When Sam arrived at Janet's house, her knock went unanswered; she let herself in, quietly calling out Janet's name, trying not to wake Cassie. Barely glancing at the darkened living room as she passed by, Sam headed straight into the brightly-lit kitchen, where she found her friend sitting at the kitchen table, staring at something that was propped against the centerpiece.
"Janet?" Sam said again, her voice soft.
Janet's head turned swiftly, as though she'd been startled. She raised her hands to her face, scrubbing at her cheeks and eyes, doing a poor job of wiping away the evidence of the tears she'd been crying. "Sam! I'm sorry. I didn't hear you come in."
When Janet started to push herself up from her chair, Sam waved at her. "Don't get up, for heaven's sake." Walking to the sink, she opened a drawer and pulled out a dish towel, running cool water onto it. Then she moved to stand behind Janet's chair, holding out the damp towel.
"Thanks, sweetie." Janet put the cloth to her face, blotting her eyes and wiping away the remaining traces of smeared makeup, then shifting the towel to the back of her neck. "I'm sorry. This is completely ridiculous."
"I've never once thought you were ridiculous." Laying a hand on Janet's shoulder, Sam leaned over to look at the card leaning against the fruit bowl; it was an RSVP card, obviously part of an invitation. "What's up?"
"Oh," Janet said, waving a hand as she turned to face Sam, "It's nothing important. My ex is getting remarried." As she spoke the words, her eyes teared up again. "Damn. I don't know what's wrong with me."
"You don't know what –" Sam broke off, realizing that Janet's words were probably true. She pulled out the chair next to Janet's and sat down, leaning toward the other woman. "Janet, cut yourself some slack. I think it's okay to be upset about this."
"But I'm not," Janet said. "That's what's so stupid. I'm happy for him. He's not a bad man, you know. We just didn't work together."
Reaching out and patting Janet on the arm, Sam hummed in what she hoped sounded like agreement or at least consolation. "Look, can I get you something? A drink? Tea? Coffee?"
Janet exhaled slowly, sitting back in her chair and looking up at the ceiling. "Tea sounds divine. Thanks, Sam."
Giving Janet's arm one more pat, Sam retreated to make the tea, thinking as she moved around the kitchen. Her friendship with Janet was still new, and before Cassie, had been sporadic, since Sam spent so much time off-world; and even though Cassie helped, neither woman was the type to spill her life's secrets easily. Still, Janet had called, had obviously wanted someone to talk with.
Sam spoke tentatively when she returned to the table with Janet's tea. "Do you want to – I mean, you've never really talked about your divorce. I guess I just assumed you didn't want to."
"What's to tell?" Janet took the mug, holding it in both her hands, elbows propped on the table. "Two doctors, too many long hours, too much stress."
"I didn't realize he was a doctor, too."
Janet laughed without mirth. "It's more common than you'd think, but ... I don't know. Maybe it's different if you're both civilians. But still - call schedules, and pagers, and temporary assignments in other cities. We never saw each other."
"That … sounds like a difficult obstacle to overcome in a marriage."
"That's an understatement." Janet closed her eyes briefly before continuing. "I think we never had enough time alone to build whatever it is you're supposed to build to make something like that work. When we realized our careers were leading us different places ...." She trailed off, leaning her chin against the lip of the cup. "It was easier than it should have been to end it."
Sam eyed her friend for a moment, watching her stare morosely at the card still in front of her. "You're still friends, though?" she asked, curious.
"Christmas cards, birthdays, you know. He calls to check up on me sometimes. We have lunch if we're at the same conference." Janet was silent for a moment, then she smirked and added, "Sometimes I think it would be easier to forgive myself if I had an ex I could really hate."
Sam snorted. "What, you mean one with delusions of godhood?" She was pleased to hear Janet's answering chuckles. "Perverting religion, staking his friends out to die a slow miserable death in the sun of an alien world? Someone completely, utterly insane?"
Janet took several deep breaths, obviously trying to rein in her amusement. "Well," she said when she finally managed a serious face, "it's more cut-and-dried than 'he always left the toothpaste in the wrong place', don't you think?"
The two women looked at each other for several seconds before dissolving into laughter. "I have to be honest, Janet," Sam choked out, "this is the first time anyone's thought my taste in men was something to be envied."
Janet set her cup down and buried her face in her hands, shoulders shaking; Sam pinched the bridge of her nose and eventually wiped tears from her eyes. Minutes later, when she'd regained control, Janet rested her cheek on folded hands and regarded Sam. "Oh, that feels better. At least it puts things in perspective."
"It's good to know that my life is serving some purpose." Smiling, Sam picked up the card from the table between two of her fingers, waving it in front of Janet. "What about this girl he's marrying? Can we hate her?"
Janet leaned back in her chair. "God, Sam, no. It's impossible. She's so nice." She closed her eyes, laughing again.
Out of the corner of her eye, Sam caught movement by the kitchen door; turning, she saw Cassie walking toward them, clad in pajamas and rubbing her eyes sleepily. "Hey, sweetie," Sam said.
"Cassie, honey." Janet turned to her daughter. "I'm so sorry. Did we wake you up?"
"You're kind of loud," Cassie said. She leaned against Sam. "What are you doing
"Well, your mom wanted some company. You were asleep, so she called me."
Cassie looked back and forth between them, then, yawning, she left Sam's side and climbed onto Janet's lap. "Is this some grown-up thing?" Cassie asked, laying her head on Janet's shoulder and ending her question with another yawn. "'Cause those are usually boring. You were laughing, so I thought it might be something else."
"Yep. Just a silly, grown-up thing," Janet said, stroking Cassie's hair as the girl closed her eyes.
They sat in silence for a while, Janet soothing Cassie, and Sam watching the two of them with a smile. "She looks like she's asleep," Sam said eventually.
Janet nodded. "Question is, how am I going to get her upstairs? She just keeps growing."
"Here, let me take her." Sam stood up. "If you still want company, go find us one of those sappy old movies you like so much."
"Coffee?" Janet asked.
"Only if you don't want me to end up like Cassie here," Sam said as she gathered the girl into her arms and started for the kitchen door.
"I'll take that as a yes," Janet walked to the counter and began pulling out supplies. "Hey, Sam?"
Sam paused in the doorway, looking back over her shoulder. "Yeah?"
She nodded. "Anytime."