Please see part 1 for all disclaimers and copyright information.
Drew knew there was a problem as soon as Sean entered the dojang. She went directly to the rear of the room, stored her gear, donned her uniform and began to warm up. She hadn’t greeted anyone or even looked at anyone—not even Drew. Drew considered speaking to her and then thought better of it. Whatever it was, it was none of her concern. Drew was running class that night while Master Cho and Sabum Roma were at a seminar. After calling the class to order, she spent a half hour going over sparring drills. Sean seemed fine, although withdrawn.
"Get your sparring gear on," Drew called.
The class hurried to comply, and they lined up for further instructions.
"I want you to concentrate on techniques—hand combinations, double kicks, moving out of your opponent’s kicking range and into your own. Use this opportunity to practice the things we’ve been doing in class."
Everything went well with the lower ranks. Drew watched them carefully, urging the more reticent under belts to make body contact and to accept being hit.
"The point of practice is to learn to accept pain in a controlled situation. You cannot afford to be overcome by pain during a real attack. You have to absorb the pain—let it flow through you and be gone. When you let it in, it loses its power. Try again!"
"Gail, Sean. You’re up. Black belt rules—remember to guard your faces."
Drew was surprised by the reluctance that showed in the two students as they bowed to one another. Neither of them attempted eye contact.
"Free spar positions. Begin!"
Sean looked unusually tight—moving stiffly, without her usual graceful transitions. Gail, on the other hand, was uncharacteristically timid. When she had the opportunity to make contact, she didn’t. Finally, Drew stopped the fight.
"You’re fighting like beginners, both of you. You wouldn’t last two minutes in a real fight. Now I want you to fight the way I know you can—I want body contact, I want head strikes, I want crisp, focused attacks. Face each other!"
Sean faced Gail for an instant and then stepped away. Facing Drew she bowed and said, "I’d like to be excused, ma’am."
"Sit down, Sean," Drew said quietly. "Anne, you’re up with Gail."
Drew waited until the last student had left before speaking to Sean, who still sat at the rear of the room. She sat down across from Sean, her legs folded beneath her.
"What’s up?" she asked quietly.
Sean looked up, her eyes betraying her misery. "I couldn’t fight her," was all she could manage. She didn’t want to say more, she was too close to tears.
Sean passed her hand across her face and swallowed hard. "I was afraid I would hurt her. I was afraid—of my anger."
"What’s going on between the two of you?"
Sean looked away. "It’s private."
"Not anymore. You brought it to the floor of this dojang. Now it concerns me."
Sean stood up suddenly. "No, it doesn’t," she said tightly, turning away.
Drew rose swiftly, reaching instinctively for Sean’s shoulders. She had heard the tears. She turned Sean to face her and suddenly Sean was in her arms. When she felt the sobs, she pulled her closer. Drew held her silently, stroking her hair gently, cradling her against her body.
"I’m sorry," Sean managed at last, her head tucked beneath Drew’s chin. The solidity of Drew’s body felt like a haven.
"Tell me," Drew said, not releasing her hold on the woman in her arms.
"Gail and Ellen are having an affair," Sean said at last. "Susan is heart-broken, and she’s drinking again. I know it’s not really Gail’s fault—or anyone’s fault—but I’m so worried about Susan—she was all I could think about when I looked at Gail. I wanted to kill her."
Drew massaged the tight muscles in Sean’s neck as she spoke. "You did the right thing in recognizing your anger, in refusing to fight. I’m sorry about Susan. I’m sorry for Ellen."
Sean began to relax as Drew’s words reached her. She was so frightened for Susan, and so exhausted. Without thinking, she tightened her arms around Drew’s waist, drawing solace from her nearness. Slowly she became aware of Drew’s fingers in her hair, of Drew’s chest and thighs pressed against her own. She slid her hands higher on Drew’s back, following the urgent demands of her body. She felt the heat of Drew’s body against her face and the slight tremor in the arm that encircled her.
Instinctively she tilted her head up, eyes searching for Drew’s. The blue eyes that met hers were unguarded, and what she saw in them brought a soft moan to her lips. There was wanting there—and need.
Their eyes locked and held as Drew lowered her head slowly. Sean moaned again as their lips touched.
And then there was only sensation—heat, liquid softness, muscles straining to fuse, hands grasping. Two forms melding, legs opening, intertwining. When Drew’s hand dropped to her buttocks and pulled Sean roughly against her thigh, Sean stumbled on weak knees.
She clutched at the strong shoulders and pulled her mouth away from the fierce kiss. "I’ll fall," she gasped.
Drew groaned deep in her chest, burying her face in Sean’s neck. She held Sean, her breath torn from her, shaking. Sean clung to her, every cell on fire.
"I’m sorry," Drew mumbled, her face still hidden, "I’m sorry."
"Don’t you dare be sorry," Sean warned, gasping, "don’t you dare!"
Finally Drew stepped away, her hands at her sides.
Sean stilled her words with gentle fingers to her lips.
"Please, please don’t apologize," Sean said softly. "It was too wonderful to spoil."
Drew stared at her, a million conflicting emotions boiling within her. She wanted to run, she wanted to take Sean in her arms, she wanted time to stop so she would never see another thing except the flush on Sean’s face and the desire in her eyes. All she could do was stand mute as Sean gathered her things and quietly left the room.
It was midnight and Sean was frantic. Susan’s car was gone, and Sean was terrified she had gone out drinking. She had been drinking steadily for three weeks, despite Sean’s efforts to keep alcohol out of the house. At least until now she hadn’t drunk while driving. At the sound of the front door closing she leapt to her feet.
"Yeah, it’s me." Susan made her way tiredly into the library and slumped onto the couch. Sean reached for her hand.
"Where have you been?"
"I went to a meeting."
"Thank god," Sean sighed in relief. "How was it?"
"Pretty awful. I just loved standing up and saying, ‘Hi, I’m Susan; I’m an alcoholic and I’ve been sober six hours.’"
"Six hours, six minutes—you’re sober! Oh, Susan, I’m so glad."
Susan turned to her, tears in her eyes.
"What am I going to do, Sean? I miss her so damn much. I don’t think I can stand the pain sober!"
Sean pulled her close. "Talk about it, Suse—talk about it. Let me carry some of the pain for you. I love you, Susan—let me help you."
Susan cried and Sean cried with her.
"What should I do, Sean," Susan asked at last. "How can I get her back?"
"Do you want her back?"
"God, yes. I can’t imagine my life without her. I miss her laughter, I miss her crazy humor, I miss how safe she made me feel—everything aches for her! Can you understand wanting someone that much?"
"Yes," said Sean softly, "I can."
"I don’t know where to start."
"You’ll have to start with yourself, Susan. You need to ask yourself how much you’re willing to give—not give up—but give, for what you want. When you know, tell her. If it’s what she needs too, you’ll have a place to start."
Susan looked down at her hands. "What if she doesn’t want me anymore?" she asked in a small voice.
"She does, Susan. She does."
"Good evening, Master Cho, good evening Master Clark, Sabum Roma," Sean said as she entered the dojang. As usual, she was the first student there. Each of the black belts returned her bow, but Drew’s eyes lingered on her as the others turned away. Sean met her gaze and held it, searching for a flicker of welcome. As was happening more often in the last few weeks, it was there. A softening of her features, the hint of a smile, a heaviness to her hooded stare—Drew might seek to hide it, but Sean felt it like a caress. And she knew that Drew remembered.
"Class will be only one hour tonight," Master Cho announced. "We will have a black belt workout for an hour after the regular class. Sean, you will join us, yes?"
"Yes, thank you, ma’am," Sean replied eagerly.
After the other students were dismissed, Sean, Drew and Chris lined up for forms. These were a series of choreographed movements designed to simulate defensive and offensive movements against imaginary attackers. As one progressed in rank, the forms became more complex. When Sean completed all the forms she had been taught, she stood at attention while Sabum Roma and Master Clark completed theirs. Sean watched Drew avidly, taking pleasure not only in the beauty of the forms, but in the beauty of the performer.
Janet Cho watched Sean watching Drew, as she had done for many weeks, seeing the attraction grow. She was surprised by Sean’s patience—it was an unusual trait in Americans. There were instances of unmistakable desire that she was sure would have embarrassed Sean had she known they were visible to others, but just as often the look was one of simple, pure pleasure, as if Drew’s presence alone were enough to satisfy her. Such unselfish appreciation was a rare form of love. She hoped that Drew would find her way to accepting it.
Sean stood to one side of the room as Sabum Roma and Master Clark prepared to spar. Drew was the more experienced sparrer, but Chris Roma was agile and spirited. She managed several hits before Drew backed her into a corner and proceeded to pummel her with rapid hand flurries. At last, Drew spun three hundred and sixty degrees and launched a spinning back-kick at Chris’s head. Chris missed the block. At barely an inch from Chris’s temple, Drew stopped the kick that could easily have killed her.
"You can’t stop that kick with an arm block, Sabum Roma. Not without a broken arm and a good deal of damage to your head. If you’re trapped in close like that, the best you can do is drop to the ground and attempt a knee or groin strike."
Chris Roma bowed deeply. "Thank you, Master Clark."
"Sean," Master Cho called, "now you will spar Master Clark."
"Guard your face."
Sean almost smiled. "Yes, ma’am."
When she faced Drew, Sean’s eyes were shining with anticipation. When she raised her eyes after their bow, the calm focus was once again apparent. Drew’s face, as always, was expressionless.
Immediately Sean dropped to the floor, swinging one leg around to catch Drew behind the knee. Drew went down, tucking one leg under her into a back roll and came up again smoothly. As Sean followed her, preparing to jab, Drew snapped a front kick that Sean only partially blocked. It landed with enough force to rock her backwards, and that was the opening Drew needed. Again came the rapid hand flurry, the overpowering forward momentum of a ferocious fighter, and Sean did the only thing she could do. She retreated until her back was to the wall. And then she blocked one blow after another until she realized she couldn’t win. She would block until she couldn’t raise her arms again, and then she would lose. On the street, she would die. With a tremendous effort, Sean began to punch back until she cleared enough space to get a leg up. And then she kicked at the only target she could reach—she lashed out with an angle kick that skirted under Drew’s guard hand and caught her just under the ribs. She knew better than to kick full power while sparring, but it landed with enough force to cause Drew to grunt and back up another step. Sean slipped out of the corner and back to the center of the room where she could maneuver.
"Halt!" Master Cho called.
Immediately, Drew and Sean stopped and faced each other.
"Bow to your partner!"
They did so, and as they raised their heads, they were both laughing.
"Good work, Sean," Drew exclaimed, rubbing her ribs.
"Thank you, ma’am."
Master Cho couldn’t decide whether to admonish them for their laughter or to overlook it. They had both fought well, and the genuine pleasure on Drew’s face was perhaps reason enough to allow a little lapse in discipline.
After Master Cho formally dismissed them, she said, "We will go out for dinner now, yes?"
Sean wasn’t sure the invitation included her, so she remained silent. Drew was silent as well.
"All of us, yes?"
They took one car to avoid parking problems and drove to a small women-owned restaurant not far from the dojang.
"You did well tonight," Drew said to Sean as they rode in the back seat.
"Thank you, ma’am."
"Where did you learn that leg sweep?"
"I’ve been watching you."
"Have you now?" Drew said softly.
Sean looked at her and nodded. "Yes."
The meal was pleasantly relaxed. Master Cho spoke of her training as a child, and what it had been like for her as a woman in the martial arts. Sean was captivated, and it was only Drew’s presence across the table from her that distracted her from her teacher’s stories. Whenever she would glance at Drew, her blue eyes were upon her. And she was certain she recognized what she saw in them. She only wished she knew what to do about it. She couldn’t forget the way she had felt with Drew’s arms around her, with her hands upon her, with her mouth claiming her—she had lain down to sleep with her body on fire too many nights to forget any of it.
"What? I’m sorry," she said.
"I said, would you like to walk back? It’s really not that far," Drew said from across the table.
"Yes," Sean said, "yes."
They bid goodnight to Janet and Chris in front of the restaurant and began walking.
"How’s Susan doing?" Drew asked.
"She’s hurting, but she’s better. She’s been sober for six weeks."
Sean sighed. "When she hurts, I hurt. But I think she’ll be okay. I’m not so sure about her and Ellen, though. I think Ellen is still seeing Gail."
"That’s tough. I’m sorry."
Sean smiled. "Thanks. You helped, you know."
Drew looked uncomfortable. "I don’t know what to say about that night—"
"Well, I do," Sean said in frustration. "You held me, you comforted me—and then you kissed me. And I don’t know any other way to say this, but I want to kiss you again."
Drew stopped in her tracks and stared at Sean. She refused to allow her head to rule her now. "What I want to do, I can’t do here," Drew whispered hoarsely. "My apartment—it’s not far. Will you come?"
"Oh yes," Sean said.
Sean ran her fingers over Drew’s chest and rested her hand upon her breast. She turned her cheek where it rested on Drew’s shoulder and pressed her lips to the soft skin.
"I knew you would be like this," Sean murmured.
Drew shifted and slipped one thigh between Sean’s legs.
"How?" she asked as her hands began to stroke Sean’s back and buttocks.
"Fierce," Sean said with a gasp, turning so her breasts were against Drew’s, "gentle—oh god." She lost her voice as Drew pulled her harder against her thigh.
"I want you so much," Drew cried into Sean’s hair, "so much!"
"Oh, Drew—" Sean moaned, pulling Drew over onto her. "Please, please, now."
At first the strokes were so tender it was like a whisper against her. Her hips arched, seeking more, her breath rasped in her chest. When she thought she would scream with need, she felt her inside—strong, demanding, filling her. Her hands clutched the strong shoulders above her, her teeth sank into the tender flesh of Drew’s arm. As the rhythm increased, a cry tore from her.
"Don’t stop, please don’t stop. Oh god, Drew—"
Drew dropped her head to Sean’s neck, whispering, "I’ve got you, Sean—come to me."
Sean sobbed out her pleasure, dimly aware that Drew was groaning as she thrust against her.
Finally, they both lay spent and gasping. Drew moved her fingers gently, starting to withdraw.
"Don’t," Sean gasped, covering Drew’s hand with her own. "If you leave me now, I won’t be able to bear it."
Drew began thrusting slowly. Her voice was close to Sean’s ear, teasing, "Can you bear it if I stay?"
Sean turned her head, capturing Drew’s lips, her tongue seeking. When she pulled her head back, they were both gasping. "Just take me, Drew. Take me!"
"I will," Drew groaned, fighting back her own desire. "I will."
Drew awoke, sweat-covered, crying out in the aftermath of the nightmare.
"Oh god," she gasped, shaking her head frantically to dispel the image.
"What is it?" Sean asked, sitting up amidst the tangled sheets, one hand stroking the wet and trembling back.
"Just a bad dream," Drew muttered through clenched teeth. "I’m sorry."
"Don’t be," came the soothing voice. "Can you tell me?"
Sean kept silent, continuing her gentle strokes until the tight muscles under her fingers began to relax. Finally, Drew lay back down beside her, reaching for her hand.
"It’s almost morning," Drew said.
"I know." Sean laced her fingers through Drew’s and raised the other woman’s hand to her lips. Her skin was soft, slightly salty. Sean loved the taste of her. Following her instincts, she moved to kiss the swell of breast, lingering over the sensitive pinnacle. She was rewarded with a gasp from Drew as she nipped gently, then continued her exploration over the sweep of abdomen to the hollow above her thighs. She kicked the covers away as she settled herself between Drew’s legs, her fingers massaging the firmly muscled thighs. She pressed upward, seeking, searching, unconsciously following the subtle rise of Drew’s hips that led her inward, deeper. Her first taste of another woman was indescribable—intoxicating, addicting—so rich, primordially female. Drew tangled her fingers in Sean’s hair and pulled her closer, guiding her with her hands, urging her to feast. And feast she did—joyously, powerfully, humbly—awed by the ability to give such pleasure. She gripped Drew’s hips, preventing her from pulling away at the crest of her orgasm, wanting the connection to last eternally. When finally Drew forced her mouth away, gasping, "I can’t take anymore," Sean felt bereft—severed too quickly from the heart of ecstasy.
Sean rested her cheek against Drew’s leg. She felt incredible—she had never imagined such beauty, such exquisite, tender power. To give such pleasure at once thrilled and amazed her. She felt utterly satisfied, wordlessly full.
"Come here," Drew whispered, drawing her up beside her. She pressed a kiss to Sean’s forehead, enfolding her in her arms.
Sean settled into the curves and planes of Drew’s body, one hand reaching to stroke her face.
"Are you all right?" Drew asked.
Sean laughed. "All right? I am so completely all right, I may never stop smiling. I have never experienced anything like that in my life."
Drew turned her head in surprise. "Never? I thought—" her voice trailed off.
"It may run in the family, but I’m a slow starter," Sean admitted. "But, now that I know, you’re in trouble."
Drew laughed shakily. "No regrets?"
"Regrets?" Sean said, suddenly serious. She leaned up on one arm to face Drew. "You are beautiful, and making love with you has easily been the most beautiful experience of my life. My only regret is that I didn’t meet you fifteen years ago."
"Fifteen years ago," Drew murmured, her eyes distant. "No, it would have been too soon."
"Probably," Sean answered. "Maybe now is exactly the right time."
"Maybe," Drew said quietly.
"Oh god," Sean uttered, "I never even thought—are you involved? I never asked—"
"No," Drew said abruptly, "that’s not what I meant."
Sean knew there was something, and she had an intuition that that something was the source of Drew’s nightmare, and the pain Drew tried to hide. She didn’t probe, hoping there would be a time when Drew would trust her enough to share that pain with her.
It was five A.M. when Sean entered the still house. Susan was asleep on the library couch. Sean attempted to cross to the stairs without awakening her, but a sleepy voice called to her.
"Can you still walk?"
Sean laughed, flopping into the chair before the fireplace.
"Did you spend the night doing what I think you’ve been doing?"
Sean blushed. "If you mean did I spend the night making mad, passionate love with an incredibly beautiful woman—the answer is ‘Yes.’"
"Wow—holy shit—oh my god—my sister—my sister has come out!"
"Come out is not the word for it—reborn? Yes, that might begin to describe it. How in god’s name has the world managed to keep this a secret? Why isn’t every woman a lesbian?"
Susan’s laughter, her first laughter in weeks, rang through the room.
"Oh Sean—you’ve caught it. Lesbian psychosis—in full bloom already!"
"Oh, shut up! So what if all I can think about is getting her into bed again? God—all I have to do is think of her and I’m—"
"Enough! You’ll embarrass me!"
"Why didn’t you tell me?" Sean shrieked.
"How incredible it is?"
Susan grew suddenly still. "It is, isn’t it?"
Sean rose to sit beside her.
"Hey—I’m sorry. This isn’t a great time for you, and here I am swooning."
Susan hugged her. "That’s okay. One of us should be getting some," she tried to joke. "So tell me really—what’s going on? Besides the great sex, I mean."
Sean grew quiet. "I’m a little afraid to think about it, Suse. This is all new to me. I’ve been really attracted to her for weeks, and when she invited me to her apartment, all I could think was that I wanted her to touch me. I didn’t think about what it meant. And now all I can think about is touching her again. I think I might have skipped a few steps."
"Oh, you know—dating, discussing things like monogamy, views on world peace—that kind of thing." Nightmares, secrets, barriers she thought to herself.
"There’s still time for all of that, Sean," Susan said.
"I hope so," Sean murmured.
Continue on to Part 4
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