Chapter 22

By Anj (A.k.a. Azurenon)

Introduction: At the age of seventeen, Darby Jennings is once again running away from a very abusive home life. This time, however, she's dressed as a boy. Along her rather short journey she meets up with a "call girl" or "lady of the evening". This story follows the early trials and tribulations of their rather unique relationship, as well as, their struggles with the malevolent human forces attempting to tear them apart. It is part romance, part drama, with an attempt at suspense and/or mystery. This is NOT an Uber story. Although I love the daring duo (and written fan fiction with a partner, under the pseudonyms "Azurenon and Savanna Mac" posted on this very site) you won't find them here.

DISCLAIMERS: No copyright infringement is intended by the use of titles, artist's names and/or lyrics of the songs contained herein. These have merely been used for entertainment value and possible storyline continuity. All the characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.


Violence: This story contains scenes and/or references to physical, emotional and sexual violence.

Sex: It centers on an explicit sexual relationship between two women. It is intended for MATURE AUDIENCES. So if you're under age 18, this is illegal where you are or this just isn't your cup of tea, then you have been forewarned, please exit stage left. If you are mature enough and I've captured your attention, then moving right along here...

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Be it known the author has no firsthand knowledge concerning physical or sexual violence. Nor does she even pretend to know anything about "call girls" or "ladies of the evening". Therefore, I ask that the reader please forgive any mistakes and/or oversights. Especially so in the area of giving the healing process of such aforementioned experiences the in-depth attention they so richly deserve. This story is complete fiction, written merely for entertainment. In its entirety, it contains 23 chapters: at around 10 pgs per chapter.

Thanks go to all my friends for their support and encouragement over the years.

(Written 1993. Revised 2001)

        I walked out of the bathroom fully clothed and feeling in control. Barbara was lying on her bed, both pillows behind her head and a cigarette in her hand, watching a muted television program. She glanced over at me, as I stopped near the doorway, then her eyes drifted back to the TV.

        "You didn't really want me, did you?" I asked. "You wanted to hurt Anna. But why? What did she ever do to you?"

        Her eyes strayed over to me, then back to the TV and finally across the room. "Took you this long to figure that out, did it?"

        "I'm... a bit slow."

        "What did she ever do to me?" She sighed heavily, then swung her eyes back in my direction. "She broke my heart," she added simply.

        My own heart jumped up in my throat. Was there something Anna hadn't told me? "I never knew you two ever..."

        "It was a long, long time ago," she said, then took a drag off her cigarette. "She was very young... very immature, I guess... and I... I was just finding out what made me so different from everyone else." She turned away. "We never did what you're thinking. It never went that far. Anna didn't let it." She paused and tapped her ashes in the ashtray on her stomach. "We were friends, you see, even though I was two years older. Very close, too, or so I thought. I was even stupid enough to think she felt the same way." She crossed her arms over her chest. "I... told her how I felt and... and I kissed her. God, that was so long ago, but I still remember how it felt." She took a drag off her cigarette, then stabbed it out in the ashtray.

        "She slapped me and called me a fuckin' queer and... several other names I don't care to remember." She paused looking up at me. "I apologized, told her it would never happen again, but... she wouldn't listen. Wouldn't have anything to do with me after that and threatened to expose me for what I was. God that hurt!" She nibbled her bottom lip.

        "Several months later," she continued, "Pepper comes to me and says that Anna's in trouble. She's gotten herself pregnant and needs money for an abortion. Anna won't come to me, herself, though. I give her the money, anyway. She has the abortion, but the sonofabitch botches the job." She glanced up at me. "This part is not news to you, is it?"

        "I know about the abortion, yes."

        She shrugged. "Well... I go see her in the hospital. Damn, she was pale as a sheet. I thought she was gonna die for sure." She reached over and got another cigarette. "I felt so fuckin' guilty, ya know." She lit the cigarette. "She didn't tell me to leave... so it seemed I had her back. I dropped this guy I'd been dating and started spending all my free time at the hospital with her. Bringing her flowers and candy... the whole nine yards.

        "Well, she gets out and everything seems fine. Then one day, she just up and... runs off." She took a long drag off the cigarette. "Not a word to anyone, especially not me. I heard she ran away with some guy, probably the same one that knocked her up. She never did say who'd done it. And she never even told me there was anyone else. I mean, I thought... I... I kissed her again this one day in the hospital, and... she didn't slap me this time, she just... stared at me for a while, and I... I thought... Ah, hell, what does it matter anymore? Now you know the real story, so... go on, get out here and leave an old lesbian to lick her wounds, hmm?"

        "You never knew why she ran away?" I inquired. "I mean, you never asked her after she came back to town?"

        "Well, hell, I guess it was kinda obvious, ya know. She didn't give two shits about me; that was for sure. And she turns out to be a whore, so..." She shrugged.

        "Love turned to hate," I stated.

        She glanced up at me. "I don't hate Anna. I just... I just wanted to get even. It still hurts, ya know."

        I could tell that it did. Once upon a time, Barbara had had a heart. Perhaps still did, somewhere underneath all the bullshit.

        "Well, what the hell are you waiting for? You wanna watch me break down and cry or something? Well, it ain't gonna happen. Now get your big blue eyes outta here." She got up, forgetting about the ashtray and dumped it on the floor. "Ah shit!" she hissed, looking down at it. She shook her head and reached down to pick it up.

        "Did you know she was being abused by her father?" I had to ask.

        She quickly raised up and spun around. "What?"

        "He's the one who got her pregnant and... unless she's lyin' to me, he's the one she ran away from, not you. She never said how she left here, but she never mentioned any guy that she was in love with, either."

        "Her father?" she said, sitting back down on the bed. "I... I never would have guessed that..." She paused, looking up at me, her eyes darting back and forth. "You mean all this time..." She shook her head. "Nah, she still never gave a shit about me."

        "She might have. She just couldn't bring herself to tell you, I bet. I could never tell anyone what my father was doing to me."

        She stared down at her hand, spinning the ring on her pinky finger round and round. "Funny... you two were treated like shit and I grew up having everything. Now... you two turned out okay... you have it all and I've got a big empty house and... an empty life."

        "It doesn't have to be empty," I stated, moving towards the door. "You're... a beautiful woman, Barbara. And although I shouldn't admit it... especially now, but... I was very flattered havin' you chase me." I stopped at the door and turned around. "And... yeah, I was curious. I think in a way, I did want you. If not for the way I feel about Anna, I might have even enjoyed being here with you. That is, when you're just being you... like this. And not spoutin' a bunch of bullshit and coming on like... like some guy with a hard-on."

        She almost smiled, as she glanced up at me.

        "I even think you have a heart underneath all that garbage you dish out. It may be broken, but..." I paused, as a line from a song popped into my head. "but I've heard that maybe there's more room in a broken heart."

        I turned to leave.



        I heard her get up off the bed. I went ahead and opened the door, then turned around.

        She was now in front of me. "It may have started out as revenge, but..." She reached up and touched the side of my face. "I really do... like you. I know I don't know you. But, what I've seen of you and I don't just mean your body... I like a lot. If she ever..." She paused, glancing down between us, her hand easing away from my face. Then she grabbed me around the waist and pulled me close, hugging me tightly. "Oh... I meant to tell you," she began, still holding me close, her lips brushing against the side of my neck. "I heard a name mentioned when I was snooping around, getting her out of trouble and I think you should be aware of it."

        I didn't pull away. She had my interest.

        "Theodora Simms."

        I did pull back. "Dora?" I asked, in shock. "How could Dora...? Why would Dora...?"

        "I heard this woman was pretty tight with the mayor. I don't know how true that is, but it's what I heard. That kind of contact could easily have this done. Now, as to why she would do this to Anna...?" She shrugged.

        "Dora... Jesus Christ."

        I glanced down between us, totally unaware that I was gazing at her breasts, until she took a deep breath. My eyes quickly traveled back up to meet hers. The corners of her mouth turned up in a slight smile. Then she leaned over and kissed me. I was unprepared for it, caught completely off guard. It wasn't like when she had kissed me before, however. This was not forceful, but tender. I allowed the contact. It wasn't exactly disgusting, now that she had me convinced this was not her doing.

        She eased back slightly and then kissed my cheek. "Go on and get out of here," she said softly, "or else I'm gonna change my mind."

        She let go of me and I started towards the sitting room door. "I'll pay you back," I called over my shoulder.

        "No, you won't. I already got what I wanted."

        I stopped in the middle of the room and turned around. "What was that?"

        "A clear conscience. The abortion thing... I've always felt guilty about just giving the money and not... finding her a better doctor."

        "You... you never intended to go through with this, did you?" I queried.

        "Oh yes, I did. And I came... this close." She held up her index finger and thumb, which were almost touching. "I wanted you pretty bad and... still do. Now, maybe more than before, but... I'm not gonna bother you about it anymore. I... I got a lot more than I bargained for with you. You showed me that... well... maybe there is more room in a broken heart." She slowly turned and started for her bed. "I think Anna knows how lucky she is, this time."

        The last two words stumped me. "This time?" I asked.

        She turned back around. "Didn't she tell you about Phil?"

        I was extremely interested now. "No. To my knowledge, there was nothing to tell," I answered, walking back to the bedroom door.

        She shrugged. "Maybe not. I guess she broke her heart, too, hmm?" She stared at me. "Now do you see why I don't want to fall in love again?"

        "You were... in love with Phil?"

        She nodded and moved back to the bed, where she sat down. "I... wanted to get her out of that life. I bought her that burgundy outfit. That's why I got so upset when I saw it on you."

        "Is... that why you bit me?"

        She nodded. "Lost my head. I assume she gave it to Anna, hmm? And the brown one." She hung her head.

        "She didn't give'em to Anna," I offered. "She... left'em behind."

        She glanced up at me, frowned and then nodded, hanging her head again. "I wanted to get even for Phil leaving, too. I thought there was something going on between them, ya know. Phil sure acted like it. I thought maybe something had happened between them to cause her to run off like that. But, I guess that wasn't Anna's fault either, was it? Just me and... my incredibly shitty choices. I always seem to pick the woman that'll hurt me the most." She reached over and lit another cigarette. "Guess, it's an addiction, hmm? Like smoking these god awful cancer sticks."

        "Everybody has their vices," I offered. "And some people can change'em or... even get rid of'em altogether."

        She stared at me. "Maybe Anna can. But... I don't think this old leopard can change her spots." She took a long drag off her cigarette. "Am I gonna have to throw you out, to get you to leave?" she inquired.

        I turned and left her big empty house, without another word.

        Leaving the driveway, I hoped that Barbara would one day find true love. She wasn't really so bad, underneath it all. She was just another soul in pain, who had lost her way, somewhere along that long, winding road that we all must travel alone.

        I got home around one-thirty, after stopping off to get a burger on the way and eating it in the car. All the while I was thinking about what I would say to Anna. Part of me didn't want to tell her at all. But, another part of me knew I had to.

        I opened the side door with my key and walked in. I heard music coming from the den. I knew Anna often played the stereo while she straightened up around the house. I locked the door and went to greet her. I found her in the middle of the den, decked out in a tight white Henley shirt and a pair of old jeans. There was a dust rag in her hand, swinging wildly, as she gyrated to an old disco hit blaring from the speakers. She had her back to me, so she didn't see me when I walked in. Nor when I moved up behind her, watching her swaying hips in the oh so tight jeans. I suddenly wanted her against me, wanted to be moving with her.

        I reached out, placing my hands on her hips and joined her rhythm.

        "Jesus Christ!" she screeched and nearly melted to her knees. I caught her and held on. "Where the hell did you come from?" she asked, glancing over her shoulder.

        "I liked what you were doing," I commented. "Let's see that again."

        She smiled, then turned around, placing her arms around my neck. "Hi, baby," she said, then kissed me, as she began swaying to the music again. "Umm... you smell good," she commented, moving to my neck.

        I pulled back, knowing she was referring to the scented bath solution of Barbara's.

        "Is that somethin' new?" she questioned, with a smile. "What are you doing home this early, anyway?"

        "I... Let's dance, hmm? Do what you were doing again. What was that?"

        "Disco era," she answered with a smile. "That was before your time."

        "Yeah, well, I liked it. Turn back around and... let me follow that, hmm?"

        "Okay." She spun around and started wiggling her butt. I moved up behind her and followed her rhythm.

        This song ended and another one I recognized from the movie "Saturday Night Fever" began playing. She tried a few of those fancy steps on me, but I couldn't follow her very well, even though, I'd always thought that stuff looked like fun. She merely smiled and began swaying with me.

        "Am I strong enough to see it through," she sang, "Go crazy is what I will do. If I can't have you, I don't want nobody baby. If can't have you."

        The next one was "More Than A Woman". We danced and she sang that one, too, while running her hands over my behind and holding me close. Then came "How Deep Is Your Love".

        We danced cheek to cheek. "I see your eyes in the morning sun, I feel you touch me in the pouring rain. And the moment that you wander far from me, I wanna feel you in my arms again. And you come to me on a summer breeze, keep me warm in your love, then you softly leave, and it's me you need to show, how deep is your love.

        "How deep is your love. How deep is your love, I really need to learn. 'Cause we're living in a world of fools, breakin' us down, when they all should let us be. We belong to you and me. I believe in you, you know the door to my very soul. You're the light in my deepest darkest night, you're my savior when I fall. And you may not think I care for you, when you know down inside that I really do. And it's me you need to show, how deep is your love."

        This one got to me. I had tears in my eyes, when the song ended and went right into another Bee Gees' hit. She stepped back ready to dance apart to this and then suddenly realized something wasn't right.

        "Baby, what's wrong?" she asked, her brows furrowing together, as she placed her hand upside my face. "Is it that time of the month, hmm?"

        I shook my head.

        Her frown deepened. "Then what, baby? Hmm?"

        "I... we... we need to talk," I stammered.

        One eyebrow shot up. "Okay."

        She left me to go over and shut off the tape player. I went to the sofa. I needed to sit down for this. She joined me a moment later.

        I started off slow, stammering all over myself then finally spilled the whole ugly mess out, except for the part about Dora. When I was through, she was sitting beside me with her elbows resting on her knees, her head in her hands, covering her face.

        "Anna... I'm sorry, but... I had to do something and... we didn't really do any..."

        She shook her head slowly from side to side.

        "Anna, can you forgive me?" I reached out to put my arm around her.

        Time I touched her she flinched and jumped up. "Don't Darby, just... just... leave me alone... I... I feel like I'm gonna... fuckin' explode!" She ran from the room, as if something were after her.

        I heard the side door slam shut, a few seconds later. I knew there was no sense running after her. We'd been through enough that I knew she'd need some time to come to terms with this, by herself.

        I went upstairs to take a shower and wash Barbara out of my hair.

        It was eight-thirty; time to be leaving for the club and Anna wasn't home. She had obviously come back at some point and went out again in the truck, since I knew she had not left in it initially.

        I called Candy to see if she would give me a ride. I told her we'd had a fight. She suggested that it might be best if I just stayed at home. Since Tuesday's were not very busy anyway and it might give Anna more time to cool off. I reluctantly agreed.

        I waited up for her, until three that morning, when I apparently fell asleep at the kitchen table. I awoke to the sound of boot heels on the tile floor. I looked up, wiping my eyes and catching mere glimpses of her, as she stumbled through the kitchen. She was still wearing the faded blue jeans and the white Henley shirt, but she had on her tan jacket, as well.


        "Shit!" she hissed and slammed into the side of the kitchen wall.

        I knew she had been drinking. The last fight we'd had when she'd been this way flitted through my mind. I wasn't up for another tumble down the stairs, or another slap in the face, so I didn't offer to go over to her.

        "You alright?" I inquiref.

        "Wh-what the fu-ck do you care?" she slurred, then shoved away from the wall and stumbled through the kitchen doorway towards the den.

        "I care a great deal," I said, softly to an empty room, then began to cry.

        She was dead to the world on the sofa, when I got up. Before leaving for work, I moved most of my clothes into the other room, changed the musty sheets and gave the bathroom a precursory cleaning. Then I got ready for work. If she decided she wanted me to leave, I'd make other arrangements then. For, at that time I'd only had two hour's sleep.

        I checked in on her right before I left, she appeared cold, so I got a blanket from upstairs and put over her. She mumbled something unintelligible, as I kissed her on the cheek.

        "I hope you forgive me, Anna," I said softly, then left for work on foot. There was no way I was about to take her truck.

        When I got the store, I found I could not concentrate. I wanted to be anywhere but there. Around eleven, I called Betty and asked her to relieve me, feigning illness. She showed up around noon and I walked away from the store on foot.

        At first, I started home, then reasoned that this might not be such a good idea. I turned on my heels at an intersection and headed for a park several miles away. It felt good to be out in the fresh air instead of inside that stuffy store. I had hopes that during this time, I would think of just the right thing to say to Anna, when I returned home; something that would persuade her to forgive me.

        When I walked in the door at nearly five o'clock, things were as I'd left them. The truck was still parked in the driveway, but I didn't call out like usual. I hadn't thought of a thing to say and figured she wouldn't want to talk to me, anyway.

        I went straight up to the other room and stretched out across the bed. It was evident she wasn't going to forgive me. I had blown our relationship to hell and back; as well as my whole world. I cried myself to sleep.

        I awoke to my alarm clock the next morning. I hurriedly showered and grabbed a bite to eat, planning on getting something else at work, because I was famished. The truck was in the driveway, though I hadn't heard her leave or come home. Figuring I had a few minutes, I eased back up the stairs and peeked around her bedroom door.

        The bed was made, but she was nowhere in sight. Finding this rather odd, I slipped towards the bathroom. Nothing. Then, I got a bit worried. I went back downstairs to the den; still no sign of her. I did notice however that the blanket I'd put over her was wadded up at the foot of the sofa. I hunted the house over for her, even looking in the guest bedroom. She was nowhere in the house. But, the truck was here. Where could she be? Out for a walk? This time of the morning?

        I raced back upstairs to her closet. Her jacket was missing. I raced to the drawer where she always kept her purse and money clip. Both were gone. The worst thought yet crossed my mind. I reluctantly went back to her closet. The small overnight bag was missing.

        I went limp right there in front of the closet door. She had left me, plain and simple. She hadn't wanted to tell me that she didn't want me here anymore.

        "But why leave the truck?" I asked aloud.

        "So you'd have transportation to get your stuff out, stupid!" A voice in my head answered back.

        I burst into tears.

        I made it to the store at eight-fifteen. I opened it, albeit reluctantly, with tears in my eyes, knowing I should not call Betty in again. I stayed teary-eyed most of the day, telling customers who asked that I had a cold. It was a valid excuse. I was cold; cold and empty inside. My life had walked out on me.

        That afternoon, I packed up my things in a large garbage bag and threw them in the truck. Then I got on the phone.

        "Candy," I said, when she answered. "Tell Anna she can come back home, now. I've cleared my stuff out."

        "What?" Candy asked.

        "I know she's probably stayin' with one of you, so... tell her I'm leavin'."

        Candy had no idea what I was talking about. "I haven't seen Anna for the past few nights, Darby. Tiny said she called him Wednesday and asked him to look out for you and help you take care of things while she was gone. Honey, isn't she in prison?"

        I was aghast. Anna hadn't told even Candy that she was out of that mess. Should I? What was going on here? Had she taken Barbara's advice and skipped town? But, why hadn't she told me?

        "Darby...?" Candy called. "Darby you still there?"

        "Uh... yeah, I... forgot about... the trial and..."

        "Forgot?" Candy screeched. "Darby, have you been drinkin' or somethin'?"

        "Uh... no, of course n... Well..." I paused wanting to tell her the whole sorted tale and yet unsure of whether I should or not. If Anna didn't trust her then... But, then she hadn't told me she was leaving, either.

        "Darby, what's going on over there?" Candy inquired.

        I spilled the whole sorted tale to her from end to end.

        Candy sighed heavily. "Damn! Well, don't... just don't anything rash, Darby. There's got to be an explanation for this. And I don't think you movin' out is it. Anna may have just went away for a few days. You know to... think things through or somethin'."

        "I have the truck, Candy."

        There was silence on the other end. Finally, she said, "This is... creepy, ya know."

        "I figured she left the truck so that I could move out easier. I just assumed she was with one of you."

        "No... not that I know of. Are you sure she didn't leave a note or somethin'? This doesn't sound like Anna. It's... strange."

        "I haven't seen a note. Obviously, she didn't care whether I'd be worried or... she just doesn't care any... Oh God, Candy... I've really... lost her!" I blubbered.

        "Darby... listen to me. You haven't lost her, yet. Not, if you don't give up on her, okay? Anna can be hardheaded, goddamn her, so just... just stay there, Darby. Don't go flyin' off the handle. If she wants you out, make her tell you so."

        "No-o-o... that... would hurt... worse."

        "Then where you gonna go, huh? You gonna go runnin' to Barbara?"

        That thought hadn't crossed my mind. I assumed I'd go to a motel tonight, but beyond that, I hadn't really considered what I would do. I just didn't want to be in her way any longer.

        "She... at least... wants me," I commented.

        "Goddammit, Darby, don't do that! If she gets her hooks in you, you'll never get away and... if this is just some misunderstandin' with Anna, then you'll really be fucked."

        "How... can I... misunder... stand? She... left me!" I burst into tears, my heart hurting so bad that I felt sick at my stomach.

        "Darby... Darby...?" Candy was calling. I hung up the phone and rushed for the bathroom.

        The phone rang and rang, but I didn't answer it. I didn't want to talk to anyone. Candy came over later, but I wouldn't answer the door. I didn't want to see anybody, either. I wanted to crawl in a hole and pull the dirt in after me. What choice did I have but to go to Barbara, crawling and begging for a place to stay? I felt lower than the dirt I wanted to be buried under.

        I considered hitting the road again. Was it time to continue that journey I had started over a year ago? But, I had a job now and friends... Anna's friends. Everything was Anna's. Everything reminded me of Anna and what I'd done to wreck something so very precious to me.

        Perhaps my father had been right, I did ruin everything I touched. Maybe, it was time to go back on the road. Since I wasn't sure I could live in the same city with her and not die a little each day from wanting to be with her. I knew now why Barbara did not want to fall in love again. It hurt too damn much when you lost the one you loved.

        I finally decided that I'd stay in a motel and work my two weeks notice for Rachael. There was no sense leaving her high and dry. This wasn't her fault. And there was no sense moving out tonight. I'd do it tomorrow afternoon after work.

        I laid in bed, until nearly ten thirty, listening to the faint sounds of the phone, which had been ringing nearly every ten minutes for the past hour. Finally, I went downstairs and answered it. I expected it to be Candy, but it was Tiny. He needed me at the club, to wait tables.

        I got up, threw on some clothes and went down there. Instead of crying now, I was getting mad at Anna. She could have just told me to get lost. She didn't have to leave everybody in a tight spot. And she could've just left a note saying, "please leave" or something to that effect, but she'd done none of those things. She'd just up and run off to god knows where and taken god knows what means to get there.

        By the time I got to the club I was angry. I wasn't sure anymore whether or not I would leave tomorrow. Perhaps I'd stay and make her face me and tell me to get lost.

        I walked in the club and saw it was rather busy for a Thursday. Must be the full moon, I thought. Tiny informed me that another problem had come up. The cash register over at Dora's was on the fritz again. Just my luck!

        I handled this problem first. Then I went out on the floor. I got stuck with "Stan the man's" table. He asked about Anna, which I found odd. I said she was away on business, for lack of a better lie. He smirked. I had a feeling I knew why he'd asked this question. Anna had always said that she suspected he lurked about after closing, which was why she had seldom allowed me to ride the bike. And when there was no other way around it, she'd always follow me out and see me off or follow in behind me on the way home. She felt the truck afforded protection that the bike couldn't give.

        "He could run you off the road very easy, Darby," she had said. "And there you'd be with nothing to protect yourself with. At least with the truck we have the windows, which would give you time to get to the gun."

        Anna had no real justification for thinking that Stan would actually do this. Even though he was known to harass the girls, he'd never done anything so rash. All she could say was, "I just got a feeling about him. Somethin' about him, just... don't sit right with me."

        I got the order for him and his friends and brought it back to them. Stan was really looking me over, but he didn't reach out and touch. I hurried away and onto the next table.

        I hadn't recognized him without his black leather jacket, but I now stood in front of the note writer. He glanced up at me. I stared back then glanced down at his napkin. Jasmine was on this one. There was no mistaking the hair and wide hips. I glared at him. Could he be the one that had caused all this to happen?

        I reached out and snatched up the drawing. "Fuck you!" I growled at him.

        His eyes grew large and he quickly jumped up, knocking over his chair.

        "Stay the fuck away from us!" I shouted.

        He covered his ears, as he continued to backpedal. Suddenly, he stumbled over another chair and fell down.

        I walked over and threw the wadded up napkin at him, hitting him in the face. "Don't ever let me see you in here again, you hear me?"

        The note writer was scrambling to his feet, as Tiny came towards me.

        "Beat the shit outta him, Tiny!"

        "Darby, what the hell are you...?"

        "He's been writing them goddamn notes! Did ya get her busted, too?" I shouted, my anger consuming me to the point that I was hurling accusations that didn't make a lot of sense. "Well, I hope to hell you're satisfied!"

        "You did that boy!" Tiny shouted. "Why I oughta...."

        The note writer was headed for the door, as fast as his feet would carry him.

        Stan the man's laughter rang out, then he added, "Look at that retard run. I ain't never seen him move so fast." I turned around and glared at him. "Shoulda tol' me. I woulda got rid of him for ya, Dar-by," he said, drawing my name out.

        "Fuck you, too!" I growled, knowing as soon as the words left my mouth that this was the wrong thing to say to him.

        "Is that a promise?" he asked.

        "Darby, calm down!" Tiny admonished, taking hold of one arm. "Why don't you... go back yonder and... cool off, hmm?"

        "I don't wanna..."

        "The customers are starin'," he added.

        I glanced around us and indeed, I was now the center of attention. I felt instantly embarrassed. I had let my anger get the best of me.

        I pulled away from him and handed him the tray. "I'll... go check on Dora's."

        I came back thirty minutes later. I was relieved to see that I was no longer the center of attention. And around one-thirty was even more relieved when Stan and his friends cleared out. That was a load off my mind. Surely he wouldn't wait thirty minutes to an hour for me on my way home. I felt somewhat safe now.

        "Where's Anna?" a soft voice asked, from behind me.

        I thought at first it was a woman's. I quickly glanced over my shoulder. Fletcher Cummings was standing behind me. Relief flooded over me. For a fraction of a second, I had thought it was Barbara and I just hadn't caught her voice.

        I told him the same line about being away on business. He hesitantly inquired if she had met up with another customer that had done her harm. I assured him she hadn't. He hee-hawed around that someone should put a stop to his father, but he didn't seem to consider himself the person for the job, even though he probably knew him better than anyone and would be in a position to set him up. Which was exactly what I suggested he do. "Catch him in the act."

        He gave no response to this. He merely stared at me. "You two are very close... aren't you?" he inquired, changing the subject.

        I glanced away and started wiping the table off. Anna thought it better that the customers not know, unless of course they were gay, as well.

        "I suppose we are, sorta. I mean after all she's my cousin, we're supposed to be," I answered.

        "I saw you," he said, moving up beside me. "I... I know you're more than that."

        I nearly stopped what I was doing, then realized I might be giving myself away, so I continued. "I'm... not sure what you mean," I said, innocently.

        "I see the way she touches you and... looks at you."

        "She's my cousin. What are you suggestin', Fletcher?"

        "I've been to the Curiosity," he added.

        This got my attention. I stopped in mid-wipe, then straightened up. I hadn't remembered seeing him there, but I was so busy on that weekend that I could have missed him.

        "I tended bar out there for a while," I admitted.

        "You did more than tend bar," he said, with a slight smile, as his eyes roamed over me. "Are you... strictly... girl oriented?" He didn't give me time to answer before adding, "I like both. Much more fun that way."

        This was a side of Fletcher I had not seen. Usually he was very shy and unassuming. He often looked, but never had he offered to touch or gave the impression that he would, even if it were offered to him on a silver platter.

        "I'm partial to swingin' in only one direction," I finally said, then went back to wiping off the table.

        "That's a shame," he commented, as he turned and walked away, heading towards the bathroom.

        I finished cleaning off the table then took the rag back to Tiny. "What's between you and Mr. Loose Screw?" he asked. Tiny always kept a sharp eye out near closing time, for it was often those customers who'd sat and drank too much that were the real trouble makers. And I'm sure my scene had made him even more antsy than usual.

        I told him about Fletcher revealing his bisexuality. Tiny's eyebrows shot up, but said he wasn't surprised. He'd caught him once before back in the dressing room, staring at the costumes. He said that Fletcher hadn't given him a problem about leaving, he merely acted embarassed, then left of his own volition.

        "Anna said he was harmless," I commented.

        "Probably so. Still wish I could get my hands on that sonofabitchin' father of his'un, though."

        "Might as well forget about that, Tiny. I did tell him that he should set his father up. Catch him in the act, ya know."

        "Yeah, now... that might work." Tiny's eyes lit up. "Maybe I should have a little talk with Mr. Loose Screw."

        "He didn't seem interested in the idea to me," I commented.

        "Pantywaist," he said. "Lemme give him a shot. Maybe I can talk some sense into him."

        I saw the two talking later, but paid little attention. I had more important things on my mind at the moment. Someone was gonna have to straighten out the money situation between the clubs. And that someone was me.

        I headed to Anna's office to get the note I'd left myself concerning how I'd made the change for Dora's register. I opened the door and found the light on. I hadn't remembered leaving it on, but I supposed I could have. I snatched up the note off the desk and hurried out.

        After taking care of this, I closed up Dora's, gathered the money and receipts, then headed back to Anna's office. I sat the bag down on the desk, then went out to close up the club. Tiny said that he would wait for me and see me out, as he did when Anna was laid up in bed. I said that I'd be with him in a few minutes.

        When I went back to the office, I sat down in her chair and was reaching for the drawer where she kept the books, when something warm touched my naked leg.

        "Jesus Christ!" I screeched, then shot backwards in the chair, knowing that warm something had been a hand.

        To my surprise Anna came crawling out from under the desk, wearing her tan jacket over her black leather vest and skirt.

        "What the hell...?"

        "Nice view," she commented, moving closer.

        "How did you...? Where the hell have you been?" I stammered.

        She placed a hand on each leg, as she moved up between them. "I told you," she said, one hand inching up my leg as if nothing had ever happened. "As for how I got here, I took a cab. I missed you, baby," she added, giving me that "I want you" look.

        "Told me what? You didn't tell me SHIT!" I exploded.

        "It was all in the note, Darby. Didn't you read it? I'm sorry I had to rush out so quickly, but..."

        "What fuckin' note?" I asked, grabbing both her hands. "I never saw any note."

        She frowned. "How could you miss it, I left it on your pillow?" She removed her hands and got to her feet.

        "Pillow, I never saw..." I paused, realizing I hadn't slept there. The bed had been made up, the bedspread over the pillows. There could have been a note underneath.

        "I called you, but... that woman said you had left because you were sick. I went out looking for you, but... I guess I missed you somehow. And I had very little time, as it was. I had to make the one o'clock flight to Atlanta. How come you didn't see the note?" she asked, frowning. "I left it on your pillow, underneath the cover so it wouldn't blow off the bed or anything."

        "I... I didn't sleep in... your bed," I admitted.

        "My bed now, is it?" She backed up against the desk and crossed her arms. "When did it become my bed again? I thought it was ours." I glanced down. "So where did you think I'd gone?"

        "I... didn't know. I thought you'd left me."

        "Ooh... and I left you the house and the truck, huh? Generous, aren't I?"

        "No, I... thought you left me the truck so I could move my things out."

        "And have you?" she inquired, cocking one dark eyebrow.

        I shook my head.

        "Darby, how could you even think such a thing? Jesus..."

        "Well, what the hell did you expect me to think? You stumble home drunk on Wednesday morning, ask me what the fuck do I care whether you're alright or not, then you pass out on the sofa. I come home and... you're... gone, I guess.. and...."

        "Okay, okay. So it was stupid to just leave a note. I... should've waited and talked to you, but honestly, I didn't want to go over old territory. I just wanted to do what needed to be done and get back here." She paused. "As for sayin' that to you, I... don't remember it. Hell, I don't even remember comin' in the house for that matter. The last thing I do remember is... drivin' up and seein' the light on in the kitchen. I knew you were waitin' up for me, but... I didn't feel like talkin' about that stuff right then. I didn't think I should be around you while I was... drinkin'. So... I sat out there and finished off the vodka."

        "Well, where the hell did you go in such an all fire hurry? What the fuck was so much more important than us? Huh?" I was nearly indignant now.

        She sighed heavily and began to explain. "I didn't want to feel indebted to Barbara... I wanted her out of our lives for good, so... I called my mother."

        "Your what?" I screeched.

        "It's a long story."

        "I ain't going nowhere."

        She hopped up on the desk then went on to explain that her mother, Melinda, was a very well-off woman now. Or rather a well-off madam, who had once been a dancer and a hooker in Las Vegas, which was where she had run off to, after leaving Anna with her sister Verna. Melinda had met and eventually married a very rich man out there, who had set her up in her own business. He had died nearly ten years ago and she now owned two casinos, which had been his, three brothels and two motels.

        When Anna moved back to town after Verna's death, Melinda called, though Anna was unaware of who she was at the time. Once she informed the woman on the phone that Verna was dead, Melinda revealed that she was her mother and that she wanted to see her. It seemed she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was afraid she was going to die. She wanted to see Anna before that happened.

        Anna said that they'd had a long conversation, in which she revealed everything that had happened to her up until that point. Her mother was appalled. She had never even known that Anna had run away. Seems Verna and her husband Jim were pocketing money that her mother was sending her each year. When she told her mother she was going to try and buy her own club, her mother decided to give her the money for it. "Sorta soothe her conscience," Anna commented.

        "So, that's where you got the money to buy Dora out?" I questioned.

        "Yeah. I figured why look a gift horse in the mouth."

        "Okay, so... what did you do, go runnin' back to her for more money?"

        "Yes. I had to. I have to get Barbara off our backs, or she'll feel she can hold this over our heads forever."

        "And what if she won't take the money?" I inquired.

        "Oh, she'll take it. Or I'll cram it down her connivin' little throat."

        "But, Anna, she said that she had what she wanted."

        "Oh, sure she did. She's had you in her bed and knows she can ask you back anytime and you'll feel obligated to come. Uh-uh, I ain't takin' this shit lyin' down. I know Barbara's type, believe me."

        "You mean, because she was in love with you?"

        "Who the hell told you....?" She paused. "Oh, so she told you all about that, did she? Okay, yeah, maybe she was. But... I wasn't in love with her. Yet, I couldn't seem to get that across to her. She paid for the abortion." She paused. "She told you about that, too, I guess?"

        "Uh-huh, said that she got you out of this thing, because she always felt guilty about not getting you a good doctor."

        Anna merely stared at me. "Yeah, well. She held that damn abortion shit over my head. Not, in so many words, maybe, but... it was always there, ya know, just under the surface, that she had bailed my butt out of a jam. I never asked her to. Hell, I thought the money came from Jeanie. I mean, Pepper."

        "Were you and Pepper... lovers?"

        "Get real, Darby. Me and Pepper? No way. I'm not even sure Pepper knew she was gay back then. She was just a good friend, who said she wanted to help. And... she did. The best she could."

        "Were you lovers with Barbara? She said you let her kiss you in the hospital."

        "No. I felt obligated to her, though. I knew all those flowers and candy was just more payment to buy her way into my pants. And... I let her kiss me... I mean, I figured if I owed her that much.... but, she never got any farther than..."

        "You still didn't know back then that you were... like this?"

        "Hell, back then, Darby, I hardly knew my ass from a hole in the ground. I was only fifteen, remember? Been fucked over since I was ten. What the hell did I know about anything, except... how to stick my damn head in the sand like Verna and hope to hell it all went away." She fell silent.

        "Was there ever anything between you and Phil?"

        "That too, huh?" She sighed heavily. "No. I mean, she hinted around about it, but... I didn't take her seriously. Maybe 'cause I didn't want to. Phil was flighty and... I knew she was foolin' around with Barbara. Hell, everybody knew that. And, I think Barbara thought there was something going on between us, from the way she gave me the eye from time to time, but... there wasn't."

        "How come you didn't tell me about all this?" I had to ask.

        She stared at me. "Oh, I wanted to, believe me. I bit my tongue more than many times."


        "How would you have felt about her if I had, hmm?"

        I hadn't considered this. "I... I don't know."

        "Neither did I and that's why I didn't tell you. I didn't want to influence you one way or another about Barbara. I wanted you to either... stay with me or... go to her because of how you felt, not because of something that happened in the past. Can you understand that?"

        "I'm beginning to."

        "If I had told you and you thought she was just out for revenge, you wouldn'a had one thing to do with her, right? And then I'd be left wondering, well... what if I hadn't told her, would she have left me for her?"

        "Dangerous game you were playing."

        "Possibly, but how did I know what her motives were, hmm? And if I had told you all this, you may have turned on me, thinking I was just telling you that to turn you against her, see?"

        I nodded.

        "This was all about revenge then, over Phil?" she questioned.

        "Partly, but she said you broke her heart when you ran away, and that's really why she wanted to get even with you."

        "Broke her heart?" she questioned, softly. "Well, hell... maybe I did. I don't know. But... I can't do anything about that, now. I can, however get her outta our lives, now that I know you want her out." She paused. "You do want her out, don't you?"

        "Of course. I don't want this hanging over our heads anymore than you do, but... why'd you have to rush off like that, without taking the time to tell me?" I asked, changing the subject slightly.

        "Oh, well, Melinda was leavin' for the Bahamas the next day. It had to hop the one o'clock plane right then or go to the Bahamas and... we can't afford that. Though, if I could'a took you with me now...."

        "So, how much did you squeeze out of her for a pay off, hmm?" I asked, not really liking the sound of this, much more than what I'd done.

        "Five G's. Hell, that's pocket change for her, baby. She's got more than she knows what to do with. Got a real nice set up out there. I saw her brothels this time. Clean, real clean. She even offered me a job, after I told her things weren't going so well here."

        "Oh no, you ain't goin' back to hook..."

        "Not that kind of job. She's openin' a new casino. Asked me if I wanted to move out there and manage it."

        "And what did you say?"

        "Told her I'd talk it over with you. But, that I doubted you'd go for it."

        "You told her about us?"

        "Uh-huh." She smiled. "Told her how you'd made an honest woman outta me."

        "What did she say?"

        "That's when she offered me the job. Said she'd like to see me stay out of the life." She paused. "She's kinda nice, ya know. And really quite... pretty. In her hey day, boy... she was a knock out. Looks nothin' like Verna."

        "So, that's where you got your good looks, hmm?"

        She fought a smile. "I ain't got what she had. No way. I must look more like my father's side of the family, ya know."

        "Well, whichever side, you're beautiful to me." She smiled, not so much with her mouth as with her eyes. "So how long have you been hidin' up under your desk?"

        "Since around one-thirty. I thought you never would sit down in that chair, so I could get my hands on you."

        "Well, if you waste one more minute sittin' there on that desk just starin' at me like that, I'm gonna scream."

        She hopped off the desk and was astride me in mere seconds, her lips covering mine.

        "I missed... you, baby," she mumbled.

        "Don't ever.... ever run off... like that... again. Do you... hear me?" My hands were working the ties of the black leather vest, my lips talking and tasting at the same time.

        "Um-hum," she answered, fumbling with the buttons on my shirt.

        I got the vest undone, sweeping the sides apart. "Please, don't ever... leave me." I kissed the charm between her breasts and then the sides of each one.

        "I won't baby," she assured me, as she placed a kiss on top of my head. "Make love to me, Darby," she requested. "Right here... right now."

        I forgot all about Tiny waiting for me. It was the furthest thing from my mind, when I got up out of the chair and picked her up, sitting her on the desk. I'd already removed the jacket, the vest and was in the process of peeling the skirt off, when the door opened.

        "Darby, you alright in...? Oh shit," Tiny quickly closed the door.

        Anna giggled and pressed my face against her exposed breasts. "Forgot something, did ya?"

        "Uh-huh. Uh... Tiny will you close up out there. I... I appreciate you waitin' for me. I... I shoulda come and told you..."

        "That's okay, Darby. I'll lock the door on my way out."

        "How many times you gonna have to get caught like this before you learn to lock doors, hmm?" she teased.

        "Be quiet and slide back, I'm comin' up."

        "The money, baby," she said, as I started to crawl up on the desk.

        I quickly opened the drawer containing the books and swept the two bank bags off into it. "Done," I said, closing it.

        "Uh-uh, baby," she disagreed. "We just got started."

Continued in Chapter 23

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