Part 13

by Kim Pritekel with Alexa Hoffman

For complete disclaimers, see part 1.

For all of you who have had to go through this.

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

I opened my eyes, feeling a weight on my chest. I looked around to see Dagny laying on me, her face buried in my neck, her breathing deep and even. We had slept like this many times, but this morning as I ran my finger through her hair, it took on an entirely new meaning for me.

She felt the same way I did.

I smiled, staring up at the ceiling, pulling her a little closer to me, her body instinctively cuddling closer to the source of warmth. I thought back to last night after we had left Gotfry's.

We had come into the apartment, and I had felt like I was coming home, looking at everything. Nothing had changed since I'd been here last, but yet so much was different.

Dagny stood in the middle of the room, and looked at me, her wet clothes still clinging to her body, her hair pushed away from her face. I could hear the rain still falling outside.

"What do we do now?" I asked, my voice quiet. I held my breath, a terrible feeling inside my stomach just waiting for her to start laughing at me, telling me this was some elaborate hoax.

God, please no.

"I don't know," she said, just as quietly.

As I looked at her I could tell she was the same person I had fallen for, the same person I wanted in my life forever, but she had changed somehow. It seemed as if she had become impossibly more mature, more wise over the past six months. I looked at her to see an old soul standing before me, her eyes deep and filled with knowledge. She walked over to me, and took me in her arms, laying her head on my shoulder. I held her close, my eyes closing as I thought of all the what ifs.

Neither of us said a word as we hugged, just reveling in the feel of things returned.

Finally the embrace ended, and Dagny stepped back, her hands slowly trailing down my arms, then the contact was broken completely. I stared at her, looking into tired eyes. She smiled, I smiled back.

"It's been a long day. Um, are you interested in going to bed?" She looked hopefully, nervous, like she was afraid I'd tell her to go to hell. I nodded, she sighed. "Okay, good. Um, well," she glanced toward the doorway to her bedroom. "You're welcome to go in there with me, if you want. I mean, if you don't want to I completely understand, but I'd like you in there." I smiled, completely charmed by this precious woman.

"No, I'll join you."

"Good. Okay, um, well, shall we?"

I pulled Dagny a little closer to me now, the morning sun streaming in through the blinds on the windows. I stared up at the ceiling, and thought of Natalie. Maybe she had something with this God stuff. I mean, apparently someone up there saw fit for my life to not be miserable.

I chuckled at the thought. Nat would be so proud.

"What are you laughing about? Are the voices talking to you again?" I looked to see green eyes peering at me from beneath tousled bangs. I grinned and nodded.

"You know it. They're telling me that I should be in charge of the world and cause mass destruction and chaos."

"Ah, I see. Sorry, there are others out there who already got the job." She pushed herself up so her head rested on her hand, and stared down at me.

"What?" I started to feel uncomfortable with the intense scrutiny. She shook her head.

"Nothing. Just looking, still not quite sure of what's happening." She smiled shyly. "You know, when I went into Gotfry's last night I had no intention of anything happening, or really even talking."

"So why did you go?" I asked softly, reaching up to play with a strand of hair that was sticking straight up in the air from sleep.

"To indulge in a passion that I hadn't in too long."

"What was that?"

"Listen to you sing." I stared at her, stunned, then suddenly felt really shy.

"Really?" She nodded and smiled.

"Really." She leaned down and gave me the softest of kisses. I looked at her like she was the savior of my life, the love I had no idea existed. I had never felt so corny in my whole life, thinking that all those sappy commercials and movies were just from the imagination of Hollywood. Who knew?

"I bet this time yesterday you didn't think you'd be doing that, did you?" I asked with a grin. She shook her head.

"Um, that would be a no."

"Are you glad?" Dagny nodded, stroking my face with the backs of her fingers.

In my life I had been ruled by different factors: my parents, greed, hunger and my passion for music and writing it. But never in any sort of relationship outside of family and Carrie, was a ruled by just a look or a touch. I found now, as I laid there with Dagny, that I'd do just about anything for her, and I had the distinct feeling that as time went on I would do anything. Why was that? I didn't understand. In all the songs I had written, not one of them was about love, or how love touches your soul and makes you want to sing, yadda, yadda. My songs were always dark and about how life can affect you. Not love. I never got why so many movies and songs were written about this unfathomable emotion for me.

But now as I looked into the face of the most beautiful woman I had ever known, I finally got it. Now I could be a sap along with the rest of the world. Go me.

"Um, Chase?"


"Can I start swimming again?"

"Can I go with you?"

"Please?" I grinned.

"I'll kick your ass in laps today."

* * *

I was beating myself up now for telling my parents that I would be coming home for a couple weeks. That was the last thing I wanted to do now. I found it very ironic, however, that the reason I had agreed to go was the reason I wanted to stay.

Dagny was in my dorm, helping me pack my stuff up while Natalie sat on her bed, a grin on her face. In a rare few minutes without Dag, I had managed to fill Natalie in on the events of last Friday. Well, that is I told her Dag and I had managed to patch things up. Natalie had been a wonderful friend, and had surprised me on several occasions, but I still did not feel comfortable telling her the exact status of things.

She had been beyond thrilled, and I had thought her face would break open with the size of her grin.

I had asked her to keep her mouth shut, and she hadn't said a word, but the way she kept looking from Dagny to me and back again said it all.

When Dag would turn her back I'd glare, which only earned a bigger smile.

"So what are your plans for the summer, Natalie?" Dag asked as she started taking down my posters from the walls.

"Well, for the first time I'll be going on our annual retreat by myself." My roommate smiled proudly. "However, this time it won't be in Montana as it has been since I was twelve. I'll be heading to South Africa." She sat back on her bed, arms crossed over her chest with a brilliant smile.

"That is so interesting," Dagny said, turning to look at Nat, and sat on the edge of her bed to ask her questions about it. I had heard the entire thing several times, and continued to pack as they talked about it. My mind began to wander, and I thought of my own family. Should I tell them about Dagny and me? Was there enough to tell them, yet? What did I tell them, I had fallen in love with my old babysitter?

The thought of my parents knowing anything had not even occurred to me until last night when I had been curled up with Dag. Before there was nothing to tell. But now...

Dagny and I had discussed me staying at her place over the summer, and not even bothering to get a dorm for my class, which would start up in about a month. I had been shocked when she had broached the subject, but had happily agreed.

I could not get enough of Dagny, her touch, her mind, the sound of her voice. We had not been apart for more than an hour in the week since Gotfry's. If this was what life loving a woman could be like, count me in. Never, even in the most infant stages of Mike's and my relationship had I ever felt this way. I had never felt so connected to him. Granted, Dagny and I had been friends first, for nearly two years, and Mike and I had just started to date outright. Even so, it was different.

* * *

I sat on the couch, my legs stretched out in front of me as I dug into my Styrofoam container of beef fried rice from Lucky Kitchen, a Chinese food place on campus. Dag tore into her lemon chicken. My brows knitted as I thought more about the issue of telling my parents. I knew the time was coming. In just the short time since Dag and I had confessed our feelings for each other, things were already speeding along at an incredible rate.


"Yeah, babe?"

I looked at her, a smile spreading across my face. Did she just call me babe? That is so sweet. I had found myself wanting to call her certain pet names, the word just on the tip of my brain, but not able to get it out there-


"Oh, sorry. Anyway, I've been thinking about something."

"What's that?" Dag put her container of chicken aside, and leaned toward me on the couch, her hand on my thigh, her head leaning against her other hand. God, when she looked at me like that I just melted.

"About my parents." I also put my lunch aside. "I wonder if I should tell them."

"Tell them what?"

"Well, you know, about us." I indicated both she and I. I had gone home two days ago, but had managed to come up with an excuse to come here tonight. I only wished I could stay overnight, but I had no idea what lie I could come up with to facilitate that.

"Oh." Dag leaned back, sitting up straighter. "Oh." She looked out at the room, now with my two guitars lining the wall by the fireplace, and some other things that belonged to me littering the room.

"What do you think?" I turned on the couch so I was facing her, reaching out to play with the hem of her tee shirt. She looked at me, then sighed with a nod.

"Well, obviously it's up to you, Chase, but I do think they have a right to know, you know?"

"Yeah. Kind of what I was thinking." I looked at her, and just couldn't keep the smile off my face. She smiled back. Even though I knew what the situation between us was, still, everyday there were thoughts and feelings running through my head that I didn't understand, that I didn't know what to do with. Like a boy just going through puberty and discovering the wonderful world of girls, so was I excited and overwhelmed. Nothing had really happened between us, just a kiss here and there. Neither of us were ready to take it any further, yet.

"I should tell my folks, too." I was pulled from my realm of thought by Dag's voice. She ran a hand through her hair before reaching down to take my hand in her lap. She gently ran the tips of her fingers over my fingernails and the skin of the back of my hand. Like whisper touches. I loved it when she did that. "Chase?"


"When did you know, about me. I mean, when you figured it out how you felt. You know?" I nodded.

"Yeah, I know. Well, let's see here." I stared up at the ceiling, only moments later to find Dagny in my lap, her head resting against my shoulder. I straightened my legs to give her even more room to cuddle up to me. I wrapped my arms around her and laid my chin on the top of her head as I thought. "I'd have to say pretty soon after Christmas."

"Last Christmas? As in six months ago?" Dag looked at me, surprised. I grinned and shook my head.

"Nope. Before that. The first Christmas you went home with me." Her eyes widened as she stared.

"Really? That long ago?" I nodded again. "Wow." She smiled in amazement. "I'm stunned.

"Why so surprised? I was quite taken by you, strutting around my parent's pool in that little bathing suit of yours."

"Hey!" She smacked me on the arm. "I was not strutting." I laughed.

"Well, you caught me in that moment, Dag. God, so beautiful."

"Thank you," she said quietly, then was silent for a moment. It was killing me, wondering when it had been for her. "You know, I think for me it had been coming for a while. I can't really say when. See, at first, I felt so protective of you, still seeing you as that little girl from so long ago." She began to pet my arm as she spoke, nuzzling her body in a little closer. "Then I realized somewhere along the way that you were a young adult, not a kid anymore, and then I got to know you for who you were, who you've become. Certainly not the skittish kid I knew." She chuckled softly. "Suddenly you became a close friend, someone I began to trust, then rely on." She turned her head to look at me. "Thank you, Chase."

"For what?"

"For being who you are, and what I didn't realize I needed." She reached up and kissed me on the lips, holding the kiss for just a moment, then backed away. My eyes opened and I saw her gazing at me, the softest look on her face as she looked into my eyes, at my mouth and the rest of my face. "You know when I signed up for college this definitely wasn't what I was expecting, but I'm glad I got it."

"You are?" I said, my eyes wide. She laughed.

"Yup. I am. Anyway, I guess when it really hit was just before Christmas this last year. I mean, before then I knew something was going on, I mean I was noticing you in ways that I wasn't real comfortable with. Remember all of our swimming sessions?"

"Yes," I drawled.

"Well, um, I have a confession to make," She looked down for a moment, a smile on her lips. "Um, I thought you were hot in your swim suit." Finally she looked back up at me, then burst out laughing when she did. "Close your mouth, you'll catch flies that way." My jaw snapped shut.

"You pervert." I chastised with a smile.

"I know, I know. Bad Dagny, bad Dagny. Hey, I couldn't help it, okay? It's your fault you're so damn hot!"

"Well, you know. I just can't help that fact, and as much as I'd love to take the credit for it, I'm afraid that honor belongs to my parents." We both laughed at that. "Besides, you're the beauty here, not me."

"God, we are sappy, aren't we?"

"Yup. Did you ever think that would happen to you?"


"Good. Me, either." I looked at her for a moment, then something popped into my mind that had been bothering me for a long time. "Dagny, what happened at the cabin in Colorado?" She looked at her hands for a moment and sighed. "Hey, if you don't want to talk about it,"

"No. You have every right to ask, Chase." She looked at me, then reached up to caress the side of my face. "That really hurt you, didn't it?" I looked down, but refused to answer. "When I saw you at the counseling center, I was confused and worried, but didn't dare ask you. I was afraid you'd tell me to go fuck myself, which you would have had every right to do, by the way." She smiled, and I smiled back, though it was weak. "I wondered if it was because of me, then I deemed myself not worthy enough to send you into therapy, so I discarded the entire idea." I finally looked at her.

"I had to understand." My voice was small, I felt small.

"Had to understand what, honey?" She brought her hand to under my chin and lifted my head so she could look into my eyes.

"I had to know why. What was wrong with me."

"So you did go," I nodded. "Oh, Chase." She gathered me into her arms, and I felt wetness against my neck. "I'm so sorry. God, I had never meant to hurt you like that, babe. Please know that." She cried, pulling me almost painfully close to her. "I was being selfish. I needed to figure myself out, and in doing that I forgot about you. I'm so sorry." I wrapped my arms tightly around her, trying to hold the tears inside. I had cried enough, and didn't want to anymore. I didn't need to.

"Don't cry, Dag. It's okay." I cradled her head in my hand as I let her cry, though each tear broke my heart a little. "It's okay."

"No, it's not." She pulled away, her eyes wet, face red. "Chase, I hurt you so bad. I pulled away from you at the cabin because it all hit too close to home. What I said that night at Gotfry's was true, I had wanted that kiss. Who knows," she smiled through her upset. "Maybe that's why I brought you all the way to the wilderness. We could be ourselves." She wiped her eyes with the hem of her shirt. "But I am sorry. The human heart is not made to experiment on, and yours definitely is in this category." She smiled. "God, how did I get so lucky? I don't even quite understand all this, yet."

"I know. Neither do I." I grabbed a napkin off the table from the Chinese place and wiped her tears away. "My parents raised me to believe one way, and to know one thing, fall in love, get married, procreate."

"Me, too." She laughed nervously. "God, what will my own parents say, Chase?"

"I don't know."

"This would be a fine time for them to care what I'm into." She smiled ruefully. "Yeah, right."

"Well you know mine are going to care and have something to say about it." Dagny's face sobered, and she placed her hand on my neck.

"Oh, Chase. Do you want me to be there with you when you talk to them?" I shook my head, took her hand and kissed the palm.

"I think it would go over better if I did it myself."

* * *

I hung up the phone, and leaned back against the pillows that were stacked up against the headboard. I had been at my parent's house for a week, and it had seemed like an eternity. Dagny and I were on the phone with each other as much as possible, and I snuck out at night on occasion. I hated the fact that I felt the need to play these Cloak and Dagger games, sneaking out like a teenager. But I knew my parents would never understand, and I did not yet have the guts to let them in on the game.

Dagny had decided to tell her folks about us tomorrow, and we had been trying to figure out a way to get me away from here, on the phone. I stared at the cordless that was still in my hand, my heart hurting as I did not want to be here, but with her back at school, at Gotfry's, or anywhere else.

I started at the knock on my door.

"Come in." I yelled as I tossed the phone aside. My bedroom door opened and Carla peeked around the corner with a smile.

"Hey, you. Have you been hiding in here all day?" She fully opened the door and stepped inside. I nodded.

"Yup. When did you get here?"

"Like," she glanced at her watch, "three hours ago."

"Oh." I grinned sheepishly. "Sorry." Had I been talking to Dag that long? Oops.

"So what's up?" She sat on the bed next to me. "Mom says you're gone most of the time, and when you are here, you're not. You okay?"

"Yeah. I'm fine. So mom told you all that within your first three hours home, huh? Gee, I should feel honored." I ran a hand through my hair.

"Hey, come on. They're just worried about you, Chase."

"Then why don't they just ask me about it?"

"I don't know. Why do they do half the shit they do?" I grinned.

"Isn't that the truth. How are you? Where's Todd?"

"He's in Oregon visiting his folks. We'll catch up in Vegas in a couple weeks to finish out the summer together."

"Oh, that sounds like fun." I smiled, imagining Dagny and I there, having fun in the sun. I wish we could redo the cabin, spend a romantic weekend there.

Shaking myself out of thoughts like that with Carla staring at me, I looked at her.

"So what else did the all-knowing mom and dad have to say?"

"Stop it, Chase. Don't talk about them that way."

"Is it hard being so virginal all the time?"

"You know what, fuck you, Chase." She stood from the bed. "I really don't have to listen to this." And headed for the door.

"Wait, I'm sorry." She looked at me over her shoulder. I could tell she was hurt. "That was shitty, and I'm sorry. They just piss me off. Why don't they ever snoop in your business like they do mine?" She shrugged.

"I don't know. I guess because I'm in med school." She grinned sheepishly, and I grinned back.

"Guess so. Think I could be your right-hand gal in surgery?"

"See what I can do." She winked and left. I laid back against my pillows, and stared at the phone next to me. I wanted to talk to her, felt the need to hear her voice. Then to my surprise the phone rang, and was picked up on the first ring. I knew it was my father's way of trying to keep me off of it. When my name wasn't called, I figured it was someone else, and got off the bed to be social.

* * *

I stood at the top of the stairs, my hand on the railing as I tried to think of a good excuse that I hadn't used yet. I could tell them that I was going to the library. Yeah, right. I've never read a book voluntarily at home since I was nine. Okay, library out. How about going to meet with Carrie? No, she went with her parents to Italy for the summer. Um, ah, hell. Fuck it.

I took a deep breath and headed down the stairs, the front door in my sights. My folks were in the living room just off to the right of the front door, watching some medical documentary with Carla. I grabbed the knob, just about to turn it.

"Chase? Where are you going?" Damn. Busted. I took a deep breath, getting my courage up again. Goddamn. I was almost twenty-one years old. Why the hell was I so afraid of those people? I knew why.

"Out. I'll be back in a bit." I hurried out the door so they couldn't say or ask anything else, reaching my car and quickly starting her up.

Dagny was waiting for me when I walked into the apartment. She held out an ice-cold can of Dr Pepper for me and a smile.

"Hey, you," she said, her voice low, and I felt it low.

"Hi." I took the soda, but didn't bother to open it as I walked into her arms. I inhaled, taking in her scent. I could tell that I was going through major withdrawal symptoms since we'd been separated so much over the last week or so, and it was weighing on me heavily. Whenever we were together now I felt her more, and saw more than I did the last time we were together. It was like I was learning to not take her for granted, and was trying to take as much from each encounter as I could.

"I missed you," she whispered into my neck, her voice soft yet deep, vibrating through my entire body. Her hand ran up my back then down again, and I closed my eyes, reveling in the touch of her hot skin that nearly burned me through the thin material of my shirt.

"I missed you, too," I said, my voice breaking. I heard her chuckle, and wondered why, but didn't ask.

Long moments later Dag stepped back from me and smiled at me. "I'm glad you were able to get away, Chase."

"Me, too. God I hate this." I ran a hand through my hair. "I'm not a child anymore, and resent the fact that I'm being made to feel like one. It almost feels like they already know and are trying to keep me away from you." I paced back and forth, popping open the can of soda as I did.

"Do you think that's what they'd do if you did?"

"Hell if I know." I looked at her to see she was sitting on the couch now. She patted the spot next to her.

"Come here, babe. Sit next to me." I walked over to her and plopped down, resting my head on her shoulder. "Maybe you should tell them so it's out." She grinned. "No pun intended. It might make you feel better. You think?"

"I really don't know. It worries me. I mean, they've never approved of anything I've ever done, so why would they approve of this?"

"They might surprised you."

I jumped when the phone rang.

"That's probably my folks. My mom said she'd call at this time. She's in England with my father for the summer." Dagny took a deep breath and picked it up. "Hello? Hey, mom, how are you? Oh, dad's on the line, too?" She looked at me, fear in her eyes. "Hey, dad. How are you? I'm doing great, wonderfully, in fact. Yes, school was great, and thankfully over with for another year. No, it's psychology, not sociology. Yeah, well I know it's been a while since we talked."

I put my hand on Dag's leg, rubbed her thigh as she looked down, her shoulders slumping.

"Yeah, well there was a reason I wanted to talk, yes. Well," she looked at me to gather her courage, swallowed, then proceeded to update her parents on her life. "I've met someone. Yes, thank you. I'm happy, yes. Well, you won't believe it, actually. Um," she glanced at me again. "Do you remember the year we lived here in Tucson, and I babysat the girl down the street? Yes, the Marin girl. Well, um, her name is Chase, and well, it's her." I could tell she was holding her breath, so I squeezed a bit on her leg, letting her know I was there. She listened for a short time, nodding and saying "Yes, I know" and "okay." Once in a while, then hung up.

"That's it?" I looked at her, wondering what the hell. She gently set the phone on the coffee table and sat back on the couch staring straight ahead. "Are you okay, Dag?" She nodded. "Are they okay?" Again, she nodded.

"A little too okay." She sighed.

"Well what did they say?"

"That's great, honey, be careful. You do know diseases are spread easily. We'd like to see Chase again, and how were your grades." She finally looked at me, and I could see the pain in her eyes. If only it would go this easy with my parents.

"I'm sorry, Dag." I put my hand on her arm, not sure what she wanted me to do. Did she want or need to be comforted? She fell over against me, her fingers clutching the sleeve of my shirt.

"Can I ask you a question, Chase?"

"Of course."

"Do you think I'm worth more?" I looked at her, not sure what she was asking. When I didn't say anything, she looked at me. "Am I? Do you care?"

"Oh, Dag, of course I do." I caressed her face, pushing strands of hair behind her ear.

"Why don't they care about what happens in my life? I just told them that I was with a woman, that you and I, well, we're..." her brows knit together. "What are we?"

"I don't know. I've wondered that, too." I smiled, so did she.

"Well, whatever we are, they don't care. I don't understand why I'm not good enough."

"Oh, Dag, God, you are worth so much more than that. Than them." I pulled her to me, cradling her head against my chest. "You are everything, you got that? Your parents just have messed up priorities, but they do love you, Dagny. They honestly do, they just trust you a little too much." She chuckled a little at that but said nothing. "Were you nervous to tell them?" She nodded against my neck.

"Imagine that."

"Hey, you didn't know. You're so strong, Dag. I know you're hurt right now, but what does it matter when it comes down to it? You've done your own thing your whole life. Why would you stop now?" Dagny took deep breath and gently pulled away from me, staring up into my eyes.

"Thank you, Chase." She cocked her head to the side. "This may sound stupid or corny, but sometimes I honestly wonder how I've done it all this time without you." I looked down, taken aback by the immense compliment. No one had ever said anything like that to me before. Generally I was a hindrance, not an asset.

"Thank you," I whispered. Dagny moved in and left a soft kiss on my forehead.


I thought all night about what Dagny had done, telling her parents about us. I had been impressed with the ease in which she'd had in doing so, despite her parent's apathetic attitude toward her life. It still took guts, guts which I needed to find.

It made me realize just how serious Dagny took this, and took us. We hadn't told any of our friends about it, well, other then those who saw the whole parking lot exhibition on that rainy night at Gotfry's. We had kept it quiet, feeling that we should wait.

I thought a lot about Dagny, a lot about what I was setting myself up for. Carrie hadn't really discussed her bisexuality with her parents. I wasn't sure how much they knew, but did know they were thrilled with her choice in Paul, and had embraced him much like they would a son. My parents had embraced Dagny much the same way, but that had been before. Would they make her pay the same price I innately felt I would have to pay?

Two long days went by, Dagny not able to call as she was with Levy at a weekend conference for grad students that I could not go with her to. It had been absolute torture, and I had walked around the house like a zombie. My family looked at me like I was from Mars, unable to understand what was wrong with me. They finally had stopped asking as they knew there wouldn't be a straight answer forthcoming. Part of me felt bad as I knew they just wanted to help, but I was not ready to talk about it.

Different possibilities had gone through my mind periodically. How would they react to the news that my old babysitter and I were an item? I had just mentioned my breakup with Mike in passing, but hadn't gone into any real detail. My mom would ask once in a while what had really happened, but I had just told her that his direction in life was starting to bother me, and I didn't want to go that way. She had been thrilled at that answer, and as much truth as there had been in that explanation, it was not the whole truth. I had known even then that he wasn't what I had wanted. The writing had been on the wall, I just hadn't gotten my reading glasses out yet.

My mom had managed to get my father to take a day to go exploring around the Arizona countryside to take some pictures. As usual, we were not invited. Carla and I decided to get a pool party for two started. It was hot, mid-May and already summer temps were showing themselves.

We cleaned the pool, actually having a great heart to heart in the process.

"Are you excited to marry Todd?" I asked, skimming the deep end as Carla worked on the shallow.

"Yes. I'm very excited, albeit very nervous." She smiled at me. "It's terrifying to think of spending the rest of my life with just one person. Now, not that there's a line waiting at my door, but it's just such a strange concept." She stopped for a moment, staring up into the blue sky as she thought about her own words.

"How did you know, Carla?"

"Know what, that Todd was the one?" I nodded. "Well, that's a good question. To be honest I didn't really like him at first. I thought he was a complete drag." She grinned at the memory. "He didn't like to have fun, didn't like to go out or anything. But, I decided to give him a chance, and he is so intelligent. Major turn on for me."

"Did it make up for the boredom?" I grinned evilly. She glared at me.

"Be nice. He can be fun once in a while. I've just learned to tone myself down." She stared skimming again. "So what about you? I know Mike's history, so what else is on the horizon? If I didn't know better, I'd say your moping around here these last couple weeks is you either missing someone or wishing you had a certain someone. So, out with it."

"Nice choice of words." I muttered.


"Nothing. Well, I don't know. There is someone, but I just really don't think mom and dad would approve."


"Well, let's just say this person isn't what they would have scouted out for me." I looked at my sister, so badly wanting to be able to trust in her and talk to her. I was so proud of my relationship with Dagny and was pissed off I had to hide it.

"Hello?" My head turned at the sound of a voice at the back gate. My face immediately lit up when I saw Dag hopping up to try and see over the tall stucco fence.

"Hey!" I dropped my skimmer and ran over to it to unlatch the gate and let her in.

"I had to see you," she whispered.

"I'm so glad you did," I whispered back.

"Dagny? Hey, how's it going?" Carla smiled and walked over to us. "Long time no see."

"Yeah. Glad to be home?" The three of us walked toward the back door of the house.

"Oh, yes. I really miss this hot weather at school. How on earth anyone can live where the weather is even the slightest bit inclement, I'll never understand." She smiled. "I just made some lemonade. You guys game?"

"Please," Dagny begged, wiping sweat off her forehead. My sister hurried into the house, and I turned to Dag. "I have missed you so much, Chase. This weekend nearly killed me."

"God, me, too. How did you get back so soon?" I tugged her by the arm and lead her a little ways away from the house.

"I skipped the last lecture, telling Levy I had to go to work."


"I had to see you."

I pulled her to me in a crushing hug, feeling like I hadn't seen her in months when it hadn't even been a full 48 hours. The hug parted, and I leaned in. Her lips were so soft beneath mine. It always amazed me, turned me on, and made me realize just how she had gotten me in her clutches. Dagny's mouth opened slightly, welcoming me, and I took it. My tongue slid slowly between her lips into the warmth of her mouth, and I heard the tiniest bit of a moan. So tiny I wasn't even sure it had been there.

Realizing where we were, I quickly ended the kiss, trying to get my breathing under control.

"Um, I'm glad you're here." I said, smiling shyly.

"Me, too."

* * *

I sat on my bed, thinking about yesterday and spending time with Dag and my sister. We had had a fantastic time, Carla lending Dagny a suit, and we swam all afternoon, splashing and laughing. My sister and I hadn't had such quality time together since before we'd understood what sibling competition meant.

Dag's appearance at the gate had been a total surprise, and it had made my heart soar almost out of my chest. She really likes me.

The stupid smile wouldn't leave my face no matter how hard I tried. When she had gone to leave I had walked her out to Freud, and we had leaned against the SUV and talked. I was to head back to school for the rest of the summer on Friday in time for my show at Gotfry's, then the summer was mine. Wow.

I jumped when my bedroom door burst open and my father stood in the hall, his blue eyes, so much like my own, electric and on fire.

"Come downstairs now," he said, and walked away. I was stunned, broadsided. What the hell had that been about? I stood from the bed and ran a nervous hand through my hair as I made my way downstairs.

"Don't do this, mom. Please." I heard Carla crying. Uh oh. My stomach began to churn, and the hair on the back of my neck standing on end.

"Shut up, Carla. Your part is finished." My mother had also been crying, and her voice was harsh and thick.

"What's going on?" I asked as I rounded the bend to the living room. Carla and my mother sat on the couch, my father paced behind them.

"I should ask you the same thing," he said.

"I thought I had raised two daughters," my mother nearly growled. I looked at her, stunned and confused. What the hell? "Instead I find out I have raised one daughter and a sick pervert. It's no wonder you want to go into psychology; you can work closely with those like you."

"What the hell are you talking about?" I took a step back, feeling like I had just been socked in the gut. Did they know? I felt tears spring to my eyes at the words my own mother just uttered, but I was not about to give her the satisfaction of knowing how deeply she had just cut me.

"Carla told us," my father said, coming out from behind the couch to stand right in front of me. "You and that Jezebel. And to think we welcomed her into our home with open arms. It's disgusting."

My eyes swept the room of my hell until I spotted Carla, looking down and away, still crying silently.

"Carla? What did you do?" What had she told them? What had she seen? And who the hell was Jezebel?

"I'm sorry, Chase. I was trying to help you."

"How!" I nearly roared, feeling my tempest of emotions surging to the surface.

"Carla saw you and that, that female kissing," my mother said, rising from the couch and coming to stand next to my father. "How could you? You took our trust and you twisted it, twisted our love for you until it is now tarnished. How could you, Chase?" She grimaced. "Even saying your name puts a horrible taste in my mouth, and I will spit the taste out. Like gangrene, your brand of poison must be cut off, eliminated." I stared at my mother, shocked at what I saw in her eyes. "You disappoint me. You make me sick and I wish I had only had one."

I wanted to vomit. How could one person bring you down so low that you felt you were looking up at the carpet fibers? I felt like everything I had been working for over the past two years had just been blown out the window, as if none of it mattered, none of it was good enough for her. For her. My mother had been the main one my entire life to try and hold me back, to try and keep me down.

I felt my anger grow and start to explode into colors behind my eyes.

"We send you to school, we clothe and feed you, give you everything your heart desires," she continued. "We trusted you to go out into the world and do us proud, make good with what you were blessed with." My mother began to tremble with emotion and rage. "Why couldn't you just do what you were supposed to? Why couldn't you just listen and be like," she stopped herself, and I managed to meet her eyes after staring down at my feet.

"Like who? Carla? Your perfect little angel?" I glared over at my sister. "And you," I took a step toward her. "What the fuck were you thinking? Are you a spy for her now?" I pointed to my mother. "Do you really want to be as pathetic as that? You want to know something, Carla? You are like her already. You are a clone, doing exactly what mommy and daddy wanted you to do all your life. How does it feel now? Is it worth it? Just yesterday you told me that you even changed yourself for Todd." I turned to my parents. "What is so special about Carla when there is no Carla?"

"Chase!" my father bellowed. "Don't you dare talk to her that way. This isn't about Carla."

I looked at him. "Go ahead, dad. Stick up for her again. You stand there, your face red, trying look the part for your wife. Carla's right, as always. She's perfect, as always. And of course it's not about her. She does no wrong. That's my job." I took a step toward him. "You're no different. You know, there was a time when we were close, dad. Remember when we'd get up early to make breakfast in bed for mom? Remember those days?" He looked down, then at me.

"It didn't have to be this way, Chase." His voice was low, nearly cracking.

"No, you're right. It doesn't, but you don't have anymore of a spine then Carla does. You have let her warp you." I pointed to my mother. "You're a jellyfish!"

He looked at me, hands balled into white-knuckled fists at his side, the veins in his neck standing on end. "How dare you, you ungrateful child."

"I'm so sorry, Chase. I never meant for this to happen," my sister cried. My head whipped in her direction.

"Then why the fuck did you open your fucking mouth!?" I turned back to my mother, on a roll now. I had a feeling that this was it, my family was breaking apart, me being the piece that would be breaking off, so what did I have to lose. "My whole life you have told me I was not worthy of the Marin name, I was not worthy to be your daughter. Never, ever was I good enough. In your eyes I was the disappointment of your life!" I took a step toward her, and my mother actually took a step back. God, that felt good to know I had control for once. "I wanted to be loved by you guys, I tried to be everything you wanted me to be. I tried to be fucking Carla! I'm not. I am Chase." I pounded my chest. "And you said you gave me everything my heart desired? That's fucking bullshit! All I ever wanted from you people was love and acceptance. But you could not do it!"

"Growing up, despite all of our disappointments in you, I loved you," my mother cried.

"I sure saw that everyday of my life," I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm.

"What did I do so wrong to create something like you? To raise a queer," my mother spat.

"That is the only thing you ever did right, mother. Congratulations," I said with just as much venom. "You wondered why I went into psychology. Well, let me enlighten you. I went into it to maybe be able to figure out what the hell crawled up your ass and died. I wanted to know why you are such an unbearably negative person, and hate yourself so much that you have to let it bleed over into the lives of your kids."

"Give me your keys." I stared at her, disbelief in my eyes. Without a word I headed up the stairs and burst into my room. My body was buzzing with adrenaline, but I stopped for a moment, looking around. This was the first room I'd ever known, where I had slept my first night home. The decoration was now that of a high school girl, but the feel and memory was still there, and it was still strong. I saw the journal on the bed that Dagny had given me, and I grabbed it along with my keys.

My father was sitting next to Carla now, comforting her, but my mother had not moved. I thrust them at her, my chin raised in defiance. She took them, found the house key and took it off, tossing the ring back to me.

"You are no longer welcome here. Let that," she paused, her mouth pursed in disgust, "lesbian bitch of yours take care of you, now." I stared at her, right in the eye. I wanted her to know that no matter what happened to me once I left this house, my childhood home, she would not bring me down. At least, not in her presence.

"Well," I took a deep breath, the enormity of what had just happened sinking in. "You've finally done it. You've finally gotten rid of the scourge of the Marin's. I hope you're finally happy."

I felt the smooth leather of the journal in my hand and brought it up for my mother to see.

"Do you see this? This book is filled with my thoughts and feelings from throughout my entire life. Remember those poems I used to bring home for you to read when I was a kid, the great big shiny stars on the tops from my teachers? The ones you threw away saying they would never get me anywhere," my voice dropped to a level that was scaring even me. "I kept writing, my entire life. I wrote about how you made me feel less then human. I never shared any of them with you. Or you." I looked at my father, who I knew once upon a time would have enjoyed them. "You weren't good enough to hear them. So instead that lesbian bitch listens to them. She hears me out, and accepts me totally. Oh, her and the people at the bar I've sung at every single Friday night for the last two years." My mother's mouth dropped open, shock and impossibly more disgust filling her face. "Stick that in your annual Christmas letter."

I glanced around one last time, then turned and walked out of the house.

My hands were shaking as I tried to unlock my car door, but finally I managed and threw myself inside, sitting behind the wheel with my heart beating in my throat. My god. I had no idea, I. I was at a loss for even thought. It was a relief that it was finally over with, I would no longer have to hide Dagny from them, but then again, it was over altogether. My parents had cut me loose.

I grabbed the plastic bag I kept for trash, off the glove compartment handle, and finally let go. My stomach emptied itself, throwing out all the pain and hurt with it, tears springing to my eyes with the force.

Finally finished, I tied the bag up and laid my head back against the headrest, still feeing sick, but knowing I was through. I glanced around until I saw the large garbage can sitting next to the garage. With a small smile, I hurried over to it, dumped the plastic bag in it. My last contribution to the Marin family. I got in my car, and backed out of the driveway.

Part 14

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