Part 5

by Kim Pritekel with Alexa Hoffman

For complete disclaimers, see part 1.

Thanks Linda for all your help for the Tucson info.

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

Part 5

I loaded my stuff back into my dorm, glad to be back. It would be so nice to have a few weeks to do nothing. I smiled as I flopped down on my bed, not as soft or comfortable as that at home, but mine all the same.

It was getting late, but I wasn't tired in the least. I hated to admit it, and certainly probably would never admit it to Dagny, but our swim that morning had been completely invigorating. Who knew?

With a sigh, I stood, intending to put away all my clothes and gifts that I brought with me from the holidays. I had been beyond shocked and excited when I had unwrapped an electric guitar, complete with amp and strap, Christmas morning. I really didn't think my folks listened to my requests for more musical equipment. I pulled the beauty out of the case it came with, its glossy black body perfect and smooth as I ran my fingers over it.

"Perfect." I remembered Dagny's face as I had looked at it sitting by the tree. The look in her eyes had been priceless as she knew my secret at Gotfry's, and I'm sure she was thinking all the things I was, imagining me up there on stage rocking along with my music. Yeah, this would be good.

Carla and I had pretty much always gotten whatever we wanted our entire lives, and I think our parents only bought certain things for us because they thought that soon enough we'd lose interest in it, and it wouldn't be an issue. I had to smile as I looked at my new guitar. They had no idea what they were supporting, and would freak if they knew. It made me sad that I couldn't tell them, share with them my passion, and what some said was my gift. I wasn't one to boast or brag, but I felt good and confident about what I did up there on that stage. I was proud.

I wondered who we'd get as a drummer. Doug had called me up just before the break to tell me Mike had left Tucson, going back home to Phoenix. I felt bad, wondering how much of that decision I was responsible for. I knew he had gotten himself into academic trouble, but had I pushed him over the edge of trying?

I sighed as my thoughts went to Carrie. I hadn't seen nor heard from her all break. Her family only lived a few blocks away from mine, and the thought had crossed my mind more than once to call her, or go over there, but I couldn't make myself do it. I loved Carrie and always would, but I felt the need to start over, like I'd outgrown my old life and my old self. I was molting.

Suddenly I was hit with an inspiration. I grabbed my notebook and began to scribble away. I looked at what I had written, tasting the words on my tongue, then grabbed Melo. I placed my fingers on the notes, and began to strum softly.

You touch my hand, you touch my soul
You touch my heart, I am all yours
You make me strong, tell me I can win
I'm comfortable in my skin.

I sang the lyrics again, then again, finding the right rhythm and tune. Putting my guitar down and staring down at the page, I realized I had just written the chorus to my song. I just needed a few more stanzas to this, but didn't want to rush it. It would come in its own time.

* * *

It was my first full day without class and parents. No roommate, no parties. Just me and the book I stole from my folks' house. I was curious, and wanted to know. I looked at the cover of Ayn Rand's novel, wondering what lay within, and what had captivated Dagny's mom so much.

I made a comfy spot for myself on the bed, back against the wall, a can of Dr Pepper between my legs. I flipped through the first pages until I got to page one of the story. I felt the weight of the hefty book, wondering how I'd ever finish this thing. It was nine in the morning, and I had no plans for the day, so, with a hand to brush my hair out of my face, I began to read.

I jumped when something banged. My head jerked up, looking around the room, which had grown dark. I looked down at the book in my hands, a thick slab of paper on the left, a sliver on the right. I blinked rapidly, my eyes burning from the hours of reading. Then the banging again. Someone was knocking on my door.

I stood, stretching my arms above my head, my back screaming at me. I felt a surge of power flowing through me, tempted to growl at the ceiling. Why couldn't there be real people and leaders out there like Dagny Taggart? This book was filled with empowering thoughts, ideas. No woman would be stomped by man or society. I grinned.

"Who is it?" I called out in the middle of my stretch.

"Dagny." I quickly put my arms down, looking frantically for some place to hide the book. Shoving it under my pillow, I hurried to the door.

"Hi." I said, feeling foolish, like I'd been caught doing something. She smiled.

"Hey. You okay?" she leaned in a little, looking around the room, then at me. "You alone in here?" I smiled, nodded.

"Yup. All by my lonesome."

"Can I come in?" I stepped back, leaving her space to walk by me. She looked around, seeing my newest baby leaning against the wall with Melo. "I bet you're thrilled about this, huh?" She grinned knowingly at me.

"Oh, yeah. You can definitely say that again. My eyes nearly bugged out of my head when I saw her." I looked at the guitar with pride.

"I know. I was there." She walked over to my bed and sat, to my consternation, near the pillow. She put her hand down, looked down to see what she'd hit with the side.

"Ow. What, you have rocks under here?" She lifted the pillow, then looked up at me with a grin. "Did you steal this from you parents?" I held my hands behind my back, completely uncomfortable, didn't say anything. "Are you reading this, Chase?" She picked up the book, flipped through the pages, looking at me all the while.

"Well, I saw it, and you picked it up, I was curious why your mom would read such a huge book, and wanted to know about your namesake, took lots of paper for that sucker, and well, yeah." I looked down shyly, feeling like a little kid. I couldn't look her in the eye as I knew she was looking at me expectantly.

"Is this because of what I told you?" she stood, book in hand. I nodded. She didn't approach me, apparently able to see my level of embarrassment and discomfort. "Have you been reading this all day?" I finally looked up to see she was sitting on the bed again.

"Yeah." She looked up at me.

"Chase, this book has," opened the book to the last page. "One thousand, one hundred and forty-seven pages in it. My lord. You only have around a hundred to go." She looked up at me with concern. "Have you eaten today?" I thought for a moment, had I? I noted the three empty Dr Pepper cans at the end of the bed, and realized I had gotten up from the bed once, to go pee and grab two more sodas for my all day read-a-thon. I shook my head. "Chase Marin!" Dagny put her hands on her hips. "I tell you, some people's kids." She stood, grabbed my hand, and yanked me toward the door.

We headed to Magpie's Gourmet Pizza on 4th. It wasn't as busy as usual, most of the college kids who hung out there on Tuesday nights gone for the holidays. We found a little table near the back and sat down. We looked over the menu when Dagny looked at me over the edge of it.

"So, what do you think of it?" I looked at her, not sure what she was talking about. "You know, Dagny Taggart, and the book."

"Oh. Well, I think it's great. I mean, who would have thought that the removal of certain people in the world could have such a detrimental impact on things. It's a fascinating idea, really."

"Yes, it is. Ayn Rand was a bit before her time." Dagny put the menu down, deciding on her dinner.

"Has she written more?" I also put my menu down.

"Oh, yeah. I have them all, um, if you want to borrow them." She grinned. I smiled back.


Two empty plates sat at the end of the table ready to be picked up, driblets of sauce falling from one to the table below. Magpie's had the best calzones anywhere. My meatball calzone was sitting happily in my stomach, and all I could do was sit back and smile.

"Good stuff, huh?" Dagny sipped her Coke, I nodded.

"Oh, yeah. I love this place. I used to order one of those bad boys when I'd study."

"Me, too. Still do, actually."

I sighed, sated and content.

"Good thing I'll be swimming this off in the morning. That's one of the interesting, yet great things about swimming. It increases your appetite so you do eat more, but you swim it off, anyway." Dagny said as she stretched, her arms high above her head, neck arched as she made little squeaking noises. My eyes were drawn to her body, breasts thrust out, back arched. God, what's wrong with me? As the stretch came to an end, my eyes quickly found themselves finding something else to look at, say my napkin.

"When do you go? And where?" I piled my napkin and used fork onto the stack of plates, and sat back.

"I usually go around six at the YWCA."

"Hm." I nodded, a plan already brewing in my head. "So what did you think of the nutty world of the Marin's?" I sipped from my Dr Pepper.

"Actually I thought they were nice." She shrugged. "I hope you don't get angry at me for saying this, but I don't think they treat you and Carla very equally." I looked at her, surprised at her perception. I didn't know how to react or respond to that. I was ashamed of this fact, but at the same time there is always that loyalty to your family that you just can't shake. I wasn't angry with her for pointing something out that was simply an observation, so I just shrugged.

"Everybody has their problems."

We walked back to my dorm, the pizza place no that far from campus. It was late, but I was desperate to finish the Rand book. I had gotten so far into it, it had been torture to leave it, but considering the source of the absence, it was sweet torture.

"Well, that was certainly fun. Good dinner, too." I smiled, not sure what to say. I didn't want to seem rude by just kicking her butt out the door, or make her sit on Natalie's bed not making a noise until I finished the novel. She looked at me, the slightest bit of a knowing grin on her face.

"It's late, and you do need your sleep." She glanced at the book on the bed, and winked. I looked down, yet again shy. "I'll see you later, Chase. Have a great night." She patted my shoulder.

"Thanks. You, too. Oh, and thanks again for dinner. You really didn't have to do that."

"I know, but you didn't have to invite me to your family's home for Christmas, either. Sleep well." With that, she was gone. I stared at the door for a moment, missing her presence already. With a sigh, I headed toward my favorite spot on my bed, and started to read.

* * *

I rubbed my eyes again, the feeling of sand being in them just not dissipating. I grabbed the towel out of my closet and hung it over my shoulder, my bag in hand. It was still dark outside, and I hoped this was the right thing to do.

The parking lot was near empty, only a few early birds having managed to get out of bed so far. The lady at the desk was very helpful as she pointed me in the direction that my nose probably could have lead me on its own. I knew the Y well, coming here for Natalie every week, but I had yet to make use of their swimming facilities.

I glanced at my watch, seeing it was five till. I hoped I could catch her in the locker room, and that she wouldn't be mad. The room was steamy and smelled like chlorine. It looked like any other locker room I'd ever seen in my life, shower stalls off to the left, tall metal lockers painted red lined three of the four wall with rows of them in between. I walked in, looking around when I heard a shower go on. I couldn't see who it was, so I started to look for Dagny's things. Bingo. In the last row of lockers sat her tennis shoes and backpack. The same towel she'd had at my parent's house. I knew I had the right girl.

I set my bag down, unzipping it to bring out the bathing suit I'd brought with me from home, and flip flops. I quickly changed, running pants flying in one direction, tee the other. I wanted to hurry before Dagny returned to her stuff, also so I could be ready to join her. I pulled the last strap of the suit up when I heard footfalls not ten feet from this row of lockers, then someone sucking in their breath.

"Chase." I turned to see Dagny looking at me, dripping wet from her rinse off. I smiled with a small wave. She walked past me to her own stuff. "What are you doing here?" I could see the hope in her eyes, and was pleased to be able to give her good news.

"Well, I mean, since it's taken ten years for you to teach me how to swim, I figure I should put that knowledge to good use, you know." She smiled, her face lighting up.

"I'm so excited!" To my surprise she lunged herself at me, wrapping me in a wet hug. She grinned. "Sorry. But this is wonderful." Yay, she's not mad.

Dagny swam laps around me, but I did my best, and worked at my own pace. She was terrific, patient, giving me pointers now and then. She was amazing to watch, in an Olympic size pool where she had room to really stretch out her legs, and arms, and torso, and everything else it seemed. I pulled myself up to sit at the edge, and watched. I had never in my life seen something so beautiful; she was graceful, plowing into that water with a powerfully built body, but seeming to be as gentle as if she were slicing through Jell-O. Back and forth, back and forth. I felt tired just from watching the insane number of laps she did.

"You okay?" she asked, finally coming up for air, swimming over to me. I smiled and nodded.

"Yup, just fine. I wanted to watch. You're really good at this." She grinned, pulling herself up to sit next to me.

"Well, you do this for nearly twenty years and we'll see how good you get." She nudged me with her shoulder.

"Wow. You started young." She nodded.

"My mom got me into lessons starting around three, and let's just say I took off like a fish." She grinned, so did I. "I'm really glad you came, Chase. I wanted to ask, but didn't really want to push you or make you feel obligated." I shrugged, staring out into the water that rippled slightly.

"Eh, it was a last minute decision. I didn't think you'd mind, but I wasn't sure-"

"Wasn't sure? Are you kidding? I was so happy to see you in the locker room that I nearly kissed you!" she exclaimed, wide-eyed. Really? Oh, I wish, I wish.

"Well," I shrugged it off.

"So dare I ask if this will be a more than one time thing?"

"Well, um, actually I was kind of thinking I could join you every morning. That is, if-"

"I don't mind. Nope. Don't mind at all, and in fact I'm thrilled. Please do." I smiled. It felt so good to be welcomed and accepted. Even appreciated.

"Thanks. I will."

"Well," Dagny slapped her knees. "I'm going to do one more lap, then if you want, we can get out of here. That is, do you want to do something today?" I looked into the most beautiful green eyes. Can I just stare into those forever, Dagny?

"Yeah, sure." She smiled, slapped my leg.

"Great. Be right back then we can talk about what to do." She hopped back into the pool, and was gone.

* * *
The week wore on, and Dagny and I spent every single day together. I was slowly beginning to see what Dagny Robertson was all about as a person. Until now, all I had seen was Dagny the babysitter and Dagny the teacher. She was neither of those things to me now, so she had the freedom to let her true personality shine through. I felt my attraction to her growing daily, and now had accepted the idea that it was an attraction. I didn't fully understand it, but I didn't let it scare me anymore, either.

Doug had called the band together to try out a new drummer. I was excited to get performing again, besides, I wanted to try out my newest baby. I had yet to come up with a name for it, Dagny promising she'd think of some great names. Well, I got her promise right after she looked at me as though I'd lost my mind.

"Don't you name things?" I asked.

"Sure, like my dog, even the pet fish I had when I was nine. But a guitar?"

"You don't name your car?" I was thoroughly shocked and appalled. She was equally so.

"Why would I?"

"Oh." I thought everyone did.

This would be the first time CID got together without one of its founding members. I was sure the mood would be quiet, and very sad. Even I would miss Mike's presence. I was glad he had decided to leave, but it was a shame to lose such a great drummer.

"Hey, girl. What's this?" Doug said after hugging me, indicating the black case in my hand.

"This is Santa Claus." I grinned and he chuckled with an understanding nod.

"Can I see her?"

"Sure." I pulled the black beauty out of the case, and handed her over. Doug played as the rest of the group arrived, glad to be playing again. As we all laughed and caught up with each other, a Ford pick-up pulled up into Doug's driveway. All eyes turned to the newcomer, who was getting out. She looked to be a little older than us, maybe in her mid-twenties, twenty-seven at most. She had short brown hair, sunglasses, and wore tight fitting jeans and a sleeveless shirt.

I turned to Doug to see if he knew who she was. She headed toward us with a confident, almost cocky, stride, her head held high, each step long and deliberate.

"Hey, Dougey," she said, giving the big guy a hug. She turned to look at all of us, each in turn. I wondered what was going through that head, her dark eyes nearly unreadable.

"Guys, this is my cousin Terrie. She's hell on the pads, so she's going to play for us." Doug's cousin made her way to the drum set behind me, excusing herself as she squeezed between me and the wall. I moved, allowing her plenty of room. She had a pair of sticks in her back pocket, and brought them out, rubbing them together.

"Someone want to accompany me?" She looked around.

"Here, let's hear her." Doug handed me my guitar with a grin. I hooked her up to the amps, and got myself ready, taking a deep breath. I had yet to play this guitar in front of anyone. Please don't let me make an ass out of myself.

"You start, I'll join in." I nodded, and began to play something simple, not the greatest song for drums, which I saw clearly written on Terrie's face when I turned to look at her. Okay, try number two. I thought for a moment then began to play some Pink. Within minutes, we had the garage rocking. The other members slowly began to join in until we had a full out jam session going. It was great fun, and this chick's playing blew Mike clear out of the water and onto land.

The last chords of the music echoed in the garage and everyone's ears, but I knew we had found our drummer. I grinned at her, she grinned back.

Dagny waited at my dorm for me to return from practice. Somehow she had talked me into going shopping. We jumped into her car, and off to the Tucson Mall we went. Hi ho, hi ho, er, something.

We found a parking space near Dillard's. Dagny parked the little Suzuki Vitara 2-door, ivy green. It was a cute car, somewhere between a car and an SUV.

"I wanted to get something that would be reliable. Isn't it cute?" Dagny was so proud of her first car. She patted it lovingly on the right fender, and smiled at me.

"I can't believe this poor little guy doesn't have a name." I muttered as we headed toward the building.

The mall was like any other, not fun places to be. Dagny, on the other hand, looked like she was in Heaven. People walked by, some staring at us, others off in their own little shopping worlds.

Dagny was in need of new shoes, so we headed to any shoe stores the mall could possibly offer. We looked at boots, from motorcycle to knee-high leathers, then clear down to hiking boots. Tennis shoes, high heels, you name it, we looked at it.

"Um, Dag? What exactly are you after, anyway?" she shrugged.

"Originally tennis shoes, but now I think I may want some boots."

We laughed at all the crazy new fashions, laughing even harder as Dagny tried some of them on. They were hideous, serving no real purpose in life except they made fantastic joke material.

Carrying the bag that held her new shoes, Dagny tried to finish her drink from Orange Julius, but wasn't real successful.

"I'm so full." She said, putting her hand to her stomach. We'd made a lunch stop at The Olive Garden, stuffing ourselves with their bread and pasta.

"I don't know how the hell you've gotten any of that thing down." I looked at the cup with disgust. "I mean, those things are great and all, but my lord. Just how big is that thing, anyway?" I indicated her stomach. She grinned.

"You'd be surprised."

"I am surprised."

We had been at the mall for hours, and I had actually enjoyed every single minute of it. Dagny was fun, charming. I watched the way she was even with other people there, whether they were sales clerks or other shoppers. Everyone loved her. We walked down the main hall and saw a video store looming up ahead. She turned to me, a mischievous smile on her face.

"Want to go?" I nodded vigorously, movies being another of my passions.

The place sold nothing but, and I had officially found my current candy store. I could spend time in a movie store the way most people could spend time in a book store or library. I was a virtual fountain of useless movie trivia and knowledge.

"Gee, good thing you're parents are spending all this money for you to go to college," Dagny said sarcastically after I told her this. I glared then grinned.

"Isn't that the truth." I turned to look down another aisle, and stopped, stopping Dagny with a hand on her arm. "Look at that." It was a rack of movies priced from $3.99- $10.99.

"No, Chase. Don't do it," she muttered.

"I must." I nearly ran to the rack, a laughing Dagny at my heels. My eyes were the size of saucers as I perused the titles priced at ridiculously low rates. "God, I've died and gone to Heaven." I said as I spotted one of my favorite movies, though I rarely admitted it. I grabbed it, holding it protectively against my body.

"May I?" Reluctantly I handed her the double VHS of Titanic. She looked at the title, then at me. "Tell me you're not one of those mush balls?" I grinned shyly, nodded. She shook her head and laughed.

An hour and five movies later, Dagny and I headed out of the mall. We each had a couple bags, she needing to make a stop at GAP before we could leave. She managed to coerce me into buying a pair of jeans there. My first GAP apparel. We loaded all of our treasures into the back of her little SUV, and headed out.

"How do you feel about a movie night?" she looked at me, her eyes twinkling. I grinned, nodding. "Cool. But we have to get popcorn,"

"With lots of butter," I added. She nodded.

"And of course lots of Coke and Dr Pepper and a box of Junior Mints. Can't have a movie without them."

"No, ma'am."

We stopped in at a small grocery store and stocked up on cholesterol city, ready to begin. We decided that Dagny's apartment would be the best place since she had more room, and a hell of a lot better television then that Natalie and I suffered with. Not to mention I thought it was cool she had her own place off campus.

She pulled into the parking lot of her building. It was fairly large and brick, but didn't look like it had originally been planned for apartments. As if reading my mind, Dagny explained.

"This used to be an old mansion to the Swanson family in the 1800s." She stared up at the beautiful structure. "Turned it into apartments when the last of the family died in the mid-fifties. I think it's a shame they'd tear it apart like they have. Hell, I'd rather just live in the old mansion with a whole bunch of people." She grinned at me.

The walkway was made of stone, though some of them had become dislodged over time, and were missing. The grounds were immaculate, obviously professionally designed and maintained.

"Um, Dag, isn't this place kind of expensive?" We walked through the double front door that was off the wrap around porch. The glass in the doors was etched and stained.

"Well, I got lucky. The professor I'm working with for my doctorate, Levy, owns the building. The grad he picks to work with gets to live here, and the rent is very cheap. He just charges the shit out of everyone else." She grinned and chuckled evilly as she lead the way to the stairs.

The main floor was covered with rich, dark wood paneling. It was highly polished, and reflected the lights beautifully. The wood floors, covered with beautiful rugs, were a bit squeaky, but seemed to be holding up through time very well. As I looked around I could imagine where priceless vases and works of art could have been placed, beautiful furniture scattered. Dagny was right, such a shame.

Finally we reached the top of the second floor, the stairs opening up to a wide open hall where you could look down at the first floor on one side, and head up another staircase on the other. Closed doors made of the same highly polished dark wood, were scattered on either side. Dagny lead us up the smaller staircase, very narrow.

"I bet this was a real pain to push furniture through." I muttered. She chuckled ahead of me.

"You have no idea."

At the top of the third floor were only two doors, one to the left and one to the right. Dagny lead me to the right. She pulled out her keys, inserted one, and we were in business.

The apartment was small, but had lots of character. The floors were like the rest of the house, though she had large rugs under important areas like the living room and under the kitchen table. As you walked in a few steps, directly to the left was a fireplace, white stone with a mantel of marble. Wow. I was impressed.

"I should go after my doctorate just so I can live here." I grinned. Dagny laughed as she carried our goodies to the kitchen that was toward the back of the room, and was quite small. It only had room for the kitchen necessities and a small table with three chairs that fit into a little nook in front of the bay window. Just past the fireplace was an open door that lead to the bathroom, and old fashioned claw-footed tub and sink. To the right of the room was another door which I assumed lead to Dagny's bedroom.

"This is beautiful, Dagny." I said, turning in circles. She had framed posters of abstract art hanging here and there, along with some metal sculptures, the muted figure of a human stood proud in the center of the mantel, twin crystal candle holders on either side, beautiful ivory candles in each. I figured the fireplace didn't work or wasn't used much as there was a wooden figure of a penguin standing in the middle of it with little strings of light wrapped around him. I knelt down to get a closer look when I started as the lights came to life. They twinkled, tiny spots of orange.

I turned to see Dagny grinning. "Left over from my dorm. I just couldn't throw Ozzy away."

"He's cute. I can understand your quandary." I shook my head as I stood.

"Be right back." Dagny headed for her bedroom. The furniture was black leather, a little worse for wear, and I figured it had been handed down from somewhere. She had a couch and a chair, then an entertainment center with a 27 inch TV. A small coffee table stood in front of the couch, water marks from drinks in a couple places. All in all it looked like Dagny did well for herself, and the place was great.

"Okay, ready for movie number uno?" Dagny had changed into a pair of sweat shorts and sweatshirt. I nodded. "Pick one."

I looked through the pile that I had bought, The World Is Not Enough, Titanic, Silence of the Lambs, Labyrinth, Girl, Interrupted. I couldn't decide, so had to close my eyes and pick one. I held the Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie great.

"Have you ever seen this?" I turned to Dagny who sat on the couch, socked feet tucked up under her. She took the movie from me, shaking her head.

"To be honest, I've never seen any of these." I looked at her, stunned.

"You're kidding?" I grabbed the movie from her. "I'm shocked, and disappointed in you, missy." I wagged my finger at her. She chuckled.

"I know, I know. I'm a disgrace to my generation." She leaned forward, grabbing another movie. "And, what is this? The World Is Not Enough?"

"That is a James Bond movie. Tell me you know who that is?" I put my hand on my hip.

"Of course. I'm not quite that out of the loop, you know." She gave me a mock glare.

"Okay, well you'll be forgiven if you go make popcorn." I gave her my best puppy dog look I could muster. She looked at me, then stood.

"Aw, you are so cute." She chucked me under the chin, and headed toward the kitchen. I watched her go, my fingers going to my chin, barely touching the spot where her fingers had been for just a moment. I loved it when she touched me. It made me feel good, important. I smiled, slid the movie into the VCR.

Dagny watched, transfixed, as the movie progressed, Susanna Kaysen's problems, and Lisa's societal dysfunctions. When it came to the part where Susanna's therapist diagnosed her as borderline personality disorder, Dagny shook her head.

"I disagree. I don't think there's a damn thing wrong with that girl except for being spoiled and self-indulgent." She shook her head sadly, popping a Junior Mint into her mouth. I grinned. I was surprised that had been the first comment she'd made.

As the movie played on, I found myself not watching much of it. It was one that I'd seen several times, and besides, something more interesting was sitting right next to me. I watched as she leaned forward a bit during a particularly exciting scene, her eyes riveted on the screen. She was so endearing, everything she did, everything she said, every move she made.

I thought about Carrie, and how she reacted to women, and how she called herself bi-sexual. I had thrown that word around my head a lot lately, and I had come to the realization that I wasn't a label, and neither was Dagny. It was Dagny that had caught my attention, her beauty, her personality and mind, not her sex. I'm sure I'd figure more things out about myself as time went on, but for now I was content with this realization, and didn't need to know anything else.

The movie came to an end, and Dagny didn't move from where she was sitting back against the couch, staring at the TV. Finally she turned to me.

"That was really good." I smiled, nodded. "Those poor girls. Especially Daisy. My god, how could Lisa say such awful things to her to make her kill herself? That girl truly was crazy."

"I thought psych majors weren't allowed to use the word crazy." I grinned evilly.

"Har har."

She turned back to the screen, watching as the credits rolled. "Well," she slapped her hands on her thighs. "What's next?"

"You pick this time."

"Hmm." She put a finger to her chin as she stared at the other four movies. "Let's try this James Bond thing. Tell me about it? I know there's about a hundred of these things, so is there something I should know ahead of time?" She picked up the box and read the back. I shook my head.

"Nope. Not a whole lot to think about in these, so just sit back and enjoy." I stood. "Want a Coke?"

"Oh, yeah. That sounds good." A huge smile spread across Dagny's face. "I put a Coke and a Dr Pepper in the freezer so they'd get cold faster," she called to me as I headed to the kitchen. Sure enough, there they were. Cans in hand, I headed back out to the living room. Dagny was taking the first movie out, and putting in the second.

As I sat, I realized how comfortable I felt around Dagny. Generally in someone's place, somewhere I've never been, I feel out of place, like I don't know what to do, and get quiet. But with her, all that flew out the window. I felt more like myself around her than I did with just me.

I wiped the smile off my face as I sat.

Dagny reacted beautifully to the movie, cringing in all the right places, laughing at others, and still blushing at others. She was more fun to watch than the movie. I told her so. She glared.

"Who was the woman who played Elektra King?" she asked. "She's beautiful."

"That is the talented Sophie Marceau."

"Has she been in anything else?" Dagny hit rewind on her remote. I nodded after taking a sip from my soda.

"Yup. Braveheart, is probably the best known."

"Okay, now I have got to see this one." She held up the Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins classic. I nodded with a smile.

"You're on."

"Levy has told me to watch this numerous times," she said, plopping back down on the couch.

"And why haven't you?" I looked at her, my hand on my hip. She gave me a sheepish grin.

"Because it looks scary." I smiled, trying not to laugh because I knew she was serious.

"Really?" She nodded, scooting a little closer to me. "Well, I'll protect you." I chuckled.

"You spread that around and I'll pop you one." She put her fist in my face to prove a point.

"Yeah, I'd love to see that."

It didn't take long before Dagny had grabbed my hand, setting it in her lap. I could tell exactly when she was scared, because she'd squeezed my fingers in an almost pulse-like grip, squeezing really hard when she'd jump. Though it hurt, I was thoroughly enjoying the contact, and the fact that I could make her feel better. I just threw the thought out of my head that anyone would have the same effect.

I loved this movie, and was excited to be with Dagny when she saw it for the first time. She was completely engrossed, loving Hannibal Lecter and his brilliantly psychotic mind. I knew she would. I jumped, but bit my lip to stay silent as Dagny reacted to the scene at the end where the brilliant FBI agent, Clarice Starling has finally found the bad guy, and is searching for him in his dungeon-like basement.

"Oh, god, turn around, Clarice," Dagny whispered, squeezing harder as she brought her legs up, curling herself up into a little ball. It was too cute. "Oh, god. He has a gun to her head and she doesn't know it, turn around!"

"Whoa, down girl. It's just a movie."

"No! She's, woohoo! She shot him." She threw her arms up in victory, mine going up with them as she still had my hand in a death grip. I cried out. "Oh, Chase, I'm sorry." She quickly brought her arms down, releasing my hand only to gently take it in hers to examine it. "Oh, hon," My hand was red and smooshed. "I'm so sorry." She looked up at me with concerned eyes. I smiled.

"It's okay. I'll live. I mean, I offered to protect you."

"And you did a great job." She smiled, keeping my hand in hers as she turned her attention back to the screen, all the while rubbing my hand, massaging it back into shape. Waves ran through my body, always ending up somewhere that surprised me. I looked at her, studying her profile only to be met with beautiful crystal clear green eyes. She smiled. I smiled back. She stared at me for long minutes, and I couldn't read her. She took a deep breath, then turned back to the movie.

"Damn, that was good." Dagny exclaimed as the credits began. She looked at me, a content smile on her face. "I have a problem." My brows drew, confused. "I'm out of Junior Mints." We continued to stare at each other for a moment.

"Ice cream run?"

"Ice cream run."

The little grocery store where we'd gotten the other goodies was still open, but only anther twenty minutes. We ran in, searching for the freezer goods aisle. Rows and rows of ice cream brands and flavors stared us in the face, it was hard to choose.

"What do you look for in your ice cream, Chase?" Dagny asked from halfway down the aisle, a finger to her chin as she looked at all of them.

"Well, I'd have to say chocolate. Definitely important in any sort of ice cream relationship. You?"

"Sounds about right. How about this? Häagen Dazs fudge marble." I walked over to her, nodded.

"Sounds good. We have about seven minutes before they kick us out of here." We ran to find whipped cream in a can, then Hershey's chocolate syrup, and finally, and most importantly, sprinkles.

Loaded down with our finds, we hurried to the cashier, then out into the cool night.

We made a little carpet picnic on Dagny's floor in front of the TV, all our ice cream accessories spread out around us. I watched as Dagny piled up scoop after scoop of the ice cream into her bowl, then piled it even higher with whipped cream, then sprinkles. She looked up from her work of art.

"Just keep thinking swimming." And winked. I grinned, and made my own sundae.

"So what made you go into psych?" Dagny asked around a mouthful of ice cream. I shrugged, swallowing enough so that I could talk and be understood.

"I've always thought people were really fascinating, and loved to try and figure them out, you know? I love to figure out what makes them tick."

"Well then you are definitely in the right business." She smiled, patting my knee. I grinned.

"I should hope so. I just think that I never really thought about my interests being in psychology. I didn't really know what it would be under." I dug deeper into my bowl, trying to find the mother load of chocolate syrup. "Also, I have to admit," I looked down at my bowl, embarrassed. "Your class really got me thinking, too." It was silent, and I wondered what Dagny was thinking. I looked up to see the sweetest smile on her face.

"Thank you, Chase. That means a lot." She reached out and rubbed my knee. "I'll definitely miss you in it this semester. You have some wonderful ideas, Chase." It was my turn to put the goofy smile on my face.

"What about you? What got you into it? And what do you want to do once you're out?" she smiled.

"You make it sound like prison." I smiled and shrugged. "Well, my mother is a teacher, as you know, and demanded that I learn a little about everything as a kid. My god some of the stuff I had to read." She rolled her eyes. "Anyway, she gave me a text book about it that was scaled down for kids. It just stuck with me, and I've been hooked ever since." She took a deep breath then took a bite of her ice cream as she thought. "As for what I want to do with it once I'm out, as you put it, well I've thought a lot about teaching. I've had some wonderful professors, and I'd love to be like them."

"You're already on your way. You're a fantastic teacher, Dag. Really, your passion for the subject comes through in every class. You're good at what you do, and you make people want to learn, want to understand and love it the way you do. You did with me, anyway." Dagny sat back, looking at me, obviously surprised.

"God, that is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me." She stared at me, almost incredulous.

"Wow. Then you're missing out on life." I smiled. Finally shaking herself out of her surprise, she smiled, too.

* * *
I spent the night at Dagny's place that night, and we headed out to swim early the next morning, both of us dragging from too little sleep, and my back was hurting from the couch. The swim was great, just as fulfilling as it had been the last two times, and I felt wonderful for doing it, not to mention the chance to spend more time with Dagny and to see her in a bathing suit. Yeah, I'm a pervert; so sue me.

The last couple weeks before school started were great, Dagny and I together just about everyday, doing something. Often we found ourselves sitting around somewhere talking. We didn't need anything else. She was quickly turning into a very cherished friend.

"Put your hands together for Casually In Debt!" the crowd that was already gathered in Gotfry's, most regulars, cheered and whistled. The band was excited, and ready to go, also ready to try out our new drummer. Terrie showed outstanding ability and talent, and I knew the place would go into a frenzy with some of the solos we had planned for her.

We rocked the place, playing music from the Stones, Pat Benetar, even a song from Paul Simon. It was a terrific night, and the feeling in the bar was perfect for really letting go. It was kids beginning to come back from the holidays wanting to have one last hurrah before classes started up again.

After our set was over, my throat felt raw. I should have been rehearsing the entire break, but I hadn't, and was paying for it. I left the stage during our break and hurried to the bar, craving the glass of ice water I knew Greg would have waiting for me.

"That drummer of yours kicks some serious ass," the bartender exclaimed, looking at Terrie with adoring eyes. He looked at me. "She single?" Grinning, I rolled my eyes and took the glass from him. Within a few seconds I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned, expecting to see familiar green eyes, but was surprised to see dark instead.

"Great set, Chase," the drummer said, ordering her own water.

"Thanks. You, too. You nearly brought the house down all by yourself on those things." I indicated the set on the stage. She shrugged and took her glass, swigging about half before ordering a shot of tequila.

"Can I get you one?" She lifted the small shot glass. I looked at it, then shook my head. Shrugging again, she downed the clear liquid fire, barely raising an eyebrow as it slid down her throat. She slammed the glass down, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. I noticed the way people looked at Terrie, men and women alike. She was beautiful, and had a very sensual quality about her. Tight clothing fitted over a nice, lean body, and she knew it, too. "See you back on stage." She put her hand on my back, running it across my shoulders as she walked away. I followed her with my eyes.

"Hey." I turned, an immediate smile coming to my face.

"Hey. Did you like it?" Dagny smiled.

"I did. Who is that woman?" she asked, the smile quickly falling off her face. I followed her gaze, wondering who she was talking about when I saw it was Terrie.

"Oh, Doug's cousin, Terrie. Isn't she great?" I smiled in her direction, more and more impressed with her playing everyday.

"Yeah. Great." I looked at Dagny, surprised. I'd never seen the look on her face before, and couldn't quite read it. She seemed to shake herself out of it, and turned to me with a big smile. "I'm so thrilled you guys are playing again. You got me spoiled." She grabbed my arm, shaking it a little to emphasize her point.

"I know. I missed it, too. Hey, what did you think of Thanatos?" I grinned, nodding toward my electric guitar on its stand near the microphone. Dagny had finally conceded and come up with a name for my newest baby, and Thanatos, the Greek personification of Death, was it. Than for short.

"Your baby rocks this place, girl." Dagny looked at me with pride, rubbing my arm.

"Chase," Doug called to me.

"Shit, gotta run. Talk to you after the show?" I asked, turning to hurry to the stage. Dagny nodded.

"I'll be here. We're over there." She pointed to the table where her friends sat, drinking and laughing.

The show went on, the second half just as good as the first. I felt like I was flying up there, high as a kite, free as a bird. I was back, and with a vengeance.

We decided to try out a new song Doug had written that had heavy drum and guitar. This was my spotlight, just me and Than. There wasn't a great deal of vocal in the song, just a lot of heavy beat.

Terrie and I had had to spend a lot of time together over the last week as it was mostly us, everyone else falling into the background. She and I would get to Doug's early for practice just to practice my riff and her solo. We had gotten a chance to talk a little, and I had found out she was originally from Oklahoma and had moved to Tucson two years ago for a job. She was in the computer business, doing music on the side. She owed Doug a favor, so offered to play for us until we found someone else. Now she was thinking she'd stick around.

I turned to her, Than in my arms, my fingers moving as fast as they could, sliding across the neck and chords, making my guitar talk. Terrie's head was bobbing with the music, her entire body into the beat. I smiled at her, she smiled back. It was almost like we were in our own little world, and the crowd was loving it.

When the part of the song came up for me to start singing again, I turned back to the mic, and belted out the lyrics. There were some people who had gotten up and started to dance. That was a first. I smiled into the music as I continued, the little black beauty humming in my hands.

Finally the song was over, and the bar was on its feet. I couldn't stop the smile from coming to my lips. I turned back to Terrie, held my hand out to her.

"Come on, let's hear it for Terrie Cannavo." The crowd clapped louder. "Our new drummer." They clapped even louder. I grinned, at that point I probably could have told them that I had to go to the bathroom and they'd love it. Too much adrenalin and booze.

After our second set was over, the lights were turned off and finally the stage didn't feel like the bins under warming lamps at a fast food place. I packed Than away in her case, Melo already put away, and ran a hand through very sweaty hair, trying to get it off my forehead. I stood and reached into my pocket to find my hair tie, and gathered my hair into a pony tail.

Most of the band was on their way out the door, me usually the last one to leave. I reached down to grab both my guitars, and turned, startled to see Terrie leaning against the bar, her sticks in her hand, drumming out a simple beat against the wood. She smiled when she saw I was looking at her.

"Hey." I walked down the stairs, leaning my babies against a stool. "You waiting for Doug?"

"Yep. You did great tonight, you know. You really take control of those people out there." She pointed to the people who were still there with one of her sticks. "You've really got talent."

"Thank you. So do you. I mean, the way you beat those things, hell I couldn't do it."

"Sure you could. You've got rhythm, that's all you need. I could show you if you want."

"Leave her alone, Terrie. She's not your kind." I turned to see Doug coming up, his guitar strapped to his back. "Great show, kid." He playfully punched me on the chin. I grinned.

"Thanks. You, too." He saluted, pushing Terrie in front of him as he headed out of the bar. I watched them go, wondering what that was all about.

"I bet you're tired." I turned to see Dagny headed in my direction, a big smile on her face.

"Oh yeah. You can definitely say that again. Man, my throat hurts." I rubbed it, waving Greg over.

"Good show. See you Wednesday." The bartender smiled, winked at Dagny, then walked to another customer at the other end of the bar.

"Why Wednesday?" Dagny's brows drew.

"He asked us to start playing on the underage night." I shrugged. "More play time. Works for me." She smiled.

"That's great. Is it going to be too much with school, though?"

"I hope not. I already told Greg that if it got to be too much we'd kill the idea." She nodded.

"Sounds good. Want to join us?" She indicated the table she'd been at with her friends. I looked at them, knowing full well that they were all grad students like Dagny, some of them already graduated. I felt small and inadequate.

"Um, are you sure? I mean, I can barely vote let alone drink." My friend smiled, nudging my arm with her shoulder.

"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't want you to, you nut."

"Well, okay. Can I put these two to bed, first?" I indicated my guitars. She offered to help me load them into my car. As we headed back to the bar I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I didn't do real well with people I didn't know one or two at a time. This was an entire table full. I took a deep breath, and followed Dagny.

"Hey, guys. This is Chase Marin. Chase, Steve, Tanya, Adam and Laura." I nodded and smiled at each person as they were introduced. When she finished I brought my hand up for a little wave.


"Hey, you kick some ass with those guitars," the one named Adam said. He smiled, giving me a double thumbs up. I grinned shyly.

"Thanks. You guys come here a lot?"

Three hours, and two pitchers of beer later, Dagny and I walked out of Gotfry's, still laughing. I had had the time of my life with that group. They had treated me like anyone else, and not like the kid I figured they would. They had been curious about me at first, asking me questions about school and the band, then conversation had moved around to any number of different topics, most usually ending up with someone telling some sort of horrible story that was too funny.

"So what did you think of the useless ones in there?" Dagny asked, indicating the bar with her thumb.

"Very cool. I like them a lot." We reached my car.

"Well, I think they liked you a lot, too. You have so much to offer people, Chase. It's a shame you're so shy." She leaned against the car next to mine. I leaned against my own. I nodded.

"I know. Can't help it. I always have been." I crossed my arms over my chest.

"You seem to do okay once you're there for a little while. You shocked the hell out of me a few times, kiddo." She reached across, lightly punching my arm. I shrugged.

"Eh, what can I say."

"So you coming tomorrow morning?" I nodded.

"Of course."

"Well, how about doing something now? You too tired?" I looked up at the night sky, black and filled with stars. I shook my head.

"Nope. I'm wide awake."

"Me, too. Let's go for a drive." Dagny smiled like she'd just come up with the greatest idea in the world. I laughed.

"You're on." I hurried after her to her Vitara. "So how is ol' Freud?" I patted the hood of the small SUV. I had been astonished when Dagny had finally relented and let me name her car.

"She's doing just fine." She unlocked her door, then unlocked mine. "Don't you think it's a little odd that a 'female' car is named Freud?" I got in, shut my door.

"Yeah. And?" I grinned, large and exaggerated.

"Nut." She put her key in the ignition, then stopped, turning to me. "Hey!" I looked at her, startled.


"Let's take the top off the back." My grin matched hers.


We quickly got out, unzipped the rag top, and tucked into the back. The night was beautiful as January flowed into its third week. Dagny drove us everywhere, through town, out past it into the darkness where there seemed to be nothing. Neither of us said a word, just enjoyed the scenery and the feel of not having to say anything.

It was late, but I didn't care. These were the days I knew I'd look back on someday and say I remember when. The times I wanted to remember. Just me, Dagny and the Tucson night air.

Part 6

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