"The Insurance Girls Tell All"
Part 2 - "Wake Me Up Inside"
By Azalea

Rated PG-13

Chapter 7: The Wrath of Knives
Meryl:     Vash and I were sitting at the kitchen table, nursing cups of coffee. “Vash, tell me about your people,” I demanded. “The Plants. Call this crazy, but Knives’ grudge almost makes sense if humans are abusing Plants like he told me.”
        “Don’t listen to him-he’s paranoid,” he replied.
        “I wouldn’t listen, but Milly and I have to take our turns watching him!”
        “Since Knives and I were raised like humans, we can’t imagine existing the way most Plants do,” Vash explained. “But the ones I’ve talked to-they really don’t mind. Being one with energy puts them in touch with the universe. It’s a different form of existence, but it’s not an unhappy one.”
        “Could you control people’s minds the way you said Knives can?” I asked.
        “I dunno,” he stated, somewhere between somber and flippant. “I never tried.”
        “Why not?” I pressed, as he stood up and walked to the window.
        “Because that kind of power is addictive,” he said, gazing outside. “I could use it once, for a good cause-then I’d start using it for less worthy reasons. To get money, sex, power…”
        “I don’t think you would-”
        “It’s a weapon, Meryl. Some weapons are better left unused.” He turned from the window. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it,” he said with a sigh, collapsing back into his chair. “I just don’t see how I can rehabilitate Knives.”
        “Vash, surely you know by now you can only encourage people to change-you can’t make them.”
        “But if I don’t convince him, the world could be in danger again.” He rested his chin in the palm of his hand. “And I can’t kill him.”
        No, you can’t, I found myself thinking. But maybe..maybe someone else can. I imagined myself holding a derringer to Knives’ skull. No, I couldn’t do that. Not after that speech I gave the townspeople on why they had no right to kill Vash. I shuddered at my wicked thoughts.
        “What’s wrong?” Vash asked curiously.
        “Nothing,” I lied. “Chilly, I guess.”
        “Seems plenty warm to me.”
        I hurried to change the subject-to anything else! “Did you see the puppies this morning? They’re getting so big, so fast!”
        “Er, yeah…”
        “Vash,” I began seriously, leaning forward over the table. “I heard somewhere that you and Knives are immortal. That can’t be true, can it? But you’ve acquired scars from wounds that should’ve killed you.”
        He sighed. “I don’t know what our life span is. And I guess we are plenty more resilient than humans. But I’m sure I’ll die someday. I mean, if I were in an explosion, I’d be blown to bits, wouldn’t I? How could I recover from that?”
        “I see. But, Vash, I still think we ought to increase how many people are with Knives at one time.”

Meryl:     Knives, to be frank, gave me the creeps. Most strongly, I felt his virility-I suspected he would have raped me if he could have gotten away with it. He looked like Vash, I suppose, but somehow he seemed so ugly. Same kind of face as Vash, yet…I guess your personality can help or harm your looks.
        I could sense Knives was waiting to make his move, as the days to the wedding drew nearer. Despite his acting good-natured and half-converted, it was obvious Knives wasn’t thrilled about the planned union of Vash and I.
        He struck four days before the wedding date.

Milly:     Meryl and I were taking our turn watching him. He appeared to be sleeping, but we both had our weapons at the ready-that’s how much we trusted that loser!

Meryl:     Outside the room, I could hear a commotion. “Grandma!” Vash cried. “Why are you pointing that gun at me?” My confused husband-to-be walked into the room, backwards. Grandma Sheryl was pointing a gun at his chin. Lina followed. She had a handgun that Sheryl had given her upon her last birthday.
        “What could possibly be the matter?” Milly wondered aloud to herself.
        “Grandma, he touched me here, and here,” Lina repeated, gesturing to her pelvis and her newly forming breasts.
        “You know I would never hurt Lina in any way,” Vash insisted, trying to remain calm.
        Suddenly, I remembered-one night, Vash had sneaked into my room, and felt all around my body. I drew one of my derringers. “You bastard! As if molesting me wasn’t bad enough, you have to get it from a child!”
        “When did I molest you?” Vash wondered.

Milly:     I had been watching all this, stunned. Vash wouldn’t do such things, would he? No, of course he wouldn’t. I glanced over at Knives. He had one eye open, as though winking at me, and a slight, sneering smile, as though his victory was ensured.
        I knew this man was dangerous, but I had to distract, well, if not him, then his victims, so maybe they could return to their senses. “It’s not Vash!” I cried out. “It was him!” I continued, pointing. “He’s making you think Vash did things he didn’t. Remember he can do that?” I cast my angry eyes upon Knives. “Oh, I hate you! Because of you, the father of my child is dead!”
        “Oh, you mean that pathetic priest, Nicholas D. Wolfwood,” Knives said with a sneer, stopping his sleeping act. “Don’t worry, you’re better off without him-he was nothing but a child killer.”
        The rage within me boiled.
        “Besides,” Knives continued gleefully. “Your unholy alliance with him has probably spawned some demon in your womb.”
        My rage spilled over. I lunged at him, only to have Meryl and Vash hold me back. Good, Meryl was herself again.

Meryl:     Sheryl still had her pistol aimed at Vash, but her hand was shaking with uncertainty. I retrained my derringer on Knives, who just smiled coolly. “Oh, you won’t kill me. Vash won’t let you. See, it’s more dangerous to be under his influence than mine. Just shoot me-I’ll recover, then this will start all over again. I’ve spent most of my life recovering from one-”
        Suddenly, someone fired. Blood splattered on the wall behind Knives, who, with a shocked expression on his face, slumped. “Lina, no!” Vash yelled, but Lina fired again and again, emptying out her bullets, to make sure the evil beast was dead this time.
        “I’m sorry, Vash, I’m sorry! But it had to be done. He was just going to kill more people.”

Meryl:     So, like a shepherd boy had taken down Goliath with just a slingshot and some stones, the supposedly all-powerful Knives had been rubbed out by a child. It turned out that Lina hadn’t been under Knives’ full control all along. When the strong-willed girl recognized his intrusion in her head, she pretended to go along, trying not to think too much so that he wouldn’t read her true thoughts. When the opportunity presented itself, she attacked. She knew Vash wouldn’t approve, but she realized that Knives would never reform. She carried a grudge against him not only for what he had done to Vash, but also to Wolfwood. She was fond of Wolfwood for having helped her out.

Milly:     When she grew up, she became a Ranger, red coat and everything!

Meryl:    And grandmother Sheryl lived with us the rest of her years. But getting back to that time when Knives was killed…
        Later, I found Vash in his room, sitting on the edge of the bed, looking like he was moping. I sat down beside him, putting an arm around him. “You doing okay?” I asked softly, more hesitantly adding, “Do you want to talk?”
        He exhaled a breath through his nose, then said, “I was foolish to think I could change him. He’s harbored hatred in him for over a hundred years-he wasn’t going to change overnight. Probably not at all. Why did I think just because I defeated him in a fight that I defeated the way he chose to live as well?”
        “But you’re still upset he’s dead because he’s your brother,” I guessed.
        “Actually, Meryl, I feel guilty about how relieved I feel. Like maybe now I really can get on to a peaceful life and put the past behind me.”
        “I guess we all feel that way, honestly,” I mumbled. My only sorrow was for Vash, not for his brother.
        “Yeah, I know. Maybe I was selfish for wanting him to live-it would only be at the expense of other people’s lives.”
        I thought of Milly’s grief over losing her man because of Knives’ schemes, and I couldn’t bring myself to contradict Vash. So I kept silent.
        Vash sighed. “No one will mourn him except for me, and then even I will do that half-heartedly.”
        “Will you still be friends with Lina?”
        He nodded. “I forgive her, just like I forgave Wolfwood. She did what she thought she had to do. I began to realize shortly after my fight with Knives that maybe Rem’s way wasn’t the right way a hundred percent of the time.” He must have felt my astonishment, for he turned to me and said, “Don’t worry. I’m not gonna become a killing machine. I still value life too much.”
        I nodded. “Is our wedding still on?” I asked, as he stood up and paced.
        “What do you mean? Of course it’s still on!”
        “I mean, do you want to postpone it?”
        “No,” he replied simply. “I need it, Meryl. I need you. But I don’t know how I feel tonight, or what I’m supposed to.” He turned around, his eyes widening. “Meryl, what are you doing?”
        I had undone the buttons of my shirt. “I think..maybe you need me tonight. Maybe you need this.” I drew a hand towards my breasts.
        “Meryl, no! You wanted to wait until we were married.”
        “I do, but I thought you-”
        “It’s only a couple of days away. I can wait. I think you’ll feel better if you did, too.”
        I blushed and buttoned up my shirt.
        Suddenly getting goofy, he added, “But, hey, thanks for compromising your principles for me! And nice bra!”
        I pretended to be angry. “Hmmph!”
        “I didn’t figure you for the kind to wear black.”
        “Shut up.” Actually, it was only recently I had begun to add more color to my lingerie, since soon I would have a husband to please. Before, I had been pretty frumpy in cut and colors, sticking with white and occasionally beige.
        “You know what would really help me?” Vash held his elbow out to me. “Why don’t we go sit under the stars?”
        I took his arm, and let him lead the way.

Chapter 8: Right Now
Meryl:     I was in my waiting room, with my Mom, Milly, and Peg, the lady who was doing my hair and makeup. I sat on a salon chair, and in a moment of giddiness, spun around. “I’m wearing white! And I really can wear white!”
        “Have you told Vash about your thomas riding accident?” Mom pestered.
        The one where I broke my hymen. I sighed. “Yes, Mother.” It had been an awkward thing to bring up to him.
        “Oh, you mean--?” Milly began.
        “It’ll make it easier for you tonight, dear,” Mom continued. “Not only comfort wise, but if he knows, he won’t get suspicious.”
        “Mom, can we talk about something else?”
        “What-are you afraid to talk about sex with your own mother? I’m the one who got that book off the shelf when you were thirteen and taught you everything.”
        “So, you like talking about sex with your relatives?” I wondered irritably.
        “Well, not all the time-”
        I smiled in triumph.
        “But this is a most appropriate time!” she finished, beaming in victory.

Meryl:     We held the wedding outside on the grounds of the town’s largest landholder, who lived outside the town proper. It was actually a fairly normal wedding. I wore a pretty country bridal gown, which I tripped over, and Vash was decked out in a tuxedo. I must say, he looked good in black! Milly was my maid-of-honor, but there was no best man or bridesmaids. If Wolfwood were still around, Vash said he would have picked him as best man, but, well, you know…The vows were standard. It was all perfectly tame, of which we were glad.
        Afterwards, while waiting for reception time, Vash and I took a break in the estate, wandering from room to room, remarking idly about the décor in each one. I had changed into a simple blue gown with a zippered back and Vash was wearing just a white collared shirt and black slacks. We were bored. I opened the next door in the hallway. This room was a cozy little bedroom. It was sparse of furnishings-a chair, maybe a chest of drawers. What caught my interest was a cute little, pink canopied bed. It was just begging for someone to dream upon it. “I always loved canopied beds,” I remarked, stepping in closer, and barely hearing Vash shut and lock the door. “It reminds me of fairy tale princesses from the old world.” I collapsed upon the velvet chair. “Well, this perks me up a little. To tell you the truth, I was getting bored.” I sighed. “Three hours until the reception. We should’ve planned this better.”
        “I know what we can do that won’t be so boring,” Vash said slyly, and I saw that he was leaning against the closed door, a slight but mischievous smile on his face.
        “What?” I asked tiredly.
        He smiled slyly.
        “Oh..OH!” I exclaimed, getting the message. Nervously, I ran to the door, but he wouldn’t budge. “Can’t you wait?”
        “Not one moment longer.” He clutched my shoulders. I looked into his eyes and got weak in my knees. I surrendered to his kiss, letting it awaken my senses anew.
        Then I turned my back to him, smiling so he couldn’t see. “Aw, Meryl!” he whined.
        I looked over my shoulder, still smiling impishly. “Could you undo the zipper on the back of my dress?”
        “All right!” He leaped to the task.
        “Don’t get your fingers stuck in the teeth,” I warned.
        “Yowchh!” he yelped, and it sounded like he was sucking his fingers. “Man, I’m bleeding!”
        I turned around. He held out his hands. There was no blood. “Fooled ya!”
        “Oh, you’re silly!” I let my dress fall to my ankles, standing there in my slip. “Now hurry up and take off your clothes! We haven’t got all day!”
        “Yes, ma’am!” He slipped out of his clothes, and I the rest of mine.
        I tried not to feel self-conscious about being nude, instead concentrating on looking at him. In spite of all his scars-well, actually, because of them-I found his body fascinating. Still, even focusing on him, I felt his eyes upon me, moving from my head to my toes and back up again. A delightful chill ran down my spine.
        It was time to take action. With a feral growl, I shoved him against the wall.
        “I thought you were going to be shy!” Vash confessed breathlessly. “I didn’t think you’d be so aggressive!”
        “Don’t you dare think that I don’t want it, too! I was just waiting for the right time.”
        Vash sunk to the floor, his eyes rolled up in ecstasy.
        As we rolled on the blue carpet, snapshot memories flew through my mind. This man…I had once reviled him, then grown to care about, even love him. And now I was freely giving my all to him. I had no regrets in letting my affection win out over my pride. I cleaved to him and finally felt the full requiting of my love as our flesh became one. His own tears dripped down to intermingle with mine.
        We finished things off with three more kisses-or maybe it was just one, long kiss.
        “That was so beautiful,” Vash said, still flat on the floor. “You didn’t hold anything back.”
        “I’m not going to hold anything good back from you!” I insisted.
        He smiled, then suddenly sat up. “I’m so happy!” he shouted, loud enough for the whole planet.
        He fell back to the floor. “Now, where were we?”
        “Someday I’m going to kiss each and every one of your scars and make them all better.”
        “You know, Meryl, I do believe you could.” His speech was delightfully sleepy.
        “I love your voice, Vash. It’s so tender and sweet-like a soft touch.”
        “Yeah. You could almost make love to me with just that.” I cast an admiring glance downward. “You know, with your being humanoid, I was afraid your, um, parts would be out of order.”
        He snickered. “No, silly! My parts are the same as any other guy.”
        “But you’re not like any other guy.”
        “I want to be like any other guy.”
        “No you don’t,” I gently scolded. “Don’t talk like that.”
        “You are so right, my little mayfly of love.”
        “Mayfly?” I asked curiously. “Why are you calling me an insect?”
        “It’s not an insult, honest! Would it be an insult if I called you a butterfly?”
        “No, it’s just…I dunno, odd, that’s all.” I smiled. “But if you mean it in a complimentary way, I’ll accept it.”
        “There’s a story behind it,” he said through a yawn. “I’ll tell you sometime, but right now, I’m too tired.” He closed his eyes.
        “We can’t go to sleep now!” I reminded him. “The reception’s coming up.”
        “Not go to sleep-just lay here for awhile,” he insisted. “C’mon, put your head on my chest.”
        I hesitated for a moment, then rested my head on his body. Again, he had seduced me. The rise and fall of his breathing lulled me into a blissful state between consciousness and dreaming. I kept seeing blue, not just in the carpet, but everywhere, like I was underwater. It’s the dream of everyone on this dry planet to be completely immersed in a body of water. I was so content, so happy, so in love-I never wanted this moment to end. “Love and peace,” I said aloud. “One thing I like about you-you give what you sell.”
        I may have drifted off all together; I’m not sure. Knocking brought me back to my senses. We heard Milly’s voice. “Um, you guys? Everyone at the reception is wondering where you are.”
        “Should we tell her to go away?” Vash mumbled.
        I grunted, then sat bolt upright. “The reception! Vash, we’re late for our own reception!”
        “Hurry up and get dressed!” I called out, “Give us a few minutes, Milly!”
        “Hey,” Vash began.
        He pointed his arm towards the canopied bed.
        “Oh,” I remarked knowingly, smirking. We had never even touched it.
        To this day, blue carpets still turn me on.

Milly:     I never told Meryl this, but I came in the annex to find her and Vash, and I could hear them, um, carrying on.

Meryl:    You what?

Milly:     Oh, it’s okay. I certainly didn’t hang around! I hightailed it out of there, and just told everyone they were “busy” or “couldn’t come right now”.
        They finally made it to their reception but boy, did they get a lot of ribbing about not being able to “hold it” until tonight! Meryl was the epitome of the blushing bride-in fact, her face was bright red. Then Vash got drunk, and went around loudly exclaiming over and over, “Is this a fine woman or what?” This seemed to embarrass Meryl further instead of flattering her, especially when he playfully punctuated his question by smacking her on the butt.
        I felt badly for her in retrospect, but at the time, having had a drink myself, I found the whole situation hysterical.

Meryl:     Well, the reception wasn’t that bad, actually. Although I was annoyed at having to chat it up with Karen. “So, Meryl, how’d you get your hair all sweaty like that?” she asked. “I’m really into beauty secrets.”
        Friendly one second, catty the next. That was Karen. I never was sure if she was a friend or a rival, but I had invited her to the wedding anyway. Back at the office, she used to tease Milly and I, saying we were so weird we would never achieve “womanly happiness.”
        I smiled smugly at her. “It just so happens, Karen, that I have just experienced that womanly happiness you said I never would, and that’s why my hair is sweaty.”
        “Oh,” she said, sounding cranky. Then she leaned in closer, whispering, “Was it good?”
        “Mmm-mm,” I said positively. “You know, Milly’s had some, too.”
        Karen glanced at Milly, sitting elsewhere in the room, chatting with Reverend Sheppard and Laurie. “Yeah, and look where it got her-she’s gonna be an unwed mother.”
        “She is not unwed!” I snapped. “She’s widowed!” I was surprised to find myself defending her hasty marriage that way.
        “I heard she did it with some renegade priest who used to drag around this cross filled with guns that he used to shoot people with.”
        “Yes, that’s right,” I confirmed. “And I just married Vash the Stampede.”
        Karen shook her head. “You two girls have been out in the desert too long. Tell me you’re quitting your job now that you’re married.”
        “I can’t-Bernadelli still want someone to keep an eye on Vash, and what better way to keep an eye on him than wake up with him each morning?”
        “You get too close to your work.”
        “I suppose.” I sighed in realization. “You know what? I love my job.”

        Do you believe my Mom, after all that teasing me about I was going to have sex, actually chided me for not waiting until after the reception? But I don’t think Vash could have waited any longer. I don’t know what he’d been up to all those years before I met him, but since I met him, I don’t think he’d seen any action-of the sexual kind, that is.
        Oh, well, at least I got to feel that my sexual relations were rebelling against Mom, instead of conforming to her wishes.

        That night, Vash was like a whimpering puppy, trying to apologize. He thought I must be really mad at him, and that our marriage was already in jeopardy.
        “No, I’m not gonna be mad at you forever,” I reassured Vash. “I just don’t like it when you get drunk. You act weird.”
        “So I can never drink ever?” he wondered, not in an angry tone-more of a confused one.
        “If you would just try to..” I sought the proper words. “..Restrain yourself and be careful.” I wrapped my arms around him to let him know I wasn’t angry.
        “I shall endeavor to do my best!” he shouted pompously. “Can we go to bed now?”
        “Sure,” I agreed, and plopped myself down on the bed, facing the edge. I closed my eyes and pretended to snore.
        “No, I mean-”
        I smirked.

        We didn’t go out of town for a honeymoon-someone suggested Jeneora Rock, with its scenic giant stone windmill, but Vash promptly turned the idea down-too many bad memories for him.
        I don’t know-sometimes one town gets to seem the same as any other town. Vash’s idea of a getaway was a nice, comfortable suite with room service, where the two of us could just hide away, and do what lovers do.
        Those days are a bit of a blur of sensuality. I remember finding out Vash could speak French-and kiss French, too. I remember more thoroughly examining his scars at my leisure. I think I liked the stitches on his buttocks and the straps over his left breast the best. You could say I had a scar fetish, but I didn’t think it developed until I met him. Scars are like the male genitalia-a bit grotesque, but still alluring. Vash joked that he had gone to an awful lot of trouble to collect all those scars for me.
        And he said the words I wanted to here. No, not “I love you,”-well, he said that, too. But he told me, “I think making love to you has compensated me for a century’s worth of angst.”
        That’s all I ever wanted-it’s all Milly ever wanted, too-to make life better for our poor, angst-ridden men.

Speaking of Milly, in spite of all the wedded bliss, one night I found myself crying bitterly. At first, I could not answer my husband when he asked, “What’s wrong?”
        Then, after a moment or two, I was able to explain. “It’s Milly.”
        “What about--?”
        “I feel so badly for her. She only got one night like this, then it was all just torn away from her. But we have..we have…” I calculated in my head. “Maybe all the time in the world.”
        Vash lay back on the pillow, his folded arms propping up his head. “I don’t think she resents us for it.”
        “No, no she doesn’t, but…” I began, worrying that he might not get it.
        “I miss him,” he confessed. “And I was only his friend. So I can imagine how much more she misses him.”

        Vash awoke to find me putting on my clothes.
        “I suppose it’s time we go back to the real world,” I said, buttoning my dress.
        Vash smiled mysteriously, then aimed his finger at me, his hand mimicking a pistol. “Bang!”
        “Aacck!” I clutched my heart and fell to the floor.
        Vash, still unclothed, got up, picked me off the floor, and lay me down on the bed, chuckling evilly.
        I sighed in resignation, and undid my buttons. “Vash, we can’t stay here forever,” I chided gently. “Just eating, sleeping, and making love.”
        “Why not? It sounds like the perfect existence to me.”
        I removed my outer layer of clothing. “But it’s irresponsible.”
        “Hmm..maybe.” He helped me unfasten my bra. “But tell me…”
        “Why do you always do that?”
        “Do what?”
        “Play dead when I pretend to shoot you.”
        “Oh, I..Well, if you remember, the first time it happened was shortly after we first met.” I nestled in close to him. “You said when you aim at a girl’s heart, you never miss. You were aiming at Marianne, but you hit me instead.”
        “Ah, destiny,” Vash sighed. “But you didn’t even like me then.”
        “It’s not that I didn’t like you, it’s that I didn’t want to like you. But I guess my subconscious knew something I didn’t.” He was nuzzling my neck. “Vash, I’m so glad I know now.”

        I don’t know why, but that was the best time since the first time we made love. After a little rest, we were inspired to finally brave the real world again. It was Vash, actually, who made the first effort. He glanced out the window. “Oh, look, it’s almost noon! The diner should be serving lunch soon. Let’s go!”
        “You just want that plate of little cinnamon donuts they serve for dessert!” I exclaimed knowingly.
        We dressed, paid our bill, gathered our belongings, and walked out into the streaming daylight. Vash put an arm around my waist, and with his other hand, gestured up at the sky. “It’s a new world, Meryl. From now on, everything’s going to go our way.”
        I didn’t have it in my heart to contradict him. “Really?”
        He smiled. “Well, most of the time, anyway.”

Chapter 9: Baby Boom
Meryl:     Now that Knives was out of the way, we were no longer tied to No Name Town, so we decided to move on. But what city or town would accept us? At first, we drew blanks trying to think of where to go. But then the answer struck us all at once-a place that didn’t curse Vash, but adored him. Inepril.
        When we got there, the townspeople for the most part were still friendly, instinctively knowing Vash wasn't really to blame for Augusta and the Fifth Moon. We secured a house there. There was a bedroom for Vash and I, one for Milly, one for Lina, and one for Sheryl.
        As Milly’s pregnancy grew more and more obvious, I felt myself growing protective of her. Strange, I hadn’t known how I would feel about it-resentful that she achieved this stage before me, perhaps? I don’t know. Or maybe I’d still be upset she was no longer an innocent maiden, and still sore at Wolfwood for deflowering her? But what I felt instead was a nurturing kind of sisterhood. I had to protect her; I had to care for her.
        It wasn’t long before I had another reason to feel empathetic. I’d been having problems-feeling queasy and the like. When I mentioned it to Milly at a lunch date, she piped up with, “Gee, that sounds just like morning sickness.”
        I didn’t finish the rest of my meal.
        Not long after visits to the doctor, I sought out Vash. He was sitting on the front porch step, just idling time away. I knelt down behind him, putting my arms around him. “Vash? You remember when we were talking about having children?”
        “I don’t suppose we should, Meryl,” he said, sounding distracted.
        “The decision is no longer in our hands,” I stated, sitting down one step above him.
        He looked around, curious. “‘The decision is no longer in our hands.’ Hmm..what do you mean by that?”
        I rolled my eyes. “You’re the one who’s supposed to have superhuman intelligence. You figure it out!”
        Puzzled, he thought a moment. Or two. “You’re infertile?”
        “Oh, Vash, you’re such a moron!”
        He pointed to himself. “I’m infertile?”
        I banged my forehead against his. “Listen Vash we are having a baby,” I stated, my words punctuated by contact with his thick skull.
        “A little less than nine months.”
        “Oh, okay,” he said casually, then stared ahead, as he had been doing when I found him.
        I looked at him, dumbfounded. This was his reaction? I was about to smack him, when he gasped, leaping to his feet. Suddenly, he started laughing maniacally. I couldn’t tell if he was delirious with ecstasy or if he was insane from angst.
        “Meryl, Meryl!” I went over to him, and he hugged me fiercely. Tears were streaming down his face, and I realized he was ecstatic. “My sweet, sweet Meryl.”
        “I thought you didn’t want a child.”
        “It’s not that I didn’t, I just didn’t know how he or she would turn out.” He stroked my belly. “But now-now that the child is here, I’m going to love every minute.”
        I sighed in relief, and rested my head against his chest.
        “Um, one more question,” Vash began.
        “Yes, sweetie?”
        “Can we have sex when you’re pregnant, or is that taboo?”
        “Oh, you’re too much!”

Melinda:     So, I take it Vash was an affectionate husband?

Meryl:     To say the least! He never took me for granted. He was a lovesick puppy!

Melinda:     Ah, that I should be so lucky! To have a legend love me and a man so caring!

Milly:     All rolled into one!

Meryl:     But I still am amazed that he saw anything in me! I’m frumpy-hardly glamorous!

Melinda:     But back then-

Milly:     She wasn’t glamorous then, either!

Meryl:    Oh, and you were?

Milly:    Nope!

Melinda:     Let’s get back to the subject of babies. Tell us about when the son of Nicholas D. Wolfwood was born.

Milly:     I woke up one morning, bathed in sunlight, which came pouring through the window. It felt so good; I stretched in it and luxuriated in it. The suns’ brightness in my eyes reminded me of how Nicholas and I had made love in time with the coming of the dawn. The feel of the suns on my skin reminded me of how I had lay snuggled against his warm, bare body.
        I sighed. “Oh, Nicholas, I bet you are here with me today. Right now. In fact, I just know it,” I said, propping my head up by leaning it against my folded arms. “I know! You must be here because today must be the day our child will be born. It’s just about ri-” I screeched as pain attacked. “Right on time,” I gasped.

        Milly:    Not long after, Meryl was with me as I lay on a bed at the Inepril Clinic. Vash was in the building, too, but Meryl had kicked him out of the delivery room. “Oh, Meryl, I don’t think I can do this!”
        “You can. I know you can.”
        “You’ve come this far,” a familiar feminine voice added. “Don’t give up now.”
        I looked up joyfully to see a tall woman about fifteen years my elder standing in the doorway. “Heloise! Heloise! Oh, Meryl, it’s my big sister Heloise!” I wish I could have gotten out of bed and hugged her.
        She came over and grasped my hands. “Hey, I couldn’t leave my littlest sister alone when she’s about to have her first baby! I see I arrived just in time.”
        “Oh, I’m not alone-my best friend Meryl’s here-but I’m so thrilled you’re here, too. Most everyone else in the family has disowned me.”
        “I don’t know why,” Meryl remarked to my sister. “The last thing in the world she is is a slut.”
        “Well, don’t worry,” Heloise said with a wink. “Disown is much too hard a word, you know! With the Thompsons, anyway. They’re just a little sore. But I’m working on them. They can’t be all holier-than-thou forever."

Milly:     I’ve heard of some mothers being so mad at the pain labor causes them that they swear revenge on their men. But it wasn’t like that with me. This was about all I had left of Nicholas. I was in agony, but the pain was bittersweet, and, to be honest, my moaning reminded me of similar noises on that night nine months ago. It was, if you pardon my pun, a real labor of love.

Milly:     I was holding my pink and tiny baby, who was wrapped up in a blanket. Meryl and Heloise were cooing over him.
        Vash pounded at the door. “Can I see the baby now?”
        “Hold your thomases, Vash!” Meryl chided.
        “Aw, c’mon!”
        “It’s not even your baby, for cryin’ out loud!”
        “But it’s my friends’ baby!”
        “Meryl, I don’t think there’s any harm in letting him in,” I said meekly.
        “But you still look a mess.”
        “That’s okay. As Vash said, we’re friends. What’s a little sweat and messy hair among friends?”
        “Oh, okay.” Meryl opened the door and Vash nearly tumbled in.
        “The baby the baby which one’s the baby?” Vash asked frantically.
        “The really tiny one,” Meryl answered.
        Vash squatted down to look at the infant. “Hey, it looks just like him. Except less hair. It’s a boy, isn’t it?”
        “Yes,” I said proudly. “And his name is Nicholas D. Wolfwood, Jr.”
        “I have a new buddy!” Vash exclaimed, standing up. “Um, what’s the D. stand for?”
        “Really?” Vash slapped his forehead. “That’s weird! That’s like the name of the town Knives was staying at.”
        “Coincidence,” Meryl remarked hurriedly.
        “And all the time I was thinking his middle name was Donald!”
        “I thought it was Darryl,” Meryl stated.
        “Boy, Milly, you really did know everything about him,” Vash said to me. “Can I hold the baby?”
        “Sure,” I said.
        “Vash, be careful,” Meryl warned.
        “Can’t you at least trust your own husband?” Vash demanded. “Besides, I need the practice.” He playfully tagged Meryl’s belly.
        So Vash took Nicky in his arms, and sauntered around the room with him.
        Heloise, Meryl, and I all looked at each other. “I think he’s more excited about the baby then you are,” my sister muttered to me.
        Meryl put a hand on her belly. “Just wait until he has one of his own! He won’t give the kid any breathing space!”

Insurance Girls Tell All - Part 2: Ch. 10-16

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