"When's the mud guy coming?" asked Ricky. They had stopped to eat lunch after most of the first floor was done. The crew Jolly had working with her was good, fast and didn't need a lot of direction to get things done.
Jolly swallowed the mouthful of sandwich Mimi had packed for them and pointed to a truck that looked even worse than hers. "Already here. Pacho and boys are fast and the best in the business. Once they're done they come back and do the painting if that's what Christina wants."
It was the best opening Ricky could hope for from Jolly. "What's her story?"
"Christina is the owner of the gallery that hosted Mimi's show. Small world huh? I didn't figure who she was until the night I went to Mimi's opening. Long story short, we went out for a while then she fucked up."
"Fucked up?" asked Ricky.
"I went over one night and she was fucking an old girlfriend. Jolly don't play that."
Ricky laughed at the joke and continued with his fact-finding mission. "You had feelings for her though, am I right?"
"When have you ever known me to see someone for more than a week? Doesn't matter anyway, there's no going back."
You've had Mimi tied in knots for years, so that's not true, Jolly, thought Ricky as he finished his soda. "I don't know, Kelly was screwing big Tony behind my back and I still have feelings for her," fished Ricky.
"That's a different situation, Rick, Kelly's the mother of your children. That's a bond no amount of animosity can break or change. Christina's someone who cooked me dinner a few times."
"And would like to again," Christina said from behind them.
Ricky looked at the skirt and figured she wasn't there to learn the art of applying mud to drywall. Here was a woman on the hunt and she had painted an imaginary bull's eye on Jolly's forehead.
"I'll be getting back to it, boss," said Ricky as some of those murderous thoughts Jolly had mentioned ran through his head. "Ma'am."
"He doesn't like me, does he?" asked Christina.
Jolly looked up from her seat on the grass and laughed. "Do you always anoint yourself with so much self-importance?"
"What do you mean?"
"Ricky doesn't know you, so why would you care if he likes you or not?"
"Can we start over? Maybe you could give me a tour, then go out for that drink you promised?" asked Christina.
Jolly took her around the house with a pad in hand making notes of any changes Christina wanted. The blonde approved the hiring of the painters and hung on every word out of Jolly's mouth. It thrilled her that Jolly even walked her back to the car when she had run out of excuses to stay.
"Want to come over tonight and have that drink?"
The flash of the tall naked blonde standing in the hallway ran through Jolly's mind making her shake her head. "I don't think so, Chris. Just give me some more time and we'll see, ok?"
The shortening of her name made Christina smile. It was the first time Jolly had done it in weeks. "I'm sorry, Jolly." The blue eyes similar in color to Jolly's filled with tears at what she had thrown away. It would be so great to share the new house with the woman who was building it.
"Come on now, don't cry. You should be glad I'm pissed with you. The mental experts say it means I care. I got angry because I thought we were going somewhere special," said Jolly reaching down to wipe a tear running down Christina's face. Seeing her like this made Jolly wonder if she had been too rash.
"Will you just come when you think you're ready? I'm willing to wait."
"Let's not put any expectations on ourselves." Christina nodded to that, knowing it was better than goodbye for good.
Upstairs Ricky stepped away from the bedroom window so Jolly wouldn't see him on her way back up. "The tears gets them every time. Come on, Jolly, you're smarter than that."
Jolly drove passed Christina's apartment four times in the next week never slowing down much less stopping. A part of her wanted to try again since Christina was the first person she felt as comfortable with as Mimi. The feeling came so naturally to compare everyone to Mimi that Jolly never took the time to analyze why she did that.
The one good thing that had happened was a painting Mimi had placed as an entry for the No Aids Task Force's Black and White Ball had been accepted. The honor meant it would be made into signed and numbered prints and the original would be sold at auction the night of the ball. All the money raised would go to the leading organization in New Orleans that cared for all the needy suffering from the disease. It was a good cause, and the exposure the event would get would give Mimi's career as an artist an incredible boost.
Jolly had been thrilled and shocked that the talkative Mimi had been able to keep the whole thing a secret. The best part Jolly guessed was Ricky would be there to share in Mimi's achievement. No matter how much Mimi said she didn't mind Ricky always being gone, Jolly knew better. The petite blonde craved her father's approval as much as she wanted him to be a part of her life.
The pencil in her hand dropped to the floor as Jolly thought about everything that had happened. Maybe it was time for her to move on because she was tired of being alone. More than one night had been spent thinking about Christina, only to have her morph into Mimi in the leather outfit she had worn to dinner the night Ricky got back to town.
"You look like you're lost," said Ricky stepping into one of the guestrooms upstairs. Like the master suite down the hall, the room had a great view of the lake.
"About that pretty blonde thing who keeps sniffing around here like a bitch in heat?"
"Ricky, you're nothing if not blunt," said Jolly bending down to pick up her pencil. She had been in the process of measuring and marking crown molding when the water in the distance had caught her attention.
"Jolly, you know I love you, right?" Jolly nodded her head slowly not knowing where this was going. "I say this with love then, you're a fucking blockhead."
The pencil she had just picked up snapped in her hand. "Excuse me?"
"You have a wonderful girl who's loved you from the day you two met and you're standing here pining away for some scank who slept with someone else. In my book that makes you a fucking blockhead." God, Mimi, please forgive me if this doesn't work, thought Ricky as he waited for the blowup.
"What in the hell are you talking about?" Jolly's voice had gotten low and glacial.
"Wake up, Jolly, and take a look at Mimi."
"What does she have to do with anything?"
"Madeline's so in love with you she doesn't see anyone else. As her father, I want you to either do something about it or let her go. I know you care about her but as long as you're there all the time, she's not going to open up to anyone else."
The piece of pencil still clutched in her hand snapped in two again when Ricky was done. "You're crazy, Mimi's not in love with me. She's just a kid for pete's sake!" The thought of that black leather outfit popped into Jolly's head for the thousandth time and she tried to ignore it.
"She's almost twenty three, Jolly. It's time you gave her a life, or the freedom to find one. Making her furniture isn't enough anymore. My kid deserves a life and someone who makes her happy. She wants more than anything for that someone to be you."
Ricky calculated how far he could get on a quarter of a tank when Jolly just walked out. If Mimi found out he had gone back on his word, it wouldn't be far enough. He may not have always been there for her, but he had never broken his word. Not until now.
That night and for the next three Ricky watched Mimi as she stood vigil by the front door waiting for Jolly to come walking through it after work. One more night and he would have to tell her Jolly wasn't coming to work either. The lessons he had learned in Vegas should have taught him the evils of gambling, but Ricky figured it was too late now. He'd gambled on Jolly sweeping Mimi off her feet and he'd failed.
Jolly stood at the front door she had thought about knocking on a hundred times and thought about what Ricky had said and how true it was. How had she missed it? He was right in his point that it was time to let Mimi go so she could find what she sought. Not because she didn't love her, but because she wasn't good enough for Mimi. It was time for Jolly to let go of quite a few things.
The knock was as gentle as the first time and Jolly almost turned away when there was not immediate response. Jolly smiled when the door opened and Christina stood there, shocked to see her.
"You know something?" asked Jolly watching the long blonde hair bounce when Christina shook her head. "I just stopped by to tell you that I'm a fucking blockhead."
"I can explain," said Christina. Jolly looked at the swollen lips of the mouth that had just uttered the ridiculous line.
"No need," said Jolly holding out her hand to the woman who had stepped up behind Christina. "Jolly Andolini."
"Jan Shaffer." The tall blonde looked wary since Jolly was being so nice. Usually when she was caught with someone else's woman it meant the loss of an item of clothing when she had to make a quick get a way, or a black eye.
"Jan, you take care of your girl and have fun tonight," Jolly told the stunned blonde. "That leaky roof's a distinct possibility now, though you might have lucked out since I got here before shaking hands was not an option. Don't think you messed up again because I came to tell you there was no chance at reconciliation. I just thought I'd come and tell you in person. Not that I think I owed it to you, but like I said - that's my style." She put her hand to Christina's cheek and stroked it before turning and walking out.
"Do you think we should go by her house? She could be sick or hurt. It's not like Jolly to disappear on me for a week, and she wouldn't miss tonight unless there was something wrong."
Ricky looked at his daughter in the gorgeous gown she had on and decided he couldn't hide the truth anymore. Jolly had decided to follow his advice and let Mimi go instead of taking a chance. He pulled on the bow tie he was wearing and tried to think of how to tell her Jolly wasn't sick and she wasn't coming.
"Mimi," started Ricky finding the rented tuxedo more constricting by the second. "Jolly," the doorbell stopped him from going further. He went to open the door and almost fainted from the relief. "Is right on time."
The tuxedo was one Mimi had taken Jolly shopping for a year earlier so they could attend the New Orleans Modern Art Gala held to help raise money for indigent children interested in art. Jolly had stood patiently for over an hour as they measured and pinned the jacket for a flawless fit, then as Mimi tried different shirt and ties with the suit she picked out. It looked as good on Jolly now as the first time Mimi had seen it. The main reason wasn't how well it fit but that Jolly had meticulously assembled each piece to look good for Mimi. She had gone with the black bow tie and it was knotted as well as the small black silk ribbon holding the ponytail in place. Jolly stepped in and closed the door looking almost shy as she looked at Mimi.
"Hey, shrimpy." It was like a knife twisting in Jolly's chest when Mimi's green eyes filled with tears. "I know a beautiful woman like you probably has a date." Mimi shook her head and brought her hands up to cover her mouth not wanting to put too much hope in why Jolly was there and what she had said. Everyday of the last week had been like a slow death for Mimi. For every hour that ticked by without hearing from Jolly, was one more hour Mimi's mind came up with different pictures of Jolly in bed with someone else. By the look on Jolly's face, Mimi knew something was different. In her absence Jolly had obviously made some decisions about the future.
Jolly looked at the white strapless dress Mimi had on and wanted to cry herself that this beautiful woman loved her. Mimi was so much more than her physical beauty, it had been her heart that had won Jolly so gradually it had taken Ricky to make her realize what she, in her stupidity, had missed. Now that she did know, having spent a sleepless night trying to think of a way to make it up to Mimi, Jolly knew she couldn't live without her. The only fear was that her weeklong absence had driven Mimi away.
"I'm sorry for waiting until now to ask you, but would you consider going with me?" asked Jolly.
"Did you ask anyone else?" Mimi didn't want to win because Jolly was settling.
"I told you before, Madeline, you're my best girl. The phrase has rolled off my tongue for years, but it took someone calling me a blockhead to realize how true it was. It always has been from the day we met." Jolly looked at Ricky and smiled as a way of thanking him for the kick in the pants.
"Do you think you could love me?" Mimi asked, needing to hear it before she could move.
"I can't imagine a time when I didn't love you, Mimi. You give me the chance, and I won't let a day pass when you can't imagine it either."
The smile on Mimi's face gave Jolly the courage to move forward. She wanted to do it right since every couple got to have just one first kiss. She wanted them to both think back on it and love the memory no matter how many years had passed. The thought of Mimi telling this story to the gaggle of kids she always talked about made her smile.
Mimi's lips were soft against her own, and Jolly could taste the salt from the tears the small blonde had shed. In that one moment every corny line from every movie Jolly had ever seen and every song she had ever heard about love made sense to her. When they parted she smiled wider at the pleased hum Mimi let out with her eyes still closed.
"How about it?"
"Can't we just stay home?" asked Mimi. She stuck her hands in Jolly's jacket and wanted nothing more than to put her pajamas on and stay home.
"I want to dance with you, and I have a painting to bid on so no, we can't stay home. Besides you never went to your prom so I thought I could make it up to you tonight." Jolly handed her a box tied closed with a white silk ribbon. She put the orchid on Mimi's wrist when she opened it then offered her an arm for her escort outside.
"I would've gone, but you were away at college and didn't ask me," said Mimi.
"Just another reason I'm a blockhead, but don't worry, I'm getting up to speed."
Ricky locked the front door and followed the couple to the waiting limousine, convinced Mimi's feet never touched the ground for the length of the driveway. Maybe another run at the gaming tables was in his future since this risk had hit such a huge jackpot.
The reserved table Jolly had purchased was next to the one her father's firm had gotten. When they saw where they were sitting and Ricky spotted Kelly, he looked like a slug had crawled in his mouth and died. It was going to be a very long night if he had to look at Anthony with his paws all over her in a show of ownership.
"My revenge for calling me a fucking blockhead," whispered Jolly in jest. In reality she was as shocked to see them as Ricky. "I'm kidding. I could've gotten you flowers, but I thought you would like something a little more substantial," Jolly told him.
Mimi came close to stabbing Jolly with the butter knife when a tall brunette walked up and hugged the architect. "Veronica, this is Mimi. Mimi, Veronica's your father's date for the evening. Ricky, you remember Veronica don't you?" Jolly put the woman's hand in Ricky's.
"How does daddy know her?" asked Mimi.
"She works for Pacho the painter. The girl can paint edges like Van Gogh and she's so cute I thought your father would like dancing the night away with her. And speaking of dancing, want to dance with me before Anthony has me arrested for seducing you?" The pointing and whispering Anthony and Kelly were engaged in wasn't exactly covert. It was also a safe bet to figure she and Mimi were the main topic of discussion.
Mimi pulled Jolly to the middle of the dance floor by her lapels. "I've been trying to seduce you for years, so you're not the one in trouble. I mean come on, Jolly, I did everything but paint that damn mural naked. You're so clueless sometimes I swear."
"Had you worn that leather number, you wouldn't have made it to the elevator."
The tempo of the music didn't matter to them the entire time they were on the floor. They were oblivious to the stares, comments and attention some in the crowd had focused on them. Ricky was the one paying enough attention to enjoy the shade of red of Anthony's ears going up a notch in color for every kiss Jolly placed on Mimi's lips.
"Are you really ok with this?" asked Mimi. She was enjoying listening to the beat of Jolly's heart as well as the music they were swaying to together.
"Honey, I spent the last week trying to find a way to walk away from you so you'd have a chance to find someone better." Mimi moved her head away so she could look Jolly in the eye ready to protest. "Let me finish," Jolly requested when the red lips frowned. "I could no more let you go than I could stop breathing. I don't want to see you with anyone but me. I thank God your father set me on the right course before it was too late. The fact is, you own so much of who I am, I wouldn't know how to get it all back. I love you, Mimi, because you're perfect."
Mimi's hands moved from Jolly's shoulders to her neck. "That's a sweet sentiment, baby, but no one's perfect."
"Are you telling me I'm wrong and you aren't the perfect girl for me?"
"Since you put it like that, I can't argue with your logic. Do you think we could try kissing again, or are there too many people around?"
The hands at Jolly's neck applied a little pressure and bent the willing head down. Jolly tried to pour so much into that one kiss they stopped moving to the music. A persistent tapping on Mimi's shoulder was what drove them apart.
With extreme irritation Mimi looked away from Jolly. "What?"
"Can you stop making a spectacle of yourself long enough for me to talk to you?"
Mimi was grateful when Jolly pressed herself to her back and rested her chin on Mimi's shoulder. "Mother, how lovely to see you again. I've been meaning to call you and ask why you didn't make it to my show, but I really could give a damn."
"Madeline, keep your voice down and your distance from your sister. It's upsetting your father," said Kelly.
Both Mimi and Jolly looked toward Ricky and waved when he gave them a thumbs up sign after twirling Veronica. "He seems fine with my date, mother. Don't you think so, sweetie?"
"He was the one who set us up remember, love?"
The long exhale from Kelly was a reflex on her part when the topic of discussion turned to Ricky. "I'm talking about Anthony, dear. Could you show a little more respect and stop embarrassing him?"
"Anthony is hardly anyone's father, Kelly, least of all Mimi's. Biology isn't what makes you a parent, and marriage shouldn't make you someone's lapdog. If he's got a problem tell Anthony to have the balls to come over here and tell us himself." With each word out of Jolly's mouth Kelly's anger grew.
"Why I never…" started the pinched looking woman. Ever since her father had introduced her to his new wife Jolly had the impression someone was always walking beside her holding a piece of manure under her nose.
"No I'd think after you left Ricky you don't anymore. Anthony never has struck me as the sexually fulfilling kind of guy. If that's all, I want to dance with my girl." It took an incredible amount of self-restraint on Kelly's part not to throw anything at Jolly's head. Especially when Mimi covered her mouth to hide the laughter. The new couple stayed in each other's arms until they started serving dinner. Any other stares from Kelly and Anthony were missed as Jolly's table laughed and enjoyed the evening.
It was Jolly's turn to become one big flaming blush when they unveiled Mimi's piece signaling the auction was going to begin as the desert was being served. The painting depicted an angel cradling a sick child, her wings slightly curved in as if to protect the fragile life she held. Mimi's description of the piece 'Wings of Love' in the program was love knew no boundaries when it was genuine. In its purest form, it had no barriers, was more powerful than any other force and would go to any length to protect those who believed in it with out question.
The brief lines of text didn't really explain why the angel was naked and looked just like Jolly despite the fact the viewer couldn't really make out the face since it was bowed as if in prayer. The veins bulging in Anthony's neck meant he had guessed who the model had been. Jolly never moved as the room exploded into applause when the piece was announced and unveiled.
The painting's subject looked at the woman sitting next to her not knowing what to say. Mimi looked back and shrugged her shoulders. "I wanted to tell you how I felt but I didn't have the words, so I used a picture. Are you mad?"
"Um, no," said Jolly looking at the large canvas again. "How did you," she waved her hands at the painting that was like looking in a mirror.
"I didn't peek at you in the shower, Jolly. I'm an artist, and when you become one, the powers that be give you something called license," teased Mimi. The bidding started at five thousand dollars and Mimi grabbed Jolly's hand before she could place a counter. "The real one's at home."
"The real one?"
"I was willing to share the idea in my head of what was under your 501's, but what I knew better than my own heart I'm keeping at home," explained Mimi.
"What's that, sweetheart?"
"Your eyes, my love. They looked at me years ago and blinded me to the world forever. They knew all along you loved me, all I had to do was be patient until the rest of you caught up. The painting at home shows me that truth every time I look at it in the studio. You're head is up and you're smiling just for me."
Jolly cradled Mimi's face as gently as the angel in the painting held the baby. The last thing Jolly remembered before she dipped her head and kissed Mimi with all the desire she had inside was a bid of thirty thousand dollars.
"You think daddy's coming home tonight?" asked Mimi. They were standing in her den swaying to just the sound of the fire behind them.
"If he can resist the legendary Veronica, he's a better man than any I've known. I'm thinking he's out until Tuesday at least."
"And you know this about this woman, how?"
"The difference between women and men is most women don't brag about what happens in the bedroom. Most guys can't seem to help themselves." Jolly kissed Mimi again not wanting to talk about anyone else for the rest of the night.
"I've waited so long for you to kiss me like you wanted me. Do you want me, Jolly?"
"More than anything." The skin along Mimi's neck and shoulders tasted so good as Jolly moved her lips along getting caught up in trying to make Mimi feel good.
The jacket of the tux Mimi knew wasn't rented dropped to the floor without a word from its owner. The bowtie that wasn't a clip on came next with one slow torturous pull from surprisingly steady fingers. Jolly tried to relax and let Mimi move at her own pace. If she wanted to stop, they would stop even if it meant her jogging laps in the park in dress shoes thought Jolly.
"I know you said if a girl wants it to be special she should wait, but I've been waiting for six years, Jolly. Do you think you could cut me some slack if I told you I wanted to make love with you?" Mimi got swept into Jolly's arms and carried into the bedroom as an answer.
Jolly set her on her feet near the bed and brought the zipper at the back of Mimi's dress down like she was unwrapping a gift she had wanted all year as a kid. She held the top part up to look at Mimi's face and make sure it was all right to continue. The coral tinted lips curved into a smile giving Jolly permission to let go. Jolly would have started sweating a lot sooner than now had she known the only thing between she and Mimi on the dance floor had been a white silk gown.
"You're so beautiful." Jolly was almost afraid to touch her, thinking Mimi would disappear or turn away. The look of rapture made Mimi smile.
"Jolly, would you sit for me for a minute?" Mimi asked as she guided the tall woman to the bed. When the awe struck Jolly sat, Mimi bent down to take off her shoes and socks. The shirt came next after she undid every stud holding it closed. "Ok, you can stand up now." When Mimi unbuckled the belt and lowered the zipper, Jolly's pants pooled at her ankles for a long time as Mimi admired what she had uncovered. The resemblance to the painting was uncanny.
"I love you, Mimi."
"Jolly, you've made me a happy woman. Care to keep going?"
"I'll go wherever you lead."
"I love you too, Jolly, and I'd rather we get there together." Mimi couldn't help the moan that escaped when Jolly pulled her close and their skin came into contact. If they didn't do anything else that night, that one moment would be enough for Mimi.
"Are you ok?" asked Jolly.
"Can I tell you something?"
"You can tell me anything, honey. It won't change the way I feel about you."
"Promise you won't get dressed and leave?"
Jolly put two fingers under Mimi's chin and tilted her head up so she could see her eyes. The blue green shade was so pale they had always reminded Jolly of aquamarine stones when they turned this shade. "You're going to have to ask me to go for that to happen."
"I've never done this with anyone." Mimi said it softly and prayed she wouldn't have to say it again. The thumping in Jolly's chest reminded her of the steady hammering she had heard coming from Jolly's workshop for years, and Mimi hoped it didn't speed up anymore. It sounded dangerously fast already.
"No one?" To Jolly's annoyance the question came out in a squeaky, high pitched voice.
"I wanted to wait until I thought it was right. Tonight is the first time it feels like perfect," confessed Mimi. The tears streaming down Jolly's face were hard to decipher in a good or bad context.
"I don't deserve you, Mimi. I won't ever be able to do enough to make up for what an ass I've been to you for not seeing how you felt. You waited for me?" she asked in wonder.
"I saw you at that lunch your father had to introduce the two sets of children to each other and I said to myself before you took my hand, she's the one. You were older but you listened to me and believed in what I wanted to do, even when no one else cared. How could I not wait for you? I have you now and I'm keeping you, so you don't have anything to make up to me. Tonight I want you to make me yours, Jolly. There was no one else who ever came close to taking what belonged to you. I just thank God you didn't take anymore time. Twenty three years is a long time to be curious about what the fuss is about, so let's get to it," teased Mimi.
Jolly picked Mimi up again and laid her on the bed before getting up next to her. It was a strange thing to think, but Jolly was happy she had made the bed more than comfortable for two people. Mimi looked at her with a mixture of nerves and desire and Jolly wanted to assure her before they went any further.
"We can stop if you want, ok?" Mimi nodded her head and reached back to let Jolly's hair down.
"I want you to touch me," whispered Mimi swallowing hard when the hand on her hip slid slowly up her body until it closed on one of her breasts.
Jolly watched as the pink nipple got hard under just the brushing of her fingers. It was the only time in her life she wished she had spent her life in the office like Tim instead of building the designs she drew. Mimi deserved soft hands touching her. Almost as if she had heard her thoughts, Mimi picked up the big hand and kissed the callused fingers. She pulled Jolly on top of her when the tall woman smiled at her and the solid weight made Mimi wet.
The shorter set of legs opened so Jolly could fit closer against her and both of them stopped just to enjoy the contact. Mimi clawed at her back when Jolly started kissing her neck again before slipping down to tug on Mimi's breast with her lips. Jolly sucked on one then the other until Mimi dragged her face up next to hers for a kiss. Mimi didn't really know what she wanted but Jolly touching her was paramount. She wanted something more but didn't know how to ask.
"Baby, please," she said breathlessly, hoping Jolly would get the message.
"Mimi, I want you to relax for me," instructed Jolly as she tried to move down Mimi's body only to be stopped by two insistent hands. "You want me to stop?"
"No, I want you up here with me, just for right now." Mimi wanted to look into Jolly's eyes when she gave her the gift she had saved for her.
What started out as a moan, ended in a hiss when Jolly kissed her as her fingers dipped into the wetness between her legs. Mimi wanted to start crying it felt so good but she didn't want to distract Jolly into stopping. The soft stroking that went from one end of her sex to the other was coating Jolly's fingers making each trip back and forth that much easier. When they were wet enough, Jolly moved her fingers to the hard point of Mimi's need and circled around it slowly without touching it.
"Jolly, don't stop doing that, it feels so good."
"I want you to feel good, love. Feel me touching you and feel how wet it's making you." The low voice in Mimi's ear was making her nipples harder, or was it the fingers stroking away her reason? Jolly sucked on one of her earlobes, as her fingers never stopped their circling making Mimi harder and wetter. "Relax, sweetheart, and just let go."
Mimi nodded her head as the fingers widened their arch and dipped lower circling the entrance to her sex, dipping in just slightly before going back to the stroking they had been doing. She whimpered when Jolly took them away momentarily so she could run her thumb along the same path, but when it to was wet, the fingers returned to their teasing movements.
"Look at me, love," requested Jolly. Mimi opened her eyes and looked at her with so much passion Jolly was lost. "Just keeping looking at me and relax." Mimi could feel the length of Jolly's body pressed up against hers, the heat making her feel safe. She moaned when the thumb started to rub where she most wanted contact as the fingers started entering her gently to break through the thin barrier. Mimi's tears did start when Jolly was all the way in, but not from any pain or discomfort.
"I'm so glad I waited for you." After she said it, Mimi felt comfortable enough to close her eyes and part her lips asking for a kiss. She came up to meet Jolly's hand as her body wrapped around her fingers and started the trip over the edge Mimi had taken alone up to now. Their lips came apart when she couldn't breathe because the feeling was so intense.
The fingers buried inside Mimi and the thumb stroking her ignited the orgasm and she wished the feeling would never end as the spasms started. She fell in love with Jolly all over again when it was over and she felt the fingers leave their warm haven.
"I'm glad you waited for me too. Thank you, Mimi, that was an honor."
"You'll be happy to know I'll honor you anytime you want from now on," said Mimi before pushing Jolly onto her back.
Mimi didn't want to wait for this experience anymore either. With no detour she moved down Jolly's body and parted the wet swollen lips with her fingers. Before Jolly knew what was happening, Mimi had latched on to her with her lips knocking all the fight right out of her. She dug her heels into the mattress and wrapped her fingers in the short blonde hair as a way to anchor her body to the bed.
After the time Jolly had taken with Mimi, it didn't take too much to get her to the same ending destination. It was so fast, it bordered on embarrassment. Mimi crawled back up her body and relaxed on top of Jolly. She picked up the limp hands and put them on her back as a hint she wanted Jolly to hold her.
"What in the hell just happened?" asked Jolly.
"When I'm not painting, I read, a lot. I couldn't wait anymore to take my book knowledge for a spin. Did you like it?" Mimi's head lifted to look at Jolly when she asked the question.
"If I could find two functional brain cells to rub together I'd come up with a better answer than, uh huh."
"Maybe it's a good thing you took this long, blockhead." Jolly laughed under Mimi at the use of her father's insult.
"Why's that, goddess?"
"You would've never won any of those awards hanging in your office because I wouldn't have let you out of bed. We're doing this often, right?"
"Every chance I can talk you into getting naked."
"Promise?" asked Mimi before sucking on Jolly's neck.
"On a stack of Bibles." The only other references to religion that night were half incoherent utterances of thanks to any deities who popped into their heads when the time seemed appropriate.
A dark pair of blue eyes squinted against the glare in the room as soon as they opened. They had fallen asleep and forgotten to close the blinds Jolly had put up two months before at Mimi's request when she decided the drapes that were up were out of style. Jolly blinked her eyes trying to focus on the surroundings as a to do list started to form in her head.
"What are you thinking about?" asked the muffled voice from Jolly's chest.
"This house only has two bedrooms." Jolly's answer was confusing enough to get Mimi to lift her head. The move brought her breasts into Jolly's line of sight getting her to lick her lips.
"You plan on sleeping somewhere else?" asked Mimi. She sat up and put her hand over her eyes. When that didn't work, she got up and pulled the cord to close the blinds with an appreciative audience watching her naked form.
"No wonder the old guy next door likes you so much," commented Jolly. Lying on her side, she rested her head in her palm knowing the hands on hips move was coming next.
"Mr. Verret? He's a sweet guy, Jolly, of course he likes me. He likes all the neighbors." Jolly had to admit the pose looked sexier sans clothes as Mimi faced her with her hands on her hips.
"Come here," Jolly held a hand up toward Mimi. The room was nicer now that the dark wooden blinds had cut out the sun, but still light enough for Jolly to continue to enjoy the view. Mimi crawled under the covers and blushed, the thought she was naked just occurring to her. "I would like it too if you're in the habit of walking around here dressed like this."
"I'm not dressed, Jolly."
"Precisely." Jolly forwent any other verbal teasing and kissed Mimi good morning instead. When they came up for air Mimi wrapped her arms around Jolly's body and squeezed.
"Honey, he's like ninety years old. I'm thinking he doesn't really care what I wear to walk around the house."
Jolly looked up at her wounded by the comment. "You don't think you'll still be turning me into a puddle when I'm ninety?"
"That's different, I want to be turning you into a puddle. Mr. Verret, I only love him for his tomatoes," teased Mimi.
"You don't cook, woman, so what's so interesting about his tomatoes."
"Please, Jolly, I can make a salad. Ben comes over and brings me some stuff from his garden every couple of days." Mimi sat up and straddled Jolly's body wanting to give the big hands plenty of room to maneuver.
"Every couple of days, huh? You know why that is don't you?"
Mimi had to think before answering when Jolly's hands covered her breasts and squeezed. "What's your theory?"
"Not theory, fact. Old guy looks in here and sees all this on display. Makes him want to run out and pick tomatoes to bring over before you get a chance to get your robe on. I bet the old lady on the other side of him doesn't get any vegetables out of that garden." Jolly ran her hands down Mimi's body to let her know what she was talking about. She sat up to collect on another kiss and liked that Mimi wrapped her legs around her to keep Jolly close. "Probably comes every two days because it takes him that long to do something about the build up of excitement."
Mimi laughed and looked into the eyes she loved so much, studying the way they darkened the more Jolly got aroused. "There's only one old person I'm interested in working up into a frenzy, and here you are," said Mimi putting her hands on Jolly's butt.
"I'll show you frenzied."
Jolly's touch was light since Mimi was sore from the night before, but it was still fulfilling. "I want you to wake me up like this until you're ninety," said Mimi when they were done.
"Don't think I'm forgetting about that old comment, young lady." Jolly heard the soft laugh coming from the dead weight draped across her body. "Does that bother you?" asked the thirty-four-year-old. Eleven and a half years didn't seem like a big span, but sometimes it was a gulf to people. The pinch was hard and unexpected getting Jolly to make a quick grab for Mimi's hand.
"I have not waited a quarter of my life for you to wake up and smell the coffee I've been brewing, to have you start finding excuses why you shouldn't have taken a sip. You get me?"
"That hurt, Mimi," said Jolly rubbing the red spot on her thigh.
Mimi held up the index finger and thumb that had delivered the attention getter before she went on. "And there's plenty more, Babe, so don't mess with me. You ready to listen to my demands."
"Are you always this perky in the morning?" asked Jolly earning her another pinch from the woman sitting on her. "Please continue."
"You can leave today to go home and pack a bag and come back, or I can pack a bag and go with you. I'm flexible so it's your choice. You made love to me knowing full well it came with commitment, so don't play the dummy now. That means we're living together, the first of my demands," Mimi stuck one finger up and looked for any disagreement coming from Jolly.
"Did you have a nose ring made up for me too?"
"It's in the new dresser, smarty pants."
"What are the rest of your demands, Miss Mulle?" Jolly asked as she rolled Mimi over and pinned her to the bed.
"That you just love me and not think of reasons to leave," Mimi told her not teasing.
"Baby, I do love you and I'm not leaving. You'll have to throw me out to get rid of me since I just moved in," said Jolly.
"What about your," Mimi's question died away on Jolly lips.
An hour later it was time for Mimi's third demand and she had to shake Jolly awake to make her request. Jolly's telling her, "I know you're making up for lost time, baby, but give me a break," almost made Mimi roll off the bed she was laughing so hard.
"I want French toast."
"Do you have bread of any kind?" asked Jolly, her eyes still closed.
"Then I can't make you French toast. Go back to sleep."
"Jolly," Mimi dragged out the name and continued her shaking. The whining got Jolly up and into the shower. Before she could deliver on the breakfast demand they had to stop at the warehouse penthouse to pick up some of Jolly's clothes and truck.
The cohabitation had begun.
The sun was setting by the time Ricky came back still wearing his tuxedo and a huge smile. He kissed Mimi before walking over to Jolly to give her a long bear hug before disappearing into his room.
"That's so sweet, he's happy for us," said Mimi looking up from the vegetables she was cutting. They had gone to the market to get stuff for Jolly to cook. It was the only draw back to moving in with Mimi thought Jolly when they kept bumping into each other in the small kitchen.
"I'm thinking it's more like kissing you hello, and worshipping me for introducing him to Veronica. He'll be happy for us later when his brain percolates back into his head," said Jolly. She had her head stuck in a cabinet near the stove looking for a frying pan.
Mimi shivered just having understood Jolly's innuendo. "Honey, I don't want to think about daddy doing that with some painter lady I'm sure I'll see around where you work."
The search was fruitless so Jolly straightened up and kissed her helper. "I'll try and remember that if you tell me where your frying pan can be found."
"I don't have room for a frying pan, and it's never mattered since I've never fried anything."
There would be an argument Jolly was sure but they had to make a slight adjustment to their living arrangements. "We have to move to the loft to keep from killing each other, and so we can eat."
"I love this house, Jolly. Come on, I'll buy you a frying pan. I know what I said about not caring but I want to stay here." If Mimi got to keep Jolly there was no question, she would move, but it would be a hardship to leave the studio Jolly had built for her.
"You already own all the cookware you'll ever need, it's at our other place, and I know you love this house," Jolly looked through the kitchen drawers searching for a pen and a sheet of paper.
"You fixed it up for me, it's where we first made love, my studio's here," Mimi started ticking off reasons to stay.
"Baby, we've made love here a total of three times since last night, which is the exact number of times you've made love in your life. I'm not talking about a permanent move. Just enough time for me to blow out some walls and add some rooms. Once I'm done we can sell my place and live happily ever after."
Mimi watched as the layout of the house came alive on the back of a pizza flyer someone had left taped to the door. When the pencil stopped the house looked twice as big, and Jolly looked pleased.
"You want it done right, or you want it done fast?" asked Jolly.
"You swear you'll be happy living here?"
"I'll be happy anywhere as long as you're around," professed Jolly.
"Are you always this sappy?" asked Mimi pulling Jolly closer.
"Just with you."
"Good. Can I persuade you to forget about the missing frying pan?"
"Not missing, nonexistent. What do you have in mind?"
"Does the number four hold any meaning to you?" Mimi let Jolly go just long enough to check to see if all the burners on the stove were off. Jolly just smiled when Mimi hooked her fingers in a couple of belt loops and pulled her towards the bedroom.
Tim looked up from the papers he was studying and watched Jolly take a seat on her side of the wide partner's desk. The tailored slacks and wool sweater pulled over a crisp blue shirt made her look like a businesswoman.
"Did I forget a meeting this morning?"
"No, I just need to spend some time in the office working on a house I'm redesigning. You didn't sublease my spot did you?" Jolly looked through her messages trying not to think about her new morning ritual. Mimi had almost convinced her to stay home, but figured she wouldn't be able to stand at her easel if Jolly touched her anymore so Jolly was allowed to leave.
"Christina called for you this morning," said Tim. Jolly was crumpling papers and tossing them into the trash as she weeded out the pink slips and mail that had been put in neat stacks by their assistant. "She sounded upset."
"Problem with the house?"
"Problem with not being able to find you more likely. She's probably at the site this morning looking for you."
Jolly stood up and reached for a fresh sheet of draft paper and the file she kept on Mimi's house. "If she calls back tell her I got Mimi pregnant and her father's demanding I do the honorable thing. The fact I'm getting married predicates I stop dating other people. Mimi's got a pinch that'll put the fear of God into you, so I'm not taking any chances."
The chair Tim was sitting in toppled over when he jumped up and ran to give Jolly a hug. "And Pam thought you were a clueless idiot."
"Thanks, I think."
"Whose house are you working on?" Tim followed her to the drafting table and leaned against the wall.
"You've been in Mimi's house, buddy. We need to draw up some space for me to be able to fit some of my clothes and triple the size of that kitchen."
"This isn't too fast?"
Jolly snapped on the lamp attached to the table and thought about how many times she had asked herself that question since all this had begun. There was no denying how she felt and it helped that Mimi was so sure about her feelings for her.
"All my life I went from woman to woman trying to find one who I could stand to be with a week after I met her, thinking spending all my life with just one would be too much to ask for. With Mimi, I know in my heart, a lifetime won't be enough. I've been in love with her so long I feel like an idiot now that I didn't realize it sooner."
"If you talked to me like that, think about how much more sex you'd be having," Pam said to her husband from the outer office. She walked in and kissed Jolly first and just patted the top of Tim's head before taking a seat in Jolly's desk chair. "Mimi called me bright and early this morning. Congratulations."
"About time you came to your senses, but you took so long Madeline won't have to worry about your wild oats, will she? And I won't have to worry about Timmy living vicariously through your known exploits." Jolly and her partner laughed at Pam's observation knowing she was the only one in the world who could talk to the two of them like that and keep them in line.
They all looked up when they heard the front door of the office open and slam shut. Christy, their assistant wasn't in yet so their visitor just walked back to the large office.
"You weren't at the house this morning." Christina made the observation sound like an accusation.
"My job there's done for the most part and I have other clients. Ricky Mulle's taking over as foreman until you're done. Is there a problem?"
"I thought I was paying you to build my house?"
Jolly leaned back in the comfortable drafting chair and looked at the irritated blonde noticing the dark circles under her eyes. "You hired me to design your house and to build it, both of which are getting done. So I repeat, is there a problem?"
"Can I speak to you alone?" Christina ran her hand through her hair and exhaled. It had been a rough weekend and her Monday morning wasn't getting much better having found Lisa's letter of resignation on her desk when she went to the gallery.
Tim was ready to step out but Pam wasn't moving from her seat. Her husband leaned back against the wall when his wife gave him a meaningful look that meant don't move. "I don't think it's necessary. Go back to your life, Christina, and chalk this up as a learning experience," said Jolly.
"But what we…"
"We had nothing, have nothing now and will have nothing in the future. You get a house out of the bargain, and just think, you'll have a built in playmate to share it with." Jolly rolled up the blank page and picked up her briefcase. "Tim will assist you from here on out. If you will excuse me, I have a woman to see about making happy."
Ricky delivered the turnkey job four months later. He was thrilled to hand Christina the gold key ring Tim and Jolly always gifted their clients with. It was his last official act as the project's foreman. Christina had done everything she could think to delay the project adding two months to the completion date. Every complaint was a ploy to get Jolly back to the site to deal with the imaginary crises.
It hadn't worked and now all there was left to do was have her slip the brass key in and turn to unlock the front door. Their job was done and from the look on her parent's and Christina's face, Jolly and crew had been successful at garnering another satisfied customer. Ricky shook hands with all of them before getting on his bike and heading back uptown. The Lord willing, Christina was now a page of history.
The Harley pulling up couldn't drown out the hammering and sawing coming from the back. Ricky was living with Jolly and Mimi at the loft until the house's new kitchen, two extra bedrooms, workshop and walk in closet in the master bedroom were finished.
Jolly's design went through extensive revamping by Mimi before the first nail was driven, but even the architect had to admit the finished product would flow well with the other historic houses on the block. The crew who had been with Jolly the longest had been hired to complete the job, and both women felt better about leaving Ricky in charge when Jolly and Tim got the contract in Atlanta. Mimi wasn't thrilled Jolly would be gone for so long, but kept in mind the first trip Jolly had taken to Atlanta to present the ideas to city planners was a cause for celebration. Those extra days had brought Jan Shaffer into their lives, ending Christina's time with Jolly.
For the first time in his life Ricky was content to stay and work with Jolly and his daughter, watching with an amused eye as their relationship grew. Where Mimi had learned to become such a master manipulator when it came to Jolly was beyond him, but Jolly was so smitten he didn't think she minded being tweaked too much. The phone bill Jolly was going to get after being in Atlanta for three weeks was going to be painful, but Ricky was ready to pay it himself so long as the architect came home.
Jolly was actually shaving three days off her trip leaving Tim behind to take care of any last minute problems with the historic renovation project they were working on for the city. It was her thirty fifth birthday and Mimi would never forgive her if they didn't celebrate the day for the first time as a couple. Ricky knew Mimi had been working on a special present for Jolly, but like the No Aids painting, his daughter had been extremely tight lipped about it.
Ricky found her sitting and staring at a blank canvas in her studio when he got back. It was the only room in the house Jolly had left untouched in the new design. Mimi thought it was perfect the first time she had walked in after Jolly had built it two years before so there was no need for alterations.
"Hey, baby girl." Ricky tried to snap her out of her trance so the paint she had mixed and put in her pallet wouldn't go to waste. Mimi was one of those artists who mixed her own paint so the hues were truer, and they dried better, but they didn't keep too long on the wooden pallet she used.
The artist looked up and tears filled her eyes when she saw her father. Ricky thought it was just a case of missing Jolly so he just held her until the tears passed. "I'm going to lose Jolly." The voice was soft and full of regret.
The hand rubbing her back stopped and Ricky pried her off his body to look at Mimi's face. "Nothing in the world could make that happen, Mimi. She loves you."
"I did something for her for her birthday thinking at the time it was a good idea, but now I'm thinking she's going to be really mad, Daddy, I can't lose her." Mimi talked fast in between sobs and hiccups not making much sense to her father.
"Baby, what's wrong?" The concerned voice behind Ricky made both blondes jump in surprise not having heard Jolly enter. The architect wasn't due in until that night but had sweet-talked her way onto an earlier flight. When she reached for Mimi, it only made the crying worse. "Come on, baby, nothing can be that bad. Are you sick?"
Mimi cried and shook her head against Jolly's shoulder. She had been sitting in the studio for hours trying to find a way to tell Jolly what she'd done, but no words were enough to cover the scope of what she had to say. Now there might not be a way to undo her choices.
"Rick, could you go and get Mimi a glass of water, please?" Ricky shuffled his feet but went to do Jolly's bidding. He wanted to stay and make sure nothing upset Mimi further especially if her prediction of Jolly's leaving her had even a remote possibility of being true.
It took them thirty minutes but finally after two glasses of water and plenty of cuddling from Jolly, Mimi stopped crying. Jolly knelt in front of the chair Mimi had been sitting in and looked at the red puffy face hoping her partner was ready to start talking. All Jolly had been able to decipher from the bobbing head was that Mimi wasn't sick or hurt, and she hadn't done anything to upset her.
"My period didn't start yesterday."
It was a simple statement really, Jolly thought later. Precise and to the point, not a lot of meaningless words attached to flower it up. But right after Mimi said it, Jolly mentally wiped her brow and checked the box labeled PMS of possible things wrong with her upset lover. It was an easy problem with a ready solution at hand. "An aspirin will fix you right up, baby, don't worry about it."
Mimi put her hands on each side of Jolly's face and said it again. "I don't think you understand, honey. My period didn't start yesterday."
"It's the house, trying to get another show mounted and moving. All these things cause stress, which is bound to mess up your cycle. I wouldn't worry about it," said Jolly.
"Jolly, I'm going to explain something to you and I want you to listen carefully, ok? Do you think you can do that for me?" Mimi would have laughed at the confused face looking back at her had the seriousness of the moment not dictated she remain calm.
"Of course I can do that, don't be silly."
"I went to the doctor the day after you left to pick up a little something Tim left me. I'm sorry I didn't talk to you about it, but I wanted to give you something no one else could for your birthday."
The color was fast draining out of Jolly's face and beads of sweat had broken out on her upper lip. "What does that mean?"
"I'm not real sure yet, but I think we're going to have a baby."
In hindsight telling Jolly that way had been both good and bad. Good in that the canvas she fell into was blank considering her head ripped right through it, and bad in that it took Mimi and Ricky forever to get her to wake up. Now father and daughter were sitting on the floor across from Jolly who was staring at them like she didn't know where to begin.
Mimi was about to speak again when a finger went up silencing whatever was about to come out. It was Jolly's turn to speak and she wanted no interruptions. "Let me see if I understand this. You went to a doctor and got yourself pregnant with the help of my cousin. My cousin Timothy Andolini, with whom I just spent three weeks and who never mentioned any of this to me?"
"Yes, I asked him and Pam not to tell you so I could surprise you, honey." The finger went up again and Mimi quit talking.
"Are you pregnant?"
"I don't know, I thought I'd wait for you to come home and we could find out together. This was the only way I could think of to give you a little piece of yourself, me, your grandfather and Tim all rolled up into one little person."
Jolly's head dropped to her chest before she stood up. Tears filled Mimi's eyes again knowing Jolly was getting ready to walk out on her and their possible baby. They didn't fall until she felt the hands pulling her to her feet and Jolly pulling her into a hug so tight her feet came off the ground.
"Mimi, I figure you're going to kill me before I turn forty, but that doesn't matter. What does matter is no matter how long I live, I'll never find another person who loves me and thinks of me more than you do."
"I love you, Jolly."
Jolly put her down and went to get something out of her briefcase. "Then it's a good thing I got this. You can't tell me no now." She opened the lid of the small box and showed Mimi the emerald cut diamond in a platinum setting.
"I love you too, Mimi, and I want you to be mine. You and our baby." Jolly pulled the ring out and slipped it on Mimi's finger kissing the adorned digit when she was done. "It's impractical I know for someone who paints so I thought you could wear it on this when you're working." A platinum chain came out of her coat pocket and Jolly slipped it over Mimi's neck.
"Does this mean if we're not, we can try again?" Mimi wanted to do a cartwheel she was so thrilled.
"It means you'll get whatever you want, love."
"I just want you, Jolly."
"See how easy your life is then."
Ricky left to pick up a hammer so he could get to work. He had every faith in Jolly, but it never hurt to stick around for Mimi, just in case. Ricky wasn't the best father, but it wasn't too late to learn. Who knew, maybe he could teach Jolly and their kid a few things. Jolly wasn't the only one getting a gift. Ricky was getting to be a grandfather and that meant a second chance to get it right.
Continued in Chapter 4.
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