by Lisa S

Disclaimers: This story contains violence, adult situations, and same sex relationships, which at times are graphic. If this is not suitable for you, please don't read any further.

All characters found in this story are the creation of Lisa S. and are her property exclusively.

Feedback is appreciated. Please send feedback to jdjenkins7@aol.com. Visit Lisa's website Gemini

I dreamed of her last night again. As vivid as always, I was left with the idea of her and no image.

She stood before me, her face in shadows, obscured from my view. Her hands reached out to me, beckoning me forward. Seeming to float, I moved toward her, long slender fingers gently grabbing my wrists, pulling me forward.

Happily I submitted to her embrace, feeling her naked breasts press against mine, her skin silkily brushing against mine, intoxicating me with the sensations. Still, I couldn't see her face, the one part of her I really wanted to see. Frustrated, I tried to cup her face with my hands and force it into the light.

Laughing lightly, she resisted, pulling away completely, turning from me. Watching the muscles in her naked back flow as she walked away, I felt entranced. Sexual desire and lust coursed through me, my blood warming and traveling as my need grew.

My head felt light as I again went to her, this time to a bed that appeared in the room. With a sure touch she pushed me down onto the bed, not that I fought her any way. I was dying to see her, dying to see the face on this woman who had tormented my dreams too often, but I was also hungry for her touch.

With confidence born of shared love, she began to stroke my body, her caresses fanning the flame within me. I know I must have been moaning, but I couldn't hear anything but the sound of my own heartbeat in my ears.

For the thousandth time I let myself sink into her love making, not knowing who she was or where she was. All I knew was that I would spend the rest of my life searching for her.


I could see in her eyes the pain she was feeling. Brilliant blue became hazy as tears formed and fell. I wanted so badly to reach out to her and comfort her.

Unfortunately, she was sitting two tables away and with a man who, though I could only see his back, seemed very possessive, even though he was the cause of her tears.

Staring at her had become an afternoon obsession for me. I'd never seen her before and I'd never see her again, but for some reason she caught my eye, making me forget my afternoon appointments and any sanity I might have still claimed.

I'll be the first to admit that women catch my eye all the time, turning my head so often that I was in a state of permanent whiplash. I liked to look, to study their faces and wonder if I could read their personality through a wrinkle here, an arched brow there. Faces told tales that bodies and minds could not. At least that's what I had always believed. My friend Megan once told me that if I looked at women's bodies the way I did their faces I stood a chance at being what she called a "lazy-eyed lesbian". You know, the kind that will be sweet-talking one woman and then casually be checking out all the women around them. Yes, I looked, but I wasn't looking for sex or a cheap thrill, I was just looking for her.

I know that one day I will see her and I will know by looking at her face that she's the one I've been waiting for. Her face will tell me that she's supposed to be mine. That we're supposed to come together to form one being.

I thought I'd found her many times. I'd see a woman across the room, or walking down the street, and I'd find her face fascinating. I would follow her until I worked up the courage to say something witty, usually something to make her laugh.

Needless to say, I'd heard many different kinds of laughter in my 35 years. But none of them were her.

So, I made the decision to stop the heartbreak and live a celibate life of just work and friends, keeping sex out of my life for good. Don't get me wrong, I like sex and all of that, but I could go without. The act of making love without her was simply an act. Nothing satisfied me in the way that I knew she would. Sitting back, out of the lesbian rat race, I thought I'd give her a chance to come to me. I'd stop looking for her in everything I did. I'd just live. But, I was still preparing my life for her. Saving things that I'd one day want to show her, creating scrapbooks of my life before her.

I know, crazy right? Well, I think so. It's so crazy that sometimes I annoy myself with my obsession with her. I don't know what she'll look like, her age, her hair color, or anything else that would be pertinent to finding her. All I know is that she'll complete me and that I'll want to spend forever with her.

I'd done well with not looking for her. Until today that is. This woman across the restaurant was too intriguing. Too tempting to ignore. Her face told me a thousand things, her eyes expressive and her mouth full and tempting. I could feel my body heat rise as I tried to watch her discretely. I had a clear line of vision. People passed between us, but overall, I could unobstrutively see her and her lunch companion.

Now while she looked to be an angel, he was definitely along the asshole category. I was having serious problems with him. Generally, I'm not the man-hating-penis-destroying kind of lesbian. I don't have a problem with them if they don't have a problem with me. In fact, I cohabitat with one right now, which was as much of a PC statement as it was a money saving deal. But this man that was with her was just too much. Cocky didn't cover the amount of stuck up, self-indulgent pride coming from this man. At least that was what I got from behind him. His posture and poise indicated all of this, as did the reaction he was causing her to have.

The I'm-bigger-than-this -life type of shmuck who went through life on the backs of millions of peons before him. I hated him on sight. The fact that he was causing the woman I was watching to frown often and saying things that caused tears to fill her eyes didn't help his case. I began to envision numerous Lorriena Bobbit type crimes, making a note to find out what kind of punishment she ended up with before I made any rash moves. But that train of thought didn't last long as I gazed at her.

She wasn't right for him. As I studied her face, trying to appear as though something was fascinating on the wall behind her, I could see her misery. It wasn't the kind of misery that grew from a single event, but the kind that had festered over years, forming a mountain of misery within her. Something in me longed to move that mountain for her and to show her that she didn't have to be miserable. There was something akin to an ache inside of me that longed to show her happiness and life.

Once again my mind betrayed me. I wondered if it could be her that I was looking at. If she were the one that I had been searching for. Doubt filled me as I recalled the women before this moment, those that I thought had been the ones, who had only hurt and disappointed me. How could I know anymore, how could I trust myself? How could I trust my heart not to lead me once again into the arms of the wrong woman?

Even as I sit here and debated this with myself, I feel a longing to go over and speak to the woman. Odd how our brain sometimes takes two paths, each path contradictory to the other. But, that's neither here nor there I guess.

"If you think that I'll live like that, you have another thing coming!" She stood up, her hands clenched into fists, her eyes flashing with anger. "I am not your whore!"

This was getting interesting. Very interesting indeed. I watched as she stormed off in the direction of the women's bathroom. And now my dilemma increases. I could go after her and make myself useful. I envisioned walking in and finding her in tears, taking her into my arms and murmuring soft words of comfort into her ear.

Or, I could sit here as I have been for the last hour and a half and wait for the drama to unfold. But, I had to get up from that table and I had to make the trek to the bathroom. What if it was her? What if this was my only chance? If I missed it, would I get another one?

Putting both hands on the table, I pushed myself up and moved the chair back from the table at the same time. The loud screeching of the chair sliding across the floor seemed exceptionally loud to me, but no one else seemed to notice. Breathing deeply, I mentally flexed, trying to create a clear picture in my mind.

One foot in front of the other, I told myself as I walked to the bathroom, my heart pounding in my chest. One more deep breath and I pushed open the door to the women's room.

She wasn't in there. I checked the three stalls, each one of them empty. Turning, I looked into the mirror seeing my reflection staring back at me, the room behind me completely empty.

I had lost her.


"So, you just sat there for almost two hours watching her and didn't say anything to her?" Megan's face registered disbelief and I felt my own face heat up in a blush. I had been telling her of my interesting encounter with the woman at the restaurant.

"What was I supposed to do, walk up and say 'Hey, I think you're supposed to be with me'?" Megan was the only friend I had that knew everything about my quest for the one person who would complete me. She teased me often and made disparaging remarks about my sanity frequently, but overall, she was supportive. Each time I had realized in the past that I still hadn't found her, it was Megan who had put her arms around me and told me not to give up.

"You should have done something. Like, you could have gone up to that man she was with and told him to leave her the fuck alone." She screwed her face up into what I supposed was her version of fierce. With her small build and elfin face she looked like a very upset monkey. I could help myself. I started to laugh loudly. After holding her face for a few moments, she relaxed her facial muscles and began to laugh herself, a bubbly kind of sound escaping from her mouth, making me laugh harder.

Leaning toward her, I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her into a tight bear hug. "Oh M, you really know how to make me lighten up," I said through my laughter.

Hiccupping, she pulled back and gave me a brilliant smile. "That's my job Spooky," she said, using the nickname she'd given to me after the X-Files premiered on TV. "I'm just glad that you've learned to laugh at yourself. You used to be a real pain before that."

She was right. I had been a pain. Mostly because I was in pain. It had been a difficult road to learn to laugh at myself, but once I had, the world became a different place.

Flopping down on her giant king sized bed, Megan starred up at the ceiling. "So now what?"

I flopped down next to her, putting my head against hers and joining the path of her eyes. Her ceiling had those little glow-in-the-dark stars that they sold for kids. She'd created various patterns with them, forming what she called "Star Art". For about a week she seriously considered charging money to go into other people's houses and create these works of art on their ceilings. But, like most of Megan's ideas, it hadn't lasted "When's Tree coming home?"

Tree was short for Theresa, her girlfriend. They'd been together for almost two years, coming close to that dangerous point in lesbian relationships. I wished them luck, having never surpassed the two year mark myself.

Shrugging, Megan's face took on a serious look. "I think she's cheating on me."

Sitting up, I looked at her in shock. Tree was one of those women who were so loyal that they didn't even see anyone else. Her vision was on Megan and that was it. "What? Why do you think that?" I had always thought that if anyone in their relationship would stray, it would have been Megan.

Shrugging again, her eyes didn't leave the ceiling. "I heard her talking the other day with Joanne and when I came around they shut up really quickly and gave me one of THOSE smiles."

I didn't need to ask what she meant, I had seen the smile too many times directed at myself. "But you don't have any proof?"

Finally, Megan turned her head and looked at me, her eyes blazing with hurt. "What proof do I need? She's been spending free time with Joanne these days instead of with me." Turning her head back too look up, she finished quietly, "At least that's what she says."

I felt as though I were the one being cheated on. My chest began to ache and my head grew cloudy. One of the things that Tree and I had in common was our loyalty. I had never, ever thought her capable of cheating on Megan, or at least causing her that much pain.

We lay there in silence for I don't know how long. Megan lost in her thoughts, and me in mine. The woman from the restaurant haunted my thoughts, mingling with my sadness for Megan and my disbelief of Tree's actions.

What was happening to the world where two people couldn't fall in love without something destroying that love? Why had human nature become so damn dishonest. I told myself that it was all bullshit because people had been cheating on each other and hurting each other since time began. It was a never ending cycle that didn't show any sign of stopping in the near future. It all made me so sad that tears began escaping my eyes before I could stop them.

What was the point of looking for completion when there was no guarantee that it would last? What happened to faithfulness and to hope and to dreams? What happened to love and the simple desire for one person?

It was with these thoughts in my mind that I got up from Megan's bed and said my good-byes. Slowly, I walked out her front door and headed toward my car.

"Hey stranger." Tree's familiar voice boomed out at me. She was a very large woman, tall and muscular. To look at her you would think that she was a cheater from way back, but in truth she was a complete teddy bear.

I glared at her and started to walk by without saying anything. She grabbed my arm and stopped me. "Hey, I need to talk to you about something, something important."

I stopped and waited for her to tell me that she was cheating on my best friend and that she wanted me to break the news to her.

"I've been planning a surprise two year anniversary party for Megan. Joanne's been helping me with the arrangements, but I need you to help get Meg to the party without her suspecting." She stopped talking when she saw the look of surprise on my face. "What, you don't think it's a good idea?" She suddenly looked worried. "I thought she'd like it."

"No...no, it's a great idea," I managed to say. "Tree, she thinks your cheating on her." It just flew out of my mouth before I could stop it.

Blanching, Tree looked as though I'd punched her in the gut. "What?" Her voice soft and filled with pain. Gripping my arm tighter, she seemed to be leaning on me for support as though her knees were too weak to do it.

"She thinks your cheating on her," I repeated. "Says you've been spending more time with Joanne than with her."

Eyes wide, Tree began to shake her head. "No! No, I was planning this party!" Suddenly she grabbed me by both shoulders. "You've got to believe me! I would never, ever hurt her! Oh God!" She looked like she was going to throw up so I backed off quickly.

"I believe you Tree, I believe you." I tried to reassure her because I did believe her. "But you need to make Megan believe you."

"Megan!" Tree suddenly stood straight and ran into the house, leaving me outside alone. I could see her and Megan in the living room. Tree looked like she was crying and I saw Megan practically jump into her arms.

Well, maybe the world wasn't as bad as I thought.


A knock at my office door interrupted my thoughts. Looking up I saw my secretary, Marie, standing at the doorway, leaning against the door frame.

"Fox? I wanted to tell you that they asked again about the Astoria account," her voice was soft. "Is everything okay?"

My work is suffering. I know it and she knows it. She's worked for me for five years now, longer than any of my girlfriends. She knows my nuances and my habits better than anyone else does.

"I'm okay. Where are the files for the account?" Advertising had a lot of files. I discovered that my first day on the job when I was an apprentice for my mentor and then lover, Annie Cantor. That was 11 years ago, and she was long gone, leaving me her legacy at the firm, and her office. My bed hadn't exactly been empty either, but I tried hard to keep work and play separate.

Coming into my office, Marie stopped in front of my desk and began thumbing through one of the piles on my desk. Finally, pulling out one from the bottom she handed it to me.

"Show off," I muttered, catching her grin in return. We had a good relationship. She had found out I was a lesbian almost 2 years ago, and since then had taken to adding a bit of flirting to her normal attitude. Having met her six foot three inch tall husband, I of course, didn't flirt back. But, it gave the office a not altogether unpleasant spin.

Suddenly, she put her hand over mine. I looked first at our hands and then I looked up at her. "Listen, if you need anything, I'm here." And then she was gone, only the hint of her perfume left in the air.

Very interesting, I thought to myself. I guess I had always thought that I had left a cold presence at work, never really presenting myself as the human being I was in my personal life. Looking out my door, knowing that Marie was sitting outside at her desk, I began to rethink my assessment of myself.

Even with the folder sitting in my hands, a reminder of my responsibility, my thoughts began to drift again.

She haunts me. The woman from the restaurant visits my dreams frequently. I try to forget her, try to shake the feeling of need I get when I think of her. Try to do many things, never succeeding. She gets in the way each time. In my mind, she had become synonymous with the one I'd been looking for all these years. Dangerous, I know, but I can't control myself. Every waking moment passes with thoughts of her.

I got up from my desk chair and looked through the small window in my office. The day was gray with the Spring sun barely showing through. My window looked out into a small courtyard type area, the rest of the building surrounding it on five sides, leaving only the very top open. By looking up I could see a small patch of sky. On good days, the sun would slip through and shine into my office, but most days I was stuck with just the electric glow of the lights overhead.

Today I noticed the building itself. Built in the 1930s, it was a gray color. Whether it was originally built gray, or whether the industrial waste had turned it gray, I wasn't sure. But it was gray nonetheless. I thought it fitting to my mood, so I studied it longer, taking in the shape and texture, noticing where chips of brick had come off through time. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that the chips off the building were so like the chips off my heart.

Life had taken a toll that I tried to ignore. But, when I was vulnerable I could feel it. And this woman, just the thought of this woman, made me vulnerable. I was tired. Tired of looking, tired of waiting, just tired.

Sighing, I closed my eyes for the hundredth time and saw her. Her eyes bore into me, as though she could see my soul. She smiled at me, her eyes crinkling at the corner, becoming slits which twinkled in my direction. Her mouth, full and wet, curved up at the ends, almost as though she were deliberately tempting me, opening slightly. I, of course, was tempted, as she seemed to know I would be. Tempted to taste those lips, tempted to explore her mouth with my tongue and teeth, making love to her mouth with all the passion and fire in me.

Fire. That's what I felt. I opened my eyes in surprise. For days I'd tried to figure out what was so damn compelling about the woman, what it was that had grabbed my attention. It wasn't how she looked, although I would swear on a stack of The Well of Loneliness that she was the most magnificent creature on this earth. It wasn't the penetrating eyes, or the luscious mouth. It was the fire she had aroused in me. Not sexual arousal, although that was one of the forms it took, but a fire of need and desire, wanting and lusting, and so much more. All for this woman who hadn't even looked my way once.

Damn, I needed to get it together. I was loosing my mind, loosing my sanity, loosing my one grasp on life. It was time to talk to David.


Pulling up into the driveway of the three-story house I shared with David, I became nervous. Now, don't misunderstand, David and I get along very well. However, he hasn't always been the most supportive of my search for her. He had a tendency to give me sharp doses of reality from time to time, which would really help, but hurt nonetheless. That's why I wanted to talk to him. He'd set me straight, so-to-speak. He'd tell me I was being stupid and to get my head out of the sand.

I slammed my car door as usual, waiting for the loud barking that would start. Sure enough, Toto, my cocker spaniel came flying at me from behind the azalea bushes David had planted last spring.

"T, are you eating Uncle Davey's bushes again?" I admonished her in a serious tone that she knew was without sincerity. Jumping up and down by my legs as I walked, she barked continuously, telling me about her day. Toto was a gift I had given to an ex-lover after she and I watched Lady and the Tramp and she swooned over the puppies at the end. But, it was a serious of mistakes, the first being naming the poor dog Toto! When we broke up, I kept the dog because she proclaimed that she was allergic and anyway, I liked the dog more than I liked her. That was fine with me, it was a good little dog.

"If I hear you call me Davey one more time, I'm going to go into your closet and replace all your pants with skirts." A voice floated from an open window on the second floor.

"You and what army?" I shouted back up at him.

"Me and the fag's hags will do you in!"

"Ha! I'll convert them all to the grand religion of lesbianism and you'll never hear from them again!"

"Damn, they aren't that good looking, I wouldn't bother," was his sensible reply. He had a slew of heterosexual women friends who loved to hang all over him. My aunt once told me that a gay man's a girl's best friend. The fag hags took that to heart. The security offered by David combined with the fact that he was still male gave him some kind of allure to them. I'd seen it before, but I still didn't understand and I didn't really think that I wanted to. And truthfully, they weren't a very attractive lot.

Opening the door with my key, I dropped my briefcase by the door and braced myself for the next attack. My two teenage cats came at me, each one meowing as loud as possible, moving as quickly as their little feet would allow. Crouching down, I said hello to each of them and gave them each the obligatory pat on the head and scratch under the chin. That done, I was free to find David.

The entire second floor of the house was devoted to David and his hobbies, leaving the third floor to me and mine. I climbed the stairs slowly, feeling the day weigh me down. Finally I reached the second floor landing and found David in the third room. He sat in front of a giant mirror which was attached to a vanity covered in makeup. Drag was a part of David's life, not a career choice. Facing the mirror, which had lights around it like you would see in the theater, he was puckering as he applied lipstick.

"I thought you weren't going to do blonde anymore," I said, referring to the wig he wore on his head.

"I wasn't," he sighed. "But Dwayne really likes me as a blonde." Flipping his hand through the air, he dismissed his own concerns. Dwayne was his newest lover, one of hundreds that stormed through David's life.

"How is the boy?" I didn't like Dwayne. Let me rephrase that, I didn't like the way David acted for Dwayne's sake. I hated watching David jump through hopes to impress a man who would fuck him and dump him all in one breath.

Ignoring whatever connotation there might have been in my question, David answered, "He's doing well. We are going to the theater tonight." Rubbing the lipstick off his mouth, he proceeded to try a different shade.

Sitting down in the overstuffed chair in the corner of the room, I watched him in silence. He finally stopped studying his lips and turned to face me. "You're sitting. Must mean you need to talk." Repositioning himself, David crossed his legs and leaned forward. "Go ahead sweets, tell me everything."

Taking a deep breath, I leaned forward, almost matching his position. "I think I found her."

I was expecting him to roll his eyes and tell me that I was crazy. The last thing I expected was for tears to fill his eyes. "Are you sure?" He asked breathlessly, his brown eyes taking on what I would describe as a dreamy look.

"Well, I mean, I'm not completely sure, but I think it is. That's what I wanted to talk to you about." I waited till I saw that I had his full attention again.

"Tell me about her."

I was surprised that he wanted to know. Normally, we both talked about our love life's in general terms, neither of us going into detail. "She's all I think about. I dream about her day and night. It's like she's in the air and I breathe her into me." I could feel myself slip into some kind of fantasy, seeing her before me, calling to me. The passion and need I felt well up inside of me took my breath, leaving me floating in some kind of strange place between reality and dreams.

David's face had that dreamy look again. "When you hold her in your arms does it feel like you've been there all your life?"

Uh oh, here was the stinker of it all. I hadn't held her in my arms. I hadn't even talked to her. I had only seen her once, for an afternoon, and only from a distance. How did I tell him that I saw my past and my future in that one afternoon? "Um, well...you see...that's kind of what I wanted to talk to about." He looked at me expectantly. "Well...I mean...you see..." I stuttered, my face flushing as I tried not to make myself look too stupid.

The soft brown eyes that probably made a lot of men and women swoon looked at me with concern. "What is going on?"

Breathing deeply, I closed my eyes. "I haven't held her David. I don't even know her name."

There was silence, which was ominous after my confession. I kept my eyes closed, waiting for him to berate me.

"You know," he finally began to speak, "when I met Dwayne, I thought he was an annoying prick. His neck was thick like a football player and his arms and legs were stubby." Slowly I opened my eyes and looked at him in surprise. He had a far away look, starring past me at some memory or thought.

"He talked like a redneck and smelled like a barn." A small laugh came from David, his lips curving into a smile. "Of course, he was a redneck and he did work in a barn." I laughed with him at that. "But, that first night I met him, he asked me to dance. I said yes, mainly to piss off Greg, who was being an ass. When Dwayne held me in his arms and we swayed to the music, I lost myself." He shook his head and then focused his eyes on me, looking at me intently and with passion as he continued. "I felt for the first time that I fit with someone. And it was amazing that someone so different from me could be the one that I fit with."

To say that I was shocked at what David was saying would be an understatement. In the past, he had always mocked my idea that there was someone out there for everyone. He told me that I was too romantic and needed to face the reality that relationships were work and nothing less. And now, he'd fallen in love. Not just that idealist, puddle deep kind of love, but the real love that takes your breath from you and leaves you dying for more.

"If you think that this woman is her, you need to go after her. You need to pursue her till she agrees to talk to you only so that you leave her alone. You need to dance with her, hold her in your arms and you'll both feel it. You can't mistake that feeling."

I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. The room swayed slightly as his words hit me, biting into my sense of self, taking away my own confidence. If I hadn't already been sitting, I think I would have fallen. How did David, ever cynical David, understand?

This was mind altering. My world felt unstable. That's what happens when you think you can count on someone for something, for stability, and then they go and change it all.

When I finally caught my breath, when my heart stopped pounding painfully in my chest, I finally spoke. "David, I don't know whether to punch you or to hug you," I said through my clenched teeth.

"Well, don't hit me honey cause Dwayne is much bigger than you are and not afraid to hit you in my defense," he mockingly turned his nose up at me. "Baby, don't be upset. I know, I never thought I'd fall in love either, but it happened. You were right. Take pity on me for foolishly believing that love was a fairy tale." He batted his eyes at me, his fake eyelashes so long I almost felt a breeze.

Actually, I felt pity for myself. For so many years I'd been telling David that there was such a thing as belonging to one person, to finding one person who would complete you body and soul and he haughtily denied that such a thing existed. And now he had found it and I was still looking. How was that fair? I was the one that had the dreams, I was the one who had the empty feeling inside of me. I was the one who had been looking for so long. David hadn't even been looking and it had found him. Where was my other half? Where was my missing piece?

Looking up, I saw tears in David's eyes. Rising to my feet, I put my arms around David's shoulders and hugged him tightly. "I'm so happy for you," I whispered into his ear and felt his body shake as he began to sob. Pulling back, I looked at him in surprise. "Davey, what's wrong?"

He sniffed loudly, tears streaking paths down his finely sculpted cheeks, making his mascara run. "It's so frightening. To need someone so badly, scares the living bejesus out of me!" Grabbing at a tissue, he patted his eyes, trying not to further smear his makeup. "Sometimes I want to run and hide, I get so scared. But then he says something sweet, or just looks at me a certain way and I feel happiness like I've never known before."

Something was rising in me, a feeling I rarely felt. Jealousy. I was jealous of David. Here he had everything I'd longed for all of my life, and I was still alone. He had the very things I'd dreamed of having, the emotion and the need of love. If I had been just a few years younger, I would have stamped my foot and started a temper tantrum. Don't think I wasn't tempted, but the sight of a 35 year old kicking and screaming which on the floor would probably cause laughter more than anything else.

"I'm happy for you David, I really am," I managed to say even though my stomach was threatening to revolt. Hugging him again, I headed out of the door, leaving him to straighten his makeup and his wig, which was now sitting askew on his head.

"Go after her," David called out after me. "Don't let her get away."


"So, he tells me to go after her." I finished telling Megan what had happened with David.

"Dwayne??!" She said for the umpteenth time. Megan had met Dwayne once and still couldn't see the attraction.

"I guess when you fall in love you can't control who you fall in love with," I said, slightly annoyed that Megan was concentrating on David rather than me.

"Yeah, but Dwayne??"

"MEGAN!" I yelled. "Listen, can we get passed this David and Dwayne thing!" I must have yelled really loudly because Tree stuck her head into the bedroom.

"Everything okay in here?" She asked casually. She knew better than to assume I was upsetting "her woman" or anything.

"You won't believe it!" Megan proceeded to tell Tree all about David and Dwayne, leaving me and my mental crisis in the dust.

Sighing, I got up and started to leave.

"Where are you going?" Megan quickly got up and grabbed my arm. "I'm not done with you yet."

Pouting, I twisted so that she had to let go of my arm. "I've been trying to talk to you for the last hour and all you could say was Dwayne." I added a sniff to my melodrama, hoping to earn sympathy points.

It worked because Megan grabbed my arm again and pulled me into a bear hug. "Oh, my poor little Spooky!" She rocked me back and forth, cooing into my ear like I was some kind of pet dog or something.

Dragging me over to the bed, she shoved me back down, sitting down next to me. "So, how do you go after her if you don't even know who she is or where to find her?"

Shrugging, I started to really get down. Meg was right, how was I supposed to find her? Maybe if I had a name, I could find her, look her up on the 'net or something, but as it is, I couldn't do it. I felt my spirits sinking lower and lower, until I began to wonder what the point was.

"Why don't you go back to the restaurant you first saw her in?" Tree suggested.

"Huh?" I managed to get out without crying.

"Tree honey, I don't know..." Megan's eyebrows furrowed as she thought. "What if she doesn't come back?"

"Then you could talk to the people who work there, find out if they know anything about her or the guy she was with. Find out whether or not she goes there often." Kneeling down so that she was eye level with me, Tree looked at me with sincerity on her face. "Listen, if you really want to find her, then you need to go and make the effort. She won't just land on your doorstep one day. You need to really seek her out."

"Great idea baby!" Beaming at her girlfriend, Megan's face lifted into a huge smile. "I'll go with you if you want."

"Go with me? To the restaurant? To find her?" I was still playing catch up with my mind. Hunt her down? That's basically what they were suggesting, that I go and hunt her down.

"Yes! Let's plan on going tomorrow. All three of us will go around the same time you were there when you saw her and wait for her. If she doesn't come, then we will start to ask questions. Someone's bound to have noticed her. We'll find her Spooky, I promise." I had to admit, Megan's enthusiasm was catching. I began to feel better about it, thinking that maybe there was a chance. Maybe I would be able to find her.

As I was walking into my house, the phone was already ringing. When I picked it up it was Megan. Her voice still held that same excited tone.

"I just have one question about all of this." She sounded serious, so I prepared myself for something deep and complex.

"Okay, shoot."

"What kind of food do they serve at this restaurant?" She was deadly serious. "I want to know before we leave, just in case I don't like the food, I'll bring some graham crackers with me."





Cuisine to Please was located on a dead ended street. It faced out at the rest of the streets, almost like the epicenter of the entire area. The outside was decorated with white brick and iron work, which transferred to an outdoor eating area. It wasn't what you would call a posh place, but it wasn't McDonald's either.

We all met at the restaurant the next day. Megan and Tree run their own business, creating web pages for various companies. I have recommended them to several of the companies that used the advertising firm I worked for and had swung a lot of business their way. They now employed several other computer nerds that uploaded and downloaded all day, whatever that means. Anyway, point being that their time was their own. If they wanted to spend hours at a restaurant with me staking out the woman of my dreams, then they could do it, no problem.

The hostess who served us was nice enough, her fake smile the same that she used on me the last time I was there. As we looked at the menus, Megan's face scrunched up in distaste. Slamming down the menu when the waiter arrived, she ordered a Sprite and took out a large bag of graham crackers. The waiter's previously jovial attitude quickly changed. A cold wind swept through his smile and his eyes narrowed as he starred at Megan's audacity.

"Can we have a minute," I said to the waiter. He nodded, turned on his heel and left. "Megan," I hissed at her. "What are you doing?"

Looking surprised, Megan starred at me. "I'm eating, what does it look like I'm doing?"

"You can't just bring your own food into a restaurant."

"Why not?"

"It's...it's rude!" I sputtered quietly. I was not going to make a scene with Megan.

"I ordered a drink! Doesn't that count for something? It so happens that I need to have my graham crackers daily for lunch, otherwise I get grouchy." She replied indignantly, not trying to keep her voice down.

"It's true," Tree affirmed. "It's like how some people need and crave chocolate. That's Megan and her graham crackers. You should see the supply she buys every week just to get through." Shaking her head, Tree looked fondly at her girlfriend, the love obvious in her eyes. Jealousy spit at me, challenging my ability not to react to such unquestionable acts of affection. Damn, I wanted that so badly.

After Tree and I ordered and the waiter huffed off, Megan began to plan our attack.

"You never did tell me what this woman looks like." She said between a mouth full of graham. Little pieces flew out her mouth as she talked. Sometimes I wondered how she and I managed to stay friends for so many years.

"She's beautiful."

"Uh huh."

I nodded my head, playing with my fork. "Yup, she is." I looked around me, starring at every patron as slyly as I could, but truthfully, I didn't care if they noticed me starring. It took me a few moments before I noticed the silence at our table. Focusing my attention on Tree and Megan, I found them both starring back at me. "What?"

Rolling her eyes, Megan sighed loudly. "I wanted more of a description of who we're looking for."

"I told you, she's beautiful," I said distractedly as someone walked through the front door of the restaurant. My heart felt like it literally rose in anticipation and then dropped to the bottom of my stomach as I realized it wasn't her.

"Spooooky!" Megan's exasperated voice pulled me from my search. I saw her two hazel colored eyes blazing at me, frustration and anger coming in my direction. Okay, she was on the verge of being seriously pissed at me. Whoa, time to listen. "What does this beautiful, amazing, perfect woman look like?" She hissed this out through clenched teeth.

"Those years with braces really paid off," I said the first thing that came to my mind, speaking off the top of my head as I usually did with Megan. And, to my not-so-great shock her eyes grew cloudy with anger. We were no longer on the verge of Megan's anger, we were about to experience it full blown.

Just was I was about to be the target of her infamous anger, Tree spoke up. "I didn't know you had braces honey."

"She did, up until our senior year of high school." I could see that Megan was much too consumed with piss and vinegar to respond for herself, so I took it upon myself. "She used to floss after lunch."

"She does have great dental hygiene habits."

A loud thonk was heard as Megan's head hit the table. I knew that it hadn't actually been her head, but rather a slight of hand in which her hands hit the table just before her head. A bit of stage combat we'd learned in high school. Funny thing was that Megan had been the best at head banging, but for weeks until she got the hang of it she'd sported a black and blue, golf ball sized lump on her forehead from all her practice.

"Honey, I wish you wouldn't be so dramatic sometimes," Tree commented casually. "People'll thing you've passed out or something."

Sure enough, a waitress hurried over and stood next to Megan's prone form. "Is she okay?" She asked frantically and without waiting for an answer, she grabbed Megan's shoulders and began to shake them. "Miss? Miss, wake up!"

With a growing growl, Megan threw her head back and growled at the waitress. "Will you kindly get your hands off me?" The waitress's eyes were wide with shock and surprise, her hands frozen on Megan's shoulders.

Tree and I were laughing so hard that we were helpless to calm the waitress. With a little yelp she released her grip on Megan and ran off.

Huffing, Megan pushed at her blonde shoulder length hair. "What is wrong with people these days?" She said, causing Tree and I to laugh harder. Glaring at both of us, she began nibbling on a graham cracker, taking small, little bunny-sized bites.

"Oh Meg, you're good for my soul," I wheezed out as I tried to catch my breath from laughing. She just shook her head at me. "So, you want to know the sensory details of our mission's goal?"

"Well duh," she replied in perfect valley-girl intonations.

Taking a quick look around and not seeing her, I closed my eyes and summoned the vision of her. "I only saw her stand once, but I'd say she was about my height, 5 feet 6, maybe a little taller." I licked my lips, trying to stop, or at least ignore, the warmth threatening to consume my body. "She has dark brown hair that falls just beneath her shoulders. It was styled straight, but I got the impression that it was really curly." In my mind she smiled at me and my heart beat more quickly, pounding in my chest.

I could no longer look at this mental image, the need in me was too great. Believe it or not, it wasn't a sexual need. No, it was a need I couldn't explain, a need so deep and ingrained in me that I couldn't even see its origin. But, it was a need for her. Everything about her, I need it like I need air. Damn, I was in love with her! No, it couldn't be possible. I'd never even talked to her, love wasn't called for.

"Spook?" Meg's voice called me out of my haze.

"Sorry," I tried to remember what I'd been saying. " Ah, her eyes are blue, very intense." I paused again, seeing her eyes even with my own open. "Anything else?"

"Shape." Megan said clinically. "Fat? Thin?"

I thought, remembering the shape of her body under her clothing, the curve of her hips which swayed when she walked to the bathroom. "Neither. She's very curvy."

There were other things about her that I had noticed but didn't want to share with Megan and Tree. They were my memories, noticed by me, for me. A part of me was afraid that if I told them then I'd lose what little of her I claimed as my own. Things like the way her hands were long and beautifully shaped. She used them while she talked, allowing them to slice through the air or float downward, depending on what she was saying.

Her lips were another detail I kept close to my heart. They were full and curved, perfectly shaped. I swear they looked like she was constantly wanting to be kissed. At least that's how I remembered them. I watched her lips so carefully as she talked, watched how she formed her letters and how she spoke.

But, I wasn't going to share this with them, or anyone else for that matter. I needed to keep something just for me.

As we sat around, looking at everyone who came into the restaurant, we slowly ran out of things to talk about. The silences were not uncomfortable, but truthfully, my eyes were starting to get heavy. I hadn't slept that night before, so anxious about finding her that I kept myself up with my thoughts and dreams.

"Reminds me of how we met, huh Meg?" Tree gave her girlfriend a rakish grin and I knew I was in for the story. They loved to tell about how they met.

"And how did you meet my best friend here, Tree?" Okay, I admit it, I'm a sucker for the story. Romantic at heart I most certainly am.

"It was a cold winter's day, snow and ice covering the ground," Tree's eyes closed as she began to reminisce. "I was on my way to a meeting, having parked my car on the curb." There was something about seeing this large, very butch looking woman get so soft and warm when talking. You could tell that it was a very happy memory for her. "As I was approaching the building, this crazy person came careening at me on roller blades!"

Tree opened her eyes and we both looked at Megan fondly. She shrugged. "I thought it was an interesting idea."

"Megan had hit a patch of ice on her roller blades and couldn't stop. She was headed straight for a set of stairs that were headed down, crowded with people."

Picking up the story, Megan's eyes began to take on the same dreamy look that Tree had. "And, as I'm about to hit the top stair and begin my perilous journey down, this huge figure comes out of nowhere, grabbing me by the waist and hauling me up in her arms." She looked at Tree, her entire face smiling. "I was both angry and happy at the same time. How dare this person grab me like that, but then again I wasn't falling to my death. And then, I looked into this deep brown eyes and found myself swooning."

"I asked her out right then and there." Tree finished. "And the rest is herstory."

"I have to admit," I said shaking my head. "When I first met you, I thought you'd be some girlfriend beating brute." Looking into those very brown eyes, I grew very serious. "I'm glad you're not Tree cause my friend here loves you an awful lot and I'd hate to have to kill you."

We all sat at the table grinning like fools, feeling the warmth the story provoked within all of us and giving me a new sense of hope for my own love story.


Two weeks of going to the restaurant, Cuisine to Please, every day began to take its toll and wasn't getting us anywhere. The staff began to harass us, putting extra floaty things in our water and taking forever to get our food to us. Megan's graham crackers began to end up on the floor, smashed to bits, every time one of the waiters passed. It got so bad that Megan resorted to sticking out her foot each time they passed and if they even tried to get close to her little baggie of graham crackers they would crack their shins against her massive boots.

It was a war waged, fought and lost on our part. She never showed up. Tree was the one who finally said that maybe we should start waiting outside the restaurant. I was just plain discouraged.

I began to work harder for my clients, turning out some of my best work ever. Immersing myself in work seemed the only way for me to escape the hurt I felt in my heart.

The long neglected Astoria account paid off. Astoria was a new housing development that featured homes for "those that could afford luxury", as the CEO of the developing company told me. In other words, they wanted all the right people buying their homes, rather than anyone who would bring them embarrassment.

Now, I don't condone this type of attitude, but it was my job to make them look good. Which, I did. I put together a series of commercials and billboards that featured their home models and beautiful sunsets and other backgrounds which made the houses shine in beauty. Thanks to my own computer knowledge, I was able to fit the houses into these backgrounds and provide things like reflections of the sun and the right shadows that fit the pictures. I have to admit, it looked damn good.

I don't know how I did it. Every time I worked on it, I thought of her. I saw her against those very backgrounds and saw the sun reflecting off her skin rather than the house, her hair rather than the windows. I saw her in everything I did. She was a part of it all. And yet, she wasn't. If I let myself think about it too much I felt my heart breaking. So, I didn't think about it.

Two weeks after the Astoria campaign was launched, the company had a large celebratory party. I, of course, was invited. Tree and Megan had helped with the technological aspect of the project, so I got them invites as well.

The party was held in the posh model home for the Astoria development. It was the house they used to show potential buyers. Completely done in elegance and smooth lines, the house was all creams and soft colors. Warm lightening added to it, making it gentle and yet refined. I was impressed.

The three of us decided to go together. By the time we arrived, due to Megan's wardrobe dilemma, the house was full of people. Men in business suits and women in either similar attire, or gentle dresses, talked and socialized. There was a bar in the corner and a buffet close to it. I think that Megan's nose is a food magnet. If there's any food within 500 feet, she will find it and attack it. She and Tree headed to the buffet, Tree offering to get me a drink on their way back. I smiled as I watched her salt and pepper head above most of the crowd while Megan had disappeared from view as the crowd swallowed her.

I smiled to myself. Casually, I straightened out my soft white blouse, wondering why I always choose to wear classic black and white to parties. I'm just not the bright, flashy kind of gal, I guess. So, this time, I was wearing just a normal skirt suit, my skirt cut just above my knees, showing my legs at a nice advantage. The blouse wasn't tight or loose, fitting just right. A jacket finished the entire outfit. Simple. That was me. I was more comfortable in my jeans and a nice shirt, but there were sacrifices you had to make for your work, right? The heels on me feet were testament to that, but I was used to them so they didn't bother me too much.

Looking around me at the other people there, I saw quiet a few familiar faces. I caught a few eyes and had a few drinks waved in my direction. I wasn't out of place here, these were my peers. I was good at what I did, so I felt secure in their company. But, I didn't feel like talking to any of them today. I didn't even feel like being there. I wanted to be home, curled up with a good book, trying to get my mind off of her. But, nothing worked anymore. She was constantly there.

My eyes continued to travel, and then stopped suddenly. It was her! Blinking my eyes quickly, I rubbed at them gently, not caring if I smeared my eye makeup. It had to be like the mirages in the desert. When you think about something enough, your mind decides to play tricks on you. It couldn't be her.

I continued to watch her. She was standing by herself by a wall, her eyes taking in the room around her similar to my own. She looked beautiful in a soft, flowing dress that was maroon and cream, fitting into the room with quiet perfection. Her hair was softly arranged on her shoulders. My breath left me.

In painfully slow motion, she turned her head in my direction, as though searching for something or someone. My heart had already dropped to my feet, a cold lifeless organ no longer seeming to be capable of love or desire. But then her eyes focused on mine, the momentum of her head stopped and she was looking right at me.

I thought that her eyes would pierce my head with their intensity. I felt naked, as though she were looking through me, able to see clear into my very soul. It was uncomfortable and relieving at the same time. I knew when I felt that that it was her. No doubts this time. She was what I had been searching for. I could see it clearly in the way she looked at me, and I could feel it as the warmth consumed my empty chest and my heart was replaced, not with my old, scarred heart, but with the one she gave to me the minute she recognized herself in me.

Her heart was mine and mine was hers. The one I had thought I had was like a false wall. It wasn't true or strong, it was merely a stand in until I found my true heart. I knew that I would love her in ways I had never imagined loving anyone, that she would make me feel intense joy and happiness, pain and sorrow. She was capable as of that moment of destroying me and my heart, of killing my spirit and my passion. She was the center of it all, the catalyst for what my life had been and what it would become.

Hypnotized, I didn't notice that she was walking toward me until we stood face to face. I couldn't take my eyes off hers, feel as through I was looking at myself.

"I...I...I..." she stammered over and over again and I knew that she felt the same way, that she was feeling these incredibly intense emotions. And like me, she didn't know how to process them, she didn't know what to say or how to say it. It was just so much to deal with.

I wanted to find the words to describe how I felt for her. The words that would sum up lifetimes of wanting and needing did not exist. Many different cliché phrases went through my mind, none of them coming close to the actual feelings. I wanted to cover her with my kisses, my mouth touching every part of her, conveying in each touch my absolute love and devotion. But her eyes conveyed that such action would not be appreciated.

"Do I know you?" Was the first thing she said to me when she finally spoke, confusion lacing her voice. I wanted to remember her exact words so that I could tell our future generations how we merged into coupledom.

I wanted to shout at her 'Yes!' I wanted to tell her to look into my eyes and see her past, present, and future there. I was her; all she had to do was look and she would realize that.

She was looking at me questioningly, and I realized that I had been standing there, starring as I willed her to see me, to actually see me. She must think me insane, crazy. I felt my own brow furl as I had something new to think about. Her gaze finally penetrated the clouds covering my mind.

"Huh?" Oh, brilliant as ever.

"Do I know you?" She repeated. She must have thought this needed explanation because she followed with "I just feel like I know you from somewhere, you look familiar."

"Uh, no, you don't know me exactly," I had no idea how to explain to her. I had imagined being with her a hundred times - talking with her, gazing into her face, making love with her - yet, I had never planned what I was going to say to her when I met her.

"Hey Spooky!" Tree's loud voice boomed from across the room. My head turned, at the same time my hand reached out and touched her wrist. I wanted to make sure that I didn't lose her.

I saw Tree's tall form coming through the crowd, two drinks in her hands which were above most of the crowd to avoid being spilled. When she got close enough to see that I wasn't alone, she stopped and studied her.

"Spooky?" Her gentle voice broke though, surprise in her voice.

I felt a blush come over my face. Me! Blushing! I hadn't blushed since I was 5! I couldn't believe it. "It's a long story," I mumbled.

She raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow at this and waited for my explanation.

"It's from the X-Files?" Oh God, I had formed that in a question hadn't I? I felt like a teenager all over again, awkward and gangly.

"So do you go around chasing after extraterrestrial beings?" She came back with quickly, not missing a beat.

"A woman with good tastes," I bantered back without thinking. "Actually, my name is Fox, so my witty friends cleverly nicknamed me." I found myself slowly drowning in her eyes, seeing for the first time the flecks of gold that interspersed her blue irises, catching the light with marvelous clarity.

Everyone else around us disappeared, leaving just me and her in a plane of space which was colored only in her beauty, otherwise stark with soft, diffused lightening.

"Ah, Spooky?" Goddamn Tree! I thought bitterly.

Turning once again, I gave Tree the look for death, which she must have caught because she visibly flinched. "Yes?" I asked through clenched teeth.

"Your drink?" She said weakly, handing me the cup.

Megan bounced up behind Tree, inserting herself in the middle of all of us in a uniquely Megan-like way. "Who's your friend Spook?"

Megan directed her question to me, but her eyes studied her. My mind screamed at my best friend, throwing every swear word I could think of at her. But, out loud I was all grace and calm.

"Megan, this is..." Of course, we hadn't gotten that far, had we? I looked at her blankly.

Smiling, she extended a hand to Megan. "I'm Madeline." Her voice was warm, filling my senses. With envy and waves of jealousy, I saw Megan take her hand. How dare Megan touch her.

Irrational? Maybe. Did I care? Absolutely not! I wanted to be alone with her...with Madeline.

"Madeline?" She turned to look at me, immediately looking into my eyes, and I wondered if my murky brown eyes had any affect on her. "Would you excuse us for a minute? I'll be right back." I couldn't let her go, but I needed to get Megan away. She'd zero in on Madeline and attack her with a vengeance if she thought I'd get hurt. While I appreciated the gesture, I didn't need her protection tonight.

Madeline nodded slightly in understanding, and I took that to mean that she'd wait till I came back. And believe me, I was going to come back.

Grabbing Megan's arm, I dragged her away until I could talk without being heard. "Megan," I tried to remain calm until I could explain. "That is HER."

"Her?" Megan's head whipped around and she starred again at Madeline. "That's HER?" Eyes narrowed into slits as she raked her eyes over Madeline's form. "She's wearing a wedding ring!" Her voice was so loud that many might have said she was screaming. But, for Megan it was just her normal voice of disbelief. With frantic gestures, she pointed at what I assumed was Madeline's left hand.

Of course, I hadn't seen the wedding ring. All I had seen was her face. But I wasn't going to let Megan know that. "Will you be quiet?" I grabbed the arm she was pointing with, holding it down against her side. "Listen to me Megan, I'm only going to say this once." I knew my tone was harsh, my grip on her more firm than it needed to be, but this was the most important moment in my life and I wouldn't let anyone, even Megan, ruin it for me. Silent, Megan's eyes were wide as she waited for me to continue. For a brief second I felt regret for how I was treating her, but only for a second. "Don't do anything to mess this up for me Megan, or I swear I'll walk out of your life." It was a true threat and she knew it. I had never been more serious about anything. "Megan, it really is her. I need to convince her Meg, and I need you to support me on this." Tears formed in my eyes before I could stop them. "Please Meg, please."

Pulling out of my grasp, she wrapped her arms around me, pulling me close. "Anything Fox, if it'll make you happy. You know that's what I want." She held on for a few moments before she released me. "Go and get her."

Not hesitating, I turned and immediately found Madeline's eyes. Her gaze captured me, drawing me in as the mere intensity of her stare made a flare of heat flow through my body. Floating, I went to her. "Sorry about that." I said softly once I reached her side once again. My thoughts were filled with the very idea of being by her side for the rest of time. For the first time I can ever remember, I felt content. Content to be by her side.

"Everything okay?" Her voice was light but I could see concern in the way her face spoke to me.

I felt the corners of my mouth turn up in a satisfied smile. She was already concerned about me. I was completely touched.

A wisp of hair fell into her face and I felt the desire to brush is back. For the first time I noticed that although her hair was a rich, dark brown, it had auburn highlights that when caught in the right light made her head look like it was ensconced in fire. And though cliché as it might be, I was a moth, attracted to the light that was this woman, that came from this woman, threatening to consume my very being.

"Fox?" She said my name for the second time, filling me with a newfound likeness for my name, or at least the way it sounded coming from her mouth.

"Huh?" I realized I'd been starring at her like some kind of maniac. I was a maniac, I was insane. I was in love.

"Are you okay?" This time the concern for my well being crept into her voice.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

Suddenly around us, the noise grew incredibly loud and I felt my frustration join it. "Do you want to step outside for a minute?" How ridicules did I sound? Asking this woman who barely knew me to step outside with me? Away from the people and the party, into uncertainly and aloneness.

She hesitated and I could see the indecision in her eyes. That was enough to give me hope because obviously at least part of her wanted to go. "I promise I don't bite," I gave the old line, hoping to see her smile.

I was rewarded with a wane smile as she glanced at the people around us. "Okay, but I can't be gone too long," she finally consented.

With a hand under her elbow I led her out of the French doors on the side of the house, out onto the terrace which looked out into the back yard. A cool breeze filtered through the scattered trees. There were a few other people from the party outside, but not enough to bother us.

My knees were shaking so badly that I thought I was going to fall. I didn't know what I was going to say to her, what I was going to tell her, but just the thought of talking with her alone made me nervous. I damned my choice in wardrobe that evening, wondering if she could see my knees shaking below the line of my straight skirt.

Having been following my lead, she stopped when I did, both of us looking at each other, unsure. Before I could say anything, she spoke for me. "Fox, what is going on? Why do I have this crazy sensation in my stomach when I look at you? How do I know you?"

I carefully watched her face as she talked, noticing the contours and the planes that made up this beautiful woman. There was no longer any doubt in my mind. I loved her. Damn it to hell and back.

What do I say to her? Do I frighten her with the truth, propose that she spend the rest of her life with me, starting tonight? Tell her that I was meant for her, to be with her, to love her? I ran my hand through my own hair, wishing for something other than the mousy brown that it was. Yes, I could tell her that and risk that she'd run away from me.

"Do you feel it too?" I asked carefully. She was going to dictate how I handled this, how things proceeded. It was in her hands. "This familiar feeling?"

Madeline sighed, the most heart wrenching sound I'd ever heard. "I don't know. I simply don't know." She shook her head as though trying to physically sort out the thoughts she was having. I could have told her it wouldn't work and that she'd only get a headache trying. The seeds of knowledge were planted already, her mind would do the rest. Mine had. Until finally I had no choice, my need for her too strong to ignore.

Suddenly, as though sensing something, she looked up, her eyes focusing on the doors we'd come out of. Something indescribable flashed through her face, leaving me concerned. "Madeline?" I asked softly, almost choking on her name as it provoked a deep sense of emotion within me.

"I have to go," her voice shook a little as she spoke. Her eyes found mine and again I was left breathless by the depths before she looked away again.

"Meet me. For lunch, dinner, breakfast, something!" I said desperately. Desperate wasn't strong enough to describe it. I wasn't going to let her go again. Fumbling for my purse, I cursed myself as I remembered I didn't care a purse. Instead, I reached into my blazer's inside pocket, pulling out a business card and a pen. Quickly, I wrote my home phone number on the back. "Please call me tomorrow." I handed the card to her, noticing that her hands were unsteady. I was getting really worried at this point. What was so wrong? Damning all convention and propriety, I reached out and used her chin to guide her eyes to me. "I need to see you again Madeline. Please?"

Looking briefly at the business card, she nodded. Looking at me, I felt that she was trying to reach out to me with just a look. I couldn't resist the temptation that her lips provided me. I leaned toward her and brushed her lips with mine. Her mouth had been slightly open when my lips touched it, and I felt the warmth of both her soft lips and her mouth all in one enticing second.

Gasping and looking at me with a mixture of what seemed like fear and awe, she rushed off toward the French doors, leaving me in the cool evening with only the memory of her full lips and warm voice. I knew I wouldn't see her again that evening, but I also knew that she would call. She can't stay away, she can't not reach out to me. I am her destiny.


Meetings bored me to death. Especially with my fellow employees. In my opinion, which I admit is highly over rated, only a few of them were worth wasting time on. Most of the people at the firm were very self absorbed and only cared that they looked good in their position rather than the quality of their work. I reasoned that most companies were the same, but I didn't have to deal with most companies, only mine.

This meeting in particular took place once a month. It was kind of a checkpoint to see how everyone was doing and what they were doing. They were short, sweet, and to the point.

I took my seat and waited for the other Directors and VPs to fill the room. Doodling on my pad, I heard Daniel Combs coming down the hall. You can't miss Daniel. He had a loud, obnoxious voice that filled any space he was in. Most of the time he talked about sex or women, both of which I was normally interested in, but was disgusted when I listened to him. So, I ordinarily tuned him out.

"Yeah, the woman wouldn't put out! I swear, I romanced her, I literally spoiled her man, but she still wouldn't give out!" Daniel was on his usual role as he walked into the room. "Hey Monte!" He yelled to Monte Sullivan, one of the firm's partners who had settled into the corner of the room. "What do you do if your wife doesn't put out?"

Monte stood, hitching his pants up and walking over to Daniel, a stern look on his face. "Daniel, Daniel, Daniel," he started, making it sound like he was going to give Daniel a piece of his mind. "I do what any real man should do," he continued, showing that he was as much of an asshole as the others. "I tie her up and take what's mine."

Hoots and howls filled the room as the men all went and pounded Monte on his back. I was disgusted, reminded of one of the reasons I was glad to be a lesbian. Don't get me wrong, women could be vulgar about sex, but most of the time there was still a respect issue. Men didn't seem to respect anything but the power of their own penises.

I could stand it as I heard the men all comment on Monte's revelation. Slamming my pad against the table, I stood up. "Can we start the meeting now, or should I get a ruler?" I eye Monte's crotch, then looked at his face with a leering smile. "If it's the latter then I think you should reconsider joining, you won't measure up."

This quieted the room and I heard many of the men muttering things like "dyke" under their breath. Yeah, so what. Dyke or not dyke, I had had enough.

Monte's face was red as he sat down, but his eyes were blazing with hate as he starred at me. "Whatever you say Foxy," he murmured pleasantly, but I could feel his hatred underneath.

After the meeting I hurried out, not wanting another verbal confrontation with the man. I barely knew Monte, only having seen him a handful of times in my years at the firm, but he was a partner after all. I just didn't make sense to antagonize him anymore than I already had. So, I avoided it and closed myself in my office for the rest of the day.


Slipping my heels off under my desk, I played with my favorite pen, let it slide in and out of my hand. My other hand held my head up. It was 6:30 PM and I was still at the office. I had been staying later and later lately, trying to get my mind off Madeline.

Her lips haunted me as the image of her had in the beginning. My dreams were filled with her softness, her full, wet lips on mine at first, and then over my body. They taunted me, teased me, and fulfilled me. Desperation consumed me in new ways each time I remembered how they felt. Driving me to distraction, I needed work to anchor me, to pull me back to reality.

A full week had passed since the party and I hadn't heard from her. My confidence was waning. When she left me at the party I had been so sure, so convinced that she knew she couldn't do without me. But, soon after that I found out some more details about her hasty departure, and it left me doubting. Not doubting my love for her, or her interest in me, just doubting, I guess. I couldn't put my finger on what exactly I was doubting.

When she left me on the terrace, she had gone directly to the side of a man that matched the description of the one I had seen her with in the restaurant. Apparently, from Tree's view point, he had possessively put an arm around her. What was the significance of the ring on her left hand? Was she married? Engaged? Jealousy and anger course through me the longer I thought about it, and though I'm ashamed to admit it, I thought about it a lot.

She is mine. I was filled with a possessiveness I never thought I had in me. Savage and course, it consumed me, creating the desire to make some kind of move that would prove that she was mine. A public statement that would make him and the world see what should have been all along.

But, I couldn't do that, could I? I didn't even know how to find her.

I thought about the man touching her, having her in his bed, and I felt physically ill. But, I couldn't seem to help myself. I felt so bitter and angry that I didn't even recognize myself. I didn't want to think about it, I didn't want to imagine it, but it haunted me, creeping up on me when I least expected it.

In many ways I thought I was going insane. This possessiveness, jealousy, anger, love, need, desire, and passion all coalescing within me, creating a myriad of emotions, feelings and reactions. Topped off with the fact that she hasn't called me, I began to think that maybe I had imagined everything. Maybe I would wake up in some dank cell, white walls my only company, a straight-jacket my only protection from myself.

I looked out my window, a piece of dark sky visible. There were no stars that I could see. Good, the sky was as lonely as I was. Made me feel better to know that I wasn't the only one alone. Tree and Megan had invited me over to their place for dinner and a movie many times since the party, but I had declined. I just wanted to dwell in my loneliness. While I loved Megan and liked Tree, sometimes their love for each other was too painfully obvious. I was jealous of them, wanting my own love. This was just one of the times that I couldn't be faced with their happiness.

But, I couldn't seem to escape it. David and Dwayne were cooped up like two love birds, constantly at the house when I just wanted to be alone. Luckily, the third floor had once been an apartment separate from the rest of the house and had its own tiny, functional kitchen. Normally, David and I both used the giant kitchen on the first floor, but I couldn't stand the way he and Dwayne flirted back and forth while we ate.

I basically hibernated up stairs, leaving them alone.

As I thought about this, thought about retreating to my huge king sized bed and burying myself in pillows and blankets, the phone on my desk rang.

I couldn't figure out who the hell was calling me at work this late. I was the only one left at the office, which had become normal lately. I had a direct line in my office, a private line, which only a few people had the number.

"Fox Owens," I said in a clear voice. Clearly annoyed that is.

"Foxy baby, someone just called for you here." It was David. "I think it was your long lost lady," he hurried on and finished.

"How do you know?" I was anxious to know whether it was her, but I was also cautious. I didn't want to get my hopes up.

"How many Madeline's do you know that you've met at a party?"

"Smart ass. What did you say to her?" I grew worried.

"Who me? Nothing at all! I gave her you're private line number, so she should be calling soon, buh-bye!" And he hung up.

He should be glad he wasn't standing in front of me cause I'd probably kill him. Or at least maim him. Fuming, I still wondered what exactly he had said to her. Why had it taken her so long to call me?

The phone rang again and I starred at it like it was going to bite me.

"Hello?" I said tentatively into the receiver. I could hear my voice shake slightly.

"Fox?" It was her voice! I'd only heard it on two occasions, but I had memorized it. "Fox, it's Madeline."

As I saw it, I had two choices: I could play it cool and pretend that I just barely remembered her from the party, or else I could be sincere and honest.

"What took you so long to call me?" Okay, I picked the second option. And maybe that was as little strong, but it's what came out of my mouth.

"I'm sorry, I...just couldn't call you before." She sounded sincere, and my heart believed her before she even spoke. I was a goner. She could crush me with her bare hand and I would willingly let her.

"It's okay, at least you called." Licking my lips, I hoped that she could talk for awhile. "How is everything going?" Real casual, real relaxed.

Madeline sighed before she answered. "I've been busy. How about you?"

"Pretty much the same." There was silence on the line. This was too awkward. I wanted to say so many things to her, from I love you, to what about your husband. "Listen, would you like to have a late dinner with me tonight?"

"Um, tonight won't work." She hesitated before continuing. "Could you meet me for lunch tomorrow?"

Could I meet her for lunch tomorrow?? See if anything would stop me! "Definitely. Where do you want to meet?"

"Dominick's. Do you know where that is?"

I racked my brain. It was a nice enough restaurant, but out of the way from just about anywhere near by. It was a half hour away, in a completely different town. "Sure, sounds great. What time?"

"Is 1:30 too late for you?"


Again, there was silence on the line. I got the feeling that she wanted to say more, to say something to me at least.



"I'll see you tomorrow." And she hung up.

I was left there, holding the receiver in my hand, just starring at the wall. Tomorrow I'd see her again. This time, just the two of us. We both were meeting on purpose, not by accident. She wanted to see me.

My mind was filled with so many thoughts, so many ideas and hopes. Damn, she definitely had control of this situation, but she didn't know it. She wouldn't know it. Only my heart and I know it.


"I think that's the first smile I've seen on your face in a very long time!" David commented as I walked into the front door. And he was right. My funk seemed to be ending, now that I'd heard from Madeline. Grabbing me into a hug, he spun me around. "It must have been her then. I'm glad for you Fox," he whispered into my ear before planting a loud, wet kiss on my cheek.

"Thanks Davey," I said into his chest as it became difficult to breathe. "Can't...breathe..."

"Oops, sorry!" He suddenly let go of me and I almost fell at the sudden lack of support. "Steady there now girl."

Breathing deeply once again, my smile was still plastered on my face. "Hi Dwayne," I called loudly, figuring he must be somewhere in the house.

A sudden troubled look flew across David's face, but he covered it up quickly. "He's not here tonight Spooky." Trying to sound cheerful, I could hear the catch in his voice. Uh oh.

"Everything okay?" I asked tentatively, not wanting to push him.

Emotion made his face look older and I saw for the first time circles under his eyes. "Dwayne decided that he needed some time alone. Said he wanted to figure out what he wanted for his life." David's shoulders drooped as he spoke. With a weak shrug, he gave me a weary smile.

"David, let me ask you something."


"Do you love him? I mean, really love him?"

Very serious eyes met my own. "With all my heart."

"Do you love him like you've never loved before?"


Taking a deep breath, I pushed on. "Now, be completely honest with yourself. Do you really, honestly think that he's the one person on this earth who can complete you? Put aside any romantic notion you might have, be real. Think about it. If you really, honestly think that he's the one you're supposed to be with, then wait and he'll come back to you. If he's the one, he can't stay away. He needs you as much as you need him."

I saw a small glimmer of hope in David's eyes. He began to open his mouth, but I hushed him. "Don't speak, just think. Spend the night alone, thinking about Dwayne. Think long and hard David. Don't fool yourself. I'll be upstairs if you need to talk." With that, I turned and began the long trek up the stairs.

I felt fire in my conviction. It was the same for Madeline and me. She can't stay away from me, no matter how hard she may try, because we are meant for each other. We've been searching for each other for so many lifetimes, I wasn't going to let her go now. She was mine, and I hers. She couldn't live without me, not now. And I know I can't live without her. I love her.

My steps were measured as my thoughts consumed me. I finally reached my floor, and turned to head to my bedroom. I had always thought of my room, wherever that room was, as a refuge. My bed was my biggest source of serenity to me, so I always made sure it was very comfortable.

David owned, though I'm not sure how he managed it, the Victorian. I paid a small fee each month to be allowed to live on the third floor. He offered it for free, but my pride wouldn't allow it. Plus, I help out with groceries and repairs. I think it's a fair exchange over all.

The room that I choose for my bedroom is the largest on the third floor. It actually takes up almost half of the floor, leaving a full bathroom, a small kitchen, and two other very tiny rooms.

As I entered my bedroom, I looked around and took a deep cleansing breath. I had left the windows open to let in fresh air and the sun during the day. Even though it was already dark outside and the air had cooled, I could still smell the air the sun had warmed as it wafted through the room. Such peace filled me as I put my briefcase down and kicked off my heels.

Lucky, one of my oldest cats, came out from under the bed, pausing to perform a bit of cat magic, stretching and reaching at the same time. Cats are such amazing creatures. Their bodies are works of individual art. I loved to watch them play and tumble with each other, usually ending in a full out love feast filled with bathing and touching. Very therapeutic to watch and enjoy.

Giving Lucky a token scratch on the head as I walked by, I immediately went and sat down on my large bed. King sized, it seemed huge, especially sleeping it in alone. The entire room was decorated in pale blue, green and white; airy colors that sometimes contrasted with my darker thoughts.

I had huge pillows on my bed, which I used for relaxing against. There was nothing else to sit on in my room. My bed served that purpose. I lay in my bed, sit on my bed, relaxed on my bed, and I used to make love in my bed. But it had been many, many moons since that. With each lover I changed comforters, never keeping the old one after the flame had dissolved. It would be like keeping a picture of my old girlfriend. I wouldn't be able to lay in my bed again without thinking of what we had done in that bed, on those sheets, under that comforter.

My huge dresser sat against one wall, its wood matching the light tones of the room without being considered blonde. Two large bookshelves covered another wall, each one filled to capacity and then some. I liked to keep my books close in case I got up in the middle of the night and wanted to read something. I used to have the bookshelves in one of the other rooms, but after a few weeks there was a trail of scattered books leading from the shelves to my bed. I had a tendency to start something and then get interested in something else, leaving the book wherever I had last read it.

Sitting down on my bed, I leaned back and enjoyed the gentle firmness of the mattress combined with the softness of the blankets underneath. A deep sigh was pulled from me as I let the strain of the day melt off. The recuperative powers of my bed never ceased to amaze me.

Stripping of my blouse and my slacks, I hung them up in the closet and realized that I needed to pick out something to wear tomorrow. What do you wear when going to meet the love of your life, who doesn't know she's the love of your life? Flipping through the clothes on the hangers, I felt completely inadequate. My wardrobe was made up of two primary sets of clothing: my work clothes, which I admit are plain and pretty dull, and my play clothes which was mostly jeans and things like that. Nothing in between, nothing casual but dressy.

This called for an emergency. This call for drastic measures.



It took hours, and I mean literally hours for the two of us to decide on an appropriate outfit. David wanted to put me in something flashy that, according to him, said "Come and get me!"

I wanted something a little more subdued yet more exciting than what was in my closet. Finally, we settled on a long, flowing skirt covered in dark pink flowers and a soft, short cashmere sweater to wear with it. Rather than my usual heels or army boots, I choose my seldom worn black flats to finish the outfit. As usual, I did not include pantyhose in my choices.

When I was once again alone in my room, my nerves really hit me as I got ready for bed. Scenarios played in my head, completely unbidden. I had, with good reason, the suspicion that she was not a lesbian or even inclined in that manner. I could be wrong, but my gaydar did not even register with her. But, that didn't lessen my interest in her.

What was I going to say to her? Maybe I should just play it by ear, she what she thinks, how she feels. I know she felt something. She wouldn't have bothered to call if she hadn't. The kiss we shared hadn't been long or detailed, but it had been something. I'd like to think I conveyed something to her in that kiss.

For once I didn't feel the satisfaction of sliding in over cool sheets as I climbed into bed. My head was filled with worse case scenarios and how I would handle them. What if she told me to fuck off, or some such message? How could I convince her?

I fell to sleep eventually, my two cats Tigger and Tippy on top of me. My dreams were filled with anxiety, stress, and a beautiful brunette with clear blue eyes.


Dominick's was just getting into the swing of their lunch rush when I arrived. Of course, I was early. I had tried to go to work, but found myself unable to concentrate.

I think I had been to Dominick's once before, but it was hard to remember. It was a typical Italian restaurant. The colors of Italy flew outside and the interior was dark with soft lighting that was supposed to promote amour.

"We'll see about that," I said under my breath as the host led me to an available table. I asked for something with a view of the door so that I could see her when she entered. I didn't want to miss her.

Toying with the menu, I found it hard to read because I kept looking up at every new noise. In a crowded restaurant, new noises were a constant interruption. After I read veal parmesan over for the umpteenth time, I gave up, setting the menu down on the table and sipping at the glass of water that had been brought to me.

As I took yet another sip, she walked in, almost causing me to choke on the water that had flooded my mouth. God, she was so beautiful. I swear that my chest hurt to look at her. She hadn't spotted me yet, but was definitely looking around. Presumably for little old me. I felt a passing bit of glee at this thought.

She wore a light blue summer dress that was simple and causal with a slightly flared waist. Her skin was pale where exposed, contrasting with her dark hair. Once again, I waited until our eyes met, as I knew they would. How could she not seek me out and find me in any crowd set before her? She would always know me and I her.

Approaching the table, she gave me a smile, and a tilt of her head to ask if the extra seat at my table was for her. I raised my eyebrow and nodded my head at the chair, indicating that yes, it was for her. It was a very civilized way of communicating which I found enchanting. Rather than assuming anything, she asked with gestures.

I wanted to jump up and pull out her chair for her, a gallant gesture if I did say so myself, but propriety kept me from doing it. It would have been too obvious and I didn't want to push anything too far.

Pulling out her own chair, she sat down gently, scooting the chair into place. A menu was already sitting at her place, but she didn't appear to need to look at it, or at least she wasn't in any hurry.

"I'm glad you could come," she spoke first. I had been sitting there playing the role of dumb mute, I realized. What an ass!

"It's my pleasure." When would we get off this pleasant, none committal type of conversation?

"Are you ladies ready to order?" The waitress came up to our table, pad in hand, ready to take our order.

"I'd like just a salad and a glass of milk," Madeline said, not missing a beat. "Blue cheese dressing, please," she answered the waitress's second question before she asked.

Turning to me, the waitress waited for my order with a look of expectation on her face. "Veal Parmesan and a Sprite," I said automatically, not realizing until after the waitress had left that I don't like veal.

Left alone once again in our silence. I fiddled with my fork, thinking of something witty and enlightening to say. "Milk with salad?" I questioned stupidly. Oh shit, what was I thinking? That could definitely be seen as judgmental. My thoughts quickly turned in my head. Did she just like milk or was it something else? Was she...?

"I just have strange tastes," she shrugged, "that's all." Smiling at me shyly, Madeline seemed perfectly content to answer my questions, not seeing them as judgmental. Her eyes narrowed, but her smile stayed in place. "Why do I feel like I know you Fox?"

I smiled back at her, a genuine kind of gesture that I rarely made. Mostly I gave people what they expected, but not with Madeline. No, I wasn't going to hold myself back with her. "I don't know," I replied honestly. "I feel the same way though." I didn't tell her that I had theories of my own, explanations that would scare her away for sure. Insanity was already against me, I didn't need to add more to that.

"It's almost..." she stopped mid sentence.

"Spooky?" I suggested, my eyebrow creeping up my forehead.

Giving me a mock glare, she moved her head back and forth. "No, I was going to say scary, NOT spooky!" We both laughed, the between us breaking a little.

Starring into my eyes, she grew serious. I studied her face as she studied mine; both of us lost in our examination of each other. I noticed that when she was serious, when her face was relaxed, she had the slightest hint of laugh lines around her mouth and the crinkles of crow's feet around her eyes. To me, this was a wonderful sign, to see in her face that laughter was a part of her days. Her face showed her gentleness; her soft femininity was so evident.

"You have such beautiful eyes, Fox," she said suddenly, surprising both of us. A soft reddish color hue climbed her cheeks. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that out loud." Her embarrassment touched me deeply and I wanted to reach out and caress her reddened skin with a tenderness before unknown to me.

"I always thought they were just plain brown," I said, sounding almost shy.

"Oh no," she shook her head, her hair falling around her face. "They aren't plain in anyway." Gazing still more intently into my eyes, she squinted as thought trying to see even the most minute detail. "You have dark green specks that break up the brown, creating something unique." Focusing for a moment longer, she suddenly seemed to pull back. Shifting her eyes from my face, she slowly took her napkin from under her fork and unfolded it, putting it on her lap. Smoothing it out, she spoke without looking up. "They are very beautiful."

I was rather speechless. I didn't know what to say to her. The waitress coming back with our drinks broke the silence. A large glass of milk was placed in front of me and a clear, bubbly Sprite in front of Madeline. The waitress hurried away, and Madeline and I looked at each other. In synch we both picked up the glass we'd been giving and put it on the other's place mat. Our eyes met without thinking and we both broke out into laughter again. The sight of her laughing caused me to laugh harder and I think it had the same effect on her, cause we couldn't seem to stop.

Finally, we both wound down, a smile on both our faces. Her eyes crinkled nicely on the sides when she smiled and her eyes grew smaller with delight. For the first time in weeks I felt tension and stress fade from my body as Madeline's company chased it all away. It felt as thought I hadn't laughed in a lifetime, I realized as I gazed across the table at my smiling lunch date.

We were just sitting there, soft chuckles coming from us now and again, when the food arrived. As my plate was set down before me, I felt my stomach turn at the odor of the Veal Parmesan hit my nose. "Ugh," I moaned, unable to control my distaste. Wrinkling my nose, I pushed the plate a little further away from me.

"Why did you order if you don't like it?" Madeline asked, an enticing grin on her face.

"I don't know," I replied. "It sounded good at the time?"

Laughing lightly, Madeline speared part of her salad and lifted it to her mouth. "Sure, Fox, sure," she said before putting the food into her mouth. If I hadn't noticed her mouth before then, I surely would have at that moment. Her lips closed around the fork and she slowed pulled the fork out, leaving the food in her mouth. I envied the food at that moment, wanting her to consume me, not the lettuce.

I watched as she slowly ate her salad, not touching my own food. Simply sipping at my Sprite when the vision before me got to be too much. We talked a bit about nonsense things that didn't really matter to either of us. An hour passed, and then another. I didn't want to get up. I didn't want to end what I was feeling while just sitting there talking to Madeline. Her smile and the sound of her voice was like a warm blanket thrown over top of me, as well as being a means of seduction, a light teasing blowing into my ear.

She was the sexiest woman I'd ever encountered and I don't think she even realized it. The affect she was having over me was amazing. I was trying hard not to focus on those feelings, wanting to get to know her for herself, not for her sensuality. But it was damn hard.

"Fox?" Madeline asked, quietly breaking into my erotic thoughts.

"Yeah?" I blinked my eyes a few times to readjust my vision.

"Tell me about your name." The smile on her face seemed to be permanent. She smiled a lot and I found myself enjoying it. Her mouth had so many different ways of smiling that I never got tired of seeing it. "I was going to ask before, but I figured you got asked that enough."

I nodded slowly. "I tend not to mention my name unless it's necessary. With casual acquaintances, I'm introduced as Spook more than anything else, which is fine with me. I get a lot of questions." I hadn't realized it, but as I spoke my hand had wandered over to where her hand was resting on the table and had covered it. Madeline hadn't made any attempt to move, but I suddenly felt unsure. Giving her hand a quick squeeze, I pulled back. "But, for you I will be glad to tell the story.

My father was an American Indian, a member of the Chippewa tribe. He married my mother, a nice girl from New England who had never experienced anything outside of her own kin before she met him. They met, apparently at a festival of some sort, when they were teenagers. According to my mother, it was love at first sight. But, if you were to ask my father he would tell you that this little pip-squeak, white girl started following him around and wouldn't leave him alone until he agreed to go out with her.

So, he did. All his friends teased him, telling him he was loosing his edge. But, he kept his promise and that was the last time his friends teased him because after they both graduated high school, they were married. My mother's parents weren't happy with the union, but they had gotten to know my father and accepted what they couldn't prevent.

My father's parents on the other hand refused to acknowledge the marriage. Their wedding night was spent on the reservation and even then his father brought over a young Indian woman, extolling her virtue. Well, my mother wasn't going to let this continue, so she told my grandfather off in his own tongue, and from that day forth, he never tried anything like that again.

Within their first year of marriage, mom got pregnant with me. My father wanted to name me some long Indian name that would prepare my spirit for life on this realm. My mother wanted to name me Jean. In the end, they compromised and named me Fox, saying that I would be quick and smart, beautiful and cunning, able to out run my enemies and surprise my lovers with my beauty and grace."

I began to blush as I finished, sure that I sounded as though I were tooting my own proverbial horn.

"So, here I am with the name Fox." I shrugged, feeling my face growing warmer by the second.

"Your parents sound like interesting people. Do you see them often?" Madeline asked innocently, even as I felt the twinge of pain in my heart.

"No, they died when I was 17," my voice dropped as I spoke, still feeling the confusion and pain I'd felt then. I could never understand why they were taken from me. They had been full of such love for each other. I guess in many ways, I wanted that much in my own life and I wouldn't settle for anything less. I wanted someone to look at me the same way my father looked at my mother when he thought no one saw him. His large brown eyes would glaze over in admiration of what he thought was the most beautiful woman in the world, and this silly little smile would make the corners of his mouth turn up.

As I looked at Madeline right now I knew that I wanted her to look at me like that. I wanted to look into her blue eyes and see unconditional love for me.

"I'm sorry Fox," Madeline said softly even as I looked at her. Her hand found mine and gently caressed it. "I didn't mean to bring up painful memories."

I felt passion for so many things surge through me, surprising me. I hadn't felt real passion for life for so long. "Madeline, you should have seen my parents. They loved each other so much you could feel it!" Do you feel it now? I wanted to ask her, to see if she could feel what I was feeling, the love I had for her. Madeline's eyes filled with tears as I watched her.

"I don't think I've had a single model for an ideal marriage in my life. It was always full of hate and heartache. I guess I've always wanted to see two people who really loved each other and were devoted to one another, at least once." Her eyes dropped from mine as she spoke, as though she was ashamed of what she was saying. "Does that sound silly at all?"

I smiled at her gently, her question so full of innocence and wonder. "No, Madeline, it's not silly." Her hand was still on mine, the weight of it pleasantly sending waves of warmth through my body. "Any child growing up wants to see that their parents love each other." There were puzzle pieces that were growing in my head, creating a picture of Madeline, but so many pieces were still missing. I wanted to fill them in, but I understood that those were gaps that would come with time. I would take that time any way I could get it, in friendship or otherwise.

"I always wanted what they didn't seem to have. A love that was all encompassing and all consuming. A passion so great that it filled my every hour life gave me." I could see that she had drifted away from our table, her mind having gone to some distance place where she saw herself. I could tell by looking at her eyes that her thoughts were very far away.

"Sometimes we can't have what we want no matter how much we're willing to sacrifice for it," she said cryptically, but I had an idea of what she was talking about. I remembered the man she had been with, the man who had some sort of unspoken control over her. And then I took a moment to study her hand, seeing the ring on her left hand. A wedding ring, no doubt. It was large and it sparkled in the light of the restaurant.

Shyly she pulled her hand away from mine, as though she had suddenly realized what she was doing and wasn't completely comfortable with it. Our light laughter and joking was over, seriousness had seeped in and taken over. Madeline's eyes focused on me and I felt like I was in for something, although I wasn't sure what.

"Why did you kiss me at the party?"

I swallowed hard as I felt a lump literally fill my throat, constricting all vocal abilities. "Wh...what do you mean?"

A gentle smile was formed by her lips, easing my anxiety slightly. "Fox, that was more than a friendly kiss on the cheek. Was that an accident?" Her eyes soften as they fixed on me.

I knew I had to have been blushing, but at the moment I didn't feel anything. I was numb with shock and apprehension. How should I answer? As I looked into her eyes I knew I couldn't lie when she asked me such a direct question. "Not exactly," I muttered.

Moving back slightly in her chair, she crossed her legs and continued to look at me. The silence was so daunting. What was she thinking as she sat there, her face serious but not upset. The lines around her mouth were smoothed out, but her eyes still crinkled as they smiled at me.

The waitress came back to the table, our check in her hand. "Can I get either one of you desert?" She asked pleasantly.

Madeline raised an eyebrow at me, silently asking me what I wanted. "No, I don't care for anything. Do you?" I returned the question to her.

"No, thank you." She smiled demurely at the waitress.

"Have a good day ladies," the waitress said as she placed the check conveniently between us, letting us fight over who paid.

There would be no fight. I swooped up the piece of paper before Madeline could make a move. She looked at me with a pointed look. "Please let me pay. It's the least I can do." I was thoroughly embarrassed by this point. I guess I had an idea that she might bring up the kiss at some point during the meeting, but I hadn't expected her to be so direct. What could I say? I wasn't going to lie to her if I could help it. If I had any sort of future with this woman than I needed to be honest.

"Fox, please don't be embarrassed. Can I ask you something?" Her voice was warm and I had to admit that her kindness was easing my discomfort slightly.

"I guess..."

"Are you a lesbian?"

What? What did that have to do with anything? Only lesbians kiss other women? I thought about that. I guess that was kind of true. What if I was just a straight woman who missed her cheek? Or maybe I had been attracted to her, but had never been attracted to another woman in my life? Yeah, right. I was as lesbian as they come. Even my mother knew it before I did. Shit.

"Yes," I gulped, waiting for the cold to settle in as she processed my answer. "Is that...a problem for you?" My question came out more hesitantly than I had planned. I really was afraid of her answer, but better to know now then to go further and have a door slammed in my face.

"Not a problem, no. I've had many gay friends and I'd like to be friends with you." The sincerity in her face told me that she wasn't at all uncomfortable with me or my life choices.

Friends. Yeah, that's the ticket. Friendship was a good thing, right? It meant that I'd be part of her life. Part of her existence. Maybe, eventually, she would come to think of me as more than a friend. Maybe. Come on Fox, don't get your hopes up. I might have to settle for loving her from a distance. Unrequited love was a concept that sounded fine on paper when the alternatives were nothing, but in reality it was the hard life. Okay, so being a lesbian was already living the hard life, but this would be an added hardship.

"I would like that a lot Madeline." I forced a smile at her, feeling my stomach drop with the realization that it was all out of my control. She could fall for me, but I had no way of determining whether or not that would happen.

Glancing at her watch, Madeline sighed. "I'm sorry Fox, but I have to get going."

I guess it was too much to expect her to stay at the restaurant and talk to me all afternoon. We'd already been sitting at the table for two hours, I noticed as I looked at my own watch.

Nodding, I searched in my purse for my wallet, knowing it was in there somewhere. Madeline had already stood up, but had forgotten that her purse was sitting under the table. Leaning down to pick it up, her shirt shifted, revealing to my eyes the uppermost swell of her breasts. I felt my heart rate increase as I starred. Such beautiful breasts, I could imagine while looking at the milky skin that they would be so soft to the touch, a silkiness like none that I had ever imagined. My mind was moving quickly, imagining what her breasts would look like complete uncovered. I could see perfect nipples in the middle of each swell, my mouth water at the thought. My hands began to itch as I felt the desire to reach out and gently touch them, cupping their fullness.

Such a sensual sight was reeking havoc on my body. While my mouth was imagining her hardened nipple slipping between my moist lips, my hands were aching to touch her, and there was a growing need between my legs that demanded attention. I knew I was lost as I felt the wetness there growing, warm sensations ebbing through my body. My mind was hazy as my desire and passion consumed me, leaving my mouth dry and my cunt wet.

But the vision was over too soon as she stood back up, straightening her shirt as she did and the light played off the ring on her left hand, a cruel reminder of how things really were. I felt the vile creep up my throat, and I swallowed it. How quickly the body can go from feeling one thing to feeling another.

Go back to your husband Madeline, I thought at her. Go back and forget about me. Dammit, I wanted to leave her with my scent on her fingers, my taste in her mouth so that she would know without a shadow of a doubt that she was mine. I felt an animalistic need to mark my claim, but reason and sanity held me in check. I had no claim to this beautiful woman except that I loved her and knew we were meant to be together. Fate and destiny don't hold up in court or anywhere else for that matter.

Be strong Fox, I told myself. I needed to be strong, to take this all in stride and have faith that she would one day feel what I did. There was no doubt in mind that she was worth waiting for. I would wait forever for her. I smiled at her, her eyes sparkling back at me. Leaning over, I gave her a friendly kiss on the cheek this time. "Call me when you want to get together again." She nodded, and I left, taking with me the blazing image of Madeline's cleavage.


I didn't go back to work that day. Instead I went to an old haunt to think and to clear my head from the image I left with. What an image though!

The Alston Park is about 10 miles from where my parents used to live when I was growing up. In 35 years, things had changed around the park, but the park itself was immortal.

I parked on the street and crossed to where the park's land was delineated from the rest of the neighborhood by a wide sidewalk welcome to those who liked to walk. A separate concrete trail was created for those that wanted to use wheels around the park - from bicycles to roller blades. Both of these paths were on the outskirts of the actual park.

The far left quadrant, furthest from the street, was devoted to a play ground for children. Over the years the equipment on the playground had changed, but the atmosphere still held the safety that very few places held for children anymore. The city had hired an attendant to be at the playground to watch the children.

Next to it was a quiet field that held scattered benches and trees. This was always my favorite part of the park. When I stood there, I could close my eyes and see my mother with her long blonde hair reading out loud from a picture book. Every once in awhile her blue eyes would catch mine and she'd wink.

The front part of the park was more busy, devoted to basketball and tennis, with a small soccer field off to the right.

Ignoring what was going on in these sport areas, I headed back to the field. I found a bench that was shaded by a tall tree that was vacant of any occupants - human or other wise. Sitting down, I folded my legs up underneath me, careful of the skirt. I didn't need to be flashing the wildlife. Propping my head up with my hand, I braced my elbow on the bench's armrest.

All of a sudden I felt very heavy in the head, almost as though I was weighed down. What I had I done? I had left the proverbial ball in her court. That had to have been the most stupid thing yet. Was that the stupidest thing I'd done yet? Well, there was the kiss, that wasn't smart. Well, just because I told her to get in touch with me doesn't mean I can't nudge her a little, right?

I sat there and tried to believe that. But, I was lying. I had to give her the space to feel this connection on her own. I know that she felt it now, but wasn't willing or able to process what that meant. I knew though, without any doubt, that she was meant for me. There was this beyond-this-plane type of attraction between us. Something that contained both the physical and the emotional lusting and needing. I want her with my mind and my body. It was the strangest, most exhilarating feeling I'd ever experienced.

Clearing my mind, I watched the park's other visitors, other people enjoying the beautiful day and the solitude of nature. Taking deep breaths, I slowly let my thoughts resume.

Madeline. My thoughts have been consumed by her since I first saw her. It seemed like she'd always been a part of my thoughts, but I'd never known her name. Or her face, but I knew that her face would strike me in a way no one else's ever had.

I wanted to whisk her away, take her some place where I could show her that fate wasn't just an abstract concept, but a tangible idea. And that I was a part of her fate.

God, I sounded like a fruit case! Fate and destiny! And yet, I found myself firmly believing in these things for the first time.

I mean, I always knew that there was someone out there that was perfect for me. Someone who would complete me and make me whole. She would find in me everything that she needed. I would be the only person she desired, the only person she wanted forever with. And she would be all of that and more for me.

Madeline. She was all of that for me already. I knew the first time I saw her face that she was meant for me and I for her. After lunch today, I was only further convinced.

But, how do I show her? How do I make her see?

Sighing, I rubbed at my forehead, a gesture of frustration. I never thought that when I met her it would be this difficult. I guess I assumed that we would fall into each other's arms when we found each other. In my mind, the most difficult thing would be finding one another. But I was wrong. That was just the first mountain, the foothills actually. The real climb was yet to come.

From where I sat I could see the children on the playground. They ran around, over under and through the equipment without a care in the world, oblivious to anything else going on around them. I wanted to be one of them, just for a moment. I want things to be easy going, without concern or hassle. I wanted to be able to hold little Madeline's hand and shyly kiss her cheek on the merry-go-round.

Sighing again, I rubbed my eyes this time, mascara and eyeliner be damned. My eyes hurt, my head hurt, and my heart was aching for what I wanted but couldn't have.

I felt like one of the kids climbing the monkey bars. Holding on for what seemed to be life or death and trying to get to the next rung without dropping. I was hanging on for dear life, hoping to just make it to the next rung without the life being sucked out of me, like the air in my lungs when I exhaled, being expelled from the depths of my soul.

I had waited for this long to find Madeline. I could wait longer if necessary. I wanted her, but I wanted her to want me too. And she would, I had no doubt. But she had to see it for herself, and that would take time and patience - not a virtue I have by nature, but one that I can create a reasonable facsimile of.

Taking deep cleansing breaths, I felt my strength begin to build again. I would wait. I would sit by patiently, waiting for her to see me. Now, that wouldn't mean that I wouldn't be persistent. No, eI wouldn't back away completely, but I wouldn't push her either.

Closing my eyes, I lay my head down and just let myself relax. Well, relax as much as I could.

"Ahhh!!" I yelped as my jacket pocket began vibrating. I had left my cell phone on vibrate, as was normal for me. I rarely got calls on it, however, because very few people knew the number. I mainly used it to call out or for emergencies.

Pulling up the antenna, I flipped the lower half of the little Motorola StarTAC down before bringing the contraption to my ear. "Hello?"

It was Megan. Of course.

"Has someone died?"

No one had.

"Has there been a fire and you're homeless?"

Wasn't that either.

"Have you been abducted by aliens and are allowed one call?"

She said that anything was possible, but if she had been abducted, her memories had been erased.

"Okay then Megan, why in God's name are you calling me then?" I knew she wanted dirt. She wanted to know how things had gone with Madeline.

She hemmed and hawed, commenting on the fact that she just wanted to see how her best friend was doing.

"I'm doing just fine Megan, and how are you?" I asked sweetly. If she wanted to play, I'd play, no problem.

Finally, she got down to it.

"Did I do her?" I repeated her obscene question incredulously. "Megan Marie! You did NOT just ask me that question!"

She assured me that she had indeed asked that.

"Since you've digressed so far down the maturity chain, then I'll choose not to inform you of what transpired at the restaurant today." I huffed at her. I was honestly offended that she asked me that of Madeline. It wasn't atypical of Megan, but still, this was a different situation completely!

Continuing with another inappropriate comment about what we had done in the restaurant, I interrupted her.

"Down Megan!" I yelled into the phone, I'm sure causing all the dogs in the park to perk up. "Listen to me. I love you but you're going too far. I don't want to hear you talking about Madeline that way." I took a deep breath to calm myself.

A more sober comment about my chivalry followed.

"This has nothing to do with being chivalrous. I just am very serious and sensitive about her, that's all."

Megan began on a different thread after that, asking me if I remembered what tonight was.

"Tuesday? Um, Buffy's on?"

I was promptly chastised for forgetting. It was Megan's surprise party. Ironic being informed of it by the person who was supposed to be surprised, huh?

"Shit, I did forget. I'm sorry Megan. It's at Iris, right?"

Yes, I was told, at 8 pm. I was to arrive early to surprise her and gifts were welcomed.

Laughing, I told her I'd be there, gift in hand. She said she'd talk to me there and we hung up. Shaking my head, I once again marveled at my best friend. She was definitely an unusual cookie.


Isis was a local lesbian bar that the three of us frequented. The bar held the residue of memories for all of us. Good and bad, breakups and reunions, parties and fights. The owner of Isis was Marg, a rotund, butch of a women who seemed to watch all these events from the background. She rarely offered any advice to her patrons, but if asked, she would give insight on what she thought and what she saw. Never gossip, merely an outside opinion, which is often right on the mark.

Marg was a good friend of mine. She'd seen many of my breakups and without passing judgment she would sit me down at the bar and talk about life in general, never adding salt to any of my wounds. When I was at the bar, she'd be sure to save a special smile for me.

Dressing for the bar was always a traumatic experience for me. I never knew what to wear that would catch people's attention and yet I would be comfortable in. This time, I really didn't care. I was going for Megan, not to woo someone. Throwing on a pair of jeans and a sweater, I put on a pair of loafers, grabbed Megan's previously purchased present, and left after running a brush through my hair.

I was earlier than I needed to be. I put my gift for Megan on the table designated with the sign "Gifts for Megan".

"Original Marg," I threw over the bar where Marg was bent over getting a bottle of something from a bottom shelf.

Grunting in return, she straightened, a frown on her face. "I'm not the creative talent around here. I leave that up to you professional types who get paid for being creative."

I laughed lightly at her humor. "Marg you wouldn't like it anyway. Wearing heels all day and the occasional skirt-"

"Enough said!" Holding up a beefy hand, Marg made a face. "Not a chance. Gimme my bar and my sneakers any day." She smiled briefly before getting serious again. "Spooky, you won't believe who's back in town."



I felt my stomach flip. "Annie?" I repeated stupidly. I knew it couldn't be who I thought she was talking about. I'm sure it was another Annie.

"Yeah, as in your ex?" Marge slid a 7 and 7 my way, probably figuring I'd need the alcohol. She as right.

Annie. I hadn't seen her in 9 years. I hadn't wanted to see her in at least 5. There had been a time where I'd willed her to come back to town, to me. But, I eventually moved on enough that I didn't really think about her anymore. And now she was back.

We had met when I was looking for an internship in the advertising world. My senior year in college, I wanted to get my foot in the door before I actually graduated. Manchester Designs was one of the best firms in the area, so I went there first. Annie was head of the graphics' department there. She had a warm smile and a firm handshake. That was my first impression of her. And, she came on to me the first day I was there. We dated for a little while, maybe a month before we were sharing her office and her bed. Two years later, she left, saying that she needed to move on and that the move didn't include me.

I was heart broken. She had been the first woman I had actually slept with. I knew that I was a lesbian, but I had never acted on it. Actually, she was the first person I had slept with period. I thought that we had had something special.

It took time, but I moved on and realized that while I was content with our life, I wasn't happy with Annie. At least not happy like I had always dreamed I would be. But, there was something about Annie. There always had been. An attraction which had devastated my life.

Now she was back. 9 years later, she came back. I wondered why she was back in town. What had brought her back to the place that she swore kept her from achieving her goals?

"You in there Spook?" Marg's gravely voice called out to me. She had to of known that hearing about Annie would upset me in some way. Her dull brown eyes looked at me with something that was closely related to sympathy. "You know, she looks really different now." She shook her head as she thought about it, her hand automatically reaching for a wet rag to clean the bar with. That was some sort of bartender's security blanket, the rag in hand, ready to catch those drops of moisture that fell off glasses or the occasional spilled beer. "Funny how time changes people."

"Yeah," I said absently, my mind having drawn away from the present, hiding in a place of the past, a time when I was still innocent enough to believe in people and their promises.

As I sat there, I contemplated innocence. It was something that was taken away from you, something that was quietly stolen from you in the night, a little at a time until you can't remember what it was like to have it. I know I once had it completely.

Interesting how you think of how you've changed and matured, how you've grown as years past by, but you can't remember how it happened. It just did.

"SPOOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKYYYYYYYY!" A loud, obnoxious voice rang out through the entire bar. Everyone turned there head toward the door and the small woman bearing a severe buzz cut that made her look like a miniature G.I. Jane.

Oh Lord, I thought to myself. Marg gave me a strange smile, so I might have just said it out loud, I'm not sure.

The short dynamo made her way toward me, a vicious smile on her face. "Hi Dana," I said through my teeth.

"How ya been partner?" She gave me an exaggerated wink.

Partner. When Dana found out that my first name was Fox, it didn't take too long for her to put two and two together. Dana and Fox, as in Scully and Mulder. The X-Files. She insisted that we were just like them. I gave up arguing that she looked nothing like Scully without hurting her feelings.

"I'm okay, how about you?" I let my eyes scan the bar, trying to make it obvious that I wasn't giving her my full attention. Dana grated on my nerves like few people could. Where was Megan when you needed her? Megan and Dana hated each other. Long story, centering around a tall willowy blonde, her dog, and Megan's car.

"Oh great, great!" Her voice grew more annoying as she talked, if that was at all possible. Looking around the bar herself, her eyes narrowed when she saw the table with the sign for Megan. "What's going on here tonight?" She said suspiciously.

Inwardly grinning, I figured I'd milk the event as much as I could, hoping it would frighten her away. "We're having a huge surprise party for Megan!" I said enthusiastically. "It's going to be great! Lots of her friends here, all celebrating the day she was born."

"Bitch!" Dana seethed quietly. I was trying so hard to keep a straight face that I think I was straining some muscles. "I can't even go out without her taking over my bar!" Huffing and puffing under her breath, Dana's eyes glazed over and she ran a hand over what little hair she had on top of her head.

Her bar? That's typical. Lesbians found one spot and it became their's. No one else had a right to be there.

Turning to me, a tight smile on her face, Dana shook her head. "I'm going to get going Fox. I just remembered that I forgot to feed Spanky. Maybe I'll see you later."

Before I could reply, she was practically running out of the door. I burst out laughing and heard my laugh echoed by someone else sitting at the bar. The laugh was deep and throaty. Turning, I spotted the woman behind the laugh. She was fairly tall and average sized, her hair a dirty blonde. When she caught my eye, she lifted her drink in greeting to me.

"I'm assuming that was no friend of yours?" Her speaking voice was just as throaty as her laugh. The kind of huskiness that came from years of smoking.

Shaking my head, I laughed in return. "Definitely not."

Smiling from the corner of her mouth, she lifted her drink and moved a little closer to me, presumably so that we could continue to converse without having to talk so loudly. "And who exactly is Spanky?" She asked, referring to Dana's parting words.

Again I laughed. It felt good to laugh like this, so easily. It couldn't have been that long since I'd really laughed, but it felt like it. "Her dog. A large, annoying mutt of some sort."

Taking a sip of her drink, the woman seemed contemplative for a minute. "Well, you know what they say," she smiled at me again. "Pets often look like their owners."

The laugh shot from me before I could stop it. A full belly laugh that made me want to roll on the floor. "Oh, that's a good one," I managed to get out as I laughed, tears beginning to form in my eyes.

The woman joined me in the laughter, and I was again aware of the way it affected my ears. Definitely a pleasant sound. "I'm Elaine, by the way," she held a hand out in my direction.

Grasping it lightly, I smiled. "Fox."

She looked at me strangely and then shook her head. "I'm not even going to ask you about your name cause I'm sure you get asked all the time." Squeezing my hand, she held on to it for a minute before letting go. "Nice to meet you Fox," she said letting my hand drop. Her eyes wandered the bar for a long moment before she turned back to look at me. "New in town, haven't really met anyone around here. Figured a bar was always a good place to at least be around people."

I was getting mixed signals from Elaine already. There was a distinct feeling of interest coming from her. The way she had inserted herself into the thing with Dana, then the way she held my hand a little longer than necessary. I could be mistaken, but then again I could be right. Studying her for a quick second, I decided that she was definitely not repulsive. Quiet attractive really. Never hurts to talk, right? Plus, as she said, she didn't really know anyone. She probably just was craving conversation and I happened to be there.

"Well, you picked a great night to come. One of the regulars is having a birthday party here tonight so they'll be plenty of people for you meet." Then again, we're talking Megan's friends here. Now, granted, she's my best friend in the entire world, and I love her to death, but her taste in friends was rather eclectic. We're talking from shaved heads with piercings everywhere, to business suits in heels.

Suddenly I realized that Elaine's light blue eyes had darkened briefly as I spoke. Something flashed across her face, only lasting a brief second. "I'm sure you're right, but really I wasn't all that interested in meeting that many people. Just one..." she trailed off before continuing, "...or two women who think the way I do."

Ah, the sign. She was looking to take someone home. And she was into group activities. Or at least a third person wouldn't be unwelcomed. Eek. Well, maybe I could steer her in the right direction. As I looked at her and again saw her eyes darken, I realized what she meant. She was thinking about me! That was lust in her eyes, nothing more, nothing less.

Before I could stop myself, I did a quick check to see what I was wearing. Nothing unusual. I don't pretend to be the most desirable woman in the world, but I haven't had any complaints about how I look either. Still, this kind of blatant interest was new.

"I'm sure you'll find someone," I muttered into my drink, looking for an escape. I don't know if I was escaping her, or myself. Damn, could this day get anymore complicated?

More and more people began to show up and I was inundated by familiar faces that wanted to greet me. In many ways, it was nice to be someplace where I was welcomed and missed. There were a few women that I really used to enjoy spending time with, whom I considered friends, but I had forgotten about them in my daily life. I made a few lunch dates with some of them, exchanging promises of keeping in touch.

The entire time, Elaine sat at the bar watching me. She had been approached a few times that I had seen, but sent each woman away with a smile. It really made me think. It had been a long time since I'd been with anyone. For a long time I had put my body's needs aside, simply because sex didn't fulfill my soul's needs. I was tired of feeling incomplete after a night of sex, feeling empty. So, I just stopped. I stopped trying. I knew that I would find her someday and just figured I'd wait till then. Waiting wasn't a bad thing. Right?

Tree called from her cell phone to let us know that they were on their way. Marg had a small mic and speaker set up behind the bar so that she could make announcements when neccesary. Turning it on, she informed the party goers and everyone else in the bar of the plan to surprise Megan. Apparently I was the only one who knew that Megan already knew about the party, so I kept my mouth shut and went along with the plan.

"Everyone hide somewhere and we'll jump out when they come through," someone shouted from the crowd.

Marg nodded reluctantly. For ten minutes about fifty women tried to find places to hide in the relatively small bar. I swear they all looked like they were on an Easter Egg hunt or something, everyone vying for the few hiding areas. People were piled up in corners and under tables. You could hear swearing as hands were stepped on and women were shoved in different directions. I sat back and watched it all, laughing at the entire picture.

Finally Marg shook her head in frustration. "Everyone come out and we'll just shout surprise as they walk through." She turned off the mic and looked at me sitting at the bar. "I swear, if we have everyone hidden they won't be able to get back out once they do come in." She turned away from me, reaching for something. "Goddamn lesbians," I heard her mutter under her breath.

It wasn't long before Tree came bursting through the door, holding it wide open as Megan came in behind her.

"SURPRISE!" The entire bar yelled, almost in unison. Of course, there had to be some individuals in the crowd.

I could tell that Megan had worked on her surprise face. A huge smile was on her face, her mouth opened as though she didn't know what to say, her eyes wide in surprise. Now, I knew this was a fake reaction, or I should say a practiced reaction. When Megan is really surprised, her eyes grow small and her mouth moves like a fish trying to take in water. Her face gets all blotchy and she usually yells.

"What have you guys done?" She exclaimed, her voice high in pitch.

Joanne, Tree's friend, was standing toward the front. "Now, now, Tree really was the one who did this."

Whirling around to look at Tree, we all watched as Megan planted a huge kiss on Tree's lips. You could feel the heat that grew between them as the kiss lingered.

Squeals and cat whistles were heard through out until finally Megan let go of her hold on Tree's mouth and turned back around, her own mouth forming a huge smile. "Don't worry girls, she'll get thanked in full later," she said cattily, causing the women to cheer.

Moving forward everyone could see a stunned Tree sporting a deep scarlet blush. "Wow," was all she could say before Megan grabbed her by the hand and pulled her further in.

I watched at a corner of the bar as Megan was greeted by various friends, ex-girlfriends, and general bar patrons. Everyone seemed to want to pass on their happy birthday's and congratulations.

"Is this seat taken?" A vaguely familiar voice came from behind where I was sitting. Turning around on my seat, I almost fell off when I saw who was standing in front of me.

"Dav-!" I practically yelled before he clamped a hand over my mouth.

"Shhhh. It's Alexandria tonight." He released his hold on my mouth and sat down next to me.

"This is a women's only bar," I whispered.

"I know," he whispered back. "That's why I'm in drag."

And boy was he. No pun intended. He had on a dark wig that made his normal pale skin look almost luminescent. His makeup was subtle, lightly highlighting his cheek and brow bones. A plain black dress made up of a soft and gentle material hid his body from view, obscuring any kind of manly qualities and not over emphasizing anything either.

"How did you get in here?" Genuinely curious, I wanted to know how he'd managed to fool all the women around him.

Pointing to his feet, he explained. "No heels."


"Well, one of the ways a lot of people can tell a woman is really a man is size. More angular bones, usually, but also we tend to put on heels." Shrugging, he flexed his foot which was housed in a plain black flat. "Forego the heels and I look more...normal."

Laughing lightly, I smiled at him. "The next question will be why."

He shrugged again, this time it was more exaggerated, both hands palm up. I got wind of the party and purchased a very special gift for Megan which I just had to see her open in front of all these wonderful party goers."

I got a warning pain in the bottom of my stomach. "Dav- I mean, Alexandria, what have you done?" This did not bode well.

Looking innocent, he batted his eyes at me. "I do declare, I have no idea to what you are referring!" His southern accent needed work that's for sure.

I knew that I wouldn't get anything concrete out of him. If David could do one thing that was unlike any other gay man I've ever known, it was that he could keep a secret. Oh, he traded gossip just like any other drag queen, but if something was a secret, then he would keep his mouth shut.

"Marg, darling," David lifted his hand in the air, waving at the busy bartender. "Could you bring me another?" He held up his almost empty glass. "And another of whatever Fox is drinking."

Surprising me, Marg hustled over and graciously served the two drinks. "Here you go sugar," she said very sweetly to David as she handed him his drink. "Here Fox," she handed me mine, her tone more brusque. Giving David a wink, she turned around again and I swear there was a little wiggle to her walk.

"What have you done to her?" I asked David incredulously.

"I think she has a crush on me," he said, smirking.

Amazing. I hope that I wouldn't be the one to tell Marg that she was a he.

"Spook, there you are!" A breathless Tree approached us both. "Excuse us," she said to David without recognizing him, and turned directly to me. "Why are you hiding back here? Megan's been asking about you."

"Oh, we'd better not keep the queen waiting!" I started to get up and noticed that my legs were a little bit wobbly. I'd only had...well, only a few drinks. Then again, I haven't had alcohol in so long.

I followed Tree to where Megan was sitting on a throne of sorts, right in front of the presents. She was talking animatedly to someone whose face I couldn't see. As I approached, my body had a strange reaction of recognition. I knew this woman, but I couldn't figure out who she was from behind.

As I got closer, Megan looked up and spotted me. "Hey Spooky!" She waved me over excitedly. "Look who's here!"

The blonde turned around and I saw a face that I hadn't seen in a very long time.

"Annie," I said dully, unable to find anything to be happy about. I didn't need this today. Or ever for that matter.

"Hi Fox!" She said warmly as she reached out to embrace me. I moved back slightly and she got the hint that I didn't want to be hugged. She had enough grace to back away, a light blush scattering over her face. "How have you been?"

I quickly saw the difference that Marge had spoken of. Annie had always been slender, built like an athlete, lean and strong. But now she was thin; too thin. Her cheek bones even stuck out, and though she was wearing make up, I could see the dull look in her normally bright eyes. I bit my cheek to prevent my immediate concern from being voiced. I didn't want to care. I wasn't going to care. She wasn't my responsibility anymore and the pain she'd left me with was enough to assure that I no longer needed to feel anything toward her.

"Fine, thank you," I said tightly. My mother taught me manners and I wasn't going to forsake them now. "Happy birthday," I said turning toward Megan. "I'll talk to you later." Turning on my heel, I left quickly.

I walked back to the bar and got myself another drink. Then another. The night was lost to the alcoholic haze. I sat, slouched at the bar, ignoring everyone around me until I felt a firm hand on my arm.

Looking up, I could barely make out the face. Madeline! Standing up, I tried to throw my arms around her, but she spoke and I knew I had been dreaming. It wasn't Madeline standing before me. It was Elaine.

"You need to go home. Why not come to mine?" She said suggestively.

My eyes had problems focusing on her. I was still reeling from seeing Madeline's face in front of me. Madeline. My Madeline. I had no promises from her, no kind of sign that she was even interested in me, yet I was hers completely.

Starring at the beautiful blonde, I felt myself grow cold, rather than hot from desire. No, I was, in my heart, a taken woman. I belonged to someone. She might not realize it yet, or want to see it, but that's all there is to it.

Madeline. My beautiful Madeline. No one could compare to her beauty or her sensuality.

"No," I whispered to Elaine. She started to bend over as if to kiss me. I stood up quickly, not willing to even let another's lips touch mine. Even my lips belonged to Madeline.

"Come on, I'll give you anything you want Fox." Elaine continued to purr at me, getting closer and closer. "You can't tell me you don't want me?" She unbuttoned her blouse until her breasts were almost falling from behind the fabric. I could see the lacy edge of her bra, and yet I felt nothing.

"You can't give me Madeline," I said, a trace of sadness consuming me even as I said the words out loud.

Cold sober, I realized that my life was incomplete. Nothing could fill that emptiness that was Madeline's. She was the only filler for the hole inside of me. I needed her to be complete and nothing else would due.

Pushing away from the bar, I walked toward the door. My feet were still having problems moving, but I knew that would be gone soon too. The alcohol seemed to be sucked out of me as my brain began thinking again of life without happiness.

I knew I'd wait for Megan until the day I died if I had to. She was all I wanted. All I needed.

Walking outside, I felt a soft cold wind hit my face, refreshing me. Taking deep breaths, I opened my mouth and howled at the sky, filling my cry with my loneliness and need. Maybe someone, somewhere would hear me and have pity on me.



The crowd around me was so loud that I couldn't even make out what was being said. So many people talking, coming to my ears like a persistent humming. Everyone around me was dressed in bright colors, blinding my eyes as well. I was in black and white, as though someone had begun to colorize one of those old black and white movies and just hadn't gotten to me yet.

A familiar figure passed in front of me, catching my eye immediately. Madeline was also a black and white figure, not colorized like the others. Her eyes seemed to be searching and somehow I knew she was searching for me.

"Madaline!" I tried to yell out, but even I couldn't hear myself above the noise of those around us. I began to move in her direction, but my feet were planted to the floor. Someone must have put glue on the floor. That was the only reason I could think of for not being able to move.

Waving my hands, I continued to yell out her name, hoping she'd see me and come to me. She needed me. We needed each other, in out black-and-whiteness we needed to cling to each other, keeping each other sane through the Technicolor madness that surrounded us.

I felt something pulling at the very core of my being, something drawing me back into myself, away from Madeline. Helpless to stop it, I cried out one last time, my throat aching as I did, but a darkness consumed me and left me alone.


I drifted awake, my throat throbbing and my head splitting. Moaning, I felt sunlight fall over me, warming my face and increasing my hangover. Oh God, why did I drink so much? I knew that had to be the lament of most people after they get drunk and find themselves in pain, but I really meant it. Why?

Then the memories, the desire to fill my bed, the lusting for Madeline and getting nothing came back. Oh yeah, that was why.

The damn sun was too damn cheerful, making me want to find a way to create a permanent solar eclipse, clipping his happiness in the bud. Oh yeah, the sun's definitely a man the way it's annoying me at the moment.

Rolling over slowly, fighting the nausea, I looked at my clock. It was well after noon, almost 1:30, in fact. Thank God it was Saturday, I know I couldn't have made it to work with my head pounding like that. My mouth had that thick feeling, dry and disgusting.

Putting on my robe, I stumble toward the bathroom. Cold water helps me wake up and a good brushing makes my mouth feel a little more human.

The night before had been a revelation to me. I knew that I loved Madeline, but I hadn't realized just how consuming that love was. I couldn't just forget about her, or wait for her to make up her mind about me. I needed to pursue her, to convince her of her own need for me.

This thought in my mind, I went downstairs in search of coffee. David must have closed the drapes on the first floor when he came home because it was blissfully dark down there. I slipped down the stairs and let the cool darkness envelope me. At the bottom, I rest a minute, allowing the temperature difference soak my skin, feeling my headache subside slightly.

The stairs end in the front hallway. Off to the left is the living room and behind that the kitchen. At the bottom of the stairs I headed left, having to pass by the entrance to the living room to reach my destination and snag my coffee.

I heard a soft snore first, then a louder one followed. I stopped where I stood, and listened. I knew that snore. I have heard it more times than I can count. Turning toward the living room, I focus on the darkness there.

Figures of different shapes and sizes littered the living room. The chairs were taken, the couch had at least three occupants, and the floor seemed to be covered as well.

What the hell had happened here?

Quietly going in, I listened for the snore again. A few moments pass before I hear it again, even louder than before. Finding the source, I bend down and peer into Megan's face. She's one of the occupants on the couch. Laying on top of Tree, their bodies are wrapped around each other, and in the dark it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began. For a brief moment I basked in the beauty of it. But then Megan snored again, and the moment was broken.


Quickly covering my ears with my hands, I can feel the blood rushing through my head as my headache comes back with a vengeance. Turning around I found David standing behind me, a huge smile on his face.

"David," I begin, my teeth clenched. "If you EVER do that again, I promise that I will steal all of your wigs and dresses and burn them!"

"Touchy, touchy!" He sniffed at me.

All around us people were stirring. Well, I should say women were stirring. It seemed as though David had brought home the entire bar.

Attempting civility, I addressed David. "What happened?"

Shrugging, David answered as he stood in the middle of the chaos. "Megan and I decided that it would be prudent to continue the party here after the bar closed."

"And I slept through that?"

"Honestly, I wasn't even sure you were here till I saw you this morning. I recall seeing you get pretty friendly with someone at the bar," he winked at me and I felt my anger rise to an unreasonable manner.

Breathe Fox, breathe, I told myself. My misplaced anger would only make my headache worse if I allowed it to explode.

"Hey Spooky," Megan came up behind me, still a little wobbly on her feet. Falling against me, she hugged me with one arm, a smile plastered on her face.

"Hey M, how was your birthday celebration?"

"Oh woooonderful!" She waved a hand carelessly through the air, almost hitting someone walking by in the process. A funny looked crossed over Megan's face and she started to look around the room frantically.

"Meg, what is it?" I asked carefully.

"Spook, you might want to check and see how many cats you have around this morning."


She opened and shut her mouth, clicking her tongue against the back of her teeth. "Cause it feels like I might have eaten one last night?" Her eyes came together and she began to turn a light green color.

"TREE! You'd better get over here! QUICK!" I yelled behind me, knowing that Megan was about to lose whatever she did eat last night and I was in no mood to play head holder.

Tree dutifully came up behind Megan, swept her into her arms, and carried her off into the bathroom.

"Wow! Wasn't that romantic?" David asked, his eyes shinning and a wistful smile on his face.

"Oh yeah, so romantic to have your girlfriend stand over you as you pray to the porcelain god!"

"Who's praying?" A voice mumbled from behind us, a voice from my past that I'd tried to forget. Annie stumbled over to us, her blonde hair messy around her face and her eyes red from the night before.

"No one," I muttered. Trying to escape, I turned to go back up the stairs.

"Wait!" Annie grabbed my arm tightly, holding me back. I turned and looked into her blue eyes, seeing something unfamiliar there. "Please? I really need to talk to you."

Escape seemed impossible. I noticed that David had silently slunk away and was attending to shooing people out of the house. "I don't want to talk to you," I said cruelly without realizing it. I had to consciously soften my voice a little as I continued. "We don't have anything left to say to each other."

Turning on my heel, I headed back up the stairs, forgetting my mission of coffee, or that my best friend was puking in the bathroom. I trudged up the three flights and made my way to my bedroom. Closing the drapes, I drank in the cool darkness that now surrounded me. Stripping off my clothes, I got under the covers and fell back asleep. Fuck them all.


On Monday my headache was better, but I still felt some of the effects of the alcohol on my brain. One of the problems when I drink is that it takes so long for it to get out my system.

Toward the end of the day I was definitely ready to go home and crawl back into bed. I had had three meetings with different potential clients, all of them giving me their vision of the future. I had to right out tell one of them that dogs in space suits was old and not the vision he thought it was. I don't think they'll be coming back, but I refuse to get to spacey, pardon the pun, with the designs.

Maria's head suddenly appeared within the doorway of my office, startling me slightly and disconcerting my hazing mind. "Fox, there's a call for you on line three." Then she was gone again.

I had to shake my head and wonder if I had just really seen Maria of if it had been some kind of mirage. Deciding that I had seen her, simply because it would be too complicated to assume I hadn't, I decided that it had been very odd for her to do that.

Normally, Maria would have just buzzed into my office to tell me about the phone call. And she would have told me who was calling. Never had she not done that. Very odd.

Curiosity won out as I picked up the handset of the phone and brought it to my ear. "Fox Owens," I said coolly, my voice not revealing the sudden trepidation that I felt.

"Hi," a shy voice spoke into my ear, a voice I now would know anywhere.

"Hi Madeline," I could hear the smile in my own voice. Instantly, my body felt more relaxed and I actually leaned back in my chair. "I'm glad you called."

A sigh responded on the other end of the telephone. My heart reacted, feeling the pain that was coming from her.

"Sorry it took me a few days," she hesitated before continuing. "I had to bide my time."

I realized that there was more here than what she was telling me. There was something else that wasn't being said, and a part of me wanted to reach out and comfort her and another part didn't want to know. "Do you want to talk about it?" My voice showed that I was tentative, but I'm sure she thought it was because I didn't want to push her. Actually, it was because I knew it had to do with her husband, a facet of her life that I didn't want to deal with yet, if at all.

Despite the phone lines, I knew that she was internally debating whether or not to take me up on my offer. Finally, she gave in.

"Fox, I know you don't know much about me." She began.

I nodded my head slowly before I realized that she couldn't see me.

"My husband is Monte Sullivan."

And the bomb dropped.

Monte. He was a partner here, at the firm that I worked for, at the firm I'd been with for so long. I hardly knew the man. He was more interested in his golf game than in rubbing elbows with me, but that wasn't the point here.

"Madeline Sullivan?" Disbelief filled me, my body felt washed voice of feeling.

"Yes," her voice was even quieter, as though she was ashamed of her answer.

Holy shit! I was in love with Monte Sullivan's wife!

"Are you sure?" Was the only thing I could think of to ask.

A lifeless chuckle was her response. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure."

"I guess you would be," I mumbled, mainly to myself. "That's why you were at the Astoria party?" I was slowly putting two and two together. I thought back to the day that I had first seen Madeline and I realized that the man whose back I'd been starring at could have definitely been Monte.

"Yes." She paused, the silence between us killing me. "Fox, something happened to me at the party. Something happened to me when I met you. I don't know what it is Fox, I don't know what to do about it." Her voice choked back a sob and I felt my heart tearing at its foundation.

How could I help her? How could I help her understand without making her feel like I was forcing something on her? How could I explain that I wanted to take her in my arms and run away with her, never letting her go and never letting anything touch her but me?

"Madeline, my sweet Madeline," I whispered softly. She heard me because her breath quickened and I could feel my own pulse race in time with hers.

"What is it Fox? What have you done to me?" She didn't say this cruelly, but rather in a sweet lament that tore me to pieces, leaving me unsure of how I would ever pick up them all up and put it back together. "I feel like there's been a spell put over me since I met you, taking a hold of me and pulling me along, helpless to fight."

"Like a rag doll caught in the tide," I said quietly, understanding perfectly what she was saying.

"You feel it too?" Not sounding too surprised, she was finally seeing what I had known and felt all along. A sigh fell from her, hitting me hard. "Of course you do. That's why you kissed me, you felt what I'm feeling."

"I...I don't know what to say Madeline." I felt helpless, I didn't know what to say and what not to say. "I love you," it came from my mouth before I even realized it and before I could think about it. Shit, how could I do that? I was setting myself up for something I couldn't ever recover from.

She didn't reply. Her silence said more to me than her words could have and I felt body slowly reacting.

"You don't know me," Madeline finally said quietly.

I was already neck deep in this, time to be completely honest. "Yes, I do. I knew you the first day I saw you."

"I need to go. I need time...time to think. I don't...I don't know Fox. My world seems to be collapsing. I need time," and she hung up.

I sat there, holding the receiver to my ear for a long time before I found the strength to put it down. Her world may have been collapsing, but mine was dying.

Putting my head on my desk, I did something I hadn't done in a very long time. I cried until I couldn't feel anything any more. "Please, come to me Madeline."


When Diane, Vice President of Advertising, had given me the invitation to her wedding, I wasn't surprised. Diane had been working at the firm for almost 15 years and our departments had good relations, which was a blessing considering that we had to work together a lot. She was finally marrying the man she'd been with for over 10 years and everyone who knew her was extremely happy for her. Well liked with a kind heart, Diane was someone who ended up having people coming into her office for heart-to-heart talks about office politics. She had a fair hand and dealt with everyone equally, earning her respect among both management and the peons.

Her wedding was on a Saturday, of course, at a church that wasn't far from where I lived. A date was included in my invitation, but of course, I went without. Megan and Tree had been invited, but they couldn't go cause Megan had some kind of problem with the church aspect, insisting that all marriages should take place in a central location that didn't involve churches. I don't pretend to understand everything about Megan, but I love her, so I accept her quirks and oddities.

I was always taught that you wore something light and airy to weddings, and heavy and dark to funerals. So, going through my wardrobe I realized that I didn't have much that wasn't heavy and dark. Digging deep, I found a cream-colored pantsuit that I felt was appropriate enough. With a light blue shell under the jacket, I felt like I looked light and airy enough for the occasion.

Now came the hard part; Footwear. Looking in my closet I realized my choices were more limited than I thought. Sneakers or tennis shoes were definitely inappropriate, so that left heels or flats, most of which were in black. I saw a patch of something cream colored, so I began to dig, finally pulling out a slightly battered pair of cream colored pumps.

Finally dressed, I went to do my hair, adding a little makeup to my eyes. Critically starring at myself in the mirror, I saw the small lines around my eyes and mouth, tell-tale signals that my age wasn't what it used to be. When was the last time I'd really noticed? It had been awhile. I was never particularly vain, so long as my hair was in order and my clothes on straight, I considered myself presentable. I took the time to look at myself very carefully. I wasn't bad looking, I surmised. My brown hair had a few lighter areas running through, having spent so much time in the sun playing softball. I had dark, almost what you would call olive skin, which I had learned many women found attractive. I gave myself a rakish grin in the mirror at that thought. Yes, I'd gotten more than a few compliments on my skin coloring.

I ran a finger over my nose, the bump across the bridge not having diminished with time. When I was about 6 years old, my mother had taken me to the doctor to find out if I should have some kind of surgery on my nose because of the slight bump that had formed there. He'd said no, that I would grow out of it eventually. Well, he was wrong. But, the bump gave my ordinary nose some character.

My eyes were average size, and I'd always thought they'd been average color until Madeline told me otherwise. You have such beautiful eyes, Fox, was what she had said to me. You have dark green specks that break up the brown, creating something unique. Her voice haunted me. Yeah, I like my eyes right about now. Brown with green specks, definitely good to me. I had started to have my eyebrows shaped when I went to get my hair cut. It was just easier that way and I thought it fit my position. So, they were nicely shaped and evened.

I had once had someone describe my mouth as pouty. But, I think she was just in lust, so said anything that sounded romantic. And, it worked, I slept with her that night. Funny how something like lips can cause you to loose all decorum. I thought immediately of Madeline's lips and changed my query completely! Lips can definitely be the cause of crazy, mad, and passion filled moments.

Shaking my head, I ran my fingers through my hair one last time before straightening out my clothing. I sprayed perfume over myself, allowing the cloud of smell to settle and then it was time to go.

I felt pretty confident as I walked into the church, saying hi to some of the other guests I knew from work. It looked like Diane had sent out invitations to everyone at the firm, which was very like her. Diplomatic till the end. I was handed a wedding program as I walked through the doors, giving the usher a gracious smile. My, I was in a find mood. How often do I smile at complete strangers who give me useless pieces of paper that will some day pollute a garbage dump somewhere because no one recycled it? Not often!

Where to sit at occasions like this was always a dilemma for me. I'm a front or back kind of girl, not middle. I either wanted to be as close as possible to the action, or the extreme opposite. Weddings for someone you know casually at work were difficult to judge. Obviously, I couldn't sit in front. No, I could clearly see the bride and groom's family occupying those seats. Going over and trying to squeeze in was not a good move. So, the front was out. That left the back. Now, normally, this would be a viable option. Expect the back today was already filled as well, with other fellow employees who had obviously suffered the same problem as I was faced with. Sigh. That left the middle. I would be closed in, no chance of escape. Well, at least I could try to sit on an end.

I made my way to a pew almost half way, and sat down on the end. Looking at my watch, I realized that I still had a good fifteen minutes before the service would begin. Hating to have time on my hands, I sighed again. I should have brought a book. Was it rude to read a book while waiting for a wedding to begin? I'd have to check out Emily Post to find out about that one. With nothing else to do, I opened my useless program and began to read it.

So completely engrossed in my program, I didn't notice the whispering that started in my row until it grew obnoxiously loud. I looked over and saw a few of my fellow employees whispering and pointing subtly toward the back of the sanctuary. Turning my head out of curiosity, I felt my eyes go wide and my stomach drop when I saw what they were starring at.

Monte was coming through the door, a loud, annoying smile on his face. Of course he'd get an invitation to the wedding, everyone did. And, walking in next to him, but slightly behind him was Madeline. All my confidence and good mood flew out the window replaced by a stressed anxiety. Why me? Why today?

Madeline hadn't seen me, and the way she was walking with her head low, I wondered if she ever would. I could try to sneak out of the pew and out of the church all together, but I wasn't going to stoop to childish games.

Just as I got myself together again, her sweet head lifted and blue eyes began to scan the crowded sanctuary. It only took seconds before her eyes zeroed in on me. Surprise and...something else, something new, flashed through her eyes before she looked away. My body felt suddenly empty, without emotion, like her glance had taken it all from me.

Monte led her over to a seat a few rows ahead of me. As the service began, I didn't notice all the usual wedding stuff, like the bride or the groom. No, my focus was on someone who had, without my permission, stolen my heart. My heart. That made me want to laugh. It was hurting just seeing her and not being able to be with her. An ache formed in my chest, and with each beat my heart made, it echoed painfully.


"Fox, are you going to the reception?" Jeff, a fellow graphics department guru stopped me in the church vestibule after the ceremony. The reception was at a restaurant/bar that was close by. Everyone was invited to stop by, nothing formal, just drinking and dancing with finger food.

"I don't know yet," I answered honestly. Originally, I had planned on going, maybe even doing some dancing and letting off some steam. Now, however, my mood was sullied and I wasn't sure I would do anyone any good if I went. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Monte, the asshole, with his hand on Madeline's elbow, guiding her through the crowd toward the door. Was she going to be there? A sudden urge to be there, for her to see me and for me to see her, flamed inside of me. "On second thought Jeff, I'm going to be there."

"Great! A bunch of us are driving over together, you want to come?"

"Nah, I'll drive myself, I'm not sure how long I'm going to want to stay." Basically, if she were there, I'd stay till she left. If not, I'd go after a few minutes.

I lingered at the church for a little bit, figuring that by the time I left I had given Monte and Madeline enough time to get there ahead of me. I sat in my car in the parking lot of the restaurant/bar, breathing in and out, trying to figure out exactly what I thought I was doing.

Hadn't I turned to masochism, wanting to punish myself by seeing the woman I loved with that ogre? Did I want to go and pretend to be the life of the party, wanting Madeline to see what she could have if she wanted? Did I want to observe her in this setting, to see what kind of woman I loved?

All very valid possibilities, but which one was the real reason?

Finally, I came to the conclusion with a heavy sigh. I felt pitiful and sorry for myself. I wanted to go, and I hoped that she was there, because I wanted to be near her. I just wanted to breath the same air that she was breathing, to be able to look over and see her there, even if she wasn't with me.

And it hurt. It hurt knowing that I was so in love, so desperate, that I would put myself through the agony I knew I was about to go through. I needed to see her though.

Finally, my heart filled with self-pity, I got out of the car and trudged into the reception. A large, private room had been converted with flowers and streamers into a festive sight, a band taking up one end of the room and tables scattered through out. I sought out where the alcohol was being served first, ordering a fluted glass of Chablis. The chilled wine felt good on my throat, which I had suddenly realized was dry. However, chugging wine was not something I was good at, so I sipped it carefully while my eyes took in the rest of the crowd.

As I thought, Monte and Madeline had already arrived. He was standing with a crowd of other men around him, his arms waving wildly as he spoke. The men around him all broke out in obnoxiously loud laughter at something that he had said. Scanning those around him, I realized that Madeline wasn't there. I continued to search for her, not seeing her anywhere.

"Looking for someone in particular, Fox?" The voice came from behind me and I recognized it right away.

"No, I lost my date in the crowd," I said without turning around. What kind of game did I think I was playing? I felt bad immediately following my acerbic comment. Turning around, I gave Madeline an apologetic grin. "I think you know who I was looking for."

She smiled briefly, before looking at the glass in her hand. A pinkish colored liquid filled her glass, suiting her perfectly. "I should have known that there was a possibility of you being here, but I wasn't really thinking."

"That's okay, I try not to think too much myself." What was with my commentary here? Was I going for the heartsick comedienne of the month award?

"Or maybe I knew you were going to be here and that made me want to come all the more." Softness consumed her eyes, giving them a dreamy quality that I lost myself in as I starred into them.

A light conversation suddenly turned serious. My heart started to thud at the bottom of my throat, pushing and prodding me to spill it out, hoping that Madeline's heart would respond in kind. Fortunately, my brain stopped it and shooed it back into place, leaving only the ghostly feeling in my throat where my heart had once been.

I didn't know what to say to that. Did she want me to probe that loaded statement, or did she want me to continue with the lighthearted conversation? Instead, I went for the old standby.

I looked at her critically for a moment, taking in the silky, flowered dress she was wearing. Large flowers covered the fabric in colors of cream and maroon, scattered across a black background. Of course, that threw my whole theory of black for funerals only out the window. Part of her hair on either side of her head was pulled back and held by a dark barrette, leaving the rest of her hair flowing down her shoulders. A bit of makeup had been applied to her face, but didn't hide her smattering of freckles. The dress came down almost to the floor, stopping in time to show small, slim ankles that made me feel big just looking at them.

"You look beautiful Madeline." I was in awe of her beauty, unable to stop the rush of adrenaline that flowed as I took in the grace that was just...her. There as nothing I wanted more at that moment then to take her hand in mine and led her away so that I could worship her in private. And while my attraction definitely had sexual overtones, at this particular moment, it was purely aesthetic.

I looked down at my drink before she replied, unable to hold her penetrating gaze any longer. "As do you," was the unexpected reply. I looked up and saw the undisguised admiration in her eyes and I swear my mouth dropped open in surprise.

"Th..thank you," I stuttered lightly, still looking into her eyes which had taken on yet another new quality. The warmth infused my soul, adding fuel to the fire love had created in my body, spreading to every available portion on me, until I swear I could have lit a candle with my toe.

"Well, who do we have here?" A third voice, also familiar to me, jarred my attention and I turned quickly, hoping I was wrong. I wasn't. Annie was standing there, her eyes sparkling in amusement. She glanced first at me, her eyes slowly taking in my entire body. "My dear Fox, and..." she let the sentence hang, as though she were waiting for an introduction. I wasn't about to make that introduction, afraid of what my eyes and voice would reveal. Giving me a smirk, she turned her head to scrutinize Madeline.

"Madeline Sullivan," Madeline said smoothly, holding out a hand to Annie. I wanted to scream, but I could only stand there helpless as Annie grasped her hand and shook it slowly, almost tenderly.

"Monte's wife?" Annie gave a soft, yet rough laugh. "And here I thought you were Fox's date. I was ready to give you a run for your money!" More laughter followed.

A brief narrowing of Madeline's eyes was on the only reaction to these words and I was sure that I was the only one who saw it.

"Why are you here Annie? I didn't see you at the service." Carefully I tried to control my tone of voice, not wanting to reveal to Annie the anger I was feeling. Giving her the upper hand right now was not a move I wanted to make.

Both Annie and Madeline gave me incredulous looks. "What?" I asked defensively, not liking them teaming up against me.

"Fox, I was a bride's maid." This time her smirk was wider and more condescending. "Didn't you pay any attention to the ceremony?"

Oh shit. Now that I looked at Annie I could see the dark maroon dress she wore which matched the colors of Diane's wedding scheme. Indeed, it was a typically ugly wedding dress, and it seemed to not fit her well. Almost as though she'd been heavier when she'd been measured for the dress. I had been too busy watching Madeline to notice that my former lover had been in the wedding. Minus 20 billion points for Fox!

"Sorry, I wasn't paying any attention." I said it callously, hoping that Annie would just leave us alone.

Instead, anger seemed to flame through Annie's eyes and she stood straighter. "I see." Her voice was cold and empty, but her eyes still shone with her tightly reigned anger.

"Madeline!" Monte's voice yelled over the buzz of the growing crowd. Madeline and I both turned and saw him waving his arm at her to come over.

"Annie, it was...nice meeting you," she said politely to my former lover. Then she turned to me, her eyes softening. "Fox, I'll see you later," and with that she was gone, back to her husband.

I wanted to yell and shout at her retreating figure, to tell her that going back to her husband was the coward's way out. How could she ignore what was happening between us? How could she pretend?

My look of disgust was aimed directly at Monte. How dare he think himself worthy of sharing a bed with her?

"My, my...if I didn't know any better I'd say Fox was a little ticked." Annie's voice cut through my anger, giving me a new place to direct it.

"What is it that you want from me Annie?" I asked, turning around and giving her my 'don't fuck with me' stare.

"Me?" Was her innocent reply. I swear, she batted her eyes at me too and I expected her hand to weakly come to her chest in mock surprise. "Why Fox, whatever makes you think that I want anything from you?"

"Cut the shit, Annie. You obviously want something, so let's hear it."

"Now you want to talk. I thought you said we had nothing left to say to one another?"

Games. Hate them. Don't play them. Nope, not gonna do it. "If that's how you're going to be Annie, then I'm wasting my time." I turned, but she put her hand on my arm, her grip tight and insistent. A quick movement on her part and her body was pressed up against me.

"Fox," she purred, her breath hot against my ear. I willed my body not to react to the familiarity of her purr, her demand. Too many years of wanting to hear that voice, too many years of desire and hope were working against me.

"I want you. Simple as that. You." Her husky voice continued into my ear, sending chills down my spine. "We were good together."

Were. "Why did you leave then?"

Her hand let go of me and I no longer felt her body pressed into me. I turned and searched her face for answers. Behind her make up she looked tired. I can't remember ever having seen that kind of weariness in her face.

"What difference does it make? Really Fox? I'm here now. I want you now. Can you honestly say that you don't want me?" She gave me a slow, sexy smile and I almost caved.

Think Fox, think. I looked at her carefully and saw someone I'd once known. The desire for her wasn't there anymore. No, I'd been more in love with the memory of Annie than I'd ever been in Annie herself. I didn't want her anymore. Unconsciously, my eyes traveled to where Madeline stood by Monte's side. Was she an impossible dream? Should I give up that dream for something that was familiar, not necessarily safe? "I'm sorry Annie, I don't want to be with you anymore." It was simple. A life without Madeline didn't mean a life with someone else. It just meant emptiness that nothing could fill. Certainly not Annie.

I saw Annie's vision follow mine when I'd looked at Madeline. Now, as she looked at me, the impact of my statement hitting her, a sinister, dark look shadowed her face. "She'll never be yours. I know Monte better than you. You will never have her." Her voice was harsh and filled with anger.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Annie." I said calmly, not willing to let her have any advantage on me. "But, I do know that you are not what I want. And you never will be."

With that, I finally turned and walked away without Annie trying to hold me back. I headed toward the other side of the room, wanting to put some space between us before I looked around for Madeline again.

The bride and the groom were dancing solo on the floor cleared for that activity, their eyes focused only on each other. He was giving Diane such a look of devotion that I almost felt tears in my eyes.

Damn, everything is making me emotional these days, I thought. Since Madeline had come into my view, everything had flipped and turned upside down.

"Okay, now it's time for everyone to dance. So, grab your partner and come on out." A voice came over the loud speakers, and I assumed it was the DJ. My eyes finally found Madeline, when Monte grabbed her hand and pulled her to the floor.

Intermixed with at least a dozen other dancing couples, they would have blended in and been unnoticeable if it weren't for the fact that my eyes were trained on them. He put his arm around her waist, holding her tightly to him. Her arm went around his neck, loosely, but with familiarity. Flares of green went soaring through my body, setting off chain reactions throughout. How could she dance with someone else? Didn't she know she belonged to me?

It felt as though the room was getting smaller and I was in the center of it. The walls were closing in, moving by leaps and bounds, getting closer and closer to me. My heartbeat sped up, getting faster and faster until I could feel it pulsating in rapid succession through my body. Breathing became difficult and I knew that if I didn't move I would pass out right where I was.

I headed toward the door, wanting to escape, to get out of there. Needing to save my own sanity before it was called away.

"Game, tomorrow." Jeff called at me as I passed him.

"I'll be there," I said and then left.

I gulped in the fresh air of the outside, despite the warmth. Opening my car door, I got in and turned the car on, air conditioning on high. And then I just sat there, willing my blood to slow and stop pounding throughout my body. My head was spinning and I had to concentrate on controlling my breathing. The air hit my face in full force, giving me blessed relief from the sweat that had broken out on my forehead.

Feeling drained and emotional, I put my head on my steering wheel and cried silently.


Our firm's softball team was the pride and joy of the company. Well, outside our clients, of course. I had been playing on the team for as many years as I'd been working there. My skills on first base were undisputed and I enjoyed playing with my co-workers. It didn't matter whether or not I liked all of them, we played as a team and the results showed this at the end of the year when we came home with the first place trophy.

In the past two years, Tree had played on the team. Now, this was, in some part, my doing. Tree was the best pitcher I'd ever seen and had an arm that never stopped. Since she and Megan were both subcontractors for the firm, it was agreed that they could play if they wanted. Megan, of course, didn't want to play. She'd rather be a cheerleader in the crowd, watching her woman and best friend team up to win.

Our first game came soon after my last phone call with Madeline. I had wanted to not go on, to just give up and hide somewhere in the dark. But, Megan wouldn't let me. As much as I hated it, and as much as I didn't want to be cheered up, I was so very grateful for her attempts.

I was warming up the infield, my attention completely on the game ahead of us. That was the one thing about softball. I could loose myself completely in the game. I was focused and ready to play the best I could, which was pretty damn good if you asked me. I enjoyed the physical activity, the sound of the ball hitting the bats, the smell of the leather gloves.

A gentle breeze lifted some of the warmth off the field, giving us a bit of relief. It was only May, but the heat was already building, revealing that it was going to be a long, hot summer. My in fielders were in a good mood, all of them wanting to be playing, moving well to stop the ball. Their throws could have been more accurate, but I wasn't going to complain. I was pretty good at jumping for them. They'd get better after they'd warmed up a bit.

Sam, my second baseman, let out a low whistle, catching my attention. "What?" I asked even as I threw a grounder to Lorenz on third base.

"You won't believe who's here and in uniform," he said, his eyes still on someone behind me.

I watched as Lorenz stopped the ball and easily swept it up and threw it directly to me. "Great throw, Lorenz!" I yelled before turning around to see what Sam was gawking at.

Behind me, in the company's jersey, was Monte Sullivan. He was stretching out by our bench, obviously expecting to play. It was clear that the field was full, all nine players were already in position.

"Where the hell does he expect to go?" Sam echoed my own question, clearly not amused.

"Look, Jeff's headed toward him," I pointed to our coach who was jogging toward Monte, his face blank of emotion.

We all watched as Jeff shook Monte's hand and they began to talk. Monte would say something and Jeff would stand there quietly for a minute before shaking his head. Finally, Jeff turned toward the infielders. "Alex, come here for a minute, will ya?"

All eyes were on Alex as his face hardened and he ran off the field.

"Shit," I said slamming my glove against the ground before kneeling to retie the laces on my cleats. Monte jogged onto the field, a fake smile distorting his face. Just what I needed. I did not want Monte on my field and I did not want to have to play nicely with him. My stomach was turning fast and I thought I was going to throw up, I was so angry.

It's softball. I can do this. I repeated this mantra over and over, trying hard to concentrate on the upcoming game. I threw the ball to Sam and he threw it back, repeating the motion with Monte. His throw back to me was on target, surprising me greatly.

"All balls off the field!" The umpire yelled loudly and balls went bouncing off toward the benches. "Play ball!" He followed up, bringing his mask down over his face.

The first half of the inning went well. We didn't let any of the runners score, but there was a close play when Monte fumbled a ball that needed to head to third. Luckily, Jackie from center field came up and stopped it before it went too far, delivering the ball to third in time to make the out.

Alex had been first on the batting line up, but since Monte had taken his place on the field, he was up first. As he was swinging the bat around, waiting for the pitcher to be warmed up, he looked up into the stands and shaded his eyes with his hand. "Lin!" He yelled into the crowd.

I got a sinking feeling as I turned to watch who he was calling to. Sure enough, Madeline stood up from her place on the bleachers and headed toward where Monte was standing.

Shit, I'm going to be sick, I thought to myself. I could not watch this, and yet I couldn't take my eyes off it.

"Did you bring my water, babe?" Monte asked even as he snaked an arm around Madeline's waist and pulled her tight against him. The look on her face indicated that she was not comfortable with this, but she didn't fight back.

"It's by the bench," she said quietly, pointing to a bottle sitting just under the bench.

"Thanks," Monte leered at her and as she walked away, he gave her a hard slap on the rear end.

The moment was short, but in my mind time slowed down to a crawl as I watched. Slowly, anger boiled inside of me, rising from my feet to my head in almost motionless waves of fury.

I watched Madeline climb back to her seat in the bleachers, my eyes unable to leave her form. As she sat down, her mouth was in a tight smile, her eyes cloudy.

I've heard is said that jealousy brings out the worst in people. Now, this is probably true in most, the blinding emotion keeping them from rational thought. For me, however, I decided that I was going to play the best game I could for Madeline.

"Fox!" Jeff called, roster in hand. "You're on bat!" Startled, I saw Jackie already at home plate, shuffling her cleats through the loose dirt before stepping into the batter's box.

Grabbing a helmet, I started sorting through the bats lining the fence before finding the one I'd brought. Placing my hands over the carefully wrapped tape, I began warming up, keeping an eye on Jackie.

After clipping two pitches, Jackie finally hit the ball squarely, sending it toward left field. She made it to first and an overthrow to the first baseman gave her an extra base.

My turn. Stepping up to the plate, I took a glance into the stands before settling into my position. The first pitch was too high and outside.

"Ah, you coulda hit that," the catcher said as she threw the ball back to the mound.

Not responding with anything more than a grunt, I kept my focus on the softball in the pitcher's hands. The second pitch he threw was perfect. In my mind, I saw it float toward me, my eyes focused as my bat connected, sending the ball careening over the short stop's head.

Not looking to see if it was stopped, I ran hard, relying on the first base coach to guide me.

"Go! Go! Go!" I heard Tree shouting as I rounded first, so I push toward second. "Stay! Stay!" was shouted this time so I managed to stop on the base. Even as I was balancing on the bag, I saw Jackie score our first run.

"Nice one Spook!" I heard Megan shout from the stands. Looking in the direction of her usual seat, I was surprised to see she wasn't there. Searching the stands I almost fell off the base when I saw her sitting next to Madeline. They both waved at me, but all I could do was shake my head at them as I turned to watch the next batter.

The next three batters got us three outs. I jogged from second base to the bench, grabbing my glove and headed back out.

"Almost a nice hit, Foxy," an annoyingly now familiar voice sneered at me.

Turning slowly, I glared at him; sure he could feel the ice despite my fake smile. "I'm sure you mean that as a compliment, Montel." I got closer to him; feeling the anger, but not letting it control me. It was just beneath the surface and radiating around both of us in whirls of emotion.

His sneer wavered a little bit, but he kept it in place. "Think what you want, Foxy."

Oh, he wanted to play, did he? Let's take it to the field, I thought to myself. Visibly ignoring his jibe, I jogged to first base and threw the ball to the other infielders. Inside, however, I was seething. How dare he come onto my field and bring his asinine act into my game?

"Come on Tree!" I shouted to our pitcher. There was no way I would let Monte ruin my game. Nope, not going to happen. My mantra was repeated over and over. It was my game and he wasn't going to stop it.

The second inning proved to be more difficult as the other team seemed to find their batting niche. They seemed to have rallied between innings, because they began to give us a real challenge.

Finally, during the second inning I broke out into a sweat. Now, there are only two times I enjoy sweat; when making love and when playing softball.

Monte had a lucky break during the second inning. A line drive was directed at him and he snatched it out of the air with ease.

In the back of my mind I was thinking about Megan and Madeline sitting together in the stands. But I wouldn't let that deter my game. Nope, didn't need to throw me off.

So, why did my eyes keep wandering to the stands?

In the top of the third inning, Monte received a grounder which he stopped and threw it to me. I was on the bag, one eye on the runner, the other on Monte and the ball. I caught the familiar sneer on his face as he lobbed the ball at me. I could tell as it left his hand that it was going to be over my head.

"Sam!" I yelled, thinking quickly. "Take the base!' I immediately began moving backward, positioning myself under the ball. Grabbing it, I threw it underhanded to Sam, who had dutifully taken first base just as the runner hit the bag.

"OUT!" The infield ump shouted.

The crowd went crazy, out side cheering, the other side protesting the call.

The players on the field were yelling their appreciation in our direction, all but Monte who glared at me openly. I was tempted to stick my tongue out at him, but decided that immature displays of triumph were unnecessary. But damn, it would have been fun.

Three more innings passed, both teams vying for a lead. The amount of water I was drinking finally caught up to me, so during my first opportunity, I ran for the women's room.

Coming out of the stall, the sound of my cleats resounding through the small facility, I was surprised to find Madeline standing there.

"How'd you-"

"Megan told me you'd need to use the restroom at some point, so I kept my eyes on you." She interrupted my question, her face blushing sweetly at her admission. "This all," her hands waved through the air, "is very..."

"Strange," I said.


We stood there, about a food from each other. I nervously began shuffling my feet.

A cheer from outside the bathroom reminded me of the game. "Listen, I need to get back out there."

Smiling, she reached out and tentatively brushed a hand against my cheek. "I understand. They need their star player."

My turn to blush, ducking my head bashfully. I didn't see her lean in and place her lips on mine. Then she was gone, leaving me to wonder if she'd actually been there.

"Whoa," I muttered before heading back to the field. Any doubts about Madeline's presence in the bathroom was erased when I looked into the stands and our eyes met. A unique look came over her and her mouth lifted in the most wondrous smile I'd ever seen. And it was just for me.

Monte continued to sabotage me, but I didn't care. Madeline had called ME the star player and she'd marked me with her burning lips.

We won the game - barely. Monte's antics became a liability, leaving the rest of us to pick up his slack. The man didn't seem to understand the concept of team player. A few lucky moves saved him from the lynch crowd. A final bases loaded, home run made him the hero of the game.

I could have puked. But, in the end, I was just happy that the game was over.

"Hey Foxy," once again the annoying voice penetrated my perfect little world.

"What Monte?" I said, not keeping the exasperation from my voice.

"Come on, let's call it even," a generous smile on his face. "We don't need to do this, let's just try to get along."

Antagonizing him further would not do me any good. "Fine," I took his extended hand and found my hand enveloped in a large, sweaty hand.

"We're going to go out for a few drinks, why don't you come with us?"

"Can I bring someone with me?" I had a reason for this question, I was fishing for information.

"Nah, only the team mates. No wives, husbands, or whatever," he smirked at this last, pointed item.

That meant that Madeline wouldn't be going with him. "Oh shucks, I forgot that I already have plans for after the game. Sorry Monte, but thanks anyway." I gave a sickly sweet smile.

I waited around after he and his lackey's left, hoping that Madeline had done the same. Tree was waiting for me. I had brought a set of clean clothes and some other various supplies like a hair brush, deodorant, hair spray, etc. There was no way I was going out all sweaty in my dirty uniform. We usually went to Isis after the game for a drink and some fun. Where was Megan, and more importantly, where was Madeline?

"Looking for someone Spook?" Megan put an arm around my waist from behind.

I didn't really even pay attention to her, my eyes were still searching the now dwindling crowd. "Yeah, have you seen--" Of course, I didn't get the chance to finish my sentence.

"She's right here, silly." Megan laughed lightly at me. I whirled around, and sure enough, Madeline was standing right there next to her.

"Madeline, would you like to--" Once again I was interrupted by Megan.

"Now don't you go and ask her out because I already asked her to go to Isis with us."

Madeline at Isis? The lesbian bar? "Did you tell her..." I faded off, waiting for Megan to pick up on my hint.

"Yes, I told her. Women galore. Lesbians, dykes, with or without diesel." She laughed loudly at her own humor.

"I get the point Megan," I clenched my teeth as I spoke. Unclenching them, I turned to Madeline. "Are you comfortable with that?"

"Not a problem," she said cheerfully.

"Okay then," I caught Tree's eye. "Let's go."


I had once brought my straight cousin, Tammi, to a gay bar. I promised myself that I would not go through that again. It had been a difficult and trying situation to say the least. Tams had had a little too much to drink and as a result, danced with many of my friends, teasing them endlessly and leaving them high and...well, dry isn't the word I would use. I assume that she didn't realize the affect she was having on those women, she was just, in her mind, having a good time. However, I was the one who didn't hear the end of it. I had been the one who let her loose on the lesbian community. It was my fault. Of course, I could then also take the credit for the fact that Tammi left her boyfriend of 8 years and hooked up with Martina, one of the very women she danced with that night. But nooooooo. No one remembered that part.

Isis was already crowded when we arrived. Several other women were sporting softball uniforms and cleats, but I was glad I had taken the time to change. While I was living the cliché lesbian life when it came to softball, I didn't like to look it.

Claire, the waitress who works for Marge, was there, hopping from the bar to the tables, a smile on her face. I didn't know how she always managed to stay smiling. I had only seen her frown once and that was because Megan had pinched her ass. Of course, it was on a bet instigated by Tree. Claire smiled at the four of us, her eyebrows raising in question at Madeline. She wouldn't be the first person tonight to ask questions.

"I think I see a table over there," Tree pointed to the far corner, and when I squinted I could barely make out a table and chairs. "I'll get them," she said even as she started across the crowed floor. Despite her size, she was able to maneuver her way through, quickly darting between women and dancing couples. Before I could really focus, she was at the table, waving across the room.

"This way," I indicated to Megan and Madeline with a wave of my hand. Doing the butch thing, I took up the rear. Megan went first, putting Madeline between us. From my position, not only did I have a nice view in front of me, but I was able to take in the crowd's reaction to Madeline. Needless to say, she got quiet a few appreciative glances. All women are pigs.

Tree had commandeered an additional chair for the table because it was supposed to only sit three people. It was a tight squeeze, but finally we were all settled in. I just hoped that I wouldn't have to get up to go to the bathroom or anything because my position was precarious.

"What will ya'll be having?" Claire appeared out of no where, smiling as always. The slight southern drawl was subtle, but I can tell you from first hand knowledge that it made a lot of the lesbians who visited Isis swoon with delight.

"MGD," said Megan absently. Her head was preening over the crowd, looking to see who was there and who wasn't there. She'd give me a full report later of what her watchful eyes had seen. It was like a game to her, seeing who was doing what to whom. She was never vicious about it, but to listen to the way she gave assessments was fun. Especially when she added hand gestures.

"Same here Claire," Tree smiled at her and watched Megan's game as it progressed.

I looked at Madeline, waiting for her to order. She appeared a bit flustered as attention was on her, and a light flush came over her. "Do you have B52's?"

Claire's attention was now focused solely on Madeline. "Yes darlin' we do. Would you like that as a shot or on the rocks?" She accentuated the last option by wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.

The flush got deeper until it was an all out blush. "On the rocks, please." Madeline's voice had gotten slightly lower, and she ducked her head a bit, but her eyes stayed focused on Claire's.

"My pleasure." Okay, that was enough. Claire was practically purring.

I cleared my throat with no response from Claire. Madeline on the other hand looked at me and gave me a smile, her hand covering mine which was placed on the table. Giving it a light squeeze, she was quick to remove her hand.

"I would like a Rolling Rock, if you please Claire." I emphasized her name, hoping to draw her out of her daze.

Claire must have caught on to Madeline's subtle hand gesture, because she turned to me and smiled tightly, then walked away.

Beautiful eyes on me, I felt myself without words. I didn't know what to say next to Madeline. Women were already out on the dance floor, and I longed to ask her to dance, but knew that I would never get up the nerve for that. So, how do you have a normal conversation with the woman you're in love with but don't really know?

I looked back at her as slyly as I could, trying to gauge how she was holding up. Oh yeah, she was nervous. I could tell by the way she kept biting her lip. It was then that I realized that I didn't really know her very well, but there were some things that I instinctually knew, and the lip biting thing was one of them.

"Why are you so nervous?" She asked, startling me out of my own thoughts.

"Huh? How'd you know that?"

"You keep running your hand through your hair. You do that when you're nervous."

"I do?"

"Yeah." She gave me a shy smile. "I'd like to know more about you Fox."

"I like ice cream."

"You do huh? What flavor?"

"Rocky Road."



"Rocky Road. It's such a date flavor."

I laughed. She was right, it was a date flavor. "What about you?"

"Chunky Monkey."

"What in heck is that?" Who'd heard of Chunky Monkey?

Another laugh from her. "You know? Ben and Jerry's?"

I still was without a clue. "You mean Tom and Jerry? The cat and mouse?"

Now she was all out belly laughing. "No!" More laughter. "And you say you like ice cream!"

"What does a cartoon have to do with ice cream?" I muttered to myself, waiting for her laugher to subside. I found myself very glad that Megan was so consumed that she wasn't listening to this conversation. I don't think I could handle both of them laughing at me at the same time.

Finally, with little hiccups, her laughter slowed. "Next time, I'll bring the ice cream."

I thought about this carefully. Next time, huh? Did that constitute crossing the threshold? I wasn't sure if that counted or not. But, I was happy with the thought of getting both Madeline AND ice cream. Definitely a yummy combination.

"Did I hear ice cream?" Megan's head shot around and looked at us both accusingly. Count on her stomach to clue her in. I should have known.

"I didn't hear anything about ice cream," I said innocently. "Did you Madeline?"

Face straining to keep from smiling, Madeline shook her head. "Nope, I'm afraid not."

Looking from Madeline to me, Megan's eyes narrowed. "Somehow, I don't think you two are being completely honest, but I'll have to let it go for now."

The song that had been playing over the jukebox stopped, leaving a short lag of silence before the next song started up. It was a loud song with a heavy bass beat. Tree suddenly stood up, a smile on her face.

"Come on sugar, this one has our name all over it!" Grabbing Megan's hand, Tree pulled her up and led her to the small dancing area in the corner of the bar.

A soft laugh came from Madeline. I looked at her and she shook her head. "They are something else."

I turned so that I could see my two friends. I watched as Tree spun Megan around to the lively music. Never missing a beat, Megan kept up with her larger partner. Both women were smiling at each other, oblivious of everyone around them.

They made love look like fun. I wanted that. I want to look into the eyes of the woman I loved and just smile. I wanted those eyes to obliterate all of those around me, leaving only the two of us in space and time.

My eyes drifted to Madeline, who was turned so that she could watch the two women dance as well. In short, I realized, I wanted Madeline. It was almost like I was just realizing this all over again. Like it was a new discovery that I was seeing for the first time. I was amazed and scared.

Blue eyes moved until Madeline was looking directly at me, and I felt a physical shock run through my body. Like a fish out of water, I gasped for air, trying to suck in great quantities, seemingly unable to get enough. I couldn't take my eyes from Madeline's, even as they grew more concerned.

"Are you okay?" Reaching over, she put her hand over mine and rubbed my hand. At first her touch was hesitant, but grew more firm. It was her touch alone that helped me regain some sense of being, giving me a physical focus point.

"Fine," I croaked out, my throat dry as my breathing evened. "Sorry, don't know what happened there."

Smiling at me, she patted my hand before removing hers. I regretted the lost instantly. "You looked like you were choking or something, I almost panicked."

Yeah, I was choking on my own epiphany, explain that. "I just swallowed the wrong way." Of course, I didn't even have my drink yet, so I don't know what she could have thought I'd swallowed.

Next, I lost the contact with Madeline's eyes as she turned to watch Tree and Megan again. "Megan cares a lot about you." She stated matter-of-factly. "Seems to think that I could really hurt you or something." Turning back around, she stared at me, waiting for some kind of response.

"She's my best friend," I shrugged. "I assume that's part of the responsibility of being a best friend, worrying." Sounded good, right? Megan and I had always worried about each other. Only sometimes it showed in very different ways. Boy, I could tell some stories about that one.

"I guess so." Hesitating, Madeline seemed to be battling with herself before she said anything more. "I haven't had a best friend in a very long time." She sounded so lonely, so hopeless.

Unsure as to what I should say in response to that, I slid my chair even closer to her. "So, are you?" I asked slowly.

"Am I what?"

"Going to hurt me?" I know I sounded vulnerable, I could feel it in every word that came from my mouth.

"I...I..." At a loss for words, Madeline's blue eyes grew large. I know I startled her with my question, and I know that she wasn't sure how to reply to it.

"Never mind, I shouldn't have asked that. I'm sorry," I was hurt by her slow response, but I was the one who stuck the question out in that now stagnant air. Truthfully, I didn't know what kind of answer I expected. Did I expect her to gush her sincerity in my direction? Did I expect a heart filled expression of love and desire? I don't know. I was pushing her, I was pushing myself. Why do I do these things?

"Excuse me," I pushed my chair away from the table and stood up. I needed to get away. Fast. I needed to think. With Madeline so close to me, my thoughts were scrambled, not making any sense.

Fighting my way through the crowd of women, I found myself heading toward the bar.

"New piece of meat?" Marge asked as I approached, jerking her head toward Madeline.

"Marge," my voice dropped as I spoke to her. "You know that I hate that." It was Madeline she was talking about. I would die protecting her honor.

"Yeah," she grinned, "I know."

Marge finally realized that I wasn't smiling back, and her face went from a smile to a frown. Looking toward the table, she actually starred for a moment. "This a serious one?"

My own eyes traveled and focused on Madeline. Her head lifted and once again I was looking into the most amazing blue eyes. One corner of her mouth lifted into a half smile, meant just for me. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest, and for a moment, time stood still.

Then it was over. She turned away with a wink as Megan said something to draw her attention away. I hadn't even realized that she and Tree were back from dancing. I wondered if Madeline had just felt that lapse in the flow of time or if it was only me.

By clearing her throat, Marge got my attention back to our conversation. "Yes, it is." I said quietly.

Looking first at me and then in Madeline's direction, Marge cleared her throat. "Good luck, Fox." Her voice was gruff and I knew she was apologizing for her earlier remark.

"Thanks," I said taking the drink she offered and headed back toward the table. Sipping at the beverage, I didn't taste any of the alcohol in it. Instead I just let the coolness slip down the back of my throat, relishing the relief it brought. I hadn't realized just how dry my mouth had gotten. This was probably due to all that gaping I'd been doing at Madeline.

A lively discussing had started at the table with Madeline and Tree, of all people, doing most of the discussing. I sat down quietly, glancing at Megan in time to see her roll her eyes.

"How can you say that?" Tree demanded, her fist landing on the table with a muted thud. "He can not do it! Absolutely not!"

Snorting, Madeline showed no fear as she replied. "Better than your choice!"

"Now, wait a minute! Didn't you see him in that one movie...um..." Tree's steam was temporarily gone as she was evidently trying to remember something. "Honey, what was that movie? The one that took place right after the Civil War? You know, the one with Jodie Foster?"

"Sommerset or something," Megan was totally bored, barely giving Tree any of her attention.

"Sommersby," I replied automatically, knowing the title of just about any Jody Foster film ever made.

"Yeah! Sommersby! Did you see him in that?"

"Richard Gere is not nearly good enough! I'm telling you, he would flop biiiiiig time!" As I watched Madeline debate this point back and forth with Tree, I realized that if I weren't already in love her, I'd be falling right now. She was so right for me. Every part of my body and soul told me this. It felt right to see her grin in triumph every time she made a valid point, her teeth gleaming against her lips, white contrasting against dark red. I know that I licked my lips without thinking about it, feeling like a wolf eyeing its prey.

Listening as they continued to talk back and forth, I finally figured out what they were discussing. They wanted a sequel or something to Gone with the Wind.

"Didn't they already do a sequel to that story?" I asked before I thought about it. Not a good thing as two pairs of eyes glared at me.

"They did Scarlet, but we're talking about a remake, not a sequel," Madeline said in a snotty voice.

"Oh, excuuuuse me!" Putting my hands up in mock surrender, I pretended to be hurt.

"I'll forgive you this once, but next time there won't be any excuses," patting my leg, she smiled at me. My leg warmed where she touched, sending happy waves to the rest of my body. Then, rather than removing her hand, she left it where it was. Wow, talk about being brave. I didn't know if I could have done that. My eyes went from her hand, which looked so innocent as it rested on my jeans, to her face. She seemed to be avoiding my gaze.

As Tree and Madeline continued to argue, Megan caught my eye and indicated with a raised brow that she had seen Madeline's hand on my thigh. I gave her a huge smile, unable to contain myself.

A new song came on the jukebox and again, Tree pulled Megan out of her chair and onto the dance floor. Almost immediately after they'd gone, a sandy haired blonde came up to our table, weaving slightly from too much alcohol.

"Would you like to dance?" She asked Madeline, a lurid smile on her face.

Giving me a quick look before she answered, Madeline turned the woman down. The blonde took the answer gracefully, and ambled away from us. Looking at me again, she gave me a shaky smile. I realized that I should have asked Madeline to dance, I should have done that long before the blonde had. Why hadn't I?

"I'll get the next round," Madeline indicated our almost empty bottles on the table. "I'll be right back," she said, getting up and heading toward the bar. My leg immediately felt the loss of her warm hand, and I instinctively felt a wave of loneliness wash over me. Halfway to the bar, she turned and looked at me, then continued on her way. I imagined for a second that I saw something new in her eyes, something that indicated that she needed me in the same primitive, uncontrollable way that I needed her.

I watched her as she moved, noticing for the first time the clothing she was wearing. A tight pair of jeans and a dark blue sleeveless shirt that was cropped just below the waist of her jeans. Very casual. Brown loafers were on her feet, but not the kind with the tassels. I hate the kind with tassels. I mean, I really hate them.

While I wasn't normally a letch, I noticed the way her rear end looked in those jeans. I don't know whatever one else looks for in someone, I don't know what they find attractive, but I was quickly coming to understand what I felt was attractive. Perfectly rounded, neither small nor big, her rear was very attractive. It swayed as she walked, and I found my mouth watering. I wanted to go up behind her and place my hands on her as she walked, feeling her move and moving with her.

I was loosing control of this situation. Quickly. I needed to regain some control. As she sat down after placing my drink in front of me, I took a deep breath. "So, what were we talking about?"

"I won't hurt you Fox. Not if I can help it." Her voice was low, but sincere. I swallowed hard at the honesty I heard and felt coming from her. "I don't know what I'm doing, or what's going to happen now. I can't just go back and pretend that this...didn't happen."


Her eyebrows came together as she answered. "Meeting you. Feeling you. Wanting you," a blush crept over her face and her eyes lowered. "The last thing I ever want to do is hurt you. I promise, I'll walk away before I let that happen." This time she looked at me and I saw her blue eyes burning through me.

"People...get hurt Madeline. It's our nature to love, but also hurt one another." I felt very cynical as I said this, but I wanted her to know that I didn't want her to ever walk away from anything we might have just because she hurt me. I'm a big girl, right? I can handle it. "Who am I kidding?" I whispered into the air, hoping immediately that my words would be swallowed by the crowd. They weren't.

"What?" Alarmed, Madeline took my hand and squeezed it.

"Sorry," I shook my head, feeling my mouth curl up in a sardonic smile. "You could hurt me, you know."

"I know."

"I mean, it's not like I haven't been hurt in the past," I continued as though she hadn't said anything. "But, this is different. I feel that to my very core."

"I know," she said again.

"Do you? I mean, do you really?"

Letting go of my hand, Madeline sat back and took a drink from the now warmed bottle in front of her. "I'm not going to pretend that I understand what's going on. I'm not going to pretend that I have any answers to your questions Fox." Pausing, she took another drink, holding the liquid in her mouth before swallowing it. "But, I do feel something. I can't deny that. I tried, it only hurt me." She laughed softly. "This is where pretending has gotten me." Looking up toward the ceiling, she whispered softly, "I'm sorry mama. I'm so sorry. I tried, I really did."

Thoroughly confused, I sat there, bewildered. I felt the turning of some kind of tide here, but I didn't understand it one bit. Taking a quick glance at the ceiling, I was glad I didn't see any type of entity up there, or in fact, her mother looking at us. I have a hard time dealing with mothers. Other than my own, I mean. I loved my mother very much for many reasons. It was other people's mothers I had a hard time with.

"Fox, there's a story I need to tell you. There's some...information I think you need to have."

"Okay," I said slowly. This was feeling like an X-Files episode more and more each minute. Please God, I prayed, don't let her be an alien!

"But not here, not now."

Oh shit, she was going to take me to her hide out where the other aliens would feast on my human blood!

"Where?" I asked, forcing myself out of my ridiculous musings.

"Tomorrow. Is there any place that you know of that's...where we won't be seen?"

I couldn't help the kindling of anger that flashed through me. She didn't want to be seen with me? "Yeah, sure," was my sarcastic reply.

"No Fox, it's not what you think. I have to be careful. You have to be careful."

Okay, so I was defensive today. I couldn't help it, I was confused and in love. What a sob story.

"I know someplace. It's a park, about 20 minutes from here." I gave her directions to Alston park, arranging to meet her there the next day.

Getting up from our table, Madeline reached out a cupped my cheek with her hand. The smoothness of her skin on mine was like feeling heaven for the first time. "I'll explain everything, I promise. Be patient with me Fox." Leaning down, she brushed her lips against mine. I closed my eyes to savor the feeling, but it was over far too soon. When I opened my eyes again, she was gone.


The next day was warm, but not hot. The sun shone as it should mid-summer, but the humidity was missing, leaving the day pleasant and beautiful.

I had told Madeline to meet me at my bench. Since I didn't know what kind of car she was driving, I had no idea whether or not she was already there. I was early, hoping to be there before she was. I kept my head down, not really paying any attention to the people I passed.

Shit, I thought as I reached the back of the park and could see the benches. I hadn't counted on her getting there first. I stood back and watched her for a moment. Her hands were playing nervously with the edge of her shirt. The way that she kept switching positions, seeming to be unable to get comfortable, told me she wasn't sure what to expect from this encounter. But, as I watched her, my eyes stopped seeing these little movements, and focused on Madeline herself.

Beauty doesn't describe what I saw in her at that moment. It was so much deeper than that. Rays of sunlight were filtering through the trees, illuminating her face. It was home to me. Simple as that. In her beautiful face, in the way she held herself, in the gentle tilt of her neck, I could see my future and my past. It was all in her. She was the culmination of everything I'd ever gone through or would go through. She was my home. My refuge. It was all in her.

I guess I'd been right all along. I'd always known that I'd be able to look into someone's face one day and see my own reflection. I saw it in her. That missing piece of myself that I had always been lacking and had always needed. It was her.

Girding my loins, as I once heard someone say, I made my way closer. She must have been listening for me, because her head came up before I got close enough to scare her. I stopped and we kind of looked at each other than looked away and I could swear there was a reddish tinge to her cheeks.

"Hi," I said quietly.

"Hi back." Sliding down on the bench, she patted the place next to her. "You want to sit?"

Oh yeah, she was nervous. I could tell by the way she kept biting her lip. It was then that I realized that I didn't really know her very well, but there were some things that I instinctually knew, and the lip biting thing was one of them.

"Why are you so nervous?" She asked, startling me out of my own thoughts.

"Huh? How'd you know that?"

"You keep running your hand through your hair. You do that when you're nervous."

"I do?"

"Yeah." She gave me a shy smile. "Sit, please."

I sat slowly, not wanting to sit too close to her, and yet not wanting to put much distance between us. I was worried for nothing because as soon as I sat down, she scooted closer. Turning sideways a little, she looked at me shyly. "You know, since I've met you, a lot of things have happened to me."

An eyebrow raised above my eye. I have no idea how, but it did. I've never been able to do that before.

She smiled at me. "I don't mean things HAPPENED to me, I mean I've had to do a lot of soul searching, as they call it. I had to look at myself and make decisions that truthfully, I didn't want to make."

I was confused and apprehensive at best. Decisions were scary things. They could change everything, one way or the other.

"Where can I start?" She asked out loud. I didn't know if she wanted an answer or not. "They usually say to start at the beginning right?" This time she looked directly at me.

"Um, I like to start in the middle, then do the beginning, and finish it with the end." Lame, Fox, completely, totally, and utterly lame!

"So the beginning it is," she said sardonically. "When I was 18," she paused. I waited for her to break into song, but she didn't. "I went to college in Massachusetts. Mount Holyoke, near Boston."

I nodded my head to indicate that I was familiar with the school.

"I'd never been one of those girls who had boyfriends in high school." She was looking down at this point and I could tell she was a little embarrassed to be hashing this all out.

"Me either," I said seriously. Really, I hadn't even thought about sex at that point in my life. I was content with just doing my thing, whatever that had been at the time.

"They just weren't interested in me." She shrugged her shoulders which drooped with the reminder of the pain she'd felt in high school. I felt my sympathy going out to the kid she'd been and I understood the pain of rejection.

Without thinking, I took her hand and squeezed it. She gave me a small smile. "Anyway, I went to college wanting to start a whole new life. College was an eye awakening time. I learned new things about myself and about the world. But, the biggest, most life altering thing that I learned was that I prefer women."

I think I fainted. I think I fell off the park bench and the world opened up and swallowed me. I think aliens came down and started to fiddle with my brain. Something happened. There was a flash of bright white light behind my eyes and everything went dark for a moment.

"...so, I didn't hesitate to tell her." Madeline had continued through my temporary bout of darkness.

"Wait!" I put my hand up and took a deep breath, trying to get my heart to start working again. "Just a minute. What did you say?" I had thought I'd heard her say something about preferring women.

"Shhh!" A light slap on my arm and a grin was affective, shutting me up, leaving me awaiting the rest of her story.

"Naturally, I told my mom about how I felt." I'm assuming that she felt the need to explain, just in case I'd missed something. "You know...about being attracted to women."

There! She's said it again! Attracted to women. My whole world was spinning as the rest of what she'd said hit me.

"Why?" I couldn't seem to keep quiet. Luckily, Madeline didn't seem to think me rude. "I mean-" She put her fingers over my mouth to silence me.

"Can you please be patient?" A smile was threatening to take over her lips. I had to restrain myself from licking her fingers, my lips burning as her touch lingered. Slowly, she pulled away. "Now be good."

Oh, I wasn't at all interested in being good! Bad, bad Fox! Come on Madeline, I'll show you how to keep me quiet. You're mouth on mine....Oh God! I moaned to myself, realizing I was sinking myself deeper and deeper.

She was looking at me, her head cocked slightly to one side. Almost like she was reading my thoughts. I couldn't stop the flush that spread through my body. I'm sure she could see it in my face. "Sorry," I said softly, truly ashamed at my lecherous thoughts.

"My mother and I were very close."


"My father left before I was born, leaving my mom alone to raise me."

She did a damn good job!

Fiddling with the bottom of her shirt, she continued. "She was only 17 when I was born. Her parents had said they wouldn't help cause she couldn't keep her man." The words twisted her mouth into a sardonic grin. "They figured she must have done something wrong for him to leave."

Figures. Thirty-some odd years ago the woman was always to blame for what the man did. Come to think of it, has anything really changed?

Madeline took a deep breath, pausing to collect her thoughts. Take your time Madeline, I've waited forever for you. My silent encouragement seemed to be heard because she gave me another of her sweet smiles that seemed to pull directly at my heart.

"My mom was my best friend." I felt my eyebrow raise before I could stop it. "I know, it sounds cliché and ridiculous, but it's true. I told her everything and anything. So, , when I finally figured out why I was 19 and hadn't been kissed, I told her." A soft laugh slipped from her. I thought about those very lips who had gone 19 years untouched. It was a real effort to focus on Madeline's eyes and not her lips. "When I told her, she was quiet. It was the only time I could remember my mother being silent. She...she didn't approve." The heartbreak Madeline must have experienced at that watershed moment was still fresh on her face. Small lines of sorrow formed around her mouth and eyes, and I imagined those very lines were formed that day she told her mother.

"After that, things changed. My mom was still there when I needed her, but there was a wall between us. She...held back from me." A hand reached up and absently ran through Madeline's hair, my eyes mesmerized by the sight of her long fingers tangling in her thick locks of hair. "I...I won't lie Fox. It hurt. More than anything I could remember in my life."

I figured I could interject some wise words at this point. "You'd think that someone who'd challenged so many taboos herself wouldn't have had such a hard time accepting a different way of loving." That was a nice way of saying that her mother was a hypocrite. I hope that Madeline wouldn't see that.

Eyebrows furled as she nodded slowly in agreement. "But, I was her daughter."

Was? Again the past tense. Had her mother disowned her? Or was she...

"My senior year of college my mother was diagnosed with cancer." She sighed. "Apparently the cancer had been there for a long time but my mother hadn't wanted to take the time to go to the doctor. She was given six months to a year, tops." A tear had formed in her eye, threatening to fall over, down her cheek. I caught it before it could. We both realized the intimacy of the gesture at the same time, but we didn't make any move to recover. "She didn't even make it 3 months before she was in the hospital, hooked up to more machines than I'd ever seen in my entire life."

The tear that I had taken from her eye had not been alone. Now its twin sisters were slowly falling and streaming down Madeline's cheeks. I could feel her pain almost as though it were my own. Within my body there was a searing pain of loss, threatening to swallow me whole, leaving me a ghost here in earth.

Madeline cleared her throat gently to clear away the emotions which had blocked it. "When she was in the hospital, before she died, she made me promise that I would marry Monte. He was a friend of the family who had always had a crush on me. His family was wealthy and mom figured that I would be well looked after if I married him."

That explained why she was married to Monte. I hated that man so much. He'd touched her. That's enough to make him scum of the earth. But, on top of that, he was an asshole! A chauvinistic pig-type asshole who wouldn't know how to treat a woman, especially not my Madeline. The anger welled up inside of me, churning and spurning my hatred on.

A giggle type laughter interrupted my inner storm. I looked up, puzzled, and saw Madeline looking and me and laughing. "What?"

"I know you won't believe it, but he's not that bad."

"Yeah, and the Titanic sinking wasn't a disaster," I muttered under my breath, slightly embarrassed that she had yet again figured out what I was thinking.

"I know, he comes across as a...jerk."

Try again honey.

"But, that really came after he started working in advertising. It's like he thought he needed this macho attitude to help get him ahead." Shrugging her shoulders, she sighed. "He's...normal. Just like any man, not particularly sensitive, but not abusive either."

Oh great, just what I need to hear. Next thing you know she's going to be telling me how he's a sensitive lover. And how could this all be? I mean, I saw them together in that restaurant. That day that will always be engrained in my brain. Her words, thrown at him with such disgust...I am not your whore!

"Growing up, he was always like a...brother to me." She blushed slightly and I grew suddenly wary of what she was going to say next. "I guess that kind of continued even after we got married. There was never any...passion in our marriage. But, even so, he always treated me very well. Almost with kid gloves, you could say. I'll always be grateful to him for that. He could have been a real ass about it all, but he wasn't."

I don't think I could handle this attitude. No, dear, you're mistaken. He's the devil remember? Was it time to confess? Tell her when I really first saw her?

"He doesn't know about my experiences in college. He doesn't know that I was with women before we were married. I've never told him because it just seemed like a chapter in my life that I need to close and keep close." Her voice broke and she put her head in her hands. "Oh God, I wish I could have kept it closed." Looking up, I could see a wild look in her eyes. "Don't you see Fox? It's like Pandora's Box. Once you open feelings and emotions like that up again - once you expose them to the air after having hid them for so long - you can never go back." Her voice had steadily risen as she spoke until it just died, leaving a ringing in the air with her finally word. Then, she put her head back in her hands, and said softly "I can never go back."

She was right. I realized, after everything she'd told me, that the interest I'd sensed in her hadn't been figment of my dreams. And once she'd recognized that interested and it had been acted on, she couldn't go back to being the good little wife she had been. How could you pretend to be something that went against everything that you wanted and needed.

So where did this leave her? Us? "Do you..." I had to swallow the vile as I finished the sentence. "...want to go back? Do you want to pretend like nothing happened? Is that what would make you happy Madeline?" I tried to keep my voice even, but was having trouble. I desperately willed her to say no. But, I knew, in the end, if she wanted me to disappear from her life, I would. I would die, something inside of me would die and my body would so follow. But, I would do it if it would make her happy.

Tears threatened to spill from my eyes this time as she didn't answer right away. Fear like none I'd ever know filled me, creating a trembling within me that soon spread to my limbs.

"No," she finally said, shaking her head. Then she looked at me, the tears streaming from my eyes and seemed to see the plight she'd just put me through. "Oh God, Fox. I'm sorry, I just wanted to be completely honest in answering you." She reached out and stroked my hair, her hand slowly caressing me, reassuring me.

"I'm sorry," I sniffed, "but I'm really glad to hear you say that." I stopped her hand on my head and brought it to my lips, kissing it softly. "I don't know what's going on Madeline, but I know that walking away from you would kill me. But I would. If that's what would make you happy, I would walk away from you and you would never see me again."

"Don't leave me Fox. I need you." She laughed softly. "I don't know what I mean by that, but it's true." Growing quiet, she paused. "I am going to do something about this. It's not going to be easy, but I need to do it." Her eyes looked into mine with desperate need. "Will you help me? Will you be there for me when I can't walk alone anymore?"

What she was asking from me was a lot. She realized that. She was asking me, a virtual stranger, to help her end her old life and start a new one. And she wasn't even giving me the promise that I'd be in her new life. I couldn't ask for that guarantee either. Did I want to set myself up for that possible heartache? I looked at her carefully, feeling the immediate quickening of my heartbeat and the response in my inner being, both of which being enough to give me my answer. "Yes. Whatever you need." And I meant it. Anything she needed, I would be there.

Taking my hand, she kissed it gently. "Thank you Fox."

I think I must have blushed at the tenderness she was showing. No one had ever been that tender with me. I was always the tender, care-giver type.

Whatever was ahead of us would be interesting.


I found myself at work the next day without the slightest recollection of how I got there. The night after I left Madeline was a blur. Too many thoughts passing through my mind in a tornado-like chaos; none of them complete and none of them were making any sense. I vaguely remember laying down on my bed and closing my eyes, only to have the screen of consciousness in my head whirl around images of Madeline.

I must have gotten up and gotten ready to work, and I must have driven myself to the office, not even remembering how I got there. The lack of memory was almost as disturbing as the lack of interest on my part. My work sat before me and all I seemed capable of accomplishing was an extreme interest in my pen.

"You're starting to really worry me," Marie's voice came from my doorway where she leaned against the door jam, a concerned look on her face.

"Sorry," I said softly, giving her a small smile. I didn't know if I could really pretend right now.

"What's going on?" Marie violated every rule I'd ever associated with work relationships. Especially with a secretary. She always had. Why should this new invasion surprise me? And why was I not surprised that I found myself wanting to talk to her.

"I'm in love." I said, hearing the misery in my own voice.

"Oh, that does not sound good." Stepping further into my office, Marie subtly closed the door behind her. I raised an eyebrow at her, only to have to her raise her own return. Ah, a challenge. "When I first told my mama that I thought I was in love, she sat me down and told me that she was going to give me only one bit of advice."

I nodded my head, wanting to hear whatever her mother had said, desperately wishing that my own mother were around to give me the advice I so desperately needed.

"She told me that love would bring out the best and the worst in life. It was my choice whether or not I allowed it to carry me like the tide, or I fought against it. Fighting it, she said, would only bring misery and sadness. Going with the tide of love would bring tears, but also the laughter and joy that only true happiness could bring." She finished with a gentle smile. "Are you going to fight it, Fox, or are you going to let it carry you?"

"I don't want to fight it, but..." I couldn't finish my sentence, feeling tears fill my eyes as my face flushed.

"But what?"

"I don't know if she'll ever really be mine."

"Do you love her?" Marie asked patiently.

I took a minute to think about the question, realizing that this was a turning point in my life; a watershed event that would take me forward. "Yes," I replied, feeling sure in my answer and feeling the conviction behind in the word.

"Then wait for her. If you love her, than she must be worthy of you. Wait for her, Fox, and she'll be yours." She came over and gave me a gentle hug, leaving my senses filled with her light perfume. "You're smart enough to know if this is the one for you. Be patient and you'll find your happiness. Don't fight the tide, you'll only be miserable."

With that sage advice passed to her by her mother, Marie left my office, closing the door behind her.

Miserable. Yeah, I thought I'd been miserable before this but it wasn't even close to the ache I felt in my chest when I thought about a life without Madeline. Marie was right. If I fought my love for Madeline, or tried to go on without her, I would be more than miserable. Something inside of me would die forever.

I sighed, and reached up to push some hair out of my face, noticing that I needed a haircut. I guess that I had been putting off certain necessities. If my hair needed cut, then that probably meant that there were other things I'd neglected.

"No time like the present," I mumbled, picking up the phone. Dialing from memory, the phone only rang twice before it was picked up.

"Yes, I need to make an appointment to have my hair cut and my eyebrows waxed." I waited as the woman on the other end shuffled through an appointment book. When she asked me if I preferred anyone in particular, I was quick to answer. "Carolyn, please." I could hear some more shuffling of paper on the other end of the phone. "Seven tonight is fine, thank you." I hung up the phone, feeling pretty good about having taken some steps forward in my life.

Next, I dialed a number that was even more familiar.

"Ideal Solutions, the goddesss speaking."

"Can't you ever answer the phone normally?"

"The goddess isn't talking to you today, good bye."

She didn't hang up on me; I knew that she wouldn't. She was kind of pissed at me, I guess. "M, please don't be upset. I'm calling for a peace treaty."

"Does this aforementioned treaty involve food?" Her haughtiness came down just a peg.

"Yes it does." I was going to play it nice. Very nice. Megan deserved better than how I'd been treating her lately. She'd outlasted most of the people in my life, and I had a feeling that that would always be the case. Her hesitation in replying was a telltale sigh that she was really angry with me. And deservedly so. I knew that I had but one card left to play. "I will cook Megan."

A quick intake of breath came over the phone, and I knew that I had hooked her. "What would you be making, Ms. Owens?" Now it was time to reel her in.

"Spaghetti," I said, not elaborating, which would make her have to beg me for more information. I knew how to play hardball if I needed to, and knowing Megan's weaknesses certainly helped.

"And? " Megan prompted. Ah, Megan was such a good player. The game was afoot, as Holmes would say! I could smell victory.

"And, what?" I asked innocently. I wasn't giving an inch.

The sound of Megan's teeth grinding came through loud and clear as silence permeated the phone line. "What else will you be making? " She finally admitted defeat, giving in to her desire to eat a good meal.

"Oh, I was thinking of making meatballs..." I fade off, smiling to myself in victory.

"When and where? " The resigned quality of her voice almost made me pity her. Almost.

"How about seven tonight?"

"Okay," she said. I thought that she was going to hang up, but she stayed on the line for a moment. I waited, instinctively knowing that there was something that she needed to say. "I love you Fox. " She finally said quietly and I could hear the emotion in her voice.

"I know Megs, I know." I felt the sorrow well up inside of me. This was one of the few indisputable facts in my life.

"Well, remember that in future, okay? "

"I promise."


As I hung up the phone a tear fell from my face and a promise crossed my lips. I would not repeat my mistakes.


I left the office promptly at 5. A trip to the grocery was necessary since I could never be assured of what would be at the house. As always, the worst thing about stopping after work was the lines. Everyone else had decided to stop on their way home from work, so I was stuck with under 20 items behind someone who had at least two carts full of food. And, of course, this woman was too incompetent to bag for herself, making the checkout girl not only ring her items up but also bag them.

I think I must have started at the woman for 15 minutes while she just chatted away, oblivious to the trickle of sweat coming from the checkout girl. Then, as the woman stood there, observing the checkout girl put her bags into her cart for her, I stewed about the terrific society we lived in today. In restaurants, it was impossible to get decent service, and yet here in the grocery, it was impossible to get good customers!

"Hi," I said to the checkout girl, who smiled at me shyly. "I'll bag." I caught a grateful look as I went to stand at the end of the conveyer belt. After she'd scanned all my items and I'd given her my debit card, she looked me in the eye and thanked me. I all of a sudden felt much better about the world as a whole.

The drive home was congested, traffic reaching its peak as everyone made their way to their respective homes, or drove sleepily to work. I began to think about all those people who must be working while I'm sleeping, the never-ending cycle that kept things like the country and its economy going. It's astounding to think about it, really. The country as a whole is never full at rest. It made me tired just to think about it.

When I finally pulled into the driveway, I was surprised to see that David's car was not there. In his line of work he normally was one of those people who were going to work as I was going to sleep. Usually when I got home he was just getting up, and we'd spend a few hours together, me winding down from work and him waking up.

Grabbing the plastic bags from the back seat of my cat, I racked my brain, trying to remember if David had said anything about being gone. I realized that I had been in a fog lately and he could have very well told me he was going to be gone, but I probably hadn't heard him. I sighed, knowing that I had more apologies yet to make.

When I'd first met Megan in I'd been in the 4th grade. She was new to town, and entered Mrs. Fields' class as a short, knobby kneaded little girl with brown, frizzy hair that hung so low in front that she was always pushing them out of her face. I remember the giggles in the back of the classroom when Mr. Kohl, the elementary school's principal, led her into the classroom. He introduced her and she looked shyly around the classroom, her eyes stopping when she got to me. She smiled at me before she continued her sweep, and I knew at that moment that she had picked me. Picked me for what, I didn't know, but I had been picked.

That day at lunch, I made my way in the class line to the cafeteria, which was also our gym, and found her next to me, her smile on me yet again.

And that was it. From that day forward we were friends.

Even at that age, Megan had a tenacious grasp on life. She feared nothing, despite being a good half a foot shorter than most of the kids our age, and she let nothing stop her. Her second week at her new school she decided that she was not content to stand around with the rest of the girls while the boys played football at recess. "I wanna play," she announced at the end of lunch. After flinging her metal lunchbox to one side, she rolled up the sleeves of her wool sweater and marched onto the field. The other girls in our class stared on in horror as she took a position and got ready for the first kick.

I remember watching her from the sidelines that day, awed at the guts it took for her to put herself out there. Part of me wanted desperately to join her, defying all around us, but another part of me hung back, lacking that joie la vive that made Megan tick. Despite her skirt and saddle shoes, she proceeded to tackle any of the guys that came her way, flying through the air as she took them down. At one point she got the ball herself and flew down the field, the boys stopped in their tracks, unsure whether they should tackle a girl or not.

After that first day, she continued to play with the boys in whatever game they decided to play. And each time, no matter what they played, she threw herself into proving herself just as good as any of them.

The most surprising after affect of Megan's actions was what happened to the girls in our class. Normally, the girls stood around acting as sort of cheerleaders as the boys ran around and sweated. But after Megan joined them, the girls in our class, without speaking of it, became divided. Half of the girls now cheered loudly for Megan, urging her to kick butt, while the other half quietly continued to support the boys.

I, of course, was her biggest supporter, whether I wanted to or not. I was, after all, her best friend, the one she picked.

While our personalities seemed mismatched, we managed to stay friends even as other people faded in and out. When my parents died, she was by my side, not letting me forget that I needed to keep going. There were a few times that through my haze of grief that I thought I heard her even reminding me to breath.

From the many times that Megan had come over to my house while we were growing up she had grown to love my mother's spaghetti. She had a recipe for meatballs that she'd gotten from her grandmother, as well as her own blend of ingredients that made her spaghetti sauce come alive with flavors. Knowing it was Megan's favorite, my mother made a point of making it when she was at our house for dinner.

There were times, looking back, that I wonder if Megan had a crush on my mother. I can remember her standing in my parent's kitchen, looking up at my mother with glowing eyes, a faint smile on her face. When I was a child it seemed wonderful that my best friend adored my mother. I know I did.

It would have seemed that since Megan had watched my mother so many times that she would be able to perform the task of making the spaghetti herself. But, unfortunately, Megan was helpless in the kitchen. So, it was up to me to keep alive the legacy of my mother's spaghetti and meatballs. And it was my one weapon against Megan when we fought. But it also served as a way to keep my mother alive for both of us.

Having made it so many times, I didn't have to put much thought into what I was making, so I allowed my thoughts to drift. Without meaning to, I began to think of Madeline. As I hand mixed the meatball ingredients, I imagined her smooth neck, wondering what it would be like to softly nibble on the area where her neck flared out into her shoulders. I knew that her skin would be soft and fragrant there.

Rolling the meat I thought of her sweet smile that made my heart beat faster every time I saw it. I was completely weak when she smiled, unable to think of anything but her and the wondrous power she had over me.

And as I cooked the meatballs I began to feel an unquenchable internal heat that had nothing to do with what the stove was producing. Unable to stop it, I moaned softly, closing my eyes and leaning against the counter top. I had to control myself or else I'd loose it completely.

Even as I regrouped, I heard the doorbell ring, startling me out of my own thoughts. Looking at the clock, I realized that it was too early for Megan and Tree, so I was puzzled as to who could be at my door.

Checking the heat under the meatballs, I quickly washed my hands, grabbed a towel to dry them as I went to answer the door.

As I opened the door and realized that I was face to face with my fantasy, I felt the blood rush to my face and my nether regions and my head became light. Without pomp or circumstance, I fainted.

When I awoke I was instantly aware of a soft touch against my face, stroking my cheek, and making me flush instantly with desire. I guess a life without sex was harder than I thought. Take a long breath in, I realized quickly that it was Madeline. My head was cradled in her lap.

Oh my god, I was laying in Madeline's lap! Control was in order. I kept my eyes closed, taking in the feeling of Madeline's fingers on my brow, the warmth of her lap under my head, the heady scent that I imagined was between her legs. Oh, I was in trouble.

"I think she's coming around," Madeline said soft out loud.

"She's faking," A familiar voice came from a short distance away. Megan. I'd obviously been unconscious for longer than I thought.

"She's been out for awhile," Madeline confirmed my thoughts, as though reading what I was thinking and defending me. Go Madeline, I thought.

"Maybe," Megan replied suspiciously. "But she's faking it now."

Bitch, I thought.

"Kiss her, you'll see."

Yes, kiss me, I thought, hoping that Madeline would still be picking up on my thoughts.

"She's not unconscious, she's just hor-" From my vantage point, it seemed as though Megan was prevent from finishing her sentence.

"Why don't we go check on the food?" A third voice came from a distance. Tree. Thank God for Tree!

There was the sound of a slight struggle. I could envision Tree physically dragging Megan from the room. I made a mental note to thank Tree in the near future for her Megan-intervention.

Through it all, Madeline continued to stroke my face and I felt my own need and desire rise. Then, just as I thought a moan would over come me, I felt Madeline's soft lips meet mine in a light kiss that sent my desire over the edge. I moan out loud, unable to contain it any longer.

"So, you were faking it?" Madeline said finally, laughter lacing her voice.

"Not the entire time," I said, refusing to open my eyes, instead focusing on the memory of her lips.

"That's not very nice," she softly admonished me and I instantly felt ashamed.

"I'm sorry." I opened my eyes and looked into hers shyly. I felt myself drowning in her blue eyes, my own eyes blurring until all I saw was the depths there.

She continued to caress my face, her neck bent so that her hair fell forward and brushed my skin. "What happened?" When she spoke I could feel her breath as it was expelled from her body.

"Wha...wha...what do you mean?" As I drowned, I wondered why I wasn't fighting the feeling, why I wasn't trying to save myself. Wasn't the nature reaction to drowning a desperate fight to save yourself? So why didn't I fight?

"Why did you faint, Fox?" She was looking directly into my eyes and I began to wonder if she was feeling the same sensation I as I was. Was she drowning too?

"I...I..." Oh shit. Did I tell her? Did I tell her about my fantasies about her? Did I tell her how I'd been imagining her before I'd opened the door? "I was thinking about you while I was cooking. And then, you were there, at the door. I...I...I guess it was sensory overload."

Her lips turned into a soft, knowing smile. And, as if we were in slow motion, I watched as she leaned down toward me, my own head lifting slightly, meeting her lips with my own. Neither of us moved at first, both of us just resting on each other's lips, taking in the feeling of warmth and electricity. Then, one of us opened our mouth and someone's tongued dived in, I can't be sure who did what first because soon it was a luscious fight over space, both of us doing our share of give and take.

My arms came up and my hands found her hair, pulling her harder against me. Our soft moans filled the air and pushed me further over the edge. She wrapped her arms around me, pulling up against her chest. Her strength surprised me, causing me to gasp into her mouth. I threw an arm around her shoulders, caressing the back of her neck with my hand.

The flood of pleasure that pulsated through me was so stunning in it's power that I felt small tremors of the beginning of an orgasm rush within.

"I told you," Megan said from the doorway, startling us both. Our mouths pulled apart but we didn't let go of our hold on each other.

Tree's head appeared above Megan's, and she too peered down at us. Winking at me, she turned Megan around. "Why don't we go and finish the meatballs?"

"Oh shit, I forgot..." I faded off, seeing the look on Megan's face and feeling immediately guilty. I did not, however, leave my stop in Madeline's lap.

"Yeah, you forgot alright." Megan crossed her arms and starred at me.

"Did any of them burn badly?" I honestly had no idea how long I'd been on the floor, or how much time had passed.

"Nah, I turned them off when we got here," Tree waved her hand in the air to rid me of my concern. But the look in Megan's eyes would not let me forget about the guilt. "We'll finish cooking the meat and then you can do the sauce and spaghetti, okay?" She herded Megan toward the kitchen, relieving me of the penetrating stare.

Alone again, I slowly looked back at Madeline. My breath caught in my throat as I remembered her lips on mine and her hands on my body. I think that I must have looked like I was going to pass out again because her beautiful face immediately looked at me with concern.

"I'm okay," I said, my words almost making me choke. My hand went up and gently touched her face. "I just...you...you take my breath away." I wanted to tell her so much more. I wanted to tell her of my fear of loosing her; of my fear of loosing myself in her. Since the last time I'd seen her I had tried to force her out of my mind, and in reality what I was trying to rid my mind of was the idea that I would never be with her. Yes, I had feared more than anything that I would never feel something as simple as her lips on mine.

With that very fear in mind, I leaned up and met her lips with mine, holding myself there to savor the feeling of her warm soft lips against my own. Her mouth moved against mine, slowly opening my lips with her tongue, sending undulating sensations through the very core of my being, threatening to over come every sense of control I still had.

Slowly, we pulled apart, electricity jumping between us as we did.

"How do you do that?" Madeline asked me breathlessly, her eyes looking dewy and beautiful.

"What?" I said with a smile, brushing her hair back from her eyes.

"Make me feel like...like, I don't know, like I'm going to catch on fire and spontaneously combust." She blushed furiously as she voiced her body's reaction to me and I felt the smile begin to stretch my mouth.

"I do that, huh?" I teased her, moving closer and gently nibbling her neck, enjoying the low moan of pleasure that resulted from it.

"Oh yeaaaaa...." There was one spot on her neck, right where it met her shoulders on the right side that seemed to illicit a moan that was deeper and throatier than the others. In my mind I tattooed that spot, knowing that it would always be a favorite place to rest my lips.

"Well," I said between bites on her neck, "I must say..." I returned to that favorite spot. "You make me feel as though I was born yesterday in a bath of fire that was you and every time we touch, I'm ignited once again."

Madeline sat straight up and starred at me, her eyes wide and her mouth in a straight line. Dread filled me as I watched her face drain of color. Something I had said must have been wrong. "I'm...I'm..." I could seem to get the last word out. I felt suddenly lost and unsure where as just moments ago I felt so in control and centered. I dropped my eyes from her penetrating gaze, feeling like a child about to be punished.

With a finger under my chin, Madeline pushed my head back up. With dread I looked back into her eyes, surprised at the tears that were now there. "That was the most beautiful words that have ever been said about me. Thank you." Her lips were soft and yielding this time when they touched mine. This kiss was merely sweet and loving, speaking of a future without promises made with words.

When we mutually pulled back it was in both our minds to hold one another tightly, feeling that whispering tugging of fate on our lives, tugging us both in a direction that we'd seen from our separately, wide paths. This new direction looked narrow and harrowing, but there was no stopping what we'd already put into motion.

With my head against her chest I could feel the steady beat of her heart and I felt it calm my own staccato beat. With deep breaths, I closed my eyes and just smiled. What happened next, I didn't know, but I wouldn't be alone.

"So, what is this about meatballs?" Madeline said softly, stroking my hair.

The events of that night suddenly came back to me. "I was making meatballs when...when you rang the doorbell?" I sat up straighter and looked at her. "Why are you here?" I realized how that must have sounded, so I explained. "I mean, I'm glad that you're here, but...why?"

"Monte's out of town this week. I've been thinking a lot about you and I really felt the need to see you." She shrugged. "I looked in the company's directory and found your address. I was going to call, but I was afraid you wouldn't want to see me."

"What?" My eyebrows drew together as I questioned her. "Why wouldn't I want to see you?"

Madeline brushed the back of her hand across my face slowly, her face watching as her skin touched mine. "I knew that I was being awfully unfair to you and I thought you might have figured it out by now and have changed your mind."

I leaned over and gently brushed my lips against hers. "Silly woman. To change my mind you'd have to change my heart, and that is not possible." I could see some sort of stress released when she heard this. I realized that I hadn't been the only one that felt fear and pain regarding our future.

"I'm glad," she said simply, putting her head on my shoulder. Smiling into her hair, I squeezed her tightly.

"So, what about those meatballs?" She mumbled into my shirt, warming the skin there with her breath.

"I had invited Megan and Tree over for spaghetti and meatballs. It's..." I hesitated, unsure of how to explain how this simple fair was a ghostly bridge shared by Megan and I. "When I was little my mother made the best spaghetti, and Megan and I both have fond memories of those days. So, we try to get together for spaghetti and meatballs when we can." I didn't want to tell her that it was supposed to be an apology dinner. It would open up even more insecurities of mine for scrutiny.

Madeline suddenly looked uncertain. "Oh, I didn't mean to interrupt..." She faded off, looking nervously toward the kitchen.

I followed her gaze. "Listen, it's okay. There's plenty of food." A Megan can get to know you better, I said to myself. The night at the bar had been loud and obnoxious, but I really wanted the two of them to get along.

"I don't think that Megan likes me very much," she said with a rueful smile, looking down at the floor.

"She doesn't know you yet," I took her hand in mine. "She just resents the amount of time I spend thinking about you, talking about you, dreaming about you..." I fade off and gave her a lopsided smile. "You can see why it might get kind of annoying."

Laughing, Madeline brought my hand to her face and rubbed the back of my hand over her cheek, ending the caress with a gentle kiss. "Thank you," she said softly, giving me a smoldering look that made my knees weak.

Taking a deep breath, I let it out slowly, trying with mere will power to keep my own libido from taking over. "Come on, I'll introduce you to the infamous spaghetti and meatballs."


"Love must agree with you," Megan said to me seriously as we cleared the table.

"What do you mean?" As I asked I looked toward the living room where Tree and Madeline were talking. They'd discovered a mutual appreciation for gardening and were thrilling each other with stories about bulbs.

"This," she indicated the mess from dinner with her hand, "was the best spaghetti you've ever made. And I know it wasn't on my account." She gave me a smirk and bumped my hip with hers.

"She thinks you don't like her," I said quietly. I didn't want to betray a confidence, but I was sure that Megan didn't not like her, she was just...well, Megan. And sometimes understanding Megan was like the Rubik's Cube. You just had to put all the little pieces in the right direction and the puzzle was solved.

"Really?" Megan looked confused. "I thought I'd been rather charming!"

"You were charming during dinner. It was before that you were less than charming."

"What? When you two were making out in the living room?"


"You were faking it!"

"I was not! At least, not the whole time!"

"Oh yea, right!" She snorted.


"And I'm Eleanor Roosevelt!"

"Well, you're UGLY enough!"

"What?!?!" She huffed, putting her hands on her hips.

"You heard me Mrs. Roosevelt!"

"You are such a brat!" She was yelling now, redness coming to her face.


"Lesbian whore!"

"Het whore!"

We looked at each other and began to giggle. Then the giggles turned into real laughter that quickly went to full out guffawing. We moved closer and hugged each other, rocking each other while our bodies shook with laughter.

"What is going on in here?" Tree came in, her face an obvious question, with Madeline following close behind.

This only made us laugh harder. "She's a het whore!" I said, pointing at Megan, even my hand unsteady through the laughter.

Two sets of eyes opened wide at my statement.

"And she's a lesbian whore!" Megan said, pointing at me, her finger a little more steady than mine had been.

Tree looked at both of us and shook her head. "You would think that the two of you could come up with some new insults."

"They do this often?" Madeline asked dryly, pretending we weren't even there.

"Every now and again. Something gets up their asses and they decided to throw insults at each other until they get to those particular two, and then they end up laughing their heads off."

"Hmmm...Do you think there's any hope for them what-so-ever?" Eying us as though we were under a microscope, Madeline turned to Tree with her question.

"No, I think they're pretty hopeless." Tree said, shaking her head sadly.

"If we're hopeless than what does that make the two of you?" Megan asked and we looked at them with our hands on or hips.

The two of them looked at each other, and shrugged. "Hopeful?" Madeline finally said, moving her eyebrows suggestively. I immediately felt myself get warm at what the implications of that could mean.

"That can be arranged," Megan said, her yes focused on Tree as she sashayed toward her partner and proceeded to rub up against her suggestively.

I had to force myself to look at Madeline, surprised to see her standing right in front of me. Once again she moved her eyebrows at me and my arms grabbed her around the waist and pulled her close, deciding that holding back wasn't an option anymore.


Around midnight, I realized that I hadn't seen David all day.

"He's in Reno," Megan told me when I mentioned it to the group.

"As in Nevada?" That's a long way for him to wander.

"Yeah, he had some kind of queen contest there this weekend."

"He did?" I was puzzled, not remembering him saying anything about it.

"Yup." Tree started to snort a bit, appearing to be holding in laughter, despite her wife's nonchalance.

"And how exactly do you know that Megan?" There was something going on here.

"It's all in the note he left you on the refrigerator," she said, giving me a shit eating smile.

Everyone laughed loudly, including me. It had been too good of a night to waste it on getting mad at my own stupidity. "Good thing someone read the note, otherwise I'd have had to call Jacob."

"Who's Jacob?" Madeline asked from her position between my legs. Her back was facing me and I had her pulled close, enjoying the feeling of being close to her at last.

"Jacob's on the police force in town, but he's also a raging, closeted queen." Tree took a drink from her wine glass.

"So, why not just call the police, why call him?"

Megan, Tree and I shared a glance. I had to remember that Madeline hadn't lived an alternative lifestyle since college. "A lot of times when you call the cops regarding someone from the gay community you aren't taken all that seriously. Jacob is really a blessing in disguise."

"Yeah, a pink frilly dress!" Megan cracked and we all shared a laugh.

"Things haven't changed at all, have they?" Madeline said sadly. I kissed the back of her neck.

"Sure they have, it's just slow in coming." I tried to reassure her. The last thing I needed now was for her to get cold feet just because society as a whole hadn't become more open to same sex relationships. The security of her marriage to Monte would be lost if she left him. Assuming that she would leave him. There was so much to talk about, so much to get figured out. And yet, I was desperately afraid to push her, afraid that she'd turn around and run.

Shivering slightly, Madeline just pushed herself further against me, pulling my arms tighter. I held on as tightly as I could, knowing that I couldn't give her up now. The drug that she was had laced my blood system, drawing me in and enticing me until I could only crave on thing and that was her. And despite our situation, I knew that this was what I had always craved. This all-consuming love for another person; this need to just be drawn within another being and accepted there.

"You ready to get going babe?" Tree stretched, yawning widely. It had been a fun night filled with gentle teasing and playful banter. But it had to end at some point.

Retuning her yawn, Megan rose to her feet. "Yeah, we should probably get going. I still need to finish that design by Monday."

"You're working this weekend?" I asked, surprised. Normally they worked hard during the weeks so that they could play hard over the weekends.

"Yeah, it's a special job for the new AIDS hospice they're opening. We're doing some pro bono work, but it still has deadlines, as you well know." Megan rolled her eyes and I grunted in agreement. We'd all tried to do what we could for the gay community by using our professional skills. Sometimes the work was harder than the work we were paid for, but the sense of being able to do something positive overcame it all.

I untangled myself from Madeline so that I could give both Megan and Tree hugs before they left. Megan surprised us all by pulling Madeline into a tight hug, and whispering into her ear before they left.

Closing the door behind them, I faced the door with trepidation, afraid to turn around and face Madeline alone. It had been such a wonderful night and I didn't want to see it end. Two arms came up behind me, wrapping around my waist pulling me into Madeline's body.

I closed my eyes and savored the moment before turning around in her arms. "Do I want to know what she said to you?"

"Who?" Madeline said, her eyes going wide in innocence.

"Megan." I wasn't going to let it go. I wanted to make sure that my best friend was behaving herself. I knew that when it was my heart at stake, Megan was going to be every bit the overbearing mama bear.

Madeline's face flushed slight and she dropped her arms. Walking a few feet away, she said "Oh. She told me to follow my heart."

"She said that?" It didn't sound like the usual Megan comment.


"What is your heart saying Madeline?" I walked the short distance between us and lifted her chin with my hand. "What is in your heart?"

Her blue eyes filled with tears as they met mine and I felt something inside of me ache. "You. You are in my heart." It sounded so simple and yet it opened up my entire world, leaving me a mere spectator in life, looking out onto the vision of what was all my own.

I leaned over, my whole body trembling, and gently kissed her, needing an instant connection with her that act as a balm to the burning I felt in my soul. "You are my heart," I whispered as I pulled away.

Instead of the smile that I expected, I was met with more tears and soft cry of anguish. Madeline's hands came up and covered her face as she cried. Gathering her in my arms, I led her to the couch and sat down, holding her tightly. "Why are you cry, darling?" I repeated over and over again, desperate to know what her tears were for.

"How can you say such things to me?" She demanded, her voice harsh. "I can bring you nothing but pain!" Her cries became ragged and choking.

"What do you mean? How will you bring me pain?" I was feeling something in me build, a weight of fear threatening to drown me.

"I'm married Fox. To a very possessive man. He's not just going to let me go."

"But...but you said that he treated you well?"

"Yes, he treated me well, but don't you see? There was never any threat, there was never anything there to try to take me from him." She cried some more, her tears flowing in wide paths down her face. "Fox, I don't have anything. I haven't worked since college, I don't have anything that's my own! And if I leave him for another woman...he'll make sure that I won't have anything. He'll take it all from me. Where will I go, what will I do?"

Now I understood. She was afraid, and rightfully so. But she had underestimated me. "You'll come and be with me." I told her simply, wiping at her tears with my hand.

"But...but -"

I silenced her with my fingers on her lips. "No buts Madeline. I guess I haven't made myself clear enough. I want you with me. I want you here, in my life, with me for the rest of time. I don't care if you come with only the clothes on your back; I want you here with me. We will manage everything else, I promise you. Once you're here with me, we'll figure everything else out."

"Oh Fox..." she cried softly, leaning her head against my shoulder. "I feel like I was dead inside and now I'm coming alive after a very long winter. Every part of my being hurts from coming back alive and yet I know that I cant' go back to being dead. I can't even try to pretend that I don't love you Fox, because God help me, I do. I don't even know how or why, but I love you. I feel it inside of me and it's dying to be free."

I held her close, unsure of what to say, or what to do. I wanted desperately to tell her not to go back, to just stay with me and live with me. Forget about her marriage and the house, and whatever else was attached to it, be with me.

But I think what scared me the most inside was that I knew that even if she chose not to leaver her marriage, I would still want to be with her. I would live that lie and that life if she asked me to. And I prayed to every god that existed that she would not ask me that. I felt weakened knowing that I was helpless to stop that course of action. I desperately did not want to be the mistress of this marriage, despite the need I had inside of me for her.

"Help me Fox. I need your help."

"How...what can I do to help you?"

"Help me leave my marriage Fox."


When I woke up the next morning, my body was entwined around Madeline's, our forms fitting perfectly together. She was still sleeping, her face youthful and peacefully while she slept. Her clothes from the night before were wrinkled from having been slept in, but she looked amazingly comfortable and wonderfully right.

As I looked at her, I felt numerous emotions rush through me, leaving me almost queasy from their intensity. Just as I thought I was going to get sick, beautiful eyes opened and even filled with sleep, found me. "Hi," she said, her voice thick and scratchy with sleep.

"Hi," I managed to get out, wanting to say more, but my mouth was suddenly dry.

Smiling at me, Madeline started to stretch, her body rubbing against mine, sending shots of electricity through me. She ended the stretch with a very cute yawn, giving the over all impression of a cat. Then her blue eyes were back on me, this time the hazy of sleep absent. "I have to admit, this wasn't how I planned our first night together."

I had to laugh with her. This wasn't how I'd planned it either. "So, you've planned our first night together?" A smile grew on my face slowly. I wasn't shocked as I would have been before now. We'd spent the night talking and getting to know one another and I felt much more comfortable with her. Not only did I know that I was meant to be with her, but I also had found myself liking her as a person. She was immensely intelligent and had an amazing sense of humor.

"Well, yeah..." she trailed off, her lips turning into a sly smile. "Actually, I've been planning it since that first time you kissed me."

I gathered her in my arms and held her close to me, spooning myself behind her. "That was awhile ago," I said into her ear, unable to resist the urge to bite her soft lobe gently. I felt the shiver run through her body. We'd come to an agreement about making love, but that didn't mean I couldn't have a little fun.

She turned in my arms, facing me. "You are so evil! You know, I used to think that you were sweet and shy. Now I know differently."

"Oh you do, huh?" I leaned down and began to nibble at her neck.

"Oh yea," she said in a half moan, half whisper. With a light shove, she pushed me away. "You are a lecherous woman!" She wiggled down so that she could lay her head on my chest, snuggling into my shirt. "You smell good."

I moved my hand up to caress her back. "So, I'm a letch who smells good?"

"Pretty much."

We both grew silent, neither of us feeling the need to speak. I was enjoying just having her with me. She'd have to leave eventually. I sighed.

"Do you regret it?" Her voice came softly from where she was laying on my chest.

"Regret what?"

"Deciding to wait?"

I gave this a minute of thought. We'd both decided last night that we'd wait until she was completely free before we made love. It wasn't an easy decision and there had been times during the night that I had been tempted to throw it to the wind, but we stood fast and didn't let our passions overcome us.

"No, I don't regret it." I told her honestly. But I did desperately wish that the situation were different. I wish that she were free to mine today, last night, yesterday, and tomorrow. "I told you last night, I will wait for you forever."

It was her turn to sigh. "It's just not right for you to have to wait for me." She voiced what I was thinking perfectly. No, it wasn't fair. It wasn't fair at all. "Fox?" She murmured into my chest, making the skin under her mouth warm and alive.


"I don't want to wait," she said in a petulant tone. I laughed out loud as I imagined her as a child, bottom lip sticking out, trembling with emotion. She started to laugh too, her body shaking against mine as she did.

As we quieted down and regained our breath, I lifted her face up and looked into it, stunned by the beauty I found there. I leaned over and gently kissed her lips. "Madeline, I would like nothing better than to make love to you." I kissed her again, lingering for a minute. "But I want you to be all mine. I don't want to share you in any way." And even as I said this, my body was screaming, telling me to forget doing things the right way, to take her as she was at this moment.

"Are you sure about all of this?" She stroked my cheek softly.

"I'm more sure about this than I have been about anything in my life."


As tempting as showering with Madeline was, I knew myself well enough to know that my hands would not obey my strict resolve to wait. God, it was hard. I really wanted her in such a base, sexual way that I knew holding back would not happen. So, instead I offered her the shower first, getting out towels for her and showing her where the soaps and everything were.

With an inward sigh, I watched as the bathroom door closed behind her, trying not to let my imagination run rampant with images of Madeline naked. Shaking my head, I realized that I needed to focus my attention elsewhere.

Sitting down at the desk in my office, I turned on the computer, dusting the screen off with my sleeve. Sighing yet again, I sat down and waited for the machine to boot up. Clicking on Outlook Express, I first checked my work email and then my personal email. While I clicked through the messages, I found my mind wandering into the bathroom, and then the shower stall.

"Fox, you're a goner," I said out loud, chastising my inability to loose myself in something.

Just as I thought I would drive myself insane, I heard the bathroom door open. Closing down the mail program, I shut down the computer and stretched in the chair. Rising slowly, I pushed the chair back and took a minute to breath.

Putting one foot in front of the other, I went to the bathroom and took a deep breath, smelling the steamy air and the clean scent of soap and Madeline. Oh yes, I was a goner. Walking through the door, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw Madeline there, wearing nothing but the towel I'd given her.

"Oh shit, I'm sorry, I thought you were done and that I could take my shower now and I didn't know that you were still in here and so naked!" I rambled along, not realizing what I was saying till I came to the work naked.

Wearing an amused smile, Madeline tipped her head to the side. "You're cute when you're flustered."

"Shuddup," I mumbled, feeling the tips of my ears getting warm.

"And for the record, I'm not naked. Although I could be soon.." she trailed off, tugging at the towel teasingly.

I felt myself getting warm all over again and felt just a bit of anger at her incessant teasing. "I'll wait in the study till your done," I said turning on my heel and leaving. I was angry at her, angry at myself, angry at the world and it's way of dealing unfair hands left and right. I felt like I was playing poker with Uno cards. I just couldn't catch a break no matter what.

Pulling the chair out again, I sat down heavily, putting my hands over my face and rubbing at my eyes with the heels of each hand. Why couldn't I be a cad? Why couldn't I just take advantage of the situation and be happy with myself?

I knew the answer, but I didn't have to like it. I wanted more with Madeline than just a one night romp. I wanted more from her than just a quick roll. I wanted a life with her and I felt in my heart that to have that, I needed to do this the right way. And for me, the right way was the way that my moral heart and conscious dictated.

I sat there for awhile before I heard light foot steps approach.

"I'm done now Fox," Madeline said softly.

I got up and started to head toward the bathroom.

"Wait, please?" She asked, her voice tentative and shy.

I stopped and waited, my eyes focused on some non-existent spot in the hallway beyond the door. I really didn't want to talk to her at the moment. I was too frustrated with myself, her and life; not necessarily in that order.

With a strong hand she turned my head so that I was looking at her. She starred into my eyes, her eyes looking at me with unshed tears. "I'm so sorry Fox."

I lowered my eyes for a moment, gathering my thoughts. "When I was little I once saw a butterfly that had the most beautiful wings. These weren't ordinary wings. They were long and elegant, filled with magical colors that made my eyes water when I looked at them. Everyday for an entire week I watched this butterfly, wanting so badly to just reach out and touch it. I felt that if I could touch it just once, I'd inherit from it some of its beauty and purity. Even as a child I always wanted to find something that was bigger than myself. Anyway, every day I watched it until I finally I felt the need to reach out and touch it." I stopped for a minute, swallowing before I finished. I'd never tried to put this story into words before. I found that even though it had been a long time since it happened, it was still painful. "When I touched it, its...its wing came off in my hand. And at that moment I realized the horrible thing I'd done, all to satisfy my own need." I closed my eyes. "I don't want to ruin what could be something beautiful by giving into my own needs again."

The air around me was still and with my eyes closed, I wondered if I was alone. But I knew I wasn't. I could feel her there with me. It was like how I knew that my hand was at the end of my arm, or my foot at the end of my leg. It was instinctual. And for a moment I wondered if I would ache and itch, the way a body part did after it was amputated, if I were separated from Madeline. Which body part would hurt the most from a surgical like separation from her? I knew it was that part of me that pounded within my chest, reminding me that I was indeed alive.

Then I felt a hand, flat against that very part of me, and I knew it was her. She touched me gently, almost afraid of breaking me. "I'm so sorry Fox. I was being selfish." Her voice was choked, and as I opened my eyes I saw the tears I knew would be there. And beyond those tears I saw the pain within her. The pain that I'd witnessed that first day I'd seen her.

"Why are you crying?" I was bewildered, feeling helpless to understand her pain or to sooth it. I wrapped my arms around her, letting her cry into my shoulder, whispering the age-old words of comfort into her ear even as the sobs lessened and she tried to catch her breath.

"I didn't mean to hurt you Fox, I'm so sorry." She sobbed, her entire body shaking all over again. "I just...it's just..." she took a deep breath, steadying herself. "I had forgotten how...soft and warm...a woman's body was. I had thought that I'd never feel that again and now..." She looked up with liquidy eyes, searching my face for something. "You've given me such hope." With a shaking hand, she reached up and tentatively touched my face. "I guess I'm just...giddy." She gave me a small smile.

"Oh baby..." I pulled her tighter, enjoying being able to hold her without fear or reservation.

The doorbell rang, startling us both. "I'll go see who it is," I said, giving her a smile and a light kiss. She smiled back and nodded silently.

I walked down the stairs in cloudy haze, smiling at myself as I unlocked the door. As soon as I had opened the heavy oak door, I kicked myself for not having looked through the peephole first.

Annie stood there, her willowy body leaning against the porch rail, a ghostly smile on her face. Seeing her there, with that particular smile on her face, brought back a flood of memories. Memories that I wanted no part of and yet, I didn't seem to have a choice about it as they washed over me, like the tide, continuing to barrage my mind. That smile. That was the smile I first saw on her, which I first entered her office. That smile that told me there was warmth and charm there.

And it was all a lie.

Someone who had warmth and charm wouldn't have left me without a word.

Someone with warmth and charm wouldn't be on my doorstep 9 years later, waiting for me to let her in.

"Hey baby," she said to me, her smile growing larger, but for the first time I noticed that her smile didn't reach her eyes. Moving forward with purposeful strides, she approached me, coming so close that I had to actually back up through the doorway to avoid her touching me. I realized that had been her goal.

"Where do you want me to put..." Madeline's words froze as she saw Annie, her movement down the stairs halted. "...My towel." She finished with a murmur, the sentence no longer a question.

"Um, you can hang it over the rod, that's fine," I said, trying to act nonchalantly.

Unfortunately, Annie was watching the encounter with the eyes of a hawk. She took in Madeline's slightly rumpled clothing and the wet towel hanging limply in her hands. Moving her head to look at me, she smirked, a nasty thing that left me cold.

"Well, what a surprise we have here." She said, clucking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. "Mrs. Sullivan, what a pleasant surprise. Is Monte here as well?" She craned her neck to look behind Madeline on the stairs. Not getting an answer, she chuckled. "No, of course he isn't, is he?" Annie didn't' expect an answer.

"What do you want Annie?" I asked, my voice even. I felt something icy run through me as her eyes met mine. I steeled myself so as not to fall to her cruel touch.

"Same thing I've always wanted, Fox. You."

And it was as if we were the only two in the room. Madeline was safe on the stairs, away from Annie's menace, which was clearly directed only at me. I circled around her, not breaking eye contact, knowing that if I did, she would assume it was a victory.

Laughing, I smiled at her. "You know, you keep saying that, but you seem to forget that you were the one who left me."

Her eyes narrowed. "Is that what this is about? The fact that I left?"

"You might not have thought it was a big deal, but it meant the world to me." I crossed my arms over my chest, waiting to hear her defense.

She approached me with the steady gait of a jungle cat, her eyes focused only on me. Lifting her hand, she brought her finger to my face. I didn't flinch as she brushed it across my cheekbone, sweeping the digit under my chin, and then over my lips. Licking her own lips, she appeared in some sort of trance, her body radiating desire and hot sexual tension.

It was when my eye caught sight of her hand that close up that I saw something that I couldn't let pass. I grabbed her hand and stilled it. Thinking that I was encouraging her, she purred slightly as she pressed against me. Her hand was so bony that her skin seemed to be barely stretched over the bones. The skin was ashy white, looking weathered and old.

"What the fuck is going on Annie?" I said in disgust, pushing her away from me. I peered into her eyes and saw the evidence for myself. "What are you on?"

Anger replaced the desire she'd been emanating. "Oh what, like you're some kind of saint Fox? We did drugs together, remember?"

"Pot Annie. Weed. We smoked weed on a few occasions." I pointed to her hand. "But that's harmless compared to whatever you're doing now."

"No, pot just opens the door, darling. It's just getting you ready for bigger and better things!" She sneered at me. "Much better things." Her eyes suddenly glazed over and she got quiet. "It's amazing what you can do with just a little. Everything is better, including sex." She moaned softly. "I can't tell you how good it feels. Fox. Fox..." It appeared as though she were going out of focus. "I used to imagine I was having sex with you when I was with others. I knew, I KNEW that if I could just get one more chance that you'd see what I'm talking about."

"Annie, it's too late," I said quietly, feeling pity for this woman that stood before me. Whatever world she was in, it was not reality. Reality was that this woman was standing in my entry way and I had to figure out a way to get her out of my house. Calling the cops crossed my mind, but I wanted to see if I could just get her to leave. "Annie, now's not a good time, okay?"

Her eyes focused on me again, narrowing in anger. "Yea, I see you're busy." She looked pointedly at Madeline on the stairs.

Something within me was desperate to defend my love. There was nothing wrong going on here and I didn't like it at all that Annie was insinuating that there was. Sure, we were plotting the end of Madeline's marriage, but we had not done anything wrong.

"Listen Annie, you need to leave."

"What? You don't want me here? Is she giving you what you need?" She sneered, once again moving toward me purposefully.

"Yes Annie, I give her what she needs." A voice I barely recognized, stronger than I'd ever heard it before, came from behind us. I turned around slowly, feeling as though I was in slow motion. I saw the woman I'd known for a lifetime and yet hadn't known at all, walk slowly down the rest of the stairs, her eyes focused on Annie, blazing with a new quality that, while I didn't recognize it, turned me on like nothing else. Goddamn! What a woman!

Madeline's stride did not halt until she was eye to eye with Annie. Despite the fact that Annie was a few inches taller, Madeline's indignation made her seems leagues bigger. It radiated from her with no end in sight. Hands in fists at her sides, arms ramrod straight, she growled at Annie. "Listen to me, I'm not going to repeat myself. You don't belong here anymore." Flecks of jealousy flew off her words, scattering into the air and penetrating us all. "She doesn't belong to you anymore. Nothing you do or say will change that because, in the end, she will not change her mind." She paused a minute and took a deep, cleansing breathe. "Now, get the fuck out of this house or we will call for someone to escort you out of here in shiny, silver handcuffs." Madeline's face went blank, the anger fading quickly, replaced by a serene expression. "Then again, you'd probably enjoy that too much," she said in such a casual voice that she could have been talking about something as boring as going to the grocery.

Moving to the door, she held it open and gestured firmly for Annie to leave. An exit could not have been better planned. I barely held back my smile as Annie, mouth open, moved forward automatically. Once Annie had crossed the threshold, Madeline slammed the door shut, carefully locking both the doorknob and the deadbolt, and then turned and leaned her back against the door, facing me.

Her blue eyes caught my own and I grinned at her before sweeping forward and putting my arms around her.

"Sorry," she said into my neck, her warm breath tickling my sensitive skin there. "I just couldn't stand there and watch anymore." She sighed and put her head on my shoulder.

The laugh that came from me surprised me almost as much as it surprised Madeline. It was a laugh that came forth from my belly and ripped up to my mouth before hitting the air with surprising resounding force.

"God, you're wonderful!" I said, still laughing in an immediate reaction to what had happened. Almost like a nervous tick, the laughter kept coming.

Madeline put her arms around me and rubbed my back until my restless laughter subsided. Taking slow breaths, I pulled away and gave her a shaky smile.

"Are you okay?" She asked softly, lifting my chin with a light pressure from her hand. I looked into her eyes and read the concern there, wondering, not for the first time, why she loved me.

Unconsciously I ran a hand through my hair, taking another slow breath, letting it out loudly. "That was just weird," I finally said. "I'm sorry you had to be here for that." I laughed ruefully. The best night of my life was now combined with a walking, moving, living nightmare. What had I done in a previous life to deserve THIS?

Rubbing the back of my neck, Madeline hushed me. "You didn't know Fox. It's not your fault." Her hand on my skin caused wonderful warm tremors to run through me, making it vaguely hard to concentrate. "Was she..." Madeline paused hesitantly, "...always like this?"

I looked at her wearily. "You mean was she always a drugged out bitch?" Madeline nodded sheepishly at my blunt question. I sighed. "No." A bitter laugh left my mouth. "She hardly ever drank when we were together, and we did the occasional social joint, but that was it." I tried to remember any indications during our time together that would even hint at drug use. But I couldn't remember any. It had been a long time ago though and, like it or not, I had been naive when it came to things like that. Life around me had given me an unwelcome understanding of addiction and how it plied on people's weaknesses.

The thoughts of human weakness saddened me enough that I pulled Madeline even closer, tucking her head under my chin, needing to feel her close to me. I could try to deny my need, but it was fruitless. Trying to deny my need for Madeline at this point would be like trying to breath through my ears. It was as all encompassing as anything in my life had ever been and I suspected ever would be.

Seeming to understand my need and not questioning its intensity, Madeline just let her arms hold me close and offer me the comfort and security I'd never known, but had always looked for in every person I met. Sighing, I smiled ruefully to myself. Of course, it had taken an incident like this to show me I'd found it.

"Do you want to talk about it?" She asked softly, her hand keeping a constant motion on the nape of my neck. I felt like purring in response. My heartbeat had slowed down to reasonable pace and I no longer could hear my blood rushing through my ears as it had been a minute ago.

Did I want to talk about it? No, I didn't. I wanted to be held and to forget everything that had just happened. I want to live in a human VCR with the capability of rewinding the last part of my life to where it had been.

"How long...can you stay?" I had started to ask how long Monte would be gone, but I couldn't bring his name into this. I wanted to pretend like he didn't even exist. The added pressure of thinking of Madeline's absent husband was more than I could bear.

She thought for a minute and I could tell she was trying to figure out first what day it was and second what day Monte would be back. "I need to be back by tomorrow afternoon," she finally said, a smile growing on her face. "Do you mind...I mean, would it be okay if...argh!" She growled in frustration, and I smiled, taking it into my hands.

Pulling back, I took both her hands in mine and looked into her eyes sincerely. "Madeline, would you please stay here with me tonight?"

She blushed and gave me a sweet smile of pleasure. "I would love to stay with you tonight, and, soon, for the rest of time." She finished quietly, looking at me with emotional eyes that tore through my skin and bones, and left me with only my heart beating.

Without a word, I stretched my hand out to her, waiting tremulously for her hand to reach mine, feeling as though a lifeline was being formed and bonded. There was no hesitation as her hand fit smoothly into mine, a jolt of something belonging to the earth, the heavens, and the stars above rang through us both and we smiled at each other like childhood friends who had a secret that was to be treasured and kept.

With sure strides, we climbed the stairs, together regardless of the inevitable difficulties ahead, and headed to my bedroom, closing the door behind us, sealing us off from the rest of the world.


I led her to the bed, sitting her down and then standing between her legs, my hands on her shoulders. She looked up at me with large trusting eyes that seemed to see straight into my soul. I leaned down and kissed her gently, her hands coming up to my waist, pulling me closer. She hungrily played with my mouth, infusing our connection with torturously sharp waves of pleasure. Deep in my abdomen I felt a pull of desire that urged me forward. Despite that desperate pull, I slowed our kiss until I could gently pull away.

Breathing hard, Madeline put her head against my hip, holding me to her tightly. In my own chest my heart was beating hard, threatening to break through skin and bone. The moment was infused with fire and electricity, both of which surged through my body, burning everywhere they touched.

A few moments passed as we both collected our breath and our thoughts. I knew that all my posturing and my attempts to wait had been obliterated when Madeline had come down and claimed me in front of Annie. And now all that was left was for me to act on these changes.

That was a thought that scared me. The first time with anyone was always nerve racking, but this wasn't just anyone. This was the woman I'd been waiting for and looking for all of my life.

I pulled away from her. She looked up at me, her large eyes soft in her own desire, her lips full and inviting. And I knew that this would be a life altering moment in both of our lives.

My hand shook as I reached out and cupped her face, my thumb running lightly over her lips, a soft moan leaving my mouth and filling the air around us, igniting a new feeling of need and desire that pulsed through the electrified air. I found myself pushing Madeline down into the bed, my hands finding a new life as they roamed her body.

"Fox, are you sure..." She faded off, never finishing the sentence as I slid my hands under her shirt. "Oh God, Fox...I'd forgotten..."

Lifting her shirt, I softly kissed the skin around her bra before carefully moving it aside and finding her nipple with my mouth. Her body arched into me, her hands moving to my head as I continued to use my tongue to sweetly torment her. Biting softly, her hips came off the bed, pressing into me.

Using both arms to support myself, I lifted my head and looked at her. "I want you Madeline. I want you more than I've ever wanted anyone in my life. I want to look back on this and have absolutely no regrets."

Madeline looked at me, her eyes filled with tears. "Are you sure? I don't want you to do anything you don't want to." She bit her lip, even as her hands traveled over my back. I knew that she wanted this as much as I did, but also knew that she was remembering what I had said before.

"I assure you that I am exactly where I want to be doing exactly what I want to do. I love you Madeline and I want to show you how much." I watched her carefully as I waited until she nodded at me, a smile transforming her face.

Leaning down, I carefully kissed her lips, feeling their softness. Shivers ran up and down my body as I felt her respond enthusiastically.

Shedding clothes happened in a whirl as we both pulled and tugged the confines away from our bodies.

When our naked bodies first met, the room spun as every molecule in our bodies came alive, causing our bodies to throb. I briefly wondered if our bodies were visibly vibrating, but it soon was lost in the sensations at hand.

As we alternately touched each other, I felt something happening inside of me that I'd never felt before. I felt like I was almost floating above us, seeing our bodies intertwined, moving together. The warmth that filled me took my breath away and seared through my soul, burning through every orifice and surface in me.

And as I came, I felt white lightening shoot through me, causing my body to rise off the bed and into Madeline, searching for her touch while at the same time unable to endure anymore.

Laying in bed afterward, both of us sated, the sweat still fresh on our now still bodies, I felt so contented and happy that I felt giddy, my heart beating erratically, my body twitching with aftershocks.

I could still feel her under my hands; the softness of her consuming me. Her warmth and wetness had made me moan when I first touched her, firing me further in my lust for her and my need to take her. Thinking about it only fueled me. Turning over so that I could see her, I began to take her again, knowing that I would never get enough of her, understanding finally that her hold on me was complete.


As we sat together on the couch in the living room, our hands entwined, I felt incredibly desperate fear fill me. The last two days had been amazing; both the best and worst of my life. And so much more than I had ever hoped for this soon; But now it was over. Madeline had to get home so that she could be there when Monte came home. Monte, her husband. And I was her lover, only her lover, with only spoken promises, no wedding ring or certificate. And, while I knew it wasn't right to doubt her, or to blame her for our terrible timing, my fear made me wonder if she'd ever come back.

It was a bitterness that caused vile from my stomach to find new residence in my throat.

"Are you okay?" Madeline caressed my hand, looking at me concerned. I wanted to lash out and yell and scream and tell her that it wasn't fair of her to leave me to go and meet her husband. I wanted to tell her that I felt cheapened and hurt by her ability to leave me here, alone.

"Yeah, sure." I mumbled, not looking at her. I knew that if her blue eyes saw me that she'd see exactly what I was feeling, and that was something I did not want to get into.

"You're not okay," she said firmly. "What's wrong?"

What's wrong? Everything, anything. Nothing. What kind of answer could I give? What could I say that I would let us get through this trial, one way or another?

I could do this. I had to do this. I gave her a smile. "I just don't want you to go," I said with a blush, trying to lightly play off what was tearing my heart in two.

"I don't want to go either," she said hurriedly. "But I need to go and take care of this."

Yeah, and how do I know when you'll be back? I wanted to ask her. How could I trust in something that seemed so impossible? Would Monte talk her out of it? Would she change her mind once she got back to her quiet, orderly life? Would she see that living her heterosexual life wasn't worth the hard lesbian life she'd be entering into?

"I know," I said, barely able to keep the bitterness out of my voice. And, as I saw her stiffen slightly, I knew that she's heard it.

"Don't you...I mean you have to...Fox, you need to trust me." Her voice shook, whether from anger, frustration, or fear, I couldn't tell.

Rising abruptly, I pulled away, pacing restlessly. "But..." I hesitated, unsure of what I wanted to reveal to her. Finally, I stopped, standing in front of her. "Listen, I know you have to go. And, when you're ready, I'll be here." My life would be on hold, my breath would be shallow, and my heart would hurt until I heard from her again. But I would do that for what I knew we could have together, for what we already had shared.

I attempted to smile, but unexpectedly tears came to my eyes instead.

"It'll be okay, I promise Fox. You can trust me, I'm not going to hurt you." She rose and put her arms around me, holding me tightly against her now familiar body. Memories of the night before, flashes of flesh and heat speed through me, giving me warm reassurance. She'd felt it to; I know she had. She would come back to me. She was meant for me.

Pulling back, I found her mouth with mine, determined to sear myself into her with the heat of my kiss. But as we continued to search each other's mouth, I found that instead of me leaving my mark on her, she was leaving hers on me.

Finally, we both pulled away, neither of us anxious to stop, but both of us knowing that time was no longer on our side.

As I watched her walk out the front door to her car, I had a vision of myself running after her, stopping her from leaving. But I knew I couldn't do that. She would have to come back to me on her own.

"I love you," I whispered to her as I watched her drive away, feeling a piece of my heart go with her.


The large house felt especially empty after Madeline left. Toto, being unusually quiet, was lying at my feet, looking sad and droopy. The cats were somewhere sunbathing, and I was left alone with my thoughts. David probably wouldn't be back till the end of the weekend. He loved to travel and the queen shows gave him plenty of opportunity to visit all sorts of interesting places. I found myself missing the sound of his voice, which I could usually hear through out the house. I missed hearing his obnoxious laugh, usually followed by Dwayne's deeper, chest rumbling laugh.

But more than that, I desperately missed the woman who had spent the last two days with me. I missed her presence, the soft smell of her perfume, the way I could feel her come into a room. I missed her tinkling laughter and the way her voice made something deep inside me shiver. Walking from room to room, I thought about her filling those rooms, making the longing in my heart hurt even more.

Finally, I did the only sane thing I could do in the midst of the insanity filling my heart. Grabbing my car keys, I left there as quickly as I could, needing to escape the oppressive feeling of desperate desolation.

To say that I drove on autopilot was an understatement. I don't know how I got there, I couldn't recall once I arrived. Luckily, I knew the route in my sleep. In a daze I got out of the car and walked up the unlighted walkway. Obviously, no one was expected.

I had no idea how late it was, the sun had gone down hours before, so it could have been really late. Rather than ringing the doorbell, I knocked on the solid wood door. It took a few minutes, but the outside light was turned on as someone looked out on me through the peephole. I must have been accepted, because the door was opened and I was face to face with my best friend.

"Fox, what is it?" Megan asked, concern etched across her face. She reached out for me and pulled through the door.

"Who is it honey?" Tree called out from another room.

"It's Fox," she replied, giving me a second to contemplate what I had expected in coming here. I needed something, something that was elusive to me.

"What's wrong?" She asked me, closing the door behind us.

"She left me," I said miserably, the tears pricking the back of my eyes.

"Wait," her voice was dangerously low. "She..." Her face screwed up in emotion. "That BITCH!" She roared, and I immediately realized that I hadn't been very clear in what I'd told her thus far. Then again, she didn't exactly give me much of a chance.

As I processed this, Megan was getting her coat on. "Where are you going?" I asked, thoroughly confused.

"You're going to take me to that bitch's house and I'm gonna kick the shit outta her!" Her face was turning an alarming shade of red. "I told her, if she hurt you, I was going to come after her."

"Wait!" I yelled alarmed, putting my hands out to stop her from opening the door. "No! You misunderstood! She didn't leave me, leave me, she left me for tonight." And suddenly I understood why I'd come here. I needed reassurance. I needed someone to tell me that I was being ridiculous in doubting that Madeline would be back. I guess what I didn't realize was that I might be the one reassuring myself.

"What does that mean exactly?" Megan stopped her forward movement, allowing me to put my arms down. She narrowed her eyes at me, waiting my explanation.

"I mean, she went back to her own house, to her..." I couldn't say it out loud.

"Husband," Megan supplied, her voice crammed with sarcasm.

"Uh, yes. She'd spent the last two nights with me, and today she had to go back."

"Wait!" Megan put her hand up to stop my story. "Does this mean you finally had sex with the woman?"

"Um yeah."

"And you didn't call me?"

"What, am I supposed to call you right after?"


"You're crazy!"

By this time we stood toe-to-toe, Megan's head coming just below my chin, but she tilted her head so that she could glare straight into my eyes. Tree came into the foyer, and found us just starring at each other.

"What happened now?" Tree said, a strain of exasperation in her voice.

"Fox had sex!"

Tree looked at me, her eyebrows raised. "Congratulations, Fox." She said, sincerely before turning back to her partner. "Now why are you so angry?"

"She didn't tell me!"

"When did this happen, Fox?" She turned her gaze to me.

"Last night!"

Turning back to Megan, she tried to rationalize. "So, you're upset because she had sex last night and didn't rush out and tell you?"


Tree maneuvered her large frame between us, forcing us apart. It took me a few minutes to be able to refocus my eyes after having been starring at Megan for such an extended period of time. Taking Megan by the shoulders, Tree looked at her lover, eyes squinting as she examined Megan from head to toe. "You don't look ill." She did another quick sweep. "So I have to wonder what made you suddenly turn into an insane monster?" She said all of this in a light tone that didn't seem to carry any weight, but it obviously had some kind of effect on Megan. Her shoulders slumped and she closed her eyes.

"Hey Megan, I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to tell you. I came here as soon as she left my place."

"No, I'm sorry. I guess I just feel..." She looked at her lover pleadingly.

"Tell her, sweetheart. You'll feel better to get it out." Tree gently caressed Megan's face with her large hand. Taking a deep breath, Megan nodded her head in quiet agreement.

"I should have told you before Spooky, but it's kind of a hard thing for me to say. Especially since I know how unhappy you've been lately." She looked around a minute. "Let's go into the other room and sit down and I'll tell you what's going on."

Tree took my coat from me and I followed a now subdued Megan into their family room. She sat down on the couch and gestured for me to sit next to her. I did so, feeling very insecure. What was going on? I was more than a little worried about what was going on with Megan.

I sat there and waited, impatiently, for Megan to begin. She began twisting the bottom of her shirt in her hands in an obviously nervous gesture.

"Well, you know how you've always talked about finding that one woman who would complete you?"

Did I know? Of course I knew. I had always known that there would be one person out there that had been made for me. I just hadn't had any idea that it would be so hard. "Yes," I said slowly.

"I never really...well, I never really believed what you were saying. I guess I always figured that we were best friends and that was as close to anyone as you would get. So, when Madeline came along, I thought it was like the others, you know? You'd fall for them and then you'd realize that it wasn't her."

I nodded, understanding what she was saying. I mean, I had thought I'd found her many times, but I was wrong.

"And now, I guess I realize that you're really serious about this, and maybe she is the one you've been talking about all this time, and I guess...well, I guess I'm jealous." She finished softly, her face miserable.

"But honey, you've got Tree..." I was confused, looking back and forth between the two women. "Why are you jealous?"

"No, I'm not jealous that you have found your other half, I'm jealous that you're not going to have time for me anymore. I'm gonna have to actually SHARE you with someone that matters!" And then I saw a tear escape from her downcast eyes, and my heart lurched. She'd been my best friend, my sister, all my life. I could not believe that she would think for a moment that that would change.

I couldn't stand it anymore. I pulled her into a hug, holding her close and kissing her head. "Listen to me right now. I am not going anywhere. You are my best friend and you always will be. No matter who comes into our lives, okay?" I gave her a last squeeze and then released my hold on her. She snuggled into my shoulder, sniffing quietly. "I have to tell you M, I was kind of hoping that we could all be friends. I mean, do you like Madeline?"

It was kind of a baited question, but it was something I really wanted to know. Megan looked up at me from where she was nested and smiled. "Actually, I do kind of like her."


"Well, for one reason, she doesn't let you get away with anything!" We both laughed.

"That's very true." I said, thinking of the way she'd always called me on everything, even when I just met her.

"And, she likes to laugh," Megan went on. "And you know how I feel about laughing."

"She has a beautiful laugh," I said, remembering the way the sound of her laugh warmed me.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Megan waved her hand in the air, getting rid of my mushy sentiments. "We all know, you loooooove her."

Tree sat down on the other side of us, putting her long arm over the back of the couch. "Feel better now, boo?" She asked, caressing Megan's head.

"Yeah," she said, wrinkling her nose. "I kind of feel silly. Sorry Spooks," she patted my hand. "I guess I haven't been very nice to Madeline."

"Nah, you've done pretty well."

"Well, I am still kind of worried about the two of you."

"In what way?"

"I mean, she is married, ya know. That's dangerous territory for a lesbian." She looked up at me, squinting. "Are you sure she's the one?"

I looked down at her and raised my eyebrow. "Do you really need me to answer that question?"

Giving a loud sigh, she shook her head, causing my arm to move up and down awkwardly. "No, I've seen you two together, you don't need to answer. So, what are you going to do about the whole being married thing? Have you two discussed it at all?"

Stretching, I unconsciously mimicked my best friend by wrinkling my nose. "Yes, we talked about it. She wants to leave her marriage."

"To be with you?" Megan asked carefully.

"Yes, to be with me silly!"

"When she going to do it?"

I fidgeted with my fingers, more than a little afraid of answering that question. "Well, she left tonight. I think she's going to talk to him as soon as she can."

Megan's eyes narrowed and she sat up, moving away from the nook of my arm. "You don't know when she's going to do this?" She sounded suspicious, worrying me even more.

"I mean, I assume she's going to do it within the next couple of days."

"What if he wants to sleep with her? Is she going to say yes, or what?

Her voice was harsh, and came out in angry spurts. "You're playing with fire Fox."

I was stunned at her tone of voice, wondering if she had read my thoughts from earlier or if she just knew me well enough to know how I would think. The thought of Monte touching Madeline, my Madeline, made me sick. "You don't hold punches, do you?" I choked out, afraid that I would get sick right then and there.

"God Fox, I'm just worried about you," she said as she slumped against me. We sat there quietly, even Tree stunned by Megan's forthright manner.

A myriad of emotions filled me, washing through my consciousness. But, the reassurance I'd felt earlier did not leave me. While the idea that Megan had mentioned made my skin crawl and my body hurt, I knew better. And I had found that I did trust Madeline with not only my soul, but my heart as well.

Finally, with a sigh Megan stood up. Turning around, she faced me. "I'm sorry Fox, I shouldn't have said that." She gave me a rueful smile. "Guess I went to far even for me, huh?"

I shook my head. "Always told you it would happen if you didn't keep your big mouth closed more often."

Sitting down once again, she looked up at me, her eyes big. "Forgive me?" She asked, batting her eyes, letting her bottom lip slip out a bit.

I looked at her hard, trying to stay mad at her, but it didn't work. "You know, you're lucky I love you."

"I know!"


I left Megan and Tree's late that night. We had sat around, talking and laughing, reliving more stories than was probably healthy. By the time I left, I was pleasantly tired and ready to go home and try to sleep. Madeline was in my mind always, but my fears had been soothed by my own knowledge of what we shared.

The dog and cats meet me at the door, putting a smile on my face as I entered the front door. I was always amazed at how animals could make some place really feel like home. They always were happy to see me, making me glad that I came home to them. The only thing missing was having Madeline there with me.

As I got ready for bed, I allowed myself to daydream. Maybe Madeline and I could get a place of our own after we'd settled down a bit. A house, or maybe a condo; someplace that we didn't have to share with anyone. I liked living with David, but I wanted a place to call my own, a home that I could create and share with Madeline. I was smiling to myself as I had little thoughts of us picking out furniture together. I wondered what kind of stuff she liked. Traditional? Modern? I guess I'd find out! At least I hoped I'd find out. I hoped she didn't like that Stickley shit. I couldn't stand that.

I stopped as I was walking to my bedroom from the bathroom with a sudden thought. Could she cook? Wrinkling my brow, I started walking again. I couldn't cook. At least, I didn't think I could cook. I mean, other than spaghetti and a few select dishes that I'd survived on over the years. But, I mean, what would we eat every night? I was planning on a lot of nights together, so that was a lot of meals!

Rubbing the side of my nose with my index finger, I had to wonder what it would be like to start a life with someone. It had been awhile since I had embarked on an actually relationship, much less one that I knew would last. I mean, it would have to last, wouldn't it?

Realizing I was still standing in the middle of the hallway, I continued on my way to my bedroom, finding the menagerie already on the bed, waiting for me to complete the setup. I wondered how they'd adjust to having another person in the bed. I wondered how Madeline would react to having the animals around! The two nights she'd stayed over the animals had been good, staying away from the new person until they'd figured out her motives.

There was so much to be worked out that I felt very overwhelmed. Flopping into bed, realizing that the cats had to scatter out of the way, I put my hands behind my head and stared up at the ceiling. I wondered how we would fair. Growing pains could make or break a couple. It would be hard, I knew that. It's never easy. Relationships, with anyone, was difficult. And this one was being started on the heels of a ruined marriage. I wondered about what was in our future together.

One thing I knew for certain though was that I would always love her the way that I did now - completely and totally.

And as I let sleep take me, I brought to my mind a picture of Madeline. But for some reason it wasn't the Madeline that had left me earlier. This Madeline was at least 20 years older, the time evident in the soft lines around her face and the gentle gray in her hair. And yet, as I gazed at this picture in my mind's eye, I found her more beautiful and radiant than she was today.


Dreams of Madeline were interrupted in the early hours of the morning. I slowly woke up to a persistent sound that first invaded my dreams, becoming part of them, until the noise finally surpassed the dreams. Waking, it took me a few moments before I realized that it was someone knocking at the front door. Rather persistently.

I looked at the clock and realized that it was only 3 am. That meant I'd been asleep for about 3 hours. Moaning with frustration, I swung my legs out of bed and got up. My feet felt like they were made of cement as I trudged down the hall. Somehow I slipped down the stairs, but end up on my feet, so I didn't give it too much thought. Finally ending up at the door, I tried to look through the peephole, but my eyes weren't able to focus enough to see anything but blurs.

"Who is it?" I croaked out as loudly as I could.

"Madeline, it's Madeline," came the response.

With more haste than someone who had only slept for three hours, I opened the door, cutting myself in the process. "Oww," I said as the door opened, sticking my bleeding finger in my mouth. Looking out, I saw Madeline standing there, her arms full of clothes.

"Are you okay?" She asked behind the mountain of clothes she was carrying.

"Uh huh," I answered automatically, feeling a bit of shock at seeing her.

She suddenly looked a little unsure. "Um, can I come in?" She asked hesitantly.

I mentally slapped myself for my bad manners. "I'm sorry, come in," I said, moving out of the way. "Here, let me help," I grabbed some of the clothes, relieving her of the burdensome load.

"There's more in the car, but I guess they can wait till morning," she said with a sigh. We stood there in the entry way for a bit before I realized that she was waiting for me to tell her where to put her stuff.

"Oh, sorry." I took some of the clothes from her arm, careful not to get any blood from my cut on it. " Come one. I have an empty closet upstairs that you can use."

I led her up the stairs to one of the unused rooms on my floor. There were haphazardly stacked boxes here and there; an extra bed that had only been used once or twice, and a huge walk in closet that I didn't think had anything in it. I opened the closet door and checked, noticing the amount of dust on the top shelves, but it was otherwise empty. I hung up the clothes I had, then reached for the ones in Madeline's hands. She gave me an exasperated look and hung the clothes herself.

"Where are your first aid supplies?" She asked, grabbing my hand and looking at the cut on my finger.

"It's nothing." I protested, but she refused to accept that. Truth was, it was kind of stinging.

"Are they in the bathroom? We need to make sure it's cleaned out and then put a Band Aide on it."

"Will you kiss if after?" I asked stubbornly.

"Yes, now where are the supplies?" I pointed with my free hand to the bathroom and let myself be led there and promptly pushed down on the toilet. Thank God the seat was down, but I figured that Madeline had seen that before she guided me that way.

She got out the hydrogen peroxide, a cotton ball, and a large Band-Aid. With a tender touch she cleaned my cut, revealing the source of the blood to be a small scrape. As she put the Band Aide on, I watched to see whether or not I'd get the kiss. Sure enough, once the Band Aide was securely on, she bent her head down, her hair brushing the skin of my arm, and her mouth lightly touching the area that she'd tended to.

"There, feel better now?" She asked softly, a gentle smile on her face.

"No," I said with a pout on my face, shaking my head sadly.

"Oh, does it hurt?"

"Uh huh," I put my bottom lip out further.

"Where does it hurt honey?"

I pointed to my lips.

"It hurts here?" She said, touching my lips with the tip of her finger. I nodded. "Let's see what we can do about that." She leaned down and gently pressed her lips against mine in a soft, linger kiss that created fireworks in my mind's eye. "Better," she asked in a husky voice that caused a ripple of pleasure to go up and down my spine.

I nodded, not trusting my voice at this point. I held both her hands in mine, lifting them to my lips, and kissing each finger individually before pressing the fingers to my face.

We stayed like that for a few minutes. I had to gather myself to remember that she wasn't supposed to be there. I gently pushed her back so that I could stand up and put my arms around her, holding her in a close embrace. I buried my face in her hair, smelling its soft scent. Now that she was safely in my arms, I could ask the question. "So, what happened?"

Sighing, she hugged me tighter for a second and then let me go. I did the same, sensing she needed some space. "Can we go and sit down somewhere to talk?"

"Sure. Bedroom or living room?" I was basically asking if it was okay to talk on the bed, or if she needed somewhere less intimate, like the couch.

"Bedroom's fine, I'm just tired and don't want to stand anymore."

This time I took her by the hand and led her to the same bedroom that we had made love with just 24 hours before. I sat down and let her decide where she wanted to sit. She curled up behind me, her body around mine. Lying down, I let her spoon behind me, holding me to her. I stroked the arm that was wrapped around my belly, feeling the content happiness that filled my body.

"So, what happened?" I finally asked.

"I told him." She said simply, kissing the back of my neck.

"What...exactly did you tell him?"

"I told him that I wanted a divorce."

"That's it?"

"What else was I supposed to say? That I'm in love with another woman and I didn't want to be with him in any way, shape, or form?"

In love with...did she just say that she was in love with me? Did I hear that right? "Did you...did you..." I stuttered, unable to finish the sentence.

"Did I what Fox?" She sounded a bit upset, her voice sounding sharp.

"Sorry," I said, bringing her hand up so that I could kiss it. "I just thought you said that...that you were in love with...another woman."

"Well, I am," she made it sound simple, but it wasn't at all simply to my mind.

"You are?"

"Unless there's something you haven't told me about yourself," she said with a chuckle.

"I love you," I said simply, snuggling back further against her.

"I love you too," Madeline said, nuzzling the back of my neck.

"So, did he kick you out?"

Madeline pulled back and I imagine that she was staring at the back of my head rather intensely. "Out of my own house?" She asked incredulously.

"It's not unheard of," I said defensively. "Woman comes home, says she wants out, man gets upset and throws her out."

She laughed gently. "Have you ever considered being a writer? You have a wonderful imagination."

"No, usually people just tell me I'm over thinking." I felt kind of frumpy and rather scorned at that point.

"Well, I prefer to think that you have a wonderful imagination darling." She snuggled closer again and licked my neck.

"Did you just lick me?" It felt like a tongue on my neck.

"Yes I did."

"Okay," I wasn't sure how I felt about that. I'd never had my neck licked just for the fun of it.

"Anyway, things felt rather uncomfortable after that, so I decided that rather than staying there and feeling that way, I'd come here and be with you, which was where I wanted to be anyway." She stopped suddenly, then sat up. "I'm so sorry." She sounded like she was going to cry. "I never thought...I never stopped to consider...oh shit," she said, standing up, looking around the room like a caged animal.

I got up quickly and approached her. "Whoa, wait a minute, what are you talking about?"

She stopped her movement and faced me. "I never thought to think that you might not want me here," she said finally, her face crumpling in tears.

I gathered her in my arms as she cried, trying to sooth away her tears. "Of course I want you here."

"But I should have assumed that you did..." She sniffled off.

I rubbed her back with my hands. "I guess we have a lot to talk about, don't we?" She nodded into my shirt and I could feel the wetness from her tears, warm against my cooling skin. "Come on," I said, pulling her back to the bed.

We settled back on the bed, this time me behind her, holding her tightly against me. "I guess that we've been doing all of this rather fast. We've never really talked about plans. I think we both have assumptions, but we really need to talk about them so that we both know what the other wants."

Madeline nodded slowly. "I guess I hadn't really thought about what happens next, I just assumed...." She trailed off quietly. "What do you want Fox?"

What did I want? This was the question I had been answering since before I met her. I knew what I wanted. The question was, what did she want? What if I told her what I wanted and she didn't want the same thing, but felt forced to agree with me? I didn't want her to be with me because she felt she had no other choice. I wanted her to know that she did have choices in this, but I also wanted to reassure her so that she knew that I wanted her.

God! Relationships were so hard!

I took her hand in my own and held her close to me. "I want you. I want a life with you. I want a new beginning, just the two of us." I took a deep breath. "But I also want you to be happy. I know that I can make you happy, but you need to believe it yourself. And, if you're not ready for any kind of commitment or anything...." I faded off, shrugging my shoulders. I was pretty proud of myself; feeling like I'd accomplished my goal. "So, I guess the question is, what do you want Madeline?" And I held my breath in anticipation of her answer, feeling both fear and freedom, having laid my cards on the table; I was simply waiting for her response.

"Does that mean I would move in here with you?" Madeline's voice held a tinge of fear, or something close to it.

"Yes, if that's what you want." I could offer her something else, just so that she knew her choices. "Listen, that room where we put your clothes, it could be your room if you want. There's no pressure Madeline. I want you to be comfortable. If you're not ready to jump into a relationship with me, I would understand." It would kill me, but I would understand.

Madeline turned in my arms so that she was facing me. She nibbled on her bottom lip as she thought. "Well, what if I want to share this bed with you," she thumped the mattress under us, "but I want to still have the other room so that I can put my stuff somewhere?"

That was better than any of the choices I'd given her. Of course she'd want some of her own space, but she still wanted to share a bed with me. Yippie!

Trying not to show too much enthusiasm, I kissed the tip of her nose before murmuring "Perfect, sweetheart."

I carefully pushed her back onto the bed and placed my body on hers. My movements were slow and lazy; I wanted to love her for an eternity and I was planning on starting now. With long, smooth motions, I took her clothes off piece by piece, my mouth claiming every area bared to me with a deliberate laziness that I knew would drive her crazy. I knew this because it would do so to me.

And as I made love to her, I felt the connection between us solidify; creating a solid bond that nothing in life could shake. We may have trials ahead of us, but we would face them together and therefore we would be triumphant.

My body sang when she finally touched me, writhing and twisting with desperation under her touch, singing her praises as she took me beyond any pleasure I'd ever experienced. Yes, this was it. This was her. Finally, I was home.


We decided that it would be better if we waited till David and Dwayne came home to get Madeline's stuff. Monte knew me; so showing up at his doorstep with his estranged wife would not be a good thing. While I was far from being ashamed of our relationship, I did want this to become a problem for me at work. At least not yet.

"You want us to go and help Madeline move her stuff?" David asked when we brought the idea to him. Following introductions to a tired David and Dwayne, we'd all sat down at the kitchen table to discuss what came next. "You mean like real, physical labor?" He wrinkled his nose in our direction as he whined.

"Come on honey, all you have to do is come and look good. I'll came Jamie and ask him to come and help me move anything too heavy." Dwayne rubbed David's back with his hand; all the while he wore a smug smile.

David immediately sat up straighter. "No, I think I can help. No problem. When are we going over, Madeline?" The abrupt change in his attitude startled both of us. We looked at each other before Madeline answered.

"Um, I need to find a truck first, but as soon as I do, we can go on over." She recovered quickly.

"Hmmm..." David put a tapered finger to his chin and thought. "I think I have an old friend who works at one of those moving storage places. He might be able to get you a discount on a truck." He stood up and with a flourishing sweep of his arms, he grasped Madeline's wrist and pulled her up. "Come along darling, we shall go and find that number and arrange your transportation." David swept out of the room, Madeline still firmly in his grasp. She gave me a surprised look and then they were gone.

Dwayne held a look of fond amusement and I was reminded of his comment earlier. "Who's Jamie?"

Dwayne chuckled and turned toward me, his rugged features wearing a sheepish look. "An ex of mine. David hates him." We shared a laugh, knowing that jealousy was a universal emotion that surpassed both gender and sexuality lines.

I moved to clean up the counter and sink area, while Dwayne fiddled with his cup. A half hour went by and I started to get nervous. How long did securing a moving truck take?

Finally, I couldn't take it any longer; I went looking for them. They weren't on the first floor so I proceeded up to David's floor. As I headed up the stairs, I heard David's voice, in his best story-telling tone, talking. I stopped so that I could listen to what he was saying.

"....she found her in bed with another woman. It was horrible! But, Fox didn't bring her here, she rarely let her girlfriends come here. She usually went to their place. I think it was because then after they broke up she could come back here and not be reminded of them. You know, less painful and all. But the worst, honey, was Annie. That woman messed her up bad. At one point I wasn't sure if she was ever really going to bounce back. And then the other day, of course, we found out that Annie was back! Girl, you should have seen how pissed Fox was!"

There was a muffled response that I figured must have been Madeline saying something, but I couldn't hear her voice. It didn't ring through the Victorian's walls like David's did. I think that he had worked for a long time to get his voice to just the right tone and pitch to be able to penetrate the walls in the house.

Then she heard David laugh in response to whatever Madeline had said. "You know, I think I like you!" They laughed together, in a conspiratorial manner.

"Are you two done talking about me yet?" I yelled from my place on the stairs.

The noise from the room above stopped instantly. I could hear them whispering to each other as they tried to think of a cover. "Don't bother, I heard everything." I shouted again.

"Then why are you still on the stairs?" Madeline shouted back down at me, and I swear I heard them exchange a high-five.

Good point, I thought to myself as I climbed the rest of the way up the stairs. Walking into David's office/closet I saw them sitting close to one another, smiling guiltily at me. I put a stern look on my face and put my hands on my hips. "What are you two doing, young ladies?"

"Nothing ma'am, just fooling around." David answered in a high falsetto that was bad even for him.

I looked at Madeline, scrunching up my face. "Ewww...you'd fool around with a boy!"

Madeline rose from her seat dramatically and flung herself at me. "I don't know what happened! Forgive me, my love, as I thought he was a woman!" I caught her with a humph as she knocked the breath from me.

"Well, that's okay then." Adjusting my hold on her, I leaned down and kissed her soundly on the lips, simply because I could.

"The truck will be available on Wednesday. My friend, it seems, remembers me fondly enough that in exchange for a few tickets to my next show, he'll let us use the truck for free, so long as we make sure we fill the tank before we bring it back." He took a loud breath as he finished his sentence with a smug smile.

"Are you sure you don't mind if I don't go with you?" I asked Madeline seriously, searching her eyes from any sign that disagreed with her words.

"Fox, I understand completely, and I agree. I think it's better that we don't let Monte know that I'm living with you, no matter in what capacity." She kissed me softly. "I don't want anything to mar our beginning together."

"So that means that Dwayne and I will go along for this gathering, and get all that is yours and bring it on home." With a smile, he came over and put his arm around both of us.

I was touched and happy by his unquestioning support. I gave him a squeeze to show how much I appreciated him. With friends like this, we would make it.


Dwayne was able to get a half-day off on Wednesday from his job at the dairy farm. I went to work as usual, but spent the entire day worrying about the moving. Monte was in the office most of the day, so that helped me feel a little better. At least they wouldn't have him to contend with as well.

When I got home it was well after 6 pm. The lights in the house were on and the moving truck was gone, so I assumed that they were done. Coming in the front door, I didn't see any signs of change, so I further assumed that they'd managed to get everything up to the third floor.

There didn't seem to be anyone downstairs, so I started up the stairs. The chaos I'd unsuspectingly wandered into didn't start until I'd actually reached the third floor. Boxes were blocking the hallway at the top of the stairs. I looked over the boxes and saw that the entire length of the hallway was filled with various objects, small pieces of furniture, and boxes, scattered haphazardly in piles of varying heights.

I cursed the heels I'd put on that morning as I tried to climb over the first obstacle of boxes and found myself teetering, on the verge of falling back down the stairs. I grabbed at the wall to steady myself, and managed to stay upright.

"Madeline!" I called out, frustration creeping through my voice.

"Fox?" Came muffled response from somewhere further up the hall.

"I'm in need of some assistance please!" This time I think that my frustration was more than creeping through; it was blatantly there.

A few moments passed and I heard some muffled bumping and cursing before Madeline finally came out of her room. Her hair was messy, but her eyes were shining. "Hey honey, how was your day?"

I stood there, my hands on the wall, holding me up, one heel caught in a box, and the other teetering dangerously on the edge of the landing. All I could do was look at her, wondering if I had lost my mind, or if I was over reacting. "Can you give me a hand?" I implored as patiently as I could.

"Sure," she offered me her arms and helped pull me over the boxes. "Phew! Sorry about that. I'm trying to organize everything." She gave me an apologetic smile that melted my anger. I couldn't help but smile back at her. Putting my arms around her, I felt my happiness running over.

"How did everything go?" I asked as I nibbled on her soft earlobe.

She leaned into me, her body pressing against me, causing me to feel delicious tremors of desire. "Good. We went in, boxed what we could, got it loaded and left." She turned her head and looked around, causing me to loose my hold on her ear. "Guess I had more than I thought," she said ruefully.

I laughed, feeling a little nervous about the amount of things that littered my once sparse floor. I had to think that this wouldn't be for long that we'd get everything put away and our living space would be back to normal. "Is there room for me up here?" I said, only half joking.

Madeline laughed, rubbing my back with the palm of her hand. "Don't worry honey, you're always gonna have room!"

The gentle lilt of her voice combined with her touch on my back was more than I, as a human could handle. I backed her against the wall and sought her lips with mine, needing to create in her the fire that was already flaming within me. Her hands immediately found the hair at the back of my neck, pulling and tugging me closer and harder against her mouth. A moan forced its way out of my mouth, filling the air with my need, echoed by Madeline's own.

Even through my haze I heard a murmur from somewhere below and realized that discretion might be a good idea.

"Bedroom.... now," Madeline got out between our heated kisses and I complied by backing away enough to allow her to move away from the way and then I pushed her backward into the bedroom. Our bedroom.

And then I stopped. Even as I had entered the room, I could feel that something was wrong. When I opened my eyes wider, I realized that the calamity that had befallen the hallway had also hit the bedroom. But more than added items created the havoc in the haven that had always been my bedroom.

Furniture had been moved. The only thing that was in the right place was the bed. Everything else had been moved, and new furniture had been added. None of it matched, and none of it was where it should be!

Madeline noticed my sudden distraction and followed my gaze. She moved away from me slightly, her movements suddenly stilted with nervousness. "Um, I guess I should have asked if this was okay first. David said you weren't picky about furniture and you'd said I should make myself at home..." She trailed off and I could hear the tears in her voice.

Get a grip Fox, I told myself. What was more important, furniture or making Madeline a part of my life? I could make a huge deal out of this, or I could make love to the woman that I'd pray would want to be even a small part of my life. I took another look around the room, allowing a deep breath to slow my heartbeat as I nodded slowly. "It's not too bad. Might take me some time to get used to it, but it's not bad at all."

The smile on Madeline's face was worth the effort it had taken to get the words out. She sashayed back into my arms and I wrapped my arms back around here. The feeling of her body against me was enough to re-ignite my desire.

I began to slowly unbutton her shirt; each button revealing a bit more skin. I softly kissed each part, until I was on the last button and I had to kneel on the floor in front of her. I looked up at her, my hands on her hips, and I carefully undid the button with my mouth. Madeline wound her hands through my hair, gently guiding me as I kissed her bellybutton. A husky moan came from above me and I realized I'd found another sensitive spot. Tentatively, I used my tongue to explore the bellybutton's depths, feeling her push against me as her excitement rose.

"Hmmm...you like that, huh?" I murmured into her stomach as my hands undid the button of her jeans.

"I guess so," she said in surprise, looking down at me as I slowly unzipped her zipper. "That's something new." She gave a throaty laugh, which turned into a moan as I slid my hands into her jeans and around to her butt.

"You have a nice ass," I told her as I kneaded that particular area with both my hands.

"Thank you, yours isn't so bad either."

"Not so bad? Is that a compliment?" I asked as I helped her get her jeans off and step out of them.

"Maybe I should add that I really do love starring at it," she said as I resumed my position in front of her, this time only her underwear between me and my goal. As she attempted casual conversation, I could hear her breathing becoming heavier and raspier.

I kissed along the top edge of her underwear, using my tongue to gently tease the skin there. I could already smell a hint of her arousal and it was hard to take my time.

"God Fox," she said, throwing her head back. That was all I needed. I pushed her back onto the bed and hurriedly got her underwear off. "Please Fox, I need your mouth, please."

And of course, I would never keep my love waiting. I took what I wanted, and then I took some more, as she urged me on with her words, her moans, and the undulating of her hips.

Finally, after I quickly removed my own clothes and the rest of hers, I lay down on the bed with her and took her into my arms. I was desperate to feel her skin against mine, to hold the softness that belonged on to her in my arms and feel the results of the pleasure that had been given as well as received.

And it was like that that we fell asleep. In the morning the sun came through the window and I saw my beautiful lover laying with me, the sun highlighting the red in her hair and the pallor of her skin, making it all soft and glowing. And it was then that tears came to my eyes. The sense of belonging was so great that I was afraid I would die right there. No matter how many boxes I might stumble over, no matter how the furniture changed, I was right where I was supposed to be, naked with my love in my arms.


Saturday was another softball game. Madeline and I debated whether or not she should go since Monte had suddenly taken an interest in the team.

The last few games he'd been there, just as the game was about to start, uprooting a regular player from their position just so that he could show he could pull his weight around. It was annoying and a real pain in the ass, but he could also have the team sponsorship pulled if he got pissed enough. So, we let him in and we tried not to grumble too much.

In the end, Madeline wanted to see me play and I was not woman enough to say that I wasn't flattered. Okay, I was really, really flattered, and I really liked the idea of her being there, in the stands, watching me play. Actually, I'd be lucky if I could play with her watching me. The thought alone made me tingle. So, with some reluctance, but not much, I didn't fight her. We packed up the car and headed to the field.

"Hey Spooky!" Megan came bounding up to us as we got out of my car. "Hiya Madeline," she said, giving her a big huge.

"How come I don't get hugs anymore?" I grumbled, then shrieked as someone came up from behind me and grabbed in a huge bear hug. Getting over my shock I put two and two together and came up with the strongest person I knew. "Hey Tree."

"Hello Fox," she said carefully putting me down onto my feet. "Didn't want you to feel left out." She tipped her baseball hat at Madeline. "How do you like living with this one?" Her thumb jerked in my direction.

"Not too bad once you get passed certain things." Madeline gave Megan a knowing look and then both started to giggle. I narrowed my eyes at them, wondering what all those phone calls had been about. Obviously they had been busy discussing me!

"What certain things are you talking about?" I turned to Madeline, trying to look menacing, but it only caused her to giggle harder. "Oh, you think that's funny, huh?" I brought my hands up and wiggled my fingers. "Maybe I'll have to tickle the information out of you!"

"Oh no," she said between giggles, holding her hands up in protest as she started to back away.

"Oh yes!" I hissed playfully as I moved closer. I'd found out the night before that in addition to her belly button being sensitive, her stomach was very ticklish. The sound of her laugh was enough to make little sparks of happiness ignite in me. I made it my personal vow to make her laugh often and for the rest of her life.         

I chased Madeline around in a small circle until finally I caught her in my arms and pulled her against me. "I've got you my pretty," I whispered into her ear, not able to resist the urge to lick the top of her lobe. "And you taste good too!"

"Fox...stop...gotta...catch...breath!" Madeline said even as the laughter still vibrated through her body.

I laughed lightly, feeling like the wind that blew through the trees, carelessly happy. Loosening my hold, I kissed her neck before letting her go. She stumbled over to the car and leaned against it as she caught her breath. Laughing, I opened the back door and got my equipment bag out, shutting the door and hitting the lock button on the fob.

"Can you take the keys sweetie?" I asked, handing them to her. "No pockets," I said as our hands brushed and I allowed the contact to last longer than required. Tingling sensations ran through me, giving me a delicious rush of pleasure.

"You know," Madeline said as we started walking toward the field with Megan and Tree. "Your ass looks great in those pants." She allowed herself to fall slightly behind and I knew where her eyes were focused.

I began to worry about my game performance. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," I mumbled as I pulled Madeline forward.

"Performance anxieties?" Megan queried in a very snotty manner.

"Shut up," I said, bumping her with my hip hard enough to set her off her path.

"Hey! Just cause you're having problems doesn't mean you have to take it out on me!" She yelled loudly, smirking before she took off running for the bleachers.

"I'd chase her for you, but I don't want to tire myself out before the game," Tree said slowly.

"It's not worth it," Madeline said, giving me a smile. "I'll get the revenge later."

My eyebrows raised in curiosity of their own accord. "And what exactly do you have planned?" I asked carefully. This could be very interesting.

"You'll see," she answered before giving me a quick kiss. "Go kick some ass. I'm gonna go find a seat." And then she patted me on MY seat!

I walked away grinning, still enjoying the feeling of her hand on my rear. My smile would give away more than I normally revealed, but I was too happy to care. I was able to spot Madeline as she made her way to where Megan was already sitting. Her familiar figure made my heart leap and I felt warmth growing from inside of me.

I walked side by side with Tree up to our team's bench. Before we got there though she stopped me by touching my arm. "Listen, all kidding aside, I wanted to tell you how much we like Madeline. You know how Megan is, she's all bark, but she's been yapping all week about how much she liked Madeline, and I agree with her. We're happy for both of you." She gave me a gentle smile that reminded me of something Megan had once said.

When she started dating Tree I had expressed some concern about her being too rough. I, like many, were fooled by her massive size. But Megan had been quick to tell me that she was really a very sweet woman trapped in a diesel dyke's body.

And now, as she offered me words of comfort and kindness with a smile that was so gentle and sweet that I saw what Megan had been talking about. "Thank you Tree. As you know, you and Megan are my best friends and your approval means a lot to me." I would have hugged her, but our other team mates were standing around watching us, and I didn't want to make a statement right then and there. Instead I reached out and squeezed her arm. "Thank you."

I swear that I saw a blush on Tree's face as she ducked her head and went for the bench.

"You two ready to win today?" Jeff approached us, clipboard in hand.

"Is there any other way?" I asked, putting my bag down, opening it, and getting my glove out. I punched it a few times, and gave him a winning smile.

Tossing me a ball, he then made a mark on his paper. "I hope not!"

The infielders were already all there, warming up with each other. "Hey guys," I said as I approached.

I got an enthusiastic greeting from them all. Sitting down I stretched my legs and then my arms, slowly getting my muscles ready for the demands I was about to make of them. I felt pretty limber and I had a suspicion that my recent sexual activities might have something to do with that.

The sight of a new fan in the stands caught my attention. Her figure was thin, too thin, and her hair was not the bright color it had once been, but I would know Annie anywhere. What the hell was she doing here? I looked to where Megan and Madeline were sitting, trying to figure out if they'd seen her, but they had their heads together and were gabbing away about something, oblivious to what was going on around them.

"Heads up!" I heard a few voices yell my way and I quickly turned my head just as a ball was ascending on my head.

"Shit!" I yelled, covering my head just in time to save my skull. The ball bounced off my arm with a stinging ZING. The field was quiet, waiting to see my reaction. I slowly took my arms away from my head and glared at the 3 infielders, which were looking at me guiltily. "Hey, I have only struck out once this season. What was that for?"

Alex was feeling brave as he stepped forward. "Sorry Fox, my bad. Got a little carried away there. Are you okay?"

I tried to glare at him, but couldn't help a small grin. "Yeah, just hit my arm." I flexed the body part in question. It would be a nice bruise, but nothing more. At least it hadn't hit me in the head. I hated getting hit in the head.

Alex grinned at me and went after the ball. These guys knew me well enough to know that I would not be upset.

The opposing team started to show up and the coin was tossed. We won and Jeff said that we'd take the field first. As we started to take our places, the one person I didn't want to see swaggered onto the field.

"Hello Monte," Jeff said in an even voice, but I could tell that his posture had gotten stiffer.

"Here comes trouble," Sam said under his breath. "I hope he doesn't want my base today."

"Okay guys, let's just play catch and hope that Mr. Sullivan will sit the first inning out." Lorenz sounded very diplomatic, but I felt cold at the very thought of Monte playing. My eyes immediately went to the stands and I could see that Megan and Madeline had seen Monte come onto the field. I watched my lover carefully, wanting to make sure that she was okay. I could see her brow wrinkled in concern. She caught my eye and gave me a reassuring smile. I turned to see if Monte had seen her, but he was caught up talking to Jeff. So far, so good.

Madeline pointed toward the car and held up the keys. I nodded in return. I could get a ride with Megan and Tree to where ever we would end up after the game. Madeline bent down to talk to Megan and then she hurried off.

Sighing, I focused a glare on Monte and his aggravating presence. My game was not going to be the same as it was only 5 minutes before. I guess it was too much to hope that he would not show. He hadn't missed a game since his first one, so I guess that love had given me an optimism that was misleading.

When I saw Jeff and Monte looking over at me, I felt my anger growing to a blinding rage. There was no way in hell that he was going to be taking my base. I was not going to stand for that. I had had to fight for this base when I first joined the team, having to show the men on the team that I could not only play, but that I could take the position of first base.

Monte must have felt the daggers that I was throwing at him because he looked up and caught my eye. Normally I would pretend that I hadn't been glaring, but today it was too much. I didn't lessen my glare and I saw him hesitate before turning back to Jeff.

Lorenz lost his place on third base. I think that Monte chose the position that was furthest from me without being in the outfield.

The game went by quickly, and I think that the loss was mostly my fault. My concentration and focus was not on our game at all. Instead, it was on Madeline, thinking about her, wondering where she went, wondering if she was okay, and hoping that I'd be seeing her soon.

As we were getting our equipment together, I saw Monte out of the corner of my eye quietly grab his things and leave, no comments about getting together for drinks afterwards, or any of his usual annoying banter. And while I knew that I shouldn't feel anything toward the man, I couldn't help the surge of pity that ran through me as I saw his slumped shoulders and hesitating gait. I knew that if I'd lost someone as wonderful as Madeline I'd be more than a little upset.

"He didn't deserve her," Tree observed quietly.

"I'm going to work every day of the rest of my life to make sure that I do," I replied firmly.

"I know." She gave me a crooked smile before her head snapped up, something behind me catching her attention, and a true smile transformed her face. "Hey there," she said, standing up. Her eyes were focused on one spot and one spot only. I knew, without any doubt, that it was Megan approaching us that got her attention. Something in that reaction made my heart hurt with the need to see Madeline.

"Hey you," I heard Megan say from behind me, her voice low and husky. I felt like the monkey in the middle as they tossed raw sexual desire back and forth. I fought the urge to duck, afraid to get hit in the head.

I turned and smiled at Megan. "Was Madeline okay when she left?" Coming to the point, I needed to find my stability again.

"Yeah, she just didn't think it would be good if FF saw her so she left. She said she'd go and wait for us at Isis."


"Fuck face," she replied matter of factly, her eyes slowly roving over her lover's body. "Hot and sweaty, sweetie?" Her eyebrows wiggled up and down suggestively.

"Fuck face?"

Megan turned and glared at me for interrupting her seduction. "Yes, fuck face. You know, that evil bastard who played house with your lovely lady?"

"You call him fuck face?" I was stunned.

"Actually, we call him FF." She was so snotty sometimes!


This time her glare intensified. "Can you do anything but ask questions?"

"Don't answer my question with a question!" I was fuming at this point. I couldn't help it if she was turned on by her sweaty wife, I wanted answers! This was my life, for Christ's sake!

"You are so uptight!" Megan threw her hands in the air and stalked around in a small circle. "Madeline and I came up with the nickname because the man's name gives me the eebie geebies!"

"The eebie geebies?" That was so true to Megan to think up a nickname for the asshole. And, despite what Madeline said about him, he was an asshole if only for the reason that he had slept by her side.

All of a sudden Megan was up in my face, standing on her tiptoes so that she was looking me in the eye. "If you ask me ONE MORE question, I am going to scream!" She emphasized every other word by poking me in the chest with her stubby finger.

"Whoa, down Simba!" I put my hands up in surrender. She growled at me and gnashed her teeth.

"Are you two done now?" Tree's voice pulled us from our feud. We both turned our heads toward her, and I had to blink a few times to remember where we were. I gave a weak laugh and Megan joined in. "Then let's go."


Marge was standing front and center at the bar when we arrived. She raised a beefy hand in welcome. She must have seen the questioning look in my eyes, cause she nodded her head to the left. I looked to where she was indicating and saw the object of my search.

Sitting in the corner was Madeline and, it looked like, Claire. They were talking, but as I watched I saw Claire reaching out and touching Madeline often, seeming to be emphasizing whatever it was she was saying, but to me it seemed that she was linger a bit too much.

With side steps, I approached the bar without taking my eyes off the two women. Marge placed a Rolling Rock in my hand without me needing to ask. I grabbed it and as I swallowed the cold beer, I tried to swallow my anger.

"I'll say this for her, she's tried to get away from Claire since she got her. But, short of being rude, there was no way to deter my little helper." I gave Marge a brief look, watching her shrug.

"She wouldn't be rude," I said assuredly, my eyes returning to the two women. Then suddenly, Madeline's head shot up and her head turned as she scanned the room. Then electric blue eyes met my own, and I felt Madeline's relief from across the room. It was as palatable as the beer taste in my mouth, and I wanted to reach across the room and draw her close to protect her. She smiled and I smiled back, holding my beer up with a questioning look. Picking up her own bottle she nodded, and I saw she was drinking MGD.

"An MGD Marge," I said, smiling at my lover, basking in the warmth of her look. Claire finally figured out that Madeline was no longer listening to her, and she turned to see who had taken the focus off her. When she saw me, she gave me a brief smile and shook her head. I hope that she realized she was at a dead end and took up the slack with someone else.

"Suppose you can't blame a girl for trying," Marge said, handing me the beer.

"Sure I can," I replied, handing her some money, taking the two bottles, and heading toward Madeline. She watched my approach, her eyes becoming smoky, turning a darker blue than they usually were.

"Hey there." Her voice was husky, causing my stomach to clench with little spasms of pleasure.

"Hey," I replied, bending down so that I was in front of her, balancing on the balls of my feet with my knees bent. I handed her the new beer, then put my hands on her thighs, looking up into her beautiful face. "Did you miss me?"

She smiled and simply bent down and kissed me. Her lips were soft and cool, tasting slightly of beer and I was helpless as my tongue slipped passed her lips to taste the rest of her mouth. I had forgotten where we were, and I had forgotten who was around us, all I could think about was the wonderful sensations that shot through me as our mouths melded.

"Alright you two, get a room already!" Megan yelled out and raunchy noise echoed her sentiments.

I pulled away slowly, still taking small nips of her lips as I did. My knees were jelly and my heart was pounding at a shattering rate. The grin on my face must have looked ridicules, but I did enjoy being kissed completely senseless in such a delicious way.

"Yes, I missed you terrible," she answered softly, brushing the hair from my face. I sighed happily and laid my head on her leg.

I finally managed to get up, my legs barely supporting me, but it felt good to be incapacitated by such a beautiful woman. Finding an empty chair where Claire once sat, I pulled it over and sat down as close to Madeline as I could without sitting in her lap. Without thought, her hand found mine and our fingers intertwined.

Megan as already engaged in conversation with someone, her hands moving in constantly as she talked. Tree was lurking near by, her arms loosely around Megan's waist, seemingly content just watching and listening to her lover.

The bar was getting crowded quickly, which made me extremely glad that I already had a table and was close to my love. My leg wound itself around hers, making me feel even closer to her in the full bar.

Megan and Tree finally found their way to our table, and Tree somehow found chairs for them both. "Whoa, did you see who's here? I can't believe she hasn't left yet."

"You're so mean!" Tree said, giving Megan and horrified look. "It's not your fault she's so afraid of you!"

That could be anyone. "I'm afraid to ask," I muttered. And before Megan was able to answer, I heard it.

"SPOOOOOOOOOOOKYYYY!" Boomed from across the room.

"No, no, no, no," I repeated over and over, putting my head in my hands, wanting the moment to be over.

I managed to look out of my hands and saw Madeline looking confused and amused at the same time. What was about to happen already had me scared and feeling the need to immediately vacate the building.

"Why is she coming over here? She hates you!" I implored of Megan. "Go, scare her away or something!"

"I tried," Megan whined back. "She looked at me and gave me an evil smile. I don't know what's happening! It's like someone came in and turned the freakin' world upside down!"

"It was kind of odd," Tree confirmed, taking a long pull from her beer. "Normally Dana runs away as soon as the mere mention of Megan's name comes into play, but tonight she just gave this crazy look and kept going." She shrugged and looked bewildered. "Something is in the air tonight."

There was no hiding the inevitable. As the miniature G.I. Jane wannabe came flying toward the table, sliding to a halt, I looked up and gave her a small smile.

"Hi Dana," I said wearily.

"Hey Spooky, anything interesting come up lately?"

"Yeah they found out that little green men like to fuck little ugly lesbians," Megan muttered just loud enough for everyone to hear.

Dana focused her attention on Megan, and the sense of relief was overwhelming. "So, Meg, I heard you guys lost on Wednesday." She said with a sneer.

Wednesday? What was Wednesday?

"Yeah, so? You guys loose almost every week, we just thought you might feel bad if we kept winning." Megan was nonchalant, but I could see her hands tighten slightly around her beer bottle. I just hoped that Dana would have enough brains to not provoke Megan too far. While Megan probably wouldn't hit the woman, she wouldn't have any qualms about throwing beer all over her.

"Guess you haven't been following the weekly numbers, have you? We haven't lost yet this season." She looked down her nose at Megan, which must have been hard because they were almost the same height. I wondered if Poppa Smurf knew they were missing.

"Is that true?" Megan asked Tree quietly, getting a slow nod in return. "So that's why your so smug, huh Dena?"

"You're always bragging about how your team is the best team out of Isis. I found it...amusing that you had lost last week."

Megan snarled. "I wonder if you'll find my beer covering your shirt just as amusing." She advanced quickly on the other woman, but Tree put an arm around her middle and held her back.

"Dana, I suggest you go somewhere else." I voiced, wanting to get the woman out of my face.

"This is my bar too!" She shouted, her hands clenched at her sides.

"I didn't mean leave the bar, I mean go to another part of the bar."

"I don't have to go anywhere if I don't want to." She stuck her chin out in defiance and I had the sudden desire to strike it.

Pulling the small, butch looking woman aside, I leaned down so that I could whisper in her ear. "You're making the wrong woman mad, Dana. Remember, she knows where you live and she knows your weakness."

Her face grew suddenly pale. "You mean Spanky?" The panic in her voice was unmistakable, and I knew that my point had been made. "Do you really think she'd go after Spanky? My poor, little defenseless Spanky?"

I nodded gravely, hoping that this would be enough to convince her to leave. "Don't put anything past her when she's pissed off."

Dana nodded nervously before shooting Megan one more glance and quickly leaving. I'm not sure if she left the bar, or just left the area, but I knew we wouldn't see her again that night.

Tree waited a few moments before she let Megan go and even then she watched her girlfriend carefully to make sure that the small woman did not attempt to follow. I sat back down and looked at Madeline who was watching us all with an indulging smile. "What?" I asked, taking a sip of my now warm beer.

"You know the most interesting people," she said with a smirk. "And just who was that?"

"That," I pointed with my bottle toward where Dana had gone, "is a long story!"

We laughed together loudly.

"Glad you two think it's funny," Megan mumbled as she slouched into a seat. "I don't find it funny at all!" She crossed her arms over her chest and sat there pouting.

"What do you have on Wednesday nights?" I was curious, feeling as always, out of the loop.

"What do you mean what do we have? The same thing we ALWAYS have!" That got Megan moving again. Her pout forgotten, she now turned her indignation to me. "Pool league? Ring a bell? We have only gone every Wednesday for the last two years!"

Oh yeah. I'd forgotten about that. "Is it really that competitive?" Madeline asked, taking a sip of her beer and making a face. Hers must be warm too.

"Yup. We have 3 teams out of this bar, and every week we play teams from all over the area. Sometimes we even have to play our other teams too. We were the champions from last year, but this year we lost one of our regular players and have had to find subs. Last week's sub really sucked, so we lost by a huge load of points!" Tree looked as frustrated as she sounded. "Anyway, because of the amount of points we lost, technically we are a point behind Dana's team."

I looked at Madeline to see if she was as lost as I was, and I could tell by the way her eyebrows were closer than normal that she was.

"Anyone want a new beer?" I needed to break the monotony of talking about pool. Getting everyone's request, I headed toward the bar. It was crowded now and I had to weave through many dancing bodies to get to the bar. On my way there, an arm snaked around my waist, and pulled me tightly against someone else.

"Hey!' I shouted to be heard above the noisy music and dim of the crowd. I looked into the face of the woman who'd grabbed me and was confronted with a beautiful face.

"Hello Fox, remember me?" Elaine asked in her husky voice that I remember well.

"Yes, of course Elaine, how are you?" I tried to gently extract myself from her arms, but didn't have much luck. She had a firm grim on me and there wasn't enough room to really pull away.

"Want to dance?" She began to move her body against mine sensually, making me loose my thought for a second.

"Uh, no, I can't."

"You can't? Why not?" Her slow, sexy smile gave the impression that she was not going to accept my answer easily.

"I'm with someone."

"And so you can't dance? Does she own you?" Now her voice took on a slightly patronizing tone and I found myself getting angry.

"No, I don't own her, but I do love her," Madeline's voice came from behind me. "Now please get your hands off her." While her voice was sweet and kind, I could sense the edge behind it and I think that Elaine did too. She released her hold on me with a shrug.

Digging in her pocket, she pulled out a piece of paper and quickly stuffed it into my pocket. "Call me if things change," she said, moving away.

I dug the paper out and tore it up, letting the shreds of paper fall to the floor. I put my arms around Madeline and held her close. "Can I have this dance darling?"

"Only if you promise to call me darling again." She smiled sweetly as she held on to me. I don't know what song was playing, but in my head there was a soft, romantic tune. And to that tune I led my love around the dance area, mindless of the people around us and their constant action as we floated together. Madeline's body molded perfectly to mine as I held her tightly in my arms and felt her move against me.

And it was then that I realized heaven was in my arms and the world had found me worthy for once in my life.


Sunday was going to be a lazy day at home. We slept in, cuddled in each other's arms, still sated from our lovemaking the night before. Spooned up behind Madeline's naked body, I felt as though some circle in my life had been completed. Her soft, silky skin created electric currents at every point where our bodies touched. With hands made limp from relaxed passiveness, I traced patterns over her arms and hands, marveling at the wonderful feel of her, taking in the very scent that was her, and knowing that I wanted to wake up like this every morning for the rest of my life.

I stopped my caresses to scratch my nose, and the instant I stopped, Madeline murmured, "Don't stop."

"Good morning." I went back to caressing every part of her I could reach. Her ears beckoned me, and I slowly traced one soft lobe before sucking it gently into my mouth. The resulting groan was low and throaty, instantly causing a sharp throb to begin between my legs.

Madeline turned over in my arms, her full breasts pressing against mine, and this time the moan was mine. Our mouths seared together, fusing and releasing, each time stoking the fire higher and higher.

A shrill ringing penetrated the haze I was in, and I realized that my phone was ringing. Madeline must have realized it at the same time because we both pulled apart in synch. We looked at each other for a moment, and in an unspoken agreement, I picked the phone up.

"Hello?" I tried to make my voice sound normal, but I could detect the breathlessness as I spoke. I hoped whomever was on the other end would pretend not to notice.

"Sorry to bother you Fox, but I got a call from Monte Sullivan. There's an emergency meeting today about the Crane Foods account." I recognized Marie's voice, and although it took a moment, I realized that my Sunday plans had just changed.

An emergency meeting wasn't unheard of. There had been a few weekends where I'd slept on the couch in my office in between strategy and planning meetings.

"I don't know why he just didn't all you himself," Marie sounded cross, and I realized that this had disrupted her Sunday as well.

"Sorry Marie," I said sympathetically, understanding her frustration completely. It didn't make much sense to me either. "He tends to like to pull strings." Marie murmured noncommittally. "Thanks for letting me know. I'll see you on Monday."

"You have a meeting today?" Madeline asked as I hung up the phone. I could hear the disappointment in her voice, even though she tried to casually mask it.

I sighed feeling disappointed myself. Wrapping myself around my lover so that we were front to front, I held her tightly. "Sorry Madeline. It's unusual, but not unheard of." I kissed her neck. "I have a few minutes though, can I hold you until I have to go?"

She nestled into my neck, nipping lightly. "Do we have time for more than that?" I looked down into mischievous blue eyes that sparked with possibilities.

I looked into those eyes and willingly allowed myself to slowly drown. "I always have time for you." And as my hands began to trace her body her eyes went from sparkling blue, to a dark midnight blue that grew smoky as passions once again flared.


An hour later I was on my way to the office, feeling better than I had before. There was a slightly unsettling feeling in my stomach, but I contributed it to not having had breakfast, although it didn't feel like hunger pain. Ignoring it, I pulled into the office complex that housed Manchester Designs, surprised to see the parking lot empty.

The strange feeling in my stomach grew as I tried to reason why there were no other cars there. Maybe I was just the first person there. Monte had gone to the trouble to call Marie, so that had to be the explanation. Rubbing my stomach absently, I allowed myself to briefly hope that someone would bring donuts. I think I had some crackers in my office, but I wasn't sure how old they were.

Getting out of the car, I opened the back seat door and got out my worn briefcase. The sound of my door shutting echoed through the empty parking lot, and I had a brief sensation of the creeps. Shrugging it off, I walked quickly to the front door. Pressing in the entry code, I turned my key in the lock and pushed the heavy door open. Normally this was accompanied by a soft beeping noise, indicating that the alarm was counting down before it decided to go off. But this morning it didn't beep, and I saw that it had never been set.

Grumbling, I set off toward our corner of the building, angry that I would now have to make the decision of whether or not to inform our office manager of this oversight. The cameras by the front door would tell who was the last person to leave the building, and therefore reveal the identity of the careless person who had neglected to set the alarm. It was a position I didn't appreciate being put in. I hated to be a tattle tale.

The offices were dark, and eerily quiet. I hated opening the office. It should have been bustling with people who had deadlines, not empty, dark, and silent. The lights hummed softly when I flipped the switch. I proceeded to flip every light switch I could find, unable to bear the dark any longer.

I passed the empty offices, the hum of the overhead lights now getting on my nerves, so I hummed to myself quietly. My stomach was turning flips as my nervousness increased. The path to my office seemed to be miles, but finally I got there, and flipped my office light on.

"Took you long enough."

I looked up in surprise. Monte Sullivan was sitting behind my desk, in my chair. He had a pleased smile on his face that did not reach his eyes. He looked at me like he'd caught a bug in a trap, and I was the bug.

"Where's everyone else?" I asked, pretending to be unconcerned while my insides screamed at me.

"I don't think we need anyone else for this meeting." His patronizing tone scraped across my nerves, making me grin my teeth in an effort to stay calm.

"What is going on Monte?" I refused to play his games or to let him see me upset. I put my briefcase down and crossed my arms over my chest, my feet planted firmly.

"Why were you so late? Too busy fucking my wife?" His smile turned to a sneer, which illuminated the hatred in his eyes. It was all I could do to keep myself from launching across the room and grabbing his throat with my hands. Squeezing the life out of him would bring too much satisfaction and way to much pleasure. That would be breaking down all boundaries between human right and wrong, but I still felt my hands clenching as though beating down on him.

"Who I do or do not fuck is none of your business Monte." I eyed him coolly. "Now, if that's all you wanted to know, I'm going to leave now. I assume there was no meeting." I turned to leave, but he called out to me.

"You might want to take your things with you since you are no longer an employee here." His trump card was mighty, and strong.

I turned and just stared at him. It didn't take him long before he continued. "You think you can just take my wife and expect life to go on its merry way?" He gave a bitter laugh. "Oh no, it's not going to be that easy for you, I'm going to make sure of that. And it's not going to be that easy for her either!

"I overlooked her escapades in college because I knew that she would be the perfect wife for me. When her mother got sick I went to see her almost every day, telling her how her poor little daughter would be left without anyone to care for her. The old woman hung on my every word. It was like spoon feeding an infant."

I remembered what Madeline had told me, the pain in her eyes as she talked about her mother's death and the promise that she'd made. And as Monte's words hit me like sharpened darts, I felt my stomach threaten to revolt. Madeline had thought she was doing what would make her mother happy, but in fact she was just playing right into Monte's twisted hand.

"You are a sick son of a bitch," I said through clenched teeth. "Do you think you can just play God like that? Do you really think that you'll go through life pulling everyone along like puppets on a string?" I approached him now, my anger propelling me forward.

"Who's going to stop me?" He said tauntingly. "You? Madeline?" He laughed loudly. "I don't think so." Rising out of the chair, he glared at me; his face screwed up as anger filled him more and fed the fire within him. "I loved her, dammit. We had a life. And you come along and ruined it all." With closed fists, he hit the desk hard.

And as I saw him, I realized what I was actually seeing. A wounded animal, scratching and biting at anything it could, wanting to escape the pain and the hurt. And I wondered, not for the first time, how a person could do anything less than end that animal's pain once it's been wounded. But I could not end Monte's pain. I could not make his pain go away, and I would not let his pain prevent me from what was the rest of my life.

"I'm sorry Monte," I said softly. The anger had left me, and the pity took its place.

He stared at me hard, seemingly unable to understand what I was saying. "Just get your things out of here and go!"

"Do you think that firing me is going to ease your pain? Do you think that it's going to make it all better?"

"Shut up. That bitch told me that my wife was with you and I couldn't believe it. But she was right." He muttered as though to himself. " That bitch was right." Shaking his head as though trying to get the idea out, he looked for a moment like a bewildered child, unable to grasp the concept of life. "But it doesn't matter. Once she sees how hard life is without a steady paycheck, she'll come back to me. And then I'll get to laugh in her face and tell her how stupid she was to think that she could live without me. You'll see." Triumph lit his face as though he'd already won something, but I knew something he didn't. Love was stronger than a paycheck, and that Madeline loved me.

That only left one question. Who told him? How did he find out? Whoever it was had cost me my job, a job that I loved doing and that I was good at. It was another mystery to try and solve.

"Believe what you want." I turned to leave. "I'll be back to get my stuff tomorrow." And with my head high, I turned and left, turning the light off again as I did.


The emotions inside of me as I drove home were conflicting so quickly that I thought my head was going to spin right off my neck.

Part of me wanted to run home and let Madeline take me in her arms to comfort all the hurt and humiliation of loosing my job after working so hard. I don't think I'd ever been without a job before. I'd come to Manchester right after college, and had worked hard to carve my niche there. I had taken a lot of pride in my work and had proven time and time again that I had earned my place. And now, with a sweep of one man's hand, it was gone, like a sand castle that lost a fight with the tide.

On the other hand, I could still see the mad and crazed look in Monte's eye when he talked of Madeline's past and her mother. While Madeline said he was a good husband, there was something desperately wrong in someone who carried that look in his or her eye. What was I supposed to tell Madeline? Sorry honey, your husband set you up? He's not the nice guy you seem to think that he is?

It was the proverbial rock and hard place, and I was very uncomfortable with that position. Especially since it concerned someone that I loved.

I pounded the steering wheel in frustration, the stinging feeling in my hands giving me something to focus on. What was the right thing to do? I didn't want to tell Madeline what Monte had told me, but I hated the idea of holding anything back from her. It wasn't my style. I wanted to give Madeline the world; I wanted to open myself to her completely, not keep anything from her. It would haunt me, acting as a shadow over me. But I knew that it would hurt Madeline to hear what he said. It would hurt her to know that her own mother had been deceived on her deathbed. And hurting Madeline was the last thing I ever wanted to do.

Somehow I had driven myself home. I wasn't completely sure how I'd done it, but I pulled into the large driveway and turned the car off. Sighing, I put my forehead against the steering wheel. The warmed surface was smooth against my skin, but it offered little comfort to the war in my mind.

I would have to go in there and just tell Madeline everything I could. I would do everything in my power to keep from hurting her, but I would also attempt to be honest with her. I only prayed that she would understand that my love would comfort never leave or forsake her.

Leaving my briefcase in the car, I went up the front walk and found the front door unlocked. Holding my hand on the brass doorknob for a few moments, I took deep, cleansing breaths before turning it and pushing the door open.

The entry way was quiet, but I heard the soft clicking of Toto's toenails on the hardwood floors, and soon she was there, wiggling excitedly. "Hey sweet thing," I said softly, reaching down and scratching behind her ears. She looked as though she was going to pass out right then and there, her pleasure so great. I found myself semi-wishing that I had such a simple life. But the thought of sniffing other animals' butts was enough to convince me otherwise.

Walking into the living room, I was surprised to see Madeline curled up on the couch, reading. She had on a pair of wire rimmed glasses that seemed to suit her face perfectly. Realizing that I was home, she looked up and surprised flitted across her face.


Her voice was soft and sweet and it felt incredibly like coming home, but in a way I'd never experienced before. Unable to help myself and unable to think about stopping myself, I closed the difference between us and knelt on the floor in front of the couch, putting my head against her curled leg.

"Hey," I replied, speaking into the soft cotton of her sweat pants. Her sweet scent rose from the fabric and I wanted to bury my nose there, taking in all of her through my inhale, leaving nothing behind. God, I needed her to soothe my hurting soul.

I felt her hand stroke my hair gently, moving back from my forehead and putting flyaway wisps behind my ears. "Want to talk about it?" She asked softly, never stopping her movement through my hair.

And then it all came out. In one, long run-on sentence I told her what had happened, from feeling the eebie geebies before I got there, to turning off the light on Monte as I left. Somehow, through my telling, I managed to edit out the parts that I thought would be hurtful, skipping over them entirely. Whether or not Madeline noticed my hesitant moments, she didn't indicate. Her mouth was turned down in frown and as my story continued, the corners of her mouth seemed to reach down to her chin.

        When I finished, she sat there quietly, her eyes distant. She seemed to be deep in thought. At least, I hoped she was deep in thought and not pulling away from me.

        "He was never like that," she said at last, talking to some distant memory. "He was never vindictive or mean like that." And then the quiet around us seemed to hum as she asked one final question. "Was he?" Unsure and sounding somewhat lost, I got up and sat down next to her on the couch, putting my arms around her and drawing her as close to me as I could.

        "I'm sorry babe." I was really at a loss.

        "Fox, what you're saying...he sounds insane!" Her voice cracked as it rose in frustration. "He was always rational and calm. A bit macho, but overall kind and reasonable."

        The maddening gleam in his eyes came back to me as she said this, conflicting with what she was saying. From my own perspective, I could see that the only think holding Monte's sanity in tact had been Madeline, but now she was gone. "Guess he took your leaving pretty bad," I said lamely.

        Laughing briefly, but bitterly, she shook her head. "He hardly noticed I was there. I cooked and cleaned-"

        "You cook?"

        "Um, yeah."

        "Thank God!" Another mystery solved.

        The strange look she gave me caused a rapid blush to streak across my face like a flame of fire. "Sorry, sidetracked." I tried to give her what I thought was a bashful smile.

        "Noticed." She placed a gentle kiss on my neck, indicating that she understood my idiosyncrasies.

        "Anyway, he obviously loved you." He was hurting, I almost said, but I couldn't get the words out. While I felt bad for the man - pitied him really - there was no way in hell that I was going to help him garner sympathy.

        "Well, that's no reason to fire you." Madeline nibbled on her bottom lip. "Maybe I should call him and talk to him about it."

        Oh no, I did not like that idea at all! "Listen, I don't think that's a good idea," I said gently. I didn't want her to think that I was telling her what to do, because I wasn't. "I didn't confirm or deny that you were with me. Maybe we shouldn't show all our cards right now. He thinks you're with me, but he has no evidence, so why give him any?"

        Snuggling deeper into my embrace, Madeline sniffed at my shirt. "You smell good."


        "You use Tide?"

        "That's what we have here at the house."

        "How committed to that choice are you?"

        I looked at her carefully. "Do you have an issue with Tide?" She squirmed slightly in my arms, and I gave her an amused squeeze. "Huh, are you anti-Tide?"

        She squirmed more and I tickled her lightly. "Okay, okay!" Giggling, she put her hands up in surrender. "I just prefer Cheer, that's all."

        "And you expect me to change to what you like, when I perfectly happy with my Tide?" Guilt washed over her face and she gave me a smile. "You were, weren't you?" I laughed as she wrinkled her nose in response.


        "I don't know if I can do Tide, bad memories."

        "Hmmm..." Pulling her tighter, I tried to convey to her that the bad memories were all a thing of the past. All we had ahead of us now were the memories that she and I would make together. "How about a compromise?"

        Sitting up a little straighter, she looked interested. "A compromise? What kind of compromise?"

        "We won't use either Tide or Cheer, we'll go shopping and get a totally different kind that will be OUR laundry detergent." We looked at each other and laughed together.

        Calming down, Madeline gave a little sigh and seemed to deflate into me. "Fox, what are we going to do?"

        We. I liked that. We. Not what was I going to do. Not what are you going to do, but we. I wanted to be a we with her. Sighing, I kissed her head. "I'm not sure honey. But we have some options, I'm sure. We just need to do a little looking into it."

        "I have a degree in business and music, but I've never done anything with either of them."

        "Kind of an odd combination there Madeline."

        I could feel her shrug. "It was a compromise. My mother said that I would never be able to find a job with just a degree in music. She said that with a business degree I could have more opportunities, but I was unwilling to give up my music."

        I kept forgetting that I still had so much to find out about Madeline. In my mind and my heart, it seemed that I had known her for as long as time existed, but in reality, I hadn't known her very long at all. "What area of music?"

        "Music theory was my major. I played piano and clarinet, as well as studying vocal." Sadness tinged her words.

        "Played? As in past tense?"

        "Yeah, it's been awhile." I could feel her tense up in my arms. Something more had happened here, but I was not going to push her. Maybe one day she would feel comfortable enough to confide in me.

        "So, between my graphics degree and your business and music, we should be able to do something!" Remaining positive was going to be very important. "Don't worry baby."

        "I...I don't have any money right now, Fox. Monte has everything in our accounts frozen. I have a small inheritance from my mother, but I'm not even sure if I can get to that. Monte took care of that too." She was crying now, and she sniffed gently. "I feel like an idiot, Fox. I feel into so many traps that women fall into, and I didn't do anything to prevent them. I let him take over our life and our finances, and I gave up my own hopes and dreams to support him. And the entire time I told myself that I was doing it for us; in order to create a life as a couple. And yet, each and every day that passed, we were drifting further and further from each other, and instead of a partnership, we barely had a passing acquaintance with each other."

There was nothing I could say to make her feel better or to take away the pain she was feeling, so I simply held her as she sobbed. I was saddened by her pain, and angry for her helplessness. So many things ran through my head, most of them angry words aimed at Monte who took away Madeline's self-worth and combined it with his own. I was confused by how Madeline, someone who seemed so strong, so alive, could allow herself to be sucked into such a situation. It was a conundrum that I wasn't sure I'd ever come to understand, and in some ways, I thought it would be better not to understand how it had happened. But it had happened, and now we had to deal with the fallout.

        "I'm sorry I've become such a burden to you," Madeline said much later, after she'd calmed down and her crying had stopped. I held her still in my arms, giving her as much comfort and love as I could, wanting to make her see that we would be strong as long as we were together.

        "Let's get something straight here Madeline." Sitting up, I moved a little further away so that I could look into her face. She ducked her head, but I gently guided her chin so that she was looking at me. "You are not a burden. We are in this together, okay? No matter what happens, there will always be you and me. Do you understand?"

        She slowly shook her head, and I felt a bit like I was scolding a bad child. "I love you, and nothing will stop that or keep us apart."

        With a quick movement, she wrapped her arms tightly around me. "I'm sorry Fox, you're right. I was just feeling sorry for myself." She pulled back and gave me a smile. "I love you very much. Thank you for not giving up on me."

        "Never, my dear, never!" I swooped down and began to nibble on her neck, making little eating noises as I did.

The ringing of the telephone stopped what was fast becoming foreplay. Out of breath I answered it. "Hello?"


        Background noise combined with a low timbre left the voice unrecognizable. "Yes, this is Fox."

        "Fox, I only did it because I love you." This time the voice was more clear and I could recognize it.

        "Annie? What did you do?" I felt my stomach clench as I heard the fear in her voice.

        "He was really angry, Fox. But, he wants her back. He'll take her back, you know. Then we can be together." The woman I had once known was so far gone that this whimpering woman on the phone held no resemblance to her at all.

        "Annie, I don't want to be with you." My voice was harsh and unforgiving. This game had gone on too far as it was. I knew that she was talking about Monte and that she was confessing to having told him about Madeline and I. "Stay out of my life, and stay away from Madeline!"

        "Fox, I had to tell him. I had to tell him so that we can be together. I love you Fox, I need you!" The pitch of her whine had increased, making me want to throw the phone across the room to try to rid my brain of her.

        "You need help, Annie. Professional help, not me." I hung up the phone then, my disgust and tolerance levels having been reached. Madeline, sitting next to me, flinched as I hung up the phone with more force than was probably necessary.

        "If you keep your face like that you might pop a blood vessel," she said, putting a hand on my forehead.

        "Sorry," I muttered, taking her hand and kissing it absently. "She's gone too far now."


        "She's the one who told Monte you were here. Who knows what else she told him, but believe me, that's enough." My thumb rubbed over the soft skin of her hand, soothing my anger more than any of her words. The silence that surrounded us lulled me gently as my thoughts swirled around in my head. I had to find some sort of order among the chaos in my mind, some way of making sense of everything that had happened. I knew that from all of this turmoil, something magnificent would arise, and I was determined that it would be us.


        Monte was conspicuously absent when I went back on Monday to clean my office. It was just as well. Almost everyone in the office came by and wished me well and quite a few loudly offered their opinions on how ridiculously pious some of the management team had gotten. All the show of support would have really gotten Monte angrier.

        "Guess this means we'll have to find a new first basemen," Jeff said from my doorway as I reached down to get things from my bottom desk drawer.

        "Person. First base person." It was an old joke between us.

        "You know, you're not going to be able to just change baseball lingo because you feel slighted. The world will not change for you."

        "Ahh...but you see Jeff, I don't plan on changing the whole world all at once. I want to just change one person at a time. Starting with you." We smiled at each other, but there was a sense of sadness behind those smiles. I felt tears pricking at my eyes, so I quickly found something to straight in the box I was packing. "Besides, I'm sure that Mr. Sullivan will be more than happy to take my position." I took his, I said to myself. Talk about full circle.

        "Just what I need. Like you weren't hard enough to deal with." Jeff rolled his eyes, before turning serious. "We'll miss you out there, Fox."

        "Thanks Jeff." I gave him a sincere, tearless smile and watched as he moved on.

        As I filled my last box with some personal items that I had furnished my office with, Marie came in and leaned against the door jam. "Are you ever going to tell me what happened?" She finally asked her face creased into a frown.

        "You're going to have some very nasty wrinkles if you keep that face on too long." I tried to sound breezy, but I'm sure that I didn't fool her for a second.

        "I'll take that as a no. What are you going to do now, Fox?"

        I shrugged. "Don't know. I'm sure however, that there are plenty of jobs out there for me. I just have to take the initiative and go out and find them."

        Despite my words of reassurance, her frown deepened. "I just wish that I understood what happened yesterday."

        "You're job is safe." There wasn't anything that could drag the story from me. I was going to keep some dignity in this situation.

        "So I get to serve whomever replaces you?" The outrage in her voice was rather reassuring.

        "That would probably be true."

        I could almost see the anger rolling off her as she stood there fuming. "That's what they think!" Storming off, I almost choked on her dust.

        Quickly finishing my packing, I left the office without a glance, and went to her desk where she was packing things very quickly. "Wait a minute Marie, this isn't necessary." I did not want her doing something stupid on my account.

        "If you think I'm doing this for you in some kind of statement, get over yourself." Well, at least I knew she was still angry. "It took me years to train you and I am not going to waste my time training the nitwit they get to replace you!"

        "And here I thought I'd trained you." The smile on my face was genuine, and warmth for this woman who had been more than just a secretary or assistant grew.

        "That's what you were supposed to think as I used my manipulative powers to shape you into the boss you are today." She slammed a slim book into her box. "I'm not going through that again!"

        "You're a classy broad, Marie." I leaned over where she was fuming and kissed her on the cheek. "Call me if you get board playing house and want to work. I might just have a place for you wherever I end up. No promises though."

        She nodded silently, her teeth still clenched in anger. Winking at her, I took my final box and left Manchester for the last time.


        A comfortable groove was established quickly between Madeline and myself. By the end of the first week of being home, I was finding myself finally relaxing and enjoying my sudden vacation. There was something wonderful about not feeling the stress of going to work everyday that soothed my blood and my mind. I knew that before long I'd be settled into another job, getting used to a new system, a new company's work procedure, but for the time being I was going to enjoy being home with my love.

        I also took the opportunity to finally get some things done around the house that I'd been putting off, like painting the bathroom. On Friday morning Madeline and I went and picked out a beautiful bright yellow for the walls and a fresh white for the trim. It felt so good to do something as simple as picking out paint as a couple that I thought my chest was going to burst open.

        After debating about which roller to get, we settled on the one that Madeline wanted, while I got the 3 different sized paintbrushes that I wanted. We went home and began to prep the space, putting down the plastic over the floor and toilet and sink. Changing into old clothes, we began our task, Madeline with the roller and me with the paintbrush. As we were starting the last wall the phone rang.

        We both stopped and looked at one another. I sighed, and resigned that I was going to have to be the one to answer the phone. Madeline was covered in paint. I'm not sure how one person could get so much paint on themselves, but somehow she managed to do it.


        "Can Madeline come out and play?" Megan's voice came out childish and innocent over the phone.

        Laughing, I smiled into the phone. "You want her and not me?"

        "Well, we had something specific in mind that we thought she might enjoy."

        "If it's a threesome, I'll tell you right now she's not interested!"

        "Ha! You know baby, if we wanted a threesome, you'd be the first on the call list," her voice dropped to seductive register as she wove her words into a purr.

        "M, quit it!" I hissed into the phone, causing gales of laughter to come back at me through the receiver. As her laughter grew, I started getting a little pissed. "Hey, earth to Megan, come back Megan." She only laughed harder till I heard some rustling and Megan's laughter sounded further away.

        "What did you do to her now?" Tree came on the phone sounding exasperated. "I had to make her put her head between her legs to get her to calm down!"

        "I didn't do anything!" I protested. "She came on to me!"

        "And that's anything new? Come on Fox, you know she's always trying to get your goat." Tree sounded very calm and reasonable and I knew she was right. "Don't let her get to you."

        "I don't, but then she wouldn't stop laughing." I shook my head, but couldn't keep the smile from my face. That woman had been getting my "goat" for more years than I could remember, and I didn't know what I would do without her. "So, what was the reason for calling anyway?"

        "She didn't even tell you that much?" I could almost hear her rolling her eyes. "We're having a Thin Man movie marathon and thought that the two of you would like to come and join us. Movies, fun, popcorn, beer..."

        "Sounds good, lemme ask Madeline." Putting the phone down, I went back to the bathroom and stopped, frozen in the doorway. Madeline must not have heard me approach, because she continued to studiously paint the wall, her roller moving smoothly over the wall in even strokes. Her hair was sprinkled with yellow, and the aqua shirt she had on had several yellow streaks on it. But the most adorable thing was her tongue, which was hanging slightly out between her lips as she painted, and the off-key humming coming from her. The sight of her, painting our bathroom, made my heart squeeze in happiness. "You're so sweet," I finally said, startling her so badly that she managed to paint half her arm.

        "Whoa!" She said, laughing as she looked at her arm. "That'll teach you to sneak up on me!"

        "You're the one who got painted, not me!"

        "That's what you think!" And before I could stop her she rushed across the room and put her arms around me. I felt the painted sleeve brush against my bare skin. "Ah ha!'

        "Yuck!" I screeched, holding my arm out. "That was not nice!'

        Laughing, Madeline held onto me tightly, nibbling gently on my ear lobe. "Hey, who was on the phone?" She finally asked.

        "Oh shit, the phone!" I'd forgotten all about Tree waiting on the phone. "That was Tree and Megan, they wanted to know if we wanted to come over. They wanted to have a movie marathon of some sort."

        "Really? What movies?" She had to ask me that. I was not the movie connoisseur that they all were.

        "Um, the Tin Man movies?" I said, hopefully, extracting what I could from my memory.

        "Tin Man? You mean THIN Man?"

        "Yeah, that's it. You wanna go?"

        She backhanded me in the stomach lightly. "You dork. Sure, sounds like fun!"

        I surveyed the walls critically and then looked at our present state. "I'll tell them we'll be over in a few hours."        

        Madeline followed my gaze and crinkled her nose. "Yea, probably a good idea!"

        Just then Tippy came out from behind the toilet, and suspicious yellow stripe on his back. I looked at the cat, and then looked at Madeline just as she conveniently looked away. Sighing, I couldn't help but think about how interesting life was going to be from now on.


        As I began to wash the paint off in the shower, I felt a pair of very warm hands grab my waist and pull me back against a very sumptuous body. Breasts pressed into my back, nipples hardened against my skin, and I had a sudden memory of a distant dream in which I had experienced the same thing. Only this time I wasn't going to wake up alone in bed, this was real, and Madeline was mine.

        "Don't turn around," she whispered in my ear, the warmth of her mouth causing me to shiver slightly. "I like you just the way you are."

        I nodded in response, the jets of water adding to the stimulus of Madeline's hands on my breasts and I arched into the contact and my knees went weak. A firm grasp kept me from falling down as Madeline slipped her knee between my legs to help steady me against her.

        "I won't let you fall," she whispered again, and I knew that she wouldn't. One arms snaked around my hips, holding me tightly against her in a strong hold, while the other swept from my breasts down to my hips and up again, each time brushing across my taunt nipples. Finally, her hand found the throbbing between my legs and the pressure built until I thought my pounding head was going to explode from the pleasure.

Everything was pulsating around me; my head, the water, my groin, and a place deep in my abdomen that called out Madeline's name with each and every stroke. She knew my body and she knew where I needed her, never faltering despite the water turning cold and the weight of my body growing tenser in her arms.

        When she had coxed the last tremor from my body and I had fallen with a small sigh against her body, my legs and arms rubbery, I started to feel the cold water against my skin. With limp movements, I tried to turn the water off, but Madeline had to scoot us closer and then reach out to turn the water off herself, my own body useless. Together we slid down to the tub, and lay there. Cradled in her arms, I didn't feel the cold air, only the warmth of her body and the sleekness of her soft skin, wet with both water and perspiration.

        As I started to regain some control of myself, I silently thanked whatever god was listening for the big tub. Turning in Madeline's arms, I gave her a seductive look before I buried myself between her legs, determined to lick every drop of moisture from her body. And as she began to produce more liquid for my hungry mouth, I became more and more frantic with my deed until she finally grabbed my head and cried out.

        With my head on her thighs, I was the first to hear the banging from below. "Shit," I said, realizing that David was letting us know that we'd been loud enough for them to hear.

        "Fox," Madeline said breathlessly, taking a moment before continuing. "I seem to have a problem with being quiet around you."

        Shivering in the now very cold tub, I slowly started to rise, offering Madeline a hand to help her up. Grabbing a large fluffy towel, I wrapped it around her shivering body before grabbing my own. "I think maybe we should consider getting our own place," I muttered as I dried myself.

        "Either that or we should stop having sex."

        I looked at her with horror, only to see that she had been kidding. "Don't scare me like that!" She snickered and opened the bathroom door. I followed her to our bedroom, my mind already figuring out a way for us to get our own place where we could make love as loudly as we wanted.



        We stopped on our way to Tree and Megan's to get a bottle of wine. I tried to tell Madeline that we didn't need to bring anything, but she didn't want to show up empty handed. Wine in hand, we walked up to the front door. Before we could knock, Megan flung the door open.

        "What took you so long?" She demanded, hands on hips in a very Megan pose.

        "We had to finish painting and get cleaned up," I explained, moving in the door past her, urging Madeline along with me.

        Closing the door, Megan turned around and resumed her pose. "It took you 4 hours to do that?"

        I tried not to look guilty as I put the wine on the counter and turned to face my best friend. "You obviously took your super bitch pill today," was my casual reply.

        "Shuddup!" She got closer, almost in my face.

        Just as I was about to deliver the next time, Madeline came between us and gave Megan a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks for inviting us, Megan. I just love the Thin Man movies."

        This had the intended reaction, catching Megan off guard. "Um, sure. You know we love you guys," she said, a scarlet color rising to her cheeks. "Sorry Spooks, I'm just a little over wound today."

        "Too much caffeine sweetie darling?" I asked in my best Edina voice, putting my arm around Megan's shoulders. She relaxed instantly into me and put her head on my arm.

        "Actually, we're using you two as an excuse to take a break," Tree answered for her from the other room. As she entered, I could see that her hair was sticking out in all sorts of odd directions as if she'd been pulling at it. "We have these very frustrating clients that are causing us major problems."

        "I thought one of the benefits of working for yourselves was that you didn't have to take those frustrating clients if you didn't want to?"

        "It was," Tree said with a sigh. "These clients never used to be a problem because we dealt with a wonderful director who made things very smooth."

        Now I was even more puzzled. Madeline came over and put her arm around both Megan and me, asking my next question for me. "What happened?"

        "They fired her," Tree replied, looking directly at me.

        "You're having problems with Manchester?" This was surprising because Manchester always prided itself on its professionalism. Despite what happened with me, I knew that the firm itself has very solid principles. Just one really shitty VP.

        "This week we were given your replacement to work with, and let's just say that things have not gone well since."

        "I've been replaced already? Wow, sounds like they promoted someone cause they haven't had time to do interviews or anything!" I racked my brain trying to figure out who they could have put in that position. It would have to have been one of my former staff members, but which one?

        "Does the name Jamie Seltzer ring any bells?" Megan's voice came muffled from my shoulder, but the bitterness was discernable.

        "Oh my God, they really put him there?" The name rang bells all right, warning bells. Jamie Seltzer had been hired last year, against my wishes. He was a homophobic asshole who thought that women should be bowing to him because of his superior sex. Needless to say, having him in my department turned out to be a mistake. But we both kept our distance after a few nasty encounters in which I had to remind him that I was his direct supervisor. I managed to forget most of the time that he was even in my department, letting him submit things to Maria, who seemed to be able to keep him in check. I'm not sure how she did it, but I trusted her to make sure that he did what he was supposed to.

        "Yup, what an asshole." Tree shook her head in consternation. "I can't figure out how a guy like that can get that far."

        "Jerk wad," Megan said, lifting her head. "Come on, I don't want to waste anymore time talking about that asshole." She moved off toward the family room, never looking back, just assuming that we would all follow.

        And, after we all exchanged glances and rolled our eyes at one another, we did.


        It was well after 3 am when we finally got done with all the movies, which I had to admit, were pretty funny. My favorite part was the dog. For some reason the damn dog cracked me up. We gone through a case of beer and the bottle of wine, and were all feeling pretty darn good. Madeline and I were lying spooned on the couch, while Megan and Tree were lying comfortably on the floor with pillows and blankets keeping them comfortable.

        "So, what are you going to do Spooky-wooky?" Megan had definitely had too much to drink. She was laying on top of Tree, sprawled with her arms and legs going in all sorts of directions.

        "About what?" My eyes were closed as I held Madeline tightly against me, my hand resting comfortably between her breasts. I was surrounded by the smells of her, making my intoxicated head swarm slowly.

        "You're job silly."


        "I heard that Moonstruck is hiring," Tree said from under Megan. She had been the only one who hadn't really had much to drink, so I'm sure her head was clearer than anyone else's.

        "Moonstruck?" Madeline said, and I knew from her tone of voice that her sweet little nose was wrinkled up. "What kind of name is that?"

        "There kind of an odd company," I replied, kissing the back of her neck as I did. She shivered in my arms, pushing back against me.

        "Did you know they did the AIDS ride this year?" Tree kept up on all these things. I don't know how she remembered them, but she did.

        "You mean those great ads they had on TV?" Madeline perked up now, sitting up by supporting herself with her hand on her head and her elbow on the couch.

        "Yup. They did them pro-bono. And I heard that they were also going to be doing the stuff for the Pride Parade in Chicago this year."

        "You're kidding?" I was surprised that the company had taken up so much of the gay communities activities.


        "What's the scoop Tree," I finally asked, feeling my own interest perk up.

        "Remember that flaky flower child who started the company a few years back?"

        I nodded, remembering seeing the woman at an event once. She'd shown up in bell-bottom tuxedo pants with a flowing poet's blouse, a ring of flowers in her hair. Megan had pointed her out to me, and I remember being taken aback by her, but in a gentle spirited way. While being very unusual, she also seemed very nice, though flighty.

        "Well, apparently she got together with this woman from California who had just left this major ad firm out there and wanted something smaller. So, in addition to teaming up in bed, they teamed up within the company and now it's really taking off. They've been doing all this pro-bono work in return for some advertising, and apparently business is really doing well for them."

        "Wow, I had no idea." My brain began to function through the alcohol cloud, quickly sobering me. "And you say they're looking for people right now?"

        "They have more work then they do people. You should call them on Monday."

        "I think I will, thanks Tree." I felt something inside of me pull, as though I were going in the right direction and it felt good.

        "Maybe they'll need someone for clerical work. I can do that for awhile till I can figure out what else to do." Even Madeline sounded excited. I rubbed her stomach affectionately.

        Suddenly, Megan popped up from her place on Tree, looking like a jack-in-a-box gone bad, her normally curly hair wild around her face. "Hey! Do you two want to go with us to the cabin in a couple of weeks?"

        We all stared at her, startled by her sudden action. "Whaa..whaat cabin?" Madeline finally managed to stutter out before either Tree or I could say anything.

        "Aww geeze, tell her about the cabin you guys," Megan said before she flopped right back down in the same position she had been in before.

        It took a few moments of stunned silence before the air was filled with soft snores. Tree grinned at us and started to rub Megan's back, producing little mewing noises from the sleeping woman. "We rent a cabin every year further up on the Wisconsin Lake. We're planning on going 3 weeks from now for the weekend before it gets too cold out. You two would be more than welcome to join us."

        "Hmmm..." I said, pulling Madeline closer against me. "That would be nice, don't you think?" I nibbled on the ear that was in front of my mouth.

        "I promise to keep Megan busy so that you two will have some time alone."

        Sighing lustily, Madeline agreed and the three of us began to make arrangements for the weekend at the cabin while Megan continued to snore. Eventually we all fell asleep, but I stayed awake long enough to offer a prayer of thanks to anyone who was listening.



        Monday morning I made the phone call that made me feel like I was finally moving forward. I introduced myself to the woman who answered the phone at Moonstruck, Inc and found myself instantly transferred to their Co-Chairman, Christina Lackely. I wasn't sure if this was the flower child or the girlfriend until they spoke. The clear, business tone was friendly without being overtly so, and brisk without making me feel like she was brushing me off. Obviously the girlfriend.

        I told her my background and that I was looking for a position in graphics, and that I'd heard her company was hiring. She asked me if I could fax over my resume and let her look at it. I agreed, and we hung up with the promise that she would call me back later.

        It had been awhile since I'd had to create a resume, but I had put one together over the weekend with Madeline's help. Actually, it had been a whole weekend project because there was something incredibly sexy about Madeline leaning over me at my desk. We'd ended up stopping to make love often, using the desk as a wonderful surface for many sexual activities. I was still pleasantly sore from those activities when I printed up the final version of my resume Monday morning.

        I faxed it to the number Christina had given me, making sure that my name and phone number were on both the resume and the cover sheet. Waiting was not something I did easily, so I was more than happy when she called me promptly an hour after I'd sent the fax.

        "Sorry it took me so long to get back to you, our secretarial staff is less than capable sometimes." She apologized with a sigh in her tone.

        Taken aback by the apology, I mumbled my answer, unsure of what I had actually said.

        "When can you start?" Christina asked, causing me to pull the phone from my ear and stare at it almost a full minute.

        "Excuse me?" I finally responded, my throat dry. I had misheard her, hadn't I?

        "I want to know when you can start. We have an office all ready for you. Unfortunately we'll have to hire you an assistant, but I'd still like to get you here as soon as we can."

        "Um, I'm sorry, but what position are you hiring me for?" There was some kind of cloud over my mind distorting what she was saying. There was no way she'd hire me on the spot like that.

        "Director of Graphic Art, of course. That was your previous title right?" While she sounded very patient, I'm sure I must have appeared to be slow witted as I processed what she was saying.

        "Yes, yes it was. I'm sorry, I just didn't expect to start out there. I thought maybe I'd just work in your graphics department."

        "Most places, you're right, you would start out lower. But we're desperately understaffed here Fox. We need someone in that position right away. With your background, you will fit the bill."

        And something inside of me clicked. I agreed to start the following Monday, going in the Friday before to fill out paperwork. I didn't even ask her how much the position paid. It would be less than I had been making before, I was sure, but at that moment it didn't matter. It felt right and that was all that mattered.

        Hanging up, I felt tingling sensations all through my body as I realized what I had done, and the decision I had made. I wanted to shout out loud, jump for joy, have wild monkey sex. I wanted to celebrate the feeling I had inside.

        "MADELINE!" I yelled from my seat at the desk in the office.

        She poked her head in the doorway almost instantly. "Fox, you don't have to yell sweetie." She chastised me gently. "What is it?"

        "I got a job!" I jumped out of the chair and threw my arms around her, finding her mouth with mine and kissing her as hard as I could. It took her only a moment to catch her breath before she was responding in kind, her mouth bruising mine as she began to feel my elation and joy.

        We ended up in bed, and by the time we were done, exhausted beyond tired, our mouths weren't the only thing delightfully bruised.


        On Friday morning I dressed in my best pantsuit, an all cream colored affair that was made from rayon and brushed silk. It was one of the most expensive suits I had, but it had been worth every penny when I saw Madeline's eyes light up. "You like?" I asked her that morning, twirling around in front of her.

        "Very much so," she replied, licking her lips slowly as she looked me up and down.

        "Stop looking at me like that, I'll never get out of here!" I hissed playfully, giving her a freezing glare, which only made her laugh.

        She then rose from the bed, completely naked, and sauntered toward me. My eyes traveled over her revealed body, which never failed to make my heart beat faster and my breath to leave me. "I would love to keep you here," she purred as she came close enough to run her hand under my jacket to touch the silk of the shell underneath. My skin broke out in goose bumps as her hand trailed down from my collar bone to my hip "Play nicely with the others," she leaned closer to my ear, her breath slightly wetting the sensitive skin there. "And remember," her hand lightly touched my breast, "ask if they have anything open for me." With a wicked grin she pulled away. "My resume is in your briefcase, although there's not much to it."

        There was an audible snap as I closed my mouth and I swallowed hard. The apex of my legs was pulsating with need, and I knew that I would find myself with visible traces of arousal if I looked in the mirror. Instead, I closed my eyes and counted to ten. Then I counted to 10 again, this time backwards. Finally, I opened my eyes and steadied myself. "Yes dear." I replied weakly, moving as if to kiss her cheek. As I leaned over her, I rubbed myself against her body, being sure that the fabric of my jacket rubbed over her already erect nipple. She groaned as I finally reached her ear with my mouth and whispered "I want you to be ready for me tonight."

        And without waiting for her reaction, I rushed out of the room and grabbed my briefcase in the hall. As I hurried down the stairs, Madeline poked her head out of the room. "I love you!"

        I stopped and looked up at her. "I love you too!" I replied, smiling at her tousled head and naked skin.

        When I got to Moonstruck Inc, I was at once stuck by how many people had been fit into the tiny lobby. It was wall-to-wall people, all of them holding pieces of bright white paper and talking out loud.

        With great difficulty I made my way to where a harried looking woman sat, a phone headset on her head. She seemed to be talking to everyone at once, pointing with her pencil to various places and people. I stood before her desk for a minute before her eyes settled on me. Before I could say anything, she stood up and held out her hand, a large smile on her face. "You must be Fox Owens," she said in a surprisingly upbeat and pleasant voice. I knew very few people who could be immersed in the chaos around us and still maintain a good attitude. "My name is Beth. Christine and Kira are expecting you." Shaking hands, I smiled at her, feeling genuine pleased to meet my first fellow employee. She unplugged her headset from the phone on her desk and came around he side. "This way, please."

        I followed her down a hallway, looking around as I went. From what I saw of the lobby, the office appeared to be casually decorated, in a welcoming scheme. As I followed Beth, I realized that, in fact, the entire space that Moonstruck occupied seemed very homely, very welcoming. Unlike Manchester Inc., which sported its own ads on every wall in black and white print and had bright, blinding overhead lights, Moonstruck had warm splashes of color and randomly scattered lamps that threw the light around gently. The overall impression of the office interior was one of warmth and comfort, which made me even more glad of the decision I'd made in working there.

        Beth stopped suddenly in front of an open door and stuck her head in. "She's here. You ready for her?"

        "Am I ever ready for anything?" Came a cheerful response. "Please bring her in."

        Following Beth's gesture to enter, I stepped into an office that made me stop and blink. The walls of the office were multi-colored and covered in prints that splashed loudly in an echoing response that filled the room. Every surface of the office was covered, not in papers and folders, but in brightly colored odds and ends. I saw at least two Rubik's cubes that had been colored with florescent colors, rather than the normal primary. There were slinkies of various shapes and colors, and other toys that I had fond memories of, but hadn't seen in a long time.

        And behind a lime green desk sat the flower child woman I remember having seen before. Her eyes twinkled in amusement as she watched me take in her office. When my eyes finally stopped on her, she stood up and offered me a hand. "I'm Kira. Welcome to Moonstruck."

        "Hello," I said as I took her hand and shook it gently. Her small stature and delicate skin made her look almost ethereal, and I was afraid that I would crush her with my normally firm grip. But her warm hand was surprising strong, and incredibly soft. I had a brief vision of sunflowers in the sun, as I smelled her gentle perfume. "This is quiet the office you have here." I said awkwardly as we pulled our hands apart slowly.

        Her responding laugh was almost musical in quality. It ran through me like a wondrous spell, casting a warm feeling in my belly and a light sensation in my head. "Thank you." Her lips quirked into a sweet smile. Tossing her long hair back, she came out from behind the desk. "I've heard a lot about you, Fox. I didn't think we'd ever get anyone of your caliber here." She picked up a file from her desk. "Manchester must have been crazy to let you go."

        I wanted to say that craziness definitely had something to do with it, but instead, I said "I'm glad to be here. I hadn't realized how much this company had grown in the past few years."

        Again she laughed and again I was captive to the laugh. "That is all thanks to Christina. I met her when I was hiking in California and immediately knew that she should be here." She wrinkled her nose and for a moment I had a longing in my gut for Madeline. "My business sense isn't exactly fine tuned." Walking toward the door, she gestured for me to go with her. "Christina is really very brilliant with these things and it's because of her that the company has outgrown its staff."

        We walked across the hall to another office that was night and day different from Kira's office. This one was austere, with clean lines and colors that betrayed as much about the woman sitting behind the desk as Kira's office said about her. "Honey, this is Fox." She introduced me and I leaned forward to shake the woman's hand.

        "Christine," she said with a smile, taking my hand, "not honey." Her hand was cool where Kira's hand been warm, but her smiling green eyes conveyed plenty of warmth in my direction.

        "Yes, there's only one person that can call you honey in this office, honey," Kira said, her eyes twinkling. "Anyway, Fox has her own honey." They both looked at me expectantly.

        "Uh, yes I do." I was caught off guard. I hadn't said anything to either one of them about my love life, so I wasn't sure what they knew, or how they knew anything.

        As if sensing the question in my voice, Kira explained. "Megan called and we talked."

        At this, I rolled my eyes and sat down in a chair in front of Christine's desk. "And you still hired me?"

        Kira grinned. "Don't worry, she didn't share too many deep dark secrets. But, she did make it clear that you were very taken."

        The blush that quickly rose to my face made the other two women laugh gently. "I'm gonna kill that woman," I muttered under my breath.

        "Enough teasing, Kira. What an introduction for Fox into our company. She's going to think that we have nothing better to do than gossip." Christine smiled at me, her green eyes gently reassuring me.

        "I think that the amount of people in the lobby alone would assure me that you do more than gossip here," I replied, relaxing into the chair and the conversation.

        "Oh, that's not normal!' Kira waved her hand in the air as if dismissing that idea. "We have auditions today."


        "An upcoming commercial we're shooting for the UW's pediatric medicine department," Christine explained further.

        "Do you normally hold auditions here?" The entire time I'd been at Manchester I had not seen one audition for commercial roles. Normally, we had people who would go out and do that sort of thing, bringing back with them the name and photo of the chosen candidate and then we'd fit them into the layout.

        "I like to bring them here and have them meet the creative team that will be using them," Kira chimed in. "It's not normal practice, but it works well for us. We're looking to hire someone who can help with the interview process, especially finding and recruiting the talent. If you know anyone who'd fit that bill, let me know."

        I looked at her to make sure that the offer was sincere, and saw that it was. "Actually, since I knew you were looking for more people, I did bring a resume for you to look at." I reached into my briefcase and pulled out Madeline's resume. Before handing it to Kira I took off the post it note, which said I love you in big letters.

        Looking it over quickly, Kira nodded to herself. "I'm going to call her right now and see what we can work out. She doesn't have the experience, but she does have the education. I'll see you two later." Leaving the office, it felt as thought some kind of cosmic energy was sucked out with her.

        There was a moment of silence and both Christine and I regrouped. Looking around, I noticed the only personal object in the office was a small picture of Christina with her arms around Kira. They were both smiling at the camera with honest expressions of happiness in their eyes. And I knew that if anyone took a picture of me they'd find a similar expression in my own eyes.

        Christina realized that I was looking at the picture and she starred at me for a moment before saying, "Love is an amazing thing, isn't it?" And I knew that she's seen my eyes and the spark there. "When I first met Kira, I thought she was insane."

Stopping, she laughed lightly, obviously caught in a memory. "But, when I looked into her eyes, I knew that she was everything I needed in my life." There was a wistful quality to her voice and the far away look in her eyes was one of soulful desire. And then she turned her gaze to me and I saw my own feelings reflected back at me. "Kira changed my life, whether I wanted her to or not. I fought love all the way, but I was still rewarded with someone who completed me." Then she leaned toward me, a conspiratorial grin on her face. "And I still think she's insane. Only now it doesn't seem like such a bad thing."

        I gave her a knowing grin. "Love is a strange creature."

        She straightened up, picking up the papers on her desk and straightening them. "You know, I don't normally hire people over the phone, but you have a fantastic reputation, and Kira was crazy with happiness when she found out you were interested in coming here." Then she turned to me, her gaze penetrating. "I'm glad you're here, Fox."

        "Thank you Christine, I'm really happy I made this decision too." I lifted my arm and indicated the office. "I can't think of a better place to work."

        Christine smiled and then gave a dramatic smile. "And speaking of work, unfortunately there's a shit-load of paper work for you to fill out." She began opening drawers and pulling out papers, piling them on the desk.

        She showed me to my office; introducing me to people we met on the way. It was a small space, but it was painted with a warm yellow that wasn't too bright, but not at all dull. I had the standard equipment, but nothing seemed cluttered. At least not yet. It felt strange to be working in such an environment, but I had a feeling that I would soon grow to adore being in my new position.

        As I filled out the paper work, various people popped their head in the door to either introduce themselves or else to make small talk. Everyone seemed as friendly as Beth had been and as eager to get to know me.

        When I was at last done, I returned the papers to Christine and headed out. Getting into my car I looked back at the unassuming drab building that housed Moonstruck and for the second time in the last few months I thought that I'd found a home and it felt good.


        "Are you sure you want me here?" I asked Madeline nervously. We sat in a plush lobby, waiting to be called for our appointment to see her divorce lawyer. I felt a bit odd sitting with her when I was part of the reason she was seeking a divorce in the first place.

        "Yes, I want you here." Her voice was calm, contrasting with my nervous energy.

        "Are you sure that Monte won't be here?" I looked around despite the fact that we were the only ones in the lobby.

        "Yes, this is just a conference between the lawyer and myself. Well, you too," she added with a smile. "Why are you so nervous?"

        I fidgeted with the edge of my shirt, unable to really put my finger on why I was so nervous. "I dunno...I've never been to a divorce lawyer with my girlfriend before." The experience left me feeling odd and disjointed. This shouldn't be something a lesbian had to go through! They wouldn't let us get married, so why the heck was I going to a divorce lawyer? But as I looked at Madeline and saw her sweet face and expressive blue eyes, I knew that I was there for her; and that I would do anything for her.

        Madeline laughed gently. "I assure you, you'll do fine."

        "Hurrumph." I sunk down in my chair.

        "Mrs. Sullivan?" The secretary at the front desk finally looked up at us. "Mr. Craven will see you now." Standing up, she waited for us to follow her.

        We were lead down a very bland hallway to a very bland conference room. "He will be here in just a second," she said with a tight smile, leaving us alone.

        Madeline and I exchanged glances and I had to hold back my laughter, afraid that it would bounce off the walls in a boomerang effect.

        "Madeline," a short, pudgy man came into the room. He wore a suit that while looking to be of very good quality, it fit him poorly. His thinning hair on the top of his head was standing up in some places, and his scalp underneath shined back at us. But his smile was kind. Madeline stood to shake his hand. "Sorry to keep you waiting," he said almost breathlessly.

        "No problem John. I'd like you to meet my friend Fox-"

        "Owens," he finished for her. He dipped his shinny head in my direction. "I'm glad you could come Ms. Owens, as I have something things here to discuss that involve you."

        Giving him a puzzled look, Madeline started to ask him something, but he put his hand up to stop her. "I'll tell you everything Madeline, but we need to start at the beginning. Please, sit back down and we'll get to it."

        They both settled into their chairs. John opened a folder he had brought in with him and peered through it. "First off, I'm afraid that Monte is contesting your divorce. He's going to fight you for everything; the house, bank accounts, savings, bonds, stocks, and all other possessions the two of you have between you."

        With a sour smile, Madeline nodded. "I didn't think he would just sign the divorce papers and move on."

        John continued to look through the papers. "He also is contesting alimony and any right you might have to his retirement funds."

        "Can he do that?" Madeline looked only mildly surprised. "Aren't I owed alimony at this stage?"

        "What you are owed and what he wants to give you are two different things, I'm afraid." He pulled out another paper, which was attached to an envelope. "And his grounds for not giving you alimony is in regards to Ms. Owens here." With a final look, he handed me the paper he'd been looking at. "He plans on suing Ms. Owens for alienation of affection, stating that you, in fact, took his wife from him."

        I should have seen it coming, but I hadn't. This news hit me like a hammer to the side of my head. "But...but...but, how can he do that?" I sputtered, trying to read the paper in front of me, but the words blurred together as my head grew light.

        "He can certainly try," John said grimly. "Now, if you have another lawyer you would rather have represent you, I can make sure that the paperwork is forwarded to him. If not, I'd be more than willing to take your case on as well." He turned to Madeline now. "While the cases might seem conflicting, I don't think that there should be any legal problems with it."

        Looking to me, I nodded at Madeline, and she agreed for us both that he would represent my case as well.

        "What's the next step, John?" She asked, her hand resting on my knee under the table, offering reassurance that was desperately needed.

        "I'm going to go ahead and file the divorce papers. Because he's contesting the divorce, we have two options. One, we can wait and go to court and have everything hashed out there in front of a judge who will make the final decisions regarding property and assets; or two, we can try to bring in a neutral third party to mediate between the two of you and resolve those issues that way." He brought his pudgy hands together and steepled them on the table in front of him. "At this point, I'm not sure if he'd going to be open to the second option. It might be easier to go to court and let the judge decide."

        Madeline nodded her head. "I think that you may be right." She shivered. "I'm not sure if I want to be in any kind of negotiations with him at this point." And she was probably right. Talking to Monte probably wasn't going to work at all.

        Shaking hands in turn with John, we left his office slowly. I felt as though I was in some sort of haze that kept me from feeling anything as I walked. I couldn't even feel the cooler air against my face. This was all too strange for me to comprehend.

        We drove home in silence. It was Friday afternoon. We'd both taken the day off from work in order to keep this appointment. Madeline had started the same day I did at Moonstruck, in the position of Office Coordinator. It was an ambiguous title that didn't even begin to cover what Madeline was actually responsible for. But her salary made up for that. Christine and Kira were very fair in how they paid their employees. Madeline was responsible for organizing and tracking all the company's pro-bono work, as well as working with agents and such in getting talent into the office for commercials and print ads.

        I thought about how much my life had changed in the last few months, cumulating in this bizarre experience. Everything had changed and my head felt like it was swimming in jello. And, for better or worse, I had set into motion things that would never be reversible. I would never have my life back to the way it was. I was changed, my life was changed, and the world around me had stayed the same.

        By the time we got home, I was in a foul mood. And when Madeline asked me what was wrong, I used her to lash out at.

        "I'm getting sued, that's what's wrong. I'm sorry, but I don't take that lightly. I've never been sued before in my life!" I stormed up the stairs to the third floor, not petting any of the animals that tried to greet me along the way, my anger making me hell bent on making my anger known.

        "I had no idea it would come to this," Madeline said as she followed me up the stairs. "I'm sorry, Fox." There was sadness in her voice, but I only heard her intrusiveness - the very intrusiveness that had caused me to change my life. And suddenly my anger had a target.

        "So am I! This never would have happened if I hadn't..." My voice faded as I stopped myself from saying what was on the tip of my tongue, but it was too late. The venom in my voice left no question as to what I meant.

Tears filled Madeline's sweet blue eyes as the color drained from her face. Turning from me, she ran into the bedroom and slammed the door shut. And for a brief moment my heart hurt from seeing the pain on her face, but my anger did not allow that to linger. "Fuck," I said softly, my hands going through my hair in frustration. Growling, I pulled at the ends.

        Someone had once told me that once you say something, you couldn't take it back, no matter how badly you want to. And it was true. I couldn't take back what I'd said to Madeline and I couldn't erase the moment from our memories.

        Going into the study, I sat down in the soft leather chair I had in front of the computer. Leaning back, I allowed the cold leather of the chair to cradle me. My head rested on the cushion of the headrest and I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

What had I done? The pain in my heart told me that I'd royally fucked up. And suddenly the idea of a world without Madeline in it came to me, and I stopped breathing. The edges of my vision clouded and darkened as I saw my world without the warmth that I'd recently found, the passion I'd discovered in Madeline, and the need I'd discovered I had. Tears streamed down my face and I knew that I couldn't go back. I could never go back to a time without Madeline because she had become an integral part of my existence.

        And I sat there, not feeling the leather that had warmed with my body heat, or the cat who had come to rub against my feet. All I could feel was the pounding sound of my heart in my chest, a painful sound that echoed in my ears.

        Folding my arms over the desk, I cradled my head. All I could do was cry.



        I don't know how much time had passed or how long I sat at the desk. I had cried angry, hot tears until nothing more would come from my eyes and my head hurt in pounding waves of pain. My face felt warm and swollen, my mouth dry.

        All emotion seemed to be drained from my body. I felt like a black and white photograph, the color washed away. Had I always been this stupid?

        With strange longing I looked toward the door to the bedroom that Madeline and I shared. She hadn't deserved my anger. I wasn't angry at her. Was I? Where did the resentment come from?

        Taking a deep breath, I lightly bit my lip as I thought. Hadn't I been looking my entire life for Madeline? Hadn't I always told myself that when I found her I would make a life with her? And here I was, doing just that with Madeline, and yet I resented her old life. It wasn't her fault that Monte was being an ass, she had no control over him. But my anger had found a target in her.

        And then it hit me.

        I was scared.

        I sat up straighter in the desk chair, my back aching in protest from having sat there so long. I was scared. Afraid. Why?

        Trying to think through the pain in my head, I closed my eyes to concentrate. I was afraid. I had been looking my whole life for the woman that would complete me, and now that I had her I was afraid; Afraid of putting all my trust and faith and happiness in one person. Afraid of being let down, left alone and broken.

        What a turning point, I realized. In my anger I had found that I needed to take some steps forward in my life, or else run away and end everything. Could I outrun love? Could I outrun the hurt that leaving Madeline would bring?         And just the thought of hurting Madeline anymore made my heart and belly ache. Behind that bedroom door was a woman whom I had hurt gravelly with my own anger and stupidity.

        Would being alone and without love be better than basing my life around someone else? A cold hand seemed to reach out and hold my heart when I thought about being alone again. I didn't want to be alone. I didn't want to be without Madeline and the joy that she'd brought into my life.

        Sighing, I leaned back in the chair again. I had to trust her. I had to trust in us. And I had to have faith.

        Faith. I laughed out loud. Faith was something that people seemed to have lost. Not the faith in God, or some other higher power, but faith in people. Headlines rang with murder and deceit; people who lied and schemed surrounded us. Was it any surprise that people lost the ability to have faith in each other? Was I capable of having faith in someone again? Was I willing to give my heart completely and totally to someone else without holding back even a small part of myself?

        I thought I had given myself completely to Madeline from day one, but I hadn't. I had held back my fears. I had held back my doubt in life and happiness. I had held back the ugly things that I myself didn't want to see. But I couldn't do that and move forward. I had to give Madeline everything or nothing at all.

        I thought of Madeline. My sweet Madeline. I saw her face in my mind, her smile wide and warm, her eyes twinkling at me. And I realized that she had trusted me enough to leave her husband for a life that she was unsure of. She had taken that great leap of faith based only on what we felt, not any evidence of being able to live happily ever after. It was almost a blind trust that she had placed in me - in ME! - that now left me breathless. Tears filled my eyes again. What had I done to deserve such loyalty?

        Sniffing and wiping at my eyes with the back of my hand, I got up from my chair and moved toward the bedroom door.


        As I reached out and touched the door the image of Madeline slamming it earlier flashed through my mind painfully. Ouch, I had deserved that. Making a complete ass of myself was one thing, but hurting Madeline in the process was another.

        Slowly I opened the door. One of the bedside lamps was on, casting a dim circle of light over part of the bed. Madeline lay there, curled up, her hand lying in a fist by her face. I could tell by her breathing that she was asleep. When I saw her my heart felt as though it were going to break from my body in cascade of blood and passion. How could I have been so blinded?

        The unfortunate aspect of living in an older house is the fact that sometimes the floorboards squeak when you walk on them. As I made my way to where Madeline was laying, one of those very boards decided to announce my presence.

        The hand that had been curled at her side came up and swiped at her eyes and she slowly focused on me. Slowly she sat up, facing me but not looking at me."Hey," she said softly, her voice sounded husky from sleep.

        "Hey," I replied, grateful that she was at least still talking to me. It was a start. I wanted to throw myself to the ground and grovel, begging for forgiveness for my natural stupidity, but even at this point I found that very hard to do. Instead, I stood there, looking at her, my mouth opening and shutting without producing any noise. I imagined myself a fish, desperately groping for whatever it is that fish need when they open and close their mouths.

        "I guess I fell asleep." Madeline glanced at me then looked back down at her hands.

        "Madeline," I started, searching desperately for the right words to say to her.

        "Fox, there's something I want to say," she said before I could finish.


        She put her hand up to stop me. "No, really, please let me finish this." Her blue eyes captured mine, and as the first time I saw her, I was drawn in, unable to protest. "Will you...Do you mind sitting here while I talk?" She patted the bed next to her shyly. It seemed to almost pain her to ask.

        I sat down next to her, careful not to touch her until she gave me an indication that it would be okay. She fidgeted with her hands in her lap. Why was she nervous? I was the one who had fucked up; I was the one who had to apologize.

        "After I came in here, I tried to think about what had happened. And I began to realize that I had been terribly unfair to you." She paused, closing her eyes tightly. When she opened them again there were tears on the verge of falling. I fought my desperate desire to kiss those tears away, still not sure if my touch would be welcome.

        "I feel that I rather forced myself on you. I mean, you took me in without any real knowledge of what you were getting yourself into." The tears were coming in earnest now, making their way down her face in constant rivets. "I need you to tell me now, Fox. Is this going to be too much for you?" I started to say something, but she rushed on. "I need to know if I should end this now and let you go on your way. I don't want this to be a case of you constantly being resentful of how much you had to go through to be with me." She sniffed, reaching for a tissue on the nightstand. "So, tell me now Fox." Finally she turned so that she was facing me. A tentative hand reached for mine, and at the contact I felt a sudden warmth infuse me, giving me strength.

        I put my arms around her and pulled her close, kissing her eyes finally, tasting their saltiness on my lips. "No, no. You've got it all wrong." I held her at arms length now so that I could look at her in the eyes. "I'm sorry Madeline. I messed up. I lost my temper and I was stupid for reacting that way." She blinked, unsure. "I want you to stay. I want you to stay forever. I knew from the moment that I saw you that you were what I wanted. And once I actually talked to you I knew that it wouldn't be easy." I pulled her close again, and this time she melted against me, sighing into my neck. Tears were coming from my eyes once again, each tear burning my eyes and then falling down my face in hot streams. "Please don't leave me, Madeline. Please don't leave."

        "I won't," she murmured, burying further into me until it felt as though I were holding myself. And my heart slowly stopped hurting as we fell asleep together.


        The next day was Saturday. I woke up just before noon, my eyes still burning from their excitement the night before. Madeline was still sleeping when I slipped out of the room in search of coffee.

        David was downstairs eating breakfast and reading the newspaper when I got up the next morning. "Hey," I said in greeting as I shuffled by, headed toward the coffee maker. I poured myself a cup of coffee, the aroma instantly awaking something in my brain. "Hmmm..." I hummed as I took my first sip. "Ahhh..." I went and sat at the table with David, rifling through the paper as I drank my coffee. "Where's the classified section, David?"

        He finally looked up at me, his spoon in mid air. "It's on the floor." He indicated the floor on the opposite side of him with a nod of his head.

        "Can I have it please?" David did not wake up well. I gave him a sweet smile and even batted my eyes at him, hoping to put him in a better humor.

        "Why do you want it?" He narrowed his eyes suspiciously at me. This was a question I had really wanted to avoid this morning. Madeline and I had woken up during the night and both of us had expressed the desire to find a home of our own. We both had the need to begin a new life together. And Madeline decided that I would have to be the one to tell David that we were going to move out.

        "Madeline and I are going to try to find our own place," I said gently, figuring that the sooner he knew, the more time he'd have to digest the idea.

        Something in his eyes gleamed in unfamiliar anger. Pursing his lips, he reached down and got the classifieds, handing them to me without a word. Uh oh, this was not a good sign. David was by nature a talker. When something was really wrong, or really upsetting him, it wasn't what he said that gave him away, rather it was what he didn't say.         

        "Listen, we both just need a fresh start. Some place that we both can start new and build a life together." He just looked at me, his eyes glazed over. "David, please understand."

        Giving me a tight smile, he returned to his cereal. "Sure, no problem," he said without any inflection in his voice.

        Growling, I decided to let him have some time. Opening the classifieds, I started to read through those ads listing properties and apartments for rent. I saw a few spaces that look promising, marking them in mind to show Madeline.

As David got up to leave, Madeline appeared at the doorway, looking refreshed and beautiful. My eye caught hers and shared an intimate smile which made my soul burn in pleasure and passion. David caught this and gave a harried sigh. He brushed his lips against Madeline's cheek as he went out.

        Madeline watched him leave then came and sat next to me. "He didn't look happy," she remarked.

        "I told him."


        "I figured that sooner was better than later." I held up the paper. "And I also figured we'd start looking, so I told him."

        She leaned over and kissed me gently, her mouth tasting of mint toothpaste. "I'm sorry he's upset, but I'm glad you told him." Smiling, she took a sip of my coffee, instantly making a face. "What did you put in that?" Her nose wrinkled in consternation.

        "Nothing. What do you usually put in it?"

        "Milk, sugar, cream...anything!" Getting up, she went and poured her own cup, putting in at least 4 tablespoons of sugar and a good amount of milk. Sitting back down, she took a sip and gave a happy sigh. "Much better!" She took another. Setting her coffee cup down, she looked over at the paper in front of me. "Now, what have you found so far?"


        "This is it!" Madeline stamped her foot on the ground and crossed her arms, scowling at me.

        "It's not my fault," I reminded her while quietly agreeing with her. We'd already looked at three houses and four apartments, all of them being complete disappointments.

        "I'm not saying it's your fault, I'm just saying that this is the last one I'm looking at today! You will not drag me anywhere else! If this isn't it, then too bad! I want to go home and put my feet up."

        I couldn't help but laugh. Her pouting mouth was so kissable and her look of frustration just too adorable. "Okay baby, this is the last one. I don't know when we'll be able to come looking again during the day though."

        "What about next weekend?"

        "We're going to that cabin with Tree and Megan," I reminded her. Her face lightened and she actually smiled.

        "Oh yeah, I forgot! God, it'll be nice to get away for awhile." She sidled up closer to me, her breast brushing against my bare arm as she leaned in to whisper into my ear. "We have our own bedroom, right?" Her warm mouth teased my ear, sending goose bumps up and down my body.

        "Actually," I began, feeling my face get red; "I rented a cabin for us. It's next to Tree and Megan's, attached to theirs by a deck." I had planned it as a surprise, but had a hard time keeping quiet. I knew that Madeline wanted the time alone as much as I did. When I told Megan and Tree they'd understood completely.

        "Oh Fox!" Madeline threw her arms around me, heedless of the fact that we were standing outside of someone's home. A someone that we hoped would let us rent the house. "Thank you sweetheart!"

        The sound of someone clearing their throat caused us both to jump in surprise. A woman with short gray hair stood there looking at us amusedly. "I take it that one of you is Fox Owens?" She looked back and forth between us, trying to figure out which one of us was me.

        "I'm Fox Owens," I said, stepping forward and offering my hand. "This is my partner, Madeline."

        "Jamie Stans," she replied as she shook Madeline's hand, giving us both a warm smile. "Well, I'm glad you found time to see the house today. I'm going to be going out of town for the next couple of weeks and won't be able to show the house during that time. I really wanted to have it rented before then."

        "When will it be available to move in?" Madeline asked as she took in the outside of the house.

        "The first of next month."

        I took a moment to really look at the outside of the house myself. It was a bright yellow ranch style house. There were two flowerbeds going up the walk of the house, leading to a clean, white front door. The yard and flowerbeds looked well cared for.

        "Let me show you the inside and try to answer your questions." Jamie began walking up the front walk. Madeline and I shared a glance and then followed.

        While we were walking through the house, I got a sense of rightness. It wasn't a big house, although it did have three bedrooms and two and a half baths, but it was a great size for the two of us. The kitchen was large and airy, and the living room had new rugs that went beautifully with the fresh paint on the walls. Everything was clean and orderly, which impressed me greatly. Some of the other places we'd seen earlier had scared me. How could people live like that? Anyway, this house appeared to be perfect. I looked at Madeline and saw that she had the same sense.

        After we'd gone through the whole house, asking Jamie question after question, we told her that we were interested.

        "I have a few other people who are interested as well. I'll let you know by next weekend." She sounded apologetic, but we understood.

        As we left, Madeline took my hand. "That's the one Fox."

        And I couldn't help but agree.


        "Are we there yet?" Megan asked, bouncing up and down in the front seat. Tree, who was driving, grinned at her with the patience of a saint. I wanted to slug my best friend, with the hopes that I could hit her hard enough so that she'd pass out.

        "About another half hour," Tree said. She should be teaching grammar school. The only other person I've ever seen with that much patience was my kindergarten teacher and I definitely had her written down in my book of saints.

        It was a Friday. We'd left after work, wanting to try to get to where the cabins were before it got too dark. It was only an hour driving, but it felt like it was going to be an hour too long.

        Madeline was lucky. She was blissfully sleeping on my shoulder, not having to listen to Megan's normal car-trip mantra. I had forgotten that I'd promised myself that I would never again spend more than 15 minutes in a car with Megan. And now it was too late. We should have taken two cars.



        "Do you have rope in the trunk?" She looked at the rearview mirror at me, her eyebrows quirking at the question.


        "Can't we tie her to the roof of the car?"

        "Hey!' Megan squeaked a protest, turning around to glare at me. "It's not my fault you aren't having fun."

        "Yes it is," I hissed at her.

        "No it's not!" She yelled back, heedless of Madeline sleeping.

        I glanced down to make sure that she was still sleeping, seeing that indeed she hadn't woken up.

        "Yes, it is! You're the reason I'm not having fun!" I whispered harshly, resisting the urge to slap her silly.

        "No it's not!" She screamed this time, her hair flying with great flurry around her face.

        "Huh?" Madeline sat up, whipping the drool from her face. She gave me a sleepy smile, then looked and saw Megan's hair of fury. "What's going on?"

        "Megan's being a pain in the ass!" I said, crossing my arms over my chest.

        "Nuh uh, you're just being a jerk!" Megan said back, sticking her tongue out at me, which I grabbed at but missed.

        "Don't make me separate you two!" Tree said with a laugh.

        Madeline rubbed at her face. "Are we there yet?"

        The silence was palpable as we all stared at Madeline. Then the laughter erupted.


        "Wow," I said as I opened the door to our cabin by the lake. We were in cabin number five, and Megan and Tree were right next door in cabin number four. There was a deck that ran along the back of both cabins, connecting them over the ravine that ran at the back of the cabins. Stairs in the center led to a path that went directly to the lake and a private dock. There were huge trees all around, reminding us that we were further north.

        "What a view!" Madeline exclaimed as she came through the door. The back wall of the cabin was made up of almost floor to ceiling windows that looked out onto the lake. There was a sliding glass door in the middle that led to the deck. Quickly putting down the stuff she was carrying, she hurried to the door, stepped outside, and leaned against the railing of the deck.

        I followed her a little more sedately, watching with affection as she mooned over the view. It was beautiful. The sun was setting over the lake, giving the water red and purple hues. The forests surrounding the lake were dense, only dotted every now and again by roofs of other cabins and bait stores. Stepping outside, I slid the screen door in place to keep the bugs out and looked to either side of us. Not another being could be seen. The only size of civilization around us was cabin number four.

        Coming up behind Madeline, I put my arms around her. She leaned back against me and together we watched the sun continue to set over the water. When it finally hissed into the lake, Madeline let out a little sigh of pleasure. "That was beautiful."

        "So are you," I said, looking at her from the side, her profile barely visible in the moonlight. She turned her head slightly so that she was looking at me. I leaned in and gently kissed her sweet mouth, lingering for as long as I dared. All thoughts of work, divorces and court cases, house hunting, David's woe, and everything else went from my mind as I focused on her supple body in my arms. I felt so incredibly lucky and happy at that moment that I wanted to squeeze Madeline tightly and never let go. Nothing would ruin this moment for me because in that perfect space of time, nothing else existed.

        "Take me to bed, Fox," Madeline finally said in a husky voice. I could feel the desire coming from her body and I knew that my own desire was just as telling.

        Without saying anything, I let go of her, took her hand in mine, and led her back into the cabin. Locking the sliding door, I then found the single bedroom off the living room, and gently sat Madeline on the queen sized bed.

        Kneeling down, I unlaced her shoes, pulling them off slowly, teasingly looking into her eyes and smiling wickedly. She gave a low moan, but didn't take her eyes off me or try to make me go faster. She seemed to understand that I wanted to savor every minute and that I was not going to be deterred.

        Once her shoes and socks were off, I gently massaged her feet, kissing her slender ankles. Standing, I kicked off my own shoes, and then unbuttoned my jeans, sliding them off. Next came Madeline's shirt. She'd worn a button down shirt, pleasing me to no end. I slowly started to unbutton her shirt, kissing the skin revealed as each button came undone. But the time I got to the third button, which exposed her bra to my hungry eyes, her head was thrown back and her neck was open for my mouth to explore. As my mouth sucked, gently bit, and kissed her neck, I finished unbuttoning her shirt. My hands came up and cupped her breasts through her bra, feeling the excitement that my hands produced.

        Pulling her up, I held her gently as I unbuttoned her jeans and slid them off her, helping her to get out of them. My hands ran up and down her body without my even having to think about it, taking in the shape of her curves and slopes. My moan was loud and filled with an animalistic passion. She responded by attacking my mouth with hers, her tongue cutting a path through me.

        Forgetting my own goal of going slowly, I ripped off my shirt and quickly got out of my bra. Reaching around her back, I unhooked her bra and slid it off with her shirt. We'd barely gotten everything off when I pushed her down onto the bed, putting my own body on top of hers. Our skin met as we lay breast to breast, hip to hip. My mouth tasted every part of her that it could reach, my tongue sneaking out to excite her.

        Madeline's hand grasped my ass, pushing me into her and setting into rhythm my hips, which she matched with undulations of her own. Dipping my head down I explored her breasts with my mouth as I managed to get my hand between us. Her wetness made me hungrier than before and I found it hard to be patient in bringing her to climax, but I took my time, teasing every last wave of pleasure and passion from her before entering her with a hard thrust. Her hips came off the bed to meet my hand time and again, and I felt my own climax come in a wave that shook me to the core.

        Finally we both lay there, gasping for breath, trying to hold onto each other despite our slippery, sweat soaked skin. Somehow I had managed to lie on the bed and pull Madeline on top of me, but I couldn't remember making that move. I couldn't help the smile that was on my face. It was one of those moments when life felt so perfect that I couldn't think of anything to complain or worry about. How many people never felt this kind of happiness? How many people spent their entire lives looking for someone that would complete them? I could only guess, happy that I had found that one person who made me whole.

        "I love you," I murmured, kissing Madeline's face lightly, feeling sleepy and completely content.

        "Me too," was her reply from somewhere against my chest. I rubbed her back lightly until I felt her breathing even out and soft snores come from her. Satisfied that she was sleeping peacefully, I finally let myself drift off.


        A loud knocking on the cabin's sliding glass door woke me from a luxurious sleep. I was curled around Madeline; her naked body nestled into mine. As my mind realized this, my body began to tingle where her skin touched mine, making me forget all about the knocking at the door.

        I was contemplating just how to wake Madeline up when the knocking started again, waking Madeline up. "What's that babe?" She said sleepily, burrowing further into me without even opening her eyes.

        Kissing the top of her head then tucking it back under my chin, I closed me eyes to savor the moment. "I'm willing to bet that's Megan at the door."

        "What time is it?"

        I looked at my watch. "It's 9:30."

        "In the morning??"

        "Uh huh."

        She lifted her head from under my chin and opened one eye to look at me. "I thought this was a vacation?"

        I laughed softly. "Megan's idea of a vacation is visiting every tourist attraction she can."

        "Oh no," she moaned, burying her face in my chest, not seeming to realize that it was completely bare. "Ooo," she exclaimed happily as she began to nuzzle my breasts.

        As pleasant shocks of pleasure began to spike through me, I tried to protest. "Babe, the door..." but my voice died off into a low moan as she continued to torture me. It wasn't until the knocking on the door became full fledged pounding.

        "She's going to knock the freaking cabin down!" Madeline said in exasperation, lifting her head from my breasts. The air swept over the wet marks left by her mouth, making me shiver.

        Getting up to answer the door, Madeline pulled a sheet up around her body. "Wait," I said, stopping her before she left the room. "She's going to want us to go with her and Tree to God knows where today. But, if you'd rather stay here, that's good with me."

        Her full mouth curved into a teasing smile. "Whatever would we do here all alone?"

        I pretended to think about that. "Hmmm...I don't know. I'm sure we'll think of something." I flashed her an evil grin as she left the room.

        I counted to five, imagining Madeline crossing the living room and unlocking the door.

        "You two are still in bed??" I heard Megan's loud, booming voice cry out as though it were a sin. "We've got to get moving!"

        Groaning, I buried my head in pillows, trying to block out the sound of my best friend's grating voice. I heard Madeline answer her, though I couldn't make out her words.

        "What do you mean you're going to stay here!" Megan yelled even louder, if that's possible. Then I heard the thunk thunk of her boots as she found her way to the bedroom. There was barely time to cover my nakedness before she came through the doorway. "What is with you two? Are you rabbits?" She plopped down on the bed, causing the covers to shift and leaving me grasping as much as I could around my chest.

        "God Megan, sometimes you are so rude!" I sputtered at her, trying to hold onto my dignity.

        Megan stopped her rampage and gave me a scathing look. "And sometimes you are so anal."



        At this point Madeline appeared at the doorway, her hands on her hips and her sheet somehow secured around her toga style. If I weren't so mad at Megan, I would have taken more time to let Madeline know how much I appreciated that look on her. "Oh no, you two are NOT going to do this now!" I'm sure the guilty look on my face matched the one on Megan's. "Listen, Megan, we would like to spend the day here, just relaxing. We don't really want to go traipsing all over Sauk County."

        Scrunching up her nose, Megan scrutinized Madeline for a minute before turning to me. "Is that true? You'd rather stay here?"

        "Well, yeah," I shrugged. "We were looking forward to just lounging around here."

        "But what about all the sites? The Circus World Museum? Taliesin? The Dells?" She looked back and forth between us. "Don't you guys want to see those places?"

        I sighed. I knew that there was only one way out of this. "How about a compromise?" I looked first at Megan then Madeline who nodded her head slightly. "What if we promise to go with you to the House on the Rock tomorrow if you let us stay here and relax today?" Carefully I watched both of them think about this idea.

        "I'm game if you are honey," Madeline said, smiling at me.

        Megan screwed up her face. "I guess so. I just don't understand you two. You're so weird." Standing up, she gave us both a salute and then left the cabin, closing the glass door loudly behind her.

        I closed my eyes, trying to stop the swarming in my head. Then, I heard a soft sound, followed by a louder one. I opened one eye and watched as Madeline dissolved into a fit of laughter. She fell gracelessly onto the bed, the laughter causing her body to rock back and forth, and shaking the bed in the process. The sight of her being racked with the giggles was so amusing that I could only sit back and watch. Then, her sheet came loose, revealing more of her body and my amusement turned instantly to lust filled desire.

        As if sensing my heated stare, Madeline's brilliant blue eyes met mine and instantly sobered, her laughter ceasing as she caught the electricity in the air. Rolling onto her hands and knees, her eyes never left mine as she crawled up the bed until she was on top of me. With each inch she had moved toward me her eyes had grown darker with desire, a indication of the approaching storm of sexual need.

        Once her face was over mine, she stopped her forward movement. The sheet that had once covered her body was gone, having fallen off at some point without either of us noticing. All I was aware of was the feeling of her naked skin against mine and the two blue orbs that pulled me in as a willing prisoner.


        Thoughts of Megan or the next day faded quickly and I knew that I was a hopeless victim to her power. And if I'd really wanted to think about it I would have conceded to the fact that I wouldn't have had it any other way.


        The day passed in a slow haze of passion, love and sex. Our lovemaking had become a fluid extension of our love, flowing in undulating waves between us. Each touch was like flowing fire moving through us and igniting us without fail. Over and over we tested this new found feeling, each time returning with the same fervor that we first felt.

        Amazed and sated, we laid together, our bodies entwined in so many different ways that I couldn't tell where we were separate. As far as I was concerned, in mind and body, we were no longer individuals. Something had melded within us, uniting us in a way that we hadn't before felt. When I felt her touch, or saw her looking at me, I knew that she felt the same way. I didn't even have to ask her, it was just as obvious to me as the sunrise each morning.

        And when we fell asleep together in the late afternoon, I felt her arms around me and mine around her and it was the pure simplicity of the moment that created an everlasting peace in me that I knew I would never be able to live without.


        When knocking once again woke me from a dead sleep, the cabin was dark. The sun must have set long ago because there wasn't even a hint of light left in the sky. The pounding was so familiar that I didn't even need to hazard a guess.

        "What does she want now?" Madeline asked sleepily from the crook of my arm.

        "I don't know, but I'll go this time." I sat up and suddenly felt very dizzy. "Whoa," I said, reaching down to steady myself on the bed.

        "What's wrong babe?" Madeline asked, reaching out a hand to rub my back.

        "I just remembered that we haven't eaten all day."

        "Oops," she said just as her stomach let loose a loud growl. The look that she gave me was so sheepishly sweet that I couldn't help but chuckle. "Did we bring any food with us?"

        I looked through the duffle bag I'd packed for a pair of sweat pants. "Nope," I said, pulling out the sweat pants and jumping into them two feet at a time. "JUST WAIT A MINUTE!" I yelled to Megan who was still pounding.

        "Can you warn me next time?" Madeline complained, her hands over her ears. The pounding stopped, but I could hear Megan's distinct voice talking to Tree. I couldn't make out what she was saying, but I had a good idea what she was talking about. Since I had a sex life again I wasn't going to complain if she talked about it.

        "Sorry." I leaned over and kissed her gently on the forehead before pulling on a T-shirt. Yawning, I moved clumsily through the cabin, only bumping into a few pieces of furniture in the dark. Finding the light switch, I flipped it and suddenly the main room of the cabin was illuminated, blinding me momentarily. "Damn," I said, shielding my eyes. Shuffling to the slider, I flipped the light for the outside. "Argh!" I screamed. Megan's face was pressed against the glass. "Don't do that, you little shit," I hissed as I opened the door.

        "Have you two left this cabin yet today?" Megan asked as she came through the door, a wave of chilled air coming with her. I rubbed at my arms as I waited for Tree to come in.

        "Nope." I shut the door behind Tree.

        "Don't let her get to you. She's cranky cause she was kicked out of the Ripley's Believe It or Not place." Tree explained, eyeing her girlfriend warily.

        "How did you get kicked out?" Madeline asked as she walked out of the bedroom, straightening out a University of Michigan sweatshirt. Trying to stifle a yawn, she gave a little wave to everyone in greeting.

        "Hi Madeline," Tree said warmly, her eyes twinkling in amusement. "Our darling Megan here decided that she wanted to climb inside the crashed plane they have as an exhibit."

        As we all looked at Megan expectedly, Madeline came to where I was leaning against the wall and put her arms around me, her body leaning against mine. I pulled her closer and kissed her head. Megan was still silent and I began to get a little uneasy. "M, what did you think you were doing?"

        Shrugging nonchalantly, Megan studied her feet. "I just wanted to see if it was a real plane."


        Putting her arm over Megan's shoulders, Tree grinned. "Megan hates not knowing about anything. So, it was her natural curiosity that got the best of her and got us kicked out."

        "Couldn't you have just asked someone?" Madeline felt so good against me, even in clothes. This relationship stuff might be good after all.

        "I did. But the chick they had working didn't know."

        "She was only a teenager, hon."

        "Yeah, but she should know about the place that she was working. Right?" Megan looked to us for confirmation and we both nodded our heads.

        "So, did you find out?" This story was taking way to long to tell. I hated it when Megan got all clammy with information.

        "No." She had a crestfallen look on her face tinged with a slightly red hue. She was embarrassed! I hadn't seen Megan embarrassed since she got with our high school's head cheerleader, Buffy Morgan, under the bleachers during homecoming game. Needless to say, Buffy's uniform was forever scandalized. Especially because Megan's head was found under her skirt.

        "Why not?" I was getting exasperated at this point.

        The red hue turned scarlet as she continued to look at her shoe. Tree finally took pity on her girlfriend and clued us in. "It seems that when she tried to climb into the plane her foot caught this netting that was hanging over the plane and it fell on top of her. She got so tangled in the netting that she was unable to completely climb inside. There were a few of these fake fish in the netting and one of them ended up right in font of her face, tied there by the netting. The whole exhibit has to be re-done now and she's been banned for life."

        The laughter was uncontainable. It bubbled forth and spilled out of me, grabbing my empty stomach and finding fuel in my hunger. Madeline joined in and Tree wasn't far behind. The only one who wasn't laughing was Megan.

        "Oh M, I'm sorry sweetie. I just have this picture of you in my head all caught up in this net." More laughter. Megan finally cracked a hesitant smile and looked bashful. "Come on, if it were me you would be swearing because you hadn't gotten a picture."

At this Megan's smile turned to a scowl and she glared at Tree who instantly began coughing. I figured it our immediately and so did Madeline. "Oh, we definitely want a copy of that," Madeline said in a sweet voice.

"What's a little blackmail between friends?" Megan stuck her tongue out at me at this point. I was going to respond when my stomach let out a loud rumble, startling everyone.

        Megan's smirk was full of innuendo. "You two couldn't even stop to eat?" An evil laugh followed.

        "Actually, that's why we came over," Tree said quickly, wanting to prevent a bitch brawl between the two of us. I know that she often wondered about our friendship, but she knew that as much as we might pick on each other, we loved each other as well. It was just our way. "We thought that we could all have dinner together somewhere."

        My stomach rumbled again and I heard Madeline's faintly follow suit. "That sounds like a great idea," I said after Madeline nodded her consent. "What kind of place do you have in mind?"

        "Nothing fancy. Just someplace we can eat and talk."

        "Let us change into something a little less informal," Madeline said, grabbing my arm and dragging me back to the bedroom. "Hurry Fox, I'm starving!" She looked panicked, as though she'd only realized that food was an essential part of living. Attacking her own bag, clothes began flying all over the bed before she found a pair of jeans. She quickly shucked her clothes and put on the jeans and a sweater.

        When she saw that I was standing there watching her she gave an exasperated humph. "Why are you just standing there? Hurry!" She threw the jeans I'd worn the day before at me and started tugging at my t-shirt.

I quickly put my arms around her and pulled her tightly against me. Kissing her firmly, I released her and gave her a sly smile. "You are so amazing."

As I changed she sat on the bed, a stunned look in her eyes. "What?" I asked, suddenly concerned with the way she looked.

"I...I..." She didn't seem to be able to say anything.

Kneeling on the floor in front of her, I took her hand in mine. "What is it baby?" I could feel the concern that must have shown in my face.

She brought her hand up and caressed the side of my face gently. "I just love you so much." A tear started to fall from her blue eyes. "Thank you for finding me."

I leaned into her hand, a smile gracing my face as I thought about how happy I was. "I love you too sweetheart." I kissed her palm gently, then nibbled at the area just below her thumb. She giggled and pulled her hand away. "Shall we?" I got up and offered her my hand. She nodded once, her mouth curving in a sweet smile that grabbed at my heart, and took my hand, allowing me to help her off the bed. I didn't let go once she got up, but instead kept her hand in mine as we walked out of the bedroom.


        I hadn't realized how late it was until we got into the car and I saw the time. It was almost 10 pm. "Shit!" I exclaimed. "Do you think there's going to be anything open?" My stomach was now constantly berating me for not feeding it. I felt desperate to shut it up.

        "There's a Perkins about 15 minutes from here," Tree said as she pulled out of the parking lot and onto the main road.

        "Thank God for Perkins," Madeline said, echoing my own thoughts. It was one of the only 24-hour restaurants to be found in Wisconsin other than Denny's.

        We all chatted lightly on the way there, but I was really focused on eating. I thought about all the wonderful things I was going to order, realizing that I would probably order too much food, but I didn't care. It would be worth every penny in order to fill my mouth and in turn feed my stomach.

Over dinner I felt this warm glow. Having my best friends and the love of my life together made me feel so happy that I was giddy. The warm food in my stomach completed the sensation and I wondered if life could get any better than this. I thought about the little house that Madeline and I wanted so desperately, a place of our own. I thought about our new jobs, which seemed designed just for us. I thought about the love Madeline and I shared, a love, which filled me with joy each and every day.

Under the table I kept my hand on Madeline's knee, the need to have physical contact with her too overwhelming to deny. And I counted my blessing. Each one of them made me feel more fulfilled.

"Where are we going tomorrow again?" Madeline asked as we waited for our waitress to bring our checks.

"House on the Rock," Megan answered for her. I could tell that Megan was getting tired from her day playing tourist. Her head was dropping a little and her eyes kept sliding further and further shut.

"What's that exactly?"

Upon hearing Madeline's question, Megan suddenly perked up. "Haven't you been there before?" She was genuinely curious.

"No. I've heard of it, but I'm not exactly sure what it is." This was unusual. Most people in Wisconsin could claim that they'd been to The House on the Rock at least once. Especially those who lived in the southern half of the state like we did. It was an adventure that you had to have at least once in your life.

"Oh wow! We have ourselves a virgin ladies!" Megan exclaimed, clapping her hands together in delight. A couple of teenagers sitting at a nearby table began to snicker, but Megan shot them her look of death and they quieted down. "How long have you lived in Wisconsin Madeline?"

"About 12 years," she said, her face coloring.

"No excuse." Megan clucked, shaking her head. "Since you haven't been there before, let me tell you a little about this attraction." She cleared her throat, clearly getting ready for a speech. Before she could start the waitress came with our checks.

"Why don't you tell them on the way back to the cabins?" Tree suggested tactfully, and I sent her a grateful look.

Megan consented and we quickly paid our bill, left a tip, and exited the restaurant. Before we could even put our seat belts on Megan had began her lecture. It was after midnight. My stomach was filled to capacity and then some. With the movement of the car and comfort of Madeline's arm around my shoulders, I felt myself growing drowsy.

"You see, this guy decided to build a house on top of this huge rock column." Megan began, clearly warming to her subject. I felt myself begin to drift to sleep as she talked. I snuggled deeper into Madeline's embrace, enjoying the smell of her and the gentle heat coming from her body.

Suddenly, I heard a phone ring from somewhere. "Hello?" I heard Megan talking. I opened my eyes and saw her on a cell phone.

"I didn't know you brought a phone," I said to Tree, my voice sleepy.

"Maybe we should have brought one too," Madeline said, kissing my head softly.

"Okay, just a second." Megan said into the phone then she handed it to me. "It's David. For you." She was uncharacteristically serious. I was immediately concerned.

Straightening up, I took the phone. "Hello?"

"Hey babe," David said, his voice sounded stressed and I could hear a commotion in the background. "I have some bad news."

Tree pulled the car over and everyone was watching me. The air was filled with tension, everyone realizing that this wasn't a social call.

"What happened?" Flashes of different emergencies flashed through my mind. Had there been an accident? Was it the animals? Dwayne?

"Dwayne and I were out tonight and when we came home someone had broken into the house."

"Oh my God!"

"We walked into the house and there was a man standing in the kitchen with a gun."

"What!? Is Dwayne okay? Are you okay?"

"We're fine. Dwayne managed to tackle him and I called Jacob. Luckily he was on duty tonight."

I felt immediately relieved. No one was hurt.

"While the police were there we went through the house to see if anything was damaged. He hadn't touched anything until we got to the third floor."

Our floor. It was only things. No one got hurt. Things could be replaced.

"In your bed..." David's voice broke and fear gripped my heart.

"What David?" I could see my fear reflected in Madeline's eyes, but I had no idea what I was afraid of.

"Annie...she was dead."

"What?!" I'm sure I was yelling, but nothing was making any sense to me at this point. "What do you mean she was dead? What was she doing there?"

David tried to calm himself down. "I don't know Fox, I don't know. Monte-"

"Monte? Monte Sullivan?" I exclaimed and I saw Madeline's face go ashen white.

"Yeah, the police took his wallet and asked us if we knew him. I told Jacob about Madeline and you and that this was her husband." He was talking fast now, his voice coming out in little bursts.

"Oh my God, David. Did he...he..." I couldn't get the question out.

"He shot her. Listen Fox, I'm sorry, but I need you to get here."

"Alright, I'll be there as soon as I can." He hung up before I could even say goodbye, but the state I was in I wasn't sure that I would have remembered to say goodbye anyway. I sat there with the phone still at my ear as I tried to quell the sensations that ran through me. It was Madeline's hand on my arm that brought me back with a start.

"What happened?" Her face was so pale that she looked like an ethereal apparition and I felt the instant need to take her hand to remind myself that she was real.

"Monte...killed Annie." It felt like it took an eternity plus one to get those three words out because I knew that saying them would mean that I had not misunderstood and that I had not dreamed David's phone call.

"Oh my God!" Madeline's hand went to her open mouth as she stared at me in shock. I willed her to be able to keep the horrors from her mind with that hand, but I knew that nothing would block this tragedy.

"Why was Annie there?" Megan's voice was so gentle and emotion filled that I almost didn't recognize it.

"I...I...don't know." I ran my fingers through my hair in frustration. "Tree, we need to go back. I'm sorry..."

"We'll swing back and get our things and then head back." She put the car back in gear and signaled to get back onto the road. Her calm demeanor helped me to find some stability in order to do what needed to be done.

We all stayed in the car while Tree went into first our cabin and then their cabin and gathered everything. Her strong arms carried it all in one load and put it in the trunk of the car. She slammed the lid shut and I jumped at the sound, hitting my head against the window.

"Are you okay?" Madeline asked me quietly.

I gave a bitter laugh as I rubbed at my head. "I don't imagine anything will be okay for awhile." Adjusting the way I was sitting, I looked at Madeline. Her blue eyes were blazing with intensity that hit me like a shock wave. I wanted to crawl inside her and hold her safe at the same time. My need for her was so great at that moment that I felt tears in my eyes, stinging and blurring my vision. I felt like life had suddenly gone out of control, like a car on a patch of ice, I could only watch as we approached life's hairpin curve.

"Hey." I heard Madeline's voice calling to me, but I felt like I was flowing through a sea of jello. I wanted desperately to go to her, but I couldn't take my eyes off the impending crash. "Fox, look at me. Look at me!" Someone was touching my face, forcing my face to move so that I was looking back into those wonderful eyes that I had so often dreamed of. And I was no longer looking at the on coming turn that life was taking. Madeline had stopped that. And it was Madeline that forced me to focus. It was because of her.

"Sorry," I said softly, grasping her hand in mine.

"Let's not speculate on what happened. Let's just concentrate on getting there and getting through this." Her face was still pale, but she had a look of resolve in her eyes. I couldn't help but think of the fact that her husband was a murderer. Her husband.

"I'm sorry Madeline, I'm sorry." I pulled her tightly against me. I had to be strong for her. We would be strong for each other. "I love you."

"I love you too," she said softly against my chest. Although I couldn't hear her crying, I could feel the wet tears soaking into my shirt and I knew that we'd have to love each other a lot to face what was ahead of us.


        I made a quick decision not to question Tree about her speed as she broke many laws on the way back. I couldn't manage to make myself say the word 'home' because I knew that where we were going would never be home again.

        As we approached the house I saw that various vehicles surrounded it. Police cars were parked on the lawn, and news vans were scattered about, their giant antennas reaching to the sky. One large, dark van was pulled into the driveway, it's backdoors wide open. I didn't need to read the sign on the side to know it was from the Coroner's office.

        Tree parked as close as she could and we all climbed out of the car together. Tree and Megan seemed to instinctively know that they were needed. They stuck to us like glue as we approached the police line. A youngish man in uniform put his hand up to stop us as we approached.

        "Sorry ma'ams, only authorized personal beyond this point." He was polite but distant.

        "I...we live here," I said to him, gesturing to the house.

        "I'm sorry ma'am, but I can't let you through." Again, polite, but very insistent.

        "Fox!" David's voice called out for me. I craned my neck trying to find him. Finally, I saw him headed toward us, Dwayne by his side. David was in full drag, a blonde wig looking too perfect on his head. His mascara had run down his face, but other than that he appeared fully intact.

        When they reached us, David scooped me into his arms and hugged me hard. "I'm so glad you're here," he whispered into my ear.

        "What happened?" I asked him as he released me to hug Madeline.

        "They took Monte away. Right now I guess they're going over the house looking for evidence and clues." He shrugged and I could see the tension around his eyes. Makeup did not hide everything.

        "Do you know why Annie was there? Or why Monte was there?" Madeline took up my line of questioning as I tried to find my voice again. I couldn't ask these questions, they were too hard. They seemed too impersonal in the presence of death. But as I looked around me and saw the people milling around, watching the house and the police personnel, the cameras, the reporters, and other individuals I realized that nothing in death was personal. It was all about a body, a vessel, which had once been a person, now frozen forever in demise only to be examined, prodded and poked in a clinical manner.

        "I don't know much Madeline." A shudder went through David's lanky frame and Dwayne put his arm around him.

        "Do you live here?" A camera was suddenly turned on us; its bright light illuminating around us, blinding me momentarily as someone stuck a microphone in my face. "Do you know the woman who was killed?"

        My stomach lurched and I thought I was going to be sick, as my world seemed to turn on its axis. "Come on," I felt someone grab my hand and drag me through the police barricade to the other side that was restricted to the media. Things started to slide back into their normal perspective after we'd gotten away from the lights and the people. I looked down and saw that Madeline was gripping my hand tightly and as I looked into her face I saw the same unreal expression on her face that I was sure was on mine. Shock, I told myself. We were in shock.

        Tree and Megan weren't far away, Tree's large body blocking my view of the melee on the other side of the police line. I was grateful again for the two of them being with us. Dwayne and David were talking to a familiar face in a police uniform and I realized that it was Jacob. He caught my eye and gave me a formal dip of his head. It was all business tonight.

        I moved closer, bringing Madeline with me, so that I could hear what they were saying. Jacob broke off when we were in earshot. "Thanks for getting here so quickly, Fox. David and Dwayne have been helpful but I suspect that there are some things that only you can answer." He gave Madeline an appraising look. "And you must me Madeline Sullivan, correct?"

        "Yes," she whispered, her own body shivering in the chilly night air. I was sure that some of it was shock as well. "What happened officer?"

        "It seems that Ms. Annie Cantor broke into your house earlier this evening and fell asleep in your bed." I thought of my bed, the bed that I'd been sharing with Madeline and instantly felt a sense of extreme violation. "Then at a later point, your husband," he pointed at Madeline, "broke into the house. For a reason we aren't aware of yet he went to your bedroom and shot Ms. Cantor. It wasn't long after that David and Dwayne came home and found Mr. Sullivan in the kitchen." He looked down at a note pad he held in his hand. "Ms. Cantor was dead when we arrived from her wounds and Mr. Sullivan was raging like a maniac. We'll know more about his motives after he's been questioned. But I'm afraid that he's already being charged with the murder." He looked at Madeline again. "Would you like information about how to contact him?"

        "No. We were in the process of getting divorced." Madeline said quietly. I squeezed her hand tightly.

        Jacob nodded, almost as if he had already known this but needed to check anyway. He was about to say something when a blast of static came over his shoulder radio. "All units be alert, we're bringing the body out. Double crowd control lines. Out."

        There was a sudden influx of commotion on our side of the police line as men and women in uniform came out of the house and began to create a living wall between the crowd and reporters and the path to the coroner's van. Jacob squeezed my shoulder as he passed me.

        Until that point everything had seemed like a nightmare that I was sure to wake up from and be snug in my bed, curled up next to Madeline. But when I saw the gurney emerge from the house, a long black bag being carried on top of it, I knew that I would not be waking up from this nightmare.

Behind me I heard Megan moan softly, followed by the sound of her retching. Tree quietly tried to comfort her with nonsensical words that I couldn't make out. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn't move. I couldn't take my eyes off the gurney, knowing that beneath that black exterior was the first woman I'd loved. And I had always known that a part of me would always love her. While I didn't want her in my bed anymore, I hadn't wanted anything like this. No one should have to die.

Images of Annie's face in death, her chest not moving, her heart no longer pounding flashed through my head and I damned myself for having such an active imagination. Why couldn't I stop torturing myself? I thought of her body being ice cold, no sign of warmth, of being put in the ground and covered with dirt. Insects would feed off her body, making paths through what was once living tissue. When I saw her half eaten skull in my mind I could no longer stop myself. I turned my head quickly as the vile rose from my stomach and spewed forth. My stomach couldn't seem to stop clenching and trying to get rid of itself. When the retching turned to dry heaves I couldn't stop the tears that ran down my face freely, feeling cold in the chilled air. I began to shake, falling to my knees because I could no longer hold myself up, wanting desperately to curl up and protect myself from the barrage of despair and senseless pain that ran through me.

A strong arm wrapped itself around me, pulling me onto a warm lap. I didn't even think, I just reacted, curling up against that warm body as my body longed for desperately reassurances that life was still there and that death was not something that once it entered your life, it consumed everything in its path. Words that made no sense and held no recognition to my numbed brain filled my ears and I accepted them without understanding them, still clinging to the part of my world that was alive.


        I don't know how long I sat there, being comfortable by an as yet unidentified person. Eventually, I was stood up, surprised that my own legs were able to hold me up. The comforting warmth left my side and in that instant I heard myself mewing in protest, wanting that being back at my side, wanting that warmth and comfort to protect me.

        "I'm here," the voice said, making sense to my slowly recovering brain. It was Madeline. I was surprised, but I didn't understand why. Instead of questioning, I merely leaned into her warm, strong body and let her comfort me. "We're going now, darling. Hold on, we're going." And I was grateful that she understood that I needed to leave this place that I would always associate with death. I couldn't voice my needs, but she knew them anyhow.


        As I slowly became more aware of my surroundings, I realized that I was in the back of Megan and Tree's car again, Madeline at my side slowly caressing my hair. My head was in her lap, and my arms were wrapped around one of her legs. There was an acidic taste in my mouth and I remembered vomiting, but nothing much after that. All I remembered was Madeline; her touch, her voice, the warmth of her being and the soft smell of her skin.


        Madeline was talking softly with Tree and Megan, but I didn't really care to understand what they were saying. I was content where I was and I allowed myself to drift slowly back to reality.

        Finally the car stopped and Madeline looked down at me. "Hey," she said with a smile, seemingly surprised at seeing me looking back at her.

        "Hey," I said back, unable to return her smile.

        She leaned down and kissed my temple, her lips warm and soft against my skin. "It's going to be okay, Fox. I promise."

        I nodded, unable to speak for fear of loosing my senses again. With arms that were stronger than I ever thought possible, she helped me sit up and then get out of the car. As we walked away from the car I realized that we were at Tree and Megan's. Thinking of their little house, so familiar and safe, I thought I would start to cry again.

        Once inside, Madeline took me to the bathroom. She gave me a clean toothbrush and toothpaste. I brushed my teeth slowly, careful to get every inch of my mouth clean. I looked up and into the vanity mirror, shocked at what I saw. I was pale, deathly pale. My eyes were rounded in surprise and my hair stood up everywhere. I had streaks from where my tears had carved paths through my face and I looked to myself like something from a horror movie. Quickly I finished brushing, my resolve to become human again was like an overpowering need.

        "How bout a shower?" Madeline came back, towel in hand.

        I nodded, and then tried to find my voice. "You too?" I managed to croak out, not realizing how dry my throat was, still sore from the retching.

        "I'm not leaving you alone for a second," she said, her voice sounding fierce with her desire to protect me.

        I could only nodded as I began to peel off my clothing. My fingers were having a hard time working, so Madeline had to help me. Her tenderness kept my feelings of vulnerability away as she guided me into the shower's spray. I felt her warm and naked body almost immediately and I relaxed into it as the water brought back some life into me.

        After we washed and gently caressed each other, I felt a desperate need to touch Madeline. A part of me seemed to need to reconnect with the living in a rage of passion that would awaken my senses.

        My mouth took Madeline's hard, my hands instantly moving in a frenzy over her body. I backed her against the shower wall and pressed her there with my own body. She didn't protest my harshness; instead she seemed to embrace her, her own body reacting to my tumultuous desire.

        When I felt her hands clawing at my back, I was pushed over the edge of reason and I found myself taking her in a way that I had never taken anyone in my life. I felt wild, like an animal, as I entered her harshly, pushing into her with a tearing passion that made my blood rush between my own legs, pulsing and raging.

        Erratic and violent moans filled the shower, but I couldn't tell who was making which noises and I didn't care as I pumped into her hard. Her hips met me with each movement and our bodies were fused together in this tempest storm that overcame all reason and understanding.

        I don't know who came first, but we were both screaming our release into the air, as if we were screaming out to God and the fates and everyone, letting them know that we were alive and that we would not go quietly into the darkness that had so close invaded us earlier.

        Finally, we stilled, breathing heavily against each other. The water pulsed against my back and Madeline's chest heaved against my breasts. I felt alive with sensation, and I wanted to scream into the wind that I had won this battle.

        Tenderly I kissed Madeline's bruised mouth, and she in turn caressed my cheek with her long fingers. The nightmare had abated, but was not gone. I guess that was more than I could ask for at the moment. Holding her close, I allowed Madeline's very essence to keep me sane and to help me fight the demons that death had brought to the forefront.


        In the dark every shadow is a monster and every sound is a death call. The night has the ability to take all reason from any situation and create a maelstrom of emotion and fear, culminating in the scream of the dying.

        When the sun finally rose the next day I felt calmer and more in control. I had lost it the night before, lost all reason and sanity as I was faced with death. But the next day's beginning brought me hope and understanding that there were things in this universe that I could not control. Annie's fate was her own, not one that I had inadvertently created. And Monte's desperate act, taking a life, was not because I had taken Madeline from him, but because he had his own demons to fight.

        I was exhausted by the time that sun rose in the sky, but I had to wait to see the new day before I could fall asleep. With a sigh of relief, I curled up behind Madeline, and held her tightly against me as I fell into a dreamless sleep, grateful for those things that I could count on no matter what. The sun would always come back to begin a new day and life would go on. Those were constants that kept everything on even ground. And as I smelled Madeline's skin and felt her breathing deeply in sleep, I knew that I now had something else I could count on, and it was that thought that lulled me finally into the desperately needed sleep.


        I woke with a start in Megan and Tree's guest room. The familiar surroundings calmed my racing heart. Then the sight of Madeline's blue eyes watching me almost made my heart stop altogether, the love in them making it almost painful to breath.

        "How are you feeling?" She asked right away, her hand brushing my hair off my forehead in a loving and tender gesture.

        "Much better." I kissed the palm of her hand, and then held it against my face for a moment before I asked her the same question. I was concerned about her mental state. She had been strong for me the night before, holding us both safe against the storm, but I wanted her to know that I was ready to be strong for her if she needed it.

        With a rueful smile, she sighed. "I don't know, Fox. I really don't know." I understood that. Completely. When I told her as much, she closed her eyes for a moment. "I love you," she whispered as tears came. Moving quickly, I took her in my arms and held her as she cried. They weren't the wounded tears of pain, but tears of frustration. And I understood only too well that it would take time to sort through everything and come to terms with it.

        Eventually the tears stopped coming, but I continued to stroke her back and rock her gently, telling her every few moments that I loved her. Lifting her head from my chest, she looked at me lovingly, then kissed me gently.

        In an unspoken agreement we both got out of bed slowly. Someone had brought our bags from the weekend up to the guest room, so we both had clean clothes to change into. The lethargic pace we were taking was necessary. My brain felt as though it were moving in pea soup, and my body's motions reacted to that. I saw the same thing in Madeline as she put her clothes on, and felt relieved that we were both trying to move forward.

        Hand in hand we went downstairs, finding Megan and Tree in the kitchen with David and Dwayne. They all looked tired and drained, but there was a renewed sense of hope underlying the air around them. They'd been talking when we entered, but it stopped as they turned to us. One by one we all hugged each other tightly, each of us grateful to have begun a new day. These were my family and having them safe was the greatest relief.

        It could have been Madeline and me in that bed last night. Monte could have shot David or Dwayne when they found him in the house. We all had found ourselves on the right side of fate last night, and I was grateful to who ever was looking after us for their intervention.

        I poured a cup of coffee for myself, then one for Madeline and went about preparing them. As I did David filled us in on a conversation he'd had with Jacob earlier that morning.

        "Monte confessed, of course." He began.

        "As if it weren't obvious?" Megan said wearily.

        "Right, but I guess that he could have still denied it and made things harder. Jacob said that when they began questioning him he just told them everything. Didn't even pretend to be innocent."

        "Why was he in the house?" Tree asked quietly. It was the question everyone had.

        "He wanted to kill us," I answered before David could. Turning around to those in the kitchen, I handed Madeline her cup of coffee, receiving a soft smile in return. Everyone else looked at me, waiting for me to continue. I took a sip of my own coffee before I explained. "He was there looking for us," I indicated Madeline and myself. I had worked through this as I was waiting for the sun to come up. "He wanted to kill us." I paused a moment in reflection. "Or at the very least scare us."

        "He told the police that he wanted his wife back, that she was his and that he was going to kill you and take her back home with him." David confirmed what I had thought.

        "I don't know how he got that way," Madeline said so softly that she might have been talking to herself. Then she seemed to remember that we were all in the room with her. She looked up from her coffee and searched out my eyes. "Did I push him that far?"

        Putting my coffee cup down, I knelt in front of her. Taking her coffee cup and setting it aside, it held her hands tightly in mine. "No baby, this isn't your fault. You didn't push him anywhere." I kissed her hands. "You've got to understand that."

        "No one could have pushed another person to kill," Tree said gently and everyone else voiced his or her agreement with that statement.

        Sighing, Madeline finally nodded her head. "I guess not."

        "The thing I don't understand is why Annie was there. And in your bed of all places!" Megan looked at me and I shrugged.

        "That's something we might never know," Dwayne said, and unspoken we understood completely. The dead didn't talk. Annie's motives were her own and none of us would ever get the chance to ask her why.

        We continued to talk, each of us gathering strength from being together. Finally, the phone rang and we all became quiet as we waited to see if it was news about the night before. Tree got of the phone with a strange look on her face.

        "Well?" David asked.

        "That was Joanne," Tree said as she headed out of the room.

        "Where are you going?" Megan shouted after her girlfriend and we were all surprised when we heard the front door open. "What the hell's going on?" We were all mystified at this point. Finally, we heard Tree come back into the house and the door shut behind her. When she came back into the kitchen she was carrying the paper in her hand, still in it's waterproof bag. "Joanne told you that we hadn't picked up the paper yet?"

        "No, she told me to check out the front page."

        We were all still as Tree took off the plastic bag and unrolled the Sunday paper. "Oh my God," she said quietly and we all inched forward, trying to get a glimpse of what she saw.

        "Holy shit," Madeline said, her eyes wide. I could tell that she was unsure whether or laugh or cry, and her reaction was right in line with mine.

        On the front page of the paper was a large headline. 'Local Ad Exec Arrested for Murder in Famous Drag Queen's House.' Beneath the headline was a picture of Monte in handcuffs, surrounded by police with David next to him in full drag. There must have been some warning that the picture was going to be taken because David's arm was around Monte and he was smiling into the camera, his wig slightly skewed.

        "Oh shit, I forgot about that," David muttered, his face coloring. We all turned to him, waiting for an explanation. He coughed nervously. "Well, after I called the police I called Ray over at the paper and told him to come over if he wanted a fun story." He grew serious as he continued. "That was before we found out about Annie. I thought it was just Monte being a jerk and that a little press might make him more wary of messing with us in the future."

        Megan started it. A giggle escaped from her, seeming to catch her off guard. The next giggle was louder, more obnoxious than the first. Soon the sound of everyone joining in filled the air. It felt so good to laugh and while I'm sure some of it was stress related, we rode it out, enjoying the feeling of being alive.


        The next few days were spent talking to police, avoiding reporters, and trying to figure out how to move forward. David decided that he was going to sell the house as soon as possible. I was grateful for that decision because even though Madeline and I were planning on moving out anyway, I didn't want to ever have to return to that house. Friends that I didn't realize I had went and packed up the third floor for me under David and Megan's supervision. I could bear going back there and I knew that Madeline felt the same way.

        I called Jamie first thing Monday morning to find out about the house. I know she'd said that she would get back to us, but we needed a place sooner than that. When I told her the circumstances, she was more than willing to give us the okay to start to move in. I tried to thank her, but she refused my thanks. "I'm just sorry that it had to be under these circumstances. I was already planning on telling you and Madeline that it was yours, but I had to go through the motions."

        A few days after that fateful night, there was a knock at Tree and Megan's door. We were all home, sitting around and talking. I went to the door and there was a scruffy looking woman on the other side.

        "Can I help you?" I asked her, taking in her ratty clothes and her tangled hair.

        "Is Annie here?" She asked hopefully, trying to glance behind me into the house where voices were coming from.

        "Is this some kind of joke?" I asked her harshly.

        The bewildered look in the other woman's face made me regret my tone. "No, no. She said that she might be here if I couldn't find her at the other house. She left on Saturday morning and said she might not be back. Said she might be living at the other house, but when I went there no one answered." She shoved a piece of paper with Megan and Tree's address toward me. "See? She said to try here."

        "Annie was with you Saturday?"

        "Sure," she replied with a dreamy smile. "She was with me almost every day."

        "Where did she go on Saturday?" Maybe I'd finally get some answers.

        "To the house," the woman said impatiently. "I already told you that. She was going to find her love, she said." The woman's face became bitter. "She took half the stuff with her, only leaving me with the other half. I ran out yesterday, so I need to find her." The desperation in her voice caught me off guard.


        "Ran out of what?" I asked suspiciously.

        "The coke. She took it with her. I told her that I would need more, but she said she had to go." The woman looked at me appraisingly. "Do you have any that I could have?"

        "No, I'm sorry. Annie's dead."

        "Dead? Overdose?" The woman didn't seem surprised. I guess that in certain circles death was a familiar consequence.

        "No, she was shot."

        "Shot, huh?" The woman seemed to be mulling this over. "Did she leave behind any coke that I can have?" She looked at me hopefully, a gleam in her eye.

        "No, I'm sorry. You have to go now." I shut the door on her, unable to face anymore of Annie's past. What a tragedy her life had been. I counted my blessings again, grateful that she'd left me before she'd gotten into this. Who knows what I would have become if she'd started using drugs around me. I was younger than, more willing to go with the crowd. I might have become a statistic, and that thought frightened me.

        Madeline came up behind me as I stared at the door. She put her arms around me, kissing the back of my neck before resting her chin on my shoulder. "Everything okay?"

        I sighed inwardly. "Yes, everything's fine."

        "Who was at the door?" She asked gently.

        "A friend of Annie's."

        Madeline turned so that she was looking at me, her face puzzled. "A friend of Annie's?" She repeated.

        "I guess Annie had come to the house hoping to convince me to take her back," I said sadly.

        "I'm sorry sweetheart." She hugged me tightly.

        My thoughts ran deep as I rested against her. "What happens to some people that they get so desperate?" I tried to remember Annie before she left me and couldn't seem to get a clear image of her. All I could remember was the thin, druggie that had stood before me not that long ago.

        "Life can make you desperate," Madeline said slowly. "Sometimes there are people who just can't handle what life gives them. They need something to take away the pain, to keep them from feeling."

        I nodded, and then pulled away from her, looking at her. Intense emotions ripped through me as I saw her so clearly that I thought I would go blind. It was a feeling of total love that welled in me and brought tears to my eyes. Then I crushed her against me, my tears falling against her face as I whispered into her ear. "I'll take whatever pain life brings as long as I can feel you."

        She turned to find my lips with hers and the searing heat that went through my body told me that as long as there was breath in me, I would always feel her. I had waited for her, I had wanted for her, and now that I had her, I wasn't letting go.

The End


Author's Note: I wanted to thank my partner and best friend, S. Anne Gardner, for her continued support and love. Without her I would not have ever gotten this damn thing done. Thanks babe!


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