by Anne Azel
Note: This story is a sequel to The Christmas Tree. You might want to read that one first before reading this.
Sean Rutley had decided to quit his job. This was a first. He usually fretted every time there was a crisis at Dawson Fashions that he'd be fired and end up in jail because he couldn't pay off his charge card. But for the last three weeks Kimberly Dawson, the owner and genius of the company, had been such a bitch that jail now seemed a happy alternative.
The door to Kim's office slammed open and Kim stormed out. "Get Collins, Knechtel and Beetlie and send them down to design. We've got another fucking mess to sort out."
Sean stood. "I quit."
Kimberly Dawson froze half way across the room. She turned and walked back to Sean's desk with casual confidence and smiled. "Let me explain something to you, Sean. If you walk out on me now, I will phone Visa and tell them you are in debt up to your eyeballs."
"I don't care. I can't go on like this. You are driving me nuts."
Kim blinked. Sean was serious. "Come into my office."
Reluctantly, Sean followed Kimberly into her inner sanctum wondering if he'd ever see the light of day again.
"Sit. Okay, just what is the matter?"
"You have changed from your normal tyrannical self into a bitch- on- a- stick." Sean braced himself waiting for the explosion. Instead, Kim slumped back into her leather chair and looked totally defeated.
"Things arenít going well at home," she admitted.
Sean looked up in total surprise. Kim and Penny had been an inseparable item for three years now. They were a team in every sense of the word. They had met when Penny, a street kid who had got training through social services, had been hired on the company's equal opportunities initiative. She was a mix of French Canadian and Cree Indian heritages and after the death of her parents she had been raised in foster homes. Rather than hardening Penny, the experience had made her caring and generous to those whom she had left behind on the streets. She was a beautiful woman both inside and out and her impact on Kimberly Dawson and Dawson Fashions had been nothing but positive.
Sean crossed his legs and leaned forward sympathetically. "Talk to me. I have never been in love with a woman but when it comes to handling domestic crises I'm an expert. I lived through thousands. Ask any of my old boyfriends."
Kim smiled. She was a very private person but she did need to talk. Sean was a pain in the butt but he was discreet and loyal. Maybe she had been difficult lately.
A red blush crept up her throat. "We've been trying to have a baby. Penny can't seem to conceive. She wants me to try. I'm...I just don't want to. I mean, I want a child, I guess, but I don't want to be pregnant."
Kim squirmed with discomfort. "Okay, I'm not sure. I mean, if Penny wanted a kid, I was willing to pay for her to have artificial insemination. I'd do anything for Penny, but, well, I don't know if I'd make a good parent. I mean, Penny has always reached out to others and shown such kindness. I built a design empire on ambition and some talent. Sure, Iíve achieved money and power but what have I done thatís good? What kind of mother and role model would I be? Maybe the fact Penny couldnít get pregnant is a good thing."
Sean pulled a face. "Ouch!"
"Have you told Penny about your insecurities?"
"No. She wants this child."
"But you don't?"
"Well, yeah I do, but...I'm just scared what kind of parent Iíd make."
Sean frowned and drummed his long fingers on the arm of his chair annoyingly. "Okay, okay. We've got to get you mom lessons. You know, to see if you can handle it."
"Mom lessons. I don't want mom lessons. Kids scare me. They wet and cry."
"My point exactly. You can't have a kid if you are afraid of them. I have a sister whoís a
"You have a sister? I thought you hatched from an egg in a gay bar."
Sean looked indignant. "Yes, I have a sister and she does this maternal thing really well. She teaches kids to play nice and not bully others. They call it kindergarten."
Kim smiled. "I think I was there once for a year."
Sean looked at his boss. "Sometimes they are not always successful. You probably should have
"Thanks. Kick me while I'm down."
"Okay, itís decided then. I'll call Patricia and make arrangements for you to send a few days in
"No! I have a business to run. I haven't got time to go back to kindergarten. I hated sand box. It was a jungle. Kids always wanted my favourite dump truck."
Sean hit low. "Itís for Penny."
Kim looked miserable. "Okay."
Penny LeFleur no longer worked with Sean Rutley. She had felt that working out of her partner's office sent the wrong message. She now worked in personnel with Gail Collins. That had been difficult at first. Gail did not have a very high opinion of Penny being hired simply because she was a minority and poor. The fact that Penny was living with the boss only made her view of Penny worse. But Penny had worked hard and had never shared with Kim her work problems or asked for any special favours. She had proven herself to her new supervisor and they now got on very well.
Busy up-dating files, she did not at first notice Gail standing at her desk.
"Oh sorry. What can I do for you, Gail?"
"Sean phoned to ask if you could meet him for lunch at Sparks."
Everyone knew that when Sean had lunch with someone, he was usually ironing out a problem for the boss.
"Ahh, take as long as you need. Look, Penny, you've looked real stressed lately. If there is anything... well, you know, I'm in your corner."
Penny smiled and stood to give her boss a hug. "Thanks, Gail. I'll be back as soon as I can."
Penny found Sean already holding a table in the popular lunch time café. "Hurry, I can't hold the patrons off for much longer. Honestly, I had to practically wrestle your chair back from someone. I ordered the special for us. Is that okay?"
"That's fine. So, I never thought I'd end up having to have lunch with you, Sean. Why am I in
Sean waited while their lunch was served. "I tried to quit today. Kim has been impossible and I know impossible. We had a heart to heart talk about, well, you know, your difficulties."
"Oh. Look, Sean. Itís personal. I don't think I want to talk..."
Sean raised his hand for her to stop with a dramatic flourish. "I am not going there. What would I know of such things? No, I am here to explain and share my plans because Kim is very busy rearranging her schedule. She sends her love by the way." Sean stopped talking and leaned over to drop a kiss on Pennyís cheek. "There now where was I? Oh yes, you two have a failure to communicate and someone has to get some dialogue going here."
Penny leaned back. "No, Sean. If Kim trusted you with her worries, itís not right that you share something with me that she told you in confidence."
Sean rolled his eyes. "Will you work with me here, Princess Perfect? Kimberly is afraid of kids."
Penny blinked. "What?"
"She wants you to have a child but she is scared. She doesn't think she'll make a good parent. She was an only child ,you know, and she never managed to learn to share in the sand box centre. I've sent her back for retraining."
"What?" Penny had tried hard to follow Seanís disjointed explanation but failed.
"She is going to spend a few days with my sister who teaches kindergarten."
"You have a sister?"
Sean frowned. "I've heard that question a lot lately. Yes, I have a sister. And she is going to help Kim get over her fear of kids."
Tears filled Penny's eyes. "Kim is going to do that for me?"
"Honey, Kim would move mountains for you."
"Why didn't she just tell me she was afraid?"
"Admit she was sacred? Kim would rather die. Besides, she wanted you to have this baby."
Penny bit her lip. "But I can't and Kim refused."
Sean rolled his eyes. "Okay, so Kim is not the child bearing sort. So we get her over her fear of kids and then we mix up her eggs with a good strong sperm and you carry the kid. Problem
"I need to talk to Kim."
The hand raised again. "No, Kim needs to talk to you. But first she needs to iron out a few problems in her own head. I'm talking to you simply because I don't want this situation getting any worse. Another week of Kim- the- bitch- on- a- stick and I'll have to see a shrink. Now eat your lunch up and try not to worry. Uncle Sean will solve this problem."
But Penny had worried. Especially when Kim had phoned to awkwardly explain that she would be out of town for a few days to learn more about children by visiting a kindergarten class.
"Kim, you donít have to do this. If you donít want children you should have just said so."
"I do need to do this, for you and for me. I love you. Iíll be back soon."
The house was lonely without her. Kim was larger than life and Penny loved the ground that her partner walked on. She knew that not having a child would be disappointing for her, but Kimís happiness was far more important.
It was the evening of the third day when Kim charged through the door in a blast of cold air and parcels.
"Pen, where are you? Iím home."
"Here, love." Smiling with delight, Penny emerged from the kitchen.
Kim dropped her parcels and wrapped her partner in a big hug and kissed her several times.
"I missed you so much. We gotta talk. Come on, letís go into the livingroom."
"What about these parcels?"
"They can wait. This canít. Come on."
They sat across from each other and Penny smiled to see her partner fairly squirming with excitement.
"So, you know, Iíve been in Seanís sisterís kindergarten class learning about kids."
Penny slipped over beside Kim and pulled her close. "Kim, you didnít have to do that. If you donít want kids we donít have to try again. I love you. I love our life together. There are no strings tied to that."
"No listen. I want kids. They like me. Well, not at first, but I got the hang of it after a bit and you know, I had lots of fun. How about we see the doctor and try again?"
Tears welled in Pennyís eyes. Her partner was so caring and supportive of her needs. "Thank you Kim. You are wonderful. I love you so much."
"I love you too."
For a bit they showed each other just how much but Kim was far too excited to settle for long.
"Do you know what a breakfast program is?"
"Sure, I used to go all the time. The schools run them, providing cereal and milk for breakfast for kids who normally would go without. The parents help run them along with the teachers."
"Well, why didnít you tell me? We could do that."
"Patricia, thatís Seanís sister, said that itís really expensive to run these programs and the teachers often bring in cereal or money when things start to run out. So why donít we add that to our mitten tree? People can bring in boxes of cereal and weíll give them all to the breakfast program. You know, for the other kids. I want to do some good for them."
"Yeah, ours will have good breakfasts with us. You know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day."
"Donít you think we should have more than one?"
Penny laughed and hugged her partner close.
The next Monday, they arrived with boxes of healthy cereal to put under the company Christmas tree that was already hung with brightly coloured hats, gloves, socks and scarves that people had brought in for the mission.
Sean watched from the balcony above the lobby. Heíd heard from his sister that Kim would make a great parent. He smiled. Maybe theyíd make him a godfather. Heíd like that.
Within days the tree sheltered boxes and boxes of cereal. One night, near Christmas, Penny and Kim stayed to load up the cereal to take to the breakfast program. Penny reached out and pulled her partner into a big hug.
"This is where it all started. You helped me pack up the gifts on our mitten tree and you kissed me. That kiss will always be the best gift I will ever receive."
Kim held Penny close. "Until next year, Special One when my gift will be our child."
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