This might suck but I *did* try. Thanks for the reviews thus far!


Comforting

Karen remembers the exact moment she started to really see Danielle as more than just a colleague; as more than just an acquaintance. She'd had an impossibly difficult day. Everything that could possibly go wrong had (her alarm clock hadn't go off, making late to work; she'd spilled green tea all over an important contract, causing her Dad to yell at her and yell at her some more). Tears had eventually overcome her and she found herself holed up in the fourth floor ladies' restroom at Spencer Publications. She sat on a toilet with the lid closed and just cried. She wasn't one often given over to tears but she was very hormonal and on top of that, she had concluded that life sucked. She rested her shaking hands on her ever-growing belly and she thought how this baby was the one good thing she had in her entire life. "I'll be a good mother to you. I promise," she quietly sobbed.

She cried for a good half hour and then told herself she had to get back to work, like it or not. She gave herself a firm pep talk as she stood at the sink and splashed cold water on her face by the handfuls. She towel-dried her face as the door opened and Danielle walked inside. Their eyes met and held for a long moment. Karen felt her heart-thudding wildly against her ribcage.

"Hey," Danielle greeted her. "Are you alright?"

"Uh, what makes you ask?" Karen wondered.

"Your eyes are red. You've been crying." It wasn't a question.

"Oh... well," Karen hedged. She finally nodded in defeat. "Yes I was. I guess these damn pregnancy hormones are having their way with my emotions."

Danielle looked doubtful. "Is that all?"

"Yes," Karen said. She leaned against the sink, staring at her reflection. She was very pale and her eyes were indeed red and puffy. "No…" She wailed. She burst into fresh tears. Danielle, for her part, didn't look very alarmed or even pitying. She just appeared accepting. She ripped some paper towels from the dispenser and stuffed them into Karen's hands.

"Welcome to my personal pity party," Karen cried. "This is possibly the most - the most humiliating moment - moment of my life, to be honest… And great! Now I've got the hiccups."

Danielle reached out to gently rub Karen's shoulders. Karen was hyper-aware of the woman's warm fingers on her body. They seemed to burn right through her clothes, to sear her skin; her soul. She didn't know where that fanciful thought had come from, but there it was. She felt her face flame with heat.

"I am acting like such a big baby," she said.

"The way I figure it, everyone is entitled to have an 'off' day."

"There have been too many 'off' days in my life lately," Karen admitted. "Today was just that one straw that… well you know the saying." She sighed. "I'm sorry for being so pathetic right now."

"Hey now. Who are you apologizing to?" Danielle asked. "I hope not me, because I don't think you're pathetic at all."

Their gazes held for an intense moment before Karen forced herself to turn away. She scuffed the heels of her sensible-business shoes against the linoleum. "Then you're probably the only one. Everyone else around here seems to be waiting for me to screw up... My own father included. He finds me lacking in every way. I'm not like my sweet, innocent late twin sister Caroline, and he never lets me forget it. I'll never be what he wants in a child."

"Well, the complete truth is that nothing you can probably ever do will make him appreciate and love you the way you wish he did."

Karen raised a sculpted eyebrow. She was startled at the directness of Danielle's statement. "Well…"

"He's my boss and I shouldn't be saying this, but I feel I have to... The truth is that some people just aren't hardwired to know how to love their children unconditionally. It's something I've personally dealt with, too. I used to turn myself inside and out in an attempt to please my parents, but it was never enough. I finally realized one day that I would never please them. I also realized I didn't need their approval anyway. That I was my own woman and I had to be true to myself. Besides, the only one hurting over their rejection of me was me."

"It must have been hard … Telling them you were a -"

"A lesbian," Danielle finished. "And yes, it was. They didn't accept it. They still don't, in fact. But I am oddly okay with it now, because even though I sometimes still wish we could be close, I realized that I didn't need their approval. That I didn't need anyone's approval. It's my life and I am not going to let anyone else dictate how I live it. Other than myself, of course. That sentiment though... It has given me a lot of peace... Anyway, I hope what I have said helps you somehow."

Karen nodded. "It does." Well, at least she wasn't crying like an infant anymore. "I never want to be my father… I don't want this baby to ever feel the scorn and ridicule that I have…"

"You're breaking the chain of intolerance then," Danielle said. "Good for you."

Karen and Danielle's eyes met again and they stared at each other for a long moment. Karen didn't want to look away. She couldn't. "T-thank you for the good advice, Danielle," she murmured.

"I'm no expert, of course, but I think you'll be a lot happier when you start living on your own terms, and not anyone else's." Danielle seemed about to say something else when the door suddenly burst open and another woman sauntered inside. The woman spotted them standing impossibly close to each other. She stared at them critically.

Danielle just rolled her eyes. "Take a picture, Lucille. It lasts longer."

Lucille flushed bright red. She hurried into the nearest stall as Karen lightly shrugged free of Danielle's grasp.

"Well... I'd better head back up to the office," Karen said quietly. "I've got a lot of work to do before the work day is over."

"Alright… Hey, take it easy on yourself, okay?"

"Is that an order?"

"Damn right is it," Danielle smiled.

"I'll try my best," Karen said. She forced herself to hold her head high as she walked out of the restroom.

During the long ride upstairs in the elevator, she smiled.

TO BE CONTINUED.