After a delicious lunch with Sandra's mom, the gals were ready to spend some quality time alone. They were having great difficulty keeping their hands off each other.
"The camellias in City Park are all in bloom at this time of year. Would you like to go for a drive and see them?" Sandra asked hopefully.
Josie jumped at the suggestion. "Yes. That sounds lovely." Then looking over to Sandra's mom. "Would you care to join us, Andy?" The little blond held her breath in hopes that the older woman would bow out graciously.
"That is very kind of you to include me. But, I think you two need some time to yourselves and I have my garden to attend to. You go have fun. What time will you be back?"
"We'll be back by six to help with supper. Ok?" Sandra said as she moved Josie toward the front door and out into the brisk early spring air.
They parked Sandra's old VW bug in the shadows of the elegant, moss covered oaks. The two women just sat, their heads lying back, eyes closed, each had a warm hand lying upon the other's thigh. Just enjoying their connection. After about five minutes of absorbing the peace and quiet, each turned to the other and smiled, feeling they had overcome their greatest obstacle and were quite smug.
"Let's go see those camellias." Josie smiled at her companion.
The women walked among the giant camellia bushes hand in hand discussing rare hybrids they'd like to plant on Josie's acreage. They sat in the shadows among the flowers. Sandra leaned against a tree while Josie sat between her legs with her head resting against soft breasts. Both sighed in contentment.
Sandra absentmindedly rubbed her hands along Josie's arms, lulling her into a peaceful slumber. The younger woman settled soft kisses on the blond curls and wondered at how life had changed in only a few short months. The scent of her love's shampoo, mixed with her natural spicy musk, and the feel of the head against her breasts, along with the freedom to pet and stroke the sleeping woman's body had combined to cause a tingling in her clitoris. She felt her nipples becoming erect and her breath became slightly ragged. 'Oh God, I want her so badly. But, I just don't know what to do. I don't want to disappoint her. Please, help me make her happy. She is everything to me.' Sandra stopped praying and started kissing her sweet neck, licking and tasting. The smaller woman moaned her pleasure, reaching for her partner's hand, she pulled it down to gently cup her breast, coaxing a guttural groan of arousal from the inexperienced but eager pupil.
"Show me, Josie. Show me how to pleasure you. Please, I want you so much. I don't want to wait any more. I just..... don't know what to do." Sandra's voice sounded pleading and nearly broke the little woman's heart.
"Here? You want to make love here?" Josie turned to look into blue eyes burning with desire.
"Yes. I love this place. No one can see us. Please....., teach me." With that the taller woman leaned in to capture soft moist lips in a slow, searching kiss.
"You are doing great so far." Josie said trying to catch her breath. "Sweetheart, wait..... God, you feel so good to me......ungh....." The smaller, very aroused, woman released herself from Sandra's embrace. "Good gravy woman you don't make this easy. But, I will not have our first time, your first time, worrying about passers-by seeing us and us getting twigs in embarrassing places." The younger woman looked stricken and was about to voice her protest. "Sandra, I love you. I want to make love to you. I want it to be perfect, a memory to cherish for the rest of our lives together..... That's not to say we can't neck." The mischievous little woman grinned and crawled onto her partner's lap. "But when one of us says stop, that means stop. Deal?"
"Mmmmm, deal" Sandra took the face she loved in her two long elegant hands and leaned in for a sweet kiss. She followed her impulses, licking the luscious lips of her boss, begging entry into her warmth. Josie trembled with need as she sucked gently on her love's tongue. Sandra petted and stroked the soft skin below her finger tips, traveling slowly down a supple neck over the soft cotton of the smaller woman's blouse. She shivered as she felt the soft swell of her partner's breasts over the lace of her bra. She let her palms cup the pliant flesh and moaned as hardened nipples brushed the palms of her hands. She pulled away from the kiss and stared into green eyes filled with love and her desire soared when Josie nodded her consent ever so slightly and the inexperienced woman's gaze instantly dropped to the plump, fabric covered mounds in her hands. She raised her fingers to the buttons of the blouse and slowly released one and then another as her breathing increased exponentially. Now she could feast her eyes on the actual flesh that was captured in the binds of a sexy, beige, lace bra. Running her fingers over the skin she was feasting her eyes upon, she bent her head down to kiss and taste the creamy skin causing the aroused little woman to gasp and release her breath slowly trying to control her desire to take the younger woman right there in the grassy shadows of the camellias. Unfortunately, the Museum of Modern Art was all of 100 yards away. "Sandra, if we don't stop right now, we are going to scandalize those blue haired ladies. We aren't exactly the exhibition they paid to see."
Sandra took a deep breath, closing her lust filled blue eyes, blew it out through pursed lips. She looked over her left shoulder to see for herself what Josie was concerned about and realized they were getting too carried away in a potentially public arena. She looked back into green eyes, smiled and nodded, then proceeded to button up her sweetheart's blouse, covering the breasts that made her mouth water. She kissed the lips she was quickly becoming addicted to.
"Let's go home. Mom is expecting us." The larger woman lifted her boss off of her lap and set her aside.
"God, you're strong." Josie reached down and pulled her partner to her feet.
"Yeah. When I got into AA, I spent every waking moment I wasn't in a meeting in the gym. I worked out until I'd just about pass out so I could sleep at night. I traded one addiction for another much healthier one." Sandra smiled sadly then taking a small hand into her own raised it to her lips and kissed it. "I've got so much to be grateful for."
"Me too." Josie leaned on her companion's arm and took a couple of deep breaths. "But, right now I'm pooped. I think I'll take a nap before dinner." She looked up into worried blue eyes and smiled. "Come on, let's go see what your mom is up to in the kitchen."
Sitting in the VW at her mother's house, Sandra took Josie's small hand into her own. "You were awesome today. Not many people have the courage to take on Andre' Broussard." She looked into her friend's eyes then down at their joined hands and shyly said. "You are my hero, you know. I hope I never let you down."
"Oh, Sandy, that's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me." Josie lifted the warm hand to her lips and gently kissed it. "But, I'm no hero. Please, don't place me on a pedestal. I couldn't help but fall..... I've made plenty mistakes in my life. And, I guess, I've learned from them to fight for what I want and to carefully choose my battles. I want you in every way. It's gonna take a lot more than Hell and high water, or Andre' Broussard, to keep me from you." Sandra looked up and smiled.
The girls arrived just in time to help Andy dump the giant gumbo pot full of spicy crawfish into the kitchen sink. There were small ears of sweet corn, Irish potatoes, garlic cloves, onions, salt, cayenne and halved lemons mixed into the Louisiana mud bugs. "We have my famous potato salad and plenty of Italian bread for our guest. I was told you do eat crawfish. Yes?"
"Oh, yes! This is great." Josie's face lit up. "I'll put the newspaper over the table."
"Boss, why don't you go lay down for an hour while these guys cool down a bit. I promise they'll keep."
"No, no, no. That's Ok. I'm fine and I love crawfish. I promise that I'll take a nap after dinner."
"Ok. But remember you promised." Sandra gave her best serious look.
Andy observed the interaction between the two younger women. She decided to keep out of it.
The three women enjoyed a playful dinner reminiscing about growing up in New Orleans, going to Pontchartrain Beach, riding the Zephyr roller coaster and walking through the hall of mirrors at the Fun House. "Kids had so much more to entertain them when I was growing up in New Orleans. I remember almost every Friday night my mom would take my friends and I to one of the neighborhood movie houses, either the Beacon, the Lakeview, the Fox or the Pitt. Or, a bunch of us might get together and go roller skating. We had a ball. Then on Saturday, we all went to the amusement park all day and ate cotton candy till our teeth rotted..... But, that's all gone now. There's nothing for the kids to do here but get into mischief. Boredom is one reason kids get into so much trouble nower days. What can they do to entertain themselves and burn off all that pent up energy? They hang out in the malls, join gangs, commit violent crimes..... I blame the city. You know the Amusement park, the neighborhood movie houses and the roller rinks we use to have were all family owned businesses and the city never gave them a break. It's like they made it as hard as they could for these people to stay open. Then, once they were gone, the city sure as hell didn't offer the kids anything to replace them. I suppose the small business man couldn't afford to pay the big kick backs our self serving, crooked politicians required. New Orleans is a grand old girl and I love her. But, I left cause I just couldn't watch her slowly die anymore." Josie's face was red as she was working herself up into a righteous hissy fit.
"My Antoine and I, we spent many a Saturday at the Beach. He'd take me on the Wild Maus and I would snuggle into his strong arms pretending to be so frightened." Andy did her impression of a damsel in distress. "You know, the man he likes to feel macho. Ohhh, those were the days, mon dieu. Life was sweet then." Andy tried to keep the sadness from her eyes. "I wish my children could have had that too. But, there is nothing to be done about that now. It's all in the past. Your getting upset is not good. It will change nothing now." Andy reached over and patted Josie's hand.
"Gosh, the Wild Maus, I could never ride that thing without tossing my cookies. That was a bit too much for me." Josie chuckled, crossed her eyes and held a hand over her stomach.
"Come on boss. You've had enough excitement for one day. Let's wrap up all these shells and wash up. Then we can both go lay down for an hour or so. Deal?" Sandra carried their dirty dishes to the sink.
"Deal. I'm sorry I got so carried away on my soap box. I tend to feel passionately that we need to protect our children above all else."
Sandra dropped the glass she'd been drying, the glass shattering loudly against the porcelain .
"Sandy, did you cut yourself? Let me see." Josie was instantly at her companion's side.
"I'm alright. Don't fuss." Sandra's hands were trembling, causing her friend concern.
"Come sit down. You're shaking like a leaf. What just happened here?" Josie took her companion's face in her hand, forcing eye contact.
"I'm Ok. Look, no blood." Sandra tried to make light of her behavior.
"You're sure?" Josie searched the blue eyes she loved.
"I'm sure. Now, why don't you go to bed and I'll be in shortly. Ok?"
Josie was still a little suspicious, but decided to let it go for now. "Ok. Don't be long, huh?" She leaned over and gave her a chaste kiss.
"I won't. I'm just gonna help mom with the trash and then clean up a bit." Sandra watched as her friend left for bed.
"Sandra Camille Broussard, you have to tell her about Antoine. She is going to think you are losing your mind if every time she mentions children, you break a glass or a dish." Sandra's mother walked up behind her daughter's chair and wrapped her arms around her slumped shoulders.
"I'm scared, Mom. What if she hates me. I love her so much. I don't know if I could handle that. I've got so much to lose." Her throat tightened with the effort of holding back her tears.
"I know, ma cheri, but you must trust her love for you. I haven't
known her long, but, I believe she loves you and trusts you. You must tell her
everything now or take the risk of losing that trust when she finds out from
someone else. She is not the type of woman to forgive you for something like
Sandra nodded her dark head. "I'll bring her to the cemetery after church tomorrow. I promise." Sandra looked into her mother's compassionate eyes and lost the battle for control over her tears. "Pray for me, momma." Sandra sobbed.
Andre' Broussard pulled her daughter's dark head into her bosom. "Oh, ma petite fille, I shall pray very, very hard that our Blessed Mother guide your words and give you courage to do the right thing."
"Thanks mom." Sandra wiped the tears from her eyes. "I've gotta go wash my face. I don't want to upset Josie."
Sandra was relieved to find her friend soundly sleeping as she joined her in bed. 'This was not exactly how I pictured our first night together.' She grinned. 'At least one of us will get a good night's rest.'
She spent hours worrying and planning how she would tell Josie of the monster she used to be. It had to be the whole truth or it could cost her everything she held dear. Josie was sleeping soundly when Sandra got up and got dressed. She knew what she needed to do. It was only eleven o'clock, so, leaving a note, the distraught woman headed out to a midnight AA meeting.
After the meeting, Sandra approached a member she knew to have good, solid long-term sobriety and asked to bend her ear for a while. Diana was more than happy to help out and suggested that they go to her house for coffee and fellowship. Sandra talked into the wee hours before dawn and didn't return to Josie's side till four o'clock in the morning. Exhausted both emotionally and physically, she fell into a dreamless sleep.
"Mmmmmorning." Josie stretched long and luxuriously. Then she cuddled up against the taller woman's t-shirt covered side. Head on a broad shoulder, arm wrapped around her middle, she looked up and noticed the dark circles around her friend's eyes which were red and puffy.
"Hey, you alright? You're not coming down with something are you?" Josie leaned on an elbow to get a better look.
"I'm Ok. Just didn't sleep too well. Allergies, you know."
"Look, it's only six o'clock. Why don't you take some benadryl and I'll get you up around nine."
"Can't. Mom likes to go to eight o'clock mass at St. Anthony's on Canal Street. She'll be expecting us to join her...... You are Catholic aren't you?" It had never occurred to Sandra to inquire into Josie's religious beliefs. She just always assumed that a Sicilian from New Orleans would surely be Roman Catholic.
"Well, technically speaking, yes. But, sweetheart, I haven't practiced any organized religion in years. I'm afraid I don't take kindly to being damned for eternity because of whom I love..... But, if it will make your mother happy, I'll go." Josie brushed her hand against her partner's face as a show of affection and to check for fever. She was sure something was not right. She just didn't know what was wrong.
"It would make us both happy, boss. I always say that God brought me to AA and then AA brought me back to God. Now, I add that God brought you to me." Sandra leaned in and gently kissed sweet lips. "Now, if you will excuse me, I've been missing my morning run. I have to work off some of the food Mom's been stuffing me with." Sandra practically dived out of the bed, grabbed her clothes and locked herself in the bathroom to brush her teeth and wash her face before heading out the front door to freedom.
'What the hell was that all about? Something is going on here and I am gonna find out what it is.' Josie showered and dressed then joined Andy in the kitchen for a breakfast of black coffee!?!
"I am not eating this morning. I am going to Communion. If you want, I can fix you something. I know Sandra is also going to Communion today and will not be breaking her fast." Andy opened the refrigerator and pulled out two eggs, some grated cheese, bacon and some of the left over Italian bread from the night before. "How would you like an omelette this morning?"
"I hate for you to go through all that trouble." Josie complained as her mouth watered.
"It is no trouble. I love to cook and I love to watch little birds like you eat." Andy grinned affectionately at her daughter's partner.
"In that case, thank you, Andy." Josie watched as the older woman worked at the stove and debated bringing up her concerns over her friend's unusual behavior.
"Have you noticed Sandra behaving strangely last night and this morning?"
"Strangely? How do you mean?" The older woman's back stiffened.
"I don't know, exactly. She's being secretive. She didn't sleep well and I could tell she'd been crying, but she denied it. Said it was her allergies. Then, this morning she couldn't wait to get away from me. She is obviously exhausted but insisted on taking her run. Seems to me she is avoiding something that has to do with me in some way. Do you know what it is?" Josie looked beseechingly at the older woman.
"Ma cheri, I dare not interfere here. I know that my daughter loves you. I know how hard she is trying to do the right thing by you. Please, have patience with her. Sandra has had a very hard life. She truly deserves your love, but she is afraid."
"Afraid of what? Of me?" Josie stared as Andy came to sit next to her at the kitchen table and took her small hand in hers.
"Yes. She is afraid you will reject her if you know all about her past." Andy sighed and lowered her head. "I cannot say any more. She would never forgive me. It is not my place. Just remember that she is not the same woman she was. She fought the devil himself to get where she is now. Be patient with her." Andy raised her fingers to her lips as she heard the front screen door open and her daughter come bouncing into the house.
Josie switched gears and turned to welcome her companion. "Feel better?"
"Much. Unfortunately, I don't smell better." Sandra's spirits had improved as she playfully threatened to hug her friend. "C'mere cutie, how's about a big ole hug."
"Oh no you don't. I just took a shower." Josie giggled and ran from the kitchen table with her companion hot on her heels.
"No running in the house!" Andy yelled at her daughter. "We leave for Mass in thirty minutes, if you have to go wringing wet. Do you hear me?"
Sandra ran back through the kitchen, Josie close at her heels snapping a wet towel at her exposed thighs. "Yes, maam." The taller woman vaulted over a kitchen chair and into the safety of the bathroom.
Mass was pleasant and the old Church of St. Anthony of Padua brought back fond memories of Josie's childhood. She enjoyed listening to her companion sing out loud with the rest of the congregation some old standard hymns. She didn't know any of the newer ones, but read along in her hymnal. After Mass, Andy wanted to stay for coffee and chit chat with her neighbors. She told her daughter to go on ahead and she'd see them later at the house.
"How will you get home? That's a long walk." Josie was concerned.
"Don't you worry, ma petite. I have many friends who can give me a ride home. Now you two go and take care of business." Andy looked into her daughter's eyes and smiled encouragingly.
"Ok, Mom, we'll catch you later then." Sandra hugged her Mother tightly, then taking the smaller woman's hand left the Church.
"Josie, if you don't mind, there's someone I want you to meet." Sandra stated as she drove toward her worst nightmare.
"Sure. Where are we going?"
Josie looked at her companion's expressionless face as she drove on. The silence between them was palpable. Josie didn't know what to say. She knew this was what Andy had been unable to tell her and prepared herself as best she could for what was to come.
The two women walked among the head stones. Because the city is below sea level, the dead in New Orleans are not buried under ground but in majestic marble crypts, making death an expensive proposition. They kept walking until they reached a corner of the cemetery where the poor were buried, not in marble crypts but in dirt graves that were a couple of feet high, surrounded by a short concrete wall to keep the ground intact. Each grave had it's own small marble or concrete head stone with information about the deceased. A few had a photograph encased in glass to remember them by. Such was the grave that Sandra pointed out to her companion.
"Antoine Franklyn Abbott, died April 24, 1990, age 3 years, 10 months." Josie finished reading the inscription and felt her heart squeeze tightly in her chest. "Your son...." Josie knelt down to better look at the picture of a beautiful little boy dressed in a pale yellow suit, holding an Easter basket full of candies and a stuffed bunny. His hair was dark and his blue eyes mirrored his mother's. "He was so beautiful."
"Yes, he was. Everyone said he looked just like me." Sandra wasn't aware of the tears streaking her cheeks.
"I see that..... How did he die?" Josie looked up at her companion.
"Car accident. I'd been drinking. I didn't think I was drunk. I hadn't expected to drive the car that day. Frank belonged to the car pool at work, but on this day he got a stomach virus and asked me to come pick him up. I remember strapping Tony into his car seat and putting on my seat belt. We were approaching the intersection of Carrollton and Claiborne. I had the green light so I didn't slow down. I saw the diesel truck coming down Claiborne from Jefferson Hwy. There weren't any brake lights on and he wasn't stopping. Then everything went in slow motion. I slammed on my breaks as I hit the horn and turned the wheel to the left to protect my son from a direct hit. I prayed more in those few seconds then in my entire life."
Sandra replayed the accident in her mind's eye and the pain was excruciating. She felt blackness beginning to engulf her, until her friend's strong arms maneuvered her to kneel down in the grass. Josie knelt next to her and held her hand. Sandra's vision cleared as she stared into her son's blue eyes. "I remember the sounds of the impact, glass shattering and metal bending, the big truck's brakes screeching. I screamed out my son's name before I loss consciousness. I woke up the next morning in Mercy Hospital with a severe concussion, twenty stitches in my head, a broken wrist and collarbone and no life. Mom and our Priest were in the room. They told me my son was killed in the accident. They said he didn't suffer. He died instantly. So did the driver of the truck. He probably fell asleep at the wheel. He had a wife and four children."
Sandra stopped to catch her breath. Reaching into the pocket of her slacks, she produced a handkerchief and wiped at her runny nose. "If I hadn't been drinking maybe I could have assessed the danger in time to react. But my senses were dulled by the booze and many lives were ruined because of me."
Sandra took her hand from Josie's and changed her position. Now sitting Indian style on the grass, she took a deep breath and continued. "I got a DUI. The judge revoked my license for a year and I was committed to an alcohol and drug rehab unit at DePaul's hospital for thirty days. Needless to say, it didn't work. I was nearly catatonic with grief and self loathing. All I wanted was to die. I wanted to join my Antoine. He was the only light in my life and I snuffed it out. They had me on twenty-four hour suicide watch, no belt, no jewelry and no shoes. I wasn't allowed anything but paper and plastic. My mom and little brother came to see me as often as was allowed. I really think that, along with the therapy and AA meetings, made me realize that suicide would only serve to hurt the people in my life that I loved and who still loved me. So, I got discharged and went home to Frank."
Sandra went silent and closed her eyes, waiting for the rejection she was sure would come. She cried in relief when she felt her love kneel behind her and wrap her arms around her shoulders. "I love you, Sandy. And I'm so sorry you've had to suffer so. If I could bring your son back to you, I would. Please don't punish yourself any more. It breaks my heart to see you in such pain." Josie smoothed the weeping woman's hair and kissed her cheek. "Do you have any photographs of Antoine?"
Sandra nodded her head.
"I'd love to see them sometime. Ok?"
"Yeah?" There was a tilt of a dark head and a sniffle. "I'll have to ask mom for them. She put them away for me after the accident. I kept getting hysterical whenever I'd see them. But I'd like very much to share them with you, boss." Sandra turned around to face her partner. "Thank you, Josie."
"There is nothing to thank me for. That was many years ago. You've punished yourself way more than anyone else could have. You're a different person now. I believe in you, Sandy. I just want you to believe in yourself. Deal?" Josie stroked the tears from the face she loved.
The friends walked back to Sandra's VW hand in hand. "Let me drive. You're still a bit shaky." Josie reached for the keys.
"Yeah. That sounds like a good idea." Sandra folded herself into the car and promptly fell asleep.
Josie made tuna fish sandwiches for herself and Sandra, then tucked her under the covers. "I'll set the alarm clock so you can get a good three hours of undisturbed sleep. You need it. We have a nice drive home this afternoon and I want you bright eyed and bushy tailed." The older woman reached down to place an affectionate kiss on her companion's forehead.
"I'm not Peter Cottontail, you know. And, I don't have a hairy butt." Sandra grinned as she rolled over on her side and continued. "Of course, you have no proof of that claim."
"Sandra Camille Broussard, you are incorrigible. What am I to do with you?" Josie sat upon the bed.
The playful younger woman reached over and pulled her friend to lie on top of her. "I have a few suggestions. Want to hear them?" Sandra ran her hand through golden curls and pulled the smaller woman down for a passionate kiss.
"Mmmmmm." Josie pulled back from the kiss. "Sleep now, neck later. Deal?"
"Oh, yeah. You gotta deal, cutie."
"Oh, brother." Josie crawled off the bed and closed the curtains. "Sandy?"
"Mmm...hmmm." The emotionally and physically exhausted young woman was almost asleep already.
"Thank you for trusting me."
To be continued in Part 5 of The Apartment
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