"I grew up in a family of women. There are my two sisters, Zoe and Katie, and then there's my mother and my mother, and my mother…who's a ghost."
There's a rumble from the crowd, some laughter, some confused mumbling, and Maura reaches instinctively for Jane, sitting next to her with their daughter on her lap.
On her other side, Zoe leans over to whisper in the doctor's ear, "Don't worry. It's a great speech."
Maya had been adamant that neither mother hear her Valedictorian speech until the day of, when she could stand up and recite it in front of everyone.
"You'll just have to wait and see," she'd said, snatching it away from Jane and dodging Maura's outstretched arms.
"You don't want us to look it over, My?" And when Maya had shaken her head, Jane had shrugged, turning to the fridge.
But Maura hadn't been so easily deflected. She'd followed the teenager into the living room, sitting down in the armchair as Maya had plopped down on the couch.
"You haven't sworn in there, have you?" she'd asked after a moment of silence. "What if you have glaring grammatical errors?"
"Ma says that life is bland without a couple obscenities," Maya had answered easily, "and if I mess up my grammar, you have permission to come up on stage and correct me for everyone to hear…into the microphone!"
Maura laughed, and Maya had continued, "I'm Valedictorian, Mommy. Give me some credit."
Now, Maura is brought back into the present by a gentle pressure on her fingers, and looks around to see Jane, smiling reassuringly at her.
Up on stage, Maya is still talking.
"From the moment we are born, there is someone worrying about how we are going to be shaped, and what kind of humans we are going to turn out to be. Our parents paint our rooms light, pastel colors because they read that anything too harsh can hinder our development. They fight about getting rid of the cat. It's all worry, worry, worry: will the baby be okay? Will I be good for this little person? Are they eating right, living right, learning on schedule, should we hold them to a schedule… And then…we turn eighteen, and we go off to college, or get jobs…and all the shaping suddenly…stops." She grins out at the crowd, and Maura thinks she has never looked more like her mother, the ghost.
"We're out on our own for the first time, and all eyes are on us and it's fight or flight time. It's time to show if your shaping worked."
"Hey, Maya, can I come in?"
Maura comes to sit next to the little girl on the bed. She is wearing her hair up in two little pony tails, done up with blue ribbons at the end, and as she gathers herself, Maura thinks that the look is getting to be too babyish, and marvels at how fast the little girl is growing up.
"I wanted to talk to you about something," she says quietly.
Maya nods, "I already know."
Maura raises her eyebrows. "Do you?"
"Yeah," Maya doesn't meet her eyes. "You want to marry Mama."
Maura tries to swallow past the lump in her throat and is only half successful. She wants to put her arm around Maya's shoulder, but the little girl's body language is all stop signs and red lights. She opts, instead, to smooth out the wrinkles of her dress.
"Yes," she says finally, because there is no sense beating around the bush. "I do."
Maya nods stoically. "Okay."
"Yeah…aren't I supposed to say okay?" Maya looks up at her, resigned, "then you can say okay, and tell Mama, and get married."
Maura frowns, "No," she says, and when the child looks up, she shakes her head before continuing. "This is not a script, honey. There is nothing you are supposed to say." Maya doesn't look convinced, but she hasn't moved away, so Maura feels a little heartened. "You are supposed to say whatever you are feeling."
Maya considers this. "And then what?"
"And then we talk about it."
"But you still marry my mama."
Maura smiles, "I'd like to, yes."
Maya doesn't smile back. "Why? Why can't things just stay the way they are?"
"How would things change if mama and I married?" Maura counters.
Maya bites her lip, looking saddened. "You might have a new baby."
They've talked about it, Maura can't deny that. "We might," she says and Maya looks impressed by her honesty. "But…we could do that without getting married."
This doesn't seem to have occurred to Maya, and her face falls even more. Maura cannot help but put her arm around the little girl now. "What makes you sad about that, honey?"
Maya shrugs, but the doctor shakes her head. "Words," she says, firm. "You have to use words, or we can't get anywhere.
A huge sigh that shakes them both, and then, "I'm not anybody's baby, anymore."
Oh. Maura had not considered this. She sits for a bit, letting her hand rub up and down Maya's little shoulder.
"You're my baby," she says after a moment. "And you came from your mama's tummy, you're her baby too."
Maya shrugs, and then realizing this won't suffice says, "I have to make sure we always remember her. I'm the only one. I have to make sure we remember."
"No," Maura says, maybe too forcefully, but she cannot help herself. She spins so that she and Maya are face to face. "No," she says again, "That is not your responsibility."
"Whose then?" Maya asks earnestly, looking up into the doctor's face. "whose is it?"
"It's all of ours," she says pointing out the door, to where the hallway wall is covered in picture frames. There's Katherine holding Maya the day she was born, beaming at the camera. There's Maya and Maura and Zoe on Zoe's graduation from kindergarten. There's the four of them, on a beach off the coast of India, all of them tan and squnity-smiling at the camera. "It's this family's responsibility to make sure. Not just yours sweetheart. And if I marry your mother, that won't change."
There is a silence, and Maura lets it stretch, wanting Maya to have the time to follow each thought to its ending.
"Can I be a flower girl?"
Maura pretends to consider. "No," she says, almost breaking when Maya's face falls. "Your sister is going to be flower girl."
"Oh," Maya says, trying to understand. "okay."
"Besides," Maura says, leaning down to catch Maya's eye again. "I was really hoping you'd be my Maid of Honor."
That smile, there. Maura knows she will never see anything as beautiful.
"Did they do it? Did they do it right? Will you call home every day and talk for hours on end because you miss them? Or will you write an email once a week because you are too busy with what's new and what's next? Is one of those more right than the other? When that guy you totally thought was into you tells everyone in your intro to psych class that you slept with him on the first date, even though you sodid not…what are you going to do? Are you going to punch him in the junk like your mother taught you? Or are you going destroy him in debate…like your mother taught you? Are you molded right? Did they make the right choices? Did that grounding stick? Are the mistakes they made the reason that you will never be normal? Or is the reason you will never be normal because that word is something you were never allowed to settle for? And now that you are on your own, now that you can choose anything…what will you do?
"…And I don't even know why I have them in this school if things like this are going to continue to happen? I should pull them both out! I should actually sue you all for discrimination and…"
The door slams suddenly, effectively stifling the detective's voice. Maura stands for a moment, torn, and then deciding that the children need their mother more than her wife needs back up, comes to sit down with them on the bench outside the office. As soon as she is settled, Zoe scoots closer to her, reaching out for her hand, but Maya stays where she is, looking down at her shoes.
"Mama's mad," Zoe says, playing with Maura's fingers.
Maura nods, using her free hand to straighten the brown sash across Zoe's shoulder. "Yes," she says simply. "She's pretty upset."
Maya makes an irritable gesture with her shoulders, not looking up from the ground. "I shouldn't have called," she mumbles. "shouldnta said anything."
Maura doesn't respond right away. She takes Zoe's hand in hers and pulls it up to her lips.
"Of course you should have," she says, and when Maya won't look at her, she reaches out and tilts the little chin up so that they are face to face. "Of course you should have, darling."
Maya had called Jane an hour ago, and even though the detective was across the room, legs swinging from one of the morgue tables, Maura could hear Maya's teary little voice from where she was standing, preparing her instruments.
She'd looked up, panicked, to see Jane's face, just as stricken.
"Slow down, baby," Jane was saying into the receiver. "Say it again, so I can understand you. Who wouldn't let you do what?"
A pause while Jane had listened to the answer, and Maura had listened to the muffled cries of her eldest daughter, her heart poudning in her chest.
"He pushed you? And what did the teacher do?"
Another pause, and Maya's voice had risen an octave, so that Maura could plainly hear the words, 'dykes' and 'not allowed.'
"We're coming," Jane had said in the flat, toneless voice that told Maura there would be a murder if she didn't tag along. "No, you and your sister stay right there. We're coming."
Now, the door to the principal's office flies open, hitting the wall so hard that it bounces a little on it's hinges. Jane steps out into the hall, looking wild and furious, a force to be reckoned with. Maura realizes that they'd both left in such a hurry that Jane had not even bothered to take her kit belt off, her gun sits holstered next to her badge, both gleaming in the artificial hallway lights, and Maura wonders - a little amusedly - if Jane had left them there purposefully.
"Mama!" Maya says, and her voice is caught somewhere between shock and fear. "Mama?"
Jane whirls towards her daughter's voice, anger still etched into every line of her face.
"I'm sorry!" Maya says, jumping up to face her mother. She sounds a little terrified. "I'm sorry I called you for something so stupid…I don't even want to be in scouts anyway. There are tons of other clubs that I can be-"
But Jane strides over to her daughter and drops to her knees, pulling Maya into hug as though she is a little girl, and not nearly ten years old.
"Anything," Jane says into her light brown curls. "Anything, anything."
Maya pulls away, looking confused, and Jane looks up at Maura and then Zoe, side by side on the bench, before looking back down into Maya's face.
"You can be anything you want. You can do anything you want. If you want to be a scout, you'll be a scout."
"But the teacher said-"
"The teacher is small minded and petty. She is narrow thinking and uneducated. What's the most important thing? What does Mommy always say?"
Maya wipes her nose on the back of her hand, "Always stay open minded and learn as much as you can."
"Do you want to be a scout?"
Maya nods, and Jane looks up at Zoe, "What about you, Zo-zo. Do you want to be a scout?"
Zoe nods, "yeah. Pretty much."
Jane nods too, glancing at Maura with hard, determined eyes. "Then you'll be a scout. And at thanksgiving, you'll show the family all the new things you learned. Deal?"
Maya grins, looking a little excited.
"My mother's job is to protect. When I was eleven years old, my uncles took me and my little sister Zoe to a baseball game at Fenway park. My uncle Tommy let me drink beer from his plastic cup and my other uncle Frankie bought us both jerseys a couple sizes too big. I remember my sister's hung down past her knees, and when it was time to go home at the end of the night, Tommy had to carry her so she wouldn't trip. I guess we got home too early though, because when I pushed open the door and ran into the living room, my mother's just there…crying on the sofa."
Maura remembers that day. She remembers the way the morning had started out so promising and then slipped into a nightmare almost immediately. Jane stepping from the shower, calling her, frantic. She remembers her own panicked call to Frankie and Tommy, and the exact amount of money she'd charged to her credit card in order to get them those tickets.
She remembers that they'd had to replace all of their bath towels.
"My mother's job is to protect," Maya repeats, "and she doesn't cry. She's the bravest, most fearless woman I know. And when she saw me, she stopped right away. She made room for me on the couch and then for my sister and my mother, and we watched some stupid movie until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer."
Maura sneaks a look at Jane, whose eyes are shiny with unshed tears.
"Was it wrong? Should they have told me? Even now, that I'm older and I know exactly what happened, I can't make up my mind. We lost that baby…And I say we, because the loss saturated our entire household that year. My parents tried valiantly to keep the pain away from us…but they weren't entirely successful."
Next to her, Maura feels Jane flinch, but she doesn't look around at her. She can't take her eyes off of her daughter up on stage. Maya swallows, regaining her composure, and everyone in the audience is silent, hanging on her words, waiting for her to continue.
"I learned the words miscarriage, and in utero. I learned the way depression feels at the dinner table, when there's not enough conversation to go around. I learned what crying sounds like, after midnight." She glances at her mother, and then away again, and Maura can tell that this is the part of her speech she was nervous about. She tries to nod up at Maya in an encouraging way, and maybe it helps, because when the senior speaks again, her voice is clearer.
"But I also learned the words perseverance, and courage, and unsinkable and immeasurable. My other mother is a doctor, and she is the strongest woman I have ever met in my life. She carried us that year. She pushed us and held us and loved us. She gave us hope, and resolve…she-she held us together until we could try again. And I say we, because Katie is ours. She came late and wonderful and sweet, and she completed us. She made us the family that I am proud to say I come from. Me, my sister Zoe, and the baby, Katie. Our mothers' children."
Maya smiles. She brings her index fingers up to her mouth and kisses them, and then points them at Zoe and Katie. "I love you, sisters," she says, "no matter where I go."
"Hi sissy!" Katie calls from Jane's lap. She waves energetically enough that her blond curls bounce up and down. "Love you, My-my!"
Zoe has flushed crimson into her hair. She is fifteen, and everything is embarrassing, but she still kisses a finger and points it back.
"love you," she whispers, so only Maura can hear her, "love you, My-my."
Maura squeezes her leg, and Zoe turns her head to let her mother's shoulder catch a tear. They are as close as sisters can be, and the doctor knows that Zoe will miss her sister terribly.
"We're who we are because of who we grow up around," Maya says into her microphone. "I'm honored to have grown up around Zoe. She's my best friend, and…well…she's just the best. period. I wouldn't have wanted to grow up any other way. I wouldn't want to be speaking to you from any other perspective."
Jane pulls Maura down the hall, putting her finger to her lips when Maura opens them to ask what's happening.
She pulls them right up to the nursery door, and nudges it open with her toe, pushing Maura forward so she can see into the little room through the sliver of space between the door and the doorjamb.
Maya is there, standing in the middle of the room, holding the baby that just four short weeks ago, she swore she would never touch. Zoe sits a little ways off in the rocking chair, looking sleepy, her feet swinging back and forth.
Maura goes to say something, but Jane shakes her head, eyes still on the sight.
The baby squirms, mewling, and Maya shifts her position, making little clucking noises the way Jane does when she's trying to get the little girl to sleep.
"Baby," she says softly, almost reverently. "Little, tiny girl."
She already looks like Maura, with her pale green eyes and tuft of blonde hair. When they'd handed her to the doctor in the delivery room, when she'd pressed her forehead against Jane's sweaty one, it was like the world had stopped, and everything fell into place.
Now Maya bends down, and presses her head to her baby sister's.
"Katie?" she whispers, "Katie. I didn't want you to come. I thought you would ruin everything. I thought you'd…make Mama love you more, or that Mom would completely forget about me. I was being selfish… and it was wrong…even though I heard Mom say that I'm a teenager now, and it's natural."
Maura smiles, and Jane kisses the side of her head.
"You're gonna love it here, I promise," It's Zoe's turn to speak, and she whispers excitedly at the bundle in Maya's arms. "Mama is pretty fierce and crazy brave…but she's also the best hugger and storyteller and…she'll protect you always. And Mom knows everything about everything, including when you're lying, so…don't try. But she's also the best cook and the gentlest doctor when you're hurt…and she'll make you strong."
Maura wipes at her eyes, watching as Maya starts to speak again, gentle.
"And your other mother is a ghost. And when there's things you can't tell our moms you tell her. And you never knew her…but she's our mother and you're her baby, just the same. So you tell her the stuff you can't tell anyone else. And she'll help you. Ok Katie? She'll help you."
Her given name is Anna Katherine Rizzoli-Isles, but Maura knows as soon as the nickname is out of Maya's mouth that her daughter won't ever be known as anything else.
"Katie," she says quietly to Jane, but the detective does not seem able to respond. So Maura says it again, for both of them. For all of them.
"Here are the things I have learned, growing up in a family of women: number one, Count on yourself. And when you cannot count on yourself, count on your family."
Zoe leans over to put her head on Maura's shoulder. The pressure is reassuring and familiar. Maura smiles.
"Number two: Do not trust the definitions in the dictionary. Use that narrow view as a jumping off point to define things yourself.
"Number three: Like my mother always says, sometimes it is necessary to use the "F" word…especially when you're trying to get your fucking point across."
The sea of blue robes below the stage whoops and cheers, and next to Maura, Jane laughs and lets out a whoop of her own. Maura rolls her eyes, but when Maya looks at her, she grins and points a finger at her.
Maya chuckles into the microphone. "Number four. Just because you can't see it, does not mean it's not there. Make sure you listen to everything. Make sure your decision is-" she smiles at Maura again, "A fully informed one.
"And number five: trust yourself. Trust what's made you and what's brought you here, to this point, today. Trust that you have the tools you need to make the life you want." Maya leans against the podium, and like a single entity, the audience leans towards her as well, listening.
"Look," she says matter of factly, "I can't stand here and tell you that my parents did everything right all the time. And you can't look back at me and tell me that yours did it perfectly either. You have to make what you can, and use what you learned and find a way to get all the rest. But we can do it. I know we can. I know that I am going to be magnificent. I'm going to do amazing things. I know because I am strong, like my mother. And fearless, like my mother. And boundless, like my mother…the ghost."