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Advocate & Rsawest

For Disclaimers see Chapter 1a

1a 1b 2a 2b 3a 3b 4a 4b 5a 5b 6a 6b 7a 7b


Chapter 3b

Amanda placed the lightly snoring child to bed, laying Elmo beside her. "Goodnight, baby" she whispered.

Well, if that didn’t scare Claire off, nothing will. I take that back. Thank God, she didn’t hear me sing. As she made her way back to her guest, Amanda marveled at how easy Claire was to talk to. It didn’t hurt that she more than did justice to the white jeans and the black denim shirt she wore... but still...there was something more than that. Amanda found herself easing into a friendly camaraderie, that thus far in her life, she found exceedingly rare. She had it with Jody. She knew their friendship would endure, and that they shared a deep sisterly affection. But no matter how close they were, the relationship would always lack the element of ‘romantic love’ that Amanda found herself craving.

Nearing the bottom of the stairs, the counselor stopped and observed Claire unnoticed. Sweeping her eyes up from Nike covered feet, to raven colored hair, Amanda sighed. No, it’s definitely not sisterly feelings I have when I’m with Claire.

"Thanks for being so patient. That took a little longer than I expected."

Claire turned toward the bright voice. "No, problem. She seems like a sweet little girl. She sure has a lot of energy."

"True," Amanda laughed, "but it’s not everyday she has someone new to entertain her. She’s mostly used to me, and Mrs. Fisher and Jody."

At the mention of Jody’s name, Claire’s features darkened.

Whoa, I wonder what caused that look? She must still be angry with Jody over the stunt she pulled outside of Origami. "Claire, Jody didn’t mean anything the other day." Amanda couldn’t help but defend her long time pal. "She was trying to be a friend. Sometimes she just goes too far." Her voice softened, "Don’t stay angry...please."

Claire felt her anger melt away under Amanda’s gentle plea. The lawyer stood silent for several seconds...thinking. When she finally spoke, her demeanor had completely shifted, throwing Amanda slightly off balance.

"She hates me, right?" Her voice was steady but her eyes belied inner distress.

Her feelings are hurt? Wow, that game face must really pay off in the courtroom. Anger seems to be her first reaction. She’s a lot like Jody, volatile, but more bark than bite. Studying the clinched jaw and Claire’s powerful frame, Amanda quickly reassessed her characterization. Okay, I definitely see bite potential here.

Claire quietly sat back in her chair, feeling mildly defeated. Amanda noticed the slight slumping of her shoulders and realized that Claire had taken her silence as an affirmation. Snap out of it, Mandy.

"No, no," she reassured. "She doesn’t hate you," at least I don’t think she does. "She"

"She just thought I was a jerk who was dating her much younger, drug abusing client, while trying to make time with you on the side," Claire stated flatly.

Amanda winced at the blunt but accurate assessment. Not knowing what to say she settled on an equally blunt and simple truth. "That is what she thought," Amanda saw Claire try to hide a flinch but she continued. "I love Jody and what she thinks is important to me." Green eyes snagged and held blue. "But you explained the situation to me. And I choose to believe you. I can’t control what Jody thinks." Her voice took on a slightly resentful quality. "She doesn’t decide who I see and who I don’t. I make my own decisions."

Claire couldn’t help but be impressed by the determined nature of the smaller woman. She found herself admiring more and more things about this enigmatic young psychologist. But she also recognized the quick temper hiding behind kind, youthful features. Boy, am I glad she’s not upset with me. Somehow I think Jody got an earful this week.

Ready for a change to more pleasant subjects, Amanda marched over to a small table and retrieved two well-worn jerseys. Green eyes twinkled. "The game will be on a few minutes which do you want, the white or the red?"

We’re dressing up? " can pick. But I don’t think you’re clothes will fit me."

Amanda held up the oversized shirts. "I’m not worried. I’ll choose." Amanda took the opportunity to critically study the taller woman, holding up each jersey to Claire, and gauging its probable appeal. With a smile, she remembered Claire in a form fitting red dress. "Here, I think this one would look the better on you. Besides," she added mischievously, "red clashes with my hair."

Handing Claire the jersey, Amanda added, "I hope you’re a Red Wing fan."

"You bet," Claire responded confidently. Not that I know squat about hockey. What was the name of the team Mark told me about? Claire held up the red jersey. What in hell is a Yzerman? Eyeing the heavy cloth, Claire weighed it in her hands. Glancing at the blonde, she raised an eyebrow in question.

Amanda smirked and turned her back to Claire, knowing she’d be broiling if she wore the jersey over her heavy weight denim shirt. I wonder if she’ll have the nerve to take it off right here? Amanda stood, hands on her hips, and waited.

Claire’s other eyebrow shot skyward at Amanda’s implied challenge. She wants me to change here? An internal chuckle. Ah, Amanda, you’re playing this game with the wrong woman.

A few seconds passed with no sound, and Amanda decided to stop teasing her new friend. Dropping her hands from her hips she began to turn.

"I’m not finished yet," a low voice rumbled.

Amanda’s head snapped forward and she began to hear the scraping of denim as Claire began pulling the shirt out of her jeans. Amanda nervously started to clench and unclench her fists. "Uhh...sure...take your time... no rush." Stop babbling, she berated herself. I can’t believe she’s doing that! Amanda suddenly looked to her patio doors, hoping to catch a glimpse of the muscular form in the reflection. Looking at the closed curtains, she let out a small sigh of disappointment. Rolling her eyes, she chastised herself. I’m worse than a sixteen-year old boy. A deep breath. What’s taking her so long, anyway? It’s getting really hot in here. Amanda lifted a slightly shaky hand and wiped her brow. When she heard the muffled popping sounds of Claire’s buttons her heart rate began to speed up. Wow, she suddenly realized, I’ve had full-blown love affairs that don’t hold a candle to the sheer eroticism of her undressing behind me.

Then, for a few seconds the only sound that filled the room was Amanda’s breathing. Finally, Amanda saw Claire’s shirt land lightly on the couch next to her. Looking down at the shirt, she tried pushing the image of Claire standing behind her, in only a bra, out of her mind. She swallowed.

"Okay, all done."

Amanda waited a bit before turning around. She hoped her face wasn’t as flush as it felt. Counting to ten, she turned to see Claire dressed in the red jersey, and holding the other. As the lawyer began walking toward Amanda, a slow sexy grin crossed her face.

Stopping far closer to Amanda than was customary, Claire held up the white jersey. Looking down into Amanda’s eyes she leaned forward until her lips were only inches away from the smaller woman’s face. Hot breath caressed Amanda’s cheek. Lowering her voice, Claire whispered "your turn."

It was all Amanda could do not to moan out loud. Oh... God. Amanda closed eyes, absorbing the deep voice, and not trusting herself to speak. After a few seconds she opened her eyes but couldn’t meet Claire’s. "Thanks...b...but..." A pause and another hard swallow. Grabbing the jersey Amanda practically ran for the bathroom. "I’ll be right back," she croaked.

Claire laughed softly as Amanda bolted out of the room. She’s gonna make a great playmate.


"NO. NO. NO!" Amanda jumped up off the couch for the third time in the last five minutes. Her team was not doing well. "Did you see that?" She waggled her finger at the television. "That was ILLEGAL!" Suddenly dejected, she flopped back down onto the sofa next to Claire.

Claire was having a great time. She couldn’t care less about watching the game. But watching Amanda watch the game, was another story. The small psychologist cheered and hissed and cursed the officials with unrestrained passion. I wonder what she’d be like if she were actually at the game? We’d probably be tossed out on our butts, she thought wryly.

After a particularly vicious check, Amanda began to rise again. This time Claire acted.

"Oh no, you don’t." Claire quickly grabbed Amanda’s hand, tugging her back down into cushions. "Stay. You’re making me dizzy." Claire’s grip was firm but her voice was teasing. Surprised, Amanda looked down at their joined hands.

Nodding, she spoke calmly, though the dozing butterflies in her stomach, awakened at Claire’s touch. "Sure, no problem."

When it was clear Amanda wasn’t going anywhere, Claire loosened her grip but didn’t let go. It was a baby step, and she knew it. But the lawyer had wanted to make some sort of physical contact with her companion from the first moment she saw her. After several hours of aborted attempts, she was relieved to have the smaller palm finally resting in hers. What a nice fit, she thought, looking down at their entwined hands. This evening was definitely looking up. The rest of the game was spent in sweet companionship, each woman pleased with the way evening was shaping up.


The game had long sense ended and Claire had tried her best to console Amanda, who was sulking over the Red Wings elimination from the playoffs. The blonde had realized early on that the lawyer didn’t know the first thing about hockey. But she was trying so hard, Amanda didn’t have the heart to let her know she’d been found out.

With the television off, only a small brass lamp lit the den. Shadows danced off Amanda’s hands as she gestured. Once again Claire was struck by how much she simply enjoyed being in the smaller woman’s presence. When she was with Amanda, somehow, she felt connected. It was unsettling and invigorating at the same time.

"You’re kidding?" Amanda exclaimed.

"No seriously, that’s what I really believed. At least when I was really little."

"Well, I hope I didn’t kill your fantasy." The blonde groaned with satisfaction as she bit into a thick cluster of chocolate covered nuts. "Mmm. Phis is thsoo guud."

"Somehow, I suspected you might like it," Claire smirked, snagging another piece for herself.

"Hey," Amanda protested as she lightly slapped Claire’s hand away. "I’m not forcing you to eat any, you know."

Popping the confiscated chocolate covered cherry into her mouth, Claire grinned. "Now what kind of date would I be if I sat back and allowed my lovely hostess to eat so much candy that she got a stomach ache?"

"Humph...Good luck. I have no will power when it comes to chocolate."

"You sure don’t look it," Claire replied, gazing appreciatively at the blonde’s lean, compact physique.

"You’ve met my daughter, right?" she teased. "Chasing around after her is just about all the exercise I need. But I like to bike ride when the weather allows and I have a well-worn treadmill in the spare bedroom."

Mirroring Claire’s appreciative look, Amanda eyes traveled down to well-muscled thighs. "Now I know nobody looks like you, without working out."

Claire could feel her skin growing warm at her friend’s compliment. "Umm...Thanks."

Ha! It’s about time the shoe was on the other foot! Amanda gently traced a flushed cheek. "You look pretty in pink," she teased.

Embarrassed, Claire quickly changed the subject. How did our conversation get derailed? And now I’m blushing? Claire cleared her throat. "It wasn’t until I was about eight that I finally figured all moms didn’t know how to cook."

"What clued you in?" Amanda gracefully accepted the shift in conversation back to its previous topic.

"Well, it was my birthday and I was all excited to get my birthday dessert. Every year I would get some great pastry or cake or something like that, and we’d eat it together, in our pajamas in front of the fireplace."

A slight note of sadness tinged Claire’s voice. "My folks worked really long hours and entertained a lot. We didn’t spend a lot of time together so I really looked forward to that special time every year." Remembering this wasn’t supposed to be a serious story, Claire intentionally lightened her voice. "Anyway, I guess I just figured my mom made the desserts. I mean, that’s what moms do, right?"

Amanda nodded, a little concerned with her friend’s tone, but caught up in the story enough to want her to continue.

"I practically ran home from school and hurried through my homework, so I could sit and wait for my folks to come home." Claire shifted slightly, enjoying the warm comforting touch of Amanda’s thigh nestled up against hers. "Right before dinner, Margaret, she was my nanny that year, came into my room and told me that my parents had an unexpected social function they needed to attend that night and that they wished me a happy birthday."

Amanda remained silent but lightly squeezed Claire’s hand in a supportive gesture.

"Then she handed me an address book and a credit card and said that Mrs. Easton had instructed her to give them to me so that I could call Bartholomew’s Bakery and have my birthday dessert delivered, and to remind me how much I liked the cheesecake last year." A pause. "I don’t think my parents ever realized how much thought birthday desserts meant to me. Not the actual dessert..."

"But the time you spent together," Amanda finished.

Claire sighed and returned the light pressure to Amanda’s hand. "Exactly."

What can I say to that? Amanda wondered. "Claire...I’m sorr..." She stopped when she saw Claire smiling, with what could only describe as a deviously evil grin.

"What’s so funny?" That must have felt awful. What could possible be funny about that?

"Margaret told me my mother said that I could get anything I wanted. And I did."

Still not comprehending Amanda waited for an explanation. When she could tell Claire wasn’t going to offer one, she simply asked. "So, what did you get?"

Claire’s grinned broadened. "Oh, I got the cheesecake...and the pecan pie...and the apple strudel..."

Amanda’s eyes widened.

"...and the raison bars...and the white chocolate cookies...and..." Claire continued.

"Oh, no," Amanda laughed, as she finally figured out what the mischievous child had done. "You ordered one of everything?"

Claire nodded, a grin still firmly plastered on her face. "Ooh yeah, the bill came to $442.00."

Amanda put a finger to her temple and spoke out loud, "Mental note to Mandy, never ever, under any circumstances, cross Claire."

The attorney shrugged sheepishly, but didn’t disagree. Realizing what her friend just said, Claire’s natural inquisitiveness returned. "I haven’t heard anyone refer to you as ‘Mandy’ before.’"

Surprised she had used the name out loud, Amanda elaborated. "That’s because no one does. one but me, I suppose. My family isn’t much for nicknames so I just got used to introducing myself as Amanda. My dad still won’t call Melissa "Missy," although I think he’s the last one."

Claire considered for a moment. "I like ‘Amanda,’ but Mandy is nice too. It suits you."

"Thanks." Amanda could feel herself grinning stupidly. "You can call me either one then."

"Okay, I will."


Claire looked at the clock regretfully, mentally cursing Father Time and his relentless pace. We’ve been talking for hours. I can’t believe it. I think I’ve talked, and listened, she admitted to herself, more tonight, than I have in the past six-months combined. Looking back up at the clock again, she stifled a sigh. Time to bite the bullet. Claire couldn’t quite hide her frown as she shifted her position until she was completely facing Amanda.

Sounding very much like she didn’t want to, Claire began saying goodnight. "I guess I should be going, it’s after midnight."

Amanda squeezed the hand that hadn’t left hers for the past several hours. Looking at the clock, she knew her friend was right. Now I know how Cinderella felt... yuck. The psychologist’s mind raced for a legitimate reason to ask Claire to stay longer. Somehow, I don’t think I should come out and say "Gee Claire, I’m having a great time, and you’re so gorgeous you make me forget how to breathe, and I was just wondering if I could have you imbedded in my couch, so I could sit and stare at you and drool." Though for a brief moment, she was sorely tempted. Being polite sucks.

"Thanks for coming, Claire. I had a lot of fun."

Claire shifted a little closer and flashed a dazzling smile. "Me too."

Who needs to breathe? Amanda found herself willingly drowning in deep azure blue. An answering smile played on her own lips, and crinkled the corners of her eyes.

Now it was Claire’s turn to remember to breathe. As their eyes locked, the surroundings faded, and each woman felt herself surrendering to an almost physical pull, a deep craving to connect with the other.

Growing bolder, Claire leaned forward and began to delicately trail her fingers along Amanda’s neck, pausing to feel the pounding pulse beneath her fingertips. Moving her hand upward she cupped a soft cheek.

Amanda’s eyes closed reflexively, an involuntary sigh escaping her lips as Claire’s gentle touch moved from her neck to her cheekbones, sliding across pale eyebrows, and finally tangling in soft hair. She felt her head being slowly guided forward and upward as a warm palm was placed on her other cheek. Hot breath tickled her face as all forward movement suddenly stopped.

A half a second felt like forever, as Amanda leaned forward closing the minute gap between them. Their lips brushed together softly. Then slowly, the contact began to increase.

Amanda felt as though she were on sensory overload. Her hands firmly gripped the silky skin on Claire’s forearms. Her palate delighted in a sweetness that was part Claire and part chocolate. As her body fell further into Claire’s, she inhaled the light scent of roses. It felt more than good. It felt right.

The kiss deepened naturally, Claire didn’t bother to swallow the low moan that echoed from her throat as she drew even closer to the young therapist. It was, Claire decided, perfectly delicious. Intense attraction combined with a blossoming affection and the result...was simply exquisite.

The kiss tapered off as each woman reluctantly withdrew from the other. Amanda opened her eyes first, to see Claire still leaning slightly toward her, eyes closed, with the most curious expression on her face.

Claire slowly opened her eyes and exhaled deeply. The look of startled amazement painted on each woman’s face caused other to smile, then laugh. The easy laughter cut through the haze of sexual tension that permeated the air. Claire and Amanda were both relieved at the drop in intensity. Each needed a moment to process the unexpected emotion that accompanied the kiss.

Claire shifted, her focus naturally drawn to warm green eyes. WOW! What the hell just happened? "M..Ma..." Claire stopped. Gathering her scattered wits, she tried again. "Mandy, that..."

Claire paused as her attention was forced outside. Voices?

BOOM!! The front door swung open violently, crashing loudly against the wall.

"Honey, I’m home!" screeched a slurred voice.

Claire and Amanda flew off the couch, Claire instinctively placing herself between Amanda and the door, as a short, excessively freckled, red-haired man staggered in, and stood laughing hysterically before the women.

"Who in the hell are you?" Amanda yelled, anger already beginning to replace shock.

"J.J., you shithead! What do you think your doing?" called a hollow sounding voice from the doorway.

Claire and Amanda’s attention shifted to a woman who was standing in the shadows just inside Amanda’s doorway.

"Come on Baby," the man whined "You know I always wanted to say that." J.J. started to say something else, but burst out laughing instead.

"Oh right...sorry...I forgot." The woman swayed slightly, leaning against the wall, then joined J.J. in an equally inappropriate fit of hysterical laughter.

"I’m calling the police, these people are crazy." Claire stepped toward the phone.

Amanda continued to stare at the woman, her face paling with each passing second. "Wait," she said, holding up a hand, stopping Claire. Taking several steps forward, she roughly pushed past J.J. Flipping on the light she continued to stare at the woman in silence. Suddenly her eyes welled with tears. Claire watched as tremors racked Amanda’s small frame. It looked like fear or anger or sadness. Claire couldn’t tell which. Alarmed, she rushed to join her friend, stopping slightly behind and to the side of Amanda.

Pointing a finger at Claire, J.J. began to yell again. "Slow down, bitch! This is none of your business," he slurred.

"Shut up you demented little gnome!" Claire hissed, as she reached out and viscously snapped the offending finger.

"FUCK!" J.J. dropped to his knees and began to cry. "! You broke my finger!" J.J.’s words were an eerie mix of pain and amusement and disbelief.

"That’s right asshole! And if you don’t drag your sorry ass outta here I’m gonna break more than..." Claire stopped at the sound of Amanda’s anguished voice.

"Monica?" Her voice cracked. A long moment passed. "God... is that really you?"

The woman looked up and smiled with glassy, dilated eyes. "Long time no see."

"Jesus Christ," Amanda whispered. Stepping closer to filthy emaciated woman, she smelled garbage. Grimacing, she continued. "What have you done to yourself?" Reaching out the therapist gently tugged the wild hair as though she’d never seen it before.

The woman before her was bone thin. She wore ragged blue jeans and a dirty short-sleeved sweatshirt that were ill fitting. Taking in the threadbare clothes, Amanda assumed them to be in too poor a condition to have come from the Salvation Army or a shelter. Haunted hazel eyes were framed with tired, black circles and the short, dirty blonde hair was greasy and uncombed.

"Nice to see you again too," Monica added sarcastically. Closing sunken eyes, she wrapped her arms tightly around her bony frame and began to quake, sliding down the wall that had been supporting her.

Amanda reached for Monica, who flailed out, knocking her hands away. "Don’t touch me, Amanda. I’m fine."

"Fine, huh?" Amanda’s hand shot out, grabbing Monica’s chin. Jerking her head upward, she looked directly into stoned eyes. Monica weakly pulled away causing Amanda to release her grasp. "You’re coming down aren’t you?"

Claire stood awkwardly behind Amanda. It was obvious that the women knew each other. And based on Amanda’s reactions, this was no patient or casual friend. An old girlfriend? Claire kept watching. I don’t think so. She couldn’t help but wince. I hope not. Out of the corner of her eye the attorney kept tabs on a writhing, blubbering, J.J. The other women were all but oblivious to his presence.

"What do you care?" Monica hissed, as she tried to gather enough balance to stand without the assistance of the wall.

"You know I care!" Amanda answered defensively.

J.J. slowly stood and approached Claire with a raised fist. "You’ll be sorry you..."

Patience gone, Claire swiftly kicked J.J.’s feet out from under him. Rolling on his stomach, he immediately started laughing and crying again. Claire shook her head. Stay down idiot. Stupidly, as Claire shifted back toward Amanda, J.J. reached out and grabbed her ankle.

"That’s it. I’ve had enough of you, "Chucky!" Claire brought her foot up with viscous force, slamming it straight down on J.J.’s hand. The man howled and choked, saliva dripped from the corners of his mouth, as his body registered that several more fingers were crushed. "Time to go," Claire muttered, secretly glad the fool had tried put his hands on her, giving her the excuse she needed. Grabbing J.J. by the back of the collar the lawyer literally threw him out the open front door. Monica’s reaction was not what she expected.

"CHUCKY!!" Her bizarre laughter echoed in the otherwise quiet house. "I hope that doesn’t make me Chucky’s bride." Her laughter turned to sobs and then abruptly stopped.

Claire resumed her position near her friend. Amanda felt Claire’s reassuring presence at her side but didn’t acknowledge it. For the moment, all she could do was stare at pathetic spectacle in front of her. She's married to that? Amanda’s eyes drifted to the front lawn where J.J. was sitting clutching his hand. Why didn’t anyone let me know she’d been released, or checked out? "You need help Monica. Why aren’t you in St. Benedicts?"

She snorted. "That was voluntary, Amanda, they couldn’t keep me there. Besides I don’t want that kind of help."

"You need that kind of help."

"Shut the fuck up with that psycho-babble bullshit!" Monica screamed.

Strangely, Monica’s anger was immediately replaced by a different look. Claire felt her hackles rise but fought to remain still. She can see I’m right here if she needs me, she chided. But even as she admonished herself, a protective urge surged from deep within. One look, one word, one gesture towards Amanda, and friend or no, that crazy bitch is gonna end up on her ass in the yard with J.J. The lawyer could feel the adrenaline coursing through her. The need to do something, anything, was overwhelming. Claire never did do "passive" well.

"You could help me if you really wanted to," the dirty blonde pouted self-servingly.

"I won’t give you any money."

Monica looked around desperately.

"If you want, I’ll call and get you a non-refundable room at the Motel 6 on Orchard Street. And this time I’ll tell them to take out the television and clocks." An expensive lesson learned.

"Fuck you, Amanda. I knew you wouldn’t help me. That’s not why I came here anyway." Monica looked up stairs as her body began to tremble again. "Where is she?"

Amanda’s eyes followed Monica’s. "Don’t even think it, Monica," she warned.

"I’ll more than think it. She’s my daughter! I have a right to see her!"

Claire’s eyes widened. Her daughter? She looked at Amanda. What?

Amanda’s temper flared. "You have the right to nothing! You’re high and you’re filthy and you’re not getting anywhere near her!" she growled, blocking Monica’s path to the stairway.

Monica was laughing again, "You don’t understand Amanda, I don’t want to see her I want to take her. J.J’s gonna get a job and we’re all gonna live together and be a family."

"WHAT?" The anger in Amanda’s voice was rich with disbelief. "Are you truly insane? YOU ARE NOT TAKING MY DAUGHTER ANYWHERE!" She boomed.

"Come on Mandy," she sneered. "She already likes me."

"What do mean she likes you? There is no way she could even remember you. It’s been months since she’s seen you." Amanda dismissed the woman’s ramblings.

J.J. finally reappeared in the doorway. Claire’s icy stare stopped him from entering the house but not the conversation. "Now, I know I’m fucked up and all," J.J. conceded," Claire's raised an eyebrow at his sudden flash of self-awareness. "But wasn’t that just last week we took that little piggy to McDonalds? That little thing can sure put away the food." His grating laugh returned, and Claire found herself wanting to break his other hand.

Amanda’s eyes flashed. "What do you mean last week? This is the first time I’ve seen you in months!"

Monica’s head was down and she was snickering like a child who had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar so Amanda shifted her focus to J.J. "Well?" she demanded impatiently.

J.J. looked at Monica who looked back sheepishly. They both burst out laughing.

Thinking back over the week, Amanda closed her eyes in realization, asking the question although she was certain of the answer. "They let you see her didn’t they?" How could they? What if you had just taken off with Missy? Amanda’s thoughts were interrupted by J.J.

"The Greer house is sure nice, huh, baby?" J.J. slurred, wiping the spit from the corners of his mouth with his good hand.

"You betcha," Monica agreed.

"Get out," Amanda demanded flatly. Before the words were even out she felt Claire move closer to her. A strong hand lightly touched the small of her back, encouraging her.

"What?" Monica struggled to bring Amanda back into focus.

"You heard me. I want you out now. And don’t come back like this ever again. There’s no way you’re getting Missy, so do yourself a favor and focus your energy on getting your life together instead of messing with my daughter."

J.J. looked as though he might object until Claire flashed him a bone-chilling smile. Even in his current condition, J.J. shuddered, unconsciously protecting his injured hand. Cautiously, he approached Monica, whose attention was inexplicably focused on one of Amanda’s plants. Grabbing a bony wrist he began pulling his bride out the door. "Come on baby, let’s go."

As she passed through the doorway Monica appeared to spark to life. "I’ll be back...Amanda... you..." Claire slammed the door in the babbling woman’s face.

Amanda was still mutely staring at the closed, damaged door, when Claire gently took her hand and led her to the couch. Amanda looked up the staircase but remained silent for a long while before she spoke.

"I can’t believe Missy didn’t wake up with all that noise." Amanda’s voice trailed off as her breathing hitched and she began to cry.

Claire was at a loss. She didn’t understand what had happened or who Monica was but she could clearly see Amanda’s pain. She simply held her arms out in offering to the smaller woman. Amanda gasped with relief as she lunged forward into Claire’s waiting arms. Gladly accepting all the warmth she found there, Amanda held on for dear life.

Claire murmured nonsense reassurances and stroked the soft blonde hair until finally, Amanda quieted. Reluctantly, Claire pulled back so she could see her friend’s face, which was red, and puffy, and tear stained, and beautiful. It nearly broke Claire’s heart. Grabbing a wad of tissues from a box on the coffee table Claire offered them to the smaller woman, who faintly smiled, then wiped her eyes and blew her nose.

"Mandy, are you okay?" she asked softly.

"No...I...I don’t think so." Looking up into confused blue eyes she continued. "I bet you’re wondering what’s going on just about now?"

Claire nodded.

"It’s a really long, complicated story and I promise to tell you all of it...just not right this second okay?

Claire nodded again.

"But, I guess the whole thing can be boiled down to a few sentences." Amanda stopped and wiped her cheeks again. When she found her voice, she continued. "Monica is Missy’s birth mother. I guess it’s pretty obvious that she’s in no position to raise a child, although, she did straighten out a bit near the end of her pregnancy. I think she finally figured out what all those drugs could do to the baby." Claire passed over several more tissues. "I adopted Missy. I brought her home from the hospital, Claire." Amanda’s eyes started to welling up again. "She’s my daughter in every way, just because I didn’t give birth to her doesn’t mean..."

"Shh... I understand," Claire reassured. "I can see how much you love each other. And that you belong together," she added. Pulling Amanda back into a hug she spoke into her hair. "Don’t worry, I’ll help you."

"She...she couldn’t get her back could she?" Amanda’s voice cracked as she begged for reassurance.

Claire wanted to say "NO" and be done with it. But the lawyer in her refused to allow her to escape with the more comforting half-truth. "If everything was done legally to begin with...then no, it’s not likely." She could feel Amanda’s relieved sigh as the body against hers went limp. Claire closed her eyes. Yes. Thank God, she didn’t get the baby illegally. "I’ll contact a friend of mine at the firm who specializes in adoptions. He'll know what to do." Unsure how Amanda would take this she pressed on. "Amanda maybe we should call the police. Those two might come back and they did break into your house."

"No...Maybe...No...I don’t know."

"What is it?" Doesn’t she see how dangerous something like this could be? "Why the hesitation?" Claire loosened her hold and backed away until she was looking into sad green eyes.

"Because...she’s my sister."


Continues here...

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