This for our continuing series. Googlemouth and I are having a blast writing these stories out. This one follows after "A Little Diversion". We do have plans to continue this series.
The characters are not ours. They belong to the very talented Tess and the powers that be over at Turner (aka TNT).
Reviews make us happy and keep us writing. ;-)
"If you've come here to talk about you and my daughter, you're wasting your time," Angela Rizzoli opened the door to find her daughter's girlfriend standing, alone, waiting to be asked in. "We've already talked. What else is there to say?" She frowned, stepping back to let the smaller woman in. "Get in out of the rain." Not bothering to see if the young woman was following her, she turned around and headed to the kitchen. "Family doesn't need permission to come in the house, Maura," she called out as the matriarch left the room.
Two perfectly sculpted eyebrows lifted in surprise, but Maura was not one to need to be told twice. She scooted inside and closed the door against the downpour with the hand that was not buried in her raincoat with a squirming lump. "Go on inside," she said in a small, cute voice as she knelt to the floor to set down Joe Friday, then removed her raincoat to hang in the front entryway near the open umbrella that had protected her on the way in from the car. Joe Friday was already making free in one of her many homes away from home, sniffing around to ascertain that nothing much had changed since her last visit. Once divested of all burdens save her burgundy patent leather bag, the honey-blonde headed in towards where she knew Angela would be: the kitchen, the hearth, the heart of the home and the seat of her power as reigning queen. Angela's in her kitchen and all's right with the world,Maura thought with a grin.
"Actually, I didn't," said the younger female as she stepped inside, set down the bag, and surveyed the scene. While Angela chopped things, stirred other things, and generally engaged in controlling the chaos of Italian cuisine, Maura decided to step in and do one thing she'd never been permitted to before, as a guest. She called me family. Let's test that. She put on one of the many aprons hanging from a hook in the broom closet and pushed up her sleeves, stepping up to the sink to begin washing the already-used utensils and vessels. Her hands were already soapy by the time Angela could have objected. "I know you're not happy about our relationship, and I want to share with you some things that might make it easier for you to understand and to live with. Jane needed Tuesday to be about her. Today it's about you."
For a long time, Angela didn't reply. Instead, she concentrated on cooking, clearly considering what the young doctor had just told her to decide if she really wanted to know what the woman had in mind. After taste testing the pasta sauce, turning the oven down, and wiping her hand on a towel she kept near the oven for the purpose, she turned with a sigh. "When you're done with those, I could use some help chopping and sautéing the onions for the sauce. It's getting about time to add those." Frowning, Angela stepped around Maura to the other side of the cabinet to start work on the noodles, measuring dry ingredients. "Jane never wanted to learn how to cook. Did you know that? She said it was a waste of time when she could just go out some place. I couldn't get her in the kitchen until she was nearly 16," the older woman moved to measure out wet ingredients. "Now, you wouldn't even know she didn't know how to boil an egg until she was a teenager." She pulled out a mixing bowl. "Rizzolis… it might take us a while to learn something, but, once we do, we get the hang of it pretty quickly." She glanced over to the stovetop. "Maura, will you stir the sauce? My hands are covered."
Quickly rinsing one hand of it suds, Maura stirred the sauce as requested, smiling privately at the ease of inclusion. Today was all about Angela, but she couldn't help but feel she'd won something. Those onions would be chopped within an inch of their lives. "I do know that," replied the woman as she returned to the cheese grater she'd been washing. "It's one of many things you and Jane share. It is very much the way you both relate to family. When things get terrible, you don't shut down, run away, or pretend nothing is wrong. You might leave for a cooling off period, but even when you do, you care enough to come back and fight until there's some kind of resolution. That's why I knew you wouldn't hate Jane, or abandon her." The last knife slid neatly into the draining rack, and she dried her hands before picking up that same knife and the wooden cutting board and heading for the onions.
The frown on Angela's face was starting to become a permanent fixture. "I'm not happy my Janie thought I'd just walk away from her like that. She's my daughter. I would never abandon her." The dough was slowly becoming longer and thinner as Angela ran it through the press. For a time, she quietly worked the little machine. Sighing, she continued, her body language indicating that she didn't want to talk but determined to push on. "She's too hard on herself. I've never been disappointed in her. I worry, but I'm never disappointed. I'm proud of her, but her and Frankie's jobs are so dangerous and they're both alone with no one to take care," her hands stilled for a moment, "I worry, that's all."
Maura turned a burner on low and set the cutting board quite near them, but managed to refrain from explaining to Angela the chemical reaction between the flame and the sulfur in the onions and the fact that this would keep the fumes from making her cry. Tears, if any came, would be their own, and not coerced from them by a vegetable. "That wasn't really about you. That was more about Jane's fears for what the rest of the world will undoubtedly try to make her feel. She projected that fear onto you because you're her mother, the person whose approval she wants most in the world. You're the basis for so much of what she does, and is, that of course if she's afraid of something, she has to focus on you. If she's afraid of having every door closed to her, she thinks of your door being closed to her, as the ultimate symbol of her fear of rejection. If she's afraid of being slapped in the face, she thinks of yourhand doing the slapping. Deep within herself, Jane knows you wouldn't do any of that, but she was so frightened that she couldn't think clearly."
"As much as you worry about her," continued the woman as she made quick work of chopping the small stack of onions, "she also worries about you. The other major factor in her fear was that you wouldn't be able to look at your daughter without seeing ugliness, perversion, and evil. I know Jane is very relieved that you seem not to have the most common reaction for a religious parent to have." At that, Maura looked up from the onion with a question in her eyes. Angela might appear fine, but was she, really?
Angela's jaw clenched for a moment. "She's my daughter, and I love her. I would love her even if she shot someone in cold blood, not that she would." The long, thin strip of pasta dough was now slowly being worked into long pieces of spaghetti by the little machine on Angela's counter. "But, I don't always understand her, and I don't always agree with what she's doing." The last of the pasta finished going through the machine. Angela began cutting the noodles down to size. Again Angela was silent as she thought, absentmindedly chewing on the corner of her lip. "I'd be lying if I said I hadn't considered this as possibility for her. I talked to our priest about it a few years ago. Father Reynolds wasn't really," she blew out a frustrated sigh, "There's a reason we don't attend his services anymore. I like Father Martinez better anyway." She pulled out a pot to put water in to boil.
The knife stopped for a moment, lessening the ambient sounds in the kitchen, then resumed. "You changed churches for this, even before you were sure about Jane? Angela, that's..." Oh, there they were, the tears. "That's really sweet."
"If my daughter was going to be that way," the older woman said quietly as she waited for the pot to fill with water, "even if I didn't understand or completely agree with it, I was going to make sure she at least felt safe somewhere when she needed to. I'm her mother. It's my job to make sure my children are protected." A grunt escaped as she pulled the pot up and placed it on the stove top.
Sweeping the last of the onions into the waiting bowl, Maura swapped places with Angela to wash the knife and board once again. It gave her time to compose herself; she knew the Rizzoli women were uncomfortable with her tears. "You know," she said, changing the subject, "it's okay to say the word. Jane does need to feel safe, but so do you. That's why I'm here. Jane tends to get a little tense in emotionally charged situations, as you must be exhaustively and exhaustingly aware, but since I didn't grow up here, I'm a little more removed from it. I want you to be able to ask me anything at all, and I also brought some things that might help you as you try to understand this new thing in her life."
The tight line Angela's mouth formed as Maura told her it was 'okay to say the word', was only made tighter when she heard the younger woman's offer to help. "Maura," she finished dropping the last of the noodles in the boiling water, "I like you. You're a good person. But, I don't think you really want me to ask you everything that is on my mind because," she stepped away from the stove to sit at the small kitchen table, "I'm trying hard not to be angry. I know that's not going to help anything. At least, that's what Frank keeps telling me." She rolled her eyes, very reminiscent of how her daughter did the same. "But don't mistake me not yelling for me being comfortable with you or happy with either of you right now."
"I know," Maura replied as she squeezed out the dish cloth and used it to wipe down the countertop one last time. "You're not happy, and you're not comfortable, and you're doing a very good job of holding yourself together." One final rinse and squeeze, and the dish cloth went to hang over the faucet. She did not sit down, but instead leaned one hip against the counter in a pose entirely unlike those she usually adopted. She had seen others do it, usually in movies with Jane, and it suggested relaxation, so she thought the visual cue might put Angela slightly more towards that frame of mind. "But I really mean it when I say you can ask me everything that's on your mind. That's why I asked Jane to stay home tonight. She doesn't need to hear you asking, or me answering. But she did say that she was comfortable enough with you knowing… whatever you're going to know by the time we're finished."
"Make a pot of coffee and come sit down." Angela's voice held the same demanding tone she had when she gave one of her children a direct command, gentle but firm. "Frank's not coming home until late tonight." Little paws came clicking into the kitchen to stop by Angela's chair. "There's my grandpup," a wistful smile ghosted across her face as she picked the little animal up to pet. "I just don't understand why. We don't have anyone else in the family that way that we know of. We were never around those kinds of people. We sent her to Sunday school every Sunday until she moved out of the house," she set the squirming little ball of fur down to let Joe continue her rounds about the house. "And I know you two have dated men. Jane told me you've even set her up on a few blind dates. How did this happen? What did you do to my daughter?" There it was. The accusation that had gone unspoken but had been hanging in the air since Angela had been given the news.
Obligingly, Maura prepared a pot of coffee and set up two cups, doctoring the elder woman's as she had observed Angela doing several times: Lots of sugar, like her daughter, and a little cream. "That's a lot of questions, inherently, but I'll try to answer as best I can."
Maura went on as the coffee maker started to dribble its hot, dark, revivifying juice. "Jane is left-handed. If she'd been born fifty years before she was, she'd have had her left hand strapped to her body with a belt so that she would be forced to learn to write and do other things with her right hand. Two hundred years ago, she would have possibly been considered a witch, and hanged to death. Three hundred years ago, she would have been considered evil. Dexter, meaning right-handed, is a synonym for grace, capability, and facility. Sinister means left-handed, and I don't have to tell you what that means. The Catholic Church used to teach that left-handed people were inherently weaker, more sinful, more evil, devious, deviant. They have since changed their stance, which is good for Jane, because every year thousands of people die from trying to use right-handed tools and implements when they are left-handed. Since Jane was born less than fifty years ago, there was no problem with her orientation. You taught her to write, use scissors, throw, and bat left-handed. It never occurred to you that she shouldn't be left-handed, or that she should hide it from anyone. It was just the way she was. How did you know that she was left-handed? How did she know it, when she was an infant or child? It's just something that came naturally to her, and you let her live that way because it never occurred to you that it wasn't appropriate."
"There's a difference between what hand you write with and who you're sleeping with." Angela's voice was sharp, hardened. "There's nothing in the book about not being left-handed." Taking in a deep breath, the older woman gave herself a mental pause before continuing. "I know the argument that some people are just born that way. I've ready the articles. I've watched the TV reports. I just never thought one of my own children would," again, she stopped to give herself a mental pause. "We didn't raise her like this, so it has to be something else." She shook her head, clearly angry and frustrated. "You're lucky I'm even talking to you."
"Yes, I am lucky," Maura acknowledged calmly, and that was food for thought. She placed herself squarely in the role of supplicant, despite also being ostensibly there as an educator. "So is Jane. No, you didn't bring her up to this. I don't like saying the word 'fault' in relation to something that, at least to me, isn't negative; but this isn't your… responsibility. This lies within Jane, not within you. But the truth is, I've read the book too, as part of my education in Western civilization, and there is nothing in it that forbids a loving same-sex relationship in the least. May I?" She walked over to the rather large purse (more like luggage) she had brought and pulled out a Holy Bible. It wasn't a well-loved, tattered copy, nor was it brand new as if it had never been cracked. When she opened it, it proved to be Hebrew/English in the front. Then came a second book, The New Testament, which she opened to a page that held both English and Greek.
A few significant minutes later, she closed both books, having demonstrated that the only forbidden activity between two men was penetration, and there were no prohibitions at all between two women. "By contrast, although I only showed you a few passages, there are over one hundred sixty Biblical laws concerning what heterosexual couples are permitted or prohibited to do. According to Jewish and Christian doctrines, that is. I do have a copy of the Qur'an with me, if you'd like to compare those." Angela's glaring look indicated she was not interested. "No? All right. The point is that what is commonly understood is not always what is accurate."
"Now that you know this," Maura went on, once she was sure that Angela's world had been sufficiently rocked on at least one count, "would you like to address your other concerns? Or I could come back another evening, if this is too much all at once."
"You really don't want to know where I think you should go right now," Angela stood to pour the last of the coffee, start another pot, and move the cooked and cooled food into containers for the rest of the week. She sounded drained, tired. She shook her head as her hands worked in smooth motions to quickly put the food away. "I can't believe Jane puts up with this on a daily basis," she mumbled to herself as she dropped an empty pot into the sink.
Focus, Maura. Don't take offense. She's just afraid. "I may not want to know what you're thinking," Maura answered as she accepted her second cup of coffee, "but that's all right, because I'm not here to ask questions from you. I'm here to tell you anything you want to know." There was no need to address what Jane put up with, or whether Angela would prefer that Maura go back to England on the Mayflower with her adopted ancestors, or whether she should just go straight to hell in a leaky rowboat. She was here to help, and she would do whatever Angela said.
"There's nothing you can say that," the older woman began as she ran water in the sink. She stopped talking and narrowed her eyes considering what she was about to say. "How is Jane really handling all of this? In the park, she seemed so relaxed, but I know my Jane; she's good at putting up a front if she thinks she needs to."
That first question about Jane herself could have gone so poorly, but it could also have been a lot more insulting. Maura was relieved. "So far, only you three plus Barry Frost, who found out on his own, know about us. She doesn't want to make it a big deal, even though it probably will be for some people, because... well, you know Jane. She doesn't like anything to be a big deal, so she intends to tell Vince sometime this week, and then just not mention it to anyone else unless they ask. She won't lie, though, so if anyone does ask, be prepared, because people will learn about us. Mostly, Jane is scared to lose her place in the family. You all mean the world to her, and she doesn't want to feel like she's on the outside." She stood up to get a little more cream for her coffee, whitening it down. "However, despite the stress that it's causing to have to actually say anything, and the possible rejection from people she cares about, Jane is happy. And she is finally sleeping at night."
The last bit of information made Angela stop working. "She's sleeping?" Visibly shaken, she pulled her hands out of the sudsy water and wiped them on the towel to dry them. "Jane is actually sleeping through the night again?"
Maura nodded, bringing her own cup to the sink to wash it herself as she repeated, "She's sleeping." The statement brought a smile to Maura's features as well, an echo of many mornings, not just the ones since their relationship became acknowledged. "She laughs a lot. Quietly, not raucously, not just because of humor. She tells me how she feels. She eats healthily; you'd be proud of how often she's the one who suggests salads, lately. She's not as quick to dismiss things, and her natural compassion shows more often. She's so very gentle, and I'm so very lucky to get to see her that way. But mostly, Jane sleeps. And when she wakes up, she is usually smiling."
A breath fell from Angela, as if she'd been holding it in for a very long time, and, only now was able to release it. Strain around her eyes, mouth still tight, she nodded as she regarded the younger woman. "She said you made her feel safe." A beat to compose and the older woman continued on. "Give me time, Maura. I'm trying here. I'm treating you like family because you're da… I mean you belong to… you're seeing my daughter." She sighed heavily. "You're dating my daughter." She said slowly, forcing the words out. She dropped her head, eyes falling to the ground to avoid the doctor's gaze for the first time since Maura arrived that evening. "You are dating my daughter, who clearly adores you, and she's happy." She sighed and gave a shrug. "She's happy and sleeping." Her eyes traveled back up, not quite making eye contact but coming close. "It's starting to get late. You should go home so you both can get some rest. You two have to go to work tomorrow, and Frank'll be home soon."
Maura stood, recognizing the close of the conversation for the moment. The progress was more encouraging than she had expected, by far. She clicked her tongue, and picked up the squirmy dog who came running as Maura removed a small stack of pamphlets from her purse. "These are for you. You don't have to read them right away, but I hope you'll keep them until you do feel able to read them. Thank you for agreeing to see me, Angela. I do need to go. I'll see myself out. Next time is up to you. When and if you want to talk about this, or anything else, I'll always be available to you." With that, she wrapped herself and Joe Friday against the rain and headed back out, into the dark, to go home to Jane.