DISCLAIMER: The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: First chapter of the series: Common Ground, which picks up where Beauty Crowds Me ended and spans season three of the television series.
THANKS: To Stacey for the Beta, assistance in story and character development, encouragement, and meticulous attention to detail.
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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To FOLfan[at]ymail.com
2: Hidden Pain
"Blair, darling. Don't dawdle. It's fashionable to be a little late, but we don't want to miss the entire party."
Blair Warner and her mother, Monica, had arrived in Paris three hours earlier. As soon as their private jet had landed, a limousine driver quickly made arrangements for their luggage before driving the two women to their apartment. The trunks that had been delivered several weeks in advance had been unpacked and Monica and Blair's clothing meticulously arranged in their closets before they arrived at the apartment.
Blair knew that she needed to hurry, but she was frustrated as she stared at herself in the mirror. No amount of makeup was going to cover the signs of emotional and physical exhaustion that marked her face. The tears she had cried before leaving Eastland and the lack of a decent night's sleep had left her eyes red and swollen. She was suppressing a yawn when her mother entered her bedroom to see what was taking her beautiful daughter so long to dress.
"Oh, dear. The change in time zones doesn't seem to agree with you, Blair."
"I've tried to tell you how tired I am, but you haven't been listening."
Monica sat beside Blair and stared intently at her daughter's face, pressing her fingers to the slightly swollen area below Blair's eyes.
"I was listening, darling. You said you were tired, you didn't say that you looked as if you'd just completed a marathon. You can't possibly go to the party with those hideous circles under your eyes."
Blair was relieved that she wouldn't be expected to attend the party, but wasn't thrilled with the reason.
"You should go without me, Mother. I don't think your friends will be surprised that I wasn't up to a party so soon after such a long flight."
Monica's face brightened.
"Are you sure that you don't want me to stay with you?"
"I'm sure. I think I'll have a snack and go straight to bed."
"I sent the housekeeper away, so you'll have to make your own snack, but the kitchen is completely stocked."
"I'm perfectly capable of preparing a snack, Mother. I've been working in the school cafeteria all year."
Monica frowned. She hadn't liked the idea of her pampered daughter serving food to other students, but at the time it had seemed like the only way to keep Blair in school.
"Well, don't overdo. I expect your beautiful features to be flawless again once you've rested."
Blair sighed, barely able to keep her eyes open. As soon as her mother left the room, Blair crawled onto the bed and fell into a fitful sleep.
It was dark in the apartment when Blair awoke, alone and disoriented. She looked around the apartment hoping that someone might have delivered the one suitcase she had brought with her on the private jet. When her mother had shipped their clothing weeks in advance, Blair hadn't wanted to part with Snuggle Bear. She had tucked him into her carry bag and kept him close to her during the flight, but she'd been separated from her bags at the airport.
Seventeen-year-old Blair felt ridiculous clinging to the stuffed bear from her childhood, but it helped her to not feel so lonely. Until the previous year, the heiress had been accustomed to being alone. Her life, however, had been turned upside down when she was assigned to room with the newest student at Eastland Academy. Blair's immediate attraction to her new roommate had been both exhilarating and terrifying. Jo Polniaczek, a surly former gang member from the Bronx, couldn't have been more different from the pampered debutante, but Blair considered meeting Jo the best thing that had ever happened to her. Saying goodbye to Jo at the end of their junior year at Eastland had been one of the most difficult things the affluent blonde had ever had to do. She should be excited to be spending the summer in Paris with her mother, but all Blair could think about was getting back to Eastland and to Jo.
Certain that she wouldn't be able to sleep peacefully, Blair walked over to the balcony and gazed out at the beautifully lit city below. Glancing at the small clock on the mantle, she noted that it was close to 4:00 a.m., Paris time. 'Mother must be enjoying the party', thought Blair.
Upon returning to her bedroom, Blair retrieved the one item she had kept with her during and after the flight, her makeup kit. Opening it, she carefully removed the note Jo had left there for her to find. She had known Jo for less than one year, but Blair couldn't imagine what her life would be like without her girlfriend. She closed her eyes, wishing she had tightly rolled Jo's flannel shirt and crammed it into her makeup case instead of carefully packing it in her larger suitcase. Wearing Jo's shirts always made Blair feel closer to the gruff brunette. Blair tried to cuddle one of the pillows on her bed, but she wound up throwing it onto the floor. By the time her body relaxed enough for her to achieve a satisfactory level of sleep it was well into the next morning.
"You won't believe who I saw at the party, darling. Dayton Andrews was there with his child bride. Harrison and Marjorie must be too embarrassed to leave New York. At least your father kept all of his chippies away from our friends. God forbid that he would ever marry one of them. I spoke with Marjorie at my wedding reception in December and she told me that Dayton had squandered his entire inheritance. Thank God Harrison's grandparents had the foresight to set up a separate trust for him, like my parents did for you."
Blair listened as her mother shared the latest gossip about her friends and enemies, former lovers, and rivals. Blair despised Harrison Andrews. As children, they had been friends, but Harrison had treated Jo abominably and Blair would never forgive his brutish behavior. As she listened to her mother ramble on about the party, Blair realized that her mother was trying to avoid talking about the romantic scene between Jo and Blair that she had interrupted the night before they flew to Paris.
"Mother, is there anything you want to ask me, about my life . . . about Jo?"
Monica casually waved her hand in the air, dismissing the topic.
"You're an attractive young woman, Blair. I'm not going to criticize you for sowing a few wild oats, everyone does it."
"No, Mother. Every girl doesn't fall in love with her roommate. I need to know how you feel about that."
"When I was your age I was in love with Eric Masters. He used to write beautiful love songs for me and play them on his guitar. The first time we made love, I thought my heart would explode. A year later I was in love with Sebastian Heins. Trust me, darling. I have a lot more experience in this area. You are going to fall in and out of love many times before you find the right match."
Blair folded her hands in her lap and stared at Jo's MVP charm dangling from her bracelet.
"I'm a lesbian, Mother. The right match for me is going to be a woman."
Monica shook her head in exasperation.
"Blair, I'm not going to argue about this with you. It's perfectly natural for you to feel a certain level of attraction toward other women. Many of my friends engaged in same sex activities while we were in college. If you're not comfortable with men yet, I don't disapprove of you seeking affection elsewhere. However, I do not believe that you are a lesbian. It's not possible for my daughter to be a lesbian. I have no doubt that your friend Jo is a lesbian, but you are not like her."
Blair began to chew on her lower lip. When she was fourteen years old, her mother had caught her kissing her stepsister, Meg. Less than forty-eight hours ago, her mother had walked in on Blair and Jo sharing a romantic candlelight dinner. Blair laughed at the absurdity of the situation. It had taken her two years to build up the courage to openly discuss her sexual orientation with her mother, but she was beginning to believe that if her mother walked in while she and Jo were making love that Monica still wouldn't believe that Blair was a lesbian. Not that she and Jo had taken their relationship to that level of physical intimacy, but Blair knew in her heart that Jo was the only girl for her.
"Did I say something funny, darling?"
"Would it be so terrible, Mother? If I were a lesbian, would you still love me?"
Monica smiled into the face of her gorgeous child.
"My love for you is the only constant in my life, Blair. I don't think it would be terrible if you were a lesbian, but I know you too well to believe in that possibility."
Blair decided to drop the subject. Her mother had confirmed that her love for Blair wasn't based on Blair's sexuality. It wasn't the acceptance she had hoped for, but it was a million times better than the reaction she'd experienced a few years earlier when her parents had treated her as if she were mentally ill.
"Blair, darling, you're not planning to wear that to the gala, are you?"
Blair looked down at the stylish dress she had purchased at Harrison's Department Store that spring.
"Don't you like it?"
"Well, it's fine for Peekskill, but we're in Paris. You can't show up wearing last month's fashions, my daughter will be expected to set trends, not follow them."
Blair nodded her head in agreement.
"You're right, of course."
Seeing Blair's downcast expression, her mother hugged her and laughed.
"Don't look so discouraged, darling. We have several hours before the party begins. That's plenty of time to find the perfect outfit for you."
Blair smiled self-consciously.
"Thank you, Mother."
There were few things Blair Warner loved more than shopping. She had, however, grown weary of her mother's constant nagging about the clothes Blair selected. Blair knew that her mother had good taste in clothes, but she trusted her own opinion as well. On the few occasions when Blair found an outfit they both liked, Monica would invariably complain about how it fit her daughter, insisting that certain parts of Blair's body were more attractive than others and that only outfits that accentuated the positive and downplayed Blair's greatest flaws should be considered.
Blair often thought about some of the jokes she'd casually made about Jo's wardrobe and promised herself that she would never again disparage her girlfriend's tomboyish apparel. In order to keep up with the hectic schedule Monica had set, Blair found herself on average changing into at least four different outfits per day. It was always a relief at the end of each night to slip into Jo's flannel shirt and dream of the day she would be able to leave the most romantic city in the world and return home.
Monica Warner smiled warmly at the woman complimenting her daughter.
"Yes, Blair has grown into a beautiful young woman. She's also a magnificent artist. Have you seen the new paintings in our parlor?"
"Those are Blair's? Clearly she inherited her talent and her charm from you."
"It's amazing, given that her father is lacking in both."
Monica's friend, Angelique, laughed.
"Now, Monica. David must have been a charming young man when you met him. Otherwise, you wouldn't have given him a second glance."
Monica waved her hand dismissively.
"He had his moments."
"What about Blair? What type of man does she find appealing? They must stand in line trying to gain her attention."
Monica's expression didn't reveal the knot in her stomach. She answered her friend honestly.
"Blair has a very active social life, but I don't believe she prefers one type of man over another."
"Hmm. She seems to be enjoying the attention she has garnered tonight."
Monica observed as her daughter tossed her hair and giggled at a joke being told by one of the young men surrounding her. 'Every eligible young man in Paris is vying for her attention and she goes home each night to sketch pictures of an ill-mannered tomboy.' Monica let her guard down long enough to release a heavy sigh.
"What's wrong, darling? Don't you think the men at my gala are suitable for your daughter? I can assure you that they are from the finest families."
"Of course they are. I didn't mean to imply otherwise. It's just that . . . well, it seems a rather inappropriate suitor has captured my daughter's imagination. They are so different from one another that I am sure it won't last, but it is somewhat unsettling."
Angelique smiled knowingly.
"Ah, it was the same with my Gabrielle. Young girls are initially intrigued by men from different backgrounds, but they always return to those of their own class."
Monica hoped Angelique was right, but Blair had been fiercely defensive of her relationship with the Bronx hoodlum she'd met at Eastland Academy for Girls.
Angelique touched her friend's arm reassuringly.
"You shouldn't worry so much. Look at how animated she is around her new suitors. By the end of the summer, she will have forgotten all about this other boy. Few people can spend the summer in Paris without falling in love."
"It is the most romantic city in the world."
"See, you are feeling better already."
Monica was feeling better. It had been weeks since she and Blair had last argued about Jo Polniaczek and Blair seemed to be enjoying the gala. Monica thought Blair looked beautiful in the dress she had purchased for her daughter earlier that week. She and Blair had attended multiple fashion shows and Monica had purchased an entirely new wardrobe for her only daughter during their frequent shopping excursions.
During the first few days of their vacation, Monica attempted to convince Blair that her attraction to Jo was nothing more than a fleeting infatuation, but Monica soon realized that pressuring Blair to renounce her feelings for Jo only made her daughter more determined to defend the relationship. As much as Monica disapproved of Jo, she felt that time would be to her advantage and that Blair would eventually grow tired of the gruff brunette.
Blair could peripherally see her mother and Angelique observing her interactions with the young men she had met at Angelique's gala. Blair had balked at her mother's insistence that she continue to project the image of an overly flirtatious debutante. She'd thought that once her mother was aware of her sexual orientation she wouldn't have to keep up the pretense, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Blair smiled at the young woman who replaced her half-filled glass of wine with a full glass. Blair estimated that the woman was close to her own age, perhaps a few years older. Some of the men at the party had made overtures toward the stunning brunette, as if their social prominence entitled them to touch the woman without seeking her permission. One man had been unusually aggressive, reminding Blair of Harrison's behavior toward Jo. Blair had responded by openly glaring at the man and later quietly threatening to have her mother's friend throw him out if he continued to harass the young woman. Since the incident, the young woman had made a point of circulating throughout whichever room of the manor Blair happened to be in at the time.
"I think Danielle has a crush on you, Miss Warner."
Startled by both the comment and the proximity of the man speaking, Blair involuntarily jerked.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. I only meant to commend you for confronting the bullies who were harassing her."
Blair had to crane her neck to look up into the amused blue eyes of the tall young man standing beside her.
"They were being crass. Someone had to say something."
André placed his hand over his heart.
"I only realized what was happening after you stepped in, Miss Warner. I assure you that I do not approve of that type of behavior."
"I'm at a disadvantage. You know my name, but I don't know yours."
"My name is André. My aunt works in one of Angelique's galleries. I've been trying to get close enough to speak to you all night, but you have too many admirers."
Blair glanced over at the horde of men her mother and Angelique had pointed in her direction like dogs after a fox.
"Please, call me Blair."
André smiled and subtly dipped his head. He had a pleasant smile and Blair warmed to him immediately.
"Is this your first visit to Paris, Blair?"
"No, but it's the first time I've stayed for so many weeks in the city."
"I understand that you are an artist, have you been sketching or painting during your visit?"
Blair smiled. She was always flattered whenever someone noted her artistic abilities. She tried, however, to downplay her talent.
"I'm learning to be an artist. I am not in the same league with the artists Angelique and Jacques work with."
"Everyone who is anyone in the art world knows Angelique and Jacques. If they say that you are a gifted artist, then you can't argue."
Blair looked at André skeptically.
"Did they say that?"
"Don't you know? Yes, Jacques has commented several times on your talent."
Blair began twisting a strand of her hair through her fingers, enjoying the attention from the handsome Frenchman.
"Thank you. Do you also work with Angelique or Jacques?"
André's smile brightened.
"They are showing some of my work at a gallery event next week. I would be honored if you would allow me to escort you to the showing."
Blair was flattered. If Jacques was showing André's work, he must be a very gifted artist. Blair hesitated only a moment, deciding that attending an art showing with André couldn't be as bad as the constant parade of men her mother consistently inflicted upon her.
After agreeing to accompany André to the show and providing him with the address of her mother's apartment, Blair maneuvered her way to her mother to make her aware of her plans to leave the party. Monica was openly disappointed that Blair wasn't more interested in the party, but once she discovered that Blair had accepted a date with André, Monica's mood lightened.
The following week, Monica felt it was her responsibility as Blair's mother to help her daughter impress the up and coming young artist who had invited Blair to his art showing.
"Mother, this really isn't my style."
"Of course it's your style, darling. You look sensational."
"It's too . . . obvious. I'm not trying to seduce André."
"Blair, darling. Seduction doesn't have to lead to sex. André is a fascinating young man, but you won't hold his interest wearing one of the dresses you selected."
"I'm not trying to hold André's interest, Mother. I'm in love with Jo. Attending an art show with André isn't going to change that. I'm sorry that I agreed to this. I think I'll call him and make an excuse not to go."
Monica blanched, fearing she had pushed her daughter too far.
"Don't pout, darling. It's not becoming. Wear whatever you like. However, I would like for you to try this new shade of lipstick I bought for you."
"What's wrong with the lipstick I'm wearing?"
"There's nothing wrong with it, exactly. Face it, darling, your lips are not your best feature. Your lipstick draws attention to them, when your makeup should focus attention on more attractive areas of your face."
Blair compromised, wearing the makeup her mother had purchased for her, but selecting one of the dresses she had chosen for herself. Once she was ready for her date, Blair looked closely at her lips in the mirror, trying to identify why her mother considered them lacking. She was so absorbed in her analysis that she lost track of time and was surprised when she heard her mother greeting André.
When Monica entered Blair's bedroom, she frowned at Blair's appearance. Monica had been with Blair several weeks earlier when they had purchased Blair's new wardrobe and Monica found it hard to believe that she had allowed Blair to purchase something that was a tad too snug.
"Blair, what size is that dress?"
"It's fine, Mother. I've gained a few pounds during our vacation, but I'll lose them as soon as I return to school."
"How many pounds have you gained?"
"Not that many. Don't make a big deal of it. You don't want me to keep André waiting, do you?"
Monica hesitated, wanting to recommend that Blair change but suspecting that all the clothes they had purchased a few weeks earlier would be a shade too small.
"It's good for a man to wait on a woman. It makes him appreciate her more. I think perhaps you should consider trying to lose some weight before you return to Eastland. You do want to be able to wear your new clothes, don't you?"
"That's not the problem, Mother. Someone is forcing cocktails and hors d'oeuvres down my throat at every party we attend. I'm accustomed to a healthier diet. Mrs. Garrett always makes sure we eat a balanced meal with lots of fruits and vegetables."
Monica sat down beside her daughter and sighed.
"Blair, I only mention these things because I want the best for you. You are an intelligent, talented, charming young woman, but people won't take the time to get to know those things about you unless you gain their attention. Why do you think your friend Jo took the time to get to know you better?"
"Are you saying that the only reason Jo likes me is because of my looks?"
"No, dear, but what was it about Jo that first gained your attention? Was it her looks or her personality?"
Blair thought about the first time she met Jo and the tingles she had felt throughout her body. That night, as she slept beside Jo on the floor of Mrs. Garrett's storage room, the urge to touch the intense brunette had been overwhelming.
"I was attracted to Jo as soon as I met her, but what I feel for her now is much deeper. You have to believe that."
"I understand the difference, Blair."
Blair's heart fluttered with the hope that her mother was beginning to acknowledge Blair's feelings for Jo.
"Do you think that Jo is pretty?"
"Yes, Blair. There is a dynamic physicality about her that I can understand would be appealing to you."
"I'd really like to tell you more about her, Mother."
Monica held up her hands in mock surrender.
"Fine. We'll talk more about Jo Polniaczek when you return from your date with André. Run along before he gets tired of waiting for you."
Monica never intended to make Blair feel insecure about her looks; she only wanted her daughter to look her very best, but her mother's suggestions usually made Blair keenly aware of her faults. Although Blair was feeling inadequate, André considered his young date flawless. The twenty-two-year old artist was tired of the aggressive women who only pursued him because of his standing in the art community. He found Blair Warner refreshing and hoped to spend more time with her.
Blair enjoyed walking through the art gallery with André. Everyone attending the event seemed eager to talk to the budding artist. As André's date, Blair was near the center of attention for the entire evening. André liked Blair, but he wasn't overwhelmed by her. He wasn't arrogant, but he was confident in his charm and good looks. It was a trait Blair found very attractive. She abhorred the bumbling teenage boys she most often dated. If fact, Jo's air of confidence was one of the first things that had attracted Blair to the swaggering Bronx native.
Not only did Blair find André an entertaining date, she was intrigued by his paintings. Blair didn't like paintings that flaunted blatant sexuality, but she appreciated artwork that explored sensuality. André's paintings were provocative, but it was subtle. It provoked the imagination, challenging the man or woman viewing the paintings to interpret it according to their own perceptions.
"Are you blushing, Miss Warner?"
Once again, the handsome artist had managed to startle the heiress.
"Don't be embarrassed, I find it charming. Few people recognize what you see in my paintings. Those that do are usually so jaded that they focus on the physical implications and fail to appreciate its romantic aspects."
Blair smiled at the young man fast becoming a friend.
"I like your paintings. I think they are very romantic."
"So you are enjoying yourself?"
"Yes, very much."
"Perhaps you would like to tour some of the city's cathedrals next week? You could bring your sketchpad and we could spend the day drawing pictures and then admiring one another's work."
"I'm afraid my sketches couldn't compare to yours."
"I hope you will give me the chance to make up my own mind about that. Spend the day with me, Blair. Let me show you Paris the way I see her."
The idea of setting up her easel and spending a day lost in drawing appealed to Blair and she accepted André's invitation.
André and Blair were resting on a bench, within the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
"I know it sounds cliché, but I think of Paris as a woman, as well as you get to know her, a part of her will always be a mystery."
Blair smiled, thinking of Jo.
"Yes, I suppose that's true, of Paris and of women."
André considered his young date's comment. He had noticed before that when he spoke of women in general, the young woman seemed to share his appreciation for women. It was a unique trait that added to his fascination with the heiress.
"Do you like mystery, Blair?"
Blair didn't answer the question arbitrarily, she considered it thoughtfully. Much of Jo's life was still mysterious to the affluent blonde. The more she learned about Jo and her background, the closer she felt to Jo, but much of what motivated Jo was still a mystery to Blair.
"I'm not sure. I know that I am attracted to people who are very different from me, people I don't always understand, but I think I'd feel a little insecure with someone whose thoughts and motivations always remained a mystery to me. I suppose a little mystery is exciting, but I like stability. I guess that sounds a little old-fashioned, but I haven't had a lot of stability in my life and I think I'd appreciate it if I ever found it."
André leaned forward and gently pressed his lips to Blair's, intensely attracted to the young American. Blair was surprised by the tenderness of the kiss. Most of the boys she dated were more interested in adding Blair's name to a kissing scorecard than they were in sharing an intimate experience. While his kiss didn't ignite a firestorm of sexual energy within Blair like Jo's, it wasn't an unpleasant experience.
André prolonged the kiss, sensing that although the young woman did not seem eager, she might be receptive to the future possibility of more ardent kisses.
"Come with me, Blair. I know the perfect place for us to set up our easels."
Blair and André walked back and forth in front of Sacré-Coeur, each selecting the exact angle, light, and shadow they preferred. Once they decided on a location, they worked in amiable silence, occasionally smiling at one another while they completed their sketches. At the end of the day, Blair shared her sketch with André.
"You are as gifted as Jacques led me to believe, Blair. You will be a wonderful artist if you decide to pursue it."
"IF I decide to pursue it?"
For the first time, Blair saw André frown.
"It is not the most rewarding profession, Blair. There are many disappointments. Even the best artists must face many rejections before anyone gives them an opportunity to show their work. After a showing, regardless of what the critics say, unless the gallery is able to sell the artwork, the artist is left with nothing but admiration."
"Admiration is nice."
"Yes, but it doesn't pay the bills."
Noting Blair's frown, André was quick to explain.
"Don't misunderstand, Blair. Those of us fortunate enough to have the financial support of our families are free to pursue our passion, but we are sometimes looked down upon because of our inability to profit from our work."
Blair's brow furrowed in concern.
"You seem very successful, André. I could see from the number of paintings in your showing that you have a strong work ethic."
André smiled, grateful for the acknowledgement.
"Compared to most aspiring artists, I do exceptionally well, but I still depend on my family in order to maintain the lifestyle I once took for granted."
Blair grew thoughtful. She and Jo continued to keep their relationship from Blair's father, but Blair had always planned to tell her father once she turned eighteen and no longer had to fear his reaction. She hadn't given much thought to the idea that if she continued on her path to become an artist that she might always be dependent on her parents for financial support. Given Jo's level of pride and attitude about money, it would be impossible for Blair to accept money from her parents and be with Jo.
When Blair had considered all the things she might have to sacrifice in order to have the type of relationship she wanted with Jo, she had never imagined that she might have to abandon her dream of one day being an artist. The things André pointed out, however, made sense. Most artists displayed their work for many years before they ever realized a profit. If Blair pursued her dream, she would either be dependent on her parents or her romantic partner to support her.
Seeing Blair's reaction, André asked the question that had been gnawing at him most of the day.
"Is there someone special in your life, Blair?"
"What makes you ask?"
"For one thing, every time you begin to relax, you start playing with the small charm on your bracelet. I think it may be a gift."
André found Blair's eyes incredibly soft as she gazed sympathetically into his. He knew at that moment that he would never share the type of intimacy he desired with the attractive young woman. Blair nodded her affirmation as her gaze left André's eyes and came to rest on the charm Jo had given to her.
"Is it serious?"
"It is for me. Jo is the sort of person who doesn't look too far into the future, but I think about it all the time. I know I'm very young to feel this way, but I don't think I could ever love anyone else the way I love Jo."
André nodded his understanding. It was not so long ago that he was seventeen and head over heels in love.
"Is there some reason why you didn't tell me about Joe earlier?"
Blair lowered her head.
"My mother disapproves."
"I see. I suppose that is why you looked so sad when I expressed my frustration at having to depend on my family for financial support. It is a difficult path, especially if you are in love with someone who does not have the approval of your mother. What about your father? How does he feel about Joe?"
"I haven't told my father. He would keep us apart if he knew."
André's compassion was sincere.
"I'm sorry to hear that, Blair. It's very sad when our parents think they know what is best for us without considering that whatever or whoever makes us happy is what's best for us."
Blair sighed, deep in her thoughts.
"Is your boyfriend also from a wealthy family?"
Blair felt tears growing in her eyes. She had known André for a very short period of time and yet she felt that he understood her.
"No. She's not."
André wasn't shocked. He traveled in sophisticated circles and had grown up surrounded by all types of people. He held no prejudices. Hoping to make his young friend feel better, he extended his drawing.
"André! I'm flattered to be your subject, but you should have been sketching Sacré-Coeur."
"The cathedral will always be there, I had to capture you before you slipped away."
"You are a beautiful person, André."
André, who was the epitome of 'tall, dark, and handsome', smiled. Women often told him that he was attractive, but he understood that Blair wasn't referring to outward beauty. As disappointed as he was to learn that Blair would not be his lover, he felt certain that she would remain a good friend. Despite their age difference, the two artists had formed a unique bond.
Despite the fact that Blair missed Jo terribly, she found herself enjoying André's company. It wasn't until they were sharing dinner at a café along the Champs-Élysées that Blair's mood darkened. She didn't see Harrison at first, but she recognized his voice immediately. Noticing the change in his friend's demeanor, André reached across the table for Blair's hand.
"Well, I see that the French are as susceptible to the Warner charm as I am, Blair."
Blair was about to deliver an insult, but when she noticed that Harrison was with his mother, she simply nodded.
"Hello, Mrs. Andrews. It's very nice to see you. Mother will be thrilled when she finds out that you are in Paris."
Marjorie Andrews smiled affectionately at the girl she had watched grow from a child into a beautiful young woman. Marjorie had hoped, as had her friend Monica, that Blair and Harrison would one day become a couple, but the expression on the debutante's face made it clear that Blair had no romantic interest in her son. Given Blair's disdainful countenance, Marjorie wondered if Harrison had picked up some of his father's offensive attitudes toward women, but didn't allow herself to dwell on the possibility.
"I didn't really feel up to the trip this year, but Harrison insisted. I think he misses attending school in Switzerland."
"Nonsense, Mother. My old school can't compete with the fringe benefits of attending Bates."
Harrison's smile gave no hint of the animosity between him and his former friend. André frowned, however, basing his assessment of Blair and Harrison's relationship on Blair's reaction to Harrison.
Instead of responding to Harrison, Blair turned her attention to André.
"André, this is Marjorie and Harrison Andrews. Marjorie is one of my mother's dearest friends."
Turning back to Marjorie, Blair continued the introductions.
"Marjorie, this is André Lindstome. André is an artist. Jacques is currently sponsoring an exhibit of André's paintings. You and Harrison should stop by the gallery if you have time."
Although André and Marjorie didn't notice, Harrison's features hardened for the briefest of moments as Blair enthusiastically praised André's artwork. Ignoring the fact that André was still holding Blair's hand across the table, Harrison began openly flirting with the disinterested blonde.
"I'd love to visit the gallery, Blair, if you would be kind enough to allow me to escort you. I'm sure I'd get much more out of the exhibit if you'd be willing to share your insights."
Blair's discomfort was unmistakable, prompting André to intervene.
"I'm afraid that I have already convinced Blair to spend all of her free time with me. I would, however, be happy to act as your guide if you would like to see my exhibit."
"I'm sure your insights would be helpful, but you must certainly agree that Blair's company would be much more enjoyable."
"Of course I agree. That's why I was so delighted when she agreed to share so much of her time with me. Now, if you will excuse us, I've kept Blair from her mother for much longer than we planned."
Blair rewarded André with her most dazzling smile, placing her hand in the crook of his arm as they left the café.
After leaving the restaurant, Blair and André did not immediately return to Blair's apartment. They stayed in the city late into the evening. Blair found André to be a wonderful listener. He rarely expressed an opinion and he was never judgmental. She didn't elaborate on her relationship with Harrison, instead taking advantage of the opportunity to speak to another friend about Jo. Having lost track of time, Blair was frantic when she saw the morning sun lightening the sky as she entered her mother's apartment.
Blair hadn't called her mother to explain that she would be late and she worried that her mother would be panicking. Much to Blair's surprise, her mother wasn't home when she arrived at the apartment. Blair eventually found a note on the refrigerator telling her that Monica had met an old friend and was going to Spain with him for the rest of the weekend. Blair wondered if the impromptu trip was just another way for her mother to avoid talking about Jo. Despite her promises, Monica always found a way to dodge Blair's attempts to bring up the topic of her relationship with Jo.
Alone in the apartment, Blair opened her keepsake box and removed the most recent letter from Jo. Standing at the window, she held the plain notepaper to her chest, having memorized Jo's words. The city lights still flickered as the sun began to spill onto the streets. The city had never seemed more beautiful as Blair watched lovers walking hand in hand.
'Paris without Jo is like Valentine's Day without candy', thought Blair. She had never felt so lonely.
Post Series Flash Forward: Tootie Returns to Peekskill
"Jo, something is wrong. The band wasn't supposed to take a break this soon."
Jo's grin filled her entire face until even her eyes appeared to be smiling.
"Nothing's wrong, Blair. Sit down and relax."
Blair couldn't relax. She had personally planned every second of every reunion event down to the most insignificant detail. She groaned as Jo left her side and practically skipped toward the stage. Jo had been full of sweet surprises during the reunion, but those had been private moments between Jo, Blair, and their family. Blair suspected another surprise was forthcoming, but couldn't fathom what type of surprise her exceptionally private partner would want to share with over a hundred Eastland alumni. Blair was more nervous than excited as Jo stood at the microphone.
Once Jo was onstage and had gained everyone's attention, her gaze came to rest on Blair, locking eyes with her anxious partner. Blair was so focused on Jo that she didn't notice that Bailey had come to sit beside her until the younger woman reached over and took her hand.
"When you arrived tonight, I'm sure you expected an exquisite meal and lively entertainment, but I have a much more exciting surprise for everyone. This fall, the Vanderbilt Hollingsworth Museum of Art in New York City will introduce a new exhibit called "Generations." The exhibit consists of artwork by a variety of accomplished artists and their equally gifted descendants. I am extremely proud to announce that paintings by three Eastland graduates, one of whom is here tonight, will be featured in the exhibit."
Blair couldn't breathe. Jo and Bailey, upon learning of the planned exhibit, had spent weeks badgering Blair to enter some of her paintings, along with those of her mother and grandmother for consideration. Blair eventually gave in and allowed Jo to have the paintings she selected shipped to the museum's curator. When several months passed and Blair didn't receive any notification, she assumed that her collection had not been selected. As Jo continued to speak, Blair realized that the museum had contacted Jo and that Jo had kept the information to herself, until now.
"While we were having dinner in the banquet room, the lobby was converted into a mini art gallery. Although the paintings which will be included in the exhibit are currently on loan to the Vanderbilt Hollingsworth Museum, similar paintings by all three artists are on display in the lobby for your viewing pleasure. I am, of course, referring to the artwork of the beautiful and talented Blair Warner, her mother Monica Blair Warner, and her grandmother Christina Bailey Blair."
Bailey and Mrs. Gains were the first to stand, following quickly by Natalie, Alex, and Dorothy. Eventually all of the reunion attendees were standing in recognition of Blair's accomplishment. Tears filled Jo's eyes as her gaze never wavered from Blair's face. Jo had been trying for years to get Blair to display some of her paintings, but it wasn't until the Generations Exhibit came along, giving Blair an opportunity to showcase the artwork of her mother and grandmother, that she had relented. Blair would never have taken her eyes off of Jo if well-wishers hadn't descended upon her, pulling her toward the lobby. Dragging Bailey with her, because Blair refused to relinquish the young woman's hand, Blair entered the lobby, where she stood in awe of the artwork on display.
"How did you manage to pull this off? I've been here every day."
"What do you think my friends and I did last night? Did you think we just hung around the hotel giving one another manicures?"
"Well, we were here, making sure that the crew setting up this display knew the proper position and lighting for each painting."
Tears no longer filled Blair's eyes; they rolled unimpeded down her cheeks as she hugged Bailey.
"Jo couldn't possibly have known which paintings to select. Did you pick them?"
Bailey tossed her hair and giggled.
"All but one. Haven't you noticed it?"
Blair's eyes quickly scanned the room. She was intimately familiar with every painting. At the end of the line of paintings, a charcoal drawing rested on a wooden easel. It wasn't framed or accented in any way, but of all the artwork displayed, it had drawn the largest crowd of admirers. Blair placed trembling fingers over her lips as she walked toward the drawing and then released a sigh of complete adoration when she felt Jo's arms embrace her from behind.
Jo spoke so softly that Blair could barely hear her, even though the emotional brunette's lips were pressed to her ear.
"I know I told you that I'd never let you show one of those to another living soul, but Bailey says that the drawings you've done of me are the best she's ever seen. I wanted people to see how talented you are. I've never been as happy to see any of my dreams come true as I was when I saw your paintings hanging that museum, Blair. I love you."
Blair didn't need to respond, her artwork revealed more about the depth of her love for the subject of her drawing than any words could convey.
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