Anni’s mother greeted the two women in the driveway. As Anni took her mom in her arms for an awkward hug, she felt how frail the older woman had become. Since the last time they saw each other, the elder Brehme had aged significantly. Puffy, red eyes and worry lines adorned a much older face. That fact alone caused Anni to feel sorrow.
Jasmin stood quietly by, watching the interaction. She could see the uneasiness of both of them, but Jasmin was proud of Anni for being sensitive to her mother’s needs.
Anni pulled back, gesturing towards her fiancée. “You remember Jasmin?”
Mrs. Brehme smiled slightly at Jasmin. “Yes, of course. It was nice of you to accompany Andrea.”
“There’s nowhere I’d rather be, Mrs. Brehme.” Jasmin took the older woman’s outstretched hand with a sympathetic smile. “I’m just sorry it’s under these circumstances.”
Mrs. Brehme glanced at her daughter before settling her gaze uncomfortably on Jasmin again. “You can’t be in there with Andrea,” she announced shakily.
“Then we’re leaving!” Anni answered angrily. “Jasmin is my . . .” She trailed off when she felt Jasmin’s hand caress her back.
“It’s all right,” Jasmin murmured softly.
“No it’s not, Jasmin. You came all the way here with me, and I’m not going to allow anyone to treat you like you don’t belong.”
Jasmin caught the faint sniffle from Anni’s mother, and from the corner of her eye, she could see the tears begin. Stepping closer to Anni, she lowered her voice. “She’s not doing this to be mean, or to not include me, sweetie. This isn’t about me. It’s about your dad. Go. Visit him, talk to him. I’ll be okay.”
“I’m sorry, Andrea. I’m not trying to be mean.” Mrs. Brehme’s hand shook as she nervously pushed a strand of hair off her face. “I know your father can hear me when I speak to him. I’m just afraid of what it might do if he hears that your girlfriend is here.”
Anni caught the slight catch in her mother’s voice when she said the word girlfriend. She had thought that at least her mother had come around to being okay with her lifestyle.
“I don’t want to leave you alone,” Anni told Jasmin, ignoring her mother’s words for the time being.
“I won’t be alone. I’ll be here, keeping your mom company.” Jasmin smiled brightly, giving Anni a wink. “I’ll be okay.”
Anni sighed. She really didn’t want to give in. Jasmin was her family now. It hurt knowing that her possible final moments with her father would still be denying herself. She wouldn’t be able to tell him that she’s marrying the woman she loves. How does she reconcile the fact that in the end, her father may die never accepting her? With a small nod, she took Jasmin’s hand, squeezing it lightly. “I love you.”
Jasmin’s heart beat a little faster at Anni’s loud and clear declaration in front of her mother. “I love you, too. I’ll be here if you need me.”
I need you now, Anni thought silently. She gave her fiancée a small smile before walking into her childhood home to see her father for possibly the last time.
Jasmin followed Mrs. Brehme into the house after Anni disappeared inside. Discreetly, she took in her surroundings, trying to imagine Anni growing up here. Jasmin spied photos of a young Anni, smiling at the camera. In a few of the photos, she stood with her father, their arms around each other with obvious affection. So it wasn’t always bad, Jasmin observed. Maybe it can be good again before it’s too late. She immediately felt a sadness wash over her at the thought that it may already be too late.
“Mrs. Brehme?” The older woman seemed to be disoriented, and unsure of what to do with herself. Taking pity on her, Jasmin guided her to the couch. “You look exhausted. Why don’t you take a nap?”
“Oh no. I couldn’t possibly. What if Rainer needs me?”
“Anni is with him now,” Jasmin soothed. “If he needs anything, she’ll be there.”
The older woman shook her head. “What if . . .”
Her trembling voice trailed off as if she couldn’t bear to finish the thought. Jasmin’s heart broke for Anni’s mother. She knew deep down that Anni’s parents were good people. They just didn’t understand the lifestyle. While Jasmin could understand that, she didn’t understand the conditional love. A parents’ love should be unconditional.
“All right. How about you just rest here, and I’ll make you some tea? I’m sure I can find my way around the kitchen for that.” Jasmin offered Mrs. Brehme a smile, and was elated to see it returned. Even if it was a bit tremulous.
“Thank you. The cups are in the cupboard on the left, and the tea is on the shelf,” Mrs. Brehme called out as Jasmin walked away.
This should be easy enough. Jasmin took the tea kettle from the stove, and filled it before returning it to the burner. She worked on autopilot as she thought of Anni. It amazed Jasmin – despite their current situation - how much lighter her heart felt after actually talking with Anni. Their relationship was never particularly communicative. At least not verbally. Jasmin knew that Anni preferred to show her feelings rather than speak them. Whether that was in the form of making love, or closing off completely, depended on the situation. However, in the four hours that just spent on the road, Jasmin felt she knew Anni better than ever now. And that caused her love for Anni to grow.
The whistle of the tea kettle brought Jasmin out of her musings. As she fixed the cup of tea, she hoped Mrs. Brehme had fallen asleep. The poor woman certainly looked like she could fall over at any time. Unfortunately, as Jasmin took the hot beverage back to the living room, she noticed the older woman was still awake, staring at the far wall. Jasmin tracked her line of site, and noticed Mrs. Brehme was staring at the same photo that had captured her.
“He loves her, you know?” Mrs. Brehme said softly, still staring at the photo of Anni and her father.
“I know.” Jasmin carefully set the beverage down in front of Mrs. Brehme, then took a seat.
“He just doesn’t understand.”
“Neither do you. And that’s okay.” Jasmin hesitated for a moment. “What’s not okay is how he treats Anni. The things he’s called her, or the things he’s said to her. He’s her father. Anni deserves his love and respect, as well as yours.”
Though Jasmin’s tone was gentle, her words rang with disapproval. The older woman’s eyes left the photo, and locked on to Jasmin’s. Sorrow and shame caused them to fill with tears that threatened to spill over at any moment.
“You love her.”
It wasn’t a question, but Jasmin felt the desire to answer anyway. “Yes, I do. Anni means everything to me.” She laid a hand over her heart in an attempt to punctuate the love she felt for this woman’s daughter.
“A – are you two married?”
Jasmin looked at the ring that Mrs. Brehme was staring at, and smiled. “No, not yet. We’re engaged.” She hoped Anni was okay with Jasmin announcing it without her like this. She just didn’t see the harm in telling the truth.
Mrs. Brehme frowned. However, it seemed to Jasmin that it was more in thought, than in disapproval. At least she hoped so.
“Are you not afraid of what others think? You’re a nice looking woman. I’m sure you can have your choice of men.”
“I’m not looking for a man, Mrs. Brehme,” Jasmin stated firmly. “I love your daughter. I used to care what others thought of me. Of us. But it did nothing but make me almost lose Anni. I can’t live my life in fear of what others think. It’s a waste of time.”
“What about your parents, Miss Flemming? Are they supportive of your decisions?”
“Please, call me Jasmin. And my mother and I are coming to terms with each other,” she answered vaguely. Not wanting to insult the older woman, she continued amiably. “I understand that parents only want what is best for their children. Sometimes they can’t see that we’ve grown up, and need to make our own decisions. For better or worse. The best thing a parent can do is be in their child’s corner. Anni is a strong woman, Mrs. Brehme. She doesn’t need yours or Mr. Brehme’s approval of her choices. But deep inside, she hurts because of your estrangement. She loves you both. All she ever wanted was for you to love who she is in return.”
“I – I wanted Andrea to come here to see her father in hopes it would help both of them,” Mrs. Brehme confessed. “I’ve tried to get them together. I’ve tried talking to Rainer. He’s such a stubborn mule sometimes.”
“Well, we know where Anni gets it from.” Jasmin chuckled lightly when Mrs. Brehme cracked a smile.
“You’re good for her.”
Jasmin was surprised by the sentiment. “She’s good for me,” she responded sincerely.
“A marriage of your . . . type is not legal here,” the older woman declared.
“What will you do?”
“There are plenty of places we can go to get married. Legally. But we can still have a ceremony here with our friends. We can also be registered as life partners here. What matters the most is that we will be married in our hearts.”
Mrs. Brehme said nothing, and Jasmin was happy to keep quiet and let the woman contemplate everything that had been said.
“I would like to be there,” she said abruptly, making Jasmin jump a little from the break in the stillness of the air.
Jasmin studied Anni’s mom, looking for sincerity. What she found was a timid mother that looked terrified of losing her whole family. Jasmin nodded. “As long as you’re there to support Anni and our love, you are always welcome. But I will not allow you to hurt her. She’s had enough hurting in her life.”
Mrs. Brehme gave Jasmin the first genuine smile since showing up. “I like you . . . Jasmin. You fiercely protect my daughter, even from her own parents. I’m glad she found someone like you.”
Tears filled Jasmin’s brown eyes. What an emotional day it’s been. From opening up to Anni, having Anni do the same to her, and now Mrs. Brehme giving Jasmin what could only be her blessing, it was pretty overwhelming. And beautiful.
“Thank you, Mrs. Brehme. You have no idea what that means to me. I promise to always do my best when it comes to protecting Anni’s heart.”
And with that, Jasmin’s thoughts immediately went to her fiancée, and where she was now. She wondered desperately how Anni was doing with her father. Was she hurting? Did she need Jasmin? I love you, Anni. I’m here. I will always be here.
Anni stood at her father’s door willing herself to go in. She could hear her mother’s and Jasmin’s voices in the distance, but couldn’t concentrate on the words. She could only hope her mother was being nice to her fiancée.
“I don’t want to do this,” she whispered to herself. She was already reeling emotionally from the drive here. Learning everything she learned about Jasmin, revealing her own past, left her drained. But she was here now. She promised her mom she would try this reconciliation thing.
Problem was, it was her father that didn’t love her. Not the other way around. Anni wasn’t about to change herself, or deny Jasmin, just to appease her father. She couldn’t live with herself if she did that. Despite what her mother said, Anni decided to be honest with her father. If he could hear her, he was going to know exactly how she felt. Anything less wouldn’t be making amends, it would be amending herself to his needs.
“Just go in!” she ordered herself harshly. Reluctantly she pushed her way in. Anni’s breath caught in her throat as she studied the man lying in the bed in front of her. He looked gaunt and weak, nothing like the father she remembered. Though she knew he was unconscious, it made her feel better to think he was just sleeping. Quietly, she sat in the chair next to the bed, and just stared.
“How am I supposed to do this?” she asked him softly. “What am I supposed to say to you? I can’t change who I am. I don’t want to.” Tentatively, Anni placed her hand over her father’s. “All I’ve ever wanted was for you to be proud of me. I know you wanted the conventional life for me. Find a man, fall in love, get married, have children. You couldn’t you see that that isn’t who I am. But I have found love, dad. I didn’t think it would ever happen. You made it so hard for me to believe I was able to be loved.”
She paused, wiping a tear from her cheek. Years of learning to keep her emotions in check have pretty much dissipated in the span of one day. Anni wasn’t sure if she was capable of handling these feelings. She just had to believe that Jasmin would help her through all of this.
“Jasmin,” she whispered reverently. “You’ve met her, dad. I know that if you had given her a chance, you would love her. But you were so intent on being embarrassed by the fact I was with a woman.” Anni sighed. Part of her wanted her father to be able to hear her. And part of her hoped he couldn’t. She was making herself too vulnerable. Nevertheless, she forged ahead, needing to get this out just in case he never woke up again.
“I almost lost her. I wanted so much to blame you for that. Oh, you have no idea how much I cursed you for making it impossible to open myself up to the love of another. But I never meant for this.” Anni began to cry harder at the idea that she may be responsible for her father’s current condition. “I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want mom to be alone. I only wanted you to love me.”
Anni rested her forehead on his shoulder and cried. She couldn’t bring herself to say anything more. Not yet. She needed to purge herself of this guilt, and she didn’t know how. She whispered an apology before giving in to the exhaustion she felt pulling her under.
“Sweetie?” Jasmin shook Anni softly. She didn’t dare raise her voice above a whisper. Mrs. Brehme had finally succumbed to her fatigue, and getting concerned about Anni, Jasmin decided to look in on her. She was loathe to disturb Mr. Brehme, or cause him any distress, so she woke Anni as quietly as she could.
Jasmin placed a finger on Anni’s lips, and leaned close to her ear. “Don’t speak loud enough to agitate your dad. I just thought you may want to take a break? Get something to eat?”
“I’m not hungry,” Anni responded just as quietly. “I need a little more time.”
Jasmin caressed Anni’s cheek. She wanted to argue with Anni, knowing how tired she must be. But Jasmin realized, looking in Anni’s eyes, how much she needed to finish whatever she started with her father. So she nodded, and kissed Anni sweetly on the cheek before leaving her alone once again.
Anni watched the woman she loves walk out the door, and once again she was alone with her father. She could have taken the easy way out, and joined Jasmin. A good chunk of her heart wished she had.
“Wake up, dad.” She took his hand again, wondering if she could possibly give him strength just by touching him. “I want you to know Jasmin. You’ll understand why I love her. It would be impossible for you not to love her, too.” Guilt stymied her words once again before she shook it off.
“I was lying to myself when I blamed you,” she confessed. “I know that better now after hearing what Jasmin had been through. She’s the most loving, caring, generous woman I know, and she shouldn’t be. The things that happened to her should have jaded her. And maybe they did in the beginning, but you would never know it by looking at her now. She loves me, dad. She loves me enough to marry me. If I were on the outside looking in, I wouldn’t believe it. She’s so beautiful and talented. Has so much to offer. Anyone would be the luckiest person in the world to be loved by her. And she chose to be with me.
“Lord knows I haven’t made it easy on her. We’ve had to work hard to stay together. And maybe that’s how relationships are. I don’t know. I’ve never had a real relationship before Jasmin. As much as I thought I loved Judith, it was nothing like the love I feel for Jasmin.”
Emotions are hard. Anni scrubbed her face roughly, using the gesture to try and stop more tears from falling. She thought about the last few months without Jasmin, and how empty it made her feel. She made a vow to herself as she traveled back home to get Jasmin. If she were fortuitous enough to get Jasmin back in her life, she would do everything she could to keep her. And to make her happy. That vow was reinforced when she saw the woman she loves in the arms of another. Anni shivered at the image that entered her mind.
“I was so stupid,” she continued finally. “I almost lost the best thing that ever happened to me because I thought I needed ‘freedom’. At least, that was the excuse I used with Jasmin. In reality, I’m just scared. I’m scared she’ll figure out I’m not enough for her. I’m scared that I won’t be able to get past my own issues to make her happy. I’m scared that I won’t be able to provide for her.” Anni exhaled sharply with a mirthless laugh. “She doesn’t need me to provide for her. She’s successful. Did you know she’s a designer? She’s good at it, too. Great, in fact. Kiara would be able to give her more than I could.”
Anni stood abruptly, and started to pace. “I pushed her into another’s arms. That’s not what I want. I don’t want Kiara to be the one that’s best for Jasmin. I want to be that person. I can’t blame anyone else anymore. I can’t blame you.” She came back to her father’s bedside, taking his hand once again. “Wake up. I don’t expect you to understand, dad. I just want you to love me, and accept who I am. Accept my love for Jasmin. Accept her. Wake up, and come to our wedding. I want you to stand by my side as I pledge my life to the person I’m in love with. It’s not perverted, it’s not sick. It’s love. Pure and simple, dad. The way I feel for Jasmin is no different from how you felt for mom when you married her. It shouldn’t matter that Jasmin is a woman. What should matter is that your daughter is happy, and loved by an amazing person. Wake up, dad. Please.”
Anni thought she had imagined it, but the pressure was constant. She stared at her father’s hand that was currently squeezing hers. It was weak, but it was there. At that moment, she wished they were in a hospital so she could call a doctor in to examine him. But she knew her father. He wouldn’t want to be in a hospital. He would want to be comfortable at home.
“That’s it! Come back to us. You’re strong, dad. I know you can do this.” She watched for any other sign that he was waking up, but it was only the feeble squeeze on her fingers that gave any indication that her father was still there with them. “I’m going to go get mom and call the doctor. Keep fighting, dad. Keep fighting.” She hesitated on her way out of the room. “I love you,” she said quickly, then went to inform her mother of the change.
“Anni? Sweetie, why don’t you come over here and sit down?” Jasmin sat on the bed, and patted the spot next to her. It had surprised her that Anni’s mom suggested they both stay in Anni’s old room. Jasmin had almost declined, but the weariness in Anni’s eyes when she finally came out of her father’s room, changed Jasmin’s mind. Anni needed her close, and Jasmin promised to be there for her.
“I know he squeezed my hand,” Anni said in lieu of an answer. She kept up her vigilant pacing, biting her thumb nail nervously.
“I believe you.”
“But the doctor didn’t see any significant change.”
“That doesn’t mean anything, Anni.” Jasmin grabbed Anni’s hand on her next pass. “Come here.” She pulled Anni down next to her, wrapping her arm around Anni’s shoulders. “Your mom said that was the most responsive he’s been. That means you being here and talking to him is helping.”
Jasmin felt Anni’s shoulders shrug slightly, and pulled her closer.
“I just wish there was more I could do. I never wanted this to happen,” Anni confided quietly.
“Of course you didn’t.”
Anni laid her head on Jasmin’s shoulder, relishing in the feel of just having her there. “What if it takes him days to come out of this?”
“Then we stay until he’s out of the woods,” Jasmin stated with conviction.
“And if he . . .” Anni couldn’t bear to finish the thought. No matter how estranged they were, she didn’t want to lose her father.
“Anni, we have to think positive thoughts. He responded, and that’s hopeful.”
“I know. But we just don’t know how long this is going to take, and you just started this campaign with Tussi Attack.” Anni was reluctant to talk about the campaign. It just meant Jasmin possibly thinking about Kiara.
“I’ve already spoken to Kiara,” Jasmin disclosed, and Anni’s heart dropped. “She says to take all the time we need. I have enough designs to last for a while, and she can stand in for me when needed.”
Anni stood, walking to the window. She wished to hell it didn’t hurt so much hearing Jasmin talk about Kiara. She only spoke of business, and there was no inflection in her voice that gave any indication of more. But still . . .
“Maybe you should go back,” Anni said softly.
Jasmin frowned at Anni’s back. “Absolutely not. I said I would be here for you, and I will be. Besides, I just told you Kiara . . .”
“Kiara has it all handled. Yes, I heard,” Anni snapped.
Jasmin joined her fiancée, standing close, but not touching. “Anni, what’s going on? I thought we were passed this.”
“It’s going to take me a little bit longer than a few hours to get passed you almost sleeping with someone else.” Anni cursed under her breath.
She was doing it again. Pushing Jasmin away, and for what? The heartbreaking idea that Kiara may be better for Jasmin than Anni is?
“Hey.” Jasmin turned Anni to her, lifting her chin until they were eye to eye. “What happened? Why are you doing this?”
“Because I’m scared,” Anni confessed, tears forming in her eyes.
“Of what, baby?”
“Losing you!” She tried to pull away from Jasmin, but her love refused to let go. “I’m scared that I’m not good enough. I’m scared that Kiara is! I’m scared that one day you’ll figure that out. And I’m scared that I’m going to screw up again, because look at what I’m doing right now! She warned me that she would pursue you if I fucked up again. I’m giving her what she wants,” Anni finished, trying unsuccessfully to choke back a sob.
Unchecked tears began to flow down Jasmin’s cheeks as she watched the love of her life break down. She took Anni in her arms, letting all of the love she felt flow through her.
“Anni, I know it’s going to take more than a few hours to fix everything.” Jasmin pulled back. “But you should know that there is nothing between me and Kiara.”
“I saw you in her arms today.” Anni could hardly believe that it was just this morning when she walked in Jasmin’s shop, and saw the two of them.
“I was upset. It was nothing more than a friendly hug.”
“Not on her part,” Anni mumbled.
Jasmin sighed heavily, taking Anni’s hand in hers, and placed it over her heart. “Do you feel that?” Anni nodded. “My heart beats for you, Anni. No one else. No one could possibly get in here because you fill it completely. I had a weak moment, but only because my heart was broken thinking you had moved on. I know the truth now. We’re together, and I love you. This,” she tapped her heart with Anni’s hand, “belongs to you, and only you. It doesn’t matter what Kiara feels or wants. I want you.”
Jasmin leaned closer, and kissed Anni’s lips lightly. “You are my best friend.” She kissed Anni again, lingering a little longer. “You are the love of my life.” Another longer kiss. “No one could take your place in my heart. I want to marry you. We’re not going to ‘screw up’ again, because I think we know each other better now, don’t you?”
Anni nodded, leaning in for another kiss. The moment she felt Jasmin’s lips on hers, Anni’s fears began to vanish. She wanted more, so she held on to Jasmin, deepening the kiss. When their tongues touched, both of them moaned at the sensation that had been missing for the last few months.
Using every ounce of strength she could muster, Jasmin pulled away. “We can’t do this here.”
“But I need you.” Anni winced a little at what was perilously close to a whine. “I just . . . I feel alive when I’m with you. I haven’t felt alive in months, Jasmin.”
Jasmin groaned with need. “I feel the same way, Anni. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable making love here with your mother in the other room.”
“She did put us together,” Anni grinned, pulling Jasmin back to her.
Jasmin laughed softly. This was the Anni she knew. Cocky and bold. But as brazen as Anni professed to be, Jasmin knew it was all talk this time. Surely Anni recognizes that, here in this house, it wouldn’t be appropriate to do the things they would want to do to each other. Especially after being apart for so long.
“Yes, she did. However, I doubt it was so we could have hot monkey sex.”
A genuine laugh flowed easily from Anni. It was the first time she had felt even an ounce of true levity given the situation. “Hot monkey sex, huh?”
Jasmin grinned and shrugged. “Like you said, it’s been a long time. I’ve missed you.”
Anni tucked a strand of hair behind Jasmin’s ear. “I’ve missed you, too.” She rested her forehead on Jasmin’s. “I told dad I’m going to marry you. I told him I wanted him there. That I just wanted him to love me. That’s when he squeezed my hand.”
Tears seemed to be in endless supply today. “It’s a great start, baby,” Jasmin murmured. “Your mom told me she wanted to be there, too.”
Anni looked up in surprise. “She said that?”
“Wow.” Anni released a long, tired sigh. “I should go check on mom. Make sure she doesn’t need anything.”
Jasmin nodded. “Then you need to come to bed. You’re exhausted, sweetie.”
“Will you hold me? I know we can’t do anything, but could you just . . .” Anni trailed off with a sheepish shrug of the shoulders.
Jasmin gave Anni a gentle smile. She knew being vulnerable was difficult for Anni. This was a huge step for both of them in keeping their relationship going in the right direction.
To be continued...
Read from the beginning by starting with Committed
The Planning (Interrupted) is a small, sad interlude.