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.
WARNING: 1: English isn't my mother tongue, so you'll probably encounter a lot of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes along the way. It's my way of annoying the hell out of everyone lol. 2: I haven't seen the movie yet, I'm anxiously counting the days for the DVD to come out. Anyway, this means that I had to rely on other people's detailed plot spoilers to get this thing written. So erm…Sorry for plot mistakes you might encounter. 3: I've added things to scenes, just because I can mwuhahahaha. Nah, did it because I wanted to explain things and so forth…..
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
THANKS: to my Beta for all the help.

All Over Me
By Piranha


Part Five

Taking a slow sip of her coffee, the cup rattling as she put it back in the saucer, Simone took a shuddering breath of air. She couldn't believe how nervous she was. Though she tried to tell her time and time again to calm down, that she was only meeting a parent, it didn't help, her stomach remained a jumbled up knot. Not only was she meeting Annabelle's mother, which in itself was bad enough, she was also meeting a senator who had garnered a reputation to eat bumbling reporters and ill informed adversaries for breakfast. She was clearly out of her depth here. Though she wasn't a betting woman, even she knew that the odds of her winning a round were astronomically low. She'd probably even crash and burn before the end of the first round. As the bell chimed, she cursed her aunt's name under her breath and slowly rose from Emaculata's surprisingly comfortable seat (she had thought she was in for another hour of backbreaking agony), her heart hammering in her chest.

'First appearances are crucial, they determine the further outcome of the whole meeting,' Emaculata had stressed right before she left yesterday, casting a critical eye on Simone's attire and shaking her head in exasperation. Properly chastised, she had decided to make an effort and trusting Annabelle's advice had opted for a very snug looking suit. Business like enough to be taken seriously, but enough buttons opened to not appear prudish. Checking her appearance in the huge mirror in the hallway, she pulled her shirt a bit lower, readjusting the shoulders, to create just the perfect mix between frivolity and seriousness. As she wiped away an invisible crease in her skirt, she gave herself two thumbs up before walking on, mentally telling herself that she could do this. Wiping her clammy hands on her skirt, she opened the heavy double door, painting a bright smile of forced politeness on her face as she welcomed senator Tillman.

As she shook the other woman's hand, almost squirming under the near bone breaking grip, she couldn't get over how much Annabelle and her mother resembled each other. They were like two peas in a pod. Sure their noses were different and they didn't have the same hair colour, the senator being a lighter tint of blonde, no doubt bottle induced, but otherwise Annabelle was almost a carbon copy of her mother. They had the same chin, the same expressive blue eyes, the same look of confidence about them. Simone smiled to herself, knowing and seeing first hand what Annabelle would look like in thirty years time. She wondered if Annabelle was not only the senator's spitting image in looks, but also in mannerisms and character.

Her mental musings were cut short when senator Tillman shot her a confused look at her continued stare. Taking a deep breath, feeling some of Annabelle's confidence, arrogance and defiance seep in, she said: "good morning senator Tillman, I'm Simone Bradley. Do come in." As they walked towards Emaculata's office, she continued: "The school's headmistress was unfortunately otherwise occupied and asked me to step in. She thought that since I'm one of Annabelle's teachers I'd be able to give you a better idea of how Annabelle is doing here at Saint Theresa's. Anyway, do sit down. Would you care for anything to drink? Tea? Coffee?"

"Tea would be heavenly," Annabelle's mother replied sweetly, though the smile didn't quite reach her eyes. As Simone turned around to prepare her tea, the senator continued: "I must say, I'm quite pleased with the way Saint Theresa's has handled Annabelle so far. She seems far less rebellious, headstrong and demanding. I'm a very busy woman, I have a State to represent in Congress, I don't really have the time to deal with Annabelle's whimsical and foolish notions, her petty questions and ideas. I don't really know what happened, why she lashed out and started acting the way she did, but she was getting out of control. I couldn't handle her anymore, she was becoming too much of a problem and liability. I had to do some serious damage control to safeguard my political ambitions, effectively hiding her from the public eye. Then a friend of mine told me about Saint Theresa's and I have to say, the headmistress immediately understood the problem I faced with Annabelle. She really was a godsend, accepting Annabelle so late in term. You've all worked miracles, ever since that first week Annabelle hasn't bothered me again."

Her back to senator Tillman, her hand gripping the edge of the table hard, her knuckles turning white, Simone felt anger and resentment course through her like wildfire, overtaking her normal stoic and calm self. How dare she talk about Annabelle like that? How could she consider Annabelle nothing more than a problem and a liability? Something that had to be taken care off quickly because it would hurt her chances at the elections? Didn't she realise that Annabelle probably acted up to get her attention or because she was still hurting about the break up with her girlfriend? Didn't she realise how lucky she was to have a daughter like Annabelle? How intelligent, sensitive and caring she was? Did she even know her daughter at all? And how could she refuse to talk to Annabelle? Surely as a mother, no matter how busy and pressed for time you were, you always made time for your children? Her justified anger firing her on, she turned around and was about to lay into the senator when she realised she had to stay polite, that she had to stay focused on her goal. Deciding to use her anger to her advantage, it already gave her the confidence to start a battle, she handed the senator her tea, politely asking: "slice of lemon?" mentally adding 'or are you sour enough as it is?".

When the senator declined, she went back to sit down and leaning her head on her folded hands, she just looked at the senator for a moment, narrowing her eyes, without words letting her know exactly what she thought about that rant. Considering the way the senator shrank back a little a personal victory, she then leaned back and with a tiny smirk, she said: "before we go into the reason for this meeting, I'm sure you'd like an update on how Annabelle is doing, both academically as in general." When the senator had the good grace to blush when she realised that should have been her first question, not a rant on what a pain Annabelle had been in the past, Simone wanted to make it clear to the senator how very wrong she was about her daughter. Clearing her throat, she continued: "of course I can only speak for my courses, I teach literature, but so far Annabelle has been a very good student. Of course she tries to test her boundaries by challenging me, I think that's typical teenage behaviour, but she has a very good grasp of what I'm trying to teach.

Her papers are very well structured, her arguments clear, concise and to the point, using general knowledge and research to emphasise her point. Her ideas might be somewhat unorthodox and out of line with school policy, but to me the whole purpose of education is to encourage pupils to develop their potential, to form their own opinions, to think for themselves, not to become one of the mindless, drone-like sheep as Nietzsche denigrated the masses. My colleagues all agree that, though perhaps Annabelle might be a bit brusque and forward with her answers, she's a good overall student: actively participating in class, gaining good grades, helping out other students whenever they have problems or questions. She particularly seems to do well in languages and social sciences, while maths, biology and physics are somewhat weaker subjects. There's no doubt that Annabelle will do well at the university of her choice.

On another note, I'm also the head of her dorm, which means I have to deal with her on a more personal level as to what the students do in their free time. I have to say, though it might have taken her a bit longer than I had hoped, she seems to have settled in quite well. She has become good friends with her roommates." Thinking that it was perhaps time to stick the knife in a little further, she said: "I've got to know Annabelle pretty well during Spring break when she was the only student left on campus. Though she could have moped around, disappointed about missing a holiday, feeling lonely with no' one but a teacher around, she stayed polite and high spirited, spending her time either studying or playing music. All in all, it's a delight to have a pupil like Annabelle." Though perhaps she had exaggerated a little bit, embellished the truth to fit her own purpose, she was in the presence of a politician after all, perhaps the senator was rubbing off on her (though thank god not literally), Simone was quite pleased about her rather zealous defence of Annabelle.

The senator actually didn't quite know how to respond to her vehement defence; she opened and closed her mouth in the famous fish habit, desperately trying to come up with a reply. She was quite literally saved by the bell when her cell phone rang out. "Tillman," she barked into the phone. "Harvey, I've told you I needed to come to Annabelle's school this morning and to postpone all my meetings…… Yes, I do know that I'm lagging behind in the polls….. I'm NOT wasting valuable time here, we are talking about my daughter here" When she heard that Simone thought that perhaps there was still a heart beating in that big clump of ice. What? What do you mean a lot of votes in the South? How come? You don't know? What do I pay you for then? Find out immediately and think of a way we can counteract his offensive. How did he react to last night's little bomb I dropped at that conference? ….. Is that an official quote or just a rumour? ……"

The political game soon losing her interest, Simone started looking around the room. Watching the gardens outside, bathing in the sunlight, a little rabbit daring to come out of the shrubs, she longed for this meeting to be over with. It was such a beautiful day, she couldn't wait to spend it at the beach house with Annabelle instead of being stuck here. Almost jumping out of the chair when Annabelle's mother thumped her hand on the desk hard as she ranted in the phone some more, she turned her attention back to the room, staring at the senator for a while. Though Annabelle and her mother might be each other's spitting images look wise, it certainly didn't hold true characteristically. They couldn't be more different. She knew she was making a harsh and rash judgement, that she didn't really know the senator, that she shouldn't base her opinion on just one meeting, but still….. As warm, friendly and caring as Annabelle seemed, so cold, calculated and uncaring was her mother…. Annabelle, just thinking about her, made her go all warm and fuzzy inside. She couldn't believe that, little more than 24 hours ago, they had been making love to each other on this very desk. Passionate love even, no holding back, files, pens and papers falling to the floor as they brought each other to new heights. Yesterday's scenes replaying in her mind, making her breathing more shallow, she quickly opened another button of her blouse, her eyes glazed over.

"So sorry about that," the senator said as she ended the call, startling Simone out of her erotic daydream, making her turn beet red as she remembered exactly who was sitting in front of her. The senator, not understanding what just had happened, but knowing she had to use Simone's temporary distraction to her advantage, said: "anyway, my reason for coming today…. As you can see I'm a very busy woman. The problem is that with the elections coming up, I'll be on the road all of the time, which means I won't be there to take care of Annabelle. Of course I could always take her with me, there's nothing in the world I'd want more, I haven't seen my little girl in such a long time, it would simply be heavenly to spend some quality time with her, but I don't think she'd enjoy our road trip very much….You have to admit, it wouldn't be much fun for her. She'd be sitting there in an anonymous hotel room, listening to yet another meeting, catching only glimpses of me as I'm busy all of the time, never enough time to explore the town before we have to go to the next one. Though it's my everyday reality, I'm afraid she'd find it quite boring, it's not exactly what you'd call an exciting road trip for an eighteen year old, now is it? I think it would be in her best interest if she could stay here in school for a little longer."

Inwardly snorting at the senator's careful manipulation, you could definitely see that she was a hardened politician, spinning her own request around so that it sounded she was actually doing her daughter a favour by imprisoning her in Saint Theresa's a little longer, Simone said: "I can understand how life on the road wouldn't be much fun for Annabelle, but I have to ask…. Isn't there someone else she could stay with during the School holidays? A family member? A friend?"

"Alas, no," the senator sighed, painting a look of disappointment and regret on her face. "I'm afraid there isn't anyone else. Both Annabelle's father and I were only children, our parents died when Annabelle was still a little girl. I've asked several friends if Annabelle could stay with them for a while, but I'm afraid they all had made plans already. Most of them are going to Europe or Martha's Vineyard with their family for the summer. So you understand that I'm at my wits' end here."

"Won't Annabelle be eighteen soon though," Simone remarked. "I mean, surely she can be trusted to stay on her own for a while. It might even be a good test trial for her….. with her going off to university I mean."

"Yes, I've thought of that too, but there's a small problem with that, you see…. When left unsupervised, Annabelle has a tendency to get into trouble. She certainly has done so in the past," the senator said. "Nothing major, it's not like she got into trouble with the police or anything, but…. It resulted in some embarrassing situations that had to be taken care of if you catch my drift," she said, looking straight at Simone, pleading her to understand.

Simone, sadistically taking pleasure in seeing the senator squirm a little under her piercing stare, breathed out slowly as she said: "I see. What you're saying is that you'd like Saint Theresa's to take over your role as a mother, to take care of Annabelle so that she doesn't cause you any political embarrassment and ruin your chances of re-election." When the senator had the good grace to blush, she asked: "and how long are we supposed to do this for? The whole summer holidays or….?"

"No, no not at all," the senator hastened to say, realising that she wasn't exactly scoring points on the 'perfect mother front' with this teacher. "Just until Independence Day….. erm my schedule gets less hectic after that."

"I thought the senatorial elections weren't until November, so I'd have thought your schedule would only get more hectic as the summer goes on," Simone pointed out. When the senator didn't have a reply to that, she continued: "anyway, I'll put your question to Mother Emaculata, Saint Theresa's head mistress. She'll have to decide on the matter. I see a couple of problems however. Though Saint Theresa's has a very extensive Summer School program and is in fact equipped to take care of pupils during the Summer holidays, Summer School doesn't start until the fifteenth of July. The school is effectively closed until then, most of the staff taking their holidays then. Even the sisters won't be here if I recall correctly as they're visiting a sister congregation in another State. Then of course there's a question of what Annabelle would do here. She'll already have graduated and like I said, Summer School won't have started yet. Either way, Mother Emaculata would have to call in a teacher especially to take care of Annabelle and like I said most of them will be on holiday at the time."

"Of course I'd be willing to pay the school substantially to take care of my daughter," the senator offered.

"Are you offering the school a bribe?" Simone asked.

"No, no, no not a bribe," the senator said, back-pedalling quickly, "bribe is such a harsh word. What I mean is, I'd be willing to give the School a large donation, just like I gave a large donation to accept Annabelle in the first place. After all, the quality of her education has to be ensured. Only the best for my daughter."

"I'm sure," Simone said, "anyway, like I said, I'll put your question to Mother Emaculata. I'm sure we can work something out. We can't have Annabelle roaming the streets after all." With that she rose and stepped from behind the desk, effectively putting an end to the meeting. Shaking the senator's hand, she asked: "would you like to see Annabelle now?"

Realising that she couldn't very well say no, it would only make Simone's opinion of her even worse and though it seemed like it was the old woman that made all the decisions in the school, she knew from experience it'd be in her best interest not to alienate Simone as she'd no doubt have a say in the matter too, even if it was just to give advice, so she said: "of course." It wasn't that she didn't want to see Annabelle, she did, she was her daughter after all, but … she just didn't know how to talk to her. It seemed that every time they were together, all they did was fight and though she realised she was mostly to blame for their alienation, she didn't really know how to solve it.

"She'll be in the library at this time," Simone said, leading the senator, who seemed very much lost in thought, through a maze of meandering hallways. Surprised that the senator didn't even ask why the school seemed to be so deserted or why they were the only ones there, but at the same time relieved as otherwise she'd have to explain Annabelle was being punished again, she opened the door to the library, watching Annabelle smile brightly as she saw her, the smile quickly fading away when she noticed her mother standing behind her. "Annabelle, your mother's here to see you," she said, walking further into the library, watching Annabelle and her mother approach each other awkwardly, not really knowing what to say … or do for that matter, should they hug or just shake hands? Disappearing into the background, she focused solely on Annabelle. She couldn't get over how different Annabelle acted and looked when she was around her mother. Somehow she seemed less relaxed and carefree, more cagey, rigid and suspicious. <I guess she needs her emotional walls around her mother, she doesn't really trust her mother she's been hurt too much in the past>, Simone thought with pain in her heart. Clearing her throat, gaining Annabelle's and the senator's attention, she then said: "I'll be in my room if you'll need me."

As soon as Simone closed the door behind her, the senator turned her attention back to Annabelle. Feeling uncharacteristically nervous, she said: "so…. How have you been doing? I hear you're doing really well in school."

"I'm good I guess," Annabelle replied, not really knowing how to handle this awkward chit chat, "erm …. how's the campaign going?"

"Good," the senator said, "we seem to be lagging a bit in the South, but I'm sure Harvey will find a way to make up for that."

"I'm sure he will," Annabelle agreed, thinking of the bald little man with beady eyes, "he seems very good at what he does".

The silence that fell awkward and oppressing, the senator nervously fiddled with her watch strap. <How come I can convince a room full of rowdy dockworkers to vote for me, even though I'm slowly stripping away their pension rights, but I can't hold a decent conversation with my own daughter?> she asked herself. <We used to be so close, Annabelle always running to me with those big blue eyes, asking me all kinds of questions when she was still a toddler. The way that teacher spoke of her, it seems I don't know her at all. She's my daughter, I love her, but she's a virtual stranger to me. Is my career really worth alienating my daughter for?> "How come we aren't close?" she then asked, startling Annabelle who hadn't expected that question at all.

"We don't know each other," Annabelle simply said after a while.

"I suppose it's my fault, ever since I took over dad's company and then later became a politician; I've hardly had time for you," the senator said resignedly. "You've grown up so fast, I always thought 'perhaps tomorrow', I always postponed it, thinking I'd have enough time to make it up to you, but ….." Sighing deeply, she stared at her feet for a while before saying "I'd like to get to know you though, perhaps after the elections are over we can spend some time together?"

Confused at her mother's motives, she looked at her, trying to find any subterfuge on her face, but when she couldn't find any, she didn't know what to say. Was she being genuine or was it just another ploy? Part of her wanted to cave in immediately, but then she thought of all the times she really needed a mother, a shoulder to cry on, someone to go to when she was feeling down or when she needed advise. Bitterly she said: "if you had said that a couple of years ago, I would have jumped at the chance. I needed a mother then, I needed YOU then, but I've learnt to live without and I'm doing just fine. You can't expect me to fall into your arms straight away, you can't forget about me for years and then expect me to say yes at a snap of your fingers."

"I guess I deserve that," the senator said emotionally, the tears brimming in her eyes for once genuine," I guess what you're saying is … too little, too late?"

Realising that her mother's sorrow and disappointment was genuine, Annabelle wanted to leave the door open for reconciliation, she was still her mother after all. Slowly exhaling, she said: "no… that's not what I'm saying, it's not too late. It's just…. I need some time, we can't rush into this. We have to take this slowly, get to know each other all over again."

"I guess I can accept that," the senator said, a small smile tugging at her lips.

"What are you doing here anyway?" Annabelle then asked, an innocent expression on her face.

"You probably won't like it," the senator said awkwardly, thinking she'd ruined her chances at a reconciliation once again, "but I've asked the school if you could stay on until Independence Day. I'm away on business all of the time, so I wouldn't be there. I need to know you're well taken care of, so…" Looking at Annabelle, she expected another outburst, but she was pleasantly surprised when Annabelle just shrugged and replied: "it's fine, a couple of days extra won't hurt me I suppose and it beats moping around the house. Maddy, Abby and Jennifer are off on holiday anyway, so it's not like I'd be able to hang out with them. Our deal's still on though, right? I do the photo shoot and stay out of trouble, you agree to let me make my own decisions and lead my own life?"

"Yes, our 'deal' is still on," the senator said rather dejectedly at having to talk to her own daughter in such business terms, realising that a lot of bridges would need to be mended before they were close again. When her cell phone beeped with an incoming message, she sighed. "I guess I'd better get going before Harvey sends out an APB." Not really knowing what to do - should she shake Annabelle's hand or give her a hug? - the senator decided to follow her gut feeling for once and wrapped her daughter in a rather awkward hug. "I love you, you know?" she whispered, "and I'm damn proud of you."

"Despite all the problems I've caused you in the past?" Annabelle asked dubiously.

"Despite all the problems you've caused me in the past," her mother repeated before adding "you're your father's daughter after all." When Annabelle smiled at that, she said: "I guess I'll see you on your birthday then."

Shaking her head in dismay at the ominously dark clouds heading their way, a light rumbling already to be heard in the distance, Simone swiftly changed gears as she took the prolonged, slightly dangerous bend on the coastal highway, the big, angry waves crashing down on the beach beside them almost ear piercingly loud in the silence that ruled the car. Annabelle's silence spoke more than a roomful of gossip hungry old women. Casting an inquisitive look to her right, she had to stifle a sigh of despair when she noticed that Annabelle hadn't budged an inch in the last ten minutes. She was still leaning against the car window, staring outside, not really taking in the breathtaking scenery passing her by, simply looking outside with a far away expression in her eyes. Her back half turned to Simone, effectively blocking the view of her face, her shoulders were hunched, though Simone wasn't sure whether it was in despair, sorrow or contemplation.

Annabelle had hardly uttered a word since they'd left Saint Theresa's, responding to Simone's friendly remarks and worried queries with only a half hearted shrug of the shoulder or monosyllabic grunts and sighs, none too subtly letting the older woman know she'd rather be left to her own devices. The emotional and physical distance Annabelle had put up between them was making her worried as it seemed so out of character for Annabelle, who usually wore her heart on her sleeve. Annabelle's eyes, usually sparkling brightly with ill concealed merriment and joy, were now pale and lifeless, they had lost that amused and affective glint. Simone knew something must have happened between her lover and the senator, that much was clear, but she had no idea what it could be as Annabelle simply refused to talk about it.

Turning on the radio to break the deafening silence in the car, Vertical Horizon's lament of love lost, Grey sky morning, playing softly in the background, Simone cast another sideways glance on Annabelle, her worry plainly visible on her face. Returning her attention back to the road as she exited the small coastal town and made her way to the beach house, she bit her lips as she thought about her options. She so desperately wanted to reach out to Annabelle, be there for her like Annabelle had been there for her too, but she didn't know how to. Besides, she wasn't completely sure if Annabelle would appreciate the gesture, all her attempts at having Annabelle open up to her had so far backfired, only resulting in Annabelle shutting down completely, not saying another word.

Though Annabelle seemed perfectly comfortable helping others out, being their shoulder to cry on when things got rough, she hardly ever revealed anything about her own pains and fears, almost like she was embarrassed to appear weak in front of others, even in front of her. It seemed like Annabelle thought that she had to act tough and invulnerable all of the time, like she wanted to be everyone's rock, but even a rock crumbles sometimes under pressure. Though Annabelle valiantly tried to maintain an air of indifference towards her mother, Simone knew better now. The senator's continued cold shoulder, the rejections, the lonely childhood had hurt Annabelle deeper than Simone had previously thought, making her crawl back into her shell when she was afraid or hurt, erecting a temporary emotional wall around her heart to shield her from even more pain. Even though she knew Annabelle's veiled hostility, taciturn brooding and emotional detachment wasn't directly aimed at her, it still hurt.

She realised once again that Annabelle was the puzzle you just couldn't solve, however much you wanted to. She didn't fit the category you tried to lump her in, every time you thought you had figured her out, she surprised you with yet another facet of her complex personality. Though peeling away layer upon layer was a journey of discovery for Simone, it also meant she was now at a loss what to do. Besides… The car wasn't the best place to have a deep and meaningful, she wanted to concentrate on Annabelle completely and she couldn't do that when she had to keep her eyes glued to the road. At the moment all she could do, was let Annabelle brood and hope for the best, wait for the inevitable conversation that silently screamed to be heard. Experience with teenagers however told her that Annabelle would open up when she was ready and not a second before. There wasn't really anything she could do to speed up that process. Flicking on her wipers as it began to drizzle lightly, a sudden flash of lightning illuminating the now ink black sky, Simone realised that, like the weather, Annabelle's mood had definitely taken a turn for the sombre. She just hoped it wasn't a bad omen for the rest of their little weekend away.

Staring outside the window, not even noticing that a freakish summer storm, ferocious in its intensity, was approaching them fast, Annabelle was in deep thought. Though she had told her mother that, given enough time, she was willing to give her a second chance, she was now having second thoughts and not without reason in her opinion. After their awkward hug goodbye, she had walked her mother out, not wanting her to get lost in the maze Saint Theresa's meandering and completely identical hallways formed. She had needed a map to find her way the first two weeks after she arrived. Right before her mother had closed the doors and the limo had sped off, leaving her coughing in a sandy cloud of dust, she had heard her say "it's in the bag, we don't have to worry anymore?!?," unbeknownst to Annabelle referring to her little situation with her political adversary."

She didn't want to assume the worst, she really didn't, her mother could have been talking about something else entirely, but …. This was her mother she was talking about, the woman notorious for her no nonsense, cut throat and ice cold demeanour, who could twist and turn every word to her own advantage, making you think she was actually doing you a favour as she planted a knife in your back, even smiling graciously as she twisted it in even deeper. Hell, her mother had proposed a bill that cut half the jobs in the shipping ports and the dockworkers had all applauded her, singing her praises as their saviour. She was now in little doubt that her mother's uncharacteristically emotional plea for a second chance, a reconciliation if you will, wasn't but another spiel to keep her under the thumbs until the elections were over.

She was simply dangling an enticing carrot in front of a famished Annabelle in order to keep her senatorial seat safe. She didn't rank high enough on her mother's list of priorities, politics and her precious career always being the senator's first choice. She cursed herself for allowing her to fall for her mother's smooth talk in the first place. She really should have known better, she was so used to playing second fiddle, but….. against all hope, she fell for it time and time again, simply because it was her mother. Deep down, she probably craved a strong connection with her mother, which is why the betrayal hurt so much. Like they say, blood's thicker than water; nothing hurts as much as parental rejection. She so desperately wanted to put up a brave face and hold it together, show the world that her mother's continued rejections didn't affect her, but in reality she was slowly dying inside. Her fragile heart was shattered once again, frustration and anger slowly eating away at her.

She was still staring out the window, deep in thought, when Simone pulled to a stop in front of the beach house, the light drizzle having abated for the moment. Only noticing they had arrived when Simone opened the passenger's side door, their bags and groceries already on the ground beside her, she just looked at her with big blue eyes, brimming with unshed tears, slowly releasing her safety belt, the untold sadness on her face breaking Simone's heart. When she saw Simone was about to say something, Annabelle just fled, quickly picking up her own bag and making her way into the house in total silence. She was still very much in flight mode. She just felt that she couldn't talk about it yet, the wounds were still too fresh, her anger still bubbling far too close to the surface. She needed a bit more time, a bit more distance.

As Simone opened up a couple of windows to let a refreshing breeze in before putting away the groceries in the small kitchen, she just stood there in the middle of the room, inwardly fuming at the injustice of it all, her anger and in her mind justified indignation reaching boiling point, making it impossible to see beyond her own pain. When Simone asked her if she wanted a drink, she turned towards her, her eye catching the little shrine of Amanda, still tucked away in the corner of Simone's living room. A little voice inside her head laughed demonically, mocking and taunting her, telling her with infinite glee she was playing second fiddle once more. As she glared at the shrine, Amanda's pictures swirling around in eternal circles, re-emphasising the notion that she'd never rate highly in Simone's life, she felt a sudden chill invade her core. Outwardly calm, but inwardly seething with anger, she looked Simone straight in the eye and spat bitterly: "I'll never be good enough for you, will I? I'll always fall short in comparison. I'll forever be competing with a ghost. You know …. I'm sick and tired of always coming second, second after politics, second after Amanda …. I don't ask for much, I just want to be number one for a change, just for a moment. I can't do it anymore, I just can't do it anymore."

Simone stood rooted to the floor at the unexpected and uncharacteristic outburst of anger, blinking a couple of time in utter shock, horror and surprise, literally gob smacked as she didn't know where the wild accusations came from. She wanted to reply, ask what Annabelle meant, sooth her very apparent anger, but before she could, Annabelle turned on her heels and stormed out of the beach house, the door banging shut behind her. Jumping slightly at the thud, coming out of her temporary stupor, Simone's first reaction was anger. How dare Annabelle shout at her like that? How dare she accuse her of still clinging to the past? It wasn't because they were sleeping together that Annabelle suddenly had the right to judge her life and her decisions. She was inwardly seething, her fingers tightening around the mug she was holding, resisting the urge to sling it against a wall in frustration. Instead she slowly put the mug back on the kitchen counter, taking a deep breath as she forced herself to calm down.

Taking a seat on the couch, she closed her eyes and sighed deeply. A cold war, followed by a short, but lethal missile attack was definitely not how she had envisioned their little weekend away. Still she supposed that she'd better get used to it, Annabelle being a very passionate and temperamental woman she was sure they were to have more spats and disagreements in the future. Her emotions flowing immediately beneath the surface, Annabelle was a volcano waiting to erupt, whether it was in passion or in outrage. Simone wouldn't have it any other way, she was uncontrollably drawn to Annabelle's fire as it fuelled her own hidden desire. She could never settle for a doormat, a lover without a backbone, she'd grow tired of him or her within the week, which was probably why Michael never excited her, why she always shrank away underneath his touch.

The poor man! He said all the right words, did all the right things, but still he couldn't make her feel like Annabelle did with a simple touch, a mere look. He was such a wet rag compared to her young lover. He was too afraid to go into her, too willing to sacrifice his own ideas and make compromises for the sake of peace. Sure, he nagged her about moving in together, but when she steadfastly refused, he didn't really kick up a fuss. Simone realised that she needed someone who challenged her on every level, who gave as good as they got. Someone who wasn't afraid of her dark side, but on the contrary embraced and cherished it and that's exactly what Annabelle did. She was strong and independent, passionate and driven, just like Simone was though she had hidden it well beneath a veil of respectability.

They were perfectly suited, they brought out the best and the worst in each other, which made for a very passionate, but also a potentially volatile mix. They were both life wires thrown together, they were bound to hit a spark every now and again. Besides, Simone knew that Annabelle's anger wasn't really directed at her, despite her accusations. Annabelle had been in a strange mood ever since her mother had left, she had probably lashed out at the nearest person and unfortunately for Simone, that had been her. Annabelle's mother had probably said or done something again to reject her, hence the accusation of always playing second fiddle, both to her and to the senator. Simone could certainly understand how Annabelle had come to that conclusion regarding her mother.

As she thought over the rest of Annabelle's tirade, Simone suddenly sat upright again, looking over to the wall Annabelle had been staring at when she had exploded in anger. Seeing all the photos of Amanda up there, the little shrine she had made over the years, she suddenly understood Annabelle's anger even better and a cold chill settled in her heart. Annabelle foolishly thought that she didn't love her, that she was just using her to recreate her childhood romance, that she was a mere substitute. A stab of pain raced through her at the thought of Annabelle's anguish, a tear slowly meandering its way down her cheek. Nothing could be further from the truth, she loved Annabelle with all her heart, and she'd never compare her with Amanda, not consciously anyway. The only reason the pictures were still up there was because she hadn't been back to the beach house since Spring Break. So infatuated by Annabelle, she had spent every weekend on campus, just to be near her, even if it meant being surrounded by hundreds of students or Mother Emaculata hovering about, so she hadn't had the chance to take the pictures down.

Walking over to the window, hugging herself close, the events of the last half hour playing over and over again in her mind in some torturous repeat, she watched Annabelle sitting on the beach, staring out over the ocean. She was torn. On the one hand she wanted to run out after Annabelle, hug her close, convince her that she was the only one in her heart, on the other she wanted to give Annabelle enough time to clear her head, knowing her efforts and attempts at reconciliation wouldn't be welcome just yet. Realising that Annabelle was probably still too caught up in her own anger to listen to reason, she decided to give her lover a bit longer. Sighing she turned away from the window and walked over to the little shrine. Running her finger over Amanda's face, a tiny smile curled around her lips as she realised that she could now look at the pictures without feeling a numbing, heartbreaking pain at her loss. Her ghost of the past had finally been laid to rest, she had finally moved on, all she felt now was a warmth at the memories. Taking down all but one picture, she safely put them away in the wooden chest in the bedroom where she kept all her childhood treasures.

Making herself a cup of tea, she grabbed her bag and settled down at the kitchen table, intent on showing Annabelle without words exactly how much she meant to her. Words could be misconstrued, used to hurt, they were so fleeting, so easy to take back … She had to show Annabelle how much she loved her in some other way, a way that left no room for doubt. Taking out the pictures she had taken of Annabelle last time they were here, she laid them all out in front of her. Taking a sip of her tea, she looked them over, trying to pick the best ones, a very difficult task as she really liked them all, simply because Annabelle was in them. Her tea cold and forgotten, she finally picked three and put them in a wooden frame. Walking back into the living room, she hung two beside Amanda while the third one, a black and white picture of Annabelle smiling at the camera, her eyes sparkling brightly with mischief, was reserved for the sanctity of her bedroom, the only place where she'd never had a picture of Amanda.

Adjusting the frame until it was absolutely perfect, she walked back out of the bedroom, content with her action so far. Rinsing out her mug, she looked outside the window, Annabelle was still sitting on the exact same spot. Just then rain started pelting down again and as Annabelle made no visible effort to come inside, for all Simone knew she hadn't even noticed the abrupt change in weather as she was still staring at the ocean, she quickly grabbed her coat from the rack in the hallway and headed outside. Slouching through the sand, the wind blowing hard, making her cheeks turn red, she made her way over to where Annabelle was sitting. Crouching down beside her, she whispered softly "Annabelle," her voice splintering near the end. At the sound of her own name, she saw Annabelle's eyes close again, a tear rolling down her cheek as she hugged her knees tighter.

Instinctively reaching out to brush away the tear, she leaned in even closer, but as soon as her fingers rubbed Annabelle's cheek, Annabelle flinched away from her touch. Hurt by the reaction, but determined not to let it deter her, she put a hand underneath Annabelle's chin, forcing her to look into her eye and said "I love you, only you", before kissing her chastely on the lips and wrapping her in a comforting embrace.

"If you love me, why did it take you so long to come after me," Annabelle asked her voice totally devoid of emotion.

"I thought you'd want to be alone for a while, clear your head," Simone replied, her arms still tightly wrapped around Annabelle. She felt Annabelle shake against her as tears racked her body once again. She could feel that Annabelle still didn't believe her, she began to push against her, trying to break free from the embrace but Simone wouldn't let go. She continued to hold her in a strong embrace, whispering words of love as she felt her young lover slowly relax in her arms, crying out her heartache on her shoulder. The rain was still pelting down, but Simone didn't even think about it. Her first and only concern was Annabelle. After a while Annabelle's strangled sobs subsided and she looked up into Simone's eyes, whispering: "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it. I just couldn't take it anymore … I was just lashing out and I'm sorry."

"I know," Simone said in a calm and reassuring voice, tugging on Annabelle's arms in an attempt to get her up. "Why don't we go back inside? You're soaked through. You'll catch your death if we stay out here any longer." When Annabelle merely nodded, she wrapped her coat around Annabelle and clasped their hands together before guiding her back to the beach house. Once inside, she felt Annabelle shivering in her arms and said: "why don't I run you a bath? You need to warm up." As she walked into the bathroom and turned on the tap, a very docile Annabelle followed. Squirting a huge amount of bath soap in the more than lukewarm water, she looked over her shoulder to see Annabelle still shivering with cold.

Settling her down on the toilet as the bathtub continued to fill, she slowly began to undress her, the wet clothes making it hard on her to open up the tiny buttons. When Annabelle was completely undressed, she tossed the drenched clothes into a corner before leading her over to the tub. When Annabelle was finally settled into the warm water, she tried to turn around and leave, take care of the wet clothes, warm up some soup, but Annabelle grabbed her by the arm and in a very tiny voice, she asked "please stay?" Unable to say no to Annabelle's pleading eyes, she quickly took off her own clothes and settled down behind her. Feeling Annabelle's body press against her, she reached for the cloth and slowly began to wash her.

Annabelle leaned heavily against Simone, her head slumped on her shoulder, her eyes closed, feeling warmth and drowsiness suffuse her as Simone lovingly washed her arms and back, the small, rhythmic caresses of the foamed cloth slowly lulling her to sleep, the afternoon's emotional upheaval slowly dissipating as she felt completely loved and cherished. When Simone told her that they'd better get out of the bath before they'd turn into prunes, she offered no resistance, slowly stepping out of the bath to allow the older woman to rub her dry and pull a T-shirt on before quickly wrapping a towel around herself and leading her over to the bedroom. The emotional rollercoaster she'd been on these past couple of hours had really tired her out and she could hardly keep her eyes open when Simone drew back the covers. When Simone tucked her in, drawing the sheets over her, wrapping her in a cocoon of warmth, before kissing her on the cheek and turning to leave, Annabelle reached out and grabbed her by the arm. "Stay with me…. Please," she asked again in a very tiny voice as rain pelted down on the roof and thunder cracked.

Trying to gauge her mood, Simone looked at Annabelle, unsure what to do. The big blue eyes, still red rimmed from crying imploring her to stay, the soft pleading voice, the small smile tugging at Annabelle's lips, the way she desperately tried to suppress a yawn her undoing, she kicked off her slippers and crawled in beside her, as Annabelle moved up to give her some room. Simone knew Annabelle hadn't asked because she was afraid of the summer storm, she realised that Annabelle needed the closeness right now, that she needed to feel her warmth and love, and that she needed to reconnect with her. If holding Annabelle as she slept was what it took to convince her of her love and devotion, Simone would hold her for a million years. Like Billy Joel, Bob Dylan and Garth Brooks had song so beautifully "when the rain was blowing in her face and the whole world was on her case, she could offer Annabelle a warm embrace, to make her feel her love". It wasn't like holding Annabelle in a warm and tight embrace was that big a sacrifice.

On the contrary in fact, holding Annabelle in her arms was such a rare treat, she cherished it with all her heart. Not even bothering to get dressed for bed, she just threw the towel on the ground, she crept closer to Annabelle and wrapped her arms around her. As Annabelle put her head on her shoulder, laying half on top of her, trying to absorb as much warmth and love as she could, Simone tenderly raked her fingers through Annabelle's hair, her other hand slowly rubbing her back. The gentle caresses just what the doctor ordered, she heard Annabelle's breathing slowly even out and as the half closed curtains bathed the room in a soft golden glow as the sun slowly appeared again, the ink black, angry clouds for the moment dissipated, Simone decided to close her eyes for a moment too, the confrontation the senator and then with Annabelle having drained most of her energy.

Blinking a couple of times, Annabelle lazily opened her eyes, squinting against the unrelenting brightness of the unforgiving summer sun. Yawning widely, feeling very refreshed after her short catnap, she stretched out with feline grace, chasing away the last remnants of sleep, rubbing her eyes with lazy distraction. Immensely pleased to know that they were on their own time schedule for once, that no' one or nothing could interrupt their time together, she turned to her side, a bright smile curling around her lips as she noticed the photograph hanging upon the wall. Remembering from their last visit to the beach house that there hadn't been a picture of Amanda in the bedroom, she felt a hot surge of love rush through her and turned to look at Simone. As she was still in deep slumber, Annabelle took this rare opportunity to study her lover unabashedly. They didn't often have the opportunity to wake up together in the same bed and Annabelle thought Simone always looked so serene and angelic when sleeping, younger even as the day to day worries and the fear of getting caught were temporarily tucked away.

Simone was lying on her stomach, her head turned Annabelle's way and one hand hidden deeply under her pillow as the other was holding Annabelle close. Her hair untamed and curling wildly from walking in the wind and rain earlier that day, Annabelle gently smoothed it down, careful not to wake her up. Softly tracing an imaginary line across Simone's cheek with a finger, she looked at her smilingly. Her eyelids were moving rapidly and she wandered what she was dreaming about. The light smile tugging at her lips and the soft, barely audible moans gave her a pretty good idea though and she was pleased to know she inhabited Simone's dreams as much as the older woman spiced up her own. But it was much more than a purely physical, sexual connection, they just felt each other. They didn't need words; they could have whole conversations by merely looking at each other. Though she knew that her uncanny ability to read Simone sometimes unnerved the older woman, to Annabelle it was simply further proof that they were meant for each other.

The weather suddenly hot and humid again, the summer storm even making it a bit clammy, the sheet had somehow migrated to the foot of the bed during their short nap, leaving Annabelle an unrestricted view of her lover's naked form. Her glance travelled to Simone's back and she softly trailed her fingertips over it, watching goose bumps appear under her feather light touch. Simone's skin was so soft and warm. Her fingers lingering on Simone's lower back, she realised once more how beautiful she truly was, full breasts and a well rounded arse, making her all woman. Her fingertips slowly made their way up over her back, lingering over her shoulder blade for a moment before trailing down over her arm and coming to rest on Simone's hand. Softly she caressed Simone's long fingers, amazed once more that Simone's hand could be steady and sure while writing something down on the blackboard, but trembling as they caressed her, as if in awe, as if she was discovering a priceless piece of art, as if she still couldn't believe they were really together.

If they still were that is, Annabelle thought sombrely as she laid back down staring at the ceiling, suddenly ashamed about her behaviour earlier that afternoon. She hadn't really meant it, she wasn't really mad at Simone but rather at her mother. Though it was true, deep down she was afraid Simone could never love her the way she had loved Amanda -like they say, the first cut is the deepest - she shouldn't have taken her anger out on Simone. She should have talked about it with Simone, open up to the fears and doubts niggling at her mind, but she was afraid Simone would consider them petty and insignificant, would consider her an immature little schoolgirl not worthy of her time.

As she thought about it, she realised that even that statement wasn't completely true, Simone would never do that or she wouldn't have started a relationship with her. If she were completely honest, she didn't feel comfortable with opening up completely to someone, making herself vulnerable. Already on edge and fuming because of her disastrous meeting with her mother, the last thing she wanted was to be confronted with one of her biggest fears, that Amanda would always play a bigger part in Simone's life, so she did the only thing she could do, she blew her top. By focusing on one tiny little detail, she allowed the rest of her worries and fears to disappear into the background, momentarily forgetting about them.

She was brought out of her daydreaming gaze when Simone muttered something incomprehensible before opening her eyes. Blinking a couple of times, her eyes finally focused on Annabelle and she immediately began to smile. "Hey," she whispered throatily before turning on her side, putting a steadying hand on Annabelle's hips before starting to rub it tenderly. Staring at Annabelle's eyes, hypnotised by the shiny flecks of blue, overwhelmed by the sincere apologetic sorrow and humbled by the pure unadulterated love she found in them, her breath hitched. Emotionally she whispered: "I love you Annabelle, you're my life now."

Simone brought a slightly trembling hand to Annabelle's face, brushing her fingertips over her lips and tenderly wiping away the lone tear of happiness that trickled down as the younger woman whispered "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean it" over and over again. Holding Annabelle's face in a gentle embrace, she tenderly placed light butterfly kisses on her forehead, her eyelids and finally her lips, all the while treading her other hand through Annabelle's hair. Smiling brightly as she noticed Annabelle's slightly dreamy expression, she parted the full lips and tentatively sought entrance with her tongue, probing gently at first. Soon she became bolder though, her tongue stroking against Annabelle's, reaching in further and deeper. When Annabelle replied with a thrusting search of her own, moaning loudly, Simone rejoiced in the naked power she had over Annabelle by merely kissing her. Igniting the fire within them both with languorous, passionate strokes, she crept closer, her hand wandering over Annabelle's back. Slowly releasing her lips, she looked her straight in the eye and murmured: "I know you didn't mean it, you were just lashing out and I understand, really I do …. I just want you to know that I love you. I've known from the moment that we met and though I might have fought it for a while, there's no doubt in my mind where you belong."

Annabelle's heart contracted at the softly whispered words and deep within, the slow burning fire turned into a blazing inferno. She wanted, no needed Simone now. Bringing her hands to Simone's shoulders, she pushed her onto her back and rolled on top of her in one smooth motion. Pressing her thigh between Simone's, she pinned her to the bed, holding Simone's wrists together above her head with just one hand. She looked at her with a ferocious smile on her face, but her breath hitched at the sight of her lips, swollen by desire and kisses. Simone's eyes, darkened by barely concealed lust, were her undoing and moaning Annabelle brought her head back down, letting go off Simone's wrist. This time the kisses were harder, more demanding. Simone's hips started rocking, her excitement coating Annabelle's thigh, only spurring her on more. Annabelle closed her eyes as soft lips engulfed her, she was floating on a current, fuelled by exquisite desire almost unbearable in its intensity. Her eyes opening when Simone, with one svelte swoop, reversed their positions, Annabelle's breath hitched and her heart started hammering in her chest when Simone pinned her to the bed, a ferocious expression on her face.

Smiling devilishly, relishing in the intoxicating combination of power and lust rushing through her, Simone leaned back a bit and commanded "lift up" as she tugged at Annabelle's nightshirt, whipping it off in a rather frenzied fashion. Tossing it somewhere over her shoulder, not even caring where it landed, she brought her hands down on Annabelle's breasts, eliciting a sharp moan out of Annabelle's mouth. Catching the tightening nipples between her fingers, she twisted them lightly as her palms cupped the firm flesh. Massaging and squeezing, tugging and teasing until Annabelle writhed on the bed, groaning loudly as she pushed Simone's head closer. Smiling softly at the non-too subtle command, Simone took a tender nipple between her lips. She didn't stop, alternating between sucking and biting until Annabelle let out a strangled moan. Scooting lower, she kissed and licked her way down, taking an animalistic pleasure in watching the muscles tighten and quiver under her touch.

When Annabelle let out a strangled 'please', Simone drew her fingers along a quivering belly, on an ever so slow journey southwards. Moaning Annabelle rose off the mattress as Simone's fingers raked the length of her abdomen. She was desperate to be touched, wild for more contact. Her eyes ravenous, Simone grinned and lightly touched the inside of Annabelle's thigh, making her tremble and groan. Annabelle parted her thighs, open, defenceless and so willing to be possessed and grasped Simone's hand. "Please, don't tease, I need you," she begged, her breath an erratic rasp, her hips thrusting upwards. Simone heard nothing but Annabelle's impassioned plea, wanted nothing but to be inside of her, to lose herself in the warmth, the wetness and the glory of Annabelle, but at the same time she wanted to draw it out a bit longer. Not to tease Annabelle or to punish her, but to show her exactly how much she meant to her. She leant down and kissed her, hungrily and wildly, drawing her tongue deep inside Annabelle's mouth.

Looking at Annabelle, her eyes almost black with unbridled lust, Simone shivered at the unconditional surrender reflecting in them. Her tongue found Annabelle's nipple again, swirling around it, licking its tip before sucking on it gently. As she heard Annabelle gasp, she licked and kissed her way to the other breast, grazing the hardened nipple lightly before clamping down on it. Groaning loudly at the delicate mix of pleasure and pain, Annabelle arched her back and grabbed hold of the bed sheets. Simone's tongue slid ever downward, leaving a wet trail over burning flesh, Annabelle's abdomen quivering and thighs trembling as they were traced by light kisses. Her lips rose to meet the soft lips as they continued their sweet assault. "Simone," she growled as she felt her lover's hot breath upon her.

Annabelle's musky scent pulling her down, Simone ran the tip of her tongue over Annabelle's clit before rolling it between her thumb and finger, feeling her lover shudder at the light touch. Gripping Annabelle's thighs, she pushed her tongue deep inside, thrusting in and out time and time again as Annabelle quivered uncontrollably beneath her. The growling moans and whimpered groans spurring her on even more, she swirled her tongue over Annabelle's painfully swollen and engorged clit. Sucking it in her mouth, she heard Annabelle's deep guttural and animalistic groan. Her fingers teasing Annabelle's opening before plunging in, she started pumping in and out. Her hips pumping and jerking wildly, Annabelle rocked against Simone's mouth, her body coiling tensely. With one final suck and thrust she tumbled over the edge of the abyss, letting out a guttural moan as she felt the spasm of pleasure completely overtake her body. Whimpering softly as her body quieted, she let Simone hold her gently as she tried to catch her breath. After a moment's rest, Annabelle lifted up on one elbow and just looked at Simone, a deeply satisfied smile on her face. "That was so amazing, I love you so much," she husked, pulling Simone into a soft kiss. "Your turn now," she whispered into Simone's mouth as she felt her wetness coat her thigh when Simone went to straddle her.

Annabelle was dozing lightly on the bed, one hand hidden beneath the pillow, sighing softly as she turned and snuggled deeper into the covers, totally oblivious that the early evening sun slowly lost its radiance as it migrated towards the horizon, leaving behind soft orange reflections on the rippling ocean and illuminating the small yacht sailing past in the distance. The scene so serene and breathtaking, Simone quickly snapped a few pictures before lowering her camera again, a contented smile on her face. The small boat disappearing out of sight, she sighed satisfactorily and set a window slightly ajar to allow a soft breeze in. As the wind toyed with the curtains, a ripple effect of light and shadow cascading through the room, she felt a sense of peace and calm invade her. Turning towards the bed, she couldn't help but smile as she gazed at Annabelle, the covers now resting at her lower back as she hugged Simone's pillow, muttering something incomprehensible before squeezing it even more tightly, her eyes never opening.

Simone felt her breath hitch as she stared at her; Annabelle was simply breathtaking, and she felt privileged, yes even humbled, to watch her. Annabelle's nakedness was so much more than plain nudity. She'd like to say that Annabelle was a priceless piece of art, but an artist would never be able to do her justice. A sculptor or a painter would never be able to capture the radiance that Annabelle had about her, a special glow that touched Simone deep within her heart and made her melt time and time again. She hadn't witnessed it in anyone else before, it was an aura that seemed uniquely Annabelle's and she briefly wondered if it was love making it visible to her? Was it an illicit reaction only they could produce in each other? Whatever the reason, Simone couldn't help but stare in total adoration, the magnificence of Annabelle's body leaving her in awe.

Taking a deep, shaky breath, she marvelled at Annabelle's back, glistening in the semi darkness as a layer of sweat covered her skin, a tiny bead rolling down her spine, making Simone want to crouch over her and lick it up. When Annabelle unconsciously licked her lips, her tongue peeking out for just a second, she felt something stir deep inside her and had to suppress a groan. She could feel Annabelle's lips on her own again, so soft and warm, their tongues slowly sliding over each other as Annabelle's hands wandered all over her body, seeking out all of Simone's secret places, reading her body with the lightest touch of her fingers, driving her into a blissful frenzy, leaving her a quivering puddle of want.

She remembered caressing Annabelle's legs, the feel of her warm, supple skin quivering slightly beneath her touch as she had kissed and licked her way up, Annabelle's thighs wrapped around her shoulders, squeezing her in a vice like grip as she fell over the edge into the abyss of intoxicating pleasure. The mere hint of a breast was enough to make her remember fondling and kissing them, trailing her tongue all over their soft fullness, sucking the dark pink nipples before scraping her teeth over them. Her breath coming in short gasps, completely mesmerised by Annabelle's beauty, Simone slowly raised her camera again and snapped a couple of pictures of the still slumbering Annabelle, against all odds hoping she'd capture Annabelle's breathtaking essence.

Putting her camera back on the night table, she walked around the bed and crawled in again, spooning Annabelle from behind. Leaning up on one arm, she let a finger trail along Annabelle's spine, delighting in the goose bumps that appeared in its wake before lightly caressing Annabelle's tattoo, her finger running reverently over the intricate design as she scooted even closer. When Annabelle stirred, sighing contentedly, she stopped for a moment, holding her breath in fear of waking Annabelle up, but she just turned around to face her, throwing an arm around her as she snuggled even closer, her eyes never even opening. Feeling Annabelle's warm, rhythmic breath on her, the siren's call too hard to ignore, she tentatively reached out her hand again, curling a lock of hair behind Annabelle's ear, smiling brightly as she watched Annabelle sigh. Letting her caresses linger, her smile became even brighter when Annabelle muttered her name and pulled her even closer, hardly an inch of space between them. As she caressed Annabelle's hair, her eyes fluttered open, blinking a couple of times in a sleepy haze before focusing on Simone. With a rather raspy voice, Simone whispered: "shhhh, it's alright, go back to sleep."

Annabelle would have none of it however. Yawning widely as she stretched out with feline grace, she pulled back from Simone and propped herself up on one elbow so that she was looking down on the still reclining blonde. She wasn't sure if it had been Simone's sensual tactile explorations of her body or her own sleepy movements, but the covers had fallen down again, revealing much of Simone's breasts and stomach. Annabelle realised that this probably meant that she was just as visible, but she was only interested in Simone. Reaching out with her free hand, cupping Simone's cheek before reverently running a finger over her lips, she said, rather huskily "I love you" before leaning over and kissing her. Simone's voice was surprisingly serious when she called out her name, so Annabelle pulled back, giving Simone her full attention. She knew they had to talk about what happened earlier that day, but she'd rather have Simone take the lead.

Deciding there was no use in beating around the bush, Simone asked: "what happened this morning? What did your mother say to you?"

Sighing deeply, Annabelle rolled back onto her back and stared at the ceiling for a while, trying to search for the right words. Simone knew how difficult this must be for Annabelle, so she just gave her the time, rubbing her hand. After a while, still staring at the ceiling, Annabelle said: "nothing out of the ordinary happened really… I mean, I should have known better…. First she asked why we weren't close, which kind of threw me for a loop, so I just replied that we don't know each other, which is true I suppose, I don't know my mother, not anymore. Then she did something strange though… she said she wanted to get to know me again, she wanted us to become close again.

I don't know…. I felt torn… On the one hand I thought it was too little too late, that it perhaps it was another scheme to keep me under the thumb until the elections were over, on the other… it's my mother we're talking about. Blood is thicker than water, I want us to be close again, like we used to be. She's the only one I have left. So I just told her, that given time, we could get close again, that she couldn't expect me to fall into her open arms straight away, that we have a lot of bridges to mend." Turning to face Simone, she then continued: "I felt really good… I mean, there was this chance I could get my mother back. Though it would never make up for my lonely childhood, I don't want to be completely alienated from my mother. After all said and done, she's still my mother and I love her."

Scrunching her eyebrows, not really understanding where Annabelle's anger was coming from if her mother wanted them to become closer again, Simone asked: "what happened then?"

Turning back to stare at the ceiling, she couldn't look Simone in the eye as she told her about her heartache or she'd start crying again, she said in a rather detached voice: "I walked her back to the front door. I didn't want her to get lost in the maze Saint Theresa forms. We talked about inconsequential things as I guided her back to her limo. Just before she closed the door, I could hear her talk to Harvey on her cell phone that 'it was in the bag, that they didn't have to worry anymore'…… I don't know, I guess a blind rage just filled me, she had deceived me once again. I mean…. After all this time, I still fell for it, hook, line and sinker. She said that she had always been proud of me, despite my defiance at times, that I was my father's daughter after all…. She knew just what to say to get to me and I hate her for it."

"You don't know for sure she was talking about you though," Simone said as she took Annabelle into her arms. "I mean, when I talked to her she had a rather heated conversation with her political adviser…. Harvey I think his name was…. About a little situation he had to handle, something to do with her adversary…. She could have been asking about that…. You don't know for sure she was referring to you. Don't immediately think the worst, give her the benefit of the doubt."

Snuggling even closer, putting her head on Simone's shoulder, Annabelle said: "I know, but …. I've given her the benefit of the doubt so many times before and time and time again, she just broke my heart. I guess I'm tired of it, I just can't do it anymore."

"I think she has come to a point where she realises that if she doesn't do something now, she'll lose you forever. You're an adult now, you'll be off to college soon, you'll start leading your own life, make your own decisions….She might be a hot shot senator, making waves and turning heads as she weaves her way through the political arena, but at the end of the day perhaps that political power isn't enough to make her happy anymore. I think she realises that something is missing. What I want to say is… not everything is black and white, she's reaching out to you, she has taken that difficult first step, don't dismiss it or you might regret it for the rest of your life," Simone said as she bent her head a bit to look Annabelle in the eye. "I'm not saying you have to rush back home and throw yourself into her arms, just give her the benefit of the doubt one final time and wait …. Wait to see what her next move is, she might surprise you."

"I suppose stranger things have happened," Annabelle muttered, still not entirely convinced, but more than willing to give her mother another chance if that was what Simone wanted. "I guess I could give it a shot."

Though she realised that Annabelle was probably trying to appease her, she decided to let it drop. There was no use in them getting into a fight over it, Annabelle's mother had already done enough to put a dampener on their little holiday. As her stomach grumbled lightly, she realised that they hadn't eaten since breakfast. Rolling them over so she could look Annabelle in the eye, she asked: "are you hungry?"

"I could eat," Annabelle purred, licking her lips and looking at Simone like she would ravish her on the spot.

Her cheeks flushing red, Simone swatted Annabelle's arm and said: "real food. I need to keep my strength up, you wore me out just now, you're insatiable." As she tied her bathrobe, she threw Annabelle her t-shirt.

"Who can blame me," Annabelle said with a lecherous smile on her face as she pulled her t-shirt over her head, but she followed Simone out anyway as she was feeling the pangs of hunger too.

As Annabelle had prepared most of their rather exquisite supper - she had wisely limited herself to making the salad, because frankly if she had attempted to do any more, it wouldn't have been edible anyway – Simone thought it only fair she did the washing up. Drying her hands on the dish cloth before hanging it up over the oven rail, she grabbed a can out of the fridge before pouring it into a glass. As she put the empty glass back on the counter, she looked at Annabelle with a tender smile on her face. It just felt so right having her there; for the very first time the beach house truly felt like a home. She couldn't really put her finger on it, but somehow it felt warmer, more cosy. For the very first time she could see her living there fulltime, something she had always dismissed because it was at least an hour commute to Saint Theresa's. The thought was probably academic anyway as she planned on moving to where Annabelle went to university.

Annabelle was sitting on the couch, totally engrossed in a book, blindly reaching for her glass of coke as she turned the page, enraptured by the story. She just looked so adorable, her hair all mussed up and still wet from her shower, scrunching her eyebrows at another plot turn before looking up, staring directly in Simone's eyes. As if in trance, Simone walked over to the couch, Annabelle's sparkling cerulean blue eyes beckoning her. Desperately trying to suppress a groan as her, rather libidinous, thoughts were running wild again; she went to sit next to Annabelle, needing to feel the closeness. As she neared, Annabelle put an X between the pages before putting her book down on the coffee table and looking up to her, an expectant expression on her face. Softly caressing the hair in Annabelle's neck, Simone asked: "so what do you want to do tomorrow?"

"I don't know," Annabelle replied with a smile, "when do we have to get back?"

"Well, the others come back in the late afternoon and we have to make sure we're back in school before them, so I suggest we leave here shortly after lunch," Simone said, her hand almost unconsciously running up and down Annabelle's thigh in a loving caress.

"Okay," came Annabelle's short reply as she thought about the options, Simone's wandering hand distracting her. "Why don't we just stay here? Go to the beach or something?"

"Don't you want to do something special?" Simone asked. "I mean…. With your exams coming up, it's the last time we'll have together for a while and I thought that perhaps you wanted to do something together. I don't know…. I don't think there's a lot you can do in town, but ….perhaps there's a movie you want to see or something?"

Shaking her head as she leaned back on the couch, moulding her body to Simone's, Annabelle replied: "nah, not really, being with you is enough. We don't need to do anything extravagant, special or expensive. The fact that we can be together here, no need for secrecy, no need to hide, it's a gift all on its own and that's enough for me, unless…. You want to do something?"

"No," Simone said, exhaling loudly before continuing "no, not really. I just thought….. well before you were sent to Saint Theresa's I know … erm well that you went out a lot and I thought perhaps you missed that, being cooped up in school 24/7. I guess I'm afraid you'd get bored."

Pushing them both down so Simone was on her back on the couch, their bodies touching, Annabelle said: "how can I be bored when I'm with you?" Opening Simone's bathrobe and slipping a hand inside, slowly teasing a nipple as her mouth hovered mere millimetres above Simone's, she continued: "I certainly wasn't bored this afternoon when we made love time and time again."

Her breath coming in short gasps, aching to kiss Annabelle, Simone licked her suddenly dry lips, groaning when her tongue touched Annabelle's upper lip. It took all her willpower not to give in to her desire and kiss Annabelle. Her voice very husky, barely a whisper, she said: "we can't make love all of the time."

"But we can certainly give it our best shot," Annabelle replied with a devilish grin before sobering up when she noticed Simone's guarded expression. Leaning up on one elbow, her other hand still absentmindedly toying with Simone's nipple, she said, rather nervously: "I love you, I want to be with you, but I don't want you to think that sex is all I want. Granted, it's important, but at the same time, it's only part of a relationship. It's you I want. I don't want to brag or anything but if I had wanted sex on a regular basis I could have given into Cat's advances. I can't really explain, it's just that every time I'm near you, I have this need to touch you, to be near you, to show you how much I love you and when we're at school, I have to contain this need, which is so frustrating. Here I can touch you freely, we can do whatever we want and I didn't mean to imply that I'd be bored if we didn't have sex, that's not what I meant to say at all. I just meant that we don't have to do anything special, just being together is enough, like last time we came here and just sat on the beach. I ….."

Putting a finger on Annabelle's lips to stop her rambling, Simone said "it's okay, I understand exactly what you mean and just for the record, I'm finding it very hard to keep my hands off you too, I can't get enough of you, I want you all of the time" before leaning up to give Annabelle a breathtaking kiss, her arms closing around Annabelle to pull her even closer. When they finally drew apart, they were both breathing hard. It was a kiss of reassurance, Annabelle wanted to show Simone their relationship wasn't purely sexual and Simone wanted to sooth the hurt she might have caused. As she leaned back from the kiss, Annabelle suddenly realised that perhaps a kiss wasn't enough to convince Simone. She was going too fast again, she hadn't kept her vow to court Simone, she hadn't kept up with her promise of romance.

Though grand gestures like little poems pinned to the pillow, candlelight dinners and bouquets of roses were a bit difficult to achieve when you were both imprisoned in boarding school, at least now she had the chance of doing something about it. With a very sudden movement, startling Simone, Annabelle jumped off the couch and headed over to the cupboard that hid the television and radio. Riffling through Simone's CD collection, sighing in desperation when she didn't immediately find what she was looking for, she mumbled to herself, never even noticing that Simone had gotten up too and now stood right behind her. Inserting a disc in the CD-player, she waited for the song to begin before turning around, letting out a high pitched shriek when she walked straight into Simone. Putting a hand over her rapidly beating heart, she held out her other to a pleasantly surprised Simone and asked: "may I have this dance?"

Every time our eyes meet
This feeling inside me
Is almost more than I can take
Baby when you touch me
I can feel how much you love me
And it just blows me away
I've never been this close to anyone or anything
I can hear your thoughts
I can see your dreams

I don't know how you do what you do
I'm so in love with you
It just keeps getting better
I want to spend the rest of my life
With you by my side
Forever and ever
Every little thing that you do
Baby, I'm amazed by you

The smell of your skin
The taste of your kiss
The way you whisper in the dark
Your hair all around me
Baby you surround me
You touch every place in my heart
Oh, it feels like the first time, every time
I want to spend the whole night in your eyes

Every little thing that you do
I'm so in love with you
It just keeps getting better
I want to spend the rest of my life
With you by my side
Forever and ever
Every little thing that you do
Baby, I'm amazed by you

As the request was immediately granted, Annabelle held Simone close as they softly swayed to the music. "I've wanted to do this ever since the dance a couple of weeks ago," she whispered into Simone's ear. "When I saw you dancing with him, it was more than I could take. I wanted to be the one to hold you in my arms, I wanted to be the one to kiss you goodnight, and now that I am, I want you to know how much that I love you. There are simply no words to describe how special you are to me. To define my love for you, to quantify it, would mean I'd limit it, our love would have a beginning and an end, something I simply can not accept." Leaning back a bit, she began to sing with the lyrics "The smell of your skin, the taste of your kiss, the way you whisper in the dark. Your hair all around me, baby you surround me, you touch every place in my heart. Oh, it feels like the first time, every time. I want to spend the whole night in your eyes. Every little thing that you do, I'm so in love with you. It just keeps getting better. I want to spend the rest of my life, with you by my side, forever and ever. Every little thing that you do, baby, I'm amazed by you."

As the music stopped, Annabelle took a step back and as she looked Simone straight in the eye, she took of the silver ring on her right hand and put it on Simone's left hand finger, nervously whispering: "I want to give you this as a token of my love. Like this ring, my love for you has no beginning and no end. I belong to you body, mind and soul. I love you, Simone, not just for who you are, but for who I am when I'm with you. I love you, not for what you've done with your life, but for what you're doing to mine. You make me happy, just by being yourself, such a simple thing, but only you can do it." When Simone didn't immediately reply, in all honesty she was a bit flabbergasted by the unexpected, sudden gesture, Annabelle bowed her head in defeat.

Lifting up Annabelle's chin, Simone took one final look at the silver ring now on her finger before she looked Annabelle straight in the eye and said: "I thought I knew everything about love, but you've proven me wrong. From the moment I met you, you totally blew me away. You took my hand and you taught me not to be afraid of my feelings. With one kiss you showed me what tenderness could be. One night in your arms and I knew what I had been missing for most of my life. I only have to look into your eyes to see what's in your heart. I love you too, so much." As she watched a smile appear on Annabelle's face, she gave her a kiss before grabbing her by the hand and leading her back to the bedroom as she added, with a decided smirk: "oh…. And you're so getting lucky again."

Checking the contents of the picnic basket, Annabelle quickly yanked open a kitchen drawer, almost pulling it out of its sockets; in her haste to get everything ready on time she had almost forgotten the cutlery. A pensive expression on her face as she went through her mental list once more (food, check –cutlery, check – plates and napkins, check – coffee and orange juice, check – mugs and glasses, check - Simone's camera, check - blankets, check), she realised that she finally had everything. All left to do now, was wake up Simone, but that would probably prove to be the most difficult task of all, as her lover hadn't stirred when she had left their bed almost an hour earlier. She hadn't even budged when she had walked through the room, rummaging in the oak dresser trying to find a couple of big blankets or when she had made a big racket in the kitchen, accidentally putting the radio on full blast. Knowing there was no time to lose, she walked to the bedroom.

Simone was in the middle of a very satisfying dream when she was rudely awoken by Annabelle putting the bedroom lights on and then shaking her arm, saying "come on Simone, you need to get up or we'll miss it. We don't have much time left." As she peered at her with half opened owlish eyes, her mind still so sleep fogged that she didn't notice it was still dark out, she saw Annabelle looming over her through blurry eyes, a huge smile plastered on her lover's face, her eyes sparkling brightly with enthusiasm. "Huh? What's the matter?" she muttered in a half yawn, still half asleep, her speech not too eloquent first thing in the morning, before squinting her eyes to look at the alarm clock on the bedside table. "Five thirty?" she grumbled aghast and grumpily before yawning widely and turning over to her other side, tossing the blankets over her head and grabbing a nearby pillow as she closed her eyes again, intent on sleeping at least a couple of hours more.

When shaking the big lump underneath the blankets didn't seem to help, Simone only mumbled a near incomprehensible 'go away' a few times, Annabelle just stood there for a couple of seconds, defeated as all her carefully laid out plans seemed to go up in smoke right before her very eyes. Simone being uncooperative was the one variable she hadn't thought of. Then she had another brainwave and though she knew Simone definitely wouldn't appreciate it, she knew it probably was one of the only ways to wake her up in mere seconds. Tiptoeing to the bathroom, she filled a glass to the rim with water and carefully made her way back to the bed. She politely asked Simone to wake up one final time, but when all she got was a grumbled groan, the big lump in the bed not even moving, she quickly pulled the blankets away and tossed the water in Simone's face.

Simone let out a loud shriek as she jumped up in bed, gasping for breath. The pyjama top she was wearing damp and clinging to her skin, tiny droplets of water slowly meandering their way down her face, she just stood there in the middle of the bed, trying to find her bearings, not knowing what the hell was going on. As she raked her fingers through her drenched hair, her breathing accelerated by having the living daylights scared out of her, she felt the anger swell inside her. She turned her head towards Annabelle agonisingly slow and narrowing her eyes, she threw her a lethal glare. Realising that if looks could kill, Simone would have wiped out the whole of California, Annabelle quickly back-pedalled a few steps until she was out of her immediate reach and said: "good, you're up. You have just about enough time for a quick shower." When Simone took a step in her direction, the menacing, homicidal look still present in her eyes, Annabelle gulped audibly and quickly piped up "I'll wait for you in the living room" before escaping the quickly enclosing confines of the bedroom.

The pyjama top sticking to her like second skin, Simone huffed in annoyance at Annabelle's apparent cowardice before sitting down on the side of the bed, her feet searching for her slippers. To say she was she was in rather a foul mood was like stating the pope was a catholic, utterly true but at the same time the understatement of the century. By now wide awake and shivering slightly in the early morning breeze, having ice cold water tossed in your face tends to do that to a person, she shuffled to the bathroom, grumbling and cursing under her breath, conjuring up a dozen ways of getting her own back. On autopilot, she tossed her wet pyjama top in the clothes hamper before stepping into the bathtub to have a shower. Ten short minutes later, she stepped back into the bedroom to shrug on a jeans and T-shirt, her foul mood having lifted a bit after her gloriously warm shower, her mood's temperature now only slightly below freezing point.

As she stumbled into the kitchen, her eyes immediately zooming in on the cup of coffee Annabelle was holding out for her as a peace offering, she took a quick sip, slightly burning her tongue as the coffee was still scorching hot though she had to admit that it tasted like divine nectar. The cup now empty, she looked up to Annabelle for the first time since entering the kitchen and had to smirk at Annabelle's rather agitated, nervous and even a bit scared behaviour. She was still rather miffed, having water thrown in her face wasn't the most pleasant way to wake up. At the back of her mind she realised that Annabelle had probably resorted to that method after everything else failed, but at the moment the little devil inside her was still having the upper hand on the little angel, so she chose to ignore that little titbit of information. Instead she folded her arms over her chest and tapping her foot on the ground, she raised an eyebrow, without words demanding an explanation.

Lowering her head in a combination of guilt, embarrassment and submission, she looked at Simone through her eyelashes, desperately hoping the cute puppy dog routine would get her out of trouble. When Simone's expression didn't soften, she still looked mightily pissed off; she hung her head even lower. She knew she had to do something fast to smooth the ruffled feathers and started to ramble nervously: "I'm sorry; I know it was a rather juvenile thing to do, but it was the only way I could think of to wake you up. I tried calling out your name and shaking you, but you just rolled over and tossed the blankets over your head and I was getting rather desperate. Then I remembered what Beatrice used to do when she had trouble waking me up for school. Granted, she only used to sprinkle a couple of droplets on my face, but I was kind of in a hurry…." Simone hadn't interrupted her rushed explanation she hadn't even made sound and wondering if that was a good sign, she looked up again. There wasn't a thunderous expression on her face, but as she still didn't look too happy, she added, in a rather pitiful voice: "please don't be too mad."

As she watched Annabelle stare at the ground once again, shuffling her feet like a scolded and remorseful child, peeking sneak looks at her through long lashes, Simone felt her icy mood thaw a bit and grumbled, still a bit sarcastically: "now that I'm up and about, would you mind enlightening me as to the reason for that rather barbaric and rude wake up call at the crack of dawn?"

"It's a surprise," Annabelle said in a tiny voice.

"It certainly was, a cold and unpleasant surprise," Simone sneered acerbically, but immediately regretted it when she saw Annabelle's shoulders slump in defeat. "I'm sorry," she said, the sincere tone of voice daring Annabelle to look up again, "okay… so I'm ready now to be surprised and dazzled."

A big grin spreading across her face again, Annabelle said "great, we don't have much time, we've got to go," before thrusting the blankets in Simone's hand before practically shoving her out the door.

Part 6

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