm, confident response.

“Thanks Robbie,” came the shaky reply. “Robbie?”

“Hmmm.”

“Thanks.”

“You and Reb get a fire going and make something for us for dinner,” ordered Robbie knowing it was important to keep Janet busy until she got there. “I’ll be there in less than two hours. Okay?”

“Okay,” Janet smiled. “See you.”

“Count on it,” responded Robbie. She was buzzing Gwen as she hung up. “Gwen, I’ve got an emergency. I’ll be gone for a few days. Tell Brian, I’ll be in touch as soon as I can. Call for a helicopter to take me to Bartlett. I’m just slipping home to pack and then I’ll head out to the island airport.”

“Okay, Robbie,” came the serious and concerned response.

Robbie throw clothes into a suitcase. Why was she doing this? A delay now in filming was going to cost her millions! She should be finishing her rewrites and climbing into bed with Tracy!

She leaned over her suitcase, balanced on her extended arms, eyes closed. Who was she trying to kid? She’d given it her all last night and had not felt anything. This damn, little school marm had got under her skin in a big way.

Christ! She’d said she’d take Reb if anything happened to Janet! If she had thought she could have been a good mother she wouldn’t have… Don’t go there, she warned herself, just deal with the here and now. Janet needed her and so did Reb, and no matter what the cost, she was going to be there for the two of them. After all, she owned it to Billy. They were family, right?

Janet stood at the screen door scanning the evening sky, while Reb made happy, little baby noises from inside her playpen. A shiver went through Janet and she wrapped her arms around herself and rubbed her arms with her hands. I shouldn’t have called Robbie. I’m not her responsibility. I just wanted her here so badly. It was really weak of me. The poor woman hardly knows me!

The whoop, whoop of helicopter blades echoed across the lake and the silhouette of the bug-like ‘copter appeared over the horizon. Yellow eyes searched the beach and then turned, as the craft slowly settled in the swallow water. The bubble door opened and Robbie slipped out into the ankle deep water. Bent double to keep away from the blades, water sprayed around her, as she reached in and grabbed her bags.

Squinting her eyes against the wind and spray, she limped up the beach and met Janet half way to the cabin. Dropping her bag, she wrapped the smaller woman in her arms protectively and let her cry. Neither one of them heard the helicopter lift off and disappear over the trees again.
Part 4
After a short while, Janet’s sobs lessened. She pulled away from Robbie and took out a tissue to wipe her eyes and nose. “Okay, sorry. My granddad always said when things get too much find a comfy shoulder, cry your eyes out and then get on with it. Well, I’ve had my cry and it was a nice shoulder.” Janet smiled weakly.

Robbie looked uncomfortable,.”Ahhh, well I’m here.”

Janet stepped forward again and hugged the tall woman tightly. “That means a lot to me. Come on in. There is so much going on in my mind. I’m so glad you came. Do you want tea? Reb’s still up,” babbled the over stressed woman.

Robbie followed quietly. She’d just sort of dropped everything and come and now that she was here, she wasn’t really sure what to do. “Oby’s bird! Oby’s bird!” called Reb from her play pen as she held on to the bars and did a little baby dance, bobbing up and down.

“Hi ya, Reb!” laughed Robbie lifting the small child up into the air. She settled the diapered backside over her shoulders and held on to Reb’s long legs. The baby laughed with delight at this new view of the world and dug her hands into the actress’s hair and held on tight.

Janet laughed, the merriment almost making it to her worried eyes. She picked up Robbie’s luggage from where she had left it by the pen and together they walked through to Janet’s bedroom.

“I’ll make up a bed on the couch,” the teacher said.

Robbie carefully landed her baby pilot onto the centre of the bed and then turned to face Janet.

“I’ll sleep on the couch. You need to rest.”

“That’s thoughtful of you, Robbie, but you don’t fit on the couch. The last time you were here, your feet hung over the arm rest by a foot!

“I’ll manage.”

“No. I need you to drive tomorrow. I ..I don’t think I could give it my full concentration. You need the sleep, okay?”

Robbie looked down at this remarkably brave woman. The more time she spent with this lady the more impressed with her she was. “Okay, but I’ll make the tea.”

Janet smiled. “Do you know how?”

“Funny, come on,” Robbie responded with a jerk of her head towards the kitchen and that famous smile that captivated audiences. Janet helped Reb off the bed and the little child ran on ahead.

Later, they sat together on the sofa, Robbie’s long legs draped over the coffee table sled and Reb fast asleep between them. “I should put her to bed.”

“Hmmm,” agreed Robbie feeling suddenly tired and apathetic.

“We need to go to a lawyer, Robbie, you know to make things legal just in case…well, things don’t work out.” She went on in a hurry. “It’s a good idea anyway. I mean what if I was in an accident or something?”

“I’ll get my lawyer to see to it. Don’t worry. You just tell me what you want,” muttered Robbie looking at the dead fire. She shifted and put an arm along the back of the couch. “Look, Janet, I’m not really the mother type. I’m not going to hold you to a request you made at a time when you had no real fears about the future. If there is anyone else you’d…”

Janet’s hand reached up and rubbed Robbie’s where it lay on the back of the couch. “Reb loves you, Robbie. She just took to you right away. And I trust you completely to care for and protect my daughter. It might be a rather unorthodox upbringing,” she grimaced, “but it will be a good one. I’ve known you only a short time, but you are the one I called, not any of my friends. I just know in my gut that I made the right choice. That is, if you are willing to take on the responsibility.”

Robbie’s fingers interlaced with Janet’s. “We’ll see it through together,” she promised. “Okay, I’ll carry helicopter child into her crib, but you gotta do all the messy baby stuff.”

“Hey, you need to practise!”

“I’m counting on the kid being through college before I have to think about living up to any parental responsibilities,” mused Robbie, cradling the two year old in her arms without being aware she was doing so. Janet smiled, but said nothing.

Robbie slid into the bed and took a deep breath of the lingering fragrance that was Janet. She hadn’t planned on getting between these sheets again so quickly and certainly not alone. Damn! Everything was different now. Everything. She lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling. The pearl moonlight coming through the window painted a kaleidoscope of leaf patterns across the ceiling.

Janet tossed, then turned and then gave in and got up. She looked out the window at the moon shimmering across the lake and thought about the phone conversation she had had with Robbie only the day before. Now everything was different. It would be better once she knew what she was facing, whether it was mild surgery or a prolonged battle. She wished tomorrow was over.

With a sigh, she walked back to her makeshift bed and picked up her pillow.

Robbie counted leaf silhouettes on the ceiling. This was stupid! She’d charged up here like some damn white knight and now she didn’t know what the hell she was supposed to do! Damn it, this is not my responsibility! I’ve got an entire film production team counting on me. I should be back in Toronto!

“Robbie?”

Robbie rolled over and turned on the bedside light. Janet was standing at the bedroom door. “You need something?”

“I can’t sleep.”

Robbie slipped out of bed.

“You’re naked!” exclaimed Janet, her startled eyes wide.

Robbie looked down at her lean, muscular body with disinterest and shrugged. “Yeah, I came that way. Come on, you get into bed and I’ll take the couch.”

“If you put your housecoat on, we could share,” suggested Janet awkwardly. “I mean, I just don’t want to be alone.”

Robbie smiled tenderly. “Get in. Glad you thought to bring your own pillow, I don’t share.”

Janet smiled and rolled her eyes and then happily hopped into her own bed. Robbie went around the other side and slipped in under the sheets. “And I won’t wear P.Js for anyone.”

The drive down to Barrie in Janet’s old truck was quiet and tense. Once they were at the hospital, Janet turned to Robbie. “I can do this alone. Reb would just get antsy having to hang around a waiting room. There is a really good water front park. Would you take her there and play with her for an hour and then come back to pick me up?”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes.” Robbie nodded and Janet slipped out of the truck and made her way over to the hospital. When she looked back, Robbie lifted her hand in a wave and then drove off.

The park ran for miles along the curve of Lake Simcoe. Robbie, disguised in a floppy hat and big sunglasses, hoisted Reb up onto her shoulders. Holding on to the active child with care, she walked down the length of the park and back again, trying to work the soreness that still remained out of her knee. Reb played with Robbie’s long hair that stuck out from under the hat, and pointed out the things of interest to her tall friend like a tour guide.

“Sea gal!” squealed the young child pointing to the sky.

“Yes, seagulls,” agreed Robbie. “You like birding, Reb?”

“Agha.”

“Me too. When I was younger, I used to bird a lot. Those are ring-billed gulls, Reb. Say ring-billed.”

“Ing-billed,” came the prompt response.

“That a girl!”

“I was going to go into science and become a zoologist. That was before…well, you don’t need to know about that. No one does.”

“Boat!”

“Sailboat,” clarified Robbie pointing to the sloop as it slid by on the steady wind.

“That a sailboat,” repeated Reb.

“Hmmm. And that’s a noisy motor boat.” Robbie pointed to the offending Bayliner, as it cut around the sailboat and sent the sloop’s boom swinging in its wake.

“Vooom! Motta boat! Voom!” laughed Reb with delight.

Robbie raised an eyebrow and looked up at her charge. “I should have known you’d go for speed and power!”

Robbie lifted her small charge to the ground and together they headed up to a swing set, Reb holding on to the actress’s hand, as if she had known her all her short life. Robbie lifted Reb to the top of the slide and waited at the bottom to catch the gleeful bundle of delight. Then, she swung her high in the sky and deposited her on the top again. Whoosh! Down slid the happy child again.

“Why do I get the feeling I could be doing this all day,” laughed the director as she deposited Reb at the top once more. “I can see, Reb, why your mom has such a great body, having to chase you around all day!” Robbie looked out across the huge lake. The water on the horizon was almost the same colour as the sky, as if you could swim up into the heavens.

She had laid beside Janet last night and held her hand! She hadn’t held anyone’s hand since her first highschool date, damn it! And yet it felt nice. Like a special bond you feel with someone you have known and trusted for a long time. She hadn’t felt angry or frustrated at not getting any action, she had just felt – content. Robbie felt a jolt of surprise. She couldn’t recall having felt content since…

“Oby’s bird! Oby’s bird!” came the delighted giggle of the small child above her head. Robbie looked up with a smile, that changed to a look of horror, as Reb spread her arms like wings and dived off the top of the ladder.

Janet waited in the crowded waiting room, flipping through a dog-eared copy of People magazine from last year. “Mrs. Williams?” called a disembodied voice from behind a door that had been opened a crack. Janet got up and obediently entered into the inner workings of the mammography department.

The voice turned out to belong to a springy, small woman in her thirties, wearing blue surgicals. “This way please. This is your change cubicle. We’ll need everything off to the waist. Here’s your gown. Open side to the front, please! Hang your clothes on the hooks, but please, don’t leave anything valuable in the cubicle.” The woman was gone before Janet could respond.

I wonder how many times a day she has to say that! Janet disappeared into her allotted space and pulled the curtain. She stripped to the waist and put the gown on that had been provided. Most of the ties were worn off. She sighed. Once you enter the world of medicine, any sense of privacy and self dignity became a thing of the past.

“Are we ready, Mrs. Williams?”

“Yes,” Janet said, rolling her eyes as she emerged from her area, clutching her gown with one hand and her purse with the other. Another bright hospital guide trotted by them, leading an older man clad only in a gown and black socks and shoes. The man’s desperate attempt to hold the flaps at the back closed had failed, and he mooned them as he went by. Well, at least I was spared that indignity, Janet thought as she followed her guide to the mammography room.

She was handed over to a new assistant. “Okay….Mrs. Williams,” said the nurse, checking the chart. “When was your last mammogram?”

“Ahhh, about five years ago.” The nurse looked up with a disapproving expression, causing Janet to go on. “I’ve been meaning to get around to it.”

“Age?”

“Thirty three.”

“Any children?”

“One, two years old.”

“Not pregnant?”

“No.”

“Have you had cancer or any history of cancer in your immediate family?”

“No.”

“Why did the doctor refer you?”

“I found a large lump in my right breast. The lymph nodes are swollen too.”

The nurse nodded and finished checking off the data on the chart. “Okay, remove your top and step up to the machine. We’re going to put the pinch on you!”

It was Reb’s leather clad shoe heel hitting the bridge of Robbie’s sunglasses and snapping them in two that resulted in the cut to the bridge of the actress’s nose and her black eye. It was, however, Reb’s impact with the metal dome on Robbie’s leather jacket that scratched her nose and gave her the matching shiner. Robbie’s panicked dive and grab brought her to the ground heavily. Reb, lying on top of her, was silent for a minute in stunned surprise.

Robbie reached up and dabbed at the blood on Reb’s face, trying to ascertain how bad the damage was. “Hey, you okay?” Robbie asked, her voice shaky with fear.

Reb recovered from her surprise landing, opened her mouth and screamed with a baby wail that could have been heard in Toronto, an hour’s drive south.

Robbie scrambled to her knees and held the upset child. “Hey, God damn it, Reb! Don’t cry. God damn it, people are going to think I’m abusing you! Shhhh!” Robbie looked around in a panic as the screams got louder. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a tissue to clean the blood from Reb’s face, surprised to find that it was only a small scratch for the amount of blood over the two of them. Then she realized that her face was bleeding too. “God damn it!” she muttered once again and picked the small child up.

She carried the stiff child over to a small ice-cream stand where a woman watched on with concern. “Are the two of you alright? My, that was an amazing dive you took to grab her out of the air.”

“I think she’s fine,” fretted Robbie over the wails. “I haven’t been able to ask her any vital questions yet. Can I have an ice-cream cone in whatever flavour two year olds like and big enough to fill her mouth?”

The woman laughed and made up a baby vanilla cone. “That’s a dollar-fifty.”

Robbie rooted in her blue jeans and pulled out a gold coloured coin worth two dollars. “Keep the change,” she said, taking the ice-cream cone and holding it up to Reb’s open mouth. The tears turned to sobs and then to happy, baby sucking noises.

Robbie pulled out a handful of paper napkins from the dispenser and walked over to a park bench. Reb sat happily there eating her treat, while Robbie wet down some of the napkins at the water fountain and wiped herself and Reb as clean as possible. Reb’s eyelid was definitely going blue. Robbie touched her own. It was almost swollen shut, and she’d had to use a piece of napkin to staunch the blood flowing from a deep cut on the bridge of her own nose. They both had blood down the front of them.

“We look a sight, Reb. God damn it, your mom trusted me to take you out on loan and now I’m going to have to bring you back damaged! I’m in big trouble, Reb! Listen, can you move all your fingers and toes?”

As if to show Robbie she was all right, Reb struggled to her feet, wobbled along the park bench and deposited her ice-cream cone down Robbie’s front. Robbie looked at the sticky mess that was Reb and then down at her own front. “Well, kid, at least we match.”

“Alright, Mrs. Williams, we got nice clear x-rays ” smiled the nurse, returning to the mammography room where Janet waited. “Now, you have to come with me, and I’ll take you over to the Ultra-sound department.”

“Okay,” responded Janet, grabbing up her hand bag and following the chipper nurse down the hall. One room they passed had the old man in it. Janet saw him through the crack in the curtain door having his abdominal ultra-sound as she went passed. If I stay here much longer there is nothing I’m not going to know about that old guy, Janet thought grimly.

Dutifully, she lay down on the cart and let yet another technician have a go at analyzing the problem with her right breast. This time it involved covering the offending item with warm oil and running a hand apparatus over her breast. The inner works of her body showed up in fuzzy black and white on a t.v. screen.

“What do you see?” she asked.

The technician smiled wearily. “I don’t read them, honey. I just photograph them. A report will be sent to your doctor’s office and they’ll advise you.”

Janet lay still and watched the shapes come and go on the screen. She could see the large irregular mass. Several times, the technician stopped, measured the item on the screen and recorded the shot. When it was over, she was given a towel to clean off the oil and sent back to her cubicle to dress.

Robbie had parked the truck so that she could see Janet when she came out. It had been one hour and thirty-eight minutes so far and Robbie was starting to get worried. She looked at her watch again; thirty-nine minutes. She turned to look at Reb, who was safely strapped into her car seat, having a nap. When she looked back, Janet was coming across the parking lot.

Robbie jumped out and went to meet her. “Robbie! What happened?! Where’s Reb?!”

“In the truck, what did the doc…” Robbie stopped. Janet was already on the way to the truck. Shit! Not very good damage control there, Robbie, she chided herself following in Janet’s wake.

Janet looked in at her filthy, but peacefully sleeping child who sported a small scratch on the nose and a bit of a black eye. Her racing heart calmed. “She’s not dead or anything,” came the less than reassuring remark from behind her. “She just went to sleep because she was tired. We went for a swing ride, but she threw up. I think it was the vanilla ice-cream. I should have got her chocolate. No one throws up chocolate,” reasoned the director.

Janet turned, folded her arms and looked at the director. Robbie did her best to look innocent. “Do you want to explain?”

“Nope. How are you?” demanded Robbie.

Janet shook her head. “Don’t know. I have to wait for my doctor to contact me with the results. They aren’t allowed to tell you anything.” Janet moved forward and ran her finger over the damaged eye. The piece of napkin stuck on the bridge of Robbie’s nose was blood soaked. “Hey, you okay, sweetheart.”

Robbie smiled and almost managed to lift an eyebrow. “Sweetheart, huh!”

“It was a term of affection! It looks really sore. I think we’d better go to emergency and get a stitch put in.”

“It was a term of endearment. And I’m not going to emergency. You can clean it up when we get home. Get in, Sweetheart, ” ordered Robbie cheekily, opening the truck door.

Janet laughed and climbed in, waiting for Robbie to come around to the other side, and slide behind the wheel. “If we stopped at a fast food place, there is a chance we can still get out of town without being arrested for child abuse. No murderers in your family are there?” joked Janet.

Robbie’s eyes snapped up, cold and filled with anger. “It was a joke,” reassured Janet, not really understanding why Robbie would react with such intensity.

Robbie laughed weakly. “Ahhh, sorry, just a little guilty I guess about returning the kid damaged.”

“It’s okay. It happens. She is a very active child.” A grin spread across Janet’s face. “It must have been a good fight. Just how many rounds did you go with her before she knocked you out?”

“Funny!” snorted Robbie, as Janet went off in gales of laughter.

Reb was in bed and Janet now had time to think about the day. The click, click of the laptop keyboard could be heard from the living-room. Robbie had commandeered Janet’s teacher’s desk and had connected to the Internet. Janet came into the living-room and sat down in the chair near by. “You wear glasses,” she observed in surprise.

Magnified blue eyes came up and made contact with green. “Only when my eye is too swollen to wear contacts,” laughed Robbie. “Don’t tell my fans. It would ruin my tough girl image.”

“How much of you is image and how much is real?” asked Janet watching Robbie in fascination as she worked.

Robbie shrugged. “It gets hard to tell after a while; the image, the person, it’s all one package for marketing.”

Robbie worked on for a few minutes, very aware of Janet’s close scrutiny. Then she closed down her programs and snapped the lid shut, turning in her chair so she was close to Janet. “What?”

“You are very funny, do you know that? I almost burst a gut on the way home with the story you told about your morning with Reb. It’s a side of you that people never see.”

“Hmmm.” Robbie removed her wire rimmed glasses and looked at Janet with steady blue eyes. They were the colour of a calm Caribbean sea tonight, Janet observed. Sometimes, they were dark and stormy or flashed with an intensity that seemed to radiate from within. Other times, they were the blue of glacial ice.

“Let’s go sit on the couch where it is more comfy,” suggested Robbie getting up. Janet noted that she still favoured her knee a little as she followed the actress. They settled down again, each at opposite ends of the couch. Robbie stretched out her long legs across the sled-table and sighed contentedly.

Janet looked at the fire that was burning with a soft mellow glow. “It feels a little awkward. You being here, I mean.”

“You called!” fired Robbie, defending herself.

Green eyes looked up in surprise and Janet rushed to reassure. “I want you here. I guess, I’m embarrassed because I needed to ask for help.”

“Would you have if it hadn’t been for Reb?”

“I wouldn’t have had an excuse to then,” laughed Janet, nervously pulling at a thread on the cushion’s corner.

“You don’t need an excuse.” Green eyes met blue. ” If I was directing this scene, you would come over here, now, and whisper, ‘Thank you, sweetheart,’ while you kissed me passionately.”

Janet laughed. “If YOU were directing this scene, you’d have had your way with me and then my irate ex-lover would have stormed in and we’d have all been killed in the cross fire!”

“Hey! For some one who has never seen my films, you have a lot to say!” growled Robbie, leaning over and giving Janet a gentle swat. They laughed, and Robbie used the opportunity to slide a little closer.

She placed an elbow on the back of the couch and leaned her chin on her lower arm looking seriously at Janet. “I’m very attracted to you. Do you know that, Janet?”

Janet licked her lips nervously. “Robbie, I don’t think I can handle this right now,” she said, turning away and looking again at the red hot embers of the fire.

“I know. I’m not coming on to you. I’m just asking if you understand that I’m attracted to you,” repeated Robbie, reaching out a hand and stroking Janet’s shoulder softly. Robbie felt the shiver her touch sent through Janet.

“Yes, I understand. But I wonder why.” Janet sighed. “You don’t have a very good track record, Robbie.”

The hand stilled and Janet looked up, surprised to see hurt in the blue eyes. Instinctively, Janet slid over and reached for Robbie, pulling her into a quick embrace. “Oh Robbie, I didn’t mean to upset you!” She pulled back and looked into eyes filled with insecurity. “I ..I like you too. I have right from the very beginning.”

“Like?” asked a controlled, neutral voice.

Janet looked down at her hands. “I’m very much attracted to you. I just have concerns about the consequences for my life and Rebecca’s if we were to….”

“Become lovers?”

“Yes.”

A silence fell between the two women. Janet, sensing Robbie’s pain, did not pull away but instead nestled into the crock of Robbie’s arm, leaning her head back against the shoulder and putting her feet up on the coffee table. Robbie was so complex, one minute vulnerable and the next iron. She was so very, very attractive and yet so very, very dangerous.

Robbie forced herself to keep her arm on the back of the couch, even though she wanted to wrap it around Janet’s shoulder. Okay, you can do this Robbie. Give the lady some space. Don’t spook her or you are never going to get laid.

It shouldn’t have hurt that Janet knew, and didn’t approve of her wild life. It was just painfully ironic that the only person that she had ever told she felt something for, didn’t believe her! It takes you down a peg or two doesn’t it, Williams! To her surprise, a lump formed in her throat. She swallowed it quickly. Get a grip, she ordered herself.

“It’s hard waiting to find out the results,” revealed Janet.

Robbie lost the battle and her arm slipped around Janet, pulling her close. “Yeah.”

“I’m glad you are here, Robbie.”

“I’m glad I’m here too, Sweetheart,” whispered Robbie. They sat for a long time in each other’s arms. Then, self consciously, they prepared for bed, only feeling at ease with each other after they had slipped under the covers, and Robbie had turned off the light.

“Good night, Janet.” Janet’s hand slipped into her own. Robbie sighed happily and closed her long, strong fingers protectively around the small hand.

“Good night, Sweetheart,” came a soft voice in response. Robbie fell to sleep with a happy grin on her face.

“Now are you sure you don’t want the truck? You could drop Reb and me out at the school and then pick us up later,” Janet offered again as she slipped into her business jacket, wiped Reb’s mouth and then lifted her child out of the high chair and placed her on her feet.

Rebecca giggled and waddled over to Robbie who was standing in the living-room trying to stay out of Janet’s way as she got ready for work. This was a side of Janet that she hadn’t seen before; efficient, single mom and career woman. Janet was strong and confident in a very quiet and pleasant manner. Robbie smiled; about as different from her style of leadership as it was humanly possible to be!

“Up Oby, peas!” called a voice from below her knee. Robbie bent and lifted the small child high into the air, letting the happy, baby giggles rain down on her, before she tucked the baby over her shoulder.

Janet picked up her briefcase and baby bag and took a quick look at her watch. “Okay Reb, say good bye to Aunty Robbie. We have to go.”

“Bye, bye Anney Oby,” laughed the child, twisting in Robbie’s arm to wave a chubby, little arm in her face.

“Bye, bye, Rebel,” smiled Robbie, giving her niece a kiss on the cheek before lowering the child down to her feet. Janet watched with soft, happy eyes. “You phone me if you hear anything, okay?”

Janet looked up and smiled at Robbie. “I’ll phone you right away. I promise.” Baby bag over her shoulder, briefcase in one hand and Reb’s trusting hand in the other, Janet prepared to set out again to face the workday of the single mother.

Robbie touched her shoulder and leaned forward and kissed Janet on the cheek. “Bye, love.”

Green eyes smiled back at Robbie filled with affection. “Thanks. I’ll phone.” Robbie managed a weak worried smile as Janet led her daughter down to the truck and headed off to work.

“Robbie! For crying out loud woman, where are you!” came the relieved voice of Brian McGill, over the phone that Robbie had tucked under her chin, as she typed on her laptop.

“About thirty miles north of nowhere,” came the calm response.

“You do realize that Gwen and I are two against an army of Williams haters. There is talk of hiring a hit man to track you down.”

Robbie laughed. “That suggestion had to come from Ernie Talsman.”

“No, Ernie’s comment was, and I quote,” That’s what I get for working for a God-cursed skirt. I shoulda listened to my pappy; a woman’s place is in the kitchen or a man’s bed.”

“Ouch! The old “skirt” shot huh?! I’d of thought Ernie could do better than that. Christ, if Ernie found a woman in his bed, he’d pee himself!”

“Robbie, you are costing the company thousands. Travelli, the bitch on a stick, is driving me crazy! You gotta do something here, Robbie.”

“Hey, I happen to be sleeping currently with that bitch on a stick!” laughed Robbie, happily typing away as she enjoyed Brian’s report from the front.

“Not anymore you’re not! She’s the one who wants the hitman to track you down!”

“Hmmm, did I forget to say good bye?”

“Robbie!” yelled Brian, unwrapping the tinfoil from the scruffy roll of Tums that he had found at the back of his desk drawer, and popping three into his mouth.

Robbie picked up the sound of the activity at her end. “Your doctor told you to lay off the digestive tablets,” she reminded him.

“He told me to work for someone human too!”

Robbie pressed send. “There are eight e-mails heading your way. Go do exactly what they say. Don’t question, just obey. And one other thing; tell Gwen, I need to know how to cook a basic Thanksgiving dinner. Tell her to e-mail me a recipe.”

“That’s it, I’m phoning the company lawyers and having you declared insane. You don’t have a domestic bone in your body! You have to bring Gwen on the set when we do a kitchen scene! What the hell are you up to?!”

“Do it,” commanded Robbie and hung up when she saw the call waiting light flashing.

“Hello.”

“Hi Robbie,” came Janet’s strained voice.

“Well?”

“The nurse at Bill’s office phoned. I have to go in to talk to Bill right after school. I guess I’ll find out then.”

“Shit! This chain of medical command is as bad as the military! I’ll come and pick up Reb.”

“Robbie, you don’t have a car,” laughed Janet.

“I will by then. When will you be finishing there?”

“Five.”

“I’ll be there.”

The phone went dead and Janet frowned and looked at the receiver. Robbie, if it was possible, had even fewer social graces on the phone than she did in person. There was going to have to be a talk about the chain of command in their household pretty damn soon too! ‘Their household.’ What was she saying?! You can’t keep Robbie Williams as your number one baby sitter and hand holder forever, Janet! And yet, that was exactly what she wanted to do! Red crept up her neck. Oh bother! I’ve got a crush on an actor!

Robbie pulled into the parking lot of the Bartlett School for the Gifted at 4:30 , driving her new, navy blue Jeep Cherokee. She had bought it over the phone from the local car dealer and had it delivered after lunch, once the baby seat was installed. The ownership papers, license and insurance were still being processed.

The facility was beautiful. Several long, low buildings of field stone were nestled in manicured lawns that faded out into natural woods to the north and east. To the west, the lawns sloped to a pebble beach and the majestic shore line of Lake Superior.

Robbie thought about the sterility of the building she worked in; the stinking carbon monoxide of the parking garage and the canned, environmentally controlled air of her offices. She breathed in deeply, pine and freshly cut grass. Nice. Janet’s doing all right for herself.

The sign at the entrance way read; Report to the office upon entering the building. Robbie looked down the hall, saw the office sign, and headed in that direction. “Roberta Williams to see Janet Williams,” she said coming to a stop at the secretary’s desk.

Carolyn looked up from her computer screen with an expression of surprise and disbelief. “Oh my God!…I mean…one minute, please,” she blurted out, hitting several buttons on the intercom system before she connected with Janet in her inner office.

Mrs. Williams…It’s Roberta Williams…here…in person!” Carolyn said in a fluster.

Robbie leaned over the desk. “Hi, School marm!”

“Hi, Robbie!” came the disembodied voice. “Come in.”

Robbie grinned at the secretary, gave her a wink, and disappeared into the office. Carolyn flopped back into her chair. My God! I just talked to one of the remarkable Williams! Wait until Burt hears this! He’ll have a cow! I wonder if Milka Gorski is still in the building?

Robbie smiled and Janet’s strained face relaxed into a grin. “Hi.”

“Hi.”

“Busy day?” asked Robbie, slipping into the visitor’s seat and smiling at the woman across from her. She was damn cute and smart too.

“Yeah, lots of things to consider if I’m going to be off for a while with surgery and then there is all the usual school stuff.”

“It’s a beautiful place.”

“It used to be the servant quarters and stables of a local lumber baron. The main house burnt down years ago. He was the original Bartlett. He had a gifted son, who committed suicide. In his will, he left the land and trust fund to establish this school. Some day, when we have more time, I’ll show you around.”

“You mean someday, in our future together?” smiled Robbie wiggling her eyebrows comically.

“You never give up, do you?!” laughed Janet getting up with a shake of her head. “Come on, we’d better pick up Reb.”

Janet came around to the front of her desk and looked up at Robbie who had also got to her feet. “Ahhh, would you mind if I introduce you to staff members still in the building.”

“No, it’s part of the marketing I was telling you about.”

Janet frowned. “I’m not comfortable using you as marketable material.”

Robbie shrugged, “It’s okay, really. It is to some extent part of the job and unavoidable. The grin flashed into place. “Believe me, you’ll know when I’ve had enough!”

Janet grimaced at the thought. Small town Canada might not survive a Williams’ temper tantrum

if the stories about them were true! They headed out of the office together and found Carolyn and Milka Gorski grinning like Cheshire Cats. She gave a side look at Robbie; the stage facade had fallen into place and the woman she knew had disappeared entirely.

Bill Perkins flipped open the report on his desk after greeting Janet at his office door and getting her seated. “Well, Janet, it’s bad news and good news. The bad news is that the tumor is cancerous. The good news is that although the nymph nodes are infected, there is no sign of cancer that we can see.”

“So what are we talking?” asked Janet, forcing herself to remain calm by disconnecting emotionally. This was someone else they were discussing not her.

“For sure we are talking lumpectomy and radiation treatment. We might be talking a mastectomy.”

Janet felt the blood draining from her face. “I…I…thought they didn’t do those anymore.”

“Oh yeah, we do them. Granted nowhere near as often. But we are going to do what ever is necessary to stop the spread of the cancer. This tumor appears to have grown very quickly and it has spread out through your breast tissue and into the muscle tissue. This is serious Janet. You have to accept that.”

Janet looked at her hands and tried to pull herself together. She felt herself reaching out to Robbie for support. In her mind, she suddenly felt those wonderful capable hands squeezing her shoulders and the warmth of the director behind her. We’ll get through this together. That’s what the woman had promised and Janet knew in her heart it was true. She blinked back the tears and straightened her shoulders. “So what are my chances?”

Bill grimaced. He hated this question. How the hell was he to know?! Yet, people had a right to know the odds. “It’s hard to tell, Janet. I’ve seen worse cases survive and better cases die. It depends a lot on the patient’s physical makeup, strength of character and luck. If I had to call the odds, I’d say fifty/fifty at this point in time, but I’d still put my money on you with confidence.”

Janet smiled, although the light didn’t reach her eyes. “Thanks! So when is it to be?”

Bill sighed with relief inside. He hated when they cried and cut up rough. One of the reasons he was attracted to Janet was her no nonsense personality. “It has got to be done right away. This is Thanksgiving Weekend coming up, and that means a regrettable delay. I’ve had them cancel some elective surgery to get you in on Tuesday. I need you to book into Princess Margaret in Toronto early Tuesday morning.”

“Bill, I can’t just walk out of my job! I need time! I…”

“Janet! I’m trying to save your life here. Work with me, not against me,” cut in Bill with feeling, meeting Janet’s eyes with his worried brown eyes.

“Okay. No more arguments.” Janet smiled, getting up to go. She just wanted to get back to Robbie as quickly as she could.

Bill stood too and smiled. “Since you are in town, how about dinner tonight? You’re my last patient. We could talk. You need some one to talk this out with.”

Janet looked at the floor, then up at Bill. “Bill, I really enjoy your company, but I think we both know that I don’t want to make a commitment to you. It would be wrong of me to keep leading you on, especially now. I need you as my doctor, Bill. Can you do that for me?”

Bill swallowed several times before answering. He smiled sadly and nodded. “Yeah, whatever you want, Janet. But I think I’ll wait until you’ve come through this with flying colours before I give up all hope.”

“Thanks, Bill. You’re the greatest!” whispered Janet, stretching up on tip toes to kiss the bristly cheek. She thought about the smooth skin over hard muscle that was Robbie and the hot, dry, spice scent that had become so familiar to her in such a short time. She knew what she wanted in her heart, and it wasn’t Bill.

Robbie and Reb had built a castle together on the beach. It involved a massive earth works project and considerable role playing. They had stormed the castle twice, a favorite part with Reb, resulting in major renovations and rebuilding. They were now cleaning the sand out of their respective undies while Robbie explained the next order of the day.

“Okay, Reb, we are going to get dinner for your mom coming home. I think we…” she stopped. The most extraordinary feeling of being aware of Janet came over her. She knew in her heart Janet had received bad news. For a second, she closed her eyes and tried to let Janet know that it was okay, she would be there for her and that she wouldn’t let her die.

Then she took Reb’s hand and led her out to the kitchen. “Okay, we gotta keep this simple because I can’t cook. You’ll have the famous banana sandwich stand by and Janet and I will have frozen pizza and beer because that’s what I picked up in town,” Robbie explained.

“Ugah.”

Robbie stopped and looked down at Reb who appeared to be pulling a face. “Hey, I’m new at this! Besides, I’m saving up for my big romantic evening when I cook dinner and sweep your mother off her feet with my charm.”

Rebecca sat down at Robbie’s feet and laughed as she undid the director’s shoe lace. “Oh, you think that’s funny do you! Listen, smug baby, I’ll have you know that I’ve never struck out until I met your mother. I might have two strikes against me in the bottom of the ninth, but I still have hopes of a home run. She said she was attracted to me, you know,” argued Robbie as she prepared their meal.

Reb listened seriously from the floor, clapping her hands together and reaching for the dangling shoe lace every time it went by.

Robbie heard the crunch of tires on gravel and swung Reb up and placed her in her play pen. She quickly tied her shoe lace and ran outside to meet Janet. The teacher was just getting out of her truck and the results of her test were written clearly in the emotion that played on her features. Robbie walked over and wrapped Janet in her arms and the woman clung on tightly. “How did you know?”

“I just did,” responded Robbie, her voice rough with emotion.

Janet nodded, her head still buried in Robbie’s cotton shirt. “It’s cancer. They’ll operate on Tuesday in Toronto at Princess Margaret, cancer hospital. It’s advanced. I’ll be having extensive radiation treatment. Bill said a fifty/fifty chance of recovery. Robbie?”

“Hmmm,” came the emotional voice, muffled in Janet’s hair.

“I…I might have to have a mastectomy.”

The arms held her tighter. “Whatever it takes, sweetheart. Just as long as we win this battle,” Robbie reassured, feeling her gut twist into a knot.

Robbie pulled back and kissed Janet’s forehead. “You okay?”

Janet nodded. “I think it really hasn’t hit me that this is me facing this illness and not someone else. I feel a little overwhelmed; there is just so much to do before Tuesday. I’m not sure how long I’ll be off work.”

“Don’t worry. Just take it one step at a time and trust others to help pick up the slack, okay. Come on, Reb’s been asking about you. I told her the tooth fairy carried you off.”

“Robbie! You didn’t!” laughed Janet, poking her tall companion who had managed to keep her arm around Janet’s shoulder as they walked up the porch. For an answer, Robbie just raised an eyebrow and reluctantly removed her arm to open the door.

“Mommy! Mommy!” called Rebecca lifting her arms to be picked up. Janet reached down and kissed her daughter and then falling to her knees she hugged the child closely and sobbed broken heartedly.

Robbie wasn’t sure how to handle the surprising turn of events. Should she leave mother and daughter alone? Should she try comforting them? Reb was crying almost as loudly as her mother now. “Okay, that’s enough!” Robbie roared.

Mother and daughter turned wet eyes on Robbie in startled wonder. Robbie stepped forward and picked Reb up, then offered her hand to Janet, to pull her to her feet. She wrapped her arm around the woman and kissed the top of her head. “This is nothing we can’t handle, sweetheart.”

“I might never see Reb grow up or marry,” Janet sniffed in explanation.

“That’s okay, she’s going to grow up to be a butch and lead a terrorist group to free the muskox of Ellsmere Island, anyway.”

Janet snorted and hugged the two that she loved more than anything close to her. Yes, she was in love with Robbie Williams. Why did you have to come into my life now, Robbie? And how long will you stay?

“Hey, I made dinner,” revealed Robbie as the oven buzzer went off. Robbie gave Janet a quick squeeze and then carried Reb over to place her in her high chair. Janet went over and climbed up on one of the bar stools. Frozen pizza and Molson Canadian! It was on the tip of her tongue to make a snide remark, then she noted Robbie’s pride and with relief the banana sandwich for Reb.

“Pizza and beer, Rob, that’s just what this day calls for! Thanks.”

Robbie flashed a smile that warmed Janet to the tips of her toes as she served each of them a slice of pizza and came around to sit beside Janet. Janet found, to her surprise, that the pizza and beer did go down easy. Robbie, too, helped to ease her anxiety by getting a pad of paper and helping Janet to organize a list of things that had to be done. Then they divided the list into things Robbie could see to and things that Janet would have to handle. The mountain of responsibilities that Janet had been building since hearing the prognosis had been reduced, with Robbie’s help, to a long, but manageable list.

A sleepy Reb was put to bed at seven, after she had shown her mom the castle that Oby and she had built. Janet had helped Reb place a flag on top of the huge mound of sand made of a twig with a leaf stuck on it. Now the two adults sat at opposite ends of the couch, Janet explaining how she would want the custody and her estate arranged. Robbie typed the information into her lap top to e-mail off to her lawyer. It was hard, and she found that she had to force herself to keep the emotion from showing on her face. This was important, both legally, and for Janet’s peace of mind. She typed on.

When they were finished, Robbie’s shoulders ached with tension. Janet was wired. Roaming around the room with restless energy. “You know what I need you to help me do now, Robbie?”

“No.”

“To help me bake cupcakes!” laughed Janet coming to stand in front of Robbie, eyes sparkling.

“What?!”

“Cupcakes for the church social. Come on Robbie, I need to keep busy!”

Robbie sighed. She had thought they could be busier enjoying each other’s embraces on the couch. Damn woman. “Okay, but if you ever tell a soul that I helped bake cupcakes for a damn church social,” she grumbled, “you’ll be going head first into the lake!” Privately biting the bullet, she followed the high strung woman out to the kitchen and stoically did whatever was asked of her. They laughed a lot and slowly the nervous energy dissipated, leaving a tired but calmer woman.

“Almost done,” said Janet yawning as she iced the last few cupcakes. Robbie looked up from licking the chocolate covered beaters.

“Good, because if I have to lick one more beater clean, I’m going to be sick!”

“Don’t complain, you were the one who insisted on taste testing everything!”

Robbie smiled, pleased that Janet was acting more like her old self. “Hey, it was a tough job and I didn’t have Reb to help me!”

Janet came over to the counter and leaned close looking into Robbie’s remarkable eyes. “You two are so much alike. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you are here. I don’t know how I could ever repay you for your kindness.”

Robbie ran her finger around the bowl that Janet was still holding and reached over the counter to paint Janet’s lips with chocolate icing. Then she leaned over the counter and slowly and deliberately licked every bit of icing off. The kissing became a mutual exploration. Janet put down the bowl and reached up to run a hand around the back of Robbie’s neck, pulling her closer, and play exploded into passion.

Janet finally pulled back. The two of them were breathless from the encounter. Robbie smiled. “There, the debt’s paid,” she whispered.

Janet’s lips opened as she leaned back towards Robbie. “No it isn’t,” she whispered huskily just before their lips met again. It was Robbie who broke this kiss to come up and over the counter in a smooth vault and wrap Janet in her arms while her lips explored the texture and taste of Janet’ face and neck. When she felt the smaller woman stiffen, she slowed and pulled back. Their eyes locked. “I…I mean, I , this is no time for me to get involved.”

Robbie kissed the golden head of the smaller woman. “We were involved from day one. I won’t rush you, sweetheart. We’ll just go really slowly. Ready for sleep, now?”

Janet smiled and nodded her head. This time Robbie didn’t wait for Janet to take her hand. When Janet slid into bed, demurely dressed in her nightie, Robbie turned off the light and curled her naked body around Janet’s small form. Janet took Robbie’s hand that lay draped over her and placed it over her breast, interlacing her own fingers with Robbie’s.

Robbie smiled in the dark and nuzzled into the back of Janet’s neck. First base, she thought, happily going off to sleep.
Part 5
Janet woke to the Beep! Beep! of the Roadrunner. The sleep slowly left her mind, as she blinked in the sunlight, to be replaced by the jolt of memory. I’ve got cancer! The words were a shock wave crashing through her being. Why did everything sound and look so normal? Her alarm brought her eyes to the clock. Time to get up for work. There was so much to be done; she couldn’t afford to feel sorry for herself. Okay, Janet, move your butt.

Forcing the depressive thoughts to the back of her mind, she slid from the bed that she had shared with Robbie. To her surprise, there was a small bunch of wild daisies lay on the pillow beside her own. She reached over and slipped out the card that rested underneath. The picture on the card was of a storm over a wind tossed sea. Janet flipped the card open, recognizing Robbie’s bold handwriting.

I am not worried. There is nothing you can’t handle. Robbie.

The fear that had fuelled her morning depression shrunk back into proportion. As long as Robbie believed in her, she knew she could see this storm through. A warm, fuzzy feeling filled her heart. I wish people knew Robbie as I knew her. She slipped into her house-coat and padded softly out of the bedroom and down the hall to peep around the corner.

Robbie was sitting on the floor with Reb between her legs watching The Roadrunner cartoon on T.V. They were sporting matching black eyes. “See, Reb, there is good animation in the character, but none in the background. That’s how you save time and money. You gotta watch those below the line costs when you’re a director. Good point-of- view here as the Roadrunner falls off the cliff again. You see him from the top and then from underneath and then below ground level all within a twenty second time frame. You remember, I told you there are twenty-four cels to a second of animation, so that scene had about eight to ten cels.”

“Oadunna Ody! Oadunna!” squealed Rebecca with delight, pointing to the screen.

“That’s right, Rebel. Roadrunner.”

“What’s a cel?” asked Janet, leaning in the doorway watching the two interact with delight.

Robbie looked up in surprise and a blush crept up her neck. “It’s a word Disney created. Short for celluloid, which is the type of plastic the cartoons are painted on.”

“Do you do cartoons too, Robbie?” asked Janet coming over to the pair.

“Mommy!” demanded Rebecca, standing up and holding her arms up to be lifted. Robbie patted the spot beside her. Instead of picking Reb up, Janet curled up beside the director on the floor and let Reb climb into her lap.

“Morning, Reb,” Janet greeted her daughter, giving her a kiss on the forehead. “You, little one, are up very early.”

“We went for a walk after my run this morning,” explained Robbie, proudly.

Janet looked up and smiled with delight into Robbie’s eyes and Robbie found her insides melting like an over heated candle. My God, she wanted this woman! She’d felt desire many times before but not like this. This was a hunger that just wasn’t going to be denied.

“I need to be getting ready for work, but just share with me a little bit about what you and Reb have been talking about.” Janet reached a hand out to briefly squeeze Robbie’s arm. “Thank you for the flowers. It made my morning a lot brighter.”

Robbie snapped back from her world of sensations and tried to remember what it had been she had been telling the kid! “Ahhh, you’re welcome. Reb found them. No, I’ve never made a cartoon. It would be fun to try but it is hard to compete with companies the size of Disney. Even Universal can’t match their work.”

“How are they made?” asked Janet, enjoying the pride that Robbie took in her field. Robbie lost all her defensiveness when she talked about the art of film. Janet liked that side of her friend.

“Well, you start with the story, the script. Then the team is brought together to make a storyboard, which is like a big comic book only with just rough sketches. It’s a brainstorming session where ideas are developed and interrelated. Once an idea is agreed on, it is written on the storyboard. That way, everyone working on separate parts of the production – animation, sound, background, special effects – will know how all the parts are to fit together.”

“When you see an animated movie, you are actually seeing individual pictures moving at a rate of twenty-four frames per second. So, for every second of film the animator draws twenty-four pictures! In reality, the animator will do only the main positions of the character. They’re called the extremes. The assistant animator draws the main interconnecting stages between the extremes, called the breakdowns. The less practiced artists, called inbetweeners, fill in the remaining sequences, called tweeners.”

“Producing a cartoon feature takes a lot of time and money. It has to be a real team effort. A Disney or Universal production, of feature length, will take three to four years to produce and have around 400,000 drawings.”

“But aren’t they just produced by computer now?” asked Janet, looking at the cartoon closely as Roadrunner handed the coyote a stick of dynamite.

“Computers are used to set colour and create reversals and things like that but no, the only way to make a good cartoon is by hand. It is an amazing art form.”

“So everything I’m seeing is done on cels?”

“The characters are. The backgrounds are painted. Each cel is put on, filmed, removed and the next one in the sequence put on.”

“I guess I’d better not make some inane remark about cartoons being cute, kid stuff, huh?!” Janet laughed giving Robbie an affectionate push with her shoulder.

Robbie smiled down at her, one eyebrow raised. “Nope.”

The urge to reach up and kiss Robbie was almost uncontrollable. Instead, Janet passed Reb back to her and got up. “Well, I’ve got a busy day. I’d better not be late.”

Robbie watched Janet disappear back down the hall and then quickly picked Reb up and deposited her in her play pen. “Listen, Reb, play with Pooh Bear here for a bit and don’t cry, got it?! I’ll be right back!”

Janet stripped off her house-coat and nightie and turned on the shower to adjust the temperature. She turned back to get her shampoo and hit a human wall. “Ahh! Robbie! You scared me! How can anyone so big, move so silently,” gasped Janet, recovering from her shock to feel a blush flooding her cheeks as she realized she was totally naked.

An eyebrow went up and the corner of a mouth raised in a bemused smile. “I had to follow you. You didn’t give me a good morning kiss,” reasoned Robbie.

“Hmmm, where’s Reb?”

“Penned.”

“Come here,” ordered Janet with a smile as she wrapped her arms around Robbie’s neck. There was no timidness this time. Open, hungry lips sought each other in a passionate dance. Tongues stroked and curled and sucked in a sensual imitation of things not yet done. Robbie let her hands slide down to cup Janet’s round, firm bottom, and felt the responsive woman moan deep into her mouth.

Yes, now! Robbie thought and moved one hand to glide over a well defined waist, across tight abdomen muscles and up to the soft, warm breast. Robbie slipped her tongue deep into Janet’s mouth as her thumb rubbed over a taunt nipple. Oh God, I’m going to come right here, Robbie thought as she bathed in the heat and scent of Janet’s body.

Janet felt Robbie’s explorations on a rush of heady sexual energy. Her whole being tingled with need and she rubbed herself along the lean hard body wrapped around her. She throbbed with want and tore Robbie’s shirt free of her jeans so that she could run her hands across the silk-covered steel of the actor’s chest. Ohhh, I should stop. Oh God, I can’t! Then the hand that was rhythmically feeling her breast touched the area where the tumor lay.

Janet stepped back and leaned her head against Robbie’s chest. “We can’t.”

“Why the hell not!” came the frustrated response, rough and breathless with desire.

Janet stood on her tip toes and kissed Robbie’s cheek. “Because I’m not going to tie you to me when in a few days time my world could turn upside down. I can’t anyway. I need to get ready for work and we can’t leave Reb long,” explained the teacher, unconsciously tracing patterns over Robbie’s bra cup with the tip of her finger. Bother, she had fallen hard for this complex and moody woman.

“Okay,” Robbie agreed with a sigh, as she kissed Janet lightly on her brow and lowered her hands to rest on Janet’s hips. Janet’s hands dropped slowly, weaving patterns across Robbie’s chest, as she pulled her hands from under the T-shirt. Forest green eyes met winter blue. “This is not over,” Robbie warned. “It is just beginning. I want you.”

Janet nodded. She had entered that wind tossed sea and the elements were going to take her where they may in the next few days. One thing she knew was she wanted one night at least when she lay on golden sands and made love to Robbie to the beat of the sea of emotions that stormed within. ” Nothing I can’t handle,” quoted Janet cheekily. Robbie laughed. “Now go get my daughter fed and dressed. I’m running late and need your help!’

Another quick kiss and Robbie was gone. Janet stepped into the now lukewarm shower and let the water beat against her sensitized flesh. My God, where is all this going?!

Janet gulped down the last mouthful of coffee as a too innocent Robbie and Reb stood by watching. “Okay, Wednesday, you went a round with Reb and lost, Thursday, you bought a truck, what is on the agenda for today?”

“Reb and I are going shopping,” smiled Robbie.

“Well, that sounds harmless. If anyone asks for an autograph, please don’t hand the baby away,” laughed Janet, picking up her briefcase. “You sure you want to keep Rebecca all day? She can come with me to the daycare…”

“We’ll be fine. She has to get used to me, in case you’re laid up for a bit next week. We discussed this,” responded Robbie, with an edge to her voice. Didn’t Janet trust her!

Oh, oh, Williams’ temper, observed Janet. “I know we did, but I’d hate Reb to get you in any trouble,” giggled Janet, placing a kiss on her daughter’s cheek and then Robbie’s.

An eyebrow went up, “Funny!”

“Call me at lunch?” Janet asked in a worried voice, turning back at the door to look at the two trouble makers standing holding hands.

Robbie rolled her eyes. “I’ll report in on regular intervals.

Janet laughed as she looked back through the now closed screen door. “You won’t have to. Once people know you are in town, I’ll get a constant report of your movements through the jungle telegraph!” Robbie snorted and Janet trotted down the porch steps and a few minutes later disappeared along the dirt road in her truck.

Robbie looked down at Reb. Reb looked up with a smile. “Kid, it is time to get the ingredients to seduce your mother. Come on!”

Gwen cradled the phone and cursed Robbie to a lower level of Hades than she had placed her yesterday. Her e-mail could patch hell a mile, she just wished she had shares in Bell Canada, and she’d had to post a security guard at the office door to repel boarders, in order to get any work done at all. And the instructions she and Brian were carrying out in Robbie’s name indicated strongly that the woman was up to no good!

To her surprise, a ring came from her purse. Damn! The bastards have got my home number now! No, it might be her husband or one of the kids, she’d better answer it. “Hello, Gwen here!”

“Gwen, Robbie. Why can’t I get through on the office phone?” came the impatient voice of Gwen’s boss.

“Because you are behind at least a million others in line! That’s why! Come back!” the harassed secretary responded.

“No! Listen, I’m in the grocery store. Do you know they’ve got these neat carts with seats for your kid? Where do I look for the Thanksgiving food?”

Silence. Robbie was clearly in one of her moods when she was going to try to stir things up. Patience! Then, “Robbie have you ever been in a grocery store before?”

“Sure I have, in grade two. Mrs. Rousseau bought the class to check out the vegetables.”

“Oh God!” came the exasperated response.

“Hey, that was the Cook’s job. It would have been presumptuous of me to interfere!” responded her boss, hiding her irritation behind a mask of sarcasm. It wasn’t a crime to be raised rich.

“How do you eat?!”

“Eat out or cater in.”

“How can you look the way you do and have such appalling eating patterns?! Okay, listen, above all don’t lose your temper. Everyone has right of way over you because you’re the new guy. Don’t block the aisles, and if anything goes wrong give your name as Lucy Lawless,” ordered Gwen, doing a little stirring herself. She got the response she wanted.

“I DO NOT LOOK LIKE LUCY LAWLESS!”

“Hmmm, first, we look for the meat counter. It’s a cold section, usually towards the back of the store.”

“Okay, here, Reb say hi to Aunty Gwen while I steer this thing. I have to get the one with the rusted wheels. It probably spent the winter in a snow drift and was only salvaged last spring,” muttered Robbie, striding awkwardly with the wonky cart towards the back of the store.

Reb giggled gleefully. “Hi!”

“Hi, Rebecca! How are you?”

“Hi.”

If I wrote a book, no one would believe it, Gwen thought with a sigh. “Is Robbie there, Rebecca?”

“Hi.”

“Hi, Rebecca. Where is your mom?”

“Ad school. Mommy teacha. Oby di-ectta.”

Robbie took the phone back. “Okay I’m here. And people complain about violence in movies! The carnage wrapped up on Styrofoam trays back here is scary. I’d hate to meet the butcher after hours. What are you laughing at?!”

“She calls you Oby!” giggled Gwen, her day improving immensely. “Wait until I tell Brian!”

“She does not! She calls me Robbie. She just hasn’t mastered r’s yet. R’s are particularly hard, as an actor would tell you!” Robbie defended hotly.

More giggles. “Okay, you want ham, right? Two people, look for something around five or six kilograms, anything smaller and it will dry out.”

“What does raw ham look like?”

“Robbie! For God’s sakes, work with me here! The packages are labeled!”

By the time the exhausted and long suffering Gwen had talked Robbie through the grocery store, word had got out that Robbie Williams was in town. After she had paid for her groceries, she sat on the counter and signed autographs and gave an interview to and was photographed by the local paper. Robbie, true to her word, did not hand the squirming child over to anyone else, although she did make sure not to let Rebecca’s face show in the picture.

Then, having charmed the locals, she headed over to the community centre to buy the three of them tickets to the town hall Thanksgiving dinner put on by the Ladies Auxilliary. Lastly, she asked directions at the gas station about how to get to the lumber mill, before heading back to the cabin for lunch.

The phone was ringing when she staggered through the door with Reb and two bags of groceries.

Dropping all three on the couch she grabbed it. “Hello.”

“Hi, I could have got the tickets for the dinner. Should I buy extra copies of the paper so you can send the article to your family? And why do you need to go to the saw mill?” came a familiar voice.

Robbie burst out laughing. “Wow! And I didn’t even do anything news worthy!”

“We live in the Canadian back bush, in a village with a population of 493, most of them related. Last week’s headlines in The Barlett Gazette were about the minister buying a new car. Don’t evade. What are you up to at the saw mill?”

“It’s a surprise.”

“I can live with surprises just not nasty , big shocks. Is that Reb I hear?!”

“No, that was eight cans of baked beans hitting the floor. Reb is inside the paper bag that they used to be in.”

“Why do we have eight cans of baked beans?”

“They were on sale and came highly recommended by the store manager. It was a P.R. gesture. It was a lot cheaper than a billboard in Time Square. How are things going there?”

“Carolyn and Milka are pretty upset. The others don’t know yet. I’ll call a meeting after school to tell them about the administrative changes. Milka and I sat down and have gone through things with Carolyn. They are both bright women and professional. It’s short notice, but if I’m not gone too long, I think they can manage.”

“Good.”

“Ahhh, I miss you.”

Janet could feel Robbie’s smile right through the phone. “I miss you too, school marm, hurry home.”

Robbie picked up the cans and unpacked the ham, vegetables and baby. Then she made them corn flakes and milk for lunch. It was a short time later that she realized that two year olds really need to be asked if they need to go to the bathroom on a fairly regular basis.

Sometime later, having turned the air blue with curses, a fresh Reb and an exhausted Robbie headed out to the saw mill. It turned out to be a pretty small operation. It was owned by a local, by the name of Walter Higgins. He was fifty-six, married, and his two children worked at the mill. Doug ran the circular saw and Tracy was the secretary cum bookkeeper. They owned about two hundred hectares around the Long Lake where Janet’s cabin was situated and another thousand hectares to the east. So far, Walt had used the lake block mainly for hunting, except for the five or six hectares on which sat the saw mill itself.

The saw mill was on Saw Mill Road just off Highway 11 about twenty miles north of Long Lake Road. They certainly didn’t kill any brain cells coming up with names around here, thought Robbie as she turned off the highway.

She had got all her background information easily enough by simply asking for directions to the mill. All information seemed to be given out up here wrapped in local history. She also knew that Walt’s wife May had the arthritis bad and that Tracy was seeing Lou’s boy, whoever Lou was!

A big beefy man with a friendly round face walked towards the truck as Robbie slid out and flipped back the seat to get to Reb in the back. “Hi, I’m Walter Higgins. I heard you were heading up this way, eh. It’s a great pleasure to meet you, Ms. Williams!”

Robbie helped Reb down and held on to her hand tightly. Janet would never forgive her if she brought the kid home cut in two pieces! “Hi! It’s nice to meet you, Walt. Is that your family over there?” May, Tracy and Doug were grinning awkwardly by the office door.

“Yup, that’s them. Come over and meet the brood!”

“Sure!” Robbie smiled happily, inwardly cursing all family gatherings to hell. Janet laughed about “northern time”. Robbie found nothing funny about it at all! True, no one was going to die of an ulcer, but they might grow roots! It was no wonder the north of Canada was so under developed! No one had got around to starting anything yet!

“This here’s my wife, May and our kids, Tracy and Doug, eh.”

“Hi! Great to meet you!”

“Ohh, Ms. Williams! I saw you in Midnight Terror, and I was so afraid for you! It was a wonderful movie!”

Robbie beamed (insincerely). “Thanks! Call me Robbie. Actually, I was rather afraid myself, with all those cars whizzing past me in the dark. I kept getting drenched every time one hit a puddle!” Everyone laughed and relaxed. The actor was human, Robbie thought sarcastically, behind her stage smile.

“Well, what can we do for you? Little Janet need some more winter wood?” asked Walt.

Business at last! “No, actually I have an offer I’d like to put to you. Can we use your office?” asked Robbie bending to pick Reb up. The child had been trying to escape since she had been released from the truck.

“Well, this has come as a surprise!” said Walter Higgins, flopping back into his chair and looking totally shocked. “Never thought about sellin, eh. But I’ll have to turn you down. I guess, some day, Doug will take over and well, both my kids make their livin here. Now Tracy, she has been steppin out with Lou but…”

“Five hundred thousand.”

“Good God, woman! No, my kids have got to make a livin!”

“May could go south for the winters. It would be great for her arthritis. There are more Canadians in Arizona and Florida than Americans. AND I’ll guarantee good jobs for the kids, once I get my business under way.”

“You’re going to run a saw mill?!”

“Something like that; one million, my last offer,” growled Robbie, bored by the chatty negotiation.

No response. The clock on the plywood wall ticked twelve seconds. “I need to talk to my family.”

Robbie smiled. “Tell your kids that their starting salaries will be $30,000. They’ll be working as Grips and get to be on set and meet all the stars.”

“$30,000! Hell, that’s good money for a starting salary up here! That’s mighty generous!” babbled Walt.

Robbie stood with a sigh of annoyance. “It has nothing to do with generosity. It has to do with a union that has producers and directors by the… over the barrel,” amended Robbie. “I’ll let the family know that you want a board meeting.”

Robbie played hid and seek with Reb around the yard, the two of them getting pretty muddy and sticky from pine gum. Sometime later, Walt came out and walked over to the two. He held out a hand. “You got a deal there, Robbie.”

Robbie flashed one of her famous smiles. “Let’s go phone our lawyers.”

Janet hung up from having talked to the Chair of the school trustees. She rubbed her eyes and leaned back in her chair, spinning it around so that she could look down the lawns to the shoreline of Lake Superior. Patronizing jackass! she thought.

Carolyn burst in. “Janet, you’ll never guess!”

“What have they done?” drawled Janet, turning back prepared to hear the worst. She just knew deep in her heart that her daughter had found a kindred spirit in Robbie and that trouble was going to follow them like a wake.

“She bought out Walt Higgins lock, stock and barrel for a million dollars!”

Janet’s feet hit the floor with a bang as she sat forward with a start. “She’s done what?!”

“Okay, Reb, we gotta think in terms of dinner here. You know I’m kinda the house-mom this week. Weird huh?” Robbie chatted happily to the baby, who was banging pans together with some energy as she sat on the kitchen floor. Robbie stopped what she was doing and looked down at the percussion section, “Say kid, maybe you’ll take up jazz. I like jazz. I play a pretty good trumpet you know…well for an amateur. There’s a clarinet in your mom’s closet. I saw it while I was snooping. Maybe we could form a group and jam!”

The baby giggled and slammed two pot lids together. Robbie laughed and went back to opening a can of baked beans and dumping them into a pan. Getting all those cans of baked beans was a good idea after all, Robbie reasoned. Now she wouldn’t have to worry about meals.

The door slammed open and Janet strode in throwing her case on the couch as she went by. Robbie looked up in surprise. The sound of crashing pans had masked the arrival of Janet’s truck. “Hi!” called Robbie cheerfully licking the spoon clean of cold baked beans.

“Don’t you hi me, Robbie Williams, as if butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth! What are you up to? You can’t just come into this town and turn people’s lives upside down. A million dollars for the old lumber yard! Robbie those people make a living out there! It’s one of the few industries in the town!” roared Janet, standing in the centre of the living room shaking with anger and beet red with emotion.

Robbie’s body went strangely still and her facial muscles hardened into an expression totally devoid of emotion. The blue eyes that had sparkled a second before like rain drops in the sun were now the colour of glacial ice. “I wanted it. I bought it,” she hissed.

“And what about Doug and Tracy?!”

“I bought them off,” Robbie shrugged.

“Bought them off! These are people, Robbie, not stock commodities! What the hell is a Grip?” demanded Janet coming to hold on to the edge of the stone topped counter with white fingers.

Robbie leaned against the back counter forcing her body that was taunt with rage to relax. “It’s someone who fetches and carries on site. They set up the sets under the charge of the chief grip.”

“Mommy?”

Janet ran an unsteady hand through her hair. ” And just where are they going to work? Toronto? They’d hate it! Damn it Robbie! You’ve ruined these people’s lives on a whim!”

“Bad Mommy,” called Rebecca, upset at her mother’s anger as she pulled on Janet’s skirt.

“Giving some one a million dollars is not wrecking anyone’s life!” came the snarled response.

“You would say that,” Janet yelled, “You stupid Williams think money and power is everything!”

“Mommy!!”

“Shut up Rebecca!” Janet snapped looking down at the annoyance that was pulling at her skirt. Reb’s face crumpled into a tight knot and her mouth opened in surprise. Then the tears started to fall and the wail of hurt echoed in the now silent room.

Janet dropped to her knees and wrapped the small child close to her. “Oh, Reb, I’m so sorry! Shhhh, baby. Mommy didn’t mean it. I’m so sorry!”

Robbie looked down at the two with eyes filled with confusion and pain. Then she silently left. Outside, the cool air felt good against her hot skin. Anger and hurt coursed through her system in pulsating waves. She broke into a run down the path.

The miles moved passed in green walls of trees as Robbie pushed herself on and on down the shoulder off the road. Finally, as the sun was dropping towards the western horizon, she came to a staggering stop and dropped down into some long, sun baked grass by the side of a beaver swamp. For a while, she lay on her back gasping for breath and trying to work the cramps out of her oxygen starved muscles.

Finally, pushing herself up, she walked down to the edge of the pond and knelt to splash cold water over her hot body. A wack and a splash, a beaver, angry with the intrusion, slapped its flat tail against the water and then swam out to the relative safety of its home, a dome of mud and sticks half submerged in the water. Robbie watched as the beaver slapped the water once more in warning and then dove below the surface to the entrance of its snug den. Despite her foul mood she smiled. In the soft, honey glow of the late afternoon, the bog and its creatures was a beautiful site.

It had been a long time, Robbie realized, since she had just stopped and enjoyed nature. She sat down, wrapping her arms around her legs and listened to the chirp of the frogs calling to each other. Over head bats and swallows swooped across the darkening sky chasing insects. Robbie slapped at a mosquito. It was time to head back. She got up reluctantly, unwilling to deal with the conflict back at the cabin. With a sigh she set an easy jog back. Maybe the bitch would be in bed by the time she got there and she wouldn’t have to deal with the issue.

Thump, thump, the rhythmic tread of Robbie’s sneakers echoed in the dark. She hadn’t realized that she had run so far or so fast. She had been jogging now for almost two hours and she had only just reached the turn off to the cabin. It was dark now and she had actually run passed the driveway, only catching sight of Janet’s mail box at the last minute and doing a U-turn to drop into the blackness of the long lane.

She slowed a bit, unable to see her footing on the rutted path. If I stay here, I’m going to have to get this driveway paved, she thought. That is if she didn’t find her stuff on the stoop when she got back! Okay, maybe she had acted a bit impulsively but going with her gut reaction was the way she ran her business. Although she headed a multi million dollar company, she was an entrepreneur by nature not a business person. It was the empire building she loved not the maintenance of a corporation. Tigers hunt and sheep stay home on the farm, she thought. She didn’t have time to worry about individuals. Everyone has to look out for themselves! So why was she feeling guilty?

Okay, so I promised Doug and Tracy more than a salary. I promised them jobs. I’ve got some ideas. I’m just not ready to talk about them yet. They’re not so much ideas as they are those gut feelings again that just let me know I’m headed down the right path. How can I explain that to Janet without sounding like an idiot? In the long run, what I did today will work out all right for everyone, I just don’t know how yet.

Thump, thump. I’m not used to having to share ideas. If I’d told Janet more this morning when she asked about my plans, maybe we wouldn’t have fought. I guess I did put her in an embarrassing position. This is a small town and all and I am her guest sort of. Maybe I could have cut her some slack too. How would I handle knowing that I had cancer and could die. How would I say good bye?

Robbie’s stomach reacted violently at this thought. Sending her to the side of the road to throw up. The thought of losing Janet or Reb was like a shot through her heart. Damn. I gotta work out more. When was the last time I threw up after a run? The Boston marathon? Robbie wiped the cold sweat from her brow with the back of her arm. Shit!

Janet sat in the corner of the couch, a small forlorn figure. She had a very stressful day and her talk with the chair of the Board had been the icing on the cake. ‘So where do we stand here Janet? Should we be posting your job and interviewing? I’m sympathetic but the school has to have consistent and strong leadership.’ The insufferable bastard had her dead and buried already!

She should have told him to go to hell but instead she had been diplomatically reassuring and come home instead and dumped all over Robbie. It hadn’t been fair. Not that Robbie hadn’t acted high handedly but she could have at least given her the chance to explain. Robbie had dropped everything and come to support a complete stranger when asked and in return Janet had insulted and berated her!

She got up once more and looked out into the dark night. Where are you? She wondered again if she should wake up Reb and take the truck out to look for Robbie. She might have been hit by a car and be lying in a ditch somewhere. A wave of fear brought out a cold sweat on her forehead and goose bumps on her arms. She was going to get Reb and start searching. Then she saw the tall figure jog tiredly into the circle of the porch light and she shot out the screen door, down the porch steps and into Robbie’s startled arms.

“I’m so sorry!” she wailed into a sweaty shoulder.

“Me too, love. Me too,” groaned Robbie holding Janet in a tight embrace.

Robbie emerged from the shower to the reassuring smell of canned pork and beans and fresh toast. She wrapped a towel around her and combed her hair back straight. Then she headed out to the kitchen where Janet was just dishing up their late meal.

They sat side by side on high stools eating their meal at the bar counter. Their conversation was pleasant but forced each of them still trying to deal with the emotion of their fight. Usually a fight didn’t bother Robbie much. If she needed to dress some one down she did. She paid her employees well and they had an outstanding benefits package. In return, Robbie expected excellence and a high performance level to match her own.

But fighting with Janet had really hurt and it had left her feeling confused and vulnerable. She knew Janet was waiting for her to explain why she had bought the lumber yard. “Ahhhh, it bothers me that you slept with my brother.” Why the hell had she said that?!

“W..What?!”

“I said, it bothers me that you slept with my brother,” Robbie repeated moodily, stabbing at her meal with her fork.

“I didn’t.”

“W…What?!”

“I didn’t. Do you really think I’d sleep with a stranger?! It was done artificially.”

Robbie tossed down her fork and turned to look at Janet. Blue moody eyes met flashing green. “You sorta implied that! It explains a lot. I didn’t think my brother…Reb was mixed up in a petri dish?!”

“Basically, yes.”

“A test tube kid?!”

“There is nothing wrong with that or my daughter!” responded Janet, her temper rising again. Robbie broke out laughing. “What’s so funny?!”

“It just explains a lot. Ahhhh, about Billy and about you. Ahhh, well, ahhh, it was just weird wanting to bed a woman that had slept with my brother.”

“You make me feel like a hand- me-down shirt,” grumbled Janet sipping off the stool to remove the plates.

“You are the most beautiful and enticing woman I have ever met,” Robbie said honestly.

Now it was Janet’s turn to laugh as she ran hot water in the sink. “You will say and do anything to get me into bed won’t you?!” she giggled and then looking over her shoulder she saw Robbie’s face.

“I meant it,” Robbie said quietly and went to look out the window into the dark night.

Janet wiped the soap suds off her hands and followed after Robbie. “Hey,” she said wrapping her arms around the actor’s waist and leaning her head against Robbie’s muscular back. “I’m sorry. I guess it is hard for me to believe that of all the beautiful and talented people you have known, you would find me the most appealing.”

Robbie said nothing. There was a lot she knew she should say but somehow the words just weren’t there. Funny, she never had trouble writing dialogue. But it was different when it was real emotion and you had to actually say the words.

Janet sensed the tension in Robbie and realized that the complex woman needed some emotional space.

“Thank you for saying it though. It makes me feel very special. I…I care for you Robbie. Hey, you want to teach me some more about film? We could go through my videos and you could tell me about them.”

Robbie turned and gave Janet a quick hard hug. Pull yourself together here Robbie. You are supposed to be supporting Janet not her you! “Sure. You let me know when you’ve had enough. I can go on for hours!”

They walked hand in hand over to the television inset and settled down once again on the rug. Robbie sorted through Janet’s videos with disdain. “I’m going to buy you a decent collection of films for Christmas. This lot are an embarrassment!”

“Hmmmm,” Janet agreed, allowing Robbie to take over and find the safe ground she needed for her warring emotions.

“Okay, we’d better look at Disney cartoons. Seeing as Reb has been buying the videos in this house.

Beauty and the Beast was a block buster. It was beautifully made. Look at this horse pulling the cart through the dark woods. The animation is great. You can feel the weight, the muscle and the fear, it says draft horse and yet the expressions are human.”

“Wait until I forward. Okay, observe the detail in the castle. Forget about the characters, just look at the background, the depth of detail and intense shadows and feel of dimension. The people who do the backgrounds are not animators, you know, they are fine artist. This work is superb! And then there is the personification of the clock, candlestick etc. This is Disney at its best!

Okay, look at this scene of the napkins spinning on the table and then parachuting off the edge. Remember that! Right here’s Fantasia, which is the mother of classics in film amination. In my opinion it is the best animation ever made. Okay, see this scene, where the blossoms spin down the waterfalls, where have you seen that?”

“It’s the same as the napkins!” exclaimed Janet getting as involved as Robbie in what she was seeing.

“Got it in one! This is one team of animators paying homage to another. Fantasia was made way back before the war. Walt wanted it to be an on going project where the film would be morphed each season and would be reissued. But there wasn’t the money after the war to do that. There is talk that it might be done in the next few years.”

“I love Fantasia!” exclaimed Janet eyes sparkling.

Robbie gave her a quick hug. “Good girl. There is hope for you yet!” Janet poked Robbie in the ribs.

Robbie leaned forward and slipped Beauty and the Beast back in the machine and rewound to near the beginning.

“Each character is done by one team with a manager overseeing. The woman who was in charge of the team that worked on Belle in Beauty and the Beast had the habit of using her hand to brush her hair back off her face when she leaned over a drawing board. The animators put the gesture in as a joke.”

On the screen Janet saw Belle reach up and push her hair out of her eyes. “She did it!” laughed Janet with delight.

“Yep, there are all sorts of hidden jokes in film. Here’s another one. The teams that did Beauty and the Beast did the crowd scenes for Hunchback while other teams did the principal characters. But they left their mark! Look closely now, right here near the beginning of the film when their showing the streets of Paris, see the character rounding the corner, she is only on for a half second…”

“It’s Belle!” laughed Janet clapping her hands.

Robbie laughed at Janet’s enthusiasm. “Right. Different coloured outfit but it’s Belle all right.”

Robbie slipped the tape out and got up to put some soft jazz on the stereo. She got two wine glasses out while Janet watched. Expertly, Robbie uncorked one of the bottles of Mouton Cadet from the private vineyards of the Rothchild’s that she had bought for their thanksgiving dinner. The brick coloured wine glowed in the soft light of the fire. For a while, they lay contentedly watching the flames and sipping their wine. Like so many good French wines, it had that rich mushroomy body and peppery finish that was a delight to the senses.

“I bought the land for you,” Robbie muttered not daring to look at Janet.

“What?!” came the startled response as Janet put down her wine and turned to face Robbie. Robbie downed the last of her wine and put her glass next to Janet’s.

“You said you didn’t want to see the trees around the lake cut down. So I bought the land for you,” admitted Robbie starring with interest at the rug, as a blush crept up her neck.

“Oh Robbie!” came a strangled gasp and Robbie found her arms wrapping around the small woman that had just propelled herself into the taller woman’s lap.

The music started slowly, a melody of rich, liquid notes that rained softly from a mellow guitar. Robbie let her mouth caress Janet’s face, ears and neck enjoying the soft, rhythmic gasps of delight from the woman under her. The guitar picked up the tempo as clothes were loosened and discarded. Now the rhythm took over repeating its beat in an earnest need. Hot music, hot flesh as Janet let Robbie play her body like a finely tuned instrument. The guitar thumped out a crescendo of notes as Janet’s body groaned with each passing wave of release.

The melody was passed to the piano player who hungrily took up the age old melody. Janet rolled Robbie onto her back and felt the woman’s groan vibrate on her lips as she nuzzled a long, muscular neck. The music rose relentlessly to a climax allowing the pounding of the drums to take over and dominate. Then the other instruments once again took up the rhythmic refrain slowly, softly now bringing all the elements of the music into a single note that whispered off into silence.

Much later, Robbie lay on her back in Janet’s bed. The smaller woman was fast asleep lying on Robbie with her limbs dangling like a little, golden cub asleep in the sun. Robbie was in a state of total shock. Bases loaded in the top of the ninth and who slams home the home run but the opposition team! When had Robbie ever let go like that before? Never! She had given herself completely to Janet and had let all the defenses down, screaming with ecstasy as her body bucked with each passing after shock. She had never let herself be that vulnerable before. Never let someone control her so completely. My god! It had been wonderful!

Tears rolled from the corners of Robbie’s eyes and settled like dew drops on the floral sheets. My God! I’m in love, she realized with a shock. After all these years of being so careful not to make an emotional commitment to anyone, she had fallen hopelessly and completely in love without ever seeing it coming. She wrapped her arms around the sleeping form and nuzzled her face into Janet’s soft hair. What the hell was she going to do now?!

Okay, okay, take it easy here, Robbie chastized herself as her heart pounded in her chest. I’ll just end it. Walk away, like I have so many times before when things were starting to get serious. Her heart pained at the thought and the tears backed up and over flowed in a steady trickle. My God, I can’t leave her!! I can’t! Somehow life without Janet and Reb would be unbearable!

So what now? I can’t just sleep with this one and walk away. I don’t want her to think that this is a conquest and nothing more. I want some sort of commitment. I’d go mad if I thought she slept with stupid Bill Perkins! Or anyone else for that matter! The laws in Ontario had been recently changed. She could ask Janet to marry her in a civil service. She could legal adopt Reb then. No. That was impossible not after…

Well, at least she could do the honourable thing and be honest with Janet about how she felt. Not completely honest of course, she could never burden Janet with the complete truth but as honest as she could be at least. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, she would tell her. It was important that before she has this surgery that she know that I love her. The emotional pain this time brought a groan to Robbie’s lips. Please God, don’t take Janet. Please, she is all I’ve got, Robbie begged holding the sleeping woman close and crying in the darkness of the night.

Janet returned to the livingroom after putting Reb down for her afternoon nap. It had been a beautiful Thanksgiving Saturday. She had woke in Robbie’s arms her body nestled into a chair made by the curve of the taller woman’s body. They had made love yet again and after a late breakfast on the porch the three of them had gone for a long walk and picked wild blueberries on the sun warmed granite rocks at the western end of Long Lake. They had a picnic lunch there under the blaze of fall colour. Later, they walked back hand in hand along the old, abandoned logging road that ran to the south of the lake.

Through the picture window, Janet could see Robbie sitting on the porch rail looking out over the lake. Her arms were hooked around one leg that was bent up on the rail. The other long leg hung down. In her corded, Scottish wool sweater, she looked every inch the star. Robbie Williams in lights. It was hard to believe that this was the same woman who had given her so much pleasure last night and again this morning. I’m sleeping with THE Robbie Williams, she told herself , but in her heart, in that special place that was filled with love for this remarkable woman, she knew that this was just her Robbie. She was a complex and super private person who was so caring and honourable in her own vulnerable and stiff way. I love you Robbie, she whispered and then hid that knowledge deep before stepping out on the porch.

Robbie stood up and met her. Wrapping her in her arms and burying her face in Janet’s hair. “Hmmm, you smell of summer heat and fresh herbs.”

Janet laughed. “And Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo! Reb and I share.” Too her surprise, Robbie bent and lifted her up into her arms. Eyes locked and Janet fell into the kiss, reveling in being so free and at easy with the powerful woman. If people could only know Robbie as I do, she thought again and then was surprised by the sudden dart of jealousy. No, she didn’t want to share! She just wanted Robbie to herself forever! Tears had to be blinked back quickly. It was never going to be. To Robbie, she was just one more conquest.

“Hmmm, that’s nice,” whispered Janet.

“Yeah, it is.” Robbie carried Janet over and placed her on the swing seat. Then she sat down beside her and placed her elbows on her knees looking down at the floor. Janet felt the lump forming in her throat and steeled herself. Here comes the famous Williams brush off.

“Ahhhh, I guess you realize that…. I ..I…I like you.”

“I hope so Robbie. I am very fond of you.”

“Fond. Ahhhh, good. Ahhhh,” Robbie stopped to lean forward and pick up a red maple leaf that had drifted to the porch. She ran it nervously through her fingers. “Janet, I need you to know that there was a time in my life when I was very confused and I did things….well that lay heavily on my shoulders now.”

Robbie steeled herself and forced her eyes to look up into Janet’s. “Bad things. Things that I don’t think you could ever forgive me for.”

Janet sat and let Robbie say what she had to say without interruption. This was not what she had expected.

“Ahhh, about us…” Okay, now we are on familiar ground Janet thought. I wonder if she uses the excuse about her evil past as a way out of all her relationships?

Go on Robbie, just say it! Tell her that you love her!

“It’s okay Robbie. I was using you too,” Janet cut in. Robbie hid what felt like a mortal wound behind a face devoid of expression. “I needed to be loved. I needed you to know me as…as the woman I am now. That sounds awful callus. It wasn’t quite that scheming. I am attracted to you Robbie. At another time, I probably would have wanted to know you a lot better before we…. but I might not have much time and….”

Robbie smiled, “Hey, its okay. Just as long as we both know where we are coming from, huh. Friends and occasional lovers, okay?”

Janet smiled too although the light had not reached either woman’s eyes and the air was filled with stress. “Okay,” Janet got out, her lip trembling with the pain she was holding inside.

Robbie scooped her into her arms immediately. “Shhhh, hey, its okay. There is nothing you can’t handle sweet-one. Shhhh, I’m here, I’ll always be here for you….friend.”

“Oh, Robbie!” Janet sobbed, “Hold me. Hold me!”

They sat there until Reb’s howl of protest from her crib, sent them inside. Janet curled in Robbie’s lap. Robbie’s bleak face staring out across the lake over Janet’s sobbing shoulder.

It was after a dinner strained with fake happiness that Robbie’s bleeper went off. She got up from the couch where she had been reading to Reb and went to the window snapping open her phone.

“Robbie, it’s Gwen. I’ve had a call from London. There’s been another incident.”

Robbie stiffened and turned away from where Janet and Reb were playing. Janet saw the gesture and picked Reb up and disappeared down the hall. Robbie sighed. “What happened?”

“A fight.”

Robbie’s stomach turned over. “Is Ryan all right?”

“Yes, but the other guy’s got a broken arm.”

“Shit! Contact my law firm and have them send down their detective, Polinski. He handled the last case really well. We can’t afford a law suit or criminal charges. Tell him, what ever it costs just make sure that this whole thing goes away, okay?”

“Sure, Robbie.”

“And thanks…thanks Gwen.”

Gwen’s voice softened. “I’ll make sure everything is okay, Robbie, don’t worry. You okay, there?”

“Yeah, fine. As well as can be expected. We’ll be heading down to T.O. on Monday and after the operation on Tuesday, I’ll try to get things back on schedule. How is Brian?”

“Eating Tums like breath candies. Ernie sends his love and hopes to see you in hell and Tracy said she would quit the movie except her Robbie is such a sex machine.”

“If you tell a soul that Gwen, I’ll have to kill you.”

“Bring a gun when you come, Robbie, its all over the office! See you Wednesday. And don’t worry, okay?”

“Thanks, Gwen, good bye.”

“Bye.”

Robbie found her two girls playing blocks on the floor in the nursery. “Everything okay? asked Janet reaching up to take Robbie’s hand and tugging her down to sit beside her. It was written all over Robbie’s face that something was wrong.

“Yeah, everything will be okay, just some unfinished business that needed immediate attention, that’s all.”

Janet rubbed Robbie’s arm. ” Being here takes you away from important things. I’m so sorry.”

Robbie gave Janet’s hand a squeeze. “Right at the moment, there is nothing more important than you.”

Janet’s sudden smile took some of the pain from Robbie’s soul.
Part 6
Once Reb was washed and changed they got ready to go to the Community Centre Thanksgiving Dinner. “Robbie, are you sure you are all right with this?” worried Janet.

Robbie’s head popped around the corner of the closet. “I’m fine with it. I was born famous. I don’t know a life when there hasn’t been a camera to smile at or someone who wanted to shake my hand. You might find it hard though. It is a real loss of personal freedom and space. Wear your tan sweater with the navy trim, okay.”

“Oh, do you like that one?” asked Janet feeling the warmth of a compliment spreading through her system.

“Yeah, it’s okay. I’m just working out the costumes and staging here,” muttered Robbie pulling navy socks from a drawer.

“What?! Robbie this is just a community dinner for God’s sakes!”

Robbie stopped and turned serious eyes on Janet. ” No, for a Williams, for anyone famous, it can never be JUST a community dinner. It is a performance. We are there not to enjoy ourselves but to make other people’s evening more eventful. There will be record crowds tonight. You can count on it. We’ll go a bit early so the first sitting sees us arrive and we’ll leave a bit late to say hello to the third sitting. If we are lucky in between we’ll have a good time.”

“No! I don’t want to be on display. I just want to have a Community Thanksgiving Dinner!” rebelled Janet.

Robbie sighed, “Then I’ll stay here.”

“No!” An eyebrow went up. It was Janet’s turn to sigh. “I don’t like sharing you,” she grumbled.

Robbie smiled happily, “You’re not. What I am is part of a very private world in which you belong. The community only sees the public face.”

Janet stepped forward and kissed Robbie softly, “I …think you’re something wonderful! So what do we have to wear, oh famous director?”

“We’ll all wear blue jeans for that down home look. You’ll be in tan and navy. I’ll wear my navy pea jacket and a tan rawhide to hold my hair back. Reb can wear that beige sweater with the navy bears on it. I’ll carry Reb. We want to give the feel of family solidarity now that Billy is dead.”

Janet grimaced, “Robbie, this is so calculating!”

“First impressions are important. I’ve just become a big land owner in this community and people will want to check me out to see if I live up to my film image. Okay, you might be asked why the rest of the family is not here. Alexandria is in the South of France for her health and Elizabeth is engaged in some very important research that could not be put off.”

“Is that true? I’m not lying. These people are my friends and relatives!”

“Its basically the truth. Alexandria is in the South of France catching the end of the season and Elizabeth is always engaged in important research,” muttered Robbie from inside a T-shirt. Her head popped through and she shook her hair back into place. ” Just a few words of caution. Never let Reb face the camera. Don’t indicate where you live to the press and stay close to me?”

“The first two I understand but why do I have to stay close to you?”

“Because I think you’re cute and I want to be near you,” smiled Robbie giving Janet a nuzzle and kiss to the ear.

Janet laughed. “That’s better,” Robbie smiled. “Sorry, about all this. You sure you want to be associated with me?”

“Very sure,” came the instant response and the three Williams headed out for their first official public function in Bartlett.

It was a circus. The press from several local communities had shown up to take pictures along with the Bartlett Post and people leaving from the first sitting crowded around to get autographs. At first, Janet was embarrassed and awkward by the attention but Robbie quietly drew her into the circle with light banter and silly jokes. Janet soon realized that it was a script that they repeated in a number of variations over and over again. Once comfortable with the routine, she actually competed with Robbie on who could be the most creative in saying the same noncommittal things in different ways.

Robbie’s eyes caught hers and sparkled with amusement. She was having fun and to Janet’s surprise, she found that she was too! Finally, inside the hall, they lined up to be served their meals by the ladies of the auxiliary. Janet was careful to introduce Robbie to everyone in turn and to her amazement, Robbie remembered every name and passing remark and made reference to them in her conversation.

‘Hello, Mrs. Douillard, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Mrs. Butler was telling me that you make the best pumpkin pie this side of Toronto. I’ll be sure to come back and get a piece. Hi, Ted! You’re the brother of Dave back there on the ticket table aren’t you? I understand that you are Janet’s third cousin on her mother’s side,’ and so it went on.

It was some time before they were safely entrenched at a table, surrounded by Janet’s school staff. “Are you related to everyone in this damn town?” Robbie whispered into Janet’s ear in frustration.

“Just about, except for the few outsiders that have moved in over the years. Most of us can trace our families back to the original logging pioneers. So over the last hundred odd years there has been considerable inter marriage between the families,” responded Janet settling Reb into an old wood highchair that had been provided.

It was Robbie, however, who fed Reb the bowl of mash potatoes, peas and small bits of turkey that Mrs. Snoblen had made up special. Janet watched with pride and thought back to only a week ago when Robbie had first come into their lives. It was a performance, she realized, but she also knew that behind the show, Robbie had a real deep and loving bond with her baby daughter. Where did the acting stop and the real person begin, she wondered? ‘The packaging and the person, are really all one,’ Robbie had told her and now she was starting to understand what the actor meant.

“Janet,” came an overly dramatic voice, “could I meet your sister-in-law?”

Janet looked up at a wall of a woman with a round, cheerful face and a short crop of grey hair. “Sure,” she smiled. “Greta Corry, meet Robbie Williams. Robbie, this is our town librarian and president of the Bartlett dramatic society.”

“Hi, nice to meet you,” smiled Robbie mechanically.

“Oh, Ms. Williams it is such a pleasure! I’ve been a fan of yours for years! I’ve followed your career intently and I want you to know I knew right from the beginning that you had star quality!”

“Well, thanks, it’s kind of you to say so,” came the well used response.

“I was reading on Net-Entertainment that your new movie has the Latin-Bombshell, Tracy Travelli in it! Is she everything the media make her out to be?”

“Well, actually…” Robbie saw Janet’s fork freeze half way to her mouth and a panic-stricken face turn in her direction. “She’s really a lovely person. Giving. Warm. Ugh!” Robbie finished as a shoe connected with her shin.

“Oh, I’m so glad to hear that! So often those of us involved in the Arts are seen, well as not quite nice. It’s so sad! Janet you know, helps out with our yearly production. I do hope, however, that if you are around, you will give us the benefit of your vast experience!”

An evil grin appeared on Robbie’s face and she quickly moved her foot before the frantic looking Janet could connect with another blow. “Greta, I would be delighted to help out with this year’s production in any way I can! My vast experience is always available to Janet…and her friends. What are we doing?”

“The Tempest by William Shakespear!”

“Really!?” the grin got bigger. Janet covered her eyes with a hand. “Now there is a play that is prefect for Janet and me!”

“Greta, isn’t that your sister waving to you?” interrupted Janet in desperation.

“Is it? Oh please excuse me Ms. Williams. Now don’t forget, we start rehearsals right after Christmas!

It was wonderful meeting you in person!”

“Bye, Greta!”

Janet grabbed Robbie’s arm and leaned close to her ear. “What are you up to?!”

Robbie played innocent. “Who me?!”

Janet bared her teeth in frustration and Robbie laughed gleefully. Reb laughed too and clapped her chubby baby hands with glee.

“Great! Gang up on me!” Janet protested.

It was as they made their way slowly out of the community centre that Janet ran into Lucier of the Bartlett Post. Robbie had been detained several steps behind signing autographs. “Mrs. Williams, we meet again! Let me express the paper’s condolences once more on the death of your husband.”

Janet stiffened. She didn’t like this man. She quickly turned her daughter so that she looked back over her shoulder to where Robbie stood. “Thank you. My husband and I were separated, as you know, but it is a sad tragedy that Rebecca will never know her father,” Janet recited a variation of words that Robbie had used earlier.

“Is there any truth to the rumour that you have terminal cancer and that Robbie Williams is here to take her brother’s daughter?”

Janet felt like she had been hit in the gut. Before she could get any words out Robbie was there beside her, her arm wrapped protectively around Janet’s waist. “My sister-in-law will be having minor surgery next week to remove a lump. There is no cause for alarm and she plans to be back at work soon. I am here just helping out for a few weeks. We’ve always been a closely knit family.”

Robbie pushed the upset teacher forward and they escaped quickly to the relative safety of Robbie’s truck. Lucier’s grey eyes followed them with interest. There was a story somewhere in this. He just needed to dig deep enough. Everyone had something to hide and when he found it, maybe he’d get the chance that he always wanted to move up to a big paper and have his own bi-line.

“You all right?” asked Robbie reaching over to rub Janet’s hand as the smaller woman sat stiffly, staring out the front window.

“The press is horrible!” choked Janet.

“They can be. Most are fairly decent but you get the Lucier types that use the freedom of the press as a means of bullying and intimidating others. You’ll get used to it,” soothed Robbie philosophically.

“I don’t want to!” snapped Janet with feeling.

Robbie pulled to the side of the lane and switched off the engine. Then she turned to face Janet. “If I am going to be your…friend, it means that a certain amount of the limelight will fall on you. Also, whether you like it or not Reb was born a Williams.”

“No! I am not going to have my daughter grow up with that burden! She is going to be just another little girl growing up in an ordinary Canadian town!”

Robbie sighed. “Janet, get real here! The kid’s a multi-millionaire!”

Janet’s head snapped around in shock. “What?!!”

Robbie’s eyes opened in surprise. “What? You didn’t know? As the first born of the Williams’ clan, Rebecca inherited the remainder of my father’s estate. I should think in the vicinity of fifty million dollars plus, of course, the family estate near Unionville. Billy would have had charge of the money until Reb was twenty-one but I presume that you will be taking over now.”

Silence.

“Janet?”

“My God.”

Robbie laughed bitterly and started the truck again and pulled back onto the lane. “Nah, I don’t think today’s God has the power or the money that the old man had.”

An over-excited Rebecca took some coaxing to get to bed that night. Finally, after the difficult child was washed and changed ready for bed, Robbie took over from a frazzled Janet. “You go get some work done and I’ll get the rug rat to sleep.”

Janet squeezed Robbie’s arm in thanks and headed out to the quiet of the living-room. So much had happened to turn her world upside down this last week. She was really feeling on overload!

Robbie carried the squirming baby into Janet’s bedroom and laid down with her on the bed. For a while she played peek a boo with her from behind a pillow but when Reb’s eyes started to blink with sleep, she curled up near the small bundle and sang softly to her until the small girl was fast asleep. Carefully, she carried the two year old back to the nursery and tucked her in.

Janet started when strong hands gently gasped her shoulders. She looked up into eyes blue as a summer’s sky. “Come here,” she whispered and Robbie leaned down to dust Janet’s soft, warm lips with gentle kisses. Desire, a rich liquid heat, flooded through each woman. Robbie slipped around the couch and lowered Janet down on the sofa cushions as her own body followed. “Oh Robbie!’ came the gasp of need; husky and earnest. Robbie answered the call with all the passion that her soul could offer.

Robbie lay on her stomach with Janet’s naked body sprawled across her back. Hmmm, she thought, this feels sooo good. Lips brushed across her shoulder blade again. “Robbie, time to get up for church,” came a coaxing voice.

“We’re queer and living in sin. The established church doesn’t want us.” protested Robbie in a voice husky with sleep.

Janet folded her arms across Robbie’s back and leaned her chin on her hands so the she could see her lover’s face. Sleep softened features beneath rich, dark hair tossed with love making took Janet’s breath away. The woman was simply gorgeous! “I try to separate the politics of church from the philosophy of the faith,” stated Janet in response, leaning forward to place a kiss on Robbie’s ear. “Besides, it is good for Reb to have a knowledge of the faith of her family. Then when she is older, she will be able to make an intelligent decision on what she believes.”

“This family member is a heathen who wants to spend Sunday morning ravishing her mother’s body,” growled Robbie spinning over and wrapping a surprised Janet in her arms.

Janet kissed Robbie long and tenderly. “It’s important to me.”

“They’ll burn us at the stake.”

“It’s Thanksgiving, Robbie!”

Robbie sighed and gently brushed the hair from Janet’s face. “Okay, but I’ll probably be struck dead by lightening when I step in the door!” warned the actor.

“Well, that will make a Thanksgiving service no one will ever forget!” laughed Janet. Robbie retaliated by picking Janet up and carrying her into the bathroom to share a shower. This resulted in them only having time for a quick cup of coffee before they rushed off to church.

Robbie had to admit that it was kind of nice. There was some good imagery that she could use some day in a film. Mentally, she filed away camera angles. The church was small and made of round field stone in soft pinks and greys. The roof was cedar shingles giving it the look of a chapel in some elfin kingdom of long ago. It was nestled in tall pines beside a fast flowing creek that tumbled over rocks to the main river below. Surrounded by the splendor of the autumn forests, the setting was indeed beautiful.

People in their Sunday best arrived and said hello, as Janet lifted Reb from the truck and they moved towards the church door. Dave rang the church bell in the steeple with enthusiasm and his brother Ted handed out the programs and greeted each new arrival.

Inside, the church was simple and airy. Janet, holding on to Reb’s hand, moved close to the front and sat on one of the maple-wood benches with Robbie beside her. The bright morning sun through the stained glass turned the dusty light beams into a rainbow of colours that draped over the interior. The choir entered. They stood and sang along, Robbie’s beautiful melodic voice adding a much needed depth to the choir. Robbie recognized Mrs. Snoblen and the librarian cum Shakespearian director, Greta Corry, in the choir loft. The minister followed in at the end and everyone took their seats.

Raising his arms in a blessing, Reverend Billingsley smiled and prayed, “Dear Lord bless us all on this fine Thanksgiving day as we come here to praise God’s name…”

Reb, wearing a cute, cotton dress and sitting demurely between Janet and Robbie, suddenly beamed with joy and yelled out in a voice that could be heard all the way to hell and back, “Goddamn!” Then she giggled happily.

For a second, there was stunned silence in the church, Janet looked down at her daughter with green eyes wide with shock and a face beet red with embarrassment. Robbie slapped a hand over Reb’s mouth and leaned down to whisper in the kid’s ear. “Do me a favour here, Reb, shut up!”

“Well,” the minister’s voice broke into the silence as he beamed down at the offending child, “I can see with this new generation coming up, I’ve got good job security!”

The congregation broke into gales of laughter and when it finally quieted down the service went on without any further hitches. Occasionally, Robbie would sneak a sideways glance at Janet where she sat stiffly and glowing with embarrassment on the other side of Reb. Oh boy, I’m dead meat, Robbie thought.

After the service and much good natured ribbing from Janet’s neighbours and friends, the three women headed back to the cabin. There was a frosty silence in the truck cab. Reb chewed her fist with a worried expression on her face and Robbie squirmed guiltily. “Ahhhh, sorry about that.”

“I asked you not to swear in front of Rebecca!” snarled Janet, her knuckles white around the steering wheel.

“I didn’t realize mini human’s absorbed words like sponges!” protested Robbie. “Anyway, most people thought it was funny.”

“I didn’t! Reb will never live this down!”

Silence.

“Are you still angry at Reb and me?”

“Yes.”

“Forever?” came an insecure voice.

Janet snorted despite herself. “No, not forever, but for a damn long time!”

“Don’t swear in front of the kid!” protested Robbie in a shocked voice.

Janet laughed and swotted at Robbie.

Robbie caught the hand and wrapped her own around it giving it an affectionate squeeze. “I am sorry it happened and I promise I’ll be more careful in the future, okay?”

“Hmmmm, okay,” agreed Janet, deciding that Robbie had squirmed enough. “You, Robbie, are like an olive.”

“An olive?! What round, oily and green?!”

“No, you take some getting used to but you are addictive,” sighed Janet.

“I’ll take that as a complement,” responded Robbie. Turning around, she looked in the back seat where Rebecca was strapped in her baby seat. “Hey, Reb, we’re out of the doghouse!”

Reb squealed with delight and pounded her hands on the padded seat. The two women laughed with her and the Sunday church goers headed home for a late brunch.

“Okay Reb, here comes the helicopter, rrrrrrrrrr,” narrated Robbie as she flew the last spoonful of blackberry pancake into Rebecca’s mouth. Janet looked on with interest. Reb was being spoilt rotten by her aunt. The actor seemed to have her own private level of communication with her niece. Several times during the week, she had come on Robbie and Reb sitting quietly somewhere with Reb’s little baby face focused and intent on whatever it was Robbie was telling her. This morning, while Janet had prepared brunch, it had been about birds. Robbie had taken Reb outside to see the Pileated Woodpecker that had been pecking on a nearby tree.

“Have I mentioned yet today that I think you are wonderful?” asked Janet as she came over and rubbed a hand across Robbie’s shoulders before taking away the empty plates from their brunch.

Robbie followed the retreating figure with soft, yearning eyes. “I’m not but I’m awful glad you think so. I know I have found something very special in your…friendship. Here let me do the dishes while you see to getting The Rebel changed.”

Janet cheerily agreed and a short time later the three of them were setting out in the canoe down Long Lake. The air was crisp and clear and the forest a blaze of deep oak red, maple orange and mellow yellow beech. Dark green evergreens added contrast and the bright robin-egg sky was mirrored with the Fall colours in the still, crystal water of the lake. Robbie breathed in deeply from her position holding Reb in the canoe. “This is wonderful! One of my reasons for buying the land, Janet, was to build a studio on the old lumberyard site. I’d like to get away from the pollution and noise of the city now and again and a northern studio would allow that. I thought I’d start fairly small and see how it goes but I was thinking of making it a kind of training centre for people who want to learn the film trade while working on some of my smaller film productions.”

“Is that where Doug and Tracy will fit in?” asked Janet, gently reminding Robbie that she had some responsibilities to the Higgins family.

“Yeah somewhere, I haven’t worked things out yet. All the pieces of the puzzle aren’t there yet. But I got this gut feeling that I’ve got hold of the right end of the stick.”

Janet smiled and tossed her hair back as she paddled them silently through the water. “Do you always do business in such an unorthodox way?”

“I don’t do business at all,” stated Robbie, pulling a face. “I create and then I have an army of lackeys that deal with the fall out!”

Janet laughed. “Just how many little M.B.A’s have sacrificed their lives to your empire building?”

Robbie shrugged. “There are so many auxiliary businesses…its hard to say…all told maybe five thousand people work directly or indirectly for me.”

“Five thousand!” gasped Janet in shock.

“Hmmmm, you’re sleeping with a rich, old bitch,” Robbie in a smiled leisurely way.

Janet got a sassy look and her eyes sparkled with merriment. “It is not your money I’m after.”

“What’s that up there?” asked Robbie, suddenly straightening up and pointing, sending the canoe swaying dangerously from side to side. Janet placed her paddle broadside to the water and steadied the canoe.

“It’s the old lodge. My great, great grandfather built it. But my grandfather never lived there and neither did my father. It’s fallen into ruin. It was beautiful at one time, I’m told. It must be over a hundred years old.”

“Pull in!” ordered Robbie. She could feel that gut reaction that told her one of the last pieces of the picture was falling into place.

Janet raised an eyebrow at Robbie’s abrupt manner but expertly J-stroked the canoe around to come alongside a small sandy beach. Robbie clambered out with a startled Reb tucked under her arm. She took a step forward then remembered and turned back to hold the canoe while Janet got out and beached the craft.

Janet watched her lover with interest. It was clear that Robbie’s thoughts had fixated on the old lodge to the exclusion of everything else. It was only with difficulty that Robbie waited for Janet to secure the canoe before she handed Reb over and took off with long strides towards the run down building. “Reb,” said Janet grimacing in annoyance, “I think we are seeing the side of Robbie that gives her the reputation as a focused maniac. We’ve been replaced by some old, moldy logs and a half baked idea she has cooking in the back of her mind!”

A figure appeared on the old veranda. “Hey, Janet, hurry up! You gotta see this place, it’s great!” Now how in hell had Robbie got in? Janet wondered as she headed up to the lodge? The answer was obvious. The heavy lock had been pried free of the door with a scrap piece of metal. She’s broken in! thought Janet and then realized that Robbie was the new owner.

The old lodge was dark, damp and dirty. Forest animals had entered through rotting holes in the roof and dry leaves rustled in corners. The huge stone fireplace towered over head and massive logs formed the walls. Robbie came bouncing in covered in dirt and cobwebs. “Hey!” she shouted with excitement, spreading her arms wide, “Look what I bought!”

Janet shook her head and laughed despite herself. Robbie’s enthusiasm was contagious. Robbie scrambled over debris and scooped Reb from Janet’s arms, “Come and look at this, all the doors are carved! Check out the size of these logs! Mother nature is too sick these days to grow anything this big! Haven’t you ever been in here?!”

“No, the land was sold to Higgins years ago. I’ve walked around the place on many occasions but it was locked up.”

“You shoulda broken a window,” muttered Robbie, looking around with interest, already making a list of things to get done.

“Robbie! It was private property!”

“It was deserted. It’s not as if anyone was living in it!”

Now that Janet had time to look around, she could see why Robbie was excited. The place would take a lot of work and money but the underlying structure seemed strong and the wood, stone and details were beautiful. “What are you going to do with it, Robbie?” she asked hoping it did not involve some executive resort for burned out M.B.A.’s racing personal water craft around the lake!

I’m going to make it a home, marry you and live happily ever after was the fantasy that was going through Robbie’s head. Instead she said, ” I’m going to restore it and use it as a summer cottage. We can be neighbours as well as friends.”

Janet smiled happily. “I’d really like that! No motor boats though okay, Robbie? I’ll teach you to paddle a canoe.”

Robbie laughed. “Okay. Come on, let’s look around some more!” They spent a delightful morning exploring each room and finding, in amongst the years of decay, some interesting pieces. One was an old oil lamp blackened with age and missing its flame hood. Yet the metal was sound and a delicate pattern was etched on its surface. Robbie presented the dirty antique to Janet. “To the light of my life,” she said with a deep bow and then, seeing that Reb was busy chasing a chipmunk, she leaned forward and kissed Janet lightly.

Janet smiled warmly and tears filled her eyes. “Thank you, Robbie. I’m going to fix it up. I wonder if it belonged to my great, great grandmother? This looks like it might have been the master bedroom.”

“Yeah, it does,” replied Robbie. The two women stood still, strangely aware of the lives that once filled this house with laughter and joy. It was a happy home, somehow Robbie could feel that, and she meant to make it a happy home again.

“You ready to head home for a late lunch, love?” asked Janet.

Robbie came out of her daydream with a start. She thought she was home for a minute! “Yeah,” she responded a bit late, “Let’s go!”

Three, very dirty humans, climbed back into the canoe and headed back to the east end of the lake where Janet’s small cabin was nestled in a grove of tall pines.

Janet sat at her big teacher’s desk with the old lamp sitting on a section of newspaper. With considerable elbow grease and the contents of a can of Brasso, she was slowly removing the tarnish from the lamp. A delicate Celtic pattern, engraved in a broad band, was starting to reveal itself around the ball of the oil lamp. The brass was heavy and was in remarkably good condition.

From the kitchen low muttered curses occasionally drifted out. Robbie, to Janet’s surprise, was insisting on cooking dinner. Fortunately, Janet sighed, Reb was down for her afternoon nap.

Robbie fought on bravely although this cooking thing was a lot harder than she had anticipated. It was important though. It was sort of the modern day equivalent of dragging home the mastodon and roasting it on the spit for your true love. Robbie had seriously explained to her co-conspirator, Reb, that morning, that the dinner was now one of celebration rather than seduction, seeing as how Reb’s mother had already had her way with Robbie the day before!

“How’s dinner going?” asked Janet leaning over the stone counter and interrupting Robbie’s thoughts.

“Fine, no problems!” lied Robbie with a confident grin, coming over to kiss Janet. The light kiss became more earnest and both women were short of breath when it ended.

“Ahhhh, I’d better go get packed.”

“Hmmm, How is the lamp coming along?”

“It’s beautiful. But it needs a lot more polishing yet! Hmmm, I’d better go, you’re a very bad influence!” gasped Janet pulling way reluctantly from the kisses that Robbie was tracing along her neck.

Robbie watched Janet disappear down the hall and sighed. Having you isn’t enough Janet. I want more! Somehow, I’ve got to make you love me as much as I love you. A cold stream of reality broke through the wall of fantasy that Robbie had been building all day and filled her heart with sorrow. It had never mattered before. The things that she had done were heavy burdens that she had stoically carried alone. But if she got seriously involved with Janet, she would be exposing the woman she loved to the danger of exposure too. Even if she didn’t marry her, she would still be associated with the notorious Robbie Williams. That wasn’t fair. The burden was hers alone, yet she didn’t think she could go on living without Janet and Reb in her life.

What if she lost Janet?! A incredible pain sliced through her soul. No! Don’t let those thoughts even enter your head, Williams! Janet will beat the odds. She has to!

Janet methodically packed the things that she and Reb would need for a week away from home. Where did Robbie live? she wondered. She had mentioned a family estate in Unionville. Maybe she lived there. But surely, that would be Alexandria’s home! She couldn’t imagine Robbie living with her mother, no matter how big the house!

Really, she knew very little about the powerful woman that now shared her bed. Two weeks ago, she didn’t even know Robbie. Now she was going to stay with her and she’d given her body, soul and even her daughter into Robbie’s capable care. Am I being a fool? If it was someone else’s life, I’d be shocked and worried about the quick turn of events. But it’s Robbie, and somehow deep inside I know that no matter what she has done or will do, my soul belongs with her.

Janet blinked back tears and swallowed hard. Oh Robbie! I love you so much and I can never tell you that! I’m just another lover in your life. A passing fling with the girl next door. How am I ever going to go on when you leave me?!

The cute baby sounds of Reb waking up ended Janet’s morbid thoughts. “Hey, special-one, you ready to get up?”

“Up mommy, peas! Go potty.”

“Very good, Rebecca! Okay, here we go!”

Dinner had been wonderful! The ham was over cooked, the mash potatoes runny and the vegetables mushy. Desert had been the blueberries they had picked over vanilla ice cream. Not all the stems and leaves had been picked clean. But Robbie had cooked it for her and Janet had a feeling by the look of the kitchen, that it was not something that Robbie normally did and that made the whole thing very special.

After dinner, they wrapped up warmly and went for a walk down the path. Reb rode on Robbie’s shoulders and Robbie and Janet walked hand in hand. Their talk was of childhood memories and fun incidents that had happened to them as they slowly built a framework of common knowledge around their relationship.

Robbie’s life had seemed bleak to Janet. She had been born five years before her sister and brother, while her mother was still at the height of her career. Robbie had been raised by a series of nannies and then sent, at the age of eight, to boarding school. Elizabeth and Billy had been born after the famous ballerina had retired and had been raised at home with domestic support. Robbie’s history of those years was sketchy and it was clear to Janet that she was not comfortable talking about her family although she did tell some amusing stories about her days at boarding school.

“Your science fair project was making the perfect beer?!” Janet giggled.

“Yeah. I got all the ingredients and set up secretly in the dormitory basement. I figured I could make a mint off the kids with a little moonshine business. I bottled the stuff in old pop bottles but the fermentation continued and the gas built up until the corks shot out and beer bubbled out like mini volcanoes. The whole dorm stank of sore beer for weeks!”

“You, Robbie Williams, have always been a bad apple!”

“I thought I was an olive.”

“You’re my olive. I’m not sharing.”

Robbie stopped and looked down at Janet searching her eyes for the truth. The smaller woman blushed and stammered. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. We’re just friends and I have no claim over you.”

“Oh, yeah,” responded Robbie heading off again. “Well, it’s all right because I don’t want to share your…friendship either.”

Janet skipped a step to catch up. “You don’t?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

After that they walked in silence, stopping to watch two young deer browsing on cedar branches near the water’s edge, then heading back to the cabin in the cool twilight..

Their skin tingled after the cold of the late Fall day as they sat by the fire that Janet built and drank Glenfiddich single malt scotch whiskey from brandy snifters. Reb curled up on the couch between them and played with a stuffed, purple dragon until she went to sleep. Time passed in comfortable silence as they watched the flames die down.

Robbie sighed and shifted forward, placing the empty glass on the sled table and balancing her elbows on her knees. Janet waited, recognizing the position as one Robbie took when she was trying to explain something very important to her.

Robbie reached down and picked up the stuffed toy that had fallen to the braided rug. “Ahhhh, you remember, I was telling you that I’d done things, terrible things Janet, that I wouldn’t, can’t, burden anyone with.”

“Yes, I remember,” responded Janet quietly.

“I’ve always lived my life at a pretty casual level, ahhhh, avoiding commitments.”

Janet felt the goose bumps rising on her skin despite the warm fire and alcohol. Oh Robbie, please don’t leave me now, she pleaded, silently!

“There is something I need to tell you, Janet. It is important that you know how I feel. I can’t offer you anything, I have no right but….” Robbie got up and walked to the window looking out into the dark night, afraid to look at Janet. “I love you.”

“What?!” came a startled voice from the other side of the room.

Robbie looked down at her feet miserably. “I love you.” Robbie repeated quietly. ” I just needed you to know that it was more than friendship with me because…”

Suddenly, Janet was there in her arms. “I love you too!”

A wave of utter relief followed by a tidal wave of joy swept through Robbie’s being. “Ohhh God! I can’t begin to tell you how much I need you in my life!” groaned Robbie raining kisses on Janet’s face that was wet with tears of joy.

“Hold me, Robbie!” sobbed Janet.

Robbie traced a finger tip lightly along Janet’s collar bone and then around the curve of a heavy breast.

“Hmmm, I love the feel of you,” she whispered leaning over to kiss lips swollen with love making. Arms wrapped around Robbie’s neck and pulled her down.

“Tell me again,” Janet murmured..

“I love you.”

“Hmmm, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing you say that. It’s something special I feel for you, Robbie. It’s more than just love, I…I…only feel whole when I’m with you. I love you so much!”

Robbie settled her hips between Janet’s legs and kissed her lover’s abdomen, feeling the sensitive nerve ends contract the muscles in excitement. “Of all the successes I have had in life, winning your love is the only one that leaves me in awe,” whispered Robbie before she lowered her head to do things to her lover that was the eternal blend of instinct, art and soul.

The helicopter hovered over the skyline of Toronto and slowly lowered to land on the metal pad marked with a white H. Robbie held Janet’s hand, unconsciously rubbing a nervous thumb over her lover’s wrist. They waited for the blades to stop and then Robbie opened the glass door and lifted first Reb and then Janet to the ground. The view from the penthouse roof garden was breathtaking. To the north the entire city of Toronto spread out before them in a huge curve to the east and west. Famous land marks such as the CN Tower, Ontario Place and Skydome stood out amongst the clutter of big city dwellings. To the south, Lake Ontario sparkled in the sun, so vast that the United States on the opposite shore could not be seen.

Robbie led Janet and Reb to the french doors that gave access to her domain. She felt nervous realizing that her penthouse, however luxurious, was not the warm home that Janet’s simple cabin had been. “Well, ahhh, this is our city home,” Robbie said, allowing Janet and Reb to go first so that she could watch their reaction.

Janet walked to the centre of the morning room and turned slowly around. The place was simple magnificent! It looked like it had fallen off the pages of Architectural Digest! Reb was in less awe. She went over, climbed up on the calf leather couch and squealed happily as she ran her hands over the cool, soft surface.

Robbie met Janet’s eyes. “It needs to look more lived in,” she conceded.

“I’m going to be terrified that Reb damages anything. Reb, get your shoes off the couch!” Janet called hurrying over to the child.

Robbie intercepted her and, grabbing her around the waist, she fell back on the couch with Janet to one side of her and Reb to the other. “Let’s not worry about it. Let’s just live in it as…as a family,” suggested Robbie shyly.

Janet looked into the wishful, blue eyes and nodded relaxing into the shoulder that wrapped around her. Reb crawled up onto Robbie’s lap. “Oby, I go potty.”

Janet laughed. “Kid,” growled Robbie playfully, “we gotta work on your timing!”

The day was spent in establishing a new routine and unpacking and arranging items. Robbie’s e-mails to Gwen had included her buying the necessary equipment for a two year old’s nursery. Reb had been provided with the best of everything. “Robbie, I can’t let you do this! You’ve spent a fortune on us!” argued Janet.

Robbie placed her strong hands on Janet’s shoulders and leaned down to nibble on an inviting ear. “You and Reb are as close as I can ever have to a family. I want my apartment to be a comfortable second home for you just as you made me welcome at the cabin.”

“That’s different!”

“No, it isn’t!” protested Robbie.

Robbie’s so called apartment was the top floor of the Harbour Front condominiums. A landscaped garden with its private helicopter pad lead into a long morning room finished in cream, Italian leather with tables of rough and polished marble. The walls had been rag rolled to look like parchment.

The dining room had a Edwardian table that could easily sit twenty and the walls were finished in Irish linen. The matching china cabinet contained a full set of Royal Crown Derby. The kitchen was by Smallbones and each of the four bedrooms, one now a nursery, were interrelated in a varying theme of colour and patterns in rich, vibrant colours, each with its own en suite bathroom.

The apartment also contained a pantry, media room, gym, and library. It had been the library that had left Janet totally speechless. Located at the centre of the complex, it rose two stories high and was finished in oak. In beauty and depth, it could revival any private library of Europe.

And then there were the paintings! Works by Ron Bolt, Mary and Christopher Pratt, Colville, Danby, Moresseau, Mishibinjima and older works by the Group of Seven. It was an amazing collection of Canadian art. Janet thought about her one numbered print over the fireplace by Daphane Ojig and shook her head in wonder. She had found the original of her print in Robbie’s bedroom.

Now, late in the evening, they sat together in the roof top garden watching the sun set and spread its liquid gold across the deep blues of Lake Ontario. Janet got up and looked around. “Robbie, all this, I mean, this is not a world that I belong in.”

Robbie’s gut contracted.

“When I asked you to raise Reb, I didn’t know well, about all this,” Janet tried to explain waving her hand about.

Robbie felt her world crumbling. Say something, Robbie ordered herself but the words just wouldn’t come! Finally. “Don’t leave me.”

Janet turned in surprise to see Robbie standing, pale with shock and shaking with emotion. “Robbie! Love! No! Shhhh, it’s okay. I just didn’t want you to think that Reb and I were a couple of gold diggers!”

Relief flowed through Robbie’s system. “It’s hard for me to trust. I…I…I’m not the sort of person people love. You and Reb mean the world to me!” Robbie got out with difficulty.

“Oh Robbie! You mean the world to us as well! We love you! Somehow, we’ll find away to make all this work. And if…if anything happens to me, Reb will always be there for you.”

“Nothing is going to happen to you!” growled Robbie roughly, “I won’t let it!”

Janet looked up to see the array of emotion crossing her lover’s face. In many ways, facing a battle with cancer was going to be harder for Robbie than for Janet. “Robbie, come and sit down, okay.” Robbie let herself be led back to the garden seat and the two of them sat down again, Janet cuddling deep into Robbie’s side. “I might die, Robbie. The odds are not good. You have to except that as a possible ending.”

“No!”

“Shhhh,” Janet soothed. “We’ll both fight very hard. I’ve got everything to live for now but fate plays by its own rules, Robbie. I need you to be able to carry on and make a happy life for Reb. I’m counting on you.”

Robbie nodded, her eyes filled with tears and her throat working to keep the emotion down as she wrapped Janet close to her. They stayed like that until the night sky took over and the city of Toronto blazed with millions of lights.

Robbie looked out the grimy hospital window again, then paced around the small room once more. The hospital administration had allowed her to sit in one of the counseling rooms while Janet had her surgery, realizing that some one as famous as Robbie Williams could not sit in the public waiting room without a small riot occurring.

Janet had been so brave that morning keeping up a cheerful front for Reb. Gwen arrived to babysit while Robbie took Janet to the hospital. “Robbie,” Janet had asked shyly as she filled in all the data forms and waivers, “Is it okay if I put your name as next of kin?’

Robbie had rubbed her fingers over Janet’s cold hand. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Once through admitting, Janet was only in her private room a short while before the orderlies came to take her down to surgery. That was almost three hours ago. Robbie bit her lip and tried to control the growing dread and panic that was eating at her gut.

“Ms. Williams?” Robbie jumped and turned to see the doctor standing at the door in his surgicals.

“Yes.”

“Your sister-in-law has come through the surgery well. We are fairly confident that we have removed all of the tumor. We have had to do some extensive surgery, however. It involved a mastectomy of the right breast and the removal of a number of lymph nodes just to be on the safe side.”

Robbie remained outwardly calm while inside her guts turned over with stress.

“She will need weeks of therapy and of course extensive radiation treatment but we feel that having removed the tumor intact we can offer some hope of a successful recovery.”

Robbie crumpled to a chair and stared at the green wall. “Ms. Williams?”

Robbie looked up. “Is she awake? Does she know?”

Yes, she is out of recovery and I have just told her before I came down to you.”

“Can I see her?”

“Yes. You’ll find her a little dopey yet. Don’t stay too long. She needs to sleep. If you come back this evening you’ll find her more alert.”

Robbie nodded dumbly and got to her feet. “Thank you, doctor.” The doctor nodded and left with relief.

Janet looked so small and vulnerable as she slept inside the aluminum frame of the hospital bed. “Janet? Hey, love,” whispered Robbie.

Sleepy eyes tried to focus on the tall figure leaning over the bed. “Hi,” she slurred.

Robbie bent over the bar and kissed Janet’s forehead tenderly. “Hey, the doctor said they got it all. That’s good, huh?”

“They took my breast,” mumbled Janet miserably.

Robbie reached down and took Janet’s hand, “Anything, just as long as it helps you win this battle. Okay, Janet? I’m here for you, always.”

Tears filled Janet’s eyes and rolled down to the starched sheets unchecked. Robbie reached out and wiped them away with her finger. “You sleep, now. I’m going to pick up Reb and we’ll be back later to visit, okay?” Janet nodded tiredly and closed her eyes. For a while, Robbie just sat there trying to get all the emotion in check. Then she squared her shoulders and got on with it.

The sound of Reb bawling her eyes out reached Robbie as the private elevator opened in her foyer.

Gwen came out holding the two year old who was stiff with a major tantrum. “There is no doubt that this child is a Williams,” sighed the secretary handing the angry child over to Robbie.

Robbie held the child at arm’s length and looked at her. Gradually, the cries subsided and Reb hung there looking with big watery blue eyes back at Robbie. Robbie smiled and lifted the two year old over her head. “Oby’s bird!” laughed Reb.

Gwen watched, leaning on the door frame. She had only seen Robbie like this on rare moments, young, loving and open. “Well, that is an unusual technique you’ve got there, Robbie, but it seems to work on the little hellion.”

Robbie smiled and tucked Reb into her arm. “She’s cute isn’t she? Smart too!”

Gwen’s eyes opened in surprise. “She’s a Williams alright. How is Janet?”

Robbie’s face clouded. “They think they got all the tumor but it involved Janet having a mastectomy. I think she’s worried that will make a difference in our relationship.”

Gwen’s mouth opened but nothing came out for a second. “Relationship?! Robbie you’re sleeping with Tracy Travelli!”

Robbie frowned, a blush climbing up her neck as she stalled for time, lowering Reb to the ground. Reb stuck her thumb in her mouth and wrapped the other arm around Robbie’s pant leg holding on tight.

“I’m in love,” Robbie stated quietly. “I’m seriously involved with Janet. I…It just sort of happened.”

Gwen stepped forward and gave Robbie a quick hug, much to the director’s surprise. “I’m happy for you, Robbie. You’ve need someone in your life. You do realize, though, that Tracy will kill you and deep six the movie when she finds out!”

Robbie grimaced. “I really haven’t had time to think about it. I’ll have Tracy in for a talk on Tuesday.”

Gwen rolled her eyes. “Actors!” she snorted good naturedly and headed for the door. On the way down the elevator, however, her face clouded over. Janet was Billy’s widow. They had only just had a child two years ago. Was Janet a gold digger replacing one golden egg with another? When it came to business, Robbie Williams was as tough as nails. Gwen had learned, however, that there was a touchingly vulnerable woman inside, who was, emotionally, a babe in the woods. She’d hate to see Robbie as messed up as her brother had been and her sister was.

Robbie turned down a long hall at Toronto University lined with scruffy old oak doors. Entering one, she passed through an outer office and on to the next where a woman leaned on her desk in deep concentration. Grey-blue eyes behind large glasses blinked in surprise.

“What is that?”

“It’s an immature female of the homo sapiens sapiens species,” responded Robbie flopping into a chair. “Her name’s Reb and she’ll be three next August.”

“Billy’s child,” concluded Robbie’s sister. Then a look of horror crossed her face. “Oh Robbie! You didn’t steal it, did you!?”

“No! It was given to me!” laughed Robbie.

Elizabeth removed her glasses and chewed on one of the stems thoughtfully. “I don’t understand.”

Robbie sighed and leaned forward, placing her elbows on her knees. Looking up, she saw Reb reaching up to a stack of shiny test tubes sitting in a metal rack on a side counter. “No, Reb. Don’t touch,” she said firmly, “You never know, one might be a relative.” The child turned and looked at Robbie to see if there was any chance of a change of attitude. Robbie raised an eyebrow. Reb fell on her bum and became absorbed with her shoe lace.

Robbie smiled and then frowned. “I’m in love,” she told the floor. Silence. Robbie looked up to see Elizabeth staring at her in disbelief.

“This is not good, Robbie,” she finally managed to articulate.

“Why?!” snapped the actor rising to her feet in agitation.

“I am presuming here that this is a gay relationship and that could have a profound effect on your career if you choose to go public. I am also assuming it is with our late brother’s wife and that in turn will raise some eyebrows. Lastly,” Elizabeth swallowed and continued softly, “There are other issues in…the past…does she know about..?”

“Of course not!”

“I don’t know very much about love but I understand that truth is one of the components of a good relationship.”

“I told her that I’ve done things in the past that she would find difficult to forgive me for. She loves me anyway.”

“An abstract concept is not as offensive as a cold fact, Robbie. What about Billy?”

“Billy made a deal with her to have a child by artificial fertilization. He must have found out…I think he wanted money. I’ve got my lawyers auditing the estate. You know Billy and money….”

Elizabeth mulled this over with some difficulty while Robbie showed Reb a stuffed baby crocodile that Elizabeth had on one of her shelves. “I do not think this relationship is wise, Robbie. But you are my sister and I owe you so much. You will of course have my support.”

Robbie’s shoulder’s slumped in relief and she turned and smiled at her sister. “Thank you, Lizzy. That means a lot. You’re the only real family I’ve got.” To her surprise tears over flowed her eyes and she dropped into the chair and grabbed a tissue from the box on Elizabeth’s desk.

Elizabeth leaped up and came around to kneel at her sister’s side. She had only once seen her sister cry and this outburst shocked her. “Robbie, what’s the matter?!”

Robbie wiped her eyes and got herself under control. “I’m sorry. I just left Janet at the hospital. She just underwent surgery for breast cancer. It’s serious Lizzy, and I don’t know how I’ll cope if anything happens to her!”

“Oby?” came a little voice from the other side of Robbie’s chair. Robbie smiled bravely and picked the little girl up swinging her over her head. “Oby’s bird!” the little child giggled gleefully.

“That’s right, Reb, Oby’s bird! Hey, I’m forgetting my manners. Reb, this is your Aunt Lizzy.”

“Hi, Antizzy,” responded the two year old politely.

“Hi, Reb. Would you like a chocolate?”

“Peas!” smiled the child.

“Still addicted to chocolate, huh?” laughed Robbie trying to get things back on an even keel after her unusual loss of control.

Elizabeth tried to raise an eyebrow, with marginal success. “I need the magnesium!” she justified, holding the box of chocolates out to the child.

Robbie snorted, “You need the sugar fix!” Both sisters laughed and Reb used the opportunity to snitch a second chocolate.

Robbie and Reb left a short time later. Elizabeth had promised to have dinner at the apartment to get to know Janet as soon as Janet was up to visitors. Robbie felt good about that. She wanted to build some sort of life with Janet, even if it did have to have limitations because of her past.

Janet opened her eyes to the happy squeal of ‘Mommy!” There Reb stood, covered with chocolate and holding a Teddy bear about the same size as herself. Behind her stood Robbie burdened down with flowers and packages of all sorts. “Hi, love!” Robbie smiled.

“Hi Reb, hi Oby,” Janet giggled. Robbie raised an eyebrow at the pet name and sauntered over to dump the contents of her arms at the foot of the bed and then, leaning over, kissed Janet softly. Reaching down, Robbie then swung Reb up to Janet’s good side to get a hug and kiss from mom too.

Tears suddenly ran down Janet’s face as she hugged her daughter close. “I promised myself I wasn’t going to act this way,” sniffed Janet, trying to wipe her tears away on her shoulder.

“It’s okay,” reassured Robbie, reaching over to touch the tear soaked material.

“No, it’s not! Nothing is! Look at me!” Janet sobbed in anger, pulling away from Robbie.

Robbie sat on the side of the bed and scooped a confused Reb up into her arms. “Janet, there is nothing you can’t handle. I believe in you.”

Janet made eye contact with Robbie and a world of messages went back and forth. Robbie reached out and laced her fingers with Janet’s. ” The three of us, together, happy and very much in love,” Robbie whispered, and the smile that appeared on Janet’s face reached her eyes and sparkled there.

 

The End
Continued in Winter Snows

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