~ Life's Lessons ~
by Eveh

Disclaimer: I really hate this part but um?these characters are mine and the story is mine. If you've never heard of my previous story Accident and all those that follow then you will really need to read them in order to know what is going on in this story.

Thanks: To everyone who has written me and kept me going on this Accident series. Special thanks to Tami for listening to me when I could do nothing but talk obsessively about Tori.

If you'd like you can write me and tell me your thoughts or just chat at xengab01@aol.com. © 2001-02

What is it about us?humans I mean?that make this world so difficult a place to really be? I mean, the only reason why I had problems in my life was really because I created them, or I at least created situations that allowed them to happen. I guess, we all must still remember though, that those "problems" are considered life lessons, and those lessons are things that we have to learn in order to?what?

Why must these lessons be learned? What do they do for me? You know actually, most of the time I don't think we learn our lessons the first time around. I think we have to continue to be re-taught them constantly. Just about every week I learn that things that I put in the microwave come out hot and I shouldn't touch whatever's in there with my bare hands. Every week?EVERY week I learn this lessons and tell myself not to do it ever again, but still I reach in?knowing that that dish has to be hot and try to take it out. Then of course, much cursing and dancing around the kitchen holding onto my hurt hand ensues.

I'm sure most people are faced with this same lesson repeatedly. It's just one of those little facts of life.

For instance, another fact that comes to mind is that the phone always seems to ring or some alarm always tends to go off right when I'm finally getting a chance to relax from a long hard day. Once when this actually happened to me I had to buy another phone, because the one that interrupted my break met an untimely demise.

Oh yes, let's also not forget that every time you go to the bank or an ATM to get a little cash that by the time it goes in your wallet or purse your child moments later is standing beside you holding their hand out waiting for the money?(I believe they have a sixth sense for these things) or your car falls apart and needs some repair or some bill comes in the mail that you swear has nothing to do with you at all. Yet always you give up the money to your child happy you can provide for them, get the car fixed or pay that bill with at least a reluctant smile on your face or a well-hidden scowl.

These are facts of life. They happen to us all and they are all lessons?lessons that are taught to us repeatedly and things we never learn. Don't get me wrong there are those "big" lessons that we get taught every now and again that we only need to learn once. I learned a lot of those lessons very early on in my childhood and young adulthood.

I would figure that by now you would know most of them, but just in case you have skipped over something or have forgotten let me run a few of them by you.

One: Families do not have to be made by blood ties. They can be cut from any cloth. I've always pictured my family much like a quilt. We all were cut from different cloths, but we all came together to make something really beautiful and something to be proud of. Dana and Sam became my parents and invited me into not only their home but their lives as well and we created a family; and that family was extended to not only include us but my older sister Audrey, my younger sister Riana, and my best friend Kel.

Two: No matter how much money a person has or fame, people must always be true to themselves, because it is just too easy to be lost out there in this big world. I always tried my hardest not to fall into the trap my biological parents had created for me. Their money and their fame?it became mine too and I didn't want it. I always wanted to just be a kid. Needless to say that really never happened, but I know myself?at least now, and I know how to deal with the money and the fame and still be Tori. This lesson took me a very long time to learn?and in some instances I still learn it.

Three: Honesty can sometimes equal pain, but honesty, in the long run, seems to be the best policy. When Dana told me that she was the one who took my parents from me, I thought that I might hate her. I thought that it was my duty to hate her at least on my parents' behalf. In the end, I couldn't do it. I was glad she told me the truth though, because if anything I deserved that. Which brings me to lesson four.

Four: Love is more then just saying the words, "I love you." Love is sticking with a person through the hard times and holding them close when you feel they want to run away. Love is making the person realize every day that they mean something to you. I'm not just talking about romantic love either, I'm talking about friendship love, family love, and any other type of love I can't think of a name for right now. Love is unconditional, yet I've found very demanding. It demands that you toss your heart up in the air and hope that the people who love you will catch it (and I understand the analogy is rather gruesome).

Five: Guilt weighs heavily on the soul. It drags us down like nothing else can really, except a broken heart of course. Guilt stays with us for years festering in the pit of our stomachs eating away at our own happiness. The only way to get rid of it is to forgive yourself and allow yourself to feel that you deserve something good in this world other then the Hell you create. I've felt guilty about a lot of things in my life. Killing a young man not exactly at the bottom of my list to start with. I don't care if he was raping my roommate, I could always read the reasons of why I did it, but I could never grasped the real "why" of why did it even have to happen. There are just so many guilts I have had to deal with. The guilt of running from my family and running from Kel?

So after reading this lesson I believe we are ready to begin again where it was I last left off. I believe I was only twenty at the time. I had just returned from Colorado, my little personal vacation. I had called my parents and asked them to come see me at my new apartment so we could talk. So they could see me after not seeing me for more then six months.

Audrey was there with me. She was the first person I called actually. She was the first one to hear my story of what had happened to me in Colorado. Like always, my sister proved to be my best friend. She did not judge me and when I looked into her deep brown eyes I didn't see shame or disappointment staring back at me.

We were going to sit together through this little storm I had created for myself and see what really would happen when it was all over.

I had just finished writing about the things that occurred after my eighteenth birthday and then there was a knock on the door. I held my breath as I heard Audrey answer it. I didn't exhale until the breath was pushed out of me from the force of Sam's hug. She had run straight past Audrey and sought me out in my meager furnished bedroom and gathered me up in her arms with a strength that defied her small frame.

I could do nothing but simply hug her back and let my mother hold me. That is a comfort we often take for granted as adults?the comfort of our parents' arms I mean. I guess since we all believe that we must be strong and show no weaknesses that we can't simply take time aside anymore and let our parents provide the same comfort to us that they did when we were young.

On that day however, I relished that comfort. It was something that I had been craving longer then I even allowed myself to know. What had happened to me in Colorado had been just too damn hard for me to go through all alone and not have my Mama waiting for me with open arms offering me solace in my chaotic world.

Was I a Mama's Girl? You bet your ass I was; and that is something that I am very proud of.

Dana didn't walk into the room however. She just stood in the doorway watching Sam squeeze the life out of me. When I looked into her eyes?I was not happy with what I saw, because what I saw was pain, and worst of all, I knew I was the cause of it. Dana just stood in that doorway her body language clearly telling me that it was "explanation" time.

I gingerly pulled myself out of Sam's embrace and led her back to the living room. As we exited through the door Dana stepped back giving us a very wide berth?or more likely giving me a wide berth. If you remember that just a few years prior to this I ran away from her before. She didn't quite like that?as a matter of fact I think it was slowly killing her, which is why I vowed to never do it again. Unfortunately for us all, I did do it again.

We took a seat on the couch that I had conveniently bought just a short few hours after I rented the apartment. Actually more accurately, Dana, Sam and Audrey took the couch and I took the wooden coffee table that was set in front of it. Already, a few tears had been shed, mostly by Sam and some from me, definitely none from Dana though.

I leaned over resting my elbows on my thighs and brought my hands up like I was about to pray. I probably was pretty close to doing just that really. I remember just sitting there with a million thoughts running through my head not knowing where I should start my explanations or even what I should tell them. A lot of what had happened to me in the six months we had been apart was still very raw. I was still healing from some very deep and jagged cuts.

"Just tell me why?" Those were the first words that came out of Dana's mouth. And it was also the hardest question to answer.

"Fear." It may have been the hardest question to answer but it was the one thing I had thought about more then I really cared to. I was stuck in the "what ifs" of life then. What if I hadn't gone away? What if I had just worked things out with Kel right when she decided to tell me how she felt about me? What if I had been more honest with myself? What if?what if?what if? I had no answers to the "what ifs" I only had an answer to the why; fear.

"Fear of what?" Dana wasn't going to let me take this conversation slowly. She was a woman who demanded answers and I was the GIRL that had to give them.

"Of myself really. I just figured that if I ran away I wouldn't have to deal with myself anymore." My head refused to rise so that I could meet the gaze of my parents. I knew that more intimate questions would probably soon be forthcoming and I didn't want to literally face them. I was willing to play the coward and just look away in an effort to hold back some of the pain.

"Did it work?" I heard Dana's voice ask me as I just fell deeper into what was my own fear and feelings of shame.

"Of course it didn't." I whispered, now caught in the images of the past six months of my life that I had lived through.

Sam leaned forward and took my clasped hands into her warm grip. "Tell us what happened, baby."

I spared first Sam then Dana a brief glance allowing my eyes to reinforce the fact that my parents really were sitting in front of me, then I focused on a spot on the floor. I looked at this point on the carpet and somehow it turned into a window that allowed me to watch what had happened to me in the six months that I had been gone.

"When I went to Colorado I got a job as a waitress in some high class place where it cost too much for a breadstick. I also got myself an apartment and you could say, that if you just looked at that part of my life, that I was doing well for myself. I really wasn't though, you know?" I spared my parents another glance then quickly returned my gaze to my spot on the floor.

"When I left here I got a little wild. I was never really at my apartment because I was usually out partying somewhere doing a lot of things?" my voice cracked but I valiantly continued to speak. "I was doing a lot of things that aren't particularly good for anyone. I drank too much and I tried some drugs, but never really took to any of them."

I heard Sam gasp but I didn't look. I couldn't stop to feel her pain or surprise or disappointment just yet. "Usually if I was at my apartment for a night then it was because I was throwing a party myself. They really weren't parties though, they were just excuses for someone to bring me alcohol. I don't think I ever really became an alcoholic, I don't drink now, but who really knows."

I took a deep breath knowing that this next part was going to be the hardest thing to talk about, but it was part of my story, it is part of my story, so I gathered my measly amount of strength and just continued on.

"Eventually I met this guy. His name was Jose Guerra. I don't really know how it happened but eventually after he and I had been?seeing each other, he moved in with me. He was actually a part of some gang and somehow I became, in all correct terms, his bitch. At first when we were together, I was too proud to do what he told me to and I was too stubborn to not fight back; but eventually I just didn't care what he wanted me to do anymore. I succumbed and I let him control me, mind, body, and spirit."

"Did he hit you?"

The spot on the floor that was my little window suddenly blurred and I was brought back to the present. Dana had just asked the million-dollar question, per se. Did Jose hit me?

"I'm not sure 'hit' is the appropriate term," I answered her looking straight into her ice blue eyes. "I would call it 'beat the shit out of' personally. He was a gang member, remember, he had to be a really tough guy and I had to be nothing."

"Oh Tori," Sam breathed out and I could feel her grip on my hands tighten. Funny, I forgot she had been holding them.

"About three months after we had started dating I found out that I was pregnant and decided that it wouldn't do me or the child any good to be living with Jose. Eventually, I got away from him and I decided that I needed to come home."

"You're pregnant?" How did I know that that would be the one fact Dana paid the most attention to?

I nodded my head and forced myself to face her. "I am pregnant and I've already decided that I'm going to keep it. I really don't care what you think about it now because I've already made my decision so you can either support me or not."

Dana was the one that looked away this time but just a mere second later her blue gaze returned to me. "Of course I'll support you Tori. I'm your mother, that's what I'm supposed to do."

As soon as what she had said registered to me I lunged at her forcing her to catch me in her arms and I bawled like a newborn baby. She had me terrified when she walked into my apartment and gave me the cold shoulder. This woman's approval meant the world to me. I don't know why really, it just did, and it still does.

When I finally untangled myself from Dana's arms I realized that Riana had not come with them. "Where's Riana?" I asked as I wiped away my tears with the sleeve of my shirt.

"Kel's watching her." Sam answered somewhat hesitantly. "She wanted to come with us, but we talked her out of it."

Now here's a question that I know the world would want me to answer; did I want Kel to show up? Was I hoping that she would welcome me back with open arms and all the sudden I'd be living a fairy tale love story?

I'm older now, so I understand so many more things then I was able to then. I had no clue about which way was up and which way was down. I think the only true thing I knew at the time, was which way was home, and home wasn't being with Kel. Believe it or not, I had time to think about this when I was away partying, drinking, and involving myself in things that weren't so great.

We all know now that I ran in fear, and part of that fear was from having to look at myself honestly. I had to look at what I wanted and look at who I wanted to be?what I could live with being. While I was with Jose I really didn't care about much-I tried not to think about much-but when it was late at night and I was laying in bed bedside some guy that I was quickly learning to despise, I had some rather deep thoughts running through my head.

I became a firm believer that a person can only sink themselves down into oblivion for so long before their consciousness makes an effort to resurface. Nothing, I repeat, nothing can keep this from happening. I didn't want to stay up late at night and ponder the workings of my world. If anything I always desired to just sink deeper into oblivion.

While I was having my "deep thoughts" I came to a conclusion about my relationship with Kel, and it was simply that I needed her as a friend to stand by my side more than I needed her as anything else. The "anything else" would just have to be put in a category of things that might have been.

"She really wants to talk with you, Tori," Sam told me as I just sat thinking of the inevitable conversation I would be having with Kel. The talk, however, would be with Kel and Kel alone which, means that Sam's interference in the issue would have to be put to an end.

"So tell me what's been going on while I've been away." There's nothing like ignoring a subject my changing the subject.

My parents looked at me for a good long painful moment, studying my reaction to Sam's words then simply backed away. It is my guess that they recognized that my situation with Kel was none of their business. That's just the way I wanted things?I was almost sure of it.

"Not a whole lot has actually been going on really," Sam answered after her green irises had evaluated me thoroughly. "We've just been going on with our lives."

Now was that statement supposed to hurt me as much as it did? "Well," I cleared my throat, my voice had become weak for some reason, "I'm certain something happened that can be considered somewhat exciting."

"A lot of things happened, Tori. Stuff happens in six months you can't expect us to be able to catch you up in five minutes or less."

So Dana was still a little bit upset. I guess only time could really heal her wounds and only a shovel could lift me up from the ground where I had become just a pile of scum. Well, at least I felt like I was scum. If that's what Dana was aiming for then she accomplished her goal.

"I don't expect to be caught up in five minutes, Dana. I know that's not possible, but I would like to know about what's going on with the family, because I happen to care." I may have felt like scum, but I had a little bit of pride and that pride wouldn't allow me to take the blatant attack that Dana was obviously putting me through.

"We know that you care Tori," Sam quickly ran intervention. "We know that, but what I think?" here she gave Dana an intense glare. I think she was going to be yelled at later. "?what I think that Dana was trying to say, is that it's just difficult to formulate in words all that has happened in the past six months. You will just have to be filled in about the things you missed as time goes by."

When you miss out on things that happens in the lives of people you care about, you miss out. There is no magic ball that you can look into to get yourself caught up on everything that happened overtime. It's all just moments that you have to accept that you weren't there for, and accepting that is difficult.

"I guess that I can understand that," I stammered out. "I really want to be able to take the time and learn all that has happened though."

Dana gave me a look; a certain type of look that I had learned over the years meant that she was about to enlighten me about something in a very motherly fashion. Recognizing this look, I clamped my jaw shut willing myself to stay seated and remain quite throughout whatever it was she was going to tell me.

"You do realize that since you have decided to keep the child that your free time will significantly lessen?" I took that as a rhetorical question and remained silent. "You have a lot of things that you have to make decisions about now. The most important of which not being what you're going to do about finishing school."

"I don't really need to finish school, Mom, I can always go back later on." I really didn't want to bring this subject up at the moment, but Dana did open that door and my mouth didn't remain shut?and it probably should have.

"You're not thinking about not finishing school are you, Tori?" Surprisingly Sam was the one that asked the question first.

I waved my hands wildly in front of me in a futile effort to wave away the thoughts that came with the words that Sam had spoken to me. "Nononono?that's not what I said. I'm sure I'll finish school; I just may not finish it until I am older. That's all."

"Unacceptable." Dana responded softly.

My body straightened in reflex to the five syllable word and I took a quick glance behind me to make sure that Dana was indeed speaking to me then pointed at myself when I found that no one stood behind me. "Excuse me?"

"That is unacceptable, Tori." Dana obviously saw no problem with what she said. "You have to get an education."

"I'm not saying that I won't get an education, I'm just saying that I would hold off on getting one until my child is older." I was going to try and at least reason with her. I didn't want to necessarily have our first power struggle within the first hour of seeing each other after having not had contact for six months.

Dana just shook her head and obviously dismissed everything that I had just said to her. "Tori, I don't think you understand how important school really is."

"I can always wait until later to finish college. It's not like I necessarily need to finish school in order to get a good job to support myself. I'm lucky enough for money to not be a factor in making my decision."

Sam sighed heavily. "No you can't Tori."

Now, the way that Sam said this, I didn't exactly take it as a command. She actually said it more like it was just a fact, which made me a little suspicious. "Why not?" I carefully asked.

Dana and Sam looked at each other for a long moment communicating on some level that I was incapable of understanding. Eventually Sam just nodded and entwined her hand within Dana's. "There's something that you should probably know," Sam started out and I knew that this was something I really didn't want to hear. I had the very juvenile urge to put my hands over my ears, close my eyes tightly, and start singing loudly. I, some way, managed to suppress the urge and sat perfectly still instead waiting for my mama to finish whatever it was she was going to tell me.

"Dana and I decided a long time ago that we wouldn't tell you this, because we didn't want to put any pressure on you, but you should know now." Sam took a deep breath and I imagined that I could hear the faint sound of a bombing make a quick descent from the sky above me. I even peeked upward to make sure that there was indeed no bomb hurling its way towards my sleek form.

"You know that all the money that your parents had left you was signed over to you when you were eighteen." Sam continued to explain. "Well, there was one small part of your parents' will that you weren't told about."

"And what was that?" I asked my voice almost not allowing me to do so.

"There was a small clause in the contract that you signed that said you had to graduate from college by the time you reach your twenty-third birthday or all the money that was given to you will be distributed to a various establishments that your parents chose."

Well this certainly was news to me. "What do you mean 'various establishments'? Do you mean something like charities?"

Sam shook her head. "Well not exactly. There's a long list of various organizations that the money would go to, none of which I think you would yourself support."

"Why don't you just tell me what these organizations are and stop trying to be so cryptic?" I couldn't really figure out why my parents had decided to withhold this information from me, but I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that they didn't disappoint me when all was said and done.

My parents looked at each other again then turned back to me and Sam started telling me the organizations that had been picked by my parents as possible places their money would go. Every single organization she listed was definitely not something that I would ever support. I couldn't even believe that my parents would support them, I mean from what I remembered about my biological parents they weren't as conservative as these organizations tended to be. Actually, if anyone ever found out that their money went towards these organizations then their reputations would be completely ruined. I just couldn't understand it.

"Why would they want their money to go to organizations like that?" I asked truly baffled.

"Probably to give you incentive," Audrey spoke up for the first time. Believe it or not, she was still in the room sitting silently on the couch just listening and watching the going-ons before her. I turned to her surprised by the sound of her voice and with my eyes urged her to continue. "If you remember Dad's personality at all then you would remember the little games that he always liked to play," she continued. "He's telling you that if you don't get educated then you will be forced to live with the fact that millions and millions of dollars will be put into organizations that you surely do not support. It's pretty much like a do or die thing." Audrey smirked and shook her head slightly. "He's probably looking at you now waiting to see how you're going to play his little game."

"Our father was a very strange man," I told her needlessly.

"That he was," Audrey nodded. "But that doesn't matter Tori. You wanted you to finish school because all know that no daughter of his would be left without being practically perfect in every way."

"There's really nothing you can do about it," Dana interjected. "You're just going to have to finish school and because of your six month vacation you're already behind. You have a lot of work to do ahead of you."

I shrugged my shoulders at a serious lose of how to respond. "When does all this fucking end?" I whispered to myself then said more loudly, "Is there anything else that I should know about. I mean are there any more family secrets or anything that I need to know, because I'm really tired of just being on a fucking need-to-know basis."

"Tori watch your language," Dana immediately scolded me bringing me back to a time of when I was only sixteen and my parents were sitting across from me telling me the truth about my parents' death.

I shook my head to clear it of the very unwelcome thoughts. "I'm an adult. I can say anything that I want."

"That may be true," Dana immediately responded, "but we are you parents and we deserve more respect than that."

"I'm sorry Mom," The words left my mouth before they had been screened by my brain. I couldn't believe that this woman still had the power to make me feel like I was just a little girl again even after I hadn't seen her for such a long time.

"I understand that you are upset, baby, but there are better ways to express yourself then that," Sam chided me in her own special way. "Now, in answer to your question, there is nothing else that I can think of that you don't know about."

I nodded my head not really knowing what else to do, but my mama did. Sam opened her arms to me and found myself falling into her embrace just because that's where I wanted to be. Given the information that I had just been told, I figured that I would be going back to school and try to get as much done as possible before I had to take off because of the baby. Coming home was just making me have to deal with all these little challenges that my life produced because of my absence and I really hadn't met all of them yet, but in all honesty there was no where else that I really wanted to be. I had finally come home to my family where Victorianna Elizabeth Ann Marcus belonged.


We all left my apartment just as soon as all the tears had dried and all the dirty faces had been cleaned. My parents took me back home with them and Audrey left to go back home to her husband trusting that she could now leave me alone since it was obvious that her support wasn't needed as strongly as it had been with my reunion with Dana and Sam. She had a life to get back to and I had to respect and understand that. I couldn't really demand she put her life on hold indefinitely until her little sister felt like the world had stopped spinning as frantically as it had been doing recently.

I said my goodbyes to Audrey then climbed into Sam's new silver Honda CR-V and my mama drove me back to their home. I still had every intention of keeping my apartment knowing that it was very important for me to at least try to be on my own for a while. This was something I needed to learn especially since I had decided to bring a child into the world.

We pulled up into the very familiar driveway alongside Kel's very familiar car. My palms started sweating and my heart started beating rapidly just from seeing Kel's vehicle.

"Are you ready to go inside?" Dana turned around from the front passenger seat and asked me bringing me out of my nearly frantic state.

I heard a gulp, that I guess came from me, and nodded my head. My arm shakily reached out and opened up the car door. I stepped down onto the cement holding tightly onto the door not too sure that my legs would hold me. When I didn't immediately find myself making a hasty decent towards the cement of the driveway I tentatively let go of the door and closed it weakly. Somehow I got my feet to start working and I was on my way to the front door. When I finally arrived the door was already open and standing there was Kel holding my baby sister in her arms.

Riana held out her arms to me and started screaming my name. I immediately moved to her and took her gently out of Kel's arms and held her to me. I missed my little sister terribly and I was happy to find out that she missed me as well and didn't forget me, that being one of my greatest fears after I had left.

After reacquainted with Riana I looked away from her and laid my eyes on a crying Kel. I moved towards her slowly and reached out one arm to her. She stepped forward and I was instantly embracing her in a one-armed hug while firmly holding Riana to my opposite side.

"Welcome back Tori," Kel whispered to me through her sobs.

I gave her a chaste kiss on the forehead then told her just as softly as she had spoken to me, "It's good to be back."

I don't know how long we stood there but eventually we broke apart when Riana decided that she wanted down from her perch on my hip. I put her down and she immediately went further into the house to greet her parents whom she had almost completely ignored when she had caught sight of me.

Kel and I followed her inside the house and I couldn't help but intake a big breath of air absorbing all the smells of home. Nothing inside the house had really changed and I was almost sure that if I went to my room I would find everything just the way that I had left it.

Yeah, there was really no other place that I wanted to be at the time.

The night progressed nicely really. We decided to order a pizza and I filled Kel in on what had happened while I was away. Kel and I had decided early on in the evening that we would wait to have any kind of talk about us. It was something that would just have to wait for until we were alone. I was slightly relieved by that, until of course I decided that it was time to go home and Kel offered to drive me.

I briefly entertained the thought of just staying at my parents' home, but I couldn't do that knowing that I would just be running again away from facing Kel, and that was something that I desperately didn't want to get in the habit of doing anymore. I would have to face the problems that we had head on. Unfortunately I knew that it would a lot easier to tell myself to do that then to actually do it.

The ride to my apartment was a lot longer than I ever though it could be. Kel and I sat in complete silence knowing that if we started talking that we would be having a conversation in the car that probably shouldn't happen while one of us was driving. We pulled into the parking lot of my building then slowly stepped out of the car and made our way up to my apartment. It was a really nice one, if I do say so myself, but I really didn't notice the lavishness of my apartment when I walked into it with Kel. My mind just happened to me on a myriad of other things.

Once we were inside my new home and were seated on the couch with glasses of water on the coffee table before us we actually began to talk.

"So you're pregnant?"

I could understand why this would be the first thing that Kel wanted to discuss, even though I wasn't too terribly interested in discussing it.

"Yeah I am, and I'm going to keep the baby."

Kel nodded her head and looked away from me briefly. "I really wouldn't expect you to do anything else," she said softly. "You're a lot like Sam in that way. She would probably have the baby too."

Honestly, I really hadn't thought about what either of my mothers would do I just did what I thought was best for me. "I guess so." I replied weakly. "I really hadn't thought about any of that."

"What have you been thinking about, Tori?" Kel asked me hesitantly.

That was really a heavy loaded question. I blew out a long breath taking those precious seconds to gather my thoughts.

"There's no simple answer to that really," I told her honestly. "I've been thinking about everything and nothing. I did however think a lot about what happened before I left," I moved myself closer to her on the couch and lightly rested my hand on her bicep. "I feel that I owe you a very big apology because of the way I left. I actually have a lot of things to apologize about, and I don't have the words and I don't know how I can show you how sorry I really am."

A tear ran down Kel's cheek and I gently wiped it away. "I really am sorry that I hurt you Kel and I'm sorry that I left and I'm?just sorry."

Kel took my hand that had wiped away her tear in hers and placed a gentle kiss on my knuckle. I jumped away from her as soon as my brain registered the contact and I instantly regretted my actions when I saw the hurt in her eyes, but I stopped myself from apologizing. It was time that I made everything clear to Kel and the only way I could do that is at a comfortable distance where my heart wouldn't tell me to reach out and comfort her from her pain even though I was the one that was causing it.

I ran my hand through my dark curly hair and clamped down on my urge to pace. "I did a lot of thinking about us and I know that this isn't what you want to hear, but I really feel that-and believe me when I say that I thought about this a lot-but I really feel that we can only be friends. Don't think that it's not that I'm not attracted to you or anything like that it's just that you're the best friend I really have or at least had in my life-besides Audrey-and I really don't want to mess that up in any way-not that us being together would do that-I just feel that we aren't meant to be together in that way." I took in a large amount of air after I realized I hadn't in a while then quickly released it. "Do understand what I'm saying?" I pathetically asked.

Kel looked at me for a very long moment and just sat on the couch in silence. I wanted to demand that she speak to me and say something, but I knew that I was in no position to make any demands. So, I just waited willing my mouth to stay shut and my body to remain still.

"I'll never understand you," Kel told me softly. "I may know you better then anyone else possibly could, but I'll never understand you."

I shrugged my shoulders and looked at her sheepishly. "I'm not sure I understand myself half the time. Hell, I hardly even know myself, but I do know that I want your friendship back almost more then I really want anything."

Kel shook her head but I could tell that a small smirk was slowly forming at the corner of her mouth. "Tori, I should really be yelling and screaming at you for what you put all of us through when you left."

"But you're not going to, right?" I finished for her and grinned widely having realized that I hadn't lost my best friend because of one single moment of bad judgment.

"No, I'm not going to," She responded. "I don't think that me yelling at you about that is going to accomplish anything." And she was right she couldn't say anything that would make me feel worse than I already did. "But I am going to just tell you one thing Tori, and that is simply that I love you with all my heart and if you can't handle that and are uncomfortable with it, I suggest we part ways here."

All that had been running through my head was that I hadn't lost my best friend, but as soon as she had just put her feelings right out there in the open I had no clue what I was supposed to say. Did it really bother me that Kel loved me like that and that I, for some reason, didn't feel the same way?

I rubbed my hands over my face and blew out an unsteady breath. "Well Kel, that's certainly a somewhat unfair ultimatum there."

"What do you mean?" She crossed her arms in front of her and immediately took on a defensive tone. I put my hands on my hips and shifting my weight to one foot and just looked down at her and cocked my left eyebrow challenging her to answer her own question. All she did was stare right back at me and I was forced to relax my pose and back away from her.

"Kel, I don't return your feelings and frankly I'm not sure that I ever could. For you to sit down and tell me that if I'm uncomfortable with you loving me that we can't be friends then we just can't be friends," She slightly flinched at my words but I just continued on hoping to get everything I had to say out before I lost my nerve. "Don't get me wrong I want your friendship almost more then I want in my life right now, but for me to sit by you and be your friend and for you to always be wanting something more, well that makes me uncomfortable, because I want to give you something but what I would give you isn't what you would deserve." I paused for a moment and took a seat next to her on the couch hoping to ease whatever pain she was going through. "I couldn't stand for you to be settling for anything less then what you deserve," I reached out to her and placed my hand gently on her thigh, "and I'm less then what you deserve."

"I must be crazy," Kel said softly, "I must be crazy because I would rather have your friendship then nothing at all and I'm willing to stick by your side until you decide that you don't want my friendship anymore." Her hand moved down and she took the hand I placed on her thigh into her own. "All I really want from you Tori is to be in my life and I honestly believe that I could almost forgive you anything."

"So we can still be friends right?" I asked needing to hear her confirmation more then I really care to admit.

Kel chuckled softly and reached out to gather me up in a tight embrace. "Of course we can still be friends."

I couldn't help but cry at her words. I don't know why I did really, it just seemed like the thing to do at the moment, besides Kel had begun to cry too and I wouldn't want her to feel lonely. So, we sat on my couch in my new apartment hugging and crying for a friendship saved. I really don't think our reunion could have been any more emotional than that.

When we did finally break apart Kel decided that it was time she return home. I would have offered to let her stay with me the night, but we just weren't back to that point of our friendship yet. I had to understand that even though she had forgiven me and we had decided to continue our friendship, that we still weren't as close as we had been before. My friend still had a lot of emotions she had to deal with and I had to allow her to have her space.

So, Kel left me alone in my apartment in the middle of the night feeling rather raw from all the things that I had gone though on that incredibly emotional day. It took me about ten minutes of me being alone the apartment before I grabbed my keys and wallet and left my apartment to go see my parents. I would just have to practice being on my own later when I hadn't gone through such a long day and didn't want the comfort of my parents' presence so badly.

It took me about fifteen minutes to arrive at my parents' front door and I stood there for a few moments just studying the house. There was a moment when I was standing there that I second-guessed how wise my decision to come back home had been, but before the doubt could make a firm appearance in my thoughts the door had opened and Sam was beckoning for me to come inside.

"We've been expecting you," She told me as I passed the threshold of the door. "Your room is all ready for you."

I looked down at her perplexed and unsure of how she knew that I would be coming back. I hadn't called and told her that I would come and when I left before I hadn't told her that I might return.

"You're my baby Tori," Sam said as answer to the questions I hadn't asked. "Believe it or not I do know you."

My eyes wondered around the room and I could see Dana standing in the hallway right outside the doorway to my old room. She was leaning against the wall with her legs crossed at the ankles and her arms crossed across her chest. Her deep blue eyes were staring at me amused.

I continued my trek deeper into the house and let Sam lead me towards my old bedroom door where Dana was patiently waiting. Once at the doorway I looked into the room and I saw everything in the exact same place where I had left it six months prior. My little knick-knacks hadn't been moved from their places on my shelves and my old violin was still in its case against the wall. At that moment I made a promise to myself to take it out and play at the first chance I got.

"Now," Dana's voice cut through the silence that enveloped us, "why don't you tell us what happened between you and Kel."

I turned to look at her and wondered if it would be just a little too childish of me to jump into her arms and hold her as tightly as possible to me while I told her over and over again how much I loved her. I would also want to tell her how much it meant to me that they kept faith that I would return, it being clearly obvious since they hadn't moved a thing in my room. I was about twenty years old now though, and there was no good reason why I should do any of that. So, I held off on jumping into her arms and instead I just stepped into my room and moved over to take a seat on my bed. Sam and Dana followed me in and they took a seat on each side of me waiting patiently for me to tell my story.

Once we were all settled I began to tell them every single thing that had gone on between Kel and I starting with the day I had left. I wasn't sure if they had heard the story yet, but if I was going to tell them what was going on, then I was going to tell them it all. By the time I was through we were all laying down on my queen-sized bed me staring up at the ceiling and my parents staring at me.

"So we've just decided to remain friends, which is what I really want." I said ending my tale. I could feel my parents' eyes looking at me the wheels in their heads turning deciding what advice they could give and what questions they might ask.

"Do you think Kel will be able to stay by your side while you go through your pregnancy and everything?" Was the first question Dana asked.

I shrugged my shoulders. "I'm not sure. I mean I hope she's able to, but that's really up to her now isn't it?"

"Yeah it is, but if you're looking to her for support and she can't give it to you all the way to the end, then you might want to go looking somewhere else," Sam said gently.

"I have faith in her though," I was quick defend my friend.

"Don't misunderstand us Tori we care for Kel too and we know she is a very responsible lady," Sam explained, "but sometimes love can make us act in ways that we don't normally act."

"Well I then I'll have to trust her to tell me that she can't do it if it becomes too hard for her."

"Now you're sounding like you're her friend," Dana smiled at me and patted my arm.

I looked at her curiously, "What do you mean?"

"Friends don't run away Tori. They stay by your side and have faith in you no matter what." Dana told me and smiled. "It seems that you just now became Kel's friend. I'm sure that if you keep the same faith in her that you have now then you two will remain friends for a long time to come."

I looked at my mom for a moment allowing what she said to sink into my sometimes thick skull then broke out into a smile realizing that my parents weren't really concerned about what Kel might do, but were more concerned with what I might do. I guess they wanted to make sure that I would stick by Kel no matter what, because more then likely she would stick by me. It seems that I could have been a little under practice from reading behind the lines when it came to my parents. It seems that would have to be something I would have to perfect again, especially since these two worked so well together when they decided they wanted to mess with my head.

We sat in silence for a few more moments all of us looking up at the naked ceiling. It was a peaceful silence at first, but slowly began to gain tension. I could tell that Sam was just biting her tongue beside me; she obviously had something that she wanted to say. She never held back from saying anything to me before and I wasn't going to let her start doing so now. I reached over and gave her a light shove. "Go on, say whatever it is you've got on your mind."

"Don't." Dana sat up and looked across from me straight into her partner's eyes. "Don't do it."

I opted to remain laying down so that I could keep my view on both my parents. "Don't do what?"

"Nothing." Dana quickly answered as she gave Sam another meaningful glare.

"Well it's obviously something, I mean if it were nothing then you wouldn't be making a big something out of it." This time I did sit up and looked directly at Dana hoping to get her to back off so that I could turn my attention to Sam to get her to crack.

"No, no" Sam waved her hand in my direction. "Your Mom's right it's really nothing at all."

Damn they always had to use teamwork didn't they? It was a thousand times harder to fight them when they were going against me in a joint effort then it was if they were separate. There was nothing I could do in this situation but surrender and cut my loses. I threw my hands up in the air in a useless gesture and shook my head. "Okay then," I sighed. "It must be nothing then."

Dana had a triumphant grin etched on her features and Sam looked somewhat relieved. They might have won this round, but they hadn't won the war yet. "I'm tired," I said as I forced myself to yawn. "I think I should get some sleep, it's been a really long day."

"Okay," Sam was said a little too eagerly for my taste. My parents got up from my bed and said their good nights to me and left me to get ready for bed.

I quickly changed into some nightclothes then put my ear to my door and waited for my parents to close the door to their own room as soon as they checked in on the sleeping Riana. As soon as their door had clicked shut I quietly opened my own door and crept down the hallway. I eased my way to my parents' door and listened in quietly hoping to catch in on a conversation that would tell me what they had avoided bringing up while they were in my room.

If the door suddenly opened I had decided that my excuse would be that I wanted a drink of water, but just lost my way. It was a weak excuse, I understand, but if I truly looked at what I was doing any excuse would have been a weak one. I mean here I was a grown woman ease dropping on my parents' private conversations hoping to get a little information that was probably really nothing I cared to hear anyway.

At first, I couldn't hear anything but muffled voices. I could catch such words as; "Tori" "honey" and "understand". I took a chance and got even closer to the door hoping that my parents would just speak a little louder and then I heard it.

"If Tori wants to tell us then she's going to tell us, honey," I could hear Dana's voice tell my mama gently.

"You're right?you're right, but I just want her to tell us so that we can be there for her." Sam's voice answered.

"I know, and believe me I want that too, but we have to let her go at her own pace."

"It's not like we wouldn't understand though, I mean we've been through what she must be going through."

"Honey," Dana's voice said almost too softly for me to hear, "she'll tell us whatever she has to tell us when she's ready. We're her parents and no matter what it must be hard for her."

"It's not like we'd judge her though," Sam argued. "It's not like we'd disown her because she was gay."

Well that's obviously all I needed to know now wasn't it? I turned around and slowly crept back into my room and quietly shut the door. I got into my bed and started thinking about my parents' words. I didn't think too much about it though because I didn't really want to. It had already been a really long day and I just wanted to sleep. So, that's what I did. I closed my eyes and went to sleep holding off any more deep thinking for another time.

Continued in Learn Along the Way

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