I'm so sorry I wasn't there in court for you, Robbie! 1 page
The night was icy cold and Janet shivered as she waited for the truck's heater to bring some warmth into the frozen cab. There was no moon and driving through the dark back roads of northern Canada with only the stars visible, brilliant over head, was like flying through space. Janet smiled softly, enjoying the sensation of commanding an isolated vehicle through the cold darkness.
Beside her, Ryan sat quietly. Her breath made little clouds, tinged in pink from the dashboard lights. The clouds drifted across the inner space of the cab and froze to the windscreen beside Janet's. Janet turned up the defroster to clear the ice away.
"Do you think Mom will help us?" asked Ryan anxiously.
Janet felt her heart contract. Ryan was so outgoing and confident that one sometimes forgot that she was in many ways a very insecure and fretful teenager. Her years of isolation away from her mother and family had left some really deep wounds.
"I think she will give me an awfully rough time, Ryan. I'll have to eat crow that's for sure, but your Mom will help us if she can. Obby would do anything for you, don't you know that by now? She loves you very much." There was no answer but the tense body beside her seemed to relax a bit.
Robbie looked up from the computer screen her blue eyes framed by her reading glasses. The eyes were not focused on the room. They saw instead a scene a thousand years ago through the camera lens. Harold Godwinesson, King of England, stood in the darkness and looked at the night sky over Westminster. It was the eve of Letania mainor, April 24th 1066. That night the long haired star had appeared. Some called it Comet. For the next seven nights, it would shine over England. Just as for a short time Harold, the only king of true English blood, would reign over the island kingdom. Like Haley's Comet, Harold would appear out of the Dark Ages, shine for a brief second and disappear.
Yes, the film would start in black and white and explode into colour on the flare of the comet's tail. Headlights flashed across tree trunks outside the cabin and Robbie realized with a start that her wife and daughter were home. The rehearsal must have ended early, Robbie thought, glancing at her watch and frowning. She hoped everything had gone well.
Her family entered on a blast of frigid air. Robbie got up and walked over to help Janet out of her coat. The muscles on the side where she had her surgery were still weak and little things like
slipping out of a coat could be awkward for her.
"Hi, loves, you two are home early." Robbie saw Ryan look at Janet with worried eyes. Robbie's gut tightened and she instinctively wrapped an arm around her daughter. The Bartlett drama society was staging William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Ryan had been cast as Viola, one of the twins that had been cast ashore in a storm. Janet was directing this year, not feeling well enough yet to act, and Greta Corry had agreed to take the role of Sebastian, Viola's twin brother. "What's wrong?"
"Ahhh, Ryan, why don't you get ready for bed while I talk to your Mom, okay?" Ryan nodded, slipped out from under Robbie's arm and disappeared down the hall to the bedroom she shared with her sister Reb.
Cold blue eyes targeted Janet's. "What happened?!" Robbie demanded, a sharpness in her voice.
Janet put her hands on Robbie's chest. "Hey, easy. Nothing has happened to hurt Ryan. I promise. I just need to talk to you and it's going to be embarrassing enough without Ryan looking on," explained Janet, feeling the anger in Robbie subsiding. She took her partner's hand and lead her over to the chair by the fire.
Robbie sat. Janet paced. "Ahhh, Greta Corry has to have her gall bladder out. She's had to drop out of the play. There's only a few weeks before opening night. Ryan's really disappointed. We don't have an understudy."
Robbie's lip began to curl into a smug smile. An eyebrow went up as she crossed her long legs and looked at the squirming Janet patiently.
Janet saw the jig was up. She sighed in defeat and the red tide of embarrassment washed over her features. "I need your help," she muttered, looking at the rug.
Janet looked up into eyes sparkling with devilment. "You're going to make this hard, aren't you?"
"Very," whispered Robbie, trying to control the laugher that was building inside. Oh God! This was sooo sweet!
"You are the only one who could take over that part so the play can go on," admitted Janet.
"I know," agreed Robbie, arrogantly flashing a delighted smile.
Janet started to lose her patience. "Oh come on Robbie, this is for Ryan! You've got to!"
Robbie got up and moved to circle behind Janet. She whispered into a soft, warm ear. "Who me? Who was told, by you, that under no circumstances was I to show my face at the Drama Society meeting even though I'd been personally invited by Greta Corry at the Thanksgiving Dinner."
Robbie stepped away when Janet turned to look at her. "Let me see what was it you said; 'I am not going to let you continue to use Bartlett as your personal playground, Robbie Williams' wasn't that it?" she asked innocently, enjoying watching Janet squirm.
Janet laughed and shook her head. "You are loving every minute of this, aren't you?!"
Robbie grinned from ear to ear. "Yes!" She moved up and wrapped Janet in her arms. "So what are you going to do for me for helping you out of this little problem?"
Janet took a deep breath, drawing in the spicy smell that was her wife's. "I guess I am yours to command," she whispered, nuzzling Robbie's strong neck. A dark head bent and hungry lips caught Janet's in a long, deep kiss.
"I'm going to be a very demanding taskmaster," revealed Robbie, dropping a kiss on Janet's nose.
"You'll play the part?" clarified a happy drama society director.
"Sure, anything for the kid," smiled Robbie breathlessly, as Janet gave her a tight hug.
"Go tell Ryan, okay. She's really worried and disappointed at the moment."
Robbie dropped another kiss on Janet's head. "Okay."
Robbie found Ryan sitting on her bed with her earphones on. Janet said the earphones were a sure sign that Ryan was upset. They were her 'I've got a problem' indicator.
Ryan's green eyes looked up and searched deeply into her Mom's. She turned off her radio and lowered her earphones to hang around her neck.
"Hi," whispered Robbie, so as not to wake Reb. "Can I come in?" Ryan nodded nervously. Robbie walked in and sat down on the edge of Ryan's bed. "I don't do stage. I do film," Robbie explained. Ryan's face crumpled with disappointment before she was able to force the muscles into an expressionless mask. "So I'm going to have to rely on you to train me for the role."
Ryan was in her arms in an instant. "Thanks, Mom! You're the greatest!"
"Hey, what could be better than being on stage with my own daughter? Mind you, I'm not sure about the director. What's her name....Williams?"
Ryan giggled then covered her mouth so as not to disturb her sister's sleep. "You'd better not let Aunt Janet hear you say that. She's tough! You'll have to learn the lines, Mom"
Robbie rolled her eyes. "Have I not been helping you to practice your lines every night for almost two months?! Believe me, I know the lines! Come on, let's see if we can get the director to make us some hot chocolate."
The next day, Janet stepped into David Potts' General Store with relief. She had left her truck at the dealership up the road and walked into town in the bitter cold of the afternoon. David waved and called hi from the back of the store as she wandered over to the card section. Ryan's birthday was coming and she wanted the perfect card to give her. She sorted through the various options and finally settled on a card with a photo of a sunset over a northern lake. Inside was printed Happy Birthday. It was ideally suited for Ryan; beautiful but not mushy.
Smiling she headed over to the counter. David rang it through for her. "So who is having the birthday?" he asked.
"Ryan. She's going to be fifteen in a few weeks. We're planning a birthday party for her. It's a surprise."
"Well, that's great! Just great! She's a nice kid. I hear Robbie is going to take Greta's place in the play. It'll be nice, them getting to be a mother and daughter act. Ticket sales are really up. I'm sold out and people have been asking if the show will run for an extra weekend. What do you think?
Janet laughed. "Well, I'll have to ask the cast. It sure would help the drama society's finances. Do you think enough people would buy tickets to run another two nights?"
"To see The Robbie Williams on stage?! You bet. You know she doesn't look the same in fire pants."
Janet snorted. "I'll let her know you said so!"
"Oh dear! She won't be mad will she?!" worried David.
"That ego maniac?! Not likely!" Janet laughed.
David grinned and then frowned and scratched his head. "Listen, Janet, while you are here. You wouldn't know anything about computers would you? I just got one and I'm not sure how to use it."
"Well, I don't know a great deal but I do know most of the basics. Sure, let's go have a look."
David led Janet into the small office he had at the back of the store and stepped aside for Janet to have a look. Janet looked into the room and then at David with laughter in her eyes. "I think it will work a lot better, David, if you took it out of the cardboard boxes," she giggled.
David blushed a bright red and smiled sheepishly. "Well, I didn't want to lose any parts foolin around with it," he admitted. Janet poked him good naturedly and took off her coat to tackle the
assembly of David's computer system.
"There are some excellent software packages you could use for inventory and ordering, David," Janet observed, some time later, as she fitted in place the various cables into the back of the tower. "Is that why you got a computer?"
David's face turned a luminous red again. "Oh dear, well actually, no. I've hooked up to the internet."
"Really?!" smiled Janet, as she plugged the line into the phone jack. "Do you know how to access your mail? I could show you."
David looked very relieved. "I don't want to keep you, Janet, but that would be a great help to me!"
"No problem," grinned Janet, giving David a wink and slipping into the chair in front of the keyboard. "My truck is in for a tune up so I'm waiting for Robbie and the girls to pick me up. They're over at Drouillard's Small Motors' so you know how long they are going to be."
Davis nodded with a laugh. Robbie and Ryan's fascination with all things mechanical was common knowledge in the town thanks to the members of the Bartlett Fire Department who saw Robbie as one of the boys and Ryan as the crew's radio assistant and mascot. Ryan had taken to going to the meetings with her Mom and although she was too young to train, she had made herself useful cleaning and repairing equipment and operating their rather old and fussy radio system when they were out on a call. Robbie teased that Ryan was a bit smarter but less obedient than a station dalmatian.
Robbie had bought the station a Jaws-of-Life apparatus for helping to get trapped people out of the mangled ruins of car accidents and today some of the volunteers were over at Droullard's learning how to use it on a wreck they had dragged out of the dump. Ryan and Reb were playing the victims.
Janet showed David how to connect to the Internet and watched with surprise as eight messages were immediately received. The addy of all of them was EWilliams Janet turned to look at David in surprise. David glowed with embarrassment.
"Tell me all!" demanded Janet, with a grin.
"Oh dear!" blushed David, clearing his throat and shuffling his feet. "Well, you know, she is a wonderful woman and her research is terribly important! But I couldn't help but notice," if anything David got even redder at this point, "that she was underweight. You could tell she hadn't been taking proper care of herself!"
"You know how much I enjoy cooking, and there is only my brother Ted and me, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to courier her the occasional pie or box of muffins. Bethy and I have found we have a lot in common and have kept in touch since the wedding," confessed David.
Janet grinned mischievously. "David Potts, do you mean to tell me that you have been secretly courting Robbie's sister!"
"Oh dear, no! I mean, yes, well, no!" stammered David. Janet waited, showing no mercy. This was just soo cute!
"I mean, we are just friends but I had been considering asking her out to hear Yo Yo Ma perform at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto next month. I confess that I am a little nervous about approaching Robbie on the subject."
Janet's eyes widened in surprise. "You are going to ask Robbie to ask her?!"
"Dear me, no! But since Robbie is sort of the head of the family, I felt it proper to ask her if it would be all right if I stepped out with Elizabeth," explained David, with awkward dignity.
Janet bit her lip to stop from laughing. This moment in Williams' history, she just HAD to be witness to! "David, I think that's very honourable of you," she managed to get out without laughing.
"Hi, Aunt Janet. Hi, Mr. Potts," greeted Ryan, from the doorway. "Mom's out in the truck with Reb. Reb's crying because she wasn't allowed to bring the Jaws of Life home with her. She thinks it's really fun to hide behind a seat and be rescued."
Janet stood and let a critical eye trail over Ryan's body. The teenager was covered in dirt, rust and cobwebs. "Is Reb wearing the other half of the town dump?" she asked.
Ryan grinned. "Pretty much!"
Janet laughed and shook her head as she retrieved her coat. Quietly, Ryan stepped forward to help her settle the one arm into the sleeve. Janet smiled and gave the teen an affectionate bump. Saying their goodbyes to David, they walked out to the waiting truck.
It was only when Robbie had turned off the lights that night and slipped into bed beside Janet, that the teacher finally had the opportunity to tell Robbie about the computer and David's intentions. To her surprise the light was snapped on again and Robbie was standing by the bed bristling with rage.
"Robbie! What's wrong?" asked Janet, as she pulled the bedclothes around her chest and sat up.
"If he comes anywhere near Elizabeth, I'll....I'll...stop him!" Robbie growled.
Concern flooded Janet's face. She wrapped the sheet around her and stood up to hug the naked woman who towered angrily over her. "Hey, easy, love. Come on. I need to talk to you, and it's too cold standing here undressed by the bed."
Robbie didn't want to lie down again. She wanted to get dressed and go down to David Potts' and beat the daylights out of him! But she didn't want to upset Janet, so she sat on the edge of the bed and let her wife curl up beside her.
"Robbie, the e-mails, all eight of them, came from Elizabeth. They like each other. What's wrong with that? It would be good for Elizabeth."
"NO!" Robbie snarled, her head snapping around so cold blue eyes challenged soft green.
Those green eyes searched Robbie's quietly for a very long time. "This has to do with the dark time, doesn't it, Robbie? Something happened to Elizabeth and you are trying to protect her."
Robbie stiffened and tried to pull away but Janet wouldn't let go. "No, Robbie, I'm not going to push for information. It's okay. I know you can't talk about it. I just want you to realize that your reaction stems from whatever happened then. This is now. Elizabeth is reaching out. First, to your new family and now to David. That's wonderful, Robbie. Don't let your fears put an end to that."
Robbie swallowed. Janet could feel her partner shaking with the effort of controlling her emotions. "I don't want her hurt," Robbie managed to force out of a tight throat.
"Hey," Janet smiled, and gave Robbie an affectionate shake, "we're talking David Potts here! He is the nicest man I have ever met! He's polite, caring and ever so sweet. You know that, Robbie."
Robbie wiped sweat from her upper lip. "People aren't always what they seem," she muttered bitterly.
"No, they're not. But David is. He told me that before he asks Elizabeth out on a date, he is going to ask your permission to 'step out' with your sister. Isn't that cute?"
Robbie swallowed but said nothing. Her eyes stared vacantly at the Navaho rug on the floor. "Robbie? I need you to be brave. I need you to trust David to take Elizabeth out, okay?"
The seconds ticked by and then Robbie nodded.
"If David talks to you, you're not to terrorize him," she warned, knowing all too well how a Williams' mind worked.
Robbie frowned. "I got a right to know what his intentions are!" she protested.
Janet giggled and bumped against Robbie, surprised to feel the sheen of nervous sweat that covered her partner's body. "His intentions are a Yo Yo Ma concert at the Roy Thompson Hall!"
Robbie rubbed her face and stood up, turning to look deeply into Janet's eyes. "Okay." she finally said, "I gotta go for a run."
Janet nodded and watched as her partner changed into sweats and left to run through the cold wintry night. She was one step closer, she knew, to getting Robbie to let her see the festering wound that her partner hid deep in her soul. But at what price?
Sighing, Janet got out of the now cold bed and remade it. She wouldn't be able to sleep until Robbie returned anyway. Time for a hot bath, and then she'd work at her desk until Robbie got back..
She went down the hall to the bathroom and turned on the water, then slipped off her nightie. As always, an emotional shock wave knotted her stomach when she caught sight of the red scar where her breast once had been. She swallowed and blinked back the tears. It was hard to deal with the issue of a new self image, a new way of dressing, a new way of feeling, the awkwardness that sometimes came over her when she made love with Robbie. All those things were hard enough, without that constant reminder that she had had cancer to see every day.
She'd talked to her counsellor about it and to her doctor and she knew what she wanted to do. How would Robbie feel about it? She wasn't sure. One of these nights, when they tucked into bed and it was their quiet time together, she was going to have to broach the subject with her lover.
It was two hours later when Robbie returned, wheezing with the effort of taking in warm air into lungs cold and oxygen deprived. Robbie had run full out until her muscles screamed and her head was too dizzy to think anymore. Then she had forced herself to keep up a steady jog back to the cabin.
Janet had met her there, wrapping her in a quick hug and then getting the shower ready for Robbie while the runner stripped from her sweat suit. They had showered together, Janet washing Robbie's hair gently and soothing her like she would a child. Robbie went along numbly, needing the love and security that Janet was providing but too upset and exhausted to articulate those thoughts.
In bed, they made love, Robbie needing to be as close as she could to her wife. Janet responded with open trust, trying to reassure Robbie that love was good, safe and beautiful. Much later, Janet fell asleep sprawled on her belly with her lover already fast asleep on top of her.
The letter from the lawyer had arrived on Friday morning but it had been Saturday before Robbie had opened it. Janet could see by the change in Robbie's expression that the contents of the letter had upset her. The school teacher finished wiping down the counter and then went over to whisper in Ryan's ear as the teen helped clean up Reb from her morning breakfast of Pablum.
"I need to talk to your Mom. Could you keep Reb busy in the bedroom for half an hour?" Ryan looked over to where her mother sat at Aunt Janet's desk. Her Mom wore that emotionless look that Ryan had come to realize meant that the feelings inside were running high.
"Sure, Aunt Janet," she nodded softly. "Reb and I will go make your bed. She likes to play hide and seek with the covers."
Janet smiled and gave Ryan a squeeze. "I'll tell you about it later," she promised, as her adopted daughter swung Reb from her highchair and led the small child out of the room.
Janet went over and placed her hands on Robbie's shoulders, leaning over to kiss the top of her lover's head. "Anything I can do?" she asked Robbie.
Robbie sighed. "We need to talk. You'd better come sit on the couch."
Janet followed the tense director over. What could have gone wrong? she wondered, a frown forming on her face.
Robbie sat on the edge of the settee and looked really uncomfortable. A deep blush slowly seeped up her neck. "This letter is from the family lawyer. It is about the settlement of my brother's estate. You know that each of my father's children got five million on his death. Alexandria got thirty million. The remaining five million and the family estate was held in trust to go to the first grandchild born."
"Yes," nodded Janet.
"When Reb was born, that trust was handed over to my brother to manage, as the terms of the will indicated," explained Robbie, nervously making eye contact with Janet.
"Robbie, Reb doesn't need the money. It should be Ryan's anyway. I don't care about it," Janet reassured.
Robbie shook her head irritably. "No, Reb's the legitimate heir. I have no problem with that. Ryan will inherit half of my estate and you the other half. That will leave you both very wealthy women. It's Reb I'm worried about," Robbie swallowed and mumbled with embarrassment. "Billy spent a good deal of the money."
"He spent Reb's trust fund," Janet clarified.
"Three million of it," revealed Robbie sadly.
"On what!?" asked Janet, in disbelief.
Robbie squirmed. "Billy had some problems...because...because of before. He couldn't...I mean he never...well, he just couldn't do it. That's why we were all kind of suspicious of you having Billy's child because we knew that he'd never been capable before. It looks like he had gone through his own money on establishing himself in racing and in getting treatments for...his problem at a Swiss clinic. He needed more money so he had an heir. He took Reb's inheritance to pay for the artificial fertilization and also for treatments for himself."
Janet shrugged. "Oh well."
Robbie looked up in surprise. "It wasn't right! He stole from his own kid! He had a child to get money because he had gone through his own!" snarled Robbie.
Janet shrugged again. "Okay, I agree. It was wrong. But he's dead, Robbie, trying no doubt to prove he was a man. I've got Reb and that delights me. Were my motivations anymore noble?"
Robbie blushed and looked away. Janet answered for her. "No, they weren't! I wanted money and I wanted a child. So I'm partly responsible for Reb's inheritance being misused. But I don't care! I'm happy. Reb's happy, and we are doing just fine. Don't worry about it, Robbie!"
"I'll make it up to the kid," Robbie promised, taking Janet's hand.
Janet squeezed the hand. "You already have. You, Ryan and that thing you dragged home and insist on calling a dog, Rebecca loves you all dearly. You've brought so much into Reb's life! That's all that matters. You write your silly law firm and tell them just to finish off the paper work and not to worry about the mismanagement of the trust. Reb was worth it!" grinned Janet.
Then she giggled.
"What's so funny?" asked Robbie, putting an arm around Janet.
"I just know that when Reb is much older and can understand all this, she is going to really enjoy being the product of an illegal act!"
"Hey! That's our daughter you are taking about and she is perfect," protested Robbie.
Janet bumped her forehead lightly against Robbie's. "No, she is a Williams and that spells trouble!"
Trouble arrived the following week with the annual old timers' hockey tournament. Several years before, Greta Corry had organized an all women's team to compete. "Lips", Lady Ice Players, had never won a game against the male teams, whose players had all played on amateur hockey leagues at one time or another. Everyone did have a good time however, and the all girl team always brought out the crowds when they were playing.
This year, Greta could not take her place in goal because of her gall bladder problems and Janet couldn't take the left wing position because of her surgery. They had to settle with managing and coaching the team.
Amanda Singh was recruited for goal and Robbie and Ryan were picked up as forwards. Suddenly, the women found they had a team that could actually win games! On Friday night, they had surprised the Creaky Joints from Harriston with a three-two win and then on Saturday they had gone on to defeat the Bartlett Golden Jets by a score of four-one! Sunday found them facing the Helingone Rusty Blades in a grudge match final.
Janet reviewed her game plan options. Amanda skated poorly but she had played goal for her school's soccer team as a child back in India. She was flexible and fast in net despite the large pads and protective gear she had to wear. Carolyn Carr could hold her own on defense having grown up playing backyard hockey with her brother. Glades Billingsley, the minister's wife, was a little weak on left defense but she made up for it by providing hot chocolate and cookies for the team.
Robbie had taken figure skating as a child and was quick and confident on her skates. She had a powerful shot although not an always accurate one. Ryan was a good skater too. She had played hockey on various school teams and played smart. Unlike her mother, her shots were always on the net. They would play the forward wings. In centre, Greta and Janet had decided on Stacy Barlow from the donut shop. She was a tough, wiry woman who never gave up.
The rules for old timer hockey were pretty flexible. You were supposed to be an amateur and be over thirty to play. But in the small northern towns, where the populations were low, anyone who wanted to still play hockey after they had out grown the leagues could pretty well join as an old timer. The games were just for fun and no body contact was allowed.
The women's team was mostly women in their thirties and forties but Ryan was a teenager and Amanda and Janet were still in their late twenties. Corry had got the organizers to waver the age restriction for the women so that they could get enough players to make up a team.
Janet stood by the boards and took pictures with Robbie's camera of Ryan and Robbie warming up on the ice. The mother and daughter skated leisurely around the rink holding Reb by the hands. Reb had on a pair of double bladed skates and was dressed up in a hockey sweater and helmet just like her big sister and aunt. Robbie had paid Floe Butler to remake a team jersey for Reb and had bought her a kid's sized helmet. A cut down hockey stick had completed the outfit and Janet had to admit that Reb looked cute as a button.
Reb idolized her big sister and aunt and most of the time Janet thought that was just great. Her daughter couldn't have a better pair of role models at least ninety per cent of the time. Then there was that ten per cent of the time when that "no limits, no fear" attitude of the Williams' came out and that scared the hell out of Janet. She understood that it was the quality that allowed them to take their natural talents and push them to greatness, but it was very worrying and stressful to deal with at times. She had come to realize that one of the things she could do in her marriage with Robbie was to help her partner use her tremendous focus to do good things rather than negative.
Janet smiled and brought her focus back to the game. Helingone had a good team. The game was being billed as a grudge match because Jim Adleton was the Rusty Blades star player. Everyone knew that there were bad feelings between Robbie and Jim about the Winter Carnival snowmobile race. Janet frowned. She needed to remind Robbie again that this was a friendly game and not to lose her temper.