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 4

I sat up in bed, my back resting against the pillows that rested against the headboard. I sighed as I looked through the depositions for the Holstead case. John Dithers was to pick up the file in the morning. With a sigh I took off my reading glasses, and rubbed my eyes, putting the manila folder on the small table next to the bed. What a time for this to happen. We were so close to winning this thing.
"What do you think?" Rebecca said, a smile in her voice. I looked up, and a pang of pain slithered through my heart. Rebecca stood before the foot of the bed in her over-sized T-shirt. She had stuffed a pillow up its long length making a bulge at her middle. She posed for me, showing me her profile. I climbed out of the big bed, and walked over to her, hugging her from behind. I placed my hands over her hands that rested on the pillow.
"Soon, baby." I whispered in her ear. "Soon."
"Oh, I know, babe. I am just so impatient." she groaned. "I am almost thirty-five. That clock is echoing in my head every day. Gets old after awhile."
"Good things come to those who wait." I kissed her neck, inhaling the sweet smell of her skin after her shower. I could still smell the Irish Spring. "After all, you got me, right?" she smiled.
"Oh, yes. That took all the patience in the world. I didn't think I had it in me. Did you ever teach me a thing or two about myself." I grinned.
"See? This should be a walk in the park then. This at least shouldn't take three years." Rebecca brought one of my hands to her lips, and held the palm against her cheek for a moment. With a shaky voice she said,
"Go take your shower." I turned her around and removed the pillow from her shirt, held her to me.
"It just takes time, baby." I whispered. "It'll happen. I promise you." She sniffled once, then she seemed to get her emotions under control again.
"I don't know what gets into me. God, I am so damn emotional lately!" she pulled away from me gently.
"Tell me about it." I grinned. She grinned back at me, and smacked me playfully on the arm. "At least you have an excuse with all those hormones they have you on." I kissed her quickly on the lips, then walked toward the bathroom.
"Yeah, babe?" I asked at the bathroom door.
"I love you."
"I love you more."
I stepped out of my sweat pants and T-shirt quickly, the chill of the cold night whispered against my skin, making Goosebumps erupt all over the cool surface. I clamped my teeth together as I played with the knobs of the shower trying to get the water to the right temperature. With a sigh I stepped under the hot spray, closing my eyes as the soothing water washed over me, loosening my tense muscles. I ran my hands over my hair to smooth it back from my face, rivulets of water running down the sides of my face, and dripping off my nose and chin. I opened my eyes as Beth appeared before my mind's eye. With a sigh I let the memories come, and let my mind wonder back to that late summer afternoon.
I paced the floor of my room, back and forth, back and forth. Something told me that Beth would be coming home today, and soon. What would I say to her? I had no idea. Even after the talk I had had with my aunt I still felt that nauseating monster of jealousy happily munching away at my brain. I stopped pacing and looked into the full-length mirror that was anchored to the back of my bedroom door. I smiled at my reflection, practicing on what would be the best smile to give Beth when she came over. If she came over. Would she? I began to pace again before stopping to look at myself once more.
"Hi, Beth." I grinned. No. You look like an idiot. I wiped the grin from my lips and tried to look serious. No. What about pouty? Maybe she'll want to know what's wrong? I grinned again. "Hi, Beth. How was camp? How did your acting go? How is that little tramp, Casey?" Ugh! I buried my face in my hands, peaking at myself through my fingers. Then I froze as I heard a car outside. I swallowed, hard.

Hurrying around my bed I glanced out the window and saw Beth's mother's white Chevy make its way down the street when it slowed to make the turn into their driveway. I took a deep breath as uncertainty gripped my insides. Should I wait for her to come over? No. That could take awhile. I sighed and looked at my reflection once again. I pulled my hair from its perpetual ponytail and brushed out the long strands until the blonde, some sun-bleached platinum, strands shone. I adjusted my denim overall shorts, and headed out to bravely face the storm of Beth's wrath.
I walked across our lawn and watched as Beth's mother helped her daughter heave all of her heavy bags out of the trunk of the car. Neither spoke a word, the operation silent and efficient. Nora Sayers did a double take as she spied me, unexpected out of the corner of her eye and smiled.
"Hi, there, Emily." she said, then headed toward the front door. Beth looked at me, her large duffel bag slung over one shoulder, and a smaller canvas bag gripped in her hands. I looked down and noticed a bracelet that dangled from her left wrist. Silver. Lots of little charms hanging from it. A bitter chill ran down my spine.
"Hey." she said with a wide smile. She almost seemed hesitant. Almost.
"I was hoping you'd be home. I wasn't sure if you'd be off somewhere with Darla or something." She readjusted the bag on her shoulder.
"Nope. Not today." I smiled. My hands began to fidget with my watch, turning it this way around my wrist only to turn it back the other way.
"Cool. I have so much to tell you." She looked over her shoulder at her house, and with a sigh turned back to me. "I think I should spend some time with her, though. She'll be ticked if I don't. Want to meet at the Bowl later?" her voice was hopeful.
"Yeah, okay." I grinned, somewhat disappointed. I didn't want to have to wait until later. "After dinner?" I heard myself say, grimacing inwardly. That would mean even longer!
"Yeah. Sounds good." She dropped the canvas bag and walked over to me gathering me into her one free arm, and holding me to her for just a brief moment before releasing me. She turned away and grabbed the bag again before heading toward the front door that her mother had left open for her.
My parents and I sat around the dinner table. I stared at the empty chair across from me. I missed my brother very much. With a sigh I returned my attention back to my plate of spaghetti. I twirled my fork in the long noodles trying to see how big I could get the ball of pasta around my fork before it all fell off.
"Emmy." my mother said quietly. I looked over at her. "Don't play with your food."
"Sorry." I stuck the whole thing in my mouth so I could chew and not have to worry about thinking or talking as I tried to not choke on the massive bite.
"Good god, Francis. Didn't you teach our children any manners?" my father said, disgust in his voice.
"Emily?" my mother asked, the slightest hint of a smile twitched at her lips. I looked at her with wide eyes and shrugged my shoulders. I glanced over at the wall clock to see that it was nearly seven. Beth and I had a mutual agreement that after dinner generally meant eight. By the time I finished the dishes it would be time to head out to the Bowl.
I stood at the kitchen sink with a dishrag in my right hand, sauce-covered pan in my left. I scrubbed absently as I stared out the window to the backyard. I didn't really see the big Cottonwood tree, or the small shed tucked into the back left corner of the yard, nor the big trampoline whose black tarp dully reflected the light of the full moon. I was thinking about how I was going to react to Beth tonight. I had to meet her in fifteen minutes. All the dishes were washed except for the pan that I was slowly working on. After that I only had to wash off the dinner table, and take out the garbage. No problem. I would be there on time.
I thought again about Beth's new friend, Casey. I chastised myself as the realization came to me that I had absolutely no right to be jealous of this mystery girl. Beth was allowed to have other friends, after all. I had my own friends. But I relied on Beth so much. But at the same time I had a sinking suspicion that Beth and Casey had been more than just friends over the summer. Had Beth done the same things to her as she had done to me? Wasn't that just something that Beth and I had done? Other girls don't do that, do they? But then I remembered what Aunt Kitty had said about her and Karen. Did all girls do that at one time or other? Either way, we would work it out. I hoped.

With a swish of the dishtowel into the double sink, I left the kitchen and headed toward the living room where my parents were reading the newspaper and watching the evening news.
"Did you read this article, Fran?" my father asked, his voice distracted as he continued to read an article that was accompanied by a picture of what appeared to be a parade of some kind. Men and women were walking down a street with signs in their hands, and their mouths were open as if they were talking or yelling.
"Which one?" my mother answered just as distracted as she focused on her own section of the Star Journal. My father began to read:

"'Nearly four hundred marchers participated in Friday afternoon's rally in front of City Hall in Denver demanding equal rights to gays and lesbians. The rally started off peaceful with mild chants, and rainbow-colored banners, however, things began to turn for the worse when anti-gay protesters began to throw rocks and glass bottles at the marchers. Some gay members were rushed to a near-by hospital with head wounds, and severe cuts. After twenty minutes, Denver police were able to bring everything back under control, and the rally was disbanded. No arrests were made.....'"
My mother looked up as my father put the paper down and looked at her.
"Those damn people." he muttered. "Why can't they just keep it to themselves? No one cares about that... lifestyle. Why can't they just be normal?"
"Henry. Be fair. They didn't deserve that. Someone could have really gotten hurt. They weren't hurting anyone. You just read that it was a peaceful march."
"What is a gay and lesbian?" I asked as I stopped at the front door and turned to face them. Both my parent's eyes turned to me, both looking as if I had just asked them if I could shoot them in the head.
"They're a bunch of sickos, is what they are."
"Henry." my mother was silent for a moment as she thought of how to best answer my question. "Well, honey, they are homosexuals."
"What's a homosexual?"
"Ah. Oh boy. Well, a homosexual is someone who, ah, well, who loves the same sex. Two men who love each other physically are called gay, and two women who love each other physically are called lesbians." I absorbed this information for a moment before I realized that I had heard both of those terms used before at school. I had just never known what they had meant. Then it hit me that I had heard both of those terms hollered at Beth. I swallowed uneasily.
"Oh. Well I'm going."        
"Don't be out too late, Emmy." my mother said as she turned her attention back to her newspaper.
I walked solemnly down the street as I replayed my mother's definition again and again in my mind. Were we..... No. No way. I did not love Beth in that way. Was Beth? No. I smiled to myself. She wasn't one of 'those' people. She just always felt more comfortable physically around girls, that's all.
I walked up the dirt path that would wind its way to the Toilet Bowl. Up ahead I could barely make out the white of a T-shirt. The moon had hid behind some rolling clouds, and its suffocated light could not break through the dense branches of the trees that surrounded the pond. As I neared I could see Beth sitting with her knees drawn up to her chest, her arms wrapped around her shins. Her eyes stared into the water, but did not really focus on anything. I could tell she was deep in thought as she drew her bottom lip into her mouth to lightly chew on it before releasing it once again.
"Hey." I said quietly, not wanting to disturb the hush of the late August night. She looked over her shoulder and smiled
"Hi." I plopped down next to her, and sat cross-legged, my arms resting on the sides of my thighs. I looked at her and grinned.
"You beat me here this time."
"Yeah, I know. I had to get out of there. I've been here for about an hour I think."
"Oh. I would have been here a little sooner, but with Billy gone I am the only dishwasher." She grinned at me. I looked off into the trees for a moment before turning back to her. "So tell me about it. How was camp?" She smiled.
"It was great. I won a ton of awards and trophies. You should see my dresser top. It's loaded with them." Her eyes sparkled, filled with so much pride.
"Oh, Beth." I breathed, truly happy for her. "I knew you would do really well there. You are so talented. If I only had this much of your talent," I held up my hand, placing my index finger about half an inch from my thumb.
"Hey, don't be too hard on yourself, Em. You have got some serious stuff upstairs. I wish I was smart like you. And beautiful." Her smile was disarming. I grinned shyly.
"Yeah, right. All that won't get me a standing ovation, or awards and trophies like you get."
"Maybe not, but it will sure get you far in life. You will get far, Em. I know it." Her bright blue eyes bore into mine. They were filled with a mixture of seriousness, and sadness. She continued with a grin. "Just remember me when you're a big successful lawyer in some great city."
"Always." I smiled. "As long as you remember me when you give your speech after you win your first Oscar." She grinned, lost in the thought. We locked eyes for a moment as we connected. I had never been linked to another human being as I was to Beth. We were able to say so much with our eyes that our mouths would never say. Right now I was seeing something flash through hers that told me she was in a great struggle over something. She looked so lost that I felt I needed to touch her, comfort her. I reached out and placed my hand on her right knee that was still being held securely to her body with her arms. I knew she needed to talk, but was unsure if I wanted to hear about it. So I'd have to take the plunge, and get her going.
"Why did she have to leave camp?" My words came out slowly, and quietly. I could see the storm building in the expanse of ocean that were her eyes. She tore her eyes from mine and looked down at her crossed ankles, silent for a moment.
"Someone saw us." she said so quietly that I had to strain to hear.
"Saw you? Swimming?" I asked, confused.
"No." she smiled at the memory. "No, they saw us on the shore. We were, we were kissing." She glanced at me quickly to see my reaction. With careful control I managed to keep my face expressionless. Now that I got her going, I was not going to let my petty jealousies get in the way again. When she saw that it was okay, she continued. "Casey was naked. I only had my shirt off." Suddenly she buried her face in her hands and groaned. "Oh, Em," her voice was muffled. "It was so embarrassing." She looked at me again.
"So, you and Casey were doing what we, well, you would kiss and stuff?" A slow blush traveled up her neck and stained her cheeks crimson.
"At first." She gave me a lop-sided grin and raised a brow.
"At first?" I squeaked. I cleared my throat. I was silent as I waited for her to continue when it became painfully obvious that she wanted me to drag it out of her. Did I really want to hear this? Curiosity got the best of me. "So um, what else did you do?"
"God, what didn't we do?" It was my turn to blush. I swallowed reflexively and stared into the water for a moment before I could face her. When she had my full attention again, Beth continued her story. "Casey would use her tongue, and she would start sucking, then with her fingers-"
"Fingers?" I interrupted. My brows drawn in confusion. "Why would she use her fingers to kiss your mouth?" Beth grinned.
"Who said anything about my mouth?" I sucked in my breath as realization dawned on me. With an audible gulp I shivered. Beth grinned wildly at my reaction. As my mind began to form a mental picture, I was startled to feel a wave of heat crash against my lower stomach like a tidalwave into the shore. The wave spread south as Beth continued. "She would rub my breasts with her fingers, and the palms of her hands. I had no idea that they were so sensitive! And then when she'd use her mouth-"
I shut out Beth's rambling as my mind began to reel. My mother's voice echoed through my head, "Two men who love each other physically are called gay, and two women who love each other physically are called lesbians....."
"....at first she started using just one finger, but then....."
"Hey! It's Beth the lesbian! Hey, my dog's in heat, ya interested?" I heard the boy at school's voice ring through my ears....
"Oh, Em. It felt so good. I couldn't walk for a...."
"They're a bunch of sickos is what they are....."
"....is coming here next week."
"What?" I asked, my head snapping to look at Beth. My thoughts and reverie were shattered in a million pieces. "What did you say?"
"Jeez, girl. Where did you go?" Beth grinned at me. "I said that Casey is coming here next week before we start school."
"Oh." I felt my stomach drop around my knees.
"I can't wait. Everything happened so fast that we didn't even get to say good-bye. I really want you to meet Casey. She's great. Can you do something with us? Maybe we could all catch a movie or something." Beth looked at me, her eyes hopeful and alive.
"I don't know. Darla and I have plans next week." I regretted the lie as soon as it flew from my mouth, and I cringed when I saw the hurt spread across Beth's face.
"Oh. Em, it's only one day, an afternoon. A couple of hours."
"What, a couple of hours is all you want me around for?" I pouted. I knew I was being childish, but could not help myself. Whoever said jealousy kills the soul was a very wise person indeed.
"Of course not!" Beth was getting mad, now. "But I figured with your busy schedule and all, a couple of hours was all you'd be able to spare!"
"Well maybe it is! Let me check my calendar!" I jumped to my feet. Beth opened her mouth, then clamped it shut again. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before standing and looking me in the eye.
"Em, this is stupid. Why are we fighting?" I didn't have an answer for her, so she continued. "I just want you to meet her. You are my best friend, and Casey is really important to me. I just want you to like her."
"What does it matter if I like her or not? She's your friend." I said quietly.
"It just does, Em." She searched my eyes, desperate for a safe place to hold onto. "Okay?" With a tired sigh I relented. I could see the fork in our road just up ahead, and it scared me. Which way would we both go?
It wasn't long before I met Beth's 'special' friend. In the days preceding Casey's arrival, all I heard about were the hikes she and Beth had gone on, the day Casey had shown Beth how to sail. How Casey was heading back to England after the summer to live with her grandmother and go to school at Oxford. On and on until I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs! The thing I think I hated the most was that Casey actually sounded interesting to me. I just didn't want to admit it to myself, and couldn't to Beth.
I wondered around my bedroom taking my time putting away laundry when I heard a car making its way down the street, and then Beth squeal in delight.
"Oh, goodie." I mumbled to myself. I walked over to my window so I could sneak a glimpse of Casey without the pressure of Beth's gaze on me, or her. The large orange and white Ford pick-up pulled to the curb, and squeaked to a halt. The driver fussed with something on the bench seat for a moment as Beth raced around to the driver's side door. Even from this distance I could see that Beth was almost vibrating with excitement. Finally the driver's door opened and out stepped Casey. She was beautiful. She was tall, nearly as tall as Beth, with long, golden blonde hair. Her back was to me so I could not see her face. Her body was very lithe and tan in her cut-off Jean shorts and baby-doll tank top. Beth flew into her arms, and they hugged tightly for a long minute. I couldn't tear my eyes away as I watched the two embrace. Finally Casey pulled away. Beth was smiling at her.
"Did you find it okay?" she asked.
"Yes, luv. You gave me terrific directions." I was surprised to hear an accent even though Beth had told me about it. "This is a lovely neighborhood. Is your mum home?" Casey said as she walked arm in arm with Beth around the front of the truck. As they reached the sidewalk I was able to see her face. Her hair was pulled back from her face with barrettes on either side of her head. She had finely sculpted features, her large brown eyes looked kind with delicately arched brows. Her smile was a brilliant white against her summer-bronzed skin.
"No. She's at work, I think. She's going out tonight, so we have the place to ourselves." Beth grinned at her company. Casey said something too low for me to hear, but whatever it was, it made Beth smile wider with a blush. I gritted my teeth as I fought the pang of jealousy down. Casey turned and looked at my house, I quickly ducked out of the window.
"Is that Emily's home?" she asked. I raised a brow in surprise.
"How beautiful 'tis. I can't wait to meet her!"

Was this a joke? She wanted to meet me? I snorted at the prospect. Yeah, right. Probably just wants to rub it in my face that she has basically taken my place in Beth's life. I walked back over to my bed and finished folding my laundry. They could wait. I certainly was in absolutely no hurry to meet Casey whatever her name was.

I stepped out of the shower and walked over to the mirror above the sink, wiping the towel across its smooth surface to get rid of some of the steam. I squeezed the ends of my hair with the towel to try and get as much water out of it as I could. Grabbing the brush off the counter, I began to run it through the long, water darkened strands, combing out the tangles. I stared into my face, amazed at how much a person changes. Looking at all the pictures of myself when I was younger was quite humbling. I still looked very young for my age, and most thought I was still in my early twenties. But all the same, I could see the changes. Especially in my eyes. Growing up, and in my college days, people used to say that my eyes held a constant question, and wonder for life, as if I was seeing things for the first time. My immaturity used to get annoyed at that. But then as I looked into my eyes as an adult, I could see how hardened they'd become. No longer was the wonder and curiosity present. No. All that had been replaced by suspicion and an innate understanding of human nature with my chosen career. I had seen the best of man and the worst. It's funny how a person can change.

I opened the bathroom door, and was surprised to see Rebecca had already gone to sleep. She laid on her side, her back to me. I smiled down at her, long, red hair spilling over to my pillow. I loved the clean smell, and silky feel of it. I sat on the edge of the bed and watched as she breathed, her body moving slightly with each breath.

I thought back to when we met. I had been out of law school for two years, and was working for some small-time lawyer in Queens, trying to get on with James/Parks/Stone. Back then being a lawyer meant only money, success and fame to me. The thought of settling down, and becoming domestic was an alien thought. A past filled with betrayal and bad decisions poisoning any thoughts in that area. But when I ran into Rebecca, literally, at a Laundromat three miles away from my tiny, one bedroom apartment, my life and thoughts on the subject changed.

I reached out my hand, and placed it on her hip as I scooted under the blanket, and laid behind her, my body pressed to hers. She moaned softly in her sleep, covering my hand that had slid to her stomach, with her own, entwining our fingers.

"You okay, baby?" she asked groggily. I raised my head, and placed my chin on her shoulder. She squeezed my hand, letting me know she was awake to talk if I needed to. I thought for a moment. Then with a sigh, I said,

"I'm nervous about going back."

"Why?" I sighed again, staring out the dark window across from the bed. Why? What a good question.

"Well, I guess because I haven't been back for so long, and I still have so much to sort out. I can't get Beth out of my head. She haunts me."

Rebecca turned to her back, and stared up at me as I rested my elbow against the bed, my head in my hand. "Why, Emily? You really loved her, didn't you?"

"Does that bother you?" I asked, laying my other hand on her side.

"Maybe a little. I don't know. I guess it's just because I don't really understand what happened with you two."

I chuckled ruefully. "In truth, neither do I."

She covered my hand with her own, tracing the veins in my hand with her fingertips. "Tell me more about Casey. It seems that she had a lot to do with things." I nodded slowly.

"She did."

The late August heat was taking its toll on the city as people tried to spend less and less time outside. The newspaper the day before had mentioned the rise in deaths among the elderly as many were succumbing to heat stroke, and the weatherman saw no relief in sight.

I sat on our front porch, the sun-heated cement burning through the material of my shorts, and burning my butt. I squirmed, but did not move. I was nervous, and knew if I stood, I would only start to pace, and that was not how I wanted Casey's first time of meeting me to go. So I endured the hot seat, and stared out to the street. A group of boys were riding their Huffy dirt bikes around in the street, playing cards clothes pinned to the spokes in the wheels to sound like motorcycles as they pedaled up and down the neighborhood.

I glanced at the Nivens' place as Monica Nivens' pulled noisily into the drive. It sounded like her blue Bug was about to die. My mother told me that she only had a year of law school to go, then she'd be a full-fledged lawyer. Well, if she passed the bar, anyway.

Monica pulled a green duffel out of the back seat, and then glanced over at me. I smiled and waved, then began to fidget as she walked across the street, careful to stay out of the way of the boy's riding, and stopped at the edge of our lawn.

"Hi." she said with a smile. I could only smile back. I had been watching this woman in awe for the last three years. She was my real life hero, and here she was talking to me. Then I noticed that she had cut her hair. Short.

"You cut your hair." I blurted, then wanted to slap myself or find a deep hole. I must have sounded so stupid. She chuckled.

"Yup. Sure did." she nodded, running a hand through the short, black strands. "A lot cooler, tell you that. My mom says you want to be a lawyer."

"Yes. More than anything." I smiled, feeling pride puff out my chest. She smiled back and nodded again.

"Good. Good luck to you."

"Thanks. You, too." she smiled one last time, and turned to head back across the street. I watched her as she walked up her drive, and disappeared into the house. Wow. I felt ten feet tall. Someone noticed my dreams. I was so excited that I barely noticed when Beth walked across the lawn.

"You look happy." she chuckled, following my gaze across the street only to see the Nivens house. She looked back at me with questioning eyes.

"She only has a year left of law school." I explained, but Beth only shrugged, still not getting my excitement. I shook my head to dismiss it, then stood. "So, where's Casey?" I asked, keeping my voice as even as I could.

"She's coming. I wanted a few minutes of you to myself." Beth smiled, that lop-sided grin that she only gave to me. I smiled back. "I really missed you this summer, Em."

"I've missed you, too, Beth." I said quietly, my heart soaring.

"Look, I really want to thank you for doing this for me today. Your opinion means so much to me, Em, and I just want you to meet Casey, and tell me what you think, okay?" Beth asked simply, though her eyes pleaded with me to understand. I smiled, and took her hand.

"Okay." she smiled, ear to ear, and squeezed my fingers. "You know, I saw you two through my window, and she is beautiful, Beth." her face lit up, and she nodded.

"Yeah, she is, isn't she?'

As if on cue, out of the corner of my eye I saw Casey walking across Beth's lawn, and walking toward us, a wide, genuine smile across her face. Beth saw me looking, and dropped my hand and turned to watch the blonde walk up to my front porch.

"Hello." Casey said, her voice light, and very feminine. Beth colored slightly as Casey smiled at her. I swallowed the bitterness in my throat. No, I promised Beth I'd be nice, and do my best. I could completely understand how she was so taken with this girl. Casey turned to me and extended a long, petite hand. I glanced down at it, then took it. "Emily, it is so lovely to meet you. I have heard so very much about you this summer."

"Likewise." I said through my plastered smile. Her handshake was firm, but not painful, her confidence obvious in her every move. I was amazed at how someone could be so confident in their beauty and grace, yet not for an instant come off as arrogant, or boastful as Darla often was. This was true security in one's self. I had to admit, I was impressed.

"So!" Casey clapped her hands together, and looked from one to the other of us. "What's on the agenda for today? I can't wait to see your city, and learn more about you, Emily. My grandmum's name is Emily, you know? It's an old family name." Beth began to lead us all toward the orange and white truck as Casey stayed in step with me, commenting on my house, our flowers, and even the weather. At the curb, Beth opened the passenger side door for me. I glanced at her questioningly. She raised her brows, and nodded toward the cab. Okay. So I was to be stuck between the two love birds. That should prove interesting. I climbed into the high truck, and belted myself in. Casey smiled at me as she did the same, slamming the driver's side door shut as she turned the ignition. I glanced over to see Beth sitting happily by the door, her arm hanging out of the open window.

"I thought maybe we could hit the State Fair." she said, looking down at me. "Don't you think, Em?"

"Uh, yeah. It's the last weekend and all."

"Sounds like gobs of fun!" Beth told Casey which way to go, and the blonde skillfully steered the large truck onto the street, and we were off. Beth was good, and kept the conversation away from anything that would be beyond me, and stayed to safer subjects like school, and Colorado, and we both asked Casey questions about England.

It did not take us long to reach the fair grounds. Beth directed Casey to park in the church parking lot across the street, and we walked to the main gate. The three of us stood in line, and I glanced around to see if I saw anyone I knew. Part of me hoped I wouldn't. I did not want to explain who Casey was. People said enough about Beth as it was.

"So, Emily," my head snapped to see Casey smiling down at me. I hated being short sometimes. I never felt intimidated by Beth's height, but this girl intimidated the hell out of me! "Beth tells me you want to be a lawyer." I glared over at Beth for just a second before turning my attention back to her friend. I smiled and nodded. "Oh, was Beth not to tell me that?" she asked, a worried look crossing her features as she once again looked from me to Beth. Beth shrugged her shoulders, and narrowed her eyes at me.

"No. Not at all. That's fine." I said finally. Things had started to get uncomfortable, and the blonde had done nothing wrong. "Yes. I do. More than anything." Casey turned back to me, with a lovely smile. Lovely? I never use that word! Ugh.

"That is so wonderful, luv. I am going to be attending Oxford Medical, but for a long time I was torn between the two; Oxford Medical, or Oxford Law. Medical won out, though, I'm afraid." she said with a shrug. We moved forward as the line moved, and Beth paid for all of our tickets, much to my disdain, but she insisted.

Casey looked around the grounds seemingly utterly pleased.

"This is all so charming." she gushed. "How wonderful to have this in your hometown every year." Without discussion Beth and I automatically headed for the concourse to get our ride arm bands. Casey followed our lead, and let the man snap her neon pink band on, and smiled at us both. "What shall we ride first, girls?" she asked, staring at all the rides that surrounded us.

"I wanna do the Zipper!" Beth exclaimed. I glanced over at the ride, the small covered cars that held people flopping every which way, and shook my head.

"Un uh. No way. You know I won't go upside down, Beth." I said, glaring. She grinned at me.

"Still a chicken, Em?" she asked with a raised brow.

"Absolutely." I stated. Casey chuckled.

"I'm afraid I'm with Emily on this one, luv." she said, placing her hand on Beth's shoulder. Beth looked disappointed.

"Okay, okay. We can skip it."

"Absolutely not!" Casey said, walking off toward the ride. Beth looked over at me, and I shrugged. What was she doing!? No way was I getting on that thing. I had managed to avoid it for the past fifteen years, and had lived quite a fine life. "Go on then, Beth. We'll wait for you." Beth looked at the long line, and shook her head.

"Nah. I'll do it later. The line's really long, and-"

"Go." Casey said, her eyes narrowed, one long arm pointing. Without another word, Beth headed toward the line of people. I stared at the blonde in amazement. I had never seen anyone get Beth to do anything once she'd set her mind to it. Even I had a tough time.

"How'd you do that?" I asked, incredulous.

"What?" Casey asked, leading us toward a near-by bench. We sat.

"Beth is one of the most stubborn people I have ever known in my entire life." I said, glancing over at my friend, then back to the blonde who was grinning.

"She is, isn't she?" we both laughed. "Yes, well, t'isn't very easy, but I am quite persistent, and much more stubborn than she is." she turned to me and winked. I grinned back.

"So, what made you decide to go into medicine instead of law?"

Casey turned to me, and we began the most intense, interesting discussion about law, and the good and bad of it in the United States. She was incredibly insightful, and even explained some of the practices of Europe. I watched her as she talked, watched how she moved, and suddenly it dawned on me. She and I were a lot alike. We thought much the same way, and saw things much the same way, especially where law and politics were concerned. I could have easily imagined her in a court room, standing before the members making her summation, and convincing all present of her case. She had charisma, intelligence, and the innocent face of an angel.

As I watched her talk, I realized that though she'd decided on medicine, she'd be just as good at that. Her likability was immense, as well as her obvious compassion and kindness. She told me of her mother's dying from MS, and how she had stayed by her bedside, working with the doctors and nurses, learning their trade, and the thought of being able to help someone live, be the force behind their survival, or help their death's be as painless as possible, had been her determining factor. I saw what Beth saw, and I understood. My anger and jealousy with Beth dissipated with each word Casey spoke, and each touch of my arm or knee as she explained something, or to emphasize a point. She was an incredible human being, and I felt honored to have been able to meet and talk to her. I felt at peace.

Until I caught them by the bathrooms.

I watched as Rebecca slept, her feature still and peaceful. Her breathing was even and regular, so I laid down next to her on my back, my arms over my head. Instinctively she cuddled up next to me, her head resting upon my breast, arm across my stomach. I reached down and absently ran my fingertips over the smooth skin of her forearm as I stared up at the dark ceiling.

After a long afternoon of going horse from screaming on rides like the Arctic Express, the Sea Dragon, and Bumper Cars, we all decided to get some lunch. Baskets of cheeseburgers and fries in hand, we found a spot of grass under the shade of some tall trees. We laughed and joked, occasionally throwing a fry or two, mostly Casey and I ganging up on Beth. She never got mad; she just got even.

"You wouldn't. No, Beth, please, no!" I cried out as the cold water from Beth's cup spilled over my head, and ran down my face and neck. The chunks of ice settled nicely in my bra and in my lap. Beth tossed the cup into a near-by trash can with a triumphant smile as she plopped down on the grass again. I glared at her from under sopping bangs. "I cannot believe you did that. You are evil, Beth. Do you know that?"

"Yup." she grinned, leaning back on her hands. Casey glanced from one to the other with a bewildered smile on her face.

"I can't believe you just did that to your best friend, luv." she breathed, taking in my wet T-shirt, and shorts.

"I warned her not to throw that fry."

"Well yes, but," one look at Beth told Casey all she needed to know. "Well, perhaps I should watch myself then." Beth winked at her.

We managed to find a bathroom near the Bud tent, and I hurried in to try and dry as much of myself as I could. The day was hot, and the water had actually felt good, but wearing a wet, white shirt was not high on my list of top priorities in life. I smiled and shook my head as I stared at myself in the mirror. I had no comb with me, and did I ever need one. I ran my fingers through the tangled strands as best I could before pulling it all back into a tail. With one final glance, I walked out of the bathroom into the late afternoon heat again. Beth and Casey were not where they had been when I'd gone in. Drawing my brows, I looked around when I heard a low giggle coming from behind the building that backed up to a dark alley made up of trailers from big rigs and tents. I followed the noise, and stopped cold. Beth was pushed up against the side of a green trailer, Casey pressed against her, their hands roaming as they kissed passionately. I could only stare, not sure what to think. My eyes darted down to Beth's hand as she reached down and cupped one side of the blonde's butt, pulling their bodies closer together. Casey moaned softly.

I wanted to leave, to just walk away and pretend I had seen nothing, but I could not move. Beth had told me about the nature of her relationship with Casey, but deep down I had not believed it, had tried to see Casey as just a friend of Beth's, and no more. But then it was before my eyes in living color. No pretending on that one. Beth and Casey were lovers. Then that meant that Beth was, that Beth was....

I turned and walked out of that darkened alley, and headed back toward the crowds that bustled about, wanting to be with them, be where I understood, and felt comfortable. I stood just at the edge of the main-beaten path, my arms crossed over my chest as I tried to catch my breath. I felt a hand gently lay on my shoulder, but did not turn toward the owner.

"Em. Em, please look at me." I couldn't. I shook my head, and looked down at my sandals. "Em, please." Beth's voice was soft, and somewhat shaky. "I'm sorry. You weren't meant to see that." I swallowed back my shock.

"It's okay, Beth." I whispered. "Not a big deal."

I could feel her eyes on me as she studied me, weighing my words against what she knew of me. Finally she spoke, lightly squeezing my shoulder.

"I guess we kinda need to talk when we get home, huh."

"If you want to, Beth. We don't need to. I understand."

"Do you?"

I finally glanced up at her, saw the tortured look in those blue eyes. I smiled a bit. Did I? No. Not really.

"I don't know. I think I'm a little confused right now." she nodded.

"Fair enough."


I sat up with a groan. I hated that damn alarm clock. With red, heavy eyes I looked around our dark room. Isn't the sun supposed to be up by, I glanced at the clock, four in the morning? Oh, god. I plopped back into the pillows.

"What time is it?" Rebecca mumbled as she cuddled up against me, her warm breath tickling my neck.

"Early. Entirely too early." I answered, running my fingers through her hair.

"I thought so." she muttered. She hugged my side tighter as I continued to stroke her hair, which could nearly hypnotize her. She sighed contentedly. "You know you're going to give me a fro if you keep doing that." she mumbled nearly unintelligible into my neck. I chuckled, and kissed the top of her head. "We're supposed to get up about now, aren't we?"

"Yup." I breathed with a sigh. She groaned again, but pushed herself up so that she lay over me, her weight supported by her arms.

"How are you this morning, baby?" she asked, brushing a few stray strands away from my face. I rubbed small circles into her back.

"I'm okay. Didn't sleep much last night."

"Sweetie." she whispered, leaning down to gently kiss me. I hugged her to me, needing to feel her warmth and strength.

I had tried to lighten up the mood of the day as best I could, but by time we reached Beth's house, the day was lost. Both Beth and Casey were uncharacteristically quiet. They did not touch each other, or really look at each other. I may have been totally confused about how I felt, but I did not want them to have to feel they had to walk on egg shells around me. It was my problem to figure out, and I could be adult enough to do it.

Casey cut the engine of the truck, and we all sat in the truck for a few moments, no one saying a word. I held my breath, not sure what would happen next. Finally Beth broke the silence.

"Em, come with me." she opened her door, and helped me get out of the massive cab, then lead me down the street. I knew where we were going, and walked along side her, both basking in the early evening breeze that had started to ease the heat of the day.

"I had fun today, Beth." I said as we turned onto the path that would lead us to the Bowl. She turned to me with a partial smile and nodded.

"Me, too."

We went to our regular spot, and both plopped down onto the rock lip of the creek. I stayed quiet as I could almost hear the thoughts whirling around Beth's mind. She just needed a moment to collect them and find a good place to start.

"You know, lately I've been thinking a lot about things. How different we are from when we were kids." she turned to me with that crooked grin I loved so much. "Remember when we were like eleven or twelve, and we went camping with Billy?"

"Yeah." I smiled. "We had fun."

"Yes we did." Beth picked a handful of rocks, and one by one began to toss them into the still water, causing ripples to spread out, and eventually disappear. "Remember when I asked you if we'd still be friends when we got older?" I nodded, watching the light bounce over the tiny waves.

"I said we'd be friends forever." I mumbled absently.

"Do you still believe that?"

I looked over at her for a short minute, just taking in how she looked at that moment; the dying rays of the sun had somehow managed to come down from the Heavens and capture all that was Beth. It's brilliant light brought out the red highlights in her dark hair, the breeze picking up strands, holding them out to create a halo of gold around her face. She was beautiful. I stared into her eyes, and nodded with a smile. She smiled back.

"I hope so." she turned back to the water and continued to throw her rocks. "You know, you really weren't supposed to see that today. I'm sorry. Things just kind of got out of hand." I chuckled quietly.

"It happens, I guess." I couldn't help but think back to that night during New Year's. Apparently she had not forgotten about it, either.

"I think we already found that out, though, didn't we?" I turned and met her gaze, and nodded. We both smiled; a secret smile that only we knew the answer to.

"So, you're really into girls, huh?" she nodded without hesitation.

"Completely." she turned and stared over the tree tops as the sun disappeared altogether. "I think I always knew, just didn't know the words to say, you know?" she turned back to me.

"I think I always knew, too."

We hurried around the house to make sure that we had everything, and that Simon had enough food and water to last for a few days, and hurried out to the garage to load up the Pathfinder.

The early morning air was bone chillingly cold as Rebecca pulled out of our neighborhood, and got us heading out to La Guardia Airport. I sipped from my travel mug of coffee as I stared out the side window, watching the dark shops pass until we hit the freeway, and then saw nothing but cement bridges, and street lights along with the small flow of traffic that ebbed around us. In another hour or so these streets would be packed with people commuting to work. Even on a Saturday. I listened as my lover talked about her Biology II class, and a student she had that she suspected was a lesbian, and struggling with it.

"It's hard being young." I said. Isn't that the truth.

Three days before Beth and I were to start high school, Casey left to fly home. Early in the afternoon before she left, she came to my house, and asked me to walk with her. I gladly accepted.

We strolled down our street, and turned toward the neighborhood park, all the while she asked me different questions about certain houses that caught her eye, or asked who the family walking on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street was. Finally we hit the park, and headed toward the swings.

"I'm so glad I came here." she said quietly, watching some birds play in a near-by tree.

"Me, too." I said with a smile, which she returned.

"Beth spoke so highly of you, I couldn't wait to meet you. You don't know how deeply she loves and values you, Emily. It's quite extraordinary the friendship the two of you share at such a young age." She was quiet for a moment, then spoke again, her voice low, serious. "Emily, I fear Beth will go through a great struggle in the next few years. I once knew a girl like her in high school. Wanda, was her name. Sure on the outside, but not so sure on the inside." she looked at me to make sure I was paying attention. I hung on her every word. "Wanda killed herself during our junior year. I suppose why I'm telling you this is because Beth is young. She found who she really is at a young age, and will be very alone for awhile. She is strong, but Emily, please don't give up on her. Stay by her side, and support her."

"I always have." I said quietly. She smiled, and gently tapped my chin with a finger.

"I know. You and your family have helped her through so much. Lord knows that mother of hers is a complete hag." she hopped off the swing, and reached for my hand. We walked around the park for a bit, hand in hand. "Can I write to you sometimes?" I looked up at her and smiled.

"Yeah. I'd like that."

"Great. Me, too." she stopped us, and leaned down to plant a small kiss on my cheek. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Emily. Do take care of yourself."

"I will. You, too, okay?"

"Did you ever hear from her again?" Rebecca asked, as we waited at a stop light. I glanced over at her, and nodded.

"Yeah. She wrote off and on for about two years, then not a word. Never knew what happened to her, or where she ended up."

We sat at our gate, our two carry-on bags at our feet. Rebecca worked on some papers that she had to grade, and didn't want to have to worry about over the weekend, and I stared out the huge windows into the early morning that was still dark. I stared at my reflection in the window, my image hazy and double edged.

With a sigh I glanced down at the book I had brought, but sighed again as I could not concentrate on the words or the story, having read the page I was on three times already. I stared out the window again.

My eyes opened, and I blinked several times as the bright, early morning light streamed in through my curtains, and into my eyes.

“Ugh.” I muttered, as I glanced over at the clock across the room. It was almost seven. Time to get up. The first day of high school. As the thought entered my mind, I felt a wave of excitement and nerves fill me. With strong resolve, I slid my legs over the side of the bed, and planted my feet on the floor, then tried to remember what it had been that had woken me up in the first place. With drawn brows, I walked over to the window, and looked down to find my aunt's car in the drive. What on earth was she doing here so early? Shouldn't she be at work? With a shrug, I let the curtains fall back into place, and headed for the closet.

As a Freshman, I had to make a statement on the first day; let those upper classmen know who they were dealing with. I frowned as I pondered this. Just who were they dealing with? Emily Thomas, Freshman extraordinare. But then, why should they care about that? Darla's words bounced around in my head, then I realized that Darla was full of shit. Beth was right. I just wanted to be me.

I picked out a pair of comfortable blue jeans, and a plain, white sleeveless top. Not too flashy, not too boring. In all honesty, I did not want to stick out. Well, not yet, anyway. Let a girl get used to her surroundings, first.

Feeling pretty good with my long, blonde hair pulled back into a tight tail, my backpack hanging from one shoulder, I made my way down the stairs, and into the kitchen where my mom and Kitty sat at the table and talked quietly over coffee. The conversation seemed serious as their heads were nearly pushed together, nose to nose.

I stood in the doorway and watched them for a second, waiting for one of them to spot me, and tell me whether I could go in or not. I did not want to interrupt one of their infamous, top-secret talks. No one bothered, so I had to resort to my own methods.

I cleared my throat softly, to no avail. It must be serious. I cleared it again, a bit louder. Still no go.

“Ahem!” My mother looked up first, Aunt Kitty looking away as she wiped one of her eyes with a napkin, then looked up at me. I smiled as sweetly as I could. “Uh, sorry to bother you. You looked so intent on your conversation and all,”

“Oh, honey. I'm sorry.” My mother said, reaching for me. I drew my brows in confusion, but went to her to find myself being engulfed in a monster, one-armed hug. “Is everything okay?” I asked, pulling away, and looking down at them both. Kitty smiled, but I could tell she'd been crying. Her normally bright green eyes were dull and bloodshot.

“Yeah. Everything's fine.” My mother said brightly. “Want some breakfast, baby?”

“Nah.” I muttered, heading over to the fridge for my lunch that I had packed the night before.

“Are you sure, honey? You have to eat something, Emmy. Some toast?” I shook my head. “An egg?” again, shook my head. “A bagel?”

“I'm fine. I'll take something with me.” In truth my stomach was in knots, and I was in no way shape or form hungry. I just wanted to get the day over with , and get home in one piece. I poured myself a small glass of orange juice, and sipped it as I leaned against the counter and stared at them as they stared back.

“I can't believe my baby's all grown up and in high school now.” My mother said, her eyes beginning to fill. She grabbed a napkin and dabbed at the corner of her eye.

“I know. I remember when Billy started.” Aunt Kitty said, sipping from her coffee. She took a deep breath, then stood. “I better get going, Frankie.” She said to my mother. She was the only person on the planet who could get away with calling Francis Thomas Frankie, and living to tell the tale. She leaned down and gave my mom a hug, then turned to me. “Want a ride, kiddo?” A wide grin spread across my face.

“Yeah!” arriving on my first day in a car as opposed to a bus? Hell, yeah. “Can Beth come, too?”

“Course.” She turned back to my mom. “I'll call you later and let you know what I found out, okay?”

“Okay. Talk to you later, honey.”

Aunt Kitty turned back to me with one of her winning smiles, and lead the way to the front door.

I was happy to see that Rebecca and I had the three seats to ourselves. I hated being squished between Rebecca and some stranger. My lover always wanted the window seat, and that was fine with me as I usually slept on the plane, anyway.

We got ourselves as comfortable as one could get in a big metal flying tube, and I settled in for a good nap. I listened with closed eyes as the pilots prepped the plane for take off, and the folks around us got settled into their seats, the overhead compartments closing with a quiet click. I took a deep breath as the realization of where we were headed stole over me once again. I thought about Nora Sayers. Was she still even alive? I had not talked to her, nor heard anything about her in at least a dozen years. If she was still there, I wondered if we'd see her at the funeral. Was Jim Sayers going to travel across the country to be there? He hadn't when Beth had been a child, so I could not imagine what would make him change. This was not going to be easy.

Aunt Kitty's car drove up to the front of our high school, and I peered out at it. It was a large red brick building, at least four stories high. It was an old school, one of the oldest in the city. Large, dark windows stared back at me. For just a moment I imagined I saw faces in those windows, staring at me, sizing me up. It was a silly thought, I realized, but I was scared. With a deep breath, I opened the car door. Aunt Kitty stopped me with a hand on my arm. I turned to look at her.

“Hey, you'll do fine, kiddo. You need anything, you don't be afraid to call, okay?” I nodded, and with an air of confidence that I absolutely did not feel, I climbed out of the car followed by my best friend.

Beth and I walked toward the large building, my aunt's car disappearing from sight as we passed through the throng of other kids. Groups, couples, singles, any possible combination. I was so glad to have Beth at my side. Part of me wanted to grab her hand. I glanced over at her to see her looking around, gauging people as she went. I was impressed. She actually looked how I wanted to feel. She always looked how I wanted to feel.

“Are you nervous, Em?” she asked out of the side of her mouth.

“Yup.” I muttered back. “You?”

“Hell yeah.” She said, smiling at some girl who walked by. I narrowed my eyes and looked up at her. Her eyes were looking around, her body calm and relaxed. She looked like she didn't have a care in the world.

“You're kidding me, right?” I asked, stopping us just outside of the front double doors. She shook her head.

“No. I'm not. I want to get the hell out of here.” I grinned, and lightly punched her in the shoulder, then moved us on.

High school is thought as this big, bad monster to anyone who has not been there. As an elementary student, the average high school student appears to be like some sort of anomaly, as there were only children, and then there were adults. No way was there anything between these sacred positions.

As a student of middle school, the high school student becomes a god or goddess, because they have done the ultimate. They have left childhood, yet are not the enemy as the adult is. They are something to emulate, and want to be.

Now that I was the high school student, I realized just how screwed up my way of thinking had been. Being a teenager was not all that it had been cracked up to be. In other words, being a teen was hard!

Part 5

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