DISCLAIMER: All My Children and its characters are the property of ABC. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Susan P
She was sitting at a back table in SOS, the darkness of the corner they were in matching her mood perfectly. Maggie's company and support were welcome, of course, but it wasn't enough to stave off the feeling that she'd lost something precious, something necessary to her survival. Maybe it was her own fault; maybe she could have handled things differently, somehow, when she'd spoken with Lena. She wasn't any less sure about keeping the baby than she had been before their conversation, but maybe she should have just come right out and told Lena about her decision before trying to explain why she'd had to make it. If she could just make her understand why she'd made the choice she had, maybe it would influence Lena's feelings about the child. If Lena loved her as much as she said she did, maybe she would come around, eventually.
But, in order for that to happen, she would have to tell Lena the truth. Her earlier resolve to keep her pregnancy a secret from her had been weakening in the two days since they'd last spoken. The more she thought of going through this pregnancy with no one but Maggie by her side, the harder the prospect of doing it all alone seemed. Maggie was a good friend, but the more she thought about having this baby with only Maggie for support, the more alone and bereft she felt.
"Bianca, are you sure you wouldn't rather go home?" her friend's voice shook her out of her thoughts.
"I'm sorry, Maggie. I guess I'm not very good company right now, huh?"
"Well, not really, no. But that's okay. You don't have to try to be sociable for my sake, Bianca. If you'd rather just hang out someplace more private, or if you'd rather be alone for a while, that's fine. Whatever you want; just say the word."
"I don't know what I want, Maggie." She shook her head before propping an arm on the table and her chin in her hand. "I don't know."
"You're thinking about Lena, aren't you?"
"Yes. I am."
Almost as soon as she'd said it, the object of her thoughts stepped through the door. She was dressed casually, in black jeans, black, low-heeled boots, and a deep purple blouse unbuttoned to show a little cleavage. She scanned the room quickly, and Bianca ducked further into the shadows when Lena's eyes glanced her way.
"Bian--" Maggie started to ask, then turned to seek out the focus of Bianca's gaze. "Oh."
Lena hadn't seemed to notice them, or whoever it was she might have been looking for, either. She made her way to a table with a clear view of the door and sat facing it.
"Bianca, why don't you just go talk to her?"
"And say what, exactly?" She only took her eyes off Lena for a moment to glance at Maggie.
"Try telling her the truth. Give her all the facts and then let her decide whether she can deal with it. If she loves you as much as she says, she'll be there for you, no matter what."
She shook her head, hearing Lena's voice in her mind saying what a sick, twisted monster Michael was. "She looks like she may be meeting someone."
Maggie looked back toward Lena's table. "It looks like she's all alone right now. Look, you don't have to lay it all out for her tonight in a public place, but you could maybe go over there and invite her to dinner or something?"
"Why are you pushing for this, Maggie?" She ran a hand through her hair, trying to cover her nervousness.
"Because you've been pretty miserable since you talked to Lena the other day, and you can't keep your eyes off of her now."
"I-- Before things went wrong, it was so good just being with her. I mean, it was awkward, and she was trying too hard, and maybe I wasn't trying hard enough, but... She said she loved me, and I... I let myself hope, I guess."
"So, why not give her another chance. You said she was trying too hard. Maybe she was trying too hard to reassure you about the decision she thought you'd made."
"I..." It was possible, but it was almost too much to hope for. "But what if she meant every word?"
"Then you'll have to deal with that. But wouldn't it be better to know for sure, Bianca?"
She wasn't at all certain it would be better, but she took a deep breath, got up and headed toward Lena's table. Before she'd made it halfway there, however, Lena had risen from her seat and was moving toward a woman who'd just come in. She stopped in her tracks when she saw the two women embrace, each kissing the other first on one cheek, then the other. Bianca managed to compose herself enough to change direction and head over to the back side of the bar, trying to cover her original intent and yet still be able to observe the two women unseen. She ordered a couple of sodas for herself and Maggie to avoid looking suspicious.
Lena's companion was tall, just an inch or two shorter than Lena herself, and thin, with dark hair in a short, spiky cut. She wore dark slacks and an ivory colored blouse. Bianca watched as they sat down and started talking. The bartender brought her sodas then, so Bianca gave in and headed back to her table.
It was clear from Maggie's look that she'd seen the whole thing. The blonde nodded toward Lena's table. "So, do you know who that is?"
"No clue. They seem close, though. What if... Maggie, what if she's decided to move on?"
"Bianca, I doubt that. She's been so focused on wanting to see you, to help you, since she found out about the rape."
"Yes, and I've kept her at a distance. For weeks. Maybe she's finally decided to give up trying. I'm not sure I'd blame her, at this point."
"Bianca, don't you think you're jumping to conclusions, here?"
"Am I? Look at them." She'd barely taken her eyes off of the two women during her conversation with Maggie. They'd been leaning toward each other, smiling and laughing occasionally as they talked. Now, Lena's head was bowed, and her companion reached across the table to grasp her hand. Lena gripped it and looked up at her friend, grinning slightly.
"Oh, come on, there could be a dozen explanations for that."
"Or just the one."
"Okay, say you're right. Say it is a 'date.' So what? If you want to be with Lena, then fight for her."
Bianca just looked at Maggie, but didn't bother replying. Part of her--a very big part--did want to fight for Lena, but she was no longer sure she was the best thing for her. Maybe she should love Lena enough to let her go--give her the chance to find happiness with someone who wasn't dealing with all sorts of intimacy issues, someone who could be with her, without reservation, without limits.
When she looked back in Lena's direction, she saw her get up and head for the restrooms, which, thankfully, were on the other side of the club.
"Come on, Maggie. Let's get out of here, while we can."
Her friend's long-suffering sigh told her she didn't think running away was the best answer, but Maggie got up and followed her out without saying a word.
After having erased the evidence of her tears and composed herself as best she could, Lena returned to her table.
"I'm sorry, Aniela. I didn't mean for us to spend this time talking about my problems."
"That's quite all right. Tell me something, Lena. Your Bianca: what does she look like?"
Lena laughed bitterly. "Well, I hardly think she's 'my' Bianca any longer, but..." She fumbled around in her purse a moment before retrieving the strip of photo- booth photos and showing it to her companion, who nodded as she looked at it. "Why do you ask?"
"Because she was here." Aniela handed the photo- strip back to her.
"What?" Lena looked wildly around the club, trying to spot the young woman.
"Don't bother. She and her friend left after you went to the restroom."
"Her friend? A young blonde woman?" Lena put the photos back into her purse.
Lena sighed. "She was here the whole time?"
Aniela nodded. "They were sitting at a table in the back," she pointed in the general direction. "I didn't think anything of it at the time, but I think she might have been walking toward your table when I came in. When you greeted me, she kind of stopped a moment, then circled around toward the back of the bar. She was watching you--a lot--and then they left after you walked away." She noted the death-grip Lena had on the table--it looked like she was fighting the urge to bolt. "Do you want to go after her?"
Lena seemed to realize how she must look then and made a conscious effort to relax, releasing her grip on the table and laying her hand flat against its surface. "No." If she did, she would no doubt be accused of 'stalking' Bianca again. Besides, even if Bianca would speak to her, she wasn't sure she had the energy for another conversation with the young woman right now. Given how the last two had gone, she would no doubt be left feeling on the outside without a clue as to why--again--and she was getting more than a little tired of that feeling. "If she wanted to talk to me that badly, she would have come over here. Anyway, I always seem to wind up doing or saying the wrong thing around her. I say too much, or not enough, or I push too hard, I never quite know. Maybe I should just give up trying."
"Oh, I wouldn't give up, if I were you. She only had eyes for you, tonight. And when she looked at me... Well, just trust me. There's something there."
"You may be right. I just... I just wish I knew what to do, what to say..."
"Lena, I know it's easy for me to counsel patience, but it may be the best thing. From what you've told me, she's been through a lot. She may just need more time to figure things out."
"Maybe." Lena found it hard to be optimistic about the situation, but she was sick and tired of trying to analyze every interaction with Bianca to try and figure out how and where she'd gone wrong. She didn't want to think about it any more. She craved a distraction, and Aniela could provide just that. "In the meantime, however, there's no need to waste your visit talking about my problems. Tell me: how is Mama, and Aunt Jana?"
"Oh, they are doing quite well, actually. Mama helped Aunt Paulina get a part-time job in the office where she works. Nothing major--just answering the phones, and filing, and such. She seems to be settling in well."
Lena sighed. "She shouldn't have to work. Now that I've gotten a better job, I should be able to start sending more money to her soon."
"Oh, I think she enjoys the routine, actually. She's used to working, Lena. I think the inactivity was making her a little crazy. Now she's meeting new people, and getting out of the apartment a little more. Don't worry about her so much."
"She's my mother; I can't help it," Lena grinned.
"I know, but she's doing well. Really."
"Okay. So, tell me what you've been up to lately..."
The following night, despite her earlier resolve to stay away from all things Bianca--at least temporarily-- Lena found her footsteps leading her to the boathouse.
Once there, she paced the length of it twice, trying to work off some of her nervousness and unease. It didn't really work, but she didn't see much point in continuing the activity, so she stopped to look out over the water. Watching the ripples chase across its surface calmed her a little, and calmness was something she craved more and more these days. She kicked off her shoes, glad to be out of the heels after a long day at work. She sat down, leaning her back against one of the dock pilings and stretching her long legs out in front of her, wiggling her toes in the cool air. She'd been there several minutes when someone called her name.
She didn't bother turning. "Bianca." She found that she was almost...annoyed at Bianca for interrupting her moment of almost-solitude. She was tired. Tired of trying and failing and never quite knowing how or why. She doubted she would ever find any real peace without Bianca, but she was beginning to equally doubt whether she could ever find any kind of peace with her.
"Should I go?" she asked the young woman behind her, but she made no move to get up. She'd been there first, after all.
"No." Bianca stepped up next to her. "I was hoping I might find you here, actually."
"Hoping? Really?" Lena marveled at the disaffected tone in her voice.
"Yes. Can we talk? Or should I leave you alone?"
Lena stifled the urge to laugh at the bitter irony of that question. She was fairly certain Bianca wouldn't get the joke. "Sure. Stay. What's on your mind?"
Bianca sat on the dock, resting her back against another piling, facing her. But, instead of talking, she reached out to grasp one of Lena's feet, and, pulling it into her lap, began to gently massage it.
Lena closed her eyes as her body involuntarily responded to Bianca's touch. At first it was just comforting, but when the sensations slid into arousal, she pulled her foot back and looked at her companion. "What are you playing at, Bianca?"
"I--" Bianca looked startled and embarrassed, at the same time. Rather than answering the question that was asked, she merely said, "I saw you last night at SOS."
"The woman who was with you told you?"
Lena nodded. "She also said you looked as though you might have been walking over to my table when she came in. Were you?"
Bianca smiled self-consciously. "Yes. I was going to...see if we could get together again and talk. But when your friend came in, I wasn't sure I should interrupt."
"You could have. Aniela would not have minded, I'm sure."
Lena knew the question Bianca was asking without trying to, and she considered letting her sweat a little, but in the end she didn't have the heart or the energy to play such games. "My cousin, from Chicago. She had a conference in Pittsburgh, and she took a little extra time to stop by Pine Valley for a visit."
"Oh. Well, in that case, I'm sorry I chickened out. I would have liked to have met her. Did you two have a nice time?"
Lena smiled. "Yes, we did. We talked for hours, actually. It was good to catch up." She didn't add that it was good to spend time with someone with whom she didn't have to try so hard. Dropping Aniela off at her hotel the night before, Lena had felt more relaxed than she had in weeks.
"Are you two close?"
"Yes, and no. We hadn't seen each other in years before I went with my mother to Chicago to help her get settled. You could say we are...reconnecting."
They lapsed into an awkward silence. At first, they simply looked at one another but, as the situation become more uncomfortable, Bianca avoided her gaze.
"Bianca? Is this what you wanted to talk about?"
"No. Yes...sort of..." Bianca blew out a frustrated breath and ran a hand through her hair. "Lena... I've been thinking a lot about things the past few days...about us. And last night, seeing you with another woman, I felt..."
"A little jealous?" Lena couldn't feel much guilt for causing Bianca such discomfort. Partly because she remembered all too well how she'd felt when she'd seen Bianca in a similar situation, but also because it was good to know that Bianca cared enough to be jealous.
Bianca grinned. "Well, that too. But that really just helped to...bring some things into focus, I guess. Things I've been thinking about for a while now." Bianca sighed, then took a deep breath. "There are a lot of things I haven't told you, Lena." She leaned forward. "Starting with: I love you."
She'd waited months to hear Bianca finally say those words, and now it almost seemed as if they weren't enough, or that they'd come too late. Well, she hoped it wasn't too late, but she couldn't shake the feeling that she should feel...happier. She'd have been elated to hear the words three days ago, but now she was so weary it was hard to get too excited by them. She drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around them, waiting for Bianca to continue.
Bianca seemed surprised by her unusually subdued reaction, and hesitated a moment before continuing, "Lena, I want to be with you, but--"
Lena cut her off. "Do you really, Bianca? It's getting harder to tell." She was surprised by the bitterness in her voice, and she felt compelled to mitigate her words. She waved off any reply Bianca might have. "I know... I know you're going through something very difficult, and I know that it will take some time for you to heal. I guess I just need you to understand that I am not unaffected by what's happened to you. You've shut me out of your life, and that hurt. More than you know. I assume that wasn't your intention, but that doesn't change how I feel."
Bianca folded her legs into a semi-lotus position and rocked forward to rest her elbows on her knees. "You're right. You're right, and I'm sorry. I don't really have a good explanation for why I kept you at a distance, except that... At first, I was trying so hard to appear normal, when I felt anything but. It was hard to be around anyone I knew well, at first, because I was afraid they would see behind the facade I tried to maintain. With everyone else, I was afraid the mask would crack; with you, I was afraid it would implode, and me along with it.
"I didn't feel like myself for weeks and weeks, and I didn't feel like I had anything left to offer you--or anyone. Despite all that, I still wanted to be near you. I was just so afraid of...everything." Bianca scooted forward and reached out to grasp one of Lena's hands. "Lena, I do want to be with you. But...that scares me."
Lena could sense Bianca's apprehension from her voice. "The thought of being with anyone? Or of being with me, specifically?"
"Both. After the rape, I was so caught up in trying to hide it, to deny it--even to myself, that I had to push you away, Lena. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep you from finding out indefinitely, and I wasn't ready to talk about anything. And I certainly wasn't ready to be with you the way you wanted. Not then...and not now, either, really. I--I don't know when I'll be able to be what you want, to be with you the way that you want."
"And you think I would be that selfish? To push you to be something you're not? To do something you're not ready for?"
"I don't think that at all, Lena. I don't. What I do think is that you deserve someone who can be with you, in every way. Someone who isn't having such a hard time being in the world right now."
"Bianca, I love you. You are the only one I want, and I can wait...indefinitely, as long as I know you feel the same way about me."
"Well, that's good, because I love you, too, and I decided last night that I really, really don't want to see you with anyone else." Bianca's smile was brilliant, but it faded all too quickly. "But..."
Lena waited for Bianca to continue, but the young woman just sat there, looking doomed. "But what, Bianca?"
Bianca looked at her and took a deep breath. "But...there's something else you should know. Something that might change how you feel about wanting to be with me."
Lena doubted anything could change that, but the serious look on Bianca's face kept her from interrupting.
"Lena... I didn't have the abortion. I--I couldn't. I'm going to keep the baby."
Their earlier conversation in Maggie's room came back to her, and suddenly things were much clearer. She'd made a complete ass of herself because she hadn't let Bianca explain things fully. "And I said all the wrong things trying to reassure you about the abortion."
"Lena, if that's how you really feel, it wasn't wrong to say it."
"Bianca... I meant every word I said about Michael, but...I should not have implied that having the abortion was your only option. If you're sure that having the child is the right choice for you, then, of course, that's the choice you should have made."
"But, how do you...? Does that change how you feel about me, about the baby?"
"About you, absolutely not."
"What about the baby? Could you...could you love it, too?" Bianca seemed torn between hope and fear.
"Bianca, the child is a part of you. You have such goodness in you, I know you will be the perfect mother to it."
"That doesn't really answer the question."
Lena slid forward to be closer to Bianca. She squeezed Bianca's hand a little tighter. "Yes. It does. But, if you need me to say it: I love you, and I'm not going anywhere."
Bianca took a relieved breath and placed a light kiss on Lena's hand. "Good." She smiled shyly up at Lena. "So... What do we do now?"
"I don't know. What would you like to do now?"
"Could I just...sit with you, stay here for a while?"
"Of course." Lena scooted back to her original position against the piling, but spread her thighs to allow Bianca to settle herself between them. Bianca leaned back against her chest and she wrapped her arms loosely around Bianca's waist, laying one hand atop Bianca's where it rested against her belly. She tried to imagine a heavily pregnant Bianca, but the image wouldn't quite develop in her mind. She supposed she would have time to adjust to the idea.
"David and Maggie are the only other people who know about the baby. I'd like to keep it that way. For now."
There was something in Bianca's voice that made her think there was something she wasn't saying, but she decided not to press the issue. They'd made a lot of progress and she didn't want to risk another misunderstanding so soon. "Okay. But you'll let me know when you're ready to start telling people?"
Bianca said nothing, just nodded her head twice.
They sat like that about a half-hour before deciding to go somewhere for dinner. Bianca didn't seem inclined to discuss any serious issues during the evening and Lena respected that. It didn't stop the questions from forming in her mind, however, starting with why Bianca hadn't told anyone else of her decision.
Still, she was so glad to be with Bianca that she could be content with discussing trivial things and save the major discussions for later. When she dropped Bianca off at her car after dinner, Lena felt a real sense of hope for the first time in months.
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