Disclaimer: see part 1
Thanx: To all y'all who wrote to ask for more
Feedback: Please feed the bard! This is my first real attempt at fic and I'd love to know what you think. Keep the flames to yourself though. My e-mail addy is: firstname.lastname@example.org
"We should go there and talk to her. Explain how Teri lied and show her how much we love each other. Maybe once she sees how pure and strong our love is she'll understand." Rayna could hardly believe what Zoe's mother had accused her of. However, she was going to be the voice of reason in this situation since the mother and daughter clearly weren't capable of it on their own.
Zoe cast a skeptical glance at her girlfriend. "Baby, I love that you try so hard to see the good in people, but she is never going to understand. Even if she did recognize the love we share, she would never admit it. The same goes for my father, too, so there's no point in going over there."
"Please, for me?" Rayna pleaded with her best puppy-dog eyes. She knew how hard it would be for her love to talk to her parents but she also knew that Zoe needed to face her family rather than hide from them like she had been doing all her life.
"I'm sorry but I just can't. They won't listen to me and they'll just attack our lifestyle even more. Don't you get it? The whole reason I left was to get away from their control. I couldn't let them run my life, not then and definitely not now!" Wearied and upset, Zoe rubbed her temples in an attempt to relieve some of her tension.
Rayna couldn't believe what she was hearing from her normally rational, intelligent girlfriend. *Can she really think that she is free from their control just because she moved out and doesn't talk to them? Why can't she see that she's still allowing them to dictate her decisions? Aaaarrgh!* Reining in her own frustrations for the moment she forced a calm voice. "Well, what are you going to do then?"
"Nothing. I'm just going to get on with my life and they can get on with theirs. You and I will just have to keep our relationship on the down low so that they don't have anything to complain about. We both know that whatever Teri told my mother is a lie, but she wouldn't have had anything to tell her in the first place if she hadn't known about us. As long as no one else finds out we're together, it should be fine."
"What??!!" Rayna was livid now and her voice rose until it bordered on yelling. "You want to lie about our relationship and hide it. I can't believe that! Just tell me one thing, are you ashamed of our love?"
This was a side of Zoe's gentle girlfriend that she'd never seen before. She hated that she was the one responsible for upsetting her, but she didn't really understand what she had done to cause it. So she used a soothing voice to reassure her girlfriend. "Of course I'm not ashamed of our love, baby. In fact, I wish that I could show the whole world just how much I love you and how happy you make me."
"Then why don't you?"
"It's not that easy!"
"No, you're right, it's not. And you wanna know why? Because you're still letting your parents control your life." Rayna could see that Zoe was about to protest so she rushed ahead, "They may not be telling you exactly what to do anymore, but you still allow them to control you. Each time you decide not to do something that you want to do simply because you know they won't approve, you're letting the thought
of them control you."
"That's crazy. I'm a grown woman; I do what I want to do. I don't need anyone else's permission."
"Oh yeah? Didn't you just tell me that what you want to do is tell everyone about us? Yet you also told me that we have to keep our relationship hidden. And the reason we have to do that, you say, is to keep your darling parents from finding out about us."
Zoe could see, and understand, Rayna's reasoning but there was more to the problem than that. She just didn't know how to explain that to her so she went with the all-purpose juvenile response. "That's not fair! Even if they are manipulative and closed-minded, they're still my family! I can't just pretend that they don't mean anything to me."
"That's funny, because it seems to me that's exactly what you've been doing. Normally people talk to those who mean something to them when there is a problem, instead of trying to ignore and hide from them."
"Well if you're so smart, then you tell me what I'm supposed to do about them."
"I already did, Zoe! You need to go to them and really talk. I don't mean just about our relationship; this isn't about us. You need to talk about your relationship with them. Tell them how you feel: about being gay, about your past together, and about what you want. Tell them that you are going to do what is best and right for you and that if they can't understand and accept it, it's their loss."
Both women's hearts were aching as Zoe said, "I'll have to think about it," and walked out of Rayna's apartment without looking back.
The new couple hadn't spoken for a week, but Zoe was constantly on Rayna's mind. She felt bad for losing her temper and yelling at her love and wished that they would talk. However, her stubborn nature was telling her that what she'd said was the truth so she refused to apologize. Now that she had had plenty of time to cool off and think, Rayna could understand a little more where Zoe was coming from. She understood how scared and confused her girlfriend was, but still couldn't excuse her for wanting to hide their relationship.
That Zoe had even suggested keeping their love a secret boggled the tiny young woman's mind. She couldn't understand why a 24 year old woman who had been out of the closet since high school and had once seemed so comfortable with her sexuality now wanted to retreat back into the closet. *For pete's sake, I've only been out for two years and I'm a hell of a lot more comfortable and open about my sexuality than she is!*
Zoe also thought about Rayna throughout the week after their argument, but spent more time thinking about what the little blonde had said. <"Tell them that you are going to do what is best and right for you and that if they can't understand and accept it, it's their loss."> This sentence in particular kept repeating itself in her mind, along with other bits and pieces of the argument. The more Zoe thought about it, the better her girlfriend's idea seemed. She realized that this would be the best solution in the long run but there were still some major problems. First, Zoe wasn't sure she even knew what was best and right for her anymore. Second, even if she did, she didn't think she was strong enough to stand up to her parents. She had never been able to express herself well verbally, and it was twice as hard when it was directed towards her family. Even as a child she had basically done what she was told and didn't talk back. With this thought came a realization: her parents had controlled her life when she was a child just as all parents do, but unlike other children she'd never taken over the control of her own life once she was mature enough. *Damn it! Why didn't I realize this before? I feel like such a fool. Rayna was right and I just didn't want to listen.* Zoe spent nearly an hour sulking before she decided to go apologize to Rayna.
Rayna was just stepping out of the bathtub when her doorbell chimed. She hollered "Just a minute," as she hurriedly threw on her robe. After tying the robe securely closed she cracked the door open to see who was there. Her heart leaped at the sight of her tall, gorgeous girlfriend. "Oh! Um
"Hi, Rayna. Umm
can I come in? I'd really like to talk to you."
Rayna blushed as she realized that she still hadn't unchained the door. "Of course, sorry. I didn't mean to keep you standing on the doorstep. Come on in." She motioned for Zoe to take a seat while she went to the kitchen to grab some bottles of water. Looking carefully at Zoe, she could see dark circles under her eyes and a sad, defeated look on her face. Her heart ached to see her love this way so she tenderly stroked Zoe's cheek and asked, "How are you doing, baby?"
Zoe closed her eyes for a moment, relishing the feel of Rayna's hand on her face before answering. "Not very good. I can't eat, I can't sleep, I just keep thinking about that night. All those things you said, you were right. I'm so sorry that I wouldn't listen to you and that I walked out on us. I realize now how unfair it was to ask you to keep our relationship a secret. Can you ever forgive me?"
"Yes, I forgive you. I know that you weren't trying to hurt me on purpose and that you were just confused and scared. And I'm sorry too, that I got so upset."
"It's okay. I think I needed it; seeing you so upset was a real wake-up call. Besides, everything you said was true, I was just too blind to see it until now. Thank you for showing me." Zoe offered a small smile and leaned over to pull Rayna in for a hug.
The short blonde returned the squeeze with one of her own before pulling back to look at her girlfriend. "So have you figured out what you're going to do?"
"Sort of. The first thing I need to do is figure out what I want, since I'm not really sure right now."
"That's a good place to start. Any idea what you're going to do to figure that out?"
"Well, yeah, I did have one idea." Zoe mentally crossed her fingers thinking *Please don't be mad at me, please.* She took a deep breath before voicing her plans. "I thought I would go back home to Northside for a while. You know, catch up with my family and old friends. It would give me a chance to get to know my parents again and maybe even get them to understand me. I'm really gonna miss you, but I think maybe some time away from each other will be good for us. I need this chance to find myself and you need to concentrate on finishing school. Besides, you know what they say: Absence makes the heart grow fonder."
Rayna groaned at the cheesy cliché before replying. "I think that's a good idea, just make sure that you don't forget your reason for going. You can't go back to letting them make your decisions for you and you need to stand up for yourself. As far as our relationship goes, I think you're right. You need to be thinking of your own needs right now, and I'm going to be plenty busy finishing school and looking for a job. I'm not so sure about that stupid cliché, but I'll always be there if you need me. I love you, Zoe, and I'm really gonna miss you."
Dark green gazed into light green as Zoe answered. "I love you too, lil bit." She then wrapped herself around Rayna in a fierce hug. While pressed tightly against the tiny blonde, she noticed for the first time what she was wearing. A devilish grin crossed her lips as she loosened her hold slightly. "Nice outfit, by the way."
Rayna's face and neck turned crimson and she self-consciously tugged the lapels of the robe tighter. "I ah
I just got out of the tub when you rang the bell."
"Well then, maybe I should come over unannounced more often." Zoe smiled seductively as she ran her hands through strawberry blonde locks.
maybe you should," the smaller woman answered with a wink. Then she pulled Zoe's head down so their lips met. Each woman felt the last bits of tension slip away as they kissed. Their passion escalated rapidly and hands began to wander of their own accord. Zoe's hands drifted down Rayna's sides to her waist before slowly working their way up over a well-defined abdomen. The little woman gasped at the tender assault on her senses. She ended the kiss only to focus her attention on the racing pulse point before her. It was then Zoe's turn to moan as Rayna suckled greedily at her neck. She trailed her right hand higher until she felt the smooth skin not covered by the robe. When she slipped her hand under the fabric to caress a large, firm breast, Rayna put her own hand up to stop her. She pulled away regretfully and explained, "We've got to stop. I really want to make love with you but I want everything to be perfect for our first time. That means that you need to be sure of what it is that you want first, because I couldn't bear for you to regret it later. As frustrating as it is for both of us, we need to wait until after you get back from Northside. If you still want me in your life then, we'll be together."
"Of course I'll still want you; I love you! But I do understand what you're saying and I guess it's for the best. However, I think I'm gonna go home now, 'cause I don't trust myself with you in that skimpy robe." Zoe gave her girlfriend a rueful smile and stood up. Rayna smiled back and accompanied her to the door to say goodbye. They shared one last sweet kiss before Zoe departed.
Three afternoons later, the new couple was again saying their good-byes. This time, though, it was because Zoe was leaving to go to Northside. They stood beside Zoe's truck just holding one another. Good-byes had been said and promises made to talk on the phone, but neither woman was willing to let go. Eventually Zoe realized that she had to get going if she was going to reach Northside before dark. She raised a hand to Rayna's chin and gave her a tender kiss on the cheek. Then she stepped back and got into her truck. She turned her head to gaze into light green eyes once more and said, "I love you, Ray." Upon hearing her girlfriend return the sentiment, she drove off.
Things in Northside were not going as Zoe had hoped they would. She'd been there for two weeks, still had no idea what she wanted, and couldn't get her parents to understand her. They either totally denied trying to control her life or excused it as what they thought was best for her. Ellen refused to listen to anything about Rayna and their relationship, and although Daniel Smith admitted that Rayna sounded like a nice girl he still felt that their relationship was wrong.
The conflict was wearing both Zoe's patience and her resolve thin. As a result, her telephone conversations with Rayna were tense and emotional. The younger woman could sense her girlfriend's turmoil and begged to know what was going on but Zoe only gave her vague answers and said nothing of what she was feeling. After a particularly frustrating conversation with Rayna on a Wednesday night, Zoe finally agreed to go to church with her parents, hoping maybe it would help take her mind off things for a while.
The following Sunday found Zoe again seated in the Smith family's usual pew at Flint River Baptist Church. She was hoping the service would again distract her from her problems. It didn't happen that way though. Instead, as she listened to Brother Turner's sermon, she felt as though it was directed specifically at her. He was speaking on 1 Corinthians 6 : 9-11, which discusses they types of people who do not inherit the kingdom of God. Brother Turner seemed particularly concerned with homosexuals.
In her current state of confusion and desperation, Zoe couldn't help but wonder if he was right, that as a lesbian she was living a life of sin. Although Zoe had always objected to the Southern Baptist approach to everything as black and white, good and evil issues, she now wondered if they were right in the case of homosexuality. *Maybe being gay really is a sin. I mean, it sounds like the Bible says so pretty plainly. Does that mean I'm going to go to Hell? What if I am actually straight but was confused and led astray? It does say that some of those people changed their ways and were saved-maybe I can be too. Maybe if I give guys a chance I'll find out that I've really been straight all along.*
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