Love in Photographs

by Alex Tryst

copyright June 2002

Disclaimer: This book contains original characters of my own creation. In fact this whole idea came to life from a photograph I have of a woman that came from a magazine. There was just something about it that struck me, and I found myself wondering who she was and who might have taken the picture. Suddenly there was a story unfolding in my mind that I had to put on paper. I have borrowed some names of famous people as well as locations, but infringement is not intended. Also there are three languages in this book, English, French, and Italian. You multi-linguists must excuse me if you find some of my grammar is incorrect. I speak and write English better than French, and French better than Italian. For convenience I have put translations in parentheses. As always, comments and feedback is welcome at Enjoy!

Dedication: I have to dedicate it to the mystery woman that spurred this story in the first place. Whoever and wherever you are, thanks for sparking my imagination.

Now on with the show...................................................................................................................

Part 1

"Look, people. We don't have all day." Torrance mentioned fiddling with her camera a little more. Her patience was beginning to wane as she waited on the last model to appear before she could call it a day. Propping one foot up on the stool on which she was sitting, her black cowboy boot kept time with the beat of the old Janet Jackson music that was blaring from somewhere overhead. Rubbing her hands along her faded tight jeans, she took a deep breath before her temper got the better of her.

It had been a tremendously long day, and she had gotten stuck on a job that she would normally consider less than worthy of her talents, but she had filled in for another photographer as a favor and was now regretting that decision. Standing up she left her camera on the stool and began to pace. Pushing fingers through her dark short hair, she growled when she noted that the model she was scheduled to shoot was still nowhere to be seen. She was tired, hungry, and she was beginning to feel overheated in her black silk shirt. Meanwhile people around her were scurrying about trying to put the finishing touches on the set and adjust the lights. Turning at the sound of her name, she saw Morgan, the makeup artist, a woman Torrance had come to know well in her years of photography coming her way. "This better be the most gorgeous woman I've ever seen, or else I'm going to be irritated for the hold up. What's wrong now?"

Morgan cracked a smile. "Get ready to eat those words, Torrance." she teased, knowing Torrance's adoration of the female form. "She's ready. Here you might need this." she remarked handing the tall woman a towel.

Casting her a curious glance she asked, "What's this for?"

"To catch the drool that's going to be coming out of your mouth when I bring her out here." she joked as she turned to retrieve the woman Torrance had been anxious for. After a minute Morgan returned followed by a slim blonde who was looking decisively nervous. "Torrance, this is Helen Melbourne. Helen, Torrance Whitfield." Morgan introduced nudging the blonde forward.

Torrance smiled in spite of herself as she forgot that she had been upset at the blonde for the holdup. "Well, you were definitely worth the wait, Helen." she stated with a audacious grin extending her hand.

Helen blushed slightly at the way the famous tall, dark-haired woman was eying her as she shook her hand. She often received compliments on her looks, which is why she had gone into modeling in the first place, but to be appreciated by one of the most well-known photographers in the business took her by surprise. She hadn't imagined she would be in the company of anyone like Torrance, being that she hadn't been as successful in her career as the men and women Torrance normally photographed. "Sorry for the wait." she stated.

"What wait?" Torrance jested, trying to make the woman more comfortable. She knew for the shoot to go well, the young woman was going to have to relax. "Time is nonexistent in those green eyes. My only regret is that I couldn't see them sooner." she said softly.

Helen flushed again. She knew Torrance's reputation as a notorious flirt on set from other people she had worked with, but to experience it first hand was something she hadn't considered. "So, where do you want me?" she asked, trying to divert the sexy photographer from her less than professional remarks.

Torrance grinned as outrageous lines popped into her head, but she opted not to respond, sensing that Helen might not like them. Taking the blonde gently by the arm, she led her toward the set. "You know, Helen, that blush of yours gives you an innocence I haven't seen in any of my models in years. That's probably one of your biggest assets." she mentioned. "Why don't you just make yourself comfortable over here? I don't know who you've worked with before, but let me tell you a little bit about the way I do things. This shoot isn't the type of stuff I normally do, so I'm not sure what you're used to. However we're going to do things my way. I'm trying to achieve a sensual undertone to our shoot, but I think that innocence of yours will add quite nicely to the mix I've already taken today. I want to try to capitalize on that, so if you can try to get into that frame of mind, that would work well. I thought this music might help a bit, sort of delicate yet sensuous at the same time. Can we do that?"

Helen nodded. "Of course." she answered taking a tentative seat on the stool on the set.

Without even asking Torrance, moved her hand to Helen's cheek, titling her head upward slightly. With the other hand, she tucked some hair behind the blonde's tiny ear. "There. Now you're perfect." she softly stated before turning to retrieve her equipment.

Torrance didn't even realize how much time was passing as she photographed the woman before her. As she looked through her lens, she idly pondered how to spend more time with the blonde. Being single Torrance was always looking for Ms. Right, and Helen was definitely the type of woman she found attractive. Even though she was not the most beautiful she had ever had the pleasure of photographing, there was something about the way those green eyes pierced through her lens that moved her. Wondering if Helen would even entertain spending more time with her, she clicked through several rolls.

Finally Torrance called a stop to the shoot. Immediately Helen stood up and began to head back toward the dressing area, but Torrance followed her. "Helen, that was great work today." she said trying to grab the blonde's attention.

"Thanks. That means a lot coming from you."

"Listen. I was wondering if you would want to sit for me again sometime. I'm working on a book right now, and I think you would fit in well. What do you think?" she inquired taking a seat on the couch as Helen moved to get her things.

"What kind of book?" Helen asked in interest.

"Photography obviously. I'm doing the second in a series on women. I don't know if you've ever seen the first on. It's called 'Women at Work.' I'm doing one now about women at leisure."

"That could be interesting."

"Then give me your agent's number. I'm serious about including you. You're very natural." Helen handed Torrance one of her agent's cards before picking up her clothes to change. "Hey, just a second. I wanted to know something else." Torrance said. Helen looked at her questioningly.

"Are you from around here? Do you live in the area?"

"No. Why do you ask?"

"Well, I was having a little get together tonight at my place, and I thought it you weren't otherwise engaged, you might like to join us. It's nothing fancy, just a few of my friends. We're just going to have some wine and conversation, and I'm going to make some of my great Thai. What do you say? Morgan will be there."

"Well, that's very nice of you, Torrance. It just so happens that my train isn't until the morning. That sounds like fun."

"Great. Let me give you my address and number." Torrance scribbled the information on a slip of paper and handed it to her. "Everybody's coming about eight."

"Okay. What should I wear?"

"Nothing fancy. We're a casual group. It would surprise me if I even changed." Torrance stood and made her way towards the door, knowing that Helen was waiting on her to leave to change clothes.

"All right. I guess I'll see you at eight then?"

Torrance nodded. "Look forward to it." Going back out to the set, she saw Morgan still there talking with some other people. Taking her aside, she said, "Hey, Morgan, don't forget eight o'clock tonight."

"I won't. Is it okay that I'm bringing a date?"

"Is that date female?"

"Of course." Morgan answered.

"Then of course it's fine. Helen's coming too."

"You invited Helen? Does she know it's all lesbians?"

"I didn't mention that part. Should I have? You don't think anyone is going to misbehave, do you?"

Morgan shook her head. "They're going to take one look at you and realize that a claim on Helen has already been staked. Too bad Helen is out of the loop, though."

"Morgan, don't read into this. I invited her over for drinks and dinner. It's not that big of a deal. I've got to get going. It still haven't gotten all the stuff I need for dinner. I'll see you at eight."

When Helen arrived at Torrance's apartment building, she paid the cab driver and then stepped out onto the street. The doorman greeted her politely as she made her way inside. As she waited on the elevator, she thought about the possibilities of the night. When she accepted the invitation, she knew that Torrance was a lesbian, but she hadn't thought about the other company that would be attending. She pondered if Morgan was also gay and what kind of people she might encounter. She wasn't close-minded by any means being in the modeling business, but she had never really spent extended time in the company of lesbians before, so she was a little nervous about what to expect. When Helen got off the elevator, she slowly made her way down to Torrance's apartment as she looked over her outfit. She had dressed in black slacks and a cornflower blue blouse even though Torrance said it was casual, having decided that she'd rather be slightly overdressed than under.

Torrance was just chatting with her other friends that had already arrived as she prepared their meal when she heard her doorbell. Since everyone was already there except for Helen, Torrance smiled at Morgan before asking her to take over the cooking duties while she answered the door. As she moved through the living room, she took a look at herself to make sure she was presentable. Even though she had denied her interest to her friends when Morgan had brought Helen up earlier in conversation, they all knew that Torrance was attracted to the new visitor to their group. Taking a quick look in the mirror to straighten out her dark locks, Torrance opened the door with a smile that only brightened when she saw how fabulous Helen looked.

"Hey. So glad you made it. Come on in." she greeted gesturing her into the loft. "Here. Let me take your purse." Stowing it in the closet, she escorted Helen back toward the kitchen.

"This is a great space you have, Torrance."

"Thanks. I like it. Maybe later I'll give you the grand tour." Moving into the kitchen, Torrance dutifully made introductions to the other guests before asking, "Would you like a glass of wine?"

"That would be great. Thanks." Helen took a spot near the end of the bar and joined in the conversation that was already taking place as Torrance put her drink next to her.

Relieving Morgan of her duties, Torrance took over the cooking as the six women chatted. As Torrance continued to make dinner, she subtly eyed Helen whenever she could. The young blonde appeared to be having a good time, but since she didn't really know her, she couldn't be for sure. Helen was a little more reserved than the rest of the group but still actively participated.

As Helen listened to the conversation at hand, she took in the women before her. It was becoming obvious that all of them were lovers of women, but she was relieved that none of them had inquired about her sexuality. She didn't want to have to admit to the whole group that she identified herself as heterosexual, finding it easier just to let them all believe that she was one of them if they wanted. She looked over at her hostess to find her glancing at her. They exchanged smiles. Even though Helen was different from them as far as love was concerned, she found it easy to like Torrance's friends and was glad that she had attended.

After dinner Torrance took Helen on a tour of her place while the other women started on the dishes. Once they had covered both floors, they proceeded onto the balcony. "You have a fantastic place, Torrance. If I were going to live in the city, this is exactly the kind of place I'd want. It's so spacious, and you have all these great views. The windows here are incredible."

"Yeah. I'm lucky I guess."

"If you don't mind me asking, how much does a loft like this go for?"

Torrance shrugged. "I don't know. I don't pay rent."

"What do you mean? Do you own it?"

"My family owns the building. I just stay here to watch out over it." Helen nodded taking the information in as she took the last sip of her wine from her glass. "Uh oh. You're on empty. Let me fill that up for you." Torrance suggested trying to take the glass from Helen's hand.

"That's okay. I can do it. Would you like more while I'm inside?"

"Sure. Bring out a bottle, would you?"

Helen nodded before going inside. As she passed through the living room into the kitchen, she noted that the group had broken down into twosomes for more intimate conversations, so she decided it would be best to rejoin Torrance on the balcony. When she returned she mentioned, "Looks like the party has quieted down a bit. Everybody has broken off into couples."

"Oh." Torrance said. When Helen didn't say anything more on the subject, she felt the need to address the issue. "About that Helen. It never really occurred me to mention to you that it would be all women here tonight."

"Why should it have?"

Torrance shrugged. "Well because we're all lesbians and you're not. I guess I just wanted you to know that I didn't mean for it to look so couplish, and by inviting you I only served to heighten that feeling. I never thought it might make you uncomfortable."

"It doesn't. I'm having a good time. How did you know I wasn't gay?" she asked curiously.

"It's obvious even though it's a real shame." she remarked teasingly.

Helen chuckled. "Are you always this flirtatious with straight women?"

"Yeah, pretty much. I'll flirt with just about anyone if I'm in the mood. I'm harmless though."

"I know. Why aren't you with anyone? You seem like a prime pick to me, looks, fame, money. Why aren't the women flocking to you?"

"Because believe it or not, all those things work to my disadvantage most of the time. It's a rarity to find a woman just interested in me."

"I guess I could understand that." Helen mumbled.

"What about you? Are you seeing someone?"

"No, no time really. My real job keeps me busy, and with modeling jobs on the side, I just don't have the time to get serious about someone. Most guys have a problem with a woman who works more than they do."

"What's your real job?"

"I'm a high school math teacher."

"Really? That's quite admirable. Why don't you do modeling full time? You're a great looking woman, and you have the right elements."

"Except for one. My height has really held me back, but that's okay. I'm over my adolescent dreams of becoming a supermodel. Now I realize that even if I could, I wouldn't want to do this full time. This is just a summer thing for me, so I can travel and make some extra money. Three months of this is about all I can handle during the year."

Torrance nodded. "I never asked you where you were from."

"I live in Philly now, but I grew up in Maryland."

"Oh. My family has a house up in the Poconos. It's a great getaway from the city at times. There are time when New York just gets to be too much for me."

"I can see that. I don't really like being here for extended periods of time. About a week is all I can handle. I never get any sleep here either with all the noise. It's funny, because I never actually heard any noise in your place except now that we're out here."

"Nice, isn't it? It's the soundproof glass we use for the windows. Blocks out the noise. I'm sure my neighbors pay a high price for that."

"I'm sure they do."

That night Helen was the last to leave. As Torrance walked her down to the lobby, they talked more about Torrance's book project. Going out onto the street, Torrance greeted the doorman politely before asking that he hail a cab. When one pulled to the curb, Torrance opened the back door for Helen. "Well, thanks for coming tonight, Helen. I hope you had a good time."

"I had a wonderful time. Thanks for inviting me. Your friends are great."

"I'm glad you think so. Maybe we'll have a chance to get together again soon if you're in town." Torrance proposed hopefully.

Helen gave the tall woman a smile. "I'd like that."

"Good. You have my number. Call me anytime. In the meantime I'll contact your agent about the book."

"Sounds good." There was a moment of silence as they looked at each other. Even though it hadn't felt awkward the whole evening, their moment of parting felt very much like a date suddenly. "Well, I better go." Helen stated.

"Yeah." Torrance replied leaning to give her a hug. They embraced for a second, exchanging kisses on the cheek before Helen got into the cab, and Torrance shut the door. Torrance stood on the sidewalk until the cab was out of sight.


A few weeks later Torrance was in Philadelphia to shoot Helen for her book. When she arrived at the model's apartment, she knocked lightly due to the hour. The door came open slowly, and when Torrance caught a glance at who it was, she was momentarily mute.

"Can I help you?" the man inquired curiously.

"I'm sorry. I'm Torrance Whitfield, and I'm looking for Helen Melbourne. Do I have the right place?" cautiously she asked.

"Oh yeah. Come on in." he replied letting her inside. "She's still asleep right now. Do you want me to go get her?"

"In a minute. I'm here to do a shoot of her, but she doesn't have to get up just yet. Are you her roommate?"

"One of them. I'm Mark."

Just then a auburn hair woman came into the living room. "I thought I heard the door." she mentioned looking at Torrance inquisitively.

"Hi. I'm Torrance. I'm here to photograph Helen."

"Oh. Yeah, she mentioned that to me. I'm Kelly. She's still sleeping. Did she know you were coming this early?"

"I'm early for a reason. Her agent knows. I was hoping to catch her asleep. I wanted to get some pictures of her that way for the book."

"Oh. Well, in that case, her room is the last door on the right." Kelly said.

"Thanks. Is she a light sleeper?"

"Not at all. She can sleep through anything. She probably won't even know you're there."

Torrance nodded before moving quietly down the hall and cracking open the door as silently as possible. The room was fairly bright with morning light as the blonde slept peacefully. Torrance tiptoed over to the bed. Helen was lying facing the door, one arm and leg on top of her white comforter. Her short blonde hair was strewn over the white pillow case. Torrance's eyes drifted over her bare shoulder down her arm before taking in her bare leg. Helen's sleeping attire consisted of only a navy tank top and white cotton bikinis. Torrance smiled at the vision before her. Helen looked so much like an angel at rest. Torrance completed a roll of film of just her sleeping without Helen even stirring. Deciding to wait for her to rise, she left the room as she had found it and went back into the den.

Kelly and Mark were sitting there having breakfast. "You were right. She didn't even move." Torrance said with a laugh.

"Could I get you anything while you wait? Would you like me to wake her for you?" Kelly inquired.

"I'm fine. Thanks. I think she should be up any time now. I looked at her alarm clock, and it was set for 9:30, so I only have another ten minutes."

Half an hour later the three of them were still sitting in the den waiting for Helen to make an appearance when they heard her door open. Helen sleepily padded out in a robe an slippers as she rubbed her eyes. "Morning." she mumbled without even a look at them. However when Torrance answered the salutation, Helen's green eyes snapped open. "Torrance? What are you doing here? You weren't supposed to be here for another half hour."

"I couldn't wait to get started. Besides had I come later, I wouldn't have been able to get pictures of you sleeping."

"You did?" Torrance nodded. "Well, at least I was wearing something. I bet I looked a mess." she said running her hands through her hair.

"You looked like the angel you are." Torrance replied snapping a picture of her just standing there.

Helen noted the odd looks on the faces of her roommates at Torrance's mild flirtation. Even though it didn't normally phase her, the way they were looking at her made her uncomfortable. She knew it was just apart of Torrance's act, but knowing that they were unaware of why she had said it, Helen shifted uneasily instead of gracing Torrance with a smile for the comment.

Torrance noticed immediately that she didn't get her usual response. "What's wrong, cutie? Wake up on the wrong side of the bed?" she joked trying to lighten the mood.

Holding a hand up to shield her face from any more potential photos, Helen grumbled, "I just don't feel like having any pictures taken right now. Just give me five minutes, will you?" Heading back toward her bedroom, she shut the door behind her. Helen went back to her bed and collapsed onto it. She thought of her surprise to see Torrance already in her living room when she came in. The photographer was looking much different than from the evening she had spent with her. Torrance had opted to wear a white t-shirt, khaki shorts, and sandles with a backwards cap, making her look the part of a lesbian more so than Helen had seen her, and yet to Helen she looked just as fascinating as the day they met.

Over the past few weeks, Helen had thought a lot about the dark haired woman, wanting to call her but choosing not to. Something in her always kept her from dialing the phone number she had held in her hand many times. When Torrance had told her to call, Helen wondered if it was genuine and had been hesitant to intrude on the older woman's life. Nevertheless her thoughts had been with Torrance numerous times over their brief separation, and now that she was sitting in Helen's den, Helen was suddenly stuck with a bashfulness of being in front of the woman's camera, because she felt too exposed. Modeling on a set was much different that being caught in her natural state, and she felt vulnerable about what could happen when her professional and personal lives collided.

Just then a knock on her door broke her thoughts. Kelly admitted herself and closed the door behind her before taking a seat on the bed. "Well, Torrance isn't at all what I thought she might be."

"Don't start, Kelly. This day is going to be hard enough. I don't need disapproving looks from you and Mark as well. I'm going to get strange looks all day today. I need your support."

"You have it. I was just taken back. She wasn't what I was expecting."

"She doesn't look like I expected her too either. I guess I was hoping she would be a little less obvious today since we have to be out in public. I really thought I was okay with her being gay, but right now I feel like the biggest bitch, because I'm bothered by the way she's dressed."

"Not to mention that she's flirting with you."

"She always does that with her models. It's just her style, but today I'm unsettled by it. On top of that I'm a little weirded out that she took pictures of me in my underwear. This day just isn't off to a good start."

"Well, Mark and I were about to leave, but if you want us to stay here and be with you all day, we will. If she really makes you that uncomfortable, we'll stay."

"Thanks for the offer, but this is work. You'll be bored. I've just got to think about where we can go that's not too public."

"All right but if you change your mind, call us."

Helen waited for a few minutes after she heard her roommate leave before going backout into living room. Torrance was still sitting waiting patiently for her. "Look, Helen. The object of this shoot is to be completely natural. You don't even have to talk to me. Just go about your schedule as if I'm not even here."

"All right. Fine but just to remind you that there is a clause about me being naked." she mumbled.

"I'm aware of that." Torrance answered, offended by the icy demeanor that had struck Helen. "Look, if you have changed your mind about being in the book, you can tell me. I'd like to think that we're good enough acquaintances at least to be open about our feelings. I wouldn't hold it against you if you asked to get out of this. I just thought it might be something you'd want, but if you don't want to do this, tell me. I'll give you the roll I took of you this morning and be on my way. I invited you to be in this, Helen, but there are other models who want to be in it. I could just use one of them instead."

Knowing she was being unfair to the photographer, Helen dropped her head. "I'm sorry. I'm just in a bad mood right now, and I'm a little upset that you took pictures of me asleep."

"I cleared it with your agent first."

"Well, she didn't clear it with me. If I had known you were going to do that, I wouldn't have been in so little."

"You were fully covered. I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. I'll tell you what. Do you want me to give you the roll? You can have it if it bothers you this much. I think they'll be spectacular though."

Helen knew Torrance was trying to placate her by offering to hand over the film. "No. If you think they are that good, keep them."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. Well, I'm going to go on my run. You going to try to keep up?"

"Maybe for a little, but running and shooting at the same time is nearly impossible."

Helen went to change into her running clothes before going outside. As she stretched Torrance took pictures of her, but as they began, Torrance quickly gave up trying to pace her with the camera and just waited for her to return. Afterwards they moved into the kitchen for breakfast. Torrance was just a bystander as Helen had her meal and read the paper. When that was complete, Helen went to shower, leaving Torrance on the couch. Pictures were taken of all aspects of dressing once Helen had on sufficient clothing. Torrance was so busy taking photos and notes that the two of the hardly had a chance to speak.

The whole day was spent with Torrance documenting everything that Helen did, from reading in the park, to talking on her cell phone, to meeting friends for early drinks. At dinner time Torrance took a temporary hiatus to eat something herself before getting back to work. The day ended with Helen on the couch watching a movie before going to bed. As Torrance took her final roll of the day, she tucked Helen in for sleep. Helen looked up at her in tiredness.

"You know, we've spent this whole day together and hardly said two words. This has been a strange day, Torrance."

"Well, it's over now. Just close your eyes and go to sleep."

"I feel like I've been cheated out of a visit with you. If I close my eyes, you'll be gone. Promise me that if I close my eyes, the next time I open them you'll be here." she whispered through a yawn.

"If that's what you want. I was planning on going back in the morning, but I could spend the day with you and go home the day after."

"Would you do that for me?"

"Sure. I'd like to visit with you too. I've missed your company, but I really should let you get to bed now. It's been a long day."

Helen patted the other side of her queen size bed. "Put your head down next to me, Torrance, and go to sleep. You're tired too."

"I need to go back to the hotel."

"I'll take you in the morning. Rest now."

Torrance looked at Helen contemplatively for a moment before nodding at her. She really was tired and the thought of sleeping next to the beautiful woman was more attractive than driving all the way back to the hotel to a cold, empty bed. They didn't say anything as Torrance took a seat on the edge of the bed to take off her sandals. Tossing them aside, she did the same with her cap. Opening her belt Torrance slipped off her shorts, leaving her in a pair of boxers and a t-shirt. Timidly she pulled back the covers and slid into the bed.

Helen had turned toward the door away from her giving Torrance a chance to view all of Helen's back. The blonde had opted to wear a different tank top and a pair of sleeping pants to bed that night, but Torrance still thought her absolutely lovely. Torrance felt fairly sure that Helen was unaware of her feelings, so Torrance wanted to make sure not to make the younger woman uncomfortable by trying to put a move on her, even though as she gazed at her, it was exactly what she wanted to do. Deciding it would be better if she turned away from the beauty, Torrance turned her back to Helen and closed her eyes.

Helen awoke first in the morning. Feeling the body next to hers, she opened her eyes to see Torrance still sleeping. Helen propped up on her arm as she studied the older woman. Torrance's short dark hair was matted from her hat the previous day and sleep. She looked up the sculpted arm that Torrance had over her head. Moving her eyes over Torrance's face, she took in the photographer's lips slightly parted as she took deep rhythmic breaths. Seeing a silver necklace around Torrance's neck, Helen curiously reached for it to look at it closer. Dangling from it was a set of dogtags with the name Thomas D. Whitfield imprinted on them, making Helen wonder who it was and why Torrance was wearing them. She placed them gently on Torrance's chest as not to wake her. As she laid there studying the older woman, it dawned on her how vulnerable Torrance looked in her sleep, a far difference from the strong woman she normally was. Helen smiled as she took in the beauty of Torrance's sweet face and toned body. Without even realizing it, she reached over to Torrance's arm, lightly tracing along the indentation of her defined tricep, but when Torrance stirred, she pulled back.

When Torrance awoke it took her a moment to remember where she was. Sitting up slightly she looked around the room before her eyes landed on Helen's open green eyes. "Morning." she whispered at the woman lying next to her.

Helen graced her with a smile. "Good morning, Torrance. Did you sleep well?"

Torrance nodded. "Yeah which is weird because I don't normally sleep well in strange places. Must have just been exhausted. Chasing around after you was no cake walk, even though the view was worth it."

"I'm glad you think so."

There was a minute of silence as they just looked at each other intently, but feeling uneasy with the way Helen was staring at her, Torrance broke the gaze as she asked, "So, what's our plan for the day?"

"Well, I guess the first thing would be to get dressed. I need to get you back to the hotel."

"Actually I have my own car, so I can just drive myself back. Why don't I go and take a much needed shower, and when I get back we'll have thought of what we'd like to do. How does that sound?"

Helen nodded. "Sounds fine. Are you going to leave tomorrow or tonight?"

"I haven't decided yet, but I guess I better, because I'll have to check out."

"Why don't you just bring your stuff back over here, so if you decide to stay, you can just crash here again?"

"You wouldn't mind?" Torrance clarified.

"Of course not. I'm planning on having you out late anyway and hopefully away from your camera."

Torrance grinned. "No camera today. I promise."

"Good." Helen stated.

Torrance looked down at Helen again. The softness of her gaze was making Torrance feel more strongly about her, but she figured Helen wasn't even aware how sultry she was looking at the moment. Taking a deep breath, Torrance began to get out of bed. "Well, I guess I better get going." she said putting on her shorts and sandals. Helen got out of bed as well and slipped on her robe before following Torrance to the door. As they passed through the den, they saw Kelly sitting there watching the morning news as she had breakfast. "See you in a bit, beautiful." Torrance said before walking out the door.

Once Torrance was gone, Helen turned to go back to her room, but the quizzical look on her roommate's face stopped her. "What?" she snipped.

"She spent the night?"

"So?" defensively Helen questioned.

"Hey. You don't have to get bent out of shape about it. I'm just surprised. I didn't expect that."

"She was too tired to drive back to her hotel."

"I see." she mumbled.

"What? You don't believe me?" Helen huffed.

Kelly gave her a inquisitive raise of the brow. "Of course I believe you, Helen."

"Then why are you making such a big deal out of it?"

"I'm not. You're the one making it an issue. What's with you? Something you're not telling me about your relationship with the photographer?"

"We're just friends. Can't she stay the night here without you thinking that we did something just because she's a lesbian? If you didn't know, you wouldn't be looking at me that way."

"I don't think that even though you're sure as hell acting guilty. You didn't do anything with her, did you?" Kelly asked with interest.

"I'm not even going to answer that. You know me."

"I sure do, Helen, and right now you're acting that you just had sex and are now regretting it."

Helen dropped her head forward. She knew she was acting weird, but something about the situation was making her uneasy. "Well, I didn't." she replied.

"Then what's up with you? You're as uncomfortable as you were yesterday morning when she arrived. If you don't like her, why can't you just not see her?"

"I do like her, Kelly. I guess it's just different when she's here versus being in New York. I think it's easier for me to be in her life than for her to come into mine."

"Because you're uncomfortable with our friends knowing that you have a lesbian friend?"

"I guess. I just don't want our friends to think that something's going on between Torrance and me just because she's gay."

"And you think they might, especially with the way she talks to you." Kelly finished for her.


"Well, you're going to have to get over that, or maybe you'll have to tell Torrance that it makes you uncomfortable when she flirts with you. That's what it's really about isn't it? Her flirting with you in front of people we know?"

Helen nodded. "In a way but it's more than that."


"I don't know."

"Well, there's nothing wrong with finding her interesting, Helen. You can still enjoy her company even though she's gay without there being anything more."

"I know. I've got to get dressed. She'll be back soon."

An hour later Torrance was back at Helen's and waiting on the blonde to finish getting ready. When Helen came into the den, Torrance gave her a smile. "You look nice." she complimented taking in Helen's pastel green blouse and khaki capri pants with matching green slip on sandals. "Do we have a plan yet?"

Helen shrugged. "I don't know. What would you like to do?"

"Well, I was thinking maybe it would be nice to be outside. I don't get a lot of green in New York. I thought maybe we could take a drive through the country, possibly ending up out by my parents' house for lunch. No one is there right now, so it's quite. I just really would like to be out in the fresh air."

"Okay. Tonight though we're supposed to be going out with some friends for dinner, and then they want to go to this club. I told them I would go with them."

"All right. We'll be back by then. If you're ready, your chariot awaits, mademoiselle." Torrance said standing.

Helen looked over the photographer's outfit choice. She was wearing a short sleeve knit shirt and khakis with sandals, again tipping the world off to her sexuality. Wondering if she would be able to get Torrance to change before they had dinner, Helen just gave her a smile before following her out the door. Once outside Torrance led the way over to her Cadillac Escalade and opened the door for Helen. As the blonde got up into her seat, she gazed over the features of the SUV. It had every amenity a vehicle could have further forming her opinion that Torrance's family did have substantial wealth. "Thank you." she softly said just before Torrance shut her door.

As she waited on Torrance to go around to the driver's side, she wondered what the day might have in store. Even though they were on their way to forming a friendship, there seemed to be a palpable tension between them as well. Helen wondered if it would dissipate the further along the relationship developed as Torrance got into her own seat.

"Would you like to get a cup of coffee to go or something? I had a little breakfast while I was at the hotel, but there coffee tasted like sludge. I'm in need of a fix."

"Yeah, sure. There's a place just down the way." When they reached the coffee shop, Torrance ran in while Helen waited in the car. As she watched Torrance disappear across the parking lot, her eyes traveled over Torrance back down past her waist to her posterior and legs as she thought to herself what an amazing body Torrance possessed. Helen thought that if Torrance had the desire she could be a model, especially at her tall height, but then the thought of Torrance being forced to wear fashions that obviously would not fit with the brunette's personality made her chuckle. After a few minutes, she saw Torrance coming out of the shop carrying two coffees. She admired the way Torrance practically strutted back to the car, an air of confidence surrounding her.

"Here we go. Two coffees." Torrance mentioned as she hopped back in the car. "Now we're set."

As Torrance pulled the SUV out into traffic, Helen took a tentative sip of her coffee as she cast a glance at Torrance. She admitted to herself that if Torrance had been a man instead of a woman, she would be physically drawn to her, but as the thought occurred, she questioned if she was attracted to the woman anyway, making her break her gaze and stare out the window.

"What's going on in that pretty head of yours?" Torrance inquired after a few quiet minutes.

"I was just thinking about you."

"What about me?"

"I was wondering how old you were." Helen made up, pushing her other thoughts away.

"Thirty two. How old are you?"

"Oh, I'm practically ancient in the modeling world. I'm twenty seven."

"And how did you decide to go into teaching? That takes special talent."

"I don't know. It's just always interested me, and I was good in math. I enjoy working with the kids and feeling like I make a difference. How did you get into photography?"

"The same thing really. I just always wanted to do it, started it as a hobby but it became a career. Of course I'm not making a real difference in anyone's life. I admire people who have it in them to dedicate themselves to helping others. I know that if there had been a teacher as attractive as you I might've been more inclined to be interested in my studies. I bet the kids like having you." she teased lightly.

Helen flushed at the comment. "Well, looks aren't what's important in teaching."

"No but it certainly helps. Tell me the truth. Don't you think you have an easier time keeping their attention than some of your counterparts?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe I do but at the same time it can be a nuisance, because they think I'm a pushover or unintelligent. I hate being judged by my looks."

"And yet you model?"

"I can honestly say that I'm only in it for the money, and I know it won't last forever. I might as well make it while I can. I'm sure I only have a few good years left in me."

"Well, regardless of when you stop modeling, nothing can change the fact that you are a beautiful woman. You'll still have to deal with those students ogling you."

"Don't think for a moment that they don't do it either. I tell you there is nothing worse than knowing that when you have your back to the class, the boys and some of the girls are staring at my ass instead of the board."

Torrance laughed. "Beauty has its price. Tell me something, Helen. Do you ever wish that you weren't attractive?"

Helen shrugged. "I guess I never really thought about it much. Why do you ask?"

"I know some women that do feel that way, especially if their looks are inhibiting them from being taken seriously."

"I could see that, but I know my looks will wane with age. I might as well use them while I have them, even though occasionally they cause me problems."

Torrance nodded. "I guess that's one way to look at it, but I know from experience when a woman will age gracefully. You'll be one of those."

There was a momentary lapse in conversation as Torrance took a turn off onto a back woods highway leading north out of the city. Trying to find out more about her, Helen said, "You know you never did tell me where you were from. Have you always lived in New York?"

"Um, well, I guess New York has always been my home base of sorts, but I traveled a lot with my parents when I was young. My father was a senator for New York for a long time, and my mother was a model turned actress and then photographer, so there was a lot of traveling. He would go back and forth between New York and DC quite often, and my mother liked living in New York even though she did most of her work abroad."

"What kind of actress was she? Did she do films?"

"Yeah but mostly foreign, usually Italian. That's where she's from."

"That's where you get your looks. I had wondered if you had Italian in you with that olive complexion. What about the rest of your family?"

"Well, I'm an only child, but I have a large extended family on both sides. I come from a long line of actors and actresses on my mother's side, and as far as my father's, most of the men are attorneys or in business. What about you? What's your family like? You said you were from Maryland. Where?"

"Annapolis. My parents actually still live in the area on the Chesapeake Bay. I'm the youngest of three. My father owns an architectural firm, and my mother is a retired school teacher. My brother is an engineer and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and my two nieces. As for my sister, she lives in DC and works as an employment recruiter."

"And how did you get to Philly if all your family is down there?"

Helen smiled as she dropped her gaze into her lap. "I'm almost embarrassed to admit it now, but I came here because of a relationship."

"One that didn't work out I take it."

"No. We worked well together from a distance, but once I had graduated school and moved in with him, I realized it was a mistake. However I had already started working and making friends, so I just decided to stay. It's that much closer to New York anyway, so it's not as expensive to take the train in for a shoot."

"Do you think you'll ever want to go back?"

"I thought about it when we first broke up, but back then I was determined to make it on my own, especially since my parents were so against me moving in with him, and now I have a life. I don't want to leave. Nothing short of getting married or moving for a job would take me away. Tell me. What was it like for you as a child growing up around all those famous, successful people? Did you feel pressured to take up professions like your family?"

"Well, as much as I enjoy acting and did it when I was a kid, I'm not exactly what the world wants to see as a leading lady in Italy or the U.S. There's really not a place for a woman like me in acting. Besides I came to realize early that I had other artistic interests, but as far as my dad was concerned, I did get pressure about going to law school. He didn't think photography was a way to make a living, and he didn't want me just abusing the family estate. It took a while to convince him that it was what I really wanted. With the exception of where I live, I've done everything myself. I've made my own money and own name, so he's proud of that, even though it's not the profession he would've chosen for me. Then again there is nothing about my life he would have chosen."

"I take it you're talking about the gay thing?"

"Yeah. If my father had his way, I'd be exactly like my mother, a beautiful, intelligent women who is used to the finer things and accepts nothing less. I'd be married with kids of my own and just be a full-time mother, which is just bizarre to think about. However once I told him that I was not only going to have a career but when I married it would be to another woman, who I expected to be the mother of my children, he started treating me like the son he never had, including being strict on me as to making it on my own. All the men on his side have made their names on their own while the women traditionally have been passive. It was a weird situation for awhile, but now we have an understanding. However my mother and her family are a completely different story. My mother is the one who taught me to appreciate the female body. She just never realized I would take those lessons to heart." Torrance joked.

"What makes you say that?"

"I went on just about every modeling shoot and movie set she was ever involved in, so I saw a lot as far as the range of sexuality goes. I was a very educated child, and when I began to have my own awakening, it was easy for me to express my feelings. My mother was and still is my best friend, and I could tell her anything. When I began to have feelings for other women, she encouraged me to explore my options. I actually had my first sexual experience on one of her photo shoots when I was fifteen."


"Yeah, it was one of the models that my mother was photographing. It was funny, because my mother wasn't upset about finding us together. She was more upset that I had held up the shoot, because the model had to get remade up. I remember that like it was yesterday. It was at that moment that I knew I only wanted to be with women."

"How old was the model?" Helen inquired.

"Seventeen. Her name was Alena. She was this Danish girl with white blonde hair and blue eyes. I remember I was so nervous the first time I saw her, because I just thought she was so beautiful. Since she didn't speak English or Italian, I didn't know how to talk to her, but I was elated when I found out from someone that she spoke French. We just got to talking, and before we knew it, we were back in her dressing area smoking pot. I can recall the look in those blues eyes just before we kissed for the first time. Then suddenly we were doing a lot more than kissing. I can remember the way she kept mumbling in Danish. Even though I had know idea what she was saying, it was still so sexy. I knew I was doing something right."

"Did you see her after that?"

"Yeah but not as much as I wanted to. Our fling lasted for a few months, but the last time I saw her, she made it clear that she wasn't interested in that sort of relationship with me any more. Apparently she had met a boy. It hurt so badly, because I was in love with her, but it was bliss those few months. I wouldn't trade it for anything." Torrance stated with a smile. "Enough about me, though. How did you lose your virginity?" she asked teasingly.

"That's a bit personal, don't you think?" Helen inquired partly in jest.

Thinking she may have overstepped their boundaries, Torrance stated, "You're right. It is personal. You don't have to tell me. I'm sorry I asked."

"It's okay. It's just not nearly as exciting as your experience. I'm actually still mortified that I was so dumb as to allow it to happen when it did. It was nothing like I had envisioned as a teenager."

"What did happen?" Torrance asked, wondering if she was treading on thin ice.

Helen shrugged. "I just lost it in the back seat of a car with my high school boyfriend. It was the first semester of college, but we were still together even though we went to different schools. We were home on Thanksgiving break, and we just did it in my driveway. It wasn't anything special. In fact I wondered what the fuss had been about, because I was less than satisfied by the whole event. Not much later after that we broke up. I really was disheartened with sex in general until I met Richard, the guy I moved here to be with. That's when I finally realized the potential of it."

"He was good to you then? Why did you break up?"

"We just didn't want the same things. We didn't work well together living under the same roof."

The rest of the time passed in idle chat, but as they neared their destination, Torrance called ahead to her favorite restaurant to order them lunch to go. After picking it up, they made their way up to the house. When they pulled to a stop in front of the three story log cabin, Torrance said, "Welcome to my getaway."

"Wow. I've never seen anything like it."

Going inside Torrance gave Helen a brief tour before suggesting, "Since it's such a nice day, I think we should have lunch out on the deck. What do you say?"

"That sounds good. Can I help you with anything?"

"I've got it. You just make yourself comfortable." Torrance replied placing her hand on Helen's lower back and giving her a nudge toward the door. "I'll be right out with the drinks."

Helen felt her skin tingle as Torrance touched her followed by a sense of loss when she walked away. She knew that she was feeling things with Torrance she had never experienced with any other women before, but curious as to where things might go, she decided not to think about it too much. "Let me know if I can help." she said just before she went outside to admire the view of the mountains.

Torrance came out a few minutes later with two glasses of ice tea. "Voila (Here you go), Mademoiselle Melbourne." she said with a smile presenting the glass to her companion.

"Merci beacoup (Thank you very much)." Helen replied smiling as well as she felt Torrance's hand against her back.

"Parlez-vous francais, mademoiselle (Do you speak French)?"

"No. I took it in high school, but I hardly remember anything."

Torrance nodded. "Well, lunch will be right out. Be right back."

Over lunch Helen mentioned, "This really is a fantastic view, Torrance. I could look at this everyday."

"Me too but it's only my second favorite place in the world."

"Where's your first?" Helen asked curiously.

"My grandparents villa in Italy. Have you ever been to Europe?"

"Well, I did a semester abroad in London and visited Ireland, but I've never been to mainland Europe. I would love to go someday."

"You would love Italy. You should go with me. I'm one of the best tour guides around."

"That would be fun."

"Then why don't you come with me? You have time to get your passport and visa squared away. I'm not leaving until next week. Just think three weeks in Europe. Wouldn't that be great?"

"It would, but I don't think I can afford to do that on such short notice."

"Well, let me get you a ticket, and you'll stay with me at my grandparents' house. You won't have any expenses."

"Torrance, I can't let you buy me a ticket. That's too much."

"I won't be buying it. I have more frequent flyer miles that I never could use. Come on, Helen. You could use a vacation."

"Well, I wouldn't want to impose on your family."

"Nonsense. They love visitors, and they'll be thrilled I've brought someone along. My mother would love to meet you too. She's already there."

"Are you sure?" hesitantly Helen inquired, wanting to go but not wanting to be in the way.

"Of course. I wouldn't have asked otherwise. Please, it'll be wonderful. I promise. We'll go anywhere you want."

"All right. I can see that I won't be able to talk you out of this. I do need a break, but I'm not spending three weeks with you and your family. You need private time with them. I'll go for ten days though."

"Great. I'm so thrilled. When is the best time for you?"

Later that afternoon after they had just talked for several hours, Helen said, "As much fun as I'm having, we really have to get back if we're going to make it to dinner on time."

"Oh, I totally forgot about that." Torrance admitted looking at her watch. "Just let me get the dishes, and we can go."

"Could I help?" Helen offered moving to pick up her own plate.

"No, I've got it. You just relax."

When Helen and Torrance returned to Helen's apartment, there was a note from Kelly and Mark that they would met them at the restaurant. "Well, I just need to change before we go. Would you like to refreshen up?" Helen asked subtly, hoping that Torrance would change.

"Do I need to? What kind of place is it? I would hate to be dressed inappropriately."

"It's a nice place. Khakis aren't really going to cut it. Do you have something to wear?"

"Sure. I'll go get my bag out of the car since I guess I'm staying here anyway. Don't worry, Helen. I wouldn't embarrass you."

"I know. We need to hurry though."

Twenty minutes later Torrance was on the couch just waiting for Helen to finish getting ready. When the blonde came out of her room, Torrance unknowingly gave her sexy grin at the outfit the model had chosen. Helen was dressed in a sleeveless silk blouse and flowing black pants. "You look beautiful." she complimented standing.

Helen felt herself blush at the comment. "You look nice too." she replied noticing that Torrance was in a black ensemble as well, wearing a short-sleeved cotton shirt and black pants.

"Shall we go to dinner?" Torrance asked extending her arm for Helen to take.

With only a second of hesitation, Helen took the offered arm, smiling at her friend as her fingers grazed over Torrance's bare skin just under her sleeve. Helen was beginning to like the feeling she got whenever they touched and decided to indulge in it as long as Torrance seemed comfortable.

Torrance drove to the restaurant that evening, and when they arrived she opened the door for the teacher, allowing her to enter first before unconsciously placing a hand along her lower back. Helen smiled inwardly at the protectiveness Torrance was showing as they walked toward the back of the bar to their other dinner companions. Approaching the table Helen made introductions before Torrance asked her, "What do you want from the bar while we wait?"

"Oh, I'll get it, Torrance. You've been waiting on me all day."

"Don't be silly. You deserve the attention. Now what would you like?"

"Are you sure? I mean after today and taking me to Italy, the least I could do is buy you a drink. You sit."

"No. You're not going to win this one, so you better just tell me what you want."

With a playful sigh, Helen answered, "White wine. Thanks, Torrance."

"You're most welcome. I'll be right back."

As soon as Torrance walked out of ear shot from the table, Kelly gave a teasing smile. "You two make a cute couple, Helen."

Helen rolled her eyes. "Don't start. You know that we're only friends. The outfits are just a coincidence."

"You sure? You argue like a couple. Helen's got a girlfriend." one of the guys, Tom jibed.

"Don't say that. You wouldn't say that if she wasn't a lesbian."

"Oh, come on, Helen. It's obvious by the way you walked over here that she is interested in you. She had her arm around you, and what's this about going to Italy?" he inquired.

"She invited me to Italy later this month, and I said I would go. It's no big deal." Helen tried to defend.

"No big deal? Helen, I know you're blonde, but are you really that naive? A woman like Torrance wouldn't just invite you to Europe for the hell of it. She wants something, and I could only guess what that might be." Tom accused.

"Look, it might be true that Torrance is attracted to me, but she just happens to be the most famous photographer I've ever worked with. This woman could single-handedly make or break my career. I'm not adverse to a little interest if it gets me what I want." she stated firmly, even though she knew she was lying about the way she felt for Torrance. In truth she had never considered what Torrance could do for her careerwise until confronted by her friends. The fact that she wasn't ready to disclose that she might be having feelings for the brunette made her invent a reason to justify Torrance's behavior.

"Well, I guess that's okay then. At least you're only in it for the monetary gains. It would have surprised me if you were taking dips in the lesbian pool." Tom mumbled through his drink.

Helen stared at her friends seriously. "Not one word out of any of you for the rest of the night about this. My relationship with Torrance is not up for discussion. Is that understood?"

They all mumbled in agreement as Helen cast a glance over to the bar to see Torrance talking with the female bartender. A few moments later she returned carrying Helen's wine and her own scotch. "Mon cherie (My dear)." the photographer said as she placed the glass in front of Helen.

The blonde smiled at her. "Merci, mon amie (Thank you, my friend)." she replied, knowing it would irritate her friends that she and Torrance were intentionally keeping them out of their simple conversation.

The next half hour past with Torrance just listening to Helen and her friends talk as they waited on their table. However the women then excused themselves to use the restroom, leaving Torrance with just Mark and Tom. "I'm going to go check to see how much longer the wait is going to be." Mark mentioned.

As he walked away from the table, Torrance looked at Tom. Sensing that he had something to say to her, she inquired, "What?"

"So, I hear you're a dyke." he stated.

Inside Torrance cringed at his tone and language, knowing that the conversation was about to get uncomfortable. Nevertheless she answered with an edge of irritation, "You hear right. So what?"

"Hey, no reason to get defensive about it. I was just asking. How long have you known Helen?"

"A few weeks. You?"

"A couple of years. You know that woman is going to be my wife someday."

Torrance raised an eyebrow at him. "She didn't mention that to me. She told me she didn't have a boyfriend."

Tom shrugged. "Well, we're not dating yet, but it's only a matter of time. I just thought you should know, so you can back off."

"Back off? What are you talking about?"

"Oh, please, Torrance. Don't give me that. You know what I'm talking about. You have a thing for Helen, but in case you haven't noticed, she's not like you. You would never even be able to get a woman like that. You might as well give it up, because she's never going to sleep with you. I know this trip to Italy is nothing but a chance to get her to do just that, but she won't. She's only hanging out with you, so you'll help her career. The girl is mine, so just lay off." Tom growled.

Torrance gave a cocky grin to offset the hurt she was really feeling inside at his accusation. "Listen, Tom. If I want Helen, I'll have Helen, and there's nothing you can do to stop me. She's made it know she's available, so that means she's free game. I think it would be best if you didn't try to get involved in something that was none of your business."

Before she could say more he reached across the small table, grabbing her by the front of the shirt and pulling her closer. Being shocked at his action, Torrance didn't even have time to react as the drinks on the table toppled over from the force. "Listen, dyke, don't fuck with me. If you lay a hand on her, I swear I'll make you regret it."

Just then a voice broke their argument as Mark came back to the table. "Tom, what the hell are you doing?" he yelled pushing Tom away from Torrance. "Torrance, are you okay?"

Torrance scowled at Tom before mumbling, "I'm fine. I think it might be best if I just go wait over by the bar."

"You better go farther than that! If I ever saw you again, it would be too soon!" Tom yelled after her retreating form.

She was only over there a moment before she felt a hand on her shoulder. Looking up she saw Mark standing there with a concerned gaze. "Torrance, are you sure you're all right?"

"Yes. I'm a big girl, Mark. I can handle myself. He's just an asshole."

"What happened?"

"He just was trying to make it clear that Helen was his, and that the attention I was giving her was unwanted and unappreciated."

"You know that's not true. He has feelings for Helen, but they aren't returned, and he's probably just jealous. We all like you. Please don't let him being a jerk ruin the evening. Kelly and Helen will be so upset if they knew I allowed you and Tom to get into a fight."

Torrance smiled at him. "Don't worry about it. I'll make sure Kelly knows you tried to keep the peace."

"Please come back to the table." Mark asked.

Torrance shook her head. "Sorry but I can't. I'm not going to be subjected to him any more. I really just want to go home."

"You can't. Then Helen will know something happened."

Torrance shrugged. "Listen, Mark. This might be hard for you to understand being straight and a guy, but I don't want to be anywhere around him. He's threatened me with bodily harm, and even though I can hold my own in a fight, I don't really want to get involved in an altercation. It would be best for me if I left. Tell the girls that I got a call and had to get back right away."

Mark sighed and shifted on his feet nervously. "Well, I can see I'm not going to win this one. Let me give you my key to the apartment, so you can at least get your stuff." he acquiesced.

"Thanks. Will you make sure Helen gets home all right?"

"Of course."

When Helen and the other women returned to the table, she noticed that Mark and Tom were strangely quiet. "Where's Torrance?" she inquired looking over toward the bar to see if the brunette had gone to get another drink.

"She had to leave." Mark answered.

"What? What do you mean? She just left?"

"Yeah. She said she had gotten a phone call and that it was urgent that she get back right way. She told me to extend her apologies."

Looking at Tom, she saw a smug demeanor on his face. Taking in the table of overturned, empty glasses, she knew something wasn't right. "Did she saw what was wrong?" she inquired.

Mark shook his head. "No, she just said she had to leave straight away. I gave her my key to the apartment, so she could go by and get her things."

As soon as Torrance reached the apartment, she threw her things into her bag in a huff. All the way from the restaurant she thought about Tom's accusations that Helen was only agreeing to be with her to get a jump in her modeling career, and she was uncertain of whether or not it was true. Most of her believed that Helen was as genuinely interested in becoming friends as was she, but being that they hadn't known each other long, she was unsure. Furthermore Torrance knew her own interest in the blonde was far beyond that of friendship, and if Tom could tell, she wondered if Helen could as well. Knowing that Torrance should at least give Helen an explanation for her sudden departure that night, she decided to leave the teacher a quick note of apology before leaving.

That night as Helen, Kelly, and Mark returned to the apartment, Helen still wondered if there was more to the story that Mark had disclosed. Going into her bedroom for the night, she readied herself for bed, missing the note sitting on her night table. However the following morning when she turned over to see what time it was, she found the folded piece of paper tucked between her clock and light with her name written in Torrance's bold handwriting. Curious as to what it might say, she propped herself up in bed and opened the note.

"Dearest Helen, I am sorry for my abrupt departure last night. I know by now Mark has probably told you that I had to come home on urgent business, but I feel like I should be honest with you and tell you that is not why I really left. I asked him to tell you that as to avoid a confrontation. In fact the real reason for my leaving has nothing to do with business. I'm sorry to say that while you were gone from the table, your friend Tom and I got into an argument, in which he relayed to me that you two were more than just friends, and I was acting inappropriately with you. Mark told me that indeed you weren't Tom's girlfriend, that there were no mutual feelings involved. However there are other things that were said that made me think that this relationship between us isn't what I think it is, and I feel like I should be honest with you before you come to Italy. Tom told me that you were only using me as a way to help your career. Now I don't necessarily believe that, but if it is true, I want you to know that you don't have to pretend to be my friend just to receive my help. I would refer you to anyone for anything for modeling, because I think you have a lot of the qualities that are wanted in the business regardless of whether we were friends or not. However I think there is an even bigger issue than that at hand. When he mentioned that he thought it was obvious that I was coming onto you, I wondered if you thought the same. You're a special woman, Helen, but I would never try to make you into something you weren't. Over the course of the past few weeks, we've become close very quickly, and I just want you to know that I'm enjoying our developing friendship. However I've come to realize something else is there. I don't know if you have come to realize that same thing or not, but I just want to assure you that this relationship between us is only going to go as far as we're both comfortable. I just felt like you should know all this before you come to Italy. I've already taken the liberty of booking your flight, and your tickets will be here in a few days. If you have changed your mind, I understand. Just call my agent in New York and let her know, so I know not to expect you. I do hope you decide to come though. Until I see you again, take care. Your friend, Torrance."

Helen reread the note several times, getting angrier each time that Tom had upset Torrance. Wanting to know that whole truth, she marched out of her room to see if Mark and Kelly were home, finding them on the couch. Waving the note at them, she inquired, "What really happened last night, Mark? What did Tom say to her that made her want to leave?"

"I'm not sure, Helen. All I know is what I saw." he confessed as Kelly reached for the note in Helen's hand.

"Well, what did you see?"

"When you left to go to the restroom, I got up to check on the wait, leaving the two of them alone. By the time I had come back to the table, Tom had grabbed her by the shirt and dragged her half way across the table. I broke it up, but I could tell they both were upset. Torrance stalked off to the bar, and I went after her. She told me that Tom had said you were his girlfriend and to stop hitting on you. I told her it wasn't true. I asked her to come back to the table, but she refused. She said she wanted to leave and to tell you she had gotten a call that made her leave."

"Damn him!" Helen cursed. "I'm never going to talk to him again! How could he do that to her?"

"Helen, he was feeling threatened, because it's obvious you like Torrance more than him."

"That's no excuse. Torrance and I are just friends."

"Are you sure?" Kelly broke in. "By this letter it sounds like there could be more."

When Kelly said that Helen flopped into a chair and sighed. Mark took the letter from his girlfriend's hand and read it. "Yeah, Helen. This does sound like something else is going on."

Helen shook her head. "I don't know what's going on. I never thought she would pick up on it."

"Pick up on what? Do you like her?" he asked.

Helen hesitated before replying, "I don't know."

Kelly looked at her closely for a moment. "Helen, it would be okay if you did. I know I was teasing you last night, but if you really were interested in her, we would support you. We would just want for you to be happy. If it's with Torrance, it would be all right with us."

"Yeah. Torrance is a great person, and you seem to like being with her. We would be cool with it." Mark added.

Helen looked over at them. "Thanks for saying that, but I'm not sure that's the direction this relationship is going. I've got to figure out what to do here."

"When are you supposed to be going to Italy?"

"In two weeks."

"Well, I guess you've got some time to think about it. It sounds like she's leaving things up to you."


The morning after Torrance had arrived in Italy, she found her mother sitting in the garden reading after breakfast. As Torrance took a seat next to her, she smiled at her daughter. However when Torrance didn't give her normal dashing grin, she asked softly, "What's wrong, dear? I can tell you're unhappy."

"It's nothing, Mama, just thinking about a woman that I met recently."

"A woman that you are interested in?"

Torrance nodded. "Yes but I'm not sure she feels the same."

"I see."

"I invited her over to Italy, and she may be coming, but I'm not sure. We didn't leave on good terms, so I don't know if she still wants to come."

"What happened?"

"I got in a fight with one of her guy friends, and then I ran off without saying good bye."

"Why did you do that?" her mother inquired touching her on the arm.

Torrance shook her head. "I was scared, not of the guy but of her finding out how I felt. That's what the fight was about, but I wasn't ready to tell her my feelings. I think I've screwed up."

"Maybe not. Don't worry too much about it. What is this lady's name?"

"Helen, Helen Melbourne. Oh, Mama, she is amazing. She's just perfect."

Her mother smiled at her. "Ah, blinded by love I see. Doesn't she have any faults?"

"Only one that I can think of."

"And what's that?"

"She's straight." Torrance mumbled.

"Oh, well, that certainly makes things a little more complicated."

"Tell me about it. I swore I would never do this again, Mama. I know better than to fool around with straight women. I just end up getting hurt, but I haven't felt this way since I was a teenager with Alena. There is just something about her."

"It's that serious?" her mother inquired in surprise. Torrance just looked at her. "I can see that it is just by looking in those eyes of yours. I don't know what to say, darling. You deserve a woman that will make you happy. We can always hope that Helen is the one. Just because she's never been with a woman doesn't mean she's straight. Maybe she's just now starting to know herself. The chemistry is there?"

"I think so. I mean we have such a good time together, and she seems to like my attention."

"Well, then give it time. Maybe she is scared too. Now I know you have better things to do than sit around here. Why don't you go out and try to get rid of some of this nervous energy? Things will work themselves out. You'll see."

"I hope so, Mama." Torrance replied kissing her mother on top of the head and then heading out the back garden gate.

On the night before Helen was supposed to leave to Italy, she was sitting around the apartment with Kelly and Mark. As the three of them just watched tv, Mark asked, "So have you made your final decision about tomorrow yet?"

"No. I'm ready to go, even packed, but I'm not sure yet. I just don't know what to do."

"I think you should go." Kelly stated. "Heck, even if I had to put out, I would go to Italy with Torrance. She's offering you a trip of a lifetime." she joked.

"It's that possibility of crossing the line of friendship that's stopping you, isn't it?" Mark inquired.

Helen nodded. "I just don't know what I want."

"Well, at least you can be assured that she's going to let you decide where the relationship goes. I mean she said that in the letter. It's not like you're committing to anything but being friends with her by going." Kelly pointed out.

"That's true. I believe her when she says that she's only wants to go as far as I do. The problem is I don't know how far I want to take it." she admitted.

"Well, you know you have our support. This would a perfect opportunity, Helen. You'll be half way around the world with this woman. You won't know anyone else, so they'll be no one to look down on you if want to try something new. Know one will ever know unless you tell them. It's the perfect chance to do whatever you want without any consequences to your other relationships. If I were you, I would go." Mark said.

Helen nodded. "I feel so stupid about this. I mean I've always wanted to go back to Europe and suddenly and all expenses paid trip lands in my lap. I would be an idiot to pass this up just because I'm scared of my own feelings. It's not even her I'm worried about, because I know she'll keep her word. She's like that, but it's me. What if I get there and I realize I want more? I'm scared of that possibility, but I guess you have a point. It would be the best time and place to experience it if I wanted to. I guess the only real question is which of you can take me to the airport tomorrow?"

The next morning Helen and Mark were up early to go to the airport. As Helen sat in the living room with her luggage double checking everything, the phone rang. Wondering who could be calling at such an hour, she saw Mark answer it. By the way he greeted the person on the other end, Helen pondered who it could be. He seemed overly friendly and excited as he smiled brightly into the phone. Knowing that Kelly was still in bed, Helen contemplated briefly if Mark was having an affair, because she had never seen him as happy as when he was with Kelly. Suddenly he turned and grinned at her. "It's for you."

Totally confused by his statement, she came to pick up the phone. "Hello?" she hesitantly greeted.

"Helen, hi." Torrance said nervously.

"Oh, hi, Torrance. How are you?"

"Good. You?"

"I'm good. What's up?"

"I was just calling to see how you were."

"I'm doing well." Helen replied. "But I really can't talk right now. I'm on my way out the door."

"Oh, well, all right. We can talk some other time then. Sorry to have bothered you." Torrance mumbled.

Sensing the photographer's sullen mood, Helen inquired, "Hey, Torrance, just one thing. When I land are you going to be there to pick me up?"

"You're coming?" she asked in obvious surprise.

"Of course. Did you think I wouldn't?" she asked when she realized that's why Torrance had called even though she didn't admit to it.

"I wasn't sure. Of course I'll be there to pick you up. I'm so glad you've decided to come."

"Me too but I really have to go now. Mark's waiting to take me to the airport."

"Oh, sure. I guess I'll see you soon then. Be safe."

"All right. See you soon."

When Torrance got off the phone, she raced to find her mother. Running into her in the garden, she hugged her excitedly. "She's coming, Mama. Helen's coming."

"That's wonderful, dear. I never had any doubts."

"Oh man, now I have to plan." Torrance mumbled beginning to pace the stone patio.

Her mother laughed lightly. "You have plenty of time, Torrance. You're going to drive me crazy if you don't stop that pacing."

"I have to figure out what room to put her in too." Torrance pondered aloud.

"Let's put her in the room next to yours. That way in the event you two want to sneak into each other's rooms at night you don't have far to go." her mother teased.

"That'll never happen. I told you Helen isn't like that. We're just friends." the brunette stated even though somewhat sadly.

"You never know, Torrance. She did agree to come. People can change their minds. You already said the chemistry is there. Maybe she wants to see where this relationship can go. Now instead of hanging around here and fretting, why don't you go out into the fields for awhile and work out your nerves? I'm sure they could use your help out there."

The next day Torrance went to the airport alone to meet Helen's plane. As she stood there waiting for the passengers to come off the plane, she wondered what the next ten days might hold. She was genuinely surprised that Helen had decided to join her, so she thought maybe the blonde may be willing to see what might happen in their relationship. However knowing that it would be Helen's first time if it were to happen, she knew things would have to move at a pace the blonde was comfortable with. Deciding not to put too much pressure on herself about it, Torrance decided it would be best to just let things flow as they would. Noticing the blonde coming out the narrow hallway into the terminal, Torrance smiled widely as she moved to her. Forgetting everything she had just told herself, she gave Helen a huge hug, picking her up and twirling her lightly as she admitted, "I missed you."

Helen felt the tingle all over her body as taller woman held her suspended in air. "I missed you too, Torrance." she said with a smile as she let her fingers trail lightly through the brunette's short hair.

"Come on. Let's go get your bags and get out of her." the older woman suggested finally putting the blonde back on her feet. Helen agreed, hanging onto Torrance's arm as the photographer led the way to the baggage claim. After collecting the luggage, Torrance took Helen out to where the family driver was waiting to take them home. They were quiet in the car as Helen took in the scenery passing outside the car window. Finally though after almost an hour, Torrance mentioned, "We're almost there. It's just at the top of this hill. This is actually the beginning of their driveway."

"This is some driveway. I would hate to have to walk up this thing."

"The hired hands do it everyday. I guess you get used to it. It doesn't even phase me any more. I walk it everyday to go into town."

"And you've got the legs to prove it." Helen mumbled, her eyes moving to Torrance's khaki shorts clad thighs.

Upon arrival at the house, Torrance took Helen's bags into the house. "Let's just get these up in your room, and then I'll introduce you to my family." Helen nodded and followed Torrance up the staircase. "Here's where you'll be staying. My room is just next door. I hope you like it." the brunette stated as she put Helen's suitcases on the bed.

Helen looked around the room, taking it all the exquisite furniture. The room had windows on two sides, and a balcony that looked out over a vineyard. "This room is bigger than my whole apartment, Torrance. It's beautiful."

"Glad you like it. As I said I'm right next door, and the balcony joins our two rooms. Come on now. I'll take you to meet my family, and then you can rest."

"Oh, I meant to ask you if your grandparents knew English. I feel a little self-conscious, because I don't know any Italian."

"Not to worry. They know enough English to hold a conversation, and my mother will talk your ear off if you let her. They're all excited to meet you." Torrance mentioned reaching her hand out for Helen to take. Without even thinking the blonde put her hand into the larger one and allowed Torrance to led her through the house. Going out into the garden, they saw three older adults sitting there drinking tea and just talking. "Mother, Nonna (Grandmother), Nonno (Grandfather), I would like for you to meet Helen Melbourne. Helen, these are my grandparents and my mother." she said making introductions.

"We're so pleased you've come, Helen. Please have a set. Would you like some tea?" Torrance mother inquired.

"That would be wonderful. Thank you."

All five of them talked for about an hour before Torrance noticed Helen trying desperately to stifle a yawn. "I think we better let you take a rest, Helen. That trip is a long one." Torrance mentioned.

"I am a little tired." she confessed.

"Well, why didn't you mention it before now? Forgive us for neglecting your needs, dear. Torrance, show Helen up to her room." her mother instructed.

"Oh, it's fine. I'm just a little tired from the flight. I'm not feeling neglected in the least."

"Come on, Helen. I better do as she says, or else she might start embarrassing me." Torrance said with a laugh. Taking Helen back upstairs, Torrance hovered outside the door. "If you open your windows and the balcony doors, you'll get a nice breeze coming through. In fact I prefer doing that since I can't in New York."

"That sounds nice."

"Well, I'll just let you rest. You know on my first day here, I almost always sleep the whole day away, so please don't feel like you have to come back down if you're tired. This is your vacation. You can do whatever you want."

"Oh, I'm not going to stay up here the rest of the day. I just want to take a little nap. I'll go to bed early tonight."

"Okay. Then I'll see you in a few hours. If I'm not around, my mother will know where to find me. I usually am outside somewhere."

"All right. I'll see you in a bit. Thanks again for letting me come, Torrance."

Torrance gave a dashing smile. "It's my pleasure, Helen. I'm glad you're here."

When Torrance returned to the garden, she was wearing a large smile. "So, what did you think?"

"She's lovely, Torrance." her mother answered. "I can see why you like her, and I can also see that those feelings are mutual."

"Really?" Her mother nodded. "What about you, Nonna and Nonno? What did you think of Helen?"

"She lights up your face, Torrance. You love her very much, yes?" Nonna asked. Torrance nodded in affirmation.

"It shows." Nonno replied. "How serious is this relationship?"

"We're just friends right now."

"Just friends? I think not. There is potential for so much more." her mother decisively stated.

"I hope so."

"Well, while you're hoping, why don't you go do something? You'll be restless until she wakes."

"I think I will. If I'm not back by the time she gets up, tell her I went out to the vineyard."

"We will. Run along now."

A few hours later Helen arose from her nap. Going to the balcony, she looked out over the scenic view of hills and mountains. Wondering what Torrance was up to, she freshened up and headed out to find the tall woman. Trying the garden first, she found Torrance's mother there reading.

"Ah, you look more rested now. That trip always wears me out as well." her mother mentioned.

"Well, it helped to have such a wonderful place to nap. I think I'll be able to make it the rest of the day now. Thank you for allowing me to come stay with your family, Mrs. Whitfield."

"Please don't call me that. Mrs. Whitfield is my mother-in-law. You must call me Maria. I insist."

"Very well, Maria. Do you know where Torrance is?"

"You should probably find her out in the vineyard. It's her favorite place here. Just go out the garden gate and follow the dirt path over the ridge. I'm sure she's been counting the minutes since you two have been apart, so you better go find her."

Helen did as she was told. Following the path she eventually came to the vineyard, but since it was so large, she wondered where Torrance could be hiding. Slowly strolling through the rows failed to produce the photographer, so Helen walked to the very end. There on top of a small hill she spotted the brunette kneeling in front of three crosses with her head bowed. Not wanting to interrupt what looked like a prayer, Helen softly approached. She got close enough to hear that Torrance was speaking aloud, but she couldn't make out what the older woman was saying as she stood at a respectable distance. When Torrance was finished, she made the sign of a cross across her body, as in Catholic tradition signaling the end of her prayer, before moving to sit at the base of the middle cross. As soon as she looked up and saw Helen there, she jumped up.

"Hey. Been standing there long?" she inquired.

"Not really. I didn't want to interrupt your meditation."

"Oh, that's okay. My prayer for your safe arrival was already been granted. Would you like to sit with me?" Nodding Helen took a seat on Torrance's left side, and they both looked quietly out over the vineyard. "You know I once told you that the Poconos were my second favorite view in the world. This is my favorite, sitting right here."

"I could see why."

"This place holds a very special meaning for me, Helen. The most important event of my life so far took place right where we are sitting. Every time I'm here I like to come out here and reflect on it and the man that was apart of it."

Wondering if Torrance was about to open up to her, Helen inquired, "May I ask what it was?"

"About seven years ago my grandfather on my father's side and I were sitting right here, and he told me some things that I have never known. He was so sick already, and I think he knew our time together had come to an end. He had asked me to bring him out here, and we were just sitting here, just the two of us. He started to talk about his life, the things he'd done and seen. It was then that I found out that both my grandfathers had fought in World War II. Neither had ever mentioned it to me before. He fought for the Americans, and Nonno fought for Italy. Apparently when my parents had first gotten together and then decided to get married, both of them were adamantly against it, because even though the war was over, they still thought of each other as enemies."

"Why did he tell you that?" Helen asked softly.

"He told me that he wanted me to know how special I was. He said that when I was born he and Nonno had to finally bury the hatchet. It was because of their common love for me that they came to love and respect each other. I was proof that two different worlds could come together and live amicably. My whole life they were like brothers themselves. I had never known about their animosity before my birth. He just wanted me to know that I changed both of their lives for the better and that I was a real blessing. Then he gave me these." Torrance said pulling the dogtags out from under her shirt. "I wear them all the time as a reminder of the convictions of both of them as well as their willingness to forgive." Torrance looked out over the grove again before saying, "He told me that I should never be ashamed of who I was or where I had come from. I should always be proud of my history. It was what happened after that though that really changed my life forever."

"What?" gently the blonde inquired.

"We were just sitting here holding hands and both leaning back these crosses. He was sitting right where I am, and I was where you are now. He was so sick, barely having any energy. He said he just wanted to rest for a bit before we went back to the house. He closed his eyes, and I just watched him sleep. Then I suddenly realized I was witnessing life leave him. I was twenty five years old at the time, and I didn't realize the extraordinary gift he had given me until much later. He allowed me to be present during the most private moment of anyone's life. Of all the people he could have chosen to be by his side, he chose me, and I'll never forget it. I remember beginning to panic at first, but when it was clear he really had died, I felt a freedom and lightness. It's what he wanted. He was in so much pain, but then he was free, and in a way I felt grateful that he had gone onto a better place. I carried his body all the way back to the house, because I couldn't bear to part with him even for a moment. As I came over the ridge, I saw that the garden gate had been left open as if they were expecting us back any moment. The look on my grandmother's face is one I will never forget either. She just looked at me with such mixed emotions. Later after the funeral she told me she had known all along that he had wanted me to be with him in his final moments. It was his last wish, and I'll always be glad I was there to fulfill it for him."

Sensing that Torrance had not told many people that story before, Helen felt honored that she had been trusted with such personal information about the photographer. Scooting over to the brunette, Helen put her arms around her. "You really are such a caring person, Torrance. Thank you for sharing that with me."

They sat embraced in the silence for awhile before Torrance finally broke the stillness. "We should get back to the house. I'm sure dinner is about to be served."

Torrance stood and then extended her hand to Helen in order to assist her. Smiling up at the taller woman, Helen accepted the help but then continued to hold the brunette's hand as they strolled back to the house. That night after the evening meal Helen just sat talking with Torrance's family. However through the whole night Helen noticed Torrance kept touching her. Usually feeling uncomfortable whenever her past boyfriends had been physical with her in front of family, she was pleasantly surprised that she actually enjoyed Torrance's hand as it occasionally brushed her body. Finally being exhausted though, she excused herself for the night. Torrance walked her upstairs to her room and hung out in the doorway to say good night.

"So, what time do we need to leave tomorrow?" Helen inquired, knowing that Torrance had an itinerary for the next few days.

"We won't be in a rush. You can sleep in if you'd like. Whenever you're ready to have breakfast, if you just go into the dinning area, someone will see to you. I usually am up early myself, but we don't have to leave at any certain time."

Helen nodded. "Are you going to tell me where we're going, or are you still trying to make it a surprise?"

"Well, I wanted it to be a surprise, but if you really want to know, I'll tell you I guess."

"I'm just wondering, because I need to know what to pack. I brought a little of everything with me, because I didn't know."

"Fair enough. We're going to Rome, Venice, and then I thought we could hang out at the beach for a few days as well so all warm weather clothes. I would take you to Milan, but it's too far north to try to get in on this trip. Maybe next time."

"Sounds good. I'll see you in the morning then."

"Bon soir, mon cherie. (Good night, my dear)" Torrance whispered leaning to give the model a hug and kiss on the cheek.

Helen barely resisted the urge to moan as their bodies came together in a hug. For all her denial of how she felt toward Torrance, she knew with more certainty than when they were in the States that she was physically attracted to the dark-haired photographer. Torrance had been so wonderful the whole day since she arrived, and the little touches the brunette gave her were sending her a clear signal that Torrance was interested in more than friendship. Returning the kiss Torrance had bestowed upon her cheek, Helen slowly pulled away. "Good night, Torrance."

When Torrance retired to her room for the evening, she thought about Helen. She had missed the teacher more than she cared to admit, even to herself. Seeing her for the first time after their brief separation only solidified her feelings of desire for the petite woman, and she wondered if their time together would bring them even closer. After preparing for bed, Torrance took her book out to the balcony as was her usual habit, but seeing Helen's balcony doors open, she figured she might disturb the blonde's sleep if she read there. Deciding to read in her bed, she began to turn away, but curiosity pulled her back to the model's doors. Peeking into the room, she saw Helen lying in bed asleep, the moon casting light along the white bedding. Torrance's heart fluttered at how beautiful and angelic Helen looked. She knew she loved the woman lying there and longed for a chance to prove her worth to the blonde. After a few more moments, she turned away and headed into her own room.

The next morning Torrance was out in the balcony reading in the morning sun when she heard Helen rise. As the blonde made her way out to the balcony as well, Torrance gave her a bright smile, taking in the sparse sleeping attire of her companion. "Good morning. Sleep well?" she asked as the model stretched. Torrance watched as the hem of Helen's tank top rose with the movement.

"Morning. I slept better than I ever have in my life. I may never want to leave."

Torrance gave a soft chuckle. "I'm sure my grandparents would love to have you." she teased.

"Have you eaten breakfast already?"

"No, not yet. I usually just sit out here for awhile before I go down." Torrance mentioned her hand moving unconsciously to the back of blonde's bare leg. Her fingers curled gently around the toned muscle resting along Helen's inner thigh. "We're not on a schedule here. We can eat whenever we want."

Helen felt Torrance's fingers as they scorched her skin. They were giving her a clear indication of the photographer's desires by the way they lightly traced over her skin, and even as much as she was enjoying it, she felt suddenly uneasy and pulled away saying, "Well, I'm going to go get dressed."

As Torrance watched Helen scurry back into her room, she knew she had made the younger woman uncomfortable. Cursing at herself for being so forward, she left the balcony, throwing her book down on her bed as she ran out of her room. Rushing down the stairs, she made her way out the back through the garden where her mother was sitting.

"What's wrong, Torrance?" she asked.

"I can't handle this! I have to get away for a bit! I just need to regroup!"

"Did you and Helen get into a fight?"

"No! Please, Mama, just let me go! I'll be back soon!"

By the time Helen had dressed for the day and made her way downstairs, Torrance and her family were already having breakfast. They all greeted her pleasantly.

"Good morning, everyone." she said taking a seat next to Torrance at the table. One of the women came from the kitchen to find out what Helen wanted to eat, but then the five of them were left alone.

"So, did Torrance tell you where you two were going?" Maria inquired.

"Only that we were going to Rome, Venice, and the beach. I don't know any more than that."

"Not to worry. I guarantee you'll have a good time." Torrance stated.

"I'm sure I will. After all you did tell me you were the best tour guide. I'm counting on it."

A week later Torrance and Helen returned from their tour of southern Italy to an empty house. After taking their belongings up to their respective rooms, Torrance went to find out where her family had gone. When the butler told her that they had gone to Milan but would be returning late the next day, Torrance knew that her mother had been behind the plot to give she and Helen as much alone time as possible.

Going to find her companion, she found Helen in the living room. "Well, it's official. My family has deserted us for Milan. They'll be back tomorrow evening, so that means it's just us."

"That's fine. I'm enjoying it. I can't believe it's gone this fast. This is the best vacation I've ever had."

"Good. This is one of the better ones I've had as well. I think it has to do with the company." Torrance mentioned plopping down beside her. "To think tomorrow is your last full day here. I was thinking that we could go down into the village at the bottom of the hill. I wanted to show it to you anyway."

"That sounds good. We keep driving through it, and I've seen some places I want to go."

"Great. Then that's what we'll do then. What do you want for dinner tonight? I need to go tell the cook."

Helen shrugged. "I don't know. Surprise me. You haven't let me down yet."

"Very well. Don't say I didn't give you a choice. If you don't like it, you can't blame me." she teased scampering off the couch and into the kitchen.

That evening Torrance and Helen had their meal out in the garden. Long after it was complete and they had been left to themselves, they stayed out back stargazing. As they often had over the past several days, they sat cuddled together as they talked. Being a cool night on top of the hill, Torrance had retrieved a blanket for them, and they laid together under it on the chaise to keep warm as they looked up into the dark sky. Helen lied on her side, one arm draped over Torrance's frame as her head rested on the older woman's shoulder. Torrance had one arm around her back as the other lightly caressed the skin of her bare forearm. All was quiet as they listened to the sounds of the night. Helen silently reflected on the trip. Never in her life had anyone treated her the way Torrance had, always making her feel special and beautiful. All the kindness the photographer had showed her made it easy for Helen to want more from their friendship as well. However time was beginning to run out for them if they were going to venture any further while together in Italy. Helen knew things would be more difficult once they returned home, so she pondered if she should attempt to take the relationship farther. As she thought about the possibilities of what might happen between them, the question that she had always wanted to ask the brunette but had always been too shy came to mind. Deciding that she had to know before they could go any further though, she summoned her courage to ask. Shifting her head so her mouth was closer to Torrance's ear, she whispered, "Torrance."

Torrance felt the model's breath tickle her ear in the most erotic of ways, making her want to moan, but she managed to refrain. "Yeah?"

"Could I ask you something personal?"

"Sure." Helen hesitated, knowing that once she asked, there was no taking the question back. Hearing the long pause, Torrance assured her, "You can ask me anything."

"I just don't want to offend you."

"You won't. What is it?"

"What is sex like with a woman?" she rushed to say before she lost her nerve.

Torrance heart stopped as she inquired, "Why do you want to know that?"

"I was just curious. If it's too personal, you don't have to tell me."

"Curious." Torrance mumbled, slightly disheartened at the admission. Nevertheless she decided to give Helen the honest answer she deserved. "Well, I guess I should tell you that what sex meant to me when I was younger is a lot different than it does now. When I was young, there were many times I was it in for the sake of getting off, like most kids are, but the older I've gotten the more the meaning of sex has changed for me. To me there is nothing that compares to making love to a woman. It's the most beautiful thing there is in the entire world. You see for me to go to bed with someone, there has to be a chemistry, a connection that isn't easily established. I'm not looking for a quick score any longer, because I know it's so much better when you truly care about the person you're with. I've come to realize the closeness I want from my partner can only come with complete trust. For a woman is opening more than just her legs for me, she's opening her soul. To be inside someone where life begins is just an amazing experience. It's like touching their spirit. She's giving me a part of herself. She's offering me something that can never be taken back. By physically loving a woman, I am forever becoming a part of her and vice versa. It's like nothing else. You know I've heard that with men and women loving can be one-sided at times, one person only seeking their own gratification, but with women, it's about pleasing each other. My only desire when I'm with a woman is to give her the ultimate pleasure. To see a woman when she is reaching her peak, when she's at her most vulnerable and beautiful is an honor she's giving me, and I treasure it. There truly are no words that do real justice to the experience."

Helen sighed as she took in Torrance's words. "You make it sounds so romantic." she whispered softly, thinking that if things ever reached that level between them she wouldn't be disappointed.

"Shouldn't it be?" Torrance replied pulling Helen in a little closer as a cool breeze swept over them.

There was silence after that as they just laid together. As Torrance's hand continued to stroke Helen's back, the blonde felt her herself becoming more sexually aware of the delicate movement. Wondering if Torrance was feeling the same, she snuggled in closer, noting the pace of Torrance's heart speed up to match her own. Torrance focused her eyes on the stars as she felt Helen's body shift closer to her own. The feeling of the blonde's breath along her neck was beginning to stir her passions, but unsure of what to do, she merely kept caressing the model's back lightly. Helen felt Torrance's hand coming dangerously close to the hem of her shirt, and then suddenly she wanted the photographer's hand to slip under it to her bare skin. However she wasn't sure how to bring that action about without telling her, so she opted to try to give the brunette a little subtle direction. Bringing her own hand down off Torrance's shoulder, she began to run it along the older woman's side sensuously. She heard the brunette's breath catch but realized it had worked as Torrance's hand found its way up the back of Helen's top. They went on for several minutes just touching each other, but as each of them became more aware of what was actually starting to happen, their breathing began to become erratic. Still they hadn't kissed each other, but as the thought of that being the next step occurred to Helen, she began to shiver in her nervousness and desire.

"You cold?" Torrance asked softly bring the model's body even closer. Not trusting her voice, Helen merely gave a shaky nod. Knowing that her response meant that Helen was approaching potential overload, Torrance suggested, "Then maybe we should go in. It's getting cold out here, and it's late anyway."

Leading the way inside, Torrance made a stop in the living room to deposit their blanket before escorting Helen upstairs. As they came to a stop outside the blonde's door, they just looked at each other. Torrance knew she wanted to kiss the model more than anything at that moment, but being scared of making a wrong move, she opted just to give the woman a hug. Bringing their bodies together in a tight embrace, Torrance allowed herself to nuzzle Helen's fair hair before resting her head along the teacher's shoulder. Helen couldn't control her breathing as she felt Torrance pull her hips closer, letting the photographer's belt buckle skim along her stomach through her thin shirt. Each of them were so lost in the sensations that neither thought about their actions. Before Torrance could stop herself her lips brushed over the soft skin of blonde's neck. Helen immediately whimpered as one hang clung tighter to Torrance's collar and the other cradled the dark head. However as soon as Torrance heard the beautiful sound, she realized her actions and pulled away abruptly, startling them both. She longed to be able to hear it again, but she knew she had to refrain.

Seeing Torrance become reserved again, Helen whispered, "Well, um, good night."

"Good night, Helen." the tall woman answered softly before turning to leave.

Going into her room, Torrance softly closed the door and leaned against it. Her emotions were running wild through her body. The small moan that had escaped the model was enough to make her crazy with desire. Knowing she had to reign in her feelings though, she began to ready herself for bed, but as she found herself lying in the dark, she began to think about what it would be like to kiss the woman she loved for the first time.

That night as Helen lied in her own bed, she thought of the woman just next door. Over the course of the trip, she had begun to feel so much more for the photographer than she ever thought she would, and their parting for the night left her with a longing she had never experienced. Allowing herself to fantasize, she imagined what a night of passion might be like between them. Dreaming of the dark-haired woman showering her with affection led her own hands into action as they took in the landscape of her body all the while pretending that it was Torrance there inside of her.

Torrance was just beginning to drift off to sleep when she thought she heard her name being called. Confused she sat up in bed and strained to hear any noise but there was nothing for several moments. However just as she was about to settle down again, she heard it a second time coming from the direction of the balcony. Thinking that maybe Helen was calling her, she slid out of bed and made her way out her doors over to the blonde's. As she approached softly, she heard her name a third time, so she went to Helen's open doors, but as soon as she looked into the teacher's room, she retreated back a few steps. Unsure of whether her eyes were deceiving her or not, she peeked just around the corner. Helen was in bed cast in the white light of the moon. Even though the blonde's eyes were closed, Torrance could tell that she wasn't asleep. Her back was arched slightly and her head titled back. Torrance could hear the blonde's unsteady breathing, and she was transfixed by the movement of the covers, imagining what Helen was doing to pleasure herself. Torrance's legs went weak as she heard Helen call her name again. She wanted nothing more than to rush in a appease the fervor that was threatening to overtake them both, but she knew she couldn't. Knowing it was inappropriate to intrude on the blonde's privacy, Torrance regretfully turned to go back to her room. Falling into her own bed, she let the images of the model take hold in her mind and moaned sympathetically with her situation. Unable to calm herself any other way, she too brought herself the relief she needed before passing out in exhaustion.

The next morning when Helen came downstairs Torrance was already eating breakfast. Seeing the model for the first time after what had happened, the brunette felt suddenly shy in front of the blonde. Noting the slight flush on the older woman's face, Helen asked, "What's with you this morning?"

"Nothing. I was just thinking that today was your last full day here. It's gone too quickly."

"Yeah, it really has, and I feel like there is still so much I could see."

"Well, it gives you something to look forward to next time." Torrance replied with a smile.

"Very true."

Continued in Part 2.
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