Parting of the Ways Part 8- Love Is A Battlefield

Counting down until the end of the Winnisimmet Tales stories. Sorry to the few fans who read the stories but seeing people complain about writing on here being different than they remember and things not being the same as when others contributed has put the nail in this world. I apologize to those who dislike me for putting out inferior work that doesn't live up to the past. I'm not them, I wish I could be like them but I'm not them. If my posting stories is causing others to stop coming here then I'll solve that by stop posting. There's ten story parts left to go after this, the final three will be in a separate story. Sorry. Just sorry.

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A few days after speaking with Cynthia Eagleson about Ashley's relationship, Rosalind Porter's week with the Finns ended with little fanfare and just hugs from Ella, Cat, JD, and Logan Finn. Her parents didn't pry into her time with them, they didn't need to. Stephanie had kept them updated while John and Valerie corrected her claims and suspicions with facts. The couple let it go, it was her first crush and the others needed a bit of humble pie to temper their reality.

At their home, Alice Porter sat Rosalind down and talked with her about her feelings for Ashley. Rosalind couldn't hold back any longer and admitted that she really did like Ashley as more than a friend but wasn't ready to move forward. Alice told her to give it time, they were working together and it was easier to get to know him that way instead of rushing into a relationship just to appear to be something else to Stephanie and her friends.

Rosalind asked if it was wrong to feel that way about Ashley, especially as he was a large boy who everyone made fun of. Alice shook her head in disappointment, explaining "he may be obese because of depression, neglect, abuse, or because of a glandular issue. He may brow larger as soon as he gets his growth spurt, puberty sometimes is delayed in boys. I know your uncle Ricardo was that way."

Alice grinned as she thought about the chubby Ricardo. Ashley wasn't so bad, he just needed to get out of the house and enjoy himself. Rosalind was a good motivation, she'd have to talk with Cynthia about the two as a couple and what they could do to help the boy get thinner.

The teens were kept busy with work so they couldn't directly intervene in Rosalind's situation but still discussed it among themselves. Stephanie kept trying to ask about Ashley but was met by silence and scolds from Alice when she heard that the kids were talking about Rosalind behind her back. Raul didn't bother asking about the Ashley situation, he and Shea let Alice handle it on her own as it was something that was best suited to her strengths as a disciplinarian and parent.

The older teens of the family kept out of the Rosalind drama thanks to their own summer jobs. All 12 of the high schoolers had jobs, making for little free time after work and even less time to play around. Their parents were pleased that they kept busy, with most of them not needing to actually work it was a nice distraction for them. Out of all of them, Raul, Avery James, Rebecca Lopez, and Jessie Bollinger weren't multimillionaires even if they had nice trust funds set up on their behalf.

Donald Bollinger worked for his mother helping design websites. Donald's sister Jessie and friend Rebecca worked for Riley Pierce as makeup artists and helped clean her beauty salon. Reed Pena worked additional hours for Beverly Bollinger's accounting firm. Francesca Herman, Iris Sylvester, and Reyna Toro worked at Iris and Reyna's mothers' daycare center. Rachel Sylvester, Sam York, and Thomas Samuels worked at a movie theater. Raul and Avery worked the summer jobs program as camp councilors for the city's day camp.

Reed was given a lot more responsibility than he had in the past thanks to his accounting classes in school. He and Miles Finn were essentially Beverly's eyes and ears during tough financial inspections with both having a hand in keeping several clients afloat thanks to finding hidden money in their accounts while sending a couple of thieves to jail. They further helped Beverly by ensuring that Jaimie Finn's and Carmen Carter's lawsuit money was properly accounted for once it was transferred into their bank accounts before being invested at their request.

Sam had the unfortunate luck of having to find a last minute job once Zoe James became Sam's father's intern after helping her fiance Juanita out at work. She didn't mind not doing all the simple tasks that Zoe would need to do and enjoyed the perks of working in a theater especially the free movie screenings that she, Thomas, and Iris put to good use. It ended up being a perk for all three as they saved a lot of money thanks to the number of movies their girlfriends liked to see.

Reyna, Francesca, and Iris were used to babies and little kids thanks to Iris and Francesca's younger brothers allowing them to help out a lot with the wrangling and changing of toddlers and infants. It took all of their power to stop Leslie Sylvester and Lupe Toro from joking about how great they were as parents, not wanting to temp fate. In truth Donald would never have sex with Francesca before college and Reyna would need her mother's help to get at her frozen semen to inseminate Rachel so it was more of a "shame on us" feeling that stopped their joking.

The teens were mostly enjoying their new jobs, with one group struggling with their work. Rebecca and Jessie were put down and insulted by several of the ladies who worked at Riley's salon. They were smart in not doing it while she was close but let the duo know that they didn't belong there and had no right to take jobs away from "qualified" beauticians because of their main job of applying makeup on the ladies who used the new makeup service the girls had set up in the shop.

The ladies were ignorant of the rules and regulations regarding the licensing of beauticians. As Jessie and Rebecca didn't cut or dye hair they were allowed to simply apply makeup for the ladies. That little fact was the only reason they were both hired as their reputation was strong thanks to Riley using them to help older teens during prom season and had given a few mothers a quick touch-up as they waited.

Riley wasn't as oblivious as the complainers believed, she was simply biding her time before she could fire the ladies for disrupting her business. Rebecca and Jessie were bringing in more money than the ladies were from their chair rentals and product purchases, their makeup service was actually attracting more customers than any of the beauticians giving Riley a sense that word of mouth was damaging them and all she needed was direct confirmation to terminate the ladies.

Sure enough, when the women went too far and started to lie to waiting customers that the duo were terrible at their job she refunded their rental fees and put word out that they were toxic to the business. Rebecca and Jessie tried to quit but Riley had a couple of young beauticians ready to take over, they just needed a shop willing to allow them to rent a chair and had Riley's support but nobody would rent to them. It pained her to see them struggling but she did everything possible to help, now she could do more by letting them take over the terminated rentals.

The duo were closely linked with a portion of the community Riley hadn't thought about serving, the LGBT community. The ladies were good at their job and had skills that were some of the best she had ever seen but nobody would give them a chance. Now the two had it, and she was pleased with results.

Riley saw the community as a potentially untapped market as there were many shops that wouldn't deal with ladies who weren't far into their transitions or crossdressers who were out for a weekend of femme beauty. It was business, a market she hadn't thought she was ignoring but one that made sense as the ladies started to spread word among the community that the shop was friendly to them. The shop had to extend hours to meet the new demand giving the girls additional money as they got plenty of nice tips alongside their base pay.

The younger teens weren't happy that their older counterparts were working so hard. Their date schedules were interrupted thanks to the group working hard. Amy Bollinger and Al Samuels were the most impacted as Rebecca, Thomas, Donald, Francesca, Reed, and Jessie were impacted meaning they had to either go with their parents or John Finn and his kids. None of them wanted that, they liked John a lot but he was a hawk who hovered over them a little too close making the couples too scared to try to do anything more than hold hands while watching the movie.

The younger teens worked just as hard as their older counterparts but suffered from a short leash thanks to their being alone with their significant others while working. That was fine with them but what stung them the most was the gossiping that went along with being watched. Rosalind's rebuke and Diego's defense of Ashley didn't sit well with them either, word got back to their fellow workers and it made them all look bad but Ashley worse.

As if the talk about the Ashley/Rosalind situation wasn't bad enough, the group endured a lot of whispers and rumors about Polly's mother Dorothy as they worked. There were many suggesting that she was gay or was transgender, explaining that as the reason for her being so supportive of Diego, Al, Reyna, Jaimie, and Sam(when she was thought to be transgender) was to cover up her own past. None of those were true, but nobody believed them due to her being such a secretive loner.

The eight concocted a way of dispelling those rumors by getting Dorothy to date a guy. It was going to be tough as she was extremely reluctant to do much of anything except visit Alice or her daughters, daughter-in-law, grandson, or son-in-law. Polly knew just who to set her up with, Vance Taylor, their new history teacher but one of the most respected teachers at their school.

The seven looked at her like she was joking but Polly had a big grin on her face. She was smug as she stated "Mr. Taylor likes mom a lot. I don't mean he cares about her, I mean he has a big crush on her and may even be in love with mom! He's been the closest to her after Aunt Alice, he's best friends with Uncle Zeke and is always quick to defend mom whenever Uncle Zeke can't, and he and Aunt Lilly broke off after one date. She never said why he they did but I heard Deborah and Patrick say he was in love with someone else and Aunt Lilly was happy to know he was finally in love with someone."

The revelation was tough to endure but it fit. She didn't notice the signs but they were there. He respected her too much to make a move, it would take others to get him to ask her out.

Amy and Al were going to have to work over Zeke Bollinger to get him to help out. It didn't take much to do that, he knew about Vance's crush and was happy to have his best friend date someone they both cared about. His only concern was getting Dorothy to agree to a date at all, that was the toughest part.

Alice helped them out there as Stephanie all but begged her to set them up. Alice wasn't sure if she should be angry or proud of her daughter, but it was a rare case of everyone wanting the best for Dorothy and Vance was a good person. She arranged to get Dorothy out for the date, with the eight teens being sure to leave the planning to Zeke and Alice this time.

Alice forced Dorothy to go to a day at the beauty salon as she "wanted a new look" which Dorothy reluctantly agreed to. Dorothy took her place in the chair of the beautician with Dorothy giving her a smirk or recognition. She happily told the woman "I hardly recognized you after these four years. You really should have started out as your true self earlier, but I guess your family were a bit tough to convince. As long as you are you it'll work out in the end."

Alice gave her a closer look and gasped in recognition as a smile appeared on her face. She was one of her old students but had blossomed into a beautiful young woman. She hadn't known of any other transgender students in their school other than Jaimie making her transition a shock to Alice.

Before she could ask, the beautician explained "I'm just starting out. I came out after midterms but couldn't go fulltime until after graduation. Yes my family knows about the real me, the school got my license and diploma in my new name but kept my intent to transition a secret. I started hormones immediately since it the results weren't going to be visible before I graduated."

She shed a tear at remembered her last few months in school and confessed "I couldn't find a chair to rent until this week because of my transition. My best friend is like me and has the same troubles. Mrs. Pierce offered us a place here and we have tried ot help bring in as much business as possible to show our gratitude. We helped her business thanks to others like us and in the community appreciating being treated like people not oddities or just another source of income. She's a godsend to us, all of us."

Throughout her speech she was working on Dorothy's hair, giving her a new style that worked with her naturally round face and accentuating her best features. Her standard shoulder length cut was turned into a smart, sexy cut tat made her face standout in all the right ways. It was perfect for her and took less time to create and would be easier to maintain than her old cut was.

Alice was speechless while Riley had to hold back her pride as her newest stylist had made Dorothy into a whole other person just from some basic, honed style skills. Dorothy paid for the cut and had Rebecca work on her makeup as Alice went through the same ordeal, only this time it was quicker as Alice's hair was shorter and harder to style. Jessie took over and did some light touch-ups to her face as she didn't wear much makeup at all.

The whole ordeal took two hours but would get a lot of questions asked leading to a few new customers for the stylist as teachers and parents would want to know where they got their hair cut at. Riley was ecstatic that her newest stylists were a godsend with both proving to be valuable commodities. The others were doing well themselves but the newest stylists were the stars and earned their places.

Across town Zeke and Vance talked as they worked out in Zeke's basement. Donald was working with them, keeping them from overdoing themselves while working out himself. Donald was inundated with questions from Amy and Al regarding Vance's actions cluing him in that something was going on.

Zeke had to drag out Vance's true feelings about Dorothy leading Zeke to force him to ask out Dorothy before the window to do so closed. He didn't intend for it to mean that she was going to find another man, he meant it more to mean that she was going to give up on love entirely. Vance tried to find an excuse but failing miserably he confessed that he didn't want to upset his boss causing problems at the school that none of them needed.

Zeke had him now, he casually told him "she is as scared as you are. She's a mother of four now, a grandmother of two, and trying to raise a teen. She hasn't dated since her wife died but she has feelings for you. She cares a lot about you, it doesn't take much to see she could want more."

Vance reluctantly agreed to the date. Alice was drafted to go along with it making it a double date. Shea was forced to agree, he didn't want to stand in the way of Dorothy's happiness and Vance would need the help to keep Alice at bay.

The date was set for the following night. Polly would spend the night with her sister Carmen giving them the entire night if need be. Donald texted Polly to tell her to be ready to go to Carmen's apartment prompting a cheer from the eight as it meant the date was on.

This also meant that Stephanie had to stay elsewhere. She and Rosalind were stuck with the Finns while Raul sought out his uncles again. Diego complained about Avery hanging around the house after they got off work but it was partly his own fault he was there.

Immediately after they entered the Finn home, Rosalind was embraced by Cat while Ella snubbed Stephanie. The girls put their bags in their rooms with Cat refusing to let Rosalind go. Stephanie was about to say something but Ella growled at her "she likes Rosalind, you would know that if you ever bothered to see her when she was staying with us last week! She doesn't like many people but she loves Rosalind. Leave her alone or mommy will be mad."

Stephanie backed off while Ella moved on to help Rosalind put her stuff away before leading her downstairs to the entertainment room. Logan added a gruff "she's acted more like our cousin than you have and she's only been our cousin for a couple of weeks." JD just walked by without even bothering to say anything to Stephanie, there was nothing else to be said about it and he wasn't happy with how Stephanie was acting like a brat to Rosalind for no reason.

The kids kept themselves occupied all evening and got to hear about the makeovers once Rebecca got home from work. Her pictures caused Stephanie to gasp while Rosalind could only mutter "beautiful" as she saw her mother made over for the first time. The pictures of Dorothy Rebecca kept to herself, how she looked wasn't for them to see just yet and she didn't want their friends to know until they had a chance to see her themselves.

When it was time for the kids to go to bed Cat went right to bed while Ella tried to drag her feet but went down anyway. Both were put to bed by Rosalind while Stephanie stayed downstairs. Logan had another hour until his bedtime which gave him a chance to speak with Stephanie while Rosalind helped the younger girls get ready for bed.

He wasn't afraid to rip into her, telling her harshly "you keep acting like she isn't your sister. She is. She has a boyfriend who she likes and you pretend they don't exist. Why? What did she do to you to make you act like she doesn't exist until you have to acknowledge she exists?"

Stephanie couldn't answer. No matter how hard she tried she couldn't come up with an excuse. They just didn't mesh and everything they did they always did separately. It was like two worlds to them, neither coming together unless they were forced to by school or their family.

Logan shook his head at that, telling her firmly "she loves you. Mom said she's trying to be a good person but you six try to act like she is just another person. Polly and Diego treat her nice, she didn't do anything bad to them but she did some bad things to you that were a while ago and she learned her lesson. She just acted like her sister and made a mistake. Mom said she paid for it and is going to be in your school now. She and Ashley are in your class now. You can't ignore her anymore."

He got up to go to bed, leaving Stephanie to think. Polly texted to say her mother was out with Vance while Amy said her dad got them to be close. The only one not to text was Carmen, she was helping at the restaurant they went to but they knew already that she would only text if it was a bad date.

Stephanie went to bed with a smile but seeing Rosalind laying alone in her bed caused her to feel nauseous. She kept her dinner down but it stung that she didn't even bother with her once the kids were asleep. There wasn't anything wrong with Rosalind, she just never got close yet she felt pangs of guilt that she had let her sister down by not trying more to be her friend along with her sister.

Stephanie went to bed thinking about what she had to do. It was starting to pile up on her, Rosalind the sister and Rosalind the friend were the same person yet Stephanie couldn't see it. She had to fix it.

Alice and Dorothy left the salon with big smiles as they looked marvelous. They didn't need to dress up, their light dresses were just fine for the evening Alice had planned so drove in Dorothy's car to the restaurant. Zeke had replaced the reluctant Shea as the person accompanying them and was waiting outside with Vance, who was being carefully distracted by Carmen into looking the other way.

When Vance turned around his mouth dropped. He saw Dorothy and couldn't believe his eyes. He was fighting the urge to mumble something about her being an angel, he was practically drooling over her new hairstyle and dress while seeing her as someone more than his boss for the first time.

Dorothy looked at Alice who was grinning widely then at Zeke who tried to look away in shame. It was a setup, the two had tried to get her and Vance together on a date. She wanted to strangle them then hug them tightly, it was the sweetest thing any friend had ever done for her...well short of asking for a favor from the governor to get her a job where she was wanted and appreciated that is.

Dorothy took Vance's arm and walked to their table, one specifically reserved for members of the Finn Family and one that Dorothy's and Alice's investment had helped secure. Carmen had to fight a smile as she ensured that they had the best service possible with the staff treating Alice and Dorothy as the VIPs they truly were. Vance and Zeke simply acted normal and were glad for the prompt service and not questions or comments from the staff.

The meal was exquisite and Dorothy was proud to learn was one of the meals her daughters had created on the fly. Zeke and Alice kept the two focused and talking while they ate, with Zeke ensuring that they didn't try to overcompensate for their years of dating rust. It was a tough job but they were successful.

Dinner was followed by Dorothy taking Vance for a walk while Zeke and Alice went home to their wife and husband. The walk along the Mystic River was quiet until Dorothy finally asked why he gave up a shot at love with Lilly Peterson to stay single instead of dating a woman who cared deeply about him. It was puzzling all of the adults, she genuinely wanted to know.

Vance steeled himself for his response, finally calming himself and stating "I love Lilly but not in that way. Jerry was my friend, mentor, and confidant. In the years I have known her I grew to love Lilly like a younger sister, one who I swore I'd look after when Jerry was gone. She's a great woman, but her heart belongs to Jerry. I could never fill its hole, I couldn't do that to them. She's a great person, but not the right one for me."

Dorothy saw the look in his eyes and realized he was in love with her. She liked Vance as a person but like Lilly she had sworn her heart to someone else. She still loved her beloved Jaimie Thomas, she didn't want to respond to Vance's love but she didn't want to hurt him either.

The two walked along the river before heading home. Dorothy was met by her daughter Deborah who asked about her night. She had to hide her feelings but Deborah asked for the truth, knowing that Vance was fighting his own battle against love and losing badly.

Dorothy confessed about the battle inside her over continuing to love Jaimie vs. letting herself find love again. Deborah listened intently before finally adding "mom would have wanted you to move on. She loved you but she wouldn't want you to deny yourself love that she could no longer give. She was a person who knew that you would have a suitor and as long as he loved you and treated you right she would have been fine with you loving someone else."

Dorothy tried to deny this but it was exactly as Jaimie would have acted. She was the best at making you feel better about things and she knew how to make you move on from traumatic events. She was that way towards others, it was her best trait and the one that Deborah shared with her most.

It didn't help Jaimie deal with her own demons especially after Deborah was torn from their home. She took her own life rather than live with the pain of losing her child, with Dorothy feeling the pain for years and still never fully getting over. Deborah channeling her mother's feelings and reactions was doing what no amount of therapy could do- allow Dorothy to finally move on from the suicide.

Dorothy agreed to give Vance a chance to show his love for her. She would either fall for him or just continue to be friends. What mattered most was the attempt, they needed to know for both of their sake.

The two went on a date the following afternoon, but didn't require Polly to spend the night elsewhere. Polly tried to weasel a night away but the date ended after a quick dinner. The couple kissed goodbye, something neither thought much of but it was a big step towards being a couple.

Stephanie and Rosalind went to work after their night with the Finns with their usual neutral expressions. Neither wanted to talk about the night knowing that their parents had done something that no kid wants to think about once Alice got home from the date force date with Vance. Polly was able to get Stephanie to talk about the date which Stephanie was relieved to hear was a success.

Ashley and Rosalind talked while sweeping, the two off in their own world and working harder than anyone else. She confessed that Stephanie had not said anything to her since the night before and was concerned she was angry at her. Ashley grinned at hearing that, it was actually the opposite. Stephanie wasn't angry, she was thinking hard. It was something he noticed about her in elementary school and knew that she and Rosalind were about to make amends and start getting closer once she found the right way to bring up the subject.

The two talked throughout the day until it was quitting time then walked home. Being next door neighbors was a huge coincidence but was a big reason why he liked Rosalind, he understood her as a person after working on schoolwork and talking outside of school. She hugged him goodbye, kissing his cheek and telling him that she hoped Stephanie wasn't too upset at her after being with her friends.

Stephanie was watching through the window and saw the kiss and hug. It wasn't a normal kiss, this was affectionate. The hug too wasn't a friend hug, it was like the ones her parents gave one another.

Rosalind caught her movement and tensed up for the confrontation. Once inside Stephanie sighed and told her "he really is more than your friend. Don't lie because I can see how you are acting with him. He likes you, you like him, and you two need to stop fooling yourselves about it."

Rosalind sat down next to her and tried to hide her shame. Stephanie hugged her, kissed her cheek, then added "he'd be cute if he wasn't so big. Maybe if Diego and Donald got him to work out he might start to lose weight and look better. Regardless, he's a good catch. The other boys in 8th grade are jerks."

Stephanie forced Rosalind to sit and talk with her, trying hard to get to know her sister beyond simply school things. They were different people but she was like a mix of all of her friends. She didn't dance ballet but she was good at playing music and dancing other styles like her sister, she played the shooter videogames alongside Diego, Oscar, and Kyle but was more into the building and puzzle games like Amy and Trina, she knew a lot about fashion but wasn't as clothes crazy as Polly and even Al.

Stephanie had to fight a smile as they hadn't known that she had such diverse interests. She would have to tell the others that they needed a night together so they could get to know the real Rosalind. Raul wouldn't like it but he could always stay with the three boys at their uncles' house for the weekend.

It was tough for Polly to keep from smiling as Stephanie texted her the news. It was what Diego expected and her mother had predicted. In a complete coincidence, the sleepover also gave Polly a chance to force another date on Vance and Dorothy as they had no reason not to enjoy a night together.

Dorothy had to groan as Polly asked her to stay over Alice's house two nights later. The reason for the gathering was hard to deny but it still stung that the girls had used it as an excuse to get the two together. She had to agree, with Dorothy being all but forced to call Vance to have a date with him quickly agreeing as he added "Zeke said the girls made this happen, they won't let me out of this."

The girls gathered at the Porter home with Shea having to hole himself in their attic/office/man cave as the girls took over the basement. Next door Ashley saw all of the girls and tried to go inside, only to be caught by Stephanie who told him to stay put. She walked over with the girls and had him talk with them in the backyard while Rosalind watched anxiously on her back porch for them to return.

Ashley was grilled about his feelings for the girls, his actions while working, his attempts to talk with Rosalind outside of work, and his feelings towards her before working with her, his feelings in school. It was all a show, they wanted to gauge if Diego was right or if he was just a passing fad. He was scared of them so he told them the truth, with Stephanie adding a firm "she hugs and kisses him goodbye when they walk home. You have your proof, they like each other for sure."

The girls each hugged him and kissed his cheek with Stephanie telling him "ask her out. She needs you as much as you need her. She won't find a better boy, the girls have the three best. You make number four. Maybe all of us can go out together, if one of our brothers or sisters is fine with it."

The girls snickered at that, she had put him on the spot for a date. Rosalind had heard everything and rushed over to him, kissing him full on the lips then telling him happily "I'll go out with you. Screw the guys in school, they are assholes. I'd rather go out with a fat yet sweet boy who doesn't want me for sex than a dumb jerk who only wants to feel me up just so he could brag to his friends."

The girls walked inside leaving Ashley to pull himself together. His first date was with the girl of his dreams, and she had kissed him to make him date her. He owed Stephanie and the girls a lot now.

Cynthia watched her grandson get both his first kiss and asked on his first date. She had his younger brother wrangled inside to keep him from disturbing the girls for talking with his big brother and told him affectionately "your big brother just got something amazing, his first kiss and a date with a beautiful young lady. I can't believe how fast he is growing up. You both are both becoming great young men."

Little Liam Byrne shrugged it off. He knew not to make fun of his brother as his grandmother didn't allow any foul language. His grandfather would frequently call Ashley nasty names but he learned his lesson before not to listen to him when he is being mean to Ashley or insulting other people. It already cost him several friends at daycare and got him kicked out for parroting his grandfather's words.

Ashley came inside to a smile on Cynthia's face and his brother looking away. Ashley sighed and told her "I'll break it off before grandpa hears. He already thinks I'm gay or transgender because of my looks. When he hears that she likes me he will make us break up so she can get someone better. Don't make a fuss about it, I don't want him to hit you because I like Rosalind. I can take it, you shouldn't have to take it. He's looking for a reason to hit me, I don't want him to hit you because of me."

Cynthia shook her head and told him firmly "you are 13, you are old enough to start dating and who you date is your business. I love you no matter what and I can see that the two of you are more than friends. He doesn't have a say in who she dates, he should be happy that you are dating someone who you have known for two years and who is a nice person to you. I won't let him hurt you."

Ashley shook his head, he knew his grandfather better than that. As soon as he heard Ashley had a date he was going to go right for him and ensure that he knew exactly what he thought about Ashley. It was the same as he always was towards him, no matter how good he was at things he was not good enough.

Liam asked "why are you going to let grandpa hurt Ashley?" Cynthia shook her head at hearing that, she picked him up and hugged him, telling him affectionately "I'm not going to let him hurt Ashley. He has caught the eye of a nice young lady who has also caught his eye. Ashley looks so much like your dad that your grandpa gets angry and takes it out on Ashley. No more. You two are in our care and I won't let his hatred of your dad hurt you two any more than hit already has."

Liam shed a tear and added "I hate grandpa, I miss dad. Ashley's girlfriend is nice and she likes him. Please don't let him hurt Ashley." Cynthia swore she wouldn't, it was the end of her marriage but what mattered most to her was her grandchildren's safety and happiness.

Over in Boston Vance and Dorothy were strolling through the Back Bay, enjoying the walk and looking at various clothing stores and laughing at the pretentious rich people putting on a show of arriving and departing the stores. They had already enjoyed the evening's Shakespeare performance on Boston Common and were burning off their energy. The walk to the car was long but the night was perfect.

The two drove to Dorothy's home and enjoyed a nightcap, drinking some wine and watching television. The two ended up in bed, with Dorothy enjoying love from a man for the first time in years. The two slept in and enjoyed a happy cuddle when they finally awoke the next morning, fully energized and ready for another round of enjoying one another.

When they finally emerged from their joint shower they noticed that Polly was home, along with Deborah and Antonio. Vance tried to make a quick exit but was forced to eat by the ladies. It was their duty as daughters to ensure that he underwent a thorough inspection with Polly hoping this was the start of something greater for them.

The two asked every possible question they could think of then hugged Vance. It was their sign of approval with Polly giving Dorothy hopeful eyes that he was the one for her. Neither said anything further, going about their business as Deborah's husband Patrick arrived to pick up his wife and son.

Patrick was about to make a joke when Vance told him firmly "I changed your diapers. I babysat you, your brother, and your sister. I know some of your most embarrassing stories. Do you really want to tempt fate and have something you wanted to take to the grave get out? Maybe the panties and bra story from when you were 12?"

Patrick's face went white as Deborah's eyebrow raised in curiosity. He knew he'd have to tell her the story eventually, with Polly and her sisters shortly after. He left with his tail between his legs but with a nod to Vance that he had put one over on him.

Vance shook his head and told the others he wasn't saying a word about the story, it was too funny and it involved more than just him. Vance's unintentional blush showed he was actually involved in the dressing up which made Dorothy want to know more while Polly smiled brightly. She was enjoying him being there as it was clear that Dorothy liked him a lot just by her actions and looks to him alone.

Vance caved in and confessed "he made a bet with his brother and some friends regarding the Super Bowl. He was so sure about it that he added a humiliation factor- the loser would dress in a bra, panties, skirt, blouse, and put on makeup and act like a girl for the afternoon. It was a surefire bet, but it turned out to be a foolish one. His team lost and the next Saturday he had to wear one of Lilly's blouses and bras with the cups stuffed with balloons filled with flour as well as a pair of Claire's panties."

Vance knew things were a little too specific which caused Dorothy, Deborah, and Polly to gasp in shock. Vance put his head down and admitted "OK I was the one who goaded them on. I made the same bet with Jerry and lost big. I had to wear the same, but added my own panties and bra since I was too large for Lilly's bras and panties. Jerry had us cleaning and cooking with Lilly being treated like a queen for the weekend while Claire found us little jobs to keep us occupied. David and Patrick learned never to make a foolish bet like that again, and considering Daisy and Claire having their grandmother's quick wit and sharp tongues it's good that they stuck to it."

After Vance left Dorothy awaited the mothers coming to ask about her night. She couldn't hold off Valerie Finn, Melanie Lopez, Leslie Sylvester, Riley, or Lindsay Reagan for long. All five had seen Vance leave and knew that he had spent the night with her making her have to be truthful to them.

As soon as the ladies entered she blurted out "yes we did what you suspect we did. He was amazing and was the best I have ever had. I loved Jaimie but she simply couldn't make me feel the way Vance did. There's something about him that just makes me feel like I'm walking on air. I guess I understand why Jaimie wasn't as good of a lover, she was great with some parts of her body but not others."

The five smirked while Polly coughed to get her attention. Dorothy blushed but Polly blurted out "don't break his heart and don't let him break yours." She went up to her room to let them talk, but she had made her feelings known while giving her blessing.

The ladies didn't press for any more details, only asking about her feelings. Dorothy sighed and confessed "I don't know what to do about him. I love him. There, I said it. I love Vance Taylor. He's what I dreamed a man to be and the guy who Jaimie was before she lost he battle with femininity."

The ladies left Valerie to deal with Dorothy, knowing this was something the two longtime friends had to work out. Valerie looked at her with a big smile, not needing to say it but Dorothy could tell that she was going to say "he's just right for you." Dorothy sighed and confessed "I don't want to get Polly's hopes up and I don't want to rush into things. I love him, he loves me, but we need to go slow."

Polly crept to her mother and embraced her, letting Dorothy hug her back. Polly looked up with affection and told her firmly "stop putting it off. He's a good man. I hope he marries you. I can't see anyone else as a father to me, he's the dad I always wanted. Please, try to make it work?"

Her plea worked as Dorothy stopped trying to fight herself. The two sat together the rest of the evening until Vance called and asked to come over to talk. Dorothy agreed but told him it was only to talk.

Vance arrived shortly thereafter with flowers. Dorothy was misting in her eyes, it was thoughtful and caring. He didn't say anything further, just entered and sat in the living room.

Vance looked at Polly who was trying to not be excited. He looked at Dorothy who was awaiting what he wanted. He steeled himself and asked if she was feeling the same way he was feeling about her.

Dorothy hugged and kissed him, informing him "I love you. I loved every second of being with you. I didn't want to betray my wife but I have fallen hard for you."

Vance pulled out a box and offered it to Dorothy. Polly's mouth dropped as she saw the ring. Dorothy hugged him tight and said a happy "yes. 1000 times yes."

The two kissed while Polly waited for them to calm down. She smirked at Vance then told him "if you are marrying mom we come as a package deal. Deborah, Juanita, and Carmen are her daughters too but only I am under 18. If you marry mom, you adopt me as your daughter. No more Vega name, we all become Taylors. That name is put to rest for good."

Vance looked at Dorothy who nodded in approval. He hugged Polly, kissed her cheek, and confessed "you are a great daughter and I'd be a fool to refuse your request. Yes, I'll become your father. And I guess that now includes becoming a grandfather. I am fine with that, I am old enough to be one."

Polly could barely contain her enthusiasm as she went up to her room to tell the others. Dorothy shook her head and told him warmly "the cat is out of the bag, she can't hold back telling everyone. I guess I have to call Juanita, Carmen, and Deborah to tell them the good news."

Vance texted someone and within seconds the trio came inside, along with Patrick, Juanita's fiance Zoe and Carmen's wife Addison. The group knew what he had done already, Dorothy just sighed and told them "you couldn't wait a few more days before scaring him into proposing?" They gave her an enthusiastic "no!" followed by Deborah saying "Polly needed this. She wants him as a dad and you two are too afraid of your own shadows to not go through with it."

Polly told everyone about the engagement and upcoming adoption. It was great news to her friends who all liked Vance, especially Amy who knew him best thanks to her dad being his best friend. Her plan had worked perfectly, the only one who lost out were her sisters who were the last to know even if they were the ones who got Vance to act in the end.

The ladies made plans for Dorothy while she just sat with Vance without saying a word. She carefully texted him "tomorrow at city hall" getting a subtle nod. They were getting married their own way, and that was alone, without the fanfare, and with only Zeke and Alice as witnesses. Polly would miss out on it but it was easier on the two of them to do it when she wasn't there as the others would get dragged along to witness it alongside her.

As expected, their friends started calling. Dorothy fielded all of them and held off questions, directing them to the girls who did the planning. Valerie didn't miss a beat and told them to go when the kids were working and to have their move ready as Vance would get all the help he wanted and more. It was just as Dorothy expected, Valerie was only vocalizing what she was thinking and giving her approval.

The next day, at noon, the couple were wed in front of the city clerk. Both visited the Finn home and filled out the adoption and change of name forms. Valerie filed it on her own, with Dorothy watching the kids as Vance left to start packing.

Polly was told as soon as she got home. She hugged both, demanding to call Vance "daddy" bringing a smile to his face. He, in turn, called her his daughter giving her a big smile as they hugged tightly. It was a touching moment that they hoped would be the first of many for them as a family.



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