DISCLAIMER: All My Children is the property of ABC. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Rudeboy


Chapter Five

February 28th – Morning & Afternoon

Bianca's eyes slowly fluttered open in that natural wake-up fashion. She could tell the sun was up, and a soreness that told her she hadn't moved a muscle during the night.

Her eyes slowly started to focus on the room, and specifically the dark form in front of her. It was a sleeping Maggie, curled up in a chair she had made into a make-shift bed. Bianca grinned, she could get used to that face being the first sight she saw each morning. With the current living arrangement though, that wasn't going to happen anytime soon.

She laid there and studied her friend. Her left cheek was pushed up hiding her eye due to the pillow she was laying on…her dyed, dark hair was pulled back in a pony tail, and she could make out that blonde roots were starting to show…her mouth was just slightly parted and her lips moved in and out with each breath she took.

Bianca could just lay there and stare at this all day, because in this slumbering state, alone in this room, she was "Bianca's Maggie". There was no one to get in their way, no outside forces pulling them apart. This was Bianca's time to bask in the glow of the woman she loved, and who obviously did care for her if she took up a post where she could watch over her during the night. No matter if it was still only one sided, Bianca was enjoying watching the woman she loves sleep.

As she allowed her eyes to trace up and down her friend, she noticed the clock sitting on the nightstand just behind her friend's head, it read 8:15. "Wow", she thought, "I've been out for quite awhile, but it felt really good and……..8:15?" She quickly sat upright in bed and looked at the clock again…Patrick would be there in 15 minutes to pick them up…she must not have set the alarm clock before getting into bed.

She swung her legs around so she was sitting upright in the bed and stood up to run and grab her suit for the day. As she got up she called out, "MAGGIE! Get up! We have to leave in 15 minutes!"

Maggie sat upright and muttered a half-dazed, "Wha….?" when she too noticed the clock. "Aw man! I figured you had set the alarm!" She threw the comforter off and ran for the clothes she had left sitting in the hall the night before. Scooping up the items, she dashed down the second floor walkway to the guest bedroom to change.

Bianca plucked up her black pinstriped pant suit, a black blouse and some black flats from her closet. It was one of her favorite outfits, and right now she was grateful, since it took little effort to get into.

She had slept in her clothes all night and so she quickly tugged off the shirt, scrubbed her face, changed her bra and pulled on the black blouse. She yanked her hair back, pulled it up over her ears, and fastened it into a high riding ponytail. Make-up she could do in the car since she didn't wear much.

She tossed off the jeans she had been wearing, changed her panties, slid on some hose and threw on the pants. She took a quick look in the mirror and judged it was passable. She slipped on her shoes and dashed into the nursery to get Miranda ready to go, slipping on her jacket as she went.

The baby was standing in her crib, holding on to the rail and made an enormous grin when she saw Bianca coming through the bathroom door.

"Well good morning Munchie!" Bianca beamed. "Are you all awake and ready for your first day of running a multi-national corporation?"

Miranda giggled and made little spit bubbles.

"That's how I feel about it too honey!" Bianca laughed as she picked up the little girl and carried her over to the changing table. She got Miranda out of her pajama's, cleaned and changed her and fit her into a little black and white dress with ruffles. For an extra giggle, she grabbed the gifts Opal had given them, a matching pair of black & white berets, though Bianca thought she would skip wearing hers. She placed Miranda's on her head, with just the slightest tilt, and exclaimed "Perfect!"

Bianca heard the door to the hallway open and it was followed by Maggie's voice. "Aw man…I guess I should have told you what I bought after all." She turned to find Maggie wearing what was essentially her own pant suit except with a knee length skirt, 1" heels instead of flats and her hair pulled back almost exactly the same.

Bianca couldn't help but chuckle. "So we'll look like twins…who cares!"

"Well, let's see; confused best friend, who also happens to be your daughter's temporary nanny, and wears a somewhat matching outfit…" Maggie eyed Bianca's hair, "and apparently also has a matching hairdo done in a rush…naw…no one will think we're odd." she said, with a dismissive hand gesture and a smile.

"Well, they can just suffer." Bianca laughed as she picked up Miranda. They heard the buzzer going off signaling that Patrick had arrived. "We almost made it! Can you run down and tell him we will just be a few minutes, and could you grab some bottles from the fridge for Miranda?"

"No problem on either account." Maggie said as she turned and headed for the door. She hurried down the stairs, went to the front door and buzzed Patrick back "We'll just be a few minutes Patrick."

"No problem Ma'am." was the reply.

"Uh uh uh! What did we go over last night?"

"No problem….Maggie." came Patrick's jovial voice in reply.

"That's better…see you in a few." Maggie retrieved the bottles from the fridge, and met Bianca back in the entry hall just as Bianca was putting Miranda in her stroller. She placed the bottles in the diaper bag and took up the position behind the stroller.

"What are you doing?" Bianca asked with a quizzical look.

"Well, unless 'nanny' means something I am unaware of, I would say I'm doing my job."

Bianca laughed. "Oh yeah, I guess you would be! Should I refer to you as 'Ms. Stone' when you are on duty?"

Maggie rolled her eyes. "I already broke Patrick of that, don't make me work on you also. Come on, get the door! Can't be late your first day."

All settled in the limo, Patrick started towards the Cambias Industries offices, the girls were in the back, hastily applying make-up as they drove along.

"So, I guess I should actually ask…who should I introduce you as?" Bianca asked as she studied herself in her compact's mirror. "Nanny? Best friend? What?"

"Let's just go with 'nanny' for now, that will probably cause less confusion." Maggie said as she opened her mouth wide to apply some lip gloss. Once done, she smacked her lips and looked at Bianca, "Yes? No?"

Bianca stared at Maggie's lips, and tried to compose herself as she thought of kissing them only a few days before on the plane. "Oh..um…they look fine." she said as she quickly looked away. "Patrick?"

"Yes Ms. Montgomery?"

"Can you run an errand for me today? I need another key made for the apartment so Maggie can let herself in, in the mornings."

"Certainly Ma'am."

Bianca fished her keychain out of her purse, paused for a moment to smile at the sight of Lily's life-jacket keychain, and removed the key to give to Patrick. She handed it to Maggie to pass up as she was sitting closer to the privacy window.

Maggie passed it through the hole. "Here you go Patrick."

"Thank you Ms. Stone." he said as he reached over with his hand to take it.

"HEY! I thought we settled that 'Ms. Stone' stuff last night AND this morning!"

Patrick chuckled. "I was off duty at that moment, on duty you will still be 'Ms. Stone'."

Maggie grunted. "We'll settle this later mister." She slid back to Bianca and whispered to her friend, "I had him calling me 'Maggie'…I swear I did!"

Bianca gave her a very sarcastic look of agreement, "Sure you did…I believe you."

Maggie rolled her eyes. "You're all impossible…I can't believe I came here by choice!"

The limo swung into the underground parking facility for Cambias Industries and pulled up to the elevator doors located along the back wall. There was a man in a suit waiting around this area, who came to attention as soon as the limo had gotten close.

Patrick got out to open the door for the ladies, but the man who had been waiting had beaten him to it. Patrick gave him a disgusted look for beating him to his job, but he accepted it and walked towards the elevator to summon it. Since he recognized who it was, he felt safe in doing so.

"Ms. Montgomery! It is such a pleasure to meet you! My name is Jean Dumas, and I will be your personal assistant." he said as he held out his hand to help Bianca to get out of the car.

Bianca eyed the hand with obvious surprise, but took it anyway as limos were not always the easiest thing to get out of. "I know who you are, I chose you from the assistant's pool."

"Of course you did ma'am. I apologize for my over eagerness, I am just very excited to be working for you."

"Don't worry. The shine will wear off once you catch her on a bad morning." Maggie said with a laugh as she retrieved Miranda from her car seat.

Jean shot Maggie a dirty look and gave a dismissive snort. He asked as coolly as possible, "And you're nanny's name is…?"

"She would be Maggie Stone, my best friend who is helping me out by being a temporary nanny." Bianca smirked and waited to see how long it would take all the words to register.

Two seconds later Jean was very apologetic. "Oh…I am sorry Ms. Stone. I had not been made aware of your accompanying Ms. Montgomery to France." He tried to change subjects as quickly as possible. "I've had some of the companies Wonkey Wiblets furniture sent up and put in Ms. Montgomery's office for the little one."

Bianca eyed Jean up and down, she looked over at Maggie who had moved herself and the stroller to the elevator, and asked her silently with the look in her eyes for her friends' opinion. Maggie responded with an indifferent shrug. Bianca turned her attention back to Jean. "You know what Jean, I think I have your first assignment for you."

"Oh? Of course ma'am whatever it is, I am very eager to get started!"

"Good. Have candidates for the position of my personal assistant in my office at 9:30 tomorrow morning." Bianca said as she walked towards the open elevator Patrick had called for, while all this was going on. She waited for Maggie to get the stroller inside, joined her, turned to face the doors and to see a stunned Jean standing there with his jaw open. "Patrick, after you get the key made, just expect some time this afternoon to drive at least one of us back to the penthouse please."

Patrick nodded and stepped away from the elevator to allow the doors to close. Once they had, he turned and walked past Jean who still stood motionless. "I think I would take the service elevator and get to work on my assignment as soon as possible if I were you."

He slid into the driver's seat of the limo and chided to himself, "I think I am going to take a real liking to those three ladies." He started the limo and pulled away just to see Jean pushing the button on the service elevator to go up.

Maggie was first to break the silence in the elevator. "Ok…what in the world was that?"

"A quick lesson that the only snobs allowed in my presence are my own family." Bianca said with a smile. She turned her head to look at Maggie and stared into her eyes for the briefest of moments and added, "And no one dismisses you within my earshot."

Maggie blushed and looked down, staring at the top of the stroller. "Well….thank you, but you didn't have to essentially fire him you know."

"He made my skin crawl. Just something about him didn't sit right with me. He looked great on paper, but he certainly lacked the personality I hoped for. Also, a good PA would have known you were with me and assumed that was who you were. So, if he learns to watch what he says, and to whom from this, than all the better."

Maggie thought to herself, "Wow…when the Kane in her comes out, it comes out guns-a-blazin…I think I finally understand that mysterious 'Kane Appeal'" she acted as if she was scratching her face to hide her smirk, "and I also might understand what all those boyfriends saw in Erica."

The elevator dinged, signaling that they had arrived at their destination. "Ready?" Bianca inquired.

Maggie took a breath and as the elevator doors opened. "Like I have a choice at this point."

Maggie had been in Bianca's office for 3 hours now as Bianca made the rounds of the building being introduced to everyone. She had walked around the private office and explored it twice already. The walls were lined with dark brown book shelves filled with three ring binders with exciting labels such as "European Div. 3rd Quarter Breakdown", she thought she would wait for the movie version of that one. Bianca's desk was a huge dark oak affair that looked like it was built to sustain hurricane force winds. It appeared at least two cows had given their lives for the high backed chair that sat behind it.

It was very evident that this had been a very manly-man's office before now. Bianca had told Maggie that the same decorators who had done the penthouse, were also going to be doing the office, but due to the short notice, they hadn't been able to do both projects in time.

The only saving grace were the two walls dominated by huge windows that faced in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, which was a good distance away. "At least that's a landmark I can always go by." she thought.

Maggie sat on the brown leather couch that faced the two large windows, flipping through a French edition of "Vogue", the only thing to indicate this was a woman's office now, while Miranda napped in the crib. She had taken off her jacket and it rested over the far arm of the couch. She had already had her fill of business attire.

The lone visitor in those three hours had been the now ex-personal assistant Jean, dropping off resumes from the assistant's pool on Bianca's desk. He had shot Maggie a dirty look as he passed her, she returned it with the biggest smile she could muster and a perky, "Hi there!" He simply grunted and made a hasty retreat.

Finally the door opened with Bianca walking in followed by four very serious looking men. Maggie set down her magazine, stood and hastily threw her coat back on and buttoned it. Bianca gave her an apologetic smile. She began talking to the four men in French and the only thing that Maggie picked out of it was "Mademoiselle Maggie Stone" when Bianca had pointed towards her, so she had guessed she was being introduced. She smiled at all four men and gave just the slightest bow of acknowledgement to each.

Bianca turned and looked at her. "How long as she been asleep?"

"About an hour, so we probably shouldn't wake her."

Bianca smiled a thin, self-satisfied grin, she liked hearing Maggie say that. It made her feel warm and very safe for some reason. She turned to the board members and explained that Miranda was down for a nap and they would have to meet her later. The gentleman looked crestfallen, but understood. They said their good-byes and filed out of the room.

Bianca closed the door behind them, turned around and leaned her back against the door. "My brain hurts."

Maggie laughed. "Alrighty then…and why would that be?"

Bianca walked over and fell into the couch, putting her hand to her forehead and resting it there. "Sure, I can speak French, but I have never had to speak it this much, for this long…and the other board members are due to arrive in just a little bit."

Maggie sat down next to Bianca and pulled her friends head forwards to rest it on her shoulder. She reached up and rubbed the exposed side of the head. "Your doing fine, and the more French you speak, the easier it will get."

"I know, but man, I think some of those board members who were in here do speak English, but are trying to test how far I can go in French. They seemed to know what I was saying the few times I did speak in English."

"Well I am sure they are wondering who you are to be so young and in charge. Not to mention gorgeous…."

The word just hung there for a moment, like the proverbial pink elephant in the room everyone was to polite to comment on. Bianca finally lifted her head from Maggie's shoulder. "Thanks..for the compliment and the head rub, I feel much better."

Maggie grinned and said, "You're welcome for both." While in her head she was thinking, "Smooth Stone..real smooth."

"So, I was thinking of ordering some lunch in…care to join me Nanny Stone?"

"Sure…on one condition, and somehow I think you can guess what that condition is!"

Both girls laughed in that oh-so-comfortable way.

The girls had found some menus out in the now vacant personal assistant's desk, and ordered some salads from a local deli. While waiting for them, Bianca had woken Miranda and given her a bottle and played with her. Once the food was delivered, the girls dug into their own lunches while sitting around Bianca's huge desk.

"So, besides your brain hurting from all the French, how painful has today been?" Maggie asked before taking in a forkful of lettuce.

"Not horrible, but not great either. To be quite honest Maggie….I'm not even sure what I am supposed to be doing! The board of directors wanted either Ethan or I here, but beyond that, I have no clue what exactly I'm supposed to be doing."

"You know, this sounds like a certain scared girl I had to drag out to Willow Lake for a swim one night several years ago." Maggie said with a mischievous twinkle.

Bianca laughed "Well, Willow Lake is a little far away to go for a swim, but this is different. I had been around my mother for awhile, I had an idea what she did, but Cambias is completely different. It's an umbrella company, we acquire other companies and bring them in, so what exactly is my job? Do I find companies for us to buy? Do I run the companies we have? I have no clue!"

"Well, call me crazy, but, did you think about asking someone?"

Bianca sat up very straight "Oh yes, I am sure that conversation would go well 'Hi, I'm your new boss, would you mind telling me what exactly it is I do?' Somehow I don't see that going over well."

Maggie stood from her chair and walked over to where she could be next to Bianca. She pulled up the hem of her skirt some to allow her legs more freedom and hopped up on the desk to sit. She took Bianca's hands into her own and said, "Listen to me, if you were anyone, and I do mean anyone, other than Bianca Christine Montgomery, then I would be joining you in your chorus of doubts. However, I know that you are the strongest, bravest woman I have ever met. If anyone can do this, it's you." Maggie smiled and leaned forward to look her friend straight in the eyes. "And do you know what other trump card you have?"

"I have no clue, but I have a feeling you are about to tell me." Bianca said with a laugh.

"Well, as long as you have a certain little Munchkin, they can't exactly fire you."

Both women turned their heads to look at Miranda who was sitting in a high chair that had also been sent up by Jean. She saw both women looking at her, which made her smile and smack her hands against the table top while giggling.

"I prefer 'daughter' to 'trump card', but you do have a point." Bianca sighed and sat back in her chair and went into a slouching position, which caused her to break her hand contact with Maggie. "I would rather make it on my own merits though."

Maggie crossed her legs at the knees, putting her hands down to either side of her and gripped the desk. "You will Bianca, you just have to give it time. No one expects you to nail this down in just one day you know."

"I do." was Bianca's sheepish reply.

"Well, I wouldn't expect any less from you, but you will get this, I have faith in you."

Bianca smiled. Maggie believing in her was a bigger morale boost than the shorter girl could know. She looked up at her friend and said, "Thanks…that does help you know."

Maggie smiled back and hopped off the desk. "Good!" She leaned forward and placed her hands on the arm rests of the chair, "Now, rest your brain, don't think about any of this, and finish your lunch! You need the energy." She leaned even further forward and placed the lightest of kisses on Bianca's forehead, she then turned and returned to her chair to finish her salad.

Bianca, sat frozen in the chair, relishing the lingering feeling of her friends lips against her skin. After only a few seconds she sat back up and dug back into her lunch, but the smile didn't leave her face for the rest of the meal. She just hoped that none of her stolen glances at Maggie lingered so long as to be too obvious.

With lunch over with, Bianca returned to the world outside her office door to face another round of greeting board members. Maggie had asked if she could use the phone to call Reggie for an update on Lily and to see how packing her apartment had gone.

When 2 PM rolled around, that made it 8 AM in Pine Valley, she figured it was safe to assume Reggie was up. Maggie picked up the phone and gave the number to the Cambias operator to call Reggie's cell phone. He picked up on the second ring.


"Hey Reggie, its Maggie."

"Maggie who? Last Maggie I knew cut town without saying good-bye, so I don't know who you could be."

"Ha ha funny man….sorry about that. It was kind of a very, very last minute decision."

"If it means you are with Bianca, and I get the happy ending I always wanted to see, then it's all good with me."

"Don't go jumping to any conclusions yet Reggie. Just because I am in Paris doesn't mean Bianca and I are a couple." Maggie wanted to change subjects as quickly possible, and being delicate wasn't going to allow that. "How's Lily doing?"

Reggie paused, "Not good…we can't even get her to count backwards. She's counting things, but randomly. Aidan finally figured out she was counting the ceiling tiles, and the checks on Jack's shirt, but other than that….she just stares Maggie."

Maggie could hear Reggie's voice cracking. "She's gonna be fine Reggie, she is so strong, and so brave, you just watch, she'll be back to solving mysteries and embarrassing all of us with her math skills in no time."

"I know, but it doesn't make it any easier to watch her go through this. And when you add in Edmund dying…things aren't good here right now….oh, and speaking of not good, I had a run in with Jonathon at your place while Dani and I were packing it up."

Maggie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Are you both ok?"

"Yeah. He was acting all tough and threatening, but we finally got him out when Dani threatened to call her dad down at the police station…..he knows where you are now, and who you are with."

"That's his problem to deal with, I did this for me."

"Well, he just said something about Paris being for lovers and kind of dropped it."

Maggie gritted her teeth and tried to hold back her anger. "As long as you both are ok, that's all that matters."

"We're fine…your apartment is packed up. Dani already expressed your clothes to you and they should be there by the weekend. Your other stuff, we just had to guess what you wanted and we got that stuff down to the shippers to go with B's stuff."

"Thank you so much Reggie, and please thank Dani for me too. When things are settled with Lily, do you think you could have Jackson get a hold of me? I am going to need someone's help getting all my utilities shut off and bills paid. Leaving like I did, nothing got done and….oh no…" a thought hit Maggie like a lightning bolt. "Reggie…what did you guys do with Nemo and the crew?"

Reggie paused, scrunched up his face and replied, "Who?"

"My fish…the aquarium in the hallway?"

"Oh…your fish are fine. We knew we couldn't send them over, so Dani took them. She says she's just watching them for you, in case you come back, but she seemed to like them a lot."

"Well they are hers for as long as I'm gone. I'll give her a call sometime soon and tell her what all she needs to do."

"So…you said for as long you're gone…how long is that going to be exactly?"

"Nice try Reggie, but no one knows that answer yet…not even me." She paused for a moment, building up her courage. "Reggie, could you…..could you tell me, with as much detail as possible, what Jonathon said while he was there?"

"Are you sure you really need to know that? You're gone, you're done with him, why even think about him?"

"Please Reggie? I just need to know."

Reggie sighed, and reluctantly told Maggie all the details of the brief, yet adversarial, conversation.

Chapter Six

February 28th – Late Afternoon & Evening

Maggie sat on the sink counter in the private washroom of Bianca's office, quietly wiping away her tears. While Reggie and Dani's encounter with Jonathon had been brief, it had still been menacing.

That seemed to be the only way Jonathon knew how to approach anyone, once they knew what a creep he was. Until then it was all puppy dogs and roses, but once you knew the real Jonathon, there was no going back.

"Because Paris is for lovers, right?" was what Reggie had reported Jonathon saying. It made her think back to her own words from when she thought Bianca was going to run off while pregnant, "Paris is for lovers…not really great friends.". Similar words coming from Jonathon though, cut deeper knowing they came from a place of hatred, not from feelings of confusion and loss.

Maggie leaned back on the counter, her head resting against the coolness of the mirror. The tears refused to stop flowing as she thought about this….man, she had brought into the lives of her friends. How he had threatened the majority of them with violence, but most disgusting of all was implying he would do harm to Miranda. "How could I have been so stupid." she thought. "What in the world was it that possessed me to bring him into my life, and the lives of those I love? Was it that Bianca hadn't jumped at the chance to be with me when I told her I loved her? No….that may have been it originally, but I can't use that excuse for the entire time I was with him."

She could still feel the tears slowly rolling down her cheeks when she heard the office door open, and Bianca's voice chattering away in French. Several men's voices joined in every so often, which meant Bianca had returned with the board members to see Miranda.

Maggie hopped off of the counter, looked in the mirror and quickly tried to clear her face of any tears so she could join them. Her eyes were red and puffy, but there was nothing she could do about that now. Luckily she had put her suit jacket back on when she had gotten a little chilled earlier.

She opened the door to the rest room and everyone's eyes immediately turned to look at her. She smiled and nodded, but tried to keep her head down so no one could see her eyes, which would betray that she had been crying. She walked over to the crib, and picked up Miranda in hopes that everyone would be so distracted by the little girl, that they wouldn't notice the state she was in. This of course was a useless maneuver with Bianca.

As Bianca took Miranda from Maggie, she caught a glimpse of her eyes, and knew that look all to well. Maggie had been crying about something. She wanted very badly to send the board members away as quickly as possible so she could find out what was wrong, but Maggie gave her a soft smile that conveyed things were ok. Bianca didn't like it, but she knew she had to take care of this little get-together first.

Bianca walked around to each board member and presented Miranda to them. The little girl laughed and clapped her hands, enjoying the attention of so many people. While all this was going on, she constantly stole looks at Maggie who had turned her back and was dabbing her eyes with a tissue. She finally turned around and looked at Bianca and silently mouthed the words, "I'm fine", to her friend. Though she was still inclined to think Maggie was fibbing, she finished the dog-and-pony show of everyone meeting her daughter.

After the last person had made their greeting, Maggie walked over and took Miranda from Bianca so that she could do her bossly duty and escort everyone out of the office. As she closed the door after the last of them had departed, she spun around with surprising speed. "Spill your guts Stone…what upset you?"

Maggie stood there with Miranda in her arms, cradling the little girls' head to her own, and twisting back and forth. "Just memories and regrets. Nothing new and devastating."

"I don't believe you." Bianca said as she walked towards her friend and daughter.

"Well, believe what you want."

"You know I'll just call Reggie and ask him to repeat whatever it is he told you that upset you."

Maggie sighed and set Miranda down in the crib before walking over to the couch to sit down. "Jonathon….he….he showed up at my apartment while Reggie and Dani were there, and he pulled his usual act on them. He tried intimidating them and it took Dani threatening to call the cops to get him to leave."

Bianca was silent for several seconds as she thought of her own confrontation with the Lavery brother, in the small room at the Miranda Center, on that night not so long ago. She knew how threatening he could be without ever laying a hand on you. "Are they ok?" she finally inquired.

"Yeah, they're fine. He…..he knows where I am now…and he knows I'm here with you." Maggie said, her voice trailing off and her head tilting to stare at the floor.

"So? Let him know. Nothing is going on here, and even if it were, what business would it be of his?"

"It's not any of his business, but…who knows what he will do Bianca…" the tears started again, and she began to sniffle. "If he was ever to come here and hurt either of you…"

"Stop that! Just stop that right now, do you hear me?" Bianca stormed over to where Maggie sat crying. She squatted down and grabbed her friend by the shoulders and looked her directly in the eyes. "He will not come here, trust me. He's a cowardly little boy, and coming here would take courage. And if he would ever come here….well, personally, I don't think we even have to ponder that, because he won't."

Bianca moved to sit next to Maggie on the couch and pulled her closer and hugged her. As she stroked Maggie's hair, she could feel her own tears beginning to well up in her eyes, "Damn you Jonathon Lavery…damn you." she thought, as she held her friend tightly.

After several minutes had passed, Maggie excused herself from the hug and went to the bathroom to freshen up. Bianca looked at her watch and saw that they day had flown by and it was already 5:30. She decided that was a decent first day and that the trio of women could head home. Bianca sighed at the thought of that, "If only it really was a 'home', with all three of us living in the same place."

She walked over to her desk and called down to the motor pool.

Patrick answered the phone in French, "Cambias motor pool. Patrick speaking."

Bianca was quite tired of speaking French, and chose to reply in English. "Hello Patrick, it's Bianca. We will all be leaving in a few minutes, could you please have the car ready?"

"Yes Miss Montgomery." he replied in English. "I will pull the limo around to the elevator doors. I also have the spare key you requested."

"Thank you so much Patrick. That was a huge help. We'll see you in a few minutes."

Bianca hung up the phone and surveyed her desk. She saw the pile of resumes that Jean had brought earlier in the day. She felt a little guilty about how she had handled the situation that morning, but she also was not going to allow anyone to treat Maggie like some form of lower being just because she was her acting nanny. She picked up the pile of paperwork, walked over and placed them in a back pocket of Miranda's stroller, since she hadn't bothered to get a briefcase yet.

Just then she heard the click of the bathroom door opening. Maggie walked out, her eyes an even brighter red than earlier, and the sockets were swollen.

Bianca could feel her heart breaking for her friend. "Are you ok?" she inquired softly.

"For now…I'm sure there's a few more tears yet to come." she said, with the faintest of smiles.

Bianca stared at her for a moment, deciding it was best if nothing more was said. She walked over and picked Miranda up out of her crib. "Are you ready to go home Munckin?"

The little girl giggled and smacked her tiny right hand against her mother's left cheek.

"Looks like it!"

Even Maggie snorted out a little laugh at that scene.

Bianca walked over and strapped Miranda into her stroller. Maggie joined her, picked up the diaper bag and took the handles of the stroller.

"Are you sure you feel up that?" Bianca asked her.

"Yeah….I'm sure some people will want to say goodbye to you as we walk out, so this will be easier. Plus, crying or not, I do have a job to do."

Bianca flashed a soft, warm smile at her friend and said, "Ok." She had decided that Maggie knew best what she could and couldn't handle, and if she felt she should do this, then she wasn't going to argue with her.

They both looked around to make sure they hadn't forgotten anything. Once they were both satisfied, they headed for the door, and the elevators beyond.

Everyone was settled in their usual spots in the limo, but this ride was the quietest thus far. Bianca sat sideways, but tried to make it not so obvious she was watching Maggie. Maggie sat quietly staring at the tissue she was playing with in her hand, and Patrick would occasionally glance up in the rear view mirror to observe all of this.

"Miss Stone?" Patrick asked softly.

"Yes?" she mumbled back.

"I have that key Miss Montgomery wanted you to have." he said as he passed both the original and duplicate through the privacy window slot.

Maggie took them both, mumbled a, "Thank you." and handed the original to Bianca. She slipped the duplicate into her suit coat pocket.

The rest of the, thankfully short, car ride was spent in silence until they pulled up in front of Bianca's apartment building.

"What are your plans?" Bianca asked Maggie.

"I hadn't really thought about it…..I think I'll just run up and get the stuff I left this morning and then head to the suite. I'm pretty worn out."

Bianca tried to hide her disappointment. "Oh….ok then.."

Maggie retrieved Miranda from her car seat and transferred her to the stroller while Bianca discussed waiting for Maggie to come back down and the plans for the next morning with Patrick.

Maggie walked over and joined them. "If you two don't mind, I think after tonight I will just start taking cabs back and forth. I don't think Patrick should be driving out of his way all the time just for me."

"It isn't a problem Miss Stone." Patrick said.

"Patrick, really, it's not fair. Starting tomorrow I will just be taking cabs."

"Whatever you wish Miss Stone. I will be waiting down her for your return." He walked back to the drivers side door, and stood by it to wait.

Up in Bianca's apartment, Maggie had retrieved her items from the guest bedroom and was waiting in the living room for Bianca to come down from changing hers and Miranda's clothes.

She finally heard Bianca coming down the stairs and saw she was in grey sweats and shirt and Miranda was in a one piece pink jumper. They walked over to where Maggie sat on the arm of the couch. She thrust a wad of Euros at Maggie and said, "Here, you're going to need these."

Maggie looked down at the money, but didn't take it. "We already discussed this Bianca. I'm not comfortable with taking money from you."

"You're not 'taking' money from me. A nanny should have her expenses covered. This is for your cabs and some petty cash for whatever else you need to do."

Maggie stared at the money for another moment and then reluctantly took it, shoving it into her pocket where she had already put the key. She stood up and grabbed her clothes and started towards the door.

Bianca called after her, "Maggie! You're welcome to stay for dinner…..or to talk."

Maggie paused and only turned sideways to look back at her friend. "Thanks Bianca I…..I just need to shower and go to bed ok? I'll…I'll be fine in the morning. By the way, what time do you want me here?"

"8:30 at the latest. That's what time I have to leave."

"Ok…I'll see you then." She turned and walked towards the door, opened it, and walked out.

As the door began to close, Bianca yelled out after her, "If you need anything…." the door clicked shut. "…call me."

The two Montgomery women stood in the center of the spacious, and suddenly very quiet, living room. "I guess it's just you and I now kiddo." Bianca said to her daughter.

Maggie walked out the door of Bianca's apartment building, and Patrick immediately rushed over to take her bag. She wasn't in the mood to argue with him, so she let him.

Patrick walked to the trunk and put away the clothes when he heard a door close on the limo. He was displeased that Maggie would let herself in, but he could tell she was upset about something, so he did not plan to say anything.

He walked back to the front of the car, and just as he placed his hand on the door handle he noticed his cap sitting on the dashboard. "That's odd", he thought. "I know that was sitting in the passenger seat." He opened the door and got in to find the front passenger seat was occupied by Maggie.

Normally this would have sent him into a convulsion. No one had ever sat up there before. NEVER! A limo was for being driven around with the passenger in the back. She sat in the seat, her elbow resting against the window, and her left cheek against her fist. Her eyes had that glazed look of being somewhere else.

Again, Patrick opted not to make a point of it. He got in and closed his door, and pulled the limo into traffic. This time of night, getting back to the suite would take a little while as the day workers were headed home, the tourists were out for dinner and in general, the streets were crowded.

It started to rain just the lightest bit, and Patrick knew that would just depress the mood of his passenger worse. He felt he had to say something, anything to break this silence.

"So Miss Stone…" he paused, waiting for a correction to the name usage that never came, "are you just going to stay in this evening?"

"Huh?" came Maggie's reply. Catching on to what he had said "Oh..uh…yeah, I'm just going to take a shower and go to bed. I'm beat."

"No dinner?"

"No…I'm not that hungry and…actually, I just thought of this…I don't speak French…how would I order? Bianca has been with me every time I have gone to eat since I got here, and she always translates for me."

"Well, the hotel has English speaking staff, you could order some room service."

"Have you seen those prices? I don't think so."

Patrick paused for a moment as he formulated an idea. "Well…my wife is working late at the hospital tonight, would you care to join me for dinner? I have to fend for myself tonight, and that always runs a risk of food poisoning."

Maggie chuckled. "Ah, I had seen the ring on your finger, but hadn't thought to ask. What does your wife do?"

"She is a trauma nurse."

"That's good. I'm hoping to become a doctor one day, but at the rate I'm going, that will take forever."

"I am sure you will do fine!" Patrick said in a supportive manner. "Now, how about my dinner invitation? I know a very affordable café just down the street from your hotel, and I will handle all the ordering." There was no response. "Please? I really would prefer not to be one of my wife's patients tonight, a victim of my own cooking!"

Maggie chuckled. "Fine, since you put it that way, I guess I have to go just to keep you safe."

Bianca had set a baby tub inside her own sunken tub in the master bathroom, and was giving her daughter a thorough bath after her first day at work. Bianca very gently massaged the shampoo in to Miranda's hair, as the little girl splashed her hands up and down repeatedly in the water.

She picked up a glass of water, and shielding Miranda's eyes, she poured the contents of the glass slowly and carefully over the little girl's head to wash away the shampoo. None of this distracted Miranda from her chosen task of splashing water everywhere she could.

"I'm not sure I'm going to need a bath after you are done with all this splashing Munchie!" Bianca said as she turned her head to the side to avoid the latest torrent of water coming out of the tub. After the sound of skin slapping against water had stopped, and only the giggles of a happy little girl could be heard, Bianca wearily turned her head back to face her daughter. "Are you quite done?"

As if on cue, Miranda slapped the water again, hitting Bianca full in the face. She had closed her eyes just in time. "Thanks…thank you very much…mommy needed that." She reached over for a towel, grabbed it, and toweled off her face while she talked. "Now, you do that to Auntie Maggie for me sometime real soon, ok? It might make her come to her senses that she should be living with us instead of over in that hotel."

Miranda continued to laugh and splash in the water, oblivious to everything her mother was saying. Bianca leaned forward and stroked her daughter's hair back, smiling at her. "Well, at least I have one of the women I want in my life right here with me." She leaned down and placed a kiss in the center of Miranda's head, causing the little girl to lift her arms to push away whatever was touching her, while laughing the whole time.

Bianca laughed. "Ok ok, mommy gets the point, no kissing while you are working on moving all the water out of your tub. I know it's hard work doing it one splash at a time."

Just then Bianca could her cell phone ringing in her bedroom. "Uh oh…wonder who that could be…let's go find out!" She quickly scooped Miranda up in a towel and headed for her bedroom. Balancing Miranda in her left arm, she picked up the phone with her right hand and answered it. "Hello?"

"Oh darlin', I'm so glad I got a hold of you!"

Bianca grinned from ear to ear and sat down on the edge of her bed. "Myrtle! How are you?"

"I've been better darlin'…I've been better. I needed some cheering up, so I thought 'I need to know how my favorite girls are doin'!"

Bianca took in a deep sigh. "Well, we were doing fine until we heard about what happened at the Wildwind stables, but other than that, the first day of work was good, and we all seem to be settling in ok."

"Good darlin', good. And Miranda? How is she?"

Bianca was towel drying her daughter as she was talking, the phone pinched to her ear by her shoulder. "Right now, trying to squirm out of being dried off from a bath, but otherwise doing very well."

"Good! And your unexpected guest who joined you at the last minute?"

"How did you know about that?" Bianca laughed at herself, as Myrtle did the same. "Oops…forgot who I was talking to! She's….she'll be fine. She had a bit of a rough day today, but it is to be expected with everything that's gone on lately."

"Well I'm sure living with you will be a huge help to her. You have a way of lifting anyone's spirits."

Bianca paused for a moment, "Well…um…she's not living with me actually. She's staying over at the Cambias suite at the hotel."

Myrtle was silent for a few seconds before finally speaking, "What on Earth for?"

"Well, she knew she could live either place, and I got it ready for her and she just kind of went. I'm sure she'll tell me if she doesn't want to be living there."

"Did you ever think to ask her?"

"Well I don't want to put any pressure on her Myrtle. She doesn't know what she wants between us yet, if anything, so living somewhere other than with me is probably what's best for her."

Myrtle sighed, "Darlin'….you are one of the brightest girls I have ever known, but some day's you are also one of the densest when it comes to people. Ask her what she wants, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the answer."

"You really think so? You really think I should ask her after being here such a short time?"

"Yes darlin' I do, and if you listened to your gut like I told you to a little while back, you would know it also."

"Thank you Myrtle….somehow you always seem to know just what a person needs to hear."

"Now tell me, what is it like running the great Cambias empire?"

Bianca and Myrtle talked for well over an hour, and while Bianca was able to answer all of Myrtle's questions, her mind never left the thought that maybe she should just very well ask Maggie what it was she wanted.

Chapter Seven

February 28th - Night

"Your definition of 'down the street' from the hotel, is a bit different than mine." Maggie said as she and Patrick sat down at a table in the quiet little restaurant.

"Well, it is on the same street."

"True, but what…2 miles past my hotel?"

"A mere technicality!"

"Sure Patrick…sure." Maggie excused herself to go wash up. She washed her hands and gave herself a quick look in the mirror, to see how the days crying had affected her. "Hey", she thought, "my eyes only look a little puffy now…yay me."

When she returned to the table, she found an open bottle of wine and 2 filled glasses waiting. "What all this about?" she asked, gesturing to the glasses and taking her seat at the same time.

"Well, we are having dinner, and we are in Paris, so of course there must be wine." Patrick picked up his glass and gestured towards Maggie in salute. She mimicked the motion before sipping at the red wine. "I hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty of ordering for you."

"That's just fine. I wouldn't have made any sense of the menu or have been able to order from it. That was the kind of the point of this." she said with a chuckle.

"So, if I may be so bold as to ask, what has you upset Miss Stone?"

"Don't waste anytime do you?"

"Life is too short to do so. When you seek an answer, it is best just to ask."

Maggie sighed. "Sad, but true. I don't want to bore you with my life history, but I just had a lot of memories dredged up today as to why I left Pine Valley." She picked up her wine glass and prepared to take another drink.

"Really, and here I thought you had come for love and romance with Miss Montgomery." Patrick said very matter-of-factly.

Maggie choked on what little wine had made it into her mouth, and a portion of it flew across the table, smattering Patrick's shirt. "What is it with people constantly dropping that bombshell on me when I am eating or drinking?"

Patrick looked down at his shirt, now stained with red wine. "It would appear I hit a nerve."

Maggie timidly passed him a napkin so he could dab at the stains with it. "Sorry about that, it's just…I…well I get that a lot, but usually from someone who has known me, oh, more than three days."

Patrick was working on the stains, and looking down at his shirt. "So, you think it took me the whole three days to figure it out?"

Maggie leaned forward, resting her forehead on her hands, with her elbows leaning on the table. "I swear there has to be some sort of invisible ink on my forehead that tells everyone about us." She rested her head for a moment in silence, while Patrick worked on his shirt. "Patrick….how…how much do you know about Bianca and I?"

"Bianca Christine Montgomery, daughter of Erica Kane and Travis Montgomery. Lived in Pine Valley….." he continued to rattle off all sorts of details about Bianca as he worked on his shirt. He sounded like he knew just about everything there was to know on her. The story got up to the return of Miranda to Bianca just as their food arrived.

Maggie had noticed a pause in his voice when he had gotten to the subject of the rape by Michael Cambias. After the waiter had walked away, she decided to ask him about it. "When you mentioned Michael…..are you ok?"

"Yes….I…I just knew Michael when he was younger. I was his father's driver for many years before his death. I was of course disturbed when I first heard of what he had done, but now….now that I have met Miss Montgomery….it makes it worse."

Maggie sat in silence for a moment. "Yeah it was rough on all of us." Maggie picked up her sandwich to take a bite and attempted to change subjects, in hopes of not depressing herself even worse. "So how did you learn all of that information about Bianca?"

"When I was told she had picked me as her driver, I requested the company file on her. It had been assembled as soon as it was known she would be giving birth to a Cambias. It was updated when it was discovered Miranda was alive."

"Well, whoever researched it did their homework."

"Now, the mystery to me is you, Miss Stone."

"Me? There's nothing mysterious about me."

"Well, we don't have a file on you so I don't know that much about you except from what I could catch in Miss Montgomery's file. I know about your sister's murder and Jonathon Lavery from that."

"Wow….really hits the high points of my life I see."

"And of course, what I have witnessed in the past few days."

"Oh, and what is it you have 'witnessed'?" she inquired, taking another bite of her sandwich.

"That you both are very happy around each other, until it comes time for you two go your separate ways in the evening. You are both most alive when you are near each other."

Maggie paused, the sandwich near her mouth still. "You…um…see a lot through that little privacy window don't you?"

"Well, yes, but I have also been young and in love myself."

Maggie had sadly just taken a bite of her meal, and this comment caused her to cough on the piece of sandwich in her mouth. She set down her food and took a sip of water to clear her throat. "Ok…yes, I admit there is….something…between Bianca and I, but even she and I don't fully understand it. Yet everyone around us seems to think they do."

Patrick leaned forward. "Miss Stone…" Maggie shot him a look, he smiled. He had been intentionally calling her that all night to gauge her mood. "Maggie, it is as obvious as the stars in the sky that you two feel something for each other. And it is also obvious when you two go your separate ways for the evening, that you both become miserable. That is what puzzles me, why do you live apart?"

Maggie sat back in her chair and sighed while laying her arms on the arm rests. "That, Patrick my friend, is the million dollar question. If I was to guess….it would be because of the things I said and did to her while I was with Jonathon."

"They couldn't have been that bad if she asked you to come with her to Paris." Patrick said, finally taking a bite of his own meal.

"You have no clue how horrible they were. The things I said ….they were vile…and venomous." Her eyes went distant remembering some of those very phrases.

"Did you apologize after everything was over?"

"Yes, but……"

"But what? That was obviously enough if she asked you to come along."

Maggie leaned forward again, and folded her arms to lean against them on the table. "So old and wise one, how do you explain my exile to the suite if she's so ok with everything?"

Patrick raised his sandwich to take another bite, and looked more at it, than at Maggie "Did you think to ask her why you are there and not in the penthouse?"

Maggie studied him for a moment, and then lowered her eyes to the table top. "Well…no, but who really wants to hear how they hurt someone…." Her voice trailed off as she contemplated some of the things Bianca would probably say to her if that subject was to come up.

"As the old saying goes 'nothing ventured, nothing gained'."

"Yeah yeah, and 'You gotta be in it, to win it', save me the fortune cookie wisdom." She sat upright again and picked up her sandwich to take another bite

"Maggie, all I am trying to do is show you that there can't be that much harm from just asking her what is happening. As I said, the obvious remorse at you two parting ways each night is mutual. So to these eyes, you have nothing to lose, but everything to gain from asking her."

"Thanks Patrick…I guess I needed to talk about this more than I thought, and you have given me a lot to think about."

"Well, sitting around all day, waiting for a phone call to drive someone gives a person a lot of time to think." he said with a smile. "So, now what about this, 'be in it, to win it'?"

Maggie smiled, and lifted her wine glass for another sip.

Bianca said her good-bye's with Myrtle and hung up. While talking to her friend, Bianca had gone about finishing drying off Miranda and putting her in pajamas for the night. As the conversation had worn on for well over an hour, she was now dealing with a very tired little girl.

She placed Miranda in her crib, and saw by the heavy eyelids that no singing was going to be required tonight to get the little one to sleep. She turned on the baby monitor, grabbed the twin end of it, and quietly exited the baby's room.

Once in the master bathroom, she removed her sweats and t-shirt and stepped into the shower. As she started letting the water run over her hair, her mind drifted back to everything Myrtle had said about the situation between Maggie and herself. "Maybe I should just ask her what it is she wants. Would that be pressuring her though?"

Bianca always enjoyed washing her hair, but with as long as it was getting, she also realized what a hassle it was becoming. She worked the shampoo in and let it rest for a few moments before rinsing it out. "Just getting her to come with us was hard enough, I would hate to scare her away only a few days into this. This living apart is enough to drive me insane though."

After rinsing her hair, she set about washing the rest of her body, but they were all very automatic movements as her mind kept fighting with itself over the best action to take. "Part of me wants to ask her first thing in the morning, but part of me also knows I should wait for a 'better' moment. How do you find one of those with someone who is so confused, without running the risk that you scare them away?"

Her shower over, she reached out and grabbed a towel to dry herself off. "I'm not going to ask her to 'move in with me', I'm only asking if she wants to be roommates again. We've done it before, we can do it again….I hope."

She wrapped the towel around herself, and grabbed a second towel to dry her hair with. "Of course, those two times we lived together both started before her confession of love, and the second one ended before my confession….so we would be living together as roommates, but now knowing we have both said 'I love you' and meant it? No, that wouldn't be awkward at all." she mused, while making a sarcastically, dismissive face.

Finished with towel drying her hair, she picked up the blow dryer and started running it lightly over her hair while brushing it. "Myrtle has been right about so many things over the years though. She has never had anything but my best interest at heart, so why shouldn't I follow her advice now?"

She leaned her head to the left and continued to dry her hair. "Because I'm a chicken, that's why. There are so many more factors now…the 'I love you''s…the kiss back in January…the kiss and conversations on the plane…but I just miss her so much. She is so close, but yet it doesn't seem like it."

Done with the left side, she tilted to her head to the other side and continued the task of drying her dark hair. "With my work schedule, we aren't going to see that much of each other probably. My days will lighten up once I am settled in, but for now, I will be lucky if I see her an hour or two a day, especially if she takes off each day when I get home."

Now all that was left was to hit the still dampish spots and she would be done. "I'm sorry Myrtle, I appreciate your advice, but I just can't risk scaring her away. Even if it is only for an hour at a time, I need her here. I can't stand the thought of her going back to America…I just can't. So if it means living this way, then it has to be. I will just have to make do with just a little dose of Maggie Stone each day."

All done with her hair, she set the dryer down and walked into her bedroom. She put on a floor length, silky, blue nightgown, and over that a matching robe that she tied at her waist. She walked back into the bathroom, picked up the baby monitor, and peeked into Miranda's room one more time to make sure she was asleep.

Satisfied that her daughter was out for the night, Bianca walked out and headed downstairs by the main staircase to start going through the resumes she had brought home. She walked over to the window wall for a moment and stared at the Eiffel Tower, and though she couldn't see it, the George V hotel beyond. She pondered what Maggie must be doing, and how she wished she knew for a fact what she was doing. "I would always know what she's doing if I would just take Myrtle's advice and ask her to live here."

She sighed yet again, and turned to walk to the stroller in the front hall to retrieve the resumes. "Not yet….not quite yet."

The rest of Maggie and Patrick's meal had been spent in pleasant idle chatter. They had finished their dinners and gone back out to the limo so Patrick could drop Maggie off at the suite. She again insisted on sitting in the front seat, but Patrick didn't bother to argue, as he knew it would be pointless.

After the two mile drive back to the hotel, both people hopped out of the car, and walked to the trunk so Patrick could give her clothes from Bianca's, back to her. "Are you sure this is where you want to be?" he asked her.

She smiled up at the tall Frenchman. "Thanks Patrick, but yeah, I think I need some time to think before I do anything."

"If that is the case, are you sure I am not picking you up in the morning?" he inquired as he closed the trunk lid.

"I'm positive, now quit stalling and head home!" She reached up with her free arm, hooked Patrick's neck and hugged him.

He was a bit shocked, but returned the hug. "What is this for?" he asked.

"For trying to knock some sense into my thick skull." she said as she let go. "Not saying it worked, but at least you tried." She started to walk towards the doors of the hotel, but stopped and turned around. "Good night Patrick…and thanks."

He smiled at her and reciprocated the salutation, "Good night Miss Stone." as he got back into the driver's seat, and closed the door.

Maggie rolled her eyes, and headed on into the hotel.

Maggie stood in the shower, her head leaning forward, allowing the spray to hit her hair full force. Her palms rested flat against the wall in front of her, supporting her leaning weight. She stared down at the drain, watching the water that dribbled off her chin, fall the approximately 4 & ½ feet to the tub floor below, circle the drain for a few seconds, and then get whisked away into the Paris sewer system.

Patrick's words from dinner had caused a swirl of questions inside her own head that mirrored this, and now she stood here, contemplating each of them. "Why haven't I just asked her? Am I that afraid of her being angry with me? I know the truth already, so why do I not want to hear it? Will that make it more real…to hear her say how horrible I was…and that is the reason I am living here instead of with her and Miranda?"

She lifted her head, closed her eyes, and let the water hit her full on in the face. "Maybe it is time….the longer I put it off, the worse it could get. Maybe if she got everything out in the open now, and told me what it is I can do to fix this….."

Turning around, she tilted her head backwards and let the water again run over her hair. She arched her back, and used her hands to get the long, brown-dyed strands away from her body so it could hang free. "And the sooner I can do this….who am I kidding? Maybe this can't be fixed! Maybe she invited me along out of pity! 'Oh look at poor Maggie, I think I'll take her along to Paris for the heck of it.'"

She pulled her arms inwards, hugging them to her chest, and leaned forward so the water could hit the full expanse of her back. "Ok, I have to admit that one is over the top…she would never say that…I hope."

Grabbing the loufa sponge and soap, she lathered it up and began to scrub her face and neck. "So….what is the solution here…do I just go on being a coward, living in fear of what she might say …."

She turned face forward again to wash the soap off her face "….or do I work up my courage and get this bad energy out from between us….and when should I do it?"

She turned the faucets off, opened the shower door and grabbed a towel to dry herself with. "Ok, lets see, she'll be busy in the morning getting ready to go to work…."

Wrapping the first towel around herself, she grabbed a second towel to use on her hair. "After work she is going to be tired and will be wanting to spend time with Miranda, and it will look awkward if I just hang around waiting for a good moment…."

Using the second towel, she wiped off some of the steam on the mirror and looked at herself. "What about right now? It's not that late…Miranda's probably asleep…I doubt I am going to get much sleep tonight with this on my mind…."

She gazed at herself in the mirror…and gazed…and gazed….and then burst into a flurry of activity with the towel, drying her hair. "Hurry…hurry…before you lose your courage…no time to blow dry…no time for make up…grab clothes…naked asking forgiveness not good…grab clothes."

Throwing the hair towel on the counter, she ran out of the bathroom to the clothes she had still in the bags from her shopping trip. She threw on a pair of jeans, tore off her towel and put on a long sleeved, plain red button up shirt. She slipped on the sneakers that were on the floor of her closet, got the key and money out of her suit jacket, and threw on her gold over coat that she had worn to Bianca's farewell party and dashed out the door.

Maggie walked determinedly out the front door of the hotel, the cold February air hitting her still damp hair sent a shiver down her spine, but she had no time to worry about that for fear of her courage disappearing.

"Excuse me." she said to one of the bellman. "Could you hail me a cab please?"

The bellman looked at her with a confused expression on his face.

"I'm sorry, do you speak English?"

"Yes Ma'am." he spoke in a haltering English. "I am just not sure why you need a cab."

"Because I need to go somewhere." Maggie replied, now just as confused as the bellman appeared to be.

"Oh certainly Ma'am, but shouldn't you just take your limo?" he said gesturing in the direction over Maggie's shoulder.

She turned around and saw the Cambias limo sitting there, and Patrick in the front seat smiling at her. She started towards the limo and thanked the bellman for his help over her shoulder as she walked. She got in the front passenger door and closed it. Both she and Patrick sat there, staring out the front window, not looking at each other.

"How much longer did I have before you gave up and went home?" Maggie asked.

Patrick looked at his watch. "I had given you an hour, so, you still had eighteen minutes."

"Good to know…would you mind driving now, or did you park here so we could just stare out the window."

"Whatever you wish Miss Stone."

Patrick laughed at the pain in his left bicep that radiated out from where Maggie had just playfully punched him.

Bianca sat at the dining room table reading through the resumes for personal assistants. She had made three piles in front of her for "Yes", "Maybe" and "No". As Jean had seen fit to slip in his own resume again, he was the lone occupant of the "Not going to happen" pile that was on the floor to the right of her chair.

After finishing the piles for the first time, she lifted her arms above her and leaned back to stretch. She stood up, picked up the baby monitor and slipped it into the pocket of her robe. She shuffled towards the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea to get through the second culling of candidates.

Finally the water hit its maximum temperature, and she filled the pot from the tap. She walked over to the range top, turned it on, and set the kettle down. She retrieved a mug, placed in a tea bag, and leaned back on the counter to wait for the shrieking sound that would let her know her water was ready.

As she stood there, thinking over some of the resumes she had read, she heard the rumbling of the elevator. Nothing that odd since the pulley system was on her floor, but she noticed it was rumbling long enough to perhaps be coming to her floor. Sure enough, she shortly heard the ding out in the hallway. "Who in the world could that be?" she thought.

The next thing she heard was someone at her door, and what sounded like someone trying to enter her apartment. She sucked in a deep, sharp breath. Panic stricken she looked around the kitchen and spotted the knife holder on the counter. She grabbed a knife out of it and laid it on the counter, her hand resting on top of the handle.

She heard the click of the lock…the door swinging open….the sound of the door closing…and the sound of very soft footsteps. She tightened her hand around the handle of the knife, having no clue who had entered the apartment.

From her vantage point she could see out the kitchen, through the dining room and all the way to the den if the lights were on. For now though, she only needed to see to the entry hall. She saw a small framed woman walk into the view.

She stood there, framed by the door way, looking into the kitchen. "Hi." came the very soft, timid voice of Maggie Stone.

Bianca sighed in relief and lifted her hand from the knife and placed her palm flat against her chest. "Maggie! You are welcome here any time, but could you give me some warning next time? I think you just took ten years off my life!"

"Sorry." was the mumbled reply. She spotted all the folders on the dining room table "Oh…you're working…maybe I should just…yeah, I should just go…" she said as she turned towards the door to leave.

"Maggie!" Bianca called after her. "Don't be silly! I just put water on for tea, would you like some?"

"O…only if you're sure I'm not bothering you."

Bianca grabbed another mug out of the cabinet, and another bag of tea. "Trust me, not reading those resumes again is a blessing, not a bother." Both mugs ready, Bianca walked to the door from the kitchen to the dining room. "Come on, take your coat off and sit down, the tea will be ready in a minute."

Maggie hung her coat on the rack in the hallway and walked back into the dining room, taking the seat across from where Bianca had been when sorting through the files.

The kettle in the kitchen was whistling, and the taller girl had walked back to fix the cups. Once filled, she grabbed some cream and sugar, placed the items on a tray, and took them to the dining room. "So….to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" she inquired as she set a mug in front of Maggie. "And why is your hair all wet? Do you need a towel?"

"Um…yeah, I guess I do." Maggie said while laughing. She had totally forgotten about her damp hair at this point.

Bianca ran to the half-bath that was neatly hidden under the main stair case in the living room, and retrieved a towel. Once back in the dining room she handed it off to her friend who covered her head with it. "So, what is going on? It must be important if you came over with your hair still wet. And…how did you get here too?"

"Patrick brought me. He and I had dinner, and a bottle of wine, since his wife was working, and he doesn't trust his own cooking. And then…um…I went back to the suite and showered and thought about coming over here and…um…well….he was still around, so he brought me over."

Bianca could feel her eyebrows rising, and the questions in her head swirling. "Why was he still hanging around for so long if you were upstairs at the hotel showering."

"You know, I'm not totally sure actually. He was just sitting outside the hotel in the limo still when I came out to hail a cab."

Bianca felt some relief as for half a second she wondered if something was going on between Maggie and Patrick. Though she knew the mere idea was somewhat silly, Maggie did have a history of running to men in her times of confusion, so it wasn't that outlandish of a notion. "Is he still downstairs?"

Maggie smiled "No….he finally went home…I'll take a cab back to the suite later."

"So what prompted you to come over? Not that you really have to have a reason."

"I…um…just wanted to see what you were doing….which is work…so maybe I should go…" Maggie started to rise from her chair to yet again make for the door.

Bianca rose from her own chair, leaned on the table with her left and shot her right hand across to grab Maggie's wrist. "Maggie…what's going on here? You are holding something back from me….just tell me what it is? Whatever it is, will be fine, but it's obvious you aren't going to settle down until you say it."

Maggie sat back down, and Bianca released her grip just due to distance. "I….came to ask you….something." Maggie said, now staring at the table top.

"Which is…?" Bianca asked, lowering her own head to try to see Maggie's eyes under the towel.

Maggie swallowed hard, she knew it was now or never. "Is there…..is there some reason you don't want me living here…in the apartment I mean?"

Bianca just stared for a moment, not saying a word.

"Damn it…I knew I shouldn't have asked…I knew it was stupid…I knew it had to do with all the things I did to you while I was with Jonathon…"


"This was too soon….I should have kept my mouth shut…" she continued as she rose from the chair and started pacing back and forth.


"I shouldn't have listened to Patrick, but noooooooo, he had to convince me I should just ask you and…." She threw her arms up over her head in frustration as she continued to pace.


Maggie stopped and turned to look at her friend. She pulled the towel off her head so it hung around her neck. Seeing the serious look in Bianca's eye, the tightness of her jaw, she took this as a sign she should just sit back down and hear what she obviously had to say.

"Are you quite done? Good, because I do have a question for you. Why in the world did you ever think I didn't want you living here?"

"Be…because you set up the suite for me…and you never said anything else….and…it just kind of felt that way."

"Well, I thought YOU didn't want to live here actually."

Maggie's jaw dropped slightly. "How did you get that idea?"

"Well, I told you when I invited you here that you had the option, but you never spoke up, so I…um…just kind of assumed…and I figured it had something to do with my telling you I loved you." she said, her voice slowly getting weaker with each word.

The two friends sat there for a moment, staring at each other, until finally, Maggie broke the silence. "Let me see if I have this right….you thought I didn't want to live with you because of my confusion?"

"Right….and you thought I didn't want you living here due to all the Jonathon stuff?"


The two girls sat there, absorbing what both had just said. So many thoughts swirling in each of their heads as they contemplated all the ramifications. As what had happened dawned on both of them, the corners of their mouths turned up in sly, little smiles. These slowly grew into broader smiles. Those were followed by snickers….then chuckles….then full on laughter…and finally in hysterics that caused both to realize they would be safer laying on the floor as they began to laugh so hard they were in danger of falling out of their chairs.

After several moments, their sides hurting, their cheeks stained with the trail of tears of laughter, the occasional chuckle still escaping them, they both were laying on the floor of the dining room, on opposite sides of the table, staring at the ceiling. Maggie finally spoke. "Um…Bianca?"


"So can I live here?"

"Gee….I don't know….Yes!"

"I think when I go back to school I may want to look into taking a communications class, because we SERIOUSLLY need work in that department!"

After they finally had pulled themselves off the floor, and chatted about how stupid their fear of talking had been, both girls stood in the servants quarters that were just off of the kitchen.

"Are you sure this is where you want to live?" Bianca inquired.

"It seems perfect to me! You get to keep your spare bedroom for the inevitable family visits…we both get the benefits of living together, but yet we still both get privacy…we can get another crib to set up in here, so I can come in here and study when I go back to school and watch Miranda at the same time…what is not to love about this idea?"

"I know, but still…do you really want to live in a place known as the 'servant's quarters'?" she asked, her face expressing concern.

"Well, we could do something wild, like rename it."

"'Maggie's room'….I like that."

"Really? I was sort of leaning towards 'Maggie's Pleasure Hut'." throwing her arms out

wide like she could see the title on a sign.

Bianca walked over to where Maggie stood and smiled at her. "What am I ever going to do with you?"

Maggie tilted her head to the left and squinted her left eye "Um…give your new roomie a hug?" She opened her arms in a show of welcome to the taller girl.

Bianca accepted, and stepped closer, wrapped her arms around Maggie embraced her friend. "Maggie's room."

"Pleasure Hut."

Bianca closed her eyes and shook her head as they continued to hug.

March 1st – Morning

Patrick pulled up in front of Bianca's apartment building at 8:15 AM, his standard 15 minutes early, but today he was more anxious than usual. He had no clue how he was going to find it since he felt it impolite to just ask, but he was dying to know the results of Maggie's visit the previous night.

At precisely 8:30, he rang the buzzer for Bianca's apartment. She replied that she would be down momentarily. A few moments later, the front door opened and out she came. Patrick opened the car door for her, she got in, and he went to his own seat to begin the drive to the office.

Along the way he constantly glanced up the rear view mirror to try to see what he could gauge from Bianca's face, but she was all the way in the back most seat, reading what appeared to be personal folders from Cambias.

About half way along the trip, she put the folders down and moved to the long side bench of the limo, taking Maggie's usual spot near the privacy window.

"Patrick…what do you have scheduled for today?"

"Well, nothing Miss Montgomery, I am at your beck and call as always. Do you have another errand for me to run?"

"Actually there is a huge mess you created, and I need you to clean it up."

Patrick gulped. "A mess I created Ma'am?"

"Yes. It seems you thought it a good idea to intervene in my personal affairs and bring Maggie to my apartment last night for an unscheduled visit."

"Well, yes Ma'am, I did bring her over, but I…"

"But nothing, you created this situation, and now you are responsible for fixing it."

"Y..yes Ma'am. What is it I need to do?"

"As soon as you drop me off you are to head back to my apartment and get Maggie and Miranda. Drive them over to the suite and help Maggie collect her items. Inform the hotel the room will not be needed for the foreseeable future and then bring them, and all of her items, back to the suite and help her unpack properly."

Patrick was totally confused. "Um…Miss…excuse my asking, but how exactly is this a 'mess'?"

"She's moving for the second time in four days, and that is very traumatic on anyone. I mean really….you couldn't have spoken to her BEFORE the first move? Come on Patrick…be a bit more perceptive next time!"

Patrick finally saw the smile Bianca could no longer hold in check. "Yes Ma'am, I'm sorry Ma'am. I will try to act faster next time."

"You'd better!" Bianca reached through the privacy window and squeezed Patrick's right shoulder. "Thank you Patrick….I don't know what you said to her, but whatever it was, it got us to talk, and get this silly living situation worked out. You've been a true friend to the both of us, and I will not forget that."

"Miss Montgomery, it was my pleasure. You are both very special women, that is plain to see, and I was delighted to help in anyway I could. Whatever you may ever need, just let me know."

Bianca pulled her hand back, folded her arms onto the privacy window and leaned forward, her chin resting on them "Well…there's this little matter of what she wants to name her room….."

Chapter Eight

March 12th – Evening

Bianca was just getting the makings for a salad out of the refrigerator, when she heard Maggie using the outer hall door to get into her room. She had called when she knew she would be home so that Bianca could get dinner ready.

As was now their tradition, Bianca walked over to the kitchen wall that separated off Maggie's room and knocked the beginning of "shave-and-a-haircut" on the wall. It was quickly followed by Maggie knocking back "2-bits". She then heard the shower in Maggie's bathroom turn on.

The knocking ritual made Bianca smile, for it was their private little way of saying "hello" when each of them got back to the apartment. Not only were they living together again, they were joking together….laughing together…and just in general, being together. Though it had only been eleven days since Maggie had officially moved into the apartment, it seemed much longer, as they had fallen into familiar, as well as new, patterns.

It amazed her how she had become a clock watcher at work. Not for the time to go home, but she knew each day now that Maggie would call her at the office at precisely 3:30. This was when Maggie would get home from her daily walk through the park with Miranda, and if she had been using Patrick to drive her, this call let Bianca know he was on his way back to get her. She would also ask what Bianca wanted for dinner, though so far, it was ending up to be a lot of delivery.

During the call on Thursday, Maggie had asked for Saturday, today, off for some mysterious reason.

"You don't have to ask for a 'day off' Maggie. You can just say you need to go do something."

"Well, I wanted to make sure you didn't have anything you had to do with Cambias."

"Nope, Saturday and Sunday are both clear, you go do whatever it is you have to do."


"Are you going to tell me what it is?"

"Um….nope. It's a surprise! You will just have to find out what it is Saturday evening!"

Bianca chuckled. "Fine…I'll be home around 5:30."

She had spent two days now trying to figure out what Maggie had planned. What could she possibly be surprising her with?

When the boxes of Maggie's clothes had finally arrived that morning, after much delay, Bianca had taken them into her room and unpacked them for her. Since Maggie had left very early, she figured she would be tired when she got home, it also gave her an excuse to snoop around for a clue to the surprise….nothing. Not even a scribbled note. However, she was surprised to find some pamphlets about universities sitting on the top of her desk.

She emptied all the boxes and separated the clothes into piles by clothing item. Tops, pants, skirts…the underwear she left in the box, remembering how flush just shopping for underwear with Maggie had made her. Since she had no idea how Maggie wanted to put all this away, she made piles on the bed and on the desk, so at least it was all sorted. She also made a mental note to wire some money to Dani for the postage on this many boxes. It must have broke the girl.

It was obvious to her as she went through the clothes, when each piece had been bought. While the change was subtle at first, she could see the influence of Jonathan ramping up as she progressed through the clothes. It disgusted her to see how much he had changed her friend. While it was not her place to toss those particular items out, she certainly hoped Maggie wouldn't keep too many of them. She liked that "Maggie Originality", to coin a phrase, that she brought to any outfit she put together.

Back in the present though, she finished tossing the salad, and the sauce for the spaghetti seemed ready. Having heard Maggie's shower shut off, she gave her a few minutes to dry off and get out of the bathroom before she walked over to knock on the door.

Arriving at the entrance to Maggie's room, she closed her eyes and shook her head at the cream colored sign that had been hanging there since Monday. Painted in a lovely cursive script, with flowers adorning both ends of the phrase, there was a message that said "La Hutte de Plaisir"…."The Pleasure Hut" written out in French. Bianca still was trying to guess at what Maggie had said to get Patrick to not only get him to side with her in the naming of the room, but to have him also help with having the sign made.

Bianca wasn't sure what it was about the phrase that bugged her, but her hunch was it had something to do with the emphasis on the word "pleasure". Shaking it off, she finally knocked.

"Maggie?" She yelled through the door.

"Yeah?" came the muffled reply.

"Dinner's ready whenever you are."

"Ok…I'll be there in a few minutes…and thanks for getting all my clothes out!"

Bianca smiled and walked over to Miranda, who had been sitting very patiently in her high chair playing with a stuffed animal. As she approached her daughter, the little girl looked up and grinned, letting out a gurgling, little laugh.

"And how about you Munchie? Are you ready for your dinner?"

Again…a little gurgling laugh.

"I guess so!"

She opened a jar of strained carrots and sat down on a stool next to her daughter to feed her. As they slowly worked their way through the ritual of getting the mouth and spoon to act in unison, Bianca heard the door to Maggie's room open behind her.

Not turning around, Bianca continued to feed her daughter. "Hey there stranger…have a good day?"

"Uh huh…very relaxing."

"Relaxing? What exactly did you go do?"

"Well, since I got my first pay check from you, I treated myself to a spa day."

Bianca let out an exasperated expulsion of air. "Maggie Stone! You selfish thing!" She began to turn around to look at her friend "You couldn't invite your best friend along? Why I oughta…..". She froze in mid sentence.

The sight before her was one she knew very well. It was a 5' tall woman, with shoulder length blonde hair. She was wearing blue jeans and a lilac scoop necked top with wrist length sleeves accented by puffs that made up the top third.

It was Maggie Stone. Not the Jonathan Lavery version, but the original, just arrived in Pine Valley, full of fire and attitude model. Gone was the dark brown dye job. Gone were the clothes he had chosen for her. In their place, the girl who had made Bianca fall to the floor the first time she saw her. The girl who had asked her to prom. The girl who had helped her through the rape and her subsequent pregnancy. The girl…she loved.

"You oughta what?" said Maggie with an enormous grin.


"'I'…'I'…what? Oh…you mean this?" she asked, looking skyward with her eyes. "Yeah, I thought it was time for a change. Sometimes newer isn't always better."


"Well, on Tuesday I talked to Patrick about helping me find someone who could strip the coloring out. So, the poor guy, sat on the phone all day calling hair salon's for me, because of the whole language thing. It was quite amusing actually. Finally, one of them referred him to a day spa whom are experts at doing it without damaging my hair. Since I was going to have to sit for long periods to let the process happen, I took the opportunity to do some other girly things." She lifted the legs of her pants ever so slightly to show off her well tended, and painted toe nails.

Bianca continued to sit there, her jaw agape at the change. Miranda began smacking her tiny hands on her high chair tray, finally bringing Bianca back to reality. She turned around to finish feeding her daughter, but said nothing.

Maggie wasn't sure what to make of the silence, so decided to walk over and get out plates and silverware. "Dinner smells great!" she said as she set all the utensils on the counter. "All I've had today is a couple of croissants, so I'm starving."

"Uh huh." was all the reply Bianca gave.

Maggie was really confused now. She had thought returning to her "normal" self would thrill Bianca, but it didn't seem to be having that effect. Just then though, she heard Bianca make a sniffling sound. She walked over to stand in front of her brunette friend and could see a tear rolling down her cheek. When Bianca spotted her friends legs in front of her, she tried turning her head away.

Maggie squatted down in front of Bianca and looked up at her face. "Hey! What's wrong?" she said in a soft, soothing voice while taking the baby food jar from Bianca and setting it on the counter behind her. She then took both of Bianca's hands in hers, and could now see Bianca was full on crying. "Bianca….what is it? What's wrong?"

"I….I…" came the sobbing reply.

"What? You don't like that I did this? I had to do it….I had to do it for me to release myself. I'm sorry if you don't like it, but…"

"I love it Maggie…I love it so much!" Bianca blurted out. "I just didn't realize how much I had missed……you."

Maggie smiled now that she understood. She lowered her knees and knelt before Bianca. Once settled, she pulled her taller friend forward, into a hug. Bianca slipped her arms under Maggie's and held her tight, while Maggie reached up with one hand and stroked Bianca's hair.

"I never went anywhere Bianca…I was always here…I was always right here….you just couldn't 'see' me for awhile is all."

After another minute or so of hugging, Miranda again was banging on her little table for attention, and the rest of her dinner. The girls pulled apart and laughed at the little girl. Maggie looked at Bianca. "Go wipe your tears…I'll finish feeding her."

"Thanks." Bianca croaked out. She rose and went to the counter to get some tissues. Her face now tear free, she grabbed the utensils to set the table. By the time she was done, Maggie had finished feeding Miranda and was wiping the food from the little girl's face.

Maggie swept Miranda up and out of her high chair making smiling faces at her and placed her in a one arm hold, resting the little girl on her hip. The little girl spotted her mother, and grinned largely at her. Following the child's line of site, Maggie looked up and did the same.

"This is how it's supposed to be," she thought to herself "the 'old' Maggie, not that tainted and twisted version that Jonathan made. This Maggie, the true blue original, and my daughter. No matter what happens between Maggie and I, this is my family now."

"So…are we ready to eat?" Maggie inquired.

"Yeah…you go sit down and I'll put Miranda in her crib."

"Naw…I'll keep her during dinner. I promised her some spaghetti if she didn't fuss while I finished feeding her….not that she understood me, but I feel obligated." Maggie grinned as she reached down with her free hand and tickled Miranda's stomach. "Isn't that right Munchkin?"

The little girl squirmed in Maggie's arms, trying to escape the dreaded tickling, giggling the entire time.

"Ok, but when she gets tomato sauce all over you, don't come crying to me about it." Bianca chided her with a laugh as she walked over to grab the salad and bowls.

Halfway through dinner, Maggie had found herself the recipient of at least two spots on her blouse from spaghetti, but neither girl had commented on them, except for Bianca's enormous, self-satisfied grin. Maggie hadn't seemed to notice, or if she did, not to care. She was too happy making a mess with the little girl all the way through dinner.

Afterwards, they had shared in the chores of cleaning up. The first task was cleaning up Miranda, and putting her to bed. After that, they had agreed to do the dishes together. They joked and chatted, splashed water at each other and had acted like the best friends that they were.

Dishes cleaned, leftovers put away, Bianca asked "So…care to join me for some television that I have to translate for you?"

"Yeah yeah…I'll join you in the den in a minute." she said as she disappeared into her room.

Bianca smiled. She filled two glasses with water and headed across the penthouse to the den. She set the glasses on the coffee table, spacing them at an interval that, she hoped, would keep Maggie from putting her feet up. She sat down and started flipping through channels, searching for anything worth watching. "I do not get the French fascination with Jerry Lewis." she mumbled as she flipped past "The Nutty Professor".

"What did you say?" Maggie asked, as she entered the room.

Maggie had changed from her dinner clothes that had been splattered with spit up and sauce. Now she was in brown sweat pants that had white stripes running down the legs and a maroon, faded jersey that said "Tigers" with the number 35 below that.

Bianca smiled, she had always loved that jersey. It was living in the studio apartment that she had learned it originally belonged to Frankie. When the twin had left home for the final time, she had taken all of her clothes with her, save for this jersey that had been in the wash at the time. Maggie treasured it for the reason it was the last physical item that connected her to her deceased sister.

"Oh, I was just marveling at yet another Jerry Lewis movie being on."

"Oh please tell me it's not 'The Bellboy' again! I swear I have seen that twice since we got here." Maggie exclaimed as she walked over and sat down on the couch next to Bianca. "Oh! Water! Thank you." She moved the glass to the side and placed her feet on the coffee table.

Bianca rolled her eyes, but she had given up on that fight already. She did notice though that Maggie had sat closer to her than she usually did. She didn't think much about it until the shorter girl folded her arms and leaned to the side so her head rested on Bianca's shoulder. She leaned her head to the left and rested it against the top of Maggie's.

They sat like this for at least a half hour as Bianca translated snippets of shows they flipped by. Sometimes the translations were accurate, sometimes totally random, for a comedic effect. After having finally settled on the English version of a news channel, Maggie spoke up. "Bianca, I…I was wondering if I could talk to you about something fairly serious."

Bianca raised her head and turned to look down at Maggie. "Of course, always. What is it?"

Maggie lifted her head and turned her body slightly so she was facing her friend more. "Well, I saw you had moved those college pamphlets in my room, so I thought maybe I had better explain them."

"You don't have to explain anything you don't want to Maggie. Sure, I was curious why you had them, but that's why you have your own room, so you can still have some privacy. I probably shouldn't have even gone in there."

"Oh! I don't mind that at all! And you did me a huge favor by getting all my clothes out for me. I just thought you should know that I am looking at possibly going back to school rather sooner than later. I called PVU, and they gave me a list of schools over here they know will accept their credits, and are bilingual with classes in English. So Patrick helped me run around the past 2 days getting info on them."

"That's great!" Bianca said, "But….are you sure you're ready? Are you sure you don't need to take a little more time off?"

"I've thought about that, and I think the best solution is just to get moving on as fast as possible with my life." She said, as she twisted a lock of her freshly blonde hair around her right index finger. "If I just sit around and think about everything that happened, it just seems to make it all worse. So I think going back to school as soon as possible may be the answer for me."

"Well….I want whatever you feel is best for you, of course."

"And don't worry about my being Miranda's nanny. I am going to try for night classes, so you would be home. If I have to take them during the day, I am going to try for late morning and early afternoon, because Patrick said he would be willing to watch her during those times if you had nothing for him to do."

Bianca smiled. She was so thankful that Maggie had found a friend in Patrick. She had feared that the shorter woman would feel isolated not knowing anyone other than herself. She was sure Patrick was a big help to her in that regard. "That sounds great, but…well…I hate to bring it up, but how are you going to pay for school? I know David was paying for it in Pine Valley, but you two aren't exactly on the best of terms now."

Maggie smiled a devious grin. "Silly, stupid boy that he is, deposited several years tuition all at once so he wouldn't have to worry about remembering to do it later. So, while it will cost more to go to school here, I am still covered for awhile before I have to worry. And hopefully, by that point, I will be able to get some sort of scholarship."

"Well then, what are you waiting for? Get yourself enrolled! We will worry about all the details later." Bianca turned her self more fully and leaned forward, wrapping her arms around Maggie for a hug, a hug that was eagerly returned.

"I was worried that you were going to be upset with me for rushing back so soon."

"Don't be silly! I always knew you would go back to school, I just didn't expect it quite this soon. If this is what will make you happy, than this is what you do."

Maggie finally leaned back, putting more space between them, but keeping her hands on Bianca's back. "You really are the best friend anyone could ever wish for, you know that?"

"Of course I am! I am the best at everything I do! I'm a Kane woman!"

Maggie threw her head back so hard in a hearty laugh, it caused her to topple backwards, landing in the open space of the couch. "And you do humble so well!"

Bianca playfully slapped Maggie's thigh. "Come on, let's go look at those pamphlets of yours, and pick you a school."

Bianca stood up, clicked off the TV with the remote, and turned to leave the room when she felt a hand on her left shoulder turning her around. She faced Maggie now and she saw that it was a serious expression she wore now, her eyes full of thoughts.

Maggie was looking up at Bianca, as she always did. "I meant what I just said Bianca. You are truly the best friend anyone could ever wish for. You're understanding, kind, giving….and most of all, patient. I haven't said it lately, but…..thank you. Thank you for everything you have ever done for me, and most of all, for helping me find myself again."

Bianca could feel the tears welling up in here eyes yet again. She looked down at the floor, and with both her hands, reached up and tucked her raven colored hair behind her ears. "You know, when we first got here, you prescribed me daily hugs, and like a good patient, I have followed the doctor's orders." Maggie grinned at that. "But, what I want to know is, is it possible to over dose on that prescription?"

"Certainly not! As a matter of fact, it is one of the few medicines that is more effective the more you go over the prescription!"

The girls again hugged, standing in the middle of the room. A long, lingering hug, that neither wanted to break, but started to go so long they had to wonder if the other was yet getting uncomfortable from it. Finally, when the timing just felt 'right', they pulled away from each other, grinning from ear to ear.

"Come on," Bianca said. "I'm all excited to pick out a school for you!" She reached down and slipped the baby monitor in her pocket, and picked up her glass of water, while Maggie grabbed hers. Bianca then held out her hand in a motion indicating Maggie should take it, the shorter girl smiled and did. "To your room!"

"Wow…racing to 'The Pleasure Hut', who would have guessed it!"

Bianca stopped dead in her tracks. "Oh….I….uh….".

Maggie catapulted past Bianca, still holding her hand, and now dragged her along. "Come on….it's perfectly harmless…I'll even just call it "my room" for now." she said with a wink, and continued to pull Bianca along behind her.

Bianca willingly let the rejuvenated, and original, Maggie Stone pull her along.

March 19th – Morning

Bianca was awoken by a very odd song coming from her daughter's bedroom.

"Oh I say…who in this house is the birthday girl?…Miranda…Miranda…."

The singing got progressively louder as the 'singer' danced her way through the master bathroom, into her bedroom. Once in the bedroom, she got to witness Maggie doing a little cha-cha-cha dance to accompany the song, with a still half asleep Miranda perched on her hip.

"Oh I say…who in this house is the birthday girl?…Miranda…Miranda…."

She now cha-cha'd over to the side of Bianca's bed and held out her free hand, indicating that the mother of the birthday girl should join in the song and dance. Bianca grinned, and happily accepted.

Bianca and Maggie stood face-to-face, both of them holding on to the now smiling little girl squeezed between them. The girls now sang, and danced their odd little dance in unison.

"Oh I say…who in this house is the birthday girl?…Miranda…Miranda…."

After several more choruses, Maggie finally broke the song while laughing. "Ok…so neither of us are obviously song writers."

"Yeah, I don't foresee a Grammy in our futures."

"Oh well, she is an easy to please audience." she said, nodding her head towards Miranda.

"That she is." Bianca said as she leaned over and kissed the top of her daughter's head.

"So what are the plans for celebrating this very special day?"

"Well, Kendall called last night, yet again forgetting the time difference." Both girls rolled their eyes.

"For someone so capable of running a major company, you would think she would be able to add six hours to her time."

"Anyway, she wants to do a video conference today so she can actually see Miranda. Which means…"

Maggie cut her off. "Put her in the little pink, 'Fusion' t-shirt that arrived in the mail the other day."

Bianca grinned. "Glad to see our communication skills are returning!"

"Yep! Anything else? I'm guessing there will be an Erica phone call at some point also."

"Oh I'm sure there will be one, but nothing is set in stone. The morning is ours for sure though, since everyone back home is still asleep."

"Well, I am going to take Munchkin down to the kitchen. Why don't you get dressed and join us and we can go over what we want to do for this so very special day."

She turned and left the room, humming her little birthday song and doing a much tamer, and smaller, version of the cha-cha-cha dance.

Bianca finally joined Maggie and Miranda in the kitchen, as Maggie scooted around, still humming her little birthday song.

"Coffee's ready whenever you are."

"Thanks Maggie." Bianca said as she stopped to tap her fingertips on her daughter's cheek. Miranda reached up and attempted to brush away her mother's hand, as she was much more interested in the dry cereal she was eating by hand. "So, what do you think we should do today?"

"I don't have a clue. After the year she's had…heck, all of us have had…maybe a quiet, calm day is the best idea of all."

"What? A day without drama? Why Maggie Stone, however would the world continue to rotate?" Bianca asked in a rhetorically, inquisitive way.

"I don't know, but I think it would be a pleasure to find out."

"Well then that is what it shall be…a quiet day at home with this very special little girl, and of course, an arm load of presents!"

"Oh! Speaking of…." Maggie headed over to the door to her room, and disappeared inside for a moment. She returned with two wrapped gifts, one with a green ribbon, the other slightly larger, and with a red ribbon. "Here you go…the green one is from Patrick, the red is from me."

Bianca smiled. "I will make sure to thank Patrick on Monday morning. That was awfully considerate of him." Bianca opened his first to find a stuffed toy of a famous cartoon character. It managed to pull Miranda's attention away from her cereal, but it was unable to maintain it.

Maggie's gift was next. It was larger and heavier than Patrick's, and had Bianca's curiosity stirred. She lifted the box lid to discover a scrapbook. She set aside the box, and was about to open the book to the front when Maggie interrupted. "Bianca….before you look at that, let me explain it. Ok?"

Bianca furrowed her brow in confusion, and looked at Maggie. "Ok…sure."

Maggie pulled one of the stools over to sit next to Bianca. She took the scrapbook and held it so they could both look at it together. Opening to the first page, Bianca was greeted by the clipping of a newspaper article about the helicopter crash that had led to everyone believing Miranda had died. "Well…I can see this is going to be a cheery book."

"I know…it's not…and it is…all at the same time."

As they continued to flip the pages, Bianca saw it was the entire year laid out in newspaper clippings. From the "death" of Miranda…her kidnapping of 'Bess'…the proposal for the Miranda Center…her falling into a coma…the return of Miranda to her arms while she was still in the hospital…and ending with a picture of Bianca, Maggie and Miranda at the farewell party mere weeks before.

"I know this may not seem like the happiest gift in the world, but someday, she's going to want to know what happened…she deserves to know what happened. And she also needs to know that through it all, her mother never gave up on her own life. That you made the best you could out of a horrible situation and that you were brave enough to turn your own pain into something that would help other's heal."

Bianca continued to stare at the picture of the three of them at the party. Maggie sitting on the couch with Miranda in her lap. Both of them, beaming with smiles. Behind them, Bianca stood leaning down to fit in the picture, her hands on Maggie's shoulders, her head pressed against her best friend's. It was tangible evidence of the family unit these three had formed, no matter how non-traditional it might be.

"Are you ok with this?" Maggie tentatively asked, breaking the silence.

"I am more than ok with it Maggie….it came from the heart, and those are the best kinds of gifts. Thank you." She wrapped her right arm around Maggie's shoulders and pulled her close, placing a kiss on her friend's cheek.

Maggie blushed. "Well, I thought it might also save you a lot of painful explaining down the road when she did finally ask."

Bianca flipped back to the beginning of the book, and started over. "How did you get all the clippings?" she inquired.

"Oh, I…I was saving them the whole time. At first it was because I thought it would be some of our only memories of Miranda." She looked down at her hands, and breathed a heavy sigh. "And then it became more of the fact that you were amazing me how you could take a tragedy like that and make such a far reaching positive out of it."

It was Bianca's turn to blush now. "Well, whatever the reason, it is one of the best gifts ever." she said with a beaming smile. Again, the friends embraced, this time, Maggie kissing Bianca's cheek.

March 19th – Early Evening

"Happy birthday my little Miranda…now, you wear that Fusion t-shirt auntie Kendall gave you with pride…yes…you show all those little French babies where you get your fashion sense!"

Maggie was glad she was off camera so Kendall wouldn't be able to see her rolling her eyes.

"Ok…I gotta go…I love you…bye Binks…bye Miranda."

"Goodbye girls." Ethan piped in at the last second before the video conference was ended.

"What am I? Chopped liver?" Maggie inquired.

Bianca was trying to wipe the cake off of Miranda's face, and took off the little faux fur-lined party hat Maggie had given her daughter to wear. "They didn't know you were in the room Maggie, since you absolutely refused to get on camera."

"Well…I didn't want to get in the way of family time."

"Maggie….how many times do I have to tell you that you are part of the family now…my family?"

"I know, I know…and someday it might even sink in…remember, I am blonde again now." She said with a grin.

Bianca just smiled and shook her head. "Well, I'm going to keep saying it until it sinks in." She picked Miranda up out of her high chair. "And I'm sure as soon as this one can talk, she'll be saying it also.

Maggie walked over and cupped Miranda's cheek with her hand. "I sure hope she will, but for now, I'll just settle for her saying anything!"

"Soon enough…I'm sure she's just saving up for a whopper."

"Well with Erica Kane as her grandmother, I'm just hoping it's not 'diamonds' or 'Where are the boys?'."

Bianca playfully slapped Maggie's shoulder. "You're horrible!"

Maggie rubbed her shoulder in mock injury. "Sometimes the truth hurts you know….for both parties."

Bianca rolled her eyes. "Come on…let's go give cake monster here her bath. I'm not sure, but some of it may have actually gotten inside of her."

"I think I saw one or two bites get in there, but I'm not going to swear to it. Before we give her the bath though, are you sure we got enough pictures? You did promise everyone cake covered pictures from today."

"We have digital pictures and video, I am sure we have enough. Am I safe in assuming this will be in the next email of the 'The Daily Munchkin'?" Bianca loved the name Maggie had given to the daily picture she sent to every one back home.

"Yep. May even have to send out more than one tomorrow."

March 26th – Afternoon

Bianca was thrilled so many of her items had finally arrived that morning from Pine Valley. There were boxes everywhere, and she had a sneaking suspicion of what was in the large wooden crate, but she had decided to wait until Maggie had taken Miranda for their daily walk to look in it, fearing the reaction it might cause. She had actually planned to take her daughter for the walk today, but when all these items arrived, she knew she had plenty to do. Plus Maggie seemed to really enjoy her alone time with Miranda, so she really didn't like intruding on that to often.

As soon as they had left for the park, Bianca had grabbed a crow bar and headed for the crate. It took some work, but she finally got the boards undone, and was pulling away the excelsior packing from the edges, that was when she started to see the familiar colors. It was Portia, in all her abstract, three-eyed glory.

Bianca knew she had the perfect place in the den, over the couch, to place her. She wasn't quite sure how Maggie was going to react though. Actually, she kind of knew how she would react, but she was hoping it would be slightly less catastrophic than that.

She carried the painting into the apartment from the outer hall, and into the den. She went and retrieved a hammer and nail, stood on the couch, figured out where center was, and drove the nail in. She lifted up Portia, hooked her on the nail, evening her up. She smiled at the painting. "This is either going to be really funny or really ugly when she lays eyes on you, not sure which yet."

Stepping off the couch, she turned and looked at Portia one more time, smiled, and headed towards the kitchen to start preparing her special anniversary dinner she had been planning for a few days now.

She wasn't sure if Maggie had even realized it had been a month since they had moved, because they had been so busy settling in to new jobs with Cambias and being a nanny. Never mind that Maggie had the added pressure of going back to school weighing on her mind also. They told her she could start on the following Monday, so both girls were working out how their schedules would change.

Even though she doubted Maggie knew the significance of the day, it didn't matter to her. She was going to make this a mini celebration of their new life together. Their new life….as a family.

The End

Return to All My Children Fiction

Return to Main Page