"Maura! It's lovely to hear from you. How is your semester wrapping up?"
"It's going well, Mother, how was your time in Italy."
"It was lovely...but your father and I missed your company."
"...of course we did, Maura...you're our daughter. We're both looking forward to seeing you over the Christmas holiday?"
"Oh...yes, that's why I'm calling."
"You are still planning to come out to the Connecticut home for the holidays aren't you? We've had all the decorations put up, and your room has been opened and cleaned…"
"Yes...yes, I'm coming home, I'm just….planning to bring someone with me."
"Yes. I mean, if that's alright with you and father."
"I-ah-I don't see why it shouldn't be. Is this guest the one we spoke of in October? Will I finally get to meet this mystery man who inspired you to dance so well?"
"Well, wonderful, I'll have the maid clear out the guest room across from yours, shall I?"
"Yes, darling, what is it?"
"I...no, nothing… I mean, I am looking forward to seeing you too."
They take the train. Maura's mother sends the tickets by overnight mail, two business class seats, as well as one crisp hundred dollar bill which instructs them to purchase food before getting on the train as the dining car is "filled with undesirable food and undesirable people alike."
Jane accepts the ticket, looking uncomfortable, and stays silent during their trip to Trader Joes, letting Maura pick out their travel meal and snacks on her own.
"You're having second thoughts," The dancers says quietly to Jane as the cashier packs their food in a paper bag.
Jane's frown deepens, but she shakes her head. "I said I'd come," she replies.
Maura hands her money over to the cashier, "you can still be having second thoughts," she says, "It doesn't mean you're backing out."
"I'm not," Jane says quickly. "I mean...your mom already bought the ticket, but…" she bites her lip, reaching out to take the grocery bag off the end of the till. "But I just...don't think I'll fit in with your family."
Maura smiles, linking her arm through Jane's as they leave. "Well, there's not that many people to fit in with, honestly. It's just going to be my mother until Christmas Eve, and then my father when he comes back. There'll be a New Year's Eve party, I'm sure, we have one every year. But I just have to make an appearance, and you don't have to go at all. Not if you don't want to."
Jane leans against the bus shelter, examining her hands, "I don't have anything that would be appropriate to wear for a party like that, Maura." Her voice has gone toneless, which, in contrast to the distress on her face, makes the dancer feel a little unnerved.
"That's okay," she says. "It doesn't matter. We can get you something, if you want to go I mean, and if you don't, well then it truly doesn't matt-"
"I think it matters," Jane says quietly, and she keeps her eyes focused on the ground, not looking up. "I think it matters whether or not you have something appropriate to wear on hand. Just...sitting in your closet and waiting. I think that matters."
Maura blinks, trying to understand. "I-" she begins, but Jane cuts her off again.
"You have tons of stuff right? That would be appropriate to wear to a party that your parents threw?"
For a second, Maura thinks Jane is asking to borrow her clothes, and she answers without thinking. "Yes!" she says. "Tons of stuff."
Jane nods, a little sadly, and Maura realizes her mistake. "Yeah," the brunette says. "Then you couldn't really know that it's important."
Maura moves over to Jane, hands out, and when the pianist takes them, she feels a little heartened.
"I want you to come home with me," Maura says, because she's not sure what else to say. She's not sure that anything else she could say would be as true. "It won't be Christmas without you. Not for me."
She wraps her arms around Jane's waist, and after a moment, she can feel the taller girl sigh and give in.
"I love you, Maur," Jane whispers. "I'm not like you. Not in any way at all. But I love you a lot. You know that right?"
Maura pushes her face into the folds of Jane's coat, smiling widely.
So they get on the train the next morning, Maura with two rolling suitcases and a shoulder bag, Jane with her lone backpack. Her nails bitten down to the quick.
They settle into their seats, and Jane looks out the window, face still cloudy.
"I love you," Maura says, reaching for the brunette's hand. "I'm sorry you're so nervous."
Jane tilts her head towards Maura's voice, but doesn't take her eyes off the scene outside the window.
"I wrote a piece about a train ride once," she says distractedly.
"Did you?" Maura leans towards her. "On the piano?"
"It had a piano part and a strings part. It's the piece I played for my audition."
Maura leans her head on Jane's shoulder. She loves it when the other girl opens up to her. Each new revelation feels like the removal of a barrier. She squeezes Jane's hand.
"I bet it was great," she says.
Jane almost smiles. "It was good," she concedes. "You could feel the movement of the train, I think...in the way the strings picked up the undercurrent, and the...piano was like...was like the people inside. They know the mechanics of the machine that moves them, but they're still traveling smoothly. They're so unaware of the energy and power underneath them. They take it for granted."
"How did you do it?" Maura asks, watching Jane's face closely. "Did you just play the piano piece?"
"No," Jane says, glancing at her. "I recorded both parts, and then played with myself. First the piano with the recorded strings, and then the strings with the recorded piano."
Maura tries to wrap her mind around this as Jane continues. "It was only a four minute piece."
"You played the strings," Maura means this to come out as a questions, but it sounds more like a statement. "I've never seen you."
And this time Jane really does turn to look at her, her dark eyes fixing on Maura with a smoldering sort of intensity.
"I don't anymore," she says simply.
Maura can't help herself. "Because it hurts?"
Jane doesn't hesitate. "Because it doesn't come out the way I would like it to anymore."
They don't talk after that for a long time, but Maura rests her head against Jane's shoulder, and after a while Jane, slips her arm around the dancer's waist, pulling her a little closer.
"I wish we were on a bus," Maura says, dozing.
"What?" Jane wiggles a bit in her seat. "Why would you wish that when we are in these plush comfy seats, zooming through the country."
Maura sighs, smiling. "But I'm not on your lap," she says quietly.
Jane is silent for a moment, and Maura has just decided to try and nap, when the brunette's voice comes again, soft and right by her ear.
"You're right," she whispers. "Trains suck."
But any confidence that Jane gains on the train disappears in the car on the way to Maura's house. It is snowier here than it was in the city and Constance sends a big, black, heavy looking SUV for them, complete with a driver that meets them in door of the station holding a sign that says "Isles & Guest."
He helps them into the car and drives them off through the streets, and Jane gets paler and more nervous with each passing street sign.
"Where did you say you lived again?" Jane asks, watching as the houses grow larger and more spacious with the miles. "Are we going to a house?"
"We're in Ridgefield," Maura says, grinning as she recognizes the beginning of her driveway. "And yes! look!" Jane looks where Maura is pointing.
"No way," her eyes are huge as she looks out the window of the car. They've turned down the drive to Maura's house and when the dancer leans forward to see what Jane is looking at, she realizes that the very top of the roof has just made itself visible over the crest of the hill.
"What?" she asks, grinning as the familiar structure reveals itself fully. "You don't like it? It's a little smaller than our California home, but...it's my favorite." Maura looks at Jane. "Do you like it?"
Jane stares at her like she's lost her mind. "Maura," she says, sounding panicked. "Please tell me that we are staying with your parents at a hotel...or...like...in a condo...or something."
Maura frowns at her, trying to understand. "Are you worried about where you'll stay? There's a guest room in my wing! Right across from my room, but...I mean, my bed is king sized anyway, so if you wanted to-"
"No," Jane cuts her off, and she looks as pale as the snow outside the car. "No...Maura...this whole thing belongs to you? This whole house is yours?"
The car turns onto the loop that leads to the main door, and Jane shrinks back in her seat, looking sick to her stomach.
"That keyboard was really just like a drop in the bucket for you, wasn't it Maur," she says, shutting her eyes. "Not even...you didn't even feel it."
Maura shakes her head, confused. "What? What are you talking-" she begins but Jane waves her away, staring with wide eyes as they pull up to the front door and the driver hops out to open the door for them.
"I'm gonna be sick," Jane murmurs, as the door opens for them. "I'm gonna hurl."
Maura puts her hand on Jane's arm, feeling her own heart start to race. "What?" she says again, aware that she sounds like a broken record. "What's wrong?"
But Jane shakes her head, and moves to slide out of the car. She wears the same expression that Maura remembers seeing on her at the food kitchen: unwilling to proceed, but determined to do so anyway, an obstinate refusal of fear.
The dancer is going to comment on this, is going to try to say something comforting, that will put Jane at ease again, but she doesn't get a chance. Her mother's voice rings out from the front door, and Maura turns to see her waiting there, silhouetted in the light from the front hall.
"Come in!" she calls. "Welcome home, darling. Hurry inside. It's still so cold out there."
"Ready?" Maura asks, and Jane nods, even though she looks anything but.
Constance hugs Maura the moment she steps in the door. It takes the dancer a moment to swallow her shock enough to reciprocate, but when she does, her mother seems to tighten her hold.
"So," she says quietly into Maura's ear. "So, you did bring her."
Maura pulls back, eyes wide, and Constance smiles at her.
"I meant to tell-" Maura begins, before something occurs to her. "But how did you know I was bring-"
Her mother waves her away, looking a little bit smug. "I do not live under a rock, Maura," she says. And then, seeing her daughter's worry and confusion, "nor do I live in the dark ages," she adds. "We shall talk later, yes?"
Maura can only nod, and her mother squeezes her hand briefly before turning to Jane. It is the most intimate they have been since Maura was a preteen, and the contact leaves her lightheaded. The pianist is staring around the foyer, looking up at the chandelier that hangs there, and then around towards the main staircase that winds away out of sight. Her eyes are huge, and she seems too absorbed in looking around to have noticed Maura and her mother's hurried conversation.
"Hello, Jane," she says holding out her hand, and Maura sees the brunette wipe her hand quickly on the leg of her jeans before taking Constance's hand. "It's nice to finally meet you."
Jane nods mutely for a second before realizing that she should add something to the moment as well. "It's, uh, it's nice to meet you too," she says nervously. "I...your house is, um, I mean, it's really...Amazing," Jane says haltingly. She seems to be searching her memory for something, and finally comes up with, "thank you...so much for having me...for the w-winter break."
Maura has never met this Jane before, this nervous, stuttering girl who won't make eye contact and searches for the correct words before speaking. She has also never met this Constance before, who hugs people hello and smiles warmly, and says sentences like the one coming out of her mouth at this moment.
"It's lovely to have you, Jane, and how was the train ride? Was the car satisfactory?"
"Yes," Maura says quickly, because Jane seems unsure how to answer this question. "Yes, it was lovely, and thank you for providing us with a travel meal too, Mother. That was very thoughtful."
It's what she would normally say to her mother, it's the way they normally speak to each other, but for some reason Constance looks at her, and a little frown creases the skin between her eyes. Maura feels her stomach squirm.
"I, uh, hope it wasn't too much trouble to add me to your holiday plans," Jane says into the silence, still trying for the kind of etiquette she must feel the situation deserves.
Constance raises an eyebrow. "Aren't you polite," she says, though she sounds more pleasantly surprised than condescending. "It was no trouble, at all," she continues. "I had them make up the room right across from Maura in her wing, okay? And if you need anything, you let Maura know, or me, and we'll have the maid get it for you."
Jane opens her mouth, pauses, and then shuts it again, clearly trying to process this information.
"Thank you, Mother," Maura says again. "I'll show Jane where we're going to stay."
Constance nods, "Of course, darling. You must be tired from the trip," She turns to catch Jane bending to pick up her backpack, "Oh, Jane, you can leave that there, James will bring it up for you."
Jane freezes and then looks at Maura.
"He's our butler," Maura fills in, and Jane looks even more confused than before. She hefts her backpack onto her back slowly, as though someone is going to yell at her any second.
"It's just my backpack," she says once it's secured on her shoulder. "I don't mind."
Constance nods, and Maura picks up her shoulder bag and points at the staircase that leads to the next floor. "This way," she says to Jane. And then to her mother, "Will we be sitting down for dinner?"
Constance looks a little downcast. "No," she says. "Not tonight I'm afraid. I've got to run out."
Maura feels a little more at ease with this confession. This is the mother she knows.
"But I'm in house every evening after," her mother continues, looking slightly more cheerful. "So we'll have the chance to catch up then."
Maura nods, and there is comfort in her doubt. "Okay," she says, heading towards the stairs. "See you soon, Mother."
"It's lovely to have you home, Maura," her mother calls after her, and although Jane looks over her shoulder at Constance's tone, Maura does not look back.
Maura leads Jane up the circular staircase and down to the right, pausing to point out different doors that lead to different places.
The game room, the sauna, her study and reading room, the hallway that leads to the movie theatre. Jane stays silent through the entire walk, but when they get to Maura's room and she pushes the door open, the brunette lets out a kind of muffled cry of surprise, her eyes going wide.
"Holy shit, Maura," she says, walking past the dancer into the middle of the room and spinning slowly. "Holy...this is your room?"
Maura nods, clasping her hands together. "I didn't decorate it," she says quickly. "But I don't hate it." Jane stares from the enormous bed, to the overstuffed chairs to the bookshelves and walk in closet. She looks at everything for a long time, but when her eyes fall on the window seat, her face slips from impassivity to excitement.
"This place is…" She trails off, moving to the window and looking out. "Holy shit," she says again. "How much of what I can see belongs to you?"
Maura comes to sit next to her and looks out the window onto the grounds.
"All of it," she says after a moment's contemplation. "We have about five acres."
"Don't swear, Jane," Maura cuts her off. "It makes me feel like you don't like it. And if you don't like my house, you might not like me." Maura stands up quickly and fixes her skirt, embarrassed by her confession. "Let's go make sure that your guest room is the way you want it to-"
But Jane cuts her off by stepping up to her and lifting her off her feet. Jane spins her once, and then sets her back down, placing a kiss on the end of her nose.
"Maura...I love you," she says quickly, like she's too shy to admit it freely. She looks around the room again, and runs a hand through her hair. "And...I do like your house. It's just...huge."
Maura bites her lip. "Not so big."
Jane stares at her. "My house could fit in your foyer," she says.
"Be serious," Maura giggles, but when she looks at Jane, she sees that the brunette is not laughing.
"Its the truth," she says seriously. "Not that I would ever bring you home to meet my parents...but...you have to understand that I. Don't. Live like this."
Maura makes a dismissive gesture with her shoulders. Everything is much closer together in Boston. It would be impractical to have a house this big.
"I don't care how you live Jane," she says. And at that moment, it is the complete truth.
Jane nods, and although she doesn't look completely convinced, she allows Maura to step up to her and hug her. She threads her hands through Maura's hair and whispers that she loves her. And Maura is so happy that she can only hum her contentment into the bend of Jane's neck.
"What do you want to do?" She asks, when her voice comes back to her. "We're on break and normally I would just practice my footwork in the studio but," Jane makes a face and Maura laughs.
"That's what I thought," she says. "So what would you like to do."
For a moment, Jane's eyes linger on Maura's lips.
For a moment, Jane allows herself to trail her fingers up Maura's spine, carefully and gently, but very, very deliberately.
But Maura shudders, half in anticipation and half in trepidation, and Jane must pick up on the hesitation because she grins, and steps away, back towards the door.
"I feel like, on the way here...you pointed out a game room," she says with a wink.
Maura feels herself flush. She nods, and Jane nods and heads towards the hallway.
"Don't tell me where," she says, disappearing around the corner. "Let me guess."
"No, that's the kitchen!" Maura tugs on Jane's arm, trying to pull her away. "I'm not supposed to go in there."
It is the morning of their second day in Connecticut, and Maura had awoken to find the brunette kneeling next to her, pointing excitedly out the window and at the seven inches of new snow that had fallen in the night.
"Let's eat and go out and sled!" Jane had said excitedly.
"I don't think I have any sleds," Maura had said, yawning and sitting up.
"We don't need actual sleds," Jane had said, pulling her out of bed. "Just cardboard will do. But food first Maura! Come on!"
Now, Jane stares at her, as though trying to make sense of a complicated phrase that had just come out of her mouth."What?"
Maura tugs Jane's arm again. "I'm not supposed to go in there, Jane," she repeats. "But come on. I'll show you the other rooms, and the pool and-"
"Why can't you go in the kitchen?" Jane asks, staying put in front of the wide double doors.
Maura frowns, trying to remember. "Oh, I don't know...I suppose it wasn't always like that. I remember that when I was little, I used to go in there quite often, there were always a lot of people in there...chefs and maids and...I don't know...it seemed like such a busy, fun place to be." Maura glances at Jane, who is looking back at her, her expression hard to read.
"Anyway," Maura continues, "I supposes as I got older I was probably in the way, underfoot a lot. And I remember father told me it was not the proper place for someone like me to be, and so...I stopped going…" She looks at Jane, who is definitely frowning now.
"Someone like you," she repeats quietly.
"Yes," Maura says, shrugging, not thinking about the connotation.
"Someone like...me," Jane says, and Maura's head snaps up.
"No!" she says quickly, and then, because she realizes that this is exactly what her father had meant, "Oh...Well...He didn't mean…"
But Jane shakes her head and steps up to the blonde, taking her hand. "So," she says with a slow smile. "He never actually said not to go in the kitchen, right?"
Maura squints, trying to remember, until she realizes that Jane has asked her a rhetorical question. She goes to protest, but it's too late. The pianist has already pulled the double doors to the kitchen open. She steps into the room with a low whistle, and Maura follows her hesitantly, looking around at the vast kitchen, familiar as a dream she's had many times.
"Maur," Jane says as she wanders towards one of the three granite topped islands. "Your house is...you have no idea what…" but she seems lost for words. Maura watches as she circles the island, and makes her way over to the refrigerator. She pulls it open and cries out, making Maura jump.
"Holy crap, Maur! You have an entire Whole Foods in your fridge!"
Maura hurries over to her side and looks into the chilly expanse of the fridge. "Well," she says reasonably. "We are having a party in about ten days time...I suppose they wanted to be ready for-"
"Let's make cookies!" Jane says suddenly, her eyes still fixed on the contents of the refrigerator.
"What?" Maura feels nerves constrict her throat. "We shouldn't," she says quickly. "We're not even supposed to be-"
But Jane turns those dark excited eyes on her and the resistance dies in her throat.
"C'mon," the brunette says."When was the last time you made like...roll your own, cut out cookies?"
Maura doesn't have to think about that. "Never," she admits.
Jane's mouth falls open. "Never?"
Maura shakes her head a little sadly. "No. It's something our chef would have done...I'm sure."
And Jane sobers for a moment, reaching one arm out to pull Maura close to her and kiss her. "Let's make cookies," she says against the shorter girls lips. "I'll teach you how…"
And Maura does not even contemplate turning her down.
That is where Maura's mother finds them, thirty five minutes later, and elbow deep in cookie dough. She follows the shrieks of laughter down the hallway, and pushes one of the doors open to see Jane, smudges of flour on her face and sprinkled in her hair, sitting on the counter. She has the rolling pin in her hands and she's singing into one end as though it is a microphone. Her eyes are closed, and crinkled in a mock expression of concentration. Constance recognizes the song as a Mariah Carey number that is always popular this time of year.
Make my wish come true...All I want for Christmas…
It is Maura laughing. Maura, with a half eaten cookie in her hand, in her sock feet, with tousled hair and pink cheeks, looking much more like a teenager than she ever has before. Constance is struck by the same feelings she'd felt after her first conversation with her daughter after she left for college, and she does not have to work to name them this time.
She feels an overwhelming sense of guilt.
And a deep longing to turn back the clock.
She lets them laugh for just a moment longer, and then she steps fully into the room, trying to find a bright and cheerful smile for them both.
"Well," she says, clearing her throat. "What is going on in here?"
Her words bring a stunned silence so complete and immediate, that Constance almost falls over. Maura stumbles too, and Jane slides down from the counter, the rolling pin falling from her hands and grumbling away towards the other side of the kitchen.
"Mother!" Maura's voice is frightened. "We didn't know you were up...did we wake you?"
"No," Maura watches her mother frown at the scene, and feels her stomach give a sick swoop. "No," Constance repeats. "I was up. I just thought I'd come and investigate the source of the noise and-"
But Jane cuts her off, standing up, looking pale. "It was my fault, Mrs. Isles," she says, raising her head to meet the older woman's gaze. "I mean, ma'am, I mean, I'm sorry...I'm really- it- it was my idea to use the kitchen." Jane stands a little in front of Maura, her shoulders straight, even though she's stuttering. "I thought it would be fun to make some Christmas cookies, and Maura said she'd never made any before and…" Jane trails off and looks around at the granite counters, now covered in flour and baking soda and egg shells. She looks back at Constance. "She said we weren't allowed in here, and I should have listened...but I-I just couldn't believe she'd never made cookies before, like ever, in her life and-" Jane cuts off abruptly, turning red like she's just realized she is rambling. "I'll clean it all up," she says firmly. "And I'm really, really-"
But Maura's mother puts her hand up to silence Jane, and moves over to the counter where they have rolled the dough out flat. Unable to find cookie cutters, they'd been using paring knives to cut out shapes of Christmas trees and snowmen, Jane had even tried at a couple snowflakes.
Maura watches her mother peer down at the little figures already cut out and waiting on the cookie tray. The corners of her mouth tug upwards.
"Whose Christmas tree is this one?" She asks pointing at a rather crooked one.
Jane blinks. "Uh, it's mine, ma'am," she pauses, but when Constance doesn't say anything else, she tries again to apologize. "Like I said. I'm really so-"
"I'm sure we have cookie cutters somewhere," Constance cuts her off, with the flash of a smile. "But there's something endearing about these, I have to admit."
Jane looks at Maura questioningly, and Maura shakes her head slightly. She's not sure what's happening. Her mother does not seem to be upset that they've destroyed the kitchen. In fact, she seems to be...laughing.
Maura watches with wide eyes as her mother puts her hand up over her mouth...definitely in order to cover her laughter.
"These are...very cute," Constance says after a moment, still chuckling. "And you two are very resourceful."
Jane's concern seems to melt away almost instantly, and she moves over to stand next to Constance, looking down at her handiwork with pride.
"Well, we figured what must they have done before cookie cutters," she says easily. "You know? There can't have been cookie cutters invented at the same time as dough...and some little...pilgrim kid must have wanted her cookie in the shape of a...wagon or whatever...so what did they do?"
Maura holds her breath, thinking that the wild inaccuracies in this statement, as well as the overly friendly way that her girlfriend speaks will earn her one of the confused and disapproving look that she is so used to, but to her utter amazement, Constance grins, and when she speaks, she does not address the inaccuracies of Jane's logic.
"May I help?" She asks softly. Maura feels her mouth fall open, but neither Constance nor Jane notices.
"Help us make cookies?" Jane seems surprised, but not bowled over, as Maura is, and so when Constance nods, Jane nods too.
Maura feels too confused to move.
"Sure," Jane says, and she seems to be on even footing now, if still a little shy. "Yeah, do you want to look for the cookie cutters or-"
"Lets continue like this," Maura hears her mother say. "It gives them a sort of...endearing quality," she turns to Maura, smiling. "Maura?"
The dancer does not know what to do. She does not know how to act.
"You'd like to...to join us?" She asks, aware that her voice sounds high and not altogether friendly.
Her mother's face seems to harden a little. "I would...if that's alright with you," she replies.
And Maura doesn't know why she wants to say no. She doesn't know what makes her want to throw the pan of cookies across the kitchen. But she has been taught from birth that it is impolite to decline such a request as the one her mother has made, and that it would be even more impolite to accept and then be bad tempered during the activity. So, like her mother has taught her to do, she nods curtly, forcing her mouth up into a little smile.
And then she excuses herself from the room.
Out in the hallway, Maura presses her back against the wall of the hallway and tries to breathe. Through the gap in the kitchen doors she can hear her mother's long sigh.
"That was my fault," Jane says after a minute.
"No," Maura's mother says softly, "No...it wasn't. It was mine, though it would take too much time to explain how."
"You've never made cookies together before," Jane says, her tone studiously neutral.
"No," Constance says, sounding surprised. "And so you can imagine all the other things that she and I have not done together."
"Oh," Jane says.
"Yes," Maura's mother replies.
There is a beat of silence, like each one is waiting for the other one, and then Jane speaks, so quietly that Maura can barely hear her.
"I know you know who I am," Jane's voice is quiet, and defeated. "There's no way you can live in a house like this, and...not know them. Maybe even be...friends with them. I just want you to know that I would never...hurt Maura, or...make her do anything she didn't...I…" Jane seems to become flustered, and she pauses for a moment, before cutting to the chase. "If you want me to leave, Mrs. Isles...I will understand."
There is a long silence, and Maura wishes more than ever that she could see one or both of their faces. She hears her mother take a breath, like she's about to dip her head under water.
"I do know your name," she concedes after a moment. "I do know the outline of the ordeal you went through." Constance pauses here, and holds very still, listening hard.
"But I don't pretend to know who you are, Jane. Nor do I believe that your name and your past alone define you. You care very deeply about my daughter. That is easy to see."
And Jane must nod, because Maura's mother makes a noise of agreement and continues. "And Maura has...become a different person in your presence."
"I-I'm sor-" Jane begins, but Constance interrupts her.
"Not at all. It is a change that I believe is for the better...She is…" Maura hears her mother falter, her voice, for a moment, unsure, tentative, "I would very much like to get to know this new Maura. And you," she adds, with what sounds like a smile. "If that agrees with you."
There is no mistaking the relief and happiness in Jane's voice when she answers.
"Yeah. That's good."
When she was seven years old, Maura's mother promised her that she would take the summer, and teach her how to swim.
Maura had since that time been cared for during the summer holidays by a revolving door of nannies, college kids from the University of Connecticut, who had more of an interest in the weekly salary and the access to the family benz than they did in the quiet, bookish seven year old that was their responsibility.
They did their duty, taking her to the library, and the movies, shuttling her around to one social call after another (her mother never allowed her to call them playdates), and she was quite fond of some of them. But she had a terrible fear of water, and would not go near the pool, or the beach, even when her favorite nannies assured her there was nothing to be afraid of. Even when they themselves were carried shrieking into the water by a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and called to her from the waist high shallow end that it was "really quite safe."
She would not believe them.
So when her second grade school year was drawing to a close, Constance took her aside and promised that they would learn to swim that summer. The two of them. There would be no nannies, and she would stay home more, and Maura would learn, from her mother, how to swim.
It never happened.
Maura did not have a nanny that summer, but she also did not have a mother. She spent the majority of the summer roaming the grounds near her house, or in the little dance studio, pretending to be a ballerina.
Often times, she would arrive in the dining room for supper, and find that it had been set for three, but that no one else had arrived.
The chef would serve her.
They would not speak.
The next summer she asked to go to dance camp, and when the instructor there told her she had a natural, amazing gift...well, it was almost as nice as being tucked into bed by her mother, and it happened much more frequently.
But Maura thinks about the summer she spent alone often over the course of the next few days. Constance Isles, this new mother, has promised that she will not go out anymore over the holiday, and...she stays true to her word.
She is there when they come in from sledding, offering a snack, smiling at Maura like this mothering is the most natural thing in the world.
She joins the two of them in the movie theatre for a showing of Rudolph, and sits through the whole thing, wrapped in a throw, laughing along with Jane at the outdated stop motion film. And Maura, through her shock and her suspicion, finds herself smiling.
They drink hot chocolate together in the sitting room the next day, after Maura's first successful construction of a snowman, and when Constance gets up to leave, she puts her hand on her daughter's shoulder. It is just for a moment, and the pressure is gentle, but Maura has the sudden realization that perhaps the frown her mother has been giving her, the little crease in between her perfect eyebrows, is not disapproval or disappointment at all...but regret.
This idea makes her chest ache, but not in an altogether unpleasant way, and she begins to look forward to the arrival of her father.
She is seven year old hopeful for the first time in a long time.
But it doesn't even begin well.
Richard Isles looks hard at Jane, his eyes narrowed almost to slits, and Maura's respect and admiration for her girlfriend grow tenfold. Jane doesn't run, or cower, or even look away from him. She stays where she is, her hand still outstretched.
He doesn't take it. He doesn't say anything more, just turns and heads away from her, towards the opposite wing of the house.
Maura's cry of "Daddy!" mixes with Constance's furious "Richard!" but he barely turns around. Constance starts after him, and Maura thinks she looks livid.
"Richard," she hisses, "Jane is our guest. It is the least you can do to-"
"You said she was bringing home a boy!" He bellows, turning to face his wife, "a-a dance partner, a class friend, not...not this…" Maura flinches.
"I have called you nearly a dozen times in the last three days," Constances says, and she makes as little effort to lower her voice as Richard has.
Jane doesn't turn to look at them.
"It is not my fault that you would not pick up your phone."
Richard colors, but does not look chagrined. "I will not have this conversation here." He says firmly, and turns again to leave.
Constance looks for a moment like she is going to let him go, but when she turns back, her eyes meet Maura's, and something she sees in her daughter's face must change her mind.
She turns back to her husband and follows him through the double doors to their wing of the house. "We can have the conversation anywhere you like, Richard," Maura hears her say, "but we are going to have it tonight...Right now!"
And then they are out of earshot, and the silence in the foyer is deafening.
Maura moves back over to Jane, who is still standing in the same spot, her hands in her pockets, face unreadable.
Maura puts both hands on Jane's face, trying to make the taller girl look at her. "I'm sorry," she says, pressing her lips to Jane's cheek. "I'm sorry, Jane...I'm sorry."
Jane shakes her head slowly, taking Maura's wrists in her hands and pulling them down.
"I shouldn't be here," she says, like she's waking up from a dream. "It was stupid of me to come… I was stupid to-"
But Maura pulls her hands away from Jane so she can take her arm. "No!" she says, the idea hitting her hard, "No! Come on," She tugs Jane after her parents, pulling harder when the brunette resists.
But the dancer shakes her head, "No, Jane...I can fight for you too," she says breathlessly. "You don't have to go because he says so. I am not a child and I don't have to do what he says," she turns to look at Jane's wide eyed expression.
"I can fight for you too," she says fiercely, and when she turns back to the stairs, Jane lets herself be led.
They can hear Constance's angry voice from down the hall, and as they creep closer to the door of the study, her tone solidifies itself into words, hurled at her husband with ferocity.
"And what was I supposed to do, Richard? Turn her away? Look my daughter in the eye and tell her that the first guest she's ever brought home cannot stay?"
Maura feels herself go red with embarrassment, but behind her, Jane snakes her arms around the dancer's waist and presses a kiss to her neck.
"You said she was bringing home a boy!" Richard thunders, and Maura presses backwards against Jane instinctually. She's never heard her father truly yell like this.
Constance, however, remains quite calm. "Yes...I made that assumption and she let me believe it. Obviously she felt that she couldn't tell us, Richard," Maura hears her mother sigh. "Which makes me rather sad," she finishes quietly.
"She has to go," Richard responds firmly. Jane tenses.
"She does not," Constance replies, her voice still calm and collected. "She has been here nearly a week. She is a polite, clean and gracious houseguest...and a rather lovely child. Maura could do much, much worse."
"Constance," Richard says, his voice deadly serious. "That is Jane Rizzoli out there with our daughter. It is worse than if she brought home a drifter and announced she was pregnant."
"Am I? Am I really? What if the Fairfields get wind of this? You expect her to stay through the New Year party? I have several partners who still work with Malcolm, and would love nothing more than the chance to scurry off to his office and tell him all about his former partner's daughter's new love interest."
There is a silence, and for one panicked moment, Maura thinks that he has managed to convince her mother.
But then Constance speaks, and her voice has gotten colder. "I see," she says slowly, icily, "I see now what you're afraid of."
"No, Richard, it's quite clear. You are not afraid of the repercussions for our daughter. You are not afraid that, having been shunned, Garrett Fairfield will lash out at her. No, you are afraid of what this means for your business." Constance laughs bitterly. "Your business!" she repeats.
"I am worried about Maura too, I just..." Richard tries a little weakly, but his wife must wave him away because he trails off into muttering.
"You are not afraid for our child," Constance says lowly. "You are afraid for yourself. That is a cowardice and a self-centeredness that I did not expect from you, Richard."
Maura hears her father sputter, and she can picture him, red faced, completely at a loss. She is still reeling from her mother's revelation, from her father's outright refusal to accept her relationship and his reason for doing so.
"Besides," she hears her mother's heels on the hardwood, and Jane pulls her back a bit, arms tightening around her waist. "I am sure that Malcolm will find out whether or not Jane stays here through the New Year."
"What are you talking about?" Richard asks suspiciously. "What do you mean?"
There is some shuffling, and then what sounds like someone typing on a keyboard, and then Maura can distinctly hear the sound of a piano...and Susie Chang's voice ringing out from her parent's study.
When you're lost and alone, or you're sinking like a stone…
Maura feels her throat go dry.
"What is...where did you…" Richard seems lost for words, "Is that…"
"Yes," Constance says, sounding more than a little smug. "That is your daughter, playing a makeshift maraca with her friends in the subway. To a huge crowd."
"Where...where is this from?" Richard asks, sounding flabbergasted, and then a little panicky. "Did she just..."
"Kiss Jane's shoulder?" It is easy to tell from her voice that Constance is enjoying herself. "Yes. She did. And this is on YouTube, Richard. Do you see that little counter down there? That counts the number of views that this video has received. See what it says?"
There is a slight pause.
"That's over a million," Richard says, sounding a bit defeated.
"Yes," Constance says. "It is."
"Where did you get this?
"Marla, the woman I play tennis with at the club...she sent it to me because the caption lists them as Juilliard students, see there? 'Juilliard students lead impromptu jam session for homeless man.'
Jane squeezes Maura again as Constance continues. "I don't think she recognized Maura."
So that's how her mother knew. Maura tries to take a deep breath and finds that her chest is too tight to do so. Her mother knew she was bringing Jane home, she knew that Jane was the one who'd awoken her. She'd seen it in Maura's face in a video.
That's how much Maura cared about Jane.
"I barely recognized her," Richard says, and he must turn the volume to mute because Susie's voice cuts out abruptly. "She looks so…"
"Happy? Mature? At ease?"
Richard doesn't answer, but he must make a gesture that Constance does not like, because she sighs deeply.
"Honestly," she says angrily. "I can't tell if I'm more disappointed in your lack of worry for Maura's well being when she returns to school, or in you outright unwillingness to welcome a guest into our home."
"It's much more complicated than-" Maura hears her father begin, but Constance cuts him off.
"It is not," she says, her tone suggesting that the conversation is over. "Stop making it so. We are missing her, Richard," her mother says, sounding exasperated and a little desperate. "We are missing our daughter, because we are making everything more complicated than it needs to be. Do you know what I have done in the last three days? I have made cut out cookies with Maura, I've watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, under an afghan with my daughter," Constance's heels click hurriedly around the study.
"Yesterday, Jane taught Maura, our eighteen year old daughter, how to make a snowman. A snowman, Richard! And I had to ask the day cook to help me make hot chocolate to have ready for them when they came in. And you should have seen our child's face." Maura can picture her mother gesturing wildly, the way she does when she is passionate about something.
Except this time, her passion is about me, Maura thinks. The realization makes her shiver, and Jane pulls her closer.
"Like I'd hung the moon," Constance is saying, "hot chocolate. Honestly."
"We are missing her," Maura's mother repeats. "And I won't do it any longer. If you want to follow in Malcolm Fairfield's footsteps and lose a child the same way that he has, then that is your prerogative. But I will not do it any longer. I love Maura, no matter what. And I happen to enjoy Jane. And that is enough for me."
The conversation is over. There is no valid argument left to her father, and Maura hears her mother's heels moving towards the door. She turns into Jane, pushing her quickly down the hall and around the corner, so that they are out of sight when Constance emerges.
They stay, pressed together against the wall in the darkened hallway until they hear the door to her parent's bedroom click closed.
"Maura," Jane whispers. "I'm really so-"
But Maura wraps her arms around Jane's neck, and pulls them together, pressing her lips hard against Jane's, and after a moment, the brunette responds enthusiastically.
When they finally pull apart, they are both panting, and Jane looks dazed. "What was that for?" She asks, catching her breath as Maura slides her hands up under her t-shirt, pressing her fingers against her stomach. She stands on tiptoes to kiss Jane again.
"You did this," she murmurs against the pianists lips. "You made this happen."
"W-whaat?" Jane asks, drawing the word out a little longer than necessary as Maura's hands trip higher and higher.
"I love you," Maura says, and Jane growls and tightens her grip, her own long fingers playing with the hem of Maura's shirt. "I love you," Maura says again. "I love-god, you feel good." She slides her hands up under the elastic band of Jane's bra, and the brunette's head falls back against the wall with a soft thunk.
"Maur," she rumbles. "We probably shouldn't do this here."
But she makes no effort to move, and Maura leans forward to bite her shoulder, press Jane back against the wall. Bringing them together.
Jane moans, and Maura's stomach fills with a fiery kind of heat that spreads outwards slowly, through her entire body.
It is nearly impossible to pull herself away, and when she does, Jane grunts unhappily, pulling her own lip between her teeth and frowning at the blonde.
"You're right," Maura says breathlessly. "We shouldn't do this here."
Jane nods slowly, grudgingly, looking like she could kick herself for saying that.
Maura grins slyly and holds out her hand.
"C'mon," she says as Jane slips her fingers between hers.
"Lets go to my room."
Isles Christmas pt I...
Thanks for sitting through the whole thing. Happy Reading
Ps: you can see how I imagine the Isles CT Home on my tumblr (colormetheworld)