DISCLAIMER: the characters don't belong to me, but to Katherine Brooks. I'm just borrowing them for a while. After I'm done toying with them, I'll give them back in one piece, I promise *evil laugh* Please don't sue, all I have left in my wallet is a couple of Euros. Really not worth the hassle.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: To All Over Me.

By Piranha


February 2007.

Precariously holding on to several shopping bags, feeling them slip further away from her grasp, Simone cursed under her breath when she felt the neighbour's prickly rose bush tear a hole in her brand new pair of tights. The tear getting bigger with every step she took, she quickly unlocked the door and pushed it further open with her elbow. Careful that she didn't smash the shopping bags into the wall, she had half a dozen eggs in there, she stumbled into the narrow hall way, the door awkwardly lodged into her back, before she kicked it closed with her foot. Stepping over the bills, letters and publicity flyers strewn all over the door mat, she should really fix that dodgy mailbox or better yet, have Annabelle do it. She dropped her keys on the little hallway table and made a mad dash for the kitchen, calling out Annabelle's name. When no immediate response came, the house was eerily quiet; she placed the grocery bags on the kitchen counter, relieved to be rid of the rather heavy burden. Shrugging off her coat, discarding her by now ruined tights in the rubbish bin, she quickly put the groceries away, remembering it was her time to cook tonight. Oh well, Chinese take out it would have to be. She just hoped Annabelle would be home soon, she was hungry.

Changing into a pair of jeans and one of Annabelle's old shirts, relieved to be out of her stuffy work clothes for the day, she remembered to check underneath the bed for Annabelle's always disappearing socks before taking the dirty linen hamper with her downstairs. The washing machine soon loaded and doing its job, she sighed deeply, not really feeling like grading the papers she had so hastily stuffed into her bag only an hour earlier. Fixing herself a cup of tea instead, she took it with her to the living room, kicking off her shoes as she sank down on the surprisingly comfortable couch, a bargain they had found on the local flea market. Looking around the living room, taking in the huge, decoloured oak dressed, almost overflowing with well thumbed books, Annabelle's huge music collection, the CD's and old vinyl's almost taking up a whole wall, the almost too small television set, the odd knick knacks lying about, the photographs on the wall, Simone sighed with contentment. Their house might be small, claustrophobically at times, especially when they were both in a foul mood or grumpy, it was warm and cosy. It was home.

They had looked at a lot of apartments, all over town, always finding some fault with it, either the price, the location or even the colour of the bathroom tiles, but then they had come across this little house in the suburbs, immediately falling in love with it. They had both agreed that it was a dump, the word probably even being a euphemism, but it was a dump with potential. Coaxing the landlord, an old guy living two blocks away and who seemed to be a sucker for blue eyes, into letting them the house, even having him knock down the rent considerably if they fixed it up themselves, they'd set to work, scrubbing off what seemed like fifty years of grime on the solid hardwood floor, sanding the stairs and the kitchen cabinets, giving the walls a fresh lick of pain. Smirking she remembered painting the living room, Annabelle looking so damn adorable in her cut off jeans and bikini top, an old baseball cap on her head a big blob of paint on her nose, that she just couldn't keep her eyes and hands off her. Remembering the heavy make out session, right there on the plastic covered floor, paint getting everywhere, she blushed at her own carnal lust that day.

The house might not amount to much, six months after moving in it might still need little odd jobs doing, like fixing a leaky tap or hammering a couple of nails in the mailbox, but it was theirs. When they'd had enough of the hustle and bustle in Los Angeles, when they felt that the walls were closing in on them, they just retreated to their little garden (though it still was pretty much a wilderness, they both weren't very green fingered it appears) or threw a couple of bags in the car and escaped to the beach house for the weekend. Her stomach growling with hunger, letting her know that she'd had too little for lunch today, she abhorred the cafeteria's meatloaf, it tasted like cardboard, and she walked back into the kitchen and grabbed an apple. Rubbing it clean on her shirt, not the most hygienic thing to do she realised, she had just taken a big bite when the doorbell rang. Grabbing the mail and putting it on the little table, she yanked the door open, saying: "don't tell me you've forgotten your key again Annabelle, I ought to," only to end with a squeaky "senator Tillman", nearly choking on her apple when she recognised Annabelle's mother standing on the doorstep.

Her eyebrows scrunching in confusion, her eyes narrowing as she tried to remember where she had seen this woman before, the senator suddenly exclaimed: "you're that teacher from Saint Theresa's, Simone something," before shouting out even louder: "you're Annabelle's girlfriend."

Closing her eyes as she took a step back, opening the door even wider, Simone sighed deeply. She had begged and begged Annabelle to tell her mother about them, but Annabelle's answer had always been that it was too soon, that the senator wasn't ready yet. Though deep down Simone had known that Annabelle' wasn't ashamed of their love, that she was rather protecting the fragile relationship she had rebuilt with her mother; it still sometimes felt like that. Not allowing it to become a bone of contention between them, she had accepted the eternal postponing – truth be told she wasn't looking forward to the confrontation with the senator either – with as end result she now had to tangle with an irate senator. Her apple still tightly clutched in her hand, she looked up and said: "please come in," adding "or would you rather have this discussion out here, for all and sunder to hear?" when the senator seemed to hesitate. As the senator pushed past her, her jaw tightening and her mouth set in a decided line, Simone closed the door behind her, leaning against it for a while. Cursing her Fate, she curled a strand of hair behind her ear and took a deep breath, mustering up all her courage. "Time to face the music," she mumbled to herself as she stepped back into the living room.

Pacing the little living room as a mad woman, the handbag hanging from her shoulder bouncing against her hip every second step until she threw it on the nearby table, the senator was mumbling to herself, getting madder by the minute, all kinds of scenarios running through her mind. Her blood was boiling, she was angry at Annabelle for not telling her, she was absolutely furious and livid at this woman for seducing Annabelle, for taking advantage of her little girl. Suddenly turning to face Simone who was hovering in the door opening, her eyes narrowing menacingly, her nostrils flaring dangerously, suddenly reminding Simone of an angered bull, ready to attack, the senator bristled: "how could you? She's only eighteen years old, how dare you take advantage of her like that? I should report you! What kind of sexual predator are you, skulking the school hallways in order to seduce innocent little schoolgirls?"

"I didn't…." Simone started to say, only to be cut off by the senator: "don't insult my intelligence by saying that your affair started only after she graduated, after she was eighteen." When Simone stayed quiet, lowering her eyelashes in a silent admission of guilt, the senator huffed and said: "I didn't think so. How could you? She was only a minor then! What is she to you anyway? Another notch on your bedpost? A cheap thrill? Does f*cking her make you feel young again?" Hearing Simone's surprised gasp, the senator went on: "I'm amazed that you're still together, I'd have thought that once the cheap thrill of bedding her was over, you'd have moved on to your next student."

"I'm not in the habit of seducing my students," Simone said stiffly, through gritted teeth.

"No? You could have fooled me," the senator said acerbically, "you still teach then?"

"Yes, I teach part-time at the local college and I….," Simone said flatly before being cut off again.

"Already cruising for your next victim then?" the senator sneered. Watching all the colour drain from Simone's face at the insult, she added: "oh, did I hit a nerve?" Sadistically enjoying the power she had, she looked at Simone with a gloating smile. Her smiled disappeared however when she realised that she had prodded a dangerous beast one too many times.

Clenching her fists, luckily she had put her half eaten apple on the table; otherwise it would have been squeezed to a pulp. Simone walked up to the senator, her blood near boiling point. Sheer anger spurring her on, her eyes shooting daggers, she forced the senator to back pedal a few steps and spat out: "now you listen here, I don't care what you think of me. Frankly I don't give a flying f*ck whether you like me or not, but I won't stand here listening to you rant and rave, cheapening our love."

"Love? Don't make me laugh, you wouldn't know the first meaning of the word," the senator scoffed, secretly relieved Simone was showing some backbone. Frankly, she'd need it or Annabelle would walk all over her.

"Says the woman who was prepared to bribe the school into babysitting her own daughter," Simone threw back. She knew it wasn't particularly big of her and watching the senator blanch only left a bitter aftertaste in her mouth, but she didn't really care, she was too angry right now. "Yes, love," she said, "perhaps against all odds and despite all reason, Annabelle loves me and I love her. I love everything about her." Her voice becoming softer, her eyes shining brightly, she continued: "I love how she gets secretly flustered when she can't parallel park on the first try, how she still blushes when they give her a standing ovation after she's sung one of her own songs. I love how she gets even the grumpiest of men to talk to her, how she acts all tough but turns to mush when a baby smiles at her or when there's a romantic film on television. I love her gung ho and carefree attitude, how she wants to take on the world in defence of the little guy, how we can talk for hours or sometimes say nothing at all, how she sometimes frets over little things and doubts her own abilities ….. Perhaps our love doesn't confirm to society's expectations, but there's an exception to every unwritten rule and she's it for most of mine. I love her; it's as simple as that." Running out of steam, she turned abruptly, saying "I'll make us both some tea" before leaving the senator alone in the living room.

Left to her own devices, the senator just stood there, deep in thought. She felt torn. On the one hand, she was still convinced that this woman would break her baby's heart, that Annabelle was nothing but a cheap thrill for her, a prized trophy in a long line of conquests. She still considered her to be a sexual predator, taking advantage of her little girl's naivety, though she fully realised how adamant and tenacious Annabelle could be when she had her sights set on something or someone. On the other hand, she couldn't quite help but admire Simone's guts for standing up to her, for defending her relationship with Annabelle. Perhaps she should give her the benefit of the doubt for the time being, perhaps she should talk with her, not shout at her, try to get to know her better before she judged her. After all, Annabelle loved her. Looking around her for the very first time, she had to admit that though the house might be small, it was definitely cosy, the little details giving it a very homely feel.

Stepping closer, she started studying the photographs on the wall. Smiling when she found one of herself, Annabelle must have taken it when they were in France together, she moved on to the next one. Annabelle was looking right at her camera, a goofy smile on her face, her eyes sparkling brightly, but Simone was staring at Annabelle with a look of such adoration, the love she felt for Annabelle was so palpable that it made the senator gasp. She was looking at a third photograph, a black and white side shot of Annabelle, when Simone came back in, carrying a tray. The senator kept staring at the photograph; she couldn't believe how different Annabelle looked on it, wiser, more mature somehow. Turning to Simone, she asked:" when was this taken?"

As she finished pouring the tea, Simone looked up and said: "a couple of weeks ago, at my beach house. I had run into town to get groceries and some film rolls and when I came back, I found her sitting on the patio, staring at the ocean, a look of such intense concentration on her face. She was off in a world of her own, like she gets sometimes …. You know, when she just looks at you, as if she can see right through you, her blue eyes just piercing through your soul. I couldn't resist, I just had to take that picture. I asked what she was thinking about just then, but she just shrugged, saying she was lost in memories."

"You're too old for her," the senator said, settling down on the easy chair, reaching for her cup.

"Perhaps," Simone replied, "perhaps I'm too old for her, perhaps she's too young for me, perhaps we're all wrong for each other, a catastrophe waiting to happen. This might be a Pay to December affair to her, she might wake up one day and wonder what the hell she's doing with me, but on the other hand, she might be in this for the long haul and I do believe that she is. No matter how short the sliver of time I have with her, I'll grab it with both hands. I'd rather have five seconds of her love than spend an eternity without it. No mater what happens, no matter how much you insult me or threaten me, I'll never regret risking my heart with her."

The senator was prevented from replying to that when the front door opened and then closed with a thud. "Simone, I'm home, you'll never believe what …" Annabelle said bounding into the living room, only to come to a full stop when she noticed her mother sitting there. "Mom," she squeaked out. Slowly taking off her cycling helmet before running her fingers through her hair, her face rosy cheeked from the long hike home, she looked from her mother to lover and back again, unsure what to say, but secretly relieved that there was no apparent bloodshed. Postponing the inevitable a little longer, she put her rucksack against a wall, hanging her fluorescent jacket over a chair, leaning casually against the table saying "hi mom, I didn't know you were coming," the moment ruined when her stomach grumbled loudly.

"Guess that's my cue to make a start on dinner," Simone said, getting up from the couch.

"Wait," Annabelle suddenly said, grabbing Simone's hand and startling her mother with the slightly panicked look on her face. "Erm …. I made some spaghetti sauce before I left for uni this morning. Perhaps you could heat that up? It's in the back of the fridge."

"Don't worry, even I can't screw up reheating sauce and boiling water for the pasta," Simone smirked as she walked to the kitchen, adding 'I hope' under her breath.

"I'm sorry about that," Annabelle said when she noticed her mother's bewildered expression, taking Simone's place on the sofa and draining the last of her tea. "Simone can't cook. I thought she was exaggerating when she told me until she made me an omelette for breakfast once. It made me wish we had a dog so I could feed it to him…. The part that I could actually scrape from the pan that is," Annabelle explained, starting to laugh when an 'I heard that' came from the kitchen.

"I didn't know you could cook," the senator asked, at a total loss for words at what she had just witnessed, the easy banter, and the homey feel to it all. They just felt so comfortable with each other that the senator almost felt that she was intruding.

"Yes, Beatrice taught me how to cook," Annabelle replied distractedly, looking up when she heard an 'ouch, dammit' coming from the kitchen. "Excuse me for a moment," she said, disappearing into the kitchen.

Suddenly curious, the senator tiptoed to the kitchen door, peeking in. With nothing short than amazement, she watched the tender way Annabelle caressed Simone's cheek before engulfing her in a big hug, rubbing soothing circles onto Simone's back as she held on to her for dear life. Breaking out of their embrace, she watched them gaze into each other's eyes, their fingers still touching as they whispered quietly amongst each other. She couldn't understand what was being said, but she didn't need to, she knew instinctively. Realising that she needed to amend her earlier opinion, that she shouldn't be afraid of Simone breaking Annabelle's heart, but rather the other way around, she walked away again, but not before witnessing the tender exchange of a kiss. She realised that, how odd it might sound to her, they truly loved each other. Walking back to the living room, she was looking at some of the knick knacks on a shelf when Annabelle appeared again.

"Don't make me chose between you and her mom, she'll win every single time," Annabelle stated flatly.

"Yes, I know," the senator said resignedly, "I'm beginning to see that." Turning around to look at her daughter, she asked: "why didn't you tell me?"

"I didn't want to lose you," Annabelle confessed, "we had only just found each other again, the bond we had was still so fragile… I thought it would drive you away again."

"Never," the senator whispered, pulling her into a hug. "I think that with time, when I'm over my initial shock, I'll be okay with this. I actually quite like her. She has got guts, standing up to me, not only today but also that day at Saint Theresa's. I think she might be good for you…. Just don't hurt her."

Blinking a couple of times, Annabelle just stared at her mother as if she had lost her mind. "I'd never hurt her," she said so sincerely, so truthfully that the senator immediately believed her, nodding as she said 'I know'. When Simone called out from the kitchen 'Annabelle, do you know where that grabbing thingy is?' Annabelle just rolled her eyes and whispered: "I'll be right back."

"You're staying for dinner, I hope?" Simone said, coming out of the kitchen with plates and cutlery. "I mean, you and Annabelle haven't seen each other in a while, it would give you the time to catch up."

"Yes, I'd love to," the senator replied, surprised at the invitation. Watching Simone deck the table for three – Annabelle's cycling helmet put on the cupboard, the half munched apple in Simone's hand – she added: "is there anything I can do to help?"

"Well senator…"

"Please call me Marion," the senator said, "senator sounds so…. Formal."

"Well Marion," Simone said, "perhaps you could open the wine? I'll bring it out."

"None for me thanks," Annabelle said as she brought the spaghetti and salad out. "I have a mid term exam coming up, I still need to revise a couple of chapters tonight."

As they tucked into their food, Marion simply watched, nipping from her wine. Smiling when she noticed Annabelle flicking a baby tomato onto Simone's plate, Annabelle had always hated those, she asked: "so how is uni going?" before taking a first, tentative bite, pleasantly surprised to find that Annabelle could indeed cook.

"It's okay," Annabelle said, looking up, "the course is a bit harder than I had expected, the work load a bit heavier, but it's really interesting. For instance, the guy that gives 'introduction to social psychology' might be an old sock, but the way he explains how peer pressure works…. Fascinating." When she felt Simone's eyes on her, she added: "what? Oh come on, you've met him. You have to admit that he's as exciting as watching paint dry."

Giving Annabelle a look of fond exasperation, Simone replied: yes, he seemed a bit …. Dull when I met him." Turning her attention to the senator, she continued: "so... erm Marion, congratulations on your victory in November. You must be relieved the stress from elections is over."

"Yes it was quite hectic, especially in those last few weeks when we were head to head," the senator replied, "but now I can concentrate on what's really important, like legislature and defending Californian affairs. There are a couple of interesting commissions I belong to this term; I think I could really ruffle some feathers this time around. I guess we'll see, it all depends on the Bills that are introduced. But let's not talk shop." Looking around, she said: "I really like your house. It's … homey."

"Oh god mom, you should have seen what this place looked like when we first rented it. It was a dump, a real dump. We literally had to scrape away a layer of dust from the floor and had to replaster and repaint all the walls," Annabelle said, not even noticing that Simone went bright red at the mention of painting. "The house has really come a long way. Most of the furniture we found on local flea markets or sale rooms."

"Well, I really like what you've done to the place," the senator said with a smile, Annabelle's enthusiasm catching.

"Perhaps you could give your mother a tour?" Simone suggested. 'I'll make us some coffee in the mean time."

"Yes, I'd like that," the senator replied.

By the time they got back from the five cent tour, Simone had finished the dishes. "Coffee shouldn't be too long," she said, walking back to the living room.

"Not for me thanks, I'd better be going. Thanks for a lovely dinner. Erm… I'll be tied up in Washington for the next two weeks, but call me after that. We should do this again…; the three of us," the senator said.

Tenderly rubbing Annabelle's back as she lay curled up against her, her had on her shoulder, Simone asked: "did you get all your studying done?"

"Yeah, it took me a bit longer that I had expected, one chapter kind of threw me for a loop for a while, but I got there in the end," Annabelle replied. Snuggling even closer, throwing an arm around Simone, she continued: "my mom likes you."

"Well, she could have fooled me in the beginning, ranting and raving as she was. Tarring me a sexual predator, calling me a cradle snatcher," Simone stated dryly.

"Well, what did you expect," Annabelle laughed. "You're bopping her baby girl; of course she was bound to be a bit upset."

"I do wish you wouldn't be so crude sometimes," Simone said.

"I'm sorry," Annabelle murmured, though she didn't sound remorseful at all.

"Hmmm," Simone replied, craning her neck when Annabelle started kissing her there. "Erm… what does your day look like tomorrow?"

"I have class until three," Annabelle said, why?"

"Well, I thought I could take you out," Simone said, "perhaps see a movie, have some dinner, then later … who knows… what do you say?"

"You'd do anything to avoid cooking, wouldn't you?" Annabelle laughed.

"Well, if you're not interested," Simone teased.

"Oh no, I' interested, I'm interested," Annabelle quickly back pedalled. Looking at Simone with a decided leer, she added: "soooooo…. What does this 'who knows' consist of?"

Returning the leer with a grin of her own, Simone flipped Annabelle onto her back. Throwing the sheets over their heads, she murmured: "how about I just show you?"

Part 2

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