Monday, January 26, 2015

Grocer, Orb's Year 945-948


Orb's Year 945
 "Come on, Laci. It's time for school!" Mayhew called over his shoulder to his lagging sister.  "We're going to be late!"

"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.
Gemma spent the afternoon playing with Esther, so glad to have this time alone with her youngest adopted daughter.  Esther was growing up fast, though. It made her wonder...

***

Gemma had mulled over her idea all day and couldn't wait to see what her wife thought of it.  "Farha! I was thinking that we might adopt another..."

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 leaned closer to her wife and kissed her.  "Let's talk alittle bit more about this love..." she teased, anxious for a shred of attention from Gemma.
 "Oh, Farha, not now. I'm so tired after being with Esther all afternoon! And I wasn't talking about that kind of love," she said, squeezing Farha's hand.  "I just can't help but think we can make such a difference in more children's lives! Children that grew up like me... cast about and without a strong family..."

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!

***


Laci bounced her doll up and down, smoothing her hair down.  "I had a wonderful day today," she told her faithful friend.  "You wouldn't believe what happened at school.."
All at once, the door opened and Mayhew barged in, catching her mid-sentence.  "Laci, have you seen..." He stopped and stared.
"Are you still playing with dolly's?" Mayhew asked with a laugh.  "I would've thought you'd grown out of that!"
 "Have you ever heard of knocking?" she asked angrily.

"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.

 ***

 "...and they lived happily ever after!" Gemma finished the fairy tale she'd been telling Esther.

" '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!"
Farha was well used to coming second to the children, though...

***

Mayhew readied himself for school, then cleaned the bathroom before heading downstairs. 
 He knocked on Laci's door and told her it was time to go. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gemma apologizing to Farha.

"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.
Farha ate breakfast by herself.  As usual.  She hated feeling so jealous of a child! It was utterly ridiculous..
 ...but at the same time... sometimes Farha couldn't stand little Esther!

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...

***

"Thank you for coming!" Gemma greeted her guests.  "Say 'hello', Esther," she prompted.

"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?"

"Yes! Yes!"
Gemma called their family and friends to gather round and watch as little Esther blew the candles out on her cake.
"Happy birthday!" Gemma said, dancing with her daughter.  Her children were growing up so fast! She wished Farha was more receptive to adopting another needy child!  She looked around the room.  Where was Farha?
Farha wasn't sure how it had happened, but she and Vivian had wound up alone in a corner of the empty hall.  She wasn't sure why she felt so nervous, she'd known Vivian for many years and had been alone with her many times.  Maybe it was because Vivian was standing so close.  She felt her pulse flutter and frowned.

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. 
 "What are you two girls planning in here?" Gemma announced as she walked in the room, shaking her finger playfully.




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...

Orb's Year 946

Farha couldn't get Vivian's promise out of her head.  The more she thought on it, the more she wondered what she meant.  How could Vivian help? Was she suggesting what she thought she might be suggesting? And why did that send a little thrill through her?  She loved Gemma!

But she couldn't resist sending Vivian a note to meet her at Taveryn's Kitchen for a "friendly chat."
 "I knew it was only a matter of time before you contacted me," Vivian said with a smile.
 "I just wanted to figure out what you meant.  What do you mean you notice my unhappiness? I am happy!" she protested half-heartedly.
"Oh, Farha, but you're not!" Vivian argued, reaching across the table and grabbing her hand.  "I've watched you and Gemma through the years.  And the more distracted she's gotten with the children, the lonelier and the sadder you've become. Isn't that right?"

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!"
They stared at each other for moments and then Farha made her decision.  She nodded slightly.  It was enough that Vivian flagged the waitress and said they'd finished dining.

Farha took a long drink of water to steady her heartbeat.
"After you," Vivian said, following Farha up to stairs.  Farha though she might've planned it that way so that Farha didn't have a chance to chicken out and run away.
They walked into the room and when Farha saw the bed, she became increasingly embarrassed.  "I'm not sure if I can do this," she admitted weakly.  "I am unhappy, but I love Gemma."

"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..."
And then Vivian wrapped her arms around Farha and she lost track of any other doubts she might've had.

 ***

Farha came home, hours later, sated and not just happy... but on top of the world.  She sighed with wonder as she stepped out of the carriage.  She hadn't had a taste of passion that sweet for what felt like a long time!
A pang of guilt struck her when she walked into their bedroom, though.

"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.
"Oh good!" Gemma said, hugging Farha.  "Sometimes a chat with a friend is all you need to brighten your day!" 

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.

***

 "...is an accounting of the travels by..." Camilla Farrier said, recounting a book she'd read recently. 

"Oh stop! Please!" Laci snapped. "Nobody cares about dusty old books!"
 Camilla shut her mouth and sat down, cheeks blushing from embarrassment.

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.
Suddenly the girls giggled wickedly and attempted to compose themselves.  "Stop looking at me, you're going to make me laugh and ruin it!" Heaven said.

"Go! Go!" Laci said, pushing Heaven towards the hall.

Camilla didn't like the sound of that.
 Laci peeked around the corner as Heaven sauntered towards Mayhew.  She leaned in close and flirted with him shamelessly.  "Do you like me?" she asked, tapping him on the shoulder with her finger.

"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!" 
Just then, Laci barreled into the hall, laughing loudly and raucously.  "You thought she liked you!" she cried out, making kissing noises.
Laci collapsed on her friend, the two of them giggling cruelly.  Mayhew began to sense that he'd just been tricked by his sister and her friend.  Heaven wasn't actually interested in him.  His heart sank.
Laci walked back over to Mayhew and collapsed on his shoulder.  "You actually thought you had a chance with her?  Oh poor Mayhew," she said, patting his cheek condescendingly.

"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.
Camilla looked up shyly at Laci's brother.  She'd heard their ploy and their laughter at the expense of his feelings.  "That wasn't very nice," she said softly, "I'm sorry they played that mean trick on you."
Mayhew glanced over, glad to see this girl didn't seem to be like his sister.  Not trusting himself to speak, he just shrugged.

"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
Gemma hummed softly as she cleaned up the counter.  She'd closed the doors and sent her half-sister, Fancy Baker Waite home.  She was closing up shop early so that she could take care of Farha since she'd stayed home sick this morning.  They were doing well enough that a afternoon off wouldn't hurt their bellies.
Wouldn't Farha would be surprised!
 ***

 Earlier that morning...
Farha sent a note over to Vivian, telling her that Gemma was gone.  She wasn't sure when their relationship had crossed from "special friends" to "lovers", but Farha tried to take every opportunity to sneak away with her lover.

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.
 "I'm so glad you could make it.  Gemma's at work now," Farha said, pulled Vivian into her arms.

"Good, then we should have all afternoon before the children get home!" Vivian said, pinching Farha's bottom and chasing her up the stairs.
 Laughing, they fell into bed together, tickling and teasing.
Gemma opened the door and saw Farha in bed... with Vivian?  She stopped and stared a moment, not making sense of what she saw before her.

With a gasp, Farha and Vivian jumped out of bed and threw their clothes on sloppily.
 "You... you...." Gemma didn't seem to be able to utter a single sentence.  She glanced across the room at Vivian, still at a loss for words.
 Vivian scurried from the room as fast as she could.

Farha lifted her hands in supplication, "Please, Gemma... I can explain," she said haltingly.
"You can EXPLAIN?" Gemma said, finally able to speak. "I don't want to hear why my WIFE was naked in bed with my FRIEND!" she said, her anger growing.  "GET OUT!"

"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.
Crying hysterically, Farha ran from the room, down the stairs, and out the front door as Gemma watched, completely and utterly destroyed.

***

The evening, she'd gathered the children together in the sitting room.  Eyes rimmed red from crying, she informed them that she had some distressing news.

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."
All at once, everything erupted into chaos.  "You made her leave!" Laci screamed, running from the room.  Gemma reached out to her, but Laci slipped past.  Before she could go after her, Esther was in her arms, sobbing. Only Mayhew remained, shocked in silence.
Laci burst into her room, taking choppy breaths as she sobbed.  Her family was going to break apart!
Dropping to her knees, she reached under the bed and tossed her belongings around until she found the one that settled her tears. Dragging her doll against her chest, she took a deep breath and calmed down.  Everything was going to be okay, she told herself.

 Orb's Year 948
 "Are you sure you don't mind coming with me?" Gemma asked Mayhew once again as they walked towards Grocer's Deli.

"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.
Mayhew struggled to count out the change for Princess Daphne, but he was so nervous.  She was a princess!

"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.
The only bright spot in his day was when the lovely Camilla Farrier came by.  "My mother sent me to pick up some fish," she said.

"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.

***

"Good night, dear heart," Gemma said, coming in to tuck Esther in.
"Mother! I'm not a child! I don't need you to tuck me in!" Esther sat up scowling, surprising Gemma.

"But, I..." Gemma said.
"Just go!" Esther said, shooing her mother away.  Gemma gathered herself and headed woodenly out of the room, embarrassed and heart-broken.
Esther threw her legs off the side of the bed and cried.  She heard Laci moving in her bed.  "Are you okay?" Laci asked across the room.

Esther shook her head. "I miss Farha!" she cried.
"I know, I do, too," Laci told her, giving her an uncharacteristic hug.

***

"We discussed it last night and Esther and I have decided that we're should tell Mama that we want to have dinner with Farha.  We miss her," Laci announced at breakfast.

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," Gemma said as she opened the door, "Welcome."

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.
Dinner was a quiet affair.  It seemed everyone was too worried to really say anything.  Anxious glances were shot around the table.
 Finally, little Esther broke the eerie silence.  "When are you coming home, Mama?" she asked.  "Don't you want to be with us anymore?"

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.  
The ladies gathered together on one bench and Mayhew picked up the book Camilla had loaned him.  "It's about an adventurer who traveled around the Cape of Flounders..." he said as he began to read.

Gemma met Farha's eyes over Esther's head.  Perhaps they could still be friends, she thought...

 ***

 Then late that night, alone in her room, she wondered if they could salvage their relationship...

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