The Trouble with Ancients
Explanation: If you saw the 1966 movie "The Trouble with Angels" you might appreciate some of the characters a little more but it really isnt necessary.
"Allison Hayes, you are not leaving me in charge of the business and thats final!"
"Oh, yes I am, little sister. I havent had a summer vacation in five years and Im damn well getting one this year. Its all arranged, I got my tickets and travel package in the mail today from Poor Harold," the petite blond returned.
Poor Harold had earned this rather ignoble moniker by having the misfortune of suffering a heart attack and dying at his desk at the travel agency immediately after booking Allis trip. Poor Harold was now booking rooms at the Pearly Gates Hotel but at least he had managed to finalize Allis travel plans before checking out himself.
Green eyes flashed with enthusiasm as she continued, "Six days by bus to San Francisco on a Singles Excursion with stops at every interesting spot between here and there, then a week in the City by the Bay and a quick flight home. Its not that I dont love Minneapolis, Kay, but if I dont get out of this city for a little while Im going to start resembling some of my clients!"
Allison Hayes had started her own adult day care business several years before and never regretted the amount of time she had devoted to it. Alli recognized the need for a place where exhausted, harried or stressed out caregivers could bring their older charges and not worry about their safety as they attended to business, kept appointments or just took a day off from the total responsibility of another human being. Alli had seen how much a single day off could mean to someone who took care of an Alzheimers victim day after day. To have a little time away seemed to recharge the batteries for so many people and Hayes House had seen a rapid increase in clientele.
Alli had overseen the success of the business but was ready for a break herself. A summer vacation, a real honest to goodness summer vacation. I cant remember when I had one last. Before college, maybe? the blonde thought. She had reached the age of twenty-eight without much of a break and she was chaffing with the need to get out and see a little of the world.
"Look, Kay, everything is arranged. The staff is scheduled and back-ups arranged for. Ive ordered all the supplies and food youll need, all the bills are paid and all the paperwork is caught up. All you have to do is show up and answer the phone for two little weeks. Is that too much to ask from my baby sister and Assistant Manager?"
Kay grinned, "I suppose not, especially after you let me fly to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras two months ago and footed the bill for it. Okay, big sister, you got it. What else can I do to help?"
Alli smiled gratefully as she consulted her itinerary. "Nothing except drop me off at the offices of let me see Great North Tours in two days. Its over in St. Paul."
"All right, its a done deal. Ill miss you but I know you need some time away. I really want you to have a good time and for Gods sake, try to find the time to work in a little whats the bus equivalent of a shipboard romance?"
"Im not sure," Alli laughed, "but I sure as heck intend to find out!" She grabbed her sister and did a little happy dance right there in the office of Hayes House. "Oh yeah, Fabulous Singles Excursion to San Francisco, here I come!"
Alli stood at the counter of Great North Tours feeling a throbbing headache coming on and all her dreams of a wonderful vacation going away. The nervous clerk standing before her was giving her a weak smile as he waited for the phone beside him to ring.
"Im sure the owner will call any second and we can get this misunderstanding cleared up."
Misunderstanding? He calls this a misunderstanding! Oooh, Poor Harold, I hope youre giving guided tours through the lowest regions of Hades right about now.
Alli had realized there was going to be a problem almost as soon as Kay had dropped her off. Hefting her suitcase, she entered the office. Her group was easy to pick out, it was the only group scheduled to leave that morning according to a printed list on the front door. There were two problems though that Alli noticed right away. First, the group, which was about a dozen strong, was all women. That normally wouldnt have bothered the blonde; she had always been attracted to women though she had rarely acted on it. The problem was that the women were well, they were old. The youngest member had to be 70 if she was a day. As Alli let her gaze drift over the quietly chatting group she picked out two canes, a walker and one oxygen tank.
Allis eyes flew back to the list on the door. Yeah, yeah. Cross country tour natural wonders professionally guided Fabulous Senior Singles Excursion to San Francisco. Seniors! There was no getting around it, the tour numbers matched up, the itinerary was correct. Poor Harold had booked her on a tour with a dozen little old ladies!
Alli was brought back to the present as a short, middle-aged man in a slightly rumpled blue uniform entered the office. His bus drivers cap was set far back on his head, exposing a vast receding hairline. The name "Ralph" was embroidered over his left breast pocket. As he strolled into the office he glanced at the waiting group, then stopped in his tracks. There was a moment of stunned silence as the group of elderly women and the bus driver looked each other over. It was then a small ginger haired woman with a large "Mall of America" shopping bag stood up.
"Hiya, Ralphie-boy," she said affectionately. Ralphs face lost all color and he hurried to the counter.
"Not them, no way! They may be going to San Francisco but theyre going without me. I dont need this! I swore never again!" All this was said to the clerk who wasnt listening to him anyway because the phone had rung as the driver walked into the office. The clerk was explaining Allis problem to someone he referred to as "Boss".
Ralph continued his tirade. "Im not driving those blue haired spawn of Satan! I dont care what the pay is, Im not spending six days on the road with those old "
"Hey!" Alli cut him off as her protective hackles started to rise. She worked with too many seniors to listen to this moron hassle them. "Why dont you stuff the attitude? These people deserve your respect, not your big mouth."
Behind her there was a smattering of applause from the older women with sporadic comments like "Sing it, sister!" and "You tell him, girlfriend!" There was even one that sounded like "Kick him in the doobies!" but Alli convinced herself she hadnt heard that one right.
Ralph alternated between glaring at her and the women. "Fine!" he spat out. "You like them so much, you go with them!" With that he removed his cap and tossed it at Alli, catching her fully in the chest.
Alli narrowed her eyes and glared back, as well as a five foot four petite blonde can glare. "As a matter of fact I am!" she tossed back.
The clerk who had been on the phone during this exchange now hung up. "And shes going for half price too."
"Half price?" Alli choked out in surprise.
"Yep," the clerk smiled. "The owner said the accommodation portion of your trip was non-refundable because the reservations had to be made in advance but our portion of the fare is waived. Oh, and were sorry for the inconvenience."
The blonde thought quickly. Well, its still a vacation. Not the singles event I had hoped for, but at least Ill get to San Francisco. At half price!
"Its a deal!" she said.
"Good!" the clerk replied, then addressed all the women. "Ladies, shall we get you aboard your bus? Your replacement driver will be here shortly." The women picked up their bags and belongings and began shuffling out toward the bus. The clerk assisted the ladies through the door and turned contemptuous eyes on Ralph.
"The boss said youre driving a busload of bass fisherman to Winnipeg instead, but youll be expected in the office first thing when you get back.
Ralph gulped audibly much to Allis satisfaction then headed rapidly out the door. Alli realized she was still holding his cap.
Alli took her suitcase to the bus where it was loaded in the luggage compartment below the passenger section. Taking her carry-on with her, she climbed into the bus. That journey was made easier by shorter steps apparently installed for the benefit of the seniors.
Except for Ralph this company seems to treat their older passengers well she noted with appreciation. Reaching the top step she noticed the only seats left were directly behind the driver and same front set on the opposite side of the aisle. The remainder of the seats were full of elderly ladies, their belongings and equipment.
Guess Ill sit up front she thought wryly.
Settling in, she was startled by the appearance of the ginger haired woman who had spoken to Ralph earlier, when she popped up behind her seat.
"Hey there, I just wanted to tell you that you were spectacular with Ralphie Boy. He was our driver to Atlantic City six months ago and it was positively brutal! The man simply has no sense of humor!" The womans voice was pleasantly tinged with a soft British accent. "The names Mary Clancy," she said as she thrust an arm over the seat for a handshake. "And this is my best friend, Rachel Deverie." Mary indicated a silver haired woman in the seat next to her. "And these," she waved a hand encompassing the other ten women in the bus, "are the other charter members of the Willow Oaks Retirement Community Travel and Cha-Cha Club."
"Im Allison Hayes but please call me Alli."
"Hiya, Alli!" came the chorus from the back of the bus. Mary quickly pointed out the rest of the group by name. "Thats Mary Elizabeth, Ruth, Amanda, Darlene and Rosalind. On the other side are Trudy, Thelma, Bunny, Constance and the one already asleep is Marvel Ann."
Sure enough the most wrinkled one of the group was curled up in her seat snoring softly.
"Shell be like that most of the trip," confided Mary with a wink while performing a pantomime of a person taking a drink.
"Oh, how sad," Alli commented.
"No," Mary disagreed, "when shes sober shes a real pain in the ass!" The rest of the women on the bus exploded with laughter with the exception of Trudy who looked confused and was adjusting her hearing aid.
"Im glad you ladies are having a good time already," a low voice said from behind Alli. "That bodes well for the rest of the trip."
Alli turned to see the most drop dead gorgeous woman she had ever seen, finish climbing on board. She was dressed in the uniform of a bus driver from the waist down and a tee shirt bearing the Great North Tours logo on top. Her long, lean frame was subtly muscled. Allis eyes continued up the drivers body, admiring generous breasts and long black hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her appraisal halted when she reached brilliant blue eyes. Brilliant blue eyes that were staring right back into her own green ones with a look that said she knew she was being checked out.
"Did you enjoy the tour?" the brunette said in a voice lowered so only Alli could hear. The blonde blushed deeply and took her seat without comment.
The driver turned from her and addressed the entire group. My name is Tyrah Gorman but my friends just call me Ty and Im your replacement driver. Its been a while since Ive driven this route but Ive done them all so I dont think youll be disappointed."
I know Im not thought Alli.
"Hey Ty," a voice called out from the back of the bus, "What do people who arent your friends call you?" The question was greeted with titters.
"Trouble," Ty growled as she took her seat and fastened her seatbelt. Silence reigned as the bus started and headed out of the tour company parking lot. Ty maneuvered the large bus smoothly through the early morning city traffic and out to the interstate.
"Next stop, Deadwood, South Dakota," Ty said into a headset microphone. There were appreciative murmurs as the passengers anticipated playing blackjack and the slot machines in the old frontier town.
Alli pretended to study her South Dakota guide while surreptitiously studying Ty. The blonde noticed the way her muscles played as she turned the large steering wheel and how her whole leg flexed as she applied the gas and brake.
This trip may be a little unusual but at least the scenerys nice.
After an hour on the road, Alli leaned forward in her seat. Might as well see which way the wind blows.
"Uh, how long has it been since youve been in San Francisco, Ty?" she inquired
Blue eyes caught her green ones in the inside mirror. "Its been a couple of years; I used to live there. Its one of my favorite cities."
"Do you have family there?" Alli asked.
"Well if you mean family as in relatives, no I dont. If youre asking if Im family, then I guess the answer would have to be yes."
Alli blushed again but was determined not to let her embarrassment stop the conversation, especially now that Ty had let her know they were batting for the same team.
"I think you tamed the ladies with that trouble remark earlier. I guess Ralph had a difficult time with them before."
"Ralph knows how to drive, but he doesnt know how to handle people. I, on the other hand, consider myself to be something of an expert on the subject. Ive been in the hospitality and tour business for a long time and " Ty tailed off as she realized the blonde was no longer paying attention to her but was looking at something behind her that the driver couldnt see.
Alli dragged her gaze back from the rear of the bus. "I hope you really do have all those people skills," she commented.
"Why?" questioned Ty, as blue lights began to flash behind the bus.
"Because Mary Clancy just mooned a state trooper."
The seniors had been checked into the hotel, were fed and were now happily ensconced in the casino. Several of the ladies had pulled small bags of quarters from their purses and were trying their luck with the one-arm bandits. Five others were at a blackjack table laughing and teasing the dealer. Each time one of them hit "21" there was a series of high fives.
Ali walked into the casino and immediately spotted Ty sitting at the bar. Not really interested in the gambling, she walked over and took the seat next to the driver. Ty looked over at the blonde then looked away. She had been in a bad mood since the run in with the Minnesota State Trooper. Ty got a lecture from the trooper and a $150.00 ticket for "creating a hazard on the roadway." Mary Clancy got a lecture as well and promised Ty that no part of her body would make another public appearance for the duration of the trip.
A bartender ambled over and asked for her order.
Looking over at Ty, Alli said, "Ill have what shes having."
The bartender spoke, "One club soda with lime coming up."
Alli looked surprised and asked, "Nothing with alcohol after the day you had? That surprises me. Is it against the company rules or something?"
It was in doubt whether the brunette would speak at all, but she said finally, "I can drink if I want up to eight hours before I drive. I just figure this group bears a little extra watching."
"I thought you werent responsible for us once we hit the various destinations."
Ty snorted. "Im not, but Im not the one who stuck my bare ass up against the bus window and yet I got in trouble for it. Im just protecting myself here."
Alli took a sip of her club soda that the bartender set in front of her. "You have to admit though, shes pretty limber for someone nearly eighty years old."
Ty smiled a little. "I suppose. I hope Im as feisty as them when I get to be that age."
"I think it all depends," the blonde observed. "How feisty are you now?" The challenge and interest in her voice was unmistakable but Ty seemed to ignore it and Alli was disappointed.
"So, where were you? You havent been gambling I noticed."
Alli shrugged. "Not my thing really. I wandered around the town and stopped by Calamity Janes grave. You know, no matter how much I know it isnt true, I saw her grave and couldnt help but think of Doris Day in the movie with that name."
Tys smile was wider now. She sang softly, "Once I had a secret love, that lived within the heart of me."
"I love that one," Alli said. "Actually I love all musicals." Noise from the blackjack pit interrupted their conversation and drew their attention. The game was breaking up and the women were heading toward their double occupancy rooms.
"I guess Ill turn in too," Ty said. "Its been a long day and I didnt expect to be driving."
"I sort of know what you mean," Alli agreed. "I didnt expect to be on this bus any more than you did." The caregiver and the driver left the bar area and headed out of the casino toward their rooms.
"I know about the mix up in your travel plans," the brunette said as she neared her door. "I think you were a good sport to come along anyway."
"The ladies are growing on me. Besides, being odd man out I get a room to myself." Take the hint, take the hint she thought.
"I know," the driver said. "Well, this is mine." She indicated the door she had stopped in front of.
I wish it was mine too Alli mused.
The blonde paused a moment and said, "I suppose I should be heading off to bed." On impulse she leaned over and gave Ty a quick kiss on the cheek. "Thanks for the company."
Ty looked for a moment as if she would like to continue the exchange but stepped back instead. "Alli, I wont deny Im attracted to you but the company rules say no fooling around with the customers."
Alli blushed deeply and stammered, "I understand Im sorry. I should have realized. Ill just be going before I make a bigger fool of myself." She turned abruptly and continued up the corridor, disappearing into a room a few doors down. Ty stared after her for a long minute before sighing and entering her room.
As the door to Tys room closed, the one next to it opened.
Rachel looked at Mary, "Thats so sad. Anybody can see those two should be a couple. Stupid rules."
"Yeah," Mary agreed in a thoughtful tone. "Something should be done about it."
Rachel looked excited. "Mary Clancy, youve got that look on your face again."
Mary brightened. "Rach, Ive just thought of something scathingly brilliant! Did you remember to bring that cell phone your son gave you?"
"Sure, but why?"
"No time to explain, weve got a phone call to make. The games afoot, Watson!"
Rachel giggled as she and her best friend went back into their room.
"And the final stop in Yellowstone National Park will be at Old Faithful. The geyser is of course named for the regularity in which it erupts. The eruptions take place approximately every 65 minutes and last for about 4 minutes, sending hot water and steam one hundred sixteen to one hundred seventy five feet in the air." Ty recited the information from memory and looked forward to seeing the geyser in person once again.
"Speaking of Old Faithful, there she goes." Said Mary as Trudy made her hourly trip up the aisle of the bus to the bathroom.
"You try being on a water pill on a cross country trip, Mary Clancy, and see how you like it," Trudy shot back as she stuck her tongue out at her tormentor. "So bite me!"
"I would, dearie, but I dont think you have the time to stop and let me do it!"
The women on the bus broke out in hoots and laughter, including Trudy. Alli couldnt help but smile at the seniors antics. She hadnt felt much like smiling today as the bus sped out of South Dakota and across Wyoming. She felt foolish for not realizing there would be prohibitions preventing socializing between guides and passengers.
Its not like The Love Boat, stupid. Maybe when we get back to Minneapolis we can see each other. She dismissed that idea as wishful thinking. When we get back shell probably be going out on another tour. Driving is her job after all. Face it, theres no way a relationship is going to happen.
Alli felt her spirits drift lower. It didnt help that the seniors suddenly seemed to be very territorial about their seats, continuing to leave only the front seats unoccupied. The proximity to Ty was almost torture. The only satisfaction she had was that more than once she looked up to see Ty studying her in the inside mirror. Ty looked away quickly when their gazes met but not before Alli saw the look of regret in her eyes.
She wants this too. Damned rules! God, this is going to be a long trip.
"What do you mean I dont have a room?" thundered Ty at the quaking hotel clerk.
"Im sorry maam, but your office called and cancelled your room. They said it was an economizing move and that you would share a room with the other person who also had a private room, a Ms. Hayes."
Ty cut her eyes to Alli who just shrugged her shoulders in confusion.
"Who did you speak to at the office?"
"A Ms. Kim Novak."
"Kim Novak. Kim Novak? You boob, Kim Novak was a movie star in the 50s and 60s, not someone at the office of Great North Tours! Look, someones playing some sort of game here and Ill find out who." She turned and looked at the seniors gathered behind her who were the picture of innocence. "Until then just give me another room. Great North Tours does a lot of business with you, I guarantee theyll pay."
"Ive no doubt of that, maam. Great North Tours has a wonderful reputation with us. Yellowstone Lodge is proud to be of service to you."
"Good, then another room wont be a problem," Ty insisted as she smiled winningly at the clerk.
"Im afraid it will. You see, Ms. Gorman, when you cancelled the room we re-booked it immediately. It is our busy season after all."
"But I didnt but " The smile fell from Tys face and she just managed to keep herself from banging her head on the beautifully carved pine check-in desk. "Oh, hell, its only for a night. Fine. Just give me the keys," she said through clenched teeth. The clerk busied himself with the computer in front of him as Ty turned once again to her clients. "And it will be only one night," she glowered.
The women looked everywhere but at Ty and a few actually started whistling.
Alli walked from the bathroom drying her shoulder length hair with a towel. Ty was already in her bed, propped up against the headboard looking at maps and guidebooks. The weather channel was on the TV and Ty glanced up occasionally to check the weather for the next leg of the journey into Seattle.
Slipping under the covers of her own full-sized bed, Alli sucked in her breath as the cool sheets touched her skin that was still warm from her shower. Ty glanced over at the sound and Alli thought she saw an expression of interest there before the brunette returned her look to one of professional disinterest. The driver picked up the remote, clicked off the TV and began folding the maps in preparation for sleep.
"Ty?" Alli saw the driver start a little at the sound of her voice. Ty hadnt said much since they had become enforced roommates. Alli suspected Ty thought she had something to do with the room cancellation.
"Yeah?" Ty said looking over to the blondes bed.
"I want you to know I had nothing to do with the room problem. I got your message yesterday and well, I just wanted you to know it wasnt me." Ty studied the woman across from her carefully, gauging the veracity of her story in her eyes.
"I believe you," Ty said at last and put her books and maps on the nightstand between the two beds.
"Just like that? Well, that was easy. And here I thought youd be a hard sell."
"Nah, you wouldnt lie, its not in your nature," Ty said with certainty.
Intrigued, Alli asked, "How would you know that? Are you some sort of mind reader?"
Ty laughed softly. "Not hardly. Its your name, Allison. It means truthful and I guess I just hoped it would be right."
"My name means truthful?" At Tys nod, Alli smiled. "Thats interesting, how did you know?"
"Its kind of a hobby with me. I guess having something of an unusual name myself got me interested in what everybody elses name signifies."
"I wanted to ask you about your name. Tyrah is pretty unusual." The blonde fluffed her pillow then propped it under her head as she lay on her side looking over to the driver.
"Blame my mother. Tyrah is a Scandinavian name that means warrior. My last name means blue-eyed and when I was born Mom said I started crying before they could smack my bottom or whatever it is they do to get kids crying. She said she knew then I was a fighter and decided then and there on the name."
"Blue-eyed warrior. It fits, I like it."
Ty eased down into the covers and reached up for the light. "So glad you approve. You ready to have the lights out?"
"Yeah," Alli replied, "Im ready for a little shut-eye." The room was plunged into darkness as the light between the beds was turned off. The blonde turned onto her back and stared at the ceiling. "Ty?"
"The company rules dont say you cant be friends with a passenger, do they?" A small laugh emanated from the other bed.
"You know, I dont think they do. So, you think youd like to be friends, Truthful?"
"Yeah, I think Id like that and why would I lie?" A groan and a pillow came flying in her direction from out of the darkness and the battle was on.
Next door, Rachel and Mary could hear the laughter and occasional thumps coming from the room occupied by Ty and Alli.
Mary looked over and smiled at Rachel. "Its a start."
The bus ride and quick tour of Seattle had been fun. Alli and Ty had been inseparable, learning more about the other and enjoying what they found out. As they explored the Emerald City together they found they had more in common than just a potent physical attraction.
The pair was walking along Pike Street and entered the Market there. The laughter was easy between them and Ty was entertaining the blonde with stories of her previous trips to Seattle. They were so absorbed in one another that Ty forgot to warn Alli not to look directly at the fishmongers in the market. When the blonde made that fateful error a large fish came hurtling straight for her.
"Alli, look out!" yelled Ty but it was too late for Alli to do anything but turn slightly to avoid a fish in the face. The force of the large fish hitting her in the back propelled her forward and into Tys strong arms.
"Umph! Got you!" Ty exclaimed as she found herself with an armful of beautiful blonde female. That armful felt wonderful, it felt right. Ty wasnt the only one enjoying the closeness. Alli looked up and captured blue eyes with own. The heat she saw there pleased and excited her.
She feels it too. Now what are we going to do about it?
Alli straightened herself in Tys arms and said, "Thanks, good catch. Too bad you didnt get the fish."
"I dont know, I kind of like what I caught." The timbre of Tys voice sent chills down Allis spine and a rush of warmth to her center. She blushed furiously and it was the pinking of her cheeks that seemed to snap Ty out of the moment. She dropped her arms and stepped back from the blonde.
"God, Im sorry, I meant to warn you about the flying fish around here. Its a tradition and show all wrapped into one," Ty said while wrinkling her nose against the fishy smell emanating from her friend. "Looks like I owe you a new shirt."
"Its okay, Ty, Im from the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, remember. Its not the first time Ive had clothes that smelled like this. I could use a shower though."
"Okay, if you wont let me get you a new shirt, at least let me buy you dinner. I know a great restaurant near the hotel."
"Now thats a deal! But, Ty?"
"No seafood please," the blonde begged. Laughing, they left the market and headed off toward the hotel.
Behind them, back in the fish market, Mary Clancy pulled a twenty-dollar bill out of her purse and handed it to the fish seller. "Perfect toss," she said with a smile.
"We aim to please," the young man punned as he pocketed the twenty.
Rachel nudged Mary. "That was positively your best move yet!"
Mary appeared pleased at the compliment but narrowed her eyes as she spoke. "These two are destined to be together, I can just feel it. We might need to give destiny another kick or two in the pants though."
Giggling, Rachel took Marys arm and the two walked slowly from the market.
The bus sped southward from Seattle. After a brief visit to see Mount St. Helens, the bus crossed the Columbia River and headed into Portland. From there they drove over to the coast to follow the scenic Highway 101 south. This would be the final route on their way to San Francisco.
The tour stopped at the colorful coastal town of Seaside. The relatively short day on the bus left plenty of time to explore the tourist friendly town after the hotel check-in. The hotel afforded fantastic views of the beach and the vast Pacific Ocean.
Alli and Ty strolled the streets stopping in the quaint shops and nibbling on pieces of salt-water taffy. Alli looked over at her companion. This is so easy and natural. Being with her is the best thing thats ever happened to me.
As if feeling the caregivers eyes on her, Ty raised blue eyes from the tee shirt she was looking at and directed her gaze at Alli. She seemed to be considering saying something but instead she reached her hand out to the blonde who took it without hesitation, relishing the feeling of warmth that spread from her fingertips up her arm. Ty drew Alli out of the shop and onto the sidewalk where they started walking slowly to the west.
"You shouldnt miss the sunset over the Pacific, its one of the most breathtaking sights on this earth." They reached the sand and strolled through the few dunes to reach the waters edge. The sun was sinking rapidly toward the horizon and the golden orange globe was turning the sky magnificent shades of pink.
"Youre still holding my hand," Alli said quietly, her eyes never leaving natures spectacular show.
"Friends hold hands," observed the driver making no move to change the situation. No further words were spoken as the sun dipped to, and then below, the line of the ocean. Twilight rapidly descended and Alli shivered a little in the persistent ocean breeze.
"Ready to go back?" Ty asked.
Though reluctant to let the moment end, Alli said, "I suppose we should." Turning back toward the town, the pair was amused to see the seniors gathered in front of a small dune watching them. Each of them had a large bag and they began dumping the contents out on the ground. Eventually there was a large pile of wood in front of the dune. Ty and Alli joined them with Ty only now releasing the blondes hand. Alli missed the warmth immediately.
"Whats up guys?" Ty asked the group.
"What do you think were doing, working for Habitat for Humanity? Its a campfire, for Petes sake," said Rosalind in a teasing tone. "None of us were Girl Scouts though so you two will have to build the fire and light it."
"Come on, Alli, I was never a good hand with a campfire either." The two began working to dig a small fire pit and carefully arrange the firewood. It was full night when they moved back as the blaze caught. They moved back from the fire to notice they were alone except for Mary and Rachel.
"Where did everybody go?" Alli questioned.
"Oh, you know us old women, we need our beauty rest," Mary replied. "Rach and I need to be going in as well. This cool breeze isnt so good for the old arthritis. You two stay here and enjoy your hard work." Mary and Rachel headed back toward the hotel.
"Get the feeling weve been set up?" Ty asked.
"Big time, but shes right. We cant let this fire go to waste." The two women made themselves comfortable next to each other and settled in to watch the fire. Further down the beach they saw the fires of other people who were also content to spend the evening outdoors. Ty picked up Allis hand and brought it to her lips in a soft caress. She put her arm around the blondes shoulders and drew her in closer until Alli rested her head against the brunette.
"Do friends kiss other friends hands?" Alli whispered.
"Only very, very close friends," murmured Ty.
"Well be in San Francisco tomorrow night, right?"
"A side trip through the Redwoods and then, yeah, well be heading into San Francisco."
"Will you be driving the bus back to Minneapolis?"
"No, I need to fly back the next day, I have some business back in the Twin Cities that needs my attention." Alli was disappointed and felt her heart break just a little at the thought of losing track of Ty. They sat quietly then, each wrapped in their own thoughts.
From the hotel, Mary watched through binoculars. "Rats! No lip lock yet!"
"What are you going to do?" asked Rach from behind her in the room.
"Its my last resort. Tomorrow, the direct approach!"
The next morning Alli approached the bus and climbed aboard. She glanced at Ty but her expression was unreadable. As the blonde moved to her usual front row seat she was surprised to see Rachel sitting there.
"The views a little nicer up here, isnt it?" Rachel said sweetly. Mary popped up from her seat then and spoke to Alli.
"Why dont you join me back here? We can chat on the way to the Redwoods." Alli was suspicious but moved to join the ginger haired English woman. Once she was seated the bus began moving. After a while of enjoying the scenery of coastal Oregon, Mary got down to business.
"Why havent you and Ty hooked up yet? Are you trying to break this old matchmakers heart?" Alli knew the women had been watching her and Ty but bringing it up on the bus surprised her. She toyed with the idea of saying nothing then saying it was none of the older womans business but for some reason she felt she could trust Mary.
"I dont know really. Its against company rules to fraternize with the passengers but Ive had the impression that the rules wouldnt mean anything to Ty if she had a good enough reason to break them. I guess Im not a good enough reason."
"I wonder why. Its as plain as the nose on your face that shes smitten with you. Those blue eyes dont hide much when she looks at you. How do you feel about her?"
Alli hesitated a moment then spoke. "I thought I was looking for a summer fling but I ended up finding so much more. Ty is everything I didnt know I was looking for. Shes warm, sensitive, intelligent and so much fun to be with."
"Sounds to me like youre in love," Mary said sagely.
Alli opened her mouth to deny it but nothing came out. Its true. I love her. Now what am I going to do? It was a question for which she had no answer as the bus sped southward.
The bus pulled into the historic Fishermans Wharf parking lot late in the afternoon. This was the spot where the ladies would meet the local companys guide who would begin their tour of San Francisco. The seniors would transfer from one bus to another to be taken to Chinatown for supper before checking into the hotel. Alli would check into a hotel at the wharf, preferring to explore the City on her own.
Ty stood at the bottom step helping the ladies off the bus as was her habit, remaining a consummate professional at all times. Alli hung back to be the last one off the bus. She was determined to talk to Ty and let her know how she felt. If this was love then it was worth fighting for.
The blonde stepped down off the last stair to the ground and turned to face Ty but before she opened her mouth to speak, Ty began talking.
"Welcome to San Francisco, Ms. Hayes. I hope you enjoyed the trip and will travel with Great North Tours again sometime in the future."
"Ty, what the matter? Whats up with the tour guide talk? I thought at least we were past that."
"Im not sure what you mean, Ms. Hayes. I just wanted to complete our contract with you." Alli listened in disbelief, her temper rising at Tys apparent indifference to her.
"You did complete it, now Im going to complete my getting the hell out of your sight." Alli started to stalk off when her arm was grabbed from behind.
"Alli wait!" Ty tugged the blonde back around to face her. "Dont you get it? Now we can Oh hell...forget it." She pulled Alli up against her, leaned forward and kissed her with barely suppressed passion. After the surprise wore off, Alli found herself responding to the taller woman and it was better than anything she could have imagined.
When the kiss broke both women were breathless. From the other bus the seniors were clapping and hollering.
"I dont get it, Ty. I like it, but I dont get it."
"Youre not my client anymore, Alli. Now were just two women in love. At least I hope its two women because I can only vouch for one of us being that way." She kissed Alli again showing the truth of her claim.
The blonde had to steady herself a moment after the kiss. She smiled up at Ty. "Oh yeah, its two all right but why now? Why did you make me wait?"
Ty looked a little sheepish. "Remember when I told you about the rules?" At Allis nod, she continued. "Well, considering I wrote them I couldnt very well break them. Great North Tours is my company."
"Wait, the company belongs to you and thats why you could drive this route at the last minute without any problem?" A nod from Ty. "Youre the boss who gave me this trip half price?" Another nod. "And you love me?"
"Yep, and I thought we could spend the next week in San Francisco exploring where that might lead us. After all, we just survived the worlds longest first date."
Alli scrunched her brows in confusion. "I thought you had to get back to Minneapolis."
"Well, I did but after Mary Clancy talked to me this morning I sort of changed my mind."
"Mary talked to you? She talked to me too. Why that sweet old " The other tour bus starting and beginning to pull out of the parking lot cut off her sentence.
"Not too sweet," Ty observed. "Look." Alli turned to the departing bus. They laughed as they saw ten women waving, Rachel giving them the thumbs up sign and near the front of the bus, a wrinkly naked behind was pressed up against the window.
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