Copyright: The characters are mine though they may resemble other fictional characters physically. The story is mine and I hold the copyright to it.

Adult Language: This Uber story contains some foul language to assist in the story telling and its plausibility. If you are offended please do not continue.

Love/Sex Disclaimer: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under the age of 18 or this is a prohibited form of literature in your life please do not continue.

Comments, Feedback: Please feed the bard:

Copyrighted 2006 by A. Tietz (Birdee)


A Long Valentine

"Thanks for the blinker you a.......ahhhhh, grrrrrrrr," she tried not to cuss though the words were flying around in her head. Why had she made that stupid New Years resolution?

Mindy slowed down about a quarter mile from a red light, "Oh sh..........shirts, what now."

Her car was stuck, boxed in on all sides she couldn't even turn around. She yawned lovingly thinking of the cappuccino she'd buy if she could just get to work. This would have to happen on the morning her toilet overflowed making it almost impossible to get to work on time and now this.

When she opened the door she bulged her eyes and crossed them looking at her silver haired receptionist, "Some mornings Jit happens ya know," she shook her head and her receptionist just smiled.

Penny was always on time, always ahead of the game, always working, always perfect and she wanted to hate her but Penny was just too wonderful for that, too warm and generous and kind and the list could go forever.

Caroline piped up as Mindy shed the coat and put down her backpack making her way to her desk, "You're still eons ahead of Boss Man. My bet today is 8:37am."

Mindy looked at the clock and was thankful it was only 4 minutes passed 8am.

"The luck I'm having today I totally expected Clueless to be here a half hour early," she sat down with a sigh.

Mindy got into the routine though slowly, checking email, voice mail and her calendar. And before she was swamped she wanted cappuccino, "You want anything preggers,"

she smiled at Caroline who was her other employee in the cube next to hers.

"Oooo, Oooo yes my daily crunch please," Caroline handed her the huge plastic cup she munched ice from all day.

You had to release the button when the cup was ¾ full because the foamy liquid continued to pour out of the spout after the release and if you waited too late it was cappuccino volcano and it took a lot of napkins. She would have done so today like all other days except for the woman she saw walking into the snack shop as she casually glanced at the door. There could only be one set of blue eyes like that in the world and she knew the owner.

"Ouch, Ahhh shit.........." Mindy pulled her scalded hand away as the liquid kept pouring making it Lake Cappuccino on the counter.

She started heading for the napkins but before she could, that blue eyed beauty was beside her with another cup to catch the wayward liquid and the napkin dispenser, "See what the caffeine habit can do, I keep telling ya, Mind."

"Bite me, ouch, this hurts."

The tall blue eyed woman went to the ice machine, got a few chunks and came back to hold Mindy's hand and apply the soothing cubes to red flesh tenderly.

Mindy took in her breath at the cold but it felt good and the hand holding hers also felt very soothing. She looked into the incredibly blue eyes that held a sweet warmth and she smiled a warm greeting in return it had been so long. But this lovely exchange and the warmth in her eyes quickly turned into a squint and her lips pursed, "It's not February. You said the 6th. Have you looked at a calendar Cleo? I haven't even taken down my Christmas tree for Chr.....ah Goodness sakes!"

"Um, it'd probably still be there in Feb Mindy," the beautiful eyes took on the look of a scolded sheep dog.

"You little's not the point. What the begeeebaz are you doing here early, especially since there's snow on the ground and in Hawaii its probably 67 degrees this morning and this afternoon you could be on the beach," she looked incredulously at the person who was still gently bathing her scalded flesh.

"Told ya, I'm done with the beach. Besides I'm suppose to be here," Cleo glanced at the woman she'd come into the break room with who was trying not to stare at the two people who obviously knew each other.

Mindy knew Michelle and had a few occasions to use her expert coding knowledge, she hadn't seen her come in, "Oh, morning Michelle, the cappuccino bit me."

"I can see that, the secret is to release the button right after half full, are you okay?"

"Oh ah yeah, the ice feels good," she smiled at Cleo who was looking a little self- consciously at Michelle.

"Well um I guess, ah, Mind, you should go get a paper towel and keep it cool. I don't want to keep you from work. How bout we do lunch? I'll meet you say here at 12 and we'll go and we'll talk. "

Mindy looked a little perplexed and wondered why Michelle was just standing there still looking at them but Cleo chimed in, "Okay, you head off to the bathroom and run cold water, I'll see ya at 12," Cleo, still holding her hand and now wrapping an arm around her shoulder was walking Mindy to the door into the hall followed by Michelle.

"Wait I need to take this to Caroline, they're gonna think I got lost, it's just the door across the hall, could you do that for me before you leave. You can't miss her she's a skinny minny and 5 months pregnant," Mindy looked at her friend then a little puzzled that she noticed Michelle had followed them.

Cleo looked a little at a loss, "Oh ah.....well, I guess maybe um........"

Michelle piped up helpfully, "Oh I know Caroline, we'll take it into her and leave your cup on your desk. Cleo needs to know where the Construction Admin Division is anyway."

Mindy's brow wrinkled and her face registered how odd she thought Michelle's comment to be, then slowly she began looking at Cleo as if pinning her to the wall walk toward her while Cleo took a step backward, "So you need to mean this is the job. You got a job here one floor down from me, in the Stockroom, AND it wasn't suppose to start till February. Would you have seen me today if..............."

Cleo looked again self-consciously at her new boss Michelle then put her hand up in front of her with an apologetic face, "Um yeah, yes I was, it's a long story. We'll talk at lunch okay," she looked from Mindy to her boss and back to the angry blonde pleading, "Please, at lunch. I gotta go Mind."

Mindy calmed down realizing it was Cleo's first day, she was working here whether she'd bothered to tell her or not and she didn't want to get her friend in trouble, "Right, lunch. Um, thanks for helping me out Michelle. I was just surprised to see Cleo; we're um friends, email, anyway, not really expecting her till next month. So um noon Cleo. Thanks see ya," she squinted hard at Cleo since Michelle was going back into the snack shop for the cups, then she turned abruptly and headed toward the bathroom.

Mindy sat down at her desk her hand feeling a little better and Caroline asked, "How's your hand, Michelle told me what happened. And that girl that was with her - Cleo, she um, is that......"

"Yes, yes that's Cleo, my friend Cleo."

She raised her hand before anything else came out of Caroline's mouth, "Don't ask, I probably don't know anyway. We're friends but apparently not good enough friends for her to tell me things like she's in town much less mentioning she got a job where I work and she's starting earlier than expected."

"Oh, K," Caroline could tell Mindy needed a little space.

She kept all Cleo's emails, that's mainly how they'd kept in touch when the girl went off to college in Hawaii to become a Marine biologist, before dropping out and getting a job at a Market loading and unloading freight at night to spend days on the beach for the last 4 ½ years.

Mindy reread her last message, "Wrapping things up here. Gonna have a luau before I leave, those are a blast, catch my last waves before I take off. Be home in February, I'm hoping the job starts on the 6th. Dad's gonna pick me up, my plane gets in really late Saturday and I'll probably be recouping on Sunday. He's too excited and I am too, but kind of nervous a little. Anyway, we'll get together; I'll call you after I get settled a bit. I'm hoping for no snow till I'm there for a few weeks. It says it's been clear online. I'm sure you're hoping for snow but you've got plenty to ski, chickie. Don't be greedy. Gotta run; catch ya when I get back. Love C."

Mindy looked at today's date, January 9th. She got lost a moment before trying to put her mind to the task of daily duties. She'd seen pictures of Cleo over the years, usually at the beach and usually surrounded by good looking guys and a few girls. So its not like she'd not seen her in 4 & ½ years, but Cleo hadn't returned home after her mom died shortly before high school graduation. It had really thrown her friend into a very bad place. Cleo wasn't too shy, but she wasn't overly gregarious either, and the girl had been truly close to her mom. So had she been, whenever she was at Cleo's house for homework or some good food after a basketball game that Cleo's tall form was always part of. They weren't best buds in school but they were pretty good friends. Cleo hadn't dropped her like a hot potato as had most others when she came out in her junior year. In this small old fashioned town it wasn't like it was too popular to be a lesbian in the middle of Good Ol Boy country. But it had been really too hard to resist the hot chick from New York who'd come to the Sierra Mountains for some good skiing and some good times over the Christmas holiday. Hot tubs would never be the same.

She clicked on her pictures folder where there were several of the tall black haired, blue eyed beauty from her years in Hawaii. Bikini clad at a BBQ or standing next to her surf board, that one was her favorite, only one of three she had of the girl just by herself. She looked back at the email and thought of the periodic communications she'd get that had gone from every week at first to one or two a year for a few years, then they came two or three months apart and in the last 4 months sometimes each week. Cleo was finally missing home perhaps and getting ready for the return, reconnecting. Mindy wondered who else the girl might be emailing. It wasn't such a small town that she had to know any of the losers from school, they didn't like lesbians and she didn't like dumb asses.

Cleo's mom's family lived in Hawaii, native to that state. Her father was Caucasian which is where she got her height and the gorgeous blue eyes, but her incredibly shinny black hair came from her mom's Hawaiian genes. Her mom's sister and family was in Maui though Cleo had stayed in Honolulu since she'd gone to college for 2 years until her grandmother died and Cleo just quit school and started the work in the day and play the rest of the time phase. She'd never been a partier too much, but she liked hanging out with friends and mostly sports. That's what kept her busy, volleyball, bike riding, surfing, and an occasional game of basketball.

Mindy looked at the picture of the pretty girl again standing by the surf board having that look on her face like she'd just had the best ride and such fun. It was a real picture of real life, nothing fake and it looked so good on the naturally beautiful Cleo. She stopped herself from looking too long. They were just friends and could always and only be that. It was time to get back to work. And she was gonna make sure Cleo caught hell for being here and not even telling her.

"Hey Cleo, gee what brings you here, haven't seen you in a while, how was your plane ride," Mindy let the sarcasm drip.

"Okay, I get I'm in trouble, just lets go to lunch I'm starving. You'll ah have to drive, I don't have wheels yet," Cleo looked a bit irritated at that.

"Are you still a freak for McDonald's, they've got a dollar menu."

"Any day and every day."

"Oh, don't say that, I am so over high school, I don't need de ja vu, thanks."

"Are you sure you can handle it or should I just walk across the street and we'll take a break later," Cleo sounded sarcastic herself.

"Yeah like you're getting off that easy. As they say, get in, sit down and hold on."

"I'm so getting that car fixed," Cleo rolled her eyes as she buckled up.

"Hey, people can change; I'm not so young anymore."

"People can also win millions buying lottery tickets," Cleo looked doubtful and gripped the door handle for support.

So Mindy backed out ever so slowly and crept up to the street. And when she did make her move into the street, it was good that she had a new red VW Bug since that was all the room there was between the oncoming two cars she as she maneuvered the squeeze.

"Still buying lottery tickets, huh," Cleo said pushing her body as far back in the seat as she could since it wasn't for sure they weren't hitting the car in front of them coming to a stop at a red light.

"Oh, shut, um hush, we've only got an hour."

"I don't think Michelle would be too happy if I called from the emergency room on the first day," she looked earnestly pleading at Mindy who was passing a car while the driver was using very poor sign language.

"So, ah, they hired you like over the phone, they don't do that with the state. Or did you even have a job when you got here? And by the way when was that, have you been emailing me from Mulligan street for the last several months?"

"You know, this is not a topic for you while we're in the car, let's wait for Mickey D's.," Cleo looked at the driver skeptically.

She put her hand out in anticipation to keep from hitting her head on the windshield at McDonalds, though Mindy surprised her and it wasn't all that bad.

"My treat Mind. Whatchya want."

"It won't help."

Cleo sighed deeply, "I know, now what do you want?"

Sitting down Mindy looked at the two Big Mac's and two fries in front of Cleo.

"And I'm thinking my quarter pounder with cheese, NO fries and diet coke is a splurge,"

her eyes bulged.

"Told ya I'm hungry, didn't have breakfast. Clark was running late and barely slowed down to drop me off, I've really gotta get that car working."

Mindy looked puzzled and Cleo talked around her full mouth, "Clark bought a new truck last weekend and is giving me his old Mazda, but the transmission needs work. Sooooooo, I've got an appointment next Saturday since I'm working all week."

"Yeah um working just down a short flight of stairs from me. So was it a game, how long can I keep her in the dark," Mindy's face was clearly hurt.

Cleo took a deep sigh and another sip of coke, "Okay so it didn't quite go like I planned it."

Mindy's eyebrows shot up, "Plan.........what, you Planned it Cleo.........."

Cleo raised her hands "Okay, Okay, Mt. Mindy, give me a chance here. Clark's girlfriend works for the Dept of Health. She said there's no getting on at the state without a test except for clerical trainee, which pays really bad. I didn't have a lot of choice though since I was in Hawaii and all. She knew Michelle and that she was desperate. I spoke to her quite a bit over the phone and she begged me to come sooner. So I did and interviewed when I got here three weeks ago. They called me the end of last week and so I started today. I didn't tell you because, because I wanted it to be a surprise. Plus I didn't know if I was gonna even get it. I was busy looking in the paper and figuring out where to apply if I didn't get the job and how to take tests and stuff. And well, coming back, it's been a long time and I'm staying at dad's. I was planning on finding you at my first break looking forward to seeing the surprise on your face. Oh and no emails from here, my last one was really from Hawaii. Besides you know dad and computers, they're the anti-christ, Clark doesn't even have one, but he's at his girlfriends, Lois most times."

Mindy almost spit out her food laughing, "Lois and Clark, you are not serious."

Cleo had a huge smirk on her face and was nodding.

"Well I hope she hasn't got any stupid ideas, I mean unless he's radically changed, Superman material he's not," Mindy looked skeptical.

"At least he's got a job. Probably bought a way more expensive truck than he can afford, but he lives at home. So do I but that will change. Sorry about he cappuccino. How's your hand," Cleo put down her sandwich and reached over gently touching skin that was still slightly red.

"I think the ice right away kept it from really burning and it isn't that bad," she willed herself not to have goose pimples as Cleo softly brushed the top of her hand as if being sure Mindy wasn't hiding anything.

"Um so, I know Michelle, you could of told her I knew you, I would have raved about you."

The tall one softly squeezed her hand and this wasn't helping she should have talked about skiing or something.

Blue eyes regarded Mindy seriously but a bit shyly, "I, I didn't want to ask you that. I mean, it's been a long time, and its not like you know how I work. Basketball practice doesn't qualify. I hope I didn't hurt your feelings," her hand was still gently held by Cleo and the concern was plainly on her face.

Mindy raised her free hand, "Ah, nah, I just would have been happy to help you."

"Thanks," Cleo smiled, squeezed again softly and finally went back to eating.

Mindy offered helpfully around her own mouthful, "You know, the tests for Admin Assistant's and stuff aren't that hard, but you don't want a desk job do you?"

Swallowing a big bite and reaching for her diet coke Cleo looked at her through raised eyebrows, "I'm sure you know that's not me. I'm hoping maybe something at the State Printing plant or State Purchasing. My dad is really pushing the state thing for security and health insurance. Plus he so wants me to go back to school. But I'm not getting a marine biology degree in the desert on a satellite program."

Mindy wondered how long Cleo would last in the middle of the cowboy country surrounding Carson City Nevada, "I know we come home again sometimes, I did. But its not like Reno is very far, have you thought of going up there? I'd still live up there if I could find my kind of job in Reno, the commute just takes too long, especially if it snows."

"I wish the dang snow wasn't so much in Tahoe, the summer would be great up there, but I don't want to have to spend all winter behind a snow shovel. Plus it's too damn expensive by yourself. So how's the skiing this year? Hit the slopes much, spied any pretty snow bunnies," Cleo smiled teasingly.

Mindy smirked, "Well there's always the scenery, but I honestly do go for the slopes. Heavenly is easy to get to and Mt. Rose, Kirkwood is too far. This year the pack is good, so I average once or twice a month. I wish more, but money and things like laundry, grocery shopping, and stuff gets in the way."

"God, I haven't been skiing forever. Oh wait, it's still cold right," the sarcasm was thick.

They were finishing up and walking out to the car, Cleo mentally preparing, but Mindy was still thinking of the slopes, "Now hold on," she stopped the girl in mid stride.

"Last time you went, it was like this frigid day, and didn't you go with that guy, what's his name, Rex. Yeah, and he was so cheep he rented the skis but not the clothes, you like were there in jeans and your own coat right?"

"Yeah, I guess, mostly what I remember was he was a sloppy kisser and the only reason I made out with him was because I was so damn cold. He kept asking me out after that and I had to finally tell him to get lost and go find someone who liked to be slobbered on. I can't believe you remember that."

"I forgot about the sloppy kissing part, but remember the story because you were so cold and it ruined any possibility of fun, it made me mad, I thought he was so fu.......frigin cheap."

Cleo smiled down at the blonde, "Look we've got plenty of time to get back to work so have mercy on my first day and pretend I'm your ninety year old grandma that will perish of fright if you go above say 35 miles an hour," she stuck out her lower lip pleading.

"You brave giant waves and my driving scares you. Can you see my trouble buying your claim?"

"I just don't want to lose my lunch. Gee Michelle I was late cause I was pukin on the lawn. Not a good first day impression."

Mindy burst out laughing and shaking her head. She did her best on the ride back and they made it without incident also no puking.

"Do you need help out of the car granny?"

"Funny, you're funny."

Caroline looked up from her desk at Mindy's much improved countenance, "So um, have a good lunch?"

"Yeah, probably haven't had McDonalds grease in 4 and a1/2 years but it was worth it."

"Oh my God, she got you to go to McDonalds, I had no idea she had such pull. I'm definitely getting better acquainted, we need yellow tablets. I'll just waddle my way, see you in an hour."

"Sit your as.......your rear end down Prego, we don't need tablets, Penny would never let that happen. I'm sure there'll be a time I can't prevent it, but give her room, it's her first day," she shook her head in playful frustration.

Mindy looked at the clock and didn't know how it got to be 4:55pm. Monday's were always busy.

"Hi, can I speak to Cleo please."


"Hey, just called to see if you need a ride home. Sorry didn't call earlier."

"Clark'll be here after he gets off, 5:15 maybe. But thanks."

"Okay, well if you need me to take you home, anytime. Oh and I promise, just the speed limit granny."

"Ha, right. Thanks but Clark's going home anyway. I'll keep it as a last resort if he bails on me though, if it makes you feel better," she heard a click and was worried when she didn't get an answer though she dialed right back. Cleo would have dashed up the stairs but it wasn't 5pm and it was her first day.

When she did get upstairs Mindy was already gone and she couldn't believe she was already in trouble again.


Mindy was pleased she wasn't dashing into work to beat the clock, proud she had 5 minutes to spare, she was calmly walking to the back door when she heard her name.

Cleo was right, Clark barely slowed down and had Cleo not been athletic she would have lost the two cups in her hands.

The woman ran up to her, "I ah, I don't know if you like Starbucks but I promised Clark if he stopped at Starbucks, he wouldn't have to worry about getting me tonight. He has bowling and he wasn't looking forward to driving me home and coming back up here from Gardnerville to make his game in time. Is the offer still good, can I strap in tonight after work," Cleo handed Mindy a cup and opened the door for her.

Mindy tried to keep her mind off the strap in part and said, "Ooooo, ah yeah well, Cleo I um, sorta got a date sooo......."

Blue green eyes looked apologetic at Cleo hoping the girl would take the bait.

Cleo was obviously surprised, "Oh. Yeah, um, well I shouldn't have assumed. I'm sorry. I, I'll get a ride, no problem. I ah, hope you like their cappuccino. I figured you can't go wrong with Starbucks."

She didn't have the heart to tell her Starbucks cappuccinos weren't sweet enough for her, "Yeah, thanks, that was really thoughtful."

"Have a good day," Cleo smiled before she disappeared down the steps.

Mindy she sorta liked playing with her a bit and felt only slightly bad for lying. But it served her right whining about her driving. She emailed Cleo right away to get things straight, "Um, Cleo you know, stupid me, Friday night is date night, not Tuesday. So unless you really want to go for a long 15 mile hike, you can um strap in as you put it and I'll try to land safely in good ol Gardnerville."

"I'd say lucky me it's Tuesday, but the lucky part I'm not sure about. If I can find an oxygen mask, you've got a passenger captain," Mindy smiled at the monitor.

When 5 pm arrived, as they were both strapping in, Cleo pulled a small brown paper sack from her coat pocket. Mindy looked at the bag and then at Cleo.

"In case of air sickness. Best I could do for today."

Mindy squinted her eyes which made Cleo's stomach already get queasy, "I'm really gonna need this huh?"

"You're fault, you brought it and I'd hate to see it unused."

"Oh God," Cleo braced herself as Mindy did her best to become airborne out of the parking lot.

Fortunately for Cleo, there was quite a bit of traffic between the capitol city and the smaller towns of Gardnerville and Minden to the south. It was the closest the small area could come to having a rush hour and Cleo kept giving up prayers of gratitude, traffic never looked so good. To Mindy's credit, she didn't do the bob and weave dance as much as Cleo had expected especially through Main Street. Even Mindy was leery of the cops in Gardnerville, having grown up there and no doubt getting her share of tickets.

"So um, you've stopped contributing to road way improvements, I'm impressed."

"More like stopped helping the donut munchers with an easy quota."

"Thanks for the ride Mind. Safe landing and all, no strap bruises on my body, very nice."

Mindy hoped the whole strap reference would disappear it was a little distracting.

"Anytime you want to ah, catch a flight let me know."

Cleo smiled, "Hey you're mom still live on Patty's Place?"

"Nah, not sure where and with what boyfriend. I may pop in to see my sis since I'm down here, depends on how much I want to listen to her yell at her kids," Mindy looked doubtful.

Cleo hadn't asked about the blonde's family yet because it wasn't the best subject in the world. And she let it drop smiling warmly, "See ya tomorrow then."

Mindy swallowed, she'd forgotten how dazzling that smile could be. She definitely needed a date.

The week moved along, they had a few more breaks and there was a steady stream of emails. Mindy became Cleo's map quest as she'd often get a call asking where is this division, who do I talk to when I get there, do you know so and so and is she really the bitch she seems, etc.

Thursday morning before work she got a call, "Hey Mindy, um, can I strap in again tonight, my brother wants to go to Reno after work and you know home is in the wrong direction for that."

"Sure, no problem, just bring yourself and the little brown bag at 5 and we'll take off."

There was traffic again thankfully and they chatted along the way home.

"So, I guess you'll have a car next week."

"We'll see. I hope so. If they can't fix it this Saturday maybe, but might have to be the following Saturday. Dad tells me there's more wrong with the car than transmission. So its gonna be diagnostic mostly this time. Hell it might be cheaper if I found a rent a wreck."

Mindy tried not to be pleased that the girl may still need a ride once in a while, "Well, you know when this flight leaves so no problem there."

"Um, this is nice, but why a station wagon, are you practicing for being a mom with two kids and soccer equipment," Cleo teased about the blonde's white Subaru.

"I thought a truck was too butch and too expensive. This is handy for carrying skis and luggage and stuff. Like the trips to Costco. And I'd be hauling a dog before kids. Single mom ain't happening for me."

"Well if you want a dog, be sure to tell you're date up front. You don't want to have to get involved and find out about an allergy later. But then maybe you've covered that already," Cleo's inquisition was clever.

"No I've never gone out with my date, because pathetic me I don't have one. Which I should really work on, it's been boring since the festival in Tahoe."

"What festival?"

"They had a gay festival kind of weekend up there last year. The Indigo Girls where in concert and they had crafts and other bands and the weekend was geared toward the LBGT crowd. Skiing was great and the scenery was even better!"

"So are you gonna go try and catch a snow bunny this weekend?"

"Nah, gotta wait for pay day."

"Thanks for the safe landing, how bout lunch tomorrow Mindy?"

"Oh, sounds great, um but McDonalds?"

"You pick, surprise me, see ya tomorrow."

There was that 100 watt again, damn she needed a date.

Friday morning there was another Starbucks cup on her desk. She was gonna have to tell her tall friend that Starbucks only made good Frappuccino's.

"I'm in the mood for Quizno's so bring your paper bag cause its not real close to work," Cleo read the email and wondered if her stomach would get sick before or after the ride or both.

The bob and weave dance lasted the whole ride and Cleo slowly got out of the car. Inside, Mindy wondered why the normally healthy eater only ordered soup.

"I thought a light meal might mean I won't be cleaning your car this weekend," Cleo explained.

Mindy's eyebrows raised, "Ah go ahead, order a sandwich extra everything, my car could use a good cleaning."

Cleo squinted, "I'm not into wasting money or perfectly good food, thank you very much."

She eyed the blonde when she pulled out the cash for the food and Mindy offered, "Well it's the least I could do given you're gonna be really hungry for dinner."

"See, I'm tellin ya, your lead foot is costly. Next time, I drive, and we come back here just to show you it can be done without risking life and limb."

Mindy squinted playfully, "Are you sure you wanted to say that before I handed her the money."

They both laughed.

"So what are you're big plans for the weekend," Cleo inquired.

"Don't I wish? Getting my laundry to dry the first time around so I don't have to pay extra will be the highlight. Dam.....ah, Darn landlord is such a thief. He rigs those things to almost dry your clothes, but not enough. My apartment ends up looking like some dry cleaning store, things hanging every where."

"Too bad you don't live closer, you could use our washer and dryer no cost. But gas getting there pretty much takes care of that," Cleo made a face.

"Hmmmmm, I just might take you up on that sometime Cleo, just out of spite. Besides, the company is a nice benefit," Mindy smiled.

"Awwwww, gee shucks."

"So what about you, anything exciting besides seeing how much the car will cost?"

"You probably remember Darla, well she saw me at the grocery store and so we're having lunch on Sunday after she gets out of church. She invited me but was cool when I said I wasn't a morning person. Is it an extra sin do you think about lying to get outta church? Did I maybe grow another horn?"

"Well don't tell her your still friends with me or you're hell bound for sure," Mindy looked a bit irritated thinking about the holier than thou girl.

"Yeah, I'm really slummin huh? But you bought lunch, so I get something outta the deal," Cleo teased.

"Well now I know my place, just a meal ticket, thanks a lot."

"You know, if I had her phone number, I'd call and cancel saying you and I had a hot date for lunch and um a movie but that I could come to church in the morning with her, Ha."

"Careful, she'd call the preacher and you'd be in for a hell fire and brimstone sermon. Then they'd introduce you to some hot looking churchy guys, so you could go to bed with them instead."

Cleo raised her eyebrows with intense amusement dancing in her eyes, "Instead, huh. Instead?"

Mindy was sure her face was not just pink, it must have been crimson.

It only increased Cleo's amusement as she chuckled, "You know, you should consider buying a red ski outfit it's a good color, you might catch a snow bunny."

"Yeah well right now I'm sure I could use some snow or ice. Hey let's get Starbucks before we head back, its not busy," Mindy was looking for an out, "Have you ever had their Frappuccinos. They're my favorite and um cold."

"Yeah, their good but I like Jamba Juice better and um cold too."

Mindy cleared her throat, "I love that place, the fruit flavors are so good."

They both got a frap and again Mindy paid, causing Cleo to promise next round was her turn. The trip back was much the same as the flight to and Cleo was glad she'd selected the soup.

The weekend came and went.

Caroline often got in early, trying to rack up extra time she could use on maternity leave and she nodded toward Mindy's desk, "Your morning delivery boss."

There was a Frappuccino on her desk and Caroline noticed it made Mindy blush.

"So, um how was your weekend, anything new and exciting happen," Caroline probed.

"Well my apartment looks like Ming's dry cleaners again and I didn't burn the meatloaf. Those were the highlights," Mindy smiled sarcastically.

She learned that the car would be in the shop all week, the transmission getting completely replaced, having a major tune up and new brakes where required.

"Well thanks for the Starbucks, but no more treating me Cleo, that free car sounds costly," she emailed her friend.

"Tell me about it. I'd look for a used car myself but the mechanic tells me that this one is okay, just needed some long over due attention. It should last me a while till I get a better job, get my own place and can afford a car."

Tuesday was bowling again and Mindy drove Cleo home.

"So how was your lunch with born again?"

"Oh, informative. She's married to Rex; I tried not to laugh and was surprised her face didn't seem chapped. And Kent, remember the band geek, he's in some band and plays the local casinos and clubs I guess. She knows this cause occasionally he plays sax for their church band when someone gets sick or something like that. She heard Stephanie Morely is stripping in Vegas for a living, and of course she's praying for her soul. Manny I knew had gotten married. Clark had heard it was to Sheila but wasn't sure, I guess it's been only a year. She's expecting. She's trying to lure me with the church hotties you talked about. How does a lesbian know there are cute guys at that church?"

"This lesbian has gone to that church with the family at Christmas. Uncle Max and Aunt June were pleased that they got mom to go and I went along just to see what would happen. Its funny, cause their kids Thea, Ben and Danny don't go to church much either. But they thanked us all for coming and it wasn't bad really. I didn't feel like anyone was pointing at the lesbian type thing. It was a pretty service with Christmas carols and candles and stuff. Thea said the only thing she really liked about the church were the cute guys and she might just have to go to that church more often if she didn't live in Reno."

Manny had been Cleo's steady boyfriend of a few years until toward the middle of their senior year when she got dumped for Sheila. Shortly after the dumping Cleo's mom was diagnosed with the brain tumor and Cleo hadn't spoken much about Manny or her mom. So Mindy wasn't sure if she should ask but she was concerned.

"Wow, so pregnant huh? Was that kind of surprising?"

"Nah, not really. But I bet it was cause they weren't careful enough and they got married cause she's pregnant. Maybe not. It doesn't matter."

"Hey, stupid me, geezs, so you think your car will be done this week huh," Mindy asked quickly.

"Yeah, I hope. Not looking forward to the bill. Still it's cheaper than buying. I'm actually really thankful," Cleo sounded might have sounded distracted, she couldn't tell.

"Well another safe landing, see ya tomorrow," Mindy said hopefully.

"Yeah, hey lets break in the morning if you're free and feel like risking the cappuccino machine."

"I doubt another long lost high school friend will show up early, so I should be safe."

"Thanks for the ride again. See ya at break," Cleo winked at her friend.

10am came and Cleo walked into the break room to see a pair of friendly blue green eyes greeting her.

"Hi, are you busy down there?"

"I'm still new but there's not a lot to it, mostly labor you know. I'm pretty lucky; Michelle was gone, so Brenda, me and Kevin played nerf basketball. It's better than sitting around. I've gotta take those tests. So you having a cappuccino?"

"I had one earlier, I'm good."

"Okay, that's not the deal. See I didn't get you a frap, but was gonna buy your coffee. Least I could do, since you won't let me pay for gas."

"Well, you're gonna let me use your washer dryer sometime so it's even."

"Does this mean your weekend will have you doing laundry again? God how many outfits to you wear a day?"

"Ha Ha, nope I'm hitting the slopes."

"Ah ha, snow bunnies look out. Have you bought that red ski out fit yet?"

She didn't want to blush but knew by the amusement in Cleo's eyes she was crimson again.

"Mine is green thank you and no complaints. Plus ski equipment and stuff is expensive. Ask for it every year at Christmas. Got gloves and goggles this year."

"You mean you were a good girl. Darla will be shocked."

Mindy laughed, "Apparently Santa doesn't have a problem with snow bunnies cause um well you know and I ah still got presents."

"Oh I see, so maybe it was the snow bunnies who thought you were good and wrote Santa on your behalf."

Mindy's eyes were huge, she shook her head and felt the heat on her face for sure, "Oh you're, You.......Just wait till I tell Darla the things that come out of your mouth."

Cleo laughed, "She better not tell the church boys she's wanting to fix me up with about your being a goodgirl, it'll just make em horny and they might get struck by lightening."

They were both laughing hard when Caroline waddled in, "So um, you two seem to be having a good break."

"Hi there," Cleo smiled.

Caroline looked at the tall woman noticing Mindy's eyes doing the same thing, "You know Cleo, you have a positive affect on my boss, so keep her laughing for me K?"

"Oh, so more laughing means less work for you," Cleo asked.

"No. More laughing means a happier Mindy and Penny and I both like that."

"Ah so she can be a bit testy as a boss, huh?"

"Well, we all have our days," Caroline winked at her boss, "but honestly, I couldn't work for a better person."

Her voice got low and she continued, "Just don't tell anyone, we don't want her to get in trouble for being a wonderful human being, they don't tend to encourage that in supervisors you know and Penny and I are protective."

Cleo nodded almost whispering and looking around suspiciously, "Okay the supervisor thing is safe with me, but I can't promise I won't brag about her being a wonderful human being," Cleo smiled warmly at her friend and Mindy wondered if there were pills you could take to keep you from blushing.

So Mindy did the best she could, "Well preggers, I've gotta crack the whip, we gotta get back to it, mush mush."

"Okay, but if you don't let me waddled down the hall, you're gonna have a mess."

"Then by all means waddle, I'll filler up for ya," Mindy took her big cup and filled it with ice.

"See ya, have fun with shootin hoops," Mindy said to the retreating Cleo.

"Yeah can't wait for those tests."


Another week went by with friendly emails, a few breaks and lunch that Cleo insisted be consumed at Arby's so they could walk to across the street and she picked up the tab.

Monday came and there was a cappuccino on the desk and she got an email first thing, "How were the slopes any nice scenery for ya?"

"The skiing was good; I went with my cousin Danny. But we went to Kirkwood, he's a really goooood skier, I almost never saw him. We had two runs together then he went to the more difficult runs. We stayed all day Saturday and I'm still sore but it was fun. Plenty of scenery in the lodge where I took refuge after a nasty fall. Hot chocolate never tasted so good. Thanks for the cap, but you bought lunch."

"I drove to work. Praise the Car Gods my car is healed. Runs pretty good. I'm hoping nothing else pops up needing fixing for a while. But it was worth the investment. See ya later."

"Glad about your car, have a good day."

There were plenty of emails during the week and they had a few breaks but no lunch. Cleo was making friends with people she worked with and Mindy didn't want to be jealous of her going to lunch with them, but she was. She reminded herself that friends aren't obsessed with each other and shouldn't have a crush on one another. So she tried to distance herself some the following week, not as many emails, shorter responses, didn't ask to take breaks but didn't refuse them either. She met a friend over the weekend she hadn't seen in a long time and went to a bar for a drink and some pool.

"What's new girl," Dee Dee asked as they racked up the balls.

"Not too much. Been skiing some this winter but not as fun as the festival last year."

"Do you still write what's her name Kylie, from what state?"

"Colorado. Yeah I email with her sometimes. But she's gotta a girlfriend and it keeps her busy."

"Damn girl, how'd you let that happen? Bet she's not as hot as you," Dee Dee looked her over appreciatively.

Mindy wiggled her eyebrows, "Bet she's not as good at pool either."

Dee Dee chuckled, "Or other things?"

Mindy smiled at her friend, Dee Dee was always good for her ego. They were friends and Dee Dee made it clear she'd be quite open for mutual enjoyment, but accepted that Mindy wasn't a real casual kinda gal.

So short stuff, "Did you ever get a mangy mutt?"

"I just feel too guilty you know. A dog would be alone most of the day in my small apartment. I don't want to do that to a poor little furry thing."

"You're too nice Mindy; half the people in America have dogs and most work and go to school. Fido is fine with a bone and food and he's a great greeter when ya get home. I wouldn't know what to do without my Banjo," Dee Dee was referring to her cocker spaniel poodle mix.

"Well, I ski too and I just don't feel like I'm home enough you know. It's not fair."

"Then you need a cat, a bird, some company, unless there's some company you been keepin."

"God I wish, no such luck."

"You need a job up here girl. Carson is like Hickville. The only family there hangs out at Lowe's and has a joint checking account."

"I know, but you can't beat the job I've got and I can't afford the commute. I can look for another job but I've got it so good where I am," Mindy felt the truth of that and wished she could find something as good in Reno.

"All work and no play makes me sad for Mindy. You seemed down on the phone when you called, what's on you mind sweet thang."

"What nothing. I'm fine. Hey, how bout we go to Faces at Tahoe next weekend. I'm skiing Saturday I hope, Heavenly."

"Only if you promise me some close dances with that short little body of yours, as close as I'm gonna get," Dee Dee look a little lustfully at her.

"You know me Dee Dee; I need you as my friend. But I can spare a few close dances."

"Then it's a date, mind if I leave with another girl though."

"I'm sure you will. No problem," Mindy smirked and sunk the eight ball.

Monday came and she found a Frap again.

She emailed, "You've got your own car. What's up with this? Its yummy but you shouldn't."

"I'm gonna concentrate on the yummy part. How was your weekend?"

"Good, yours?"

"I saw Kent. Yeah my dad, brother, his girlfriend and I went to dinner at the Carson Valley Inn. I stayed and played some slots, haven't donated in a long long time and well I'm good for like 5 years now. But then I saw a few people who looked familiar and it turns out they're some people from school who had come to see Kent play. His band is good, I really liked it. Even danced some, remember Freddy, short guy, he was in band in school. Anyway we danced and I talked to Kent. He's not so geeky looking anymore. Real curly dark hair, kind of unshaven, and at least he's not short. Anyway, he enjoys playing and that's how he makes his living. They play all over the area, Reno, Tahoe, Carson. He's playing up in Tahoe at the Lakeside Casino next weekend and invited me to come see them play. I might. It was fun. Anyway another week in the dungeon."

"I'm glad you had fun. Sorry gotta run, busy."

Mindy knew that Kent was a good reminder, Cleo was straight and they could be friends. That was it.

"I got your order, mam."

"Oh good, thanks Cleo," Penny saw the light in her bosses eyes as she turned around from the copier.

"Nice of you to bring it up. I'm older than I used to be and my bones appreciate it honey. Thanks for spoiling me."

"No problem, anytime Penny."

Mindy walked by, "Hi you. Thanks for bringing this up."

"Sure, gets me outta the dungeon. Hey you wanna go to lunch Mind? Short notice but my treat," Cleo followed the blonde back to her desk.

"Ah bribery, sorry I um have some errands. Gonna eat on the run."

"Well maybe another time, how's Thursday?"

"Oh, I ah, promised lunch with a.....friend."

Cleo looked a bit put off but nodded, "K......I can see you're a busy lady. Well if you can ever pencil me in let me know," she forced a smile and began turning away.

Mindy didn't want to hurt her friend and felt bad, "Wait, how bout next week. Email me a good day when you get back to your desk and I will put it on my calendar in bold capitals," she chuckled and smiled warmly.

"Wow, you'd put me on the calendar, careful, it's gonna go to my head."

"Stop it. I live by this thing here at work. So email me a time."

"Well my Outlook is really open don't really need the calendar thing so name a day and we'll go," Cleo smirked.

Mindy opened her calendar and typed in the empty lunch space for Tuesday, "LUNCH WITH CLEO."

"Oooo now its official, I feel so important," Cleo teased.

When she got back to her desk she had to laugh that Mindy had sent her a reminder of their lunch, which she accepted, and emailed, "Gee, I'm so glad you sent this reminder, otherwise, I know it just would have slipped my mind."

The return email, "Bite me."

And Cleo couldn't help but tease, "I didn't know that was an option. Hmmmmmmm."

Mindy blushed and wished the girl would do that.

Friday Cleo emailed to have a break and she didn't refuse.

"So what's up this weekend, you're skiing again right?"

"Yeah, Heavenly."

"Listen, do you want to go hear Kent that evening or will you be too tired," Cleo asked.

"Oh, ah well, I um, I'm kinda meeting a friend at another place, It's a gay bar."

Cleo nodded and tried not to look disappointed, "Snow bunny got it."

It made Mindy feel a bit guilty. She could do both, hang out for a few songs with Kent, make Cleo happy and still meet Dee Dee at Faces.

"It's not a date, we're friends and she doesn't ski. Plus the bar isn't too far from Lakeside Casino really. What time is he playing? I could probably pop in for a bit. I don't really remember the guy, so I'm kinda curious," Mindy sounded casual.

"They start at 10pm I think, is that too late?"

"Not for me, what about you granny?"

"Listen I can still surf and stay up on the beach to watch the sunrise. So I'm good," Cleo sounded proud.

"What's the band's name?"

"I think its Bourbon Street."

"Okay, I'm not sure I'll be there at 10pm, but I'll try before 11. Dee Dee might come along; she loves music, especially saxophone."

"I'm sure the more the merrier. He said they'd be playing big band stuff, smooth jazz and some dance classics, some good ol rock and roll but not a lot of new stuff, like pop music."

"Sounds good, see ya then."

"Have fun skiing."

Saturday morning at 7:30 am Mindy was reaching for the phone to hurl it across the room then suddenly registered that Cleo's voice was on the phone not in her dream, "Cleo," the question in her voice sounded groggy.

"Ewwww, bad call, I thought I'd have to catch ya early Mind. Call me when you wake up, I'll be here."

"Cleo, what's up? Something wrong honey?"

"No, no, look Mind, just sleep as long as you want and call me before you leave for the slopes okay. I'll talk to you later, go to sleep, you are very sleepy, the phone is falling out of your hand......"

"Okay, I'll call in a bit."

She needed to get up and get her butt moving anyway, she could sleep all day Sunday if she wanted. After some java with french vanilla cream she dialed Cleo.

"You didn't go back to sleep huh, damn sorry."

"I needed to get up Cleo, takes time to get ready all the gear and get up there, and yadda yadda. So I needed to get my as......butt outta the sack. What's up? No Lakeside tonight?"

"No, No I'll be there. Just kinda well, I don't want to intrude on your plans. I know you're meeting a friend and well, I didn't know if, maybe um......well if you guys were eating dinner together before the bar or I don't know maybe you ski late I ah.........." she let the question trail.

"Oh, ah, no we're just meeting at the bar around 10pm. She's coming from Reno so anyway," Mindy wasn't sure if Cleo wanted to go to dinner.

"Ah, well um, like I said you've probably already got things planned, but if you didn't, I was wondering if you're eating dinner anyway, maybe we could eat together," Cleo sounded hesitant yet hopeful.

"Well, I'm usually starved after skiing, so I hit this great hamburger joint up there. It's like an old Fosters Freeze if you ever ate at one of those. I know, greasy spoon, you're shocked. But its sooooooo better than the cardboard at McDonalds. There is just no comparison."

"Hmmmm, hamburgers. Well you're right I wasn't ready for that, not from you. But if your heart is set on that and you don't mind company.........."

"We don't have to go there, if you want to meet somewhere else. It really is just a burger joint with terrific shakes and fries. Filling but anyway, did you want to go somewhere else?"

"I was looking online at work and asked around. They've got a really good restaurant at the Casino, the Timber House, have you heard of it?"

"Yeah, that's way nice, kinda too rich for my pocket book I'm afraid. There's other places though, not quite as expensive," Mindy was thinking of where to suggest.

"See, here's the thing. I haven't been out out to dinner in a while. And well Kent actually asked me but I didn't want to go with him by myself. So I said maybe, that I'd have to get back to him. I know it's like asking way too much probably, but I was wondering if you'd come with us. Then it wouldn't be a real date and.......well, are you mad that I'm even asking."

Mindy felt her heart sink since moments ago she thought Cleo was asking her to dinner, even just as friends. She tried to sound casual, " would owe me big time. Like drive me up to Tahoe for a ski run on your gas tank so I'm not out the gas money kinda big. You like the guy, but not too sure huh," Mindy was glad to be going to the bar later that night.

"I don't really know him and I don't know that I want to date yet. But sounds fun to have dinner out like at a real restaurant. And no problem about the gas for a skiing trip, you got it. And I will buy you dinner or we'll skip Kent and just go to the burger place."

Mindy really wanted just the burger place, but they were just friends and friends do this kind of stuff for each other, "Okay, I'll order something inexpensive. What time?"

"Is 6:30pm too early," Cleo questioned.

"Nah that's actually a good time. So I'll meet you at the Timber House then."

"Mindy, you are so sweet to do this. You're too nice to me. And don't you dare order something cheap. Cause it will force me to order for you and I don't know if you like Fillet Minon or Lobster Tail better and I'd have to order you both."

"I see it could be an expensive um not real date for you."

"Ha, you're the best. Have some good runs, be safe, and I'll see ya at 6:30pm."

The Timber House has a nice lodge atmosphere and was said to have really good food after her day of skiing she was really hungry. Her mind was busying toying with ordering something cheap to see if Cleo would really order like she'd described. Walking toward the restaurant pondering, when she saw the gorgeous woman she just wasn't prepared and tried not to let her eyes bulge and jaw drop.

The tall form was wearing a royal blue silk kind of blouse and warm charcoal slacks. Her lovely neck was adorn with a pretty silver necklace with a silver heart shape pendant hanging from it having a tear drop of a shinny smoky looking onyx jewel in the middle. Her earrings were the same design and glistened against her hair, which unlike usual, was flowing softly around her face except of course for her bangs. The beautiful eyes held a smile as did her pearly whites and she was so stunning Mindy stopped walking forward without knowing it.

Mindy had never ever seen Cleo dressed up like this, never, not even in school. The girl had been pretty much into sports, most always having the healthy athletic tomboy look. The Junior and Senior prom Cleo looked beautiful but Mindy knew how uncomfortable Cleo was in a dress and heals. She had to spend some of the time during the proms making her pretty friend dance with Manny or her senior date Jake the hunk of the entire school. But Cleo had been a girl in school, a friend. Mindy knew she was attracted to Cleo, but had still regarded her as her old high school friend. And tonight, tonight, Cleo was an absolutely drop dead gorgeous woman and she was so taken with the sight of the tall woman she lost the sense of where she was for a moment.

The beautiful smile was fading and a concerned frown was beginning to crease the lovely forehead as the tall shapely form began moving forward. It was then that Mindy came to herself, hating that she'd ever said okay to this night. How the hell was she going to keep her eyes off Cleo?

She swallowed hard and put on her best buddy smile as well as she could, "Hey gorgeous. Um, I gotta say, you must like this Kent guy. I mean, um you look extremely nice. I don't think he'll even know I'm here."

"Hey, how do you know he doesn't like blondes?

"Even if he did, I doubt he'd remember that tonight. I ah didn't change as you can see," Mindy motioned to her snow pants and dark green sweater.

"They get skiers here all the time, I've seen a few already, you're fine. You fit right in little snow bunny," Cleo was looking around obviously trying to see if he was in the Casino.

"Not here yet I take it," Mindy stated the obvious.

"Anytime I'm thinking," Cleo looked at her watch which was also different. Instead of the normal sports watch she was wearing a very pretty silver watch that looked like it went with the whole ensemble.

"Did he make reservations I hope?"

"I asked at the desk and it doesn't seem like it. So I put my name in," Cleo casually looked around briefly again.

"So have you been here at all before, the casino or anything," Cleo questioned.

"Nope, I heard it had the lodge feel though, it's nice," Mindy was looking around trying not to look too much at Cleo.

"Cleo, party for three?"

Cleo shrugged her shoulders at the short one and they were seated.

Seeing Cleo look at her watch again after they sat down, she suggested, "Why don't you go out there and have another look? You can tell them who you're expecting and they can send him in?"

"See I knew I asked you here for a reason, got brains," she winked at her friend.

Mindy drank all her water and asked for a picture if possible.

When Cleo returned solo, "You know, I'm lucky you're here or I might be eating alone."

"He'll be here, probably band stuff or something. Does he have a cell or anything?"

"I don't know, I don't have one. Not yet. Those tests, there's one in late February for a Machine Operator I'm applying for. And Brenda said to just take any and all tests, to keep my options open. She understood about not taking the Admin stuff, but told me that not all jobs mean sitting at a desk. I do too much of that now. I might take a construction aid test, but I don't know about road crew duty," her face was a smirk.

They ordered beverages and looked at the menu since they weren't sure if he'd show. Mindy was half hoping he would and half hoping he wouldn't.

"So what looks good Miss Snow Bunny," Cleo cocked her head and smiled teasingly.

Damn she was in so much trouble, but she quickly looked back at the menu and found her voice, "Um, not sure yet. How bout you?"

"I haven't had good seafood in a while, since I got here that is. But I'm gonna hold off on that till I'm absolutely craving it. Then my disappointment probably won't be so bad. Hawaii is hard to beat for seafood if you know where to go," blue eyes surveyed the menu and Mindy stole a glance.

"Now don't go nuts, but I love prime rib and I know its on special but I really do like it. A baked potato and the works sounds so good too. So I'm leaning there," she looked questioningly at her beautiful friend.

Cleo squinted her eyes leaning a bit forward looking hard into eyes that seemed more green tonight, "Are you telling the truth Mind? I hear they have really great Fillet Minon."

"I'm sure they do, but prime rib sounds so warm and filling. I am starved like I said. Please," she pleaded with the amazing blue eyes reminding herself that the testostorone would be arriving any moment.

Cleo sighed, "Okay, okay, but someday I'm not letting you get away with it."

Mindy smiled liking the sound of a future dinner together, though she quickly cautioned herself that it would be platonic always.

A dark curly headed guy about Cleo's same height approached the table, looking at the beautiful tall woman making Mindy's premonition come true, she might as well have been the floor or a lighting fixture.

"Cleo, wow, I'm soooo sorry I'm late. We had equipment trouble and I just finally had to bail and tell em to deal man. I'm really sorry."

He was having the same trouble as Mindy with not drooling.

"You're just in time, we haven't ordered," Cleo looked at her friend warmly and smiled.

"This is my friend Mindy, the skier I told you about. Do you remember each other at all?"

"Oh ah, I'm not sure, did you have civics Junior year with Kimmey?"

Mindy's eye brows raised, she felt bad she didn't remember him, "Yeah, yeah, were you um in that class. I didn't pay a lot of attention in civics."

"Yeah, it was way boring. My mind was usually playing a tune to drown him out," the man smiled looking again at Cleo.

"I had Thompson and believe me, still boring. And it was so much worse cause she was like so excited about government/politics and all that drivel. She had us do projects and a speech. You got off easy with Kimmey, plain, monotone, hair piece Kimmey," Cleo looked sweetly at Mindy and then smiled a trust me look to Kent.

"Oh God, were you there when Jake gave him a baseball cap, saying he wanted the support of the team. Kimmey put it on and Jake took it off really quick saying it needed adjustment and the hair piece tried to come off with the cap. I know Jake planned it like that, and I just couldn't help but laugh," she was smiling at Cleo and looked at Kent with the questioning face wondering if he remembered it.

"God Jake was such a turd. I hear he's selling cars. I always thought he'd wined up in prison but he chose the legal route for being a criminal," his eyes barely took in Mindy, then looked back at the beauty across the table.

They ordered and Mindy commented, "I thought Jake would get a football scholarship."

"He did but got caught cheating a few too many times on the academics, so ah no more scholarship I heard," Kent looked rather pleased.

"So ah Jake wasn't a favorite of yours I take it," Cleo smiled.

"Let's just say band geeks are easy targets."

"They are also really great musicians. I told Mindy about your band, how good you are," Cleo encouraged.

The man beamed at the compliment and Mindy was still firmly in place as a light fixture but she offered anyway, "Yeah, can't wait to hear the sound. A friend of mine might come later and she loves the saxophone."

"So do I," he smiled again at Cleo.

"So are you playing here all weekend," Cleo inquired pleasantly.

"Yeah, we usually play Thursday through Sundays. Not always at one location. But we're booked for the next month. And in Spring and summer, its always jammin man," he smiled warmly at the tall woman.

"People like good music," she nodded.

The conversation wasn't incredibly entertaining but not too boring. They chatted about school, about Hawaii, a little about skiing and music of course, a lot about music. Mindy chimed in when Cleo looked for her too, which was more often than perhaps Kent wanted. It wasn't as unpleasant as she'd expected being the third wheel. Cleo really didn't make her feel like that at all, though Kent still clearly regarded her as a wall hanging. Around 9pm one of his band members came looking for him and he regretted having to leave.

Addressing Cleo, ""I'll see you later, we get breaks between sets. So I'll come sit with you. Dinner was really cool, hope you enjoy the music. See ya soon," he left some cash and asked if they could let him know what more he owed.

Cleo was gracious and Mindy doubted Kent heard her say goodbye.

Blue eyes regarded blue green, "Well snow bunny, do you want hot coco or coffee?"

"Nah, I'm good."

"So um, tell me about the slopes today, you didn't say too much. Was it a good day or no?"

"It was too cold this morning. Warmed up some in the afternoon and I had a better time then. I don't ski in cold weather a lot, especially if it snows, really hurts when you wipe out. It snowed some this morning so I stayed in the lodge and had my fair share of coco."

"You didn't have to get up so early after all huh? Please don't hold that against me."

"Oh stop, I would have gotten up in like a half hour, an hour would have been too long. But I should of checked the weather again before I left, dahhhh."

Blue eyes seemed very content to enjoy conversation and she kept it up, "So where's your favorite, Heavenly?"

The blonde looked serious considering, "Um I'd say, Sierra, Heavenly, North Star and Alpine in that order. I ski Heavenly most cause it's so close. Mt. Rose is cheaper for me too."

"Do you go by yourself a lot?"

"Danny and I go. Janell calls me sometimes, but when I call she's not often available. You have to book her in advance I guess. She skis like every weekend and sometimes at night. She lives in Tahoe; I might see her tonight at the bar. She's there a lot after the slopes on Saturday night."

"Janell, huh. Is she one of those snow bunnies you tend to like," Cleo's tone was a bit teasing but honestly curious.

Mindy smirked and rolled her eyes, "Well um yes actually. But she's pretty much in demand if you know what I mean."

"Ah ha, those skiing skills are um well known then?"

"I guess you could say it like that."

Cleo had an extremely mischievous face when she asked, "Do you happen to be familiar with her skills Mindy?"

The blush was full blown, "I, you.......we ski and well," she rolled her eyes.

"Sorry, just ah, well, you know there's more to life than skiing and I guess you know that," Cleo looked a bit self conscious yet still very curious.

"You know, I want to like skiing, it looks great on TV. But it's not cold on TV when you're on a warm couch with popcorn."

"Ah come on beach bum. You're gonna let a little cold air scare ya away."

"I'm still thinking about it. But it's not like I know anyone but you. And I'm so bunny hill that you'd be bored stiff. Not that I'm inviting myself."

"Mt. Rose or Boreal would work for you. And if you want to try it, we'll pick a warm day. I'll scope the weather and before the season ends, I get you on a bunny hill at least. This time with the proper gear. And I just bet the natural athlete in you will love it," she looked into pretty blue eyes and hoped the woman would say yes.

Cleo cocked her head and screwed up her face, "Are you volunteering as my instructor for an hour or so?"

"You bet, best hour investment or however long it takes if you end up liking skiing. If you do I might just get a ski buddy out of the deal, that would be sweet," Mindy wiggled her eye brows and Cleo's return look was adorable.

"You do the scoping of warm weather and we can go, if it's warm," her tone warning.

"Got it, warm. Now we just need mother nature to hear my prayer."

"Ooooo I gotcha praying, Darla would be so proud," Cleo chuckled.

"Geez, don't ruin such a lovely evening Cleo. I'll pretend I didn't hear that."

Blue eyes regarded her watch and found involved blue greens looking back when she looked up. Cleo smiled warmly but said nothing holding the gaze wondering what went on in the blonde mind.

Mindy's mind was thinking she could have sat there all night with the lovely woman, their conversation was so easy. Even though Cleo was stunning, somehow she didn't often stay nervous around this tall beauty with a warm appealing good nature. Except when Cleo had that incredibly interested or involved look like now and made her blush. Mindy broke the eye contact and tried to cover with wiping her mouth and scooting back her chair, "Ah what time is it Cleo, I have to ah go meet Dee Dee."

"It's 25 to 10," blue eyes continued to stare at her with a pleased intrigued smile.

"Oh, ah, then I need to get going probably. If she doesn't want to come back I'll pop over by myself for a few songs. But I bet Dee will be with me."

She stood up so needing to leave the blue fog she was in for a while.

"The Prime Rib was sooooooo good Cleo, thank you."

"I think that's my line snow bunny. I so appreciate it, I mean that. And when we ski I'll definitely drive."

"Chicken," Mindy wanted to get back to their easy more comfortable banter.

"Hey now, I was talking about the gas thing I owe you."

"Right, the gas thing, not the brown bag thing."

Cleo wanted to protest but she was caught and she giggled.

"I'll see ya in a bit chicken."

"I'll count on it, little snow bunny," she smiled the 100 watt and Mindy would have sprinted out of the restaurant if her knees had of cooperated and it wasn't so obvious.

Dee Dee was more than happy to come listen to a jazzy sax and they returned at around 10:15pm.

The band was playing and Cleo was on the dance floor with a well dressed, short, brown man with a neatly trimmed mustache and goatee.

Dee Dee was already moving to the music but had her eyes glued to the gorgeous creature on the dance floor. She leaned in and said, "Damn at Faces she'd make the floor melt. Wish I could cut in."

Mindy offered, "Oh ah, she's straight trust me."

"I don't know yet, don't count her out girl just cause of stubby there. Maybe straight but maybe curious," Dee Dee had that expression Mindy understood to be enjoyable anticipation of a challenge.

"Dee, um remember I mentioned meeting a friend of mine here........"

Dee whirled on the blonde, "Oh no girl, you don't tell me, that's.........well damn. How do you know each other?"

"High school."

"You've known that vision since high school. Oh my God, I don't know if I envy you or pity you. Has she always been well, look at her, like that freakin ah, well has she?"

"Always pretty, but um, I've never seen her look like this before."

"Were you then and are you now really good friends. You must have seen her at school dances when she was there. She didn't look this good then?"

"No, we were and are pretty good friends. Hell she works where I do now."

Dee Dee's eyes bulged with extreme curiosity and she held up her had and quickly continued, "Long story. Its just, well I've never been out with her as a friend, like to dinner before or somewhere that she'd dress up. School dances yeah, but we were high schoolers. Girls. She was more of a jock. Still real athletic."

Dee Dee's brown eyes were like saucers, "You mean she's got that kind a body under those clothes, nice and healthybaby."

"Dee, stop! She's my friend and she sees us, be good," Mindy's voice was course with her warning.

Cleo was smiling warmly, "Hi, back so soon, great. They just started. Aren't they good?"

Dee Dee was staring and Mindy replied, "Yeah, sounds nice. So you been dancing already I see."

Freddy had followed the tall one and Cleo made big begging eyes at Mindy taking a deep sigh, "Yes, ah we have. Mindy, do you remember Freddy?"

"I'm not sure. I didn't know a lot of people in the band. Hi Freddy," she smiled to eyes that took all of her in, "This is Dee Dee my friend. Dee, Cleo and Freddy."

Freddy's brown orbs took in all the females he was introduced to, "My pleasure, lovely ladies, my pleasure," his accent seemed Latino as he bowed graciously.

Dee Dee quick for any opportunity moved in taking Freddy's hand casually and quickly moved on to Cleo, "Likewise, Likewise. You're right Cleo honey, that sax sounds great. You've got a lovely ear for music it seems. Makes ya wanna dance. Ya know just sway to the sounds, its rich."

Dee Dee hadn't let go of Cleo's hand and had begun swaying to the music slightly.

"You know, I need to excuse myself a moment. Dee, would you join me please. We'll be right back."

Freddy said smoothly, "I will be hoping to save you a dance."

Cleo tried not to chuckle and shrugged her shoulders at Mindy who was pulling Dee Dee along.

Mindy waited till she got in the bathroom Dee protesting the whole time that she was leaving bruise marks.

"Dee, I told you. She's fucking," she turned down the volume, "straight. I'm painfully aware of that. So just stop it."

Dee looked exasperated, "You didn't have to bruise me. I'm dark but I still bruise. Damn, it's those ski poles you strike the mountain with, you're a vise," the woman was pulling up her white sleeved blouse.

"Look, we're not at Faces. If you dance it's probably with Freddy," Mindy's tone was still sternly warning.

"Well, if you promise not to bruise me more, I'll dance with you, you promised."

"Yeah when we're at Faces, I'm not so sure it's too comfortable in this place."

"Mindy Meredith Collier, you are not in the closet. Who the EFFing cares what they think? And please, please, please girl don't tell me gorgeous is a homophobe weirdo with a les friend."

"Nooooo, no she's fine. She's pretty much the only one who didn't wipe me off like a bad virus in school. Cleo is as lovely as she appears. But you keep your paws off her! If you have to paw someone, I volunteer for the night if it keeps her safe. But I'm dancing with Freddy if he asks so hold off on the up close and personal with me till I do."

"Okay, Okay mad mother henny. Shit girl chill."

They used the facilities and as they were walking back Dee Dee got a brain storm, "You mean, this Cleo is that friend from school. Yeah, I remember, played basketball, went to Tahiti or somewhere."

"Hawaii, to college. She just got back like four weeks ago."

"Girl, you work with her, huh uh?"

"She's in the stockroom downstairs. We have breaks and sometimes lunches. Be good," Mindy emphasized pointed her finger in Dee Dee's face.

Dee Dee made a show of crossing her heart and winked.

They were on the dance floor again and Mindy spied the suffering look on Cleo's face. Then band announced one more song before they took a break and so Mindy went out to the duo.

"Hey there, they do sound good," she was swaying a little.

It worked, Freddy stepped closer and she realized he wasn't a bad dancer at all. She'd danced with plenty of guys especially before her outing in school. Dancing was fun and she was pretty good at it, so she enjoyed their dance. He obviously was securely hetero in his persuasion she noticed as his eyes enjoyed the view even in snow pants and a sweater.

The song finished, they joined the others and she found that Cleo had ordered her a root beer, one of her favorites.

"Thanks Cleo, you're a sweet heart," she smiled warmly at blue eyes who returned the warmth.

Dee Dee was quiet and she thought that unusual. She squinted briefly and got an innocent expression. Cleo looked unmolested though perhaps a little quiet, but she relaxed a little.

Kent came to their table and sat across from the blue eyes, "So ah, are you all enjoying the sounds?"

At least his words took in the others if his eyes didn't.

Dee Dee was a good charmer male or female, "Those notes just make you want to dance. How long have you been blowing maestro?"

He enjoyed the compliment and smiled a little pleased, "I started playing guitar in 4th grade. They offered it in school and I loved it. Switched to brass in junior high. Glad you liked it," he managed to look at Dee Dee during some of his reply because she had her hand on his arm.

"Well, well, maestro wasn't too far gone, how many instruments do you delight the audience with music man," Dee was laying it on.

"Besides the guitar, alto and soprano sax, a little flute and some piano."

Dee Dee kept up the questions until he had to go back, and it was fairly clear he enjoyed the attention though his replies often included looking at Cleo who smiled nicely and seemed to be paying attention though quietly.

"Mr. Music, can you play Get Here by Brenda Russell for me, gotta love that," Dee asked as nicely as possible.

He nodded and smiled at Cleo before leaving.

Dee Dee waited for a moment before saying, "Gorgeous, I'm sure you're used to catching any fish you want with those blues, but he's so hooked darlin it's messy."

Cleo chuckled and shook her head like she was exceedingly aware of the problem, "You do have a way with words Dee Dee. The visual is a little much but anyway."

"Yeah, Dee never at a loss huh," Mindy wondered exactly what those two talked about while they danced.

Cleo excused herself and Mindy was quick to take the opportunity to question Dee Dee since Freddy was dancing with another lady who apparently knew the band or was a girlfriend of another band member.

"So Delilah, just what did you two talk about sitting here sipping your rum and coke?"

"Not much."


"Please, hands to myself at all times. Not even a lot of eye contact, though who can help some with those eyes, mmmm baby," Dee Dee had that lustful look again.

"You seem chummy, what did you say, spill it," Mindy was warning again.

"Just the truth, put the claws back in, damn."

"And what was your version of the truth," Mindy was still highly suspicious and worried that this very gay woman would behave herself.

"Okay, I could be wounded but we're dancing this set. I told her she was one of the most drop dead gorgeous women I'd ever seen, and I knew what I was talking about cause I'd seen and enjoyed every inch of many drop dead gorgeous women. That I didn't know whether to envy or pity my lesbian friend Mindy who was like a mamma protecting her bear cub when it came to her. That you made me promise to keep my mitts to myself and though I'd normally test the waters a little more cause her beauty made it just too damn tempting, I decided to comply with your instructions since I had never seen you sooo intense before and since you'd already bruised my arm. True every damn word just try to deny it," Dee Dee turned her brown eyes daringly at her blonde friend.

Mindy opened her mouth but nothing came out. Dee Dee was right, but she hadn't expected the woman to lay it out on the table so plainly. She just sat there for a few minutes wondering what the hell Cleo thought of Dee's speech.

Before the woman returned she managed, "Was she, I mean did she, ah say anything."

"She nodded several times while watching you dance, looked a little puzzled and all she said was I see, okay then, um thanks. Hey you need to dance with mambo man again before that song I asked for comes up, cause my blonde baby you owe me and oh am I collecting," Dee smiled warningly.

Mindy raised her eyebrows a little precariously wondering just how up close and personal it would be. She found the smooth moving man and was dancing when Cleo came back and sat down at the table with Dee Dee returning the smile Mindy offered from the dance floor.

A fresh root beer and some bottled water was waiting for her when she got back.

"You're a mind reader, thanks," they exchanged warm smiles again.

Dee Dee got up and snagged Freddy before he could get away much to the man's delight.

"So um, Dee, she's she's, well she's actually really cool. We seem to be able to pick up in our friendship wherever we left off. I mean I met her in college. She's kind of blunt, but it grows on ya."

Cleo smiled brightly with a hint of delight in her eyes, "She's informative, up front. It's refreshing. I had a friend not unlike her in Hawaii. But she moved back to Kauai about a year ago. We still email, but she got married and is busy having a kid. Did I ever mention Rita?"

"Yeah, you sent me a picture of you two at a luau. I think I still have it. She was the one the Hawaiian hunk of man was holding over his head like a bar bell right?"

The blue eyed gaze seemed to warm with the thought, "That's Rita."

They paused to listen to an excellent solo by the saxophonist.

"Wow, he can really play, he's good," Mindy admitted.

"Kinda funny, Jake's a car salesman, and this guy could like cut an album or something," Cleo sounded a bit melancholy.

"He seemed to like that turn of events, did I read that right," Mindy wondered.

"Oh yeah, I got that. Jake thinks quite a bit of himself as a ball player. Not my type, I relate more too him as a competitor. The senior dance he wanted to be a little more than competitive. At least he wasn't a sloppy kisser. Sorta too strong, kinda meaty, but well it's better than messy."

"I'll ah, take your word for it," Mindy nodded.

"You know I only went out with him for the prom cause his date got sick and I didn't have one. Not a good night for poor ol Jake. He um wasn't my idea of romance you know."

"So are Hawaiians romantics?"

Cleo turned an incredibly interesting look on her, "Hawaii is or can be romantic. Same is true for Hawaiians or anybody else, can be, is the operative expression there," those blue eyes were so penetrating.

Mindy was feeling the blue fog again; she wasn't sure how to reply and was saved from it by the return of Dee Dee.

Cleo said, "You seem to enjoy dancing as much as music."

With a flirting tone Dee Dee looked a bit lustfully into blue eyes briefly and said, "Depends on who I'm with for both. Freddy's a smooth mover, not bad," she looked suggestively at Mindy who looked away rather quickly.

Since the next song wasn't theirs Dee Dee suggested, "You ah, my want to powder that sweet little nose short stuff come on."

Back in the restroom, "Dee, lets not get thrown out okay. I mean we aren't at Faces."

"I won't kiss your lips, but I can't promise about your neck, those freckles are too damn cute."

Mindy blushed, why weren't there pills for that, "Okay, we'll dance one dance here, then we can go back to the bar. You can have as many dances as you want there."

"No I can't."

Mindy looked puzzled and Dee Dee explained, "I can only take so much beautiful. I'm getting laid tonight and I know it's not with you so a few dances just to interest the dandies and we'll see who plays."

"Great to be a fishing lure."

"You know you can be the catch of the day at any moment sweetie. Your choice not mine."

Mindy's laugh was warm, "At least you think I'm a pretty lure?"

Dee laughed softly amused, "Oh you are the loveliest little blonde pretty treat of a lure sweetie, the very best, trust me."

Upon their return Dee Dee curtsied to Cleo and said, "Still beautiful aren't we."

Cleo just smiled mostly at Mindy.

They sat down and took a drink, "Did we miss any other song beside this one," Dee Dee was making sure.

"No, don't think so," Cleo assured.

Mindy hadn't known the song Dee Dee asked for so she wasn't sure just how seductive the music would be.

When the song began playing Dee looked at her directly, "Our turn sexy."

Cleo watched them take the floor and was a little surprised at Mindy.

The short one was very grateful at the tasteful choice Dee Dee had made. Still it would be an up close and personal dance. Dee Dee had already pulled her close and was guiding their bodies together softly to the sound of the notes humming along. The woman's dark slightly taller more supple form seemed quite a contrast to the smaller form with white skin and blonde hair.

Mindy's arms were wrapped around Dee Dee's neck and the woman's hands were unhurriedly caressing Mindy's torso as they moved together. Dee Dee buried her face in the neck of the smaller woman, kissing a freckle and looked over to a table where a pair of blue eyes were riveted to their dance. She didn't let her smile be seen by the gorgeous eyes and continued to cuddle Mindy close through the rest of the sounds. The next piece was a musical version of Celine Dion's Falling into You. They both knew it was a bit spicy and invoked a light salsa type feeling so Dee Dee didn't let go of the blonde knowing Mindy enjoyed this tune too.

"Come on Mindy, let's have fun girl. One more, show em how it's done by girls and we'll leave, they'll never know what hit em," Dee wiggled her eyebrows encouragingly and Mindy laughed loosening up a bit.

It was a fun slow salsa and they didn't burn up the floor with it, but it got warm as somehow Dee Dee made even snow pants seem sexy. She was sure to kiss another freckle on the woman's neck as she leaned her back, seductively moved her hand over Mindy's face and whispered the lyric, "So close your eyes and let me kiss you."

Blue green eyes flashed into Dee Dee's brown orbs revealing that there was definitely a libido in the sweet smaller woman. And they finished the dance with most eyes, especially blue, watching them.

Dee Dee kept her arm wrapped around Mindy's waist on the way back and instructed playfully, "Polish off that water girl, you're gonna need it."

Then she turned to Cleo who looking at them both mostly Mindy and Dee Dee without missing a beat said, "No one can know a woman like a woman can know a woman baby. Nice to meet you gorgeous. Don't kill anyone with those stunning eyes. And if ya ever wanna dance, ask Mindy cause I'm still caged," she gathered her coat, smiled at the blonde and said, "I'll wait outside."

Cleo was now staring at her intently with what appeared to be something like intrigued amazement.

Mindy didn't know what to make of the expression, since she was straight it couldn't have been attraction, she was a little unsure, "Um, I kind of, well, I have to go. I promised her I'd, more dancing, we're going to Faces."

There was disappointment clearly written on the woman's face then it relaxed into a reluctant acceptance and she sighed and nodded, "Yeah, really glad you came at all. And I so owe you. Thanks so much."

"Ahhh, no problem sweetie. And dinner was scrumptious, thanks. I'm really glad we came, it was fun. I ah, I'll see ya at work Monday then?"

She was trying to get back to casual though the blue eyes seemed not so causal.

Cleo cleared her throat, "Sooooo ah, Monday. Have fun, um a good..............well rest of the weekend. Tell Dee Dee bye for me," she nodded unsure of the departure.

"Okay, thanks again. Enjoy the music and Kent," Mindy smiled and left.

Mindy and Dee Dee melted the floor some at Faces, but not a lot of people noticed a little too busy with their own melting. But to Dee's good fortune there were a few interesting dance moves that caught the eyes of some. So Mindy trekked back down the mountain to her little empty apartment and decided against a cold shower.


Sunday was a late morning and Monday was a morning too ungodly early as always.

A cappuccino and a card was on her desk when she arrived and she didn't really notice Penny and Caroline exchange glances as she opened up the card. There were two little girls one with dark hair, one with light hair on the front holding hands, and the card just said Thanks. But inside was a hand made gift certificate for a free ride up to the slopes warm weather permitting or not anytime.

She didn't know if she should email or not and debated till right before lunch when she finally decided to say thank you.

"The cap was great but not necessary, thanks. The card is adorable; it made a Monday much nicer than normal."

"I was glad to find that card, it kinda fits. Thanks again."

Penny and Caroline put up Valentines decorations, though this wasn't the norm. They did Halloween and Christmas, but not Valentines Day usually. Mindy looked at the calendar and saw it was next week on Tuesday. God's she wished for a date. Remembering that she didn't take a cold shower Saturday night and feeling a little uneasy that Dee was getting so much harder to resist. But she put on a good face and encouraged her employee friends at how festive it looked.

The next day there was no cappuccino but a beautiful ruby red rose with a lot of baby's breath and some greenery in a vase that should have held a dozen roses but there was only the one. Her desk had been decorated by the ladies the previous day so there was festive valentine garland lacing her desk shelves and a shinny heart cut out pinned up in the middle. Only today there were a few dark green heart confetti scattered in a perfect circle on a shelf near her window. The vase was in the middle of her desk and she couldn't leave it there, the dark green confetti turned out to be the perfect fit as though the confetti had been placed there while the vase stood on the shelf. She looked around for a card and then noticed the ladies both standing behind her.

"Did you two, ahhhhhh that's so nice.........."

But the ladies were shaking their heads and Penny said, "I don't' know honey, Caroline said it was here when she got here at 7am."

The pregnant lady nodded, "Cleo?"

Mindy chuckled loudly her dismissal,"Um, no. She's sweet but not this I'm sure. I mean it's just odd."

She looked around everywhere again for a card while they watched.

"We all know what team I hit for, so there is no way it's a secret admirer unless he doesn't realize what team I play for."

"Maybe she does, whoever she is," Caroline was optimistic.

Mindy shook her head, "Well, okay I'll just um, enjoy the flowers.................."

Then thinking it could be a project manager who'd really screwed up big time she said with dread, "Oh God, you don't think the guys did something way stupid and they're trying to butter me up so I won't erupt so badly?"

The ladies looked at each other and Penny being a lady just shook her head but Caroline a self proclaimed Broad said, "Are you kidding, like they had an understanding brain cell in their body."

They all looked perplexed then Caroline offered, "Nope this has class somehow, like there's more coming. I'm so getting here early tomorrow."

Knowing Caroline she instructed swiftly, "There will be no hidden camera's in this office, clear?"

Caroline's lip protruded but she nodded and went to her desk sadly. Penny chuckled and rubbed the girl's shoulders and Caroline said, "Oh you're hired. Boss can you order her to do that so I can be more productive."

Mindy rolled her eyes and walked over, picked up the large cup and walked to the snack shop without a word, as she left she heard Penny say, "I didn't hear an order so I'll give you 5 minutes."

She didn't hear from Cleo, not even an email and Mindy wondered if the weekend had been a lot more than her friend wanted it to be. So she waited, though it was hard. The small woman didn't know what was up or what to do it felt a little weird and she thought space to be best.

The next day there were three red roses this time lying on her seat and a tiny bit more confetti since there was now some red mixed in and Caroline almost cried throwing up her hands, "6:30 and nothing, they were here."

When she opened up the Outlook there was a message, "How goes it caffeine junkie?"

"Um it's a Monday, a weird Monday but a Monday, how bout you?"

"SDDD >>>> same dungeon different day. But basketball may be coming my way."

"Good luck with that."

"So there's no secret supervisor code, you're not gonna rat me out one boss lady to the other?"

"Nah, don't need to, she's got it covered," Mindy typed with a playful smile.

"Ah a veiled reply, intended to make my wheels spin. Hmmmmmm, spinning in progress please stand by........................................okay I'm out, what gives?"

"Like I said Michelle, she's a, well she probably knows you're an excellent shot," Mindy was being very devious, knowing even if Michelle knew about it she didn't care.

"More spinning.......................................Still out, come on."

"Tell ya what, if you want me to ask her how many shots you make this afternoon, no problem, can do," keeping up the rouse hoping the very intelligent Cleo would possibly think there might be a hidden camera lurking about.

Soon she read Cleo's response and chuckled, "Negatory, no spinning needed, exnay on the pointsnay asking say."


"Hiding the ammunition, oh nothing, never mind," Cleo emails like her, were so funny. Looking at the monitor feeling so amused, Mindy realized, not for the first time, that she had really missed this woman who was across the sea for so many years.

Mindy smiled broadly, her friend seemed in rare form and she typed, "I gotta run. Catchnay later say."

"Mam, Yes mam, am working hard, have no time for frivolous emails, thank you mam," Cleo had become the boot camp cadet.

It was now Thursday and two more roses appeared lying on her keyboard, this time more greenery was also in the vase.

Caroline begged for a hidden camera and was denied.

The email was, "Working hard, still no one suspects I am from the Hawaiian mafia, working out the floor plans so operation Office Caper can be carried out. More later.......shhhhhhhh"

"Do you lie in bed dreaming this stuff up; I'm a little worried about you."

"More like at computernay bored to tearssay, mind wanderingay. So how's caffeineville, feeling like someone is watching you, wait who's there, I saw, I think I saw......hmmmmmm another sip, yes something, someone is there, more liquid, it's pink, fuzzy maybe."

Mindy chuckled out loud, "Note to self, tell Michelle to reinstate basketball, it seems to act like a calming agent to some people's central nervous system and that could be considered essential to like breathe much less work."

Her phone rang and she got heavy breathing.

Mindy waited saying nothing with a huge smile on her face until there was a click.

"Penny, give me something to order. I don't care, batteries, note pads, posties, something."

The woman looked a bit puzzled then nodded, "Oh, K, um let me think. Actually I do need some staples and we could use a box of blue pens."

She walked downstairs and began filling out an order form, "Why Miss Collier, its nice to see you. What may I do for you this lovely morning?"

She finished filling out the form not looking at blue eyes so she wouldn't crack up, "I just need to get a few things please."

"Is Penny unwell, say she's peachy please."

Mindy looked up into the beautiful eyes, which were striving to remain as innocent as possible and she tried not to laugh.

"She's fine thank you for asking Miss Weatherspoon, I just felt the need to stretch my legs and we needed these so here I am."

Brenda walked up casually, "Hey Mindy, what are you slummin for, you've got flunkies."

"Hi Brenda. I knew I could get candy," she plucked a cinnamon wrapper out of the candy dish on the counter.

Brenda looked up, "Whatchya got, what is it," the tall woman dangled the order well above Brenda's head and the woman spent a few minutes leaping in the air to no avail.

Brenda put her hands on her hips and said, "Okay, but give me a head start or I'll trip you, I will."

Cleo rolled her eyes, "You short people," she looked at them both, "Like it's a handy cap. Fine, One, Two......." Brenda was well on her way but Cleo counted to five and sprinted toward the back. The race was declared a tie since they both came back with an item even though Cleo was first.

Mindy said, "Such speedy service. Listen um if you notice anything out of the ordinary you'd let Michelle know right," she addressed Brenda.

"Sure of course, we both would, she's the sup. Why what's wrong," Brenda inquired.

"Ah nothing really. I did get a heavy breather on the phone this morning, and while it was seemingly harmless, it was rather distracting. You know I usually prefer those like late at night before bedtime, much more enjoyable. And here, well it's just, it doesn't work as well. Too many other things going on like wayward flowers and pregnant moods and then there's the work duties that seem to always be clamoring for attention and a perfectly good phone call gets under utilized. So I guess I'm just hoping you haven't suffered the same fate down here."

Cleo said, "Nah heavy breathers are kinda normal down here in the cave. Only one time I told the breather a blonde joke and so got him to laugh. Can always count on the blonde," she did her best to try and make Mindy blush.

And it worked because the woman pinked up but quickly took her items, ducked her head and said, "You've got it covered I guess, carry on," she began to walk out but stopped.

Turning around she spoke to neither one of them specifically, "You know, we'll have to check it earlier than 6:30, got nothing again this morning," she squinted her eyes slightly still looking at no one and nodded as if satisfied and walking away she said, "I'll see Michelle tomorrow. Bye ladies."

The message on her computer when she returned was, "Thank you for allowing us to be of service Miss Collier, I trust your meeting to compare supervisor notes on us lackeys will include our speedy assistance regarding your Office supplies request. Gracious, Mahalo, Dunca, Tank you very much."

Friday the one rose was lying on one of her desk counter an another rose was lying on the other side of the desk.

Caroline whined she couldn't do earlier than 6:30 and Mindy looked at her email after arranging the roses and placing them on the shelf noticing maybe a little more confetti.

The phone rang as she looked at her email, "How's my little caffeinated snow bunny?"

She picked it up to hear more heavy breathing finally broken by a raspy whispered, "Someday's I must, I watch you. Your beauty makes me just want to...........................breeeeeeeeeeath," click.

Mindy tried to laugh without being heard, she just didn't want to explain to Caroline. She typed, "You know if you put your head between your knees and look at the floor, you won't hyperventilate. Oh and not caffeinated yet."

Walking to the snack shop, Mindy was still chuckling at Cleo's return email, "Hiding under desk until java IV has been successfully injected. One one thousand, two one thousand, three..............would you hurry, desks are made for short people. Email me when your veins run brown."

"Much better. So how was your commute," Mindy typed.

She really didn't think the flowers were Cleo but the woman hadn't asked for a break all week, she hadn't been by at all which wasn't terribly unusual but they normally saw each other during the week and she didn't feel like yesterday counted.

"No problems, normal for me anyway, why?"

"Oh just heard something on the news its nothing."

"I take Jack's Valley Road sometimes just to break it up ya know. Did something happen?"

"An accident with a semi according to the news. Backed up traffic, good thing you took the other way."

"Awwww, man, I hate that. When did it happen?"

"About 7:40 in the middle of your commute."

"I hope all is well, I don't even want to know if not. I'm so not good with that............Another subject please, so um laundry calling your name again this weekend?"

"Maybe one load. But I'm doing a Costco run and some errands, not much. Hey do you think I should get a dog?"

"A dog, um I don't know. They're furry and cuddly and up to you."

"Dee really thinks I need a furry critter, but I don't know. Hey I gotta run, how bout lunch," Mindy asked.

"If you email me I can put it on my calendar so I don't forget," even with typing Cleo's sarcasm was thick.

"Just for that I'm driving and this time it's In N Out on the south side of town. Bring a bigger bag."

Cleo immediately tried to correct the error of her ways, "Did I mention how lovely you looked yesterday? Did you know there is a special day like valentines for smaller height beautiful people. Skiers are reported to be some of the best looking persons in the world and of course the healthiest, young, sought after. And the latest doctor's survey says that blonde jokes contribute to better health for many American's due to good healthy-fun-light humor and we should all be thankful for the blondes among us that allow us such a gift."

Mindy typed, "Bigger bag. And bring one up here for the horse doo doo."

At 12:04 Penny said, "Oh Mindy, I forgot, Cleo called and said she'll meet you outside she's running a bit late."

Mindy was suspicious of why Cleo hadn't called her directly as she walked outside to find Cleo in her car at the bottom of the stairs waiting for her. She walked over, "Decided no lunch today huh?"

"Come on Mind, the car's already running."

"Have a good lunch. McDonalds will be crowded you'd better get going," Mindy walked away, through the sidewalk picnic area to the other parking lot.

Cleo showed up in her silver Mazda, parked and sullenly got in the white Subaru.

"It was worth a try."

"Awwwww honey, no it wasn't, it was hopeless. Strap in sweetheart," Mindy's evil eye did not match thick sweetness of her voice.

Cleo had the bigger bag and almost had to use it.

Nothing had been said during their drive except for Mindy failing to keep her New Years resolution.

The tall form followed the smaller one and watched Mindy order not doing the same.

"Getting mine to go, I'll order a little a later," her face was pinched as if saying thanks ever so much Mindy.

Mindy ignored this, sat down and trudged forward, "So, I told Dee I feel like getting a dog and having him stay in a lonely apartment all day wouldn't be any fun for the poor thing. I ski too so in the winter, not home as much. She said most American's work or have school and Fido is good with a bone and food till they get home."

Cleo asked starting to reach, "Would you slap my hand if I stole a fry."

"Yes, you know how to get your own," Mindy warned.

Cleo snuck one anyway and Mindy squinted, "Cleo, you're impossible, go order if your stomach has returned."

"No not yet. Dogs I'm listening."

"If I do get a dog it shouldn't be till later in the Spring right? I mean that's the best for the dog."

Cleo had been honestly looking into blue greens and listening though her stomach was rumbling so she couldn't help it and slowly reached over to get another fry being sure Mindy saw her so she'd get her hand slapped and it worked she got a whap.

She stuffed the fry in her mouth, "Thanks for keeping your word, and oh thanks for the fry too," she wiggled her eyebrows and got the color she so loved to see.

Cleo never let those eyes go and got up, leaned over and sweetly touched the soft cheek putting on the same thickly sweet voice, "Awwwww honey, its not hot in here its just you. I'm gonna go get my food now pumpkin, be back soon, miss me."

When she got her bag she turned back to the tables and Mindy was gone. Cleo swallowed hard wondering how the hell she was gonna tell her boss she was late because she'd gone a little too far in flirting with Mindy this time.

She spied the blonde slowly walking to Red Hot Mama as Mindy had dubbed her wheels. She caught up with the woman and sweetly asked, "Um, any more room on that eat crow flight?"

Mindy didn't say anything till she was at the driver door and Cleo was at the passenger. She stopped and looked into Cleo's blue eyes flashing a little lust and said, "If you can find a strap in to strap on, and hold on because the ride is really wild I promise, then you're welcome to fly with Red Hot Mama," then she licked her lips slowly.

This time Cleo was the one matching the car color.

The tall one did hold on trying to smile all the way but completely silent.

Mindy had said absolutely nothing on the ride back; she hadn't given Cleo a second look, like she wasn't even there.

So Cleo cleared her throat when they stopped safely in the parking lot and instead of saying Thank God she said, "Um, thanks Mind," still nothing.

So before they parted she tried one more time, "You know, about the dog. You've mentioned it more than once. You obviously want one, that's clear Mind. You don't need anyone's permission. And you might try and think of it from the point of view of one of the doggies in the pound. They'd prefer your laundered apartment any day to their prison."

Mindy stopped walking, "Oh my God, I hadn't even thought of the pound. I was like you know, a puppy, it needs training. Oh my God Cleo. I am so shallow," she shook her head irritated at herself.

"Mindy, I did not say you're shallow. That is no way, I............"

The small hand came up, "No Cleo, you didn't. You didn't, you wouldn't. But it just shows me how limited I've become. My own tiny little world...............Thanks."

Cleo caught the woman's hand and wouldn't let her walk in the door. She looked deeply and honestly in the eyes of her friend and said, "Mindy, you're not shallow. And I won't let you say that about some one I care so much about. Mindy's my friend. My really good friend and I would pound anyone who ever talked that way about her. So don't make me hit you with a nerf ball."

Mindy felt Cleo gently squeeze her hand and saw the real care in those eyes. She let herself look back into the pretty blue for a long moment and squeezed back with a smile, "I hope you get to eat that before its cold."

Cleo smiled, "I won't unless I get back and fast. Thanks Mindy. See ya later."

The weekend was uneventful but Monday brought more flowers. There was more confetti in a wider circle like they'd been rescattered. And something new was added, a pink heart made out of construction paper like you get in kindergarten. It was made to look like the hard candies people crunch during this holiday that had sayings stamp on them, like, Sweetheart, My Love, Be Mine, Pretty girl, My Valentine. The construction paper one had the same kind of writing on it and said You're My. It was placed on top of the two roses on her chair.

Mindy sat at her desk for a long time, not being disturbed, holding the flowers and looking at the home made candy. Whomever was doing this was taking so much time and effort she felt it had to be someone she knew. And she didn't want to believe it, she told herself it was sooooooo stupid, that there was something here she wasn't seeing. She was reading too much into it. But she just couldn't stop thinking of the pretty blue eyes and the sound of her voice on Friday.

Mindy was a hard worker, she'd earned everyone's respect because of that even from Clueless. So she didn't feel bad that she just sat there. Caroline and Penny saw it and were a bit concerned but let her be for a while.

Mindy knew she was wrong. She knew there was no possible way. Or if this was happening, it was as a friend right. Cleo thought she was putting mystery into her life. Thought it was just a fun thing to do. Thought it was innocent and meant just that she valued her as a friend. She had to figure out how to find out if this could be Cleo.

Finally she opened her email and read Cleo's note,

Webster's Dictionary, SHALLOW,

                                    Opposite: See Mindy Collier

1: having little depth

2: having little extension inward or backward.

3: a. penetrating only the easily or quickly perceived

b. lacking in depth of knowledge thought or feeling

Webster's Dictionary, FRIEND

Etymology: Old English frEon to love

Synonym: Mindy Collier. May also refer to Beautiful

1: a. one attached to another by affection or esteem

2: a. one that is not hostile

3: A favored companion

A tear slid down her face. Cleo Weatherspoon was not in love with her as anything but a friend and she closed the email so she could respond later and went about getting busy.

It was noon before she knew it and she dashed off an email, "Hey oh mighty esteemed one. Are you trying to impress me with your book learnin you college young un? Sorry kind a busy up here, things are coming up roses in one place and going to the pig sty in another. Where are you taking me to lunch this week, I need to pen you in?"

"How bout tomorrow, that sandwich shop in the Mall?"

"Wow, sounds healthy, are you okay, fever, anything, drink rose petal soup, I'm sure it'll help."

"Okay, I'm going to the sandwich shop, that should be enough. I refuse to join the goats and start consuming directly from the garden, no soup for me. I'll meet ya in the lobby and we can walk over."

Mindy chastised herself for even thinking that Cleo might have selected a place to walk to that must take them in the opposite direction of her division, thereby avoided meeting her in this office.

Their walk was filled with reminders of Valentine's Day as the Mall was just across the street and they had to traverse the main portion inside to get to the sandwich shop.

"You know Valentines was the original made up holiday I'm sure, by like Hallmark. They were in a rubber room trying to come up with an idea for cash flow when some love sick puppy stumble across the thought of fleecing America for the sake of love," Mindy was hoping this tactic wouldn't run up the red flags.

"Mindy, um, okay, interesting take on Valentine's Day. Hallmark probably is in the mix, but you really think it was a poor schmuck kinda thing?"

"No, I just meant, look at all this stuff. They do it for Valentine's Day and now for Halloween, St. Patty's Day, you even see stuff for 4th of July, like cards. Who's gonna buy a card for 4th of July. But sure enough some woman with more time than brains and more money than God buys a bundle and makes the Post Office happy mailing them out."

"Valentine's Day I get, and it can be nice, but come on I want a fire cracker not a card on the 4th. I'm saying it's just so commercial. Even Valentines, candy, cards, and the guy gets in trouble if there's no flowers so he orders a dozen through the secretary the afternoon before he goes home. Then he's proud of himself standing there with something he didn't even lift a dialing finger to order."

They were now standing in line waiting to order, "So um, no cards, no flowers, no candy for you huh? What maybe an onion or a lump of coal left over from Christmas," Cleo's eyes bulged and she smirked.

They ordered and sat down waiting for food, "Um it's healthier and not known for speed my friend. But it's not too busy. Good thing it's not Valentine's Day yet or we'd be called at 3pm to come pick up our food on break."

"Dinner's more the ticket right? Or is that a no no too in your book?"

"I guess nothing's a no no really, except something hurried and thoughtless. If you love someone, lucky enough to have a special person in your life when Valentine's Day comes, then any giving of gifts or gestures would be from the heart. Wouldn't you like that more than something done at the last minute or just cause the calendar says you have to?"

"Yeah, Valentine's Day is a celebration of love in all its forms. For ah that special person, well yeah whatever is done should be special too," Cleo sounded kind of light hearted about it, not worried or serious.

They got their food and munched.

"Brenda wants to go out to lunch on Valentine's Day. She's gone through a divorce this year and wants to not be bitter but doesn't want to spend too much time thinking about it either. So she wants to go to BBQ Highway a block over. She says the more the merrier so you're welcome if you don't have plans. Michelle might come too I think," Cleo took a bite of her melon side salad.

"I was gonna be impressed with the side salad and your tuna sandwich until I heard that."

"What," Cleo sounded surprised.

"BBQ Highway doesn't exactly have bottled water or a Fresh Spinach Salad no fat dressing on the menu."

Blue eyes went wide a minute then she nodded with an odd expression as if not knowing how to respond and so she said nothing.

Mindy got the whatever, forget your pill today idea, and felt bad for being so caustic, "You know a lunch with just the girls would be nice. Brenda has the right idea."

"So you doing something with them then," Mindy thought Cleo's voice was light but maybe forced. Then she told herself to stop it.

"I think BBQ sounds fun. Why don't you come ask Caroline and Penny? I don't want to take credit for the idea."

"Then I'll have Brenda call and ask. Her idea."

Mindy told herself she should stop but so wanted to know, have any hint.

"Changing the subject I know, but is Kent playing any where on Valentine's Day or the weekend?"

"I don't' know. Probably, sounds right considering what he says about the schedule and being booked. Does um Dee Dee want to go dancing again," Cleo smile slyly at her.

"Dee's probably got grand plans. No doubt she won't be alone on Valentines. But I was just thinking Kent's kinda music would be in demand. Soft, rich, sometimes um well romantic and you know."

"Yeah, he's talented you gotta give him that."

"Sounds like you don't want to," Mindy was thinking Cleo might be interested in the guy an Cleo's voice sounded the opposite.

"Oh, he's not my type, but he can really play," Cleo smiled a little self consciously.

"So, no more dinners 3 party or otherwise, huh?"

"Not so much no."

"Well, he probably wasn't real happy to learn that, sorry, um, so how's you're brother. Think he plans anything?"

"You did not just ask that. It's Clark, and Lois hasn't got a Superman. As to Kent, he didn't pass the friend test," Cleo shrugged.

"The friend test? Not friend material?"

"No, not when he treats my best friend the way he did. I know he was interested in me or he wouldn't have asked me out. But he didn't really listen to you to listen. He was putting up with you since I wouldn't go out with him any other way. A bit too much into himself for me, thanks," she winked at Mindy.

Mindy was still kind of amazed at being elevated to best friend level.

"Ah, I see. Did he know he was on trial," she chuckled trying to be light and still think about the whole best friend comment.

"Nope, you either, huh," Cleo looked amused.

"You mean I was on trial," Mindy was a bit unsure.

"Ah, come on sweetie, the roots are blonde, but I know you better than that."

Mindy looked pleased and told herself that was no reason to blush.

"I knew you wanted to chat with him without it being a date. And he had to know that too, unless, like you say too into himself to know. But I didn't really consciously think you were watching how he interacted with me. Thought I was just security kind a thing. If you two hit it off, then my meal ticket was short lived," she laughed.

"You didn't remember him did you?"

"Nah, zero, nothing. I felt bad. I'm telling you, I love the Webster's, but I need to work on some things."

They were walking back and Cleo responded, "Come on, cause you don't remember a guy you had no cause to know."

"My friend, friends can let friends be imperfect. Its okay I need to look at some things. Like Valentine's Day, great idea Brenda had. My beautiful Penny and Caroline sooooooo deserve me to get the bright idea that Valentines would be a great time for me to treat these two who I could never run the office without. I've been distracted true but geez."

"You're too hard on you. What's so distracting, the dog or not the dog dilemma?"

"Well, its just Valentine's Day has been a bit surprising for me is all, hard to explain, maybe we need another lunch just us friends."

"Oh no, Mind, honey I gotta go pick up some drugs for my dad and I was gonna do that at lunch tomorrow plus go to the State Printing human resources if there's time but most likely that'll be Friday and Thursday's the girls lunch thing."

"Ah no biggie," Mindy was dismissing it lightly.

"You can call me at home; we have no time limit to talk then. If you need to chat or talk something out," the tall woman had the same concerned gentle tone as last week.

"Maybe I need to do laundry, Ha."

"You wanna come over this weekend? How bout dinner? I can actually do more than boil water occasionally," Cleo's face was bright and hopeful.

"To be honest, I wanted to save up more laundry than I got now, but I'll try and be really messy the rest of the week," they laughed.

Mindy thought about the rest of the week and that today might be her best bet in getting Cleo up here so she could see the look on her face about the whole flowers thing. So she told Penny to request Cleo bring a cart up for her to use and help put some archive folders on it from a really high shelf.

Of course she had put the thing up there herself like two years ago, then the stupid step stool broke and she'd forgot about the folder even though they had a new step stool, out of sight out of mind.

When Cleo arrived she heard Penny say, "Oh, it's just in there above Mindy's desk."

Walking into the room she shared with Caroline, you looked directly at Mindy's cubicle and the roses couldn't be missed.

As Cleo walked in she turned around to see the face and Mindy felt the twinge but she lied, "Our step stool is broken or I'd get it."

She moved out of the way for the tall form, who had to get even closer to the flowers to get the file. The task accomplished Cleo said nothing walking out of the room with the file. Her face had seen the flowers, Mindy watched the eyes register but she couldn't tell anything. Only not saying anything what did that mean.

Cleo turned back around casually and said looking at the roses, "Nice flowers Mind. Um who's the lucky snow ah, the lucky lady?"

"Oh, I'm ah getting not sending," she watched.

"Okay, same question though, who's the lucky person sending you flowers. Or sorry is it a secret? None of my beez wax," there seemed to be a real question there.

But she was again thinking about the best friend comment earlier and weighing it against the comment about the lucky person. The question hadn't changed, Cleo had maybe known Mindy was on the receiving end and asking who was the person lucky enough to be attracted to Mindy and feel the desire to send flowers. Or was she reading into everything just what she really wanted it to be.

"Mindy honey, where did you go? I'll withdraw the question, no problem. Very pretty," Cleo smiled warmly.

She was still caught in the haze of blue directed into her own eyes.

Cleo squeezed her arm as she stepped by the frozen blonde, "Do they smell? Oh yeah, very fragrant. A lovely gift for a lovely lady. Were there more, the vase is maybe too big?"

Mindy blushed and stammered, "Um, um no.....................ah"

Penny was still standing near awaiting instruction about the office archive file and knew Mindy knew perfectly well where the step stool was so she intervened a little, "Well it seems our wonderful Mindy has a secret admirer. She's been getting a few more roses each morning. This morning there was that homemade heart also," she pointed to the heart saying You're My propped up on the shelf next to the flowers.

"Wow, well at least they have excellent taste," Cleo smiled at Penny then Mindy.

The blonde cleared her throat, "My luck, we don't play on the same team, or maybe its some long lost friend of mine, who knows," she rolled her eyes.

"Hmmmmmmm I guess maybe you'll find out on Valentine's Day," Cleo's expression seemed honest.

"Well, I really hope I do, otherwise it would end up being kind of a let down you know," she wanted Cleo to reveal herself and not leave her hanging if it were her, though she really doubted it.

"At least you've got beautiful flowers and Valentines hasn't been boring, one could even say distracting," Cleo looked at Mindy wanting confirmation that this was the distraction she'd spoken about.

"Well yes maddeningly distracting. Do you think that's what the person intended," she looked directly into blue eyes.

"I wouldn't know Mind. I doubt it was intended to be maddening. Pleasant probably, something beautiful for someone beautiful," the tall woman looked a long while into blue green eyes.

Mindy felt the blush again, just when she thought no way, then the woman says something like that and looks like that, it was maddening.

"Well, I better get back, unless you need help with anything else," Cleo looked at Penny and then Mindy.

Penny smiled pleasantly, "I think that was it. We're lucky you're so tall and so helpful. Thank you dear."

"There is one more thing, Cleo I think you were gonna ask Penny and Caroline something about Thursday."

"Oh, um well it was Brenda's idea. She wants to have a Valentine's Day lunch at BBQ Highway Thursday. I told Mindy about it and you two are invited too if you want?"

Mindy piped up, "If you want to go ladies, it's on me. You two are certainly due a treat. It would be my pleasure."

Cleo remembered and quickly said, "Caroline, I will drive you there, no problem. Its not too far to walk, but not if you're walking for two I'm sure."

The invitation was accepted happily and Cleo went back to her dungeon. Penny and Caroline exchanged looks as Cleo left and Mindy sat at her desk looking at the flowers. She went back to wondering about the tall one who had said she was lovely and beautiful and looked in her eyes and made her melt. If she was doing this, it had to be as a friend, it had to be, friends can say things like that, they could, well probably.


The next morning seemed to fit the whole friend idea if the secret admirer was Cleo. It was Weds and this morning there were three new flowers, more greenery and another homemade heart, it read Friend.

So far the message was You're My Friend, but Mindy knew she wished the roses to hold so much more even if it wasn't Cleo. She wanted love. She wanted someone to love her. This whole valentine's roses thing seemed to come with so much thought and time. Would Cleo do that for just a friend? Mindy knew she was certainly nice enough and sweet. But why Valentine's Day, why roses, why keep it a secret. If she wanted to make a friendship gesture, it was more like the dinner she suggested while Mindy did laundry. She arranged her roses and homemade heart and opened her email.

Not surprising there was one from Cleo, "Hey there. Did you get anything this morning like you have been?"

"Yes, I did. Guess."

Cleo's message read, "Given what I heard yesterday I'm going with more flowers right?"

"And," Mindy probed

"And what," Cleo asked.

"Not tellin."

"Okay. So how many do you have now," Cleo questioned.

"How many what?"

"Come on blondie."

"I have 11 roses. So I guess I just get one tomorrow. Wanna break at 10?"

10 o'clock came and Mindy wasn't in the break room. Cleo waited a few minutes and went to check.

"Forget about me Mind," she walked in to find Mindy alone holding a heart.

"Caroline's not here and I forgot Penny had a doctor's appointment and left a few minutes ago, so I can't leave the office cause of the phones. But you can keep me company a few minutes, have a seat."

"Okay, but first, can I smell them again? I love the smell of roses."

Mindy said suspiciously, "You do huh? Anyone ever get you roses Cleo?"

"Manny did once when he was in big trouble cause I thought he'd slept with Sheila. He swore he didn't and now somehow I just don't believe him," Cleo's expression looked like stupid me as she shook her head lightly and leaned over to smell the flowers.

"Yeah, well he never struck me as extraordinarily bright."

"Oh Please, Sheila can have him. I still like roses though," Cleo looked down at what Mindy was holding and since she saw the one on the shelf her comment was, "Oh you got another one. Are you gonna let me know what it says or are you um not tellin?"

Turning the heart around for her as Cleo was sitting down, Mindy said, "So I guess it's from a friend of mine. What do you think Cleo," she was trying to get some reaction.

"Or maybe someone who needs a friend or wants to at least start as friends," Cleo shrugged.

"I think it's a lot of trouble to go to. I mean it seems like a lot. I think it's really sweet. And I really appreciate it. Never got flowers before myself. It's been nice every morning. Like I said, a little maddening wondering who. Do you think I know the person well especially if it's a friend of mine?"

"Dee Dee, maybe," Cleo's face was questioning.

"Well, she's a great friend, but um no. She lives in Reno, unless of course she has a culprit. Does she have a culprit Cleo, did you two work out some deal while I was dancing with Freddy, or is it you, are you my friend with roses Cleo," Mindy squinted her eyes.

Cleo laughed, "Yeah, Dee Dee just met me and asks me to be the rose delivery person. Don't look at me. Hell I'm envious; I think most women would be. Getting roses is so nice; it's fun, and the mystery well that would be fun too. Only you seem more irritated by it."

Mindy was quick to respond, "No way, I'm not irritated but I do really really want to know who it is. I've been hoping its not some guy who I have to disappoint you know. That would just be too sad and I'd wish it had never happened. I admit I've been racking my brain but I just don't know anyone sweet enough to do this," she looked at the blue eyes for a long moment, then said, "except you."

"You are really trying to put this on me. I told ya, I'm innocent in this whole thing," Cleo raised her hands and shook her head.

"I guess we'll see tomorrow. But um, just in case you're lying, I am gonna give you a big hug if its you. Of course, I might just shock you with a surprise of my own gorgeous so don't rule anything out blue eyes," Mindy let a bit of the lusty expression from the other day that made Cleo blush return to her eyes and she just briefly moistened her lips.

Cleo blushed just a little bit and cleared her throat, "Ah, hmmmm, I see." She looked at the ground a long moment and said, "Well I guess it's a good thing its not me................I guess," the woman looked up and made it clear she wasn't at all sure she didn't want it to be her.

The phone rang and Mindy smiled, "Is saved by the bell appropriate?"

Cleo took the opportunity to make her escape and waved goodbye while Mindy mouthed the word chicken.

Mindy really was hoping that tomorrow the delivery person of the last rose would have two pretty blue eyes. She looked at everything from every angle. From the emails over the years she knew Cleo had kissed a few girls, wondering what it was like. Cleo had said it was only kissing and that it wasn't too bad, but that she wasn't planning on discovering about anything other than kissing. So Mindy wasn't sure that if the flowers had come from Cleo it could be anything but platonic. She was afraid to hope, plus the flowers probably weren't from the woman. And she worried about it being Dee, though she really doubted that idea. She also worried about it being some guy, or someone she casually knew but once again, hadn't really bothered to notice. Mindy chastised herself and decided to strive to be more observant, to not be so absorbed in her own life, the world did not revolve around her.

And with that in mind the next day she arrived as a delivery person herself. She gave Penny a small vase of three white carnations trimmed in green the woman's favorite color and a Valentine's Day card. Caroline received yellow carnations, her favorite color and also a card. The ladies were delighted and Mindy felt good for having treated them, they deserved it, they were such good workers, people she even counted as friends because they thought so much of her and did so much. She also resolved to do something special for their birthdays this year. Last year she hadn't put much thought into it, this year would be different.

She and the ladies were a bit surprised that there was no flower awaiting Mindy this morning.

Caroline said, "It will probably be something revealing later today or I don't know something."

Penny suggested, "Mindy, whomever this is has gone to far too much trouble to not finish what was started. You will be visited today in some way, I am positive, so don't you worry."

Mindy smiled her thanks and looked for an email from Cleo but there wasn't one. There was however a voicemail from her, "Hi Mind. Sorry I'm not there today. I really have a whopping headache and I just don't feel good. I might be coming down with something, I hope not. I don't get migraines but I'd hate to think they're worse than what I got now. I'm going to sleep and maybe there for lunch and the afternoon, we'll see. If not Happy Valentine's Day."

Cleo really didn't sound very good and she hoped her friend wasn't getting sick. Mindy felt bad that she was even more concerned about the possibility of Cleo not being her secret admirer. She didn't dwell on that too much not wanting to feel it, tonight she'd probably cry. Brenda drove Caroline to lunch and the ladies were having a lovely lunch when a tall beautiful woman walked up not looking too worse for wear maybe a little tired.

Mindy almost jumped out of her seat she was so excited to see those blue eyes, "Hey honey, how you feeling? Better I hope."

"Hi Mind, ladies. Happy Valentine's Day everyone. I'm among the living at least. I am planning on coming back to work after lunch Michelle," she smiled.

The ladies made a place to sit beside Mindy and Cleo ordered just a coke. As the chatter continued Mindy rubbed Cleo's shoulder lightly and leaned in, "You sure you should be here?"

"Not entirely, but I'm here. Didn't want to miss lunch, it's different than the normal, you know. But if you keep rubbing my shoulder I'm gonna start snoring."

Mindy withdrew her hand quickly almost as if being scaled. The conversation was light and friendly and at one point, Mindy felt Cleo take her hand and hold on while continuing to listen to Caroline talk about how she and her husband met online.

Penny smiled and said graciously, "I guess I'm just an old fashion girl. It's hard for me to understand the whole world of computer dating. Seems too impersonal to me, though you sound so happy Caroline."

Brenda said, "I don't know, people somehow find a way to be together. We are social beings so people keep pairing up. Well young people. Me, for now I'm done with having a man underfoot. I'm enjoying some me time I guess. Thanks for coming out today ladies. This was fun."

They all agreed and made their way back to work. Cleo had driven her car and so Mindy hitched a ride instead of walking in the cold.

"So are you any better Cleo, you're pretty quiet honey?"

"I'm okay. Sleeping did help, I'm still groggy I guess. But I don't feel as bad as this morning. Stupid headache started last night and I didn't get a lot of sleep. I took one of my brothers muscle relaxers and so that's why your phone call was like 3am in the morning. I called Michelle too; I knew the pill would knock me out."

Mindy had that twinge of guilt again, wondering if her valentines really wasn't the beauty driving the car.

Cleo asked as if reading her mind, "So did you get another flower, was it delivered in person?"

"Nope, nothing so far. Penny says I'll get something today because the person has given it too much thought to stop now. I don't know, we'll see. Maybe he or she chickened out, but I hope I'm not that scary."

Cleo smiled sideways, "Well, um, I've seen you a little shall we say miffed. But I wouldn't use the term scary. The day is young, Penny's probably right."

Cleo dropped Mindy by the door and went to find a parking spot and before they parted Mindy said, "Hope you wake up sleepy."

Cleo smiled, "Me too."

Caroline and Penny looked at Mindy with huge smiles as she walked in. She smiled back and made her way to her desk followed closely by the other two. There were pink rose petals littering the floor of her cubicle space. The petals trailed all the way up to where the vase stood and in the middle of the 11 roses there had been placed a single pink rose. There was a card propped up against the vase and as she took it down she notice more confetti surrounded the vase and the confetti was in the shape of little pink roses. On Mindy's chair was a homemade heart that read, Be My.

The front of the card was an embossed white heart laced through with a few pink roses and in the middle of the heat was the word Love in script. She opened the card and in the same style writing that was on the homemade heart she read, "There are many roses in the garden of life but only one is painted with the color of love. Happy Valentines Day."

The card wasn't signed but there was a key inside, that's it just a key, no note, no explanation. Mindy looked around the desk and at the ladies, who looked bewildered.

"I still don't know who, the card isn't signed," she handed the card to Caroline, "and I got this," she held up the key."

Just then her boss walked in, "So ah, what's all this, ya got a boyfriend or girlfriend, huh? Doing something special? I've seen those flowers, they're nice."

"Well, I don't know who it is, the card isn't signed."

"Oh, well maybe you'll get something more, or maybe he um she just wants you to wonder for a while. I got some Agreements we need to look at, when you're through here," the Clueless yet harmless man smiled.

After the work duties of Agreements were done she sat back down and Caroline piped up, "Penny and I think there's something more. Its unfinished you know. Like your last homemade candy heart just said Be My. So there's got to be more and what about the key, what does that mean?"

Penny joined in, "My dear, there is much more to this Valentine. You mark my words. It is too thought out, too specifically planned, nothing random. You just be patient and it will all happen when its suppose to."

"Well, great, I'm not getting any younger and I really wanted to know who!"

Penny came over and hugged her, "Patience young one, everything in its time. It will come, it will come. And I have a sneaking feeling it will be worth the wait this one."

"Hey what gives, do you have inside info Penny? Don't leave me blowin in the wind here," Mindy was teasing and yet suspicious.

"I have many birthdays of inside information. This one will be slow in getting here maybe, but like I said, I've got that feeling it will be worth the madness now."

Mindy looked doubtful then smiled her thanks.

She emailed, "Well, very clever this absent delivery person Cleo. Whoever it is hit and ran at lunch."

"No license plate number huh?"

"I don't know, I'm not entirely sure the first letter of that plate isn't a C maybe, what do you think C leo?"

"Ha ha. You need to broaden your search maybe. Expand your mind, open your eyes wider."

"Is that supposed to be a hint?"

Cleo answered the question with a question, "So is the count 12 now or was it more creative than that?"

"See you at 3pm break."

The tall woman walked into the office with a piece of paper on which she had drawn something that looked like a license plate that read C L E O.

She held it up with a smirk, "Are you looking for something like this Mind?"

Mindy squinted, "And what's that suppose to mean?"

Cleo looked at the vase of flowers, "Ah, there is 12 and a pink 12 looks like. That's unusual. The loose petals are pretty. There's a faint hint of the scent of roses."

She looked at suspicious blue green eyes and smiled with care, "Mindy, you really seem more pissed off than a person who'd been given a dozen roses for Valentine's Day might usually be. The whole romance of mystery thing seems a bit lost on you my friend."

Mindy looked a bit guilty at the comment, "Oh, no, I'm not pissed off. I mean, well, I wanted to know who it was. But the card and the confetti, the petals and everything is so sweet. I really do love the flowers Cleo, I mean everything. Its been fun to come to work wondering what I might find today, you know. Just sorta wish I would have gotten a little more info today."

"So you got a card too, I guess it was no help huh?"

Mindy shook her head and looked out of the corner of her eyes at her tall friend as she handed her the card, "Printing the message like that had to take some time. It's um beautiful, really."

After reading the card, blue eyes looked at her just briefly with a smile, then she looked up at the shelf seeing the homemade heart, "You got another one? Hmmmmm?"

"Oh and this of course," Mindy held up the key.

Cleo's expression was interested yet puzzled, "What's this?"

Mindy had this feeling that they were playing a game or dancing around somehow, she hoped it wasn't just her imagination.

"Ah, inside the card."

"What's it for?"

"Like you said, it's a mystery," she looked into the blue eyes that looked back at the key quickly.

"Well you know, true gifts are given freely, with nothing in return expected. Perhaps it was enough for this person to just be able to do something for you they may have assumed would bring you enjoyment............................................ I don't know, anyway, um, Valentine's Day may not be over I guess."

Mindy nodded, "Penny said the same thing kind of. She seems to think that this person will maybe reveal themselves in their own sweet time, but that it will happen at some point."

"Hmmmmmm, well, I hope you don't bust a blood vessel first. At least it hasn't been the norm, unless you experience this kind of thing every Valentines," Cleo's eyes were warm yet teasing.

"It's a first for me. I'm really hoping the creator of this doesn't wait till next Valentine's Day. That might be just a bit too much to ask of me since patience seems to be a virtue I need to work on," Mindy looked a bit pleading at Cleo.

"Um, I think if that person waited so long, they'd really ah miss the mark here," blue eyes looked at the card, smelled the flowers and shook her head picking up a pink rose confetti looking at it closely, "Nice touch, these," she held the confetti in the palm of her hand.

"It's all incredibly thoughtful and so very sweet. I guess I would like to be able to say thank you to this lovely person," Mindy was hoping she was saying this to the right person.

"I'm glad you're not irritated Mind. It does seem like this person put a bit of thought into what he or she was doing. Enjoy it my friend. I gotta get back, see ya tomorrow?"

"Sure Cleo, um Happy Valentine's Day. I didn't even get you a card or anything," Mindy looked regretful.

"You have been a bit distracted Mind. Understandable. See ya later."

Mindy watched the tall one walk out and didn't see Penny smile.

She looked at the rose confetti Cleo had dropped in her hand before leaving and as she sat down she noticed something scratched on the backside of the confetti. The front was impressed with the design of a rose, the back was clear but there was what looked like the letter r scratched into the surface. And as she was examining it, Mindy remembered their conversation. Cleo had said something about missing the mark, nice touch, and an email had told her to broaden her search, open her eyes wider. Not completely sure she wasn't just reading into things she decided to collect all the confetti and take it home with her, she'd look at each one tonight, starting with the rose ones. It might be wishful thinking or it might just mean Cleo wanted her to know it was her all along she hoped. The rest of the afternoon was slow; she couldn't wait to get home.

Friday came and with it snow. They all sloshed into work but Mindy was early. She'd made sure the silver Mazda wasn't in the parking lot. Caroline was surprised the clock read 7:30am and her boss was at work. But Mindy had rushed in, put down her coat and things and said she'd likely be back before 8am.

Mindy walked down the stairs into a very large corridor. This area was often used by the Stockroom to store large deliveries such as office furniture or a pallet of computers. Today there was a pallet of phone books and so she jumped not too far up and had a seat waiting for the arrival of her tall beautiful friend.

Michelle came down the stairs first, "Hi there, um moved your desk or something?"

Mindy chuckled, "Yeah give me a laptop and I'm good."

"So ah, just hangin out huh?"

The blonde smiled, "I'm just waiting for the tall one."

"Oh, she's not here yet," Michelle looked at her watch, "She's never late so any minute I'm sure. None of my business, but um I could have her call you."

"Thanks, I've sorta got to see her about something before the official work day begins at 8am."

"I'd hate to take you away from your comfy spot, but you're welcome to come into the Stockroom and wait."

Mindy smiled, "Thanks but it's not about work and its better I meet her here in the common hallway."

Michelle smiled, "Oh sure. You two seem pretty ah close, known each other a while huh? High school right?"

"Yeah we go back a bit. She's the best."

"Well, have a good day Mindy."

"You too."

At 15 minutes to 8am Cleo came down the stairs and slowed a little bit seeing a small blonde form perching on the phone books. Her expression made it clear that she thought Mindy's position odd and she was curious as to what was up.

Mindy smiled widely and stared directly into blue eyes intensely enough that Cleo broke the eye contact first and said perhaps a bit uneasy, "What's up Mind? Everything okay?"

Mindy smirked, "Oh I'm fine. In fact, I'm feeling pretty good. It's a great morning for me."

She hopped down and walked up to the taller form, "I had a busy night actually, hunting."

Cleo's face was clear she thought this comment odd and she cocked her head with a puzzled expression waiting for an explanation.

Mindy took Cleo's hand and placed 5 pink rose confetti in her hand, each with a letter scratched on the back. Cleo looked at them a second puzzled but as understanding dawned the Stockroom doors opened up.

Mindy smiled mischievously and said, "I believe I told you to be prepared for a surprise of my own if I found out it was you Cleo."

And without hesitation Mindy reached up and took a pretty face in both her hands and planted a firm kiss on Cleo's lips. At first Cleo felt stiff with surprise but then her body seemed to relax a little and Mindy felt surprise turn into a sweet kiss that was a bit longer and warmer than friendship boundaries would allow.

The Stockroom was to Mindy's left and Cleo's right and as Mindy pulled away slowly she saw surprised blue eyes look into hers for and intense moment, but then Cleo seemed to become aware of onlookers and looked over at Brenda and Michelle who were also a bit surprised at what seemed to be transpiring in the hallway.

Cleo looked a bit paralyzed as if unsure what to do and said, "Um Mind, I, well you, ah..........." Cleo looked nervously toward the Stockroom and back to Mindy.

Mindy looked over to where Brenda and Michelle looked away from the two a bit self consciously, smiled at each other and turned around to go to their own desks.

"Its 7:56am Cleo, you're not on the clock yet. But being a supervisor I guess I'll let you go so you can be at your desk ready to work by 8am. Only, um, I'll take these back if you don't mind, part of my Valentine's Day gift you know, "Mindy smirked and took back the confetti.

"Have a good day Cleo, I know I will," Mindy wiggled her eye brows and saw the pink rising in Cleo's face as she turned to walk up the stairs.

Cleo looked at Mindy's retreating form for a minute not budging from where she stood, then she came to herself and quickly walked into the Stockroom.

Brenda and Michelle kept smiling at each other and looking at Cleo out of the corner of their eyes. Finally Cleo went over to her boss's desk, "I ah, sorry about, well, um, I didn't know................."

Michelle looked up, "Cleo, you were at your desk ready to work by 8am. As for anything else, well, you started off your morning way better than I did," she smirked.

"I just, okay, um. Right," Cleo walked slowly to her desk.

Brenda came over, "So Cleo, um, can we go to lunch next week or are your lunches now spoken for," Brenda had a huge smirk on her face.

Cleo gave the girl a don't you dare go there kind of stare and Brenda said, "Well, check and see and let me know if you're um free," and she chuckled and headed back to her desk dodging a nerf ball.

Mindy enjoyed thinking about that kiss. Cleo hadn't pulled away, she hadn't seemed shocked nor had the kiss seemed unwelcome especially as it had gone from surprise to more warmly received. She looked at the rose confetti, there were five of them, Cleo had been so clever. Each one had a different letter scratched on the back and it spelled out FrEon, the old English word according to the dictionary for love, perhaps in the context of friendship, but it was still the word love. Mindy smiled and didn't want to wish there would be more kisses. She had warn the tall one and made good on her warning. Mindy a hard time concentrating on work, since that kiss lingered in the memory, was this the start of something more, or was it an unusual blip on the gaydar. And what else was coming, she had the key and the Be My message to be completed. Still Mindy thought it best to give her friend some space.


Mindy hadn't really expected to hear from Cleo until next week since she had surprised the woman in the morning with that kiss. But late in the afternoon she got an email.

"So I guess if this white stuff keeps up, you'll probably need to keep collecting laundry, huh?

Mindy had forgotten about dinner and laundry and she was wondering if the email meant Cleo didn't really want to have her over this weekend, "Oh, well, um you never know in good Ol Carson, snow, rain and sunshine in the same day, it usually changes every 20 minutes."

"Fresh snow won't tempt you to the slopes will it snow bunny?"

"Not till payday. But if it does snow all weekend, chances are good that there will be warm weather and snow together and if you still want to we'll hit the slopes, or bunny hill."

"The forecast says snow is pretty likely, but well Nevada weather predictors get fired a lot. Guess its wait and see."

"I'll call you tomorrow if that's okay friend," Mindy hoped she hadn't scared Cleo this morning.

"Sounds good Mind. See ya."

About 4 to 6 inches covered the ground on Saturday and the weatherman was calling for snow showers on Sunday so Mindy made the call.

"Hello, Ms. Weatherspoon. I'm calling to see if I could take a snow check on the washer and dryer for a future time. Can you check its busy schedule and see when I can have an appointment," Mindy was trying to keep it light.

"Let me just get the reservations book out and let's see..............Hmmmmmm yes oh I see that was a washer and dryer usage with a side order of spaghetti dinner. Well as you probably know the washer and dryer does have an open schedule on any day of the week but spaghetti dinners are only served on Saturday and Sunday, so what will work for you Miss Collier?"

"A weekend sounds just fine; my schedule's open though, I'm flexible."

"So you will be having the side of spaghetti dinner then, will that be with the salad or without?"

"Salad, well um, I like salad, but it's not absolutely necessary," Mindy wasn't too sure if the whole meal would be discussed.

"The salad is recommended. And will that be a sweet spaghetti sauce or spicy? I do have to warn you though, spicy well spicy won't be available for awhile."

Mindy wondered if they were still talking about spaghetti sauce, "Definitely sweet sauce, I kind of have to work my way up to spicy if I ever um decide to request that."

"Well then we can book you for next weekend or the weekend after that if you have other plans," Cleo wasn't sure about skiing.

"Next weekend sounds very nice. Thank you for being so quick to um change my reservation."

"You know Mind, I'm a bit surprised you won't be shooshing the slopes, I bet there'll be a lot of snow bunnies shooshing too," Cleo sounded normal.

"It'll be packed, so I'll let the crowds thin out for a week anyway. I haven't looked at a forecast, it may snow again," Mindy wondered.

"Not as many storms next month probably, but this month snow bunnies will be happy with shooshing on fresh stuff I'm thinkin. Dang, wish I had a computer at home. If I had the cash, I'd buy a lap top and keep it under my bed, and surf like under my bed covers, or hell, I'm not a teenager, maybe I'd plop it down on the kitchen table if I wanted to endure a sermon. The whole state thing and tests, getting on an eligible list, outta the dungeon and yadda yadda, Gods it's a long process," Cleo sounded frustrated.

"Not easy movin home huh," Mindy was wondering what that option must feel like.

"Not too bad, but there's been a lot of changes for me. I mean my room made me feel like I was in high school again, posters of Tim McGraw who is still hot by the way, Koby and Shaq before the team split, Go Tigers high school stuff like that. I've been taking stuff down mostly."

"I take it the poster of Tim is still hanging though," Mindy wondered if Cleo was needing to make it clear she was straight.

"Ah yeah, left it up for a while. Not like I have a lot to replace it with you know. I did bring some stuff from Hawaii. I can't believe I'm back in the desert Mind. Not even sure how long it will be. I just wanted to be here for my dad, he hasn't even dated you know," Cleo's voice sounded concerned.

"Wow, well sometimes for some people there's only one person for them. That's it. I don't know, maybe he's just not ready honey. Has he talked about it," Mindy was a bit surprised Cleo was talking about this.

"We, um, we've talked some. He needed me to come back. But sometimes he looks at me you know. Like he's remembering mom, says I've got her smile."

"Oh, well, yeah. I hope that can be a good thing honey," Mindy was unsure where this would go.

Cleo sounded melancholy, "It didn't use to be. I mean after. I just needed to get away. And Hawaii, you know Aunt Lelah was in Kauai close enough but not too close you know."

"I know you needed to be there Cleo. I admit, kinda surprised you're here, glad at least for me, but surprised you left Hawaii."

"It was time, dad needed it, I don't want to admit it but I need it too. I know it was so hard for him and it hurt him, but I just couldn't stay. Now it's not quite as hard. Only when he looks at me I feel guilty sometimes," Cleo sounded a bit sad.

"Oh Gods sweetie, I'm sorry. Have you told him that, I mean, he loves you I know. I doubt he'd want you to feel bad or guilty," Mindy felt bad for not knowing how the homecoming had been for her friend.

"I don't want him to feel bad either, so I haven't said anything. I mean we talked last weekend about missing mom. And coming home, that was pretty rough especially this house. Dad stays here because of her. Like he's holding on. Clark says to let him alone, let him deal his way," Cleo sounded unsure.

"Honey, I don't um know what to say. I'm sorry. You know, if you need space, like to get away, I've got a couch. I've also got errands to run. Like if I go skiing its most of the day, you could come over and just chill if you need a space to do that. Hey and I've got the internet at home, imagine. Only you might have to promise dad that I'm computer clean you know, fib a little and tell him I'm not a user," Mindy smiled.

"I might just take you up on that snow bunny. That's really sweet."

"Anytime Cleo, anytime. I didn't know, I mean we haven't really talked about it."

"Yeah, yeah I know. I just got outta here as fast as I could. Didn't want anything to do with here, my mom you know. I spent a lot of time running Mindy. It's tiring. And this, its slow. Looking at pictures and stuff, dad didn't change anything. Like I don't know, she's so still here. I wish she were for real, that never goes away, no matter where I live," Cleo was sounding truly sad.

"Damn snow. I'm sorry Cleo, I'm so sorry. God I know that's lame," Mindy felt so bad not knowing what to say.

"Nah, its not. Thanks for letting me talk. Sorry to be such a downer. I didn't mean to get all like this."

"Cleo, honey, I'm here for whatever you need to talk about. This is for real and well, that you'd trust me enough to share with me, thank you. Please don't be sorry, I'm not," Mindy wished she could hug her friend.

"Thanks, you're the best Mindy. I'm gonna have to keep you around snow bunny. And this snow means maybe we get to go shooshing ourselves, maybe in March?"

Mindy rolled her eyes about weather, "You never know, later this month even, but dang that's only a few weeks away," she was glad they were still in friendship mode and that the kiss hadn't made Cleo run for cover.

"I'd say time flies but not so much this month for me. Anyway have you decided are gonna buy undies or are you doing a load this weekend?"

Mindy chuckled, "Hmmmmmmmm, springs coming, maybe I need pastels. And if I buy, then there's more to do during my washer dryer appointment and I can really feel like I'm sticking it to my rat landlord."

"You know that's crazy yet makes so much sense, I vote for buying too. Save the quarters for cappuccino money maybe."

"So I guess I'll see ya Monday. Call me when you can break from the dungeon."

"Ugh, don't remind me Mind. The only bright spot in the days of the dungeon is you."

"Honey, I may not work in a dungeon but you are definitely the brightest part of the day for me."

Mindy hung up wishing there wasn't any snow, but thinking it was probably best, she had to remember they were just friends, kiss or not.

Cleo hung up wondering if she should drive to Mindy's apartment snow or not, but decided it might be best to wait for Monday.


Monday through Friday came and went with emails, phone calls, and lunch a few times.

February could have cold mornings and warm days, so Mindy dressed in layers on Weds. There was an email from Cleo first thing as always.

"I'm driving, its warm, how about Quizno's again, we can eat on their patio?"

As they parked Cleo eyed Mindy, looked at the clock and eyed her friend again but said nothing. Mindy's response was an evil squint and a shake of her head.

There were several people in line already at the sandwich shop and Mindy eyed the line, eyed Cleo and eyed the line again. Cleo's response was the same as Mindy's about the clock.

They sat down in the sunshine and Mindy took off her sweater to reveal a peach long sleeve T-shirt and she was wearing a chain with a key at the end of it. She saw the look she was getting from blue eyes.

"Oh, just um, since I have no idea what its all about, Thank You, I just wanna be ready," Mindy's face looked like she wanted to stick her tongue out at her friend.

Cleo smiled and nodded eyeing her friend out of the corner of her own eyes but said nothing.

"You know, those flowers were really nice Cleo. They're still alive but a few are beginning to show signs of their last days. Would you be willing to take a picture with me before they go?"

Cleo's smile seemed incredibly pleased, "You bet."

"Caroline bugs me everyday about the key. Has she asked you herself?"

"Nope," Cleo looked a bit smug as she saw that the suspense was really getting to her friend.

"Okay, so you know its killing me, thanks. Is that it, there's like nothing to the key, you just wanna see me squirm."

Cleo looked hurt, "Now Mindy, would I do that to you.........." she quickly held up her hand, "Wait, don't answer that. Let's just say, the key definitely fits something."

"Oh, another suggestive hint. Am I suppose be on a hunt and I don't know it," Mindy looked a little irked.

Cleo smiled broadly then looked in the air as if pondering, "Well that might be fun to watch, but um no snooping necessary. Patience is a virtue my friend."

"I'm a lesbian; most people think virtue and lesbian are opposite terms. Just ask Darla."

"She's not most people thank God. It's just not time yet Mind. But with warm weather we're getting there."

"Great another veiled clue?"

"Nope, just light at the end of the tunnel," Cleo chuckled.

They finished lunch with no more mention of the key and the next day Penny was pleased to take their picture with the flowers.

Cleo watched her friend as she put the flowers back, then addressed the picture taker, "Penny, do you think I'm being too hard on Mindy. Should I just give her what fits with the key and all that goes with it, or do you think she can handle the unknowing for a while longer."

Mindy looked at both a little surprised.

"I would think that's up to you Cleo. You seem to have a method to your madness. The flowers were so thoughtful. I don't know about Mindy, but it seemed lovely that instead of a large bouquet coming all at once, there was a gift each day to look forward to. Had it been me I would have enjoyed that much more," she smiled the smile of a true lady and looked warmly at Mindy, "And again, if it were me, I'd be very curious, but also delighted that the same person who gifted me each day rather than one fell swoop, was also choosing to reveal the rest in a time she felt was best."

Mindy looked very regretful, "See Cleo, you gave the flowers to the wrong person," she rolled her eyes and shook her head.

Penny chuckled, "Oh, I'd leave the flowers part for me to my husband dear. Enjoy," Penny looked at both and walked out of the room back to her desk.

Mindy seemed uncomfortable and was deliberately not looking at the dark haired form so Cleo took her hand gently and Mindy looked up a bit unsure, "The flowers were for you honey, not Penny. And you can blame the wait on the weather. I promise, its coming, hang in there, k," Cleo kissed her hand.

Mindy just didn't know what to make of her tall friend she looked a bit self conscious not sure how to take the gesture and Cleo held her gaze for a long moment then squeezed her hand, "Its back to the dungeon for me. Can I um, have a copy of that picture my friend?"

" always looks different printed than it does on this small screen, but I think we got a good one," Mindy smiled still unsure and Cleo took her leave.

Mindy had left it to Cleo to mention the kiss but it hadn't happened and they continued as friends, Mindy telling herself that's all that Cleo wanted, but then the woman went and kissed her hand. She was gonna have to call Dee Dee at some point. But the rest of the week they continued as the friends they were comfortable being. Friday they confirmed that Saturday's washer/dryer and side of dinner was a go.

Though it was set for late afternoon and dinner, Cleo called and Mindy went down about 1:30pm. They ended up doing errands together, grocery shopping, car washing, and finally rented some movies before Mindy even got into the house.

When she did, she noticed it was indeed just as though Cleo's mom hadn't left, everything was exactly where it had been. Cleo's room was a little bit bare, there was a college of pictures from Hawaii, the Tim McGraw poster, a surf board in the corner and a few beautiful shells on Cleo's dresser. There were also pictures taped to her mirror. There was a close up of the two of them sitting on the couch after a game laughing at the antics of someone not seen in the picture; Mindy had the same one up on her wall at work. There were a few others of them together and different group pictures of friends from high school and Mindy smiled when she noticed she was in every one of them.

Cleo came up beside her and put a hand on her shoulder pointing to the close up, "Remember this."

"Are you kidding, I thought it was so funny that Jake lost the bet to Crunch and got caught by your mom mooning us. God his ass was white."

Cleo laughed for a long moment, "Did I tell you, I overheard my mom talking to dad about it and that's kinda what she said only it was, his ass was even whiter than yours honey. I almost laughed out loud it was so surprising, but it wasn't my fault their door wasn't completely closed and I was just headed for the bathroom."

Mindy laughed, "Gods Cleo, that wasn't a story I needed to hear before I have dinner with your dad. Where is he?"

"I don't know, working on a friends car no doubt. He'll be here for dinner, knows its spaghetti and he says I make it like mom."

Cleo still had her hand on Mindy's shoulder and so Mindy tried to look around without moving, "Um, you're right, a little sparse. We gotta go shopping, this is bad honey, the only thing on the shelves is dust practically."

"What's wrong snow bunny you don't like my dust bunny decor," Cleo put her arms around her friend in a warm hug and put her cheek on Mindy's hair.

"It leaves a little to be desired sweetie.................." Mindy paused looking into beautiful blue eyes that were looking into hers using the mirror as they stood with Cleo's arms wrapped around her. It was a long warm moment; Cleo closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, holding her friend with no sign of letting go. Mindy felt very much needed at that moment and enjoyed the long embrace. Finally Cleo seemed reluctant, but kissed the top of Mindy's head sweetly and released her walking to the door and turning back around.

Mindy wasn't sure what to say, looking at the tall form who was busy looking around the room, in fact it seemed she was looking maybe anywhere but Mindy, so the blonde decided on continuing with the lack of decorations, "I don't know honey, I mean the high school stuff has got to have been better than this," Mindy rolled her eyes and waved a hand around the room.

Cleo was clasping the door frame casually with both hands, "Nah, it didn't feel right, this doesn't either, but well, I just haven't decided what to do. Plus, I'm scrimping where I can so I can afford a place of my own as soon as possible you know," Cleo shrugged.

"So you're gonna go with bleak until you can get your own place, um that's a lot a bleak."

"Bleak's depressing true but not expensive. I don't know, I'd like to bring a little color into my space but, well like I said, it ain't cheap," Cleo looked stuck.

"Well is thrifting still too expensive?"

Cleo looked puzzled.

"Sometimes you can find things at a thrift shop for cheap and if you're creative, well, it's got to be a bit better than this, unless, it's top dollar or bleak for you, no other options."

"I guess I'm lacking the creative gene Mind."

Mindy looked warmly at her poor friend and brightened, "I might be able to come up with a creative gene or two. So you and me Thrifting say tomorrow or next weekend, deal," she stuck her hand out.

"Sweeeeet deal," Cleo beamed as they shook on it.

Mindy almost had to sit down, that 100 watt was hard to take.

Cleo cocked her head, "Hey hold on there interior decorator, someone's birthday is next weekend. You're not spending it in thrift stores. You have plans?

"My sister called and I put her off, told her maybe had plans for skiing but an evening thing could be arranged," Mindy didn't look too thrilled, "I can handle one night of kids whining and mommy yelling. I'm so bad, terrible Aunt. But they are brats, pure through and through spoiled brats. Makes me wonder if kids are ever in my future. I don't know I think I'm way too selfish."

"My cousin Mahri has kids, they're fun, but I can only handle one weekend of Barbi and GI Joe. It'd be different with your own Mindy."

"I know, but I'm not trying the single mom thing, no way. I've had to baby sit a few times and I almost killed em."

Cleo inquired, "So if you don't have other plans, wanna do something Saturday, when are you going to your sisters?"

"It'll be Sunday night, she'll probably ask me to pick up a cake and bring it there, so they can sing happy birthday and the kids can go even more wild on the sugar high," Mindy rolled her eyes.

Cleo looked sad a moment, then smiled sweetly at her best friend, "So what ya wanna do birthday girl, you think it'll be warm weather, you wanna take me skiing?"

Mindy's eyes light up, "If the weather cooperates that would be great!!"

Spaghetti dinner was a hit, movies were enjoyed along with popcorn, Mindy took her laundry home, and the work week started again too early on a Monday morning. Emails were exchanged, breaks were frequent, a few lunches were enjoyed and finally it was Friday.

At 3pm the office door opened up and Cleo came in rolling a stockroom cart in front of her with a birthday cake on it. Penny smiled widely and Cleo gave the shhhhhh signal to Caroline whose desk faced the door while Mindy's was out of view of the door. The cake was quietly rolled into the break area and the one candle was lit, no fire alarms today, and the three of them gathered in front of the cake and began singing happy birthday.

Mindy came peeking around the corner of her cubicle and a smile split her face as she realize what they were doing.

She enjoyed their happy song and when it was over said, "So whose bright idea was this, Penny......." But both ladies pointed at Cleo.

So Mindy smiled and after she blew out the candle and they had cake Mindy walked out the door with her friend.

"Cleo, you're such a sweetie, you're spoiling me you know."

"You're supposed to be spoiled on your birthday honey. Penny helped a lot, she got the plates and napkins and stuff. They both really think a lot of you Mind. Makes me like em."

"I have a really good job here. No one looking over my shoulder, I don't have to watch the clock on these two, it's like the other way around, they're sooooooo much better than me," Mindy rolled her eyes.

"Nah, they're nice, but no ones better than you birthday girl. And we're on for tomorrow. Does it have to be at O dark :30?"

Mindy chuckled, "If you want a good day of skiing, yeah it does.....................Listen, thanks so much. It's nice to be cared about," Mindy gave Cleo a long warm hug that was well received and they both parted a little reluctantly.

"Have coffee ready and toothpicks for my eyes," Cleo teased.

Chapter 8

At 6:30am Mindy smiled at a sleepy face and handed Cleo a french vanilla cup of coffee, "It's not Star Bucks. But I hope I make a passable cup a Joe."

"Why am I awake again," Cleo moaned but managed a smile.

They packed things up and headed to Mt. Rose Mindy saying the bunny hill there was probably less crowded and milder.

"See, proper ski clothes, some good skis and a warm day. If you still hate it after this, you're a lost cause," Mindy teased.

"Trust me, slobbery Rex is the farthest thing from my mind. And even if I don't like it, I'll lie since you're the birthday girl," Cleo promised.

Mindy chuckled, "No lying necessary, if I suspect you don't like it and you're just humoring me, this day'll be crappy. So, whenever you've had enough, say the word and we're outta here, deal?"

"Thanks for the confidence, give me a chance snow bunny," Cleo's tone was playful.

They tromped to the bunny hill and were there before any crowds but Cleo still fell down just trying to get the hang of having long stick things on her feet. Mindy tried not to laugh but Cleo did so herself.

"You know, wipe out in the water is like um less abusive," Cleo was rubbing her behind after the umpteenth fall.

"Come on Miss jock, you're not gonna let a little snow beat ya," Mindy teased, "Besides you're getting the hang of it, you almost made it all the way down the hill."

"Said the princess to the left footed giant. You know you've got less distance to the snow than me, even if you claim you fell a hundred times yourself at first. No way were you as black and blue as I'm gonna be," Cleo light heartedly complained.

"You're gonna be shooshing with the best in no time Cleo; you're such a jock, pretty jock, but a jock."

"Mindy please, you make it sound like I chew tobacco, spit and scratch. Why don't you go have some fun and let my jock ass sit on the ground voluntarily? I'll keep my eyes peeled for a green snow bunny flying down the mountain," Cleo didn't want to keep her friend from enjoying some good skiing.

"I'll take you up on that jockess."

Cleo scrunched her face, "Enough already, the ess is worse. Besides you're the one that can shoosh and me and my said jockness can only manage splat so far. So start shooshing, and let me nurse my black and blue jock butt."

"Well, you can nurse your um bruised parts in the lounge, soft chair, hot coco, or the bar, popular jock hang out," Mindy couldn't help but joke.

"I doubt one beer would cushion the falls and the soft chair and coco would claim me for the rest of the day. I'm not givin up just yet. Go have fun, I'll be fine."

Mindy smiled at her friend wondering if she was just sucking it up on her behalf. She had a few good runs and returned to a more crowded beginner's hill to find two handsome obviously experienced skiers assisting her lovely friend. Mindy shook her head imagining the crowd of testosterone Cleo probably always attracted on a beach in a bikini.

"So, found yourself another instructor huh?"

Cleo beamed at her friend, "Hi sweetie, glad you're back. Vince and Brett were just giving me some pointers. Vince is an instructor here," Cleo looked a little put upon but Mindy wasn't sure.

"Well Vince, I'm sure she's a good student isn't she?"

"She's a natural, told her not to fight it so much. Loosen up some. Tried to convince her we should try a run, but she's been waiting for you."

"So honey, did you have fun shooshing?"

"Yeah, the snow's great today. You know if Vince thinks you should brave it, I'm sure you can with his help. It's pretty sweet up there right now."

Cleo made her way closer to Mindy, "No way cutie, if I brave it, it's with you. But to be honest, I'm ready for a break. Um maybe some hot coco?"

"You were just headed in for a break Brett, I just started. Hope to see you on the slopes soon Cleo, I'll be near by with first aid if you need it," Vince flashed an incredibly good looking smile at the woman.

Cleo managed a smile as the handsome man waved.

They made their way to the lodge stashing their skis, "I'm starving, can I buy ya lunch snow bunny," Cleo looked directly at her friend rather than including Brett who was still tagging along.

"Sounds good, they've got sandwiches and stuff at the bar."

"Yeah, they're hot pastrami is good, I'd recommend it, I'm just gonna grab a quick coke myself," Brett smiled at them both.

Cleo looked back at Mindy and grabbed her hand, "Lead the way my snow bunny."

They found a table and looked at the menus when Brett walked over with his coke, "You two mind if I take a load off for a few minutes. I'm just gonna down some caffeine and it's back to work."

Mindy smiled and looked at her friend who gave a reluctant nod, "Ah, sure."

"So are you two locals or did you fly in for some weekend fun," Brett looked at them both appreciatively and smiled.

"We're from.........."

"The general area. Not too close not too far," Cleo finished for Mindy vaguely.

"I'm from Reno myself. So Mindy, you ski here every season?"

Mindy looked at Cleo unsure but answered, "Ah, yeah, I come here some. More at Heavenly."

"I worked there last year; it was my first time as an instructor. But Vince is a good buddy of mine and convinced me to work here this season. It's not as big and not as many from California up here but there's still first timers like you Cleo? You should let him take you on the slopes, he'll take care of ya, he's good, you'll have fun guaranteed."

Cleo looked at Brett a long while almost until it was uncomfortable then she smiled at Mindy and looked back at Brett, "Vince should concentrate on the first timers that didn't bring their own personal expert. Mindy will take care of me, she always does."

Brett's eyebrows rose, then looked at Mindy, stood up and said with a chuckle, "Don't run us out of a job Mindy. Guess I'd better head back. Have fun, see ya on the slopes," he smiled mostly at Mindy and took his leave.

Mindy looked at Cleo who was looking back at the menu and suspected Cleo had just dismissed to would be followers and reasoned the woman was just sticking close due to birthday status. Cleo looked up, made big eyes at her as the waitress came over and said, "God's I'm so starved, bruises make you hungry."

Their meal ordered and consumed they were headed back to the snow, "Cleo, Vince seems to be interested in helping you and I noticed he's a better looking um expert than me, you sure you don't want a run with him. I'm cool with that you know; I can catch up with Brett and see if he wants to race a lesbian."

"Ah you heart breaker, let him dream honey. Or are you trying to ditch me cause you've seen some nice scenery yourself?"

"Right, like there's better scenery than ............ah, I haven't really noticed, busy skiing. But Vince seems to like the scenery."

Cleo smiled pleasantly looking a moment at her friend through raised eyebrows, then she looked down and back up, "Vince is onto another conquest I'm sure, maybe getting Brett to run interference for him again. But you can ditch me at the bunny hill; I need to warm up anyway."

"I'll keep ya company if that's okay."

They spent a little time on the bunny hill and then braved and real run. Cleo took it slow and wiped out plenty, Mindy beside her all the way. And though Cleo was sore she was game for another run after a breather at the bottom.

They were still seated at some out door tables watching the various people and the mountain skiers. Seated side by side Cleo looked over at Mindy and smiled, then preoccupied with something beyond Mindy's vision Cleo said, "Ah Mindy, we're friends right?

The blonde looked surprised like this comment was out of the blue and said puzzled, "Yeah?"

"I mean friends do friends favors sometimes right?"

Mindy's face registered that she thought this whole thing odd, "Right."

Cleo kept looking over Mindy's left shoulder and she turned to face the smaller form a bit more, "And well, um you being well, since you've already, I mean if it would help me out of a jam, would willing to um, could you kiss me," Cleo leaned in much closer.

Mindy's eyes went wide and Cleo's look became more urgent, "Unless you want Mr. Adonis and good buddy shadowing us today, I thought we could um, yes or no sweetie, they're almost here."

"Oh, ah.........." Mindy was so surprised this was completely unexpected.

Cleo leaned in closer though a bit slowly giving Mindy time to say no to the plan but when she was almost touching the woman's lips and there was no protest Cleo kissed an unbelieving beautiful blonde. This time Mindy was the one slightly surprised but it was again a warm and soft exchange.

Cleo opened her eyes and there was a lingering look between the two though brief, but not moving not too far from Mindy's face Cleo scanned the horizon, "Ah, looks like the message got through this time," blue eyes looked back into Mindy's still not moving and the smaller woman wondered if she was going to get another kiss, "um thanks," now the smile went from warm to a bit self conscious as Cleo moved back a little, looked at the ground and back up a bit shyly, "Apparently no I'm not interested was not clear enough for Golden boy's ego," the tall woman rolled her eyes.

Mindy still couldn't make herself speak but smiled her sentiment of pleasant surprise and held her friends eyes for a long moment.

"Guess, I'm ah fortunate you're such a helpful friend," Cleo was trying to be casual.

Mindy nodded slowly then grinned, "Helpful, yeah, I'm helpful."

This made Cleo blush and she stood up rather quickly, "So, um, are you gonna help me fall down the hill again my expert friend?"

"Sure Cleo, any time you need ah help you can count on me, cause I'm helpful."

They took the lift up the mountain quietly Mindy wondering why Cleo had chosen a kiss to get the message through, there were other alternatives. Cleo seemed to be purposely busy looking at everyone and everything else on the ride up. But as the mountain loomed, they turned attention to the fun of skiing and it seemed to push them both back into the comfortable mode of friendship, though there were still a few long looks and grins at one another.


Finally their snow day was done and they were on their way home.

"So birthday girl, what's on the menu, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Steakhouse, name it," Cleo was headed toward a busy area of town.

"I don't mind dinner Cleo, but you're not buying. Today was expensive enough and you bought me lunch."

"Come on birthday girl, you only turn 24 once. Buying you birthday dinner makes no difference in my quest for my own apartment; it's still too far away."

"You've done enough Cleo, Dutch or Top Romin, your choice."

"Oh God please don't use the noodle words. Never, Never ever again. Dog food would be an upgrade, that's one of the biggest reasons I quit," Cleo shuttered at the thought of the cheap dry packaged soup that she'd live on all too often during college.

They settled on Chili's and they each decided on an order of ribs.

"So what's the verdict, is skiing still better experienced on the couch?"

"Well, if I'm alone on the couch I guess skiing wins," Cleo grinned.

Mindy looked as if pondering what that meant.

"It was fun Mind. I can see that it would be a lot, lot, lot more fun once a person could use the skis to go downhill rather than the butt. I'd like to skip to that part, no more butt skiing. Only guess I'll have to pay my butt tax like everyone else though."

Mindy giggled, "Listen, my taxes were a lot more than yours. So don't complain too badly, Miss Jock."

"Somehow that's not gonna comfort my black and blue backside. If I can't move on Monday, I'm gonna tell Michelle to come see you."

"I recommend a hot bath with lots of bubbles and definitely aspirin."

"Gee, something to look forward to, the couch is looking better and better," Cleo teased.

"I'll never buy the couch potato thing from you Cleo. Kinda surprised you're not playing basketball or on some team for something already," Mindy's tone was inquisitive.

"I'm sure I'll be spending time up in Tahoe this summer, Volleyball probably. But right now, I'm just working on getting settled, believing I'm back home. Reconnecting with old friends," Cleo smiled warmly into blue green eyes.

"So have you looked up anyone besides Darla?"

"Darla was an accident, remember. And most people are away. Like Felicia, she got a scholarship at UNLV playing ball there. We still email. She's been begging me to come visit and think about school down there. Anyone I'd care at all about seeing again isn't here. Jonnie is at Minnesota U; don't hear from her much anymore. But Clark says he thinks she comes home for holidays like Christmas," Cleo shrugged.

"Well, guess I'm lucky no one's around much but me or I probably wouldn't have gotten you on the slopes huh?"

"Nah, shooshing is fun, especially with you. It's hard to live here and not like skiing. I never really gave it a chance plus never had such a good teacher," Cleo winked.

"Yeah, I'm helpful," Mindy couldn't help but say that.

Cleo looked up at her comment then looked around the room and back at her plate obviously not sure what to say, then excused herself, "You know, I need to ah hobble to the restroom, be right back."

Then it was Mindy's turn and when she got back she asked if they should get going.

"Let's have coffee or coco, Ooooo have you had Irish coffee, its really good?"

The coffee came with a piece of cheese cake and the restaurants servers singing a round of happy birthday.

"Cleo, thanks for skiing with me. It was fun, made my birthday weekend a lot better than it would have been."

Cleo asked, "So you going to your sisters tomorrow?"

"Yeah, I think. She's gonna call me tomorrow about what time. We're having dinner; it'll probably be her ordering pizza."

"I hope it's not too whinny."

"You and me both. I feel bad you know, I should be happy to go see my niece and nephew instead of dreading it. I'm too selfish."

"Hey, stop talking like that about my Mindy friend."

"You don't have a nerf ball in you're pocket do ya," Mindy smiled.

"Listen not liking whinny kids isn't selfish, it's sane. I like playing with kids but not the whining and the gum in the hair, the arguing, and the not being able to go to the bathroom without a knock on the door, geesh."

Mindy rolled her eyes, "So what about you Cleo, is the kid thing in your future, handsome guy, white picket fence, or should I say beach house?"

"Definitely not the desert, Gods. You know my body needs that hot bath, can we think about going?"

As they were driving home, "You sound like your stay here won't be long," Mindy wasn't surprised.

"It'll be as long as me and my dad need to reconnect and heal I guess. The healing part, that's not so fun. But I know its necessary, gotta find peace before I can find that beach house."

"I'm sorry honey. Have you and he talked any more?"

"You know Mind; he hasn't changed a thing in their bedroom either. I've stayed away from it you know, but had to go in there the other day to use the restroom. God, I got out of there as quick as I could. But it felt like running again. Its just man, her clothes are still in the closet, her perfume, her hair brush, like she's still there or he's waiting for her return," Cleo shook her head frustrated.

"Wow, I'm sorry sweetie. Wish I could do something, I'm sorry."

"I talked to him some. We both said we needed to work on things. I was surprised cause it's the first time he really said much about her except how I look like her, or how I talk like her and you know."

"My offer stands you know, if you need some space, you can crash on my couch, surf the net or watch skiing on TV. I've got plenty to do to keep me outta your hair."

"Hmmmmmmm, yeah I can see how you think you're sooooooo selfish, offering me your space, vacating your house so I can chill, wow, you're so shallow."

Mindy chuckled, "Okay, okay, you can nominate me for Sainthood, but I think they might vote for Mother Theresa first."

"Well, I'll hold off on the nomination so they won't fight over who should come first. Seriously, thanks for being there honey. It's good to know I can just call or crash you know. I really appreciate it. You're a keeper," Cleo smiled.

"I know, a real helpful friend. I wonder if Vince found someone to help him out?"

"No doubt."

"You can't blame me for asking, what is your type Cleo. Not Kent, not Jake, not Vince, are you into computer nerds or something?"

Cleo laughed, "I've hung out with them all Mindy, nerds, jocks, military WhooAhhh, surfers, players, intellects, dreamers, I even went out with some. But I just went out with them didn't seriously date except one guy. We were friends more though, Clyde. My sophomore year, we were buds, and when I quit school we were still buds. We dated about a year ago for like 5 months. He surfs and he's kind of bookie, he'll graduate this summer with a Bachelors. He's fascinated with other cultures and is saving money to travel. Wants to go to New Zealand and study the Maori tribes there for his Masters. He's a good guy, but well, I guess it wasn't meant to be. He still emails me, we're still friends, that's what we're best at I guess."

"You talked about him some; I think you said he's a good conversationalist. Can talk about a lot of different things. So um, you like sports with a brain huh?"

"Sports are not essential, but the brain part helps all the other parts I've learned," Cleo chuckled, "And you what's your type, Dee Dee anywhere close?"

"Ah, not so much. Great friend, but um not into anything too consistent. Variety is her spice of life I guess."

"Okay, so not Dee Dee. You like um snow bunnies?"

"Snow bunnies, Gods, you and snow bunnies. I guess my type is well someone I can trust, someone who is sweet and thoughtful, someone who makes me laugh and feels comfortable. Sound boring?"

"Sounds warm and nice. So ah, is it true, do lesbians own stock in U-Haul?"

"Ha, some of them for sure. But not all, some of us hang onto independence a little tighter. Dee Dee says its cause I haven't met the right one and when I do I'll be a stock holder. I don't know, it takes time to trust I think, so they're not on speed dial," Mindy joked.

As they pulled into her apartment complex Mindy was surprised, "God, usually I hate that trip. Can't get home fast enough, long drive. But then I'm usually alone, thanks for the company. Thanks for the whole day Cleo or I guess I should say for the last several weeks. First flowers and now skiing. For what it's worth, I'm really glad you're back at least for a while. I missed you. Emails are cool, but nothings better than the real deal. Skiing with you was the best birthday gift I could of gotten, thanks sweetie, I know it was expensive. Lunches are on me for a while, k?"

"Hmmmmmmm, we'll see beautiful birthday girl."

She helped Mindy with her skis and the apartment door. Cleo gathered her in a big warm embrace. Mindy got that same feeling as when they were in front of the mirror and Cleo again took in a deep breath and didn't show any sign of letting her go. So Mindy stayed put wrapped up in long arms, and noticed a rather fast heart beat from the tall woman.

After a time she heard, "Skiing was fun; remind me on Monday that I said that. And bring the Ben Gay or the Icy Hot," the woman chuckled softly.

Then she slowly and reluctantly withdrew but before walking to the car she took Mindy's hand and looked deep into her eyes, "Happy Birthday sweetheart," then she kissed a small hand and said, "Thanks for being so um helpful today," she grinned and wiggled her eyebrows then walked to the car.

Before getting in the car Cleo smiled becomingly at the woman standing in the doorway, "Hope tomorrow isn't too bad, good luck."

Mindy managed a smile while she was staring at the gorgeous woman wondering what to make of their friendship. As Mindy waved goodbye she was mentally dialing Dee Dee's phone number.

"Girl, I can buy the flowers as friendship, but oh baby, not all the rest. The confetti, the card, what it said, the hearts, and giving you a key. Hell honey she's been flirting with you. Especially today Mindy baby. She did not have to kiss you to get the point across, that's beyond flirting. And kissing your hand, twice. Let me tell ya honey, she was drinkin you in when we were dancing."

"I admit, today was really out there. I mean, friends do a lot of things, but kissing like that, um I just don't know. I mean, I don't want to lose a friend Dee. I need her friendship you know. She's going through a lot right now. She's made it clear this isn't long term being here, that she's here to help her dad and herself, to heal. I get the idea she needs a friend, not romance."

"Look, she needs a friend sure, but Mindy, ain't nobody needed a friend quite like that, you know. Seems like she can't help herself girl. Got you under her skin sounds like."

"Maybe she's confused you know. She needs to be loved in this difficult time and its just turning into more than she maybe understands. Maybe she just likes flirting. Not really like that in school but people change. Maybe she is curious, but I don't want to be an experiment, not with her. I don't want to lose a friend that way," Mindy sounded very concerned.

"Now Mind, you know me, I'd give her as much TLC as she wanted baby. But with you, well you need to get down to it you know, be honest, tell her you need to know what's happening."

"What if she gets defensive or offended or embarrassed and we like don't talk much after that. I still think I shouldn't say anything yet. If she kisses me again okay, but I just want to be careful," Mindy sounded a bit at a loss.

"Listen, blue eyes can take honesty. You can be all sensitive like you do, but honey; you got a right to know. She's got to understand, normal friends don't act the way you two carry on. Hell, I saw the attraction right away, but didn't want you to break my arms. So I was cool. But now, Mindy, you need to bring it up baby, gentle like you do so sweet and all. Hell me, you know I'd tell her to spill it," Dee Dee sounded frustrated with the gentle approach.

"We'll see."

"Girlfriend, I know I like the ladies. But ain't no way anyone would say different. You should call Pemmy. You know she's a straight shooter honey. Damn if she wouldn't say the same thing. With all that's happened, Pemmy, anybody would say the same, she's into you. You just need to know how come and how much girl."

"I'll keep you posted. And I might just call Pemmy. I don't know. For now Cleo needs a friend and that's what I plan on being," Mindy sounded fairly certain.

"You gonna kill me girl. Don't make me come down there and interrogate gorgeous."

"I'd definitely break something Dee."

"Oh baby, I know you would, you bruised my arms. I should a took pictures, sued for assault and battery."

"You're right without pictures, you're just whining."

"OOUCH. Damn what I take from you short stuff. Talk to blue eyes, I only have so much patience. Sweet dreams and um definitely do all I would do with gorgeous in those dreams baby," Dee Dee chuckled.

"You're hopeless. I'll call you, pet Banjo for me, love you bye."

The whining was prevalent and dinner was soggy pizza from Domino's, she even had to pay for the cake herself and get the kind the kids liked, bubble gum frosting wasn't her idea of a happy birthday cake. Mindy wanted to drop by Cleo's and say hi but she decided she needed the time, Monday was soon enough to see the beautiful woman who kept kissing her.

She had a big surprise when she opened her door. In the middle of the living room there were pink rose petals surrounding a large awkwardly wrapped birthday gift. There was also a smaller box on top of the large package wrapped in the same paper. And though there was no card the pink petals made her know it was Cleo.

She had introduced Cleo to her next door neighbor yesterday morning. The woman next door was a sweet old lady, who had a key to everyone's apartment because she'd been there so long. There wasn't a landlord on the premises but the older woman had a master key. Mindy had a few occasions to use that key over the last few years and she reasoned that must be how Cleo gained access to her apartment.

Mindy tore open the large package first and it was a pet carrier. She noticed the lock on the front and got out her key, sure enough the key fit. Inside was a book, Dog's for Dummies. The smaller package was actually only smaller in comparison to the carrier; it contained an entire pink ski outfit, complete with goggles, gloves, socks and a head band. Mindy looked but there was no card. She couldn't believe how much money Cleo must have spent on her birthday, the ski day, the carrier, the outfit, all was a pretty price tag, especially for someone scrimping to get her own place.

She just sat there and thought of all that had happened since Cleo had come back. Mindy had never received so much attention in her life. She felt so spoiled and she thought of those blue eyes, how many times they seemed to look deeply into her own. She cried, wanting so badly to believe this was because Cleo felt something more than friendship. She wanted to be loved; she wanted to feel those arms around her in a warm embrace, a place of belonging, a safe place. But Mindy told herself it couldn't be true, she was afraid to let herself believe this straight woman could have any intentions other than friendship. Granted this seemed over the top but best friends did really nice things for each other.

Mindy wanted to call Cleo, but she was too emotional. She didn't want to put the woman on the spot and ask her what their relationship was. Tomorrow would be better, it was work and she promised herself it would be easier to keep the friendship in the proper perspective. The night didn't hold a lot of sleep for Mindy and Monday morning was always too early.


Penny greeted her boss with a very warm smile, like that of a mother, a knowing mother. Mindy squinted wondering what was behind those wise eyes, "Hello sweetie, Caroline said the morning sickness was just too much for her today, so it's just you and me."

Mindy sighed, "How do you ladies do it? God, I'm gonna adopt, I just know it."

Penny just smiled and Mindy trudge to her desk where there was perhaps an answer to such a look from Penny.

There were a dozen pink roses waiting for her along with another present on her desk wrapped in the same paper her gifts of last night came in. The card was a beautiful picture that had been painted of a bunch of red ruby roses with a single pink rose in the middle and inside was written, "It would be a shame to enjoy walking among the loveliness of roses and miss the presence of beauty. I pray I never do. Happy Birthday Beautiful. Love Cleo"

She opened the present and it was a beautiful silk scarf amazingly the same rose pink as the color of the single rose on Valentines. The note on it said, "For some reason Mindy, you just remind me of pretty in pink. You never wear it, well seldom, and when you do it just fits you somehow. I've never been a fan of pink, but on you, it seems the prettiest of colors. I hope you like the scarf."

Mindy was amazed so much so that she just sat there and stared. She thought again of all that had come to her life since Cleo arrived. She didn't want to lose a friend but she decided that it was all just too much and she'd have to talk with Cleo, find out what was really behind all this. The presents, the choices, the words, the kisses, the looks, the affection, whatever it meant, she would hear it directly from Cleo, no games. This time Dee was right. But she didn't want it to be at work. So she decided to see if they could maybe chat after work, and she opened her email.

Mindy sent a message, "Cleo, I'm a little overwhelmed. It's all so nice and I love everything. You have spoiled me beyond spoiled. Thank you sweetie, thank you, thank you, thank you. Are you jetting off to home right away tonight or can we grab a coke, or even dinner or something, my treat of course?"

She didn't hear back from her friend right away and reasoned it was a busy Monday morning. But by 10 am she wondered and gave a phone call. She learned that Cleo had called in to say she had a family emergency and would call later in the day to give an update.

Mindy was alarmed and dialed Cleo's home phone but got only the answering machine. She worried about her friend and was trying not to be hurt that she hadn't been called by the woman. Mindy had a really hard time concentrating on work and finally at 12:11 the phone rang, "Hi honey. Sorry I haven't called sooner. My Aunt Glennis is in the hospital, she had a heart attack."

"Oh, no sweetie, no, your dad's sister right?"

"Yeah, he's pretty shaken up. We're at Washoe Med. It happened like at 4am in the morning. She's in ICU. I don't know Mind, I don't know, its touch and go. So I probably won't be there tomorrow either. We'll see."

"Wow, Cleo, I'm sorry sweetie. Is Clark with you?"

"Yeah, he was in the morning, but he had to go check in at work. Not the immediate family you know. Michelle has been cool. I just know my dad needs me and so I'm not budging."

"Well yeah, can I do anything? I am so sorry."

"We're stuck at the hospital for now. I hope we can go home and get some rest. Her daughter's here, I don't know them a lot, but some. Anyway, dad's here and as long as I can be I will be," Cleo sounded pretty tired.

"Call me if I can do anything honey, and updates and well if you just need to talk. I'm here. You've got my cell, so you can call anytime," Mindy hurt for Cleo.

"Thanks honey. I will. Love you. Call you later k?"

"Yeah, take care; give your dad my love."

It was 5:30pm when her cell phone rang, "Hi," Cleo sounded exhausted.

"Dad wouldn't leave the hospital but I had to come home and sleep. She was okay when I left. I'm going to bed. I'll call you later okay?"

"Sure honey, you rest. Don't worry bout me. Call when you need to. I'm here."

"Thanks, wish you were here, I could use a hug."

"By the time I got there, you'd be deep asleep. But I can come whenever you want."

"I know, I'll call you tomorrow probably. Night sweetie."

"Hugs Cleo get some sleep."

Mindy decided to make a casserole and a meatloaf and take it down to her friend when the time was right maybe the next day.

It was 10:30am, "Hey honey, how you doing, you sound a lot better."

"I convinced dad to go home and sleep as well as my cousin. I'm at the hospital. She's holding her own, but it's still iffy."

"Listen honey, I made some food. You think I can take it down at lunch time or should I wait till tonight, I don't wanna wake anybody."

"You are sooooooo wonderful sweetheart. I love you. Um, there's no way you can get to Gardnerville and back at your lunch so wait till tonight."

"No, if you think I won't wake them up, I can take some extra time at lunch no problem."

"You are too beautiful. If you want to, but you can wait," Cleo sounded so grateful.

"How bout I take off at like 3pm. I hope that's not too late. Call me if they're not gonna be at home," Mindy was so glad she could do something.

"You are so great, I'll call. I love you. Have a good day."

Mindy took the food and they were very grateful. She wanted to see Cleo really bad but didn't want to intrude. She sent her well wishes and prayers and went home. Cleo called that evening tired again giving profuse thanks, she said she'd see Mindy the next day.

Weds morning she had an email, "Tired but here. You make incredible meatloaf. Who the hell likes meatloaf? I didn't till I had yours. Wow. Thanks sweetie."

"Meatloaf has a bad rep. Glad you liked it. Hang in there. Is your dad at the hospital?"

"Yeah, I'm going there tonight after work."

Mindy got another email later in the day, "Mindy, you know, I would love to see you today, but if I did, I'd fall apart. I mean I'm trying to hold it together. But I know if I saw your sweet face I'd just bust up you know. So no offense, but can we keep it to emails today or I'm not gonna make it."

"Sure honey, whatever you need. I don't want to make it worse. I'm here for whatever. Have you heard anymore?"

"It's still the same, no change. Thanks for understanding. At some point you're gonna have a messy friend on your hands."

"No problem honey, I'm short but got big shoulders."

"Counting on it. P.S. Glad you like the flowers and stuff. Take a rain check on dinner k?"

"Don't worry bout that. You're families what counts."

"You count too sweetie, don't you think different. Thanks for being so good to me."

"That's um my line," Mindy smiled at her monitor.


The week passed with emails and updates and phone calls. Mindy made more food and had Penny take it down to Cleo on Friday.

There was an immediate email from Cleo, "Um, you keep this up and I'm gonna ask you to marry me just so I can have your wonderful cooking. And here I thought I was big stuff making spaghetti. Thanks for humoring me."

"I wasn't humoring you, I loved your spaghetti. And I'll take another side of if with my next washing. Oh and I'm not sure cooking is a reason to get married, but um thanks for the thought, it's the closest I've ever gotten to a proposal," Mindy had wishful thoughts.

"I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd propose if those snow bunnies got a taste of your talent with food. I'll call you this weekend, I'm hoping for a change. The docs say the longer the better but no guarantees. Thanks again beautiful, I love you."


Saturday Mindy sent flowers and a get well card and Sunday was a good phone call, "You are too sweet Mindy. I can't believe you. We're still not outta the woods but she woke up. The docs say it's a good sign. I'm catching up on some sleep and I think I've gained weight Miss Chefy."

"You'll chase off any pounds soon enough. We'll go skiing again."

"Not anytime soon, I'm still bruised some on my butt. God's you gotta really love skiing or the person your with I guess. Its brutal honey."

"Oh, and having to wrap your knee, getting clobbered in the face fighting for a rebound and being whapped by monster waves, that's just a walk in the park compared to skiing," Mindy's tone wasn't quite as sarcastic as her words.

"Ouch, you um got my number huh? Hmmmmmmm, good thing you're so adorable."

"Short has its advantages," Mindy was grinning.

"Ha ha. I love you. I'm ah gonna catch some Z's. See ya tomorrow."

"Sweet dreams."

Monday mornings still had the ungodly early quality but Mindy was hoping see ya tomorrow wasn't just a phrase. She smiled at the cappuccino on her desk, the email said, "Monday's can we skip em. Morning beautiful. Hey do they make decaf cappuccinos? I've heard tons about how bad caffeine is for ya and well, I'm puttin you on notice, I'm determined to detox your veins honey. We can start slow, like only ¾ cup a cap for like a week, then the next week we back off to like half a cup and the next week a ¼, you get the idea. I know I've got a lotta nerve but well, there could be lots at stake you know. So humor me."

"Oh my God, you want me to face Monday morning without the caffeine jolt. Caroline will hurt you, you know."

"I'm tough. It's worth it. Hey see ya at 3pm break?"

Cleo came in at 3pm with a sign hanging around her neck, it was a coffee cup with a red slash thru it and she went down on her knees clasping her hands in front of her and sticking her bottom lip out as far as possible.

Mindy rolled her eyes, "Caroline, see, I told ya she was serious."

"Listen Cleo, can this wait till I'm on maternity leave," Caroline looked desperate.

Cleo sighed, "Is it really that bad, I mean, I'll need to sample a full blown Monday morning."

"Fine, but I'm gonna have to hide you in a corner so she doesn't put on a good front cause you're here."

"I am not that bad, God, like I have a whip or something," Mindy protested.

Cleo got up off her knees and pulled Mindy into a hug looking at Caroline, "You should know, I'm a bit protective of this one. Kinda my favorite person and all."

"No kidding," Caroline smiled and looked back at her monitor.

Cleo's grasp was warm and almost strong, she didn't let go very soon and though they were at work, Mindy didn't care. Cleo took a deep breath again and cleared her throat after a moment, "Okay my adorable short friend, I better get back."

Cleo pulled away quickly and turned towards the door without looking at Mindy, but stopped before she left and looked in the blonde's direction briefly, her voice cracked, "See ya tomorrow, honey," then she left.

The next morning there was a Frappuccino and an email, "Hi you. Well Aunt Glennis is awake and has even eaten some bland broth. My cousin has probably taken her first breath in this whole time and I think my dad has a glimmer of hope. But again we aren't out of the woods. I'm tired and I was wondering if you have a good stock of Kleenex and a few spare hours this weekend."

"As much Kleenex as you need and as many hours as you want sweetie," Mindy was worried about her friend. Cleo needed a long good cry and she was still trying to hold on.

"Thank you beautiful, wonderful friend of mine. I, well, I think I'll skip the hug today. Sorry but I'm just can't, not yet."

"You know whatever you need," Mindy felt bad that Cleo was straining so hard.

"I love you Mindy."

Mindy looked at the monitor, she knew that Cleo said this as a friend, and she would be that for Cleo, but Mindy also knew her own heart had become too involved and she was in trouble.


The Aunt improved over the week, not fully recovered but the doctors were finally optimistic. There were many emails but no personal visits. Mindy understood, but she hurt about it too. She wanted to be there for her friend but consoled herself that this emailing was how Cleo needed that friendship.

Friday came and when she walked out to the car a tall woman was waiting.

"Hey you. Are you um busy tonight," Cleo sounded tentative.

"Yeah, washing my hair," Mindy grinned.

"Really, which one, you've got so many."

They grabbed a bite to eat and went back to Mindy's.

Cleo was quiet yet seemed nervous, "Do you have movies, like a chick flick or something?"

Cleo selected Forest Gump.

Mindy giggled, "We need a box of chocolates."

Cleo smiled, "Nah, just that Kleenex you promised."

Mindy brought out several boxes of extra soft Kleenex and when Forest's mom died, Mindy had her hands full of a deeply sad woman. Cleo was right; she needed a lot of Kleenex and many hours.

Through the tears Cleo talked about her mom.

"At first I was numb you know. I wanted to just leave, get away. Mom had left, she had said goodbye, she apologized, made me promise to love my dad and brother, told me over and over again how proud she was of me, how much she loved me, and then she died. I didn't want to be mad, but I was. I hated life you know. I wanted to get away from it, and I did. I ran, went to Hawaii to forget and remember. It was weird. Like if I was there, she was closer somehow, and I could just live my life somehow away from the reality that she was really dead. It seemed like I left it back here. But eventually it came, the knowing, she was gone. It was good to be there with my Aunt then, cause it cushioned it some. I quit school cause I couldn't concentrate. I cried a lot at the beach, somehow that was closer to my mom and not. I mean here, here, it's the final deal you know. No more running, this is where she died, it's not distant, across the ocean. Hawaii is so much where she lived, grew up. Here, here is where she died. Here is where my life ended with her. She's really really gone. And I think my dad feels it too. Its time. No more running......................"

Cleo wept and Mindy held her gently, kindly, firmly, though she couldn't help but be a little jealous. If her mom died, she wasn't sure how soon she'd be notified and she wouldn't grieve the loss really, not the loss of life, more the loss of never really having a mom who deeply deeply loved and cared for her.

Cleo talked and Mindy listened. She slept and Mindy held her. The next morning Cleo cried more and Mindy held her again. After a shower, Cleo came and sat down with her friend, "Mindy, I'm so tired. Can we drive? Can we like go up to Tahoe and drive around the Lake?"

"Honey, you really are wiped out if you're asking me to drive. But I swear, I'll be so careful, I promise."

She was and Cleo didn't even notice. There were hardly any words during the whole trip, Cleo seemed in a different place staring out the window, but definitely not seeing the scenery, she wasn't in the present time. And still Mindy was there in every moment. They came back to the apartment and Cleo looked deep into pretty eyes out of blue eyes blurred with red, "I think I need to go home honey. Will you come with me?"

Mindy spent the rest of the weekend there; she cooked supper and breakfast and supper again. They went to the park, held hands and talked about school, about some memories of Cleo's mom, about her dad and what to do with him, how to help him, about work, about skiing. Mindy held Cleo at night too, being there as her friend. And on Monday morning Mindy drove them to work where they'd left Cleo's car all weekend.

In the afternoon she got an email, "You are the absolute best Mindy. I love you. Thank you for helping me through this. I know its not over, I know there's more still. But I think maybe there's light at the end of this tunnel. You are so amazing; I couldn't have survived this without you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you my friend. See ya tomorrow."

Cleo went to lunch with Brenda most of the week, though the emails were frequent and the breaks were at least once a day. Mindy didn't hear from the woman that weekend and the next week was much the same. Though they did do lunch, it was with Brenda and Michelle. The following weekend Cleo was busy helping with getting her Aunt settled back home and Mindy only heard from her once. She knew the weekend of sorrow was intense and understood the need Cleo likely had of pulling back some. But it hurt a bit. There was so much emotion she understood Cleo needed a break, though they were still best friends. Cleo spent time with her dad and there was more sorrow, and Mindy listened and she wiped away tears and gave hugs, she was as good a friend as she knew how to be. During this time there had been a few moments, Mindy had wondered if Cleo was going to kiss her again, though she hoped not. This was an emotional time of pain, not romance. So those moments passed and they always seemed to resume an easy friendship after an awkward afternoon or even a day.

The Frappuccino was mocha this Wednesday morning and Cleo asked her to lunch so they walked across the street to pick up a burger at Carl's Jr.

"It's so sweet if you to cook in someone else's kitchen honey. You sure you want to do this, I mean we can order a ham and stuff."

"I definitely don't want store bought. It'll be good to cook for people without whining in the background," Mindy looked a bit guilty.

"I'm glad you're spending it with me Mindy. I really am, it means a lot you know. I hope you're okay with it though, if you need to change plans I understand. We could spend time on Saturday," Cleo wasn't sure what Mindy wanted since her family wasn't exactly close and cuddly.

"Hey do you want a chef or not," Mindy grinned.

"The chef part is like icing. I want my friend with me, food or not, you're the one that says it can't be store bought. But if you insist Chefy, you got an assistant. What time should we start?"

"I'm making the potato salad on Saturday. If we're eating at 2pm we should start about 11am, is that gonna be okay with Auntie and everyone," Mindy inquired.

"Sounds good, so you'll have to be to my house at about 10am, k," Cleo grinned and they finished lunch.

The Easter meal was enjoyed by all, Mindy especially since pleasant family meals weren't her normal experience. Cleo drove them back to Gardnerville from Yerington and when Mindy suggested they brainstorm in the bedroom about new décor Cleo smiled and said, Sure, but um, give me a minute before you come back, k?"

Mindy's face was a question but she nodded, Cleo said over her shoulder, "Like a full 60 seconds," and she disappeared down the hall.

Mindy knocked on the closed door at the appropriate time and heard something odd before she heard Cleo say come in.

When Mindy opened the door Cleo was sitting on her bed holding an adorable curly wigglely fur ball. At the new arrival, big chocolate brown eyes looked out of the adorable face of a white haired puppy whose ears perked up and its nose sniffed the air in an inquisitive greeting. And strapped to the back of the puppies back was a homemade heart that said, "Valentine."

Mindy was shocked, surprised, pleased and it all registered on her face as she looked at Cleo unable to say anything. Cleo let go of the furry critter that wiggled toward Mindy.

"Hello, Hello sweetheart, awwww, you're sooooooo cute, Cleo, oh my gosh. Hello," Mindy giggled as she collapsed on the bed with a wiggle worm licking her face.

After puppy and Blondie got more acquainted Mindy sighed and looked at Cleo lovingly, "You are so unbelievable. You've had a plan all along, everything, wow," Mindy shook her head in unbelieving.

"I told you it depended on warm weather, well Spring. I know it's a little early but I kinda fell into this. Free puppy's poster at the vet. Lois knew I was looking and she saw it so I called and have had the puppy since Wednesday."

"You are sooooooo sneaky. It's been amazing, you do things like this in Hawaii," Mindy wondered if all this attention was normal, though she couldn't excuse the kissing.

"Well, I guess I can be full of surprises," Cleo winked at her friend.

"I'll give you that. I guess I better get this one home to my apartment. Yes I should, yes, you are so cute, ouch and your teeth are so sharp. God my apartment is sooooooo not doggie proof," Mindy rolled her eyes.

"Want some help or are you good."

They spent time moving things to higher ground and looking at the book about how to potty train. Cleo had gotten a leash and had been using it since at the apartment near a major street, Mindy would have to use it.

Mindy put the puppy on the leash and they walked Cleo to the car. It was hard to hug each other with a puppy pulling in every direction. But Mindy managed, "I can't thank you enough. I am still so amazed honey. Its fun being spoiled," Mindy reached up and kissed the tall ones cheek and gave a big squeeze while trying not to be pulled away.

Mindy might have gotten another less than platonic kiss if she hadn't been jerked away and Cleo settled for planting one on the cheek while she could, "Good luck honey. Have fun. See ya tomorrow. Bye fur ball, be good for my friend. Let her sleep Monday's are hard enough," Cleo winked.


Monday was a sleepy morning but was helped by a cappuccino and a big long warm hug that again seemed so needed by the tall one. Mindy enjoyed it and by the smile and warmth in blue eyes so did Cleo.

Wednesday there was an email from the tall one, "Just got an email from Clyde. He's from Eugene Oregon and spent Easter with his folks. He's gonna fly down here before going back to school. Guess I'll be showing him Reno this weekend. Should be fun."

Mindy's heart sank. Since the weekend of grieving Cleo had been a little more distant, then lately things were beginning to be very close once again. But there hadn't been quite as many hugs or long looks, flirting and thanks to the dog, no kisses. Now her straight friend was going to spend the weekend with her ex- boyfriend. Mindy looked at the monitor and wondered what would a friend say.

"Wow, sounds fun Cleo. Has he ever been to Reno before?"

"Nah, He thinks they are too typical of America being the land of excess and greed. How bout break?"

"Sorry honey, I'm really busy this afternoon. Maybe tomorrow."

The next day, Mindy got a hug and a warm smile at break.

Cleo's face brightened, "How is Rosie anyway," Cleo grinned at the name.

"Rosie is trying to eat anything she can find. Yesterday it was the wicker trash can by my desk. I put her food down and in minutes it's gone, like she inhales rather than chews," Mindy shook her head with a grin.

"Awww honey hers a puppy. It'll calm down when she's not growing so fast. I need to come see her. I saw your latest picture and wow she already grew I think. She's just too cute. I love her name," Cleo grinned thinking of the full name Valentine Rose Collier.

"She's the best reminder of a really great but really Loooooooong Valentines. You're just too much. I gotta say, I was surprised about the flowers at first but kinda suspected you since I couldn't possibly think of anyone else. And I wasn't shocked about the puppy completely cause of the dog carrier. That's what was the biggest surprise, coming home to find those presents in the middle of the floor. And I couldn't imagine what was in the huge gift. I was also surprised that the ski outfit wasn't um, red," Mindy grinned a bit coyly not caring if she was blushing.

"Ha, ha, I thought about that. It took me a really long time to pick but I don't know, I just kept thinking you'd be so cute in pink flying down a mountain," Cleo raised her eyebrow, "Christmas isn't around the corner, but its coming so don't count out the red."

"I really, really love everything honey. But it's too much you know, this isn't helping you get a place of your own."

"Yeah, I know. But well, I need to be there with dad. This thing with Aunt Glennis, he's trying to stay really busy and I know he's avoiding. I know the feeling. I've been slowly taking things out of his bedroom, hair ribbons, brushes, and a few nick nacks. He's notice cause he's asked me to leave a few specific things. I think he's relieved you know. It's happening slowly and he doesn't have to be the one to do it. I'm making a package for my Aunt," Cleo got a tear in her eye and looked far away taking a deep breath, "anyway; I need to do this too. I'm where I'm supposed to be for now and it's been fun. I didn't know at first if it was fun for you. Seemed like you calmed down after you knew it was me. I just wanted it to be fun and keep you wondering, I thought it was more mysterious. I love roses, so pretty and I love the scent of them, guess they remind me of you. And you um, apparently liked it and that makes me happy."

Mindy looked long at her friend and Cleo looked warmly back, then down at the ground a little self conscious. Mindy just couldn't tell what was up with her friend. She wanted to have that chat, but now with the ex-boyfriend visit coming she didn't know that there should be a chat, but those looks were kind of hard to understand. Maybe Cleo was confused too.

"I ah, should get back sweetie. See ya later," Cleo squeezed her hand and seemed reluctant but left.

Mindy brooded about their friendship but tried to concentrate on work and a new puppy was a great distraction. She needed to call Dee Dee, maybe even talk to Pemmy one of Dee Dee's good friends.

Thursday they went to lunch and she heard more about Clyde. Cleo seemed excited, "Gonna pick him up at 7pm his flight lands. He's pretty excited. He begged me to come home for the holidays with him even before we dated, but I wasn't ready. He mentioned quite often that he would love to come see the area I grew up. Always called me his desert flower. It'll be great to see him. Any plans for you this weekend?"

Mindy lied, "I think I'll spend it with Dee some. She is dying to see poochy," she was planning on calling the woman to see if she could come up and have a long talk with her friend.

"Is she glad you finally got a doggie friend," Cleo smiled.

"Oh, yeah, she's been wanting me to get a dog for a long time. Says she can't live without her Banjo. I lived with Dee Dee a few times a few months each. Banjo is adorable, but um, I'm not quite as into it as Dee. She lets the dog lick her ice cream sometimes before she's done with it and well, there's limits ya know."

Cleo's eyes were a bit unbelieving showing she agreed with Mindy, "Um, Ewwwwwww. Yeah, limits, glad to hear you've got those limits."

"She claims dogs have cleaner mouths than humans, but ah, nah I don't buy it, I've seen where their tongues have been you know," Mindy's face was pinched.

Cleo laughed in agreement.

"So you haven't mentioned Clyde too much, do you get a lot of emails from him," Mindy tried to sound casual.

"He sends like an email a week. Teases me about how good the surf is. He knows it kills me and he loves it the rat. He's working on me to come out for his graduation. We'll see, I want to, I really do. It'd be a full visit though, between his graduation, Aunt Lelah, and Rita. He's in Honolulu, Auntie in Kauai and Rita in Maui; I'd be traveling a lot. I kinda think it'd be good if dad goes. I don't know if I could convince him of it, but it might be good for him, hard but good. Only, I doubt I'll have that much time built up by then. I think graduation is before Memorial Day, I'm not sure. I might go just for a long weekend, only that's a lot a money for a little time. I'll find out this weekend."

"Do you know others graduating?"

"Nah, haven't stayed in touch with folks from college much except Clyde."

"Not everyone can be good friends after they've dated, so you two must get along pretty well."

"I guess the dating thing was and is just bad timing. He's a really great guy," Cleo smiled a bit self consciously.

Mindy suspected there was more to the story and that perhaps the romantic part of the relationship wasn't over. She tried not to feel bad about it and certainly kept her face as impartial as possible.

"Well, maybe your timing will improve in the future, you never know," Mindy kept telling herself that's what friends say, they're encouraging. Friends want friends to be happy.

"Yeah, maybe, but timing isn't everything. Let's not ah come here again. Not my favorite, I don't know why I thought things would of changed. I just didn't want to drive somewhere, thought we'd have more time this way. We did but," Cleo looked dubiously at her unfinished hamburger, "Can't help but long for meatloaf right now," she grinned.

"Next time I make meatloaf I promise to make two, one for you and one for me and Rosie."

"Ohhhhh, now I am full blown envious of Rosie, she gets tons of hugs as it is and now she gets meatloaf too. Wonder if I could grow fur," Cleo looked at her arms and crazy eyed back at her friend.

"Ummm, no, not necessary. Stay away from testosterone pills blue eyes, I'll make you as many meatloafs as you want and hugs are free too."

They were back at work now and before Cleo took the stairs she said, "Consider it a standing order then, meatloaf as often as you want to cook it and hugs, lots and lots and lots of hugs."

Cleo picked her up off the ground playfully in a big bear hug; Mindy's feet dangling and swaying with Cleo's motion. The woman put her gently back down with a dazzling smile, "I'll email ya later sweetie. But tell Dee Dee hi for me," Cleo winked before she began descending.

Mindy walked slowly back to her desk thinking a phone call to Dee Dee right this moment wasn't outta the question so she dialed and got voicemail. The woman was likely at work. She hadn't even told the woman about the puppy cause she knew Dee Dee would have to see the little furry friend immediately and she wanted some time for that, this weekend was looking like the perfect time for it.

The arrangements had been for her to spend the night Friday night and come back home Saturday after Dee Dee took off for work.

Friday afternoon before Dee Dee left for work Mindy showed up with an over night bag packed along with doggie toys, a bed and treats.

"Ooooooo she is too cute. Come here you little doll. Oh she's so adorable, look at those eyes; I'm week in the knees. Banjo, down, I know it's a friend. Come over here........" Dee Dee hadn't even said hello to Mindy.

The woman was introducing the two furry critters being quite protective of the shiatsu puppy mix. And they went out to the patio. Dee Dee lived in a two bedroom duplex, she own both halves. It had originally been a two bedroom home and the other half of the duplex had been added almost like an attached mother in laws quarters. So the back yard had no fence, it was open to both she and the tenant, though it had her furniture and she had plants everywhere and enjoyed gardening. The doggies were getting on well and Dee Dee had to get to work. She was an occupational therapist and worked one weekend a month so she'd also be working tomorrow at hospital.

"Gotta run baby. But you know your way around. Be home at 10:30 if ya wanna wait up," she lightly kissed the blonde on the lips, which wasn't uncommon, and jetted out the door.

Mindy smiled and thought about that kiss, it was nothing like the kisses she'd gotten from Cleo. Dee Dee was a friend; it was like kissing a sister or something. No long looks, no warmth, no lingering moments. The dogs became best buds, though Banjo was a little territorial if it was chow time. She had to feed them in separate places.

Dee Dee came home and threw off her shoes and had some chill time though Mindy was still awake. The blonde was crashing in Patrick's room. He was Dee Dee's on and off roommate. They were cousins and he was off on some adventure, which was not uncommon of him.

"Any word from the wonderer," Mindy smiled as her friend walked into the bedroom.

"Ain't seen him in a moon. You know he's too busy baby, him and his piece of nice gay ass, he's too busy. Though I'm expectin him crawling back home any day. Damn he could a called the cousin, but no, so I ain't worrying. Surprised he hasn't called pleading for cash, must a found a sugar daddy. I do know he's in Phoenix, well he was, who knows now. Whatcha watching short stuff?"

"I love the naked chef, he's got good ideas and they're not so extravagant you can't keep up."

Dee Dee looked interested at the TV then scrunched her face, "Patrick would be disappointed."

"No, he's not into showing the goods despite the title, the only thing naked are the raw fruits and veggies," Mindy grinned.

"You need help baby. Here I got gay porn and all the CD's of the L Word that's come out and you watching cooking shows and people with clothes on," Dee Dee rolled her eyes playfully.

"No use in waking anything like that up you know. The chef is safe," Mindy sounded sad.

Dee Dee plopped on the bed an brushed a cheek, "Come on baby, what's on? Talk to Dee Dee, spill."

So Dee Dee heard about the presents in the middle of the living room, another dozen roses, pretty in pink, the beautiful card and what it said It would be a shame to enjoy walking among the loveliness of roses and miss the presence of beauty. I pray I never do. Happy Birthday Beautiful. Love Cleo, the weekend of sorrow, Easter, the puppy, the long looks, warm hugs, almost getting a kiss but the puppy interfering.

"And so what's the question. Gods baby this gorgeous woman couldn't be more interested in you if you had a penis, huge biceps, facial stubble and your name was George Straight," Dee Dee looked at the girl as if she was touched in the head.

Mindy rolled her eyes and shook her head, she was trying to still pout and not laugh at her funny friend. Then she sobered, "Okay, then you're saying no worries that she's excited about spending the weekend with her ex-boyfriend."

Dee Dee looked surprised and waited for more.

"She is still good friends with her ex Clyde. He emails her like once a week. His family is in Oregon so he's routing his trip back to Hawaii through here so he can see Cleo and where she grew up. I guess meet her dad and brother, whatever. And Cleo seemed excited about it. She might still have feelings for him and I'm mad at myself cause I should be happy for her and all I'm thinking about is me," tears were in Mindy's eyes.

And wisely Dee Dee said nothing, gathering her in loving arms and encouraged her to cry. It felt good to be heard and cared about. And the next morning Mindy cooked breakfast at 11am to Dee Dee's delight and Pemmy's as well since Dee Dee had called in her sensible friend to encourage Mindy.

Mindy was still cooking when her cell phone rang, "Hi Mindy! How are you sweetie?"

"Hi Cleo. I'm good. How's Clyde," Mindy was really surprised to hear from her friend.

"Ah, he's fine. So um did you introduce Rosie to Dee Dee yet?"

"Yeah, and Banjo is in love I think. Only he's not sure about the whole food thing, we need to feed them in separate places. So what's Clyde think about the desert compared to the lushness of Oregon and Hawaii?"

"Oh, um I don't know. So are you spending the whole weekend with Dee Dee," Cleo inquired and sounded a little different than normal.

"No, she's working this weekend."

"Oh, okay, um are you ah busy, I mean, do you have any free time this weekend?"

"Not doing a lot tomorrow, laundry probably. Are you okay? I thought you were busy with Clyde," Mindy was dreading the thought that Cleo might want to introduce them.

"He's ah, he's leaving tomorrow, early and I miss you so I thought maybe I could see you, I hope, I mean if it's okay, I..........."

"Like I said, my big plans involve hanging wet clothes, oh joy, I can't wait. You can come over if you want, play with Rosie so she won't attack the clothes. I'm afraid of that; you know she's always into everything. I love her but it's a major life adjustment. She's worth it though. So call me when you want to come over."

"When do you get up?"

"Um, okay I don't know. It used to be when I wanted to, now it's when she wants me to," Mindy chuckled.

"Okay, um are you coming home today then?"

"Yeah, this afternoon."

"You are! Well okay good. Um, yeah, then Sunday I guess. I mean Clyde doesn't leave till Sunday so, I'll be up early, his plane, well anyway. How bout lunch, is 12 good," Cleo sounded hopeful.

"That's fine. Are we going out for a bite or do you want some meatloaf," Mindy chuckled.

"Oh, wow, that's tempting. A rain check on that I hope. Um I could treat you to lunch. Think about where you'd like to go. The Lake, some place nice maybe. It's been a while and I won't let you order the prime rib this time."

"What's the occasion, you're always treating me. If you want to go to a nice place, maybe I can save for it. Sorry I'm not usually this strapped; it's just that I spend my extra on skiing. Summer is better, not that you have to wait till then. Next pay check," Mindy promised.

"Oh, I, well I'd love to go to the Lake. It's really gonna be beautiful tomorrow like today and I brought. Well I'm at the Lake now and it's so great, so beautiful you know. And I thought of you. I just, well last time we were here, it was night and we didn't see the Lake. I think I forgot how gorgeous it is. Anyway, I can't think of you doing laundry on such a beautiful day. Even if you don't have time for the Lake, I must get you out in the sunshine. So, think about it. I'll call tomorrow, K?"

"Sure honey. I hope you have a nice time today Cleo. Clyde's gotta like the Lake better than desert. Enjoy," Mindy was trying to be the encouraging friend.

"Yeah I guess. I miss you. Be safe going home honey. Call my house if you don't mind just to say you landed safely. I um, can't wait; I mean it'll just be so good to see you. Be careful. See ya soon sweetie," Cleo sounded reluctant to go.

"I'll be a good girl worry wart. I'll call. Bye honey," Mindy hung up wondering what was up with Cleo. The woman sounded so different.

Mindy made breakfast and Dee Dee made her tell Pemmy every detail, including the phone call she'd just gotten. And Pemmy's verdict was the same as Dee Dee's, Cleo was definitely interested. And Mindy had every right to find out what was really happening between them.

Dee Dee threatened her before she left for work, "If you don't talk to gorgeous, you know I will baby. I mean I gotta be sure of her intentions myself you know. She maybe really beautiful, but I ain't letting another bad one get by me, you know. Ain't happening. So you get it out, cards on the table cause you don't want Dee Dee comin down there, I know that."

Mindy kissed her friend lightly, "You are too good to me Dee. Don't worry; I know we need to have a chat. I will, I promise. I can't do the limbo thing anymore. But give me some time, I'll do it in a way we can still be friends. But I'll do it."

"Yeah well, up to you it'd be Christmas. You got a month and that's generous. Blue eyes either comes clean or I clean up," Dee Dee raised warning eyebrows.

"I got it Dee. Promise," they hugged and the woman left for work.

Mindy still had a key, so she cleaned up breakfast and took her time rounding up the dog and packing her things. When she got home at 4pm there was a card at her door. This time it was a card with a beautiful Spring picture on the front of a gorgeous meadow of wild flowers with Lake Tahoe very distant in the background.

Inside there was a letter, "I was sitting at the Lake at breakfast this morning. And I just couldn't stop thinking of you, the water was sooo incredibly beautiful, the mountains in the background and I kinda shook my head at myself. I really had forgotten how beautiful it was up here. I mean we grew up around here. Remember coming to the Lake and you learned how to water ski that one year. You were great, you never gave up, and you did it. I guess I've forgotten the good things you know. I shoved everything away because I lumped it all in with the pain of losing my mom. I was dreading this, thinking it would just be one long painful road. But thanks to you, it hasn't been like that as much as I thought. And I'm finding out that there is so much more here than just pain. I was looking at the water and I kept thinking of you so much, wishing you were here, wishing I could talk to you. And there's so much I'd say. Maybe more than you'd want to hear, maybe not. There's so much I could say now, but I'd rather see you face to face. I think you don't realize how lovely you are Mindy. You have been so wonderful to me and that's what you are, beautiful and wonderful, not cause I say so, but you just are. Anyway, I hope the card is okay. The poem's about you, all the cards have been about you Mindy. You are an incredible person and I can't wait to see you tomorrow. But I'm gonna leave that up to you. If you want to come to the Lake, I'll be here. My dad's friend has a cottage up here at Glenbrook its right on the Lake. I've drawn you a map and included the phone number. I hope to see you tomorrow sweetie. If you don't come could you at least call so I know that you're safe. I'll be here. Love C."

Mindy had read the letter first, and now she looked in the card and found the poem,

Dear sweet breathtaking Mindy,

In the world there is wonder

Canyon's deep and Ocean's wide

In the world there is life

Pulsing quick in the veins of humanity

In the world there is diversity

Color and Void, Light and Dark, Good and Evil

In this world there is hope and despair

It spreads far and wide and knows no border

And in all the world there is beauty

Yet no beauty so breathtaking

As the one blooming among the flowers of my own garden

Love Cleo

At first she wasn't sure what to think, she looked at it for a long time and re read it several times, she read the letter again and thought of the poem and all the cards that Cleo had claimed were all about her.

According to this Cleo thought she was breathtaking and tears fell from her eyes. Her heart pounded faster and she looked at herself in the mirror. How could Cleo think she was breathtaking? That seemed a better fit for Cleo not her. And Mindy wanted to believe it. She wanted to believe that it all meant that Cleo loved her, that she was in love with her. But it was scary to think that, scary because she wanted it. She didn't just want to be loved; she wanted to be loved by Cleo. There had never been a person connected to that desire before. And she didn't dwell on that desire, she admitted she wanted to be loved, but everyone did. So she put it in that place of someday, the maybe category, the idea that maybe life just might surprise her, though it was probably just wishful thinking. Still she held that wish out there, loosely, not willing to let it go, afraid of what she'd have to face if she did. Now it wasn't maybe, it wasn't someday, it wasn't wishful thinking, it was something she truly, truly wanted and needed and longed for and it was with Cleo.

Mindy didn't call Cleo though she wondered if she should just drive up there right now. But she was afraid so she lay down clutching the letter and the poem both of which were re read many times over until her body finally fell asleep.

It was easier in the morning, Mindy wasn't as tired. It wasn't as frightening. She didn't read anything again though by now she practically had memorized the poem. She had promised Dee Dee and she had even promised herself. It was time to be honest and even if Cleo didn't intend it as more than friends, she was gonna tell her how come it seemed like it was more than friends. She didn't feel bad for having feelings and wanting more considering everything especially the poem and the kiss.

As Mindy found the address she took a deep breath and hoped that they could still be friends somehow. But instead of knocking on the door she looked at the trail of pink rose petals on the ground. Hesitating only briefly she began following the path. There was a pretty walk way all around the side of the house with many bushes and a few trees along the way. The rose petals were liberally covering the ground and the walkway led all the way to the back patio, which looked out over a meadow and led down to the Lake. There was no one on the patio but there was a long stemmed pink rose in single vase sitting on the table. Mindy looked at the rose and then out to the meadow wondering if Cleo was at the Lake, she hadn't called nor told her when she'd be arriving and it was 10am.

Then she heard the sliding glass door open behind her so she turned around.

Cleo smiled warmly though she looked a bit self conscious, "I ah, didn't know if you'd follow the rose petals or knock.........."

There was a long pause as they just looked at each other and finally Cleo said, "It's so good to see you. I ah, thanks for coming. It's um, so beautiful here, the meadow and well, no flowers yet but its early Spring," Cleo kind of shrugged her shoulders and looked away at a loss.

Mindy didn't look around she kept looking at Cleo, "You're right it is beautiful. I know it's probably early, you didn't say what time and............."

"Now's good, it's great, its, I'm just really glad you came. I mean I ah, I really wanted to see you," Cleo swallowed and wrung her hands a bit.

"Is ah, well, is hugging, can I, is it still okay.........hugging is hugging okay," Cleo seemed to hold her breath.

Mindy smiled at the woman who almost looked petrified, "Um, as far as I know. I don't think I have koodies, showered and everything, even had coffee."

Cleo let out her breath and smiled a bit relieved but she still hadn't moved so Mindy slowly leaned forward and took the first step smiling warmly at her friend who seemed so unsure. Mindy reached out Cleo stepped in leaning down to where if she just stood up, she'd lift Mindy off the floor. At first it was tentative by Cleo and then she held on a little tighter.

Mindy squeezed a little more too and Cleo let out a sigh almost as if relieved and said after a time, "I guess I should let you go and offer you coffee or something."

"There's no time limit on hugs Cleo, but at some point you might need to let me go to the bathroom."

Cleo chuckled and pulled back some but as soon as the blue eyes found hers the smile was gone, her breath became shallow and the woman stammered, "Okay, um, I," though Cleo made no move to let her go.

Their look was pretty intense and Mindy prayed she was reading this right but just in case she tried to be light hearted about it, "Okay now see, I ah, well being a lesbian and all, when you look at me like that, it's a little fuzzy for me, not sure if you want to kiss me or you've had a slight seizure and you can't move.........."

Cleo smiled and looked a bit relieved, "Well, its, its more the kissing part, thing, that, I mean I guess I've had a seizure too cause I can't talk, but I still want to kiss you," though she made no move to do so.

Mindy looked a bit amused, "So the kissing, would that be now or sometime in the near future or shall we have coffee and chat or................."

But before Mindy could continue Cleo's lips were on hers and their kiss was warm, Cleo held her a little closer and Mindy responded and the kiss became more urgent. They pulled apart a little breathless and Cleo cupped Mindy's face in one of her hands looking deeply, "I love you Mindy, I do."

Mindy smiled a little unsure, not really able to believe this could truly happen and she searched the blue eyes and got kissed softly, then again with increasing passion until a warm tongue was caressing her own.

When they separated Cleo declared breathlessly, "I love you. I' love with you Mindy, I am."

Mindy took in her breath and almost looked shocked, trying to register that this was real that she'd heard right and she feared for a second she was dreaming.

Cleo saw the hesitation the uncertainty and she held the woman a bit more firmly looking deep into pretty eyes, "Look I know I'm not, I haven't, I didn't come here to fall in love Mindy. I didn't expect to find love, to find you this way. But I did and I am in love with you. I am."

Cleo paused looking deeply longingly, then kissing the sweet lips and again it became urgent and passionately loving. This time as they parted Cleo wrapped her in and intense hug, holding the back of Mindy's head with one hand and the other wrapped around the small body, "I love you Mindy, I love you so much I can't even understand how much."

Cleo looked at the sweet face, "Mindy, you know, I didn't plan this. Its just, yesterday I'm sitting by the Lake at breakfast with Clyde. It was absolutely breathtaking; I've never seen it so beautiful. I kept thinking of you Mindy, I wanted to go skiing with you, or sit by the Lake or anything. Clyde was talking and I looked over at him and I just knew, I didn't want to be here, anywhere with him, I wanted it to be you. I just came over me you know, everything since I got back and I knew, I knew that it was you I wanted Mindy. I've fallen in love with you honey."

Cleo held her breath and looked at her sweet beautiful friend who was so much more. Mindy was still trying to believe what was happening, what she was hearing and feeling and seeing, "Cleo, it's just so overwhelming you know. I mean, I've just been telling myself that it couldn't be. Especially with Clyde coming, you've had a relationship with him and I know we're friends. I want you to be happy, but there's been so much with you and me since you came home. It's kind of hard to grasp you know.........." Mindy looked scared and hopeful searching blue eyes again.

And Cleo looked a little desperate, "Mindy, I love you. It''s not a phase. I didn't like wake up and say oh Mindy's cute and I think I'll try women. No. No, God no. Mindy, I love you; I've fallen in love with you. I mean God, I'm so gone, you don't even know. You are so beautiful, who you are, the person you are, and I love you Mindy, you are breathtaking. I know it's a lot. And I know I've never been with a woman. But it's not about sexuality. I'm not like in some crisis other than being completely head over heels in love with you. I swear to you Mindy, I love you for real in every way," Cleo's eyes were pleading and she was short of breath.

Mindy stroked the woman's face tenderly looking deeply into blue eyes and they both fell into another kiss. After several moments they held each other breathlessly.

Cleo tried to lighten things a bit, "Don't make me rent a U-Haul to prove I'm serious."

Mindy laughed and Cleo's smile was more radiant that ever.

After a long time staring into each others eyes, Mindy looked a bit self conscious, "Cleo, I've got to be honest, I'm a little scared at how much I want this with you. U-Haul or not," Mindy grinned slightly and had a tear in her eye, "I love you too Cleo. you too."

Sunday involved a lot more kisses and a lot more sharing between two people in love with one another. The U-Haul wasn't spoken of again that day, but the future was. And they both silently suspected that renting an orange and white truck wouldn't be too far distant in that future together.

The End

Return to the Academy