Kim (KP) Pritekel
Copyright 2001 Kim Pritekel

For complete disclaimers see part 1.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com

Part 2

I laid in the dark wrapped in Rebecca's arms, and listened to the sound of her steady breathing. I still could not get Beth off my mind. There was still more. More I needed to remember, more I needed to figure out before I could finally let her memory rest. There was so much left unfinished between us, left unsaid.

I could see her face before me. Her bright blue eyes shining, her dark hair loosely held in a ponytail or braid, most of it usually spilling from its bonds. She was smiling at me, that special little crooked smile that she saved for me, and only me. Her eyes were so full of life, and her adventurous spirit.
I gently disentangled myself from Rebecca, and slipped out of bed. With a sleepy murmur of protest, Rebecca released her hold, and turned over onto her other side. With quiet feet I headed into our bathroom and shut the door with a soft click before turning on the light. I studied my reflection. My hair, which Rebecca calls golden, reaches to just below my shoulders. This is the shortest I've had my hair for a few years. I ran my fingers through the strands, and tucked it behind my ears. My green eyes looked dully back at me. I saw no life in them right then. The skin under them was slightly puffy from the crying I had done earlier. Something was telling me that I was not done crying, either. I felt so emotional like I had a carbonated bottle of tears inside of me that someone had shaken to the point where the cork was going to shoot off into space somewhere leaving the contents to overflow, needing to escape.
"Babe, you okay?" Rebecca called sleepily from our bedroom.
"I'm fine. Go back to sleep." She mumbled something I couldn't understand, then all was quiet again. I splashed some cold water on my face, then tiptoed out of the bedroom.
Simon met me at the top of the stairs, his long, black tail swishing curiously in the air, his large gold eyes looking up at me questioningly as he escorted me down the stairs. I trailed my fingers along the wall as I went down, my eyes focusing on the images in the pictures that lined the staircase.

I saw Rebecca and I smiling with our arms around each other standing in front of the beautiful castle of Sleeping Beauty in Disneyland, our friend Camille had taken the picture while her partner, Dana had stood off to the side with a wide grin across her tanned face. I smiled to myself. That had been such a wonderful trip, and had been our first together. We had only been living together for just under a year.

I continued on, looking down to make sure Simon hadn't planted himself between my feet making both of us fly down the remaining stairs. Unlike him, I knew I would not land on my feet. My heart beamed as I saw the picture of my lover and I on our dream vacation to Ireland, the land of her late mother's birth. We planned to go back in a couple of years.

A bit farther down I spotted my college graduation picture. My mother had taken the shot, and my father and brother were on either side of me, all three of us smiling broadly. I was the only one in my family to get a degree, Billy opting to join the service instead. I looked into the tired eyes of my father. He looked older than his years, and I often worried about him. I knew that his health was not great, and my mother just did not want to worry us. My father was a kind man, and had been a good father to grow up with, albeit a stern figure.

"So what's this I hear you and Beth wouldn't play with that Newman girl?" my father asked, a forkful of mashed potatoes halfway to his mouth. I could only stare at my father, for I had no answer. Instead I decided to be angry with my mother. I looked at her silently calling her a traitor. She didn't take the bait.
"Darla's mother said that she was awfully upset, Emmy."
"Well, we don't like her, Mom." I stammered in lieu of an explanation.
"You don't like her." My father said dryly. "Why? 'Cause she's not Beth?" My father's comment took me by surprise. I looked across the table at my brother who seemed to find his meat loaf very interesting. I knew I would get no help from him, mainly because I knew deep down Beth and I were wrong, but would not allow those words to pass through my lips. I looked back at my mother who met my gaze with her own dark eyes burning into mine.
"I want to see you playing with kids other than Beth. Do I make myself clear, Emily Jane?"
"Don't argue with your mother! That girl has got way too many problems. She's a bad influence on you. I won't have my daughter hanging out with that girl. Her parents aren't married anymore, and her mother whores around."
"But, dad, that isn't Beth's fault!" I exclaimed, my face red with anger.
"Don't you talk to me that way, young lady! You are fourteen years old, and are still a child. I don't give a damn if you've started your monthly or not." I turned even redder at this announcement to the family. I could not even look Billy in the face terrified of what I'd see there.
"Henry," my mother said quietly to my father, placing her hand on top of his. My father glanced up at me with apologetic eyes for a moment before they became serious again.
"Girls your age should have lots of friends. Right, honey?" he turned to look at my mother. "Didn't you have lots of girlfriends at Emmy's age?" my mother didn't answer, but turned to me instead. She placed her soft, warm hand over mine.
"Sweetie, we're not saying that you can never see or play with Beth again. Only that maybe you should give some other girls a chance. There has been a few new families that have moved into the neighborhood, and I've seen some girls and boys your age with them. Okay?"
"Francis, don't act as if this isn't serious!" my father said sternly to my mother.
"Honey, I will handle this." My mother gave him the 'look'. He shut his mouth and took a drink of his milk, his eyes looking elsewhere.
"Okay?" my mother asked me again.
I looked down at my half-eaten dinner, and plopped my fork into the mountain of mashed potatoes. I simply nodded, feeling a lump in my throat too thick to speak over.
"Good." My mother patted my hand before releasing it.
"So, Billy, how did try outs go? Did you make the team?" my father asked with barely controlled excitement edging his voice. I didn't bother to listen to my brother's answer. Why should I care if he made the stupid baseball team or not? I picked up my fork again and pushed my food around until it was a big pile of meatloaf, mashed potato, and greenbean mush.
I leaned against the counter as I watched the sink fill steadily with billowy suds. My head jerked to the right when I heard a crash. Billy ran into the handle of the oven as he tried to catch the dishtowel that he was throwing up into the air. He drew his brows together as he groaned, holding his stomach. I smiled to myself. Serves him right, the big dope that he was. He wouldn't even stand up for Beth.
"Is that water done yet?" he whined, walking over to stand next to me.
"Almost." I said absently watching the hot water stream out of the faucet.
"Good. I don't wanna be here all night with you."
"Thanks." I said, slugging him in the gut. He doubled over and glared at me. "This is just not fair, Billy."
"Why? We always have to do dishes. It's like a national pastime,." he grinned.
"Not the dishes, you dope, this whole stupid thing with Beth. It sucks! Dad is being so unfair." I looked over my shoulder to the doorway of the kitchen to make sure neither of my parents were in hearing distance. I could hear Captain Kirk giving orders to Spock in the next room. I turned back to my brother. "Why is he doing this, Billy?" he shrugged his broad shoulders.
"I don't know, Emmy. You know dad. He usually has a reason for what he does even if he's the only one who knows the reason." he grinned and slugged me lightly in the arm. "He loves us, and is always trying to do what's best, or something. I think he just worries because Beth has so many problems with her family, and that whole thing with her mom having that fling with the president of that bank she works at." My head snapped around to stare at him.        
"How do you know about that?" Billy shrugged indifferently, grabbing the handful of knives that I had just washed and put into the sink with rinse water.
"Everyone knows about that, Emmy. It's no big secret."
"But, they never throw a fit because you and John spend so much time together. And his dad's a drunk, too! And he beats his wife! So what's the big deal about me and Beth? God, this is so stupid!" I could feel my anger building. It was not fair that my parents were trying to dictate who I spent time with. My blood began to boil. How dare they try to come between me and Beth!
"Come on, Emmy, you know you guys can still play, or whatever it is you do."
"Don't pacifize me, Billy!" my brother grinned.
"That's patronize, you dip. And I'm not." I slammed the newly washed glass into the hot water so hard that a stream of it fountained up into the air and splashed me in the face. My brother fell against the counter laughing, his hand holding his stomach. "Dang, girl. Calm down." He said through his tears. I just glared at him and wiped my face off.

I made my way into the kitchen, and brewed myself a pot of Ginger Peach hot tea. Sitting with my steaming mug at the table, I opened the photo album once again. The year 1981 came in with a bang. My father had just been promoted at the car dealership to sales manager the previous December, and my brother would be heading out to the military after his high school graduation in June. Beth and I would be heading into high school in the fall. Ronald Reagan would be elected president and shot before the year was out, and the greatest of all t.v. Phenomenon's of the eighties would begin, MTV. Two hundred and ninety-six people would die from the short-lived title of 'the gay cancer' during that twelve-month period.

I flipped to a picture that immediately brought a smile to my lips. The Polaroid showed me and Beth in the living room of my parent's house, our arms around each other's shoulders, glasses of red Kool-Aid raised high for the camera. Our young faces had huge smiles plastered on them. In the background my parents could be seen in each other's arms caught forever in a New Year's kiss. Billy had snapped the picture right at midnight.: Mom, Dad, Emmy and Beth celebrate the New Year: 1981.

"That looks like such a rad movie!" Beth exclaimed, staring at the incredible images of the adventures of a new hero, Indiana Jones. Steven Spielburg's instant classic, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark was due out in theaters soon.
"I can't wait!" Billy agreed from the couch behind us as we sat on the floor, as he dumped a handful of popcorn into his awaiting mouth. Beth looked over her shoulder at him with a lopsided grin on her face.
"I bet Harrison Ford kicks as much ass as he did as Han." she grinned, referring to her hero playing Han Solo in Star Wars, and The Empire Strikes Back..
"Beth." I said in surprise. "My parents might hear you. Watch your mouth." She stuck her tongue out at me, and turned back to Billy.
"Not to mention, Karen Allen." he grinned. Beth smiled back at him and nodded before she turned back to me.
"Who's Karen Allen?" I asked, looking from one to the other.
"A really cute chick." Billy informed me with a grin. I shrugged and turned to Beth.
"Hey, ready for bed?" she grinned as she wiggled a brow, letting me know she had something planned.
"Hey, don't leave me down here alone, guys." Billy complained. "It's bad enough I had to stay home tonight."
"You had a chance to go with Sarah and her family, Billy." I chastised with the slightest bit of sympathy.
"Yeah, but her dad hates me. No way am I gonna spend a couple days with that old geezer watching us every minute. Talk about a shitty New Years."
"Guess he just doesn't want a bunch a pups left after you leave." Beth said with a wicked smile. "Sorry, Billy boy. Gotta go." she said dramatically, and grinned. I shrugged my shoulders at his incredulous look, and stood to lead the way toward the stairs.
My bedroom hadn't changed much over the years. I still had the pastel blue curtains over the large window, but had talked my mom into letting me paint the room. Now instead of the curtain matching blue, my walls were white. Not a big victory, but life is made up of small victories, I reasoned. Plastered on my walls were posters of Harrison Ford, the musical group Toto, and Olivia Newton-John on one closet door with Bonnie Tyler on the other. Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh graced the wall on one side of my dresser mirror while Judy Garland graced the other side with Tom Drake in a still from Meet Me In St. Louis, forever frozen in the classic Hollywood pre-kiss pose. On the wall opposite the dresser wall was a poster with Bogie and Ingrid Bergman from Casablanca. Beth had gotten me into the great classics.
"Oh, man. What a long night." Beth breathed as she plopped down on my bed and grabbed her over-night bag from the floor and set it in her lap. She unzipped the largest pocket, and dug around for a few minutes when with a smile she withdrew a small bottle filled nearly full with clear liquid. She gave me a grin full of mischief.
"What's that?" I asked walking to the bed and sitting next to her.
"Rum?" I repeated, my curiosity piqued. "Where did you get it?" I took the bottle from her and began to read the label. "Ronrico silver label. Puerto Rican Rum." She took the bottle back from me and unscrewed the cap.
"It's my mom's."
"Uh, won't she miss it?" I asked, still eyeing the little glass bottle warily.
"Nah. Are you kidding? She's got enough to last her ten New Year's. She won't know it's gone." Beth put the opening to her lips, and with a deep breath took a drink. I had to grab the Rum from her as she began to cough and stammer, almost dropping it to the carpet.
"You okay?" I asked as I thumped her back, concern filling my face.
"Ugh! Yeah, I'm fine. Try some." she said, her voice low, and rough from the coughing fit and the burning liquid, indicating the bottle in my hand. I gave her one last glance to make sure she wasn't going to keel over, and took a swig. The sweet fire filled my mouth, and I clenched my eyes tightly shut so I wouldn't spit it all over my bed. I managed to swallow it down, feeling the Rum sear my insides as it went to finally land squarely in my stomach with a whoosh.
"Good god!" I cried after my own coughing fit. I handed the bottle back to Beth. "That stuff is awful! Your mom actually drinks that stuff on purpose?" Beth laughed at me.
"I know. It's better when you have it in something like a daiquiri."
"How would you know?"
"I've had them before. They're really good." I eyed her with a raised brow, then shrugged.
"So what do you think of that new kid, what's his name? Scott something?" I asked looking at her profile as she took another drink. She closed her eyes as she swallowed, not looking at me as she handed over the Rum. She swallowed a couple of times, but did not cough or show any other sign of discomfort. Finally she took in a mouthful of air to cool off her tingling mouth. Something told me that that was not her first time with straight Rum.
"Scott Mathews?" I nodded as I took a drink. "I think he's a dork. Why?"
"Darla likes him. He's all I heard about last week. Scott this, Scott that. Isn't Scott cute, he's got a cute butt." Darla Newman had become one of my close friends, completely against Beth's will, but it pleased my parents. They did not get along that great, but Beth tolerated her for my benefit. Darla thought Beth was weird because she did not like make-up, nor did she do anything with her hair. Many of the girls our age wore their hair at shoulder length or shorter, but Beth, as usual, went against the crowd. She wore her dark hair long and straight, though usually pulled back in a ponytail, or smashed down by some hat. Her long bangs were constantly being pushed out of the way by her hand or mine. She did not constantly talk about boys, and she had no interest in clothes. She just did not fit in, and she relished her differences. She said that this made her unique. I thought it just made for hard times with people snickering behind your back, and making jokes about you. Beth didn't mind the names they called her, most of which I really didn't even understand what they meant. One of the favorite names that came from the boys was dike. I mean, what does a water embankment have to do with her? I didn't understand it. Once I told Billy how silly and strange it was for Beth to be called that. He turned bright red, and walked away mumbling about homework. All the same, I thought it was interesting that all the reasons people didn't like Beth, were exactly the reasons I did.

"I think he's a dork, too. I mean, he's not even cute." I said. I looked over at Beth and waited as she took a drink.
"Ahhh!" she exclaimed smacking her lips together with a smile.
"You've got to be joking. That stuff is awful." I took the bottle from her outstretched hand and looked at it with drawn brows making an impromptu decision that I did not like Rum. "What is this stuff supposed to do to you, anyway?" No sooner were the words out of my mouth when I felt a surge of energy run through my body making it tingle from the soles of my bare feet to the end of my ponytail. My eyes opened wide as I tried to stifle a giggle that sprouted straight from my gut.
"You were saying?" Beth grinned.
"Whoa." I breathed, turning to her. "I feel reeeeally strange." I grinned. It felt as though my head were as light as a feather, strange thoughts floating around like billowy clouds in a clear, blue sky.
"Really?" Beth said, trying to hold back her own giggle. "You don't look strange."
"No?" Beth shook her head, her bangs falling into her eyes. I reached out to try and move them out of the way, but my eyes weren't working as well as they usually did, and my perception was off. "Sorry, Bethy, honey." I snickered as I poked her in the eye.
"Quite all right." she giggled, rubbing her red right eye. I would always be a lightweight when it came to alcohol. I couldn't keep my head still so it began to bob on my neck like it was hooked to a spring, which made us laugh even more.

I smiled as I ran my finger over the glossy faces in the picture. We were so young. Then my smile began to turn bittersweet. The year I turned fifteen would also be the year that our friendship would take a severe turn for the worse. But I didn't want to think about that. My thoughts turned back to the first night Beth got me drunk. After many silly attempts at playing cards, acting out scenes from our favorite movies, and singing, we decided to go to bed, the alcohol draining the energy out of us both.

Beth turned off the wall light switch, and stumbled her way back to bed, hissing a curse as she smacked her foot on something. I laid on my back staring up at the ceiling, my mind caught between a state of total exhaustion, and utter clarity. It was a strange feeling. I felt the mattress shift as Beth laid down next to me on her back, her eyes on my profile. She was quiet, but I could hear her breath come in quick bursts. She turned on her side facing me.
"Em?" she asked, trying to whisper, but not quite making it. I grinned.
"Yes, Beth?"
"You're a fun drunk." she giggled.
"I am not a drunk. You're the drunk. You drank a way lot more than I did, you fish." She giggled again.
"Na ah. You did."
"No, you did." I rolled over on my side facing her and stuck my finger in her side. She yelled out and moved her body away from me.
"Shhh," I laughed as I began to attack again. "You'll wake up my parents." I reached out with both hands, groping for her most ticklish parts.
"You better quit," she said through clenched teeth, grabbed my hands to still them and give her aching sides a reprieve. "I'm warning you, Em. You'll be sorry." I giggled as I looked into her eyes that held an evil gleam in the darkness of my bedroom. I stuck my tongue out at her. She raised her eyebrows, and leaned up on her elbow, looking down at me. A burst of heat roared through my body landing squarely between my legs. I swallowed. "Are you gonna stop?" she asked quietly.
"No." I croaked. Why did I say that? I could end this all right now, and get her to stop looking at me that way if only I'd agree to behave. Then we could go to sleep.
"No?" Say yes! Say yes!
"Do you think I'd actually listen to you, Miss Smarty Pants?" I could actually hear a groan come from inside my head somewhere. I shoved it away, and glared playfully back at her. I reached an experimental hand toward her stomach again, only for it to be taken in hers. She pushed me on to my back and rolled on top of me, holding both of my hands now securely over my head. My head was in a daze from the alcohol that still ran though my system, and also from the heat, and weight of Beth's body stretched out on mine. Wherever her skin touched mine, my body flamed. I felt like I had a full-body fever. Our legs were bare, leaving only a barrier of our underwear and T-shirts between our blazing bodies.
"Are you still going to fight me?" she breathed, her lips just inches from mine. I could only shake my head. She smiled vaguely. I'm not sure who finally bridged the gap between our mouths, but the next thing I knew her lips were pressed to mine. She let go of my hands and ran her own down to my shoulders. My hands automatically flew down, and reached out across the expanse of her back, her immense body heat nearly burning me through the thin material of the T-shirt she was using to sleep in. Our bodies shifted slightly, and I nearly cried out as I felt her leg go between mine, her thigh pressed to the throbbing between my legs. I had no idea what was happening, but I was enjoying it thoroughly. I felt wet as if I had peed my pants. I could feel Beth's own strange wetness against my own thigh. I began to pull away from her, but she grabbed me tighter. Then I felt the wetness of her tongue against my swollen lips. I had heard about this from Billy. French kissing. Curious, I eagerly opened my lips to her. Her tongue was soft, and wet, and I could faintly taste Rum mingled with Crest toothpaste. She ran her tongue over mine, and seemed to search for something just out of reach in my mouth. I heard her whimper as she pressed her lower body into mine. I gasped as her thigh rubbed against me, and then she started a slow, rocking motion with her body. She pulled her mouth from mine, and buried her face into my neck. I closed my eyes, my hands reached down to press her more into me, deepen the contact. She reached a hand down and grabbed my thigh that wasn't between her legs, and raised it so it rested near her hip. I sucked in my breath at the intensified sensation. I couldn't help it as a moan escaped my throat. This seemed to affect Beth as her rhythm quickened. I felt hot breath on the side of my neck followed by her lips. I arched my neck in response as I noticed additional sensations coming from my breasts as hers rubbed against mine. I could feel a tight, tingling feeling, almost painful, throbbing from my nipples that were hard like when I got out of the shower. I reached my hands up and put my fingers between our bodies and onto Beth's nipples. They were just as hard as mine felt. She groaned into the tender skin of my throat at the contact.
"Oh, Em." she breathed.
I could feel a pressure building in the pit of my stomach, and was working its way down with every move of Beth's thigh against me. It moved quickly to spread out like a blanket of warmth spreading into my butt and tops of my thighs, and was sailing like a comet through the sky to between my legs. My breathing started coming faster as the wave of heat began to turn into a pulse like a heartbeat. My hips arched up as if they had developed a mind of their own to meet Beth's rhythm. I dug my fingers into the hem of Beth's shirt as I felt that pulsing pressure explode out of my body with a blast of light behind my eyes. My mouth opened as my eyes closed, my breathing and heart stopped. I could feel Beth tense against me, her breaths coming in gasps against my neck, her hands curling into the sheet on either side of my head until her hips stopped all together.
Slowly, slowly the world returned on its axis, and I could again breathe. Beth pushed up so she was above me with her weight on her arms. We stared into each other's eyes, not sure what else to do. She opened her mouth as if she were going to say something when we both started as a knock sounded at my bedroom door.
"Emmy? Beth? Are you two okay?" my mother's voice said quietly from the other side. I swallowed, hard, but managed to bring my voice to its normal level.
"Fine, mom."
"I heard a noise." I looked up at Beth who shrugged her shoulders, her eyes looked as mortified as I felt.
"Uh, Beth fell out of bed. She had a bad dream." I closed my eyes at how lame I knew the lie sounded. But my mother seemed to buy it.
"Okay, sweetie. See you in the morning."
"'Night." I heard her soft, slippered steps fade and disappear altogether.
To my doleful relief, Beth moved off of me, and laid on her side of the bed on her back, careful not to touch me in any way. My body felt chill in the cold January night air when she took her body heat from me. I stayed where I was, but looked over at Beth, noticing that her breathing still had not completely returned to normal. She put her forearm over her eyes.
"I am so drunk." she whispered.
"Yeah." I groaned dramatically. "Me, too." I actually had never felt more sober in all my fourteen and a half years. I swallowed as I could still feel a faint pulsing between my legs. What had we just done? Was that normal between friends? Between girls? Darla Newman and some of her friends had told me stories about how they lay down with a pillow or a teddy bear and rubbed against it. Is that why they do that?
I turned to look at Beth expecting to meet eyes made dark by the night, but I met her back instead. Her breathing was fairly normal now, and I couldn't tell if she was asleep or not.
"Beth?" I whispered, barely audible to my own ears. Her only reply was a slight moan as she resettled her shoulder against the mattress.
The light of the morning came quickly, its brightness stirring me out of a restless sleep. I glanced over at my alarm clock that sat on the dresser top across from the bed. It was only eight-fifteen. I laid my head back down on the pillow with a sigh. My head hurt, and I didn't feel like my feet were completely on earth yet. I looked over at Beth. She lay on her stomach, facing me, arms crossed underneath the pillow. She was still very much asleep, her breathing slow and deep. I studied her face as last night came back to me. Her mouth was relaxed with a slight smile upon her full lips. Maybe she was reliving the experience in the land of sleep? I closed my eyes as a now familiar heat shot to between my legs. No, no. Never again. We can never do that again.

I stood at the counter with my hand on the top of the coffee maker as it perked to life, my mind and eyes a million miles and years away. I saw ourselves that morning as we dressed for breakfast. Beth and I joked around as usual, both complaining about our common headache, and shared a giggle or two about getting away with getting drunk. To the untrained eye it would have seemed as if nothing was wrong or different. But I knew. I could not meet Beth's eyes. I thought that if I looked into the ocean-blue depths of those expressive eyes I would see something that would scare me, and that I wouldn't be able to turn away from it. Our usual, easy connection was gone, and I missed it.
I jumped slightly as I felt arms encircle my waist, and warmth along my back, but then relaxed back into the familiar body.
"What time did you come back to bed?" Rebecca whispered into the side of my neck.
"Late. Too late." I closed my eyes as I felt a hand snake its way up to cup my breast through the cotton of my T-shirt. My body responded immediately, already electrified from the memory.
"Mmm. If only I didn't have to go to school today." she whispered.
"Oh, the things I could do to you."

Rebecca chuckled into my ear.
"You are cruel, Emily."
"You have no idea." I turned in the circle of her arms and looked deep into my lover's eyes. I saw so much love and compassion there. How had I gotten so lucky?
"When are we going to fly to Colorado?" she asked as she gently kissed my swollen, red eyes one at a time.        
"We?" I asked breathlessly, my hands slowly caressing her back and rear.
"Mmhm. I'm going with you to the funeral." Rebecca's lips traveled to my ear, taking the lobe between her teeth. I closed my eyes.
"Uh, what, what about school?" My hand reached around the front of her robe and slowly pulled the belt loose, letting the material slide through my fingers.
"I'll take a few days personal leave. It's not a problem."
"Oh, Becky, honey. I don't want you to get in trouble. It's not that important." My hands swept the ends of the terry-cloth aside and I stared hungrily at her naked breasts just before my hands found their softness. Rebecca groaned as her lips found mine.
"It's important to you, baby." Rebecca gently pushed me back toward the counter top and motioned that I should hop up onto it. I did as instructed.
"I can go alone, ooooh." I breathed as her hand slid between my thighs, her fingers finding my underwear that was already soaked. She gently slipped a finger around the edge, and slid into me. I threw my head back, my bottom lip caught between my teeth. Rebecca ran her tongue along my exposed throat.
"You'll never have to go alone, Emily." she whispered as she began to slowly pump in and out of me when she added a second finger. Her lips found mine again. "You want me to go, don't you?" she breathed into my mouth.
"Oh, yes...yes, I want...want you to go." I closed my eyes tightly. She increased her rhythm as her tongue found my rock hard nipple through my shirt. I groaned, opening my legs wider for her. Rebecca moved the silky material of my underwear aside a bit more as she reached her thumb in, and began to rub me with slow, measured movements.
"Oh, god." I moaned. I began to rock my hips as I felt myself getting close. Rebecca increased her thrusts as my moans came faster and closer together. I grabbed the handles on the cabinet doors behind me, and clenched my eyes shut, my mouth open as I felt myself slip over the edge. Rebecca quickened her movements as her fingers coaxed the orgasm out of me, one stroke at a time. I cried out her name as my body collapsed against the cabinets, my breathing heavy. Rebecca removed her hand and leaned into me, kissing me softly. I held her for a moment until everything slowed down to normal speed. Finally I pulled back from her. With a wicked gleam in her Irish eyes she put her index finger that was covered with my wetness to her lips, and sucked gently. I stared, transfixed. After a moment she pulled the finger free.
"Now I can taste you all day."
Rebecca hustled out the door with a quick peck on my lips, our counter top interlude making her run slightly late for work. I closed the door behind her, and leaned against it thinking of all I had to do today to get us ready to go.

I laid my big beach towel with a faded Popeye winking at me on it, out on the front lawn, and carefully arranged myself on it, one leg bent up, the other straight out in front of me. I leaned back on my elbows, my face raised toward the rays of the uncharacteristically hot early May sun. I pushed my sunglasses up slightly smudging the lens with my finger, leaving a smear of Coppertone across it..
"Damn." I whispered to myself. I closed my eyes, and waited for the sun to do its job.
"You know that's really bad for you." I heard a voice say, a slight dry tone to it. I opened my eyes and squinted against the silhouette of Beth standing over me. I didn't need to see her face to imagine the lop-sided grin that was surely there.
"So. Darla said that all the girls are doing this."        
"What do you care what the other girls are doing?" Beth plopped down on the grass next to me, her long, shorts-clad legs bent at the knees, her hands dangling over the tops. She adjusted her Denver Broncos cap on her head, lifting the bill slightly so I could see her face up to the bottom of her eyes, the rest cloaked by shadows.
"I don't know why on earth you bother wearing that cap. The Broncos suck." I said wrinkling my nose.
"You just wait, Em. One of these days we are going to get the greatest quarterback ever to play the game, and then you'll laugh. Craig Morten is okay for now, but you just wait. You mark my words. Can you say Superbowl Champions?" She adjusted the cap again.
"Whatever. So why are you so late? I thought you were going to come over earlier this morning?" I grabbed the small brown bottle of suntan oil from the towel under my thighs, and squirted some into the palm of my hand. "Want some?" I extended the bottle to Beth.
"No. I don't intend to sit out here and bake, thank you."
"Hey, just 'cause some of us aren't naturally tan like some people I know." I glared up at her. Besides, a tan looks really good." I argued as I began to spread a second layer of the coconut smelling oil over my very white legs.
"Yeah, in June or July. Em, this is the first hot day we've had yet this year." I chose to ignore the obvious fact, and returned to my first question.
"So where were you?"
"I was talking to my dad." she said trying to hide the grin that slowly spread across her face.
"He called? Oh, Beth that's great! I know he hasn't called since Christmas." I smiled, truly happy for Beth. I knew that her basic nonchalance was a complete and total act. She was always beyond thrilled when Jim called or wrote. "What did he have to say? How's his new wife? What's her name?"
"Lynn." I nodded, and began to spread the sticky oil on my other leg before starting on my arms. "They're fine. Happy. Guess what, Em?" the level of excitement in her voice quadrupled in those last three words. I looked at her, sensing that she would need my full attention for what she had to say. "I'm going away for the summer!"
"What!" she had my attention, all right.
"Yeah. My dad is going to send me to a camp for talented kids. I'm going to do theater! Isn't it radical!" Beth glowed. I felt my heart sink. What would I do for an entire summer without my Beth? I felt my heartbreak turn into anger.
"What, so you're dad has nothing to do with you for like almost two years, and now you're going to drop everything and run to his beck and call?" Beth's face dropped. She looked at me for almost a full minute before she spoke, her voice very low.
"I am not running to his beck and call. I love my father, and would do anything to see him and be with him if even for just a little while. And besides, this isn't about him. This is an amazing opportunity for me to do different kinds of theater. Gain some experience. Some of the best instructors in the country are going to be there." She stood and wiped her hands over the rear of her shorts to knock any loose grass off. "Besides, someone like you wouldn't understand. You're too busy trying to look like Darla Newman." Beth stepped over my beach towel and walked across our yard to her own before disappearing through the torn screen door.
"You'll miss my birthday, and the fourth." I said to myself, feeling beyond miserable. My stomach felt strange, my chest felt,... empty.

I slowly lowered the lid of the suitcase, the solid click of the snaps bringing me back to the present. I wiped a finger under my eye, and collected the wetness with the tip. I had hurt Beth so bad that day in late spring. I should have been thrilled for her. It was a chance of a lifetime. She knew it. I refused to care.

I opened the screen door, careful not to let it slam behind me, or chance being skinned alive by my mother. Hopping off the step of the porch, trying to gather my courage, I headed a few feet toward the Sayers' yard when I stopped dead in my tracks.
"You're worthless! You'd rather run to that bastard who left you! You got that, Beth? He abandoned you sayin' you ain't even his kid anyway!" Nora Sayers screamed, her shrill, drunken voice carrying on the late evening breeze.
"That's not true!" Beth screamed back, her voice just this side of all out tears.
"No? Ask 'im! Ask that rotten son of a bitch if you don't believe me. Him and that slut wife of his."
"You're just jealous because you can't find anyone who will put up with you because you're a drunk!"

I jumped as I heard the sharp sound of skin hitting skin.
"What you sayin' to me, you little bitch! Huh? Talkin' to your mother that way? Huh?"
"Get off me, woman!"
I dared to take a couple steps forward, my eyes welling with unshed tears that I had to be so careful that Beth not see. She would be mortified if she knew I had heard everything, and had felt any pity for her.
"You're worthless, Elizabeth! You got that? Rotten and worthless!"
"Fuck you, mother!" I jumped again as the front door to the house was shoved open so hard that one of the hinges protested just before it snapped from the wood. Beth flew out at a quick walk about to break into an all out run when her head snapped in my direction. I could see the wet trails that led from both pain-filled eyes, as well as a wet trail that led from the corner of her mouth. The moonlight caught in her eyes for just a moment as our eyes locked, then she turned away from me, and started to walk at a brisk pace down the street.

I wasn't sure what to do, but then I reasoned that she didn't start to run as she had originally planned because deep down she wanted me to follow. She needed me to be there for her right now as I had refused to be earlier in the afternoon.
My heart was pounding dangerously fast as I jogged down the driveway past my dad's old Dodge, and out into the street. I could see Beth up ahead, her dark figure illuminated every few yards by the street lamps that lined the way. I could barely hear her sobs above my own thundering heartbeat. Beth turned down the narrow path that would lead toward the Toilet Bowl, completely shrouded in darkness now. We had traveled this path so many times that we both could have done it with our eyes closed. I followed, increasing my speed so I could catch up to her incase she decided to duck off into the trees.
"Beth?" I called out when I was only ten feet behind her. She didn't answer, just kept walking, her hand snapping a small branch from a tree she passed, and began to strip it of its new leaves as she walked. "Beth? Please stop. Please."

I closed the distance between us and grabbed her by the shoulder. She turned cold eyes on me, her tears still silently falling down her cheeks. She said nothing.
"I'm so sorry. I heard all those terrible things she said to you." I couldn't control my own voice that began to choke on my words, the pain and guilt from earlier mixing with the pain that I saw on my best friend's face now. "It's not true, Beth. It's not." Tears began to tumble out from my eyes as quickly as my words fell from my mouth. "What she said to you. You're so beautiful, so talented, and you're loved, Beth. You're wanted. You must know that? She doesn't know what she's saying."
A guttural sob ripped from Beth's throat, and she fell into my arms. I held her to me, absorbing the shocks of her quaking body. I felt her knees give, and she began to fall to the ground. I stayed with her, never losing contact as we slowly hit the dirt path. Her tears came in earnest now, our sobs breaking the silence of the hot, late spring night. I held her to me as if letting her go meant letting a part of myself go. I cried for her and for me, realizing that I had thrown her father in her face earlier just as her mother had done a few minutes before.
"I'm sorry, Beth. I didn't mean it. I'm sorry. I was being selfish." Beth took a deep breath as she tried to get herself under control. She took in several more breaths, never leaving my embrace.
"It's okay, Em." she finally said, her voice thick with emotion still needing to be shed. "It's not your fault."
"Yes, it is. I should have been there for you today. You were so excited. I'm sorry." In response she grabbed my arms that encircled her side a little tighter.

We sat on the path for what must have been close to an hour, both of us lost in our separate memories of what had just happened. I felt numb, impotent to do anything.
"Let's go sit by the Bowl." Beth said, her voice startling the stillness of the warm night.

As one we stood. I gave her one last tight squeeze before I let go of her. I looked at her face, and gently ran my thumb over the small trail of blood that had seeped out of the corner of her mouth. Silently we walked toward the small pond.
It was not lost on me that this was the first physical contact between us since New Year's. I wondered if she was thinking about that, too. Probably not. Beth had too much else on her mind to worry about than something that had happened five months ago. We never discussed the significance of that night; if there was any. We had let it go on by as if it had never happened, both claiming to have been too drunk to remember much of that night. But I remembered, no matter how much I tried to forget.
We sat at the pond's edge side by side, our hands in our lap for fear that they might wonder over to the other's body in some way.
"When do you leave?" I asked, my voice hushed as if the very night was listening.
"Mid-June." She turned to look at me. "I'm going to miss your birthday, Em. I'm sorry. I'll leave about two weeks before." I sighed deeply. Then smiled.
"I know. That is one of the reasons I was upset when you told me." I looked into the water, black as tar without the sun's rays to make it glow. "Pretty bad, huh?"
"No. I nearly said no because of that." My head shot up.
"What? Beth, no. You need to do this. You're so good at acting, and this is only going to make you better!"
"But I'm always there for your birthday. I know how much it means to you, to me." she exclaimed, pained eyes pleading with me.
"I'll survive." I nudged her shoulder with mine. "Besides, we always have yours in October." She smiled at me.
"Will you write me?"
"Of course I will. You don't need to ask that, Beth."

I walked to my home office and plopped down into the comfortable high-backed chair behind the antique desk that Rebecca had given me last Christmas. I leaned my head back and to the side so I could look out the window to my right. Our neighbor, Alison Briggs was raking the leaves up between our two town houses. She and her husband Howard had lived here for seven years, ever since Howard had retired from the Air Force. They were very nice to Rebecca and I, but I always felt that they were not completely comfortable with our relationship, especially Howard. They were just a few years older than my parents. Rebecca thought I was being too sensitive.
I turned my attention back to my office. This room had been one of the reasons why I had wanted this place. My home office was bigger than my office at work. The top half of the walls were painted white, the bottom half rich cherry wood paneling with the same for the woodwork around the door, windows and ceiling. Bookshelves were built into the walls on two sides, the wall behind my desk, and across from it. I had the shelves filled with every type of book from V.C. Andrews, to Stephen King to Nicole Conn to Homer. Behind me were my prized set of leather-bound law books that had been given to me my first year of college.
I looked at the computer before me, it's dark screen mirroring my image in its glossy finish, the vibrant, random geometric lines dancing in strange patterns.. With a sigh I moved the mouse slightly, the screen coming to life. I logged onto the Internet, and found the phone directory, dialed up the airlines. I was about to click on United when the phone rang. I grabbed the cordless that I had brought in with me and clicked it on.
"Hello?" I said into the handset that I had balanced on my shoulder as I continued to gauge prices.
"Emmy, honey?"
"Hi, mom. What's up?" My mother sighed on the other end of the line. I closed my eyes as I steadied myself for what I knew would follow.
"You heard about your friend, Beth, honey?"
"Yes. Billy called me at work yesterday and told me."
"He shouldn't have done that! Call you at work to tell you such terrible news. What was he thinking?" I was surprised at how emotional my mother sounded. I decided to go easy on her.        
"It was okay, Mom. I was just glad he told me as soon as he did." I left United and clicked on American.
"So you're coming home?" she asked, her voice quiet, yet filled with hope.
"Yes. Rebecca and I are going." I took out a legal pad and a pen and began to jot down the prices of tickets to DIA in Denver.
"Oh, I'm so glad, honey. I wasn't sure if Rebecca would be able to get the time off, or not. That is so wonderful of her to do that, don't you think? She's such a nice girl." I could hear the smile in my mom's voice. She and Rebecca got along just like old friends, much to my initial relief.
"Well, mom, what did you expect? She is my partner, and it would be no different than if dad were to take some time off."
"The difference, honey, is that your father would not have bothered." We both chuckled at the truth in that statement.
"Okay, mom. So get to the point. What's up?" I asked, beginning to get impatient. My mother was not one to call just to chat. She usually had a purpose.
"Well, honey. I, I just wanted to say that I am so sorry. I know how much Beth meant to you.... at one time. I think that maybe your father and I over reacted a bit when you two were girls. Maybe we weren't being fair. You know last year she came back here, and she actually had lunch with me one day? I made her peanut-butter and jelly with the thin sliced bread-"
"Cut in half diagonally?" I asked, not able to keep the grin off my face.
"Of course! Just what kind of hostess do you think I am, anyway?" I chuckled.
"Why on earth did you make her PBJ?"
"Thai's what she asked for." my mother said simply. I dropped my pen and rested my elbow on the arm of my chair, covered my eyes with my fingers. I sighed heavily. "Are you okay, Emmy?" my mother asked, her voice just above a whisper.
"Yeah, yes. I'm okay. You know she came up here right after she had left Pueblo. She told me she saw Monica, but never mentioned you."
"She probably didn't want to upset you, sweetie."
"I had no idea, Mom. None. I had no idea that she was sick. Did she tell you she was?"
"What!" I sat up in my chair, my hand flying from my eyes. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Would it have mattered, Emily?" I sighed again. I looked out the window. Alison had moved to her small front yard, her thin jacket blowing away from her bent over body by the increasing gusts of wind as she pulled some stray weeds.
"No. And to be even more honest, I'll never forgive myself. I wasted my last chance, Mom. Once again I wasted my chance. She needed me, and I couldn't be there. I slunk away from her. Again." My voice began to quiver as the emotions sailed to the surface.
What do you mean, Emmy? Again?" my mother asked, her voice confused.
"Nothing. Look, I'd better go. I was just about to order our plane tickets off the net when you called."
"You know, that must be so handy having a second phone line for the Internet. I keep trying to get your father to get a second line here."
"What, so your Solitaire game won't be interrupted?" I grinned.
"Hey, don't knock it, kiddo. I am the neighborhood champion, you know." I chuckled.

" So what time? When?" I asked, turning serious again.
"What? The funeral? Uh, hang on. I have it right here." Francis Thomas paused for a moment. I could hear the shuffling of newspaper in the background. "Okay, here we go. It is Monday afternoon. The service is at the graveside. Uh, it starts at three."
"Where?" I held my breath.
"Pioneer Cemetery." I closed my eyes again.
"Okay. Talk to you later, Mom." I clicked the off button, and set the phone down on the desk harder than I intended to.

"I thought my great-grandmother's funeral went really good. I didn't really know her, though. So where do you think you'd want to be buried?" I asked Beth as I climbed up onto the top of the monkey bars. She dug the toes of her tennis shoes into the gravel at her feet as she twisted the swing first to her left, then to her right, the heavy chain twisted like a rope in front of her nose..
"Pioneer. It's the oldest cemetery in Pueblo."
"Yup. But I am no way gonna be buried here. No way!" she exclaimed as she let go of the chain, her swing sharply twisting to the left, then smoothly to the right before stilling in the middle again. She grinned. "Have you ever been there?"
"Nope." I said as I hooked the back of my knees onto the bar I'd been sitting on, and let myself fall through the opening between the bars. My hair fanned out under me, my arms reaching for the ground that seemed just out of reach.
"We should go there." Beth said, her voice wistful.
"Why? Ugh!" I exclaimed as I pulled myself back up with my stomach muscles.
"Because. It's peaceful. It's beautiful, and full of history."
"Hm." I said thoughtfully. With a shrug I said, "Okay. We'll go there someday."

The midday Friday traffic was grading on my nerves. With an exasperated groan I swung my Taurus off the main road, and decided to take the back route. This city amazed me. No matter what time of day or night, the highways were so overloaded with traffic that road rage never surprised me, and in fact I could relate.

I knew that Friday's at this hour Rebecca had a chemistry class, and they would be doing a lab. Rebecca should be able to talk for a couple of minutes if I stopped on my way to Wal-Mart.
My conversation with my mother a couple hours before was playing through my mind, again twisting my nerves into knots. I could not believe Beth had told my mother about her sickness, but not me. There was a time when I would have been the first person she went to. The first to know, the first to comfort. Sadly, I realized, that time had come and gone many years ago. Then my thoughts went back to that day in the park. Did she call me there to tell her? Had my apathy toward the entire situation made her hold her tongue? These were questions I would never know the answers to.

With a sigh I grabbed a CD from the portable carrier, and slipped it into the car's player. Immediately my nerves settled as the soothing tones of Sarah Brightman coaxed my mood to relax. I began to sing along with the angelic voice as she sang 'All I Ask', a duet with Cliff Richards. The tune from Phantom of the Opera filled the confines of the car as I cranked the volume, losing myself, and forgetting about Beth for the first time in two days.

"How the hell can you listen to that opera crap?" I had asked, my brows drawn, hands on my hips as I watched Beth, her eyes closed, brows raising and falling with each climatic chord of La Triviata. She let out a long, slow breath as the aria came to an end and hit stop on her cassette player. She turned to me with a raised brow.

"Have you ever listened to it?"


"Come here." she pushed play as she grabbed my hand to stop me from running out of her room. The man's tenor filled the small, dark room, and my ears.

"This sucks,"

"No, Em. Don't you hear it?"

"Yeah, and it sucks!" I tried to pull away, but she kept me in an iron grip.

"No, don't just hear it, Em. Really feel it. Let it enter you, and fill you up inside." she turned to face me. "Close your eyes." I just stared at her like she was crazy, my arms crossed over my chest. "Please? For me? Do this, and if you don't like it, you never have to hear it again. Okay?"

"Fine." I closed my eyes with a heavy sigh.

"Now, listen to what he's saying." Beth said close to my ear, her voice soft and wistful.

"I don't know what he's saying. He's singing in Italian."

"You don't have to understand the words, Em. Just understand the music and the emotion behind it."

Still determined that she had lost her mind, but I listened anyway, and suddenly I knew what Beth was talking about. I felt a chill run down my spine, and my chest literally expanded with emotion, as if I had just taken a deep breath even though I couldn't breath at all. As his voice rose in his anguish, so did my eyebrows, and my heart rate. I felt his sorrow, his loss. Before I could do anything to stop it, I felt twin tears slip out of my eyes, lazily sliding down my cheeks to be followed by two others. I couldn't stop. The music rose to a hypnotic pitch, his voice leading the way up the hill, only to fall down the other side, slowly fading away until all I heard was the ringing in my own ears.

My eyes slowly opened to see Beth staring at me intently, waiting for my reaction. I could not speak as I felt my nose wrinkle and my eyes squeeze shut as more tears came in an all out sob. Beth smiled understanding, and gathered me into her arms.

"It's okay, Em. Pretty powerful stuff, huh?" I nodded as I continued to hiccup against her chest. "It got me the first time, too. Still does sometimes."

"It's amazing. Better then therapy." I finally managed. I could feel her chuckle vibrate against the side of my head.

Part 3

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