Orb's Year 945
"You're not the boss of me!" Laci whispered furiously, casting a look back towards her mother to make sure Gemma hadn't heard. She waved with a bright smile.
"Have a wonderful day! I'll see you this afternoon!" Gemma called out, oblivious to the friction between her adoptive son and daughter. "Come on, Esther," she said, bouncing the little toddler on her hip as she headed inside. Her wife, Farha, had already headed over to Grocer's Delicatessen to hold down the store front while Gemma stayed home with Laci.
Farha made a face. "Gemma, you know I love all of our children - Mayhew and Laci," she paused a moment and added as an afterthought, "And of course, Esther. But I think enough is enough!"
"But we have so much love to give!" Gemma argued.
Farha's feelings stung from Gemma's rejection and she willed her tears away. "Mmm," she said non-committally, listening as Gemma continued to passionately talk about the difference they could make in more children's lives. Hmph, she thought with disappointment. Her wife's love would make a big difference in her life!
"Of course!" Mayhew assured her. "I just didn't think I'd catch you playing with your toys!"
"I wasn't playing!" she glared, kicking her doll under her bed. "I was just putting some old toys away."
"Sure you were!" Mayhew quipped as he strolled from her room.
"I'll never forgive you Mayhew Grocer!" she shouted at his back.
" 'Nother!" Esther asked happily. "Tell me 'nother!"
Gemma chewed her bottom lip. "Mama is probably waiting for me to come to bed," she said, then stalled at the crushed look at Esther's face. "Okay, but a very short one!" she said, tweaking Esther's nose. "We don't want mama to be mad!"
"I'm sorry I came to bed so late," she said to her wife, kissing her. "Perhaps I can make it up to you?"
Farha brightened. She had missed their playful, loving banter.
The teenagers stomping down the stairs distracted Gemma though. "Have a good day at school!" she called out.
And then Esther started to cry.
Gemma sent Farha an apologetic look and promised to make it up to her later.
Pushing her half-eaten plate away, Farha stood up. "I'll see you this afternoon," she said dully, heading out to the store.
She wondered if Gemma even noticed she'd left...
"Hullo!" Esther said happily, beaming at the women surrounding her. "It's my birthday!" she announced.
"It certainly is!" Gemma said with a laugh. "Are you ready to blow your candles out?"
Vivian put her hand on Farha's arm and said softly, "I hope you don't take this the wrong way. But, I see that you're not happy. Everyone else might not notice... Gemma might not notice... but I do...."
Farha's hand shot to her chest with a gasp, "Of course I'm happy!" she stuttered. "I don't know what you're talking about!"
Vivian leaned forward close, her lips touching her ear, "When you're ready to do something about it, let me know. I'd be happy to help," she promised.
Farha jumped and faced her wife nervously, licking her lips. "Nothing!" she said quickly.
"I didn't mean to startle you!" Gemma said with a laugh. "Vivian, have you had some cake? I can't believe Esther's growing up so fast! Did Farha tell you about the other day when she..." Gemma proceeded to tell a silly toddler story.
Vivian glanced over at Farha and Farha felt it... understanding...
But she couldn't resist sending Vivian a note to meet her at Taveryn's Kitchen for a "friendly chat."
Not trusting her voice to remain steady, Farha nodded.
"But it doesn't have to be that way!" Vivian said, leaning forward.
"What do you mean?" Farha asked.
Vivian traced her fingers over Farha's hand. "I think you know what I mean," she said. "The only question is whether you're brave enough to take what's offered..."
"And what are you offering?" Farha asked, feeling her breath quicken.
"Happiness, of course!"
Farha took a long drink of water to steady her heartbeat.
"I know," Vivian said, stroking Farha's cheek. "This doesn't have to interfere with your relationship with Gemma. Just think of me as fulfilling your needs when your wife does not..."
"Farha! You're home! Good! I was worried about you!" Gemma said, starting to rise.
"Oh, I'm wonderful! Vivian and I had a wonderful chat!" Farha lied, donning her pajamas and slipping in bed beside her wife.
And sometimes all you need is a passion-filled night, Farha thought with a sigh and fell easily to sleep, surrounded by the arms of her lovely wife and replete from her special friend.
"Oh stop! Please!" Laci snapped. "Nobody cares about dusty old books!"
Heaven Taveryn smirked and leaned forward to whisper in her friend's ear.
"...Mayhew..." Camilla overheard with a frown as both girls cast cautious glances her way.
"Go! Go!" Laci said, pushing Heaven towards the hall.
Camilla didn't like the sound of that.
"Of course!" he assured her passionately, surprised the beautiful girl was talking to him. He felt himself blush with pleasure.
"Would you like to be my boyfriend?" she asked, reaching for his hands.
"Yes! Of course!" Mayhew stuttered. "Would I ever!"
"Leave off," Mayhew said, shoving her hands off of him. She walked back to Heaven as they shrieked and ran upstairs laughing about his naivete.
Mayhew went the other way into the sitting room. Studiously avoiding the girls eyes, he sat down on the bench, sure his face was flaming red.
"I'm Camilla Farrier, by the way," she said, introducing herself. Unsure of what else to say, she nervously asked, "Have you by chance read the book about the travels of Ardon around the Bay of Flounders?"
Mayhew was sure he fell half in love right then and there.
Orb's Year 947
Earlier that morning...
Not that Gemma ever noticed! It seemed Gemma was content to avoid the marital bed.
Which suited Farha just fine, because Vivian filled the void just fine.
"Good, then we should have all afternoon before the children get home!" Vivian said, pinching Farha's bottom and chasing her up the stairs.
With a gasp, Farha and Vivian jumped out of bed and threw their clothes on sloppily.
Farha lifted her hands in supplication, "Please, Gemma... I can explain," she said haltingly.
"No, Gemma, wait... let me explain!" Farha said frantically.
"I don't want to hear!" Gemma said, raising her hands up and covering her ears. "GET OUT!" she yelled, pointing to the door.
Her heart broke as Laci quipped that they'd probably decided to adopt another child. How Gemma wished that was what she was going to tell the children.
Mayhew shook his head and motioned for Laci to be quiet. Mama wouldn't look this sad if it was good news... and Farha wasn't anywhere around.
"Farha and I...," she was so unsure of what to say. Farha decided to take a lover in our marital bed and I kicked her out. Shaking her head, she tried again, "Farha and I are not going to be living together right now," she said lamely.
"What do you mean?" Laci demanded. "Why?!"
Gemma shook her head, "She still loves you all very much and will miss you," she said. "I can't live with her right now."
Orb's Year 948
"Of course not. I'm almost a man grown. It's time that I help the family business," he said earnestly. Besides, it gave him a chance to watch over Gemma. She wasn't eating and she wasn't sleeping. He was scared that she was wasting away. Whatever had happened between his mothers was destroying them. "Are you sure you aren't hungry?" he asked
Gemma smiled, "I had a nibble," she said. "Besides, you aren't to comment on a woman's waistline!" she gently teased, hoping to distract her observant son.
"Are you quite finished young man?"
"Yes!" he said quickly, handing her some money back, but not really sure how much.
Princess Daphne glanced down at the money and sighed. She handed him back five gold. "You've given too much change back, lad. Pay attention to matters at hand or your mother will be quite unhappy with you!"
"Yes, your majesty. I'm so sorry!" he said, wishing a hole would open up in the floor and swallow him hole.
How was he going to learn how to manage this place? he thought sadly.
"Fish?" Mayhew responded dumbly.
Camilla peeked behind his back, "Yes, like the ones right behind you!"
Mayhew cheeks blushed furiously, matching the flare on Camilla's own cheeks.
"But, I..." Gemma said.
Esther shook her head. "I miss Farha!" she cried.
Mayhew looked at his sisters with surprise. "Okay..." he said cautiously. "I'm not sure she'll take that well..."
Laci pinned her brother with a skewering look. "And we want you to talk to her about it."
"Me?!" Mayhew asked with surprise.
"Oh, would you, Mayhew?" Esther pleaded. "You always know the right thing to say! But I miss Mama Farha and I want to see her again. Can't you tell Mama Gemma to let her come over?"
"I don't know if it's that simple..." Mayhew started to explain, but stopped at the pitiful looks his sisters cast him. "Oh, alright. But, I'm not promising anything," he said sternly.
Summoning up nerves he wasn't sure he had, Mayhew approached Gemma. "The girls said that they're missing Farha. I told them that I'd ask. But, do you think we might invite her over for dinner?" he asked.
Gemma released a shuddering breath. By not telling the children about Farha's betrayal, it seemed they were all taking Farha's side in this separation. Sadly, she sighed. Although... "If they miss her so much, then of course we can set up something. I never meant to keep her from them," she said.
Mayhew nodded. "I'll let them know."
"Mayhew?" Gemma asked, stopping the boy in his tracks, "You said the girls missed Farha, do you miss her?"
Mayhew turned towards Gemma and thought his answer over carefully. "I miss how our family used to be," he said.
Gemma nodded and admitted, "Me too..."
Farha swallowed the knot that lodged in her throat. "Gemma," she said. "You're looking... well.." Farha noted the dark circles under her wife's eyes and the loose clothing. She was sure that Gemma was noting the same characteristics with her. She hadn't slept or eaten well since the day Gemma had walked in on her and Vivian.
Quietly, Gemma motioned Farha inside. "Laci helped prepare dinner," she said.
"Oh goodness! I'm surprised!" Despite the tense situation, a smile snuck out. "She hates being in the kitchen!"
"Well, she wanted to please you," Gemma said tonelessly.
Farha felt stabbed in the chest with all the love shining from Farha's eyes. To think she'd been jealous of the love and affection Gemma showered on the children. And yet, even after everything, the children still loved her! She didn't deserve it! Her eyes met Gemma's across the table as she answered the little girl, "Of course I want to be with you! There are just a few things that Mama and I need to work through, first."
Esther and Laci looked over towards Gemma and frowned. Gemma looked down at her plate. Seeing this, Farha elaborated alittle, "I hurt Mama's feelings and I need to earn her forgiveness." Gemma's eyes met her own, and Farha tried to convey how very sorry she was.
"Perhaps we should go to the sitting room to chat," Mayhew suggested. "I can read a story. A friend recommended it."
"That sounds lovely, Mayhew," Gemma said softly.
Gemma met Farha's eyes over Esther's head. Perhaps they could still be friends, she thought...