Long Road Home:
by Kim (KP) Pritekel
Disclaimers See Part One
Sean awoke to the awful sound of Jenny retching in the bathroom. She raised her head and glanced in the direction of the partially closed door. Her brow creased in concern. No matter what, today Jenny was going to go see a doctor before they left town. Something was wrong. She heard Jenny’s weak plea to God, then the toilet flushed followed by running water in the sink. She pulled back the covers to find herself still dressed, and realized that she must have fallen asleep where she lay, about to watch the evening news. She smiled as she thought of how Jenny must have removed her shoes and covered her up. How sweet.
Sean made her way to the bathroom, and quietly tapped on the door.
“Jenny?” she asked. “Are you okay?” Sean stepped back as the door was opened fully, and Jenny, tired, pale, glanced up at her. She smiled weakly.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I just can’t seem to get rid of this. Now I’m beginning to think it’s not nerves anymore, but some kind of bug. I’ll be fine.” she started to pass by Sean, but the taller woman stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.
“Jenny, would you do something for me?” she said quietly.
“After all you’ve done, of course. Name it.”
“I want you to see a doctor before we leave. Please?” she added at Jenny’s annoyed look. “I’m worried about you.”
Jenny shook her head, then lowered her eyes to the worn carpet at her feet.
“I can’t afford to go to a doctor.” she said, her voice just barely above a whisper. Sean smiled, and lifted Jenny’s chin with a finger under her jaw.
“Don’t worry about that. Will you go?”
* * * * *
Sean found an Emergency Center in the phone book, and drove them there. Jenny was quiet as she watched the small town pass by her window. They had stopped for breakfast at McDonald’s, and Jenny had barely been able to get her Egg McMuffin down.
Sean sat in the uncomfortable chairs in the small waiting room. Luckily with these types of clinics you could generally be seen within twenty minutes of coming in. Since it was still so early, Jenny had been taken in right away. Sean knew that this was probably going to set her back at least fifty or sixty dollars, but it was important to her that Jenny be able to start her new life healthy and happy. She had brought in her laptop and the figures of her holiday buying for the store. She wanted to get the budget caught up. She opened her account file, then found herself staring off into space. Thinking.
“Miss Waters?” Sean’s head snapped up to see the receptionist smiling at her.
“Yes?” she asked.
“Dr. Milner just told me that he is going to do a quick set of tests on your friend, and that she should have the results within a half hour.”
“Is she okay?”
“Oh, I’m sure she’s fine. Dr. Milner will be able to tell Mrs. Aberman more.” Sean smiled.
“Okay. Thank you.”
Sean turned her attention back to her laptop. Her finger flew over the keyboard on auto-pilot, her mind anywhere but on what she was doing. Jenny kept resurfacing in her thoughts over and over again. Those clear, green eyes smiling at her, her gratitude ever present. Sean smiled. She would take Jenny anywhere, as long as she could be with her, help her. Then a stabbing pain shot through Sean’s heart. Jenny wasn’t hers, never would be. Jenny was a lost soul trying to rediscover what had been stolen from her ten long years ago...
Sean looked up, sensing someone watching her. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been staring off into space, but her eyes burned from lack of blinking, she realized. Jenny stood just infront of her. Those eyes that Sean had just been thinking about were dark, empty. Sean set her laptop aside, and stood, her brows drawn.
“Jenny? What is it?” she asked, her voice low, careful.
“I’m pregnant.” Jenny said, her voice as hollow as her eyes. Sean stared at her, stunned. She didn’t know what to do, what Jenny needed her to do, so she just stood where she was, trying to compute what she had just been told. “Can we please go.” Jenny whispered, her head down, shoulders slumped in defeat.
“Okay.” Sean walked up to the counter and handed the receptionist one of her business cards. “Please send this bill to the address at the bottom.”
“Okay, Miss. Waters. Have a nice day.” the woman smiled politely, gave a side glance to Jenny, then looked back to her computer monitor.
The doctor had given Jenny some medicine to try and help with the morning, afternoon, and evening sickness. He had said that it would pass after a short time.
Jenny sat in the front seat of the Blazer like she was comatose. So many things were going through her head. What was she going to do? How on earth was she going to support herself let alone a baby? They say that you’re never given more than you can possibly handle, but she was beginning to wonder if that were true. She felt as though she would break at any time, like she was as frail as glass.
Sean stared out into the expanse of the bright day. It seemed so odd to have the sun beating down on them with birds singing in surrounding trees, happy people playing in their front yards, filling parks, when this dark, foreboding feeling filled her. She was so worried about Jenny. She glanced over at the younger woman often, never seeing any noticeable change in her. She just stared out the side window, her arms crossed over her abdomen that would be growing soon. What was she thinking?
“Jenny?” she said quietly, her soft voice sounding like a gun shot in the silence of the Blazer.
It seemed Jenny heard her name being called from the other side of a dense fog. She turned her head in the direction of the voice, not seeing Sean’s concerned eyes for a moment. Finally she met the brilliant blue.
“Do you want to talk?” Sean asked. She didn’t want to pry, but she had the feeling that Jenny was the type of person who did better to get things off her chest. To her slight surprise Jenny shook her head.
“No.” Jenny again turned her gaze to the side window, watching as they flew by an off ramp, then a grassy median with a line of trees, like soldiers waiting in a disciplined line.
“Are you happy, girl?”
“Yes, daddy. I am happy. You always told me to make do with what I had. I’m doing what you said. I’m happy.”
“I hope so, girl. I hope so...”
Jenny thought about those last words with her father. She had been taught from a young age to make the best of it.. He had settled for whatever life had thrown at him, and had instilled that into his children. He had been a good man, but Jenny knew that she could not stay with Ben, settle for that anymore. She had for so long, and she had lost so much of herself because of it. And what would he do to a child? She cringed at the thought.
Jenny looked over at Sean’s profile. She looked deep in thought, her brows drawn. She knew she shouldn’t shut her out after all that Sean had done for her. Jenny had never met anyone quiet like her before. In some ways she reminded her of Johanna, but different. Sean had such an incredible strong presence, like the hardest rock that the sea crashes against, but is drawn to.
“Sean?” she asked, her voice quiet as the sun was beginning to fall, all the colors shining gloriously through the darkening sky.
“Yeah?” Sean answered, just as quiet. She glanced at Jenny.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Why are you dreading your father’s funeral so bad? Didn’t you get along?”
Sean thought about this question for a moment. How to answer it. Finally with a deep sigh she said,
“My father was a very bitter, angry man. He punished his family for every bad thing that had ever happened to him.”
“Oh.” Jenny glanced down at her hands that rested on her thighs, then looked back over to her companion. "Did he have a hard life?”
“Yes. He was born to a prostitute who had been raped. His mother was a heavy drinker, and died of alcohol poisoning.” Sean let out a rueful laugh. “Ironic.” she glanced over at the younger woman. “He died of Cirrhosis of the liver. Guess he didn’t learn his lesson, either, huh?”
“I guess not. What about your mother? Are you close?”
“I haven’t really spoken to my mother in over twenty-five years. I’m surprised she was able to find me at all to tell me Russell had died.” Sean said, her face nearly void of any expression, her eyes unreadable in the dusky dim of the car.
“You hold so much contempt, Sean.” Jenny said quietly, her voice filled with sadness. “Why are you going back?”
“I don’t know.” Sean said simply, and pushed play on the CD player, Moby filling the car, and making it obvious that that particular subject was closed. Jenny looked straight ahead once more, staring at the tail lights of the car infront of them, a little red Centra. The beginning strands of an acoustic guitar filled the Blazer as “Everloving” played. She could feel all the pain that swarmed around Sean like a swarm of bees. She tried to hide behind her stoicism, and nonchalance, but Jenny was not fooled. She really didn’t know this woman, yet she felt that she did. She shook off her thoughts, and decided to pursue a safer subject.
“So what kind of book store is it that you own?”
Sean had always been very open about herself, and her sexuality, but she knew that her answer was gong to give Johanna away. She thought for a minute on how to answer that question.
“Well, it’s a women’s book store.”
“Women’s book store? What, so the shelves are filled with cookbooks, books on PMS and heat flashes?” Sean grinned at her.
“Yeah. Something like that.”
Jenny took a deep breath. Now or never.
“Really now. Does your book store have anything to do with your keychain?” Sean glanced down at the colorful flag as it swung back and forth with the motion of the car. Woman doesn’t miss anything. She smiled over at Jenny.
“Yeah. Infact we sell those there.”
“Hmm.” Jenny thought for a moment. “Interesting.”
“Does it bother you, Jenny? The fact that I’m gay?” Sean glanced at her, then back at the night before them, the sun completely gone now.
“No.” Jenny said with a smile. Sean smiled back, relief flooding through her.
* * * * *
The Red Blazer drove slowly through Butte, Montana, the night air the type of cold that chilled you to the bone, as the clock on the dash clicked to 10:01 pm. They had been on the road for just over thirteen hours, and Sean needed a break. Jenny had offered to drive tomorrow’s stretch, and she was tempted to oblige.
They found a cheap motel which Jenny insisted on paying for, and would not take no for an answer, so Sean agreed to lug in all their things for the night while Jenny paid the bill. When Jenny got to the room she looked around the tiny place. It only had one bed. The place didn’t have any two bed rooms in the whole complex. With a sigh she removed her jacket and threw it down on the bed where Sean had thrown the rest of their stuff. Jenny plopped down in the bed as she heard the shower start. She grinned. Sean was wasting no time. She had asked her earlier when the funeral was to see how they were doing on time. She had four days to get there, and Sean figured that they would have just enough time to get Jenny to Paul’s in Chicago, and then Sean would head off again for the seven hour drive to Toledo.
Jenny studied Sean’s keychain again that she had tossed onto the chipped veneer that covered the one table. Maybe she should ask if she wanted Jenny to go with her to the funeral. It wasn’t like she had a certain time she had to be in Illinois. What could a couple of days hurt? But at the same time she didn’t want Sean to think that she was trying to invade what was obviously a very painful journey for the older woman. Jenny just wanted to lend her support to Sean, give her a shoulder should she decide she needed it.
Suddenly Jenny felt her stomach lurch again. This time, though, she knew that it was from nerves, and not the... baby.
“Oh, god.” she moaned. She buried her face in her hands as she felt the hot, salty tears fall.
Sean closed her eyes, supressing a groan as the hot water coated her road-weary body. This has got to be what heaven is like. She raised her face to the spray, smoothing her long hair back from her face. For just that one moment she was able to forget about everything; the funeral, her store, and her building infatuation for Jenny, and the need to protect the small women who was so vulnerable now. She didn’t want to think about anything. None of it.
Sean stepped from the stall followed by a ball of steam as she opened the shower curtain. She swiped her hand across the mirror, leaving a wet trail through the steam. She gazed at her rippled reflection, her skin tingly from the heat of the water. Tomorrow they would drive through North Dakota, hit Minnesota, on to Wisconsin, catch the 94, then straight down into Illinois. Sean sighed. She probably only had about three more days with Jenny, then she’d drop her off at her brother’s place, and never see her again. Her chest felt so heavy. This whole thing was extremely unusual for her. She was way too practical then to fall for some woman she barely knew, and who was straight. She grinned at herself. Figures.
Sean quickly dressed in a pair of flannel pants, and a tee with the logo from her store adorning the back. She gathered her clothes, and opened the bathroom door, stepping out into the cool room. Immediately she noticed Jenny sitting on the edge of the bed, her face buried in her hands, and her entire body shaking with the sobs that were muffled by her fingers. She placed the pile of clothes on the end of the bed, and made her way around to the younger woman.
“Jenny.” she said gently. Jenny looked up, her face streaked with tears, her eyes red. When she looked into Sean’s concerned eyes, the color of the deepest blue, she flung her body into Sean’s surprised arms. Sean instantly wrapped Jenny tightly in her strong embrace, holding her close, rocking her gently. “Shh. It’ll be okay, Jenny. It will work itself out.”
Jenny clung to Sean, her warm, strong embrace like a salve for her tortured soul.
“What am I going to do with a baby?” she cried, her fingers tightening on Sean’s shoulders.
“You’re going to raise it, and be the best mother you can.”
“God, I don’t think I can do this.” Jenny said, her voice broken as she began to get the tears under control.
“Of course you can. You have to believe in yourself like I believe in you.” Jenny pulled back slightly from her, wiping the sleeve of her sweater across her nose and eyes, feeling like a child herself.
“You do?” she asked, her green eyes pleading.
“Absolutely.” Sean smiled and pushed some strands of hair that had pulled free of the braid Jenny had them in, and tucked them behind an ear. “You are going to be such a wonderful mother, Jenny. You are filled with such compassion, such life. Any child would be very lucky to have you.”
Jenny smiled and fell into the embrace again. Sean closed her eyes as she gently rocked Jenny, stroking her back. They stood like that for a long time next to the bed, each wrapped in the other’s arms, and in their own thoughts.
Jenny sighed quietly, utterly content and warm in the cold Montana night. She could have stayed like that forever, feeling like nothing and no one could get past Sean as she held her, protecting her. Yet even as she felt safe with this woman, she also felt a strength of her own building, like she didn’t necessarily need her strength, but instead wanted it, yearned for it. She could hear Sean’s heart beating underneath her ear, the steady rhythm almost lulling her to sleep.
Sean heard a small sigh escape Jenny’s lips, and she tightened her hold just a bit. Jenny’s body against her own was so warm. It felt like Jenny had always been there, like when they pulled apart there would be something missing from Sean, a part of her somehow. She didn’t want to let go, though she knew she would have to. Gently she pulled away from the younger woman, and smiled down at her.
“We probably should get some sleep. The morning is going to come awfully early.” Jenny smiled in response.
“Yeah. I’m going to grab a quick shower.”
“Okay.” Sean let go of Jenny, and walked around to the other side of the bed, pulled back the blankets and comforter. Jenny closed the bathroom door behind her, and Sean remembered how it had felt to have her so close. She closed her eyes. This was going to be a long night.
Jenny closed the bathroom door, and leaned against it. Her heart was pounding. What was wrong with her? She could still feel Sean’s arms, a phantom touch on her skin. She ran her hands up and down her arms trying to calm herself. She just wasn’t herself. Her whole life had been flipped upside down, and she hadn’t quite bounced back from the shock yet. With a nod to her own thoughts, Jenny began to undress.
* * * * *
Sean awoke to feel heat along her back. She drew her brow and looked over her shoulder. She lay on her left side, and Jenny had curled herself into a ball, her hands tucked under her chin, the top of her head against Sean’s upper back, her knees against her lower back. Sean grinned slightly, then moved quietly out of bed. She didn’t want Jenny to wake up and be embarrassed by her bodies nocturnal need to snuggle, searching for warmth. Besides. they needed to get moving. She had heard on the radio yesterday that a winter storm was moving through the area, and Montana and North Dakota were supposed to get a healthy heaping of the white stuff.
She padded over to the bathroom, did her morning business, and washed her face and brushed her teeth. Looking in the mirror to comb her hair, she realized that she was hungry. She wondered how Jenny’s stomach was doing. She hadn’t gotten sick since the previous morning. Maybe that medicine that doctor had given her was working.
“Sean? Are you decent? I sure hope so, ‘cause I’m coming in!” the bathroom door slammed open, and Jenny ran in, headed straight for the toilet. Sean watched, her brows drawn in sympathy and concern. Guess I spoke too soon, she thought as she gently pulled Jenny’s long hair out of the way.
“We’ll have to get you something to eat so you can take your medicine.” she said quietly, rubbing soothing circles over Jenny’s back as the smaller woman took deep, slow breaths. She glanced at Sean and nodded. “You okay?” Sean asked with a smile.
“Yeah. Thanks, Sean. Again.” the little blonde smiled, her green eyes twinkling. “What would I do without you?”
“Probably get puke in your hair.”
“Eww! Do not tell an extremely nauseous, pregnant woman that sort of thing.”
“Sorry. Couldn’t resist. I’m going to get us packed up if you want to get cleaned up. I want to try and make good time today before that storm that’s headed this way hits.”
Sean walked into the main part of the room, and began to close up their bags and take them out to the car. She stood out in the empty parking lot and stared up at the sky. It was going to be a cold one, she could already tell. The sky was gray with that bright quality to it that usually foretold snow, and the air was chilled, a steady wind blowing out of the north.
Back in the room she saw Jenny pulling her arms through the sleeves of her jacket, pulling her hair out from under the collar.
“Ready?” Sean asked from the doorway.
“Yup.” Jenny grabbed her purse from the bed closed the door to the motel behind her.
They found an IHOP for breakfast, and then were back on the road. Jenny glanced out the window, and a slow smile spread across her features, starting in the ocean depths of her sea-green eyes, and made its way down to her full lips. She felt an incredible wave of hope flood through her suddenly, and she felt like she could fly. Somewhere along the way last night she had come to terms with the situation, and with what was to be. She was having a baby. A new life. A new life that was hers to shape, to teach and love, and give all the love that Ben had denied her. She knew she could do it. Something deep inside had awakened, and had filled her with a strength and ambition that had always been lacking. With a deep, contented sigh she smiled over at Sean.
“What?” Sean couldn’t help but get caught up in that smile that lit up the entire Blazer. “What has got you so cheesed? Were those pancakes that good?”
“Nope. Life is good, Sean. Everything will be okay.” she leaned over and kissed Sean quickly on the cheek. “Thank you. You have made all the difference..” the older woman looked at her passenger with surprise shining in those blue eyes. She understood the depth of Jenny’s gratitude, though. She had felt the same toward her grandparents when they had rescued her from her father.
“You’re welcome, Jenny. Any time.”
After a few hours Jenny realized that she was sick of watching the same scenery pass by her window. She had finished the paperback that she had bought at Wal-Mart that first day, and was dying for something to read. Suddenly she remembered seeing three books that had fallen out of one of Sean’s bags the night before at the motel.
“Hey, Sean, can I read one of the books you have?” she glanced over at her friend who had been concentrating on the road. Sean looked over at her, an eyebrow raised.
“Uh, Jenny, I don’t know if you want to read those.”
“Well, uh, well because they came from my store.”
Sean took a deep breath, obviously Jenny wasn’t getting the message.
“Jenny, they’re lesbian novels.” Jenny grinned.
“So. That’s not a big deal. I’m a big girl. I’m sure I can handle it.”
“Okay. Go for it. They’re in the backpack behind my seat.
Jenny reached back and grabbed the bag, dragging it to the front seat. She unzipped it, and felt the smoothness of the covers, pulling them out. She held one in each hand, and one on her thigh: Under My Skin, a mystery by Jaye Maiman. Okay, not too much into mystery. She glanced at the second one, Claire of the Moon by Nicole Conn. Looks good. That blonde lady on the cover is pretty, she thought. She finally glanced at the third one, An Emergence of Green by Katherine V. Forrest.
“Which one?” she asked Sean, her eyes still darting between all three.
“I’d recommend An Emergence of Green. They’re all great books, though.”
“Okay. I’ll try it.” Jenny smiled at her, and put the other two novels back in the bag, and plopped it back on the floor behind Sean’s seat. Sean smiled to herself as Jenny flipped open the green and black cover, and began to read. This should be interesting. She just hoped that the scene toward the end when Carrie gets attacked by her husband wouldn’t upset her too much.
* * * * *
The early afternoon brought with it heavy snow flurries. Sean switched on the windshield wipers, and turned up the heat in the Blazer. She glanced over at Jenny whom she hadn’t heard anything from since she had started to read early that morning. The woman was completely engrossed in the story. She grinned, and grabbed her CD case from the back floor, and lugged it onto her lap. She was in the mood for some George Michael, Ladies and Gentleman. She slid the first CD into the player, and smiled as “Jesus to a Child” started to play. Such a beautiful song.
Sean was taken back to a time when she was twelve, and had been babysitting her six year old brother...
Sean whipped the end of the dishtowel so that it made a satisfying SPLAT in the air. Donny’s high-pitched giggle flowed through the kitchen.
“Come’re, little man!” she grinned, taking a step toward the laughing child who was trying to hide from the big, bad monster, behind a kitchen chair.
“No!” he smiled, shaking his head, his dark brown hair falling over his forehead as usual. SPLAT! Donny screamed again, eyeing the doorway to the kitchen that would lead to the living room. Finally making a decision, he made a run for it, a trail of laughter following him out of the room. Sean followed, towel in hand, dishes forgotten.
Donny hid behind their father’s old beat up recliner, his small fingers peaking over the top of the arms. Sean was in hot pursuit until she froze when she heard her father’s car pull into the long drive on the side of the house that led to the small garage in the back. She took a step back into the kitchen, eyeing the back door, and then looked around. God, the mess that they had made. There was water everywhere, and she knew that her father was going to be ticked.
“Crap.” she breathed as she threw the wet towel onto the counter, and grabbed the mop from the corner of the room. Sean’s young heart felt like it would pound clear out of her chest as she heard the car door slam, and her father’s footfalls on the gravel. She swirled the mop around the floor by the door first, so he wouldn’t fall. He’d kill her for sure if he fell. She heard him walking up the three back stairs, she quickly moved the mop around to where the water was the worst, in front of the sink where it had all began. The doorknob turned, Sean could feel the tears burning behind her eyes. Don’t cry, don’t cry. The door squeaked open, and she saw the toe of her father’s shoe as he stepped in. She continued to mop.
“What the hell?” Russell asked as he looked around at the disheveled mess that was his kitchen. “Did a pipe break?” he looked over at Sean who kept mopping. She noticed Donny peeking in the doorway, and she tried to shoo him away with a glance. He stayed put.
“No. I was doing dishes, and-“
“And you started screwing around?” he asked dryly.
“I was going to get it all cleaned up before-“
“Before you got home.”
“Oh, so now you’re sneaking around behind my back?” his voice was getting lower, deeper, more dangerous.
“No. We were just having fun.” Sean said, her chin raised slightly, her voice holding just a bit of defiance. Over the last year she had started to fight against her father’s cruelty. At first Russell hadn’t been sure what to think, and so stayed away from her for just a bit, but then had come back with a vengeance. The fights that were bad, but periodically spaced, now had become almost daily. Helen watched on in horrified silence as her daughter and her husband battled.
“We? We who?” he took a menacing step forward. “We who, Sean? You got some boy in here? Huh? You little slut. You got some boy in here!” he reached out and snatched the mop out of Sean's shaking hands.
“No. Just Donny. So if you want to read something sick into that, then go right on ahead.” Russell took another step forward so that he was mere inches away from burning blue eyes.
“What did you say to me, girl?” he hissed. Sean could smell the sour whiskey that rode his breath. Pathetic excuse for a man, she thought. Never. Never would she be with someone like this. Ever.
Sean glanced down and noticed Russell’s grip tighten on the mop, and she knew what was coming. Though Sean was tall for her age, her father, whom she’d gotten her height from, still towered over her. She looked back up into his eyes, red rimmed, and angry, tired eyes. What had gone so wrong? She felt her confidence beginning to leave her, causing her to take a step back. He followed.
“Nothing.” she answered, her voice suddenly weak, and she hated herself for it.
“Really?” he snarled. Sean glanced again at her brother who was still watching.
“Donny, go into the other room. Now!”
Sean shook her head to clear it. She remembered how awful it had been having that damn cast on her arm for six weeks. That was the first time she’d ever had a bone broken. She hadn’t thought of any of this stuff for years; instead she had chosen to block it out, like it never happened. So she was an empty shell, carrying around the hatred without the memories to back it up.
“What an ass!” Sean glanced at Jenny in surprise, her brow raised in question. Jenny looked at the older woman, her eyes filled with disgust. “I can’t believe that ass of a husband did that to Val, got her and her son kicked out of their home just because he was jealous of the friendship she had with his wife. My god!”
Sean grinned at the incredulous look of innocence that shone through Jenny’s green eyes. “Just wait.” she grinned inwardly knowing that the love scene was soon to follow. She wondered how Jenny would handle that one.
Jenny tore through the novel with a hunger that she couldn’t describe. She could relate so much with Carolyn that it was scary. She knew how it felt to live a life of submission, and the go along to get along attitude. Though Carolyn’s husband Paul wasn’t as violent as Ben, it was still the same thing. Everytime she read where Paul would call Carolyn “Princess” she wanted to puke! God, how condescending can you get? And the friendship that was growing between Carolyn and Val Hunter, or “the Hunter woman” as Paul referred to her as. It made so much sense to her, and in some ways reminded her of her own friendship with Johanna, and now Sean.
Jenny stared through the pages before her as the thought of Johanna came to mind. So, if Johanna shopped so frequently in Sean’s book store, and if Sean’s book store sold mainly lesbian books, did that make.... Jenny’s eyes opened wide and she glanced over at Sean’s profile, then back to her book. Suddenly something occurred to her, and she flipped the book over to see who the publisher was: Naiad Press. She had heard Johanna talk about them before in some off hand conversation. Why that had stuck in her memory, she did not know. So then had Lisa been her,... lover? Was that why Johanna generally refused to talk about that situation, and why Lisa had moved out? But even little Rebecca had never said anything to the contrary of ordinary roommates. Yes, she was only six years old, but that is usually the age when kids let the most out of the bag.
Suddenly Jenny felt so stupid. How blind she had been. Johanna had been her best friend for two years, and this had never come up, nor had she ever really suspected, not that she knew what she was looking for. God, so many things just fell into place with an almost audible click. Ben saw it. He knew. He had even called Johanna a dyke in their last fight. In many ways it was almost like a cock fight between Johanna and Ben. They had been fighting over her attention, and Ben had felt threatened. She smiled in wonder.
“Looks serious.” Jenny’s eyes swung to Sean’s grinning face.
“Well, just now you had a look on your face like you had discovered the secret of immortality. Looks serious.”
“I feel like an unobservant idiot is all.” Jenny said, shaking her head at her own thoughts.
“What? Why?” Sean’s brows drew in question.
“I just now realized that my best friend is gay.” Sean only listened. She knew full well who Jenny meant, but didn’t feel it was her place to confirm what Jenny already knew. “Hot damn. What do you know? I feel like I should have known!” Jenny looked up with anger flashing through those emerald depths. “Why didn’t she tell me? Did she think I would not accept her? Or that I would be mad?” Jenny raised an exasperated brow.
“Well, everyone is different about this, Jenny. I can’t explain for Johanna. But keep in mind she does have a small child, and I’m sure in her mind Rebecca comes first. Her little girl is still so young, and there are some very cruel people around.”
Jenny thought about this answer for a moment, her anger not abating much.
“I still feel like she didn’t trust me, couldn’t trust me.” Jenny felt like a child as she felt her throat tighten with unshed emotion. This whole pregnancy thing was awful. She felt like she was having PMS, menopause, and a bad day all at once, her hormones completely out of whack. Was she overreacting?
“Maybe you should talk to her about it the next time you call.” Sean said gently.
“I could have helped her through what I’m sure must have been an awful time with Lisa rather then her having to deal with it on her own.”
“I’m sure she knows that, Jenny, knows that you cared and supported her. I’m sure she had her reasons..”
“Yeah.” Jenny said quietly, somewhat nullified, but still feeling foolish. She had always prided herself on being very observant, and being able to read people with no more trouble than she read the novel in her hands. Maybe she hadn’t wanted to see it? Maybe she had felt threatened by it, too close to home... Again Jenny’s eyes flew open in surprise at her own thoughts. No, that last part wasn’t true, wasn’t part of this.
She didn’t want to think about it, so she turned her attention back to the book that she was almost finished with.
* * * * *
The scenery outside the windows was becoming more and more covered with a blanket of white as the snow continued to fall. The sky was a cold looking gray, and Sean had to turn the heat up in the Blazer. The road was straight, the landscape barren of anything real interesting as I-90 stretched on for what seemed forever. Soon they would be in North Dakota, and that’s where Sean figured they could stop for some lunch.
Jenny felt her heart begin to beat just a bit faster as she realized where the story she read was leading. Val Hunter had taken Carolyn to the beach house that belonged to her friends. Things were beginning to get a bit on the hot side. Jenny swallowed. Hard. She shyly glanced up at Sean, then readjusted herself in the seat, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable. She could not take her eyes from the words, nor her mind from the picture that those words conjured up in her head. She could almost feel the heat of the fire that blazed before the two characters, feel the blanket they laid on, on their skin. She could feel the tender touches, gentle caresses, sweet kisses. Suddenly she found herself breathless, and had to put the book down to catch her breath, and her thoughts.
Sean noticed out of the corner of her eye that Jenny was squirming a bit in her seat. She raised a brow in surprised interest. She had a feeling she knew exactly what Jenny was reading. She was dying to ask what was going through her head, what she thought of it. She was about to open her mouth to ask, but with a grin, decided against it. She didn’t want to embarrass Jenny.
Jenny glanced out the side window, staring at nothing in particular, but trying to hide her reaction from Sean. Whoa. She took deep breaths, trying to get her pounding heart under control. She had never read anything like that in her life! A slight shiver passed through her as the images passed through her mind again. With a start she realized that she was completely turned on. She squirmed just a tiny bit as she felt the wetness between her legs. God, how uncomfortable.
Sean watched as Jenny placed a small piece of paper in the book to mark her page, then set the novel on the dash, and took a deep breath. She grinned to herself again.
“Hey, I thought we could stop here soon in the next town and get something to eat.”
“Yeah.” Jenny smiled. Sean stifled a chuckle as she saw how flushed Jenny’s cheeks still were. She looked absolutely adorable! She could not deny how surprised she was at Jenny’s reaction. Yeah, so it was sexual stimulation, and human behavior to be affected by it, but it seemed a bit more than that. Maybe she was just making way too much out of it; reading more into it then there actually was. “Sounds good to me.”
The Blazer pulled into town at around one-thirty, and both women were starved. They had picked up some munchies back in Butte, but had quickly gone through them in the last six hours, especially Jenny. She had a good appetite on a good day, alone pregnant.
Sean found a Denny’s, and pulled the car into the busy parking lot. It was just after lunch on a Friday. She was surprised so many people were still out and about.
“Doesn’t anybody work anymore?” she mumbled as she stretched her arms over her head, glad to be standing.
“Apparently not.” Jenny groaned, as she also stretched. Sean had to make her self look away from Jenny’s lithe body as the smaller woman raised her hands to the heavens, her eyes closed, neck arched back. “God, that felt good.” she whispered with one final stretch, then smiled at her companion. Sean quickly looked away, and headed for the building. Jenny drew her brows, and followed.
The place looked like any other Denny’s that belonged to the franchise. The two waited patiently near the podium for the lady to take them to a table.
“It’ll be just a couple of minutes.” she smiled warmly, then headed out into the dining area.
“I have got to pee.” Jenny said through clenched teeth. Sean grinned.
“So go. It’s right there.” she pointed to the hallway just off to their right, and Jenny took off at nearly a run. Sean chuckled, then followed the woman that had come to seat them. She was led through the larger dining room, and then finally into a smaller one off to the side, and seated in a booth with slightly damp tan, vinyl seats that had just been washed down.
“Your waitress will be with you in just a moment.” the hostess said, and placed an open menu in front of Sean, and another on the other side of the table for Jenny.
Sean glanced down at the choices, her stomach grumbling at every dish she read about.
“This place is a maze.” Jenny said as she plopped down across from Sean. “That hostess had to show me where you were.” she grinned. “I’m kind of glad we’re back here, though. Less noise.”
“Yeah. And hopefully we won’t get some old man smoking in the non-smoking area again. And I say this for his benefit.”
“Ha ha. Funny lady.”
Sean snickered as she turned her attention back to her menu.
“Good afternoon, ladies.” a low, smooth voice said. Sean looked up into the most sexy brown eyes she had ever seen. The waitress glanced down at her, recognizing that familiar spark immediately. Her professional smile slowly slid into a grin of interest, and possibility. Sean could not help but smile back.
“’Afternoon.” Sean said.
“What can I do for you?” the waitress said with a small, sexy little smile, then reluctantly her eyes moved to Jenny for just a moment before returning to Sean.
“How about some coffee?” Sean said. She was fully enjoying the attention. It had been awhile since she had bee flirted with.
Jenny’s alert green eyes darted back and forth between the two. The waitress was very pretty with short red hair, her lips lightly covered with lipstick, and her flawless skin the peaches and cream of a true red head. Her eyes turned to Sean to see how she was reacting with the woman’s subtle flirting. A crooked smile adorned Sean’s lips, her eyes bright. She was enjoying it. Suddenly Jenny realized that she was annoyed. Annoyed at the waitress, and even more annoyed with Sean. How could she flirt with this, this... woman in public? By god. What if someone saw, or noticed what was going on? How could she do this in front of me? She almost felt betrayed, but why she did not know. So Jenny buried her nose in the menu, her appetite suddenly not nearly as potent.
“And for you?”
“What?” Jenny said, her voice a bit more harsh than she had intended. The waitress was taken aback for a moment, and then looked from Jenny to Sean, and realization came to her features. “What can I get for you?” she asked again, her voice softer, almost as if she were embarrassed for some reason. Jenny studied her for a moment. Does she? She thinks... no. Inside she grinned as she realized that the waitress thought that she and Sean were together, and was embarrassed because she had been flirting with Sean. Whoa. This is weird.
Sean looked on as Jenny ordered. She had been surprised by Jenny’s reaction. She knew that Jenny had noticed the waitress flirting with her, and her flirting back in kind. Jenny had seemed irritated. Had Sean pushed it too far? Made her feel uncomfortable? Suddenly it dawned on her, and she felt awful. Jenny was not accustomed to seeing two women flirt, for crying out loud! That had been unbelievably thoughtless of her.
The waitress gave them a small smile as she collected the menus, then walked away. Sean turned to Jenny.
“I’m sorry. That was pretty bad of me.” she said quietly.
“What for?” Jenny asked, for some reason not quite able to completely look Sean in the eye. The scene in the book kept coming into her mind.
“Me and that waitress.... I,” Sean felt foolish. “We shouldn’t have done that. In front of you.”
“What?” Jenny decided to play dumb. Suddenly she felt really stupid, and as usual, had made a big deal out of nothing.
“Well, we flirted like that. I’m sorry. I realize you’re not exactly used to seeing two women do that with each other.”
Jenny began to blush profusely as that damn sex scene flashed before her mind’s eye yet again. Finally she was able to glance up at Sean, and saw the worry there. Oh, now she felt bad.
“No, it’s nothing, Sean. You’re an adult, and entitled.” she smiled sweetly as she tried to ease Sean’s fears. She hated to think she was the cause of any pain or discomfort. “Really.” she reached across the table and placed her hand over Sean’s, squeezing just a bit. Sean started at the touch. “I’m sorry.” Jenny immediately removed her hand.
“No, no!” Sean sputtered. God, now she felt really stupid. “I, it’s..., well-“
“Here we go.” the waitress held a tray with an empty mug for coffee, a bronze-colored plastic carafe, and a large glass of orange juice. She set the juice in front of Jenny, and poured a cup of coffee for Sean, then left the carafe. “Cream or sugar?” she asked. Sean nodded. “Okay. I’ll be right back.” she quickly walked away. Sean grabbed the hand that Jenny had placed on her own arm.
“I’m sorry.” she said simply. Jenny looked into Sean’s eyes, and for a moment saw a flutter of how nervous she was. This nervousness mirrored her own feelings just then. She smiled, deciding to take the lead, and end this before either of them got angry, or upset by this mutual misunderstanding that she felt she had caused. She had no right to get angry at Sean.
“No, I’m sorry. Why don’t we forget it, and have a nice dinner? After all,” she swallowed hard, “tomorrow will be our last day traveling together, and then you’ll be rid of me.” she forced a smile over the lump that was suddenly in her throat.
“Okay.” Sean said quietly. She squeezed Jenny’s warm hand, and removed it. Jenny’s words struck her. She had forgotten that their journey was coming to a quick end. She had so enjoyed it while it had lasted. Jenny suddenly felt like she could cry.
“While we’re waiting for our food, I’m going to give Johanna a call.” she quickly stood from the booth and hurried toward the pay phones by the bathroom. Sean watched her get up and leave. Her heart felt so heavy. She felt so calm with Jenny’s bubbly, curious presence. She almost felt doomed, like she was letting something very precious go, yet had no choice.
Jenny leaned against the blue and white cabinet that housed the phone for a moment, her heart beating rapidly in her heaving chest. She closed her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths, trying to get herself under control. With a final sigh, Jenny reached into her purse and dug out her change for the phone, and inserted the coins in the slot. She waited impatiently for Johanna’s familiar voice to pick up on the other end of the line.
“Good afternoon. Mitchell and associates.” Jenny smiled at the warm, low voice.
“Yup. How are you?”
“Oh, hon, I’ve been so worried about you. How are you?”
“I’ve been better, but I’m okay.” Jenny said, her voice low as a man walked by her, headed to the Men’s room. She looked around, then turned her attention back to her friend. How odd, she thought. She hadn’t felt afraid in days. But suddenly her heart was pounding, and she felt so vulnerable, as if Ben would be able to find her through her fear alone.
“What do you mean, Jenny? What’s happened?” she could hear the worry in Johanna’s voice.
“Well, first have you heard from him?” she asked, not dreading the answer.
“Well, I talked to your friend Pam from the store. He was in there a couple days ago. Didn’t talk to a soul, only made a casual walk around the store, then left.” Jenny rubbed her temples that had suddenly started to throb.
“Okay. Well, I got some interesting news the other day.” she began, trying to urge the courage to the surface to tell Johanna of her pregnancy. She sighed heavily. “Johanna, I’m going to have a baby.”
“No.” Johanna breathed.
“Yes.” Jenny said, running her hand through her long hair.
“Whoa. What do you think about that?”
“Well, at first I was so upset. I couldn’t believe it. But now, well, I’m not so sure it’s a bad thing anymore.”
“Are you sure, honey?” Johanna’s voice was deep, edged with emotion that she was so valiantly trying to keep under wraps.
“Yeah, yeah I am. I think this baby will give me the courage and determination that I need. Otherwise, who knows. I might have just given up.”
“I can’t believe you’re going to be a mother. Oh, Jenny!” Johanna’s voice finally broke. “You’ll be such a wonderful one. I’m so happy for you. I know you’ll get through this, honey. You have such strength in you that I don’t even think you know about.”
Jenny smiled. “Sean says the same thing.” she said. Johanna raised her brows in surprise. Her friend had spoken of the bookstore owner with such reverence in her voice.
“How is she doing?” Johanna asked, trying to keep her voice casual.
“Fine. Tomorrow she’ll drop me off at Paul’s in Chicago.” Jenny felt the feeling and fears that she had been feeling since they had been in the restaurant surface. “Oh, Johanna! I don’t want her to go.” she cried, wiping impatient hands over her eyes that wouldn’t stop weeping. “She has given me such peace, and I feel so safe with her.”
Johanna was stunned into silence by her friend’s outburst. What could she say to this?
“Honey, you can still stay in contact with her. You don’t have to stay in Chicago forever...”
“I know.” Jenny swiped her sleeve across her nose like a child. “I know. I’m just so emotional right now. I cry at the friggin’ drop of a hat.” she laughed at herself.
“Believe I remember.” Jenny could hear Johanna’s smile through her words.
“I should go. I am so hungry. We’re at a Denny’s in North Dakota, and I called while we were waiting for our food.”
“Okay, sweetie. Call when you get to Paul’s.”
“Okay. I will.”
“Take care of yourself, Jenny. Please?”
“I will. Bye.”
Jenny gently replaced the phone in its cradle, and stroked the green/gray neck of the piece. She could picture Johanna in her mind, her wild blond hair unmanageable as ever, and her deep brown eyes twinkling, tiny lines extending from the corners. She missed her so much.
Sean saw Jenny walking back to their table, her eyes red and puffy. Her brow creased in concern.
“Is everything okay?” she asked as Jenny sat.
“Yeah. I just hate this. My life is so up in the air. I miss my friends, my old job. I miss my life, Sean. If only I could have it back without Ben.”
Sean reached across the table, and grabbed Jenny’s hand again. She smiled her understanding.
“Soon, Jenny. Soon.” she let go, and indicated their dinners that had arrived when Jenny had been on the phone. “But for now, come on, mom. Eat up.”
* * * * *
The hotel in St. Paul, was just like the others- small, cheaply decorated, but somewhat warm in the cold Minnesota night. The room had two double beds, and deep down Jenny was sorry that it wasn’t a single. She had felt so secure and content knowing that Sean had been mere inches from her. She settled between the cool sheets anyway, her body so tired, and her head hurt.
“Goodnight, Jenny.” Sean mumbled from the other bed, three feet away.
“Where were you?” Ben sat in the chair nearest the television, his eyes never leaving the screen.
“I was at the mall like I told you, Ben. I had to get us some towels and I got us a set of sheets so we can stop using that old, worn out-“
“I don’t give a flying fuck about sheets, Jenny!” Ben had jumped to his feet so fast that Jenny had had no time to dodge his palm. She held her hand to her cheek, the skin underneath on fire. She looked at her new husband with wide, hurt green eyes. “Who were you with?” his voice was not much more than a growl.
“I, I was alone. Been, we just moved here. I don’t know anyone in Colorado.” he took a menacing step toward her, the muscles in his jaw twitching as his anger was nearing the boiling point.
“I saw you.” he snarled, grabbing her by the neckline of her over-sized sweatshirt. She had already began to show slightly, and was waiting for the right time to tell Ben of her pregnancy. He pulled her to him until their faces were a breath apart. “Who is he?”
“Who is who?” she was beginning to get really scared now. She had never seen Ben this way before, and she had no idea what he’d do.
“That asshole I saw you talking to down in the fucking parking lot! Who was he? I’ll tear his fucking balls off!”
“Ben, please, I don’t know who he is. He saw that I was having a hard time getting the car started, so he offered to jump it-“
Jenny hit the wall, sliding down as she tried to get her breath back. Her head and back were already pounding.
“That car is fine, you lying bitch!” Jenny saw as if in slow motion, Ben’s booted foot flew through the air, and connected with her stomach. She clenched her eyes shut, her arms immediately flying up to wrap around herself, and their unborn child. She tried to stand when she felt a sharp pain rip through her middle. “Lying cunt.” Ben mumbled, and grabbed his coat and the keys that Jenny had dropped on the floor, and left the apartment.
Jenny took a shallow breath, each time she breathed the pain in her stomach intensified. She managed to stand, and headed for the bathroom. She began to cry as she felt sticky wetness begin to gather between her legs. Slowly unbuttoning her jeans, then slid them down her legs followed by her underwear, her worse fears were realized. Blood was pouring out of her...
“No! Not my baby!” Jenny’s eyes popped open, and she nearly jumped out of the bed, her heartbeat through the roof. In an instant Sean was awake, and by her side.
“Jenny, are you okay?” she asked, her voice shaky with surprise and fear. Jenny looked at her with wide, wild eyes.
“Not my baby.” she breathed, tears coming to her eyes. Sean, realizing that Jenny must have had a nightmare, sat on the bed next to her friend, and took her in her arms, gently rocking her small body that began to shake violently.
“Shh, baby, it’s okay. Shhh.” Jenny clung to Sean, her heart still beating wildly in her chest. “It was just a dream.”
“It was a memory.” Jenny whispered, the sobs beginning to really come now.
“It’s okay, Jenny. He’ll never hurt you again. I swear to you.” Sean said, her voice breaking as she breathed her oath. “I’ll kill him first.” Jenny closed her eyes, trying to get herself under control. Sean wrapped her arms around her tighter, kissing the top of her head softly.
“Hold me, Sean. Please, hold me.” Jenny pleaded, looking into Sean’s concerned with green eyes so full of fear.
“Okay.” Sean laid down, pulling Jenny with her until Jenny’s head rested on her shoulder, her arm almost painfully tight across Sean’s mid-section. She continued to cry softly. Sean stroked her long hair with one hand, and her arm with the other. “It’s okay, Jenny. Let it all out.” she crooned. Finally Jenny began to settle down a bit, taking deep breaths.
“Sean?” she said quietly.
“Yeah?” Sean answered, kissing the blond hair again.
“Let me go to Ohio with you?” she asked, her voice quiet, still shaky.
“Why? Don’t you want to get to your brothers as soon as possible?” Sean asked, her heart in her throat.
“I want to get to Chicago. But I want to be there for you. Like you’ve been there for me. Please?” Sean swallowed the lump that was threatening to rise in her own throat.
“Okay, Jenny. Okay.” she kissed the blond head once more, her lips lingering, eyes tightly closed as she relished the contact as long as she could. Finally she opened them, squeezing Jenny’s forearm slightly. “Let’s go to sleep now, Jenny. It’s a long drive to Toledo.”