Chibi-Kari: It may seem like a happy ending, but I tried to leave it still a bit fractured. Nothing is simple in real life and I tried to portray that while keeping Rachel's forgiving nature. And I couldn't not bring Jesse and the babies back into this chapter so we get some more Tommy! Who is based on my three year old niece who loves to call me up and read me books over the phone...much to my poor cell phone plan's allotted minutes. Anyway. This is it! Thanks for sticking with it, I don't own, and I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Rachel took a deep breath as she looked around the small coffee shop. She wasn't sure she wanted to make eye contact with the woman sitting across from her, but she really needed to. She closed her eyes slightly and wished she had allowed Jesse to come with her, but he had so little time off and she really wanted him to spend that with their kids. She gripped the hot cup of coffee in her hands, pretending the warmth was from her husband, and steeled herself as she looked up.
Shelby had aged rather gracefully and Rachel couldn't help but feel a bit of relief when it came to that. No one wanted to age horribly and it somehow eased a little bit of the nagging doubt that a few years from now she would still be able to get roles. Other than that she really didn't know what to say to Shelby. She had worked so hard to not even think about the woman and now she was face to face with her again.
Shelby cleared her throat awkwardly when it became obvious that her daughter wasn't going to say anything. It was awkward to say the least. Looking at Rachel was like looking at herself twenty years ago and that held a strangeness that she didn't know that she could quite name. And it didn't help that Rachel couldn't even look her in the eye for more than a few minutes. "So you and Jesse?"
Rachel nodded curtly. "We've been married five years now."
Shelby almost spit out the sip of coffee she'd been drinking. She knew her grandson was at least three, but for them to have been married five years meant they had reconnected a long time ago. "Wow. I didn't even realize that you guys kept in touch."
Rachel eyed her slightly before taking a sip of her drink. "We didn't. We bumped into each other right after Jesse got out of college." She smiled slightly as she remembered his practical stalking. "His persistence was just charming enough for me to let him off the hook."
Shelby nodded in slight awe as she did the math. Jesse had been back in her daughter's life for eight years. Right around the time he stopped sending updates on his life and responding to emails. It made sense now. "He always was the little charmer."
Rachel bit back a bitter comment and sighed instead. She really didn't want to fight with her. The sooner she could get this forced reunion over with the sooner she could get back to her life and family. "What are you doing here?"
Shelby gripped her cup tightly. It was game time now. She had hoped Rachel would allow her a little more small talk time before asking her this. A few more minutes to be in her presence before she would risk facing rejection. "I just wanted to see you."
Rachel opened her arms slightly. "Well you have. You could have just bought a ticket to one of my shows. Is that everything? Because I have other places I need to be and if that's it then we might as well just go." Rachel gestured lightly between the two of them. "You know what this is Shelby? This is closure. I'm allowing you that and I'm allowing myself that no matter what anyone else thinks. So if you have something else to say you need to say it now."
Shelby reached across the table blindly as if her hand could stop Rachel from leaving. "Please don't go."
Rachel watched her wearily for a moment before sitting farther back in her seat and nodding slightly. "What do you want from me?"
Shelby couldn't stop the tears from stinging her eyes, but she wouldn't let them fall. Years ago Rachel hadn't let her mother see her cry and she wouldn't guilt Rachel into a relationship either. "I would eventually like your forgiveness, but right now I just want to apologize. I should have never walked away all those years ago. Everything-it-it just wasn't what I had expected. Now I know it wasn't wrong. The only wrong part was for me to walk away leaving you with a stupid cup and telling you that you weren't my family. You are my family and I want to be there for you if you ever need me. And maybe one day you'll let your babies know their grandma. We could all be a family if you want. I know Beth would love to meet you and Will would be excited to see you again. He considers you his brightest star."
Shelby watched as Rachel just stared at her slightly. It was quiet and unnerving and she wasn't sure what she was expecting. The silence had to be better than a flat out 'no', though. At least that was what she tried to convince herself as she stared at Rachel.
Rachel closed her eyes briefly before opening to make eye contact with Shelby again. "You know that's twelve years too late. Do you know I waited the entire summer after you adopted Beth for you to call? Did you know I prayed every night for you to realize that you had two daughters? Did you know how many times I needed you after you decided I wasn't family and that I didn't need you? But now? My children know their grandmother. When I need my mother Arielle St. James is a phone call away and will be in her car before I'm off the phone with her. Twelve years ago you replaced me. Didn't you think that someday I would replace you?"
Shelby felt like she had been smacked in the face. She remembered Jesse's mother. The woman didn't have a maternal bone in her body. It was unbelievable. "Jesse's mother? She was never there for him. I was more of a mother to him than she ever was. I find it hard to believe she can be bothered."
Rachel's eyes narrowed as she leaned forward. "Since the moment Jesse proposed she was there for me. She was there the moment I was sure I'd be a horrible mother because I didn't even know what one was. She was there when I miscarried our first baby. She was there in the hospital room with me when I gave birth to both of my kids. She comes to all of Tommy's piano recitals and never misses an opening night for Jesse or me. When I need a late night call of reassurance she's there. Last night after Jesse told me you were here the first call I made was to her. I wasn't sure if I really should see you and Jesse didn't want me to. I called Arielle and she supported me and encouraged me in my decision. I wouldn't even be here right now if it wasn't for her, so please watch your tongue."
Shelby nodded mutely. "I'm sorry." It wasn't really for speaking against Jesse's mom, but for everything that she left her daughter alone to deal with. All the heartbreak and rejection that she didn't prepare her for.
Rachel sighed slightly. She knew what Shelby really meant. "I know you are. I can see it."
Rachel glanced out the window and almost jumped when she saw Tommy with his little face pressed against the glass waving at her frantically. Jesse stood next to him holding Savannah in his arms smiling at her slightly. He always got a little protective, but at least he was showing his support. Rachel turned back to see Shelby staring blankly at her coffee cup. Maybe this wasn't the best idea, but that rejection years ago was the hardest thing for her to move past. Hurting family like that wasn't fair and it was a type of scar that could never be erased. Her family was scarred enough. She didn't need to add any more. She gestured lightly to Jesse who just raised his eyebrow in return. She couldn't help, but smile as he shook his head slightly when she nodded. Jesse didn't like change unless it was him getting a new part on stage or a new baby.
"Now that I'm a mother I know how important forgiveness and acceptance is. I'll never be okay with what you did back then, but I forgave you a long time ago. I had to. You can't have an active part in my life. I can't just let you waltz in and disrupt my children's lives and then walk away when you want to."
Shelby's eyes widened. "I wouldn't. I wouldn't do-"
Rachel raised a hand to silence her. "What my dads did when they had you sign that contract was wrong. You were family and they had no right to cut you out like that. And you had no right to cut me out of your life sixteen years after that. And right now I have no right to cut you out of my life. You are family and I won't do that. I refuse to ever hurt anyone like that especially family, but you can't just come around whenever you want. You don't have a say in anything unless I specifically ask you. That's all I can give you."
Rachel turned slightly as she pulled Tommy, who had run straight across the café to her, up into her lap. "Hi, baby." She smiled brightly as Tommy placed a slobbery kiss on her lips.
Shelby didn't take her eyes off her daughter and grandson until a chair slid next to Rachel's and Jesse and sat down pulling their daughter into his lap.
Tommy looked at Shelby before turning at Jesse. "Daddy? Why is the evil telemaker here?"
Rachel laughed before turning her eyes to meet her husband. He looked sheepish. "Evil telemaker?"
Jesse glanced over at Shelby before cracking a smile. "Misunderstanding."
Rachel nodded looking unconvinced. "I'm sure." She tickled Tommy slightly causing her son to look up at her. "This isn't an evil telemaker, Tommy. This is your grandma."
Tommy stared at Shelby for almost a minute with his eyebrow raised. Shelby couldn't help thinking that he looked just like his father when he did that. Tommy suddenly turned back to his mom in confusion. "Are you sick, Mommy? That's not Grandma."
Jesse couldn't help but break out into laughter. "Oh, Tommy. That's not my mom. It's your mom's mom. Grandma Shelby."
Tommy narrowed his eyes at Shelby before looking back at his parents. "So you're saying I have two grandmas and three grandpas?"
Rachel raised a questioning eye to Shelby. "Will?"
Shelby smiled slightly before reaching forwards and placing her hand on Tommy's little arm. "They're saying that you have two grandmas and four grandpas. You just haven't met Grandpa Will yet. Or your Aunt Beth."
Tommy's eyes widened as he seemed to realize something. "You give presents right?"
Rachel's eyes widened as Jesse started to laugh. Rachel glared at Jesse slightly before turning back to her son. "Tommy!"
Shelby laughed. "I think all grandparents do. Next time I see you I'll make sure to have one."
"And for Savvy, too. She needs presents, too." Tommy insisted glancing at his sister who had yet to make a peep even though Tommy was practically vibrating right next to her.
"And Savvy, too." Shelby raised her eyebrow. She hoped that Savvy was a nickname.
"Savannah. She's eighteen months." Jesse bounced her slightly and she let out a small giggle. "She's a quiet one. I'm not really sure where it comes from." He laughed again before nudging Rachel with his elbow causing her to playfully glare at him.
"And I'm three!" Tommy announced brightly. "When will we see you again? And Grandpa Will and Aunt Beth?"
Shelby just looked at Rachel. Everything was on her terms. She wanted a chance to reconcile and she would take whatever Rachel was willing to give her. She knew it was harder for Rachel to do this than it seemed.
Rachel and Jesse shared a look over their kids. He still didn't quite approve, but she knew he did miss Shelby. Shelby really had been like a mother to him when he was in his teenage years. Everything was complicated it had to be settled slowly.
Rachel nodded slightly before leaning Tommy sideways to look at her. "Maybe over Thanksgiving break when we see my daddies. Would you like that?"
Tommy smiled brightly and nodded before he turned to smile at his new grandma.
Shelby nodded to Rachel. "I think that would be nice."
Rachel stood pulling Tommy up to rest on her hip. "We'll call you."
Shelby couldn't stop herself from smiling as she watched the St. James family make their way on to the street Tommy chattering animatedly as Rachel and Jesse laughed along with what he was saying. She was proud that they had something good and she was thankful that they were letting her be a part of it…a small part, but a part none-the-less.