"Things were slow at the office so I took off early to pick up the dry cleaning," Marjory explained patiently to her daughter as she stood with her friends on the sidewalk of the little strip mall. "Is there something wrong with that?" she chuckled.
"N-no, nothing," Ashlyn stammered, embarrassed at her previous outburst. "Umm…"
Suzy's eyes were glowing like beacons. "Hey Marjory, would you like to join us for some coffee? We were just heading down there," she said while pointing at the storefront a few doors away.
"No, you kids go have your fun," Marjory laughed. "You don't want some old woman butting in on your free time."
"Oh but I insist," Suzy said with glee, walking up and linking arms with the woman as Taylor gave her a stern look of disapproval even knowing it would do no good. Ashlyn simply looked befuddled as she glanced between her mother and her two friends. Suzy turned the woman toward the two youngest members of the group. "Marjory this is Cindy, a friend of Gretchen's. I think she'd like a little adult advice," the long-time friend of her daughter said giving the dark haired older woman a pleading look. "I think she and Ashlyn might have something in common," the little midfielder said quietly.
Marjory's eyes widened at this little bit of news. "Oh, well," she said slowly, glancing at the young girl holding Gretchen's hand. "I don't know how much help I'd be," she whispered.
"Just being there and showing your support of Ash might help," Suzy spoke quietly.
Marjory sighed, glancing quickly at her daughter who, from the look in her eyes, seemed to be joining in with Suzy's entreaties having barely overheard the whispered conversation.
"Sure," she gave up with a smile, "I'd be happy to join you."
"What are you doing Red?" Taylor asked her friend in a harsh whisper as the group moved down towards the doorway to the coffee shop. "Remember? You promised me."
"I'm killing two birds with one stone," Suzy shrugged unapologetically. "Cindy needs to see that she has options, even if they aren't right now."
"What do you mean?" Taylor asked, surprised at the seriousness in her best friend's voice that matched the look on her face.
"Gretchen told me. That's Cindy Lawford, James Lawford's little sister, and she thinks she might be gay. She was thinking of coming out to her parents, but Gretchen was going to tell her not to come out yet given how homophobic they are." She smiled as the one's in front started going into the shop. "And she's right. My sister's always been a smart cookie, but Cindy also needs to see the other side as well. That there are those out there that will support her with all of their might just to let her be who she is." She glanced at Taylor and grinned as they entered the wonderfully smelling bistro. "Where better than here?" she asked with a wave of her hand at the shop's interior while looking around for the owner.
"And inviting Marjory?" Taylor asked pointedly, not letting her friend off the hook.
Suzy chuckled. "That's just the fortuitous second bird." She nearly laughed at the look of consternation on Taylor's face, but it didn't seem to be the appropriate time for that.
"I'll get the drinks started," Darryl grinned as he headed behind the counter. "I know pretty much what everyone wants. What can I get for you Ms. Conner?" he asked Marjory.
"Hmm, maybe a Chai Latte," she smiled.
"Coming right up," the boy smiled as he donned his apron, giving the girl behind the counter a nod. She was relatively new and was relieved that she would have some help with the sudden onslaught of customers.
The large group found some seats in a quiet corner away from the few regulars. Gretchen and Cindy sat on a sofa with Marjory while Jenny and Ashlyn took chairs across from them. Suzy and Taylor pulled up a couple more chairs plus a third for when Darryl joined them. The middle schoolers and Ms. C were quickly into their own little world, talking quietly while Gretchen's hands moved back and forth, indicating Cindy and then Ash and Jenny. Marjory nodded her head and smiled softly at the girl.
"Are you sure about this, Suze?" Taylor asked worriedly, looking around but not spotting the dark haired Stacy.
"Look at them Tay," the shorter girl said softly with a wave towards the rest of the group. "Cindy's where Ash was last fall, but at least she knows she's got Gretchen on her side. Maybe more than she knows if I know my sister at all," she grinned. "Remember the trip back from Florida and the questions she had for Ash about being gay?"
"Oh right!" Taylor exclaimed softly. "I was wondering where all that had come from. Wait! You think she and Gretchen…" she looked at the two young girls. Cindy was listening to Marjory, Ashlyn, and Jenny speak and nodding her head occasionally, but her hand was still firmly grasping Gretchen's.
"We were wondering if Gretchen was asking about what it was like being gay either for herself or maybe for a friend," Suzy explained. "It turned out to be both," she chuckled. "My sister the lez," she giggled.
"Don't you go starting in on that, Susan Genevieve Blake!" her friend admonished her. "Even in jest that's not funny."
"I know, I know," Suzy giggled again, "but she's my sister. I can tease her if I want. It's just my way of telling her I love her," she smiled at the little redhead. Almost as if she knew they were talking about her, Gretchen lifted her head to look over at her sister and smiled at her, just barely lifting her hand ensconced in that of the girl she liked. "And Cindy's a great girl. She's nothing like her brother."
Taylor sighed and then smiled. "Then I wish them well."
Suzy's head jerked up when a tall, dark haired woman came out of the back office area and headed behind the counter. Stacy smiled when she saw her favorite godson serving up hot cups of coffee and tea. Darryl gave her a kiss on the cheek and then nodded to the large group in the corner. Stacy turned to glance at them, smiled and gave a wave, and then turned back to help out with fixing the drinks. It was only a moment before her head slowly turned around again to focus on the dark haired woman sitting amongst the group of teenagers. Even from across the room Suzy could see her eyes widen in shock and her hands start to shake to the point where Darryl had to take the mug she was holding away from her before she dropped it, a look of concern on his face. He said something to his godmother, but she paid him no mind, her eyes and thoughts elsewhere.
Almost in slow motion she began walking back around the counter, her feet stumbling as she nearly ran into a table because her eyes were fully and solely focused on the older woman sitting with her regulars.
"M-Marjory?" she whispered, her voice barely loud enough to be heard only a couple of feet away and her breath catching in her throat. Still it was loud enough to catch the ear of the woman sitting on the sofa. "Marjory Akers?" she said a little louder.
Ashlyn's mother froze, shocked as a voice from her distant memory – a voice from so many years ago, the voice that she had at one time so dearly loved – came to her like a whisper in her ear. Just as Stacy's had, her head turned slowly towards that voice, her eyes wide and suddenly moist with unshed tears.
"Mom?" Ashlyn asked quietly only to feel Suzy's finger touching her lips, entreating her to silence.
"Just watch," Suzy grinned, eliciting a short nod from her friend.
"S-Stacy? Stacy Goddard?" Marjory asked breathlessly as she slowly rose to her feet to face the woman she had fallen in love with so long ago. "Is that really you?"
"Oh jeez," Stacy nearly wept. "I should slap the shit out of you right now for leaving me the way you did! You didn't even leave me a note saying where you were going!" she cried, still holding herself back from taking the woman in front of her in her arms.
"I know," Marjory replied softly, looking abashed and wringing her hands. "I wasn't given the chance. My parents found out about us and pulled me out of school without any warning. One minute I'm in my dorm room, the next I'm being bundled into a car and shipped off to my Aunt Lucy's in Iowa," she sobbed quietly, bringing her hands to her face to try to hide her tears. "She wouldn't let me call or even let me send you a letter or postcard. I tried so hard, but they caught me every time. They didn't allow me to come back until after you'd graduated the following year."
Stacy was nodding, remembering what it was like so long ago for two women in love. The jokes, the harassment, the hatred and bigotry. Her own parents had kicked her out of the house when they found out she was gay and she'd had to work her way through the rest of her college years waitressing and doing odd jobs. From all their talks she knew Marjory's parents weren't quite as strict as her own, but they would still have reacted poorly to the news of their only daughter loving a woman of all things.
"I'm sorry," Stacy said softly. "It's all my fault…"
"NO! It was never your fault!" Marjory exclaimed, reaching out and taking the tall woman's hands into her own. "It was my parents," she said more softly. "They couldn't or wouldn't understand how I felt. Please, don't ever blame yourself! I–I blamed myself for years, but I finally realized that I had had no control over my own life at the time. I finally forgave myself…but I never, ever blamed you Stacy."
The dark haired barista nodded, sniffing, staring down at the hands coupled with her own. She nodded again, seeming to accept Marjory's words for the truth that they held. "Thanks," she said with a small smile. "But what," she coughed, trying to get her voice back to some semblance of normality and not succeeding very well, "what are you doing here?" she asked, finally looking up to see a matching, shy smile on Marjory's face and feeling a gentle squeeze against her fingers.
"I'm–I'm having coffee with my daughter and her friends," Marjory glanced behind herself to look lovingly at her sweet child. She was somewhat surprised to see Ashlyn grinning at her, her eyes sparkling with moisture.
"Wait, wait," Stacy shook her head in confusion. "Ashlyn's your daughter?"
"Yeah," Marjory returned her daughter's smile. "My parents wanted me to get married as soon as I graduated, and Mike, you remember Mike Conner?" she asked, turning back, "we'd always been the best of friends. We loved each other, just maybe not in the way that we really needed to. But from that marriage I got probably the greatest daughter a mother could ever ask for along with my beautiful little baby boy, Tommy." She reached out a hand and swept it through Ashlyn's bangs, letting her fingers linger on her daughter's cheek before turning back. "The marriage might not have lasted, but the results are far greater than I could ever have hoped for…and Mike is still my best friend in the world."
"S-so…so you're not…" Stacy stammered, sudden hope taking flight in her chest.
"Oh no," Marjory giggled. "I'm now what they used to call a divorcée."
"Would, um," Stacy stumbled, her words and desires clogging her throat, "would you like to go out for coffee and, um, catch up?"
"I'd like that a lot," Marjory smiled and then giggled, "but, um," she purposely glanced around the interior of the coffee shop, bringing a bright blush to Stacy's cheeks as she remembered where they were standing.
"Then, how about we go back to my office to…to talk some more? Catch up a bit," Stacy grinned shyly. Marjory looked over to her daughter, almost as if asking permission. At Ash's frantic nodding of her head Marjory grinned and then nodded, turning towards the back of the restaurant, her hands still linked within those of her former girlfriend.
"Do you still like your coffee Irish?" Stacy asked with a smirk. Marjory giggled and then nodded again, almost afraid of what might come out of her mouth if she opened it. "Darryl," Stacy called out to her godson, "two tall coffees in the back please."
Darryl, grinning from ear to ear to see his godmother finally hooking up with the girl of her dreams, promised they'd be only a minute.
"You look wonderful," Stacy murmured, leaning her head slightly in Marjory's direction. Marjory's head moved toward the taller woman's as well until they were almost touching.
"You're looking pretty damn sexy yourself lover," she replied huskily as they exited through the back door of the shop.
"You know," Stacy's voice came floating back to them before they fully disappeared, "I've always wanted kids."
Suzy tore her eyes away from the newly reunited couple to see Cindy's eyes wide in surprise and confusion.
"Parents can be a royal pain sometimes," she said softly into the silence that surrounded the group of friends. "They can bring you joy as well as sadness. Some will support you with everything they have while others only want to impose their own strict and sometimes stupid moral structure on you." She looked directly at Cindy now that she had the girl's attention. She nodded at the blonde's hand joined with that of her sister. "Some will only care for your happiness while others," she looked pointedly at the rear of the store where Marjory and Stacy had disappeared, "will break your heart by separating you from the one you love believing it to be 'for your own good,' or immoral, or a sin against God. Unfortunately," she sighed, "you can't pick your parents," she said, looking back at her sister's friend. "You need to be careful until you can take care of yourself not to show how much you disagree with them on some issues. You won't be able to change them, at least not quickly or entirely. They are who their own parents raised them to be. Each generation will sometimes become a bit more liberal in their thinking; a little more understanding that the differences between us are not to be shunned but celebrated." She smiled a bit as she saw Cindy hanging onto her every word. "You can teach your children to be more accepting of others, and they can teach theirs even more. Maybe one day, sometime in the far future, there will be no more hate, no more prejudice, no more bigotry…but it won't be today or even tomorrow. Today you need to protect yourself until you can stand on your own two feet and proudly be who you are."
Gretchen turned to face her friend, bringing their still entwined hands up for the other to see. "I–I like you Cindy," she said softly, but with a strength that surprised even her sister. "I mean, I really like you." She brought the other's hand to her lips and placed a small kiss in the back of her hand to show just exactly what kind of love she was speaking of. "And I know you like me, too," she said quickly, blushing a pretty pink that matched the color rushing to Cindy's cheeks as she nodded as well. "I don't want you to be taken away from me. I don't want your parents to send you away, or kick you out of your house. I want to be with you as long as I possibly can. If that means that you hide yourself for a few years, so be it. When you're…no, when we're old enough," she said with a mighty conviction, "then we can be together openly and tell them to go to hell if they don't like it, but until then, please don't do anything that could screw this up," she begged.
"I won't," Cindy replied, a sweet smile on her lips as she brought their hands to her own lips and placed a kiss on Gretchen's hand. "I won't do anything that could take me away from you."
"Tweens! Geez, you gotta love them," Taylor laughed, breaking up the serious atmosphere that had fallen upon them all.
"B-b-b-but, Mom? And Stacy?" Ashlyn squeaked.
"Do yourself a favor and text your mom letting her know that you'll pick up Tommy from the sitter's," Jenny giggled. "Something tells me that they're going to be a while."
"How do you think Tommy would feel growing up with two moms and a dad?" Suzy smirked.
"Forget Tommy!" Ash exclaimed, her eyes comically wide. "What about me?"
"You'll get used to it," Jenny chuckled, leaning over to place a soft kiss on her girlfriend's lips. "And if I have to," she leered suggestively before placing a slightly longer, slightly more passionate kiss on those luscious pink lips, "I'll do something to take your mind off of it."
"Get a room you two," Suzy laughed.
"Sounds like a plan to me," Ashlyn grinned, leaning over and giving Jenny a peck before standing. "I think Tommy's going to need a nap as soon as he gets home."
"And your mother is going to be busy for quite a while," Jenny agreed, getting to her feet with spark of lust in her eyes.
"What about the coffee?" Taylor asked with a laugh.
"SCREW THE COFFEE!" Jenny and Ashlyn said together, laughing as they ran hand-in-hand out the door.
"Gotta love them hormones!" Suzy cackled.
A/N: Well! That was fun :) I hope you all enjoyed the story. I would like to ask your opinion. Did you prefer the shorter chapters and quicker releases, or would you prefer the longer chapters and weekly releases? Just wondering. Please leave a comment or PM me with your thoughts.
Thank you all for your fantastic support and wonderful comments and reviews. Don't forget to give me your final thoughts on the chapter and the story as a whole. I'd love to break the 200 review barrier ;P
As always, please take care of yourselves and I'll see you again soon.